Our Sapphic Sisters

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For a long time there seems to have been a division between lesbians and gay men. There have even been times in which the split between us was very hostile. Some say it is due to lesbians being against males centered culture and due to their deep ties to the feminist movements. Some say it is because gay men lost their way in the Gay Rights Movement and focused only on their causes and how it affected them. Even others say it is due to always being lumped together in one category without appreciating the differences between the individual groups. The reasons are less important, what we cannot forget is that we wouldn’t have a lot of the rights we do now if it wasn’t for our sisters in arms. Lesbians have been some of the strongest fighters we have had in our movement.

“What is a lesbian? A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. She is the woman who, often beginning at an extremely early age, acts in accordance with her inner compulsion to be a more complete and freer human being than her society – perhaps then, but certainly later – cares to allow her…” from The Woman-Identified Woman by the Radicalesbians 1970. Many of the roots of dissension between lesbians and gay men can be traced to the feminist movement and its push for women’s independence. About the time of Stonewall, lesbians had become very frustrated with the Second-Wave feminism and decided to make their own movement with Lesbian Feminism. Second-wave feminism focused on a wider range of issues: sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, and official legal inequalities. The separation from this form of feminist’s movement happened in May 1970 and the Radicalesbians were formed. The separation happened because the leaders of the feminist movements felt that lesbians were an obstacle to their goals and were labeled as the “Lavender Menace.”

May 1970, Rita Mae Brown and 20 lesbians created the Radicalesbians and took over the Congress to Unite Women, a conference about current women’s issues. They took to the stage, all wearing t-shirts that called themselves “Lavender Menace” and read to the crowd of 400 women their essay, The Woman-Identified Woman that laid out their precepts of their movement. This laid the groundwork for the movement to move forwards and gave rise to the Womyn culture, in which they worked to change phallocentric mindsets of how women should distinguish themselves from men. Before the beginnings of the Radicalesbians, the women’s movement were not accepting of lesbians. However, their fighting laid the groundwork for modern feminism movement saying that women have the right to define and express their own sexuality how they choose to. This is an oversimplification of what happened but gives the basis for the importance of this article. This organization and change based results are what led Harvey Milk appointed Anne Kronenberg as his political campaign manager. Kronenberg was an openly lesbian activist and her merits are what helped shaped the Gay Rights Movement and the beginnings of where we are today. During the beginnings of the Gay Rights Movement, the LGBT people were deeply entrenched on fighting together, but as the 70s progressed a rift started between the individual groups.

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It wasn’t until 1987 that we really saw the community pulled together in a common fight again, AIDS was the new villain to beat. The 70s was an age of decadence for gay male culture, coming off the free love trains of the 60s. Moving into the 80s our sexual exploration was still going on when a new disease started killing people. It was mostly tied to the gay male population and when it hit the media it was Ronald Reagan that called it “GRID” Gay Related Immune Deficiency or more infamously called the Gay Cancer. As the CDC struggled to find the origins of this disease and how to combat it, tens of thousands of gay men were dying from this devastating disease. At this time there were many lesbian nurses who were the ones caring for us as we laid dying in our solitary beds, where our lovers were not able to be with us. They provided the care and needed companionship as we drew our last breaths. The group ACT UP! started during this same time and staged a demonstration in New York for greater access to experimental AIDS drugs. Marion Banzhaf and Alexis Danzig were veteran members of ACT UP who helped set up this demonstration. According to broadly.vine.com,”Banzhaf and Danzig’s contributions are among those which supported social and institutional change, from accelerated drug approval to the development of formal needle exchange programs, and saved millions of lives by hastening the advent of pro-tease inhibitors in 1996.” It was our lesbian sisters that proudly showed that it takes a village to raise a village. There were many lesbians that ran shuttle services for the first ever The Names Project, the Aids Quilt event in Washington D.C. This event was a living document to those we have lost because of AIDS. The first event had many who were still suffering from the devastation of this virus and lacked the means of easily getting around this event, so our lesbian sisters aided them by providing transportation and even pushing many of the sick around to the panels they wanted to visit.

