My Almost Epiphanies

Everyone has the realization that they’re queer at different ages, but at 20 I had felt like I was pretty slow to my epiphany. Why did it take so long for me to get a full grasp on my sexuality- weren’t there glimmers of truth sprinkled throughout my childhood?  Of course. But what may seem obvious to me and everyone else was completely hidden from me. In the midst of it all I couldn’t see the forest through the gay trees.  It’s much easier looking back at my past and picking out how my queer identity had shaped my life even when I wasn’t aware of it.

My youngest queer memories revolved around television. I remember loving the Pink Ranger on Power Rangers. I just couldn’t get over how pretty she was. I didn’t understand why people watched Bay Watch for David Hasselhoff or the other men on the show. Why fawn over them when you had all of those pretty ladies? My 8 year old self was clueless, still pretending that I much preferred the male pop culture icons of the 90s. The biggest crush of my pre-teen life was Captain Katherine Janeway from Star Trek Voyager. I loved her power and her ability to command a ship. I loved her smile and her coyness; her ability to be vulnerable as an authority figure. I thought I wanted to be her when in reality it was a combination of wanting to be her and be with her. And don’t even get me started on Jeri Ryan as 7 of 9.

When I was 15 I had a sex dream about my female best friend. At that time I did have the thought of ‘Hey Amanda, maybe you like ladies? Do you think you could be bisexual or a lesbian?’ That thought process maybe lasted a month or so and inevitably was pushed to the back of mind for another five years. I was so very close, but I don’t think my teenage mind wanted to deal with the idea of being more different than I already was. I didn’t know any gay people and my Catholic education didn’t exactly give me room to explore gender and sexual identities.

Probably the most obvious gay hindsight was the fact that I was never attracted to boys. But my friends had crushes on boy bands and movie stars so I decided to follow suit. I didn’t know what a crush felt like, so I liked people, thought they were cute, but had no emotional or physical attraction to them. I thought it was normal. I had lived a very sheltered existence and didn’t get my boobs or period until much later than my friends- I had just thought I didn’t hit that part of puberty where I felt sexually attracted to guys. I was drunkenly making out with guys on the feminine side in college and I still wasn’t getting it. Why wasn’t it clicking for me? Am I really that awkward where I can’t romantically interact with men?

I truly had my epiphany as I was leaving my study abroad experience and started the spring semester of my junior year. It took a girl telling me she was bi to finally let my queerness out. I wish I could say the clouds opened up and a giant rainbow light shone down on me. Really, this girl wanted to hold my hand and I didn’t back down from it. That’s all it took. Something unconsciously clicked in my brain and I decided to roll with it. Did years and years of building a wall of suppression cause it to collapse? Did all of my queer experience topple it over in one fowl swoop? I’m honestly not sure what happened. The door swung open and I never went back. I was here and I was queer.

 

The War isn’t Over, but Let’s Celebrate this Marriage Victory

Forty six years ago the Stonewall Riots kick started the LGBT rights movement in the United States. This week, the Supreme Court stated that marriage equality was a constitutional right.

A lot of people have suffered and died in the United States fighting for queer rights and true equality. Obviously there are many things to still fight for to achieve equality and justice. But we need to celebrate this stepping stone. This needs to be celebrated, because now we know we can fight and win. It seemed almost strange, like a fluke in 2004 when marriage equality first passed in Massachusetts. There had decades of fighting and only one success in Massachusetts. I couldn’t image that in less than 15 years the Supreme Court would rule in favor of marriage equality. That the White House would shine rainbow colors in celebration and the Vice President of the United States would be running around with a rainbow flag.

It’s important to not be complacent in victory, but fueled and empowered to continue to fight for the rights of queer homeless youth and immigrants, trans rights, and anti discriminatory laws. We shouldn’t be cynical towards the marriage ruling because of the other issues, but we should use the force of the marriage equality movement to make our voices louder and to continue to push for queer rights.

Have a glass of wine, a cake, a parade. Let’s keep going.

Always Room for Improvement, Always Room to Grow

It’s hard to deal with people who don’t agree with you, who are narrow-minded and are shallow. Who don’t believe in the causes you believe in, and think who you are is a sin. These people are easy to write off as hopeless with no chance of redemption and beyond saving.

Most of the time I would agree with you. I normally don’t have the time nor the energy to spend on ignorant and bigoted people. I can’t shout at the world for not thinking my organization’s mission isn’t important. I don’t have the courage to correct every homophobic comment I hear. It’s not my job to correct people, and most people don’t want to be corrected.

But, there are always those people who can surprise you. People who you never would expect to grow learn expanding their view of the world.

No one was ever outwardly homophobic in my family. It was kind of a “hear no evil, see no evil” mentality growing up and going to Catholic elementary school in the 1990s.

There were, however, those little pieces and tidbits I heard growing up that shaped my idea of how my dad thought of gay people and homosexuality in general. The old family joke was that my dad didn’t want my mom to put a rectal thermometer on my brother, who was an infant at the time, because it would make him gay. As a kid that had much more of an impact on my sexual identity than I was even consciously aware of. Deep down every time I heard that story I felt like my dad was someone who not be supportive.

