Picture this Romance: Gorgeous Lesbian Indian Wedding Photos

Apart from Love, everything passes away.

The way to Heaven is in your heart.

Open and lift the wings of Love!

When Love’s wings are strong, you need no ladder.

– Rumi

“We are a typical couple, at least to us. We are an interracial couple of Indian and American descent who found love at first sight. Well, let’s make that Shannon found love at first sight. The day I met Seema, I was teaching one of my boot camp classes and I turned to another instructor and said ‘I’m going to marry her.’ Of course, Seema fell in love shortly after, and six years later it became true.”

Shannon and Seema, to Buzzfeed

With Love, From Shannon and Seema

Bringing with it all the vibrant, colorful imagery of Deepa Mehta’s “Fire,” this story, these images—it’s the stuff of modern myth—but what a beautiful surprise—this is in fact the real deal.

Huffington Post Gay Voices recently profiled photographer Steph Grant and her dear friends, newly-wedded couple Shannon and Seema, complemented with gorgeous, romantic and exquisitely rich images of two women who are deeply in love.

Put A Ring On It And Take A Picture, Please

“I have photographed Indian weddings before and I have photographed gay and lesbian weddings before, but never have I ever shot an Indian lesbian wedding,” photographer Steph Grant wrote about her recent (and lovely) wedding photography assignment.

While it is decidedly challenging to be out and proud in India (most especially for women) as well as in Indian diasporic culture, this recent news item is a hopeful reminder that change is possible. The wedding itself took place in Los Angeles, though the ceremony incorporated Indian wedding traditions and attire.

Continuing the story on her blog, Grant enthused, “I have been anticipating this wedding for years now! Shannon and Seema are special to me and I am honored that they chose me to be their wedding photographer. I flew into Los Angeles a few hours before the wedding festivities began. I was greeted by a house full of friends, family and a lot of laughter. It was going to be an exciting day.”

“Beautiful Indian culture, stunning brides & style for miles!” she continued. “Couldn’t ask for more. WOW. My heart! There was so much love that consumed the SmogShoppe that evening. Friends and family came pouring in with smiles, hugs and tears… these two are clearly loved and in love. I am writing this blog a month after the wedding and I am proud to say that so much progress has been made in our country with the Supreme Court striking down DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Prop 8 in California! Love wins. ALWAYS. Congrats Shannon & Seema. Love you guys!”

To check out the rest of the exclusive photos from this auspicious occasion, visit Steph Grant’s blog here: http://www.stephgrantphotography.com/blog/shannon-seema-indian-lesbian-wedding-los-angeles-ca

Have you ever seen such fabulous wedding photographs? And do you think you’ll ever get hitched? If you do, will you go “flossy-flossy” fancy, or do you think you’ll elope instead? Share your thoughts, Darl’s.

 

LZ Granderson: The Myth of The Gay Agenda

“…I have taught myself to sew, cook, fix plumbing, build furniture – I can even pat myself on the back when necessary…. There’s nothing I need from anyone except for love and respect. And anyone who can’t give me those two things has no place in my life.”

– Arnold from “Torch Song Trilogy.”

Visit Bing or Yahoo. Google or Duck Duck Go.

(Don’t worry, we’ll wait.)

Now: search for the words “Gay Agenda.”

(We’ll be right here, so be sure to come back. Better yet, open up another window or tab. There you go.)

Here’s what you’ll find: you’ll discover and learn more about us here at GayAgenda.com (please do that!).

You’ll also see many, many other “interesting” finds. Most notably, you’ll encounter a lot of people who have coined the hateful term and idea of the “gay agenda,” words we happily reclaim.

Among the search results you’ll find will be CNN reporter-journalist LZ Granderson’s world renowned, fact-filled, heartwarming and humorous TED Talk, “The Myth of the Gay Agenda.”

Remember that “Gay Agenda” search engine quest from before? LZ really, really went there too—in fact, he went into some extended search action…!

The results he found included a wealth of hate-monger speech and ignorance-laden articles and updates about the “dangerous gay lifestyle,” and the “dangerous gay agenda.”

On thumbing through result after result of anti-gay propaganda, Granderson reflects: “If I’m gay and I’m doing something that’s going to destroy civilization, I need to figure out what this stuff is. And, I need to stop doing it right now!” [The audience laughs.]

