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I Refuse to be Scared Back Into the Closet After What Happened in Orlando
 

By Max Glover
June 2016

 

To those who would do us harm, bring it.   I fear many things — I’m big enough to admit that. Snakes, rollercoasters... but most of all, I fear death. The end of the road. The great reward. Most people worry about their death in terms of car accident or a bed surrounded by loved ones — my fear is suddenly more real.

The tragedy in Orlando has reaffirmed the fear we get from remembering Matthew Shepard and Harvey Milk. I fear death by hail fire, because of who I am.  What occurred in the night club in Orlando lead to fear being shot dead for love. Life and love are such precious things, things to be honored and cared for at all costs. No matter who or what you are, you and who you love matter. Period.

At a young age I realized my love was different and that was who I was. I took the southern gentleman way about it and said nothing. No need to shout it from the rooftops, no need to brand myself. I already am who I am, so why bother making a part of myself that already is, more special than the rest.

But my silence came from a deeper place of fear as well. I feared my Southern Christian parents would no longer love me, I feared my brother would not hang out with me, I feared my family would reject me, I feared the macho, gun loving, azalea fest — having society would shun me. So I hid. I ran deep in to that proverbial closet everyone is so fond of referencing and hid in the dark. I hid for so long because I ultimately feared that if I were to be known as “gay” I would be hunted down and murdered like the people in that night club.

In the gay community, my story is not uncommon — in fact, it’s the norm. If there’s anything that needs to change, it’s the idea that being gay is a reason to hide. Being gay is the truest expression that a person is finally happy and comfortable. Being gay is cause to be happy, that’s why we celebrate June as Pride month, because we are proud.

The tragedy in Orlando is something that will go down in history as being one of the worst mass shootings in the world and the worst mass shooting in the U.S. to date. But this tragedy will be something different for me. June 11 is the day I decided to stop being afraid of what could happen. The fear of what could be.

Being openly out now for almost three years, I have lived in fear, but I’m tired of that fear. It is relentless and of my own creation. Danger is always present but your ability to adapt and cope is what makes life, life. The worst possible thing that could have possibly occurred just did, that’s no reason to slink back into my closet. Now is the time to be prouder than ever and stand tall against tyranny and bigotry.

I am a gay southern jock. I am a gay college student. I am a gay writer. I am a gay athlete. I am Max.

We are strong. We will not hide. We are strong. We will not be afraid. We are strong. We will live to see a new day. We are strong. We will persevere.  We are strong. We are Orlando.

 

(From Max Glover / The Tab Global Youth Media Company)

 


Homophobes & Transphobes Are Destroying America
 

By Ace Robinson
May 2016


May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). It is a day that has been commemorated around the globe since 2004 focused on raising awareness and consciousness on the horrific challenges that the LGBTQIA community faces in so many aspects of their lives. And by challenges I mean: People are denied access to jobs, denied access to public accommodations like restrooms, bullied in school, terrorized in the streets and even killed in their own homes. Here in the United States, many people think that the worst global atrocities that queer people face are far away in places like Uganda, Russia and Syria. I have often heard friends state, with a bit of smugness, that those countries are less developed and less advanced. They try to impress on me that “third” world countries may never be as progressive with their civil rights during our lifetimes. That simply is not true.

It is time for a reality check. Never in our lifetimes has this country been safe for people who are deemed to be different from someone’s norm. And in very public forums, queer people are once again being attacked for simply living their lives. Webster’s Dictionary teaches us that “Homophobia” is first and foremost an irrational fear of homosexuals that leads to an aversion to and/or discrimination against homosexuals. Transphobia is an irrational fear, aversion to and/or discrimination against transgender people. One thing that any racial, sexual, gender, ethnic, religious minority will tell you is that these irrational fears can have grave consequences and those consequences can come from any and all directions.

In the course of a day, nearly all LGBTQIA people in this country must be aware that their identity and even their sole existence may endanger their personal safety. My mother has enough fears at night since she has a Black son in America. But her most pressing fear is that one day I will be killed not because of my race, but because I am too open about my homosexuality. After college, I drove across the country from North Carolina to Seattle in start of a new life. I was so proud, so excited and so happy. I stopped in St. Louis to see my mother en route. I will never forget. She had a look of fear on her face. She would not make eye contact with me when she made one request. She stated, “I know you won’t take that rainbow sticker (Gay Pride sticker) off your car so please do me just one favor. When you stop for gas, please always pay at the pump and never go inside.” What she was wanted to say is: “I know you are going to drive through the Mountain West and that young man Matthew Shepard had just been killed in Wyoming for being an out gay man. I don’t want that to be your fate.”

