Day of Silence 2018

TW: Brief mention of suicide and mental health

GLSEN’s Day of Silence “is a student-led national event where folks take a vow of silence to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people at school.” The Day of Silence was created by a group of students at the University of Virginia in 1996.

“Nearly 4 in 5 LGBTQ students don’t see positive LGBTQ representation in their curriculum, nearly 9 in 10 experience verbal harassment, and almost a third miss school for feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. The Day of Silence is a national movement to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ students in school, which demands that school leaders take action to be more inclusive.”

I have never had a teacher speak about LGBTQ+ rights, or even acknowledge that someone they were talking about was a part of the LGBTQIA+ community in my entire life. I never learned about the Stonewall Riots in school, or the AIDs epidemic. I never read a history book that acknowledged our presence. Queer history is so important, and yet it is completely silenced in our education system. This is just one of many issues that leads to silencing and erasure in schools.

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“Safe Schools For All”

In my high school we had a GSA, but I never got up the nerve to go. Just a few weeks after I had come out to my family, an “advertisement” was played on the school announcements  for the GSA. Afterward, the boy who sat next to me laughed and said, “It’s so sad that we actually have one of those.” I felt gutted. Other kids laughed and they continued to make homophobic remarks. Was this a direct attack on me? No, they had no idea I was gay. Did it make me feel ashamed, outraged, and embarrassed? Absolutely.

I wish I could say that I stood up for myself and my community, but I did not. I was kind of scared and hurt, especially since it was all so new to me. Their laughter and bigotry made me feel as if I couldn’t speak up. However, I have had it so much easier than many LGBTQIA+ students; I’ve never been bullied or directly discriminated against. Hearing people say awful things, whether they realize it’s about you or not, is still hurtful.

Far too many LGBTQIA+ students suffer from mental health problems as a result of the bullying and general intolerance at their schools. We lose so many amazing kids to suicide, because of the abuse they face. Marriage equality didn’t end homophobia or transphobia, and it certainly didn’t make the United States treat LGBTQIA+ citizens as complete equals. We still have a long way to go, and we need protection of LGBTQIA+ students.

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No I Don’t Care That You Know Other Queer People

“By the way my coworker’s best friend’s sister is gay.”

“… oh, um that’s cool.”

This is a conversation that takes place constantly. If someone knows I’m gay, they always love to tell me when they meet other queer people; as if we’re unicorns. Don’t get me wrong, there are nothing but good intentions behind it, it’s just a little weird. Would you tell me if you met another woman, or some else who had blue eyes? Probably not.

This is different from the typical, “oh you’re gay, do you know my friend Sam, he’s gay too?” situation. People don’t think you know them, they just want to let you know they know other queer people. My older sister is the main culprit of this in my life. She lives in a major city, so of course she knows/is friends with/ runs into a lot of queer people, and she lets me know. Every. Single. Time. Maybe I’m a huge jerk for not caring, but honestly it’s just not that interesting to me. I consume a lot of queer media, so I constantly see other LGBTQIA+ people. Plus, I’m in college, so I see a decent amount of visibly queer people in my day to day life.

Being able to see visibly queer people is so so important, and I do get excited when I see other people people just living their normal lives. I feel a sense of familiarity and kinship with other people in the LGBTQIA+ community. Someone telling me about how their barista is gay though, isn’t really something I care to know. What is the correct response to “Oh! I was meaning to tell you my waiter the other day is gay.” ? Do you want me to jump up and down and beg you for more details? I usually go with, “that’s cool” or “oh wow” which both come out sounding incredibly unenthusiastic, no matter how much I try and pretend to care.

I never confront anyone about this, because I know they are just trying to be nice. It in no way makes me mad, or even annoyed, I just find it incredibly odd and kinda funny. Does this happen to you? If so, how do you respond? I feel like this definitely isn’t just something I deal with!

 

How did you know you were gay?

Even though I’ve been out for a few years now, I’ve never really had anyone ask me “How did you know you were gay?” until a few weeks ago. One of my lab partners (who’s also gay) asked me this kind of out of the blue while we were working on our lab report after class. Honestly, I didn’t have a great answer prepared.

