Monday, November 30, 2015

#WAD2015 - Living While Black & HIV Positive

As an activist in many areas that range from the fight to end the criminalization of Blackness to SGL-BT/LGBT rights, I notice the intentional and unintentional forms of erasure that takes place. Many times we are in the heat of the moment. shouting #SayHerName, #BlackLivesMatter with a list of names that are all too often the reminder of why we fight in the first place.

In that heat of the moment (as I stated in Spectre) "we are deconstructing and dismantling a system of racism and White supremacy. We start with the police violence on Blackness, and work into other areas that have been very problematic in terms of criminalizing Blackness, perpetuating misogyny, limiting access to quality education, financial stability, access to proper health care and a host of others." The picture that you see to the left/above depicts me at an event centering Black women and lifting up the injustice behind the death of our fallen sister Sandra Bland.

The picture is important to note, as it was a very obvious attempt to remind activists to be mindful of the intersectionality that makes us who we are. It was intended to highlight HIV awareness and acknowledgement of the existence of the Black queer, and our part in this movement for Black lives. I wrote about the experience of being Black and HIV Positive in a piece for The Body, Reflections on HIV and Privilege From a Conference of People With HIV:

"HIV does not discriminate when it attacks its host; it is the system of privilege and socialized systems of belief that makes HIV insidious. When settings like this exist, and are conducive enough for people not to front-stage or hold back about their authentic experience, the truth about how they view the care they receive versus someone of a different race or gender can emerge. Take me for example: I am a black man who happens to be out gay and atheist. I also happen to be HIV positive with very-little-to-no income. My socioeconomic status requires me to seek services like Ryan White and ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) in order to take care of my health. In general, health care is what comes to mind, and that is the furthest from the truth. I had an experience, where I went to ask for rental assistance under HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS) and got turned away, only to see my White counterparts get much better help in the process. This is not all due to White privilege, but that particular privilege plays a major role in how folks receive various services."

According to the CDC:

    • African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV.
    • The rate of new HIV infection in African Americans is 8 times that of whites based on population size.
    • Gay and bisexual men account for most new infections among African Americans; young gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 are the most affected of this group.

  • African Americans accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years or older) in 2010, despite representing only 12% of the US population; considering the smaller size of the African American population in the United States, this represents a population rate that is 8 times that of whites overall.
  • In 2010, men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American men (103.6/100,000 population) was 7 times that of white men, twice that of Latino men, and nearly 3 times that of African American women.
  • In 2010, African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men**b represented an estimated 72% (10,600) of new infections among all African American men and 36% of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all gay and bisexual men. More new HIV infections (4,800) occurred among young African American gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) than any other subgroup of gay and bisexual men.
  • In 2010, African American women accounted for 6,100 (29%) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. This number represents a decrease of 21% since 2008. Most new HIV infections among African American women (87%; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual contact.c The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times that of white women and almost 5 times that of Hispanic/Latino women.d
** Referred to as gay and bisexual men in this fact sheet.

Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States for the Most-Affected Subpopulations, 2010
African Americans fact sheet: Chart of the estimates of new HIV infections in the US for most affected subpopulations, 2010. 11,200 among White MSM; 10,600 among Black MSM; 6,700 among Hispanic/Latino MSM; 5,300 among Black Heterosexual Women; 2,700 among Black Heterosexual Men; 1,300 among White Heterosexual Women; 1,200 among Hispanic/Latino Heterosexual Women; 1,100 among Black Male IDUs.

Source: CDC. Estimated HIV incidence among adults and adolescents in the United States, 2007–2010. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2012;17(4). Subpopulations representing 2% or less are not reflected in this chart. Abbreviations: MSM, men who have sex with men; IDU, injection drug user.

HIV and AIDS Diagnosese and Deaths

  • At some point in their lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 16 African American men and 1 in 32 African American women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.
  • In 2012, African Americans had the largest percentage (47%) of the estimated 47,989 diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States.
  • In 2012, an estimated 14,102 African Americans were diagnosed with HIV infection ever classified as stage 3 (AIDS) in the United States.
  • By the end of 2011, an estimated 265,812 African Americans diagnosed with HIV infection ever classified as stage 3 (AIDS) had died in the United States.

To be honest, when dealing with HIV outside and within the Black community, stigma has a stronghold. The lack of HIV 101 plays a large part in why stigma is such a huge issue, it is saddening. It is one of the reasons that came out of the HIV closet, which was for everyone who has been ostracized and made to feel nasty.  While many of us who have HIV are healthier than most out in the general population, Black gay men die at a higher rate from HIV than those who are in the group where HIV infection is actually the highest. Now think about how the Black heterosexual community is affected, especially Black women. People living with HIV not nasty people, we are not contagious, we are doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers! Yes, we are HIV positive and we live a healthy life, We are human beings and we exist. The data showing how HIV affects the Black community is staggering. In a publication called HIV/AIDS Inequality: Structural Barriers to Prevention, Treatment, and Care in Communities of Color many of the issues that I have pointed out, such as Residential segregation and housing discrimination, Education, Criminal justice (including HIV exposure laws) and much more.

HIV - stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.

AIDS - HIV disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged. If you have less than 200 CD4+ cells or if your CD4 percentage is less than 14%, you have AIDS.

TRANSMISSION - Only certain fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur. Mucous membranes can be found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth.

