LGBTQ, Pride 2017

PRIDE and PREJUDICE: BOOBS

(This is the second most-creative Pride and Prejudice pun I’ve made. The first one was a concept for a Teresa Giudice spin-off show entitled Pride and Pregiudice).


I saw boobs at Pride, and I need to be chill about it.

I wore a Golden Girls t-shirt to Pride this year; it got a lot of positive attention and led to me screaming, “OLD NAVY” in a lot of public places. The doorman of my friend’s apartment building confided in me that his favorite was Blanche (mine as well); a woman whose path I crossed in the street screamed at me and pointed to her own Golden Girls t-shirt, which she had cut into a cuter shape. We screamed together, hugged briefly and then went our separate ways.

I had figured out the perfect Pride outfit: gay, but functional. I thought, smugly, that real queer people don’t need to dress up so extravagantly. My feelings were confirmed when I got onto the train and noticed a gaggle of four, blonde teenagers who looked, as I later described to Nina, “like they’d gotten mugged by a rainbow.” Pride stickers on their faces, enough glitter to kill a dog smeared on their legs. Obviously, I don’t know for certain, but I had a reasonable measure of certainty that these teenagers were straight.

I looked across the aisle from me. A pair of lesbians were sitting down, hands loosely intertwined. They were, like, so cool. Fresh, dark tattoos decorated the insides of their arms, that kind of tattoo freshness that makes your skin look like cool, dry paper. They were dressed simply and similarly, high-top Vans and crisp button-downs. We’re cool, I thought, my eyes flicking to the teenagers again.

The friends that I was celebrating Pride with (a few lesbians, a couple of bi’s, a straight sprinkled in) were dressed similarly to me. Cute, but not over the top. I hadn’t been to Pride in a few years, but I felt so confident that only annoying, co-opting straight people dressed like Party City.

We meandered down from Madison Square Park towards the end of the parade, deep in the West Village thicket. The deeper we got, the more I noticed the more outrageously people were dressing. And not, just, like annoying straight people. Queers—my people. Leather speedo; harnesses; mesh (so much mesh, you guys; enough to catch a village’s worth of fish), platform stilettos. And, people with boobs baring those boobs. (I’m saying people because not just those that identify as women have breasts).

And I noticed something weird about myself everything I saw someone’s bare boobs.

I gave an internal flinch and felt a flicker of…something.

Embarrassment. Judgment. A hot melting of the two. And then just as soon as I felt the flicker, I shoved it away, annoyed that I could be affected like that.

I pride (heh, get it?) on being progressive. I’m a feminist. I try to keep myself educated and open-minded; I firmly believe that one is the best judge and decider of their own body. In spite of my own body issues, I am extremely body-positive for others. I try. I really do

So why was I, someone I thought was progressive and open, getting a slight weird chill every time I saw bare boobs?

I noticed it wasn’t just me. One of the girls I had been hanging out with, a new friend, caught my eye as someone walked past, their boobs scrawled with glitter. “Those are some titties,” she half-whispered, and I laughed.

“I know, and I keep feeling weird, and like, that’s not cool,” I confided. “I shouldn’t feel any different about a girl being topless versus a guy. That’s not fair.” She nodded, understanding.

In a situation a few months ago, I was the chill, woke one. I was getting ready with my friend for a party, and she was wearing a gorgeous purple-velvet crop top. She was going braless, because she has amazing boobs and the shirt called for it, but felt a little weird about it.

“No, I think it looks amazing,” I assured her, and it did. Another friend was less sold, but couldn’t put a finger on why. Later, me and Velvet Top debriefed. “I think,” I said, lounging in my own progressiveness, “that they were weirded out about the nipples. Like, we’re taught that women should be covered up. They might not have the vocabulary (emotional vocabulary) to verbalize that.”

Do you ever go so far up your own asshole that you see out of your mouth?

So why was I, he of such progressiveness (did you hear how I used the word ‘vocabulary’?) so weird about boobs?

Because, despite all of my progressiveness, and my education, and my body positivity and my talk, I was still raised in a misogynistic, patriarchal society. I was still raised in a culture that commodified, vilified and objectified femaleness. I might not have made any active choices to be in that culture, and I don’t agree with it, but it’s still my origin.

