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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Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

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?

 

Gay Rights Movement vs. Civil Rights Movement

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

 

Hey quick, look over there…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuyahoga County Nondiscrimination Ordinance

Never has it been more important to make your voting voice be heard than with this administration. Every vote matters and can make vast differences in how the future of our country unfolds. If you aren’t registered to vote, then you need to get registered. It is a simple process online that you don’t even have to leave your house over. If you want assistance or looking for information, come out on September 6, 2018 to the MidTown Tech Hive at 6815 Euclid Ave Cleveland, OH 44103. We will have speakers from Voting Matters and All Voting is Local to answer questions, help get you registered, and even facilitate training for you to get others registered.

Your voice doesn’t stop there. There is an ordinance before the City Council that will grant LGBTQ residents of Cuyahoga county protection from being discriminated against for being LGBTQ. There are no regulations in Cleveland to prevent that from happen and we are one of the few states left that do not offer protection status for LGBTQ people. Let your councilperson know that this is unacceptable for you. Below is a form letter and links to web tools that will allow you to send these letters to every member of the city council. @ThinkPlexus gave this information to me. For more info contact them at info@thinkplexus.org.

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An efficient way to reach Council is to use this online tool which will send each of the members an email on your behalf.

The online tool contains a generic message that shows your support for these protections. You have the option of including something more personal like where you live and work and why this is important to you, your family, your company, etc. You don’t need to do so, but adding a brief personal statement to explain why you see this ordinance positively impacting our county can be very helpful.

The generic message that will be sent is:

Living in a welcoming and affirming community is important to me. I am proud to live in a county that is seeking to join hundreds of other municipalities in the United States by guaranteeing equal treatment under the law for our LGBTQ residents and visitors.

I believe that if you’re willing to work hard, you should be judged on the quality of your work and not who you are––and that’s what this legislation delivers.

Right now, 20 municipalities in Ohio have some version of this ordinance, including 6 in Cuyahoga County. Unfortunately, many people in Cuyahoga County live in one of those six and work in or visit others, or visa-versa. This creates a patchwork where Cuyahoga County residents can lose their basic rights on their commute. This ordinance solves that problem.

I urge you to vote yes on this important ordinance when you get the opportunity.

If you prefer to send individual emails, here is the list of Council members’ email addresses. You can opt to send each of them an email or one to Dan Brady, Council President at dbrady@cuyahogacounty.us.

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

#GayTheVote #VoteThemOut #StandUpAndBeCounted

 

LGBTQ History and the Holocaust

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I have found, personally, that when discussing the history of LGBTQ rights that it can lead to very different conversations. Some feel that the past is best kept there and focusing on current issues are more important. Others feel that we should use our past struggle as a guidepost for how to meet the challenges of future issues. It is important to keep in mind what has transpired so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future. With this current administration, it definitely is important to know what we have gone through as we may lose all we have gained.

It is always shocking to look back in history and see cities that have more open mindsets when it comes to LGBTQ lifestyles than our own. We often believe that we have come so far and that we are more enlightened due to the small steps we have gained. Close examination of history often shows that many places were much more tolerant than today. A shocking one is pre world war Germany. We remember, all to well, Hitler’s rise to power and how it affected Jewish culture. Hitler’s view of the Aryan culture was such a narrow view of what was considered viable people that any and all that didn’t fit it must be eradicated, this included Jewish people, gypsies, Jehovah witnesses, and any LGBT people. This year marked the 73rd anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, it only seems proper to reflect on some events that happened.

Before 1914, Berlin had been one of the most open cities in the world. German penal code had prevented homosexual acts since 1871 and while it was considered illegal it became mostly redundant. Many homosexual men and women led open lives and frequented bars and dance halls. It was considered by most to be the golden years of Berlin. Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was a physician in Berlin at the time and the founder of the Institute of Sexology, which was considered to be the first organization in that era to promote LGBTQ rights. Dr. Hirschfeld was pushing for a reform of the German Penal code and his reform was backed by some 5,000 influential signatures. It was reported to have included the likes of Albert Einstein. Initially, this reform met resistance, but Dr. HIrschfeld kept pushing forward and even using tactics like “outing” of public officials who were known closeted homosexuals. These forced outings caused the beginning of legal reform for equality by 1920.

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January 30, 1933 that changed when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor, with his appointment he ordered the closing of all venues perceived as “gay.” “There was an incredible atmosphere of fear,” the last gay survivor, Gad Beck, who died in 2012, recalled of those early Nazi months. “Things used to be happy and carefree, but now they were being persecuted. It didn’t seem like persecution to me, since the bar was still open. But they said this bar is only open to round us up. They did this again later with the Jews. They’d let them keep their meeting places so they could snatch them up.”

It was the mission of the Nazi regime to eradicate gay men. More than 100,000 people were arrested and sent to camps like Auschwitz, here thousands upon thousands perished through acts of torture and the gas chambers. The Nazi regime insisted that homosexuality was a disease that could be cured. Gay men were rounded up and labeled with pink triangles and sent to various concentrations camps, Once they arrived in these camps they underwent forced castration and beatings. They became subjects for cruel medical experiments to try to “cure” homosexuality.

In these camps they also faced homophobia from other prisoners. Rudolf Brazda, who died in 2011, was quoted remembers other prisoners saying ” Oh look, this one’s a fag.” Brazda kept what he went through a secret from everyone until 2008 when a monument was erected in Berlin for LGBTQ survivors of the holocaust. Until 1937 he had lived a happy and open life in Leipzig, Germany. At that point he was arrested for ‘unnatural lewdness’ and sentenced to six months in jail for writing love letters to his partner. In 1941, he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camps. Here he was given the number 7952 and had to sew a pink triangle to the left side of his camp uniform. Most didn’t understand why they were being arrested but had no means of retaliation due to Hitler’s regime leaving the vast populace powerless.

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“I arrived in a very big room. There was a pool there. In that pool we had to undress, and we had to bathe, naked. It was called ‘disinfection.’ In that moment, an SS officer pushed my head under the disinfectant liquid. I still had my gold chain, with a cross. It was a gift from my boyfriend. He ripped it and asked if I was a churchgoer. Of course I didn’t answer.” said Brazda. in August 2011, Rudolf Brazda died at the age of 98. Until that day, he continued to share his story as a means of warning to future generations. During these last years, he said: “If I finally speak, it’s for people to know what we, homosexuals, had to endure in Hitler’s days. It shouldn’t happen again.”

By 2012, all LGBTQ survivors of the holocaust had died. It is through their words, alone, that their stories survive. They are the teachings to remind us of what we have endured, the plights that should give us hope that this will never happen again. With the current administration rounding up children of “illegal” immigrants and putting them in detainment camps, is it so hard to believe that we are that far from this happening again. Daily we watch our rights, that we have fought so hard for, being taken away from us. Use this history as your lesson, use it to derive strength to fight, use it so that we never have to live through this again, and use it to honor those that have given their lives in  hopes of making a better future.

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