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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Our Transgender Community: Transgender Teens

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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 correlations 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 anymore from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

When it comes to talking about civil rights, we seem to always focus on groups that are similar to our point of view. We all are guilty of it and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just normal. I do it when I write. I elected to talk and share stories of our Transgender Community, but I forgot that also includes adolescents and teenagers. What we forget are the struggles of those younger than us. We forget the LGBTQ teens and adolescence and the sad part is the statistics show this is where a large number of LGBTQ suicides come from. So we need to make sure we include those that are younger than us in our fights for rights.

July 13th of this year, BJ Colangelo did an article for Scene magazine about a Transgender teen who was denied the rights of a name change. For most adults it’s a fairly simple process, you go to court and petition for it to happen, they may require you to post to a newspaper of your name change, and then you show up for the actual date to make it happen. Stressful and scary, but easier that it was for an Ohio Transgender teen. And it isn’t just in Ohio.

15-year-old Elliot went with his parents to make his change, so that he would be ready for the simple things like a driver’s license and applying to colleges. He has already been to doctors and affirmed with his parents, who agreed with him, that this is what he truly wanted. They similarly thought this would just be a formality. What happened was far worse, Judge Kirby, who presides over Warren County, decided he knew better than Elliot, his parents and his doctors and that it was only a phase brought on by media and as such denied him his name change. At 15 the struggles of living as a teenager are hard enough. You have hormones, peer pressure, what will happen after graduation, finding and maintaining friendships, and just learning about whom you are physically and mentally. To come to a point where you have made a decision about who you are and have the support of those more important to you be ripped away from someone who thinks they know better can shatter your world.

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I admit that in my earlier years after coming out I was guilty of the mindset that kids and teenagers couldn’t understand the world full enough to make decisions about being a homosexual or transgender. Still dealing with changes and not fully understanding their place in the world. After meeting many kids who knew themselves much better than I am, I came to realize that revelations like this do not have an age criteria like some amusement park ride. How could I stand and tell someone that I am who I am because I was born this way and not validate someone else for that statement simply because they were much younger than I am.

During the whole process, Judge Kirby continued to refer to Elliot as “she” and calling Elliot by his “dead name.” Even though he later mentioned that he understood that using improper pronouns can be offensive to the transgender community.

           

“Whether [the teen] is experiencing gender dysphoria or is just not comfortable with her body is something that only time will reveal,” Kirby wrote in his decision. “Is [the teen’s] distress brought about by confusion, peer pressure, or other non-transgender issues – or is it truly mismatch between her gender identity and her body.”

The journey that Elliot and his family went through to get to the point of wanting the name change was simply tossed aside by a judge who thought he knew better than Elliot, his parents, or his doctors. This is a reaction that is all too often the normal. Elliot and his parents are in the process of appealing this decision with help of LGBTQ attorney Josh Langdon.

“This appeal is a case of first impression in Ohio, and we will fight vigorously to ensure that Elliot and his family are treated with dignity and respect. We hope the 12th District Court of Appeals moves quickly to overturn Judge Kirby’s decision to put transgender children on trial.”

Judge Kirby told Elliot and his family to ask again “once you become an adult.” In his footnotes of the case he wrote “Age, Develop, Mature. The court was cited saying that they are not saying ‘no’ to the name change, ‘just not yet’. Elliot at least had the support of his parents.

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Photo Credit to Ginger from her interview

In 2014 Leelah Alcorn of Warren County committed suicide and was reported she was being forced to go through conversion therapy. Leelah was 17 and left a note stating simply “I’ve had enough.” She had reached out to friends and transgender suicide hotline for help. At 14, she was already experiencing problems with her family accepting her for who she identified as, so she turned to friends for her support. She struggled with accepting who she felt she was and what her family wanted her to be.  She wanted her struggles to be a catalyst for progression for Transgender rights.

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in a post on her Tumblr account.

She left a message to her parents stating “you can’t just control other people like that.” Even in death, her family refused to acknowledge her. There are no statistics on how transgender suicide, since it is not always known or accurately reported. However, in 2010 it was reported that 41% of 7000 transgender people had attempted suicide.

This, all too often, goes unnoticed by our community in Cleveland. We forget that many of the rights we have, here in our city, do not translate to our municipalities in Ohio. And these incidents are far too common throughout our great nation. This is why we need to #uniteandfight, stand together with our community to ensure that all civil rights are ours. And that no one should have to suffer these kinds of indignities.

