Sing it from the mountains…

Gay-Voting

I can’t stress enough the importance of voting. Recent elections have shown us that deciding factors can be really close and sometimes a few extra votes can swing things wildly. This year is just as important, with it being midterm elections. How we decide to vote, as a people can vastly change how the remaining two years of this Administration play out. For the LGBTQ community, much of the stage for how our rights may be affected hinge on these elections. Many more communities and states are offering up ordinances for the protection of job status for the LGBTQ people and our votes will greatly impact those decisions.

Tomorrow, November 6th is the day to vote. Please make sure you exercise your right to be heard. No matter how you choose to vote, just do it. We live in a word where the very people who run it are trying to pass legislature that will take away basic rights of every individual. They will decide what you can do with your body, what options you have in healthcare or lack thereof, how laws will affect you in the future. Look at each and every item on the ballot for your area and think how you feel about them. If you are unsure of the wording seek help.

Remember, it is important that each of us get the opportunity to exercise our rights to vote. If you are heading to the polls, take someone along with you. Go as a group and make an event of it. Become educated on the issues so you know how and what may affect you. Let your voice be heard. Remember Thomas Jefferson once said, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Don’t let this administration that is so keen to publicly spouse hate rhetoric be the only voice that is heard. It is time we speak out, in unison, to let the government know that we are here and we need to be heard.

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

 

Toxic Avengers

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What we have to realize is that we currently live in a world that categorically is choosing to take away rights from marginalized communities. You have to understand this based on what we are seeing around us in the media. We cannot sit by and let rich, old, white, heterosexual men make the decisions that affect our very livelihood. Are these the people we want deciding if women have the capacity to make correct choices for their bodies, if being transgender is considered human, or who should and should not have rights. We have fought wars over similar principles.

We have a person in office that cannot speak the truth on any topic that comes out of his mouth. During his campaign, he stood on a stage waving a flag handed to him by someone who was supposed to be of the LGBTQ community stating that Trump was for LGBTQ rights, as shown in the picture below. The two years he has been in office has been one action after another that has shown he has no consideration for any LGBTQ person. By March of this year, the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) had stripped any words of gender from its online documents. Now we know that there is a memo circulating about how this administration wants to make it legal for them to decide what is or is not gender. These same old, rich, white, heterosexual men want to be able to legally decide what gender is to be defined as.

Image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds up a rainbow flag with "LGBT's for TRUMP" written on it at a campaign rally in Greeley

If this memo were to become a new policy it would allow Title IX to have a redefinition that could affect more than just healthcare. We could see it reach into the educational system, public access, job discrimination, and into the legal system. Title IX states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Children, who identify, as a different gender than assigned at birth, would no longer have access to restroom, single sex class education, locker rooms, or any other access based on gender. It would remove any protection that transgender would have for discrimination in their jobs or housing. If you are transgender, it would allow anyone to refuse you service or reasonable accommodation due to someone else’s beliefs or definitions of gender.

We have already seen this administration push to the Armed Services not actively recruit transgender people to serve openly in the military. Four courts had turned down this ban, but the administration enacted it in March of this year. It says that any transgender person cannot serve in the military, openly. The only exception is if they were diagnosed under gender dysphoria, however, there are very few actually fell under this diagnosis. To be able to enlist you cannot have starting any transition process, so in essence you have to enlist as the gender you were born under and must continue to serve as that same gender. If you are transgender and have a diagnosis and are currently serving you are fine but if you do not have the diagnosis there is no clear directive of how it may affect you. In the past we have seen punishments like”lack of promotions, denial of deployment, forced discharge for pretextual reasons used against those that didn’t conform to popular mindset.

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In a country that is supposed to separate church and state, we have witness the Supreme Court side on the rights of a cake shop to refuse service to a gay couple based on First Amendment Rights. Freedom of Religions gives you “Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order.” Yet, the Supreme Court decided that their views could be used to not serve a specific group of people. We have also seen that the Justice Department fully believes that rights of protection should not be afforded to LGBTQ people. If this were allowed to be rule of the land, it would in essence give any employer the right to fire any employee based on “perceived” sexual orientation. That’s important to note due to them not having to have proof of it, only suspected belief, how else could one proves orientation of someone they do not have personal knowledge of.

