A Boy With Butterfly Wings

A few days ago my sweet little boy asked me to tie a day-glow orange bow into his hair. Without blinking I swept his bangs into a little pigtail. He ran to the mirror and exclaimed at how “adowable” he was. He really did look adorable. But, instead of enjoying his cuteness, I was angry.

 

Someday our society will probably change him…

I am still angry.

My son doesn’t yet know or care about gender roles. He likes trucks, trains, dinosaurs and mud. He likes nail polish and glitter shoes. He likes bow ties. Since Monday he’s also liked his hair tied back with an obnoxiously bright orange bow. He’s too young for these things to have any significance. But they do.

These things matter to the disapproving adults who shake their heads at his butterfly wings when we go to the library or the park. They matter to the other children who have already learned at such tender ages which color sippy cup he is allowed to drink from. They matter to my son’s little cousins who tell him that his painted toenails are “weird.” They really seem to matter to the small boys whose fathers and mothers have taught them to be ashamed for being drawn to beauty and that they should crush that joy for my child too.

Someday our society will probably change him and teach him to be ashamed of his light, sparkling self.

But, just to be clear: He’s perfect. It is the rest of you who need to change.

 

Written by: Mara Morken Fogarty

The Warmest Cold Place on Earth

-written by Kailyn Allen

 

Sometimes I get this creeping suspicion that holidays were invented by people in the Midwest, solely to have some reason to stay alive during the winter months.

 

I’ve lived here most of my life, and should really be, not only acclimated by now, but also wearing my ability to survive the freezing temperatures and navigate a set of icy stairs or stretch of slippery sidewalk without cracking my face open, like a badge of honor.

I should be putting air in my tires, sans gloves, without sobbing out icy teardrops that freeze to my face. I should be indifferent to the heavy chunk of frozen breath (or snot?) weighing two of the three scarves I’m wearing down, and just talk to people through it like it’s normal to have iced-mucus brooches, and like I’m not desperate to get inside before my nose gives up and falls off. I should be deftly hopping over the gigantor mountains of blackened snow that the plow posits at the end of every walkway, in big clompy boots that belie my graceful sprightliness. I want to be a prairie-hardened baddass like my nana. I do.

 

But, baby it’s cold outside.

        

I’m not going to make it on the prairie. My car doesn’t start when it’s too cold, and neither do I, and it’s almost always too cold. Weirdly, though, what keeps me here complaining about the temperature, is how warm it can be.

 

I will try to avoid sounding like a tourist ad, but this community is really one of the warmest places I’ve ever been. (and I’ve been some places) We have tons of individuals who are actively trying to make the world a better place in their own ways, through community groups and organizations. Many of our local churches are moving towards LGBT positivity, all of our higher ed campuses have some type of Safe Zone, or LGBT support, and don’t even get me going on how many dynamic and passionate community leaders we have who care about equality, and work to ensure we have a safe and beautiful life. (If I could tag them all here this would read like a selection from the Yellow Pages)

 

It’s normal here to see smiles and receive handshakes. It’s normal to have three people hop out of their cars and help get your vehicle unstuck from the snow, and then just smile and hop back in theirs and drive away like it was no big deal that they just saved your life, and then casually told you to consider snow tires and have a good day, through a chunk of frozen scarf-mucus. It’s normal for neighbors to blow each other out after a storm, (which isn’t as disturbing as the phrase suggests, but actually the purest form of love in this region). It’s normal to post that ‘so and so fell on the ice the other day’ and within hours find six different people willing to bring them hotdishes, and groceries, and sidewalk salt until they are off the crutches.

 

That being said, let’s go back to the coldness for a second. The holiday and winter season combined is statistically the most suicide/depression heavy time of year.  We all know that LGBT’s are at a higher risk for substance abuse and depression/suicide in general as well.

 

What’s the most tragic about that is that anytime I reach out and admit that I have been considering a permanent dip in the river, I unfailingly find that at least three other people in the room feel the same way. Wait. Think about that a second. So if instead of saying something we all just went ahead and jumped… we might find a bunch of our friends floating/freezing in there with us. So, we’re not actually alone. Even in our ‘aloneness’.

