Your Holiday Mom: Supporting LGBTQ Children

This month has been a hard one for me.  I’ve pushed my body way beyond its limits without giving it any chance to recuperate.  Unfortunately that has meant that blogging has been the last priority on my list of things to do.  With that in mind I’d like to share something I shared last holiday season.

Your Holiday Mom” is a website dedicated to providing LGBTQ children with loving and caring messages from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Everyday women come together to write letters to children who may not have family support and affirmation.  They virtually invite these children into their homes, their families, and their hearts.  It’s beautiful and encouraging.  I encourage you to check it out and share with anyone who may need a little extra love.

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Not a Novelty but a Love Song

Just over a year ago Mary Lambert went onto youtube to look for a cute music video to watch that expressed the love she was feeling.  The only problem was that she couldn’t find a single one; nothing that reflected her experience or love for her partner.

Many people already know Mary Lambert from the chorus of “Same Love,” a ground breaking song done by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.  On her blog she talks about how she was approached at just the right time in her life to write and sing the chorus to this song.  She worried about using the pronoun she and how it would be received.  She was amazed to find not only men but women singing along to the song.  They didn’t have a problem with it and she was inspired.

She decided to expand the chorus and produce her own music video that reflected her experience and love for her partner as a lesbian woman.

“This music video is about love and it’s about visibility.  I could be wrong, but I’ve never seen a relationship like mine accurately portrayed in a music video.  I’ve seen women rolling around in lingerie, bisexual love triangles, women cheating on their boyfriends with a girl definitely.  So this is where I need to say one thing explicitly: gay relationships are not, nor have ever, been a novelty.  My love is valid, equal, and beautiful.”

via IT’S HERE! IT’S QUEER! IT’S CUTE! I’M CRYING!

This song is equally, if not more important than “Same Love.”  For women who do not see their experiences and love reflected in mainstream movies, stories, songs, or other forms of media this song does exactly that.  A lesbian relationship is not being appropriated to push a message about equality.

It is a love song, not a political statement.

 

Related posts from Mary Lambert’s blog:

Related Articles:

 

Mary Lambert, She Keeps Me Warm

Finding Light in the Darkness

The holiday season can be a time of rejoicing, reunification, and forgiveness for many.  For others though it is a time of sadness, emptiness, and loneliness.  While some are reminded of what they have to be thankful for, others are reminded of what they’ve lost.  As Christmas approaches we have heard many sad stories of loss.  In Oregon a shooter open fired on a mall full of holiday shoppers.  In Connecticut many young children and teachers lost their lives when another shooter went on a spree.  The small town where I went to college is hurting over a fire in their beloved pet store.  A friend is hurting over the unexpected loss of her husband.  These tales of sadness can seem overwhelming.

I do not want to dismiss these stories in any way but sometimes a story of hope is needed for balance.  We cannot forget that in all of these stories there were people who stood up and helped their neighbor, teachers who protected their students, and people who came together to communally support each other and grieve together.

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I was recently came across a project called “Your Holiday Mom” and I feel like now is the perfect time to share it.

“This season, supportive moms (and a few dads too!) have gathered to send a holiday message to all LGBTQ children, teens and young adults who are without family support and who would like a “stand-in Holiday Mom”–or 40! Knowing that not every parent is ready to accept her own LGBTQ child exactly as-is (as hard as this is for us to imagine), we have written to extend our love beyond that of our own family.”

Every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day there is a messages of love and support.  I encourage you to check this website out.  It is beautiful and heart warming.  A little light in the darkness

Why I Don’t Support the Salvation Army

As Christmas continues to approach the sound of bells fill the air outside of department and grocery stores.  The red kettles recognizable as donation buckets for the Salvation Army.  They are known not only for collecting donations during the holiday season, but for helping the homeless with shelter, food, clothing etc.  What you may not know is that they are also known for being discriminatory towards the LGBTQ community. 

Salvation Army - Anti Gay

I used to work for the Salvation Army at a wet, low barrier women’s shelter.  What that means is 1. clients do not have to be clean and sober to receive services (the wet part), and 2. anyone who identifies as a woman may access services (low barrier part).  I loved the idea of this shelter.  Many shelters have program restrictions, a screening process, and a required intake process before people can access services.  These are used to determine if the client is a good fit for the program.  This place had none.  This meant that we would get the women that no one else would take, women with severe, often untreated mental health, and women with current and ongoing substance abuse issues.  Chronically homeless women were the majority of the clientele.  Women who for whatever reason could not find and/or retain housing.  The shelter had 50 beds which the women could access for 30 days at a time.  During this time they would receive a case manager would work with them mainly on finding housing.

