LGBTQ+ Activists Made Themselves Heard For 3 Landmark Supreme Court Cases

On October 8, attorneys for three LGBTQ+ plaintiffs — Aimee Stephens, Donald Zarda, and Gerald Bostock — argued before the Supreme Court that their clients should not have been fired from their jobs for being gay or transgender. Here’s what you missed.
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Young LGBTQ+ Voters Know 2020 Is Crucial For Them. Do The Democratic Candidates?

Millennials and Generation Z flocked to the LGBTQ presidential forum on September 20 at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and they have some thoughts.
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Gaga: ‘I would take a bullet’ for LGBTQ rights

A teary-eyed Lady Gaga declared her love for the LGBTQ community at a New York event, telling the crowd she would take a bullet for them.


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LGBTQ Haters Will Die Off

My son Harry and I laughed on the phone following a replay of the conversation I’d just overheard between a toddler and her dad while walking my daily loop around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

“The little girl said, ‘Daddy, I want you to carry me,'” I’d told Harry. “And the dad replied, ‘Honey, I am carrying you.'”

“Kids totally made my day today, too,” Harry said.

“Really? Tell me,” I replied with a grin.

“Well, I was walking down my block when some guys cat-called me from their car.”

My legs froze on the path. “You mean they were harassing you?”

“It happens all the time,” Harry said. “To women, too, you know, Mom. I don’t even notice it half the time.”

My stomach tightened as I imagined my 25-year-old with the long curly hair, cropped beard and eccentric style of dress being shouted at from a carload of idiots. I know that queer and trans people are often subjected to harassment on the street, but I like to think of Harry as safe from that abuse.

“It’s almost amusing, but mostly just rude,” Harry continued. “I just rolled my eyes.”

“And how is this a good story?” I asked, taking deep breath.

“I’m getting there. So right after that, I see a two-year-old girl in a stroller coming towards me, and she’s petting her black, furry stick-on moustache.”

I relaxed into a chuckle. “That’s so cute!”

“I know, right?” Harry said. “Then I came up to three kids, about eight or nine years old, standing with their scooters. As soon as I passed by, I heard one of them say, ‘I like her dress.’ And another one said, “I like her shoes.” And the third one said, ‘I like her earrings.’ So I turned around smiling and blew them all a kiss.”

“Oh, Harry, I love that! Kids understand about self-expression, don’t they? And gender doesn’t seem to matter to them.”

“Yeah, they just get it.”

I walked home from the park appreciating the hope in Harry’s story. The girl with the pretend-play moustache and the kids who saw only Harry’s distinctive style made my day better, too. It amazes me that children can understood how one’s outfit is simply a reflection of how they feel, while many adults find style and clothing — especially among boys — some sort of threat to conventional values. I think those little ones portend the growing openness and acceptance within our culture. And I think it bodes well for humanity.

I’m convinced our society will continue to advance for the betterment of all, because kids are being taught the benefits of diversity and importance of respect. National programs like PFLAG‘s safe schools initiative in tandem with GLSEN‘s K-12 educators network help teach inclusiveness and empathy in the classroom. The number of Gay Straight Alliances continues to grow as an extracurricular club at high schools across the country. The free mobile app Quist displays LGBTQ “quistory” in a youth-friend way. And with marriage equality now the law of the land, more children will know classmates with same-sex parents.

Where there is growth, there will also be a pinching off of the old. Those unwilling to accept new ideas — the intolerant ones who are determined to make everyone the same — will be steadily fading away and eventually dying off. For me they include the so-called religious leaders who preach fear and hatred, the politicians who don’t want to recognize equal rights for all citizens, and those who harass people on the street from their cars.

In the meantime, until those kids with the broad imaginations are leading thought and policy, I’d say there are still many people who have a lot of unlearning to do.

You can follow Julie on her personal blog, My Son Wears Heels, and also find her on Facebook.

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The Theology of Spirit Day: As LGBTQ People, We Are All Loved By God

2015-10-15-1444919994-302499-purplelamp.jpg

Yesterday was Spirit Day. I looked at myself in the mirror as I tied my purple necktie daintily. It was the only piece of purple clothing I own. I remembered when I was in high school and used to conduct this same tie-tying ritual every morning, albeit more sloppily. I wore a purple tie back then too, but it was part of my uniform, not a personal statement.

Back when I was in high school, I was bullied and harassed for practically every aspect of my identity. I was, and still am, skinny, so I was referred to as a “stick”. My high voice, cracking with anxiety, was a constant source of amusement for my classmates. I dreaded having to answer a question or give presentations, because every sound I made resulted in laughter from everyone around me. As one of few Latinos in my school, I was called “illegal”, “wetback”, and told to “go back to Mexico”. What I remember most vividly, though, is how much pain I went through because of my sexual orientation.

