Why LGBT people should join the Occupation

16 reasons the LGBT community should be joining the Occupy Wall Street protests around the country

Leslie Robinson
General Gayety

My view of the Occupy Wall Street protest is that it’s an unfocused jumble — but at least somebody’s doing something. At last. What began with a few dozen demonstrators on Wall Street has grown into a national conniption over corporate greed and government collusion.

It’s easy for those in power to dismiss the protesters as young people devoid of both sense and hygiene. But all sorts of people are protesting. And that includes us.

LGBT folks are demonstrating from New York to Seattle. I’m pleased about that. I can think of a lot of reasons we should be involved in this fight:

1. Gay men bring a certain verve to any gathering.

2. We are in the middle of our movement, still battling for our civil rights, so some of us are ready to demonstrate at the drop of a tweet.

3. Our experienced protesters can advise others on being arrested with maximum exposure and minimum pain.

4. LGBT anthems might be inspiring.  I’m thinking of “I Will Survive,” not “It’s Raining Men.”

5. During the considerable down time — many of the protests involve camping out — we could introduce party games. Maybe plan a wedding for a laid-off steel worker and an underemployed librarian.

6. We have been the victims of Wall Street shenanigans, too, losing our homes, our jobs, our hope. Corporate greed is very equal opportunity, savaging straight and gay alike.

7. We have also been the victimizers. If you’ve abetted corporate criminality, it’s time to grow a conscience, sell one of your houses and post bail for protesters. Or see to it that the demonstration in your city becomes a catered affair.

8. Spiritual guidance. If demonstrators want a blessing or just clerical panache, our community can provide it in the form of lesbian rabbis, MCC ministers, gay priests, Radical Faeries and lesbian Buddhist nuns.
9. The protests are irritating Glenn Beck, and that’s reason enough to participate.

10. Passion. Throngs of people. Close quarters. A sense of being real: Occupy Wall Street is Pride out of season.

11. As with Pride, the opportunities for meeting a soulmate or a bedmate are ripe.

12. LGBT persons soaking up the agitation over corporate power might be moved to examine how we produce our annual festivals. Should Pride be about gay freedom or grapefruit vodka?

13. For a few, these demonstrations would provide a professional challenge: the chance to give an anarchist a makeover.

14. LGBT leaders have learned the importance of allies. We need to keep these ties strong. When gay people visibly participate in Occupy Wall Street, we stand with youth, liberals, unions, people of color, faith groups, veterans, professionals, anti-war activists and environmentalists. And confused tourists.

15. It would be best all around if these protests were nonviolent, and who better to diffuse tension between demonstrators and police than a quick-thinking drag queen? If well delivered, the line “Does this demonstration make me look fat?” should do the trick.

16. The struggle for gay rights is a lengthy undertaking, and the obstacles and backward steps are draining. Occupy Wall Street could rejuvenate our spirits. It might remind us what people can do when they’re angry, fighting for their lives and sort-of-kind-of-somewhat have a goal.

If she weren’t already female, Leslie Robinson would consider becoming a drag queen. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and check out her blog at www.generalgayety.com for all types of humorous postings. 

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

How to tell if you are middle aged

From the Lingerie Football League on one end to lesbian separatism on the other, some of us that are left stuck here in the middle get a bit annoyed with those on the ends

LESLIE ROBINSON | General Gayety

Ever heard of the Lingerie Football League? It’s a women’s football league where the women wear helmets, shoulder pads, bras, panties and garters. Billed as “true fantasy football,” the teams have names like the Los Angeles Temptation and the Dallas Desire.

If this league catered any more to men there would be cigars at halftime.

But I didn’t learn about the Lingerie Football League from a guy; I learned about it while visiting a lesbian website.

The site, TheSeattleLesbian.com, provided Lingerie League information and videos on its sports page.

That in turn provided me with a reminder of my age, a keen sense of where I am on the spectrum of lesbian thinking — and a headache.

