Gay Fresno - Opinion

Opinion

Remarks for Brooke Ashjian

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Monday, 14 August 2017 14:43
  • Written by Jol Devitro

Jol DevitroDuring last week's school board meeting, time was reduced and I was unable to share my full remarks to Brooke Ashjian. I hope these may find their way to him and to those who share his beliefs. ~Jol

 

American hero Helen Keller said,“The highest result of education is tolerance.” Her quote, though universal in nature, seems particularly appropriate in light of recent public comments made by Board president Ashjian.

With 3 toxic sentences, this man has demonstrated without a doubt his unfitness to sit on this board, let alone preside over it.

  1. First, referring to sex ed he said: “My biggest fear in teaching this ...you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that “
  2. He also uttered this line: “It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian ”
  3. And finally, his distaste for comprehensive sex education that includes learning about abortion was summarized thusly: “There’s certainly a lot of psychological effects that come from abortion that people need to be aware of. Your life is a lot easier by not doing it. Look at these poor girls who get raped and have to have an abortion. If that’s the way they’ve got to go, God bless them. But think of all the repercussions that come later in life, mental and psychological.”

On Monday Interim superintendent Bob Nelson released a statement on behalf of FUSD that appeared to repudiate his colleague’s statements. “Fresno Unified firmly believes that students and staff perform best in an environment where tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness are practiced and valued,” Mr. Nelson said.

This statement is in perfect alignment with the California education code , which cites the following aims of the California Healthy Youth Act:

 

“To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family.

To   promote   understanding    of     sexuality as                   a normal part of human development.

To ensure pupils receive integrated, comprehensive, accurate, and unbiased sexual health and HIV prevention instruction and provide educators with clear tools and guidance to accomplish that end, and To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to have healthy, positive, and safe relationships and behaviors.”

Indeed, we have learned from the disastrous results of suppressing such information and keeping our young people in the dark that knowledge is power and healthy acceptance of the self is a human necessity.

Knowledge allows us human beings to assess risk in an informed way and to make judicious decisions that keep us from harm’s way.

Likewise, healthy attitudes allow us to develop the self-esteem that allows us to thrive in the world, to believe in ourselves, and to respect and care for ourselves, which is a prerequisite of respecting and caring for others.

When, as a society, we fail to arm our kids with the scientific knowledge that they need in order to navigate the perils of this world, we set them up for failure in life. Ignorance leads to bad life choices. Education, which is meant to dispel ignorance, allows us to make the best possible choices.

 

When we, as a society, fail to instill a positive self image in our children, we set them up for a lifetime of low self-esteem, which leads to every type of antisocial behavior.

In the words of another beloved American icon and survivor of societal discrimination, Ru Paul, “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a bit of my personal experience. I grew up in Fresno and have recently returned here after 25 years away.

For years my attitude regarding Fresno was that it was a cultural wasteland that seemed to take delight in smashing anybody who was in any way different from quote-unquote “normal”. I’d hoped things might have changed, that Fresno might have come into step with the rest of the country in its acceptance of the LGBT community, but Mr. Ashjian’s comments the other day came as a disillusioning slap in the face and a reminder that the climate of hate is still burning our city’s most vulnerable people.

In order to become who I am today--a proud member of the LGBTQ etc. community--I had to leave this town, finish my education elsewhere, and live in the world, where I could bear witness to the lives of all sorts of

people and walk in their proverbial shoes. I would hope that no kid growing up here in this day and age should ever have to feel that way, or be made to feel inferior because of their sexuality or gender or any other distinguishing trait that sets them apart from the “norm.” But Mr. Ashjian’s hurtful comments show me we still have a long way to go.

Let me tell you how I know Mr. Ashjian is wrong in his assumption that keeping kids ignorant adds value to an individual’s life or to our society.

Despite 13 years of private Catholic schooling, during which I absorbed more judeo-Christian philosophies than a nun could shake a ruler at; and

 

despite attending church on a weekly basis with my family from infancy to adulthood; despite receiving all of the church’s sacraments and my own family’s teachings on right and wrong; despite growing up without the Internet or the hundreds of channels of cable television kids today have; despite coming of age during the first horrific appearance of AIDS on the world stage; despite the images of gay men wasting and dying hideous and horrible deaths, and despite the myriad ‘80s televangelists, and teachers, and priests explaining this new plague as God’s judgment on the “gay lifestyle”, despite the Reagan administration’s official silence about the epidemic and unofficial laughter over it; despite my being a high-ranking Boy Scout and even an altar boy, despite having no friends or acquaintances who were gay or trans or queer in any way, my very nature, all by itself, was swaying me to “go that way” that Mr. Ashjian is so afraid of.

