Hop for Visibility Awareness and Equality
Welcome to my stop on the Hop for Visibility Awareness and Equality, a blog hop honouring the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. I’m Archer Kay Leah, author of Fantasy Romance, Sci-fi Romance, and LGBTQA fiction (including The Republic series, high fantasy romance featuring LGBTQA protagonists), and I’ll be your host for the next several minutes.
I’m also offering a giveaway that will be open until May 24th (details below): a chance for 3 winners to get a copy of my books.
So without further ado…
Happy International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia
And by “happy” I mean “let’s not just leave all that discriminatory baggage at the door, let’s set fire to it. Burn, baby. BURN. Here’s the pack of rainbow-coloured matches because diversity is beautiful, and so is every crayon in the universal box.”
Warning: I’m going to play ball with optimism here. It’s scary, I know. But go with me on it.
Recently, my partner and I were asked a few questions about our relationship by a young woman attending high school. We tend to be open about being spouses, so when we’re asked questions, answers aren’t a problem. What impressed me was the candid interest of this teen, her point-blank questions, and the fact that after we answered one question, she had all the confidence in asking another. Were we married? (Pretty much, just not on paper). How long have we been together? (13 years, but we knew each other in high school).
Then she asked us how we handle homophobia.
This one threw me. For one thing, I wasn’t expecting her to go there, especially since we were at a spiritual function and my headspace was elsewhere. But two (and this one’s probably going to revoke my card): I’ve been blessedly lucky to escape being the subject of homophobic comments and behaviour – at least to my knowledge. If there’s been anything, it hasn’t been to my face; not in my earshot. And if there’s been any behind my back, it’s been kept on the down-low.
After my partner answered about the issues she’s encountered, I eventually managed to put words together to answer the young lady’s question, and the three of us launched into a conversation about the issues she’s dealing with at school (thankfully not too terrible, and she’s handling them like a champ with a “fuck it” attitude that’s a lot like mine). On hindsight, I could’ve said a lot more than I did, and the next time we see her, I should say what I should’ve then.
But the conversation has stuck with me. Because wouldn’t you know it: teens can ask some damn good questions and worm their curious little way into your grown-up brain.
Unfortunate for us adults, I don’t think we stop to listen to them half as much as we ought to. They give perspective. They gift us with reevaluation. They also offer a door into a strange little way-back machine, and then some.
They can also instill in us a wallop of hope and that bit of self we may have lost along the way.
Mirror, Mirror in My Face, Everything Goes At Its Own Pace
On one hand, the conversation was part personal reflection, like someone shoving a mirror up real close. My partner and I generally gave the same answer in the end, but from two very different paths. It was the same split-and-combine we experience with a lot of things: we often come from polar opposite experiences but eventually meet in the middle and figure out something new. My answer was a longer, cleaner version of “fuck ‘em” with a psychological and behavioural chaser (those making the comments might be insecure or confused about who they are, or they come from a homophobic upbringing, or they’re scared of “different”, or it’s peer pressure, and so on), but my partner’s was the on-the-ground, from a “bullies suck” background. I suppose one could argue it was a balanced approach between us.
All of this makes me review what we’ve been through – a story of two very different worlds that collided. In terms of identity, I’m bisexual cis-gender (with possible gray-A tendencies) while spouse is better described as pansexual bigender (something we’ve recently realized, now that we’re able to put words to it). And it’s great. We can share a lot of things strictly heterosexual couples don’t, including ogling and crushing on the same people, regardless of gender, among other things. But the road to learning who we are has been complicated. My partner identified with her sexual preferences and gender self as a child, and with it came the bullying, the homophobia, the harassment, and the crappy attitudes. To make matters worse, her parents were emotionally, mentally, and physically abusive, pressing not only homophobic reactions upon her, but also bierasure. She’s never had it easy, having to claw her way up from the trenches. While there are days things aren’t perfect and rosy and sparkly unicorns, she has the freedom now to be exactly who she is. That’s one kid who turned out all right. It did get better.
With me, though, things were slow. By the time I realized I was bisexual, I was 20 years old and in first year university. I’d grown up crushing on boys and being rejected, but not really thinking about sexual preference. I spent most of my time worrying about academics and pushing through the social stuff as the misfit I so clearly was (still am). In high school, I knew a few of the people in our school who openly identified as gay and lesbian. Not just knew, though. They were beloved friends in our clique of misfits (a friend-family lovingly dubbed The Front Hall) and I still adore them, cheering for them from the sidelines. Who they were never bothered me, not once, but it never occurred to me I might be part of the spectrum, too. I figured I was straight just ’cause that’s how it went. Then again, I didn’t hear of bisexuality until I was in university, meaning I was missing the memo anyway.
In the end, I didn’t get to deal with the homophobic or biphobic issue personally – just heard about it from those who did. Though don’t get me wrong: while I didn’t deal with anyone being homophobic towards me, I still had my fair share of harassment. To this day, I still don’t understand the exact nature of that harassment, no matter what I know of teen psychology, but I’m chalking it up to being different in other ways. So I get it. I’ve always been able to empathize with my LGBTQA brethren, even if from a different set of circumstances.
Though add a couple years and you get the coming out to myself. Talk about a shocker. The need to reevaluate who I was became pretty obvious when I found myself thinking of one of my best friends in that way. Although happy ending: we hooked up, moved in together, and now we file taxes together as a couple (huzzah to adulting!). The rest of my coming out consisted of telling one of my grandmothers (who was so amazing in her response, it makes me cry inside), my parents (in a meh kind of way), and a few of our friends who already accepted people who identified on the LGBTQA spectrum.
For everyone else, though, it’s been more like “here’s my partner” – end scene. At school, at work, in social groups, that’s how it’s gone. I talk about my partner like other people do theirs; I reveal that part of my personal life, no apologies, no validation seeking, no nothing. And thankfully, no one has thrown it in my face – not that I’d care. This “fuck it” attitude is here to stay. But I’ve worked with good people who treat me no different. Our social circles consist of people with kind hearts that embrace LGBTQA individuals. I’ll be the first to say it: I’ve been spoiled, but I do everything I can to take that blessing and pass it on. Everyone deserves that respect and freedom. Everyone deserves the same treatment. The saddest part in realizing how lucky I’ve been?
The fact I consider it LUCKY.
And that’s just wrong.
Equality shouldn’t be a matter of luck. We shouldn’t be in the position to look at each other, share our stories, and wish for better because we carry the burden of being discriminated against. There’s got to be better. People can do better.
And then there are the kids.
So Seriously, the Kids Might Just Be All Right
All of this leads me to the second thing that I took from the conversation with our young friend: things are changing. In comparing our experiences with those of others before and after us, change is happening. Beautiful, wonderful, and positive change that’s lightening the heart of the human collective.
By no means is society perfect. Nope. BIG nope. And I’m not playing the ignorant card when it comes to that, not ever. There are still very real dangers for LGBTQA individuals, and there are constant reminders making sure we don’t forget that’s the case. And what I’m saying here is in no way sugar-coating any of those struggles or sweeping them under the proverbial rug – it’s all disgusting BS, what people go through just to be who they are, and for nothing more than to meet someone else’s expectations.
But on the flipside of the broader picture is a more positive trend: the future really does have a bit of glimmer to it; a tiny flame we can fuel into a bonfire if we keep pulling together and fighting for better. For all of the “phobic” tendencies, there’s a balancing act in progress thanks to people who see past gender and sexual preference. Like other social changes, the change from the homophobic default to an open, LGBTQA-accepting world is painfully slow, absolutely frustrating, and it’s not as widespread as it needs to be to make things all right, but there’s a definite move in the right direction. Our discussion with the young lady and another friend of ours who’s older than we are gave us a glimpse of what the future might look like. There’s a shift among generations towards visibility and equality, and a major part of that are our children and young adults. They are where the change is going to be most apparent – because they’re going to take it with them.
If we show them what love for every person looks like, they’ll run with it so hard, they’ll steal our breath.
Yes, I’m being a hopeful realist here, but there’s a heart-warming bout of optimism to take from a teen feeling confident and comfortable enough to ask straightforward questions about homosexual relationships and not hide who they are in the process.
And where there’s one, there’s bound to be more. And they need encouragement.
For all the minutes that the discriminatory “phobias” rear their ugly heads, there are touching moments and people who kick that discrimination square in the junk. And then there are things like this that make me think we’re starting to get there, one small step at a time: “Alberta students to define their own gender: 5 big changes in new school guidelines”. I figure that if a conservative province can go big like this, other provinces, states, and nations can do the same.
And Since You Can’t Take the Writer Out of Me…
This is an issue where my author side giggles with glee. Part of the change lies in the hands of authors, publishers, and reviewers. Everyone has a part in making everyone else feel safe and accepted, but there’s a special place for storytellers. We create safe spaces. We can offer a place for everyone – young and old – to read about people like them making similar choices, facing similar problems, and overcoming whatever life throws at them. We can rouse minds, make all sorts of people visible, and illustrate equality for those who don’t really know what it looks like.
So this post might be in honour of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, but it’s dedicated to everyone who takes a stand against those forms of hate. No matter who you are – the teen asking questions, an adult who’s got it figured out, a writer with LGBTQA characters, or just someone who loves people as people regardless of gender or sexual preference – this one’s for you. No matter our paths, there’s still hope. There’s still a place. And on the really bad days, give yourself permission to tell yourself this:
“I’m significant. I matter.”
“We’re significant. We all matter.”
And stop to listen to our young people. Our children aren’t born with hate. They aren’t born thinking of why certain things should even matter. Adults teach them that. So the onus is on us to get ourselves sorted, because the kids? They’re born with that openness we hunger for, that trust we wish we still had, and a thing for following curiosity without caring about religious, political, or some other school of thought — thoughts that can be changed. So give a listen to the ones that are open and have big hearts that let everyone in. They might just blow your mind.
Onto the GIVEAWAY (aka. Prizes)!
To enter to win: leave a comment below.
It can be as short or long as you’d like. A piece of advice you’d give to LGBTQA youth, words of support, a general thought, or hello. (And please make sure I can contact you if you win. If not by email, then by Facebook or Twitter.)
Giveaway runs until midnight on May 24th. I’ll pick the winners via random.org and announce them on May 25th. Must be 18+ to enter.
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Don’t forget to check out the other participants on the Hop! The link below lists all of the participants, so check them out. Read what they have to say and enter their giveaways.