Working in Those States Disparaged by Coastal Liberals: A Response to Pro-Choice Media’s Recent Criticism of Bernie Sanders

According to Louisiana’s Forum for Equality, Louisiana is the only southern state to have zero anti-LGBT laws in consideration by a state legislature in 2017. As of last year, Louisiana is also the only southern state to grant LGBTQ state contractors employment protections, and it is one of a few southern states to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. This progress is because of Louisiana’s current Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards.

Edwards was elected in late 2015 after a cunning campaign, especially against former Republican senator, David Vitter, who was under great criticism for his past sexual relations with female escorts. After Edwards and Vitter gained the most votes in the jungle primary, Edwards defeated Vitter by a 15-point margin in the run-off a month later. Even Louisiana liberals agree that Edwards was in a lucky position considering Vitter’s scandal, but Edwards also did win because he was not a threat to the anti-choice majority of Louisianans. It is also helpful to point out that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by a 20-point margin a year later in the same state. Anyway, Edwards campaigned as an anti-choice politician with pro-LGBTQ and social welfare sensibilities. Every candidate in the gubernatorial election was anti-choice. What Edwards cleverly did was state that he would not defund Planned Parenthood if there was not something as accessible and affordable he could deliver as an alternative for the other reproductive healthcare needs Planned Parenthood addresses. In other words, it was cool to have Planned Parenthood health centers. Months after former Governor Jindal delayed a property license for Planned Parenthood to create a new and larger clinic in New Orleans, new Governor Edwards gave the organization the access to finish their intentions of the new clinic.

While Edwards has approved of anti-choice bills in the past year, outsiders must understand the state of Louisiana. For instance, the southern half of Louisiana is a Roman Catholic stronghold, which includes an archdiocese in the area of liberal New Orleans that issued a protest statement collaborating with local businesses to block the creation of the new Planned Parenthood clinic. The northern half of Louisiana is a deep part of the Bible Belt, loaded with Southern Baptists and Holiness Pentecostals. Deridder, Louisiana, which is in central Louisiana, if not is, was the municipality with the most churches per square mile in the U.S. Also, while Governor Edwards is a lot more to the left than Jindal, both are Roman Catholic and so was former Governor Blanco before them. Do not even get me started on the corrupt lobbying efforts and deep ties of the anti-choice, hate group, the American Family Association, with Jindal.

It’s this cultural understanding that is needed by coastal liberals to understand why Bernie Sanders is supporting Heath Mello for Omaha, Nebraska’s mayoral election. Both candidates in the mayoral election are anti-choice like in Louisiana’s 2015 gubernatorial election. Like Louisiana, Nebraska is categorized as having heavy restrictions on abortion services. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 92% of Louisiana’s parishes have no abortion clinic, and 97% of Nebraska’s counties have no abortion clinic. Though Louisiana has a population of 4.7 million and Nebraska has 1.9 million, they both only have two Planned Parenthood health centers in each state. Yet in a low populated, liberal state like Vermont (on the east coast) with less than 700,000 people, there are 12 Planned Parenthood health centers. Nebraska favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton with a 25-percent margin in last year’s election. Hillary was only favored in two Nebraska counties but only by small margins. Douglas County, where Omaha is located, was one of those counties. The county had a 2 to 3-percent margin favoring Clinton. Louisiana did fairly better in comparison with 10 parishes favoring Clinton over Trump, especially in Orleans Parish where Clinton obtained 81% of the vote.

Pro-Choice media, like NARAL Pro-Choice America’s website and Jezebel, is failing to understand the cultural contexts of social politics in deeply red states because of their privilege of leading these feminist conversations from coastal, liberal areas, where there is always a pro-choice candidate on an election ticket. The northeastern states and the west coast do not nearly find abortion as controversial as most states in the South and the Midwest. NARAL is based in Washington, D.C., which is the most loyal U.S. territory to vote Democrat in presidential elections. Jezebel’s owner, Univision Communications, is based in New York, New York. Understanding this political geography, gives understanding to such criticism from the media, especially since residents of these areas of the country are known to disparage such red states like Nebraska and Louisiana.

Being from Louisiana, my origin came up in conversation when I lived in Philadelphia, which people negatively responded to often with “Oh God, Louisiana.” Some went on to describe Louisiana as a hopeless wasteland of conservativism. Yes, Louisiana is conservative. Yes, we have some of the worst education in the nation. Yes, we have crazy ass bills that come through the state legislature that make me want to fly to the liberal heaven of Portland, Oregon. But we also have stigma, and coastal liberals are a large contribution to this issue. While conservative commentators like Tomi Lahren sweet talk to residents of states like Louisiana and Nebraska and go on to deceive their viewers as vocal proponents for their healthcare, education, and civil rights, they are at least acknowledging (on the surface) some of these red state residents as Americans. Tomi Lahren even said that she wanted to be a voice for “fly-over states” like her home state of North Dakota.

The problem with most of pro-choice media smearing Bernie for his support of Heath Mello must do with this cultural absolutism held by coastal liberals. There is a lack of cultural relativism in understanding that for any kind of progress to happen democratically it must be pushed wherever possible. This includes endorsing very imperfect candidates. This does not necessarily mean taking whatever you are given like endorsing just any Democrat, but it means seeing the need of a community or state (especially when all candidates in the election are anti-choice) and advocating however possible. Heath Mello may not be advocating for abolishing the system of the police, but he is advocating for body cameras for Omaha’s police and creating an “independent, third party” staffing analysis. He also wants to create an “Infrastructure Bank” that will be a public-private partnership developing modernized infrastructure for Omaha using local, state, and federal funding. As for the environment, he advocates for more recycling, Omaha’s “first climate action plan,” and clean energy investment for city buildings. He also wants to deeply invest in the public funding of projects around underprivileged areas of northern Omaha. For instance, he has envisioned the “Omaha Intergenerational Poverty Commission,” which according to Mello’s campaign site would “pursue a ‘two-generation’ approach to help break the cycle of poverty in Omaha.” He also wants to create a bus transit line for the city. What I am describing is a campaign by a candidate willing to address a great bit of his community’s needs. Meanwhile, Mello’s opponent wants to lower taxes and emphasizes “tackling gang violence” and is a Republican.

Personally, I find Bernie’s support for Mello more progressive than totally disregarding the candidate at all. Bernie embraced cultural relativism to understand the political climate of Nebraska to help Omaha people meet some of their needs. Sanders himself is from Brooklyn and is a senator of Vermont, so he gets extra points. According to Daniel Marans of the Huffington Post, Sanders “argued that compromising on contentious social issues is the price of building political power outside the ‘liberal coasts.’” To expand on my point of cultural relativism, for the leftist movement against Trump to be efficient, we must embrace more cultural relativism from coast to coast and everywhere in between in order to be strong against this monster in office and his agenda.

Evangelical Homophobia: The Difference Between Churches That Affirm And Those That Really Don’t

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“I read about your experience, and I’m praying for you!” – a classmate from my former Baptist college

Thank you, but out of what intention?

“Josh, you are always welcome to come to our church.” – my parents’ Assemblies of God pastors

I was not attending your church before, so why would I start now? Especially now?

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” – Pope Francis

Do you need more characters to finish that statement?

After I came out, I knew, of course, to watch out for hostile homophobes, but I was not prepared enough for those, who would try to “win me back to Jesus” or be their little gay piece of celibate hope. Being raised in church and going to multiple Christian schools, I had to deal with quite an audience. My Facebook inbox became swarmed with messages from people saying they were either “praying for me” or “good job!” The “praying for me” messages almost every time used a similar structure of the messenger’s conservative viewpoint, how they “loved me,” and how they were going to be “praying for me,” which even ended variously with smiley faced emoticons. As a newly out gay, it caused me a lot of anxiety as I still asked, “What if he does answer their prayers? What if I’m supposed to marry a woman while escaping my desires for men the rest of my life?”

I came to understand this microaggression of “praying for me” as what I like to call “evangelical homophobia.” This slightly nice yet shaming statement is only a small piece of what evangelical homophobia looks like. Evangelical homophobia can be understood as the use of religious aesthetics to slyly shame or oppress queer people, and/or even convert queer people into a non-affirming, toxic belief system through seemingly light-hearted tactics. Evangelical homophobia does not have to be expressed specifically by evangelicals or even Protestants but any belief system that aims to convert queer people using superficial tactics of acceptance.

Evangelical homophobia is the new homophobia within young Christian social circles. When I was going to my former college, my friends and I were big supporters for LGBT rights like same-sex marriage and adoption, but we also believed engaging in anything gay to be a sin. My friends and I even commended each other at times of how we treated gay people in the surrounding populace unlike our “more conservative” and “more backwards” classmates. We even had intentions of taking one of our gay friends to Bible study, and the Bible study’s leaders thought it was lovely and encouraged it. Evangelical homophobia can express itself by exalting the egos of the religious oppressor while also creating the idea of the “cool sinner” and saving this “cool sinner.” The gay guy or the lesbian have become not only cool in the political arena of topics but also in the ministry to “sinners.” “Saving the gay or lesbian” means making your church cooler and more modern. Your church looks more modern, the sinners are being saved, and the queers are not going to hell (just suffering a lot of internalized homophobia).

