Gay Fresno - Opinion

Opinion

What is Your Gift?

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Tuesday, 18 December 2018 13:54
  • Written by Bryan T. Clark

xmas boxAs a kid, we are told to go to bed early on Christmas Eve because Santa Claus doesn’t visit houses if little children are awake. In our PJ’s, we traipsed off to bed because we believed Santa would soon be here.

To think Santa Claus flies around the world and visits every house on Christmas Eve would be like believing in magic or miracles. Children can process things in the simplest form. Yes, we can call it naïve, or that they haven’t yet been exposed to the hard truths in life. As adults, we should all be just a little jealous.

As we grow up, we learn and understand about the good and the bad that exists in the world. Because of the internet, we are exposed to so much every single day, including the truth and the untruth. For some people, their truth can be the TV channel they are watching, the church they attend, or the people surrounding them.

But, how do you know the truth if you have nothing to compare it against? I’ve traveled the world and I know I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. In other countries, I’ve visited villages that have far less than I do, and yet the people there pull out all the stops to ensure that I am welcome. My skin color or sexuality is of little importance to them. They often offer me the last of whatever they may have, believing I am worthy of such grand and generous offerings. This act of kindness is their truth, not mine. My truth is that it is hard for me to receive their gifts as I believe I am better off than they, and it should be me who is bringing such offerings to them.

A woman in Thailand once told me that to reject such offerings is telling the people their gift is not worthy enough and that it is insufficient to you. In Mexico, to not look at an elder who is talking to you is a sign of disrespect. I learned in Greece the Greek culture values the elderly. They believe older members have wisdom they’ve gained throughout their years, leading society to treat them with respect. You see the respect given to them everywhere, even by children. It is amazing to watch.

Whose truth is the truth? Today, we live in a world where the term fake news can apply to so much of what we hear every day from those sources we once upon a time viewed as credible.

How does one stay sane in a world of chaos, especially during this time of year? While we all understand good physical health, it is just as important to keep tabs on our mental health. It is important to understand what makes you happy, or at least, makes you smile. If you do, then ask yourself, if you are getting enough of it, or what you can do to get more of it? I am a firm believer your moods and feelings can be influenced by the people that are around you. So, surround yourself with positive people. Of big importance for me is doing something nice for someone else. There is no act of kindness too small. There are things we may do in life that will make a world of difference for someone else. Maybe we won’t even know we had an effect on the person. To offer generosity and compassion for others will always come back to you, rarely in the same form it was given, but it will come back to you.

In closing, be a believer in Santa Claus and that good things come to good people, even adults. Let your gift to the poor, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised, be one of support, generosity, and kindness during this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

Keeping It Cool

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Sunday, 25 November 2018 10:06
  • Written by Bryan T. Clark

guy waving carIt seems like today many people are like simmering pots ready to boil over. It doesn’t take much, perhaps a simple commercial showing the opposing candidate for an election, the evening news, or heavy traffic that can send someone into a fit of rage without notice.

Today, Road Rage is not just two people flipping each other off or madly honking their horns. All too often these days, the rage is ending in serious bodily injury and/or death. We have all been behind the wheel and less than attentive to what we are doing as the vehicle is traveling down the road. I might be thinking about the list of things I have to do, paying bills, the disturbing conversation I was just in with a colleague or friend, or perhaps something even more serious such as a loved one’s illness or a recent death. Then, I make the mistake of cutting someone off as I accidently travel into their lane. What is it about this simple act that sends people over the deep end?

All of a sudden, we have a madman tailgating us, honking their horn, flashing their high beams, racing in front of us only to slam on their brakes, or any of the other crazy things people are doing these days. Let me be clear when I say this, ‘This behavior is out of proportion to what just happened’. This person is ‘REACTING’ to something deeper, and you’re just the trigger.

Read more: Keeping It Cool

We Got This – An Opinion on the Department of Human Health Service

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Friday, 26 October 2018 10:37
  • Written by Evie Ovalle

5bd2b56429972Like many trans people and allies, I was horrified to hear that the Department of Human Health Service is proposing new guidelines for determining gender in the United States. While the DHHS refuses to acknowledge its intention to ban transgender people from federal protection under Title IX, its proposal to establish a concrete definition of sex will nevertheless retrograde the trans community to those days of seeking black market synthetic hormones and sex work in exchange for money to cover trans-related medical procedures.

 

As quoted in the NY Times article:

“The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined 'on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.' The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.” (Green, Erica L., et al.)