We have to realize that we are the stewards for the future LGBTQ people. We need to lay the appropriate groundwork to give them a better place than what we are leaving. We have to ask ourselves if our mindset is holding back progress and if so how can we change it. You don’t have to agree with everyone, you just have to realize that his or her lives aren’t your journey. Advocacy is about realizing the cause or person is the right thing to fight for, not necessarily being the person who needs the cause. Are you being the best possible steward for the future?

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Our Transgender Community: Ginger

Transgender people are often overlooked in our LGBTQ community and in the community at large. Animosity and misinformation is at the root of how most people interact with them. In this administration where much of the legislation being changed seems to have a direct correlations 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 anymore from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share some their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

Ginger is Transgender Woman, known in the CLE transgender community, and does some activism. Ginger has been involved in organizing the Metro Health Transgender job fair for 3 years and works to educate medical students, nurses, and others on caring for transgender patients. Strong in her convictions, Ginger was the first to step forward to help me with this project. I am honored to share her story and hope that it will shine a light into the misconceptions and misinformation surrounding out Transgender community.

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

I am Ginger. I grew up in Painesville then moved away from Ohio for 3 decades. I came back to Cleveland in 2010 and I currently live in Brooklyn. I am a teacher, I work with medical technicians teaching them to draw blood, read EKGs, provide patient care and do medical billing and coding.

What does transgender mean to you?

Transgender is an umbrella term that means moving away from the gender they thought you were at birth and toward the gender of your mind, soul, and spirit. While I personally identify with the gender binary (male/female) others are non-binary or float between the two.

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

Some of the common misconceptions I’ve encountered include the belief among some that gender is rigidly determined by the XX/XY chromosomes and nothing else. Modern genetics identifies at least 25 genes and alleles (genetic switches) that impact gender, and intrauterine hormones during pregnancy have a powerful effect on neurological development.

Other misconceptions include the idea that cisgender people can always spot transgender people and that transgender people are spying on others in the restroom. Neither are true.

Oh, and “cisgender” is not an insult. It simply states that a person continues to identify as the gender that was declared, based on a cursory external physical examination, at birth. You are not considered normal and I am abnormal or other; you are cisgender and I am transgender.

Desistance is the idea that most or many transgender people or transgender kids revert to their birth gender, or regret transitioning. The latest research puts the number at less than 2%, while the number of people who have tattoo regret is above 30%, and marriage regret is about 50%.

Possibly the biggest myth is that transgender people are mentally ill and can be cured with some form of conversion therapy. We’ve already settled that conversion therapy is nothing more than torture. But, beyond that, until very recently access to transition required months of therapy and mental health evaluation by multiple professionals… It can be categorically stated that “transgender” is not a mental illness. In fact, based on the regret statistics, people who want tattoos might be best to undergo extensive mental health evaluations and be required to provide a letter from a psychologist and a psychiatrist to confirm they really want ink and it isn’t a passing phase.     

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

Pronouns are tricky. I am a woman, 100% of the time, and I blend with other women 100% of the time – to the point that at my last three medical appointments at clinics I have never been to the nurse has asked me if my hormones are due to hysterectomy or menopause. So for me, personally, being asked my pronouns is disconcerting – it causes a lot of paranoia.

I do teach, however, that when in doubt the polite thing is to say something like, “Hi, I’m Ginger and my pronouns are she and her. Can I get your name and your pronouns?” Asking about pronouns should be equitable instead of othering or demeaning.

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

Asking about surgery is always a huge no-no. My response is icy polite and goes something like, “You want to talk about genitals? Cool. Since you started you can go first. I will ask you a complete history of your genitals, starting with appearance and current medical problems, and then going into development, sexual history including masturbation, intercourse and experimentations and orgasmic response, sexually transmitted infections, and then finally probe your psycho-sexual hang-ups. I have a medical background so I will be clinical and very thorough. When I am satisfied you can ask your questions. Okay? “I’ve had to use it three times, and each time the person backed the fuck off. If you want to know how the surgery works, Google has plenty of information. If you want to be a voyeur about my genitals it becomes a wide-open two-way conversation.  

