Are You Thankful?

The holiday season is upon us and for me one of my more favorites of them is Thanksgiving. That being said, in a moment we will also discuss why I very much dislike this holiday. This is the one holiday where friends and family come together to share a meal. A time to take stock of what has transpired and what is to come. It is an invented holiday, but one that has some pretty awesome food to eat. So, bear with me while I share a bit with you.

As I mentioned, this is my favorite holiday and it is primarily due to the sharing of good food. Sitting down with those that are important in your life and partaking of food is an amazing experience. It gives you time to share your lives, appreciate the finer nuances of life, and slow down to appreciate the small details of a thing. One can argue about Christmas and the veritable boundless days of feasting, but it is also caught up too much in commercialism. Children are even taught to appreciate receiving gifts more than enjoying the closeness of the season. But that is not the point of this article.

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Thanksgiving was always a “family” holiday in my family. We would go to the various grandparents’ houses where each person usually brought some side dish or dessert with them.  It was a time to go to my Meemaw’s house and it was looked forward too because we knew the food was going to be amazing. And we would get to watch the parades on TV. Meemaw or her sister Recie would cook the turkey till it was just dripping with juices and surrounding it was their version of dressing. Never did they stuff the bird. The dressing was savory with bits of raisins and apples to give it just a touch of sweetness. She was also famous for her corn pudding. I still have her recipe, but never have I been able to make the consistency or taste she could whip up.

Recie was famous for her biscuits. She did small batches at a time and always cooked them in pie tins. Their kitchen had a woodstove that she always seemed to precisely know the temperature of. They would come out of the over, perfectly golden brown and seven at a time. Piping hot with a pat of butter and a slice of tomato and it was utter perfection. For anyone from European countries reading this and wondering why we made biscuits in pie tins, an American biscuit is more akin to a scone. However, we make them savory as opposed to sweet. Recie was also known, at least for me, for her green beans. Whether it be Blue Lakes, Half Runners, or snap beans they were also delicious. They would cook for hours with fatback, which gave them the perfect flavor. Sunday dinners and holidays, I always knew I could count on green beans and biscuits.

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My mother always made amazing sweet potato casserole, if you ask me, no one can cook sweet potatoes like southern cooks. My mother was the baker for holidays. Friends and family alike sought the confections she could put together out. There were a few she made during the holidays that I always waited for and I think my all time favorite was her Applesauce cake. When I went to college, it wasn’t often that I could afford to come home for Thanksgiving and my mother made it a little better with that holiday care package that had an Applesauce cake in it. This thing can literally last weeks. Every bite would transport me to my youth sitting around Meemaw’s kitchen table, eating dinner with the family.

Each of those women is responsible for me being able to cook today and I try to honor their memory by cooking dishes they did. Sometimes I am close and a great many others, I am simply left remembering amazing memories from my youth. Now that I live in the Cleveland area, I try to at least make one of the many dishes for my friends. More often than not it is the dressing and corn pudding. I have to admit, they are probably the hardest to pass up this time of year and sharing my family with them is pretty awesome, as well.

Thanksgiving is a created holiday, like I said. The actual idea and name came much later than the story that we were told in elementary school. We all remember it, how the cultured Pilgrims who came here to escape religious persecution invited the native savages to break bread in an act of friendship and solidarity and beginning of peaceful coexistence. Well just about all of it is a sham. First off, there was no last peace, as you can remember from history class. But specifically to that “famed” day, what he is taught is pretty different in every way from the truth. Pilgrims, themselves, were already outcasts. They wanted to overthrow the English government so they could practice their own beliefs. They left and came to this land as they outcasts they because and still thinking they were the “chosen ones.” This land was to be there “Holy Kingdom.” They waged war against anyone who didn’t agree with their purification interpretation of scripture. Even not opposed to using tactics like torture, war, and lies to achieve that end. They saw the native people as their divine right to make in their image.

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The Wampanoag were not the friendly tree hugging people that our history books make them out to be. They spent most of their time fighting for their lands and lives against the League of the Delaware or what would later be called the Iroquois Confederacy. They also had many meetings with white fisherman and slavers. Our “Indian hero” of the story, Squanto, had a very real love with a British explorer John Weymouth and he considered him a father. This all happened several years before the Pilgrims landed. Squanto was also the only educated and baptized Christians and as such, the Pilgrims saw him as a divine instrument they could use in converting the rest of his people.

