May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, & Biphobia: A worldwide celebration of gender and sexual diversities (Also known as “IHAHOT”) Thank you for visiting my blog on this day! 🙂 This post is a contribution to the Hop For Visibility, Awareness, & Equality. Visit the hop’s main page and read the many great posts! Learn more about IDAHOT here.
This year’s IDAHOT theme is “Mental Health and Well-Being.” Many studies have found a correlation between social stigma (or discrimination) and mental health problems. It seems like we’d hardly need a study to tell us that, though. If you feel your community is against you, it’s going to have an impact on your emotional well-being and self-image eventually. And if you live in a society where you are bombarded with the message that you are abnormal/wrong/other, you are likely to internalize that as well.
One of the reasons I enjoy writing what I do is I get to glorify and celebrate a more ideal reality: where families don’t kick their kids out for being gay, where LGBT people find love and acceptance, where there’s always a happy-ever-after. I know that not everyone lives in that kind of world, though. Although we have come a long way, there is still a lot of hate.
One thing this recent election and the hub-bub about the “bathroom bills” has done is revealed just how commonplace hate is. No matter who wins this election, the damage has been done. Hate speech is not only acceptable now, it’s televised. Racists and bigots have been validated and now feel free to speak their secret hate, to wear it on their sleeves, to even be proud of it.
When I drive around my town and I see the Trump signs in neighbors’ yards, the “make America great again” bumper stickers, I feel sick, and more than a little scared. I am a cis woman, married to a cis man. How must those signs feel to a trans person? Or a person in a same-gender marriage? How does that impact their mental health and well-being?
Recently a conservative “watchdog” took it upon herself to harass a 15 year old trans girl at my local high school, all in the name of “protecting” children. It was horrifying, but the end result was…kind of okay. The local newspaper ran a story about the issue, calling out the self-appointed watchdog on her bullying. Hundreds of people spoke up on behalf of the trans teen and a petition quickly formed to have the page removed. The local paper gave the teen her own article, to state her side of things. In it she spoke about all the support she’s received and said she feels safe at school, and always has.
Seems a happy ending. But I can’t stop thinking about it. Those names spewing hate on that Facebook page? Those are parents in my community. People whose kids will be going to school with my kids. People who might themselves be interacting with my kids, and the other children I know and love. The school in question? That’s the high school my kids will attend in only a few years. So while the end result was positive, and the principal, superintendent, mayor, and many, many residents all spoke up for tolerance and love, the whole incident was still unsettling. Mostly, it hurt to see familiar names, local people, speaking such hate.
I’m wondering how I deal with the aftermath of it all. How do I interact with these people, now that I know their bigoted views? How do I forget the ugly comments I saw? Should I even try to forgive and forget, or should I keep my kids away from these people? Or do I wait until I personally hear them say something, or until they do something to me or mine that warrants a reaction? I suppose in that case the question of whether or not we can coexist would be answered, because I’d speak up and there would likely be an argument, and we’d probably not interact ever again.
What about the LGBT kids in my community? How will this impact them? Will they believe their neighbors think they are gross or dangerous? Will they be afraid to come out? And what about the bigoted kids? Will they think it is okay to be assholes, now? That their hate is justified?
I used to think that changes were happening so fast! I was proud of my generation (gen X!!), and the open-mindedness I thought we possessed. I believed we were so much “better” than our parents, and I thought every generation would become less bigoted, less racist. Now, twenty years later, I know better. Changes are happening, and yes every generation grows more accepting… but it is a much, much slower process than I’d ever imagined. I think social media has helped, and so has television, by bringing things into the public spotlight, offering many different viewpoints, showing people how diverse humanity really is. But it’s still a slow change.
As I write this the US Justice Department has just filed suit against North Carolina for their “bathroom bill,” the Obama administration has spoken out, and it seems this particular fight for trans rights will end on a positive note. Of course this makes me happy, though I don’t imagine the war is won by any means. I know there will be backlash, and I know the damage simmering hate can do when it goes unchecked and unnoticed. But for now, these issues that made me so uncomfortable about my kids’ future high school community seem to be resolved.
In some ways, this bathroom bill stuff is a good sign. It’s an acknowledgement of the existence of transgender people. It’s getting people talking, too, and showing support. It’s making people think about their prejudices. Change isn’t usually easy or painless: most positive change has been bought with blood, sweat, and tears. I think we all need to be as brave as possible, to speak up whenever we can against hate, and to keep an open mind.
I believe LGBT romantic fiction helps create positive change, too. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans Romances help to “normalize” LGBT people, by offering a glimpse into how beautiful and loving an LGBT relationship can be to those who might not have any personal experience or real-life interaction with LGBT people. And for those who might be struggling, feeling alone or marginalized, representation that is positive, joyful, deep, and respectful is super important. I’d like to think the books in my genre have helped people with their mental health and well-being, if only in small ways.
You know what else is great for your mental health and well-being? Going to the beach. Seriously, studies have been done and I’m not going to argue with them! The beach is good for you. As an incentive for you to go to the beach (or the lake or the pool or just lay out a towel in the sun, play “ocean sounds” on your iPod, and pretend. I’m not judging) I will ship one lucky commenter (chosen at random) a sweet hand-made beach bag and two Amelia Bishop paperbacks to read on the beach! Continental US only, please, I’m poor. Winner will be drawn on May 25. Here are some pictures:
Yes, I made it, and yes, it’s HUGE. It holds a family’s worth of towels, or everything a solo-beach goer might need for a day in the sun. (Really. I tested it, as evidenced in the pics!) And all the sand will sift right out. I washed it and dried it in the sunshine, so it’s ready to go!
Comment below (your thoughts about IDAHOT or this post) for your chance to win 🙂
Visit the other hop participants, too: B. A. Brock Jamie Fessenden Rory Ni Coileain Erica Pike Andrew Jericho Tempeste O’Riley The Macaronis Elin Gregory Alexa MIlne Nic Starr Evelise Archer Sue Brown Elizabeth Varlet Raven J. Spencer Sharing Links and Wisdom Lisa Horan Archer Kay Leah Alexis Duran Jules Dixon R.M. Olivia Heloise West Angel Martinez Moonbeams over Atlanta – Eloreen Moon Helena Stone AM Leibowitz L.D. Blakeley Lila Leigh Hunter Sharon Bidwell Nicole Dennis Lexi Ander Barbara G.Tarn Kaje Harper JMS Books LLC JM Snyder Dean Pace-Frech Kimber Vale Jacintha Topaz Prism Book Alliance® Eva Lefoy Lou Sylvre Anne Barwell Viki Lyn Sean Michael Remmy Duchene Sharita Lira writing as BLMorticia Barbara Winkes Bronwyn Heeley L. J. LaBarthe VJ Summers Nikka Michaels Caraway Carter L M Somerton Taylor Law Anastasia Vitsky Draven St. James A.V. Sanders Lynley Wayne DP Denman M.A. Church Andrew J. Peters Dianne Hartsock M. LeAnne Phoenix Cherie Noel Chris McHart