Or rather, ESPECIALLY in our aloneness.

 

This season, instead of thinking of the holidays as the excuse we use to survive the cold, I may start thinking of the cold as the excuse we use to huddle together to keep warm.

 

Whether you are celebrating with hundreds of friends and family members, or feeling lonely and thinking about celebrating at the bottom of the Red, we are all in this mess of slop and snow together. Whether you are a prairiemaster who scoffs at my six layers of mittens or the type who can’t “put their arms down” from wearing so many sweaters at once, the cold touches us all at some time.

 

If we stick tight to each other like a tongue to a frozen flag pole, we can keep it from getting inside and hurting our unscarved and hatless hearts. This year, let’s keep each other warm, and leave the cold outside where it belongs. 

Housing Discrimination Study

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Linda and Adam

Despite having never met, Linda P. Olsen and Adam Ashland have a great deal in common.

 

They are both non-smokers who own no pets. Each is a polite and effective communicator with a yahoo email address. Both Adam and Linda were apartment hunting for the past two months and they each have the exact same needs: a one or two bedroom apartment in Fargo, North Dakota.

 

Here’s where the similarities become uncanny. Adam and Linda have both sent email queries regarding exactly 48 different apartment listings – the very same 48 listings, with exactly 12 emails sent on each of 4 different days. What’s more, they have emailed these same listings within an hour of each other. Sometimes, Linda manages to contact the apartment broker first but exactly half the time, Adam beats her to it. They each receive similarly enthusiastic email responses urging them to schedule an apartment viewing. Neither of them ever do so.

 

This is where there is dissimilarity between Linda and Adam, at last. Linda has received responses to 37 of her emails; Adam, only 33. There is nothing to note of interest in this nearly 10 percent difference, until the reveal of the last two things that Linda P. Olsen and Adam Ashland have in common. They are both fictitious people and they each have a partner who is male.

 

Linda is hunting for an apartment with her husband, while Adam is looking with his boyfriend, Steven.

 

In June of this year, Mayor Dennis Walaker indicated that he doesn’t see housing discrimination as a major issue in Fargo. “I just don’t think that’s an issue. I really don’t,” Walaker is quoted [CLA1] to have said in response to discussions of creating an ordinance outlawing employment and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity within city limits.

 

In a recent government study, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (http://www.huduser.org/portal/publications/fairhsg/discrim_samesex.html) found heterosexual couples were favored over gay male couples in 15.9 percent of tests for housing discrimination, and over lesbian couples in 15.6 percent. Inspired by this study and reading of Walaker’s opinion that housing discrimination doesn’t happen here, it seemed like a theory in need of testing. Using the HUD study formula, emails went out and responses were tallied. An unequal number of responses. Linda’s request garnered a 77% response rate, while Adam heard from 68% of the apartment managers he contacted.

 

This informal study involved 48 apartment listings selected non-randomly over a recent two-month period.  While this investigation does not rise to the HUD level of rigor, the two test-cases represented by Linda and Adam showed a difference which we can be about 82% confident we would not have expected to see if discrimination had not been a factor.  Certainly, lesbian and gay couples can provide abundant anecdotal evidence of employment and housing discrimination in our community.

 

Despite what many of us wishes were true and regardless of what the mayor believes, housing discrimination absolutely exists here. Now, what are we going to do about it?

[CLA1] https://secure.forumcomm.com/?publisher_ID=1&article_id=402824&CFID=616202358&CFTOKEN=89116090

 

Contributed by Mara Morken

 

- See more at: http://pridecenter.areavoices.com/2013/09/30/housing-discrimination-study/#sthash.rwJYJluh.dpuf

 

For the Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing

(By Kailyn Allen)

I love people. Contrary to what I teach my young children, I always talk to strangers. I’ve learned about other countries, social movements, community groups, and personal experiences that I wouldn’t have known existed, simply by striking up conversations in waiting rooms, playgrounds, and shop isles.

