Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced today that despite Donald Trump’s tweet to the contrary there has been no change yet to the military’s policy regarding transgender personnel.
In the message, which was sent to the chiefs of the military branches and senior enlisted leaders, Dunford said that the military will continue to “treat all of our personnel with respect.”
I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the President. There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”
In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”
About 15,000 transgender troops are currently serving openly in the United States military. In June of 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that already-serving transgender troops could come out without fear of discharge. He also established a plan to let openly transgender people enroll in the military within one year.
But Trump made his announcement without consulting the Pentagon. He reportedly did not even discuss the issue with his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, who has strongly supported open transgender service in the past. Trump’s sudden decision threatened to jettison years of careful planning and preparation on the part of the military.
It also left military leaders in a lurch, caught between the president’s tweets and formal policy. The Navy has clarified that, at least for now, transgender troops may still serve and receive transition-related medical care; Dunford’s letter makes clear that remains official policy in every branch of the armed forces.
Yesterday Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee and a decorated war hero, criticized Trump’s social-media fiat.
The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.
The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.
The Department of Defense is currently conducting a study on the medical obligations it would incur, the impact on military readiness, and related questions associated with the accession of transgender individuals who are not currently serving in uniform and wish to join the military. I do not believe that any new policy decision is appropriate until that study is complete and thoroughly reviewed by the Secretary of Defense, our military leadership, and the Congress.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will continue to follow closely and conduct oversight on the issue of transgender individuals serving in the military.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to turn the page on years of Republican hostility to progress on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights by being an even better friend to the LGBTQ community than his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
He waved a rainbow flag. He denounced Clinton and her foundation for taking donations from ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, and warned the gay community after the Orlando massacre that Clinton’s immigration stance would bring “more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs”.
Then just weeks after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered a six month review on the Defense Department’s transgender policy, Trump announced over Twitter that the government will not accept or allow transgender individuals in the military.
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……
The move came as a total surprise to most people, even in his own party.
Like the travel ban before it, it was quickly released and poorly thought out. Announced on Twitter, with no detail to follow, the futures of thousands of people were thrown into doubt. Would those already serving in the US and abroad be discharged? When would this happen and how? Press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders couldn’t say on Wednesday, and threatened to shut down the press briefing when reporters kept asking questions.
Major advocacy groups depicted Mr Trump’s pronouncement as an appeal to the portion of his conservative base that opposes the recent civil-rights gains by the LGBT community.
Sarah Kate Ellis of GLAAD said:
President Trump today issued a direct attack on transgender Americans, and his administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government – even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation.
Today further exposed President Trump’s overall goal to erase LGBTQ Americans from this nation. Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn’t make that any more clear.”
The Democrats said:
Right this moment, around the world, brave transgender service members are protecting the American people – including Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
While the White House claims to be celebrating ‘American Heroes’ week, the president and vice president are shoving real American patriots back in the closet and putting our nation’s security at risk.
Donald Trump said he would protect LGBTQ people, but today’s decision to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military proves his promise was another bald-faced lie.
Democrats stand with the transgender community and we will fight this administration’s bigotry tooth-and-nail. Those who defend our right to live freely should be able to serve freely.
This cowardly statement by Donald Trump shames our nation and its history of advancing diversity in our military – from the integration of African-Americans into the military by President Truman to President Obama’s ending of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – and it is an insult to the millions of Americans who have courageously served our nation.”
The Human Rights Campaign attacked the White House for a “deeply troubling and patently unpatriotic assault on military families”.
The group added:
[Trump and Pence should] be working to ensure all service members and their families are getting the support and resources they need and deserve, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”
Chad Griffin added:
Today Donald Trump has proven himself as unpatriotic as he is unfit to serve as Commander in Chief. He has put a target on the backs of the more than 15,000 transgender troops proudly serving in our military.
This heinous and disgusting action endangers the lives of American service members, undermines military readiness and makes our country less safe.
It is also the latest effort by Trump and Mike Pence to undo our progress and drag LGBTQ people back into the closet by using our lives as political pawns.”
The President famously dodged the draft four times during the Vietnam war, and has never served in the military.
Trump’s new ban is reminiscent of rules that banned gay people from openly serving in the military.
Self-care is vital. Sometimes you need emotional self-care, like watching your favorite movie or spending time meditating or with friends. Sometimes you need physical self-care, like going for a run or eating salad. Agni’s Queer and Trans Yoga Class offers the best of both.
This weekly class is specifically geared toward protecting the mental and physical health of people from marginalized communities. This yoga class is two parts yoga, one part poetry slam; the class leaders incorporate poetry and the healing practice of reiki into each session.
Above all, this class aims to be a safe space. One of its organizers, E. Parker Phillips, describes the class as “fat-positive, body positive, kink-positive, multiracial, multigenerational, and feminist.” Before the class, organizers put signs
The class tries to be as accessible as possible. Before the class, organizers put signs on the male changing rooms that those rooms are open to people of all genders. “We seek to create a space where transgender and nonbinary people don’t have to worry about where they are going to pee, especially when they are there to take care of their selves and their bodies,” Phillips says. The center is wheelchair-accessible. And while many yoga spaces across the US are the domain of wealthy women who can afford to spend hundreds of dollars per month, Agni asks only for a suggested donation of $5.
Every aspect of the class is designed to encourage emotional openness. The organizers read poetry before and after class and even perform reiki healing. And instead of the physically intensive hot yoga that is encouraged for losing body fat, Agni focuses on the yin style, which requires participates to hold poses for longer periods of time and focus on their breathing.
This is more than just a yoga session. It’s also a learning space that emphasizes the link between self-care and resistance. Each class educates participants on “transgender stigma, sex worker stigma, the destructiveness of white supremacy, and the limitations of capitalism.” Many people wander into these sessions by accident, not expecting a queer-friendly self-care movement, but leave educated and empowered.
Currently, Agni is only in Miami, but we all hope that other studios will follow their model. If you’re interested in yoga, then learn more about the class to drop in or start a similar practice in your area.
Edges of the Rainbow, is a new photo book by Parisian-born New York photographer Michel Delsol and Tokyo-born journalist Haruku Shinozaki.
It unveils the fascinating, resilient and unforgettable characters within the country’s proud and present LGBTQ community.
Japan has experienced its own set of historical challenges for it’s LGBTQ community. However, despite conservative ideologies – that encourage the community to remain unseen – change is occurring within the country.
In Edges of the Rainbow, we are introduced to a gay Episcopal priest; a lesbian couple who discuss their lives via radio and TV; a trans female pop star; an intersex author; a gay, all-male music group that addresses LGBTQ culture through electronic music; among other inspiring and motivated people all living their lives openly and honestly.
Italian photographer Teo Butturini has captured images of young LGBTQ people living in Beijing in the places that are important to them as part of his latest project, which attempts to tackle stigma in China.
