Good Queer News: Symbols of Solidarity

Safety Pin Solidarity

I’m not really good at ranting. It just isn’t me. Very seldom do I actually get mad, and when I do, the last thing I am capable of doing is focusing that anger into anything coherent. Usually, when things bother me that I could rant about, I usually just feel sad. But while rants might not be my thing, there is something that I can do: spread happy news.

Immediately following the last Presidential election on November 8, 2016, I felt like completely crushed. In the process of trying to feel better — to do something more than I was already doing — I wore a safety pin. Despite thinking that demonstrating solidarity with others was a good idea, I didn’t wear the safety pin too long. Everywhere I turned I read articles about how wearing a safety pin was an insult.

After a few days, I quietly removed the safety pin from my shirt and tried not to cry. It seemed like even trying to feel solidarity with other people that were suffering was anathema.

While showing solidarity with other people that are suffering isn’t really anathema, too many people seemed to think that by wearing a safety pin to show solidarity, the person wearing the safety pin was trying to absolve themselves from actually having to do anything. That wasn’t the way that I looked at it. The way I viewed wearing a safety pin was that the person was actually doing something even more than they were already doing. And since so many people were doing such wonderful things over the last eight years, doing something more was going above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak.

It might actually be that there is no easy way to show solidarity with people that are suffering, but there are enough people that are fed up with the seeing others suffer that they are getting creative in showing their support.

Solidarity In Speech

On November 26, 2016, The New York Times posted an opinion piece by R. Derek Black that should warm the heart of anyone that is looking for allies.

Mr. Black was born into a “prominent white nationalist family” that included David Duke as his godfather and the founder of Stormfront as a father. Despite being socialized into such extreme white nationalism, Mr. Black overcame his background to stand by the people that he once stood against.

… For me, the conversations that led me to change my views started because I couldn’t understand why anyone would fear me. I thought I was only doing what was right and defending those I loved.

I think the “Hamilton” cast modeled well one way to make that same connection when they appealed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence from the stage: “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us.” …

The entire article is worth reading if you want to feel the power of what is possible.

But there is more to solidarity than a one-time enemy turning into an ally.

Solidarity in Symbols

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, a woman had been flying a rainbow American flag. Originally, it hadn’t brought much attention. That all changed after the previous election when she was left a note about someone’s disappointment with the flag she was flying.

In truth, after reading the original note, I can understand the point of view of the writer. While he didn’t seem to have any intention of being divisive, Ms Pearlman, who has a daughter that is lesbian, was hurt. Her neighbors, after finding out about the note, showed their solidarity with symbols.

Her neighbours reacted swiftly to the incident – with dozens of people also buying rainbow flags and flying them in solidarity.

Ms Pearlman continued: “How did my wonderful, loving neighbors respond? They built a wall of flags.

“As of today there are 20 flags flying and more are to come. Love will always trump hate.”

In this instance, you might be telling yourself that there was no need for a show of solidarity. After all, it is possible to argue that the man didn’t mean any harm with his note. He might have just been insensitive to the pain he caused. Even if that is true, there are enough people out there that are trying to hurt others that any show of solidarity should be welcome.

Solidarity in Lights

A woman that left the Mormon church was visited by another woman that still belonged to the church. The visiting woman didn’t realize that they weren’t of a similar mind on the question of LGBTQ issues. The story describes how the visitor proceeded to say things like this:

“Anyway, thinking that we were allies, she went on to tell us how horrified she was when her son got turned down for prom because the girl was already planning on going with her girlfriend.”

The neighbour’s anti-LGBT views just got more open as she told the ex-Mormon couple how they disagreed with the local school raising awareness about transgender issues.

“That, coupled with the school’s justification for letting lesbians attend the prom together and doing an assembly that taught kids the facts about being transgender were just too much for her,” Mrs Rosey Crotch writes.

“She said that she had to move away because she was so sick of the gays and transgenders and everyone making their ‘lifestyle’ okay.”

Her solution to show the visitor, and anyone else that was interested, where she stood on the issue of LGBTQ equality was to create a display with 10,000 rainbow colored Christmas lights.

Rainbow Colored Christmas Lights

So yes, symbols of solidarity are important. While I might have to find another way to show solidarity with those that are suffering, I will continue to praise anyone that takes a step — no matter how large or small — to show solidarity with those that need their support.

I will be anxiously watching Trans rights at SCOTUS

The Supreme Court of the United States has placed a hold on “the Gloucester County School Board to allow “G.G.” to use the boys’ bathroom at Gloucester High School”. The case about whether a trans student can be seen as their gender or whether there should be some special restriction on how they participate in public life.

There is hope that the Supreme Court will allow the district court’s order — which allowed this particular trans student to enjoy all the benefits and disadvantages of his gender — to stand since Stephen Breyer seemed to be maintaining the “status quo” instead of indicating his own judicial opinion.

