Another Day in LGBTQ History: Even in Victory Our Work Continues

From the April 10, 2019 issue of Between the Lines Newspaper

Lori Lightfoot was elected Mayor of Chicago!
Let that sink in – an African-American Lesbian was elected Mayor of the nation’s third largest city. If that wasn’t historic enough, on the same day Madison, Wisconsin, and Kansas City, Missouri, also elected queer women as mayors – Satya Rhodes-Conway and Jolie Justus.
Now let this sink in.
On the same day as these historic wins, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the reintroduced Equality Act that would protect LGBTQ people nationwide from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
No this isn’t an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or a parallel universe in some graphic novel. It’s right here in the United States of America where three queer women can get elected mayors of their respective cities but in 30 out of 50 states, they have no protections at work, school, housing and from receiving many services including medical care.
Hard to believe that in these days, despite significant steps forward, LGBTQ people lack basic legal protections in all 50 states across the country. The patchwork nature of current laws means that protections in one state could disappear with a move or job transfer leaving LGBTQ people subject to uncertainty and potential discrimination impacting our safety and that of our families, as well as our day-to-day lives.
The Equality Act was jointly introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate on March 13, 2019, with the support of both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. But as they say it’s not our first rodeo before these bodies, fighting for these protections.
The original Equality Act was developed by U.S. Reps. Bella Abzug and Ed Koch in 1974. It was reintroduced in the 114th Congress in 2015 and again in the 115th Congress in 2017. But still, LGBTQ Americans remain unprotected from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and the jury system.
If approved by Congress, the measure would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination based on race, religion, sex and national origin.
So maybe it will be different this time.
After seeing many of the significant steps forward LGBTQ communities under the Obama Administration come under attack since the 2016 elections, the House is once again under control of the Democratic party.
And unlike, past efforts when the Equality Act received weak bipartisan support, the 2019 bill was introduced with 287 original co-sponsors – the most congressional support that any piece of pro-LGBTQ legislation has received upon introduction.
It also has 161 corporate sponsors with operations across all 50 states, including Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM, Facebook and Twitter.
National civil rights organizations including the NAACP, international human rights organizations, as well as major professional associations, also joined in in support of the 2019 Equality Act.
And the testimonies.
Jami Contreras telling how doctors refused to treat her infant daughter because she and her wife were lesbians. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D) from Washington’s 7th congressional district, which includes most of Seattle, sharing her personal account of being a mother to a “gender non-conforming child. And my friend, and founder of Black Transmen Inc., Carter Brown telling how he was fired because of his gender identity.
Unfortunately, these hearings were not shown during prime time and didn’t receive as broad a coverage as the elections. These testimonies were powerful.
They were each different but as Dennis Wiley, pastor of the Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ said in his testimony “No two discriminations are the same … but it’s still discrimination.”
Tuesday, April 2, 2019, was a historic moment in time.
We saw three queer women elected to the highest office in their municipalities, one the first African-American woman mayor of the nation’s third largest city.
We saw hearings open on the Equality Act to provide protection for our communities, our families in all 50 states with greater support than ever before.
We’ve come a long way, but we also saw the hope of Tuesday tempered with the reality that homophobia, transphobia and social inequality still exist not only in society at large but in our community as well.
At the hearings, Julia Beck, a lesbian Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist testified in opposition to protecting gender identity under the Equality Act. A Duke Law School professor testified she was concerned with transgender women forcing cisgender women out of sports.
Texas Representative Louie Gohmert implied that transgender people were not honest about their gender identity. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said while he was against the discrimination of the LGBTQ community, he worried that “bad actors” would take advantage of programs set up for women.
Can we just call these arguments what they are: BULLSHIT!
We’ve come a long way but with every victory comes more work.
We must hold our three new mayors accountable to do the real work, using the wisdom and strength gained from our past struggles against hatred, discrimination and inequality to do better not just for LGBTQ Americans but for everybody.
And as members of the LGBTQ community, we must continue to tell our stories. Silence is not an option – stand up, speak out.
IT’S TIME TO PASS THE EQUALITY ACT NOW!

About the Author: 

Michelle E. Brown is a public speaker, activist and author. Her blog radio podcast “Collections By Michelle Brown” airs every Thursday at 7 p.m. Current and archived episodes can be heard on Blog Talk Radio, iTunes, Stitcher or SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/CollectionsbyMichelleBrown/.
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Riding Our Queer Wave to Create Change

*by Michelle E. Brown (Between the Lines Newspaper January 17, 2019)

It’s January 2019 and we haven’t had our gay march yet!
In 2017 we joined the women. We shared our outrage and fears from the results of the 2016 election of No. 45.
It was the first women’s march and that was OK. We were all traumatized. We all shook our heads in collective disbelief as this era of injustice, fearmongering, hatred and regressive politics began.
Just as the rhetoric of the campaign warned us that a Trump presidency would pose as great a threat to our community as it did to every woman taking it to the streets that January.
Many of us felt the double threat not only as women but because we carried the LGBTQ card as lesbians and trans women. We knew there was no shortage of hatred in that toxic orange fog – women, immigrants, LGBTQ, the poor – we all were feeling the clear and present danger of the incoming administration.
Again in 2018, under the umbrella of the Women’s March, we rallied to take our power to the polls. We were again included on the stage, recognized in the remarks and marched shoulder to shoulder with our sisters.
We celebrated the wins of our LGBTQ candidates from the 2017 elections including Danica Roem in Virginia and Andrea Jenkins in Minnesota along with the other 20-plus women elected across the country. Our anger had purpose and in solidarity we vowed to take our power to the polls for the midterm elections
And we did! In 2018 record numbers registered to vote. Women, people of color LGBTQ candidates ran for office. We did what we promised showing up at the polls, “grabbing them by the midterms,” flipping the House of Representatives from red to blue.
A record 117 women were elected across the country in various positions and with at least 153 of the 225 LGBTQ and Ally candidates, endorsed by the Victory Fund, also winning office.
This January, 2019, women will gather in cities across the country to celebrate the #WomensWave.
Unlike in past years, when attendees included waves of “pink pussy” hats which some found offensive to transgender women, gender nonbinary people and to women of color, it’s been suggested that marchers wear blue perhaps because many called for a #BlueWave as well as a #WomensWave last November.
And like in past years, many of us will again join in and march shoulder to shoulder with our sisters to send a message to the grand old party of patriarchy still controlling the White House and Senate that more change is coming. But this year, maybe members of the LGBTQ community should step out from under the umbrella and celebrate our Queer wave!
We need to celebrate our victories and strategize how to not only build upon the momentum of the 2018 midterms but work towards future victories to protect our rights while gaining greater equality and justice in 2020 and beyond at local, state and national levels.
I am a Democrat, a woman, a person of color and African-American; like many in the LGBTQ community, I have been let down on all fronts when I’ve stepped out in my rainbow cape in all my queer glory.
Don’t get me wrong I am excited that we had blue/women’s Wave in November, but let’s be real how often have we been left out in the rain for political expediency by our political “friends.” This big umbrella can have leaks.
Our transgender community is still under attack, dying and being disrespected even in death. The current administration has tried repeatedly to enact policies harmful to LGBTQ individuals and families. And the antagonistic, homophobic and transphobic climate created by these policies and rhetoric has seeped into other levels of government and discourse across the country.
Despite higher visibility in the media and politics, our seat at the table has not resulted in a permanent change of what’s being served.
Do you feel safer, more optimistic about our path to justice and inclusion than you did before November 2016? For many, especially our LGBTQ elders, youth and in many communities, the answer is often a resounding no!!
But now is not the time to be afraid, loose our resolve or go back in the closet. In 2019 it’s time we have our own march and it is happening in Detroit at Creating Change.
Creating Change was started in 1988 one year after the national march for gay and lesbian rights. 32 years after that march the message to the LGBTQ community remains the same beyond marching “go home and get to work.”
And that’s exactly what will be happening from Jan. 23 to 27, when over 3,000 LGBTQ activist come home to what has been affectionately called our “annual gay family reunion” to meet, greet, educate, strategize and celebrate the state of our community.
So, let’s put on our rainbow capes, bandanas or other gay apparel and march into Creating Change this January with such resolve, so much determination, with all our queerness that the world sees we’re not going any place.
Let’s march into Creating Change then go home and get to work not on a wave, but on a freaking rainbow tsunami!

