Taking Up Too Much Space?

My fiancée and I had a very interesting discussion the other night. Mira and I were talking about the space we occupy, and despite both the knowledge and belief that we are entitled to that space, sometimes, there is some guilt in occupying our own space. As if fully occupying our space, filled with its happiness and love and good fortune, we are taking away from those who are struggling.

I wrote a while back about attending the Trans 100 and listening to Tiq Milan talk about taking up space.

We are all entitled to space in this world, and we are fully allowed to occupy that space.

We have a right to exist, and we have a right to been seen, to have our voices heard, and to move through this world as everyone else does.

When others try to occupy our space, or even part of our space, it’s oppression and discrimination. They are trying to tell us that we are not important enough for our space, or that they are so important they need our space as well. When someone tries to silence our voice or speak for us, they’re occupying our space.

But what happens when we don’t feel entitled to our space in this world? What happens when our narrative feels akin to boasting?

My life is good now. It didn’t used to be. Those of you who know me know the struggles I’ve overcome. But that was then. The space I occupy now is different, stronger, and more confident. The life I live is happy, loving, and stable. But at times, almost (rather, quite) like a survivor’s guilt, I wonder if my story is too good to tell. Mira and I both struggle with this. Rather than talk about the good things happening to us, rather than rightfully occupy our space, we remain silent.

After all, I’m no braggart, and as an activist and an ally, I firmly believe it is my responsibility to lift those who are struggling, so their voices may be heard. If I speak out of turn, or if I talk over the voices of those I ally myself with, what kind of support is that?

So instead, we stifle our story, tamping it down so as not to distract from those who struggle. We lend sympathetic ears, and allow these stories to be told. After all, our happiness may push them further into their sorrow, right? If I talk about all the good things happening to me right now, that’s boasting, isn’t it? That’s telling those who are struggling that my story is more important, right? It’s taking away their space, right?

Oh my God…am I being oppressive?

Well, that escalated quickly…

I feel that people struggle with the concept of occupying space in this world. There are those who try to occupy too much, stepping on the toes of others and trying to push them out of their space. And then there are those who either don’t realize they’re allowed to take up space, or they don’t feel the space they have is deserved. There are also those who who remain in their space, but somehow feel their space is more important than others and insist they are the defining example of those like them.

My life has much privilege now – the privilege, essentially, of being a white, heterosexual male. I have white privilege, I have socioeconomic privilege, I have male privilege, I have heterosexual privilege…

Does my space shrink with the more privilege I have? I think the perception, the wrong perception, is that the space you’re entitled to increases with privilege. I don’t feel that is right. While there are no obvious, visible lines limiting the space we have, I think 1) it is our job to maintain limits in the space we occupy and 2) just as there is finite room on this earth, the amount of space available is finite, even if it isn’t a tangible thing.

Maintaining the limits of the space I occupy doesn’t mean I silence my voice. What it does mean is that it is my responsibility to be aware of those around me and the space they occupy. It means that sometimes my voice should remain quiet – this doesn’t mean that my voice is any less important. It simply means that it’s not my place to talk, and any opinions or thoughts I choose to share, should be considered with regard to those around me, and the stories they are telling. It means that in conversations concerning race and gender equity, I should do far more listening than talking.

Maintaining the limits of the space I occupy means that I have a duty to call others out, and then in, when they are overstepping the limits of their space and encroaching on the space of others. It means understanding the privilege I have, and not using that privilege to oppress, but to raise up those individuals who are struggling.

It also means that I don’t have to be guilty about fully occupying my space. My happiness doesn’t take away from others. It doesn’t occupy their space or prevent their voice from being heard.

When I talk of a finite space, it’s not finite in the sense that those coming into the world don’t get a space or those leaving this world take their space with them. I mean it is finite in the sense that our space is just that, our space. It is finite in the sense that there is space specifically for every individual on this earth, and that our space is all the same. No one is entitled to a bigger space than someone else, regardless of success or struggle, and your space doesn’t change in size depending on how much or how little privilege you have.

