Russian Roulette

1 11 2017

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Shortly after the new administration took over our country, and after I marched on Washington DC, I attended a Women in Business conference. It’s an annual event that is inspiring and empowering, and the overnight format really allows you to have some deeper conversations that really help you to connect with other women. After spending a late night in the Platt 99 bar with Cindy Solomon buying rounds of drinks, I failed to sleep in, and stumbled downstairs to get breakfast.

In the hotel restaurant, I was seated at a two-top by myself, which I was perfectly content with, seeing as how my introverted self hadn’t had a moment alone in 24 hours (awake, that is). I ordered myself a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, then proceeded to go circumnavigate the buffet like a shark, quickly honing in on the roasted potatoes and bell peppers. With a perfect balance of indulgence and restraint, I sat back down to enjoy my plate of food, when I heard another woman call my name.

 

“Kelly!” her heavy Russian accent called out, “Would you like to join us?” I smiled and obliged, moving my things to her nearby table. The invitation came from a woman I had met at dinner the night before. She works as an executive assistant in another department and the same large institution I work for, and I learned all about her recent move from rural Indiana. She introduced me to a young woman, also Russian, also an executive assistant for a large company. Both were in a very relaxed state of exhaustion, and the younger woman was enjoying a bloody Mary with her meal.

 

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Over the course of our breakfast, they were reminiscing about some of their Russian cultural heritage, excited to share with an outsider like me who is interested in culture. “Russian woman,” my colleague shared, “NEVER go outside without full face and hair done. It would be tragedy!” They both laughed. “Oh?” I questioned, “That’s actually a lot like how Southern women used to be in the U.S.! My aunt in Texas talked about how you wouldn’t even step outside to grab the newspaper without full makeup on.”

The conversation went on to share about how the younger woman’s American husband struggled to understand Russian habits. When they visited Russia, he innocently smiled and said hello to everyone they passed, while the local people glared back at him like he was an insane asylum escapee to be weary of. I shared my own observations about how people in cold climates tend to walk faster and smile less, because they are focusing on getting someplace above freezing, whereas southerners lollygag and pause for sweet conversations in the shade to prevent the inevitable perspiration. “But once you KNOW someone in Russia,” the younger woman continued, “they will welcome you with open arms, and they will feed you endless foods and drinks, and be incredibly friendly to you!” They both laughed and nodded in agreement, and insisted, “You really MUST come visit Russia!”

Russland, Moskau, Basiliuskathedrale

I smiled, as the thought perforated my mind. I do SO love getting invitations from people to visit a foreign country as a friend instead of as a tourist. But then reality flashed onto my frontal lobe, like a jolt of lightening. I hesitated how to delicately share the truth. “I’d love to see Russia someday, but it’s not very safe for me right now.” I hoped they would have a sudden realization and then nod in agreement and let it go. Instead, I got two very puzzled looks back.

 

_96558973_gayrusafp1may13I swallowed, realizing that I would have to spell it out. “Well, it’s illegal to be gay in Russia. I could be arrested and jailed if I go there.” Surely, now, they would feel sheepish about their ignorance and say something mildly apologetic before switching the subject, right?

 

“No, that’s not true,” one of them said confidently. “You heard some lies.”

olympics_are_gay_propaganda_2053775“Um, no, it’s the law in Russia. It was passed just before they hosted the 2014 Olympics. It was a really big deal because numerous athletes from other countries ended up not going to compete because they feared for their safety.”

“No, that is fake news. You heard a bad story from not good source.”

fake-news_bigNow I was a little annoyed at their insistence that what I was telling them was not factual. “No, it was not just one story. Every major news source reported the same thing. There are video clips of Russian officials talking about the new laws and the implications for LGBT Russians and visitors.”

“Really? It must have been a bad translation. Sometimes the American TV translates one things and the Russian says something totally different. In any case, you would be fine in Russia. Nobody cares.”

Okay, now I was beyond annoyed, but also curious. How could these two Russian expats, one in her 50s, one in her 20s, both completely deny a basic fact that is LAW in Russia?

