Dear brave Trans lady, I do not know your name.
“Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, Here I am , Stuck in the middle with you…” –Stealers Wheel
Sometimes I wonder how far we’ve really come. Oh sure, in the legal sense, we’ve gone a mile a minute; more and more states have marriage equality and it looks like the Supreme Court may be gearing up to settle the question once and for all, our reflection is posted all over Main Street USA, with Lady Gaga racking up millions in record sales and Glee coming in on top of the ratings. Hell, even our opponents seem to be on the retreat, with the notorious and once powerful National Organization for Marriage (NOM) being reduced to a mere shadow of their former selves, their primary activity these days is sending out emails begging for money.
But somehow in all this excitement and seemingly forward movement, I feel left out. I’m a bisexual dude, the “B” in LGBT you might say, and to quote Rodney Dangerfield, I don’t get no respect at all.
Bisexuality is a strange thing in America, it seems if you’re bisexual and you’re female, it’s somewhat respected (manly because heterosexual guys fantasize about having two women at the same time), but if you’re male and bisexual, you get a lot of stick from all sides.
To give you an example of what I’m talking about, when I starting coming out publicly (a process that took seven years and towards the end, enough liquor to float the liver of Charles Bukowski) I got a lot of flak from gay guys. I heard it all, “Oh you’re just too afraid to come all the way out of the closet”, “It’s just a phase”, “You’re just experimenting” or the biggest kick in the balls, “You’re just riding our coattails, you’ve never suffered for your sexuality!”
And this attitude isn’t just confined to the gay guys I knew in Indiana, noted gay journalist Dan Savage at one point even denied the existence of bisexual guys. He has since amended his position and has acknowledged our existence.
But beyond just questioning my very existence, once someone accepted the fact I was bisexual, it opened up a lot of other odd questions. A primary one I got was just “how bisexual” I was, you know, did I dig mainly dudes and just sleep with the occasional woman or was it the other way around, that sort of trip. Was I mainly gay? Was I mainly straight? I’m neither, I’m bi, I’m a guy of options. It depends on the person as to whether or not I’m attracted to them.
Apparently I’m expected to be fifty-fifty, total Kinsey Scale middle to be accepted as “truly” bisexual.
The deepest cut of this erasure and confusion comes close to home for me. Like many LGBT folks, coming out to my family was the hardest part and some of them still don’t know. But one person I didn’t want to find out was my grandfather. He’s very conservative and pretty stuck in his ways, especially when it comes to LGBT folks. I had a lot of respect for him; he taught me the art of telling a really good story and how to take pride in turning an honest dollar. The last thing I wanted was for him to disown me because of my sexuality.
Well one night earlier this year, I was out to dinner with my Aunt Debbie, who could be counted as “liberal”, at least by my family’s standards, and the subject of my sexuality came up. I mentioned that when I came out to my mother, the one thing we agreed on was that we wouldn’t tell grandma and grandpa. Well apparently grandpa knew.
She told me my cousin Morgan (her son) had been over at our grandparents’ house with a friend of his and grandpa was showing them some family photos. When grandpa flipped to my picture, he said to my cousin’s friend, “This is W.T., he’s gay, we just don’t talk about it” and moved on.
Now on one hand, I’m glad grandpa didn’t disown me or have another heart attack, but on the other hand, I resented being called gay, because I’m not. I’m not straight either for that matter. This black and white, one way or another bit really frustrated me.
As much as it hurts to admit, part of this erasure does fall on some members of the bisexual community. I’ve known people who are bisexual who end up in a long-term relationship with a man or a woman and they just publicly identify as either gay or straight, whatever the case may be. I’ve asked a few of them why and the response is usually the same, “Oh I got tired of explaining it, I got tired of the hassle.” Damn it, brothers and sisters, hoist that bisexual flag high and proud! Don’t identify yourself one way or another just because folks won’t accept it!
I don’t want to be all heavy here, so I will leave with a laugh. When I finally finished coming out publicly, a lot of my friends were surprised, telling me, “You’re bi? Huh, never saw it coming.” My response was, “Really guys? Have you ever been to the liquor store with me? It takes me half an hour to pick out a damn drink! I’ve always liked my variety and options.”
