31 January 2017

Check your privilege. Then use it.

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with a friend of mine about politics for her podcast on SpareMin.* Before our talk, Abi told me she didn't really have an agenda for the conversation. She was really leaving it open to anything having to do with politics or my post-election life.

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That's a really broad topic.

As the conversation progressed, we talked about how to make a difference from where you are and what it means to be an ally. And that's what I want to address here today.

There are people I know who claim to be allies in this fight. They share memes on Facebook and make rainbow profile pictures and talk about how they're advocates for LGBTQ rights and want to fight for people like me, for families like mine.

But so much of the time, these people are allies because they want people to see them being allies. They want people to know they're allies. It becomes much less about advocacy and ally-ship, and much more about the appearance of advocacy and ally-ship.

There are people who come from a place of privilege (white cishet folks, for example) who are protesting and talking about protests the way tourists talk about cities. They want others to see them as allies and they want the experience of being known as allies.

That's not what people need.

As a lesbian, I am a minority, and under the Trump administration, my rights are under threat. My safety is under threat. While I once walked down the street with my wife and children worried that I might get side eye, now I fear that someone will physically put their hands on my wife or on me. Or even worse, on the kids. There have been moments since the election that I literally fear for my long-term safety in this country. Because the election of Donald Trump normalized and legitimized hatred and bigotry in this country.

And there are people I know who claim that they understand that fear when they don't. There are people I know who say they know how I feel. That they have experienced the same kind of hatred I have experienced. That they are in fear, as well.

But they aren't.

How can they be?

The vast majority of cishet folks have no idea what it's like to be hated because of who they are and who they love. They have no idea what it's like to be questioned when they say they are attracted to someone. To be asked, "Are you sure?" or "How do you know?" or to be told that your soul will burn for all of eternity because of your genetics. By people who are supposed to love you.

But everything happening in this country lately is changing people, and making them think that because they disagree with this or that policy, they're the same as the people whose lives are in danger because of those policies.

They're tourists. Not allies.

Here's the thing. Unless you actually experience the issue addressed, you can't claim to know what it's like.

You may have similar (but different) experiences. For example, I have experienced hatred because I am gay. This is similar (but very different) from the experiences of people of color who experience hatred because of their ethnicities or skin colors. But because I am white, I cannot know what it means to be a person of color in this country and in this social climate. I can empathize. I can be angry and react. But I can't know.

That's why it is so important for allies to understand how to be allies.

As a white woman, the most important thing I can do to be an ally for others is to share their stories. I have privilege as a white woman that others do not have. And instead of trying to stand on my sexuality as a way to say "I know how you feel," it's so much more important for me to use my privilege to extend their voices. To give them a voice where they do not have one. To share their stories so they are heard.

So often, when I want to be an ally on Facebook or Twitter, the best and most important thing I can do is share articles and tweets and status updates from people who are actually experiencing the issue.

If I want to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, how can I possible speak about race in this country with any kind of credibility or authority? But what I can do is to amplify the voices of people who do have authority and credibility. I can use my privilege as a white woman to give voice to women, men, and children who are overlooked and ignored.

People listen to me because I'm white. So why wouldn't I use that privilege for good?

The same is true for people who want to be LGBTQ allies.

It's not about rainbows on Facebook or sharing memes or going to parades and throwing glitter. Because all that is show. It doesn't change anything in this country, and it doesn't mean you understand what it means to be gay in today's society.

You can't pretend you don't have privilege. So don't. Instead, use it for good. Lift up the voices of others with your volume. Amplify their voices so theirs stories can be heard.

Use the power you are granted because of who you are to share what others need to get the rights they deserve.

Check your privilege.

Then use it.

*For more important conversations on SpareMin, check out Abi's profile.

16 January 2017

Should we be scared?

One of the things that has been concerning to me since the election (really, since the campaign, but before Election Day, there was still hope....) is that I am a gay woman married to a gay woman and we have two children.*

And I live in a very red area of the nation.

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Immediately following the election, there were so, so, so many reports of violence against so many people following the election, and the queer community is among those who have been targeted. Despite Trump's efforts to bridge the gap between his campaign and the queer community with a half-hearted wave of a rainbow flag on a stage, he's not exactly a friend to those who identify as anything other than cis and straight (and white and male, but that's for another post).

And people's overt reactions to the queer community following the election are a pretty damning statement of what it means to live in "Trump's America."

Because here's the thing. It doesn't matter whether Trump does what he said he would do during his campaign (though evidence is mounting that he will). Because the fact that he built his campaign on the promises he did means that he collected a gaggle of like-minded followers who are reveling in the fact that "they won" and are strutting their pride on the streets all over this country.

No matter what happens in the Oval Office or in Congress or in the Supreme Court, the fact remains that there are millions of people who voted for this man because of his campaign. They wanted him to win.

So what does that mean for my family? For me?

