Getting A Same-Sex Divorce Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Value Same-Sex Marriage

I am getting a divorce. I never thought I would say that. But as a queer person, I didn’t think I would be ever be able to say I was getting married either. When I was in college, I knew of some employers that extended benefits to domestic partners; but the idea of same-sex couples getting automatic access to health insurance, retirement accounts, and death benefits of the person they loved in the same way heterosexual, cisgender couples did was just not imaginable. It has been 4 years since same-sex marriage was made legal in all 50 states, but depending on an employer’s policy or individuals’ religious beliefs, benefits to LGBTQ folks are still not guaranteed.

In 2001, Vermont was the first state to offer civil unions. Vermont was my first home out of college and and it was here that I had my civil union ceremony; a handful of states later passed same-sex marriage within their own borders and those rights extended to other states with same-sex marriage laws. Vermont was one of those states and, in 2010, when my ex-partner was pregnant with our first child, we signed marriage paperwork too.

The legal protections for gay couples and their biological, non-biological, and adopted children have varied across the country in very confusing ways, were non-existent in some places, and even now are shaky at best.

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I am 40 years old and knew I was queer from a very early age. I was assigned female at birth and identified as a female for most of my life, so when I felt my first flicker of affection for another female when I was in elementary school, I knew my heart loved differently. I also knew different was wrong. I was closeted until the late-’90s, didn’t have a good coming out experience, and have struggled with bigotry and rejection for over 20 years. There have certainly been victories along the way, but since coming out as transgender, I am seeing more and more losses.

When Trump was elected, I was certain that it wouldn’t be long before the Supreme Court would reverse the 2015 ruling in the civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges which granted same-sex couples the right to get married in all of the United States. While this hasn’t happened yet, rights and basic human decency are continually being stripped from LGBTQIA+ folks in the workplace, health care settings, and in places of business.

Before legally able to do so, same-sex couples made commitments to one another in front of friends, chosen family, and sometimes family members who accepted their gay relative or child instead of rejecting them. Those lucky enough to witness love that didn’t require paperwork to prove its worth would create circles of support to strengthen the union. Kids have been a part of the mix too—it never took a court order for queer couples to be married with children.

We never wanted permission to marry; we only wanted protection within that marriage.

Many people (i.e. bigots) argued that same-sex marriage would ruin the sanctity of marriage. The perpetuated myth is that gay couples are all whips, chains, and kinky sex with no respect for love, marriage, or family values. Marriage, after all, is between a man and a woman. Marriage is meant for procreation. And what about the children!? Children need both a mother and a father. Clearly same-sex marriage erodes the idea of fidelity in straight marriages. Women need a man to protect them, and men need women to domesticate them.

Who’s going to break it to them that none of these things are true? Not it!

Even most recently, an Ohio politician blamed mass shootings on “homosexual marriage” because, according to her, that has led to the breakdown of the traditional American family. Who is going to tell her that “traditional” American families created the mass shooters? The gay agenda includes brunch, not murdering innocent folks because of racist, xenophobic, and homophobic beliefs.

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Just like same-sex marriages don’t take away from the “sanctity of straight marriage,” queer couples who divorce don’t take for granted our ability to get married in the first place.

Getting a divorce doesn’t mean I am trashing the rights I shouldn’t have had to fight for, nor does it mean I don’t value marriage. I didn’t get married to make a statement nor did I get married thinking my relationship would end in divorce. Like many couples, my relationship worked until it didn’t. Yet, there seems to be stigma around queer divorce, as if I should take my marriage more seriously because I should have been so thankful to finally have been given equal rights.

If you wanted to get married so badly, how could you just spit on it and throw it away? Because I didn’t. I and other LGBTQ folks should not be forced to stay in a marriage that isn’t working in order to preserve another queer couple’s ability to get married because of the ignorant opinions of some straight, cisgender folks. My ex and I did the brave and responsible act of showing our kids what it looks like to adjust relationships in a respectful way that ultimately benefits our family.

You don’t deserve marriage! Everyone has the right to marry who they love. I had the right to get married and I have the right to get divorced. I also have the right to get married again.

With the rise of LGBTQ families, the image of the traditional American family is changing. Queer people are getting married, having kids, and, yes, getting divorced. None of these are privileges I take for granted. The right to happiness, whether it’s the beginning or a beginning to an end, is something we all deserve.

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LGBTQ Asylum Seekers Face A Special Kind of Hell

There is a lot to know about the current immigration issues—none of which are easy to understand—but many of the conversations focus on families being separated. We see photos of children being taken from their caregivers. We hear about the awful conditions in detention centers. We see parents and children dying just to try to make it to the U.S. southern border, where, if they had made it, they would have been treated like animals. We can’t look away from these stories. We can’t forget the LGBTQ asylum seekers either. Members of the LGBTQ community need our attention too.

Allegra Love, an attorney and the Executive Director at Santa Fe Dreamers Project, works with transgender women crossing the U.S. southern border to help them seek and apply for asylum from the persecution they experience in Central American countries. Love told Scary Mommy that in Honduras, three transgender women have been murdered in the last week alone. LGBTQ people living in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala face unimaginable levels of discrimination, violence, and death. They flee their homes with the hope of finding protection in the United States. Unfortunately, even if they make it across the border, LGBTQ asylum seekers are still at risk for assault and death. Transgender women are some of the most vulnerable detainees.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, confirms what hundreds of transgender women have been telling Love since reaching the American border: “People are facing vicious discrimination in Central America due to their gender identities, and have absolutely nowhere to run for safety.”

Part of Love’s job with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project is to ensure immigrants arrive safely at the border; workers meet up with caravans and advise transgender women and gay men on their rights to seek asylum in the U.S. based on their gender identity.

