Silence = Death

We have acquiesced ourselves into believing there is relative safety for the LGBTQ community, even with news showing quite the opposite. Is it because we feel it doesn’t directly impact us? Perhaps it may be the mentality that it only seems to happen in certain parts of the country and is being blown out of proportion? Or simply it may be that you haven’t seen anything in the media recently that would give you pause to wonder the state of affairs for our LGBTQ community. Whatever it may be, this Pride season is the time that we stand up and be visible. We need to, now more than ever before, let this country and its leaders know that we are tired of the constant violence, lack of respect, and silently removing of our rights.

ClaireLegato

Since in the five months since this year began, we have seen five transwomen of color killed. In May alone, there have been three. Cleveland has one of the three that have been killed. That’s 1/5ththe murders of trans people this year have happened here in our fair city. About 4 a.m. on April 15th, Claire Legato was shot in the head after an argument broke out between her mother and the suspect, John Booth. The argument ensued after Legato’s mother claimed that Booth stole her tax return check. The argument moved outside of the house and escalated. At which point Legato intervened and Booth shot her in the head. Legato was in the hospital for a month, but her injuries were to severe. Legato passed on May 14th. A warrant is out for Booth’s arrest for felonious assault. Legato was the third victim of murder against transwomen.

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The fourth victim taken this year happened May 18th, Muhlaysia Booker was found lying face down with a gunshot wound near a golf course in east Texas. Her murder came just one month after the viral video of a “mob violence” attack against her and authorities say there does not appear to be a link between the two incidents. Dallas Police arrested 29-year-old Edward Thomas in relation to the attack but was later released. There is no apparent reason for the murder and, currently, no suspects. Booker’s cellphone had captured the attack that happened shortly after her car was hit in a parking lot. The video was used to identify the man repeatedly punching Booker in the face as Edward Thomas. The video also showed a crowd of men kicking her while she was on the ground and shouting anti-gay remarks. Her friend, Jessica Anderson, said this was not the first time in which she have been beaten for simply who she was. Anderson said that Booker was tired of being beaten down and not allowed to live in peace as who she really was. Currently there are not charges against Thomas was charged with aggravated assault and his current whereabouts are unknown.

MichelleTamikaWashington

Michelle “Tamika” Washington was shot and killed in Philadelphia on May 19th. Washington was a 40-year-old transwoman of color and lived in the Franklinville neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Police responded to sounds of gunshots and found Washington with several gunshot wounds and was transported to Temple University Hospital and pronounced dead. Washington was known as a beloved sister and a “gay mother” to the neighborhood. Washington is no the fifth victim. Monday morning, May 20th, Troy Bailey was arrested in the 1100 block of West Venango Street of the Franklinville section of Philadelphia. He was arraigned on Tuesday for murder and other firearms related charges. Currently, the murder is not being investigated as a hate crime and the police feel it was not motivated by Washington’s gender identity.

 

These are the cases that are known about, unfortunately, the sad fact is that in many cases the gender of the victim is misidentified and leads to longer times in identifying the person or the nature of the crime. The current administration has made it easier for a culture of violence to grow unchecked. Many states still do not have protections in place for LGB people, let alone trans people. This administration has denied the ability for trans people to serve in our military. They are also granting rights of discrimination to large groups of people under the guise of religious freedoms. There has to be a point at which we draw our hard line in the sand and say we will not take any more of this sub human treatment. We must rally with our sisters for female rights, that too are being stripped away. The abhorrent nature of the small minded, radical, right wing zealots has to be changed. They count on us believing that our numbers are small and that because of that we will not stand up and fight back.

trans rights FB image

Remember that this year, Pride in the CLE will be a march. This is the time to make yourself visible. LGBTQ or Advocate be there and be counted. Show that you will not take this kind of hatred towards anyone, LGBTQ, POC, women, immigrants, those that are incarcerated, or any minority that is being subjugated by those in positions of power. Letting them know that we stand in support of one another. I would like to end this short article with two quotes.

 

“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

Thomas Jefferson

While there is debate over the effectiveness of the electoral college, what is important to note is that the more people who turn out to vote and vote with knowledge can, in fact, change the course of the election. If you are not registered, what are you waiting for? You can do that online at Register to Vote (https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote) and then get out there and vote.

 

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Government should be afraid of their people.”

Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

While many attribute this quite, in some variation, to Thomas Jefferson, there is no proof of this as an actuality. It was written by Alan Moore for this movie. The movie speaks volumes to the current situation of our own political situation. We have a figure head in place who is convincing the people of a preset ideal that they hold. Then goes about enacting laws to enforce this ideal, telling us how bad other groups are and how his administration will be the protecting force and does so many good deeds for its people. It is a ruse, one that many dictators have used countless times to control the masses. In V for Vendetta, one man stood up against the system and made his impression known. It was the spark that lit the powder keg of a revolution to overthrow the regime. And proof that it is not illegal to not support your president or those in an administration. Exercise your rights, protest that which you do not approve of, and let your voice be heard. You could be the spark that is needed to start the next revolution.

 

Too The Streets… We March…

“In the early hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City.” a quote from the article Stonewall Riots on History.com. This year marks the 50th anniversary of those very riots and Pride in the CLE will be honoring the event with a return to the march. Sure, many will just see it as a Pride Parade and not understand the difference, but it is that difference that makes it important, especially now. You may know the story or just parts, but this is the year to revisit our roots and understand where it all started and why the fight is not over. And why our “gay bars” were and still are important cornerstones of the community.

The Stonewall Riot was a culmination of events that erupted in the early morning hours of June 28th. Since the Great Depression, bars in America had become less and less welcoming to the LGBT populations. Laws were put in place in many states that made it illegal for bars to serve LGBT people. The laws included means of being able to identify who were the subversive element, they included that you must wear at least three pieces of clothing to the gender you appeared to be, could not over fraternize with other same sex patrons, and in many cases dance together. In the Christopher Street part to New York City, the bars had been raided for almost a decade. Anyone that looked as if they were a homosexual were dragged out of the bar, beaten, thrown in the back of police wagons, and hauled to jail. There were bars that had popped up to allow LGBT people to visit and be able to drink, they were never the cleanest bars, and many did not have working bathrooms or running water. They were simply dark places that allowed for the congregation of our community without intercedence of local authorities. 

Stonewall was ran by the Genovese crime family in New York and had paid informants in the sixth precinct to all them to know ahead of time if there were raids coming for the bar. This allowed the owners to hide the alcohol being served, ensure that the men were not dancing together, and stop any other illegal activities. On the morning of June 28th, the tip off did not happen and the local precinct showed up with a warrant in hand and in full force, to raid the bar. The police entered, beat many of the patrons, arrested 13 people, including staff, and any that did not comply to the three-garment dress code. If they suspected someone of being a “crossdresser,” they would take them into the restroom and perform a physical check of their gender. One lesbian patron was hit over the head with a beer bottle by an arresting officer, at which point she tried to incite the crowd into action, asking if they were going to stand and allow this to happen. At which point, in a massive wave, the crowd erupted and started throwing objects at the police, yelling at them, and beginning to circle the arresting officers. Within minutes, it was a full-blown riot. The protests escalated and lasted for almost six days in total. The first ever targeted and focused  push for equal treatment of LGBT people and became the single galvanizing moment that pushed gay rights into the modern era.

Both sides of our country had similar marches, annually, afterwards. Harvey Milk set up a Pride Parade in the Castro district of San Francisco and the Christopher Street March was held in honor of the events that happened. These marches put some of our biggest activist like Marsha P. Johnson and Cleve Jones in the spotlight and they were also the catalyst for our achievements going forward. Putting us front and center in the eyes of the media with banners like “We’re here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It.” As the movement progressed and victories were won, our marches slowly became the Pride Parades that now blanket our country. Starting on June 1, as the beginning of Pride Season, and ending in September. During these times, our bars where the places of organization of these events, a place for us to feel safe from the persecution we endure constantly, and our safe zones after we won them back from constant police intervention. They were, in fact, our homes and our family.

