The Monetization Of Acceptance

Is it sad when commercialism makes larger strides in inclusivity than our own culture does? After all it is an industry that truly makes money on just about anything it can. There are fans that boast clique phrases from RuPaul’s Drag Race like; #Hunty. Sweatshirts that show the latest viral video stills, mugs to sport your favorite Meme, and now Hallmark will be selling cards to celebrate the transition process for transgender people. Does it help advance the movement for inclusivity or does it seem to trivialize the sentiment? There has already been an upswing in the amount of LGBTQ friendly cards with the legalization of LGBTQ marriage, but how does this weigh in with things like transitioning surgery.

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We are a marginalized community, there is not getting around that. We are one of the few minorities that discrimination against is legal in many states, we can lose our jobs, living accomodations, abd be turned away from public access of services simply because we do not follow into what some call societal norms. It happens everywhere and there is no escaping it, for now. It used to be if we wanted to find cards that celebrated milestones in our journey as LGBTQ people, we had to go to LGBTQ bookstores for card companies who actually made cards for us, However, that has been changing for some time now. Larger stores, like Hallmark , are carrying cards to celebrate Gay Marriage or even coming out. An article  was recently sent to me about Hallmark starting to carry cards for transition surgery for transgender people. So the question becomes, how has the mindset of commercialism moved ahead of societal acceptance and will this help us move forward.

 

Dont get me wrong, I think it is great to see a multimillion dollar company like Hallmark making these types of cards. After all, there are cards for almost every other occasion. It is a way to celebrate and show support for our friends that are going through this event. They do have an uplifting message, ones reads “You’re becoming who you have always been,” “How wonderful is that?” At present, there seems to be only two cards that are listed in the topic of “Transitioning,” I am sure that will grown as sales pick up. They have only been on the market since May of 2018. A simple search for LGBTQ cards turns up roughly 62 cards total, so that’s less that 1% of LGBTQ cards they carry but much more than they have carried historically. How long it can last or how much it can grow depends on how it is received and how popular it will be. Commercialism changes focus as the wind blows, so while it is a hot button topic at the moment how will it be received in the future.

As a homosexual, I am constantly aware of how commercialism is based around heteronormative practices. It is the same with every industry because there are reported larger numbers of heterosexual people than those that aren’t. I admit, I am not a person who is always on the lookout for a cards for a specific occasion, but there has always been a void of those that captured events that could be worded to sounds more LGBTQ positive. This is a step in that direction. Will this change mindsets of those who ally against us? No, sadly they will be the voice that says how this business is catering to a vulgar part of life, giving special privilege to some because they complained to get it.

 

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Designer Marco Marco uses all transgender models for clothing line. Models pictured above.

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Recently, there was also the new underwear brand Marco Marco that designed their underwear with transgender people in mind. According to Attitude Magazine  “Designer Marco Morante told Mic: ‘I wanted to create a space to celebrate trans bodies. This was an opportunity for their presence to be undeniable and reinforce that trans is beautiful.’ He used prominent transgender models for his fashion week debut this past summer. The names like Gigo Gorgeous, Carmen Carrera, and Laith Ashley were some of the many used for his runway. Morante is a long time supporter and designed for the LGBTQ community, so this only seemed like an appropriate next step. You can check out some behind the scenes images by following Laith on Instagram under his handle @laith_ashley. One of the attendees to the Marco Marco event was Laverne Cox who is the founder of the movement #TransIsBeautiful. She was quoted as saying, “When I started #TransIsBeautiful 3 years ago I wanted it to be a way for trans folks to celebrate what makes us uniquely and beautifully trans… It wasn’t about how cis we can look but rather about celebrating those things about us that are uniquely and beautifully trans.” Want to check out the runway show, see below.