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

Besides not asking questions about our medical history, don’t make a big deal about us being transgender. Your friends don’t need to know when you introduce us. It has no place in normal conversation and shouldn’t normally come up. Don’t ever use the words “tranny” or “he/she” or “trap” or any of the other common slurs, because I will cut you.

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

The hardest part of my transition is accepting that I cannot have certain experiences in this body, at least with the current state of medicine. I can’t get pregnant. That, alone, took me the edge of suicide – I have a screaming empty void down deep inside that will not, in this life, be healed or filled. Even touching it this little bit brings terrible pain and darkness.

Tell me about your normal day?

My normal day is… normal. I get up. I get dressed for work – including light makeup and doing my hair- and I go and teach. I socialize with friends. I go to the store or run errands. At night I come home and wind down and read or watch some TV and go to bed. I take some pills, daily. Yes, estrogen and progesterone, but also for diabetes and blood pressure and a multi-vitamin. My life is little different from my neighbors.

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What are some microaggressions that make you feel unsafe?

Microaggressions have become pretty simple: Trump supporters. I was talking with a coworker, a nurse, a few days ago. She made an off-hand comment, out of the blue, that she wishes Trump would hurry and build the wall because it would take care of so many problems. With that simple statement she became totally unsafe for me, personally and for people I love and for many of my students who are immigrants or who are not clearly white.

Beyond that, since I am rarely seen as transgender, I’ve been alternately bemused and infuriated by the micro aggressions I experience as a woman on a daily basis – being interrupted, dismissed, subtle put-downs, and so on. I’ve also seen some micro aggressive behavior because I am open about being a witch – being told I am going to hell or that I am a danger to children or that I should be burned at the stake.

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?

You, as a cisgender man who is also gay can be an ally in a few ways. The most important is this, here. You are allowing space for transgender people to speak about our experiences. Make sure that extends to transgender women who are not white, and transgender men. Transgender women of color and transgender men of all races are often overlooked or actively excluded.

Remember that “identity” and “orientation” are two different things and should not be conflated.

A transgender woman is not a gay man in drag. A transgender man who says he is gay is as valid as a cisgender man who says he is gay. Make space. Be open. Be accepting.

Remember that the first two Pride events were riots started by transgender women. When the government – at any level – mistreats us, they are warming up to come after you. When a company or a coworker or some random on the street mistreats us, they are looking at you, next. You will not gain points by trying to appease the Religious Right, the Neo-Nazis, or any other group of bigots.

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How can people best support Transgender children?

You can support children by believing them and accepting them. Somewhere between 3 and 5 years old kids have a firm grasp of gender and know where they fit – try to convince a kid in that age range they are the opposite gender and you’ll get a massive push-back. Trans kids are exactly the same – they know who they are, and they don’t care about the genitals.

Understand that the key is “insistent, persistent, and consistent.” They insist and cannot be dissuaded. They persist over time. Their claim is consistent regardless of situation. It is not even remotely like your kid who pretended to be a dinosaur one afternoon when he was 5 years old.

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

Publicly, I openly identify as pansexual because whom I am attracted to is open for sharing, but my medical history is not open. So I usually do not get questioned. When I am in teaching mode I explain the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. It can be friendly conversation or deeply pedantic depending on the situation.

What are some common misconceptions about Transgender people portrayed in Hollywood?

Hollywood portrayal of transgender people is frustrating at best, with exceptions few and far between. First, while some transgender people resort to sex work to survive, the great majority do not. While some transgender women look like Patrick Swayze or Wesley Snipes in a dress, most of us don’t… and transgender men exist and are not simply “really butch lesbians.” Transgender is not the same as “drag queen,” regardless of RuPaul’s bullshit.

Real transgender people are like Nomi Marks of Sense8 minus the cool powers, and Sophia Bursett of Orange is the New Black, minus the orange jumpsuit. What I want to see is transgender actors and actresses being offered mainstream parts where their medical history is not important because they can simply play the part needed. I mean, if Neil Patrick Harris can be accepted as the womanizing Barney Stinson on “How I Met Your Mother” and Jim Parsons can be accepted Sheldon Cooper on “Big Bang Theory” and Sara Gilbert can be accepted as Darlene Conner, then transgender actors can play cisgender characters.

What gives you strength day to day?

My daily strength comes from my innate sense of self: I am Ginger, I created myself and here I stand. It comes from The Morrigan, the Celtic goddess of War and Sovereignty who walks with me daily. And it comes from a circle of people who I love and who love me unreservedly.        