 

In the fifty years since Stonewall we have seen a lot of advancement in LGBTQ rights and equality. We have seen larger focus on healthcare targeted towards us, inclusion of our spouses in our company provided healthcare, and numerous reforms of laws that prevent us from being fired or losing our homes for just being who we are. That being said, the last four years has shown a lot of ground slipping. This administration has now  made it legal for the military to openly discriminate against trans people. We are seeing legislature change for the safety of our jobs and healthcare, that would allow companies to persecute against us based on perceived religious freedoms. Hate crimes are rising to levels that we haven’t seen in several decades. And most recently, same sex couples are being targeted more for trying to adopt babies outside of the country, the government is stating they cannot bring a child in unless going through more hoops of proof of marriage than our heterosexual counterparts.

We have been told by organizations that claim to have our best interests in mind that we needed to  fight for marriage rights, instead of women’s rights, minority rights,  prison reform, healthcare reform and numerous others. We were convinced that marriage should be first, and the rest would fall in line. This administration shows they have no regards for that fight or even the law that repealed DOMA and allowed us to legally marry. What did we gain from it but the ability to wave around a piece of paper that says we are legally married to our partner? The benefits that should come with that paper seem to have been misplaced in the information given to us when we got our licenses. We are slowly starting to realize that our fight never ended, we were only shifted off the mark. We are also learning that it is “WE” who must fight for our rights, again. It is great to have supporters and advocates, but at the end of the day we are the ones still losing in this battle. We are again burying our brothers and sisters for the murders spurred from hate crimes.

This year, Pride in the CLE will be hosting a march, this is the time for each and every one of us to come out of the closet, yet again, and take to the streets. Be visible and show that we are still here and fighting for our very futures. We will not be forgotten, and we will not be torn asunder. This is the time to make your banners and hoist them up alongside our community, whether you are marching or standing on the route in solidarity. It cannot be expressed enough that your voice does matter and needs to be heard. If you choose to march, visit the links above and register. Let us make an example so that we do not lose more of the rights we have fought for. June 1st join us to stand together to honor the memories of those visionary activist and not let their fights be in vain.

LGBTQ and Symbolism

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

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

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

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

Sure, got to prove it on me.

Went out last night with a crowd of my friends.

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

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

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

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

GilberBaker

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

 

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

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

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

 

Support Modern LGBTQ Artists

I am an 80’s kid and I still love the 80’s today. How could you not, there were awesome sitcoms, some of the most iconic movies of the last 20 years, came out in the 80’s/ The fashion was fun, the language was on its own plateau, and video games were taking over every mall, strip mall, restaurant, and grocery store. Hell, even cell phones got their start in the Totally Tubular 80’s. It had also been just over thirty years since the events at Stone Wall, we were still considered the cast-off minority, the groups like ACT UP were starting, the battle for rights were ramping up to a massive peak, and GRID (AIDS) was the silent mass murderer of our people. If you were a rural gay kid like me, the options for role models were very limited. Gay male representation on television was left to the ascot wearing, pearl clutching flaming next door neighbor. Lesbians had the complete leather and denim wearing, mullet haired diesel dyke ready to kick in your face as opposed to talk to you. The Transgender community was often cast as the bad makeup wearing, and cheap clothes buying ladies of the night. What about Bisexuals? Forget it, you were lucky enough to be cast as either a gay or lesbian.

Where did we draw our strength to survive and become the fierce people we are? As a gay kid, I fell to drawing my strength from strong female characters. I didn’t have to worry about hiding the fact that I loved the Golden Girls or Designing Women, because they were a part of family TV. Watching the Facts of Life allowed me to deal with issues internally because I could understand the roles of Jo the tomboy and Blair the beauty queen. I had a Wonder Woman and Princess Leia doll when I was a kid and I played with my sister and her barbies more, sometimes, that I did my own toys. Basically, we learned to become strong from the strong characters we surrounded ourselves with. We would sing and dance to Female musicians like Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson, and so many more. Getting lost in novels like Little Women or Wuthering Heights.Actresses like Bette Davis, Judy Garland, and Meryl Streep. These were the defining pieces of who we wanted to become, they allowed us to see strength when we were being made fun of and lacked the courage. They gave us abilities to pattern after and the presence we needed to survive.  Now this is speaking from a young gay male perspective, obviously. But does that stand true still?

