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This is an impossible thing to write, because growing up it was impossible for me to exist or to find words for myself. Queer erasure is constant, persistent, an absolute default. I grew up during the AIDS crisis, with people talking casually about how AIDS was God's moral judgment, how people who had it should be quarantined, how they should have been careful.

I was raised by liberals, who had promoted equality of women and people of color, went to a school that celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr, and the achievements of women. Gay rights were a bridge too far, though, and the climate of the Reagan administration was that gay men's lives did not matter, and nor did the horrors of their deaths. Reagan refused to even mention AIDS, and white house correspondents laughed about gay men's deaths in public. This is my childhood, then, trying to find myself in an environment where gay people were constantly othered, dismissed as insignificant, sentenced to death for others' disapproval of their sex lives. Sodomy laws were still on the books in many states, but under the law it was hardly a capital crime, and still AIDS was commonly spoken of as the punishment for it, a punishment delivered not by the law but by God himself, a punishment no elected official wanted to ameliorate with better access to healthcare.

As a teenager, a friend mentioned to me that lesbians must be God's chosen people, because we have the lowest rate of transmission for AIDS. I laughed at the time, because there was nothing else to do.

This was my introduction to LGBT struggles: the AIDS crisis, and the lack of response because we were seen as a public nuisance, spoken of in the same breath as pedophiles. Not as people with jobs and families and the ability to contribute to society, but as a necessarily destructive force. Homosexuals, pedophiles, junkies, prostitutes. No discussion of how straight culture's treatment of us might lead us to substance abuse, or press us into sex work when other jobs are simply unavailable to us. We were seen simply as making a horrifying and inexplicable choice.

This was the state of things when, at 14, I realized I was a lesbian, and at 15, got sick of the closet and people's constant condescending chatter about how I would surely begin to find boys who had always been mean to me utterly fascinating any moment now. I decided to come out and deal with the consequences and make space to be myself, even if the penalty for it was death. That's what happened to all of us anyway, right? Why not get it started?

I came out to friends and family. My best friend from grade school never spoke to me again. My dad asked what they had done wrong. My mom refused to believe it, despite having absolutely no reason to think I was straight or lying. At school I was harassed constantly by other kids, and the teachers never did anything. Perhaps because any hint of sympathy toward gayness was too dangerous for them, perhaps because they disapproved but didn't want to condone the classroom disruption of an all out attack. I was lucky in that no one ever laid a hand on me, in that I had friends who were good with me or trying to be, and in that my high school had large populations of Lakota and Ojibwe students. My fifth period American History from a Native American Perspective class turned my world upside down one day when I got tired of a boy in the class trying to harass me about boys he thought I liked and told him that I wasn't interested in any boys because I'm gay. His whole demeanor changed, and he asked one of the other kids in class what their culture thought of winkte, which is actually not a word that applies to me because of gender, but this is where I first learned that there are cultures who value people like me, who see us as bringing perspective to the larger community. He and I were friends after that.

In college the harassment stopped, moving to mere silence: it was okay that I was gay, but it was my problem, not something I could expect solidarity on, and much of the community there was closeted, afraid to be open, not interested in creating change. Dating was impossible, and the only woman who asked me out quickly dumped me for a man due to her own internalized homophobia. I started getting hit on by couples, because to many people a woman like me is not a person but an activity, and having sex with another woman maybe isn't too gay if you bring a man along to supervise.

At this time, Clinton was president and busy passing legislation to ensure that we could not get married or join the military. My college refused to allow ROTC on campus because Don't Ask, Don't Tell violated their antidiscrimination policy. People hold up Clinton as having been good for us, but it is only true that he was less awful to us than Reagan and Bush.

I was in college when Matthew Shepard was murdered, and during the Columbine shootings. While Matthew Shepard's murder was particularly gruesome, what struck me as unusual about it was the amount of press it got. Straight people beat and kill us for who we are all the time. I had friends in high school who would hang out around the local gay bar so they could bash back.

Even after all this time, the bars are our safe haven. The only place where we can go and be ourselves, not worry about having to make straight people comfortable, whether we're being watched, whether we are violating heteropatriarchal gender norms too hard, where we can safely dance or flirt with people without extensively vetting them to make sure it's safe. I have a lot of mixed feelings about bars in general and what it does to us as a community to be organized out of places that stay in business via alcohol sales, but this is the fact of the matter: the bars are central to our communities. Unfortunately, there is a long history of violence directed toward gay bars, and an even longer history of bashers lurking outside and attacking people who leave alone. Most of this doesn't make the news because they're seen as single incidents rather than part of a larger pattern, because the victims often cannot afford to be out, because crimes against us are not often taken seriously, and because the police are often a danger to us - lest anyone forget, the origin of Pride came when the denizens of the Stonewall Inn fought back against police abuse for the luxury of being allowed to drink in their own bar without being beaten, raped, harassed, and arrested.

This is the world I have always lived in, one where I have to look over my shoulder, one where people in the streets scream threats at me for looking like myself, where my friends have been assaulted, where the women I love have hated themselves for loving me back, where my friends are uncomfortable with me and there are things about my life I cannot ever talk about except with other LGBT folks.

And now the massacre at Pulse. 49 of us dead, more than 50 others wounded, and politicians trying to turn this event into something else. On the right, they're denying that it was a gay club, saying things like that it was a Latin@ event as though these things are mutually exclusive. On both sides, the tide of islamophobia rises. Hillary has already started talking about bombing the middle east, but is silent about homophobia in America. Relatively few people are talking about that this was a totally homegrown event, and likely one that came about because Mateen was unable to cope with his own attractions, that after growing up in a culture steeped in homophobia he had absorbed it so thoroughly and learned to hate himself so badly that he shot a third of the people, more than 100 people in total, at what is normally a sanctuary for us, and he did this rather than getting help of some kind, rather than finding a way to cope with his identity.

I am 40 now, and despite my best efforts to be out and visible and create change I still often feel as though I am boxed in, silenced, denied the same opportunities to live my life that my straight friends enjoy, and all the while too many people want to act like homophobia is over because we have marriage rights now.

We are just getting started.
pants_of_doom: (Default)
Originally published here.

This is to offer some activities to do during Pride when all your LGBTQ+ friends are out connecting with our communities, because we know you’re an awesome ally who is always looking to step up your game, and that you understand that sometimes the best thing you can do for us as an ally is to let us have our own space, and Pride is the one time in a year when we can gather as a larger community, outside of our bars, and let it all hang out.

~Volunteer to babysit for your LGBTQ+ friends who have kids so they can go to Pride more easily!

~Volunteer for an LGBTQ+ organization! Donate your time or work to raise money for a local, national, or international organization helping LGBTQ+ people. This can take many forms, from volunteering with the Trevor Project, checking in with your local homeless or domestic abuse shelters to see what they need to serve LGBTQ+ populations better, or working to make sure that other organizations you care about are taking an intersectional approach.

~Not very people-oriented? That’s cool too. Take the day to write your elected representatives. Letters written by hand often get more attention than even the best-worded email. Write your school board and let them know you want your district to include comprehensive sex education, LGBTQ+ history, literature, and acknowledgement of the sexual orientations of famous scientists like Alan Turing, and also that trans and nonbinary students be allowed to use whatever bathrooms they feel most comfortable in and be able to participate in sports. For city and state officials, write to them about making sure we have protections from employment and housing discrimination, and that we can access healthcare and bathrooms. Nationally, healthcare and immigration are big issues for us as there are many people around the world who are not safe in their home countries and would benefit from the US offering them asylum. This is just a short sample of issues, I am sure you can think of more.

~Talk to your friends, relatives, or coworkers who are less enlightened than you are. Got a homophobic uncle who makes Thanksgiving uncomfortable every year for your sibling or cousin? If you talk to this person and let them know that their behavior is insensitive, it takes a lot of pressure off of us and makes the holidays or other gatherings much easier for everyone. This person is also more likely to listen to you because of your shared relative privilege.

~Educate yourself about LGBTQ+ history! Pride is an obvious time to learn about the Stonewall Riots, but there is so much more history to explore. There are a lot of great books, movies, and podcasts out there – you can do this easily from your computer, or go to the library.

~Have a movie day! Invite other cisgender straight people over to watch some gay cinema, or documentaries about LGBTQ+ issues. Bonus points for initiating discussion about ways to be a better ally.

These are just a short set of ideas, but I’m sure you can think of more. Thanks for letting us have our own space at Pride!
pants_of_doom: (Default)
I have posted my hourly comic day comics in many places, but for some reason I didn't post them here. Let me fix that.

First, here they are on my website if that's easier for you.

more under the cut of course! )
pants_of_doom: (Default)

All the Prettiest Girls, new comic with art by me and words by Jonas.


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