Queering Jerusalem: Hangin’ at the Beit Patuach, Where Gender is an Open Question

Right now, I’m between semesters, spending my free week between zman choref and zman aviv with various people who will feed me I enjoy spending time with because of their wonderful qualities. At the moment, I’m hanging out with a friend of mine from the mechina, in Jerusalem.

Yesterday evening we took the bus downtown for a visit to the Beit Patuach, the Open House, a resource center and gathering space for LGBTQ young’uns here. It was my third time there. Two young staff members warmly welcomed us along with a handful of others into a couple of spacious, rainbow-bedecked rooms that won my heart with their comfy couches and impressive queer library in Hebrew and English alike, along with a smattering of other languages. (Before I left, I made sure to borrow Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” which I’ve been meaning to read for about a decade, as well as Audre Lorde’s “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” and an anthology by Judith Barrington called “An Intimate Wilderness.” Narrowing it down even that far was a struggle, especially since there was an updated translation and commentary on Shir HaShirim which was singing out to me as well.)

Technically, the 7pm meeting we attended on Wednesday is only supposed to be for noar (youth) who are yud-betnikim (12th graders) and below. There is another group that meets for young adults aged 18 to 23. But we were permitted to join in this once.

Yesterday’s meeting featured a guest speaker from within the Open House’s staff, May. May serves as the organization’s yoshevet rosh – or the chairwoman of the board – and she spoke to us about growing up transgender in a Haredi household. In free-flowing Hebrew, she described feeling uncomfortable as a biological male from the age of three, almost joining a combat unit in the army in a last-ditch effort to unlock some dormant masculinity, and marrying at the age of 20. A year later, she separated from her wife (they are now on good terms and have equal custody of their two kids) and began her transition process.

She answered all the questions we had about what her experience was like, emphasizing how happy she is now with who she has become, and how most of the important people in her life have accepted her – her young daughter, upon hearing the news, gleefully told her friend, “Guess what? I have two mommies now!” And the overwhelming acceptance that May has received really is something considering that she retains many close friends from her childhood in the Haredi community, and that today she makes her home in a yishuv da’ati (a religious settlement) outside of Jerusalem.*

It was particularly poignant, and really wonderful, hearing May tell us of her happiness and success because my friend from the mechina came out to me as transgender only two days ago. Hearing the stories of such a poised and intelligent woman a day later, a woman who happened to be queer and transgender, was so perfect. Also because when Hebrew is your language of choice, settling into a transgender identity is super challenging.

Why? Because to speak Hebrew is to wear your gender identity on your sleeve. If you so much as utter a single self-referential sentence in the present tense, you’ve already gendered yourself. When I say, “ani holechet l’chanut – I’m going to the store,” I’m conjugating the infinitive “lalechet” in the feminine form. Talk about an enormous discursive shift.

But even more distressingly, to speak Hebrew is to wear your assumptions about everyone else’s gender identity on your sleeve. See in English, I only have to worry about misgendering someone in the third person – maybe letting the pronoun “she” slip out when what I meant to say was “he.” The word “you” is beautifully neutral. No such luck in Hebrew, with the ever-looming choice between at and atah.**

Ein davar cazeh ivrit bli mikdar – there’s no such thing as gender-free Hebrew.

My friend and I are on a self-appointed tsevet at our mechina to organize a queer theory seminar, and after the talk we invited May to come to Tel Aviv and speak to us. If it works out, it should be really fantastic. Everyone we study with can benefit seriously from a similar discussion to the one we were privileged to have today.

So here’s to the Beit Patuach, where gender is an open question, and acceptance is on the house.



*To clarify, not a hitnachlut, but a LEGAL settlement that is not over the Green Line!

**By the way, this means that you can’t even ask someone, “What pronouns do you prefer?” without first gendering her one way or the other. And, oh yeah, if you are genderqueer or otherwise non-binary identified…well then you’re really screwed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

57-Point Plan Toward a Gap Year in Israel: Points 1 Through 13

To disclaim: I wrote this piece, which is still in rough-draft form and only half-finished, on a whim while hanging out at Writopia Lab back in New York. I wasn’t trying to figure out why the program in Tel Aviv would be interesting learning experience and worthwhile. That much I knew, and those details I’d already supplied in my application essays, anyway. I was more preoccupied by the interconnected threads from my past that got a year in Israel on my radar in the first place. And maybe the steps I’ve written so far have nothing to do with why I’m really here, but it seems like there should be some connection. At least insofar as the decision seems to have had as much to do with wanting to grow as a feminist as with wanting to grow as a Jew. I’ll post the last few steps when I have time to write them. 

By the way, I don’t think that I’m actually going to write 57 steps. I was just making a bad Mitt Romney joke. (It was so worth it.)


^Weeks ago: my checking-my-luggage face.

How To Venture Forth on a Gap Year in Israel

1) Grow up on a street not far from the Old City called Emek Rafaim, Valley of the Ghosts, for nearly the first three years of your life. Sleep in your crib on the blue-carpeted floor of your bedroom in 1997 while your father, then Jerusalem bureau chief for the Washington Post, covers the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin.

2) Years later, messing around on your acoustic guitar, go online and look up the chords to a song you learned almost a forever ago, Shir LaShalom – song for peace. Feel a welling, wafting sort of soar in your chest at how the melody sounds. Then all at once, go on Wikipedia and confirm the realization that this was the song Rabin led a throng of hopeful people in singing at the Peace Rally just before he was killed. The song whose blood-bathed lyrics were found by paramedics in his bullet-bored jacket pocket. Barely hold back tears.

3) Attend three different Jewish private schools over the course of your pre-K through 8 education. Resent all the prayer and enjoy the Bible stories in always equal-enough measure.

4) In t’fillah when you’re singing the Shema and Amidah, make sure you always, always, sing “magen Avraha u’foked Sarah.” Shield of Abraham and guardian of Sarah. Get really pissed at the rabbis in your school who praise the patriarchs and omit Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah.

5) Squirm through more than fifty bar and bat mitzvahs on precious Saturday mornings and in frilly-textured, paisley, girly skirts that you hate. Find some first awakenings of disbelief at some of your classmates’ $100,000 catered parties in the rented out soccer stadium, Copa Cabana, American Museum of Natural History. (Jewish-American Museum of Unnatural Excess.) (You wouldn’t learn the story of the prodigal son until you found the curiosity, once in high school, to read parts of the New Testament.)

6) Struggle in your advanced Hebrew class. When you’re learning about the seven binyanim, literally buildings, of grammar, daydream for the first few minutes of the lesson. Then when the teacher asks for a class participant to identify a trait that all the binyanim have in common, raise your hand and say as best you can in the slippery, Semitic language, “all of the buildings have many windows.” Grit your teeth as everyone tries not to laugh too hard.

7) Ask your torah sh’bealpeh teacher, smugly, as your class is studying the activities forbidden on the Sabbath, “How come sex is a mitzvah on the seventh day when creation’s not allowed, but sex is the ultimate act of creation?” Stump him. Then look back later and shake your head at what a heteronormative question it was.

8) On Friday night on your 8th-grade Israel trip, get taken to a Shabbat service at an Orthodox synagogue. Get taken there unoptionally by the rabbi at your pseudo-egalitarian, pseudo-pluralistic school. You’re blindsided by a horizontal mechitzah in this setting; guys in front of the curtain and girls in the back. You can’t see the bima. You can’t raise your voice in prayer. After a few excruciating minutes, walk out of there.

