LGBTQ Writers Demand Dignity and Equality, from the U.S. to Ghana
Prism & Pen Weekly — March 19, 2023
by James Finn
Prism & Pen contributors this week continue to focus on the rising tide of fascism threatening queer dignity and equality around the world. Torshie Torto calls out homophobia in her native Ghana while Sherry Kappel writes about fighting fascism in the U.S. Speaking of fascism, I write about about Catholic vigilantes and U.S. police departments mining Internet advertising data to identify and track unsuspecting users. Homophobes are using app data to out queer Americans today. Who’s next in the crosshairs?
We also offer a rich fiction section this week.SteviLeeAlver gives us a gorgeous, lyrical short about the queer mothers of synesthetic twins, and Grayson Bell kicks off an exciting new serialization. If you’re into tightly crafted fantasy/sci-fi with queer characters, scroll down for the announcement!
Writers: Please remember that clapping 50 times, highlighting, and commenting will get the Digest in front of more eyes. Also, scroll to the end for details on our latest writing challenge?
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— Editor’s Picks —
Homosexuality Not Natural? Ghanaian Writer Blasts Homophobia in Africa.
Torshie is new to Prism & Pen but not to speaking her mind and telling her truths. In this powerful story, she calls out homophobia in her native Ghana and in Africa in general.
Perhaps, I had misunderstood the woman. But recalling her expression, a mixture of shock and disgust, it was pretty clear what she thought of me. No, this was no misunderstanding. This woman thought my parents were lesbians and instantly hated me for it.
She was just one woman, but she was an accurate representation of my entire country.
In Ghana, being gay is akin to being the devil himself. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard Ghanaians recount in gory details the things they would do to their own children if they ever came out as gay. And it’s not only Ghanaians. Most Africans are like that.
Catholic Vigilantes Buy App Data, Out Gay Priests. Is App Privacy Possible?
When you use Internet apps to shop, hail a ride or find a date, do you presume interest groups and police cannot mine data to identify and track you? One group of homophobic Catholic vigilantes are buying advertising data to out gay priests. The Washington Post broke this story, but it’s provoked little public attention even though Post reporters pointed out that law enforcement agencies all over the U.S. use the same methods to identify and track people every day.
While you may (grudgingly or otherwise) accept that a big-box store tracks which aisles you browse or what feminine hygiene products you prefer, you’d probably be angry to learn the store sells that information not only to third-party advertisers but to anyone with the money to buy their data sets — including police departments who don’t want to apply for search warrants, and vigilante Catholics who hate gay people.
Most Americans probably have no idea that despite assurances to the contrary, government agencies and private groups can and routinely do sift through “anonymized” ad data to identify people who trusted that their app usage and location were private.
How I’m Learning to Fight Fascism for my LGBTQ Friends
Sherry is an advocate for loving, progressive values, a longtime editor with Our Human Family, and a human being who richly deserves to be called an ally to marginalized people. But the “ally” label has been making her uncomfortable lately as waves of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and fascism rise in the U.S. and around the world. She’s reevaluating what she needs to do to be a part of the solution, and she asks you to do the same.
I can’t imagine any readers here are unaware of the meteoric rise of fascism over the past few years, not just in the US but around the world, and with it the rise of white supremacy and racism. Xenophobia. Misogyny. Anti-semitism. And of course, homophobia. Physical and political attacks on trans people, trans children, trans families. Accusations of “grooming” and pedophilia. Banning books and drag shows! Fear and neighbor hating and name calling. The depth, the breadth, and the speed of the attacks have been staggering. It’s been overwhelming.
I have not been the ally I need to be. I’ve been at a loss for words. My brain has been bruised and numb. So I knew when Jim put out a call for stories, I needed to respond and do better.
Silence is what the fascists want.
— Essays and Creative Nonfiction —
Republican Closets Are Damn Crowded
Since Republicans have ramped up the anti-LGBTQ attacks, it occurred to me that all is fair in love and war. This seems, therefore, like the perfect time to do a little trip down memory lane. Let us look at a Republican hypocrite hall of fame. These are a few of the Republican gay bashers who turned out to be gay (or bi or in drag or whatever).
I thought it especially appropriate to do this list now since we have a brand new inductee to honor, Tennessee Lt Gov Randy McNally.
Crossing the Ocean: Part of the Transgender Experience
People who are transgender face similar difficult decisions. Instead of deciding whether to stay in the old country or go to America, we are asking ourselves whether we really need to transition or not. Because, if we do, the decision is as irreversible as stepping on the deck of that ship was for our ancestors.
We know once we begin to transition, once we begin our journey, we must leave behind the friends and family who choose not to join us.
The Intellectual Poverty of Transphobia
In many cases, the same people who were in the past known for arguing in favor of young-earth creationism are now making arguments against trans people. One example is Chris Rufo, who used to work for the creationist Discovery Institute but now targets trans people and critical race theory. Clearly, there is some sort of connection.
