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.”

57272175_264755057768764_8251327423447040000_n

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.

56947182_368440933761748_4632465937788829696_n

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,

56960547_356902281594996_1264644951279403008_n

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.

Belle2

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/

BelleAmplio
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!

belleupdate

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.

trans rights FB image

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.

Trans+Flag+Template+JPG

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.

The Cultural Impact of Tom of Finland

TOFLaaksonen
Touko Valio Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland

One of my favorite things that expresses the BDSM/Leather subcultures of LGBTQ is Tom of Finland. His highly masculinized homoerotic art really lent a lot of influence to gay culture in the late twentieth century. Many of you have probably seen his images in places before and not recognized the artist. They ranged from the stylized clothed Castro Clones to the full-on hardcore pen and ink drawings. His art has inspired the adult industry from videos down to sex toys. So, let’s take a look at the man behind Tom of Finland and some of his images.

Touko Valio Laaksonen was born in Finland on May 8th, 1920 and died November 7th, 1991 and was best known as Tom of Finland. Joseph W. Slade, cultural historian, has called him the most influential creator of gay pornographic images. He has created over 3500 images that are known to have overly endowed primary and secondary sexual characteristics and either wearing very tight clothing or appear in some stage of undress. By the early 70s gay porn and male nudity had become decriminalized and rapidly overwhelmed the market, it was during this time that Laaksonen saw his change to start mass producing books of his images. By 1973, three short years, his artwork had become so popular that he gave up his office job in Helsinki with an international advertising firm and focused solely on producing his images. He was quoted as saying, “Since then I have lived in my jeans and lived on my drawings.”

Tom of Finland’s fame came at a time with body and sexual glorification was at its heights. This was the time before the AIDS crisis and gay porn had just became legal. There was a sense of reprieve among the gay male population, a time for us to fully embrace the masculinity of what we are and act on it. However, this “clone” model was mostly found in urban centers of larger cities, that same sense of freedom wasn’t granted to the more rural gay male, so these sketches gave a smaller sense of that liberation. This style of art created a dress code for an entire subset of the gay male population and became THE way to identify and advertise your sexuality to others. His artwork also inspired another artist G.B. Jones who went on to create “Tom Girls.” Her work typified strong punk girls and sub-culturally identified women. Jones’ work showed these women other throwing the authority figures that tried to oppress them. Jones and Laaksonen did many exhibits together, as their work played well off each other.

The same style that Tom of Finland inspired went on to inspire more characters. Paul Hopkins was cast as Michael Tolliver in the 1993 adaptation of the sex and third books of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City because of already mustachioed persona he already had. Freddie Mercury even adopted similar dress styles to the masculine creations of Laaksonen. When Laaksonen came to America to do an exhibit of his work, he was shocked to see how much his artwork had already inspired groups of people. As he tended to take inspiration for photographs and real life, this gave further inspiration for his future works. This style carried through the 80s and still maintain large popularity well into the 90s, with the Leather/BDSM groups of the LGBTQ community.

I mentioned in a previous post (insert link from post) taking about my first adventures into gay bars and trade nights at the bar I frequented. From there I was entranced with the dress style of Tom of Finland and the leather community. I mimicked it in my ways, adopting leather pants, chaps, harness, hat, tank tops, and cutoff jeans. As I moved away from Virginia and into North Carolina, I was exposed to a whole new type of gay bars. I went to the Woodshed and the Charlotte Eagle. The Woodshed was a Leather Bear bar and the Charlotte Eagle was like every other Eagle, Leather/BDSM bar. These places took the leather fetish wear to a whole new level. Here I saw larger trade shows that included props like St. Andrews Crosses and barber chairs. Things that seemed literally ripped from the artwork of Tom of Finland.

sling
inspired by Tom of Finland

Being introduced to these images early had already fed my lustful desires and when I was seeing them carried out in living color in front of me, only added to them. The dress style fascinated me, and the acts being shown caused immense intrigue. While I, myself, may not be a fully participating members of the BDSM community, I do appreciate the aesthetics of the culture. As the years have progressed it does seem that the influence of Tom of Finland has waned, somewhat. The leather community has gotten away from many of the aesthetics and only kept the basic core. It is why I feel it so important to remember the roots from which we came. May Tom of Finland and Touko Valio Laaksonen continue to be fuel for young and old masturbatory fantasies alike. If you have never experienced his artwork, there is no time like the present to become a fan.

**Trailer for the Tom of Finland Movie**

 

 

 

Community At Odds

lgbtqnocomm

After a conversation with friends at the bar, last night, this seemed all too relevant. I had been sitting on this article for a while trying to decide if I wanted to post it or let it set for a later date. Sometimes the universe tells you that something is more important than you thought it was and I guess this is one of those synchronicity moments.