In theory this is a great program.  Unfortunately it was poorly run by a woman who had little to no compassion for the women we served.  The Salvation Army as a whole encompasses a lot of programs, all run by different people with little communication between them.  They are poorly organized and push the “salvation agenda” pretty hard.  I have very deep concerns about programs who help the homeless only after they have listened to a sermon, attended a Bible study, or some sort of other religious function.  This is not my gospel.  There should be no religious requirements attached to receiving services.  I’m getting a little off track but this is one of the reasons I no longer support the Salvation Army.  While the program I was a part of did not specifically require clients to attend church etc. there was a definite pressure to.  This is the first problem I have; when saving someone’s soul becomes more important than providing for their basic needs.  This is not a holistic approach to service and it does not serve the whole person.

Another thing I discovered while working for them is the bigotry towards the LGBTQ community.  Again, in theory my program was supposed to be better in this area.  We operated under a harm reduction model.  An example of this would be if you know a client is using drugs you provide them with access to clean needles.  Several of our clients were transwomen, or lesbians.  They were welcome in the door.  Unfortunately this is often were the welcome stopped.  I witnessed these women being harassed by other clients and the staff did nothing about it.  Sometimes my co-workers were the ones encouraging the abuse.  I was told that we did not house lesbians as they may move in with their partner and this was in clean violation with the Bible.  Again, this is not my gospel.  And my program was tame compared to others underneath the Salvation Army umbrella.

If this is the first time you’ve heard about this I would encourage you to do some research before dropping your money into the kettle.  If you are interested in doing something more tangible and forthright I recommend that you click on and print the voucher below, and drop those in the kettle instead.

Salvation Army Voucher

Related Articles

  • Don’t Donate to the Salvation Army If You Care About LGBT People
  • UC Berkeley Salvation Army Controversy: Students Call For Campus Ban On Organization Citing Alleged Homophobic Practices
  • Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Holiday Campaign Takes Heat From Gay Rights Activists

 

Replacing Hate With Love: A Father Writes a Letter to His Hypothetically Gay Son

This is not technically “new” news.  I read about it some time ago but have been letting it percolate.  Some time in August a young man posted a letter on Reddit.  It was a letter from his father in response to him “coming out.”

"This is how hate sounds."

The first time I read this my heart broke.  I thought about how my own family would have responded if I had come to them with a similar conversation.  Would they have been as angry, hateful, and ready to throw out our relationship?  Or would they have responded with love and acceptance?  Those are not the only two options, they are the extreme ends of the spectrum, and the ones we hear most often about.  We hear the stories like the one above, where loved ones are quick to judge and slow to understand.  Or we hear the stories where life goes on pretty much the same as before, families respond with open arms and wonder why the child/brother/sister/friend/etc. waited so long to share that piece of their life.  Based on how my family has reacted in the face of other things I have shared with them I want to believe that they would lean more towards the acceptance side.  Though they may not understand, and it would probably challenge some of their beliefs I would still be welcome in their home.  They would not disown me as their daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter/cousin.  But that is not something that I will ever have to deal with.  This is not a struggle we will have to face as a family, at least not from me.  I can only speak in hypotheticals.

Speaking of hypothetical, another blogger saw the letter I posted above and wrote his own letter in response.  He wrote the letter to his hypothetically gay son.  At the time he wrote the letter his wife was still pregnant with their child.  It tells a much different story than the first one.

“Let me be perfectly clear. I love you. I will always love you. Since being gay is part of who you are, I love that you’re gay. I’m just trying to wrap my head around the idea. If you sensed any sadness in my silence last night, it was because I was surprised that I was surprised. Ideally, I would have already known. Since you were an embryo, my intent has always been to really know you for who you are and not who I expect you to be. And yet, I was taken by surprise at last night’s dinner. Have I said “surprise” enough in this paragraph? One more time… surprise!”

The father goes on to state that their house will always be a place of love and that if necessary he would go to war to advocate for his son.  It is a beautiful piece and I encourage you to read the whole thing.

If your child came out to you, how would you respond?  If this is not a hypothetical situation for you what did the conversation look like?  Do you wish you (or your family) would have responded differently?

What would your letter say?

Insensitivity and Ignorance Abound

There is such a plethora of anti-women crap to chose from right now I don’t even know where to begin.  I just have to turn on my computer to hear about some idiot saying something ignorant, misinformed, or just plain cruel.  There’s this guy for example, who thinks comedy consists of threatening to gang rape a woman, or publicly inducing shame by sneaking up on women and “lightly touching their stomachs.”  He makes sure that you know it should be non-consensual, unexpected, and as embarrassing as possible for the intended victim.  Then there’s always aspirin between the knees guy, or Rush Limbaugh’s comments towards Sandra Fluke.  And more recently there is Todd Akin’s comment about “legitimate rape.”  By the way Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, pens a beautiful and very well written open letter to Mr. Akin.  I highly recommend that you check it out.