Recently, a male couple in Atlanta was sleeping at the house of one of their mother’s. The boyfriend of the mother suffered from this aforementioned irrational fear of homosexuals so he got up in the middle of the night, boiled a pot of water, sneaked into the couple’s room while they slept and dumped scalding hot water on them. His blatant attack left both of them with massive burns all over their face and upper torso. Afterwards, this heinous individual did not feel any remorse whatsoever. Clearly, his level of homophobia was so deeply ingrained from society that he did not have the capacity to even empathize for his victims.

Unfortunately, my mother is right. LGBTQIA persons are killed with impunity throughout this country. Those most at-risk of being murdered for having the audacity to exist are transgender women of color. The intersection of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia lives solely in their bodies. They experience extreme harassment and violence with such frequency that some have come to expect it as the norm. One woman received a verbal assault on a subway in NYC while fellow passengers did nothing to stop it until the abuser ultimately physically assaulted her. Subsequently, the video of the attack went viral on YouTube and the victim received support from around the world and even from Presidential candidate Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. Unfortunately for her, this did not happen before the attack.

Transgender people of color experience unemployment at four times the rate of cisgender whites. When employed, 90% experience harassment within the workplace. Contrary to popular belief, there are no Federal laws protecting the LGBTQIA community from harassment at work or even from being fired without any other reason than expressing their gender/sexuality. If that was not enough, a woman can be walking down the street and attacked by a group of men who suffer from transphobia. While being attacked, that woman could defend herself and end up killing her assailant. Then as the ultimate insult to injury, she is imprisoned for murder for defending herself. That was the story of CeCe McDonald who remained jailed until a national movement fought for her justice. The non-stop violence that so many human beings experience from fellow citizens is absolutely unacceptable.

Currently, there are national debates as to whether or not a human being should be able to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. You cannot make this stuff up. It is happening and it is happening here in America. My gender identity happens to be male and I feel most comfortable in male restrooms. Somehow that has become a privilege codified by law in North Carolina . The legislative abusers who create these laws focused on policing the lives of trans* people state that they are simply trying to protect children. My only question is: “Protect children from what?” Are children being attacked in restrooms by the Laverne Coxes and Caitlyn Jenners of the world? I cannot think of one case. But I do know that the Former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, is a serial pedophile. Yes, the same man who was third in line to the Presidency of the United States of America. And the infamous Penn State Football Assistant Coach, Jerry Sandusky, committed the same atrocities as Rep. Hastert, but Sandusky’s actions were even worse in my opinion because his actions were allegedly known to other coaches for decades who did nothing to protect those children. So I ask directly to these legislators who think that political correctness is destroying America: please create laws to protect children from cisgender heterosexual men in roles of perceived leadership who prey on the weak and innocent. Those deviants must be stopped.

IDAHOT is recognized worldwide not a day of self-reflection, but as a day of action. We must engage our policymakers who forget that the world is a better place when we are all supported — not when we demonize particular populations. We must engage our family and friends who are unaware that these atrocities against people based on sexuality and gender identity happen within our country with such frequency. And whenever possible, we must stand up to support sexual and gender minorities who are under attack in the streets, in their homes, from City Hall or even the judiciary. In order to do better, we must be better.
 

(From: Ace Robinson / Global Health Policy Analyst / Huffington Post Queer Voices)

 

LINKS:

 

Homophobes & Transphobes are Destroying America

Day Against Homophobia

 


Gay Voice at the Workplace
 

By Conrad Liveris
May 2016


Trying to be authentic in the office can be a struggle when you operate in a straight man's world.  In the back of my mind I hear a persistent fear: Do I sound too gay?  I know this is a question I shouldn’t care about, yet it sits there. The question makes me attempt a very "straight" view of confidence — especially at work.

