Looking For Light In The Darkness

The World can be a dark place, that’s for sure. Each time you turn on the TV, open Twitter or Facebook, check your Instagram posts, or even listen to your podcasts, there is always some note of darkness. This Administration is trying the damndest to roll back everything they can about protection status for our LGBTQ community. We need to break up that monotony with any ray of positivity we can. It is something I have been struggling with, as well.

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photo courtesy of sexualfreedom.org

Body positive and sex positive messages are so very necessary. Learning to love who you are unconditionally is key in being able to extend that love to others. Some have been fortunate enough to have our families bring them up in that kind of environment, but the majority of us have had to try to learn that where we can or if we can. I love looking for those kinds of people who promote that kind of message. Enter Corinne Kai, a sex educator and writer. Kai looks as the world through the lens of a pleasure activist and femme of center queer human. You can visit Kai’s Insta here where you will be treated with an array of beautifully shot images that are somewhere on the scale of feminine and LGBTQ. You can also find Kai on the “Femme, Collectively” podcast, here you can check out all their topics on gender intersection, sexuality, and healing. Be sure to check them out, their images are beautifully shot and guaranteed to get you to want to start changing your perception of your own inner beauty.

We all know that underwear can have a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves. A cute pair that is accentuates our curves in all the right places can make us feel like we are the sexiest person the planet. If this is you then Pyramid Seven Underwear is for you. Click their name to be taken to their Insta account. Pyramid Seven Underwear showcase that they “have underwear for everybody and EVERY body.” On their page you will be treated to fashion magazine quality images of all body and gender identity types. Their high quality fabric and array of color can definitely help give you a different perspective on body positivity.And I love supporting companies who support our community.

 

Being body and sex positive is important for our general and psychological health and unfortunately many parents aren’t equipped to teach their children about issues they, themselves, haven’t been taught to deal with. Are you a parent, know a new parent, or just want to help educate yourself in the possibility that you may be a parent then you need to check out Sex Positive Families . Sex Positive Families’ main goes is to “raise sexually healthy children one talk at a time.” This means discussing topics like consent and teach them in basic everyday ways of engaging with people. They also discuss some of the harder topics in new ways to make it easier for parents and children. Their belief is that shaping your child early will help them not have the issues we are today.

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Early and ongoing talks about sexual health can be powerful normalizers of a child’s experiences with their changing body, feelings, interactions with others and messages from the world around them. Parents and caregivers can wonder how much info is too much or when is the “right” time. Consider being proactive as a way to ensure a child receives the knowledge and safe space that helps them make informed choices from a place of awareness and not fear. . ⬆️Now available for download is our age-by-age guide with strategies for raising sexually healthy children from birth to beyond. Follow the bio link to snag your copy and start the talks that support the sexual health of a child in your world.

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Looking for culturally inclusive, sex positive, and an empowering LGBTQ group, the @altapride is for you. This is also one of the few blog out there that showcase gay and bi black men. They also cover a wide range of topics like HIV prevention and treatment, transgender issues, and anti-bullying. Scroll through and check out the insanely hot pics and gain some knowledge while your there. You won’t be let down.

Lastly, and certainly not least is Ruby Allegra. Ruby is a voice for an overlooked and marginalized community, LGBTQ people with disabilities. The media caters to a specific body type for all gender identities and Ruby becomes the advocate for those that don’t fit these molds. Ruby uses social media as a means of advocacy for those with both identities. Check out Ruby Allegra’s Insta here (https://www.instagram.com/rvbyallegra/?utm_source=ig_embed)

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I’m so excited and nervous to share that I will be performing as feature poet for @drawyourswordspoetry on December 6! There will be music from @effie.mp3 and some amazing talented folk in the open mic part of the evening! If you wanna come check it out, share some poetry or just hang with good people, it’ll be at @chateauapollo, doors at 7pm, $10 entry. This venue is accessible! 💗💙 Photo by @pamo.boutros . . . [Image descriptions: first image features Ruby sitting in their wheelchair in front of rows of desks and shelves in a library. Ruby is laughing with their hand partially covering their face, and they are wearing a pink tshirt under blue and white striped overalls. The second image is a promotional poster for Draw Your Swords, featuring a continuous line drawing of Ruby with a mint coloured background. On the left hand side is text reading “Draw your (S)Words: a night of spoken word. Chateau Apollo, 6 December, doors at 7, $10 entry. Featuring: Ruby Allegra (poetry), Effie (music).”]