With all this potential blog fodder how do I even know where to start?  The more I think about it the more I just find myself exhausted.  I can’t live my whole life angry.  It is good to be angry, and righteously so, at injustice.  You cannot let it consume you though.  There will always be ignorant people who either do not understand what is like to be a woman, or what it is like to be raped, abused, controlled, and taken advantage of.  I can explain the cycles of abuse till I’m blue in the face.  I can say that no one is responsible for anyone else’s actions, or a woman should be able to dance naked on a table and not be raped or taken advantage of all I want.  There are always going to be people who don’t get it.  There are always going to be people who will argue with me and I’ve hit my limit.  I’ve hit my rape and abuse limit.  My bullshit meter is in overdrive and I’m not the only one.  So, as I temporarily put aside the idiots who do not understand the complexities of rape, abuse, and domestic violence let’s find something else to be indignant about.

Back in April, Anchorage Alaska rejected Proposition 5, a gay rights initiative that would have created a law protecting residents from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  This law and one’s like it are aimed mainly to protect the LGBTQ community.  This is a community that many people still fear.  They are misunderstood and have gross stereotypes still attached to them.  People who do not fit into gender norms are seen as predatory, threatening, and grotesque.  The following “vote no” ads focus on the transgender piece, portraying them as dangerous to be around children and as having ulterior motives:

These ads portray transgender people as laughable, unsightly, and in all honesty, stereotypically.  They are people to fear and keep our children away from.  This is historically true of people that are not like us.  People that are different are ostracized and demeaned.  In particular there is a fear that they will prey on children.

 “Ads that raise fears about transvestites teaching in the classroom have been used since the 1970s during ballot measure campaigns, and the Religious Right has been raising concerns about transgender women in women’s bathrooms since the late 1980s. These two ads from the Anchorage Proposition 5 campaign are among the newest additions to the long tradition of ads that rely on stereotypes of LGBT individuals as predatory, dangerous to have around children, and having ulterior motives.”  – Amy L. Stone

The conversation goes from being about rights of the LGBTQ community to the comfort of cisgendered and cissexual individuals.  Somehow every conversation becomes about making the “normal” people safe and comfortable.  This is what it means to be privileged.  Think about it.  I will never be second guessed if I walk into a daycare.  I may a sexual predator but because I look “normal” no one questions my motives.  I can take a child into the bathroom regardless of its gender.  People will not be wondering in the back of their heads if I’m a pervert.

Working in what is called a “low barrier” women’s shelter I see this all the time.  Anyone who identifies as a woman and is over the age of 18 can access the shelter’s services.  The number one question I get asked when I explain this is, “what about transgendered women?”  The related questions include things like, aren’t I worried that a man will dress up like a woman just to access services or to prey on the “real women”?  At first I found this an exciting opportunity to educate the people I talked to.  Now it just annoys me.  Let’s face it, discrimination and misunderstanding are alive and well.

**Something I’ve learned about blogging is that readers tend not to click on links.  I would encourage you to do so this time and check out some of the articles I’ve linked to in this entry.  It’s good stuff.  Read Ms. Ensler’s letter at the very least.

Pride Parade 2012

I grew up in a small town.  I went to a fairly small high school and the university I went to is in a small town, slightly bigger than the one I grew up in, but still small (and religious, but more on that another day).  I just recently moved to a large city and have had several, “wow, I feel like a hick” or “I am definitely from a small town” moments.  I woke up this morning to a text from my co-worker.  She informed me that today the Pride Parade was happening and I probably shouldn’t drive to work (mostly because there was absolutely nowhere to park!).  So, I decided to walk the nearly four miles instead.  I am so glad I did.  I have never seen anything like this parade!  It was amazing, and if definitely made me feel like a small town kid.  I loved it though.  Here are a few pictures I was able to snap as I painstakingly made my way to work today.  Enjoy!

I tried to make sure I got this guy from the side so I would feel okay about posting it on the internet.  To be honest though he probably wouldn’t care considering he just rode through the whole city…

This guy was definitely one of my favorites!

This isn’t the greatest picture but it makes me laugh.  She was ridiculously excited that I was pointing a camera at her.  I must have looked official or something because I got this reaction repeatedly.

If you want to find out more about the origins of both the pride parade and the gay rights movement click here.

“Naturally Born Female”

Below are three different articles about beauty pageant contestant Jenna Talackova.  She was excluded from the Miss Universe Canada pageant due to the fact that she is transgendered or a transitioned woman.

Link 1  News article from CNN

Link 2  Article from Feminist Blog

Link 3  Article from Montreal Gazette’s “Trans Talk” Blog

Thoughts?  I know there are a couple of different issues going on here but I will definitely post on beauty pageants later.  What do you think about someone being excluded because she is not a “naturally born female?”  What does that even mean to you?  Is it discrimination?  Was she rightly or wrongfully excluded?