 

 

What truly saddens me is that the commercial industry is so much further along that that of our society as a whole. Sure there is the argument that as long as there is a dollar to be made they will support it, but it doesnt change the fact that so many designers are pushing for inclusivity when our own government is doing what it can to repeal any laws that have already been passed. I am all for the forward momentum that this causes and wish more companies would take to the inclusivity approach, the fashion industry especially as this is an avenue that hasnt been fully explored for the needs yet.  What does disturb me about this trend is the whole “Here today and gone tomorrow” approach that seems to happen in commercialism. When the buzz dies down, will there still be the same push forward. We must encourage it to continue. Invest in those that invest in us and show that we want this change to continue. Be the object of the change you desire. Make it happen.

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The Strongest Magic

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One can argue for or against the usage of labels, but they do serve a purpose. Often times those labels become convoluted and limiting. There are labels that people use to describe types of people that are damaging and breed internalized hatred, knowingly or not. There are labels that are used to describe how a person is or may be based on the label they are using. “Of course he is a snappy dressing, he is gay, after all.” “All black men are criminals, look at the prisons.” “Sure she is a lesbian, but it is only because she hasn’t had the right man.” These are only a few, but you can see how damaging they are in their contexts.

Personally, I cringe reading profiles online; they are appalling, at best. “38 yr. old straight acting gay male, physically fit, hung top seeking straight acting fit, bubble butt bottom.” Sound familiar? We have all seen it. “Masculine male seeks same for true love. No femmes, fats, or blacks,” Or the better “28 yr. old gay male but doesn’t act it. Seeks passable CD for DL fun.” You can’t make this stuff up and it is far too common. Why do people use these kinds of labels? Firstly, they are rarely attainable and again it is just an expression of the internalized hatred that many of us carry.

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Photo by Mabel Amber on Pexels.com

Ok I get it; we all have types so we use these labels as a means of expressing to others what type we are looking for in a mate. That works great if you are saying you like men with, short blonde hair, green eyes, average groomed body hair, who is loving and honest.  Those are labels that would qualify as a type. When we use terms such as straight acting, masculine, femme, lady boy, or any of the other variations what we are really using are terms that are limiting and judgmental. Many of the labels we have adopted are from idealized patterns of what we know. To say you want someone masculine tends to stem from growing up hearing how feminine or girly a gay man may be and it creates a stigma that we attribute as being bad. We don’t want to be judged with those same standards so we internalize it to change how we act and what we should be attracted to.

I am also a realist; I fully acknowledge that getting rid of labels is as bad as using antiquated ones. There has to be a happy medium. Daily LGBTQ people are being persecuted for our differences. Around 17% of the murders committed this year have been towards African American transgender women. All of us, more than likely, were raised in families or communities that ingrained into us that gay is bad and heterosexuality is the default choice. Its the same society that teaches that “white is right” and that men have the power. Remember that it wasn’t until fairly recently that gay was used to describe queer culture, it was activist Frank Kameny that reclaimed it by the slogan “Gay is Good.” So labels are important for being able to understand difference in the human condition. They are needed but it’s the knife’s edge, one day they will be used against us. Its a fact we cannot change and done we cannot ignore.

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We are now in a society that has the ‘knee jerk’ mentality. We are quick to judge and even quicker to say we are being judged. It is hard to trust anyone who claims to be “on our side” because we question the motives as to why they are helping us. The #METOO movement is a good example, it is a venue for allowing women, and men, to stand up and say they have been abused and have their voices be heard. It has also created a counter response where a lot of white men are standing us and claiming to be the “good guy” so that women shouldn’t fear them. Pitting people against one another. This administration is toxic, at best. We are watching as legislature that was passed is trying to be undone or circumvented. We have a leader who is known for racist mentality and even condones it. This has lead to increase hate crime attacks of all minorities. Transphobia is on the rise, as well as their murder rate.

It is not just the fault of the person that uses the label, but also of the one who reacts to the label. The same internalizations that may cause someone to use those labels could be the same ones that makes a person react negatively to hearing them. In many cases, they pain those words cause can be debilitating to a person, inciting rage over those who appear to be that type or fear and shutting down by those who are being labeled by it. All because of the environment we are raised in.

