Judgement in the LGBTQ community

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I’d like to discuss a more serious topic today.

People like to judge. Everyone does it, from judging what you like, to what you don’t like in food preferences, colours, hobbies and people you prefer to spend time with. People need to fit things into specific categories in order to understand them and see where they fit in our lives, this leads to us acquiring biases about things. Judgements align with these biases that we carry from a young age. Unless something occurs to an open minded individual that smashes stereotypes or their judgements, the judgements will remain; We must remain open minded about our biases, judgements and be willing to see things from different points of view in order to allow our judgements to fall to the wayside.

People who identify as LGBTQ become accustomed to feeling judged negatively and may actively fight against societal biases. One thing that some people may not know about though, is that individuals within the LGBTQ community (worldwide) fight against discrimination and judgements within the LGBTQ community. These forms of discrimination and judgement may come in words, veiled sarcasm, dirty looks etc.

For example, many lesbians or women who identify as gay and lesbian tend to hold ideas and biases against bisexual women. It is probably due to the fact that some bisexual women can date men and women happily which leads to gay women feeling the pressure about competing with straight men for the women to date. It is a lot easier for someone to be in a heterosexual relationship than in a same sex relationship, according to society. Heterosexual relationship couples do not get the odd looks, dirty looks, whispers, calls, or ignorant language. Many lesbians see it like that. I used to see things like that, worried that I would date a bisexual woman and she would break my heart and leave me for a man because that was easier than dating me.

My partner broke that mold for me. She identified as bisexual and had never dated a woman before. I had to banish my past trust issues with bisexual women and deconstruct my biases and judgements. I realized that although the gay and lesbians get discriminated against, the bisexuals get discriminated against more. My partner has been discriminated on by lesbians before at events that we’ve both attended to and now she feels left out like she doesn’t fit into the heterosexual or the gay community. I told her that’s not the case and that we will go together and leave together if such discrimination does happen to her. Our local Pride is happening this week which is why I bring this topic of events up. I told her that I support her and if she feels discriminated against, I will call said person on what they said or did and we will leave.

My girlfriend loves me for me. If she left me for a man, it would have a series of reasons attached to it, not because of my parts. Same things if I was dating a gay woman, if she left me it wouldn’t be because of my sexual parts, it would have a series of reasons attached to it. We need to move past these hangups we have in the LGBT community so we can be stronger as a united force fighting for the freedom of Human Rights.

bisexual(Photo Credit: Social science wiki)

Everyone in the LGBTQ community deserves to shine as an individual in the community that was built in order to shelter them and allow them the freedom of individuality in a world where discrimination is rampant. We need to be more aware that we’re inclusive not secluding anyone. After all, doesn’t everyone deserve freedom to be themselves in this world?

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Female genital Mutilation

Trigger Warning, this blog post contains graphic content. If you are sensitive to subjects I suggest skipping this particular blog post. 

 

Female genital mutilation… Those words send shivers down my body, shivers that have nothing to do with pleasure and everything to do with repulsion, and disgust. Female genital mutilation is legal, accepted and practiced in some countries in the world, even today. It involves cutting off the root of the female pleasure center, the clitoris so the woman, or girl, cannot feel sexual pleasure. It is incredibly painful, not medically clean (in some cases), and incredibly inhumane.

It enrages me if I think about it for too long. Would men agree to chopping their scrotum or parts of their penis off? I bet they wouldn’t. And yet women are somehow lower class still, in most parts of the world ruled by men who are ruthlessly power and money hungry, which is why things like this still go on. It is ingrained into some cultures because of these beliefs that women should not be sexual, that they are only meant for procreation, but in my opinion, that is not fair. Women, just as any man should have the right to a healthy sexuality.

Why am I posting this on a lesbian blog you may be wondering? Women are an important part of society. Even though they may be considered second class, women are the nurturers, mothers, lovers, friends, intelligent and caring people. That’s not to say that men don’t hold some of those qualities, but it’s to say that women are equal too. Women are human too. And we have a right to be here, feeling safe in our environments and living to our fullest potential.

Sources:
Aljezeera

Huffington Post: Cultural expectations

TPR org: Unicef reports FGM

Asking the readers and subscribers

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I have been looking into my stats and blog hits recently and I’m asking the readers, what would you like to hear more about? I love hearing from readers who like to share their comments, experiences and input. Please let me know.

What would you like me to blog about more? Add your name if you feel like it, and where you’re from in the world.

world

(Photocredit: gov library)

Photoshoots

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Recently at the urging and encouragement of my love, I entered a photography/art contest. My fiance has been so good to me, encouraging me to pursue my passion for photography and turn it into a side business. Because I struggle with organization and focus at times, she always encourages me no matter what I may be feeling.

The contest was Pride related. I toyed with the idea of doing artwork or photography. I decided to go the route of photography because I felt I could match the contest outline better.

I called up a drag queen whom I had met years ago at  his first drag competition. He agreed to do it for his own publicity and to help me out. I called two same sex couples who were friends of mine, one was a male couple and the other a female couple.

They all agreed to the terms and I went for it. I had never done formal portraits outside our family so it was a good learning curve in order for me to gain better confidence. It gave me experience getting the subjects comfortable in front of the camera so they that I could get the subjects into positions and shoot for an hour or two per session.

camera2

 

(Photo Credit: http://photography.aicdedu.com.au/images/camera2.jpg)

I’m still working on my Photoshop skills. So once I am happy enough with my skills photo shopping people, I will start charging money for new clients, build a report and clientele,  get business cards and compile my portfolio. I’m so excited.  I feel so lucky that my partner is so supportive of me and my passion. I’m excited for the next stage of life and to see where this passion will lead me.

 

 

Not the only odd thing on the block

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So my neighbourhood/ development that my gf and I live in has its own Facebook page. I’m assuming this makes it easier to chat with each other about neighbourhood potlucks,  street parties, selling things and sharing news.

One of our neighbours made a post the other day about their neighbours tenant. It was a public rant about how disturbing their neighbour’s behavior was plus the name and address of the accused. My gf and I had a good laugh at first. “Guess we’re not the weirdest people on the block now,” my girlfriend commented. Prior to this some of the neighbours on our street (but not all in our development), had stopped talking with us as soon as they realized I was dating and later cohabitating with my girlfriend, hence why we now seemed just like old news almost a year later. At least people were accepting enough to not post about the same-sex couple on the block now.

So to get to the point, neighbourhood gossip is that one man renting in our development likes to rent out escorts or prostitutes. The neighbours can’t report him because police need graphic evidence that he’s doing transactions with the ladies. One neighbour piped up that they had seen a pimp in hand with a debit machine.  Wow pimps use debit now?

So I’m not sure if this is all true, but public shaming aside, it seems like someone isn’t happy with the new guy’s choices in life. I know being gay is not a choice. Using prostitutes is a choice. But I feel like how the angry neighbour went about this issue was not the way to go. The angry neighbour clearly has been stewing about this for far too long. As amusing as this first was to read, I feel like the angry neighbour should have tried to use cameras and video footage if continuously calling the police was not helping before trying to publicly shame someone on social media. And I agree with the other neighbours, I don’t want prostitutes in the neighbourhood where my step kids live. What do you think?

Going to my second prom

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Many of us get to go to prom in high school. Some of us get to go to two, Maybe even three for a select few people (at least some in my high school who were invited one or two years in addition to their graduation year.) But not many people get to re-live their prom when they are older, wiser and maybe more out of the closet about who they are. Although, I admit I could be wrong about that, because now it seems more people are coming to the realization about their sexual orientation at earlier ages. As a result of being more open at younger ages, they are more open about being true to themselves and are therefore on their way to a more positive and healthy life before the generations before them.

I fit into the generation that came after the generation that is now open to who they are, and where they fit on the gender and sexual orientation spectrums from early ages. So when I see the LGBTQ youth being completely honest and open, it makes tears of happiness form.

I’ve been volunteering biweekly with LGBTQ youth the past few months. I was recently invited to the LGBTQ youth prom for teens aged 15-18. I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of these teens having a safe place to be free to be themselves, free from discrimination and bigotry. I remember knowing of a couple gay teens in high school but sexual orientation was something that was never openly talked about or discussed in high school as a whole. Therefore, it was never really necessary that a diverse and LGBT friendly prom was required or thought of.

ss prom(PhotoCredit: Cdnet; Note, not my girlfriend and I, but these two look pretty happy.)

I was asked to photograph and chaperon the event. I have loved photography since I first held a camera when I was 11 years old. That hobby developed into something more serious over the years which has transitioned to thoughts of pursuing a career on the side of my day job as a photographer and designer. When friends or events are going on, I do my best to capture them.  When I was asked to photograph the prom, I jumped on the idea. More photographs to use in my portfolio and more images to use to practice my techniques and editing are always welcome in my eyes.

I thought my first prom was going to be my only prom. This prom happened eight years ago. I remember having no one to go with as a prom date. All of my friends had their boyfriends, girlfriends or some beautiful friend that wanted to go with them. I didn’t. I had made a bit of a friendship with the Czech Republic exchange student so I ended up asking him. I wasn’t interested in him sexually, but I knew that I didn’t want to be the only one in my friend group without a date. Not that my friends would have cared if I had shown up single or taken. Later on in the night he had tried to get in my pants but I politely but firmly shut him down. Never did I think that I would get a second chance to take someone I really wanted to, to a prom.

This prom was almost a decade after my first. I watched the teens dance with their dates, and friends and smiled. They had shy smiles, while they held hands swaying during the slow dances, and wide eyed magic glittering their eyes during the fast dances. They had their first prom be the magical dream that everyone probably hopes a prom will be.

Even though I was an adult chaperone and was not fully one of the attendees dancing with their date, I still felt that it was like I had a second chance at a prom, in a way. It was perfect. I dressed as I wanted to-not in an overpriced dress I had intentions of wearing more than once-but a suit and tie. I was taking the love of my life. I had a smile plastered on my face the whole night. Sometimes life is funny, in that it brings you back to memory lane, just in time to help you form new, more positive ones.

LGBT youth

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I remember once upon a time as I was realizing I was not a member of the heterosexual majority. There was a brief window in time when I was in a period of self discovery where I was an LGBT youth attending university. I had an intro English class about long stories. A girl my age named Meg sat next to me one lecture. She sported a bald head, bright eyes and seemed intensely curious about life. After class she invited me to hang out with her. She led me past the room of the university’s newspaper and into a room that was decked out in rainbows and had bulletin boards plastered with notices and sheets depicting human rights and gay friendly messages. I immediately went quiet and withdrew into myself like a turtle from harm. I had lost the ability to speak.  Who did she think I was? Gay? I was not gay! I told her I had to leave and never looked back.

I had felt bad about what I had done. But I had felt homophobia that had come from within. I was not afraid of gay men but when a gay woman had approached me, I had fled because I knew that on some level I was different too. I was not ready to accept that yet. Apparently I had a lot of internal homophobia that I had to peel away in the next few years.

Recently I started volunteering my time with a local LGBT youth group. One of my exes friends asked if I would be interested. I said I’d love to help out if I could. I have volunteered two nights so far (missed others due to illness) and I enjoy it. Most nights there is a topic that we discuss. The coordinator sometimes brings speakers or activities to the youth group.

Last night there was a large turn out of a dozen youth ages 14-20 who showed up. It was amazing to see how many youth had reached a place of acceptance of themselves and others at such young ages despite the possible pressures from family, peers and society.  We spoke about homophobia, growing up, the impact of words (such as dyke, queer and the contexts behind them.)

It made me smile. It gives me hope. The future is brighter with these new generations who will hopefully bring more acceptance into society.

Family woes

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In the last few weeks I’ve been attempting to catch up on bills that I have wracked up in my absence of the trip to Mexico with my girlfriend. I apologize for my lack of attention to this blog. I have also been facing some family woes. I’m not sure if this is because my family still feels ashamed of me for being gay, and they’re trying to be ok with it or they’re just very flawed and not able to open up to how others feel.

Image(PhotoCredit: Everyday feminism)

 

As soon as we touched down from Mexico, my mom decided to publicly out my girlfriend on Facebook. My girlfriend was out to her close friends and a few family members, but by my mother publicly stating, “Hope you had fun in Mexico with YOUR girlfriend” (yes the ‘your’ was capitalized in the post), it was blatantly stated that my girlfriend had a girlfriend she was dating. My girlfriend had wanted to save the news for conversations in person where it was her news to tell, not for someone to tell it for her on a public platform like Facebook.

Outing is the way that some people feel it is their news to tell if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer etc. Of course it does not only apply to sexual orientations, it can apply to any number of things such as announcing big news, or conflicts with others. For this topic I will refer to Outing as the Outing of one’s sexual orientation or having a same sex partner. If you’ve ever been outed you will likely know how horrible it feels when you aren’t ready for the present people or person being told to hear the news. Being outed is a violation of trust, it’s a violation of boundaries, and it hurts. Now some people may say that they didn’t out someone they had cruel intentions; some people don’t have cruel intentions and it comes out in conversation. Those cases are when you approach the person relaying the news, tell them how you feel and ask that they respect your wish to remain silent about their news.

Then there are cases where the person attempting to out someone means to cruelly get to someone by relaying the news that the person discussed was not ready to discuss. That was the case for my mother publicly outing my girlfriend. And it hurt a lot. I knew right away that that was her intention. My girlfriend didn’t see it that way at first and so she wasn’t sure what had happened until one of her family members left her a voice mail who appeared hurt at having not been told in person. Having lived with my manipulative mother most of my life, I have known that’s what she intended to do-cause a ruckus and somehow hurt my girlfriend and I.

My girlfriend has done nothing wrong. In fact she has brought a gift for my parents each time she has visited. My mom snubs her, and tries to talk over her in an attempt to speak with me. When I call her on her rude behaviour (via Facebook), because I just cannot handle her childish behaviour in my face. I always get a sob story from her, told that I am ungrateful, or told that my girlfriend is going to ruin my life. I have tried explaining and sharing all the wonderful things that have happened in my life since being with my girlfriend but my mother eisn’t having any of it. And who knows what my mom tells my dad about us because he’s always on her side even when I am simply trying to stick up for myself and my girlfriend.

My parents have not liked my girlfriend from the start. I don’t know if it’s because she has kids, or if it’s because I’m so serious about this relationship that I moved in with her and the kids. I shouldn’t pretend to know the reasoning. Some of it might be because I hardly visit her and dad anymore-but to be honest my visits with my parents were getting fewer and farther between visits. My girlfriend is cut off in conversation in front of others. My mother is incredibly rude to her face. And I can’t deal with having my self esteem hacked at with a blunt machete that leaves rusted wounds that only time away from them will scar and heal slightly before the next visit and then do it all over again. My life has been like this even before I met my girlfriend. It’s only now that I realize what I have to do.

I have been working myself up in an attempt to write a letter about my feelings, how violated, and hurt I’ve felt. The letter will include how I hope to be treated from now on. It will also include how I hope we can learn how to communicate without abuse, go to counseling together etc. And it will give an ultimatum. Thoughts about writing an ultimatum has left me a mess the past few weeks. I go from feeling fine, to crying and leaving the room, wanting to be alone and sometimes lashing out at my girlfriend for something she doesn’t deserve. I don’t know how else to do this but try to salvage some sort of a healthy relationship, healthier boundaries and if they aren’t up for it, sever the ties. It hurts. I know what I have to do. But doing it is the hardest part. I love my parents, but I need to love myself and those in my life more in order to be toxic free. I need to love myself and my girlfriend more in order to be happy and more at peace.

Buenos Dias!

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I haven’t posted a lot lately because I’ve been getting ready to vacation in Mexico with my girlfriend.  And now we’re here. I just finished day three in Mexico. We booked an all inclusive vacation in the beautiful city of Puerto Vallarta. I’ve never been on a tropical vacation before so this has been a treat. To do so with the love of my life has been nothing short of amazing.

Puerto Vallarta is beautiful.  Our plane landed and we descended onto the tarmac to board a bus to the airport. From there we bused to our hotel. Culture shock hit when we really hit the highway. Buses sped past us on either side with a mere inch. Mopeds,  ATVs and pick up trucks full of the locals sped past and changed lanes at a dizzying pace like rapid fire. I wouldn’t want to have to get a drivers license here as I’m afraid that would be putting my life into the hands of others. I’m surprised there doesn’t appear to be more road rage here. Back home people would have been honking,  flipping the bird etc. I suppose if one were to grow up here you’d become accustomed to the pace.

We were welcomed into our hotel which has a beautiful atrium where plants and vines dangle from the upper levels in the main plaza. A waiter greated us. My girlfriend gave the man a tip and cervezas (beer), were brought to us immediately.  I have never been in an all inclusive resort but the service is amazing here. It is great how tipping brings such swift, and smiling service.  It saddened me a bit realizing that tipping a small $2 in Canadian but 20 pesos to them was a quarter of what they make a day. We are so fortunate to live well off compared to most of the world.

My girlfriend,  who is much more outgoing than I has made it easy to speak with the locals. We met a couple young people who work at the resort. We bought a night out to a nightclub called Senor Frogs for $40 Canadian each. This included our cab ride to downtown Puerto Vallarta, our way in, free drinks and a party that should have lasted till 5am. We were tired by 3am but we enjoyed a night of body paint,  glitter,  the company of some Mexican gay boys, lively Spanish club music and watching a bikini contest. The friends we met were very accepting of my girlfriend and I as a couple.

My girlfriend tells me this often but I am starting to learn that stereotypes do not always apply. Case in point: we befriended a fellow Canadian who worked in an oil rig the first evening. He looked like the typical douce bag with a lot of money to blow and an attitude to go with it. But he showed us he wasn’t a bad guy. He was friendly,  respectful and fun. I’m learning first impressions based on biases aren’t always accurate.

I have to say my more disappointing moments was last night when I became black out drunk.  Having 30+ drinks will likely do that to anyone. I made a fool of myself but the people I spoke with they next day said it was ok because “This is Mexico”. I regret not remembering when I apparently asked my girlfriend to marry me in our hotel room. *Facepalm* One of the most memorable times in someone’s life and the person asking should at least remember saying something that significant,  no? That was not how I pictured asking her to marry me. I have played with the idea in my mind before but doing more romantic things than be black out drunk. *sigh* I will work on this. My girlfriend is amazing and I know she deserves a better proposal.

Today we had the experience of taking a bus to Bucerias. Bucerias was a beautiful fishing village. The main strip, roads and buildings appeared war torn and broken. Mexico seems to be a mosiac of the richer more tourust places and the real third world sections. We wandered down to the beach at a liesurely pace. My girlfriend was patient with me being a shutter bug and snapping photos of everything. We ate a spicy mango which involved the peddler chopping slivers off the pit with a machete which made the mango look like a flower. He then squeezed lime and sprinkled chili flakes on it.  We drank a fresh coconut on the beach as well. We are both nursing sunburns (even though we wore sunscreen). We met Mark Jacobs (not the designer), and his dog Lou who loved it when we threw a coconut into the surf for him to fetch. We capped off the day with a bucket of cervezas (beer), seafood, nachos and real guacamole!

We took a cab back and had a quiet evening.  Tomorrow we’re heading out on a bus tour of Puerto Vallarta. Maybe we’ll find Old Town,  a tattoo parlour, the Blue Chairs (the gay district) or some new adventures. I look forward to it.

My 5 Year anniversary

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… of being out of the closet has rolled around.  I remember it well. How could I forget a significant period of upheaval,  emotion and life changes?

I remember speaking with one of my friends whom at the time was very close with me. My mom overheard our conversation,  tempers flared and the news was out. Rather than blatantly tell everyone I let my mom tell my sister and dad. I wasn’t able to face other horrible reactions.  But they came nonetheless. My mom and sister who used to hug me while saying goodnight suddenly stopped hugging me. Because of ignorance,  they worried I was suddenly attracted to them. I fought daily. Mean insults were hurled. Our relationships became more toxic. I took up smoking cigarettes regularly at work.

Fast forward to now. My family knows and I believe accepts me for being gay. At times I wonder what life would have been like if I had waited to tell my family till I was out of the house for good. When I came out years ago, I did so on Easter. I had been attending college and I went to live with my family every summer in between each school year.

The first year was definitely the hardest. I chopped my beautiful wavy hair off a few weeks after I broke the news to a shaggy pixie cut. I loved it. I felt so liberated.

I started dressing more comfortably.  This involved experimenting with different clothing styles. I tried out dressing like a butch and found it wasn’t quite my thing. But I realized that I enjoy cross dressing and rocking a tie some days.

I loved my short hair. I played with my hair and started doing more funky styles. When my hair was longer I kept it in a ponytail most of the time because I didn’t want to bother with styling it. With short hair I felt free, fun and spunky and I enjoyed styling it.

I stopped trying to be uber feminine and fit the circular mould that I as a square would never fit in. This caused conflict with my parents but I was an adult now and as time progressed, they realized I was my own person and they couldn’t make me do anything.

I learned that what I looked like on the outside by not conforming to the standard of feminine beauty most women do makes one an outcast. People look at you differently when you have short hair,  don’t wear much makeup (or any) and you wear comfortable/slightly masculine clothing.

It was a wakeup call. I don’t think I’d been terrible to people before coming out, but I definitely began becoming more empathic to others afterwards. I now knew what it was like to be an obvious minority. I knew what it was like to be judged for something many knew nothing about or didn’t understand. I knew what it was like to feel hurt and have friends and strangers alike be disgusted with me because I made a choice to follow my heart.

As the years passed, my family has come around. I have made new friends. Many of my old ones have stuck by me, and funnily enough they ended up being gay too! A couple friends who appeared to temporarily leave have also returned and apologized.

I have had a few jobs since.  I have settled into a long term career that may last awhile till I can think of something I may wish to pursue after furthering my education.

I have had several same sex relationships in the five years I’ve been out. I have had long and short ones. I learned how to be a better partner. I continue to learn how to communicate more effectively instead of shutting down or running away as those are my default settings it seems. My girlfriend seems to be an expert at communication even though she assures me it’s taken her a long time to get where she is now. I believe she is my soulmate and I want to marry her some day.

I’ve become involved in the gay community. I attend local events, and Pride every year. I feel so great every pride being able to live freely from discrimination or the thought of it for a day/week/weekend.

Life has definitely changed in 5 years. Some of it was an uphill battle. But I didn’t stop working at it.  I’m grateful to those people who stuck by me through the years. But now I can say it does get better. It did get better.  Life is better now.