Category Archives: Creating Change

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

Bolder Than Out 2015 Conference, Chicago, IL

I will be on the Plenary@ the DePaul Center – 1 E. Jackson Blvd, Chicago IL 60604anel and presenting a workshop on how to be involved in creating the change we need.

Posted in Creating Change, lgbt, Queer, Transgender | Leave a comment

Bolder Than Out 2015 Conference, Chicago IL

@ the DePaul Center – 1 E. Jackson Blvd, Chicago IL 60604

Posted in Creating Change, lgbt, Queer, Transgender | Leave a comment

Disconnecting In Order To Reconnect To What Matters

By Michelle E. Brown

Originally Printed 3/5/2015 in issue 2310 of Between The Lines Newspaper

We have become so connected by text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest, that sometimes we, myself included, forget about personal contacts.

I’ve followed relationships; seen them begin, flourish, sometimes fall apart, then rekindle – often with accompanying photos – on-line.

It’s like we’ve all become Santa Claus – knowing when our friends are sleeping; when they’re awake; when they’ve been bad or good. Especially hoping they’ve been good and if not, for goodness sake, not to have taken photos because they’ll be all over the web for the world to see.

My data usage exceeds my actual minutes because, like so many of my friends, I just send a text. And when I have something juicy to say, I’ve figured out how to relay it in under 140 characters, including hash tags for maximum impact, via Twitter.

When asked about the last time I talked or heard from someone, I often find myself citing a tweet, text or post. I feel like I’m in touch but…

In recent months I have heard about engagements, weddings, births, job promotions and other events mostly on Facebook. It has been generally happy news.

Most of the time it hasn’t come as a surprise. I’ve replied “Congratulations” and then hit send. I’ve looked at the pictures, hit like, smiled and shared them with mutual friends. Some of the more outrageous posts even merit a comment – “OMG,” “WTF” and/or some personal remarks.

Sometimes the news hasn’t been good – illnesses and, unfortunately, deaths. At these moments, “like” just doesn’t get it and comments fall short. Thinking about the losses of Charity Hicks, Robert Clark, Tito Gutierrez, Chantay Legacy Leonard and Santiago Lopez, I have to say these have been the hardest.

We make friends; begin and end relationships; make announcements; organize; mobilize and get our local, national and our all-important entertainment news online.

The world not only is now flat but, with a click of a mouse, we can also connect with people and events across the globe. All this connectivity, all this knowledge at our finger tips… one would think all our problems should be over. In some instances, they seem to be exacerbated as we lose our connection with one another.

Are friends whom we only know in the Facebook World – no matter how many likes/shares – dearer or closer than our “ride or die” friends from ‘back in the day’?

Are we getting beyond the posts, tweets and photos to get the details, to act and/or react beyond the one-click option? And after the firestorm of likes, posts, tweets and hash tags, how soon do we forget about the people?

Where are those kidnapped Nigerian school girls? How has life changed for the thousands living with ALS after the success of the “Ice Bucket” challenge? If “All Lives Matter,” why are members of the black community and transgender community still in peril?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in social media – its ability to connect, inform, motivate and even empower us. But I believe in the power of the personal.

I believe in the power of real conversations with actual friends, checking in on one another and giving real hugs. What if we went out of our way to make a new acquaintance in the real world, like getting to know your neighbor, saying hello to a stranger and smiling (I mean actually smiling with your mouth… not an emoji).

As much as I love looking at photos and sharing with my friends, I believe it is just as important – if not more so – to live our LGBTQ lives out in the world so that everyone can see we – our loves, our families and our lives – are as diverse and unique as any other, and our quest for equality is just and right.

I am no stranger to the selfie, but more important than the likes from friends are the visible changes in attitude from people when my love and I exchange a hug, kiss or hold hands in the real world while at dinner, walking down the street or even traveling.

Maybe it’s time to come out again – out from behind our computers, tablets and smartphones and be out in our communities.

Let’s use social media as a platform to dive back into the lives of our friends, to strengthen the connections within our community, to share news from near and far that will educate, empower and remind us that oppression is interlinked and cannot be solved alone.

But more importantly, let’s use social media to tap into our intersectionality, then move our hearts and minds to get off the couch and get out there to build a better world that, even though it has been flattened by technology, is richer by the diversity found in our online worlds.

Michelle E. Brown is a public speaker, activist and author. Her books are available at bookstore.authorhouse.com or http://www.mychangeiam.com. You can also follow her at http://www.twitter.com/mychangeiam.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Black identity, Creating Change, lgbt, literature, Love, marriage equality, Pop Culture, Queer, Self imaage, Social Media, Transgender, Women, World events, youth | Leave a comment

On Voting: New poetry for my new year

I Vote Because

By Michelle E. Brown

Because they had no voice

When brought over in those chains.

Sold, beaten, traded

Eyes cast down shuffling by

As they silently swallowed pride.

 

Because they rode the back of the bus

Having services denied.

Colored toilets, colored fountains

Suffering indignities just to get by.

 

Because they marched for freedom

While being beaten and knocked down

Water cannons, dog bites, night sticks

To deny their civil rights.

 

Because their voices were silenced

Before they could make their mark

Four little girls in Birmingham

Trayvon, Ayanna, Renisha, Michael

Our stand in Ferguson

For babies yet to come

 

I vote to make a difference

I vote to make a change

I vote for this imperfect union

I vote in all their names.

 

Because of them it matters

For me to be a part of the game

Not sitting on the sidelines

To cast aspersions and merely complain

 

I might not see the difference

Or live to see the change

But because of them I do it

I vote so their lives were not in vain.

Posted in 2014 Elections, Black identity, Black women, Creating Change, ENDA, hate crime, lgbt, literature, marriage equality, NN14, Pop Culture, Self imaage, World events | Leave a comment