An open letter to the LGBT community:

We’ve been in the news a lot lately, especially regarding DieselTec and business owner Brian Klawiter. Now, I’m not necessarily inclined to believe the ‘death threats’ and graffiti weren’t self-organized in an attempt to keep their name in the news and to keep the publicity rolling in.

But, that is irrelevant. What is relevant is our further actions with him and any other businesses that engage in this extreme form of discrimination.

I implore you, as members of the LGBT community in West Michigan, to stop engaging this business, this man, in any and all forms of communication. Clearly nothing we say or do will change his mind into supporting us and our fight for equality. He is a lost cause. And frankly, he offers a very specialized service that most of us will never use.

As I said, I don’t believe the death threats are real, and I’m seriously inclined to believe the graffiti was self-inflicted. However, if it wasn’t, and if the death threats are real, and did indeed come from our community – please, stop. Stooping to his level and destroying property does nothing more than provide fuel for these people to further spew their hatred. Acting in this way not only gives us a bad reputation, but can make it harder to get city officials and members of the community to back us and give us the equal rights we deserve.

We can’t bully people into accepting us. I understand the frustration and anger that fills you when someone says such hate-filled things. Trust me, I understand that desire to lash out and show these people that we will not run in fear, and that we will not back down. But reacting with threats and vandalism isn’t the way to do this.

I understand the want to react in kind when someone calls us evil, or says we’re sinning, or says we’re below them. Stand up for yourselves, stand up for our community, but don’t drop to the level of behavior of our detractors. That is not the path to equality.

Let this story die. Let this man flounder his way in his hate-filled life. His business is either going to go away or it’s going to continue forward. But don’t let him define our progress or our actions.

If you want to fight back, get involved in the community at large. Volunteer, announce your pride and show the community we are not unlike them and we are claiming our space in the world. Get involved in local politics – show up at city hall meetings, talk to the lawmakers in your community. Protesting outside of a business will not get us equal rights. Laws and city ordinances will. Make our voices heard in the most productive way.

And remember the more space we give this man and others like him, the less space we have for ourselves.

The Measure of an Activist

The internet has been abuzz as of late about Indiana’s RFRA, specifically, about a little pizzeria called Memories Pizza. (By the way, the business didn’t bother to purchase their domain name.)

They closed shortly after coming out on the news talking about their opposition to serving the LGBT community, specifically stating they wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding. The owners claimed they received death threats and because of this, felt they needed to close their business for their safety.

Yet none of these alleged threats have been discovered. None of the articles posted go into any sort of detail regarding the threats. To me, a threat of death is far more serious than a threat to boycott a restaurant.

This post, however, isn’t about the validity of the threats, or why RFRA is wrong, or how obvious it’s been that Memories Pizza was chosen to be a martyr for the “Gays are Evil” movement. This post is about activism and advocacy, and how important these things are.

I comment on a post about exactly that, how these people are martyrs for the cause. Someone responded with a comment that didn’t set well with me. They said that yes, the LGBT community and their allies had shut the business down, but that we didn’t change the minds of the business owners, so essentially, nothing had changed.

I beg to differ. Shutting down a business because they have bigoted, discriminatory views does change things. Recently Mira received the honor of being a member of the Trans100 2015. One of the keynote speakers, Tiq Milan, talked about his mother teaching him about taking up space, and how he has a right to take up space, and a responsibility to take up space.

By shutting this business down, the LGBT community has shown them that we deserve to be here, and we will take up our rightful space, whether others feel we deserve that space or not. And it’s our responsibility to continue to take up our rightful space, no matter what the opposition says or does.

How do we gauge the success of our efforts? If it’s solely by the number of minds changed, then are any other efforts moot? The Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro most likely didn’t change the minds of the shop owner or many of the other white people sitting in the diner. Because they didn’t change the minds of those people, does that discount the fact those four students sparked an interest that ultimately resulted in 1000 people protesting the segregation? Certainly not.

Those four students had enough. They took up their rightful space at that counter. And the LGBT community needs to do the same. We need to continue to take up space and show our opposers that we are not backing down. Of course I’d love to change minds in the process, but that obviously isn’t always going to happen.

