Why We Need LGBTQ Pride

Why we need Gay Pride

This post is way overdue. I’ve been thinking of writing it for years – but somehow never put the text to page. Perhaps I was optimistic – I think part of me thought “Do we really need another straight person weighing in on gay rights? Does anyone really want to hear from me?” I think I also told myself that maybe the situation was okay now – that we as a people had embraced the LGBTQ community as equals and could finally put decades of hate and mistreatment behind us. I now see that I was foolish and complacent.

Hearing about the so-called Straight Pride parade happening in Boston (my home city) later this summer has made me feel many emotions – mostly sadness. While I welcome everyone to read this post, I confess that I am writing it for my fellow straight people – particularly anyone who feels that a “Straight Pride” parade is needed. My hope is to enlighten you by sharing my own journey of discovery. I’m not here to name-call and I’m not hear to insult – there’s too much of that going on right now. Let me just share a story and, hopefully, change your mind.

Where I Started

I grew up in Massachusetts during the 1990s, at a time when “gay” was often used as an insult. I called things gay to say that they were weird, lame, or stupid – and I used this word fairly often in my high school days. I won’t say that I was the only one, but I was part of that culture. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t say it with hate – I didn’t hate gay people, at least not consciously.

As a teenager struggling with an avalanche of hormones, social anxiety, and mental illness – homosexuality was just something else that I didn’t understand. It weirded me out to think of people who were so different from my own budding sexuality – it made me uncomfortable to think about, but mostly because I kept thinking “man, I hope I don’t turn out gay.”

And it wasn’t because I saw them as inferior or wrong – I just saw all the shit they got. I didn’t fully process it (that didn’t come until much later), but I externally was like: These people are looked at as wrong in society’s eyes. Even though Massachusetts had just legalized gay marriage, we were surrounded by states that hadn’t, and I saw a lot of stories on the news that were essentially debating the humanity of these people.

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My definition of “support” included liking South Park, which had one gay character on it – so there you go.

I didn’t understand the hatred, mostly because I didn’t see gay marriage as a big deal. “As long as they don’t get married on my lawn – why should I care?” Was a common joke of mine back then. I thought I was being supportive – but I’m cringing writing this now.

“What’s the big deal?”

High school ended and I started college – going from Massachusetts to Montreal (or from liberal to more liberal). Canada had legalized gay marriage as a nation in 2005, so I just figured it was a non-issue. I was honestly surprised to see that Gay Pride parades were still a thing and that the gay village was a vibrant community in Montreal. I still initially avoided it – mostly due to insecurity.

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I was still at the level where I thought Brokeback Mountain wasn’t good, it had just “used” homosexuality to win awards. Of course, I hadn’t bothered to actually watch it before forming this opinion.

But I started getting annoyed at gay pride. After all, what was the point? Gay marriage was legal – equal rights achieved – end of story, right? That’s what I figured anyway (in my glorious wisdom as a 20 year old). I started to think that they were being crass – pushing the rest of the world to not just acknowledge them but demanding our perpetual attention. I believe my thought process was “Yeah, you’re gay. I get it. Can we move on?”

I just kept thinking that “pride” was wrong. After all, pride is a sin in Christianity and shouldn’t we only be proud of WHO we are, not WHAT we are? Wasn’t that why Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was so famous?  I wasn’t proud to be straight – I just was. Why wasn’t that enough for the LGBTQ community? Why did they still need all the public dancing and parades and attention?

My Enlightening

During this time, I met two women who were in a relationship with each other and we all (somehow) became friends. They were patient enough to put up with my antics – including my continued questioning of the need for gay pride and wondering why it was all a big deal. It’s not that they didn’t call me out – they did, but they also kept talking to me, which, in retrospect, was huge.

Eventually, one even convinced me to spend time with her at Queer Concordia – the LGBTQ student area on my college campus. I had stopped by there a couple times before to see them, but never to hang out. I still saw it as somewhere that wasn’t “mine” if that makes sense. It was a place for queer people and, since I wasn’t queer, I figured there was nothing for me there.

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It’s amazing how much I avoided the village – which is an amazing part of Montreal by the way. So many good restaurants and bars in that area.

But she had to stay so, if I wanted to hang, it meant I had to stay there too. So I sat – being bored at first – chatting with her and watching as people came and went. Queer Concordia was really just a couple rooms. The main one was a common space – there was a couch and a couple desks for computers. The walls were lined with posters and bookshelves.

It pains me on multiple levels to admit that, despite being a writer, it took me a while to really look at these bookshelves. It actually wasn’t until that day that I really took the time to read the titles and several excerpts.

And holy shit.

I was expecting books on famous LGBTQ people or inspirational stories about gay pride or something like that. What I found was book after book of “Hey, you’re gay. Please don’t kill yourself.”

It boggled my mind. Gay marriage had been legal here since 2005 – why did people still need these. It was that day that I realized being legal didn’t mean being accepted. It didn’t even mean widespread tolerance.

The Truth about LGBTQ Pride

It’s funny how you can know things without understanding them. Reading those books didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already “know.” I knew gay people had been mistreated. I knew they had suffered. But I knew it like I knew basic math. It was all abstract – all just facts existing in the ether. But reading the personal, often heart-breaking, stories of people (some of whom had since committed suicide) was different.

Because of a multitude of factors, including my own personal insecurities, I had always kept LGTBQ issues distant from me. I acknowledged them the same way that people might acknowledge a spider on a tall ceiling. I looked into it as little as possible.

toxic-masculinity
Looking back, I think I was still too caught up in my own warped perceptions of masculinity to fully see how much of a jerk I was being.

Reading these books made me realize the simplest truth. These were people. Human beings who went through the same insecurities and hardships I did, only they had a major extra issues piled on. They weren’t “normal” in society’s eyes. They were the insult that people like me had been so casually tossing around. They were the other that we weren’t sure deserved all the same rights and protections.

Did God love them? It was a matter of debate and who you asked.

Holy fucking shit.

When I think of what a mess I was as a teenager (and really through my early 20s), I can’t imagine dealing with any more challenges. The fact that some of these people had taken on my problems and more…and without my caring.

It was that day that the apathy I had built up began to crumble and empathy and sympathy started rushing in.

You see, gay pride isn’t about being proud. It’s about being okay. LGBTQ people have felt not okay for so long – so fucking long – that they need sometime to feel okay. To feel like, “yeah, I’m gay, so what? I’m still human!”

As a straight person, I never had to feel bad about being straight. Every major romance I read or saw on television/or in theaters featured my sexuality as the norm. Every religion supported my sexual orientation. No culture criminalizes straight sex. I had never had to think about these things…because I was “normal” in that regard.

And I never considered what my “normal” was doing to other people, mostly because I was too busy using it to reassure myself that I was okay. Heck, at least I wasn’t an “other” – so, even at my lowest, I had that going for me.

Tulsi Gabbard Pride Parade
I think this partly explains why I’m supporting Tulsi Gabbard for President. I see in her a similar journey to the one I went on. We were both wrong – but at least now we’re trying to be actual human beings.

It was a selfish form of humanity. I had claimed to care about these people while still not seeing them as people. I identified them as an “other” and that got annoyed when they started to turn that into a positive (or at the very least a neutral).

I was the asshole. I had given them only token awareness instead of human understanding.

From that point on, I never said “gay” as an insult again – and I started going along to Pride Parades. It was the god damn least I could do.

So to you out there who may feel you need “straight pride: – my question is, why? Which LGBTQ person ridiculed you for being straight or made you feel inferior? If you’re feeling left out now – it’s because you are doing it. You may not be doing it consciously, but you are separating yourself from them. LGBTQ pride isn’t about making us feel inferior, it’s about bringing them up to our level.

We’re all the same. We all need to react with compassion and kindness. If you want to live in a world where LGBTQ pride isn’t needed, then you have a simple job to do: support, support, support. Go to the parade – make a friend – have a chat. Denounce any who use their religion as a smokescreen to be cruel to their fellow humans.

Why we need gay pride
The fight is not over. The President of the United States recently passed a ban on transgender people serving in the military, casting a blanket statement that says “You can’t trust them. They’re weird.”

It’s not hard. It’s super fucking easy. We’re not the front-line here. We’re the backup singers to musicians who are finally getting their chance to sing. And it’s amazing – it’s so amazing that children born today MAY actually grow up in certain places where being LGTBQ is okay – and not a source of shame.

It is our job as allies to support these people and to help them fight the unfairness they still face.

I promise, if a day ever comes when LGBTQ people rule the world and start saying “Hey maybe we should outlaw straight marriage” or “hey maybe we should start a religion where straight people are evil,” then I will be on the side of straight pride. But that day is a science fiction parody at best right now.

The rainbow is all colors guys – we’re on there too. Please reach out to the LGBTQ community and get to know them. I’m sure you’ll reach similar conclusions.

And – to all the LGBTQ people reading this – All I can say is I’m sorry for taking so long to see you as people. I love you all – Your spirit and patience are fucking inspiring. Keep being awesome.

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Why I blog

It’s funny to think that I’ve been blogging for years but, in all that time, I’ve never once sat down and wrote out why I’m doing this. I mean, if you’re here then you can probably guess the first reason: I like to write. I don’t know of a single author that doesn’t. And – surprise, surprise – even I don’t want to scribble down notes about fantastical worlds all the time, so blogging provides a refreshing alternative.

But it’s more than that. Blogging is a very public form of record keeping. If I just wanted to record private thoughts, I’d stick to my diary (which I update very infrequently these days). Instead, I publicly share thoughts, opinions, and stories with family, friends, and strangers.

Why?

Well – it’s definitely not because I think I have anything truly special to say. My opinions, even my controversial ones, are far from unique. And I’m far from the most eloquent person on the planet – but I guess that’s part of it.

Writing Practice

I was taught that writers had to do two things: read and write. I work very hard to keep up with both of these demands. Blogging serves to satisfy the latter requirement. Novel writing is fun but tiring. Since I write in fantasy, I always have to be careful to keep my worlds straight. The last thing I want to do is defy history or leave a logic gap that doesn’t make sense with my characters.

It’s intense, and it’s a long process. The Dreamcatchers took years from its first scribbles to final publication, and Monsters Among Us and The Night Terrors still have a ways to go before they’re ready to be read. I don’t believe I’m the first author to be occasionally demoralized by the sheer scope of it all.

blogging writer's block
Blog writing can be a good way to dodge my inevitable writer’s block.

Writing a blog allows me to keep strengthening my “muscles” while enjoying a rapid success. I spend an hour instead of a year and immediately get the satisfying reward of publicly publishing something.

It’s helps me to feel a sense of accomplishment in that long period between publications. And it lets me feel a little better about myself during those weeks when I don’t make the progress I would like. Blog writing is like doing leg stretches when you’re supposed to be training for a marathon. It’s not the most productive thing I could be doing, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Working on Critical Thinking

A lot of the blogs I write are opinion posts, and there’s a reason for this. I have found that writing down an opinion greatly helps me get my thoughts in order. Almost everyone can say whether they liked something or not – it’s an emotional reaction we have. I’ve found, however, that fewer people can articulate their exact reasons. For a lot of people – including some of my friends – something is either “awesome” or “terrible” and that’s about it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Honestly, sometimes I envy it. I doubt they’ve ever woken up at 3 AM and then stayed awake because they couldn’t stop thinking about how bad Alien: Covenant was (such a waste of potential!!). What I do definitely feels obsessive on at least one level.

But it’s helpful. When I watch a movie, read a book, or play a game – I always try to think about the storytelling structure. More than that, I usually try to identify what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I would do to improve. I’ve found this exercise helpful when it comes to my own writing.

Godzilla vs. Megalon critical thinking
Most people probably don’t think critically about the storytelling in Godzilla vs. Megalon. In this regard, I am not like most people.

Blog writing is the final reinforcement. It’s like when I went to college – I’d remember the general idea of something if I just listened to the professor but, if I really wanted to memorize specifics, writing it down made it clearer.

I know art is subjective, but I try to write as objectively as possible (most of the time) to improve my critical thinking skills. Time will tell how helpful it is.

Charting Personal Growth

I am human. I will never claim otherwise. This means that I am a flawed individual. I make mistakes, do dumb things, write dumb articles – I’m far from perfect. If I were to list every blog post that I have had second thoughts about, this article would be either a short novella or a long short story.

That said, I find an advantage to recording my thoughts at the time. I feel that some people today have wrong expectations – they demand perfection from themselves and everyone else all the time. I don’t believe this should be our goal as a species. While it’s important to always try to do the right thing, it is just as important (in my view) to be constantly learning.

Personal growth through blogging
One of my favorite quotes: These are words I try to live by.

I have learned so much since I started writing this blog. I hope that I have been growing in a positive way that will make me a more mature, compassionate, and well-rounded individual. I’m not sure – but I’m doing my best. Going forward, I plan to write more explicitly about my growth and about how I’m still dealing with some of the more complex issues in today’s society.

I mean, all this is great but I still haven’t answered my main question: Why a public blog? Why do I put all this out there for the judgment of other people?

It’s who I am. I’m a writer – my job is to entertain and enlighten. Hopefully, at the end of my life, I will be able to look back and say I did both of these things. That or got filthy rich and made a real life Jurassic Park…one of the two.