Asserting their identity is supposed to afford them specific protections under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) rules, but when your gender identity is the reason your life is at risk, it’s hard to trust that declaring it to a foreign entity will provide different results. However, without the immediate self-advocacy, there is little chance a transgender woman or gay man will escape harassment and assault. Even with self-advocacy, LGBTQ asylum seekers are being treated horribly.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that 20% of the verified sexual abuse cases occurring in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) involve a transgender detainee. Assaults are perpetrated by both peer detainees and detention officers. Sadly, while some transgender women will be moved to appropriate “trans pods” for protection from this abuse, all transgender women start their stay in detention centers in cells segregated by sex and not gender. This means transgender women are sharing cells with cisgender men.

“Transgender women are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees,” reports the American Psychological Association. Yet, when they complain or report this abuse, they are placed in solitary confinement as a way to protect them. This segregation, however, perpetuates existing depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. It forces a transgender person to choose between abuse and solitary confinement. Neither physical nor mental health concerns of transgender asylum seekers are being taken care of.

The Nation reported that gay men were made to perform sexual favors to get food. Transgender women were told to walk “like men,” forced to shower in front of cisgender men, and were verbally and physically assaulted. And sometimes transgender asylum seekers are killed. Johana (Joa) Medina Leon and Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez both died in ICE custody in New Mexico recently. Both were transgender women and both died as a result of lack of proper medical care. The autopsy of Rodriguez revealed she had been beaten before death and had wounds indicative of handcuff injuries.

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The United Nations and ICE have standards of care in place for LGBTQ folks, but ICE isn’t following them. The United Nations characterizes solitary confinement as a form of torture, and a report issued in March 2019 by attorneys for the ACLU of New Mexico, Santa Fe Dreamers Project, and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center noted the dangerous and dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ immigrants at the Otero County Processing Center. Transgender women and gay men are being refused medical care, are being raped, and are being forced to choose to continue being physical violated or sent to solitary confinement for “safety.” This treatment goes against U.S. policies to protect LGBTQ folks.

A letter from the ACLU-NM, Las Americas, Santa Fe Dreamers Project reminds those in charge at Otero of their violations: “The 2015 ICE Memorandum on the Care of Detained Transgender People explicitly states that ICE Field Office Directors (“FODs”) should ‘consider whether the use of detention resources is warranted for a given individual and shall consider, on a case by case basis, all relevant factors in this determination, including whether an individual identifies as transgender…Discrimination or harassment of any kind based on a detainee’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is strictly prohibited.’ Discrimination against a person based on their gender identity or sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause.”

Yet we have women like Luz who experience the terror of being hunted and shot in Honduras for being transgender only to arrive in America to endure more attacks.

But there is hope. Even in a climate not always friendly nor free of discrimination for LGBTQ citizens, the United States is still a safer place to be queer than Central America. But queer asylum seekers, specifically transgender women, are not free to be themselves until they are free from detention centers, other detainees, and ICE. Love said there are three ways for this to happen: (1) A judge can grant bond; (2) ICE can release an asylum seeker through parole while they wait for their asylum hearing (which they continue to deny); or (3) a detainee can win their appeal for asylum.

The Sante Fe Dreamers Project has served over 200 transgender women, including working tirelessly to free the over 80 transgender women being imprisoned in Cibola County Correctional Center in the last year. But they need our help. One way to do this is by financially supporting the ground-level organizations working around the clock to be sure legal services are provided to these vulnerable, at-risk women.

Some of the amazing organizations gratefully accepting donations are: Santa Fe Dreams Project; RAICES (The Refugee And Immigrant Center For Education And Legal Services); Transgender Law Center; and Al Otro Lado. Advocacy groups which could use financial assistance include: Translatina Coalition; Trans Queer Pueblo, and Familia (Trans Queer Liberation Movement).

One of the most selfless acts you could do is to become a sponsor for a trans asylum seeker. When asylum seekers cross the border, they often come with family. This is often not the case for LGBTQ immigrants. Queer and transgender folks often flee their country because their family has rejected them or because they are rejected by society in a way their family is not. LGBTQ asylum seekers may lack community, and you could provide a transgender asylum seeker with a sense of support and family while they seek political asylum.

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Santa Fe Dreamers prioritizes sponsors in the Bay Area, Sacramento, LA, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Boston, and New York, yet encourages people from all over the US to reach out. They currently have at least 30 women awaiting placement. Showing Up For Social Justice and the Asylum-Seekers Sponsorship Project are other organizations that facilitate sponsorship of migrant LGBTQ individuals and families.

Luz, a transgender immigrant, reminds us that everyone deserves to live a life free from fear and violence. “I had already been imprisoned [in Honduras] and didn’t want to experience another situation like what I had been through.”

If you would like more information about becoming a sponsor, contact a trained volunteer to have an obligation-free conversation.

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If Your Support Of The LGBTQ+ Community Is Conditional, It Isn’t Really Support

Supporting people doesn’t mean that you have to live your life the way they live theirs. If you support the LGBTQ+ community, you’re saying you believe in their right to live. That’s literally all it is. To say that you support LGBTQ+ people and then add “but” means that you don’t support us. Support can’t be conditional when it comes to the existence of other people.

During the month of June, I saw a comment somewhere on the internet that said, “I support the LGBT community, but why do they have to celebrate Pride?” I don’t think shock accurately describes the state I was in. If you claim to support the LGBTQ+ community and question our need to celebrate Pride, you don’t support us, period. We absolutely must celebrate Pride, because it goes so much deeper than just being proud of being apart of the community. We’re celebrating the fact that we’re still here when there are plenty of people in the world who want us dead.

Whether people choose to believe it or not, the United States isn’t kind to LGBTQ+ people. Members of our community suffer violence at the hands of cisgender, heterosexual people every single day. And that violence manifests itself in all kinds of ways, not just the obvious, dangerous way. It could be something as simple as a dirty look when you’re holding hands with your same-sex partner. Telling your bisexual friend or family member that it’s “just a phase” is another. Or refusing to acknowledge the singular “they” is a valid pronoun to use for an individual. All of these are violent microaggressions that can lead to true danger.