130919083221-putin-protest-exlarge-169“That’s great that most people you know don’t care if someone is gay, but the fact is that the government has passed a law making it punishable to exhibit non-traditional behavior in front of minors, and I don’t really want to spend my money someplace that is so clearly against people like me. Hopefully someday things will change. I’d love to visit Russia before I die.”

Russia Gay Activists

Of courses, if I were to travel to Chechnya today, I can be caned and even punished by death for being gay. Today hundreds of gay men are being held at a secret prison- a la concentration camp- in Argun, where they are beaten and tortured. And if I exhibit any ‘gay propaganda’ or otherwise pro-gay behavior that happens to be in front of a minor, I can be arrested anywhere in Russia.  So, theoretically, simply talking about my wife in public can be grounds for my arrest, because it promotes “non-traditional” lifestyle. 

At this, they finally shrugged their shoulders and conceded.

So, with all the recent news about Russian influence on the U.S. election, I cannot help but wonder, is this what our future looks like? Will our media eventually become a watered down reflection of Putin-esque autocracy? Will Americans in the future insist that “there is no Muslim ban,” because that’s what the leader tells them, and thus that’s what they believe?

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The unwavering loyalty of these women to an ‘alternate fact’ that they had no proof of, but is easily dis-proven, terrifies me. I see similar behavior in some of my fellow Americans. The leader says X, so X it must be! We do not question the leader! Right?

 

 

Or do we? Do we resist? Do we fight for the media? For independent journalism? The choice is clear for me. I like truth. I hope you like truth too. Regardless of whether the truth supports my values or not, I still don’t want to live a life of intention ignorance.

(If you’re curious about the history and evolution on Russia’s stance on gay rights, here’s a great article).

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D.C. Pride

22 06 2017

Back in November, my wife and I were shocked by the results of the U.S. election. We felt numbed and despaired over what would happen in this alternate reality that we must now call our future. When the plans for the Womens March on Washington emerged, we had a brief discussion and decided that, one way or another, we had to be there. ww3

 

Flash forward to January. Shortly after our new POTUS was officially sworn in, there were 7 busloads of invigorated women (and a handful of wonderfully feminist men) departing from a parking lot in Indianapolis Friday evening, . We road through the night, marched with a million other women, then got back on those buses Saturday night to ride home, too energized to sleep. 16143153_10212060536858928_8363833951619441822_n

 

The ensuing response from the 45th administration was comical. Clearly, we had made an impression. Our numbers, as well as our voices, were heard around the world. It felt empowering, in a time of great despair, to know that I WAS THERE. I felt like I was part of history, and no matter how much hot air he blew trying to claim we weren’t, the new president clearly saw us as a powerful force.

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Upon our return to home, I worked hard to maintain a balance of vigilant activism, and healing self-care. It wasn’t easy. This president proceeded to launch a relentless twitterstorm of daily lies, distractions, smoke and mirrors to overwhelm and obfuscate the barrage of controversial bills he pursued. It quickly became clear to me, that we needed to do more to make our voices heard.

 

In this new era of so-called ‘fake news,’ ‘alternate facts’, and a shocking roll back of transparency in our federal administration, we are scared about what secret dealings may be underway. If #45 is good at anything, it’s being secretive, lacking loyalty, and flip-flopping to appease whomever he wants something from. So, despite some supporters’ claims that he was ‘pro-LGBT,’ our community is appalled by the horribly anti-LGBT people he has put into powerful positions.

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Our very own governor of Indiana (aka VP Pence), made headlines in 2015 with his rushed decision to try to institutionalize a religious freedom to discriminate (RFRA), before the business communities outcry forced him to repeal the anti-LGBT law. Our state lost over $60Million in business due to Pence’s irresponsible insistence on pushing his own personal anti-LGBT religious agenda onto our state. No matter what this POTUS thinks personally, he is clearly willing to throw us under the bus if it helps him get something else that he wants. He has no moral scruples.

 

So, I checked my balance of airline miles, and booked us a flight back to D.C., to march with our LGBTA brothers and sisters.

If ever there was a year to celebrate LGBT Pride in our nation’s capitol, this is it.