I went to an all-boys, Catholic high school. Every day, every class even, began with prayer and we were ushered to Mass every month. Our principal reminded us daily that we were all family, all ‘brothers in Christ’. Yet, that fraternity seemed to only apply to certain people. I distinctly remember during class one day in my freshman year, someone asked my theology teacher about the Church’s position on gay people. Red in the face and practically shaking with anger, he questioned why those people were “even allowed to exist”. I sank into my seat and wanted desperately to disappear, because my very existence had just been deemed unworthy of God’s love.

When I was later outed in my junior year, things only got worse. I was once openly referred to as a faggot in the classroom while my teacher looked on, not bothering to say a word. I was called fag, fairy, homo– every name in the book. I was pushed into lockers. I had vile things written about me in the school bathrooms. I was once followed out the library and punched in the face because I dared to wear a rainbow wristband. I wanted to drop out.

I contemplated suicide a lot during this time. I am certain that if it weren’t for the small band of friends and supportive teachers that I had, I would not be sharing this story with you right now. I am thankful for their love and courage every day. It truly saved me during the darkest times of my life.

As I put my tie on yesterday morning, I remembered all of this pain, and I thought of all the LGBTQ youth out there that suffer in silence in their schools, just as I did. Many of them are still being taught, explicitly or otherwise, that their relationships are inferior or that their lifestyles are “sinful”. I think particularly of the trans* and GNC students that are constantly misgendered by their teachers or are policed every time they need to use the bathroom, changing room, and so on. My heart breaks every time I read another story of an LGBTQ teen who is thrown out from their home, or has to fight school administrators just to receive an education free from harassment, or worse, ends their life. I wish I could hug each one of them and tell them how beautiful and special they are.

For me, there is a theology of Spirit Day. It isn’t ‘turn the other cheek’ as my Christian neighbors say. For me, the spirituality of Spirit Day is resting in the truth that, as LGBTQ people, we are all loved by a Power higher than ourselves. Human beings may try to impose limits on that love but ultimately they fail–how can something infinite like the love of God have conditions? This love provides for us in every respect, protecting us and sheltering us at all times. Although this world is full of hatred and violence, we should, as Swami Vivekananda put it, “always say, ‘I have no fear’,” because God’s love is looking after us at every moment.

It is by remembering divine love that I feel empowered to continue fighting for LGBTQ youth everywhere. On Spirit Day, my prayer was that all of those kids know that God loves you–and I love you–just as you are. When you saw someone wearing purple, I hope you remembered that love.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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Back To School Tips For Parents Of LGBTQ Kids

Back to school time is filled with the excitement of new backpacks, teachers, and reunions with friends. But for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender parents and students that excitement can be accompanied by anxiety and fear. New schools, classmates, and teachers may also mean coming out again to unknowing peers. This may happen in stride for some LGBTQ parents and students; others have legitimate concerns as another school year begins.

The goal for all students, however, is to provide them with a safe, productive, and supportive learning environment. The climate around LGBTQ issues may not always be the sunniest, but even in school districts where progress needs to be made, these goals are something all parents and students deserve and should expect. Here are ways you can advocate for yourself and your child as you begin another school year.

Talk
Before your child enters the classroom, schedule a time to sit down with their teacher(s) or school administrators to be sure everyone is comfortable and informed about your family’s structure and identity. Give the teacher the opportunity to ask you questions. Understanding breeds knowledge, and sometimes it is our job to inform others. As long as conversations are mutually beneficial and respectful, open lines of communication are necessary.

Talk to your child too. Ask them what they need to feel safe and supported in the classroom and relay that information to their teacher(s). This may include the use of their preferred name, pronouns, or the allowance of a specific friend to be with them during transitions to reduce the possibility of harassment.

Revisit these conversations and check-in frequently. And listen. Your child and their teacher(s) have first-hand knowledge of their school day; be sure you are giving them the opportunity to talk to you too. Everyone must be on the same page for your child to feel safe and comfortable to tackle a new school year.

Provide Resources

Even the most well-intentioned teachers may not know how to support students of LGBTQ parents or LGBTQ students. There are many resources available and they will find wonderfully helpful information through Welcoming Schools, a Human Rights Campaign project, or The Stonewall National Education Project. Both sites offer professional development tools, lessons, and ways to make sure all students feel safe and important in the classroom.

Another valuable organization is Trans Student Educational Resources, which is a youth-led group focusing on creating a more trans-friendly education system. And Gender Spectrum is a great resource to learn how to create “gender sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens.”

