Femmephobia, Effeminophobia or Effeminaphobia – However You Spell It, It’s Still Hate In The Family

I wrote the main part of this several years ago then updated it in 2015. The accepted term for this prejudice now seems to be femmephobia. This piece uses an alternate term, namely effeminaphobia/effeminophobia. I am republishing it as the issue remains. Here’s the update from 2015 then the original post…

I have recently seen more of this effeminaphobic (also spelled effeminophobic) rhetoric in various comments on sites like Queerty, where there seems to be a disconnect between the generally inclusive nature of the site’s articles & editorializing and the effeminaphobia (also spelled effeminophobia) & transphobia evident in comments left on the site. This is just a recently observed example. All you have to do is surf the gay net to see such comments expressed in any story featuring some gender non-conformity.

I will be honest, one of the factors in my claiming Queer as my sexual orientation and Agender as my gender identity is the failure of the gay community to live up to the vision of people like Radical Faeries founder Harry Hay, who viewed gay people as holding a special place between genders. His vision included many of the principles behind non-binary gender identities. The truth is that with the push for marriage equality and the “just like straights except what we do in bed” mentality of many mainstream gays people like me no longer see ourselves in the modern description of being gay. I don’t want to be just like straight people! I’m different and I don’t recognize myself in the mainstream. If being gay is just about who you are sexually attracted to and not also about your differences then I am not gay. I used to subsume my gender non-conformity under “being gay.” That no longer works for me and I have found my identity elsewhere. Yes, being Agender is more than gender non-conformity. It is also your sense of self and what gender, or in my case, lack of gender, you feel aligns with who you are. Still, it is undeniable that the more mainstream the gay community becomes the more you see people choosing non-binary gender identities. Just some food for thought.

Now here’s my original post…

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The hate I am referring to is effeminaphobia and the family is the community of LGBTQ people we sometimes refer to as “family.” Over the weekend I received the most hateful and vile comment yet. It was not from the usual haters but from a self described “masculine gay man,” Here’s the comment:

Get this straight: Masculine gay men are not in the least afraid of of girls, sissies or trannies–they are repulsed, disgusted, grossed out (at the most, horrified) by them. The worst, most sickening thing in the universe (after cruelty and indifference to the suffering of others) is, of course, the vagina; but a close second is girlishness. Both are loathsome, nauseating, repellent; but it might nonetheless be said, in defense of appalling ventral orifices, that, however much like mangled tarantulas they may be, they are not usually hysterically vulgar affectations.

Clearly this man is deeply misogynistic. He states that the worst thing in the world is the “vagina” and the second is “girlishness.” He uses a string of adjectives to describe his hate. He takes the literal meaning of phobia I.e. “fear” and claims he doesn’t fear effeminate men he just hates them in the extreme. How do you even reason with a person like that? He proves all of what I believe about effeminaphobic individuals to be true. I am sickened by the thought that this man would consider himself a gay man.

I have no problem with people liking whomsoever they are attracted to. That is vastly different then going out of your way to heap disdain on your fellow human beings. You claim to decry cruelty and indifference to the suffering of others and yet your attitudes and beliefs lead many to exactly that destination. This effeminaphobia can lead to extreme cruelty. Take the case of this South African boy, Raymond Buys who was 15 and in good health as this photo shows:
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In an attempt to address his effeminate behavior he was set to a camp where, along with other teens was starved, tortured so that they would be turned into ‘men’. 10 weeks later Raymond ended up in hospital, he was severely malnourished, dehydrated, his arm was broken in two places and there were burns and wounds all over his body. This picture of him, taken in April 2011, shows a skeletal, emaciated figure fighting for his life:
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He lay in intensive care for four weeks until he died. He was not the only death, two other teens also died at this camp all tortured because they were effeminate.

This is an extreme case but is emblematic of the extreme effeminaphobia and hatred many effeminate boys and men face. I am posting this excerpt from an article looking at how effeminate gay/bi/queer men are treated and how attitudes about this population are changing, (or not), as LGBTQ individuals are becoming more accepted…

What About the Guys Who Do Fit the ‘Gay Stereotype’? – Atlantic

But it’s not completely clear that showing that “even the jocks are gay” necessarily makes things better for those guys (gay or straight) who don’t so readily conform to traditional masculine norms. Since gayness and femininity are still so linked, it’s nearly impossible to determine what homophobia’s driving factor is. As Kimmel explained to me, “As long as we think homosexuality is about effeminacy in men—as long as we think we can tell if a guy’s gay if he’s acting ‘feminine’—then we can’t tease it out.” But if that link is successfully broken—say, by the growing visibility of “macho” gay athletes who challenge the stereotype—then it will be possible. “Then the effeminacy part will be about subscribing to gender norms, not revealing anything about your sexual orientation.”

For now, though, it’s hard to say: Is being a feminine man bad because it’s considered evidence that you’re gay? Or is being gay bad because it’s seen as feminine? Or are both bad? And if the association between femininity and gayness is severed, what happens next?

The changes over the last two decades may provide some clues. After all, anti-gay attitudes in the United States have declined dramatically since the 1980s and ’90s. As recently as ten years ago, the public was evenly divided on whether homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged by society. Today, 59 percent of Americans say it should be accepted, according to a Gallup poll released recently. For the past three years, more Americans support same-sex marriage than oppose it. The most recent Pew Research Center survey, conducted this past March, found 49 percent in favor, compared to 44 percent opposed—and other polls have put the level of support even higher. About two-thirds of the public thinks that gay and lesbian couples can be as good parents as heterosexual couples and that they should have the same legal rights as their straight counterparts.

Among young people, especially, anti-gay views are decidedly the exception. About three-quarters of millennials believe homosexuality should be accepted and 70 percent support same-sex marriage. And, in large part, it is young men who have been driving this trend. Ever since we’ve been asking about it in public opinion polls, men have been more likely than women to espouse anti-gay views—a fact that buttressed the theory that masculinity is intimately connected with homophobia, says Tristan Bridges, assistant professor of sociology at The College at Brockport, SUNY. But just recently that gender gap has begun to narrow. Among millennials, it’s virtually non-existent: 69 percent of young women support same-sex marriage, compared to 65 percent of young men. Though homophobia is by no means eradicated—after all, Bridges points out, straight men especially still seem be far more comfortable with gay identity than actual gay sex—the largely supportive response to Collins and Rogers coming out would seem to reflect a real and rapid change in anti-gay attitudes, which should certainly be celebrated.

What’s far less clear is whether this shift is actually changing the way homophobia is used as a weapon for maintaining traditional masculinity. “Surely, it’s incontestable that the attitudes that people have about gay people have changed a lot—largely for the better.” Kimmel tells me. “But the attitudes that people have toward what constitutes masculinity, and how to enact being a ‘real man,’ haven’t changed very much at all.” Consequently, the use of homophobic slurs as a “mechanism of gender policing remains relatively intact”—even if those words have become less likely to be applied to actual gay people.

That’s what sociologist C.J. Pascoe found when she spent a year and a half at a California high school doing research for her 2007 book, Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Homophobic slurs were tossed around constantly, but the students insisted they weren’t really about sexual orientation. “When I talked to these boys about what they were teasing about, they would go out of their way to say, ‘Oh no, we would never actually call a gay boy a fag. That’s just mean,'” she told me. Instead, boys labeled their peers “fags” for things like dancing, being too emotional, caring about clothing, being incompetent, or not have success with girls. While actually being gay wasn’t exactly accepted, Pascoe discovered that it wasn’t nearly as bad as being considered an unmasculine guy. As one student told her, “Well, being gay is just a lifestyle. You can still throw a football around and be gay.” Indeed, of the three out gay boys at the school, the two who were traditionally masculine weren’t really bullied by their peers much at all. But the third boy, who broke both the norms of sexuality and gender, faced such severe tormenting that he eventually dropped out of school.

Some scholars see cause for optimism, though. For example, Eric Anderson, an American professor of sociology at the University of Winchester, England, argues that declining homophobia is already starting to create “inclusive masculinities.” According to Anderson, homophobia only serves a weapon for enforcing gender norms in an environment of “homohysteria”—in which there is both widespread social disapproval of homosexuality and being gay is associated with femininity. As anti-gay attitudes decline and “the stigma of being called gay doesn’t sting” anymore, Anderson explained to me, the boundaries of acceptable masculinity expand. “It’s not to say that there are no hyper-macho men,” he says. “But it is to say that those who are more feminine are perfectly acceptable, because they’re not regulated by homophobia anymore.” And a similar transformation would be expected to happen if the link between femininity and gayness were broken. If being feminine is no longer considered incontrovertible “evidence” that you’re gay, who cares if you bend gender norms? Anderson’s research backs up his theory. He’s found that the male college athletes and fraternity members he studied in the U.K. and the U.S. are increasingly more accepting of their gay peers—as well as less aggressive and sexist, and more emotionally intimate and physically affectionate with their male friends.

But others aren’t convinced of such a large-scale transformation. Anderson argues that since sports have historically been highly homophobic spaces, other male groups are likely to be moreinclusive than the primarily white, straight, middle-upper class college athletes he has researched. But studies suggest that, paradoxically, those are the guys who may actually have the most freedom to bend the rules of masculinity. Pascoe describes it as “jock insurance.” In effect, men who have the most status have the masculine capital to be able to get away with flouting some gender norms. “Gender is at the heart of all this stuff,” Pascoe explains. “It can really make up for your deviance in other ways.” Bridges agrees: “I think it might be the case that gender flexibility is becoming more ok for young men today than it was in previous generations. But I would say that that is the case for a very select group of men.”

Research on LGBT students’ experiences in K-12 schools also suggests that anti-gay harassment may be driven as much by gender anxiety as by homophobia. For starters, the growing acceptance of homosexuality has been slow to translate into a change for LGBT youth, according to GLSEN’s national school climate survey, which has been conducted every two years since 1999. There has been some improvement: The frequency of anti-gay comments has slowly but steadily decreased over the last decade. The most recent report from 2011 found the percentage of students who reported hearing slurs like “faggot” or “dyke” was about 70 percent, a drop from over 80 percent in 2001. Even the pervasive use of the expression “that’s so gay” seems to have slightly declined in recent years (though “no homo” may have risen to take its place). Yet LGBT students’ reports of being harassed or assaulted held steady from 2001 to 2009, before finally dropping somewhat in 2011. And there has been no change at all in incidence of negative comments about gender expression.

Furthermore, gender non-conforming LGBT students are more likely to be bullied than their fellow gender-conforming LGBT peers. Of course, some of that may be because bending gender norms is conflated with being gay in a culture that still hasn’t let go of the idea that gender and sexuality are linked. But the high rates of harassment and violence faced by transgender people—who most radically reject the gender binary—suggest that gender policing is playing a role over and above the role of homophobia. A whopping 80 percent of transgender students reported that they felt unsafe at school because of their gender expression. And it doesn’t get much better for adults: Ninety percent of the trans and gender non-conforming people surveyed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment, or discrimination on the job, or hid their identities to avoid it. A 2012 report on anti-LGBT violence from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that trans people were 28 percent more likely to be physically assaulted, and trans women specifically made up 40 percent of hate murder victims.

It’s not just boys who are punished for breaking gender norms, of course. Take Griner for example. In an op-ed in the New York Times, she recalled that in seventh grade “the teasing about my height, appearance and sexuality went on nonstop, every day.” Notably, it seemed to have more to do with her gender than her sexual orientation: “People called me a dude and said there was no way I could be a woman. Some even wanted me to prove it to them.”

Still, at this moment in history, it is easier to be a gender non-conforming girl. “Girls are allowed a lot more leeway to be outside of traditional femininity than boys are allowed to be outside of traditional masculinity,” says Barbara Risman, head of the department of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and senior scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families. So while girls also hold each other to rigid standards, and are vicious when someone doesn’t conform (one word: slut-shaming), they’re far less likely to be homophobic. The GLSEN report, for example, found that over half of students reported hearing remarks about students not acting “masculine enough,” but just over a third heard comments about students’ “femininity” as often. Up to a certain age, girls can usually get away with being tomboys, while “sissy” boys are discouraged from very early on—and not just by their peers. Studies have shown that parents—especially fathers—are more uncomfortable with their young sons playing with dolls or dresses than with their daughters doing stereotypically “boy” activities. And though stepping too far outside of acceptable gender norms is seen as a problem for everyone, to a degree, women may even be rewarded for distancing themselves from femininity at times.

This is not to say that declining homophobia doesn’t have the potential to lead to a serious reimagining of masculinity more broadly. And obviously this isn’t the kind of change that happens overnight. After all, the millennial generation that’s driving the momentum towards marriage equality is just beginning to create families of their own; I have no doubt that we will raise kids who are more accepting of different sexualities than any before them. And I’m also optimistic that millennials are well-poised to finally retire rigid, outdated versions of masculinity for good. After all, we’ve come of age in an era of unprecedented gender equality, and as traditional gender differences continue to converge, a masculine ideal that still defensively defines itself primarily against what it is not no longer makes any sense. The crisis of masculinity—predicted by a zillion trend pieces on the so-called “end of men”—offers a real moment of opportunity for my generation. As Thomas Page McBee wrote in the Atlantic last year, “Feminism allowed women to unlock the parts of themselves society kept from them, and now men are doing the same.”