I told her about an experience I had sophomore year of high school, where I randomly had a huge crush on this girl I didn’t really know in my Chemistry class. I wrote about that crush a long time ago, but I’ve since come to some other realizations. I think she could have been replaced with a thousand different people and it wouldn’t have made a difference. It’s not that I don’t have standards, or that I’m attracted to every girl I come in contact with – that’s far from the truth. It was just a period of time where I was questioning and figuring everything out, and she just so happened to be in the same class as me.

Now, my lab partner wasn’t exactly satisfied with this story. “But how do you know it wasn’t just her?” That question threw me for a loop a little bit. There’s no good answer, I just do. It’s a feeling that, I don’t feel the need to question anymore. For me, sexuality isn’t a complicated part of my life. I know how I feel, and who I like. It’s just that simple. It wasn’t that easy in the beginning, but over time the doubts left and I feel perfectly content with the conclusion. I don’t have some great story about being swept off my feet by the love of my life, and I don’t think having that kind of story is necessary. I wanted the experience to be casual and simple, and it was.

Her questions came from a place of curiosity, but they definitely made me think about a few things. Why are people so obsessed with knowing every thought that goes through queer people’s minds when questioning their sexuality or gender? Also, why do they feel the need to question it’s authenticity? One of my favorite qutoes from Denice Frohman’s poem “Dear Straight People” is:

” Dear Straight People, I’m tired of proving my love is authentic, so I’m calling the reparations on your ass. When did you realize you were straight? Who taught you?Did it happen because your parents are divorced? Did it happen because your parents are not divorced? Did it happen because you sniffed too much glue in fifth grade? Dear Straight People, why do I have to prove my love is authentic? Why do I have to prove my love is authentic? Why do I have to prove my love is authentic?”

I get a whole lot of “I would have never known” and “Really???” This has to do with the fact that I don’t look queer enough in straight people’s eyes. I wear makeup, have shoulder length hair, and generally act feminine enough to be shoved (forcefully) into the straight box. I can look in the mirror and think, “wow I look really gay today” (in a proud way) and still no one suspects a damn thing. The authenticity of my gayness is questioned because I don’t look the part or fit perfectly into the tiny box created for the stereotypical lesbian.

I don’t mind answering these questions, or most questions for that matter. However, I am tired of both people in my day to day life as well as society as a whole questioning who I am because I don’t fit the mold. So, how did I know I was gay? I trusted myself, and through lots of introspection discovered the answer to this aspect of my life. Maybe it’s not the best answer, or the answer people want to hear, but it’s the most honest one.

Intolerance in the LGBTQIA+ Community

In a perfect world the LGBTQ+ community would be all sunshine and rainbows and acceptance, but sometimes it isn’t.

There’s a big problem with racism within the community, specifically with gay men. Having “no asians” or “no black people” on their Grindr profiles. When confronted most of them say, “well it’s just a preference.” A preference is liking strawberry jelly over grape jelly or liking tennis shoes over sandals, not segregating an entire race and labeling them as “undateable.”

Biphobia and transphobia are also another problem, mainly amongst cis-white-gays. They believe that people use the label bisexual as a stepping stone to being gay and just haven’t accepted that they’re gay yet. Transphobic queer people sometimes use the term “LGB” instead of LGBT, in order to excluded trans people from the community.

My main question for people in the community who behave like this is, why? Why discriminate against someone who belongs to the same minority group as you? We’re all going to face our fair share of bigotry from the outside world so why be bigoted to one another? We should be supporting and uplifting one another, not tearing each other down. If you don’t like someone else erasing your identity, then don’t do it someone else. You aren’t them, you don’t know how they feel. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

The worst thing we can do as a community is not support one another. How can you expect love and support from people outside the LGBTQ+ community, if you don’t love and support others in the community yourself? I think we all have a responsibility to call out this behavior and set an example for others by treating one another with tolerance and respect.

One Year Later: Pulse Orlando

June 12, 2016 49 people died and 53+ were wounded in a hate crime committed at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida.

 

I remember waking up Sunday morning and seeing the news, unaware of the magnitude of the situation. I read some tweets and a short article, but continued to get ready for church as I always did on Sunday. It wasn’t until later that day after reading more online news articles and watching the news that I began to understand the atrocity that had taken place.