To poo-poo the efforts of the LGBT community and their allies to get businesses to close their doors because of discrimination is hurtful and extremely dangerous. If enough people felt the way this commenter did, the likelihood of any kind of movement for social change wouldn’t occur, because ‘we couldn’t change their minds’.

Change doesn’t occur overnight, either. Stonewall was the catalyst for the LGBT movement. But their efforts didn’t change the hearts and minds of all people. Clearly that fight still continues. The results of their actions, however, gave others the inspiration to no longer sit back and be trampled on.

Yes. We came out in force against this business. Yes, we may have helped in shutting the business down. And yes, we didn’t change the way they feel about the LGBT community. But things have changed. And they continue to change.

We may not change everyone’s minds. But it is our job to continue to fight, to take each step forward as a victory, as fuel to continue down the path to equality. As Tiq Milan said, success is measured in the space we occupy. It’s measured in the quantity of people out fighting for a cause. It’s measured by the quality of life those fighting for rights have. Each victory, no matter how small, counts.

This is a victory. It shows other businesses that we will not back down. It shows others within the LGBT community that we do matter, and that we can make a difference.

SIDENOTE: I understand that the owners of the pizzeria became puppets of the religious right. I also understand that they were most likely approached and told if they closed their doors, they would be repaid for it. I understand they became martyrs and targeted to be martyrs. This however, to me, is still a victory. Our voices were heard.

On Being a Man and a Feminist

I identify as a trans man, and as a feminist. Not because it’s trendy or because it sounds good. Not because my girlfriend is (although Mira is incredibly fierce, and I do aspire to hold some of the same values as her), and not because it’s an easy thing to be (because frankly, it’s not).

I am a feminist because it’s necessary. And it’s right. I’ve been fortunate to have been allowed to explore my masculinity as a child, and while I didn’t necessarily have strong male role models growing up, I wasn’t raised to believe that because I was a girl I “couldn’t”.

And now, though I’m fortunate enough to experience a degree of male privilege, it doesn’t mean that suddenly I don’t have a responsibility to fight for rights of women all over the world.

Mira and I watched India’s Daughter the other night. It’s about the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh that took place in Delhi, India, back in 2012. The documentary lasted only about an hour, but in that hour I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so angry and filled with such palpable feelings of injustice (which isn’t the right word either – it goes beyond a simple injustice).

The things the men said between the lawyers for the rapists and one of the rapists himself were beyond incorrigible. In fact, as Mira and I talked about later, the views of the men are reflected all over the world. Opinions that women shouldn’t be out late, they shouldn’t be out alone, they shouldn’t wear ‘provocative’ clothing – opinions reflected in that documentary, have also been spoken in the United States. The idea that women are somehow solely responsible for sexual assault is, while grossly disgusting, not a new idea.

I strongly urge all of the men I know to watch this documentary. Though if you’ve read my blog on a regular basis, you’ll know that the men in my life are my role models, good, strong, loving men who understand the strength of a woman. But sometimes that isn’t enough.

As a trans man…as a man, I have a unique place in feminism. As I’ve said, I was raised with an emphasis on the more masculine side of gender. That’s not to say that I was taught that women are lesser or othered. I was raised as a daughter. Which also meant that I did experience the inequality between men and women. I saw it in gym class, when boys and girls were held to different standards when completing the Presidential Fitness Test in elementary school. Among my peers, I was a tomboy, so I was allotted a certain amount of distance from any ‘feminine’ behavior – gossiping and standing in a group at recess.

Even then, I never thought it was right – that boys and girls had different physical fitness standards (more than once, I watched a boy get the snot beat out of him by a girl for making an off-color remark) or that because I was a girl that I wasn’t supposed to play soccer or dodgeball with the guys.

At some point, I remember being told that I had to be careful when being alone with a boy or being outside after dark by myself. Even then, it was understood that it was more important to control my conduct than to teach appropriate behavior among the young men. I’d see stories on the news about “taking back the night”, and scores of women, arms linked, walking down streets in both a protest and an effort to reclaim their rightful place in their neighborhoods. And why? Because no one else would do it. Time and time again, there would be news stories about another rape and murder of a woman – and time after time, initial reports would claim the women were prostitutes (somehow this meant their death was okay by the simple fact of their profession, or that they were asking for this because of ‘risky behavior’). The blame was always, always placed on the woman.

