Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 1, 2016

It’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, and time for the secular visit from Santa my friends! Which also means, in spite of everything else that’s happening around us right now, there’s a special something in the air. A something that makes it easy to want to give, to take care of each other, to help the less fortunate.

Now, if you aren’t giving, can’t give, or don’t want to, that’s your business and I truly do not judge (and not in that “I’m not judging” way that your aunt has which means she’s actually judging the shit out of you, but real and genuine not judging).
However, if you’re looking to give, may I suggest making your holiday giving just a little different than it has been in the past. Consider…

Planned Parenthood. 1530 Ellis Street, Bellingham, WA. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/washington/bellingham/98225/bellingham-health-center-2454-91780 Think they’re just for straight women? Think again. Right there on their site is the fact that they offer LGBT services and men’s health services. But at this point, let’s be honest – most of the straight women who access Planned Parenthood are as vulnerable as we are. Intersectionality is a thing, people. So the organization needs support, regardless.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The closest branch is in Seattle, and you can find more information here: http://cairseattle.org/ For many people, this one is a little scary. We’ve been taught to be afraid. Getting past that fear is important, though. Not sure where to start? The landing page of CAIR Seattle (at the time of this writing, anyway) has an article titled How to Be an Ally and a Friend. You don’t have to be perfect. You do have to care.

Want to keep it a little more in the family, so to speak? Muslims for Progressive Values out of California is openly and directly allied with the LGBTQ community. You can find them here: http://www.mpvusa.org/

NW Immigration Rights Project. https://www.nwirp.org/ Their core values are dignity, fairness, solidarity, self-determination, safety, and inclusion. If we in the LGBTQ community don’t understand the absolutely vital necessity of these principles, then no one does. Don’t let the fear mongers teach you anything else.

Here’s the thing, though – some people are over being political. Or aren’t at all. Or need a break. Or just want to make a kid smile on the holiday. You can do that, too.

The Whatcom County Food Bank at 1824 Ellis Street is happy to take donations. Just stop by Monday through Friday. Also, if you’re over people but want to help animals, they accept pet food donations on behalf of the Humane Society.

The Northwest Youth Services (http://www.nwys.org/always-needed-items/), Lydia’s Place (http://lydiaplace.org/support/), Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (http://dvsas.org/get-involved/donate/)are three of the many organizations that need and take donations. If none of these work for you, call the local churches, temples, and senior centers. They will have options and resources for you.

It may seem very dark right now. It may stay very dark for a while. But the holidays are a time we can push back against the dark, bring in a little light.  And trust me when I tell you that the people in need aren’t the only ones who will feel better if you give.


Whatever you celebrate, may it be joyous and blessed. And until next month – next year – take care of you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November 1, 2016

It’s November, which means for many of us, myself included, it’s Thanksgiving time. For others, it’s a problematic holiday, and I really get that. So instead of focusing on the day or the holiday, let’s focus on the idea of being thankful. Because, let’s be honest, it can feel like it’s hard to find anything to be thankful for these days.

States are passing oppressive and dangerous anti-trans laws; employment and safety laws are being diluted and eroded; and a major candidate for president refers to us as “the gays” (and so much more, but I promised myself I wouldn’t go there today…).

So, yeah, it’s hard to find something to be thankful for. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
This month, rather than get bogged down in the governments, businesses, and communities that hate us, I’m choosing to be thankful for the businesses and communities that are standing with us, pushing back, and declaring our side to be their side.

Now, the truth is that I struggle with having allies and my response to them. Because being an ally means standing with a group of people who are not the people in power. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need allies. On the one hand, I think we should support allies back. Praise them. Thank them. Give them our time, money, and/or energy in return.

However, I also understand the response that says “I’m not going to give cookies to someone for treating me like the human being I actually am.” I get that side of it, too. Which is why I struggle.
So for me, I will be giving these companies my money and my support – and my thanks – this month, and as often as possible. While you have to make the decision for yourself, I can at least put these names in front of you, and let you decide.

Since we’re into the holiday season (again, for many of us), let’s look at some basic categories:

Grocery stores: Kroger brands gets 100% from the Human Rights Campaign. Here in Bellingham, that’s Fred Meyers. Wal-Mart, as much as I hate to give them props for anything, gets a 90. Whole Foods gets an 85, and SuperValu – or the Haggen's here in town – gets an 80. That’s not say that other stores in the area are bad. It just means I can’t find a rating or an official policy for them.