From roughly 1869 to now, we have watched our fight for rights build momentum, gain some ground, and even backslide a little bit. The one thing that our fight has done is allowed for some pretty amazing people to become a part of our history. We now have role models like Harvey Milk, that are none by all, as role models for young LGBTQ children. There has been massive increases in actors/actresses, television shows, movies, authors, artists, musicians, and books for us to pattern after and look to for inspiration. So why is it that since we now have such a wide range of people bringing talent to our communities that we don’t support them? Is it that we don’t see them because mainstream music still pushes popular artists and not give enough time for the smaller ones? That is a very good argument, but I also feel it is because we are condition to consume what others tell us is popular, good, or en vogue at any given time. We, as LGBTQ consumers, should be looking to our own communities for music, tv, books, moves, and etc. That isn’t to say that we should abandon people like Bruno Mars, Shawn Mendes, Vin Diesel, Gal Gadot, or the many others simply because they are straight. However, they are artists that may not exactly understand what it means to be LGBTQ. There are plenty of artists out there that come from similar backgrounds as us and don’t simply pay us lip service because it is in fashion now, to do so. So, let’s take a look at some of the artists out there and see what they have to offer. First up would be Cameron Hawthorn, a gay country musician who currently has four singles out that are worth checking out. The most popular is Dancing in the Living Room.This song speaks of the love between two people being who they are at their most intimate, dancing. Not worrying about anyone or anything else in the world. Just sweet dulcet tones over love song style country music. Looking for something a bit more Top 40, check out Wils and Open Up Babe. His voice is somewhere between a Shawn Mendes and Ed Sheeran. If R&B is more your style the Kehlani has what you need. Sultry voice with smooth beats reminds me of the days of En Vogue, TLC, and SWV. Good Life and CRZY are two of my favorites by her. Last visit into music would be the trans star SOPHIE. While she is labeled as pop, to me they are a bit more reminiscent of KPOP meets Trance. Their song It’s Okay to Cry does have a bit more pop flavor to it while Immaterial definitely goes to the further extremes. All are bright and poppy while playing with styles as much as blurring gender lines.

Authors can be a bit more confusion to pull. It would be easy enough to go back to Armistead Maupin the author of Tales in the City that took place in a small apartment building in San Francisco during the 80s-90s and mirrored many of the current events going on like the AIDS epidemic. I point him out only because they will be rebooting his series again for a new generation. I feel it is more relevant to be able to showcase authors that may speak to the people of this era and what they are living through, even though the classics are still important. Let’s start first with Michael Cunningham’s book A Home at the End of the World. This book is about two Cleveland, Ohio born men, one gay one straight,  who decide to raise a child together with the help of a surrogate mother, Clare. This group decided to live in a house outside of New York as a threesome. This book challenges all preconceived notions of sexuality, polyamorous relationships, and child rearing. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is an autobiographical novel about Alison and her siblings growing up in the home of their funeral director father who is also a closeted homosexual. This story documents the struggles Alison had with coming to terms with her own sexual identity. Perhaps you fancy something a bit more in the darker side? Look no further than Exquisite Corpse. This serial killer thriller was written by none other than transman Billy Martin, better known as Poppy Z. Brite. Many of you may know Poppy from her horror stories days with vampires and witches being some of the main characters. This book is about a serial killer who resembles Jeffrey Dahmer and falls in love with an HIV+ radio show host. Originally published in early 2000s is Michelle Tea’s Valencia. This book covers San Francisco subculture from sadomasochism to coming of age stories and focuses primarily on the lesbian area of Mission District. This book is 21 stories based on the author’s life. Lastly, if you prefer to read a book that does not hold to any gender identification, let me introduce you to Sphinx by Anne Garetta, this experimental novel is written without ever disclosing the genders of the main characters and only refers to them as “I” and “A.” This is a romance novel that is sure to leave you captivated and enthralled.

It is easy to keep going and show you so many ways you can support the LGBTQ community. The end point is remembered to support those that fight the fights with us. Standing strong together as one community allows us to support each other. Investing in people like we are shows that we cannot be driven by mass consumerism and what the media tells us is popular. We started our culture so many years ago with specific ways of speaking, modes of dress, hanky codes, symbols, and neighborhoods we chose to live in, why have we walked away from it. It is time to reclaim our homosexuality and show our love and strength, after all no one else will look out for our best interests. If there are musicians, authors, artists, and etc. you think should be showcased or just attention brought to, drop me a line or leave me a comment. I would love to hear what drives your passions.

 

Nudism and Body Positivity

Previous posts have touched on body image especially the one where I bared it all. But it is a topic that needs a bit more addressing, to be honest. I am very hard on myself, like many of us are. I see myself in the mirror and reflect back to a time when I was thinner. When I do this, it is often with revulsion, again as I spoke to in that post above. We know that any magazine that has pictures of models in them are touched up so much that the model rarely looks completely like themselves. We watch movies, television, and yes porn and we are forced fed an ideal body type. The rub of it is that you will also see PSA after PSA that talks about how we need a better body positivity. That we need to stop body shaming people and learn to embrace our differences, they expect us to do this when Hollywood and the media paints those advertisements with thin beautiful people. How can we learn when what we are being given still rings of the problem?

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Here is a bigger flip. I love being nude whenever I can, that is the honest truth. When I leave from work, all I can think of is how I will soon be home and I can strip out of my clothes and just be free. Much to my roommate’s dismay, if they found out, I walk, lay around, and do housework nude as often as I can. That doesn’t mean that I am comfortable being naked around them, that is a harder part. However, the nudist lifestyle does appeal to me a lot, but what I dislike about it is their quiet form of body shaming. Oh sure, I see nudists messaging me now, leaving comments saying that I am out of line and that isn’t the case. They will continue to express that they are accepting of all body types, people, and sexualities. Then there will be the argument that naturists are much more accepting. Before I get to the differences, lets finish this up and end with an experiment. If they are so accepting, they why is the majority of the marketing and advertising out there only showing those of a thinner body type? Here is the challenge… Google Nudist and Naturist. Look at the first 100 images for each and notice the body types that pop up. Just from looking you can see that at least 60-70% of the images are of younger fit people. Sure, I get it sex sells, but that feeds into the stigma of body shaming.

Indeed, there are differences between the two terms, naturist and nudist. But that can also depend on who you ask, so let’s clarify by the common differences. A Naturist is one who pursues it as a lifestyle choice. It is a spiritual and health choice. They go to resorts, spend time in nature, and their daily life naked. A nudist is one that primarily hangs around in the nude, at home and doesn’t go for the deeper connections, typically. Nudist also tends to have a more negative connotation. In effect, the terms are often interchangeable, depending on the people. ““[Naturism] is about creating situations where there is psychological, emotional equality between people and you can’t do that if one person is dressed and the other is nude,” Stephane Deschenes, a nudity law expert at the University of Toronto told theCBC in 2016, according to an article on CottageLife.com.

topless man on sand near body of water during sunset
Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

There have been more pushes to include more body positive messages in these two lifestyles, but just from the few groups I follow on Twitter, it still sways heavily to the side of thinner body types. Why is there still the stigma around it? The same kind of questions could be asked why is there still a stigma around the ideal of Naturist/Nudist. We are taught at an early age that the body isn’t to be shown publicly, at least in most of the world. Our parents may let us run around naked as children, but as we grow, we realize that those actions are only in our own house and we start to develop the mindset that it must not be accepted. If our parents are the first influence that tells us we aren’t a baby anymore and must wear clothes, we wonder why. Is the body to be feared, is it shameful? Just about every, if not all, states in the United States have decency laws that prohibit and punish public displays of nudity. Sure San Francisco has the Folsom Street Fair and California has no laws for public nudity unless it is a lewd act. And most states laws are vague on what public nudity really is, they revolve around not exposing yourself as a means to lure someone into a sexual at, no forms of masturbation or public sex are included. For most naturists/nudists, being without clothes is not meant as a sexual nature, and therefore only vaguely fit into otherwise vague laws the sad part is that in almost every state it is illegal to be naked on your own property if it is in view of anyone else.

This combined with an upbringing that tells you how bad it is showing your body in public, make it very difficult to view yourself in a positive light. And yes, we are surrounded by so much media that changes ideals of what is beautiful by the minute there is no way to compete. That is completely fine, you shouldn’t compete. Everybody is different, just as every person is different. For me, it has been helpful to get naked and stand or sit in front of the mirror and just look at myself. It’s hard not to pass judgement, but instead I try to find things or parts of my body that I do like. For example, I have nice calves, decent upper arms, great eyes, and awesome hair. I don’t qualify those remarks, I simply state that they are good. The first few times I did this, I felt absolutely silly, but it has caused a subtle shift. I don’t have to like every part of my body, the stretch marks, the belly, and whatever else. Not liking them is completely fine, they do not define myself worth and they shouldn’t yours either.

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Remember to be honest with yourself but don’t be shady. If you have stretch marks from childbirth, be proud of the fact that you carried a life inside you and brought it into the world. It is an amazing thing and remember there are those who cannot have those stretch marks you despise. We all hate getting on that scale and seeing it spin around a couple hundred times before it comes to rest on the number that ruins our day. Why do we allow ourselves to have anxiety over it? It is only a number and the truth behind it is that it only shows our relationship to gravity, not our own worth.  If you choose to take on an exercise plan to modify the weight, do it because it will make you healthier, not the mindset it will make you more attractive to others. That is only setting yourself up to fail. If it is an illness, disability, or whatever making you feel that way, know that it does not equal you being weaker than another person. The fact you struggle daily with how you feel only shows your character and strength.

This is not an article that will tell you how to fix yourself, its only showing you that there are other ways to view things. You are a beautiful person, on your own. If you are with someone who isn’t valuing your worth, then they are not worthy of you. This is why the previous articles of self-care are important. Learn your value and your worth. Do not let them be limited by judgements others place on you or by what they deem attractive. It does start with you.

 

Can You Have Intimacy In Casual Relationships?

Looking at how “relationships” have changed over the years is an interesting study. As we move forward, now, it seems that casual relationships and open relationships are becoming much more common. Is this the new way of human interaction? Do we get what we need from these random encounters that don’t for any kind of attachments? Is Intimacy still important and can we even get it from these more casual interactions? There are still a lot of things that have to be considered in how these proceed or how they work for each person involved.

Intimacy is defined as: close familiarity or friendship; closeness or an intimate act, especially sexual intercourse. As broad as this definition is it still speaks to a closeness and close familiarity. Intimacy comes from repetition and understanding of the people involved. Psychology Today wrote an article titled The 7 Elements That Define An Intimate Relationship and discussing how it is different from a casual one.  Let’s take a look at the steps they outline in their article. 1.Knowledge – it is the sharing of information, we hold dear to us, with another person without judgement. With someone we trust we share deeper information that we do with a person we just meet and sleep with. But why is that? Can we not open up more to even those fleeting encounters? Many people fail to take the time to learn about the person they take home for the night and make it as quick as possible. 2.Interdependence – is a reinforcing dynamic where choices and desires are based on the dependency of the people involved. Think of it as your actions and reactions influence the person you are with and in turns influences you to make choices based on them. 3.Care – showing concern over the other’s well-being, how stress is affecting them, and safe keeping. This relies on communication that happens once routines and trust is established.  4.Trust – this is the backbone to any relationship and is a must for all seven of these tenants to hold together. It is hard to give trust, but when we do it can become very implicit. It is what allows us to let someone become very close to us, to know us at our very core. 5.Responsiveness – recognizing, supporting, and understanding the needs of the other person, during times of stress or happiness. 6.Mutuality – This is the point where the closeness changes the couple from “me” to “we” in how they relate to things. 7.Commitment – Ah the big “C.” The word that can strike terror into people and send them running. The word that people feel can limit a relationship from being more. But commitment isn’t all bad, it allows the other tenants to grow and strengthen. It gives us a sense of safety and surety. A shelter in a storm and the strength to continue when we think we can’t.

Are these all indicative of a monogamous relationship or can they be achieved in a casual one? There is no right answer to that, unfortunately. None of these tenants will guarantee that a relationship with the same person every day will last and be perfect. These are only tenants that an article states are part of an intimate relationship. If commitment is the biggest reason you pursue an intimate relationship, then you may be doing it for the wrong reasons. Each one is just as important as the other but not all have to be there for an effective relationship to happen. Intimacy can happen in casual relationships just as well as in committed ones. It comes down to the types of casual relationships you may have. The website VeryWellMind helps define some of them in an article they call, Casual Relationships: Are There More Than One Kind? They list four types: One Night Stands, Booty Call, Fuck Buddies, and Friends With Benefits. We will only look at a couple for this article. Fuck Buddies and Friends With Benefits both come from people who meet more frequent than just a hookup. These are people that you aren’t in a committed monogamous relationship with, but you also know will be there for you, when it is needed. You have that trust in knowing that you both know what the other likes and how they think. You can be responsive to their needs because you know them deeply and can support their choices healthfully. Many times, these relationships fill the very void with have without the strings that may come from a more committed relationship.

Booty Calls, Fuck Buddies, and FWB all give us the intimacy we need while allowing us to remain open to other relationships, as needed. And also allows both parties to see each other in non-sexual terms and maintain a friend base with other people. These types of relationships can be beneficial for someone who has a high stress job that requires a lot of travel, the type of setting that would not be conducive to creating a family. Not being home can create a stressful situation for the other person involved. Not having them there when times are rough or needed support. A FWB can be the needed assistance to help manage those situations. It is important to point out that these types of relationship are completely normal. If both parties are aware of the boundaries, it can be a great place to experiment, have fun, and be satisfying.

The down sides can be when the friendship and sexual line gets murky. There is also the aspect where one person may start to develop deeper feelings when the other does not. While it can be a good break after coming out of a long-term relationship, the cautions must be navigated to prevent hurt feelings. It is important that you have an open line of communication to the partner(s) you are with, be open with the person, share your feelings with them, and respect them for the person you and they are. It can provide sexual satisfaction and the needed intimacy you are looking for in a relationship.

The problem with intimacy, causal relationship, open relationships, and commitment all stem from beliefs we have been taught at a young age. We are told that random sexual encounters are about engaging in carnal lust and not what a “good person” should do. That we should be looking for a partner to settle down with. Then we are taught that affection should be saved for that all elusive person and relationship. So casual sex becomes furtive and quick, feeding a need then getting out before you have to get invested in the person. Who says that is the way it needs to happen. Sex is intimate, by its very nature, opening yourself up to another person to assist you in feeling pleasure takes a lot of trust, so why not go all the way. Look them in the eye, take your time for foreplay, cuddle with them, and take time for after care. It is how we want to be treated, so offer the same courtesy. Take time to see how they respond to your touch and kiss. Watch how their bodies respond, breathing changes, and be in the present. Intimacy will come from that because you are taking the time to share something so personal with them.

Intimacy comes from you as much as it does the other person involved. It can be achieved but you must start with communication. That is the key to any relationship. Understand what you want and what they want and talk about how you both can contribute to each other. You both are individuals seeking similar things, so treat them with the respect you want and expect. Be honest with yourself before you start and as you go along. No one can tell you what your relationship is or what is the right kind. Most of it is by trial and error but know that there are two people involved in it and can get hurt just as easily.

Have You Met These Guys?

I admit, I haven’t been fully vested in the dating scene for a hot minute. A lot of reasons really, like survivor’s guilt which lead to apathy in general and finished up with lack of interest in the BS that guys seem to give on every app and dating site out there. I got back into thinking about dating again last year, after my birthday, due to feeling lonely.  And really the scene hasn’t changed and leads me to question the why’s of it again. So, what do you do when the dating scene is so repetitive?

Dating

The group over at Thought Catalog put together an interesting list of the 12 Types of Gay Men You Will Encounter While Dating.  I can tell you that I have encounter no less that four of these types, truth be told the first six are like the returning cast to my cavalcade of dating hijinks. Let’s look at the leading men of that list. Since moving to Cleveland, the Flake has been the most reoccurring character in my life. We all know that one, you make plans everything seems cool and at the last minute something comes up and they cannot make it. “My family just came in from out of town,” or the one you know they are out of excuses to use “oh, I forgot I have a procedure that I have to get done” How in the hell do you forget you have a medical procedure until twenty minutes before you are supposed to show up? Gurrl, Bye!!! But is that the end? No, they call back the next week and apologize and get all sincere making you feel bad for realizing they were a liar and want to set something else up and you do. What happens next? Second degree burns, that’s right he cancels again. That sounded less bitter in my head.

Not to be outdone by the Flake is the loveable called the Obsessive. This little ball of feel good medicated reality is the one you go out with just once and is calling you before you get back to your car. At first it seems cute, he is so into you. Sending you texts saying he misses you, can’t wait to see you, and he likes what you are wearing right now. Then you show up to his place and your trip back from the bathroom you notice a door ajar with flicker candles, thinking that the night is about to take a fun turn you open the door to scope out the setup. Then it hits you, the wall is completely covered with pictures of you, some from your pics from your social media, then some of you sitting on your couch, shopping at Old Navy, and the awkward pic of you yawning this morning. Wait is that a piece of your hair on the dresser and why is there a doll that looks strangely…. OMG get out!!!

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Hey, congratulations you survived. He didn’t go all Fatal Attraction on you, if you got the bunny in the stew pot, I am sorry. It is usually at this point that I decide to wind it back in a bit and rethink my strategy. The next option that usually follows up is what that article calls the 0 attraction, but bored and desperate. And after not dating for about six years, let me tell you that desperation does start to set in, especially when it’s been two years since you have seen anyone naked but your reflection. Mr. Zero Attraction seems like a good thing, all the fun of going out with someone, having dinner and drinks, but none of the messy have to worry about whether sex is going to happen or a restraining order. If you are lucky, the conversation could at least be tolerable. Typically, you are so disinterested that you are focusing on how good the specials from that trendy restaurant you went to. By the end of the night, the guys is oblivious to the fact that the night was just a step above being in  your PJs binge watching something on Netflix. He picks up the check, you both walk to the car, and then you hear it. “I had a great time, would like to see you again.” Time to come out of your comatose state and realize what he is asking before you simply agree. Mainly, because by the time you get him you will have pornhub.com/gay pulled up on your phone and entertaining thoughts of how you could tie up rough trade for the night.

Normaldate

We all talk about how we want to find that normal guy. That one man as elusive as a unicorn or quality gay porn with a storyline. The sad part is a lot of us didn’t come out until later in life, so we are just like a teenager in the dating scene. We wouldn’t know normal if it was driving us to the church to get married. Hell, we barely know what we like. We look at this guy who is gainfully employed, seems like he won’t dress up in your clothes and try to take over your life, and is truly interested in what you think and say, all we see is a big flashing sign that says BORING!!! You pass them up on any app or bar because they do not stand out, he’s not the most attractive and doesn’t flash himself around. That should be the very reason we make it a point to talk to them and put a ring on it.

All I am saying is, for the most part, couples have it made. They already have found someone they get to go home with every day. They no longer have to play the dating field to see what turns up. Are couples without problems? We will get to that next time; however, they do not have to worry about the catch and release program that is dating. Do any of you have any dating horror stories you would like to share? Drop them in the comments below, would love to hear and commiserate with you.