Both transphobic and creationist positions are emotionally held ones; they are not positions people arrive at based on evidence or rationality.
The Muxes of Mexico: A Third Gender
I ran across the concept of a “muxe” while viewing Finlandia, a video entered in the Pride Film Festival of Chicago. (I am one of the festival judges.)
In Oaxaca, there are three genders: female, male and muxes. This third classification has been acknowledged and celebrated since pre-Hispanic times. I was intrigued by the concept of this third-gender group and wanted to share what I learned, although in no way is this story an in-depth or scholarly take.
Justice Will Prevail and Love Will Win Over the Fearful Fascists
… men like DeSantis want to smash people back into submission with laws that punish teachers, librarians, private businesses, children, parents and anyone who dares to speak out. Speaking of speaking out, if Florida Republicans get their way, I’ll have to register this blog with the state since I’ve mentioned DeSantis.
How very Soviet of you, Florida.
This type of authoritarian governance will not fly with regular people once they figure out that a few scared people wish to subjugate them to the heavy hand of the state.
I’m An Aromantic Asexual and I No Longer Care
We’re constantly told that to be happy and to live a truly authentic and enjoyable life you have to get into a relationship, start a family, etc. These were really just things I internalized out of fear more than anything. As time had gone on though, I realized that I didn’t really care about any of this stuff at all.
The need or want to be in a relationship and experience life with another person isn’t something that I really feel at all and I’m completely ok with that.
Finding Joy: Queerness in ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’
In the newly crowned Oscar-winning Everything, Everywhere All at Once, a whirlwind adventure emerges after Evelyn learns she can jump into different versions of herself, essentially jumping through the multiverse. With her husband Waymond as her guide, Evelyn indeed learns to love herself again but more importantly heal the relationship with her queer daughter Joy. Today, I will delve into the queerness within the film, and maybe share how we can find the best version of ourselves.
Face the Anti-LGBTQ Dragon With Me on YouTube? Suffering For Faith.
With the fortunate cooperation of my cat Elsa, Soul and I recorded a freewheeling but thoughtful discussion, and I’d like to invite you to have a look or listen.
I’ll tease you just a bit about the contents of that Post op-ed by mentioning that the choirboy’s selfless act has to do with a coveted spot he won in a world-renowned Episcopal choir.
That’s just a starting point as Soul and I take a close look at faith, fascism, trans/homophobia, and a U.S. political climate that has created a frightening surge in LGBTQ youth suicide:
The BS For My Gay-Self and For My Self-Self
It feels great to be able to no longer put up with Bull Shit, created by self or others. Let me explain.
Growing older, I find I have (or allow) fewer “oughts” and “shoulds” to govern my behavior, my life. I trust my instincts, I trust my beliefs, I trust myself to lead my life in the most loving, productive, healthy way that I can.
At all times (except when showering), my Buddhist mala (108 beads) is wrapped around my wrist to remind me to be a compassionate, generous, non-judgmental person.
How the Side B Queer Christian Movement “Failed”
The thing Christians like McGrew and the other “critics” hate about Side B Christians is that they aren’t sufficiently guilt-ridden and self-hating for not being straight.
They want Side B Christians to call themselves “same-sex attracted” instead, and pretend that their queerness is not an integral part of their being, but something like clothing or makeup that was added on top. These type of people still believe that queerness is a choice or, at the least, a sickness caused by childhood trauma.
Prosecutor Threatens Librarian with Prison Over LGBTQ Book
How absurd is the “groomer” propaganda conservatives wield to paint LGBTQ people as sexual predators?
This absurd: Lapeer County, Michigan Prosecutor John Miller, a Republican elected official, just threatened library director Amy Churchill with prison time. He reportedly told her he will charge her with a felony violation of a sex-predator sting law unless she removes an LGBTQ-themed book from adult-section library shelves.
Traveling Trans: You Be You?
On this trip I was afforded some minor sanctuary from the constant scrutiny back home. I definitely did not want to risk marring my professional reputation; I still had to keep the secret. But, the few hours alone at the hotel were all mine, and so I had painted my toenails pink!
“Put your valuables and your shoes….”
OMG. Sudden terror ran through my body. My feet went cold as ice. I had not anticipated this! If I take my shoes off, the entire team will see my nails! If I leave them on, I will suffer soaking wet shoes for the rest of the day. What on earth am I going to do?!
The Place of Trans Women in Feminism
A point that we often hear from transphobes or supposed gender-critical feminists is that the inclusion of trans people, especially trans women, is somehow a detriment to women’s rights. Often this is done through extreme hyperbolic language as to say trans women are colonizing feminism and women’s spaces or to say trans women are destroying women’s rights …
For transphobes, women are defined solely by their ability to give birth and participate in patriarchal society. This has to be the case for them because this pseudo-biological conception of womanhood is the only way they can justify their claims of trans women not being women.
Five Paths to Chosen Family in the LGBTQ+ Community
Finding chosen family in the LGBTQ+ community is more essential than ever. With Florida Governor Desantis and Republican senators targeting our family, we have to come together stronger than ever. How can we find that community? Here are five ways to get that community and chosen family we all so deserve.