At this point the native people held a much stronger advantage in the situation. They were familiar with the territory, knew how to plant crops that would grow in the soils there, where to hunt, and were much more stronger force than the few Pilgrims. In hopes of holding out for the greater force arriving in the next year, the Pilgrims tried to forge a peace with the Wampanoag. They called for a meeting with the motive of securing lands for the Pilgrim Plantation, under the guise of peace. The Wampanoag were people believed to never turn away people who asked for help with an outstretched hand probably brought most of the actual feast for this meeting.

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It was probably almost a generation later when the balance of power shifted and the King Philip’s War started and the very children of that feast were sat upon killing one another. This war decimated most of the New England natives and left them dead, refugees to Canada, or sold into slavery in the Carolinas. At this time the Puritans/Pilgrims had become fairly successful in the slave trade of native people. Not the peace loving, seeking our place to worship without fear of persecution types we were lead to believe in our school education.

There my kiddies, is a brief explanation of why I both love and dislike this holiday. What I hold onto is the sharing with family, a time to remember all past events that have gotten us to where we are now and be thankful for them. A time to look ahead and share in the very earthly delights of food and spirits. It’s the focus of small things that truly make living an ultimate experience. So slow down this holiday and eat, drink, and be merry. Enjoy the company and how it pairs with the amazing food you are eating.

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LGBTQ People That Have Shaped History

With this being National LGBTQ History Month, I also think it is important to celebrate the present. Our city, Cleveland, has had a few victories this year that definitely need celebrating. While we still have a fight ahead of us, acknowledging where we have made advances gives us strength to fight on. Share with me in this and know that each of you are a part of this.

All to often you can see lists of historical people that may have been LGBTQ and it is hard to know for certain how true that may be. There are many factors to consider such as what was culture like at the time, was this because there seemed to be an over familiar bond with a specific person, or was it a choice for purposes we don’t understand. When I think about LGBTQ people who have shaped our history, I prefer to look to the ones that were identifiable, as such. So here is a list of people I feel have truly shaped our history and moved us forward.

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Alan Turing.  For all of us that enjoy our phones for our apps, playing video games, wasting countless hours on Facebook, and playing with computers, be sure to thank Alan Turing. He is the father of modern computing. Turing also built the computer that broke the Nazi code in WWII. Turing also created the Turing test; if the name is unfamiliar you may have seen it in movies or books like I Robot or Ex Machina. It is designed to test artificial intelligence in relation to human intelligence. Turing hid his sexuality for most of his life due to homosexuality being illegal in British Government. He was arrested in 1952 and sentenced to chemical castration for meeting another male for sexual interactions. He later took his life by taking cyanide due to depression. Sadly, we will never know what else he may have created due to the loss of this genius.

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Barbara Gittings. Barbara, an out lesbian, started battling for LGBTQ rights at least a decade before the events of, the now famous, Stonewall. In 1958 she founded the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first Lesbian Political and Civil Rights Organization in America. Gittings is also credited for leading the movement that led to the changing of psychological and psychiatric views of homosexuality as a mental pathology. This was the groundwork that led to the 1973 American Psychiatric Association revoking the designation of homosexuality as a disorder.

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Christine Jorgenson. “EX GI BECOMES BLONDE BOMBSHELL: OPERATIONS TRANSFORMS BRONX YOUTH,” was the headline of New York’s Daily News.” This was how she came out as the first out transgendered woman. This was years before the term transsexual was replaced with transgender. Her beauty, elegance, intelligence, and style gave a new voice and opened up the view that gender was not only a binary state. Jorgenson knew at a very early age that she did not fit the typical male ideal. She grew up, went into the armed services and served her country know she was out of place. It wasn’t until after her term of service that she heard about the reassignment surgeries that were taking place in Europe. She started her first surgery in 1951, once completed she returned to the United States and shortly after the famous headline appeared. She had a career as an actress, nightclub entertainer, and had several song recordings. Her celebrity status gave her the perfect opportunity to be one of the first transgender advocates.

