From the G-List Society: THE BLACK LGBTQ INFLUENCER: Michelle E. Brown

by Waddie G

The G-List Society profiles an individual whose social platform brings empowerment to constituents, peers and fellow leaders in The Black LGBTQ Influencer weekly column. The Black LGBTQ Influencer column is part of my mission for The G-List Society of empowering and celebrating the greatness of Black LGBTQ people.

This week’s Black LGBTQ Influencer is Detroit activist and radio host Michelle E. Brown.  Brown was selected by me because I have noticed her work as writer and activist by name long before we met.  Since meeting her, my personal and online interactions with Ms. Brown has always been warmingly positive.  Brown is one of the few people in the LGBTQ community I can say without hesitation that her platform is authentically selfless to benefit us LGBTQ people of color. I also feel that she truly cares that I keep up the work that I do for the community.

Read the entire article at:

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Black identity, Black women, Health and Happiness, lgbt, literature, Pop Culture, Queer, Social Media | Leave a comment

Aging: Taking Care of Ourselves Includes Speaking Up for Those Most Vulnerable

I’m getting older. Aren’t we all? From the moment our lives begin, we are on that road to the end of life as we know it. I’m in pretty good health and most days the brain cells are functioning optimally. Like many folks I tend to live in the moment. For me “Every day you wake up on the ‘right’ side of the grass is a GOOD day!

I probably haven’t spent as much time as I should planning for my golden years.  You know, there’s always tomorrow! However, two films I viewed recently have had me thinking about just that.

I wasn’t in a rush to see Freeheld,” an adaptation of a documentary about a lesbian couple who mounted a campaign to have pension benefits of a terminally ill lesbian go to her partner. After all marriage equality is now the law of the land, so in most cases, this is a moot point. Right?

But as I watched the film, I got to thinking about my pension benefits. You see for many years I worked for a Catholic institution and am entitled to a pension from that institution. I’m not married right now but have to wonder what will happen if/when I do marry and I try to change my beneficiary to my spouse what would happen.

Would some bigoted review board, like that depicted in “Freeheld”, emboldened by proposed Religious Freedom Restoration bills, block my assignment of my benefits to her? With mergers and acquisitions there’s no telling who might hold the pension “purse strings” when the time comes.

Pensions, like social security, are one of those benefits we pay into assuming they will be available when the time comes for ourselves and families.  But even having access to these benefits and the ability to leave them to our spouses/partners is no guarantee that our final years will be golden.

It’s bad enough that we in the LGBTQ community can still be fired for being gay, but proposed RFRA’s would exempt people from state and local laws if they can prove those laws violate deeply held religious beliefs, in effect, giving them a “license to discriminate.”  What if I need assistance to stay in my home or long-term care? Could my safety or health be compromised just because someone’s “deeply held religious beliefs” would allow them to withhold or give me inadequate care?

The question of who will take care of us as we age, is something we all wonder at some point. The documentary “Gen – Silent” took me deeper down the “rabbit hole” of LGBTQ senior living. The 2010 documentary follows the lives of three couples and a transgender woman facing the challenges of building support networks to assist them in maintaining their quality of life as they age.

The people interviewed have for the most part lived “private lives” but like many from that generation have not been as “out” publicly as those of us from later generations.

Often LGBTQ partnerships and marriages feel, to the couples, like it’s just the two of us against the world.  We may not have extended biological families or children. Despite growing acceptance in the community at-large, many of us remain estranged from our families.

The uncertainty of the quality of care or acceptance in healthcare/long-term care institutions is a reality and has many in the LGBTQ community wondering if we will have to go back “in the closet” one day if we are no longer able to take care of ourselves.

Couple this with the fear of not having the financial resources to stay in our homes or maintain a decent quality of life, it paints a scary picture for aging LGBTQ people – very scary!!

The good news is LGBTQ folks are great at making our own families and building our own networks.  Our network/links are only getting stronger as we are “OUT” in our communities. This network now includes SAGE – Metro Detroit to fill in the gaps for our elders.

Marriage equality wasn’t the end of our journey, only one step along the way. For us to no longer live in fear, to have full equality and equal rights/protections for ourselves and our families, being in the closet is not an option.  We must be out to our families, in our communities and for one another

Activist and revolutionary Grace Lee Boggs, who died at age 100 October 5th, often said “The only reward for good work is more work.” We’ve come a long way in a short time. We can serve openly in the military, get married and are gaining more protections through Human Rights Ordinances in municipalities across the country. Progress yes but there is still much work to be done.