When I enter a meeting, I deepen my voice. I make long strides to show my confidence. And I will talk about my interests in investments and sports, rather than those in the arts and baking. I was called out on it recently.  A client I meet with regularly saw me talking to someone at a networking event. He came over and said it was as if I was a different person. I'm very relaxed around him and I definitely wasn’t at this event. Pointedly, he asked, "Do you think being more masculine correlates with career success?"

This confrontation spurred a series of thoughts: What am I hiding? Who am I trying to please? What do I want to achieve by doing this?  The truth is that I am hiding myself, pleasing no one, and getting nowhere. I am the first to attest that my personality is nuanced and takes many forms, and I aim, sometimes unsuccessfully, to be undeniably me. By second-guessing myself and the respect of others, I am reducing myself. It's my fault for not trusting others to consider me an equal.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner." When I adjust my personality to fit into another’s expectation I fall into a trap of my own making. I'm also assuming the worse of them; not trusting them to take me as I am.

I'm far from the only gay or bi man who fights this fight daily, especially in situations where we're outnumbered by straight people, especially men. A 2012 University of California, Los Angeles, study found, "Some gay men are preoccupied with traditional notions of masculinity and express negative feelings towards effeminate behavior in gay men. Various scholars have speculated that such attitudes by gay men reflect internalized negative feelings about being gay."

There is no denying that LGBT people face discrimination for being themselves, especially at work. We've all seen it, whether it's gay jokes or outright harassment. In kowtowing to this homophobia — and compensating by acting more "masculine" — we help cement the idea that there is one way to be a man, and anything else won't be taken seriously.

Gay men in their 20s and 30s have been given the privilege of seeing a generation of LGBT people live out and proud. It falls to us to champion greater inclusion for the next generation by living authentically — even if that means everyone knowing you dig guys the second you open your mouth.

 

(From: Advocate Magazine)

 

LINK:

 

Gay Voice at the Workplace: Confidence Conundrum

 


If Loving You is Wrong
 

By Pam Rocker

May 2016

 

On our first date, you may have thought it was oddly endearing that I explained the Stonewall riots in detail and railed against anti-gay Texan politicians. Over romantic candlelight, you held my hand gently as I criticized the Pope and quoted homophobic lines from his last three speeches. To my surprise, you stayed for dessert, looked into my eyes and simply listened. I can’t remember what I ranted about during the peach cobbler.

Miraculously, hundreds of dinners later, you still listen to me. Sometimes softly nodding and sometimes screaming in unison against the realities of injustice. I love you for this but I can’t help but wonder — what would we have time to talk about if being ourselves was universally accepted? If we didn’t have to fight? If we didn’t hold our breath every time “Christians” debated what we’re allowed to do and where we’re allowed to go to the bathroom?  What would we do with all the extra time? Would we take up gardening? Probably not. But we could. We’d have the option.

Remember that time when we were walking in the mall and a guy yelled right in our faces because we were holding hands? For months after that, whenever we held hands, I felt this tug on my heart, a twinge of anger, a surge of adrenalin, bracing myself for it to happen again. It was such a small thing in comparison to what other people have gone through, and even that broke my heart. It’s horrific that something as simple and sacred as holding your hand would make me worry about our safety.  I can’t help but wonder — what would holding your hand feel like if I never had to wonder?

Don’t get me wrong, I love being gay. Especially with you. If I wasn’t gay when I met you, I would choose to be gay in a second. There’s just no way around it.  And I know I am privileged in many ways. I am/we are lucky. Still, pieces of our lives are stolen without our consent, because we are forced to pause. To stop and read article after article after article, poring over legislation and resolutions about how our love may put us in danger.

We sign petitions and come out over and over again and worry about our LGBTQ friends in other countries and ask and ask and ask people to not get tired of caring because we are tired as hell. It’s not that I don’t want to care. I just don’t want to care about THIS.

Our love story should be about celebration, not avoidance of tragedy. Because we are far more than that. I just want to know what it’s like to not have our relationship be the target of political or religious ammunition. I want to stop defending our existence.  We could use that extra time to do whatever we wanted. How glorious it would be to eat Kraft dinner at midnight with nothing interesting to talk about! How wonderful to open our newsfeed and be bored by the lack of controversy then watch Netflix together!  How beautiful it would be to hold your hand and never wonder.
 