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

We know what happens when we allow the legal mistreatment of some at the demand of others. As Martin Niemöller warned, “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

That is enough reason.

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*All images for this post were provided by Ginger and published through permission from her.*

Our Transgender Community

Something that I have only briefly touched on in my blog is Transgender issues. Not being trans, it isn’t something that I can write effectively on or give it the proper respect it requires. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be giving space to the people in our community to share their stories and letting their voices be heard. It is important, as it is for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, for them to be seen and heard, for people to realize that their lives more than likely already touch someone. So I have wanted to make people aware that there are far more Transgender men and women here among us, especially in Cleveland

Already with the current administration, we have seen the stripping of so many rights of LGBTQ people. Transgender people are now not allowed to serve openly in the military, unless they were already in and, as the government quantifies it, “stable.” Many states are picking us legislature that will force teachers and doctors to disclose to parents if any of the children they support identify as transgender. States are slowly revoking bills that were in place that would prevent discrimination of varying sorts, including gender-neutral bathrooms, protection of employment status, and simply hate crime laws. Even locally we have seen crimes committed against the transgender community misreported as cisgender crimes.

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Recently, in London LGBTQ Pride we have seen representations of our own community committing acts of protest against the Transgender Community. Radical feminist groups are protesting that the only real women are the ones born as a woman with the XY chromosome, pushing forward binary concepts of gender. Many have taken to labeling these radicals as TERFs (Trans-exclusionary radical feminism). This mindset is not indicative of the Feminist movement, but a more smaller radical side.

Also recently, the controversy over Scarlett Johansson being offered a transgender role in the upcoming movie Rub & Tug instead of a Transgender actor. There are 70 transgender actors, currently, in Hollywood and most transgender roles go to cisgender actors. Transgender actors have said that when they come to these auditions, they are told they are too passable to play a role. How does one get labeled too passable to play a role about a transgender person? Scarlett Johansson was quoted as saying “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.” Still strides need to be taken to ensure proper casting for the future. This is also an issue that still plagues Native American actors, to this day. Clearly Hollywood and civil rights haven’t progressed.

This will be their space to share the struggles and triumphs they face in their lives. A place to speak unfiltered, share without judgement, and be who they truly are.It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration and these types of views before we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share some their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

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Shock and Awe

This title recalls the Bush era of going to war in the Middle East where he said he would give them Shock and Awe. Its seems this current president has gone to war with the LGBTQ people of this country with his own brand of shock and awe.  Daily we see how our rights are changing and the horizon looks more dark that hues of rainbows. The Goose stepping Government Goons are determined to hit us as much as they can. One right, as of yet, they can’t seem to refuse is that of LGBTQ rights to marry. Because of this, he and his anti-LGBTQ cabinet are targeting everything they can.

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In the two plus short years he has been in office he has overturned or put into place so many hate filled vitriol pieces of legislation. He has enacted a ban on Transgender People from being allowed in the military. He has judicial nominees that are fully against any further LGBTQ legislation set to be pulled into their positions or already have been. These officials are poised to remove any protections LGBTQ workers may have. He has rescinded a right of all K-12 students that are Transgender their basic civil liberties and are now forcing teachers and doctors to tell their parents, if they do not already know. He has rescinded another memo from the Obama era granting protection to Trans workers from being fired. He is allowing and siding with business after business the right to discriminate based solely on being LGBTQ, whether it is workers or patrons. He even argues that anti-gay discrimination is perfectly legal, as the Federal Civil Rights act doesn’t include LGBTQ people. He has allowed The Department of Health and Human Services to enact new regulationsand created an agency, the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, that will purportedly work to ensure health care providers’ religious liberties aren’t violated, which essentially gives protection to health care provider the ability to deny giving care to LGBTQ patients. He also fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS without an explanation; this came before recent news that shows he is allowing the Ryan White Fund to be drained to support his Child internment camps. He refuses to recognize June as LGBTQ pride month, a month that holds historical significance for our community in its fights for rights. And as of yesterday, the House of Representative passed a bill that will allow adoption agency to deny, legally, any LGBTQ couple from adopting children and provides no recourse if the Federal government chooses to step in and impose fine to those state agencies denying those couples a chance to adopt.