9) When you get to high school, reexamine the propaganda-infused tropes you learned about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at Heschel. Find and trace with your finger the borders of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, delineations that hadn’t existed on the map in your Hebrew classroom.

10) Meet a cool Mizrahi guy named Lior at the queer feminist bookstore you volunteer at downtown. Talk to him about Tel Aviv. He tells you about a couple of the radical spaces, about what a fun city it is for the white gay men.

11) Buy and read a book on the history of the New Jewish Agenda at the same (queer)(feminist)bookstore. Reflect on the history of American Jews tiptoeing toward lefty activism on Israel. Think about reconciliation, and alienation, and intersectionality between women-empowered, LGBTQ-affirmative, and anti-racist actions in the US and Israel. Sigh. Think about Israel’s pinkwashing – its simultaneous heralding of gay rights and quashing of Palestinian human rights – until your brain hurts. Sigh again.

12) Start dating a really cute and funny girl who works the shift before yours, even though you only have a month until you’ve gotta skip town. She is older, half-Chinese, half-Eastern European, vegan, a trained barista, and all kinds of wonderful. It’s your fourth relationship but your first with a Jewish girl. After three amazing weeks, hold a mature conversation in a cafe during which you break up, because she has to visit her family in Asheville and by the time she gets back you’ll be boarding your plane.Turkish Airlines. You kiss goodbye for the last time in front of the 2nd Avenue subway.

13) Later that same night, watch a Netflix movie at your friend Sophie’s house when she is already asleep. It’s called “Yossi and Jagger,” and it’s about a soldier and his commander in the Israeli army who fall in love and fight about their barracks of a closet. It ends tragically.

TO BE CONTINUED…hopefully.



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Which I Correct NOM’s Hate Email: Part Deux

A few of you may know that in the past, I have enjoyed reversing the National Organization for Marriage’s anti-marriage equality antics by – let’s put it this way – modifying their mass emails of anti-gay hate. Well, NOM is at it again, this time urging the so-called “marriage supporters” on their email list to press Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to retract her co-sponsorship of the DOMA repeal bill.

As they see it, “groups like the Log Cabin Republicans and Freedom to Marry have been quietly courting Ros-Lehtinen for months,” those equality-loving scumbags, and will convince the congresswoman to “abandon the Republican party.” That’s odd, because I thought the Log Cabin Republicans were Republicans – I guess in the eyes of NOM, republicanism and marriage fairness are mutually exclusive.

The rest of the email, which turns my stomach a little, goes on to praise Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann as among NOM’s “many wonderful friends,” and discuss their fund-raising plans for the downfall of “the turncoat senators who voted in the new same-sex marriage regime.” They’re determined, determined I tell you, to prevent LGBTQ activists from dividing the “GOP elite opinion to provide cover as they force SSM on the entire nation.”

While their Revolutionary War-era language and hostile abbreviations are adorable, let’s move on to the good part now where I use their online template to turn their homophobia on its head. And I credit them with the newly progressive message, of course.

NOM sent a copy of the following message to Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana (Republican) – Representative, Florida District 18, FL and Boehner, John (Republican) – Speaker of the House, Ohio District 8, OH for me:

Subject: Stand for marriage Thank You for Supporting Marriage Equality!

Dear Rep. Ros-Lehtinen,

I am writing to express my disappointment and deep concern delight and sincere approval that you would recognize, unlike so many others, that marriage equality is of a piece with abandon traditional Republican principles of marriage, family, and democratic self-government. Marriage is a bedrock of our society, and I urge you to re-consider your position on DOMA I couldn’t be more thrilled about your new stance on the inclusion of all loving couples.

By co-sponsoring Rep. Nadler’s bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, you are placing in jeopardy the laws of marriage furthering the rights of patriotic but currently disenfranchised LGBTQ Americans in more the 40 states, threatening to impose same-sex marriage on making marriage fairness closer to a reality for voters across the nation who have resoundingly rejected supported same-sex marriage at every turn. Marriage equality supporters comprise the majority of the nation in all the recent major polls, and I applaud you for truly representing the will of the people rather than using a wedge issue for political expedience.

I urge you to drop maintain your support for the repeal of DOMA, and to respect the voice of the American people, including the people of Florida, who have already voted to keep marriage as it has always been — who believe in their hearts that marriage goes far beyond the union of a husband and wife.

As an LGBTQ American, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for understanding that marriage is between two loving individuals, regardless of gender.

Lily Gellman

That was the message! Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and please feel free to do the same and customize your own email message!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Discourse on Intercourse: An Opportunity to Teach Sex Education the Right Way

The following is a preview of an article that will soon go out in the first issue of “As It Happens,” the school newspaper I edit.

“I will choose friends who choose abstinence,” urges a document used in one New York State sex education curriculum. “I will always stick to my sex role,” the same curriculum continues. If you find these two recommendations alarming, or you cannot quite fathom their implications, you may believe that Mayor Bloomberg’s mandate that all NYC public high school students learn sex education is progress, but not enough.

Bloomberg’s August 9th mandate, which goes into effect this fall, is the city’s most significant with concern to health education since required HIV/AIDS curricula was introduced in 1996. Many organizations, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, laud it as a major step forward in teaching teenagers pregnancy and STI prevention.

But they also warn of the marked difference between demanding that NYC high school students receive some semblance of sex education, and demanding a program that actually teaches us what we need to know. As the NYCLU and other organizations work with the Department of Education to implement the new policy, it is crucial that the DOE listen to their well-researched recommendations.

Imagine a scale from 1 to 10. 1 marks abstinence-only-until-heterosexual-marriage education, while 10 represents safer sex-positive, LGBTQ-inclusive education. Beacon’s curriculum up until this year falls somewhere in the scale’s middle, but tips precariously toward its lower end.

One student knew the curriculum would not meet her expectations from the moment she received two handouts on the topic of puberty. Smiling out from the “male version” of the handout was a muscular football player sporting a #5 jersey, chin stubble, cleats, and a football held under his arm. The “female version” displayed a stick-thin cheerleader wearing a tank top and miniskirt, and clutching pompoms. Even without the sex-specific details, you would know the intended gender of the figure on each worksheet. Why? The pictures engender flagrant stereotypes about what boys like to do versus what girls like to do. But the flaws go deeper.

“We would learn all about different STDs and what the symptoms are,” remarked another anonymous student who graduated in 2010, “but not even how to use a condom.” Furthermore, the Beacon curriculum mentions neither alternative methods of barrier protection (such as dental dams and finger cots), nor many hormonal methods of birth control. Course materials only truly acknowledge penis-in-vagina sex, and one student complained that when anal sex was discussed in her classroom, it was described as “unnatural.”

As the sex-education website Scarleteen puts it, such biased portrayals tend to “throw queer people under the bus.”

Beacon educators do show the movie “Philadelphia” in health classes, in which a law firm discriminates against Tom Hanks’ character, a gay man, for having AIDS. In the same movie, students see Denzel Washington’s character react in a homophobic manner to a man who flirted with him, not realizing he was straight.

Some note with approval Beacon’s minimal inclusion of LGB content, while others remain dissatisfied. After all, gay men are not mentioned except through a movie associating them with HIV/AIDS, and lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are erased completely from the discourse. No scenario in the handouts on what constitutes a healthy relationship includes LGBT relationships. And while the movie’s scene on homophobia was thought provoking, there is a broader discussion to be had in health class about homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and cissexism.