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The Wachowski’s. Okay, as a nerd, geek, fanboy, I hate to admit that I didn’t know this one. If you have watched Bound, the Matrix, V for Vendetta, or Cloud Atlas, then the Wachowski’s are the ones who have made those movies possible. They are also behind the acclaimed Netflix series Sense8. This trans woman sibling duo has been a huge influence on Hollywood. Rumors had spread since the early 2000s that there was a possible transition with Lana, but it wasn’t until 2008 that she officially came out as a trans woman, her sibling Lily would come out in 2016.

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Bayard Rustin. In the 1940s and 50s being black was a hard enough struggle in this country, but Rustin was also openly gay. He stood on the forefront of the fight for Civil Rights, working to shape the future. He is responsible for helping set up the 1963 March on Washington that lead the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Many in the movement openly disapproved of their sexual orientation and made it quite known. Later Dr. King would speak out against homosexuality calling it a mental illness and distanced himself from Rustin. In 2013, President Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work on Civil Rights. His long time partner Walter Naegle accepted the award on his behalf.

Gov. Kate Brown. “On the day that I was sworn in as Oregon’s 38th governor, I experienced what it’s like to be labeled – to have my first two decades of service eclipsed by a single phrase: ‘the nation’s first openly bisexual governor,’ a phrase that appeared after my name in virtually every headline worldwide.” She as also made Oregon the third state to ban so-called conversion therapy on minors.

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Rebecca Walker. Time named Walker as one of the most influential leaders of her generation. She is an author of several book about living outside of the boxes that society tries to force upon us. She wrote her first book at the age of 25 called “To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism.” She also wrote the book “On Big Happy Family” that talks about various aspects of modern love, such as: open adoption, mixed marriage, polyamory, and single motherhood. Walker is openly bisexual and the co-founder of The Third Wave Foundation, a feminist and activist foundation that works to support “the vision and voices of young women, transgender and gender nonconforming youth.”

When looking for role models, it is easy to see there are plenty for us to cast our eyes upon. Many who have made large steps forward in our struggle for equality. I personally tend to look for those who show strength of character and the tenacity to not be bound by standards of others. To look for modern influences as opposed to history where we are left on speculations of who they may have been. Also look to the future for the voices that are yet to come, they will be the new front line. Boxes are meant to be opened and boundaries are only limitations until we see we can reach far beyond them. Share in our history and let it push you to shape our future.

LGBTQ Myths

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In honor of it being National LGBTQ History Month I thought I would dedicate my blog to sharing coming out stories, facts and or questions about coming out, LGBTQ history tidbits, and things that are important but feel good at the same time. So, sit back, read, and as always let me know what you think. As this isn’t my personal post but from another website, I apologize for the lack of inclusion. Their website does have great information, just wasn’t much in the way of inclusion in this post.

Myths and Facts about Sexual Orientation in Identity

There are lots of myths about sexual orientations and what they all mean – we clear the misconceptions up and give you the facts about what different sexualities mean. Republished with the permission of LGBT Youth Scotland. https://www.lgbtyouth.org.uk

Myth: Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is just a phase.

Fact: Lots of people do experiment with their sexuality, but for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, being attracted to the same gender or both genders all their life is no different to straight people being attracted to the opposite sex.

Myth: Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is a choice/lifestyle.

Fact: People do not choose who they are attracted to, whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight.

Myth: Lesbian, gay and bisexual people can be cured.

Fact: There is no valid scientific evidence that shows a person’s sexual orientation can be changed, but many experts have warned that trying to do so can be extremely damaging.

Myth: Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is unnatural.

Fact: There is nothing unnatural about being attracted to or loving someone regardless of their gender.

Myth: Being lesbian, gay or bisexual means you can’t be religious.

Fact: Although some religions/ faiths still condemn being lesbian, gay or bisexual, lots of LGBT people are religious or follow the teachings of a religion.

Myth: Bisexual people are just confused.

Fact: Many people are attracted to more than one gender all their lives and don’t feel any more confused over their sexual orientation than anyone else.

Myth: Bisexual people are greedy.

Fact: Being attracted to more than one gender doesn’t make a person greedy, it’s no different from being attracted to one.

Myth: Bisexual people are just gay or lesbian people who haven’t admitted it yet.

Fact: Some gay and lesbian people will identify as bisexual first as part of the coming out process, whereas other people who first identify as gay or lesbian people may later identify as bisexual, but many people happily identify as bisexual all their life.

Myth: It’s fashionable to be bi.

Fact: Some people may think its cool/fashionable to be bisexual, but this type of attitude can prevent people who are genuinely bisexual from being taken seriously. This links back to ideas of sexual orientation being a choice or a lifestyle that can be changed.

Myth: Lesbians/gay men fancy every woman/man they see.

Fact: Some lesbians/gay men will be attracted to lots of women/men and some just a few; most will be somewhere in the middle. Your sexual orientation has no direct relation to how many or how few people you are attracted to and is no different to heterosexual people’s attraction to people of the opposite gender.

Myth: Lesbians/gay men are promiscuous and will try and jump into bed with every woman/man they meet.

Fact: Again, a person’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with how many or how few partners a person will have.

Myth: All lesbians are butch/All gay men are camp.

Fact: Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are as varied as straight people. Some lesbians will be butch and some won’t. Some gay men will be camp and some won’t. You should never feel pressure to act a certain way or change how you behave just because of your sexual orientation.

 

Other side of the coin.

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In honor of October being National LGBTQ History month, I feel it is important to talk about coming out. October 11th is National Coming Out Day, so this should be a time of reflection to those who wish they could come out and cannot find the means to do so. It should be a time for celebration of coming out, remember why we go through it, encouraging and helping others with coming out. We all know that it doesn’t stop; we are constantly coming out to new friends, to our jobs, family members, or whatever.

I feel our community, myself included, often judge those that aren’t out. How many times have we been on our apps and have seen the married person that is looking for a hookup. We all go through that moment of “Who is this closeted queen looking for sex?” Or maybe that brief thought of fulfilling some fantasy of sleeping with the unattainable straight person. Instead of thinking what struggles they have be going through. Not everyone feels comfortable with the thought of coming out it is a huge decision. We all have worried about what we may lose when those around us find out that we are LGBTQ. Then there are those of us whose fear of that is crippling that we remain hidden.

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Coming out as an older LGBTQ person has its own unique sets of challenges. Many grew up with the horrible images of what Hollywood portrayed LGBTQ people. It became second nature to hide, if you didn’t fit the stereotypes that were out there. That lead to getting married in hopes you could change. When it didn’t you ended up lying to your spouse as to where you were when you disappeared. Once you are married you fear coming out because you fear whom it may hurt your life as well as destroy your spouse for something you felt ashamed to share. It only becomes worse if there are children involved. So you lived a lie suppressing who you are or sneaking around cruisy spots when the need becomes too much to bear. We shouldn’t have to live this way.

If you are at a point you feel that you are ready to start coming out, there are still other concerns many face. The gay community is rife with showing hot young guys with “perfect” bodies that are happy, having lots of sex, and lots of attention. Age becomes an issue and you fear you will never find anyone that may be attracted to you. Due to this they often over compensate for it by dressing younger than they are, dying their hair, taking on younger affectations, or even spending large amounts of money. Drugs and alcohol often can come into the picture and lead to many more serious problems.

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Many also worry that they carry to much baggage, from their lives before coming out, to find love. They fear that many will see they have an ex spouse or children and no one will want to take that on. Or their lack of experience will make them less desirable. None of us knew what we liked the first time we tried things with someone. Those that are coming out later in life feel they are coming late to the party. That everyone else already knows what they like and you have no idea. It may also be that they want a monogamous relationship and because of that they turn away people for fear that it won’t result in that.

Those that don’t come out are forced to endure the portion of the LGBTQ community that judges them and this leads to exacerbating those fears. We all need a safe network when we come out and if our community stands in judgment, how do we foster that support. Remember back to when you came out, it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. We all had some fear of people reacting to it. We should be the extended hand in the maelstrom, not the tide that forces them under. Yes I am an advocate for being out, it is important to do so. But I also understand why some chose not to and there are some valid reasons behind many of those choices. Just remember that we are only in charge of our happiness, not the happiness of others.

October is National LGBTQ History Month and October 11th is National Coming Out Day, reflect on the meaning of those and the strides we have taken when we decide to judge others. Remember those courageous people that have taken those steps and gain solace and strength. From them and us we should draw strength and be supportive of our fellow LGBTQ people. If we don’t, no one else will.

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You may be asked…

In honor of it being National LGBTQ History Month I thought I would dedicate my blog to sharing coming out stories, facts and or questions about coming out, LGBTQ history tidbits, and things that are important but feel good at the same time. So, sit back, read, and as always let me know what you think.

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Questions You Might Be Asked If You Come out as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual in Identity

If you do decide to come out as either lesbian, gay or bisexual, there may be a number of questions asked on you. Depending on who’s being asked and who’s asking, answers will vary, but the questions and guide answers below will hopefully help you to prepare for some of the common questions and reactions when someone comes out as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Reproduced with permission from LGBT Youth Scotland.

Q: How do you know/are you sure?

A: Like everyone else, lesbian, gay and bisexual people know who they are attracted to; it’s not any different.

Q: What does that mean?

A: Gay – emotionally and physically attracted to men. Lesbian – emotionally and physically attracted to women. Bisexual – emotionally and physically attracted to both women and men.

Q: Does that mean you’ll never have children?

A: There are lots of ways to have children as a lesbian, gay or bisexual person, if I decide I want to be a parent

Q: It’s a difficult life to lead.

A: Lots of lesbian, gay and bisexual people lead full and happy lives.

Q: Don’t tell anyone.

A: It’s my decision to tell people if I want to and I would like you to support me with whatever decision I make.

Q: It’s against my/your religion.

A: There are many lesbian, gay and bisexual people who are religious and many places of worship are welcoming to them. If your religion or place of worship doesn’t accept LGB people, you can still have your own relationship with your god, and no-one has the right to tell you otherwise.

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Q: I don’t want to know you anymore.

A: Some people may never accept it, but many do with time. Give these people some space or ask a supportive friend to talk to them. Just because I am attracted to people of the same gender or people of both genders doesn’t change me as a person.

Q: It’s probably just a phase.

A: I’ve thought about it for a long while before telling you and I know how I feel.

Q: I feel like I don’t know you anymore.

A: I’m still the same person, and because I am close to you I didn’t want there to be any secrets between us.

Q: You don’t look gay.

A: Lesbian, gay and bisexual people look, dress and act in many different ways, just like straight people.

Q: How do people have sex with someone who is the same gender as them?

A: This is a personal question, which you should only answer if you feel comfortable doing so. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people have sex in different ways (just like straight people)

For more information check out the Coming Out guide from LGBT Youth Scotland, and go to their website for extra advice and resources.  
Also, if you are in need in the Cleveland area you can check out the LGBTQ Community Center of Greater Cleveland’s webpage. Specifically you can go here for phone numbers of people to talk to you. You have resources available and people ready to help, you do not have to face it along. Also, if you need a voice or someone to vent to, please don’t hesitate to email me.

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Your True Authentic Self

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We all have heard it and often times we may even get tired of hearing it, but it is important to come out. It’s important on so many levels and we must also realize that it isn’t a one time event. It is important for others to see us as LGBTQ people; to see us is to know us. To know us is to be held accountable for things they say and actions they do. Our visibility helps those who have not found the strength to come out, it gives them a point to focus on and become stronger.  October is the perfect month to start thinking about this and how it affects you, it is LGBTQ Awareness Month.

Before I get into the normal part of why coming out is important, let’s look at a real life reason. On Tuesday September 25th, Cuyahoga County passed the LGBTQ Inclusive Non-Discrimination Ordinance.  Even though about half of the county already had some form of protection legislation in effect. Everyone in Cuyahoga County can be out and not have to worry about losing our job or our houses. We can hold hands in a restaurant and not have to constantly check to see if someone is looking that may get us thrown out. We can be our true authentic self, for most establishments, and not have to worry about being refused service because someone doesn’t think we fit into their small little religious detailed boxes. We can now legally use the bathroom that is correct for us and not have to worry about our safety. These are very important reasons for us to come out now. But these aren’t the most important reasons.

During this hearing many sides were able to voice their opinion. Many communities spoke out for and against this ordinance and why they felt it was important. None gave me grater pause to stop and think than a member of the African American community who spoke out against this ordinance because she knew we chose to be this way and felt we should not have “special rights.” Which, point of fact, are the very same rights she already has. The sticky part for me is when she said, “Choose to be that way.” Yes I know, this isn’t a new argument, it’s the one that is trotted out every time the LGBTQ community stands up for themselves and demand equality. History isn’t teeming with examples of abuse, prejudice, inequities, and inequalities we have suffered. Why? Because our very being isn’t always as easily spotted as heteronormative culture likes to say. Modes of dress, speech styles, rhythm affluences, and mannerisms often aren’t so easy to spot. Because of that the same heteronormative society says it’s because we choose to be this way and only recently wanted fairness.

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LGBTQ people were there in the concentration camps, right along with our Jewish allies. We have been hung, brutally beaten, rape d, and murdered in horrendous ways right along with other minorities.  We stood in the same lines, walking the same streets as our African American brothers and sisters. There were many LGBTQ people who were advisors to Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X. We fought for racial equality knowing it was still illegal to hold hands with our loved ones in public. These are the most important reasons we should come out, everyone of us. We need to show the world just how many of us there are and stand in unity with all those who fight. You want to shape the world for the future? These are the means to do so.

Coming out is and should be a daily event.  I know what you are saying; I just want to live a normal life and to be accepted. What you really are saying is that you want to blend in and not be noticed and that is equal to going back into the closet. You may even argue that heterosexuals don’t come out everyday, but I challenge you to reconsider that thought. The world is tailored around a heterosexual mindset. Media caters to their sexuality, movies highlight their lives, artists write songs about it, and even the government is accepting of this as the right way to live. While it is only the tip of the iceberg.it is not the reason this post was written.

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To constantly live in hiding does damage to ourselves, so coming out is important for our well-being. It’s about accepting yourself as a valid person and beginning to love yourself. This starts the ‘healing of self’ process and is key in being able to allow someone to love you for who you are. We all have heard it at some point, “if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect someone else to love you.” It’s a watered down expression, but what it means is that everything interaction we have in our lives builds a relationship. The first relationship we foster is the one with ourselves. Many times, we cannot even look at ourselves in the mirror for 30 seconds without passing judgment. Learning to love and accept yourself isn’t an easy or overnight thing. In fact, it will probably take all of your life but you can make a start.

Inner homophobia is hard to overcome and it comes in many guises. The easy ones are when we hate ourselves because we view ourselves as not what others expect us to be. We see it too important to base our worth on what others think of us. That is the most evident ones, but there are other deeper ones many of us still carry. Congratulating ourselves on our coworkers not being able to identify us as gay, when you feel good that someone praises you for having straight friends as well as gay friends, or when we let go of our lovers hand in public when we walk into a group of heterosexuals or when children pass by. We also see this in our dating apps and profiles, “masc seeking masc,” “straight acting seeking same”, or even “gay but doesn’t act it.” These are examples of internalized homophobia. The same as just wanting to be viewed as normal and not having to say that you are LGBTQ. We shouldn’t have to feel dread or stay out of the conversation when someone asks us about your weekends. If they talk about what they did with their spouses in comfort and ease, we too should be able to.

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Now before you start saying, “damn it Keith, I do not need to run around waving a rainbow or equality flag every time I have a conversation.” You are correct and that isn’t what I am saying, exactly. Here is an example, you are at your normal Monday morning staff meeting and they are doing the “what did you do this weekend” recap, as it comes to you can say that you and your spouse was doing whatever. Calling your spouse by name allows others to make the connections themselves, much the same way you do when Ted says that him and Sarah went to Olive Garden for their anniversary. You make the conclusion that Sarah is female and his wife, whether that is the case or not, we do know that Ted has a connection to Sarah. It is the casual conversation that should be undertaken to have the coming out moments. Why should we shy away from sharing about our personal lives simply because we are in a same sex relationship? You don’t have to wave a flag, but you shouldn’t have to hide it either

This being said, sometimes it is truly not safe to come out and for those times I would tell you to consider your options before making that move. If you are dependent upon parental figures for your survival, then wait until it is sustainable for you to be on your own. If the place you lie in would react hostile to you coming out, then it may not be the right time to open up. However, if you are in any kind of abusive situation, you need to get out. Your safety is always first. There are resources available to help you, please seek them out. It takes bravery to come out and many times people just don’t have the support network to find that bravery. Do not put yourself at physical risk to be brave, there is always a time and place.

I stand here in support of each and everyone of you. If you ever need someone to talk to, you can always email me. I will listen to you and support you for your True Authentic Self. No struggle should be done alone, you always have support. Email me if you need.
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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?