There Wouldn’t be Pride without the Stonewall Riots

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While we celebrate June for pride month it’s important to remember where we came from and those who have fought for the freedoms we have today, including the activists who continue to fight today. Some people question why there is a need for a gay pride and I have to respond why not? In reality that answer is much deeper. When you are an oppressed class of society safety is huge and the way you get that is to find your own tribe. Being LGBTQ it’s sometimes tough to find others like you, other than online or in the bars. Pride offers another venue to connect to others but also celebrate who we are and the strides we’ve made. It’s also to show that more work needs to be done, to advocate for change. More importantly it’s to honor those before us who have paid our way to where we are today, as we are doing for future LGBTQ generations. There is so much work left to be done in terms of LGBTQ equality. LGBTQ pride is not only a celebration but a declaration that our community isn’t going anywhere. We have fought with blood, sweat and tears for the rights we have today, and we refuse to let anyone take them away. We also stand up for those who are having to endure hate and discrimination currently. So many LGBTQ people live in hiding in fear of rejection, hate and harm, including murder for many. Until all of the LGBTQ is free, none of us really are. It’s important to stand up and fight for those who aren’t able to, in the hopes that one day they will have the courage to do the same.

Many people don’t realize that pride started from the Stonewall Riots. It was the inciting incident for LGBTQ equality and June is Pride month because of Stonewall. The Stonewall riots were a series of demonstrations by the members of the LGBT community in New York city. The demonstrations were against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn that was in Greenwich Village of NYC. It is well know that these events led to the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the fight for LGBTQ rights in the USA.

Gay people weren’t accepted in most establishments the 1950’s and 1960’s. During this time the LGBTQ community faced an anti-gay legal system. Many anti-gay groups in the United States were out to prove that gay people couldn’t be integrated into society. Various social and political movements in the late 1960s like the civil right and anti-Vietnam War movement server as catalysts for the Stonewall riots.

The Stonewall Inn was known to be popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, transgender people, African Americans, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. These marginalized groups were at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots. The raids by the NYC police department were routine in the 1960s. The police’s treatment of the Stonewall Inn and the LGBTQ partons inside the club was the inciting incident that incited the riots. The gay residents of Greenwich Village organized into activist groups who sought to establish places for the LGBTQ to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.

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Martha P. Johnson was an outspoken advocate for trans people of color. She played a large role in the Stonewall Riots and co-founded the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) alone with Sylvia Rivera, a group committed to helping homeless transgender youth in New York City. Martha found joy as a drag queen amidst the nightlife of Christopher Street. She designed all her own costumes and quickly became a prominet fixture in the LGBTQ community serving as a drag mother by helping homeless and struggling LGBTQ youth. She also traveled the world as a successful drag queen with Hot Peaches. Martha was known for her outlandish hats and glamorous jewlrey. She was fearless and bold. Often times people would as Martha what the “P” in her name stood for, to which she replied “pay it no mind.”

Tragically, at the age of 46, Martha’s body was found in the Hudson River. Her death was ruled as a suicide, despite claims from her friends and other members of the local LGBTQ community that she was not suicidal. The New York City Anti-Violence Project has re-opened this investigation. In 2015, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute was established. Its mission is to defend and protect the human rights of transgender and gender nonconforming communities.

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Even after the Stonewall riots, the LGBTQ community in New York City faced gender, race, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Six months later, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for the LGBTQ community. Over the next few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the United States the and the world. The first gay pride marches took place in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago on June 28, 1970. They commemorated the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were in other cities. In 2016, the Stonewall Inn was honored as a national monument. So it’s important that remember the activists who sacrificed so much in order for equality.

It feels strange looking at pride differently as in the past when I identified as a gay male. Now that I realize I’m transgender pride has taken on a new meaning. Though until I can transition more it won’t feel as natural or satisfying. I still look mostly male especially because I have a beard for the homeless shelter. I still remember my first gay pride. It was at the Lansing (Michigan) gay pride when I was in my early 20’s. I don’t think I have ever felt more free and accepted in a group before. It was sea upon sea of the rainbows. This was back during my dancing days so of course I went to the pride dance that night at the Paradise nightclub in downtown Lansing. I loved that place. They had a huge dance floor and my favorite thing was their gogo cage that they had. Most of my time was spent in that cage whenever I danced there. Sadly it closed years ago. Lot’s of great memories that I will not ever forget.

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I organized and MC’ed the Join the Impact rally in Columbus, Ohio on Nov 7, 2008. Which were rallies held across America and the world in response to Proposition 8 (which legalized same sex marriage) being overturned in California.

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This is me at the National Equality March in ‎October 11, 2009. 

I have also been to some bigger city prides, which are fantastic and so much fun. My first one was when I was living in Chicago. Their parade was massive and went through boystown and parts of downtown. There were spectators all over. One of the years I rode on a double decker bus, on the top level. It was so much fun. They also had a festival with entertainment. I love the big city prides because usually it’s a week full of pride events leading up to the actual day. Columbus, Ohio really knows how to pride it up. One of my favorite drag queens Nina West always holds a pride drag show the week before. There are various other drag shows and other events prior.

Their festival is massive, taking over a whole park. There are lots of vendors and fun things to buy. They also have multiple stages for various live acts. My favorite part of pride weekend is on Sunday when they have their annual fundraiser Bat n’ Rouge. The Columbus Lesbian and Gay Softball Association raise money for various LGBTQ non-profits around the area. The best part of it is that the players dress up usually in drag as various celebrities and characters. It’s a lot of fun. Their tag line is that it’s the only time softball is a drag. 🙂

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One of my favorite parts is there are cheerleaders for both time, many of them are drag queens. Hygiene’s and Monistat’s are always a hoot to watch as they usually are up to no good. Columbus is one of the cities I miss the most and it’s due in part to Bat’n’Rouge and Pride. I really miss Bat’n’Rouge it’s just a blast and fun to hang out with friends while you eat and drink. One year I worked the beer tent for charity. Over 2k people show up each year, they even have tents that you can rent out.

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Me during Bat’n’Rouge 2009

One trend lately that I’ve struggled to accept is requiring an entrance fee to the festivals. It’s the one place many people have to be accepted and around those like them. Teenagers are one prime example and many of them couldn’t afford the money, so they would miss out. We should rob anyone of pride. I get that the organizations need to pay for the costs of running an event such as this but there should be something in place in case people won’t able to pay.

While we do finally have marriage equality we still have so far to come. For so many LGBTQ people grow up in areas that aren’t accepting. Children and Adults are still being rejected for being different. Things are better for many but not all. The one nice thing about the popularity lately with pride events is that smaller cities and towns are holding their own. Yonkers Pride in Yonkers, NY just had their first pride this past weekend. The cities population is over 200k. There are also other LGBTQ pride events across the globe, even in places like Russia where it’s dangerous to be out of the closet. Even though we have marriage equality gay people still can be fired from their jobs or losing housing.

The transgender community lately has been getting hit the hardest in terms of discrimination from the Trump administration rolling back the protects of trans students and Trump trying to ban transgender service people. Not to mention the various states who have tried to ban transgender people from using the bathrooms in the gender they identify as. In addition there are states like Oklahoma who are passing laws where organizations can discriminate against LGBTQ families who want to adopt. It’s almost weekly you hear about another hate crime against the LGBTQ community, especially those who are transgender.

One of the latest victims of a hate crime was the killing of Blaze Bernstein, who was home visiting his family on winter break. Blaze was gay and jewish. He’s now being honored by a movement called Blaze it Forward. It a movement where people do good things for strangers and say to them to Blaze it forward, a take of the pay it forward ideology.

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One of the most well known victims of a hate crime is Matthew Shepard. He was an American student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured, and left to die near Laramie on the night of October 6, 1998. Following her son’s murder, Judy Shepard became a prominent LGBT rights activist and established the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Shepard’s death inspired notable films, novels, plays, songs, and other works. Matthew Shepard’s murder brought national and international attention to hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels. In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.

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This administration is working hard to overturn every advance for LGBTQ equality. Even marriage equality could be at risk with this administration. Not to mention the conditions for LGBTQ communities in the world, who are much more harsh towards their population. It was reported that more than 100 male residents of the Chechen Republic, a part of the Russian Federation, have been abducted, held prisoner and tortured by authorities targeting them based on their perceived sexual orientation. An unknown number of the men, whom authorities detained on suspicion of being gay or bisexual, have reportedly died after being held in what human rights groups and eyewitnesses have called concentration camps.

The fight for equality is long from over.

Some people might understand why there are pride festivals and that’s okay. These celebrations aren’t for them. As the country becomes more accepting of those who are LGBTQ things will continue to improve, which has increased the attendance of many pride celebrations both in queer people feeling they can come out in public without ridicule and our straight allies who want to celebrate us. I say go ahead and hate us. These bigots are missing out on some very fabulous and fun people.

Even though I don’t go to pride every year, mostly due to my mental illness, I still makes me feel safe that I have a place to go if I so choose. I’m happy that our current and future LGBTQ generations will have a place to go for acceptance and to celebrate all the colors of the rainbow. So happy pride month. I’m excited to be able to go to Lansing Gay Pride again this weekend.

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The Various Characters on the Street

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I’m trying to look at being homeless as a new adventure. Some days are easier to embrace that than others. It’s easy to judge a book by it’s cover but if you look deeper sometimes you will be surprised. This works in reverse too. When you’re homeless it’s natural to be cautious. It’s important in staying safe. There are all types living on the street. Lots of people are unpredictable and it’s tough to judge this in others. There are those who are nice one day and unkind the next. A good portion have some sort of mental illness. Sometimes you just have to sit back and wish them well. Engaging a lot of times causes you more trouble than good and doing so could put you in danger. There are some exceptions to the rule. Here are some of my observations of those living on the street.

My roommate is very low key and I’m so fortunate to have him share the room with me. Not everyone is so lucky. Many of the guys who live in the men’s shelter aren’t to be trusted or at the very least aren’t fun to share a room with. Quite a few drink as well so they come to the shelter drunk and often times that causes problems. It’s the only shelter in town that the homeless can drink. Most nights there is some sort of argument and often times leads to an altercation. Cops are also often called to the homeless shelter. One guy stunk up the room so bad that his roommate had to tell the staff. He also slept naked. Most the guys aren’t quiet either. Last night during the NBA finals you could hear them very loud and my room is all the way on the end of the dorm.

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My roommate is 70 years old. He’s very easy going and is pretty quiet. He was living in an apartment where the owner was a slumlord. The tenant below brought in cockroaches that infested the whole building and the owner wouldn’t do anything. The city ended up having to shut down the whole place. He had nowhere to go or no money so he had to live in a shelter. He just was in the hospital for ten days as his health isn’t the greatest. Thankfully he’s got approved for a house via section 8 and soon will be out of the shelter, hopefully within the next few weeks. We have talked many nights about the riff raff in the shelter. We are a lot of like in many ways. Some people who are homeless are so out of choice. For some there tired of the system, which is horrible and the resources out there are slim. Others like the lifestyle. Neither one of us is like that. My first roommate was similar but he didn’t talk at all. He was also an older guy with a big ole beard. He left first thing in the morning and usually didn’t get back to the dorms until the latest possible time being 8:30pm.

As I’ve stated, many of the homeless have some sort of mental illness. There is this one lady named sister Mary. She is a black lady who always wore some sort of hair wrap and a dress. Sister Mary was always pulling her suitcase everywhere she went. If she wasn’t in the day shelter she was hanging outside in front of the building. She’s a character putting it lightly. Mary was one of those homeless who had two sides, actually three. One side was kind hearted and funny. Another side was a little nonsensical like her blurting out stuff about the bible and patriotism. She would just burst out into song singing America the Beautiful. She was definitely a patriot. She talked a lot about the United States. She never mentioned Trump, so that was a good thing. Oh, as far as I know she was never a sister. Though you never know maybe she was. The last side was not always very friendly. When she’d get frustrated she’d become rude and non-responsive. I learned to keep my distance when I noticed this side of her.

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There were days that I could take Sister Mary and could see the loving person she was but there others where I had to put on my headsets to drown her out because of my mood. She talked a lot and was at times pestering. Many of the other homeless and even some of the staff didn’t care for her. She annoyed many people and rightfully so. At first she annoyed the heck out of me too. Eventually I was able to look past the bad to see the person she use to be. Occasionally she would get confused and ask for confirmation about something. I wondered if she didn’t have early onset Dementia or Alzheimer’s. She was always talking about leaving on a bus, either going to Flint or Pittsburg. I guess she had been talking about in non-stop for months. A few days ago she got a check, bought a bus ticket and left. Everyone was surprised. Now that she’s gone I do miss her. She could be pretty comical if you looked past the annoyances. I wish her well and hope she finds what she’s looking for, including getting out of homelessness.

People will just disappear and you never really know what happened to them. Recently a lot of people got their Section 8 vouchers. I think 120 people were pulled, which is unheard of supposedly. I try my hardest to not judge people I encounter and it’s something I struggle with. Separating the person from the behavior is tough especially if the person is out of touch or a rough character. There are times you judge their character rightfully so. Some are just downright despicable and I make sure to stay far away from them. Yesterday there was an old man in a wheelchair who was hard of hearing and struggling. He needed to call for a cab. The lady working the front desk gave him a number and he attempted to use the phone on the other side of the room. You have to dial 9 to get an outside line and he couldn’t figure it out. There were a group of people next to him and not one person would help him. One of the women told him that it wasn’t her job. Then he was trying to figure out how to get to the front of the building which is not a straight shot. Again people just stared at him. I proceeded to help him and then someone is like go out this door right next to the day shelter, which usually isn’t where cabs go to. They usually use the main entrance. I ended up calling the cab company to make sure they went to the right place, they still went to the wrong place but thankfully a few minutes the driver went to where the old man was.

Life either spits you out in a few ways. It will leave you bitter, jaded and hateful. The victims of circumstances go from getting everything taken from them to then taking anything they can, even if it’s from ruthless methods. People like this feel like the world owes them whatever they take. Usually these types of people hang out with a group like them. Some become desperate and fall into part of that category. The difference is that they’re not assholes usually. The system is set up to fail the poor and homeless so getting out of homelessness isn’t easy and there are many, many obstacles in the way preventing you from getting stability. I would expect that if you’ve lived on the streets long enough and become desperate enough that you would do whatever you had to in order to survive. Then there are some who are the complete opposite. They keep to themselves and rarely talk to others. They accept the fate the world has brought them too.

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There is another woman named Mary who is one of those people. She rarely talks and stays in the same corner each day. I see many homeless who are dealing with some sort of addiction. It’s really sad to watch their lives fall apart and living just for the next high. To see people spiraling out of control breaks my heart. There was one man who worked at the shelter doing janitorial and was doing very well. The staff loved him and had high praise from him for what he had overcome. Recently someone came to the shelter trying to cause trouble. Supposedly there was an altercation between the two days ago. It was clear what the man was doing and it totally spooked the worker. You could tell that he was afraid that he would lose his job. You could see the gears grinding overtime in his brain. The next day he didn’t show up to work. It was payday and he chose to drink again. That night he was so drunk that the guys had to help him up the stairs to the men’s dorm. He used all his money to buy liquor. By the next day he had lost his job, which meant losing his housing too. The police had to escort him out. He was a good guy but his addiction got the best of him and it overtook him again. The other shelters in the area don’t allow drinking at all so where will he go? How will he get his next drink? It leads to nothing good. So many are like him. There is a lot of stigma out there towards addicts. People don’t see it as a valid disease, it’s a choice again. It’s easier to judge than it is to feel empathy towards someone who is struggling. Sadly this man didn’t believe he deserved anything good and so he went back to the life he could count on. I hope that one day he will see his worth as bigger than his addiction. Support is key to recovery and so many don’t have that.

So how do you tell the difference. Sometimes you can’t, at least not right away. If you live in the shelter long enough you start to see the patterns. One part of survival is being always alert of your surroundings. You learn the behaviors of other people and begin to pick them out early on. I’m no expert by any means but I’m learning. One day I’m highly skeptical of others, while others I’m more open minded but I still stay really hesitant. I tend to gravitate towards other women. Though you got to be careful because there are quite a few to not be trusted either. I’ve also learned if you become more friendly the more likely someone is going to ask something from you like money. Each day at the day shelter they give out snacks at 10am. The other day they had a whole box of cookies and I snatched that up. One of the guys tried to con me out of it. He’s like I will give you $4 for it and the amount kept going down when I said no. He eventually gave up. My instincts told me that he would say I would get you the money later and he wouldn’t.

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One law of the land is to not let anyone borrow your stuff, like chargers, phone, etc., because it’s easily for someone to steal it. You turn around and they are gone. The elderly are easy targets. One older black man gave his phone to another person thinking he was going to charge it. Four days later and he still hadn’t returned it. When staff confronted the guy he denied having it. Again another despicable person. Losing your phone is one of the biggest violations there are when you are homeless because all your information is in it. If someone took my phone I would have no access to the outside world. So when someone asks to use it I tell them it doesn’t have cell service, which it doesn’t. I don’t tell them that I use google voice to make calls when there is wifi. I feel bad not helping people because some truly have the best interest at heart but it’s just something I can’t risk.

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For someone who is LGBTQ being homeless can be even more complicated and dangerous. You really have to be on guard. If you live in a big city and are a homeless youth then there are options for you. If don’t live in NYC, LA or Chicago then the resources just aren’t there, especially if you’re homeless and identify as LGBTQ. I don’t know of any organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ adults recover from homelessness and that includes mental illness. I wish there was a program out there but so far there isn’t, at least not that I’m aware of and I have searched. Even though Lansing isn’t that big there is a gay man that is staying in my dorm. He lives a lot more openly than I do. The other day he was talking about gay pride right in the day shelter with a lot of people in it. He didn’t care. I respected that about him. It’s easy to see the men who are uncomfortable with him. I see the glares and stares. He’s very flamboyant. I’ve thought about trying to talk to him but he’s a bit unpredictable too. I have heard that he’s gone off on people before. I have seen it in small doses when he doesn’t agree with someone. He’s got this my way or the highway attitude. I’m sure he doesn’t out of protection. It’s a defense mechanism. I also think he’s got some sort of mental illness.  So I just appreciate him from afar. I have heard there have been other trans people come through the shelter. So we are out there. I keep being transgender on the downlow because I’m not passable at all and I worry it would put me in danger. I still do little things where I don’t hide all of who I am, like my headband. I’m putting my time in realizing that this place I’m in today is only temporary. It’s how I keep sane and from losing myself. I know it’s not the final destination.

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I’m fortunate and so many aren’t. When you look back at the homeless population it’s so easy to be disheartened to see so many people at such a low point. Last night a woman was crying in the lobby because a staff member laughed at her because of her situation. It was tough to watch her. I just wanted to give her a hugg. She talked about the low point of being homeless and how it feels to be judged. That’s one of the most sad aspects of homeless is how society treat us. Many see us as lepers, unworthy of any care. That being homeless is a choice and we could have done things differently. People judge you based on their own life experiences. Well if I am able to go to work and own a house, then everyone has those skills. So many walk by the homeless on the street and some even make fun of them. If it was a dog I could guarantee most would stop to help. It’s fine if you don’t want to help but keep your judgments to yourself. Most homeless haven’t had a decent warm meal in a long while. If you don’t want to give them money, offer to buy them dinner. In my early 20’s, I was with my sister and we saw a homeless guy on the corner of the street as we were driving. We stopped at the convenience store right near him and bought him a big brown bag full of stuff. To someone who is poor and struggling receiving such a gift is priceless. It’s easy to feel like the world has forgotten you and in many cases it has, so whenever someone does something kind like that it restores part of your faith in humanity.

The kindness doesn’t even have to be monetary. When you see someone homeless smile at them and see them for who they are inside. Each one of the homeless came from somewhere. Another experience I had with the homeless was when I was living in Chicago in 2004. It was in the middle of winter and I saw a lady taking refuge in the area of the bank where you need a debit/credit card to enter the lobby of the ATM. She had somehow found her way in and was staying warm. She was at least in her 60’s and was weathered. You could tell that she lived a hard life. I wondered what her life was like before she was homeless. What did she do? What made her happy? Did she have loved ones? I didn’t have a lot of cash on me so I gave the $5 bill I had in my pocket. I gave her a smile and left her to stay warm. As I started walking down the street two younger black men were walking my way. As they passed they said God bless you. There was no way that they could have seen what I did. It was confirmation of the good that I was doing.

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People question me about why I air my dirty laundry so publically. Some people just don’t get it and it’s not a message meant for them. I know what it’s like to be down and out. Forgotten. Less than. Unworthy. I’m open about my struggles for two reasons. First it’s therapeutic for me and often times it’s the only outlet I have to release the tension. My mental illness has led to me isolating and living a life like a hermit. My support system has struggled because of that. I mainly do it in order to help others. I have had my blog for a very long time and I have people comment about how my words have impacted them for the better. On an average day I have at least ten people view my blog. There there is my Facebook where I post more frequently. At times I don’t think anyone is seeing my posts then I find out later on that’s not the case. Not everyone is a vocal as I am. I feel like I’m making a difference while I’m taking care of myself.

My goal once I get out of homelessness is to be an advocate for the homeless. So many people need to be educated. The resources are severely lacking and funding needs to be increased. This will only happen if people get involved. Sadly with this current administration things will get worse before they get better. That’s why it’s so important to vote always because it’s people like the homeless and the poor who are hurt the most when rich people control our government. Ben Carson wants to make drastic cuts to HUD and increase what people have to pay for low income housing. What little there is could be take away. I wish people would look past to themselves but sadly many aren’t able to empathize until it happens to them like with the hurricanes in Texas and Florida last year. Just look at how our country has treated Puerto Rico. They have been forgotten and very little is being down. People are still without power and are homeless. This speaks to what the attitudes towards the homeless, especially those who are black and brown.

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If people knew what it really was like then we wouldn’t have such a high homeless population. The other day someone asked me what could be done proactively to prevent homelessness. I struggled to answer that because the solution is complex and will include improving many things. There isn’t one answer. Definitely the funding needs to be increased both for homeless shelters and low income housing. The number of people needing low income housing are way out numbered for what is available. The homeless shelters need a lot more money and support. The services are really bare bones and their resources are usually stretched to the max.

I don’t have the answers but that’s not going to stop me from trying to make it easier for those who are homeless. I do know one solution and that’s kindness. Do good. If you see someone in need, help them to your best ability. You could be the one hand that lifts them out of their struggles. Good deeds are the saving grace for so many. If you can’t donate to a shelter or buy someone food then volunteer at your local homeless shelter. Get to know the people and you will realize that we’re like everyone else. We want happiness and to live in peace. We deserve love just like everyone else. While being homeless is extremely tough I am blessed and forever changed for the experience and those I have meant. It’s taken being homeless to get my lifeforce back. I can only hope the same for all the other homeless people. I am better because of knowing all the characters of the street.

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Being Homeless Doesn’t Make Me Less

This isn’t the first time I have been homeless. In 2016, I was homeless for two days. I slept in a park in Chicago and the rest of the time was spent at a Starbucks. Thankfully I found a friend to stay with so I didn’t have to go to the homeless shelter. This time was different. I found myself in a situation that I had nowhere to go. Many times in my life I have been faced with homelessness but I was always able to find a way to escape being homeless. Now I’m 41 and don’t have the strength to fake it anymore. I’m tired of running and living without any stability, which is detrimental for someone living with a mental illness. Recently I looked back on the last fifteen years and realized that I had move twenty times, most of those were sudden and I had to scramble to find housing. Usually it meant running aka moving out of state. My twenties and thirties I tried desperately to escape the trauma of my past. I failed miserably. When my Mom died in 2012 everything came crashing down. I had no more energy to give trying to be someone I wasn’t and burying the pain deep inside.

So I had to deal with the pain. My Mom was the one person I had who was my champion and losing her made the world a much darker place. It wasn’t until a suicide attempt in 2013 that I started to take care of my mental health. I started to taking antidepressants and going to therapy regularly. This helped bring me out of the helpless dark pit I had been in but I still struggled greatly. The first two years after my Mom died I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, nor did I think I wanted to. A world without my Mom was unfathomable. The grief was raw and deep. I had never endured pain like that. Thankfully I was able to beat the beast and got to a point where I accepted my Mom’s death and was able to move forward from the pain.

I’ve tried hard the last two years to find alternative housing but for various reasons it hasn’t worked out. One roommate was a psycho and another ended up selling his house. I have had to move four times in that time period. This last time I just couldn’t take it anymore. While things had improved with my mental health I was still enduring severe bouts of depression. I’m talking about the deep, dark depression. I would do okay for weeks then I would get triggered, sending me into a dark spiral to the pits of hell. I started to become a wallflower. I hide in the corner of the place I stayed. I tried my best to stay out of the way of others. I would go weeks without talking to anyone other than my therapist. My weight had become uncontrollable. I was over 430 lbs and my mobility was horrible. I could barely walk a few feet without getting tired. I also couldn’t stand for very long. My quality life was horrible. I was alive but not living. I tolerated this for the last five years. Recently something changed within me and I’m not quite sure what caused it. I just woke up and said fuck this to hell. I deserve so much more.

For a good year I was drinking a two liter of Pepsi a day. It had been such a crutch for my anxiety and depression. Up until a month ago I was unwilling to stop drinking Pepsi at all. It felt impossible. I had decided that I would try to become more physically active. That I could manage doing a few steps at a time. On April 15th, I went to the Michigan Democratic Convention in Detroit. Doing something like this meant a lot of walking and I knew that I needed to prepare so the week prior I started to walk with a fabulous cane that my friend gave me. I was determined to get to Detroit, through an ice storm, to support a candidate that fought for those in need. I finally got there and while I was able to walk a bit farther but was still limited because of my mobility. Just walking to the area where the convention was held took a lot of me physically. So I sat most of the time. I sat as I saw the world flash by me. It was a great day and it really helped me put life in perspective.

It was also tough because I went from spending years by myself to being surrounded by a ton of people, that was also why I didn’t do much. I wanted to go to the LGBTQ caucus and vote for Dana Nessel. I did that and was exhausted so I just sat until it was time for the bus to leave. I left inspired seeing so many people step up to make a difference by running for office. I have always wanted to make a difference in this world. In the past I gave so much of myself that it would leave me empty. I use to think that making a difference meant going into service like being a therapist which meant giving up my artistic ability. One of the gifts the universe has given me. I have always been great at taking care of other people including being a fierce advocate for those in need. I was horrible at taking care of myself which just made my mental health even worse.

After 2012, I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t take care of myself, let alone anyone else. I had various attempts at embracing my art but I always gave up because I didn’t believe that I deserved it… nor did I think anyone wanted it. It wasn’t until 2015 when I made a 5ft tree out of eyewear material that I realized the impact that my art had on other people. Even though I was starting to feel better about myself I still struggled to live in a world that needed me. I would fall into these traps of trying to save the world, which meant neglecting my own world. I did so once again after the convention. I decided I was going to run for office, which meant putting my recovery on the shelf. It was really the first time I had ever felt that empowered. Something had clicked in me that I can’t explain. It was then that I deserved nothing but the best.

Overnight I went from not wanting to stop drinking Pepsi to doing so within a week. I also started to walk a lot more. On top of all of that I started to drink water and eat more healthier. Within weeks I started to notice drastic changes in my mobility. I could finally bend down and touch my toes. I hadn’t been able to do that in over five years. I also started to be able to go longer distances. It felt great to start taking care of myself again. My weight kept me from enjoying my 10 year niece. I couldn’t do much with her if it meant getting off the couch. I realized that I was setting a very bad example for my nieces and nephew. I didn’t want them to see me dying on that couch. My health had started to deteriorate lately from my blood pressure to having asthma. I had wasted so much time hiding in fear and I feel like I have this time clock that I need to beat. My fear is that I will die without doing what I was meant to do. I knew if I didn’t make some changes I would die before it was my time. So these factors also contributed to making a change. In December I had a cyst and have had an open wound since then. It’s been slow to heal because of my weight and that scared the crap out of me.

I started to be able to go outside to play with my niece. It was so rewarding and it gave me the courage to fight harder. Then once again I found myself in a situation where I had nowhere to go. I can’t explain the level of panic that goes through your body from having the ground fall from under your feet. I couldn’t endure that panic anymore. I had to do something about it. I finally realized that I deserved so much better. I was unwilling to tolerate anything bad. Since October of last year I realized that I needed to be hospitalized to get my mental health on check but I had put it off due to fear of being confined to a hospital and what it meant after I left… living in a homeless shelter. So I put it off until I couldn’t handle it anymore.

I had no choice but to take the leap I had been avoiding. I checked myself into the hospital and spent two weeks in a psychiatric program. One of the reasons that I wanted to make a change was that I missed being around people and doing fun things. I would see people share pictures and stories on Facebook about the fun things they were having with their friends. I wasn’t having any of that. I longed for friends again. Sure I had friends all over the country but no one in person to really spend time with.

Being hospitalized isn’t fun let alone being in a psych ward. You are stuck, with no way out. All the doors off the floor are locked, even the elevator you had to use a key card to operate. You are surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t know, some who have severe mental illness. One day I was awoken to the woman next to my room screaming at the top of her lungs. Each sentence made no sense and it was like she was talking to a room full of people. She was loud and violent. This went on for a good hour. Later that day she was talking like she was the devil and ended up having to be subdued and sent to the other side of psych ward for the worse cases. Another patient was extremely abrasive and confrontational. So much so that he had to have a tech with him at all times as he was unpredictable. I avoided him like the plague. He treated other patients horribly usually those who couldn’t stand up for themselves.

Overall most of the patients were amazing. It really opened my eyes about the world. It wasn’t my first time in a psych hospital. It was my fifth time. Each time was just as scary as the first. The last major hospitalization was in 2014 when I was living in Chicago. During that time I met a lot of wonderful people who I became friends with afterwards. A few I’m still friends with.

This time was no different. I really feel that I was meant to be at this hospital. Originally I wanted to go to another hospital that my therapist recommended but they wouldn’t take me because of my weight, which just added to shame of my weight. It’s so humiliating to be told that you’re too fat to be admitted to a hospital. Even the place I ended up had to give me a hospital bed because my weight. In the past, this would have led me into a spiral out of control but this time that didn’t happen. It just added fuel to the fire to fight. I kept drinking water and made sure to go to all the groups. It was the first time that I wanted the help because I realized I deserved to heal.

By the second week there was a small group formed. We spent many nights playing games and talking. It was like our own breakfast club. It was amazing. What was most amazing about the experience is I finally felt accepted for who I am inside, a transgender woman. About six months ago I came to the realization that I was trans. I had worked hard with my therapist to become more comfortable in my skin. Prior to being homeless I had decided to change my name to Drew and I had started to tell people.

One thing I struggled with was how I could have gone 41 years and not have known that I was trans. Looking back I now know there were many signs. I had always said that inside I was a woman with a male body. I had thought that was because I was a gay male but recently I realized that it was much deeper than sexual orientation. Working on my comic book Dragzilla, the story of a drag queen superhero who fights high kicks one high kick at a time, helped me to discover that I was trans. I had created this character not realizing that I was Dragzilla and the stories I were writing were my own. Dragzilla not only gave me purpose but she saved me… I saved me…

At first I wasn’t going to say anything about being trans in the hospital because of fear. I was afraid of how others would respond, especially patients. There is a lot of ignorance out there and I have seen how many treat trans people. I was put in a room with four men and something didn’t feel right. I was going to stay silent but I started to look at my hospital band and it listed me as a male. It got to a point where that m became so large and loud that I had to tell my doctor. You would think that we live in a time where medical professionals would be educated and empathic to being trans but that’s not the reality. So I was nervous. My last therapist made transphobic comments before I realized that I was trans. I stopped seeing her after that and now I have a wonderful therapist who has helped me embrace my transness.

The doctor right away asked if it would be okay if I got my own room. The staff also started to use female pronouns. They even asked if I had another name that I wanted to be called. I said yes but that I wasn’t ready to go by Drew because it would confuse the patients and I wasn’t sure I was ready for the rejection. It was until I realized once again I was living in fear of what others thought about me. I was changing who I am because of others so I told the staff that I wanted to be called Drew. I even changed the name on my door to Drew. I started to tell patients that I trusted, the breakfast club. They accepted me fully and I felt like I was on cloud nine. The first person embraced me from the start, she was amazing and totally fabulous. It was because of her that gave me the strength to start talking about being transgender openly. Everyone was so supportive and accepting.

All my life I have felt like no one saw me for who I really am. This was the first time that I was being seen for the fabulous, beautiful person I am. I finally was embracing who I was both inside and out. I didn’t have to hide anymore. I was free.

I really feel like the hospital prepared me for living in a homeless shelter. The hospital forced me to interact with strangers and be able to tolerate an uncomfortable situation. I was also walking a lot more, which definitely has made a difference being homeless. I have to walk everywhere. On Monday, I had to walk a mile to get to a place to spend the day, as the buses were closed due to the holiday. A month ago I couldn’t even go a few hundred feet.

The difference today is that I’m forced to walk because I have to take the bus if I want to do anything and staying in the day shelter all my time would drive me crazy. There is no comfort at all. It’s basically folding chairs and a room. Plus people are loud and there is only a few desks. My big issue with being homeless (outside of safety) is finding things to do during the day. You need to leave the night shelter by 7am and you’re not able to come back until 6pm. So that’s a lot of time to fill, especially in this heat.

When I first started walking before I was homeless it was controlled. I could choose how far and would stop when I was tired. Now I don’t have a choice and I am not able to take breaks like I did in the past. Previously I could take a day break to allow my body to rest. Lately I’ve pushed my body so far it’s tough to walk a few blocks. I hate that feeling you get when you are so exhausted and sore that you start to panic. It feels like a million miles away until you can rest. I can’t do this is a common thought. Though I push through, stopping as often as I need. The heat doesn’t help matters either.

I get so frustrated. I’m at the point where I want to do so much more than I can. I would like to be able to walk as far as I want without any pain or discomfort. I’m having to push through in order to leave the shelter today and it’s tough. Like today I wasn’t going to leave the day shelter because I had an appointment at 11am but the kitchen wasn’t really stocked. They had cereal but no milk. Yogurt but no spoons. Stale donuts and that was it. So I didn’t eat this morning. I wasn’t going to leave because my body needed a rest. I’m having trouble walking very far because of my thighs, they hurt when I move. I had two hours to kill before my appointment and I was starving. There is a Burger King a few blocks away and I dreaded the walk knowing how hard it would be and it was. There is such a sense of relief when you make it to your destination. BK even had lounge chairs so I got a cheap meal and relaxed for an hour. Thankfully there was a store across the street where I bought some Motrin and that helped get me home, which was a struggle.

The conditions of the day shelter are very minimal. I have been leaving each but tried to stay there after my appointment was done as I didn’t think I had the strength to do the walking needed to go to the library. That was until people again were being unbearable and I just had to leave. It was either my santity or my body and this time my sanity was the priority. If it hadn’t been for the Motrin I wouldn’t have been able to walk the four blocks needed. I’ve started to have charley horses and those are horrible. I hope my body holds on long enough until I can get through this patch.

It’s almost been a week of living in the homeless shelter and it definitely isn’t easy. It’s not as scary as I thought but it’s pretty miserable. You learn to go without many things and one big one is comfort. When you are with a home of your own you take for granted the luxuries given like a comfy couch, your own shower and being able to cook in your own kitchen. When you are homeless there are no comfy couches where you can watch tv from. There is no privacy when you take a shower and you have no control over the kitchen where you live.

I hear all the time that being homeless is a choice. That those living in shelters do so because they want to. Some would like to make it out to be this fun, luxurious lifestyle when that couldn’t be further from the truth. You go without a lot. The soup kitchens have very basic food and it’s very much like prison food. A prime example was today for breakfast as I already stated, this is nothing new. The shelter is understaffed and funded so they do what they can. Often times I skip the meals because there is nothing I will eat. They usually have lots of granola bars, sometimes sweets but not very much in terms of substance that will fill you up and keep you satisfied. A lot of times I stay hungry. Then I will splurge and buy fast food. I won’t be able to do that often on my minimal income I get from state disability of $200 a month. I’m already low on funds.

Being MTF trans I was hoping that the homeless shelter would be able to accomodate me by not being around men but that didn’t happen. Thankfully I have really started to transition, other than growing out my hair. So I can kind of blend in but it’s still tough. They acted like I could get seperate show time and that didn’t happen either. So I’m doing what I have to in order to survive. At first I worried about using the shower around men but now I just don’t care. I get in and out as fast as I can. I don’t have the energy to worry about it. I have enough on my plate already. This shelter does have seperate rooms so that helps. I still have to share it with a man but it could be a lot worse like the other shelters it’s all open bedding. So I’m looking at the blessings.

Some might see this as me not being grateful but that’s not true. I’m thankful for what I have but I believe it’s important that the general public is educated to know what it’s like both in removing the stigma and getting the help that the shelters and homeless need.

Like I said the biggest challenge is finding places to go during the day. Thankfully the library is close and I can get on their computers 3 hours a day. I can also use their table’s to work on my comic book. Though on weekends I have no choice but to go to the hospital cafeteria. One thing I have noticed is craving a regular life, having a purpose. Surviving isn’t a great purpose. Yes, I have my comic book but the homeless life leaves you with tunnel vision. Today I just couldn’t take being in the shelter and I bolted out the doors. I keep hoping that someone I know in the area will invite me over to hang out but that hasn’t happened. I have even put out hints on Facebook with no luck. Even with going to public places there is no privacy or a way to relax. There is no alone time. It’s one thing to be having fun with your friends it’s another thing to be out by yourself trying to relax.

I crave for connection but am very careful as I don’t know who to trust. Many people at the shelter keep to themselves. There are definitely groups that stick together and they’re usually loud and unpredictable. People are suspicious and that’s to be expected. There are all types here at the shelter and sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference. I hear people talk about being on parole and others just talking nonsense, and it makes me really nervous. Safety is a huge issue with being homeless. People are desperate and some are willing whatever they have to in order to get by. Sometimes people are just greedy. For example, at the kitchen the other day they had maybe 10 small cartons of chocolate milk. One woman got three and she tried to get a fourth.

The other day I ran into this woman in line for the kitchen. I almost wasn’t even going to go down to the kitchen but I thought I would see what they were having. MK was her name. She had short hair with a pink bow in it. She was wearing a tutu like shirt with some cute pattern on it. It was in the high 80’s and she had a faux fur scarf on. She was a mix of Hello Kitty and a club kid. I knew right away I was going to like her before I started talking to her. Once in a while they will have something substantial in regards to food. This time they had scraps of ham. I will admit that I’m rather picky and don’t like things like salad, etc… which is usually what they have. So whenever they have meat like this it’s a treat. For me, whenever I get something like that I will gobble it up like I haven’t eaten in weeks. I got a plate and started to sit down. At first I wasn’t going to sit next to her out of shyness but today I decided to sit down next to her.

Her personality matched her appearance. She was bubbly and full of life. MK reminded me a cross between Hello Kitty and a club kid. Her voice reminded me of Shirley Temple or Betty Boop. She was adorable and fabulous. It was very interesting sitting and talking to her. She noticed that I drank Crystal Light and started to give me tips on mixing different flavors. I told her that I was  trying to be more healthy and she said that she was diabetic so she understood. MK’s boyfriend was just as interesting. He had a goth look to him with face tattoos and piercings. His name was Kraven or something like that. They both live on the streets, I think in the woods. Both were in their early 20’s. MK talked about loving to cook and missing the ability to do so. It’s interesting to talk to the homeless and hear about their lives before. I hope to run into them again as they were interesting to talk to and was my first real connection with someone on the streets. Most people I can’t relate to because no one is as flamboyant as I am. MK was unique and special. I felt like I could be myself with her and I knew she wouldn’t judge me. That’s something I don’t get with the rest of the homeless population. I keep my transness to myself for the most part. I still wear my headband so I’m able to embrace who I am in a small way.

The last few days I have been feeling a bit down because the reality has set in. That this will be my life for a while. Just repeating day after day. Having to leave at 7am each morning and having to find a place to stay. A lot of the times I feel so alone and I cope with it the best I can. It still catches up to me occasionally. Lately I keep wanting to call my Mom. It’s the thought, I should call my Mom she will make feel better but then I realize that I can’t and that makes me sad. I had a dream last night about her where she died all over again. Usually there is a moment where she dies and comes back to life, only to die all over again. I feel those moments of grief all over again. It’s just as intense when it first happened in 2012. The rest of the day I’m left with this aching sorrow.

My Mom was the one person I had. Our relationship was complicated at times but I knew that she loved me. She was always there for me. I no longer have this relationship. The struggle with living with a mental illness is often times you isolate yourself. You get into your head that you don’t deserve love. So you push people away or you get your life so far off track that you find yourself with no friends. For me, I moved away from all my friends and a life I loved because I self destructed. Deep down inside I didn’t believe that I deserved all this love and support. I have struggled ever since.

After my Mom died, I went inward. I was living in a small city with little money and no car. Making friends was almost impossible especially if I wanted someone LGBTQ. I went almost five years of talking to very few people. I became almost a hermit. For weeks my therapist was really the only person I would talk to, at least in detail. If it weren’t for my visits with my niece I probably wouldn’t have any other substantial connection. The longer you isolate the harder it is to come out of it. I would have moments where I tried to venture out into the world but it always led to me getting spooked and I would head back down to the rabbit hole. When you are homeless you don’t have a hole to hide in, well I guess you could find a place in the woods but I don’t have what it takes for that.

Now that I’ve awoken I have this sense of urgency of needing to get my life together. Recently my health has deteriorated and it has scared me senseless. I have wasted too much time living in fear and hiding. There are no guarantees and I don’t want to die without leaving something behind. Now that I’m taking better care of my body it feels great. The upside of being homeless is the walking and that’s helping me to lose weight. I just have to get past this phase of pain. I went from not moving at all to walking daily at least a mile. Before May my days consisted of waking up in the couch I slept in and watching tv. Only getting up to eat and use the bathroom. So it’s definitely been a major adjustment. The motrin is definitely helping. Today it was easier to walk, though I was still in pain and discomfort. My biggest issue is my lower back because I carry a backpack. I’ve tried to lighten the load as much as possible but it’s still pretty heavy because I carry supplies for comic book. Eventually I will be able to walk with ease and be able to go longer distances. I can’t wait for that day.

Next week I can file for section 8 housing. You have to be homeless for 14 days before you can be put on the waitlist. The only way to get on the waitlist these days is to be homeless. The waitlist hasn’t been open to the public in years. I’ve checked off and on for five years and I haven’t seen it open once. Even with being homeless it can take anywhere from three months to a year to get your voucher. Once you have the voucher you can live anywhere in your county that takes the voucher and then you pay 30% of your income. A few people in the shelter had recently received theirs and both had to wait six months. So it could be a long haul for me. I’m struggling one week in and can’t imagine what I will be like in six months. I just hope that it doesn’t take this long.

There are a few complexes that are project based near the shelter, that have seperate waitlists. One in particular has had a lot of crime there. The local news station did a report about the crime a year ago. So that’s a concern of mine. I almost rather wait it out until I can get a voucher, so then I can choose where I live. There is an apartment complex that I applied for in early May that is promising. It’s in a fairly nice part of the city. The only issue is I need to find a doctor who will say that I’m disabled. My primary care physician isn’t able to sign it because of the health department. It’s against their policies to get involved. Ideally a psychiatrist would be able to fill out the HUD form but I can’t find one who takes Medicaid for my county.

This speaks volumes to our current system. So many people who are homeless have some sort of mental illness but because resources are slim people find themselves in bad shape. If you don’t treat mental illness it can cycle into other types of mental illness like psychosis. Many of the homeless are veterans who have PTSD. What is sad that my Community Mental Health (Lansing) covers three counties and their services are pitiful. You can only see their psychiatrists if you have what they consider a more serious mental illness like schizophrenia. They can afford a new four story building but they can’t offer psychiatry care to those with Medicaid. For someone with mental illness being seen by a psychiatrist is extremely important as you need the medicine management. I’m forced to get my medicine managed by my pcp, who is not equipped to properly adjust my medicine based off my needs. So I just get by. I have to be hospitalized in order to get my medicine back on track, when they start to not help me. It’s sad that is what it takes to get healthier.

People think that there is all this help for those who are poor but honestly there isn’t. The resources out there are maxed out. Most think if you become homeless that you can get help right away. That’s not the case. There is no offense in homelessness, only defense. I could very well be living in a homeless shelter for a good year and that’s no way to live but you must do whatever you have to survive.

All the shelters have time limits. The one I’m in now has a time limit of 30 days. It’s possible to get an extension but it’s minimal. So that means jumping from one shelter to the next. For me, that’s even more problematic because at least the one I’m at is more secure and safe being FTM transgender. The other shelters are open dorms with hundreds of bed all next to each other. There is a city mission that you can stay for 90 days but there is no where to hold your stuff so what you have you must carry around. Currently I can leave most of my stuff in my room and it’s for the most part secure as no one is allowed upstairs during day time hours. I just hope they can accommodate me for being trans because otherwise my life will get even more hectic.

On weekends there is no day shelter where I stay, nor is the kitchen open. So you must find alternative places to stay and eat. Which I usually do anyways but there is something about not having the day shelter that makes me feel panicky. I guess as basic as it is I know that it’s there. There’s this fear when you are out in public that you will be asked to leave because you’re seen as loitering. Even at the library I fear if I stay too long they will confront me and tell me to leave. This is especially true on Sundays when I usually go to the hospital cafeteria because the library is only open for a short period of time. I use my privilege to my benefit and know that there are some people who don’t have that luxury. Sometimes it’s easy to tell if someone is homeless. The problem with the length of time it takes to get housing is when people start to deteriorate. Six months down the road I’m sure I won’t look as put together as I am just one week in being homeless. Right now I carry most of my life in a bookbag and I can make myself look like a student but eventually people will notice if I come to a public place too often.

These are all the things that run through my head. Some are just in my head and others are real dangers/fears. I have days where I feel good and being homeless doesn’t feel as scary but then others where it just gets to me. Overall I am handing it pretty well. Recently I had a friend who messaged me about me being through a rough patch and at first I thought what rough patch. At first being homeless felt like the scariest thing ever but once I faced it the truth was it wasn’t scary at all. I mean at times it is but overall it’s just annoying and uncomfortable. Of all the things I have endured in my life enduring homelessness is minimal compared to the pain I faced in the past. I was able to survive my Mom dying, so this is nothing. Once I was able to move past the pain and grief of losing my Mom then nothing else will ever hurt me again, at least to that level of pain.

I don’t have time or energy to worry about stupid shit anymore. Like whether someone wants to be in my life or not. I use to let something like destroy me but now I just don’t have the time to hurt over it. I’m too busy trying to figure out how I’m going to eat or sleep, or just staying safe being on the streets. Figuring out how I will do my laundry and make it so I’m not dirty. I’m just trying to survive.

I have this new sense of strength. My will power has always been a struggle but lately it’s like the energizer bunny. I know where I’m going is so much better than were I have been. I’m finally learning to love and accept myself. I just have no more fucks to give and the few left over I’m shedding one by one. Others can judge me all they want. As RuPaul says, that’s not business. One day I will look back at this time as test of my strength. It will be proof that I can tackle any problem. That nothing is too big or scary for me to overcome. You can’t get much lower than living on the streets. I guess that’s part of where my resolve comes from. There’s great power in realizing that no one can kick you further down than already. Often times it was from your own doing.

For over ten years I have tolerated horrible things. I felt like I was less than and built a life where I was a pitiful, useless person. This was especially true the last five years. Losing my Mom knocked me to the ground and I stopped trying to get back up. So I accepted the fact that I was going to stay on the ground until I died. I stopped believing that I could get up. I also thought I deserved to be on the floor. The thing about misery is that you can only handle so much before something is done. You either end it all or you start fighting. This time I was closer than ever to giving it up but I had this mustard seed of fight left in me and as I pushed myself more the bigger I realized it was. Now I realize that my strength was always ginormous it was just covered by a ton of trash. These experiences are only adding to my strength and brilliance.

I can do anything I set my mind to. I deserve great things and will make them happen. You don’t realize how important independence is to your health until you lose it. That’s the difference about today is that I’m finally living life on my terms and I’m determined to do whatever it takes to take back my independence. I crave for the stability that comes with independence. I know some people in my life have judged me for my life choices, like going for disability but the thing is they haven’t had to endure the things I have had in life. They’ve not had to walk in my shows. They’ve also not been able to have the knowledge and experience of the twenty years of my adult life. They don’t see the patterns and broken record that I have been on. The years of instability due to my mental illness. I recently counted up the number times I have moved since 2016 and it was over 20 times. Most of them were similar situations like I am today but back then I had the strength to move to another city or state. I no longer can live that way.

I’m finally taking both my physical and mental health serious. I’m treating my depression, anxiety and PTSD like Diabetes. I know realize that I must manage my systems until I die. That means taking medicine and being in therapy for the rest of my life. A big part of why I can endure what I am today is from taking care of myself. I have always been horrible at doing that. Since 2013, I have been on medicine and in therapy. I have never stuck to anything that long. This is a huge accomplishment for me. It’s been five years that I have stuck to treatment and the only other time was a year and a half back in 2004. I use to wait for other people to validate both the pain and progress. Whenever I didn’t get that it would send me spirally back into the grief and sorrow. Now I realize that the only person I need it from is myself.

You will wait a lifetime for other people to treat you the way you deserve. I’ve learned you can’t make anyone like or love you. Either they do or they don’t. You shouldn’t have to convince people to be in your life. If you do what kind of relationship is that anyways? I want people in my life who embrace who I am and realize that I am a treasure. Friends who make an effort to be in my life and enjoy my company just as much as I enjoy theirs. I miss playing board games and laughing. Going out to dinner with friends and talking about life. Seeing the latest sci-fi/fantasy movie in the theater. Having small get togethers at my place, where I cook for others. I want the life I have always dreamed of but was too afraid to make it happen.

I’m going to embrace the gifts the universe has gave me and fulfill the legacy I was meant to achieve. I will make Dragzilla a success. I hope that she can save others like she did me. I really feel like that is something I was meant to do. I believe in my idea fully and feel it’s something that the world needs to hear. We still live in a world where this a lot of hate, especially towards those who are LGBTQ+. So many queer people don’t have anyone to look up to, many of them children. I know what it’s like to be treated less than because of who you are inside. That kind of trauma eats away at your soul. Growing up I didn’t have many people to look up to. So I turned to Superman and Wonder Woman. I know that Dragzilla has that power as well. Actually I do. A while ago I realized that I was Dragzilla. The stories I was telling were my own. I’m the superhero of my story.

I’m not powerless. I’m powerful. It’s the struggles and hardships that define my character. The trials and tribulations I endure are not flaws, they are strengths. These hardships and experiences have made me into the beautifully fabulous person I am today. My light is shining as bright as ever and I will no longer dim it because of the fears and wishes of others. It’s not helping anyone to be hiding my light. Overcoming homelessness will be just another part of my story. It will be a testament to my strength and resilience. So whatever life brings me I will persevere. I will persist regardless the size or strength the opponent is. I realize now that I can handle anything.

The following quote sums this all up.

Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

 

Wait, what? There is Another Option for Gender???

Growing up there were only two options for gender. I had the parts for a boy, so I was sorted into that category. My identity did not match my birth gender so obviously I didn’t in. Actually I stuck out as sore thumb.I would always tell people that inside I felt like a woman. Looking back I always thought it was because I was a gay boy. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that I never really fit into the gay community either.

I tried hard to fit in and it always made me feel horrible. I was constantly judged for my size. To most gay men a fat person is a leper. When I found the bear community I thought at least I found the place to fit in and I couldn’t be more wrong. Toxic masculinity is rampant in the bear world where everything is hypersexualized. Where the bears are real men. No fats or fems allowed. I suppress my femininity for a long while, especially around those in the bear community. I hid behind this masculine facade. It was all an illusion. I fit the type. I was a big, hairy and bearded. My outside didn’t match my insides. I felt less because I was comparing myself to others. I didn’t have another example to go by.

The toxic masculinity ran so deep that I was oblivious to it for a very long time. I first started to chip away at that during 2010 when I performed in drag. When I looked in the mirror for the first time I was amazed. I felt like I was looking at myself for the first. It was the first time I felt beautiful. I was totally fabulous, all dolled up. My outside finally matched who I was inside. These feelings quickly subsided as my life didn’t warrant embracing that side of me. I didn’t have a word for it, nor did I know what I meant. I was in an abusive relationship at the time and that took priority having to deal with the aftermath of moving out of state away from him. I did what I have done in the past and went back into hiding. It became just another memory of my past.

After a while I gave up trying to be that person everyone wanted me to be. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had pretended to be someone else for too long and I was fed up. So I embraced my fabulousness and my femininity. Without thinking what it meant I started to identify as queer a few years ago. Even with that I didn’t realize it went deeper than the label of describing my sexual orientation, that it was related to my gender. Like I said for the longest time I didn’t have anyone to compare myself too that was like me.

That was until the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I started to notice the queens who embraced that side of them. They didn’t try to wrap themselves up in that mold. They just lived freely and were no holds barred fabulous! Queens like Jinkx Monsoon who didn’t try to be anyone but themselves. Jinkx after her time on RPDR would come out to be non-binary. Even then I didn’t connect it to my gender. I didn’t realize I was looking at myself.

It wasn’t until recently when I started to work on my comic book Dragzilla that I started to open up. Slowly the layers started to peel away. I had always had some sort of facial hair. I haven’t been clean shaven since my early twenties. I didn’t realize that I was hiding behind my beard. It was until last year that I realized that I didn’t even like my beard. I started to embrace Dragzilla and the lines between fiction and real life started to blur. Dragzilla is the story of fierce drag queen superhero who stands up against hate crimes while her alter ego is shy and insecure. I realized that I was telling my story. Dragzilla is who I am. Who I am becoming.

It took me a while to see the writing on the wall or in this case the pages of the comic. I remember going into therapy with a word that I was struggling with. I was scared to say Transgender. Was I transgender? That was the only other option that I saw. If my body didn’t match my insides then it was natural to question it. I had very little to go by and what I did see was Transgender people. I was really confused for a while and I still am a bit. It took a few months then it dawned on me that there was a fourth option. It was then I realized that my queerness related to my gender, that I was genderqueer/non-binary. It was a huge revelation. No wonder I hated myself for most of my life. I have never felt like I could be myself. I had always felt like I was a freak who never fit in anywhere.

I remember Courtney Act (a fierce, fish of a queen) talk about gender being a spectrum and I really related to that. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how true that was. I’ve started growing out my hair, which is also new for me. A few weeks ago I had went to the grocery store and put my hair up. I don’t think I have ever felt that free. It was an amazing feeling. I wish that it lasted. While I have this new discovery I have forty years of falsehoods to shake free. I wish it were just as easy as transforming myself like a butterfly from a cocoon but unfortunately live doesn’t work that way. The transformation is much more gradual.

Today in therapy I talked about how I felt the old me was holding me back. I had recently decided to change my name to Drew. At first it felt great when I changed my name on Facebook but very quickly I started to feel less because I started to think about what others would think. That’s the problem. I care too much what others think of me. I hate it. That’s something I really wish I could let go of. I have come a long ways but I still have ways to go. I use to let it stop me from doing what I wanted. Now I say fuck it and do it anyways but deep down inside I’m afraid of being judged. It’s not just my gender that I do this. I live in fear. I’m disabled and on food stamps. I hate when I have to use my card. I try to hide it the best I can because it’s always my fear that someone will confront me as I look like an abled-bodied person. This is just one example.

I’ve had a bit of buyers remorse which isn’t nothing new. I have done that most of my life. The closer I was to who I was inside the more I tried to fight it. I have mastered self destruction. The difference now is that I’m in therapy and have a therapist I love. I’m able to process it deeply and look at it in a different way. I feel a bit of tug and war. My old self is trying hard to pull the new me under. The stronger I get the harder it becomes. I have days I feel like I can embrace Drew and then there are days Derek takes hold of me. I haved lived 41 years falsely as a man and that caused a lot of damage. It’s created a lot of baggage that I must dust off, pick up and throw away. One piece of luggage at a time. The days will pass when I have more days where I embrace non-binary than not. The key is to not beat myself up, which I do a lot. To be easy with myself. To expect that there will be days where the process is messy and difficult. I wish it were just as easy as putting on a wig and makeup. While that’s a start I have to work from the inside out if this will ever stick.

It starts slowly like a ripple in the water. I want to buy a safety razor so I can start shaving regularly. That will be a big step as having a beard isn’t me. I’m starting of think of new ways of embracing all parts of me. I’m learning to be comfortable with who I really am and part of that is expressing myself on the exterior. I’m excited about growing my hair out to the point of frustration because it’s taking to long to grow out. Hopefully the exterior and interior will be welded together. As I get more comfortable inside it’s easier for me to embrace it to the world. I had the thought today as I was leaving the grocery store about what would happen if I wore a dress. I went right to fear of someone saying something nasty to me. I just need to let that go. If someone has the nerve to come up to me with judgments expect to be knocked to the ground. I just need to embrace the strength of Dragzilla. Just live my life as I want and not care what anyone else thinks. So what if someone judges me, they will do it regardless. As RuPaul says, it’s not my business. I don’t have time for them. I’m too busy being fabulous.

I just need to enjoy the ride. I hope that everything fades away and I can start loving myself. I’m inpatient. I want to attach my cocoon to a stick and whip it all around. The butterfly will never emerge that way. The metamorphosis is gradual and natural. All in due time. The transformation is a journey and a process. Eventually I will fully shed my male skin and it will just be another memory in the past.

It’s Not My Fault

Today in therapy I had the realization that, after thirty years, I still blame myself for being sexually abused. Behind that blame is a lot of shame. While I knew there were still part of that blame still within me I didn’t know how deep and raw it was. I also didn’t realize how much remained after all these years. The last time I worked on blaming myself was in 2004. I spent almost two years working hard on the trauma. Prior to that time I had never really dealt with the abuse. During that time guilt and blame was something that I dealt with in length. I thought I had moved past it but I couldn’t be more wrong.

There were certainly signs but it wasn’t something on my radar.  Lately I’ve struggled with flashbacks. I haven’t been able to hide from the abuse. Each year my Mom’s family would go on vacation up north in Michigan together. Usually that meant sharing a cabin with my Grandmother who raised my cousin. I can close my eyes and i’m in the cabin where I was abused at. I can feel the walls of the room. The couch I slept on each night after my abuser took what he wanted from me. The shower where I couldn’t wash the shame. The band that was playing next door. I vividly remember it all. My memory is horrible but that week is crystal clear. I remember and can feel the guilt and shame… the fear of not knowing what had happened but knowing it was wrong.

Walking up to my parents door, ready to knock, to tell them what happened but turning away when I feared that they wouldn’t believe me. Not knowing how I would tell them that my male cousin had just sexually abused me. Instead I turned to that aqua blue couch with the old fashioned cloth. I can feel the patterns and how uncomfortable the couch was. I remember waking up in a panic early in the morning fearing that my family would question why I wasn’t sleeping with my cousin. How could I tell my parents that I didn’t want to sleep in the same bed? So I went back into the lion’s den and waited for my cousin to get up. The next night I thought maybe it won’t happen again but it did. I would wait for it to happen… and then wait for him to go asleep… I would shower and sleep on the couch until the sun came up. Somehow I knew when to wake up. For the next week I repeated this pattern.

You are probably wondering how any victim could blame themselves and unless it happens to you it will seem illogical. My brain knows it wasn’t my fault but the other parts don’t. Guilt is a common occurrence for sexual abuse victims. It’s even more complicated when you are gay and your abuser is a male. Abuse is welded into pleasure and self-worth at an early age. When you reinforce these early beliefs for decades it becomes extremely difficult to pull apart that spider web.

It was during puberty that I became an object and my adult years confirmed that to be true. When I was abused I didn’t even know what sex was. I use to think that a woman got pregnant by touching feet with a man. That gives you an idea the frame of mind that I was in. My sexuality from the start was tainted. The abuse was the only thing I had to go by. I didn’t get to go through the typical thing teenage boys do. When something painful becomes pleasurable it becomes a vicious cycle. That’s where the guilt and shame stems from. If you find it pleasurable then you must have wanted that. Society does a good job of victim shaming. My family did when I finally told them eight years later. If enough people repeat these message then eventually sinks in. I was right to not trust my family the first night, which just made me feel even worse. Though I will say my Mom was different. She never doubted me and supported me fully. The rest of the family, including my father, were different.

My cousin was the star of the family. I was the black sheep. For eight years I held this dark secret and was forced to see my abuser often as he lived down the street with my grandmother. I grew up believing my family didn’t love me because of how close they were with him. My father loved my cousin because he hunted and played sports. I did not. I wasn’t worthy of his attention or affection. My grandmother didn’t drive which meant my Mom had to drive him everywhere he wanted. It killed me to watch and not be able to tell him. Many nights I cried myself to sleep.

The day after I told my father that I was abused he went hunting with my abuser. When he found out that I was upset he told me that I had to forgive and forget. All of this just furthered the dialogue that I deserved what happened.

This might sound fucked up but my cousin was my first love interest. I was groomed to fall in love with him. I didn’t ask for it. He took my heart. When he was done with me I was left with rejection, shame and guilt.

I blame myself because I didn’t stop it. That’s the problem with trauma from your childhood, it stunts your growth. So while my body and mind grew up the hurt part of me didn’t. Inside of me is that ten year old boy. So while I can verbalize it’s not my fault to my therapist, I don’t believe it.

I don’t want to believe it. I wish I didn’t. That belief has affected every aspect of my life. When good things happen to me I believe I don’t deserve them so I run away from them. My two years in Chicago were some of the best days of my life. I had my own place and a good job with benefits. I had the most friends that I had ever had. I was involved with the LGBTQ community. I had all of this and it wasn’t enough. I didn’t deserve these wonderful things so I self destructed. No amount of therapy could stop that and I had an absolutely wonderful therapist. I didn’t deserve her either. I tried really hard to be a productive citizen who didn’t have a mental illness and I failed miserably.  While my time in Chicago was some of the best times it was also some of the worst. I was hospitalized twice. I had never stuck with any job longer than a year. My job in Chicago lasted 1.5 years but I was on short term disability twice. Life became too much and I returned back to the only thing I ever known.

I was groomed into accepting the bad as the truth. The darkness is comfortable. It’s all I have known. What will it take to overcome these beliefs? I’m not sure. There is a part of me that wishes I could just put the lid back on pandora’s box and pretend like nothing is wrong. Unfortunately that’s not possible. Once the abuse is out in the open it takes a long while to process. The flashbacks are troubling and I can’t control them. I wish I could deal with the trauma without them. It’s not as easy as wishing them away. It’s not a thought that you can make go away. A flashback is so much more than a thought, it’s an experience that uses all the senses. Very quickly you are transported back to that time. Every door you open leads you back into that room.

Others might think that I’m falling apart but honestly I’m doing great considering what I’m going through. In the past this type of awareness would have meant hospitalization. So far I haven’t had to go. I certainly have had moments where I was close to that but I have been able stabilize myself. I don’t think I have had this level of awareness. What makes this time different?

I think for starters I have stopped comparing myself to others. At least to the point where it prevents me from moving forward. I’ve stopped trying the person that others needed me to be. I will never be the typical person who works full-time. I have tried that for the last twenty years and I have failed every time I tried. I have started to take my mental illness serious for the disease that it is. I must manage the symptoms like someone with Diabetes. Each time in the past when I would try to work full-time I would crash into a downward spiral of depression. Workplaces only allow so many sick days before you’re fired. They don’t understand that with PTSD that there are just some days you can’t be convinced to leave your house. Each job that I lost would cause me to lose my insurance and housing. The instability of the last twenty years has also contributed to the deterioration of my mental health.

So what is different about where I’m at today? For starters I have medicaid which allows me to receive continued treatment. I won’t lose this for not working. I know that many people won’t understand my decision to go for SSI disability but they’ve not had to live my life or endure what I have. I’m trying really hard to break the cycle. Going back to work would be a short term solution that would end with me quitting from a nervous breakdown. The next one could be my last and I can’t risk that. If I lose my insurance then I was certainly have another breakdown.

I’ve been in therapy since 2013 and have been on medicine since then as well. This is huge for me. I have never stuck anything out like this. It’s honestly my lifeline. Being on SSI disability will allow me to become more healthy. I won’t have to worry about losing my healthcare (that’s if Trump and the GOP doesn’t take it) from not being able to work. No matter what I know that I can go to therapy and get my medicine. Those two constants have become my stability. SSI will just add one more aspect. I’ve never had stability. Honestly I don’t think I have ever been this stable emotionally.

I have a therapist now that I really like and trust. I have seen various therapists the last four years and this is the first time I have been able to trust someone enough to talk about the sexual abuse in length. Today’s session was tough and I was able to get through it to the point it did put me in dangerous water. So that’s definitely progress.

My stability has allowed me to open up more about the trauma. Being able to recognize that I still blame myself is huge. I just need to continue what I’m doing. Keep moving forward. My therapist in Chicago told me that healing is like an onion, there are many layers. I really feel that I have hit the core or at the very least really close. As tough as it is to be aware of the abuse and the trauma it’s allowing me to heal.

I am able to verbalize that it’s not my fault. A month ago I didn’t even realize that I still blamed myself. Awareness is half the battle and I’m one step closer to believing that I deserve good things. I will continue to process the trauma until I don’t have to anymore.

I was a boy. The responsibility is not mine to own. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want it. I was groomed. I deserve love, respect and happiness. I have to stop letting my cousin and others control my body and happiness. I’m not an object. I wasn’t meant to be used or have things taken from. For the very first time I’m taking care of myself and able to see things more clearly. It’s allowed me to have some difficult realizations about myself and admit that I never really stopped blaming myself for the abuse. This was a huge step today and hopefully will allow me to heal. I’m one day closer to believing that I didn’t deserve the abuse, that it’s not my fault. It never was.

It’s not my fault.

Please Rescue Me From My Homosexuality!

UPDATE: Take a moment and report her Facebook page as hate speech, including her posts. Maybe Facebook will remove her. Hate doesn’t belong on social media when so many children use it and will be affected by it.

https://www.facebook.com/theactivistmommy/

The other day a petition came across my Facebook feed about this woman who goes by the name Activist Mommy who has a facebook page where she spews her sugary coated hate. Her name really should be the Anti-Mommy or the Anti-Christ Mommy. Seems more fitting than to be labeled an activist. She’s also anti a lot of things including science, abortion, etc. She’s all things ridiculous.

I signed the petition and moved on. Then today I discovered the new rainbow reaction on Facebook and I thought I should find her page again to share some rainbows with her. There is something about trolling bigots posts with rainbows that tickles me. You won’t ever reach these kind of people and usually it’s best to just ignore them but sometimes you just gotta stand against that kind of hate. Kill them with rainbows, I mean kindness as they say.

Then I read her post about the Columbus Pride parade advertising that she was going to save some homosexuals by saying that she’s “looking forward to interviewing many of my homosexual friends in Columbus, Ohio.” In the post she further states that she’s going to interview and befriend all the homosexuals. I wonder if she will be like Kirk Cameron and bring a camera crew? She loves homosexuals and doesn’t care if she makes some enemies (from the people she says she will become friends with) that they need to hear the truth she thinks she’s speaking.

6days

This woman has mastered passive aggressiveness. Someone should give her a PhD in it. The Anti-Christ, I mean the Activist Mommy insists she loves us gays. I mean why else would she use the term homosexual to describe us? No ally in the history of queer allies has ever called their friends homosexual. Only people who feel uncomfortable by gay people or even worse are bigoted.

She doesn’t understand why she’s getting trolled with so much hate. All she’s trying to do is Jesus duty to save us from eternal damnation. I mean how could anyone think that had anything but a loving touch to it.

Anti-Mommy… gosh I’m having a hard time using Artistic Mommy… does the typical compare homosexuals to sex addicts, the fornicators, the adulterers, the porn addicts, etc.

We’re the petty, small-minded ones because we’re calling out her sugary bullshit. How dare we imply that she hates homosexuals. Why else would she troll us at the pride parade telling us what we need to hear.

Honestly I’d rather have someone call me a faggot to my face because at least they’re honest about it. They don’t hide behind a sugary coverup. You can pour a dumptruck full of sugar onto an ounce full of shit but you can smell the stank.

The stink they’re trying to cover up has nothing to do with homosexuality. It has everything to do with their own fears, insecurities and hate. To keep all of that negativity at bay they anchor themselves to a false idea of what God and Jesus is. The only way they will feel good about that choice is by convincing everyone else that their way is the right and only way.

I know all of this because I lived it for so many years. I grew up in a family full of people like this. People who felt it was their god given duty to save me. My father is one of these people. He’d go up to strangers telling them that they needed to accept Jesus Christ in their life or they’d go to hell. It didn’t matter the situation either. One time at a funeral he cornered my sister’s friend trying to save her.

That kind of hate destroys, including the sugary coated kind. I grew up hating myself because I was brainwashed in believing that I was going to hell for being gay. It almost destroyed me. You just don’t get over having your own father tell you over and over that you’re going to hell. While strangers and other family could escape his wrath, I couldn’t.

Children, teens and even adults kill themselves over this kind of hate. The age of Trump has brought out all the bigots. He is their king and now they feel even more justified in spreading their hate like shit on crackers. So I’m torn. I believe in free speech. I don’t know what the appropriate action is for someone like this lady. Ultimately she deserves love and she needs it. She’s lost and delusional. She has two young children and I can’t imagine what they’re having to endure.

Yes people like this are a dime a dozen. I think what upsets me about people like this isn’t about the hate they spread but the damage it does. I know countless people are enduring the pain I did. It breaks my heart that I can’t rescue them. They are the ones who need saving and I don’t mean by berating them.

Some will say to just ignore people like this and for the most part I do. There’s the argument that while her speech is vile it is still free speech. I believe in free speech but I also believe in standing up. If you’re going to spread your hate in a public forum expect that others will stand against you. There are consequences to hate. Now while I think speech should be speech that doesn’t mean I believe we should give them the stage like some universities have done for people like Ann Coulter or Milo what’s his name.

At what point does silence turn into acceptance and tolerance. When you stand up to people like this woman you’re standing up for those who can’t do it themselves. When she shares her sugary hate on social media it will eventually show up in the feeds of teens who are struggling and getting bullied. How many children have to die from bullying both from other children or adults before people wake up.

Did you know that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24? Here are some other facts about teen suicide.

• Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. [2]

• In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. [3]

• LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. [4]

• 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year. [5]

• Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average. [6]

So that’s where I draw the line. I refuse to sit by and let this hate destroy others. Having to grow up in this kind of hate doesn’t ever leave you. So while many survive these horrific situations they grow into adults who struggle greatly. It’s taken me twenty years to heal and I’m still processing layers.

I’ve struggled to cope as an adult. It was easier for me to literally escape from that hate including my father. All these years I knew the hate that was out there in this world. I didn’t need to look any farther than my own family. I thought I escaped it but in reality I’m still living in parts of that house still. I was reminded this the night that Trump took the election. I was devastated. I knew what was at stake and the lives that would be lost from his hate.

It was surreal seeing all the people go through what I did for so many years. People not realizing the kind of hate that’s out there. It’s one thing to know your family is filled for of bigots but it’s another thing to know there are millions of them. It almost scared me into the hospital from suicidal thoughts. It was this gigantic flashback.

For the next two months I was paralyzed by my fear. I wasn’t just reliving that night but all the nights from when I was a teen. I live in a rural area and I would find myself questioning (in my head) others who I would encounter in public. Is this someone who voted my rights away? If they find out I’m gay will they verbally chastise me or worse attack me? I’m 6ft, 400lbs and have a big beard and even I feared being found out. I didn’t hide like so many years, well after a while.

Another dangerous aspect of hate speech is that it’s usually attached to some belief of discrimination. It’s one thing to believe whatever you want to but another thing to vote away my rights… or take them away… or deny service to me… So hate speech is a double edged sword.

Most in our country were awoken to the level of hate out there in our world. There was some relief to that fact knowing that you weren’t alone. It’s so easy to think that is all that’s out there. When you grow up surrounded by hate you get tunnel vision. If the people who are suppose to protect you and become the ones who hurt you how else is a child supposed to know anything but that.

You get to a point where you don’t trust anyone. It’s this weird state of living between the world of a victim and survivor. Which is why something like gay pride is so important. There is safety in numbers. It’s not just to have a good time. I still to this day find myself weary in places where heterosexual men are like sports bars. Instantly I become that scared child having to endure my father’s hate. So it was just easier for me to stick with people I knew were open minded.

I saw time and again people posting about removing facebook friends because of Trump and his army of hate. I didn’t delete one person. I had weaned these kind of people out of my life long ago. Maybe I’m missing out by not being as open to different ideas but it’s how I stay safe. It’s easier said than done to be accepting of all ideas when those words are stones to you. I also don’t think it applies to ignorance or hate. People are literally scared for their life and many have died because of this hate. There are those of us who don’t have the luxury of taking these risks.

So I think there is nothing wrong with eliminating people in your life like this or limiting your time with them. Sometimes you have to love people from afar.

I’m a strong believer that good things can come from bad things. It can be extremely tough to see this, especially if you’re living it. After I got over the shock of Trump I started to see all the wonderful supportive people coming out of the woodworks. There were way more of the lovers, than the haters. Just recently I saw a picture of a pride section at the Kroger in a conservative small town. That’s progress. You don’t know what that does to a person who has grown up hating themselves. It’s a bright light in a dark world. To many it’s just cardboard and paper, and others an abomination.

I’ve always lived life with the philosophy of doing good. You can be the person who lifts someone up. I’ve always been open with my struggles. Some have questioned why I’ve shared so openly. I don’t do it for them. At the end of the day if my struggles can be a lighthouse to someone else I will feel better. If I can save one person I know my life will have been meant for more than all that hate, misery, tears, blood and pain.

I won’t lie I’ve not got my life figured out. It’s a lifelong battle. I’ve struggled with dark days of depression. I fight daily with these demons. People like the activist mommy are not my demons, nor do they affect me. I’ve given people like her power for so long. They’ve rented space in my mind for most of my life.

The activist mommy speaks of freedom. To read her posts and the comments supporting here reminds me just how free I am. That I can read her posts and not feel any pain. I’ve had a lot of practice and I still get caught up occasionally.

For so many years it was easier to hate my father and be angry. It wasn’t until my Mom died five years ago that I realized how much destruction the anger has caused and how much he still controlled me. I say past tense because recently I cut those ties after some realizations. The grief softened the anger and I discovered a world of hurt. Through that hurt I wished for the father I always wanted and deserved. I even thought he had changed. Years ago he apologized for how he stated, the way he approached Jesus to me.

My mom was my lifeforce. She was my rock and when she died I went floating into outer space… so I grabbed onto the closest life force I was born with. I had my heart broken all over again recently. I had seen his posts on facebook about all things alt right. Anti this, anti that. A total trump lover… So it started to wake me up again. It was directed at me this time but it still stung. Still I thought maybe he wouldn’t turn on me this time. Maybe this time would be different.

Since my Mom died in 2012 I’ve struggled to survive. It’s been nearly five years and I’m not even 1/4 back to where I was before. In the last year I’ve almost been homeless three times. Through it all I fought through the grief and I’m finally on the outside looking in. For someone with PTSD that is extremely difficult to do. While I might not be emotionally unstable all the time I still struggle daily.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in a world where I no longer have the one person who was there for me. The world seemed to dark and scary for me. I had a lifetime of pain, suffering and misery that I almost ended it all in 2013. I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted relief and didn’t think I would ever get it.

It’s so much easier to judge someone else than it is to have empathy for what the person has endured. I think that’s what bothers me the most about this kind of hate is it reminds me of the kindness I wished I had more of. Often times I feel like a fuck up. The person who can’t be stable. Some days I don’t hate myself and those days are wonderful. I’m starting to have more of those happy days but I have enough of the others to mess with my mind.

I’m the end result of this hate. So many grow up into flawed adults who’ve never had the chance to heal and cope with the pain they’ve endured. It’s been twenty years and I still can hear my father’s voice yelling that I was going to hell and telling me that I was going to die alone in the hospital of AIDS. Those are words you never get rid of. You learn to detach the power cord but they’re still there.

Sometimes I just want to yell bloody murder. Will someone see me for who I am? and not the person they want me to be. For too long I didn’t think I deserved anything good, including love. So while I might still hate parts of myself I now know that I deserve wonderful things including kindness and love. I still struggle with believing I will find it but that’s just another thing I’m dealing with.

I wish people like the activist mommy could see our pain. See all our tears. I have to leave the situation knowing that they’re flawed and can’t see anything but their fears.

How do you combat someone like the activist mommy? Say what you want to her. Troll her with rainbow reactions but do something more than that. Reach out to someone you love who is struggling or even not. Someone in your life who is lgbtqai. They’ve probably just as scared as I am with the world we live in and could use the support. Just a simple I love you and I’m there will do. That’s what pride really is about. It’s celebrating our freedom from this hate and celebrating what being gay is all about… love and fabulousness.

I’ve never really questioned whether I was gay or not. For the most part I have loved being gay, it’s what makes me special. Though I’ve not always seen it as a gift. There was a time I tried to hide my fabulousness. I had guys make me less because of my femininity saying things to me like you’re too much like a girl, like that was a bad thing. So I tried to fit in. It was easy to do in the bear community with my size and facial hair. It wasn’t until I dressed in drag that I finally felt in touch with the person I was born to be. It was the first time that I had ever felt beautiful. Honestly I feel more like a woman than I do as a man. I recently have been describing myself as queer. It’s been rather liberating.

I’m learning to embrace who I am. So if you’re reading this and you’re going through something similar… hang on… weather out the storm. There are kind people out there. When you see people like the activist mommy remember like Glinda the good witch says, they have no power over you. If you’re living in this hell reach out to someone at school, a friend… A great resource is the Trevor Project if you can’t find anyone locally. They will help anyone including adults. You can always send me a message here as well too.

I’m with you and some many of us are. I will fight for you until I die. I’m learning to fight for myself but I will always have time for you. We’re worth it.

So activist mommy you have no power over me and others like me,  so be gone… <throws a proverbial bucket of glitter>

Huggs

SOURCES:
[1] CDC, NCIPC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2010) {2013 Aug. 1}.  Available from:www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars.

[2] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[3] James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

[4] Family Acceptance Project™. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics. 123(1), 346-52.

[5] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[6] IMPACT. (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health. 100(12), 2426-32.

 

Femmephobia in the Gay Community

So I was reading comments on a Facebook post (I know that’s a recipe for disaster) about a young gay man who was overtly feminine. Well the article wasn’t about his personality but that didn’t stop the haters from spewing their internalized homophobia. In an hour of the posting there were at least four comments about how he was a disgrace to the LGBTQ community and that he was making the “normal” gay men look bad. I was just disgusted and reminded about how much internal homophobia there still is.

Sure I get it. Most of us had to hide who we were for a very long time. We were told having feminine traits was unacceptable. A man loving another man that’s not masculine. Men are macho, drink beer and are womanizers. Society has set this idea of what is and isn’t acceptable for men, as they have with women. If you don’t fit that mold you’re made to feel less. As to not stick out like a sore thumb you go inward hiding who you. The only thing that does is stunts your growth.

Bottom line gay men who look down upon guys who are feminine have deeply rooted misogyny. I’ve always wondered what is so wrong with a man having the traits stereotypical for a woman or man who wears a dress and/or makeup? Why does society tell us that it’s wrong and ugly? Who wrote the book on the rules and guidelines for masculinity and femininity. I have yet to find that book. So why do so many people feel trapped by this to the point they have to prove to the world their masculine by shunning anyone who might break a hole in their false image.

I look at our gay youth and I’m just awe inspired at their courage to be whoever they want. Most of them never had to endure what we did and we should be happy for that. They’ve not had it thrown down their throats that they must conform to the rules of manhood. They can be just as fabulous as they were born to be. Guys who are femmephobic are so jaded and bitter that they must take it out on others. To feel good about themselves they have this great desire to tear others down. The only person that looks bad is them but they don’t care. They don’t even see the elephant in the room.

That kind of hatred is dangerous and toxic. Growing up it was always known that men don’t cry. I would compare myself to other boys and I always felt different. I didn’t like the same things that most boys did. I wasn’t into sports and I loved musicals. When I came out of the closet it was the most freest I’ve ever been. Those chains no longer tied me down but sadly for so many they still are even years after they’ve come out. I can remember a date that I was on in my early twenties and the guy just gave it to me about how much like a woman I was. He went out of his way to shun me. I felt horrible but he was the one with the problem.

It’s so easy to forget what is out there until you’re faced with it head on. I learned this when I started to perform in drag. I had guys who’d tell me that they wouldn’t date me because of it. I even had other gay guys question why I dressed up in drag. Personally I think drag queens are the best part of our gay community. So many don’t see it that way. To get up on stage in heels, makeup and a dress takes nerve in this world. I mean getting on stage is nerve wracking enough. I love anyone who says fuck you to the social norms. Drag for me blends gender and art. So many gay guys look down upon drag queens when in reality they were the ones fighting for equality early on. We have them to think for a lot of the strides we have made today. How a person dresses and/or acts has no relation to who they are inside. How someone dresses doesn’t make them a bad person. A bad person is someone who does bad things including making others  feel less. There’s no strength in belittling someone else for who they are, what they wear and who they love.

I can’t imagine what my transgender brothers and sisters must endure on a daily basis. They’re at the forefront of this battle. So many are judging them for who they are deep within. It’s not surprising that so many transgender people try to end their lives, not to mention the countless murders of trans folks. All because of gender. Misogyny is what it boils down to. From the beginning of time women have been treated less. Like being a woman makes you less of a person. Who the fuck came up with that rule??? I think being a woman is one of the best things in this world. I mean women bring life into this world. If it weren’t for women we’d all be fucked. So anyone that tries to step out of the social norm is instantly an outcast. I mean that’s why people have such a problem with being gay. We’re breaking the rules thus for breaking the ceiling in their hate filled house. I learned this a long time ago with my father. People like this gain a false sense of control by grasping onto an ideology. They’re not confident with it because it’s not real so in order to stay safe they must convince as many people as they can that their way. They will stop at nothing to stop the cracks from breaking them free. They don’t care who they drag down or who they hurt in the process, as long as it keeps them safe and secure.

Life is too short be whoever you want to be. That’s how I approach life. If it’s not hurting anyone and the person enjoys it then more power to them. For the longest time I was embarrassed by my feminine side, as I had been brainwashed into believing that it was an abomination. I now realize that’s the best part of me. I love my sensitivity and the fact that I’m not afraid to cry. It’s taken me a long time but I’m finally proud to be fabulous and I feel bad for those who don’t feel it themselves. They’ve hidden those beautiful traits for so long that the lack of has become a part of their personalities.

Anyone who doesn’t fit that mold is labeled a loser. Guys on this post called him disgusting, not apart of the community. They just continue to spew. They’ve internalized the homophobia cast upon them and in return are doing the exact same thing to others who have the traits that they were scolded for. These types of guys are stuck in the past and are going to be left behind. The youth of today are free from those chains that held us down for so long, at least most of them. They can be whoever they want to be without the fear of judgment.

Our youth have broken the mold of what it means to be gay. They’ve colored outside the lines. There is this young boy who I quite admire. He’s proud of his fabulousness and he’s constantly encouraging me to be proud of mine. To this day I still struggle to be me. Here he is at ten years old (or around that age) and not afraid to be himself. It’s so refreshing to watch his journey. Thankfully he has a wonderfully, loving mother who embraces who he is and encourages his exploration. I mean this kid is already a fashion icon. There are so many young boys just like him. I wish I was able to be like that when I was a kid. I’m not one of these gay guys who are so stubborn and stuck in their ways that they feel like they’ve got to prove that way is wrong. While I’m sad I couldn’t embrace my fabulousness that early I’m proud and happy they have the chance to. That’s all we can hope for, that the next generation will have it easier than we did.

So I’m just disgusted when I read these types of comments because it reminds me of what I went through. I’m very thankful I didn’t let that poison turn me into the person who shunned and judged me. No one should be judged or made to feel less for who they are or who they love. If a man wants to wear a dress who cares. The last time I checked wearing a dress isn’t going to cause the end of the world, though some act like it will. Neither will wearing makeup. Life is tough enough, be what you want to be. There is no normal or a mold that you have to fit in.

One of my favorite poems speaks to all of this:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

We are ALL meant to shine. Who are you not to be? Be fabulous, wear it proudly. We’ve earned that right. So if you want to sashay down the runway, do it! I can tell you that you’ll probably enjoy it. I’ve hid for so many years and not just my femininity. It causes great internal damage. Playing small doesn’t serve the world, it doesn’t help anyone especially yourself. When you’re authentic and free that liberates others. So by being fabulous you’re giving another human being the courage to do so as well.

In the end, I feel sorry for these guys. So lost and stuck that they don’t even realize it. They’re the one with the issue and the only ones making our community look bad. We’ve been put through enough, it’s our time to shine.