“She asked for it.”

“She was dressed like a slut. I figured that’s what she wanted.”

“She shouldn’t have dressed that way. If she had just been home before dark, like a good girl, and had some decency, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Because a woman’s body is not her own. We’re told this time and time again – legislators passing laws to govern a woman’s body, television and movies showing scantily clad women being sexually promiscuous, and somehow they’re the sexual deviant, not the men. Women who have been raped being forced into a place of shame and blame because somehow, by the mere fact that they are women, they should just accept that they’ll be sexually assaulted, and not fight it.

The disparaging remarks made by the rapists from India’s Daughter  are sentiments echoed by the men in our own country. I’d written in the past about the baggage that comes with claiming manhood, and this is another aspect of it. Somehow, somewhere in history, society gave men a free pass when it comes to things like rape and sexual assault. It’s even associated with male privilege, that it’s my right to assert sexual dominance over my partner, regardless of whether or not that’s what she desires. In fact, it wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape was considered a crime in all 50 states. Even then, it was still disputed as a ‘real thing’ because how could rape occur in a marriage when the woman gave herself over to the husband? Each state has their own law regarding marital rape and in several states, there are differences in the definition of what constitutes marital rape – like the severity of violence, how the rape occurred, under what circumstances the assault occurred. Suddenly it didn’t matter what the woman’s experience was – no didn’t mean no anymore. If I’m honest, no hasn’t meant no for a lot longer prior to this.

I remember my sister telling me a story about rescuing a girl from a frat party. My sister was leaving and witnessed another woman, clearly unable to make decisions for herself, being half led, half dragged up a stairway to where the bedrooms were. She grabbed the woman, made up a name and acted as though she had been looking all over for her, and rescuing the rufied woman from certain sexual assault. Although depending on who you ask, if a woman is drugged, then consent is not required.

These things are beyond wrong. And these acts of violence are perpetuated by men. It’s pretty obvious why I’d been so hesitant to call myself a man when you read articles every day about men imposing themselves on women, because it was their privilege to.

And I’ve got that free sexual assault card. I sure as hell don’t want it, but I’m not going to give it back, either, because all that means is an extra card for someone else. I’m going to tear it to shreds and burn it.

As a man who is a feminist, it’s my duty not to defend women, but to change the attitudes of my fellow-men. Enough of the victim blaming/shaming. Enough defending a woman’s right to be outside after 9 pm. Enough defending a woman’s right to wear the clothing she chooses. It’s time to change the attitudes of men.

When I’m in a space where women’s voices are not present, it’s my duty to shut down the sexist remarks and disparaging comments. And it’s not enough for me to just say that I don’t want to hear it. Systems of oppression exist not just because those preventing the oppressed group from advancing keep the wheels turning, but also because others who know these systems are wrong do nothing to alter it. Silence can be just as deadly as privilege, if used incorrectly.

So stop being silent. If you love your wife, your partner, your significant other, your girlfriend, your fiancée, then say so. If you are in a room with a group of guys, and they start objectifying women, say something.

Vida Boheme: So, I gather you like hitting ladies.

Virgil: Some ladies need to get hit.

Vida Boheme: Well then, it stands to reason that some men need to get hit back.

There’s an article that Mira shared with me, about Michael Kimmel and his efforts to promote feminism among men. The article is good, up until this paragraph:

But the real mission of these four days is explaining why feminism should appeal to men. After all, if the patriarchy confers benefits, why would guys give it up? Appeals to fairness are not enough, it seems; the current vogue is to persuade men their lives will be better if women have more freedom and better jobs and work-life balance.

This to me still isn’t quite right. I know and understand that by nature, humans are selfish and self-centered. Mira and I have talked about the benefits of being selfish in that doing for yourself often makes you more apt to do for others, or that the act of being selfish in many circumstances, can benefit more than just you. But when it comes to being selfish about the benefits drawn from the patriarchy, I would like to believe that simply seeing the negative results such a system of oppression has on those that don’t belong would be reason enough to abandon it.

