Tag Archive | pride

Weekend Update 6/24/2017: Genders, Agendas, and so much more

A photo from New York City's Trans Day of Action. SAGE USA and Callen-Lorde.

A photo from New York City’s Trans Day of Action. SAGE USA and Callen-Lorde.

There are so many Pride events going on everywhere, it’s impossible to keep up. A couple of weeks ago one group in Seattle sponsored what they called a Pride March (the same day as Equality Marches around the country). Yesterday in Seattle we had a Trans March. New York City had a Trans Day of Action. Later today in Seattle we’ve got the Dyke March. And tomorrow is the giant Pride Parade and Pridefest—among other things. Of course, it isn’t only about parties: Trans Rights Activists, ACLU Ask Secretary of State to Investigate and Reject I-1552 Petitions. The group that is once again trying to get an initiative on the ballot to essentially make it illegal for trans kids to use bathrooms at public schools has been circulating petitions that don’t include the full text of the proposed law on the petition (as required by our state’s constitution), and others that do not carry the court-approved official title of the initiative, but have a reworded version that is very misleading. I agree with the ACLU, the signatures on the illegally made petitions shouldn’t count. Of course, we don’t know if the group has enough signatures this time. Last time they failed to collect enough (which is probably why someone decided to try these tactics to trick more people into signing).

Click to embiggen and read it.

Click to embiggen and read it.

Then there are just beautiful things. Dan Savage saw this poster somewhere yesterday and posted a picture of it to his blog. I don’t know who did it but it’s beautiful. And I’m ready to pledge allegiance and dance, aren’t you?

We’ve got a super full schedule this weekend and I’m already running behind, so please have a Happy Pride Weekend!

Fit Club of Columbus Ohio did a Mad Max: Fury Road recreation for the Columbus Pride Parade last weekend. They ride eternal--shiny and queer!

Fit Club of Columbus Ohio did a Mad Max: Fury Road recreation for the Columbus Pride Parade last weekend. They ride eternal–shiny and queer!

“Reblog if you are gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, asexual, pansexual or a supporter.”

“Reblog if you are gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, asexual, pansexual or a supporter.”

Queer Pride

Queer Pride

Pride

Heh

Love makes a family.

Love makes a family.

“Of course I'm PRO GAY, I didn't practice this much to stay an amateur gay.”

“Of course I’m PRO GAY, I didn’t practice this much to stay an amateur gay.”

Friday Links (no one right way to do Pride edition)

It’s Friday. The fourth Friday in Pride Month. That means this weekend is when a lot of Seattle’s Pride Events are happening! Happy Pride!

We have a full schedule with Locus Awards Weekend, some Pride events, and fun things with friends.

Anyway, here are the links I found interesting this week, sorted into categories.

Links of the Week

[Comic] Robot Hugs: There is no one right way to Pride.

It’s a joy to watch this guy’s Hot Wheels restoration YouTube channel .

This week in international hate crimes

European Court Condemns Russia’s Gay Propaganda Law.

Happy News!

From Oval Office, teacher of the year delivers a message on transgender rights.

Teenage boys wear skirts to school to protest against ‘no shorts’ policy.

This week in awful news

“Black Live Matter. Love is Love. Climate Change is Real. Religious Freedom for All. Immigrants Make America Great. Women's Rights Are Human Rights.”

“Black Live Matter. Love is Love. Climate Change is Real. Religious Freedom for All. Immigrants Make America Great. Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.” (Click to embiggen)

Funeral, vigil reveal depth of sorrow at Muslim girl’s death.

Killing of Muslim teen stirs questions about hate crime prosecutions.

Manchester attack: Islamophobic hate crime reports increase by 500%.

Portland police investigate menacing letter sent to Islamic center as hate crime.

A Muslim Teen Was Kidnapped And Murdered Outside A Virginia Mosque.

This Week in Restoring Our Faith in Humanity

‘Hero’ imam praises group that saved Finsbury Park suspect from angry crowd.

News for queers and our allies:

“Smile if you're gay”

“Smile if you’re gay” (Click to embiggen)

Boomer Banks On Why We Shouldn’t Say ‘No Blacks, No Asians, No Fats or Fems’.

Being Offended by Black and Brown Stripes on the Pride Flag Proves Why They’re Necessary.

Controversy Over Philadelphia’s Racially Inclusive Pride Flag Highlights LGBTQ Community’s Problem with Racism.

A wave of states consider legislation recognizing the nuances within gender.

This gay coach and his gay son marched together in Pride for Father’s Day.

Bathroom bill another way to ‘bully’ transgender kids, mothers say.

Standing Up for Our Communities.

After outcry, an LGBT survey question is restored by HHS.

Ryan O’Callaghan and Finding Life Beyond the Closet.

Openly Gay Skateboarder Brian Anderson Bares All in His First Zine.

“Love is Love, is Love, is Love, is Love, is Love, is Love!”

“Love is Love, is Love, is Love, is Love, is Love, is Love!” (click to embiggen)

Apple Confirms Sales of Apple Watch Pride Edition Band Will Support LGBTQ Groups.

LGBTQ teens share what Pride Month means to them in powerful campaign.

‘Strands For Trans’ Supports Transgender Community.

What LGBTQ Teens Wish Their School Knew About Them.

The Beauty and Terror of Passing as a Woman.

Chadwick Moore: LGBTQ People “Don’t Know What The Second Amendment Is”. Actually, it’s Moore who doesn’t know what the Second Amendment is, it’s history, it’s original intent, and so on.

“Equality”

“Equality” (Click to embiggen)

Are You The Husband Or The Wife?

KKK members protest LGBTQ pride march in Florence: Hate ‘reared its ugly head’ .

See how the world celebrates Pride .

Philadelphia Mayor Will Sign Bill Prompted by Gayborhood Racism Complaints Into Law.

‘Babadook’ Is Returning to Theaters, And Proceeds Are Going to LGBTQ Groups.

This Gay Couple Re-Created Their Pride Photo 24 Years Later And It Has People Emotional.

Three Men Become First ‘Polyamorous Family’ Legally Recognized in Colombia.

AMA approves resolution against anti-trans bathroom bills.

This week in cool information

Why didn’t great painters of the past reach the level of realism achieved today by many artists? .

National Martini Day: The 10 Most Famous Martini Lovers.

7 gorgeous photos of redheads that challenge the way we see race.

Science!

“If God took Adam's rib to create his partner, then genotype will be 44XY. This means that Adam's partner was a male... Hence, ADAM & STEVE P.S. We don't know then, how females happened P.PS. Religion didn't see THAT coming.”

“If God took Adam’s rib to create his partner, then genotype will be 44XY. This means that Adam’s partner was a male… Hence, ADAM & STEVE P.S. We don’t know then, how females happened P.PS. Religion didn’t see THAT coming.” (Click to embiggen)

A PASSEL OF NEW PLANETS SHOWS OUR SOLAR SYSTEM IS VERY WEIRD, AND WE DON’T KNOW WHY.

What Is Space? – Issue 49: The Absurd.

Goodbye Planet Nine, Hello Planet Ten.

Researchers Are Using Viruses to Make Superbugs Commit Suicide.

Gangs of aggressive killer whales are shaking down Alaska fishing boats for their fish.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

GEEKS OUT EMPOWERS LGBTQ+ GEEKS AT FLAME CON AND BEYOND.

