Are you ready for the New Year – 2017?

How we should get ready for 2017!

Happy New Year - 2017In America we have seen Donald Trump’s election win, and in the UK we have seen Brexit win out. Whilst we don’t know what the courts will say in terms of the Prime Minister’s rights, it is clear that the referendum has been taken and won and that the New Year will bring many changes, and that the far right seems to have gained ascendancy in terms of leaving Europe and also in terms of how we are supposed to ‘handle’ immigrants and other minorities.

President Elect ‘Trump’ has through his cabinet choices shown that he and his cronies are completely anti-LGBTQ, as all of them have either voted for some bill that denied the LGBTQ community one or all of the following:

  • job protections
  • right to marry
  • health services

In the UK we have seen the backlashes and phobias starting with people being beaten up because ‘they are not British’. Taunts like ‘ go back from where you came from’, ‘go back into the closet’, ‘your are not normal’.

It is obvious that things will get worse, especially if the Prime Minister, Theresa May, decides to push the removal of the Human Rights Act and replace with a Britsh Bill of Rights, which in all probability will be of no use at all, and probably only protect the rich and business.

LGBTQ Community

So what can we do about it?

Firstly, we need to make certain that our LGBTQ organisations are actually working for our community, and not just fund raising to ensure there existence. But also, we as a community need to be involved with these organisations – they cannot exist in a vacuum. And it is pretty obvious that funding is drying up from government and other sources.

Secondly, we need to remember that back in the 60s and 70s, whilst we did have some problems regarding personalities, we all realised that we needed to work together to achieve the common goal. This is even more relevant in the light of the attacks that are being made on our community from so many directions. We need to work together in the New Year to achieve our common goals.

LGBTQ Voting Power

Thirdly, we need to channel our voting power in the New Year. No longer should politicians of any ilk or cloth assume because they say they support they support the LGBTQ that they will automatically get our vote – they must prove they are more than fair-weather friends.

PA at Belfast Pride Snow Ball ‏ 2011

Lastly, we need to work with other groups who have experience and knowledge; they can help us develop our policies and mechanisms, the same as they can learn from us. There is strength in numbers, as well as that feeling of not being alone.

We need only look back in our history to discover how we in the past have come together and fought and won. Don’t stand alone, find friends, gather together in groups and support and learn to fight within the bounds of the law to get our rights and those of the future community


Further reading:

Every LGBTQ+ Person Should Read This

Huffington Post Logo


Become a fan

Founder and Director of Quist



Dearest Queer Person,

Chances are you don’t even know that you are holy, or royal or magic, but you are. You are part of an adoptive family going back through every generation of human existence.

Long before you were born, our people were inventing incredible things. Gifted minds like the inventor of the computer Alan Turing and aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont live on in you. The imprint that bold and brilliant individuals like Lynn Conway and Martine Rothblatt (both transgender women alive today) made on modern technology is impossible deny as present-day engineers carry their torch in the creation of robots and microprocessors. More recently speaking, one of the co-founders of Facebook publicly acknowledged his identity as a gay man, as did the current CEO of Apple.

We were so often gods and goddesses over the centuries, like Hermaphrodite (the child of Hermes and Aphrodite), and Athena and Zeus, both of whom had same-sex lovers. In Japan it was said that the male couple Shinu No Hafuri and Ama No Hafuri, “introduced” homosexuality to the world. The ability to change one’s gender or to claim an identity that encompasses two genders is common amongst Hindu deities. The being said to have created the Dahomey (a kingdom in the area now known as Benin) was reportedly formed when a twin brother and sister (the sun and the moon) combined into one being who might now identify as “intersex.” Likewise, the aboriginal Australian rainbow serpent-gods Ungud and Angamunggi possess many characteristics that mirror present-day definitions of transgender identity.

Our ability to transcend gender binaries and cross gender boundaries was seen as a special gift. We were honored with special cultural roles, often becoming shamans, healers and leaders in societies around the globe. The Native Americans of the Santa Barbara region called us “jewels.” Our records from the Europeans who wrote of their encounters with Two-Spirit people indicates that same-sex sexual activity or non-gender binary identities were part of the culture of eighty-eight different Native American tribes, including the Apache, Aztec, Cheyenne, Crow, Maya and Navajo. Without written records we can’t know the rest, but we know we were a part of most if not all peoples in the Americas.

