Category Archives: LGBTQ-Logues

Lessons from Watching Lesbian Porn in Class

LesSexMonoThe first time I had sex with another woman I had no idea what I was doing. As I started to take off her panties, she said down to me, “Gloves?”

I remember thinking: “What gloves? What for?”

The practice seemed so esoteric to me. From then forth my whole orientation with safer sex altered. As a teen, I had not fully realized my sexuality and only had sex with (cis) guys. I was surrounded by sexual health messages that greatly encourage safety:

Understand birth control options, communicate with partners, get tested, use condoms.

But there was no enthusiasm for queer sexual safety. Saying, “Use gloves” or “Use a sex dam” is very different from “Use a condom”. None of my education went beyond the scope of heterosexual sex; specifically, penis-vagina penetration.

Clearly, this education ill-equipped me for the “real world”. But it also served a deeper function. Excluding information about safer lesbian sex, or more inclusively, sex between people with vulvas, maintained and reinforced the attitude that it’s not “real sex”, and that women-who-have-sex-with-women don’t really need to practice safety.

As a bisexual (cis) woman who has had penis-vaginal sex before, where did I fit into risks? Do people really use dental dams? Are gloves always necessary for manual sex?  If so, why aren’t gloves promoted more among heterosexually-based safety messages? What sexual acts are less risky than others? I soon realized that I was not alone in the confusing and silent knowledge gap. The most powerful moment of this realization happened during a university course lecture in which we watched lesbian porn.

The class was titled, “The Sociology of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic”. That day we were covering the 1988 ACT UP protest of Cosmopolitan Magazine for publishing an article which (very erroneously) claimed that women were unlikely to contract and transmit HIV. The professor then dimmed the lights and switched on a porno short. Current Flow by Jean Carlomusto stars Annie Sprinkle and Joy Brown getting it on with an array of safer sex props ranging from condom covered vibrators to eating pussy with sex dams. The women fuck on the couch while a broadcast of the ACT UP protest faintly play on the television in the background. This video was specifically made to counteract Cosmopolitan. It was one of the first lesbian porn made by and for women that explicitly shows how to have safer sex.

The professor then bluntly asked the class, “Who here actually knew how to use a dental dam or understood the function of latex gloves prior to this video?

Only a few raised their hands. Among a group of predominately queer, early twenty-somethings this felt horrifying and shocking.

That activist porno is just as relevant today as it was 24 years ago. Lesbians and women who have sex with women, including those who are FAAB (female-assigned at birth), continue to be overlooked in the HIV epidemic. According to a 2009 review by the GMHC, very little research has devoted to the study of lesbian sexual play yet we are still learning new degrees of STI risks associated with different acts such as manual sex, fisting, tribbing, sharing toys and oral sex.

I’m lucky that my first time having sex with another girl was one that encouraged safer practices. Safety wasn’t optional. It was ethical. And it was hot. It opened up my world and cemented my desire to learn more, inform my options, and talk about safety confidently with other partners. But I know not everyone (and lesbians in particular) experiences such enthusiasm- including a lack of concern from medical professionals who assume “queer* women*” experience almost zero risk of HIV and other serious sexually transmitted infections.

For me, safer sex has developed a whole new dimension of excitement because of the political protest attached to it. Feminist mantra: “The personal is political”. It’s partly an acknowledgement that the sex I have with another woman is very real despite hetero-sexist attitudes. It’s also an intimate act of caring for and protecting each other.

Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own. For more information on sexual safety for lesbians and women-who-have-sex-with-women, the National LGBT Health Education Center is a good place to start. Please do comment and share other recommended resources below.

The “Condom Girl”: Condom Policing is Gender Policing

“What do you do when you’re detained by powerful officials, everything you say is presumed deceptive, arbitrary “evidence” is held against you, and you’re treated like a moral deviant? And what if its 2013, you’re a woman, and the “evidence” is that you possess condoms?”- Clay Nikiforuk 

NYC_condom-in-handcuffs_zps66258bf1

Say no to condoms as legal evidence. Image from Photobucket.

