One Equal World

Posts Tagged ‘LGBT

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Donna Kikkert calls herself a “mainstream” student. By that, the 59-year-old woman chasing her first degree at the University of Wisconsin means that she is straight, white, and Christian. She took a poetry class, and is suing the professor for choosing a reading selection that did not “serve her needs.”

Without naming titles, Kikkert claimed in course records that the assigned readings for her Creative Writing Poetry course focused on “lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest, and frequent swearing.” She had demanded more “classic” works, and when that was denied, she complained first to the professor, then to the university, and then, after her failing grade was upheld and the course was finished, to court.

Kikkert’s demands included not only an A grade for herself, but also that the teacher, Professor Patricia Dyjak, be fired or suspended without pay for a full year—four times the length of the course. Kikkert also made personal accusations of inappropriate behavior against Dyjak, accusations refuted by other students.

For generations, literature studies have included only the works of white men and the occasional white woman, only the experiences of the majority. Decades of poetry written by LGBT people, people of color, women, and other “fringe” populations have been left out of the curriculum, and now that they are there, the “mainstream” students feel attacked by their very presence.

There’s a supported study by Australian Dale Spender which indicates that men feel that women are dominating the conversation if women speak 30% of the time. One assumes the same winds up true no matter which majority and minority you substitute in.

Kikkert could have chosen to include the titles from her professor’s curriculum. That she didn’t implies that she knew an actual review of the content wouldn’t support her accusation. And even if those accusations were true, there’s nothing in the law or in the tenants of University of Wisconsin that requires a course to cater to her. That’s why the court not only dismissed her case, but also her request for free counsel.

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A businessman dressed in a suit and tie rips open his shirt, revealing a rainbow shirt underneath.

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In all fifty states, same-sex marriage has been made legal. But in 28 of those states, mentioning your fiance’s name when asking for time off for your honeymoon can get you fired, because in more than half the country it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people in the workplace. And in the midst of the current conservative backlash against gay rights, it’s important to take grassroots stands in the workplace.

Here are a few suggestions for what you, your coworkers, and your boss can do to make acceptance one of your core values.

1. The big one: benefits. This is your employer putting their money where their mouth is. Make sure your coworkers with same-sex partners and non-traditional families have the same access to health care that you do, including gender-blind parental options, allowances for adoption and surrogacy, and gender-affirmation and transition-related care.

2. Help support resource groups for LGBT employees, particularly if you are in a state that still supports discrimination. They need a place where they can discuss the weight of those issues.

3. Ask what your company is doing to support LGBT people outside their walls. Do they give preference to relationships with other inclusive companies? Devote any resources to outreach? Does your leadership do any communicating on this issue, or is it just a line for show in the company’s values posters?

4. Track what’s actually happening. Does the data indicate that your goals for diversity are being met? This doesn’t mean hiring to a quota–if you’re truly inclusive, that should be entirely unnecessary. If you can’t have this data, ask your HR why.

5. Speak up when you hear ugly speech at work. It only takes one bigot to make LGBT employees feel unwelcome and under fire if everyone else lets their behavior go unremarked. Report what you hear, and hold your employer responsible for responding.

There are many, many more tactics to take to make your job a shelter for those who still need it. Most of these tactics can be applied to any under-served population, and will make you a role model for other employers in your community.

A photo of a skyscraper with rainbow colors on it.

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Although the White House backed away from an executive order that would have allowed federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, it is still clear that this is not an administration that will go out of the way to defend the LGBTQ+ community. With a number of states having passed or considered passing various “bathroom bills” or “religious freedom” bills that would enshrine discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, the situation for LGBTQ+ rights is precarious.

But there are allies, especially in the one sector that conservatives value more than any other: business. As we’ve seen, discriminatory laws don’t work out well for the states that enact them, and in a number of cases, it is local and national companies that are first in line to oppose such bills.

For example, 82% of Fortune 500 companies explicitly forbid discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In Texas, 1,200 companies came forward in opposition to SB-6. And in Tennessee, the Hospital Corporation of America, FedEx, Jack Daniels, and Country Music Television opposed a proposed law that would allow mental health counselors to refuse treatment based on their religion. In Georgia, Salesforce, Apple, Microsoft, Disney, Intel, and Home Depot urged the governor to veto that state’s discrimination bill, which worked.

Republicans have made it clear that they don’t listen to people who won’t tell them what they want to hear, and this administration will absolutely be no different in that. But that’s people. When it comes to businesses, they’re a lot more likely to listen. While it may bother many of us that companies have so much more clout with politicians than do the people of the United States, when they use that clout to help prevent the passage of discriminatory bills, it would be absurd to turn away such allies.

A bronze statue of a lion sitting outside of HSBC bank in Hong Kong.

CC courtesy of Ronald Woan on Flickr.

Who knew that lion statues could cause so much controversy? In Hong Kong, an iconic pair of lions sits out front of the HSBC bank. Traditionally, they’ve been featured in bronze. But on November 30, 2016, HSBC introduced two new replicas painted in rainbow colors. The colors were intended to reflect the bank’s pro-LGBT stance.

So far, the lions have been a pretty big hit among Chinese progressives. Many people have been posing for pictures alongside the statues. Rights activists have even praised the bank for taking such a firm stance on equality.

But not everyone was enthusiastic about the lions. As you can imagine, it caused quite the uproar among conservative groups. Much like the U.S., Hong Kong is pretty divided when it comes to LGBT rights.

For example, a 2011 survey reveals that 22% of Chinese respondents were “not accepting” of lesbian, gay, and transgender people. An additional 21% were “unsure” or “ambivalent” on the issue. But most upsetting is the fact that 25% of respondents said it was “acceptable” or “sometimes acceptable” to refuse to offer a job to an LGBT person.

Several pro-family groups have publicly voiced their disdain for the lions. The Family Schools Sodo Concern Group, Parents for the Family Association, and Overturning LGBT Agenda have teamed up to release a joint statement. The statement accuses HSBC of “trampling on the existing family values of Hong Kong.”

In an interview with BBC News, Roger Wong from the Family Schools Sodo Concern Group said:

“The lions are an icon of Hong Kong. A lot of Hong Kongers have a certain affection for them and it’s not right that they are projecting meanings on to them that a lot of people may disagree with. The male lions represent the stability and power of the bank. By adding a rainbow on the lions—does that mean they’re homosexual? I find that objectionable, and they don’t look that aesthetically good either.”

But HSBC has shown no signs of backing down.

“Understanding and embracing everyone’s unique perspectives, beliefs and experiences is core to HSBC’s values. This campaign demonstrates our commitment to achieving a truly open and diverse working environment,” said Kevin Martin, HSBC Group General Manager.

You go, HSBC! You may not have everyone’s support, but you certainly have ours.

A photo of Pope Francis.

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Pope Francis, despite a reputation as being the “cool” Pope for the Roman Catholic Church, has always been more accepting of the LGBT community in theory than in practice. Even as he’s preached increased tolerance, he’s done so in a “hate the sin, not the sinner” way that is not truly accepting. And recently, he’s been extending that to the transgender populace as well.

He’s claimed that transgender people are waging a “world war against marriage” without providing any particular reasons why, and believes that teaching any kind of gender theory in schools is a form of indoctrination. Specifically, he called it “ideological colonization.” Which is particularly rich, coming from the head of the Catholic Church.

His “coolness” with LGBT people begins and ends with his stance that clergy should not refuse to minister to queer people. It’s hard to see that as acceptance, coming hand-in-hand with his belief that any discussion of gender identity is telling children they can “choose” their gender, which he called terrible.

In practice, that puts LGBT churchgoers right alongside murderers and habitual criminalssinners forever, but still attended to by the church.

After the shootings at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Pope Francis was one of the voices that joined an international song of support for the queer community. At the time, he said that gays were owed an apology by Christians for the long history between the two groups. No one could disagree with him. But his recent comments seem to illustrate that he does not quite understand just what the Church needs to apologize for.

Also demonstrated is how important it is for the dialogue between LGBT leaders and the Church, or all churches really, needs to make certain to feature transgender people, their needs, and their history. All too often, they’re left out of the discussion to avoid “complicating” it, and this needs to end.

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Faggot. Dike. Butch. Queer.

These are just some of the many slurs that LGBT folks hear every single day. But while you cannot control what other people say or do, you can control how you react to it. In fact, your reaction is key because it can actually discourage people from using those slurs ever again. The following provides a multitude of options on how to react to derogatory comments so that you can empower yourself and your community.

Reclaim the Word

In recent years, the LGBT community has effectively reclaimed the word “queer” so that it no longer has a negative connotation. In much the same way that African Americans have reclaimed the “N” word, so too has the gay community redeemed “queer.” Queer is now a respectful, inclusive word that can be used to reference anyone who identifies as being LGBT. Taking back the word is taking back the power it once had over you.

Call Someone Out

Ever hear someone say, “That’s so gay”? Don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, that’s not okay!” The thing is, people don’t treat you based on how you deserve to be treated; people treat you based on how you allow yourself to be treated. Additionally, don’t be afraid to express your anger over the use of the term or phrase. Be firm, be direct, but most of all, take the opportunity to educate that person on why it’s inappropriate to make those kinds of remarks.

Laugh

There’s a reason that they say laughter is the best medicine. Look, sometimes people are just plain vile and mean spirited. They’re unhappy with themselves and they feel the need to project their insecurities onto you. In fact, some people will purposefully try and push your buttons just to elicit a response from you. Don’t fall for it. This is done in an effort to control you. In cases like this, the best response you can give is to laugh it off. Laughing will not only be unexpected, but it will communicate to the verbal abuser that their scare tactics don’t work on you.

In an ideal world, everyone would be courteous of one another and there wouldn’t be any derogatory remarks. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. So until we completely eradicate the use of these slurs, we must continue to fight back in a way that liberates us from the chains of oppression.

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It is a fact of life now that the worst mass shooting in the past century has been against the queer community. It will be on record forever in the history books. For years, maybe decades, queer people will be asked by straight people if they knew someone there, if they’d ever gone to Pulse Nightclub. The tombstone erected by that tragedy in the public mind, in all our minds, has only LGBT written across it.

Is it any wonder that so many of us, so many who have never so much as been to Florida or to any gay nightclub, are still reeling with grief that feels all too personal? ‘It could have been me’ is a reverberation that reaches out across the whole community with any kind of violence like this, and Pulse was only the loudest gong in a whole bell chorus.

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2015 saw 24 confirmed* hate violence homicides among LGBTQ people in 2015, a 20% increase from the year before.

We are traumatized.

Trauma is usually associated with injury, personal violence, or war. It’s easy, or perhaps only convenient, to overlook it in people whose injuries, violence and war happen at a remove like this. But the end results, the high rates of suicide among LGBT youth and adults, should be evidence for a definitive diagnoses.

That same population is at high risk for all of the other conditions often correlated with PTSD: diabetes, chronic pain or fatigue, addictions, heart or liver disease, and generally lower life expectancy.

A person does not have to be beaten or blown up to be traumatized. Living under the threat of a fist is inherently violent, and therefore traumatic. And in a country that has not even managed to wipe all of its anti-queer laws off the books, a country obsessed with where you go to the bathroom, a country that wants businesses to be able to refuse service to you, the entire community is, every moment, under threat.