“I took a look at my life—a hard look at my life,” he goes on, “And I saw some things very disturbing. And I want to begin sharing these ‘evil’ things that I’ve been doing with you, starting with my mornings.

[The audience continues laughing along with LZ.] He continues the in-joke: “I drink coffee. Not only do I drink coffee. I know other people who drink coffee.”

Granderson directs us to the first slide of a PowerPoint presentation with the laughable title, “The Super Duper Evil Gay Lifestyle,” emblazoned with the rainbow flag.

He walks us through his happily partnered life and the daily goings on of being a busy parent. He then goes on to masterfully, ironically illustrate his points. “Run for your heterosexual lives, people!” Granderson humorously “threatens” during the conference, dismantling the hateful rhetoric that anti-gay bigots just so happen to throw around.

At the end of the day, LZ Granderson’s presentation fights for, in his own words, “Love and respect….trying to find your place in the world.” It seems so simple—the real “agenda” has to do with those who seek to complicate it. To destroy rights that have already been granted, and to prevent acquisition of others.

Finding and enjoying “love and respect:” in essence, this is everyone’s “agenda.” Granderson brilliantly brings these and other heartening ideas to the fore.

When he talks about love, his family, adoption and marriage equality, your eyes will get misty, your lips will quiver, you’ll be reminded of your own humanity. His talk is quite lovely and forever relevant.

LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. He spoke at TEDx Grand Rapids in May 2012. TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “Ideas worth spreading” which it makes available through talks posted on its website. (http://www.tedxhappyvalley.com/lz-granderson-the-myth-of-the-gay-agenda/)

You can tweet your reactions and support to LZ  @Locs_n_Laughs.

Click here to watch the video—with choreographed light saber moves and all the belly laughs you can stand included. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CstD6O95L-o)

So what did you think of LZ Granderson’s TED Talk ?

Keep It Together: Resources and Support for LGBTQ Families

It’s All in the Family

“Keep it together in the family

They’re a reminder of your history

Brothers and sisters they hold the key

To your heart and your soul

Don’t forget that your family is gold.”

– Madonna, from “Keep It Together”

For those who may oppose or who may not understand LGBTQIA culture (which often includes ourselves, those in-community), it can be easy to forget we are individuals who come from families. Who make up families. Who make up families of choice.

As we seek out kin, allies, a tribe, BFFs, support, resources and fellowship, because it is so common for LGBTQIA persons to experience marginalization even for supporting queer culture (as well as of course for being in it), we forget about our extended family. We don’t realize the broad spectrum of resources made available to us for finding connections, assistance, and even family-focused entertainment or advantages (such as social, educational financial or medical help).

We may then perhaps lose hope for reconciliation with our birth family, and/or don’t seek alternatives for creating new and more empowering familial networks.

Partying, playing and freedom of sexual expression is all well and good: it’s a blessing to have an opportunity to fully express all sides of ourselves (and fight for our rights in places where this is not yet a reality).

When it’s time to come down, gather together, find home and hearth, your family/family of choice is your go-to place to touch down, reboot, chillax. Find peace of mind.

But what happens if you don’t have a family, your community doesn’t support your family, or you don’t have a stable family?

Here are a few helpful resources, for finding family support and structure, below:

 

Get Help, Find Fam, Keep It Together

PFLAG / Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – http://www.pflag.org

In addition to education, outreach and public speaking, PFLAG provides regionally-based support groups for queer and questioning persons (including youth), as well as for people who are trying to understand their LGBTQ family members, or people who do not have family support.

Family Equality Council – http://www.familyequality.org/get_involved/programs

Per their website, “The Family Equality Council is a community of parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren who for 30 years have raised our children and raised our voices toward fairness for all families.” While they do quite a bit of advocacy work, they also sponsor Family Equality Pride events and regionally-based family outreach programs (such as support groups and activities for queer parents and the community).

COLAGE – http://www.colage.org

For people with an LGBTQ parent: focused mostly on kids and teenagers, COLAGE unites peer-based networks and helps youth find support. Their specialty, in their own words is to help: “nurture and empower each other to be skilled, self-confident, and just leaders in our collective communities.”

Transforming Family http://transformingfamily.org/about-us

Championed by Chaz Bono. With a trans* focused outreach in its purview, Transforming Family is a Los Angeles based family support group creating a positive environment for children, adolescents and their families to explore issues of gender identity.

Our Family Coalition http://www.ourfamily.org/programs

This is a community of leaders who provide family-based policy and advocacy for change as well as sponsoring various family functions and social events.

Gay Parent Magazine –http://www.gayparentmag.com

A leader in gay parenting resources – founded in 1998.

API Family Pride http://www.apifamilypride.org

The mission of Asian and Pacific Islander Family Pride is to end the isolation of Asian and Pacific Islander families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members through support, education, and dialogue.

Soffa Support – http://soffasupport.tumblr.com

An online zine that helps to connect people with support and advice for significant others, family, friends, and allies of the trans* community.

National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov

The National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth is an information resource of the Family and Youth Services Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They help to provide various resources of support for many, including LGBTQIA-specific assistance, referrals and education.

Intersex Society of North America

Support Groups and FAQ (For FAQ, Click FAQ Link on this page) http://www.isna.org/support

The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) was founded in 1993 in an effort to advocate for patients and families who felt they had been harmed by their experiences with the health care system. From these scrappy, brave, and confrontational beginnings, ISNA evolved into an important resource for clinicians, parents, and affected individuals who require basic information about disorders of sex development (DSDs) and for how to improve the health care and overall well-being of people with DSDs.

R Family Vacations – http://www.rfamilyvacations.com

R Family Vacations is an LGBT vacation entertainment company that provides luxury cruise ship trips with a focus on inclusive activities for children and services including same-sex marriage ceremonies.

National Resource Center on LGBT Aging –http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org

Resources include – Caregiving services, Aging in Place Providers, LGBT Organizations, referrals, help for LGBT older adults or caregivers.

JQY / JQYouth – http://www.jqyouth.org

JQY is a nonprofit organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Jews and their families in the Orthodox community.

 

A Word About Finding Local Resources

If you find these suggestions aren’t close to you, don’t be afraid to shout them out on social media, email or call them, and ask for help finding resources that are local for you. Should they be unable to, they’ll be able to provide other alternatives for you. Never give up.

There are many more resources where these came from. Have you got a good recommendation? Please let us know.

When times get tough or you’re looking for support, who do you call your “family?”

 

First Openly LGBT American To Run For U.S Public Office Dies

Jose Julio Sarria Dies At Age 91
Nowadays, it’s not that unusual to find LGBT persons running for political office. Tammy Baldwin is Senator of Wisconsin; Jared Polis is a Senator in Colorado, and Christine Quinn is running for Mayor of New York City, to name a few. But to run as a gay man for San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961 takes guts. LGBT politicians owe their current positions to a trailblazing icon for equality, Jose Sarria.

“The Rosa Parks of the Gay Rights Movement” – Nicole Ramirez, San Diego City Commissioner
Although he did not win the Board of Supervisors’ election, Jose Julio Sarria has the distinction of being the first openly gay American to run for office. California Senator Mark Leno called Sarria a “fearless community leader.” “When Jose threw his hat into the ring for San Francisco Supervisor more than fifty years ago, he became one of the first to publicly proclaim that there is no reason, constitutional or otherwise, to deny lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people first-class citizenship, respect and dignity under the law. Jose’s visionary and legendary leadership helped build the foundation for our successful, modern-day LGBT civil rights movement.”

In his honor, in 2006, the City of San Francisco named a section of 16th Street in the city’s Castro district Jose Sarria Court. Although Sarria did not win a seat on the Board of Supervisors (with his 6,000 votes), his indefatigable support of Harvey Milk, who did become the first openly gay person in 1977, helped Milk be elected to the Board of Supervisors. He supported Milk’s first campaign in 1973 as well. Sarria’s and Milk’s Castro District became a gay voting block in San Francisco.

Past History
Born in San Francisco, Sarria attained the rank of Staff Sargent in WWII before being honorably discharged at the end of his service in 1945.He was a drag Queen, using the name Empress Jose, the Widow Norton as well as The Nightingale of Montgomery Street where he performed at San Francisco’s The Black Cat until it closed in 1964.

“He was a national LGBT icon” – Toni Atkins, Ca. State Assembly Majority Leader
Besides being a waiter, drag queen, LGBT rights activist, Sarria formed The Tavern Guild, the county’s first Gay Business Association. He also developed an International Court System from a loose alliance of social groups, with associated Chapters in over sixty-eight cities across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Said Nicole Ramirez, who succeeded Sarria in 2007 as the International Chairperson of this fraternal LGBT charity organization, “ the Imperial Courts are like the gay Shriners/Elks of North America and have raised millions of dollars.” In 1961, he helped to form one of the first gay rights organizations in the U.S. and the first gay non-profit registered in California, the League for Civil Education. Two years later, he co-founded the Society for Individual Rights (SIR)

For his efforts, Sarria was given numerous awards, including the Harvey Milk Humanitarian Award. His collection of GLBT historic documents are at the LGBT Historic Society of San Francisco and the Smithsonian Institution.

“Making Successes Possible” – Wilson Cruz, National Spokesman for GLAAD
“His work as a politician, humanitarian, and performer was unprecedented, and has rightfully earned him a place in history. He was an icon who stood his ground for himself and so many others when it was hardest to do so. He will forever reside in the hearts and minds of the LGBT and Latino communities and their allies. Thank you.”

New Zealand Now Has Gay Marriage

15th Country to Allow Same-sex Marriage

On Monday, August 19, 2013, New Zealand became the thirteenth country to welcome same-sex marriage.  Some newlyweds, estimated at three dozen, took advantage of the new law such as  Rachel Briscoe and Jess Ivess as well as Richard Rawstorm and Richard Andrew in Rotorua, New Zealand.  As promised, the Modern Family star was present at the marriage of Lynley Bendall and Ally Wanikau for the first gay wedding in New Zealand..

Married at 39,000 Feet

Activist Ferguson, with his new husband laywerJustin Mikita, who were married in New York City last month, attended the wedding aboard Air New Zealand,  “What an unforgettable way to mark the new law and “a great celebration of New Zealand’s diversity!” exclaimed Chief People Officer Lorraine Murphy. The flight went from Queenstown to Auckland and carried family, friends, and their three foster children. of Bendall and Wanikau. Together for thirteen years, the couple, both childcare workers, were married by celebrant Kim Jewell Elliott. Following the ceremony, an unexpected choir performed the traditonal “Pokarekare Ana,” a love song that was sung last April when the New Zealand Parliament marriage equality law was passed. Commented the airborne couple, “to be married at 30,000 feet beneath strings of fairy lights with our children, friends and family as witnesses makes an already memorable day that much more special. It was surreal to have Jesse play a part in the ceremony too – we’re big fans of “Modern Family.”

Reasoning Behind Marriage En Flight

Bendall and Wanikau won a promotion by national carrier Air New Zealand.  In the winning video of the competition, their foster children held handwritten signs saying why their parents should get married on a plane.  One read “Wow!! Imagine that for news at school!”

Why Ferguson and Mikita Were Attendees

Although not bosom buddies with the lesbian couple, Ferguson, who advocates for marriage equality through his appearances and tietheknot. organization that raises money for same-sex marriage, “was present to bring some attention to this great day.” Ferguson said that with gay marriage not legally recognized in thirty-seven U.S. states,” there is plenty of work to do there to change attitudes. “Modern Family,” which normalizes homosexuality,” is a great way to sneak into a lot of living rooms with no agenda.”

Nearby Australia does not have legalized same-sex marriage, but a measure to do is expected soon.  The U.S. Ambassador to Australia, John Berry, recently married to Curtis Yee, is openly gay.

 

 

Christie Bans Gay Conversion Therapy For Minors

N.J. Governor Bars Licensed Therapists from Using Therapy

Republican Governor Chris Christie on August 19, signed a bill into law that will ban conversion or gay-to-straight therapy for those younger than eighteen.  With this measure, New Jersey becomes the second state (California being the first) to ban therapy that seeks to turn gay teens straight. California, that passed a similar measure in 2012, hasn’t taken effect yet because of a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

Signing Note Accompanying the Bill

A potential 2016 Republican contender for presidency of the United States, Christie, a Catholic,  says he believes people are born gay and that homosexuality is not a sin.  He also stated that the health risks of trying to change a child’s sexual orientation outweigh concerns over the government setting limits on parental choice.