Trump Says I’m the Biggest Threat to America
According to Trump, it is not Russia that is the biggest threat to America. It is me. Well, people like me, basically.
I kind of took that a bit personally. I’m mildly offended but mostly amused.
In case you missed it, let me quote exactly what our former insurrectionist, pussy grabbing, sore loser, soon-to-be indicted for multiple crimes in multiple jurisdictions, dictator-wanna-be El Presidente Trump said about what the real danger for America is, and you are all ears I’m sure.
On Becoming a Transfeminist
I will bring my rich experience as a transwoman, teacher and performer to the table with the view to lecturing on gender in the future.
I spent six years teaching English as a foreign language across China and Thailand. I taught a wide range of students: from kindergarten to university level. I discovered that playing with gender roles in the classroom and experimenting with my interpretation of “Gender Performance”, I gave classes that my students found genuinely inspiring. It helped foster a very unique student teacher bond. I was both pedagogue and nursemaid.
TransCentral: Where We Must Gather
I don’t know if your child is transgender, and I would never tell them they either are or aren’t. If they tell me they are, I will believe them. But if they ask me, my response will always be, “What do you think? Why do you think that?”
Even as an adult as I began to explore my own sense of gender identity and realize the transness of my own existence, no one would tell me I am transgender. The therapists did not, my doctors did not, my psychiatrist did not. But they also believed me when I told them I was.
The Transgender “Fetish”:
I am not using “fetish” in a sexual sense … For many of us, we chose elements of our true gender to express ourselves. Usually we used the clothes and other external presentations of our gender to provide us with the emotional connection we needed to connect with who we truly were. We each chose our own fetish object to meet our needs.
There is where guilt and shame kick in. This is just so sad and tragic.
— Memoir —
Slammed: a Memoir
John’s memoir Slammed covers the years he spent lost in meth/sex addiction. Now, as his story nears its finale, we find him acting and singing again, even putting in a grueling 8-show workweek as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. But when John’s Judas almost dies on stage in a needless accident, John hears whispers calling him back to Manhattan for all the wrong reasons.
In the beginning of the second act I sang “Gethsemane,” an absolute beast of a song. With my HIV diagnosis barely a year old, “the song’s central question of “why should I die?” became my nightly catharsis. While the audience watched Jesus struggle with his fate, asking God to “take this cup away from me,” I was challenging God as to why I had been put through the trauma of the last two years. It was my therapy and my favorite part of the show.
Barely months after crawling out of a deep, dark rabbit hole of meth, I’d been granted a chance for redemption … The fates had blessed me with a vehicle into which I could pour all my rage, all my desperation, all my trauma, all my passion, all of me.
Read: Negligence Nearly Killed My On-Stage Costar in Front of a Packed House
— Fiction Finds —
My Synaesthetic Twins: a Letter From a Queer Mother
for several years we, your mothers, brushed off your infatuation. a phase, we told one another. a passion. just a creative preoccupation.
at times you endeavoured to hide your desire, tried to act as if nothing was going on. but there was no point, you were transparent. you wanted to be normal. but you disliked normal: fleshy-umber with an aftertaste of dirt.
as a small child you nurtured certain words, such as: galaxy, the sharpest red; and the fairy-floss flavoured yesterday; and bright-electric blue, with a hint of peppermint, ripple. your favourite word was purple, which just shimmered and tasted of plums. this made jacaranda-mauve, 8, your favourite number.
— Fiction Series —
Grayson is a regular P&P contributor and a hard-working novelist with a wide selection available on Kindle. Now, he’s serializing “Artifact of the Dawn” for Medium readers. If you love science fiction, fantasy, complex world building, and queer characters, this new series is for you. I’ve loved each bite-sized episode so far, and I’m thrilled I’ll be able to read the entire novel, three chapters every week, in Prism & Pen.
As Jevan was about to turn around, a flash of silver caught his attention. Turning to watch as it disappeared into the undergrowth, he recognized the beast. A triwolf was a rare sight, especially one so large. Jevan stashed his pack and grabbed only his bow and quiver before following in the direction the creature had been heading…
He slowed his approach when he caught up with the beast faster than he’d expected. Jevan crept silently around the beast to get a closer look at its quarry. The same instant that Jevan spotted the elven ranger, the triwolf lunged forward, knocking the elf to the ground, poised to rip out his throat.
Read episode 1: Jevan
Read episode 2: Ardyn
Read episode 3: The Aria’una
— Poetry Pics —
Women are like quicksand
One step in, falling quick like quicksand
Stuck my foot in it again and I’m sinking quick,
Why do we always end up like this?
One comment and my world’s gone mad
Sinking deep like I’ve got nowhere to go
Why are we fighting? I honestly don’t know, …
That’s all for Prism & Pen this week. Writers, we need to get a new prompt out. Throw me some ideas in the comments section?
See y’all next Sunday!