Silent Masses

A Gallup Poll in 2017 showed that 4.5% of Americans verbally identified as being LGBTQ. It’s a staggering statistic to imagine. Four out of every 100 hundred people are LGBTQ. I was at an event at work recent and we had about 170 people in attendance. There were 10 LGBTQ that I was personally aware of, in the crowd. That was ten of us that we openly identify as LGBTQ, however, to those around us. I officially came out in June of 1996 and ironically a similar poll had results of being about 3%.

I look at this poll with its number and am left conflicted. How can it be in this our era of what should be LGBTQ awakening and acceptance? How is it we know that there are more of us out there than this poll shows? Like the curious prairie dog popping his head out his den long enough to survey for predators, I am quickly reminded as to why. Cleveland, the place I now call home, is home to 17% of the transgender deaths in the United States. We live in a county where the bodies of government we elected is openly and actively pursuing means of changing legislature about LGBTQ rights. But that isn’t the point of this post.

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In 2017 5.1% of women openly identified as being LGBTQ, which is up from 3.5% women identifying in 2012, a of that gain was in the years of 2016 and 2017 Men on the other hand are 3.9%, which is up from 3.4% in 2012. And of course millennials are the largest group where the percentage of increase has happened. Again, the question is why isn’t the percentage reported higher. These kind of polls are always slightly jaded in the fact that it asks you if you identify as LGBTQ. Many people still have the built in stigma of answering truthfully to this question. Fear of some repercussion makes them question how to answer honestly. For me, I feel it falls back to the pack mentality that many animals have, strength in numbers. Being in your close and tightly knit circles offers freedom to be who you are without that fear. Answering a poll, on your own, can be a bit more daunting.

We live in a world where we, as LGBTQ, have quickly learned that it is better to keep quiet about our sexuality and violence against us, because we are seen as less than human. A 2007 Department of Justice Poll states that 17% of the “reported” hate crimes were because of sexual orientation. Many of us still live in cities, counties, or states that offer us no protection based on our orientation. That leaves us nowhere to turn to speak out when violence is acted upon us. It becomes harder for men to report sexual violence, due to stigma that many men harbor. For the transgender community, it can open up much more emotional issues. 26% of gay men, 44% of lesbians, 37% of bisexual men, and 61% of bisexual women experience rape or physical violence by an intimate partner. 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, this number raises even more based on people of color. These stats come from the Human Rights Campaign.

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

There are still states that do not offer other rights to the LGBTQ and it was until 2015 that many hospital accepted spousal rights for LGBTQ marriages. I remember when my partner died in 2003, the paramedics that came referred to me as a “her” because I was distraught at holding my lover in my arms as he died. Their reports never included partner or lover when they were writing down what happened. I wasn’t even told the hospital he was taken to because I couldn’t possibly be anyone that was of importance to him since I was just some emotional gay man. In 2003, there were NO protections of any kind. When I arrived at the hospital they wouldn’t update me on anything. After sitting there for almost three hours, a nurse felt sorry for me and quietly said she would show me, if I kept quiet about it since it was against hospital policy to let non-family members to see the body. It was embarrassing to have to endure when your loved one is somewhere and you cannot be with them. No one should have to go through that.

This is only a fraction of what we have to endure and is partly why reporting crimes and filling out surveys are so hard for us to get through. Personally, to me, this is why these polls always seem to show we are only at a 4% of the population. Some of that is our own fault. It is beyond the time for us to stand up together and be counted. We are comfortable in our smaller groups, but it is time to lay those to the side and join the larger group and be safe in those larger numbers. Take those surveys with honesty and confidence. If every one of us that are LGBTQ made ourselves known, we would no longer be considered the “certain minority”. People would realize that they already know someone, close to them, that is LGBTQ and what kind of an impact we have on the world. Look at recent history of when North Carolina passed the HB2 ordinance that essentially told transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their sex at birth. The LGBTQ community stood up against it and refused to patron the county where it happened, The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors contacted North Carolina and stated that their county employees were barred from visiting the state for county business. Collegiate and professional sports teams pulled their venues from North Carolina. Even Hulu cancelled filming a TV series there, based on this ordinance. . With a sum total of $3/76 billion not going to North Carolina, HB2 was repealed and replaced.

