Friday, June 27, 2014

You're Always Welcome In Our Parade. #Pride #LGBTQI

In honor of Pride Month…and because we don't say it nearly as often as we should, I want to send a heartfelt "THANK YOU" to our straight allies. If the only people who gave a flying fig about our rights were us, there wouldn't be any parades.

I'm talking specifically to our friends in the Christian (from dozens of different denominations), Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, and Catholic faiths. You guys take a lot of undeserved shit on our behalf from both sides but you stand with us anyway. Sometimes we're a bit too liberal with the "conservatives are evil" paintbrush and slap you in the face by mistake. We know you're not really as foolish and ignorant as some of your ultra-conservative brethren and I'm sorry for all the times we've ignored the difference in our attempt to make a point. 

Most of us really do know the "R" word (religious) doesn't always mean someone is an ignorant pinhead and people of faith aren't always judgmental and hypocritical. There are some very devout people out there with some very big hearts. Some of us in the LGBTQI community are just a little testy and probably shouldn't be allowed out without a handler.

Happy Pride Month, guys! You're welcome to march in our parade anytime. 

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Friday, June 20, 2014

What's In Your Levi's? #gay

20 years ago, scientific proof of "the gay gene" landed in the press like a fat raindrop in a dry dirt road and kicked up a cloud of murmurs from both sides. Some people found it vindicating. Some found it horrifying. Some didn't care.

Here we are again. The Human Genome Project has found proof of at least two genes that can be linked to sexuality and warn of more to come. I haven't heard much grumbling about it yet but then the press doesn't always give an evenhanded report. Just like with gay marriage, there are mixed opinions in the LGBTQI community about this bit of news but it's difficult to compete for attention with the rantings of the ignorant that leave jaws hanging open in disbelief. (I'm looking at you, Governor Perry.)

Courtesy of Bells Design / Gratisphotography

On one side, it offers scientific proof that people are lying when they claim ex-gay therapy is anything other than a multi-billion-dollar hoax. You can't pray away gay any more than you can pray away blue eyes. You can cover it up with something else but we all know wearing brown contacts doesn't mean you have brown eyes.

On the other side are the disturbed murmurs from within the LGBTQI community that if there really are gay genes it means people could test for such things whether before birth or after. All it would take to ensure gay people were excluded from a country, organization, etc. would be a drop of blood. Being closeted and discrete wouldn't be enough and we all know of several countries that would put that test into practice if they could. 

What do you guys think? Is identifying "gay" genes a step forward, the beginning of a problem, or an interesting bit of news that ultimately changes nothing?

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Friday, June 13, 2014

ARCHIVES: Story Behind the Story - Part 1: Modern Slavery #SavingLiam #LGBT

It's Pride Month! Summer is a time to celebrate our progress and celebrate each other. Some of us spend a lot of time up to our chins in the fight for equality and it's good to take a step back now and then and appreciate the progress that's been made. At the same time, it's a chance to make a goal for the coming year to help free even more people from oppression and abuse so they can join in the next celebration.

As many of you know, I have a book out titled Saving Liam. It's been called "powerful", "emotionally charged", and even "gritty". That's because the story behind it is just as powerful, emotionally charged, and gritty.

The statistics about homeless LGBT kids have been well publicized during the past year as the issue was dragged blinking and squinting into the spotlight. It's long overdue but then so are a lot of things in our battle for equality. However, this isn't a blog about homelessness. It's about the details under those numbers. 

What happens to kids left to wander alone in the world without even basic food or shelter? If you're imagining a homeless bum on a corner, begging for change then you have a little less than half the picture. Let me fill in some more. 

If you're at all familiar with the term "human trafficking", you know it's a homogenized phrase representing a hellish reality. The press uses that term to talk about slavery without people realizing that's what they mean. If you thought slavery ended in the U.S. with the Emancipation Proclamation you're in for a shock. Here is how the sex trade side of it looked in 2013:

  • As many as 300,000 children are currently being used as sexual slaves in the U.S.*
  • 33 percent of homeless kids will be lured into sexual slavery within the first 48 hours on the street.*
  • LGBT kids make up roughly 40 percent of the population of homeless minors. If you carry that percentage over to the population of exploited kids that's 120,000 of them. Keep in mind, these numbers exist outside the headcount of kids on the street because technically they're no longer homeless. Ultimately, that means the situation with homeless LGBT kids could be worse than we think.
  • LGBTs are up to 40 percent more likely to end up a sexual slave which means 120,000 is probably a bit low.**
  • Less than 1/2 percent of child slaves will be rescued or escape their captors.**
  • Less than 10 percent of U.S. police stations are equipped to investigate slavery.*

Those are not pleasant numbers, folks. Saving Liam is just a book and the character is a fictional creation but his life isn't. It's very real for a lot of kids whose only crimes are being born different and having parents who failed them when it counted most. Some of them are forced into prostitution, some into pornography, some into private brothels.

While this is a grim picture, it's not hopeless and that's the piece we need to hold onto. As long as we don't stop with trading statistics and telling stories, we can end this horror. It's not enough to be an ally. You have to be an advocate otherwise nothing changes and more kids like Liam will end up forced into situations they can't escape. 

What can we do? The same thing we've been doing but bigger! We need to build up the resources for LGBT kids. If the first place they go when they're in trouble is an LGBT center or national hotline the predators won't have a chance to get their hands on them. Pick a bullet point and make a commitment to follow through and change someone's story this year.

  • Find out what LGBT youth shelters exist in your city and support them! Charities don't run on lip service. They run on volunteer labor and donations. Find out what supplies they need and donate or start a local drive to collect things. The less they spend on necessities for the kids the more they can spend on outreach. In some cases, you can even have donated items delivered through the Amazon Smile program.
  • If your community doesn't have an LGBT youth shelter then start making some noise! Gather online and local support and look into starting one. A majority of LGBT organizations started that same way.
  • If that's too ambitious then support the national hotlines. There are three of them built specifically for kids: National Runaway Safeline, The Trevor Project, and The Boys Town Hotline. All of them do great work and help a lot of kids regardless of their sexual orientation but their voices aren't strong enough yet. There are still LGBT kids out there who have no idea they exist and if the kids don't know about them, they can't help.
  • If you don't live in the U.S., contact an LGBT organization near you and get involved even if it's not with kids. 

This is your chance to help save someone like Liam.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Working, Writing, and Winners!

Sometimes life gets a little crazy! Most of you know exactly what I mean. Between work, family, and trying to have a life, it can feel like you're running the wrong way up an escalator.

I've learned several things during the last year and one of them is how much time it takes to run a career as a published author. I set a pace that puts four books a year on the shelves and between writing, reading, editing, and marketing it's non-stop. Sometime in April, I crested the point of devoting 40 hours a week to it. Like a lot of you, I have a "real" job that pays the bills and hogs its own 40 - 50 hours. Volunteer work fits in the cracks. That means I'm working on something almost every minute of the day seven days a week.

Image courtesy of  zirconicusso /

I don't own a television and therefore don't have cable but I do have Netflix so I get sucked into DVDs and TV shows as easily as anyone else. Over the course of a week that equals a lot of wasted time I could use on other things, not to mention that once I plop down on the comfortable couch with my feet up I'm likely to stay there a while. Prodding myself back off it kept getting harder and resulted in a lot of whining so last week I started a little experiment.

I put away the DVD's and traded Netflix for Pandora. Music gets boring after a while so to supplement it I found a cache of old radio show broadcasts and listen to those, as well. Between the two, I am happy (and somewhat surprised) to say I haven't unpacked the DVDs or logged back into Netflix in six whole days. They say it takes ten days to break a habit and so far, I'm well on my way to being permanently TV free!

I recognize the need to have time to just goof off. Otherwise I'll end up with workaholic's burnout and be no good to anyone. I do have an hour or so a day where I'm doing nothing of any importance but I'm less likely to turn it into a marathon and that was the point. Don't worry, I'm not going to be an ass about it. There's nothing wrong with enjoying television and I have no intention of browbeating people into taking the batteries out of their remote controls. The TV industry provides paychecks to a lot of people, some of whom I call my friends but I'll have to support their career choices another way because this alternative relieves a lot of stress for me. 

Have any of you guys ever boycotted television? How did it go? Did you tune back in at some point?

While I'm on the subject of fun...I have a new winner in my weekly ebook giveaway. It's Shorty!

If you want a chance to win a $5 gift card, too you can sign up here! You have 52 chances a year to win so the odds are you'll be picked at least once.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Open Letter to Florida #gay

Dear Attorney General Bondi:
Let me start by saying, I agree with the point you tried and failed to make. The current laws of the state of Florida specifically state marriage is for heterosexuals only. I get it. You can't just choose not to defend that particular law when doing so is your job. 

As for your argument that gays don't need marriage rights because we don't understand the concept of commitment I'd love to know what evidence you have to support it. Have you taken time to meet with gay couples and learn the details of their relationships or are you basing that opinion solely on what you've seen on television and inferred from the flagrant display of sexuality during Pride? 

Let me assure you, annual Pride is not what the gay community is about any more than Saint Patrick's Day accurately represents the Irish. It's gay Spring Break where everybody puts aside the sometimes crushing realities of life and lets it all hang out...literally. It doesn't stand for who we are as a community and what we want. It stands for the freedom to be who we are as individuals. As you've probably figured out, a few of us are perpetually horny and like to walk through town wearing nothing but body paint.

If you're basing your opinion on television and movies then you need to turn off the idiot box and get out more! Hollywood never has and never will accurately represent the lives of average people because it doesn't sell. The closest they come to it is 'reality' TV and let's be honest, that's about as close to real life as Velveeta is to real cheese. 

Contrary to popular Conservative opinion...framed by people who are proud to admit they've never actually spoken to anyone who is's not really a sexual free for all out here. It's just a bunch of average Americans living life. Some of them are good at relationships, some of them aren't. That's no different from the straight community and I don't have to tell you that. Your own divorces are testament to the idea that not every relationship makes it to 'until death do us part'. That doesn't mean couples shouldn't have the right to try it.

Politics and legal arguments aside, I invite you to sit down with some real gay couples in your state and see for yourself that the antics of the Twenty-Something's don't represent everyone in the gay community any more than they do in the straight community. Those kids are a little nuts. They'll outgrow it. The first time you hear a young gay couple talking about getting married one day and how many kids they want to have you'll understand. Gay or straight, when it comes to the quest for Happily Ever After there's no difference and claiming the gay community has no need for a happy ending is at best ignorant.

As for your argument that same-sex marriage will adversely impact society in Florida by reducing the number of children being born, I'm deeply sorry to hear that. Your statement implies that given an alternative, straight couples would marry anyone but the opposite sex and immediately stop having babies. Should we take that to mean Florida's straight community is only having kids because they don't think they have a choice? If the revolutionary idea that you can marry someone of the same sex is going to bring about the downfall of your state that speaks to an issue that has nothing to do with us. While we're concerned for the future of your section of the U.S. we can't claim responsibility for that.

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