Homosexuality was deemed both a criminal offence and a mental illness in China as recently as two decades ago, and enormous stigma remains with many Chinese psychologists believe homosexuality can be “treated” and offer programmes to “turn youths back to heterosexuality”.
Thirty years of single-child policy created an even more difficult situation for LGBTQ people. In a country where the young are expected to provide for their parents and having a son is considered a must, parents often cannot accept that their child is gay, even if they can accept the general idea of homosexuality.
Many young LGBTQ people move from their own villages to big cities, in order to escape ostracism – often those who remain hide their sexuality or are forced into marriages by their parents. Recently the Chinese government issued a document forbidding the airing and publishing of any content related to violence, drug and alcohol abuse, adultery, smoking, reincarnation, homosexuality and any form of behaviour that “exaggerates the dark side of society”.
More than fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act, promising equality for Americans. Well, most Americans. Title VII of the act prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, color, religion and national origin – what about members of the LGBT community? On this matter, the Civil Rights Act was deafeningly silent, and has remained that way for decades.
However, federal judge Cathy Bissoon recently ruled that the Civil Rights Act should include sexual orientation.
Judge Bissoon sided with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOS) in stating that because “sex” is currently included in the Civil Rights Act, “sexuality” falls under sex and merits inclusion as well.
Writes Bissoon, “There is no more obvious form of sex stereotyping than making a determination that a person should conform to heterosexuality.”
She goes on to say that if an employer judges a person because of his or her romantic partner, then the employer is enforcing stereotypes about “proper” male and female roles within a relationship. Enforcing gender roles is, of course, sexist.
That someone can be subjected to a barrage of insults, humiliation, hostility and/or changes to the terms and conditions of their employment, based upon nothing more than the aggressor’s view of what it means to be a man or a woman, is exactly the evil Title VII was designed to eradicate.”
How did LGBT rights and the Civil Rights Act finally make it on this judge’s radar? A brave man named Dale Baxley decided to speak up.
Baxley worked for the Scott Medical Health Center until daily harassment drove him to leave his job. His supervisor called him homophobic slurs and asked him about the mechanics of gay sex. Imagine clocking into work just to have your boss greet you with, “Hey, f**cking f**got.”
Instead of putting his head between his legs and finding a new job, Baxley filed a lawsuit against the health center, contending that the supervisor’s hate speech was in violation of the Civil Rights Act. By siding with Baxley, Judge Bissoon has achieved a historic win for LGBT rights.
Well, let’s be honest, LGB rights. The “T” is still under fire in states such as North Carolina, where the HB2 bill declares that people must use the bathroom corresponding to the gender listed on his/her/their birth certificate. Across the country, court opinions are divided over whether the Civil Rights Act’s “sex” provision includes transgender people.
So what’s next for the Civil Rights Act? Because of the unprecedented ruling, legal experts are speculating that Baxley’s case may go all the way to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court sides with Judge Bissoon, this will be a groundbreaking move forward. Still, we should celebrate the current ruling while remembering that there’s still a lot of work to be done, especially when it comes to transgender rights.
Homophobia has been around forever and it doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon, especially as Trump and Pence are the epitome of hatred, but we have a duty to ourselves and our fellow LGBTQ community to do something about it.
We obviously can’t put ourselves in danger at any time and if you are a bit feisty it can be hard not to challenge any homophobe head on, but there are safer and better ways of dealing with it. For example, if you are in a bar or a club and you experience homophobia simply walk away and report it. Demand that the management deal with it. Tell them that you are feeling uncomfortable and have been verbally abused by one of their patrons.
If they seem reluctant to do anything about it, then say you are quite happy to contact the police. Most establishments don’t want that kind of reputation and you will probably find that they will deal with the situation.
So what if you overhear someone else suffering homophobic abuse? Firstly, if it’s safe to do so, walk up to the person and tell them to come with you and remove them from the situation. That has to be the first priority, lead them away from danger. Then take them to the management and complain as suggested above. As hard as it is and as tempting as it is don’t retaliate with the homophobe as this could lead to violence and escalate the problem.
And if you witness a violent homophobic attack? You must phone the police. Immediately. If there are people around you could try to find help and support, but if not, stay back and don’t put yourself in the firing line as well.
This won’t help anybody and the police are quite quick at responding to emergency calls. Give as many details to the police as possible and wait in the side-lines for them to arrive. If the attackers flee then go to help the victim. Even a few words of comfort will help.
To do nothing is wrong, even though speaking out and getting help can be scary. If it was you getting the abuse, you would want someone to help you. Remember, silence is violence, so look out for each other and make sure homophobes learn they can’t get away with this behaviour, no matter what they think.
I will remember that morning forever. I thought I was stuck in a dream when I woke up and anxiously checked my phone expecting a great celebration and sigh of relief when I saw Hillary was the new president.
As you are aware, this story doesn’t end with a celebration nor a sigh of relief, but rather a state of disbelief and denial.
How could the majority of American voters decide my rights as a queer immigrant woman do not matter?
As I reached out to my American friends, one sentence echoed higher than the outrage and anger, “I am here for ýou.”
Although we feel broken and defeated at this point, I can feel support and love pouring in our community. More than just protests, we are here for each other, supporting our brothers and sisters like never before.
And this sentiment transcends borders and sexual orientation. Throughout Europe, Latin America, Canada, and all around the globe, you can feel alliance and outreach not only between the queer community but also from our straight allies, parents and friends.
Although fear and doubt may cast a dark cloud on queer Americans, we will stand tall and proud once again.
We are the “nasty women”; the ones who fought for our rights and lost; the ones who will not let sexism, homophobia, and racism beat us. And most importantly, we are the ones here for you.
As I read that LGBTQ suicide hotlines blew up as the news of Trump’s election spread, I knew I needed to take action.
And although a simple post may seem frivolous, I knew I had to share my support with those in need.
Here are some helpful contacts for U.S. queer people in need:
South Africa is one of Africa’s most socially progressive countries. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2006, nine years before the U.S., and South Africa was the first country to instate a constitution that forbids discrimination based on sexuality.
Unfortunately, despite the progressive legislation, LGBTQ people are far from welcome. Every day, dozens of people experience physical or sexual violence at the hands of homophobic attackers.
Photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi is using art to combat the injustice. Her project Faces and Phases documents South Africa’s queer women, their strength and their resilience in the face of violence.
Many women in the exhibit were “correctively” raped – that is, raped by a man who believes that heterosexual sex will reverse her homosexuality. Muholi’s portraits put a face to the shocking statistic that 1 in 2 South African women will be raped in her lifetime.
Faces and Phases began in 2006. Initially, it focused on black South African lesbians, but expanded in 2008 to include queer women from other countries. Today, it includes over 300 images. In addition to resilience, her portraits tackle the theme of identity; identity is fluid and ever-changing, and the self is dynamic.