The quote from the article is basically implying that we, as men, can keep women happy, and in turn, off of our backs and not nagging us, if we give women more freedom in their lives. But again, this does nothing to change our behavior as men. It still screams of male privilege and patriarchy. It’s still saying that women are not their own, that they aren’t capable unless *we* give them the freedom to be. I mean, I understand that by tearing down the patriarchy and establishing equality does just that, the fact that the article surmises the way to get men on board with being feminists is to use their male privilege to gift freedom and equality to women kinda stinks. I’m afraid that approaching it this way does nothing but stroke the male ego. The same goes for another quote in the article, about men approaching Kimmel and stating that they agree with everything the feminist movement says, but they can’t bring themselves to identify as feminists.

So do we eliminate this word from our vocabulary? Is this a new movement? To be a ‘closeted feminist’? It still equates the ideas of shame and lesser and othering to women. This is not the movement we, as men, need to be a part of. There is no shame in lifting any marginalized group to a place of equality. But to be a man who identifies as a feminist is more than just agreeing with what the movement says. It’s acting upon it. It’s modifying our own behavior, and planting seeds of change in others. That’s why it’s so important not to placate women – that’s an asinine view to begin with. How much of a pompous a-hole do you have to be to believe that a woman would fall all over you because you gave them the okay to go to work? Get the hell out of their way, man! We’re at a point where our job isn’t to focus on helping women by being their escort. Our job is to change our behavior and the idea that we somehow have a right to women, that we have a right to their bodies. Feel free to hold the door open for her, but understand, very clearly, that she is fully capable of not only opening that door, but ripping it off the damn hinges.

Instead, send out a clear message to the other men you interact with, that you will not accept other men objectifying women. Send a clear message that in spaces where women’s voices are not heard or represented, you will find a way to lift up their voices.

Don’t ‘defend’ women’s behavior. That’s not your place. Women don’t need our defense. Again, it goes to changing up the concepts of manhood and entitlement. We are not entitled to women. It is as simple as that. So stop using your privilege to dictate women’s spaces. Use your privilege to turn the system upside down.

Change the concept of manning up from one of machismo and misogyny to one of respect and pride. If you’re still at a loss as to what to do, then read this. And for crying out loud, if you are a man, and you agree with what the feminist movement says, then stop being scared that your manliness will fade if you call yourself a feminist. We exist. I promise.

No. I am a man. And I am a feminist. And I’m proud to be both.

(Mira posted this video before, but it’s so good it’s worth posting again)

Oppressor or Activist? Turns out, I’ve been both…and more.

I am an oppressor. I am an accomplice. I am an ally. I am an activist.

I have kept silent while others have made jokes about someone’s weight. I’ve felt my blood boil as someone made a racist remark, or said something derogatory about the trans community, but I kept my mouth shut.

Why? The reasons are endless – maybe some part of me thought it was true, or I didn’t feel like getting into an argument that day, or I knew if I spoke up, it wouldn’t do any good. The reasons don’t matter, though.resist_oppression_communism_will_prevail_india_revolution_operation_green_hunt_cpimaoist

Sometimes someone will make a comment about the weight of someone we both know, making a joke or some off-handed remark, I laugh along with them, while I should have, could have, said something, not in defense of their object of fun, but in response to the inappropriateness of the comment. Instead, I commented as well, not wanting to seem “weird” or “awkward” by going against the norm.

I am an oppressor.

black-tape-mouth-shut-no-speaking-700x45_660If I’m at work, where the majority of my co-workers are heterosexual and all of them, save me, are cisgender, I keep my mouth shut about many things. I haven’t officially come out at work, and so when I talk about being trans, or the trans community, I speak in hushed tones, not making eye contact, keeping my head down, as if the words I’m saying are something I should be ashamed of. When people use the word ‘tranny’, I cringe internally, but respond with “Yeah, I don’t see the big deal…” My silence is as dangerous as the loud voices of the bigots and discriminators.

I am an accomplice.