Coattail Rider Blues
(By Walter Beck)
Dancing on a tightrope
Strung across two worlds,
Time warping on a high wire
Over a sea split by colors.
Yeah, I’m a fence rider,
Leaning one way or another,
With the person holding on
I’m gonna jump ship
And swim in the other side.
Boots boogieing on a thin rail,
No pan tapping to hold my rhythm.
I’m a coin toss
Betting on heads and tails,
Fizzling out and plummeting down
Into the melding middle stripe
Strung between two worlds.
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My heart was broken this week, but not in any way anyone would expect. A video was messaged to me from a close friend who really suggested that I watch it. The video was recorded during a very wild revival at a Christian church. A timid, young man named Andrew Caldwell was asked to come up front. The preacher asked him what he needed to change. He grabbed the microphone and declared he wasn’t gay anymore. He said “I like women. I love women.” Over and over he said it. “I will not carry a purse, I will not put on makeup, and I love women.” He began dancing very wild like, and as he danced, several men came up and danced around him, leaving him in the center of the circle. He began to run up and down the center aisle, and when he was finished, he was given 200 dollars and he sat back down.
Normally, when I see a video like this I usually let it go. I usually don’t consider it my business to police people who decide to go back into the closet. I’ve been down the hard road just as they have. I know how hard it is to keep yourself in the spot light. That is not what troubled me in the least. When I saw that video, I saw the man I was last year. There was the look of terror in his eyes. His entire body was trembling, and while he danced, he was crying. I’m not talking about a few tears. No, I saw a broken man. I saw a man who could hardly stand to live any longer. I saw a man who had given up on the chance of anyone truly loving him. I saw a man who was forced and paid by the church to say he wasn’t gay, when all the while he knew it was a lie.
I have decided to reach out to this man the only way I know how… Through an open letter.
Dear Andrew Caldwell, I love you. You don’t know me, but you don’t have to know someone to care about them. Only a year ago today, I would not have been able to write this letter to you. I would not have been able to say the words I am gay. I gave you those three powerful words in the beginning for a reason. I love you was the very thing that saved my life. The words I love you, spoken by a true, sincere person, was the very thing that kept me from suicide. I meant what I said. I love you. I am the youngest and only son in the family with two older sisters, but if I had the chance to have a younger brother, I would imagine him somewhat like you. I will tell you another thing. You are beautiful. You are beautiful just the way that you are. So what if you want to carry a purse. So what if you want to wear makeup. That is who you are, and who you are is just fine. You are not damaged. You were made perfect. You are exactly how nature intended for you to be. Believe me I know the look that I saw in your eyes, because it’s the same look I gave myself in the mirror for years. I gave you three words in the beginning, now I will give three steps that will save your life, and I just helped with one of them.
- Believe that you are loved, and that you are perfect and beautiful just the way that you are.
- Be nothing more than exactly who you are.
- Be true to yourself. Do not let anyone tell you that you are damaged or a lost cause.
I hope you are able to read this letter, Andrew. Just as one man did with me, I know that I am loved. Now I can spread the love chain on to you.
You’re in my thoughts. Should you ever find this, please, come out of the shadows. Your hanging off the edge of a cliff, and my hand is reaching out. If you look hard enough, soon you may find others offering their hand to you. When that happens… Take it.
Here is just a small sampling of some of the headlines I’ve picked out this week. Trust me, this is a small sample.
Bryan Fischer: ‘The Mark of the Beast Today is the Rainbow Flag’
‘Vatican Changes Actual Translation of Draft That ‘Welcomed’ Gays’
‘Top Vatican official tells parents to shun gay relatives’
‘Duck Dynasty’ Star: You Can’t Catch STDs from ‘Biblically Correct Sex’
Amongst these headlines, and the large amount of others just like it, can you guess how many I was able to find by religious people which did NOT promote hatred of another group? That’s right, none. Not a one, Zero. Zilch. Nada. Are you getting the point?
