Tag Archives: Queer

MLK Day of Service 2017: Celebrate Rep. John Lewis

16 Jan

john-lewisMr. Trump’s attack on civil rights hero John Lewis certainly underscores and unequivocally proves the need to celebrate our civil rights pioneers. I had the great honor of actually getting to meet Rep. John Lewis when he spoke at the Atlanta Girl’s School at a convocation we held. While I had always loved and admired Rep. Lewis, and I was fortunate enough to live in his district for many years, after his speech, all I could think of was: I want all children to turn out like this man!

Rep. John Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and endured such physical assaults and hate during the civil rights movement. Yet he emerged as this beautiful soul who has done nothing but promote peace, love, and equity for targeted populations — this has been his life’s work. To see him attacked by Mr. Trump who only has a legacy of avarice, mendacity, and divisiveness, hurts my heart more than I can say. The old rules of human decency seem to no longer apply. The United States seems to only reward sociopathic billionaires now who tweet late into the nighttime how their feelings have been hurt.

With the ascension/anointment of Mr. Trump, we have seen how his supporters are emboldened to thwart human decency. Case in point, Biloxi, Mississippi has renamed MLK Day to “Observance of Great Americans Day.” Thanks, Biloxi. You have made it painfully clear that only white heterosexual men are welcomed to your white city. This new celebration will also celebrate Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I think I just spat up a little in my mouth. More evidence of how emboldened Trump supporters have become, we witness Republican Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter calling Lewis “a racist pig.” Mr. Hunter, you clearly do not understand the word racism. Please step down from your position of power.

I grow exceedingly tired of Trump supporters including Trump’s bitch (NBC) and famous idiots like Nicole Kidman who keep telling us: “We have to trust Trump and support him.”  Why on earth would any targeted person/community trust this man, when he keeps appointing White Supremacists, Homophobes, Misogynists, billionaires to his cabinet? Help me understand why on earth should we trust him.

I am inviting all of us in the United States to reflect around our own racism and encourage conversations around issues of racial disparities and systems of inequities and oppression. I also invite us to think about how we see our country. For all of us white folk, now is the time for us to stand up against racism — to speak out against and resist those who continue to participate in the system of racism. I am asking for us to become activists and NOT to speak for nor speak over black voices. Find out what it means to be an ally. If you are not speaking out against Trump and against racism then you are colluding with the oppressor. Mr. Trump just cancelled his MLK Day visit to the National African American Museum “because he is too busy.” What kind of message does that send to all of us about his commitment to heal a divided nation and to address systemic racism? If you need to cry here, please do. I know many of us are crying for what the future holds in store.

While I identify as a queer white man, I would argue racism in the United States is most definitely a queer issue, it is a feminist issue, it is a black issue, it is a trans issue, for the intersectionality here makes it an issue for all people living in the United States.

Taking Action: Here we have an opportunity as white people to leverage our power and privilege for black lives. I hope all of us are engaging in conversations that address issues of access, power, and barriers. Can we look for spaces where white people can stand back and stand in solidarity with black people? Can we look for spaces to ensure more black voices are being heard? Please resist and do not normalize a Trump administration. I leave you with this clip from a show called Black-ish.

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Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman

31 May

walt-whitman1Today, Walt Whitman would be 196 years old. While he may not be present with us physically, he lives in perpetuity with his poetry. Whitman, the father of free verse, is one of my heroes.

In my darkest times, I read parts of Leaves of Grass to help ground me.  While there are still some who debate Whitman’s sexual orientation, it seems likely that he did have an affair with Peter Doyle.  Edward Carpenter recounted his intimate interlude with Whitman to his friend Gavin Arthur, who then recorded the affair in his journal. I suspect Whitman today would have worn the moniker of Queer quite proudly.

Whitman’s poetry fills me with optimism about humanity; his words often pull me out of my misanthropic woes.  When I read:

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same,

I feel enveloped in a part of humanity that is flawed, but connected.  The connectedness is the rich good stuff–the stuff that gives me hope and optimism.