Michelle E. Brown is a public speaker, activist and author. Her blog radio podcast “Collections By Michelle Brown” airs every Thursday at 7 p.m. Current and archived episodes can be heard on Blog Talk Radio, iTunes, Stitcher or SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/CollectionsbyMichelleBrown/.
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The Morning After: No Pill, Just Hard Work

(Published in Between The Lines Newspaper November 7, 2018)

One of the lasting lessons I learned from Detroit’s legendary activist Jeff Montgomery was no matter what the outcome was of an election, we must prepare for the morning after. As I write this before knowing the results, I know that things could go either for or against us, but we have to be prepared. When he said this advice, Montgomery was talking about the 2004 Michigan vote that made it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. So much was at stake.
The 2018 midterm elections are much the same. So much is at stake, not just for the LGBTQIA community, but for immigrants, education, fair wages, survivors of sexual assault, reproductive rights, voting rights and so much more.
And, no matter what the outcome of the midterm election, we still have a lot of work to do. There are no quick fixes. There’s no morning-after pill to fix all that’s wrong in our communities, our state, our country and in our world.
And as much as I want to believe that rainbow and blue waves can turn the tide on the bright orange tsunami that’s hell-bent on destroying all we hold dear, the reality is things didn’t just get bad since 45 took office; they just got real. Really real.
Racism, homophobia, and transphobia have only been emboldened under 45 but were nothing new for communities of color or members of the LGBTQIA community. We knew we weren’t entering a post-racial period in America with the election of Barack Obama. There was still Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and others.
Black Lives Matter but everyday reports of shootings and social and economic disparities said they didn’t. At the same time, rhetoric against other communities of color and immigrants was ratcheted up in daily tweets
And even with the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” marriage equality and markedly increased support for LGBTQIA rights across the country and in the White House, the gay community knew there would still be haters.
Despite Trump’s promise to defend LGBTQ rights, his health agency has blocked efforts to combat discrimination. Political appointees have halted or rolled back regulations intended to protect LGBTQ workers and patients, removed LGBTQ-friendly language from documents and reassigned the senior adviser dedicated to LGBTQ health.
In 2017, at least 29 deaths of transgender people in the U.S. due to fatal violence were reported. Right now, 2018 is on track to be even worse for deadly assaults against transgender Americans.
We’ve endured the travel bans, revelations of sexual misconduct and assault that gave life to the #MeToo movement and were reminded again during the Kavanaugh confirmations.
We were appalled by the shootings at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and inspired by the protests led by the Parkland students.
All of this brought us to the 2018 midterms. Many again had a fire lit in their belly – a burning for justice, equality, freedom, and hope. We’ve marched, rallied, registered voters and rallied some more.
Our mailboxes – electronic and real-world, have been jammed with flyers, pamphlets, and fundraising letters. And we’ve responded showing up and shelling out record numbers to turn the tide with our rainbow and blue waves.
But now what? We still have a lot of work to do.
Unfortunately, when asked why they didn’t vote, there are those who will tell you their vote doesn’t count, that their one vote won’t make a difference. Some have never voted, and others have stopped voting and still use these same excuses.
Democracy is not a sport. There are no slam dunks, Hail Mary passes or home runs. It also is not a spectator sport where we can sit on the sidelines, cheer, hope and pray that our team will win.
Democracy is a living, participative work in progress that takes all of our efforts not only at the polls but every day.
There will be wounds to heal and fences to mend, but let’s commit to doing the work.
Let’s get beyond partisan politics and fight for a system that puts people first. Let’s re-commit to the promise of America that has historically brought immigrants to this country, celebrate their contributions and not let our borders be ruled by fear and hate-mongering.
Let’s provide our children with a safe space to learn, where they’ll learn to think critically, feel safe and recognize they can differ with someone without vilifying them. But most importantly, let them know that they should be respected and free to be their authentic selves, especially if they are LGBTQIA.
Let’s not forget the environment, income inequality, jobs with fair wages, health care and so much more just in this country. But we’re also part of the global community. There’s only one earth and our actions/inactions have global implications.
There’s no morning-after pill to fix all that’s wrong in our communities, our state, our country and in our world, but maybe now that we’ve seen just how ugly things can get, we’re ready to get it done!