Read more: Remarks for Brooke Ashjian

Ashjian not my president

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Thursday, 10 August 2017 14:26
  • Written by Jared Hanamaikai

brooke ashjian 2Tonight I attended a Fresno Unified School District Board Meeting as a volunteer for LGBT Fresno. At one point I was handing out rainbow ribbons for LGBT supporters to wear and accepting donations for the organization. I was approached by a Mr. Chavez who said his attorneys said I wasn't allowed to do that. Not knowing which side of the issue of, LGBT inclusion is sex education, he represented, I agreed to take my donation bin outside. I was disappointed because I missed the second half of Jason's interview. When I came back in I found myself standing near Mr. Chavez and Brooke Ashjian talking to each other.

Early in the meeting I thought I saw Ashjian's horns start to show. Lol! Just a little joke about Mormons that the their religious competition the born again Christians believe. Is that funny? No. Well neither are Ashjian's false and derogatory comments about Gay Fresno, the organization I have been volunteering with for the past 7 years. Brooke Ashjian told the website rip off reports that Gay Fresno raped him and made him into a sex slave. Ricky Martin, Cher, Lady Gaga give me strength. The only person who spoke on Ashjian's behalf was illogical, uneducated, and a liar, just like Ashjian himself. Ashjian has already been sued and lost a lawsuit against a construction company that he also made false remarks about.

Ashjian said that with the decline of religion they don't get first crack at their children. Why don't Mormons ever look within for why religion is declining instead of constantly creating the gay scapegoat. The lie perpetuated by Mormon and Catholic clergy is that homosexuals are child molestors. Actually religious people are getting first crack at children, hence the hellacious amount of money the Catholic church has had to pay their victims of child molestation. That was not caused by gay people who somehow made it into the priesthood.

Maybe the reason the Mormon religion is declining is because heterosexual people who are taught about having intercourse in school are considered the norm when they have premarital sex or do drugs/alcohol. If they enter their bishops office and decide to serve an lds mission they can. Homosexuals on the other hand are not allowed to have sex and serve missions or be members. Rampant hypocrisy is the fountain of dirty water that erodes the Mormon church. Why do they keep saying that they love us when they don't accept us and are constantly judgemental towards us? Love does not judge. And love definitely does not force gay youth or adults into gay change therapy, a sadistic practice by the religious right that has included electroshocking their victims to death.

Please be legal and ethical and include LGBT people in sex education, so as someone else said, we don't end up finding out about it from a stranger, we don't put ourselves at risk for contracting HIV, and last but not least we don't commit suicide because we feel shame about our sexuality.

Trump & The LGBTQ+ Community

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Tuesday, 18 July 2017 13:55
  • Written by Sapho

Let’s rewind to the night of the November 8th- I sat with my family in front of my mom’s big screen TV, excitedly waiting for the results that would announce the new leader of our free world. I won’t go into details of the battlefield my mind had endured when casting my ballot, but I can assure you, my vote was not one for Trump. Near the end of the night, with a nerve wrecking close race, I felt sick to my stomach and our exciting night came to an end as we solemnly parted ways. We had decided that we could no longer watch the race. I walked through my front door and made a bee line for my couch, where I fell into an emotionally exhausted slumber. I woke up at around 3am and frantically searched for my phone so that I could check the election results, and to my disgust, I saw that Donald Trump was our newly elected President. It felt unreal. Nobody saw it coming. I wrestled with my own mind for hours, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. Why was this so terrifying? Why was I so worried? This was more than just a political party race- but from distress, my mind couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

For the next few months, until the date of his inauguration, I analyzed the campaign promises Donald Trump had made. While his general rhetoric was repetitively explaining that he was for LGBT rights, he had a troubling past of supporting “traditional marriage” and his choice for Vice President was an LGBT enemy. Mike Pence supported Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, fought marriage equality on the grounds of “religious freedom” and believed in conversion therapy, among other anti-gay beliefs. America has an infamous past of poor treatment to those of LGBTQ identities, and this election created a path back to historical times of LGBTQ hell. I feared that the work of the LGBTQ community, and those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, would be erased.
That fear is becoming a reality. Just hours after the inauguration earlier this year, the Trump administration had scrubbed the white house website of the LGBT page. This page is still available on the archived Barack Obama version on whitehouse.gov, however, was not deemed of importance to keep during the Trump administration, along with other pages such as the climate change page, civil rights page, and Spanish translation option. This was only table setting for the year and changes to come.
By January 31st, a leaked draft of the anti-LGBTQ executive order is received with a protest at the historic Stonewall National Monument. The Trump administration denied that it was an order that was considered by Trump, but that doesn’t stop the panic. “Inside sources” then reveal that he was in fact considering signing this order, that eerily resembled the First Amendment Defense Act, a “religious freedom” bill that Trump had promised to sign during his campaign. However, his daughter Ivanka and son in law Jared intervened, and it was not signed.
Then came along Betsy DeVos, whom for many reasons, I do not support. Her history of ties and donations to anti-LGBTQ groups being one of them. The lack of representation and sexual education for the LGBTQ children was already a concern, and suddenly we were going to have to fear discrimination on our children in public schools that would be allowed by the education system. If Betsy wasn’t enough, we then got Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, who has been called “a lifelong opponent of the civil rights of LGBT people, people of color, women and immigrants” by Lambda Legal Executive Director Rachel Tiven.

From surges in hate groups, the revoking of the equal access to bathrooms for transgender students, to President Trump signing an executive order that revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act, my worst nightmares were coming true. The progress that those before us fought and died for, was being washed away. We were even removed from the drafted 2020 U.S. census, where the Department of Commerce said that including the LGBTQ Americans was an error, because there was no need for this data. We had moved forward so much, only to have our inclusions become errors, as we were not necessary.

Another troublesome issue- the White House along with the Trump Administration, refused to acknowledge or declare June as pride month. Although he isn’t the first sitting president to refuse to do so, he is the first who vehemently defends himself as an LGBT ally who refused to. Actions speak louder than those campaign lies, and we can all see the truth clearly now.
The hits just keep coming, as we battle with the supreme court about Transgender Bathroom Laws and Discrimination cases, that question whether a business can discriminate because of their religious beliefs. When speaking with a friend, she expresses her concerns by stating “There's been a definite increase in discrimination. It's essentially given people the "go ahead" to say things that, I feel, they would not have said before Trump was president. Especially here in Fresno, let alone elsewhere. I'm afraid more for my friends who can't pass for straight, especially my trans friends.” Her concerns are not unfounded. In 2016, at least 22 deaths of transgender people due to fatal violence were tracked. So far in 2017, that number is already at 14 transgender people who were fatally shot or killed by other violence. She adds “The bathroom bills are already a slippery slope towards legal discrimination against trans people.” Although she identifies as a bisexual cis woman, she recognizes the dangers in her surrounding community, as do I.

Months after election night, and I’m starting to pinpoint the fear I felt. It’s the looming doom of oppression, and the preparation for battle. We fought for human rights, we fought for civil rights, we fought for freedom of expression and for personal autonomy. We fought so that people can be who they are without discrimination. We were so close, and now I feel we have an uphill battle to restore equality. My biggest fear is that we as the LGBTQ community became comfortable with the Obama administration. We need to connect with our communities and allies to be politically aware, and to be active in everything that we do. It is not trivial to prepare our fight, because we are already being stripped of rights. The increase in hate crimes for all minority groups is unacceptable, so we need to stay safe. Our community is most important right now, and we need to access and be aware of all the resources available. I am including some internet resources below this article. Check them out- and please- don’t give up hope and be safe!

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Our Boots March On

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Monday, 31 July 2017 16:11
  • Written by Deanna S. Galbraith

trump rainbowI think we all can agree that this last presidential election was quite the roller coaster. It was exciting, stimulating, and oh so angering at times. Despite feeling like we were a part of some lame reality television show exposing our most embarrassing family dysfunctions and secrets, I don't think any of us ever thought it would actually continue. Then there it was, The apocalypse. I remember being at work that Tuesday evening of the election taking customer calls from all over the U.S. I was respectful and pleasant to all the Trump supporters calling in never the while thinking they would actually be the ones to pop open those bottles of bubbly. After my shift still hopeful i get home , turn on the television, and there it was. They announced Donald Trump as the new president. I sat there with my mouth wide open, tears streaming down my face, heart cracking and shattering to a million little pieces dropping into my sickened belly. Speechless.

Facebook friends had been slowly creeping out of the Trump supporting closet and some were LGBT! Sure he held a rainbow flag at one of his rallies and gave some sad lip service and awkwardly vomited out the letters LGBTQ, but really who believed or trusted any of it?
Then there were the christian friends beginning to post anti homosexual propaganda and hail Mike Pence as some holy man of God. Here we go again trying to merge church and state and dictate. Now we know this man is no friend of our LGBT family nor does he want us to have any normal decent human being rights. Yet some within our family and community are supporting him? Even some of our "allies". All the disgusting behavior we witnessed first hand of Trump, all the racism and negativity surrounding him, and all his cabinet picks really said a lot! I know I am not alone in feeling this was very reminiscent to what I remember of the whole Prop 8 debacle.

Everywhere you looked and mostly in Northern Fresno were those damn yellow Yes on 8 signs.
I remember feeling too scared to even have a rainbow sticker on my car during this time because who knew what would happen. Just like in these Trump days people back then were more than happy to jump on the hate bandwagon. Together they felt comfortable to display their ignorance, hate, and bigotry. We were dissected down to be only a representation of sex and ignored for the red beating hearts and souls we are deep down.

I remember driving in Atwater at the five corners seeing Yes on 8 protesters with their signs and immediately went to the store with my best friend to make our own. We went back to that corner this time on foot with No on 8 signs.

I will never forget the lady there that was against my rights looking at me slightly confused and delighted when I showed her nothing but respect and kindness in our conversation despite our obvious disagreement. I only hope that that moment made her think twice about how she judges and views us. Yes we were also met by trucks of men screaming at us calling us fags and dykes but guess what? We were also met by others who were encouraged by just us two No on 8 girls in the midst of that Yes group who were empowered to make their own noise and signs as well.yes 8 signs

Now we are able to be happily married and some of us sure jumped on it after this election. I married the love of my life and many others did too. Everywhere you looked many of the LGBT community were saying I do and it was no coincidence it was before this man got into the office officially.

I'll be completely honest and I know I'm not alone in this, I became quite depressed and really felt knocked down by this election, but it's time to get back up.

I want to say also that I in no way compare my pain and sorrows to those who paved the way and really truly fought the good fight. Those fighters and activists who with their blood sweat and tears made it even possible for any of us LGBT to have the rights we deserve.

Somewhere Over the LGBTQ+ Rainbow

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Sunday, 16 July 2017 11:05
  • Written by Franchesca Thomas

black brown prideflagThe opposition to black and brown stripes being added to the Pride Flag is an almost poetic metaphor for the discrimination LGBTQ+ people of color face on a daily basis. One would think, being part of a marginalized community, broader inclusivity and intersectionality would be a given, but that is not always the case. As demonstrated with the mixed reactions to Philadelphia’s unveiling of a redesigned pride flag at a Pride Month kick-off event this past June, one that included brown and black stripes to represent our black and brown LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters (Coleman, 2017).

The most prominent arguments I’ve seen against this inclusion of the two additional colors are as follows:

1) Race is not a sexual orientation.

My counter to this argument is: technically, transgenderism is not a sexual orientation either. It’s a gender identity and despite what some people think, gender identity and sexual orientation are not mutually inclusive. And if you want to delve into semantics, none of the colors on the flag represent sexual orientation or gender identity specifically.

2) The colors of the rainbow pride flag are already all inclusive.

While I cannot argue that, the decision to alter the flag in such a way is more of a symbol than anything else. A symbol like the one Gilbert Baker created in 1978. Does the name or the year ring a bell? That was when Baker created what is lovingly revered as the symbol for gay pride today.

Prior to the creation of the rainbow flag, the symbol for the gay rights movement and pride was the pink triangle (Morgan, 2017). An image that was reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community from the Nazi regime during World War II. The identifying badge for homosexuals, persecuted by the SS and sent to concentration camps, was a pink triangle, inverted as a means of “warning”. You know, like a traffic sign. Inverted pink triangles warned of homosexuality, as well as sexual offenders like rapists, pedophiles, and zoophiles (Plant, 1988).

Understandably, Baker elected to go with a more hopeful symbol for the gay rights movement, one that wasn’t tied to such a dark and dehumanizing past. Thus the idea for the rainbow flag was born, picking specific colors to represent the togetherness of the LGBTQ+ community. Because LGBTQ+ people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors themselves (Morgan, 2017). It originally came with two colors that are no longer included. So, we know there’s always been room for more colors.

The reality of the situation is, we should be actively inviting and opening our arms to our black and brown LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. They have to deal with a double whammy of discrimination. People of color have to deal with, not only the overt and/or subtle racism they face for their skin color on a regular basis, but also the discrimination for their sexual orientation or gender identity. And not only just by white bigots, but by people in their own communities as well.

Now this is not an attempt at validating a stereotype that communities of color are more homophobic than white communities. Because the reality is, a lot of these prejudices tend to stem from a form of classism and the way religion is used to quell the masses in order to prevent revolution because of economic and social inequities. That is its own piece and I shall refrain from delving deeper here. But what I am saying is, I don’t believe communities of color are any more or any less homophobic than white communities. It is subjective and dependent on things like personal belief systems and access to education.

What the additional stripes provide is a symbol. We all need symbols. Symbols like the White House lighting up in rainbow colors when gay marriage was legalized statewide. We all need the inclusion these symbols can provide. Right now, according to a Gallup poll conducted in 2016, people of color comprise approximately 40% of the LGBTQ+ population in the US (Gates, 2017). And yet they are the least represented in media.

Don’t get me wrong, that continues to improve. With characters like Jamal Lyon on Empire, Sophia Burset on Orange is the New Black, Raymond Holt on Brooklyn 99, Lionel Higgins on Dear White People, Amanita and Lito on Sense8, Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Annalise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder; we are slowly and surely bringing some representation of LGBTQ+ people of color to the forefront of the average television viewer’s living room. But when you take into consideration just how many television shows exist presently, that is such a tiny fraction. The list I just provided isn’t the entirety of POC LGBTQ+ characters in media, but the full list isn’t much longer.

Intersectionality has been something that the LGBTQ+ community has struggled with, like any culture or subculture with a dominating class or race. I recall how significant it was when the television show Queer as Folk premiered on Showtime almost twenty years ago. It was the first American television show of its kind. A show built around the lives of five gay men and two lesbians in Pittsburgh, none of which were dying of AIDS. But more problematic than some of the stereotypes it played into, was the fact that all of the characters were white.

The black and brown stripes on this redesigned flag are symbolic of trying to move forward into a more intersectional community. While it does not fix the core issue of the discrimination LGBTQ+ POC face in their everyday lives, if we actively demonstrate that they have a safe haven in their local LGBTQ+ community, perhaps we can better tackle the issues that we all face. Black and brown lives matter, and instead of ostracizing our brothers and sisters who differ from us ethnically, we should embrace and support them.

Does it fix the discrimination that LGBTQ+ people of color face within other and their own communities? No. But it has the potential of being a good place to start. Now I’m not so naïve to believe that racism is an easy fix. Nor am I so narcissistic to believe that one op-ed written by a white cisgender female is going to unite all of us, despite Hollywood’s propensity for telling stories of POC from the perspective of the white savior.

The thing is, I don’t understand why there is any outrage over this revised flag. There are a plethora of individualized pride flags already within the community. From the variations of pride flags for the different sexualities and gender identities, to flags for specific communities, like Bears and BDSM. If we can embrace these different flags within our community, I truly don’t understand the reticence or refusal to accept what is just another symbol of inclusivity for all of us.

At this point, if you disagree with amending our Pride flag (which is within your right, first amendment and all that); if you are genuinely angry about the revision, for whatever reason you state that makes your anger seem righteous as opposed to bigoted, it’s my first amendment right to say you are part of the problem. Embracing these additional colors to our pride flag is a metaphor for embracing the people they represent and if you have a problem with that, well… the problem isn’t the flag, is it?

Read more: Somewhere Over the LGBTQ+ Rainbow