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This is an email from The Digest, a newsletter by Prism & Pen.

A Queer Teacher Shouts Out, a Gay Man Claps Back at a Nun, Elders Speak Up

Prism & Pen Weekly — August 28, 2022

by James Finn

At Prism & Pen this week, queer storytelling is front and center. We offer first-person lived truth — from a queer teacher resigning over Don’t Say Gay to a gay man telling a homophobic nun to knock it off. We feature a raw story of sex abuse, peeks into trans reality, love from queer Christians, and wisdom from queer elders. Plus fiction and poetry!

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— Editor’s Picks —

I Quit Teaching Because of Don’t Say Gay

Tyger Songbird

The anti-LGBTQ backlash is hitting public school students hard, but queer teachers are in the crosshairs too. Tyger stepped out of teaching, probably for good, in response to hateful law and policy in Oklahoma. This is his story.

What’s happening in Oklahoma continuously breaks my heart.

Working in Oklahoma schools for over half-a-decade, I remember the amount of times my LGBTQ+ students missed days at school because they are LGBTQ+.

Being a teacher, I had become accustomed to having students who were homeless — many due to being kicked out for being LGBTQ+. I saw the pain on their faces, as well as the fear.

Read in P&P

What Letters from a Nun Taught Me about Homophobia and Religious (In)Tolerance

James Finn

The Catholic Church in the U.S. leads the anti-LGBTQ backlash charge, fighting to gut civil rights laws that prohibit workplace discrimination. When Sister “Dolorosa” wrote to me to say she feels “great pain” about my recent article shining a spotlight on an order of nuns fighting to discriminate against queer hospital workers, I wrote back with strong truth I hope makes her squirm. In this article, I excerpt some of our letters, then examine what the correspondence says about homophobia.

The conversation left me feeling dehumanized and dirty, reinforcing my decision that declining to communicate with homophobes is smart and wise. But it taught me important lessons about problems inherent to “tolerating” toxic religious dogma, something I think too many Americans are prone to do.

[But], I want to be crystal clear that this article is not a denunciation of Catholicism; it’s condemnation of homophobia, full stop.

Read in P&P

I Just Turned the Same Age as the Person Who Sexually Abused Me as a Teen

JULIAN GRACIANO NUNEZ

When Julian was barely 15, a middle-aged man cruised him at his grocery store job. In this first-person account, he examines why and how boys suffer from sexual abuse even when they don’t recognize it as abuse in the moment.

My head turned to my right shoulder and I looked down the aisle. I caught the eye of a white middle-aged man with a buzz cut holding a picnic roast. He was staring intensely and directly at me, as if we were playing to see who would flinch first. He broke his gaze to give the roast a glance, then lifted his head, repeating his stare at me again with a half-cocked grin.

“Is he trying to steal meat?” I was dumbfounded. I was amazed by how dumb crooks were, but was feeling too lazy to report him to the managers.

Read in P&P

— Memoir —

Slammed: a Memoir

John Cormier

The summer stock theater company John helped found took a big chance on him after he admitted his meth addiction. Then he asks for leave to go back to NYC to support a friend who might be arrested. Can he see the huge red flags he’s sending up? Maybe he really wants to go back so he can slam again?

I hung up with Richard and just sat there on the bed. The terror of that day he and Jackson had been arrested came flooding back. I had spent so much time with Richard, experienced many things, gone through so much. The idea that he would be arrested again, that he wouldn’t be there when I got back, I couldn’t handle it. I needed to get back. It might be the last time I see him!

I called Jason and told him to meet me at our housing, that it was urgent.

Read: Gay Meth Addict Gets a Call: “I Might be Arrested Again!”

— Essays and Creative Nonfiction —

A Letter to 17-Year-Old Joseph, Just Out as Gay

Michael Horvich

When I came out there were no older role models for me to follow. Most older gays were either in the closet still or behind closed doors in their social groups. Now that “gay” is so much more accepted…

If you have any questions you would like to ask I will probably answer them but may refer you back to your mom, another source, or politely decline answering on the grounds that it is too personal or that I don’t know.