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Changing perceptions isn’t easy but the first steps have to happen with us. Surrounding ourselves with more positive images helps us create a mindset that is conducive for loving ourselves for who we are at our core. When we do, we show that to the world and will accept nothing less from others. Start small and just learn to be at peace with who you are. If you find or have blogs or people you follow that offer you that needed body and sexy positive ideal, please share below in my comment section.

 

 

Everyone Else Is Doing It…

So December 17th will be Tumblr’s last day for porn. Those of you that may not know, Tumblr is a blogging platform that specializes in pictures, videos, gif, and smaller blocks of text. It is what would happen if Twitter and Facebook had a love child. It became the easy platform for small time pornography, as well as a means to share clips for other sites. Amateurs found it a perfect venue for their content and, if it happens, it will be sorely missed. With the approvals of SESTO (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) and FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act), many people who were using social media as a means of making a living may be forced into more unsafe areas.

Shortly after its birth in 2007, Tumblr quickly became a network for the NSFW community to post images and content without fear of being banned. If you were looking for quality clips, pics, gif, meme, and pirated videos, it was the go to place. If you were an amateur looking for e venue to showcase your material, Tumblr had an audience. If you were an aspiring porn star it was the perfect place to start building a follower base. Tumblr allowed you to surf the porn web anonymously and mostly safely. You could scroll through search list of almost any fetish or desire you may have and even create your own feed. From here you could repost items you found and build your own following. The limit was your imagination.

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As I mentioned in a previous post, Tumblr wasn’t against adult content and allowed it to be posted. The only caveat was that if you were a frequent poster of adult content you had to flag your blog as ADULT. Explicit content was frowned upon and often times did get deleted. Typically a post would be deleted if someone reported it or the algorithms they used found it. Their Toss expressed that explicit acts of sexuality would be removed, but in the past it was done with a light hand. This started to become more enforced this year when Verizon bought Tumblr.

Tumblr had led many tech companies in the fight to prevent telecoms from slowing the Internet for users who couldn’t pay for higher bandwidth speeds. Also allowing their users to be more determinate of what they posted created a fairly large target for them. They fighting voice for net neutrality started was quieted when their company merged with Yahoo. It wasn’t until they merged with Verizon that many posts started being silenced. Verizon is very much against net neutrality and very much backs the removal of adult content. Verizon also now owns AOL, this gives them a pretty large swatch of search engines and social media options to control flows for their benefit.

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This becomes important under this administration as we are seeing more and more measures put into place for censorship. “According to the National Center for Transgender Equality(NCTE), current laws already grant prosecutors ample powers to effectively bust sex traffickers and to investigate businesses that engage in trafficking. But the law could drastically expand the definition of the offense of “promoting” or facilitating trafficking to include many commercial websites disseminating information for sex workers, even educational guidance, opening them up to lawsuits or other pressure to shut down,” according to The Nation. This could give SESTO and FOSTA the ability to target sites that are offering education services under the guise of helping sex workers or traffickers.

The recent change to Tumblr is also affected other platforms, like Facebook. Facebook as recently changed its content-moderation protocols to crackdown on any sexually suggestive posts. Their policies have changed to include language for discussing sexual positions to posting erotic art. The previous iterations of the policies did not clearly make distinction between sexual exploitation and solicitation. So calling your ex a slut and showing pics they sent you would clearly fall under exploitation, while being in a group and saying that you are going to be at a local bar looking for fun, if interested wear a shirt with a unicorn could be under solicitation. Now, both scenarios are clearly defined under their new policy. This has seen an increase in posts being flagged and groups being deleted. I personally have had a friend been warned and posts removed for content that Facebook said used sexual slang.

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According to an article posted on Out (out.com) “In October, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that works to defend free speech and user privacy, reported that in recent years “policy restrictions on ‘adult’ content have an outsized impact on LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities.” Many LGBTQ websites and social platforms have felt the backlash from this, seeing YouTube channels being suspended or Facebook pages temporarily banned. These are places that offered safe information about sex to many LGBTQ youth. This in turn can lead to a heightened sense of not belonging and turning to other less safe means of learning about sex and sexual activities. Many of these platforms provided sexual education for the LGBTQ youth and showed that sex could be intimate and soft instead of being catered to the male gaze and phallic centric that a lot of porn seems to be shot in.