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This, my friends, is the same person who stood up and held a Pride Flag claiming that he was a friend to the LGBTQ community and that he would fight for our civil liberties. And many people bought into this line that he tried selling us, like so many others. Here we are on the precipice of change, yet again. This time we are witnessing 50 years of struggle being washed away and many times without the public even realizing that it is happening until it is done.

Recently, long time activist Larry Kramer was quoted saying “For Gays, the worst is yet to come. Again.” The article he wrote for the New York Times states how we do not have the activists and leaders our cause once had. It almost seems we laxed into a time of complacency because of the progress we thought we were making. I feel we were to easily riding the wave of feeling good. I remember in 1999 when my lover asked me to marry him and he was making plans for us to fly to Hawaii to get married, since at the time it was legal. I never thought it would last. I doubted we would ever get some of the rights that we did in the last 20 years. When it happened I was in awe about it and thinking we are on our way to finally being treated as an equal.

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On this day, as I look forward and backward, I grimly see that we were only on a step stool that has quickly been pulled from us like a childish prank. The generation of LGBTQs that grew up with it being legal to get married, adopt and safe from losing your home and job for being who you are now have woken up to realize that this dream is fading. It is to them we must look for our next leaders and activists. We must be there to offer them strength.  Strength because they didn’t witness what happened to us in the recent past. Pride month may be over and our rights may be diminishing, but we must remain strong in the pride of who we are. We must Unite and Fight to take back that progress and push it to new heights. We must show the oppressors that we will not settle for going back to the shadows and closets we have already burst forth from. We will fight every inch for what is ours, we will fight with our very lives if it is necessary. #RiseandResist

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

 

Review of LGBTQ Cleveland

Recently, while out doing some photography on W 29th, I visited The Dean Rufus House of Fun  – review forthcoming- I picked up a book that I had been wanting to get for a hot minute. LGBTQ Cleveland is a book written by local author Ken Schneck. The book chronicles the LGBTQ history in Cleveland. Being a fairly new resident of the Cleveland area, I had been looking for a way to learn more about the LGBTQ history in Cleveland. Random searches turned up some information that had been in archives at CSU. This was all a good start but didn’t give me a picture of how things started and moved through time. Just before Pride I had seen a couple things popping up on my feed about this book and decided I wanted it.

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Ken wrote this book much like I, too, was thinking,  A way to find out about the community here in Cleveland. He had read an article in the Advocate that Cleveland’s LGBTQ community seemed as divided as the city itself. There are those who love it or those who would love to leave it. Not believing this about the city he moved to, he decided to ask his circle of friends their opinion and received much the same response. This was the spark for this book and one got which I am thankful. I moved to Cleveland from a very small rural town in southwestern Virginia and It has been hard for me to move from that small town mindset and out into this community. This book shows me that there is in fact a rich history here and it starts to instill pride in me about this city.

Each chapter is an inclusive “We…” showing how “We” as a community have come together to share in our victories and rally when we have setbacks. In the Chapter “We Connect,” we get to the all the groups that have provided needed information and solidarity. The backbones of our community that keeps us strong and focused on the changes that we need to make. Groups like Gay People’s Chronicle that gave us news about our community that other papers wouldn’t print, The Gay 90’s offering a beacon on the air waves as a means of speaking out, Cleveland Feminist Chorus that creates connections to people who otherwise may feel lost, and to the most recent Le Femme Mystique Burlesque that gives inclusion regardless of gender, orientation, size or gender expression. These are the very foundations of what makes a community strong.

Not long ago, bars and bathhouses were out community cornerstones. You may turn your nose up to it, but times were not as open as they are now. These were places we could go and be ourselves, freely. Even Cleveland had those places, places that shouldn’t be forgot. As they were our moments of fleeting freedom, the instilled in us the need for more and to fight for what rights we deserved. LGBTQ Cleveland shows those places, as well. Paying homage to places like the Leather Stallion Saloon (leatherstallion.com) being the oldest gay bar in Cleveland which opened in the 1970s. This bar has grown with the times and honors lesbians as well as gay men. Many of the bars this town once had, have gone by the wayside over the years. There are also mentions of places like Berkshire House, a place that was a gathering spot for the Lesbian community. These “safe places” were our refuge, our sanctity, and our church, even before churches started opening to us.