In the first year of his presidency, we were witness to the Department of Health and Human Services creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. This group was created and put into action to ensure that healthcare workers religious liberties wasn’t affected in having to deal with LGBTQ patients. Part of the Hippocratic oath states “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.” By that very wording it is said that the healthcare provider is not to play God, so by denying someone access to what may be life saving means is making that decision

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Lastly, we saw that the Trump administration fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. This doesn’t affect only the LGBTQ people, but ALL people. Yet the importance of this advisory council doesn’t seem to affect this president. Also there have been numerous reports of moving around funds from the Ryan White Fund to help offset detention camps that this administration started to detain children of “illegal immigrants.”

We have to recognize that this administration is toxic to us. We have to be the ones that make the stand. LGBTQ people have fought for the very frail precipice we stand on and we cannot stop that fight or we will be pushed from it. It is now that we must rally in strength and numbers. It is now we must get out there and make our voices heard. Your voice and vote matters so let it be heard. Show up in numbers, ensure that those who cannot get to the polls on their own have the means to go, and talk your friends and family into voting. To change this tide before it swallows us whole will take each and every one of us. Make your voice known.

Gay-Voting

History is Family

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As National LGBTQ History month comes to close we should reflect back on the many important people and events that have came before us. They are important because it is what makes our family. My very first boyfriend gave me the most important lesson I still carry with me to this day. It was this, “as LGBTQ we have the special ability to be able to choose our family when the one we are born into turns away from us.” It gives us the ability to leave the pain that may be caused by the people that are supposed to love us unconditionally and find one that will lift our very souls upward. To do that we have to make one simple choice, which is to love ourselves.

Each post I have made this month has been about finding your inner strength through our history. That inner strength promotes pride and love of who you are and want to be. That sense of pride and love in turn forces you to choose a community that accepts you and you in turn hold that community to a higher standard that reflect the very things you hold important in yourself. That community, hopefully, takes those lessons forward to create unity and strength to battle those that would sooner rob us of our very existence. These actions turn into a movement that says we will not be satisfied with being held down any longer and we demand to be seen as equal. With hope and strength, this movement will shape the change for the future to create the better place that those of us who are coming out in the future will be safe in.

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It all comes from you, though. You who are reading these very words are the ones to shape those images into reality. How you choose to take these words and plant them in your heart and soul. How you choose to share your feelings with others. These first steps are always hard trust me, I know. Looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you are perfect the way you are and the feelings you feel are completely natural. The strength and love you have in yourself is enough to make you stronger than anyone who tries to tear you down.

I say to you, from the very bottom of my heart, that I am your family. I support the person you know you are deep inside. I see your value and know that you are a beautiful sole. I am here to listen to you when you think no one else will. I am just like you, even though you feel you are the only one. You may not see it at this very moment, but you are strong, stronger than anyone will ever fully understand. Love yourself, forgive yourself, and never give up the fight.

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Coming Out Through the Ages

History is important because it becomes our guidestone for the future. Knowing the steps and struggles that came before us give us a better feel for who we are and where we need to go. Knowing the stories of those who witnessed first hand the hardships that got us to where we are now can even give us the ability to truly love ourselves. Our history is important because it shows our “logical family,” not the family we were born into. It gives us a sense of community in times where the light seems to struggle against the darkness.

Please take a moment and share these coming out stories. Each shows a part of our recent history and what it was live to live through those eras. Many of these people didn’t know the strength they had at the time or the impact they were about to make. And please take a moment to visit Pyeharrisproject.org, the site these videos came from.

