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.

 

Cruise Control

“Knock three times on the ceiling, if you want me. Twice on the pipe if the answer is no…” The art of cruising has evolved so much over the years. The signals gay men once used to express interest are all but a lost art form. Mention hanky code and most may think you mean some kind of public acceptance of wiping your nose. With the onset of technology, we are able to dial down someone within a few hundred yards as opposed to carefully displaying ourselves and watching to see if there is interest. Taking a look at how we meet and even entertain ourselves seems important now that Tumblr is disappearing.

Our world today is fairly easy. We can whip out our smartphones and pull up the most recent iteration of a cruisy app to find other gay men around us. From there we can plan a hookup or possibly start a relationship. In the recent past it was a bit more convoluted. The 1920s was an era of decadence, one that had many bars and clubs owned by gay and lesbian men. As the economy crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s happened, many things changed. Many felt that the openness and experimentation of the 20s led to the current state of affairs. Laws were put into place that prohibited any gay person from congregation in public places. The once bars, restaurants, and cabarets ran by so many were not put in jeopardy. Establishments that employed them or allowed to them to gather where threatened with losing their liquor licenses. Movies were no longer allowed to show gay characters or themes.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

During the 1930s, you also saw in increase of New York City Police using a 1923 statute that made it a criminal act for one gay male to invite another to have sex. This started the sting operations that haunted gay men cruising for sex for so long. These changes forced us to try to find new ways that we could meet each, adopting modes of dress, speech and even style. So how did that happen, you may ask. Well jewelry was a big indicator, wearing a single ear piercing in a certain ear was one of the easiest. Also the adoption of a pinky ring was another means to let others know. Around the 1960s, the Hanky Code was invented. This was an elaborate system of color, patterns, and what pocket to wear it from, all to give the viewer the knowledge if you were a top or a bottom or if like liked a certain fetish.

While these were great, sometimes it was not conducive for all men who were looking to hookup. So places became popular. The term “cruisy spot” was used to indicate a place where men who were looking for sex could meet other men. These places were prone to police raids and also became targets for violence. Bathhouses became other areas for this type of activity. Here you could carry your key or towel a certain way to show others your interest. Video booths were also popular places for the quick turn of trade. Video booths gave the added ability of purely anonymous sex and created a larger fetish scene of glory holes.

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During the 1960s, mainly in Britain, the language of Palori was used as a means of speaking to other gay men without being detected. One would be able to carry on a whole conversation or be able to use is sparsely so that others may be able to pick up on it. Many of the words used during that era have stayed with us through the ages. Butchto mean masculine or masculine lesbian, Chickento mean young person, Cottaging to refer to sex in public restrooms, and Fruitto mean gay man. Our very history has been shaped by the means of the past.

 

As the modern era approached, we saw the Internet start to become a large presence in the lives people. The LGBTQ people were quick to embrace it. I harken back to the days of the AOL chat rooms as a means of finding guys in a specific area. It was great if you were in a new town, you could log into a regional area or even city room to meet up. This lead way to sites like MySpace, LifeOut, and other early social media sites, becoming popular means of meeting and hooking up. The days of Craigslist were not far behind, gaining popularity and growing across the country. This caused many of the earlier means of identification to pass into memory, leaving things like the Hanky Code to be used in bars or leather clubs.

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Photo by Chrysostomos Galathris on Pexels.com

As technology improved and became smaller, our phones became the way for hooking up. Combining the GPS feature and mobility allows members to find like-minded people anywhere they are in the world. Even today we still see usage of terms like bears, twinks, tops, bottoms, bully dyke, baby dykes, acdc, and bibi. Many apps have come and gone over the years, leaving the tried and true like Grindr, Scruff, and Growlr to serve most gay men on the go. Even these platforms are starting to change and evolve more.

We have also used the web and apps as a repository for our arts, history and porn. Apps like Tumblr allow members to curate content they like and share it with an audience that follows them, whether it be content they have found from other places or their own productions. As with much of our history, it is often times viewed through the outside lens of being obscene and many of these sites have very short life spans. Tumblr was started in 2007 to be a micro blogging platform. Allowing bloggers to post multimedia and short posts in a more bite sized consumable format. Tumblr gave an open format for blog owners to post adult related material, but if it was substantial amount posted that their blog be labeled as adult. The terms of service always stated that sexually explicit videos would not be allowed, but embedding code as a redirect could easily circumvent this.