My story is part of the space I occupy. My beliefs, experiences, ideas – these are all rightfully mine and are contained within my space. But should they stay there? Should I silence my voice out of guilt because someone else is struggling? Should I silence my voice because my voice is happy?

My story, while both happy and sad, triumphant and tragic, deserves to be heard as much as any other story. Comparing the importance of individual experiences is a very dangerous path to go down. It pits the marginalized against one another, as if bleeding at the hands of someone else is somehow worse (or better?) than bleeding because of my own hand.

No. My voice should never be silenced. The space I occupy has been created for me, and quite frankly, it is my duty to occupy that space. If I don’t occupy it, then I’m failing those who are struggling, in a sense. If I don’t occupy my space, all of it, then someone else will, and I don’t have the ability to choose who that individual will be.

It is my duty to occupy that space in that my story of struggle and success could help someone else realize that as much of a cliché “It gets better” is, there is truth in the phrase. My narrative is relatable. It is as relatable as the other narratives that exist.

My voice may give others the strength to speak. So then, is it fair for me to silence myself and crawl into a remote corner of the space I’m supposed to occupy because someone else will be struggling more? No, it’s no more fair than if I were to try to silence the voice of others so I may be better heard.

It’s just as important for someone to be able to relate in the struggles of someone else as it is to reinforce that hope for the future.

To those who wish to occupy my space – it is mine, I am entitled to it, and I refuse to let you silence me.

To those who feel they do not deserve the space they occupy – stand firm, stand strong; your space was made for you, occupy it with the knowledge that it is important because you are in it.

To those who wish to blanket your story over mine – understand that all voices must be heard, and my story is just as important, even if it is for different reasons.

Go out in the world. Take up the space you are entitled to. Help others to occupy their own space. And don’t feel shame or guilt in doing so.

 

 

 

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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.

“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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The Farce of Black History Month

So there’s a good chance that this post might upset some people. I kinda hope it does, to be honest…

Black History Month is a farce. Just like June being Pride Month for the LGBTQ community. Now before you get your panties (or boxers, if you’re a butch) in a bunch, hear me out. After all, I’ve got Morgan Freeman on my side…

That’s right…A photo and video of an interview conducted with Morgan Freeman is circulating Facebook. It is February, so it’s not surprising this is surfacing again. The interview was from 2005, when Mike Wallace was interviewing Freeman on 60 Minutes. Here’s the video:

I agree. Black History Month is ridiculous. So is Pride Month. Why should our history be broken down into one month, when we exist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year?

“Here, we’ll give you one month to talk about yourselves and where you came from, despite the fact that your history dates back to the beginning of the world.”

Gee, thanks.

I understand the historical significance of the idea of a special month for a group of people. But I find it insulting. Because everything of historical significance that has happened to (and within) the LGBTQ community did not just occur in the month of June. Yes, Stonewall did. And Stonewall is definitely something to remember. But look at the leaps and bounds our community has seen in the years since. The same can be said for Black History Month. February is Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass’s birthdays. But, there are other dates in history that are just as important, if not more so, for Black Americans.

The 13th Amendment was adopted in December. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is in January. These seem to be pretty important events to me, so why localize their importance to one month? Harriet Tubman didn’t limit the rescuing of slaves through the Underground Railroad only during the month of February.

To pick just one month, be it arbitrary or specific, to celebrate one’s history, including their struggles and triumphs, is insulting. Why can’t we have Pride festivals year round? Why can’t we have celebrations on anniversaries of triumphs, instead of one giant gathering that really is nothing more than a parade and an opportunity to get shit-faced drunk with a group of like-minded people? Hell, I can do that whenever I want. How can Pride be so special if we only get one month to celebrate it? What do you do when you go to a Pride festival? How much do you pay attention at booths like those of the HRC or GLAAD? Do you know if your college or your children’s schools have a GSA? How involved are you truly in the fight for equality? Reposting news articles on Facebook isn’t enough anymore.

Another aspect of the farce is something Freeman says in the interview. When Mike Wallace asks “How are we going to get rid of racism?” Freeman replies, “Stop talking about it.”

I’ve seen comments on Facebook ranting about how stupid that statement is. That ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Well, to you I say – you’re idiots. Freeman isn’t saying to ignore the issue. But when we turn to racism and discrimination to explain why we can’t get ahead in the world, we’re making ourselves victims. We’re victimizing ourselves.

Yes, it’s important, desperately important, to remember the pain we’ve all gone through, to remember the past. Because after all, without the past we wouldn’t be where we are today. But a continual focus on the struggle, on the negative, does nothing to clear our path to further our cause for equality. Yes, it’s important to recognize the negative, to remember the past, but it’s even more important to recognize the future, and to remember where we’re headed.

When we look at people and say “He’s Black, she’s a lesbian, that one over there is gay, etc.” we’re putting them in boxes. We’re categorizing them. We categorize ourselves. But that one box we’re stuck in…that doesn’t define us. Yes I’m a lesbian, but that’s only a part of who I am. I’m a writer, an animal lover. I’m agnostic, I’m Dutch, German, French, Polish, and Native American. I’m a Michigander. I’m a dreamer, a hopeless romantic. All of these things make up who I am. Don’t nail me down to any one category.

When we say “He’s Black, she’s a lesbian” we’re judging each other. We’re creating standards by which we can later use against that person to hurt, to exclude, to belittle. Instead of saying “He’s Black, she’s a lesbian” we should be looking at one another and simply saying “He’s human. She’s human.”

You should most definitely be proud of who you are and where you come from. But limiting that to one month out of a year is ludicrous. Celebrate who you are year round. Remember your history year round.

Who I am is far more important than 1/12th of a year.

Unconditional

Quick post:

 

 

Does that even exist anymore? Sure, we hear about it – the unconditional love of Romeo and Juliet. But that’s about it. Everything else in our lives comes with conditions. Some circumstance or rule preventing us from doing what we like or getting what we feel we deserve.

It’s bad enough that companies bring down conditions upon us when we buy their goods and use their services. And I do understand where conditions are needed. Otherwise there are those out there who would take full advantage of the situation.

However, when did support for one another become conditional? I follow George Takei on Facebook, and every year for Halloween he has a costume contest. Well, he received a message from a fan and posted it on his page.

The message was from a mother whose youngest child came out to her as transgender. He dressed as a ‘girl’ for Halloween and in a show of support, his older sister dressed as a ‘boy’.  It really was a heartwarming message of unconditional love from a parent to a child.

Of course, someone had to go and fuck it all up.

Among the comments left by someone I can only define as an internet troll, he said “I’m all for gay rights, but…”. No, no you’re not ‘all for’ supporting us. When you say you’re ‘all for’ something, that means you support it unconditionally, unwaveringly.  Don’t throw that ‘but’ in there, for it makes you look like an ass. You’re not ‘all for gay rights’ if it comes with conditions. I see that too often, that half-hearted support, where the only reason someone says they support a cause is because it’s deemed ‘trendy’ to do so.

If you’re going to support a cause, don’t offer it up with conditions. That’s like telling your lesbian daughter that you support her, but only if she marries a man. That’s like saying that you support equality, but not if it infringes upon your rights. It’s like prefacing a remark with “Don’t take this the wrong way…”. If you have to start out a statement with those words, you obviously realize that what you have to say could be taken offensively. Just say it. I’d rather know what you truly think than for you to try and cushion the blow by offering some half-assed apology before offering up your opinion.

Don’t tiptoe around with your beliefs. Don’t walk on eggshells, cradling your opinion, afraid to present it because you have a delicate ego, or you’re concerned about hurting others. Yes, you shouldn’t hurt other people intentionally, but you shouldn’t have to withhold your opinion either. Just be prepared for the backlash from the opinions of others.

What do you support? What do you believe in? More importantly, how do you support? With one tentative foot in? Is it unconditional support? Or are you an ‘all for…but’ kind of person?

If you are, I don’t want your support. Because if I need to lean on you, are you going to provide a condition before I can turn to you? I’d rather go it alone.

Discrimination within the GLBT community

With all the discrimination coming at us, from so many different angles, I thought I’d take a look at some of the most damning discrimination we face. That within our own community.

A stereotype is defined as a ‘widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

But where do stereotypes come from? Within ourselves. When a group of people do the same thing enough times, it becomes the acceptable norm for that group. At some point, the majority of lesbians had to wear flannel, cargo shorts, and Birkenstocks. That was what was acceptable in our community at that point in time.

Just as the media creates stereotypes in the African American community by celebrating the ones that commit crimes, we’ve perpetuated our own stereotypes.

To all of my lesbian readers, I’m sure you know what the butch-femme continuum is, but to those of you that don’t, here’s a link, and my Clif Notes version:

Screen_shot_2011-11-16_at_11.05.26_AM

Now, the Butch-Femme Continuum is nothing more than a scale used to categorize the lesbian community. I myself, am a Soft Butch. Meaning I look and dress like a guy, but I’m not a tough, truck-driver type of woman. There are other qualities that follow that, but basically, you’re a femme if you look like a girl, and a butch if you look like a guy.

We categorize ourselves. We create these stereotypes and expectations that we force our own community to live by. How can we be upset at others for creating stereotypes when we do it to ourselves? They’re simply taking what we perpetuate and giving it publicity.

As if it’s not hard enough already for teens to come out of the closet, lesbian teens also have to figure out that not only are they homosexual, but they now have to figure out what category the lesbian community will place them in. We talk about carrying our ‘butch card’ and all this other…bullshit, honestly…and then get pissed off when a heterosexual makes a comment about lesbians and faux hawks.

And that’s just half of it. We not only perpetuate stereotypes, but we discriminate within our own community. If you are a homosexual, take a moment to think about something. How do you feel about bisexuals? Or the transgender community? Are they just freaks whom we need to distance ourselves from in our effort for equality? Are they just confused individuals? If you can’t embrace everyone the same, then what makes you deserve ‘equality’? Why do we deserve same-sex marriage when transgender teens are killing themselves over the cruel punishment they face in society over something they had no choice in?

Bisexuals are no more confused than I am when I’m trying to figure out what pasta I want from Olive Garden. Transgenders don’t need to accept the body they’re given because some unseen deity screwed up when handing out crotches.

And attraction has nothing to do with stereotypes. I dress in men’s clothing and have short hair and strut instead of prance because that’s what makes me feel comfortable. Not because that gives me a higher score on some imaginary scale or because I need to fulfill a stereotype to make me fit in. I have the things I’m attracted in, and over the years, I’ve dated women of all shapes and sizes. When asked what my ‘type’ is, I can honestly say I don’t have one. Eyes and smile get me first. Everything else just adds to it.

All our lives we categorize everything around us. And we learn it at a young age. Mom and dad tell us to pick up our toys, and give us a place to put those toys. A place for everything and everything in its place. We carry that with us through our lives. It’s easier to handle things when we can put them in a category, and tuck them away into a compartment in our mind of how things are supposed to be.

I say we upset that balance. We upset that categorizing that has come to rule so many aspects of our lives. Stop labeling, stop categorizing, and you’ll see there’s nothing left to stereotype. Because when it all comes down to the end, we are human, and if you line enough of us up, you’ll see the only real difference between us is what’s inside.

So the next time you participate in a march for equality, ask yourself, are you really marching for everyone’s equality? Or just your own? Stop stereotyping, and just be.