“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was. They’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something….Fix society. Please.”
Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old trans* girl, wrote these tragically poignant words just before stepping in front of a 18-wheel tractor trailer on December 28, 2014 at 2:20 a.m. as she walked along the southbound lanes of I-71 near her home in Kings Mill, Ohio. Also in her suicide note, she outlined her troubled relationship with her conservative Christian parents who would not accept or support her trans* identity claiming their religious beliefs as justification. They sent her to a so-called “Christian therapist” who refused to grant her permission to undergo gender confirmation medical procedures.
by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on December 17th, 2014 | 8 Comments »
This has been a good year for marriage rights for the LGBT community in the United States. Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor gutted the so-called Defense of Marriage Act – an unfortunate legacy of the Clinton administration – a tide of legal decisions has washed away state bans on marriage equality. At this moment, thirty-five states offer full access to marriage for same-sex couples, covering nearly two-thirds of the country’s population. Five more states are poised on the brink, and the high court has refused to even take up appeals from the forces of bigotry.
Yet while marriage is an important right that carries many benefits, opening the nuptial doors hardly signals the eradication of homophobia or misogyny. In twenty-nine states, it is still legal to discriminate against the LGBT community in employment, housing, and education. In fact, fourteen of the states that offer marriage equality simultaneously refuse to provide these basic protections (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming). And all of the five that are likely to have marriage equality soon (Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas) allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is a horrible disconnect. In practice it means that a couple who celebrate a happy, significant occasion are in fact opening themselves up to more discrimination, perhaps even the loss of their homes or livelihoods. Again, we have a labyrinthine system for LGBT individuals to navigate with a level of risk that can result in loss of income, housing, healthcare, and consequently further targets in their communities.
This map is current as of 2012. Credit: Creative Commons / Center for American Progress
by: Dean Spade on November 19th, 2014 | Comments Off
I will never forget the first time I saw Leslie Feinberg speak – New York City, 1996. The auditorium was full of young people like me who had read Stone Butch Blues and wanted to hear about gender and queerness. Leslie spoke about those things, but also about war and labor struggles and racism and U.S. militarism, refusing to deliver the narrow single-issue politics that the mainstreaming gay rights discourse had trained us to expect. It blew my mind and transformed what I thought was possible to say and be. I still think of Leslie every time I give a speech, hoping to build connections like the ones I saw Leslie build.
Leslie Feinberg speaks at a rally.
I read Stone Butch Blues not long after I moved to New York City in 1995. The scenes from that book – scenes of violence as well as scenes of love and finding connection to resistance movements – were burned in my brain, shaping how I understood the city. I still think of scenes from that book each time I enter certain subway stations or walk certain streets. In so many ways, Leslie made maps for queer and trans Left activists that we all continue to use to navigate, whether we know it or not.
by: Jessica Renae Buxbaum on November 19th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
Credit: Creative Commons/lajmi.net
Since the film’s release on October 3, Gone Girl still remains number three at the box office, has garnered $300 million worldwide making it almost the biggest money-making film yet, has a rating of 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and is even in the running for the Oscars. With its critical acclaim, fan buzz, and record-breaking consistency, the movie is a smash hit and already on the IMDb’s user-generated Top 250 movies of all time. But amidst the praise is a lack of consideration for what Gone Girl is really depicting and reinforcing: rape culture.
“[Alan Turing] was and is a hero of all time…a man who is a gay icon, who didn’t deny his nature, his being, and for that he suffered. … This is a story that celebrates him, that celebrates outsiders; it celebrates anybody who’s ever felt different and ostracized and ever suffered prejudice.”
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing on set of The Imitation Game. Credit: Creative Commons/ touchedmuch
Though I usually find TV award shows to project primarily fluff and silliness, and they rarely stir deep emotions in me, listening to Benedict Cumberbatch’s acceptance speech in the Best Actor category for his portrayal of Alan Turing in the film “The Imitation Game” at the American Film Awards ceremonies brought me to tears. This stemmed from a sense of deep pride and an endless abyss of sadness. Cumberbatch’s commitment and passion shinned through on stage as he talked about transforming Turing’s story, his brilliance, and his humanity to the silver screen helping in his way to give him the long-overdue wide-scale recognition he rightly deserves.