Read in P&P

As a Demisexual Polyamorous Trans Man, Online Dating Doesn’t Work for Me

Logan Silkwood

Most of my online dating experiences consisted of answering questions from confused strangers about polyamory. Those who already understood the meaning of that word were usually heterosexual unicorn hunters seeking a mythical bisexual woman who instantly loved both members of the married couple equally, was okay with sexual fidelity to both, and obviously accepted secondary status in all relationships between them. Free house cleaning would often be added to the dynamic.

Read in P&P

Christian GOP Candidate Says LGBTQ+ People Should Be Executed

Esther Spurrill-Jones

MSN reports that Oklahoma Republican candidate Scott Esk says LGBTQ+ people, and presumably other sinners listed in the book of Romans chapter 1, should be executed for their “sins.”

I am a Christian and I don’t think we should kill LGBTQ+ people. In fact, I am LGBTQ+ myself, and I am able to integrate these two parts of myself without contradiction.

Read in P&P

Religious Right Attacks New Culture War Enemy: Asexual Marriage

Tyger Songbird

Republicans have been on culture-war rampage for years. From drag queen story hours, to Dr. Seuss, to Disney movies about a girl turning into a red panda, Republicans are addicted to creating and then fighting cultural enemies.

Now, Republicans’ incessant love for war has found a new target: asexual marriages.

They’re literally waging war against platonic marriages.

Read in P&P

Blanketing “They” Does Not Inherently Respect LGBTQ+ Identities

Meagon Nolasco

While having a conversation recently, I referred to somebody by they/them and was corrected into using she/her. I thought nothing of this until later in the day when I realized using they/them for someone who uses she/her or he/him pronouns is not affirming for them.

Blanketing “They” is not the most affirming.

Read in P&P

LGBTQ+ Community: Nothing is Permanent, Everything is Transient

Michael Horvich

One of the main Buddhist tenets is that suffering is a part of life for everyone. We experience suffering because we hold on to things when we should let them go. Nothing is permanent, everything is impermanent. Yet we strive to make things in our life permanent and therefore we suffer.

Read in P&P

Courageously Gay in Ukraine

Emma Holiday

Ukraine does not recognize gay marriage, yet gay soldiers continue to put their lives at risk. That raises a very thorny question for them: what is the status of the partner of a gay soldier if he is wounded or dies in action?

The problem becomes very difficult to solve. The Ukrainian Constitution would have to be changed. It specifically states that “Marriage is based on the free consent of a woman and a man.” Unfortunately the Eastern Orthodox Church still has tremendous influence in the country and it defends traditional marriage.

Read in P&P

Canada Must Stay on Guard Against Anti-LGBTQ Bigotry

Esther Spurrill-Jones

In June of 2022 a Canadian teen was arrested in Ontario for posting a threat online against a Florida Pride event. Just this month, in August 2022, a rainbow picnic table at a park in Dresden, Ontario was vandalized. Twice. Anti-LGBTQ+ messages such as “I hate gays” were found among the damage. Canada is known for our “niceness” and progressivity. We cannot allow bigots to destroy everything we’ve gained. If that requires us to be not “nice” then so be it.

Read in P&P

Teacher Yanked From Classroom for Helping Teens Get Free Library Cards

James Finn

Would it ever occur to you as an American that if you helped high school students apply for public library cards, you could be forced out of your teaching job?

When administrators learned Summer Boismier had posted that Brooklyn Public Library QR code in her classroom, they pulled HER from the classroom, removing the QR code at the same time.

How dare she help her students get library cards! What a dastardly, un-American, anti-Christian act! Off with her head!

Read in P&P

Old, Queer, White Guy Asking Black Trans Women… How Can I Be a Better Ally?

Rand Bishop

Holly sits on the City Council. And, in that capacity, it’s necessary for her to interact and work with the mayor and the police department.

Having been pulled over no less than 17 times, and being familiar with the disposition of the mayor, the black trans member of our committee feels strongly that Holly should be more strident in her condemnation of the cops and the mayor, and that our PRIDE event should not associate itself in any way with city government or the police department.