A couple months ago, Facebook was shown to have been blocking many LGBTQ ads based on its new advertising policy. Facebook claims this is a small error but it does show failures in the programming of algorithms they use to monitor their traffic. They truth of this is hard to imagine since Facebook, itself, isn’t know to be supportive of the LGBTQ community. Many are still feeling the backlash of the “real name” policy. A policy that did not allow transgender people to change their name as it wasn’t seen a their “REAL NAME.”

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Censorship like this isn’t the only limit. If you are in support for sex worker reform and post about any of articles that are about it, many social media platform see the words “sex worker” and oftentimes flag the post or suspend your account without explanation. There is fear that many of the algorithms used for scanning will not be able to differentiate between diagrams for condom usage, pelvic exams, or porn. This could lead to large problems with sexual educations sites that are legitimately hosted by organizations. Many of the early obscenity laws of America were centered on the teaching of sexual education and contraception.

Eric Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition stated,  “Many people in straight, heteronormative communities don’t understand what the big deal is, because their lives and cultures are represented everywhere,” Leue said. “For those in queer, or niche, or fetish communities, Tumblr was one of the few accessible spaces to build communities and share content.” He also feels that large tech companies need to understand the difference between using algorithms for flagging content and outright banning content versus nuances of media and human regulation. Removing these items from apps stores and online media may not seem huge to the heteronormative segments of the population but it has a huge effect on the LGBTQ youth.

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It has not been thought of how this may affect informative educational blogs for the transgender community. Many transgender people have used the platforms like Tumblr and Instagram for showing their lives through transitional images and giving a voice to those who are struggling to find acceptance. These same sites will very likely be the ones that are flagged and banned because of images or text used. With the current president and administration pushing to change laws for LGBTQ it isn’t hard to see that many of these sites will land on the side of safety and remove this content

Censorship is alive and well in America. It is being used as a means of persecution of marginalized people. We have see platforms target images and posts based on to strict algorithm and heavy handed banning when, in fact, the content may not specifically fit the ToS of the platform. This same censorship seems to be targeting LGBTQ people in ways we didn’t think would happen, artwork is being flagged, educational sites are being removed, and our posts are being removed because someone or something things we are using suggestive terms that may relate to exploitation or solicitation. Its time we became more aware of the control these people exert without our knowledge. If not, many aspects of our culture could be removed before we even realize it is gone.

 

HB-36 and Why It Is Bad…

It is true that we have made a lot of progress, as LGBTQ, in the last 60 years. Many states have protection status bills for employment, housing, and hate crimes. More people are openly accepting of the LGBTQ population. And it is also legal for us to marry, in the United States. However, just because we have the legal right to get married doesn’t mean the battle is over. Case in point the following bill.

Before the Ohio Judiciary Committee is a bill that needs attention drawn to it. HB-36 states the following. “To amend section 3101.08 of the Revised Code to provide that an ordained or licensed minister or religious society is not required to solemnize a marriage and a religious society is not required to allow any building or property of the religious society to be used to host a marriage ceremony if the marriage does not conform to the ordained or licensed minister’s or religious society’s sincerely held religious beliefs, to provide that an ordained or licensed minister or religious society is not subject to civil or criminal liability for such a denial, and to provide that the state and political subdivisions may not penalize or withhold benefits to an ordained or licensed minister or religious society for such a denial.”

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It is important to point out that the First Amendment already exists and grants this right to any licensed minister or religious group. It is the wording that is the issue to be considered. All to often many bills are put before the people or committees to vote on that alter wording or add clauses to a bill so they can get passed. It is important that we contact our elected officials to let them know how we feel about this bill. Let them know that you feel they should not pass this bill.

This has already been the right of any licensed minister or religious group, under the First Amendment. What this bill now changes is that any venue can refuse to host the marriage or its services due to religious views, even if the venue itself has no religious ties. The bill also gives rights to “religious societies” having the ability to deny services that do not conform with their own religious views, however religious society is not defined clearly.