In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by

Having sex with someone who has HIV. In general:
- Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. Receptive anal sex (bottoming) is riskier than insertive anal sex (topping).

- Vaginal sex is the second highest-risk sexual behavior.
- Having multiple sex partners or having other sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of infection through sex.
Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV.


- Seroconversion is the period of time during which HIV antibodies develop and become detectable.
- Seroconversion generally takes place within a few weeks of initial infection.
- It is often, but not always, accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms are not a reliable way to identify seroconversion or to diagnose HIV infection.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Guest Post: Phillipe Cunningham on Cisgender Privilege, Mansplaining & Trans Tokenizing

Was on a great panel with some brilliant trans leaders yesterday. Unfortunately, there was a lot of mansplaining during the Q&A portion with the audience. A cis gay man congratulated himself on the mic for his city having a "trans advisory committee" (that has no real power over anything) and recommended other electeds create one for their cities. I pushed back because advisory councils representing marginalized communities are often just tokenizing with no real voice. I recommended to skip the intermediary... Just recruit and appoint trans folks and folks from other marginalized communities directly onto the city's boards and commissions, duh.

He actually had the audacity to come up to me afterwards, step between Lane (my husband) and me, and push back on my pushback saying that his city's boards and commissions' application pools were already too competitive to prioritize trans/gender nonconforming people's inclusion, implying trans applicants inherently aren't as qualified or competitive. When I asked him what their advisory committee has accomplished as a body, he firmly said, "The trans flag waves 365 days out of the year," as if I was expected to fall out on the floor in awe and gratitude.

So you mean to tell me THAT feels like an actual, real-life accomplishment -a trans flag- when trans people directly affected by issues like public safety, homelessness, the school-to-prison pipeline, and lack of economic opportunities aren't considered "competitive" enough to have voice on those issues?

Even with two elected officials, one appointed official, an academic researcher, and an executive director of a nonprofit on the panel or facilitating it (all trans and gender nonconforming), we were not asked stimulating, challenging questions about how to engage trans and gender nonconforming folks in political participation and why that's important, but instead we were forced to hold space for condescending "advice" about systems, processes and cultures many of us are very knowledgeable about. Mansplaining at its finest. Even with our titles and credentials announced, people still erroneously assumed we didn't know as much as them.

PSA- Please don't waste trans/GNC people's time if you just want to be affirmed that you already have the right answers despite the folks clearly saying, "No, this is how to do it right."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

#HIV: Why We Must Educate Ourselves #HIVisNotACrime

Recently Charlie Sheen came out as HIV positive and the reaction to his interview and the news leading up to it exposed just how stigmatized HIV is.

"I would like to admit that I am in fact HIV positive...I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories that are about me, that threaten the health of so many others that couldn't be further from the truth." - Charlie Sheen

HIV education among Americans is at at a dangerous low, considering that it has been around over 30 years and that the science behind it seems to be a mythical unicorn to most. I am not surprised by any of this, just this past April I came out and followed up with it more extensively in my coming out series. "I am not coming out of this closet just for me, I am coming out of this closet for everyone who has be ostracized and made to feel nasty. Those of us who have HIV are healthier than most out in the general population, yet we Black gay men die at a higher rate from HIV than those who are in the group where HIV infection is actually the highest. I live UNAPOLOGETIC ABOUT WHO I AM, I accept me for who I am. It is time that you accept you for who you are! We are not nasty people, we are not contagious, we are doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers! I am HIV positive and I live a healthy life, I am a person , a whole person and I exist." - 4/3/15

On July 3, 1981 a report on the discovery of the initial outbreak that lead to the AIDS epidemic. The report written by Lawrence K. Altman, was published by the New York Times and at the time it was thought to just be a rare cancer outbreak, over 30 years later we know that isn't the case. In all that time there was not a true form of HIV 101. A 101 that addresses the issue of infection in the heterosexual community in general, especially in the Black & Latino communities on a micro level

This lack of HIV 101 exposes a weakness to challenging stigmas surrounding HIV infection and diagnosis. "Lets be honest about who we are, a lot of us like to fuck raw and then bash those who are open about it. We do not live in a sex positive society and act like sexual puritans. The TRUTH is that we all know someone with an HIV diagnosis and will ignorantly act as if we don't. Let me make a correction in course, HIV 101":

HIV - stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.

AIDS - HIV disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged. If you have less than 200 CD4+ cells or if your CD4 percentage is less than 14%, you have AIDS.

TRANSMISSION - Only certain fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur. Mucous membranes can be found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth.

In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by

Having sex with someone who has HIV. In general:
- Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. Receptive anal sex (bottoming) is riskier than insertive anal sex (topping).
- Vaginal sex is the second highest-risk sexual behavior.
- Having multiple sex partners or having other sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of infection through sex.
Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV.


- Seroconversion is the period of time during which HIV antibodies develop and become detectable.
- Seroconversion generally takes place within a few weeks of initial infection.
- It is often, but not always, accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms are not a reliable way to identify seroconversion or to diagnose HIV infection.

Because of this stigma and lack of education people are being criminalized because of their HIV status due o the unwillingness of the judicial system, state and federal governments to come forward about the fact that one cannot trace his or her source of HIV infection when it comes to random sex partners. 