I am not proud of these situations. Because I should have stepped in and said it was wrong. I should have made it abundantly clear that their attitudes and opinions were their own to have, and solely their own to have. I didn’t. And I regret that.tumblr_m5ixrhNjhD1rpy84ao1_500

I went with Mira to a Lady Parts Justice rally. I was there to support her, but now because of the inspiring acts of the women that spoke and performed, I’ve been inspired, and I really want to speak at the next rally, to the importance of allies in the fight against the patriarchy telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.  Because if we do not stand alongside women, if we do not stop the regulation over their bodies by men who claim to know what’s best but essentially just want to dominate and put women “in their place”, then we all are subject to the repercussions of such a loss.

I am an ally.

During the last lame duck session in Michigan, there was a movement to change the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA for short), to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. There was another splinter group that thought it best to only include sexual orientation, and come back to revise the law later to encompass gender identity and expression. Years ago, I would have totally been all for the ‘half a pizza’ argument.

activistNot anymore, and not just because I’m now a part of the LGBT that has historically ended up without any slice of pizza, but because it’s simply wrong. And because of this, I went to a few ELCRA rallies, I went to TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance), and I want to speak out against the injustices faced by the trans community, a community I am a part of, and one that I fully embrace.

I am an activist.

I play all of these roles at varying times. When I identified as a lesbian and I fought for equality – I was an activist for the L and G, and an oppressor to the T. The B wasn’t even a concern, because in my head, they were simply confused. That has all obviously changed, for the better. I don’t want to ever play the role of the oppressor, and I think it’s even worse to play the role of the accomplice. Having the knowledge I do from my brilliant and insightful girlfriend, Mira, and my other activist friends, I’m learning when to recognize oppressive behaviors and attitudes in which I act as an accomplice.

Self awareness is just as important as self confidence. Being aware of my actions and words is just as important as saying them in the first place. I’m still going to screw up. But I will be aware of my missteps, and I will not silence my voice. If I am not empowering, I am oppressing, and I am contributing to the reason why equality has not yet been achieved.

If I don’t use the power I have from the privileges I have to raise up both the marginalized groups I belong to and those I do not belong to, then I am failing not only as an ally, but as an activist.

Everyone has some kind of privilege. It may not be obvious at first, but you know that saying – “There’s always someone worse off than you” – it’s true, and those who are “worse off” are most likely part of a marginalized group you do not belong to. If you have a place to live – then you can be an ally for the homeless, and use your privilege of stability of a roof over your head to help advocate for housing the homeless and providing them with an opportunity to achieve the same level of safety and stability you have.

If you are cisgender, you can ally yourself with the trans community, and use the power of being cisgender (and yes, you do have power, because you have privilege) in circles to support the trans community when the trans community is not represented.

I’m working on being an ally. I want to be a better ally. I feel I have the tools and the knowledge and the support to be a better ally.

Because it’s not always about my story.

How about you?

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“Not in my house.”

Depending on who you ask, homeless LGBTQ youth may or may not exist.

According to AM radio host Linda Harvey, homeless LGBTQ youth do exist, but not because their parents kicked them out. Rather, they exist because the teens stormed out in a tantrum of sorts:

“The teen storms out by choice and leaves voluntarily because the homosexual relationship is more important than that of his or her parents.

“And when that all-important relationship ends, the teen is too stubborn or already too involved in alcohol or drugs or the premature independence of the homosexual life and he or she would rather drift than return home.

“I’ve heard [it] far too often.”

I bet you have, Linda.

And if you turn to statistics, well, statistics say there are homeless youth, but finding absolute numbers is exceedingly difficult. A federal study in 2002 claims that there are 1.7 million homeless youth each year. And a study done in 2006 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition to End Homelessness states that anywhere from 20 to 40% of all homeless youth are queer.

If those numbers are correct, then that means that roughly 680,000 homeless youth are queer.

To say that 680,000 queer youth are out on the streets by their own choice, of their own volition is not only preposterous, but it completely discredits any struggles and pain experienced by these kids. Yes, Linda, you may have heard of such instances, but I can assure you from experience, that kids are kicked out of their homes because who they are goes against the grain of who the parents want that child to be.

