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What's in the genes?

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The Real L Word of Mississippi: We are more than this

Last night “L Word Mississippi” premiered on Showtime. I was a bit hesitant about watching this because I knew the history of the L Word and Real L Word series and their bad portrayals of lesbians in this country. Unfortunately, my hesitation was qualified, as this show only brought out one portion of what it is like to be gay in Mississippi. And yes, I know as a documentary, this was the focus. However, it would be nice for the producers to realize that this is one shot for a primetime audience to not only show the negatives about being gay, but also an opportunity to show some positives. 

I am from Laurel, MS, and I lived there with my partner (we were married in a local Unitarian Universalist Church). I worked in a place where co-workers invited me to their churches to not be gay and not go to Hell. I have family that feels being gay goes against everything they believe in. However, I have family that also loves, supports, and cares deeply about the relationship I have with my wife. We had a strong faith community that supported and lifted up our union as married when the state does not recognize such a union. 

Ilene Chaiken once again proved that she knows NOTHING about lesbians in the L Word, the Real L Word, or Mississippi. While there were some great points and loving couples in the Real L Word Mississippi… There are MANY MANY MANY lesbian (and gay) couples living in Mississippi who are thriving and not bound by some strict Christian code. 

This show only takes us to the deep dark places…but what about those that have moved past all of that and are living wonderful, healthy lives that are not deeply entrenched in Christianity. I guess their stories aren’t that important. Yet, those people are just as much the “Real L Word” as what was put on screen tonight.

My coming out process left me feeling ashamed, internal and external homophobia, and unworthy. But I can say that once I came out to myself, it was the best thing for me. Not for anyone else, but for ME. It saved my life.

Let’s start demanding that we get true portrayals in TV… healthy thriving relationships that does not make our lives (to quote Judy Shepard) some Greek tragedy.I know it’s not as good for TV but at least it is honest.

My point is that the experiences and lives of gay people in Mississippi are just as unique and diverse as the population of the state. Yes bigotry and hatred do exist, but there is also just as much love and support and understanding. I really feel sad and embarrassed if this display is how we are thought about in Mississippi. We are not only this. We are more than this.


What marriage equality means to an intersex lesbian from Mississippi.

My heart breaks as I write this letter because I just read about Crystal Craven’s passing. I was born and raised in Jones County, Mississippi. I went to public schools – Soso Elementary and West Jones High School. I grew up with values of family and love. I am a product of Jones County. But I am a different product.

Growing up, the emphasis I learned from my surroundings was that family was important. Family was women getting married and having a family. Family was if you brought children from a previous marriage into a new one that they were treated no different. In all of these things there was love.

I attended elementary and high school with Crystal Craven. She was a few years older than me. Crystal was a rough and tumble girl who didn’t take anything off anyone. I was the chubby “little sister”, so being picked on was a common theme. It is interesting that I did not like Crystal as a child because she was what I might have called a bully (in a child’s eyes). But little did I know that we would meet again one day and have more in common.

I grew up and graduated in the top percent of my high school class at West Jones. I feel I had a good education despite economic and financial challenges in my personal life. I was 17 and in my junior year before I realized or considered that college was a possibility for me. I didn’t even consider myself smart. So in my senior year when I learned of a full scholarship to Jones County Junior College, I was beside myself because I felt I had made this huge achievement.

However, there were stirrings in the back of my mind that made me feel different in a way that I kept people at a distance and was probably a bully myself. I felt that the things that were going on with me in Laurel/Soso, Mississippi would not be well received. I gave up my full scholarship after a year to move four hours away to attend the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). It was there I felt this freedom to get in touch with who I was.

There were several things going on. To make a long story short when I was twenty-one years old I found out that I had a genetic condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, which means that I have XY chromosomes, but I was born and raised physically female. I describe myself as Intersex. A year after finding out that I was intersex, I “came out” as lesbian.

Before I came out as lesbian, however, I felt I needed to be out in another way. You see, being intersex has this shame and secrecy attached to it that makes people feel sub-human. I grew up in Jones County with the same values as everyone else did. I thought being married and having a family was the norm. But then I found out that not only would I never bear children, but if I had not had this condition, I would have fathered children, not bore them. Imagine my shock and confusion for quite some time! I wrote a letter to my campus newspaper (in response to the 2003 gay marriage amendment argument going around at that time).

Being intersex female means that my relationship with a woman is seen as a lesbian relationship (homosexual); however, genetically, we’re heterosexual (me XY and she XX). If I were to be with a man, socially we’d be a heterosexual couple, and genetically a homosexual couple.

There is talk about “traditional marriage”. There is talk about going against God’s Word. And although I did graduate with a double major in History and Political Science, I’m not going to debate this on a religious level. I will simply say this:

I grew up with the belief and understanding that marriage was for two people who love each other. Marriage was a bond of love, honor, and friendship. By the time I came of age, marriage was not a requirement that two people had to be fertile to be married. They didn’t have to agree to only have sex in certain ways or a number of times a week. They didn’t agree to have only a certain amount of children. And by our divorce rates, they certainly did not agree to not getting divorced. And you know why? Because that is the privacy those couples are afforded.

Further, we want our state and country to oppose marriage because it goes against their religion. What about the First Amendment? Since the majority is Protestant in Mississippi, I’ll assume that their religion probably opposed Catholics, Episcopalians, Buddhists, Jewish people, Muslims, Mormons and Unitarian Universalists from being marriage because it is not part of “their” religion. Yet these people are allowed to marry. And brazen enough they are allowed to inter-marry!

So why a big stink about two people of the same gender being married? We’ve established that they are allowed privacy. A Baptist Preacher, Methodist Minister, or Catholic Priest (or any other person of faith) won’t be required to marry the couple. They have the freedom to not marry a couple that is not within their church or faith, so same-sex marriage won’t be forced on them if their religious bylaws don’t accept it.

There are faiths and churches that do allow same-sex unions (Unitarian Universalist for one, which was the church my wife and I married in 2010 in Ellisville, MS (Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church)). But there are also Justices of the Peace that are government officials not bound by a religion (although they may be bound by a personal one, it bears no reflection upon that office) or shouldn’t be. I’m sure post-1967 after the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case ruled that interracial couples had the right to marry in all states that some, even in Mississippi, thought the institution would be damaged. But as you can see it is not. People aren’t forced to be interracial married, just as no one will be forced to be married in a same-sex ceremony.

During my college days and then after I graduated and moved back to Laurel, my paths crossed with Crystal again. After years of my having this dislike for a person I felt tortured me, I realized that she was like me. Confused with who we were, we lashed out because that’s the only recourse we had. Meeting Crystal again made me realize what a warm and caring person she was. And while we didn’t become best friends, we were pleasant and spoke when we saw each other in town.

My heart breaks for Jessica because she’s facing one of the parts of marriage that,unfortunately, really matters – the death. Unmarried couples have no legal rights to their partner (gay or straight). There are some instances where the couples can have Power of Attorney, Medical Wills, and other legal documents to protect each other’s rights. When I married my own wife, we had to fill out, notarize, and sign (with witnesses) that are about 10 pages long giving each other rights in cases of medical intervention and death. Whereas, those married couples under the law only need one piece of paper – a marriage license.

Not only was Jessica allowed to be banned from the funeral, but if the home she shared with Crystal was in Crystal’s name, then she could be thrown out of the home without justification. Any survivor benefits that Crystal did have, unless they were explicitly drawn up as going to Jessica, would go to the “next of kin” and not the partner. If the couple had children, and it was the birth mother who died, in the State of Mississippi, the partner has no rights. The list goes on and on.

So while it is okay to not be “for” the gay marriage, same-sex marriage, or what I like to call marriage equality. At the end of the day, my marriage shouldn’t be banned simply because some religion or political party or individuals don’t agree with it. They are entitled to that belief, but no one is entitled to deny me equal protection under the law.

On Movements and Imposters

Over the past ten years, I have been involved with the intersex movement (after finding out I was intersex) and the LGBT equality movement (after coming out as lesbian). I also obtained a history degree where part of my concentration was history – specifically the Civil Rights Movement. Much can be learned from various groups and their movements toward equality. The first lesson is that while some in the intersex movement are not really intersex, they will have a voice because they use their voice. The second lesson is that many have the same goals, but different ideas of paths to get there. Understanding these lessons will help our own movements.

In the first lesson, I am referring to the Intersex movement. Ever since my first day in a support group, I’ve seen people accused of “posing” or being a fake. And while that may be the case, is it really our concern? We’ve seen that only few voices get to the policy making. Most people within the movements get a voice because they use their voice. Is it important to have accurate information? Absolutely, but can we halt speech just because someone is deemed to be a “poser”, a “fake”, an “imposter”? No, we cannot halt anyone’s speech whether it is good info from an imposter, false info from an imposter, or false info from the real deal. Not everyone feels the same way when it comes to treatments and/or courses of action. That’s why we have so many paths for the same outcome.

The second lesson is referring to current movements and movements of the past. Notably is the Civil Rights Movement for racial equality, the Feminist Movement for gender equality, and to some degree the LGBT Movement for equality (marriage, sexual, etc). These movements began with different views, but they had one common thread…to gain equality and independence from those who were oppressing them. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois were two figures of the early Civil Rights Movement. Both of these influential men had very different paths to equality. Who was wrong and who was right? We’ve seen both of their ideologies evolve into eventual racial equality and fights for injustice.

During the Feminist Movement, we saw sexual equality come to the forefront and organizations such as the National Organization for Women come to prominence. However, in the early days, some within NOW were opposed to sexual freedoms of lesbians. Are we to discount the work of NOW because of this? No history has seen the rights of women move to the forefront while still giving a voice to lesbians and sexual minorities.

The LGBT movement was not always a unified front. We’ve probably seen lesbian and gays first within the conversation for equality. Bisexality is still debated as real today, but it is definitely more accepted today than ever before. Transgender people are still fighting for justice and acceptance at every level of life. And while we understand that those who choose to transition from one gender to another are well within their rights to do so, we are still afraid of transgender issues being associated with the intersex rights movement.

Even from my early days, I’ve seen the intersex movement geared toward those born with ambiguous genitalia. Even those of us with degrees of ambiguousness, but were never submitted to countless, painful surgeries are somewhat made to feel like we haven’t been as traumatized as those who did have all the surgeries and other demeaning treatments.

However, at what point do we just get to say… we are all on the same side… the side of loved? We are of the belief in equality, in justice, and in freedom. Equality to be with the person we love or to have only the surgeries we choose to have. Justice to be accepted as we are without others having the right to forcibly make us different or force us to the margins of society.

Imposters and unified efforts are simply one small part of the larger puzzle. We put ourselves in little boxes just as much has the so-called majorities have put us in boxes. Who is right? I don’t know.

Marriage Equality – What century am I in?

As we move into the 21st Century, we must take a look at where we’ve come in terms of equality. How far have we gone? In 1972 we saw the APA de-medicalize homosexuality as a disease or condition to be treated. Throughout the following decades we saw laws and court cases that overturned old, archaic laws banning homosexual behavior as illegal. Yet, our fight is not over. Once we got the right to make love de-criminalized, our efforts then shifted towards full inclusion into society. This inclusion means having the same right and responsibilities as heterosexual couples. The 1990s saw us set back 50 years when our Democratically elected president signed law establishing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). It would be almost 20 years later that DADT was repealed, and in 2012 we are still hoping to repeal DOMA. Several courts have sided with those wishing to repeal and fight DOMA, and other non-equality measures. While we may see our fight be won on the judicial level, our struggle to win the hearts and minds of the general public… it is probably 50/50 depending on where one lives.

At the heart of this matter is marriage. One side feels that marriage is a long sacred institution that our Founding Fathers, God, and Jesus want to preserve as it always has been. The other side feels that marriage has already been redefined, as we give gender equality to women, freedom of choice over their bodies, and the right to divorce.

There is a “compromise class” that would see “same-sex” marriage be called “Civil Unions” while the heterosexual marriages are still given “marriages”. Thankfully, we’ve stopped calling this struggle “Same Sex Marriage” and started calling it “Marriage Equality”.

Let us also point out that in several states marriage equality is currently legal, while some other states have enacted “civil unions” or “partnerships”.  Let us also point out that one piece of paper give couples the right to inherit without taxation, the right to property, the right to hospital visits, and the rights and responsibilities of federal benefits.

You see, marriage equality is not a States’ Rights issue, because we are also taxed at the federal level. Much taxation of estates comes at the federal level, so that needs to be fixed, as well as, make states recognize unions between two men or two women, as well as, unions between one many and one woman. AND we are not asking for special rights. We are asking for the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Perhaps the logic is or is not that simple. I’m not sure; however, I do know that we are denying many couples the right to be married, to adopt, to collect survivor benefits, to make decisions on the other’s behalf. Yet what we are allowing to happen is that a partner who has been the soul caretaker, heart and soul of another for many, many years, to be thrown out and forgotten like garbage all in the name of DOMA and States’ Rights.


Let us look at some arguments:

Argument Against: Discussion:
1. Marriage is for procreation. 1a. If that is so, then should we ban any infertile people, and women past childbearing years from marrying?


1b. Should we invalidate those marriages that are childless? (Maybe set a timeline of how long a couple can/should be married before invalidating their marriage for not fulfilling contractual duties).


1c. Should we invalidate marriages where the partners choose to not have children?

2. It is against God! 2a Which God? Whose God? While we can acknowledge that religious texts may have been translated to invalidate God’s love if you are homosexual. And that is okay if your belief system puts your in that category that your God cannot love a person because of who they love. You can say it is because God said this or that. But ultimately, you don’t know what he said because he “said” these things to men thousands of years ago, and then the words were oral tradition, then scribed over the course of several translations. So do we really know? Why would God make a person homosexual? And what would the Devil care?


2b Not everyone believes the same.  That is just the basis of the matter. In the USA, we allow religious freedom and tolerance. Meaning, you have the freedom to choose a religion or not choose a religion. We have identified religions in this country that are, indeed, in support of marriage equality. They are fully functioning and credited as authorized religions in this country. They are willing and able to perform a marriage ceremony in this country. They do not believe their God would punish two people for loving each other.


2c On the subject of not choosing a religion, this country allows two atheists to get married (without the sanction of a church), and they have full rights and responsibilities that anyone else has.

3. Churches and clergy should not be forced to marry gay people. 3a Agreed, they should not be forced to marry gay people unless they, themselves are gay and want to marry their gay partner.


3b However, churches and clergy have been marrying gay people for centuries, those individuals were gay, they just weren’t open about it.


3c We only call it marriage. But really everyone signs a piece of paper that is filed at the county courthouse.

State = civil union

Church marriage ceremony = marriage

However, it is all called a marriage.

SOLUTION: Require ALL couples to be married in civil fashion and let the church marriage be optional.


3d Some churches and clergy do sanction and uphold marriage equality.


3e Today, no clergy member or church has ever been forced to marry someone who is not their member or gone through their process to be married. Therefore, no clergy member or church should be forced to marry a gay couple; however, gay couples should not be banned from marriage just because a few clergy won’t do it.

4. One man, one woman has been good enough through the centuries, and it will ruin the sanctity of marriage. 4a In centuries past women were only property. Property claimed by dynastic or wealth gains. One many occasions those unions became loving. For those not tied to land or dynastic issues, the need for survival (male protection), a homemaker (single man), and child production was the purpose of marriage. The 21st Century does not see people as 5 generations of [insert profession or trade], such as, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker as we saw in past centuries (but sometimes this can happen).


4b Also, one man and one woman may have been the “norm”, but there is a reason that prostitution, as a profession, has also survived through the ages. Let us not deny loving couples their rights out of fear of sanctity being ruins. Seems that was taken long ago.


4c Further, one many and one woman is perceived as the “norm”, but did you know that through the centuries there has been women born who were later found to be infertile, but in actuality, these women had an intersex condition. In some cases, the women were born looking just as females, but had XY chromosomes. Neither the woman’s family nor spouse knew the truth until 21st century medicine could map DNA structures.


So is it the gender that bothers people? The fact that “women” must have certain qualities, “men” must have certain qualities, and “couples” should have certain qualities. Again, if said couple in 4c were to be banned from marriage because they produced no children (see Item 1), then are we upholding marriage as sacred?

The complexities of marriage have existed probably since time began. One may say that “civilized” society brought the rules that exist in marriage. Women were property, marriage was for procreation, marriage was a sacrament, and God only likes/approves of heterosexual marriage.

But do we approve of good marriages? Why do we allow celebrities and non-celebrities the rights to be married for 5 hours or 72 hours before we allow the marriage to be ended? We have provisions for “annulment” and divorce in a society that holds the institution as sacred. So divorce is there for a reason, because some women need to get out of an abusive relationship. Okay, understood and agreed.


But I bet if a calculation of divorce was researched, I am willing to be “irreconcilable differences” would be the number one reason for divorce. That means that it could be from one partner being lazy to one partner not being compatible in bed. This vague term is used to end many a marriage that is deemed sacred.

We see the American public running out to ban marriage equality, just as it was done to interracial couples until 1967. Yet, we don’t see the American public making divorce difficult and hard to obtain. Why is that? I guess the government not supposed to dictate their lives, but it is okay for the government to protect their benefits and ban other marriages.

There are inadequacies in our arguments. There are fallacies in our arguments, yet we allow them to rule us.

At the end of the day, I want the comfort of knowing that my life and my marriage is just as important as my neighbors. I want to know that my marriage (that although only 2 years old, has far outlasted many heterosexual marriages). I want to know that if I were the type of person go out and marry 8 times that I could do that because I live in a country that let’s people do that… just not people wanting to be married to a partner of the same gender or perceived same gender.

Children + Families Week: The Bessler-Rutledge & Lufkin families | Washington United for Marriage

Children + Families Week: The Bessler-Rutledge & Lufkin families | Washington United for Marriage.


This is all too real. Two committed, loving adults should have the same rights as their heterosexual coupled counterparts. This is a wonderful article regarding a fight for equality in Washington State. Let us hope equality and justice prevails for loving families in Washington.

LGBT: Where are we going?

Infighting has become a real problem. Groups that once worked together are now branching out and fight amongst themselves for top of the chain. One group doesn’t do this right while another group thinks they are leading the way.

What is happening is that rather than allowing these collective voices to sound the trumpet, we’re creating factions and trying to stamp out those who feel different. However, don’t we all have the same goal in mind?

In the LGBT community there will be those to find my non use of queer as offensive. Or my non statement about gender identity as offensive. Or that I used L before G in LGBT as offensive.

Shouldn’t we be a unified effort to promote equality? In some states that is marriage equality, while other states job equality, and then there are states where we just want to be able to coexist because any rights we might receive will be far-reaching in this day and time.

Cooperation is key. Not to fight and say one side is wrong. Just because they aren’t doing it like you would or saying it like you would say it, doesn’t make them wrong. Working together and showing each other and explaining to each other how something is being done will allow both sides to review what they are doing. You never know, one side might find that the other side’s strategy is working better than theirs.

But instead we fight. We say the other is doing it wrong. We actually think one side isn’t being radical enough.

Of course, if we stop and think how glorious it is to think we can call someone not radical enough for expressing LGBT views, then we will appreciate that there can be divisiveness. But if we’re not making progress because of these dividers, then we aren’t helping anyone.

We’re just creating factions. We are not building a beloved community.
We are not establishing our place in the world.

Let us work to build a better world. Let us appreciate each other in ways we can promote our similar agendas. Otherwise, we should just go back in the closet because we’re not ready to cohabitant in this society.

Think about that before you attack or put someone down for their beliefs.

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