Alan Mathison Turing was a pioneering computer scientist, and he served as a mid-20th century English mathematician, logician, and cryptanalyst who, working during World War II at England’s Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, succeeded with his team of scientists and linguists in cracking the “Enigma code” used by the Nazi command to conduct covert communication operations. Because of Turing and his colleagues’ efforts, Cumberbatch stated that there is now general agreement that they significantly shorted the war by at least two years saving an estimated 17 million lives. Prime Minister Winston Churchill singled out Turning as the person whose work contributed the most to defeating the Germans.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on November 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off
Scene from The Laramie Project, a play based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia
Last year, when I was teaching a university Queer Studies course, I opened a unit on the topic of violence directed against members of our community. As I discussed Brandon Teena, Gwen Araujo, and Matthew Shepard, a number of students stated that while they had heard of Brandon Teena because they saw the film “Boys Don’t Cry,” they were not familiar with Gwen Araujo (even though her story was profiled in the film “A Girl Like Me”), and most surprisingly to me, they had not heard of Matthew Shepard or the remarkable play and film “The Laramie Project.”
It was difficult for me to conceal my disappointment and concern, but on reflection, I know that I cannot expect young people to know their own history when the schools continue to omit our history, our literature, our contributions, and our voices in the classrooms of our nation.
Though I had difficulty reading through to the end without breaking off with emotion a few times, I read to the students in my Queer Studies course an address I gave on Thursday, October 15, 1998 on the Amherst, Massachusetts Town Commons, three days after the death of Matthew Shepard as part of a memorial tribute called in his honor.
by: Lisa Bigeleisen on October 28th, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Carol Rossetti
When Carol Rossetti began posting her illustrations from her “Women” series online earlier this year, she had no clue the images would generate a following of 184.7K Facebook users.
Rossetti, 26, a graphic designer from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, illustrates women using kraft paper and colored pencils. Each drawing features a portrait or figure with a hand-lettered message in response to many kinds of discrimination, addressing issues such as sexism, body image, self esteem, gender identity, and ageism to name a few.
To see more of Carol Rossetti’s illustrations, visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery or check out the artists’ Facebook and Tumblr pages.
by: Michael Orion Powell-Deschamps on October 23rd, 2014 | Comments Off
The Vatican released a preliminary document calling out churches to welcome gays into their communities. Credit: Creative Commons/The National Churches Trust
Some big news happened earlier this month. The Vatican released a preliminary document calling for the church to welcome and accept homosexuals. It was the culmination of an expected change during Francis’ tenure. Since becoming pope, Pope Francis has made verbal overtures towards gay Catholics, famously saying, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge him?”
by: Timothy Villareal on October 22nd, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Creative Commons/Edgar Jiménez
Many years ago, as I walked back to the pew after receiving Communion, I saw the outline of a man kneeling in another pew, his head in his hands. As Catholics often do when they see someone during Mass that they have not seen for while, I wordlessly tapped him on the shoulder to say the silent hello. I was not prepared for the sight of his face. As he looked up, his face was gaunt, and there were dark circles under his eyes that I had never seen before, not even the time he cried in front of me.
Several months prior to that, I drove him back to his condo after Mass, where he finally opened up to me why he was refraining from receiving Communion: having recently had sex with men, he believed he was not in a state of grace, and therefore not worthy to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
by: Janet Goldblatt Holmes on October 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia
During the winter of 2013, I read the compelling article, “Hidden Children of the Holocaust” about children who were sexually and physically abused by the “foster” families who claimed to have “saved them from the Nazi’s.” For many, forty or fifty years passed before they could tell their stories.
I read of a woman who was unable to share her secret with her spouse, children, family, or friends. I was shaken by how isolating that must have been, with my own experience of date rape seeming small and insignificant. These threads of shame and self-dismissal are common in survivors of assault and molestation. As I became a witness to the accounts of violent betrayals of trust, the familiar conflicts of shame and blame surfaced.