ESTEEM Awards In Chicago,IL @ SideTraxx

(th annual awards ceremony for LGBTQ activists

Leave a comment

Winning in the Name of Love/Marriage Equality and Beyond

By Michelle E. Brown 6/26/2015

Like so many in our community I have awaited the Supreme Court’s opinion affirming marriage equality with both hope and anxiety.

Although I proudly wear the beautiful ring my beloved gave me and joyfully celebrate the nuptials of my friends, no license or ceremony, could further deepen our love or seal our commitment to one another.

Marriage gives official recognition and access to benefits/protections but I am under no illusion that it will immediately grant us the respect from those who just don’t get it.

They are the same people whose minds/hearts are so warped by generations of hate and racism that they, consciously or unconsciously, will cast the same side eye at interracial couples years after the Loving v. Virginia decision that they will at LGBTQ newlyweds.

As more members of the LGBTQ community marry, raise families and live openly in communities, hearts and minds will be moved and/or changed and the wall of bigotry, racism, homophobia and transphobia will start to crumble and fall, hopefully once and for all.

We need to feel good sometimes, to celebrate historic victories. And this is the mother of historic victories for the LGBTQ community – LOVE WINS!!!

I know that with every victory will come a backlash so we have to keep our armor on. But this time our world won’t go back to that scary place because, with this decision, a light has been shed on the discourse that can never be extinguished.

So before we leave all our energy on the dance floor, sigh a big sigh of relief and start planning our many, long overdue weddings, let’s take a moment to look at our imperfect union and the inequalities that still require our attention and fervor.

Tomorrow the same religious bigots, who would protect a child’s right to life from conception with no regard for the health of women (even if that women has been raped), will continue to push through legislation to impede adoption rights of loving LGBTQ families. And there will be other RFRA’s to keep us jumping through hoops, taking two steps forward and one step back as we prepare to march down the aisle in wedded bliss.

Women will continue to, on the average, make only 78% of their male counterparts while members of the LGBTQ community remain especially susceptible to being placed at a socioeconomic disadvantage. With efforts for workplace equality legislation continually thwarted, we may be able to get married but face firing the day we return from our honeymoon.  It’s time for a fully inclusive ENDA and amendment of civil rights laws like Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen to protect and prohibit discrimination against all Americans.

LGBTQ youth will still experience some of the highest rates of homelessness. Their lives remain at peril. Our futures lie in their hands but too many young people are still bullied, ostracized, kicked out of homes, schools and churches because they are gender nonconforming. According to data from GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), large percentages of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students across the country experience physical assault as well as physical and verbal harassment in school. They want only to live their authentic lives.

Sisters and brothers in our Transgender community will be harassed, confronted with bad bathroom legislation, detained/incarcerated in cells where they are subject to attack and rape with little or no protection from law enforcement. While Laverne and Caitlin grace the covers of magazines, a record number of members of the transgender community, mostly women, have lost their lives in 2015 at the hands of others. Trans lives matter everyday not just when memorialized each November.

LGBTQ elders who paved the way for many of our victories will live in poverty. Some will find themselves going back in to the closet when they enter eldercare facilities ill-equipped and under trained to deal with the needs of our elders. Marriage will have come too late for many who have been unable to receive benefits, pensions or recognitions a heterosexual spouse would receive. They deal with significant health disparities and social isolation.

Tomorrow our post racial America will remain a hoax. Black youth are shot for buying Skittles, playing music too loudly, being seen as a threat for their hoodies and sagging pants.  Shot to death while running away from a traffic stop, choked to death while gasping “I can’t breathe”, spine snapped while in custody in a police van – A threat despite “Hands Up, Don’t shoot” while the white shooter, who left nine dead in a Charleston church, was successfully arrested without incident. Taking down, burning and eradicating every Confederate flag will not take the place of real conversations and work on racism that’s been long overdue.

Perhaps I carry too many cards in my human wallet. I am female, African American, Queer and getting older. Each of these identities carry a full subset of other memberships. I tend to look at the world through lenses which often highlight the contradiction and ironies so intensely that it makes my head hurt and my heart ache. I can’t separate one from the other – Trans lives matter.  Black lives matter. All lives matter.

Despite all the challenges, I believe in the power of democracy – from the White House to the State House.  Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We, the LGBTQ community have proved this, changing hearts and minds by telling our stories, living our truth.

As President Obama said in his remarks from the Rose Garden following the decision “On the many issues with which we grapple real change is possible……Today we can say we made our union a little more perfect.”

We won!  This decision is another step on our march to equality for all Americans. Love is love. Love wins when we wage love – so let’s WAGE LOVE!!!

Posted in bullying, Creating Change, DOMA, lgbt, Loving v. Virginia, marriage equality, Queer, Transgender | Leave a comment

MWMF: 40 Year Journey Of Transformation And Inspiration On ‘The Land’

Printed 4/30/2015 in Between The Lines issue 2318

I’m always surprised by the reactions of people when I tell them I have been (more than once) to the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.

Most often the response is either, “You went?” “You camped?” or, after thinking about me/my life while shaking their head, “Of course, you would go!” Then the real questions begin – were there many black women there? You slept in a tent? Did you get naked? But most often, the question asked is why I, a self-proclaimed lover of all things urban who considers “roughing it” staying at a hotel without room service, would go the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. My response generally involves telling the story of my first MWMF!