Alex Kingsley/Pexel

Saying you support the LGBTQ+ community and then asking why we have to live our truth out in the open is demeaning. Our entire world is designed for cis-het people. We’re just starting to see advertisements featuring gay or queer couples or individuals, and half the time, it’s a blatant attempt at tokenism instead of just a natural choice. No one is out there saying, “I support straight people, but do they have to get married?” Instead we just buy you an overpriced serving dish, choke down dry chicken, and try to avoid talking to your homophobic uncle during dessert.

We live in a world where the cis-het narrative beats us over the head until we feel inferior. Until the 1970s, being LGBTQ was considered a mental disorder. Queer people literally believed that they were fucking mentally ill for their normal biological feelings. So many of them had no choice but to squeeze themselves into the narrow box of heterosexuality or be considered “crazy.” How is that a way to live? Saying that you support the community “but” basically shoves us back into the goddamn closet. And let me tell you, it’s not a pretty place.

Never do I see LGBTQ+ people recoil in horror at the thought of a man and a woman kissing. No parent of a queer kid is worrying that they’ll see heterosexuality on their TV shows and be confused. Straight people don’t have to “come out;” the world just assumes you’re straight until you tell them otherwise. And then it’s a constant nagging of, “well can you be?” just to make everyone else comfortable. And when do we get to be comfortable? When we’re dead?

Your support should not be dictated by whether or not members of the community live their lives to your standards. We don’t exist to please cis-het people, just like you all don’t live to please us. Forcing us to try and live the way you think we should live does nothing but reduce us to second or third class citizens. It makes us feel that by merely existing, somehow we’re doing something wrong. And trust me, that’s no way for people to live. We shouldn’t have to conduct ourselves by a stranger’s arbitrary standards just to be seen as equals.

To support the LGBTQ+ community, you must have a complete sense of empathy. You may not understand our lifestyle, and that’s fine. You may say, “I could never live like that,” and again, we’re not going to try to convert you. We’re not asking you to be an equal partner, but we’re asking for you to stand beside us and behind us. You can walk a mile with us without putting on our shoes. Your support is built into the rocket that helps propel our fight for acceptance and respect forward. Supporting us is taking the time to, at the very least, try to understand the struggles we go through. To support the community is to take the time and do your homework. Be aware of not only our current state, but where we began. When you say “but,” you’re proving that you not only lack empathy, but also compassion.

If you’re choosing to be an ally (which is what you’re saying when you claim to support the LGBTQ+ community), you can’t put conditions on it. Being an ally means fully showing up for the group of people you’re choosing to support. It’s not their job to exist within the parameters of your support. And if you need to show your support with the word “but,” then trust me, we don’t want it.

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This Is The Pain Of Drifting Away From Your Longtime Bestie

We have known each other for nearly 25 years. We were inseparable in high school, fiercely loyal to one another. We called each other sisters. She’s an only child, and I have one brother. We said we had always wanted a sister and so we became each other’s.

We even went away to college together, became roommates. We studied together and looked out for each other on our many drunken nights out. We supported each other in our early careers, sharing job contacts, encouraging each other when our confidence waned.

She married and had kids before I did, and I observed her experiences with awe and longing. She seemed to get everything right on the first try. It took me a while to get pregnant, but when I did, she was there to give honest feedback. To me, she looked as though she always knew what she was doing, but she told me the truth about how hard it is to be a mother. She is an aunt to my daughters. They adore her. We visited each other regularly, even vacationed together. Our kids are honorary cousins.

But, in the last few years, something has shifted. We both have families, but mine is changing. Last year I came out as gay to my ex, and a couple of months ago I moved into a new house. My ex and I now share time with our girls. They are adjusting well though my ex husband and I still struggle to get along. We are kind to each other in front of the kids, but this has not been what I would call a low-conflict separation.

And through this, my best friend has drifted away from me. Or have I drifted away from her? When my ex told me being gay was a sin and that he would fight to get sole custody of our daughters, that he didn’t want them to be exposed to my “lifestyle,” my best friend played devil’s advocate for him, saying he was just angry, he probably didn’t mean what he was saying.

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While other friends of mine told me they would support me no matter what, that they understood I didn’t have a choice in my sexuality, that my children would be okay, my best friend worried about how my ex felt. Some of my friends who have been through divorce gave me advice based on their own experiences. They connected me to resources that could help me transition my girls from a single-home family to a two-home family in the least traumatic way possible. My best friend regularly wondered aloud how my ex was faring.

She and her husband have a rocky relationship. Last year she discovered he was having an emotional affair with a woman from work. It isn’t the first time it’s happened. She is in her own headspace and has her reasons for staying. I am there for her when she needs me and I’ll be there for no matter if she chooses to stay or go, but she and she alone can make that decision. I can’t tell her what to do.

Meanwhile, she gives me advice I didn’t ask for and don’t need or want to hear right now. I feel a thick wall building between us. It’s almost as though she feels that my ex has experienced something like what she experienced. A betrayal. As if my discovery of my sexuality is akin to having had an affair. “I get why he lashes out,” she tells me. “I have lashed out too and it’s just really hard to control yourself when you’re that hurt.”

I DIDN’T JUST DECIDE TO BE GAY, I want to scream at her. And then I wonder if she feels trapped in her own marriage and sees my leaving as something she wishes she had the courage to do. I can’t figure out why she keeps defending my ex.

Our differences have manifested in other smaller ways too. Her kids are enrolled in multiple extra-curricular activities, while my girls are content to read books and climb trees in their free time. I’m more than happy to let them do that, but my friend has said I should push them more. “Colleges want kids to be well-rounded,” she says in a tone I find condescending. My kids are in fucking middle school. Chill. But am I being overly sensitive? I don’t judge her for having a busy schedule and her kids having no free time even though I very much enjoy the free time I have with my girls. I think all kids deserve some free time. I think boredom is important and useful. But my friend’s way of doing things seems to work for her family, so I never comment on her busy schedule. Why does she comment on mine?