When he converted to Catholicism I think it made that fear even stronger. I didn’t know I was gay at the time, but when my dad was becoming a deacon I became even more anxious over something I wouldn’t let myself understand. I don’t think religion is naturally oppressive, but the brand of Catholicism that was forced upon me in school was hateful and repressive. I was being told in school that gay people didn’t actually exist because “God didn’t make mistakes”. My dad became more and more associated and intertwined with an institution that was hateful.

I didn’t come out to myself until college, and I really didn’t feel like waiting around before coming out, but I was terrified of coming out to my dad. I was shaking and having a full-blown panic attack while coming out to him, which took about an hour to complete.

His reaction? He was hurt that I thought that he would react badly and reject me. I didn’t have the words to describe to him all of the little things that had paralyzed me with fear. At that point his views on marriage equality and gay rights were far from perfect. He wasn’t against any of it, in reality, he really just didn’t understand. After explaining things to him I could see him starting to change for the better.

It certainly wasn’t an overnight process. It’s been almost 6 years since I’ve come out to him. We still have discussions about Catholicism’s views on anything and everything. I love that I get to explain to him the different parts of the gay movement and why it’s important.

He’s learning from me, and he’s open to new ideas. He understands that there isn’t a conflict with being religious and accepting me for who I am.

I’m not saying that everyone is going to change their mind or that they’ll become magically open-minded. Probably most people aren’t worth your time, but that doesn’t mean that you should write off everyone. There are going to be some people who are actually worth being patient with as they grow.

If you asked me ten years ago if I thought that my dad was capable of that much progress and growth I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m so glad I was wrong.

How To: Craft an Elevator Pitch

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I find that breaking down a mission or project to a thirty-second pitch is extremely difficult. There are so many different and amazing aspects of what my organization does. How can I possibly include everything I’ll need?

Having the ability to schedule a meeting with a potential donor or partner can be very challenging. When an opportunity presents itself, even if it is for only a minute, it is good to have a pitch prepared to introduce the organization and ask for what you want.

What should you include in a pitch?

It really depends on who you are talking with and why. Are you trying to create a partnership? Gain a sponsor for an event? Fund a program? Recruit a new board member? Tailoring your pitch to the situation helps you focus on the key points you need to address. The three most important things I have found to include in a pitch are:

  1. Mission Statement (1-2 sentences)
  2. What you are asking for (1 sentence)
  3. What’ s in it for them? (1-2 sentences)

Be clear and concise!

Obviously what you say is important, but how you present yourself and your pitch also influences your success.

I’m a chronic mumbler. My brain moves through thoughts very quickly and my mouth has trouble catching up. Also, talking to new people can cause me moderate to severe anxiety. To make the best pitch I can, I have to remind myself of these steps:

  1. Rehearse your pitch in front of a mirror. This will help you keep a steady, clear pace in the future.
  2. 30 seconds isn’t as quick as you think. Time lasts longer than you think. You want to fit a lot of information in a short period of time, but don’t rush through it so quickly that the person you’re talking with can’t understand you.
  3. Speak passionately. If you don’t show how much you care , no one else is going to become interested.
  4. Have contact information at the ready. Whether you get a yes, no, or maybe, you want them to have your contact information, and you want to get theirs.

 

Sometimes people say yes, sometimes they say no. Other times you might get completely blown off before you can begin your pitch. The non-profit sector can be unpredictable. Having a pitch rehearsed helps you always be prepared, whether you cross paths randomly or at a planned event. A great pitch shows you know your organization inside and out, and will instill confidence in whoever you are speaking with.

Remember, the worst that could happen is that they say no. Get out there and good luck!

Glenn Beck …. LGBT* Hero….?

Okay….

Here it goes….

I have to congratulate Glenn Beck.

Seriously, I know.

I never thought this day would come. For those who haven’t seen what’ I’m referring to:

From what I read about his stance, thoughts are inspired by his  libertarian ideology, ( I’m not even going to touch how I feel about libertarians, call me if you want me to rant at you for hours.) and I oddly agree with his logic. He accurately connected the treatment of the LGBT* community to a scenario that could lead to Holocaust scenarios. Respectively and passionately.

I definitely have my negative biases towards the Fox news style of “journalism”. But I have to give credit where credit is due. All eyes are on Russia, and will be for months. And many LGBT* celebrities have voiced their outrage and protest. Which is extremely and undeniably important. But, at least it certain circles, I think that Glenn Beck’s vocal chastisement of Putin and the Russian government will be more impactful on the American people.

Should it be that way? Definitely and without a doubt NO. Allies are important but LGBT* activists should be in the forefront… but it’s Glenn Beck. He’s a household name, that a lot of people pay attention to and agree with. In this case, like many others, influence is influence. And he is actually exemplifying what it means to be an ally and straight activist.

While we wait for more LGBT* members of the Senate and the House of Representatives and queer individuals with large political clout, strangely we have to look at Glenn Beck for a shinning example of how to maneuver the queer international politics.

 

Hetero-facism…….. I don’t even know.