We still see a separation in bars from gays and lesbians, often times we throw insults towards each other. But it never seems we really understand why, it’s like once we come out and start hanging out with our “assigned group” we follow the hive mindset and start disliking one another. I have seen this quote and heard it many times before, “it’s not that lesbians dislike penises, it that they dislike who they are attached too.” It all comes down to how sexuality is still viewed by the entire group. The same can be said for gay men and their derision of the female body. It is almost as if because we are either lesbians or gay men that we cannot appreciate the beauty of the human body outside our attraction to those like us. While we as gay men are not attracted to the female body, we should not view it with such contention that we treat them with revulsion and contempt. We should remember the times they were there to help us along in our struggles, after all, we are similar in that we all love members of our presenting gender.

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We share in how the heterosexual community view us, mostly with disdain. Lesbians are often sexualized by heterosexual men. Pull out your smartphone and do a search on lesbians and you will probably see a heterosexual version of what lesbians should look like and sex from the same perspective. Nor are they any less apt to be told they are only homosexual because they haven’t had the right heterosexual partner. And let’s not forget that if a woman has short hair, dresses in pants and t-shirts, and doesn’t wear makeup that they are lesbians. Heterosexual men often fantasize about threesomes with two women having lesbian sex that he gets to join in on. Why? Because he has a penis and obviously, they cannot have real sex without one. Utter garbage, right? There are plenty of lesbians I am sure have had to deal with men asking them to perform for his amusement. TV shows, magazines, movies, songs, advertisements, and more use an over sexualized view of lesbians for financial gain. In more instances it is to drive a masculine reaction for financial purposes. What to increase the ratings of a TV show near the end of a season, show a lesbian kiss. Advertising uses perceived vision to increase interactions. Take the ad above, in it you see that the women are looking out at the viewer instead of themselves, this gives the perception that they are inviting the viewer in to be a part of the scene. Whereas in a normal interaction, those women would be gazing at one another and interacting with them.

We are on a knife’s edge in history, a precipice of where we have fought for and gained many things. All it will take is a misstep and we can have them taken away from us. It is time we put behind us the childishness differences that separate us and unite completely. We need the courage and strength that lesbians have shown in the movement. After all, each of us are still minorities and our fight is imperative to how we will live in the future.

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Heteronormativity of LGBTQ People

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The very core of who we are is implanted into us during our childhood. Sure, you may argue that education causes us to look out who we are, decide what is good/bad about it, and make needed changes to evolve, but keep in mind how we define those very structures is based on our upbringing, the very way our parents raised us. For LGBTQ youth, we grow up in a familial culture that doesn’t understand our very differences. Our parents teach us what they, in turn, learned from their parents. It is a perpetuated cycle of heteronormativity and most cases it’s so ingrained into us that we do not see it as anything else other than how we are raised. We are taught that we should be looking for someone of the opposite sex to get to know, settle down, marry, have kids, and start the whole cycle again. Our parents weren’t taught there was a difference, at least in a positive light, so it is seen as the only way to be and anything else is an aberration.

 

What is heteronormativity, Merriam Webster says this : heteronormative adj – of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really speak to the very nature of heteronormativity. The Medium.com goes further with a definition from other scholarly sources that says:

Ranging from organizational to interpersonal spheres, the presumptions that there are only two sexes; that it is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ for people of different sexes to be attracted to one another; that these attractions may be publicly displayed and celebrated; that social institutions such as marriage and the family are appropriately organized around different-sex pairings; that same-sex couples are (if not ‘deviant’) a ‘variation on’ or an ‘alternative to’ the heterosexual couple. Heteronormativity refers, in sum, to the myriad ways in which heterosexuality is produced as a natural, unproblematic, taken-for-granted, ordinary phenomenon.

One could argue then that this definition is very close to what most would perceive as homophobia and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Homophobia is more like the sibling of heteronormativity but louder and in your face. Heteronormativity is the more day to day, subtle process that are so pervasive to our culture and much more akin to colonialism. Essentially it is the basic form of sexual expression and the very foundations on which societies are built. It states that the only normal expression is that of a man and a woman and anything else is deviant or less than normal.

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This can be seen by the laws of the communities all of us belong to, when you see countries that punish homosexuality by violent acts, jailing, or the extreme being killing. It only reinforces that heterosexuality is the only acceptable course of life. These are unacceptable and downright inhumane, and you think this can’t happen in our country because of laws that have started passing in the last fifty years. You are right in that assumption; however, it still exists here, and it done much more subtly. Sure, it can be argued that LGBTQ people are the minority and that as such the majorities mindset shouldn’t have to change to placate such a small group. The problem is this very mindset goes beyond affecting only LGBTQ people. Also, we have to realize that not challenging this social injustice is just morally ambivalent to the status of society and wanting to create and environment where everyone is treated equally and fairly.