Your state may also have local programs dedicated to educating teachers on the important ways to embrace diversity.

Ignorance cannot be an excuse; material is available. Show your child’s teachers where to find it.

Expect Acceptance
And then expect them to use the resources. If necessary, use the school’s mission statement as an argument to provide your child with a safe and inclusive learning space. Amanda Rodhenburg, Director of Advocacy at Outright Vermont gave examples when looking at two different elementary schools’ mission statements. One stated they “strive to develop cultural competency in our students.” Rodhenburg stated, “If a teacher were reluctant to be inclusive about non-hetero families, I would tie the necessity to that very line.”

Another school listed goals that every child should be supported in school, home, and their community. Rodhenburg, “Again, I would tie the imperative for inclusivity to the goal of students being supported in school and at home. Y’all came up with that directive, now you have to stick with it.”

Dr. Molly Fechter-Leggett, clinical psychologist, also reminds parents to use the school’s guidance counselor as an ally and professional trained in LGBTQ issues to help families and students overcome feelings of exclusion. Dr. Fechter-Leggett says, “Counselors are the go-to allies for many kids who transition. If there are barriers with teachers, counselors can often work to help educate them about the social and emotional aspects of the child’s experience.” 

Posters, Safe Space stickers, inclusion of LGBTQ history into the classroom curriculum validate a child’s need for a safe learning space. Learning that a great author or famous scientist identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is also very empowering to a child who has parents with these identities or who may be LGBTQ themselves.

The quality and quantity of books with LBGTQ characters and themes are increasing every day. Be sure your school’s teachers know about them and expect them to be available to your child. Check here for a list of books for all ages.

Find or Create Community
Joining or creating a community of other like-minded students builds confidence and safe places for your child at school. It also increases visibility and improves the school’s climate towards diversity. The Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) and theGay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) are national organizations with local chapters. If your child’s school doesn’t have a Gay-Straight Alliance, encourage them to start one.

Safety is Non-negotiable
If you find out your child is being bullied by another student, the first step may be to talk to their teacher or the school administration. Contacting your local LGBTQ resource center may be helpful too. Workers at these centers and youth advocacy leaders can help educate your child’s teacher(s) on the best way to create a cultural shift in the classroom to help prevent future situations.

If the bullying or harassment is coming from a teacher or school administrator, it may be necessary to contact your state’s Human Rights Commission to report discrimination. More of your rights can be found at GLAD.org.

Bottom line: Safety is non-negotiable. You have every right to speak up and to be heard.

All of the fun and exciting aspects of a new school year should not be overshadowed by ignorance. You, your family, and your child deserve the same respect and opportunities as every other family and student. It may take a little more work and time in some cases, but the benefits of a happy and confident student are well worth the extra energy.

Good luck parents!

Amber Leventry is a writer for The Next Family and lives in Vermont with her wife and three kids. 

 

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Community Celebrates Marriage Equality Victory At Iconic LGBTQ Battleground

What better way to spend the last weekend of pride month than celebrate a hard-won marriage equality victory in one of the LGBTQ rights movement’s most iconic battlegrounds?

The Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality ensuring same-sex couples the right to marry was quite an introduction to New York City pride this weekend. After the decision, members and allies of the queer community gathered at the Stonewall Inn, the landmark bar that was home to the infamous 1969 riots between queer patrons and the police — and the place that many point to as the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ Civil Rights movement.

stonewall inn

Nearly a half-century later, The Huffington Post headed to Christopher Street on Friday to talk to revelers at The Stonewall Inn, where many shared their reactions to the historic victory.

Couple Ally and Lauren and were thrilled about the court’s ruling. “It’s amazing that in any state, no matter what state, you can be married and love who you love and the government acknowledges that finally,” Lauren said.

ally and lauren outside stonewall

The pace of marriage equality had accelerated in recent years, with 37 U.S. states passing legislation ensuring the right of gay couples to marry in the years and months before Friday’s ruling. Dennis, pictured below on the right, told HuffPost he wasn’t sure he’d have the opportunity to celebrate this pivotal moment in his lifetime. “Just five to seven years ago I didn’t think that it would happen so fast — I did not think this would happen in my lifetime,” he said.

dennis outside stonewall

“It’s honorable to here on such a momentous occasion,” Patrick, below, second from the left, said as he and his friends celebrated outside of Stonewall. “We were here two years ago when New York passed it, now we’re here and the country’s passing it, and I’m excited to see what the next step is — where we go from here.”

patrick and friends outside stonewall

Geff, from the UK, offered an international perspective. “I think that this is sending a signal to other countries around the world globally because people look to America as a source of inspiration,” he said. The Supreme Court’s decision makes the US one of 21 other countries to legalize same-sex marriage.

As the day went on, hundreds visited the Stonewall Inn and shared their celebration of this historic moment in one of the many places we owe it to. See some of their beautiful images below.

So happy to be here, and lucky

A photo posted by Luke Austin-Paglialonga (@lukeaustinphotosthe3rd) on

Love wins

A photo posted by Luke Austin-Paglialonga (@lukeaustinphotosthe3rd) on

#scotusmarriage #Stonewall

A photo posted by Lisa Granatstein (@lisagranatstein) on

Today my neighborhood is the happiest place on earth. #lovewins #fuckyeah ❤️

A photo posted by Erin (@erinkathryn) on

Outside the #stonewallinn #lovewins ❤️

A photo posted by jennifer gandia (@jennifergandia) on

Here for the NYC Pride celebration on historic SCOTUS #MarriageEquality decision

A photo posted by Elton Lugay (@eltonlugay) on

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LGBTQ initiative “Our Tomorrow”: How to make it worth the effort

On May 4, 2015 a grassroots coalition representing 100 groups launched an initiative called ‘Our Tomorrow” designed to hear from the LGBTQ community how they see their lives today and their concerns for the future. You can still add your voice to those LGBTQ people across the country who have joined the conversation about our future at www.shareourtomorrow.org.

Just looking at the comments and words used to describe the feelings of those who responded to the initiative thus far it could be easy to conclude we didn’t need this initiative. Anyone who has worked in the fight for civil and human rights for the LGBTQ community could have told you what people would say.

Responses were divided into three categories; Hopes, Fears and Ideas. The answers weren’t surprising. Hopes included that LGBTQ people aren’t finished pushing for full “equality” and “acceptance.” They hope for an “inclusive” future that values “diversity” and where LGBTQ people have more legal “rights,” where they receive “respect” and “support” from their family, and where they can feel “safe.”

Fears included worry that “society” won’t change overnight, and we could even experience a “backlash.” Participants fear “discrimination” will persist, and that LGBTQ people across the country will still be subject to “violence” and “hate,” particularly from “religious” communities. They worry the movement will forget its “history” and fail to learn from the “past.”

And the ideas focused on “educating” people about our community and making the movement more “inclusive.” Some examples of individual responses from the website are; “Begin modeling another way of relating to those who think differently than we do. The hatefulness has got to be replaced with modeling a way of understanding and compassion- Geoff, Tulsa. One thing our community can do to make our tomorrow brighter is to do more to reach out to diverse sectors and include them. Also, listen to their stories and educate ourselves on different cultures- Darren, Denver, CO. One thing our movement can do to make tomorrow brighter is to get more people involved. We need to show people that we are not backing down from them and that we are a FORCE to be Reckoned With!- Monique, Evansville, IN. As a movement we need to increase legislation to protect those who cannot protect themselves. But individually we need to be open, honest and educated. The more people see us as people the less we can be dehumanized by the masses. It is not us versus them; it is all of us trying desperately to find our way in life- Kristin, Abingdon, VA. Don’t assume that successes (ballot initiatives, marriage bans being declared unconstitutional, etc.) are instantly going to change someone’s mind. There is still work to be done to win people over who may oppose marriage equality or whatever the issue is. Consider what we can do to bring others to our side- Ryan, Silver Spring, MD”

As a long-time, older, white LGBT activist (one still not comfortable adding the Q or additional letters to the acronym) I could have written this without asking for anyone else’s opinion. But that is part of the problem existing today within the leadership of the LGBTQ community. We can enunciate the problems and intellectually share the fears and hopes of the broader community; but most of us don’t really feel them in our daily lives.

We have yet to invite and include a younger and more diverse group of LGBTQ activists to help lead us into the future. We have moved the LGBTQ community forward in legal terms with lightning speed. We have succeeded in ridding ourselves of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; passed hate crimes legislation; and are on the precipice of winning a guarantee of marriage-equality from the Supreme Court.

Yet members of the LGBTQ community are still beaten up for being who they are. Can marry one day and be fired and turned away from accommodations the next. Young LGBTQ people are bullied in school and thrown out of their families because they tell them they are gay and told they can’t worship in many churches because of who god made them.

We need only look to the African American community to understand even with full equality under the law, changing a culture, people’s hearts and minds, doesn’t come easily. The massacre based on hate and fear in the church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a stark reminder of that. Women are not included in the Constitution and we can’t pass an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

So to make the ‘Our Tomorrow‘ initiative valuable it must have a lasting impact. That will only happen if it is followed up with action. The current leadership in the LGBTQ community must take to heart and act on the fact there is a lack of diversity in our leadership, including racial diversity, gender diversity and age diversity. If the ‘Our Tomorrow‘ initiative promotes real change it will have accomplished something. This will not be easy and first must come recognition and acceptance that leadership cannot be based on wealth or white male privilege alone.