When I say criminalization of HIV, take it literally! This year the Counter Narrative Project along with myself and a host of others came out in support of Michael Johnson who stood trial for charges of " count of recklessly infecting a partner with HIV, one count of attempting to recklessly infect a partner with HIV, and three counts of recklessly exposing partners to HIV." and that "There are many people in this country who still believe, out of ignorance or cruelty, that people with HIV are pariahs who we all need to be protected from. But Michael Johnson is a part of our community and he is not disposable. Far too many young Black gay men receive an HIV diagnosis in this country, and nearly one in three can expect to in their lifetimes. And Missouri’s solution, to a problem they helped create, is prison." When people accuse others of being reckless with their HIV status, one must consider their own recklessness in not asking or protecting themselves before that sex acts they commit.

Government on all levels, specifically the state governments (32 have laws) have implemented or attempted to pass bill criminalizing HIV and with lack of education on the matter. Take for example that just this past spring Senate Bill 779 was introduced by Sen Joan Huffman. The bill would have removed the confidential nature of HIV test results and allow them to be used as evidence in a criminal proceedings.

By: HuffmanS.B. No. 779
(Bonnen of Brazoria)
relating to access to certain medical test results in a criminal
proceeding; amending provisions subject to a criminal penalty.
       SECTION 1.  Section 81.103, Health and Safety Code, is
amended by adding Subsections (c-1), (c-2), and (k-1) to read as
       (c-1)  Subject to Subsection (k-1), a test result is subject
to and may be released or disclosed under a subpoena issued under
Chapter 20 or 24, Code of Criminal Procedure, in a criminal
       (c-2)  Notwithstanding any other law, a person who releases
or discloses a test result in response to a subpoena issued under
Chapter 20 or 24, Code of Criminal Procedure, in a criminal
proceeding is not subject to any criminal or civil liability or
professional disciplinary action for releasing or disclosing the
test result, except in a case of gross negligence or wilful
       (k-1)  Before entering into evidence or otherwise releasing
or disclosing a test result obtained by subpoena under Subsection
(c-1) in a criminal proceeding, the court in which the test result
is to be presented as evidence or otherwise released or disclosed
shall issue a protective order or take other action to limit the
release or disclosure of the test result. For a test result
obtained under a grand jury subpoena, the court responsible for the
grand jury shall issue the order or take other action to limit the
release or disclosure of the test result before the test result is
presented to the grand jury.
       SECTION 2.  This Act takes effect immediately if it receives
a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as
provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.  If this
Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this
Act takes effect September 1, 2015.
WE MUST take the time to educate EVERYONE about HIV and how it works, that it does not discriminate in seeking a healthy host. We also must respect the privacy of those who are infected and managing life with HIV regardless of celebrity status or lack thereof. Remember that regardless of what you deem to be a "lifestyle choice", no one is deserving of HIV and they damn sure didn't ask for it! Finally, take note that HIV is not a crime and the notion of anyone feeling otherwise including the 32 states that have bigoted laws on their books that question private sexual judgment calls and deems them a criminal act should seek education and counseling immediately.

Advocacy Without Borders gave great talking points that you can use:

1. Using HIV test results in any criminal prosecution makes it appear that HIV is the crime rather than the actual crime being investigated. We need public health solutions to fight HIV and not criminal prosecutions.

2. Criminalizing people because they are HIV positive continues to perpetuate fear, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. Texas does not have an HIV specific criminal statute. Prosecutors should charge the actual crime and not the health status!

3. Treating a medical condition as evidence of a crime is at direct odds with public health campaigns to get as many people as possible tested and, if HIV positive, into treatment. Tests results can’t be used against you if you don’t get tested.

4. There is no evidence that HIV related prosecutions increase disclosure, reduce the spread of HIV or deter the rare acts of intentional transmission.

5. Laws should reinforce science-based public health messages. SB 779 could also be applied against persons charged with crimes involving spitting and biting. There is simply no need to prosecute someone for attempting to transmit HIV through spitting or biting, because that is not how HIV is transmitted.

6. It violates the privacy rights of people living with HIV by permitting confidential medical information to be used in a criminal proceeding. Issuing a protective order at a later stage does not prevent the violation of privacy.

7. HIV is a chronically manageable disease and should not be treated as a deadly weapon. Defining HIV as a deadly weapon further stigmatizes the disease and those living with it.

An Open Letter to Gov. Abbott - Re: #SyrianRefugees

Hello Gov. Abbott,

You Wrote a letter to President Obama:

Here is the thing, you have no power to reject the Obama administration's pledge to accept close to 10,000 Syrian refugees over next year. You directed the Texas Health & Human Services Commission's Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Texas. Under the Refugee Act of 1980 governors cannot legally block refugees and this means that your hands are tied. I find it funny that you and every other White male Governor (WASP), including Jindal are using the French tragedy to push your Christian agenda. Do remember that The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that and Article VI specifies that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

You have every right as an American citizen to urge the President "to halt" his "plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States."What you do not have a right to do, is directly refuse Refugees because of your unfounded fear that "American humanitarian compassion could be exploited to expose Americans to similar deadly danger." Let me remind you that a refugee is a person who is outside their home country because they have suffered (or feared) persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion; because they are a member of a persecuted social category of persons; or because they are fleeing a war. It is clear that what all you and the 25 other governors are doing is  pushing Ethnocentrism, Racism, White privilegeXenophobia & a host of other irrational forms of discrimination.

