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Mormon Tween Comes Out At Church, Leaders Try Shaming, Lose To The Internet

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I love a good pride event! Who doesn’t? The absolute best I’ve seen so far this year comes from Utah, where 12-year-old Savannah, took to the stage during “Fasting and Testimony” a monthly event held at her Mormon church. Pink News reported on the confident and brave girl who spoke to the congregation from her heart.

Savannah Is One Brave Girl!

Her testimony was captured on video and has over 200,000 views. The church near Salt Lake City would have probably preferred that the hostile climate towards LGBT congregants not be a trending social media topic. Welp.

The Church Is Full Of Cowards

They should have thought about it harder and considered the opportunity they had in front of them. They could have used Savannah’s coming out speech as a teachable moment, that showed the beauty of diversity and claiming self. Instead, they tried to shame her. They let her speak for a few minutes, but when she said “lesbian” all bets were off. Church leaders seated behind Savannah shut her mike down and told her to take a seat. Silenced.

What We Learned From A 12-Year-Old Girl

Thanks to supportive parents, Savannah (while hurt by the scorn), is going to make it. Here’s why. She’s 12, how many grown folks sit in service week after week putting their emotional well-being at risk, by remaining closeted, and taking verbal abuse from the pulpit? Savannah refuted that type of life. So not only is she confident and courageous, she’s already figured out that God’s love is deeper than the conditional love offered by people.

Coming Out Isn’t Easy

Coming out is a gut-wrenching decision for most. Not a decision to be taken lightly, ever. Especially for those who depend on support for housing and food. The thought of possibly losing family and friends over who you’re attracted to and want to love is absolutely terrifying. Not all parents are as supportive as Savannah’s. She’s very lucky.

Bullying Is Real For Too Many

There are parents who are so deeply homophobic that kids are bullied to “straighten up”. Bullying can come with constant verbal assaults, beatings and being thrown out. Let’s do the math. Bullied at home, bullied at school, and bullied in the church. Are we at all surprised when LGBT kids wind up loathing themselves to the point of depression and for many, suicide?

Learning To Love Yourself Is The Greatest Love All

Where is the love anywhere in those scenarios? It isn’t there. What is, is the need for people to try and control another person’s happiness. Despite what the self-proclaimed sociological and cultural experts who gain their information solely from the prejudice found in religion and throughout media tout about pre-teens not being mature enough to process their feelings, Samantha has vetted the situation. It really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. She’s strong in who she is like that.

Savannah was prepared. She’d asked her parents at the beginning of the year for permission to share her journey during testimony. I love this kid! They debated, finally agreeing to the persistent girl, last month. There are religions where you aren’t encouraged to speak out on anything controversial.

Church Is Supposed To Be A Safe Space For All

How do you grow without exploring uncomfortable ground? Testimony though shouldn’t be relegated and shared in politically correct tones. Not always, and not if the church is the cornerstone for people to gather and lend support, through the electric synergy found in gatherings of like-minded people. If I’m hurting because I’m being mistreated because I’m queer, or black, or a woman, and I can’t share that pain in church and get some love and encouragement, I don’t need to be there. Huge, side-eye.

Can’t Hold Back Truth

Here’s the thing. Savannah wasn’t asking for permission to come out as queer. No, she was stating fact she knows God loves her and made her perfectly. Referring to her “heavenly parents,” who made her special. If we could all get to that point where we know God created us special and that we have purpose Wouldn’t that just be paradise?

Too many bible touting folk will denounce Savannah, even after watching the video where she’s baring her soul, using language that speaks of self-love and her truth about the God she serves. In addition to the aforementioned homophobia, let’s add misogyny and patriarchy to the equation. They all allow people to rationalize their bigotry.

Some Adults Need A Clue

The adults are confused, not Savannah. That’s probably a reason for some of the animosity. Adults tend to think they know everything. How can that be possible when people won’t look beyond themselves to see that it takes all types of people to make the world go round?

Savannah Will Make It

Savannah will make it because she’s already confident in who she is. She knows she deserves to hold space. That my friends speak to having pride during pride month and all year long!. Know who you are living your best life. Savannah, thanks for the reminder.

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How Moving to a New City is Different When You’re Queer

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We all know what it’s like to move. You get a new job, or are accepted into college, and you start to plan. If you’re like most people, you worry about housing first. Where are you going to live? Will you need roommates to afford rent and food at the same time? Is it close to work and/or school? If you have a family, you have to consider your children and/or your spouse. After all of that, there’s the actual moving part. Renting the van, motivating yourself to pack boxes and somehow convincing yourself to throw away half of the junk you’ve collected over the years because you won’t miss a single piece of it. There are so many hundreds of factors that go into a move, all of which have to be carefully considered and carried out. It’s chaotic and exciting at the same time, and scares you more than anything.

Now imagine the same process, but as a queer person. I’m a queer woman, which puts me into two minority groups immediately. And as a queer woman, in order to even begin choosing a new place to live, I have to ask a few questions first:

  1. Where should I move? 

If you’re moving for a job, this is usually decided for you, and you’ve probably already done your research into what your new place of residence is like, as well as how the job is going to be. But say you’re going to college, and you’re picking places to apply. Some of what you have to consider includes things such as “do these schools have LGBT clubs,” “is the city around the school relatively gay-friendly?” When you’re queer, it’s almost never as simple as “Look, this school has the Philosophy program I’ve been wanting. I’ll pick that one.”

  1. Is this city gay-friendly?

Let’s face it, we all have a few straight friends. But contrary to what sitcoms and romcoms portray, no LGBT person ever wants to hang out exclusively with straight people all day, every day. That’s just not how it works, especially if you want to, I don’t know, date someone at some point. Finding a community is important, as it’s not only about social interaction with similar people, but also a sense of security and comfort.

  1. Is it woman-friendly?

As I mentioned above, security and comfort are a huge deal. Being a woman isn’t always safe, so choosing your housing is vital to your well-being. Is the house/apartment you’re looking at in a safe neighborhood? What are the crime rates (murder, sexual assault, theft, etc.)? Is the demographic similar to what you’re used to?

When I moved into my first apartment at university, I didn’t consider any of these things. I found the cheapest place close to campus and moved in my stuff, no questions asked. It was a nightmare. Our neighbors were loud, creepy, and had parties every other weekend that left me hiding in my bedroom with the doors locked, hoping they wouldn’t get drunk enough to bust open the door to “talk” to me and my female roommates. The neighborhood was relatively quiet, but not somewhere you might walk a dog alone at night, and certainly not somewhere I felt safe enough to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public.

My second place was a vast improvement and if that first little hole-in-the-wall taught me anything, it was that there’s a lot to consider when moving somewhere new. But be aware, for the hundreds of factors you have to consider while moving, if you’re queer expect to ask a couple dozen more in the process.

Despite the stress, moving is still an exciting time. If you keep your wits about you when coming to a new city, you’ll be just fine and can then look forward to the new friends you’ll make along the way. Cue the packing montage in which you sob amid a pile of high school yearbooks and memorabilia.

Originally posted 2017-06-30 19:02:56.


Also published on Medium.

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The Overlooked Impact of Homophobia on LGBTQ Youths

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Despite the great accomplishments within the LGBTQ+ community, from the Stonewall Riots in 1969 that fought against discriminatory police raids to Obergefell v. Hodges that challenged the constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriage, there are still significant hurdles that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth must overcome. One vastly overlooked problem is the number of homeless LGBTQ youths fending for themselves on the streets.  According to True Colors Fund, 1.6 million young Americans experience homelessness. While this number is truly shocking, the disparity between LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ youths is staggering; approximately 40% of homeless youth in America identify as being in the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

We hear about the homeless all the time; they are thugs, drug dealers, and the like. We do not, however, hear much about the LGBTQ homeless youths. Every year, many LGBTQ individuals choose to leave or are removed or from their homes by their parents because being in LGBTQ spectrum does not align with their family’s set of virtues and values, be it spiritual or out of sheer ignorance. Simply put, the number of LGBTQ homeless youths correlates to discriminatory beliefs and practices. Of course, being homeless comes with its own unique set of challenges, but homeless LGBTQ  youths face much more difficult problems. In conjunction with struggling to find food and decent shelter, homeless youths must also deal with such problems as increased risk of physical and sexual violence, alcohol and drug abuse, homophobic or transphobic attacks, and an increased risk of contracting STIs such as HIV/AIDS. This harsh statistic is an unfortunate reality for thousands of LGBTQ youths and will continue to be a problem if actions are not taken to prevent or at least decrease the numbers of LGBTQ homeless youths.

So, what can one do to help the LGBTQ homeless population? The simplest and easiest way to help LGBTQ homeless youths is to accept their sexuality and/or gender identity. Fight against homophobia, transphobia, and hateful speech and stand up to people who believe that one’s sexual identity is a choice. It is also helpful to educate people about LGBTQ individuals by showing that they are just like everyone else. Tell them that LGBT individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci, a famous Italian painter and inventor, Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer, Barbara Gittings, a lesbian and LGBTQ rights activist, and Christine Jorgensen, the first actor to have gone through sex-reassignment surgery, helped shape the world as we know it. Educating people on LGBTQ issues is the first step in helping get rid of prejudice and discriminatory thoughts and actions, which will make the world a more egalitarian planet to live on,which will help decrease the number of cases of LGBTQ individuals being removed from their homes.

Another way to help is to donate to organizations such as the Ali Forney Center. The Ali Forney center was founded in 2002 by Carl Siciliano in memory of Ali Forney, a gender non-conforming teen who fled his home at the age thirteen in 1995 and was subsequently thrown around many different foster homes in which he was abused, both physically and mentally. Ultimately Ali Forney was murdered Harlem. The Ali Forney Center’s mission is, understandably, to help out and protect LGBTQ homeless youths and supply them with the necessary tools for them to become successful in life. Donating opportunities for the Ali Forney Center include clothing donations or a monetary donations. Volunteering opportunities are also available, such as preparing meals, working as a youth counsellor, working as a Learning, Employment, Advancement and Placement (LEAP) mentor, and many more.

LGBTQ homelessness is a very serious problem that has no easy solution. However, by simply speaking against homophobia, transphobia, and hateful speech, one can begin to rid the world of prejudice and discriminatory behavior. Educating others about the accomplishments of people in the LGBTQ spectrum that have helped change the world for the better is also an extremely effective way to steer people’s thoughts towards thoughts of acceptance and equality. Volunteering and donating to organizations that are designed to help LGBTQ youths, whether it be a few socks or hundreds of dollars to helping prepare meals, can vastly improve the lives of the LGBTQ homeless youths. By taking action and spreading  of equality, we can all make this world a more habitable place to live and help the homeless LGBTQ youths from living on the streets.

Originally posted 2017-06-30 17:06:57.


Also published on Medium.

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Hidden Secrets of the Middle East: Israel’s Progressive Stance on LGBTQ Culture

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Israel is known for many things: It’s the origin of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, housing biblical soils filled with historical artifacts, and it’s friendly, bilateral relationship with the United States.

Despite making daily political headlines, what is seldom known about the tiny country in the MIddle East is its support of the LGBTQ community.

The country’s capital city and financial hub, Tel Aviv, hosts the largest Pride Parade of Asia every year, with over 200,000 attendees in 2017.

The country also offers a unique LGBTQ experience for the gay community. The “Rainbow” Trip is considered the “ Greatest Pride Parade of the Middle East .” The trip lasts 10 days long, and starts off in the holy city of Jerusalem. By day 6, members will have explored the ancient city of Nazareth and engaged in the pride parade overtakes the streets of Tel Aviv. You can book your tickets now for next year’s June, 2018, Tel Aviv Pride Group Trip.

Within its abundance of attractions in the main city, you have the option purchasing a Pride Week Bracelet , which gives you access to the exclusive parties that are happening.

“Tomorrow is the main event – the annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade! As usual, it starts in Gan Meir at around noon, runs through Bograshov street, Ben Yehuda street, and Ben Gurion Avenue, and ends up at the Gordon Beach, where you can expect a big, wild party,” writes Ashley for Pride one year, “If you find lots of skin on display, cross dressing and the waving in the air of various sex toys offensive, steer clear of these areas.”

The Aguda, or the National Association of LGBT in Israel, founded 42 years ago, has remained persistent in its standing. Since then, the organization has been involved in numerous accounts of social work, community building, and political advocacy.

Through the support of the country’s population and LGBTQ campaigns, there has been growth in Tel Aviv’s gay nightlife scene. From night clubs, community centers, and even gay beaches, the ever-growing population of LGBTQ entertainment sectors doesn’t on these who are looking to travel to Israel for a good time.

In 2015, the Israel was considered the seventh happiest place for gay men to live. This year, the country’s citizens shared on their thoughts on homosexual engagements. As of 2017, 79% of Jewish residents supported the belief of equal rights for gay marriage.

Dance clubs like Shpagat gives you the best of both worlds: A taste of Middle Eastern culture and relaxed vibes that allow you to mingle with and meet people. The Breakfast Club offers gay Thursdays and eclectic, underground nightlife.

There are plenty of gay cruises, dance parties, and even hotels to choose from. Before planning your trip, be sure to do some deep research on the hidden gems found in and around the capital.
If you are planning on heading to Israel for a vacation this summer, be sure to check out the Gay Tel Aviv Guide offered online. This provides you with a diverse list of attractions and activities found within the country’s parameters.

Originally posted 2017-06-29 21:04:35.

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