The very nature of heteronormativity implies the fact that a relationship is based on a ‘masculine’ and a ‘feminine’ person, as such it teaches that the men are the providers and women are the child bearers. Basically, stating that men are the top of the structure and create what is considered normal or acceptable. It creates the power struggle that allows men to believe they are the control in the situation and allowed to subjugate those below his status. It goes further to create standards of what is perceived as the sexual male and female, from how they talk, how they stand, or how they dress. It does not allow for any deviation on those standards. It only allows for a sexual desire between the male of female sex and that only those who physically appear as men can be attracted to those who physically appear as women.

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So how has this affected the LGBTQ people? It pervades our very culture and has shaped it over time, whether we want to admit it or not. For gay men it has colored our sexual proclivities. Tops and bottoms, femme and butch are a good representation of it. We have shaped our ideas of how sex should be based on ideas that were taught to us by our parents, school, and environment we have grown up with and lesbians have much the same basis. It has also created the mindset lesbians and gays cannot be friends, old mindset but still happens today. It has given us the ability to persecute drag queens and our transgender brothers and sisters. It is also the very reason why many of us view bisexuals with such disdain. We were taught that sexual attraction can only fit an either-or situation, that anything outside of that isn’t right and should be judged.

 

There are still plenty gay men who believe that you can only be a top or a bottom. I can’t count how many times I have heard the phrase that versatile means a bottom in denial. Or if they say they are top versatile that they are pretending to be something they aren’t. It is a restatement of a masculine and a feminine role and that it cannot be anything other than that. They are the same ones who argue this is my preference and just how I am, when it is more of the fact that it is what has been taught to us since we were kids. As LGBTQ people, we fight against the molds that society places upon us, to show we are what we are and not a mistake. We fight for our differences while at the same time maintaining outdated modalities that shouldn’t apply to us.

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It goes further when you hear things like ‘straight acting’ or ‘masculine’ gay male, as if they very nature of someone who isn’t a perceived idea of what it is to be male is offensive. Why is feminine deemed unworthy of affection or desire? Heterosexism typically implies that being feminine is below being masculine and therefore subpar. Again, we follow a precept of a group that we try our hardest to distance ourselves from while at the same time cow tailing to that very same group for acceptance and justification in our equality. It is the very reason we strive for marriage equality, we feel it would give us the feeling of being normal and just like the happy married straight couple who deserves all the benefits that’s comes with being a married couple.

A challenge for you; Google the word couple and look at the images that populate. At least 90% of the images returned will be of heterosexual white couples. Out of the first page of results, you may see ten images that are LGBTQ and out of the ten one is of a transgender couple. It is a proof that the majority believes that marriage is about heterosexual couples and most focus on white heterosexual couples. Don’t believe me? Watch ten episodes of “Say Yes to The Dress” and count how many minority couples are on the show. This shows the mindset of the general populace and one that we need to actively work on changing.

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Delusions of Equality

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So, You Think We Have Rights?

Were we, as LGBTQ people, tricked into supporting legalized marriage? Seems like a shocking thing to say, right? How hard is it to believe that the powers that be convinced us to change our fight for rights to something more controllable?  We have fought for our rights that the Constitution gave every American citizen long before the Stonewall riots of 1960, it was that even that solidified our movement forward. That isn’t where our history began. Somewhere between the events of 1960 and now we changed our focus on activism to push for Marriage Equality. We were tricked into believing that would make us more acceptable and would be the means in which we achieved the rights of our heteronormative counterparts. This very focus changed what we viewed as important and what we were protesting over.

1500 Rights and an Equal Symbol

The Constitution guarantees us certain inalienable rights, but did you know that those people who are licensed to officiate a marriage also have the ability to grant married couple 1500 rights that single people do not have. What makes these people so special that they can grant rights that the Constitution cannot? The answer to that is simply a piece of paper and recognition by the state in which they reside. I state this because I am legally able to perform wedding ceremonies. In Ohio, it cost me $10, that was a filing fee. Some of these rights include the ability to receive discounted rates for homeowners’, auto insurance, ability to make medical decisions about their spouse, get health insurance through their spouse’s job, Medicare, and Social Security. All things that are not given to single people. As a single person, there is a fair change that any benefit that you leave to your siblings, relatives, friends or lovers could be contested and even absorbed back into the system that you paid into. We were somehow duped into believing that these are rights deserved by marriage only. The HRC has been famous for parading out people to show how marriage equality would have prevented any issues. Take for example Edith Windsor whose 84-year-old partner died in 2009. Upon her death Edith was faced with estate taxes of $400,000 and the court case argued that if she had been married this wouldn’t have been an issue. Windsor became a poster child for marriage equality. The New York Times made Windsor out to be a slightly impoverished victim of not having the right to marry, in fact it was later proved that her net worth was over $10,000,000. HRC backed the case and continued to make sure she was the victim. During Pride season it was common to see t-shirts and posters showing “I AM Edith Windsor.”

