The Challenge

fannie-lou-hamer-activist-nobodys-free-until-everybodysOkay, my LGBTQ and sex positive friends and allies:

This is your call to action.  Maybe you’ve been burning with anger, or immobilized by fear. Maybe you just don’t want to think about political stuff at all — jeez, I know I don’t.  I’m not a policy wonk, and while business-as-usual hasn’t worked out that well for me as a disabled person, I’ve survived.

But the battleground is set, and it’s on the edge of a volcano. We hear the ground rumbling underneath us.  It’s more heated right now than I can remember anytime in my life — and I’m in my fifth decade. The fight for human rights feels more urgent to me now than anything since Stonewall, since the fight against AIDS in the 1980s & 1990s, since the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, since the rallying cry around the death of Matthew Shepard or any of the myriads who’ve died for the crime of being different.

In the last five years we’ve seen the LGBTQ  community gain some amazing strides: the legalization of marriage nation-wide, the Obama administration interpretation of anti-discrimination law, some strong moves forward and statements by cities, states and school districts in support of their LBGTQ population.

We have met these changes with triumph and with regret that they are still so little and long overdue.  To us, it is obvious that all human beings must have the equal rights to access to love, security, housing, education, and jobs.

For the most vocal of the Trump supporters, no.  The election results were not a surprise to me, nor to many of my friends who’ve lived in rural America.  Anyone who is poor could probably see this coming. We know what shadows lie in the system of business-as-usual, and what has to be sacrificed to keep our awareness down, to keep from being ground under its wheels.

Throughout this election year and especially after the election results, it has become more obvious to us that people are tribal. We’ve noticed that many people’s definition of tribe can’t encompass an entire country, and maybe ours can’t either. But those of us who have been in this fight, whether for years or decades, need to redouble our efforts to put the good for the whole country over the good for just the people we like.

And how do we do that?

We need to challenge the idea that any life can be disposable. We need to broaden our perspective.  We have to struggle even harder for our own rights while simultaneously insuring that the rights of other people aren’t sacrificed for our security and peace of mind. Not in this country, and not on this planet.

We need to stay informed. And we need to get our information from good sources. Read many sources not just a few.  Cruise the news. Try checking out The Guardian or another foreign paper to get news on US politics.  Don’t rely on the same sources every day. And definitely get on the mailing lists for your own representatives to stay apprised of what they are working to do.

We need to stop vilifying people.  We can despise actions without despising the humanity of the people who perpetuate them.  We aim for understanding of those who are our worst critics. Tha

We need to commit to what we can actually do.  It’s easy to get swept up in post-election fervor and it’s not hard for most people to participate in a nonviolent protest. But if I’m agoraphobic, that’s not going to be my style of activism.

What small thing can I actually do to change the world today?  Would my efforts be more useful at a local level or state level? Am I more of an online activist or a call-your-senator type?  Maybe I’m a person wh0 believes that meditation or prayer has a place in activism.  Or maybe my Vietnamese next door neighbor needs me to go with her to Social Security to make sure that communication lines stay clear because she doesn’t speak English well.

I remember why I left the peace movement in the late 1980’s — I reached a wall. I felt I’d done what I could and I didn’t have any more to give. I was angry all the time, and some part of me felt that I couldn’t be marching for peace until I had more peace with who I was. Sometimes you need to change the world and sometimes you need to let the world change you.

The Challenge

I completely understand the desire to hide away somewhere peaceful or to Netflix out for awhile — and there’s a place for that. But don’t let that be where you stay.  Make a small amount of time for political action — an hour a week, or a phone call a day. Pick an organization working for change and meet with them in your city.  Because we really can’t afford to numb out all the time. We have a clear example of where inaction leads us. Now let’s see what we can really do.

 

(Value added: LGBT rights by country or territory)

 

Seattle Bans Conversion Therapy

The Seattle City Council voted to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth on August 1st. The vote was unanimous.

Seattle is the third city to ban conversion therapy (or “reparative” therapy), joining Washington DC and Cincinnati.

Conversion therapy is an attempt to change LGBTQ youth and make them straight. It has been condemned by “every major medical and mental health organization in the United States” based on a body of evidence that the “therapy” can be affirmatively harmful to LGBTQ youth, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Author Garrard Conley , who has undergone the therapy, calls it a “death sentence”.

Seattle City Councilwoman Debora Juarez likens it to the forced assimilation of Native Americans into mainstream Eurocentric culture.

Conversion therapy is the 20th century or 21st century version of what happened to my people all in the name in assimilation. We were forcibly taken from our families, from our children. I am literally one generation removed from that practice. –Debora Juarez, member of the Blackfoot nation.

Conversion therapy (along with the rights of transgender people to use the bathroom of their chosen gender) is addressed by the Republican Platform, which states that “reparative” therapy should be available and that it should be left up to the parents of LGBTQ youth whether or not to subject them to it.

Sources:

 

Gay Activism in the Non-Western World

This isn’t what LGBT life is like in the 75 countries where it is illegal to be gay.  But this is a look at the fact that activism wasn’t born in America, and there are many non-Western countries where LGBTs are living authentically and making a difference in their communities.

Jenni Chang and Lisa Dazols are a couple from San Francisco who bought a camera and a book about how to make a documentary and set off to meet gay activists in the non-Western world, activists they call the Supergays.  Despite the cute name, worth watching, if only for the examples of people climbing toward justice.  How do we get there from here?  These people have some good ideas.

Why Sex Worker Rights Complement LGBT Rights

I’m pretty new to being vocally sex positive.  I’ve been polyamorous all my life, so in my personal circle, I’ve been critical of dominant relationship paradigms — for me.  I’ve been bisexual all my life, so when someone has asked, I’ve said yes, I’m bisexual.  And I’ve been submissive most of my adult life.  That actually doesn’t come up in conversation much with my friends, so while I don’t hide it, I also don’t make a big deal out of it.

But through my volunteer work with the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle, and with this blog, I have become much more vocal about what I’d like to see happen beyond the personal level:  transgender people should be able to use whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate; no one should be discriminated against in employment or housing, regardless of sexual preference or gender identity (or race, age, etc.).  And this:  I believe sex work should be legal.

Why?

Because I’d like to see sex workers empowered with protections and rights.  I’d like to see the highly professional people I know who do sex work get some recognition as the hard workers they are.  I’d like the profession to be better regulated, for sex workers to be seen as separate from the current international story that human trafficking and preying on the week is what drives sex work.  I’d like the profession to be regulated, too, because that would make illegal activity around sex work more visible.  And I’d like the people who patronize sex workers to be free to do so.

I also think it’s an important human rights issue.  Currently sex workers are arrested and jailed for their motive for having sex and for whom they have sex with.  Just like at one point, gay men could be jailed, beaten, and worse for their idea of whom they found sexy.  And there is also this, from the Huffington Post:

In terms of ideology, the two movements are not so far apart. The heart of the demand for LGBT rights is the idea that all people should be granted autonomy over their lives and bodies, that anyone should be allowed to sleep with who they choose and that it only concerns the people in the relationship and not the government or bigots. The very same idea is at the core of the fight for sex workers. Why should they not be granted the same freedom? Why should they not be allowed to have sex with who they choose? — Stephanie Farnsworth

If anyone wants to be truly free on this planet, we must fight for the rights of all our people to be free.