Shock and Awe

This title recalls the Bush era of going to war in the Middle East where he said he would give them Shock and Awe. Its seems this current president has gone to war with the LGBTQ people of this country with his own brand of shock and awe.  Daily we see how our rights are changing and the horizon looks more dark that hues of rainbows. The Goose stepping Government Goons are determined to hit us as much as they can. One right, as of yet, they can’t seem to refuse is that of LGBTQ rights to marry. Because of this, he and his anti-LGBTQ cabinet are targeting everything they can.

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In the two plus short years he has been in office he has overturned or put into place so many hate filled vitriol pieces of legislation. He has enacted a ban on Transgender People from being allowed in the military. He has judicial nominees that are fully against any further LGBTQ legislation set to be pulled into their positions or already have been. These officials are poised to remove any protections LGBTQ workers may have. He has rescinded a right of all K-12 students that are Transgender their basic civil liberties and are now forcing teachers and doctors to tell their parents, if they do not already know. He has rescinded another memo from the Obama era granting protection to Trans workers from being fired. He is allowing and siding with business after business the right to discriminate based solely on being LGBTQ, whether it is workers or patrons. He even argues that anti-gay discrimination is perfectly legal, as the Federal Civil Rights act doesn’t include LGBTQ people. He has allowed The Department of Health and Human Services to enact new regulationsand created an agency, the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, that will purportedly work to ensure health care providers’ religious liberties aren’t violated, which essentially gives protection to health care provider the ability to deny giving care to LGBTQ patients. He also fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS without an explanation; this came before recent news that shows he is allowing the Ryan White Fund to be drained to support his Child internment camps. He refuses to recognize June as LGBTQ pride month, a month that holds historical significance for our community in its fights for rights. And as of yesterday, the House of Representative passed a bill that will allow adoption agency to deny, legally, any LGBTQ couple from adopting children and provides no recourse if the Federal government chooses to step in and impose fine to those state agencies denying those couples a chance to adopt.

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Photo by Toa Heftiba u015einca on Pexels.com

This, my friends, is the same person who stood up and held a Pride Flag claiming that he was a friend to the LGBTQ community and that he would fight for our civil liberties. And many people bought into this line that he tried selling us, like so many others. Here we are on the precipice of change, yet again. This time we are witnessing 50 years of struggle being washed away and many times without the public even realizing that it is happening until it is done.

Recently, long time activist Larry Kramer was quoted saying “For Gays, the worst is yet to come. Again.” The article he wrote for the New York Times states how we do not have the activists and leaders our cause once had. It almost seems we laxed into a time of complacency because of the progress we thought we were making. I feel we were to easily riding the wave of feeling good. I remember in 1999 when my lover asked me to marry him and he was making plans for us to fly to Hawaii to get married, since at the time it was legal. I never thought it would last. I doubted we would ever get some of the rights that we did in the last 20 years. When it happened I was in awe about it and thinking we are on our way to finally being treated as an equal.

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On this day, as I look forward and backward, I grimly see that we were only on a step stool that has quickly been pulled from us like a childish prank. The generation of LGBTQs that grew up with it being legal to get married, adopt and safe from losing your home and job for being who you are now have woken up to realize that this dream is fading. It is to them we must look for our next leaders and activists. We must be there to offer them strength.  Strength because they didn’t witness what happened to us in the recent past. Pride month may be over and our rights may be diminishing, but we must remain strong in the pride of who we are. We must Unite and Fight to take back that progress and push it to new heights. We must show the oppressors that we will not settle for going back to the shadows and closets we have already burst forth from. We will fight every inch for what is ours, we will fight with our very lives if it is necessary. #RiseandResist

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

Review of LGBTQ Cleveland

Recently, while out doing some photography on W 29th, I visited The Dean Rufus House of Fun  – review forthcoming- I picked up a book that I had been wanting to get for a hot minute. LGBTQ Cleveland is a book written by local author Ken Schneck. The book chronicles the LGBTQ history in Cleveland. Being a fairly new resident of the Cleveland area, I had been looking for a way to learn more about the LGBTQ history in Cleveland. Random searches turned up some information that had been in archives at CSU. This was all a good start but didn’t give me a picture of how things started and moved through time. Just before Pride I had seen a couple things popping up on my feed about this book and decided I wanted it.

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Ken wrote this book much like I, too, was thinking,  A way to find out about the community here in Cleveland. He had read an article in the Advocate that Cleveland’s LGBTQ community seemed as divided as the city itself. There are those who love it or those who would love to leave it. Not believing this about the city he moved to, he decided to ask his circle of friends their opinion and received much the same response. This was the spark for this book and one got which I am thankful. I moved to Cleveland from a very small rural town in southwestern Virginia and It has been hard for me to move from that small town mindset and out into this community. This book shows me that there is in fact a rich history here and it starts to instill pride in me about this city.

Each chapter is an inclusive “We…” showing how “We” as a community have come together to share in our victories and rally when we have setbacks. In the Chapter “We Connect,” we get to the all the groups that have provided needed information and solidarity. The backbones of our community that keeps us strong and focused on the changes that we need to make. Groups like Gay People’s Chronicle that gave us news about our community that other papers wouldn’t print, The Gay 90’s offering a beacon on the air waves as a means of speaking out, Cleveland Feminist Chorus that creates connections to people who otherwise may feel lost, and to the most recent Le Femme Mystique Burlesque that gives inclusion regardless of gender, orientation, size or gender expression. These are the very foundations of what makes a community strong.

Not long ago, bars and bathhouses were out community cornerstones. You may turn your nose up to it, but times were not as open as they are now. These were places we could go and be ourselves, freely. Even Cleveland had those places, places that shouldn’t be forgot. As they were our moments of fleeting freedom, the instilled in us the need for more and to fight for what rights we deserved. LGBTQ Cleveland shows those places, as well. Paying homage to places like the Leather Stallion Saloon (leatherstallion.com) being the oldest gay bar in Cleveland which opened in the 1970s. This bar has grown with the times and honors lesbians as well as gay men. Many of the bars this town once had, have gone by the wayside over the years. There are also mentions of places like Berkshire House, a place that was a gathering spot for the Lesbian community. These “safe places” were our refuge, our sanctity, and our church, even before churches started opening to us.

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Ken also gives us the beginnings of Activism and Pride celebrations in Cleveland. The book doesn’t sugar coat this history either. We can read about citizens of Cleveland that used their own resources in showing their hatred and bigotry. In a time when hate crime laws didn’t exist and definitely didn’t include LGBTQs, this was left unchallenged, except by our community. But rally we did. Many of these events are what prompted the first Gay Pride Celebration in 1974. However, it wasn’t until 1989 that it started gaining notice in the city. This event was held a W 29th and Detroit at the site of where the LGBTQ community center first stood. That block has remained a center for the gay community in Cleveland and is the site of a present day historical marker.

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This book has been an eye opener for me and has filled me with a renewed sense of pride for the city I now call home. This book has given me more cause to want to be included in this community and stand up for the change that the LGBTQ community, here, has fought so hard for. If you haven’t picked this book up yet, you need to do so. Visit places like The Dean Rufus House of Fun on W 29th and buy it local. You can get it from Ken Schneck’s website  just click his name. It is also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Make sure you pick it up, knowing your history is important.

 

I kilt it!!!

KILTS!!! I love them, what more can I say. They are an amazing piece of fashion. Why more men don’t wear them, I can’t seem to understand. At present I have 9 and it will be growing from there, thanks to Kilted Bros in downtown Cleveland. While there may be some Irish and Scottish in my lineage, my love for them is because of how they look and feel. After putting on my first one, I was hooked. I have always been fascinated with them but seemed to lack the courage and accessibility to wear one. At least until I moved to Cleveland almost two years ago. My best friend, Tammy Mellert, had mentioned that a local kilt vendor was at Pagan Pride and they had a shop downtown. I promptly replied that we needed to go. My heart was racing with excitement and fear. I laid awake thinking about the possibilities. Her husband had worn one before and said he liked it. I figured if he could, so could I. My mind was filled with the possibilities. I poured over their site studying all they had to offer. My mind reeling with options and getting ideas as to what I wanted. I tried not to get my hopes up on any particular style, for fear of them not having it. I studied the videos on how to measure and what would work. Finally, the day arrived and we went to their shop. One of the representatives Eric was working that day. We advised him that I had never worn a kilt, but I did know my size. I looked over their stock and immediately fell in love with a tartan that was mostly purple. Tammy said that should be the one I tried on, she knew that purple was one of my favorite colors. The other being black, which was also in the tartan. It is called the Pride of Scotland. So, finding my size, I absconded to the dressing room to ditch my pants. I knew that tradition stipulates to wear them regimental, so I dropped my undies and began to strap into my kilt. Once I had it on, I knew that I was in love with it. However; I hadn’t stepped out of the dressing room yet. My nerves kicked in and immediately was afraid of how I would look to others. I knew I had to come out or get dressed. I swallowed my fear and opened the curtain and stepped out. Both my best friend and Eric said that the colors worked very well on me. I stepped in front of the mirror and saw myself for the first time. I knew I liked it, but still had the fear in the back of my mind that “men don’t wear skirts.” Tammy assured me I looked good in it and I knew I wanted to, so they only thing to do was buck up and buy it. I did and haven’t looked back. I wore it out of the shop that day and her husband had also worn his in solidarity. We went to a few places before heading home, to get the feel of wearing it in public. It was freeing to wear something so comfortable. I loved it so much that in two weeks I went back for a second one. Slowly, my kilt wardrobe began to grow and I wanted to take it to the next level and start wearing them more. The next step was to wear them to work. At the time I was working in retail as a manager of a Sunglass Hut, since fashion is part of what drives their culture and the uniqueness of fashion is their mainstay, I thought I would give it a try and ask them. They wanted to see pictures to make sure it wasn’t gimmicky. I assured them that it wasn’t costume quality; in fact my kilts cost easily $150. After showing a picture they conceded to allow me to wear it. So, I donned my favorite kilt, The Pride of Scotland Tartan, and went to work There was that initial fear when I got out of the car and crossed the parking lot. The tassels on my sporran beating in time to my racing heart. Then I heard it; someone recognized I was in a kilt. “Awesome Kilt” was yelled at me across the parking lot. Immediately my confidence and ego shot through the roof and I strutted the rest of the way to work. I wore them almost every day and people would see me through the door and stop in to see me. This in turn always resulted in a sale. It was awesome. I wear them every chance I can get. When someone asks me why my response is always “try one on and feel how comfortable it is, you will never go back.” My thanks goes out to my best friend Tammy Mellert for dragging me to get my first one and to Kilted Bros (www.kiltedbros.com) for being a local small business in Cleveland. Without them I wouldn’t have this addiction. I will be reviewing their store soon, so stay tuned.

You have the right to what, exactly?!?

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Pink fist Echomag.com

LGBTQ rights are always a slippery slope. Since the first fights at Stonewall Inn in 1969 till this very day, we have fought and clawed to have the views of us changed from degenerates with mental illness to being treated as real people. We always get one small step forward while being pushed back two steps. We considered it a major win during the Obama administration when first, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed and then when DOMA was defeated. I still pause and wonder if we should have made the focus about the right to get married. That, however, is a subject for another post.

Today, while flipping through Facebook, I was treated by an article touting that the Trump Administration is in support of employers being able to fire people due to being gay. Granted, living in Ohio that was something that was still legal for the state to do. This is purely outrageous A case, currently under investigation, involving Donald Zarda says he was fired from him job for being gay. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) was on his side and quickly they found out that the DOJ (Department of Justice) was arguing that his employer, Altitude Express was within their rights to fire him based on Title VII

Are you familiar with Title VII, maybe not? Even as someone who has been a manager in retail for a long time, it wasn’t a Title I knew. Title VII says employers under Title VII are permitted to consider employees ‘out of work sexual conduct in regards to their employment. In this case, DOJ lawyer, Hashim Mooppan stats that “there is a common sense, intuitive difference between sex and sexual orientation.” Basically meaning, it’s ok to be gay as long as you aren’t having sex with your same sex partner. Essentially coming down to the fact of applying different roles based on gender. This can also affect Transgender People, since gender is the focus here. More about this can be found here Department of Justice says rights law doesn’t support LGBTQ

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This is majorly important since this statement came days after Trump’s tweet that stated Transgender People will be banned from serving in the military. This basically starts undermining LGBTQ rights we have won from previous administrations. As the administration has moved along in the President’s term, he has worked to rewrite language of legislation to omit LGBTQ from it and first of it being with healthcare. Being a child of the 80s, I fully remember the stigma and fear surrounding AIDS patients and LGBT health. Doctors refusing to assist patients for fear of catching AIDS. Not treating LGBT members just out of fear, in general.

Roger Severino, an appointee of the Trump administration for health department civil rights official has said “Same-sex marriage was merely the start, not end, of the left’s LGBT agenda, the radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.” This is the mindset of people who are currently making decisions in this government. We are allowing it due to our own complacency. This is why your right to vote is so important, if you aren’t voting you are assisting.

Fighting for our rights is essential. If we acquiesce to this now, other minorities will start to feel it as well. You can already see the seeds of it in the Trump America. Racial hostility is on the rise. Families torn apart when they only come to seek asylum from their tyrannical governments, only to end up in this one. Enter Rise and Resist, the modern incarnation of what ACT UP was for the 80s. Using Civil Disobedience to fight back. Rise and Resist is “a direct action group made up of both new and experienced activists committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties. We work collaboratively, creatively, respectfully, and with all the joy we can muster for the health of the people and the planet.”

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Not everyone feel comfortable joining this type of group, but there are still things you can do. Contact your elected officials about any law you feel strongly about. Let them know you have a voice and opinion about how you are treated let them know your support. Don’t just do it once, do it often. Make an impression and be heard. If you aren’t registered to vote, change that by going to Register to Vote and then get out there and vote. Vote in every election, about every bill that means something to you. Know the ballot, who stands for what, what bill effects you and how. Get educated and get empowered to make a change. Let your family know your feelings and get them to vote with you.

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Mentor Headlands

Pictures taken while out at Mentor Headlands, Ohio yesterday with my best friends. Was also a beautiful day to be out in one of my kilts.

Tragedy of Shadows

More than 15% of this year’s Transgender murders have happened in Cleveland,” says  BJ Colangelo on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at http://www.clevelscene.com. Staggering statistic to say the least, but how does that translate for Cleveland. There have been two murders of Transwomen in Cleveland since the start of the year and just four months from each other.

February 2018, 46 year old Phylicia Mitchell was found shot outside of her home, she lived on W 112th near Detroit Avenue. East Cleveland Gary Sanders was charged with aggravated murder in the fatal shooting.

June 23, 2018 Keisha Wells was found shot and murdered in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Detroit Avenue. Her body was found alongside eleven bullet casings and she died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. No arrests have been made at this time and the authorities say the investigation is still ongoing.

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–photo courtesy of change.org

Neither of these incidents have been labeled as a hate crime. The initial newspaper report of Keisha Well was listed as a man appearing to be transgendered. This is just more proof of the lack of sensitivity to LGBTQ situations. Keisha was a transwoman, not a man appearing to be anything. Keisha was also not transgendered, which makes it appear as if she was suffering from a condition.  With media not being sensitive to LGBTQ issues, many times these issues are not reported correctly.

“People don’t “appear to be transgender,” they either are transgender, or they are not. Reporting that someone appears transgender perpetuates the dangerous narrative that transgender people are trying to deceive with their outward appearance, and it puts them at risk for violence.” – BJ Colangelo

We still live in a world that deems transgender people as a danger to the decency of society and this kind of backward rhetoric allows them to become targeted for such horrific violence. An interesting quote I heard in the Trailblazer awards June 27, 2018 when talking about the current administration. Anthony Romero said, “We don’t love in Their American, They live in Our America…” Remember that, it is our country, it may not be perfect, but it is what we make it to be. Our fight for our basic rights is essential. We must stand together and be see.

“Silence is death, and you, if you talk, you die, and if you remain silent, you die. So, speak out and die.” ― Tahar Djaout

“Rage, rage into the dying light”

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The Importance of Inclusivity

We all hear this word throw around today. Inclusivity, but what does it really mean. It is defined as “an intention or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who are handicapped or learning-disabled, or racial and sexual minorities.” This mean that no one should be excluded based on color, creed, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability, or otherwise. We as people come in all types and each of us deserve, as a right, to live life the way that anyone else should. Within the realms of not hurting others.

Why am I writing about this, you ask? Well, Pride month ended a week ago and it is important to realize that Pride seems to target a select group of people. Fighting for our rights and ability to be who we are, are the “certain inalienable rights,” defined by our Constitution.

We shouldn’t forget that the rights we have come to us from a group of people standing up and deciding they were not going to be marginalized anymore. They had their rights and were going to make sure others knew they had them. They stood up against “authority” and fought back.

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June 28th, 1969 was the start of the modern LGBTQ rights struggle began at a bar called Stonewall Inn and lasted for three days. All patrons of that bar were in direct violation of the law for simply being homosexual. Stormé DeLarverie, African-American Butch Lesbian, was the first one to stand up and fight back. She was quoted as saying “It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience–it wasn’t no damn riot.” She was reported as being handcuffed and roughly escorted outside. She had been hit in the head with a police baton and started bleeding as she fought back. Looking at the crowd she was shocked to see people watching and not intervening. Her response to them was, “Why don’t you guys do something?”

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Stormé DeLarverie

It was on this night when Drag Queens, who only recently had been allowed to come to Stonewall, took the charge and started fighting back. Marsha P. Johnson, an African American Drag Queen and Transwoman, and fellow drag sisters Zazu Nova and Jackie Hormona, were was in attendance. They arrived at the bar to see that it had already been set fire by the police. Marsha was reported throwing a shot glass at a mirror while screaming “I got my rights,”

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Marsha P. Johnson

The rights we have at this very moment, the ones each of us should be standing up and being counted for, were earned by people that you don’t see shown as equal in our own pride events. African American, Transgender people, Lesbians, and drag queens were the spear heads of our fights. We live in a world that is ran by straight, white, privileged, men of a certain age. These same men make the rules for everyone else and are fighting hard to take away what we have gained in the almost 50 years since Stonewall. We need to come together as a strong unified front, as in the past, to ensure we don’t lose the ground that has been fought for. Don’t forget Storme DeLarverie, Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, Bayard Rustin, and James Baldwin.  This is not the time for complacency, this is the time to stand up and be a part of the fight as so many others have been.

“Do not go gentle into that good night…Rage, rage against the dying light.” – Dylan Thomas

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