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Is this why Pope Francis is seeming more accepting to the LGB community? As the pope keeps affirming the theory of evolution and the fact of climate change, why does he not finish his statement on gay Christians? Pope Francis in the summer of 2013 quotes “who is he to judge”, but a year later is seen speaking at conferences for opposite sex marriage and also making statements about the illegitimacy of gay parent adoptions. This is just like my friends’ seeming appearance to having affirming tactics toward the LGBT community, while continuously affirming their Baptist church’s statement of faith that “marriage is between one man and one woman” and that the Bible is “inerrant/infallible.”

Yeah, it was really funny sending back superficial replies to these homophobic messages, but that is not always the case. Evangelical homophobia can express itself in a very sneaky manner. As I said, a lot of my friends and I were for LGBT rights, but we all agreed that engaging in anything gay was a sin. Some evangelical homophobes will go to even pride parades for their LGBT friends or go to events related to queers’ significant others like house warmings and etc. This is what is called relational evangelism in Evangelical Christianity, but it is also a tactic used by evangelical homophobes. Their ignorance usually lies in their own fear of hell and can get twisted to even using it to influence members of the LGBT community. I’ve seen it for myself, and I’ve seen the tactics laid before me.

The best tactic to come back at evangelical homophobia is cutting off the aggressor, unless you really know you’re not going to take their brouhaha. I have a few evangelical homophobes that I have to keep in my life, and I know how to deal with them because I cut it off before I see it possibly starting. How do you know if one is secretly an evangelical homophobe? Sometimes you might have to ask but also their churches’ statements of faith is very accessible through the Internet.

This aggression of evangelical homophobia is very popular in contemporary churches and has become a part of the superstructure of some society. LGBT people need to understand that this form of oppression is not necessary and can be detected with sincere communication (if not, then look it up). The great thing is that even this kind of homophobia is in remission and growing more sparse. LGBT people just need to remember their identity as a contradiction to evangelical homophobia, and that is completely OK.

Marriage Equality is Here; Next Ultimatum?

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I was leaving my parents house in Slidell, Louisiana on my way to work in New Orleans. The electric bill at my new home was finalized for the previous residents, so I stayed at my parents’ the night before for convenience. “The decision came down. Marriage Equality for all Americans!!!!” my boss texted a group of us. Taken aback, it took time to fully understand this happening as I simultaneously started screaming inside my car and pumping up Beyonce on the radio. It took me at least forty minutes to get to work, which then prompted my arrival with me waving my window, rainbow flag and screaming down the hall “WE WON!” I only do this when the Saints win the Superbowl, I graduate, or a great politician wins. Ok, I lied. I do this when I drink a lot at gay parades, too, but if you understand how introverted I am, it means I’m pretty damn happy and excited.

Later on that day, I went to a victory rally for Louisiana in Jackson Square, partied at the oldest gay bar in the nation – Cafe Lafitte’s in Exile, and got glitter bombed at least three times by a life-size flame dame/fairy.

Sometimes I like to take moments to realize how what just happened is too monumental to fathom. Just four years ago when New York became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage, I was sad and worried about the “fate of America.” Now, I am crying and sceaming for joy over the whole nation having marriage equality, and I am very excited about the future of America and its young LGBTQ+ community.

Four years ago, I also thought transgender people were confused, evildoers, LGBTQ+ workplace protections persecuted Christians, same-sex couples only corrupted those they adopted, homeless, LGBTQ+ youth were rebellious, ungrateful kids, the rainbow flag was an “appropriation of the Bible,” but apparently I still loved gays and lesbians. Progress in understanding the oppression of the LGBTQ+ community is growing efficiently, but are our needs being strategized efficiently?

Months ago before the marriage equality, Supreme Court case, the rumor was that bathroom rights for transgender people would become the next target of queer activism. How cool is that. Yet in 29 it is still legal to fire or refuse to hire a gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and in 31 states – transgender people.

My cisgender self really should not speak above approaching such an issue, but if I may suggest, how do we not ignore employment protections? If we are approaching a “more inclusive” issue like employment protections, what about the torture of LGBTQ+ youth that continues across 47 states termed “reparative/conversion therapy?” The perpetual oppression similar to what triggered my suicidal situations and many of my friends. (Though, three states have banned it, yay!)

What if we solve the ends to these means of oppression – LGBTQ+ youth homelessness? Yes, still 40% of homeless youth identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. In America? Solving these 40% in this oligarchy? This insurmountable capitalism? In the midst of the homelessness of minority races, mentally disabled people, physically disabled people, women, young children, and immigrants, all 40% of these youth will be miraculously saved?

I do not mean to sound pessimistic or hopeless. I’m picking your brain to ask you, why are we only focused on one specific target? Sure, we have all these issues, but same-sex marriage was like THE ultimate target of the LGBTQ+ community, while we are lacking so many civil rights still in America? How can we strategize without becoming ignorant of other huge issues? Nothing is small, all are equally important and vital for true LGBTQ+ liberation. We live in a cisheteropatriarchal system that challenges the idea of attacking at the head, the heart, and the lungs, and we end up still only attacking the shoulder.

Let us not forget, we have the “T” community, who feel neglected in the strategies of the community as marriage equality does not serve most of them. There are the LGBTQ+ community of color that should have an equal voice and do experience some of these issues worse than most whites. We also have genderqueer, agender, and other non-binary people, who have specifically different needs to be addressed in contrast to most lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and some transgender people. How do we address these issues without neglecting one group? The rainbow is vibrant and innovative, so should we not collaborate altogether for good, siblings? Should we not all encounter with these large non-profits with what we want not just a few white, gay lobbyists? Should we not all strategize in addressing together not “an ultimate target” but “ultimate targets?”

Ecofeminist philosopher Karen J. Warren states that in understanding an intersection of environmentalism and feminism, “a quillt” with “quilt squares” should be percieved in building an ecofeminist understanding. Should not the LGBTQ+ community take these issues like “quilt squares” to create and percieve an ultimate vision together like a “continously, stitched quilt?”

Queers of Color (A Thorough Tidbit): Struggles in Racial Communities, Queer Communities, and The Media

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The colors of the rainbow flag are known for the variance of sexual and gender minorities (like lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people) represented in the LGBTQ+/queer community, but the variance of race and ethnicities that intersect within this community are unreasonably forgotten. Being a white, gay man, I have high representation for my intersecting identities in film, television, and books, yet as I am also a blogger, my white privilege has become more hyper-aware as I perpetually read critiques and posts about the “lack of color” in LGBTQ+ media and lack of inclusion of people of color in LGBTQ+ spaces. At Louisiana State University, their queer students have recently and organically created a space for LGBTQ+people of color. I was shocked by the news of such an organization, but I later concluded that it was not an unreasonable idea. If one reflects on social justice history, one will remembe rthat the black feminist movement had to happen in the midst of the overall feminist movement, too. It had to happen since white supremacy’s deep roots subconsciously take hold of even social justice movements.

Acknowledging my whiteness, the experiences of my fellow queers as people of color has come to my curiosity. If I want to be more beneficial and more helpful to my community, I feel the need to find understanding and give insight to those, who come from communities of color. As brought to my attention, the intersections of queer people of color should be more celebrated and striking rather than ignored. To give exposure people of color in the LGBTQ+ community, this paper discusses the experiences of LGBTQ+ people in their communities of color, LGBTQ+ media’s race relations, and racism and whiteness in LGBTQ+ spaces. I interviewed for personal understanding and research purposes my gay male, hapa-Asian friend – Kensei, my gay, black male coworker – Jerome, and an Asian, female bisexual SELU student – Ly. For scholarly research, I pursued Dr. Jane Ward’s “White Normativity: The Cultural Dimensions of Whiteness in a Racially Diverse LGBT Organization,” Dr. Roya Rastegar’s “The De-Fusion of Good Intentions: Outfest’s Fusion Film Festival,” Rose M. Pulliam and Michelle Mott’s “allgo Speaks: Reflections on Intersectional Organizing,” Dr. Antonio Pastrana, Jr.’s “Privileging Oppression: Contradictions in Intersectional Politics,” and Dr. Sean Cahill’s “The Disproportionate Impact of Antigay Family Politics on Black and Latino Same-sex Couple Households.” These articles discuss specific points of interests – LGBTQ+ people’s experiences in communities of color , LGBTQ+ media’s race relations, and racism and whiteness in LGBTQ+ spaces.