Pride will be starting in a few short months and it’s the time when we are supposed to look back at our history and celebrate the advances we have made, honor those that have stood up at the Stonewall riots, and plan towards our futures. It is meant to be a time of solidarity and celebration. The problem is that is not the case within our community. Each of our individual groups are segregated along the line of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, queer identifying. Inside of each of those group we further divide ourselves, twinks and bears, dykes and lipstick, and so on and so on. From there it goes to division based on minority, body shaming, fetish shaming, and even worse shaming others for how they dress. We fight to get the respect we feel we deserve from our heterosexual counterparts when we don’t even oblige ourselves that same courtesy. The question is why?

slut_shamingx750

From a very young age we are exposed to judgmental mindsets, we are introduced to the word perfection without relation to what it means. Media presents us with unrealistic mindsets of “perfection”, skinny, perfect hair, skin, and eyes, clothing from the hottest designers. Kids truly have it rough. Combine this kind of torture with dealing knowing you are different from the others. Not only do they have to worry about being judged because their clothes are not like their friends or they may be a bit overweight or they have glasses, now they are bullied because they maybe a young LGBT kid. Feeling they are truly alone in the world and no one understands what they are going through. That is some rough shit to have to live through and many do not. Teen suicide among LGBT youth is higher than other teens.  According to The Trevor Project  LGBT youths are three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual youths are and they are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexual youth.

As we grow and age, we start to meet others that appear like us. We are introduced to more LGBT people and start to feel comfortable with who we are, and we start to believe we have a place that accepts us. All too often this isn’t the case. We quickly realize that our differences keep us just as divided as we were before. Scroll through any dating app and you can see the divisions and the shaming that goes on. “No fats or femmes, masc 4 masc, and straight acting for similar. Sure, we all have our specific tastes and preferences, but shaming others isn’t the answer. Nor should any of that prevent you from reaching out to someone and just talking.

nofatsnofemmes

All of the judgments we deal with from our childhood on weigh us down. They shape how we view ourselves and define our worth with those around us. It shapes how we interact with people and view ourselves. I stand in front of the mirror, daily, judging myself harshly. “If I can just lose this much weight…” “If only my thighs looked like this…” “If only this perceived imperfection wasn’t here…” “Why can’t I be endowed like this porn star?” Many of which are unrealistic goals and many more aren’t healthy to try to achieve. We are left with the fake sentiment by so many words that there are people out there that will love us for who we are or if they can appreciate us for what we are we don’t deserve them. These come from many of the same people how make similar judgements. I recently read a tweet where a user was stating that he cannot understand why anyone would want to wear a jockstrap or a harness. They are not attractive, and he would never date someone who wore either. Here is that shaming mentality again. You would be so vain as to not consider someone worthy simply because of garments they wear? You may not agree with a particular fetish that someone has, but that doesn’t make them any less of a person or worth dating. What elevates you to a better position? Being overly critical of someone for a fashion choice is much more unattractive than a jockstrap.

There are many things that I am confident in myself over but looks and build are not among them. I stare in complete awe of those that have the courage and not give a fuck mentality to be themselves in front of others. The ones that do not give a single thought to how they are perceived, because they are happy with themselves. I am one of those larger almost bearish types of gay men, however I do not have the body hair that many have That leaves me with feeling less than those I am attracted to. Because my lack of hair and larger build, I know I may be repulsive to the more in shape guys that I also find attractive. Where does that leave me? At 46 I have mostly grey hair and beard, a trait that I have carried for almost 20 years. I started going grey in high school and take after my grandmother who was mostly grey in her 20s. This leads others to believe I am older than I may be, so less desirable. Are these feeling mostly in my head? Yes, but does that make them any less real to me.

large

I know how exhausted constantly thinking about my negative emotions make me feel, I cannot even begin to imagine how someone who is transgender feels in our world. Our community is tortured enough by those who feel we are already less than equal, why should we carry this over to how we interact with each other. I am not saying we should have a Utopian society, that too is unrealistic. We should, however, work towards inclusion and acceptance of one another. Use our strengths to lift us up from our low spots, use our fellowship to guide us and shape our futures into a safer environment for our future LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We have lost a large chunk of our history to the devastation of HIV/AIDS, let work to make sure we don’t lose a larger chunk of our future to the suicide of our youth.

LGBTQ Elderly

lgbtqsage

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.

lgbtqelders

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.

LGBTQ_elderly

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?

LGBTQElder

Our Sapphic Sisters

lesbians

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.

lesbigayrights

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.

lesbian2

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.

Lesbian