It’s surprisingly easy to do, just find something you like about a stranger and say so. It should be a genuine, and not creepy, observation about something related to the person, but NOT about the person themself.

For example: “I LOVE your style.” –Yes. “I love your muffin tops!” –NO.

(Notice people’s attempts to express themselves rather than their physical traits.)

If people know you are approaching them with a spirit of approval they rarely reject your friendly advances. Even when they do, the sting of rejection from a total stranger is fairly mild.Most of the time this is a harmless, if not enriching experience. Every once in a while, however, talking to strangers doesn’t go well for me.

It’s our natural instinct to assume that if we like one thing about someone they must agree with us on all counts. I have a neighbor, who I adore, who brings over the occasional plate of cookies, for my kids. She’s seen my equal sign. She’s seen my rainbow wind chime, and before I was single, she had even met a girlfriend or two. She still treated me kindly so I assumed she was “cool”.

Until she put up a giant “Vote Yes! Marriage = a man and a woman” sign in her front yard, for me to see every morning as I walked my children to school.

(insert headslap)

Sometimes I find myself in far worse situations than that. I present as a rather “straight looking” person, apparently; because I can’t tell you how many people in my life have said horribly homophobic, sometimes even violently hateful, comments about lgbts, to me, with the assumption that we shared the sentiments.

Awkward to say the least.

Whenever that happens I get this sinking feeling that I accidentally wandered into a clan meeting, thinking it was a knitting circle. It’s really confusing and I usually walk away wondering “Did someone slap a “ Straight Close-Minded Bigot” sign to my back without my noticing?”

Sometimes I feel like a sheep in wolves’ clothing.

People who judge and hate often assume I do too. People who are gay often assume I’m not, and by extension, that I’m not ‘safe’.

 Don’t ever assume that because an lgbt person is “passable” that they have it easy.

I may look like one of the “wolves”; but that doesn’t mean I’m not afraid of getting eaten alive. I’ve gotten a lot of verbal rape threats this way. It’s, at times, actually quite terrifying. Maybe I should stop talking to strangers.

But I’m not going to.

 One of the most frequently forgotten rules of the universe is this:

 Your greatest weakness is merely your greatest strength,

waiting to be recognized.

It feels like a huge vulnerability to pass as straight, when you aren’t trying to pass as straight. It gets you admission into places you don’t necessarily want to be, and often without realizing it until it’s too late.

Now let’s talk about herpes.

We all know that ideas spread like viruses these days. It’s neither good or bad, it’s just the way it is. Recent studies, (specifically on herpes simplex 1), have shown that one of the key factors in a virus successfully reproducing, is that it imitates signals of it’s target hosts. In other words, it avoids setting off alarms and being ambushed by guards because it learns the local language and acts like it’s just “one of the guys”.

 Then it takes over.

I’m not suggesting that any of us ‘infiltrate the enemy’ and ‘take over’; but maybe the method is worth considering. It works on a cellular level, and I’ve seen it work with humans too.

I’ve had friends and relatives who have taken years to stop saying things like “I mean, YOU’RE cool, but I just believe gay marriage is wrong.” And start saying things like “I can’t believe people can be so ignorant.” About someone who says the same crap they used to say.

I’m also DEFINITELY NOT suggesting, even a little bit, that if you aren’t one of these “passable for straight/cissgendered persons” that you should be. You just have a different (equally important) set of vulnerabilities and strengths to use.

I used to hate being seen as a straight ignorant bigot. For a while I tried keeping my hair short and wearing lots of flannel, but that doesn’t fit any better than a glam gown on a stone butchie. We have to be ourselves.

Now I see what I once thought of as a huge inconvenient weakness, as a powerful tool for helping people cross a barrier of misconception…if they want to.

 The thing we need to remember is that neither the ‘wolves’, nor the ‘sheep’, are the enemy. It’s the idea that we’re so different, that one of us is ‘less than’ or one of us is ‘dangerous’. It’s not the person, it’s the wrong thinking that needs to be attacked.

