#IDAHOT

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.

UmbrellaNo Year

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.

loretta_lynch_quote

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

23 thoughts on “#IDAHOT

  1. I like to think that if you look at history on a larger scale, things have been progressively getting better in terms of how we treat each other. There’s still a long way to go and a hard fight to get there, but I like to look at how things have changed in the last hundred years and feel like there’s hope. And I think you’re right that happy stories can be really valuable, as can going to the beach! I can’t believe you made that bag! It’s so pretty! 😀

    • Thanks!
      Yeah, I know things have gotten better in most ways, but I also think they have gotten worse in some ways as well. It seems like now people are so up in everyone’s business! Going so out of their way to control how other people live, when it really does not impact them at all.
      But it might also be that our voices are louder, with social media and the internet and even cell phones allowing us to capture and preserve and replay all our little thoughts and dramas. So maybe it just seems worse than it is.
      I will keep reading (and writing) my happy stories to combat this sad reality 🙂

  2. What you said about the schools and being where your kids will go…yes, every word of that. I don’t know the answer on how to interact with parents once you know they hold those views. The good news at my kids’ school is that a lot of the students recognize adults behaving badly and are fighting back. I like to hope we’re leaving the world in their generation’s capable hands.

    • I have to say, I was extremely heartened to see the support this girl got from her classmates. They even started a hashtag! (#IStandWithAshlynn) So yeah, the next generation gives me some hope, too.
      I still worry about the parents, but I can’t control that. I can only try to make my own kids as strong and self-assured as possible, and let the other kids in my life know I will always support them, too. Just one more thing to worry about as a parent I guess! LOL
      Thanks for commenting!

  3. It scary to think about what is happening with the upcoming presidential elections and the amount of hate that is being fueled. But it’s not all bad and is quite heartening to see those taking a stand.

  4. I love the beach! The science mostly has to do with the ionization of the water that happens with the waves colliding. This phenomenon is also seen at waterfalls. It creates a cascade reaction in the brain, which releases serotonin. That’s why some people use salt lamps made from Himalayan salt.

  5. Amelia,
    another thoughtful, thought provoking, wonderful addition to our Hop. I’m delighted with your contribution, and love your take on spreading love. And yes, the beach does a body good. I agree. Also, I totes need the pattern for that amazeballs tote! I wanna make one!

    • Thanks 😊
      I didn’t have a pattern for the tote, I just winged it lol but I’m sure you can make one! They are easy and super fun to make and use.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  6. I agree with you in that going to the beach is is great for your mental health and well-being. LOL! but also with the serious issues you put forward. It is true that in order to be happy, a person must feel protected and understood by his/her community. Society changes slowly, and sometimes it seems that we are going backwards instead of forward, but every little battle won implies a more supportive society in the future. That’s how we must plan our battles. Just one step at a time!

    • Yes, good point. Sometimes it feels overwhelming and hopeless to look at the big picture, but when we look at the small steps and little victories, change is easier to see. 😊
      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s scary to see how hateful people can be sometimes, especially when they play it off as free speech or that it’s okay and even cool to say such things and hurt others. It can be overwhelming, which is why we have events such as this hop to help spread love and awareness and why we do things like go to the beach to rejuvenate and help our mental health.

    Btw, the bag is gorgeous, I am extremely impressed that you made that. I really want to win it now, I love handmade items, as you can feel the effort and love that went into making them. Thanks for the chance to win!

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

    • I definitely believe I free speech, but as an author I also know how powerful words can be. Spreading hate is a terrible misuse of our right to free speech, in my opinion.
      I hope you win the bag! 😊

  8. I really enjoyed your post! I wrote on a similar theme for this year’s hop, from my perspective as a gay man. Your personal story as a parent and an ally really opened my eyes to the emotional impact of hate speech, persecution and bullying on all of us. Thanks for sharing it! I’m also GenX, and used to think “not my generation” too, but when there’s fear and uncertainty–there’s so much of that out in the world right now–sadly people fall back on scapegoating and distrust to feel a sense of “normalcy.”

    • Thanks 🙂
      I agree about the fear and uncertainty, I just hope that maybe after the election things calm down!

      I think the effect of hate speech is so much more than people realize. I was in a discussion once in college (a looong time ago lol), about the use of slurs and hate speech. Someone pointed out that using that kind of language is an act of violence, and their explanation stuck with me. They said that when someone uses a slur, or flings a hate-filled phrase, it isn’t “just” an insult. It’s meant to remind everyone within earshot that person A has the power and person B does not. So it functions not just as an oppressive threat, but also as an affirmation of power to those who hold it.
      As a parent, this worries me. Whether my kids are LGBT or not, I don’t know yet. But I feel like I need to protect them from hate speech either way.

      Thanks for commenting! I will check out your post, too. ❤

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