Yes, your claim that "The threat posed to Texas by ISIS is very real" has merit. However, you are taking a few bad apples and using them to criminalize Brown bodies who are simply seeking safety. I will leave you with one of your scriptures to let you see what a fool you are being, "You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself" - Lev 19:34....I suppose you want the POTUS to send the National Guard Texas to make sure you accept the refugees, but then you would say that he is invading Texas.

Ethnocentrism - is the belief of superiority is one's personal ethnic group, but it can also develop from racial or religious differences. Ethnocentric individuals believe that they are better than other individuals for reasons based solely on their heritage.

Racism - the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

White privilege (or white skin privilege) - is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in Western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.

Xenophobia - intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.

Christian privilege - is the system of advantages bestowed upon Christians in some societies. This system arises out of the presumption that the belief in Christianity is a social norm, leading to the exclusion of the nonreligious and members of other religions through institutional religious discrimination. Christian privilege can also lead to the neglect of outsiders' cultural heritage and religious practices.

Religious discrimination - is valuing or treating a person or group differently because of what they do or do not believe. Specifically, it is when adherents of different religions (or denominations) are treated unequally, either before the law or in institutional settings such as employment or housing.
Religious discrimination is related to religious persecution, the most extreme forms of which would include instances in which people have been executed for beliefs perceived to be heretic. Laws which only carry light punishments are described as mild forms of religious persecution or as religious discrimination.

You gets no love - Ashton

Friday, November 13, 2015

#ITLQBM: Bisexuality & The Black Community

Intersectionality Through the Lens of a Queer Black Man

Bisexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behavior toward both males and females, or romantic or sexual attraction to people of any sex or gender identity; this latter aspect is sometimes termed pansexuality.

Pansexuality, or omnisexuality, is sexual attraction, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of any sex or gender identity.

My mother will kill me for telling this story, but she knows that I mean well. When I was a very small child she had a girlfriend who she would be in a partnership with until I was at least eight years old. Throughout their relationship they lived together and at times it became hard to hear people calling my mother a dyke, bulldagger or any other derogatory term one could fathom. I came understand that as my mother carried out her on and off relationship, that she was into men as well...I do have a brother and sister. I didn't know what to call it back then, maybe because the option was either gay or lesbian. The funny thing about being Bi is that people have false sense of understanding that perpetuates the myth that Bi folks are confused, selfish and will fuck anything that walks. This is furthest from the truth, as my mother has just recently married a man that she has been with for over ten years.

Discrimination against our Bi brothers and sisters is rampant and starts in the form of Bi erasure. This erasure was real back then and it is real now! Think on the fact that the words Gay & Lesbian are forms of homosexuality, which denotes the strict same sex nature of the relationships under those tags. Bisexuality is more than sex, and more often than not, Bi folks are monogamous. Crystal Fleming put it best when she wrote a piece for the Huffington Post called #ThisIsLuv: A Black Bisexual Manifesto"I hope #ThisIsLuv can highlight acceptance of LGBT folk in black communities without glossing over significant tensions, homophobia and biphobia. Black bisexual women are often misunderstood, excluded or fetishized. Black bisexual men, on the other hand, are routinely vilified. Who expresses love and support for our black bisexual brothers? Bisexuals comprise over half of LGB-identified people in the United States, yet we are routinely rendered invisible and marginalized. The erasure of bisexual people is particularly problematic for African-Americans, who already face the strain of racism. Bi black people exist at the intersections of many forms of oppression, and this difficult positionality makes it complicated for us to find love. We not only have to deal with homophobia in our families -- we also have to navigate biphobia among black gays and lesbians -- while dealing with racism in the broader LGBT "community." There is also the reality that most "LGBT" spaces are actually not for us. Very often, they are implicitly white centered and/or mostly geared toward gays and lesbians."

To expand on Bisexual Black men being a target of Biphobia, Its seems that all forms of media clump Bi Black men into the Down Low or "DL" category. The sheer amount of anecdotal publishing and portrayals on television don't help at all! This type of media driven Biphobia unfortunately influences the thought process of heterosexual women who possibly will come in contact with a Bisexual man. The whole concept of being "DL" has so many confusing nuances that get unfairly applied to Bi Black men and paints them as whores who can't control their sexual desires, living in a state of sexual confusion, and the primary sources of STDs & STIs. This is furthest from the truth, because I know Black Bi/Queer men who defy all of those lies. They build healthy and fruitful relationships with whoever they are with, monogamously at that. On the other hand women are objectified and treated like sexual objects for their Bisexuality, Crystal Fleming in the same article quoted above she speaks for women way better than I could: "On top of this, bi black women have to deal with sexism and hetero-patriarchy. Some black bisexuals are transgender and experience the violence of transphobia. These multiple burdens might explain why it's particularly difficult for bisexual people to "come out." We are routinely given the "side eye" from multiple communities -- misunderstood, implicitly or explicitly excluded or reduced to exotic sexual objects. We also experience poorer physical and mental health relative to other sexual minorities. It's a lot to deal with."

BOTTOM LINE: stop the Biphobia and respect people for their humanity and ability to love...