Your ancestors were royalty like Queen Christina of Sweden, who not only refused to marry a man (thereby giving up her claim to the throne), but adopted a male name and set out on horseback to explore Europe alone. Her tutor once said the queen was “not at all like a female.” Your heritage also includes the ruler Nzinga of the Ndongo and Matamna Kingdoms (now known as Angola), who was perceived to be biologically female but dressed as male, kept a harem of young men dressed in traditionally-female attire and was addressed as “King.” Emperors like Elagalabus are part of your cultural lineage, too. He held marriage ceremonies to both male-identified and female-identified spouses, and was known to proposition men while he was heavily made-up with cosmetics. Caliphs of Cordoba including Hisham II, Abd-ar-Rahman III and Al-Hakam II kept male harems (sometimes in addition to female harems, sometimes in place of them). Emperor Ai of Han Dynasty China was the one whose life gives us the phrase “the passions of the cut sleeve,” because when he was asleep with his beloved, Dong Xian, and awoke to leave, he cut off the sleeve of his robe rather than wake his lover.

You are descended from individuals whose mark on the arts is impossible to ignore. These influential creators include composers like Tchaikovsky, painters like Leonardo da Vinci and actors like Greta Garbo. Your forebears painted the Sistine Chapel, recorded the first blues song and won countless Oscars. They were poets, and dancers and photographers. Queer people have contributed so much to the arts that there’s an entire guided tour dedicated just to these artists at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

You have the blood of great warriors, like the Amazons, those female-bodied people who took on roles of protection and had scarce time or interest between their brave acts to cater to the needs of men. And your heart beats as bravely as the men of the Sacred Band of Thebes, a group of 150 male-male couples who, in the 4th century B.C.E., were known to be especially powerful fighters because each man fought as though he was fighting for the life of his lover (which he was). But your heritage also includes peacemakers, like Bayard Rustin, a non-violent gay architect of the Black civil rights movement in the U.S.

We redefined words like bear, butch, otter, queen and femme, and created new terms like drag queen, twink and genderqueer. But just because the words like homosexual, bisexual, transgender, intersex and asexual, have been created in the relatively recent past doesn’t mean they are anything new. Before we started using today’s terms, we were Winkte to the Ogala, A-go-kwe to the Chippewa, Ko’thlama to the Zuni, Machi to the Mapuchi, Tsecats to the Manghabei, Omasenge to the Ambo and Achnutschik to the Konyaga across the continents. While none of these terms identically mirror their more modern counterparts, all refer to some aspect of, or identity related to, same-gender love, same-sex sex or crossing genders.

You are normal. You are not a creation of the modern age. Your identity is not a “trend” or a “fad.” Almost every country has a recorded history of people whose identities and behaviors bear close resemblance to what we’d today call bisexuality, homosexuality, transgender identity, intersexuality, asexuality and more. Remember: the way Western culture today has constructed gender and sexuality is not the way it’s always been. Many cultures from Papua New Guinea to Peru accepted male-male sex as a part of ritual or routine; some of these societies believed that the transmission of semen from one man to another would make the recipient stronger. In the past, we often didn’t need certain words for the same-sex attracted, those of non-binary gender and others who did not conform to cultural expectations of their biological sex or perceived gender because they were not as unusual as we might today assume they were.

Being so unique and powerful has sometimes made others afraid of us. They arrested and tortured and murdered us. We are still executed by governments and individuals today in societies where we were once accepted us as important and equal members of society. They now tell us “homosexuality is un-African” and “there are no homosexuals in Iran.” You, and we, know that these defensive comments are not true–but they still hurt. So, when others gave us names like queer and dyke, we reclaimed them. When they said we were recruiting children, we said “I’m here to recruit you!” When they put pink and black triangles on our uniforms in the concentration camps, we made them pride symbols.

Those who challenge our unapologetic presence in today’s cultures, who try to deprive us of our rights, who make us targets of violence, remain ignorant of the fact that they, not us, are the historical anomaly. For much of recorded history, persecuting individuals who transgressed their culture’s norms of gender and sexuality was frowned upon at worst and unheard of at best. Today, the people who continue to harass us attempt to justify their cruel campaigns by claiming that they are defending “traditional” values. But nothing could be further from the truth.

But now you know they are wrong. Just imagine the world without that first computer or the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, or a huge part of the music you’ve ever heard from classical Appalachian Spring to classic YMCA (I mean, we’ve held titles from the “Mother of Blues” to the “King of Latin Pop!”). How much less colorful would the world be without us? I’m grateful that you’re here to help carry on our traditions.

So, happy LGBT History Month! I hope to celebrate with you here at Quist. This list of LGBTQ history online resources is a good place to start in exploring more specifics about this heritage.