To be clear, I’m not talking about trying to convert true haters. I’m talking about being true to yourself and (when it’s safe) being honest about what you know.

More often than not, people truly don’t realize they are acting like a hatemonger. They frequently assume they’re simply reflecting the general consensus and avoiding judgment themselves. I have seen far more people make remarks out of the basic elementary need to ‘fit in’, or common limited exposure to different types of people, more often than out of genuine deep rooted hatred.

Instead of just running away from the ignorant, hear them, and respond with respect and dignity. It might sound like this:

“I love your shirt.”

“It’s my favorite band.”

“I like them too!”

“…although I heard the drummer is gay.”

“I don’t think it matters.”

You have to be yourself, but, if that means you blend in with people who may have dismissed or avoided you if they’d pegged you as lgbt, you don’t have to be quiet.

It’s not evangelism to just be who you are.

To sum up, I hope you talk to strangers, focus on your weaknesses, and imitate herpes. These small steps can help create a better world for all of us.   

(Further reading on herpes simplex 1:

http://www.chop.edu/news/hijacking-virus-mimics-cells-signaling-system.html)

 

Bernie Erickson on gay marriage

This summer gay people in the Midwest had unprecedented cause for celebration with the demise of The Defense of Marriage Act, and Minnesota’s legalization of same gender marriage.

 

We held vigils. We gathered around camp fires and sang” KumBy Ya.” We stood outside religious buildings and sang “We Shall Overcome.” We went to our state capitols and held artfully and interestingly designed signs that said things like “Would you rather I marry YOUR daughter?” or “Who exactly do you think designed your daughter’s wedding gown.”

 

But as smug and successful as we may be tempted to feel, our recent victory came down to one and only one thing: The United States Economy.

 

Like all good Americans, I spent my President Bush $600 stimulus check on shoes and botox. And quite frankly, when it comes to the trickle-down theory, over the course of a lifetime, I’ve had an untold number of things trickle down on me, and never ONCE has it been a pleasant experience.

 

Same gender marriage came down to politician’s realization that there is one and only one thing that will revitalize the US economy: Gay. Wedding. Registry.

 

I don’t know about you, but David and I have personally purchased enough Cuisinart Food Processors as wedding gifts that we were recently recognized in Cuisinart’s annual report.

 

Do the math: 6 weddings a year, $100 a pop, 10 years together.

 

We’ve been giving food processors as wedding gifts for so long,we’re now having to find ways to discretely learn who kept the food processor in the divorce so we can try to figure out something different for the second marriage.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled about equal rights and tax benefits and being on my partner’s health insurance so I can have a heart attack and not lose the house and all.

 

But the part that really excites me is: we can throw a wedding , invite all our friends and friends of friends, and brazenly tuck in cards that say “The Happy Couple is Registered at a very-expensive-store-that-you’d- never-shop-at-because-its-so-pretentious-you’d-feel-like-Julia-Roberts-in-“Pretty Woman.”

 

Yeah, that store.

 

And gay people all over the United States are going to have gift registries longer than their best friend’s list of one-night-stands, and more complicated than the visitation schedule for the pet of a recently separated gay couple.

 

And we love it.

 

Finally, we’re going to fill in those huge gaps in our All-Clad cookware and Baccarat Crystal. We’ll get stylishly coordinatedFerragamo shoes, briefcase and tablet covers. Our trousseau will be stocked with 1,000 count linens and Egyptian cotton towels.

 

Our sisters across the street are going to finally get that variable speed, hydrostatic clutch, diamond dust bladed, jet fuel powered chain saw they’ve always wanted. There will be tartan plaid flannel kitchen coordinates of aprons styled like shirts with sleeves torn off, hot pads shaped like softball mitts, and placemats in the silhouette of Chevy Silverados.

 

And we will shame our friends and families to fulfill each and every item on our gift list.

 

After all, what goes around, comes around.

