LGBTQ · Life · Trans

World Pride (And Why It’s So Important)

50 years. 50 years since Stonewall. 50 years and my internet feed is still fully of hate speech against those in the LGBTQIA community. Claiming the world is shoving a gay agenda down their throats when cis-het is considered the “norm”–shoved down EVERY SINGLE PERSON’S THROAT EVER. No, you don’t get your own pride. Every day is your march for your values, at the exclusion and detriment of others. Sit down, shut up, and maybe learn something.

It’s likely only because I’m paying attention more than I used to that I see all this hate. It’s like red flags popping up everywhere around me–micro- and macro-aggressions, so frequent they are easily missed or dismissed by cis-het peeps who choose to say others are too sensitive (that lib- word that’s equally ableist, knocking down two groups with one stone) or that they’re only just kidding–can’t you take a joke?

No. I can’t. I’m not that kind of funny.

As I spent Friday night at my kid’s new doctor, learning how to deliver his testosterone injections to begin his hormone therapy–my 3rd trip this week to a town 30 miles away because that’s where he can obtain the best care available for a trans kid in my state–it was a festive mood. The beginning of a new chapter in his life. Validation of what’s in his heart, which will ultimately lead to a physical transformation affirming it. But it’s also bittersweet.

Bittersweet because I know that the more likely he is to “pass” as a cisgender male, the safer he is. Knowing that his ability to blend into social norms for gender roles will reduce his chances of being harassed, ridiculed, or becoming a victim of violence. It’s a step beyond being the weird kid other kids ostracized and it can become a matter of life and death. It shouldn’t be this way. He shouldn’t have to fit a mold others have built in order to have some semblance of a regular life.

Pride matters because of all this hate that is still out there in the world–made even more apparent every time a non-binary person shares a gender non-conforming photo on Instagram, or when a brand decides to launch an inclusive campaign, or when a municipality attempts to raise a rainbow flag (or paint a rainbow crosswalk) and the citizens lash back with pure, vile, hatred. It’s not some obscure portion of the population who feeds these flames–it’s your very own neighbors, made bold by the internet (and sometimes, even bolder in person) to remove all doubt as to where exactly they fall on the bigotry spectrum. Disheartening isn’t a big enough word for this.

I’m lucky enough to be mom to an amazing, talented, artistic, pure-hearted, genius of a child who happens to also be gay and trans. And I will fight you, tooth and nail, if you do anything to restrict his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This Mama Bear has had enough.

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Entertainment · LGBTQ

10 Years Later, Nothing Has Changed

Last night, I brought eldest kiddo to see The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later at The Warner Theatre‘s Nancy Marine Studio. I wish more parents had brought their teens and tweens. In fact, that room should have been overflowing with people, extra performances added to the schedule due to overwhelming demand. School field trips, with projects for school credit and conversations held about what this community chooses to also rewrite in its own history.

The Laramie Project Ten Years Later

I cried. A lot.

The cast consisted of members of The Warner Theatre Center for Arts Education Performance Lab, the eldest students in the arts education program. Teens, ranging from 15 to 18 years old, brought to life the series of interviews conducted by the Tectonic Theatre Project in 2008, 10 years after the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. What they found was change…and not. A community willing to put the past behind them…and some demanding for change that should have happened.

Jake Asheim, who was tasked with playing the roles of Moises Kaufman (member of Tectonic Theatre Project), Jim Osbourne (friend of Matthew Shepard) and Russell Henderson (one of Matthew Shepard’s murderers) was spell-binding. His timing and patience with each of these roles shined. Conio Lopardo slipped seamlessly between Governor Freudenthal, Jim Osborne, and, most eerily of all, Aaron McKinney (Matthew Shepard’s murderer). Suspension of disbelief is essential in live theatre, and Lopardo successfully pulled this off. His version of flippant, remorseless McKinney brought out all the feels in me and I was astounded such could be pulled off by a 15-year-old. Emily Russell’s Reggie Fluty was passionate and full of life. This was a truly talented cast and they performed a very difficult piece in a very impressive manner.

I cried. A lot.

I cried because I’ve watched The Laramie Project on HBO, so I knew some of the back story. I cried because Matthew Shepard was around my age. I cried because the comments from the members of the community echo so much of what’s relevant today. I cried because, in spite of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, hate crimes persist. Every year, hate gains ground. It feels more and more hopeless, even with tools that were supposed to decrease these numbers. I cried because, even though in June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states of the United States, current administrations are trying to erode that right–are doing their best to take away what was already given. I cried because so much ground has already been lost.

I cried.

Please. There are two more performances of this important play. You can catch it Saturday, February 2, 2019, at 8:00 PM, and Sunday, February 3, 2019, at 2:00 PM. Bring your kids. Bring your parents. Bring tissues. Just go. 10 more years have passed since these interviews, and I fear what another update would bring to light. Laramie could be anywhere. Torrington could learn some lessons from this.

Tickets can be purchased on the Warner Theatre website or from their box office two hours before each performance.

LGBTQ · Life · Trans

Fear and Intolerance in New England Places

Disclosure: This post is published with permission from my child.