I went primarily because Shea Howell was going. Everyone has one of those friends who they would follow anywhere, who strongly impacts their life and who they straight-up, unashamedly, unconditionally love. Shea is my person. The Meredith Grey to my Cristina Yang, you might say. We’ve worked on many things together. We marched together. We summered together. So when she said I needed to go to the festival, I was ready.

Shea and the rest of our group went up before I did earlier in the week. I was supposed to drive up with a mutual friend on the weekend who had attended before and knew the location of the spot Shea et al. camped at every year. The festival is on over 600 acres; I needed a guide.

That Friday, when we were supposed to leave, my guide was nowhere to be found. Made a few calls and discovered that she had left without me. Undaunted, I threw my gear into the car and headed toward Hart – a little cranky, but I had plenty of time to get there before dark.

When I arrived, culture shock kicked in. I was a “Festie Virgin.” I had no idea where Shea was camped, and I had all this junk to lug across a huge parking lot into the woods and I didn’t know where I was going!

I walked and as I walked, I got angry. Angry at my guide who had left me and angry at myself, but then the magic of “The Land” began. Women came up to see what was wrong. They took my bags. They set about finding my friends. They comforted me and made me feel welcome. I was part of the sisterhood.

We came from different socio-economic classes. I was African-American while most of them were white. We had each experienced patriarchy, but many of them had also experienced a privilege I never would because of their race. But on “the Land” it didn’t matter – we were all womyn/sisters.

They didn’t just drop me at the campsite and forget about me. They checked in on me, helped me navigate the showers, pathways and workshops. We danced naked under the moonlight.

That weekend and at the other festivals I attended in later years, I learned what it was like to be in a space created by, for and about women. It was empowering.

After I tell people about my first trip, I go on to tell them about the women who build everything! The women who not only make sure the land is handicap accessible but help women with disabilities experience the festival fully – pushing wheelchairs, getting meals, etc.

I tell them about the marvelous feeling of walking clothed or naked amongst your sisters, feeling truly beautiful just as you are with no “body shaming.” I tell them about the acceptance and respect for each other and different lifestyles. And how being in this space opened my eyes and helped me evolve as a person of color, a woman and a lesbian – to think differently, to challenge patriarchy and to, more than ever, stand in my truth.

I had experienced a freedom that every girl/woman should have the opportunity to experience in their life – a freedom that can gird us for the fight that continues for full equality. However, it was because of the lessons learned that I stopped attending.

The lessons you learn on “the Land” go home with you, some short-term while others for a life time. It was during these years that my LGBTQ family increased as I met and became friends with many transgender sisters and brothers. One day while having coffee with a friend, she said, “I just want to be accepted as me. You have no idea what it’s like to be judged by how you look.”

I thought back to that day wandering around in the woods. Someone could have looked and seen this angry black woman wandering about, turned and walked away. Instead, they saw our commonality, our womanhood, our humanity.

When I arrived on “the Land” I was welcomed as a woman with the understanding that my path to womanhood was unique, but we shared a humanity.

We were different, yes. My path had been different from my Trans Sister, but here we sat sisters in struggle. Here was a member of my community facing the challenges in our woods of oppression, trans-phobia and discrimination. Her safety, her protection, her equality was on the same path as mine. We — all of us in the LGBTQ community — are on that path.

The times they are a changing. We know that gender is more than chromosomes. More of our children are declaring that they are transgender at an earlier age. Too many of these children are dying often at their own hand because we are still defining masculine and feminine by what’s between their legs.

We are one community – LGBTQ – still discriminated against, still under attack. It’s time we have dialogue on the core values our community will embrace for ourselves, our children and generations to come that must include respect for our diversity and inclusiveness for all members of our community.

I was deeply saddened to hear this is the last Michigan Women’s Music Festival. It has changed hearts, minds and lives. It provided a transformative space for women to grow as women where we can find and live our truth. Strong, empowered women can not only change the world but also the boys/men who live in the world. The loss of this space and its potential for transformation, growth and change is a loss to our entire community.

By Michelle E. Brown

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Black women, lgbt, Love, NGLTF, Pop Culture, Queer, Self imaage, Transgender, Women | Leave a comment

CWT4R Blog Radio Broadcast

POW-WOW closes out poetry month

Leave a comment

It’s SPRINGTIME!!!!!

It is SPRING. Embracing the rituals – cleaning, recycling/discarding things I no longer use. Re-imaging my look. Recognizing that great looks never go out of style, they just need new accesories or to get passed on to someone else!!!

Ode to the Skinny Jeans

By Michelle E. Brown

Skinny jeans, I love you

And judging by the way you hug my curves

Accentuate my legs

Smile back at me in the mirror

You still love me too

But skinny jeans, I’ve change

I’ve grown up

I’ve learned to love me

Really love me

With all my curves

All my perfect imperfections

Even those extra few pounds

I’ve picked up along the way.

Skinny jeans I love the look

But you see, I’ve moved on

I no longer need those smiles

Those sighs, those looks

Seeing myself coming and going

In others wearing their skinny jeans

Skinny jeans, I’m loving me

Me in my bright colors

My one of a kind style

Exotic, wild and free

I’m loving my own crazy style

So skinny jeans

Bye-Bye!

Posted in Black women, literature, Pop Culture, Queer, Self imaage, Women | Leave a comment