*This post was contributed by Bernie Erickson who has shared a life with his partner, David for 11 years. Bernie and David were married in Winnipeg in 2006.

(If you would like to write a post for the Pride Collective blog please contact Kailyn at littleorphan732@gmail.com ) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I meant to say…

I once got up in front of a room full of graduates and told them to “Fail Big.” After the Pride rally today, no one can ever tell me I don’t take my own advice.

I had a brilliant reason behind saying that at the time, I’m sure, but it was little comfort to me after attempting to give a speech that meant so much to me and, well,… failing BIG.

I broke my own heart a little, as I struggled to remember ANY of the words that had been so meaningful and so perfectly memorized just moments before getting on stage and looking into a giant camera. (headslap) DOH!

After some time to mourn the loss of my grand vision of not making a complete fool of myself, I realized that it’s actually fine.

Not because I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was (I was), or because I wasn’t still crushed that I didn’t really accomplish what I intended to (I am), and not because everyone was SO nice to me about it (they were) (Thanks guys!); but because I realized that it feels better to fall on your face trying to do something that really matters to you, than to run away and keep your dignity in tact.

Thanks to all for making Pride week a success! My pledge to you all is to never avoid making a complete fool of myself, and to always do so with pride.  :-)

Here’s what I was trying to say today, and please know, I meant all the words I said, and all the ones I choked on equally.

(oh, and I wasn’t going to say the ‘naughty words’ out loud.) ;-)

When we are born, we are given a name.

As we grow, people begin to call us by things that are not our name. Some of these things are seemingly harmless or born out of love: (Honey, daughter, bestie, sweetheart) …others are outright destructive or cruel (lazy, stupid, fatso, slut…)

With disproportionate frequency, LGBTs are called things throughout our lives that are not our given names. (Queer, fag, dyke, pervert…) It’s like we’re being labeled for resale, though the claims on the packaging are typically false: (freak, sicko, sinner, it’s ok to hurt me, it’s ok to rape me, I’m less than human)

After a while many of us try to reclaim this naming process. We take the hurtful words we’ve been labeled with and make them fit us rather than living down to their abusive expectations.

Instead of being ‘queer’ we become “queer fabulous!” (glittered dyketastic!, gaylicious!, fag-yum-yum) instead of allowing someone else to label us “expletive deleted” (black censor bar) we redefine what it means to be an “expletive deleted”(glittered black sensor bar) and embrace the empowerment of labeling ourselves.

Often we continue this process by adding our own positive labels to cover up the negative ones others have put on us. (Strong, beautiful, activist, survivor..) But as soon as we falter or fail, there always seems to be someone (sometimes ourselves) standing by waiting to tear those positives off of us for not being good enough, straight enough, gay enough, fill in the blank enough.

Sometimes we put negative labels on ourselves, (stupid, worthless, idiot, LOSER) and walk around with them stuck to us like clearance price stickers on the back of our discount jeans (99CENTS), hoping no one agrees with our low estimation of our worth.

We can keep trying to cover ourselves with good labels (Kind, caring, wants to make a difference, tries real hard…) but eventually it becomes evident that, at best, all we’re really doing is building ourselves a traveling closet to hide within.

We just keep piling on more and more layers between us and the rest of the world. Paper thin though it may be, it’s still a wall. Walls are intended to protect, but they often just hold us back and keep us apart.

This process can do a lot of damage. It’s like when you eat a whole box of cookies because the label claims they’re healthy and all natural. It’s marketing.

It affects things as minor as being treated differently, by referring to our unions as ‘gay marriage’ instead of just ‘marriage’, and as major as lgbts being bullied or attacked for nothing more than existing.

If people only see the packaging labeled “queer” “different” “less than” they’re able to justify even the most horrible actions.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just an US vs. THEM problem.

We all have to stop seeing labels, and start seeing humans. Labels are for food packages, not people, …and closets, (even travel-sized paper thin ones), closets are for junk. Not people. We’re NOT junk.

We have to stop sticking labels to ourselves, and stop allowing our media, our pop culture, our peers, our neighbors, and our friends to stick them on us as well.