And other news:

Amazon’s move into groceries could squeeze Costco.

Idaho sequoia in way of expansion to be moved 2 blocks away.

This week in Words

“If god hates gays, why are we so cute?”

“If god hates gays, why are we so cute?” (Click to embiggen)

A Word History of ‘Pineapple’.

Whichbook enables millions of combinations of factors and then suggests books which most closely match your need. Go try this site! You click on a few options, and it gives you a bunch of suggestions. It’s like a video game for book nerds!

This Week in History

Juneteenth: The Black American Holiday Everyone Should Celebrate but Doesn’t.

This Week in Tech

Apple accuses Qualcomm of double-dipping, wants end to pay-per-iPhone deal.

A Cyberattack ‘the World Isn’t Ready For.

Did you get letter? WSU sends warning to 1 million people after hard drive with personal info is stolen.

‘Internet’ or ‘internet’? The Supreme Court Weighs in.

This Week in Misogyny in Tech

The myth of the ‘cool tech girl’ .

This Week in Covering the News

Lesson in bias: Columbia City, I hear you loud and clear – Sometimes being called a racist is just the jolt you need.

This Week in Inclusion

Movies Featuring Male Action Stars Faltering at Box Office This Season.

This Week in Police Problems

Seattle Police Officers Fatally Shoot 30-Year-Old Mother Near Magnuson Park.

Culture war news:

“Hey, Haters, Bite the Rainbow"

“Hey, Haters, Bite the Rainbow” (Click to embiggen)

Men Legally Allowed to Finish Sex Even If Woman Revokes Consent, NC Law States.

No Religious Majority Backs Anti-Gay Discrimination by Business Owners Anymore.

Missouri Lawmakers Are Trying To Roll Back An Anti-Discrimination Law That Protects Reproductive Health Choices.

Jesse Lee Peterson Says Democrats At Congressional Baseball Game Were Praying To Satan.

The Hoarding of the American Dream .

This week in rape culture

I believe Bill Cosby. He said he drugged women for sex. So why the mistrial?

This Week Regarding the Lying Liar:

Trump’s Carrier deal is not living up to the hype — jobs still going to Mexico.

The Fact Checker’s tally of Trump’s false claims since becoming president .

News about the Fascist Regime:

Democrats Seek Records On Jared Kushner As Administration Tries To Stifle Oversight.

The ACLU is suing the Washington, D.C., police for violating the rights of Trump inaugural detainees.

This week in Politics:

GOP Unveils Health Care Bill While Protesters Bleed and Scream: ‘The Government Wants to Kill Me!’.

Senate health care bill: watch Elizabeth Warren school lawmakers on Planned Parenthood.

The Senate health bill takes what Americans hate about Obamacare and makes it worse .

Andrea Mitchell: ‘A Brutal Image For Republicans And Supporters Of This Bill, Frankly’: Disabled protesters forcibly carried out by Capitol police.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act: the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, explained.

Secret Government Report: Chelsea Manning Leaks Caused No Real Harm. And this surprised who?

This Week in Racists, White Nationalists, and other deplorables:

Trump supporters and the empathy gap.

Trolls, hypocrites and performance artists are trying to hack our lives. Don’t let them.

Things I wrote:

Sunday Funnies, part 24.

The long, lonely death spiral of the anti-gay defenders of “traditional” marriage.

Gay it forward.

Gay It Forward, part 2.

Queer Plus, or Intersectionality Isn’t Just a Noun — more adventures in dictionaries.

Videos!

Beth Ditto – Fire (Official Video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Cazwell – Loose Wrists (Official Music Video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Really!?! with Seth and Amy: Julius Caesar Protests:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Gay pride || Fight song:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Taylor Swift – You Belong With Me (Gay Version):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Matt Fishel – “Finally” (Official Music Video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Benny – Boys Will Be Boys (Official Video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Steve Grand – We Are the Night (Dave Aude Remix) (Official Music Video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Show Me Your Pride – By Miss Coco Peru – OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Queer Plus, or Intersectionality Isn’t Just a Noun — more adventures in dictionaries

“#MoreColorsMorePride” Supporters of Philadelphia’s revamped version of the Pride flag say it’s meant to be more inclusive to nonwhite LGBTQ persons.

“#MoreColorsMorePride” Supporters of Philadelphia’s revamped version of the Pride flag say it’s meant to be more inclusive to nonwhite LGBTQ persons.

When I first saw a link to an article about the More Colors More Pride campaign and their new flag, I admit I was a bit confused. My specific thought was, “But the black stripe goes at the bottom…” because I’m already very familiar with the Victory Over AIDS version of the Pride flag. In that flag, the black stripe represents our being in mourning for the loss of hundreds of thousands of members of the queer community due to AIDS, and it is the bottom stripe on that flag because the idea is that we are determined to be victorious over AIDS, right?

Anyway, my confusion lasted only milliseconds, because I hadn’t even finished reading the headline before I understood that for this flag, the new stripes represented Queer People of Color. Which made perfect sense. But, as an article that I included in the most recent Friday Links noted, the new flag wasn’t greeted enthusiastically by everyone: The Surprising Controversy Surrounding A More Inclusive Pride Flag.

I’ve seen some of the negative reactions on my own social media, and one thing I couldn’t help noticing was that every person I saw objecting, if you checked out their profile, they were white and male (Full Disclosure: I’m white and male, myself). And their objections are, to a one, ludicrous. I especially liked the guy who said something along the lines of “if you don’t see yourself included in the universal symbol of the rainbow, you need to do some soul searching.” Because first of all, it isn’t a universal symbol, is it? As just one example, we have all the whacko Christian fundamentalists who get all angry and in our face claiming that we’ve stolen the rainbow from god. When the flag was first created (and hand sewn) under the direction of artist Gilbert Baker in 1978, some people in the queer community didn’t like it for a variety of reasons.

Gilber Baker's original flag design had 8 colors: hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and violet.

Gilber Baker’s original flag design had 8 colors: hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and violet.

And it isn’t as if the flag has remained completely unchanged since its original creation. In the fall over 1978, after the assassination of Harvey Milk, there was a sudden demand in the San Francisco area for more of the rainbow flags. To meet the sudden demand, Baker and a flag company decided to use existing stock rainbow fabric (red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet), so they lost the hot pink and changed the indigo to a lighter blue. And a year later the official banners for the San Francisco Pride events switched to a six-color version ( red, orange, yellow, green, royal blue, and violet). There are two different explanations given for that change: some say it was because when the seven-color versions were hung vertically from street lamp poles the middle stripe wasn’t always visible, others say that there was difficulty getting both the turquoise and indigo fabric. The point is, the rainbow flag changed several times, with the original artist’s blessing, in the first few years of its existence.

Many groups within the community have felt that the rainbow didn't explicitly include them, and have opted for other flags to use either instead of the rainbow or along side it.

Many groups within the community have felt that the rainbow didn’t explicitly include them, and have opted for other flags to use either instead of the rainbow or along side it. (Click to embiggen)

I mentioned above that not everyone was happy with it. Some weren’t happy because they thought the rainbow was two generic. Others because there were already symbols being used by lots of queer people (for example: a pink triangle or a labrys on a black triangle), and they thought we should stick to those symbols for various reasons. Other folks have made other variations. And a lot of people in the community didn’t think that the rainbow (or the Pride marches themselves) should include anyone other than exclusively gay men and lesbian women. I remember public arguments about whether the words bisexual or transgender should be added to the official name of the Pride Parade in Seattle during the 90s, for instance. There many other arguments still raging about who should be included.