But there are dangers to seeing these two trends as inevitable—and inevitably linked. After all, Bridges warns, “the most important and most dangerous forms of inequality are really capable of shifting.”Indeed, Pascoe points out that our ideas about what it is to “be a real man” are constantly changing—gender roles are always in flux—and “the important thing is not really what is included or excluded in the definition, but that that definition maintains gender inequality.” So while “sexuality might not be as big of a deal anymore,” what remains “a big deal is differentiating yourself from femininity.” In other words, we may well be moving toward a culture in which being gay is no longer on the list of things that are considered automatically “unmasculine.” However, unless we throw out the list altogether, the gender-enforcing function that homophobia currently serves—and the sexist culture it supports—will continue relatively unchanged. In such a world—to take another (extreme) example from sports—perhaps the Mike Rices of the future won’t call their players “faggots” and “fairies.” But if they still shout “cunt” and “pussy” as they physically abuse their athletes, that will be superficial progress indeed.

In fact, if the association between gayness and femininity is broken without more fundamentally expanding masculinity, it may even make things worse. Kimmel emphasizes that we don’t really know yet how this will all play out, but it could end up creating two tiers of gay men: “the really gay guys and the macho gay guys.” To some extent, that distinction already exists. Being “straight-acting” is valued—not only in the heteronormative culture at large but within gay communities, too. Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak explained last year, “As a gay, you understand that while you’ll always find peers who allow you to be exactly as queeny as you are, there is still a social hierarchy that puts a premium on masculinity.” Kimmel notes that, if that’s the direction we’re headed, gender non-conforming gay guys, who used to provide a critique of the dominant masculinity, “are gonna be seen as a real problem. If even gay men can be real men, what’s wrong with you? So in a funny way this could be another reassertion of the power of traditional ideas of masculinity.”

But, hopefully, instead it will be the first step in an important cultural change. “It’s a very good and powerful conceptual shift to decouple sexuality and gender,” Risman explains. “That is, to show there are very masculine gay men and effeminate gay men, but there are very masculine straight men and effeminate straight men, too.”

Read more: http://m.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/05/what-about-the-guys-who-do-fit-the-gay-stereotype/276407/

Here is another excellent essay on this subject:http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/39862-why-do-we-hate-effeminate-men

Posted from Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, Earth, Solar System

 

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My Color Wheel of Discovery – My journey to discover my gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

I offer the following not to tell you what your identities and orientations are but rather to offer my process as an example of how to decide for yourself how you wish to identify. My only message is to think beyond the binary as well as within the binary or to put it another way think beyond black and white to also include all the colors of the color wheel.

In a way, I am glad I waited until the range/spectrum/bubbles of various gender identity options entered into wider acceptance, particularly among millennials and generation Z. I am from a much older demographic at 61 but was open to any narrative, description or summary that described who I was. In my case I came to realize that I was basically agender – not identifying as either male or female although lately I prefer just non-binary as it doesn’t preclude adding some occasional gender fluidity into the mix. What I had to sort out was gender identity and what was gender expression. I realized that being agender/Non-binary left me free to create my own style. I now have all the fashion of the world, or at least my part of it, to choose from. So I mix and match and just have fun creating a look.

My sexual orientation went from gay to gay/queer and then, once I understood gender complexities, I realised I was polysexual, (attracted to more than one gender but not all), which, for me, is now more accurately called , polyromantic. I’m attracted to non-binary individuals and trans and cis men.

The reason I said polyromantic is that I have virtually no sex drive thanks to an aging side effect I am actually glad for, very low testosterone. I don’t feel the whole asexual, graysexual thing has really accepted people who develop a vastly diminished sex drive later in life as asexual or graysexual (somewhere between no interest in sex and regular gay, bi or heterosexual orientation. I think it is completely logical for individuals to experience sexual desire for some of their lives and none or very little for the rest of their lives. Right now I have some sex drive once every two months or so so I rarely have any sexual desire. However I frequently desire to connect with someone just interested romance. I still love romance, holding hands, cuddling, flowers, etc.

I obviously did a lot of introspection, and perhaps self analysis, to figure this all out but it was worth it. I now have a better understanding of myself. I have long realised that people have a more difficult time when options are not binary. Before retiring early due to disabilities, I was the HIV/STD Education Coordinator for our state health department’s infectious disease bureau. Before that I worked doing similar work and some case management for People With HIV/AIDS during the late eighties. All that experience showed that people, including trained health professionals, don’t like gray areas. For example, for over a decade the debate raged about the relative risk of oral/penile sex. What was always clear is that it was less risky, indeed much less risky then anal intercourse without a condom. We used an approach called client entered counselling which consisted of a counsellor broviding basic facts about relative risk and working with the client to integrate their drives and desires with their newly acquired knowledge about risk. This would mean, for example, the client choosing to not have anal sex but have condomless oral sex. Many trainees struggled with the notion that a client would choose any risk. This was out of proportion to various risks they assumed in their own lives. Another illustration of  people’s discomfort with non-binary choices Is sexual orientation. You find people less accepting of bisexuality/pansexuality/poly sexuality then either gay or straight and this prejudice comes not just straight individuals but also gay men who think many/most bisexual men are just guys who will eventually come out as gay.

All that experience had prepared me for the process of educating people about non-binary gender identities, various forms of gender expression and what we could call non-binary sexual orientations. The truth is that some of us have found that non-binary identities and orientations resolve a lifelong struggle to figure things out. For some teens and twenty somethings “lifelong” is a few years for others, like me, it was decades.

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The Wonderful Wheel of Colors

In science color can be defined either by its wavelength as physics does or can be a biological description of how the human eye perceives color. Clearly we don’t perceive just black or white but many colors. Look at this graphic. White is at the very center and black on the edges of the color “wheel.” I could go into the difference between colors we perceive and color as wavelengths of light in physics but this article from Encyclopedia Britannica does an excellent job explaining the difference. My point is that it would be a very boring world if only saw black and white. How much better it is to have all of the color options to see, Enjoy, experience and share through art. So it is with gender identities, gender expression and sexual orientations. The fact that people are discovering that they are neither male or female nor gay or straight but a variety of other options should be celebrated. I love that there are more ideas and more knowledge about gender and sexuality diversity. This shows that people are realizing that that the color of truth is not black or white but encompasses all the colors between and including black and white. Welcome to the wonderful world of color!

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Trans Rights = Human Rights

A reminder and a celebration of Trans Rights.

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New Name Same Me

It seemed an appropriate time to rename all my social media and blog accounts to better reflect my identity as an agender trans person who is a unicorn at heart while still having a fairy and a man bear in there (my heart) as well. My other accounts are

Tumblr: agenderjeri.tumblr.com

Twitter: Twitter.com/JeriRaeinSantaFe

Instagram: https://instagram.com/jeriraeinsantafe

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Hopes For 2018

Let’s Make 2018 A Year Our Communities Unite To Fight For Equality!

Let’s Make 2018 The Year Gender Diversity Is Celebrated Not Feared or Vilified. Two is Great But There’s Much More To Explore! Open Your Minds To Gender Creativity!

And my favorite meme of 2017…

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Not All Bears Are Butch Or Even Male

Not all bears are butch or even male.

I was labeled a bear before I even knew what it meant. As time went on I began to realize that your body type and how hairy you are doesn’t determine your gender – you do. I am an agender/trans femme 🧚🏼‍♀️ fairy 🧚🏼‍♂️ bear 🐻 and I know I’m not the only one.

The bear in a tutu is from a shirt I purchased. Here’s the link: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B075WD79GG/

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Transgender Day Of Remembrance

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Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. A day each year when we pause to remember all those lost to violence. The sad truth is that this year there have been more lives lost than in any previous year that has been documented. The sobering reality is that most of those lost were trans women of color. The first trans women I really got to know were two African American women who were persons with AIDS in the late 1980s. Their lives had been very difficult and the threat of violence was always there. Sadly they both lost their lives due to opportunistic infections as a consequence of living in a time where medical science had not yet advanced far enough to halt the violence caused by a virus. In reality it was also the violence that forced them to leave home, forced them to turn to sex work in order to survive and substance abuse in order to escape a terrible reality. Jean and Melissa both shared their stories with me and I was proud to call them friends. Back then I was still in the dark about my own gender identity but I was aware it had a connection with those brave women.

So today I morn those killed but also those lost to disease, suicide and the overall violence brought on by a society that forced them to live on the margins. I’m now blessed by having many transgender women and trans femme non-binary trans people in my life. I also have a wonderful family of trans individuals and allies here in Santa Fe. My hope is that trans women forced to the margins will soon be blessed to find a family like this for themselves. In the meanwhile I will do my small part in raising awareness, advocating for laws protecting my community from discrimination, pushing back whenever I become aware of people engaged in the bathroom scare tactics of the right in this country and being part of my trans family in creating a welcoming environment for other trans people looking for a place to call home.

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Transgender Awareness Week

This is Transgender Awareness Week which culminates in the Transgender Day of Remembrance on the 20th. I have created two graphics; the first simply says Trans Rights = Human Rights and the second is more personal comparing my life before I came out as Trans/NonBinary with my life now that I am out.

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My Tribe

“When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of “Me too!” be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe.” ― A.J. Downey

This quote really resonates with me. I have a wonderful group of fellow weirdos here in New Mexico. I also have a list of iconic weirdos that I look up to. When you’re part of the Queer/LGBTQIA+ Community you are already labeled as “weird” or “queer.” That label of “weird” is even more prevalent if you’re part of the trans/nonbinary/gender-nonconforming family. So I embrace that queerness as something to be desired. They are my tribe! 

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My Gender and Sexuality Identifications 

I realized that I had a significant number of flags to represent my Gender and Sexuality Identities. Since I embrace all of these Identities I thought I’d create a graphic that’s inclusive of all of them. I actually have physical flags for all but Polysexual, and I have a bid on eBay for that. I understand some people choose to limit their identities but each one of these describes a part of who I am so I’m claiming them all! Many flags represent Umbrella Identities. Only Agender and Polysexual are unique, non-umbrella identities.

You can find the Gender Pride flags described here: http://gender.wikia.com/wiki/Pride_Flags
Sexuality and Gender Pride Flagd are described here: http://gender.wikia.com/wiki/Pride_Flags

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On This National Coming Out Day – My Story

This is National Coming Out Day which was initiated on the anniversary of the October 11, 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Right. I was there at that March 30 years ago and it remains one of the most powerful experiences I ever had. This post is comprised of two previously published essays. The first deals primarily with my life up to the time I came out as Trans Femme/Agender and the second section deals with my gender identity coming out experience

In this first section I am have included yet another post I made several years ago as a part of my 3 part series about my journey from being a closeted Seventh-Day Adventist teen and son of a pastor to being an out and proud Queer, Humanist, Unitarian Universalist and Agender/Trans Femme individual. I hope this helps someone else struggling today.

JerBear: My Story

I have described my own experience in a former post but I am going to repost it here so it is integrated into this post…

Google or Bing the word “Queer” you will soon come across folks that fully embrace the word, those that are timidly tolerant of it and those whose words drip with venom in their hatred of it’s use. Since I identify as Queer and it is prominent in my blog, I thought I’d share how I went from the closet, to gay and then to Queer. This is the first of two or three parts. This is how I came out…

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I first told someone else I was gay when I was a freshman (we didn’t use the term “first year student” back then), in college I met a fellow freshmen named Kevin. He was the most flamboyant person I had ever met and didn’t hide it; not that he could. I listened to tales of sexual encounters while attending a religious boarding school, (Seventh-Day Adventist). I was attracted to him like a moth to a flame. No, I wasn’t sexually attracted to him as he was not my type but I was attracted to his “this is who I am – take it or leave it,” attitude. Soon there was a small band of us curious or gay students. We were bonded together by what Harry Hay would call our “otherness.” We knew we were not normal as it was defined in the Fall of 1975. Soon Kevin was sneaking out of the dorm and heading into Boston to pick up older men. I recall the time he recounted loosing his virginity. He was quite thrilled that it had occurred, I was skeptical.

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One memorable Saturday night a bunch of us went along to visit the nearest gay bar, a place called “The Mailbox” in Worcester, Massachusetts. I was a wide-eyed virgin in a bar full of gay men. I felt like a slab of meat on display as I was given that “come hither” look several times. Kevin rescued me by taking me under his wing and we were soon dancing, (a first for me as dancing was taboo in my church). I had been taught “the hustle” in Kevin’s dorm room so I didn’t make a total fool of myself. I kept convincing myself I was engaged in a Sociological mission (part of me knew better). Anyway, after all of that we were talking in the dorm stairwell for privacy. I told Kevin I was also attracted to guys, just not the older guys he liked. The conversation veered into religion and the terrible time we had reconciling who we were with what the church said. Soon it was the Christmas break. I think I went home then came back to college. I hitchhiked to Maine to meet a woman I knew. Got drunk and stoned for the first time. Nothing sexual happened, perhaps because one of my gay friends was with me and the woman wasn’t my cup of tea. When we got back to the dorm I finally had my first real sexual encounter with my friend. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me or my friend, Kevin had really hit bottom. He had an argument with his parents and in an act of desperation, went into the garage, with the door closed, turned on the car and killed himself with carbon monoxide.

I heard what happened and was shocked. This was the guy so confident in who he was that he was called “Rosebud.” I was no where near that confident and the shock and inner turmoil sent me flying back into the closet where I stayed for the next 11 years. I compartmentalized my life, keeping my gay side locked away. That compartment was only unlocked for fantasy until after college when I unlocked for longer stretches to go into the Gay and Lesbian Book Store in Boston, (this was before the acronym “LGBT” was used). I also would find books to read at the Library in Worcester. The problem was that there were only a few positive gay books on the shelves in the early 1980s.

Then a succession of events happened. At work an openly gay man got promoted to supervisor. This meant that I could come out and not worry about my job. I was able to talk with this person about my sexuality and that made me feel more comfortable. Meanwhile, I had found a new church home. I had a Comparative American Religions textbook which I looked through trying to find a gay accepting denomination. There were only a small number of options. I looked at all of their beliefs and decided to check out The Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester (Massachusetts). I went there for several months and decided to make it official. It was rather simple really. I simply signed the membership book, got a mug with the denomination’s emblem, shook hands with and hugged the minister and received a round of applause from the congregation. That was in the fall of 1986. In February of 1987 I came out for good, first to my roommate, who took it well considering he was a Seventh-Day Adventist. I came out at work and then came out to my minister who was wonderfully accepting and matter of fact about the whole thing.

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My next step was to return to the same gay bar, now a small club, that I had visited 11 and a half years before. That’s right, it was back to The Mailbox. I wandered in, my eyes adjusting to the dim light. Sylvester’ s hypnotic dance hit, “Do you Wann’a Funk,” was blasting out from the speakers as the subwoofers shook the floor. I turned and looked to my left and there, sitting on some steps, was an old friend from college. Bob was not just an old friend, he was also son of a Theology professor! We embraced warmly and marveled at our reconnecting in this particular establishment. He confided with me that he was afraid I would catch him in “the act” when I was an RA assigned to the floor where a special friend of his resided.

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1987 remained a year of firsts. My first Gay Pride in Boston. There is nothing like yours first Pride. It is like the collective hug of thousands of people saying, ”you belong here – you’re one of us now.” I remember attending a church event at The Arlington Street Church, sort of the Mother Church for the Unitarian Universalist Association. When the pipe organ belted out the chords for Holly Near’s song, “Singing for Our Lives,” it touched something deep in my soul. I felt really good to be a Unitarian Universalist that day! Then there was the parade; I was awe struck at the diversity on display. It was a mix of fun, partying and politics all rolled out on the streets of Boston.

imageLater that year, after attending organizing meetings in Worcester, I prepared to travel to Washington D.C. for the “National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and AIDS Care. I got myself into Boston’s South Station where I was going to catch the Amtrak train to Washington, D.C. The station was packed with “family” from all over New England. I connected up with Unitarian Universalists (UUs) and together we boarded the train. I met so many wonderful people that day. I barley got any sleep (this was an overnight train) but did catch some. We arrived in Washington which was crawling with Queers! I made my way to a Unitarian Universalist Church where a special service was held. As a part of the service a ceremony of remembrance was held for those lost to AIDS. People should softly call out the name of someone lost to AIDS and then come forward and light a candle. It was very moving as the church filled with the sound of gently sobbing people. It was then and there that I dedicated myself to do my part to respond to the crisis gripping our community.

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I then gathered with the UU contingent and joined the queue for the march. Finally we began marching, singing and chanting various slogans like; “hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia’s got to go” and “What do we want? Gay rights! When do we want them? Now! We smiled and exchanged glances with fellow marchers and those lining the streets. We did pass group of obnoxious idiots with signs like “God Hates Fags” and “Sodomy is a Sin.” Yes, it was one of the first times our community confronted the homophobes from the Westboro Baptist Church.

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Leaving the bigots far behind we marched passed the first display of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Laid out on the mall in Washington for the first time. Another potent reminder of the epidemic that was ravaging our community.

We finally found our way to a place near the stage where we heard from many people including Whoopi Goldberg, Cesar Chavez and Jesse Jackson all civil rights icons in their own right. There were musical acts and more inspirational speeches. When the event was finally over we trudged back to the station and were herded like so many cattle, (that’s how it felt), back onto the train for the ride home. So ended the day that would be celebrated each October 11th forward as National Coming Out Day! – Today!

Following my experience in Washington I returned home vowing to become an activist. I did so with the blessing of my church. In fact the Minister and I co-authored a letter in support of the sexual orientation non-discrimination bill in the Massachusetts legislature. I also worked with the Central Massachusetts Chapter of The American Civil Liberties Union to pass a similar ordinance for the city of Worcester. Eventually we succeeded in getting both enacted as an amendment to the city and state Human Rights law(state) and ordinance (city). I was recognized as Civil Libertarian of The Year along with a Lesbian Lawyer for our efforts in making discrimination against people for their sexual orientation illegal in both the city of Worcester and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I also worked within the Unitarian Universalist Association to create a Welcoming Congregation program to ensure that Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) people would feel welcome. I also was a delegate to the national gathering of Unitarian Universalist and helped draft a resolution on AIDS as well as strengthening the commitment to LGB people.

Later Gender Identity would be added along with Transgender to the official policies of the church. It took awhile longer for Massachusetts to add Gender Identity to the classes of people protected from discrimination. Here in New Mexico we added protections against discrimination on the basis of both Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the early ’00s.

I will tell the story of my 22+ year work in HIV/AIDS care and prevention as well as the work in STD/STI prevention later as that is worthy of a book.

I will also share more about the wonderful man I shared my life with for seven years and whom I partnered with in the fight for LGBTQ rights. Greg is a wonderful person and a dear friend who remains one of my best friends. The irony that relates to this theme is the fact that he was also the son of a preacher. The difference was that his dad belonged to a Christian church that welcomed LGBT people, The United Church of Christ. I was always welcome at his parents’ home and at family gatherings. In fact Greg’s dad joined us on a tour of The Southwest US which planted the seeds for both of us to move out here. While we were together we got unofficially married, in August of 1991, at a wedding/protest organized by Queer Nation. Here’s a photo of us at the ceremony:

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During and after my relationship with Greg, I continued my journey to refine my beliefs while remaining a Unitarian Universalist, never feeling that that exploration would exclude me. I eventually embraced Humanism and called myself an Atheist/Agnostic (I could be called either depending on your definitions).

Since I wrote much of the above, I have come out again. This time as a Trans Femme/Agender individual. There is some overlap in my story so you may read part of my story that was previously included but I think it’s important to share how those earlier experiences shaped the gender identity I now embrace. Here’s that part of my story…

My Story Continued, A Trans Femme Agender Tale

image.gifMuch earlier this year I decided to come out to all my friends on Facebook even prodding to see if I got a reply from people I wasn’t sure of. This is the letter followed by observations about the response:

Dear Friends,

As most of you know in late Summer of 2014 I began a gender journey. All my life I had felt insecure about my gender. There were a number of opportunities earlier in my life to look at my own gender identity. In the second half of my Junior year in high school at Pine Tree Academy I boarded with a local dentist and his wife. They had a daughter a few years older than me in college where she stayed in a dorm. As the dentist and his wife worked I often had a couple hours every now and then when I was alone. I discovered the daughters wardrobe or at least the part she left at home. I tried the clothes on and remember feeling that this was more than simple curiosity. Meanwhile at school there were a couple bullies who had made comments and shoved me when they knew no one could see them. At the end of the year I passed around my yearbook for signatures. Two of the entries were quite hateful. One used “gay” as an insult and the other called me a “faggot.” So come Senior year I made it a point to butch it up a bit, (appear more masculine), to avoid the bullying.

After graduation I left for college at Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts. In my first year there I met up with 3 or 4 gay guys. One of them was gender non-conforming, I became friends with him and had chats with him in the dorm stairwells where we found a measure of privacy. One memorable night he even took me and a couple others to a gay club. This was the fall of 1975 and my young mind was just overwhelmed by the experience. We continued to share secrets and concerns with each other. I came out as being attracted to guys and he shared both some of his exciting weekend encounters and his sadness at not being able to reconcile his sexual orientation with the church’s beliefs. Soon Winter break came and we went in different directions. As the break ended I was informed of something pretty horrific. My flamboyant gay friend had committed suicide. I was scared, sad, confused and determined to keep my secrets hidden which I did until 1987.

I came out as gay in February of 1987, thirty years ago. I quickly got involved with the community. I began working with people with HIV/AIDS (PWA), devising outreach programs and assisting PWAs secure services and support. During that time I heard a sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Church by a guest preacher who ran the denomination’s LGBT Program. He quoted Harry Hay, an early gay rights pioneer and founder of The Radical Faerie movement. What he said really struck a cord because his belief was that gay and lesbian people were different then straight people not just in the choice of sexual partners but also in our gender expression. The belief was that people like me were shamans, magicians and priests who stood between men and women and helped heal stresses and misunderstandings between men and women. I thought that I had found the answer.

During this time I got to know several transgender individuals beginning in the late ’80s. They were for the most part trans women and while I didn’t feel completely like a man, I didn’t feel completely like a woman either. So, while I felt an affinity with my trans friends back then, their gender identity didn’t match up with how I was feeling. By this time I had entered a relationship which became quite well known given our willingness to open up to the press. In an effort to be attractive to my partner who like hairy guys known as “bears” in gay subculture, I grew a beard stopped trimming hair off my body and became a bear, at least on the outside. I really grew to hate how I was frequently read – many presumed I was hyper masculine and probably into leather and S&M. I was really repulsed by that idea. I kept this a secret and our relationship weathered lots of challenges that came our way unitil August of 1996. On that date, for several different reasons, my partner and I changed our relationship from partner to close friend.

In 1996 I came to New Mexico and continued to work in HIV/AIDS work, focusing on prevention. As a way of deflecting presumptions about my masculinity I grew my hair out and declared myself a fairy bear which sometimes morphed into a “care bear.” I got to know some wonderful Trans people here and learned a lot from them, particularly a couple Dine’/Navajo trans women who shared the ancient wisdom passed down by their elders about genders beyond male and female.

By 2009 my disabilities, symptoms and medication side effects made it difficult to work. Eventually I was declared disabled and left work. I began searching the internet for information that would answer the lifelong confusion I had about my gender. I began to see talk of genderqueer individuals. At first it didn’t click with me because all I observed were individuals who were assigned female at birth. Finally a news story changed everything. I happened on a news story about a hate crime that occurred in California. I’ve shared the story many times so I will just lay out the facts. A high school student who identified as agender, (who had been assigned male at birth), was riding home on a bus and had nodded off to sleep. A boy sitting nearby who thought it would be a practical joke to set the person’s skirt on fire. The agender student sustained serious burns on his legs and their story, (many agender individuals prefer people use a singular version of they as their pronoun), made local and national news. In response the community rallied round them. The high school the agender individual attended had an event where most students and teachers in the school wore skirts for a day to show their support. Other schools and groups honored diversity and showed their support in other ways. This story, particularly the explication of what an agender and genderqueer person was, really meant something special to me.

I continued to explore, I came out as trans/agender on my blog. I will not rewrite what I already have in my blog. If you haven’t read it leave a comment and I’ll give you a link. After this gender journey I’d been taking on my own I felt the need to connect with others. I discovered a trans support group here in Santa Fe and went to my first meeting. I wasn’t sure I’d be accepted but that fear soon left as I was warmly welcomed. Soon I became involved in the group and helped out with a website and a Twiiter account. I also help facilitate meetings now and then. I have met so many wonderful trans men, trans women and nonbinary/genderqueer individuals. I have learned from their stories and continued to engage in self reflection.

I am very grateful to all the people I have met on my journey. Everyone of you has played a part in my life and your kindness and knowledge have been very important. I now identify as a trans femme, agender, nonbinary/genderqueer person, but if it’s easier for you to remember you can call me transgender.

I am part of the trans community, a community that is now under siege. I consider the trans community as a very large extended family. When a black trans woman is murdered it breaks my heart, when someone is bullied and tormented so often they consider suicide I am deeply saddened. I also am dismayed that some on the right have reduced our community to mythological bathroom predators. I want my trans men and trans women friends to be free to use the facility that aligns with their gender identity and I, along with other nonbinary trans people want to have a gender neutral restroom available. Just like you all we want to do is take care of business, wash our hands and leave. We’ve been doing this for years without a problem. It’s simply a fact that after losing the marriage equality battle the religious right aimed their sights on trans folk. A mythology was created and occasional incidents involving cis men were woven into the tale. I promise you we aren’t putting ourselves in further danger by lingering in the bathroom one second longer than necessary. It’s trans people that are the victims in some bathrooms. Bullies in schools are on the lookout for anyone who isn’t their idea of normal. So it’s trans students, gay and lesbian students and gender non-conforming cis students who get verbally and physically attacked. This needs to end now! I am proud to be a member of the trans community. This community has changed my life and made it meaningful again. If you don’t understand, that’s okay. Ask questions, read up on who we are and remain our friend. On the other hand, if you don’t understand and refuse to learn and open your heart then, regrettably, I can no longer remain friends. I am too old to deal with negativity! I faced enough of it earlier in my life. As for my wonderful friends, family of choice, biological family and fellow activists who accept me and my community I thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤️!

Hugs,

Jerry/Jeri

After this post began to receive likes and kind comments I was moved to respond. Here is that response with the names removed.

I am feeling so blessed and overwhelmed with gratitude at the response to this post. Three of my friends, from way back, during my years in Norridgewock, Maine from 13 – 16 years old. Your simple “likes” were so moving for me. It shows you may not understand all I’ve shared but your willing to try. You’ll never know how much that means to me and the literal tears of gratitude I’ve shared. Thank you so much! I was also moved by the “like” from my high school classmate at Pine Tree Academy. A time filled with both wonder and joy as well as internal turmoil I didn’t show anyone.

And… my friends from my college era who left comments or “liked” this post. I’m so overwhelmed by their memories, their acceptance and/or their willingness to understand, even if it’s with some trepidation. This means so much.

Then there are all friends who knew me during my gay/AIDS activist 🏳️‍🌈 era your acceptance means the world to me. Finally my new trans family 🦄 who’ve welcomed me with open arms, gave me encouragement and advice and support and love ❤️ your literal and virtual embrace have sustained me during the last two and a half years. Thanks so much. Finally my two unwitting fairy godmothers, your inspiration means more to me than either of you will ever know. I owe you so much and I will try and pass it on by being an inspiration and activist in our community. Before I end I should acknowledge my friend and dare I say apprentice, we embarked on our new journey together and I wish you all the best life has to offer. I may have missed someone, if I have I’m sorry but know your friendship is gratefully accepted. To all thanks🙏🏼, hugs🤗, love❤️and unicorns🦄!

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On this National Coming Out Day, thirty years since the October 11, 1987 March on Washington which led to the first National Coming Out Day a year later on the anniversary of the March I have the unique experience of having a link with the March that inspired this day. I also have come out twice once as Gay/Queer and years later as a Polysexual, Trans Femme/Agender Individual. If you’re not dependent on your non-supportive parents for room and board, I urge you to come out if you haven’t already.

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10 reasons why the #dontjudgegender verdict makes families of transgender children concerned

A supportive parent of a trans child in the UK responds to a troubling court case that involved a trans child and a supportive mother.

Growing Up Transgender

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Last week, when I read the news story about a 7 year old being removed from their mother’s care, I felt scared and upset. This reaction was shared by many families of transgender children throughout the UK. I knew nothing about this specific case or this specific child. Other people may have read the news and unequivocally thought the judgement correct, or otherwise, as in the words of a colleague, thought it “sounds complicated… who can know what’s right and wrong here”. Families of transgender children instead responded with shock, fear, upset – I was left with a deep worry that this could be a major miscarriage of justice, which holds serious implications for my family.

Let me give you 10 reasons why my reaction may have differed from the reaction of people with less knowledge of this subject.

Before I start, let me give one opinion (fact) on which…

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8 Things Transgender People Do Not Owe You

An excellent article on how to be an ally and not a part of the problem.

Let's Queer Things Up!

Nothing ruins a fabulous day for me more than entitlement.

I’m talking about the expectations placed on me as a transgender person that are never placed on my cisgender counterparts.

Take, for example, the number of times that cis folks have asked me, “Are you getting rid of…” Then, gesturing to my chest, they add, “those?” without batting an eye.

I’m not sure on what planet that’s an acceptable question to ask anyone, but it bothers me – endlessly – that so many people feel entitled to that information, so much so that they don’t consider my comfort level or privacy when they ask.

From time to time, I run into folks who – whether they’re “curious” about my existence or aren’t sure how to talk to me about trans issues – mistakenly believe that I exist as their real-life Caitlyn Jenner, a science experiment, a case study, or…

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An Animated View of Trans History From The ACLU

A great overview of trans history through the use of art and animation. It is narrated by the wonder Laverne Cox.

Every day, people question why we advocate for trans rights. “How many trans people are there, really?” we are asked. Or, “Isn’t this just a new niche issue that serves as a distraction from the issues that really matter?”

But trans people have always existed, and our lives have always mattered. And though we have and continue to face rampant discrimination, so too have we built beautiful communities and movements of resistance and love.

Through a collaborative video from the ACLU, Transparent producer and artist Zackary Drucker, Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox and the creative team of Molly Crabapple and Kim Boekbinder, we are telling the story of trans history and resistance.

This video comes on the heels of the President’s tweets seeking to ban transgender individuals from military service and in the midst of continued legislative efforts in states like Texas to ban transgender individuals from public restrooms. The consequences of this discrimination from our government are deadly.

In one comprehensive survey of over 27,000 transgender individuals in 2015, almost one in three respondents reported living in poverty, over half reported being denied health care related to their gender transition, one of every four indicated that they did not seek medical attention at all due to fear of discrimination and more than three of every four reported experiencing harassment in school because they were trans, ultimately leading to 17% of respondents dropping out of secondary school altogether.

All of this contributes to a cycle of discrimination and violence that leads to homelessness, incarceration and ultimately, for many — particularly trans women of color — premature death. Indeed, at least 15 trans people, almost all women of color, have been murdered so far this year in the United States. And two of every five American trans people attempt suicide at least once in their life.

Without accurate information about trans people, our lives and our rich histories, the impulse to push us out of public life will continue. But we continue to tell our vivid, vibrant and critical story of trans resistance. Time marches forward, and so do we.

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Non-Binary Video Compilation 

A selection of videos profiling non-binary trans individuals including the recent debate about non-binary identities with Piers Morgan and featuring the amazing Fox and Owl and Fox’s remarks upon receiving an honorary doctorate degree from University of Brighton in the United Kingdom.

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In A Heartbeat, An Animated Short Film

A sweet, wholesome film about two boys finding love.

“In a Heartbeat” – Animated Short Film by Beth David and Esteban Bravo
A closeted boy runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams.
contact.inaheartbeat@gmail.com

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/inaheartbeat…

Official Tumblr Page – https://inaheartbeat-film.tumblr.com/

IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6969946/?…
Produced at Ringling College of Art and Design by
Beth David

Instagram: @bbethdavid

Twitter: @bbethdavidd

Tumblr: http://bethdavid.tumblr.com/
Esteban Bravo

Instagram: @estebravo

Twitter: @EstebanBravoP

Tumblr: http://estebanbravo.tumblr.com/

Website: https://www.estebanbravo.com/
Music by Arturo Cardelús https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFaXJ…

Sound Design by Nick Ainsworth https://www.ainsworthsound.com/
© Beth David and Esteban Bravo 2017

Category

Film & Animation

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More Than Male And Female

I have been really getting into creating textual graphics and memes lately thanks to some new apps. The one I am proudest of is the one I came up with today. Here’s the text as it appeared on Instagram…

I came up with a meme/quote of my own and sent it via Instagram. Here’s the text and the graphic.

“There are more colors than black and white, there are more temperatures than hot and cold, there are more heights than short or tall and there are more genders than male and female.”
– Jeri Rae Cheney (me)

#OriginalQuote #JeriRaeCheney #NonBinaryGenders #Genderqueer #Agender #Bigender #Neutrosis #Demigender #TransMen #TransWomen #cisgender

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Commercial reveals what some LGBT individuals go through in Japan

A look at the hurdles faced by many in the LGBTQ community of Japan.

