It’s not a phase: LGBT rights are human rights

“Tomboy, tomboy, you’re not a real girl, we don’t wanna play with you.”
It started young on the playground, the taunting. I didn’t much mind, oddly enough, I wasn’t offended by being called a tomboy. I liked being a tomboy and didn’t want to be one of the girls. I knew then that I didn’t fit into the social expressions and learned behaviours of the female gender, but not because I was trans identified, I wasn’t. I just didn’t care for being “girly.”  
However when kids call girls “tomboy” it’s with a negative slant and it wasn’t like, “tomboy pride,” or “let’s celebrate your difference.”  No. But I was a tomboy and being a tomboy felt right. That said, I didn’t like being left out, what I wanted was friendship, to play, belong. I didn’t like being excluded because I was a tomboy. I was strong, fast and had a big heart, but  I had to grow up quickly because it wasn’t long after that I was living on my own as a teen and the stuff of childhood had to be put aside in order to survive in the world.
Now I’m adult. Now I’m a lesbian and love being a lesbian. I never felt ashamed of it. The film, television and theatre community did not embrace it however.
“Why don’t you grow your hair, put on more make-up, wear a skirt?” These are the questions I heard over and over again, and no matter how good my auditions may have been, often the response to inquiry and follow up would be, “They wanted to go with another type.” 
I knew what it meant, I still do. Not much has changed. 
 
We have a society steeped in heterosexuality and heterosexual privilege, that writes for the dominant culture, that doesn’t think about difference or diversity in ways that reflect the larger culture. This would probably be true for most communities and races, with the white, heterosexual, able bodied culture controlling the arts, funding, policies, producers, directors, screenwriters and storytellers.
I can’t go to my government or to people with power because they don’t really care what I/we go through or what my/our experiences are. 
It’s the same experience in many ways as the childhood playground- the workforce.
But what I know is that I am a strong person with a strong spirit and a commitment to human rights, equity, art and story telling. Perhaps it’s why I wanted a blog, to build a voice, to tell more stories, to connect to a larger community of like minded folks or even people who may not be like minded but are open to sharing and learning, opening and expanding collective ideas.
We are strong people and some of us deeply care about equity and working hard to achieve social and political gains so that our lives can be better and so that the next generation can grow up without the same level of hatred and violence simply because of who we/they are. 
 
I’m not sure when playground bullies, educators or bosses or political leaders will change or wake up. I’m not sure when enough will be enough, or how loud our voices have to be or how many children and adolescents will kill themselves before we actively change the way we behave and treat each other, but I do know that there is a large chorus of us who do care, who have been there and who are willing to be here in all the ways that we can, through writing, teaching, advocating, marching, drawing, making movies, and opening our doors and hearts to those who need it.
It isn’t enough to say, “it gets better” but it’s a start. We need more reflections of queer stories and of queer people in all the arts. We need a massive shift in consciousness, in who gets to tell the stories, who has the power. We need the pendulum to swing away from white, heterosexual, and toward a diverse reflection of real populations, of multiple populations. 
And it’s not a phase. LGBT rights are human rights.Image

11 comments

  1. Hey Jo, You’re right we live in a very heterosexual, sexist world still. One just has to read the news and see all these sexual assaults happening to prove it. Sometimes I think we have come so far, and I realize I live in quite a lefty bubble with my friends and husband, and the world-at-large still has so far to go. My job as a mom of two boys is to teach them to respect women, all women, and that is a job I take very seriously. Thanks.

  2. Jo,
    First, you are a great actor! I know that because you portrayed one of my daughters in a film about my life story and you were brilliant–compelling enough that I sought you out, tracked you down 8 years after the film Ultimate Betrayal aired. It has been shown around the world. It is not an easy story and I always wondered why you took the role. I wanted to find out so I looked for you and found you in Canada! We have been friends since 2003 and I have learned alot from you about your own growing up, some of which you have shared here. I learned what you felt saved you—the arts and a traveling troupe that was like a family–and that as young as 10 you were standing up literally for children’s rights. You are a heroine to me. The real thing. I am so happy to see you speaking up in this way. You have much to say and I hope people will truly enter this conversation. Yes, you are terrific and say important things! Given. But, what about other people’s stories who read this? Will they dare to share some of how what you say connects, confronts, hurts, challenges, enlightens. I hope so. Thanks for being you and for your courage and relentless spirit raising a standard for youth.

    • Yes Shar! I hope that people will interact and share thoughts and stories and continue a conversation. ANd thank you for your words and it was my privilege and great pleasure to play your daughter and become your friend, learn about your story and courage. Thank you for your commitment to human rights, art, story and authenticity. You are an inspiration!

  3. Wow…where do I begin? Is it with my ‘little sister’ who was hassled at a community college for being too ‘tomboyish’…in the early ’70s? Who much later, when a former classmate of mine came out was spoken of as someone he admired as being so much herself all her life? She’s been in a long time relationship…and I mean long time…35 years now…retired and very visible in a small mountain community in Arizona, accepted and accepting. My classmate moved to Paris and is still an expatriate and a wonderful artist. I am 64 as of this writing.

    We live in a very rural area in Northern Minnesota within the confines of a state forest…the young girl who grew up as our nearest neighbor (1 mile as the crow flies) was a cheerleader in High School and was named Miss Our Town…she blossomed after graduation…went out to NYC to art school and is very active in the LGBT community…she (I stood up for her at her ceremony in Mexico 15 years ago) and her partner visit nearly every summer. http://www.mayajustmaya.com/statement.html

    Another good friend of ours, Keri Pickett, is a photographer…and through her we’ve met a wonderful community of folks…she documented their retreats in a book…

    Reviewed:

    Faeries, photographer Keri Pickett’s latest project, welcomes us into a secluded community in the wooded Minnesota sanctuary of Kawashaway, home of the self-proclaimed “radical faeries,” a name chosen by a group of mostly gay men to express pride and solidarity in their differences. Here, in this idyllic, remote setting, an annual retreat takes place: a week of camp fires, communal bonding, and gender bending.

    Pickett’s photographs span six years of these summer gatherings, at which people from across the country join together as friends and family. This group forms a circle of souls, individuals seeking to find their place in a culture that seems to prize individuality but frequently distrusts those who are different. As the book relates through interviews with participants of the gatherings, the faerie community provides for much more than a frolic in the woods. It has become a stabilizing support network–a new radical means of extended family.
    http://www.amazon.com/Faeries-Visions-Voices-Pretty-Dresses/dp/0893818968

    Know you’re not alone…and you are accepted by many you don’t even know yet.

    Thanks for your writing.

    • Bruce,
      Thank you or the amazing note and all the information about your gatherings, community, artists and history. What an amazing response and what heart!
      I’m looking forward to checking the links you provided. With respect and in solidarity, Jo

  4. Jo, there is an important place for a blog like yours. I am thankful for this and definitely want to read more of your stories and experiences! Keep writing, Jo!

  5. Hurray Jo, well thought out article with suitable impact. What a star you are. I am gay and proud of it but my life at sea proved a serious hardship against homophobia at its most brutal.
    I pursued nevertheless and now fight here in UK where adverse bias is as harsh as it is anywhere else in the world. We have much work to do but in the end we will win especially with you as a champion. Rock on Jo and God bless you. Billie

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