July 21, 2013

TW: none.

Remembering Cathy Thomas and Becky Dowski on their birthday today – born on the same day six years apart! They would have been 54 and 48 years old. May good things come this year for them and their families – they are loved and missed, and they are not forgotten.

The Stories Project – Clayton Ham’s Story

Clayton Ham is a youth who wished to share his experience of being openly gay in the rural Midwest. While he has faced issues related to being openly gay, he believes his experience has been largely positive.

TW: slurs, bullying, transphobia.

I would say my experience with being openly gay in school has been mostly positive. Most people have been accepting, and there’s just a few groups that haven’t been. I see a lot of people with a much more negative experience than mine. In my case, it was my friends that really wanted me to come out before I even knew – I think they always thought I was a little gay. “Don’t knock it before you try it”, that’s what they would say to me. It hasn’t been difficult for me to be openly gay. I think it bugs my friends more than myself when I’m being picked on – it doesn’t bug me; I have my head help up high.

In terms of problems we’ve had…specifically, there’s this group that sits behind us at lunch that tends to make comments that aren’t appropriate. For example, on the Day of Silence, they saw that we were participating and asked if they could have tape and stuff, but it was a joke; I could tell by their tone. Of course they were smirking and laughing it off later on. Earlier that day, we heard the same people saying, “Oh, it’s that Faggot Day; those people are retarded.” Since I’m openly gay and people know I’m confident in who I am, I’ve also heard them say things like, “Why does that faggot always show off?” I don’t fit their idea of normal – marriage and 2.3 children and a white picket fence. We’ve had problems with this group all year. They throw food at us. One time, one guy sat down and said, “Hey, man, can I have your number? I want to be your boyfriend”, obviously being dared by his friends. It was like, first of all, you’re not my type; second of all, stop being an idiot. It’s not impressing anyone.

Another event that stands out to me was at the beginning of the semester, I wanted a scarf. I really like scarves. So I got a scarf and I wore it on the first day. As walked by, I heard the word “faggot” being called out to me, very loudly from more than a couple of people.

And though the school’s somewhat accepting, the administrators…are a different story. They don’t give it away that they’re biased, but there’s a couple who did say and I quote, when I informed them that I was participating in the Day of Silence, that it seemed “silly” and that they didn’t see a point in it. One in particular said they found it stereotypical to go around waving flags on the Day of Silence, and I found that vey stereotypical and bizarre. Who says I’m going to have a flag waving around to participate and express my opinions? There was another incident this year that made the GSA leader very angry…essentially, my friend Jackie was going to see if her petition to get me to cross-dress for a day could get 100 signatures, and if she got 100 signatures, I would come to school presenting as feminine and wear a dress, makeup, nail polish, and everything. It was out of fun and another friend brought up that it could also be a good way to raise awareness that people should be allowed to do this if that’s who they are or that’s who they want to be. Jackie wanted to ask the administrators if that was all right, and according to her, they had said no. But they didn’t just say no, they said it was a distraction to the learning environment and, “You’re not allowed to do that here.” I don’t want to say mean things; I’m not a mean person, but these kinds of people need to get their act together. I find it ironic that they tell students to “cross the line” (our school motto) and respect others as they would want to be respected, but then they turn around and say, “But don’t be that.”

What I want to get across in telling my story is just the general message of show some respect. It’s really sad that people think it’s fun and hilarious and a good thing to make fun of someone. Unfortunately the administrators at my school don’t do that much – I’ve seen tons of people get picked on, and they don’t ever do much. I also want people to know that there are supportive people out there. On the Day of Silence, one of my teachers talked to everyone in her class about it and posted on Twitter, “I can’t do the Day of Silence because I’m a teacher, but I support everyone who is; go for it.” Another explained the event and why we couldn’t talk to the class. There were quite a few people that supported the Day of Silence – I counted seventeen or eighteen people actually participating, and many more who were supportive.

The Summer in LGBT Rights

TW: Mentions of discrimination and loss in Janice Langbehn’s post. Anti-gay violence and death toward the end in the “The UpStairs Lounge Fire Anniversary” section.

This summer has been quite the ride in terms of LGBT rights and progress! So many victories and so many reasons to celebrate. Unfortunately, I wound up very ill on the program site in France and had to return earlier than expected, but on the plus side, it enabled me to be present to witness this first hand. To recap, I have created a list of reasons our community has to celebrate this summer – as well as a list of reasons the fight is far from over.

Victories at the Supreme Court
Probably the biggest piece of news is the two historic victories at the Supreme Court – the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down as unconstitutional and a lower court ruling which struck down Proposition 8 in California was allowed to stand. Edie Windsor, the 84-year-old widow at the center of the historic DOMA case, says she cried upon learning of her win and believes Thea, her partner of 44 years, would say, “You did it, honey.”

Links: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/26/19155699-i-cried-i-cried-doma-widow-says-on-hearing-of-supreme-court-win?lite, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/supreme-court-rules-gay-marriage-cases/story?id=19492896#.Ud34okGTgo4

Coy Mathis
The Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled in favor of six-year-old transgender girl Coy Mathis, who was barred from using the girls’ bathroom at her school, stating that the school had created “a hostile, discriminatory, and unsafe” environment for Coy. The article in the attached link includes a highly adorable photo of Coy hugging her attorney after their win.

Link: http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_23529796/coy-mathis-family-celebrates-civil-rights-win-transgender

We Have Our Plates Back!
The Indiana Youth Group, after a lengthy three-year battle with the Indiana BMV, has had their license plates permanently reinstated. The legal battle began after it became apparent to the group that the new legislation surrounding specialty plates targeted IYG specifically for being an LGBT group. This is personally exciting to me as I have been going to IYG since I was 14. Consider getting one if you live in Indiana!

Links: http://www.indianayouthgroup.org/iyg-license-platethe-sordid-story, http://www.indystar.com/article/20130628/NEWS/306280087/BMV-permanently-reinstates-Indiana-Youth-Group-license-plate

Janice Langbehn
Janice Langbehn, the woman who was kept from her dying partner’s bedside in 2007 and has since become the driving force behind pushing for hospital visitation rights for LGBT families, has decided it is time for her to focus on her and step back from the world of LGBT activism, and time for her to pass the torch in the fight for equality.

Link: http://thelpkids.com/2013/06/27/i-me-mine/

The UpStairs Lounge Fire Anniversary
June 24, 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of the UpStairs Lounge Fire, one of the largest massacres of LGBT people in US history. 32 were killed and many more injured in an arson attack on the UpStairs Lounge, a crime which was never solved. How is this story not infamous? How is it I had never heard of the UpStairs Lounge until 40 years had passed?

Links: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/06/24/remembering-the-upstairs-lounge-the-u-s-a-s-largest-lgbt-massacre-happened-40-years-ago-today/ (TW: graphic photo), http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=vcsr&GSvcid=392792

Author: Meg