Sarah Prager

*Actually a term as a way someone signed a letter for a lesbian organization in Mexicodecades ago!

This piece was inspired in part by facts and sentiments from Another Mother Tongueby Judy Grahn (published 1984). Ritualized Homosexuality in Melanesia edited by Gilbert H. Herdt (published 1993) is also referenced. Many of the referenced facts are cited so many places it has become common knowledge. Christianne Gadd contributed significantly to this piece. This post originally appeared in The Advocate.

School Is In: The Q in LGBTQ



By Elizabeth Gartley

Often, when I’m speaking with educators about LGBTQ topics, one of the first questions I’m asked is “What does the Q stand for?” The primary definition that I provide is that “Q” stands for “questioning.” By acknowledging those who are questioning, we acknowledge those people, particularly young people, who for one reason or another, have not adopted an identity label, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and yet may still experience same-sex attraction or may not identify wholly with the gender identity they have been assigned.* This “Q” is easy to overlook, and yet particularly important to remember, especially for those who work with young people and in light of recent research.

A recent study by YouGov found that a third of young Americans (18 to 29 year-olds) don’t consider themselves “exclusively heterosexual.” Participants were asked to place themselves on the Kinsey Scale, a scale from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). A third of adults 18 to 29 placed themselves somewhere other than exclusively heterosexual, indicating some level of same-sex attraction. Interestingly, the survey data shows that while 10 percent of young adults identified themselves as bisexual, 29 percent placed themselves somewhere on the Kinsey scale other than “exclusively hetersexual” or “exclusively homosexual.” Overall, the study also concluded that younger adults were much more likely to acknowledge some level of fluid sexual attractions compared to older age brackets.

The biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey in Massachusetts has consistently found that more students in grades nine to 12 identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual and/or report same-sex sexual contact than those who only identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. For example, in 2013, 5 percent of all students identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, but 8 percent identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual and/orreported same-sex sexual contact. And a 2013 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that conventional survey methods lead to “substantial under-reporting of LGBT identity and behaviors” due to “social desirability bias,” that is, the tendency for people to not give responses they feel may be outside the mainstream.

As an educator, I find these kinds of studies interesting because I often find that many of my straight colleagues, teachers and school librarians, are somewhat naive in their assumptions about the LGBTQ students they serve. One of the messages I try to impart to my colleagues is that LGBTQ students are in their classrooms, whether they, as educators, are aware of them or not. Many times, teachers seem surprised by the suggestion that there are usually at least one or two LGBTQ students in every class they teach. There seems to be an implicit assumption among many educators that they will know when they have LGBTQ students in their classroom, as though to be LGBTQ, students must be publicly out to all in the school community.

“But no one in this class is gay,” is the kind of assumption that gets made without even the awareness that an assumption has been made, and this is what I try to challenge. Fortunately, in my experience, this isn’t a difficult bias to tackle; even a little bit of reflection will have people rethinking their assumptions.

In a recent Knowledge Quest article, Wendy Rickman surveyed Arkansas school library professionals and found that most responded that there were no self-identified LGBTQ students in their school, but a majority of respondents felt that there were LGBTQ students who had not yet self-identified. However, the survey also found that a majority of respondents were reluctant to purchase LGBTQ items for the library collection.

Educators, especially school librarians, have a responsibility to help students explore the world beyond their experience and to help students find themselves. School librarian’s strive to create a safe environment where students can learn more about who they are, to explore their interests and identities. We can’t wait for our LGBTQ students to be out, leading the GSA and advocating for themselves before we provide the resources they need. For those students who are LGBTQ but not out, or who are questioning, or who maybe aren’t ready to take LGBTQ-themed books out of the library yet, just seeing the resources are available will help them feel like they belong.

School librarians have a great opportunity to help normalize LGBTQ lives and experiences and portray sexual and gender diversity has part of the human experience. By creating a more inclusive collection and integrating LGBTQ titles into book talks, library displays, and reader’s advisory, all students will benefit: out LGBTQ students will see themselves reflected in their school library, straight students will see a more accurate representation of the diversity in the world, and “Q” students will see that they are not alone in their experiences.
*The Q in LGBTQ is often intended to simultaneously stand for “questioning” as well as “queer,” a loaded word which was once considered a slur, but has in recent decades been reclaimed by LGBT activists as an umbrella term or in some cases, a label an individual may adopt when more recognizable identity labels don’t seem to fit.