I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into a new tongue.

I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

For me, this is my religion. Whitman’s words here seem sacred and his sharing of how connected we are, for me, seems to show how natural and fluid sexual orientation is, and the softness of the lines of gender identity–how natural.  In some respects, Whitman is responsible for this blog.  If you have not read two of my favorites, Leaves of Grass or Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, I strongly encourage you to read these works.

What’s in an acronym? Parsing the LGBTQQIP2SAA community

11 Jul

Trying to cover everyone

Every few months another online debate flares up about exactly what the LGBT community should call itself. Generally speaking, most people default to LGBT (or GLBT, with a slight majority favoring the L-first version). This explicitly calls out key components of a diverse group: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. As shorthand goes, it’s fairly effective, recognizing the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity in four simple letters. Of course, it can’t please everyone, and like most compromises, leaves plenty of people feeling unheard.

Four other forms of shorthand see frequent use in the media and on the Internet. Many people opt simply for “gay.” Unfortunately, that leaves out any aspect of the community that doesn’t identify explicitly with same-sex attraction. It also traditionally applies to men, resulting in sexist language, however unintentional.

Opponents of the community typically use “the homosexual community” which manages to be gender neutral but also leaves out significant populations (although those populations may be just as happy not to get attention from these groups.) The more academic term “sexual minorities” is also used. Although this has broader meaning it also draws focus to the word “sexual,” avoidance of which resulted in the use of the word “gay” in the first place. Members of the LGBT community don’t want to be defined strictly by possible behavior, but as complex, fully realized human beings. In an America with a strong puritanical streak – even today – the word “sexual” still has too much power to stigmatize.

Many activists have reclaimed the word “queer” as a preferred descriptor. Taking back the word from the bullies and foes is a way to regain power. This is much like Bitch magazine co-opting a frequent slur as a way to raise feminist activists above their oppressors. For many, however, the scars from being called “queer” are too deep and too fresh to choose it as an identity. So what’s a diverse, inclusion-inclined community to do?

Over time, a number of other additions have been suggested to the LGBT acronym. The most common is Q, signifying “questioning” to recognize that many people are uncertain about their sexual orientation or gender identity (or both). Some also use the Q for queer. At full throttle, the letters wind up something like LGBTQQIP2SAA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,

  • Two Q’s to cover both bases (queer and questioning);
  • I for Intersex, people with two sets of genitalia or various chromosomal differences;
  • P for Pansexual, people who refuse to be pinned down on the Kinsey scale;
  • 2S for Two-Spirit, a tradition in many First Nations that considers sexual minorities to have both male and female spirits;
  • A for Asexual, people who do not identify with any orientation; and
  • A for Allies, recognizing that the community thrives best with loving supporters, although they are not really part of the community itself.

That manages to be pretty inclusive, but it’s also pretty unwieldy.

Labels are tricky things. Most oppressed and minority communities have struggled with finding a descriptor that they feel embraces them and that they can embrace. The evolution of Negro to Colored to Black to African-American shows a clear transition from outside labels to a community claiming its own identity, although many with the community object to African-American. The journey from Indians to Native Americans to First Nations is similar, with many outside the community being unfamiliar with the latter designation. The transition from handicapped to disabled was successful (and codified in law) but the attempt to destigmatize to “differently abled” was just too awkward to find common usage.

It’s that kind of awkwardness that stymies the best attempts to find the magic LGBT label. The problem stems from the best of intentions, inclusion. People are complex, with multiple identities. Everyone has a sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion (or lack thereof), ethnicity, and many other components. It’s laudable for the LGBT community to recognize that there is strength in working together and to try to find a descriptor that shows that intent. In the long run, the intent matters more than the label. Rather than take umbrage at a less than fully inclusive LGBTQ – which at least shows good intent – let’s focus on the work we need to do together to make this a better place for everyone.

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