But until then..thank you.  For being next to me for the desperate sighs and the 2am tap-tap-tap typing of letters to editors. For being next to me for all of the victories and rainbow colored picket signs and lesbian activist potlucks.  Maybe one day we’ll get all of that time back, but in the meantime, I’ll take whatever time I can have with you.

 

(From: Huffington Post)

 

LINK:

 

If Loving You is Wrong: A Letter to My Partner

 


What Heterosexual Couples Can Learn
 

By Leonard Holmes

October 2003

 

Research suggests that married heterosexual couples can learn a great deal from gay and lesbian couples. Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley have published what is said to be the first published observational studies of homosexual relationships. John Gottman, one of the lead authors is quoted as saying that "Gay and lesbian couples are a lot more mature, more considerate in trying to improve a relationship and have a greater awareness of equality in a relationship than straight couples. I think that in 200 years heterosexual relationships will be where gay and lesbian relationships are today."


In the first of two papers, the researchers explored the conflict interaction of homosexual and heterosexual couples using mathematical modeling techniques. In the second study, they looked at factors influencing gay and lesbian couples' relationship satisfaction and dissolution.

"In the modeling paper we looked at processes, and they look so different you could draw a picture," said Gottman. "Straight couples start a conflict discussion in a much more negative place than do gays and lesbian couples. Homosexuals start the same kind of discussions with more humor and affection, are less domineering and show considerably more positive emotions than heterosexual couples. "The way a discussion starts is critical. If it starts off in a bad way in a heterosexual relationship, we have found that it will become even more negative 96 percent of the time. Gays and lesbians are warmer, friendlier and less belligerent. You see it over and over in their discussions, and their partner is receiving the message they are communicating. In turn, their partner is allowing himself or herself to be influenced in a positive way. With married heterosexual couples a discussion is much more of a power struggle with someone being invalidated."


Gottman describes gay and lesbian relationships as being characterized by "the triumph of positive emotions over negative emotions." He stated that "Negative emotions have more impact in heterosexual relationships. This is why our previous research has shown you need a 5-to-1 ratio of positive to negative statements. This seems to be universal in heterosexual couples. But it may be different in gay and lesbian relationships where positive emotions seem to have a lot more power or influence." The subjects of the studies did more than complete questionnaires. Researchers videotaped discussions each couple had about what occurred that day, a topic of ongoing conflict, and a pleasant topic. They analyzed the verbal and nonverbal content of their interaction during the talks and again at a later time when the partners viewed the tape individually. The researchers also collected an array of physiological data, including heart rate, during the conversations.


Homosexual couples were recruited in the San Francisco Bay area and they filled out a questionnaire that assessed relationship satisfaction. Forty pairs – 12 happy gay couples, 10 unhappy gay couples, 10 happy lesbian couples and 8 unhappy lesbian couples – were chosen to participate in the study. The comparison sample of married couples was drawn from a larger study that recruited couples from around Bloomington, Indiana. It was matched in terms of age, marital satisfaction, education and income to the homosexual couples and consisted of 20 happy and 20 unhappy couples. The researchers went on to collect data for 12 years on the relationships of the homosexual couples. By then eight couples (20 percent) – one gay and seven lesbian – had broken up. This rate, if projected over a 40-year period, would be almost 64 percent, which is similar to the 67 percent divorce rate for first marriages among heterosexual couples of the same time span.  The research found that high levels of cardiovascular arousal among straight couples during a conflict predicted lower relationship satisfaction and higher risk for relationship dissolution. The reverse was actually true with homosexual couples. With gays and lesbians, low physiological arousal was related to these negative outcomes. The gay and lesbian couples talked more openly about topics such as monogamy and sex. Heterosexual avoided talking about sex. This may be because their sexuality is already an issue when they deal with a largely heterosexual world. The authors content that such open and honest communication may improve the relationships of heterosexual couples.


(From Leonard Holmes, Ph.D., Journal of Homosexuality)

 


The Case for Gay Marriage
 

By The Economist

February 2004

 

So at last it is official: George Bush is in favor of unequal rights, big-government intrusiveness and federal power rather than devolution to the states. That is the implication of his announcement this week that he will support efforts to pass a constitutional amendment in America banning gay marriage. Some have sought to explain this action away simply as cynical politics, an effort to motivate his core conservative supporters to turn out to vote for him in November or to put his likely “Massachusetts liberal” opponent, John Kerry, in an awkward spot. Yet to call for a constitutional amendment is such a difficult, drastic and draconian move that cynicism is too weak an explanation. No, it must be worse than that: Mr. Bush must actually believe in what he is doing.

