jaysays.com |

because simon isn’t cool anymore.
Subscribe

Archive for the ‘LGBT Lessons for Straight People’

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: Give the Gift of Equality

November 22, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationEeeks. The holiday shopping season is upon us. Many of you probably participate in the holidays one way or another, regardless of your faith. One thing you can do this year is give the gift of Equality for LGBT people. Is it difficult to talk to your friends and family about supporting rights for gays and lesbians? Don’t we all have an Archie Bunker in our family?

It’s the season of Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward All. The perfect time to send a positive, subtle, yet clear message about your values.

How, you might ask? Here are a few ideas. If you have other ideas, please post them in the comments.

Where to Shop

Let’s start with the easiest. Do you do all your shopping on Amazon and have them wrap and send the packages? My husband does. Do your shopping through PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and 5% of your Amazon purchase will go to the organization. In fact, they do this year round, so bookmark PFLAG as your Amazon shopping link.

Want to make sure your dollars go to gay supporting organizations? Check out   GayWallet, HRC Equality Buying Guide or search for LGBT businesses in your community.

Travel

Making travel arrangements? Check out American Airlines Business ExtrAA Program. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, you can support PFLAG by using their Business ExtrAA account number, #527590 when you make your reservation with American Airlines. And you will still earn your personal AAdvantage frequent flyer miles! This incentive program allows PFLAG to earn points redeemable for awards to support staff travel.

Cards and Stamps

Do you still send cards or family newsletters? Turn it into your wish list for world peace. Mention your support for equality in your wish list. It doesn’t have to turn into a sermon. Something as easy as “As I watch the news and see gay couples fight for equality, I hope 2010 brings us closer to passing laws that give every human rights.” If you make your own cards, it’s a great opportunity to include a symbol or message about equality.Your cards and newsletters will need a stamp.  You can start by making your own stamps. In fact, the folks at Zazzle have made it easy for you by creating many LGBT designs. Use them for your every day mail, especially for those cards and letters for your representatives.

GIFTS

Need gifts for family members? Let’s run through my family and see what I’m giving them.

Movies
Through My Eyes and For The Bible Tells Me So. For Christians who need a nudge toward equality.
MilkFor people who need a nudge to speak up, the movie MILK is a great gift this year.

Music

There are many gay and lesbian artists, or artists that support equality. There is something for everyone, regardless of their taste.

Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga, Melissa Etheridge, kd Lang, Rufus Wainwright, SigurRos, Catie Curtis, and even Dolly Parton support equality.

Books and Poetry

The Matthew Shepard store is another great place to pick up items, especially the new book by Judy Shepard.

An Anthology of Poetry by LGBT Christians, available at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Grace Cathedral is famous for its commitment to working with AIDS patients from the beginning and has a lovely AIDS Chapel.

Jewelry

If you are looking for some special jewelry, try Love and Pride.  Love and Pride donates a portion of its profits to several LGBT organizations including the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Lambda Legal and SLDN.

For those that have everything

Make a contribution to an LGBT group in their name. Choose something that will resonate with the person. Do they have children or grandchildren? Support The Trevor Project, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, a local LGBT youth center or the local Gay Straight Alliance.

Check if an organization is against gays and lesbians.  Every year we see the Salvation Army bell ringers in front of stores. They do great work in the community. However, their website continues to preach against homosexuals. Some people put notes in the buckets saying that they will support the Salvation Army when they accept gays.

You can find some of this information on the HRC website and you can also go to a company’s website to look at their employment policies. For example, Exxon Mobil does not provide benefits to gay couples, BP does. Guess where I buy my gas?  Looking for information on businesses that are actively anti-gay? Check out Gay News Watch.

For yourself

What’s next? We buy products every day, not just during the holidays. Make it your resolution to choose companies that support the rights of gays and lesbians. Let a company know why you are or are not buying their goods or services. And include your church. What are they doing with the check that you put in the collection plate? Often times you can ‘earmark’ your donation for a particular use.

This year was an amazing one for pulling together people in the fight for equality. What a wonderful community of family to be part of. Let’s carry that momentum through Thanksgiving, the holidays and into our resolutions for the new year.

Peace on Earth, Equality and Human Dignity for All.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Right Wing Christians: How Hate Crime Laws Silenced the Church

November 21, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationThe hardcore religious (they are anything but) right has become so paranoid that their twisted logic has led them to believe that they are the victims. Their solution?  The Manhattan Declaration, a statement of Christian convictions on the matters of life, family, and religious liberty. Let’s go through parts of it.

The preamble to the declaration reads, “While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

That’s right folks. People who WANT to get married are destroying marriage. Just like people who hate the earth recycle.

