We Have To Stand

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Normally I plan out most of my posts. I trying to find a topic that interests me and hopefully interests others, do some research, pull some sources, and write a post. Or I will scroll through some Ted Talks for moments of inspirations. After all, the reason that I write is to help others remember out history and hopefully make a few others think and lead to action.  However, after the news yesterday of almost 14,000 of our transgender brothers and sisters losing their jobs thanks to this inane transgender ban bill, I just don’t seem to have it in me to post one of the posts I had written before.

The very roots of a military organization dates back to the beginning of mankind, in reality. We have always banded together to protect our homes and people. IT started as a common good to ensure our survival. We have seen it move through history to become mandatory at times and some cultures that had an elite group of men and women to protect the powers that be. Most people considered it an honor to serve and protect their country and that even carried over to America. The military forces we made here were by the very people who sweated and bled to make sure their homes survived. Native Americans considered their warriors with honor and became a bigger honor to serve as a warrior and not kill an enemy, instead they counted coup.

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We have witnessed many changes to our military, over the course of this Country’s life. We have seen the Draft implemented, witnessed troops who served for the greater good be spit upon and shamed, watched women be able to serve openly beside their male counterparts and even the allowing of 18 years old people to sign up to serve. These weren’t always met with quick acceptance. It took until 1976 for women to be accepted into military academy and it wasn’t until 2013 that women were allowed at West Point. I remember the news in the 80s and early 90s about how the largely male military viewed women serving in combat. The debates about how they were too emotional to be able to make effective decisions. Not strong enough to have the backs of the rest of their squad, company, or platoons. But time after time, women proved they were as strong and stronger than the men they served with and while the resistance to them serving hasn’t went away, it is more accepted now than before.

LGBT people have had a similar struggle in serving. Almost twenty-five years ago, February 2, 1994 DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) was started. It was implemented and sold as a means for LGB people to serve without repercussions, but in actuality it gave a means to persecution. The military prides itself on rules and regulations, predetermined means of what something is or isn’t. Unfortunately, what is or is not a “homosexual act” is always up for interpretations and the military had final say so on it. Many men and women were dishonorably discharged from service over being homosexual. DADT lasted almost twenty years, September 20, 2011, before it was repealed. Finally, we were able to serve openly and with less fears or recrimination, in theory.\

During the time of DADT, we heard similar arguments to what women were faced with during their early battles. We aren’t emotionally able to serve, who wants to serve with a “faggot” who is staring at my backside instead of protecting my back, and worse. These fears haven’t really been alleviated, only pushed to the back. Not transgendered people are going through the same struggles. Our own Commander in Chief thinks they are not mentally stable enough to serve in our military. However, mental capacity is not viewed of heteronormative soldiers when they join. Ok sure, you take tests before you are allowed to join. I remember them, hell I tried to join the military when I was younger as a means of hoping I could cure the urges I had for men. The military puts more focus on physical abilities than mental. I guess that is completely okay since they are heterosexual men and women.

Wednesday I posted a link about the transgender ban and how the DOD did an independent research with the group RAND s a cost benefit analysis of transgender men and women serving in the military. No discernible cost difference was seen if the military took on the costs of helping a soldier go through transition surgery. No detectable strain would be put on the military for having them serve alongside of other soldiers, as long as they are doing their duties. No more could be asked of any soldier. Hell, they have been doing it for years already and suffering right along with serving.

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Our military doesn’t have the numbers it used to have and turning away competent and volunteering people who want to serve and protect their country is stupidity. All they ask in return is to be able to serve as who they truly are, a request that is no different than their heteronormative counterparts. Somehow our current government sees them as a threat, a threat in civilian life and in military life. The weird part is we cower away from that, instead we should remember that the government SHOULD fear its people. We have forgotten that we are part of the check and balances system. Too many of us live in the fear of the majority. Fear of the government, fear of their mindless followers/supporters. We watch violence played out against us daily, all minorities. If we want advancement and inclusion, we need to stop asking for scraps and fight for our place at the table.

We have got to stop watching from the sidelines. We have to move against those that would subdue us. We HAVE to come together as one body and voice. Division in our ranks isn’t helping us, we see what its doing but we just don’t seem to process it. Look around you and what is going on and make your voice heard. You are mistaken if you think the larger percentage views us as equal. Just because we have a larger presence on television and, for now, the right to marry doesn’t make us equal with the heteronormative society. We are still a part of their sideshow. Advocates or not, they will not make the change easily. We have to be there on the front lines. We have to get back to our roots of activism. To paraphrase a comic book, “We have to stand.”

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Dishing The Tea

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Hello Hunties, gather round while I Serve Some Tea. I have had people, even recently included, tell me that I always talk about “This Gay Shit.” You’re right I do and sometimes I wish that I didn’t have to. Truth be told I think we all need to focus on the human existence, but truthfully, we live in a world that pushing the segregation of others, even if it is do so without thinking. We are a minority group that has its own set of culture, speech/dialog, and behaviors, just like any other minority group. Our world is shaded by the experiences we have and doubly so if we live our lives out to everyone. So why do we get called preachy if we have pride in the who’s and what’s that make us who we are?

Sure, there are LGBTQ people who are perfectly content to ride the low-profile bench, to not stand out, or even have other take notice of the fact they are different. That is their way of life and no one can say it isn’t their choice, that the thing about life it is jaded by how we choose to live it. Then there are those of us who live life fully embracing who we are. We attend Pride events, we take part in activism in our own means of choosing, we live in the community and try to make it a little better. That, too, is our choice. We shouldn’t have to apologize for who we are or being excited talking about those difference to people. In a perfect world it wouldn’t matter if we chose to love and be with members of the same sex as us or partake in both, it would simply be an act of love shared among consenting individuals.

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Heteronormative society doesn’t exactly see it that way. Many are content with us as long as we aren’t always talking about our Gay Shit, but they never seem to fully be able to define what that really means. Does it upset you that I take pride in my culture? Maybe it is the fact that knowing and sharing our history is something I think is needed to help understand where we have come from and are going? Many times, I get my favorite response, which I am sure many of you have heard before but referencing a different minority group. “I’m not bothered by it because I have many gay friends, but…” Or the “I know what it’s like to kiss (insert sex here) because I was dared to once.” or “I kissed a guy/girl in college.” While these two instances may seem monumental or opening some earthy shattering revelation for you, they aren’t on the scope of what it would feel like to live it on a daily basis. The “I have a LGBTQ friend” always gets me as well, as you rarely ever see or hear about them, unless it’s to defend the fact that they are open enough to have said friend.

When you fall into the white, cisgender, heteronormative life, it is hard to truly understand what any other minority group may be going through. As equally as hard as it would be for me a cisgender, white, LGBTQ person to try and understand what it is like living as a person of color. We live in a world where it is still legal in 28 states to be discriminated against for being LGBTQ. I really don’t think people understand that. 28 states can decide if I have a job, a place to live, access to community resources, and recourse if any violence is acted against me. Sure, that means in 22 states we do have protections, but that can drastically different depending on the state and to what level. Out of the 50 states, hate crimes against LGBTQ people have not greatly diminished. But let’s not talk about the “Gay Shit.” We still move to neighborhood that are statistically LGBTQ for safety reasons or if we cannot find them, we go back into the closet to make sure we aren’t harassed or worse. How many times do you hear heteronormative people saying they had to move to a specific community so that they felt like that would not be targeted for some form of discrimination?

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One of the things that I have become most proud of is that I have been working to get an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce group to take office space at the place I work for and moving to get LGBTQ/Ally training for our organization. The organization I work for is fairly progressive, they already offer same sex benefits and give Racial Equity training to all of its employees, so for me I feel the natural progression was to have training that gave better insight on the LGBTQ community. A means to learn about discrimination and how to ensure we are fostering or pushing outdated mindsets to those we may come into contact with. After all, the business community touches all groups of people and we should be seeking to ensure that they are ALL welcome at the table. This has become very important to me, but there are those that do not share that sentiment.

Granted I am not a Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, Barbara Gittings, or Christine Jorgensen, when it comes to activism, but I would like to think that I am doing a small part for moving things forward. I don’t expect my blog to be a major moving force forward, I am more content knowing that one person may find something the resonate with and help them through a struggle. These are the reasons that I talk about my “Gay Shit.” These are the same reasons that I will not stop. If it bothers you, I cannot apologize for that. What I can do is not waste that time on you. Because it would seem you have no desire to change where you are at in your journey. For that I am sorry, because no journey goes how we want or expect. We must be open to changing with the road and scenery. And that is Serving the Tea.

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The Strongest Magic

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One can argue for or against the usage of labels, but they do serve a purpose. Often times those labels become convoluted and limiting. There are labels that people use to describe types of people that are damaging and breed internalized hatred, knowingly or not. There are labels that are used to describe how a person is or may be based on the label they are using. “Of course he is a snappy dressing, he is gay, after all.” “All black men are criminals, look at the prisons.” “Sure she is a lesbian, but it is only because she hasn’t had the right man.” These are only a few, but you can see how damaging they are in their contexts.

Personally, I cringe reading profiles online; they are appalling, at best. “38 yr. old straight acting gay male, physically fit, hung top seeking straight acting fit, bubble butt bottom.” Sound familiar? We have all seen it. “Masculine male seeks same for true love. No femmes, fats, or blacks,” Or the better “28 yr. old gay male but doesn’t act it. Seeks passable CD for DL fun.” You can’t make this stuff up and it is far too common. Why do people use these kinds of labels? Firstly, they are rarely attainable and again it is just an expression of the internalized hatred that many of us carry.

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Ok I get it; we all have types so we use these labels as a means of expressing to others what type we are looking for in a mate. That works great if you are saying you like men with, short blonde hair, green eyes, average groomed body hair, who is loving and honest.  Those are labels that would qualify as a type. When we use terms such as straight acting, masculine, femme, lady boy, or any of the other variations what we are really using are terms that are limiting and judgmental. Many of the labels we have adopted are from idealized patterns of what we know. To say you want someone masculine tends to stem from growing up hearing how feminine or girly a gay man may be and it creates a stigma that we attribute as being bad. We don’t want to be judged with those same standards so we internalize it to change how we act and what we should be attracted to.

I am also a realist; I fully acknowledge that getting rid of labels is as bad as using antiquated ones. There has to be a happy medium. Daily LGBTQ people are being persecuted for our differences. Around 17% of the murders committed this year have been towards African American transgender women. All of us, more than likely, were raised in families or communities that ingrained into us that gay is bad and heterosexuality is the default choice. Its the same society that teaches that “white is right” and that men have the power. Remember that it wasn’t until fairly recently that gay was used to describe queer culture, it was activist Frank Kameny that reclaimed it by the slogan “Gay is Good.” So labels are important for being able to understand difference in the human condition. They are needed but it’s the knife’s edge, one day they will be used against us. Its a fact we cannot change and done we cannot ignore.

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We are now in a society that has the ‘knee jerk’ mentality. We are quick to judge and even quicker to say we are being judged. It is hard to trust anyone who claims to be “on our side” because we question the motives as to why they are helping us. The #METOO movement is a good example, it is a venue for allowing women, and men, to stand up and say they have been abused and have their voices be heard. It has also created a counter response where a lot of white men are standing us and claiming to be the “good guy” so that women shouldn’t fear them. Pitting people against one another. This administration is toxic, at best. We are watching as legislature that was passed is trying to be undone or circumvented. We have a leader who is known for racist mentality and even condones it. This has lead to increase hate crime attacks of all minorities. Transphobia is on the rise, as well as their murder rate.

It is not just the fault of the person that uses the label, but also of the one who reacts to the label. The same internalizations that may cause someone to use those labels could be the same ones that makes a person react negatively to hearing them. In many cases, they pain those words cause can be debilitating to a person, inciting rage over those who appear to be that type or fear and shutting down by those who are being labeled by it. All because of the environment we are raised in.

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It’s no secret why ancient cultures have spells, prayers, and songs to their deities, they knew that words have power, they are magic. Words can affect people and situations to any outcome. That is why I mentioned Frank Kameny coining the term gay to be used as a definition for homosexual people. Until that point it had no bearing on our culture or who we are his slogan “Gay is Good” changed how that word was to be related forever. I remember growing up that using the term gay was bad, as it referred to “those” people. This is the kind of magic that words can have.

I don’t expect you to stop using labels, it just won’t happen. It is not how humans are hardwired we need definitions. What I hope is that you will start to question why you use labels that you do. I would hope that you understand is why you choose the words that you do. Don’t let the labels define who you are and how you view the world. Don’t let them limit your experiencing of life. Consider how they make others feel and react when they are used. After all, words are the strongest magic.

 

Obscenity To Follow

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The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This has caused a lot of tension for the content filtering that Tumblr has stated that it will start enforcing. So what allows that and is it constitutional or fair?

Going further to explain what Freedom of Speech is covered; let’s look at a further definition. Simply put, this Amendment gives us the right to express ourselves without fear of government regulation or interference, but it can regulate speech that may breach the peace and often times obscenity is placed into this category. Obscenity has been a hot button for many years over what it does or does not cover and it is not covered under the First Amendment. The Government defines obscenity as lewd, filthy, and disgusting words or pictures. However, indecent materials including depictions and words are covered under the First Amendment, but they are allowed in a more restricted sense.

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Defining what is or isn’t obscenity or indecent isn’t as black and white and there are two court cases that are big for determining the difference. The first being United States v. One Book Entitled Ulysses, which states that if a work is to be deemed obscene it must be decided on its entirety and not just its parts. This gives a wide berth for anything written, as it must be judged in its whole context. One chapter describing particularly graphic scenes cannot make the whole work obscene. The second case is Miller v. California, which gives a bit more definition. The webpage Legal Information Institute states “The Miller test for obscenity includes the following criteria: (1) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ appeals to ‘prurient interest’ (2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (3) whether the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” The Miller v. California case allows states to have more control in determining what obscene is and how it applies to a larger level.

Both of these cases were ruled on prior to 1997 and it was at this time more rulings started to surface to try to prevent specific types of content. Reno v. ACLU tried to implement laws to protect children in the new digital media being shared online, which tried to change the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Supreme Court felt it was overly broad in its handing. In 1998 COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) was put into place and allowed laws to be put into place to protect minors from viewing of obscene images online. Later COPPA was found to also be overly broad in its ban of online adult transmissions of material and that it violated the Miller v. California test. As of 2009, no new legislature has been set forth to define obscenity any different.

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Unfortunately, that leaves it to State level to make the necessary decisions over what is or isn’t not considered obscene. These rulings are what has caused age restrictions to be put into place view the purchasing and viewing of adult content. And many times will allow a heavy-handed approach it what is considered able to fall under being prohibited. These same rulings are what allows websites, like Tumblr, to create Terms of Service agreements about how those images are handled. It is also the same rulings that allow the censoring of artists, photographers, and writers, people like Robert Mapplethorpe, David Wojnarowicz, or Gio Black Peter.  As the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

These same rulings are also used to limit topics of education in schools. Utah, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arizona and Texas are the states that allow their schools to censor or prohibit LGBTQ topics from being taught in what is called the “no promo homo” laws. This includes denying support groups such as the Gay and Straight alliance that helps students who are LGBTQ or supporters a means to feel safe, all the way down to Oklahoma that mandates that when the schools are teaching AIDS education that it includes that participating in homosexual events is the leading cause to contracting the AIDS virus. Arizona does not allow any curriculum that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle,” which the state is allowed to decide upon. When state levels of government are allowed to teach that homosexuality is considered obscene at a young age, it makes it much easier to deem images in art equally as obscene.

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The argument of Freedom of Speech ties a lot to age limit. In 1970, the Constitution was amended to change the voting age from 21 to 18. This gives the right of every American citizen to make decisions and vote on laws and those who enforce them once they reach the age of 18. This is also the age that is considered to be able to purchase adult content, whether online, in adult stores, or etc. So your right to expression is also allowed at that age and the Government should not be allowed to infringe on that right. As long as the participants of adult related content are consenting adults at least 18 years of age, do not hurt or put anyone in harm, then it should not be held to such strict standards. I left out violating any State or Federal laws, as this opens it back up to the States being able to deem something obscene.

Tumblr has used many reasons to explain their new stance on adult related content and how they will handle it. Any have focused on how there was an increase of child pornography on their sites that lead to their new heavier algorithms for banning the content. These algorithms are not perfect and many times are subject to controversy due to images the have flagged as to explicit. Many artistic images were tagged and removed. Many sites just vanished for the same reason. Transgender blogs that helped others by showing procedural images were caught up in these same heavy-handed approaches. It became a place where information could be shares in real time and show effects of treatments on people’s bodies so others had a reference point. Those sites that are important to many of the transgender community will more than likely disappear, as Tumblr’s ban goes into effect.

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It was also a venue for many LGBTQ artists to showcase their art, whether it be photography, painting, digital media, or however they expressed their talent. When their algorithms are searching for real life human genitalia, females showing nipples, or any content depicting sex acts, all the while encouraging users to actively flag and report anything they deem inappropriate, it is easy to see how this media is disappearing. They recently issued a response to the ban that said they would allow female nudity in aspects of breastfeeding, birth and health related situation, or mastectomy or gender confirmation pictures. They also clarified to say that nudity found in art would be permitted, but the extent of what is allowed is still left up to their decision and user interaction.

Your freedoms are always held in check by those who feel infringed upon or when States make changes to existing laws based on pressure. Sure sites like Tumblr and Facebook are allowed to make their own Terms of Service and we all agree to them blindly without reading fully what may be covered. Standards should be kept in place, but sweeping censoring based on broadly penned wording needs to change. Changing your standards based on pressure from outside sources should be resisted if no hard is being committed. Sadly, we won’t see that and many more sites may be going the way of Tumblr. Our voices may be the only thing that will shape futures of our online content.

**The views expressed in this post are my own and may not be held by any referenced party listed in this blog. **

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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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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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