 

Mr. Bush says that he is acting to protect “the most fundamental institution of civilization” from what he sees as “activist judges” who in Massachusetts early this month confirmed an earlier ruling that banning gay marriage is contrary to their state constitution. The city of San Francisco, gay capital of America, has been issuing thousands of marriage licenses to homosexual couples, in apparent contradiction to state and even federal laws. It can only be a matter of time before this issue arrives at the federal Supreme Court. And those “activist judges”, who, by the way, gave Mr. Bush his job in 2000, might well take the same view of the federal constitution as their Massachusetts equivalents did of their state code: that the constitution demands equality of treatment. Last June, in Lawrence v Texas, they ruled that state anti-sodomy laws violated the constitutional right of adults to choose how to conduct their private lives with regard to sex, saying further that “the Court's obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate its own moral code”. That obligation could well lead the justices to uphold the right of gays to marry.

 

Let them wed

 

That idea remains shocking to many people. So far, only two countries—Belgium and the Netherlands—have given full legal status to same-sex unions, though Canada has backed the idea in principle and others have conferred almost-equal rights on such partnerships. The sight of homosexual men and women having wedding days just like those enjoyed for thousands of years by heterosexuals is unsettling, just as, for some people, is the sight of them holding hands or kissing. When The Economist first argued in favor of legalizing gay marriage eight years ago (“Let them wed”, January 6th 1996) it shocked many of our readers, though fewer than it would have shocked eight years earlier and more than it will shock today. That is why we argued that such a radical change should not be pushed along precipitously. But nor should it be blocked precipitously.

 

The case for allowing gays to marry begins with equality, pure and simple. Why should one set of loving, consenting adults be denied a right that other such adults have and which, if exercised, will do no damage to anyone else? Not just because they have always lacked that right in the past, for sure: until the late 1960s, in some American states it was illegal for black adults to marry white ones, but precious few would defend that ban now on grounds that it was “traditional”. Another argument is rooted in semantics: marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and so cannot be extended to same-sex couples. They may live together and love one another, but cannot, on this argument, be “married”. But that is to dodge the real question—why not?—and to obscure the real nature of marriage, which is a binding commitment, at once legal, social and personal, between two people to take on special obligations to one another. If homosexuals want to make such marital commitments to one another, and to society, then why should they be prevented from doing so while other adults, equivalent in all other ways, are allowed to do so?

 

Civil unions are not enough

 

The reason, according to Mr Bush, is that this would damage an important social institution. Yet the reverse is surely true. Gays want to marry precisely because they see marriage as important: they want the symbolism that marriage brings, the extra sense of obligation and commitment, as well as the social recognition. Allowing gays to marry would, if anything, add to social stability, for it would increase the number of couples that take on real, rather than simply passing, commitments. The weakening of marriage has been heterosexuals' doing, not gays', for it is their infidelity, divorce rates and single-parent families that have wrought social damage.

 

But marriage is about children, say some: to which the answer is, it often is, but not always, and permitting gay marriage would not alter that. Or it is a religious act, say others: to which the answer is, yes, you may believe that, but if so it is no business of the state to impose a religious choice. Indeed, in America the constitution expressly bans the involvement of the state in religious matters, so it would be especially outrageous if the constitution were now to be used for religious ends.

 

The importance of marriage for society's general health and stability also explains why the commonly mooted alternative to gay marriage—a so-called civil union—is not enough. Vermont has created this notion, of a legally registered contract between a couple that cannot, however, be called a “marriage”. Some European countries, by legislating for equal legal rights for gay partnerships, have moved in the same direction (Britain is contemplating just such a move, and even the opposition Conservative leader, Michael Howard, says he would support it). Some gays think it would be better to limit their ambitions to that, rather than seeking full social equality, for fear of provoking a backlash—of the sort perhaps epitomized by Mr. Bush this week.

 

Yet that would be both wrong in principle and damaging for society. Marriage, as it is commonly viewed in society, is more than just a legal contract. Moreover, to establish something short of real marriage for some adults would tend to undermine the notion for all. Why shouldn't everyone, in time, downgrade to civil unions? Now that really would threaten a fundamental institution of civilization.
 

