20 August 2015

The LGBTQ Community Is Lost Without Its History and Culture

In 1985, +Bernie Sanders, then mayor of the City of Burlington, Vermont, granted protections to its citizens, including LGBTQ persons. This bold move was deemed to be political suicide and the end of his career in politics.

But it wasn't the first time Sanders has supported LGBTQ rights. His 1970 letter advocating the repeal of laws against "deviant behavior" implies support for marriage equality

Sanders's support for civil rights and of LGBTQ communities extends to the beginning of his career. Unlike others, he never had to "evolve" on his positions to support basic human and civil rights; it has been a part of his basic code of morals and philosophies from the moment his work in activism, civil rights, social justice, and ultimately, his career in politics, began.

There are few individuals even in our own community who were fighting for LGBTQ equality in 1970 -- the risk for prosecution of homosexuality and imprisonment was far too great for most to take. So it is even more significant that an ally stuck his neck out for us at a time when even _mentioning_ things such as homosexuality could land one with an accusation of being a homosexual and a conviction for sexual deviancy, with a 20-year (or in some cases, longer!) prison sentence.

It is even more important for our youth to understand that a scant 12 years ago, it was still a crime in some states to be gay and if convicted, you could get up 20 years in prison. 

Let me repeat this: In 2002, It Was Still A CRIME To Be Gay in some parts of the USA, and you could be sentenced for up to 20 years upon conviction.
Our history -- our struggle -- is all too often not spoken of in these terms. We need to educate our youth as to why we struggle, why we hold pride events, what our culture is and why it was created. Without education and repeating our histories, our community won't know who it is, where we've come from, or where we're headed or should be going.

Bernie Sanders is, as a matter of fact, part of our unique history, as are countless others whose stories are not being told. It's time to put an end to that practice and give credit to those whose names have all but been forgotten:

Bayard Rustin, Sylvia Rivera, Audrey Lorde, Storm√© DeLarverie, Brenda Howard, +Reverend Magora Kenndy, +Sabrina Sojourner, Christine Jorgensen, Matt Foreman, +Evan Wolfson, Margarethe Cammermeyer, Stephen Donaldson, Steve Endean, Aaron Fricke, Barbara Gittings, James Gruber, Essex Hemphill, Cleve Jones, Frank Kameny, Larry Kramer, Marsha H. Levine, Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin, Edie Windsor, Harvey Milk, Troy Perry, Geena Rocero, Jos√© Sarria, Ruth Simpson, Andy Thayer, Urvashi Vaid, Phill Wilson, and countless, countless others.
How many of these names do you know? Starting with Mr. Donaldson, I took them off a list (the ones before him I was able to recall from memory -- and this list is far from being complete by any means). 

If we are to succeed as a community -- as a people with a unique history and culture -- then we need to know where we've been and figure out where we are now, before we can even begin to discuss where we're going or even want to go.

Part of that process includes remembering who has been there for us, and who was out on the front lines of battle. Let's not forget who we are, so we can figure out where we are now and map out a bright, positive future as a united community that has influenced the world over millennia.

08 August 2015

Moving Away from Gender-Based Signs

Yaaaaaaaaasssssssssss!!!!!!!! Down with gender-based stereotypes; there's no reason to have labels such as "Girls' Toys" and "Boys' Toys"

There's long been a reason I've much preferred Target over Walmart as the "big box discount store." Descriptive labels such as "Dolls" or "Toy Cars" and "Stuffed Aminiminals" not only alleviate some of the anxiety and pressure kids face to fit into antiquated gender roles but are so much more helpful to the shopper!

Adults often force certain toys on kids based on perceived gender stereotypes. I played with dolls as a child, as well as trucks and cars, as did my sister. We played with each other's toys and we never thought anything wrong with or bad about that. Thankfully, our grandparents understood we were playing together as brother and sister, and there wasn't anything wrong with my playing house just as there wasn't anything wrong with my sister playing with cars, trucks, etc.

Another way to think of this is as follows: most of the chefs in the USA are men. However, most of the kitchen toys -- where a child can play-pretend at cooking and use their imagination to create new food dishes -- would be found in the "Girl's Toys" section. How would a boy who has expressed interest in the culinary arts feel about shopping for toys to play with in the "Girl's Toys" section? What if his classmates saw him shopping for a new kitchen playset in the "Girl's Toys" section and began teasing him?

For far too long society has indoctrinated us -- from a very, very early age, as to what is "gender-appropriate." Little girls only do this, little boys only do that. I'm all for erasing gender-based stereotypes, including choice of clothing. Epic and groundbreaking women began breaking down the walls of inequality when they started wearing "men's clothing" (pants and pant suits) many, many decades ago yet it's still taboo for a men to wear "women's clothing" (skirts and dresses). Who came up with such ridiculous ideas?

People in eastern Asian nations often wear the same clothes, and we've discovered that traditional tribal nations of many different cultures shared similar customs. It's time to put an end -- once and for all -- of this nonsense that keeps women from even attempting to do a "man's job" and also is the basis for the disparity between pay among the genders. Enough is enough, let's focus on what really matters about a person instead of judging them by such trivial notions as what type of clothing they choose to wear or the color of their outfits.

Would you want your daughter to EVER be told that she can't do something because "girls/women don't do that?" Gender-based stereotypes are how women were kept oppressed for centures. "Oh we're sorry but you can't do this, you're a woman, and women aren't allowed to do that."

This line of thinking is what leads to gender-based pay inequality. In other words, the REASON that women earn 78% of what men earn overall and why Black women earn a staggering 67% of what men earn FOR THE SAME JOB!

Getting rid of gender-based stereotypes is a step in the right direction and will help with closing the pay gap between men and women.

A super BRAVO to Target for recognizing this and implementing these changes!