I don’t react well when lesbians view women in the bootylicious way many men do. Maybe it’s because I’m 47 and remember how women fought to be viewed as more than tits and ass.

Now to see lesbians encourage the ogling of women, to watch them match men drool for drool — well, that feels like a step backwards.

However, as I’m 47 and not dead, I’m mindful of the sentiments of a younger lesbian generation, which might be expressed like this: “Hate to tell you Grandma, but you older folks fought so that we could be whoever we want to be. We can revel in pure sexiness like guys do. We can be as shallow as guys. So thanks!”

Um, you’re welcome?

When I looked further down The Seattle Lesbian’s sports page, I found stories about the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. As a huge Storm fan, I was pleased to see them. As a reader teed off over the highlighting of the Undressed Football League, I assumed the site and I could now be friends again.

Not. The stories concerned three players, and the site editor chose one action shot and two glamour shots. The two glamorized players had on more make-up than RuPaul.

So far on this lesbian site I’d seen sex and glamour — and that was just the sports section.

The experience made me feel old and on the curmudgeonly end of the lesbian spectrum. But another experience with media had me feeling youthful and wildly open-minded.

I received in the snail mail the latest issue of a magazine called Lesbian Connection. I began getting the bimonthly publication last year, and it’s now clear to me what an asset it is for dykes everywhere.

LC serves as a lesbian forum, enabling readers, who provide most of the content, to tell their stories. It offers a worldwide list of lesbians willing to share information about their regions. Subscriptions are on a sliding scale.

It’s also now clear to me that the average LC reader remembers Truman’s inauguration.

Okay, I exaggerate.

But the magazine, founded in 1974, is something of a relic. Birthed in the era of lesbian separatism, LC reflects its origins. Readers have names like “Artemis Passionfire” and “Flash Silvermoon” — and while I wish I made those up, I didn’t.

I’ve read a lot about “womyn’s land” and combed through oodles of irate letters when the cover art on LC wasn’t PC. The magazine says it defines lesbians as “women-born-women,” meaning transgender women don’t count.

I wouldn’t say LC is stuck in time, but it’s moving arthritically through it.

I’ll continue reading and enjoying it, and I’ll go back to TheSeattleLesbian.com. Both will keep me honest.

Now I know middle age is more than just a number. It’s when you feel connected to the generation behind you and the generation ahead of you — and when both generations annoy the crap out of you.

Leslie Robinson suspects that 35 years ago she would’ve called herself “Cheddar Morning-Glory.” E-mail Cheddar at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and read other cheesy columns at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Nature or nurture? Or maybe it’s diet

Scientists in Florida have discovered that ingesting too much mercury apparently turns male white ibises gay. But they stress the research has no bearing on human sexuality

Leslie Robinson  General Gayety

ARE THEY OR AREN’T THEY? | Only their dietician knows for sure. Recent research indicates that male white ibises that ingest mercury go gay.

Scientists in Florida have discovered that when male white ibises eat too much mercury, they turn gay. Don’t blame an overbearing ibis mother. Blame the metal.

Suspicious that mercury had led to lower breeding levels among the wading birds, researchers fed groups of ibises varying levels of mercury over three years. The results shocked the stuffing out of the scientists:

The higher the mercury dose, the more likely a bird was to sing show tunes.

These new Friends of Dorothy “pretty much did everything except lay eggs,” said study leader Peter Frederick to The Miami Herald. “They built nests, they copulated, they sat in the nests together.”

They went to a lesbian flamingo therapist when no egg appeared.

Male ibises with any mercury intake were more reticent to perform ritual courtship displays, causing numbers of female ibises to cry together over Cosmopolitans.

In the high-mercury birds, reproduction plunged 35 percent. Complaints from wannabe grandparents soared 65 percent.

The mercury levels in the experiment mirrored those found in the birds’ natural wetland habitats. Frederick, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida, told Nature.com “the implication is that this is probably happening in wild bird populations.”

Which means the wilderness is getting wilder. Not a good thing, in this case.