From Scotus Blog:

… Three of the Court’s more liberal Justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan – would have denied the board’s request.  But Justice Stephen Breyer indicated that he had voted to grant the board’s application “as a courtesy” – a practice most commonly seen (at least in the past) in last-minute death penalty proceedings.  Breyer noted that four of his colleagues – Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito – had voted to block the district court’s order temporarily, and he added that doing so would simply “preserve the status quo” until the Court can rule on the board’s petition for review.

With that decision by Stephen Breyer, it will be at least August 29, 2016 before any further information will be known about a possible outcome.

I, along with many trans people, will be watching this case closely. There are so many questions waiting to be answered by this case:

  • Will trans people be treated as equal members in society?
  • Can damage be inflicted on trans people for the (possible) comfort of cis people?
  • Will equal access for trans people remain limited?
  • Will the progress made for trans people over the last several years be undone?

While we know that it shouldn’t be that difficult to accept trans people for whom they are, history tells us that it is always a difficult struggle for most minority groups to be treated as equal. People of color, while having made great strides, are still suffering from mostly covert, but occasionally overt, discrimination; and that is even after a Constitutional amendment was passed in an attempt at equality. Women still suffer from a system of sexism that can be statistically identified. Non-dominant religious groups — atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and others — still struggle to have access to the workings of society without being ostracised for their religious practices.

Because of my privileges the trans question will come closer to affecting me than many of the other questions, but this is just the latest line in a long string of questions that essentially ask whether we can all be treated as human or whether some lives are considered more disposable than others.

Kinky Boots: Just Pee

This is absolutely awesome! Cyndi Lauper has been a hero (heroine?) to me for as long as I have known her music. She became even more of a hero when I learned how much she cared about the LGBT community.

I’ve had a crush on Harvey Fierstein since I saw him in the movie “Independence Day”, and became a true fan of his after I saw him in a documentary talking about how he loved effeminate men. And truthfully, what’s not to love about effeminate men?

And Kinky Boots? Besides being absolutely fabulous, their music is as stunning as they are. Put all of them together in a video for trans rights, and you have a winner.

Want to help? Vote for Democrats

The Democrats are trying to renew the push to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This, of course, would be an easy way to provide relief for members of the LGBT community as they face discrimination in various locations around the United States.

From the Huffington Post:

House Democrats held a press conference Thursday reminding everyone that there’s an easy way to end these problems: Pass the Equality Act, which would extend federal nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people and make the state-level fights into non-issues.

The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of already protected classes (race, color, sex, religion and national origin).

In other words, it would protect LGBT people from discrimination in credit, education, employment, housing, federal financial assistance, jury service and public accommodations.

It’s a wonderful idea. It is also a need that will continue as long as there are people waiting for any excuse to discriminate against minorities – regardless of whether that minority is a person of color, a member of the LGBT, a woman, or some other characteristic that makes up the tapestry of America.

But that has to be done at the federal level. Something that we can all do is vote for Democrats. The Democratic party, for the most part, supports the rights of minorities. The more Democrats, the better chance of limiting the discrimination that can be written into law.

Keep the B in the LGBT

One of the things that I really enjoy is perusing through my list of blogs of a morning. I have quite a collection: science, entertainment, comics, writing, reading, and LGBT blogs just to name a few. The blog categories are fuzzy to say the least. Many blogs talk about various issues. The atheism blogs I follow often discuss LGBT issues. The science blogs discuss atheism issues. The LGBT blogs discuss science issues. It makes for pleasant as well as serendipitous reading.

While reading a nominally atheist blog, I stumbled upon a video about taking the “B” out of the LGBT. I’ll admit that he did have valid arguments, but I think that the lesson that he drew from those arguments was wrong.

Here is a link to the video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/6rHus8x2GWE

In case you didn’t watch the video, his argument is essentially that when bisexual people are sent to “LGBT” community centers we are increasing the risk of suicide that the bisexual people face. He explains that there is an expectation that the bisexual people will find a community where they can feel included, but because many gay men and lesbians are prejudice against bisexual people, the bisexual people are actually hurt worse than if they didn’t have a group that they considered safe.

Of course his point was more nuanced, better explained, and provided additional details; but that is the essence of his argument.

Being in the “T” section of the LGBT acronym, I am also in a subsection of the community that isn’t always greeted with open arms. Never-the-less, this is still the group where I feel most at home. Granted, I like to use the term “queer” as an umbrella term to include the LGBT as well as other sections such as queer, questioning, asexual, intersex, and allied people. I would even happily expand the acronym as far as necessary to include other minorities that I might not be aware of.

But having a big group like the LGBT doesn’t completely take the place of sister organizations. There is a transsexual sister organization that I also feel connected to that deals with issues that are more narrowly focused on transsexual and transgender issues. And just like the blogs that I read, there is plenty of crossover between all the different groups. LGBT groups stand behind the trans groups, trans groups stand with the LGBT groups, lesbian groups stand with both the gay and trans groups. There are also groups that focus on young, school age kids that need help; other groups work with LGBT senior citizens.