It’s the same reason I still feel weird when I see a same-sex couple engaging in PDA. Half of it is the fear of what might happen to them, but a very real other portion of it is the childhood, deeply-ingrained belief that this is not okay. And more than a little bit of it is jealousy.

For most of us, we were raised in worlds that treated women as objects on a vast spectrum. We saw catcalling; we saw girls penalized for skirts too “high.” We saw women called “crazy.” We saw new mothers being harassed for breast-feeding in public. We have sexualized women’s bodies but imbued that sexuality with male possessiveness. So when women act outside of the agency of men, that sexuality turns sour; in their own hands, in their own choices, we are taught that women, and by extension femme, non-binary, non-traditional people, are dangerous.

I flinched because I was raised in a society that vilified women with agency, women with sexuality. Whether someone with breasts wears a bra or not is not the point; it’s the fact that they should have the ability to choose for themselves.

And while Pride is a fun day to celebrate queerness and femininity, it also originated as a political act. It came from the Stonewall Riots, where trans women of color, and queer people, and drag queens, and non-binary people, and gay men, fought back against a world that was trying to destroy them. Pride came out of that political activism and agency. So yes, Pride is a day to wear glitter and be fun, but it’s also a day to attempt to deconstruct the norms and roles that have been bred into us that are harmful.

It’s a day to challenge why I might feel weird about seeing naked boobs, for me to dig into the reasoning behind the emotion. It won’t stop me from having those kneejerk reactions, but it helps me to understand the why and the how.

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LGBTQ, Life, Politics, Pride 2017

ONE YEAR LATER: THE PULSE NIGHTCLUB SHOOTING

One year ago today, June 12, 2016, the world woke up to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history when a gunman entered Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and injuring 53.

This was not only the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history and the deadliest terror attack since 9/11, it was also a hate crime of epic proportions. The gunman went into Pulse, a gay nightclub, and killed 49 people, queer men and women and those outside of the gender binary, as well as their friends, family and allies. It was also Latin Night, so most of the victims were Latinx and people of color.

The attack was at a nightclub during Pride month, both are deliberate and significant. June is Pride Month, where queer people join together to not just celebrate their queerness, but to express their political activism and energy. The fact that Pulse was a nightclub is also significant: clubs have long been safe havens for queer people. When we could not be accepted in “society” or by our families and friends, we went to the clubs to find community. The Stonewall Riots began in a club, when police officers led a raid into Stonewall Inn. That moment is widely considered to be the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights fight.

One year after the Pulse massacre, we have a president who has yet to acknowledge June as Pride month and wanted praise for being “right on radical Islamic terrorism,” a vice president who legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ in Indiana and was a proponent for conversion therapy, a First Daughter who only thanked queer people for their “economic” contributions to America, and an Attorney General who advocated for the rescinding of federal protection to transgender students.

The massacre was another example that queer people are not safe in America, especially queer people of color. Do not be fooled into believing that because we have marriage equality that we have equality. We don’t.

Not when there are trans women of color being murdered for existing, or kids being denied access to bathrooms. Not when a man can walk into a gay nightclub and murder 49 people and there are politicians who would refuse to call it a hate crime but send their “thoughts and prayers” to people who minutes earlier they were debasing as pedophiles and mentally ill.

Being queer in itself is a both political act and a danger in this America. Our bodies, and the people we love, and our genders are being argued and picked over by politicians like vultures. We are an inherently political minority because our identities have been placed in the political conversation without our consent. So fight on, and fight harder because we don’t have the option to be neutral.

Fight on for women and for people of color and immigrants and those with disabilities (both visible and invisible). Because there cannot be equality for one minority if there is not equality for all minorities. The way the government treats women directly affects queer people. The way the police treat people of color directly affects queer people. Our fight is everyone’s fight, and everyone’s fight is our fight.

To the people who died that night in Pulse, who were primarily Latinx and black, on Latin Night; I’m sorry that we could not do enough. I’m sorry that you didn’t get a chance to be a part of the fight today. You would have all done amazing things in a world that was always, always against you. But we take on your memory and your love and your identity as we march forward and against. We will not forget you. I did not know you, but I love you, and I grieve for you.

The fight for equality is the fight for love, for choice, for freedom. It’s about our right to exist in public spaces, as Laverne Cox said in the aftermath of Trump’s administration revoking federal protection for transgender students.

I’d like to end with two quotes from James Baldwin, a gay black writer who was born in 1924 and whose work pushed the boundaries of queerness and blackness in a time that was particularly lethal to both.

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”

And,

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” 

These things that cause us such deep pain are the things that unite us, the things that make us stronger. They break our bones and they make us bleed over and over, endlessly. But we fight onward and upward and together because that pain is nothing compared to the joy of being together, and fighting together and loving together.

People will try always to tear us apart; whether it be through violence or legislation or words. But we are stronger than that and wilder than that and more beautiful than that.

Be strong in the face of adversity, loving in the face of hate, and kind in the face of unkindness.

Happy Pride.

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LGBTQ, Politics

ACCORDING TO SOURCES, TRUMP TO RESCIND FEDERAL GUIDANCE ON TRANSGENDER STUDENTS USING BATHROOMS OF THEIR GENDER IDENTITIES

According to reporting done by the New York Times, the Trump administration is drawing up paperwork to rescind former President Obama’s order that transgender students can use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was in opposition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the issue of leaving the choice up to the states. However, the Department of Education ruled in 2014 that protecting transgender students falls under Title IX, a federal law that prevents discrimination on the basis of sex.

DeVos, despite her family’s prominent donations to anti-gay organizations, apparently opposed the order. However, President Donald Trump sided with Sessions, who has a history of opposing the expansion of LGBTQ rights, and wanted DeVos to drop her objections.

Apparently there is pressure to move the paperwork along so as to avoid confusion with upcoming cases. The issue comes right before the case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia boy who is transgender, will be brought to the Supreme Court. Grimm sued his school county when they refused to let him use the boys’ restroom and instead offered him a separate one converted from a janitor’s closet. The Obama White House rejected accommodation like that as unconstitutional and discriminatory.

According to insider Republicans, DeVos was uncomfortable with the idea of revoking protections for transgender students. This is in direct opposition to what Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a White House news conference that DeVos was “100 percent” on board. And apparently privately, according to several sources, DeVos is quietly pro-gay-rights.

This directive needs the joint support of the Education and Justice Department, meaning that Sessions needed DeVos on board to move forward.

According to the website, OnTheIssues.org, Sessions has a history of voting against LGBTQ rights expansion. In 2006, he voted yes on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, limiting the definition for marriage to between one man and one woman. In 2000 and 2002, he voted against adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes. He was rated 20% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record, and 0% by the HRC, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance.

On the campaign, Trump was tentatively pro-LGBTQ rights. He said that the issue of same-sex marriage was settled when it was legalized and that he would not go back on that. He famously invited Caitlyn Jenner, transgender former Olympic athlete, to Trump Tower and that she could use whichever bathroom she wanted. In April of 2016, Trump spoke against North Carolina’s bathroom ban, saying that people should use “the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” However, when the Obama administration issued guidance that all transgender students should use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identities, Trump said that it should be left up to the states.

Vice President Pence, when he was the governor of Indiana, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protected business owners who discriminated against LGBTQ people on the basis of religion. Pence was also critical of Obama’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” saying without it, the military would be a “backdrop for social experimentation.”

Even if Trump himself doesn’t personally hold any opposition to the expansion of LGBTQ rights, by dropping down the impetus to the states to decide what protections to offer transgender students is deeply troubling. These are children who are just trying to go to school. When transgender students are barred from using the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities, suicide rates increase and health issues arise—dehydration, kidney infections and urinary tract infections. The health problems alone can lead to missed days of school and increased levels of stress.

That Trump himself doesn’t bear any ill will against the queer community does not translate to protection of LGBTQ rights. He totes himself as “the least anti-Semitic person you’ll ever meet” and “the least racist person you’ll ever meet” but if you’re not taking active steps towards the protections of these marginalized groups, you are in effect leaving them to be crushed under administrative oppression and discrimination.

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