We especially have to stop sticking labels to one another, and start sticking together.

 LGBTs often have literally nothing in common, aside from the fact that we’ve been thrown into the same melting pot of alphabet soup next to each other. The risks, and discriminations we face depending on our identity and presentation varies greatly.

Some of us fight for equal recognition under the law while, others of us, are still fighting to simply be able to use a public restroom, attend our schools and jobs as ourselves, and live without the fear of violence, abandonment, or death that often follows.

We are not the same. But we HAVE to stick together. Because we are family.

I don’t mean that in an idealistic ‘brother hood of man’ kind of way. I mean that literally, people today who identify the way you do, the way I do, are still being harmed, or harming themselves because of the pain they face as a direct result of the labels they are burdened with.

These are the names of humans who have suffered (this is where the name tags came in) physically or been killed because of unfounded hate. This does not include domestic abuse. These are the names of people who were physically attacked or murdered only in the united states and only this year. I didn’t include the names of lgbts who took their own lives, because I wouldn’t have had enough time today to stick them all on.

These are not JUST Gays, or transgenders, or lesbians. When they were born, they were given a name.

This is what I mean by being family: Until we are ALL able to be who we are and still be free from harm, free from cruelty, discrimination, violence, and heartbreak, … Until there is no more blood spilled ANYWHERE for no other mitigating factor than someone’s gender/sexual identity, until then, we are literally blood related.

I’m not trying to motivate you to join this fight. I’m trying to remind you that you’re in it.

We are so blessed to be living in such a wonderful, mostly safe community, and those of us on the MN side of the river have experienced a true victory in marriage equality.

But please, don’t mistake the end of the day for the end of the battle, we still have a long fight a head of us.

I want to encourage you to not be satisfied to just be one more voice in the world complaining about the things that are wrong, but instead be one more pair of hands working to make things the way they SHOULD be.

If you have even a few hours a month, get active, and involved.

We have some great community leaders working for us, get to know them. Become one of them. Join or start a committee or support group. Communicate with your legislators and advocate for your rights and those of your LGBTQ family. There are so many important organizations that need your help to make a difference. Support your local Pride Center, Kaleidoscope, Tristate Transgender, We Are Family, Youthworks, or broader scale organizations like The Trevor Project, or The Human Rights Campaign.

 Find the thing that breaks your heart the most and instead of shrinking away, put your heart into it; because nothing simply ‘gets better’, we have to work together to make it better.

I know there is an overwhelming amount of work to be done worldwide, and millions of unmet needs even here in our own backyard. I know you are busy, and have a life and can’t do everything.

Not being able to do everything is not a valid excuse for doing nothing.

Lets start right here, and set an example for the rest of the world as to how to treat one another. Let’s leave all the label making aside and get to know each other by name, and start listening to one another.

Let’s especially, not dishonor the fallen, by sitting idly by while still others continue to fall.

Much like our biological families, we didn’t choose to be born into this fight, and unfortunately we can’t simply chose to walk away from it either.

What we can choose, however, is whether or not we put our hearts into it.

 

Pride Night Talkback at the Aug.2 showing of Bare

The FM Pride Collective has been invited to join the group Act Up on their Pride Night performance of the show Bare. We will take part in a follow up discussion on the issues presented in the pop opera (they call it a ‘talkback’).

Act Up has given us a promo code to use when purchasing your tickets for the Pride Night event, and two dollars from each tickets purchased with the code will be donated to the PCCC!

We will have an informational table in the lobby as well so come and check out what the new Pride Center and other local groups have to offer! We hope to see you there!

Here are the details:

Pride Night performance of Bare Friday, August 2nd

Synopsis:  Through its pulsating rock score and emotionally charged story, bare has thrilled and moved audiences around the world since its first staging in Los Angeles over a decade ago. A contemporary rock musical, barefollows a group of teens wrestling with issues of identity, sexuality, and religion at a co-ed Catholic boarding school. The show centers on seniors Peter and Jason, a young couple struggling with the choice to keep their relationship a secret or come out to their parents, church, and friends.  Provocative, raw, and unyielding in its exploration of how today’s generation navigates the tightrope between adolescence and adulthood, bare examines the consequences of baring a soul, or hiding it from those who matter most.

