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Providing post-election comfort for our LGBT children

The civil rights and lives of our kids are at stake

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religious conservatives, Donald Trump, gay news, Washington Blade
religious conservatives, Donald Trump, gay news, Washington Blade

President-elect Donald Trump (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

For my entire adult life, I have identified as an LGBTQ ally. I’ve lost close friends to AIDS, raised money for LGBTQ causes, and my husband has volunteered countless hours over the last 20 years to coach runners participating in fundraising efforts through the National AIDS Marathon Training Program and Human Rights Campaign. I’ve waved rainbow flags at the annual Pride Parade and wiped away tears as I stood on the steps of the Supreme Court on the day that marriage equality became the law of the land.

But the moment that my daughter came out as a lesbian, my comfortable world as an ally ended, and I became what I think of now as a Lambda Lion Mom — my version of a Tiger Mom. I know many parents now who have made the same transformation, because we’ve been catapulted from outsider to insider, and the lives, civil rights, and happiness of our children is at stake. We now have, as they say, skin in the game.

The beginning of that transformation, however, began with complete and utter fear.

As a straight white woman, I felt agony over the death of Trayvon Martin and the pain and despair so eloquently communicated by his mother, Sybrina Fulton. I understood my friends who didn’t want their black teenage sons to leave the house wearing a hoodie, but I didn’t feel the need to stop my daughter Maddie from wearing hers.

So when my child felt ready to talk with me about her sexuality, I wanted her to feel accepted and loved by her family. I buried deep inside myself the fear that parents of LGBTQ children are confronted with, the fear of suffering the pain of Judy Shepard and the haunting memory of her beautiful son Matthew. When Maddie embraces so-called “butch” haircuts, I fear for her, however irrationally, just as my friends did about their sons wearing hoodies.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 9, I sent this text message to Maddie at college:

“No matter what, I love you and support you and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anything happen to your rights.”

It was easy to say, and I meant every word with every fiber of my Lambda Lion Mom being. But in the aftermath of the election, it became clear that, as Maddie said herself, blood is not always thicker than water. While my husband and I could never support any political candidates who did not support her civil rights, we had many family members who voted for Donald Trump, which our daughter sees as a real betrayal. “Half my family hates me,” she said to me the other night, “or they wouldn’t have voted against me.”

The world holds much starker divisions for young adults, who sometimes struggle to see the shades of grey that blur the lines. I’m left now trying to help her understand that those family members — a few of whom she has known and loved her entire life — simply did not think about how their choice could possibly affect their young relative. I don’t think they’re homophobic — and I’m sure they don’t either — but I do think they were willing to ignore any uncomfortable theme of bigotry running throughout the Trump narrative in favor of the lure of tax cuts. Blood is not thicker than water, and money talks.

This election has been an important civics lesson thus far. While Maddie has agonized over the perceived bigotry of her relatives, she’s also wrestling with the fact that she’s actually not the only LGBTQ person in our extended family, and that side of the family voted decidedly Republican, as it always has.

These family members believed strongly in their “anti-corruption” candidate and now believe that fears of repercussions against the LGBTQ community are overblown. I am not so sure, so I’m preparing myself for the battles ahead to at least maintain, if not advance, the civil rights of the person dearest to me. For the Lambda Lion Mom, or Dad, the goal is to help our children keep their eyes on the prize, while providing the context that someone’s different political choice is a reflection of that voter’s own personal priorities, which may have very little to do with civil rights, rather than a direct attack on our kids.

That being said, I’m now a proud Lambda Lion Mom — hear me roar.

Kristen Hartke is a freelance writer and regular contributor to the Blade.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. mykelb

    November 15, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    As far as I’m concerned a Republican is an enemy. All one has to do is to read their party platform to understand why. They live in some fantasy of 1850. Denying science is their first transgression against humanity and everything that follows after that is just as stupid. The last two times America had a Republican Congress, White House and SCOTUS we all were on the receiving end of the GREAT DEPRESSION and then during Bush, the GREAT RECESSION. It seems Americans are just too stupid to realize how stupid they are.

  2. customartist

    November 16, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    How CAN we prepare our children for a world where not only do they now not have equality and protections, but the prospects for these things in a tomorrow suddenly went dim?

    Donald Trump does not care about people. He cares only about Money. He most certainly CAN “be bought”. And the Church has money, lots of it, thanks to their tax-exempt status.

    Trump will proceed at the speed of light making financial deals, and socially damage LGBT citizens in order to appease his Conservative associates. We must continually make him aware that we are here.

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The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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Breaking barriers as an out trans ‘Jeopardy’ champion

Amy Schneider’s run inspires us all

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Amy Schneider (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)

“When was the last time anybody said ‘wow!’” a friend asked me.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone I know (including me) had any “Wow!” moments. Until I heard about trans woman and software engineering manager Amy Schneider’s 29-game winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

You wouldn’t think anything could dispel our COVID exhaustion and political divisiveness. Yet, news about a champion on “Jeopardy,” a quiz show that has been on TV since 1964, has broken through our gloom.

In our culture, there are few things that everyone loves. But, “Jeopardy” is beloved by many, from theater geeks to 80-year-old sports nuts. A progressive friend was over the moon when his brother was a “Jeopardy” contestant. A buddy, a hetero (non-Trump) Republican, is a “Jeopardy” fanatic and a gay librarian pal is a “Jeopardy” freak.

Many of us daydream about being on “Jeopardy.” But we know that we wouldn’t have a chance on this legendary quiz show with its deceptively simple format: You give the answer to the (often incredibly hard) clues in the form of a question. You have to have a strategic military commander’s and a world-class athlete’s coordination: so you can press the buzzer to answer the clue.

The game’s categories run the gamut from opera to mountain ranges. Most of us, mere mortals, would be lucky to know even one category in the first round of the game. Let alone in the “Double Jeopardy” round or the “Final Jeopardy” clue. I might jump on clues about Katharine Hepburn movies or M&Ms. But that would be it for me.

It’s exciting to watch a “Jeopardy” contestant become a long-running champion. You marvel at the player’s intelligence, endurance, and nerve. It’s thrilling when the contestant on a winning-streak is part of your community.

Many of us LGBTQ “Jeopardy” fans are thrilled by Schneider’s record-setting winning streak. As I write this, Schneider has won more than $1 million in 29 games of “Jeopardy.” She is the fifth millionaire in “Jeopardy” history, and only the fourth player to reach this milestone in the regular season. She has won more than any other female “Jeopardy” contestant.

Schneider, like so many of us, doesn’t want to be defined by her gender identity or sexuality. Schneider’s life is multi-faceted; she has many interests. Schneider lives with her girlfriend Genevieve. They have a cat named Meep.

Yet, Schneider doesn’t want to hide that she’s trans. On “Jeopardy,” Schneider brilliantly dealt with this dilemma. She didn’t make a big deal about being out. She just wore the trans Pride flag pin.

“It was something that I wanted to get out there and to show my pride in while not making it the focus of what I was doing there,” Schneider told the New York Times. “Because I was just there to answer trivia questions and win money.”

As a cisgender lesbian, I can’t speak to how Schneider’s record-setting “Jeopardy” streak feels to transgender people.

But, as a trans ally, I’m cheering for Schneider. Kudos for her bravery! At a time when many states are passing anti-trans laws, it takes guts to be out on TV and the Internet.

Few things are as mainstream as “Jeopardy.” I bet that many “Jeopardy” viewers who are frightened at the idea of trans people, will become more comfortable with transgender people after watching Schneider on the popular quiz show. Because folks on TV come into our living and bedrooms and we feel as if we know them after watching them for a while.

“Amy looks like everybody else,” my neighbor said when I told her Schneider was trans. “She doesn’t act odd. She’s not strange.”

Transgender people encounter violence and discrimination in everything from housing to health care to employment.

I know Schneider’s “Jeopardy” triumph won’t end transphobia. But her winning streak will go a long way toward jumpstarting a change in hearts and minds.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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SCARY: Tucker Carlson now the conscience of GOP

Cruz bows down, kisses ring of Fox host

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Tucker Carlson (Screen capture via Fox on YouTube)

The Republican Party has sunk to a new low, hard to do, when a sleazebag like Tucker Carlson is now their conscience. Seeing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) groveling before him is laughable, disgusting, and frightening all at the same time. 

As reported in Rolling Stone, Cruz said, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.” Then “Cruz was lambasted by Tucker Carlson that night, prompting him to hop on Carlson’s show Thursday and beg for forgiveness. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said before Carlson cut him off and said he didn’t believe him. Cruz took it up a notch, stammering through an absurd bit about how he wasn’t talking about the “patriots across the country supporting President Trump,” only those who assaulted police officers, and that he’s always described anyone who assaults a cop as a terrorist.

Carlson has made a career of being a pompous commentator. Interestingly he worked at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before finally landing at Fox in 2009. According to his Wikipedia page he went to Trinity College where he earned a bachelor’s degree and Carlson’s Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the “Dan White Society,” an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the CIA, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that “they’ll take anybody.” Reading this clearly raised my opinion of the CIA and based on what we see in some media today I agree with Carlson’s father on his view of journalism. 

When you have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor those who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and only two Republicans show up, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president, one understands the influence Carlson has on the GOP. The rest were afraid of being criticized on-air by him or lambasted by Trump. 

Dick Cheney remarked on the GOP, “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.” He spoke to ABC News saying, “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution.” 

There is a leadership void in the Republican Party today. Their so-called leaders are afraid to say what they think if it differs in any way from Trumpism or Carlson’s view of the world, which requires total fealty to Trump. He found a home on Fox where he can lie with impunity and have millions believe his lies. 

President Biden said, in what many think was the best speech of his presidency so far, these people are “holding a dagger to the neck of democracy.” He went on to say, “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” 

Tucker Carlson and his ilk have never bothered to answer a question the president threw at them, which is how they can accept all their down ballot victories, governors, and members of Congress, which occurred on the same ballots, cast by the same people, on the same day, as those for president. Of course, Carlson has no need to make sense, tell the truth, or speak rationally because of his platform on Fox, which doesn’t require that.

My question is whether Carlson is as dumb as he makes himself sound or is he brilliant and this is all a big act? Either way the acolytes that follow Trump don’t seem to care and are bowing down to Carlson’s big audience. It’s as if he can tell any Republican senator or congressperson, or Republican candidate for those jobs, to just ‘bend over and take it’ and they do. All we can do is mourn for the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower. Non-Trumpers will have to work hard and speak out if they ever want to resurrect a GOP that can be respected.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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