Tag Archives: LGBT

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Foghorn Exclusive: Ukrainian Army Begins to Recruit LGBTQ Community as the Secret Weapon Against Russia

On the eve of a military confrontation with Russia, Ukraine’s Army has begun to advertise positions for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) soldiers as part of a special national guard.

“It’s both offensive and progressive,” said Sam Reed, director of a local LGBTQ Rights Organization. ​”We’re in a little bit of a conundrum.”

“We clearly need a secret weapon,” a top general was quoted saying. The Defense Ministry is urging the Ukrainian parliament to pass a bundle of LGBTQ civil rights bills to make it easier to enlist the LGBTQ community into the army.

We asked the only 2 Ukrainian Students at USF: “Do You Support the Russian Annexation of Crimea?”

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DISCLAIMER: This piece was printed as part of The Foghorn’s April Fool’s Day issue on April 1st, 2014. This article is intended to be satirical.

It Doesn’t Need to Be Your Dirty Little Secret

What’s notoriously unstable, an awful shade of orange, and sits in the pocket of many gay, bi, or curious men around the world? An infamous little smartphone application named Grindr. Launched in 2009, the company markets the software as “location based dating,” but has really garnered a reputation for more… casual encounters. What fascinated me most, as both a user of the app and a member of the 20-something gay community, is the embarrassment many of my peers feel about using Grindr. Dating and meeting folks is difficult for people our age, especially when you’re part of an even smaller gay community… so why do some gay men feel so shameful about putting themselves out there?

Senior Daniel Martinez admits, “I do use it somewhat sheepishly… I’m careful about when I use it and where, but curiosity gets the best of me and I sometimes just want to see how close the first guy is to me.” Meanwhile, some like Zachary Kano are more comfortable with Grind-ing. When asked if he was embarrassed about the app he said, “Not at all. I definitely don’t whip it out in the middle of mass or a lecture; however, I don’t hesitate to use it in a coffee shop or park when I feel like it. I’m certainly not the weirdo who hides his iPhone under his jacket to prevent others from seeing a gay hookup application on his screen.”

What seems to be at the center of people’s sentiments towards the app is the fact that some use Grindr for serious dating, while others aren’t confident that they can find love on a medium of focussed on immediate satisfaction. Daniel explained “I originally downloaded the app for the idea of finding a serious date— but soon realized that it’s easier to find the holy grail… It’s funny—almost everybody on there says they’re genuinely looking for quality guys to get coffee or go on a date with…but the reality is that EVERYBODY is on there, to some degree, for the thrill of a hookup at the press of a button.”

Should students be embarrassed for turning to technology to find partners? I don’t think so — let’s acknowledge the reality of the 21st century. It goes back to opinions of online dating in general, whether it detracts from the excitement of meeting that special someone “in real life,” or facilitates stronger connections by allowing people to filter what they’re looking for.

In short, don’t be embarrassed by Grindr. For those still questioning, it allows them to explore without having to totally out themselves, while empowering others to pursue a range of dating options. Whether gay, straight, bi, trans, queer, an ally, or anything in between, being comfortable with one’s sexuality is an important part of growth—there’s no need to be ashamed about it. Daniel Martinez sums it up well: “It’s a fun little gadget… I don’t think guys should be judged for having or using it. I think as long as you’re safe and responsible you should be able to use it whenever you’d like.”

We’re Here, We’re Queer

One could fill volumes with issues and interests of the LGBTQ community. This week Scene has picked a handful of topics to discuss… ranging from trans life at USF to how to be an ally. 

Join The Alliance  

When talking about the queer community, some tend to throw the word “ally” around without stopping to examine what exactly is meant by the term. Many skim right over the concept of alliance to what’s “important,” the bigger political issues and decoding that alphabet soup of the LGBTQ acronym. Especially of the lack of dialogue, alliance is one of the most basica, important, and least understood tenets of the queer community.

An ally can be many things: a friend, an advocate, a sympathizer, a partner—it’s this powerful combination of elements that make being an ally so crucial and misunderstood. Alliance is much more complex than any one of these things, but also not as big a commitment to be considered daunting.

Being an ally means valuing someone not only because of their sexuality or gender identity, but including and/or in addition to it. If you find yourself saying, “I can say that, I totally have a gay uncle and a transgender friend of a friend!” or “Of course I’m an ally. I love the gays!” you’re doing it wrong. Alliance means recognizing people’s intrinsic worth as complete individuals and not as beings defined solely by their gender, sexuality, or any other isolated component of who they are. Not all gay men want to go shopping with you.

You don’t have to like every single gay, trans*, and bi person to be an ally. We’re all human. That’s the point. But sometimes you’ll hear people wanting to discount an entire community, or feel yourself wanting to accept some factions of the LGBTQ communities and not some others that may be harder to relate to. You don’t necessarily have to understand every kind of gender and sexual identity to be an ally. But you do have to be open-minded and compassionate, even for those that you don’t fully grasp.

Furthermore, being an ally means refusing to be a bystander. All great intentions and personal beliefs can only go so far if you’re unwilling to stand up for them. I’m not saying that you need to go march in a pride parade, start a Queer Alliance in your neighborhood, or write to your senator (although those are all great things to do). I’m saying that it’s more important not to stay silent within your own communities, particularly when prejudicial situations arise.

It’s not just saying, “that’s lame” instead of “that’s so gay.” It’s asking others to do the same. It’s explaining why. It’s saying, “actually, the phrase ‘no homo’ is offensive and homophobic.” Being an ally is not always an easy job, but someone  has to do it. In fact, we all gotta do it.

Alliance takes effort. It’s an active process that requires a constant monitoring of your own behavior and prejudices as well as the strength to ask others to monitor theirs. Having gay friends is one thing, but being an ally is something one can really be proud of.

 Queer Spaces

In San Francisco, it doesn’t have to be pride weekend for you to connect with the queer community, and you don’t have to drop half your paycheck in the Castro to have fun.

Queer Alliance is an entirely student run club that meets every Wednesday from 8-9 p.m. in the Intercultural Center (UC 411). Members discuss issues that face the community and plan on-campus events

TransMasculine (Female-to-Male) Group at Trans Thrive. Tuesdays 6:00 p.m. –7:30 p.m. 730 Polk St.

Blur: Transgender and Gender Variant Support Group at Dimensions Clinic. Thursdays 6:30 p.m. Ages 18– 25 only. 3850 17th St

Lesbians of Color Discussion Group at Pacific Center (East Bay). Thursdays 7:00 a.m. 2712 Telegraph Ave.

Bay Area Young Positives: Mondays 7:00 p.m. For young HIV-positive people.  701 Oak St.

Modern Times Bookstore is home to all things queer, radical, vegan, and counter culture. Moderntimesbookstore.com, 2919 24th St.

The Pacific Center in Berkeley is home to support groups and social events that include a spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations. Pacificcenter.org (2712 Telegraph Ave.)

SF LGBT Community Center is home to a variety of queer resources including meal nights, job fairs, legal support, and art galleries. Sfcenter.org 1800 Market St.

Transgender Dons: Navigating USF Outside of the Gender Binary

The University of San Francisco is a pretty gay-friendly place. We have an active LGBT Caucus for faculty and staff, many openly queer professors, and a growing minor in gender and sexuality. What we don’t have, unfortunately, is a community for transgender students or policies that address transgender issues. Don’t get me wrong—many departments and individual staff members do great work accommodating trans students, but trans students at USF don’t necessarily want to be a point of “accommodation.” We would like to see the university’s administration develop policies that directly address the struggles transgender students face at USF and remove the institutionalized discrimination that USF inadvertently engages in.

Most buildings on campus only include “male” and “female” bathrooms, reflecting the university’s perception that its students have either traditionally male or female bodies. Luckily, the fourth floor of University Center has a gender-neutral single stall bathroom. This bathroom is a step in the right direction, but buildings like Kalmanovitz, Fromm, and Koret Recreation Center on main campus don’t provide transgender students with a bathroom option. Unfortunately, Lone Mountain campus does not have a gender-neutral bathroom either. For students like me, this means that during my 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.class, I will have to go all the way to main campus to use a bathroom. If my professor asks me why my bathroom break took twenty minutes, I would have to explain that my body and identity just don’t match the university’s definition of “male” or “female,” thus making it unsafe for me to use the available bathrooms on Lone Mountain.

All first-year students at USF receive an email account and I.D. card reflecting their legal name. Changing the name on your email account or I.D. card requires official documentation from a judge citing that your name has been legally changed. Few trans university students have the money or resources to file for a legal name change, making their USF identities incongruent with their preferred name or gender. To add to that, professors receive a list of their students every semester with their legal USF-registered name. Many trans people’s legal names reflect a gender they don’t identify with. In order to be called by their preferred name in class, transgender students often have to out themselves to their professors—not an easy conversation to have with an often previously unknown authority figure.

Gender-neutral housing options, or housing that doesn’t require students to self-identify as “male” or “female,” has been discussed at USF for several years, but thus far no action has been taken.

Although trans students are often given accommodation by residence life staff (and we thank them for it), the lack of policy or streamlining of resources for trans students doesn’t make USF a very appealing school for potential students. Our dorms, aside from Phelan, are divided into gendered floors. There is no designated safe space for trans individuals to live and no policy addressing gender identity in relation to room assignment. Although USF has yet to experience a trans-related hate crime in the dorms, these crimes happen far too often at other institutions. The threat alone should be enough to produce comprehensive and inclusive policies.

Being a transgender Don will require patience and accommodation that cis-gender Dons will not experience. Luckily, there are many people in the university actively working to make USF a more trans-friendly environment. Right now, USF has the opportunity to make important policy decisions to empower its transgender students and dismantle policies that do not address the extent of its student body.

Moving into 2013, I have high hopes that USF will remain an example of a progressive and inclusive campus, emphasizing its ability to adjust to its ever changing student body in a practical, student-focused manner.

LGBT Students Share Coming Out Experiences at Open Mic Night

Coming out of the closet is many things: a political act, a personal story, a rite of passage…and a holiday? National Coming Out Day marks the 1987 march on Washington for lesbian and gay rights and the anniversary is observed annually on October 11th. Last Thursday, the USF Queer Alliance marked the occasion with an open mic night where students shared their own coming out stories.

To ‘come out of the closet’ means to accept one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as well disclosing it to friends and family. So why a closet metaphor? Well, like a prolonged game of hide and seek, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community no longer wants to play. The game’s rules are unfair. At the event many brave Dons swung those doors open!

McKenzie Mullen, political coordinator of the Queer Alliance, sees coming out as an act of solidarity. She said, “It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone has the ability to come out or wants to come out at this point.” Especially given that this is the start of the new school year, Mackenzie knows that USF “has a lot of new queer folk” many of whom “may still be questioning” their identity, so events likes this provide a positive, safe, and supportive way to come out.

Genevieve Stone, a junior, came out as queer at last year’s open mic event. Sitting in the audience this year, she reflected on the experience and said, “it was really wonderful because it is really important to say who you are without any shame.”

Shame is a common theme in coming out stories not because there is something wrong with being LGBT, but because of cultural pressures to conform. Kat Nilsson, a queer-identified person, spoke about a burden she didn’t want her mother to have. “I’m the daughter of a single Latina mother and there are expectations…my mother’s idea of settling down is with a man and my idea of settling down is meeting a nice woman someday.” When Kat came out, her mother “had to mourn the daughter she never had.” In contrast, being out on campus is not an issue, and it’s “liberating.”

There are exceptions to our welcoming campus which merit more events like this. Kaycee, a junior, spoke of an incident in the dorms his freshman year. A roommate got in a verbal argument with another ‘out’ queer roommate that did not approve of a ‘gay lifestyle’ because he felt it was wrong. Kaycee admits though that this student was outnumbered in his views.

There is always potential to be greeted with disapproval when one considers that many LGBT people must come out on a daily basis. Chaz Ashley, a grad student said that he “comes out a lot” because “there is this idea that everyone is straight.” Sometimes in conversation people perceive him to be straight and he has to tell them, “I have a partner and he’s a guy…and that’s how I come out daily.”

Those are the unfair rules of the hide-and-seek game. Because of cultural rules, LGBT people are forced to hide in a metaphorical closet that can be damaging but can also be a source of resilience and pride.

Events like National Coming Out Day bring visibility to this the relationship between LGBT persons and their own closets. Nilsson said, “It’s easy to write-off a group that you don’t see…but it’s different when you attach a name and a story to a face…that’s why it’s important.”

Arguing for Gay Marriage at a Catholic University

Some argue that our status as a Jesuit Catholic university obligates us to encourage others to avoid sinning in the eyes of the Christian religion. For some, in the case of homosexuality, this means asking people to refrain from accepting themselves entirely and to only limit themselves to heterosexual relations for the purpose of procreation (or simply remain celibate).

Using the Bible to argue against gay marriage—and self-expression regardless of sexual orientation—when less convenient sections of the New Testament are ignored, should cast serious doubts on the intentions of those who use it to justify any infringement upon the rights of others. Why do the sections of the Bible that are more hostile to homosexuality get more attention than those which prohibit being sexually attracted to a woman (Matthew 5:28), calling your paternal parent ‘Father’ (Matthew 23:9) and promote hating one’s family (Luke 14:26)? Cherry picking the most convenient passages out of a sacred text to justify the oppression of others is unacceptable; doing so undermines the principled doggedness of those who use the Bible to justify their own agenda.

The issue of infringing upon another human being’s freedom is paramount in this debate. Sexual orientation, heterosexual, homosexual or otherwise, is not a choice and the nature of relationships between consenting adults should be of no concern to those who may disapprove. Someone who chooses to be sexually active and be emotionally involved with someone else has made a very personal decision, and it deserves just as much respect as when someone chooses to be abstinent and not act on their desires. It’s unfair for someone to ask another human being to conform to their way of living because it suits their morals and values. Similarly, if people fall in love, how they express it is their business. If they want to express their affections and loyalty for each other by signing a legal document and call each other husband, wife or partner, what right has somebody else’s religion to interfere?
On a personal level, I feel sad when people call my friends sinners because of who they are and who they choose to love. I have queer friends as well as non-queer friends, and I believe they’re good people. I look forward to meeting the people they’re romantically attached to. When my friend Catherine introduced me to her then-fiancée (now husband) Justin, I was thrilled for them just as I’m sure I will be thrilled when one of my friends, who happens to be gay, introduces me to the individual they want to spend the rest of their life with.

Religion has no place in the legal institution of marriage and it’s unacceptable to pick the parts of the Bible you like to justify the oppression of others. To deny people the right to express their love, commitment and sexuality and forcing others to live by a particular set of beliefs is unjustly coercive and can fall outside of the loving spirit of faith and religion.