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 thankfuland 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

Why We Need Gay PRIDE Festival

I have it on pretty good authority that Michigan City is going to have its first gay PRIDE festival this summer. Why this summer? Why now and not years ago? Why do it at all? I mean can’t we just go to Chicago for PRIDE? The answer is simple, yes we can but why would we want to or better yet why should we have to?

PRIDE month means different things to different people, just ask the Michigan City PRIDE committee, a haphazard group of people thrown together to make the impossible possible. A group consisting of a reluctant drag queen, a PFLAG mom, a gay husband and father, a straight alley, a politically incorrect smart ass who thinks he can write and his husband the social worker with little patience for things like committees. I’m the politically incorrect smart ass if you were wondering. I can’t say what PRIDE means to the other committee members, I can hazard a guess, but I can only speak to what PRIDE means to me and why the time has come for Michigan City to let its freak flag fly.

For many years I made it a point to go to Chicago for PRIDE. It started with an ex-boyfriend in 2000 and his friend Jeremy who ironically is now my friend. Jeremy and I always had a sort of frenemies type relationship. We could both be back biting and borderline insulting to each other, at first out of general annoyance of each other but now it’s out of love. It was one of Jeremy’s back biting antics that got me on the Channel 9 news my first year of PRIDE after he had heard one of the last things my mom had said to me before we embarked on that particular adventure was “I better NOT see your ass on the news.” Jeremy saw the news crew interviewing bystanders and quickly called them over screaming “OVER HERE, OVER HERE, SHE WANTS TO BE ON THE NEWS!” That was the beginning of many years of fun and debauchery at the Chicago Gay PRIDE Parade. Over the years my life had changed, but the one constant was going to Chicago for PRIDE the last weekend of June.  Oh, and my mom was not pleased that I ended up on Channel 9.

The last Chicago PRIDE that we actually attended was June 24, 2012. Our best friend came home from Florida. That weekend in Chicago was perfect. We partied all weekend and watched the parade from the street in front of our hotel. It was as if the fates knew that this would be our last PRIDE in Chicago, our favorite band Scissor Sisters played at the Vic (it was to be their final tour) right there in Boystown after the parade. It was the perfect PRIDE at least for me and then I was done, there would never be another PRIDE weekend like that one.

For many years gay PRIDE weekend started out as an excuse for me to party. As the years went on it became so much more. Seeing gay soldiers march in uniform for the first time after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed or LGBT affirming synagogues and churches march along with PFLAG. Gay parents marching with their children or gay children and their supportive parents. That last year was the first year that I actually watched the parade from start to finish from the street, not on live on TV from inside a bar. I found out that the gay PRIDE Parade was more than just half naked GoGo dancers or dykes on bikes (not that there’s anything wrong with that). For the first time I was actually paying attention, PRIDE was about real people with real lives out celebrating their right to love and marry who they wanted.

Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community most likely dating back to 1861 when Harriet Colfax took over as the Michigan City lighthouse keeper. According to digthedunes.com, when Miss Colfax moved into the lighthouse her friend and longtime companion Ann C. Hartwell moved in with her. They lived there together for the rest of their lives. As I’ve reported before in an article I did a couple of years ago featuring local drag troupe Welcome to the Other Side, the Williams Institute ranks Michigan City fourth in Indiana for the highest percentage of same-sex couples. I like to tell people that I can’t swing a stick in this town without hitting a fellow homo. That being said Michigan City’s PRIDE celebration is long past due and with our town right on the lake and all the other amenities we have to offer we can definitely hold our own when it comes to throwing a party. For those people who are undoubtedly going to try to compare our PRIDE to Chicago’s and say things like “It’s not like it is in Chicago,” I’m going to tell you now that it’s not supposed to be. We’re taking this celebration and making it our own so thank you Chi Town for letting us come over and join you for your PRIDE celebration it’s been fun, but this year we got this.

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

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th, 2018 from 1-9pm in the historic Uptown Arts District. 

 

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.

Creater of Iconic PRIDE Flag Dead at 65

Gilbert Baker

Gay right activist and creater of the Gay Pride flag Gilbert Baker has died today at age 65 in New York.

Baker created what would become the iconic symbol that has become  synonymous with the gay rights movement around the world for gay PRIDE in 1978.

Fellow gay right activst Cleve Jones confirmed Baker’s death today via Twitter, “My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert Baker gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship.”