On marriage, the declaration addresses the problems of out-of-wedlock births, cohabitation, and divorce. For the church’s failure to uphold ‘the dignity of marriage,’ it reads, ‘we repent.’ It goes on to lay out concerns with same-sex marriage. ‘[I]t is out of love (not ‘animus’) and prudent concern for the common good (not ‘prejudice’), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture.’

You admit to being a failure on heterosexual marriage. You are addressing this how? You welcome these individuals into your churches. You do not cast them out nor do you preach that what they have done is wrong. When was your last sermon on “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery”? I seem to recall that is in the Ten Commandments. Being gay is not.

It is out of love that you are preventing loving couples from marrying one another? No it isn’t. It is out of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, ignorance, intolerance and an unwillingness to be human. You are paranoid, brainwashed and threatened. You are incapable of examining your own feelings. Worse, you hide behind religion and words like love to make your stand against same sex marriage sound respectable.

Signatories recognize a growing list of threats to religious liberty: the weakening of conscience clauses protecting religious workers in the health industry, antidiscrimination statutes that could force religious nonprofits to facilitate adoptions to gay couples, and heightened hate crimes laws that could affect free speech.

Father Chad Hatfield, head of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, said he signed it because, ‘We know what it’s like to be intimidated into silence,’ referring to Eastern Orthodox persecution under communism.

That might just be the most insane, offensive sentence in the entire document. “We know what it’s like to be intimidated into silence. ” Just what exactly are you being silenced on? Your desire to help the poor? Your desire to prevent failed marriages? Really? Where? This declaration is about one thing only. Same sex marriage.

You know what it is like to be intimidated into silence? Really? When was the last time a clergyman was decapitated, dismembered and burned in the same way that Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado , a 19 year old gay man (or perhaps transgender person) from Puerto Rico, or Jason Mattison, a 15 year old teen from Baltimore,  who was raped, stabbed, beaten to death and stuffed into a closet from Baltimore? Both of these horrific, unspeakable crimes occurred this November.

Who silenced you to speak out against these hate crimes? The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Law? The answer is obvious. You did. You choose to remain silent. By choice. Get this message loud and clear. Silence equals agreement.

And now for my thoughts on your closing statement.

The declaration closes: ‘We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.’

You will render to Caesar what is Caesar’s? Good. Then do it.  Legal marriage has nothing to do with the church and you know it. Your church does not hand out marriage licenses. You do however impose the church’s religious beliefs on others, to the point where you  have convinced politicians that only your religion has religious freedom under the First Amendment. Get out of the way of the government. Get out of my church’s right to practice our faith, which supports same sex marriage.  Your right to practice your religion is intact. You don’t need to provide wedding services for gays and lesbians. You have your right to preach that homosexuality is wrong. America is about freedom. No one has taken away your right to practice your religious beliefs, as obscene as they are. Now stop trying to take away the rights of LGBT people.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: I Hate Gays But I’d Die for their Civil Rights.

November 08, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationI like to read comments from readers on news articles. I’ve read so many that it is rare that I find one with a new point. I admit it. The general public is a broken record when it comes to their point of view.

So I was surprised to find this comment. What intrigued me the most is that this person takes complete ownership of his feelings. He doesn’t invoke religion, tradition or biology. He does invoke incorrect psychology, and then he turns 180 in a surprising way.

Let’s walk through this. The comments are just my humble opinions. And yes, I’m truly interested in what this says to you. I have not changed a word.

Posted by vlongwell

November 07, 2009, 11:37AM

Good gravy. I abhor the homo, and lesbian lifestyle. I’m insanely, irrational threatened and intimidated by it. I resent when they join up in their little cliques and, frankly, benefit from this where I don’t. Getting eye-f**cked by some creepy dude just turns my stomach.

But you know what? It couldn’t possibly be any less of my business. I make no distinction between hardcore BDSM nuts, and these nuts. I strongly believe that inter-gender sexuality is destructive on a lot of levels. All of which I’m entitled to believe, as long as it doesn’t negatively impact another person.

I hate gay people.

But you know what, I’d die for any one of them and their basic civil, no human, right to marry whomever the hell they want. Who are any of you to even concern yourself with such an incredibly personal part of everybody’s lives as that of choosing a person to spend the rest of your life with?

Freedom means sacrifice people. I wish I was a better man, and that I did not view it as a sacrifice, but I do what I can. And in this, I say let freedom reign, get your nose out of gay-people’s business, and get back to work.

Sheesh. Always trying to tell me how awesome they are without realizing I don’t care. You got opposable thumbs, and a fore-brain? Then whom you decide to marry, boink, talk to, and hang out with is none of my darn business. And I don’t even feel I have to like it, so there.

You want freedom? Then give it.

[emphasis added]

He starts with how he feels about gays. He calls it a lifestyle. Wrong. Destructive. Wrong. He says he hates gay people. Honest.

Then the astonishing twist. He would die for their rights. He chastises people and tells them to get their nose out of gay rights. His last line could become a poster at a gay rights march.

So what is my take on his opinion? He is able to recognize his emotional reaction and own it. He’s able to separate his emotional reaction from what he knows about civil rights and freedom. I don’t think he really hates gay people. Why would he say in the next sentence that he would die for their rights?

In a way, hasn’t this been part of the argument on the LGBT side? Do you care how other people feel about what you do in the bedroom, or do you care that they respect you and your rights? Does this man need to get to the point of singing in a pride parade as a straight ally? Or is it enough that he believes in full equality and that it isn’t his business, it isn’t harming him.

You may have heard the quote “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” from The Friends of Voltaire, 1906.

Does the same logic apply to equal rights? I disagree with many people on many topics, yet I would never vote to take away their civil rights. That’s what this country is about.

Who knows, perhaps Vlongwell, in his unusual way, reached someone? Let’s hope so.

I’ll take this guy over Maggie Gallagher any day of the week.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: Don’t Come Here if You Have HIV

November 01, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationTake a moment to imagine this: You are a U.S. citizen, a hardworking productive citizen whose job requires travel to foreign countries. You are HIV positive. It doesn’t matter how you contracted HIV. Your gender, race, age and socio-economic class don’t matter. You are HIV positive. You take your medications, you know how the illness is transmitted. You are healthy otherwise. You don’t have tuberculosis or any other casually transmitted disease.

And no other country in the world will let you in. Never mind that the country that won’t let you has plenty of its own citizens with HIV, the incidence of HIV is rising and they cannot get the disease under control in their own country.

Does this make any sense to anyone?

Yet, since 1987, the United States has had a ban on allowing foreign travelers into the country that have HIV. The ban started with Senator Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) and led to one of the most restrictive and controversial travel bans in history. Scientists and health organizations continued to argue that the policy made no sense. HIV is transmitted only through the exchange of bodily fluids, as opposed to an illness like tuberculosis or H1N1 that can be caught through surfaces and coughing.

President Obama just recently lifted this travel restriction and already we are seeing the right wing criticize him. Perhaps they should have paid attention when President Obama thanked President Bush for beginning this reform in the year 2008. That’s right folks. We have President George W. Bush to thank. Furthermore, we do not have President Clinton to thank. Don’t believe me? Let’s have a little history lesson, brought to you by The Society for Historians of Foreign Relations or SHAFR.org.

In 1988, the World Health Organization argued that restrictive travel and immigration policies directed at people with HIV were irrational and without public health justification. In 1990, when U.S. immigration officials barred HIV-positive foreigners en route to the International AIDS Conference in San Francisco, over 70 organizations of many nationalities, including the International Red Cross, the British Medical Association, and the European Parliament, boycotted the meeting.

In January 1991, the Centers for Disease Control called for the removal of HIV and all medical conditions other than active tuberculosis from the exclusions list. But the proposal triggered outrage among Christian conservatives who orchestrated a mass mailing campaign opposing the removal of the HIV-provision. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Representative William Dannemeyer (R-CA) and sixty-six fellow Republicans signed a public letter opposing the CDC recommendations. Finally, the Public Health Service argued that because Congress adopted the HIV travel ban in the 1987 Helms Amendment, only Congress could invalidate the HIV exclusion. In March 1993, President Bill Clinton signed legislation codifying the exclusion of HIV-positive aliens, thus violating a campaign promise.

For the next 15 years, the United States had one of the most restrictive policies on the immigration and travel of HIV-positive people in the world. It compelled all non-citizens to attest that they were HIV-negative before being admitted to the United States for any reason – despite the obvious impossibility of enforcing this provision. At the same time, non-citizens living long-term in the United States were denied permanent resident categorization solely on basis of their HIV-positive status. The U.S. government clung to policies suffused with the ignorance and bias toward HIV-positive people illustrated at the earliest stages of the AIDS pandemic. It disregarded the fact that for almost 25 years, it has been common medical knowledge that one cannot contract or transmit HIV casually. AIDS activists asserted that the HIV bar dissuaded immigrants unsure of their HIV status from getting tested; prompted HIV-positive immigrants not to seek to medical treatment until they had full-blown AIDS; and caused HIV-positive people seeking visas to lie on their applications and then enter the U.S. without their medications – situations posing exactly the threats to public health the 1987 ban aimed to prevent.

On July 17, 2008, roughly two weeks after the death of Jesse Helms – the champion of the HIV ban, the Senate voted 80 to 16 to repeal the exclusion. The repeal passed the House by a vote of 308 to 116 shortly thereafter. On July 30, Bush signed the PEPFAR legislation spending $50 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in developing nations.