That’s another difference between us that baffles me. I don’t comment on our differences. I don’t suggest she change the way she does things to more like how I do things. Her family eats all organic, and last time she visited, when she came to my new house, she made a special trip to the store because my food wasn’t chemical-free enough for her. She asked if I “knew” what was in the icy pops I’d bought for the kids. I mean, it was a cheap treat to keep lots of kids happy for a single weekend. Who cares? Did she need to make me feel poor and like a shitty hostess?

It feels awful to say, but I have the sense she feels superior to me. She seems to think her life is picture-perfect, that there is something heroic about her determination to keep her family together, that her busyness and obsessive attention to detail make her better than me. But I can’t even be mad at her because I also feel a sense of superiority over her. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m not willing to sacrifice myself or fake it for a life that looks good in pictures only to suffer behind the scenes. I have found joy in a truth and simplicity that she seems not to know exists.

Or maybe it’s not exactly that I feel superior, it’s just that I feel it would be useless to try to explain myself. I’ve been through the ugly and have made it to the other side, and she’s still working hard to put on a show to prove to everyone how perfect and happy she is. And I guess none of that would faze me if she didn’t keep doling out unsolicited advice.

It breaks my heart that we’ve drifted away from each other like this. We called each other sisters and now we put time between our phone calls and texts. When we finally do talk, there’s a tension in our conversations.

It hurts. I wish I could have my old friend back. I wish she would have supported me better through my divorce, tried to understand my point of view rather than my ex’s. I wish she’d respect that my way of doing things isn’t and doesn’t have to be the same as hers. I wish she’d just love and support me the way I want to love and support her. I miss my friend that used to be unwaveringly loyal.

I miss her, and I hope we find our way back to each other one day.

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Coming Out As LGBTQ Isn’t ‘Trendy’

It surely would seem that suddenly there’s a wave of people coming out as part of the LGBTQ+ community. In the last few years, I’ve come out formally to my friends and family as queer. Many of my friends have also become more open about discussing the fact that they identify as something other than heterosexual or cisgender. We finally feel comfortable admitting that we’ve been hiding a large part of who we are for long enough. Because more people are living their truth, it would seem that coming out as LGBTQ+ might be the “cool thing.” But as anyone who is actually out will tell you, being out isn’t trendy. It’s actually makes you very vulnerable.

As someone who has come out multiple times, it’s not an easy thing to do. Speaking your truth, out loud to other people is really scary. Especially to people who you know and love. There’s certainly a worry that people will reject you. That fear of rejection is enough to keep people unhappily in the closet for years. You’d think that as you say it out loud more, coming out would get easier, but it doesn’t. Every single time is just as scary as the time before.

Even though it’s super scary to come out, there are more safe spaces to do so. That could be why it seems like more people are doing it. Social media gives people the community they need to live their truth, even if it’s just a little bit. After coming out publicly, many of my friends revealed that they, too, were out and we all felt a little less alone.

And those safe spaces are what destigmatize the community. We’re making great strides towards true inclusion, which makes it easier for more people to be out. But those steps don’t mean that being out is trendy. It means that people are feeling more comfortable to be themselves. This is especially true with younger generations, who are already less obsessed with identifying labels. As they see the advancements we’ve made, they are more comfortable with just being who they are.

But, whether people want to believe it or not, being out isn’t trendy simply because, despite the strides, we still live in a world focused on heterosexual and cisgender. For every person who is accepting of our lifestyle, there are many others who think that we’re sick freaks. And the people who feel that way have huge platforms and power, like heads of state and religious leaders. When the people in power think you’re living some sort of twisted lifestyle, they’re going to do everything in their power to strip you of every right you have.

We’ve seen this countless times with the current administration. Pretty much since the beginning, the Trump administration has actively been trying to strip away the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. This administration flat out denied U.S. Embassy buildings from flying the Pride flag on embassy flagpoles for the month. They have recently also announced plans to implement a new policy where members of the community can be denied the right to adopt children for “religious exemptions.” This follows a similar rule through the Department of Health and Human Services where doctors can claim this same exemption to deny LGBTQ+ Americans health care services.

While the whole LGBTQ+ community is certainly under siege, none are more at risk than the transgender community. Being trans, especially a transperson of color (even more specifically a woman) is deadly in the country. And the Trump administration just keeps doing more and more to make their lives more dangerous and difficult. This includes housing discrimination, mainly focused around federal monies going towards homeless shelters. They’ve also rescinded the bathroom ordinance set by the Obama administration, which gives students protection to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. And of course, there’s the military ban.

Being out isn’t trendy when you can go out with your girlfriend and get the shit beaten out of you. The lesbian couple who openly shared the story of being attacked by a group of men for refusing to kiss aren’t an anomaly. Lesbians are often festishized by hetero csigender men. This, combined with an overwhelming sense of entitlement leads to them thinking that lesbians exist for their enjoyment, like porn come to life.

While I’ve been fortunate to not have been physically attacked, I have encountered men like this too. Ones who feel that if they see two women on a date, they have a right to insert themselves. They’ve asked inappropriate questions, crossed physical boundaries, and been generally creepy. Once, a man approached my date and me and told us that his girlfriend was interested in us. He was basically trying to proposition us to have a threesome with his girlfriend, likely while he watched. We laughed it off uncomfortably, and waited until after they had been gone for a bit to leave. It’s easy to say that we should have stuck up for ourselves more, but we were shocked and terrified.

Plus, for every person who comes out to their families and is embraced, there are several who aren’t. Being out gets kids and adults disowned from their families and kicked out of houses. Knowing that the people who should be on your side are going to shun your for who you are? That isn’t trendy, that’s fucking brave. Because those kids and adults have to literally start living their lives all over. But they’re stuck out in the middle of the ocean with no compass and no map. Being out isn’t trendy when you can end up alone.

