Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree

“You can be friends with people who have different views than you. If you don’t, you’re part of the problem. Just agree to disagree.”

This is a popular sentiment I see on social media, typically coming from republican/ conservative individuals. Partially they’re right, it’s important to have a diverse group of friends who have different life experiences from you. You should have friends of different ethnicities, religions, genders, sexualities, abilities and upbringings in order to learn more about the world and how those who are different from you experience it.  Except that isn’t what people actually mean when they talk about having friends with different views from you. They are talking about political affiliations specifically, and how liberal and conservative people should be able to be friends despite the others belief system.

I try my best not to completely write someone off due to their political beliefs, however I do not want to surround myself with people who think it’s okay to believe in bigoted things. I will not agree to disagree when someone else’s life, rights, or quality of life is at stake. I will not agree to disagree when you want to strip someone of their rights due to their minority status. That is not the kind of person I want in my life. Living in a fairly conservative suburb in Texas, I’ve lived with these kinds of people my entire life. That means many of my friends over the years have held some disgusting and inexcusable beliefs. After being in many friendships with those who have polar opposite beliefs from my own, I have learned that there becomes a huge divide between the two of you and the relationships often lack honesty. It’s hard to go to that friend for advice or to talk through a problem when their solution is not something you believe is morally right, or you feel judgement from them because of your own views on the situation.

The people who you allow to get close to you effect the way you think and behave. If you surround yourself with people who are homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist, ableist, etc. after time you begin to become numb to their ignorance, and may even pick up on some of their tendencies.

I do think it is important to listen with an open mind to others beliefs, but that does not mean you have to surround yourself with people whose opinions you condemn. I am not the first person to say this, but agreeing to disagree works when you’re disagreeing about whether or not a certain film is good or if mayonnaise is disgusting (it totally is by the way 🙂 ) Issues like disability rights, reproductive rights, queer rights, immigration, and many others are not something to shrug off as if it isn’t a big deal. So yes, you can and should be friends with people who have different views than you, but that does not include people who have toxic views rooted in ignorance and hatred.

 

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Something Crazy Happened to Me

So my life just got a whole lot crazier…

In Spring of 2018 I applied to Universities for the Fall. If you don’t already know, I’ve been going to a community college for the past year while living at home, but had to medically withdraw last semester due to my chronic illnesses. I thought I wasn’t going to have enough hours to transfer and was going to have to go back to community college for at least another semester. This was super devastating since I was really looking forward to going away to school.

Fast forward to July, I had been getting emails from one of the schools I had applied to that were saying I should sign up for transfer orientation. I assumed I was on the wrong list and shrugged it off. Then I got a voicemail from a call I missed saying the same thing, but again I didn’t think much of it. Finally on July 6th I received an acceptance letter from the college, and still I thought they must have had some mistake and accidentally sent it to me, so I decided to call the admissions office just to make sure.

Then the unexpected happened

I was accepted… for real! I was accepted with less than 30 hours because I have a 4.0 gpa from my community college. I asked the girl over and over again if she was sure, and she kept saying “yeah you’re admitted, yeah you go here.” I seriously couldn’t believe it, and honestly I still feel like it’s not true. However, I’m going to college! This is pretty last minute since classes start August 27th, but we’re going to make it work.

As excited as I am, I’m also really scared. I’ve been super sick all of 2018 so far, but especially the last three months. I was unsure if I was going to be able to go back to my community college, let alone move to another city and go to a University. However, I would never forgive myself if I didn’t at least try. Honestly this may be a horrible idea, but I really need this right now. If I can’t do it, I guess we’ll just cross that bridge when we get to it. For now I’m going to try my best to keep the worrying to a minimum and just enjoy this amazing surprise! My life has been crappy for quite a while, one upsetting event after another. It began to feel like I just wasn’t the kind of person who gets what they want. This is a huge win for me, even if it wasn’t easy or exactly the way I planned. For the first time in my life I cried happy tears, and it felt so good.

Clinical Trials and GI Woes and Moving Oh My!

So much has happened in the past month for me health-wise. My Pride Month posts were not as frequent as I had planned, since my health did not corporate this month. I had a lot of ideas for posts for Pride month that I still want to do, they just obviously won’t actually go up in June.

I started taking Corlanor again for my POTS and IST, and this time I didn’t have a bad reaction! I’ve taken it for a month, and haven’t seen any improvement but I’m still hoping I will soon. I’ve been exercising about 3 times per week, which is good! It does take up all of my energy though so on days I work-out I’m not able to do much else besides that which is annoying. My POTS symptoms have only gotten worse since I started making all of the changes they suggested at Mayo, which is really frustrating. At this point I can’t be out of my house for more than one hour before my body starts shutting down. That time is even less if I have to stand or walk a lot, or if I’ve had chores to do around the house.