In March 2013, Clay Nikiforuk was detained at the Quebec/Vermont boarder under suspicion of being a sex worker.  The evidence: about 8 condoms and some sexy underwear.  Hours of questioning passed over the possible relationship between her lingerie and condoms. Clay was eventually allowed into the US, but found out two weeks later that she had been flagged as a suspected sex worker.  A series of consequences followed including limited visa permits, about $1000 in extra travel fees, and more police interrogations.

It’s easy to point at the sexist double standard here.  If a young, stereotypically “masculine” man traveled with a pack of condoms and nice underwear his moral integrity would not be questioned.  But there is something else at play than slut-shaming alone. Condom policing reinforces standards of what is appropriate female and male sexuality (a.k.a. heteronormativity).  And wrapped up in those messy assumptions are racial and class stereotypes.

We have posted other monologues about condom policing before.  The NYPD’s tactic of condoms-as-evidence systematically results in gender-based violence.  The victims are overwhelmingly non-white transsexual women. This discrimination occurs daily.  The news media picks it up from time to time- maybe once a year by questioning whether condoms-as-evidence of sex work is constitutional.  In fact, a bill to stop this legal practice has been struggling to pass congress for nearly a decade.

But when condom policing happens to a white, educated young woman (read privilege) the media takes up the issue in a new way- through innocence.  Clay writes a response to the media’s representation of her story on Rabble.ca.

“I wasn’t featured nationally in Metro as “Uneducated girl is accused of sex work” but rather as “UBC student.” I didn’t join CBC’s Daybreak show as “Sex worker/adulteress treated as second class citizen” but rather, “Woman files complaint after border crossing nightmare.” So long as I was positioned as privileged, and, sometimes by proxy, innocent, my story had shock value. Because when bad things start happening to innocent, educated white people, they could happen to anyone — or rather, other privileged people. And that is very, very scary.”

“….I’ve stopped answering the point-blank question of whether or not I am, was, or ever will be a sex worker. I like to entertain the half-mad fantasy that no matter whom one has consensual sex with or why, one is irrevocably a human deserving respect and rights. The point is: when sex and sexuality are criminalized, people are made illegal and their rights made moot.”

“….If I were a sex worker, I might have “deserved” the treatment I received, or my detainment might have “made sense.” If I were from a minority group or were not as educated in the English language, my story might not have provoked the shock and outrage that it did. And rather than receiving the reaction “That should never happen to anyone,” often the reaction I still get is “That should never have happened to you.”

Read the entire article at Rabble.ca  For more information on the campaign to stop condoms as evidence by police and in court, check out The Red Umbrella Project and End the Use of Condoms as Evidence.

A Mark in History of Marriage Equality: Family Story by John & Stuart

LGBTQ-Logue 005.

You know, the sense of the historic moment hanging over these cases is incredible, and the atmosphere is really electric…As my husband said, it really feels like our very lives are before the court. But there’s no mistaking this historic moment. The momentum leading up to these hearings is incredible. Every day, when we turn to the headlines, there’s some new polls showing increasing majority support nationwide for equal marriage rights.- Stuart Gaffney, interview on Democracy Now!

Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis speaking on Democracy Now 26 March 2013

Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis speaking on Democracy Now 26 March 2013

That is a quote from Stuart Gaffney, media director at Marriage Equality USA, describing what it felt like, both as a married gay man and an activist, to be in the Supreme Court watching the arguments about the constitutionality of DOMA.  For those who don’t know, DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is a federal law enacted in 1996, that denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Our LGBTQ-logue pays homage to this historic moment (the Supreme Court discussing the systemic discrimination of sexual orientation is landmark!) by hearing the family story of Stuart Gaffney and his husband John Lewis, together for 25 years.  You can watch a full interview with them at DemocracyNow.org

What follows in an excerpt of Stuart and John’s family story that was originally written for the Marriage Equality Quilt for National Freedom to Marry Day (PDF) in Feb. 2007.

Stuart and John’s Story…

is significant because it directly connects with the history of laws banning interracial marriage until the Supreme court deemed them unconstitutional in 1967.  This issue came up in the Supreme court when Justice Scalia asked attorney, Theodore Olson, when it became unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage.

Listen to Clip 

For the entire Supreme Court argument on March 26, 2013, listen here.