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Ohio also recognizes Same Sex Unions as valid and legal, however, this very bill is a slap in the face to that acceptance. In effect saying “Oh sure we recognize your marriage, we just don’t approve of it so you cannot use these places for your ceremonies.” For every scrap of ground we make forward, there is some ambush tactic waiting to be unleashed against that advancement.

This bill provides a loophole under the guise of giving licensed ministers and religious societies the ability to refuse the right of marriage. It allows any business the right to refuse their services to anyone that they deem their religion doesn’t recognize. We can step away from the LGBTQ issue here and show it in another fashion. If a heterosexual couple had been living together before they got married, in essence, the Catholic Church could refuse them the right of using their church, minister, or grounds to solemnize their marriage. And this would be acceptable as the couple had been “living in sin” prior to their marriage. If the female became pregnant before marriage, the same kind of ruling could be applied for attending church or using their facilities. How far could this be carried? Would places start selectively giving information to the church about your personal activities to make sure that what you are doing doesn’t violate something with that religious organization?

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Many bills are written this way and put before the voting body. It is proposed to target something someone may not feel is lawful, but can be expanded in the future to include other things that may not have been thought of at the time of inception. I urge you to research this bill and read it thoroughly and then contact the Ohio Judicial Committee to speak out about it. You can find more information of Equality Ohio here. And remember, simply because we have had a few good steps forward does not mean that the journey is complete. Until we do not have to fight for the same basic rights that so many of the population take for granted, our fight is far from over.

Below is a list of names and numbers of the Ohio Judiciary Committee.  Contact them and let them know how you feel. If you are not confrontational, make the call after 5pm and you leave a voicemail.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Chair Kevin Bacon 614-466-8064
Vice Chair Matt Dolan 614-466-8056
Ranking Minority Member Cecil Thomas 614-466-5980
William P. Coley, II 614-466-8072
John Eklund 614-644-7718
Matt Huffman 614-466-7584
Peggy Lehner 614-466-4538
Sean O’Brien 614-466-7182
Scott Oeslager 614-466-0626
Michael J. Skindell 614-466-5123

 

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The Importance of Being Earnest…

Earnest is defined as resulting from or showing sincere and intense conviction. And a conviction is a firmly held belief. Are you being earnest in your everyday life? Do you struggle to be earnest? We all believe in things, we believe the sun will come up tomorrow, we believe that the sky is blue, and some of believe we are here for a much higher purpose. But to have conviction in your beliefs is so much more stronger and those things usually hold to very intrinsic values. Like the belief that all people should be treated equally, that there is something after this life, or that people are inherently good and will choose so. Being earnest carries them one step further. It is an ideal of living by your beliefs, expressing them without fear, and not backing down from what you truly believe.

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Now if you clicked this because you were expecting some review of the play by Oscar Wilde, well I am sorry to break it to you that will not be happening. Though I may draw a few parallels. So, if you have read the play, you realize it is a story about lies. Lies to make people fall for you and then pretending to be those lies to win them over. Only to find out in the end that they unravel before our eyes and we have to accept the truth of ourselves and learn the lesson. Growing up LGBTQ, we all learn quickly about hiding our true selves and creating a persona to show the world. Wd do it so we won’t be judged. We do it so we can fit in. In some cases we do it so we will not be physically harmed by others in our lives.

We put on this mask and present ourselves to the world. We stand in front of mirrors practicing what to say, how we stand, how we look, and how we dress. All of this to make sure there is no crack in the wall we put up. Every day and every moment we constantly run a check over this visage to ensure it is properly in place and adjusting as needed. Inside we only hope that someone will accept us for who we are, while at the same time fighting to be accepted for how we force ourselves to appear. It is a mentally tiring struggle to have to endure and yet so many still believe we choose to be LGBTQ. For some of us, we reach a point were we make an active decision to continue this struggle to accept who we are and try to start loving ourselves. For the many that continue with the wall they go on to develop new layers of bricks to help with maintaining it. Statements like “I don’t need to be out because no one needs to know with whom I am sleeping,” or “I am more than just being LGBTQ, it doesnt define who I am.” Even to the ideal that you may lose your job, family, or place you live if people found out who you are.

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The very act of maintaining these walls creates the very thing that you do not want to happen. Because you are presenting a false sense of self to the world, they now judge you based on that appearance. They now assume you are like they are, sleeping with the same kinds of people they do, enjoying the same things they partake of, and experiencing life in the same ways. The very act creates a lie and allows them to judge you for being someone you are not. You accept that it is ok to not be judged by who you really are but rather be judged by their perceptions. This, in fact, is exactly what they would have done had they known who you really are to being with. It is a strange irony that we accept one while negating the other.

If you believe that labels shouldn’t be used to define people and that is why you don’t come out, then you are right that labels shouldn’t be used as a means of segregation. However, if you don’t tell others about yourself, they apply their predetermined labels of who they see you as and still use them for segregation and separation.You give them the same power that you hoped they could not have. Look I get it, labels are bad, but they are necessary. They shouldn’t be used as a means of looking down on others. We will always have them as a means of identifying humanity. They will always be used to describe the difference between males and females, adults and children, young and old, and others like new and used. It is an easy way of describing with whom you are attracted to emotionally or sexually. It is not, however, acceptable to then use those differences as a means of persecuting those people.

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Much of this stems from the fear we develop when we realize who we truly are and that it is different from those we grow up with. We hear all to often how you are either heterosexual or you are a sinner. We develop this mentality that our very nature is evil and wrong. We later try to rationalize that we hid it because we shouldn’t be judged by who with sleep with or love. This starts because we are forced to believe that being different is wrong. This is the very thing that needs to be changed. You will never be able to stop humanity from judging others, it is so deeply rooted into our very beings.

I can sit here and tell you that if you lose friends because of who you are, I will say you never know if the reason you lost them is because of who you truly are or what you lead them to believe. If they do leave your life because of who you truly are, then they were not friends to begin with. Friends accept you for your difference, even when others will not. I can even sit here and tell you that if your family leaves you for the same reason, you are better off. We have the ability of choosing our own family that is safe and loving for us. The only caveat I ever give on this is if you are in a situation where you are dependent on someone for your survival. If you are not legally and adult and can work to support yourself, then rethink when you choose to let those walls down, especially if you are in an abusive family.

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I do not judge anyone for choosing to not tell others who they truly are, do I think you are benefiting yourself by maintaining those walls? Absolutely not!!! Your life is your own, I cannot tell you how to live it. I can say that living a lie isn’t healthy. I can say that at some point your wall will crack and crumble and all you have hidden will be cast into the light and now you will be judged for the lies you have told as well as the truth you kept hidden. We are slowly moving into a world where basic human rights are being stripped from those that the greater masses consider less than worthy. Not standing up to fight this kind of tyranny only speeds it along. We are an easily overlooked minority, you can’t tell we are gay by the color of our skin or who we are descended from. We are perceived as a fewer amount because we are not easily identifiable, that is good because it can insulate us from harm and bad because it leads more to believe that it is a choice and there really aren’t enough of us that we should have our own rights.

Being LGBTQ is hard enough, for us to cause strife about being out is wrong. We should be lending support and love. Fostering the sense of we belong and we are as natural as rain. We can change the climate for the future, to ensure that they don’t have to build the same walls that we keep up to protect us from a cruel world. For those that still refuse to come out, I offer you my deepest love, respect, and will always listen to you. Your fight is as equally as hard as those that are out to the public. You suffer in silence and hiding, so know there are those of that will will always lend support and allow you to be as earnest as you can be.

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LGBTTTQQIAA, WTF?

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Labels define our lives; they tell us who we are, they tell where we live, they decide what kind of services we are given, and who we are. Labels, whether we like them or not, shape our world and perceptions. We often impose more labels, upon others, and ourselves than are needed. Single, married, depressed, happy, poor, rich, heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual, young and old. Many of these give us an understanding of a person or thing and some only exist to define a box that we are in. I am not going to talk about the need of labels in this post, only help shed some light on the many labels that are used to define our community.

The longer you are out, the more you start to realize that the letters to define have changed. For instance, when I can out in the early 90s we were seeing the progression of LGBT to LGBTQ. In the 20 years since that time the initials have doubled to include LGBTTTQQIAA. As a means to level the playing field this stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Two Spirit, Queer, Questioning, Intersexed, Asexual, and Ally. This also doesn’t include the people who identify as Pansexual, Agender, Gender Queer, Bigender, Gender Variant, and Pangender. It truly can be confusing, even for us to understand the depths this covers. What does it all mean? Where do I fit in? Do all of these labels matter?

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WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Let’s start with some definitions. Whether you are cisgender or transgender, it is pretty easy to say lesbian and gay refer to being attracted to members of the same gender. Whereas bisexual would mean being attracted to members of both genders. These are sexual and romantic attractions based on perceived genders or genders that are presented. From there it needs a bit more breakdown.  Sex refers to your biological sex. Meaning the reproductive anatomy and secondary sexual characteristics you were both with. Whereas gender is broken down to gender roles and gender identity. Gender roles are those that society places upon a person or even perceived by the person. Gender identity is what is your perceived gender based on an internal awareness.

This becomes more important when we look at the transgender and transsexuals. Bear with me as the next few definitions come from Medical Daily and are not my own. If any inconsistent information is provided I do apologize and will not be upset if I am corrected. Medicaldaily.com defines a transsexual as people who transition from one sex to another, if your birth certificate shows your sex as female and you later had surgery to become male. Transgender are people who whose identity, expression, behavior, or general sense of self does not conform to what is usually associated with the sex they were born in the place they were born. This making transgender a more multifaceted term that allows for many permutations of how one person lives and interacts with people.

Two Spirit is a more modern term being used to classify many people in the indigenous peoples. This term refers to having both a male and female spirit inside of them. From an outside point of view that may be harder to understand. In some traditional First Nations cultures there was what was called a third gender and has cultural and ceremonial significance to those people. It is not an interchangeable term for Native LGBT. Also the term “two spirit” is not in and of it self a native people term. It is a modern definition used as a broad term to cover many first nations cultures that may have had the sacred third gender. Many tribes did not have rigid binary definitions of gender and used the third gender as a means of defining someone that was more closely connected to the spiritual nature of their given tribe. Out of respect to the First Nations People, I will not attempt to describe it further.

Queer is used to describe sexual or gender minorities that are not heterosexual or cisgender. Up until the late 1980s it was used to describe anyone that had sexual desires towards the same sex. It soon became a term to describe anyone who rejected traditional gender identities and sought a broader and more ambiguous label. Questioning is used for anyone who is still exploring or refuses to accept modern conventions of labels towards gender identity and sexual attraction. Someone who questions their own gender identity or sexual identity and orientation.

Intersex is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. It is a term that is used to describe a variation in sexual identity. It could include someone who appears as one sex on the outside while having different sexual characteristics on the inside. It may also be used to describe someone whose outward sexual characteristics do not fit in with how they appear. An example would be a boy born with a noticeably smaller penis and a scrotum that is divided and more similar to that of a labia. Or even someone born with mosaic genetics where some of their chromosomes are XX while others are XY. Asexual would be someone who has a lack of sexual attraction to any identity or gender or a low or absent interest in sexual activity. This would have no bearing on whether they identify as homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual. Ally is simply someone who considers themselves a friend of the LGBTQ+ community. Someone who stands up for their rights offers their friendship, and support when it is needed.

Pansexual is someone who has no set attraction to anyone specific gender or sex, whether it be sexual, romantic, or emotional. Often referring to themselves as gender blind, where their sexual attraction is not bound by one gender or identity. Agender is someone who does not classify himself or herself by any set gender role. Nor do they conform their identities to any traditional gender role. Gender Queer is a person whose identity is not exclusively masculine or feminine. Their identities are those that fall outside of gender binary or cisnormativity. Bigender is defined as someone who moves between masculine and feminine gender roles and behaviors. There are even some who exhibit two separate gender identities at once and identify as both simultaneously.

WHERE DO I FIT IN? And DO ALL OF THESE LABELS MATTER?

No one person can tell you who you are or what you should like. For many people it takes almost a lifetime of self-exploration to even begin to understand where they fit in. Then there are some who know from a very young age. You don’t have to conform to something doesn’t feel right to you. If you choose to explore one or all of these, that is your prerogative. There are no tests that will show you who you are or what you should be, however wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take a test to define who you are? Answer a couple of questions, look at a couple of pictures, and them BAM here are your results and congratulations! Instead you should think of life as more of a carnival, look at all the rides and booths it has to offer. See which appeals to you and give them a try. You can’t know what you life if you don’t try it out.