The Asian-American experience in America is a highly ignored topic in many spaces, which even include LGBTQ+ experiences. Being an Asian-American of a queer identity, is a “shame” within most Asian-American communities says my gay, hapa-Asian friend, Kensei (2015). Kensei comes from a background raised in the Unification Church, which is described as “a modern-day cult” originating from South Korea (2015). His Japanese mother and white American father were joined in an arranged marriage under the order of the Unification Church’s “messiah,” Reverend Sun Myung Moon (Kensei 2015). Most of his peers growing up had Japanese mothers and white American fathers, too (Kensei 2015). Ly, who identifies as a Vietnamese-American bisexual woman, made the same comment about “shame,” “It’s an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing” (2015). Ly was raised Christian, specifically Roman Catholic, but her parents still hold very traditional values of Vietnamese culture. Her parents immigrated to America during the Vietnam War, and honoring one’s family is one of the very strongest values of their culture (Ly 2015). Being gay or bisexual is “not ideal, natural, or an honor” in Asian-American culture (Kensei, Ly 2015). Ly commented that her parents pressure her not to talk about her sexuality “out of shame,” but her sisters pressure her “out of fear” (2015). Being raised in the Unification Church, Kensei struggled with not only this “honor” value but comments from Rev. Moon comparing gays to “dung-eating dogs” and prophecies of “the coming judgment” on gay people (2015). Therefore, in some Asian-American spaces, queer people are not only a “shame” but a disgust (Kensei 2015).

While dealing with racism from other people, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, most Asian-Americans must deal with homophobia and transphobia from their own ethnic community similar to LGBTQ+ black Americans. My coworker and friend Jerome, who identifies as a gay, black man, says that the black community is “the hardest community on gays,” especially Christian-based, black communities (2015). Knowing he was gay at the age of six, Jerome felt the need to stay strictly “in the closet” for quite a while and called homophobia in the community “systemic” (2015). He also believes that the black community is the “most vocally homophobic,” which makes him call for more acceptance from black friends and family to LGBTQ+ blacks (Jerome 2015). Jerome states on acceptance, “I want people to realize I’m the same Jerome they grew up with” (2015). The homophobia spoken of in the black community is also a consequence of antigay politics by whites from the Christian Right originating from the 1980s (Cahill 2008). Dr. Sean Cahill points toward the influential campaign of the Christian Right that casted the gay community as “only white” and “infringing upon the civil rights of black Americans” (2008). The campaign grew stronger as black religious leaders started to campaign in solidarity in this antigay movement (Cahill 2008). For example, in 2004, Reverend Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition campaigned against nondiscrimination laws for sexual minorities because it would “grant homosexuals more rights than other citizens, thus causing us (blacks) to lose some of our rights” (Cahill 2008). This confusing antigay movement infuriated the black community against the LGBTQ+ community because of the white Christian Right (Cahill 2008). Cahill (2008:220) further notes on this intersection of racism and homophobia:

The cruel irony is that the antigay policies of the Christian right pose a        disproportionate threat to Black and Latino same-sex couple families. This is because  Black and Latino same-sex couples are twice as likely as White same-sex couples to be  raising children (particularly Black and Latino lesbian couples), and because they earn  less are less likely to own a home they live in.

The tactics of the antigay movement have been deceptively appealing with stereotypically white, economically privileged representations like Will & Grace and Modern Family, while black and Latin American same-sex couples are almost double in likeliness than white same-sex couples to pursue parenting (Cahill 2008). There are over a thousand rights that come with marriage and in some states those are completely lost for same-sex couples, including parenting, which seriously puts black LGBTQ+ communities at risk (Cahill 2008). According to U.S. data in 2000, “Black, Latino, and Asian American same-sex couple households may benefit more, on average, than White gay couples from the ability to marry,” and he later goes onto add, “This is because of racial differences in parenting rates, income and wealth, citizenship status, and public sector employment” (Cahill 2008). These intersections of oppression from racism, homophobia, and lower-class struggle comes to endanger the black LGBTQ+ experience because of ricochet attacks within the black community (Cahill 2008).

LGBTQ+ people are hard to identify with in mainstream media between very few leading roles and very stereotypical roles, but thankfully, there is LGBTQ+ media to experiment with living as an LGBTQ+ person. LGBTQ+ media is problematic, too, yet there is such a space for LGBTQ+ experience but not very little for those who are people of color. The white hegemony of the mainstream media is not dammed to keep from seeping into LGBTQ+ media as well. Gay, hapa-Asian-American Kensei (2015) commented to me in interview, “I’ve seen like 15 LGBTQ+ movies but no people of color? I’ve seen white Brazilians, but have I seen any people of color?” Ly (2015) agrees personally that LGBTQ+ media needs to “shed more light because some deal with it more harshly because of being of color” (2015). Jerome (2015) has been annoyed personally by the portrayal of black characters in mainstream and LGBTQ+ media for creating only a stereotypical black man, who is “unrealistic,” “seemingly weak and too feminine,” and having only professions “like being a hairdresser.” The oppression on people of color should be more liberated with LGBTQ+ media, but instead, the existence of LGBTQ+ people is either ignored or stereotyped.

Dr. Roya Rastegar (2009) researches for social minorities but also organizes for queer people of color film festivals. In her organizing, she notes discussions at Outfest’s Fusion Film Festival and issues of queer people of color media (Rastegar 2009). In organizing this festival for queer people of color, she notes, “White people are expected to both support and stand up to the responsibility of educating themselves, but at the same time not take up too much space” (Rastegar 2009). Noah’s Arc (2005), a gay, black sitcom written, directed, and produced by Patrik Ian Polk, was claimed by its creator as a “triumph and a letdown” with the fight for a DVD release and a second season yet still a measure for success in queer people of color media (Rastegar 2009).  Rastegar (2009) details this claim as to answer the question at a discussion panel of how queer people of color media “looks,” but also she notes Stephen Macias’s work as a senior executive at Regent Entertainment. Rastegar (2009:484-5) notes his quote on the broadcasting of queer people of color media:

It’s a difficult proposition when you’re out there trying to buy something for Regent or    here! because we have to buy with the idea of putting it on our network and many of    the cable companies in the US are – forget about homophobic, they’re racist! So dealing  with gay content of color with a cable distributor in Raleigh, North Carolina, means you  walk in with two strikes and you’re out.

This captures the exact struggle for representation of people of color in LGBTQ+ media and expresses the reality of intersections for LGBTQ+ people of color. The discriminations against LGBTQ+ people of color is very well highlighted in also their lack of representation. Going back to the topic of stereotypical characters of LGBTQ+ people of color in the media, Cherein Dabis is noted for her comments on being a coproducer and writer for The L Word (Rastegar 2009). She speaks of strategizing with writers of the show in perpetually putting effort into “getting away from the stereotype” yet “the execution later falling apart” (Rastegar 2009). Stuart Hall (1982), writer of “The Rediscovery of ‘Ideology’: Return of the Repressed in Media Studies” advises on representation involving the “active work of selecting and presenting, of structuring and shaping: not merely the transmitting of an already existing meaning, but the more active labor of ‘making things mean.'” Rastegar (2009) notes that the artists involved are accountable to establishing “making things mean” (Hall 1982). Currently, there is a lot of complaining from queer artists of color for this less “edgy” and risk-taking time period in film, which is unlike decades ago, and with these risks, social transformation and provocation can happen (Rastegar 2009).

As stated earlier, LGBTQ+ media’s stereotypes and lack of representation speak of the racism that has seeped into the culture of the LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ community is known for being “accepting” and “tolerant” by the public, but there is a prevalent amount of racism, ethnocentrism, and white supremacy within the LGBTQ+ community and its spaces. Ly (2015) stated  that at a lesbian bar in southern Louisiana once she was asked “What are you doing here?” by a white lesbian. In gay male culture, the racism toward gay men of color seems to be even stronger. Jerome (2015) stated that on dating apps that detect other gay men in the area like Grindr some will have on their profile “No Blacks Allowed.” Kensei (2015) listed several problems within the gay male community. Not only are Asian-Americans fetishized but even half-Asian-Americans have a different way of being fetishized (Kensei 2015). Kensei (2015) has had odd experiences with his racial identity with being compared to twinkies (being half-white and half-Asian) and being called the “cute, gay half-Asian” or “my cute, gay half-Asian friend.” He also experiences discrimination on gay social networks with profiles stating “No Asians allowed,” too (Kensei 2015). The LGBTQ+ community has problematic thoughts on people of color, especially within the gay male community, that need to deconstructed of their discrimination and fetishization.

Dr. Antonio Pastrana, Jr. (2010) conducted research on intersectional politics in settings where people of color were in leadership positions in LGBTQ+ spaces. His research reflects on feelings and thoughts of individuals being leaders of LGBTQ+ spaces as a racial minority (Pastrana 2010). Some individuals like Clarice and Loretta are noted to feel empowered for “being a face,” “a voice,” and “an addition to diversity” in such spaces, which can speak of some experiences seeing their minority status in a positive light (Pastrana 2010). Surina, who is a lesbian of Pakastani descent, gives a deeper note on her experience to Pastrana (2010:58):

I’m South Asian, which is in itself a huge Diaspora and what does that mean? So the      specifics of my daily experience inform the work that I do in terms of how I move in  this world as an American on some level – an American-identified immigrant, with  particular class history, with a particular military lineage to my family. So there’s the  cultural, religious, and economic parts of me – all of those are parts of me. And it has  informed the work I do on a positive level. It allows me to understand that things are  complicated and complex and things don’t fit neatly into small packages, or big  packages, and that it’s really important to have to be able to articulate people’s different  experiences. To honor them and be strategic at the same time – it’s like learning from  our own experiences and trying to bring out the nuances at the same time.

Surina uses her cultural heritage to empower her but identify her own surrounding as a leader, which is another example of some experiences by LGBTQ+ leaders of a racial minority (Pastrana 2010). Ray is noted for having a common fear as an LGBTQ+ person of color stating, “Finding allies (within my racial group) is often fraught with issues of trust and insecurity. I wonder if people think that my sexual orientation issues will overshadow or jeopardize my relationships with my family and community” (Pastrana 2010). Like the former statement, my interviewee Kensei (2015) said similarly that LGBTQ+ people, who come out of the Unification Church must find community because they will be shunned. The LGBTQ+ leaders of racial minorities can surely privilege in such roles, but their leadership roles may make tasks anxiety-inducing (Pastrana 2015).

Diversity tactics have become government policy in the past half-century, yet even as diverse a workplace can get, the tactics can still enable a white normative structure in organization (Ward 2008). Jane Ward (2008) depicts the white normativity of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center that overshadows the fifty-two percent staff of color. This white normative concept speaks of white ideology that conducts particular embedded norms on communication and behavior in a hierarchy of dominance (Ward 2008). “The Center’s” white normativity was very well shown in its ‘diversity culture,” which spoke of ideas, knowledge claims, modes of affect, vocabularies, and approaches in the ethic of the workplace (Ward 2008). In efforts to expand diversity, members of the committee for these efforts differed by race on how to approach the issue (Ward 2008). White members suggested ideas that would “give face” to the organization, including working in neighborhoods of color and partnering with other LGBT organizations of color, but the members of color repeated the phrase “just do it” or “just make it inclusive” (Ward 2008). The ideas from the members of color seemed impractical by white members and were even ignored at times, while the voice with real conception of diversity should have been understood with privilege (Ward 2008). The members of color on the committee argued that the Center should already be or already is “an organization of color” (Ward 2008). Whiteness even in minority majority setting has a rude depth that needs deconstructing in these especially LGBTQ+ spaces.

There are exemplary LGBTQ+ spaces that are antiracist and successfully intersectional in work ethic. The organization – allgo – is a queer people of color organization based in Austin, Texas that is nationwide (Pulliam and Mott 2010). Michelle Mott (2010) is a queer white ally and intern of the organization, and Rose M. Pulliam (2010) is a black, queer woman codirector of allgo. Allgo has a vision that Pulliam and Mott (2010:444-45) quote:

Working at allgo requires daily walking with and existing under the cloak of racism,        classism, homophobia, and sexism. Creative models are needed to exist beneath, resist,  and dismantle these interwoven cloaks of oppression. Just as the oppressions are        interwoven, the philosophical approaches that allgo uses in opposition to them are          interconnected. Among them are the sounds of problematizing patriarchy, advocating    egalitarian relationships, supporting creative engagement, redesigning gender relations,  pursuing empowerment, building community, privileging voices, respecting the diversity  of personal experience, and challenging traditional pedagogical notions.

Allgo is a collective that works for an egalitarian ethic between all members as having equal value (Pulliam and Mott 2010). Mott (2010) notes that as a queer white ally she has grown to learn connections and community about race and queerness in a healthy setting, especially with beforehand having disconnections with racial injustice. Allgo is led completely by people of color at the moment because those, who were selected, were adequate for the job (Pulliam 2010). There have been straight and white allies on the board, so it is not about race or sexuality but qualification (Pulliam 2010). Pulliam (2010) notes that even with the title as “codirector” she does have power in decision-making,  but she consults everyone involved with equal value most of the time. Allgo gives light and hope to racially equal LGBTQ+ spaces without white normativity and racism.

Should not all whites (queers and straights) be shocked by such depicted racism and white supremacy within the LGBTQ+ community? Is it really an accepting and tolerant environment? These examples of racism and white supremacy give insight to the experiences of LGBTQ+ people of color, but it also gives alternatives to such problems and disconnections. LGBTQ+ media is reinforced by its audience and reflects a lot of the realities of whiteness in the LGBTQ+ community, but white LGBTQ+ people can involve themselves in changing those realities with newer and more inclusive ethics and communication with LGBTQ+ people of color (Ward 2008). The whiteness exemplified in LGBTQ+ spaces can be deconstructed with egalitarian efforts like allgo and understanding from first-hand experiences like Ly, Jerome, and Kensei (Pulliam and Mott 2010; 2015). The intersectional oppressions on LGBTQ+ people of color can be eased with better inclusion and acceptance by their white peers. The LGBTQ+ community should find alternative and creative ways to celebrate and love people of color.

REFERENCES

Cahill, Sean. 2008. “The Disproportionate Impact of Antigay Family Politics on Black and  Latino Same-sex Couple Households.” Journal of African American Studies                       13: 219-250.

Hall, Stuart. 1982. “The Rediscovery of ‘Ideology’: Return of the Repressed in  Media Studies.” Pp. 56-9 in Culture, Society, and the Media, edited by  Michael Gurevitch, Tony Bennett, James Curran, and Janet Wollacott. London:  Meuthen.

Pastrana, Antonio, JR. 2010. “Privileging Oppression: Contradictions in  Intersectional Politics.” Western Journal of Black Studies 34 (1): 53-63.

Pulliam, Rose M., and Michelle Mott. 2010. “allgo Speaks: Reflections on  Intersectional Organizing.” Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work 25 (4): 444-50.

Rastegar, Roya. 2009. “The De-Fusion of Good Intentions: Outfest’s Fusion  Film Festival.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 15 (3): 481-97.

Ward, Jane. 2008. “White Normativity: The Cultural Dimensions of Whiteness in  a Racially Diverse LGBT Organization.” Sociological Perspectives 51 (3): 563-86.

Three Nuanced Homophobic Trends to Caution For

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masc 4 masc

Social media is pretty well my hand’s addiction as dirty as that may sound to some readers. Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, Grindr, Tumblr, Youtube, Tumblr, and repeat. On Tumblr, I follow a lot of social justice, feminist, queer activist, vegan, progressive Christian blogs (with my few Harry Styles blogs to supplement). On Facebook, I have not only friends, but LGBTQ+ news updates, legislative updates, feminist posts, and gorgeous actors like Colton Haynes posting his usual drop-dead selfie. On Grindr, I have my conversations with fellow gays that could become friends or a date. A common occurence is for me to get pissed while going through my routine check-ups. What’s my biggest pet peeve? Homophobia is a given (possibly), but even more annoying is homophobia within the LGBTQ+ community. There are three ways this has happened or is happening.

“Monosexual” Categorizing

A “new” type of discrimination being discussed within LGBTQ+ blogs and mini-blogs is “monosexism.” It sounds about right until you hear about the portrayal of gays and lesbians having it “easier.” Some bisexual/multisexual activists categorize “monosexuals” as heterosexuals or homosexuals. The whole spiel of monosexism is the misunderstanding of gays, lesbians, and straights of bisexuality and its erasure, which will involve toxic statements of “homosexuals being oppressive for their monosexuality” and homosexuals being grouped in monolithically with heterosexuals in “oppressing” bisexuals, pansexuals, and other multisexuals.

Biphobia is real and so is heterosexism, yet some bisexual/multisexual activists feel the need to homophobically target gays and lesbians as oppressive for liking only one gender by calling us “monosexuals” with “monosexual privilege”…… (One multisexual tumblr blogger even had for the headline for their blog “Anti-Monosexual.”)

Biphobia being the discrimination or erasure of bisexual people is a very real happenstance. Heterosexism or assimilated heterosexism can definitely be expressed by gays and lesbians toward bisexuals, and it is definitely a symptom of internalized homophobia. “Monosexism” indicates a victim blaming mechanism on gays and lesbians by indicating a sense of “privilege” we have or a particular oppression our very oppressed group can expend upon bisexuals/multisexuals. It is ignorant to the fact that we hold no power or authority with our sexuality over bisexuals/multisexuals. It is also ignorant to the fact that bisexuals/multisexuals are capable of living a more satisfied life with someone of a different gender than gays and lesbians. They are capable of living a more satisfied life with a certain degree of “straight privilege” though they may not be straight.

Gays and lesbians do need to be more accepting of bisexuals/multisexuals. It is about time. To a point, it is understandable to me why some of my fellow homos are biphobic with how they have been treated by straight people in a heteronormative/heterosexist society. If a person claims to like the same gender and another gender, that can be scary to a gay or lesbian as far as trust, yet as all of us gays, lesbians, and bisexuals/multisexuals fight the good fight for a queerer world, we need to learn our weaknesses and learn to open ourselves to understanding other queers’ experiences and lives. We are a family still.

“Gay” Adjectiving “Misogyny”

I started following a famous tumblr blogger named Kat, a black transwoman, about two months ago after she released a raw video of her ranting about racism by white people talking about Ferguson and Eric Garner. She is gorgeous, and I even told her in her askbox. She was sweet to talk to, and I loved her black feminist statements and voice on queer issues for sometime. A few weeks went by until we had a war on tumblr, basically…. She was writing a script on the subject of “gay misogyny” she said. She also started explaining “gay misogyny” in videos as she ranted about rape/violence against women committed by gay men. These videos are becoming bigger and “gay misogyny” is marginalizing gay men more as they are brought up in more circles (including my own LGBTQ+ student organization) across the nation.