John and Stuart’s very own family story draws parallels of racial discrimination and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in marriage law.  As an interracial couple, Stuart’s parents- mother Chinese-American and father English/Irish American- faced the same barriers that Stuart and John face today. Read below:

For nearly as long as we can remember, we each wanted to meet someone to fall in love with and start building a life together. For us, it happened in 1987, when we met at a neighborhood election party. When we met, John felt as if he had already known Stuart forever. To this day, when we visit old places from Stuart’s childhood, John feels like he was there with Stuart. And even before our second date, Stuart had already told his best friend from college, “I’ve met my future husband.”

When we married at San Francisco City Hall on February 12, 2004 after 17 years together as a loving and committed couple, we felt for the first time in our lives that our government was treating us as equal human beings. Subsequently, the court ruled that our marriage was null and void. Since then, we have been working to educate our fellow Californians about the importance of equal marriage rights.

This is not the first time our family had found itself in the center of a historic civil rights struggle for equal access to marriage. Stuart’s mother, who is Chinese American, and father, who is white, were only able to marry over 50 years ago, because the state’s ban on interracial marriage was overturned. Stuart’s mother remembers how one of her classmates at the University of California had to leave the state to marry her white fiancé before the law was changed.

After their wedding, Stuart’s parents traveled across America and lived in many different parts of the country. When they moved to Missouri, they were disturbed to learn their marriage was illegal and void in Missouri because that state still prohibited marriages between Chinese-Americans and whites.

But everywhere Stuart’s parents went, they educated people about interracial relationships by their very presence as a loving couple. We too have traveled across America as part of the coast-to-coast Marriage Equality Caravan to do the same — to show that our common humanity is the basis for marriage equality across the land.

Like our parents before us, we simply want the freedom to marry the person of our choice and to have the same rights, recognition, and responsibilities for our family that all other loving and committed couples enjoy. Today, all of our parents want nothing more than for their son and son-in-law’s marriage to be legally recognized, just as their other children’s marriages are.

To read their story in full, visit the website Marriage Equality USA.

Poster Child of DOMA: Testifying the impacts of marriage inequality

LGBTQ-logue 004.

I’m a tangible poster child for why DOMA should be repealed. If someone asks what’s unfair about our marriage not being recognized in all states, I can offer several examples, but here is the most glaring one: I’m dying. I have a terminal illness and I pretty much know my life span. My wife and I have been together since 1993, and we’re legally married in the state of California, yet the federal government does not recognize our marriage and the rights included therein.- Cathy, written testimony submitted before the Committee on the Judiciary, Respect for Marriage Act, July 20 2011.

Important markers in US human rights history this week!  Hillary Clinton formally endorses marriage equality and next week the Supreme Court makes a decision on the repeal of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.  For our weekly LGBTQlogue Initiative, we look back at beginning stages to repeal DOMA through the testimony of Cathy.

Cathy is an activist dedicated to repealing DOMA and raising awareness about ALS.

Cathy is an activist dedicated to repealing DOMA and raising awareness about ALS.

Cathy and her wife have been together for twenty years.  Cathy is dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease with a life expectancy of one to five years. Because the federal government does not recognize their marriage, Cathy’s wife will not receive her social security survivor benefits after she passes away.  Instead, Cathy’s social security will go to the government.  In her written testimony for the Committee on the Judiciary of the Respect for Marriage Act, Cathy explains how DOMA denies her family basic rights and stability that come with federal recognition of marriage.  Cathy hopes to live long enough to see DOMA nullified.

In January 2009, I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease. This is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease. Most people with ALS die 2 to 5 years after diagnosis….I have a powerful incentive to live long enough to see the federal government recognize our marriage. Without this recognition, my wife will not receive my social security benefits.

I met my wife in 1993 and we had our first unofficial wedding celebration on June 16, 2001. In February of 2004, we were one of thousands of couples who got married in San Francisco City Hall after Gavin Newsom honored our rights to marry. We had to travel three times to San Francisco in attempts get our marriage license because we weren’t allowed to schedule appointments as is done for heterosexuals. With thousands of other couples, we had to line up for blocks in rain, fog, cold, and wind for up to thirteen hours each trip. Our determination and steadfast love prevailed. The fourth time, we, like other couples, were allowed to schedule appointments and receive our marriage license. We exchanged vows immediately after in the glory of the S.F. City Hall rotunda. We framed our marriage license from the County of San Francisco, which the courts later nullified.

Again we did not give up. We were one of the 18,000 gay couples who did get married legally in California before California’s Proposition 8 put an end to gay marriages in the state. Our marriage is still considered valid in California, so we do have the same rights as any married couple in California.

However, when we step out of California, or deal with federal laws, we have none of those rights. This means if my wife and I travel out of state and my ALS requires a trip to the emergency room or a hospital stay, my wife could be denied the right to be with me at a time when I could be breathing my last breath.

When I die, [my wife] will not get my social security benefits. For heterosexual couples all over the country, when a person dies, their spouse gets their social security benefits. You get a monthly stipend because you’ve been paying into social security all your working life. You then draw off that money after you retire and if you die, it goes to your spouse or your dependent.

However, since the federal government does not recognize our marriage, [my wife] won’t get that. All the money I would have gotten to help support us if I were to grow older just goes back to the government. [My wife] can’t have it.

I contacted attorneys to see if there was anything I could do. They told me that, in the eyes of the federal government, I have no spouse. A few friends suggested that I legally adopt my wife, but the only way I could do that was if she were mentally incompetent. I don’t have any children so when I die my hard-earned money goes back into a government that doesn’t honor our legal California vows. Not only will my wife suffer [the loss of her] life companion, she will suffer financially.

Although some people consider social security benefits to be of minimal help, in this case it could mean the difference of my wife being able to pay her rent. We are not wealthy and, even though we are known regionally as “rock stars,” most of our years together we lived paycheck to paycheck. We did inherit some money after my brother Larry died of ALS, but most of this was spent on pre-paying my cremation, the death certificates, and taking care of other legal matters upon my death.

So once again I emphasize that with DOMA currently in place, the absence of social security benefits will burden [my wife] during her already stressful and sorrowful grief and mourning. Because her immediate and extended families shun her, they certainly will not be helping her emotionally or financially. As more of my family members die of ALS, my wife’s support system will continue to diminish.

We had a well-known duo, Duval Speck, a band, The Essentials, and produced three CDs. We performed all over California for LGBT rights and celebrations, ALS Benefits, and at “mainstream” public events. We never changed a word in any song, which made us vulnerable to “haters.” For example, if the lyrics were: “I fell in love with her, and knew she’d be my wife; I would comfort her for all of her life,” we’d never switch “her” to “him.”

In 2009, the first year and a half after I was diagnosed, we produced, directed and performed in many benefit concert fundraisers for ALS. Sadly, the ALS has now taken away my ability to sing, and my arms and hands hurt and are too weak to play percussion. On Sept 25, 2010 we put on a hugely successful concert for ALS. That was the last time either of us performed.

My wife, is also my caregiver. Doing her job, the tasks that I can’t do anymore, putting me to bed, cooking and monitoring how I eat, and making sure I can breathe, doesn’t leave much time for making music. If you have ever heard her play guitar and sing, you’d agree that she is uniquely wonderful. This is such a horrible loss for her and our friends and fans.

I have to sleep with special equipment to deliver oxygen now, and my energy continues to decline. My degree of fatigue determines what I can accomplish each day. Nothing, and if you could see my face right now, you’d know I mean nothing will dampen my spirit. And, I hold onto hope that if I live long enough, maybe the laws will change and the federal government will recognize our marriage. That keeps me getting out of bed in the morning, striving for LGBT equal rights, and continuing to raise funds to find a cause and cure for ALS.

.….if you want a real-life example of why DOMA is unjust, I’m right here–a 51-year-old woman dying from ALS (a disease our society tends to hide) and my wife, 53, with still plenty of life to live. I’m the “poster child” for “Repeal DOMA” and “Defeat ALS.” Some people in our great country don’t think we’re as good as they are, and don’t think we deserve the same rights. Well, we are as “good as they are” and we do deserve the same marriage rights. Go ahead and plaster my story on every wall and every screen.

I’m not dead yet. Even the terminally crippling disease of ALS won’t stop me as I strive to open hearts and eyes, so that all may live with love and equality.

Original (PDF) found on MarriageEquality.org

Cathy has a blog: check it out.

Walking While Trans: police profiling and abuse of LGBTQ communities of color in Queens

LGBTQ 003.  In this entry of our LGBTQ-Logue Initiative, posting mementos of sexual justice issues, we share narratives from participants in a study about the gender-based violence that police regularly commit against LGBTQ and gender nonconforming people.

Illustration by Molly Crabapple.  Posted with permission. Found on Vice Mag.

Illustration by Molly Crabapple. Posted with permission. Found on Vice Mag.

In response to the rise of complaints about hate violence and police abuse against LGBTQ people in Jackson Heights, especially among people of color, the community-based organization Make the Road NY (MRNY) and the Anti-Violence Project (AVP) conducted a preliminary study to ascertain the extent of the problems with police. Between 2011 and 2012, MRNY and AVP collected over 300 surveys with LGBTQ and gender nonconforming people in Jackson Heights.  Interviews were conducted by outreach workers and volunteers through street, bar, and nightclub outreach, as well as within support groups and community meetings.

They found that LGBTQ, and transgender respondents in particular, reported higher rates of police stops compared to non-LBGTQ respondents.  Transgender residents of color were the most likely to experience police harassment and physical abuse when stopped.  46% of transgender respondents reported some form of physical abuse from police compared to 28% of non-LGBTQ respondents.  Narrative evidence obtained through interviews reveals the kind of physical harassment experienced such as handling, pushing, shoving and sexual harassment.

These are not just selective, one-off narrative accounts.  On the contrary, they are shared because they reflect general tends respondents experience with the NYPD in Queens.

Carolina describes being intrusively searched by police:

About 2 years ago something terrible happened when I was out in Jackson Heights. My girlfriend and I were on our way to a club when the police stopped us.  It was about midnight. The police stopped us and asked for our IDs.  My girlfriend had hers but I didn’t have mine with me at the time. At that moment the police started to frisk me and search my pants.  Because I dress very masculine they started telling me to ‘shut up you fucking dyke.’ They started to feel my breasts and search in that area (they were male cops and they’re not suppose to do that). They then proceeded to put me against the wall and told me to spread my legs.  They searched me between my legs like I was a criminal. I told them that I didn’t consent to their search.  But they said that they were ‘the authority’ and that they could do ‘whatever the fuck they wanted’ with me. I felt humiliated because I knew that even if I said something no one would believe me.  Also, because of my immigration status I was afraid to say anything and get deported.- Lesbian woman, Jackson Heights (MRNY 2012, pg. 20)

Another interviewee, Juan, reported being drag by her hair down the block.

I was walking down the street with my partner on 34th Avenue and a police car pulled over and told us to get near the car.  When the police officer saw that I was dressed as a woman he pulled my wig, held my hair and dragged me down 34th Avenue for 1 or 2 blocks. – Gay Latino man who cross dresses at night, Queens (Ibid: pg. 20).

Other narratives reflect violence committed by police and the unjust treatment carried out while in custody.

I was getting out of a club and heading to a friend’s house in a cab.  When I got to her apartment, I found that the police were stopping her and asking her to produce ID. They were talking to her in English. I intervened and told the officers that she didn’t speak English and that her ID was in her apartment, which we were in front of. I told them that I could get her ID from her apartment. The officers told me to shut up and arrested both me and my friend. The police used a lot of force while arresting us and said some homophobic and transphobic remarks in the process.  They put us in the back of their car and started laughing at us with other police officers who were also there.  I asked one of the officers to please open the window a bit more because we were out of breath, to which he responded by pepper spraying my directly in my face and mouth. Since we were trapped in the back of the car, the pepper spray also started asphyxiating my friend. I started kicking the car door and asking them to please let us out.  They opened the door and dragged me out of the car and started beating me up outside the car, while using transphobic and homophobic remarks. It was a very confusing, demeaning and unjust experience, I ended up being in jail for two days without representation and was intensely harassed by officers while I was in custody.- Transgender Latina woman, Queens (Ibid: pg. 18).

Part of that harassment involves arbitrary stops on suspicion of prostitution, which takes place in the form of a charge of “loitering for the purpose of prostitution”- a misdemeanor that allows for broad officer discretion.  The profiling of transgender women as sex workers is so common that there is a term for it: “walking while trans”.

Arrests can be made on the basis of how tight one’s clothing is and how many condoms are on the person, which will be used as evidence in court.  If convicted for prostitution, the person will lose social benefits like food stamps and subsidized housing.  As a result, transgender women are especially fearful that any condom in their possession will be used as evidence against them.

The survey participants commonly reported stops that seemed to be without basis but in which the police officers later justified the stop by charging the person with prostitution because condoms were found on their person.

Cristina explained how the police did not believe that her boyfriend was not a patron and the officers confiscated three condoms off of her.

One night I was with my boyfriend at a club in Jackson Heights, Queens.  At around 4am we left the club together and walked home. We were walking next to each other. At one point an undercover police van stopped next to us.  Eight undercover cops got out from the van and some of them threw me against the wall. While they were handcuffing me, my boyfriend was also through to the wall and they frisked him. They told me I was being arrested for sex work. I told them that I was not doing anything like that. After they frisked my boyfriend, they frisked me and found three condoms, after seeing the condoms they asked if I was sure that I was not working.  I told them that I was with my boyfriend and they said that he was not my boyfriend. I told one of the female cops to help me and that I was not doing anything wrong. She said that she couldn’t help me out. My boyfriend came to the 110th Precinct where I was held and spoke to the captain; he tried to explain that I was his girlfriend and that I was with him. But the captain said that he couldn’t do anything. I was taken to court and was accused of sex work.– Transgender woman, Jackson Heights (Ibid: pg 21).

Another interviewee describes being jumped by undercover cops and experiencing repetitive humiliation and harassment while in custody:

Last week, I went out dancing at a small night club on Roosevelt Avenue.  After having a good time and feeling ready to go home, I contacted my friends so that we could meet at a small taqueria before we all headed home.  Meeting up at the taqueria after a night out is routine for us because the tacos are really good, and it’s also the only way we know that our circle of friends is safe.

While on my way to the taqueria, I was approached by a dark colored car driven by a middle-aged male.  As the male pulled alongside me, he said something I couldn’t hear properly.  As I did not hear what the male was saying, I inched a little closer to his vehicle and he repeated, ‘Why are you so beautiful and yet alone?’ Before I knew it, two undercover officers jumped out of a van that was parked along the street and told me that I was under arrest.  When I asked the officer’s why they are arresting me, they told that I was ‘engaging in prostitution’.

They cuffed me and the officers questioned me further, took my purse away from me and placed me into the unmarked van.  Although I had nothing on me and did nothing wrong, they still took me, transferred me into another police van filled with about a dozen trans-women and then took us all down to the 115th Precinct where we were fingerprinted, written up and later transferred to the central booking.  My experience in the holding cell at central booking was terrible.  I was humiliated inside of the holding cell by the guards and the men who occupied the cell with me.  The guards would not all me anything other than bread and water to eat and I was not allowed to use the toilet when I needed to go.  Tears streamed down my face as for the first time I was encountering the daily harassment that transwomen face for just walking home.-Transgender Latina woman, Queens (Ibid: pg. 17).

And it doesn’t just happen at night after clubbing.  It also happens while doing routine daily activities such as walking the dog or grocery shopping.  Here is just one testimony of many from the MRNY study.

I am transgender.  I was walking to the store near my house on Roosevelt Avenue when two cops stopped and arrested me.  When I asked why I was being arrested, they replied, ‘Because you are pretty.’ They charged me with loitering for prostitution when I was only walking down the street.- Transgender Latina woman, Queens (Ibid: pg. 17)

This profiling and abuse has been documented extensively across the US by Amnesty International (2005), the PROS Network (2011) and Human Rights Watch (2012), to name a few.  All studies conclude that there needs to be more done within the legal system and law enforcement culture to address homophobic and transphobic attitudes and discriminatory policing against LBGTQ people.  Suggestions include LGBTQ liaison units to police forces and integrating LGBTQ issues into officer education and professional development.

There is also a bill to end the use of condoms as evidence of sex work.  Since 1999, a coalition of people in the sex trades, allies, and community-based organizations have been working to pass the No Condoms As Evidence bill into law in NY state.  In 2012, a report by the PROS Network and Sex Worker Project revealed how the use of condoms as evidence of prostitution is creating a public health crisis because it is deterring targeted populations from carrying condoms.  This is “deeply concerning”, writes Emma Caterine of the Red Umbrella Project, as people in the sex trade and gender nonconforming people are often most at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. “To combat this violence and promote safer sex, we must stop the use of condoms as evidence by both police and prosecutors (RH Reality Check, 2013).”

On April 23rd, 2013, Red Umbrella Project will be lobbying in Albany, NY to get the No Condoms as Evidence bill passed by representatives.  For more information on this bill and how you can get involved, check out their website.

Video Storytelling about ‘Coming Out’ by a Mormon

1409273_cross_collageLGBTQ-Logue 002.
“So, are you dating anyone.”
“Nope.” I shamelessly replied.
“Well that’s not good.” my bishop said.
“I don’t want to date anyone.”
Then my bishop looked at me, “Do you experience feelings of same-gender attraction?” What?!  All I said is I don’t want to date anyone, how does he…?  ‘This is real.  Oh gosh, this is very real.’  I paused a good while.  I looked at my bishop and in a weak voice replied, “Yeah.”
I had never wanted to die more than that moment.  Finally realizing the fact.  Affirming the fact.  Loathing the fact.  Breaking through the denial was almost more than I could take. A few words were exchanged and then my bishop looked at me and with genuine empathy said, “That sucks.”A Gay Mormon Coming Out, Jimmy Hales

Coming out can be a big event- or not.  It is a process that’s as individual as you are.  And so are the ways of remembering and expressing what coming out is like.  Jimmy Hales (blogger and student at the Mormon university BYU) decided to “come out” publicly through video.  And a very entertaining video indeed.

Over the course of a year, Jimmy recorded the reactions of his “coming out” to his sister, mother and friends.  Many of them don’t believe him at first.  Some say they’ve had their suspicions.  Overall, it’s an upbeat and chipper mini-doc.  And it works to address some fears and misconceptions about coming out and about homosexuality. On his blog, Jimmy explains that he wanted to show others (gay or not) that a Mormon “coming out” isn’t that bad.  It can be positive.  He also explains how the Church excludes non-heterosexuals by not addressing what is expected of a gay member of the church.  Do the rules of celibacy apply to gays? He had to search long and hard and alone for answers.

We thought this was an important memento to share for #2 of the LGBT-Logue Series because there are virtually no representations of -and by- openly gay young Mormons. Do enjoy.


ORIGINAL: by Jimmy Hales. Found on Upworthy

Remembering Stonewall: Excerpts from the First Documentary Made on the Riots

LGBTQ-Logue 001.

“The archives of lesbian culture…created four years after Stonewall, owes, at least for my part, it’s creation to that night and the courage that found its voice in the streets. That night, in some very deep way, we finally found our place in history. Not as a dirty joke, not as a doctor’s case study, not as a freak- but as a people.” – Joan Nestle, Co-founder of Lesbian Herstory Archives (Remembering Stonewall, aired 1989 on PBS Radio).

Image sourced from wikipedia.org

image sourced from wikipedia.org

For some, modern history is indexed by the pre-Stonewall and post-Stonewall eras.  The 1969 Stonewall Upraising is marked as the first time the LGBTQ community resisted routine police raids and arrests at a time when it was illegal for queers to congregate in public.

All great movements require catalyst- whether it’s premeditated or unplanned- a bandwagon that cements conviction in the will of those affected by injustice; when people discover they are not alone.  What starts a movement will be determined by different (sometimes opposing) perspectives, most of which will never be recorded in popular history.  Stonewall is one of those seminal events in which thousands who were involved (directly and indirectly) have never had their experiences recognized in official documentation…until 20 years later. StoryCorps founder David Isay with Michael Scherker produced the first documentary of any medium about the Stonewall uprising.

This radio documentary premiered on NPR’s All Things Considered Weekend Edition in 1989.  It records multiple testimonies of the event including drag queens who stood up to police, a police marshal who led the raid, and young activists who founded the Gay Liberation Front on the third night of the Stonewall Riots.  You can listen and download the broadcast for free at Sound Portaits.org and read the entire transcript here.

The recording begins with participants describing what it was like to be “gay” in the 1960s, before Stonewall.

JOAN NESTLE, Co-founder of Lesbian Herstory Archives:  [T]here was regular weekend harassment, which would consist of the police coming in regularly….[I]n the Sea Colony, we had a back room with a red light. And when that red light went on it meant the police would be arriving in around ten minutes. And so we all had to sit down at our tables, and we would be sitting there almost like school children, and the cops would come in. Now depending on…which cop was on, if it was some that really resented the butch women who were with many times very beautiful women, we knew we were in for it because what would happen is they would start harassing one of these women, and saying, ‘Ha, you think you’re a man? Come outside and we’ll show you.’ And the woman would be dragged away. They’d throw her up against a wall and they’d say, ‘So, you think you’re a man, let’s see what you got in your pants.’ And they would put their hand down her pants.

SEYMOUR PINE, Deputy Inspector of the NYC Public Morals Squad: “[Before Stonewall] you tell [patrons in gay bars] to leave and they leave, and you say show me your identification and they all take out their identification and file out and that’s it. And you say, okay, you’re not a man, you’re a woman, or you’re vice versa and you wait over there. I mean, this was a kind of power that you have and you never gave it a second thought.

SYLVIA RIVERA, Transgender activist: The drag queens took a lot of oppression and we had to…we were at a point where I guess nothing would have stopped us…we were ladies in waiting, just waiting for the thing to happen.

Image from Gender Anarchy Facebook Page.  Original from The National Center of Lesbian Rights

Image from Gender Anarchy Facebook Page. Original from The National Center for Lesbian Rights

Those who witnessed and participated in the riot recount the electricity felt in the air as eight police officers arrived at the Stonewall Inn at midnight June 27th, 1969.  They describe fire, anger, joy, beatings- by police batons and high heels alike.

BIRDY, Protestor: My name is Robert Rivera and my nickname is Birdy, and I’ve been cross-dressing all of my life. I remember the night of the riots, the police were escorting queens out of the bar and into the paddy wagon and there was this one particularly outrageously beautiful queen, with stacks and stacks of…Elizabeth Taylor style hair, and she was asking them not to push her. And they continued to push her, and she turned around and she mashed the cop with her high heel. She knocked him down and then she proceeded to frisk him for the keys to the handcuffs that were on her. She got them and she undid herself and passed them to another queen that was behind her.

RIVERA: I remember someone throwing a Molotov cocktail. I don’t know who the person was, but I mean I saw that and I just said to myself in Spanish…’oh my God, the revolution is finally here!’ And I just like started screaming ‘Freedom! We’re free at last!’ You know. It felt really good!

Remembering Stonewall also offers rare insight and expression of how the revolutionary event impacted across personal lives and politics.  For example, Gene Hardwood, who at the time of this recording was in a 60 year partnership with Bruce Merrow, explained,

GENE HARWOOD: When Stonewall happened, Bruce and I were still in the closet, where we had been for nearly forty years. But we realized that this was a tremendous thing that had happened at Stonewall and it gave us a feeling that we were not going to be remaining closeted for very much longer. And soon thereafter, we did come out of the closet.

JINNY APPUZO: …In 1969 I was in the convent. And when Stonewall hit the press, it hit me with a bolt of lightening. It was as if I had an incredible release of my own outrage at having to sequester so much of my life. I made my way down, I seem to recall in subsequent nights being down on the, you know, kind of just on the periphery looking. An observer — clearly an observer. Clearly longing to have that courage to come out. And as I recall it was only a matter of weeks before I left the convent and started a new life.

PINE: For those of us in Public Morals [police division], after the Stonewall incident things were completely changed from what they had previously been. They suddenly were not submissive anymore. They now suddenly had gained a new type of courage. And it seemed as if they didn’t care anymore about whether their identities were made known.

We were now dealing with human beings.

As shown by Stonewall and earlier campaigns against police raids and entrapment, NYC has a fraught history of with the LGBTQ communities.  While great gains have been made, LGBTQ people, and particularly LGBTQ people of color, continue to be targets of police profiling and abuse.  This includes profiling transgender women as sex workers, “gender checks”, physical and sexual abuse, and detention of transgender people under dangerous conditions.  Check out LGBTQ-logue 003 for narrative accounts of LGBTQ interactions with the NYPD in present-day Jackson Heights, Queens.