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

I’ve Never Been a Rainbow Guy…Seriously.

Limited edition PRIDE Dr. Marten’s.

To be clear I’ve never been a “rainbow guy.” You know the guy I’m talking about the “rainbow guy,” we’ve all seen him. The older middle aged guy, he was in his 20’s or 30’s in the 1970’s or ’80s. They have the rainbow bumper sticker on their Honda Accord or the “ball chain” necklace with the five rings in the PRIDE colors hanging from it. Or maybe the polo shirt with the PRIDE flag embroidered on it in the place where an alligator should go. Some of us including yours truly have given those guys a sideways glance or an eye roll. I can hear one of my more judgmental friends saying, “Look at that old poof with the rainbow bumpersticker, like she needs to advertise.” So you can imagine the good natured ribbing I’ve been taking from my friends because I purchased a pair of limited addition Dr. Marten rainbow colored eight eye boots released for PRIDE 2017. My husband was appalled. “Rainbow Dr. Marten’s, those are hideous.” he said with disgust. Dr. Marten’s are to me what Manolo Blahniks were to “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw always in style and always fabulous. Yet when I got the e-mail urging me to buy them even my first thought was these might be too much, even for me.

The Rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker who passed away eariler this year was meant to be a symbol of not only the diversity of the LGBT community but of our strength and our beauty and it still is. You go into any “gayborhood” around the country and there’s the PRIDE flag in its various forms. From the rainbow pylons that line North Halsted in Boystown to simple PRIDE flags that adorn proud LGBT owned businesses in Indianapolis. There are even some PRIDE flags hanging from homes right here in Michigan City and Northwest Indiana. So when did it become a joke to show your PRIDE or even wear the rainbow? I mean I bought a pair of rainbow colored Dr. Marten’s because I’m proud of who I am, my marriage and my community. It’s not like I wore a t-shirt with a silhouette of a baseball player that says “catcher” to a child’s birthday party. Don’t laugh I’ve seen it happen. Then there’s the haters. Years ago when I was a bartender one of the wait staff who worked with me told me that she used to love the rainbow, until the gays “stole it.” For the record we stole the rainbow about as much as Neil Armstrong stole the moon after he planted the American flag on it. The moon as well as the rainbow still belongs to everyone, we were just the ones that got to it first.

As much as President Donald Trump is attempting to dismantle Presidents Obama’s legacy piece by piece he is also trying to limit our visibility and silence us. A man with five children (that we know of) from three different marriages who said that he prefers “traditional” marriage is trying to put us back in the closet and he’s doing it by cutting funding to HIV/AIDS treatment programs. He’s doing it when he tweeted that the military will no longer allow transgender soldiers to serve in any capacity in the military and he’s doing it when he caters to the Evangelical base. Evangelical’s who would rip our marriages and families away from us without a thought for our happiness, our rights or the rights of our children. The same Evangelicals who would expose LGBT youth to harmful conversion therapy and claim pro-life but turn a blind eye to the high amount of gay and transgender teenagers and young adults who commit suicide or deny services homeless LGBT youth in their “Christian” shelters. These are Donald Trump’s supporters and these are the same people that would like to see us go away yet they don’t seem to mind when the chief executive grabs the occasional pussy.

I refuse to let the Trump administration erase our legacy and I refuse be invisible so I bought the damn boots. Wearing them is just one of the little things I can do to fight back against the hypocrisy of this administration. Maybe in the end I became the middle age “rainbow guy” who I used to roll my eyes at. In retrospect maybe the “rainbow guy” had a point, maybe that rainbow bumpersticker or the ball chain necklace was just his way of not being invisible. Come to think of it we would not have the legacy that we have now if it was not for “the rainbow guy.”

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake, August 7, 2017.

A portion of the proceeds from the rainbow Dr. Marten’s go to The Trevor Project to stop bullying. You can get your own pair at drmartens.com

 

 

 

 

 

HIV Testing & Reflections on LGBT Pride Month

As I say good-bye to June 2017 I wanted to take a minute to reflect on what the month has meant to me. For many reasons June is my favorite month of the year and as just about everyone knows June is LGBT Pride Month with celebrations across the US in every major city. I also celebrate my birth on June 25th, that’s another reason the month is extra special to me. The Supreme Court ruled that gay Americans had the right to marry in every state June 26th which issued a great shift in our society and in LGBT culture. There are also two HIV Awareness Days: HIV Long-Term Survivors Day and National HIV Testing Day.

Daniel Ashley Williams, Photo: Facebook

June 5th is HIV Long-Term Survivors Day. An awareness day to celebrate and honor the Long-Term Survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to raise awareness about the needs, issues and journeys of HIV Long-Term Survivors (HLTS).

Why June 5th?

A year after scientists identified AIDS they discovered the cause: HIV. On June 5, 1981, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first warning about a rare form of pneumonia among a small group of young gay men in Los Angeles, which was later determined to be AIDS-related.

Why June 27th?

HIV testing is important for both treatment and prevention efforts. Yet, 13% of those infected with HIV are unaware they are infected. June 27th is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) and it was first observed on June 27, 1995 and that day is meant to encourage everyone to learn their HIV status. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 15 to 65 have a screening test for HIV. People with risky behaviors should be tested regularly. A question I was asked by several college students at the Vincennes Aids Walk in April was “what is an HIV test, do they have to take blood?” There are different type of HIV testing.

There are three main types of HIV tests:
ANTIBODY TESTS

Most HIV tests are antibody tests. Antibody tests check for HIV antibodies in blood or fluids from your mouth. This is usually done by swabbing the inside of a persons cheek. HIV antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that the body produces in response to HIV infection. It can take 3 to 12 weeks for your body to make enough antibodies for an antibody test to detect HIV infection and the results are ready in 30 minutes or less.

COMBINATION TESTS (ANTIBODY/ANTIGEN TESTS)
Combination tests can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens, a part of the virus, in your blood. A combination test can detect HIV infection earlier than a HIV antibody test can. It can take 2 to 6 weeks for your body to make enough antigens and antibodies for a combination test to detect HIV infection. This HIV testing is done a lab.

NUCLEIC ACID TESTS (NATS)
Nucleic Acid Tests (NATs) look for HIV in the blood and can detect HIV infection about 7 to 28 days after you have been infected with HIV. This test is very expensive and not routinely used for HIV screening.

The window period is the time between when a person gets HIV and when a test can accurately detect the HIV infection. This is based on the level of virus in your body and antibodies to the virus that become detectable over time. In most people, HIV can be detected as early as 2-3 weeks after transmission. In others it can take up to 3 months after somebody acquired HIV for tests to show a positive result. Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not.

Please don’t wait until next Just to get tested, if you are sexually active you should get tested every 90 days, you owe it to yourself and to your sexual partners.

 

2:02 a.m.

On June 12, 2016 at 2:02 a.m. we lost our safe space. 49 beautiful people were gunned down at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As we all know Pulse was a gay club and the gunman a radical Islamic terrorist who as some reports  will confirm was not as ease with his sexuality. So in the name in Islam and shame 49 innocent people had to die in the worst terrorist attack since 9/11 by a single gunman.

On this day a year ago I was sitting at this same desk 1000 miles away. We had nothing but the news on and throughout the day the body count kept rising. Watching this unfold in real time was chilling. Wasn’t it June? Wasn’t it Pride month. Who would do this?

The shooter, who I refuse to name, in this op-ed claimed allegiance to ISIS, yet there are reports that he was a closeted gay man who was angry that he may have been unwittingly exposed to HIV. The reports came from someone who dated him and others who had witnessed him out at Pulse. It was also reported that he was known for being on Grindr and other ‘hook up’ apps. His first wife claimed that he was gay and struggled with his sexuality. He witnessed a gay couple kiss in public and was enraged because his young son witnessed an act of affection by two men. The F.B.I. could find no evidence that he used gay dating apps or was a closeted gay man.

I think of Pulse frequently. I think that could have been me or any one of my friends. It could have happened at any bar at any Pride event over the years that we attended in Boystown. The people who where at Pulse a year ago were there to dance, meet that person they had been talking to on line or go on a date. Maybe some of them had a bad week and just wanted blow off a little steam. The victims had plans afterward. Maybe go out to breakfast before going home or sleeping until one o’clock in the afternoon cradled in the arms of their boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe they had to work that afternoon or had plans to hit the beach. Those plans stopped mattering at 2:02 a.m. when a terrorist born in this country started killing for reasons that in the end are only known to him and all that’s left are the last moments of the victims frozen in time forever.

I pray that this doesn’t ever happen again to any community marginalized or otherwise. The man who did this was a coward and a sick coward at that. From the reports I’ve read and from witnesses who knew him the shooter was angry. He didn’t not like black people, gays, or Jews and his anger and hatred twisted his soul. So today we remember the victims of PULSE, we pray and think of their families. We also think of the survivors especially those who are wrestling with survivor’s guilt. Brandon Wolf went to Pulse that night with his two best friends. They were killed by the gunman and Brandon who survived the assault without a scratch is left plagued with nightmares and survivors guilt. Proving that pain isn’t only skin deep. ‘What Survival Means’-Brandon Wolf.

To the victims and survivors we remember you, people like me who you do not know are today celebrating your lives and in the month of June we will celebrate PRIDE in your name.

  • Stanley Almodovar III, age 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

 

 

Being Proud

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

As we enter another Pride Month in June, I stop to reflect on what pride, or more correctly, being proud means to me.

In younger days, I was always proud of stuff. I would proudly show off my Lego building skills to my mom. I felt the pride of winning a 1st Place ribbon at a track meet in grade school event though I was not a fast runner (I benefit of being on a relay team with other fast kids). I was proud to tell people I was from The Region even though they called us “Region Rats”. I always stood proudly and supported my sports teams, my schools and my friends. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized I had never felt very proud of me.

As I was limping my way through life, feeling very confused, frustrated and lost, I was very much assured that my life was going to end in a moment of complete surrender to these feelings. I wasn’t living because I was proud to be alive. I was living because I was still breathing. This changed when I encountered a word that seemed at the time to be a gateway to self discovery. Late in 1998, I ran smack dab into the word transgender. A word I had been seeking to enter my life for so long. I do recall standing up and raising my arm and saying “I am transgender”.

Looking back I could in no way have predicted where I would be today. I have been described as “one of the most out and proud trans people” someone knew. I do live a very authentic and proud life now. I did have to overcome a big obstacle to get to this place. From the time that I stood up and raised my arm and for the 7 years that followed I studied and researched everything about being transgender. I became very astute on most things related to the trans community. I thought this was going to be enough to carry me into the future. I began to prepare for an eventual transition. Everything seemed to be falling into place, yet, I felt there was a void. There was something I was forgetting. It was bothering me. What could it be?

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

I used to “dress up” and go out when it was convenient for me to get out. This was a very comfortable part-time existence. I was not under any pressure or constraint to be anything other than what I wanted to be at any point of time. I thought this was just my situation given still being mostly in the closet. I kept using job, family or money as the reason I didn’t take my journey any further. Yet, I was getting frustrated that things were not moving along the planned timeline. And then it hit me. My excuses for not advancing forward were not at all related to job, family or money but because I hadn’t really come out to MYSELF and, thus, was not really proud of being ME. All my life I had been proud of my accomplishments but never of me. Once I called my own bluff and finally stood up and said “I AM TRANSGENDER. HEAR ME ROAR” I was able to stop spinning my wheels, gain traction and move forward toward the goal. It took me being proud of being me to open up the pathway to self-acceptance. I stand here today, celebrating Pride Month, truly proud.

They Can Turn Off the Lights but They Can’t Turn Off Our PRIDE

It’s June and it’s Gay PRIDE month and more then ever we need our PRIDE. For the first time in eight years there will be no PRIDE celebrations in the White House, don’t expect the people’s house to be lit up in rainbow colors or Vice President Mike Pence to be running the halls carrying a PRIDE Flag the way former Vice President Joe Biden did. The only things that are running in The White House this year are the PRIDE Colors, running like they were hit with bleach spray and all we are left with is bland and angry white. Transgender protections have been rolled back. HIV/AIDS funding is being cut. Violence and harassment of all marginalized communities is on the rise. Even on a local level I experienced a disrespect from my employer in regards to my sexuality and my marriage. That disrespect from someone I trusted led me to leave my job, a final straw that not just broke the camels back but left him paralyzed and angry.

This blog was originally going to be the story of what happened to me and what led up to me leaving the employ of a well known local attorney. After two weeks of writer’s bloc and apathy, after two weeks of not knowing what to do with my newly unemployed self and not knowing where to start I’m continuing with the work I’m most proud of, this web-site and our own LGBT Community right here in Michigan City and Northwest Indiana.   “The Beacon” and our sister page OUT in Michigan City & NWIN on Facebook have been a little lite on content these last few weeks, for that I am sorry, I was licking my wounds so to speak. I had put my all into a job and a boss that who was so disorganized, so socially awkward that I thought I could “fix” him. I just thought that maybe he didn’t have the right kind of help in the past, maybe wasn’t the right kind of help. Who knows? I do know this, there are just some things that can’t be fixed. The end came when he not only insulted me, a proud gay man but worse he insulted the integrity of my marriage and made light of my husband.

So I’m done moping, I’m done morning for a job I liked but the baggage that came with it made it not even worth it, especially at the end. It’s PRIDE month and it’s time for us to shout, fight, and let Northwest Indiana, the Statehouse, the Governor’s Mansion and the nation, especially the Trump administration know that we are still here.

President Trump can keep the colored lights turned off, he can refuse to acknowledge PRIDE month. He can refuse to issue the LGBT PRIDE proclamations that have been issued in the month of June for the last eight years, and he can cow tow to Mike Pence and the religious right all we wants but WE ARE STILL HERE. OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD and WE WILL BE RESPECTED and WE WILL NOT BE IGNORED and WE WILL RISE again and again so long as our lives, our marriages, and our families are being disrespected by an administration that lives in darkness and lies. I encourage you all to go to PRIDE events. Little ones, big ones. Hold them in your back yard or your living room. Invite friends over. Go to the PRIDE events in the park or in the streets of Chicago or Indianapolis. BE PROUD and BE LOUD because the fight is not over and it’s not going to be over until we say it is.

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake on this June 1, 2017 Gay PRIDE month. Be Proud.