Read in P&P

Transgender Socialization Is Not a Typical Male Socialization

Kitty Whitemore

I am trans. I’ve been on hormones for almost four years. I now live as a woman, but I once lived as a man.

I spend some time each day making snarky comments and countering misinformation on Yahoo articles. Truthfully, it’s a cesspool of inhumanity. I’m seriously outnumbered in that space. I have not failed to comment on one single article that I have read on trans issues in the last couple of weeks or so. I kinda like twisting their misguided ad hominem attacks on my womanhood.

Read in P&P

Grace Christian School Shows Zero Grace to LGBTQ+ Students

Esther Spurrill-Jones

Barry McKeen, an administrator for Grace Christian School, says, “We noticed as last year was wrapping up, some kids being more friendly with the same gender than they probably ought to be.” This is an incredible choice of words. How does one measure when a kid is being too friendly with someone of the same gender?

When I was growing up, I attended Christian youth groups and summer camps, and we had rules against being too friendly with the opposite sex (6-inch rule, anyone?), but nothing against being friendly with our own sex.

Read in P&P

Twitter Greenlights Violent Threats Against ANOTHER Children’s Hospital

James Finn

Twitter and Facebook executives: If your rules allow for real-world hate campaigns that inflame violence, the solution is not to wash your hands and says you’re powerless because of your own rules. The solution is to change your rules or change how you enforce them.

Twitter, you guys waited until somebody died on January 6 before you finally banned Donald Trump. Is that’s what it’s going to take with [Libs of TikTok]? Will a transgender child or the parent of a child have to die before you take responsibility for violence fomented on your platform?

Read in P&P

Carrying the Grief Of My Husband’s Alzheimer’s

Michael Horvich

After a number of years, my grief over Gregory’s losses … began to take a toll. But rather than wallowing in our situation, I actively worked to make our life and days as normal and enjoyable as possible. That helped me cope.

My bouts with mild depression and grief increased over the twelve years Gregory and I walked the Dementia/Alzheimer’s path. Early in the experience, I turned to my computer to write …

Read in P&P

I’m Only 24 In Gay Years, And I Feel Like My Love Life Is Over

Arthur Keith

Fortunately, I remembered where I had parked my car (I lost my car a lot during those years), got home, and crawled into bed, hoping my boyfriend would still be asleep.

Well, he wasn’t, and the first words out of his mouth were, “why are your underwear on backward?” That’s all it took. So I went home to my little apartment and pleaded with him for days.

Read in P&P

— Fiction Series —

The Salt Fork Murders

David Wade Chambers and Court Atchinson

David and Court’s Prairie Death Tales series is set in fictional Dine City, Oklahoma where a serial killer might be stalking the local gay community. This week, the mystery heats up with the discovery of a dead body in the desert. Then when a state trooper arrives on scene, he has to recuse himself fast!

The body lay face down, nude, spread-eagled on the saltpan. The head faced east; it appeared to be a male Caucasian, well nourished, perhaps forty years old or so. Both hands and feet were pinned to the earth, stabbed clear through with large and small ornate knives. Another was thrust deep into the center of his back. Dewey had little doubt he was dead, but knelt, put two fingers against his carotid anyway, and gazed briefly into his eyes.

Read: Chisholm University & 30 Million Motives

Read: Tomb Robbers and Necrophiles!

— Poetry Picks —

is it dead? (a poem)

theoaknotes

the short answer is no, but you came here to read a poem, so read on.

the name dropped off the face of the earth two years, seven months, and twenty four days ago.

the name landed somewhere i couldn’t see …

Read in P&P

Thanks for reading, guys! Happy Sunday! (Sorry all y’all on the other side of the world where it’s Monday already.)

You know what? It’s prompt day again tomorrow, and I usually ask writers to make suggest themes. But I just realized I’ve never directly asked READERS about the prompt. Yikes! So let me make clear, anyone reading the P&P Digest is warmly invited, urged, etc to kick in below with brainstorming. Readers AND writers, what theme or idea should we hit hard during the next two weeks?

Jim

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James Finn

James Finn is an LGBTQ columnist, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, an alumnus of Act Up NY, and an agented but unpublished novelist.