The Fight Isn’t Over Yet: LGBTQ Pride In The Aftermath Of Marriage Equality And Orlando

pride-flag

[CN: Homophobia, Transphobia, Orlando]

This article was originally written for TheHumanist.com, but it turns out my friend Callie Wright of the Gaytheist Manifesto is writing an article about the same thing. I guess this means she’s not my friend anymore.

Just kidding, Callie! I love you.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote.

***

This past weekend saw the one-year anniversary of the SCOTUS’s landmark decision to make same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states. I remember waking up that morning hearing the news and thinking, “Wait, we won?” Even though my home state of Maryland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012, I still rejoiced with my LGBTQ friends and family that, after years of campaigning, we finally won the battle. And yet I also worried that the mainstream LGBTQ community would soon forget that the war wasn’t over yet.

For starters, many in the transgender community felt that mainstream LGBTQ activists were focusing on marriage equality at the expense of trans rights. After all, in 2014 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) director Chad Griffin told a trans activist that “marriage isn’t a transgender issue.” Griffin later apologized, but to many LGBTQ people, this only solidified how far removed the LGBTQ movement was from its radical roots. In her book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution, Shiri Eisner critiques what she calls the GGGG (gay gay gay gay) movement’s failure to address more pressing issues. She writes:

The struggle for same sex marriage leaves behind almost everyone who isn’t already privileged. People with more urgent needs than marriage are neglected from the resources and activist efforts of the GGGG movement. GGGG organizations spend many millions of dollars on the struggle for marriage, while organizations addressing the issues of queer and trans homelessness youth, HIV positive queers, queers of color, queers in poverty, queer survivors of violence, and many others, suffer from a constant lack of money and resources.

Indeed, The New Civil Rights Movement reported an alarming increase of hate crimes against LGBTQ people only days after the SCOTUS ruling. Also, as we’ve seen in the past couple of months, numerous “bathroom bills” have been proposed that would require transgender people to only use public bathrooms that aligned with their assigned genders at birth. Not to mention the fact that, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 34 states have introduced over 200 anti-LGBTQ rights bills this year alone.

And then came the early morning of June 12, 2016 when 29 year old Omar Mateen walked into an Orlando, FL gay nightclub called Pulse on Latinx Night and started shooting, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. If the Orlando shooting wasn’t a wake-up call that the fight against anti-LGBTQ bigotry isn’t over yet, I don’t know what is. Even in 2016, we’re still fighting for our right to live. We still live in a world where toxic masculinity shames gay men and trans women, and where religious leaders tell their congregations that LGBTQ people need to be either shunned or killed.

But we can get through this. I know because the LGBTQ rights movement always fights back. We fought back against the cops during the Stonewall riots of 1969. We fought back against Anita Bryant’s crusade for anti-gay discrimination in the ‘70s. We fought back against the AIDS epidemic in the ‘80s and ‘90s. We continue to fight back against politicians who want to take away our rights, and bigots who want us dead.

It’s not always easy, though. That’s one reason why the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance exists (of which I am part of their Advisory Council). According to our mission statement:

While the death of DOMA has empowered the mainstream LGBTQ movement and its allies, there are various issues related to LGBTQ rights and social justice that demand attention. This includes social issues that disproportionately impact queer communities like health care deprivations, homelessness, violence against queer and trans people, and economic injustice. The LGBTQ Humanist Alliance is dedicated to realizing a more inclusive humanism that confronts these issues through education and direct action.

Despite what critics may say, the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance isn’t meant to be divisive. Our goal is to address issues that specifically affect the LGTBQ community in order to both fight for our own liberation and to teach straight and cis people how to be better allies.

As Pride Month draws to a close, we need to remember where we came from and where we’re going. Progress has been made since Stonewall, but we still have a long way to go. Same-sex marriage may be legal throughout the United States, but we still face discrimination, bigotry, and violence. Let’s forge ahead.

The Biskeptical Podcast #4: Why Pride Month Matters

Today’s episode comes in the aftermath of the shooting in Orlando. Plenty has been said about it already, but being that this happened during LGBTQ Pride Month, it’s time to remind our listeners why the struggle isn’t over yet. We’re gonna discuss news items, blog posts, and stories from listeners, so you don’t want to miss this!

(And I promise to write an actual blog post in the near future. I’ve just been busy right now)

biskeptical (1)

Subscribe via iTunes

Subscribe via Spreaker

Subscribe via Stitcher

Bi Any Means Podcast #57: An Ex-Muslim in Iran with Kaveh Mousavi

My guest for today is Kaveh Mousavi. He’s an ex-Muslim living in Tehran, Iran, and his blog On the Margin of Error can be found on the Patheos network. Today we’re going to talk about his story, what it’s like being an atheist in Iran, and how to be better allies for ex-Muslims.

****************************************************

travpod2

Bi Any Means Podcast #56: Atheist Hip-Hop with Ensomniak

My guest for today is Ensomniak. He is a hip-hop artist who raps about atheism, and his first EP “Played Your Ism” is available on Bandcamp. Today we’re going to talk about his backstory, his music, and what it’s like to be a minority within a minority.

Throughout this episode, I’ll be playing some of Ensomniak’s music. The first song to kick things off is “Morality,” the second is “Plagiarism,” and the interview will end with “Believe in You.”

****************************************************

travpod2

Rude Reminders That I Am “The Other”

pulseribbon

CN: Homophobia, Orlando Shooting, Bullying, Violence, Slurs

1999:

I’m 16 and first starting to realize I’m bisexual. There’s a boy in my class that I want to kiss. I don’t tell anyone, though, because I’m already being bullied for being a nerdy femme guy (this was before I learned being genderqueer was a thing) with a mental illness cocktail of depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Not a day goes by in school when a kid calls me a faggot. Plus, Matthew Shepherd was just murdered. How the hell can I come out when it’s only going to make things worse? I mean, my mom will accept me for who I am; homosexuality never bothered her. But there’s no other safe space for me outside of home, so I stay in the closet and convince myself I’m really a straight guy who’s just a little confused right now.

 

2012:

I’m 29 and finally came out as bisexual after getting out of a terrible six-year relationship with a conservative Christian woman. I no longer believe being LGBTQ is a sin, and I’m finally free to be myself. I even found an ELCA church that welcomes everyone. The best part of all is I have a boyfriend.

He is everything my ex wasn’t. Some may say our relationship is just a rebound, but what I feel with him is more real than anything I’ve ever felt in my life. As clichéd as it sounds, I feel alive when I’m with him. We tried to take things slow, but we fell in love with each other fast and hard.

On this particular evening, we’re in my car making out in the Denny’s parking lot after dinner. I look over and see a man in a truck parked a few spots down from us. He’s looking in our direction. Can he see us? Is he looking at us? Does he know? I try to play it cool and focus on my boyfriend, but I can’t stop looking over at him. Is he going to get out of his truck and beat the shit out of us?

Eventually another man gets in the truck with him and they drive off. I’ve been bullied before, but this is the first time I thought I was going get hurt.

 

2016:

I’m 33 and I just woke up to hear the news about Orlando. At first the body count was in the thirties, but now it’s at least fifty. As details emerge, I find out it was a man who pledged allegiance to ISIS. At first I’m angry at religion causing so much hatred and violence in the world, but the more I process it, the more that old feeling creeps up that I am the Other. I know that I’m queer, but since no one really gives me shit for it, I forget that to many people, I’m not even human. I’m an abomination. I’m sick. I’m a pervert. Not only do certain gods believe I deserve death, but there are people in the world that are more than willing to do their gods’ work.

And in that moment, I am truly scared shitless.

Bi Any Means Podcast #55: Reason Rally 2016

Instead of the usual format, today’s episode is going to be all about my adventures at last week’s Reason Rally in Washington, DC. Since the event was free and I only live an hour and a half away from DC, I didn’t really have an excuse to miss it. Plus, all my friends were going to be there, so I figured what better time to challenge my traveling anxiety and go on an adventure. Spoiler alert: it was worth it!

I managed to interview a few people for this episode. I wanted to interview more, but it was hard to find areas away from the stage in order to hear them. Plus being that I didn’t have a list of prepared questions, I didn’t really know what to say except “Are you having fun?” But I did manage to snag brief interviews with Thomas Sheedy, Francesco Petracca, Stephanie Guttormson, Jim Patchett, Seth Andrews, and Jenica Crail. The interviews are brief because, like I said, I didn’t have any prepared questions, and I was so overwhelmed with meeting so many people that my mind blanked out a lot. After the interviews, I’ll wrap things up with some thoughts about Reason Rally and why it’s so important.

****************************************************

travpod2

Reason Rally 2016 Was A Family Reunion

reasonrallysjw

Left to right: Ari Stillman, the Prophet Jeremiah, me, Ms. Ashley, and Eli Bosnick

There’s some debate about whether or not Reason Rally 2016 was a success or not. Hemant Mehta recently wrote about several factors that may have had something to do with why there were only around 10,000 attendees compared to the estimated 30,000 that went to the first one, and while he brings up several good points, I still think it was a success. I didn’t get a chance to hear all the speakers, but the ones I did hear–David Silverman, Lawrence Krauss, Cara Santa Maria, and Bill Nye–were fantastic. But the main reason why I say it was a success was because, to me, it was a family reunion.

Ever since I started the Bi Any Means podcast and writing for The Humanist last year, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with countless bloggers, writers, podcasters, and activists online. Reason Rally was my chance to finally meet them all in person. And let me tell you–I’ve never felt more welcome ever in my life than I did this past weekend!

Friday night before the Rally, I had drinks with the folks from No Religion Required, The Gaytheist Manifesto, Bill and Suzy from Bar Room Atheist, Eli Bosnick of The Scathing Atheist, Korrine of the Ehtheist Podcast, Heretic Woman from Beyond the Trailer Park, Wyatt Matthers from Atheist Avengers, Andrew Garber from Atheist Roundtable, Phil Ferguson, Shelley Segal, and a few others. We hugged, we drank, we laughed, and we took selfies. On my way back to my hotel room, Chris Stedman walked up to me and said, “Hey, Trav!” I hardly got any sleep that night from trying to process the fact that all the people I hear on my iPod week after week are actually real people!

Then came the Reason Rally where I met even more awesome people:

reasonrallyseth

Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist podcast. Nicest guy in the world!

reasonreallystephanie

Stephanie Guttormson.

reasonrallymandisa

Mandisa Thomas

reasonrallyjessica

Jessica Xiao of the American Humanist Association

reasonrallymatthew

Matthew Facciani

reasonrallycallie

Callie Wright

reasonrallysincere

Sincere Kirabo

reasonrallydamien

Damien AtHope

reasonrallyadam

Adam Collins (who is a damn good kisser)

reasonrallyderrickrachael

Me, Derrick, and Ms. Bea Haven from Promoting Secular Feminism

reasonrallyjenica

Jenica Crail

And that’s just a handful!

Near the end of the Rally (right when Nye was spreaking, actually), Jenica and I talked about how, while the speakers were great, the event was more than just hearing a bunch of people saying cool things on stage.  It was about meeting online friends in person for the first time, and making new friends. It was about not feeling like the token freak, like I told Stephanie. It was about being surrounded by people who feel just as strongly about separation of church and state as you do. It was about being in a safe space where no one judges you based on who you are. As Bobby C would say, it’s about family. Bobby often says the atheist community is family, and based on my experience, he’s right.

And that’s why I can’t leave the atheist movement. Despite all the assholes online, the community in general is extremely welcoming. Groucho Marx once said, “I’d never join a club that would allow me as a member,” but based on all the love and support I received this past weekend, I’m glad to be a part of this family.

Bi Any Means Podcast #54: Everyone’s Agnostic with Cass Midgley

In a few hours, I’ll be on the road to DC for Reason Rally. Before I go, though, here’s the latest episode of the Bi Any Means podcast.

My guest for today is Cass Midgley. He spent most of his life in Christianity until eventually becoming an atheist, and now he co-hosts the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast with Bob Pondillo. Today we’re going to talk about his journey, the podcast, and why storytelling is so important.

****************************************************

travpod2

The Biskeptical Podcast #2: Won’t Someone Please Think Of The White Cis People?

Today Morgan and I talk about how the American Humanist Association hurt a bunch of white boys’ feelings, why Officer Edward Nero was acquitted of all charges in the wrongful death of Freddie Gray, and why Oklahoma wants to impeach President Obama for not allowing them to be bigoted assholes. You don’t want to miss this!

biskeptical (1)

Subscribe via iTunes

Subscribe via Spreaker

Subscribe via Stitcher