About MichelleMichelle Brown is an author, activist & public speaker who believes in common ground for all people.
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Category Archives: bullying
Printed 6/8/2017 in issue 2523 Between The Lines Newspaper
Bet that got your attention! ROMPERS!! They’ve been around forever. No, I don’t have one. No, I don’t care if you wear one. No, I don’t care if men wear them! No, I don’t want to see pictures of anyone in them! No, I don’t understand what all the buzz is about. And no, I’m not talking about them!!
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s talk about celebrating PRIDE this year. June is here and PRIDE is literally busting out all over. Although National Coming Out Day has always been celebrated in October, it wasn’t until 2000 that then President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay & Lesbian Pride” Month. It was expanded by President Barack Obama to include the Bisexual and Transgender communities in 2009. We got accustom to being invited to the White House in June during the Obama Administration. Many of our community leaders and friends had been to the White House and photos with the President were all over Facebook feeds. Even me, a little girl from the eastside of Detroit, now living out and proud had been to the White House and received Holidays cards each year for from the Obama’s. Sadly, my parents weren’t alive to see not only the first African American President but their daughter visit the White House but my “Little Nanny,” in her 90’s at the time, did!!
After the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage we saw the White House lit up in rainbow colors. We raised our rainbow flags a little, higher while marching in PRIDE celebrations across the country during these years in the belief that, although we still knew we had a way to go, we felt we were headed in the right direction.
Unfortunately, considering the current administration, I think it will be a long time before we again experience that level of access or support from the White House. When White House spokesperson Kelly Love was asked by the Washington Blade if Trump would issue a Pride proclamation or host a White House Pride reception, her response was “We will let you know as soon as we announce our June proclamations.” I’m not holding my breath!
Considering the anti-LGBT positions and actions Trump and his administration have taken, would we even attend? Our concerns would probably fall on deaf ears and those who did attend would need to adhere to a strict “buddy’ policy lest any lone activists mysteriously get spirited away to some “Gay conversion” camp in Indiana!
But its June and PRIDE is busting out all over so let’s let our Rainbow flags fly! PRIDE celebrations are often the first place where LGBTQ people of all ages can come out and be themselves. It is that brave, safe space where the questioning, the closeted, the isolated can find their tribe and know they aren’t the only one. It’s a place where we can showcase our organizations and their services. It’s the place where we can celebrate, laugh out loud, dance with reckless abandon, reconnect with old friends, make new friends and in recent years, even get married. Our PRIDE celebrations are OUR family reunions. Each year they get bigger.
We welcome not just our LGBTQ family but our allies – family, friends, coworkers and businesses. More than a White House photo, in coming together each June – and beyond – in cities across the state and country our PRIDE celebrations have helped pull back the curtain of fear and ignorance and move hearts in minds where it matters, beyond the beltway, in our communities and neighborhoods where the real victories must be won.
These are perilous times when many of the gains we have made are again under attack. We can still get married on Saturday and fired on Monday simply because we are LGBTQ. So far, this year the Human Rights Campaign reports that with major state partners they have battled more than 130 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 30 states; to date, seven of those bills have been signed into law.
It’s June and PRIDE is busting out all over!! On June 11 the National Equality March will
be held in Washington, DC and on the west coast, the #ResistMarch will take place in Los Angeles. Just about every weekend there’s a LGBTQ PRIDE coming to a city near you. Sites like www.gaypridecalendar.com and www.centerforblackequity.org list events nationwide. You could even plan your vacation around PRIDE celebrations in different cities.
Rainbow tie-dye a ROMPER to wear if you must but attend the PRIDE celebration in your community. Be visible, be proud! In these crazy times, it’s more important than ever to say in one loud and resounding voice that “We are here! We are Queer” and all of us are better when we stand together regardless of race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, ages, sexual orientation and gender identity as one community.
It’s June and PRIDE is busting out all over!! I’m heading to PRIDE and letting my
Rainbow Flag fly!! See you there!
Published 3/10/2016 in Between The Lines issue 2410
We’re deep into this election season. Candidates on both sides are vying not only for votes but for those all-important delegates needed to be named the presidential candidates for their respective parties. One name I didn’t think we would still be talking about at this point in the game was Donald Trump. Seriously, didn’t you think that by now we would have all quit laughing and he would have gone back to “The Apprentice”? I’ve known a few Republicans in my time — a few women, more men, some gay and even one black Republican. They were a little crazy, but I assumed there were enough reasonable minds still in charge over there that someone would have said, “Donald, you’re fired!”
But they didn’t! Now the craziest chickens have come home to roost! And those are some mean spirited and angry chickens and “The Donald” is now their would-be “Rooster in Chief,” giving them life as he preaches to every fear, insecurity and bias — the worst in too many of us.
For the longest time, I have been content to let the GOP drown in their own dysfunction; after all, he is their guy, but the recent Trump/Duke mash-up was a reminder that Trump and all he represents is really all of our problem.
Apparently David Duke’s endorsement and Trump’s response were what it took for GOP leadership to finally grow a pair. In a CNN interview, when questioned about the Duke endorsement, Trump would not condemn the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard’s support for his presidential campaign, saying that “he had no knowledge of the white supremacist leader.”
His actually said, “I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on.”
When asked if he would unequivocally condemn and reject the white supremacists who support Duke, Trump said he would need to conduct research into the groups. Really? He doesn’t know anything about “white supremacy or white supremacists”? Has he listened to his own rhetoric and that of many of his followers? Was he just having a brain fart, because in a 2015 interview he knew about David Duke and said that he didn’t want Duke’s endorsement. Well, apparently that was the straw that, while it didn’t break it, put a serious kink in the GOP’s back. Everyone from Paul Ryan to Mitt Romney ran to the mic with varying degrees of condemnation.
Ryan publicly tongue lashed Donald Trump for refusing to denounce Duke and the Klan. Mitt went as close to full on commando as we’ve ever seen him, calling Trump “a phony, a fraud, a misogynist and a bully who threatens America’s future.” Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman went as far as saying she would vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump.
But seriously, GOP dudes, that’s just not enough! Trump isn’t just some crazy old uncle with the bad toupee saying whatever wanders through his mind that no one takes seriously. You didn’t let him come out for dinner, tell a few silly stories, make some crass remarks and then shuffle off to bed so the grown folks could talk seriously. Those new voters he brought out? Well, he’s been like the pied piper of rabid rats and those rabid rats have taken over the discourse of the GOP. He is power hungry, reckless, dangerous and he’s got your party’s nomination process by the short hairs. Now you’re scrambling to halt his delegate juggernaut.
The sad thing is the rest of the GOP field isn’t much better. Like they say, “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.” Everyone was okay with Trump’s antics until he started to rack up the wins.
In my humble opinion, you stand up for what you believe in. Sometimes you cut ties — even if it means a set-back or even a loss — when it’s the right thing to do. Hatred, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and divisiveness are not principles this country stands for — not that they don’t exist in this country — but we have continually strived “to be a more perfect union.”
If the character of the candidate (Trump) does not represent the values of the Grand Old Party, cut him loose. He’s already said he has enough money to run his own campaign, so let him do it and let his ilk go with him
Then stand up and admit your role in creating the political environment from which Trump was spawned; get back to those core, pre-Tea Party values of the GOP and invite those who share these values — candidates and voters — to engage in spirited debates and convention on the issue. You stand up for what you believe in and disavow what you don’t. Maybe they’d lose some of those new voters. Maybe they’d lose the election! But maybe they’d regain some credibility.
If the party leadership doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing, then maybe it’s time for all those Republicans who don’t agree with this politics of division, bigotry and hypocrisy to stand up and throw all the bums out. Now, I’m not expecting this to happen, but it needs to.
The rest of us aren’t off the hook! Voter turnout by Democrats has been down. On Super Tuesday, Democratic voting was down from 8,228,763 in 2008 to 5,557,243 in 2016 while Republican voters increased by 3,282,199.
None of us can sit back and hope for the best. The stakes are too high — all three branches of the government are up for grabs, not just the White House. There really is something you can do about it. Stand up for what you believe in and most importantly VOTE!
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!!!
I just got back from Houston, Texas and NGLTF’s Creating Change 14.
I love Creating Change!!! It’s like getting beamed up to a “Gay World” where you are surrounded by OUR community – all sizes, shapes, hair styles, demographics. OUR community where no one raises an eyebrow if you hold your partner’s hand or plant a wet kiss on their lips.
It’s a space where around every corner, in every session or just lounging about you can sit down and talk about your life and the other person will get it because it’s their life too.
I always come back geeked, full of ideas and ready for action – then reality sets in. The reality that I’m not somewhere over the rainbow and, unfortunately, under the rainbow when the creating change glow has cooled down, my big gay community returns to our own separate silos.
But this year was different. We have seen so many changes in recent years, there has been such momentum, that this year we came to Houston ready not only to create change but to be that change.
The charge was led by amazing Trans-activist like Laverne Cox, Monica Roberts, Kylar Broadus, Bamby Salcedo, Cecilia Chung and Carter Brown who gave a masters class on living authentically and the intersections of LGBTQ equality and humanity.
Wow, that’s saying a lot, but seriously, there were some big lessons being taught in Houston!
I could probably write a book – probably two or three -about the workshop sessions, the plenary sessions, the caucuses, the film screenings, the speakers and the amazing Laverne Cox but for me the big story was the new energy changing how we have come to talk about, advocate for and engage our community.
Lesbian feminist, leather activists, queer, young, old were all there adding their voice to the conversation but the most transformative conversations for me came from our Transgender activists.
Theirs is a Trans story, but it is also our story and a human story – the ultimate quest to be our authentic selves.
Our Transgender sisters and brothers remind us that gender is not just male or female but a spectrum of expression and cannot/should not be defined by anatomy.
By forcing a child , and later the adult, to live by standards conforming to anatomy but denying their spirit/soul true gender expression is not only harmful but keeps us from developing our full potential as human beings.
A baby is born someone looks between his/her legs and labels them with an identity and the accompanying baggage society has given that gender –toxic whether gay, straight and especially if transgender.
Healthcare doled out based on flawed societal norms whether for transgender services, individuals living with HIV/AIDS or women’s reproductive rights is discriminatory.
Homelessness, violence, sexual exploitation, poverty are the evils that man makes and doles out to the poor, immigrants, not just to but most harshly to the LGBT community.
Ironically the very part of our LGB community – the “T” – which has been too often thrown under the bus in “our” fight for equality is profoundly and eloquently telling the story of the evils of bias, discrimination and all the hate based phobias in a patriarchal society – pushing the envelope that could ultimately shift the paradigm on how we value the human spirit.
Will it happen tomorrow as a result of Creating Change? No – but the seeds are planted, the conversations begun, the movement strengthened and the winds of change – well they’re blowing.
Creating Change – not only educating about healthcare but leading the charge to end AIDS now; Creating Change – supporting, engaging, protecting LGBTQ youth; Creating Change – recognizing, celebrating and supporting the diversity within our community; Creating Change – developing strategies for intentional intersectionality not just for survival but as a tool for real social change.
Creating Change Houston 2014 – it was a very good year. Next stop Denver!
You can also follow me at www.mychangeiam.com or www.twitter.com/mychangeiam
Thursday, October 17, 2013 is “SPIRIT Day.” The observance began in response to a rash of widely publicized bullying-related suicides of gay school students in 2010.
Since 2010, each year on “Spirit Day” people have been encouraged to wear the color purple, and post purple themed/bannered messages on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to show support for LGBTQ youth who are victims of bullying.
After posting photos/graphics from GLAAD and the Transgender Law Center on my Facebook page, I donned my three shades of purple outfit and headed to work.
I work with a diverse group of people. They are good people but we are different. They tend to be more conservative to my liberal. They are more Christian to my spiritual. They are more suburban to my urban. I know for a fact that I’m the only one with tattoos, piercings other than on the ears, sporting Afrocentric natural hair and openly gay. So I was not surprised that no one else wore purple or knew why I did today.
We live in different worlds, come from different backgrounds but every day I recognize I have an opportunity, a responsibility maybe not to change but to touch hearts and minds.
It’s all part of living an authentic life, of being out and finding those areas of intersectionality that help us move the boundaries of inclusion towards equality.
So I wore my three shades of purple ensemble, and when the opportunity arose I told them why I was wearing purple and talked about the damage bullying does to young lives, especially young LGBTQ lives.
We talked as women. We talked as mothers. We talked as concerned community members. And in the end, we discovered we aren’t so different after all.
There’s a classical Latin phrase carpe diem—usually translated as “seize the day” or “act now.” Occasions, like “SPIRIT Day,” gives each of us the opportunity to act, to touch hearts, minds and be the agents of the change we want to be.