These beautiful, long-billed birds are being poisoned into gayness. In wild populations of ibis with no mercury exposure, same-sex pairings don’t occur.
Well, it probably happens once in a while, when the tequila is plentiful and the birds are bi-curious, but not as a rule.

We should go with what nature intended. Let’s keep the ibises straight and the people gay!

In south Florida, mercury leeched into the Everglades for years, mainly from the burning of municipal and medical waste. Frederick said, “Most mercury sources are local rather than global — local enough that we can do something about it, such as installing scrubbers on smoke stacks.  Ecosystems respond very quickly to regulatory action when it comes to mercury.”

But how will the birds respond? If their diet is cleaned up, will they revert to being straight?

If they need a little help, then by George, we might’ve found an actual use for ex-gay groups. Ex-gay leaders can take ibises under their wing and lead them back to heterosexuality. The success rate can only be higher than it is with people.

Speaking of people, Frederick frets that “people will read this and immediately jump to the conclusion that humans eating mercury are going to be gay. I want to be very explicit that this study has nothing to say about that.”

Doubtless some parents have nonetheless purged their larder of tuna fish, tossed the thermometer, and made a date at the dentist’s to convert all of Junior’s mercury fillings. And if they hadn’t already banned from the house the music of Freddie Mercury, they have now.

Frederick also said that what’s true for ibises isn’t necessarily true for other species, even other bird species. So jump to no conclusions about a couple of male green herons that adore each other’s company. Make no assumptions about the two roseate spoonbills with a passion for pomegranate martinis.

The turtles that hide during mating season are simply shy. And the alligators that agree they’d make lovely boots are just metrosexual.

I visited South Florida this past year, and I watched ibises. I admit to my shame that I didn’t notice any gay goings-on. This is probably because I can’t tell males from females.

I needed obvious indicators of homosexuality. Now, had two canoodling birds sported Prada shoes, I would’ve caught on.

Leslie Robinson should learn to tell male from female. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and check out her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Trans people make great strides over this year

College basketball player comes out as trans; LGPA announces rules change, and 1 trans judge elected while another is appointed

Leslie Robinson General Gayety

Recently our community marked the 12th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a somber day devoted to memorializing those murdered over their gender identity and expression.

Also recently, however, we’ve seen transgender breakthroughs that are, in a word, fabulousgreatwonderful.

College basketball season has begun, and many a media outlet has covered the story of Kye Allums, a junior guard at George Washington University.  At 5-foot-11, Allums won’t be shattering glass, but his story is.

“Yes, I am a male on a female team,” Allums, 21, told USA Today. “And I want to be clear about this. I am a transgender male, which means feelings-wise, how it feels on the inside, I feel as if I should have been born male with male parts.

“But my biological sex is female, which makes me a transgender male.”

This was a college student taking great pains to educate a sportswriter, who’s accustomed to Xs and Os, on Xs and Ys. The sportswriter can expect a midterm.

When Allums’ college playing career is over, he intends to transition. He planned to keep quiet until then, but “it just got too tough not to be me.”

His teammates, coach and university all appear to be supportive.

The NCAA probably thought not long ago that it would have to deal with this issue the day the Rhode Island School of Design won the Rose Bowl. But the NCAA has a policy, explained a spokesman:  “A female who wants to be socially identified as a male but has not had hormone treatments or surgery may compete on a women’s team.”

So this college basketball season begins with an African-American, openly transgender person playing Division 1 hoops. This represents so many steps forward it’s practically traveling.

Turning to a different sport, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) will soon have a different understanding of “lady.”

GolfChannel.com reported the LPGA will propose in a Nov. 30 player meeting to axe its “female at birth” requirement.

It’s not that association honchos experienced an epiphany. It’s that they have drivers aimed at their heads.

Lana Lawless, 57, who had gender-reassignment surgery five years ago, filed suit in San Francisco over the LPGA declining her application for tour membership. Her suit claims the organization discriminated due to her transgender status, a violation of California’s anti-discrimination statutes.

The LPGA has landed in the rough indeed.