I should know. It happened to me. I’ll never forget my mom’s reaction when I came out to her.

“Not in this house. Not around my daughter.” In thirty seconds, my mom had absolutely crushed me as a human being.

“Not in this house.” Because my announcement of being a lesbian somehow suddenly tainted the house I grew up in.

“Not around my daughter.” Because my sin was so great it could reflect on the successes of my sister; therefore the only plausible solution was to disown me.

And I found myself without a home. Fortunately, I’ve managed to make it (somewhat) on my own since then. But not everyone is so lucky. The kids being put on the streets don’t have the life skills to always pull themselves out. There are resources out there, but honestly, who pays attention to the homeless? We see panhandlers out on street corners, with signs saying they need money for food, and we draw our own conclusions as to why they’re on the corner, and more often than we’d like to admit, we either turn away in disgust or do our best to focus on that red light, waiting impatiently for it to change so we can drive away and leave that awkward uncomfortable feeling behind.

But how often do we see kids standing on street corners?

“Gay and homeless, please help.” That’s one sign I’ve never seen.

Are these kids able to get some kind of education? Do they eat regularly? Have they succumbed to drugs and alcohol and prostitution to cope? What kind of a chance do these kids have to succeed?

And who is helping them?

Groups like the 40 to None Project, spearheaded by Cyndi Lauper and an offshoot of her True Colors Fund, bring awareness to the fact that there is a hugely disproportionate number of homeless queer youth. And there are homes out there, like The Ozone House in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Streetwork Project through Safe Horizion, in New York.

But there needs to be more awareness. These safe houses are in big cities where the homeless population is high and has high visibility. What about places like my hometown? I know there’s homeless here. I’ve seen them, but where are the kids?

And then there’s the intangible number of those kids that are afraid to come out because they don’t want to end up on the streets. Linda Harvey had something to say about that, too. She feels that queer youth shouldn’t come out to everyone, and basically should stay closeted until they can be straight.

(Keep in mind this is the same woman that says Jesus may be forced to marry a man when he comes back to Earth.)

So these kids struggle daily with an alter-ego of sorts, pretending to be someone they’re not because of a fear of losing their family, their friends, their home. I know what that’s like too. Before I came out, I was going down to the gay nightclubs and had to make up stories as to where I was really going.

Mom: “So where are you headed tonight?”

Me: “Oh, out to the club.”

Mom: “Which one? And with whom?”

Me: “Oh, The Crush. And I’m going with Stephanie (who actually did exist) and some guys from work. Mark, John, Paul, Peter.”

Eventually I was going down to the bar with the 12 Apostles and George Glass. That was when it was time for me to stop pretending. But I played that game for a while before it became too overwhelming for me. I’m a facilitator for the local LGBTQ youth group here, sponsored by our LGBTQ resource center. I’ve only been to two meetings so far, but it’s really opened my eyes.

For instance, the group wants to make a float for our Pride parade. Some of the kids are so afraid of being outed that they say they can’t work on the float. Others spend their time looking over their shoulders, as if everyone they’re afraid of knowing the truth about them are standing outside, peering in through the windows. This is unacceptable. These kids have enough to worry about as teenagers without having to add a queer catalyst to the equation.

“Not in this house.” These are words that these kids should never have to hear. To be told their own blood doesn’t see them as human or equal or acceptable – I can’t change the hateful actions of those parents, but I can offer shelter and guidance to those kids who are either already on the streets or at risk of being on the streets if they are true to themselves.

I’m working on creating a nonprofit organization, so I can establish a safe house here in my hometown for these kids. I’m calling on you for help with this. Because I’m pretty sure that those who read my blog and whom I call friends would never ever turn their kids away if they came out of the closet.

These queer youth deserve a chance to succeed. They deserve to be who they are, to explore who they are, without fear of feeling unloved and rejected.

When someone says, “Not in my house…”

I want to be able to say, “Welcome home.”

Edit: Here’s a related story, definitely worth reading…

If you have an interest or want to know more, please fill out the form below and I’ll get back in contact with you as soon as I can.

 

 

LGBTQ – RSTUV?

LGBTQ – An acronym heard many times over in media of all sorts.