Coming out in the 1950s

Coming out in the 1960s

Coming out in the 1970s

Coming out in the 1980s

 

Tracing Our History

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What does history mean to LGBTQ people? I often sit and wonder this very concept. Being Irish, Scottish, and Native American I can have a shared history with those peoples. Being American, I can learn and interpret where we started and what we’re moving towards. Asians, Africans, Japanese, British, Australians, and Central Americans can all be easily identifiable when it comes to history and it’s because of a shared experience. You can even look at your own family history and see where you came from; again this is because of a shared experience through your DNA. How does that fit in with LGBTQ people?

It would be nice if when we came out that we were sent a magical letter offering us invitation to a school that only teaches history of LGBTQ. We had a means to take a special mode of transportation; I’m thinking a unicorn that pulls a chariot able to carry s few of us at a time. We arrive at a large hall where we are greeted by icons of our history to give us our education. Teaching everything from the history of our modes of dress to why drag queens should be celebrated, classes that teach us the importance of acting out and civil disobedience, showing that we don’t need to be defined by boxes that heteronormative society has placed upon us, and teaching us that love is equal in all eyes and should have no limitations.

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Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

Sadly, there is no Hogwarts school of LGBTQIA, no train to sweep us away to our magical world of wonder, sparkles, and rainbows, and no means of solidarity to keep us sane and moving forward with pride and strength. We are born, largely, into heterosexual families who, not always for their own faults, no very little of our history and culture. We are given talk about our burgeoning desires in the relations to the birds and the bees. We aren’t surrounded by images of others like us in love. When we do get images, they are more furtive glances into what is defined and perverse and taboo. As LGBTQIA kids, we oftentimes sneak books and magazines into our bedrooms to read in the quite hours. We constantly clear our browser history, so parents aren’t aware of what we may have been viewing and this is only if you are a LGBTQIA youth. These means become complicated exponentially as we get older and develop other relationships.

In 1979, the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project said, “Our letters were burned, our names blotted out, our books censored, our love declared unspeakable, our very existence denied.”- LGBTQ Heritage Our desire to know our history isn’t just a passing fancy of the modern era to prove our worth; as far back as the early 19th century there has been a desire by people with same sex attraction and non-normative gender identities to find means of connecting with our past. It wasn’t until the late 70s that homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder; so finding our history in libraries and bookstores is increasingly difficult.

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Part of the issue with tracing our history comes from the fact that many of the words that are used today to describe us aren’t that old. Take the word homosexual was first recorded in use between 1890-95. The term lesbian being used to describe women who love other women also shows record of being used in the 1800s and became much more popular in the 1960s. I hear what you are saying, it dates back much older to the sister of Sappho who were a group dedicated to Sappho of Lesbo. Now tell me that don’t sound like a line? Religious communities destroyed many of her works but what does remain does speak of her love of women. Gay however has a much more varied past, as far back as the 17th century it was used to describe a person who is “uninhibited by moral constraints.” A gay woman was often a prostitute, while a gay man was a womanizer. Using it to specifically talk about a homosexual was more of a branch of it being used to talk about a prostitute. It wasn’t until somewhere closer to 1920 that it was used more exclusively as a reference to gay men.

Even the feelings toward homosexuality changed over the time frame as often as the climate of the culture did. When a new group asserted power, history was changed and rewritten. Older dogmas would fall to the wayside for new or “enlightened” ways of thinking. There are conflicting ideas amongst Catholic scholars as to when exactly the church started condemning homosexuality. There are records of Christian monastic communities and other religious orders where homosexuality was a part of their way of life and the church exerted no direct interference. What is known is that it became a much more serious offense in the High Middle Ages and reaching their height in the Medieval Inquisitions. During this time, being homosexual was equal to being accused of Satanism. This was around the time that Thomas Aquinas came up with the idea of “natural law,” were homosexuality was viewed as “special sins that are against nature.”

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As Christian dogma changed over the ages, what it enforced also changed. And with that mentions in history of positive references to homosexuality would have been removed so that there would be more representations of how it was a sin and amoral. History also shows us that almost every culture referenced LGBTQ in some way. Native Americans who had no concept of the individual and sexual roles didn’t focus on a gender binary point of view. There are plenty references from various tribes that show men dressing and living as women, while taking husbands. There are accounts of women who dressed as men and fought in battles. There are even reference of those that did not fit any binary thought of gender roles that were held in high spiritual regard.