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It’s no secret why ancient cultures have spells, prayers, and songs to their deities, they knew that words have power, they are magic. Words can affect people and situations to any outcome. That is why I mentioned Frank Kameny coining the term gay to be used as a definition for homosexual people. Until that point it had no bearing on our culture or who we are his slogan “Gay is Good” changed how that word was to be related forever. I remember growing up that using the term gay was bad, as it referred to “those” people. This is the kind of magic that words can have.

I don’t expect you to stop using labels, it just won’t happen. It is not how humans are hardwired we need definitions. What I hope is that you will start to question why you use labels that you do. I would hope that you understand is why you choose the words that you do. Don’t let the labels define who you are and how you view the world. Don’t let them limit your experiencing of life. Consider how they make others feel and react when they are used. After all, words are the strongest magic.

 

Obscenity To Follow

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The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This has caused a lot of tension for the content filtering that Tumblr has stated that it will start enforcing. So what allows that and is it constitutional or fair?

Going further to explain what Freedom of Speech is covered; let’s look at a further definition. Simply put, this Amendment gives us the right to express ourselves without fear of government regulation or interference, but it can regulate speech that may breach the peace and often times obscenity is placed into this category. Obscenity has been a hot button for many years over what it does or does not cover and it is not covered under the First Amendment. The Government defines obscenity as lewd, filthy, and disgusting words or pictures. However, indecent materials including depictions and words are covered under the First Amendment, but they are allowed in a more restricted sense.

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Defining what is or isn’t obscenity or indecent isn’t as black and white and there are two court cases that are big for determining the difference. The first being United States v. One Book Entitled Ulysses, which states that if a work is to be deemed obscene it must be decided on its entirety and not just its parts. This gives a wide berth for anything written, as it must be judged in its whole context. One chapter describing particularly graphic scenes cannot make the whole work obscene. The second case is Miller v. California, which gives a bit more definition. The webpage Legal Information Institute states “The Miller test for obscenity includes the following criteria: (1) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ appeals to ‘prurient interest’ (2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (3) whether the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” The Miller v. California case allows states to have more control in determining what obscene is and how it applies to a larger level.

Both of these cases were ruled on prior to 1997 and it was at this time more rulings started to surface to try to prevent specific types of content. Reno v. ACLU tried to implement laws to protect children in the new digital media being shared online, which tried to change the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Supreme Court felt it was overly broad in its handing. In 1998 COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) was put into place and allowed laws to be put into place to protect minors from viewing of obscene images online. Later COPPA was found to also be overly broad in its ban of online adult transmissions of material and that it violated the Miller v. California test. As of 2009, no new legislature has been set forth to define obscenity any different.

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Unfortunately, that leaves it to State level to make the necessary decisions over what is or isn’t not considered obscene. These rulings are what has caused age restrictions to be put into place view the purchasing and viewing of adult content. And many times will allow a heavy-handed approach it what is considered able to fall under being prohibited. These same rulings are what allows websites, like Tumblr, to create Terms of Service agreements about how those images are handled. It is also the same rulings that allow the censoring of artists, photographers, and writers, people like Robert Mapplethorpe, David Wojnarowicz, or Gio Black Peter.  As the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

These same rulings are also used to limit topics of education in schools. Utah, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arizona and Texas are the states that allow their schools to censor or prohibit LGBTQ topics from being taught in what is called the “no promo homo” laws. This includes denying support groups such as the Gay and Straight alliance that helps students who are LGBTQ or supporters a means to feel safe, all the way down to Oklahoma that mandates that when the schools are teaching AIDS education that it includes that participating in homosexual events is the leading cause to contracting the AIDS virus. Arizona does not allow any curriculum that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle,” which the state is allowed to decide upon. When state levels of government are allowed to teach that homosexuality is considered obscene at a young age, it makes it much easier to deem images in art equally as obscene.

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The argument of Freedom of Speech ties a lot to age limit. In 1970, the Constitution was amended to change the voting age from 21 to 18. This gives the right of every American citizen to make decisions and vote on laws and those who enforce them once they reach the age of 18. This is also the age that is considered to be able to purchase adult content, whether online, in adult stores, or etc. So your right to expression is also allowed at that age and the Government should not be allowed to infringe on that right. As long as the participants of adult related content are consenting adults at least 18 years of age, do not hurt or put anyone in harm, then it should not be held to such strict standards. I left out violating any State or Federal laws, as this opens it back up to the States being able to deem something obscene.