It is important to realize that labels are good for the broadest sense of defining who you are and where you may fit in. It helps instill a sense of community and belonging, a sense of pride. Just don’t let them be the only thing that makes you who you are. Don’t let modern conventions force you to feel shame for being your true self. A preconceived perception of what groups of people define as normal is what causes us to feel shame over being different. They do not live your life or understand the things that you feel. This is your journey to find where you may fit in the LGBTTTQQiAA spectrum. Do not be just another label.

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Information brought to you by OK@BEME (https://ok2bme.ca/resources/kids-teens/what-does-lgbtq-mean/) and Medical Daily (medicaldaily.com)

 

Isolation Amongst the Crowds

Merriam-Webster defines choice as noun 1. the act of choosing: selection, 2. power of choosing: option, 3 a. the best part: cream, b. a person or thing chosen, 4. a number and variety to choose among, 5. care in selecting, 6. a grade of meat between prime and good, or of choice, or to be preferred. Adjective  1. worthy of being chosen, 2. selected with care, 3 a. of high quality, b. of a grade between prime and good. It’s important to understand the meaning of word when you are trying to use it to explain something. Because of this very word CHOICEI feel that LGBTQIA are the overlooked marginalized minority.

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We all have had this dream, more than likely. You are in a room surrounded by people that you may or may not know. It is a fairly large room full of people and you are walking among them and you notice that they are looking at you. Some of them are in shock and disbelief while others may be laughing and making comments in whispered tones to others. As you move about the room you realize that their reactions may be about you. Suddenly, you are in front of this group of people and you can’t imagine why. You think you may supposed to be speaking or presenting something, maybe it is even going over your book report. As you start to check yourself for you notes you realize you are naked in front of everyone and all the reactions make perfect sense. You are exposed and vulnerable, you try to cover yourself and make apologies but all it does it draw more attention to how you do not fit in. Your anxiety rises, your pulse is racing, sweat is pouring off of you in rivulets, you feel like you are about to throw up, and you are turning more shades of red than there are possibilities. It’s a horrifying feeling. You can’t seem to get away fast enough and  you know there is no way you can fit in.

In the simplest terms, that is how most LGBTQIA people feel every moment of their lives. No matter where we go, the people we interact with, or the situations we are in we constantly know we do not fit in and are afraid of how people are judging us. The difference is that in many situations it’s not veiled comments behind hands, it turns into acts of violence. Cleveland, Ohio having more than 15% of the this year’s national transgender homicide rate is proof enough of that. Let us not forget the tragic events of Matthew Shepard being abducted, stripped, beaten to near death and tied to a fence post in Wyoming, all because two straight men thought he deserved it. Still mainstream believes that we “choose” to be LGBTQIA.

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Now imagine waking up every day and seeing yourself in the mirror and know what you see isn’t who you are. That it just feels like you are trapped in a shell that isn’t right. You get dressed every morning, as to how you are expected to be, and you never feel at ease. Feeling like you are pretending to be someone you are not. This in turn creates depression and a sense of self-doubt and loathing. You start to wonder what is wrong with you and why can’t you be like everyone else. What if this or what if that? Always feeling scared and confused. Never sure of whom you are or what you are feeling. Would you choose to feel that daily? Would you want to endure that kind of life?

As I was growing up, I simply knew that I was different. I didn’t have attractions to females. I didn’t like typical boys things and I knew that I didn’t fit in with other boys my age. Even trying to fit into those molds didn’t make it any better. What I did know was that being around other boys gave me the feeling of butterflies in my stomach. At no point were there ever options presented to me. Don Pardo wasn’t standing next to me saying, “Behind Door #1 is heterosexuality. You will have women to date, football to watch, buddies to hangout with and have fun. A lavish life of normality. Or you can have what’s behind Door #2, being hated for being different. People telling you that you are a sinner and going to hell. Being hated and kicked out by your family and living your life as a sexual deviant.” I mean what kind of options would those be and who would ever choose Door #2 if they were told that’s what was waiting for them?

I am not here to change your mind about any of this. I am here to be the foundation for someone who is already going through these feelings. To let them know that there are others out there like them. To let them know that it does get easier and they do have people to turn to. There are welcoming groups who do not seek to change who they are but encourage them to live at the truest authentic person they are. To try to love themselves more than others hate them. It is for them that I write this and for them I offer my strength.

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Not a single one of us, LGBTQIA or heterosexual, chooses to be who we are, it is simply a combination of biological factors that creates us to be who are. One isn’t right and the other wrong. Those kinds of labels are created by society and placed upon us to make us fit into nice little boxes. In fact, not a single one of us can fit into any box that we are put into. Each human is greater than the sum of his or her parts and we should learn to respect us for what we do instead of who someone thinks we are.

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The truth of it is that sexuality, orientation, and gender identity do not really matter in the real world. They are just more forms of labels that are used to describe someone on a limited basis. There are reasons for them and they do, in fact, have to be used, but people are more than just the sum of their parts. Saying only that I am a gay male doesn’t tell you anything about me, no more than saying I am a 45 year old male does. We need to move beyond such things and deal with what is important and that is that we are all humans. Being male, female, LGBTQIA or straight doesn’t determine who you will be, even DNA doesn’t give an inevitable result of how you will turnout. We should be embracing our differences and celebrating them.

I cannot change anyone’s mind in a 1200 word post. To make an impact or change someone’s mind you have to know the person and their situations. You have to view them through the lens of non-judgment and to understand the choices that have brought them to this very moment. My words are here for those that need strength in their moment of weakness, safe harbor in the storms they endure. To make them realize their lives are important and they do matter. You may very well be the voice that shapes the world to come.

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The Dye Has Been Cast

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Like many others today, I made my way to the polls to make sure my voice was a part of the cacophony we call democracy. Many view it as a chore but it is also our given right. It’s the chance for us to be a part of a larger collective, to show the government we will be heard and we do matter. This was also my first time voting in Ohio, so there was that added stress. Apparently, not all of Ohio uses the same means for residents to vote, it is county specific. Take Cuyahoga County for instance, we use a scantron method for our votes to be taken. That created its on moment of high school examination dread, when I opened the folder for my ballot.

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Queue the flashback sequence, a la Wayne’s World (party on Garth, Party on Wayne). It would be more apt to say… Pictures it Montgomery County, Virginia November 1992, a small town gay boy makes his way for his first time of entering the booth. Now before you get all pervy on me, I am recalling my first time voting in an election, not a video booth. Sheesh, maybe if you are good we can recount that story, spoiler alert I have never been in one of those booths. Anyway, back to the young boy, going through high school civics/government class we all had training to help man the polls and learn how to use the machines. At that time, Virginia was still using the punch ballot. You essentially would put your card in this machine, line it up, choose your candidates and using a pin push through the paper, and when you were done you would pull a lever to cast your ballot. The machine would reset for the next person. Think slot machine without the payout.

That was nerve-wracking back then, thankfully Virginia now uses an electronic system. Being a Gen X-er, we grew up watching technology evolve, so merging into that type of system wasn’t a hard migration. Moving to Ohio I was unsure what to expect and they didn’t let me down. I decided to vote before work and managed to get there about an hour after the polls opened and took my roommate along for the ride. Of course I grilled him about how it would work, since I hadn’t used a paper ballot since high school. I was expecting a large turn out and it wasn’t bad. The lines moved very quickly and since I screwed up one of my forms I was even able to retrieve a new one and recast in fairly quick time.

Gay-Voting

What’s that you say? How could I have screwed up my vote? Well I did mention earlier the flashback to high school examinations with scantron sheets. Early in the morning my eyes haven’t adjusted and have a bit of double vision, combined with this season’s allergies. So, like a good child is known for, I colored outside of the lines. Apparently more than the machine would tolerate. I could joke about an attempt but saying that could be misconstrued and I wouldn’t want Big Brother showing up at home this afternoon.

All in all, we were in and out quickly. Nice to see that things were under control enough to make them move that effortlessly and thank you for the patient people that had to endure me not understanding the intricacies of Cuyahoga County Voting. I just hope that it wasn’t an indication of low voter turnout. I haven’t checked any information for Ohio, as of today, about early turnout versus showing up on Election Day. As of now at 10 am, it’s a bit too early to see any kind of results as to what may be happening. The fate of the country rests firmly in our hands and it’s time to remember that the government should fear its people and not the people who should fear the government. If you haven’t yet, get out there and vote, no matter who or how you choose to vote. Make your voice be heard.

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