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.

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.

All The Queen’s Men

Last night I experienced one of the most spectacular shows in all the drag I have seen. All the Queen’s Men made their eastside debut last night at ALL AXS and they knew how to bring the show. This amazing group rolled into town, took over the bar, and left the crowd begging for more. And, like I said, the best Drag King show I have ever had a chance to see. Their energy definitely took over the crowd and they knew how to work it. And they were part of the amazing shows that Billy Welker is bringing to his customers to make ALL AXS the most inclusive and friendly place to be in Willoughby.

Angelica Arkett, Terri Mann, Mr. Ohio King All-Star Matt Cockrin, and Santana Romero make up All the King’s Men.  If you have never been to a King show, then it is definitely something you need to experience. Sure, Queens can turn a look and duck walk across your wallet for tips, but Kings show the sexy side of male performers that both men and women fall for. My own experience with King shows were back home in Virginia and while they were fun, they were nothing like the show I experienced last night. Angelica was a captivating host, kept the audience engaged with her quick with on fleek lip syncs. Terri Mann is the MAN behind the show and just left you wanting to open your wallet for him. Your current reigning Mr. Ohio King All-Star Matt Cockrin gave you smoky intense and soulful lip syncs that just made your heart skip a beat. Santana Romero brought you flavor and rhythm that made you want to move your hips to his beat.

This group was crowd interactive and boy did the patrons eat it up. Many times, they were dragging the women to their feet to sweep them up in their intensity, while Angelica entranced the men and left the swooning. For some it this was their first ever show and for others it was their first ever King show. No matter which they were All the King’s Men treated them like familiar lovers, giving them more and leaving them wanting. High energy and captivating was the theme for each half of the show. The crowning performance, for me, was Terri Mann who performed a song mashup of 30+ songs, talk about turning it out.

I would like to say thank you for All the Queen’s Men for coming out and making an awesome Tuesday night at All AXS. You guys were incredible, and I loved the show. If you missed the show, never fear they will return, and don’t quote me, on March 25th. If I am wrong, I will update this post with the correct date. When they return, make sure you are there with your dollars out and ready to have an awesome time.

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LGBTQ Elderly

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Sapphic Sisters

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For a long time there seems to have been a division between lesbians and gay men. There have even been times in which the split between us was very hostile. Some say it is due to lesbians being against males centered culture and due to their deep ties to the feminist movements. Some say it is because gay men lost their way in the Gay Rights Movement and focused only on their causes and how it affected them. Even others say it is due to always being lumped together in one category without appreciating the differences between the individual groups. The reasons are less important, what we cannot forget is that we wouldn’t have a lot of the rights we do now if it wasn’t for our sisters in arms. Lesbians have been some of the strongest fighters we have had in our movement.

“What is a lesbian? A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. She is the woman who, often beginning at an extremely early age, acts in accordance with her inner compulsion to be a more complete and freer human being than her society – perhaps then, but certainly later – cares to allow her…” from The Woman-Identified Woman by the Radicalesbians 1970. Many of the roots of dissension between lesbians and gay men can be traced to the feminist movement and its push for women’s independence. About the time of Stonewall, lesbians had become very frustrated with the Second-Wave feminism and decided to make their own movement with Lesbian Feminism. Second-wave feminism focused on a wider range of issues: sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, and official legal inequalities. The separation from this form of feminist’s movement happened in May 1970 and the Radicalesbians were formed. The separation happened because the leaders of the feminist movements felt that lesbians were an obstacle to their goals and were labeled as the “Lavender Menace.”

May 1970, Rita Mae Brown and 20 lesbians created the Radicalesbians and took over the Congress to Unite Women, a conference about current women’s issues. They took to the stage, all wearing t-shirts that called themselves “Lavender Menace” and read to the crowd of 400 women their essay, The Woman-Identified Woman that laid out their precepts of their movement. This laid the groundwork for the movement to move forwards and gave rise to the Womyn culture, in which they worked to change phallocentric mindsets of how women should distinguish themselves from men. Before the beginnings of the Radicalesbians, the women’s movement were not accepting of lesbians. However, their fighting laid the groundwork for modern feminism movement saying that women have the right to define and express their own sexuality how they choose to. This is an oversimplification of what happened but gives the basis for the importance of this article. This organization and change based results are what led Harvey Milk appointed Anne Kronenberg as his political campaign manager. Kronenberg was an openly lesbian activist and her merits are what helped shaped the Gay Rights Movement and the beginnings of where we are today. During the beginnings of the Gay Rights Movement, the LGBT people were deeply entrenched on fighting together, but as the 70s progressed a rift started between the individual groups.

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It wasn’t until 1987 that we really saw the community pulled together in a common fight again, AIDS was the new villain to beat. The 70s was an age of decadence for gay male culture, coming off the free love trains of the 60s. Moving into the 80s our sexual exploration was still going on when a new disease started killing people. It was mostly tied to the gay male population and when it hit the media it was Ronald Reagan that called it “GRID” Gay Related Immune Deficiency or more infamously called the Gay Cancer. As the CDC struggled to find the origins of this disease and how to combat it, tens of thousands of gay men were dying from this devastating disease. At this time there were many lesbian nurses who were the ones caring for us as we laid dying in our solitary beds, where our lovers were not able to be with us. They provided the care and needed companionship as we drew our last breaths. The group ACT UP! started during this same time and staged a demonstration in New York for greater access to experimental AIDS drugs. Marion Banzhaf and Alexis Danzig were veteran members of ACT UP who helped set up this demonstration. According to broadly.vine.com,”Banzhaf and Danzig’s contributions are among those which supported social and institutional change, from accelerated drug approval to the development of formal needle exchange programs, and saved millions of lives by hastening the advent of pro-tease inhibitors in 1996.” It was our lesbian sisters that proudly showed that it takes a village to raise a village. There were many lesbians that ran shuttle services for the first ever The Names Project, the Aids Quilt event in Washington D.C. This event was a living document to those we have lost because of AIDS. The first event had many who were still suffering from the devastation of this virus and lacked the means of easily getting around this event, so our lesbian sisters aided them by providing transportation and even pushing many of the sick around to the panels they wanted to visit.

We still see a separation in bars from gays and lesbians, often times we throw insults towards each other. But it never seems we really understand why, it’s like once we come out and start hanging out with our “assigned group” we follow the hive mindset and start disliking one another. I have seen this quote and heard it many times before, “it’s not that lesbians dislike penises, it that they dislike who they are attached too.” It all comes down to how sexuality is still viewed by the entire group. The same can be said for gay men and their derision of the female body. It is almost as if because we are either lesbians or gay men that we cannot appreciate the beauty of the human body outside our attraction to those like us. While we as gay men are not attracted to the female body, we should not view it with such contention that we treat them with revulsion and contempt. We should remember the times they were there to help us along in our struggles, after all, we are similar in that we all love members of our presenting gender.

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We share in how the heterosexual community view us, mostly with disdain. Lesbians are often sexualized by heterosexual men. Pull out your smartphone and do a search on lesbians and you will probably see a heterosexual version of what lesbians should look like and sex from the same perspective. Nor are they any less apt to be told they are only homosexual because they haven’t had the right heterosexual partner. And let’s not forget that if a woman has short hair, dresses in pants and t-shirts, and doesn’t wear makeup that they are lesbians. Heterosexual men often fantasize about threesomes with two women having lesbian sex that he gets to join in on. Why? Because he has a penis and obviously, they cannot have real sex without one. Utter garbage, right? There are plenty of lesbians I am sure have had to deal with men asking them to perform for his amusement. TV shows, magazines, movies, songs, advertisements, and more use an over sexualized view of lesbians for financial gain. In more instances it is to drive a masculine reaction for financial purposes. What to increase the ratings of a TV show near the end of a season, show a lesbian kiss. Advertising uses perceived vision to increase interactions. Take the ad above, in it you see that the women are looking out at the viewer instead of themselves, this gives the perception that they are inviting the viewer in to be a part of the scene. Whereas in a normal interaction, those women would be gazing at one another and interacting with them.

We are on a knife’s edge in history, a precipice of where we have fought for and gained many things. All it will take is a misstep and we can have them taken away from us. It is time we put behind us the childishness differences that separate us and unite completely. We need the courage and strength that lesbians have shown in the movement. After all, each of us are still minorities and our fight is imperative to how we will live in the future.

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Bi-negativity of LGBT

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Switch hitters, fence post sitters, AC/DC, confused, and straggot are just a few terms that are thrown out by people when the term bisexual comes up. Even more sad is that a lot of these terms are still being said by our own community. It seems that when it comes to judging others, we are often harder on our fellow brothers and sisters. Why do we have such strong emotions against bisexuals when we are so adamant for fighting for our own rights and acceptance? What is it that we feel is an attack to us or an insult?

When I was a young gay, I remember hearing many of the terms listed above. I remember hearing that bisexual men were merely confused and just hiding that they were gay. There would be anger towards bisexuals, saying they were holding our struggle back by being able to easily go back into the closet for safety. Many felt anger that bisexuals were decreasing dating options we had under an illusion of being something they were not. The truth is, any of us could, and even sometimes do, hide our very natures out of reasons of protection. So why does this create a feeling of animosity to those that identify as bisexual? There was even a time in which I thought and said similar things. Here I was going through this deep struggle of trying to accept that I was different and the fear of being physically hurt for what I was on the inside and they could easily hide by dating members of the opposite sex. It angered me that someone would be able to flip who they slept with, at what seemed a whim, and not have to worry about anyone judging them. What I failed to realize is that their struggle was the same and, in many cases, worse than my own. Not only do you have to rationalize being attracted to members of the same sex but that is doubled by also still being attracted to the opposite sex. Leaving you with a feeling of what are you doing wrong to have these feelings that so many say is wrong and sinful.

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The fact is binary concepts of sexuality still pervade into our own LGBT mindset. For many gays and lesbians, we see sexuality as an either-or condition, either you are heterosexual, or you are homosexual. We still believe that at some point they will have to decide to be one or the other, if they ever hope to truly have a relationship. Beyond that we still view them as a group that may be incapable of carrying on a relationship or are solely driven by sexual impulses, seeing them as sleeping with everyone because they don’t have to fall into one category or another. Perhaps this is rooted in some form of jealousy for a freedom we do not, ourselves, seem to have. Even heterosexuals have weird grasps of bisexuality. Many think that once a bisexual marries someone that they are no longer bisexual, like when Larry King interviewed Anna Paquin. That somehow you can only be bisexual if you are single and sleeping around.

Gay and lesbians know all too well the struggles we go through trying to accept we are, just imagine the added issues of being bisexual. Also imagine the pain we go through from constantly coming out in new situations, now think of how much harder that is for bisexuals. They are often told they are lying about their true natures or simply confused. They are often judged harshly for sleeping with members of their own gender and can be rejected by both potential partners because of their past romantic involvements. Gay and Lesbian Alliances have turned away bisexuals because they do not fit the molds of how they feel their services are designed to help. They need the same support systems we do, when we are facing dark times. Here we are claiming we are safe zones when, in fact, they are only safe places for a narrow view of what we think our community should be.

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According to Bustle.com  they reported a 2013 survey done by Pew Research Center that states, “While 71 percent of lesbians and 77 percent of gay men are out to the people close to them, only 28 percent of bi people can say the same. The numbers were even lower for bisexual men, only 12 percent of whom are out.” Numerous other surveys report that 45 – 50% of the LGBT population identify as bisexual, that is half of our community, but only about 28% of those numbers openly identify as bisexual. Often many prominent figures that have identified as bisexual throughout their lives are often remembered as gay icons after their passing. Take for instance Freddie Mercury, front man for the iconic band Queen. Throughout his life he had male and female partners, but history instead portrays him as gay.  Our own LGBTQ history forgets many bisexual leaders that were there throughout the movement. We see the focus on Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, Audre Lorde, and Barbara Gittings, all of which identify as lesbian or gay. Less is known and even shown of bisexual leaders like James Baldwin and Brenda Howard, who were instrumental in the early rights movements and key in bringing spotlight to bisexuals. Even bisexual organizations are less talked about, take for instance the Boston Bisexual Women’s Network founded in 1983. They still publish their quarterly newsletter called BiWomen and is the oldest bisexual publication in the world.

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Eliel Cruz, historian of AIDS and HIV activism was quoted as saying: “Not only was the bi community suffering because of the HIV/AIDS, they were fighting it. While the media was busy scapegoating bi men for spreading the disease to women, bi activists like Dr. David Lourea and Cynthia Slater were out raising awareness and offering sex education in the same sex spaces of San Francisco. In fact, throughout the history of ‘gay rights’ bi activists and allies have been consistently erased…” Even today, healthcare workers are more apt to judge bisexuals more harshly in STI situations than they would lesbians and gay men. Biphobia hasn’t diminished as LGBT rights have expanded, in fact many times they are left as the invisible minority. According to thinkprogress.org (https://thinkprogress.org/media-ignoring-bisexual-community-3a46e7081bb1/) “Compared to peers who identify as gay or lesbian, bi+ youth and adults report higher levels of mental illness and suicidality, and lower levels of social support; bisexual youth report higher rates of bullying and harassment; and bisexual people face disproportionately high rates of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

What we, as a community, need to fully realize is that their sexuality is as valid as ours. Who they are as people and choose to love is as fundamental as it is to deal with being transgender. We need to embrace each of us as equals. Reshape our mindset to remove the stigmatism we have about our bisexual brothers and sisters. The gaps we have in inclusion in our community is what keeps us from organizing to erase the hatred and violence towards us. We must be strong together for each other, after all no one else, but ourselves, will look out for us. If you see bisexuals being judged or mistreated, be sure to stand up just as you would for any gay, lesbian, or transgender. Let us validate their choices as genuine as our own, realize that their sexuality does not change, regardless of their relationship status. They are not pretending to be straight if they are dating members of the opposite sex or short-term gay if they are dating members of the same sex. Their contributions to our history are as important as anyone else’s for getting us to where we are now.

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Heteronormativity of LGBTQ People

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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