My GI tract is a bit of a long story. My GI started me on a muscle relaxer for the PFD which seemed to relieve some of the constipation, although I was continuing to feel worse. I had an x-ray done of my abdomen and my entire colon was full of excess stool, so things were not in fact getting better. First they had me drink mag citrate to try and clear it out, but it only cleared a little bit of it. Then I drank colonoscopy prep, which I thought worked for a few days, but it didn’t. My gastroparesis was not a fan of me drinking the prep, because it was a large quantity and you had to drink it quickly, This resulted in me continuously throwing it up every time I drank another glass.

My Gastroenterologist is trying to figure out a long term solution for the constipation since nothing seems to work. He thinks that Dysautonomia is causing me to have really bad intestinal dysmotility. I’ve been WAY more constipated than this many times, but I didn’t have any imaging done so I have no idea how far the stool was backed up then.  I’m so distended I can’t wear jeans or anything without an elastic waistband, and I look a solid five months pregnant. I’m currently drinking more mag citrate in hopes it will work this time, so cross your fingers for me!

In June I started a clinical trial for a gastroparesis medication. It was a double-blind trial that used 50% placebo patients and 50% drug patients. Obviously I can’t know for sure, but I think I may have received placebo because I only became more symptomatic while on the medication. The intestinal issues probably played a role in that too though. The experience has been really interesting, even if it wasn’t helpful for me. It’s still really cool to be contributing to science that could benefit me and others with gastroparesis in the future. I’ve also learned a lot about clinical trials, which will be good to know if I ever participate in another one!

On a more personal and not medical note, we’re moving! I talked about us looking for a new house well over a year ago, but the timing ended up not working out. However, we finally found a house we really like in the city over from us, which is about 30 minutes away. We closed on the new house on the 26th of June, and we put our house on the market on the 22nd. There’s already a contract on our current house so we’re hoping it will sell and close on July 24th. I’m really excited about the move, and feel like the change will be good for me. It’s not far at all from where we are now and I’ll still go to the same college so that’s definitely a plus!

I started an online summer course at the beginning of June and it ends in less than a week. I was nervous that with my health being so poor right now that I wouldn’t be able to do it, but the class has been really easy and the work load is super light. I’m taking Spanish 1 and since I took two years of Spanish in high school it’s been more of a refresher. It feels really good to be able to succeed at something after my bad Spring semester and withdrawing.

Things have been really tough for the last few months. Some days I start to feel like I’m hitting my breaking point. I try not to think about everything too much, but when you spend most of your time alone it’s hard not to think. I’m really trying to stay hopeful that things will improve soon. I hope you all are doing well! What have you been up to lately?

– Alyssa

The Joy of Seeing Another Queer Person in Public

Recently while strolling through Tumblr I found this post:

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 9.35.46 PM

I didn’t realize this was such a universal queer experience! Seeing other visibly LGBTQIA+ people in public is really exciting, especially when you live in an area that doesn’t have many openly queer people, like where I live. Sure, representation in the media isn’t that great for the LGBTQIA+ community, but more importantly the representation in daily life isn’t very good either for many of us. I know zero queer adults personally. I know of two couples, who go to my church and live in the city that I live in a suburb of. There are no LGBTQIA+ families in my neighborhood that I know of, or even my city. I also know of less than 10 LGBTQIA+ identified kids who went to my high school. There are probably more queer people than I realize in my city, but essentially the numbers are small and there isn’t much of a “community” here.

I feel a sense of connection with other queer people that feels very familial, which is one reason why seeing them randomly in public is exciting. Whenever I am in a city, especially one that’s progressive, like Austin where my sister lives, I am flabbergasted by all the queer people. Like, you can just go into a store or a restaurant and see another openly LGBTQIA+ person, which 9 times out of 10 isn’t the case where I live. It’s hard to learn what it’s like to live as a queer adult when there aren’t any for you to look up to.

Autostraddle, a website that creates content mainly for queer women, has a column called Queer IRL which features photo journals of queer people in different life situations. These photo journals mean a lot to me, and have helped me to feel less alone. The photographs are submitted by readers and the writer of the column is Laneia. Visibility is something we all need, and it can be very lonely and isolating when you don’t have it.

(Top Left: “Queer in the Bedroom” Ft. Kayla , Bottom Left: “Queers and Pets” Ft. Alex and Kiki, Right: “Queers on Holiday” Ft. Jessica)

I hope the excitement of seeing other queer people in public never goes away for me, because as simple as the experience is, it brings me joy.

 

Remembering Pulse Orlando

June 12th, 2016 49 people were killed ad 53 were wounded at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

It was the deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11 at the time.