Guest Post: Lola Mo'na on Being Black & Trans in the Workplace

We pull back, bind down and put on this persona, only to be knocked down. We are used for our talents and bright personality, but overlooked for promotions. Any transgender woman who wants to make an honest living, wakes up every morning and is forced to transition back into a male presentation. For years, I believed I was doing the right thing by tying my natural hair back, and binding my chest down. Believing that hard work and a great personality would open doors to advancements, and let me just say that I’ve seen my share of people cutting me in line and/or doors slammed in my face when it comes to opportunities. Recently, I was told the only way I would receive any type of promotion would be if I cut all of my hair off, appear more masculine and traditional. Assuming something and finally hearing it are two different things and I  don’t care how strong of a person you are, you’re never prepared for discrimination. It made me second guess my transition and even allowed thoughts of giving up my happiness, but I remember there will be another woman like me and it’s my duty to help pave the way for her just like it was done for me. This is only the beginning of my fight to end discrimination against Trans women in the workplace so that the next generation will be one step closer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Racism & Erasure: An Open Letter To About Magazine

To Whom It May Concern,

I never really read Houston's local LGBT publications, due to the Whitewash nature of their published content. Last Friday morning, it was brought to my attention that About magazine had published awards categories for the Face Awards to their website and on award in particular would give me pause:

So not only did you list the "Lives Matter" Courage award" with four categories that recommended awards for HPD four times, you neglected to or chose not recommend ONE Black activist in the LGBT community that has been part of the Movement for #BlackLivesMatter. It is shameful that myself and many other Black Houston activists are more often than not honored by orgs and media outlet outside of Houston and Texas for our work. I don't hear too many folks from the White LGBT community express support for Black Lives matter let alone acknowledge their privilege.

White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.

Race is a social concept, is a group of people who share similar and distinct physical characteristics.

Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

Note that as I contemplated writing this post over the weekend, y'all at About Mag got wind of the issue that we had with the award category and changed it to this:

The change is still not good enough especially since it does not address the lack of Black activists or Black folks in other occupations within the LGBT community that are just as deserving as the other nominees. The craziness of the "About - Face Awards" is that you even listed a nomination for an establishment well known for their issues with a LACK OF DIVERSITY. The award category is called most "MOST DIVERSE CROWD OF THE YEAR" and the first nominee is, go ahead and ask. Tony's Corner Pocket!!! Let me refresh your memory:

"On Wednesday 3/18 this was posted all over Facebook:

I was told after writing my original piece below that I was trippin by some folks and that it was an isolated incident. I CALL BULLSHIT...REGARDLESS OF YOUR RACE STEP FORWARD AND BOYCOTT TONY'S CORNER POCKET!


Friday (2/20)I went out to this bar/club named Tony's Corner Pocket just outside of downtown Houston, and it just so happened to be LUEY Weekend. Now generally I go into places like this fully aware that they are predominately White with a few Blacks here and there, and fully expect micro -aggressions to transpire. Well, not a full ten minutes in, after getting drinks with a friend, we decide to walk outside only to be encountered with "Get out of my way nigger" being shouted at one of us. Now, this speaks to a lot of THE overt and ambiguous racism from Whites towards Blacks and other People of Color. While it takes a lot to shock me, it did catch me off guard and what made it even more hideous is that the person who said it tried to hide...


This is the reason why the LGBT community is so divided along racial lines and hurts, I have many friends that I care about that span the racial gamut and its people like this person and establishments like this that allow situations that are damaging to our community to transpire. YES, there are knuckle heads everywhere, but when one can FREELY let something so vile roll off of his tongue in an establishment like this, there is a clear history of this occurring and condoned on a regular basis."

Truth be told, there are a lot of folks who will disagree with why I am writing you this letter. But your publication is the epitome of what is wrong with the Houston LGBT community when it comes to honoring the unsung heroes, the ones who don't and can't hide behind a checkbook, ones who get dirty and even stand face to face with police to call them on their brutal tactics. I truly believe that there are great cops out there and even establishments with TRULY diverse crowds that are deserving of your award, as for me, the fact that I had to point this out makes me want to work even harder to open the eyes of those who really want to do the work to better our community. We don't need your recognition, we do demand respect.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Atheism & The Black Community - TransPHOBIA

Me and Fallon Fox met at Creating Change 2015 in Denver, she had a great and down to earth spirit about herself. I had become a fan of Fallon in 2014 because she is a damn good fighter and as earlier stated, she is a great person to be around. So when I saw this post in a group I participate in, along with the comments from Cis men and women that were just disheartening. As a fellow Atheist, Fallon is at an intersection that many lgbT People of Color are situated and it becomes even more unique for a person who is openly Trans. Why turn your back on a fellow POC because we don't fully understand who they are???

As Black and other Atheists of Color, don't we have enough to deal with when folks question our racial identities? In the video below, there are statements of antiTrans nature mixed with Fallon telling her story. It is important to watch because many of the derogatory statements in the video match the statements in the group...

The thread is at nearly 300 comments, Normally I do screenshots of comments, but I will share what I have written in the past:

"Transphobia in the Black community is out of control, it may be invisible and hard to identify at points but it is there. Just look at the fight for Houston's equal rights ordinance that has come under fire due to its Trans inclusive language." - Black Lives Matter: Black Trans Lives NEED to Matter

"...I guess, I never tried to understand what it meant to be Trans-Masculine  or Trans-Feminine, only that people are people, PERIOD. I saw how Trans folks were and are abused physically and verbally via institutional & general means. I will not go into all of that, what I will go into is how we are currently treating people who have the same struggles as us. When I say struggles, I mean living while Black and dealing with all that comes with being Black, while being told that we don't exist by Black folks! When will we stop being so Trans-phobic and disrespectful to our Brothers and sisters? It is extremely odd that members of the SGL-BT/LGBT community of color are some of the most Trans-phobic, this is extremely problematic.