Many, many more variants and alternatives to the rainbow flag.

Many, many more variants and alternatives to the rainbow flag.

I wasn’t around the community for the arguments about the rainbow flag when it was first introduced, but in the late 80s and early 90s, when I was just coming out, the arguments about why the rainbow wasn’t a good symbol for LGBTQ+ people were still raging. I knew more than one person who was adamant that the Pink Triangle was a better symbol because it represented a time gay men were targeted for extermination in Nazi Germany, and we had taken the symbol back. Of course, there were plenty of people who didn’t like the Pink Triangle, either (some because it was considered to represent only men; others because of its origin as a symbol of our oppression). Or only liked it if it were used along with other symbols commonly associated with lesbians.

So claiming the current six-color rainbow flag is universally recognized as including everyone even within the community simply isn’t true.

There’s another big hint that something like the More Colors Flag is needed: white queers wouldn’t be offended (and the folks objecting are definitely offended) at the flag if the problems it addresses weren’t real. Not only that, all of the arguments I’ve seen used to explain why the More Colors Flag is unnecessary sound exactly like the homophobic arguments given for why queers don’t need representation in movies, books, TV and such or why laws against queer discrimination aren’t needed. And they also are exact parallels to racist arguments used to argue we don’t need laws about racial discrimination (among other things). As they say, if it looks like a racist argument and sounds like a racist objection…

None of this will sound unfamiliar to anyone familiar with discussions about intersectionality. In case you don’t know what intersectionality is, let’s start with the definition (I warned you in the title we would get to dictionary topics in this post!):

intersectionality noun the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

So another reason that you can’t claim that the rainbow is a universal symbol that applies to all queer people is because the experience of being queer isn’t the same for all categories of queer people. It’s kind of like the people who make that argument that you shouldn’t let a black actor portray James Bond or a woman portray Doctor Who because that would make the shows political. Insisting that the hero must be a white male is just as much a political statement as asking why the hero can’t be something else. Similarly, suggesting we should do something to make people of color feel more welcome is not racializing the Pride flag any more than resisting that inclusion is.

I’m a cisgender white man. I also happen to be queer. I have faced discrimination (and worse) because I’m a gay man. But I also know that I have been shielded from certain types of discrimination because I’m a guy and because I’m white. I don’t know all of the times that this happened, but I understand how systemically racism and sexism are baked into our culture, and therefore there are times when I experience no obstacles, where a person of color or a woman would find things less welcoming. The types of discrimination I experience and the ways I encounter discrimination as a gay man are often very different from the types and ways experienced by queers of color. The same kind of discrimination that I might be able to somewhat sidestep because of a bit of white male privilege I don’t even notice at the time can be a much more devastating experience to someone who does not have those two advantages.

“If your profile says: No Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Fats or Fems then you SHOULDN'T BE HERE.” PHOTO BY BOOMER BANKS (Click to embiggen)

“If your profile says: No Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Fats or Fems then you SHOULDN’T BE HERE.”
PHOTO BY BOOMER BANKS (Click to embiggen)

Recognizing this isn’t about trying to decide who is more oppressed. This isn’t the Oppression Olympics. The truth is, that a lot of white queer people are unaware of their own racism. Most insist that they aren’t at all, which is literally impossible. You can’t grow up in a racist society without being conditioned to the assumptions of racism. Asserting that the rainbow already includes everyone ignores the fact that there is a lot of racism within the queer community, some of it really subtle because it is just a manifestation of the systemic racism of the whole society, and others of it quite blatant. It’s blatant while also being rationalized away. The photo here of the sign that was seen at the Equality March earlier this month talks about one of those examples. Please note that this sign was at an Equality March, not a Pride March. But it underscores a real truth: a lot of queers, particularly certain white gay men, have these racist attitudes. And yes, it absolutely is racist to say in your dating profile “no blacks” or “no asians” or “no latinos.” The usual counter argument is that they’re just talking about a preference.

No.

I have a preference for redheads. Yet I have never refused to date a non-redhead. And a good thing, too, since neither my late partner, Ray, nor my husband Michael are redheads. I lusted after and occasionally dated redheads, but I wound up falling in love with two different men for reasons other than their hair color. That’s because while I have an attraction toward redheads, I recognize that’s all it is, and that there are other reasons to like or dislike a person than their hair color. The same holds true for race. If you completely exclude someone from consideration because of their race, there is no word other than racism to describe it. And while we’re on the subject: fat-shaming and fem-rejection aren’t any better, and if you’re doing that you’re just being a different kind of bigot, but no less of a bigot than the racist, so don’t do it.

This is another variant rainbow flag that's been around longer than the More Colors Flag.

This is another variant rainbow flag that’s been around longer than the More Colors Flag.

Nobody’s free until everyone is. And one of the steps to setting everyone free is recognizing that not everyone is as free as everyone else. We have to find a way to actually be inclusive, not to simply say that being inclusive is a good thing. And being inclusive requires us to recognize intersectionality. To understand that there are different degrees of discrimination. Society imposes different types of disadvantage on people based on categories of race, gender, sexuality, economic class, and other things. Those differences are real. The pain and suffering they cause is real. And the benefits that other categories of people receive at the expense of that pain and suffering is also real. Fighting for equality means not just giving lip service to inclusivity and intersectionality, it means taking steps to do something about those problems. You have to look for the people who are having trouble getting into the freedom tent and work to help them inside and to feel welcome. That requires first listening, really listening to try to understand–not pretending to listen while we’re really just waiting for our turn to talk.

If my queer kindred of color tell me that they don’t feel welcome in many queer spaces, then I have to take that seriously and ask what I can do to help. And then I have to actually help. Which is why I say that intersectionality isn’t just a noun. Because those of us who have some privilege, however little it may be, have to stick our necks out and use that privilege to help those who don’t.

Pride should be for all of us.

Gay It Forward, part 2

“You only gave us rights because we gave you riots. Queer Power”

“You only gave us rights because we gave you riots. Queer Power” (Click to embiggen)

The original Stonewall protest was a riot. Some people want us to forget that. They want us to be polite, not to make waves, and not to upset or scare “ordinary” people. But make no mistake: the only reason we queer people have any legals rights now is because we refused to be quiet, we refused to be invisible, we refused to go quietly.

By “we” I don’t mean to imply that I was actually at the Stonewall Inn on that fateful night, or for several nights after where the street queens and homeless gay teens and butch lesbians and angry sissies kept coming back out on the streets and demanded their right to exist. I was 8 years old living in a small town in Colorado (and if I recall correctly crushing hard on Robert Conrad as Secret Service agent James West). I wouldn’t even hear about the events of the summer until more than ten years later. But that summer the people who were standing up to the police and demanding the simple right to be out in public without being harassed, weren’t the quiet ones. That wasn’t entirely their choosing. Heroes of the time such as Marsha P Johnson or Silvia Rivera were exactly the sort of gender non-conforming queer who had spent their entire lives being literally unable to hide. When the police raided that night, they took their usual tack of grabbing the people who looked least “normal” to single out for a beating and arrest.