Muholi has received backlash for her visual activism. In 2012, criminals broke into her apartment and stole equipment and hard drives containing five years of work. Unable to recover the lost data, she’s spent the past several years trying to recreate what was lost. The experience has been taxiing.
Her other notable exhibits include Somnyama Ngonyama, a comment on colonialism. In these photos, Muholi dresses up as South African historical stereotypes in order to reclaim and retell her own country’s history.
Her mission with all of her art is “to rewrite a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond.”
See Me, the national anti-stigma support group claims that members of the LGBTQ community face dual discrimination and have nowhere to turn to for help and members of the community often end up feeling alone and isolated.
The LGBT Health and Wellbeing project, which is funded by See Me, are trying to work at improving mental health awareness and the stigma attached to it within the LGBTQ community.
The project has just recently set up a group in Glasgow looking at how to improve the lives of gay and transgendered people living in the city. They are also looking at ways of discovering where stigma regarding mental health comes from and hope to find ways to overcome them.
Jenny Speirs, who runs the group, said:
A lot of people in the LGBTQ community experience mental health issues but have a lot of barriers accessing service and support groups, unfortunately we know some people do experience homophobia, biphobia and trans phobia when trying to access services. There is a lack of understanding about what needs LGBT people have, there is an assumption that the mental health problems are because they are LGBT, but that isn’t always the case.”
Jenny also believes there is a stigma regarding mental health issues within the LGBT community itself and it isn’t widely talked about. She continued:
There is nowhere in the scene in Glasgow to speak about mental health and it isn’t very welcoming of mental health issues. People feel very judged if they are out, there is no space for discussion. So people face discrimination because of their sexuality and their mental health, but there is no place where they can speak about them both together, they don’t feel able to speak about their sexuality in mental health services and they can’t speak about their mental health in the LGBT scene in Glasgow.”
The group are also running an event at the Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) on 11th October at the Glad Café in Glasgow, where they will present films on the issue and will have a panel discussion to work out what changes can be made regarding the problem.
Calum Irving, who is the See Me programme director also commented that:
“It is really important that LGBT people have a space in Glasgow they can come together to talk about these important issues. No one should ever have to feel ashamed or embarrassed about their mental health or sexuality and this project is doing great work to not only empower those taking part, but looking to improve the lives of others in the future.”
Big changes need to be made in our own community to support fellow community members who are suffering from mental health issues.
We all face enough prejudice anyway, without stigmatizing our own community members.
Chest binding is a fact of life for many people, including trans men, some gay women, intersex people, and gender non-conforming individuals.
But up until now, the medical profession has known very little about it.
Flattening the appearance of one’s breasts – either through Ace bandages, compression undergarments, layered T-shirts, sports bras, or commercial binders – isn’t just to make it easier to pass in public as the preferred gender, or to maintain a masculine style; for many people it’s a matter of psychological well-being and helps them feel a lot more comfortable about the body they are living with.
Chest binding is something only really known about in the LGBTQ community and the report by the Binding Health Project shows that a discussion on how to help people bind safely and effectively is long overdue.
The report states:
Based on our preliminary analysis, for most participants, binding was a positive experience and led to improvements in mood and self-esteem, minimized gender dysphoria, anxiety, and depression, and helped them to feel in control of their bodies. In fact, some reported that a positive impact on emotional and behavioural health makes the physical discomfort of binding worth it.”
The report adds the problems that people who bind every day can face.
Binding is a part of daily life for many, but it can have negative impacts on your physical health—ranging from minor to severe—across a wide range of symptoms, from pain in different parts of your body, to shortness of breath, to bruising or other skin changes.”
The researchers who conducted the study hope that they can educate physicians on the benefits and impact binding can have on an individual and to encourage physicians to help individuals take control of their health.
The study discovered that binding was a daily occurrence and most binders bind for around 10 hours a day. The research found that a massive 97.2 percent reported at least one negative health outcome that they attributed to binding.
Seventy-four percent reported pain-related concerns, the most common side effect was back pain (53.8 percent), followed by overheating (53.5 percent), chest pain (48.8 percent), shortness of breath (46.6 percent), and itching (44.9 percent). Fifty respondents even believed they had suffered from rib fractures as a result of binding.
The report also discovered that even though people were experiencing side effects from binding not one of them had consulted a medical professional which shows there is a worrying lack of specific knowledge about binding and the stigma that could also be attached to the practise.
Dylan, a custody officer assistant who has been binding since he was a teenager told the researchers:
There would be a lot of time that I would get up at six in the morning for an early [work] shift, and then I would bind after the early shift and not go to bed until two in the morning, So I would be bound for like 20 hours and, you know, you do get pains and you suffer from a really bad back.”
Dylan said he just coped with the pain the best he could and said he thought if he went to the doctors they would just tell him to stop binding so he didn’t see the point of going. Unofficial reports online have been posted and they recommend that people do not bind for more than 8 hours but this report shows that this advice is ignored. The study concluded that:
Many trans and gender non-conforming individuals say that they would continue binding regardless of the physical health risks. The psychological relief provided by binding—as well as the increased ability to pass in public as one’s correct gender—often overweighs any potential downside. Knowing this, the Binding Health Project wants to arm both medical professionals and queer people alike with information about binding, including how best to do it, what is best to use, and how often.”
This is something that is desperately needed for people that bind and let’s hope it makes a difference to their lives and means they can start to bind safely and correctly without damaging their physical or mental health in any way.
I first started getting educated on social justice online, and I found all the first-hand information, and advice I found on sites like Tumblr really useful. They helped me understand, and gave me impeccable value, as most of it came from people who were educating, talking about and fighting against the very oppression they were facing.
This is why I always deemed online activism extremely important. Phrases like “get off your couch and do something useful” always pissed me off, since online activists do many useful things, the most important of which is educating people they don’t always have to educate, which – trust me – can at times be really hard.
That brings us to:
1 – Online activism is real activism. In fact, everything that everyone can offer may be necessary in a movement.
This is something that joining “physical” – which means actually taking the metro downtown and attending general assemblies in some basement – activism has taught me, especially when I realized how much online activists had contributed to my debut.
To be an activist you don’t only have to march and make illegal graffiti. By all means yes, this is vital in some parts of a movement, but so is every other small task a member of that movement works hard to complete. Protesting outside enterprises is vital, preparing powerpoint presentations from the safety of your room to share knowledge with other people is vital, raising your voice online and stirring the waters of convention at an injustice is vital, managing the finances or keeping the files of an organization which is already offering plenty to LGBTQ+ youth is just as vital. Every task completes another and no initiative can stand on its own without a multi-dimensional plan that requires all sorts of skills to reach all sorts of people and make all sorts of change.
People with mental illnesses, disabilities, poor people, homeless people, should all have a place in an activism that cannot be elitist, ageist, ableist or racist. Some activist groups end up being too closed and clique-ish, denying people who want to offer the chance to do so. It’s one thing – and a very important one at that – calling out someone on something problematic they said or did, and a completely different one completely denying them the space for mistakes, or the space to voice their identity, needs and priorities differently.