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Ken also gives us the beginnings of Activism and Pride celebrations in Cleveland. The book doesn’t sugar coat this history either. We can read about citizens of Cleveland that used their own resources in showing their hatred and bigotry. In a time when hate crime laws didn’t exist and definitely didn’t include LGBTQs, this was left unchallenged, except by our community. But rally we did. Many of these events are what prompted the first Gay Pride Celebration in 1974. However, it wasn’t until 1989 that it started gaining notice in the city. This event was held a W 29th and Detroit at the site of where the LGBTQ community center first stood. That block has remained a center for the gay community in Cleveland and is the site of a present day historical marker.

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This book has been an eye opener for me and has filled me with a renewed sense of pride for the city I now call home. This book has given me more cause to want to be included in this community and stand up for the change that the LGBTQ community, here, has fought so hard for. If you haven’t picked this book up yet, you need to do so. Visit places like The Dean Rufus House of Fun on W 29th and buy it local. You can get it from Ken Schneck’s website  just click his name. It is also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Make sure you pick it up, knowing your history is important.

 

You have the right to what, exactly?!?

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LGBTQ rights are always a slippery slope. Since the first fights at Stonewall Inn in 1969 till this very day, we have fought and clawed to have the views of us changed from degenerates with mental illness to being treated as real people. We always get one small step forward while being pushed back two steps. We considered it a major win during the Obama administration when first, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed and then when DOMA was defeated. I still pause and wonder if we should have made the focus about the right to get married. That, however, is a subject for another post.

Today, while flipping through Facebook, I was treated by an article touting that the Trump Administration is in support of employers being able to fire people due to being gay. Granted, living in Ohio that was something that was still legal for the state to do. This is purely outrageous A case, currently under investigation, involving Donald Zarda says he was fired from him job for being gay. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) was on his side and quickly they found out that the DOJ (Department of Justice) was arguing that his employer, Altitude Express was within their rights to fire him based on Title VII

Are you familiar with Title VII, maybe not? Even as someone who has been a manager in retail for a long time, it wasn’t a Title I knew. Title VII says employers under Title VII are permitted to consider employees ‘out of work sexual conduct in regards to their employment. In this case, DOJ lawyer, Hashim Mooppan stats that “there is a common sense, intuitive difference between sex and sexual orientation.” Basically meaning, it’s ok to be gay as long as you aren’t having sex with your same sex partner. Essentially coming down to the fact of applying different roles based on gender. This can also affect Transgender People, since gender is the focus here. More about this can be found here Department of Justice says rights law doesn’t support LGBTQ

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This is majorly important since this statement came days after Trump’s tweet that stated Transgender People will be banned from serving in the military. This basically starts undermining LGBTQ rights we have won from previous administrations. As the administration has moved along in the President’s term, he has worked to rewrite language of legislation to omit LGBTQ from it and first of it being with healthcare. Being a child of the 80s, I fully remember the stigma and fear surrounding AIDS patients and LGBT health. Doctors refusing to assist patients for fear of catching AIDS. Not treating LGBT members just out of fear, in general.

Roger Severino, an appointee of the Trump administration for health department civil rights official has said “Same-sex marriage was merely the start, not end, of the left’s LGBT agenda, the radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.” This is the mindset of people who are currently making decisions in this government. We are allowing it due to our own complacency. This is why your right to vote is so important, if you aren’t voting you are assisting.

Fighting for our rights is essential. If we acquiesce to this now, other minorities will start to feel it as well. You can already see the seeds of it in the Trump America. Racial hostility is on the rise. Families torn apart when they only come to seek asylum from their tyrannical governments, only to end up in this one. Enter Rise and Resist, the modern incarnation of what ACT UP was for the 80s. Using Civil Disobedience to fight back. Rise and Resist is “a direct action group made up of both new and experienced activists committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties. We work collaboratively, creatively, respectfully, and with all the joy we can muster for the health of the people and the planet.”

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Not everyone feel comfortable joining this type of group, but there are still things you can do. Contact your elected officials about any law you feel strongly about. Let them know you have a voice and opinion about how you are treated let them know your support. Don’t just do it once, do it often. Make an impression and be heard. If you aren’t registered to vote, change that by going to Register to Vote and then get out there and vote. Vote in every election, about every bill that means something to you. Know the ballot, who stands for what, what bill effects you and how. Get educated and get empowered to make a change. Let your family know your feelings and get them to vote with you.

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