 

Over the past few years years, transgender people and undocumented immigrants have become the center bargaining chip between leftist and conservative politicians in this country. We are a hotly debated topic, sitting awkwardly at the crossroads of a cultural, political and economic war, a large-scale national debate between Americans of varying backgrounds and ideologies, from evangelicals to radical feminists. Depending on who you talk to, trans rights can either mean a better, more forward-thinking world where gender is no longer a rigid determining factor of one's own destiny or a godless, dystopian nightmare with little blonde pig-tailed girls in perpetual danger of rape. Having talked to several of my trans friends, I can confidently assure any inquiring party that most of us just want to lead normal lives – work and make enough money to meet our basic needs and have some funds left over for Netflix and the occasional Amazon splurge. None of us really have the desire to be the topic of headlines on 24-hour cable news networks or have our lives subjected to heated disputes between millions of Americans nationwide. Fortunately, it seems that the average American is beginning to understand that.

 

Even as African American and black and brown Latina trans women continue to be murdered at astounding rates, the trans community is gaining some leverage with the support of such individual American and international organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, World Professional Association for Transgender Health, United Nations and more – and the list keeps growing, despite ongoing pressure from the White House. Yet, here we are, about to have it all taken away from us. Even something as trivial as the right to use public restrooms safely – without fear of arrest or harassment or physical harm – will become a far-reaching unattainability if this new proposal is passed.

 

It may seem hopeless but we are not a people that easily give up hope – not without a fight. The pendulum swings our way and it's now done so for years. The DHHS is not creating a “concrete definition of sex,” but rather an arbitrary one that can easily be discredited by doctors, psychologists, biologists and geneticists – argued into obliteration and permanently put to rest by the people qualified to do so. Amid the high murder and low-unemployment rates, there is a society that is slowly acknowledging and validating our lives. We now have a firmer grasp of genetics, we understand the nature of biology, we know other animals can also change their sex. We have evidence of transgender people living successful, productive lives when protected from discrimination and violence, of children wanting to change their gender from a very early age and of the tragic consequences of people who aren't allowed to change their gender. We see more representation of us in the media. Katie Couric is on our side and the Times declares our movement is at a “tipping point.” In other words, we can fight this!

 

The right's biggest weapon against the left is its successful use of “gaslighting” – manipulating us to the point where we question ourselves, our very own sanity. The right wants us to feel that we're at the brink of Nazi Germany, they want us feel hopeless and weak – this makes it easier for them to pull the rug from right underneath us. I think this is the main reason why hate groups tend to gather en masse in such progressive cities as Portland, OR and Berkeley, CA. The right knows they'll attract a large group of counter-protesters in these cities, they know it might get ugly and they want as much news coverage of it as possible. They want to discredit the left, to tell the world, "Look at how much these liberals hate free speech!" They want an even playing field, where an illegitimate ideology can gain some level of respectability and duke it out with the “angry leftist liberals.” The ploy so often works and Antifa and Black Lives Matter are labeled as “angry,” “hateful,” and “racist” by politically moderate friends and family, while reactionary hate groups, such as the alt-right and Proud Boys continue to distract us all from an administration inconspicuously aligning itself with white nationalist and fascist ideals. We won't let them win.

 

Unfortunately, resisting the attacks of the right will take a little more than wearing vagina hats and standing outside the Supreme Court yelling, “Resist.” It's going to take a little elbow grease too. It may take active canvassing, it may take holding the media accountable for fair and accurate coverage of trans people. Most importantly, it will take your vote. Voting candidates into office with strong ties to the LGBT community can help secure a win for Queer people. Be sure to look up every candidate's policy on transgender-related issues – even those you may believe align themselves with the democratic party and LGBT issues. Together, we can beat this and forge a world where Queers are allowed to exist freely and safely.

 

Read more: We Got This – An Opinion on the Department of Human Health Service

The Death of Summer

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Saturday, 27 October 2018 13:00
  • Written by Bryan T Clark

death of summer

No, no one died, but as my friend Jeff, over at thetravelinbum.com put it, October is the death of Summer! While mourning the loss of hot weather, poolside cocktails, and warm summer nights, we are trying not to think about the pending holidays on the horizon.

With the patio furniture put up, it’s now time to break out the creepy Halloween costumes, sticky spiderwebs, and Trick or Treat candy. Let’s not drop that casket down into the ground just yet. I might be able to use it in the cemetery display in the front yard!