Where was HRC and the media showing how this would affect those of lesser means and why weren’t they the example to be held up. HRC is famous for only showing the social elite in its media presentations, like for instance Chicago’s reclusive gay media mogul, Fred Eychaner who commands a large fortune and even held private meetings with President Obama. These are the ones that are chosen as our representatives for marriage equality, not the ones struggling to get by on food stamps and living in horrible conditions because landlords will not rent to LGBTQ people. What has HRC given us in return for all of this? The erasure of part of our LGBTQ history by replacing the rainbow with the blue and yellow equality symbol. A symbol to represent unification without the supposed boundaries of the rainbow, but one built only on the examples of privileged LGBTQ people.

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The Painful Truth of the Stonewall Riots*

2009 was the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots and is often used as a means to draw parallels between the Gay Rights Movement of then versus now. During that same year, a column was written by Frank Rich of The New York Times, in this column he described the events of the riots: “The younger gay men and scattered women who acted up at Stonewall on those early summer nights in 1969 had little in common with their contemporaries in the front-page political movements of the time.” The stranger truth of this is that the riots were started by drag queens and the transgendered people of the time and were the very types of people that most gay men didn’t associate with, in the first place. Even still today, these groups are marginalized by our own community. The very people who propelled the movement into the modern era are rarely in the media as who rights will affect. The group that sparked the Stonewall riots were considered the fringe of the LGBTQ lifestyle, many were prostitutes, homeless youth, effeminate young men, and butch lesbians. These were the groups most often arrested by the police and were distanced from by the early homophile groups. These groups believed that gays should assimilate into heterosexual culture, without distinction.

HIV/AIDS Shaped Health Benefit Battles

With the onset of the 1980s, activism shifted due to the increasing devastation caused by AIDS. We watched as our community was ravaged by this disease and all denied the ability to be with our loved ones as they were dying in hospitals. This was due to the fact that we were not seen as family members or couples. The early roots of marriage equality were sparked from these sad affronts. Why were only heterosexual couples given this “special” right to be with their loved ones in the hospital. We were told that we did not matter because we were not related, and our love was illegal. As so many gay men were dying, it was our lesbian sisters who took up the cause for pushing through legislation about healthcare reform and how AIDS research was handled. The AIDS Quilt was put into place to memorialize those that we had lost to this monster of a disease. Still, we were not allowed to be with our loved ones in their last struggles. The fight for marriage started. In the same article by Frank Rich intimated that had gays been bestowed the rights of marriage unto them, the struggle with AIDS would not have been so bad. That somehow our suffering only happened because we did not have marriage equality. The truth is that healthcare reform should have come to singles and not just married couples. There should not have been the division of rights that would have prevented us from having adequate health care coverage or the ability for our loved ones to be by our side

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Is Healthcare The Goal?

As of now, it was argued that gay marriage would be a way to extend healthcare to our lovers, through the union of marriage. Our current administration is working to subvert this very right granted by the union. If you haven’t been paying attention, Trump is pushing for the HHS (Health and Human Services) to change how healthcare is doled out to the masses. He is working to make sure that anything about gender is removed from the language and working to allow healthcare workers the ability to turn away patients that are against their religious beliefs. So, the principles that groups like HRC and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have convinced us to work towards are on the verge of being taken away because of religion. So much for separation of church and state. This is the very proof that we have worked all the years for a goal that in effect means absolutely nothing. We should have been working on making sure that healthcare was accessible by all people, regardless of their standing as a couple. We should have been working to make sure that education reform was put into place that would change how the masses view minorities

Gay Marriage, The Cure All*

In 2008 there was an uptake in youth suicides due to the effects of relentless bullying by peers based on a presumption of the youth being gay. This led to many gays and straight advocates of making an assumption that the legalization of gay marriage would have an effect of lowering the stigma of being gay and thereby aiding in lowering the rates of suicide and making queer and queer identified teens appear more normal. What actually can be inferred from this assumption is that all social problems are directly tied to marriage and the rights that union bestows upon people. It would seem more logical that proper education and inclusion training would do better to diminish this negative outcome more than marriage equality would have an effect upon. In December of 2009, Melissa Harris-Lacewell wrote about her lesbian niece and the suffering she endured at her school. It was so bad that she eventually transferred to another school to escape it. Harris-Lacewell argued that marriage equality should be passed to ensure her niece did not have to go through this trauma. Her arguments state that marriage equality would make life easier for the LGBTQ people. The statistics for LGBTQ youth that attempt suicide are staggering and those numbers are from those who feel they cannot bear to live in a homophobic world. They experience bullying from their peers, negativity from the family situation, and constantly being told how they are wrong or sinful. They already live in a word that tells them how they will not accept any form of deviation from the norm. Pushing for marriage equality is telling our LGBTQ people that conformity is the only way to survive in this world and that any form of nonconformity can and should lead to death.

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Union of Individuality

I am not opposed to anyone wanting to spend the rest of their lives with the ones they love. Each person needs to make that decision on their own. The history of marriage shows that it is more about keeping wealth and power in a given family, as opposed to being about love. It is a union that is sanctioned by a State and Federal Government contract that gives you rights that should be available for all people. Perhaps we should have worked to use different wording that could be used to express the love we say we are joining over. Our fight should be for achieving the same rights that others have, not change the fact that we are different from others. That is the key to all humanity, no one is like another person. Celebrate what makes us who we are, embrace the differences, and love the ones that can lift us up in spite of them.

*Against Equality: Queer Revolution Not Mere Inclusions” Edited by Ryan Conrad copyright 2014

 

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

LGBTQ Inclusivity

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You will spend, on average, 90,000 hours of your life at work. 90,000 hours, can you really grasp that. So why is it that a place we spend so much of our time at that we feel that we do not need to be that comfortable doing it? 46% of LGBTQ employees have not disclosed to their bosses that they are, in fact, LGBTQ. In some cases, it could cause you to be fired if you live in one of the states that have not passed any form of protection laws. Some of you may argue as to why should you disclose to your job that you are LGBTQ.  Saying things like it won’t affect your job or that it isn’t needed to be known about your personal life. Remember that you spend 90,000 hours of your life working. Chances are they already know things about your personal life, like if you are stressed, sick, having hardships at home, and other aspects of your life. So why should something that is such a fundamental part of who you are not be discussed.

There are genuine fears of disclosing your identity at work, that is true. This is also why inclusivity training is fundamental to every organization. After all, the workforce is constantly changing and any business that cannot keep up with that change will likely not succeed. At one point, under the Obama administration, we all felt we had some form of protection under Title VII. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age (over 40), and disability. Even worse is that it still includes identification that, in many cases, is proven to be an outdated for of differentiation of people. Sex is being used to define the gender you are assigned at birth and the Government is pushing standards that will allow sex to be used to define only two options of either male or female and be the definition of what someone is. Sex simply lets the anatomy of a person be the defining factor of who they are, and we can find plenty of examples where how a person is born can cause issues when it comes to just using anatomy as a definition. To discuss all of this would require a post focused on just that and for the means of inclusivity training, we will have to bypass it for now. But the transgender bathroom debate, that has been a focus for a few years now, has been the driving force behind workplace inclusivity. This is helping companies reassess the workplace and how it relates to its LGBTQ workers.

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A 2018 Accenture study polled 22,000 men and women in at least 34 countries were asked what factors were most important to thrive and advance in their workplace. Forty factors were identified and some of them were the freedom to be innovative and creative,” employees never being asked to “change their appearance to conform to company culture,” and employees feeling “comfortable reporting sex discrimination/sexual harassment(s) to the company.” The study also shows that LGBTQ people are more likely to advance and feel more satisfied in companies where these forty factors are in place. Forbes Online  quoted Ellyn Shook  saying: “It’s critical that companies create a truly human environment where people can be successful both professionally and personally—where they can be who they are and feel they belong, every day.”