I do know that gay men have assaulted women (probably related to their own internalized homophobia), which is a problem regarding men‘s privilege. It has nothing to do with these men’s homosexuality. First, it sounds idiotic because it says “homosexual misogyny,” which looks either really silly or really synonymous to lesbophobia. Two, being gay has nothing to do with the sexual assault of women by by gay men. They just happen to be gay. Their gayness holds no power over a woman’s identity. I might as well rant about “female homophobia”…. What?! Three, such a term is ignorant to the very discrimination gay men recieve all over the world for being sexual deviants and perverts. It is toxic to the fact that gay men are being told in places that HIV/AIDS is the product of their own perversion. It is hurtful to the fact that gay men are not able to be around children in instances (like in Russia) because they are thought to be synonymous to pedophiles.

Kat told me consistently that gay men have “a different context of misogyny in their experiences,” which I can understand to a point. Gay men are more comfortable for a woman to be around. A gay man can take advantage of that, but that has nothing to do with being gay! As my feminist professor said repeatedly in my Sociology of Gender class two semesters ago, “rape is all about power, not sexual orientation.” She discussed this when talking about child molestation, rape in the military, and rape culture. Straight men are constantly raping other men in the military for the emasculation of another man. It is to show power, to subject someone in lower position.

Men, all men, should respect women and everyone else’s humanity. Straight people and other non-gay people should remember to discuss issues about the gay community with respect and healthier language respectful to our community’s past and experiences. Discussing misogyny by gay men can be understood in better terms like “misogyny by those of the gay male community” or “misogyny within the gay community.” “Gay misogyny” is disrespectful and ignorant to the oppressed experiences of gays. Again, men, keep your aggression the fuck off women.

“Masc4Masc” Internalized Homophobia/ Femme-Shaming

This last piece of homophobia is probably the most disgusting. Harvey Milk rolls in his grave along with all the other great gay forefathers before us, who had to hide in gay bars to be their flaming selves.

It’s not as new as Grindr, but the high prevalence of the “masc4masc” homophobia is just about as new. Of course, as more and more gay men come out, there will also be a lot of newer personalities and possibly more masculine men, yet these “masc4masc” types are being blatantly homophobic to their own! “I know some are effeminate and talk like girls, but you have a dick be a man,” is a statement I’ll encounter on a profile or piece of media every now and then. It hurts me to think that patriarchy is still trying to make his way into gay culture. I calm myself down usually by telling myself that “maybe they are not out” or “they are a baby gay,” which is for the most part true. It is still horrible to see on a GAY SOCIAL NETWORKING APP. A gay social network should be safer and accepting. It is gay, for heaven’s sakes! Gay is a defiance to boring, hateful, uncomfortable heterosexism.

A suggestion to this problem is using call out tactics. For example, in some Latino/a communities, they call someone is “very white” and Latin American a “coconut,” which denotes being “brown on the outside and white on the inside.” Since there is barely any insulting comparison relating to being “rainbow on the outside, and black and white on the inside,” we have to get more symbolic.

“Bananaboat” is an insult I created myself.

Bananaboats are possibly misogynists, racists, transphobes, classists,  or guys who have profiles of “masc4masc” on Grindr, femme-shame, slut-shame, bottom-shame, HIV-shame, have to be “the man” in the same-sex relationship, or see a relationship with another man as only a typical “bromance” with sex.

The insult derives from the idea of “a man, who goes along with the waves of society and its injustices, but will go along for a ride with another man only sexually or possibly romantically but with very heteronormative tactics.” It humuously plays with the gay jokes of “bananas,” while also picking up the sociopolitical side of conformity and conforming to heterosexist society.

In all seriousness, femme-shaming within the gay male community should not be a problem. The first gay bars and radical gays of the day, were flamboyant, effeminate, and proud of their homosexuality. Twinks, femme gays, and mature gays are not the problem. It is inside – internalized homophobia. This femme-shaming homophobia to a fellow gay is recognizing oneself as still a part of straight society – a wannabe. It is still a denial of oneself. It is rough for all of us and to different degrees, but this assimilated heterosexism is unacceptable. Maybe these “bananaboats” should be diverted from the gay community until they can reconcile.

Fracking (a poem)

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Hydraulic mechanics into my brain drums,
the high-pressured nitrogen seeping
the strata,
chem,
chem,
the chemicals,
did we stop the fracking?

Totally deprived and limited
to black, white, and red,
tar, water, and blood —-
the extractification of the brain drums.

I was blank with this
antieco serum of super-sized tulips and
corn-fed cow fat,
gathering the paces of
that egotistical wildcat,
swagger of the Good Book,
bold in a ground spotlight,
what was this free assignment
in my St. Tammany Parish?

The Lights came out the darkness,
some might be scared,
yet that protractor burned
shining like a bright bitch
in the sky.

Where was the fracking?
The global death of agenda to fun?
St. Tammany released her colors.
Consumed in harmony, spirit,
art, nature, and desire.

(This is not best or favorite work, but I found it appropriate to share because of the current events lately.)

Geographic Representation in LGBTQ+ Media?

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queer media

Last Friday, I went to my parents’ house – surprisingly – finding it empty. There was still laundry to do, and my parents were to be back later. Going to my parents’ house, gives me the time to watch cable, and if anything, more than likely I pick something gay I can’t get on Netflix. I was happily surprised to have landed on MTV just in time for Laverne Cox Presents: “The T-Word.”

There were various young trans men and trans women represented at first. There was a New Yorker, a Californian, another Californian…. The trend that I’ve been sensing outside of the T-Word, itself, and in general was starting to agitate me. But wait, NEW ORLEANS.  I gasped, “OMG I think I’ve seen this woman in the Quarter before, too!” The woman was black and trans and spoke out about the racism and transphobia she and other trans women had been experiencing from N.O.P.D. There were pictures of her in sights I’ve been through multiple times and issues that I had heard of various times. A special thank you to Laverne Cox for finally getting someone in the LGBTQ+ media genre out in the South.

Janae says she is not scared of Miss Claudette

The Netflix series, Orange is the New Black.

If you’re in an LGBTQ+ organization at all, you will hear not only about queer inclusion but also racial inclusion. There are questions of representation for gay black men, Latina trans women, Asian lesbian women, and etc. The race issue is finally evolving, and you can see it coming into media as the genre starts to widen. Also the issue of age is being brought up in LGBTQ+ media very much in organizations and representation between middle-aged trans women, elderly gay men, elderly lesbian women, and even tween gay youth.

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Jude talking to Connor on the TV series, The Fosters.

Sociologically, LGBTQ+ media is putting some effort toward representing different genders, sexual orientations, races, ages, and classes. Heck, even sexes with Faking It’s newly-outed intersex character! Diverse geographic representation is scarce in America, though.

I watch multiple LGBTQ+ themed shows at a time from Queer as Folk to The Fosters to HBO’s Looking, and yet, I really love these these show but my subconscious quest for southern representation is highly unsatisfied. HBO’s Looking is set in the most stereotypically gay city – San Fran. The L-Word is set in Los Angeles. The Fosters is set in Pasadena. Orange is the New Black is set in New York. Transparent is set in Los Angeles. Will & Grace is set in….New York. California, New York, California, New York……. Even TV programs with token gay roles like Danny in Teen Wolf are almost always set in either of the two. Are you not queer until you live in New York or California? Or do you just have to visit? Maybe that’s why I’m gay. I came out a year after I visited Los Angeles…

Even in LGBTQ+ movies, the scarcity of southern representation is ridiculous. We have our few documentaries like Southern Comfort (chronicling a transgender conference held annually in the South) and some Mississippi gay bar documentary that is more obscure than Oz Gay Club in New Orleans.

You may think I’m forgetting Texas’s representation because though it’s not “exactly” the South..it’s there, but Faking It does not count. The show emphasizes these LGBTQ+ youth being popular at their school because of their oddness. Longhorns is a joke of a movie, which is probably even more obscure than that Mississippi gay bar documentary.

Queer as Folk is one of the few American pieces of LGBTQ+ media that captures the queer struggle for social and political rights. Justin is a victim to a hate crime for having Brian as a date to prom. Ted is fired at his job for looking at gay porn and not straight porn. Liberty Avenue has a situation similar to the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Michael is forced out of his job for being gay. Ben deals with having HIV/AIDS (that says enough). Melanie and Lindsey struggle with heterosexism in public institutions as a domestic family of them and their children. It captures a lot of what is happening now in the South, but…it’s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There is Emmett Honeycutt from Hazelhurst, Mississippi, but the setting is still everything and his Southern origin is not an explicit characteristic. As similar as it might be to some southern queer struggles, it’s still vastly different.

emmett honeycutt

Emmett Honeycutt of the TV series, Queer as Folk.