Don’t get me wrong, there have been some headlines that include acceptance from some smaller church bodies, such as:
‘Hillsong Church Pastors Won’t Speak Out On Gays Because Jesus Didn’t Either’
And the blogs released over the last few weeks, one from a Christian pastor and one from a rabbi explaining what they would do if they found out one (or more) of their kids came out. (Spoiler: They’d accept, and continue loving their children, no matter what.)
For the longest time, I’ve been attempting to get people who tell me “Not all (insert religion of choice here) are like that. There are many of us who don’t feel that way.” Whether it’s about gay rights, marriage equality, a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices, any number of issues, it seems that the right-wing fundamentalist minority are the only ones we hear from.
When are we going to see a headline that reads:
“Vatican Opens Up to Gay Congregants.”
“Muslim Leadership Accept Women as Leaders.”
“Mormon Tabernacle Hosts Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony.”
I don’t expect the world’s religions to change overnight, but I would like just a bit of proof that not all people of faith are as hate filled as their extremists are. If you’re going to tell me that you’re ”not all like that,” do me a favour, put your money where your mouth is. Get together with your friends who are of the same mind as your, and start to make some noise. Hold very public rallies, telling the world that your particular faith group is truly one of love, that accepts ALL people, regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual identity… and get yourself in the headlines.
Start a Facebook page that shows you ARE affirming.
We live in a world in which you can be a complete stranger to the world one day, and the next have innumerable people knowing your opinion, knowing where you stand, and from those, you can grow your base of people who “are not like that.” Telling me that since you’re not the pope, or some self-styled celebrity, or the head of an internationally known group is NOT a good enough excuse. Just look at my friends list for proof. I have the honour of being friends with incredible voices for rights, equality, and life. Five to ten years ago, nobody had heard these people’s names, and now they are known internationally. How? By standing up, and raising their voices.
This is my challenge to you, my family and friends of faith who are “not like the others.”:
Take a stand. Raise your voice, shout out to the world that not all people of faith are like the hate mongers that we keep hearing from. Prove to me that you believe in a religion of love. Give me at least a bit of hope that there is some love left in the world.
The Art of Letting Go
It is hard to believe that this year has only three months left. This year has flown by so fast, but it has been a very productive and worthwhile time in my life for many reasons. It had a lot to do with letting go of a lot of things in my life that were weighing me down both physically and mentally. It started, with coming out as being gay. Ever since the beginning of this year, the world had been revealed through a different set of eyes then last year. I thought I was hopeless, and a lost cause. I felt like a monster. Somehow I felt as if I were broken and could never be fixed. Everything bottled up inside was almost too hard to contain, so hard, that I almost committed suicide. If it wasn’t for a wonderful, loving, straight man named David Stevens showing just an inch of kindness, just an inch of love and understanding, I would not be alive today. David is married to his wonderful wife and has two daughters, and he’s really like the big brother I’ve never had. I was very impressed with how he was able to forgive a Baptist preacher for speaking ill of his younger brother who happens to be gay and married, and for cutting off their friendship. It inspired me so much that I began to think about all the hate and anger I had bottled up inside me. I was able to release that anger and pain, and forgive those who simply miss understand.
I felt inspired to share two women who I have come to greatly admire in the last few months. One is fictional, and the other one is an author. Both of them have greatly influenced me, and each of them had a beloved friend like David Steven’s, who helped to bring them out of despair.