(From The Economist, London)

 



Another Production by America's Anti-Gay Industry


By Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
 

"Despite their best efforts, the organizers of 'Justice Sunday' could not conceal what their campaign to force the Senate to vote on extremists nominated by President Bush to the federal judiciary is really all about – their hysterical fear that gay people will secure equal rights by doing the same thing minorities in the nation have done for more than 200 years – seeking redress through the courts.  Let's all be clear: there is no difference between the leaders of America's anti-gay industry and those leading the anti-filibuster campaign. They are one in the same.
 

Last year, the leading organizations behind 'Justice Sunday' – Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council – organized three simulcasts to 'protect marriage' that were virtually identical to Sunday's event. The previous simulcasts even featured many of the same speakers as those on Sunday. The focus of the prior events was on 'activist judges' and marriage for gay people. On Sunday night, it was the same thing. Each speaker railed against 'activist judges,' their code for judges who render decisions based on the law – particularly decisions concerning rights for gay people – rather than based on political ideology.
 

Sunday night's speakers repeatedly brought it all back to marriage. Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson, said, 'Where is this leading? Where does it go? It goes directly to the redefinition of marriage.' Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler said, 'Justice Antonin Scalia warned us. He said this [United States Supreme] [C]ourt is ready to legalize same-sex marriage.' Bill Donohue, Catholic League for Religious Civil Rights President, chimed in with, '[T]he most insane idea I've ever heard in my whole life of two men getting married, I mean, that's something I expect in the asylum!'
 

Americans should understand that the religious and political Right is using gay people generally, and marriage equality specifically, as the leading edge of wedge to push through a broad reactionary agenda including a rollback of civil rights protections, ending constitutional protections of a woman's right to make reproductive health decisions, and dismantling the wall separating church and state. Those who will lose if this agenda succeeds must stand together and fight because, as Benjamin Franklin said, 'We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.'"
 

NOTES:

 

For more of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute's analysis, see "'Justice Sunday' Was Really About Demagoguery, Homophobia, and Politics" at http://www.thetaskforce.org/jsunday. For a comprehensive chart of judicial and executive branch nominees filibusters prior to the current presidential administration, see the chart developed by the People For the American Way from Congressional Research Service data at: http://media.pfaw.org/filibusters.pdf.  You may also contact Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications, NGLTF, media@thetaskforce.org, 646.358.1465.


Founded in 1973, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation (the Task Force) was the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and advocacy organization and remains the movement's leading voice for freedom, justice and equality. We work to build the grassroots political strength of our community by training state and local activists and leaders, working to strengthen the infrastructure of state and local allies, and organizing broad-based campaigns to build public support for complete equality for LGBT people.


(From Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force)

 


What Gay Rights Backlash?

 

By Ramon Johnson

 

Mainstream media seems to believe the recent gay rights victories in the political and social arenas will inevitably result in a step backwards for gay equality. I must admit, the pressures from right-wing conservatives and the Vatican have heightened, but is their voice any different or more harsh than it's always been? The positive advances in gay rights (stricken sodomy laws, same-sex marriage in Canada, openly gay clergymen) haven't altered the opinions or policies of  homophobic politicians and institutions. They were never our friends before recent events and won't be after this push for gay equality. President Bush and the Catholic Church have never been known as gay supporters, so why the sudden fear?  Could it be that their voices are currently louder than ours? 


Gay equality has been an lingering and taboo issue until recently, forcing moderate citizens and politicians to take a stance one way or the other.  We as a community are faced with a challenge that has the potential to change the lives of gays for decades to come.  Was there not a "backlash" during the march on
Stonewall? Were there not loudly vocalized opinions and threats of legal action during the passing of the same-sex marriage law in Canada?  Were there not pressures from powerful anti-gay adversaries before the opening of the first gay public high school?  Yet we prevailed; just as the original marches at Stonewall did. Sure, it's easier for us to take the advice of those afraid of change and be content with current levels of "gay tolerance;" watching silently as our children lose even the existing rights those before us so diligently achieved. But isn't it far more rewarding to push for equal rights- rights few dreamed possible?  If you choose not to join in the new rally for gay equality for yourself, then consider the future of our gay youth, family and friends who will be greatly affected by the events that are happening today.  Make history by contributing to the gay rights movement of the new millennium!  There will always be a backlash from those that oppose gays, but it's up to us to overcome it and march forward.

