All of us, regardless of background, can trace many of our adult behaviors to either the environment in which we were raised or the character of those who helped raise us, if not both. While there are exceptions to all cases, generally speaking somebody who is raised in an abusive environment will seek escape from the reality of that environment in some form of self-destructive behavior, which then carries on into adulthood. Similarly, a person who is raised in a protected environment may be ignorant of some of the dangers posed by a less gentle, less forgiving segment of society. Those raised in areas in which overt racism is present may be more aware of the effects of how prejudices alter perception, and those raised in areas free of such societal pressures may not understand how deeply run the roots of those prejudices may lie.
I’ve spoken of it before, but for those unaware, the vast majority of my life has been spent living in states south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Additionally, my parents are devout Lutheran Christians, which meant I spent a good portion of my weekends and my afternoons during the Advent and Lent seasons inside a church building. The combination of living in the Buckle of the Bible Belt with deeply devout parents meant that I was nearly always surrounded by people who believed to their deepest cores that the Christian Bible is irrefutably sacrosanct, literally true, and an absolute guide for moral behavior. This belief extended to most major areas of notable Conservative dispute, particularly the areas surrounding evolution and human sexuality. I was taught to belief — and encouraged when reciting or defending the belief — that evolution is not scientifically valid and that humans lived alongside dinosaurs. Any belief in the evidence provided by the fossil record was disputed or discarded simply because it did not fit within dogmatic. Simply put, the scientific method was considered irrelevant and, in a fashion that seems to be uniquely American, cast aside not to be thoughtfully discussed.
As I look back to that time in my life, I often feel shame at being sucked into the arguments provided. My blind faith in the absolute correctness of the Biblical accounts of things being the only way “things could have happened” was borderline fanatical, and impervious to rational arguments challenging my beliefs. Thankfully, my parents taught me to be discerning and thoughtful and to never stop reading, which led to broadening my lens and finding additional information that debunked and thoroughly refuted my prior beliefs. My hypothesis had been wrong, and when presented with overwhelming evidence I was forced to adjust my beliefs to better hold with the evidentiary truth. In just such a manner was I also forced to adjust my views on human sexuality.
Despite knowing better, I engaged in a comment war on Facebook over the past 10 hours. The comments have been on a picture posted by a religious group, across which was written “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Despite how absolutely ridiculous and trite the phrasing of the statement sounds, the intention from the posting is very clear; God did not make gay people, nor any other kind of people, but instead only made straight people. This has led to a very exhaustive counter-argument on my part where I have knowingly broken my “don’t feed the trolls” mantra of online forum etiquette. Nevertheless, as one who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community and is becoming increasingly vocal in my support for the equal treatment of that community I could not in good conscience sit idly by as person after person praised the bigoted nature of this posting. Below are some of the thoughts I’ve taken away from this defense of my people. Fair warning: if you are a deeply devout Christian, I may be attacking parts of your faith. If this upsets you, move along now.
The ever fantastic Lily Lloyd posted a picture on FetLife (the social-networking site for kinky adults) showing the position of all current U.S. Presidential Candidates for 2012 in regards to equal marriage rights. The answers are based on survey results, which were in turn sent out by MarriageEquality.org. The latest results, well… I believe they speak for themselves.
My last 2 entries in the 30 Days of Truth series got me thinking quite a good deal about the struggles I’ve faced throughout my life, and in particular about how I often felt incredibly lonely, alone, and misunderstood as a teenager. While I am absolutely certain this is true of nearly every teenager on the planet — after all, shifting hormonal levels combined with re-appropriations of neural pathways as the brain circuitry is re-wired is enough to cause frustration in anybody — it is no small secret that teenagers who identify anywhere within the LGBTQ spectrum face more isolation and persecution than any other demographic subset, especially in conservative or fundamentalist countries (or sections of countries, such as the Southeastern United States). A great deal of evidence supports this, but even without the evidence, I know how that struggle feels. As trite and cliche and overused as the phrase may be, I have been there and yes, it does get better.
I am living proof that it gets better. Nor am I alone in this proof. Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project. At the time of this writing there are 520,703 people who have pledged to support and spread the word about the IGB Project, myself included. This is an absolutely invaluable resource for ANY person within the LGBTQ community who feels lost, alone, isolated, depressed, or in despair. Featured front and center on the site are videos from people who have face the same struggles and found a way through to the other side (no, I am not among that number [yet?]) to find something bigger and brighter. These people were shunned, beaten, persecuted, isolated, excommunicated, and whatnot, but they got through it. They found love and support and happiness. If the videos are not inspirational enough, however, at the top of the page is the link to Get Help, wherein is the number to the Trevor Project along with a drop-down box to select each U.S. State, which results in displaying every available help group and center in the state. Within my current state of Florida there are 49 entries listed!
I was reading an amazingly fantastic and thought provoking article in New York Magazine on the growing number of parents who are accepting and assisting their children — sometimes very young children — with gender dysphoria issues. The article can be found here and is worth every minute it takes to read. As I was reading these deeply touching stories of families who’s children know they’re in the wrong gender bodies and fear the results of the onset of adolescence, I started wondering how I would react if any of my children began expressing these similar fears and concerns and assertions.
I know the struggles I faced growing up trying to match my desires and urges with what family and society expected of me. In a way I still struggle, albeit it less every day, because the act of unlearning fear and shame and anxiety is not completed overnight. My dynamic dance between pride and embarrassment, however well choreographed, still leaves my improvising the next step more often than not. I know I have no reason to feel shame, or to cow to the perceived expectations of a nameless and faceless Society, yet the underpinnings are still there awaiting the day I finally remove the cracked foundation and pour a fresh, solid slab.
So I wonder, with a great deal of empathy, how much of a struggle it must be for children to have to not only face the conflict of desiring a romantic relationship counter to the accepted societal norm but also face the daily, inescapable reminder that the physical gender identity does not match that with which the brain associates. I could sneak surreptitious appreciative glances at other guys and not get caught, or focus on erotica in the privacy of my own room. For the child experiencing gender dysphoria there is no escape; s/he is reminded during every bladder movement, every changing of clothes, every bath or shower or trip to the beach or swim in the pool that the body parts are wrong.
We see it all the time. Whether we’re creating an account on Facebook, OKCupid, FetLife, SwingLifeStyle, or wherever, we get asked the same basic questions every time:
* What is your gender?
* What are you looking for / what is your sexuality?
On most sites the options are limited and straightforward. Answer Male or Female to the first question, and answer Straight, Gay, or Bisexual to the second question. This is the commonly accepted binary form of thinking in regard to how human beings are constructed and therefore operate. But what happens when the question becomes more involved?
The Gay Rights movement has slowly shifted into the LGBTQ Movement (although many people often leave off the Q at the end) and each of those letters should carry equal weight. The first three — Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual — are the most commonly bandied terms, yet in terms of Equal Rights some could argue that the Bisexual people are left behind. After all, two Lesbians may marry in many states now, as may two Gay men. What happens when I Bisexual Poly individual falls in love with and wishes to marry both a Man and a Woman? The question is sure to raise eyebrows everywhere, and thus far, such kinds of marriage are only allowed in select European countries. But I digress.
The following two letters in that group — Transgender/Transexual and Queer — are often left out of the discussion as well. They simply do not fit within the typical binary system of Man and Woman. They are the “in betweens”, and in some very rare cases do physically embody both sexes. Most times, they simply refer to individuals who feel as though the physical form does not match the inner form, as we most often hear from the more famous Post-Operation Transformative individuals. Chaz Bono is perhaps one of the more famous examples of such individuals.
But what about Queer? (more…)