For those most vulnerable, especially our LGBTQ elders, the next chapter of our work must include being out for them so that their golden years and final days can be lived with dignity.

Posted in breast cancer, DADT, DOMA, ENDA, Health and Happiness, lgbt, Love, marriage equality | Leave a comment

Why I’m Not Feeling Pope Francis’ USA Visit

By Michelle E. Brown

I am no papal hater. I recognize that a lot of who I am, both good and bad, comes from my Catholic upbringing.

My father came from a family with strong Baptist roots but during a tour of duty in the Army in Italy, he apparently drank the Kool-Aid (or communion wine) and came back Catholic. When he married my mother, she abandoned her A.M.E. roots and accepted his faith and together they raised their three children as good little Catholics. We went to Catholic school, confession every Saturday and Mass enough times during the week and on Sunday to give me “frequent prayer” miles in that Big Book in the sky. By high school, I was over it for the most part thanks to the very things I had learned as a Catholic.

I am not a “recovering Catholic” I’m just over Catholicism. You see by the time I hit high school I was aware of a world outside my parish walls. A world where the doctrine and policies of the Church conflicted with the realities of my African American community and the changing landscape of urban America.

So you see it’s kind of hard for me to get excited about Pope Francis and his visit to the United States.  He’s a new face but for me it’s the same old Church only worse since I was a child.

The church that closed parishes and schools in the inner city – decisions often made with the same cost-cutting, cold precision of any corporation. While abandoning the inner cities with populations that were predominantly Black and Brown, they proselytized in third world countries where Black and Brown folk continue to suffer from economic disparity and political upheaval.

As a woman, I watched the Church lead the attack against my reproductive rights. Even though Pope Francis recently extended to priests worldwide the authorization to reconcile those “guilty” of abortion The Church still holds abortion and contraception to be sinful, thus affecting the reproductive rights of women. Reproductive rights are not a matter of patriarchal morality, it’s a social and economic justice issue especially for poor women. Although women make up the majority of members of the consecrated life within the Church, its largely male hierarchy and refusal to ordain women implies “inferiority” of women.

And even though Pope Francis has made kinder, gentler remarks regarding the LGBTQ community and even hugged a member of our Transgender community, most notably saying “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem…they’re our brothers.” Being “gay” is still considered wrong and LGBTQ employees at U.S. Christian institutions (schools, etc.) are still being fired when they come out, announce their marriage or want recognition for their families and love. Faith leaders continue to harm LGBTQ youth by teaching that homosexuality is a sin.

Pope Francis has landed for a historic visit in the United States. His is a different papacy. Think about it. Traditionally being Pope has been a lifetime job, but Francis ascended to the thrown after his predecessor Pope Benedict  resigned basically telling the “Big Guy in the Sky” to take this job and shove it.

Maybe God took a look at this Church and decided it was time to shake things up a bit, move things in a different direction. So he looked to the “New World/Third World” where so many injustices and inequities have resulted from the Old School Papacy and picked a new leader – this Pope from Argentina.

After a private meeting with President Obama, on official welcoming ceremony on the White House South Lawn and parade, Pope Francis will have the first-ever joint address to Congress by a Pontiff. He then heads to New York where he will host a religious service at the ground zero site of the 9/11 attacks and address the United Nations. Then he heads to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families is a triennial Vatican-backed event, held seven times previously starting in 1994 with the goal of strengthening marriage and families.

Pope Francis has received “Rock Star” treatment for comments emphasizing the central themes of his papacy — that the unfettered capitalism practiced in the United States and the West is fostering income inequality and creating an economic culture where the poor are simply discarded.

But this former Catholic will be watching to see what he does about cleaning up his own house – the Catholic Church – which has too often been a silent partner, even benefitting from, fostering the income inequality and creating the economic culture where the poor are simply discarded worldwide.

The Catholic Church has a long history, great influence and deep resources. Talk is cheap. Here’s hoping Pope Francis can be the change so many want to see.

Posted in Creating Change, lgbt, Love, Papal Visit, Pop Culture, Queer, Transgender, Women, World events | Leave a comment

My summer of reading included this audio book

A Review: Isabel Miller’s “Patience and Sarah” Audiobook narrated by Janis Ian and Jean Smart

I am a book nerd, a library card carrying, bibliophile.  There is nothing more satisfying to me than curling up with a good book. A real book – hard cover, paper back – not an e-book but a book I can hold in my hands, turn a page and place a book mark.

