Silence = Death

We have acquiesced ourselves into believing there is relative safety for the LGBTQ community, even with news showing quite the opposite. Is it because we feel it doesn’t directly impact us? Perhaps it may be the mentality that it only seems to happen in certain parts of the country and is being blown out of proportion? Or simply it may be that you haven’t seen anything in the media recently that would give you pause to wonder the state of affairs for our LGBTQ community. Whatever it may be, this Pride season is the time that we stand up and be visible. We need to, now more than ever before, let this country and its leaders know that we are tired of the constant violence, lack of respect, and silently removing of our rights.

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Since in the five months since this year began, we have seen five transwomen of color killed. In May alone, there have been three. Cleveland has one of the three that have been killed. That’s 1/5ththe murders of trans people this year have happened here in our fair city. About 4 a.m. on April 15th, Claire Legato was shot in the head after an argument broke out between her mother and the suspect, John Booth. The argument ensued after Legato’s mother claimed that Booth stole her tax return check. The argument moved outside of the house and escalated. At which point Legato intervened and Booth shot her in the head. Legato was in the hospital for a month, but her injuries were to severe. Legato passed on May 14th. A warrant is out for Booth’s arrest for felonious assault. Legato was the third victim of murder against transwomen.

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The fourth victim taken this year happened May 18th, Muhlaysia Booker was found lying face down with a gunshot wound near a golf course in east Texas. Her murder came just one month after the viral video of a “mob violence” attack against her and authorities say there does not appear to be a link between the two incidents. Dallas Police arrested 29-year-old Edward Thomas in relation to the attack but was later released. There is no apparent reason for the murder and, currently, no suspects. Booker’s cellphone had captured the attack that happened shortly after her car was hit in a parking lot. The video was used to identify the man repeatedly punching Booker in the face as Edward Thomas. The video also showed a crowd of men kicking her while she was on the ground and shouting anti-gay remarks. Her friend, Jessica Anderson, said this was not the first time in which she have been beaten for simply who she was. Anderson said that Booker was tired of being beaten down and not allowed to live in peace as who she really was. Currently there are not charges against Thomas was charged with aggravated assault and his current whereabouts are unknown.

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Michelle “Tamika” Washington was shot and killed in Philadelphia on May 19th. Washington was a 40-year-old transwoman of color and lived in the Franklinville neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Police responded to sounds of gunshots and found Washington with several gunshot wounds and was transported to Temple University Hospital and pronounced dead. Washington was known as a beloved sister and a “gay mother” to the neighborhood. Washington is no the fifth victim. Monday morning, May 20th, Troy Bailey was arrested in the 1100 block of West Venango Street of the Franklinville section of Philadelphia. He was arraigned on Tuesday for murder and other firearms related charges. Currently, the murder is not being investigated as a hate crime and the police feel it was not motivated by Washington’s gender identity.

 

These are the cases that are known about, unfortunately, the sad fact is that in many cases the gender of the victim is misidentified and leads to longer times in identifying the person or the nature of the crime. The current administration has made it easier for a culture of violence to grow unchecked. Many states still do not have protections in place for LGB people, let alone trans people. This administration has denied the ability for trans people to serve in our military. They are also granting rights of discrimination to large groups of people under the guise of religious freedoms. There has to be a point at which we draw our hard line in the sand and say we will not take any more of this sub human treatment. We must rally with our sisters for female rights, that too are being stripped away. The abhorrent nature of the small minded, radical, right wing zealots has to be changed. They count on us believing that our numbers are small and that because of that we will not stand up and fight back.

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Remember that this year, Pride in the CLE will be a march. This is the time to make yourself visible. LGBTQ or Advocate be there and be counted. Show that you will not take this kind of hatred towards anyone, LGBTQ, POC, women, immigrants, those that are incarcerated, or any minority that is being subjugated by those in positions of power. Letting them know that we stand in support of one another. I would like to end this short article with two quotes.

 

“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

Thomas Jefferson

While there is debate over the effectiveness of the electoral college, what is important to note is that the more people who turn out to vote and vote with knowledge can, in fact, change the course of the election. If you are not registered, what are you waiting for? You can do that online at Register to Vote (https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote) and then get out there and vote.

 

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Government should be afraid of their people.”

Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

While many attribute this quite, in some variation, to Thomas Jefferson, there is no proof of this as an actuality. It was written by Alan Moore for this movie. The movie speaks volumes to the current situation of our own political situation. We have a figure head in place who is convincing the people of a preset ideal that they hold. Then goes about enacting laws to enforce this ideal, telling us how bad other groups are and how his administration will be the protecting force and does so many good deeds for its people. It is a ruse, one that many dictators have used countless times to control the masses. In V for Vendetta, one man stood up against the system and made his impression known. It was the spark that lit the powder keg of a revolution to overthrow the regime. And proof that it is not illegal to not support your president or those in an administration. Exercise your rights, protest that which you do not approve of, and let your voice be heard. You could be the spark that is needed to start the next revolution.

 

Too The Streets… We March…

“In the early hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City.” a quote from the article Stonewall Riots on History.com. This year marks the 50th anniversary of those very riots and Pride in the CLE will be honoring the event with a return to the march. Sure, many will just see it as a Pride Parade and not understand the difference, but it is that difference that makes it important, especially now. You may know the story or just parts, but this is the year to revisit our roots and understand where it all started and why the fight is not over. And why our “gay bars” were and still are important cornerstones of the community.

The Stonewall Riot was a culmination of events that erupted in the early morning hours of June 28th. Since the Great Depression, bars in America had become less and less welcoming to the LGBT populations. Laws were put in place in many states that made it illegal for bars to serve LGBT people. The laws included means of being able to identify who were the subversive element, they included that you must wear at least three pieces of clothing to the gender you appeared to be, could not over fraternize with other same sex patrons, and in many cases dance together. In the Christopher Street part to New York City, the bars had been raided for almost a decade. Anyone that looked as if they were a homosexual were dragged out of the bar, beaten, thrown in the back of police wagons, and hauled to jail. There were bars that had popped up to allow LGBT people to visit and be able to drink, they were never the cleanest bars, and many did not have working bathrooms or running water. They were simply dark places that allowed for the congregation of our community without intercedence of local authorities. 

Stonewall was ran by the Genovese crime family in New York and had paid informants in the sixth precinct to all them to know ahead of time if there were raids coming for the bar. This allowed the owners to hide the alcohol being served, ensure that the men were not dancing together, and stop any other illegal activities. On the morning of June 28th, the tip off did not happen and the local precinct showed up with a warrant in hand and in full force, to raid the bar. The police entered, beat many of the patrons, arrested 13 people, including staff, and any that did not comply to the three-garment dress code. If they suspected someone of being a “crossdresser,” they would take them into the restroom and perform a physical check of their gender. One lesbian patron was hit over the head with a beer bottle by an arresting officer, at which point she tried to incite the crowd into action, asking if they were going to stand and allow this to happen. At which point, in a massive wave, the crowd erupted and started throwing objects at the police, yelling at them, and beginning to circle the arresting officers. Within minutes, it was a full-blown riot. The protests escalated and lasted for almost six days in total. The first ever targeted and focused  push for equal treatment of LGBT people and became the single galvanizing moment that pushed gay rights into the modern era.

Both sides of our country had similar marches, annually, afterwards. Harvey Milk set up a Pride Parade in the Castro district of San Francisco and the Christopher Street March was held in honor of the events that happened. These marches put some of our biggest activist like Marsha P. Johnson and Cleve Jones in the spotlight and they were also the catalyst for our achievements going forward. Putting us front and center in the eyes of the media with banners like “We’re here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It.” As the movement progressed and victories were won, our marches slowly became the Pride Parades that now blanket our country. Starting on June 1, as the beginning of Pride Season, and ending in September. During these times, our bars where the places of organization of these events, a place for us to feel safe from the persecution we endure constantly, and our safe zones after we won them back from constant police intervention. They were, in fact, our homes and our family.

 

In the fifty years since Stonewall we have seen a lot of advancement in LGBTQ rights and equality. We have seen larger focus on healthcare targeted towards us, inclusion of our spouses in our company provided healthcare, and numerous reforms of laws that prevent us from being fired or losing our homes for just being who we are. That being said, the last four years has shown a lot of ground slipping. This administration has now  made it legal for the military to openly discriminate against trans people. We are seeing legislature change for the safety of our jobs and healthcare, that would allow companies to persecute against us based on perceived religious freedoms. Hate crimes are rising to levels that we haven’t seen in several decades. And most recently, same sex couples are being targeted more for trying to adopt babies outside of the country, the government is stating they cannot bring a child in unless going through more hoops of proof of marriage than our heterosexual counterparts.