A change to the constitutional bylaws requires two-thirds of the LPGA membership to agree. The association has already told players the old gender rule was established “in a different time,” and defending it legally today would be harder than putting with your eyes closed.

Also, the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Golf Association and other golf entities now allow transgender participation. The fairways are getting fairer.

Victoria Kolakowski, who had reassignment surgery in 1991, has scored big in a different arena. In a race so tight it couldn’t be called until two weeks after the election, voters in California chose Kolakowski for Alameda County Superior Court.

An openly transgender woman wins a popular election. Thank you California for being, well, California.

Kolakowski, 49, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the election result “speaks well of our ability to look past differences and look to the things that matter: our ability and experience.”

Here’s hoping she has both, because she’ll be scrutinized like an American Idol finalist.

Two days after Kolakowski declared victory, transgender LGBT activist Phyllis Frye was appointed a municipal court judge in the Houston City Council chamber, the same room where 30 years ago Frye helped repeal Houston’s “cross-dressing ordinance.”

Frye, 63, said to the Houston Chronicle, “Things have changed, and it’s pretty wonderful.”

Two judges in two days. That’s the right kind of order in the court.

Leslie Robinson lives in Seattle. Read more of her columns at GeneralGayety.com. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Meth and gay men: Tweaking, no thinking

One man’s story of his journey from HIV-positive drug addict on a downward spiral to HIV education advocate has a lesson for the whole gay community, especially youth

Leslie Robinson  General Gayety

“In my brief moments of clarity I knew my life was supposed to be better than this.”

Who said that? Who had mere seconds of clarity? Yogi Berra? Dan Quayle? Maxwell Smart?

If you guessed Lindsay Lohan, you’re getting warm.

The speaker was 26-year-old Jordan Duran, who in an interview with The Seattle Times described his addiction to crystal meth. He was part of a story about young gays contracting HIV through meth use.

As happy a topic as exploding oil rigs.

There is some happiness connected with Duran’s story: He’s alive. Not long ago you’d have gotten better odds on Mel Gibson joining the diplomatic corps.

Duran struggled in his hometown of Puyallup, about 35 miles south of Seattle. By the age of 5, he knew he was different from other boys. In high school he seized on religion. Duran even went to a therapist who “specialized” in reversing homosexuality.

During his senior year, he came out.

After graduation he headed for Seattle, moving in with an older man who apparently took his role as mentor very seriously, arranging official introductions for his protégé — to ecstasy, ketamine, GHB and then meth.

“From the first time I took meth I was hooked,” said Duran. “It was about escaping from who I was, and meth was the perfect drug to wash it all away.”

Chocolate does the same for me, but oddly, it doesn’t have that effect on everyone.

On his 21st birthday, Duran drank a boatload and then scored some meth. He had unprotected sex with a stranger.

A few weeks later it became clear what he’d gotten for his birthday: HIV. And many happy returns.

Joshua O’Neal, who does HIV testing research at a local hospital, told The Seattle Times that three-quarters of those who test HIV-positive at his clinic have used meth.

Said O’Neal, “When you feel invincible, you don’t care about using a condom.”

After he tested positive, Duran’s downward spiral got a move on. By 23, he was using meth 20 times each day.

Most people don’t do anything 20 times a day — except breathe.

He had unsafe sex. Staph infections and MRSA were frequent visitors. He contracted syphilis, which spread to his brain, causing disorientation. He was homeless.

Only Dante could do justice to this circle of hell.

Finally Duran saw a doctor, who happened to resemble his grandmother. She asked if he was using meth, and told him if he continued to use he’d be dead within six months from an overdose or the HIV.

Grandma took no prisoners. Thank goodness.

“Up until that point I was afraid of living, but suddenly I was afraid of dying,” said Duran.

He went directly from the doctor’s to an AA meeting, and began the arduous task of getting clean.

“Quitting the drugs wasn’t the hard part,” he said. “Feeling my emotions was the hard part.”

