Oh, the times they are a changin’…

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

Say what you want, but gay bars have been the cornerstones of LGBTQ culture for a very long time. They have been sanctuary, front lines of rebellion, keystones to neighborhoods, and starts of our “out lives”. As we move forward through our history, we are seeing a decline in those establishments.

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Leather Stallion Saloon Cleveland, OH

In the 1960s, as New York’s gay community started coming into its own, we needed a place where we could come together without fear of reprisals. Until that point, there were laws in place, in most of the country that gay men could not be served in public. All it took was for a bartender to assume you were gay for them to not serve you and even have you arrested. Sit to close to another guy, busted. Touch a man that looked intimate, cops showed up and probably smashed your head. Even meeting in public places was dangerous. Cruisy areas were heavily patrolled and regular arrests were made. But the LGBTQ community had an unlikely ally, the Mob.

New York had a liquor law that barred what they called disorderly conduct on premises, this was used to make sure that gay men didn’t dance together in bars or even be romantic with one another. The Mob saw this as a perfect business opportunity. The Genovese family was the “Dons” of Manhattan’s West side bar scene, which included the Village, where the LGBTQ community was getting its start. “Fat Tony” a.k.a Tony Lauria bought the Stonewall Inn in 1966 and made the first gay bar. It was run very cheaply; no running water, no sanitation for dishes, bathrooms not cleaned or maintained, and no fire exit. It was, however, a place we could go freely and be who we were without fear of being arrested. It also gave a safe place, as long as it was open, to runaways and LGBTQ homeless.

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Stonewall Inn New York

After the events at Stonewall, more gay bars started popping up in cities all over the country. As years progressed, they weren’t just limited to larger progressive cities. This gay more rural LGBTQ people opportunities to meet others like themselves to alleviate the feeling of being alone, even if it was only once every month or so. We knew we had a place to go where we felt like we belonged and could meet others. For me I remember it being more like a community center with a bar. TVs showed LGBTQ movies, TV Shows, and videos. Events were held each month and clubs like Leather Clubs or Pride Committees. It was the place you could come and see people you didn’t get to see daily and just be yourself. The Internet hadn’t really come to handheld devices yet, so this was our meeting place.

Over the years, LGBTQ bars in Cleveland have come into existence, thrived, and closed often. Leaving the landscape shaped by their being. In the 1970s there were as much as two-dozen gay bars, according to Cleveland.com. Their main areas were the Warehouse district and a small stretch of St Claire. From then until the mid 80s, they scene was thriving and exciting Many bars held specialty balls and events and the parties were wild. U4ia and Bounce were some of the bigger nightclubs and more popular for drag shows, both have now closed. A Man’s World, Leather Stallion Saloon, and Cocktails tended to be more neighborhood styles bars with Man’s World and Stallion catering to the leather crowds. At present there are roughly six LGBTQ bars left in Cleveland; Leather Stallion, Twist, Cocktails, The Hawk, Vibe, and the newest Shade. Leather Stallion frequently holds neighborhood events and caters to its original leather clientele. While Twist and Cocktails have smaller stages, they do host drag events.

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Twist Social Club Lakewood OH

As the 90s moved into 2000s, we saw computer gets smaller and cell phones move to smart phones. Apps were being developed that let us meet people without having to leave our homes. This was the start of the decline of the gay bar scene. Craigslist also gave freedom for random sexual encounters. With all of these changes, we saw that the bar scene slowly started falling away as the cornerstones they once were. Society, as a whole, has shifted as well. It is now much more accepted to be LGBTQ than it was in the 1960s, so the need for the sanctuaries has seemed to have fallen away. Many more conventional bars are more accepting of all sexual orientations, so niche bars are less frequented.

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The Park Roanoke, Virginia

Throughout our history we have celebrated our differences. We have reveled in our promiscuous sex life and wanted our own safe place to be as we are. With the shouts of “We’re here, We’re Queer, get used to it,” we expected others to take us at what we were. History progressed and we slowly started fighting for our right to marry, have a family and be like everyone else. Our radical sides fell away and we wanted to go back into the closet, so to speak. We fought against heterosexuals for so long and now we were fighting to be like them. Our acquiescence is what has caused a central core of our community to be left behind. I am not saying that it right or wrong, it just is.