Performances: August 1st-4th and 7th-10th at 7:30pm.

PRIDE NIGHT: FRIDAY, AUGUST 2nd

As our own personal kickoff to the Pride Week events happening August 8-11, we are inviting the LGBT community and allies to come and experience this contemporary, emotional love story together on PRIDE NIGHT: Friday, August 2nd.

PRIDE NIGHT TALKBACK:

Please stay after the show to participate in our post-show talkback, “You Are Not Alone.”  Joining the cast onstage, representatives from The Pride Collective, FM Pride, Kaleidoscope, and We Are Family will be there to provide their expertise and answer questions from the audience.  These organizations will also have booths set up in the house before, during, and after the show.

PRIDE NIGHT TICKETS:

For the August 2nd performance only, you will be able to purchase a ticket for $12 (adult tickets originally $20 at the door) with the promotional code “barepride.”  If you purchase your ticket online at www.thestageatislandpark.org, enter this code into the yellow box.  You may also call 701-235-6778 and present this code to the box office employee.  If you use the promo code to buy a PRIDE NIGHT ticket, $2 dollars of that purchase will be donated to The Pride Collective.

bare: a pop opera is presented by Act Up Theatre and The Stage at Island Park, the producers that brought you 13, RENT, and Spring Awakening.

Humor and Adventure in Daring to Be.

I lingered over the title of this small piece of writing for a while, editing and erasing repeatedly before settling on the awkward and clunky title above.

 

Originally the title contained the word ‘passing’. Daring to pass. Adventures in passing. Funny stories about passing. Etc. Passing can be a large topic for me and yet it (passing) is something that happens effortlessly for me now.

 

I am Transsexual, female to male. It is very rare that I am read as anything other than a man who was born male in every day life. The first big exception to this rule is that I am sometimes clocked by other Transgender people. We can often recognize each other as Transgender. That and at times I feel myself clocked on some level by very small children, usually children who don’t have a handle on language yet and who rely on figuring everything out by visuals and intuition. Some times small kids stare at me, trying to figure me out.  They do so openly, without shame, with fascination and joyful curiosity.  

 

The rest of the world reads me as male, which is good. I see myself as male too.

So why the word ‘passing’? The term passing is related to passing something (a counterfeit) off as something else (something real). It also is connected to access, to getting passed in to something or someplace. Finally passing can be being passed by or passed over.

 

For me, and for many TS people, passing is a troubled idea. It’s often been said that we are not passing when we’re being seen as something we actually are. I’m male. Not only legally male but also I just am. I ‘m not sure how to say that any other way. One of the reasons I chose to undergo hormonal and surgical transition is that I believe my soul is male. Going through a gender transition was not a “sex change” but rather a re-alignment of my external self with my internal self. There is no counterfeit here now, post transition. I am more real than ever before.

 

By being read as I see myself, as male, in almost every social interaction, others in the Transgender communities would say that my passability also grants me access, that I am passed into. Not only am I read as male, I am also read as a cisgendered man, a man who was born male, and not as a Transsexual. There are some in the TG communities who see passing as assimillationist, and on some level as closeted and grasping at priviledge. I question that stance however. If all transgender people need to be visibly between genders to be true, isn’t that another way of stating that passing is a form of deception, this time coming from queer righteousness? Besides, passing is complex. I know my history at all times, whether its being seen by others or not.

 

I’m off on a tangent. The reason I sat down to write is that I have moments, living here in F-M where I blunder my way through passing/not passing. Most of them have more to do with the way I do maleness than with being read as male.I may write more about those moments at a later date.


*(This post was contributed by Harold Stripes, a member of the FM community. If you would like to be a contributing writer for the Pride Collective Blog please contact us!)