Problems with Conversion Therapy

“On the issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,” he expounded. Citing a litany of potential ill effects of trying to change sexual orientation, including depression, suicide, substance abuse, social withdrawal, and decreased self-esteem. Christie stated : “ I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.” Christie still has concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children.

Last July, the measure was passed by both Democrat-controlled Legislature last June, but it wasn’t definite that Christie would sign the bill into law.  But Christie believed the health concerns trumped issues over the government setting limits on parental choice. This view was  previously expressed by him. With this signing,  Christie, a centrist Republican, is seeking re-election in November and his compromise on this issue is indicative of his efforts to reach a broader base of voters, but not without offending social conservatives, according to political analyists.

Critics of Conversion Therapy

Former New Jersey Democratic Governor Jim McGreevey, who is gay, praised the measure based in “sound psychiatric research.” Openly gay Assembly member Tim Eustace, one of the bill’s sponsors, says conversion therapy amounts to “an insidious form of child abuse.”

The public became more skeptical of the therapy when Exodus International, a Christian group based in California, shuttered its doors last month after being in business for thirty-eight years. Alan Chambers, founder, apologized to gays for the harm he said his group had caused.

Proponents of Reparative Therapy

Chairman and founder of the Liberty Counsel, said the group plans to file suit soon to overturn the New Jersey statute, arguing in part  that “the law is an infringement on parental rights to raise their children the way they see fit or to seek counseling in the wake of traumatic events.  Staver added that the bill provides a “slippery slope of government infringing upon the First Amendment rights of counselors to provide, and patients to receive, counseling consistent with their religious beliefs.” John Tomichi of the League of American Families commented that the laws infringed on a parent’s right to decide the best treatment for his or her child.

 

 

 

Protests Against Russian and Its Olympics Opening Dialogues About Its LGBT Community

After many years of protesting by the small but active lgbtq activist community, the international community is finally taking notice of human rights abuses and homophobic laws and prejudices rampant in the chilly country. A lot of it has to do with momentum around the Olympics, and the potential effects (or not) that protests will have.

A Kremlin-supported law passed Russia’s parliament, and was then signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, back in June that placed a ban on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” with jail time and harsh fines. In the view of the Orthodox Church, this is meant to promote traditional family structures and spur “Western European” advances into Russia, but to many others it seems intended to continue fostering a hostile atmosphere for lgbt people within the country. While police—not to mention the native population—already target queer individuals, this is another way for government forces to overcome its dissenters with swift police action.

Recognizing this public injustice, what started out as a small demonstration of protest has sparked nation-wide activity here in the United States and abroad to the United Kingdom boycotting one of the few Russian exports: Vodka.

It started when activist and author Dan Savage called for gay bars and supporters to boycott Russian vodkas, specifically the most prominently known Stolichnaya, or Stoli, Vodka. Since then, bars in West Hollywood, Chicago, NYC, and elsewhere have pulled Stoli from their shelves, dumped it into the streets, and are refusing to sell any more until the political situation changes abroad.

A statement was issued by the CEO of Stoli, Val Mendeleev, who reiterates that the company “has always been, and continues to be a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community”  and cites initiatives and projects that partner with the queer community, like being the official vodka of Miami Pride and it’s “Be Real: Stories from Queer America” documentary series. Further, Mendeleev cites that the vodka sold in the U.S. is owned by SPI Group, based in Luxembourg, and while it does use some Russian ingredients, it also has distilleries in Latvia, and has been in disputes with the Russian government over brand ownership for years.

Another who argues against the protest is foremost Russian lgbt activist Nikolai Alekseev, who asks “what is the aim of this boycott?” “To be honest, I don’t see the point in boycotting the Russian vodka,” Aleksev continues. “It will [not] impact anyone except the companies involved a little bit. The effect will die out very fast, it will not last forever.” Rather than this economic protest, Alekseev sees a more useful pressure placed on lawmakers and political leadership who supports anti-lgbt measures.

Vodka may not be your drink of choice, so a better protest for you might be the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Controversy began after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was reviewing allegations that queer athletes and tourists in the country for the games would be targeted because of the new law. After receiving assurances from the government that this would not be true, the response from the Russian government apparently flip-flopped, announcing that foreigners would be under the same scrutiny while in the country. Human Rights Campaign Vice President for Communications Fred Sainz said in response that “until there is formal action to repeal the law, it applies to everyone within Russian borders. It ought to be clear to the IOC that verbal assurance from nameless Russian officials will do nothing to protect LBGT Olympians, visitors, and personnel during the Sochi games.”

So another round of protests was announced, this one calling on athletes and governments to protest the event. U.S. groups have asked the country to not participate, and for athletes to not go in order to make a statement to the country.

However, several individuals and groups have spoken out against these methods, citing more effectiveness at dealing with issues at the Olympics than simply protesting.

The Russian LGBT Network, on their Facebook page tells lgbt supporters, “Do not boycott the Olympics—boycott homophobia!” by exercising their freedoms of expression and to not censor beliefs or actions just because of the actions of the government. To openly disagree with Russian policies would send a stronger message activists said. They point to the 1968 Olympic games where although many boycotted the event, all that is remembered is Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’ “human rights salute” on the podium to stand in solidarity for those fighting for equality and human rights.

Greg Louganis, one of the world’s greatest divers who also happens to be a gay man, spoke out against what a boycott would mean for Olympic athletes. “Boycotts hurt the wrong people, [the athletes.” He argues that it would be selfish of the queer community to disrupt such an important event for world athletics.

Doing his part in the activism, a gay speed skater from New Zealand, Blake Skjellerup, reports that he will be wearing a rainbow pin in the Sochi Games, and calls on others to do the same. “I have no interest in going back in the closet in Sochi… This is not about defiance, this is me standing up for what I believe in.” He agrees with Louganis, saying that “I think visibility is the best possible solution, as opposed to hiding away and not attending.”

Attacks on Queers in Haiti Show Religious Intolerance

The most recent homophobic attacks in Haiti show a determined part of a country that is trying to be more open to tourism.

A mob of dozens of locals attacked a private party where a British man and his Haitian partner were celebrating their engagement with friends. Several people were injured in the private residence, where the mob set fire to cars and threw Molotov cocktails and rocks through windows. The French News Agency AFP reported that police were alerted and arrived last-minute to break up the mob in order to prevent the engagement arty from being killed, which was the intent of the rioters.

After the terrifying incident, Charlot Jeudy, an official from the Haitian group Kouraj (Courage), stated that, “This is a criminal act and homophobic. There is no justification for this kind of attack on people in a private residence. Hopefully the justice authorities will react to the perpetrators of this act.” Kouraj is an activist group working to protect lgbtq people and their human rights in Haiti.

The British man identified himself only as Max, a member of the Red Cross, who did not want to speak of the incident for fear of identifying and making vulnerable his partner.

Almost expectedly, this attack didn’t come from nowhere. The fact is that some political and religious leaders are seeing the world become more tolerant and accepting of queer people and are trying to prevent the same equal sentiments from taking a great foothold within Haiti.

Back in July over 1,000 people protested in the capital, Port-Au-Prince, demonstrating against any legal rights that could be extended to lgbtq people. The protests were started by the Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Organizations and were reported to be hostile and threatening toward queer people and the government if it allowed legislation to be brought forward that would legalize same-sex marriage. The president of the organization stated at the rally that, “God does not agree and nor do we because we rely on God, and because we saw the misfortunes it brought to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

The protests came after watchdog groups cited a growing amount of violence toward lgbtq people in the country. On July 31 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a UN body, condemned “the recent wave of violence” that it linked “to the protest against homosexuality led by the Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Groups.” The body also urged the government to investigate 47 cases of “violence and discrimination” against members of perceived members of the queer community in Haiti, including two who were viciously attacked during the protests.

Many are surprised at the violence, with an official from SEROvie, an foundation that promotes human rights of marginalized people, stated that, “I am quite surprised at the violence coming from [Haitian] people who we thought were tolerant. We don’t know where all this hatred is coming from.” Especially to reach tourists and promote a welcoming country this news won’t reach many on a happy note.

The lgbtq community in Haiti has always been small and inconspicuous. That was until the 2010 disastrous earthquake which increased discrimination against queer people. A report by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported that Haitians blamed their fellow queer citizens for their “sinfulness” and bringing about the wrath of God. The report continued that “loneliness, invisibility, and social isolation are persistent problems” with no relief in sight.

Hopefully that can all soon change, or that at least the Haitian government will make a statement against those responsible for the attacks and show their citizens and those they want to recruit for tourist dollars that they are willing to stand up for equality and human rights.

No Military Service For Gays In Iran, If You Can Take The Examinations

During the Vietnam War, it’s commonly joked that all you had to do was say that you were gay and you could avoid the draft. While this was somewhat true at the beginning, as the war progressed you might have had to convince a psychologist if they would even accept the admission at all. For compulsory military service in Iran, the decision of whether or not to reveal their queer identity has many consequences.

Akin to some countries around the world, males 18 years and older must serve in the military for two years in Iran, before or after their university experience. After serving each man is issued a document showing they completed their tour of duty. Without this, an Iranian man cannot legally buy or sell anything, participate in formal activities, be employed by the government, or obtain a passport. Further, many areas in the private sector recruit men specifically because they have served in the military.

Like in the U.S., men and their families try to get out of military service for various reasons. One way this does work is to declare being homosexual. Since this has to be determined, gay Iranian men will be sent to doctors to be examined, usually in the form of an invasive rectal exam. The idea is that if you are a bottom, then you are homosexual, and can be excused from military service. Tops, showing no physical signs of “homosexuality” are declared fit for service. Seems pretty inclusive, doesn’t it?

Sexuality in Iran works a little differently than in the U.S. and other Western nations. Remember former Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country,” comment? Well, in his mind he was correct. He was speaking from the belief of his culture where homosexuality, as a state of equal desire, intimacy, and partnership between to people of the same gender, doesn’t make sense. In the U.S. we’ve gotten beyond sexual roles in relationships (for the most part) but there it makes a huge difference: the top is seen to be the true man and the bottom is equated with the status of a woman. And women can’t serve in the Iranian military.

So what to do with all of these men who have sex with men? Simple, give them operations so they become women. Since Ayatollah Khomeini passed a religious edit in 1979 authorizing sexual reassignment surgeries for “diagnosed transsexuals,” Iran has carried out the second highest number of them, only behind Thailand. This puts many people in an uncomfortable place: remain an openly gay man and risk public discrimination and possible execution, or go through with a surgery and live in a body that doesn’t feel like your own.

A religious cleric responsible for sexual reassignment surgeries, Hojatol Islam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia elaborated on the topic, saying that, “The discussion [of transsexuals and sexual reassignment surgery] is fundamentally separate from a discussion regarding homosexuals. Absolutely not related. Homosexuals are doing something unnatural and against religion.”

If a man who requests exemption from military service is granted it, he receives an exemption card, which until recently defined the type of exemption based on color and description. Today they are all alike, except for the number of the section or addendum of penal code to which the exemption refers, making discrimination less likely.

Iran’s government and society shows no signs of becoming more tolerant. Hopefully any decisions you have to make this week won’t seem as daunting as those looking at their mandatory military services.

 

Discover Who It Is That Follows You

I am currently reading a book by DLuis Meyer entitled, “Coming Out in New York City.”  As I was chugging along through the book, I came to a chapter where DLuis’ main character talks about the feeling of being followed and how he would turn around and there would be no one there.  He eventually comes to the conclusion that it was HE that was following him; his own persona was in pursuit.

As I continued to read, I had to put the book down and reflect upon this statement that DLuis made.  A light went on inside of my head and I realized that maybe I was supposed to read this book now, at this point in time, because it truly meshes with what I am currently experiencing at the moment, in this journey of self-discovery and enlightenment that I am on.  I have had the book for literally a couple years now, but never read it.  One day, I picked it up from a pile of unread books, from the bottom of the pile in fact, and began reading it.  I have been enmeshed with the many messages of personal growth and self-discovery that DLuis’ main character experiences in his journey of coming out.