The first thing that we must understand is not how and why a person decided to transition, but how we can help our brothers and sisters in that transition and respecting it. We can't continue to sexualize Trans persons out of curiosity of what their genitalia may or may not look like! Here is a place to start:

Sex - refers to biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs.
Gender - describes the characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine.
Gender identity - is a person's private sense and subjective experience of their own gender. This is generally described as one's private sense of being a man or a woman, consisting primarily of the acceptance of membership into a category of people: male or female.
Gender expression

Gender expression - refers to all of the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and some characteristics that may be accepted as masculine, feminine or neutral in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another.

Transgender - is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression is different from those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate). Not all people who consider themselves (or who may be considered by others as) transgender will undergo a gender transition. 

Gender transition - Transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. This may or may not include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures.

Can we come to agreement that we should try to respect and understand others' choices to transition without stereotyping, demeaning and attack our Trans brothers and Sisters? Now is the time for us to use our privilege to help the "T" in SGL-BT/LGBT and understand that it doesn't take away from or main struggles and only serves to benefit all." - Why we Must Support our Trans Brothers & Sisters

About Fallon:

Fallon Fox is a professional Mixed Martial Arts Fighter specializing in the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, and Muay Thai. She began training in 2008 and currently has a record of 5-1-0. Fallon trains out of Midwest Training Center in Schaumburg, Illinois alongside her talented teammates.

"Born in the industrial city of Toledo, Ohio Fallon Fox grew up the middle child of three children. Growing up in a neighborhood that she considered hostile, she sought out a means to defend herself. She joined her high school wrestling team her senior year in order to get into shape and have a base for self defence.

In 1996 Fallon joined the United States Navy as an Operations Specialist, served honorably for four years, and ended her service as an Operations Specialist second class.

After serving, she went on to study at the University of Toledo. During this time Fallon began to research transgender or transsexual information in order to better understand herself. Fallon struggled with being comfortable with the body she had at the time as she had the unfortunate disposition of being born male. Unable to bear the emotional trauma of this, and realizing that the longer she did nothing about her situation the less chance she would have of successfully correcting the problem, she removed herself from studies to work for the money to transition from male to female. Fallon physically transitioned from male to female in 2006, finally matching up her inner identity with her physical form.

In 2008, Fallon Fox began training jiu jitsu in order to get back in shape and find a way to defend herself physically yet again. In this process she found empowerment in her new body and gained a passion for jiu jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts. She went on to study Muay Thai and Mixed Martial arts. Fallon has been competing in Jiu jitsu, Submission Fighting Tournaments, and Mixed Martial Arts competitions ever since.

In addition to competing, Fallon is pursuing speaking engagements to tell her story, share how Mixed Martial Arts and other contact sports can empower women of all stripes, and how all of this fits within her perspective as a feminist."

Friday, November 6, 2015

#HERO: The Black Community Is Not To Blame For The Fall Of Prop1

I recently read an article where the National Journal boldly proclaimed to know "How Houston’s Black Voters Stopped the Equal-Rights Ordinance." I reject this notion, given my intimate proximity to the fight to protect Houstonians, here are snippets from past posts that show the White influence on the creation of opposition towards #HERO...

Look at the so called Black leaders coming together to deliver fraudulent petitions (left) last year with their White leader who supports organizations and measures that hurt the Houston Black communities. Why do we follow people like this, instead of following the money who came out of hiding on election day? Just look at the picture below, how many Black people do you see?


"There's only one candidate in this race who has consistently for the last two years opposed HERO and supported the right of voters to vote," Hall said in a Fox 26 segment that aired Tuesday. "When the pastors wanted to fight in the court system, none of the other candidates was present. I was." - July 30, 2015

Lets get to the real deal here, Ben Hall is running as a liberal Democrat in a non partisan municipal election, but being funded by the most conservative of political factions. I have always said that pastors, including Hall have let White men who don't even live in the City of Houston tell them what to do. Mr. Hall like many others have been bought by these White men who typically support initiatives that hurt the Black community at large, LGBT community, women and are waging a war on the movement for non discrimination. With supporters like Steve Hotze who said, “The homosexual political movement hates Ben Hall...I support Ben Hall. I’ve given him my endorsement, I’ve given him my money.” It becomes increasingly hard to believe that Ben Hall has true loyalty to the Black community.

"In staking out that position, Hall has endeared himself to some on the right, including local donor Steven Hotze, who publishes an influential Republican endorsement mailer. "Hall speaks his mind forthrightly with conviction," Hotze wrote Tuesday in an email sent out through his Conservative Republicans of Texas group. Campaign finance records show Hotze and his wife each contributed $5,000 to Hall's campaign, the maximum allowed in a city race." - Houston Chronicle

Then we have the conservative faith based endorsements which denotes the beating of the bible to justify bigotry towards the LGBT community which has Black, Hispanic, Latino, Asian and other ethnic groups in it. Hall recently earned the endorsement from The Confederation of Ministerios Cristianos which is a group of Hispanic religious leaders and represents 1400 churches in the City of Houston and more than 15,000 parishioners. The other endorsement came from the Baptist Ministers Association (the subject of the next post) which represents 350 mostly African-American churches. In response to these endorsements driven by his anti HERO stance, Hall stated “The faith communities all across Houston are joining my fight because we will put an end to the warfare waged by Houston City Hall on the pulpit”, says Hall. “But this is not just about my fight to stop the HERO ordinance. These religious leaders are on the front lines helping Houstonians battle crime and the lack of economic opportunities.” My thing is that if these religious leaders were in the business of  battling crime and increasing economic opportunity, why wait for Hall to run for mayor?

I am clearly for no one discriminating against anyone. And I have to immediately say this ordinance is not the way to do it...I’m concerned about being right. I’m concerned about being just. I’m concerned about being true and authentic.” - Ben Hall


Once again the haters in Houston have nothing better to do but to attack the LGBT community, more specifically the Transgender community.  I for one am tired of all of Anti - LGBT rhetoric that you and your elected and clergy friends are trying to use against me and community. At this point in the game YOU LOST, you lost against HERO (so far), and you damn sure lost your fight against LGBT community gaining the right to get married. 

For some time you have made attempts to disrupt the live of millions of people, not just LGBT folks. Your last attempt at office was a sham, yes, you won at the expense of a predominantly Black community who lacks the resources to research and properly vet who they are voting for. You are a predator of the worst kind, with full awareness of the cost associated with your attempts to get were you want in order to do nothing with the power you desire. In Wilson's own words, when challenged by KHOU during their story on his PRETENDING TO BE BLACK to get elected to the HCC Board of Trustees: "Every time a politician talks, he's out there deceiving voters."

"Wilson, a gleeful political troublemaker, printed direct mail pieces strongly implying that he's black. His fliers were decorated with photographs of smiling African-American faces -- which he readily admits he just lifted off websites -- and captioned with the words Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.

One of his mailers said he was Endorsed by Ron Wilson, which longtime Houston voters might easily interpret as a statement of support from a former state representative of the same name who's also African-American. Fine print beneath the headline says Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins, a reference to one of Wilson's relatives living in Iowa
." - KHOU

Don't you mean that every time you "talk" that you are "out there deceiving voters?' It is no secret that you are strongly anti LGBT, you thought that you were hiding in plain sight. We know who you are sir and how you have tried to spread hate for years. Parading around as a Democrat and a Republican with the same consistent platform of half assed, disproven, hate-filled anti LGBT rhetoric. It may have been successful with that 2001 proposition to ban city employee benefits for same-sex or unmarried partners, but mark my words, you WILL GO DOWN AND HARD.

From the Houston Chronicle in Wilson's own words: (11/7/2001)

"Gay rights, a theme in several city elections of the last 25 years, was the burning issue. Calling homosexuality a sin, sign company owner and conservative activist Dave Wilson forced the city charter change proposal onto the ballot by gathering signatures from more than 20,000 voters.

He started the movement in February after Mayor Lee Brown, a gay-rights supporter, proposed that the same-sex partners of city workers be eligible for the benefits. Brown put the idea on hold later with the agreement of gay leaders. But Wilson, a former candidate for mayor and councilman, pressed on with the referendum.

"We are very pleased at the outcome," Wilson said Tuesday night. "There are some things that need to happen to continue with the effort for family values and marriage in this community."
Wilson, outspent by his campaign opposition, said he would have piled up a more impressive victory if
"the Christian community" had joined his cause publicly.

"Questions need to be asked" about the reluctance of conservatives to campaign for his proposition, he said.

Wilson said he spent about $100,000 of his own money on the campaign through his organization called Houstonians for Family Values, and raised about $30,000 more. His opposition, People for a Fair Houston, spent roughly three times more and was steered by Grant Martin, re-election campaign manager for Annise Parker, City Council's only openly gay member.

Martin said Tuesday night that a victory for Wilson meant that advocates of equal rights for gays need to do a better job of educating voters about such issues."

What many of you may not know, is that for the past few months Wilson has been making attempts at gathering signatures to attack the TRANSGENDER community:


Now look closer at the petition, which he mailed out to Houstonians:

- He already has their voter registration info on the form with a bar code.
- All they have to do is sign an date

This petitions for a charter amendment that would require the city to change all policy so that gender is interpreted as the gender a person was assigned at birth. It would also require "all entities doing business with the city to abide by the same definition."


I want you to know that, regardless of how this scenario goes, this is a warning to the community at large that we need to be ready for challenges to our rights. Yes, we now have HERO and even the right to marry, but Wilson and his friends will try to chip away at us and we need to be ready.


Not long after making the original post above, THIS HAPPENED:

 Then today (7/10/15): "After the city rejecting his petitions, Dave Wilson has filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston.
So yes, another lawsuit with an end goal that would damage our city's reputation.
It should be noted that Dave Wilson is a current Houston Community College Trustee, but rather than gaining notoriety doing his elected job, his quest to deny LGBT people equality is what he has become famous for." - HOUequality


I have confidence that the case will be rejected, but you cant put anything past a hater.