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Do our numbers truly reflect what these polls say? Look at Pride events to see these numbers are obviously misrepresented. It is left to use to change these perceptions. Unlike people of color, it is easier for us to hide who we are and we often times do that out of protection to ourselves. We feel safe in our own communities, but it is time to realize that the community at large is also our community and it is here where we need to fight for our safety. To do this we must come out and we must be recognized. We have the power, as we have seen in our boycotts, to shape this country and its businesses, but we have to come together to do that. How will you shape the change?

 

Finding my needle in a haystack…

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I mentioned that I came from a small town in southwestern Virginia, in a previous post Cleveland Dating Woes. I don’t regret it, it was hard growing up there but I wouldn’t have changed it. Afterall, I met my first love there. So it cannot be all bad.  Dating was so easy, when I first came out. Going to the only gay bar in a hour’s drive in any direction meant I was fresh meat. They knew when you walked in if it was your first time. Blood in the water and the sharks are circling. My sex life wasn’t all that bad either. Small towns gave you the ability to develop close friends that could help you out when it was needed. No drama, nothing expected.

Now that I live in Cleveland it can be a bit daunting. I have found that Southern Men are much easier in a lot of ways. Our customs and mannerisms about things, like dating and sex are different, When I think about it, all that comes to mind was an episode of Golden Girls where Blanche Devereaux is telling the rest of the girls how southerners develop sexually. She said it was because of “The Heat.” It’s true, in a way. Plying you with subdued conversation and innuendos tends to move things along.  Men in Cleveland, at times, seem to lack the necessary conversational skills to properly motivate someone. Maybe it’s the city life, the hustle and bustle. I love a little romance; whether it be talking or wining and dining. I need a little conversation. Sure Elvis crooned that a little less conversation is preferable, but that’s only when it time for it.

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It’s a larger population here, so trying to find what I am looking for isn’t as easy. That means there is more, per capita married straight men looking to spice up their sexual repertoire. I prefer my men to be a bit more available emotionally. Meeting people still remains hard for me; I stand at about 6’4” and have a larger build, as you can see from any of my pictures on here, short hair, and a beard. So at first glance, most think I am straight. This rarely helps my situation.

Gay men are fickle creatures, we have fought for our right to get married, and for some that is a good thing. But our roots come from many partners. I am not saying that Gay men never stayed with one person, but our history does show a penchant for random hookups with men. A lot of that stems from the fact that until recent history, it was illegal to be Gay. Being in a bar that was classified as gay could get you arrested. Sex with another man, fell under sodomy laws and came with a jail sentence. So, furtive and quick hookups were commonplace.

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Because of this thought process, many people still think that is how Gay men should be. Not tied down to one person. I’m not here to tell you what is or is not right, that is only for you to decide. Neither is wrong, they are only different sides of the same coin. I only point it out to show how hard dating can be for Gay men.

I tend to be more cerebral when it comes to things involving dating and sex. Being someone who is particularly loquacious, I like a little of that back. If you can talk to me in those dulcet tones, you win me over much faster than just saying things like “sup.” Think about your words and give me eye contact and you got it. Now that you know my secret, i expect to see it put into action. Challenge has been given

 

Gay Rights Movement vs. Civil Rights Movement

We should be learning from those that have laid the very groundwork for fighting for civil liberties. We also should be cognizant of the fact that many of those pioneers were, in fact, fighting for LGBTQ rights at the same time they were fighting for civil rights. This Ted Talk shows how the Gay Rights Movement has correlations with the Civil Rights Movement and how pioneers Bayard Rustin and Jack Nichols fought as out gay black men.

 

Cleveland Dating Woes.

In the short time I have lived in Cleveland, I have found the dating scene to be interesting. Being a southern born and raised guy, I am used to functioning a certain way when it comes to dating and courtship. Courtship, there is a word that you don’t see used in this modern age. Mostly, we whip out our smart devices, scroll to the app of choice, wade through the many headless profile pictures, find what appears to be a suitable mate (for the interim), DM them, meet, and go from there. This leads to the quick and burn process, as I like to think of it. Once you have that first meeting you rarely get back with them.

