Celebrating the Victories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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LGBTQ Myths

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

Myths and Facts about Sexual Orientation in Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myth: Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is unnatural.

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

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

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

Myth: Bisexual people are just confused.

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

Myth: Bisexual people are greedy.

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

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

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

Myth: It’s fashionable to be bi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Other side of the coin.

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In honor of October being National LGBTQ History month, I feel it is important to talk about coming out. October 11th is National Coming Out Day, so this should be a time of reflection to those who wish they could come out and cannot find the means to do so. It should be a time for celebration of coming out, remember why we go through it, encouraging and helping others with coming out. We all know that it doesn’t stop; we are constantly coming out to new friends, to our jobs, family members, or whatever.

I feel our community, myself included, often judge those that aren’t out. How many times have we been on our apps and have seen the married person that is looking for a hookup. We all go through that moment of “Who is this closeted queen looking for sex?” Or maybe that brief thought of fulfilling some fantasy of sleeping with the unattainable straight person. Instead of thinking what struggles they have be going through. Not everyone feels comfortable with the thought of coming out it is a huge decision. We all have worried about what we may lose when those around us find out that we are LGBTQ. Then there are those of us whose fear of that is crippling that we remain hidden.

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Coming out as an older LGBTQ person has its own unique sets of challenges. Many grew up with the horrible images of what Hollywood portrayed LGBTQ people. It became second nature to hide, if you didn’t fit the stereotypes that were out there. That lead to getting married in hopes you could change. When it didn’t you ended up lying to your spouse as to where you were when you disappeared. Once you are married you fear coming out because you fear whom it may hurt your life as well as destroy your spouse for something you felt ashamed to share. It only becomes worse if there are children involved. So you lived a lie suppressing who you are or sneaking around cruisy spots when the need becomes too much to bear. We shouldn’t have to live this way.

If you are at a point you feel that you are ready to start coming out, there are still other concerns many face. The gay community is rife with showing hot young guys with “perfect” bodies that are happy, having lots of sex, and lots of attention. Age becomes an issue and you fear you will never find anyone that may be attracted to you. Due to this they often over compensate for it by dressing younger than they are, dying their hair, taking on younger affectations, or even spending large amounts of money. Drugs and alcohol often can come into the picture and lead to many more serious problems.

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Many also worry that they carry to much baggage, from their lives before coming out, to find love. They fear that many will see they have an ex spouse or children and no one will want to take that on. Or their lack of experience will make them less desirable. None of us knew what we liked the first time we tried things with someone. Those that are coming out later in life feel they are coming late to the party. That everyone else already knows what they like and you have no idea. It may also be that they want a monogamous relationship and because of that they turn away people for fear that it won’t result in that.

Those that don’t come out are forced to endure the portion of the LGBTQ community that judges them and this leads to exacerbating those fears. We all need a safe network when we come out and if our community stands in judgment, how do we foster that support. Remember back to when you came out, it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. We all had some fear of people reacting to it. We should be the extended hand in the maelstrom, not the tide that forces them under. Yes I am an advocate for being out, it is important to do so. But I also understand why some chose not to and there are some valid reasons behind many of those choices. Just remember that we are only in charge of our happiness, not the happiness of others.

October is National LGBTQ History Month and October 11th is National Coming Out Day, reflect on the meaning of those and the strides we have taken when we decide to judge others. Remember those courageous people that have taken those steps and gain solace and strength. From them and us we should draw strength and be supportive of our fellow LGBTQ people. If we don’t, no one else will.

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Closets are for clothes

National Coming Out Day is next Thursday. Whether you are for or against coming out, it is a huge deal that takes a lot of bravery to do. Here are just a few fun facts from UselessDaily.com

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  1. Founded in 1988, in the feminist and gay liberation spirit of the personal being political, the emphasis is that the most basic form of activism is coming out to family, friends and colleagues, and living life as an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person.
  2. The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views.
  3. In the LGBT community, “coming out” means the voluntary self-disclosure of one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  4. NCOD was founded in 1988 by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. Eichberg, who died in 1995 of complications from AIDS, was a psychologist from New Mexico and founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience.
  5. O’Leary was an openly lesbian political leader and long-time activist from New York, and was at the time the head of the National Gay Rights Advocates in Los Angeles.
  6. The date of October 11 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
  7. Initially administered from the West Hollywood offices of the National Gay Rights Advocates, the first NCOD received participation from eighteen states, garnering national media coverage.
  8. In its second year NCOD headquarters moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and participation grew to 21 states.
  9. After a media push in 1990 NCOD was observed in all 50 states and seven other countries.
  10. Participation continued to grow and in 1990 NCOD merged their efforts with the Human Rights Campaign.
  11. National Coming Out Day is observed annually to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBT community and civil rights movement.
  12. The first decades of observances were marked by private and public people coming out, often in the media, to raise awareness and let the mainstream know that everyone knows at least one person who is lesbian or gay.
  13. In more recent years, when coming out as a lesbian or gay man is now far less risky in most Western countries, the day is more of a holiday. Participants often wear pride symbols such as pink triangles and rainbow flags.
  14. National Coming Out Day is also observed in Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
  15. In the United States, the Human Rights Campaign sponsors NCOD events under the auspices of their National Coming Out Project, offering resources to LGBT individuals, couples, parents and children, as well as straight friends and relatives, to promote awareness of LGBT families living honest and open lives.
  16. This year (2016) Coming Out Day has its 28th anniversary.
  17. In the past, spokespeople for NCOD include Betty DeGeneres (Ellen DeGeneres’ mother), Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Sally Field, Lady Gaga, Whoopi Goldberg, Anne Hathaway, Cyndi Lauper, Don Lemon, Jennifer Lopez, Demi Lovato, Mo’Nique, Pink, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Stanley Tucci, and Lana Wachowski.

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Source: https://www.uselessdaily.com/world/national-coming-out-day-trivia-17-facts-you-werent-aware-of-about-this-awareness-day/#ixzz5OGlnLDDp

Under Creative Commons License: Attribution  Follow us: @UselessDaily on Twitter

 

Your True Authentic Self

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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