We have been told by organizations that claim to have our best interests in mind that we needed to  fight for marriage rights, instead of women’s rights, minority rights,  prison reform, healthcare reform and numerous others. We were convinced that marriage should be first, and the rest would fall in line. This administration shows they have no regards for that fight or even the law that repealed DOMA and allowed us to legally marry. What did we gain from it but the ability to wave around a piece of paper that says we are legally married to our partner? The benefits that should come with that paper seem to have been misplaced in the information given to us when we got our licenses. We are slowly starting to realize that our fight never ended, we were only shifted off the mark. We are also learning that it is “WE” who must fight for our rights, again. It is great to have supporters and advocates, but at the end of the day we are the ones still losing in this battle. We are again burying our brothers and sisters for the murders spurred from hate crimes.

This year, Pride in the CLE will be hosting a march, this is the time for each and every one of us to come out of the closet, yet again, and take to the streets. Be visible and show that we are still here and fighting for our very futures. We will not be forgotten, and we will not be torn asunder. This is the time to make your banners and hoist them up alongside our community, whether you are marching or standing on the route in solidarity. It cannot be expressed enough that your voice does matter and needs to be heard. If you choose to march, visit the links above and register. Let us make an example so that we do not lose more of the rights we have fought for. June 1st join us to stand together to honor the memories of those visionary activist and not let their fights be in vain.

The Importance Of Being Visible

The Importance of Being Visible

I want to extend the deepest thanks to every trans/gender non-conforming person who has shared their personal stories through my blog. Each of you are a string in the larger fabric that is the LGBT community. Your stories are more important than any of us realize, the difficulties you have experienced are the similar to others and could be the difference they need in feeling their own worth. To each of you who reads this, remember that you are part of that fabric as well. I hope that the stories and information I share can be of some use to you. I hope that you realize you are not alone in this world, there are others like you and have went through very similar things. We have survived through sheer force of will and determination. Lean on us for the strength you may need, there are those of us who give it willingly.

With all the huff and hype the media and political figures put out, they want you to think that transgender people are a new concept. That their interests only became more relevant after marriage equality started. We all know that trans people have been part of human history since the beginning, just like lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. The battle for transgender rights has been a long, hard struggle and activist Samy Nour shows just how long this battle has been going on. “Imagine how the conversation would shift if we acknowledge just how long trans people have been demanding equality,” he says.

Having these talks with people is never a comfortable situation, and it shouldn’t be. When things become comfortable, we tend to overlook what causes issues and try to gloss over them. Being an advocate for a community will always be that struggle to make others understand what is outside of their normal views and lives. It is how we prove that each of us has worth and is just as meaningful as the next person. LB Hannahs is a genderqueer parent and shows how they manage and negotiate the discomforts of everyday life.

The more our stories get in front of people, the more it forces them to realize that they already know someone like you or me. This puts a face with a label and forces them to look at us in a differently. It is harder to hate groups of people when there is emotional attachment to them.  And educating them on how long the struggle for acceptance and equality has been going on will hopefully change their minds. It is left to us to be the stewards for the next generations of LGBT people. How we choose to fight today will affect how they live tomorrow. The struggle still starts with the education of our community. If we don’t understand the struggle, there is no hope of being able to unite and fight.

Again, thank each of you for trusting me with the stories you have shared. It has been my honor and privilege to share them with our community. My hope is to keep doing this for as long as anyone has a story they want to share. It is a means for you to be visible, even if you choose not to disclose your name. Your story is the important part of visibility, that is what can and will affect another someone else.

Having Enviable Courage and Strength…

Often overlooked in our LGBTQ community is the Transgender community. In this administration where much of the legislation being changed, seems to have a direct correlation to Transgender rights, I feel it is important to be able to share some of their stories. It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration before it removes any more from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. We have already seen the Trans ban that has been passed by this administration, we cannot rest until every right being taken away from us is returned. That requires us coming together as one community, no matter our points of view. Each of us live our lives on our own means. We are forced to make a living and must, in doing so, be ready to fight how it best serves our greatest good, do not judge someone by their words as much as their deeds or actions. Remember that I share stories of our community and how we/they live in it. Names are only changed when asked to do so, words are only changed for spelling or ease of flow. So, join with me as I share their stories and let’s celebrate their fight and stand with them. Be supportive, without judgement.

 

I would like to introduce you to Arianna Jade, a 28-year-old transwoman who lives in the Cleveland area.  She is an unabashed and unapologetic voice for trans people to their lives on their own terms. She is as comfortable with who she is personally as she is in her porn career. Arianna doesn’t live by the definitions of others, whether it be her personal life or her professional career. To use a quote from one of her social media pages “Accept no one’s definition of your life but define yourself.”

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Tell me about yourself. Name, age, where you live, and what you do.

My name is Arianna Jade Devor I’m 28 I live in Cleveland Ohio from Miami FL and I am a Veteran of the Air Force and I model. I am also a transgender pornstar. You can find me on Instagram at itsariejade, Facebook, and if you like, on my PornHub channel.

What does transgender mean to you?

To me, transgender means defying the “normal” gender roles and expressing yourself how you truly feel inside your heart, mind, and soul. Being your true authentic self despite the hate and prejudice you will face for this choice. Keeping true to yourself and most of all having an  enviable courage and strength for doing so.

What are some common misconceptions you face about Transgender men and women?

That trans women are gay and trans men are lesbian, that those who judge us think we are all weird or have something wrong with us.

How should someone ask a Transgender person which pronouns they prefer?

I like them asking me, directly, what pronouns I prefer.

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Do people ask you if you have had any surgeries and how does that make you feel?

Yes, and I, personally, am comfortable with it. I have answered many questions to inform people about my breast augmentation procedure, to a whole spectrum of people.

What are things that we should avoid doing with Transgender person?

Just be considerate and sensitive to how they feel. Everyone’s comfort level is different, and boundaries should be respected.

What has been the hardest part of your transition so far?

Realizing I don’t needs another people’s acceptance, if I am to accept and love myself. To be transparently honest about me.

Tell me about your normal day? – being a parent of a Transgender child/ Transgender person-

I get up. Walk the dog, do my makeup, pick out my outfit. You know the same things everyone else does.

I am a cisgender Gay male, and always want to know how to be a better ally for trans*individuals. What are some things I can do to aid in trans* visibility and helping to create a safe environment, based on your personal experience?

Talk to us, call the representative of the Trans Community at your local LGBT Center, and get active in our community. We have tons of cool events and social informational groups to offer.

How can people best support Transgender children?Let them make choices for themselves without judgement

Do people question your sexuality when you tell them you are Transgender?Most assume, as a trans female, I only like men. In reality I’m a pansexual, I don’t limit my choices to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.

In a couple of your vids you have the label she-male or tranny, why do you choose that as a label?

I got into porn, with a gay porn company, after I left  the military in 2014 and I also escorted on the side. I am passionate about my career in porn, even more so I’m now comfortable with my body. I choose labels for my videos based on popular tags  used in transgender porn searches or that is part of a role play being acted out. And hey, check out my PornHub channel.

With stars like Scarlett Johansson being offered a role as a Trans man in Rub & Tug, what are some common misconceptions about Transgender people portrayed in Hollywood?

Oh, this is a triggering question as the way Hollywood portrays most trans surpasses offensive and goes straight to derogatory and demeaning,

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What gives you strength day to day?Knowing how far I have come in my short 2-year journey, living as my true self

Can you describe for me why it is important that our laws and people treat each other equally?

Because no one ever got anywhere being mean to someone look at history it proves peace prevails and we are stronger united as one.

There is no one way to live our lives. To say that how one person chooses to be is wrong and is no different than those passing laws that affect us daily. You may not agree with word choices that others use to survive, but it is a means of raging against the very system that forces us into little boxes. Arianna lives her life with the strength and conviction of a fighter, making her own choices. She doesn’t ask for approval, only the breadth to be able to make them for herself. It is a lesson we can take from her, no matter our view points. Arianna shares qualities of some of our early pioneers; the ability to walk their lives without fear of acceptance of others and to blaze their own trail because it is the only way forward. Even Marsha P. Johnson did not start out to be a fighter or leader, her life wasn’t a golden image of who a trans person should be. She simply lived. We can ask no less of our fellow brothers and sisters.

In Chaos We Find Resiliency…

Often overlooked in our LGBTQ community is the Transgender community. In this administration where much of the legislation being changed, seems to have a direct correlation to Transgender rights, I feel it is important to be able to share some of their stories. It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration before it removes any more from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. We have already seen the Trans ban that has been passed by this administration, we cannot rest until every right being taken away from us is returned. That requires us coming together as one community, no matter our points of view. Each of us live our lives on our own means. We are forced to make a living and must, in doing so, be ready to fight how it best serves our greatest good, do not judge someone by their words as much as their deeds or actions. Remember that I share stories of our community and how we/they live in it. Names are only changed when asked to do so, words are only changed for spelling or ease of flow. So, join with me as I share their stories and let’s celebrate their fight and stand with them. Be supportive, without judgement.

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Today, let me introduce you to Belle Ursa, a 22-year-old business owner in Tremont area of Cleveland. Like many others I have interviewed, Belle wants you to understand that day to day lives are no different between Trans/Gender Non-conforming people and Cis-gender. We all eat, sleep, work, and have the same worries. Belle is co-owner of Amplio Fitness and focuses on mind, body, and spirit of the LGBTQ community.  Make sure you check it out and support our community business owners.

Tell me about yourself. Name, age, where you live, and what you do.

My name is Belle Ursa, I am 22 years old currently living in Tremont! I am the co-owner of Amplio Fitness in Rocky River and I am also a certified Health Coach! My business focuses on the LGBTQ community, specifically the Trans community in order to provide health and fitness services. https://ampliofitness.com/

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https://ampliofitness.com/

What does transgender mean to you?

To me, Transgender is any gender identity that is different from the one you were assigned to at birth.

What are some common misconceptions you face about Transgender men and women?

There a lot of misconceptions, but I think some of the common ones are usually based in a medical context. A lot of people believe that the end goal of every Trans person is to get “the surgery.” A lot of the times its true, Trans people do want to get gender affirmation surgeries, but there are many people out there who are fine with just receiving hormone therapy or even no medical interventions at all! There is no “right” way of being transgender, there is no end goal or perfect example. It’s just changing different aspects of your life until you are comfortable with who you are and how people perceive you.

How should someone ask a Transgender person which pronouns they prefer?

Just like the question phrases it, you just ask! I know it can be awkward to ask but trust me when I say it’s much more respectful to just ask rather than guessing. By asking you are not only breaking down the social habit of assuming someone’s gender based on physical appearance (which is rooted in transphobia anyways), but you are also giving the individual complete control of how the world sees them. They have the power to claim their identity, claim their pronouns, and decide how they are perceived. Sometimes straight up asking pronouns out of context can be extremely harsh, so if you meet someone for the first time, I suggest introducing yourself and your pronouns first like so: “Hi! My name is Belle, my pronouns are she/her/hers” and then usually people follow suit. This lets folks know you’re “down with pronouns” and you’re not here to pre-judge anyone about theirs!

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Do people ask you if you have had any surgeries and how does that make you feel?

Yeah, all the time and it’s completely uncomfortable. I divulge my journey when I feel like it’s important. If it helps someone or can educate people at the right time, I like to talk about myself. But that’s on my time and it’s my decision. Often times people ask me questions because they want to satisfy their sexual curiosity or know very private things because they want to feel special and at that point, I’m not longer a person to them, but a mystery that they want to “solve.”

What are things that we should avoid doing with Transgender person?

Assuming pronouns/guessing.

Asking private questions, especially one’s related to their bodies or their medical experiences.

Not paying them for their labor (i.e. education, vulnerability, expertise)

Tokenizing them in work situations

Using slurs

Using the terms Tranny, Transgendered, Transgenderism, Transsexual

Gatekeeping on what a trans person “should” be.

What has been the hardest part of your transition so far?

For me I think it was finding the courage to stick to who I am. In my experience when I came out the comments were often really passive aggressive like “Are you sure you want to do that? What would other people think? It’s going to be hard. It’s so expensive.” Most of the time I suppose these concerns were rooted in people caring/worrying for me, but it was a terrible way to interact with me coming out. I felt no support. I just felt doubt and fear which then piled onto my already growing sense of insecurity and anxiety. It was also a little insulting because it felt like people assumed, I didn’t think about these things daily. It takes so much strength to come out and for people to not react in a positive and loving way is awful. It’s soul crushing. There were so many times I wanted to quit. I wished I didn’t have to go through this. But I think that’s also where the magic of Trans people come from. No matter where their journey takes them, they almost always experience hardships and backlash for who they are and, in that chaos, we are able to find resiliency and magic that fuels our compassion for ourselves.

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Tell me about your normal day? – being a parent of a Transgender child/ Transgender person

I think this is a little weird of a question. My normal day is like any others. I get up, I do things like go to work, I eat, I play with my animals, I sleep, I watch Netflix. Just because I’m a Trans person doesn’t mean that may day have to be revolutionary different than anyone else’s. Sure, there are small changes like maybe I have to take medicine, but like 80% of the population takes some type of medicine or vitamin with their breakfast so…

I am a cisgender Gay male, and always want to know how to be a better ally for trans* individuals. What are some things I can do to aid in trans* visibility and helping to create a safe environment, based on your personal experience?

Support Trans business (hello my fitness studio is Amplio Fitness)

Pay trans people for education

I think you’re involved with ALL AXS bar in Willoughby, right? Try putting on a Trans night or hire Trans DJs etc.

Educate yourself, look into articles and vocabulary so the burden doesn’t always have to fall on a Trans person

Educate and advocate to your cisgender allies. If you hear something say something. Correct misunderstandings you see, defend a trans person in public. Be a vocal and visible ally.

How can people best support Transgender children?

Oh, love this question, my research in college was about the emotional and social development of Trans adolescents. Basically, you know how bullying can cause children to have higher rates of negative social and emotional development like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, intimacy issues, etc.? Multiply that by like 300% for Transgender/Gender non-conforming kids. The more non-passing they are (i.e. the more out of the box they look) the harder their isolation and bullying is and the higher the correlation with mental health issues they face. Children identifying as Trans/Gender Non-conforming need friends and family who support them, they need to find other people who identify the way they do to understand that they are normal, they are valid, and that they can grow and become successful adults. They need policies and rules in place that protect them. They need schools that educate the whole institution about their identities to start creating a more accepting environment. They need teachers who advocate for them. They need classroom policies in place that protect them. They need bathrooms that they can go into and be safe. I literally have so many thoughts about this lol, but we can convene later/more in depth if you want.

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Do people question your sexuality when you tell them you are Transgender?

Not really, I mean it sometimes doesn’t go hand in hand. Like sexuality is based off gender in a way, but not vice versa. To whom I am attracted to plays zero roles in my gender identity.

What gives you strength day to day?

Myself and my freedom that I have worked extremely hard for over my life. I’ve been transitioning “officially” for 4 to 5 years now but I’ve always been gender non-conforming ever since I was a child. My entire life I’ve been told no, I can’t do certain things, I’m not allowed, and my strength comes from being able to prove everyone wrong. To live as myself, authentically and without regret. If I can do that and I am still alive today, I have the strength to do anything I want.

Can you describe for me why it is important that our laws and people treat each other equally?  

Because I should not be able to be murdered. No one in my community should be murdered because of who we are. Laws influence society and society dictates how we exist. Most trans people I know have been verbally harassed, physically assaulted, or worse because of who they are. Do you know how many people report it? Little to none because of how poorly it is received. I’ve gotten statements like “Well you deserved what happened because you deceived them of who you really are,” meaning they saw me as a man and that I was just “pretending” to be who I was.  You know I’ve seen some court cases where a man who murdered transwoman claimed the panic defense and got away free because of the simple fact that courts and society often times don’t see trans-people as a valid identity? A woman was MURDERED because a man assumed, she was cisgender and her biology was different and… he…walks…away. Some people claim “Oh she should’ve told him” but do you not see the fact she was murdered for being trans was THE REASON WHY SHE WAS MURDERED? Again, I can go into this in much more detail, but I don’t know how long you want my responses.

Thanks for this opportunity to share my experiences and thoughts!

Belle shows us that while our journeys may be fraught with hardships, we must endure and gain the strength those situations give us. Life takes courage, facing each day as the person you are takes courage, it is these steps that foster strength in us and allow us to move forward. Our words and actions, as small as they appear to us, can be beacons for others. Always fight for what you believe in and never be satisfied with what you are given. Her story can give each of us knowledge we did not have before, while our stories are different, taking cues from others can give us new perspective on how to better handle new situations. Support and understanding of our fellow brothers and sisters is what will make us strong. One voice and one vision.

LGBTQ Elderly

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If you were to ask which group of LGBTQ+ was the most overlook or under represented, I am sure you would get varying degrees of answers. One, however, that most do tend to overlook is our elders. As many get older the retreat from the bar or party scenes for varying reasons and as such can fall from our thoughts. We get focused on the struggles facing our people that smaller groups can be put on the back burner, this is part of the case with aging LGBTQ+ people. As we start to age, the important things for us start to change drastically, as with our heterosexual counterparts, proper healthcare becomes a primary concern and includes mental as well as physical. Living beyond our financial means changes immensely, not being able to find jobs as we age is always a struggle. Social isolation becomes an important factor, we are a community that is obsessed with youth and beauty. As we get older, we aren’t seen as popular or desirable and as such can end up becoming reclusive and monastic.