“The first PRIDE was a riot.” And a nice caricature of Marsha P. Johnson, the street queen often credited with throwing the first brick at Stonewall. (Click to embiggen)

“The first PRIDE was a riot.” And a nice caricature of Marsha P. Johnson, the street queen often credited with throwing the first brick at Stonewall. (Click to embiggen)

Their only crime was being at a bar and being obviously queer-looking and/or queer-acting. Just for some context: it wouldn’t be until 1973 that a court would rule as unconstitutional laws banning people from wearing clothing “typical of the opposite sex” (which included women wearing pants). The police had a lot of leeway in deciding what constituted not dressing in clothes appropriate to one’s gender. And that’s how these raids would go. Cops would surround the bar, then come in, turn on the lights, order everyone to line up and produce their identification. Anyone who was “cross dressing” would be arrested (and usually get roughed up on the way). It was not uncommon for male cops to grope the butchest lesbians while making lewd remarks to try to get them to react, so they could be arrested for resisting.

Ultimately, the cops and other authorities were targeting people who were different.

There had been raids before, but almost never before had the crowd turned on the police. Normally everyone who could run away did, and those who couldn’t tried not to be the few who would get beaten. But that night, the patrons decided not to cooperate, and things went downhill rather fast.

Again, no one, including many of the people who actually were there, knows why the crowd reacted differently that night. Just as no one knows for certain why the police were raiding the Stonewall Inn that night. The leading theory is that the mafia-connected owners of the Inn were suspected of making more money than they admitted to from blackmailing well-to-do customers, and were therefore not bribing the cops and liquor inspectors as much as they should have been. But because all of that was highly illegal, we’ll never know. The riots went on for several nights. Then, in the weeks afterward, several of the people that had been there formed politcal groups to fight for queer rights: The Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaires and the Gay Liberation Front.

Let’s pause here to talk a bit about terminology. Transgender, transvestite, and cross-dressing were terms that at that time were used inter-changeably by people within the community, even though today it’s considered offensive to act as if those terms refer to the same thing. There is still some controversy about which of the street queens should be considered transgender, for instance. It’s an argument I don’t want to get into right now.

And it’s really beside the point. The people who were at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots, and who organized the first new gay rights afterwards were mostly trans (or otherwise genderfluid/non-conforming) people of color. It was the most marginalized who led the way.

Protest sign from a photo of an early Pride march: “An army of lovers cannot fail.”

“An army of lovers cannot fail.” (Click to embiggen)

I’m not trans, myself, but from a very early age I was called “sissy,” “pussy,” “faggot” and worse (by members of my own family and teachers, no less). I was four years old the first time that my dad angrily beat me while calling me, among other words that I didn’t know the meaning of, “cocksucker.” And at four I didn’t know what a drag queen was, let alone a gay or lesbian person. I wasn’t intentionally acting whatever way it was that made that the go-to insult to throw at me. I didn’t mean to be the kind of boy that caused teachers to tell my parents later, after one of the most severe bullying incidents at school, “As long as he walks like that and talks like that, how else do you expect the other boys to react?”

Whichever of my mannerisms trigger people’s gaydar, they’re not under my control. I tried so hard to act like the other boys and not get noticed. Yet, again and again I failed. So it’s both ignorant and unfair to say that the people who got targeted by cops in those raids could have prevented it if they just stopped flaunting things. Long before Marsha P Johnson wore her first outrageous flowered hat out in public, as a little boy growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, she had been beaten and bullied. There came a point when she decided to stop hiding who and what she was and embrace it.

Similarly, it’s both ignorant and unfair to say that people shouldn’t dress outrageously or otherwise let their freak flag fly at Pride. The only reason that so-called “straight-acting” gays have found it safe to come out at all (whether it be former NFL players or rugby players or button-down executives) is because the “queens and trannies and freaks” of previous generations decided to stand up and fight back. I’m not saying it is easy for anyone to come out, but many of the community didn’t have a choice about whether people knew—the only choice they had was whether to let themselves be beat down, or to fight back and be proud of who they were.

“We kept fighting after Stonewall. We're still fighting the AIDS Crisis. We kept fighting after Anita Bryant. We kept fighting after Jesse Helms. The struggle is far from over. I'll keep fighting. Will you?”

“We kept fighting after Stonewall. We’re still fighting the AIDS Crisis. We kept fighting after Anita Bryant. We kept fighting after Jesse Helms. The struggle is far from over. I’ll keep fighting. Will you?”

So embrace the fairies, the leather daddies, the cycle mamas, the butches, the fems, the sissies, the nellies, the drag kings, the street queens, the gym bunnies, the queer nerds, the bis, the pans, the aces—every gender, every race, every freaky and fabulous corner of the big wild Queer Community. The old Isaac Newton quote is that he could only see further than others because he stood on the shoulders of giants. We’re only able to be here and see a bright future because we’re standing on the shoulders of those fabulous freaks. And as someone else once observed, if you think someone is normal, you just don’t know them well enough.

We’re all queer! We all belong here! Let’s march into a brighter future together!

Why do I keep having to explain why we need Pride?

“Gay pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn't a straight pride movement, be thankful you don't need one.”

“Gay pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.”

It’s that time of year again. The perennial question arises: “If you get a Gay Pride Parade, why can’t we have a Straight Pride Parade?” I can’t decide which is the saddest aspect of this question: 1) that they think this tired old canard is clever, 2) that they don’t understand that 99.9% of all television, movies, news, and other public discourse is geared toward affirming heterosexual life, including straight sexuality (so every day is already Straight Pride Day), or 3) that they don’t understand that Queer Pride events are about our very right to exist—an act of defiance against those who want us to be invisible or dead—not merely our right to party?

And some people seem to be most hung up about the fact that we have parades and festivals. Especially the parade seems to bug them. They are always quick to say that they don’t have a problem with gay people, but the truth is that what bothers them is us being visible. When they ask us why we have to flaunt who we are, what they are really saying is why can’t he be quiet and stay hidden and not remind them that anyone who is different than they exist.

And you know how you can prove this? Ask them if they have ever raised the same objections to St. Patrick’s Day parades. The earliest St. Patrick’s Day parades in colonial times were about Irish Nationalism, since all of Ireland was under British rule at the time. By the mid- and late 1800s the St. Patrick’s Day parades were about Irish equality in the U.S., since anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment was quite high, and yes often encoded in laws and government policy. While the anti-discrimination purpose of the parades has faded away, the parade is still about taking pride in one’s Irish heritage. If a person doesn’t object to Irish pride parades (which is exactly what St. Patrick’s Day parades are), but they do object to LGBTQ+ Pride parades, the only logical reason can be that they object to the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans, and all other Queers in particular, and not the idea of a parade celebrating identities in general.

I can pretend that the question isn’t a passive-aggressive exercise of bigotry and give you some simple answers. Why do we need Pride?

None of those reasons apply to straight people. No one bullies straight children just because they are straight or gender conforming. No parents kick their straight children out on the street because they are straight. No one is targeting sports bars to kill straights because they saw a man kiss a woman somewhere. No preachers are going on the air to say that straight people deserve death. No one is passing laws saying gender conforming children aren’t allowed in public school bathrooms. No one is passing laws trying to ban straight people from adopting children or getting medical benefits for their partners. Straight people and straight people’s sexuality (ever seen a romantic comedy?) is the subject of at least 99% of all movies, television shows, et cetera. So straight people don’t need pride. But if you really think you do, no one is stopping you from organizing your own parades (though I’ve argued before that you already have those, too).

The reason queers like me have been able to stand up and be ourselves is because other queers before us were brave enough to be out and brave enough to protest when necessary. Be it staging sip-ins to protest laws that made it illegal for a bartender to knowingly allow two homosexuals be served in the bar, or fighting back when police raided a gay club, or picketing in front of federal buildings, or boycotting industries whose spokespeople lobbied for laws to take away our rights, or protesting laws making it a crime for us to be intimate with the person of our choosing, or marching in the first ever Pride event in June 1970. Those of us who can stand up for ourselves now owe a debt to those earlier generations of queers. We can’t pay them back directly, so we have to pay it forward. We do that by standing up and being counted and being visible for all of the people (especially kids) who can’t safely be out themselves, yet.

We need Pride not because we’ve come so far, but because there is still a long, long way to go.

Odd, strange, eccentric — more adventures in dictionaries

“queer - a homosexual...” Looking up the definition in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary requires using a magnifier.

“queer – a homosexual…” Looking up the definition in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary requires using a magnifier.

Twenty-five years ago I was dramatically confronted with the hypocritical nature of my feelings about the word “queer.” My coming out process had been long and convoluted. This particular incident (which I’ve written about previously) happened after I had separated from my wife and begun the process of getting a divorce. Getting to the point of admitting to myself that I definitely wasn’t bi hadn’t been pleasant, and I felt that the ordeal required some sort of rite of passage. So when a friend mentioned that she was going to participate in a National Coming Out Day march, which was going to start from a location near my then-workplace, it seemed a perfect fit. It was only after arriving that I found out the event was sponsored by Queer Nation. Queer Nation was controversial within the LGBTQ+ community at the time for both their radical attitude but mostly (among the LGBT people I knew at the time) just for insisting on using the word “queer.”

The argument against the word was that it had been used as an insult against children who failed to fully conform to the ideal for their assigned gender, resulting in many adults in the LGBTQ+ community to experience great pain when hearing the word. I understood that argument, though I had found myself at the receiving end of a lot of vitriol from within the community if I happened to use the word “gay” as an umbrella term, because it left out lesbians. Similarly, I had also been yelled at from using the term “lesbian and gay” because it excluded bisexual people. And the arguments and screaming fits over the word “homosexual” are so convoluted (and intimately tied to the etymology of the word) that they deserve a separate blog post.

So I had found myself, as an active member of a couple of non-profit organizations related to the LGBTQ+ community, constantly trying to say the full initialism in every sentence.

Some gay friends who really disliked Queer Nation saw me marching up the street behind the Queer Nation banner that day (we were actually doing the Queer Hokey Pokey when we passed in front of the bar where a bunch of my friends had met for other reasons). And I got a lot of grief later from them. Some of them just teased me about it, but some were a bit more upset. While I was trying to explain why I wasn’t embarrassed about marching with Queer Nation nor did I regret it, one friend got in my face pretty angrily about it. And thus I found myself retorting, “I am going to call myself Queer if I want to, and fuck you if you don’t like it!”

My feelings about the word shifted during that argument.

Because I realized the argument has a big flaw. Yes, I was bullied as a kid with the word “queer,” but I was also bullied just as viciously with the word “gay.” And the people who argued most vehemently 25 years ago that queer was completely unacceptable, just as emphatically insisted that I should proudly call myself gay. Similarly, I know many women who were bullied during childhood and beyond with the word “lesbian” and derivatives of the word, yet now they’re supposed to proudly call themselves that word, and we’re supposed to call them that rather than use “queer.”

According to several of my dictionaries, in the last two hundred years queer has gone from an adjective meaning “strange, peculiar, or eccentric” to a verb meaning “to spoil or ruin” to an adjective meaning “of or related to homosexuality” to a noun meaning “a homosexual man” to a both a noun and an adjective: “a non-heterosexul person” or something “related to non-heterosexuality.”

Words change. Queer may be derived from the Old High German twerh which was an adjective describing something that was “oblique or not at a right angle.” In other words, not straight. One can see how describing something that was physically at an odd angle would come to metaphorically refer to something that was odd or peculiar in other ways.

My dictionaries that cite the first use of a each particular sense of a word by date indicate that the word was not used as an adjective referring to homosexuality until 1922, and then the noun usage for a homosexual man came 1935. Yet an unabridged dictionary I have that was published in 1957 lists only the definition, “odd, strange, eccentric.”

I see people who are too young to really remember the heyday of Queer Nation amid the horrors of the AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s still making the argument that we shouldn’t use the word. They say “some people” are triggered by the word queer, so we shouldn’t use it. What they mean is they have been told by some LGBTQ+ folks my age that they are triggered by the word. I, however, remain extremely skeptical of anyone who claims a single word is a consistent trigger. Triggers are tricky, but in my experience, the people claiming to be triggered by the mere utterance of a single specific word really mean that they dislike the word, not that hearing it gives them flashbacks forcing them to relive horrific experiences. This kind of claim cheapens the very useful meaning of the word “trigger” to describe a phenomenon that some survivors of trauma experience. And I’ve never, ever heard anyone claim to be triggered by the words “gay” or “lesbian” even though those words were used as vicious insults just as often as “queer” was.

“We're here, we're queer, get over it.”

“We’re here, we’re queer, get over it.”

So, I’m not going to try to squeeze the various QUILTBAG initialisms (LGBT, GLBT, LGBTI, LGBTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBTQA ad nauseam — and boy, does it get nauseam!) into every sentence. I’m queer. I’m a queer man who is a member of the queer community. The community includes trans people, bisexual people, pansexual people, asexual people aromantic people, non-heterosexual people of all genders, genderfluid people, two-spirit people, bigendered people, ambigendered people, et cetera, et omnia, et perpetua. No matter how you look at all of those people, if you get us all together, many of us are quite strange, a little odd, or wildly eccentric in wonderful ways. So queer is a word that encompasses us well.

If a specific person asks me not to call them queer, I will make an effort not to use the word to refer to them specifically, but I’m going to go right on calling myself and the community queer. I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m not going to be silenced by anyone.

Why the haters won’t win

It looks like they're planting a new hedge. (© Gene Breshears)

It looks like they’re planting a new hedge. (© Gene Breshears)

I was hurrying to get to the bus stop on my way to work recently and as I started to cross a side street I was surprised at something I saw on the other side. It looked like someone had planted a bunch of new bushes along a construction fence. This new line of freshly planted greenery was on the exact spot that only a month or so before a hedge had been removed. Clearly the bushes were going to be in the way when workers needed to start demolition work. I had been sad to see them go, as I’ve been walking past that line of bushes for many years. It made no sense to plant new ones now, because they haven’t even begun to tear down the old buildings yet, let alone start the new construction. Why would anyone start planting new landscaping now?

I crossed the street and only when I got closer did I realize what I was actually looking at. They had cut down the old line of bushes, yes. But the roots were still there in the soil. And it was spring time and there was ample sun and rain, so new growth was vigorously re-asserting itself.

You can cut it down, but the roots run deep. (© Gene Breshears)

You can cut it down, but the roots run deep. (© Gene Breshears)

I was nearly past the bushes before I decided to stop and take a couple of pictures. Looking down at all that bright green new growth bushing out around the stumps, I couldn’t help think about how tenacious life is. Cut something down, and it will grow back.

It’s hardly an original metaphor, I know. But it’s a process I’ve lived through and witnessed more times than I can count. I was a teen-ager in 1977 when Anita Bryant led her first campaign to repeal an ordinance that would protect people from being fired or denied housing because of their sexual orientation. And when he supporters passed a law banning gays and lesbians from adopting or being foster parents. We weren’t even a decade past Stonewall, and getting a few anti-discrimination ordinances passed in some of the most liberal cities hadn’t been great progress, but it had seemed people were starting to come around. Then this happened.

As Bryant led successful campaigns in city after city to repeal those ordinances, it looked pretty grim. But queers and their supporters didn’t give up. People laughed when they found out that gay bars were boycotting orange juice (Anita Bryant’s primary source of income at the time came from making commercials for the Florida Orange Grower’s Assocation). Gay bars and restaurants removes screwdrivers from their menus and added a new drink called an Anita Bryant: vodka and apple juice. Reporters chuckled on air as they explained the boycott on local evening TV shows. Newspapers ran cartoons mocking the sissies for thinking that some cocktails would change anything.

But all the mocking put the information in front of people. And a surprising thing happened. Orange juice sales were hurt. People wrote to the Florida Orange Growers Association to protest their support of these anti-gay campaigns. The Association hadn’t been supporting Bryant’s campaign, but all that mocking coverage of the silly faggots and their boycott made people think they were. Not just silly faggots who brunched together and gossiped over cocktails.

And it put the issue of gay rights in the news in a different way than anyone had seen it before. Certainly I, as a seventeen-year-old living in a small town, had never been to a brunch with a bunch of queers, and I wouldn’t have known that there were actually places where the law might protect a queer person from some kinds of persecution. And the rhetoric of the anti-gay forces made a lot of people that you would never expect stand up for gay rights.

The result was that all over the country, queers and their allies formed new organizations to fight the anti-gay initiatives and referendums, and those organizations kept fighting. And people like me realized that they weren’t alone. There were people out there like us. There were people out there who wouldn’t hate us if we came out.

Unfortunately, we were then hit by the AIDS epidemic. It’s really hard to explain just how horrific that was to folks who didn’t live through it. As I pointed out in response to an online conversation a few months back, it was not simply that most gay people knew one or two people who died. It felt like everyone was dying. There were weeks when my (now late) partner Ray and I had to decide which of several funerals or memorial services happening on the same day we would be able to attend.

GettyImages-499309743-1435682657But even as we were dying, we fought back. We banded together into new groups like Act Up and Queer Nation and Q Patrol and many others. We banded together to take care of each other while White House press secretaries and reporters openly laughed and made jokes about our deaths. We buried our dead and we mourned and we got right back out on the streets and marched and demanded to be seen.

And the haters ran their anti-gay campaigns again. Initiatives to forbid gay and lesbian people to work in certain fields. Laws to criminalize our terminal illness (sadly still on the books in many states). Proposals to quarantine us in “medical camps.” Laws to ban us from adopting. Laws to ban us from putting partners on our insurance policies.

For every fight we lost, it just made us more determined. Like that hedge, you can cut us down, but our roots go deep. We come back, stronger, brighter, more determined to win the next battle. And every fight we won, when the opposition said, “Okay, fine, you can have those crumbs. Now be quiet!” we refused to go away.

Joe Jervis, who runs the Joe.My.God web site, every year explains why he thinks the Pride Parade is important, which he sums up by quoting the old Jewish joke about the true meaning of every Jewish holiday: “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.” Joe then gives his Gay version of the meaning of Gay Pride: “They wish we were invisible. We aren’t. Let’s dance!”

Care to join me?

Friday Links (Pride Weekend 2016!) – Updated

books_gay_2016-Jun-01Friday has finally arrived. It is the final Friday in June, which means that here in Seattle this is Queer Pride Weekend! My husband and I have a full schedule, as we are attending events related to the Locus Awards (a sci fi fandom thing) and the Pride events, both this weekend. Se I have a lot of things to get to!

Anyway, here are links to some of the interesting things I read on the web this week, sorted into various topic areas.

Links of the Week

The Internet Is Not Your Global Village.

First step to reducing hate crimes? Enshrine equality in law.

My Encounters with ’80s Porn Star Al Parker: What I Learned About Him—and Myself—After Painting His Portrait.

This week in Restoring Your Faith in Humanity

“Angels” Block Westboro Baptist Church From Protesting Orlando Victim’s Funeral.

Son Collapses in Tears at Funeral of Mother Who Protected Him From Bullets in Orlando.

Helpers: What You Can Do in a Time of Crisis.

ETA: Who ordered an apocalypse?

The votes in the EU referendum in the UK were still being counted when I queued up and posted the Friday links last night. So I didn’t include any news on it, but now as stock markets around the world are plummeting on the news, I figure it’s worth adding some info now:

“Tomorrow belongs to me” – Charles Stross on the Brexit vote/

Cameron’s Legacy – Lee Harris on Brexit.

YOU WANT TRUMP? THIS IS HOW YOU GET TRUMP – Chuck Wendig on parallels between the angry part of the UK electorate and the angry parts of the US electorate.

Calls For Texas Independence Surge In Wake Of Brexit Vote

World Markets Roiled by Brexit as Stocks, Pound Drop; Gold Soars

And other news:

It’s Time to Grant Good Fathers Some Respect.

The underground race to spread medical knowledge as the Syrian regime erases it.

This week in I can’t even…

Gun violence is many things—but inevitable isn’t one of them.

http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2016/06/22/24246432/nytimes-prints-clueless-op-ed-by-stupid-lgbt-gun-fondler.

10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down: Fact-checking some of the gun lobby’s favorite arguments shows they’re full of holes.

FBI investigators say they have found no evidence that Orlando shooter had gay lovers

This week in History

A year later, Charleston families still reeling from church shooting.

This Week in Diversity

“He struggled and kept his guard up”: Hamilton in the Big House.

All 158 Dead Lesbian and Bisexual Characters On TV, And How They Died.

All 29 Lesbian and Bisexual TV Characters Who Got Happy Endings.

Gender neutral school uniforms could revolutionise society.

Being a black, British, queer, non-binary Muslim isn’t a contradiction.

Questions from Christians #3: “Why do you have gay pride parades? We don’t have straight pride parades. (And isn’t pride a sin)”.

The Queer + The Divine: ‘WicDiv’ Gets LGBTQ Diversity Right

After Orlando shooting, LA LGBT Latinos seek safe spaces to mourn.

bMob Shaming: The Pillory at the Center of the Global Village.

Meet the Black Lesbian Rabbinical Student Who’s Changing the Face of Judaism.

News for queers and our allies:

I’ve been thinking a lot about this category. As I mentioned to a friend, if a person is reading my blog, they either are a member of the queer community, or they are an ally, or they are an enemy who is following me to see what we’re up to. I thought about changing the headline for this section to someting like “News for people who aren’t haters” or something even snarkier. Does anyone have any ideas? Let me know.

Orlando Massacre Inspires Some to Come Out as Gay.

L.G.B.T. People Are More Likely to Be Targets of Hate Crimes Than Any Other Minority Group.

THE LATEST: THOUSANDS TURN OUT FOR WEEKEND GAY PRIDE EVENTS.

The Jewish Ex-architect Who Makes Custom Suits for Transgender Bodies.

An Open Letter to My LGBTQ Friends.

Why it’s more important than ever to attend Pride this year.

A ‘radical act’: Edmonton police’s experiment showed recruits how it felt to be LGBTQ in the city.

My Girlfriend and I Just Visited North Carolina, and We Did Not Get Beat Up.

I went shooting with queer gun activists, but it didn’t make me feel any safer.

Science!

Two Baby Alien Worlds Show Us How to Cook a Planet.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

Where Is The SUPERMAN We Once Knew And Loved? I agree with some of this… but he’s wrong that it has anything to do with whether it is for children or not.

Typeset in the Future: Blade Runner.

Reimagining Robin Hood as a Badass Gay Outlaw.

Culture war news:

‘Sanctuary’ After Pulse: We Cannot Let the Orlando Shooter Win.

In 1973, thirty people died in an attack on a US gay bar… and everyone laughed about it.

After False Show of Solidarity, House GOPs Block LGBT Protections Bill. Listen: I’m tired of pretending that the leadership of the Republican party isn’t evil. They are evil. Let’s stop trying to be noble and pretend that we’re just talking about differences of opinion. Their policies, literally kill people. Why can’t we admit that?

The Next Dylann Roof Can Still Buy a Gun.

HOMESCHOOL LEADER RICK BOYER, SR. ACCUSED OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT, GROOMING.

3 N.Y.P.D. Commanders Are Arrested on Corruption Charges. Elf hats are part of this fed corruption case…

Judge refuses to block Mississippi anti-LGBT law.

Gay Congress member blasts GOP colleagues for continuing to block pro-LGBT measure after Orlando.

Save Your Sympathy. You Are The Problem..

Worry about bad marijuana—not Big Marijuana.

Utah militia leader planned to bomb federal cabin, FBI says.

Death-To-Gays Hate Pastor Flips Out Because Activists Have Shut Down His PayPal Account [VIDEO].

The Campaign:

The Republicans’ Big Hot Mess.

Trump team disappointed that mass murder didn’t produce a bump in the polls.

Today in ‘Donald Trump’s Campaign Is a Garbage Fire’.

The Real News Is Trump is Broke.

Donald Trump Taps Michele Bachmann, James Dobson & Other Far-Right Leaders For Advisory Board. It’s a who’s who of anti-gay people!

The press has not done its job: 3 ways the media has failed our democracy in covering the election.

Jerry Falwell Jr Tweets Photo with Donald Trump and Playboy Cover in Background .

This week in Politics:

Seattle’s Transgender Activists Want to Transform the Democratic National Committee.

I reported Omar Mateen to the FBI. Trump is wrong that Muslims don’t do our part.

Gay Congress member blasts GOP colleagues for continuing to block pro-LGBT measure after Orlando.

Demanding Votes on Gun Control Bills, John Lewis Leads a Sit-in of the House.

The Democrats Are Boldly Fighting For a Bad, Stupid Bill. I don’t completely agree with the headline. This is a far more complicated issue than it appears, and passing the bill would open up a new avenue for people to appeal their listing on the no-fly list. Arguments about the list seem to be stuck in a spot where no one can actually allow us to try to improve the situation.

This Week in Misogyny

Girl who won Ohio masonry competition bumped from national contest.

Farewells:

Star Trek Actor Anton Yelchin Dies in Freak Car Accident.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 6/18/2016: Compassion, mourning, and an epic vogue battle.

Sunday Funnies, part 18.

Why do you think god hates anyone?

Why thoughts and prayers are worse than inadequate.

Why we need Pride.

Why queer clubs and gay bars are more than just places to dance and drink.

Videos!

Why Is BuzzFeed News Banned From Trump’s Campaign?:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Son of a Preacher Man – Tom Goss:

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Rufus Wainwright – Somewhere Over The Rainbow:

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John Grant – Glacier (yes, least week I posted a video of a live performance of John and Kylie Minogue performing this song and dedicating it to the survivors of the Orlando shooting; this official music video of the song released two years ago is worth the watch):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Eli Lieb & Brandon Skeie – Pulse (last Sunday, after seeing the news out of Orlando, Eli and Brandon wrote this song, and then went out in West Hollywood for film people for the video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Golden – A short film by Kai Stänicke:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Why queer clubs and gay bars are more than just places to dance and drink

Rainbow flag saying, “Is it Queer in here, or is it just me?”

“Is it Queer in here, or is it just me?” (click to embiggen)

In the immediate aftermath of the Orlando shooting, President Obama’s remarks were met with criticism from many corners, as they do, but there was a particular comment that seemed to really upset a lot of straight people on social media. This bit really got some folks’ panties in a bunch:

The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked was more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment…
—Barack Obama

Some people had a real difficult time understanding why anyone would refer to a gay bar as a place of empowerment. It’s really hard for most straight people to understand just how isolated and alienated queer kids feel their entire lives. We take a lot of flack, particularly white male queer people, from people of color whenever we draw parallels between our struggle for acceptance and equality with the struggles that racial minorities face. There are more similarities than some people want to admit, but they are correct that there are differences. And one of those differences is that isolation.

A member of a racial or ethnic minority growing up in a racist society is never told that other people like him or her do not exist. At all. Usually a person of color is aware of the existence of other people of color if for no other reason than the rest of their family is also a member of that racial or ethnic minority. They may live in a neighborhood where other members of the minority are neighbors, classmates, and so on.

Not queer kids. Until very recently, queer kids were pretty much guaranteed to grow up being told and shown again and again that every human is straight. Little boys are teased about having a crush on any girl or woman other than a close relative that they get along with. Little girls get told they will be a mommy some day. Every book, movie, television show, family anecdote, et cetera shows us again and again that every boy grows up to have a girlfriend, eventually a wife, and will become a daddy. And they tell every girl that she will grow up to be some boy’s girlfriend, then some man’s wife, and eventually will have that man’s babies.

And anyone who doesn’t do those things? Well, there’s something wrong with them! Unattached characters of either gender appearing in stories and shows are usually treated as the comic relief or as tragically alone. Lonely spinsters that everyone feels sorry for or eccentric bachelors that no one takes seriously are the least horrible futures that society tells us await us if we don’t fall in love with a person of the opposite gender and settle down.

That’s the initial indoctrination. The first level of lying, if you will.

As we get older, we start noticing other fates for men and women who don’t fit into the coupled hetero ideal. They aren’t just taken seriously and pitied, it’s worse than that. Some of those oddballs may indeed have special friendships with another person of the same gender, but that always ends in death for at least one of them. If one survives, it is as a broken creature, forever haunted by guilt and despair because of it.

The lies that we are told is that queer people don’t exist, or at least they don’t exist naturally, and those few queer people that do come about however that happens, will live lives that are filled with loneliness, despair, pain, suffering, and death. But it is a pain, suffering and death that they deserve because they are monsters.

When you are told those lies again and again; when you are made to feel like a freak any time you behave or feel anything other than what is expected; when you are not allowed to see any examples of queer people who aren’t object lessons who deserve pain and suffering—you believe it. Your parents, your teachers, your church, your neighbors, your classmates, and your siblings have all told you the same thing again and again your entire life. It must be true! There must be something deeply wrong with you, and that wrongness means that you can never be happy, never be loved, never know joy, never be accepted.

And you’ve been made to feel miserable any time that any hint of your difference has manifested. You have probably developed crushes on members of your own gender, but realized that the other person didn’t feel the same way. Or if the affection was returned, you both lived in terror of what would happen if anyone found out. If anyone has found out, there were some sort of bad consequences. One or both of your were beaten. You were forbidden to see each other. One or both of you might have been sent away or simply kicked out of your home by your parents.

So, the first time that we walk into a gay bar is usually a revelation. There are other people like you there! More importantly, you find people like you there who seem to be happy. The first visit may be a short one because you’re nervous and not sure what to expect. Or it might be that the atmosphere or theme of the place is catering to a different subset of the community than you identify with. But when you find a place that you can feel comfortable in, you see that there are people there who are living lives other than lonely and tragic. There aren’t just sexual or romantic relationships, there are friendships. People share drinks and a laugh when their life is going well, they share drinks and hugs and commiserations in times of sorrow.

And while you may not be a person who particularly fits in at the bar scene, there is still a sense of community and belonging that you can find there. One that many queer people never experienced before that.

My first few experiences in gay bars didn’t go terribly well. The first place I went to was more of a leather bar and I felt as if I’d stepped into a foreign country. My bright colored nerdy t-shirt didn’t help me fit in, but more importantly, I didn’t understand any of the non-verbal signals that were going on all around me. My second gay bar was filled with loud music that I had never heard before, and everyone was dressed in far more fashionable clothes than I could pull off. I felt like a very ugly duckling surrounded by a sea fashion models and body builders.

For me, the bar that clicked was the old Timberline. It was a mix of lesbians and queer men—a lot of people wearing cowboy boots and blue jeans. Country music was played there, and twice a week there were classes in line-dancing and two-stepping. Same-sex couples danced arm in arm, circling around the dance floor to the kind of music that I had grown up with. It wasn’t every queer person’s dream, but to those of us who are came to Seattle from the south or from rural communities just about anywhere, there were enough cultural touchstones to our childhood to make being an openly queer man dancing with another man feel like a magic transformation where the impossible suddenly seemed within reach.

That’s another reason the shooting hurts so much. Even though I haven’t been inside a gay bar in something like 14 years, the images of wounded people being carried out of the club not by paramedics, but by other people who were clearly part of the bar crowd was worse than a punch in the gut. One of our places was no longer ours.

I’ve rambled enough about this. We grew up being told we were monsters who should either not exist or be invisible. We grew up believing we would never have friends who would accept us for who we really were. We grew up believing that not only would we never find love, but that we didn’t deserve any form of happiness at all. For many of us, a queer club was one of the first places that we learned that all of those things were lies.

And it wasn’t just me who experienced that:

I Found A Home In Clubs Like Pulse In Cities Like Orlando: As a gay Latino man I know there are few safe spaces for me, but Latin night always felt like a solace

How Queer Spaces Gave Me Superpowers

What We Find in Gay Bars and Queer Clubs

Why we need Pride

12480058_240x240_FEvery year as the date of the local Pride Parade approaches, I start seeing the comments and questions: “If you get a Gay Pride Parade, why can’t we have a Straight Pride Parade?” I can’t decide which is the saddest aspect of this question: 1) that they think this tired old canard is actually being clever, 2) that they don’t understand that 99.9% of all television, movies, news, and other public discourse is geared toward affirming heterosexual life, including straight sexuality (so every day is already Straight Pride Day), 3) that they don’t understand that Queer Pride events are about our very right to exist—an act of defiance against those who want us to be invisible or dead—not merely our right to party, 4) that no one is is stopping them from organizing their own straight pride events (even though I think they’re redundant)?

This year there is a new wrinkle. Some of my less-than-affirming relatives have (after trotting out the thoughts and prayers nonsense) urged me not to go to Pride, because they don’t want me to get hurt if something happens. They make these comments completely oblivious to the fact that the anti-gay memes they share online every day, the anti-gay initiative for which they signed the petition to place on the ballot, the angry calls they say they make to their congressperson after learning of an anti-discrimination law under consideration, and all the rest contributes to the atmosphere of hate that drives people to violence against queers.

And yes, I’ve also gotten, even in light of the most recent publicly visible horror, a few people asking me what’s the point of Pride. “You can get married, now. You won. Isn’t that enough?” Marriage equality was one very tiny battle, by comparison to what remains. We live in a world where:

That last one is just the tip of the iceberg. It is still really common for people to react to any depiction of a queer person’s life as a queer person with, “Why do you have to show us all the time? Why can’t you just be who you are without labeling everything?”

The saddest part of this is that those people don’t think they are being homophobic at all. And they never think about the fact that straight people “shove their sexuality” in everyone else’s face all the time. Have pictures of your spouse, significant other, or children on your desk, wall, or phone’s home screen? Mention your wife or husband in casual conversation? Comment on how hot a particular actor or actress is? 99.9 percent of all movies and TV shows depict opposite sex couples flirting, kissing, and more? Routinely ask about family discounts? Expect that, of course, your spouse will be included in the company health insurance plan? Invite us to your wedding or your kid’s straight wedding? Show us pictures of yours or your kid’s straight wedding? Ever use the phrase “no homo”?

Since we get accused of shoving our sexuality in your face if we merely casually mention the existence of our significant other, we get to count all of those things as you shoving your sexuality in our faces.

Why do we need Pride?

  • We need Pride because people are still trying to kill us.
  • We need Pride because religious leaders are still cheering on the people who kill us.
  • We need Pride because people accuse us of “stealing the tragedy” when 49 of us are murdered in a gay night club on a busy Saturday night during Pride month.
  • We need Pride because people still target gender non-conforming children in schools, and now adults aren’t just making excuses for the bullying, they want to pay the bullies bounties for doing it!
  • We need Pride because it’s still legal to fire us just for being gay in 28 states.
  • We need Pride because people are more offended at the idea of selling us a wedding cake than they are about 49 of us being gunned down in a single incident.
  • We need Pride because people get angry when other people acknowledge our existence.
  • We need Pride because people get offended if we mention the gender of our significant other in casual conversation.
  • We need Pride because religious parents still kick their queer children out onto the streets just for being gay, and it isn’t considered child neglect or abuse to do so.
  • We need Pride because queer kids are born everywhere, not just into families and communities that love and accept them, and they need to know that they aren’t alone.
  • We need Pride because the world tries to make us hate ourselves, tries to make us be ashamed to love, and most importantly tries to convince us we are utterly alone.

The only way queers like me have been able to stand up and be ourselves is because other queers before us were brave enough to be out—whether it was staging sip-ins to protest laws that made it illegal for a bartender to knowingly allow two homosexuals be served in the bar, or fighting back when police raided a gay club, or picketing in front of federal buildings, or marching in the first ever Pride event in June 1970. Those of us who can stand up for ourselves now, owe a debt to the sacrifices those earlier generations of queers made. We can’t pay them back directly, so we have to pay it forward. We do that by standing up and being counted and being visible for all of the people (especially kids) who can’t, yet.

We need Pride not because we’ve come so far, but because for many there is still a long, long way to go.

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