Undetectable = Un-transmittable, Getting Over the Stigma of HIV

Recently I was asked if I was still single would date I someone who was HIV positive but undetectable. My answer was a resounding yes. If the chemistry were there and I loved that person I would date them if they were undetectable or detectable. I don’t usually write articles about HIV/AIDS, I leave that to our columnist Danial Ashely Williams, since he is HIV positive he has a perspective that I don’t. In this case maybe as someone who is HIV negative, I should share my perspective on dating someone who is HIV positive. All though there is no real cure yet, drug advancements have come so far that with daily treatment HIV can become undetectable in the body and undetectable means un-transmittable, that means you can’t pass on the virus through sex. NOW, don’t get me wrong I’m not saying not use a condom, that is a personal choice. I’m just saying HIV can’t be transmitted to a sexual partner if it’s undetectable in the system. That being said, what do we have to do as a community to make the stigma of HIV undetectable and un-transmittable?

The AIDS epidemic during the 80’s and early 90’s wiped out whole communities. Major Cities like New York, San Fransisco, L.A., and Chicago were not the only places devastated by the virus. The gay community in smaller cities in the mid-west were all but wiped out. Calumet City IL for example. Cal City had a thriving LGBTQ community. Now there’s just a gay bar or two left and the community has never fully recovered. All around the globe, gay or not the world lost potential artists, entertainers, scientists, doctors and people lost loved ones. What if we lost the person who could have actually cured this disease.

Now with the advancements in drug therapy the healing has started, at least for the people who are HIV positive. They have a new lease on life and yes of course the potential that they MIGHT develop AIDS will alway be in the back of their minds, but at least now they have hope. They have the hope that they will live a long normal life and the hope that they will maybe date, fall in love, Netflix and chill on a Sunday afternoon with someone. In the 80’s and early 90’s hope was a luxury that a lot of gay men couldn’t afford.

Life returns to semi-normal if you don’t count the expense of the drug costs and the daily doses of medications, these are things that become routine. Now that HIV positive gay men are living longer what do they hope for now. Obviously I can’t speak for all of them or really any of them, but I imagine that some of them want a heathy dating life. Some may want to find a boyfriend settle down get married get that house with a white picket fence, maybe have a couple of kids and a dog. Live the “American Dream,” but I bet for SOME HIV positive men it’s hard for them to even try.

How many times has someone who’s undetectable started to get close with THAT guy? That crush from the office or the guy who stands next to you in line at Starbucks every morning. That guy you’re finally making a real connection with. The innocent flirting and the unmistakeable chemistry, not being able to concentrate because THAT guy is on your mind all the time. He’s sending all the right singles and admits that he feels the same way. You go on the date you’ve been waiting to go on with THAT guy. The flirting gets to that next level and you finally gather up the courage and tell him you’re HIV positive but undetectable, he pretends not to be taken aback, but you see it in his eyes. You finish your date on a positive note yet he declines the offer to come back to your place claiming he has an early day tomorrow. The next day you don’t hear from him, then three days go by then five. You don’t see him at Starbucks anymore. He doesn’t return your texts, but you knew all along he wouldn’t. You’ve been ghosted, and it fucking hurts like a symptom of the disease you don’t even have.

Look I get it, people get scared. HIV/AIDS has wrecked havoc on a community struggling for acceptance and just when it was starting to happen gay men started dying. The Reagan Administration did nothing at the time to address the epidemic and wouldn’t even utter the word “AIDS.” Lack of response or even acknowledgement from the Reagan White House only made the sigma of HIV/AIDS worse. Like a lot of people I lived through that time. As a teenager in the 1980’s who was growing up in a town so small we only had one traffic light, I automatically thought being gay was a death sentence. I fought my sexual identity until I couldn’t anymore. It was a fight with myself I’m glad I lost. Now there’s another fight happening, the fight to rid this community of the stigma of HIV.

In plain simple terms everyone can understand, if someone’s viral load is undetectable in their bloodstream then they are NOT able to transfer HIV to sexual partners. If you are one of those gay guys that have an issue with HIV positive guys get the fuck over it. They are just as much a part of the LGBTQ community as anyone else and just like our trans brothers and sisters or that kid who has been shunned by his family for coming out or any other person in this beautiful and tough community that we live in all HIV positive individuals need support from us all. HIV positive individuals also need the encouragement that we give everyone else in this community to live their truth.

The best weapon we had during the hight of the AIDS epidemic was education. People had to educate themselves that they couldn’t get AIDS from a toilet seat or drinking out of the same glass or even a kiss. Education is essential. I dated someone once who had cerebral palsy, I read up on what it was and how and what to expect and how to deal with certain things IF they came up, which they didn’t. If you get asked out by a guy who is HIV positive and he’s undetectable educate yourself on what that is and what to expect. Do it for yourself especially if you like him. But, even after everything that I’ve said if you still have an issue and you don’t want to go out with a person who has HIV, don’t ghost them. Have the courage to admit that you just don’t have any courage, it’s the least they deserve. Besides people living with HIV are forced to be brave everyday even when they don’t want to be, they deserve friends and lovers that are as brave as they are.

Our Anniversary in the Hospital and the Story of Post Op PRIDE

As we navigate a health crisis together we rediscover the real meaning of PRIDE and love.

John & Chris at Barker Pub

It’s a little after midnight, the clock has turned and June 26th, our anniversary is upon us. We’ve been married for five years together for 15, yet it seems like only five minutes. I look up and I see him in his hospital bed rolled over on his left side, it’s the only way he can get comfortable, laying like that is the best way to not get his IV tangled. “Hey it’s officially June 26, happy anniversary.” He rolls over just so slightly and wishes me a happy anniversary and he tells me he loves me. Chris rolls back over, puts his phone down and finally succumbs to sleep. He’ll wake up every so often to look back at me, to make sure I’m still here.

John M. Livelsberger (right) and his husband Chris.

Room 513 has been our home now since Saturday afternoon when they transferred him from the ER and it’s going to continue to be his/ our home for three to five days after his surgery. I’m the only one who gets any relief, I at least get to go home for a few hours a couple time a day to let the dogs out and play with them. Tomorrow they are going to take my husband to an operating room somewhere in the bowels of this hospital and remove part of his colon and re-sect it. For me and for our friends time will stand still and a two to three hour surgery will seem like forever, for Chris though no time will pass and if all goes as planned he’ll wake up in the recovery room and the healing can start. That’s the best case scenario. We’ve been dancing around the ‘C’ word all day today. We meaning us, the doctors, our friends, our parents. Cancer. We’re being told by medical professionals, “Oh I’m most certain that it’s not, but we will need to cut out the blockage and do a biopsy, just in case.” Or my favorite “We’re 95% sure that considering the type of procedure this is that we won’t need to attach a temporary colostomy bag.” I mean nothing ever goes wrong in with a major surgery, right? What me worry?

He’s scared and who could blame him. He’s having major surgery on his intestines and we really don’t know why or how this happened. All of the answers we need are inside of him. In all the years we’ve been together I’ve never seen him in such incredible pain. There’s been CT scans, x-rays, enough pain killers to knock out an elephant. Honestly I thought we wold have been here two days tops, but things are not good. I’m scared, but I have to be strong for him and he needs the strength and even though I’m exhausted, emotionally drained I’ll give him everything I have and let him take more, because he’s my husband. He choose me. If you ask me he got the short end of the stick.

PRIDE this year has two very important mile stones, 50 years since the Stonewall Riots and five years of marriage equality being legal in across the nation. Marriage is a journey, two imperfect people choosing to be a part of each others lives forever, or so that’s the plan. Our marriage comes with passion, baggage from our childhood that we both carry around, fights over trivial things and fights over important things. Marriage comes with, at least in our case, lots of laughter. There have been lean years and prosperous years. There are people who have came into our lives who we loved like family. Then they broke our hearts when they left. Most of all our marriage has been full of dreams and possibilities. It’s been about supporting the other person when they just want to give up. It’s been about supporting our friends and chosen family, but most of all our marriage been about love.

So we canceled our plans for PRIDE 2019. We will be in this hospital dealing with whatever gets thrown at us like we always have. Sure, we’re both disappointed, but PRIDE isn’t just about parades, corporate sponsorship, drag queens, dykes on bikes, or go go boys on the back of floats. The first PRIDE was a riot, a spark of violence that caught fire and became an inferno. PRIDE is all those things. PRIDE is also staying by your very sick husbands hospital bed, praying that he’s going to be okay, because you can’t imagine your world without him. PRIDE is sacrifice, PRIDE is lending comfort to others, Pride is about your friends, PRIDE is our struggle to get and hold on to our rights. PRIDE is our soul and PRIDE is our hopes and dreams, PRIDE is our broken hearts, PRIDE is love.

Happy PRIDE

Happy Anniversary to my Husband

50 Years After Stonewall, PRIDE Riots On

50 years after Stonewall, it’s the PRIDE of our lives.

Chicago Gay PRIDE Parade

PRIDE. Pride is a word that can mean different things to different people. You can take pride in your work, your home, your family, and yourself. For a lot of people taking pride in themselves can be the toughest. Sometimes it seems that despite the progress that the LGBTQ community has made, especially over the last 10 years, finding pride in oneself can be elusive and inconsistent. For many people self esteem comes in waves, sometimes you’re riding high on the biggest wave of the ocean, everything is going your way, other times you keep falling off the surf board and retreat to land thinking that you’ll never have the self confidence to try again. For others there are challenging times for sure, but they always seem to land on their feet and walk through life with a never ending confident stride.


Left: View along Sixth Avenue as hundreds of people march toward Central Park, June 26, 1975. Right: A couple kiss on Sixth Avenue, June 26, 1975. Allan Tannenbaum / Getty Images




People who are LGBTQ face a unique set challenges that can effect our self esteem. Issues ranging from acceptance of family and friends to discrimination. Health and mental health issues not to mention the disproportionate suicide rates among trans and queer youth. Homeless rates among LGBTQ youth are also disproportionate. Depending on who you are the reality of coming out as LGBTQ can be one of the single most stressful times in a persons life. So, if you are able to navigate any of these challenges in life you are brave.

Take coming out for example, we don’t come out just once, we come out all the time. We come out when we meet new people or start a new job and talk with our new co-workers the conversation will most certainly turn to ones spouse or partner. That happened to me recently. I started a new job and had two days of on boarding with another new employee, we were sequestered in a small office belonging to the human resource manager. The HR manager is an older man probably in his late 60’s and uses terms like “golly gee,” “heck,” and “swell.” As we were going over the companies benefits package I mentioned the low insurance rate compared to what my spouse was paying for both of us to be insured. He asked me what my wife did for a living. Of course I polity corrected him and said that my husband is the director of social services for a long term care facility. It seemed that the awkward silence lasted longer than what it actually did, but the on boarding resumed like nothing happened.

The New York City Pride March reaches a police line, 1971. Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

There’s always that fear, the fear of the person that you’re interacting with might get insulting or maybe even violent. I didn’t know either of the people that I was in that small office with, so when I “came out” there was a certain amount of awkwardness. Those awkward moments will continue to happen for the rest of my life. Even though we’ve made progress those of us who are LGBTQ will always be living with a certain amount of uncertainty. This uncertainty straight cis gendered people will never have. Straight people never have to think twice when they share with others who they love. They will never have to worry about getting fired from a new job or any job because of their sexuality. They will never have to worry about discrimination. Those of us in the LGBTQ community who are living our truth live with these harsh facts everyday of our lives.

This year is the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, arguably the start of the modern day gay rights movement. The riots led to the start of the first gay pride parades and festivals around the country. To get where we are now the patrons of The Stonewall Inn exploded into a violent protest after the police raided the bar. At the time raids of gay bars were common practice, but finally the people had enough. The riots became so violent that the police hid in The Stonewall Inn, afraid to leave for 45 minutes. The LGBTQ community has been clawing its way up ever since. Those early protesters were not just brave, they were fearless in finding the courage to fight the New York City Police because they were sick of being treated like their lives, their loves, and their dreams didn’t matter. Just this year The City of New York issued a formal apology to the city’s LGBTQ community for the way that community was abused at the hands of the people who were there to serve and protect all citizens.

The cis gendered straight white guys that are organizing “straight pride” events because they feel threatened that their little world is becoming too diverse, those toxic people want nothing more than to feel better about themselves by taking away our power to feel good about ourselves and undermining the achievements of our community and individuals. Don’t let them.

If you’re LGBTQ and still in the closet, if you’re not ready to come out, that doesn’t mean that you are not brave. Just coming to terms with who you are is one of the bravest things you can do, don’t ever feel pressured to come out. If you’re out always remember, just like those first protesters who took on the police during The Stonewall Riots your lives, loves, and dreams do matter.

So, on the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots think of the sacrifices and hardships queer people had to live through everyday, think of those who succumbed to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and early 90’s. Know that with people like Harvey Milk, Martha P. Johnson, Jim Obergefell, just to name a few we wouldn’t be where we are today. So, honor those who came before and know that they would want you to honor yourself, live bravely, love passionately, don’t be afraid of getting your heart broke, dream big and don’t ever let the world dictate what your truth is. And as always dance like no one is watching.

Happy PRIDE!

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 29, 2019 in Washington Park at the Guy Forman amphitheater from 1-9pm.

Anniversary

Let’s talk about time. More specifically, anniversaries. January 20th is one of my anniversaries. However, prior to this date becoming significant for me, it was just a date on the calendar. But, now this date holds as much, if not more significance as any other date on the calendar. See, on January 20, 2009, I became complete. It was the date of my gender confirming surgery. This past weekend I celebrated my 10 year anniversary of this date.

To think that I am 10 years past my surgery date is a bit surreal for me. I am still processing what this means in the big picture of the overall journey. To be honest, thinking that I could be 10 years beyond an event that I had for a long time given 0% chance of ever happening may be what I am having trouble processing. My journey had a lot of ups and downs but it really wasn’t until the 41st or 42nd year that the idea of having surgery became possible. For the longest time it was just this idea that was fleeting as I considered all that I would have to sacrifice in order to get that. It was always the piece of fruit so high up on the tree that it was unimaginable to think I could reach it. But, I Did!

As I’m writing this I can’t help but think of those in my circumstance who are still seeing the piece of fruit as too high up, too far away to be reachable. I’m here to tell you that it may seem that way now but don’t ever give up on it. Don’t lose focus on it. Wait for that moment when the pathway up those branches becomes clear and then climb. Do so because that piece of fruit for me has been more satisfying as any other piece of fruit I’ve ever tasted. It is worth the wait.

10 years, I welcome you as an anniversary. I look forward to 11 and 12 and all of the others that will follow. January 20th is not just a day on the calendar for me. What will become your date? Peace.

Validation

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. and columnist for OUT in Michigan City Photo: Facebook

Hello again my friends.

Life has been keeping me busy since I last wrote. I have had a chance to engage folks from all over the center part of our country. My travels are always eye opening experiences. I go in and talk about my experiences being an out and proud transgender woman. I teach communications skills and

connect people to quality resources. After I leave, I occasionally receive some feedback telling me how impactful my visit was to the sender on the message. I really enjoy my interactions on college campuses. I get to engage with students from many different areas of the country or world in a single setting. As I look back, at no time does anyone say to me that I cannot exist in their space because my assigned gender at birth does not match my current legal gender. I have been in front of thousands of people in the past three years.

I share this story because recently a news story came out stating that our current administration was planning to declare being transgender not possible, invalid. With a broad brush the assumed plan was to basically eliminate transgender as an identity. At first, my feeling was that none of this comes as a surprise to me. Not only our current administration but also many conservative and faith communities make statements trying to invalidate the transgender community. So, these words coming out of the White House didn’t shock me. Besides, I am not in need of nor am looking for their validation of my identity.

My second thought was to wonder why this seemed like something so important to a group of people who are neither impacted nor influenced by my identity. If it doesn’t affect them why even say anything about it. I pondered this and figured out this was really about votes. With the mid-term elections right around the corner, the Republicans were most likely pandering to their base to get votes. Yep, the transgender community was being used as a pawn in the political game. Oh well. Been here, done this before (see Human Rights Campaign and Barney Frank).

My current mood is this. The amount of support that the transgender community is receiving throughout my community, and the country as a whole warms my heart. This is the only validation I am glad to get. Thank you all.

#WontBeErased
#transvisibility

A Brief History of Gay Superheroes and Other Musings

Batwoman by artist J.H. Williams.

Last month The CW, the television network responsible for “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” and other live action superhero shows announced that a “Batwoman” series was in the works staring Australian model, actor, VJ, recording artist Ruby Rose as the title character Kate Kane/Batwoman. For those of you who have never heard of the character the original Batwoman was created in 1956 as a romantic foil for Batman amid concerns that a hot rich guy in his early 30’s who dresses up in a bat costume and who had adopted as his ward and crime fighting partner an orphaned circus trapeze artist who he dressed in a mask, a cape, and tight green short shorts might just be a homosexual. Go figure. The Batwoman character only lasted until the early 1960’s when DC Comics took the Batman in a darker and grittier direction. In a true sense of irony DC Comics brought back Batwoman in 2006, only this time as an ass kicking superhero who just happens to be a lesbian and is also Jewish. The Jewish part will become relevant shortly.

Detective Comics #233 (July 1956) Batwoman’s first appearance.

I read a lot of comic books growing up, actually I still do. When I was a kid comics like “The Uncanny X-Men” were a metaphor on the treatment of people who happened to be different. The title started out as creators Stan Lee & Jack Kirby tackled racism by using the metaphor of teenagers who were born with special powers into a world that hates and fears them. By the time I got around to reading “The Uncanny X-Men” it seemed to me that maybe the metaphor had shifted to how the LGBT community was treated, especially in the in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. The X-Men and other books would go on to show how bad humanity could be. The book also showed how noble people could be by going high when ignorent people filled with hate go low. Lessons that we can still learn from today.

Northstar by John Byrne

But the actual debut of a gay character especially a major character was years off. Writer/artist John Byrne who created the Canadian super hero team Alpha Flight always meant for their member Northstar to be gay, but he couldn’t come out and say it in print so there were lots of hints dropped. Northstar didn’t end up coming out until “Alpha Flight” No. 106 that hit the comic shops in 1992. Byrne also created Captain Maggie Sawyer of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit for the Superman comics that he went to write and draw in the 1980’s. Again, it was heavily hinted at that she was a lesbian by drawing her in a way to show it in her mannerisms but not actually coming out and saying it until the mid-1990’s. Gays in comics had always been a hot button topic since 1954 when the book “Seduction of the Innocent” by Fredric Wertham, M.D was released. In his book Dr. Wertham would argue that comic books had a negative effect on children and by exposing America’s youth to the medium was the cause of sexual perversion and juvenile delinquency. This book became a best seller and it energized Congress to start an inquiry into the comic book industry. Thankfully over the years Congress has moved on.

Now we have out and proud gay superhero’s in comics. DC not only has Batwoman in her own comic but the Superheroes Midnigher and Apollo. The X-Men’s Iceman who has been around since the early 1960’s just “came out” in the last couple of years. The previously mentioned Northstar’s same sex marriage was published in “Astonishing X-Men” No. 51. Now we finally have an out and proud superhero getting her own show and it’s not a lame character like the Pied Piper from The Flash comics. Batwoman kicks serious ass in the comics and from what I’ve read the show is not going to be that much different. So you would think that comic book nerds both gay and straight are excited. But wait not so fast, there’s dumb fuckery afoot.

Captain Maggie Sawyer by artist Tom Grummett from Adventures of Superman #498

So apparently hyper masculine nerds are pissed because the actor cast to play Batwoman, Ruby Rose who is a real life lesbian is not “gay enough” to play a lesbian superhero and she’s not Jewish. After a backlash of angry Tweets with the hashtag #RecastBatwoman towards her Ruby Rose deleted her Twitter account and stating in her last Tweet “When women and minorities join forces we are unstoppable.” Let’s break this down to common sense. Ruby Rose is an actor cast to play a part. Acting is when you play a part in a TV show, movie, or play. You are pretending to be something you are not. As a Jew I have no issues with a non-Jew playing a Jew. It’s called acting. Actor John Hillerman, who played the British character Jonathan Higgins in the 80’s TV show “Magnum P.I.” (not the 2018 reboot) was born and raised in Texas and is not really British. It’s called acting. Sir Patrick Stewert who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek the Next Generation” is actually British and not really from France were Picard grew up. It’s called acting. Eric Stonestreet who won a Prime Time Emmy for his portrayal the gay character Cameron Tucker and on the TV show “Modern Family” is not really gay. Again, it’s called acting. Although Gal Gadot gave the definitive performance as Wonder Woman, should this “logic” have been used in the casting the part of Wonder Woman? Instead of casting Gal Gadot who is Jewish and from Israel as Wonder Woman then maybe Warner Brothers Studios should have tracked down an actual daughter of the Greek God Zeus and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons or depending on which Wonder Woman origin you prefer maybe they should have tracked down an actress who was formed out of clay and brought to life by the Greek Gods. Sounds kind of ridiculous doesn’t it? Don’t stop to think about it, it’s ridiculous.

I needed a gay superhero when I was growing up and so did a lot of other kids. I needed someone to tell me that I could be a good guy and that I wasn’t a bad guy just because I was gay. Batwoman is coming whether you like it or not. I’m guessing if even after reading this you have an issue with a lesbian superhero swinging over the streets of Gotham City maybe Batwoman isn’t the superhero for you, maybe a gay supervillian is more your speed, may I recommend Milo Yiannopoulos?

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

When It Is What It Is

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. and columnist for OUT in Michigan City Photo: Facebook

Hello All. Recently, I was out of town to present at a conference. I had to use a parking garage. When I was leaving it, I had to get my parking pass validated. As I thought about this process, I chuckled. Why, you might ask? It was because of how I thought for a second that my identity was not much different from this parking voucher.

Identifying as transgender has taught me that no matter how confident I am in my identity I spend much of my time validating it for others. Now, mind you, I travel around the country conducting transgender awareness workshops and events so, yes, it kinda is my job. But, you’d be amazed at how often I am “required” to validate my identity outside of the parameters of my work. Just about every time I make a phone call to check on a reservation, appointment, or any other conversation not with family or friends puts me in a position which requires validation. I get the full list of verification questions and when all my answers match I get the “oh, so you’re Meghan?” Um, yes.

Sometimes this validating is more subtle and without words. I was finishing up in a restroom at a public restaurant. As I was washing my hands someone entered, stopped, backed out to look at the gender indicator on the door, then reentered. At this point they looked me over from head to toe then to head again. This was followed by a unrecognizable facial expression, probably somewhere between “you’ve got to be kidding me” and approaching violent illness. I kept it together and just smiled, dried my hands and left. Funny things is, my only real concern was whether or not they would also wash their hands when they were done.

Trans persons are subjected to moments of validation constantly. It gets to be tiring to always have to do this. Hopefully the work I am doing for my organization, TREES, Inc. www.webetrees.org, is having an impact on this problem. No, not the alleged problem of being trans, but the problem of always having to validate my identity, my existence. Sometimes it just Is What It Is.

Peace.

Let “Religious” Freedom Ring

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. and columnist for OUT in Michigan City Photo: Facebook

Happy Pride !!!

Wow, it is June already. It seems like winter just ended and now we are almost half way through Pride Month. A lot has happened since I last wrote. The first half of the year has kept me busy either teaching or traveling for TREES, Inc. (www.webetrees.org). Some thing that happened recently has caused an itch to get under my skin, so, I would like to share some thoughts on it. It is the recent SCOTUS ruling about “the baker”.

For those not in the know, in short, SCOTUS ruled that a baker in Colorado was unjustly “sanctioned” by the local human right commission/ordinance there. However, the ruling has been used as a tool to inspire some folks to think they can openly discriminate with “religious freedom” as the tool for this discrimination. My first, and most significant reaction is “Oy.” In fact, that may be as far as I should go with any reaction, but I won’t.

In my view, if someone wants to discriminate they will. It is only when there is a definitive or blatant record of it can much be done to debate which side is right. We are not at this point yet. See, someone’s “firmly held religious belief” has not been define and in many cases defining it is being avoided. By defining it, those who declare this defense for discrimination would actually be held to some level of accountability. Being held accountable would then mean they would have to show a true conviction to their religious faith. Right now, it is a wide open can of “pick and choose” religious doctrine adherence. Spew a bible verse when it is convenient and works for you. When challenged on other verses, side step them by declaring them obsolete. Wow, what a nice easy tool to be just plain old bigoted. And, as lower courts begin to rule in favor of “religious freedom” there starts to be legal precedent for upholding carte blanche discrimination. This should scare us all.

I mention to folks sometimes that I would love the opportunity to used these rulings to prove a point. I would like to open a restaurant and have the chance to ask people, or just make a blind assumption, about their sexual orientation of gender identity in the hopes that when they answer as straight or cisgender (not really thinking they would know that term but you get it) so I can channel Seinfeld’s The Soup Nazi by saying, “No Soup for You!”. Of course, this would probably land me in the news. In the end, this would be a terrible business model and I’d probably go out of business in short order, unless, I incorporate as an IRS 501c3 Religious Organization. Hmmm? Anyone want to join a board of directors? LOL

In conclusion, talking about religious freedom and discrimination is not going to go far. Actions will speak louder than words on this one. Go out and prove a point in whatever manner you wish, because, until this can is closed, it’s a free(dom) for all. Walk proudly as your authentic self and when someone challenges you to prove your authenticity just say “no proof required due to my religious freedom” and see how they react. Good Day.

Happy Pride !!!

Get Over It

So it was mentioned to me on Friday that a local radio station was having a discussion with their listeners on why we need a PRIDE Festival or more specifically why we shouldn’t have one. Just this morning before it was deleted on a local Michigan City community Facebook page someone said they didn’t understand why ‘you people’ needed a PRIDE Fest.                         

Jeanne Manford founder of the support group that would eventually become PFLAG marching in an early gay pride parade.

Here’s the deal, Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community. This community pays taxes here, spends money here, and CHOOSES to live here. NOT Chicago or Indianapolis or other big city with a ‘gay neighborhood’ but here. In fact I got news for you haters the WHOLE city is a gay neighborhood. I can’t swing a stick and not hit a LGBT person in my community. The LGBT community in Michigan City is no longer sitting on sidelines. Also we are no longer going to someone else’s city to celebrate PRIDE and why should we have to?

A more unified LGBT community is what I envisioned three years ago when I started OUT in Michigan City. Our Facebook page and eventually our website was started after my husband and I attended a RFRA protest march in Indianapolis and we witnessed first hand what a united LGBT community could accomplish. I wanted the same thing  here and now it seems we are heading in that direction. As of this writing OUT in Michigan City had 1095 ‘likes’ and followers so we must be reaching a few people in Michigan City and the surrounding communities.  

Honestly when I started our page and website I thought I was alone, but thankfully I’m not. Other like minded people have started their own projects like the La Porte county LGBTQ Alliance or the LGBT support group at the high school. The local PFLAG chapter here offers support to parents of gay, trans, bi, and questioning people and to any queer person in need of support. Real support for real people in need.

One of the things that attracted me and my husband to this city was it’s diverseness and inclusiveness, Michigan City for at least in the time I’ve been here, has been a haven for people from all different walks of life and for that I am thankful. I’m also thankful for the unwavering support that the PRIDE Fest  Committee has received from The City of Michigan City.

Since we started the process of planning the PRIDE Fest I’ve been expecting a little blow back, but at less then a month before the event all I have to say is what took so long? For those of you though who ultimately just don’t get it. For those of you who have never had the word ‘fag’ screamed at you from a coward in a moving car as you are trying to carry groceries into your apartment. To those straight guys out there who have never been fired from a job simply because you are gay or had to suffer from any sort of disrespect or discrimination, yet you have the  audacity to ask “Why can’t we have a straight Pride parade?” To those of you who just don’t like us, I’ll put it in a way you will understand in a terms used since the first gay PRIDE parades dating back to the 1970’s….

WE’RE HERE! WE’RE QUEER! GET OVER IT!

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th 2018 at 121 W. Michigan Blvd (Next to City Hall) in Michigan City’s historic Uptown Arts District

Roseanne, Trump, Twitter and the Age of Hate

Roseanne Barr

Roseanne Barr could have helped heal the divide and for a minute there it looked like she or at least her writers were trying to. With her show “Roseanne” she had the ability to take the fears and misunderstandings that plague lots of people in the country and show them through laughter that their fear and ignorance was unwarranted. That’s what she did in 1990’s when she  tried to be a friend of the LGBT community when it was not fashionable to be one. Little did I know at the time it was just the ‘LGB’ and not the ‘T.’

The original run of the show featured one of the first gay weddings in a sitcom and a controversial same sex kiss, a first on primetime television. Roseanne Barr had to fight hard to maintain her vision of her show. She had to fight against the Hollywood elite who thought a television star should be a size zero. She fought for the equal rights that men in show business had enjoyed for decades. Roseanne Barr was a champion for women’s rights, so why on Earth would she support an egotistical womanizing megalomaniac like Donald Trump? I still can’t wrap my head around that, but Roseanne Barr has always been a contradiction and has lived in a storm of controversy.

Lots of us grew up in a blue collar families. Families in the Midwest that would get free cheese and milk from the government. Families who worked hard to make ends meet. That’s why old episodes of “Roseanne” would resonate with me. The show was art imitating working class life. Not everyone’s life but a lot of people’s. Watching the new season of “Roseanne” I saw an accurate portrayal of older former “liberals” or Democrats, working class Americans disillusioned with their economic status. John Goodman’s Dan Conner is still hanging dry wall and Roseanne Barr’s Roseanne Conner is driving for Uber, their characters well into their 60’s. Neither one able to afford proper heath care so they voted for a presidential candidate who promised to “shake things up” a presidential candidate who promised to help them. A presidential candidate that used their economic status and fears to con them. These characters reminded me of people that I know in real life who were also conned. Because of the people who voted for Donald Trump for whatever reason, this country has been pushed to the brink with pent up racism. Racism that Roseanne Barr’s Tweets seem to endorse.

As the season continues “Roseanne” the TV show tackles not only economic issues but social ones. From the Connors gender non-conforming grandson to having an interracial granddaughter. The subject of opioid addiction is tackled as is the subject of local jobs going to undocumented workers. In one episode Roseanne has to ask her Muslim neighbors to use their internet password. Thinking all Muslims are terrorists she goes to their front door with a bat and her sister Jackie as backup. She ends up getting schooled on what it’s like to be a Muslim family living in the Midwest in the age of hate. Roseanne Barr started using her platform to educate her over 18 million viewers in a cool and subliminal way. Again she could have helped heal a divide but instead for reasons known only to her she took to Twitter not to heal but to reopen old wounds that have not even begun to heal properly.

Roseanne Barr is not Roseanne Connor and the actor that plays the character is not a working class woman in her 60’s but a rich out of touch actor who embraces ridiculous conspiracy theories right out of “Info Wars”and Tweets things that embrace the ugly side of this country. From members of the transgender community to Marie Osmond, whose son committed suicide, anyone or anything is fair game to Roseanne. There doesn’t seem to be a conspiracy theory too small. On Tuesday May 29, 2018 those hateful anger filled Tweets got Roseanne Barr fired from her network ABC and 300 people through no fault of their own lost their jobs.

Classic episodes of “Roseanne” always seemed to mirror real life and Roseanne Barr held up that mirror so American’s could see themselves and find laughter and some comfort in their shared experiences. Somehow over the last 20 years Roseanne Barr started looking at life through a funhouse mirror and the only thing you can really see are distorted visions of a hateful paranoid America that lives in a distorted reality, a reality I don’t want to know. And the hate goes on….

And that’s my view from this other side of the lake.