Duran has been victorious in the smackdown with his emotions — he’s been sober for well over two years. Soon after starting antiretroviral drugs, his viral load was undetectable.

He now works for Gay City Health Project, which focuses on gay men’s health. When someone on the skids comes in and tells him he doesn’t know what it’s like, Duran must struggle not to guffaw.

In Seattle’s King County, in the space of a year, about 10 percent of gay and bisexual men use crystal meth. For men under the age of 30, the figure is twice as high.

Combine that with the studies saying gay men who use meth are at scary-high risk for contracting HIV, and it all adds up to a real problem: tweaking twinks who can’t think.

E-mail Leslie Robinson at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and visit her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Take me out to the ballgame

Minor league manager’s vulgar tirade against baseball’s only openly gay umpire costs him his job, but umpire handles attack with calm

Leslie Robinson General Gayety

Even if you don’t like baseball, you’ve probably seen video of a team manager vociferously arguing a call with an umpire. The manager might throw his cap. He might throw a base. He might throw out his back throwing a base.

Brent Bowers, skipper of a minor league team, performed an unusual physical maneuver and delivered a scalding tirade during a confrontation with openly gay umpire Billy Van Raaphorst. Bowers now has a place in baseball history, but it will only get him into the Hall of Shame.

On July 31, Bowers’ Edmonton Capitals played the Orange County Flyers in Fullerton, Calif. Van Raaphorst, of Irvine, Calif., was the crew chief.

In the first inning, another umpire called a close play at first base. Bowers and some of his players pointedly objected to the call. Van Raaphorst warned them.

When Bowers and two players continued beefing, Van Raaphorst ejected them, the second day in a row he’d tossed Bowers in the first inning.

Bowers promptly benched his brain.

Outsports.com obtained the official report Van Raaphorst gave to the Golden Baseball League in which the umpire provided his account of what happened next.

Bowers ran over to him and screamed, “You know what I heard? I heard you are a fucking faggot … . So what do you do you fucking faggot? Do you take it up the fucking ass, you faggot?”

Bowers bent over and grabbed his ankles, apparently fearful the umpire hadn’t understood his words and a visual aid was in order.

This leader of men screamed into Van Raaphorst’s face, “What’s the matter, did your fucking boyfriend fucking cum on your face today? Is that how you like it you fucking faggot?”

It was a fine, family-friendly day at the ballpark.

Bowers threatened, “I ought to kick your ass you faggot.”

The plate umpire came over and Van Raaphorst walked away. Bowers screamed at the plate umpire, “I know he is a faggot. I was told by [two prominent people in the league] that he is a fucking faggot. I know he is a faggot!”

Whew. Van Raaphorst, who stands 6-foot, 4 inches, did well not to knock him into the hotdog stand.

Several possibilities here. The first is clear: This manager can’t manage his anger.

As to the second and third possibilities, his rant was so extreme and so primal, Bowers either is a poster child for the testosterone-soaked ethos of pro sports, or he’s gay.

My bet is the former. The very idea of the latter probably makes him want to throw bats out of the dugout — and probably preferably with me in the way for even suggesting such a thing.

The Golden Baseball League responded to the homophobic tirade by suspending Bowers for two games. Yup, a whole two games. That decision was the foulest of foul balls.

Fortunately, Van Raaphorst’s fellow umps were incensed over this slap on the wrist, and threatened to walk off the job. The league then suspended Bowers for the rest of the season.

Bowers, who admitted to the tongue-lashing, resigned.

The guy without a job said he regrets what he did. “I’ve grown up more in three days than ever before,” said Bowers.

That still makes him only about 14.

The league president said, due to this incident, all 10 teams will be required to go through diversity training. Now that is a grand slam.

Kudos to Billy Van Raaphorst, who managed to endure an appalling situation. I don’t know if there’s a blessing for baseball umpires, so I’ll make one up: May your calls be accurate, may your temper be slow, and may a line drive never land in your teeth.

Leslie Robinson lives in Seattle. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and read other columns at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens