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.

 

LGBTQ and Symbolism

Through LGBTQ history, symbolism has been integral to who we are. We have used symbolism to raise our spirits and causes. We have also used various symbols as a means of identifying who we are to one another. Modes of dress, buttons emblazoned with logos, flags, and even speech have been the symbols that we bear to live our lives. Many you may be familiar with, but there are hundreds more that have fallen to the annals of history and left our collective conscious. Thanks to Andy Campbell and his book Queer X Design: 50 Years of Signs, Symbols, Banners, Logos, and Graphic Art of LGBTQ we have documentation of what they once were. In this article, I will share my views of this book and some of the lesser known symbols. With Pride in the CLE, and Pride Season in general, just around the corner, it is important to draw some attention on our past.

This books shows 50 years of history, but actually goes back to a time before the Stonewall Riots. It hints at a history of terminology such as “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” and when they came into usage. It also speaks of the era of Vaudeville, roughly the 1920s, and some of the earliest mentions of same sex love. It’s important to show this, because many feel that the history of LGBT people didn’t start until Stonewall, when the truth is in American there is a documented history easily tracing back to the 1860s. That’s almost 200 years of LGBT history that many of today’s generation aren’t familiar way. These were the pavers to our present time, the ones who only wanted to be with the ones they loved and not have to fear for who they are.

Some of the earliest forms of drag known happened in Vaudeville performances. One of the first Drag Kings was Florence Tempest, born Claire Lillian James. Tempest ran a show where she always played the male role and was known for her hair stylings that hide the fact that she was actually a woman. Her sister, Marion, always played the female to Tempest’s male role. While Tempest was not LGBT, her role is one of the earliest popular forms of drag. In 1928 Ma’ Rainey released a song called Prove It to Me Blues, which spoke of sexual encounters with women.

They said I do it, ain’t nobody caught me.

Sure, got to prove it on me.

Went out last night with a crowd of my friends.

They must’ve been women, ’cause I don’t like no men

It is reported that Ma’ was arrested in 1925 for an orgy that took place in her home with the women of her choir. Political activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis noted that this song was the precursor of the Lesbian Cultural Movement of the 1970s. Ma’ was probably one of the first known Women of Color to speak about relations with other women.

During the 1950s some of the first LGBT publications came into existence, One and the Ladder being the earliest ones. One came into creation after a meeting with the Mattachine Society saying there needed to be a gay publication. This magazine almost failed before it started after they were brought up on charges of indecency, these charges were later dropped as the magazine, itself, never had advertisements for sexual behaviors or risqué pictures. The Ladder was the first exclusively Lesbian publication. The founders Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin wrote a conservative approach to the gay agenda and politics. They argued that women should give up the “butch/femme” modes of dress and style for wearing dresses and fitting in.

With the onset of the 70s, the division of how the LGBT population should act was becoming wider and wider. There was still the carry over groups that suggested we needed to assimilate in order for the dominant culture to accept us and be allowed into resources such as universities, health insurance, and even marriage. This was also the era that the hippy generation from the 60s was still influential and gave rise to groups who felt needed to change instead of the LGBT people. The symbols of this era showed the struggles of both sides and help gain visibility. December 21st, 1969 the Gay Activists Alliance was born, and the founder Tom Doerr created the Lambda symbol for the organization. He felt it representation since, in chemistry, it represented the complete exchange of energy. This felt appropriate coming on the coattails of the Stonewall Riots. Another popular symbol that went by the wayside over the years was the Labrys. This symbol became associated with political and social action of the early LGBT activists. Monique Wittig and Sande Zeig gave the definition to is as a “name for the double-headed axe of the ancient amazons and to the representation of this arm as the emblem of amazon empires.” The Amazons, according to ancient Greek literature, were a matriarchal society of women warriors. This symbol was the representation of radical lesbian feminism. Symbols like these were printed on buttons and handed out en masse to people. They became emblems to put power behind to bring recognition to gay liberation. This was the rallying point for a generation as a means to focus our anger and direct it in a way to work towards change.

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The 70s also brought us the Gilbert Baker Flag. Gilbert Baker was asked by Harvey Milk to design it for the first upcoming Gay Freedom Day celebration. At the time, Milk wanted to move away from the Pink Triangle as he felt it carried to much negative connotations with it being a symbol from the concentration camps. The original Baker Flag had eight colors and meanings tied to them. Hot Pink – Sex, Red – Life, Orange – Healing, Yellow – Sunlight, Green – Nature, Turquoise – magic/art, Indigo – Serenity, and Violet – Spirit. They were characteristics Baker felt the LGBT people had and needed to work on to move forward in our struggle. It was meant to inspire and motivate. After the death of Milk, Baker wanted the flags mass produced, but hot pink was not easy to replicate in mass quantities and the Pride committee decided they wanted equal representation of the colors on each side of the street. With that the Baker flag became the six striped rainbow flag we have today.

 

The 80s changed many minds of LGBTQ people. As the seventies came to an end and move forward, a new killer started to take its toll on the population of gay men in San Francisco and New York. What was known then as GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) was quickly reaching epidemic proportions and was leaving bodies and confused doctors in its wake. Through the Reagan era it was known as a “Gay Disease” or “Gay Cancer” and as such never received the funding or attention it should have. Once it was found to be targeting more than just the “homosexual scourge” and became HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) that the focus changed. By this time thousands of gay men had died. During this time frame the Pink Triangle, left behind in the 70s) made its way to popularity again with ACT UP!’s poster Silence is Death.That iconic image solidified this to be the symbol of queer resistance and empowerment. From this lead to the AIDS quilt that was started in 1985. It has been called the largest collectively ongoing community arts project in history and bears testament to the impact this disease has had on our community and the community at large. This iconic image has its roots from Cleve Jones, who had participants write down the name of a loved one lost to AIDS onto a white poster board. They were walked through the streets of San Francisco and later taped to the wall of a government building. During one such parade it began to rain and the names on the boards started to blur. It is said that at that point, Jones remarked that it “looks like a quilt,” thus giving rise to the quilt.

The 90s brought a lot of focus onto LGBT culture, our people were becoming more seen in television and movies, though not always in the most positive of light. Shows like the Golden Girls and the Simpsons often showed gay men in a campy light or lesbians is a lipstick view of themselves. This era gave rise to DAM! (Dyke Action Machine!) and the underrepresentation of butch lesbians in pop culture. The Human Rights Campaign became one of the focuses of driving conversation about LGBT people in mainstream media. They symbol, that we now all know, went through many iterations. HRC wanted a symbol that would showcase the values and virtues and first incorporated the groups torch as a focus for the symbol. They were passed up for the next three signs that incorporated the equal sign. After discussion and rebranding it ended with the current logo of blue background and the yellow equal sign. Both the Bisexual and Transgender flags rose out of the 90s because these groups were underrepresented in the current LGBT movement. We saw thrift stores catering specifically to the LGBT community as well as clothing brands, like 2(x)IST come into large acceptance. The founder of 2(x)IST, Gregory Sovell, was a former Calvin Klein employee decided to head out on his own course. Building upon the homoerotic nature of many Calvin Klein ads, Sovell decided to pitch is campaign on sexually provocative poses and scantily clad men. This gave him the ground he needed to be the premier brand some on most stores catering to gay men.

With the 21st century, we have seen many logos and companies grow and be replaced with new ones. Gay.com was popular when surfing the web was best done on a home pc and now has been replaced with the likes of Grindr and Tinder. We have seen the birth of gender-neutral bathrooms and the NOH8 logo. All things that show we are moving forward in our fight for our places in this world. We are finally seeing the HRC symbol being replaced with the Against Equality Logo. Many of the LGBTQ people of this era feel the HRC logo simply does not look out for our best interests anymore. That Equality was only given to those of certain affluency and many of us are left by the wayside in the wake of their forward movement. Many of us feel it was HRC focus to only include gay marriage as their focus and in essence slipping back to earlier times where the only way we could/should get rights is by assimilation into the dominant culture. This leaves out people of color, those who focus are not on marriage but basic rights, and those who economically cannot benefit from the standings of HRC. Perhaps it is a calling to return to our activists’ ways. We have seen that history changes constantly and when most needed, perhaps this is the stirrings of the voice wanting us to fight once again. Fight for our next level of acceptance and to move beyond the bigotry that is returning to us a thousand-fold. Are you hearing the call?

 

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.

Where The Wild Heart Roams

So, I was having a moment of writer’s block and unsure what topic I wanted to cover next, it is still a good month before Pride season starts and didn’t want to burn that out before then. A new friend of mine suggested I write about her and her lifestyle, never wanting to turn down a chance to write about someone from the Cleveland area, I was a bit intrigued. When she shared with me her story, I admit I was a little hesitant. After all, this is something I only have passing knowledge of and isn’t specific to the LGBT people. Since I am more about capturing stories of the counter and subcultures of the area, I call home, I said why not. Let’s try it and see what we can do with it.

So, we are talking about furries and if you are like me, most of us only have a cursory knowledge of this subculture. We have seen them at Comic-cons, on TV shows, and have heard or even watched furry porn on PornHub. *No judgments here* But do any of us truly understand who they are and what they are about? It’s much easier to just go with what little information that we have about them. Thanks to the above-mentioned friend, I started doing some research into them and will share her story later. Let’s get a little groundwork out of the way first, shall we? The furry subculture is represented by anthropomorphized animal characters. That boils down to giving human qualities to animals. They are people who dress up in some form of a fur suit and become animals with human intelligence and facial expressions. From just wearing a tail and maybe ears to a fully formed animal suit that looks like the fursona. What is a fursona, you ask? Essentially, it is the personality of the animal that you are portraying, name, emotions, appearance, and behaviors of that animal.

Fred Patten, furry fandom historian, says that furries were born at a science fiction convention in 1980. A drawing from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphicsstarted a conversation about anthropomorphic characters in science fiction. This evolved to groups meeting at sci-fi and comic- cons and progressed into fury suits paying homage to those characters. Though there are many who feel that this started much earlier thanks to works like (1973) Disney’s Robin Hood, Kimba, (1965) The White Lion, and (1972) Watership Down, this would date its origins to much earlier. The 1980s gave rise to the first furry fanzines and by 1989 there had been enough interest generated that allowed for the first furry convention to be held. This convention was called Confurence 0 and was held in Costa Mesa, California. The 1990s brought with it access to the internet and suddenly furry fans from all over were able to meet and discuss their love for all things furry. The first newsgroup for furries was created in 1990 called alt.fan.furry and later lead to the virtual environments called MUCKs.

When I first started to write about furries, I went under the impression that it wasn’t specifically tied to LGBT people. It is interesting to note that 1.8% of the US population self-identify as bisexual and 1.7% self-identify as homosexual, according to a 2011 study from UCLA. In furry fandom, by contrast, four surveys show that 14-25% identify as homosexual, 37-52% identify as bisexual, 28-51% as heterosexual, and 3-8% identify as alternative sexual relationships. It is reports that it is predominately male-oriented, with reports being roughly 80%. With these same surveys, approximately half identify as being in relationships with 76% of those being other furries. Sexual aspect of the fandom revolves around furry erotic art and cybersex. The term YIFF is often times referred to sexual activity or material, in the fandom. These same surveys are shown to report that roughly 94% of the male respondents have watched furry porn, while roughly 79% of the female respondents watch it .The media does tend to focus on the sexual aspects of being a furry more than those who do not engage in it.

Many furries agree that the community has been misunderstood and it is not about sex. According to an article on CNN.com posted on November 14, 2018, the furry community is largely annoyed about how they are portrayed in mainstream media. Most feel that the depictions of sex fueled parties of people in furry costumes is an unfair depiction. Most feel that it is about letting out a side of them that is often times held down by their day today. These same people want you to know that it is not all about wearing the fur costume. Rod Stansfield says that “If you honestly believe that furry fandom is about costuming, then you’ve missed the point, saying furry fandom is about wearing fur suits is like saying ‘Star Trek’ fandom is about wearing pointy ears.” Stansfield is the co-founder of Confurence and, himself, doesn’t own a fursuit. The median often depicts the bright colorful costumes as the standard for the furry fandom. Pocari Roo , Barton Fox, and Stormi Folf are some of the best known furries who host YouTube channels devoted to discussing furonas, affordable suits, and general knowledge of what it means to be a furry.

Furries are more than just dressing up in fursuits, though that is a big part of it and those are called fursuiters. There are conventions, dance events, and more. The growth of the community has even gotten to the world of academia. There are continuing research projects at furscience.com that tracks attitudes and backgrounds of the furry community. They have even developed their own terminology:

Greymuzzle – older member of the furry community

Bronies – a subset of the furry community that are fans of the My Little Pony franchise.

Therian – someone who feels an intense spiritual identification with a nonhuman animal.

Babyfur – someone interested in age play, young, or childlike characters

Milfurs – furries who are or were members of the military.

A large percent of the furry community are gamers (video, board, and computer), into anime, science fiction, and fantasy. There are bars that host furry parties and yes there is even talk of the new LGBT inclusive bar, All Ax’s in Willoughby, have a furry/cosplay night.

As within the LGBT community, many of the members of the furry community come from a bullied background. In essence, their fursona allows them to detach from their reality to one which they control how they feel and interact with others. It mirrors a lot of the kink subcultures, as well. It is a means of healing the psyche, a way to compartmentalize their pain. It becomes a means to heal the trauma they have in their lives. It allows them to retake control from a life where they may feel they do not have the needed control. It is also a means to step away from who you are and express a side of you that may not be as easy to show. The furry world is without boundaries, in it any creature can exist as long as the mind can create it. What that character is like strongly depends on the person that is part of it. It can personify the best qualities of who we are or the more repressed. As there are few boundaries, furries, in part, are more accepting that their human counterparts. As such, it becomes a place that many feel they truly belong and have no fears of judgement.

Many times, our perceptions are clouded by the notions of others. Media can shape our views before we have a chance to learn about it. It is a safe bet, that for many, furries fit into that prejudged mold. Since many hide who they are from those they do not trust, you may never know that someone is a furry. We are all people and have the same driving need to belong and feel safe. This transcends sexuality, gender identity, and subculture. It is a basic human need and if not given can create negative behaviors in a person. It is as essential as the need for touch and love. Point is, don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their fursuit. Inside each of us beats a heart that is wild and wishes to roam with those just like us.

LGBT and Sex Ed

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We are fully aware that history shows LGBT are more sexually active at a young age. It also shows that gay men have been fairly indiscriminate in the past, when it comes to sexual conquests. Lesbians have always been joked about bringing a U-Haul to the first date, implying that they are moving in shortly after meeting a new person. Even bisexuals are accused of being over sexually active because they can play both sides, in effect having their cake and eating it, too. Is any of it true? Yes, there are probably kernels of it throughout, even while the larger parts may be exaggeration. The bigger problem lies in proper sex education, our identities and experiences are never discussed. Also, we do not have anyone to turn to that would help us navigate some of those more sensitive questions. Current times show this is changing, but it’s at a snail’s pace in comparison to the need of it.

I still remember my sex ed class, in high school. It was talked about on the first day that at some future point, the class would be divided between boys and girls for a couple days. Then it wasn’t mentioned again until it was closer to time, the week before Our teach told us that the boys would have one class and the girls would have another, if I am not mistaken, during that time the other side of the class got gym or a free period. You couldn’t teach boys and girls together; it was out of the question. They were afraid it would cause issues discussing those private parts of our humanity. We each went over the same chapters, only difference was in relation to our sexuality. It was an awkward experience, the penis inserts into the vagina, semen impregnates the egg, then conception. There was no talking about feelings and experiences. What puberty really feels like and how it can affect you emotionally. And that was just for “normal” heterosexual sex. Any mention of LGBT was met with deviant behavior and considered not normal. It is no wonder we grow up with sexual and mental dysfunctions.

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According to HRC.org The GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Surveyfound that fewer than five percent of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics. Among Millennials surveyedin 2015, only 12 percent said their sex education classes covered same-sex relationships.” When I was in school, all those years ago, there were none. We should have the same right as our heterosexual counterparts, it is essential for understanding sexual-orientation and gender identity. We need the kind of information that would allow us to make informed and educated decisions about safe health practices and even to see positive representations of same sex and transgender families. After all, most LGBT youth grow up with the stigma that we are to be feared. Having families who are adamantly opposed to our lifestyles, who in turn do we have to turn to for help and understanding?

GLSEN shows there are five ways to be inclusive about sexual education for LGBT people, four of which are actually the worst ways and one positive. Sounds horrifying to think that there are far more ways to be hurtful to our LGBT youth than there is positive. But is it really? The first way is the ignoring approach, simply do not teach it. It is far easier to not talk about LGBT and healthy relationships than bringing it up. Many teachers feel that it isn’t something that would affect their students. The second way is the demonizing approach. Here you would mention LGBT people, but you would show them in the negative light that many people still feel is the only way to view us. They would prefer to tell you how bad they are and unwanted. Telling only of the solitary life they will have and how their families will kick them out. The third way is stigmatizing approach. This is the more passive aggressive approach, they don’t directly tell you they are bad, instead it is only talking about them when talking about them while teaching about risky behavior. How their sexual activities will lead to STIs and ultimately AIDS. The fourth bad way is the transgender-excluding approach. This approach will talk about lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and any non-heterosexual types, but refuse to discuss the validity of transgender people. Giving them no respect and negating their existence. However, it is a new trend that it is taught in a more positive approach. This is the LGBT inclusive approach; it is not left to a paragraph or even a chapter to discuss. Instead you see aspects of LGBT people discuss in all parts of the curriculum. Giving a positive view of life and love, encouraging the students to see them as normal parts of society. It challenges the modality of on gender binary focus, allows for growth of the individual by no relegating the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation to special topics.

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The Trevor Project  offers some great resources about sex education. They are as beneficial to anyone who comes out as they are to the LGBT youth. The first link I would like to point it is for Scarleteen.com, on this truly awesome page, there are many offerings that can be beneficial to LGBT youth. Some deal with dating and parents, some address the topics of being asexual and they focus on various ideals of sexual identity and orientation. Then one that sticks out to me the most is on their recent crush list called; Going Solo: The Basics of Masturbation. If you have read any of my blog, before this, you will see all to quickly how I talk about body positivity and being comfortable with who you are. Masturbation is a topic that isn’t covered, in depth, in most sex ed classes. And if it is, it isn’t usually given a positive light. Add on to that how our parents reinforce to us that is will cause bad things to happen to us like blindness and insanity, we treat it as a dirty little secret. The truth it, it is something that should be discussed more openly. After all, it is the first act of sex we typically experience. Before you drop this article to click over to the Scarleteen, be warned that it is not a how-to manual, nor will you find pictures. It is a reaffirming article about how masturbation is natural and healthy. It offers insight into why fors and how comes. It dispenses with common myth and even offers why it is a necessary part of life. We should be open with our partners about our own sexual health and to know that we must know ourselves and this is one way you get to know who you are.

A couple other really awesome links is Sex Etc and the Trans youth Sexual Health Handbook  Sex Etc is an info site that covers a vast array or topics, you can find things about birth control, STIs/AIDS info, body image info, abuse and violence info, and information on relationships. It is worth a dive through to read some of their pages. Many of their pages are divided up between stories for contributors, FAQs with general information, and other external resources for information. Again, this is a page that offers information that is as helpful for a LGBT youth or someone who is 35 and just coming to terms with their sexuality. The trans youth sexual health handbook is written by a group of 16-24 year old transgender youths who, as they say, “who have been there, done that and bought the t-shirt.” It came out of a need for information to help those who are just starting their journeys in understanding who they are. It is a means to create body positivity and acceptance in yourself. It covers relationship topics, sex, and even talks about hormone therapies. They are based out of Europe, so some of their links may not be of use for phone numbers, but the information and link they provide are definitely a wealth of information.

 

This kind of information is important, hell to everyone and not just LGBT people. Our sex education classes in America are lackluster in covering enough topics to safely help us assess our own mental well-being. These are part of the reason there is such stigma around things like sexual kink. Without understanding what drives us and our desires we fall back on the judging because it is different mindset. If more care was taken in some of our earlier education, we might just adjust better in our adulthood. I feel this is a really good addition to the last two weeks of discussing other kinds of sexual activity. It is a means of broadening our horizons to be more inclusive of one another and also teaching that we are not bad for taking part in things that others don’t talk about openly. Take some time to find out who you are, read a few of these links and question yourself and your desires. We need better education of our LGBT youth so that they may become better adjusted to a world that already has enough stigma and hatred.