There are more than 390 million people in America aged 65 or older. Adults age 52 and older are less likely to identify as LGBTQ out of fear of discrimination. A Gallup poll found that 2.4% of Baby Boomers (ages 52-71) identify as LGBTQ and 1.4% of Traditionalists (age 72 and older) identify as LGBTQ. Which gives us roughly 2.7 million LGBTQ adults that are age 50 and older, while 1.1 million are age 65 and older. This is important because there are roughly nine million people in American that identify as LGBTQ. Out of that 2.7 million identifying older LGBTQ adults ⅓ live at or 200% below the national poverty level. Bisexuals make up more than half of the LGBTQ Elder population but are far more likely to not be out.  32% of Bisexuals under 45 say the most important people in their lives know they are Bisexual, while only 18% of those 45 and older said those most important to them knew. Only 1% of Bisexual 65 and older are out to those around them. Bisexual elders are far more prone to feel social isolation and one third of those suffer moderate to severe depression due to isolation. Our Transgender elders also face unique challenges with specific medical needs, including medically necessary transition-related care. Often, they will end up going back into the closet and convincing medical practitioners that they are in better physical health than they may be. Those that transition later in life may face harder times accessing care and support. This in turn creates unique isolation challenges, not having the support of a community or medical professionals to turn to for assistance.

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According to the American Psychological Association,  “LGBT older adults may disproportionately be affected by poverty and physical and mental health conditions due to a lifetime of unique stressors associated with being a minority, and may be more vulnerable to neglect and mistreatment in aging care facilities.” Social isolation becomes a larger factor of mental health issue due to LGBTQ adults being more likely to live alone, be single, and not have children, in relation to the heterosexual counterparts. Most current health care for older adults do not address the possibility of them being LGBTQ, out or not and doesn’t help that misconception by healthcare workers can compound feelings of not wanting to vocalize that they are LGBTQ. It is quickly being a priority for proactive healthcare reform to include training to be able to speak to all older people, whether they have or have not identified as a specific minority group. Groups like SAGE (Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders) are working to help address these issues.

We are also now seeing our LGBTQ community that have been diagnosed with HIV living longer lives thanks to recent progress in medical treatments. As such, doctors now are faced with new conditions of how to care for older patients living with HIV. Aging can create unique situations regarding infections and resistant to medical treatments. We have seen, over the years, how HIV/AIDS has adapted and mutated to become resistant to antiretrovirals (treatment needed to keep HIV under control), the older the patients become the more apt that they will start to develop resistance to their treatments. Studies are also showing that elderly infection rates are on the rise and may suffer more immune damage than those diagnosed when younger and in turn making it harder to fight those infections. In 2015 a study showed that 8% of new cases of HIV were in patients 50 – 55 years of age, while 9% of new diagnoses were in patients over 55 years of age. Further studies show that by next year (2020) more than 70% of adults living with HIV will be 50 or older.

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Our LGBTQ community is beset with a focus on youth and looks, as we start to age our desirability by others diminish and we are often left in shrinking circles of friends. We don’t feel comfortable going to the places we once visited while younger because of the discrimination often felt from the younger crowd. As we continue to age, we do not feel comfortable going to the places that our heterosexual counterparts may go such as, churches, senior centers, and volunteer centers out of fear of discrimination. Our community overlooks a continually growing segment of our population out of vanity. Our LGBTQ elders face the same feelings of isolation that our younger brothers and sisters feel. Each of us, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, young, old, African American, Chinese, Caucasian are important to our community. Continuing to segregate those that are different from us will not help us in moving forward with uniting and continuing to push for our equality and our basic human rights. We may have advocates, but only we can fight for our very rights. We can respect our differences, but we must support one another. Remember that you will be in the position of our LGBTQ elders one day and the disparities they are facing will be inherited by you. Doesn’t it make sense to work to change those issues now?

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Heteronormativity of LGBTQ People

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The very core of who we are is implanted into us during our childhood. Sure, you may argue that education causes us to look out who we are, decide what is good/bad about it, and make needed changes to evolve, but keep in mind how we define those very structures is based on our upbringing, the very way our parents raised us. For LGBTQ youth, we grow up in a familial culture that doesn’t understand our very differences. Our parents teach us what they, in turn, learned from their parents. It is a perpetuated cycle of heteronormativity and most cases it’s so ingrained into us that we do not see it as anything else other than how we are raised. We are taught that we should be looking for someone of the opposite sex to get to know, settle down, marry, have kids, and start the whole cycle again. Our parents weren’t taught there was a difference, at least in a positive light, so it is seen as the only way to be and anything else is an aberration.