While most LGBTQ+ media is set in places with same-sex marriage rights, hate crime laws, ENDA state laws, and the liberty of adoption, gay youth are twice as likely to commit suicide in highly religious areas, which embodies most of the South by the presence of the Bible Belt. Transgender women are even more likely to be victims of a hate crime or even homicide (i.e. a queerphobic hate group holding a trans woman hostage for days in Natchitoches, LA). Of the 31 states with gay marriage, only two of them are Southern states (North Carolina and Virginia). They are not in the Deep South either (if that means anything to anyone else). Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee are labeled approximately in the top most LGBT-unfriendly states. Mississippi and Alabama have barely if at all any civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Louisiana has very few, and the same goes for Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Florida. Let me repeat again as a factor of the queer oppression – the Bible Belt.

Besides Laverne Cox’s documentary, I’d say the most airtime given to LGBTQ+ Southerners was character Bobby Ray in Sweet Home Alabama, which is impressive considering the release date was in 2002. Bobby Ray even endures some real southern homophobia even as a good ole’ southern boy. He is practically an underrated queer icon for the South because that’s as much as we have. Let us not forget that he is a middle-class, young, white, cisgender male, too.

bobby ray sweet home alabama

Bobby Ray (in the middle) of Sweet Home Alabama (2002).

Not only is queerphobia not talked about enough in its own media but what is happening around the country, especially in the South, where your queerness is highly up for discrimination. Representing LGBTQ+ people is not only the problem, but also the ridiculous racism in the South that Southern black gay men, black lesbians, and others experience from even the LGBTQ+ community. The South is highly concentrated with both homophobia and racism, so why not bring this intersection to the public? If we want the LGBTQ+ community, especially its youth, to feel understood and comforted, then that definitely includes their experiences geographically.

A Year Out of the Closet: Part 2 – Handling Being Queer by God

i'm coming out

(I apologize for my long comeback to the second part of this blog set. School, life, spirituality has been crazy busy, which comes with new questions and doors.)

There were a few personal friends that came out before I did (as I mentioned before) that cleared some things to make things easier for me. There was also a lot I learned by myself (and directed by God) about myself, the gay male community, the queer community as a whole, my family, my friends, theology, queer media, and etc. When you come out, your worldview immediately changes and keeps changing, your beliefs get tested, your relationships get tested (fast!), and you come to newer realities.

If you are queer and/or a queer Christian, here are some highly suggested “Do’s and Don’ts”:

Do….

  • tell those you know will support you first and start from definitely supportive to not supportive at all (unless you’re really “I don’t give a f***” like I got).
  • look up local affirming churches, especially Episcopalian, Disciples of Christ, possible Methodist, Mennonite, and New Covenant (which is my church’s affiliation) churches.
  • buy Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album.
  • find a therapist and/or therapist-like friend or family member to help you reflect your past and your journey coming upon you.
  • read Bible, Gender, Sexuality by James V. Brownson, Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu, and God & The Gay Christian by Matt Vines.
  • also read Love Wins by Rob Bell, Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright, and Poverty of Spirit by Johannes B. Metz for spiritual/theological searching and encouragement.
  • adopt a pet, who will unconditionally love you if you do not have one already.
  • watch “Transgender Christian” by H. Adam Ackley on Youtube, Chely Wright’s coming out story on Netflix, Vicky Beeching’s coming out story on Youtube, and any other good coming out stories.
  • get a tumblr (if really reluctant, then a wordpress) and find other queer Christians, who will empower you rather than make you stumble (and I do not say that lightly).
  • find more queer friends.
  • find a campus queer-straight alliance or local pride organization on your college campus or in your local area.
  • indirectly annoy social media followers of your queer happiness and empowerment.
  • move out and somewhere safer if possible.
  • realize this might be a time to become more independent for yourself.
  • read the Gospels of the New Testament until you can find a really good guide for understanding the rest of the Bible.
  • buy a rainbow flag.
  • keep asking questions.

Don’t…….

  • date for at least 6 months for your own spiritual, psychological, and emotional concern.
  • doubt the douchebaggery of Grindr.
  • watch Queer as Folk for at least a year (because it’s very unrealistic).
  • feel bad for going off on people a bit (that can be just about anyone).
  • feel like there is no one there like you or for you.
  • forget you are a part of a whole, new family.
  • buy from Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Urban Outfitters, and other famously anti-gay franchises ever again.
  • go for the drugs.
  • leave an affirming, loving faith community.
  • let your sexual ethics change because of your peers.
  • hate yourself at all. Ever.
  • be a drag…I mean…wait, yeah, just be a queen.
  • hate sexuality.
  • be afraid of angst.
  • forget your great progress.
  • forget how wonderfully loved you are by God.
  • forget that your queerness has a lot of purpose.
  • being queer is the real, better, and only you.

There are also quite a number of epiphanies I discovered within the community itself (some being very similar with my own) that I did not know until after coming out, and here are only a few interesting situations.

  • Gay males are much, much, much more vocal about how attractive you are than straight women. Many gay males I have found come to even be embittered by how “disempowering” straight women’s lack of affirmation can be, especially with comments of being “cute” without any specific context of “cute.” Later, they will soon discover it is because of patriarchy, though, that they are not as affirming. Male privilege gives us the “right” to be so vocal about how attractive someone is, which fortunately for us, will transcend out of the closet, too.
  • Every queer’s grooming habits and self-care will dramatically change. I started to shave more often and think healthily about my own body, especially with the help of positive comments from other gay males. Other people I have found, losing weight for the sake of internal health, improving their hair care, or even lack of body care but not unhealthily. Overall, people start to feel differently for the shell they’re in, while sometimes it being negative. I do see there is a lot more hope and journeying to a better healthy image than the reciprocal in radical numbers.
  • Queer people are inherently more intuitive.
  • Lesbians are the most monogamous stereotypically and realistically.
  • Transgender people transcend not only in gender identity but also in quite a number of ways in sexual orientation, too.
  • All out queers will have questions regarding spirituality and they will vary dramatically more than any other people group. Yet, they will respect each other more than any other people group. I have met many queer Christians, but also have met gay deists, bisexual atheists, pansexual Buddhists, queer secular humanists, transgender nihilists, and etc.
  • One’s queer oppression will very likely nurture the mercy they give to many, many others.
  • Lastly, the queer liberation movement is intersectional and over-arching to the liberation of all movements including but not limited to black, Latin, disabled, women, prisoner, impoverished, blue collar, animal, and elderly because they include queer people include people related to and/or intersecting with other liberation movements. It is spiritual.

To conclude, I will leave with Dr. Patrick S. Cheng, who quoted, “Coming out is like baptism in that LGBT people let their old closeted lives die and are born into a new life.”

A Year Out of the Closet: Part 1 – More to the Story

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fully out josh

August 20th. It’s really back here. It was around 8pm on a Tuesday night. Sitting in my living room, listening to a new playlist, and trying to find answers about my friends. Two Mondays before I had received a call from my friend, who kept posting on his blog about being in extreme pain the day before. His heart was broken, in the middle of nowhere, and I wanted to encourage him. He called me that Monday to tell me that he was actually wrestling with God and his sexuality – he was gay. Not only him, but also two of our mutual friends.

I knew he was gay. I knew the other two were gay, but I was in great denial about this specific friend just like I was myself. I stood in shock when the words came from his mouth about a conversation where he stated “Yeah, I’m gay…and…” My stomach fell, I felt nauseous and nervous, and it seemed as if something had broken in the spiritual realm – something of glass.

I was hanging out with a friend from high school that whole week. I was suffering from depression and so was she. We had our questions about life, God, and suffering. We were there for each other, especially after this “great blow” on my spirituality. These three men of God….GAY? These guys that prayed with me on the phone? Prayed over me in person? These guys that encouraged me when I sent suicidal texts and felt like utter shit? My gal friend and I had another friend from high school, who had just came in town. We were excited and invited him over to catch up and talk about old times. Yet, in mid-invitation, a text came back, “Oh yeah! I forget people don’t know I’m gay! It’s been some time since I came out.”

At this point, I looked up to God, and prayed, “Really? What in the hell are you doing? What do you want me to do? I’m bisexual, I think. No one needs to know. Why is there this push I feel?”

“Yes, I came out bisexual to my parents on the fourth of July….but I’m staying celibate to men..”
“Yes, I know I really desire guys more, but there has to be hope for my purity….”
“Yes, my hormones and feelings for guys have gotten out of control lately. I know the nurse at the hospital was hard for me to handle, but I’ve never done anything with a guy. I don’t have to be gay. I’m not gay. I’m bisexual.”
These were thoughts that I obsessed over for the next week.

August 20th, dealing with my new medication for depression, I had come home from therapy with my affirming therapist. Still concerned about my friends, I decided to keep reading Washed & Waiting by Wesley Hill – a book another friend of mine gave to me a few weeks before because we both had similar questions of how to handle homosexuality in the church. Hill’s book described his life as a gay man, who had decided that God wanted him to stay celibate in order to honor God. He described research on homosexuality, scriptures about it, and then how to deal with your own sexuality if you were gay.

The two sides of me were highly attentive. It was my double life. My “straight” act was eager to see what to do with future queer congregants in a church of mine. The gay me, the real me was on his toes looking for maybe a new possibility for my life.

He discusses two “orthodox” options – celibacy and heterosexual marriage…. He goes onto describe how gays being in a heterosexual marriage can be very unwise. He then draws on accounts of closeted gay men, who marry a woman one day and on that same night their bride is crying because he can not get an erection.