This was the first time that it became clear to me that there are people out there who want me dead because of my sexuality. It’s a terrifying thought that shakes me to my core. In a club where people were celebrating Latin Night and just wanted to dance, their lives were taken. “Gay Clubs” are supposed to be a place of refuge for those in the LGBTQ+ community, but this safe space was shattered and turned into the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

My heart breaks for the friends and families of those who were victims that day. With the oldest victims being in their early forties, all of these people were taken way too young.

  • 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
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 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 I. 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 E. Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

I think the fact that the deadliest mass shooting in US history, and the deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11 was committed against the LGBTQ+ community, specifically queer poc speaks volumes. Marriage equality did not end homophobia, it is alive and well across our whole nation. This is the result of hate, this is the result of prejudice, this is the result homophobia, this is the result of racism. We cannot continue to let any hate in the slightest form we tolerated, because 49 people are dead. 49 people who wanted to have a good time lost their lives, and their families have to continue to live with the pain of them being gone forever.

If you have any queer friends hug them, send them a text, call them, let them know you love and support them. Today is going to be a very hard day for many people in the LGBTQ+ community and I’m sure any love and support would be appreciated. The queer community has always been incredibly resilient and will continue to carry on even in the face of tragedy.

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

 

Day of Silence 2017

April 21,  2017 is the Day of Silence hosted by GLSEN.

The Day of Silence is a day when participants take a vow of silence to bring light how homophobia and transphobia, as well as harassment and bullying in schools silences LGBTQIA+ students.

9 out of 10 LGBTQIA+ students have dealt with some level of harassment/bullying because of their sexuality/gender. The Day of Silence is in place to try and combat that problem and put rules in place to take action against the bullying and harassment. Many schools do not have anti-discrimination rules in place to protect their LGBTQIA+ students and so students who participate in this day are encouraged to challenge their schools to change that.

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While I have never personally faced direct discrimination or bullying due to my sexuality so many students have to deal with this on a daily basis. LGBT youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide, and the rate of drug abuse is an estimated 20-30% higher for the LGBT population. A huge contributor to that is homophobia, transphobia, and harassment/bullying.

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Show your support for the LGBTQIA+ community today by taking a vow of silence!

Sometimes silence speaks volumes,

Alyssa

Queer-Baiting and Representation

We’ve all been there, a “hit television show” brings in a queer character or reveals one of their characters is queer and we start binge watching the show solely for the LGBTQIA+ representation.

All too often the characters are either killed, written out of the show, or declare being queer a phase and “go back” to dating the opposite sex as if bisexuality isn’t a thing. Most recently the shows that have made headlines for doing this are The 100 and Supergirl. These are two examples of blatant queer-baiting, but many shows queer-bait in a less obvious way. They make two girls/guys have a flirty relationship that’s implied but not explicitly stated, then once the ratings go up from queer people flocking to the little representation we have, they kill one of them off. TV shows shouldn’t be using the LGBTQIA+ community for views only to get rid of the queer characters the first chance they get.

While we have way more representation now then we did even three or four years ago, a lot of it still has problems. I’d like to see LGBT people in healthy relationships just living life every once in a while. Maybe that isn’t “good TV” but it’d be nice to see. It seems like big problems arise in most characters situations or sexuality is the premise of their character. Why can’t they be gay without it being a big deal or being one big stereotype?

The killing of LGBT characters specifically queer women is what’s most alarming to me. It happens so often that it isn’t a coincidence at this point. I feel that it sends a very clear message that Hollywood does not value LGBT lives or at least sees them as expendable. Some people may think that conclusion is dramatic, but these repetitive actions seem very straightforward. LGBT lives are disposable and unworthy; They are deserving of physical harm, death, or to be cast aside when Hollywood is done using them. Sending these messages is incredibly dangerous to the community, specifically young people who are looking for guidance and an image of what their future may be like.

Most representation is good, but accurate and diverse representation in more important. I’m happy to see more LGBTQ+ characters on TV and in films, but I’d like to see more diverse stories. The tale of a cis-white-middle class gay person isn’t the narrative of many people in the Queer community or even most. There also isn’t a lot of representation for non-binary, intersex, or asexual people. What’s up with that?

I think we should be a little more picky about the TV shows we choose to support. We shouldn’t just accept any representation, but rather demand the diverse and accurate representation we deserve!

– Alyssa