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These Are the Gays of Our Lives: Life Advice from a Big Ol’ Mo: Coming Out, Fitting In, Quote of the Week

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Welcome to ‘These Are the Gays of Our Lives: Life Advice from a Big Ol’ Mo!’ where we’ll talk about life issues, answer some of your questions, and work through some of the challenges facing the gay community. So, feel free to ask anything you’d like using the form below. Let’s jump right in with the first two questions!

Dear Gays of Our Lives,

I’m unhappy. I’m unhappy with my relationship, I’m unhappy with my job, I’m unhappy with my family. I know it all stems from not being comfortable enough with myself and my sexuality to come out of the closet, but there are a lot of issues surrounding me coming out. My family would have problems with it, my colleagues would, and I don’t think I’m really ready to make that kind of leap for my boyfriend. He’s not pressuring me to come out or anything, but it certainly puts a strain on our relationship. What should I do?

Sincerely, 

It’s Dark in this Closet…

My Dear Dark In This Closet,

I understand your pains. I, too, felt that I could not come out to my friends and family. My dad was always so manly, my mom was always worried about what others would think, and I worked in a religious environment. But I found peace with deciding to tell my friends and family, but that’s something that can only be done on your own time. There’s no gay timeline that says you have to come out by a certain age, or for anyone. Coming out is a big decision, and you can’t be forced into it. Take your time. If your boyfriend loves you and isn’t pressuring you, then don’t worry about it. Sure, it’ll make things easier if you come out, but that’s on you to decide when the timing is right. Until then, hug your man extra tight and thank him for not pressuring you and for loving you just the way you are. 

Wishing you the very best, 

The Big Ol’ Mo

Dear Big Ol’ Mo,

I’m having trouble finding a place where I “fit in” and a group of friends with whom I feel comfortable. What should I do?

Best, 

New Here

Dear New Here,

I wish I could tell you that feeling goes away with age, but we all feel a little out of place, or like we don’t fit in from time to time, especially in the gay community. With all the different labels we put on ourselves, like Twink, Otter, Bear, Chaser, Chub, Kink, Boy, Sir, etc it can be difficult to figure out where you belong. My advice, try to find people of like-minded interests. Meetup.com is especially great for this. There are Meet-Ups for every gay sub-culture and every activity under the sun. Twink who likes to play volleyball? There’s one of those. Bear who likes to play video games? Yep. That, too. There’s something for everyone! 

Also, don’t be afraid to get out there and try new bars and clubs. Most of them have different themes and crowds, so experiment a little bit. Try talking to people, making friends, etc. Even if it’s just for the night, it’s better than sitting at home alone! 

I wish you the best of luck at finding your place. You’ve got this!

Sincerely, 

The Big Ol’ Mo

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“I never felt I had anything to hide. I never felt being gay was anything to be ashamed of, so I never felt apologetic. I didn’t have issues with it, didn’t grow up with any religion, so I didn’t have any religious, you know, issues to deal with as far as homosexuality is concerned. So, I accepted it very easily. For me, it wasn’t that big a deal.” -Martina Navratilova

Do you have a question for the Big Ol’ Mo? Fill out the form below!

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Robert was born and raised in Nashville, TN, but had a thirst for seeing the world around him. He currently lives in New York City. His adventures have taken him to all corners of the world, but favorites include: attending the Rio Summer Olympics, island hopping in the Philippines, tasting every gelato flavor her could find in Rome, and surviving a Colombian death cab ride in Bogota. Robert is an out and proud gay man and hopes to inspire other members of the LGBTQ+ community to tell their stories, both of travel and personal. His debut book, I Know Where I’ve Been: A Year Long Journey of Self-Discovery, recounts his adventures traveling North and South America for a year while diving into his past growing up gay in the conservative South.

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Your Toolbox for International Travel

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How does being on a maintenance crew help you to travel?

To think that digging deeper into one stagnant place, sometimes literally to run electrical wiring or plant trees, would in turn help spread your wings. Yet, there are many things I learned as part of the maintenance crew at a camp facility. Paint will always make it’s way onto your clothing, coffee truly does boost morale, and leaf blowers are a source of power and unparalleled joy. Physical work is interestingly fulfilling, sometimes those who work the hardest earn the least, and time must be made for creation.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned in these two weeks: Don’t forget your tools.

So naturally, that’s what I did. Amidst the chill of a November morning, my coffee still waking up in waves of steam, I dragged my legs across the gravel road. Back towards the shed, where the day started and where our future progress rested. When I secured my grasp on the small, silver chunks of the ratchet set, I felt as though I was bringing the team to victory. My muscles turned slowly, I checked the volume of my podcast, and made my way back down the road.

As I prepare to fly to South America on November 28th, I have searched the high and low depths of the internet for answers to so many questions. I failed in finding the shed of hope or a shiny, metallic cluster of utensils for assistance. So, I have compiled the various tools from my research into the following list. Consider this to be our traveling toolbox, one that we can grab from our pockets for an easy fix or how-to.

With my steadfast belief in the power of travel to aid in our understandings of ourselves and others, I hope this toolbox helps you feel better equipped to buy that ticket! 

Dolla-Dolla Bills

-Spread it like Skippy!

Avoid traveling with a lump sum of cash. Spread your money throughout your belongings and your clothing to help you adapt in emergency situations.

-Travelers Checks or Prepaid Credit

Avoid a cash shortage by using variations of payment, such as a Travelers Check or Credit Card. Although somewhat archaic, Travelers Checks can only be cashed by you, can help with budgeting, and don’t rely on an ATM. However, they do rely on your ability to find local banks and may still have currency exchange charges.

Through VISA, TravelEx, and Mastercard, you can purchase prepaid credit cards offered at a nearby Rite-Aid, Wal-mart, or CVS. These cards can be used at accepting locations, as well as upon your return to your homeland. Fidelity is a great option that offers cards without foreign-transaction fees or minimum balance limits.

-Call your Bank

Make sure to update your bank account with your travel plans. It is a real burden to be abroad with a frozen credit card, especially when the suspected fraud is simply you trying to buy a souvenir in Paris .

-Cover the Real Bills

Automate your payments and postpone incoming mail prior to your departure. Review your insurance plans and commit to a travel insurance payment if necessary.

-RFID Wallet

Made by Pacsafe and sold by REI Co-Op, this wallet prevents electronic-scanning theft, prevents cut-and-run theft, and can hold multiple passports and cash.

Security and Health

-Make Copies of your Passport and Health Forms

Carry replications of your passport with you and leave a few copies with an emergency contact. This should also be done for prescription and immunization forms, a great side-effect of a routine check-up at your primary care before leaving.

-Register with the Designated Embassy

This will simplify the process of contacting the government for any needs of safety or assistance. When doing so, you can check for entry/exit fees or necessary vaccinations.

-Create an Itinerary

Make an outline of your expected plans, especially your purpose of entry and departure information, and the conversation with immigration officials will flow more smoothly. This will encourage you to organize your own plans, print any maps, and leave behind an itinerary with an emergency contact.

-First-Aid and Health Supplies

With an immune system that weakens with a sneeze, I have learned to always carry a Med-Kit. This page from the CDC helps to narrow down what will be worth having on-reserve.

-Osprey Backpack

I will be carrying such medicine in this pack, the Ariel AGTM 75L, throughout my upcoming trip and beyond. With a simple rain cover, it does an exceptional job fitting all of my needs, blocks any roaming hands, and it sits comfortably on my hips!

Ayo Technology

-Cellular Plan

Contact your provider, find the most logical international plan at a reasonable cost, and make sure to activate the global settings on your phone. It is possible to forgo your home plan and take advantage of the cellular data of the country you’re visiting by transferring your SIM-card, which should hold your saved contacts and numbers, into a phone purchased abroad. 

-Portable Power Bank

POM Power2Go helps me to stay charged, yet there are many options that will allow you to charge your devices on-the-go. These mobile batteries vary in terms of how many charge cycles they provide, the average charge time, and the number of devices that can be charged simultaneously.

-Plug Adapter

It’s electric! Really though, make sure you check the common plug type and voltage of the country or countries you are visiting. This Kikkerland adapter seems to be popular, while this Skross adapter will assist with both plug and voltage adaptation.

Other Knowledge Nuggets

-Can I have your Card?

Use this business pick-up-line and place the card in your wallet to avoid losing track of your hostel or favorite restaurant.

-Prevent Hanger

Save yourself (and others) and bring snacks everywhere.

-Transportation Apps

By downloading international maps, you can follow along with public transportation to confirm that you are taking the best route. Don’t forget about the screenshot! This allows you to save your route as an image, which you can zoom into and expand without using any data.

-Avoid Public Nudity

Or don’t, if that is your thing. But do pack some clothing in your carry-on and explore options for how to check your bag.

-Hydrate or Die-drate

Not all places boast the advantages of filtered tap water or fountains, so you will need to set aside a balance for purchasing water bottles. If you’re expecting low water accessibility, consider this gear for filtering and disinfecting your H2O.

As an LGBTQ+ Traveler

Do your research! It is well-known that the LGBTQ+ community faces specific political, economic, and social challenges around the world.

For anyone planning to travel alone and/or as an open member or ally to the LGBTQ+ community, here are the resources that I have found to be most helpful: GlobalGayz, GayTravel, and PurpleRoofs.


While this list may aid in travel preparation, it is certainly not all-inclusive. Please share this article and tell us at TravelPride what additional tools help you to travel more proudly! Thanks for reading, and be on the look-out for my first post from Peru!

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The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson Gives LGBTs’ a History They’ve Needed

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*To honor the gender fluidity of Marsha P Johnson, I will be referring to them as they.

 

We study our history, so we know from where we came. To learn about the American Revolution, we study the Founding Fathers, Susan B. Anthony for Woman’s Right, Martin Luther King Junior for the Civil Rights Movement. We are taught those histories. However yet the media and even history books have glossed over the gay rights movement, the one that is still being fought today. Who are our leaders? Where are their stories?

Thanks to director David Frances we have one, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson a documentary released last month on Netflix. It tells the story of Marsha P. Johnson, their life as a transgender person, their activism in the LGBT community, and their mysterious death.

Even as a member of the LGBT community, until this documentary I was unaware of whom Marsha P. Johnson was, this Rosa Parks of the LGBT community. Therefore I was very much a blank slate about what this movie was going to be about. But nothing could prepare me for how emotional, impactful, and eye-opening this movie was going to be. This is a movie that blends both the past and the present, showing those in the community how far we’ve come, and how much work we still need to do.

The documentary uses a mix of never-before-seen footage, rediscovered interviews, and modern times, creating both a mystery that needs to be solved and a wake-up call.  This is especially seen in the opening of the film when we are shown a clip of people marching on the streets of New York , some waving rainbow flags, others holding signs, and others carrying a picture of a black, femme presenting woman, smiling. A Clark Kent type anchor man is heard in the voiceover, using the word “transvestite”, now an insensitive term, informing the viewer that it’s 1992 and Marsha P. Johnson is dead at 42 years old. Police say it’s a suicide.

But Johnson’s friends and members of the LGBT community believe that she was murdered.

This is not your typical documentary. Instead of a linear timeline or an autobiographical story of Johnson, we are given almost an LGBT detective story. An episode worthy of the show Cold Case, for sure. Our protagonist is Victoria Cruz, a transgender activist from the New York City Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Group and now amateur sleuth, about to retire, and her last case will be the 1992 murder of the beloved transgender icon.

While this is a movie about Johnson, we are given the personal backstory about not only Cruz and their personal history of assault, but other gay icons. For example, the movie goes into a side story about the LGBT activist Sylvia Rivera who co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with Johnson which was a housing and support program for young trans women of color.

We are also introduced to so many other transgender community members that it almost became overwhelming. One of the drawbacks of this movie was that there wasn’t enough time for everything. The film is only an hour and 45 minutes long and it is so jam-packed with topics and issues and people that the viewer can be completely overwhelmed with both information and emotion. Personally, I feel that Sylvia Rivera could, and should, have their own documentary. Also, I would have been fine with the film being longer which is a rare critique, but with some much to cover, it needed time to slow down.

However, what it may lack in pacing is made up with impact. This film is a bucket of ice-cold water, waking up everyone in the LGBT community. Many people believe that the LGBT community has finally gained equality because they’ve won the right to get married. That’s it right? The war is over? But that is not the case for our trans members in our community who are still suffering today and often getting the brunt of anti-LGBT attacks.

Throughout the documentary we see trans women homeless, in prison, assaulted, and horribly murdered, with no one else to lean on but other LGBT community members who are also vulnerable. These trans women, many of them people of color, are ignored by society, even their fellow LGBT members. This is said best at the most powerful and poignant part of the movie. At the 2016 sentencing of a man who confessed to beating 21-year-old trans woman Islan Nettles to death in Harlem three years early. One activist standing outside of the courthouse goes on a rant about the “privileged gays” who once protested with the transgender people for equal rights and then promptly left them to fend for themselves once they won the right to gay marriage.

“It’s LGB T. It’s LGBT,” the activist cries. It’s painful because it’s true. Transgender and “drag queens” created the LGBT movement, they were the representation of the community. But who was there to represent them when they were being murdered and attacked? Who was there for Marsha P. Johnson?

Going back to the detective drama genre aspect, we go into theories to why Johnson was killed. There’s even with a theory that the mafia did it (Stonewall Inn being own by the Mafia at the time). Again, this movie has a lot of information, with not a lot of time, and at the end, we don’t get an answer. But what we do get are the stories told by POC Transgender woman and the smiling face of Marsha P. Johnson, and that is priceless.

The verdict

As someone who came into this movie not knowing a lot about LGBT history, I was blown away. I learned so much from this movie. It opened my eyes to a lot of subculture and caste systems of the LGBT community of which I wasn’t aware. I loved the old footage they had of Marsha P. Johnson in drag singing (poorly), Cruz in her younger, model days, and other older, historical clips. I felt really emotional watching Cruz getting hung up on over and over again. It affected me in a lot of ways, even if it was overwhelming and confusing at some points. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about LGBT history.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Queens.

“The Death and Lift of Marsha P. Johnson” can be watched on Netflix

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Growing Up with Gender Neutrality

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Even before we are born, gender seeps through the womb like a glaze on a cake: very slowly, but all-encompassing, soaking what was a blank slate with gender norms and heterosexual expectations. From then on we slowly become more and more conscious of societal expectations, and unwritten rules and consequences. Whether they be intentional or not, the impact can be substantial.

Equality at Egalia

When people are young, they are malleable. The surroundings they are subjected to and the individuals that interact with them are instrumental in forming their first viewpoints of the world. Egalia, a preschool in Sweden, is a prime example of a safe learning environment that provides space to explore interests and activities that might be frowned upon or not offered in other preschools. “We don’t say, ‘Come on boys, let’s go and play football,’ because there might be girls who want to play football,” says Frida Wikström, the schools’ coordinator.  

Keeping the Ball Rolling

How does one continue the example of a safe environment shown at Egalia at home? It can actually be more difficult due to our own personal ingrained ideas about gender and what they look like. The first place to start in creating a freeing environment is the toy chest. Here are my top 10 picks for gender neutral toys:

  1. Stuffed animals – Who doesn’t love something soft and cuddly to carry around?
  2. Doctor Kit – I remember growing up with a Sesame Street doctor kit, and loving it.
  3. Building Toys – Legos, Lincoln Logs, blocks, etc.
  4. Appliances – Kitchen sets have always been a favorite of mine; cooking is a great skill to have, especially when you’re hungry!
  5. Play Food – A kitchen isn’t much good without some food to cook with!
  6. Tools – Fixing your vacuum cleaner, or changing a tire are skills everyone could benefit from learning.
  7. Bike or Trike – Once you learn, you never forget!
  8. Bath Toys – I was never a fan of bathing growing up, but having bath toys always made it much more bearable.
  9. Outdoor Games – Balls, frisbees, and hula hoops are all classics.
  10. Musical Toys – Who knows – maybe a toy xylophone will be the catalyst of creating a great percussionist!

Gender Neutral Clothes for Kids

Whether one is at Egalia, or at home, play clothes are a necessity. Here are my top 3 gender neutral kids clothing stores:

  1. Quirkie Kids – I adore how the majority of the clothes are images of cool things! Who doesn’t want a shark on a shirt?! Some shirts don’t resonate with me as much (“Still a boy” / “Still a girl”) but I can see how they could be validating for someone who is often told they are not behaving masc or femme enough for the gender they identify with.
  2. Baby Blastoff! – I am a VERY big fan of this company. Tabs are divided into shirts, pants, and bodysuits. Again, they are screenprinted with super cool images (trees, birds, dinosaurs). What captured my heart was seeing a child in a wheelchair sporting one of these awesome t shirts on the homepage – showing that ALL KIDS deserve awesome clothes. Representation of all types of kiddos is important, validating, and beautiful.
  3. Target – Target is setting an example by offering a ‘neutral’ setting under filters when looking at clothes. Supporting independent and local businesses is important and ideal. However, when we are in need of something affordable and closeby, it is wonderful to have validating and inclusive options.

Gender isn’t Garbage

I was raised very gender neutrally. Solid colored shirts and pants, not a lot of Barbies, and a whole lot of blocks and crayons. Even when I took ballet lessons from 4th – 6th grade, there were very few pink and frilly garments. There were times growing up where I wanted to present more femme. I wanted to wear clothes with some sparkle and sequins. I wanted to play around with makeup. There was a forbidden aspect that made it even more intriguing. This also applied to toys. The “boy” toy aisle in Walmart always looked more fun. There was action, adventure, variety, and more.

Egalia is more than just a preschool – it is an example of what all humans desire and deserve: “a space to feel security, joy and a desire to learn and develop many rich expressions, where everyone feels involved and where learning is for life!” Gender is not bad. Being assigned female at birth (AFAB) and loving dresses and dolls is not bad. Being assigned male at birth (AMAB) and loving trucks and pants is not bad. Eliminating gender isn’t the answer to creating a safe and fun environment to grow and play. Egalia acknowledges and embraces that. Critics have labelled the project as “gender-madness,” accusing the school of trying to brainwash the kids into a genderless homogeneity. Egalia’s not trying to do that. Gender is an important part of people’s identities, and the kids are free to embrace those differences.

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