Is The Gay Community Missng A Leader?

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While prominent LGBT activists fight about their lack of inclusion in Jo Becker’s book ‘Forcing The Spring’ Here in Indiana we are all anxiously awaiting a ruling from the 7th circuit court of appeals in favor of resuming same sex marriages again, however one glance at the landscape and one can’t help but notice thousands of other inequalities all around us.

Staring Indiana LGBT leadership in the face is the state’s lack of hate crime protections for lgbt people. 45 other states have passed such laws but Indiana seems hell bent on becoming last despite accelerated momentum towards equality. Hate crime protections was last defeated in Indiana in 2007 under the leadership of anti-gay activist Eric Miller of Advance America.

     Other very real issues that lgbt hoosiers are grappling with that need confronted? Abusive gay cure therapy, LGBTQ homeless youth, bullying and suicide prevention and the Indiana school to prison pipeline that unfairly targets and jails young queer people. The Indiana Juvenile Justice Blog notes approximately 14,657 homeless youth in the 2011-2012 school year. We know that upwards of 40% of homeless youth identify as lgbtq. 58% of that 40% have been sexually victimized. Indiana currently has zero 24 hour shelters that specifically deals with any lgbtq population.
Tough HIV laws, trans prison populations, lgbt inclusive sex education, HIV, smoking, criminalized prostitution, poverty and hunger are just some of the very real issues beyond marriage facing the community that beg attention.
     So the other day I wandered over to the facebook page of ‘Indiana Equality Action’ to see what the topic was. Much to my surprise it wasn’t none of the aforementioned issues facing Indiana LGBT folk. The topic was Laverne Cox and Orange Is The New Black. While Cox’s emmy nomination is a cultural win and should be celebrated; back home in reality people can still target and murder us without facing hate crime charges. When I left a message asking for information on Indiana Equality’s leadership on hate crime protections I was censored and blocked. A tired, old tactic often used by Indiana Equality but with the current uphill battle facing Indiana LGBT can we really afford to silence our critics? Indiana Equality hasn’t even updated their blog since December 2013, but I bet they are still accepting donations aren’t they?
     I am reminded of and long for civil rights organizers like Mary Harris Jones, aka Mother Jones. Mary Harris Jones was an American labor and community organizer and change agent that didn’t give 2 flips about winning awards. In fact in 1902 she was called “the most dangerous woman in America.” for her success in organizing mine workers and their families against the mine owners. In 1903 upset about the lax enforcement of the child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills she organized a children’s march from Philadelphia to the hometown of then President Theodore Roosevelt in New York displaying banners “We want to go to school and not the mines!” Her motto was “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living”. Mother Jones often jailed for her antics was denounced on the floor of the U.S. senate as “the mother of all agitators” Jones replied “I hope to live long enough to be the grandmother of all agitators”
     Same sex marriage is a fundamental right that sends a strong message to society that our lives, loves and families matter. However marriage activists stuck on self congratulations for the actions of courts could consider the bigger picture and expand their vision. Indiana needs a task force willing to confront and solve these problems head on because even with full federal equality, many of these problems aren’t going away anytime soon. And surely we could all learn a thing or two from Mother Jones.
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A Gay Man Learns Forgivness

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Normally I’m not a morning person, but that day was different. I busied myself preparing to spend time with my best friend Robby, and I always love hanging out with him. He picked me up about mid-day and we went to a Mexican restaurant, and watched the saddest feature at the movie theater. I went home afterwards and posted my delightful, events of the day on Facebook, and I decided to post it as well, in a place that is supposed to be a support group for people who have struggled with discrimination from religion. Well, the next time I logged in, I got what I thought was going to be a friendly comment from the support group page. That’s when it all began. The comment was this. “Who is this fat, pasty, pecker wood?” I thought it was a bunch of silliness at first, and I shrugged off being called fat and pasty, thinking well, people can joke hard sometimes, but mean well. So I posted back with a silly remark. Just about everyone knows I’m gay on the page, considering I’m very open now about my orientation. Just then he reposted and called me a faggot and a b**ch. That’s when I realized this is not going to go well. I was hurt  , and I logged off and went about my day. When I came back a few hours later, trolls had flooded the post. The insult ring leader had apparently recruited people since I was away. I was called faggot over and over, among other things. It went on into the evening, and they were still at it. By then, pictures had been added that were grotesque and vile.   It was at that moment I started to panic. It was really happening. I was a fly caught in the spider’s web. I was living my worst fear. My nightmare had come true. I was alone to face all the worst discrimination, the worst harassment I had ever witnessed.

