Holiday Woes…

xmas37

I have mentioned in a previous post about a lesson my first boyfriend taught me, that as LGBTQ we have this amazing ability to choose our own family. That lesson is very important this time of year as the holidays approach. Many of us, especially our younger LGBTQ brothers and sisters, do not have their biological families for whatever reason. That is hard to get past and leaves lasting scars. It is to you and them that I say, do not be afraid to reach out to your community and become a family for someone who may need it.

Those of us who consider ourselves activists or advocate, in any way, talk about how visibility is important to acceptance of LGBTQ people. So let’s look at a staggering fact, it is reported that 34,000 people commit suicide each year, with LGBTQ people being four times as likely to commit suicide. Let that sink in, 34,000people. In three short years, that number would rise to just over 100,000 people. To put that into another perspective, my hometown is about 40,000 people, so that would mean that almost everyone in that town would disappear each year. 500,000 LGBTQ youth attempt suicide each year. The population of Cleveland, Ohio is 385,525 people, so almost twice the number of people in Cleveland attempt suicide each year. Combine those numbers with drug addiction and you quickly see the impact this has on our community. Looking for more information on this, check out DrugRehab.com for some of their substance abuse relating suicide statistics.

The Trevor Project  has some scary facts as well.

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24
  • In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely t have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
  • Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.

These are only a few statistics from their page and ones that really point towards familiar issues. Psychology Today stated that “5,000 LGBTQ youth now take their lives each year with the number believed to be significantly higher if deliberate auto accidents and other precipitated events are counted.” There has been correlation noted that as more laws were passed to create protection to our LGBTQ people, that these numbers started to lower.

person wearing red hoodie sitting in front of body of water
Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com

This is why family and a solid foundation are necessary for our community. Depression affects an estimated 17 million people in the US and a higher proportion being in the LGBTQ communities.  Holidays can be even rougher, as it is typically a time of togetherness. This creates a huge strain on those that are ostracized from their families for whatever reason. LGBTQ youth that have been kicked out of their homes may not know what services are available to them and end up on the street. This only adds to the feelings of being alone and thrown away. These feelings are not indicative of LGBTQ teens, many older LGBTQ people are also faced with feelings of isolation or not belonging for reason such as family loss, loss of relationship, or even feelings of rejection and lack of acceptance by the larger LGBTQ community

The holidays are when we, as LGBTQ people, should make an effort to spend more time around people and organizations that can help mitigate the levels of feeling isolated and rejected. Take a look at local LGBTQ organizations that put on  holiday events in your area that can help ease the stress of being alone or separated from family this time of year. Here in Cleveland, Ohio you can check the calendar at the LGBTQ Community Center of Greater Cleveland and see what they have going on. If you see someone that may be in need of some interaction, please reach out to him or her. You may never know the kind of impact you may have on that person.

blur bright candy celebration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you haven’t come out or may be introducing a new partner, this time of year can also increase the amount of stress and separation you are feeling. Returning to an environment where you are forced to hide a part of yourself because you are afraid of how your family will react can be very difficult. Being born and raised in a southern household with a father who carried many forms of prejudice, it is something I am all too familiar with. Constantly having to give extra thought to mannerisms or word choice because I may be judged is very stressful. My partner worrying about how he may be accepted and me being on guard over what may be said creates a toxic environment that tends to breed more problems. Many Thanksgiving dinners were fraught with worry the dreaded question of “are you seeing anyone?” or “when are you gonna bring a nice girl home?”

Interaction with people and events doesn’t always mean someone isn’t depressed. Going to holiday parties can lead to or further enable substance abuse as a means of a coping mechanism. This can give someone the appearance of being ok when in fact they are not. I am not here to educate you in watching for signs of substance abuse as a means of coping with depression, only to point out that it is one. So when you are inviting people to partake of social situations this time of year, make sure they are always just a party. If you are inviting someone to an event that may not be a part of your normal group, be sure to look out for them. If you are looking for events to attend, look for social gatherings as well as hitting your local bar. Keeps it varied and creates a closer sense of connection.

We get to choose our family as LGBTQ people, so we should make those choices carefully. Make sure we are surrounding ourselves with a community that fosters love and support. The holidays are about being with family and what better way to celebrate that with those very people who understand the struggles we face daily. Let’s use our scars as badges of healing and reach out to those who may not have a family to turn to.

gayxmas

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Drag Queens.