But some wonder when we’ve hit enough letters to represent who we are. I don’t know, I personally like the addition of letters – it’s creating a catch-all for those who have nowhere else to go. It might just be my altruistic nature. I know I’m not the only one who recognizes the importance of this though.

facebook_g_options.png.CROP.promo-mediumlargeFacebook has adapted its selections in regards to gender to encompass a wide range of identities. And yet again, as with any change, there are the detractors – those who don’t understand the idea of gender identity and don’t get the fact that sex and gender and identity are not the same, and they’re the ones who try to shout the loudest.

What’s sad is some of those doing the shouting, are from within our own community. In fact, I think that may be the saddest thing of all. Not knowing who your allies are, not knowing who your fight for equality affects. We chastise those ignorant of our struggle, yet we wear blinders ourselves, so focused on our own personal successes in our fights that we fail to see the bigger picture.

We stick to our cliques. We keep within our comfort zones. Those on the outside, well…they can fend for themselves. It’s a dog-eat-dog world after all, isn’t it? I can profess anger and concern for issues, but if it truly doesn’t affect me, how much effort am I going to put forth?

I’ve never been one to fit in anywhere. I didn’t even fit in with the people that didn’t fit in anywhere. Life dealt me chickenhell7cards that at times, made me feel like I didn’t belong in the body I was given.

I don’t know…maybe it’s because of these things that I feel such a connection to everyone who aligns themselves as anything other than heterosexual. Regardless, I think it’s important that we keep adding letters if necessary. And I think it’s even more important to know what those letters mean.

In my journeys I have met some incredible people. People who are simply looking for their place in the world. People with incredible stories, amazing journeys, and beautiful insight on the world around them.  Why wouldn’t I want to be an ally? All of the people I’ve met – they’re fighting just as hard for my rights as they are for theirs.

These last few weeks…I’ve seen things from so many perspectives; I keep surprising myself at the revelations I’m having. Like differences between identity and orientation – little revelations in the grand scheme of things, I’m sure, but it’s a big deal to me. I had always thought I was open-minded. No, no I sure wasn’t. And now I’m finding a new passion, one that fits my altruistic nature. And it’s a passion that everyone should have – the passion of being human.

5529107926_1527283a00_oThis may be the most clichéd analogy ever, but it works for me. It’s one of the snowiest winters in my state. And it got me thinking about snow – specifically, snowflakes. They say each snowflake is different, that no two are alike. Yet, any search on the internet, and you’ll find that there are 6 general categories for the different forms of snowflakes. But, each snowflake really is different; different patterns, each one unique, but able to be categorized on a basic level. And if you dig even deeper, each snowflake, with their genuinely unique pattern, is absolutely identical on a molecular level. Snowflakes, for all their individuality, are made up of the same molecules – every single last snowflake.

People lose sight of that. While our outward appearances are different, and with the exception of twins, absolutely dna-double-helixunique, at the most basic level, we are all the same – our molecular structure is identical. Yes, our DNA is different, but even that is made of the same four nucleic acids.

There was a point where I didn’t know any transgender people, and it wasn’t until recently that I met a genderqueer person and an androgyne. Funny, my Microsoft Word doesn’t understand these terms and insists I’m spelling them incorrectly. I guess other aspects of technology need to catch up as well. I still need much education in regards to all of this myself.

I just don’t understand why gays and lesbians would discriminate against transgender people, and anyone else, frankly, who identifies in the wide spectrum. After all, lesbianism is a sexual orientation, while transgender is an identity. So why discriminate against someone’s gender identity? Hell, why discriminate at all? We’re all fighting for equality. We’re all fighting for the day when gender and orientation and identity are no longer such inflammatory issues. We’re all fighting for the right to be treated as humans.

So yeah, while the court case in Texas that ruled in favor of the transgender widow might not directly affect me, I celebrate it regardless, because it’s one step closer to equality and tolerance for all. But you can’t efficiently fight for a cause unless you believe in it and respect it.

images (22)The letters LGBTQ are nothing more than ways to define individuals who don’t fit in anywhere else. Stop taking issue with the string of letters, and get to know the people who represent the letters. That’s what’s important.