Retail shops: The very cool part about this category is that I can give you several stores that get 100s, and this is nowhere close to an all-inclusive list. Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, GameStop, Hallmark, Home Depot, JC Penney, and Target. 

Miscellaneous: CVS, Chevron, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Starbucks, and Walgreens all also merit 100s.
The Important Holiday Stuff (booze, I’m talking about booze): MANY liquor companies get 100% from the HRC. Some specific options, but not anywhere close to all of them – Bacardi; Bailey’s; Bodega Elena de Mendoza; Glenlivet; Jack Daniels; and Seagrams.

And, one last thought, in case you’re interested… the Trump Organization ranked 0.

Until next month, take care of you – and each other.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

October 1, 2016

I started writing for Betty in 2007. Since 2008, every single October I have written about Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Because not only is it the cause that’s dearest to my heart, every September there has been an LGBTQ domestic violence episode in the news, in my life, somewhere putting it right up in my face that this topic must be talked about. That domestic violence occurs every single day within our very own community. That abusers aren’t only straight, cis men.

Until this year. It has taken nine years, but there is no national headline, no personal phone call, no friend in need this year.

But guess what? Domestic violence still occurs every single day within our community. Within every community.

As much as I want to be thrilled that there’s nothing in the news, no immediate reminder, I can’t be. Because it just means I haven’t heard about it. Not that it hasn’t happened. Maybe you haven’t heard about it either. It’s still happening.

So, I’m going to, once again, tell you about the NW Network in Seattle, a domestic violence and sexual assault organization created specifically to serve the LGBTQ community. If you need them – if you are a victim, if you are looking for information and resources, if you want to help a loved one, or if you just have questions – they’re here for you. This month, they’re running a 7 week class entitled “Grrrl, We Got You.” It’s a strategy and exploration lab on community response to violence. While there is a suggested donation, no one will be turned away due to lack of funds. Reach them online at: http://www.nwnetwork.org/ or on the phone for help and support during regular business hours at: 206-568-7777.

And about the Skagit Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, out of Mount Vernon. While they are not specifically an LGBTQ organization, they are committed to helping anyone who calls access information, resources, and help. They have many services, including support groups. And their annual Black and White Masquerade Auction is this month on the 22nd. Tickets are running about $65 and masks are even provided. Learn more about the event, the organization, or get help here: http://www.skagitdvsas.org/index.html. To get help, call their 24-hour hotline: (888) 336-9591.

And about Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services right here in Bellingham. When I called, they assured me that their resources are available to us, their shelters are open to anyone who identifies as female, and their volunteers get training on LGBTQ issues. You don’t have to travel just to get help. And next month, you can be a part of their largest fundraiser – Hands for Hope Auction and Gala. Stand up against domestic violence and sexual assault as if affects everyone. Get help, get access, and learn more about them at: http://dvsas.org/ or if you need assistance, call the hotline at: 877.715.1563 or 360.715.1563.


It’s October. And as much as I love warm fires, chilly nights, and the turning of the leaves, October really means my heart is one place, if the news cycle is or not.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1, 2016

If you’re like me, you’re hearing a lot of people talking about third party candidates. About write-in candidates. About boycotting the election entirely.

Believe me, I get it. I felt the Bern. And, while I don’t dislike Hillary Clinton as much as many people do, she doesn’t represent the great leap forward that our country was poised to make.

But that’s my opinion. Those are my feelings. And while I can be as heart-based as the next person, it’s vital that this election be decided on facts.

Facts like these:

Fact 1: There are only three presidential candidates who are going to be on the ballot in all 50 states: Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Hillary Clinton. However you may feel about Jill Stein, she is not going to be on the ballot in all 50 states. She cannot win the presidency.

Fact 2: Gary Johnson is a Libertarian. Now, an aside and full disclosure - in my deepest heart of hearts, so am I. I love the Libertarian ideals. The idea of small government. Of leaving major decisions up to the states and the people. I don’t want to live in a world that has to have government control, oversight, and regulation. I would dearly love for businesses to police themselves, employers to always do what’s right, states to consider their entire population as opposed to just the wealthy, and medical care to be affordable. All that and more. I believe deeply in personal responsibility and accountability. I also recognize that this is not who we are as a people. When left to our own devices, we screw it up. HOWEVER! That’s an opinion and we are looking at facts. So here are the facts* that come with Gary Johnson:       
He wants government out of marriage. He supports marriage equality. But before the government got involved in marriage equality, it didn’t exist. It took the government to make our marriages legal – and Johnson is against that kind of intervention.