3 – I now know for sure that I have rights and that I can demand their recognition and respect firmly.
When you feel all alone in something, when your identity or parts of it are not always understood or respected, even the most given facts about it, such as that you must demand that people respect your self-identification and don’t say offensive things about it, may end up seeming like a luxury, like something you don’t really deserve and you just think you do because you believe you’re a special little snowflake. Ignorant people will make you think that you have no right to ask what you’re asking for, but getting into activism is sometimes important to validate that you deserve the things that other people already have as given in their lives.
Things/Skills I have gained from LGBTQ+ activism.
1 – The motivation to actually work for something and dedicate my whole self in it.
Working voluntarily is weird. You may not be able to bring yourself to work hard for an essay that’s actually gonna give you a good mark, or for a job that gives you actual money, but with volunteering and activism it somehow still works, and it’s different. Of course you get tired and burned out and there are times that you want to give up or just lay on the couch with a bucket of ice cream and Carmilla, and turn off all notifications in the world ever, but you still know that you’ve chosen this yourself, and it’s something extremely important for you to do, without waiting for something in return. You finally know how to push yourself to do something that you know is more important than many other things in your life. The chance to apply what you’re best at to what you love the most is a truly amazing feeling.
2 – Responsibility when it comes to deadlines, courage when it comes to phone calls I wouldn’t otherwise make or emails I wouldn’t otherwise reply to.
Which, not really. Emails still scare me. But you get the point. Apart from the occasional pro(cat)stination incident, of course. Which is very rare an occurrence and all. Ahem.
3 – Practical life skills.
Presentation skills, project management skills, time management skills, a knowledge of how to share knowledge with other people.
4 – A community.
Wonderful friends who, like few others, formed a family-like circle around me. Nothing is better than meeting people who have been through similar things to your own experiences, people who understand and you know that with the first words and smiles, a place where you can feel safe to freely express yourself. Most of anything else, we’re a community, and what brings us together is often much bigger than our differences.
5 – The actual chance to make a change that will alter my life and the lives of people I care for, for the better.
Activism is not impersonal. What I fight for is not just an abstract idea; it has names. Names of my loved ones, of people I care for the most and of parts of my own identity, experiences and everyday life. The things that truly matter are finally something I can cater to, something I can give my best to shelter. And that’s not something I could achieve on my own.
6 – Cats.
No, really. That’s a real pro. I’ve met so many furry allies during this journey. Everyone – or nearly everyone – who is into LGBTQ+ activism has cats and/or adores cats and/or is an actual cat.
Capitol Hill in Seattle is one of America’s largest gay neighbourhoods. During the 1960’s a large gay residential settlement began and the area soon became known as Seattle’s gayborhood.
In an attempt to raise awareness for the gentrification and loss of queer space, artists got together and created the In This Place 206 art project to remind people of the queer history behind Capitol Hill.
Gentrification, a term used to describe a process of renovation and revival in which affluent residents move in causing low income families to become displaced, has been steadily happening in Capitol Hill and many of the LGBTQ community have since left.
The 9 women used in the project were all former residents of the LGBTQ community in Capitol Hill and one of the Artists involved in the project, Nilda Brooklyn told CHS newspaper:
It’s really about taking up the space saying, ‘As you walk by this place, as you stand on this street corner, I stood here, I had a life here, I hung out here, I got my heart broken here. It’s really just a reminder that there’s always somebody who came before us.”
Nilda teamed up with another artist, photographer Adrian Leavitt and asked the 9 queer women who agreed to have their portrait used, three questions — their name, how they identified and where on Capitol Hill was important to them and why. They then placed the portraits around the neighbourhood to see how the public would interact with them.
Nilda said the idea came from her own upbringing:
Having grown up in the queer and lesbian community, Brooklyn is connected to many older queer women. Those direct connections ended up being the subjects for the project.”
Some of the portraits got damaged or had graffiti sprayed on them, but the longest one put up on 15th Avenue lasted 15 weeks. The photograph’s had #inthisplace206 printed on them in order that the artists could see via social media how the public reacted to them.
Nilda went on to say that the area has changed so much and the LGBTQ community and its queer space is diminishing slowly. She says she also feels strongly about reminding people of the history of Capitol Hill.
I think it’s important to document queer history, and I also think it’s really important in the queer community to have multi-generational connections.”
The artists plan to photograph more women for the project in the future.
Have you ever wondered if the prejudices you have are… Well, smart? A recent study has shown that your intelligence doesn’t really affect how much hatred you have for others.
Previous studies found that people “of lower cognitive ability” were more likely to be prejudiced.
In the interest of getting rid of the stigma that hatred is inherently stupid, social psychologists Mark Brandt and Jarret Crawford examined another side of things. What they found was that smart people hate, too – but they’re hating on completely different people.
Okay, maybe we should start with a little background information. Brandt and Crawford’s study took 5,914 subjects and tested their IQ using a wordsum test. This test is considered pretty accurate, although no IQ test is completely accurate. Cognitive ability is pretty hard to pinpoint, after all.
After they had given the wordsum tests, they started asking about the prejudices of each person. They didn’t mention whether they felt the prejudices were “justified” or not, just whether the subject was prejudiced against that particular group or not.
Their study confirmed that there wasn’t much difference between the hatred felt by people with higher cognitive functioning versus lower cognitive function – both groups were generally just as hateful.
What did change, from previous studies, was the connection to the types of hatred the people felt.
Low-Choice Groups and Lower Cognitive Ability
Brandt and Crawford’s study found that people who scored lower on the wordsum test were more likely to express hatred toward low-choice groups. By definition, low-choice group means that members of that group have less choice over being in that group. This would include categories such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. There was also a stronger hatred of people with non-traditional views.
High-Choice Groups and Higher Cognitive Ability
Those with cognitive ability weren’t found to be more prone to hatred, but they did show a stronger hatred toward people in high-choice groups. By definition, high-choice means groups that are seen to be able to change their classification. This would include categories such as weight, political beliefs, education, and wealth/poverty. They expressed just as much hatred as those in the lower-IQ group, but in a much different way.
Those with higher cognitive ability may find it easier to express their prejudices in a way that removes the feeling of bias. They’re able to back their beliefs and hatreds up with “facts” and study-supported opinions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that their hatred is any more justified.
Why do we hate people who are different than us?
People dislike people who are different from them. Derogating people with different worldviews can help people maintain the validity of their own worldview.”
Basically, if you see the world in one certain way, you’re going to reject anything that challenges that worldview. It’s certainly not universal – there were outliers in this study, just like any other – but humans are stubborn. We don’t like to think any harder than we have to. It’s easier to hate someone we don’t understand, no matter what the reason for the misunderstanding. Some people can overcome this instinct, but just because someone can’t, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dumb. It’s coded into our human nature.
People who ranked as having lower cognitive ability may be more likely to essentialize people – limiting them to a very specific category. They see people who are different from them being their polar opposite, because the subtleties and complexities aren’t so easily apparent. This can be dangerous, but – again – it’s human nature.
You see, hatred usually comes from a place of fear. No, I’m not saying that homophobes are literally afraid of gay people, but they are afraid that it somehow means something more than what it means. They’re afraid of what will happen if people who were different from them became more like them. They’re afraid of not being able to tell who’s different and who’s just like them. They’re afraid of losing their position in life, and they’re afraid that accepting those who are different from them will mess things up.
It makes sense, then, that they’d want to distance themselves from these distances as much as possible. Seeing “the enemy” or “the threat” as something that’s so different makes it easier to depersonalize their feelings. It helps to remove themselves from the line of fire, so to speak. The more out-of-sight it is, the easier it is to deal with.
When I started to question my sexuality, I was lacking in any sort of guidance. I lived in a pretty conservative town – to this day I can still remember the poor girl who got chased out of our school after she came out.
I also remember my very first boyfriend who was pushed out of the closet… Unfortunately, I had a hand in that one.
It was a confusing time, and we all made some pretty bad choices, but if I can save the next generation from making the same mistakes, I’ll feel like I’ve done my part.
My hope for each and every LGBT teenager is that you’ll learn these things through my experience, instead of learning them the hard way. No one said it would be easy, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. Here are 16 things I’ve learned since I was a teenager.
1. Identity ≠ style.
Clothes are an incredible way to express what’s going on in your life – but your sexual identity doesn’t have to define the clothes you wear. For a really long time, I dressed super girly to “prove” that I was really straight. Then, once I started questioning, I dressed super masculine to “prove” that I was really a lesbian. Once I got out of high school, I realized that my actual style straddled the line a little bit. I didn’t feel the need to use my clothes to justify who I was. I allowed myself to wear what I wanted to wear, and I felt free to express the rest of my personality, too.
2. Style ≠ identity.
Somehow, it took me longer to realize that the same thing I’d figured out for myself was probably true for other people, as well. Even once I stopped defining my style by the trends for my label, I was subconsciously passing that same type of assumption off on others. It took a long time to realize that no one is defined by the clothes they wear – only from the way they define themselves.
3. You have nothing to prove.
I cannot stress this enough: You don’t have to “prove” your gay-ness to anyone. You don’t have to prove that you’re bisexual, or asexual, or transgender. You don’t need to legitimize the choices you make that affect your life, and you don’t have to answer to anyone else’s assumptions about you. If a stereotype happens to be true for you, you’re not bringing the community down by being yourself. Likewise, if a stereotype isn’t true for you, you have no obligation to perpetuate it. You do you, because after high school, no one cares about your hallway rep anymore. I promise.
4. Your sexual health is actually a really big deal.
I didn’t even realize that safer sex for lesbians was actually a thing until I was in my 20s. (Early 20s, but still.) We don’t have the luxury of learning about lesbian sex in school, so instead we rely on what we see in porn and what we hear from our friends. It’s probably no surprise that our friends aren’t getting their information from the most reliable sources, either. Thankfully, the information you need isn’t that hard to find, as long as you know you need to look for it. Read my lips, guys: Look for as much information about safer sex as you can. It might literally save your life.
5. Your sexual happiness is pretty important, too.
Once you’re sexually active, sexual compatibility is pretty important in your relationships. If one of you is really shy in the sack and the other requires a lot of communication, for example, things are going to get bumpy. You don’t necessarily need to leave your partner if the sex isn’t hot, but you will want to work out any issues in a way that makes you both happy. Bad sex can definitely be worse than no sex at all.
6. There’s a reason we use a rainbow to represent us.
Whether we’re talking about the original meaning of each color (see this article about the rainbow flag) or the recently popularized spectrum of sexuality, the symbolism runs really deep for us. In fact, sexuality is a broad spectrum of gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, and everything in between – or even nothing at all! Sexuality isn’t even a single definition to last for a lifetime.
7. You can’t change who you are, but who you are can change.
No matter how much you try to change your sexual identity, it won’t work. Trust me – I tried. You can force yourself into as many wrong relationships as you want, and that’s not going to make them any less wrong. The opposite is also true, though – your sexuality can change, against your conscious efforts, and there really isn’t anything you can do about it. Just go with the flow, and accept that things are different. That doesn’t mean your previous identity was wrong, it just means that you’re not the same person anymore – and that is okay.
8. Labels are 100% optional.
While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and cover the fact that you don’t have to define yourself in order to be who you are. Humans in general try way too hard to find somewhere they fit in, often sacrificing bits and pieces of themselves in order to make it work. But it doesn’t have to be like this! You can define yourself if you want, or opt out if you want. Most of all, don’t let anyone else label you – that’s not their job. Only you can say who you really are.
9. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
While there are so many good reasons to remain in the closet, shame should never be one of them. There is nothing wrong or perverted about being LGBT. It’s not a disease, and it’s not a weakness. It’s simply a small portion of what makes you who you are – no different than your eye color, your birthmarks, or your middle name. That doesn’t mean it has to be everyone’s business, but it’s worth being comfortable with it, for your own sake.
10. Everything we do, we do for you.
Every great civil rights advancement we’ve ever encountered was done for the future generation. Sometimes those things help the current generation, too, but often it’s too late to make a difference to the people who have already been wronged. With the dedication of everyone who cares, we can help make a better future, and save our youth from facing the same hardships.
11. This means you have responsibilities.
You have a responsibility to do your part to help the movement towards rights. We paved the way so that you could finish the work. Not everyone has to be an activist or a lawmaker, but you can speak up when you see someone else being mistreated. Even if you can’t be out, you can still be an ally – don’t work to undo all the good that’s been done.
12. You kinda need LGBT friends.
That conservative town I grew up in didn’t have too many other queer teenagers for me to hang out with, so I had to reach out in other ways. I talked to people online, I joined groups and events, and I sought out people I had things in common with. I found that I made a lot of really attractive friends, too, but you have to be comfortable with the idea of staying just friends.
13. You need straight allies, too.
You shouldn’t choose your friends just because of their sexualities. While you need the camaraderie of your queer friends, you also need to understand that your sexuality isn’t the most important thing about you – and your straight friends have just as much wisdom to share. Don’t stick yourself with a tight interest group, because your friends after high school are going to be a lot more diverse.
14. Don’t waste your time on unsupportive people.
There are going to be people in your life who go out of their way to tell you they don’t “approve of your lifestyle”. It’s perfectly fine to distance yourself from those people as soon as you’re able to. Your sexuality isn’t the most important thing about you, but it is a part of you, and no one should pressure you to hide who you really are.
15. Everything is temporary – especially high school.
Literally nothing lasts forever, at least as far as we can prove. (Maybe space, but I feel like there are some semantics involved there.) Even ancient slates of knowledge wear away over time, and in the grand scheme of things, the time you spend in high school is next to nothing. Enjoy yourself, and don’t get too hung up on the timelines. Things have a way of working out.
16. It gets better, but it doesn’t get better on its own.
For some people, high school is pretty rough. It was pretty rough for me. But things do get better – whether through things you do for yourself, or things other people do for you. It’s important to keep things in perspective and remember that change takes time, and sometimes a lot of effort. One of the greatest feelings you can get is the satisfaction of helping someone else, so don’t hesitate to be that person to someone else whenever you can. All it takes is a few kind words to turn someone’s whole day around – and isn’t that worth it?
American non-profit organization have unveiled their new key campaign – the #WeAreAmerica campaign – featuring World Wrestling Entertainment’s John Cena.
In the ad Cena walks through a typical small American town, talking directly to the camera, the pro wrestler draws a line in the sand early on.
Patriotism isn’t just pride in one’s country, he says. It’s love for it. And loving one’s country means embracing who and what the country really is—not what you might picture it to be.
Along the way, this small town turns out to be remarkably diverse – the essence of America itself – as we see citizens who are Latino, LGBT, Muslim, senior citizen, African American, disabled, and so on, all just as American as anyone else.
The underlying message: To be a true patriot is to accept all Americans regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or ability.
In short, patriotism is love, Cena says, and love has no labels.
The message comes at a time of toxic political discord in America. But thanks to brand partnerships struck by the Ad Council, the new spot, if not universally lauded, will certainly be noticed far and wide this holiday.
Campaign partners include The Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, State Farm, Google and Johnson & Johnson, which will promote #WeAreAmerica content across their brand channels
The campaign also has support from Facebook, Twitter, BuzzFeed and WWE.
And considering Cena and WWE’s massive fan base, that’s a powerful message that could resound far and wide.
The new seven-part web series, Coming Out, features inspiring tales of members of the India’s LGBTQ community, who are coming out to their families, across India and across sections of economic classes.
One frank and honest story features Justine Mellocastro, a hairstylist and fashion entrepreneur in Mumbai, who is bisexual.
In the episode, her mother is shown saying,
First, I went into turmoil, frankly. There were so many things flying through my head. You worry about society, that’s the only thing that comes to mind. And then I said, finally, “I love my kid”.”
Another story features, Chanchal Jain who transitioning from a woman to a man. When Jain works up the courage to broach the subject with his small-town parents, he was in for a larger surprise than they were: his father, quickly recovering, only said, “Well, do you want to get the surgery done?”
Produced by youth content company 101India, these stories are told in a matter-of-fact, conversational style, and are not overly emotional or depressing.
Discussing the documentaries, Justine says
Usually, all you hear are negative stories. My story is only positive — my family was ultra-supportive, and I’ve been in long-term relationships with women too — including a live-in relationship. We’ve got so many nice comments on the video, most of them congratulating my mum for her attitude. I think it’s mainly the government that has a problem with homosexuality.”
Cyrus Oshidhar, founder of 101India added.
This series isn’t about the Bollywood-isation of the issue. We don’t want to overlay the videos with any message, but show snapshots of real stories. The clear subtext is about parents and acceptance, and that it is possible to have a normal, loving family unit.”
As an LGBTQ person or as a black person, deeply held prejudices and systematic oppression threaten to deny you your human rights and keep you from prospering (e.g being turned away from jobs or housing or being mistreated by the police).
But what happens when you are a black LGBTQ person, and you become a minority within a minority?
Aziza Miller explores this in an article for The Gazette, explaining that
there is a struggle for people who are both black and queer to deal with two identities that tend to conflict with one another”. Miller notes that “homophobia in the black community and racism in the queer community make it difficult for queer black people to feel accepted in groups that also experience marginalization”.
Although it’s often glossed over with the excuse that there are ‘more important’ things to talk about, racism is rampant in the LGBTQ community. This is made quite clear in videos such as ‘Gay Guys React To Racist Grindr Profiles’ in which some gay men using the app are simply not open to dating gay men of colour.
It’s also not uncommon for non-black LGBTQ people to ‘act black’ (e.g mannerisms and instances of blackface), with famous white gay YouTuber Tyler Oakley having been called out several times for his ‘sassy black woman’ accent.
Miller also notes that gay bars have a habit of discriminating against employees and patrons of colour too.
A 2005 investigation by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission found that S.F Badlands (a popular bar in the Castro neighbourhood) routinely discriminated against African American customers and job applicants. The commission found that the bar’s owner, Les Natali, had also referred to African-American people as “non-Badlands customers”.
Miller’s article looks at homophobia within the black community as well. One belief that some people within the black community have is that black people simply are not LGBTQ (something that perhaps stems from poor ethnic diversity when it comes to LGBTQ characters in media).
Other black people – just like people of other minorities – may use religion as a basis for bigotry.
Recent findings from that Public Religion Research Institute dispelled the idea that African-American people are more likely to be homophobic, and may actually be more in support of LGBT equality than their non-black peers (the hope not to see LGBTQ people denied human rights as black people are is a factor).
That said, it doesn’t make the anti-LGBTQ prejudice from the black community felt by black LGBTQ people any less real, and the struggle to make both communities as welcoming as they can be continues.
The acronym “LGBT” has long been used to refer to the huge number of sexual orientations and gender identities that don’t fall under the hetero- and cis-normative umbrella that society insists on viewing as humanity’s default setting. In recent years, though, the preferred acronym has been undergoing some changes, expanding to “LGBTQA+.” However, while most people are familiar with what each of the letters in LGBT stands for — lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans — not everyone knows what LGBTQA+ means.
Perhaps only rivalled by the likes of San Francisco, with its world famous Castro Street, New York City has a reputation of being the most LGBT-friendly places in the world.
Not only was it the location of the Stonewall riots, an event which catapulted LGBTQ+ rights to the forefront and was also the basis for the pride parades we know today (it also inspired the divisive upcoming movie), but New York City was also the 6th state in the USA to legalise same-sex marriage.
These things are good, great even, and New York should be heralded for being more progressive than so many other cities around the world, but things aren’t perfect for every LGBTQ person who lives there.
Much less, those headlines about NYC being a bastion of hope and equality don’t actually tell us what it’s like for LGBTQ+ people to live there, something which can massively inform how a city can improve (with regards to its LGBTQ+ residents) in the future.
Taking up that mantel and covering as many points on the great life/hardships spectrum as it can is Queer City, a new documentary about New York City’s LGBTQ residents.
Unlike many documentaries covering queer folk, Queer City is wonderfully diverse and does a fine job at representing the many LGBT people who live there.
For example, there’s Tee, a working class butch Latino lesbian who lives in Queens. Tee has known she was a lesbian since she was young and she’s had several serious relationships, but some of these relationships have been abusive, she’s been involved with drugs and has also spent some in jail.
After losing her siblings and parents to illness (though her mother died from a “broken heart”, according to Tee) she now lives alone but is surrounded by good friends.
On the other hand Queer City shows viewers the life of Sarah and Kris, who are the parents of two children named Lia and Gabriel. By speaking to the two parents as well as their children, viewers learn what it’s like to have two mothers and the doc even discusses the benefits and downsides too it. Typically, these discussions are had from a clinical, rights and laws standpoint, so it’s nice to see an actual family deliver their take on it.
And while much of the sexuality spectrum is covered (there is also a bisexual woman and gay porn director, as well as a gay man in his eighties), Queer City also covers ‘T’ with Eric, a transman who transitioned in Coney Island whilst living with his Haitian family. Initially Eric thought that he was a lesbian and although his mother did accept this, it was much more difficult for her to accept his gender.
The film’s makers do note that they can’t “represent every aspect of LGBTQ life” but that’s not their “goal” and instead they are “bringing together a selection of stories to offer a compelling portrait of new American lives”. Many critics agree that Queer City has done just that, so visit the film’s Twitter and Facebook for more info on where you can see it.
This Friday night, L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin premieres on Showtime, and here is a first look at what to expect from the 90 minute documentary from Ilene Chaiken and Magical Elves, who also produced The Real L Word.
This new documentary journeys deep into Bible Belt towns like Laurel, Gulfport and Hattiesburg to tell the stories of a dozen women, including a newly out-and-proud former pastor banished from her church, but who later regains her self-esteem by launching a program to support her local LGBTQ community. A white mother willing to accept her daughter’s black lover, if only she were a man. A couple grapples with both infertility and female-to-male gender transitioning. And a former life-long lesbian struggles to “pray the gay away,” and hopes to do the same for her openly gay son.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who fought racial discrimination in South Africa, says the oppression of gay people around the world is the “new Apartheid.”
The globally respected social rights activist, and retired Anglican bishop, rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. Tutu’s admirers see him as a man who since the demise of apartheid has been active in the defence of human rights and uses his high profile to campaign for the oppressed. He has campaigned to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
The new documentary, will look at what it is life like for lesbians living outside more progressive metropolitan areas in America. Where they often endure hardships, bigotry, bullying, sexism and racism while trying.
The show journeys deep into Bible Belt towns like Laurel, Gulfport and Hattiesburg to tell the stories of a dozen such women, including a newly out-and-proud former pastor banished from her church, but who later regains her self-esteem by launching a program to support her local LGBTQ community. A white mother would accept her daughter’s black lover, if only she were a man. A couple grapples with both infertility and female-to-male gender transitioning. And a former life-long lesbian struggles to “pray the gay away,” and hopes to do the same for her openly gay son.
The new documentary Sin is a continuation of Chaiken’s exploration of modern-day lesbian life. Her groundbreaking drama series ‘The L Word’ ran for 6 seasons on Showtime, which was then followed by 3 seasons of reality show ‘The Real L Word’ that followed a similar group of lesbians at work and at play in LA and NY.
The L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin premieres on August 8. Take a closer look at the kinds of things will happen.
UK Black Pride was proud to join UK Lesbian Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) to stand in solidarity with Jamaican LGBTQ people who are fighting for their right to dignity and justice by co.hosting an event on Friday 13 June.
Almost 50 participants attended a special screening of the Channel 4 documentary ‘Unreported World: Jamaica’s Underground Gays’ at the offices of Wilson Solicitors LLP in London. The documentary sees Team GB Paralympian, Ade Adepitan, interviews Sachaberry and Krissy who movingly expose, in sometimes disturbingly graphic detail, the systemic extent of violence and homophobia against LGBT people in Kingston, Jamaica, as they try to live their lives.
Whilst homosexuality is not illegal, Jamaica’s anti-sodomy laws prohibit acts of gross indecency(interpreted as any physical intimacy between men in public or private). Such acts can be punished by 10 years of hard labour in prison and violence against the LGBTQ community is rife.
The UK Black Pride and UKLGIG screening was followed by a panel discussion and fundraising reception with lesbian and gay rights activists and legal professionals
PJ Samuels spoke about the negative role of some popular culture, including dancehall music, artists who promote “murder music” that advocates homophobic prejudice. Samuels also noted the omission of any reference to lesbians in the documentary but made clear that this invisibility did not mean Jamaican lesbian and bisexual women do not suffer.
Vernal Scott, a gay Christian, described his efforts to coordinate a meeting with the Jamaican High Commission in London and gave personal testimony about his experience of growing up with his conservative Christian mother, who was shown in the Unreported World documentary as a church attendee with a megaphone. Scott underlined the key role that conservative interpretation of religions has played to propagate homophobia.
James Stuart of Wilson Solicitors LLP described Britain’s asylum system and stressed the need to raise awareness and funds to help LGBTQ asylum seekers while audience members called on UK Black Pride to raise the issue of Jamaican LGBTQ rights with the Jamaica High Commission and to maintain engagement with Stonewall to lobby the British government for fairer asylum rights for LGBTQ people.
Closing the meeting, UK Black Pride’s Phyll Opoku-Gyimah confirmed that it would make a donation to Dwayne’s House, which gives care and support for homeless LGBT youth in Jamaica and committed to its lobbying by asking people to sign a petition calling on Portia Simpson-Miller, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, to provide safe accommodation for LGBTQ youth fleeing persecution in Jamaica.
GLAAD and American Apparel, have announced a renewal of their annual pride partnership with a newly designed t-shirt to be released in conjunction with LGBT Pride Month.
Fifteen percent of all net sales will benefit GLAAD’s work to rewrite the script for LGBT equality.
The shirts, which are now available online and in stores across the nation, can be viewed here: http://store.americanapparel.net/screen-printed-unisex-power-washed-t-shirt-out-pride_2011spout
“American Apparel has always been a passionate ally of the LGBTQI community. From our now iconic “Legalize Gay!” and “GAY O.K.” tag lines and our ongoing partnership with GLAAD, American Apparel is committed for the long haul.”
Dov Charney, founder and CEO of American Apparel.
“Pride is not only about celebrating all that LGBT people and families have achieved but also a time when we should all reflect on the next steps to create a world where everyone can live a life they love,”
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
For more information or to join GLAAD and American Apparel at the NYC Pride march, visit www.glaad.org/pride.
Let’s distinguish between “belonging” and “fitting in”. To belong means to be fully and unconditionally accepted for who you are. It would be great to belong, and, all things considered, belonging is a need and a requirement when it comes to basic human development. To fit in, on the other hand, means to strive towards meeting the conditions for acceptance. We all play the game of fitting in, although the molds that society constructs for people to fit in do not provide all people with equal opportunity to do so.
This doesn’t mean that adaptation is innately wrong, and it doesn’t mean that having or using skills to adapt is innately bad. Individual styles of adaptation are unique and authentic to each person, not only to the situation.
Belonging might seem like a passive thing, though those of us fortunate enough to have found it—as if belonging were an object rather than a process—might notice a constantly flow with how belonging is affirmed and re-affirmed.
Fitting in might seem like an objective thing, but anyone who’s grappled with and analyzed societal expectations would find layers upon conflicting layers of expectations and implications. It’s complex and contextual—and, one upside of this is that particular styles of adaptation can, in some small way, shape the mold that’s set for us to fit into instead of the other way around.
We can take that final sentiment to a simple conclusion: Coming out is an effective way to fight homophobia. Be a living challenge, break the mold society has set, and step up to represent this oppressed minority. Refuse to be invisible. The mold of the world won’t change any other way, and we need that mold to change.
Let’s take a moment to celebrate that determination and commitment—let’s take many moments, whenever that happens, to support community members who take this path. Hurrah!
Now, let’s remember that celebration doesn’t confer an obligation, and it can be hypocritically oppressive to create such an obligation. True, the consequences of coming out as gay can influence and inform an individual’s comfort level with coming out—whether there’s a challenge of discomfort, a threat of fatally violent aggression, or something in between that would affect a personal or professional support system.
Whatever the influence, an individual’s boundaries are their own.
Many of us are hungry for recognition, and to be able to recognize others that could share similar ideals and experiences, perhaps even share our lives with. We need support, we deserve belonging—but when it comes to the personal choice of another individual, we must be aware not to become entitled to the stuff of someone else’s life.
The fact is, not everyone is comfortable with expressing one’s own sexuality, and having that known to others. This is a personal boundary that must be honored as well as we do celebrate individuals who openly represent their sexual orientation.
Let’s be supportive of those who come out. Let’s be supportive of those who are private. Let’s be supportive of individuals in our community, and remember that we’re dealing with individuals—different people, with different lives—There is no one adaptation style that everybody in this community must (or should) adopt in order to be honored or respected.
What would that mean, to honor and respect each individual’s privacy and expressiveness? No prying into their sexuality, no interrogations, no gaydar, no guessing-games, no attitudes of biphobia, no outing other people (and yes to recognizing that, just because they came out to some people, doesn’t mean that it’s fair or right to out an individual to everyone else.)
In short: Let’s be the place that people can belong.
Starting Friday 11th June 2014, BUFF will be holding Manchester’s annual trans masculine pride event.
BUFF is an event organised by and for the trans masculine community and their allies. And it is an event, which helps bring further visibility and support to a part of the LGBTQ community that is often overshadowed by other.
This week, we caught up with Jake (one of the event organisers) to discuss the importance of this event for trans males and the LGBTQ community.
KitschMix: Where did the idea of BUFF come from?
Jake: BUFF came from attending Sparkle in 2012 with a group of friends who all identify as trans men and we’d all been attending for a few years, but there was never anything for the male/genderqueer side of the community so we decided to get things going. Originally we were planning to have our first event this year but decided to take the plunge and do it last year with only four months of planning.
KitschMix: Who else is involved in the project, what support does your event get from other LGBT organisations, and how many people do you expect to attend?
Jake: There is me (Jake), Charlie, Frank and Adam. Last year we got around 80 people attending so hopefully we will have a bigger crowd.
KitschMix: Why is it so important for you to hold this event?
Jake: It’s important for us to hold the event because Sparkle is meant to be the national transgender celebration, but it is predominantly aimed at trans women and there’s a lack of visibility for trans men. Also it’s important so we can celebrate what the trans masculine community is in a fun way.
KitschMix: When will the event be held and do you have plans to do any other events?
Jake: BUFF 2014 is held over a weekend in July on the 11th till the 13th. We have no plans to do anymore events this year due to all of our schedules being quite busy.
KitschMix: Are their other trans*masculine events held around the UK? What other support can people get?
Jake: There is trans pride down in Brighton which is a mixed event but as for an event like BUFF then we are the only one I believe. Trans Bare All (who we are raising money for this year) do weekend retreats for trans men and genderqueer people,you’d have to check their website out for more info as there isn’t a planned event this year other than their 5 year birthday party.
KitschMix: What sorts of challenges do you think trans*masculine people face in Britain today?
Jake: I think some of the challenges we face are still very much the same as they always have been such as access to health care, assumptions surgery (I.e all trans men/genderqueer people will have lower surgery/a particular type of surgery), a lack of visibility and that transitioning to male is possible, and not being taken seriously by the general public or gender clinics if you don’t behave in a stereotypically masculine way. I’d like to add is that although trans men and genderqueer people are under the same ‘umbrella’, our experiences can be very different in many ways.
BUFF 2014 is aimed to raise the profile of the trans masculine community but our events are open to everyone no matter how they identify. We hope that you will join us and help us raise lots of money for Trans Bare All.
KitschMix: And finally what does BUFF stand for?
Jake: The word ‘buff’ traditionally refers to big, strong, muscular men, but the team feeling buff should be for everyone!
BUFF 2014 is on Fri 11th – Sun 13th July 2014, coinciding with Sparkle Manchester: The National Transgender Celebration 2014.
LGBTQ rights supporters rejoiced last Thursday with news that homosexuality is no longer illegal in Lebanon. A court ruling abolished a case against an unnamed trans-woman (accused of having a “same sex relationship with a man”) stating that homosexuality can no longer be considered a crime because it is “not unnatural.” Lebanese law only prohibits sexual acts “contradicting the laws of nature.”
A Jdeide Court Judge – Naji El Dahdah, threw out the case, in which the Lebanese state accused a transgender woman of having a same-sex relationship with a man. The verdict relied on a December 2009 ruling by Judge Mounir Suleiman that consensual homosexual relations were not “against nature” and could therefore not be prosecuted under article 534 of Lebanon’s penal code, which prohibits sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature,” and makes them punishable by up to a year in prison.
“Man is part of nature and is one of its elements, so it cannot be said that any one of his practices or any one of his behaviours goes against nature, even if it is criminal behaviour, because it is nature’s ruling,”
“The more we have decisions like this, the more article 534 becomes irrelevant. Any legal change takes a lot of time but at least this article might stop being used to persecute gay and transgender people in Lebanon,”
Georges Azzi – Helem co-founder and prominent LGBT rights activist
According to Pew Research, as of 2013, an overwhelming 80% of the Lebanese public believes homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while 18% believes it should be accepted by society. But still, the country’s LGBT rights victories are mounting, slowly but surely. Last year, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society ruled that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated. They even said that “conversion therapy” seeking to “convert” gays has no scientific backing — hear that, PFOX?
With the dedication of activists like Helem — which is the first organisation in the Arab world to set up a gay and lesbian community centre, and has been praised for consistently breaking “new ground in a country that criminalises homosexuality and where violence and abuse are persistent problems — the momentum to liberate gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people from persecution is not just alive in the U.S., but in even some of the most religiously orthodox corners of the world.
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