My experience with audio books has been limited to road trips. The story broken up by conversations and sometimes left incomplete when the trip ended before the final CD. I found audio books entertaining, yes, but wondered if they could truly be engaging like a “real” book.

With no road trip on the horizon I settled down in my comfy chair, put on my head phones and popped in the first cd of Isabel Miller’s “Patience and Sarah” to see if this audio release of the 1971 historical fiction could meet my expectations.

Knowing the tale was narrated by legendary singer, songwriter Janis Ian and Emmy award winning actress/director Jean Smart heightened my expectations. My curiosity was also piqued by the strong lesbian theme of this historical fiction.

The familiarity of Jean Smart’s voice as Patience White immediately drew me into the story, welcoming me like an old friend into her parlor to tell me the story not only of these two incredible women but providing a window into a time when women’s lives were governed by a code defined by class and male privilege.

From the beginning Smart’s voice paints a picture of Patience not just her curiosity and her passion but how her beliefs are strongly influenced by the affluence she is born into. She has education and property which both inspires her possibilities but initially restricts her own belief that she can attain her dreams.

Smart so convincingly portrays Patience’s amusement, flirtation, seduction and manipulation of Sarah Dowling that I was at times infuriated by her games while at the same time titillated by Patience’s expression of love, growing passion and those kisses.

With the slightest inflection of her voice Smart is able to seamlessly portray all the characters in Patience’s world not only as an insider sharing religious beliefs, societal attitudes, and expected behaviors but also as an outsider straining at the bits to escape the boundaries of her lot in life.

As  Patience’s world expands with Sarah, she continues to provide insight to that other world where even women of her background are seen but often not heard and those deemed of a lower class, male or female, are at risk and/or in peril simply because of their station in life.

Ian’s Sarah Dowling paints a picture of a different world – A harsher world of hard work, duty and resignation to place. Was Sarah’s love for women nature or nurture? The harshness of her world made her “a boy.” It’s just the way it was there was no son in the family, she was big and strong so she became the son – dressing, working being treated like the male child.

Ian’s raspy reading of Sarah helped you visualize this tall woman/boy walking the fine line between the masculine and the feminine. In the phrasing and use of words as Sarah, her family and the world through Sarah’s eyes, you saw a clearly different world.

Her gender, gender identity and class were like a chain holding Sarah down, denying her the possibility of hope for freedom let alone happiness. The times dictated “it was a man’s world” but even after mastering all manly affectations, Sarah Dowling still found herself the outsider ever fearful of discovery of her womanhood not only by the world but by her own heart as well. The only escape was to escape to a place where she could be free.

As I listened to Ian’s portrayal of Sarah Dowling I thought of her song “Society’s Child.” Sarah was not the person singing the song but the person being sung about. Sarah was called by so many names – an oddity, a runaway servant, an abomination, not welcome inside of respectable homes in 1816 society. She wasn’t Patience’s kind.

Did Ian feel the empathetic resonance between Sarah Dowling and the unnamed “other” in her song and see this as an opportunity to give voice to the person she had written/sang about in her 1965 hit?

Miller’s fiction took place in a world that was not fair to the uneducated, poor, women and those otherwise oppressed who historically searched for that Promised Land where they could begin again and find freedom.

“Patience and Sarah” is historic fiction but so much more. Through Patience and Sarah’s eyes we are able to see a world that once existed and, in some ways, offers insight into some evils we are still wrestling with today.

It is also a story of transformative love. Both women evolve over the course of the novel finding new strength because of their love. As much as they change they gain a greater understanding of and are able to adapt the very things that had, at one time, held them down to help them navigate the road blocks and achieve their goal of living free.

And yes, it is a love story that is tender, sensual and passionate with all the ups and downs of any relationship. It’s a story of women loving women in all its complexity, beauty and sweet kisses.

Kudos to Janis Ian and Jean Smart. They took Ms. Miller’s novel and, with their remarkable voices alone, brought not only the characters but their world to life.

I still love a good book but the audiobook of Isabel Miller’s “Patience and Sarah,” available September 15th, narrated by Janis Ian and Jean Smart gave me a literary eargasm of epic proportion. Don’t wait for a road trip to indulge yourself.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Creative Writing, literature, Love, Pop Culture, Queer, Self imaage, Women | Leave a comment

CWT4R Blog Talk Radio

Leave a comment