If the government will not be the driving factor for inclusivity and prevention of discrimination, then it is left to us and the companies we work for to foster these practices. It should be less of a legal have to and more of a moral obligation. Businesses can do this by implementing inclusive policies and procedures such as, same sex benefits. They can also deal with discrimination head on and not hesitate to engage employees who engage in discriminatory jokes or treating coworkers with mutual respect. Deal with this swiftly and consistently. Companies should also make sure that there is ongoing and consistent training to foster an environment of inclusivity. That training should focus on transphobia, homophobia, and LGBTQ issues. LGBTQ ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) should be implemented. These allow a feeling of inclusion and gives a place to turn to discuss issues in a safe environment. And to go an extra step, companies could support an LGBTQ cause or charity or even go as far as participating in a community event.

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

I am sure there are many out there that will say this goes beyond what any company should do for a small group of people. My counter to this is it really that much to ask? Many companies already do this for groups that heteronormative people engage in. Many companies donate to local churches or schools that their employees belong to. There are sports teams for their employees. Many companies already have groups that are geared towards employee ethnicities and parents, so it shouldn’t be such a stretch to include the LGBTQ employees, as well. It is just another means to create an environment for all people that work for a company. No one group is more important than the next, as it takes a community to raise a barn. So, making sure that all people feel comfortable in their workplace is only beneficial to the company as a whole.

We must, also, not equate inclusion with conformity, simply because we want the same rights that our heteronormative counterparts have doesn’t mean we should be so quick to accept their way of life. The rights that we have fought for are a means for us to be who we are, wholly and independently. Our struggle for rights has been built off the backs of the feminism, civil rights, and free love movements. Each one has provided essential means to help us progress in our fight, to foster ideals and give avenues to follow. After all, our issues are not so far removed from the plight of others, since we compromise each ethnicity and gender. So, access to equal healthcare for all is just as important as anti-hate crime legislation. All of which are freedoms that should not be based on the conformity of the act of marriage. Inclusion is a means to show that all LGBTQ people have the same inalienable rights, whether married or not, Caucasian or other, as does our heteronormative counterparts. These rights should be given, as the Constitutions mandates, without having to change the essence of what we are to fit into a Legislative ideal of what it means.

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Inclusion training is about being able to understand and accept the differences of the group being discussed. It is a means to relate to them on a common ground and better understand the points of view they come from, as they are uniquely and vastly different than another. In regard to businesses, it is a means to ensure they remain competitive in a changing environment. In regard to schools, it is a way to understand the children in the facility you work at and teach others to be open and tolerant of those that are different from themselves. By teaching these principles, we can change the climate of our culture, whether a government is in support of it or not. Our change will, in time, force the very change of the en masse organization.

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Are You A Friend of Dorothy?

Let’s be perfectly honest here, we all do this daily. We modify the words we say, the tone we speak, and our body postures based on the people we are communicating with. All of us. When you are at home with your loved ones you are more relaxed, and your affectations are looser, and you feel more at ease with yourself. If you are in public or at work, you worry more about what people may perceive you as, so you hold back on things you say or pay more attention to how you present yourself. Some of it, we are taught as children. This is how you act professionally, or this is what you say in polite conversation. For some of us, these are the very things that can keep us safe in mixed company or its things we say that only our friends understand. No matter what it is, it is call “Code Switching.”

 

 

Code Switching – the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation. It typically refers to someone who speaks more than one language, but in modern times has come to also include types of language like body language, or elements that define a particular community. It is most often used as a means of fitting in. Think about it, when you are out with your friends, all sorts of topics come up and many of them aren’t things for polite conversation. Hell, the rest of society isn’t used to hearing us talk about our sexual proclivities, so we tone down some of the words and conversations we engage in. We all have varying levels of how we talk to one another, from truly Qween to pushing butch. It is all rooted from the same place, safety and acceptance, but the question is why?

 

When I was a younger gayby we would call it a nellyectomy. Basically, it would be used to describe someone in this way, “He is so butch at work, but when he walks into a gay bar it’s like he had a nellyectomy and flamed on like the human torch.” It is a good description of what code switching is like. We also used phrases like “are you a friend of Dorothy” as a means of identifying ourselves to one another. It of course refers to Judy Garland’s legendary role as Dorothy Gale in “The Wizard of Oz.” While not easily usable in “straight” conversation, it is a way to self-identify. Even saying something as simple as “I’m out” was a code-switching phrase. It’s one that can transcend the group you are with so that those in the know can pick up on you identifying as LGBTQ without others easily picking up on it. Well maybe not as true today as it was ten or twenty years ago.

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Most of the language that LGBTQ and specifically gay men use comes from the gay African American culture. A prime example of this would be the movie “Paris Is Burning.” This movie shows the ball culture of New York city’s African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender community. Many of the words that have become so popular in our culture have originated there and is also one of the ancestors of modern drag. To sum up why it is important, let’s look at “Gurl! On Code Switching When Your Black and Gay”  Madison Moore states “We all need to use language to survive, but code switching is about language used to create bonds and to convey secret information in plain sight.”

 

Prior to the Stonewall riots, LGBTQ people were much more conscious of modes of dress and terminology when they were looking for others of our kind. An example of code switching at this time would be dressing in a suit and tie to match your job and when you were heading out to pick up someone, you would switch to the “Castro Clone” mode of dress. This typically would be Levi’s jeans, white t-shirt, maybe a leather jacket, and some form of boots. This was a mode of dress common in the Castro from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. See the picture above or think Freddie Mercury from Queen. It was typically an over representation of the hetero culture. The other above picture shows a man in running shorts, white socks, and gym shoes, another example of “Castro Clone.”

 

“We’re looking at code-switching a little more broadly. Many of us subtly, reflexively change the way we express ourselves all the time. We’re hop-scotching between different cultural and linguistic spaces and different parts of our own identities — sometimes within a single interaction From NPR Codeswitch: Frontiers of Race, Culture and Ethnicity

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It becomes second nature, for the most part. It does for me, anyway. When I am at work my whole mannerisms change. While I don’t hide being gay, I do tend to “butch it up.” I’m the IT guy and I want the company I work for to take me seriously, so I butch up my vocabulary and drop my voice an octave or two. It seems to convey an impression of authority and knowledge. It doesn’t change my knowledge, but as LGBTQ we are taught that heteronormative society doesn’t relate well to us in any position of power or influence. My knowledge over the subject matter doesn’t change, but the tone in which I convey something to people can create a perception that I don’t know what I am trying to impress. Many people can’t see beyond a sexual preference when it comes to LGBTQ. It begins and stops with who we sleep with, for them.

 

“Several friends and I who identify as queer or somewhere on the transmasculine spectrum, have learned the ins and outs of shopping for clothes alongside cis men.  We’ve joked that men don’t take a lot of time perusing the options in the sock and underwear aisle.  They know their size, they don’t care much about the color.  You go in, grab a package of undershirts and boxer briefs and get out.” Many transgender men feel this way and is their approach to day to day shopping, according to the article “Queering the Line.” Things like this can make day to day normality a struggle for LGBTQ people.

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The reality is that these differences do not really matter in the day to day. How we choose to dress, words we use, and body posturing doesn’t change who we are or the things we know. Unfortunately, much of the public doesn’t see it that way, they see the differences. To them that means not the same and therefore less than they are. Inclusivity is important for understanding how to deal with someone and would help in getting over the code-switching issues. So, how do you code switch on a daily basis?

 

Were We Standing Still?

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Photo by Tomu00e1u0161 Gal on Pexels.com

Many times, it feels that we have let the LGBTQ movement pass us by. Are you wondering why I would say that, so do I. Coming through the 90s, as a young gay man, I had such high hopes about our future. At the time, the man I loved proposed to me and there was only one place you could legally marry. Even after that it wasn’t recognized anywhere, so it almost seemed a trivial act. Between my nights filled with drinking and sex, I thought about where we were headed and the hopes of being accepted as a gay man. I wouldn’t have to worry about some “good ole boy” cornering me and beating the shit out of me. I wouldn’t have to worry about getting kicked out of an apartment or losing a job, again, for being gay. I had dreams, like so many of us did. The problem is, we failed the movement. We let others dictate to us what is acceptable for us to be happy and somewhere along the way we swallowed that medicine with the spoonful of sugar they gave us.

Homogeneity: the quality or state of being all the same or all the same kind.  This is what we were tricked into accepting. We were convinced that we needed to be the same as our heteronormative counterparts, not celebrate the differences that make us who we are. On UC Press Blog (https://www.ucpress.edu/blog/36851/gay-pride-should-be-seen-as-an-aspiration-not-a-settled-accomplishment-martin-duberman/) is an excerpt from the author Martin Duberman who wrote the book “Has the Gay movement failed?” who states “As I’ve already itemized (the greater mutuality and satisfaction that characterize our coupled relationships, the fact that gay men exhibit greater empathy and altruism than do heterosexual men, etc.), there’s much to affirm and even celebrate about gay life.” What he is asserting is that none of us are the same, each and every person is “queer” in their own way, there is no normal. So, for LGBTQ to be pushing for normality is the very opposite of what it means for us to be ourselves. We seemed to have forgotten that we were fighting for acceptance of who we are, not to be harassed for our difference, and the ability to live our lives our way. We were duped into thinking it was better to be accepted as normal. We settled for “Gay is Good.”

