Queer of the Week, 5/26/2011

Ed speaking at the Prop. 8 demonstration on the Fayetteville Square back in November 2008.

Q&A with Ed Laningham

by Cody Davis

TFW Contributing Writer

Q: So, what is it you do?

Ed: My degree was in early childhood education. I’ve been a teacher for 20 years. I haven’t worked in public schools because of the way things are with job discrimination. I worked at Montessori School for about six years and then I worked at Charter Vista (now Charter behavioral health) for as a counselor and teacher for about six years. Currently I tutor math and music privately and also work at White Lotus Salon as a vibroacoustic therapist, which uses music as a form of therapy. Music and education is my primary background.

Q: Have you ever had any problems with you being openly gay at work?

Ed: I moved to Wichita for about a year for a job as a tutor at Sylvan Learning Center. I was fully trained, but I honestly just hated Wichita and wanted to be back in Fayetteville. When I moved back home, they had just opened a Sylvan Learning Center in Springdale. I applied for a job there. I was already trained and had an incredible reference from Wichita, so I of course got called back in for a second interview. They told me that they really, really wanted me and they’d even like to possibly make me the head teacher, but I was told that I’d have to take out my earrings for the interview. The woman who was doing the hiring made it very clear that it was the owner who asked this of me, not her. I said, “Well…would you ask any of your female employees to take out any of their jewelry?” and she said “no.” Then I said, “Well, that kind of sounds like a sexual discrimination lawsuit to me. That’s probably not the best way to start an interview, is it?” I would understand if it were a nose ring or something, but it’s very common for men to have earrings now and I don’t think that’s going to impact my ability to teach my students at all. The reason I’m sharing this story is because a year later this woman called me and said “I just want you to know that I have quit working for this man. I have thought about this for an entire year. What we did to you was wrong.” She actually left her job that she could have been very secure with because I stood my ground and spoke the truth. So, I guess what I want people to know: don’t ever sell yourself out just to get a job. Always stand your ground.

Q: How has being gay affected you as a person?

Ed: That’s a big question for me. My biological mother was a lesbian who came out in the early 1970s here in NWA after she had me and had been married to my father. This was back before 1973 (I think it was ’71) when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness. In the process of her coming out, she lost custody of me and was forced (by court order) to see a psychiatrist (who subsequently put her on unnecessary drugs). Because of her losing her son and the resulting depression she encountered, she eventually committed suicide. My biological father and stepmother tried to keep me from discovering this in fear of me becoming gay. Since learning about my mother’s history I have been an extreme political/social advocate, particularly for youth. I don’t want to see one more young person die; it shouldn’t happen and there should be other options. There should be resources for youth to have help. I think being gay has also made me a more open person. If I could offer one piece of advice for gay and straight people, it would be to get out of the box. Don’t be confined by tradition and the roles that are put on you by society. Those decisions should be made for yourself. Another thing that has shaken up my life is that it’s made me a lot more compassionate. I don’t believe in prejudice. The illusions we have and the stereotypes we have about other people are probably false. I try to be open to each individual person.

Q: How do you think we are supposed to solve this ongoing equality issue?

Ed: Stand up and speak the truth. I know it seems overly simplified, but that’s where it starts. You have to call it when you see it. If you see that you are being discriminated against, make that known. It’s going to be one person at a time. You’ve got to be honest; to yourselves, to your friends. I think we’re to a point where if we want to move forward, we just have to stand up and fight. You’ve got to knock down that wall that is holding you back if you really want to move forward. We’ve just got to make people aware when they step across the line.

Q: Have you ever encountered violence as a result of your sexuality?

Ed: When I was younger, my boyfriend at the time and I were in Huntsville and several men—four or five of them— came up and confronted me. One of them had a knife and he threatened to castrate me. The thing that got me out of this situation is that I knew enough about the area to start talking about people I knew. For some reason I brought up the name of this older lady who was friends with my grandmother and it turned out to be his 6th grade teacher. Since I knew somebody he also knew that completely changed the dynamics; I think that’s always important to remember. Anything you can do to make yourself ‘human,’ to make them know that we know the same people. I am part of your community. We are in this together. I am not this demonic, bizarre entity that you think I am. As long as they can keep us on the outside, they can be like this to us. We need to try to make connections and make some common ground because then it will make it harder for them to discriminate about us or threaten us.

Q: Could you give some advice to those who are experiencing difficulties being gay at a young age?

Ed: Build your support system: your friends, family, maybe religious figures, anyone you can call for guidance. There are people you can seek out for guidance and counseling. Get involved; do things you are passionate about. For me it’s music, drama, and the outdoors among loads of other things. Also remember that being gay is just a small part of who you are and the only reason it seems so important is that there is so much focus on it in society now. You’re going to have a career, a relationship, and a whole entire life in front of you. In high school it seems like the be-all, end-all. Break out of the gay box. Be bigger than the stereotypes that people want to put on you.

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Queer of the Week, 5/12/2011

Q&A With Brandy Roper

By Cody Davis

TFW Contributing Writer

Original Article

Photo by Cody Davis

Q: So, what do you do, Brandy?
BRANDY: I am a dispatcher at Central EMS. I’ve worked there since May of 2006; five years this month. I answer 911 calls and send ambulances and about 17 rural fire departments to emergency locations. I also do patient transfers from one hospital to another.
When I take 911 calls I hear some of the craziest things. I like the “I just chopped my finger off” calls; gun shots are always exciting, too. One time a woman called because she ate some nails. Yeah, like hammer nails. It’s not fun per se, but it can be a huge adrenaline rush actually talking with these people while this stuff is happening.
Q: Have you ever had any problems with you being openly gay at work?
BRANDY: I’ve never personally encountered any problems with me being openly gay at work, but there are seven other openly gay women I work with and they have experienced some negative attitudes from the occasional closed-minded co-worker. Most people that have a problem just keep their thoughts to themselves. There’s this banquet coming up and I’m bringing my girlfriend, Lauren, as my date. It makes me really happy that I can bring her around and introduce her as my girlfriend instead of just my friend. I can openly share our accomplishments, and that’s such a nice feeling.
Q: How has being gay affected you as a person?
BRANDY: I love being gay; I really do. Especially now that things are changing and I can actually be a part of the movement, you know? I actually feel like I can change the world with my friends and family offering so much support.
My family loves me and they will continue to love me no matter what. Me being gay has made them realize how extreme equality issues really are. I’m changing their minds about gays. Their daughter that they love comes out of the closet, and they really start thinking about the logic of the issue. It’s easy for people to believe that being gay is wrong when the opposing side — from what I’ve seen — has never even gotten to know a gay person.
Q: How do you think we are supposed to solve this ongoing equality issue?
BRANDY: We just need to convince people to come out. It’s all right, guys. I promise!
There are gay people everywhere and we just need to all support each other and help each other come out! It’s a lot of fun. I promise! I honestly really enjoy being gay. I guess it’s maybe more satisfying because you are sort of forced to find yourself and really discover who you are.
It’s a new, exciting thing because we’re finally, for the first time, being open to the world about ourselves. We need to make it easier for kids to come out easily and fearlessly. People will see that we are everywhere, and we will finally be an accepted part of society.
We also need education on these issues. Anti-gays can’t just listen to everything they’re told. They need to learn how to think on their own. The world must know that it’s completely OK and normal to be gay. It’s fun being who you are!
Q: Could you give some advice to those who are experiencing difficulties with being gay at a young age?
BRANDY: Gay and questioning youth need to know that it’s not always going to be so hard. Eventually people will accept you.
They’re going to make fun of you, but you have to be proud of who you are. High school and junior high are both terrible, and if people think or know that you’re gay, chances are it is going to be even worse. Life is way better after high school. You feel like it will go on forever, but high school is just a few years and then it’s over.

750,000

By Brandy Roper

Oh, so close to becoming a statistic
The thought of death was nearly mystic
Feeling lost and alone
Said, “I love you” to family at home
Grasped tight were the bottles
and vein shredding device
The strange love for another was my only vice
Pill after pill, I choked them down
Wondering when I would be found
“This isn’t your fault, Mom.”
was a line in the note
Was she thinking of me as I wrote and wrote?
Feeling drowsy,
head spinning,
I scribbled the lines
Trying my hardest to write of happier times
Metal cold on my arm
I pushed until I saw red
And dragged it slowly as I laid down my head
Dropping the dagger
it landed with a TIC
Dying to be just another statistic

The title — 750,000 — was the number of teens who attempted suicide the year that I also attempted. This is my darkest secret. I have always been the happy girl who told jokes and could make anyone laugh. No one knew what I was going through inside due to hearing “butch” and “lesbo” from people in the halls as I passed and from my so-called “friends.”
My family doesn’t know about the attempt, and this may be a strange way for them to find out, but I feel it is 100 percent necessary for the gay and questioning youth of today to know that it truly does GET BETTER. The happiest of the LGBTQ community has gone through something similar due to the ignorance of the masses. I’ve decided to share this now to let the ones struggling to fit in know that they are not alone. We were all there, and they can pull through. Life is grand.
— Brandy
I’m hoping this will get inside some heads. Next time you hear an emergency siren, just remember Brandy is one of the reasons it’s going off.

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Gay Arkansas

by Jonathan Cox, Fayetteville Free Weekly Contributing Writer

Whenever I make new gay friends and tell them I live in Arkansas, I usually receive some patronizing words of good luck or of how difficult it must be to live and be an activist in such a backward state.
I find this to pretty much sum up the general state of Gay Arkansas: Most people don’t seem to pay us much attention until some awful event occurs and national scorn can reign down upon the offender. The most recent incident that comes to mind is Clint McCance, the school board president in south Arkansas who posted on his Facebook that the gay students in his district should kill themselves.
From an activist perspective, this caused Arkansas to go from a non-issue to center attention very quickly. Anderson Cooper ran a few stories. The Human Rights Campaign ran ads in Arkansas newspapers. The gay blogosphere was on fire with the issue.
And, while it was nice to receive this attention, I couldn’t help but be a bit annoyed, since this is always the case. Something bad happens, causing the country to turn and say “Oh my god! Poor Arkansans!”
People don’t think about Gay Arkansas otherwise because it’s never on their mind. And why should they? We aren’t a big state. We don’t have the institutionalized religion of Utah or the perpetual last-place status of Mississippi. We are lost somewhere down in the bottom 20 percent.
Of course, I find this reflects the general “state of the gay” in Arkansas. We aren’t very well organized. There are a few good pockets of gay life — Fayetteville, Eureka Springs and Conway come to mind — but on a statewide level there’s a general air of disorganization, representative of the oppressive community of most of the state. For this reason, organizing can be a bit difficult. The issues that galvanize people — most notably marriage — are not the issues that Arkansas needs to be working on.
Arkansas is one of the more than 20 states where it’s perfectly legal to fire or refuse to hire someone due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s legal for a landlord to refuse to rent to a same-sex couple.
And of course, there’s Act One, with draconian wording to ban all unmarried couples from adopting so as to specifically target same-sex couples. Act One was recently struck down in court, but how many of you knew this? There is no network to get this information out.
And the issue that galvanizes people, the issue that is the single most visible nationwide, is the one that has the least use in Arkansas right now. What happens if we suddenly have same-sex marriage in Arkansas? Well, a bunch of couples can marry. But here’s what doesn’t happen: the discrimination in areas like employment and housing is allowed to continue. We focus on the rights of a smaller group of ourselves, instead of focusing on something that helps everyone: single, taken, young and old.
Our chances of getting anything through the legislature is slim right now. The state is too conservative still. But, if you look at the way the two campaigns were run in 2008 — one to support and one to oppose Act One — we are simply too disorganized to effect major change yet. Rather than individually focusing our energy on different pieces of legislation, we must first direct inwards. Only by coming together and building a strong community can we band together and achieve the rights we are so frequently denied.

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Welcome to Gayetteville

by Richard Davis

Fayetteville Free Weekly Staff Writer

Original Article

Cody Davis is one of the minds behind Gayetteville — content devoted to developing a sense of community for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer folk and promoting equality.

Cody Davis had been an occasional photography contributor for the Free Weekly. When he mentioned doing a story on his efforts to start up a Gayetteville magazine, I thought, “Hey, great idea.”
Of course, starting up a print magazine isn’t necessarily an easy project, particularly if you don’t have boatloads o’ cash lying around. I told him no worries, just let me know when things started to gel.
Then it hit me.
Duh, I run an alternative weekly newspaper (and website!). Why not have a Gayetteville section in the Free Weekly?
So, a couple of weeks later, here’s the start to Gayetteville with a commentary on being gay in Arkansas by Jon Cox, an interview with Central EMS dispatcher Brandy Roper and some questions answered by Cody to kick the whole thing off:
Q: The most obvious question first: When did you realize you were gay?
CODY: When did I realize I was gay? That’s difficult, because there was never really a point when I had an epiphany where I was like “Oh my god! I’m gay. Who knew?” I always had more of an interest in guys throughout my life, but I of course kept that to myself.
I had a few girlfriends in middle and high school, but it was the type of thing where I didn’t even want to hold their hands. I did like them I suppose but only emotionally; it just felt kind of fake. When it came to physical contact, I was just completely uninterested, and I got very anxious. Even just holding a girl’s hand felt unnatural.
My junior year in high school, I met a guy, and that finally made me acknowledge that I was gay. I realized that I could no longer deny it to myself because all that did was send me into a deep depression. I came out to my best friend first, then my mom and sister.
It was difficult at the time, but now I couldn’t be happier that I did. So to answer your question, it’s not so much when did I realize I was gay, but when did I stop denying it?
Q: I’ve read your manifesto, but in your own simple words, what’s your goal with Gayetteville?
CODY: My goal is to educate, inform and raise concerns about what’s going on in gay politics and discrimination issues while also creating a defined LGBTQ community in Fayetteville/NWA.
Q: Where did the idea for Gayetteville come from?
CODY: My friend Blake Wilkins (president of the Fayetteville High School Gay-Straight Alliance) and I were carrying on a conversation one day, and out of nowhere, he said something like “What if we started a gay magazine in Fayetteville called Gayetteville?”
I thought the idea was absolutely hilarious. I couldn’t understand why someone hadn’t already came up with that name for some kind of gay organization in Fayetteville. It’s so simple.
We got to talking about it, and we both got really excited and ideas just started pouring out. Blake is finishing up his senior year in high school so he hasn’t had much time to commit to it, but he told me that I can take control as long as he gets credit for the title. So here you go, Blake.
When we first started talking about Gayetteville, we had no clue that it would evolve so fast. Now I’m doing an interview for the Free Weekly. What a great accomplishment this is.
Q: What are some of the things you’d like to offer readers in the Gayetteville pages?
CODY: Like I already stated, I want to educate, inform and raise concern about what’s going on in gay politics. I also want to list events within the gay community and highlight local queers who are positively contributing to society. I want to give you a little insight into their lives and what they have experienced. It’s necessary to raise awareness and make people realize that being gay is not a psychological issue, disorder or setback. It’s always existed throughout history, and it will continue to exist. When the public acknowledges this, that’s when change will start to happen.
Q: What would you say to anyone who might think terms such as “Gayetteville” or “Queer of the Week” are insensitive or possibly poking fun?
CODY: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer; all of those seem to have negative connotations, and there is no reason for that. I’m using them in a positive context, and I don’t see why there would be a problem. Gayetteville and Queer of the Week are both titles to be taken with pride.
Q: Where would you like to see Gayetteville in five years?
CODY: Well, I know I’d like for it to be it’s own independent magazine, and I know it will be. It’s been time for a media source connecting the Northwest Arkansas gay community for a while now, and I am here to do just that.
I would eventually like to see Gayetteville connect with organizations in other Arkansas cities so we can form a solid Arkansas gay community, not just Northwest Arkansas and not just central Arkansas.
Q: Would you like to see readers’ suggestions for Gayetteville content? How should readers contact you?
CODY: Not only would I like to see suggestions, but I NEED them. That is the point in community. I want everyone to contribute.
If you have a good idea for an article or would like to write one, just talk to me. If you would like to submit an event to the calendar, let me know. If you have art or poems or music or anything like that at all, let me know. Please don’t be hesitant to get in contact with me. The Gayetteville blog is in the works and we need all the content we can get, so even if it’s not published in the Free Weekly, we could for sure put it on the blog.
If you haven’t already done so, you should “Like” the page at Facebook.com/weareeverywhere. You can contact me and stay updated there. If you don’t want it to be public, you can also email me at GayettevilleAR@gmail.com.

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Haven’t they waited long enough?

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“Gay and Lesbian Equality will never be found in a political party nor your local church. We alone are responsible for our equality.”

Found at The Gay Manifesto

The Gay Manifesto embraces the following five proven scientific facts about Gay and Lesbian Americans:

Fact — Homosexuality is a normal, natural and unchangeable sexual orientation.

Fact — Homosexuality has always existed at a fixed percentage throughout human evolution.

Fact — Homosexuality is present in all animal species including the human species.

Fact — Homosexuality is an immutable and infallible biological construct of nature.

Fact — Homosexuality is necessary for human existence and the perpetuation of the human species.

As such:

The Gay Manifesto demands full and unconditional equality in every area of life. Gay and Lesbian Americans will not be barred from fully realizing the freedoms constitutionally guaranteed to every citizen of this great country.

The Gay Manifesto demands the immediate end to political parties using Gay and Lesbian issues as a wedge for garnering votes and campaign contribution. The Democratic and Republican parties have made billions exploiting Gay and Lesbian Americans and have no interest in securing our equality. Gay and Lesbian Americans demand equality and will actively remove candidates incapable of delivering legislative results furthering that goal.

The Gay Manifesto demands that corporations provide equal access to Gay and Lesbian employees in securing employment protections and full benefits for their families. America is a grand capitalist society where Gay and Lesbian money will only support businesses valuing Gay and Lesbian rights and full equality for all Americans. Corporations with policies contrary to true American values will adapt or face product boycotts and civil actions.

The Gay Manifesto demands the forfeiture of public entitlements and special privileges for any religious institution condemning Gay and Lesbian Americans. These organizations promote a contrary opinion to proven scientific facts and the laws of nature, encourage ignorance within the public domain and are hostile towards the most fundamental of American values…freedom from oppression.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

This man is a bit too aggressive for me, but he does make some very valid statements.
I hope you all are making the best of this rainy day.

-Cody

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Welcome!

The purpose of Gayetteville is to round up all the LGBTQ members and supporters so we can communicate to all of them as a whole and start forming the basis of a solid gay community here in the wonderful, accepting city of Fayetteville, Arkansas. As we establish a strong community, we can help each other out and provide support; especially to those younger members of our community. Being young and gay is a hard task to manage, and it is our duty to help them out by making it easier to deal with it at an earlier age. We can have reliable support group for all of us queers! Doesn’t that sound great?

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