One way to move forward may be to have a ‘Summit for Our Tomorrow‘ sponsored by the LGBTQ’s major civil rights organizations. They must ensure every group within the LGBTQ community is equally represented at such a meeting. The outcome must be a blueprint for equality in our own community leading to making the future leadership of all our organizations representative of the community as a whole. Outcomes must include development of new initiatives planned with the input of those who are impacted by them, and ensuring they have a leadership role in moving them forward.

It is only together we can respond to the hopes and fears of members of the LGBTQ community as enunciated in ‘Our Tomorrow‘ and ensure this and future generations can live safe, secure and happy lives with full civil and human rights and acceptance within the greater community.

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Laverne Cox Commends Miley Cyrus For Raising LGBTQ Awareness

At the 2015 amfAR Inspiration Gala, Laverne Cox praises Miley Cyrus for raising awareness in the LGBTQ community.


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The Politics of LGBTQ People: Caitlyn Jenner and Class Differences

Should LGBTQ people automatically get along with each other because they are designated as a minority group that has endured decades of oppression and stigmatization? It was exactly a year ago that I decided to pen an article exploring the LGBTQ acronym and why we remain divided when that will only lead to failures in achieving civil rights. And what do you know, last week a preponderance of negativity arose out of Caitlyn Jenner’s posing for Vanity Fair magazine since her conservative politics are disconnected with the presumed LGBTQ’s population’s liberal politics. But let’s delve a little deeper into the situation because what is dividing us aside from various values and ends is class differences. I said it, it is a fight over class, and let me explain how.

Caitlyn Jenner is a white, able-bodied, wealthy celebrity, former athlete, who has decided at the ripe age of 65 to transition from a male to female. According to the comments that have circulated in social media since earlier last week, Caitlyn was formerly embraced by the LGBTQ population for taking this huge step in her life — but when LGBTQ people shed light on the real Caitlyn regarding her conservative politics, we all changed our opinions to abandon her without reservation. Should we ignore her now that we understand what her predominate political views are, or should we give her a chance to see if those views will change over time as a transgendered person? Of course, we should not forget that Caitlyn has a planned show to air soon, so we have to remember what possibly underlies the agenda here: likely, making money!

Turning the conversation back to class, LGBTQ organizations have only hired leaders who are invested in white, privileged, able-bodied, patriarchal politics. Boards of these organizations are privileged and do not have an interest in those in the lower and middle classes who likely have intersecting minority identities. We have witnessed this struggle since the beginning of the LGBTQ movements, in HIV/AIDS activism, among other social movements that have occurred in American history.

I am a working-class man who came from poverty: thinking about class differences will always be part and parcel with anything I do in life. As such, I have felt, noticed, and experienced firsthand accounts of privileged, white, gay men who are oblivious and disinterested in the values of marginalized groups within the LGBTQ population. When I made attempts to discuss why this ignorance occurs, I have been objectified and silenced. The bigger question is why does class not enter the dialogue when so many of us are not privileged? It has been written about extensively that class is an invisible force within our capitalist economy where the hypothesis is the individual can dictate and control the outcomes through their autonomy and self-determination. This is conservative bullshit politics to keep the disempowered enslaved, reinforcing the myth of making ends meet in a deregulated economy that only privileges the one percent. And with this trend of lasting deregulation is the consequence of the 99 percent being in huge debt and barely surviving.

So, what happens to the multiply marginalized LGBTQ people if they cannot fight for their values to be part of the LGBTQ agenda? Common sense would tell you that their voices go unrecognized and the privileged LGBTQ class continues to dictate the how, what, who, why, when, where. Caitlyn Jenner, although a role model in demonstrating self-acceptance, has used all of her one percent status to get surgery, in order to boost her ego and public image. Tell me who has 100 million dollars net worth like Jenner to transition successfully, when I have met personally a number of poor, working and middle-class transgendered people who have endured psychological turmoil before, during, and after the transition process. The transition has taken years, mainly unsuccessful, some even remain with original plumbing, some with scars from bad cosmetic surgery, and some feeling regret from not having the backing of family, friends, and a career to support them. Can we compare the lives of the former and latter? Once again, class is the divide here.

Let’s remember the class politics with Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, both wealthy, Jewish, gay men, who own a number of gay venues and properties and deny that they provided presidential campaign funds for conservative Ted Cruz after, including hosting a party at the hotel they own, The Out Hotel. I am not looking to attack them for their contributions even if I contentiously disagree with them for supporting Cruz, but class is the dividing difference here where the values and allegiance of rich, wealthy LGBTQ are with corporation, for-profit, and deregulated environments. Sexuality in this occurrence obviously sits much further down on the hierarchy of needs (maybe does not make it on the list?) and earning more money despite being millionaires is the top priority.

My recommendation, I reiterate as in the past, is for the 99 percent of LGBTQ population to forget settling our differences with the 1 percent; instead, we are the majority voice and need to exercise that right regularly. Our voices, stories, identities, beliefs, and values deserve the front page of news articles, in social media, in interviews, in books — everywhere! I am not asking for revolution to effect change, but for the acknowledgement that class plays a significant role within LGBTQ politics. And with this acknowledgement will develop a public consciousness in the LGBTQ population on how to level the playing field.

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Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day: Stories of Pride and Family

LGBTQ Pride Month is almost upon us. I like to think of this time of year, however, as Parenting Season, the span between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. It can be a challenging time for LGBTQ parents and our kids, since we don’t fit into those two categories in the traditional way — but it can also be a great time to celebrate and raise awareness about our families.

I’m proud to see the growing presence of LGBTQ families in the media, including drama and comedy as well as the news. ABC’s Modern Family, which includes gay dads in its ensemble cast, is one of the most awarded comedy series of all time. Sister network ABC Family’s The Fosters, about two moms and their mix of biological, adopted and foster kids, has won critical acclaim, including Television Academy Honors “for using the power of television to bring awareness to important social issues.” Even better, the show has garnered an avid audience of youth who follow the storylines of the teen characters.

Both The Fosters and Modern Family have aired the weddings of the shows’ same-sex parents. Season-ending weddings are a television trope. Season-ending weddings of same-sex parents means we’ve arrived, at least in some pop-culture sense. I happen to believe that pop culture is a leading indicator for legal and political change, though, so that’s not a frivolous statement.

Although our pop culture inclusion is new, it was built on a long history of LGBTQ parents and our children. It’s a history that is still being set down, in films like Debra Chasnoff’s Choosing Children, about the first generation of lesbians to become parents after coming out, and books like Daniel Winunwe Rivers’ Radical Relations, which charts the history of gay and lesbian parents since World War II. I’m reminded of the old saying (sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill) that “history is written by the victors.” We haven’t won quite yet, but things are looking hopeful. Our history will root us as we grow into the future.

Despite our progress, neither pop culture nor marriage alone will give us full equality, even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules favorably in the coming weeks. Not all states — even ones that allow same-sex couples to marry — protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Not all states allow all LGBTQ people to be legal parents to our children, or do so only after a long, costly process. Not all schools include books, other curricular materials, or administrative forms that are inclusive of LGBTQ people and our families. Not every parent knows how to talk about LGBTQ people with their kids.

While legal progress and media representation can help, much change comes simply from telling our stories. Stories both strengthen our community and help others to better understand us. That’s why I’m very excited about Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day on June 1, the annual event that I’ve been hosting at my blog for the past ten years. Participants have included LGBTQ parents, prospective parents, the childfree, our children, and allies, sharing their stories to remind us of how we’re all alike — and how we’re all different.

To join us, simply post at your own blog in celebration and support of LGBTQ families (however you define them) and submit the link at Mombian, where I’ll compile and showcase the master list for all to see. If you don’t have a blog of your own, you can write at a group blog, upload a video to YouTube or another video-sharing site, or simply leave a comment on the master post at Mombian that day. You can also participate by tweeting with the hashtag #LGBTQfamilies. Posts may be personal anecdotes, political commentaries, book reviews, photographs, or anything else related to the theme.

Some of us blog about LGBTQ families regularly; others rarely. But I encourage you to do so on June 1 to help build community and bridges. Even if you don’t contribute, I hope you’ll help spread the word about the event and come by to read some of the many wonderful posts — a great way to start a month of Pride and a proud feeling to last all year long.

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Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day: Stories of Pride and Family

LGBTQ Pride Month is almost upon us. I like to think of this time of year, however, as Parenting Season, the span between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. It can be a challenging time for LGBTQ parents and our kids, since we don’t fit into those two categories in the traditional way — but it can also be a great time to celebrate and raise awareness about our families.

I’m proud to see the growing presence of LGBTQ families in the media, including drama and comedy as well as the news. ABC’s Modern Family, which includes gay dads in its ensemble cast, is one of the most awarded comedy series of all time. Sister network ABC Family’s The Fosters, about two moms and their mix of biological, adopted and foster kids, has won critical acclaim, including Television Academy Honors “for using the power of television to bring awareness to important social issues.” Even better, the show has garnered an avid audience of youth who follow the storylines of the teen characters.

Both The Fosters and Modern Family have aired the weddings of the shows’ same-sex parents. Season-ending weddings are a television trope. Season-ending weddings of same-sex parents means we’ve arrived, at least in some pop-culture sense. I happen to believe that pop culture is a leading indicator for legal and political change, though, so that’s not a frivolous statement.

Although our pop culture inclusion is new, it was built on a long history of LGBTQ parents and our children. It’s a history that is still being set down, in films like Debra Chasnoff’s Choosing Children, about the first generation of lesbians to become parents after coming out, and books like Daniel Winunwe Rivers’ Radical Relations, which charts the history of gay and lesbian parents since World War II. I’m reminded of the old saying (sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill) that “history is written by the victors.” We haven’t won quite yet, but things are looking hopeful. Our history will root us as we grow into the future.

Despite our progress, neither pop culture nor marriage alone will give us full equality, even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules favorably in the coming weeks. Not all states — even ones that allow same-sex couples to marry — protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Not all states allow all LGBTQ people to be legal parents to our children, or do so only after a long, costly process. Not all schools include books, other curricular materials, or administrative forms that are inclusive of LGBTQ people and our families. Not every parent knows how to talk about LGBTQ people with their kids.

While legal progress and media representation can help, much change comes simply from telling our stories. Stories both strengthen our community and help others to better understand us. That’s why I’m very excited about Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day on June 1, the annual event that I’ve been hosting at my blog for the past ten years. Participants have included LGBTQ parents, prospective parents, the childfree, our children, and allies, sharing their stories to remind us of how we’re all alike — and how we’re all different.

To join us, simply post at your own blog in celebration and support of LGBTQ families (however you define them) and submit the link at Mombian, where I’ll compile and showcase the master list for all to see. If you don’t have a blog of your own, you can write at a group blog, upload a video to YouTube or another video-sharing site, or simply leave a comment on the master post at Mombian that day. You can also participate by tweeting with the hashtag #LGBTQfamilies. Posts may be personal anecdotes, political commentaries, book reviews, photographs, or anything else related to the theme.

Some of us blog about LGBTQ families regularly; others rarely. But I encourage you to do so on June 1 to help build community and bridges. Even if you don’t contribute, I hope you’ll help spread the word about the event and come by to read some of the many wonderful posts — a great way to start a month of Pride and a proud feeling to last all year long.

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Gay Voices – The Huffington Post

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Sharing the Stories of LGBTQ Youth: Zeam, 17, From Minneappolis

We Are the Youth is a photographic journalism project and book chronicling the individual stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth in the United States. Through photographic portraits and “as told to” interviews in the participants’ own voices, We Are the Youth captures the incredible diversity and uniqueness among the LGBTQ youth population.

Below is the story of Zeam.

* * * * *

By Zeam, as told to Diana Scholl

2015-03-12-1426172202-8072359-Zeam.jpgLife’s kind of bittersweet right now. I feel like this has been a year of survival. To feel better, sometimes I allow myself to be angry at myself. Sometimes I’ll just walk into my school counselor’s office and cry. Oftentimes I’ll listen to music or have a straight-up conversation with myself. What makes me feel beautiful is looking at past pictures of me and my friends, or when my friend draws on my scars.

Going to Creating Change has helped. I felt like I was in heaven. I got to meet a lot of queer black trans people that I had idolized on Tumblr. I had to pinch myself that I wasn’t dreaming. I’d never been in a space where I could look around and everyone is trans or a person of color. Even the way I walked was different. When I’m in school I’m either puffing out my chest or breathing in. I get bumped a lot in the hallway, especially by the white cis boys. Because of that I’m always tense. Now I walk strong but don’t puff up my chest like I have something to prove. It helps my health physically.

Last year I was dealing with my depression and my eating stuff. I used to cut every day and had an addiction from cutting. One day I had lost a lot of blood the night before, and having to remember what bathroom to go to was so overwhelming I just broke down and cried. I went to a teacher that identifies as genderqueer and said, “I’m just so tired.”

Ever since I was a baby I would ask other people, “Don’t you forget you have a chest?” or, “Don’t you forget what bathroom to go to?” I wanted to know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Then my teacher gave me the language for it. I didn’t realize not everyone had to remember the gender they were forced to identify with at birth.

I started identifying first as genderqueer and now as a trans man. I had come out as bisexual when I was 12. My dad said at the time, “At least you’re not a trans man.” And we laughed about it. I tried to pray the gay away with Christianity, and it wasn’t working, so I wanted to convert to Islam. I got over that in eighth grade. But then I had to come out all over again.

This is my first year changing my name on school records and changing my pronouns. I wasn’t worried about being outed, since everyone already knew me, but I wanted to be called by the right name. I went into the school office with all this confidence. I saw some white man on the couch on the computer, and I was like, “I need my name changed.” He’s like, “Why?” I said, “I’m changing it to Zeam because I am trans and my pronouns are ‘they,’ ‘them’ and ‘he.'” I was just super-sassy. And he’s like, “OK.”

I see him in the hallway now, and he says, “Hey, Zeam. How are you?” I was like, “That’s the guy that changes names, I guess.” But it turns out he was the new headmaster. But now he respects me because I didn’t kiss up to him.

For my family I will still answer to my birth name, because they have to get over their own hurt. My birth name was a combination of my mother and father’s name. I used to take refuge in knowing my parents were with me through my name.

Even if my parents don’t agree with what I’m doing, they’d rather hear about it. I told my dad that after college I want to start my own erotic film company that’s run by trans people of color. At first he was like, “That’s a bad idea.” But after I explained it, my dad said he didn’t realize how passionate about it I was and that I should complete my dreams.

Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Denver, 2015
Gay Voices – The Huffington Post

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Unconditional Love: A Missing Link for Homeless LGBTQ Youth

When I was growing up, my family was a bit unorthodox, on multiple levels. At the same time it was the best of what a family can be.

The love was unconditional.

I have been thinking about that word a lot this year. As I delve deep into the issues of homeless LGBTQ youth, I often hear the youth say that what they are most missing are consistent adults in their lives, ones who can provide a safety net — and unconditional support.

When I returned from college at age 21, I moved back home while I looked for a job. Many of my friends did this in 1984, and a large percentage of the population still does this in 2014.

My parents — my mom, my stepdad and my bio dad — always showed me unconditional love and support. When I came out as lesbian at age 17, I had their support (though my mom struggled, mainly because she didn’t want me to suffer). My mom is the one who told me about a job opening at GayLife newspaper in 1984. When I co-founded Windy City Times in 1985, they were supportive. And when I started my own papers (Outlines, BLACKlines, etc.), they pushed me to do my best. They even gave me a $ 1,000 loan, 20 years before a bank would.

What I see in this next generation of LGBTQ youth is that, for many of them, their hierarchy of needs has been so neglected that they have no trust that anyone will catch them when they fall. And most young adults do fall at some point.

There are thousands of good people and dozens of agencies trying to help on the issue of homeless youth in Chicago. But it is clearly not enough. We must, as a community, do better.

As a result of the Windy City Times youth summit in May, and the subsequent 70-page report, we have been trying to fill in the gaps where youth asked for support. This includes a storage task force being headed by Lara Brooks and funded by the Pierce Family Foundation and the Polk Bros Foundation; the 750 Club Apartment Adoption Project I am spearheading with fiscal sponsor AIDS Foundation of Chicago; a task force on transit costs we are working on with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; a job fair we co-hosted with local agencies, including Chicago House, Center on Halsted, Affinity and TransTech; an upcoming entrepreneurial training with StartOut, MB Financial Bank and the Center; a laundry project we hope to launch in 2015; and prevention efforts, foster-care outreach, a push to have colleges better serve their homeless populations, and much more.

The Apartment Adoption Project is what I am most focused on right now. The city and other groups are trying for a “housing first” model of support, since people can’t hold down jobs, go to school, care for their own children, or lead physically and mentally healthy lives without consistent shelter. The apartments will all be managed by existing housing agencies, not individuals. Team captains commit to getting their friends together to raise enough for one apartment for two years. I am hoping this leads to mentorships and other longer-term relationships with youth, ones that can create stability and connection for long-term success. How about each major corporation’s LGBT employee group, and each welcoming religious institution, sponsors its own apartment? Or our sports organizations, political groups and social clubs? (See this link for how this works.)

I am not naive, though I am optimistic. The problem of youth homelessness is large, but Chicago is a city of big shoulders and big solutions.

However, it is going to take many more people, companies, foundations, churches, schools, politicians and nonprofits stepping up to the plate to solve the complex issues that lead to homelessness, including poverty, racism, educational and criminal-justice inequities. LGBTQ issues are really just part of the puzzle.

People often help out once a year around the holidays, putting in volunteer time, donating toys and coats, and giving good cheer. But these youth need to eat 365 days a year, they need a bed 365 nights a year, and they need consistent, unconditional support, 365 days a year.

Tracy Baim is publisher of Windy City Times. This editorial is in the Christmas issue of the weekly LGBTQ newspaper (see here). See more details on the homeless youth summit and subsequent projects at this link.
Gay Voices – The Huffington Post

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