It hit me then.
The friends coming out, my own sexual longing, my own soulful longing, and my age gave me the conclusion that I had to make a decision now.

I had been to deliverance sessions for my gayness. I had prayed for at least nine years for my sexuality to change. I had tried mental and psychological techniques. I knew I couldn’t be castrated because my sister Jessica would tell me how unethical it was. I was 20 and before I killed myself with fake heterosexuality, I knew it was time for me to open this gift. This was the big surprise after all these years and months of depression and suicidal thoughts. It was something I felt in my spirit.

Trying to exhale this repression, I texted my sister Jessica, “I think I might be gay..not bisexual…” And just like the movies and TV episodes, it really happens….the tears unraveled. She replied back, “Really? I saw this coming, and I am behind you. And I love you.” A blessing.

I then came out on my poetry blog, which involved all of my close tumblr friends, including my three friends who came out earlier. Two of them were very stunned, especially since I was talking about how hot black girls were a few weeks earlier. Other friends were surprised, encouraging, while not being totally affirming.

I did not come out to my parents until the next day. My dad came home at lunch with food, while I creeped slowly into the kitchen. Coming up to my counter island in the kitchen, I gripped the sides, hesitated, and spit out the words “I think I’m gay.”
He stood in silent shock, stuttered to respond, but cooperated with me as I explained to him that I was going to take it all slow.

My mom did not come home until later that night from school. I slowly creeped into her study room and took her attention off of her work as she got ready for more school work. It took a few “moms”, but she finally sat down and I spit the words again – “I think I’m gay.” It took a few times to say it before she realized the situation. Once my dad came in the room to discuss, she cried. I hugged her, and she said her fear was my own safety. The homophobia. My dad and I consoled her and reminded her of the Lord’s guard on my life. She came to understanding with me, and we told each other we loved each other.

That Satuday, I was planned to move to Waxahachie, TX and start attending my new school – Southwestern Assemblies of God University. This plan was terminated as I recalled their views on homosexuality being that you “must have given up homosexuality” in order to even apply to the school. At the time a few months before, I thought it was none of their business, but since I was coming out, I knew that this was not possibly feasible anymore. And…I was happy! I felt fear about how to handle such a major transition with my psychological problems at the time, and it was another land, another place where I knew no one.

My dad and I went up to SELU, an hour away from home, to register for school, and with the Lord’s peace, everything came for me to start school that next Monday.

A few weeks later, I had come out to my aunt, my uncle, my sisters, my grandmother, my close friends, and my therapist. I received mostly positive feedback, minus my grandmother and some friends, and I decided that I wanted to let the world know for themselves in a video. On September 6, 2013, I released my coming out video, which received 747 views. Praise God. I was so blessed by the praise from friends, but most of all, the closeted that came to me with their questions and their empowering feelings by my video. They inspired me to do what I’m doing now even more as I fight for LGBTQ+ rights in multiple ways in Christianity, politics, and education.

A Year Now

gay prom
(
SELU’s Gay Prom 2014.)

Self-reflection has been even more pivotal since coming out. Being queer and a Christian makes me feel like I’m in the middle of a tug-of-war. Queers want their rights but are dealing with PTSD and pain from the Church. Christianity’s Church supposedly loves Jesus yet is the largest obstacle for queer equality.

At times, I still question if I’m even on the right track with this Jesus thing. If Christianity isn’t just a bigoted institution. Other times, I still question whether being affirming of my gayness is accurate. If there really is such a thing as someone out there for me. These are not questions of revelation to lead me into a faux, “ex-gay” lifestyle, but these are tests to my faith like any other Christian.

It makes me happy that whenever I think of just leaving the faith it is not the fear of hell that draws me back. It is Jesus….., and ever since coming out, Jesus has become realer and stronger in my eyes. He has become a closer companion and a brother. I’m His little white, gay brother, and he’s my way older, celibate, Brother of color. His death and resurrection is now mind-blowing. His love for the oppressed is what drives me. His joy is what makes me love myself. Therefore, these questions are starting to drift away, and newer questions are coming to mind.

It is quite shocking how naive I was to the benefits of coming out. Sure, I knew I would be happy, but I didn’t know I would learn so much fun stuff, learn to love myself more, gain more rationality, and come to ask deeper questions. Praise be to God. And thanks all to Him.

Since coming out, I have found my rational processes strengthened. Because I do not have to deny the startling fact that I am gay, I can approach reality for what it is and dissect the pieces. Studies even show that after coming out, queers can become better at math.

Sex has been a good, wild subject to talk about. Not that I have really done anything, though I have my bouts of lust and mess-ups, of course. It is just learning about it, hearing other people so freely talk about their passion, and seeing the real beauty of it. It is seeing a beautiful, handsome man and understanding the pieces of his beauty from his body to his soul. It is also this great freedom to finally say after all these years, “WOAH. LOOK. AT. THIS. BABE.” And then you pass him in your car and your friends laugh. That….is so therapeutic by itself. Maybe you even catcall a straight boy from far away… wait, what.

The spirituality of the situation is the greatest, though. Between the talks with other queer Christians you meet, learning to love yourself, learning about loving a guy, the quest you face with God, the liberation you work with as you bear the Cross, the reverence you find at new churches (from Episcopal to queer Charismatic), the fights you have with your family, being given the opportunity to be president of your college’s LGBTQ-Straight alliance (so thankfully!), and the questions you have from non-Christians about being a queer Christian. It is really amazing to me how much I’ve seen people have a second thought about the love of Jesus as I tell them my story and my identity.

Acknowledgments 

I’d like to make a very special thanks to my sister Jessica for making me feel comforted, accepted, and normal as I shared with her first my secrets and for being someone that has helped keep my faith alive and inspired.
I also would like to give a very special thanks to my therapist, Sam Caruso, for making me feel normal, giving me advice when I was on my hard edges, giving me spiritual advice, and everything else to bless me.
I also give great thanks to my parents for working with me in this past year.
A very special thanks to my Aunt Anne, my cousins Katie and Sean, Uncle Bill, and his children for looking out for me all of these years and opening up their arms to me as I “finally” came out to them. Haha.
I also would love to thank my “tumblr friends” Dillon, Jherrel, Jayce, and Andrew Wagner for being affirming and loving support for me as I dealt with my theological, spiritual, and emotional bouts.
I’d like to give a really grand thank you to Hye Sung for giving me affirming resources, opening his arms to my needs, and being a great brother to me as I pondered with my faith and identity.
I also would like to give a very special thanks to my friends Kennedy, Austyn, Emily, Gabby, Michael, and all of StandOUT for being so opened with me and being so proud of who they are. Y’all are an inspiration.
A very amazing thanks to Jayce, Nathan, my cousin Aaron, Luke, and a few others for just coming out and being proud as you have come from very similar backgrounds as I have.
A huge thank you to my high school friends Taylor, Danielle, and Hannah as nothing changed for the worse after I came out, for letting me be so opened, for cheering me up in my rough times, and for being proud of me.
Last, I thank God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, for divine intervention, saving my life from death, showing me such passionate love, showing me such sweet people, and pushing me on along with very queer journey.

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for tips and advice on coming out….

The 7 Real Reasons You’re Not Affirming of the LGBTQ+ Community

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rainbow church

The standard for a sermon or “biblical statement” against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals is the use of seven segments of Scripture, which include: Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Deuteronomy 23:17-18, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:8-10, and Jude 1:7. These scriptures have already been exegeted and understood not to be against the community but rather excuses. I have given some rebuttal against using such segments of Scripture for a non-affirming stance, and you can find more information in Rev. James V. Brownson’s Bible, Gender, Sexuality (more technical) and Matt Vines’s God & The Gay Christian (more summarized).These seven excuses, though, can be found in seven deeper reasons (unrelated to Scripture) for not affirming the LGBTQ+ community. They come from social constructs and psychological discombobulation, which I will describe and explain at present.

1) Pre-Millenial Eschatology (Tribulational End Times Ideology).

john hagee blood moon

The followers of pre-millenial eschatology are those, who are always waiting for the world to end, which maybe tomorrow or twenty years from now in some minds. Non-affirming Catholics do not agree with such ideology, but most evangelicals and fundamentalists believe in some sort. In the older generation and very pro-homeschooling churches,  most believe in dispensational pre-millenialism. Another explanation is – the rapture! Left Behind! They may follow the teachings of John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, and other huge conspiracy Christians. The ideology is actually newer than Mormonism, though. In the late 1800s, it is believed to have originated from a dream of someone’s and later more research was found on the subject to support this supposed dream.

Other pre-millenialists are historical pre-millenialists, who proclaim that Christians will not be raptured, but they will undergo tribulation and persecution for the sacrifice of Christ. Most followers of this ideology are possibly reformed Calvinists and fans of IHOP (International House of Prayer). This was my actual second eschatology.