That’s why you can’t call an influx in people not wanting to hide “trendy.” Being out isn’t trendy; it’s an act of bravery. Because there are plenty of terrible things that can happen to just because you want to be yourself. Living out and proud as a member of the LGBTQ+ community takes a lot of courage, even if it doesn’t seem that way. Living your life the way you want to, even though you know a lot of people are against you is hard. Even with the best support system, you are still vulnerable.

So if you think that people finally getting fed up with hiding themselves is a sudden “trend,” you might want to have a better understanding of the word.

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Why You Should Add Your Pronouns To Your Email Signatures And Name Tags

“Hi. My name is Amber. I use they/them pronouns.” This is how I introduce myself in most if not all situations when I’m around people who I haven’t met before. I add my pronouns to hand-written name tags. I wear a pin stating my pronouns. I have added my pronouns to my email signature. I make it very clear how I want to be addressed. And because I want to be sure to address you properly I will ask you what pronouns you use. It’s time for you to start including your pronouns with your name. I am asking you to tell me how you would like to be addressed before I need to ask.

I can hear many of you saying, “But WHY?!” And if not that, I imagine you could be saying one of these other statements I have also heard:

“Why should I have to tell you my pronouns? Everyone can see I am a woman.”

“Why is this being forced on me?”

“If a person’s pronouns are different than what I assume them to be, it is that person’s job to be clear. How am I supposed to know?!”

“How do I do this without it feeling weird?”

“What if I mess up?”

“Ugh. This is too much. Why do I have to be so PC all the time?”

The simplest answer to your questions is respect. One of the most respectful things you can do is get someone’s pronouns correct, especially if that person is gender nonconforming, transgender, or nonbinary (which is also a transgender person, but whose gender is not specifically male or female). In order to do this, the first thing you need to do is stop using gendered language in your everyday speech. Stop saying “Hello, ladies and gentlemen” or “Sorry, Sir” or “How can I help you, Ma’am?” And stop applying these words to people who you think are male or female. You are making people cringe, making them feel less than, and excluding them from the conversation. In other words, using gendered language and assuming someone’s pronouns makes you look really ignorant and like an ass.

Because of the heteronormative bias that assumes all people are straight, cisgender, and binary people who follow stereotypical gender roles and appearances, most people make assumptions about someone’s gender based on cues they have learned from the movies, books, and television. When people see long hair, breasts, or hips, their brains label the person with these traits as female. And often people see height, hard edges, and short hair as masculine traits. While it’s true that most men have short hair and most women have breasts, these are not statements that can be applied to all men and all women. Nor can gender be assumed to be one or the other.

People don’t realize the privilege of being gendered and having that gender match their identity and expression they present to the world. So while you may think it’s obvious that you are a man or a woman, there are many people who do not—nor should we be expected to—meet your ideal standards of gender. Instead of being annoyed that you have to state what seems to you to be apparent, consider what it would be like to have to constantly explain yourself, to be judged, harassed, attacked for not looking the way you “should.” Consider what it would feel like despite being a woman, even presenting as one, to have someone constantly call you a man. Consider how it would feel if people disregarded all of the information you present so they can feel more comfortable with what they think you should call yourself.

My gender identity is nonbinary. I am both male and female. Usually I just feel like me, but I am always a mix of both genders, and my gender expression is masculine. People often misgender me. It is a pretty even mix of being called either male or female. Because I have a feminine name, when I am on the phone with people, I get called ma’am. When I walk into new spaces, I am often called sir or referred to as he, then people quickly switch to ma’am or she when someone takes a closer look and sees that I have breasts—which causes me tremendous dysphoria. I tell people my pronouns because I don’t want to be frustrated and further hurt by what people think they know about me based on my name or physical self.

I also state my pronouns so others feel safe in my presence. I know what it feels like to be left out of conversations, so when I talk to people, I am sure to use non-gendered and inclusive language. There is so much value in adding inclusivity for LGBTQIA+ folks in all places, specifically in work and learning places. When acceptance and respect rise so do confidence, self-worth, and productivity.

And no one is forcing anything on you. Stating your pronouns or asking someone theirs is in line with the same common courtesy as saying please and thank you. You may make a few mistakes; keep trying but without putting too much emotional labor on the person you misgendered. Also, you will make fewer mistakes by creating space for people to feel comfortable telling you how they identify. When I see someone’s pronouns on their name tag or hear them announce it, it tells me they are willing to learn about mine. It gives me and others “permission” to fall outside of the norm. It allows us to breathe a little easier and know you are an ally or ready to be one.

An important thing to remember is to make this practice a universal one. Don’t single out trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming folks. At the start of every meeting have everyone state their name and pronouns. And if you ask someone to clarify theirs, then be sure you are asking everyone in the room. Also, listen and correct. If you hear someone say the pronouns they want people to use, use them. And if you overhear someone misgender another coworker, friend, or student, gently remind them of the person’s proper pronouns.

With a willingness to learn and practice you can create LGBTQIA+ safe and affirming spaces. Your discomfort with something new will make someone else feel more comfortable with something they struggle with all of the time.

Including your pronouns isn’t about political correctness; it’s about kindness and respect.

The post Why You Should Add Your Pronouns To Your Email Signatures And Name Tags appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why You Need To Put ‘Pose’ On Your Must-Watch List

If you’re on the hunt for a new show that you can binge, have I got a suggestion for you? Pose. Never heard of it? That’s okay, the FX show aired its eight-episode first season last summer to critical acclaim, and now, it’s available for bingeing on Netflix.

Pose was created by Ryan Murphy, of Glee and American Horror Story fame. Taking place in 1987 New York City, much of the story revolves around underground ball culture. Balls consist of primarily Black and Latinx members of the LGBTQ+ community, many who are gay or transgender. Since two of the creators — Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk — are white men, there was a very real fear that the show wouldn’t be representative of the community it represented. But thankfully, Murphy and Falchuk brought in Steven Canals, a black, brown queer man as the show’s co-creator. And they assembled a team of crew, writers, and actors who are diverse as the world they’re representing on the show.