·        He wants to leave educating our children to the states, with no federal oversight. Which means children from different states will be taught different curricula. Nevermind what’s real, what’s belief, what’s science, what’s not, what’s historically accurate, what’s not. Put that aside for a moment. Children who come from the same country will be taught different information because their states got to choose what to teach them.

·        He believes in unlimited campaign contributions from corporations to politicians. Hillary Clinton is being raked over the coals because she’s “in Wall Street’s pocket.” Think about what unlimited campaign contributions from corporations would do.

·        He cut his state’s Medicaid and Medicare budgets by 43%. So, the federal government isn’t responsible for the country’s most vulnerable – but the states can slice budgets by nearly half.

·        He’s against a federal minimum wage. Enough said.

·        He wants to privatize social security and raise the retirement to age 70 or even 72. Social security is our money. We made it. We gave it over. We had an agreement. Now, he wants to change that agreement.

And here’s the final piece, folks – Stein nor Johnson nor any other third party candidate or write in candidate is going to win this year. It would be lovely if Bernie could get enough write-ins to win. But he couldn’t get enough actual votes to even secure the nomination. He’s not going to get the win.

Fact 3: It’s a race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. No matter who’s on the ballot, that’s the fact.

You’ve got two months to participate or not in this election, however you see fit. You get out and knock on doors, make phone calls, or sit quietly and do nothing. You can stomp and rage and protest, or just quietly seethe that your candidate didn’t win. Argue it, or shut it down with silence. Engage or ignore. I do not care.

But come November, vote. You must. This is not the year to not vote. Or to try to take a stand by voting for a third party. Look at the facts. Look at what’s at stake. And whatever you do over the next two months, come November, vote.


*http://www.ontheissues.org/Gary_Johnson.htm 

Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016

How was your Pride last month? I truly hope it was special. Back in June, we went to David’s first ever Pride Parade in Boston. Next month, we’re hoping to catch the Pride events in Worcester, where we currently call home.

I’m starting with that question because I am doggedly determined to write a happy, uplifting, peaceful article this month. Why? Because as I’m writing it, the Republican National Convention is going on. Donald Trump has just given the American people the chance to put Mike Pence a bad cold away from the Oval Office. And the nation is still reeling from gun violence. Expect articles on all of that as both situations develop – but for now, I’m focused on something else. At least for a month.
So here’s that something else, something that happened last month. The very same week I wrote this article and everything I just mentioned went down, in fact.

The California State Board of Education unanimously passed a ground-breaking LGBTQ addition to the history/social sciences curriculum. Come this fall when public schools go back into session, the history, rights, and accomplishments of LGBTQ peoples will be part of the everyday curriculum.

Starting in 2nd grade, students will learn about same-sex couples. By 4th grade, they’ll be learning about the LGBTQ organizations that came about as early as the 1950s. In middle school, they’ll move on the evolution of gender norms in the 18th-20th centuries – and the people who pushed back against them. By the time California public school students are in high school, they will be learning about the laws and struggles happening currently, like the fight for marriage equality and the anti-trans bathroom bills in states nationally.

And the new regulations go one step further – not only are the new classrooms inclusive, anti-LGBTQ teachings are banned. There’s no exception for “religious freedom” or any attempt at being “fair and balanced.” We exist. We were oppressed. We are marginalized. We continue to fight back. We continue to contribute. We matter. There is no counter-argument.

The need for this is clear. And not just because our history IS American history. But because according to a 2013 national survey, 74% of LGBTQ middle and high school students experienced verbal harassment due their orientation and identity. In schools without explicitly inclusive materials, 60% of LGBTQ students report feeling unsafe. That number drops to 30% in schools with explicitly inclusive materials.

Now, I’m me, which means I look at most things with a heaping spoonful of skepticism. I am concerned that we still desperately need a Black History Month, but the history of LGBTQ people gets fully incorporated into the daily curriculum. Will this include LGBTQ people of color? Or is there going to be a white-washing? Are transmen and –women going to be truly included? Or is it going to be the history and struggle of white, gay men – which counts and is part of the story, but nowhere near the full story.

I don’t mean to end on a skeptical note, and I am definitely excited about this move. It has the potential to be huge. So come on, California, don’t screw this up. The nation is watching, and we could really use some good news.

Until next month, take care of you – and each other.


Friday, July 1, 2016

July 2016

Like every other LGBTQ columnist out there, I’m writing about Orlando this month. If it’s too much, I get it. I do. Skip this one, and I’ll see you again in August. I love you.

For those of you still with me – I love you. 

Somehow, I think that’s important to say to each other right now.

49 of our brothers, sisters, and siblings were killed last month because someone hated us. We need to speak of love.

Yes, anger. Yes, pain. Yes, action. I will not tell you to turn the other cheek or let it roll of your back or any of those things.

But also, love.

Because there are three communities that have been torn apart by one man’s hate:
1. The LGBTQ community
2. The Latinx community
3. The Muslim community

Breaking it down – 
1. The LGBTQ community. Obviously. We were targeted. We were hunted. We were slaughtered. It wasn’t a terror attack on a mall or sporting event where LGBTQ peoples could have been among the victims. This was a terror attack against us.
2. The Latinx community. Along those same lines, the killer researched the nightclub, its calendar, the crowd. He chose Latin night. Yes, we white members of the LGBTQ community deserve to fell attacked and threatened. It wasn’t just a racist act. There were plenty of straight Latin clubs he could’ve targeted but didn’t. But nor can we erase the fact that it was also a racist act, perpetrated against a very specific people.
3. The Muslim community. I don’t know how many times it has to be said before the media and political pundits start repeating it, but Islam is a peaceful religion. It’s been co-opted by some hateful, hate-filled extremists, but Islam itself is neither. Yet part of the reason the media and the political pundits were so fast to declare it domestic terrorism was because the killer fit the convenient, saleable profile of a terrorist. And no, I don’t believe he did it for ISIS, in spite of his claims. I believe he, too, knew that radicalized Islam would lend a sick legitimacy to his actions so he didn’t have to admit just how much he hated us.

Which brings us back to hate. Because he did hate. 

He didn’t know the 49. He didn’t care to know the 49. He only knew hate.

So…I love you. I love you for exactly who you are. I’m not saying that should make everything better. In fact, I doubt it will make anything better. I still love you.

Because it’s all I have. Because love beats hate. Because if one man’s hate can do this much damage, maybe one person’s love can help, even a little bit.

So – I love you.

Until next month, take care of you – and each other.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

June 1, 2016

The day I wrote this article, the United States House of Representatives voted down a bill that would have protected LGBTQ rights. The bill, which was actually expected to pass, would’ve made it illegal for federal contractors to fire employees based on orientation.

It missed by one vote, failing 212 to 213.

This article almost didn’t get written. I almost emailed Betty and said “I have nothing for you this month.” Because I was almost beaten. The hate that is being spewed – not only without fear of repercussion but with authority and legitimacy – very nearly got to me this month.

I texted my sister because I had nothing. It’s not that I didn’t have an idea. Writer’s block sucks but it’s part of being a professional writer. You learn to just start putting words on the page and next thing you know, you’ve got an article, or an essay, or a chapter, or whatever. The day I wrote this, my nothing was more than that.

I couldn’t bring myself to write an events article. Not with all the government sanctioned hate happening to us right now. But I couldn’t bring myself to write another article about the hate. Not this month. I had … nothing.

And then my sister texted me back. My niece, her daughter, is in the 5th grade. Goes to public school. In the interest of full disclosure, she goes to public school in one of the most liberal, tipped all the way over to the left, artsy, earthy crunchy towns in the entire country. She still goes to public school. Here in the United States.

Two of her friends, her schoolmates, are transgender girls. Openly, happily, supported by parents and community alike. In 4th and 5th grade.

My friends, Darin and David, have become foster parents in order to begin the process of adoption. They’re in Oregon.

My friends, Christine and Teresa, just up and got married at the spur of the moment last month. They’re in Connecticut.

And another friend (who shall also remain unidentified, because he’s a minor) has come out to his friends, his school, and his mom as definitely gay, possibly transgender, and certainly bigender. He’s in Maryland (and still requests male pronouns, just to be clear).

Five instances of love don’t even count as a drop given the tsunami of hatred that’s rushing toward us right now – and yet they MUST matter. They DO matter.

Because it is different. And I have to believe that we will push back against the hate. 

Now is not an easy time. I’m deeply afraid it will get worse before it gets better. And – it is different. So I hold onto that. Because that’s something.

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you – and each other.