Realistically we are all human. Not a single one of us is any different other than who we choose to love and sleep with. If they world viewed it as such, there wouldn’t be a need to try to find our history and teach it. However, history is a way for us to feel connected and comforted. It is a way for us to draw strength when so many only want to take that away from us. We live in a climate where we have fought for rights and watch as they are slowing being taken back, history can be what gives us the strength to keep fighting forward. Each of you matters for our future.

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Voices Carry, Make Sure Your’s Does As Well.

Our current administration has been in office two years and this November 6th marks the midterm elections. This is an important time for each and every one of us. In that two years we have watch LGBTQ legislation that was put into place by Obama be changed and often times repealed. Our voices rise to the very heavens in protest, but are they enough?

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In the last couple months there have been talks coming from DC on how Trump wants to change how transgender people are viewed under our current laws. In short, he is wanting to take away protections based on gender identity and put into place the means to have healthcare, protective status, jobs, public service access, and a host of other services based upon the gender you were born with. With more and more states passing legislation for protective status to LGBTQ people, this will be in direct conflict and allow business and groups who don’t want to support that a mean to circumvent state laws.

The Washington Post posted and article on how Trump wants to redefine how transgender status is interpreted. He says he wants his administration to “seriously” consider changing the way it treats transgender people under the current law, confirming his debate about whether someone’s sex is a biological fact determined at birth. The Health and Human Services Department has also been pushing for a change to the law. Wanting a “fresh and direct aim at transgender rights,” though what is unclear is if they are in support of the alleged Trump reform or for transgender rights. Previous changes made by the Department of Health and Human Services would point to the former.

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These kind of changes as to whether gender identity is the same as biological gender will allow much debate on the protection status of transgender people under current laws. This would allow the government to decide our gender identities, rather than how we view our bodies and ourselves. It is clear that many people feel that the Obama administration overstepped their bounds when they enacted laws to offer protection stations to LGBTQ people. These same people are in support of the Trump administration systematically rolling back these efforts.

Here are just a few of the changes this administration has been making to laws that are already in place.

September 7, 2017 the Department of Justice filed a brief on behalf of the United States arguing for the constitutional right for business to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

October 5, 2017 the Department of Justice release a memo giving DOJ attorneys legal position to not protect transgender workers from discrimination.

October 6, 2017 the Justice Department released a “license to discriminate” that would allow federal agencies, government contractors, and even private businesses to engage in illegal discrimination based on citing religious reasons.

January 18th and 26th the Department of Health and Human Services started putting into place proposals that would allow healthcare workers to discriminate based on religious or moral reasons. In a sense, being able to turn away someone who was LGBTQ simply because their religion doesn’t accept them. So much for the Hippocratic oath governing how doctors are to treat patience.

February 18, 2018 the Department of Education announced it would dismiss any complaints from transgender students that involved exclusion from school facilities. It would also dismiss any claim based solely on gender identity discrimination.

March 23, 2018 the Trump administration implemented a discriminatory plan that would ban transgender people from serving in the military

May 11, 2018 the Bureau of Prison in the Department of Justice adopted an illegal policy of almost entirely housing all transgender gender in prisons that match their assigned birth. This changed existing protections already put into place.

August 10, 2018 the Department of Labor released a directive for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs that would encourage them to grant sweeping religious exemptions to federal contractors with religious based objections to nondiscrimination laws.

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The point of all of this is to state that this administration is working tirelessly to remove any protections that were put into place by the previous administration. This midterm election will have an ability to change the balance of power so that further stripping of protection status and non-discrimination laws will be harder to remove. Every vote matters, your status as a voter matters. Ensure you are registered to vote and then get out there and do it. Get a group together and go vote, take someone with you who may not be able to make it. Ensure that every vote is taken and counted.

 

LGBTQ People That Have Shaped History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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