That brings me to what I believe is the best solution to this particular situation. Instead of removing the “B” from the LGBT, there should be a different group (at least one) that assists with problems specific to the bisexual community. When issues arise where there is common cause between the various groups, the bisexual group can stand with the other groups to present a united front much as the trans groups do now.

As a member of more than one group (both “T” and “B” in the very least), I can understand that there are needs that might not be getting met completely by the LGBT groups. But I can’t believe that division and separation is the solution. If there are needs that aren’t being met, we need to address those problems both within the LGBT as well as creating groups to provide additional resources until the needs of all people are being met.

There be lesbians here!

There are problems with living deep inside the South that I would have never thought of. Some of those problems might be completely unrelatable to the people that are lucky enough to live in areas where it is, not only acceptable, but uncontroversial to just be yourself. Here in the heartland, while people might be out of the closet, they aren’t out in the sense that they can be identified by people the majority of the time.

In other words, even if you meet someone that belongs to the LGBT, you might never know it.

I will be the first to admit that it is nice to be treated like a regular human being by all of your coworkers as well as the people that you meet in your day to day life as you go about your business. I enjoy being able to purchase my groceries without having to have a discussion on same-sex issues while waiting in line. But there are times when I would give up this luxury if I could just see people that I could more easily empathize with.

Where are the people that were outsiders when they were growing up? Where are the people that enjoy Glee even when they are 20 years older than the show’s target audience? Where are the people that you can feel comfortable around when you want to talk about how someone of the same sex – or opposite sex! – is attractive without having to wonder whether you will be judged negatively for expressing your thoughts. Where are the people who would dare to show the side of themselves that doesn’t match society’s expectations of their gender? Where can you enjoy pop music, or show tunes, or beautiful love songs without attracting the scorn of the community?

Living in the heartland can be a lonely place. While it is true that there are a tremendous number of nice people that live in the heartland, its also true that friendships can only be on a superficial level if you don’t feel like you can be yourself.

That’s what makes one woman bringing lunch to another, night after night, such an interesting event. The women seem to be close to the same age. And while it is still possible that there is enough age difference between them for a mother/daughter relationship, it seems unlikely. It’s also true that they could be sisters; but haven’t we all been ask whether we are the sisters of our wives or significant other? It could also be that they are simply friends that are helping each other through difficult financial times. But it is equally as likely that each of these explanations is wrong and that they are lesbians.

The mere thought that there are other people that belong to the LGBT is enough to fill me with hope and yearning for friendship that is so difficult to find among the “normal” people that live around here. Even a smile and an understanding nod could provide days of the uplifting feeling that you are not alone in this world.

It is taken as a given that humans are social creatures. Given that, it doesn’t seem too much to ask that there are people that we can socialize with in our vicinity.

Norman OK extends helping hand to LGBT Oklahomans

I am proud to say that there is a town in my state that was willing to stand out in this Christian, Republican stronghold and take a stand for the protection of minorities. While protecting people and providing them with equal rights shouldn’t be divisive, there are still way too many people in Oklahoma that are willing to do everything in their power to make life as torturous as possible for the people that they don’t like.

And one of the groups of people that they don’t like are members of the LGBT community.

The city council in Norman, Oklahoma has taken a stand to provide the members of the LGBT community with the protections that are still desperately needed in many parts of Oklahoma.

One of our local TV stations, News 9, reported the following:

Norman is now the first city in the state to pass inclusive protections for the LGBT community.

Supporters called Tuesday’s vote historic.

“It should have been done a long time ago,” said Troy Stevenson, Freedom Oklahoma director.

They’re inclusive protections that are intended to match those already in place for minority communities.

Stevenson said this has been an ongoing fight for years.

“This is actually one of the most important fights that’s going on in the state of Oklahoma,” Stevenson said.

Norman, Oklahoma is one of the college towns in Oklahoma. Being a college town, there is naturally a more diverse and well educated population that makes it easier to pass legislation for minorities than in many of the other municipalities around the state. But even these little progressive havens around the state can demonstrate the need for such legislation.

It was in the same city in 2010 that the dialog was so toxic that it contributed to the suicide of a young gay man.

Here is a reminder of that time frame as reported by Queerty. I wouldn’t recommend following the link unless you are ready to experience flashbacks to the times when people were more prepared to wear their hate on their sleeves.

Zach Harrington, a 19-year-old in Norman, Oklahoma, attended a City Council meeting Sept. 28 where council members were asked to simply recognize October at LGBT History Month in the city. In a 7-1 vote, the council approved the resolution — but not before three hours of incensed debate back and forth between members of the public during an open comment period. It was this “toxic” exchange among neighbors, railing against the recognition of queers’ contributions to society, that led Zach to take his own life a week later, his family says.

 Since Norman is the first town in Oklahoma to approve protections for the LGBT community, we still have an enormously long way to go to reach equality. Still, it is nice to see that we are making progress even in the reddest of states.