Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where Will You Be, When They Come

Where Will You Be, When They Come

Boots are being polished
Trumperters clean their horns
Chains and locks forged
The crusade has begun.

Once again flags of Christ are unfurled in the dawn
and cries of soul saviors sing apocalyptic on air waves.

Citizens, good citizens all parade into voting booths
and in self-righteous sanctity X away our right to life.

I do not believe as some that the vote is an end,
I fear even more
It is just a beginning.

So I must make assessment
Look to you and ask:
Where will you be when they come?

They will not come a mob rolling through the streets,
but quickly and quietly move into our homes and remove the evil,
the queerness,the faggotry,the perverseness from their midst.
They will not come clothed in brown, and swastikas, or
bearing chest heavy with gleaming crosses.
The time and need for ruses are over.
They will come in business suits to buy your homes
and bring bodies to fill your jobs.
They will come in robes to rehabilitate
and white coats to subjugate and where will you be
when they come?

Where will we *all be* when they come?
And they will come --

they will come because we are defined as opposite --
perverse and we are perverse.

Every time we watched a queer hassled in the streets and said nothing --
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we lied about the boyfriend or girlfriend at coffee break --
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we heard, "I don't mind gays
but why must they be blatent?" and said nothing --
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we let a lesbian mother lose her child and did not fill the courtroom --
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we let straights make out in our bars while
we couldn't touch because of laws --
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we put on the proper clothes to go to a family
wedding and left our lovers at home --
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we heard
"Who I go to bed with is my personal choice --
It's personal not political" and said nothing --
It was an act of perversion.

Everytime we let straight relatives bury our dead and push our lovers away --
It was an act of perversion.

And they will come.
They will come for the perverts

& it won't matter if you're
homosexual, not a faggot
lesbian, not a dyke
gay, not queer
It won't matter
if you
own your business
have a good job
or are on S.S.I.
It won't matter
if you're
Native American
or White
It won't matter
if you're from
New York
or Los Angeles
or Sioux Falls
It won't matter
if you're
Butch, or Fem
Not into roles
Non Monogamous
It won't matter
if you're
or M.C.C.

They will come
They will come
to the cities and to the land
to your front rooms and in *your* closets.

They will come for the perverts and where will you be
When they come?
-- Pat Parker
Copyright 1978

Monday, October 5, 2009

Living Authentically

Authentic…Webster defines it as: worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact; not false or imitation: Real, Actual

October 4th – 12th is National Coming Out week. It is a very significant week in the life of those individuals that have had to live a in a less than authentic manner. The discomfort of talking to co-workers or family members and attempting to appear “normal” as society has defined can be crippling at best. Some are so good at it until we convince ourselves that it is perfectly fine with juggling pronouns and showing up at family functions alone or with your “best friend”. Society has pushed many of us into the closet to the extent that we even take on the language and characteristics of those that have chosen to oppress us. Many have even chosen to move to other states away from family in an effort to live an authentic life.

Over the past few years, it has become very “fashionable” in some circles of the same gender loving (SGL) community to consider onesself down-low. A down-low individual is one that has same gender sex but live his/her public life as a heterosexual individual. Society has fashioned this term to only men of color. However, many Caucasian men also live their lives in the same manner. Some of them have appeared more recently on the public stage (i.e Former NY Governor, Eliot Spitzer, evangelical preacher Ted Haggard, etc). While these men have lived the same types of lives as their African-American and Latin counterparts, they have never been referred to as down-low men simply based on their skin color. Some as those individuals look at the down-low persona with machismo dispelling their internalized issues of being consider less than a “MAN”; thereby making them very attractive by some individuals. This method of thinking can lead to all types of psychosis and adversely affect everyone that he meets.

Now for people of color the ability to live an authentic life has a different set of challenges than those of our Caucasian counterparts. Men and women of color already have a difficult time just living as people of color in a very racist society and to add another reason to be hated or disliked is a lot to ask of many individuals. Therefore the closet seems to be the only obvious choice. While I know that living authentically is a difficult process I do not think that it is a reason to allow the closet to consume you. For many people of color, living authentically, involves many cultural factors that make to process more challenging and really scary. It will make you weigh the options of being alienated by a strong family nucleus, condemned by a homophobic church and community as well as dealing with heterosexism. You also face the challenge of dating. Some people will not date you because they say you are “too out”. Therefore dating you would make their lives a little for obvious.

Speaking from personal experience, I have been living authentically for approximately 14 years now. While my sibling and father knew of my life in its authentic nature since 1980 others in my extended family gradually found out in years to come. It was not something I hid; however, I did not feel the need to make a major announcement. I chose not to be authentic to non-family members for some time. I got comfortable with never disclosing my personal life, however, it got very old for me one day. I had the script memorized without a problem and could spit it out without blinking. However, for some odd reason I got comfortable with who I was at the time and basically started using my partners name at the time in conversations with co-workers. Doing so probably just confirmed what some of them had already thought but never had the nerve to ask me directly. I will say to you that it has been the most liberating experience in my life. Now I work for a very large company and this information became common place throughout the company. I would say that 90% of the people I work with in the Chicago and DC offices are aware that I am a same-gender loving (SGL) man. Initially I may have had second thoughts about doing the “full disclosure” thing. Making this step allowed me to make additional steps outside of the work environment along the way. However, there has NEVER been any regret. I have taken some serious hits and lost some people in my life that were very comfortable with me being in that closet. While their decisions hurt at the time I can say I do not miss them at all. My "coming out" process years ago is still on going for I decide when to take a stand not hide behind what society has decided as the norm. The process is not a one time thing. For example when the Nordstrom’s salesperson states to you how good that suit looks and how your wife/girlfriend would love it this is your moment to say no my husband/partner.

The entire Living Authentically process takes much courage but the reward is indescribable. I know that many live a less than authentic life to shield themselves from hurt and disappointment that others throw at us. However, the closet is a dark and lonely place and once you step into the light and allow yourself to be loved for who you are totally you will begin to see the true beauty of life and people and humanity. The biggest benefit of living authentically is not being apologetic for which you are on this earth to anyone.

If you have not taken that step to live your life fully as an authentic person I ask you to give it serious consideration. You will be surprised at the support you will garner.

Friday, October 2, 2009

At the hands of a loved one!!

There is this dirty little secret that many of us keep to ourselves because of the shame that we feel surrounding a very personal issue; the issue of domestic violence. Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Please note that domestic violence does not have to be physical in many cases it is verbal and just as damaging.

Approximately 10 years ago I found myself in a domestic violence relationship. The abuse reared its head several months after we began dating. It did not become physical until the last few months of the relationship. It took me a few months to get the courage to leave. Prior to entering into this relationship which approximately 2 years I would ask how anyone could stay with a person that was abusive. Today I no longer ask that question for I know from my own experience that loving someone can be an intoxicating feeling and coupled with the fear and shame of having to admit to friends and loved ones that you were a victim keeps many people in the relationship and/or very silent about the abuse. While this is not the only reason some stay it is one of the reasons. After walking away I decided not to date for the next 4 years because I walked away feeling I was the inadequate one. This person who said he loved me was able on one very memorable occasion pick me up and throw me against the wall in the blink of an eye. That moment to this day is so surreal. I will forever be scarred by the emotional damage that the abusive situations left on my spirit. I am not the same Ronald that entered that relationship and that saddens me because through it all I loved him with all my heart. However, our definitions of love were polar opposites. I have since had to counsel friends and family that find themselves in similar situations and yes for many it is very hard to leave but for personal health and wealth you must leave. I have never worn the badge of victim because that is not who I am. I did wear the badge of shame however I have removed that badge and have had the courage of telling my story for my story is like many others that find themselves in unhealthy relationships. I initially spent the years trying to reclaim the me that was lost due to that relationship but I have realized that the innocence that I carried at the time is now gone forever.

We the public have make it very hard for the abused to leave for we saddle them with so much shame by saying “I would never allow anyone to abuse me” or “Why didn’t you just leave?” or “Anyone who allows a man or woman to physically or verbally abuse them is deficient in some manner”. These statements invoke within the victim a sense of shame and degradation that is incorrectly placed at their feet and actually works in the favor of the abuser. It either keeps the abused person silent and/or feel as if there is no place to turn for help. I remember not telling my family of my abuse until maybe 2 years after the relationship ended for I was so ashamed and feared how they would view me.

The next time you hear of an abusive situation please do not pass judgment but give a word of encouragement and assistance to be there. You may be their only way out.

Here are some unsettling statistics:

  • One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
  • An estimated 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
  • Of females killed with a firearm, almost two-thirds were killed by their intimate partners.

  • In recent years, an intimate partner killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.
  • Black females experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. Black males experienced intimate partner violence at a rate about 62% higher than that of white males and about 22 times the rate of men of other races.
  • Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. African-American women experience significantly more domestic violence than White women in the age group of 20-24. Generally, Black women experience similar levels of intimate partner victimization in all other age categories as compared to White women, but experience slightly more domestic violence. The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.

Same-gender statistics:

  • 11% of lesbians reported violence by their female partner and 15% of gay men who had lived with a male partner reported being victimized by a male partner. Each year, between 50,000 and 100,000 Lesbian women and as many as 500,000 Gay men are battered.
  • 15.4% of same-sex cohabiting men reported being raped, physically assaulted and/or stalked by a male partner, but 10.8% reported such violence by a female partner.
    The prevalence of domestic violence among Gay and Lesbian couples is approximately 25 - 33%. It is as common as it is in heterosexual relationships.
  • Seven states define domestic violence in a way that excludes same-sex victims; 21 states have sodomy laws that may require same-sex victims to confess to a crime in order to prove they are in a domestic relationship. Therefore, the violence may never be reported.
    Same-sex batterers use forms of abuse similar to those of heterosexual batterers. They have an additional weapon in the threat of "outing" their partner to family, friends, employers or community.
  • By 1994, there were over 1,500 shelters and safe houses for battered women. Many of these shelters routinely deny their services to victims of same-sex battering.