I am out. I have been for about five years. My wife is out. I don't shy away from the word "gay" around our kids and we explain that it doesn't matter if you love someone who identifies as male or female or who is androgynous (or any other variation of gender).

But there are people around us who are getting more bold about disagreeing with a "lifestyle" like mine. Or the fact that there are immigrants who live in this country. Or that not everyone is a Christian. Vocally. About taking action (even violently) to protest what they believe to be wrong.

And people are getting hurt.

And the government is not stepping in as it should. In fact, quite the opposite in some cases, like in Ohio.

That makes me afraid. The people who are supposed to be protecting Americans and American residents are taking legislative action to instead discriminate against Americans and, in fact, take actions leading to grave harm.

Did you know that the Affordable Care Act is in the process of being repealed? (My wife and I currently have health insurance through the marketplace, and we both have pre-existing conditions. She is a cancer survivor, and I have fibromyalgia.)

With everything going on in this country in the last couple of months, with all of the hirings and firings, with all of the legislative changes and bold violent acts of hate, I can't help but worry for the safety of my family and myself.

We are on the outside in "Trump's America." We don't fit into the narrow mold he has created for what America looks like.

And I shudder to think what is going to happen in the future as he, his administration, and the people who voted for him begin working toward creating that America.

Trump talked about "draining the swamp."

But what he didn't tell you was that before he did, he'd be populating it with alligators.

So all I can do is protect my family. And I will fight every day from where I am (this blog, social media, among my family and friends) to let anyone and everyone know that

this is not okay.

Trump's words and actions are not okay. The election was not okay. The actions of the American people under Trump's name are not okay. And it is my right and duty as an American citizen to fight for my rights.

I may be scared. But I will never stop.

*Puck and Tink are from my first marriage (to a man), but Bo and I raise the kids when we have timesharing (Florida's term for visitation) with them, and she is their mom as much as I am.

05 January 2017

This is only the beginning.

I am fearful this month.

There's a big part of me that's excited about a new year, seeing 2017 as a fresh start and the next step on my path to achieving my goals and dreams. I'm making big, positive changes in my life to get healthier and to be able to do what I really want to do.* We're four days in, and I've made good choices, I've held myself accountable, and I'm more motivated than I've ever been to do what I need to for myself and for my family.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
And then I look at my Facebook feed, and I see the appointments Trump is making and the legislation being passed and repealed in various states. (Of course, legislation isn't happening only at the state level.)

And I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because here's the thing.

We (meaning Americans and others) have been fighting for a long time to try and achieve equality. For white cishet** men, the fight began in the 1700s and was achieved by....1776? Everyone else is still fighting.

Let's think about that for a minute.

For hundreds of years (and longer), anyone who is not a white, cishet man has struggled and fought and been beaten down and continued to fight for the meager measures of equality that have been granted. Paltry concessions.

And those successes have come with white cishet men as allies in the government and in the streets.

In the aftermath of the election, there are scores of people who have been emboldened to act on their hatred, bigotry, and ignorance.*** The people who want legislation to work backwards are no longer held at bay by a measured hand in the government and the expectation of politeness. The president-elect has changed all that.

I've heard people say that we should wait and see what the incoming president does. (Even if that were a valid point, I think he has already shown who he really is.) That doesn't matter. Because the fact that he got elected on the platform he ran means that there are people who agree with that thinking. They voted for him because they wanted a president who believed those things and would act on them.

They wanted a president who is blatantly and violently against women.

They wanted a president who doesn't care about the health and safety of minorities.

They wanted a president who would mirror actions by a man who rose to power and led directly to the death of millions of innocent people. (You know who I'm talking about.)

That means that all of the people who think that way and want those things believe that the election of this president is a blank check to do whatever they want to whomever they want because, after all, the president-elect has their backs.

That's where we are.

So it doesn't matter if the president-elect keeps his campaign promises or not. Because he has told the American people that it's okay to behave the way he does. And even now, when he has been elected and must have some idea of what is expected of him, he continues to say and do things that undermine all the work the government leaders before him and the American people have accomplished.

He won't do what he should do in order to show that he's serious about this role that he's taken on.

He doesn't care.

This is a game to him. Because he's bored. It's something to do instead of Celebrity Apprentice.

This man is literally holding people's lives in his hands and is more concerned with the way he's portrayed on SNL than what the American people need in order to feel safe.

Inauguration Day is January 20, 2017. But just because that man is sworn in on that day does not mean we have lost.

January 20, 2017 is only the beginning.

It is our right as Americans to stand against what is happening right now.
[...W]henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
We are not safe.

We are not happy.

We will not stand by and allow it to continue.

And I will fight every day. In every way I can.

I will stand on the right side of history. I will fight. I will not give up. It's not over.

It's never over.

*I really want to be a full-time fiction writer.

**cis (born and identify as male) het(erosexual)

***When I say ignorance, I am referring to a lack of education and unwillingness to learn rather than as an insult.