Elsa of Arendelle is my most favorite and beloved Disney character ever, and I honestly don’t think there will be any others who could top her. I liked her so much because at the time, I suddenly found myself able to relate to her every feeling of mental pain and heart ache that was brought upon her. I had never felt that way before in my life. I had never at all come across a character in a movie or television show that I could actually relate to. I found tears were trickling down my cheeks during the whole movie. I wanted to crawl into the screen and hug her, and tell her everything was going to be okay. The surprising thing is the feeling I had as I left the theater that night. She had done it. She had found happiness and she found peace. That began to inspire me to do the same. Eventually, I ended up using the song (Let it Go) as my way of coming out to all my family and friends. Since I met the fictional character Elsa, I began to do some thinking. Her younger sister Anna often came to mind just the same. Suddenly, I realized if it hadn’t of been for Anna, Elsa would be lost forever. It was Anna who came to her door every morning when she was confined to living only in her room. It was Anna who traveled miles and miles to the North Mountain to tell her sister everything was going to be okay. In the end, Anna did the most beloved thing ever. She sacrificed herself to save her sister. It had me thinking every day about the friends and family I have in my life right now in the present that believe in love and equality. Every day they are, in a way, sacrificing themselves on my behalf. When someone threatens me, my friends are the ones who are on the front lines. Those being pro-gay is no small thing. They get trampled on, and beaten down just as much as the LGBT who are born the way that they are, and are brave enough to stand in the spot light.
The next woman that I admire greatly, is the author of that old, classic Disney movie we all know and fell in love with. She flew in the air with an umbrella and had the most exquisite singing voice ever. Mary Poppins. Thanks to the beloved writer, P.L. Travers, (Walt-Disney) turned her book into a movie icon and master piece. P.L. Travers book was not so easy for her to “let go.” The book was very dear to her, and it was the story about her life as a little girl and the love she had for her father despite him being and alcoholic, and eventually he died of Tuberculosis when she was only a child. Walt-Disney loved the book, and saw the potential of what Mary Poppins could create for families and children for generations. P.L. Travers saw the book as a painful reminder of what her life was like as a child. She and Walt-Disney’s inspirations for the book were on a totally different level. Despite her repeated refusals, he didn’t give up. Finally she agreed to make it a movie, but it was like pulling teeth. She didn’t like any of the ideas, nor would she approve them, and above all she wanted no animation of any kind in her movie. It came to the point where she gave up, closed the movie production and went home. Walt-Disney himself traveled to London where she lived, and he paid her an unexpected visit. This special moment brought about the wonderful movie we all know and love. If it weren’t for Walt-Disney’s interest, P.L. Travers might not ever have leaped out of the dark hole she had dug. She ended up loving the movie, and turning her book over to Walt-Disney was a decision she never regretted.
Through my life experiences and the examples of the two, wonderful women I have come to admire, I have learned the greatest gift I could get is something only I could have given. That is learning how to forgive myself. Learning that the way I came out of my mother’s womb is something that can’t be taught, it can’t be given. Being gay is something I had to come to terms with. It is something I had to learn to embrace in order to be set free. It would have never happened, if it weren’t for my friends and family who support, and for my big brother at heart, David Stevens. I feel grateful and blessed to have Anna’s and Walt-Disney’s in my life.
The art of letting go is instilled inside every one of us, and my greatest hope is for those who are brave enough to let it happen.
Last week the Indiana state affiliate of The Family Research Council, The Indiana Family Institute, awarded IN Senator, Tea Party (R) Mike Delph it’s ‘Legislator of the Year’ award. Indiana Chief Hetero-Supremacist, Indiana Governor (R) Mike Pence and friend of the Koch brothers was also present as the keynote speaker for the 25th Friend of the Family Gay Bashing Banquet.
In February Delph had a twitter meltdown over same-sex marriage. For two days the Senator made headlines as he raged and frothed at the mouth about homosexual ‘sin” and “biblical truth” Delph was disciplined by the Senate President for criticizing Senate leaders on gay marriage. Not the first time controversy has swirled around the tea party Senator. Mike Delph has also been accused of hiring ghost employees, participating in illegal Ponzi schemes, and planting military officers at political events. Mike Delph contends he “supports” his gay brother. I support you bro, just don’t expect any human rights?
The Indiana Family Institute advocates for and props up the Family Research Council which is a designated Christian hate group of conservative lobbyist. By taking such award Mike Delph ties himself to hate and exclusion, the very opposite of what his Jesus stood for. All major professional mental health organizations have gone on record to affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, including the American Psychiatry Association. The Family Research Council uses biased and debunked social science that asserts gay men are dangerous pedophiles and calls for dangerous gay repairative therapy that leads so many gay teens to self hate and suicide. The Family Research Council has also called for the jailing of all gay men and has claimed school shootings are caused by same sex marriage.