 

(From Ramon Johnson)
 


Discrimination is Immoral

 

By Matt Foreman

 

I'm hearing both gay and straight people say that the long string of losses we've faced at the polls around marriage equality are really our own fault; our community pushed too hard and too fast, they argue. The prominent theme being generated is that we have failed to "educate" the public about who we really are and get beyond the stereotypes of leather people, butch dykes, circuit boys and drag queens – and that it is now our obligation to reintroduce ourselves to the American people. I also repeatedly hear that it's up to us to reframe the terms of the debate away from "moral values" to simpler concepts, such as fairness, which polls indicate resonate most with the public.

 

I disagree. This is nothing more than the blame-the-victim mentality afflicting our nation generally and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement specifically. Rather than reframing the debate away from moral values, we must embrace them. Or more precisely, the utter immorality of the escalating attacks against LGBT people. And, equally, the utter immorality in the failure of so many people of good will to stand with us. It is time for us to seize the moral high ground and state unambiguously that anti-gay discrimination in any form is immoral. Webster's defines discrimination as "unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice." By any measure, LGBT people are targets of discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. FBI statistics show that more people are being murdered because of their sexual orientation than for any other bias reason. Our young people are still routinely bullied in schools. The examples of injustices in the area of partner and family recognition are too many to list. No thinking or feeling person can deny these realities, which, as always, fall hardest on LGBT people of color and those who are poor.
 

But, alarmingly, rather than seeing a groundswell of support for measures to combat these injustices, the opposite is occurring. In Congress and in statehouses nationwide, it's rhetorical and legislative open season on LGBT people. For example, over the last nine months, anti-marriage state constitutional amendments were put on the ballot in 14 states, 10 of which also prohibit the recognition of any form of relationship between people of the same gender. It's likely another 12 states will have similar measures on the ballot within 3 years. Nothing like this has happened since the Constitution was ratified in 1791 – essentially a national referendum inviting the public to vote to deprive a small minority of Americans of rights the majority takes for granted and sees as fundamental.
 

And who's been there to fight these amendments? Basically us, the very minority under attack. Mainstream media and churches are largely silent to our opponents' lies. Most progressive organizations and political campaigns, meanwhile, steer clear. There have been sterling exceptions, but they have been few and far between. Many people who see themselves as supporters of equal rights for all tolerate this because they believe prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation is profoundly different than that based on race or religion – that it comes from an understandable disapproval of our behavior – not on some "immutable characteristic." Homosexual behavior, they feel, is "unnatural" (doesn't the Bible say so?). Pundits say there is an "ick" factor – that the thought of gay sex revolts non-gay people, and that this seemingly innate reaction is proof there is something wrong with homosexuality. This rationale is hardly unique to gay people. Scholars point to comparable "ick" sentiments about Irish immigrants in the 1880s, and describe how in preceding generations sexual ideology was used to strengthen control over slaves and to justify the taking of Native American lands, and that for centuries Jews were associated with disease and urban degeneration.

 

Fact is, there is no justification for anti-gay prejudice; the "justifications" for it are as unfounded as those used to support the second-class treatment of other minorities in past generations.  So, what needs to be done?  First, everyone must realize that when straight people say gay people should not have the freedom to marry, they are saying we are not as good or deserving as they are. It's that simple, no matter how one attempts to sugarcoat it.  This is unacceptable – and it is immoral.  Second, while we should talk to straight people honestly about our lives, we must flatly reject the notion that we are somehow to blame for all of this because we have not effectively communicated our "stories" to others. Fundamentally, it is not our job to prove to others that we can be good neighbors, good parents, and that gee whiz, we're actually people too. Third, equality will remain elusive if we keep relying on intellectualized arguments or by dryly cataloguing, for example, each of the 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities we are forced to forgo due to marriage inequality. The other side goes for the gut; it's now our turn.
 