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Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

It is stated by outside sources that 22% of all traffic in and out of Tumblr has pornographic related content and that 16% of the blogs were solely NSFW related. While these numbers seem relatively small, they are the largest focus for the heat the site takes, As of December 17, 2018, Tumblr has issued that all adult content will be removed from their site, with a few exceptions/explanations to this rule. This comes from the long-standing battles about the amount of adult content and recent allegations of child pornography on the site. Adult content aside, this will be a pretty significant loss to the LGBTQ history. Tumblr was useful for many transgender people posting information about the process and life.  It was a means for many LGBTQ artists to showcase their art and express their views. Many of these will fall into the guidelines that Tumblr is now enforcing and will cease to exist on a social platform.

We have changed our ways of identifying ourselves throughout the years, we have adapted to society and technology as our needs saw fit. We have left outdated methods behind us or incorporated them in to new ways of usage. The lesson is that we will adapt to the changes, it may be difficult but we always find a way. How will the future change our interactions?

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It Puts The Lotion On It’s Skin…

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Bear with me, as this will be a long road…

I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite, albeit chilling, movies, Silence of the Lambs. In it, the villain, James Gumb, also known as Buffalo Bill, battles with the issue of seeing himself differently than the rest of the world does. He spends the majority of the movie stalking and killing overweight women in the attempts to make his one “woman suit.” He did this to change his outward appearance to align with how he saw himself internally. The point I am making is that most of us feel uncomfortable in our own skins, at some point. We spend our lives trying to change it in varying ways, good and bad. Society perpetuates the myth of what a person should look, feel, or be and then turns around and tells us that we should comfortable with who and what we are.

This is a hard post to write, how can I sit here and tell you to be positive about yourself when I, myself, and not very positive about my body. I do feel that every soul is beautiful in it’s own way and that each body is beautiful. That is great and all, but that doesn’t speak to those that feel as if they were born in the wrong body. It wouldn’t be fair of me to speak about the transgender issues of it, not being transgender. So, primarily I will be focusing about body issues We have seen an increase in body positivity promotion for women, more plus sized models are entering the industry. Clothing lines are realizing that women of all sizes buy their merchandise. These are all good step, even if they are small steps. Body positivity with men has also started being pushed forward. I can say that I feel this is sometimes underserved, but often times media focusing on men first.

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Being a larger gay male, I am reminded daily how body image is thrust into our faces. The ideal gay male is perceived as lean to muscular, young, fair-haired, perfect teeth, abs for the gods, and cake for days. Realistically, that is probably closer to 1% of the gay male population. Most days I wake up with an ok feeling about my body even able to lapse into a few moments of not feeling repulsive. I also am somewhat of an opportunistic nudist, what that means is few people know that side of me and I only take advantage of it when I know that no one is around or possibly would drop in on me. Recently, on a hot, humid summer day, I sent the better art of the day sans clothing. I have to admit; it is always a bit freeing when you can remove the restricted confines of clothing. I went about my cleaning chores, listening to music, and even lounging watching TV and just enjoying not wearing clothes.

That was all fine and great until I happen to be in the bathroom sweeping and catch a side glance in the mirror of myself. Then my mind starts working and all I see is the negatives. I want to hide and swaddle myself in some draping fabric that hides everything that I do not like, I romanticize about my younger days and that I was smaller than I am now, which isn’t entirely truth. I also look at myself and think how much weight I have gained in the last two years, until I look back on pictures from then and realize that it hasn’t been that much. This only makes me feel worse. Why isn’t it that I can’t look at myself with love and acceptance?

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We hold ourselves up to ridiculous standards that change every decade. From the late 1890s to the modern era, body image of men and women have went up and down. From curvy being desirable, thin and trim, taking its place, back to curvy, and only to be replaced with waif like images for women and absurd body proportions for men. This leads to fad dieting and surgery to try to correct these changing patterns, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the mental health issues this can cause. I could sit here saying that we all should get over it and just accept ourselves as we are and love our bodies, but that wouldn’t be truthful.  Logically, I agree with it, though.

Each of bodies is beautiful and unique in their own way. They are amazing creations that should be celebrated and worshipped. But we don’t get that luxury because daily we are beat down with what others perceive we should look like. It isn’t us that need to change; it is the minds of others that need to change. They need to understand that we are beautiful. They should be working with us in that acceptance and celebration. It is they that should learn the love of who we are and instead of telling us we aren’t good enough.

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Since it is others that have forced this ill-conceived mindset of beauty, it is also up to them to change how they view the world. Granted, that is as much a hard sell as it is to say that we should ignore what other people think of us and love ourselves. We also have to realize that this ideal of perfection isn’t something that is completely attainable. I say we, when in fact I am also trying to make myself realize that very thing. I am 45, my body doesn’t bounce back that way it did when I was 15 or even 25. I can go through the regiments that many Hollywood stars do to make themselves appear more youthful and slim, but those also can be just as dangerous for the body. I know there are more important changes I need to make than whether I wear a size 30 in jeans or a medium shirt.

Things that have helped me in my acceptance are being nude more often. Sitting or standing in front of a mirror and just trying to look at myself without the lens of judgment, without saying or thinking anything It’s hard, some of the hardest thing you may ever do. The first few minutes are always us given ourselves scathing looks of judgment and scrutinizing what we see for the flaws we think we have. Focusing on something that stands out to us because we notice it every day. It is hard to shut your mind off and just take in what you see without judgment. I know that trying to quiet my mind and just be is VERY difficult. There are many things, physically, that I am self conscious over.

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American isn’t exactly the land of body acceptance either. The majority still passes judgment on those who frequent naturist resorts. They are perceived as perverts and as a den of sexual deviance. We are taught not to see the pulchritude of the naked body and to judge anyone who prefers to not be clothed. I’m not suggesting that you run out and join a nudist colony to help, because they can be just as bad. You can see ads of them promoting body positivity, but the people in the ads don’t reflect everyone, while often times their memberships are closer to the reality of life. They show beautiful late 20s to early 40s nude people with lean physiques, but you often hear members complain that the average nudist is 50+ and not the perfect body. We as the, general public, wouldn’t ever get to see that as we would probably not sign up because we don’t match the advertisements of the resorts.

How do we learn to be less harmful to ourselves? It is hard with how society reflects on beauty and attraction. There are not shortcuts to get there and I can’t tell you how to be more accepting of yourself, hell I cannot be more accepting of myself. But each day I try to love myself a little more I try to look beyond the things I cannot change and hold myself to my standards and not those imposed upon me. I fail, A LOT, but I pick myself up and try to carry on another day, another battle won no matter how small. My only hope is that you do the same.

 

“You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

–Excerpt for “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

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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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Those We Have Lost

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When I was a young gay kid, before I came out and understood what I was, I hadn’t had much connection with a LGBTQ community. Keep in mind that when I was a child that was late 1970s through the 1980s. The only LGBTQ people that I even knew were two women who lived together that were friends of my mother. Even with going to their houses often, I don’t think I ever understood the dynamic of their relationship. I remember hearing about the “gay cancer” and GRID when I was young and it was still distant to me. Those were dark times.

Millions of gay men were dying due to this illness and the President didn’t even use the term AIDS until 1985. It took the death of his personal long time friend Rock Hudson and the disease to start affecting the heterosexual community before those words were mentioned. It was in 1985 that the President had talked about children with AIDS being allowed or not allowed to continue public education. Reagan had even prevented the Surgeon General C. Everett Koop from speaking out about AIDS. In 1986n when he was pushed by many public officials to address the epidemic, he had expressed how he wanted it to be in line with conservative policies. However, Koop’s speech was more geared towards AIDS education.

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The point being that my experiences was limited prior to coming out. When I first started going to the bars near my hometown, it was an eye opener. And that was where I met Shawn, the first man I ever had a serious relationship with. He bought me a drink and had a waiter deliver it to me. It wasn’t until later than the waiter asked me if I wanted to meet the person that bought me the drink. When he walked me to meet Shawn and our eyes met, I was hooked. We left together later and went back to his place. Not once was I ever filled with apprehension. Until that very night, I had only fooled around with a few guys and would be considered a virgin by most standards. We talked for a long time at his place and had a few drinks. We both were getting very into one another when he said he had something to tell me that could change things.

He told me that he was HIV+ and had been since 1988, about seven years at the time. He looked at me with tear filled eyes as he told me this statement. He was sharing the very darkest parts of himself to someone he had just met in a bar and hoping against hope that they wouldn’t reject him. He looked at me with anticipation, where seconds were drawn out into lifetimes. I looked at him and smiled and said it doesn’t bother me. Shocked, he asked me if I understand what he had said to me. I said, “Yes, you told me that you were HIV+.” and that I understood that it meant he had an infection that very likely would take his life, but I still didn’t care. He asked me if the idea of sex with an HIV+ person was scary, I said it was a little. But we would be using protection and always being cognizant of the risks, so that would help. And sex always has risks; you never know whom you are meeting and what they may be infected with. At least he was being honest upfront. I told him I would be tested often to ensure I always knew my status. But ultimately, it did not change my feelings for him. We spend the first night together and it was magical for me. Not once did his status effect what I felt. The next morning he asked if I would come back that night after I got off work. I said yes.

When I got to his house, he had prepared a dinner for us. We talked more and then he said he had some more things he wanted to share with me. He put on the movie “It’s My Party” and rearranged some things on his coffee table. If you haven’t seen It’s My Party, the short version is that it is a movie set during the height of the AIDS epidemic and one man who decides to host a party to tell his friends and family his decision to not let AIDS ravage him, but instead take his own life. The movie showcases people helping other AIDS patients end their lives in a dignified fashion. The rearrangement of the coffee table was to showcase Chicken Soup for the Soul books about being HIV+ and assisted suicide. At the end of the movie we talked about the books and he asked me if I felt if I would ever be able to help someone pass. Honestly I didn’t know how to respond. I told him that in my heart I wasn’t sure that I could, but we could talk about it.

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We met February 14th 1996 and I moved in with him a month later. I knew this was the man I wanted to be with. I stayed with him until February 23th 2003, when he died of complications of pneumonia due to HIV. I was with him through the horrible AZT cocktail years. The night sweats and terrors, the lack of appetite and loss of weight. I watched him take handfuls of pills daily and he never lost his upbeat attitude. The seven years we were together were the most I had ever grown in my life, in a short amount of time. He taught me about LGBTQ history and to be proud of what I was.

His passing was the hardest thing I have yet to experience and it is still burned into my memory. We had moved to North Carolina the last few years of his life, he wanted to be where he felt most at home. The three years we were there I watched his health start to decline. What I did not know what that he had decided that he didn’t want to take his meds any longer. The newest cocktail that he was taking really made him feel horrible. He didn’t have energy, he didn’t want to get out of bed, and he had no interest in most things, sex included. He would go through bouts of depression and just didn’t want to deal with it any longer. After the first year living in North Carolina, I suspected he probably had stopped his meds. But he always told me that when he knew his body had enough, he would not fight it anymore. For most of those three years he was happy, we had our own place in the country with just about two acres of land. A woodlot surrounded us on all sides, so we didn’t even see our neighbors.

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The last year there, I watched him lose a lot of weight quickly. Shawn was never a big guy. When I first met him, he was 5’8 and maybe all of 110 lbs., if that. The last year of his life he weighed just about 90lbs. I knew the end was coming. I came home from work to find him struggling to breath and I immediately freaked out. Hysteria swept over me and I didn’t know how to respond. All I remember was begging him not to leave me. I dropped to my knees crying holding his hand. Our eyes met, he squeezed my hand as he took his last breaths and all I could think about was that I failed him in being able to help him die on his own terms. His eyes were somber; he squeezed my hand one more time as he took his last breath. I felt a shiver go through him and me I knew he was gone. I was distraught and didn’t know what to do. I grabbed the phone, dialed 911 to get them there, and explained he was HIV+. They arrived shortly after and tried to resuscitate him. He was gone.

Saturday December 1st is World AIDS Day. It is a day of remembering those we have lost to this horrible disease. It’s a day for raising awareness of AIDS to those of us around us. In this era where we have preventative measures, we often forget that this disease still claims many people each year. At this very moment there are 36.7 million people, worldwide, living with HIV or AIDS. Since 1984, over 35 million have died from HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Remember that the PREP drugs are not reason to have unprotected sex and still should be used in conjunction with condoms. Don’t put your life into a drug when you are dealing with a virus that has adapted to the majority of the treatments that have come along. Your life and the lives of those you come into contact with are too precious to take chances. Be smart.

For further information about World AIDS Day please check out their link WorldAIDSDay.org. Remember al the lives we have lost to this vicious disease, for their lives have given us the advances we have now. Remember them with pride, honor, and love.

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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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