Category Archives: DOMA

Thoughts on Black Queer Activism

Activist Michelle Brown contends that what sets Black queer activism apart is its deep commitment to community organizing. Having sat on the boards of Michigan Equality, Affirmations, Black Pride Society, The Ruth Ellis Center, and other local organizations, Brown has been active on both sides of Eight Mile. She says that in contrast to the more centralized nonprofit model of the larger, mostly white organizations, black queer activists “put their roots in the community,” and seek sustainability by creating a wide base of support and, importantly, involvement, versus relying on corporate/foundation dollars and private donors.

From “BLACK AND PROUD: PUTTING COMMUNITY BACK INTO QUEER ORGANIZING” by Jackson Bartlett in Critical Moments 7/8/2011

What do you think?

Read the whole article at https://critical-moment.org/2011/07/08/black-and-proud-putting-community-back-into-queer-organizing/

Posted in Black identity, Detroit, Detroit Spirit, DOMA, ENDA, marriage equality, NGLTF, Queer, Social Justice Issues | 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

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

Next steps for our movement

Hard to believe July is over; and our season of pride picnics, marches and celebrations is coming to an end .  We’ve raised our rainbow flags across the country, marched and partied like there’s no tomorrow – no tomorrow when we go back to being second class citizens, separate and not equal.

We’ve had so much to celebrate as our Equality Train has left the station and is gaining momentum state by state, month by month.

It feels good, really good, especially for me, this year. Instead of going from city to city, wishing and hoping, I’ve just been happy, walking hand in hand with my lady love believing, BELIEVING, that yes it would happen in my lifetime.

At every PRIDE, from east coast to west, WE were celebrating the change that seems to be finally arriving.

And it wasn’t just at PRIDES where you could sense the change. At restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and resorts in states where discriminatory laws had been overturned and even where they were still in place, you could sense the difference.

Visibility in the media, high profile coming outs, legal victories, just about every week there’s been another reason to celebrate. But with the celebration there has also been the nagging reminders that we still have a long way to go.

Even though we are winning in the courts, the sobering reality is that our rights are still under assault from a well-funded, politically savvy enemy with a powerful secret weapon in their arsenal – US!!!

US??? Yes! You, me, LGBTQ, friends, families who party through PRIDE, wrap ourselves in progressive mantles but through our apathy have allowed out-of-touch, xenophobic, trans/homophobic conserva-fools take over state houses, governor seats, the congress and allowed the creation of a Supreme Court that has granted corporations the same rights as people, ala Citizens United, which tip the scales against equality.

While we have danced at our weddings, religious fundamentalist continue to flex their muscle attacking women’s reproductive rights state by state. The recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling not only bolstered this attack on women but by, once again, giving a corporation’s religious views the same gravitas as an individual’s constitutional rights for religious protection, has now put an already tenuous ENDA in jeopardy.

The same bigots leading these attacks and spreading hatred “in the name of the father” are using their influence not only here but internationally, exporting trans/homophobia overseas especially in Africa where death for LGBTQ individuals is the law.

But that’s Africa and we have weddings to plan, right? Well these hate-filled chickens are coming home to roost with even greater global implication with the election of Sam Kutesa, a supporter of Uganda’s anti-gay law as President of the U.N. General Assembly.

The U.N. is the most representative inter-governmental organization of the world today. Although it’s effectiveness may be debatable, the United Nations’ role in world affairs is irreplaceable by any other international or regional organizations and it’s president is a supporter of some of the most repressive anti-gay laws – laws written by leaders who were suckled at the breast of US fundamentalists.

And what’s to become of the thousands of Ugandans and others seeking asylum and immigration by coming to America? Will they find a country welcoming ‘the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free” or face immigration legislation that is far from welcoming being influenced by a legislature we elected even if we cast our vote merely by staying home and not going to the polls.

Luke 12:48 says (yes I googled it) “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Growing up I always thought that meant if something good happened to you, you passed it on, paid it forward. When my mom won the lottery, she always tithed a portion to church. When I get something new or have extra, I share the blessing. You probably have heard of similar practices. But I’ve been thinking about it differently these days.

We’ve received such good news of late, made such progress, and seen changes that most of us never thought we would see in our lifetime – much has been given. But now is not the time to sit on our laurels, be complacent and do nothing –much is required.

In many states we can be married, time and the courts seem to be on our side but we still can be discriminated against in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA remains in jeopardy even more so following the Hobby Lobby decision.

The clock is being turned backwards for women, taking us back to the days of “back-alley abortions and unplanned/unwanted pregnancies with no protection even in the case of rape and incest. Contraception, family planning is more than just a health issue for women, it’s an economic issue. The earning capacity of women is already lower than that of most men, taking away/diminishing reproductive rights will only plunge more women and children into poverty.

Despite higher visibility our transgender sister and brothers are still targets for violence. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender youth and those perceived as LGBT are at an increased risk of being bullied.

And we don’t live in a little gay bubble, we live in a world where the gap between the haves and the have not’s continues to grow. We live in troubled urban areas, struggling rural areas.

We share an environment of dwindling resources and growing threats of pollution, global warming, etc.

Much is required from each of us whether LGBTQ or A.

At Motor City Pride in Detroit, singer-songwriter Nikki Holland was sporting and selling a t-shirt. It said “UNTIL WE ARE =, BE > ignorance, sexism, lies, hate, racism, stereotypes, violence, prejudice, bigotry, hypocrisy, the self-righteous.

So now that the official PRIDE celebrations are just about over be joyful for all that we have achieved and been given in these changing times but remember much is required. Much is required from each of us to keep these freedoms, ensure that they will be extended to everyone and be there for future generations.

Your first task is GET REGISTERED TO VOTE, vote in the August primaries and show up at the polls in November. Let’s not give the Senate and return the Congress to those who would take away rights not expand them to all. And at the State level, let’s vote in the change we want to see for ourselves, our families and our future.

Progress comes through change. Change can cause anxiety and fear. Fight back! Fight for equality! Fight for humanity by being greater than ignorance, sexism, lies, hate, racism, stereotypes, violence, prejudice, bigotry, hypocrisy, and the self-righteous.

Remember to whom much is given, much will be required. Step Up Community!!!

Posted in 2014 Elections, DADT, DOMA, ENDA, hate crime, lgbt, marriage equality, NGLTF, NN14 | Leave a comment

Creating Change Houston: Changing How We Look, Live and Define Our Lives

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

Posted in bullying, Creating Change, DADT, DOMA, lgbt, marriage equality, NGLTF, Queer, Transgender, World events, youth | Leave a comment