Find Your Center

When in doubt, cycle viciously.

(by Kailyn Allen)

Find your center.

I know you’ve heard the phrase a million times. Even those of us who use our yoga pants as a uniform for everything but yoga are familiar with the idea of one’s “center”.

It seems to me, much of our time, as humans, is spent going around in circles,  thinking in circles, spinning in circles, talking in circles, dancing in circles around our shoes and purses. Some of us even knit in circles. We have life cycles, lunar cycles, vicious cycles, and bicycles. 

We also tend to look for ways to connect with others who are like us and add them to our “circle of friends”, or meet at a community center, like the Pride Collective.

We’re kind of a center-centric society.

We seem to agree as a whole, that the stuff that matters the most is kept in the midst of these circles. We look for the ‘hub’ of our communication to network effectively; we look for the ‘core’ of our problems in order to solve them, we look for the ‘heart’ of the matter …well, pretty much, always.

It’s almost as if intuitively we sense that most things can be fixed, as long as its center, its heart, is ok.

Recent changes being made to discriminatory laws, which deny rights to same gendered couples, has shined a bit of a spotlight on the LGBT community. This is great in some ways, but it’s not all glitter and rainbows. There are still a lot of destructive misconceptions being propagated.

One thing that may not necessarily be obvious to a non-LGBT person is that we are not a homogenous blend of like-minded fabulous clones.

Oftentimes LGBTs are represented in mainstream media as being a cohesive unit, usually labeled as ‘gay’ (as in “gay marriage, gay rights, gay agenda”). We do have a certain level of unity among us because we share something sacred and universal at our core. However, for some of us, that’s all we share.

Not all transgender individuals are gay, some gay people have no interest in getting married, not all lesbians are liberals (or mechanics), some bisexuals like to cook and others would rather just order take out. Some of us don’t even have a ‘letter’ to represent us. We aren’t all friends, and don’t all know each other. We are as diverse and varied as everyone else.  

We struggle to feel safe and accepted in a society that can be cruel (and even deadly) to those who are not understood, and where understanding is constantly clouded by sensationalist journalism, and exploitative entertainment/media. We also struggle to feel accepted and understood by one another within the LGBT community.

 Often, it feels like we are seven different soldiers, in seven different battles, but with only one sword and suit of armor to share between us.

So why are we all trying to fit under this little rainbow umbrella? What is there even about us, that makes me keep on referring to us as an “us” if we are so different?

It’s that ‘something sacred and universal’ at our core that I mentioned earlier.

Today, I brought my children to visit my Nana, who has been the single most important role model I’ve had in my life.

 She taught me everything I need to know to be a good mother, and set the standard just out of reach enough, that I will have something to strive for as long as I live.  I may remember how to properly season an iron skillet, how to sooth an earache at three in the morning, how to cut the green hair off the cheese and “call it good”, and how to “just say a prayer and keep going”, even when it hurts; but she set the bar pretty high. I’ll never be able to fully capture or pass on all of the ways she is a blessing to our family.

We may be able to tie on the capes of our heroes, but we rarely ever fly as high as they do in our minds.

I did my best to prepare them, but nonetheless when the kids saw Nana, they were a little uneasy. Having just had two heart attacks after a foot surgery, she was not herself. My youngest daughter asked her if she was feeling better.  “I’m fine.” She said, in true Midwestern fashion.  “My foot still hurts,…but I’m tough.” 

“Yeah.” my daughter said, “…and your heart is tough too, huh?”

What does this have to do with being gay (lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, etc)? Nothing.

Neither does the reason we all huddle under the same umbrella seeking shelter from the storms of hate and intolerance. It’s not about being specifically gay, lesbian, transgender …etc.

It’s about being human.

We may have our struggles amongst ourselves, and we definitely have a long fight ahead of us before each of us are treated with dignity and humanity by the whole of society; but at our center is our irrevocable intrinsic worth as humans. That is a pretty solid center.

It won’t be easy. It won’t be all glitter and rainbows, but we can handle it.

Our hearts are tough.