Tears began to swell in my eyes. My hands were trembling, and my heart was beating a mile a minute. I started feeling sick, so I closed my eyes and leaned back, and began to breathe slow breaths. While I was slumped in my chair, with my eyes shut tight, my mind began to wonder. Then I remembered a quote I had heard several timesgrowing up. I do not recall where or who said it, but somehow it registered in my head. “There are times when the warrior must stand alone, when no one else can be by his side. When facing his foes, he doesn’t quiver, he doesn’t fade, and he comes out swinging. Whether dead or alive, he will fight until the end.” That moment, something strange happened. I opened my eyes, and I gave it a  word. (“Bully- A blistery, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller and weaker people.)”

One of the trolls proudly posted. “We’ve got him, the victim is here. He is so going to play the victim.” At that moment, I realized how ignorant these random people really were. They all continued with their pictures and insults. Finally I wrote back. “Do you guys even know the difference between a victim and being courageous?” There was a quick pause, then someone wrote back. “Why are you playing the victim, faggot?” I took a deep breath, counted to ten, and then replied. “I am not your victim. You do not have that power. I choose whether or not I wish to play the victim. Speaking out for oneself, and taking a stand is not being the victim. You all are not the first and certainly won’t be the last bullies I will face. “Faggot and sissy”, I have heard and been called those names before. Do you even take the time of day to realize you couldn’t last a minute in my shoes?”

At that moment one individual asked a question I didn’t expect. “Wait a minute.” There was a pause, and then the question. “You actually have gotten bullied?” I quickly replied, “Yes, of course.” “How often?,” he went on to ask. I took a minute to respond while I gathered my thoughts, and responded with this answer. “I wake up in the morning and the hate and discrimination is there… I lay down at night, and it is still there. I have faced rejection, and have truly known the feeling of total isolation and loneliness. Something I hope you will never have to face.” Then the person seemed to shout at me. “Why aren’t you angry? You should be angry, you should hate us. Still, you ache and hope we don’t feel what you feel.” I took a deep breath, and paused for a while.

“I don’t hate you. I’m not angry at you. I care about each and every one of you. I just hate that you feel so compelled to hurl such hateful, hurtful, things.”

Before I knew it, another person joined the conversation. “You said before you felt rejection and loneliness, how did you ever make it through? How could you live with the pain?” The original troll again began to hurl his pictures and comments, urging his fellow supporters not to fall for my tricks. Still, I answered the individual’s question. “It hurt, boy did it hurt. I nearly took my own life. Until someone showed me love, and I didn’t feel the pain as bad. It is still there, and the scars will never fade, but I overcame the dark days.” I couldn’t believe it. What started as a hateful trolling panel,  turned into an emotional conversation. Then I received an apology. “I’m sorry, we didn’t know. It was all for fun.” I raised my eyebrows at the person’s weak apology, and I forgave him with this comment. “I forgive you, but do you really think it was all fun for me?” Before I knew it, the picture and comments began to be deleted.

The original troll became angry and began to harass his own peers. Next thing I knew, one of them posted a comment. “Operation defend Alan Digges.” Next thing I knew, the original troll was banned from. The rest of the individuals stayed for a while, and we had a nice talk. I have actually become friends with some of these people. I discovered for myself that because I reached out in love, I now have the chance to help heal open wounds. It seemed like hardly any of these people had an idea on how to overcome pain, or what it even felt like.

It was 4:00 in the morning by the time this was all over with. I was too restless to sleep, my brain was running ramped. First, I thought of how I couldn’t believe I overcame my worst fear, which was being left alone against persecution. I began to think about the individuals who had changed in such a short time.

The original troll who thought I would be an easy target also came to mind. I knew their views were wrong, and they were not just in their actions but they are people will feeling just as I am. Often a bully often faces the exact same kind of treatment, and in return bullies someone weaker, carrying out their anger to feel strong. It got me to thinking. I am no different than the bully who thought I would be an easy target. I have never said thingsbut there were times I thought of saying some pretty vile things. I have been so quick to find the weakest anti-gay and tear them down. By then, my eyes were tearing up. I was a bully. A quiet bully, who secretly hated and wished harmful things. I was a hypocrite. A characteristic I detest was something I had become. I have wanted vengeance against the church-going people who caused me unbearable heart ache.