Photo by Layton Findlater on Pexels.com

Whether you love them or not, you have to admit that drag has been a large part of the LGBTQ community. Many of the early activists were drag queens. They have offered social commentary, humor, unity, and escape from the lives we lead. Recent years has seen an increase in their popularity amongst all people. We have also seen increases in media focus, from TV shows to starring in movies. They have made an impact, but have you ever wondered where it started and why it’s such an integral part of our community?

It may be best to start with a definition and I will preface this and say that like many labels, the term drag queen can refer to many types of people. For the sake of this post we will talk about the female impersonation aspects, where men dress as women with the intent of performing in front of an audience. Many drag queens distance themselves from those who use hormones or reassignment surgery. In many drag competitions, those who use hormones and reassignment surgery are often banned, as a means of not playing fair. For instance the large negativity that surrounds RuPaul’s Drag Race for turning down transgender performers. So again, in the scope of this post we will be talking about men who use makeup clothing, padding, and tucking for their means of creating their illusions. This is for fact of simplicity and not a means of segregation. No offense is intended.

My first experience with drag queens came from the first man I dated. I mentioned him in other posts his name was Shawn. Shaw was a drag queen and went by Traci Richards in the last years of his performing. When we started dating he told me about his persona and made sure I was ok with it. My only question to him was why he did drag. His answer to me was it was a way he paid honor to the strong women that he admired in his life and it was his way of honoring that strength the provided. Many drag queens I have met have had similar feelings about their craft. They all share the thought that they put on “drag” to perform and then take it off to live their lives. To me, that is the fundamental difference between drag queens and transgender. They are men who identify with the sex they were born, but also use drag as a means to share an identity they have inside of them.

There is debate on when it actually started and yes there are people who actually research and have published theories and studies about drag queen culture. Many feel the origin comes from dressing in feminine attire for religious ceremonies and can be traced to Ancient Egypt. There is documentation of cross-dressing among Aztecs and Inca civilization and widely used in Japanese theater. In Japanese theater the use of drag divides the difference between Kabuki and Noh dramas. Noh is a folk dance associated with rice planting and fertility and used female actors wearing masks and followed stylized routines. Whereas Kabuki is known for female impersonators carefully made up, speak in falsetto voices and move to suggest femininity. Even in ancient Greece, men were used to play female roles in plays and wore masks to represent female deities and person.

What we know as drag didn’t take shape till about the 19th century with vaudeville performers. Joe E. Jefferys, a drag historian who teaches theater studies at NYU Tisch Drama, states that drag “was a popular act in the numerous vaudeville theaters across America from the turn of the 19th century until the late 1930s.” It was during this time that the mocking personas of the “wench” and the “primadonna” were birthed. Even still, the idea of drag queens were not inextricably linked to the LGBTQ community. This probably happened around the end of the 1930s and was largely due the growing field of sexology and its discussion of a “third sex.” During the 1930s more scientific conversations where working their way into popular culture and started linking drag with homosexuality. Due to these conversations we saw an end of “Straight men” dressing for theater and solely being associated with gay men. Jefferies goes on to say, “Until gay bars emerged, either clandestinely or legally, the drag queen was bounded by private parties, and even then police raids were possible.”

“The first true drag queens rest in little remembered bars. Jose Sarria as San Francisco’s Black Cat in the 1950s is perhaps an early example if we go down this path… but they worked in front of largely heterosexual audiences and would take offense to being called drag queen. To them, this was a lower classification of the streets and bars and amateur compared to the female in personation they offered,” states Jefferies. Drag queens were the newer additions to the more gay friendly places that were starting to pop up during this time. This is where we see the transformation of drag that leads to its modern version. The female impersonation side was made more comedic and relegated to TV and movies. Take for example Some Like It Hot (1959), Tony Curtin and Jack Lemon wee two men posing as women through the film. Drag Queens were the ones now performing in bars and creating a rise amongst the LGBTQ community. There is controversy as to whether those behind the Stonewall Riots were drag queens or early part members of the transgender community, either way they spearheaded the modern civil rights movement for the LGBTQ community.

According to Jefferies, drag became a “powerful movement in NYC during the late 19802 and 1990s”. This was helped by the East Village performance scene and the rise of Wigstock. This was the era that gave birth to legends like Divine. Divine was most notable for her work with John Waters in movies like Pink Flamingos.Wigstock was the outdoor festival in New York that was focused on the drag community and was founded by Lady Bunny. She was notoriously known for the ability to make a fool of herself and invited her audience to laugh along with and at her. In an interview, Lady Bunny recounts her first performance at the Pyramid. “I was so inexperienced that the spot lights were blinding me, and I fell off stage. I somehow managed to get back up, wig askew and one shoe missing, and finished the number, which was a crowd pleaser, and I was a fixture at the Pyramid for the next six or seven years.” Celebrity Drag Sensation RuPaul also got her start at Wigstock.

The 1990 movie Paris Is Burningchronicles the Harlem drag balls. These balls were not just men in drag but also men performing in various kinds of “drag.” The Harlem balls gave rise to the fabulous Pepper LeBeija. This was also the place where the art forms of “Reading” and “Throwing Shade” started. In case you aren’t aware of how a “reading” works, you find a flaw in a person and exaggerate it and doing so in such a way that you don’t just come right out to point out the flaw. The 1990s also gave rise to drag focused movies, Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Too Wong Foo. Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, and The Birdcagebeing the most notable.

Even during this time, drag queens were still largely popular only with the LGBTQ community. This started to change in 2009 with the appearance of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It was here that drag culture was pulled out of the dark and dank gay bars and thrust out like DDD tits into mainstream. No longer did hordes of heteros have to sneak to the red light district of their towns, take two hour trips, or find the only gay in the village to take them to a bar, all they had to do was pop their corn and huddle around the tub on their ratty old sofas. RuPaul’s show did search country wide to pull some of the best talents available to come on her show and judged for their fishyness. It also became a venue for the masses of would be drag queens to see talent and focus on making their own way into drag community. As many places are seeing a decline in LGBTQ bars, this may be the only place many baby drag queens get to experience a show and also gives them icons to look up to.

No matter your opinions of drag queens, they have been an integral part of our community. Over the years it has went from onstage productions to Reality TV Show. Gay men have used it as a means of expressions since the 1950s and an outlet for activism, as well as showpersonship. We cannot deny the impact that drag has had on our community and will continue to have. Even amidst the controversy, remember to show our drag sisters support as they so often show for our community.

LGBTTTQQIAA, WTF?

comingout-300x285

Labels define our lives; they tell us who we are, they tell where we live, they decide what kind of services we are given, and who we are. Labels, whether we like them or not, shape our world and perceptions. We often impose more labels, upon others, and ourselves than are needed. Single, married, depressed, happy, poor, rich, heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual, young and old. Many of these give us an understanding of a person or thing and some only exist to define a box that we are in. I am not going to talk about the need of labels in this post, only help shed some light on the many labels that are used to define our community.

The longer you are out, the more you start to realize that the letters to define have changed. For instance, when I can out in the early 90s we were seeing the progression of LGBT to LGBTQ. In the 20 years since that time the initials have doubled to include LGBTTTQQIAA. As a means to level the playing field this stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Two Spirit, Queer, Questioning, Intersexed, Asexual, and Ally. This also doesn’t include the people who identify as Pansexual, Agender, Gender Queer, Bigender, Gender Variant, and Pangender. It truly can be confusing, even for us to understand the depths this covers. What does it all mean? Where do I fit in? Do all of these labels matter?

questions answers signage
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Let’s start with some definitions. Whether you are cisgender or transgender, it is pretty easy to say lesbian and gay refer to being attracted to members of the same gender. Whereas bisexual would mean being attracted to members of both genders. These are sexual and romantic attractions based on perceived genders or genders that are presented. From there it needs a bit more breakdown.  Sex refers to your biological sex. Meaning the reproductive anatomy and secondary sexual characteristics you were both with. Whereas gender is broken down to gender roles and gender identity. Gender roles are those that society places upon a person or even perceived by the person. Gender identity is what is your perceived gender based on an internal awareness.

This becomes more important when we look at the transgender and transsexuals. Bear with me as the next few definitions come from Medical Daily and are not my own. If any inconsistent information is provided I do apologize and will not be upset if I am corrected. Medicaldaily.com defines a transsexual as people who transition from one sex to another, if your birth certificate shows your sex as female and you later had surgery to become male. Transgender are people who whose identity, expression, behavior, or general sense of self does not conform to what is usually associated with the sex they were born in the place they were born. This making transgender a more multifaceted term that allows for many permutations of how one person lives and interacts with people.

Two Spirit is a more modern term being used to classify many people in the indigenous peoples. This term refers to having both a male and female spirit inside of them. From an outside point of view that may be harder to understand. In some traditional First Nations cultures there was what was called a third gender and has cultural and ceremonial significance to those people. It is not an interchangeable term for Native LGBT. Also the term “two spirit” is not in and of it self a native people term. It is a modern definition used as a broad term to cover many first nations cultures that may have had the sacred third gender. Many tribes did not have rigid binary definitions of gender and used the third gender as a means of defining someone that was more closely connected to the spiritual nature of their given tribe. Out of respect to the First Nations People, I will not attempt to describe it further.

Queer is used to describe sexual or gender minorities that are not heterosexual or cisgender. Up until the late 1980s it was used to describe anyone that had sexual desires towards the same sex. It soon became a term to describe anyone who rejected traditional gender identities and sought a broader and more ambiguous label. Questioning is used for anyone who is still exploring or refuses to accept modern conventions of labels towards gender identity and sexual attraction. Someone who questions their own gender identity or sexual identity and orientation.

Intersex is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. It is a term that is used to describe a variation in sexual identity. It could include someone who appears as one sex on the outside while having different sexual characteristics on the inside. It may also be used to describe someone whose outward sexual characteristics do not fit in with how they appear. An example would be a boy born with a noticeably smaller penis and a scrotum that is divided and more similar to that of a labia. Or even someone born with mosaic genetics where some of their chromosomes are XX while others are XY. Asexual would be someone who has a lack of sexual attraction to any identity or gender or a low or absent interest in sexual activity. This would have no bearing on whether they identify as homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual. Ally is simply someone who considers themselves a friend of the LGBTQ+ community. Someone who stands up for their rights offers their friendship, and support when it is needed.

Pansexual is someone who has no set attraction to anyone specific gender or sex, whether it be sexual, romantic, or emotional. Often referring to themselves as gender blind, where their sexual attraction is not bound by one gender or identity. Agender is someone who does not classify himself or herself by any set gender role. Nor do they conform their identities to any traditional gender role. Gender Queer is a person whose identity is not exclusively masculine or feminine. Their identities are those that fall outside of gender binary or cisnormativity. Bigender is defined as someone who moves between masculine and feminine gender roles and behaviors. There are even some who exhibit two separate gender identities at once and identify as both simultaneously.

WHERE DO I FIT IN? And DO ALL OF THESE LABELS MATTER?

No one person can tell you who you are or what you should like. For many people it takes almost a lifetime of self-exploration to even begin to understand where they fit in. Then there are some who know from a very young age. You don’t have to conform to something doesn’t feel right to you. If you choose to explore one or all of these, that is your prerogative. There are no tests that will show you who you are or what you should be, however wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take a test to define who you are? Answer a couple of questions, look at a couple of pictures, and them BAM here are your results and congratulations! Instead you should think of life as more of a carnival, look at all the rides and booths it has to offer. See which appeals to you and give them a try. You can’t know what you life if you don’t try it out.

It is important to realize that labels are good for the broadest sense of defining who you are and where you may fit in. It helps instill a sense of community and belonging, a sense of pride. Just don’t let them be the only thing that makes you who you are. Don’t let modern conventions force you to feel shame for being your true self. A preconceived perception of what groups of people define as normal is what causes us to feel shame over being different. They do not live your life or understand the things that you feel. This is your journey to find where you may fit in the LGBTTTQQiAA spectrum. Do not be just another label.

close up photo of lgbtq letters on a person s hands
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Information brought to you by OK@BEME (https://ok2bme.ca/resources/kids-teens/what-does-lgbtq-mean/) and Medical Daily (medicaldaily.com)

 

You Had Me At The Swing Of Your Kilt.

swingkilt

What can I say; I love a man in a kilt. Perhaps that’s why I always wanted to wear one or maybe it was due in some small part to my heritage being Scottish and Irish. It may also be that I have been jealous of women being the only one to wear something like that, this was before I knew about Scottish people wearing them. Regardless, a man in a kilt can cause your heart to skip a beat and dance to a Scottish song. Need proof, I give you Gerard Butler (see below). And he is only one; David Tennant, John Barrowman, Graham McTavish(also below), Ewan McGregor, James McAvoy, and Billy Boyd.

In an article on Quora by Janie Keddie titled “Why do Scots wear kilts?”, she says “Men look and feel fantastic in kilts. You see them stand differently and develop a swagger. It’s extremely attractive! ” It’s true, I see it in myself. Wearing one elevates your confidence and definitely puts a bit of strut in your walk. When the pleats swing in time with your walk it is utter hypnosis to the masses. Not to mention their functionality is amazing. Confidence is an amazingly sexy thing, so when a man wears a kilt it just adds to that. Sure it’s a bit strange the first few times you see it, but you have to admit that your eye lingers a bit longer on a man who is wearing one.

As amazing as they make me feel and as much as I love seeing a man in one, there are some frustrations with them. Sitting down in a kilt  can frustrate me to no end because I still have not mastered the smoothing of the pleats. They always seem to get bunched and with a cargo kilt style, the box pleats combined with the material can leave the pleats folding awkwardly. And you gain a new found respect for women learning how to sit and maintain their modesty. I have been asked on more than one occasion about the fetish aspect of wearing a kilt. I have seen the images and videos out there of sex in kilts and it even is intriguing, but that can be said for any garment that becomes fetishized. After all, there are leather fetishes, jean fetishes, shoe fetishes, and the list goes on and on. I love my kilts for the fashion aspect, the comfort levels, and how they alter my confidence.

kiltdhotness3

So history time, kilts have been worn since about the 16th century and are a variation of the Great Kilt (feileadh Mòr). Before that time Scottish men wore long tunics and cloaks of wool. As the fabrication and availability of wool became easier, that style started to mutate into the great kilt. Traditionally it was two bolts of cloth stitched together to make the garment. The lower half was folded into pleats and belted at the waist while the upper half remained looser to wrap yourself in to keep warm and prevent wind. Wearing the tunic underneath afforded the kilt more modality so that it could be taken apart and used as a structure or a large blanket at nights.

Around the 17th or 18th century, a much simpler version was created called fèileadh beag.It was reduced to only one bolt of cloth that was belted at the knees and the pleats were stitched in for ease of wearing. This also made it much lighter to wear and easier to march in. No longer was it able to be used for shelter or blanket and lending more to ceremonial or daily wear. This is the version of the kilt that survives today. Using what is called a fly plaid and a brooch you could achieve a similar effect to wearing the full Great Kilt, but with much less weight and greater ease.

I don’t post about kilts often because part of me feels that talking about it cheapens it in some way. If I just wear them as I would any other garment, it becomes less of an issue. After all, how often does someone write a post, or talk about wearing pants? Not very often, unless its a fashion piece or about a specific designer. Simply put, I really enjoy wearing them. They are comfortable, unless your pleats bunch up. Not everyone wears them, so it does create a talking point. They are vastly multifunctional. Thrown on a t-shirt and a kilt for knocking around the house or town, pop on a polo and loafers or boots to dress it up for dinner, or add a waistcoat or blazer, a button down, and a pair of oxfords and  you have a nice looking piece for meeting people, business settings, or fancier engagements. Lets not forget about formalizing it for wedding and etc.

I may not be Gerard Butler or Graham McTavish, but I do think I look damn good in a kilt. People notice mine often and comment accordingly. Similarly, I love seeing men in a kilt and wish more would take up the trend. It is nice that they aren’t common because I do like the attention and talking to people about them. My heritage doesn’t change or accentuate my love for wearing them. I encourage you to also take a chance and try one on. Remember that we have Kilted Bros close by who can  help you out with all your kilted needs. AND fine YOU GOT ME, it was also a ploy to be able to post hot guys in kilt pics and who can’t appreciate that?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Isolation Amongst the Crowds

Merriam-Webster defines choice as noun 1. the act of choosing: selection, 2. power of choosing: option, 3 a. the best part: cream, b. a person or thing chosen, 4. a number and variety to choose among, 5. care in selecting, 6. a grade of meat between prime and good, or of choice, or to be preferred. Adjective  1. worthy of being chosen, 2. selected with care, 3 a. of high quality, b. of a grade between prime and good. It’s important to understand the meaning of word when you are trying to use it to explain something. Because of this very word CHOICEI feel that LGBTQIA are the overlooked marginalized minority.

naked-in-public

We all have had this dream, more than likely. You are in a room surrounded by people that you may or may not know. It is a fairly large room full of people and you are walking among them and you notice that they are looking at you. Some of them are in shock and disbelief while others may be laughing and making comments in whispered tones to others. As you move about the room you realize that their reactions may be about you. Suddenly, you are in front of this group of people and you can’t imagine why. You think you may supposed to be speaking or presenting something, maybe it is even going over your book report. As you start to check yourself for you notes you realize you are naked in front of everyone and all the reactions make perfect sense. You are exposed and vulnerable, you try to cover yourself and make apologies but all it does it draw more attention to how you do not fit in. Your anxiety rises, your pulse is racing, sweat is pouring off of you in rivulets, you feel like you are about to throw up, and you are turning more shades of red than there are possibilities. It’s a horrifying feeling. You can’t seem to get away fast enough and  you know there is no way you can fit in.

In the simplest terms, that is how most LGBTQIA people feel every moment of their lives. No matter where we go, the people we interact with, or the situations we are in we constantly know we do not fit in and are afraid of how people are judging us. The difference is that in many situations it’s not veiled comments behind hands, it turns into acts of violence. Cleveland, Ohio having more than 15% of the this year’s national transgender homicide rate is proof enough of that. Let us not forget the tragic events of Matthew Shepard being abducted, stripped, beaten to near death and tied to a fence post in Wyoming, all because two straight men thought he deserved it. Still mainstream believes that we “choose” to be LGBTQIA.

genderdyspohria

Now imagine waking up every day and seeing yourself in the mirror and know what you see isn’t who you are. That it just feels like you are trapped in a shell that isn’t right. You get dressed every morning, as to how you are expected to be, and you never feel at ease. Feeling like you are pretending to be someone you are not. This in turn creates depression and a sense of self-doubt and loathing. You start to wonder what is wrong with you and why can’t you be like everyone else. What if this or what if that? Always feeling scared and confused. Never sure of whom you are or what you are feeling. Would you choose to feel that daily? Would you want to endure that kind of life?

As I was growing up, I simply knew that I was different. I didn’t have attractions to females. I didn’t like typical boys things and I knew that I didn’t fit in with other boys my age. Even trying to fit into those molds didn’t make it any better. What I did know was that being around other boys gave me the feeling of butterflies in my stomach. At no point were there ever options presented to me. Don Pardo wasn’t standing next to me saying, “Behind Door #1 is heterosexuality. You will have women to date, football to watch, buddies to hangout with and have fun. A lavish life of normality. Or you can have what’s behind Door #2, being hated for being different. People telling you that you are a sinner and going to hell. Being hated and kicked out by your family and living your life as a sexual deviant.” I mean what kind of options would those be and who would ever choose Door #2 if they were told that’s what was waiting for them?

I am not here to change your mind about any of this. I am here to be the foundation for someone who is already going through these feelings. To let them know that there are others out there like them. To let them know that it does get easier and they do have people to turn to. There are welcoming groups who do not seek to change who they are but encourage them to live at the truest authentic person they are. To try to love themselves more than others hate them. It is for them that I write this and for them I offer my strength.

dontbegay

Not a single one of us, LGBTQIA or heterosexual, chooses to be who we are, it is simply a combination of biological factors that creates us to be who are. One isn’t right and the other wrong. Those kinds of labels are created by society and placed upon us to make us fit into nice little boxes. In fact, not a single one of us can fit into any box that we are put into. Each human is greater than the sum of his or her parts and we should learn to respect us for what we do instead of who someone thinks we are.

choices

The truth of it is that sexuality, orientation, and gender identity do not really matter in the real world. They are just more forms of labels that are used to describe someone on a limited basis. There are reasons for them and they do, in fact, have to be used, but people are more than just the sum of their parts. Saying only that I am a gay male doesn’t tell you anything about me, no more than saying I am a 45 year old male does. We need to move beyond such things and deal with what is important and that is that we are all humans. Being male, female, LGBTQIA or straight doesn’t determine who you will be, even DNA doesn’t give an inevitable result of how you will turnout. We should be embracing our differences and celebrating them.

I cannot change anyone’s mind in a 1200 word post. To make an impact or change someone’s mind you have to know the person and their situations. You have to view them through the lens of non-judgment and to understand the choices that have brought them to this very moment. My words are here for those that need strength in their moment of weakness, safe harbor in the storms they endure. To make them realize their lives are important and they do matter. You may very well be the voice that shapes the world to come.

sunlight

When I Grow Up

It’s common knowledge that gay men seem to have more role models that are women than men. I come from an earlier time of coming out, so we really didn’t have openly LGBTQ people to idolize. So we latched on to what was most available and it is funny how most gay men seem to develop role models from the same groups of women, even before we come out and meet other gay men.  The likes of Madonna, Diana Ross, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Linda Carter, Lucille Ball and the lists go on. Watching shows like Bewitched! I Dream Of Jeannie, Designing Women, Golden Girls, Wonder Woman, and Dynasty. We all seemed to have attached to this same pool of strength of character, funny quips, and pride.

When I was a young gay man, there weren’t many gay male role models we could easily identify with or pattern after. Sure we had the likes of Elton John, David Bowie, Paul Lynde, Melissa Etheridge, and a scant few others, but prior to early 2000s it wasn’t as socially acceptable to be out and famous. To many characters in movies and shows were heterosexual idealized versions of what we were, so we often appeared weak, lack of depth, overly effeminate, and always codifying to someone more masculine. So it’s no wonder why we latched on to women who seemed to be true icons and forces to be reckoned with. Picture the boardroom scene of Mommy Dearest as Joan Crawford addresses the board of PepsiCo.

Growing up I always knew my mother was a strong person, I may have not known the depths of her strength at the time, but I knew it in my bones. So little seems to truly phase her, I am not saying she didn’t get upset, it’s just that very few things seemed to throw her off kilter. We were, simply put, a poor family. Both of my parents worked 40-hour weeks to just scratch a survival. My father ruined my mother’s credit shortly after their marriage. And I even remember the point at which my mother said she had had enough of working in factories and started taking night classes to better her options of employment. All of this while raising two kids and one that seemed to have every medical issue that a kid could, namely me. I look back now and know that I admired those qualities in  her and was the first role model I had for strength.

wonderwoman

Wonder Woman was probably one of the first super heroes for me, I idolized many things about her. As Diana Prince she fit in with the people around her and they were unaware of who she truly was, she had to struggle for people to accept her for her strengths. These were things I felt, but didn’t truly understand. I knew growing up that I was different that my cousins or friends, innately different. When I was around them I had to act a certain way that I felt allowed me to fit in and they never knew who I truly was at heart. When Diana Prince was witness to a crime or wrongdoing, she find a place in seclusion and spin around as fast as she could and transform into Wonder Woman and then she would be off fighting that bad guy. Her full strength could be used, her intelligence was accepted, and people were in awe of her true nature. I longed for that, in the seclusion of my imagination or private spaces I could be whom I felt inside. The red, blue, and gold outfit with the knee high red leather boots and golden jewelry were all things I was awestruck over. She was the very embodiment of what I wanted, freedom to be what I felt I was in my soul.

I remember dancing to my 45s singing Diana Ross dressed in my mother’s gown, wearing a bra that I used stuffed animals to mimic having breasts, trundling around in my mother’s shoes singing into a curling brush. I was on stage performing for my fans and giving them my very essence where in truth it was usually taking turns singing with my sister. It felt more right to me than any of the times I played basketball or football during lunch with my straight male friends. Those were the times I felt that I truly had to shut myself away in a small box.

dianaross

Ah memory lane, how it does distract from the purpose of this post. So let’s circle the wagons and regroup. As I said, it is amazing how so many young gay men develop these ideals without fully understanding who they are and meeting others that share similar experiences. What gives us this collective desire to gravitate to these models and does it hold true today? Professor Heather Love a professor of English as Pennsylvania University has studied gender studies and queer theory states that gay men choose women becomes women are marginalized and we can identify with them.

Enter the modern era, with the onset of the early 2000s, our equality came and it was much easier for artists, actors, and sports figures to be openly gay. You can look at the music artists today to find someone who can sing about the struggles you go through. Take Lady Gaga for example, many LGBTQ youth easily identify with her ease of gender bending and music that speaks to our soul for strength and courage. International star Pabllo Vittar is a gender bending self proclaimed “Drag Performer” who already has hit songs with the like of Diplo. Check them out!!! Londoner Olly Alexander is breaking into the pop scene writing songs specifically about male on male love, something that was mostly unheard of openly, in my youth. Unless you count the veiled references from The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Pet Shop Boys. He is known for his honeyed voice and soulful R&B textures. And Big Freeda the undisputed queen of bounce music. A native of New Orleans, she still keeps it real by performing for her hometown. She has worked with the likes of Drake, Beyoncé, and Lizzo. And she still is a force in the queer underground scenes. Another you should check out.

bigfreeda

The point is that today there are much more options available for LGBTQ youth, so do gay men still flock to the same female icons as we did in earlier generations. Or is there a need for us to pattern ourselves after them with the onset of more openly out LGBTQ icons. That is probably a questions better left to the individual as it is as personal as coming out. Personally, I continue to find my strength in strong women and will continue to do so. Their qualities are the fiber of my being and the strength on which I rely. As a testament, I leave you with Julia Sugarbaker.

 

The Dye Has Been Cast

white and grey voting day sign
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Like many others today, I made my way to the polls to make sure my voice was a part of the cacophony we call democracy. Many view it as a chore but it is also our given right. It’s the chance for us to be a part of a larger collective, to show the government we will be heard and we do matter. This was also my first time voting in Ohio, so there was that added stress. Apparently, not all of Ohio uses the same means for residents to vote, it is county specific. Take Cuyahoga County for instance, we use a scantron method for our votes to be taken. That created its on moment of high school examination dread, when I opened the folder for my ballot.

test-on-scantron

Queue the flashback sequence, a la Wayne’s World (party on Garth, Party on Wayne). It would be more apt to say… Pictures it Montgomery County, Virginia November 1992, a small town gay boy makes his way for his first time of entering the booth. Now before you get all pervy on me, I am recalling my first time voting in an election, not a video booth. Sheesh, maybe if you are good we can recount that story, spoiler alert I have never been in one of those booths. Anyway, back to the young boy, going through high school civics/government class we all had training to help man the polls and learn how to use the machines. At that time, Virginia was still using the punch ballot. You essentially would put your card in this machine, line it up, choose your candidates and using a pin push through the paper, and when you were done you would pull a lever to cast your ballot. The machine would reset for the next person. Think slot machine without the payout.

That was nerve-wracking back then, thankfully Virginia now uses an electronic system. Being a Gen X-er, we grew up watching technology evolve, so merging into that type of system wasn’t a hard migration. Moving to Ohio I was unsure what to expect and they didn’t let me down. I decided to vote before work and managed to get there about an hour after the polls opened and took my roommate along for the ride. Of course I grilled him about how it would work, since I hadn’t used a paper ballot since high school. I was expecting a large turn out and it wasn’t bad. The lines moved very quickly and since I screwed up one of my forms I was even able to retrieve a new one and recast in fairly quick time.

Gay-Voting

What’s that you say? How could I have screwed up my vote? Well I did mention earlier the flashback to high school examinations with scantron sheets. Early in the morning my eyes haven’t adjusted and have a bit of double vision, combined with this season’s allergies. So, like a good child is known for, I colored outside of the lines. Apparently more than the machine would tolerate. I could joke about an attempt but saying that could be misconstrued and I wouldn’t want Big Brother showing up at home this afternoon.

All in all, we were in and out quickly. Nice to see that things were under control enough to make them move that effortlessly and thank you for the patient people that had to endure me not understanding the intricacies of Cuyahoga County Voting. I just hope that it wasn’t an indication of low voter turnout. I haven’t checked any information for Ohio, as of today, about early turnout versus showing up on Election Day. As of now at 10 am, it’s a bit too early to see any kind of results as to what may be happening. The fate of the country rests firmly in our hands and it’s time to remember that the government should fear its people and not the people who should fear the government. If you haven’t yet, get out there and vote, no matter who or how you choose to vote. Make your voice be heard.

cropped-f460ee0e-3c17-4cca-9f21-4dec0c9907291.png