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Standing with Survivors, Standing for Justice

By  Originally published in Between The Lines Newspaper October 3, 2018

The stories are all different, but they are the same.

The family friend or member who comes into the bedroom at night. The uncle, grandparent or friend who touches inappropriately with a hug. The boys who cop a feel in the hallway. The “nice” guy who after a few beers forgot that “No means No.”
It’s the jokes that aren’t funny. The lingering looks. The promise of employment if you comply and unemployment if you don’t. It’s harassment, intimidation, abuse and rape whether it happened yesterday or decades ago.
I can’t tell you the date, where the house was or how I got from there to the bus stop to home, but I remember that face, I remember the fear I felt from his anger when I fought back and said no. I said nothing.
As I listened to the reporting before the hearing and watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee I remembered all the feelings, all the reasons I said nothing. I remembered.
I believed Anita Hill in 1991! I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford! I believe Deborah Ramirez! I believe Julie Swetnick. I believe survivors!
Like so many other women, I have been triggered by these proceedings, but more than triggered I am enraged.
Men have exercised the right to rape, assault and harass women, with no recourse, accountability or consequence not just because of patriarchy but also, in part, because we, as a society, have cosigned these actions by slut-shaming, stigmatizing and promoting silence.
We must be “good” girls while “boys will be boys” just “sowing their wild outs.” And even when they admit to sexual assault, bragging in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women and grabbing women by their genitals, the remarks are called “locker room banter” and the perpetrator of these acts can go on to become president of the United States.
The Supreme Court is the final judge in all cases involving laws of Congress, and the highest law of all — the Constitution. Its decisions have shaped much of the world we know today.
Brown v. Board of Education ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. The Court’s Roe v. Wade decision changed laws that criminalized or restricted access to abortions, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission dealt with regulation of political campaign spending by organizations and the Obergefell v. Hodges decision ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples.
Decisions made by the Supreme Court are always of national importance. In fact, “equal justice under Law” is its motto, but there was little justice in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings this week with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh who was accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
And Dr. Ford’s courageous decision to step forward and speak about her own experience of sexual assault is not the only accusation against Judge Kavanaugh. Two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick have also come forward. It also comes in the wake of the thousands of women speaking out against sexual harassment and violence with the #MeToo movement.
Kavanaugh’s nomination took a step forward, as the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Kavanaugh in an 11-10 party-line vote. The eleven being the all white, male republican members of the committee – score one for the patriarchy.
So, here’s where we stand: After a brief one-week FBI investigation the vote goes before the Senate. Eleven white men with a greater allegiance to party than to the people they represent, especially women, have moved forward the nomination Kavanaugh.
In his remarks, Kavanaugh basically declared himself pure as the proverbially-driven snow and, by his account, a candidate for sainthood for his exemplary life, with a testimony filled with tears, barbs and vitriol displaying a temperament no one should want to see on the highest court of the land. But, if confirmed as he stands to be now, the man we saw testifying would sit on the Supreme Court making decisions affecting all of us for decades and we have been triggered by these proceedings. We know the tremendous strength it takes to speak our truths and fight for our survival.
And now, more than ever, we must do just that, speak our truths and fight not just for our survival but for our daughters, our children and their future
. In a few short weeks before the midterm elections and moving forward we must tell our stories, no matter how long ago they occurred. Because these occurrences are not brand-new and they need to end.
We must remind our sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers, friends and neighbors. We must remind them of the times they saw but chose not to see. We must remind them of the beliefs, stigmas and cultural influences that have allowed the violation of women’s bodies, and the bodies of femmes and gender non-conforming people. We must remind them of the politicians’ efforts to silence survivors. We must remember the courage of Ford and take our anger to the polls in November.
I believe Anita Hill! I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford! I believe Deborah Ramirez! I believe Julie Swetnick!
I BELIEVE SURVIVORS!

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Interview with The Care Plan

Caregiving can be both challenging and rewarding. Working with an organization like The Care Plan can help reduce the stress and help you savor the moments.

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