Toxic Avengers

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What we have to realize is that we currently live in a world that categorically is choosing to take away rights from marginalized communities. You have to understand this based on what we are seeing around us in the media. We cannot sit by and let rich, old, white, heterosexual men make the decisions that affect our very livelihood. Are these the people we want deciding if women have the capacity to make correct choices for their bodies, if being transgender is considered human, or who should and should not have rights. We have fought wars over similar principles.

We have a person in office that cannot speak the truth on any topic that comes out of his mouth. During his campaign, he stood on a stage waving a flag handed to him by someone who was supposed to be of the LGBTQ community stating that Trump was for LGBTQ rights, as shown in the picture below. The two years he has been in office has been one action after another that has shown he has no consideration for any LGBTQ person. By March of this year, the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) had stripped any words of gender from its online documents. Now we know that there is a memo circulating about how this administration wants to make it legal for them to decide what is or is not gender. These same old, rich, white, heterosexual men want to be able to legally decide what gender is to be defined as.

Image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds up a rainbow flag with "LGBT's for TRUMP" written on it at a campaign rally in Greeley

If this memo were to become a new policy it would allow Title IX to have a redefinition that could affect more than just healthcare. We could see it reach into the educational system, public access, job discrimination, and into the legal system. Title IX states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Children, who identify, as a different gender than assigned at birth, would no longer have access to restroom, single sex class education, locker rooms, or any other access based on gender. It would remove any protection that transgender would have for discrimination in their jobs or housing. If you are transgender, it would allow anyone to refuse you service or reasonable accommodation due to someone else’s beliefs or definitions of gender.

We have already seen this administration push to the Armed Services not actively recruit transgender people to serve openly in the military. Four courts had turned down this ban, but the administration enacted it in March of this year. It says that any transgender person cannot serve in the military, openly. The only exception is if they were diagnosed under gender dysphoria, however, there are very few actually fell under this diagnosis. To be able to enlist you cannot have starting any transition process, so in essence you have to enlist as the gender you were born under and must continue to serve as that same gender. If you are transgender and have a diagnosis and are currently serving you are fine but if you do not have the diagnosis there is no clear directive of how it may affect you. In the past we have seen punishments like”lack of promotions, denial of deployment, forced discharge for pretextual reasons used against those that didn’t conform to popular mindset.

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In a country that is supposed to separate church and state, we have witness the Supreme Court side on the rights of a cake shop to refuse service to a gay couple based on First Amendment Rights. Freedom of Religions gives you “Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order.” Yet, the Supreme Court decided that their views could be used to not serve a specific group of people. We have also seen that the Justice Department fully believes that rights of protection should not be afforded to LGBTQ people. If this were allowed to be rule of the land, it would in essence give any employer the right to fire any employee based on “perceived” sexual orientation. That’s important to note due to them not having to have proof of it, only suspected belief, how else could one proves orientation of someone they do not have personal knowledge of.

In the first year of his presidency, we were witness to the Department of Health and Human Services creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. This group was created and put into action to ensure that healthcare workers religious liberties wasn’t affected in having to deal with LGBTQ patients. Part of the Hippocratic oath states “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.” By that very wording it is said that the healthcare provider is not to play God, so by denying someone access to what may be life saving means is making that decision

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Lastly, we saw that the Trump administration fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. This doesn’t affect only the LGBTQ people, but ALL people. Yet the importance of this advisory council doesn’t seem to affect this president. Also there have been numerous reports of moving around funds from the Ryan White Fund to help offset detention camps that this administration started to detain children of “illegal immigrants.”

We have to recognize that this administration is toxic to us. We have to be the ones that make the stand. LGBTQ people have fought for the very frail precipice we stand on and we cannot stop that fight or we will be pushed from it. It is now that we must rally in strength and numbers. It is now we must get out there and make our voices heard. Your voice and vote matters so let it be heard. Show up in numbers, ensure that those who cannot get to the polls on their own have the means to go, and talk your friends and family into voting. To change this tide before it swallows us whole will take each and every one of us. Make your voice known.

Gay-Voting

Coming Out Through the Ages

History is important because it becomes our guidestone for the future. Knowing the steps and struggles that came before us give us a better feel for who we are and where we need to go. Knowing the stories of those who witnessed first hand the hardships that got us to where we are now can even give us the ability to truly love ourselves. Our history is important because it shows our “logical family,” not the family we were born into. It gives us a sense of community in times where the light seems to struggle against the darkness.

Please take a moment and share these coming out stories. Each shows a part of our recent history and what it was live to live through those eras. Many of these people didn’t know the strength they had at the time or the impact they were about to make. And please take a moment to visit Pyeharrisproject.org, the site these videos came from.

Coming out in the 1950s

Coming out in the 1960s

Coming out in the 1970s

Coming out in the 1980s

 

Silent Masses

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

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

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Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Our Transgender Community: #Calltoarms

It seems appropriate that, while discussing our Transgender community, we discuss the rights that LGBTQ have or do not have here in Cleveland. It is important to understand them in context to where we are and what we should be thinking about for the future. The current administration has shown us that they do not care for the LGBTQ community and are taking steps to reverse the progress we have made. Let me be clear in saying that we have made progress, but our fight is far from over.

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Ohio adopted its first sodomy law in 1885 in and four years changed it to include fellatio. This wasn’t removed from state law until 1972. Ohio was one of a few states that were already repealing their sodomy laws, however it was still considered a misdemeanor to express interest from one man to another. In 1979 the importuning law, expressing of interest romantic or sexual nature, as a misdemeanor was changed to read as an unwelcome or unsolicited interest by the Ohio Supreme Court based on the case State vs. Phipps. This wasn’t overturned until 2002 when the courts reported that the First and Fourteenth Amendments did not allow for discrimination based on sexual orientation in these cases. It wasn’t until June of 2003 that the United States Supreme Court ruled to remove all remaining sodomy laws from the states. These statutes were used to specifically target LGBTQ people.

Same sex marriage wasn’t passed until June 26, 2015 from the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges. Adoption and parenting for same sex couples is legal in the state of Ohio. In 1987, Ohio enacted In re Ladrach, which made it illegal for someone undergoing gender confirmation surgery to be able to change the gender on their birth certificate. Though it is perfectly legal for Transgender people to amend their driver’s license to reflect their gender identity. It wasn’t until March of this year (2018) that four Transgender Ohioans filed a suit against Ohio Department of Health to revoke In re Ladrach and to have their birth certificates re-issued with their correct gender. At the time of this filing, Ohio was one of three states that Transgender people were banned from amending their birth certificates.

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While Cleveland offers protection from discrimination based on race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, Ohio at large does not have any protection laws in place. Nor are their any hate crime laws in relations to sexual orientation or gender identity. Some State protection does come into play from Federal laws. There are no laws preventing the usage of conversion therapy  in Ohio. In 2015 a bill was introduced to prevent the usage of conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors in Ohio by senator Charleta Tavares, however that bill died due to no legislative action. Since 2016 four Ohio cities (Toledo, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati) have enacted bans on conversion therapy. That’s right, Cleveland does not have any laws preventing the usage of conversion therapy.

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Conversions therapy suggests that it is possible to change the sexuality or gender identity of someone by using spiritual or psychology interventions. These are measures that took the place of things like institutionalization or castration to prevent homosexuality. They stem from a period in our no so distant history where it was believed that to be a LGBTQ was a mental illness that could be treated. Today they include things like electroconvulsive shock therapy. The Mormons use a version of this that combine audio/visual stimulation in conjunction with electroconvulsive shock therapy. There are electrodes connected to parts of your brain that monitor your reaction to the visual and audio cues they provide you. Essentially, if they show a young boy images of gay sex, two men kissing, of various other things that can trigger a response from someone who is gay, they are given large amounts of electric current. The mindset is that given enough of this kind of “treatment” your orientation would start to change. These types of interventions are nothing short of torture and are not quantifiable by any medical standard. None of these studies have shown to “cure” anyone of being LGBTQ. These therapies do more damage than help, causing feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety, which only creates larger issues needing more help. Suicide rates amongst LGBTQ or question youth is already horrible numbers to consider. LGBTQ and questioning youth are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. 40% of Transgender adults have reported attempting suicide, of those 92% have attempted suicide before they turned 25. Numbers are often hard to quantify in these studies since more often than not, they are misreported or not known.

We cannot become complacent in our fight for our rights. We definitely should show support to Cleveland for what it offers, but at the same time we need to challenge for better situations. Ohio was home to one of the first cities (Toledo) to pass a ban on conversion therapy, we should push to be the first state to completely ban it. In December 2015, MTV.com reported that 77% of the LGBTQ population live in states where it is legal to conduct conversion therapy. We must #uniteandfight, let our voices be heard that we will not stand by and watch our community still be treated this way. We must get out there and vote every election to ensure people who support us are representing us and the changes we want made for out country. Make your voice matter and show them our votes do count. #votethemout

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Our Transgender Community

Something that I have only briefly touched on in my blog is Transgender issues. Not being trans, it isn’t something that I can write effectively on or give it the proper respect it requires. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be giving space to the people in our community to share their stories and letting their voices be heard. It is important, as it is for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, for them to be seen and heard, for people to realize that their lives more than likely already touch someone. So I have wanted to make people aware that there are far more Transgender men and women here among us, especially in Cleveland

Already with the current administration, we have seen the stripping of so many rights of LGBTQ people. Transgender people are now not allowed to serve openly in the military, unless they were already in and, as the government quantifies it, “stable.” Many states are picking us legislature that will force teachers and doctors to disclose to parents if any of the children they support identify as transgender. States are slowly revoking bills that were in place that would prevent discrimination of varying sorts, including gender-neutral bathrooms, protection of employment status, and simply hate crime laws. Even locally we have seen crimes committed against the transgender community misreported as cisgender crimes.

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Recently, in London LGBTQ Pride we have seen representations of our own community committing acts of protest against the Transgender Community. Radical feminist groups are protesting that the only real women are the ones born as a woman with the XY chromosome, pushing forward binary concepts of gender. Many have taken to labeling these radicals as TERFs (Trans-exclusionary radical feminism). This mindset is not indicative of the Feminist movement, but a more smaller radical side.

Also recently, the controversy over Scarlett Johansson being offered a transgender role in the upcoming movie Rub & Tug instead of a Transgender actor. There are 70 transgender actors, currently, in Hollywood and most transgender roles go to cisgender actors. Transgender actors have said that when they come to these auditions, they are told they are too passable to play a role. How does one get labeled too passable to play a role about a transgender person? Scarlett Johansson was quoted as saying “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.” Still strides need to be taken to ensure proper casting for the future. This is also an issue that still plagues Native American actors, to this day. Clearly Hollywood and civil rights haven’t progressed.

This will be their space to share the struggles and triumphs they face in their lives. A place to speak unfiltered, share without judgement, and be who they truly are.It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration and these types of views before we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share some their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

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