Since then countless mass shootings have taken place, notably the Marjorie Stoneman- Douglas Shooting, which also took place in Florida. I wish I could say we’ve done the victims justice by changing our laws and having more gun regulations, but that simply isn’t true. As a society we’ve become so numb to tragedy, myself included. It’s not always  a conscious decision to become numb, it’s only human to try and protect yourself from tragedy and chaos. You can however, make the decision to pay attention and care.

49 people will never tell their friends and family how much they love them again, 49 people will never get to celebrate another holiday, 49 people will never be able to go to a gay club and dance again. It’s hard to imagine just how big the impact of something like the Pulse shooting has, but without a doubt it has changed thousands of peoples lives.

These victims deserve so much more. When I marched in the March for Our Lives, I was marching for these 49 and the countless others who have tragically joined them in the past two years. Obtaining gun control is the least we could do in their honor to bring them some level of justice.

They deserve to be remembered:

  • Stanley Almodovar III, age 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

The Fetishization of Gay Men by Straight Women

The perpetrators of the phenomena of fetishizing gay men seem to be mainly straight women.  They become overly invested in male/male romances, both real and fictional. They over sexualize and fetishize their relationships, and treat them like objects. Quite frankly, the treat them the same way many straight men treat women. They paint them as characters for their own enjoyment instead of real human beings, or well-rounded fictional characters. These are also the same women who “Just LOOOOVE gay men!!!” They see them as an experience and often infantilize their relationships.

Many straight women write m/m novels and fan-fiction. These characters tend to be the embodiment of a stereotype, and don’t got through much character development. Unless you count going from saying, “YASS” to “YASS KWEEN!!” as development. Their writing also has no experience behind it. The coming out stories are incredibly inaccurate, feel very uninformed, and are again seen as “super cute.” The struggles queer men face are often erased, and replaced with yet another sex scene.

The stories these women write are not for queer men, they are for self-satisfaction and other women who also enjoy fetishizing queer men. This is not what being an ally is. Allies don’t create uninformed, falsified queer media for their own enjoyment. Being an ally also isn’t an identity, you don’t get to become a part of the community for simply not being homophobic. Appropriating queer culture and then producing uninformed work for a profit is a huge slap in the face to people who are actually a part of the community. Perpetuating stereotypes and writing stories you have no authority to write does not help the LGBTQIA+ community at all.

Gay men are often stereotyped to be feminine, and so society lumps them into the same group as women. They’re seen as “just one of the girls,” and are there to compliment straight women and make them feel better about themselves. Gay men are not women, and yet the characters that straight women write and label as “gay men” are often portrayed as if they are a straight woman. Queer stories are vital to the progression of our community, but these stories aren’t the right ones. Sometimes as an ally it’s better to do nothing at all, if the opposite action is appropriation and fetishization. LGBTQIA+ people deserve authentic and diverse stories written by people who understand them and their struggles, which is something a straight woman could never do.

 

*** Obviously there are straight women in the LGBTQIA+ community, but I’m specifically talking about straight women who do not identify as being LGBTQIA+ at all (aren’t trans, asexual, aromantic, or any other queer romantic identity, etc.)***

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Homophobic Bakery

The Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Bakery vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case is deeply upsetting to me both as a gay person and as a Christian. Seeing our government side with homophobia and hate is disgusting, and a huge step backwards. It makes we wonder what else might happen to the LGBTQIA+ community under the Trump administration. This is not the first attack on queer rights during his Presidency – trans rights have been attacked multiple times before, and clear messages from his administration, like refusing to acknowledge Pride Month speak volumes.

The bakery won the case off of the claim that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was hostile towards religion. I’m so tired of seeing people constantly try to use their religion as a justification of their bigotry, the fact that they won this case is mind-boggling. Christians are very rarely the victims, no matter how big their victim complex is. As a Christian, one of the most saddening things about this case is that it continues to perpetuate the lies that God hates gay people, and that God would condone ostracizing someone for any reason. This are not the messages the Bible teaches, no matter how many hateful white people tell you otherwise.

In the United States, you have the right to believe and say what you want to. However, you do not have the right to discriminate against other people. We also are supposed to have a separation of Church and State. You cannot impose your religious beliefs onto other people or make laws based on religious ideologies. Religion is never an excuse for bigotry and discrimination, and there is not place for religion in our government. The actions of people like the owners of the Masterpiece bakery are the reason so many LGBTQIA+ people feel unwelcome in Churches.

The LGBTQIA+ community is resilient and has continuously fought back against discrimination and inequality, this isn’t a new fight. We should be able to live in a world where you don’t have to question whether or not someone will deny you service based on your sexuality or gender, but unfortunately we aren’t there yet.