Looking For Light In The Darkness

The World can be a dark place, that’s for sure. Each time you turn on the TV, open Twitter or Facebook, check your Instagram posts, or even listen to your podcasts, there is always some note of darkness. This Administration is trying the damndest to roll back everything they can about protection status for our LGBTQ community. We need to break up that monotony with any ray of positivity we can. It is something I have been struggling with, as well.

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photo courtesy of sexualfreedom.org

Body positive and sex positive messages are so very necessary. Learning to love who you are unconditionally is key in being able to extend that love to others. Some have been fortunate enough to have our families bring them up in that kind of environment, but the majority of us have had to try to learn that where we can or if we can. I love looking for those kinds of people who promote that kind of message. Enter Corinne Kai, a sex educator and writer. Kai looks as the world through the lens of a pleasure activist and femme of center queer human. You can visit Kai’s Insta here where you will be treated with an array of beautifully shot images that are somewhere on the scale of feminine and LGBTQ. You can also find Kai on the “Femme, Collectively” podcast, here you can check out all their topics on gender intersection, sexuality, and healing. Be sure to check them out, their images are beautifully shot and guaranteed to get you to want to start changing your perception of your own inner beauty.

We all know that underwear can have a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves. A cute pair that is accentuates our curves in all the right places can make us feel like we are the sexiest person the planet. If this is you then Pyramid Seven Underwear is for you. Click their name to be taken to their Insta account. Pyramid Seven Underwear showcase that they “have underwear for everybody and EVERY body.” On their page you will be treated to fashion magazine quality images of all body and gender identity types. Their high quality fabric and array of color can definitely help give you a different perspective on body positivity.And I love supporting companies who support our community.

 

Being body and sex positive is important for our general and psychological health and unfortunately many parents aren’t equipped to teach their children about issues they, themselves, haven’t been taught to deal with. Are you a parent, know a new parent, or just want to help educate yourself in the possibility that you may be a parent then you need to check out Sex Positive Families . Sex Positive Families’ main goes is to “raise sexually healthy children one talk at a time.” This means discussing topics like consent and teach them in basic everyday ways of engaging with people. They also discuss some of the harder topics in new ways to make it easier for parents and children. Their belief is that shaping your child early will help them not have the issues we are today.

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Early and ongoing talks about sexual health can be powerful normalizers of a child’s experiences with their changing body, feelings, interactions with others and messages from the world around them. Parents and caregivers can wonder how much info is too much or when is the “right” time. Consider being proactive as a way to ensure a child receives the knowledge and safe space that helps them make informed choices from a place of awareness and not fear. . ⬆️Now available for download is our age-by-age guide with strategies for raising sexually healthy children from birth to beyond. Follow the bio link to snag your copy and start the talks that support the sexual health of a child in your world.

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Looking for culturally inclusive, sex positive, and an empowering LGBTQ group, the @altapride is for you. This is also one of the few blog out there that showcase gay and bi black men. They also cover a wide range of topics like HIV prevention and treatment, transgender issues, and anti-bullying. Scroll through and check out the insanely hot pics and gain some knowledge while your there. You won’t be let down.

Lastly, and certainly not least is Ruby Allegra. Ruby is a voice for an overlooked and marginalized community, LGBTQ people with disabilities. The media caters to a specific body type for all gender identities and Ruby becomes the advocate for those that don’t fit these molds. Ruby uses social media as a means of advocacy for those with both identities. Check out Ruby Allegra’s Insta here (https://www.instagram.com/rvbyallegra/?utm_source=ig_embed)

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I’m so excited and nervous to share that I will be performing as feature poet for @drawyourswordspoetry on December 6! There will be music from @effie.mp3 and some amazing talented folk in the open mic part of the evening! If you wanna come check it out, share some poetry or just hang with good people, it’ll be at @chateauapollo, doors at 7pm, $10 entry. This venue is accessible! 💗💙 Photo by @pamo.boutros . . . [Image descriptions: first image features Ruby sitting in their wheelchair in front of rows of desks and shelves in a library. Ruby is laughing with their hand partially covering their face, and they are wearing a pink tshirt under blue and white striped overalls. The second image is a promotional poster for Draw Your Swords, featuring a continuous line drawing of Ruby with a mint coloured background. On the left hand side is text reading “Draw your (S)Words: a night of spoken word. Chateau Apollo, 6 December, doors at 7, $10 entry. Featuring: Ruby Allegra (poetry), Effie (music).”]

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Changing perceptions isn’t easy but the first steps have to happen with us. Surrounding ourselves with more positive images helps us create a mindset that is conducive for loving ourselves for who we are at our core. When we do, we show that to the world and will accept nothing less from others. Start small and just learn to be at peace with who you are. If you find or have blogs or people you follow that offer you that needed body and sexy positive ideal, please share below in my comment section.

 

 

Cruise Control

“Knock three times on the ceiling, if you want me. Twice on the pipe if the answer is no…” The art of cruising has evolved so much over the years. The signals gay men once used to express interest are all but a lost art form. Mention hanky code and most may think you mean some kind of public acceptance of wiping your nose. With the onset of technology, we are able to dial down someone within a few hundred yards as opposed to carefully displaying ourselves and watching to see if there is interest. Taking a look at how we meet and even entertain ourselves seems important now that Tumblr is disappearing.

Our world today is fairly easy. We can whip out our smartphones and pull up the most recent iteration of a cruisy app to find other gay men around us. From there we can plan a hookup or possibly start a relationship. In the recent past it was a bit more convoluted. The 1920s was an era of decadence, one that had many bars and clubs owned by gay and lesbian men. As the economy crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s happened, many things changed. Many felt that the openness and experimentation of the 20s led to the current state of affairs. Laws were put into place that prohibited any gay person from congregation in public places. The once bars, restaurants, and cabarets ran by so many were not put in jeopardy. Establishments that employed them or allowed to them to gather where threatened with losing their liquor licenses. Movies were no longer allowed to show gay characters or themes.

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During the 1930s, you also saw in increase of New York City Police using a 1923 statute that made it a criminal act for one gay male to invite another to have sex. This started the sting operations that haunted gay men cruising for sex for so long. These changes forced us to try to find new ways that we could meet each, adopting modes of dress, speech and even style. So how did that happen, you may ask. Well jewelry was a big indicator, wearing a single ear piercing in a certain ear was one of the easiest. Also the adoption of a pinky ring was another means to let others know. Around the 1960s, the Hanky Code was invented. This was an elaborate system of color, patterns, and what pocket to wear it from, all to give the viewer the knowledge if you were a top or a bottom or if like liked a certain fetish.

While these were great, sometimes it was not conducive for all men who were looking to hookup. So places became popular. The term “cruisy spot” was used to indicate a place where men who were looking for sex could meet other men. These places were prone to police raids and also became targets for violence. Bathhouses became other areas for this type of activity. Here you could carry your key or towel a certain way to show others your interest. Video booths were also popular places for the quick turn of trade. Video booths gave the added ability of purely anonymous sex and created a larger fetish scene of glory holes.

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During the 1960s, mainly in Britain, the language of Palori was used as a means of speaking to other gay men without being detected. One would be able to carry on a whole conversation or be able to use is sparsely so that others may be able to pick up on it. Many of the words used during that era have stayed with us through the ages. Butchto mean masculine or masculine lesbian, Chickento mean young person, Cottaging to refer to sex in public restrooms, and Fruitto mean gay man. Our very history has been shaped by the means of the past.

 

As the modern era approached, we saw the Internet start to become a large presence in the lives people. The LGBTQ people were quick to embrace it. I harken back to the days of the AOL chat rooms as a means of finding guys in a specific area. It was great if you were in a new town, you could log into a regional area or even city room to meet up. This lead way to sites like MySpace, LifeOut, and other early social media sites, becoming popular means of meeting and hooking up. The days of Craigslist were not far behind, gaining popularity and growing across the country. This caused many of the earlier means of identification to pass into memory, leaving things like the Hanky Code to be used in bars or leather clubs.

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Photo by Chrysostomos Galathris on Pexels.com

As technology improved and became smaller, our phones became the way for hooking up. Combining the GPS feature and mobility allows members to find like-minded people anywhere they are in the world. Even today we still see usage of terms like bears, twinks, tops, bottoms, bully dyke, baby dykes, acdc, and bibi. Many apps have come and gone over the years, leaving the tried and true like Grindr, Scruff, and Growlr to serve most gay men on the go. Even these platforms are starting to change and evolve more.

We have also used the web and apps as a repository for our arts, history and porn. Apps like Tumblr allow members to curate content they like and share it with an audience that follows them, whether it be content they have found from other places or their own productions. As with much of our history, it is often times viewed through the outside lens of being obscene and many of these sites have very short life spans. Tumblr was started in 2007 to be a micro blogging platform. Allowing bloggers to post multimedia and short posts in a more bite sized consumable format. Tumblr gave an open format for blog owners to post adult related material, but if it was substantial amount posted that their blog be labeled as adult. The terms of service always stated that sexually explicit videos would not be allowed, but embedding code as a redirect could easily circumvent this.

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It is stated by outside sources that 22% of all traffic in and out of Tumblr has pornographic related content and that 16% of the blogs were solely NSFW related. While these numbers seem relatively small, they are the largest focus for the heat the site takes, As of December 17, 2018, Tumblr has issued that all adult content will be removed from their site, with a few exceptions/explanations to this rule. This comes from the long-standing battles about the amount of adult content and recent allegations of child pornography on the site. Adult content aside, this will be a pretty significant loss to the LGBTQ history. Tumblr was useful for many transgender people posting information about the process and life.  It was a means for many LGBTQ artists to showcase their art and express their views. Many of these will fall into the guidelines that Tumblr is now enforcing and will cease to exist on a social platform.

We have changed our ways of identifying ourselves throughout the years, we have adapted to society and technology as our needs saw fit. We have left outdated methods behind us or incorporated them in to new ways of usage. The lesson is that we will adapt to the changes, it may be difficult but we always find a way. How will the future change our interactions?

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Warmer Thoughts

Today is a more chillier day in Cleveland and my canvas kilt is a bit more breezy than I thought it would be this morning. So in retaliation, I am posting to pictures I took last spring with my best friend Tammy McFarland Mellert. You can find her on YouTube, where she does reviews about camera gear and shares her photography adventures here in Ohio. You can also check out her webpage Tammy Mellert Photography. So give her a look over and while you are here, you can look at my pictures.

 

 

Those We Have Lost

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When I was a young gay kid, before I came out and understood what I was, I hadn’t had much connection with a LGBTQ community. Keep in mind that when I was a child that was late 1970s through the 1980s. The only LGBTQ people that I even knew were two women who lived together that were friends of my mother. Even with going to their houses often, I don’t think I ever understood the dynamic of their relationship. I remember hearing about the “gay cancer” and GRID when I was young and it was still distant to me. Those were dark times.

Millions of gay men were dying due to this illness and the President didn’t even use the term AIDS until 1985. It took the death of his personal long time friend Rock Hudson and the disease to start affecting the heterosexual community before those words were mentioned. It was in 1985 that the President had talked about children with AIDS being allowed or not allowed to continue public education. Reagan had even prevented the Surgeon General C. Everett Koop from speaking out about AIDS. In 1986n when he was pushed by many public officials to address the epidemic, he had expressed how he wanted it to be in line with conservative policies. However, Koop’s speech was more geared towards AIDS education.

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The point being that my experiences was limited prior to coming out. When I first started going to the bars near my hometown, it was an eye opener. And that was where I met Shawn, the first man I ever had a serious relationship with. He bought me a drink and had a waiter deliver it to me. It wasn’t until later than the waiter asked me if I wanted to meet the person that bought me the drink. When he walked me to meet Shawn and our eyes met, I was hooked. We left together later and went back to his place. Not once was I ever filled with apprehension. Until that very night, I had only fooled around with a few guys and would be considered a virgin by most standards. We talked for a long time at his place and had a few drinks. We both were getting very into one another when he said he had something to tell me that could change things.

He told me that he was HIV+ and had been since 1988, about seven years at the time. He looked at me with tear filled eyes as he told me this statement. He was sharing the very darkest parts of himself to someone he had just met in a bar and hoping against hope that they wouldn’t reject him. He looked at me with anticipation, where seconds were drawn out into lifetimes. I looked at him and smiled and said it doesn’t bother me. Shocked, he asked me if I understand what he had said to me. I said, “Yes, you told me that you were HIV+.” and that I understood that it meant he had an infection that very likely would take his life, but I still didn’t care. He asked me if the idea of sex with an HIV+ person was scary, I said it was a little. But we would be using protection and always being cognizant of the risks, so that would help. And sex always has risks; you never know whom you are meeting and what they may be infected with. At least he was being honest upfront. I told him I would be tested often to ensure I always knew my status. But ultimately, it did not change my feelings for him. We spend the first night together and it was magical for me. Not once did his status effect what I felt. The next morning he asked if I would come back that night after I got off work. I said yes.

When I got to his house, he had prepared a dinner for us. We talked more and then he said he had some more things he wanted to share with me. He put on the movie “It’s My Party” and rearranged some things on his coffee table. If you haven’t seen It’s My Party, the short version is that it is a movie set during the height of the AIDS epidemic and one man who decides to host a party to tell his friends and family his decision to not let AIDS ravage him, but instead take his own life. The movie showcases people helping other AIDS patients end their lives in a dignified fashion. The rearrangement of the coffee table was to showcase Chicken Soup for the Soul books about being HIV+ and assisted suicide. At the end of the movie we talked about the books and he asked me if I felt if I would ever be able to help someone pass. Honestly I didn’t know how to respond. I told him that in my heart I wasn’t sure that I could, but we could talk about it.

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We met February 14th 1996 and I moved in with him a month later. I knew this was the man I wanted to be with. I stayed with him until February 23th 2003, when he died of complications of pneumonia due to HIV. I was with him through the horrible AZT cocktail years. The night sweats and terrors, the lack of appetite and loss of weight. I watched him take handfuls of pills daily and he never lost his upbeat attitude. The seven years we were together were the most I had ever grown in my life, in a short amount of time. He taught me about LGBTQ history and to be proud of what I was.

His passing was the hardest thing I have yet to experience and it is still burned into my memory. We had moved to North Carolina the last few years of his life, he wanted to be where he felt most at home. The three years we were there I watched his health start to decline. What I did not know what that he had decided that he didn’t want to take his meds any longer. The newest cocktail that he was taking really made him feel horrible. He didn’t have energy, he didn’t want to get out of bed, and he had no interest in most things, sex included. He would go through bouts of depression and just didn’t want to deal with it any longer. After the first year living in North Carolina, I suspected he probably had stopped his meds. But he always told me that when he knew his body had enough, he would not fight it anymore. For most of those three years he was happy, we had our own place in the country with just about two acres of land. A woodlot surrounded us on all sides, so we didn’t even see our neighbors.

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The last year there, I watched him lose a lot of weight quickly. Shawn was never a big guy. When I first met him, he was 5’8 and maybe all of 110 lbs., if that. The last year of his life he weighed just about 90lbs. I knew the end was coming. I came home from work to find him struggling to breath and I immediately freaked out. Hysteria swept over me and I didn’t know how to respond. All I remember was begging him not to leave me. I dropped to my knees crying holding his hand. Our eyes met, he squeezed my hand as he took his last breaths and all I could think about was that I failed him in being able to help him die on his own terms. His eyes were somber; he squeezed my hand one more time as he took his last breath. I felt a shiver go through him and me I knew he was gone. I was distraught and didn’t know what to do. I grabbed the phone, dialed 911 to get them there, and explained he was HIV+. They arrived shortly after and tried to resuscitate him. He was gone.

Saturday December 1st is World AIDS Day. It is a day of remembering those we have lost to this horrible disease. It’s a day for raising awareness of AIDS to those of us around us. In this era where we have preventative measures, we often forget that this disease still claims many people each year. At this very moment there are 36.7 million people, worldwide, living with HIV or AIDS. Since 1984, over 35 million have died from HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Remember that the PREP drugs are not reason to have unprotected sex and still should be used in conjunction with condoms. Don’t put your life into a drug when you are dealing with a virus that has adapted to the majority of the treatments that have come along. Your life and the lives of those you come into contact with are too precious to take chances. Be smart.

For further information about World AIDS Day please check out their link WorldAIDSDay.org. Remember al the lives we have lost to this vicious disease, for their lives have given us the advances we have now. Remember them with pride, honor, and love.

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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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Through The Looking Glass

A wise Jedi once said, “Fear leads to Anger, Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to Suffering.” Fear causes all kinds of dilemmas and as LGBTQ people; it is an emotion that we learn at a very early age. Being found out for who we are causes an intense amount of fear and we typically push that down deep inside to hide it so we aren’t seen as any more weak than people already perceive us.  This suppression leads to internalizing our fear and hatred of being judge and oftentimes ends up manifesting in our relationships as adults. How can we change that from happening?

This fear leads to hiding ourselves from fear of reprisal. Afraid of being judged, loss of the love from our loved ones, and loss of family. We create a protective bubble around us to shield us from being judged or seen for who we are. This can lead to trauma to ourselves both spiritually and mentally. This disconnect carries on into our lives and who we interact with. We tell ourselves that this learned response is a means to get past the “this is just a phase” of who we are inside. This is especially true in the older generation and the lives they lived.

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In gay men, this often led to getting married and having a family, simply to hide the fact that we may have had feeling for other men. Any furtive encounters we may have had, we would never mention the words of love or talk of feelings. It was a quick convenience of physical pleasure to hold us until we could get back to our “real lives.” If we actually were in a position to start a relationship with a man, often times we would still not discuss love or our futures together. It is hard coming out to those in your life, which is why so many do not come out. Only being open about who they are when they are around other LGBTQ people.

Saying things like “I don’t need to wear rainbows and dance on Pride Parade floats to be gay.” “Just because I am gay doesn’t mean I am some raving, screaming Queen.” These kind of statements come from the internalized fear we all adopt for not being able to be our authentic selves. We adopt the negative stigmas and stereotypes that others judge us by as a means to judge our own selves by. Thereby perpetuating self-hatred and misery.

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Now before you take this the wrong way, let me clarify. No you should not judged by just by your sexuality, it is a very essential part of who you are, but it is not the only part. But you must accept who you are at the very core. This goes for gender identity as well as sexuality. Accepting yourself is always the first step; you cannot expect others to do so if you do not. You have to stop lying to yourself and others if you ever hope to be your true authentic self.

Scott Tsui, author of the article Authenticity: How To Be Real has a starting list of 5 Ways of Being Authentic With Yourself:

  1. Accept your true self and treat others with respect.
  2. Remain consistent with your core values. Match words with your behavior
  3. Embrace your true identity: accept who you are and be proud. Internalized homophobia and saying, “I’m gay,” can be difficult. Acknowledge it, find a way to heal and enable yourself to move forward.
  4. Because of the stress and internal battles, addictions and compulsiveness may result. Take courage and admit you need help.
  5. Be honest about your HIV status.

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Give up on the negative connotations that surround your sexuality. Focus on who you want to be and what you want out of life. I get it, there are a lot of stressors in the real world, familial obligations, living up to standards set on you by the media, your own feelings of self-doubt, and imperfections. But you deserve to feel pride and fulfillment in yourself, Work to give up those things, as they do not pertain to you. We aren’t perfect and we need to understand there is no other option than to live as who we are meant to be. I am not trying to sound preachy here, but life is worth more than constantly not being happy and lying to ourselves.

Scott Tsui also mentions some traps of not being authentic with others:

  1. Recognize story telling. Whether it’s an outright lie or exaggeration, pretending or falsifying creates living a lie and distortion of reality.
  2. There may be an incapacity to express inner emotions due to traumatic past experiences. This could be based around a lack of trust and/or an inability to verbalize true feelings, which can evolve into frustration or retreating within one’s self.
  3. Another trap is the inability to build intimacy, such as having fear of being seen as imperfect or getting emotionally hurt.
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There are plenty of thoughtless people out there who simply lie to get what they want out of you and life. Those are the ones we need to be aware of and if in a relationship with, get out of. It is sad that lack of courage, support, and confidence can lead us to using lies as a shield of protection. We see it as a strength to deflect the blows from a cruel world without realizing it becomes a crutch for us to get by on. Unfortunately, this usually ends up with being caught in a web of lies and ones that we often cannot see the truth through. From here it leads to more loneliness and anger.

Our own personal suffering always starts from fear. Fear of being who we are leads us to hiding our true selves away. This fear leads to anger for being different which leads to hating that we are different and wanting to change. That hatred leads to our own suffering and the suffering we cause others by the lies we have told. There are not quick roads to acceptance, it’s a long process of tearing down the webs we have spun and can be a struggle to change all that has transpired from the fear we first felt. But all journeys start with one small step. Isn’t it time that you take it?

 

 

Holiday Woes…

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

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

The Trevor Project  has some scary facts as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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