 

What is heteronormativity, Merriam Webster says this : heteronormative adj – of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really speak to the very nature of heteronormativity. The Medium.com goes further with a definition from other scholarly sources that says:

Ranging from organizational to interpersonal spheres, the presumptions that there are only two sexes; that it is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ for people of different sexes to be attracted to one another; that these attractions may be publicly displayed and celebrated; that social institutions such as marriage and the family are appropriately organized around different-sex pairings; that same-sex couples are (if not ‘deviant’) a ‘variation on’ or an ‘alternative to’ the heterosexual couple. Heteronormativity refers, in sum, to the myriad ways in which heterosexuality is produced as a natural, unproblematic, taken-for-granted, ordinary phenomenon.

One could argue then that this definition is very close to what most would perceive as homophobia and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Homophobia is more like the sibling of heteronormativity but louder and in your face. Heteronormativity is the more day to day, subtle process that are so pervasive to our culture and much more akin to colonialism. Essentially it is the basic form of sexual expression and the very foundations on which societies are built. It states that the only normal expression is that of a man and a woman and anything else is deviant or less than normal.

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This can be seen by the laws of the communities all of us belong to, when you see countries that punish homosexuality by violent acts, jailing, or the extreme being killing. It only reinforces that heterosexuality is the only acceptable course of life. These are unacceptable and downright inhumane, and you think this can’t happen in our country because of laws that have started passing in the last fifty years. You are right in that assumption; however, it still exists here, and it done much more subtly. Sure, it can be argued that LGBTQ people are the minority and that as such the majorities mindset shouldn’t have to change to placate such a small group. The problem is this very mindset goes beyond affecting only LGBTQ people. Also, we have to realize that not challenging this social injustice is just morally ambivalent to the status of society and wanting to create and environment where everyone is treated equally and fairly.

The very nature of heteronormativity implies the fact that a relationship is based on a ‘masculine’ and a ‘feminine’ person, as such it teaches that the men are the providers and women are the child bearers. Basically, stating that men are the top of the structure and create what is considered normal or acceptable. It creates the power struggle that allows men to believe they are the control in the situation and allowed to subjugate those below his status. It goes further to create standards of what is perceived as the sexual male and female, from how they talk, how they stand, or how they dress. It does not allow for any deviation on those standards. It only allows for a sexual desire between the male of female sex and that only those who physically appear as men can be attracted to those who physically appear as women.

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So how has this affected the LGBTQ people? It pervades our very culture and has shaped it over time, whether we want to admit it or not. For gay men it has colored our sexual proclivities. Tops and bottoms, femme and butch are a good representation of it. We have shaped our ideas of how sex should be based on ideas that were taught to us by our parents, school, and environment we have grown up with and lesbians have much the same basis. It has also created the mindset lesbians and gays cannot be friends, old mindset but still happens today. It has given us the ability to persecute drag queens and our transgender brothers and sisters. It is also the very reason why many of us view bisexuals with such disdain. We were taught that sexual attraction can only fit an either-or situation, that anything outside of that isn’t right and should be judged.

 

There are still plenty gay men who believe that you can only be a top or a bottom. I can’t count how many times I have heard the phrase that versatile means a bottom in denial. Or if they say they are top versatile that they are pretending to be something they aren’t. It is a restatement of a masculine and a feminine role and that it cannot be anything other than that. They are the same ones who argue this is my preference and just how I am, when it is more of the fact that it is what has been taught to us since we were kids. As LGBTQ people, we fight against the molds that society places upon us, to show we are what we are and not a mistake. We fight for our differences while at the same time maintaining outdated modalities that shouldn’t apply to us.

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It goes further when you hear things like ‘straight acting’ or ‘masculine’ gay male, as if they very nature of someone who isn’t a perceived idea of what it is to be male is offensive. Why is feminine deemed unworthy of affection or desire? Heterosexism typically implies that being feminine is below being masculine and therefore subpar. Again, we follow a precept of a group that we try our hardest to distance ourselves from while at the same time cow tailing to that very same group for acceptance and justification in our equality. It is the very reason we strive for marriage equality, we feel it would give us the feeling of being normal and just like the happy married straight couple who deserves all the benefits that’s comes with being a married couple.

A challenge for you; Google the word couple and look at the images that populate. At least 90% of the images returned will be of heterosexual white couples. Out of the first page of results, you may see ten images that are LGBTQ and out of the ten one is of a transgender couple. It is a proof that the majority believes that marriage is about heterosexual couples and most focus on white heterosexual couples. Don’t believe me? Watch ten episodes of “Say Yes to The Dress” and count how many minority couples are on the show. This shows the mindset of the general populace and one that we need to actively work on changing.

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