I also reflected on a hate torch I was carrying against my uncle, who condemns me to hell, and no longer considers me family, and won’t allow me to associate with his son. That night, I forgave the troll and my uncle. I released that bitter anger and knew I had to. I have learned from this that anti-gays, many who are  “Christians”, when it comes down to it,  use their religion as a defense weapon. The true reason is that they are scared. They’re scared of something they couldn’t possibly ever understand. To them, the LGBT might as well be species from a different planet. That is how much they are out of touch.

I have no doubt my uncle will pass down his hateful views onto my baby cousin. If he ever sees me retaliate in anger, and scream in my uncle’s face, what will that teach him? That I am an alien with green blood. I and anyone like me must be wicked and stopped. If I ever hope to teach my cousin, and be the example of true, unconditional love, I have a Hail Mary of a shot if I react with love and care. Treating my uncle with kindness even when he doesn’t deserve it, will at least let my cousin know I am human just like he is. I am no different, and I have the same red blood. The next time someone opens up a Bible to quote how I will burn for eternity in a lake of never-ending fire, blocks me from Facebook, or says I can no longer associate with their child, I will not react the way I use to. Instead I will show an interest in the person and get to know them.

Who knows, they too might realize that loving is not an  alien concept after all.

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The Five Ways We Can Keep That Pride Feeling Alive 

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It’s been a couple of weeks, and for me, the feeling is still there.  World Pride, 2014, in Toronto, was incredible, uplifting and empowering.  Just me and a few million of my closest friends, crowding the core of Canada’s largest city.  I finally had the chance to finally meet and spend time with a few incredible people who are out to change the world, and have changed my life.  People I’ve grown to love and admire while working with them.  Lyndsay, the powerhouse who created the Facebook page, Stop Teenage Suicide,  that started me on this journey of activism.  Her amazing young son, Mac.  Rush, my co-administrator on The Equality Mantra.  And Kel, the “fingers” behind Wipe Out Homophobia, StopHomophobia.com, Adam and Steve and more incredible pages.

The energy was palpable.  The crowds, the laughter, the talk, the music…sheer pleasure.  The most amazing part was the fact that millions (and I do NOT use that count frivolously) of people, both LGBT and straight, were gathered in one place for the same reason; to promote LGBT issues on an international level.  An international Human Rights conference, social events, concerts, marches, “The” parade, and a huge amount of networking reminded us of the hardships faced by our LGBT brothers and sisters around the world.  The fact that 2014 is the 45th anniversary of Stonewall shows just how far we’ve come.  But talks with people from Russia, Uganda, Zambia, to name a few brings to mind how much work there still is ahead of us.

So how do we keep this feeling alive?  Is it even possible?  Personally, I think it is.  There are many ways to do this without having to gather en masse.

  1. Join LGBT support groups. “Like’ pages on Facebook that promote equality, fight bullying, etc.  Even if, like me, you live in a country where equality is the norm, join groups in areas that don’t have these things.  I’m Canadian and work directly with groups centred in New York, Colorado, California and as far away as England.  Helping in some small way with these groups, and especially working with the people involved, ranks among the most rewarding experiences in my life.
  1. You don’t have to be LGBT to keep it going. The huge number of straight allies enjoying Pride was incredible.  Inspiring, really.  You are definitely a huge part of the reason for recent LGBT successes.  Continue to help us educate the world, showing that there really isn’t some dark sinister “Gay Agenda.”  We simply want to be seen as the same as everyone else – human.  And with your help, this is happening, more and more.
  1. Probably, the most important thing we can do is to stop our own in-fighting. We NEED to stop trying to separate the letters in LGBT (and throughout this blog, I’m including any and all other letters that are added to this) and continue to work together as a community.  We have to support and encourage ALL of the members of this vast and widely varied group.  Supporting Gay and Lesbian groups HAS to come with equal support and encouragement for Bisexuals, Transgenders, Asexual, Pansexual and any everyone else that identifies with us in some way.  Without this kind of unity, we’re just a bunch of different factions, making noise. There IS power in numbers, and together we have made, and continue to make a huge difference.
  1. I love the fact that for ten days, LGBT people and our allies from around the world collectively raised their voices and said, “We’re here, and we’re not going away.” Let’s keep it going, because now that we’re home, and spread back around the world, our raised voices will be heard around the globe.  In the words of President Barack Obama, “Our journey is not complete.”
  1. We have proof that we’re on the right track. As the closing ceremonies were taking place, this appeared over Young Dundas Square in downtown Toronto.  Even Mother Nature approves.  We ARE the gold at the end of that Rainbow!closingceremonyrainbow