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Christine Thomas, W. Florida '10
Matthew Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming in the 1990s. He was really just a regular guy, with a mind for activism and a generally optimistic outlook, as well as some inner struggles with depression and peer pressure. You know, a normal twenty-something, just like the rest of us. Matthew also happened to be gay, and like other young gay males, he faced challenges related to his sexuality and discrimination from the bigots in his town.
On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at a local bar. After offering Matthew a ride, the two strangers robbed and tortured him before tying him to a fence post outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and leaving him with severe brain trauma. It was another eighteen hours before Matthew was found, and life support sustained him for five more days before he succumbed to his inoperable injuries and passed away on October 12, 1998.
Less than a year later, Matthew Shepard’s murderers were brought to as much justice as the court system can provide for such a heinous act. Matthew is now seen as a martyr for the cause of equal rights and ending discrimination against homosexuals. Songs and films have been written in honor of Matthew, as well as a very popular play entitled “The Laramie Project.” The Matthew Shepard Act (officially called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Protection Act) has been passed, including sexual orientation as a legally-recognized basis for hate crimes. Matthew’s tragic death has opened many eyes to the plight of the LGBT community, and he is remembered annually on October 12. (This year, the UWF GSA will be holding a candlelight vigil that night on the Cannon Greens.)
While watching the U.S. House of Representatives discuss the Matthew Shepard act on April 29, 2009, via streaming video online, I came to a harsh realization. The speakers spoke at length about Matthew Shepard, as well as of several other young gay men who have been killed in recent years because of their sexual orientation. Each of the cases mentioned featured homosexual victims who were in their late teens or early twenties, male, and generally well-liked. Hearing these cases, I began to draw parallels between the traits of the victims discussed and those of my own friends—the vast majority of whom happen to be young, gay men. Allowing myself to think further on these hard-to-swallow comparisons, I fully realized why I fight so hard to advocate for equal rights and acceptance: I don’t want to live in fear that one day, one of my best friends will be tied to a fence post outside of Laramie, Wyoming.
I’m a bubbly little activist. I put on a smile and use my enthusiasm to educate and advocate in the name of LGBT equality. I fight with compassion and perseverance for the people who make my life worth living. My friends mean the world to me, and the fact that most of them happen to fit into a demographic that has to be protected by hate crimes legislation terrifies me more than they will ever know. I will do whatever is within my power to make sure that Matthew Shepard did not die in vain, and to protect my friends from lethal ignorance and hatred.
For more information on Matthew Shepard and related issues, visit the following websites:
For centuries, homosexuals existed on the fringe of society; the LGBT community as it stands today did not begin to form until June of 1969 with the Stonewall Riots of New York’s Greenwich Village. This significant series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations was the first recorded incidence of homosexuals fighting back against governmental oppression on a unified scale. Stonewall served as the turning point between homosexuality being seen merely as a societal and romantic alternative, and homosexuals coming together to form an alliance in pursuit of recognition and equality.
After this point, the gay rights movement was truly born. In the past four decades, organizations advocating same-sex equality have become common, demonstrations and marches have become regular occurrences, and gays have become increasingly visible in the community and in the media. Gays are no longer denied service in bars; alternatively, “gay bars” are becoming veritable hot spots for people of all sexualities. The United States is making significant strides toward legalizing gay marriage in every state, and several countries have already beaten us to this goal. Now that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals have come together as a unit to fight for their rights, social progress is being made.
On top of the political movements made possible by the LGBT community, the existence of the community itself has become an important feature in the lives of many who do not identify as “straight.” Those who may now claim membership to the LGBT community would, several decades ago, have had a much more difficult time finding such a support group of like-minded individuals who share their lifestyle. Thanks to the coming-together of those with sexualities alternative to heterosexual, the gay rights movement is snowballing toward success.
Those are my two cents for the day. All of the above info has come straight from Wikipedia and my own little brain. Nothing too hardcore this week—I’m just grateful to be a part of such an awesome group of LGBT individuals (and allies!) as the UWF Gay-Straight Alliance and felt like saying so.
I’ve been told that I have an unfair advantage as a bisexual. I can pass as a heterosexual when it’s convenient and theoretically avoid the discrimination faced by the LGBT community as a whole. On the other hand, I can fit in with the LGBT crowd and fully immerse myself in the culture. Unfortunately, the fact that I can float freely between the dichotomous categories of “gay” and “straight” means that I face animosity and even discrimination from both sides of the fence.
Bisexuals, like the rest of the LGBT community, undergo a “coming out” process. From some heterosexuals, I face the typical “liking girls is wrong/gross” attitude, and I can legally be denied housing and visitation and adoption in the state of Florida should I end up with a woman in the long run. From both the heterosexual and homosexual demographics, a new slew of unique criticisms arise:
- One of my personal favorites is the opinion that bisexuality doesn’t exist—that someone has to “pick a side.” I can both be “with” the LGBT community and fight for equality as a minority in our heterosexual society, or I can be a part of the straight community and exist as an ally, but never quite be a part of the “in” group.
- I also enjoy being told that I only claim bisexuality for the attention; apparently, I’m really only attracted to guys, but guys think lesbians are hot, so I make out with girls to get guys to like me. Right. I’ve been attracted to both sexes pretty much equally since the age of six. I seriously doubt I had this particular ulterior motive in the first grade.
- This one’s more of a myth than an act of discrimination, but it still needs to be cleared up: being bisexual does not mean that I desire being with someone of each sex at the same time. A person can quite easily be bisexual and monogamous. Bisexuality determines attraction, not the difference between faithfulness and polygamy.
“It is a characteristic of the human mind that tries to dichotomize in its classification of phenomena….Sexual behavior is either normal or abnormal, socially acceptable or unacceptable, heterosexual or homosexual; and many persons do not want to believe that there are gradations in these matters from one to the other extreme.”
(Click here for more information about Kinsey!)
So, yeah. I’m bisexual. I exist. I don’t do it for the attention. I’m cool with monogamous relationships. For me, my sexual orientation really is a simple concept, and I never think I have to “choose” between men and women, or being straight or gay. Call me greedy if you like, but sometimes it feels like it’s too much to ask for if I request both my rights and some respect. Regardless, I think we’re moving in the right direction toward both equality and understanding, and hopefully my little rant has helped to broaden some horizons when it comes to the enigma that is bisexuality.
For more information on the history of bisexuality and the struggles of the bisexual community, here are some references I dug up for my Sex Roles from Anthropological Perspective course:
D’Augelli, A.R. & Patterson, C.J. (1995) Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identities Over the Lifespan. New York: Oxford University Press.
Fraser, M. (1999). Identity Without Selfhood : Simone de Beauvoir & Bisexuality. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Reumann, M. (2005). American Sexual Character: Sex, Gender, and National Identity in the Kinsey Reports. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Rust, P.C. (2002). Bisexuality and the Challenge to Lesbian Politics. New York: New York University Press.
Storr, M. (1999). Bisexuality: a Critical Reader. London: Routledge.
Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J., & Pryor, D.W. (1995). Dual Attraction : Understanding Bisexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.
x-posted → uwfgsa.blogspot.com
In the United States, when someone wishes to donate blood, they must answer a few simple questions in order to determine their eligibility. Some of the questions that are asked of blood donors include the following:
Are you between the ages of 17 and 60?
Do you have any type of blood clotting disorder?
Have you ever tested positive for HIV?
Are you, or have you ever had sex with, a man who has had sex with another man?
… Wait a sec. Something’s wrong with this picture. You would think that by asking if someone has ever tested positive for HIV would cover all of the medical worries that blood donation centers would have concerning allowing homosexual males to donate blood. Apparently, however, the American Association of Blood Banks and the American Red Cross disagree, and this enrages me on so many levels.
First of all, they ask all females if they have ever knowingly had sex with a man who has had sex with another man. They do not, however, ask males if they have had sex with a female who has had sex with a man who has had sex with another man. Nor do they ask females if they have ever had sex with a man who has had sex with a woman who has had sex with a man who has had sex with another man. I’m not sure if anyone has ever thought to inform the people who make the rules at the blood donation centers, but HIV does not somehow lessen in intensity the further you travel from the “source.” Therefore, there is absolutely no point in excluding people from being potential blood donors simply because they happened to have sex with someone of any gender or sexual history. Don’t they test the blood after they receive it, anyway?
As far as I can see on the Blood Donor History Questionnaire, homosexual men and their lovers are the only groups blatantly discriminated against when it comes to blood donation. (The rest make at least a little sense. Have you ever been a drug user? Are you underweight? Have you spent a significant amount of time in a foreign country after which point you could possibly have become a carrier for a disease that we would like to avoid giving to the person who would receive your blood?) It seems that the people who wrote the questionnaire forgot that African Americans are significantly more likely to have HIV than those of Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American descent. Heterosexual intercourse can also be pretty risky when it comes to women contracting HIV. I don’t see the American Association of Blood Banks or the American Red Cross taking any preventative measures in these areas… does that mean that it’s alright to be homophobic in practice as long as we aren’t racist or sexist?
I cannot donate blood without lying on the questionnaire. Neither can a significant majority of my closest friends. One day, it is my hope that the American Association of Blood Banks and the American Red Cross will see just how superfluous their discrimination of homosexual males and their lovers really is, and my demographic will be able to contribute to this life-changing cause.
To learn more, visit:
Content/Donate_Blood/Donor_ History_Questionnaires/AABB_ Blood_Donor_History_ Questionnaire/
(Equality Florida actually wants to use this one on their website! We're still in negotiations.)
First of all, welcome to the Gay-Straight Alliance of the University of West Florida! We are by far one of the most active, involved, and enthusiastic organizations on campus, and I for one cannot wait to swing into high-gear with GSA this semester. A new element of GSA this year will be our informative and opinionated weblogging series, featuring the splendiferous James Goodson as our resident vlogger and myself, Christine Thomas, providing the text-based blogs. We will have a new informative, controversial, and/or relevant topic for you every Tuesday on our GSA website, so be sure to check out what we've been up to every week!
So, let's get into it. Last Sunday, James gave me a call to see what we'd be weblogging about this week, and he mentioned something called the "Gayby Boom." As we are wont to do, we began giggling about gay babies being born with rainbow hair and over enthusiastically escalating our conversation to include the gaybies learning choreography before they could walk. After our ruckus quieted down a bit, I realized that James was serious about this topic. There really is a phenomenon known as the Gayby Boom. Whodathunk?
In sociopolitical jargon, a "gayby" is a child of a homosexual couple, either born to them through artificial insemination or acquired through the adoption process. The Gayby Boom came about after the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, when there came a sharp increase in the number of gay parents having children (abcnews.go.com). Today, there are 270,000 children living with same-sex parents, and about twenty percent of same-sex couples are raising their gaybies.
"Critics of same-sex marriage say [gaybies] will grown up shunned and sexually confused" (CNN.com). Dale O'Leary, author of "One Man, One Woman: A Catholic's Guide to Defending Marriage," says "A baby is not a trophy -- the child's welfare has to be considered. These children are more likely to experiment with same-sex relationships. They're more likely to be confused and hurt." Ironically enough, O'Leary admits that he does not personally know any same-sex parents or children of same-sex parents. The misunderstanding seems to lie in the fact that too many people are talking about the Gayby Boomers-not enough people are talking to them.
I served as a flower girl for the first time at the age of eight, at the wedding of my mother's best friends Jane and Bonnie. At the time, I had no idea that Bonnie's three children were actually gaybies; I simply thought it was neat that they had two mommies. Today, I know a handful of gaybies at UWF, and I can attest to the fact that they are no more or less screwed up than those of us who were raised by heterosexual parents.
x-posted → uwfgsa.blogspot.com