Remembering Michael Running Elk

Michael Running Elk

Michael Running Elk Howard

September 24, 1954 – February 20, 2008

Michael first came into my life when I hired him as an employee for a non-profit agency where I was coordinator of HIV/AIDS Prevention and LGBTQ Support Services. He quickly proved to be an enthusiastic employee. I knew he was HIV infected but for me that was an asset. He and I along with a team of stipend volunteers provided education in schools, sought out cruising areas all over central Massachusetts to get HIV/STD prevention supplies, safer sex information and referral resources to gay and bisexual men and other men who had sex with men (MSM), we also had an active late night outreach program reaching out to sex workers both male and female as well as reaching out to MSM both on the street and in clubs or bars. He had come from California to Worcester, Massachusetts and regaled me with stories of his adventures in theater and films and run-ins with anti-gay conservatives.

I moved away but stayed in touch and visited him twice, once back in Worcester, then a few years later in Florida where he had moved. While he was still in Massachusetts he discovered that he was part Native American. He’d been raised by an adoptive family so was unaware of his heritage prior to this discovery. He went through a naming ceremony and henceforth he was Michael Running Elk. He was proud of his ancestry and bonded with another person who was part Native American as well. He married this soul mate and together they moved to Florida. When I visited him in Florida we explored the area around Tampa Bay where some of the photos were taken including posing with the red lory at the Tampa Zoo.

He later returned to Massachusetts but I had lost track of him by then. A friend let me know he had passed away. I miss my friend whose life ended too soon. I will treasure the memories of all the adventures we shared. I thought I’d share his story with you so his memory lives on.

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Introducing Myself As An Avatar – A Mini Movie

Hello I’m Jeri – by Jeri Rae

I created this during an all night marathon after I had an inspiration to use my Bitmoji avatar to introduce myself. So enjoy!

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Remembering Tommy

Tommy Holland – November 3, 1945 – March 9, 1989
An artistic rendering by Jeri Cheney from an obituary photo

Tommy Holland, (no relation to the young actor of the same name), was college organist and assistant minister of music at Assumption College as well as the associate organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where he served as organist for most of the principal Worcester diocesan services, including the installation of the Bishop and the Auxiliary Bishop.

In 1983, he was organist at solemn vespers during the convention of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society in Worcester.

Tommy was also organist for two recordings, “A Babe Is Born,” issued in 1984 by St. Paul’s Cathedral, and “Amid the Winter’s Snow,” issued last year by Mechanics Hall.

I met Tommy early in 1988 when he came to the newly opened offices of AIDS Project Worcester, in Worcester, Massachusetts. The office was in the front portions of an abandoned warehouse that had been donated for the agency’s use. He and I met to discuss how I could help him.  As we discussed his situation it became evident that I had to be very careful to not reveal his status or the fact that he was a gay man. In 1988 being gay, living with AIDS, being a Roman Catholic and being employed at a Catholic College made his situation very delicate. This made helping Tom very difficult. He was not out as either gay or as a person with AIDS to his employers whom he depended on for health insurance coverage, yet I had to work with his insurance company to ensure he had access to medication to treat his infection. At this time in 1988, there was only one medication approved for treating infection with HIV and that was AZT. The insurance company was hesitant to approve this treatment but with some encouragement they finally agreed to cover him. His case was important as someone willing to let me advocate for insurance coverage for AZT and later for aerosolized pentamidine as a prophylaxis against pneumocystis pneumonia. This gave me the experience that would help me work on behalf of subsequent clients.

Tommy became my friend and was a wonderful sweet person. I knew he did have the support of a select group of friends and I felt privileged to be included. His closest friends were a group of gay priests and music professionals affiliated with various churches. I met some of these very sincere, kind men through my friendship with Tommy. The group often gathered at location that was known, amongst this group of friends, as the 700 club, so named because of the street address of the place they got together. It was also a chance for them to poke fun at the 700 club, the tv show run by a Protestant televangelist. Unfortunately I was not destined to spend as much time as I would have liked getting to know Tom even better. 

In early 1989 Tommy took a turn for the worst. He was dealing with some serious complications related to his infection with HIV and having an AIDS diagnosis. The most severe complication was Toxoplasmosis Encephalitis a parasitic infection that had migrated to the brain. He was also suffering some effects from HIV-related dementia so he was suffering but a bit confused about what was happening. He had a couple close friends who visited him at the hospital but not that many beyond that. There was an Episcopal priest that was particularly kind and helpful. This wonderful human being helped Tom reconcile his Faith with who he was.