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Duberman goes further to say “If the “source” of our isolation and depression lies in society’s lethal mistreatment of us—and it does—why don’t we, as they did in GLF (Gay Liberation Front), wake up politically, mobilize our collective strength and actively assail the engulfing walls of prejudice that enclose us—and which do show signs of weakening and decay. Controversial though the findings are regarding LGBTQ “mental health”, one conclusion is obvious: Gay Is Not Yet Good Enough. The suffering goes on, and at high levels—and Gay Pride should be seen as an aspiration, not a settled accomplishment. . .”

We have been convinced that we do not need our Gay neighborhoods, our bars, our own programming, community centers, and eventually our Pride celebrations. Too many times have I heard our LGBTQ brothers and sisters say that we don’t need these things, I challenge them with why the feel this way and their response is to talk of the progress we have made. Yes, thank the stars, we have made progress, but by no means is our fight over. This is the very time we need to circle the wagons and think about what is best for our forward movement. We need to rethink the grass roots involvements our communities give us. Don’t shy away from the gay bars, they are as instrumental to us now as they have been. I am not addressing or beginning to talk about the topics of substance abuse. We need to go back to the beginnings of what our Pride Parades were for, the activism. We need to support our Community Centers and our people.

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Many times, we say, “the young generation” and this is a misnomer, it implies ageism. What really is being said or even referred to are those that are new to accepting who they are and doesn’t matter their physical age. Though, younger LGBTQ people were not there to witness, even second hand, the trials and struggles of the earlier fights. You can be 50 and just accepting that you are LGBTQ and still be unaware of much of LGBTQ history. Each has its own disparities and not everyone will or wants to be an activist. They simply want to be and coming out to themselves was enough. That is your right, as it is for those who feel they need to push the limits and not just accept the status quo.

It can be hard to understand that we are not in a safe place, if you don’t have a history to compare it to. You see where we are now, and it is all that you know. We have the right to marry and many states do have laws in place that prevent us from losing our job or house because of our identity. These few gains do not make us safe or equal with anyone else, but many of us have come to believe that where we are is enough for them. But the slope we are on is very slippery. We have seen this year that the current administration has banned transgender from joining the military. But yet, many of us still cling to the idea that we need to be like out counterparts and not stand out. For me it is too much like going back into the closet. I prefer the accept and celebrate what makes LGBTQ people different from our heteronormative counterparts.

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

All too often we put our support behind groups that do not always shave our best interests at heart. In the years of the 70s and 80s, many gays backed the Advocate as the only magazine that supported the causes we were fighting for. What was found out was more that they only fought for those of a more privileged position and many times tried to pacify who LGBT were. HRC would be another that followed the same path. HRC was big for pushing for the right to marry and once it was achieved hasn’t really went much further to push the boundaries. All too often they seem to cater to the right or just skirt the ideas of safety as not to offend anyone and draw too much attention. As recent as 2014 HRC was still supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which still gives more footing to “religious conscience” as a means for employers to discriminate against LGBTQ. All other LGBTQ groups, accept the Log Cabin Republicans, have pulled support for this Act. They are more concerned with offering praise to Republicans who on a few occasions stick their necks out, instead of supporting and pushing for more with the Democrats who have always lobbied for us.

It is left to the local radial LGBTQ groups to fight for our basic rights. These are the groups that are fighting how to cope with transgender violence, provide support for the homeless LGBTQ youth, and the inhumane judicial system. This is where the fights should be focused, however the larger groups aren’t there offering the support needed for them. This is history repeating itself. All of the strides we have made are from the small groups that became mobile and forward thinking. These were the ones that were of the people and understood that embracing what makes us different is why we should be fighting.

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Perhaps it is a time to rethink the LGBTQ movement and our priorities. Or is it that we need to call our leaders into check and make sure they are fighting for our best interests. Closer to the point is that we should be thinking of what is important to us and making that known to our leaders and those in our community. Going forward, will we continue to let me movement pass us by, or will we take hold and steer it where it should go.

 

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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