I think it is important to remember where our foundations lie and we must accept that gay bars were a vital part of that foundation. Our community has changed, but it is still the gay bars that were where our fight began. Let us remember them and if they still exist near you, frequent them to show that you remember. We may need them again, one day.

 

 

Celebrating the Victories

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

Fighting is hard, especially in the instances of civil and social justices. We get focused on the need to push forward and what the next battle is going to be that we often forget to take a moment out to celebrate what we have gained. That doesn’t mean we should not stay focused, but we need to recognize victories that have been gained. Currently, Ohio and Cleveland are both a battle ground for getting protection status for LGBTQ people in the work place. When only 20 states have any form of protection status, every additional state added to that list is very important.

Again, victories are important and something I think we should take a moment to celebrate. Mayor Jackson has made appointments recently that are leaps for our community. Sherry Bowman was appointed as LGBTQ+ Representative to Cleveland’s Community Relations Board. She is both a native Clevelander and a long time activist in the LGBTQ+ and African American community. In 2006 she created a website called feelgoode.com to provide information and access to people to get involved in local activism. When the site closed in 2012 it was receiving 300,000 hits per day. She went on to become actively involved in local advocacy groups and was instrumental in helping shape Cleveland’s nondiscrimination ordinances. This year the mayor appointed her, to serve as a LGBTQ+ representative on the Cleveland’s Community Relations Board. This position is responsibility to help build positive relationships between City Hall and the LGBTQ+ community at large. Sherry’s goals include more economic opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community, reducing violence against the transgender community, and to maximize collaboration between the various organizations that serve the LGBTQ+ community.

We also saw the appointment of Commander Deidre Jones as a LGBTQ Liaison to the Department of Safety. Deidre has long been out in her 30 years service with the city. Her role as LGBTQ liaison will be to build on and strengthen relationships between the Police and the LGBTQ+ community. Part of her means to accomplish this is to work on increasing recruiting from the LGBTQ+ community, to meet with and examining other Police leaders to bring back best practices to Cleveland, provide ongoing training to officers, and to meets with business owners of the LGBTQ+ community to ensure their public safety needs are being met. She is also working directly with officers on cases involving the LGBTQ+ community on how to respectfully write reports, behave on scene, and interact with the media. “I want to improve the basic interaction,” Jones says, “to make sure that LGTQ+ people are afforded the same dignity and respect from officers that everyone else would get.” Commander Jones wants to increase visibility of Police and Public Safety as allies and to keep the tradition of police participation at Cleveland’s annual Pride in the CLE celebration.

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Kevin Schmotzer was appointed as the first LGBTQ+ liaison to Mayor Frank G. Jackson, this year. His position is to address the needs of the LGBTQ+ community with the internal departments, social service organizations and coalitions and as an adviser to the mayor. Mayor Frank Jackson was quoted saying, “Mr. Schmotzer will helps us expand and advance nondiscriminatory policies that move our entire community forward.” Kevin has been working with the city of Cleveland for two decades and served as the Executive of Small Business Development for attracting entrepreneurship, creating and administering programs, and financial incentives for economic development in Cleveland. Mr. Schmotzer also served on the 2014 board for the Cleveland held Gay Games.

We also have the recent passing of the Cuyahoga County Non-Discrimination Ordinance. This ordinance gave equal protection and access employment, housing, accommodations, including public bathrooms and locker rooms. This allowed Cuyahoga to fall in line with most of its localities that already had these types of protections in place and a further step to ensure that all of Ohio has them, as well.

We still have a way to go in our fight and the forward momentum needs to be carried along. Whether you are out, have plans to come out, or not we need to rally together to ensure that all people are equally accessed to services. None of us should ever feel that we are not a part of the global collective. Find your means to fight and speak out. Civil disobedience or full on activism, all aspects are needed to make a change.

 

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LGBTQ Myths

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In honor of it being National LGBTQ History Month I thought I would dedicate my blog to sharing coming out stories, facts and or questions about coming out, LGBTQ history tidbits, and things that are important but feel good at the same time. So, sit back, read, and as always let me know what you think. As this isn’t my personal post but from another website, I apologize for the lack of inclusion. Their website does have great information, just wasn’t much in the way of inclusion in this post.

Myths and Facts about Sexual Orientation in Identity

There are lots of myths about sexual orientations and what they all mean – we clear the misconceptions up and give you the facts about what different sexualities mean. Republished with the permission of LGBT Youth Scotland. https://www.lgbtyouth.org.uk

Myth: Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is just a phase.

Fact: Lots of people do experiment with their sexuality, but for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, being attracted to the same gender or both genders all their life is no different to straight people being attracted to the opposite sex.

Myth: Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is a choice/lifestyle.

Fact: People do not choose who they are attracted to, whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight.

Myth: Lesbian, gay and bisexual people can be cured.

Fact: There is no valid scientific evidence that shows a person’s sexual orientation can be changed, but many experts have warned that trying to do so can be extremely damaging.

Myth: Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is unnatural.

Fact: There is nothing unnatural about being attracted to or loving someone regardless of their gender.

Myth: Being lesbian, gay or bisexual means you can’t be religious.

Fact: Although some religions/ faiths still condemn being lesbian, gay or bisexual, lots of LGBT people are religious or follow the teachings of a religion.

Myth: Bisexual people are just confused.

Fact: Many people are attracted to more than one gender all their lives and don’t feel any more confused over their sexual orientation than anyone else.

Myth: Bisexual people are greedy.

Fact: Being attracted to more than one gender doesn’t make a person greedy, it’s no different from being attracted to one.

Myth: Bisexual people are just gay or lesbian people who haven’t admitted it yet.

Fact: Some gay and lesbian people will identify as bisexual first as part of the coming out process, whereas other people who first identify as gay or lesbian people may later identify as bisexual, but many people happily identify as bisexual all their life.

Myth: It’s fashionable to be bi.

Fact: Some people may think its cool/fashionable to be bisexual, but this type of attitude can prevent people who are genuinely bisexual from being taken seriously. This links back to ideas of sexual orientation being a choice or a lifestyle that can be changed.

Myth: Lesbians/gay men fancy every woman/man they see.

Fact: Some lesbians/gay men will be attracted to lots of women/men and some just a few; most will be somewhere in the middle. Your sexual orientation has no direct relation to how many or how few people you are attracted to and is no different to heterosexual people’s attraction to people of the opposite gender.

Myth: Lesbians/gay men are promiscuous and will try and jump into bed with every woman/man they meet.

Fact: Again, a person’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with how many or how few partners a person will have.

Myth: All lesbians are butch/All gay men are camp.

Fact: Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are as varied as straight people. Some lesbians will be butch and some won’t. Some gay men will be camp and some won’t. You should never feel pressure to act a certain way or change how you behave just because of your sexual orientation.

 

You may be asked…

In honor of it being National LGBTQ History Month I thought I would dedicate my blog to sharing coming out stories, facts and or questions about coming out, LGBTQ history tidbits, and things that are important but feel good at the same time. So, sit back, read, and as always let me know what you think.

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Questions You Might Be Asked If You Come out as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual in Identity

If you do decide to come out as either lesbian, gay or bisexual, there may be a number of questions asked on you. Depending on who’s being asked and who’s asking, answers will vary, but the questions and guide answers below will hopefully help you to prepare for some of the common questions and reactions when someone comes out as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Reproduced with permission from LGBT Youth Scotland.

Q: How do you know/are you sure?

A: Like everyone else, lesbian, gay and bisexual people know who they are attracted to; it’s not any different.

Q: What does that mean?

A: Gay – emotionally and physically attracted to men. Lesbian – emotionally and physically attracted to women. Bisexual – emotionally and physically attracted to both women and men.

Q: Does that mean you’ll never have children?

A: There are lots of ways to have children as a lesbian, gay or bisexual person, if I decide I want to be a parent

Q: It’s a difficult life to lead.

A: Lots of lesbian, gay and bisexual people lead full and happy lives.

Q: Don’t tell anyone.

A: It’s my decision to tell people if I want to and I would like you to support me with whatever decision I make.

Q: It’s against my/your religion.

A: There are many lesbian, gay and bisexual people who are religious and many places of worship are welcoming to them. If your religion or place of worship doesn’t accept LGB people, you can still have your own relationship with your god, and no-one has the right to tell you otherwise.

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Q: I don’t want to know you anymore.

A: Some people may never accept it, but many do with time. Give these people some space or ask a supportive friend to talk to them. Just because I am attracted to people of the same gender or people of both genders doesn’t change me as a person.

Q: It’s probably just a phase.

A: I’ve thought about it for a long while before telling you and I know how I feel.

Q: I feel like I don’t know you anymore.

A: I’m still the same person, and because I am close to you I didn’t want there to be any secrets between us.

Q: You don’t look gay.

A: Lesbian, gay and bisexual people look, dress and act in many different ways, just like straight people.

Q: How do people have sex with someone who is the same gender as them?

A: This is a personal question, which you should only answer if you feel comfortable doing so. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people have sex in different ways (just like straight people)

For more information check out the Coming Out guide from LGBT Youth Scotland, and go to their website for extra advice and resources.  
Also, if you are in need in the Cleveland area you can check out the LGBTQ Community Center of Greater Cleveland’s webpage. Specifically you can go here for phone numbers of people to talk to you. You have resources available and people ready to help, you do not have to face it along. Also, if you need a voice or someone to vent to, please don’t hesitate to email me.

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Your True Authentic Self

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We all have heard it and often times we may even get tired of hearing it, but it is important to come out. It’s important on so many levels and we must also realize that it isn’t a one time event. It is important for others to see us as LGBTQ people; to see us is to know us. To know us is to be held accountable for things they say and actions they do. Our visibility helps those who have not found the strength to come out, it gives them a point to focus on and become stronger.  October is the perfect month to start thinking about this and how it affects you, it is LGBTQ Awareness Month.

Before I get into the normal part of why coming out is important, let’s look at a real life reason. On Tuesday September 25th, Cuyahoga County passed the LGBTQ Inclusive Non-Discrimination Ordinance.  Even though about half of the county already had some form of protection legislation in effect. Everyone in Cuyahoga County can be out and not have to worry about losing our job or our houses. We can hold hands in a restaurant and not have to constantly check to see if someone is looking that may get us thrown out. We can be our true authentic self, for most establishments, and not have to worry about being refused service because someone doesn’t think we fit into their small little religious detailed boxes. We can now legally use the bathroom that is correct for us and not have to worry about our safety. These are very important reasons for us to come out now. But these aren’t the most important reasons.

During this hearing many sides were able to voice their opinion. Many communities spoke out for and against this ordinance and why they felt it was important. None gave me grater pause to stop and think than a member of the African American community who spoke out against this ordinance because she knew we chose to be this way and felt we should not have “special rights.” Which, point of fact, are the very same rights she already has. The sticky part for me is when she said, “Choose to be that way.” Yes I know, this isn’t a new argument, it’s the one that is trotted out every time the LGBTQ community stands up for themselves and demand equality. History isn’t teeming with examples of abuse, prejudice, inequities, and inequalities we have suffered. Why? Because our very being isn’t always as easily spotted as heteronormative culture likes to say. Modes of dress, speech styles, rhythm affluences, and mannerisms often aren’t so easy to spot. Because of that the same heteronormative society says it’s because we choose to be this way and only recently wanted fairness.

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LGBTQ people were there in the concentration camps, right along with our Jewish allies. We have been hung, brutally beaten, rape d, and murdered in horrendous ways right along with other minorities.  We stood in the same lines, walking the same streets as our African American brothers and sisters. There were many LGBTQ people who were advisors to Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X. We fought for racial equality knowing it was still illegal to hold hands with our loved ones in public. These are the most important reasons we should come out, everyone of us. We need to show the world just how many of us there are and stand in unity with all those who fight. You want to shape the world for the future? These are the means to do so.

Coming out is and should be a daily event.  I know what you are saying; I just want to live a normal life and to be accepted. What you really are saying is that you want to blend in and not be noticed and that is equal to going back into the closet. You may even argue that heterosexuals don’t come out everyday, but I challenge you to reconsider that thought. The world is tailored around a heterosexual mindset. Media caters to their sexuality, movies highlight their lives, artists write songs about it, and even the government is accepting of this as the right way to live. While it is only the tip of the iceberg.it is not the reason this post was written.

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To constantly live in hiding does damage to ourselves, so coming out is important for our well-being. It’s about accepting yourself as a valid person and beginning to love yourself. This starts the ‘healing of self’ process and is key in being able to allow someone to love you for who you are. We all have heard it at some point, “if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect someone else to love you.” It’s a watered down expression, but what it means is that everything interaction we have in our lives builds a relationship. The first relationship we foster is the one with ourselves. Many times, we cannot even look at ourselves in the mirror for 30 seconds without passing judgment. Learning to love and accept yourself isn’t an easy or overnight thing. In fact, it will probably take all of your life but you can make a start.

Inner homophobia is hard to overcome and it comes in many guises. The easy ones are when we hate ourselves because we view ourselves as not what others expect us to be. We see it too important to base our worth on what others think of us. That is the most evident ones, but there are other deeper ones many of us still carry. Congratulating ourselves on our coworkers not being able to identify us as gay, when you feel good that someone praises you for having straight friends as well as gay friends, or when we let go of our lovers hand in public when we walk into a group of heterosexuals or when children pass by. We also see this in our dating apps and profiles, “masc seeking masc,” “straight acting seeking same”, or even “gay but doesn’t act it.” These are examples of internalized homophobia. The same as just wanting to be viewed as normal and not having to say that you are LGBTQ. We shouldn’t have to feel dread or stay out of the conversation when someone asks us about your weekends. If they talk about what they did with their spouses in comfort and ease, we too should be able to.

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Now before you start saying, “damn it Keith, I do not need to run around waving a rainbow or equality flag every time I have a conversation.” You are correct and that isn’t what I am saying, exactly. Here is an example, you are at your normal Monday morning staff meeting and they are doing the “what did you do this weekend” recap, as it comes to you can say that you and your spouse was doing whatever. Calling your spouse by name allows others to make the connections themselves, much the same way you do when Ted says that him and Sarah went to Olive Garden for their anniversary. You make the conclusion that Sarah is female and his wife, whether that is the case or not, we do know that Ted has a connection to Sarah. It is the casual conversation that should be undertaken to have the coming out moments. Why should we shy away from sharing about our personal lives simply because we are in a same sex relationship? You don’t have to wave a flag, but you shouldn’t have to hide it either

This being said, sometimes it is truly not safe to come out and for those times I would tell you to consider your options before making that move. If you are dependent upon parental figures for your survival, then wait until it is sustainable for you to be on your own. If the place you lie in would react hostile to you coming out, then it may not be the right time to open up. However, if you are in any kind of abusive situation, you need to get out. Your safety is always first. There are resources available to help you, please seek them out. It takes bravery to come out and many times people just don’t have the support network to find that bravery. Do not put yourself at physical risk to be brave, there is always a time and place.

I stand here in support of each and everyone of you. If you ever need someone to talk to, you can always email me. I will listen to you and support you for your True Authentic Self. No struggle should be done alone, you always have support. Email me if you need.
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#Kiltlife

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Often, when I am out, I am asked why do I wear a kilt. It’s usually combined with are you Irish or Scottish. On occasion I get a rude comment or two. A lot of just looks, but it’s usually the why? The simple answer is that I like them, but it starts a deeper question as to when did I decide that it was something that I wanted to wear. I have never really “fit in” with fashion. Often times I dress how I like with only a little nod to any form of fashion. I also don’t think that people should be pigeonholed into a specific current fashion trend.

Pants weren’t accepted by most of the world until about 1701 and even by then there were French style breeches as opposed to trousers. And modern versions of trousers weren’t set until about the 1800s. Until the first onset, most of the world of men’s fashion was a caftan style or tunic style apparel. Native American were wearing breechclouts, which were pieces of fabric passed between the legs and held up by a belt. Roman and Greeks soldiers thought it barbaric and effeminate to wear pants. This Roman didn’t change their mindset until the Teutons conquered them and more exploration into the northern regions. Here it was limited, primarily, to the cavalry. Hitherto, this has not effect as to why I currently wear a kilt, but it is a history to show that men didn’t always wear bifurcated garments.

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As I said earlier, I have always been different in my mode of dress. I wore what I liked and didn’t pay a lot of heed to man fashion trends. In the 80s I did follow the neon fashion statements and the jelly bracelet fad. But I also wore a floor length black denim duster through most of high school with a bit of an early gothic edge. Definitely different than the normal kids in our school. I grew up in a very small rural town and our school TOTAL was 500 people. When I graduated, it was about 45 people. So, as you can see, very small. Standing out means you stood out. Seeing Boy George blurring gender lines by wearing skirts and dresses fascinated me. We had person in our school, Brian Cales that mimicked Boy George’s dress style. I never had the nerve for it. I really wasn’t witness to anything like that until after I came out and started going to the local gay bay. They guy I was dating at the time, Shawn Moomau, had a friend whose name was Mike and he always wore kilts to the bar. He was a somewhat club kid of the time. I loved his kilt and wanted one. The Internet was much smaller then and when I researched kilts I was met with the sheer expense of them. So my hopes were dashed. Today we have companies like Kilted Bros , who make it a bit more affordable to get a quality product.

I personally feel that men should branch out and try a kilt, even if only occasionally. When you are kilted up for special events, the image cannot be beat. Even casually, it can be awesome. It’s about the confidence you carry while wearing it. I have my favorites out of all of my kilts; my gotos and I have some I wear out of comfort. The most difficult for me, personally, are the cargo style kilts. And there difficulty only comes from the fabric being the heavier canvas; they are prone to creasing if the pleats aren’t perfectly situated. That it seems, is a huge struggle for me. Basically, I hate ironing pleats it is torture. I don’t seem to have that issue when I wear my wool or acrylic tartans. That aside, I still love wearing them. The freedom of movement is incredible. Pants or jeans never seem to fit 100% perfect, you always seem to get that binding pinch at some point. Go for a pair more form fitting and you end up with them riding up on you. Not comfortable, to say the least. Give me a kilt any day, All day long it’s comfortable, I don’t have to worry about feeling overly warm. Sitting for a long time, my only fear is how my pleats look.

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It takes confidence to be different than the pack, so do not think a man shouldn’t wear a kilt. Anyone that tells you that is out of his or her mind. It’s not about being Scottish/Irish, its not about wanting to wear skirts, its about being comfortable and being your true authentic self. Many think they can’t afford a kilt, well  Kilted Bros sells a more affordable kilt called a RRRip kilt. It is designed as a runner or hikers kilt, or to be used as a quick cover up for the pool and etc. Very lightweight and breathable. But, if you want to try a kilt without having to put a lot of money into one, this is the way to go. They can still be dressed up the same as other kilts, sporran, belt, shoes, shirt, and tie or just a t-shirt and barefoot around the house. It’s a PERFECT to see how you feel about it and to get comfortable with it.

And I get it, you like wearing a kilt. You wear them out in public, to the bar, and various events, but it is hard to wear them to work. Not all places are accepting of being able to wear one. This is because they are different and not widely accepted as acceptable forms of dress for men. I have been lucky to work for places that were accepting of me wearing them. With my current job, I usually wear them on Fridays and maybe one other day of the week. At a previous job, I wore them almost every day. In general, most people are pretty accepting of seeing me in one. I have had more people genuinely interested and giving compliments than the few random people who are negative about it.

The more you wear a kilt and it becomes a part of  your routine, they become you. Rude comments won’t bother you anymore, you will notice the looks of approval you get from men and women. As it becomes a natural thing for you, broaching the subject at your place of work becomes easier, as well.  The point is, you can’t know if you like something unless you try it. Be different, be ahead of the pack and not stuck in the middle. Get out and go talk to the guys at Kilted Bros. and try one on.

 

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Silent Masses

A Gallup Poll in 2017 showed that 4.5% of Americans verbally identified as being LGBTQ. It’s a staggering statistic to imagine. Four out of every 100 hundred people are LGBTQ. I was at an event at work recent and we had about 170 people in attendance. There were 10 LGBTQ that I was personally aware of, in the crowd. That was ten of us that we openly identify as LGBTQ, however, to those around us. I officially came out in June of 1996 and ironically a similar poll had results of being about 3%.

I look at this poll with its number and am left conflicted. How can it be in this our era of what should be LGBTQ awakening and acceptance? How is it we know that there are more of us out there than this poll shows? Like the curious prairie dog popping his head out his den long enough to survey for predators, I am quickly reminded as to why. Cleveland, the place I now call home, is home to 17% of the transgender deaths in the United States. We live in a county where the bodies of government we elected is openly and actively pursuing means of changing legislature about LGBTQ rights. But that isn’t the point of this post.

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In 2017 5.1% of women openly identified as being LGBTQ, which is up from 3.5% women identifying in 2012, a of that gain was in the years of 2016 and 2017 Men on the other hand are 3.9%, which is up from 3.4% in 2012. And of course millennials are the largest group where the percentage of increase has happened. Again, the question is why isn’t the percentage reported higher. These kind of polls are always slightly jaded in the fact that it asks you if you identify as LGBTQ. Many people still have the built in stigma of answering truthfully to this question. Fear of some repercussion makes them question how to answer honestly. For me, I feel it falls back to the pack mentality that many animals have, strength in numbers. Being in your close and tightly knit circles offers freedom to be who you are without that fear. Answering a poll, on your own, can be a bit more daunting.

We live in a world where we, as LGBTQ, have quickly learned that it is better to keep quiet about our sexuality and violence against us, because we are seen as less than human. A 2007 Department of Justice Poll states that 17% of the “reported” hate crimes were because of sexual orientation. Many of us still live in cities, counties, or states that offer us no protection based on our orientation. That leaves us nowhere to turn to speak out when violence is acted upon us. It becomes harder for men to report sexual violence, due to stigma that many men harbor. For the transgender community, it can open up much more emotional issues. 26% of gay men, 44% of lesbians, 37% of bisexual men, and 61% of bisexual women experience rape or physical violence by an intimate partner. 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, this number raises even more based on people of color. These stats come from the Human Rights Campaign.

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

There are still states that do not offer other rights to the LGBTQ and it was until 2015 that many hospital accepted spousal rights for LGBTQ marriages. I remember when my partner died in 2003, the paramedics that came referred to me as a “her” because I was distraught at holding my lover in my arms as he died. Their reports never included partner or lover when they were writing down what happened. I wasn’t even told the hospital he was taken to because I couldn’t possibly be anyone that was of importance to him since I was just some emotional gay man. In 2003, there were NO protections of any kind. When I arrived at the hospital they wouldn’t update me on anything. After sitting there for almost three hours, a nurse felt sorry for me and quietly said she would show me, if I kept quiet about it since it was against hospital policy to let non-family members to see the body. It was embarrassing to have to endure when your loved one is somewhere and you cannot be with them. No one should have to go through that.

This is only a fraction of what we have to endure and is partly why reporting crimes and filling out surveys are so hard for us to get through. Personally, to me, this is why these polls always seem to show we are only at a 4% of the population. Some of that is our own fault. It is beyond the time for us to stand up together and be counted. We are comfortable in our smaller groups, but it is time to lay those to the side and join the larger group and be safe in those larger numbers. Take those surveys with honesty and confidence. If every one of us that are LGBTQ made ourselves known, we would no longer be considered the “certain minority”. People would realize that they already know someone, close to them, that is LGBTQ and what kind of an impact we have on the world. Look at recent history of when North Carolina passed the HB2 ordinance that essentially told transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their sex at birth. The LGBTQ community stood up against it and refused to patron the county where it happened, The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors contacted North Carolina and stated that their county employees were barred from visiting the state for county business. Collegiate and professional sports teams pulled their venues from North Carolina. Even Hulu cancelled filming a TV series there, based on this ordinance. . With a sum total of $3/76 billion not going to North Carolina, HB2 was repealed and replaced.

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Do our numbers truly reflect what these polls say? Look at Pride events to see these numbers are obviously misrepresented. It is left to use to change these perceptions. Unlike people of color, it is easier for us to hide who we are and we often times do that out of protection to ourselves. We feel safe in our own communities, but it is time to realize that the community at large is also our community and it is here where we need to fight for our safety. To do this we must come out and we must be recognized. We have the power, as we have seen in our boycotts, to shape this country and its businesses, but we have to come together to do that. How will you shape the change?