lgbt


MeganRapinoeThis video is making the internet rounds. It’s been described as triumphant. (It’s of U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe being asked to describe herself in one word, and she responds with “GAAAAY.”)

I’ve certainly felt triumphant about being queer before. In fact, being queer is possibly my favorite thing about my life.

The queer community and queer love are so important to me. Queer people are my closest friends. I tend to be attracted (intellectually, romantically, and friend-wise) to people who play with gender, who are attracted to multiple genders, who don’t shy away from nuance and gray areas, who mess with binaries, who feel some kind of identification (even if complicated) with the words “queer” and “genderqueer.”

I love who and how I love. I love that my form of love plays with gender and sexuality norms. I love queer bodies, mine and those of the people I love. I love people who play with color, who bind, who shop in the side of the store not traditionally “designated” for them, who shave shapes into their hair, who take feminine accessorizing and inject it with a hearty sense of play, self-awareness, and edginess.

My love makes some people uncomfortable, makes some people stare. It might be because they are trying to read the gender of my partners, the most recent of whom have identified as trans* or genderqueer. But there might also be some young people who see themselves reflected in my love and know that soon they too will have real queer love. Maybe I’m being presumptuous or self-absorbed. Or maybe just hopeful. Or maybe I’m just remembering how I looked upon queer couples before I knew myself to be queer.

I’m sure straight people have communities or groups where they feel most at home, most affiliated. And I know that as a white person, it’s a privilege to be able to choose which identity is most important to me. People of color in the U.S. are often told who they are in a way that erases their intersections. But I can relate to Megan Rapinoe. I love celebrating my queerness.

More to say on this in the future, but for now, these are just some initial (read: jumbled) thoughts. Thanks for reading. Love you.

It’s such a weird day to be a queer person.

I know that today’s Supreme Court ruling signals some kind of social shift, moving the needle on mainstream acceptance and visibility of queer relationships. I know how important this victory is for so many families who will no longer have to worry about whether their union will be recognized across state lines.

And yet reading Kennedy’s majority opinion just confirms my discomfort:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.

No. I don’t actually believe that marriage is a form of love that trumps all others. It’s not everyone’s ultimate ideal. If social acceptance of queer love relies on my love looking a certain way, I’m not interested. I don’t want conditional acceptance. I want non-traditional families celebrated.

And I worry that some will see this as “mission accomplished.” I worry there will be less energy (and therefore less funding) for the work that remains: battling violence against trans people (especially trans women of color), ending LGBT youth homelessness, assisting LGBT asylees and refugees, addressing mental health and suicide among LGBT people, expanding access to life-saving healthcare for trans people, the list goes on.

As a dear friend wrote earlier today: “What a moment to be queer, to hold all the complexities and limitations of social acceptance and legal recognition. To celebrate and know the fight has just begun.”

Today, companies like WordPress are showing their support by adding a rainbow to their logo. But will they do the same when we finally pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act?

I feel so ambivalent. Maybe I’ll bike over to the Supreme Court to be surrounded by happy LGBT people and allies. Maybe that will allow me to just celebrate. We’ll see.

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Oh, Bari Weiss. You’re being so glib and flippant, writing in shorthand as if we already agree with you, that I can’t tell if you’re being serious or if your Wall Street Journal piece from last week, “How to Survive—and Maybe Enjoy—PC University,” is just click bait. I have to suspect the latter since it’s not difficult to knock down your sloppy logic about the supposed problem of politically correct universities.

You complain about course catalogs that include classes on transgender health disparities. God forbid. You really think it’s not worth anyone’s time to study the health and wellness of trans people? Is it not worth anyone’s time to take a class from a leading expert on transgender health who’s gotten awards from National Institutes of Health? Should we just ignore the fact that trans people have high rates of mental health issues and suicide and are less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual or LGB individuals? And even if trans people didn’t have poor health outcomes, do trans issues warrant no attention from academics and students?

And, in fact, I think it’s great that someone is a specialist in transgender health in the same way it’s great that someone is a specialist in Fermentation Science, Russian adultery novels, and the Science of Facial Reconstruction. You don’t seem outraged by those highly-specialized fields (perhaps because your outrage was just a cover for your transphobia). Shouldn’t we support broad-ranging intellectual curiosity?