In a happy, feel good release About Mike Delph, The Indiana Family Institute wrote “We value and respect Senator Delph’s unswerving commitment to faith, family and freedom” Yet they do just the opposite. Up is down and down is up as they work trying to deny human rights and freedoms to LGBT Hoosiers and their families and to incorporate the bible into civil law. Despite multiple pro-gay court rulings in the past year, including Indiana. And Despite the fact 500 Mayors have signed up nationwide for an equality coalition under the Freedom to Marry pledge. The Indiana Family Institute also attacks women’s reproductive health choices at Planned Parenthood. They don’t care that a Woman’s choice about family is central to her life, because – god. Mike Delph is anti-immigration, voted against mass transit in Indiana. Voted for required drug testing for welfare recipients and voted for forced invasive ultrasounds for women seeking first-trimester abortions. In a statement to WTHR13 Mike Delph stated: ” I see identity politics and entitlement not to mention evil marching us down to roman ruin”
Thanks to the internet and access of information, more and more people are turning away from religion and dangerous politicians like Mike Delph who claim to work on the ‘side of god’ Atheism is on the rise in the United States. Last taken in 2012 the Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism found that 5% of Americans are now atheist. In 2005 73% of Americans said they were “religious” In 2012 that number had dropped to 60%. Many LGBT people are also atheists and that includes Hoosier families. Many gay atheists view religion as the central cause of homophobia in a socially constructed society. We refuse to accept the teachings of any book or sky god that does not accept us as we are. We reject the silly notion of ‘sin’ We refuse to accept any god that threatens people with burning them with fire, Revelations 21:8. We refuse talking snakes that are banned to roam the earth on their bellies, Genesis Ch31, We refuse dangerous rhetoric like spare the rod, spoil the child Proverbs 13:24, We refuse that a large group of gay men sought to gang rape two angels Gen 19. We refuse the belief that Jesus walked on water, Matthew 14:22-33 And we refuse a book that supports and regulates slavery, Leviticus 25:44-46 and Exodus 21:1-7. and ultimately we refuse to believe in virgin births, Matthew 1:18 – the beginning of the entire Jesus story. Atheist and LGBT people and their families aren’t the only ones not represented when Mike Delph or the Indiana Family Institute speaks. Many religions and beliefs reside within Indiana. By shutting out people whom are not Christian and working to implement Christian, biblical law the IFI and Mike Delph disenfranchise many groups of political power in Indiana that are not conservative christian. But that is what organized religions, especially Christianity is all about. I’m in and your out. I am special because of how I believe. I am saved and you are not. From the eyes of an atheist, religion is all about fear, fear of death, the fear of god, fear fear, fear. Religion forces believers to partake in a dangerous mental fantasy that divides humanity into good VS evil. Politicians claiming to work for god are dangerous because whom they work for never has to make an appearance. The politician can claim to ‘speak for god’ with his votes. By using feel good, warm fuzzy words like faith, family and freedom Mike Delph and IFI are pandering to patriotic, god fearing, tea party voters. People whom likely work too hard for too little but fall for the conservative Koch brothers agenda and vote against their own interests.
Whom we love and form bonds and families with is central to a person’s life. Thank goodness for a candidate like J.D. Ford. Ford is a self described progressive Democrat looking to unseat Senator Delph this November in Indiana’s 29th district. JD is gay, and supports equal marriage, equal pay for equal work, jobs for veterans, and is big on student safety and bullying prevention. He even supports bans on nuts in schools for the safety of allergic students and advocates school buses have seat belts. JD Supports required (AEDs) Automated External Defibrillators in all public schools. Mr. Ford is also looking to start a dialogue about fracking in Indiana. JD Ford is what Indiana is craving right now. Leadership that cares about the little guy and takes progressive steps to implement real policy change in this lifetime and not the next.