This book and my interest in the character’s personal reflections certainly segues into what I have been experiencing of late.  I have had an intense compulsion within my gut to broaden my self-reflection and discovery to a more intense level, through meditation and reparative healing (a.k.a. past life regression).  I have enlisted the guidance of two well know community leaders that specialize in each of these areas and will soon begin this new journey to discover who it is that follows me.  I believe it is the many manifestations of my very soul that have manifested in human form through the ages that are still with me in some form or fashion that guide my decisions; whether for good or bad, they are still with me.

Why this interest in discovering who follows me?  What purpose will it serve in this current form to know who my soul has been in the past?  I have always had a desire to delve within through meditation but never really gave any serious thought to reparative healing and how it would help to answer many questions I have or explain why I do what I do or have the feelings I have.  It is the pursuit of more enlightened thinking and an awakening of my consciousness that leads me to this next level of self-discovery and reflection and hopefully to connect things together, not necessarily to change how I am but to more fully understand how I am and what I do.

I firmly believe our souls are in a perpetual cycle of growth and evolution. It manifests repeatedly in order to fulfill a mission that may have been unfulfilled. To learn a lesson that was unlearned, or to impact someone’s life that was not impacted. For whatever reason, our lives are not our own. They are not a happenstance occurrence in the universe.  However, while we are living the current manifestation, some of the issues we experience can create undue confusion and concern, until the day we awaken and realize that it was all part of a grand scheme of existence and overcoming challenges that transcend many of our human existences.

In order to more fully explain what I am talking about, I shall provide some examples, some of which I have never told to anyone, not even my closest confidants but I feel it necessary to now divulge some of these issues I have faced in my life because I now realize that much of what I was doing was clearly the residual remnants of lives gone by.

First, I have always had an intense sexual drive, even in my youngest days before I knew what sex was all about.  Things would stir in me that I could not explain.  Sex and all its consequences have been a very big part of my life,and still is, and it has created situations that could have seriously jeopardized my reputation in my budding career and  with other people and how they looked upon me.  It was at one point in my life an addiction where I could not control what I was doing and the only thing on my mind was getting off wherever and however the method would be.  It caused me to not focus on things I should have been focusing on and created such a meandering, helpless feeling within, that it almost destroyed me.

I always thought this was directly related to my being gay and repressing my true identity for so long, that it created unhealthy sexual practices that could have seriously impacted my life.  But looking back on those days now, I can see it was much more than that.  I firmly believe that one of my past manifestations was a very sexually aggressive person and their sexual drive has carried over to this current form.  Maybe they were also a very homophobic persona who is now learning what it was actually like to be queer and what trauma they created in other people’s lives.  Who knows.

Another example I can pinpoint is that how the natural environment and its power has a draw upon me that settles my mind and and relaxes me, and I spiritually connect with being in the woods, listening to a stream, the birds, watching deer romp and all that comes along with it.  Could I have been at one time a Wiccan prince or princess?  A witch maybe?  Who knows.

A third example is my writing.  I love to write, and I seem to draw upon a power that brings forth words and thoughts from my head to the computer or paper upon which I am writing.  I myself, sometimes am in awe of what comes forth from my brain and say, “that certainly is not me that is writing this.”  Could I have been a writer in a past life, who wishes to continue that practice in this life?  Who knows.

These questions, along with some others, have gnawed at me for years and years, and created such anxiety and blissful peace within me simultaneously.  I believe we all need to heal and repair ourselves and reconcile the many components of our past lives that are carried forward into this current form.  My goal in doing this more intense self-reflection is not necessarily to change what I do or what I am, as I have learned to live and deal with much of what I have been challenged with, but it is more to understand it all and tie it together in order to move forward with what I need to do with the rest of the years I have.

We all must reach into our past, the past that we cannot see or comprehend, in order to discover who it is that follows us, impacting our lives, and that which has to be overcome in order to move forward in this current manifestation of our existence.

I would encourage you to delve deeper into your psyche and try to understand what it is that makes you tick.  Awaken yourselves to the possibilities and keep an open mind.  Yes it might be scary.  I certainly have some apprehension in doing what I am about to do, but I feel it is a necessary and logical step in my progression forward to becoming the best person I can be, and to be the person I was born to be to its fullest.