While Indianapolis has a (surprisingly) amazing pride celebration every year, I expected D.C. Pride would be bigger, especially this year. Not surprisingly, everywhere we went, we met other people who had the same idea we did. Seattle, Mexico City, Detroit, Toronto- we flew in from everywhere to show our strength!! We all showed up in force, flooding and overwhelming the city over several days of festivities, so that #45 could not deny our numbers. Everywhere you walk in D.C., rainbow flags outnumber even American flags, as an otherwise very proud community made itself even more visible. Allies, like our friends who put us up in their guest room for free, also proudly displayed their freshly purchased rainbow gear.

dc pride

Thank you.

Thank you to all our allies, who proudly celebrate with us every Pride, every day, every year; who shed tears and shared hugs when our community suffered the most deadly mass shooting in history; who walk us home when we don’t feel safe; who refuse to ignore overheard homophobic comments; and who stand up to strangers to tell them that it’s not okay to use ‘gay’ as a derogatory adverb.

Thank you to Washington D.C. Your community warms my heart. It makes me feel good knowing that #45 is literally surrounded by LGBT pride, and that our former homophobic governor has to dodge rainbows on every street corner!

Thank you to my LGBTQA brothers and sisters, who were brave enough to out yourselves, to normalize our existence by simply being unapologetically you, to defy the estimations of how many of us there truly are, and who, above all else, demonstrate on a daily basis that we are simply human, just like anyone else. We are still a minority facing intensive legal and personal discrimination, though it’s getting easier, especially in large cities like Indianapolis or Washington D.C. Our visibility is key to our acceptance.

Especially, a huge thank you to my beloved trans folks, for whom the fight is ten times harder; who need our support more than anyone; who teach me constantly how I can improve, to be more aware, to be more considerate, to keep adjusting my language, to be a better ally, and a better human.

Thank you to the rest of you, especially in smaller towns and communities, who don’t personally know any LGBTQA people (that you are aware of), who might be uncomfortable and have questions, but who are willing to learn how to be, what to say (or not), and how to embrace & support people who are different than you in some ways, but just like you in even more ways.

 

Together, we are winning.

If you build LGBT inclusion, we will come out.

 

 

 

 

 





Why I March

20 01 2017

dcrainAs I type this, many are weeping at the end of an era. Many others are cheering at a new chapter in American history. The clouds are crying into dark & heavy atmosphere, which feels fitting.

 

But, I’m done crying. I’m done being shocked. I’m done being distracted by another stupid tweet or another mindless meme. I’m done sitting on the sidelines. I’m ready to fight.

 

582b7d491800002c0030e402Let me be clear- I hate politics. I hate filling space in my brain with lists of people I’ve never met and the reasons why I should or should not like them. I hate wondering what a company’s values are every time I lay my plastic card down at the cash register. I’ve never marched in a protest. I’ve never spent hours making poignant and powerful signs. I hate everything to do with politics.

 

This is how I know that we are entering an era that is unprecedented.  People who never before felt compelled to get involved, suddenly feel like they have no choice. And I am one of them. 

 

10436160_891482897601002_2027435962132802493_nTo clarify, I have taken some actions before. I’ve signed countless online petitions to protect rights for my fellow citizens. I’ve worked to educate others on issues of the environment. And I did attend a few rallies to fight for marriage equality, just as we reached the crescendo, from 2013-2015. But I don’t like crowds. I don’t like to be noticed. I don’t like to be the center of attention. So I mostly just looked on quietly, while I proudly watched other people be my voice, carry that sign, shout our chants.

 

tsunami-2I feel like I am a relaxed tourist, sitting on a beach, ignoring reality, and enjoying the sunshine, when all of the sudden I look up to see an enormous tsunami of change preparing to crash down upon me. I can either give up, sit in my chair, and dig my feet into the sand fruitlessly. Or, I can fight. I can stand up, grab that inflatable tube, put my swim goggles on, and take a deep breath in. I’m not going down without a fight. I refuse to drown, no matter how massive the wave may be before me. I’m choosing to go in, and it’s gonna be a wild ride.

 

Tonight, I am getting on that bus. I’m heading to Washington D.C., to our nation’s capitol, and I am going to carry that sign, I’m gonna march in that march, I’m gonna sing every song I know the words to, and I am going to make my voice heard.

 


We ARE what makes this nation great.
And we want to make the next administration damn sure, that we are watching, we are listening, and we are keeping track. We will NOT let this nation get sunk beneath the tsunami. We will fight to survive! No matter how many waves crash down upon us, we will not drown! Instead, we will find more ways to float, we will bring our sisters and brothers up onto our rafts, and we will keep going!

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Parapet PhotographyThis morning, I went to Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee, to see some of my favorite people before we go to D.C. They gave me hugs, and love, and support, and gratitude. As I was sitting there, a man sitting alone at a nearby table was listening to our conversation, and said to me, “Hey, I’d like to show you something,” motioning to his laptop. I walked over and looked over his shoulder as he said, “THIS is why I march,” with tears in his eyes. On the screen was a picture of a 4 year old girl in a Rosie the Riveter shirt.


I am marching because
I cannot let one president set us back 40 years. I march because, although I have no children of my own, I worry for the future of my village’s children. I march for Dean’s daughter. I march because I believe in community, and love, and acceptance. I believe that we ALL must be invested in our shared future, which means caring about not only your neighbors, but those around you that you do not know, may not understand, may not recognize, or may not even like. No matter what, a rising tide raises ALL ships, and I refuse to sit by and watch someone else drown.

 

I am marching because:

Climate change IS REAL.

Love is LOVE.

Women’s rights ARE HUMAN rights.

Black Lives MATTER. 

No lives are ILLEGAL.

And Kindness is FREE. 

 

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Trump v. Clinton: The Fear of Bad Temperament in Foreign Relations

4 11 2016

Our Facebook feed has been filled with memes about controversial policies that have everyone up in arms leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The candidates themselves are being busted during debates for saying non-truths (aka ‘lies’). And while these political statements may amount to mostly bravado, with no political will to actually pass any of these ridiculous measures, there are some truly scary ramifications that will come from our next President of the United States.

Believe it or not, the U.S., while being fairly isolated geographically, no longer lives in an insular world. What we do, who we threaten, which international efforts we support, all has dramatic impacts on our national security and our local economy. This is the 21st century, folks. We live in a rapidly changing, completely global economy, and there’s no turning back. We cannot simply say, “eh, we don’t like you guys, and we are going to stop talking to you and just pretend you don’t exist.”

 

Besides alienating ourselves from our international allies, there is a far greater threat to having a leader with no foreign policy experience or knowledge. It’s only a matter of time, I suspect, before “the best temperament” gets us in deep waters with political enemies who possess very real weapons of mass destruction. There’s a reason why we value the term “diplomat.” The leaders of this free nation must be calm, cool, and collected, and capable of seeing the long term ramifications of off the cuff comments about foreign dictators. POTUS simply cannot speak their mind without any filter. This is NOT a tit for tat world we live in, when it comes to foreign policy. Our leaders need to have skin as thick as bark, to choose what is right for our country, not to impulsively react in defense of their personally bruised ego. This has been a long standing element of civil international discourse, and it is not something that can be easily compromised.

 

Imagine, a world in which the President of the United States gets his feelings hurt & lashes out vindictively every time someone disagrees with his approach…

 

england

 

russia

north-korea

ww3





Grieving: How the Pulse Massacre Affects All of Us

14 06 2016


Grief is a fickle thing. It’s hard to define. It’s hard to defend. Some people get it. Some people don’t. I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions about my own grieving lately, as I was struggling to understand just why the loss of 49 beautiful souls I never knew, in a state I don’t live in, has hit me so fucking hard.

 

ss-160612-pulse-vigil-jsw-09_4c70cbb1faf2b866f969c050aa30e728.nbcnews-fp-1200-800Yes, of course, I think that ALL Americans should be grieving this loss right now. It’s a national tragedy. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in history. Our trend line is moving in the wrong direction. But I think that most Americans haven’t been waking up crying.

 

Some people are just more empathetic and feel emotions harder. Some people shed tears when celebrities die, whom they’ve never met before, just because the person’s art inspired them. But that’s not me.

 

Some of us are heartbroken because you are parents, and so many of the lives taken were just babes in the woods. Akyra Monet Murray was only 18 years old, and never even had a 2016-06-14_9-22-27chance to vote for president before being murdered. Many were barely in their twenties, and couldn’t even buy a drink- they just came out to dance and be with friends. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool was a mother to 12 children, and was there dancing with her gay son, who survived, and will have to deal with her loss and all the ‘what ifs’. Christopher Andrew Leinonen and Juan Ramon Guerrero were planning their wedding, and now will have a joint funeral instead. The individual stories are heart breaking.

 

A lot of us are crying because we are gay, and this was a hate crime by a homophobic man targeted at a gay night club. This is me. But it goes alot deeper than this.

 

13407150_1160339034048719_5298806267185347464_nIt feels selfish to say, “It could have been me,” but it’s what’s going through all of our minds right now. Earlier that same day, I was walking in the Indy Pride parade. I was dancing to Bigfoot Yancey play music at our pride celebration. I could have been out at Metro that night, celebrating our love and our freedom, as we approach the historic 1-year anniversary of being granted the right to equal marriage. It really could have been me.

 

I’ve seen a lot of Facebook posts from my friends, struggling to understand, walking in a cloud of numb achiness, unable to cope with this tragedy. Yet we knew nobody personally affected. Many of my LGBT friends are my age or younger, and seem to be struggling the most with the Pulse massacre. I am starting to figure out why we are hurting so badly.

 

This Saturday, June 18th, I will turn 36 years old. I didn’t come out until I was 29, when I met my soulmate, who happened to be a woman. I have experienced several personal tragedies in my life, and I am no stranger to grief. Which is why it feels so odd to be so distraught by this attack. I’m scared that next time I want to go dancing at a gay club, or marching in a pride parade, or even just living my life as an out and proud gay person, I too could be the target of such an awful attack. I tried to explain this fear to my mom, and, trying to console me, she said, “It’s not going to happen to you, but it’s a reminder to be careful out there, showing affection in public.”

 

For my wife, who has been out of the closet for nearly 30 years, this is nothing new. She HAS been shot at. She HAS been spat on by strangers. She HAS had to fight back against people who simply didn’t like the way she cuts her hair, and felt the need to verbalize their internal hatred towards a person who, while different from them, is a beautiful, loving, kind person.

 

29115c4e67ff92e95626b75fffaa1e95When we were considering moving to Indianapolis in 2013, we came here for a weekend to check out the city. While walking downtown, we stopped at a crosswalk to wait for the light. I reached for my wife’s hand by her side, and she jerked it away. I looked at her, upset that she didn’t want to clasp hands after we were just having such a nice conversation. She said, “I don’t know if it’s safe here.” My response was, “Well if it’s not safe, I want to know now, before we decide to move here.” She nervously agreed, and we walked hand in hand, met by nothing but smiles and loving looks from strangers who can see how in love we are.

 

I’ve never faced the same level of discrimination and hatred that my wife, and many older LGBT folks, have had to face in their lives. I know that things were different 20, 30 years ago, and I have always been proud and relieved to be alive in a time where we have come so far. Until now.

 

candlesFor the first time in my life, I truly understand what it feels like to be a second class citizen. I know what fear tastes like. It’s different than being forced to travel hundreds of miles to another state to get married. It’s far worse. I now know that I may never feel safe or secure again. Even after years have passed without incident, this moment in history will remain like a shard of glass lodged into my brain. THAT is why I am grieving. For not only the lives of the people who have died, and the lives of those who survived, and who will have to learn to go on with a giant gaping hole in their hearts where a loved one once lived, but also for a generation of young LGBT people who should never have to know this level of deeply entrenched fear. I thought we were past this. I had hopes that young people would find all the love and acceptance that the generations before them fought so hard to earn. And instead, I feel like we have just been set back to 1969.
So, please, don’t tell me it’s not a big deal. Don’t tell me it’s not technically a hate crime yet. Don’t tell me to feel better. Don’t talk to me about guns. Don’t tell me that it was one crazy guy and I’m perfectly safe. I’m not. My heart is not safe. My mind is not safe. My soul is deeply battered and bruised. I am lucky to be alive, but I feel like a survivor as well. I’ll grieve as damn long as I need to, because some wounds never heal.

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The Pulse of America

13 06 2016

 


news june 12 2016I am shocked and my heart is aching, along with millions of Americans, and LGBT people worldwide. On Saturday, I was marching in the 2 hour long Indy Pride parade, celebrating my equal marriage rights, dancing to live music with many friends and allies, and enjoying a feeling of love, support, and security. The next morning, I woke up to something unimaginable.

In 2016, we are reeling from the most deadly mass shooting in history, specifically targeting our community. The disgusting murders and attacks that took place between 2-5am Sunday morning at the LGBT nightclub, Pulse, are unfathomable. If you are not part of this community, you may not understand the ripple effects of this bloody attack. This murderer targeted us in the one place where we can feel safe. This was our church, our sanctuary, a place where no one needs to live in fear. For those allies who may not understand completely, you need to know more about why this type of attack is so gut wrenching.  

 


This horrific event is making international news, making history, and reigniting conversations.

But it’s not the first time June has made the news for our community.

Do you know why June is LGBT Pride month?

 

1969- Stonewall Inn


In 1969, the gay pride movement sprang out of another horrific event. Stonewall. In a different era, physical safety was at the forefront of every gay person in America, a daily fear based in real danger on every street. The gay community only felt safe in places not dissimilar to the Pulse night club in Orlando. They feared constant persecution, and sought solace in the privacy of  these clubs. It was a place where you could be yourself, perhaps for the first time in your life. You could finally feel free to express your true self, to not be judged, to not worry about being attacked or leered at.

 

stonewalliiOn June 28, 1969, Stonewall Inn was filled with people who were mourning the loss of icon & actress Judy Garland just 6 days earlier. Around 1:20 a.m. on June 28, 1969, 8 police officers, busted into the Stonewall Inn to conduct a raid. Gay men and drag queens were handcuffed and arrested, until one person, who repeatedly fought back, shouted to the crows “Why don’t you do something?” The LGBT community hit a tipping point, and the crowd collectively decided to fight back for their rights for the first time in history. The riots that ensued marked the beginning of the gay rights movement. It was not the first time the LGBT community suffered bloody bruises, nor have we seen the last.

 

2015 -Marriage Equality

10644926_890978134318145_1803539000570143421_nCountless struggles and brave fighters in between 1969 and 2015 have built up to something that many older LGBT folks thought they would never see in their lifetimes. I myself watched closely for 4 years as my marriage became repeatedly legal, then illegal, over and over again, as state by state overturned marriage bans, then put a stay on rulings denouncing the bans on gay marriage.

In 2015, June 26th became known for the historical pronouncement by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that our LGBT citizens are constitutionally guaranteed equal access to the 1,000 benefits of legally recognized marriage. Marriage equality. Love wins! I had hoped that this would be the pinnacle of the gay rights movement (now LGBT movement)- a turning point, signaling the end of our uphill struggle. But our fight is not over.

 

2016- The Deadliest Mass Shooting in American History

Let’s not let one homophobic man redefine our history. We must pull together, to love one another, to mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters, and to push for greater recognition of our rights as humans.

 

ec892e313cf65bc8c82b13da5148dd0eOur fight is not over.

  1. We must call on our allies to speak up. We must demand that our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors, and our family stop being bystanders to subtle erosions of our rights. Words are weapons too.
  2. 11709658_891482884267670_569629766078156716_nWe must call on our lawmakers. We must question why it’s okay to legally gain access to a machine that can murder so many people so quickly and so easily. No person needs a weapon of mass destruction to hunt for food or protect their family.
  3. 11667276_891482920934333_5618867141807357087_nWe must ALL demand equal rights. Marriage equality is a huge step forward, but we have not completed the path. It’s 2016, and I can be fired for being gay. I can be denied housing for being gay. This is institutionalized bigotry that requires a change in our laws in order to force it to end. We must demand that our state provides protections against discrimination, and we must question our federal government to work to correct where our states are refusing to protect us. We are still not treated as equals. Until sexual orientation and gender identity are considered protected classes, just as are race, religion, and many other groups, we are subject to discrimination and hate crimes.