SoraNews24

Is the LGBT mindset in Japan any different from other countries?

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When asked their sex, some are going with option ‘X’ – USA Today

The following appears in USA Today and is one of the first national news service to have a non-biased article about non-binary gender identities.  Let’s hope this continues! To read the entire article please follow the link at the bottom of this page.

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Jamie Shupe, the first person to be legally recognized as gender non-binary, at home in Oregon.
(Photo: Jamie Shupe)

America has slowly begun to acknowledge that for many people, gender is much more complicated than simply being a man or a woman. And a growing number of Americans are seeking recognition of a third gender, neither exclusively male or female, under the label non-binary.

People typically think of transgender as meaning gender reversal, where someone identifies as the opposite sex from their birth sex. But transgender is an umbrella term used to cover a wide spectrum of people whose gender identity is different from the one they were assigned at birth.

More than one-third of transgender people describe themselves as non-binary, which the National Center for Transgender defines as “people whose gender is not exclusively male or female, including those who identify with a gender other than male or female, as more than one gender, or as no gender, identifying as a combination of genders or not identifying with either gender at all.”

Non-binary people have always been part of the population. But for the first time, state governments in the U.S.. are beginning to recognize their identity. Oregon approved a third gender option on driver’s licenses last week; California’s Senate passed a law with the same aim, and similar legislation was introduced in both New York and the District of Columbia this week.

“Hello, I’m Taylor. My pronouns are they, theirs and them,” Dillon’s Billions character declares when introduced to one of the show’s two protagonists. The scene likely also introduced the concept of non-binary people and non-gender specific pronouns to many viewers.

Continue Reading  Here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/06/21/third-gender-option-non-binary/359260001/

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On Taking The Sting Out of Slurs by Using Them as Empowerment.

I’ve always enjoyed taking the power of slurs away from homophobes and U.S. Protesttransphobes by turning around and using them myself. I think that is why I embraced the use of “queer” so quickly. Very early in the nineties I participated in several Queer Nation protests/events sometimes the protests were a joint ACT-UP/Queer Nation protest. Queer Nation stood in stark contrast of the more assimilation minded LGBTQ community based organizations like The Human Right Campaign. I loved the in your face slogans chanted at protests.  Queer Nation chants included “Two, Four, Six, Eight! How Do You Know Your Kids Are Straight?” as well as “Out of the Closets and Into the Streets,” and the widely imitated “We’re Here! We’re Queer! Get Used To It!

When doing HIV/STD street outreach in areas frequented by gay men and gay youth, 7F2B7D16-59E4-4687-8322-AC8D2729B776-8780-0000070C85154B1Fand at a point in time when I identified as a gay man, I would frequently shout back “that’s Mr Faggot to you.” That slogan even appeared on buttons and shirts.

C7FC34FF-FEC8-405A-AD8D-367341608C48-8780-0000070E2230EABAThen there was the slur fairy or if you prefer old English faerie. As I have mentioned that particular slur was adopted by a group called The Radical Faeries. Who are The Radical Faeries? Margot Adler in her 2006 book Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshipers and Other Pagans in America (Revised ed.) captured the essence of the group in this description:

“We are the equivalent of Shamans in modern culture,” said Peter Soderberg, during an interview at the 1985 Pagan Spirit Gathering. “Many gay men want to be middle-class Americans. They want to be respected as human beings and they want their sexuality to be ignored. But radical faeries are willing to live on the edge. We feel there is power in our sexuality. You know there is a power there because our culture is so afraid of us.”

4683AB18-8E62-4125-9939-0D63438D61D9-8780-00000718B8DF8A41You can see how this has an appeal for someone exploring their gender identity, particularly their gender expansive approach to presenting themselves and their view that faeries stood between the genders and sexualites. Harry Hay, the person in the photo on the left, was one of the founders of the Faeries. Harry was influenced by two spirit traditions, in Indigenous American culture and spirituality, in forming his belief that faeries had a unique role in society as a group set apart from the gender and sexualities of the cisgender and heterosexual mainstream. I always say that, for me, The Radical Faeries were my bridge from viewing myself as gay man, then queer, and from there to my current identity as an Agender/Trans Femme individual.

The slur that I have not personally adopted but I’ve seen others embrace is “sissy.” AE0A8ADB-FD1F-43FF-95EA-BECBB7948EF8-8780-00000709D31FE663Unfortunately this is used by guys who like to be humiliated for being sissy, a fetish I don’t understand. I’m about beeing empowered not humiliated. So I prefer a use like the one seen on shirts in the eighties and nineties referencing a television sitcom from the seventies called “Family Affair.” There were two children and a teenage girl featured and their names were, Buffy, Jody and Sissy. The shirt displayed those three names with a prominent check mark ✅ after Sissy.

The obvious connection with these slurs and trans identity and gender expression is that they all reference perceived effeminate behavior in boys and men.

Which brings us to perhaps my favorite slur after fairy. That is the beautiful flower known as pansy. The use of it as a slur seems to have developed in the 1920s as a sort of association between effeminate men who frequently dressed in colorful clothes and the delicate beauty of the flower known as the pansy. It wasn’t always looked down on. One legislator tried to make it our national flower. I particularly liked this description from a web page discussing the derivation of pansy as a slur:

“Perhaps one of the oddest examples can be found in an original story penned by Doris Palmer of Louisville that was printed in the Louisville Courier-Journal in 1908 (Feb. 9, 1908, p. 22). “Panio,” the protagonist, is a little boy who was “not like the other children; they laughed at his queer fancies, mocked him so that the boy…left the boisterous children and went to the woods to find comfort in the wild flowers.” He eventually stumbles upon a meadow where he discovers an unusual flower. Later he wins a prize for naming it the “pansy” and lives happily ever after with his mother and a flower garden filled with his beloved blossoms.

Most notable here is the author’s use of “queer”: perhaps an early indication of how the meaning of that word was also changing. It’s telling that Panio was a mama’s boy who never married.”

I identify with that character. Panio was a lot like me. I turned to mother nature as a respite from an uncomfortable relationship with my father and what I now believe was spiritual/emotional abuse. So that’s why I love the word pansy and gladly embrace it. Here’s my little tribute…

I’m A Pansy, You’re A Pansy,
They’re A Pansy, We’re All Pansies.,
Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Pansy Too?

Parody of Vintage Dr. Pepper Jingle.
I know you’re singing it in your head now aren’t you? Notice the use of a singular they in, “they’re a pansy.”

Alternative lyrics by me, Fairy JeriBear

Here’s the graphic:

IMG_3830

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