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I grew up learning that it took time to woo someone into the more intimate ventures, so courtship was important. So wanting to actually “talk”to guys seems like an alien concept. It has in fact not led to memorable meetings for me. I started talking with someone shortly after I moved here and was a guy who said he like taking things slow, as well. We shared items of ourselves, music taste and what not. We seemed to have things in common and similar thoughts on issues. So after a couple of weeks I decided to ask him to meet. He agreed but when it came time to meet up, he ghosted. Feeling a bit put out; I was upset for a little bit but quickly moved on. Three months later he contacts me again and apologized for being flaky, said work was taking up a lot of time and made it hard to meet. I gave him the leeway and we started talking a bit more. He said he wanted to meet up and I agree. We talked about what and where we would do. Came time for us to get together and he bailed again.

 

Five months passed and he came back again. This time I wasn’t having it. I talked with him about things that were going on. Didn’t show much interest in wanting to pursue anything. He would bring up topics about sex or dating and I would just talk around it. Finally after a couple months of talking he decides to say that he can’t meet me since he has been dating someone who lived in Canada. Apparently, he had been seeing him for almost a year. Also he couldn’t do anything soon because he was there visiting him. All of this and I wasn’t even thinking about meeting him. It was purely out of left field. Men are weird and it see that men in Cleveland are especially so.

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Another guy that I met from one of the many dating apps, also seemed pretty cool, at first. We talked a while, had similar interests and found he grew up not far from where I lived. All of which seemed like a good combination. He was photography and I consider myself an amateur photographer, so I knew we would have things that we would be able to talk about. This time, I decide that I would be a little more forward when it came to meting. As he didn’t live far from me, it would be an easier plan. We set a date and where to meet all was good. Date arrives and we meet at the restaurant he picked, Mexican with good drinks, and had our dinner. Conversation was good, no lulls or awkward parts. Talked about growing up and our  love of photography. Discussed why we each came to Cleveland. Were we a perfect match? No, but it’s a first date how does anyone know what it may be. He was tall and skinny, I am tall and thick. Dinner ends, we drank through a strong picture of margaritas. We decide it’s time to go, We walk each other out, give each other a hug, and that was it. Ghosted. I would see him online and nothing. Not even a “you seem cool but not my type. “Just POOF!!!

 

Too many times have I reached out to meet people and it seems that because I take things a little slow I get ghosted. I am not one to quickly jump into bed with someone. Sex is good and I am very pro sex. But I like a little intimacy when it comes to getting down to sharing that experience. Maybe it’s just me and my old fashioned mentality. At this point in my life, changing it isn’t much of an option.

 

 

Hey quick, look over there…

***As an addendum to this post, it needs a little clarification so that you may understand the scope of what is being said. The funds that are being redistributed are labeled as “unused” or “left over” funds. These are funds that are not allocated for any treatment program, currently. This was as of fiscal year 2016. Elizabeth Senerchia, spokesperson of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was quoted as saying “These funds were unused and unobligated and had no impact on operation of the Ryan White Program or future scheduled distribution of funds for recipients for FY 2018.” Instead of these funds being used inside of the agency that supports the Ryan White Fund, they were redistributed outside of that agency. Update added August 23, 2018***

Washington Blade Report    Snopes.com Fact Check for Ryan White Funds

‘This administration, really, never ceases to amaze me to the depths in which it sinks. This country has advanced so far in civil rights since the 50s and it seems that this president is hell bent on taking us back to where it all started. We have seen a rise in hate crimes and hate groups. We have watched in horror as children have been ripped from the arms of their parents and thrown into internment camps. Even seen him start reversing rulings that were set forth by previous presidents, such as not allowing Transgender People into the military, pushing to remove marriage rights and even supporting companies that will not serve the LGBTQ community.

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As if any of this was acceptable, we now find out that he is removing funds from the Ryan White Fund to support the very internment camps he set up. Camps that were a travesty to have even started are to be supported by a fund that was designed to help those who are uninsured and underinsured and living with HIV/AIDS. Pence was even quoted saying before he was elected that he wanted to drain the Ryan White fund and take the money to fund Gay Conversion Therapy. Ryan White was a kid who was infected with HIV due to a blood transfusion. The Fund was set in place to help those who couldn’t afford the cost of treatment, still receive help. This is already happening. Money is being diverted from needed healthcare to support a 1950s mindset.

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A Congressional campaign website from 2000, Pence was reported saying, “Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.”

Let’s talk numbers for a minute. By the end of the year, 26000 beds will be needed for the minors we are detaining. That will turn out to be roughly 586 million needed for this to happen. This will remove any possibility for training staff in HIV/AIDS care, needed medicine for patients, funds to offset medical coverage for those who cannot afford it, and needed funds to help in prevention and education about HIV/AIDS. The scope of people that the Ryan White fund covers goes far beyond the LGBTQ community. You can see here the scope of this fund and who it benefits Ryan White Fund.

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Having watched loved one go through the effects of HIV/AIDs and being there when they died, I fully understand the importance of this fund. And to see someone who was sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United State of America, so callously throw the needs of the people he serves to the wolves is heart wrenching. When will we finally say that enough is enough? When will we Unite and fight this? We can cut the legs from under him by contacting our Senators and Congress people and telling them how ashamed we are of how the government is abusing their citizens. #Civildisobedience This is important to our very way of lives.

Strength from the Queen

With the recent passing of the icon, Aretha Franklin, I think it is only fitting to look back on some of her more loved songs by LGBTQ community. I know that, primarily, I am speaking more to myself specifically, but these are songs that are immensely powerful. They were songs that leant me strength at times of struggle and songs that seemed to sum up feelings of a large percentage of gay men. Join me in celebrating someone who made an impact on the music industry for over 50 years.

 

  1.    Most important for me was R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It was a song that taught me about love and demanding equality from the person I was with. “What you want, baby I got it. What you need, do you know I got it? All I’m asking for is a little respect when you get home.” It resonates that we both want the same things. I can be what you need as long as you respect me. It changed a lot of how I viewed myself in the dating world
  1.    Think. A song that speaks to feminism and liberation. “You better think, think about what you’re trying to do to me…” it calls into question the motive of a person trying to discriminate against you. It also gave me strength to believe that I am good enough and should be treated the same as anyone else, regardless of my orientation
  1.    Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves. A song of solidarity. This was a song that leads so many people to believe that if you wanted something you had to do it yourself. Fight for your career, your rights, and your own respect. Combine that with the fact it was in the move First Wives Club with Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton it was a powerhouse. The movie echoes the songs intent so well. It is an all time favorite.
  1.    I Never Loved A Man. A perfect song for a drag performance and one everyone can relate to. How many times have we all been in love with that man that everyone tells us we should just dump? We know it and we should, but he has worked some serious voodoo on us and we cant get away.
  1.    Rock Steady. What gay man doesn’t have a deep down love for disco; if you don’t then you need to learn to appreciate it. This slow burning sultry song that speaks to how music can move you is so many ways. It mirrors how love, dare I say lust, can you move you in the same ways. She uses driving reference is lovely innuendo style to keep you in the mood and your hips moving.
  1.    A Rose Is Still A Rose. This is a song about reclaiming your inner strength after someone tries to take it from you. A real example of cheating relationships and how you need to reclaim your strength and survive. The song talks about someone putting up a front to make others believe she is ok when she is devastated inside. Then turns it around and says, “He can’t lead you and then take you. Make you and then break you, Darlin’, you hold the power.” No matter what someone does to you or how they make you feel, you are still the same person you were before they came into your life.
  1.    Lastly, (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman. On the surface, this song seems to be about someone who justifies their worth by someone coming into their life. For me and many others it was something else entirely. Inner strength from acceptance of how you are is one of the few things that can give you this kind of feeling or power. “Before the day I met you, life was so unkind. You’re the key to my piece of mind.” Coming out does this for so many people and is what it means to me.

These are seven of my most favorite Aretha Franklin songs. The ones that rotate through my music often and bring me up when I am feeling in dire straits. She was an inspiration figure who celebrated inner strength and spoke to an entire generation of women and yes even gay men. Though you may be gone, you will never be forgotten, and you will be missed. May your next journey be as influential.