 

What I learned from Hosting a Panel at G-Fest

If you’ve ever been to a convention, you may have gone to a panel. Panels are, as their name suggests, collections of individuals lecturing an audience on a topic. What the panel entails typically relates to what the conference is about. For instance, you are far more likely to hear a panel discussing the life of Arnold Schwarzenegger at a Conan-Con than an expo on marine biology.

This past July, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to lead my own panel at G-Fest, a three-day event centered around the king of the monsters himself, Godzilla. While G-Fest isn’t for everyone, it’s probably my favorite convention among the limited few that I have been to. Events like PAX East and E3 are a little crowded for my taste, even if they do offer the ability to network with some cool people. And, in my opinion, the Montreal Comic-Con was better when it was smaller.

G-Fest is a small, targeted convention focusing on Godzilla’s films, messages, and the kaiju (giant monster) culture at large. Yeah I didn’t have an audience of thousands but that didn’t matter – it was still a blast to put on. As with everything in life, it was a learning experience. So, here is what I learned as I prepared to (then did) host my panel: “Objectively the Best Godzilla Movie EVER. Period.”

G-Fan G-Fest
G-Fest is an extension of G-Fan, the nation’s best Godzilla-related publication (in this author’s opinion).

 

The Work

For any out there considering hosting a panel, you will need to do work. Whether it’s interview prep or a slideshow presentation, preparing for a panel starts before the event.

In my case, this meant accomplishing a few tasks. First, I had to assemble my fellow panelists. I had no desire for it to just be me sitting up there pontificating about how great my opinion is. Luckily, G-Fest has an event coordinator who helped me get in touch with everyone else who had expressed interest in hosting/speaking on a panel. I didn’t have to do much to gain my three fantastic panel co-hosts.

My second task was communication. Since my panel was going to proceed along a very guided conversation, my fellow panelists and I needed to know how the event was going to go before it began. What was the greatest Godzilla movie? To start, I made this:

Godzilla movie bracket

Just kidding. I made something a lot uglier and simpler. Getting to work was the most important thing in my mind, so I created a working bracket and emailed my fellow panelists.

Over the next few weeks/months, I would reach out to all of them periodically. Since this was democratic panel, we had to go collectively one round at a time. Some responded right away, others…well, life is full and people can get busy. Let me say this: If you’re going to host a panel, you have to be okay with bugging people.

I don’t mean “be a jerk” (don’t be a jerk) but just be prepared to firmly and consistently remind your fellow panelists to help you out. It can be easy to put con prep on the backburner several months away from the event but, as it draws closer, people tend to get busy.

Anyway – while my fellow panelists were hard at work voting on their favorite Godzilla movies, I had to design a PowerPoint. A visual aid can be essential to help generate interesting discussion and I wanted my team engaged, not just with ourselves but with our audience members.

The PowerPoint didn’t take too long – maybe six hours altogether. I think it helped that I spread out its creation. Since I began so far before the event, I had plenty of time to sketch out an initial layout and flush everything out with the right photos and fonts.

Here is my PowerPoint for any who are interested:

Objectively the Best Godzilla Movie EVER

The Fun

Before I knew it, the month was July and I was Chicago-bound for my third G-Fest. The work was done, my panelists were assembled. Now all that I had to do was wait my turn. As a first timer, my panel was on the last day. This was a mixed blessing as it allowed me to focus on the con and gave me a smaller day (Sunday typically has less attendees than Saturday) but, well – I had three days to think about it and imagine all the things that could go wrong.

And there was a complication! No sooner had I stepped up onto that stage than it was discovered the HDMI cable had broken. Luckily, G-Fest also has an IT guy and we were able to solve the problem. I had brought my laptop and a USB key (both with the presentation on them) so we were good to go.

I may be biased but I thought it was a blast. I felt we had the right mix of prepared remarks and impromptu discussion. I was able to poll the audience after several scenarios and – best of all – we didn’t run out of time! After the panel had ended, several audience members came forward to tell me how great they had found everything to be.

As far as learning experiences went, this one definitely ranks in the positive category. I can’t wait to host another panel next year!

G-Fest panel
From left to right: Jessica, Kym, myself, and John all celebrating the successful conclusion of our panel.

My Recommendations

If you’re out there thinking, “I could do this,” then please give it a try! Doesn’t have to be at G-Fest – with geek culture in the spotlight there is no shortage of panels and conventions where you can nerd out about your passion. But if you are going to host a panel, I do have some parting suggestions:

  • Plan ahead
  • Involve the audience
  • Expect a problem
  • Just relax

And there you have it. Panels aren’t major life events like marriages or moving days, so you don’t need to revolve your life around them. The most important thing in any convention is to have fun – otherwise, what’s the point?