Some of you may already know that my eldest child is trans male and gay. He came out as gay last spring; he came out as trans in October; I already knew for years. It was no surprise.

As much as I love my kids for who they are–and am proud of them for standing confident in the knowledge of themselves–others are not so awesomely accepting. In fact, my eldest hit the jackpot in becoming the target of bullying in our community.

I reached out to the school’s guidance counselor and social worker. I wasn’t sure how transitioning worked in middle school and I knew that my kid would need a good support system. He had already been the brunt of abuse from his peers for being gay and trans male and no one was doing anything about it. While the social worker seemed to be understanding and on the same page during my phone conversation with both, there was no follow-through or follow-up. When I spoke with the guidance counselor a couple of months later, she misgendered my son during the entire conversation. I was fuming.

It was bad enough that one of his teachers announced to the class (when we were away on vacation) “C’mon, we all know that M is a girl–who does she think she’s kidding?” Or that another teacher marked him absent for 4 days and when I questioned her about it, she insisted she had never met my child. (I’m so proud of my kiddo’s friend who confronted her on that, since she was apparently refusing to acknowledge my kid.) You kind of expect children to be awful to each other. I know my 7th grade experience was not full of puppy dogs and rainbows. More like shit and more shit. And then some shit thrown at you, for good measure. But the adults? They¬†should be someone the kids can turn to for support and protection. And that is not the case, even in 2018. Even in good old blue Connecticut. Intolerance knows no boundaries.

It’s a different world than the one I grew up in–for better and for worse. In 7th grade, I don’t think I knew anyone who was openly gay. My senior year of high school, things seemed to be moving in a better direction, but maybe that was only at the coffee house where I hung out with other like-minded, artistic peeps. We had an insulated bubble; the outside world rarely intruded inside those walls. Yet, it still existed, and I didn’t experience it like my friends did. I wish I knew then what I know now.

My eldest is very lucky, despite the bullshit. What he lacks in adult acceptance, he makes up for in spades with his friends circle. Far larger than my group of friends, and so true true true to themselves. So knowledgeable. So supportive. They’re lesbian and gay and bi and pansexual. They’re trans and non-binary and queer. They’re informed and strong and solid in their knowledge of themselves. Their parents don’t all know their truths (or accept them), but they are there for each other, a surrogate family when biological family is lacking. And I LOVE them for this!

But at the back of mind, it nags. That CAUTION sign. That concern. That worry that grave harm will come to my child just for being who he is.

It’s 2018. It’s surprising, and yet not at all. Hate has, after all, been given the nod by those in power.

I didn’t want to rain on my kid’s pride parade, but I also needed him to understand the gravity of the situation. The potential for danger. So we sat down and watched The Laramie Project together.

My take-aways?

  • HOW THE HELL HAVE I NOT WATCHED THIS BEFORE???
  • The way the townsfolk spoke in Laramie is so much the same that we hear today about racial intolerance. These people who think they’re accepting, but are really only okay if they don’t have to know about it or see it. Live and let live. As long as they keep to themselves, I don’t have a problem. Which isn’t tolerance at all, but systemic hatred. And it’s sickening. And it’s still happening today.
  • If you haven’t watched it before, pay close attention to when they talk with Reverend Fred Phelps. I was angry sobbing after the talk with the “good reverend.” The hypocrisy of it all was revolting. But not unexpected.
  • I also sobbed through the scene when the angels–led by Romaine Patterson–blocked out the protesting Westboro Baptist Church members during the trials of the murderers of Matthew Shepard. I can’t even remember a time before their hate-filled harassment of grieving families. I really want to.
  • Matthew Shepard’s kidnapping, brutal beating, and subsequent horrible death came just days after I turned 21. I was the same age as Matthew Shepard. It was October 1998 and this was not something you typically heard about back then. In fact, it seemed to be the first in my memory. And sadly, not the last horrific hate crime.
  • The concept of hate crimes came out of this. Think about that. That’s not to say that brutal beatings and deaths weren’t happening before. They most certainly were. But this was THE tipping point, as far as legislation goes.
  • Even though attempts at hate crimes legislation began in 1997, before Matthew Shepard’s murder, it wasn’t until 2009 that they finally gained enough traction. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009 and became law. 11 FUCKING YEARS after Matthew Shepard’s murder. My eldest was already 4 years old, at the time.

It was an emotionally draining experience. (We had to follow up with The Greatest Showman to cleanse our palates.) And I’m not really sure what I was trying to accomplish, or if I accomplished anything at all. Maybe I want my kiddo to exercise a little more caution? But at what expense? Why should he have to deny who he is to make people less uncomfortable? Why should I have to worry that he may become a statistic someday? Why is this the fucking world we live in?

In the meantime, I try to be there whenever I can. We attend rallies. We talk openly about what he’s going through. We’ve researched his options for when he gets older (hormones, top surgery, etc.). I help him dress whatever way makes him comfortable. And I try to find role models, wherever I can. It’s always important for kids to find people in the limelight who are like them. It will be an exhausting uphill climb. There will always be shitty people to deal with. But he has his tribe and the love of his family. He will find his way.