Sadly Tommy died on March 9, 1989. His funeral mass was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in downtown Worcester. There was wonderful music as befitting his vocation. The service was conducted by the Bishop Harrington and no mention of Tom’s identity or what he died of was made. After the service I attended a reception where I felt very uncomfortable. I had been in the paper by then as both gay and an AIDS activist and there were a few people who I sensed were beginning to understand how I had come to know Tom so I left after a short while. A bit later I got together with some of his friends at the “700 Club.” This group of mostly gay men who were closeted in their church  jobs were able to metaphorically “let their hair down” and talk freely with each other. It was clear they all loved Tom dearly and felt his loss deeply. They helped me process Tom’s passing and for that I will be forever grateful.

Through my friendship with Tommy I met a celibate gay priest who was a Chaplin at Assumption College. A couple year later, I accepted an invitation to talk with a group of LGBTQ+ students and share information both on HIV/AIDS and being gay. My chat did not cause any trouble but, I believe, a subsequent visit from activists from ACT-UP did cause a serious problem. Later, in the nineties, an Assumption College graduate became well known as an AIDS activist. His name was Michael Quercio and he became loved and respected by some at the college. When Michael died in 1995 his funeral was held at Assumption College and was one of the most respectful masses/funerals at a Catholic Church I had been to. Michael was respected for who he was. I left the funeral very sad for the loss of my friend Michael but also grateful for the way he was remembered at his Alma Mater. I’d like to think some of the change there was a result of Tommy’s influence a little over 5 years earlier. For that and for the memories of a wonderful man gone way too soon, I am thankful.

#WhatIsRememberedLives #RememberingTommy

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Reliving The AIDS Crisis As A New Pandemic Ravages The World

I wrote this earlier this year, in April of 2020, on my Facebook page when one of those memory reminders showed up with this photo of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. It has been well received on the AIDS Memorial Facebook page so I decided to post it here on my blog for World AIDS Day.

Trigger Warning: Frank talk about my years during the AIDS crisis including a frank discussion about death and loss.

A photo from a Facebook post that triggered memories of loss for me.

This photo is a powerful reminder of loss. I think this is why current events are triggering many of us who survived the worse of the AIDS Epidemic in the eighties and nineties. Images of hospitals, refrigerated trucks as temporary morgues, many trying to hang on, mass burials. Yes there are differences HIV isn’t nearly as contagious but many treated it like it was, another difference – once someone with AIDS had depleted their CD4/T helper cells opportunistic infections took hold and death was nearly always the result. I am seeing friends in caskets, some with bloated bodies, some covered in kaposi’s sarcoma blotches and most with emaciated bodies. I am not trying to gross you out but just to share it in hopes that it’ll lesson it’s power to hurt. Those were hard, awful years but there were also great times, I met so many wonderful people who were anxious to prevent the disease from happening to others, they accompanied me to high schools all over Central Massachusetts.

They also joined me in our efforts to reduce infections by meeting people where they were cruising. conducting sex work and those seeking sex workers. We were in bars and clubs, on the streets and parks in the middle of the night and in more secluded outdoor cruising environments during the day. There was a time when I could name nearly every cruising area in our jurisdiction. We left packets with information on how to have sex safer, along with packets of lube and of course condoms. This was challenging but rewarding work. You learn so much from interacting with people. They’d share their stories sometimes, some had been the victims of hate crimes – my team even interrupted an elaborate set up to lure gay men with an attractive guy posing on a corner while his coconspirators hid behind a bush and one had a baseball bat. Thankfully there were three of us so they aborted their effort but were caught doing something similar by the police. The point is that those who were positive were willing to go out to help others even when they put themselves at risk.

I can’t say enough about the wonderful people I called friends, co-workers and marvelous human beings. We lost so many and I miss them all. Living in the middle of a pandemic is awful. I really empathize with everyone on the front lines. Nurses, doctors, paramedics custodial staff, grocery and pharmacy workers and those in funeral homes. Then there are the families of those who are sick and families of those who care for the sick. They are going to need quality mental health services, (something those of us who survived AIDS didn’t always get), and we owe it to them to provide it and provide it free.

We will get through this but there will be consequences. Let’s do what we can to support all those affected and insist our government steps in to help. Then, when it is all over, we can hold those accountable who let this get out of hand.

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Remembering Jean & Melissa

In 1989 two remarkable women came into my life. At the time I was working at AIDS Project Worcester in Worcester, Massachusetts.

My first friendship with anyone identified as transgender or transsexual was in the late eighties. At the time I was working at AIDS Project Worcester (APW) as Client Advocate and Gay Outreach Coordinator. One of the other client advocates left the agency so I took on some of the cases including Jean.


Jean was a wonderful African-American transwoman who lived life to the fullest despite being disowned by her family. I had a street outreach program as part of my duties at APW. One night Jean came out with us. Her history as sex worker informed her reaction to the johns that drove by us. She felt safe with myself and an outreach volunteer so she started giving us a humorous take on the guys that drove by. She’d say, “mm-hmm, I see you I know what you’re after.” It made for an entertaining evening. Of course the flip side was the life she’d had to lead as a sex worker. It was the only way she could earn money as employers weren’t hiring Black, Trans Women back then. The life of a sex worker was tough. You were never sure if you were going to be safe when you turned a trick. I saw sex workers with battered faces and a young guy hustling with his arm in a sling.

A few short months after I started as Jeans advocate and became her friend, she developed TB, an opportunistic infection associated with AIDS. She had been assisted by a volunteer from the Buddy Program at AIDS Project Worcester. They were an odd pairing when you learned who they both were. Her buddy was a middle aged Evangelical Christian woman who was determined to help those society looked down on. She was a strong advocate for the LGBTQ community within her faith community and in her community. She was really devoted to Jean. It was a blessing because by then I had so many clients it was difficult to give them all the time they deserved. One day we learned that Jean wasn’t well and my self and a visiting nurse were concerned that she was seriously ill. We went up to her attic apartment. Once we entered we knew something was seriously wrong. There was evidence of disposed tissues and some fecal matter. I knew the buddy had been keeping pretty close tabs on Jean so this was a rapid deterioration. When we located her huddled in a disheveled bed it was obvious she was indeed very sick with all the symptoms of tuberculosis. I was pretty shook up and couldn’t believe how fast someone could deteriorate both physically and mentally. I was trying to do so may things at once that I was pretty overwhelmed. I probably muttered some choice swear words under my breath. So the nurse arranged for Jean to be taken to the hospital but her illness had progressed too far and with her non-functioning immune system she, sadly, passed away.

We tried unsuccessfully to contact the family as, back then there were no search engines and barely any internet. We simply didn’t have enough to go on. Too much time had gone by and unfortunately we didn’t have enough information. In cases like Jeans where there is no money for a proper funeral creating something simple but meaningful was the only option. We contacted friends in the community who had known Jean and together with a pastor from the Metropolitan Community Church we had a graveside service in the paupers part of the municipal cemetery. This photo shows her casket with the clergy person and myself at the head of the casket (along with someone from the funeral home). Her buddy is just to the right of the taller man with black hair who was serving as the director of AIDS Project Worcester (APW). Also in attendance are friends, volunteers and staff from APW. In an effort to raise awareness a photographer from a local weekly newspaper came and took pictures including this one.

Jean’s Graveside Funeral
Courtesy of Worcester Historical Museum and Worcester Magazine.

She was buried in a pauper’s grave but Jean is remembered by those of us who knew her.


Melissa was a feisty, proud African-American transwoman. I first met her at a meeting of a fledgling LGBT group that was formed after the 1987 March on Washington. She was stunningly beautiful and made quite an impression when talk turned to the Catholic Church and it’s strange double standard of fighting against effective prevention measures while being wonderful caregivers when people with AIDS were dying. Melissa commented on the pope and wondered what he was doing “up there in his gown.”

I inherited Melissa’s case in much the same way I had inherited Jean’s. Her Client Advocate moved away and the case was turned over to me. I didn’t know what to expect when I went for my first visit. This was a 2 or 3 weeks since her former Advocate had been to visit her and she had changed for the worst. She had AIDS but also suffered from bipolar disorder. She was deep in depression and had totally let herself go. I barely recognized her because she hadn’t shaved for awhile and her mother who was supposed to be looking out for her hadn’t checked in for a bit. It wasn’t just her physical and mental conditions that were problematic. I learned her living situation was tenuous because her mother, who was her representative payee for her Social Security check was supposed to be paying her rent and bills. Instead of doing that she had pocketed the money. So one of my first jobs, after Melissa was back on her feet and feeling better, was accompanying her to housing court to plead for understanding and time so we could let Melissa stay in her a par while we searched for other arrangements. Thankfully this was granted.

I encouraged Melissa to take control of her health and see a physician. She did just that and for awhile was her bubbly self again. Unfortunately that respite was short lived. By then I had changed jobs but agreed to stay on as her “buddy,” (buddy programs were designed to pair trained volunteers with someone with AIDS to be a caregiver and friend). We had many conversations whenever I stopped by to see her. One recurring theme was her sadness and frustration that the disease had robbed her of the opportunity to complete gender confirmation surgery which she described as “getting her vagina.” She also shared how tough it had been to be trans woman. She would call to see if a job was still open and find out it was but when she came to meet the perspective employer in person she was told the job was filled. In desperation she turned to the only employment open to her – sex work. She recalled how difficult life was trying to survive. The “john’s” she agreed to have sex with could be violent and some, if they found out she had a penis, would become violent. Thankfully she survived those encounters but other transwoman sex workers did not survive. This is one of the reasons for the ongoing tragedy of murdered transwoman of color.

For a number of months she seemed to be okay. I would help her take care of her finances and run errands to get her medication and cases of Ensure to make sure she received adequate nutrition. Unfortunately the time came when she again went deep into depression. This time it was worse as she was also suffering from dementia.

When myself and her Client Advocate finally got into her apartment it was a disaster. She was quite literally living in filth. God it was awful! Her clothes were scattered all over the place. There was dried feces and scattered personal effects everywhere. To see this proud woman reduced to this was heartbreaking. We got her over to the hospital and worked with her physician and care team at University of Massachusetts Medical Center to find an appropriate health care facility. Eventually we got her admitted to The Hospice At Mission Hill in Boston. When me and my partner went to see her she barely recognized us. We took her out for awhile so she could see the city and get some fresh air. When we returned it became painfully obvious how severe her dementia had become. She had a difficult time just navigating to her room, unsure at every turn. We hugged her goodbye and left passing the rooms of others in the last six months or less of their lives. I so admire the dedication of the hospice staff who selflessly cared for each patient making them feel loved and cared for.

Just before she died her family once again entered her life after being contacted by the Hospice. When Melissa died I tracked down where her wake was being held. I went to pay my respects at the funeral home accompanied by my dear friend Chris who worked for the Visiting Nurses Association. When we entered the room it seemed all eyes turned and looked at us. We definitely felt out of place but we were pleasant and paid our respects. As we approached the casket my heart nearly stopped. There was a stranger in the casket. In an act of final indignity they had stripped her of her gender and dressed her as a man in suit and tie. I was livid but didn’t want to make a scene in the funeral home. So I left very shook up thankfully Chris was there for emotional support on the ride home.

The numbers you read about during the Transgender Day of Remembrance are tragedies but there are other forms of physical and emotional violence and neglect that lead to death from diseases like AIDS Viral Hepatitis and untreated STDs. There are also survivors who live in fear, while struggling to find a job. The safety net has some significant holes that need mending to ensure that vulnerable, marginalized trans individuals have access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So as we mourn today let’s remember those who are living and redouble our efforts to create a world where they are loved, respected and thriving.

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Enough Is Enough

I have been thinking about the collective trauma these mass shootings are having on Americans. On NBC Nightly News they showed 2 instances of people panicking over loud noises they took for gun shots in Times Square last night people ran panicking away from the sound of a motorcycle backfiring in another location people ran away in a fright because of a sign falling and at USA Today offices the building was evacuated after a seemingly false report of a man with a gun.

New York Times front page from December 31, 1994

The closest I have come to this sort of fear was back on December 30th, 1994. I was working in my office at work when the report of a shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Boston. This was very early in the internet age and mobile phones were not in wide use so I didn’t know the details. All I knew is that my partner, who worked for Planned Parenthood, had gone into a meeting in Boston. I remember the fear in the pit of my stomach and desperately wanted to know that he was okay. I paged him (back then we had pagers and not phones). I entered my number and 911 and hoped he would call. Thankfully he did and I was so relieved. There was a death at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts a city that borders Boston. There was also another shooting at another clinic nearby. I was really shook up and remember the collective sense of loss a few days later at a memorial service at the Arlington Street Church in Boston.

Now I am imagining this fear being multiplied by people who knew a person or persons among thousand shopping in that El Paso Walmart. I can imagine the fear as people learned that a shooter had killed people at a Walmart where their family members or friends had gone shopping. That effected people those whose friends and family were spared and devastated those who lost someone they love. This took place in Ciudad Juarez as well as El Paso as many from the border city in Mexico had gone to shop. Last I heard, there were 7 Mexican citizens amongst the 22 lives lost.

Of course this did not take place in a vacuum. President Trump had been using Hispanics in general and immigrants in particular as part of his invasion at the border rhetoric. His speeches and tweets have included words that spoke directly to the White Supremacists in the audience or reading his tweets. These dog whistles were embraced by right-wing, racist fanatics who saw Trump as someone who felt the way he did. They were very open in their admiration for the President and could/can see through the facade of “Good Trump” reading off a TelePrompTer vs the real Trump in tweets and at rallies.

I really hope this is a turning point but I am skeptical; still the number of people who lost friends or family to mass shootings is growing. Soon a majority of Americans will rise up and say #EnoughIsEnough. Maybe then things will really change. I hope that occurs before November of 2020. We can’t take 4 more years of this great white hope!

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The AIDS Crisis – Time to Share History And Lessons Learned

My thirties were consumed with dealing with HIV/AIDS in ways that it hard to convey to people who did not live through the eighties and nineties, in whole or in part, as someone infected or affected by the infection and disease. Today as we look at the disease as a semi-manageable disease for those with access to antiretroviral medication. I say semi manageable because their are side effects and for some they affect quality of life and for a few more come too late because they didn’t know their HIV status in time to make a difference. But, compared to the first two decades of the epidemic the AIDS Crisis is over but the concern isn’t. Still it is a good time to pause and remember those who stood up and fought and gave their lives and to remember those of us who stood up and fought and are survivors both, affected and infected. I know I am still haunted and have lingering PTSD from those years but I am glad I spoke up, created demonstrations, joined ACT-UP actions and yes spoke to the media. I am not sure my contribution was adequate but I am sure our collective contributions made a huge difference. Now it’s time to remind a new generation of our history and the lessons learned.

“Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes, when that day has come and gone, there’ll be people alive on this Earth, gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free. So I’m proud to be with my friends today and the people I love, because I think you’re all heroes, and I’m glad to be part of this fight. But, to borrow a phrase from Michael Callen’s song, ‘all we have is love right now. What we don’t have is time.’”

-Vito Russo

Vito’s full speech here: Huffington Post article with full speech

An excellent audiobook for youth and adults: VIRAL: The Fight Against AIDS in America

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Happy Pride Month 2019

I intend on updating my recent life soon but for now here’s a graphic I created for Pride Month.

Me in a faux fairyland background with an E. E. Cummings quote

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Kevin & I – Two LGBTQ Youth – One Lost To Suicide – One Confused, Depressed and Closeted For A Decade


Elsewhere in this blog I had recounted this story as if Kevin was only home a few weeks when he committed suicide. After some sleuthing, earlier this year, I uncovered some information about Kevin Blake’s death. There is a news item I found in The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. In my search I was thrown off by the lack of information about Pioneer Valley Academy or Atlantic Union College (AUC) in this news item as well as the date in the news report. The other facts though check out. The street of his parents home checks out with the address in the Atlantic Union College yearbook for ‘75-‘76. The age would be right as well. Well there are a couple minor inconsistencies, It is not that unusual for relatives to change information after a suicide.

Kevin Blake, as a 17 year old freshman at Atlantic Union College in the Fall of 1975, AUC 1975- 1976 yearbook.

In the fall of 1975 I began my freshman year in college. I attended Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster, Massachusetts which is a Seventh-Day Adventist parochial college. That semester I met this small group of gay students and began to hang out with them. I struck up a close friendship with Kevin a fellow freshman. He was one of the only, blatantly obvious, gay students. In fact his flamboyant mannerisms earned him the nickname Rosebud, (and no this was not referring to a part of the anatomy known in gay slang as rosebud). We spent lots of time talking in the dorm stairwell. He talked about his same-sex sexual experiences at an SDA boarding high school (the now defunct Pioneer Valley Academy). In fact Kevin was the only person I came out to as gay. Kevin was flamboyant and effeminate and so was singled out for taunts, ridicule and threats. He also was well aware that who he was conflicted with the church’s beliefs.

Me, Jeri, as a college freshman in September of 1975. From the Atlantic Union College yearbook 1975 – 1976

I remember practicing “The Hustle,” a disco dance style popular at the time. Kevin tried to show me the steps in his dorm room with limited success. One Saturday night a group of guys were going into a gay bar in Worcester. They talked me into coming along and I agreed, (rationalizing that this was a sociological study). When I walked in it was like another world. Despite my discomfort I could see many of these guys were like me. I was being cruised and didn’t know what to do so I was grateful when Kevin asked me to dance. While dancing with Kevin I began to feel at ease and even enjoyed myself. On the ride home I was processing all that had happened while trying to keep Kevin’s hands off me.

At some point he lost his virginity, (he was the bottom) and was ecstatic about he experience despite the obvious discomfort. I mention this because this was something that significantly added to the conflicts he had between the very positive emotional reaction to his sexual experiences and the very negative comments about homosexuality and effeminate behavior, (Kevin was very flamboyant), he heard from others and his church.

Eventually the semester ended and many students, including Kevin, went home for the Christmas/New Year/Winter Break. I stayed on at college but did hitchhike to Maine for New Year’s Day with one of the other gay students. As we all came back from break, Kevin did not return. He remained in his parent’s home town of Greece, New York, (near Rochester), where he enrolled at Monroe Community College for the second semester. He then went to work for Kodak. He worked there until he was laid off on Wednesday, December 22nd, 1976.

What happened between September of 1976 and early Christmas morning, 1976 was a real family tragedy. The news eventually reached me and it was horrible; Kevin was dead and so were his father and mother. His mom had committed suicide in September of 1976 when problems “no one knew about overcame her.” The news report completely omitted any reasons for any of the suicides but because I had long conversations with him I am reasonably sure the conflict was, in part or in whole, about Kevin’s homosexuality. He must have become overwhelmed with guilt, depression and confusion not just about his own personal situation but also over his mom’s suicide 3 moths earlier, possibly in reaction, at least partly, to issues surrounding Kevin’s sexuality.

So at 3:30, early on the day before Christmas, he went over to his father’s home. He walked into the garage, closed all doors as his mother had 3 months earlier, left a note on his dad’s car then climbed in and started the car. So with the garage door closed and the car running the Carbon Monoxide take his all too short life (he was 18).The fumes, unfortunately, were not contained in the garage but seeped under the breezeway and doors and through the house to his father’s bedroom. The tragic result was that both Kevin and, accidentally his father were killed by carbon monoxide fumes.

Before this tragedy happened I had another experience which affected me You see early in 1976. I had a brief relationship myself with another of our little gay click, Tony, a student from Bermuda. We shared a mutual bathroom as the dorm was set up to accommodate 4 students between two rooms with a restroom/shower in between. It began with us hitchhiking up to Maine for a New Year’s party up in South Portland, Maine. I went to visit a young woman who was the aunt of some friends of mine from my hometown in Maine. I don’t remember much, in part because on New Year’s Eve I had my first experiences with Vodka in the form of “screwdrivers” and marijuana. I know I was drinking and mimicking everyone as the joint was passed around. By the time we went home I was seriously wasted. I honestly don’t know if any sex occurred but I don’t think so. We got back to the college and one thing led to another and we ended up in, on or beside Tony’s bed. It really was simple, harmless, mutual masturbation but it didn’t seem harmless to me at the time. The church the college was affiliated with, (Seventh-Day Adventist), seriously frowned on individual masturbation and decidedly hostile to homosexuality. At the next break, Tony took off for an adventure up to Toronto where he had some one night stands. A few days after he returned he became ill. The health services diagnosed it as mononucleosis and Tony was sent home. I took this as a warning sign and decided to refrain from sexual encounters but by the end of the year, at which point I learned about Kevin’s suicide. I was an emotional wreck. Kevin’s death added to the personal emotional trauma I was going through. Over time all of this merged, in my mind, as all happening in January of 1976 when in fact the news about Kevin came after Christmas if 1976. The effect all this turmoil had on me was significant. As a result, I remained firmly in the closet until February of 1987.


This has been a lesson on how we can block or misremember traumatic events. If I hadn’t been determined to sleuth out this story, trying to find what the story surrounding Kevins suicide really was. I would still be sure all of these events happened at relatively the same time. In January of 1976, when his death actually happened in December of 1976. There was a discrepancy, (or an omission), of the time Kevin spent in Massachusetts, first at Pioneer Valley Academy and then his semester at Atlantic Union College. I have no idea why this information was withheld but it made finding this new information much more difficult.

Newspaper clipping that supplied the missing information

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We #WontBeErased

#WontBeErased Trans Animation By Jeri Ra

#WontBeErased Non-binary Animation By Jeri Rae

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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…


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:
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:

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:

Here is another excellent essay on this subject:

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.


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




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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:

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Transgender Day Of Remembrance


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:
Sexuality and Gender Pride Flagd are described here:

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