 


2016- Our LGBT Future
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First, let us grieve & support everyone affected by this horrific tragedy. Then, let’s use this tragic loss to fuel our collective fire. We need to push for change! Until we are equals, we are not free! Until our society accepts us as equal, this kind of bigotry will continue to fester quietly in corners of America. We must stomp it out! Don’t be a silent bystander. That is not America.

Let’s show the world that America is built on LOVE & EQUALITY!!!

 





The Gay Way to Shave (My Lesbian Car Lesson)

9 06 2016

I was 15 when I bought my first car. I still have him, 20 years and 11 months later- his name is Sam, and he’s a 1969 Volkswagen Bus. If you’ve not had the pleasure of riding in a VW bus, you should know that it is pure joy to drive, though not without its nuances. Yes, a fender bender may render you crippled, as there is less than an inch of metal between your legs and the car ahead of you. It’s also loud, and the exact opposite of aerodynamic- like driving a brick wall. When I was 16, my bus, Sam, was my daily driver, and he strolled me through many a Michigan winter with ease, even on the sketchy, ice-covered dirt roads I resided on.

 

11329844_873397612742864_7132719970890849809_nVolkswagen buses are known for one more thing. Heat… or lack thereof. When your engine is at the back of your bus, you are lucky to keep your toes thawed enough to shift gears in February. Thus, at age 16, I decided that it was prudent to stop shaving my leg hair, to trap any excess heat I could muster to survive the season. Believe it or not, I truly felt a difference! Years later, in architecture school, I understood the basic principles behind this thermal phenomenon, and felt affirmed in my nascent intuition. Thus began my exploration into defying American gender norms.

 

I knew that European women scoffed at this weird American standard requiring women to strip their legs bare of the hair that their parents gave them. It’s a vestigial element from our cavewoman days, no? Either way, the fiery internal feminist in me didn’t care about what was “normal,” and neither did my high school boyfriend, thank goodness. He love me regardless. And I never asked him to shave his back either, so we were pretty even, it seemed.

 

Flash forward to Indiana. I moved from Michigan to a state barely touching the vast bodies of water that we call the Great Lakes, and naively assumed that the treacherous Michigan humidity would be left behind as well. WRONG. It is humid as… um… frack… here. And as I struggle to maintain my sanity in the celebratory month of my birth, which also coincides with PRIDE, I am at a loss of how to balance my feminist ideals with my tendency to overheat.

 

IMG_4111Several years ago, after I came out, I discovered a certain freedom that allowed me to embrace my feminine side more so than I ever felt comfortable as a hetero-normative female. (See January’s post for more insight). One of those discoveries was this- when it’s really friggin hot, the inverse of my teenage years is also true- shaving my legs (at least up to my knees) can truly help to keep me to stay cooler in the summer time… and that is OKAY. It makes me no less of a feminist, no less of a butch lesbian, to choose to do whatever the hell I want with my body for the sake ofFullSizeRender_1 personal comfort. In fact, despite everything I felt forced upon me as a young person, when I CHOOSE to alter my body for myself- not for the perception of others- it is truly empowering. Yes, most of the time my legs are au naturel, and beautiful, and sexy, and just as they were born to be. But sometimes, when the forecast calls for 97 degrees and I will be baking in the heat all weekend, every little bit helps, and I will gladly shave off that excess, heat-trapping hair because it will make me cooler and happier. For the same reason some people choose to shave their heads in the summertime, I will lower my cooling load (yes this is ‘Archispeak’) via my shins and calves. I think that just makes me smart and practical, but you can apply whatever labels you like.
13244708_1142559419160014_5404030174740506919_nSo, this Saturday, I will be strutting my naked legs at Indy Pride, not embarrassed or proud- just comfortable and cool. And you should also listen to your body, and do what makes you comfortable and happy. Life is too short to be shoehorned into someone else’s idea of conformity.