About MichelleMichelle Brown is an author, activist & public speaker who believes in common ground for all people.
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Category Archives: DOMA
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.
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!!!