You caution students from taking courses with titles they can’t understand, including a literature course on “Romantic Extremities.” A quick search clarified that the course is about the “romantic fascination with psychological, political, aesthetic, and geographical extremes.” Should no one bother reading Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jane Austen, or William Blake, all authors listed in the syllabus?

Sure, your list of recommended courses (“Econ. Latin. Great Books. Con Law. Plato. Austen. Milton. Dante. Nietzsche.”) is a great start for someone entering college. But why not supplement the study of canonical literature and social thought with courses that broaden your horizons? If you’re not careful, the above list might mean only reading words and works by white people. Do you really think white people are the only ones with valuable contributions to intellectual, social, and political history?

Hopefully you were just kidding and I’ve wasted my breath.

DC is supposedly the country’s #1 gay mecca, yet 4 gay bars closed in the city in the last year alone. Wondering what’s going on? Me too.

The header from the June issue of Washington City Paper

I wrote about it for the Washington City Paper and their annual gay-themed issue (banner above). Read the full article here.

“What country are we living in and in what year, when priests bless half-drunk nationalists that pelt people with rocks while the police look on and then load us into police cars?”

Excerpt from a gorgeous interview with “Olga” and “Irina,” a gay couple in Russia, from the forthcoming Gay Propaganda, a bilingual collection of edited interviews with LGBT Russians.

For a moving post-Valentine’s day read, give the whole interview a look (published at PEN.org).

xo,

TP

1.) Sam Taylor just finished an eleven-month tour in Iraq as a chaplain’s assistant with the U.S. army. While enlisted, she hid her transgender identity and even dealt with a fellow soldier who insisted that all ” ‘she-males’ would be rounded up and killed ” in a just world. Taylor is back home in North Carolina and beginning to resume the life she left behind, beginning to take estrogen, coming out to the men she served alongside. When speaking to the Chapel Hill News in a recent article, she wouldn’t comment on how estrogen was changing her body:

“I feel that, because there are so many stories and jokes and ideas about what happens to a trans woman’s body … and because that journey is often so visible to the outside world, non-trans people often feel that they are no longer bounded by standards of politeness when it comes to questions about a trans person’s body,” she said.

2.) The AP did an important story about LGBT homeless youth, a community left behind by politics and budget cuts. The article has photos and stories from homeless youth in Detroit and New York City. It paints a grim picture of the dearth of services, but a strong picture of resilience and self-made community. The good news is that the Obama administration is hosting a “national conference on housing and homelessness in America’s LGBT communities” today in Detroit.

Baresco Escobar, 19, from Fairfax, Va., an aspiring entertainer who identifies himself as bisexual, visits a local fast food hangout in Manhattan's Union Square popular with youth from the LGBT - lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community, Thursday, March 1, 2012, in New York. When he leaves in the late evening, Escobar goes to the far end of Brooklyn to sleep in an abandoned house with dozens of other homeless kids, covering bare floors with blankets and cuddling for warmth. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

3.) UH-OH: “The [Utah] Legislature gave final passage Tuesday to a bill that would let schools skip teaching sex education and prohibit instruction in the use of contraception.” Schools in Utah already allow parents to opt-out of having their kids attend sex-education classes, but under this new bill, schools can choose to skip the topic altogether, and if they do teach, they must cover abstinence only.

This is great news:

On the evening of Monday, November 7, The Ali Forney Center …reopened a 20-bed emergency shelter in Brooklyn as a shelter specifically for this population.  The reopening was made possible by a $620,000 grant from the New York City Council, turned over to the AFC by the New York City Dept. of Youth and Community Development. As the shelter is an existing shelter, previously operated by an organization that failed to comply with licensing requirements, it does not add to the city’s total number of shelter beds, which currently stands at around 250. However, it does increase the percentage of such beds set aside for LGBT youth, and brings the total of AFC-operated beds to 77.  Nonetheless, the AFC’s waiting list currently stands at 199 youths – a figure which has grown by 40 percent in the last year alone.

I reported on the rally and movement for more shelter beds in my last blog post, and I can’t help but feel like this must have been a direct result of the activism that has been taking place. I don’t know if it’s the increased media attention on Occupy Wall Street, yesterday’s elections, or what, but it does feel like there is a revival of progressive direct action and activism afoot. People are waking up from the slumber of Obama’s first term.

For the complete press release and more information on the LGBTQ homeless shelter update, click here.

I attended a rally on Monday of this week put on by a coalition of organizations fighting for more homeless shelters for LGBTQ young people. According to the flyer, an LGBTQ teen is 8 times more likely to experience homelessness than a straight teen in New York City. This is because as people come out younger and younger, many are being kicked out of their homes or facing isolation and bullying in schools. Every night in New York City, almost 4000 young people are without stable housing, but there are fewer than 200 youth shelter beds. Facing cuts by the city and state, supporters came out to demand protection for these vulnerable young people.

I interviewed a few people at the rally and spliced together a quick video of people’s impressions:

If this inspires you to take action, visit aliforneycenter.org.

Moscow Pride 2011 Logo: Features a cupola like the one on Moscow's famous St. Basil's Cathedral, except in rainbow colorsThe Russian Government has marked the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) by once again banning Moscow Gay Pride. Moscow’s Deputy Mayor Ludmila Shvetsova cites the city’s inability to provide adequate protection and security from the anti-gay forces who will inevitably attend the event.

This is bullshit. One of the main threats of violence for the Pride organizers and marchers comes from Moscow’s Police and Riot guard themselves, who have interrupted the marches and violently arrested participants year after year.

While organizers of 6th annual Moscow Pride on May 28th of this year plan to hold their event regardless of the City Hall decision, this certainly comes as a blow to their organizing and once again reflects the stubborn bigotry of Moscow’s leadership. Their next step is to move their plea directly to the federal government and apply for a permit to march in front of the Kremlin, the federal seat of power, an area which is under the direct jurisdiction of President Dmitri Medvedev.

Organizers are quite used to this kind of treatment by their own government and have always circumvented it by planning events in secret and being prepared for arrests, intimidation and interruption. After all, they managed to hold Pride events even under former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who famously called the “faggots” “satanic.”

I met Moscow Pride’s main organizer, Nikolai Alekseev, at an event earlier this year. Alekseev’s persona moves easily from high-profile professional as he travels the world speaking about human rights to on-the-ground rabble-rouser. He told those of us in attendance at a Columbia University-sponsored event that his organization’s tactic keep getting more and more James Bond-esque because they have to do so much of the planning in secret to avoid getting shut down before they even hit the streets. Alekseev says that organizers are followed and have their phones tapped in the weeks leading up to Pride every year.

Alekseev is not all gloom and doom, though. In that talk (watch a complete video here), he confidently insisted that within a few years, the debate in Russia will change from whether or not to ban marches to the more serious considerations of marriage equality, sex ed and homophobia. Not only that, but Russian LGBTQ activists had a victory late last year with the city government of St. Petersburg authorized its first ever gay rally.

I encourage you to check out the complete video of Alekseev’s talk to learn about the history of the Moscow Pride movement, their victories at the European Court of Human Rights and their dreams for the future.

Tennessee couple, Laura and Carol Ann Stutte, whose home was burned to the ground and whose garage was spray-painted with the word "QUEERS."

Photo: Bob Fowler / News Sentinel

I usually write my own original content in this blog and don’t simply repost other people’s words. I try to add my perspective to what’s being said about LGBT issues. But this email I just received from GetEqual was so shocking and upsetting and really said it all, so I am just going to repost it here:

Dear friends,

Sadly, even with each step we make towards progress, we can’t forget the discrimination LGBT folks face across the country…

We’re working with an extraordinarily brave Tennessee couple, Laura and Carol Ann Stutte, whose home was burned to the ground and whose garage was spray-painted with the word “QUEERS.” Returning from an anniversary celebration weekend six months ago to the ashes of their former life, they have been fighting with their insurance company (American National Property and Casualty) simply to honor their homeowners policy and allow their family to move forward.

The Stuttes’ neighbor had threatened them before, pledging to kill their dog (found poisoned shortly thereafter) and to burn down their home (done). They’re now living in another part of Tennessee, fearful that their neighbor will find them and kill them, since she announced to them that, “The only thing better than one dead queer is two dead queers.”

We’re committed to doing everything we can to make sure that this family sees justice, and have partnered with Change.org to mobilize as many justice-minded folks as possible to petition the insurance company, ANPAC, to make good on the Stuttes’ policy.

Sign the petition here!

Please help the Stuttes family in this small way to at least let them recuperate from the damages done to their home. This will in no way make up for the trauma and violence enacted upon them, but will allow them some stability to move forward and rebuild.

My wishes go out to them and to all survivors of vicious hate crimes.

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