“There are 140 trans actors and crew members on this show, and 35 L.G.B.T.Q. characters who aren’t trans,” Murphy explained in an interview with The New York Times. One of those people is trans activist Janet Mock, who serves as a producer, writer and director.

Unlike many previous films and TV shows, trans characters are actually being played by trans actors. Five of the main characters are trans women, and it’s certainly more impactful seeing members of the trans community getting to tell the stories of their own community.

FX Network

“Every day that I’m on set, I’m reminded of the struggles, the hardships, the deaths and the murders that all of my brothers and sisters have endured and are still enduring,” Hailie Sahar, who plays Lulu Abundance says in an interview with TimeOut New York.

Here’s a brief history lesson on the world of Pose. Described as a “celebration of the life that the rest of the world does not deem worthy of celebration,” the show centers around ball culture of the ’80s. The height of self-expression, balls consist of performers who walk (or compete) for trophies. Usually, the performers are apart of a “house,” or a family of your own choosing, consisting of a mother or father and their “children,” usually newer members of the community. House members often come together after being disowned by their biological families because of their gender identity or sexuality. Sometimes children will leave the house to form their own houses, something that the show addresses in the first episode when Blanca leaves the House of Abundance to form her own house, the House of Evangelista.

Pose FX family Angel

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On the flip side of the underground lifestyle portrayed on the show, we get to see glimpses of mainstream NYC in the late ’80s, when Wall St. and “yuppies” were the ruling class. The show pulls back the curtain on this lifestyle through the character of Stan, a typical white guy from New Jersey who works in Trump Tower and wants a taste of the power that comes from a job in this world.

Naturally, the show focuses on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 1987, it was ravaging New York City, especially the LGBTQ community. The reality of the epidemic isn’t sugarcoated by any means in Pose. You can feel the fear pulsing through the veins of characters as they discuss this part of life. The conversations Blanca and Pray Tell have about the disease will grip you.

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“We’re not masking it. We’re giving you the truth,” Dominique Jackson, who plays the villainous Elektra Abundance tells TimeOut New York. Blanca, played by MJ Rodriguez is truly the heartbeat of the show. Her HIV diagnosis at the start of the first episode propels the action forward. From forming her own house, to fighting for service in a gay bar, Blanca’s focus is to create a legacy. “I think a lot of women back in the ’80s wanted to fight for the generation that’s going to come, and I think that’s what Blanca is,” Rodriguez explains to TimeOut NY.

It would have been easy to turn Pose into trauma porn, exploiting the struggles of the trans community. But while the struggle is definitely part of the story because it has to be, it is the undercurrent of the action. Angel, the aptly named trans sex worker played by the ethereal Indya Moore understands that her work is a means to an end. But all she really wants is for a man to love her for who she is. But at the same time, she struggles to get a job working in a department store. As we hear stories about transwomen of color being murdered, we realize that as far as things have come for the LGBTQ community, the T part is still largely ignored.

Jojo Whilden/FX Network

And you can’t talk about the cast without mentioning the tour de force performance of Billy Porter. The character of Pray Tell was literally made for him, though he initially auditioned for another part. Pray Tell is the father figure for many of the characters, but he is carrying a very heavy burden on his shoulders. As an older black, gay man, he is wise beyond his years.

Pose FX Blanca and Pray Tell

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On the yuppie side, Stan is played by Evan Peters. Stan admits he doesn’t know who he is, but he finds himself drawn to Angel after picking her up by the pier. At first you expect it to turn into some sort of Pretty Woman-esque fairy tale, but this is real life. Kate Mara plays his wife, Patty, a woman who finds herself thrown into the deep end of a world she isn’t sure she wants to be a part of. And James Van Der Beek plays Stan’s boss Matt, who is arguably the villain in their story.

Pose is a glimpse into the not-too-distant past. The ball culture is still alive and well, and influencing a lot of our current culture. We wouldn’t have a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race without the people represented by Pose. Things we say — “shade” and “read for filth” are phrases uttered by characters on the show. If you saw coverage of this year’s Met Gala and wondered what “camp” is, it derives from the world of ball culture. To understand where we are now, we must look to the past, and Pose does just that.

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The new season of Pose airs on FX starting on June 11th.

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LGBTQ History Needs To Be Part Of Every School’s Curriculum

When we study history, we are studying past events. We are examining, celebrating, and sometimes cringing at significant happenings that shaped a location and the people living there. Sometimes an event or movement is so large that it has a butterfly effect; the impact ripples across nations and through cultures.

History shows us what works and what doesn’t. History foreshadows the present and helps us navigate the future. The people who made memorable history come in many genders, races, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, and sexual orientations. Yup, whether you like it or not, lots of LGBTQ folks have left beautiful marks on this world and their accomplishments, the LGBTQ history makers, need to be a part of every school’s curriculum.

Plenty of people don’t like it, though. Parents in Rocklin School District outside of Sacramento recently pulled 700 children out of classes because the new, narrowly passed curriculum was going to include the accomplishments of LGBTQ Americans.

SPOILER ALERT: Your kids have been learning about queer folks for a long time. There are plenty of closeted and unconfirmed LGBTQIA+ people already in your child’s text books. Sally Ride, Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonardo Da Vinci, Steve Jobs—okay that last one wasn’t really unconfirmed, but you can thank a queer (Jobs’ business partner, Tim Cook) for giving you that smart phone in your and your kid’s pocket. Anyway, the protest was started because—gasp—we are showing our students that LGBTQ people deserve respect and credit too.

The school district has 12,000 students, so plenty of parents either didn’t care enough to keep their children away from said human decency or support Rocklin’s decision to have a thoughtful and inclusive curriculum, with lessons geared to start in second grade. Protesting parents thought that kids at that age would be confused about LGBTQ people and that 7- and 8-year-olds should not be exposed to “those” topics at such a young age.

First of all, I see you bigots. Stop sexualizing LGBTQ people. If people would see me and my queer friends as humans first and not sexual deviants and pedophiles, they would see that our lives are not that different or controversial. We really just want safe places to live, loving partners, and secure jobs—you know, equality. Some of us have big ideas and the motivation to go with them to make the world a better and more creative place. We have the determination to start revolutions and fight for what should be basic human needs. LGBTQ pioneers and innovators have been making the world better for everyone, including the bigots who pulled their kids—many who I promise you will eventually come out as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community—from class. They deserve to have their names be known.

And all students need to know them too. According to the Human Rights Campaign 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report, only 13% of youth report hearing positive messages about being LGBTQ in school. The report also revealed that only 26% of LGBTQ students always feel safe in the classroom. There is a direct relationship here, friends. It’s not just the negative messages that are born out of and perpetuate bigotry and bullying, it’s the lack of positive conversations about LGBTQ people and topics. We can’t educate allies and we can’t support LGBTQ folks if we avoid talking about them.

Also, it’s American history. Fucking teach it.

When kids are not exposed to all types of families and genders, they think heterosexual relationships and cisgender, binary genders are the norm. When kids are not allowed to bust gender stereotypes and play with gender expressions that best match exactly who they are, there is a very clear message sent that there are expectations on what it means to be masculine and feminine and who is allowed to hold onto those characteristics. And for the LGBTQ kids who do not fit this heteronormative narrative, they are told they are weird, different, and wrong.

Normalizing all kinds of people and the ways they love benefits those LGBTQ kids who feel unsafe. Representation makes a kid feel less alone—whether they are out or not—and helps build allies and a baseline of respect for what some kids are never exposed to because they live with bigoted parents. We all have gender, expression, and sexuality. We all have a need to be seen and celebrated, and the sooner we can encourage this at school, the better.

Illinois is trying to become the first state in the Midwest to pass a bill that would require schools to include LGBTQ topics and individuals into the curriculum. Mike Ziri, policy director at Equality Illinois said, “That could be contributions of folks like Harvey Milk, or Jane Addams. You know, it could be the history of the civil rights work at Stonewall in New York City in 1969. All of this rich history is omitted from curricula and from history.”

And Rachel Henry, Sacramento LGBT Community Center spokeswoman, added this: “There are several empirical studies that show textbook curriculum that is explicitly inclusive of the LGBTQ+ has dramatically positive effects on school climate for both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ students. Students of marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, have a right to see themselves reflected in the history that they study.”

We can’t be successful unless we are seen, and for queer kids there are few better ways to feel understood than in the pages of a textbook meant to teach the importance of LGBTQ people.

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Why It’s So Hard For Women To Talk About Being LGBTQ+

Coming out as anything other than heterosexual (which doesn’t actually require coming out) is hard. People tend not to believe us. Getting up the courage to come out is hard enough, but to then have your sexuality questioned can make the process traumatic.

Women and gender non-conforming folx who identify as queer — whether it be lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or even those who choose not to label their sexuality — are often told their sexuality is just a phase. When they come out, it’s like, “Oh, you’re just confused, you’ll meet a nice man and you’ll realize you were wrong.” But, for most of us, that could not be farther from our truth.

I’ve known about my attraction to women since I was a tween. But during my teen years, I didn’t know how to bring something like that up in conversation. So I never talked about it with my friends. But then I met a girl who I liked, and she was my first kiss. When I told my friends about it, they didn’t react quite as I anticipated. They all kind of shrugged it off, not really taking me seriously. We had plenty of queer friends in our circle, but because I mostly came off as “boy crazy” (I wasn’t really), I was seen as less credible.

Every few years, if it came up in conversation, one of those friends would say, “Remember your bi phase?” as if it was just something I was trying on because the opportunity presented itself. When someone you trust doesn’t take your sexuality seriously, it makes it hard to trust anyone with that part of yourself. For most of the subsequent years, I only felt comfortable sharing my sexuality with friends who were openly queer. I knew there wouldn’t be any judgment from them. More often than not, they understood my hesitation on sharing my sexuality widely.

Having people not take your sexuality seriously is even harder when you choose to be in a relationship with a man. People seem to have no problem erasing your queerness because you’re with someone of the opposite gender. Queer women who are in relationships with men aren’t any less queer.

When I met my ex (a man), I was young, and after the experience I had coming out with my friends in high school, I kind of packed it away. I did come out to him as bisexual fairly early in our relationship. He had a right to know, even if I didn’t have any intention on acting on it during our relationship. It was just an unspoken part of our relationship.

My ex and I were together for six years and had a child together. After our relationship ended, I wasn’t interested in dating again right away. I chalked this up to having been in a long term relationship and having a small child at home.

But after two years of being single, something happened. I realized that I wanted to date — I just didn’t want to date men.

About six months prior, I had publicly come out as bisexual. It felt like the right time to finally be honest about myself with the world. Once the door was open, I felt more secure in myself. When I started dating, I acknowledged my relationship with a man and our child, but I made it clear that romantic relationships with men were a part of my past, but not my future.

Sometimes, women realize later in life that they’re queer. So, they’re navigating completely new territory and then have to figure out how to share it with the world. Because they know there are going to be questions as people try to grapple with their new normal. We’ve seen this happen several times with high profile women whom the public had known to be in relationships with men. When actress Cynthia Nixon revealed she was in a relationship with a woman after having been with her male partner for more than 15 years (they have two children together as well), people didn’t know what to make of it. Initially Nixon didn’t go on TV and make some grand statement about being “gay.” She was simply in a relationship with someone new, and that someone happened to be a woman.

Why is it that we still can’t seem to understand that sexuality is a spectrum? Over time, things can shift. Coming out is rarely easy, and by now we know that it is hard for women to do. Because society still expects women to settle down with men and raise families. So many of us will do that, simply because we think it’s what we should be doing. But deep down, we know that isn’t what we want to be doing.

Or we don’t come out, because we have convinced ourselves that we can’t possibly be gay. Even when the signs are all right there in front of us, we’ll deny it. Because it’s easier to play into the role society has painted for us than to come out and be who we are. But that has its own set of damaging effects on our lives down the line.

For women, non-binary, trans, and gender non-conforming folx, it takes a lot to come out. As far as we’ve progressed as a society, this is something that we’re still very behind on. Hopefully, as attitudes toward sexuality continue to progress, we will be able to live our truths on our own terms, whenever we feel comfortable doing so.

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If Your Spouse Is A Bigot, You Can’t Call Yourself An Ally

A meme went up on Scary Mommy’s Instagram recently that said, “If your husband or boyfriend is homophobic, you’re not an ally.”

Hoooooboy did that comment section blow up with a whole lotta “Um, my husband’s/boyfriend’s opinions/views have nothing to do with me.” (I’m assuming there was some indignant hair flipping involved too.)

I don’t even know where to start breaking down this barf-worthy defense. I guess we can start by pointing out that everyone who left a comment like this just outed their partner as a bigot. Gross.

Also, homophobia isn’t an “opinion.” It’s not a “view,” either. It’s bigotry, plain and simple. Denying an entire group of people’s basic human rights, or thinking they’re weird or sinful or wrong or gross, or even just being kinda squeaked out by the things you assume they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms—is BIGOTRY. It’s all fucking bigotry, people, and if you live with it and sleep by it and cook dinner for it and raise kids with it and have sex with it, but don’t say shit else about it, then you’re guilty by association.

Some of you never had your mama tell you that you are the company you keep, and it shows.

I get it, though, I do. You married young. You met during college where you had two super gay friends that your husband always seemed cool with and sometimes even pretend-flirted with when he was drunk. So you thought your husband was open-minded about this stuff. It wasn’t until later when he refused to watch Will and Grace with you because Jack was “too much” that you wondered if maybe he wasn’t as open-minded as you thought. And so you watched Will and Grace alone. And also Broke Back Mountain. Boys Don’t Cry you watched together though, because two vaginas. That scene from Black Swan was pretty hot too, amiright?

I know how this goes because I was you. I was in a marriage with a man who, though he wasn’t openly hateful toward the gay community, he was clearly uncomfortable whenever a conversation took a turn for the queer. I have always spoken openly and honestly about queer topics around our kids and our friends, and my ex used to get real squirmy and awkward whenever I did this.

The kicker? I’m gay. For years, because I didn’t want to break up my family, I tried to convince myself I was bisexual. I kept telling myself, If my husband can be okay with my being bisexual, if I believe he supports me, I can stay in this life.

So I would test him in little ways. Telling him I was pretty sure I was bisexual went… not so great. He acted like he was fine with it but then avoided the topic after that. Still, I needed to feel I belonged in the LGBTQ community. I needed to feel seen. I invited my husband to marches and parades and other LGBTQ-supportive events. He came to some, but always reluctantly. It was as if he knew he was being tested, and if he didn’t pass, he would lose me.

Ultimately, it wouldn’t have mattered because I am gay, not bisexual. There wasn’t any way I could carry on pretending I was happy living a life that wasn’t mine.

But what I never did, and what I should have done, was ask my husband point-blank how he felt about gay people. I should have asked whether he believed in equal rights, whether he was against all forms of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Asking that question put so much on the line for me though. I was terrified. Even back when I hoped I was bisexual, when I so desperately wanted to be seen, if he had answered those questions wrong, it would have meant the end for us. It would have meant tearing apart our family.

All over an “opinion.”

Except, it’s not an opinion. It’s a harmful belief system, and it’s fucking wrong. Since coming out to my ex, he has clearly stated that he feels being gay is wrong. He has said there is something wrong with the world “these days” and asked what the world is coming to. He has threatened not to allow my daughters around me when I find a partner. He says he doesn’t want them to be exposed to my “lifestyle.” He says it could be confusing for them.

I hate myself for not seeing this in him sooner. I hate myself for not having the courage to ask him point-blank. I know he is angry, he feels like homosexuality is the enemy now because it broke up his family, but I don’t think any of the hateful things he’s said were things he said only out of anger. I think he means this stuff.

And so, even if I were 100% straight, I could never have stayed with this man. I will have to share parenting duties with him, but I’ll be damned if he infects my children with his hateful rhetoric. I may not have stood up to him during our marriage, but I sure as shit will stand up to him now. Funny how, when you become the target of discrimination, you suddenly get a hell of a lot fucking stronger. Because there isn’t any other choice.

So, for all you women who claim your husband’s opinions aren’t a reflection on you, think about what would happen if one of your children came out to you. Are you okay with being married to someone who is capable of rejecting their own child? Are you okay with being married to someone who would rather lose their child than accept them for who they are?

I’m not saying all of these women should immediately dump their husbands and boyfriends. I’m saying they need to have a frank discussion with their men. Call them out for their homophobic bullshit. Because I know from personal experience that what may seem like a harmless personally held belief really is a deep, festering sore. It may lie dormant and half-forgotten for years, but I promise you it will one day make itself known. It will spread its infection, and when it does, it will cause catastrophic damage.

Because, odds are, someone you love is gay or transgender. Odds are, someday you will have to choose between the one you’ve exchanged vows with and someone else you love. The choice will be between one person who is trying to live their life as authentically as possible because if they don’t, they will die, and your husband who has an “opinion” on how people are supposed to fall in love.

This isn’t a choice anyone should have to make, and yet here we are because bigotry. So get it together, people. Confront your partners. Get them on board, or get them the fuck out of your life. Otherwise, you are no ally to us.

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