I know so many people who say that Halloween is their favorite time of year. They love dressing up and the whole scary aspect of the holiday. Scaring the hell out of people is precisely why this holiday hasn’t worked for me. Ever since I was a kid my mantra has always been “I don’t do scary!” I do not like to be scared.

In a haunted house, I will knock you out if you jump out in front of me, yelling Boo! I once paid fifteen dollars to go into a ‘haunted house’. I ran from the moment I walked into that house, all the way through every room, until I exited out the back door. In less than a minute, from start to finish, I was out and I saw nothing! I do feel a little bad for the people in front of me who got trampled by this six-two, two hundred-pound screaming black man that they never even saw coming!

I guess for me, the part about dressing up, spending time with friends, being silly, and overall just having a good time, is still appealing. I love a good party! Some of the best and most elaborate costumes I’ve ever seen was on a Halloween visit to San Francisco, on Castro Street. If you love to people watch, there is no better show to see.

Read more: The Death of Summer

Coffee-Toss Through the Fog

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Monday, 08 October 2018 09:25
  • Written by Evie Ovalle

golden gate 1000It had been a particularly warm summer in 1966 and the city of San Francisco was finally enjoying the cool Pacific winds that the month of August brought in. The Bay Area metropolis bustled alive with sailors, hustlers, immigrant families and tourists, all scurrying atop the seven peninsula hills like ants over great concrete mounds. Already reputed as an “anything goes” kind of place, San Francisco had been able to maintain a number of “libidinous” establishments open for years – including “homosexual gatherings” like The Black Cat Café and Finocchio’s Nightclub in North Beach. These bars stayed open through an extensive negotiation with local law-enforcement and assistance from the local *Homophile organizations located in the city. Cross-dressing, however, was still illegal in 1966 and SFPD could use the presence of transgender people in a place of business as a pretext to make a raid and close down a bar. As a result, many trans-people (or hair fairies, as they were often referred to) were not welcome. The only place trans-people could really congregate safely was in a little chain restaurant, on the corner of Taylor and Turk, called Compton’s Cafeteria. It is here that a civic revolt took place – one that would pre-date Stonewall as the first recorded transgender riot in United States history.

*Homophile: A term used in the 1950’s and 1960’s to describe LGBT-rights organizations. With the emergence of the Gay Liberation, the word began to disappear from the LGBT vernacular.

On this one August night, SFPD was called in under the premise that a group of hair fairies had become increasingly raucous at Compton's. The SFPD, assuming a routine deviant arrest, promptly showed up and proceeded to manhandle the clientele – as it happens, this was also a routine thing for them to do.

There are several accounts as to what occurred next or what prompted the riot itself, but the most popular version is that a trans woman, exhausted with the abuse implemented by the San Francisco police, threw her hot coffee in the face of the officer who was roughening her up. In a matter of mere seconds, dishes, furniture, wigs and high-heeled shoes went flying about the cafe. Shouts and screams were heard from the outside, and the restaurant’s plate-glass windows were violently smashed. The riot spilled out onto the dark, wet streets of the Tenderloin District. Police called for reinforcements as a sidewalk newsstand was toppled over and burned to the ground. The first night of the riots had begun.

The following night, the plate-glass windows at Compton’s Cafeteria were replaced, just as an even larger crowd of street hustlers, drag queens, transgender women and gay men picketed outside the restaurant. When news broke out that transgender people were not to be allowed inside Compton’s again, the newly replaced plate-glass windows were once again smashed. That shattered glass became a bold symbolic call to action for American transgender people, demanding equitable treatment and respect for their identities and lives.

Although the riot marked a major turning point for transgender rights in the U.S., the struggle continues somewhat-incipiently – not just for transgender rights, but for any movement that promotes freedom from oppression based on gender-identity and expression, economic status and class.

This violent, angry event resulted in peaceful demonstrations and better negotiations with the city. It is these negotiations that eventually created more access to city healthcare for trans-people, trans-support services and an annual transgender-march down Market Street – and it all began with a cup of coffee.

This year, as we move forward in fighting for LGBT equal rights, let us remember those places, events and people who fought the first rounds before us and won – or sometimes lost. Let us honor those who stood up for their rights, even when it wasn’t the coolest or hippest thing to do. Let’s never forget that it is because of these people, who celebrated themselves amid persecution and injustice, that we are able to celebrate ourselves a little more today.

I encourage you to consider actively searching for your LGBT activist ancestors, take their strengths and courage and continue to fight for your share of the American Dream.

What LGBT activists or events inspire you?