In fact, there is a broader discussion to be had in health class about all kinds of oppression, including racism, sexism, faithism, and classism. What socioeconomic group has teenage girls getting pregnant and dropping out of school in dismaying numbers because they think that college is not an option? What religion has boys foregoing condoms because their churches taught them only the sanctity of abstinence and the sin of contraception?

Groundbreaking curricula do exist to address the gaping holes in most kids’ education, holes that exist through no fault of their own. The textbook “It’s All One,” teaches health through a human rights lens; a resource called “Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH)” has unprecedented lessons addressing a range of gender expression and gender stereotypes, and not once exhibits heteronormativity. Needless to say, regardless of how the DOE rules, Beacon should consider adopting similar lesson plans.

We also should not forget that other schools have it worse. Beacon made the decision in the fall of 2009 to teach sexual education in freshman year rather than sophomore year. But some high schools, including Fiorello H. LaGuardia only a few blocks away, leave health education until senior year. Many educators see this as a foolish administrative choice, and point to statistics suggesting that more than half of teenagers have had sex by the age of 17.

This summer, I interned at the NYCLU and spent much of my time there systematically cataloging the sex education curricula of multiple New York schools, whose materials we accessed via Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests. I sat at my cubicle, noting what different districts included and omitted.

Quite a few worksheets supplied inaccurate information; for example, that condoms are most effective when coated in the spermicide nonoxyl-09. Actually, that spermicide eats away at the condom, rendering it unsafe to use. Other worksheets would be ridiculously simplistic for middle school students, let alone high school students. One fill-in-the-blank worksheet prompts the student: opportunistic diseases arising from the weak, HIV-infected immune system “usually cause the person to…” Die. “Die” is the contextually correct answer choice that students may select from the word bank at the top of the page. The accompanying illustration features a face with a downturned squiggle of a mouth, and exes for eyes.

Another disturbing trend is the tendency in the curricula to gloss over female sexuality. Teaching materials on the male reproductive system suggest that teachers “may want to trace the path of the sperm from the testicles, through the vas deferens, seminal vesicles, prostate gland, and urethra” to explain the complete process of ejaculation and orgasm. Meanwhile, the “equivalent” materials on the female reproductive system simply state that knowledge of their anatomy can help girls “better grasp what happens during the menstrual cycle.”

There was no mention of vaginal lubrication or female orgasm, when two pages ago I skimmed dully over detailed explanations of erections, semen, and wet dreams. Every curriculum I examined had diagrams of the external male genitalia, while the vast majority of curricula supplied only internal diagrams of the female genitalia.

It is unimaginable that a girl could graduate from health class without knowing her uterus from her urethra. And in one rare external diagram of the vagina, the clitoris was redacted. Someone had literally taken a Sharpie and blacked it out so it could not be seen.

When a curriculum suggests 101 ways to stay abstinent but not one resource for STI testing, New York needs an overhaul. When a curriculum constantly depicts men as lewd and domineering, and women as prude and submissive, New York needs an overhaul. When a curriculum uses the word “sodomy” to describe anal sex, New York needs an overhaul. And when a curriculum defines the ovaries as “the woman’s egg factory” and the vagina as “the penis fits in here,” New York needs an overhaul.

That overhaul needs to cover its bases and beyond, and teach kids more than just first base, second base, third base, and fourth. Because when we close our books and head home for the night, bad sex education has consequences deeper than STIs and pregnancy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interview: What It’s Like Being a Christian Ally in a Conservative Town

Carly F. is a 13-year-old GLSEN Ambassador, Arizonan 8th-grader, dancer, Christian, Ally, and triplet. (When we were at the media summit together and discovered our mutual triplet-ness, we were very excited.) Some of the people who inspire her include Elphaba, Harvey Milk, and Jesus. She herself is an all-around inspiring young woman, wise beyond her years, and I’m thrilled to present you with this interview.

Do you have a specific moment when you realized that you wanted to be an Ally – that this is something you wanted to stand up for?

This is a difficult question for me to answer, because I have been an Ally for about as long as I can remember. When I was around five, my mom, who is also an Ally, was going to a rally for marriage equality, and that was the first time I became aware of the LGBT community. She explained to my siblings and me that some girls like other girls, and some boys like other boys. She also told us that there are people who think that that’s wrong, and that two girls or two boys shouldn’t be allowed to marry. I was shocked—not by the existence of gay people, but by the fact that anyone would think two people who love each other shouldn’t be allowed to get married, just because they’re the same gender. I guess the shock never quite wore off. In fact, it got worse as I got older and I was able to understand just how many people and families laws like DOMA and DADT* hurt. As I realized how many youth suffer from bullying everyday because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Eventually I decided that I could not just stand by and watch this injustice happen, and that these people and families were worth fighting for.

*The Defense of Marriage Act and “don’t ask, don’t tell”

What does being an LGBT Ally mean to you?

It’s come to be a significant part of my life, and it means a lot to me. It means saying, “Enough is enough,” when it comes to bullying and discrimination. It means trying my hardest to make sure that all people are treated justly and with respect and dignity. Most of all, being an Ally means being an advocate, and a voice for people who sometimes don’t have one.

Do you think it’s important for LGBT students to have teachers and administrators also be this voice? To have them as Allies as well as other students?

Definitely! While student Allies can do a lot in terms of raising awareness and standing up when someone is being bullied, in the end they have no real authority over their fellow students. Allied school staff, teachers, and administrators are invaluable assets as authority figures that can talk to students about anti- LGBT bullying, advocate for GSA’s, and take any necessary action if someone is being bullied. They are also great if anyone just needs a supportive adult to talk to.

Have you ever voiced your objection to someone’s use of homophobic or transphobic language?

More times then I can count, unfortunately! This is quite an issue at my school, especially when it comes to the phrase “that’s so gay.” I’ve pretty much worn down my friends to the point where they don’t say it anymore (at least not in-front of me), but I still hear it all the time from other students. I just try and remember that even if people don’t listen when you ask them to stop using homophobic language, it’s important to stand up and say something anyways. Not necessarily because the people you’re standing up to are going to realize the error of their ways and never do it again, but because the closeted, gay teen sitting behind them may never have heard anyone stand up against LGBT-bullying before. I think sometimes teens feel that no one is going to be accepting if they come out. They need to know that people do care. I think the Day of Silence is such a perfect idea because the people who created it are so right—there is too much silence around the issue of homophobic language and bullying. In a lot of cases, students don’t want to stand up and say something when it happens, and staff don’t want to be put in the situation where they have to risk a parent getting upset at them for saying the word “gay” in front of their child. And so the silence continues and the LGBT person who hears and sees all this bullying, whether they’re the target of it or not, feels they have no one to turn to. 9 out of 10 times I know I am not going to succeed in getting someone to stop using homophobic or transphobic language. But I know that every single time I say something, I am helping to break that deadly silence, and I think that that’s a big part of being an Ally.

You obviously care about this a lot. How has being an Ally changed you?

I think that being an Ally changes your view of the world because you witness the struggles of a community that is facing discrimination and stigmatization. You get to meet some amazing people and realize what it truly means to stand up for something you believe in. But you also have to meet some people who are going to question your choice to fight for this particular cause. This is especially true for me and some other Allies in my position because I live in a very conservative Arizona suburb where there isn’t a whole lot of acceptance for the LGBT community to go around. So you kind of have to develop that attitude that you’re going to do what’s right no matter what, even if a lot of people disapprove. I’d like to say that that was an easy thing for me to do, but in all honesty, it wasn’t—especially when it came to my school’s resistance to the Day of Silence. I’ve always been the nerdy, straight-A’s, never-get-in-trouble type, which made it very difficult for me to accept the fact that even though the school administration doesn’t like what I do, I need to do it regardless.

Wow. Has being an Ally made you more politically aware, or increased your awareness of other social justice issues?

Being an Ally has made me more knowledgeable in several subject areas. Politics is a big one because being an active advocate for LGBT rights means having to stay on top of what’s happening on Capitol Hill. Because of my advocacy, I have tuned in to watch the President give a speech at the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I have written my senator, asking him to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act. I have read testimony and documents from court cases like Perry v. Schwarzenegger, and I have done research on different laws and bills. My awareness of other social justice issues has expanded as well. I know more about homelessness now, because unfortunately, some LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes for coming out. I have also learned more about the treatment of people with HIV/AIDS, which is a separate but closely related issue to LGBT rights. Other subjects I’ve learned more about from being an Ally include history, law and constitutional rights, some psychology, and theology.

That’s a lot! What’s the best thing about being an Ally?

Definitely knowing that you’re making a difference in people’s lives, as well as getting to meet so many wonderful, inspiring people from the LGBT community. They have to face discrimination every day, yet they’re still so strong and proud of who they are. As an Ally I’ve had a rough day, more like several rough days, where someone decided to pick on me because I asked them to stop saying “that’s so gay.” But when I meet those people who are so dedicated, despite the hate they experience so often, I know it’s worth it.

Have you ever had to “come out” as an Ally to anyone?

Well I guess you could say that I came out as an Ally for the first time kindergarten, when we were doing a President’s Day activity and I told my teacher that “my mom doesn’t like the president because he’s mean to gay people.” In all seriousness though, it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I am a passionate supporter of LGBT rights and safe schools. However, I go to a huge school with over 1,000 students, and so I often find myself in a position where I am pointing out to someone I’ve never met before that homophobic language is offensive and shouldn’t be used. I guess the time when I really felt like I was “coming out” as an Ally was when I went to my school and began trying to get them to do more to prevent LGBT bullying, and also writing an editorial about it in the Arizona Daily Star. Up until then, my life as a student and my life as an Ally were pretty separate. So I was very nervous about what my teachers and administration would think, because like I said, I live in a very conservative area, so I almost assume that most of the people I know from here aren’t going to agree with me on these issues. It turned out pretty well though. One of my teachers told me she liked the article, and one of them actually read it to the whole class, which was pretty exciting for me.

That’s awesome! So what would you say to someone who wasn’t sure about whether they’re supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people?

That when you don’t know any LGBT people or you’re not around them a whole lot, it’s easy to just think of them as “those weird people over there” and not human beings who are every bit as deserving of rights and safety and respect as we are. We take things like marriage for granted and just try and forget the real people and families who are left without healthcare, child custody, and thousands of other vital rights because of unfair laws.

When it comes down to it, we oppress and discriminate against LGBT people for the same reason we discriminated against African-Americans, or Irish immigrants, or Jewish people. Because they’re different, and that scares us. Maybe the LGBT community will soon have their equality and rights, but as long as we keep that mentality that different is bad, there will always be someone society finds to vilify and marginalize. The cycle of discrimination needs to end here and now, we need to start embracing each other’s differences instead of shying away from them.

In her book, Chely Wright, a country music singer who came out as gay a little over a year ago, wrote, “I hear the word ‘tolerance’—that some people are trying to teach people to be tolerant of gays. I’m not satisfied with that word. I am gay, and I am not seeking to be ‘tolerated’. One tolerates a toothache, rush-hour traffic, an annoying neighbor with a cluttered yard. I am not a negative to be tolerated.” Well, I think she’s absolutely right. It’s time to stop “tolerating” the LGBT community and other minorities and instead, begin affirming their differences as a positive thing. Because if we don’t, maybe it will be our grandchildren that are the next targets of hate and fear.

Speaking of that, at 13 years of age, you’re a relatively young activist. How do you think your age informs your passion for LGBTQ rights, or affects your influence on other people?

There are two arguments that anti-marriage equality organizations such as NOM** and “Focus on the Family” use that really infuriate me, even more so then all the others. The first is that being gay is not acceptable from a Christian standpoint, and the second is that marriage equality will harm or confuse children. Sure, at 13 I am not exactly the age of the cute little kids that NOM likes to put in their commercials to scare people into thinking that marriage equality is a serious threat. But not too long ago, I was that age, and I was going to gay rights rallies. I hate that they try and use kids to justify discrimination, without thinking twice about all the kids with two moms or two dads who don’t have healthcare because of their laws. Or the young people who even at the age of 10 or 12 have started to get crushes on other kids of the same gender. I think it’s important for people to see that younger teens and kids do have an opinion about this too, and not let NOM or FoF try and speak for us.

Besides this, I think that with my young age, I have less experience with the times where those in favor of marriage equality were a very small minority. It’s great to see things changing and have an idea of where I’d like this issue to be by the time I’m an adult. I’ve always hoped that by the time I have kids, they will be able to grow up in a world where you see LGBT characters and couples on kids or tween TV shows and have it be no big deal, because nobody cares anymore. And now with the polls showing that public opinion is shifting in favor of equality, and with more states like New York allowing same-gender couples to get married, I feel even more confident that this will be possible.

**The National Organization for Marriage

What advice would you have for other passionate people who might feel they’re too young to make a difference?

I’m not going to lie. At a young age, it is certainly harder to make a difference. But it’s not impossible. One of the most important things you can do is talk to your friends and family about LGBT equality and especially about anti-LGBT bullying. As a student, trying to prevent homophobic language and bullying is one of the best ways to get involved. Try and stand up for kids at your school who are being bullied because they are gay or don’t conform to the gender they were assigned at birth. Or ask people who are using homophobic language to stop. You don’t have to do it alone: find an organization in your area to get involved in. GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is an amazing resource, and they have chapters all over the country, so I definitely recommend getting involved with them. I did, and it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. On my website, I have a list of things people of any age can do to help out in the fight for LGBT equality. Just don’t give up—it may sound cliché, but you’re never too young to fight for a cause you’re passionate about. Or make a difference!

Going for a second to a different topic, what does being a Christian mean to you?

For me, being Christian is a belief, but more importantly, it’s a way of life. It means following the path and principles that Jesus laid out for us, the most important of which is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. I’m a very progressive Christian (obviously) and I go to a very progressive church, so we place a lot of emphasis on Social Justice work, especially with border issues and humanitarian aid, since we live in Arizona. While some think that one of the most important things to do as a Christians is to try and Evangelize others, this is not something I place any importance at all on. I think that we should use our faith to try and create a better world and help others in need, which is something Jesus stressed to us in countless verses.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between Christianity and acceptance of LGBTQ people?

Just this year, we had a panel of LGBT young adults come and talk to us about sexual orientation, gender identity, and coming out at our church. After the panel, they admitted to us that up until one of our members came to pick them up in a car with a PFLAG license plate, they were wary about coming to a church. I tell this story because I think it’s a good example of the reputation that the church has earned itself in terms of the acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

Unfortunately, the Christian church as a whole is known for its negative attitude and poor treatment towards LGBTQ individuals. Some or even most anti-LGBT-rights, such as NOM, Focus on the Family, Exodus International, and the Family Research Council, are Christian groups. Many churches reject LGBT members or even try and “pray away the gay.”

As a Christian I absolutely do not understand this behavior. To me, being a Christian and being an Ally are not contradictory beliefs; they are complimentary beliefs. Heck, I think Christians should really be the first ones out there fighting for equal rights, instead of against them—being what Jesus wanted us to be. Loving, compassionate, welcoming, affirming. The Bible teaches us to love our neighbors, and reject hate and bigotry. It breaks my heart to see the name of the God who I love and worship constantly being used to strip people of their human rights and to hurt instead of heal. Sometimes it seems like all Christians reject equality and LGBT people, but that’s not true (I’m a living example of that, as well as my mom and my whole church and the vast majority of my denomination). The problem is that these organizations and churches who are anti-gay are bigger, and they drown out the ones that are accepting. That’s why it’s so important, now more then ever, for churches and Christians that embrace diversity and equality to speak up, to be louder then those who misuse the Bible as an excuse to hate their neighbor.

Those who misuse the Bible – what would you say to people who feel that the Bible is telling them that they should be homophobic/biphobic/transphobic?

That sure, the Bible says that being gay is wrong. But the Bible says a lot of things, and sometimes it even promotes ideas that our modern society finds detestable. Sexism is one example. A women cannot speak in church—1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Yet, not even the most conservative of churches force their female members to be silent. A women cannot teach or assume authority over a man—1 Timothy 2:12. Yet, today, thousands of women are teachers, and police officers, and judges, and clergy members, and they are not rejected by the Christian faith or called sinners. So why do we ignore these verses and hone in on the 6 or 7 that mention homosexuality?

When you’re reading the Bible, you have to understand how long ago it was written. Our culture, society, belief systems, laws, philosophy, technology, family structure, and needs have all evolved greatly since then. I think it’s unreasonable to try and apply everything in it to today’s world. We as a religion need to stop making a mistake that goes all the way back to the Pharisees, who thought it was more important for Jesus to observe the Sabbath then to heal someone who was dying, or the people who used the Bible to protest woman’s’ rights or interracial marriage. We need to stop getting so caught up in following every single rule the Bible lays out for us that we forget about the one that Jesus said was one of the two greatest commandments laid out for us: to love our neighbor. It’s sad to look back at the Bible’s history and how it has been abused over and over again to oppress people, when it is supposed to be a guide for how to live our lives in a loving and compassionate way. And it’s sad that its use as a tool to oppress members of the LGBT community is just going to be one more of these times when it is all said and done.

Those are really great points. If you weren’t talking to some average person but instead if you had the opportunity to sit down with your state representatives, what would you most like to tell them?

I’m from Arizona, so my two senators (Jon Kyle and John McCain) are both very anti-LGBT rights. I’m not sure there’s really anything I could say to get them to change their minds about things like supporting the repeal of DOMA. However, if I could sit down and talk with them, I would try and get them to at least support legislation to make schools safer for LGBT youth. Whether or not they agree that there should be marriage equality, I hope they would at least support the idea that all students deserve to go to learn in a safe environment, free of harassment and discrimination.

Great! So, we’re both triplets. Has being a triplet influenced your activism in any way? Do your siblings have similar passions?

It’s funny you should ask that. Actually, the first time I ever did anything for the LGBT-rights movement was in 2nd grade. I was able to speak at the “Rally for Love and Justice,” a gathering to protest Proposition 107, which would amend the Arizona State Constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. I was 8. I didn’t know much about the legal arguments for marriage equality or Constitutional rights. I didn’t know politics. What I did know a little something about was being different in some way, not as significant a way, granted, but different all the same. And to me, it seemed just as ridiculous for someone to treat LGBT people badly for being different as it would be to treat me badly for being a triplet. Apparently what I said was,

“My name is Carly and I’m a triplet, and that’s different. But it’s cool to be a triplet and it’s cool to be different, too. I’m also different from my brother and sister and nobody cares about that. I like science, and my brother thinks that’s dumb. Everybody is different in their own special way.

Girls loving girls and boys loving boys is different, and different is cool. So why should other people care about a girl being married to a girl or a boy being married to a boy? Because whoever you marry, it’s love. It’s not other people’s business who you marry.”

So I suppose in a way, being a triplet has affected my activism. And though my brother and sister aren’t as involved as I am in this particular issue, they are always ready to stand up when someone uses homophobic language at school, and help me with things like organizing a Day of Silence.

And finally, is there anything else you want to add?

Just that being an ally is something I would encourage anyone of any age, background, or faith/non-faith to do. Being an ally has led me to meeting so many amazing people, and learning so many new things. Sure there will be people who are going to try and say what you’re doing is wrong. But at the end of the day, it won’t matter, because you really have a since of accomplishment and the feeling that you made a difference in such an important cause. You don’t have to be a full out, go to every rally kind of ally. You just have to be willing to speak out against bullying and injustice when you see it. That’s what being an ally is all about.

Thank you for having me!

Thanks so much, Carly!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Interview: Two Teen Perspectives on Coming Out

Hello! It’s been a while since I posted an interview, and all of a sudden I have a few of them to publish. My fellow GLSEN Ambassador, Carly F., who I met at this year’s media summit (retroactive info on that forthcoming) conducted several interviews with a few of us on what we thought of the process. More will be available soon, but for now I’ll post her interview with myself, and with my other fellow Ambassador, Sarah T.

And if you like the questions Carly asked, go ahead and check out her first post on the GLSEN blog, her website, and look out for an interview I did with her on what it’s like to be a Christian ally to LGBT youth, coming soon. And while you’re at it, check out a post by yet another Ambassador, Loan T., and his fantastic Tumblr.

So much to do! So much to see! So much to read!

Anyway, without further ado, Sarah’s interview (below it is mine). Enjoy!

Q: How do you identify (gay, lesbian, transgender, gender-non-conforming, etc.)?

A: I’m really laid-back when it comes to how I identify myself, so while the technical term for my sexual orientation is lesbian, I usually lean more toward gay/queer. I really only refer to myself as Queer when I’m with other members of the LGBT community, just to avoid confusing people further.

Q: How long have you known you identify this way?

A: I’ve been able to identify my attraction to girls since…. forever, really. But I didn’t know that it was different/there was a word for it until the seventh grade, when I became friends with two girls who identified as LGBT and explained it to me. I kinda lived under a rock.

Q: How long ago did you come out?

A: I started coming out to friends that I hoped would be accepting in the seventh grade, but that wasn’t always the case. I lost a lot of friends coming out. It wasn’t until the summer before my sophomore year in high school (2009) that I came out to my family.

Q: How hard a decision was it to make, and how much time passed between the time you made the decision and the time you actually came out?

A: It took about ten minutes between the decision and the action. I figured that, if I didn’t do it at that second, it would be a long time before I had the nerve again. It was a ‘pull the band-aid off quick’ kind of a situation. It was a terribly hard decision to make, but when it came down to it, I was sick of living a lie. I was sick of calling my girlfriend my “friend.” I was sick of telling my mom I was on the phone with/text messaging my cousin. I didn’t feel right about it and I felt like it needed to be over.

Q: What is your coming out story (i.e., when and why you decided to come out, who, how, and why you came out, what happened, etc.)?

A: Well, I’d been pondering the decision all summer, mainly because I was in a pretty stable relationship with a girl. I felt like I was lying to my family and some of the people around me by not sharing that part of my life. So, about mid-August, I was instant messaging with my girlfriend and we were talking about her coming out to her mom two summers prior. She sent me a message that said “You do realize that you need to tell your mom, right?” She meant to send “You do realize that you need to tell your mom at one point, right?” but didn’t send that until I was already downstairs, about to tell my mom.

Q: Was coming out easier, harder, or the same as you expected it to be?

A: Definitely easier. I feared being sent back to a Christian school where I had been outed that spring. I feared counseling, being cut off from my friends – including and specifically my girlfriend. I feared my life taking a dramatic turn for the worse. But, as my mom came to terms with it, none of that happened. I was more free to talk to my mom about my girlfriend, about my other LGBT-identified friends, and I didn’t feel like I was hiding.

Q: What were the benefits of coming out?

A: Speaking for myself, I didn’t feel like half of my life was a lie. I didn’t need to worry about who found out about my girlfriend, I didn’t need to keep two different Facebook accounts, I didn’t need to lie about who I was talking to until all hours of the night. I felt like I could live my life without fear.

Q: What were the consequences of coming out?

A: Outside of my family, I lost a lot of friends from the Christian school realm of my life. Actually, I lost most of those friends. While I’d like to be able to say that they couldn’t have been too good of friends if they couldn’t accept my identity, that’s not the case. They were amazing friends. They were kids that I grew up with, and it’s hard to think that they’ve walked out of my life because I happen to be attracted to girls.

Q: How is being out of the closet different from being in the closet?

A: I’ve found that I don’t cringe at the word “lesbian” like I did before I was fully out. I’m more free to talk about my girlfriend and I feel more like a part of society. There are so many people in my life that accept me just the way I amt hat the people that come into my life and don’t accept me don’t really make that much of a difference.

Q: Do you feel like you have to “come out” again whenever you meet someone new? What are the similarities and differences between coming out for the first time and just telling a new acquaintance?

A: This is a difficult question… I don’t think it feels like “coming out” all over again, to be honest. Nothing will match the stress of deciding when to/finally being able to come out to my mom. Even if I’m more inclined to think that my orientation will be an issue, I’ve yet to experience a situation where I’m not honest about myself at one point. Whether it be sneaking something about my girlfriend into a conversation or outright saying that I identify as a lesbian, I’m never not honest about who I am.

Q: Overall, would you say that coming out was the right decision?

A: Definitely. Being honest about myself was the best choice I’ve ever made.

Q: Is there anything you wish you could change about the way in which you came out (for example, the order of who you told first or the way in which you told people)?

A: There is one person I regret not coming out to sooner – my dad’s oldest sister. She and I are almost attached to the hip at family functions and I never made the right moment to tell her. I regret not telling her for myself before she saw my spot on the Dr. Phil show for an anti-bullying panel.

Q: What do you wish you had known about the coming out process or being out before you came out?

A: I wish I could’ve been better prepared for the people that would ultimately walk out of my life. I don’t know if I could’ve/would’ve done anything different, but I wish I would’ve known that they wouldn’t have reacted well. Maybe I could’ve done myself a favor and been emotionally prepared for when they left.

Q: Do you have any advice for LGBT youth who are thinking about coming out of the closet? What should they consider when trying to make that decision?

A: I would suggest bringing the general topic of the LGBT community up, when coming out to family. Personally, I was watching the episode the the Ellen Show where she came out, on national TV, and casually asked my family about what they thought about it. When you can gauge their reaction, it’ll be easier to deal with. I also don’t recommend waiting forever. You really only hurt the people closest to you when you hide who you are. And you hurt yourself, in the process.


How do you identify (gay, lesbian, transgender, gender-non-conforming, etc.)?

Labels aren’t too big a deal for me – I’m fine with gay, lesbian, queer, or “likes girls.” Haha. “Gay” is probably how I identify myself to other people the most frequently, though.

How long have you known you identify this way?

I came out to myself unequivocally, or knew unequivocally, somewhere in the middle of my freshman year of high school. But I had an idea of feeling this way a lot earlier – it just wasn’t until later that I connected all of the dots.

How long ago did you come out?

I came out toward the end of my sophomore year of high school, almost a year and a half ago.

How hard a decision was it to make, and how much time elapsed between when you made the decision and the time you actually came out?

From the minute I knew I was gay, I never questioned that I would eventually come out – it was just a matter of when, and a matter of feeling ready to do it. So I waited nearly two years between when I knew I liked girls and when I first told someone.

What is your coming out story (i.e., when and why you decided to come out, who, how, and, why you came out, what happened, etc.)?

The first person I told was my cousin, who is three years my senior and is gay herself. I had reached a point recently where the thought of coming out was constantly on my mind, was more of a weight than it had been before, and it was the first time I’d seen her in a while. It so happened that that night, she told her own coming out story to my siblings and me (I’m a triplet). The four of us chatted casually for a while; nobody else could have known how my heart was pounding or what I felt on the brink of. At one point in our conversation, my cousin joked about gaydar, the semi-facetious ability that some people claim to detect others who are LGB-identified.
Can she sense that I am? I wondered nervously, silently. Still joking, she pretended that her arm was a gaydar sensor passing over each of us in turn, and only activating with a beep-beep-beeping noise as she pointed to herself. But you’re wrong, I remember thinking. You’re absolutely wrong.
Later that night, I waited until my siblings had gone to bed and asked her to come into my room. I stood up facing her, feeling rooted to the spot, and managed to choke out, “I think I might be gay.” She said, “it’s okay,” she reassured me, and we kept in touch about it sporadically over the next few weeks over Facebook until I worked up the nerve to come out to the rest of my family and close friends.
I told my siblings next who said they kind of already knew, followed by my mom, and then my dad. With both of my parents, I really spit it right out in a way that’s pretty amusing in retrospect. I went to my mom’s house (my parents are divorced), and the first thing I said to her when I walked through the door was, “Hi Mom, two things. I need my Algebra 2 textbook, and also I’m either gay or bi.” (Now I see myself as gay, although I do think that sexuality lives on a spectrum of fluidity depending on the individual from very fluid, to not fluid at all, to other things entirely.) My mom proceeded to laugh at me a little bit because of my chosen delivery, and then we talked about it. My revelation to my dad was similarly abrupt, as I’d asked him to take a walk with me, and when we got outside we were talking for some reason about Hogwarts houses. “I think I’d be a Ravenclaw,” I said, “and also I’m gay.”

Was coming out easier, harder, or the same as you expected it to be?

Maybe I should have known it was going to be fine, but I didn’t. I knew that my parents supported same-sex marriage, and I knew that we had family friends who were same-sex partners. I even had a friend at the time that I knew was gay, although he wasn’t out. I knew all this, I lived in New York City, and yet I was still terrified to tell the people I cared about a fundamental part of who I was, and who I am.
No one close to me had ever told me that homosexuality was wrong (but one or two people who weren’t close did). Besides, I was an avid reader of the news, and an observer of manifold, subtle signs around me in the whispers of friends and the clangor of popular culture. These signs said that being gay was at best, something to be embarrassed about, and at worst, a stigma I would carry that would prevent me from having a “normal” life like my brother and sister. I’d read so many stories of kids who got kicked out of the house, or kids whose parents refused to speak to them or affirm them.
That’s why I stalled at first. I am an outspoken person, leery of keeping any secret for too long, and this was a big one. (I can’t even fathom the people who remain closeted late until adulthood, or even for their whole lives.)

What were the benefits of coming out?

There were so many! Telling my friends something so personal brought me closer to a lot of them, and a few have even been able to confide in me about their own same-sex attractions because I took that leap. It feels so much better to be open, to be able to have become an advocate for other youths like me, and to have met so many amazing people along the way. Being able to date girls now isn’t bad, either. ☺

What were the consequences of coming out?

I’ve been lucky, and I haven’t faced any serious discrimination. (I just wish that were a given, instead of something I have to say I’m lucky about.) And I haven’t really lost friends, although I did become less close with a couple, and there are things I have to think about now when I’m around different people. Certain friends I know I can talk about cute girls with, while with other friends that subject is to be avoided because it might make them uncomfortable. In the same way, I have certain friends that I know never to talk politics with because I can’t bear to ponder the impact that their political preferences would have on my future.

How is being out of the closet different from being in the closet?

It’s the difference between captivity and freedom, and the difference between insecurity and confidence. But it’s also the difference between anonymity when certain remarks are made or political topics crop up, and an awareness that the people around you are thinking about you…too different to describe easily, in mostly good ways.

Do you feel like you have to “come out” again whenever you meet someone new? What are the similarities and differences between coming out for the first time and just telling a new acquaintance?

All the time! You can never stop coming out for your whole entire life. Whenever you meet a new friend, neighbor, classmate, or coworker, it’s often inevitably something they will have to know. When a new friend asks if I think anyone in our history class is cute – boom. When a guy expresses interest in me – boom. When I go to an office party at my first job out of college and my plus 1 is my girlfriend – boom.
But what I’ve already, fortunately, found is that the more times you come out, the easier it gets. As long as you come out when you sense that you’re with accepting people, and you don’t make it a big deal, then it won’t be a big deal.

Overall, would you say that coming out was the right decision?


Is there anything you wish you could change about the way in which you came out (for example, the order of who you told first or the way in which you told people)?

Yes! When I came out to my friends, and finally said the words, even though I was fairly certain that they would still like me, I uttered them in a near-whisper. My expression solemn, I acted as though I was confessing to some horrible crime rather than just letting my loved ones in on a basic fact. In every case, the delivery of my news, rather than the news itself, was what caused the recipients distress. I heard from them, “cool!” and “that’s great,” and “I love you,” not words of condemnation. But in response to the build-up, one friend remarked, “That’s all? It looked like you were going to say something really bad!”
I should have been way less dramatic about it. I was scared, but I made it harder for all of us, because they had no idea what I was about to tell them.

What do you wish you had known about the coming out process or being out before you came out?

That’s what I wish I had known – to broach the subject with more confidence and humor than I did. That’s what I do now.

Do you have any advice for LGBT youth who are considering coming out of the closet? What should they consider when trying to make that decision?

It isn’t easy, but you’ll be proud of yourself and feel a lot better when you do. You are perfect the way you are, your friends and family deserve to know, and any of them who think less of you afterward aren’t worthy of you. But make sure you wait until you’re ready. And if you know that your family is very homophobic or transphobic, even if you feel sure about who you are, you might want to wait until you are out of the house or financially independent before you tell them. Confide in accepting friends first, and wait the rest of them out, because the news will be very hard for some people who have believed that it is wrong their whole lives. These people love you, but you’ve given them a rude awakening, and they might think that it goes against all the values they’ve ever held, or all the religious services they’ve ever attended. It’s said that as soon as you come out of the closet, that pushes your family in – now you’ve come to terms with yourself, but they have to start from the beginning.

Do you have any advice for LGBT youth who have made that decision but don’t know how to do it/where to start, or are afraid of what might happen?

Don’t come out until you’re ready, and when you do, start with someone who you trust not to tell anyone else and who you know will love you no matter what. Also, make sure to test the waters with your family and friends by bringing up something LGBTQ-related in the news or on a TV show that you watch, and see how they react. That can be a barometer for how they might take it when you come out to them. Go to a Gay-Straight Alliance meeting at your middle or high school, if one exists. Make sure that you’ll be safe! Imagine what your life will be like when you no longer have to hide. You can do it!

Where can these youth seek more, anonymous advice or resources on coming out?

One of the things I did was watch a whole bunch of people’s coming out videos on YouTube. A lot of people recorded their coming out stories and posted them there, and it really reassured me to see how many people were out there, and who had successfully gone through it already. Videos for the “It Gets Better Project,” also on YouTube, as well as queer collabs such as “YourFruitLoops” can be great resources as well. Be sure to check out GLSEN.org, the Trevor Project, and EveryoneIsGay.com, too.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Here’s A Poem I Wrote A Little While Ago

…because I haven’t been very good at all about posting this summer. Which is partly out of laziness, and partly out of extreme busyness with college hunting and with activism out in the real world. I’ll fill you in on that part soon. But for now, a poem. It was written in a state of anger.

Getting It

I accept you, you tell me
But I just don’t think that gay people should be able to get married
Oh yeah, and you know what? They shouldn’t be allowed to adopt –
A boy needs his father and a girl needs her mother
That’s just my opinion, but I accept you, you clarify
But… I still don’t get it

How in the world
Can you compass this kind of corrosive contradiction?
How can you say
You’re okay with who I am, but you don’t personally feel that I should get the rights you take for granted?
Take a stand, kid, if you think of yourself as my friend
This is no longer about your conservative upbringing, the means to some legislative end

Can’t you see that the political is personal? That what to you is a comment on the socially progressive is to me not only just an ethical directive
But a future with a wife and a family
Children who will be loved and will love their two moms, and how dare you for deciding to dismiss that joyous dream!

What will it take to make you aware that you’ve gone and shattered my self-esteem
Even when I know that the people trying to defend marriage rather than respect marriage are lying to themselves the way I refuse to
‘Cause government license or no, it’s not always gonna be “boy meets girl” that precedes the falling in love and the babies in the carriage

Even when I know those people trying to spread therapy aimed at conversion
Are setting up a perversion – from the wretchedness of their professed repairs they remain aloof
Yet surely enough they are robbing an ashamed and frightened girl of her truth

How many stories does it take to humanize those yes’s and no’s at the polls?
To cease the sick surveys that circumscribe queer lives and make mockery of queer goals
The story of Alex, who was nearly deported when the state refused to recognize his union with Doug, an American citizen?
Or that of Edie, the woman who lost the love of her life to multiple sclerosis, and had to pay heavy inheritance taxes unmatched by straight couples?
Or if stories aren’t your thing, how many creatively spellbinding stats does it take to change the tide?
Did you know it would take the fingers on 268 different hands to count out all the benefits unmarried couples are denied?

I give props to everyone who voted no on the hate of Prop 8 that day in California
But I question whether the people who voted yes on Question 1 in Maine ever really thought to put themselves in my place
And if you think I’m not making a compelling case
Because you are a Christian
Then you might be interested to know one more story – of a minister who was told he couldn’t be gay and a man of God
This minister told the one who maligned him, “I offer my life as evidence to the contrary”

Or even the story of the woman I asked to sign a petition for federal marriage equality down at city hall on the 24th of July
She began telling me that she was a religious Lutheran from Texas
And I steeled myself to turn away with a sigh
But she went on – and she said that a true Christian is willing to grow new leaves upon the beautiful branches of her original beliefs
Can appreciate dignity and love of her neighbors and sometimes even change her mind
That day, she changed mine, and I’d like to change yours too

And maybe when I do, we can be friends
You can wait for me outside city hall and be there when I say, “I do”
You can tell me your favorite names for a little girl or boy at my baby shower
So that I feel and I know with incredible power that you really accept me
This time, I get it

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It Passed!!!

Marriage equality is now a reality in the state of New York! With almost 50,000 other people, I watched the senate proceedings live online. They approved the bill with a majority of 33 defeating a minority of 29. This. Is. Amazing.

And in the state where Stonewall started it all, with the NYC Pride Parade just two days away, it couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time.

Read more at the NYT article published a mere five minutes after the fact. They’re good, but Facebook and Twitter were even faster. Of course, I marvel at social media not only because of its rapid-fire spread of breaking news, but because it was the source of so much grassroots and political advocacy for this bill to come to fruition.

Congratulations, New York!!! We did it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Having Some Fun for NY Marriage Equality

Cross-posted on Feministing

This is Pride month, and it is a travesty that I haven’t posted more often, but I have been very busy with finals. But I am finally final-ed out, and I have time to write a few thoughts about the push for New York marriage equality! Woo!

I was watching an embedded Youtube trailer for a movie coming out this summer on Feministing.com (a totally awesome feminist website that I highly recommend), when the following Google ad popped up on the bottom of my video: “NY – Protect Marriage: Act Now to Protect Traditional Marriage. Contact Your State Senator. NationForMarriage.org”

Now, let’s just disregard the colossal algorithmic error that would have led Google to believe that I am the target audience for this advertisement. There was no mistaking its ugly existence on my screen.

I could have easily just X-ed it out and continued watching my movie trailer. But instead, I decided to have some fun with the National Organization for (Heterosexual, and Heterosexual Only) Marriage.

I clicked on their link, which lead me to a window inviting me to send (just as I’d hoped!) a pre-written but customizable email that’s gist was, “don’t mess with traditional (read: exclusionary/heteronormative) marriage.”

All I had to do was fill in some basic, identifying information, click “send,” and the diplomatically homophobic message would forward to every New York State Senator on the fence about which way to vote: Shirley Huntley (D), Joseph Addabbo (D), Andrew Lanza (R), Carl Kruger (D), Greg Ball (R), Stephen Saland (R), Roy McDonald (R)*, Elizabeth Little (R), Joseph Griffo (R), James Alesi (R), Kemp Hannon (R), Mark Grisanti (R), Jack Martins (R), and Charles Fuschillo (R).

(*Note that since NOM made their on-the-fence list, Republican Roy McDonald decided to be awesome and vote FOR equality, commenting, “You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.” Go McDonald!)

Anyway, you remember how I said the email was customizable? Well, I customized the bejeezus out of that email until it said the opposite of what they had intended, and then I went ahead and sent it. Below I’ve posted their version and my version superimposed with words I added in bold, and words I deleted crossed out. It’s quite amusing, if I do say so myself. For your reading pleasure:

Subject line: Please vote NO YES on same-sex marriage

I strongly urge you to oppose support the same-sex marriage bill if and when it comes up to a vote in the Senate.

Marriage isn’t about discrimination or exclusion, or just a package of government benefits. (and occasional penalties).  Throughout history, marriage has been a long-term, public, sexual union between a man and a woman. Why? Because these sexual unions are unique in their ability to produce children — even unintentionally in many cases. But the debate becomes about these things when we deny them to so many wonderful New Yorkers who deserve the same rights as everybody else.

Government has no business determining who I love. — but it does have an interest in making sure that as many kids as possible get to know and be loved by their own mother and father. No same-sex union can do this for a child. And it also has an interest in making sure that as many kids as possible get to know and be loved not just by heterosexual couples, but by the many loving same-sex partners who would make amazing parents. Marriage, like it or not, legitimizes and strengthens these family ties in a way that civil unions do not, which is why marriage must become an option for everyone.

The threat to religious freedom — and the utter refusal of gay marriage groups to accept any substantive protections for people of faith — is another major concern. For years, gay marriage activists have argued under the banner of tolerance, but now want to silence any opposing views. Examples of religious groups being forced out of the public square have already begun to crop up as Catholic Charities across the country are forced to give up their adoption license, a religious group in New Jersey is denied tax exemption for refusing to recognize civil unions, and people of faith face professional sanction for their religious beliefs. [So much “playing victim” went on in this paragraph that it wasn’t worth trying to reshape. But I do give them props for the chutzpah of their crocodile tears for a New Jersey faith group’s tax expenses… when same-sex couples lose thousands of dollars every year from their inability to file joint tax returns. And there are, of course, 1,137 more denied rights where that came from.]

Please, there are other ways to protect the legitimate needs of same-sex couples. They have the right to live as they choose, but not to redefine marriage for all of us. do the right thing and follow through on this legitimate need of same-sex couples. LGBTQ people have the right not only to live the way we choose to, but for society to recognize our love as just as legitimate, and just as worthy of the institution of marriage. Please vote no yes on same-sex marriage.

Needless to say, I had a blast making these edits.

Afterwards, the website proclaimed, “Your message has been sent. Thank you for making your voice heard!” No, thank you, NOM, for accidentally providing me with the voice to help legalize marriage for same-sex couples in New York.

Congratulations, now that’s what I call true protection of marriage.

This should come to a vote any minute, and we need a “yes.” So I sincerely hope that the only NOM-ing I hear of in the future is the onomatopoeic sound of the National Organization for Marriage eating marriage equality’s dust.

P.S. Feel free to copy me by visiting and duping the mass email on the anti-gay website yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Make Your Voice Heard in the GLSEN 2011 National School Climate Survey

Have you ever heard a horrible comment directed at someone “different” in your school hallway, heard a bigoted joke that made your stomach twist, or even experienced or witnessed physical violence?

Or maybe you have, for the most part, avoided the bullying endemic in the American school system?

If you are an LGBTQ youth who attends any middle or high school in the United States, it is well worth the five minutes of your time to fill out this brief survey. Share your experience.

Every two years, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) comes out with an updated version of the same survey to assess how safe (or unsafe) schools are for kids across different regions, sexual orientations, gender identities and other backgrounds. Your anonymous input can help make their newest survey, due out in the fall of 2012, the most accurate one yet, and can give them a better idea of how they should focus their funds and campaigns in the future.

This is also the survey that generates the statistics that would otherwise be impossible to know – the fact that 9/10 kids frequently hear homophobic language in their schools, and that many hear transphobic language on a regular basis as well.

You must be at least 13 years old to take it, and it is available in Spanish as well as English.

Check it out here: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/2730.html

You bubble in options for how safe or comfortable you feel in different school places and situations, whether you are taught positive representations of LGBTQ people in academic classes, whether your library has LGBTQ books, whether you feel a sense of belonging at your school, and lots of other telling questions.

They also ask whether you’ve seen any Safe Space Campaign stickers in your school, how many supportive teachers your school has, and much more.

At the end of the survey, there’s information about the GLSEN staff running it, if you’re curious about that, and you can also write in any additional comments you may have about your school’s climate.

I wrote:

I was a GLSEN Ambassador this past year, and my out school experience has been generally great. The main issue in my school is with homophobic language used jokingly among friends, for the most part, in a way that makes bystanders and LGBTQ students very uncomfortable to be around. Students whose gender expression is considered less conventional, who seem more obviously queer on the surface, also seem to deal at times with more subtle, microaggressive othering than I do personally. Teachers are generally very supportive, and the drama, music and art programs are the best safe spaces of all the other programs for self-expression for QUILTBAG students. Almost every queer student I know of in the school is in some way involved in these programs, even if they aren’t involved in the GSA.

Thank you so much, GLSEN, for doing the amazing work that you do!

What are you waiting for? Go ahead and take it. =]

And if you do not fit the criteria to fill it out but want to get involved or stay informed about safe schools initiatives anyhow, check out their homepage at http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/home/index.html to find out how.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment