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LGBT

Am I Non-Binary?

Earlier this year, a court in Oregon let a person legally change their gender to “non-binary.” It’s fantastic that the law acknowledges that there’s more to gender than merely male or female.

europa rainbow by  ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

europa rainbow by ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

As I thought about this ruling, I began to reflect on my upbringing. When I was growing up, children were classified as a “boy” or a “girl” based on their genitalia. By the time I was in preschool, I understood that boys and girls were told to use different bathrooms, play with different toys, and wear different clothes. As I got older, I learned that some people are homosexual and bisexual. I also learned that some people are transgender, meaning that they were born in the wrong body, and probably wanted a sex change; and some people are intersex, meaning they have both male and female genitalia. In all these situations, gender was represented as a binary characteristic.

I wondered, if I grew up in a culture that acknowledged gender as a spectrum, would I self-identify as non-binary. I’ve never fit in with the “girly girls” in school, and I didn’t want to be like them. In fact, I got in trouble when I was nine because I refused to talk to most of the girls in my class because I thought they were annoying. I find it delightfully ironic that I was a gymnast – a sport that is so inherently feminine and has drastic differences in men’s and women’s events. It’s also fierce as hell which is why I love it so much. I asked my teammates, who I spent years with, seeing each other at our best and our worst during our tween and teen years, to describe me. Some of their descriptors were “strong,” “powerful,” “determined,” “focused,” and “true to yourself.” I definitely wasn’t one of the balletic athletes in the gym.

Learning about this ruling made me the question my gender identity. I have no issues with being biologically female except that I think tits are overrated, and I would have an ablation in a heartbeat if it came with a guarantee. I have no desire to have a penis. If pushed to declare which pronouns I want, I can see myself choosing he/her – don’t ask me why, and, to be honest, I really don’t care what pronouns you use for me as long as you use them respectfully. As a model, I prefer poses and looks that are somewhat androgynous and portray me as strong – or at least possessing an inner strength.

I shared some of my thoughts about questioning my gender with my friends, and it was comforting to hear that I’m not the only one who doesn’t fit in a stereotypical box. Some are agender. Some have biologically male parts, no desire to change that, but feel they are more feminine in terms of their personality. The best response I got was from a friend who says she doesn’t identify as a “lady” or a “man,” but rather an engineer, an inventor, a housewife, an athlete, a seamstress, and a parent. I think she’s right in that what we do is more important than which bathroom we use or which gender box we check.

If you’re questioning your gender identity and/or gender expression, you’re not alone. We may not talk about it much, but a lot of us don’t feel like we fit into the male/female binary. You don’t have to decide on a label for yourself today and if you select a designation for yourself, you’re not stuck with it for forever. For me, for now, I’m content to classify myself as gender non-conforming and continue to be open to further self-exploration and experiences.

Which Pronouns Do You Prefer?

Have you ever thought about which pronouns you prefer? In the U.S., a child is referred to as she/her or he/him based on their biological sex. Why does this culture feel the need to divide people based on genitalia? It’s weird.

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Would you be offended if someone referred to you as the opposite gender than your biological sex? Why? I asked my neighbor Ana this question, and she said it would be offensive because she would interpret it as someone not acknowledging what she knows to be true about herself. That made sense to me. Asking a person which pronouns they prefer is really asking the person, “What is the respectful way to refer to you (including when I talk about you behind your back)?”

At some LGBT groups, including One-n-Ten in the Phoenix area, at the beginning of each meeting, everyone introduces themselves by first name and what pronouns they prefer. Including this information in the introductions not only provides a platform for each person to disclose their pronoun preference, but also acknowledges that gender is a non-binary social construct.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

I’m somewhat gender non-conforming socially (always have been, always will be), but biologically speaking, I’m female. One of the advantages of being bisexual is I don’t feel obligated to conform to any social constructs regarding gender or sexual orientation. In my wardrobe, I have beautiful dresses and neckties (yes, I can tie a full Windsor knot by myself); and my underwire bra is right next to my chest binder. My appearance ranges from very feminine to androgynous, and I don’t feel obligated to act any particular way.

I considered the pronoun question for myself. Given the option to be referred to as she/her, he/him, they/them, I’m fine with any of those (as long as the person is speaking respectfully), though I prefer she/her/he/him to they/them because they acknowledge me as a singular person. Although they/them are used as plural pronouns, they can be used to for individuals too. Perhaps this is the best option we have in American English for a gender neutral pronoun.

And of course, as a Starfleet officer, I prefer “sir” over “ma’am,” though I won’t correct a person if they’re just trying to be polite.

Which pronouns do you prefer?

Bigots Pay More

I’m frustrated about the slew of anti-LGBT laws that have passed and are under consideration all over the country. I was happy to see celebrities responding to the transphobic bathroom law in North Carolina – Bruce Springsteen cancelled his show and Mumford & Sons donated the profits from their North Carolina show to a local LGBT organization.

SCOTUS APRIL 2015 LGBTQ 54663 by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

SCOTUS APRIL 2015 LGBTQ 54663 by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I don’t live in North Carolina or Mississippi, but I want to respond to these anti-LGBT laws too. I’ve been reading the labels on products in my kitchen and bathroom to make sure I’m not buying things from those states. Originally I considered adding a “bigot fee” for any speaking engagement in a state that has an anti-LGBT law in place, but then I had a better idea.

I raised my speaking fee and added the opportunity for discounts for those that qualify:

  • Equality Discount – for states, cities, and counties that don’t have anti-LGBT laws in place: $1,000 discount (Companies that opposed these laws before and after these laws passed also qualify – it’s not their fault the people in power are closed-minded jerks.)
  • Gender Neutral Bathrooms Discount – must be at hiring company and venue locations: $500 discount
  • Equal Pay Discount – if the hiring company can demonstrate they give equal pay to all genders in comparable positions: $500 discount
  • Non-Discrimination Discount – if the hiring company lists sexual orientation and gender expression in its non-discrimination policy: $500 discount

If a company wants to hire me and they qualify for all the discounts, it’s a $2,500 savings. These are issues that are important to me and I’m happy to give discounts to those who share my views enough to implement change and stand for equality.

More Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

One of the best ways a company can respond to HB2, North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law that requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds to sex indicated on their certificates, is to make all their bathrooms gender-neutral.

Gender Neutral Restroom UC Irvine 49490 by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Gender Neutral Restroom UC Irvine 49490 by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Yes, just like in Ally McBeal.

For reasons of decency, no one should be permitted use a urinal in a gender neutral restroom that isn’t in a separate lockable stall. For people who are too uncomfortable to use gender neutral bathrooms that have multiple stalls, a company could put in some single-user restrooms, like some places have a “family restroom,” probably meant for a parent with a small child.

There are lots of reasons to have gender neutral bathrooms besides the obvious ones of preventing transphobia and acknowledging that gender is a spectrum, not a binary identity. Some people need help in the bathroom – like small children and the elderly. Or if you have an injury or a complicated outfit, you may need help getting to or using the bathroom. If you and your companion are of different genders, that could be awkward without a gender-neutral bathroom.

Gender-neutral bathroom sign by Bryan Alexander from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Gender-neutral bathroom sign by Bryan Alexander from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Gender-neutral bathrooms could help companies eliminate problems that accompany single-gender bathrooms. When I was in college, I was an RA in the dorms. Our dorms were coed by wing or coed by neighbor. There were a lot fewer issues on floors that were coed by neighbor because the women didn’t want to look foolish in front of the men and vice versa. The same would likely be true in a gender neutral bathroom – less vandalism and fewer annoying behaviors.

Conversely, until the law in North Carolina changes, if I had reason to be in that State, I would be tempted to walk into a government building wearing a dress and heels and walk into the men’s bathroom. If stopped, I’d say my birth certificate says I was born a boy and then offer to use the women’s bathroom if that would make the person feel more comfortable. (I’m not transgender; it would just be to make a point. I mean to offense to anyone who identifies as trans or cis. I’d want to have a male buddy with me for this stunt for safety reasons.)

Stand Against North Carolina

-> North Carolina -> by Justin Warner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

-> North Carolina -> by Justin Warner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The State of North Carolina can go fornicate with itself. I can’t believe the bigots in power over there not only passed HB2, but their governor signed it! (At least when the bigots in office in Arizona voted in favor of SB 1062, our moron governor was smart enough not to sign it.)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, this new law prevents municipalities from passing LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and it requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex indicated on their birth certificate.

This law makes me so angry. It’s hard to believe people still have these backwards beliefs. I don’t know what y’all in North Carolina do in bathrooms, but I use them to use the toilet, wash my hands, and check my hair. In the 36 years I’ve been using public bathrooms, I’ve never had an issue with another user.

Being that I’m across the country, I felt somewhat powerless – but then I thought about what little things I could do:

I can choose not to attend events in North Carolina until this law is repealed. If there’s an event I feel compelled to attend, I can require a North-Carolina-Bigot fee in addition to my usual speaking fee.

I’m not licensed to practice law in North Carolina, but I can do federal work from anywhere. I can choose not to accept clients from North Carolina, or limit my engagement to clients who have anti-discrimination policies and practices that include gender identity and sexual orientation.

I can have similar rules for products from North Carolina. (Don’t think I’m joking about this. I boycotted all the sponsors of the Sochi Olympic Games who didn’t openly oppose Russia’s anti-LGBT laws for the duration of the games.)

As a lawyer, I started thinking about contracts. I would support clients adding a provision to their contracts that requires clients to have anti-discrimination policies that include gender identity and sexual orientation and that the company must publicly oppose all applicable state and federal laws that would permit such discrimination. (Now my head is spinning with other ideas – like equal pay for men and women within the company.)

Until this law is repealed, I hope someone makes a video similar to this, asking people if they brought their birth certificate to government buildings to verify that they’re using the appropriate bathroom – much like this guy asked white people if they were immigrants in the SB 1070 days in Arizona.

My hat goes off to the many companies that have already spoken out against this new law including Marriott, Apple, Google, PayPal, and the National Basketball Association. I hope more people and companies will do what they can to influence this situation. Every little bit helps.

Day 26/90 – Marriage Equality!

Day 26 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal and protected the by the U.S. Constitution!

Rainbow by Benson Kua from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Rainbow by Benson Kua from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It seemed like this ruling was going to be a given for same-sex marriage, but conversely, it means so much. Remember, homosexuality was regarded as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association until the 1970s. Just under 30 years later, I was at San Francisco Pride right after the Lawrence v. Texas (which legalized consensual sodomy between adults) came out. I was a newly-out baby queer, just basking in the fabulousness of the Castro. I hope people at Pride festivals this weekend are having a similar experience.

During my lifetime, we went from calling homosexuality an “alternative lifestyle,” to legalizing gay sex, to legalizing same-sex marriage. Not only have we legalized getting laid and getting hitched (woo-hoo!) the Supreme Court has legitimized same-sex marriages. At this point, we don’t need to say, “gay marriage” or “gay wedding.” When two people decide to get married, they have a “wedding.”

As I drove into work, I listened to some of the reaction on NPR from people who were unhappy about the ruling. I thought, “Ugh. Just leave each other alone,” before changing the channel. I always thought it was strange when opponents said that legalizing same-sex marriage would damage heterosexual relationships. I can think of only two instances when someone’s relationship creates a problem in my life – and I use the term “problem” loosely:

  1. If I’m attracted to someone and thinking about hitting on them. (Note to self: always check the left hand.)
  2. If my friend is connected at the hip to their significant other whom I don’t like. (The same is true for a friend who is perpetually with their best friend and I can’t stand the best friend.)
queer pride butt

That’s my butt & my Queer Pride shirt (2003)

Neither of these issues have anything to do with sexual orientation (or race, religion, gender, etc.). I hope as a country we are moving towards the idea of protecting individual rights, including the right to your own beliefs – with the caveat that this doesn’t give you permission to dictate what’s right for others. Stay out of my wallet, my sex life, and my reproductive organs. I don’t tell you what’s wrong with your relationship or life choices (to your face) and I would appreciate the same courtesy.

FYI – Your relationship – no one’s relationship – has ever legitimized or minimized any of my romantic relationships.

I probably spent two hours after the announcement reading the reactions on Facebook and Twitter with giddy excitement. I finally had to tell myself, “You need to calm the fuck down and get some work done today.”

It was a good day. Congratulations everyone! Thank you U.S. Supreme Court – at the five of you who made the right decision.

In case you missed it: Day 25 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I got to Teach a Webinar on Social Media Marketing for Lawyers!

Wheaton’s Law is my Religion If Brewer Signs SB 1062

The Arizona legislature passed SB 1062/HB 2153 last week. They call it a law to protect your right to “exercise your religion” but what it really does is give businesses the ability not to do business with someone if it violates their “religious beliefs.” What it does is give businesses the ability not to do business with members of the LGBT community.

My Wheaton's Law T-Shirt

My Wheaton’s Law T-Shirt

This law is fucked up on a lot of levels. While so many states and cities are legalizing same-sex marriage and updating anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, Arizona is moving backwards and trying to legalize segregation. It’s frustrating that the majority of the Arizonans oppose this proposed law, including several business organizations, but an influential minority was able to push it through both houses.

Here’s what’s really fucked up about this law – your “religious beliefs” don’t have to be affiliated with any officially recognized religion;” they only have to be your sincerely held religious beliefs.

I’m pretty agnostic but I do have some firmly held beliefs that are as dear to me as some religions are to others. One of those beliefs is Wheaton’s Law – “Don’t be a dick.” This rule was created by actor-author-gamer Wil Wheaton to encourage good sportsmanship during online gaming, and it has spread to and been adopted in everyday life. If you want your own Wheaton’s Law t-shirt, it’s available online.

Sign at Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria

Sign at Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria

And yes, just because Wheaton’s Law isn’t affiliated with any official religion or culture that requires some type of worship practice, it doesn’t mean it can be a religious belief. According to Dictionary.com, a religion is merely, “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” Note that superhuman agency and ritual observances are not required; therefore, Wheaton’s Law can be a religious belief.

Open to everyoneSo if Governor Brewer signs this bill into law, it will give me, and anyone else who considers Wheaton’s Law to be part of their religion, the ability to refuse to do business with anyone who acts like a dick. This will include any members of Arizona Senate and House of Representatives who voted in favor of this discriminatory law. I wonder how fast they would change their stance on this law if suddenly their grocery store, gas station, salon, landscapers, golf course, gym, neighborhood bar, and the private school where they send their kids refused to do business with them. (Hat tip to Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria for posting a sign that says they refuse to do business with Arizona Legislators after this bill passed.)

Some groups, like One Community, are taking the high road and saying that all are welcome to do business with them and encouraging others to do the same. And good for them – I’m too pissed off to be the bigger man on this one.

Please contact Governor Brewer’s office and tell her to veto this hellaciously discriminatory bill. You can call her at 602-542-4331 or 520-628-6580. You can also sign the petition about SB 1062 on Change.org.

[Note: I sent Wil Wheaton an email about claiming Wheaton’s Law as a religious belief if SB 1062 is signed. He didn’t respond so I interpreted that to mean that he didn’t object – at least not enough to tell me about it. I mean no disrespect to Wil Wheaton or Wheaton’s Law with this post.]

Coming Out Day 2012

October 11th is National Coming Out Day. (In case you didn’t know, I’m bisexual.) I wish holiday didn’t have to exist. I wish sexual orientation was a non-issue and that people could be attracted to any gender without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Rainbow Flag

Rainbow Flag (Photo credit: Rev Dan Catt)

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Children across this country and the world are being told that they’re going to hell if they’re gay. (I generally try to stay out of people’s religious beliefs when it comes to who/what they worship, but I take issue when a minority is being told they’re going to hell for something they can’t control.) These kids are being teased so badly in school it’s driving some of them to drop out or commit suicide. Depending on which study you read, 20-40% of homeless youth are LGBT.

This problem continues into adult society where many people can still be fired because of their sexual orientation. And in most states, a committed homosexual couple is treated differently under the law than a committed heterosexual couple. The question that comes up for me is “Why do you care?” If you’re a hetero, two homos getting married does not pose a threat to you or your relationship. Why should you get over a thousand benefits under the law when you get married but they can’t? It broke my heart when I learned that at least one person in my family voted in favor of Prop 8 in California in 2008, and my family knows that I’m queer.

I also don’t understand people who say that gay unions should be legal but the word “marriage” should be reserved only for hetero couples. Seriously? The Supreme Court ruled that separate isn’t equal a long time ago. I don’t care if you call it “marriage,” “civil union,” or “oogie boogie,” whatever term you want to use for governmentally recognized homo unions should be the same as hetero unions. If individuals and religious organizations want to use a different word, that’s their prerogative.

We’ve made a lot of progress in terms of gay rights in the last few decades. I try to remember how far we’ve come when I feel like a lonely gay in a hetero world. It gives me hope that it will get better and some day we’ll be equals.

This is the song that reminds me that even when I feel like a freak, I’m not a freak alone.

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I Want Gay Couples on the Kiss Cam

I was at the Arizona Diamondbacks/San Francisco Giants game on Sunday, September 16th. Some time during every game they do the “Kiss Cam” where they put couples on the jumbotron and try to get them to kiss. This is also when we see marriage proposals during the game. It’s cheesy but it’s sweet.

Jamie and Lisa

I don’t go to many Major League Baseball games, but out of all the games I’ve gone to, I’ve never seen them put a same-sex couple on the Kiss Cam. I put the question out to my Facebook friends and none of them had ever seen a same-sex couple on the Kiss Cam either. It makes me wonder if the Diamondbacks are homophobic, or if they are afraid to acknowledge supports for gay couples.

One of my friends suggested that perhaps the Diamondbacks as an organization are not homophobic but they are concerned about the backlash that might occur if they show a same-sex couple kissing in the stadium. She brings up a good question: how many people would stop attending Diamondbacks games if a gay couple kissed on the jumbotron? Would there big protests like they had Chick-Fil-A?

Sam and Clinton

I’m of the belief that if you’re not attracted to people of the same gender, don’t date them. It doesn’t make homosexuality wrong. It’s like any other sexual attraction and everyone has their deal-breaker quaities. Just as some people won’t date someone if they are a smoker or have kids, other people require certain genitalia on their partners. I’m bisexual so the junk in your pants isn’t going to be the deal-breaker for me and that may help me view sexual orientation differently than others. To me, it’s ok if you’re not attracted to someone, but it’s not ok to say that another person is sick or wrong if they are attracted to them.

Tyler and Krys – They’re Straight

Another friend brought up the question of how would the camera operator know if two people are a couple or just friends. That’s a challenge that the camera operators already deal with. I’ve seen them put people on the Kiss Cam who are siblings or otherwise not in a romantic relationship. Innocent mistakes happen. If they see two people kissing during the game, that’s a good indicator they’re a couple.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, and all professional sports teams who have a Kiss Cam during their games, have an obligation to treat all their patrons equally, which means putting heterosexuals and homosexual couples on the jumbotron.  They have an opportunity as leaders in their communities to demonstrate their acceptance of homosexuality, that sexual orientation should be a non-issue, and that two people in love is not a threat to other relationships.

If you have professional sport team that does a Kiss Cam during their games, tell them that you want same-sex couples on it. If they already do it, thank them.

Special thanks to my friends Jamie, Lisa, Sam, and Clinton for letting me use your photos. Much love to all of you! Thanks Victor Moreno for letting me use your photo Tyler and Krys.

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Is That Legal – Glitter Bombing

Improv AZ Fake Protest Part Deux by Sheila Dee

I love glitter. This is not a secret. On several occasions I’ve covered myself with glitter hairspray and shed glitter everywhere I went. I’ve even verbally assaulted cars about my enjoyment of glitter. I love the way it sparkles. It makes me happy.

Glitter bombing is when someone throws glitter on an unsuspecting person, usually a public person who has strong anti-LGBT beliefs, to promote equality for the LGBT community. Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum have all been glitter bombed.  When Newt Gingrich was glitter bombed by Nick Espinosa, Nick said, “Feel the rainbow, Newt. Stop the hate. Stop anti-gay politics” and he poured a box of glitter all over him. Marcus Bachman’s “pray the gay away” clinic was glitter bombed by a group of people dressed up as barbarians. When they were told that Marcus wasn’t in the building, they danced and threw glitter in the clinic’s lobby.

I think glitter bombing is entertaining, but is it legal?

Is It Illegal to Throw Glitter on Unsuspecting Persons?
Probably. The law generally criminalizes the offensive touching of another person or putting a person in fear of offensive touching. Pouring or throwing glitter on a person without their consent could put the glitter bomber at risk of being charged with assault and/or battery depending on the applicable state law.

What If Someone Gets Glitter in their Eye and Needs Medical Attention?
We live in a society where we hold people financially responsible for the harm they cause. If a glitter bomb target or innocent bystander gets glitter in their eye and gets a scratched cornea, the glitter bomber can expect to be sued for the damages they caused.

Photo by Nick Russano

Why Aren’t Glitter Bombers Arrested?
I suspect the politicians who have been glitter bombed don’t want to draw a lot of attention to the fact that people throw glitter at them. It might encourage more people to throw glitter at them. It definitely will interfere with them being able to focus on their platforms.

Glitter bombers are generally rock stars for a day or two, and then life goes back to normal. If the glitter bomber is arrested for the assault, it could be in the news for weeks. I think politicians who get glitter bombed would rather their glitter bombers disappear into the background rather than shine a national spotlight on their attackers.

I think glitter bombing is going to be around for a while. It’s a festive public demonstration, and so far I have heard of only one instance where a person was arrested for glitter bombing. I’ve heard of no injuries that would discourage would-be glitter bombers from doing it. The glitter bomb videos I’ve seen suggest that the worst thing that’s likely to happen to anyone is that they’ll been escorted away by the Secret Service or told to get off someone’s private property. But there is always a risk that they’ll be arrested, or face other consequences like being fired from their job or expelled from school.

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