The main group working against equal rights is the BIGOT heavy  US Pastor Council of Houston whose so mission at the moment is to take rights from Houstonians so they can discriminate:


No Unequal Rights is a website they created and this is the mission listed on the site:

About Us
Press Conference
NUR Press Conference
The coalition that came together to oppose Mayor Annise Parker’s “Equal Rights Ordinance” is comprised of pastors from every corner of the city and our church members, men and women from every walk of life, businessmen with prominent roles in city affairs, concerned mothers, wives and grandmothers, politically active citizens on both sides of partisan aisle, and the list continues to grow.
Pastors from some of the largest and most respected organizations in greater Houston representing hundreds of churches of every ethnic identity and most denominational backgrounds have led the effort, including:
  • Prayers
    NUR Rally
    Baptist Ministers Association of Houston
  • Houston Area Pastor Council
  • Houston Ministers Against Crime
  • AME Ministers Alliance of Houston/Gulf Coast
  • Northeast Ministers Alliance
  • South Texas Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship
  • South Texas District Council of the Assemblies of God
  • National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Our basic premise is “Equal Rights for all, not Unequal Rights for a few.” The fact that the mayor and eleven city council members would place the freedom and safety of all at risk to serve a personal agenda of Annise Parker and her national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender allies is a tragic reminder of the consequences of voter apathy during elections. The short term objective was first to work to defeat the ordinance before City Council, then to file, qualify and pass a referendum overturning it by vote of the people if needed.
The long term goal is to restore a sense of duty among God-fearing citizens who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs about morality, family, marriage and personal freedom, that our government depends on every one of us voting in every election for likeminded candidates – and even becoming one of those candidates. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Governments, like clocks, go by the motion men give them.” Our clock is broken but we have the tools and the know-how to repair it.

This is from the pastor council website:


DJW portrait photo_small
Pastor Dave Welch
To the incredible team of hundreds of amazing pastors who have stood, led, prayed, spoken, and fought as one on behalf of God’s moral truth, defense of those under our care, basic God-given freedom and common decency over the past sixteen months in the City of Houston:
It is “deliver the votes” time.
After a year-long legal battle that pitted this diverse coalition of pastors and citizens and our one attorney against the machine of City of Houston government led by Mayor Annise Parker and supported by the “pro bono” legal work of three of the largest law firms in Texas (Sussman Godfrey, Haynes Boone and Norton, Rose, Fulbright), culminating in not one, but two, rulings by the Texas Supreme Court that the COH had violated the law…we have finally restored the right to vote, have the opportunity to vote, achieved legally compliant ballot language – and now must exercise the duty to vote on the Mayor’s LGBT “Equal Rights Ordinance” (originally passed by an 11-6 vote of City Council).
  • On Wednesday, August 26, the City Council passed the following final language:
“Are you in favor of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in  city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy?”
  •  On Thursday, August 27, the City assigned the ballot position of this ordinance as Houston Proposition 1.
  • Next stop – Early Voting begins October 19, ends on October 30; ELECTION DAY IS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3!
    • We have only 52 Days until Early Voting begins
      • Over ONE HALF of votes will be cast during early voting
      • There are only 6 Sundays before Early Voting
    • We have only 67 days until Election Day.
      • There are only 8 Sundays before Election Day
Will our churches go the second mile in making sure that EVERY CHRISTIAN in our churches who is eligible VOTES faithfully and Biblically in EVERY election – starting with this Houston City General Election to vote…
NO on threatening religious freedom in the City of Houston…
NO on allowing men in women’s restrooms, showers and locker rooms in the City of Houston…
NO on giving on giving criminal investigation and prosecutorial powers over every citizen in Houston to an untrained bureaucrat accountable only to the mayor…
NO on giving special rights to a privileged few based on their lifestyle or feelings that trample on the God-given, Constitutionally protected freedom of the majority…
We have a slew of organizations and campaigns that support the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, well so do they. The Campaign For Houston is a PAC that was set up by many of those featured in this series and they already have ADs out on local radio:

Their WEBSITE is really simple, with very clear ANTI TRANSGENDER rhetoric:

On their ABOUT page:

They also have a TWITTER account which is pretty inactive, and a moderately active FACEBOOK. Do not take this group of people that I have been highlighting lightly, they are all interconnected and have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to destroy local protections for the LGBT, especially the Trans community. We must work from our lanes of influence to deter the work of these bigots. We do not have much time to do what needs to be done leading up to November 3.

We have to be ONE collective voice and stand up for the TRANSGENDER community, in doing so we are saving all of Houston from discrimination. this is what they are saying about us:

"The ordinance gives new special privileges to two special interests, neither of which qualify as true “minorities” requiring special legal protection." We are not special interests, we are MINORITIES, we are not a new group and infact we are of different races and ethnicities. It is clear that they just want to discriminate against those who choose to live their truth.

"Mayor Parker’s ordinance is built on deception. It is not about protecting the rights of women, racial minorities, the disabled, elderly or military personnel. There are already important laws on the federal, state and local levels that protect such individuals from discrimination for employment, housing and access to public accommodations." While this may be true, who has the type of money it would take to go through all of the required processes in order to challenge discrimination? This ordinance would help with mediation and offset many costs.

"The ordinance’s naming of these groups is a ruse in an attempt to hide the ordinance’s real purpose, which is to make “sexual orientation” and “gender identification” two new protected classes."  There is no ruse, and you are right these are two classes that have NO protection on any level of government. ALL Houstonians deserve equal protection, THESE ARE HUMAN RIGHTS!