Our community is huge. Our community is diverse – filled with beautiful people, each as unique as a snowflake. Get to know them, their stories, what makes them who they are. I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself too. We avoid because of ignorance, which breeds itself in many forms – fear, disgust, anger – don’t get sucked into that. Rise above. Know the members within your own community, and fight inequality together.

Don’t just say you’re a member of the LGBTQ community. Be a member of the LGBTQ. Get involved. Meet your fellow advocates. Know what you’re fighting for.

“The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.” ― Eric Berne

“The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law.” ― Aristotle

“The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others.” ― Julian Bond

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Casual Homophobia

While the LGBT community has made leaps and bounds increasing tolerance and acceptance, homophobia is still clearly evident in our society. We are used to seeing the hate-laced diatribes of members of the Religious Right hell-bent on putting all homosexuals on an island, and then blowing that island up. We hear the ignorant remarks from politicians, celebrities, corporate officers, and citizens as they try to condemn us to eternal damnation or convince us that we’re second class citizens.

But what we’re missing (or at least I missed it) is another, quieter form of homophobia – Casual Homophobia. It’s a term I hadn’t heard of until today. And it’s running rampant through social media, especially among the younger generation.

Initially, I was going to just discuss the origins of some of the pejorative language, like faggot and dyke. I still plan on doing that, because it’s important to know how these terms came about, and when they became derogatory. However, in doing research for the post, I ran across a website with some incredibly sad statistics. It’s run by The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies And Services, within the University of Alberta.

No Homophobes

The site looks for the use of faggot, dyke, ‘no homo’, and ‘so gay’ in Tweets posted on Twitter. That was the current count just for today, at about 5:27 pm. Over twenty five thousand tweets contained the word faggot or fag. You can see for yourself how quickly the numbers climb by clicking on the picture. From there, you can also see the use of the tweets as they roll in.

thats-so-gay-sound-machine-2So what is casual homophobia? It’s using phrases like ‘That’s so gay!’ in an incredibly passive manner, not paying attention to what that phrase actually implies. It’s the act of complacency we partake in when we don’t call people out for saying ‘that’s so gay!’ regardless of how innocuous the statement may seem. The website defines casual homophobia as language we use that may not be intended to be hurtful to any one particular person or group of people, but is ultimately rooted in a derogatory nature.

As the site says, we’ve addressed racist language. Terms like nigger are considered highly volatile language and are classified under hate speech. We’ve worked at addressing sexist language as well. Rather than say ‘mankind’ we’re far more likely to use the all-inclusive ‘humanity’.

But little to nothing has been done to address homophobic and transphobic language. As members and supports of morgan-freeman-on-homophobiathe LGBT community, that falls upon us. We need to make a big stink about this. Because this is a situation where sticks, stones, and words can hurt. The impact of the term dyke may face no real consequence with me personally, but it could seriously affect someone struggling with their sexual identity. It could keep them from being who they really are, and in extreme cases, push them over the edge to suicide.

Embracing these terms is not enough. Sure, it might be fine if a gay man and his group of friends call each other faggot or fairy in a playful manner. Yeah, it may make the impact of the word sting a bit less. But it doesn’t lessen the impact of the word faggot when someone else uses it to try and demean someone else.

Dykes_on_Bikes_logoI’m not saying that groups like Dykes on Bikes are in the wrong. They’re proud of who they are, and make a show of it by taking the word and flinging it back at protesters. But for that teenage boy who feels completely alone in this world because the other teenagers around him call each other fags, embracing the term isn’t going to help him feel accepted.

Letting people know it’s not okay to equate gay with stupid or wrong – that’s what needs to 4436265052_Homophobia_xlargebe done. Telling your friends that the word fag is not acceptable – put a stop to it. Of course we have freedom of speech, but that only falls to the constraints that government cannot restrict or restrain speech (certain exceptions apply, even then). We also have the right to live our lives without fear that death could be a justifiable reaction for who we are.

I ask you to visit this website. Take a look at the tweets. Think about what casual homophobia means. Then do something about it.

I’ll be writing an origin of homophobic language in the next post.