Black Lives Do Matter

Those who enforce the law should also be held accountable. It is outrageous how long we have allowed police brutality, particularly against African Americans, to go on. There needs to be a comprehensive and constructive conversation between leaders and politicians, police officers and activists about how to fix what has already completely shattered. Police officers should be respected and obeyed, but that does not mean that, for whatever reason, they are above the law and are excused from complying with it. Officers should be vigorously trained to stop unarmed people in a way that does not involve shooting them several times, especially when they are already being pinned down or only have minor traffic violations.

There is no victory in defeating the powerless. What is occurring is simply an abuse of power among police officers who have a strong sense of hatred and aggression towards the black community. And that is a fact every citizen needs to realize and come to terms with. Acknowledging that our country has a problem with racism and police brutality is not unpatriotic. Rather, it is unpatriotic to actively witness injustice and do nothing to change it.

This, of course, does not mean that all police officers are racist or abuse their power and authority. However, we should not ignore what keeps happening at a rather constant and rapid rate just because the majority of officers are just and good. Allowing this to continue will only further divide our country. Black lives do matter, and unless we start holding officers accountable for their actions, that will become less and less clear to black people across the nation.

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Reflections on Ellen Page’s “Gaycation”

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a United States citizen, I am well acquainted with the various acts of oppression and attacks we face as an overall community in this country. It is never easy for any person to deal with any kind of oppression, regardless of the circumstances, but it is very evident that there are some demographics of people who face much more severe forms of oppression than others. There are various different countries and cultures that heavily demonize and oppress queer people, and in that respect I am considerably lucky.

Ellen Page and her best friend Ian Daniel, set out to investigate queer culture across the globe, visiting countries like Japan, Brazil, and Jamaica. In this documentary series, they explore how queerness is treated in each country, analyzing both the celebration of LGBT pride and the unfortunate discrimination many queer people face.

In their most recent episode, the duo travelled to Jamaica, a country that actively condemns homosexuality. On a daily basis, queer people are kicked out of their homes, shunned by their communities, verbally and physically attacked, and even killed. Ellen and Ian interviewed a small group of LGBT individuals who blatantly reveal the harsh reality of what it means to be a queer person in Jamaica. The group goes on to discuss how they were all abandoned by their families because of who they are and currently remain homeless, poor, and constantly aware of the threat of danger they face every day. It was heartbreaking to hear about the conditions in which LGBT Jamaicans live and how members of their own community continually attack and demonize them. However, the reasoning or justification of this aggressive homophobia seems to stem partly from religion.The episode examines the influence the church has on homophobia, and how scripture guides mainstream principles throughout the country. Various interviewees claimed that homosexuality is both a mental disorder and a sin. It is not accepted, or tolerated at any level. Gay Jamaicans do not have the same freedoms that many other LGBT individuals have across the globe. This is not to say that there is no hope. The queer people interviewed were very positive about the future, although the main goal of many is to simply stay alive.

Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, it is important for anyone to become aware of the various adversities LGBT people face all over the world. We are all humans, after all, and we should be informed of the injustices that many of our fellow humans face. Even simply being informed is a step in the right direction, and I encourage everyone to at least watch one episode. I have thoroughly enjoyed the show thus far and look forward to hearing about how queer culture is treated and maintained in the various other countries Ellen and Ian visit.

Stand with Planned Parenthood

Only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are comprised of abortions. Defunding them is more than just trying to end their facilitating of those abortions. You’re also taking away cancer screenings, std screenings, breast exams, etc that would potentially save many people’s lives. Denying women and men the right to this healthcare is certainly not “pro-life”.

Of course pro-life really means pro-birth. Those who wish to defund Planned Parenthood are advocating for pregnancies to come to term, having absolutely no interest in the child’s life afterwards. They are not at all concerned with the child’s access to education, health care, food, shelter, etc. The quality of the child’s life is completely unimportant to them as long as the baby is actually born. Many of these same pro-life advocates are against allowing same-sex couples to adopt, which is heavily ironic. How is it pro-life to intentionally leave children without loving families just because they would have two moms or two dads? The foster care system is terrible, and to prefer that over two loving parents is certainly not in the interest of “pro-life’.

As for the video that was recently released, it’s not what you think. It was created by an anti-abortion organization in an effort to shock people. However, the video is botched and entirely out of context. Planned Parenthood does not sell “baby parts”. They donate fetal tissue only with the consent of the woman in question. The only money involved is the cost for transportation. That’s it. And just in case you haven’t realized, Roe v. Wade was passed over forty years ago, so the fact that this is still happening is outrageous. Because before abortions were safe and legal, women used coat hangers or underwent unsterile procedures by people who were not doctors. Legal abortions ensure the health of the women in question, which is important if you claim to be pro-life. These women have already been born and their needs and wants should matter and come first. Making abortions illegal again will not stop them from happening. It will only increase the endangerment of the woman’s life, just as was the case forty years ago.

The fact of the matter is that women should be in control of whether they choose to have an abortion or not. A significant majority of senators in the House who voted to defund PP for one year are men, who presumably do not have uteruses. Women are the ones who have to endure the pregnancy, yet men can just sit back and tell them what they should do. Oh yes, this is all very “pro-life”.

What Part of “Secular” Do You Not Understand?

Selling flowers or wedding cakes to a same-sex couple, or even issuing marriages licenses is not the same as being a part of a same-sex wedding ceremony. Usually no one invites their florist to their wedding anyway. However, you cannot simply disagree to do your job because of whatever religious beliefs you have. If a Muslim person worked at a grocery store but refused to handle any pork products because of their faith, they would be fired. So it is a wonder how some Christians can still have so much privilege and power and continue to ask for more.

There is no war on religion. Around 80% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian. And regardless of whatever conspiracy theories are floating around, Obama is a Christian as well. Maintaining the right to freedom of religion and trying to enforce your beliefs on others without consequence from the law are two very different things.

And while Kim Davis may be in prison momentarily, there are an alarming amount of people who support her. But the fact of the matter is that your religion does not give you a free pass to do whatever you want. When it comes to the government, it should have no power whatsoever. Everyone has their own individual beliefs and that’s great, but this persistent urge to involve Christianity in a secular government is ridiculous, especially when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Why these alleged straight people of God have such a profound obsession with homosexuality, I know not. But I am tired of hearing the same rhetoric over and over again. We get it. You think everyone is a sinner and you still “love” gay people, you just hate the sin. How heartwarming. The thing is though, I don’t care. A lot of people don’t care. You don’t have to marry someone of the same sex, and no one has the right to force you to attend a same-sex wedding. And you also might believe same-sex marriage is illegitimate compared to “traditional” marriage, but a lot of people are gay, or LGBT, or they know someone who is. And the difference between your personal religious beliefs and the lives of these LGBT individuals is that their plight is evident and factual, and using your religion to strip people of their rights is anything but “Christian.”

On Coming Out (again and again)

Coming out is an ongoing process. While there will most likely be a definitive point in one’s life in which they will decide to come out to many of their family and friends, it doesn’t just stop there. There is the ever-present assumption that any given person is straight until otherwise specified, and it is a very harmful ideology to LGB youth. Many kids realize their same-sex attraction or crushes on those of the same-sex at an early age, but they don’t come out right then and there because they are constantly spoon fed the rhetoric that boys like girls and girls like boys, and that’s just the way it is. Growing up confined to these gender expectations can be quite a struggle for someone who is questioning their sexuality. I spent a majority of my childhood feeling like an outcast and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I slowly began to come to terms with my sexual orientation.

In one of my previous posts, Why Queer Representation Actually Matters, I explain how media has a huge influence on societal customs and expectations. When I was growing up, there were absolutely no same-sex couples on T.V. shows or movies. They always generally concluded with the guy getting the girl. Misogyny aside, this enforces how children form opinions about the world around them. If you tell a young kid that donuts are magical, they’ll most likely believe you because they don’t even think to question adults or authority figures. They can’t quite comprehend that there could be possible bias or untruth in what their parents tell them. They probably don’t even know what bias is. And many homosexual and bisexual(pansexual) children spend far too long attempting to unravel the societal norms that they have been forced to assume.

So when one finally comes out, it’s not like some major news announcement to the world. That may be the case for celebrities, but ordinary citizens find that coming out never really ends. Coworkers or new friends will ask you if you have a significant other of the opposite sex, and you’ll just want to say no and leave it at that, in fear that their response will be negative. However, it is also quite freeing to break down that barrier and to not feel like you have to completely avoid talking about that aspect of your life. It’s not about parading around town with a rainbow stamped on your forehead, (with the exception of Pride) but rather living as your authentic self. And in order to live authentically, you will most likely need to inform the people in your life of who you really are. It is certainly not easy, but one must hope for the best. And yes, it does get better.

 

 

*I am leaving out the T in LGBT simply because that has to do with gender identity rather than sexual orientation. I promise this was not meant to exclude anyone.

My (Unofficial) Coming Out Story

I struggled with my sexuality all throughout high school and partially throughout middle school. The main part of my struggle was the inability to accept myself for who I was, who I am. Of course now I cannot fathom how I ever thought I was straight, but accepting myself and being open about my sexuality gave me a whole new perspective on the matter.

While I was in elementary school, I became overly attached to quite a few of my female friends. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, especially when girls are supposed to think boys are gross at that age. However, I was submersed in a heteronormative culture and I attended a very conservative Catholic school, so I evidently suppressed any thoughts and feelings that had anything to do with liking girls. It wasn’t until I was in sixth or seventh grade that I had my first lesbian awakening. I was watching the ever popular Desperate Housewives with my parents, and two of the female characters on the show kissed. At that moment, it was like something suddenly clicked inside of my brain. I liked girls. I liked the idea of two girls being together. It finally all made sense. But I still could not truly accept that about myself, so I again suppressed any feelings I had and attempted to be a nice heterosexual girl. While it surprisingly didn’t take that much effort, it also didn’t exactly work well for too long. I was still developing feelings for my female friends. They would tell me all about boys they liked, and I would get so jealous but just pretend I was disappointed because I wasn’t receiving any attention from boys.

During my freshman year of high school I kind of fell in love for the first time with my best friend. It was very confusing and very hard to differentiate feelings of close friendship and feelings of romance. I drove myself crazy over it. She began to date a guy who was much older than us, and I was once again disappointed. I was weary about the age difference because perverts are still unfortunately alive and well, but I also selfishly wanted her to myself. Of course, I didn’t say any of this. I didn’t actually voice my sexual confusion to anyone until sophomore year. There was this girl a year behind me that I really began to like. Let’s call her S. She would follow me around everywhere and hold my hand as we walked to class, even if her’s was in another building. I really thought that she liked me, but she would always mention this other girl she had dated so I quickly abandoned any hope. She had perviously told me that she was bisexual and I immediately blurted out that I thought I might be bisexual too. Not knowing what to make of this, I called my gay friend, and that was when I told someone for the first time that I liked a girl. It was so difficult for me to do at first, but I felt so relieved for finally having done it.

Throughout my first semester of sophomore year, I spent many nights crying and watching a mix of lesbian flicks and depressing suicidal films, all courtesy of Netflix. It was too difficult for me to come to terms with who I was, and I honestly had no idea why. I clearly did not have a problem with other gay or bisexual people, but I was afraid of being treated differently again. I was bullied nonstop from second to eighth grade, so when I finally got to high school it was my time to start over and actually make friends and not be called names. Because of this, I just stopped talking to and hanging out with S as much, but I thought about her. I thought about her all the time.

I wasn’t really all that vocal about my sexuality until the beginning of senior year. That was an interesting time in my life. So many of my friends had come out as gay or bisexual as well, so I just jumped on the bandwagon. At first, I came out as bisexual. This felt like the safest option to me at the time because I could like girls but still maintain some heterosexual privilege. But after a couple of weeks, I decided to finally be honest with myself. And for the first time, I told my friends and family that I was gay. It was probably one of the happiest and most relieving moments of my life. I was so lucky to be around so many people who accepted and supported me. At this point, I had resumed talking to S, who had now become M, and we started dating shortly after. And that’s pretty much it. No more struggle. No more shame. Just love and acceptance and a whole lot of gay.

To Unrelenting Opponents of the Same-sex Marriage Ruling

So here’s the thing:

The United States government is one that specifically separates church and state, or rather religion and law. As a U.S. citizen you have the right to practice any religion and visit whatever place of worship is available to you. However, there seems to be a very common misconception that this country is a “Christian nation.” A majority of the founding fathers were deists, not Christians. For those of you who may not know, deists believe that a divine being, most commonly referred to as god, exists but is not active in the affairs of humans and nature. Aside from this, there is no mention of a national religion or dependence on god in the constitution. This is because the U.S. has freedom of religion, and does not only allow Christianity to be practiced. In fact, the phrase “In God We Trust” was not added to American currency until the 1950’s, which is obviously nowhere near when the country was established.

Many evangelical christians, catholics, and the like have always been secure in their opposition to homosexuality in general, let alone same-sex marriage. A few months ago, there was a bit of an issue in Indiana concerning religious liberty and discrimination against gay people. That battle has not ended despite the recent legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide. Many religious people feel that they need to fight for their religious right. But the thing is, they have not yet lost anything. They still have the freedom to believe whatever they want, say whatever they want, and worship at any available place of worship. There is an outcry over this ruling because they want to maintain the ”right” to be prejudiced against other people and to legally discriminate against someone on the basis of sexual orientation. Of course, the main support of their argument is that the Bible denounces homosexuality in multiple passages, but they fail to remember that theirs is not the only faith that exists. There are Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Confucians, etc, yet no one is standing up for their religious rights or liberty.
Regardless, the United States does not allow any law to be established on the sole basis of any religion or religious belief because obviously not everyone shares the same faith, and allowing any single religion to be at the basis of government and the establishment of laws is not what a democracy stands for. However, the notorious Taliban uses the Qu’ran and the Islamic religion to dictate their laws and how those laws affect citizens. Different religion, same concept. Most Americans don’t think of the Taliban as a governmental aspiration, but the same structure is what many anti-gay Christians are in favor of. Yes, it sounds extreme at first because the Taliban is big and scary and violent and our country tends to have an aversion to muslims in general, but the concept is very similar.

So when a Catholic priest publishes a video about how fellow Catholics need to defend their religious liberty in whatever way they can or that the law of god is greater than the law of man, I cannot help but wonder if they actually believe what they’re saying, because there a lot of other things in the Bible that God apparently approves of that aren’t so acceptable anymore. There’s the obvious opposition to wearing clothing with mixed fabrics or eating shellfish, but there’s also the approval of the stoning of adulterers, selling ones daughters as sex slaves, raping one’s father while he remains unconscious, and polygamy. Oh yes, remember polygamy? It was the most common form of marriage in the Bible, yet the most common argument against same-sex marriage is that marriage was meant to be between only one man and one woman. It may be a nice sentiment, but it’s not exactly how things actually happened in the Bible and in actual history, such as the civilizations of ancient Rome and Greece. Of course everyone loves to pick and choose what they believe is important in the Bible and just hope no one else has actually read it so they don’t have to come up with a defense or engage in an educated discussion.

In addition, the Catholic and Christian religions are in no way endangered or negatively effected by same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples now have the legal right to marry civilly. No one is suddenly demanding to have their big gay wedding in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. No one is insisting that the Catholic church welcome gay couples with open arms. It is quite the opposite. Christian business owners want to legally reserve the right to turn away customers of minority sexualities because it is their personal religious belief. Anti-gay clerks want to challenge the recent supreme court ruling by refusing to give same-sex couples marriage certificates. It is very clear who is the oppressor versus the oppressed, yet religious zealots love to paint themselves as the victims in order to continue to get away with their obvious prejudices and efforts to legalize discrimination.