Jesse Helms is well known for his bigoted attitudes toward blacks and the LGBT community. It is interesting that two weeks after his death, this issue was addressed? This just goes to show how much influence one man can have. It also reveals, yet again, how right wing religious conservatives are unable or unwilling to comprehend science. How ironic and dangerously sad is it that these are the same people who refuse to teach their children that condoms prevent the spread of STDs and pregnancy?

Surely the only motivation to keep this ban was prejudice, discrimination and ignorance. Thank you Presidents Bush and Obama for doing the right thing.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: The Endangered White Male Species

October 21, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, iQreport, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationIf you are like me, you can always think of a great comeback to an offensive comment. One day later.

This last week was a whirlwind for me. One week past the National Equality March and I’m still processing everything that I experienced and felt. I felt so prepared to take on the world with such powerful words given to me by the speakers, with such energy and friendliness from everyone that I met.

So imagine my surprise when I was caught off guard by a man seated next to me on an airplane. It was fairly clear that he was relatively conservative. We kept the conversation light and delicately danced around controversial topics, as often happens in real life. A part of me had been longing for real life conversations. Because on the Internet, it is so easy to be rude. I often find myself thinking, would you say that to a person’s face?

Now it was my turn to wonder what I would say to a person’s face.  As the flight was close to its end, my fellow passenger stated that he was worried about his son’s ability to find a job after finishing college. Well, who wouldn’t be with the current economy? My son is in college and I said “I hear ya.”

He continued “Yea, I’m worried because there are all these special groups that want protection. Sexual orientation, Latinos. I worry about my normal white male species disappearing.”

I could see by his facial expression that my face already revealed my feelings. The tension rose. My mind went in several directions in those few seconds. Do I stay silent? Silence implies agreement. As a person who does not like conflict, who was raised to be polite and not start arguments, I wanted to fight that urge. My emotions wanted to oversimplify this person into a bigot and put him down. There’s a lot of indignation in the world these days. The media and the blogosphere thrive on it. It’s easy to be irate. I get irate all the time. There is a lot to be irate about.

This was in real life. What would I say to a person’s face? After all, here I am a self-proclaimed LGBT ally and supporter of human rights for all people. I, of all people, should have been able to remain clear headed and have the perfect persuasive response.  The right words that would open this man’s mind and heart in just 30 seconds.

I blurted out something like “I don’t care about a person’s race, sexual orientation, religion or politics when I hire employees. I want them to work hard, be honest and decent. We are all human. If your son can do that he will be fine.”

Awkwardly, I half smiled and left the plane. Was this man part of the “movable middle”? Did I make him think? Or did I lose that one and only chance that many people will give you? Did I anger him?   Will he be quiet, yet still have those feelings? I’m all for getting people to stop saying hurtful words. Knowing it is unacceptable is the first step to ending the cycle of bigotry and discrimination, but if children are still taught discrimination at home, it won’t really end.

So what did I think of a day later that felt like the perfect comeback? Not an answer but a question. A question asked in all sincerity. Because really, we should want to know the answer. It’s a question that all of us should ask ourselves. We find civilized discourse, honest reflections and soul searching to be boring and weak. Yet, they are the essential keys to changing another person. To changing ourselves. I don’t know how I affected this man because I didn’t ask him a question. I made a statement with a tone that said “This is final” and I missed my chance to know if I could make a difference. After all, I was not in any danger of physical harm.

I wish I had asked  “And how do you think you would feel if your son were Latino or gay? I’m serious, I would really like to know.”

Is this response perfect? I don’t know. But it is open and sincere. Without defensiveness.  Given in the hopes of letting someone feel safe enough to change before my eyes.

If you have arrived at this website by accident, if you don’t like gay people, or any other group, take a moment to ask yourself how you would feel if it were you.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can be quite the wake up call. Take a moment to be human. Take the next moment to realize that we are all human. Then watch your understanding unfold before your eyes.

Next time, I’ll be ready. After all, now I am hoping you are the stranger next to me that strikes up a conversation.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: Coming Out Day is For Everyone

October 07, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Headline, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationOctober 11th is Coming Out Day. I can’t help but wonder what it is that prompts a gay person to come out. Especially in a place like a workplace, where your very livelihood is at stake. As a straight person, I can only imagine and I would never have the audacity to say this is something I know or feel. In last week’s Closet Talk interview with Jen Dugan, of the 1st Annual Nationwide You Are Loved Chalk Messages Project, Jen told her own coming out story and how surprised she was at the support. Many individuals told her that had they known, they would have supported her. She used the words “It goes unsaid.”

I wrote those words down. I know that for me and many straight friends, support goes unsaid. So why does it go unsaid and how can we say it? Perhaps more importantly, I would love to hear from LGBT folks what clues you look for to know that it is safe to come out to someone? A recent study showed that only 27% of LGBT people are completely out at work, even in companies with anti-discrimination policies.

Back on topic. We straight people, who support equality, have been trained not to ask; not by don’t ask, don’t tell.  We feel like it is a matter of respecting someone’s privacy.  You worry that all we will see is your sexual orientation or gender identity. We worry that you will think that is all we see.

So what are some ways that you can show your own values? If you think of it this way, it’s easier to see what you can do. Because then you are just being yourself.

If you hear remarks that are negative toward LGBT people, speak up. It could be in private or during the conversation. It can be as simple as “I didn’t think that was nice/funny/appropriate.” If it’s a good person that you feel is just naive, do it privately and let them know you are sure they are not the kind of person who would want to hurt someone. I grew up in an environment where people told racist and ethnic based jokes. I didn’t realize how hurtful those comments could be until someone told me.

If you have gay family or friends, talk about them in the same ways that you would a straight friend or couple. You don’t have to focus on the gay part. Focus on who they are as people. Most of the gay friends I have feel like being gay is not the most important thing that you should know about them.

Never hear anything negative and you don’t have gay friends? Do you like a gay musician or actor? Did you like Will and Grace?  Glee?  Modern Family? Do you go to a gay-affirming church? All of these will reveal something about your values.

I have an HRC equality sign visible in my cubicle. LGBT people recognize it immediately, yet most straight people are not familiar with it. When people ask me, I tell them what it means. I find that if I let someone know my values, they either show their support or simply move on. No one has picked a fight with me yet.

Last, but not least, if you are LGBT, just be yourself. You don’t need to be an activist. In fact, just being yourself is the best thing that you can do for yourself and the LGBT movement. Because when others see you as a real person who just happens to be gay, that is when they are the most supportive. 83% of people who know a gay person as family or friend are supportive of equal rights. There is  a message in that statistic for straight people who don’t know anyone gay.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: Caster Semenya

September 12, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationCaster Semenya, a young female athlete from South Africa, is making headlines due to genetic and hormonal testing that was performed when she was suspected to be male. Setting aside for a moment that she was tested without her knowledge and that the result should not have been made public, setting aside that I wish she had not dropped out and that this is a heart breaking story,  I would like to take a moment to let you know that your high school biology teacher was wrong.

We were all taught that if you have two X chromosomes, XX, that you are a girl. And if you are an XY, you are a boy. For most of us, this is true.

For most.  Not all. The development of genitals in the womb is a complicated, multi-step process. Many genes are involved and if anyone of them is disrupted, then genitals will form improperly. Sometimes this leads to a mixture of ovaries and testes, a smaller penis, or what is known as sex reversal.

One out of every 3000 individuals born as XY will be a girl anatomically. 1 out of 20,000 individuals born as XX will be a boy anatomically. When you think about it, this isn’t that rare. 1 out of 3000 boys is the same as 1000 out of 3 million boys. There are 300 million people in the United States. So this means there are approximately 50,000 XY individuals who are girls.

The fact that these are so different is a clue to the simple beginning of the boy or girl pathway. All fetuses start as girls. The hormonal pathway for being a boy has to be turned on. Otherwise, voila, you will be a girl.

Interestingly enough, some causes of intersex led to the girls developing male characteristics when they hit puberty. Others may experience infertility or lack of menstruation.

Ok. Enough science. If you are interested in the science, I’ve put some links to good websites for more information.

There is great debate over whether or not being gay (and I do mean that inclusively, LGBTQI, etc.) is genetic. Recently the religious right tried to twist the words of the American Psychological Association when the APA revised their statement to say that the biological origins of being gay are still unknown and probably biologically complicated. The religious right promptly and proudly announced there is no gay gene.

Let’s think about this for a minute. The research on intersexed individuals has gone on for many years and is very well documented. This is, in part, because we can SEE the result – whether it is the appearance of external genitals or looking inside using techniques like ultrasound. We can also analyze DNA very accurately and determine not only if someone is XX or XY, we can also identify what gene mutations are the cause of being intersexed. The data is irrefutable and solid.

Where does this leave sexual orientation? If a gay man appears to have completely normal looking genitals, does this argue that being gay is a choice? I don’t think so. It takes sex hormones to develop genitals. Why couldn’t smaller changes in hormones lead to a change in sexual orientation?  We know so little about the brain and how it works. Just because we can’t “see” something physical that tells us someone is gay, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

We  know that many personality characteristics have a genetic basis or are due to changes in the brain. Depression is linked to low serotonin levels, introverts brains look different from extroverts brains when imaged, we know there are genetic and developmental influences for autism  and for our sense of personal space. We know that right brained people are left handed and tend to be more visual and artistic. We know that people who are risk takers have certain genetic traits; it runs in the Kennedy family. We know that people who can get by on six hours sleep have different genes that help them get by on less sleep (I want that gene). We haven’t completely unraveled the biology behind all of these traits.

Gender is not 100%. It’s been proven. So then doesn’t it make sense that sexual orientation isn’t 100%? It’s just still on the list of things yet to be learned through scientific research. Ask any person who is gay and they will tell you that they did not choose to be gay.  I’m willing to bet there is a biological link. A complex choreography of hormones and brain development that sometimes takes the road less traveled.

I hope that if more people learn about intersex conditions as a result of Caster Semenya’s story, that it will serve as an opportunity for acceptance and understanding. But really, do we need to have science to teach us to treat everyone with respect? If it helps, I’m all for it. Shouldn’t we be understanding and compassionate toward all humans without needing science to encourage that kind of attitude? (One would think that this might be the job of religion…..)

We are all human. All races, ethnicities, cultures, age, abled or disabled or differently abled, genius or average, rich or poor, male or female or in between, gay or straight, introvert or extrovert,  bisexual or transgendered. We’re all classified under Homo sapiens. When we finally “get” that, when we as humans understand there is only the human race, then our world will make progress. Imagine a world where every human is wanted, has a loving home, education, food, healthcare, opportunity, freedom and social acceptance. Think what we could accomplish. Think about how many problems would be gone.

You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.

Wikipedia Intersexuality

Another great website is that of Dr. Veronica Drantz, a biologist who studies sexual development.   You’ll feel like you are in science class again as she even has videos to explain what happens.   Last, you can check out my science blog, LGBTLatestScience.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: You Do Know Someone Who is Gay.

September 09, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

0006 crop - CopyThis is the story of my friend Kurt. I was the new kid in high school and I discovered that in a small town, it is difficult to break into social cliques. I was marginalized by the popular kids because my dad worked in a factory and I was from Chicago. One had to be in the right social circles. Somewhat ironic in a town of 8,000 after living in Chicago. One country club does not a social scene make.

The first student to approach me was Vicki, as she muttered in the library that they had no good books. She introduced me to  her brother, who was a living doll, cute butt and very funny. Kurt and I spent the better part of an evening at an “accidental”  date discussing the worlds problems, as teenagers love to do. I discovered that we had nothing in common and we argued for literally hours. He was a Republican, a bigot and, worst of all for this young hippie chick, he littered.

And yet, he was funny, witty, smart and completely charming. We became the best of friends and for many years people  believed that we were dating. It was always difficult to explain to potential boy/girl friends that we were just friends. Very few  got it and most were jealous. Kurt’s life became more troubled. He disappeared from school, starting doing drugs, then harder  drugs. His parents sent him to a psychologist and it got worse. When he returned after disappearing for a week, our circle of  friends discovered that he was doing heroin and had thoughts of suicide. We watched him like a hawk. He had many, many friends.

Not once did the thought cross my mind that he was gay. He chased girls like there was no tomorrow and he called kids queers and faggots. We would argue about that. He had me completely fooled.

After high school, we lost touch and when I looked him up, he was living in San Francisco, in the time of Harvey Milk. It was the only safe place to be out in that time.  He watched the White Night riots from his window as he lived near Civic Center. San Francisco was a place where he could be happy and began to accept himself. Then HIV came and wiped out the gay community. His partner died, his entire circle of friends died. He feel into a very deep depression. This was during the 1980′s when Republicans were doing things like putting bumper stickers on their cars that said “All the right people are dying of AIDS.”

Each day this month brings me closer to the grief that I know that I will feel. Because his birthday is at the end of September and his death was in early October. Outside of my husband, I was closer to him than any other man. He was my friend. We knew each other and loved one another unconditionally. I cannot begin to fathom the fear, the internalized homophobia and shame that he had to overcome. He was so smart and could have achieved anything. Instead, he fought a society that constantly told him that he was sick and a pervert. he loved his friends, was an amazing host, was knowledgeable in so many areas and was always entertaining. He was the epitome of graciousness, with lovely thank you cards and birthday cards. He was always excited when we visited and loved to show us his city. There is a hole in my heart that no one else will ever fill. I keep my memories of him alive on a flash drive, with photos, letters and music, that I store inside a little box from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, his favorite building. Not a gay bar. A church. An amazing church.

Every person who has lost a loved one, for whatever reason, knows what I mean. Everyone is human. Everyone is vulnerable and has feelings. Everyone can be hurt and struggles to protect themselves from hurt. My friend was as human, as worthy, as amazing as anyone else. Being gay was such a small part of his personality, of his potential. Yet others could see only that, not the real person underneath.

Someone you know IS gay. You may or may not know it. When I hear people say “I have gay friends and they know how I feel”, usually in reference to not supporting same sex marriage, I ask you “Are they really your friends? Have you asked them how your opinion makes them feel? Friend? Really? Or just acquaintances. While I applaud you for not preaching hatred, it is truly naive to believe that gay people don’t fall in love and don’t want stable, legal marriages. They are just like you and me. In the grand scheme of things, don’t each of us deserve the right to marry the person we love? How can love ever be wrong? How can a fight to legalize marriage take so long and so much money? How can love make us more uncomfortable than words of discrimination and marginalization. Do you really want to be the one to say “I won’t give you rights to Social Security, Medicare, tax benefits, the right to visit your partner in the hospital”.

Nothing will convince me that my LGBT friends are less worthy in any way. Not Shirley Phelps Roper, not Maggie Gallagher, not Pastor Steve Andersen, not Ann Coulter, not the Pope, not James Dobson, not the conservative in the cubicle half way down the hall from me, and most importantly, not the Bible. I have way too many LGBT friends. They are diverse, amusing, amazing, and a few are annoying. Because they are human. In the forty years that I have known gay people, and I’ve known a lot, not a one has tried to abduct my son or indoctrinate me with some kind of gay kool-aid. They talk about the same things as everyone else. Work, money, pets, car trouble, grocery shopping, their knee hurts, the kids don’t sleep at night, the cable company screwed up the bill. It’s only a myth that the gay lifestyle is glamorous. Most of them live just like you and me. Except we don’t have to be afraid that someone will kill us for being straight. Love is not a sin.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: Marriage – Get Another Word.

September 07, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay Education“I don’t care what gay people do, just call it something else.”  As if the word marriage is owned by religion. Marriage is a religious word. Really? Then why does it  appear on almost every form or document that you fill out?  Should we have different sets of forms now? Civil unions, domestic partnerships, marriage. If the point is to have all the same rights, why have different names? I’ll tell you why. So straight people can call attention to gay couples. “No, I’m not married. But I am in a union. A civil union.”

I checked my marriage license. Yep, I’m straight. It doesn’t have a place asking for my religion. It doesn’t ask me if I plan to procreate. Oddly, it does ask my occupation.

The word marriage is a secular word. Look it up.

It may appear in religious texts. So do the words mountain, sea and mother.  If you want a word for religious marriage, make one up. The word marriage already appears in the law. Why should we give it up to religious groups? Can you claim a word and take it out of the law for one group of people but keep it for yourself?

For those of you that think domestic partnerships or marriages in states give gay couples all the rights of marriage, you are wrong. There are no Federal Rights. If a gay couple gets their health insurance through one partner for both of them, they must pay taxes on the money that their employer spends, married people do not.

After the Defense of Marriage Act, the General Accounting Office was asked to review all federal laws that would impact marital status. As of 2004, the count was 1138 laws. One thousand one hundred and thirty eight legal rights based on marriage. Not a single one has to do with religion, procreation or even having sex. They reflect financial and legal rights.

What are a few of the benefits of being married?

  • Access to Military Stores
  • Assumption of Spouse’s Pension
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Immigration
  • Insurance Breaks
  • Assumption of Spouse’s Pension
  • Medical Decisions on Behalf of Partner
  • Sick Leave to Care for Partner
  • Social Security Survivor Benefits
  • Tax Breaks
  • Veteran’s Discounts
  • Visitation of Partner in Hospital or Prison

Why would you deny access to these federal laws to two people who love each other? What do you, as a person, lose? None of your legal rights change. It’s a lie to say that something will be destroyed. All that will be destroyed is the way that you want the world to be. A place that gives rights only to two people if they love someone of the opposite gender. Quite frankly, it doesn’t bother me if your vision of what is ok is destroyed. No one has the right to tell someone who they can or cannot marry. Especially a group of people with a 50% divorce rate and about a 20% cheating rate. Yep, we straight people have really upheld the sanctity of marriage. I’m amazed marriage is still around. As my son told me, 50% is an F in any class he took at school.

If marriage is the cornerstone of our society, then start focusing on people who get divorced.  Where is the No Marriage Left Behind Act?

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Geekgirl (Jude) is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: Today You Are Gay

August 17, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationMany years ago, I went to dinner and the local Lesbian Variety show with a lesbian and another woman friend, also straight. After a few drinks, I asked my lesbian friend – in the most respectful way that I could – what did it feel like to be attracted to another woman, what did it feel like to love that person? I just didn’t know if the feelings were the same or somehow different. Her answer wasn’t much help. It was along the lines of “well, it probably feels like you do about being attracted to men and the love feels like the best friend in the world.”

Not so different. But somehow, it didn’t answer my question. I was so young at the time, that I was hung up on anatomy and stereotypes. Women are from Venus & men are from Mars.

I knew intellectually that my friend’s relationship was filled with romantic and deep, abiding love. I just couldn’t grasp what it felt like. After all, I’m attracted to guys, not women. And I’m a girl. But now I think I have come close to knowing. And I hope to offer you some insight too. Just by using who you are.

I like to check out reader’s comments when I read articles, especially when I am looking for a blog topic. It gives me a glimpse into the everyday person out there, not just the author. Rarely do I find one that is unique. But today I came across a comment that was made in response to the Great Nationwide Kiss-In, specifically the Kiss-In held in Salt Lake City. The article was about two lesbians and one is a minister.

Here’s the comment, followed by my mullings. I’m not going to address the Christian based portion of the comment as I feel it is irrelevant. I have put in bold the question that intrigued me.

Dave of Detroit wrote:

Well, I have to admit that a kiss is a great symbol and that gays want the right to marry and consider their relationship as loving and meaningful as a marriage between a husband and wife. The only thing that I can possibly question is whether or not the meaning of the relationship is the same. A husband is bound to care for his wife’s emotional, physical and spiritual needs-he is the husbandman or keeper of the vines in that he is the head of the household that bears his name. The wife promises to honor and respect the husband and their love will bring forth children that bear the husbands [sic] name. This relationship is blessed of God and a Holy Sacrement [sic] of the Church. It is a lifelong committment [sic] to forsake all others and cling only to each other. The children of a Christian Marriage are given the promise of eternal life through the faith and consecration of the parents….Can a gay marriage make these statements?

I’m much older now and I’ve reflected on a great deal of what life puts in front of us. Let’s try to answer David’s question. Only this time, I’m going to ask you to participate in finding the answer. Yes, you can play along if you are LGBT. But since this lesson is for straight people, that’s how it will be written. And to make the writing simpler, I’ll write this from a woman’s point of view. Mine. I think you are capable of turning the pronouns, etc., around to get the point.

Could we have same fade-in dream like waviness please? Thank you

A romantic getaway. You are with your husband, lying in bed, and you are both feeling very close to each other. You feel all this wonderful love. You’ve been together for a while so you’ve worked through some ups and downs. For the next hour, you indulge in intimate conversation, pleasure and cuddling. The details are not important. The feelings, both psychological and physical are of love.

Where did the feelings of love start? Where did the feelings of wanting sex start? In your head. Not elsewhere. In your head. Stop and think about it. You are attracted to your husband. Part of that attraction is based on his own unique personality, part is based on being male and part is based on the male anatomy.

And it’s all in your head. Right? Every single piece of it. Now, when it gets to having sex, obviously – we make the desire that we feel in our head real.

Sit for just a moment and enjoy this. How does it feel? Two souls committed to one another, two souls who understand and support one another. Two souls who “get” each other. No other relationship is this open, this deep, this rewarding.

Now, something changes. But only from the neck down. You look down and you are male. Yep, a few things lost, a few things gained. But in your head, you are the same. Feeling like you are in a Star Trek episode? You are. They always have a moral.

A pause for an editorial note – am I saying gay men are women inside their heads? No. Don’t react that erroneous, over-simplistic conclusion. This is an exercise about you and no one else.

What do you feel now? Remember, all that love, closeness and desire are exactly the same. You still feel that undefinable mixture of attraction to your man – that combination of personality, looks, intelligence and specialness that you have always known. That same sexiness is there. He’s as gorgeous and sweet as ever. Our own anatomy doesn’t create our desires. Our minds do.

Still with me? Do you feel normal? Do you feel like there is nothing wrong with the love that you feel for your husband? Does having someone to love you back make you happy, more secure? It does for me.

Gay people feel the same things we do. And yet, straight people who cannot put themselves in a gay person’s shoes feel that there is something wrong, something perverse. It may not be what you feel. But it is what they feel and it is every bit as normal as what straight people feel.

Try to put yourself in a gay person’s shoes. It’s easiest to do if you start with your mind. Keep that the same, then change from the neck down. Go ahead. Once you are finished with the exercise, imagine telling your parents, siblings, friends and co-workers. What do you feel now? Fear? Fear of losing everything you have? Fear of rejection? The weight of dealing with everyone’s emotions? Fear of losing your job, your family, your church? Uncle Joe’s homophobic name calling? Fear that no one will see who you are, your uniqueness as an individual, because they will take only a second to label you with a stereotype and move on?

All because of who you are naturally. All because what you feel hurts no one. Do you think you deserve the reactions you are going to get? Do you think you deserve to hear “I don’t mind gays but I wish they would keep quiet.” What will you feel when someone tells you that God hates you, that you should kill yourself? What will you feel when you can’t bring the person you love home for Christmas, when the family pretends that your partner, whom you cannot even call a spouse, is more like a roommate?

No crime is committed when we love someone. But many sins are committed when straight people judge and degrade our fellow human beings who happen to be LGBT.

They are just like me and you. Treat others the way that you want to be treated.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Geekgirl (Jude) is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.