Tumblr has used many reasons to explain their new stance on adult related content and how they will handle it. Any have focused on how there was an increase of child pornography on their sites that lead to their new heavier algorithms for banning the content. These algorithms are not perfect and many times are subject to controversy due to images the have flagged as to explicit. Many artistic images were tagged and removed. Many sites just vanished for the same reason. Transgender blogs that helped others by showing procedural images were caught up in these same heavy-handed approaches. It became a place where information could be shares in real time and show effects of treatments on people’s bodies so others had a reference point. Those sites that are important to many of the transgender community will more than likely disappear, as Tumblr’s ban goes into effect.

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It was also a venue for many LGBTQ artists to showcase their art, whether it be photography, painting, digital media, or however they expressed their talent. When their algorithms are searching for real life human genitalia, females showing nipples, or any content depicting sex acts, all the while encouraging users to actively flag and report anything they deem inappropriate, it is easy to see how this media is disappearing. They recently issued a response to the ban that said they would allow female nudity in aspects of breastfeeding, birth and health related situation, or mastectomy or gender confirmation pictures. They also clarified to say that nudity found in art would be permitted, but the extent of what is allowed is still left up to their decision and user interaction.

Your freedoms are always held in check by those who feel infringed upon or when States make changes to existing laws based on pressure. Sure sites like Tumblr and Facebook are allowed to make their own Terms of Service and we all agree to them blindly without reading fully what may be covered. Standards should be kept in place, but sweeping censoring based on broadly penned wording needs to change. Changing your standards based on pressure from outside sources should be resisted if no hard is being committed. Sadly, we won’t see that and many more sites may be going the way of Tumblr. Our voices may be the only thing that will shape futures of our online content.

**The views expressed in this post are my own and may not be held by any referenced party listed in this blog. **

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Everyone Else Is Doing It…

So December 17th will be Tumblr’s last day for porn. Those of you that may not know, Tumblr is a blogging platform that specializes in pictures, videos, gif, and smaller blocks of text. It is what would happen if Twitter and Facebook had a love child. It became the easy platform for small time pornography, as well as a means to share clips for other sites. Amateurs found it a perfect venue for their content and, if it happens, it will be sorely missed. With the approvals of SESTO (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) and FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act), many people who were using social media as a means of making a living may be forced into more unsafe areas.

Shortly after its birth in 2007, Tumblr quickly became a network for the NSFW community to post images and content without fear of being banned. If you were looking for quality clips, pics, gif, meme, and pirated videos, it was the go to place. If you were an amateur looking for e venue to showcase your material, Tumblr had an audience. If you were an aspiring porn star it was the perfect place to start building a follower base. Tumblr allowed you to surf the porn web anonymously and mostly safely. You could scroll through search list of almost any fetish or desire you may have and even create your own feed. From here you could repost items you found and build your own following. The limit was your imagination.

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As I mentioned in a previous post, Tumblr wasn’t against adult content and allowed it to be posted. The only caveat was that if you were a frequent poster of adult content you had to flag your blog as ADULT. Explicit content was frowned upon and often times did get deleted. Typically a post would be deleted if someone reported it or the algorithms they used found it. Their Toss expressed that explicit acts of sexuality would be removed, but in the past it was done with a light hand. This started to become more enforced this year when Verizon bought Tumblr.

Tumblr had led many tech companies in the fight to prevent telecoms from slowing the Internet for users who couldn’t pay for higher bandwidth speeds. Also allowing their users to be more determinate of what they posted created a fairly large target for them. They fighting voice for net neutrality started was quieted when their company merged with Yahoo. It wasn’t until they merged with Verizon that many posts started being silenced. Verizon is very much against net neutrality and very much backs the removal of adult content. Verizon also now owns AOL, this gives them a pretty large swatch of search engines and social media options to control flows for their benefit.

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This becomes important under this administration as we are seeing more and more measures put into place for censorship. “According to the National Center for Transgender Equality(NCTE), current laws already grant prosecutors ample powers to effectively bust sex traffickers and to investigate businesses that engage in trafficking. But the law could drastically expand the definition of the offense of “promoting” or facilitating trafficking to include many commercial websites disseminating information for sex workers, even educational guidance, opening them up to lawsuits or other pressure to shut down,” according to The Nation. This could give SESTO and FOSTA the ability to target sites that are offering education services under the guise of helping sex workers or traffickers.

The recent change to Tumblr is also affected other platforms, like Facebook. Facebook as recently changed its content-moderation protocols to crackdown on any sexually suggestive posts. Their policies have changed to include language for discussing sexual positions to posting erotic art. The previous iterations of the policies did not clearly make distinction between sexual exploitation and solicitation. So calling your ex a slut and showing pics they sent you would clearly fall under exploitation, while being in a group and saying that you are going to be at a local bar looking for fun, if interested wear a shirt with a unicorn could be under solicitation. Now, both scenarios are clearly defined under their new policy. This has seen an increase in posts being flagged and groups being deleted. I personally have had a friend been warned and posts removed for content that Facebook said used sexual slang.

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According to an article posted on Out (out.com) “In October, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that works to defend free speech and user privacy, reported that in recent years “policy restrictions on ‘adult’ content have an outsized impact on LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities.” Many LGBTQ websites and social platforms have felt the backlash from this, seeing YouTube channels being suspended or Facebook pages temporarily banned. These are places that offered safe information about sex to many LGBTQ youth. This in turn can lead to a heightened sense of not belonging and turning to other less safe means of learning about sex and sexual activities. Many of these platforms provided sexual education for the LGBTQ youth and showed that sex could be intimate and soft instead of being catered to the male gaze and phallic centric that a lot of porn seems to be shot in.

A couple months ago, Facebook was shown to have been blocking many LGBTQ ads based on its new advertising policy. Facebook claims this is a small error but it does show failures in the programming of algorithms they use to monitor their traffic. They truth of this is hard to imagine since Facebook, itself, isn’t know to be supportive of the LGBTQ community. Many are still feeling the backlash of the “real name” policy. A policy that did not allow transgender people to change their name as it wasn’t seen a their “REAL NAME.”

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Censorship like this isn’t the only limit. If you are in support for sex worker reform and post about any of articles that are about it, many social media platform see the words “sex worker” and oftentimes flag the post or suspend your account without explanation. There is fear that many of the algorithms used for scanning will not be able to differentiate between diagrams for condom usage, pelvic exams, or porn. This could lead to large problems with sexual educations sites that are legitimately hosted by organizations. Many of the early obscenity laws of America were centered on the teaching of sexual education and contraception.

Eric Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition stated,  “Many people in straight, heteronormative communities don’t understand what the big deal is, because their lives and cultures are represented everywhere,” Leue said. “For those in queer, or niche, or fetish communities, Tumblr was one of the few accessible spaces to build communities and share content.” He also feels that large tech companies need to understand the difference between using algorithms for flagging content and outright banning content versus nuances of media and human regulation. Removing these items from apps stores and online media may not seem huge to the heteronormative segments of the population but it has a huge effect on the LGBTQ youth.

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It has not been thought of how this may affect informative educational blogs for the transgender community. Many transgender people have used the platforms like Tumblr and Instagram for showing their lives through transitional images and giving a voice to those who are struggling to find acceptance. These same sites will very likely be the ones that are flagged and banned because of images or text used. With the current president and administration pushing to change laws for LGBTQ it isn’t hard to see that many of these sites will land on the side of safety and remove this content

Censorship is alive and well in America. It is being used as a means of persecution of marginalized people. We have see platforms target images and posts based on to strict algorithm and heavy handed banning when, in fact, the content may not specifically fit the ToS of the platform. This same censorship seems to be targeting LGBTQ people in ways we didn’t think would happen, artwork is being flagged, educational sites are being removed, and our posts are being removed because someone or something things we are using suggestive terms that may relate to exploitation or solicitation. Its time we became more aware of the control these people exert without our knowledge. If not, many aspects of our culture could be removed before we even realize it is gone.

 

HB-36 and Why It Is Bad…

It is true that we have made a lot of progress, as LGBTQ, in the last 60 years. Many states have protection status bills for employment, housing, and hate crimes. More people are openly accepting of the LGBTQ population. And it is also legal for us to marry, in the United States. However, just because we have the legal right to get married doesn’t mean the battle is over. Case in point the following bill.

Before the Ohio Judiciary Committee is a bill that needs attention drawn to it. HB-36 states the following. “To amend section 3101.08 of the Revised Code to provide that an ordained or licensed minister or religious society is not required to solemnize a marriage and a religious society is not required to allow any building or property of the religious society to be used to host a marriage ceremony if the marriage does not conform to the ordained or licensed minister’s or religious society’s sincerely held religious beliefs, to provide that an ordained or licensed minister or religious society is not subject to civil or criminal liability for such a denial, and to provide that the state and political subdivisions may not penalize or withhold benefits to an ordained or licensed minister or religious society for such a denial.”

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It is important to point out that the First Amendment already exists and grants this right to any licensed minister or religious group. It is the wording that is the issue to be considered. All to often many bills are put before the people or committees to vote on that alter wording or add clauses to a bill so they can get passed. It is important that we contact our elected officials to let them know how we feel about this bill. Let them know that you feel they should not pass this bill.

This has already been the right of any licensed minister or religious group, under the First Amendment. What this bill now changes is that any venue can refuse to host the marriage or its services due to religious views, even if the venue itself has no religious ties. The bill also gives rights to “religious societies” having the ability to deny services that do not conform with their own religious views, however religious society is not defined clearly.

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Ohio also recognizes Same Sex Unions as valid and legal, however, this very bill is a slap in the face to that acceptance. In effect saying “Oh sure we recognize your marriage, we just don’t approve of it so you cannot use these places for your ceremonies.” For every scrap of ground we make forward, there is some ambush tactic waiting to be unleashed against that advancement.

This bill provides a loophole under the guise of giving licensed ministers and religious societies the ability to refuse the right of marriage. It allows any business the right to refuse their services to anyone that they deem their religion doesn’t recognize. We can step away from the LGBTQ issue here and show it in another fashion. If a heterosexual couple had been living together before they got married, in essence, the Catholic Church could refuse them the right of using their church, minister, or grounds to solemnize their marriage. And this would be acceptable as the couple had been “living in sin” prior to their marriage. If the female became pregnant before marriage, the same kind of ruling could be applied for attending church or using their facilities. How far could this be carried? Would places start selectively giving information to the church about your personal activities to make sure that what you are doing doesn’t violate something with that religious organization?

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Many bills are written this way and put before the voting body. It is proposed to target something someone may not feel is lawful, but can be expanded in the future to include other things that may not have been thought of at the time of inception. I urge you to research this bill and read it thoroughly and then contact the Ohio Judicial Committee to speak out about it. You can find more information of Equality Ohio here. And remember, simply because we have had a few good steps forward does not mean that the journey is complete. Until we do not have to fight for the same basic rights that so many of the population take for granted, our fight is far from over.

Below is a list of names and numbers of the Ohio Judiciary Committee.  Contact them and let them know how you feel. If you are not confrontational, make the call after 5pm and you leave a voicemail.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Chair Kevin Bacon 614-466-8064
Vice Chair Matt Dolan 614-466-8056
Ranking Minority Member Cecil Thomas 614-466-5980
William P. Coley, II 614-466-8072
John Eklund 614-644-7718
Matt Huffman 614-466-7584
Peggy Lehner 614-466-4538
Sean O’Brien 614-466-7182
Scott Oeslager 614-466-0626
Michael J. Skindell 614-466-5123

 

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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.

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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

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.

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