I was raised in a very deeply, rapture-believing church, who preached about the rapture possibly happening tomorrow and the anti-Christ coming to kill all, who were left here. It was a deep fear I had. I actually believed that I might have been the anti-Christ, the torturer of the world at one point because of this fearful ideology. I could tell you the signs of the times, how it would happen, and how people were going to die, yet I knew little about the love of Jesus. My mind was mostly fueled for a faith in keeping myself from getting left behind. Not love. Not peace. Israel was to be attacked, and the world would come in total chaos. The past hundred years with Israel has been the main fuel to such ideology because it is very deeply Zionist in nature.

The biggest detriment to the LGBTQ+ community from such ideology was/is that it was/is very close-minded. Everything that was/is not “Jesus-y” was/is possibly evil or a vessel of the anti-Christ. Homosexuals were a very huge vessel. There were the constant statements of “the gays are the sign of the times!” or “Rome fell when homosexuality took over!” or any such heterosexist-anti-Christ related interconnection. The anti-Christ was even possibly gay, himself. (Wonder why I thought I was the anti-Christ, now?)

It was not only outspoken against homosexuals, but feminists, communists, Catholics, evolutionists, and any other non-evangelical ideology. It still is (to a degree).

When I got into college, I was confronted by IHOP ministries, and their belief in historical pre-millenialism because I was starting to understand charismatic theology more. Mike Bickle, the pastor of IHOP, was/is a widely-known charismatic theologian, so I listened to his sermons that were supposedly prophetic of the end of the world. Bickle was not as insane about homosexual conspiracies, but it was very well known that they were an evil and/or sign of the times.

The pre-millenial eschatology that has ridden the evangelical church with widespread homophobia (literally) is a great epidemic to the Western world. In countries across the world, foreigners will tell you about this rapture/armageddon event rather than about the gushing, graceful love of Christ. It is a Western ideology that has closed the Camusian walls of the absurd and kept the fundamentalist world on their toes. Forget about “perfect love casting out all fear (1 John 4:18).”

2) Creationism.

creationism

Young-Earth Creationism is another ideology that limits the possibilities of affirmation for the LGBTQ+ community because of it’s lack of trust in scientific data. Creationism is the epitome of a conversation with a Christian that will say “science is not always right.” Define science. Scientific evidence that comes in hundreds of thousands of pages over the last century? Or scientific statistics? Or a narrative describing the sovereignty of God to humanity thousands of years ago? Most Creationists will even scowl, roll their eyes, or possibly protest to anyone teaching a small phrase of “millions of years ago.” It’s a trigger warning.

Because of little trust in science, a lot of creationists will disregard any scientific evidence supporting the natural biology of a gay man, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person. It is a deep belief in biblical literalism that stems from the growth of the Reformation and then the evangelical revivals in the early 1900s. This biblical literalism is quite mind-blowing when you note that the first collectors and readers of the Bible took more criticism and a lot less literalism than this current generation.

Science shows that queerness is found in animals. “But we’re not animals.” – a creationist comeback. Science shows the younger a brother from a pack of brothers the more likely he will be given female hormones (which will later make him gay). Science shows queerness in both members in a pair of twins. Science shows similarities between brain patterns of gay men and straight women and also between lesbian women and straight men. Science shows too many “Xs” in a genetic pattern causes gender dysphoria and/or intersexuality. One geneticist could go on and on, but creationism builds on the idea of secularism or atheism taking over the world. It builds on “evil” taking over the world. It is what the devil may want you to think.

Without a respect for science, the greater neglect for love toward the LGBTQ+ community.

3) “Anti-Liberal”/The Christian Right.

the christian right

Fox News was the regular TV channel at dinner in our congregation’s homes. Meanwhile, I’d be spitting “idiot” or “dummie” at the random “liberal” that would appear on maybe a segment of O’Reilly or Hannity. Elisabeth Hasselbeck was my hero for standing for the Christian Right on the View in high school. Deep inside though, I knew that the “liberals” were more like me. I knew the wacky artists and the Obama voters were in love with compassion. I could not let the gays have their rights for the sake of….I didn’t want to permit them to go to hell. I could not let illegal immigrants come into the states…..because it was breaking the “law of the land.”

The Christian Right is a feed me/feed you, circular scenario. A pep rally for toxic ideology and racist/homophobic/sexist/xenophobic statements with the sacrilege of Scripture to justify it.

Gays can’t have rights because America is a “Christian nation”……though, we support the genocide of the Palestinian peoples by the nation of Israel for the sake of eschatology! Gays can’t have rights because America is a “Christian nation”…..though, a load of deists created the Constitution of the U.S. with a clause stating the country’s “separation of church and state.” The ideas of gays even infringing on the purpose of a “Christian nation” is ridiculous, as I stated with the debunking of using seven verses to state the “homophobia of God,” yet this is a continuing example of the circular arrangement of the Christian Right’s ideology.

The Christian Right is funded by white, well-to-do Christians (Evangelical and Catholic) to feed each other money and toxic ideology for the sake of selfish exploitation and manipulation, not God.

4) Peer Pressure.

homophobia in russia

As I described with the former three ideologies, they each have a possibility to peer pressure. Everyone has the choice to be homophobic/heterosexist, but in some situations, it is more of a numbing and/or pressured experience.

Growing up in a homophobic environment, it took twenty years to be openly gay. The last six years were a slow process out of such homophobia. In high school, I entered theatre with a lot of fellow queer classmates. It started a process to be “ok” around queers and even be friends with them (at a distance). After I graduated high school, I went to an art camp, which required living with other queers. My notions about faith and queers started to be tested even more as they became close to me even more than my friends formerly. Two years later, I started becoming friends with Christian libertarians, who rejected the idea of America as a “Christian nation” and believed in rights for queers because it was a freedom. I later came to understand and agree with the same idea, especially after I made friends with more Christian libertarians at college. A year later, some Christian friends come out gay, and I come to an uncomfortable situation of realizing there was no getting passed my own homosexuality.

One may be born into a very homophobic environment or keep themselves surrounded by such, but it is all about environment. The less pressure, the more freedom to think and love, of course.

5) Patriarchy. 

patriarchy

Most Evangelical and all Catholic/Orthodox churches are patriarchal in nature – male-led, male-centered, male-identified, and male-empowered. Patriarchy fights for the appearance of masculinity and the eradication of femininity, therefore these churches are usually only led by males in various vocations. The system is the fuel for the rest of the patriarchal structure of society because of its sacrilegious justification of the Bible.

Mainline Christian and some Evangelical churches are a very different sort. Episcopalians, Presbyterians of U.S.A., United Churches of Christ, and various other churches ordain women as priests, head pastors, and/or other vocations. There is the ethic of egalitarianism in these churches, which deeply destroys patriarchal powers. In these same churches, they have later come to be affirming of the LGBTQ+ community. Examples include transgender priests in the Episcopal Church, lesbian pastors in the Disciples of Christ Church, and bisexual theologians in various churches.

Unlike their fellow Christians, these egalitarian Christians gave way to their affirmation of the LGBTQ+ community years after giving rights to women as leaders in the church. This is the reason for the disconnection of gay Christians and leaders of most evangelical and Catholic/Orthodox churches. The Orthodox Church is possibly the most anti-gay, high-church denomination in the world, yet they even call their biggest leaders “patriarchs.” Efforts have been made for the Southern Baptist Convention to affirm same-sex relationships in their churches by various leaders, yet nothing has came of it, which is linked to the fact that their female members are not even allowed to preach at Sunday church. The Catholic Church has been doing well to be coming slowly into affirming of same-sex relationships, but they are still very lacking, which can be linked to the fact that the pope is only and always male.

The first step to getting a congregation in the right direction toward affirmation of the queer community is an egalitarian ethic of straight men and women in church and church leadership. The Assemblies of God denomination and Methodists (especially) are in the right process toward that possible affirmation.

 

6) Strict Doctrine on Sin.

hell art

 

Before I came out, the drawing line in the sand was right in front of affirming the LGBTQ+ community. I was leaving my Calvinist notions and adopting midly liberal thoughts from Charismatic Christians, but affirming queers was cutting it close to heresy. It was a test for me and a church or a person. Tell me your thoughts on the queer community and that would test how legitimate you were as a Christian or theologian. This is a testing device used by other people, too, but it may not be as close to the line as mine was. It may be behind pre-marital sex, or it may be way behind voting for Obama.

In some Catholic churches, it is taught that homosexuality is a mortal sin. In Orthodox churches, it is taught that homosexuality is a detestable sin. In most evangelical churches, it is taught that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons are sinners and in need of purification and conversion. The leading cause of suicide by members of the LGBTQ+ community comes from a particular perspective on sin, which is derived from these doctrines of these churches. To get beyond this doctrine, one has to exegete and analyze these doctrines clearer and read and discern the nature and love of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus will give you a clearer and unaffiliated vision.

7) Fear.

The core root and overall reason for any non-affirming perspective is fear….a fear of possibly being wrong about so much else…a fear of hell…a fear of losing support…a fear of change.

It’s easy to end a short argument with “…but the Bible says.” It’s easy to agree with your supportive leaders of religion, politics, and economic status. It’s easy to be white. It’s easy to be straight. It’s easier to hide.

If you change your mind on queers, what about creation? What about women? What about illegal immigration? What about America? What about your money?

God still says, “they will know me by your love (John 13:35).”