In this vein, we must put others on the spot to stand up and fight for us. As the cascade of lies pours forth from the Anti-Gay Industry, morality demands that non-gay people speak out with the same vehemence as they would if it was another minority under attack. Ministers and rabbis must be challenged with the question, "Where is your voice?" Elected officials who meet with and attend events of the Anti-Gay Industry, must be met with the challenge, "How can you do that!? How is that public service?"  The orchestrated campaign to deny us jobs, family recognition, children, and housing is immoral. Silently bearing witness to this discrimination is immoral.  America is in the midst of another ugly chapter in its struggle with the forces of bigotry. People of good will can either rise up to speak for lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender Americans, or look back upon themselves 20 years from now with deserved shame.

 

(From Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay And Lesbian Task Force)

 


How Do I Know If I Am Gay?

By Ramon Johnson

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to determine if you are gay. There are no scientific tests or stereotypes that determine your sexuality. You will find out through experience and feelings. Most define being gay as having a strong bond or sexual attraction to another man. Others define it as a lifestyle which includes behaviors and social interactions. You should ask yourself several questions about your sexuality and sexual preferences. Do you prefer sex with a man? Are you physically attracted to men? Do you feel an emotional bond with a man? Would you consider an intimate relationship with a man?   Try not to fall into the trap of stereotypes. Gay men are just as diverse as straight men. There are no mannerisms, music or clothing preferences that can define a person as gay.

 

Am I Normal?  Of course you are! Being gay does not define who you are or make you any less of a person. At times it is not easy being gay, especially around those that are not supportive. Nonetheless, try to surround yourself by people who do support you and your lifestyle. You will soon see that gay and bisexual men interact with each other and the world as any other person would.

 

If I Have Gay Fantasies, Am I Gay?  Some men experience homosexual encounters throughout their lives, but maintain their heterosexuality. There are many men who have had a sexual encounter with another man or are simply "curious." This does not necessarily mean they are gay. They are simply getting in touch with their sexuality. Many others experiment with both men and women to help them determine if they are gay, bisexual or straight (heterosexual).

 

(From Ramon Johnson, Your Guide to Gay Life)

 


A Gay Brother in the Family

By Marnie Winn

 

I can't say that I remember the particular day I realized my brother was gay, but I honestly feel that he was born as the person he is today. Growing up with my brother was very exciting and special for me because he was "my baby" in a sense. Our mother worked long hours on an afternoon shift in a dangerous and stressful job. I had two brothers to watch after being the oldest of three and "my baby" was the highlight of my day and night. I remember picking him up from daycare, walking him home, helping him with homework, drawing his evening bath and preparing his dinner for the night.

I enjoyed how my baby would follow me anywhere in the house. "My little shadow", I often called him. I nurtured him and aided in his path to a promising career. I reminded him endlessly of the rights and wrongs of the world as I knew them.


When my baby turned 10 or 11 years old he moved away to live with his dad. I felt alone because it seemed like the one person in my life who I felt needed me was being taken away. Over the years our relationship remained solid and my baby knew he could rely on me for anything. I missed him terribly.

As his senior year of high school approached I was honored to see my brother graduate with honors and high recommendations. I was proud to see that he had indeed been surrounded with great friendships, love and support from a wonderful staff of teachers.

During his college years is when I noticed his anger, his fears, and his pain. Living in the closet was literally killing him. I don't believe my baby had a clue that I even knew. My mom knew of course, but I strongly believe my baby struggled with revealing his choice with me. I will never forget one Saturday morning when he was in his last semester of college. He was very stressed and I offered to come to his side and help. He refused, saying I didn't understand. I told my baby that I did indeed understand. I knew he wasn't troubled with school or graduation, but the manner in which he chose to live. I loved him regardless.

In the end he became a college graduate (the first child of our family). I am definitely proud of him and being the person he's become could not have suited him better. I have enjoyed watching my baby become a very strong, dependable, loveable, dedicated, and admirable individual with characteristics no one posses but him.

Despite what people or family may think about his sexuality, the love I share with my brother as the person he is will never be divided. His sexuality is only a part of him and should be his personal business, unless otherwise discussed by him. His sexuality should in no way define his entire being. There is no chance I would ever cut him that short, especially when he means the world to me. I love you baby brother and I couldn't be more proud of all your accomplishments.

In short, learning about and living with the fact that my bother is gay has not altered my opinion of him in anyway. He is still my brother. Always has been and always will be.

 

(From Marnie Winn)

 

 


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ALGBTICAL

Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama