I am not here to be your label; To fit inside your box
I am not here to change my colors; To a hue you understand
I am not here to accept the comfort; You offer from behind your protective glass
I am not here to be pinned against your wall; My body on display
I am not here to be wrapped up in your blankets of security; Which reek with your fear of the different and unknown
I will shed your perfectly maintained preconceptions; Breaking away from your claustrophobic cage
I will burst forth as a mosaic of colors; Every unique piece creating the beautiful whole of my wingspan
I will stand shivering and bare; For the world to see
And I know that I am free; Moving from the water to the sky To fly. To grow. To be.
Vermont Pride was virtual this year, as were most pride celebrations. That meant even the Pride Magazine that Vermont Pride publishes and hands out each year was also virtual. The above poem came from their Prize Zine 2020. I really liked the poem and wanted to share it with you, but I know nothing about the poet C. Thomen-Brown. When I tried to search for more of their poetry, the only person I came across was an independently licensed clinical social worker named Camille Thomen-Brown at the Vermont Center for Anxiety Care located in Burlington, Vermont. I am guessing that this is the same person who wrote the poem. It was just such a lovely poem about being yourself and embracing your diversity.
The post title is a rhetorical question, because I don’t have an answer for it, nor do I understand people so filled with hate. In Texas near the border with Mexico, Roma High School has put teacher Taylor Lifka on leave after a Republican politician posted a screenshot of her virtual classroom, including a rainbow and a “Black Lives Matter” sign. The school said Ms. Lifka was put on leave for displaying so-called political and divisive speech in her virtual classroom.
Marian Knowlton, a Republican running for the Texas House in District 3, wrote on Facebook last Friday. ““This is from a public school in one of the counties in House District 31! Our education system has been radicalizing our children for years, and it continues to do so, from elementary through higher education. This is not an isolated occurrence, it is a national pattern. A concerted effort to teach children what to think, not how to think. Leftist indoctrination. Parents, I urge you to take a look at your child’s classroom, virtual or onsite.” Knowlton said that one of the posters has “a photo of radical protesters (one of whom looks like an ANTIFA member).” Knowlton continued, “In addition, this teacher asks which pronoun they prefer!”
In the screenshot she posted, a poster says, “Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting, Welcoming Safe Space for Everyone” in rainbow colors. One sign simply says, “Black Lives Matter,” which Knowlton said is a message supporting a “radical Marxist movement.” Another says in Spanish, “Friend, your struggle is my struggle.”
The screenshot also includes instructions from the teacher telling students to put their names and pronouns in the group chat.
By Tuesday, the district said that the teacher in question was put on leave. “After reviewing the complaints, the District is working closely with the teacher to find a resolution that will ensure all parties involved reach an outcome that best benefits the expectations of our parents and needs of our students,” the statement said. Even though the school forced the teacher to be on leave, the Roma Independent School District claims that “The teacher is not being reprimanded in any way for her work or decisions.”
The South Texas Equality Project (STEP) has started a Change.org petition to get Lifka taken off leave, which currently has 17,500 signatures. “Please sign this petition to let the school district know that inclusivity and acceptance are not taboo ideas that deserve censorship; that high school students can and should be allowed to discuss the realities of the world instead of being sheltered inside a sanitized bubble; and that by reprimanding the teacher for trying to create a safe space for her students, the school is not being neutral, but is actively taking a stance that is antithetical to justice,” the petition says.
“In our current times, we are still in that struggle for that need for equality,” a representative of STEP told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, adding that Lifka did not ask them to create the petition. Knowlton’s Facebook page was made private after this story got media attention.
Lifka was a member of Teach For America’s 2017 corps but is no longer with the organization. On her classroom’s homepage on the Roma High School website, Lifka wrote that she had fallen in love with Roma after her two years teaching there for TFA, prompting her to stay. “The beauty of Roma exists in the vibrant border culture and the tight-knit community that supports and honors one another through both the celebrations and the challenges of life,” she wrote.
Joseph Cloward, a former teacher at the district, said he worked with Lifka for a year and described her as committed and competent. Cloward says news of Lifka being put on paid leave prompted him to send a letter to Roma ISD Monday expressing concern. “I think what I was asking for is for the district to be really, really clear about whether or not it intends to be a safe and inclusive space for all students, particularly for Black students, for female students, for LGBT students,” he said. “I think all that’s come across right now is that teachers that are supportive of those students will be punished if they are outspoken in their support of those students, and I think that’s the wrong message for the district to be sending.” Cloward continued, “I don’t think that the messages in the pictures on social media are ones that have to be explicitly political in a partisan sense, they seem to be pretty typical ways to let students know that they are in a space where they will be welcomed and should feel safe regardless of their race or gender or sexual orientation.”
Knowlton said the content did represent a political position, noting that she had been accused of racism and homophobia for posting the screenshot. “If this is about inclusivity, why don’t we see anything about Judeao-Christian values on it, why don’t we see anything about the Bible on it, why don’t we see the other side?” she said Tuesday. “We only see one point of view on here, and I didn’t mention that at all, but that’s where the thread started to go.” Knowlton said she got the screenshot from a concerned educator and shared it to raise awareness on what’s happening in Texas classrooms. “I think that parents need to know what their children are looking at, what they’re hearing in the classroom,” she said. Knowlton said she didn’t realize what the consequences of her post would be, and it seems that she has no problems with Lifka’s removal.
AN UPDATE: Taylor Lifka has been reinstated to her job.
A statement from the district said Lifka was put on paid administrative leave on Sunday after the district received concerns from community members and parents.
“It is the practice of Roma ISD to diligently review all parent concerns. In this case, the timing in which information was received by the District (over the weekend) made it necessary for the District to place Ms. Lifka on leave until we could fully and responsibly review this matter,” the statement read. “This action was not intended to reflect any form of punishment or admonishment towards Ms. Lifka but was purely driven by a need to review the circumstances and come to a sound resolution for all persons involved. Out of concern for Ms. Lifka, Roma ISD wishes to state again that she has not been reprimanded in any way concerning this matter. The District appreciates the importance of advancing sensitivity regarding equality and inclusivity.”
The statement repeatedly and emphatically pledged Roma ISD’s commitment to anti-discrimination and inclusivity, saying Lifka was taken off leave Tuesday and informed she would be allowed the choice to keep the graphic background for her virtual classroom as proposed so long as it “does not come to overly disrupt or detract from the educational process or the learning environment.”
“Roma ISD regrets that this matter has become a point of controversy. It was never the intention of the District to indicate anything less than full support for the concepts of equality and student safety,” Roma ISD Superintendent Carlos Guzman wrote in the statement. “As educators and community members, Roma ISD has an obligation to carefully listen to parent concerns and respond to them, taking into consideration the rights of employees and students. As a school district, we must create a safe environment for our teachers and students that fosters and respects everyone’s beliefs in a manner that does not discriminate or disrupt the learning environment. I want to affirm that our District is filled with caring and committed educators that give 100 percent of themselves every day to the education and development of our students.”
Pride in Vermont is unlike any other Pride. First of all, it’s small, though they had their largest contingents of marchers this year with just over 1400 people marching. The Pride Ball was sold out at 420 tickets. And The Guerilla Bar Takeover at Drink Bar Friday night was packed to the gills. Everything had a good showing and it was heartwarming to see so many people out in support of the LGBTQA community in Vermont.
So let’s start with Friday. We first had dinner at Splash at the Boathouse on Lake Champlain. All three of us, two coworkers and myself, had the burger which was delicious, as were their homemade potato chips. We left there and made it just in time for the start of the Hump! Film Festival. Some of the films were quite erotic, it is amateur porn after all. Some were a complete turn off, such as the guy fisting himself and all the lesbian porn. I kept looking at my watch during the lesbian porn hoping it would be over soon, which did not go missed by one of my coworkers. After Hump!, we went to the Guerilla Bar Takeover at Drink Bar. We had one drink there but it was so crowded we had to leave. We met a friend of ours at the more quiet Whiskey Bar. After that, we called it a night.
Saturday, I did not have anyone to go with me to Pride Ball, so I went alone. I had so much fun. The drag shows were phenomenal. The first one lasted about an hour and a half. The beautiful Miss Czechoslovakia was there. She always has a great performance. Butterball performed and was fabulous. She was my favorite performer of the night. I love old school campy drag queens over the often more vulgar and just pretty looking drag queens you often see today. Butterball was campy goodness, and the butterfly dress was beautiful. They had two burlesque performers. I’m not a fan of burlesque, but it’s popular in Vermont. Usually it’s women dancers who really should not be stripping naked. Mike Oxready performed in the first set to a song that rapped mirrored his T-shirt that said “Fuck Trump.” Mike was the only drag king to perform in the first set. There were a few other drag performances. Two that stood out were Farrah Nuff and Shani. After the first set, a DJ was brought out and I left shortly after that. It was getting late and I still had to drive home.
Sunday was the big day. It was the day of the parade. A huge crowd turned out for it. The streets were lined several people deep. There was no rhyme or reason to the order of the people who marched. Probably the largest contingent of people were from St. Michael’s College, a small Catholic college of less than 2000 students, who probably had more than a hundred students there including the hockey team. My favorite queens, Nikki Champagne and Emoji Nightmare we’re in the parade. (See the first picture.) They had hosted the Ball the night before. The LeMay Sisters were at the restaurant across from me but did not march this year. There were some strange participants such as the Star Wars group and the Hearthlight group who were dressed as medieval women. The Burly Bears were there along with many other groups. Ben and Jerry’s always has a group in the Parade as does Bernie Sanders, whose people seemed to be handing out chunks of carrots. It’s definitely a unique parade.
After the Parade, there was a Pride Festival but I couldn’t find parking anywhere nearby, so I decided to run some errands in Burlington and wait for the Burly Bears party to begin. When the time came, I went to the Burly Bears party at Red Square. The staff at Red Square, from security to the bartenders, were all shirtless. They were fun to admire. They also had some go-go boys dancing in little gold shorts that left little to the imagination. They had marched earlier with the House of Madam which you saw a picture of Monday. I mingled a little bit. I talked to Emoji for a while and saw the LeMay Sisters. I stayed for about two hours then headed home.
Pride was a lot of fun. Three days of festivities, and I am exhausted. I didn’t have the energy last night to write up about Pride, but look for the full details Wednesday. I hope everyone had a great weekend.
Celebrating and supporting Vermont’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community of all ages, as well as educating and serving as a bridge to create alliances with each other and with the greater community as a whole.
The Pride Parade kicks off at 12:30pm and is a beloved institution here in Vermont and throughout the world. It began as an anniversary celebration of the Stonewall Riots but has evolved over time to encompass the many LGBTQ heroes, struggles, and victories since. The parade begins at the south end of Church Street and ends at Battery Park where the festival is held.
The Pride Festival is one big party in Battery Park following the parade. It’s a place for the entire community – LGBTQ+ and ally – of all ages, races, and backgrounds to come together. Colorful, showstopping performers (Drag! Dance! Comedy! Poetry! Burlesque!) will be sure to entertain on stage while the park is filled with fabulous vendors with info and activities (and food!) for all.
Even though roughly half of the LGBT community identifies as bisexual, they’re seldom represented in the media. Nevertheless, more and more millennials are beginning to view themselves as bisexual and sexually fluid. A recent YouGov study discovered that a third of 18-24 year olds in the U.S. and Israel put themselves along a continuum of sexuality, rather than at either end. In the UK, roughly 50% don’t view themselves as 100% gay or straight.
Even though there are a huge number of bisexuals, and the number of bisexual-identifying people is growing, they often feel invisible. They often feel alone.
This feeling of isolation contributes to a slew of mental health issues that highly correlate with bisexuality. Bisexuals have high rates of depression, suicidality, self-harm, smoking and alcohol abuse, and intimate-partner violence. Recent data from a Human Rights Campaign study revealed that bisexual youth are less likely than lesbian and gay youth to feel there’s a supportive adult they can talk to.
These feelings of isolation also keep bisexuals closeted because they don’t feel as if they have a bi community. They don’t think people will accept us. It’s estimated that only 28% of bisexuals come out. Research from Dr. Eric Schrimshaw of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health revealed that most bisexual men know their sexuality. Their reasons for not disclosing it don’t arise from confusion, but rather they don’t come out because they fear rejection from their partners and ostracization from their families and communities.
Bisexuals face additional hardships that monosexuals (either gay or straight) don’t experience. The only way to change this is through visibility. This is why this week—Bisexual Awareness Week—is so important. This is why bi-visibility matters. This is why it’s crucial that bisexuals come out as often and to as many people as we can. Not only will your decision to come out create more visibility for others, you will also start to meet other bi folks, and can become an integral member of the bisexual community. So please, come out and share you story. Let’s make it easier for the next, growing generation of bisexuals to be out, comfortable, and proud of who they are.
By the way, Celebrate Bisexuality Day is observed tomorrow on September 23 by members of the bisexual community and their supporters. This day is a call for the bisexual community, their friends and supporters to recognize and celebrate bisexuality, bisexual history, bisexual community and culture, and all the bisexual people in their lives. First observed in 1999, Celebrate Bisexuality Day is the brainchild of three United States bisexual rights activists: Wendy Curry of Maine, Michael Page of Florida, and Gigi Raven Wilbur of Texas.
Yesterday, I went to Vermont Pride in Burlington. There wasn’t much to it. The parade itself lasted about 20 minutes. There were a fair number of booths at the festival but not much to them either. “Northern Decadence,” which was $5 to get into, was merely a few breweries and cideries giving tastes of their wares and then Ben & Jerry’s was giving away ice cream. I had expected food to be part of it as well. I did get carded though to get in, but then these two much older ladies behind me got carded too, so I’m guessing they carded everyone to get in to Northern Decadence.
It was nice that a lot of the political candidates were in the parade, not something that anyone would dream of doing in Alabama. I had a good time overall, even if it seemed to be mostly lesbians and dogs at the parade and festival. There were a few cute guys, just a small percent of the people there. I think kids outnumbered the gay guys there.
I posted this back in July but wanted to post it again because today is Vermont Pride.
Rainbow Christ Prayer: LGBT Flag Reveals The Queer Christ
By REV. KITTREDGE CHERRY
Colors of the rainbow flag reveal the many faces of the queer Christ in the following Rainbow Christ Prayer I wrote with gay theologian Patrick S. Cheng.
Rainbow flags were flying around the world in June for LGBT Pride Month. Rainbows are also an important symbol in many religious traditions. The Rainbow Christ Prayer honors the spiritual values of the LGBT movement.
Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: heaven and earth, east and west, queer and non-queer. Inspire us to remember the values expressed in the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
Red is for life, the root of spirit. Living and Self-Loving Christ, you are our Root. Free us from shame and grant us the grace of healthy pride so we can follow our own inner light. With the red stripe in the rainbow, we give thanks that God created us just the way we are.
Orange is for sexuality, the fire of spirit. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire, the Word made flesh. Free us from exploitation and grant us the grace of mutual relationships. With the orange stripe in the rainbow, kindle a fire of passion in us.
Yellow is for self-esteem, the core of spirit. Out Christ, you are our Core. Free us from closets of secrecy and give us the guts and grace to come out. With the yellow stripe in the rainbow, build our confidence.
Green is for love, the heart of spirit. Transgressive Outlaw Christ, you are our Heart, breaking rules out of love. In a world obsessed with purity, you touch the sick and eat with outcasts. Free us from conformity and grant us the grace of deviance. With the green stripe in the rainbow, fill our hearts with untamed compassion for all beings.
Blue is for self-expression, the voice of spirit. Liberator Christ, you are our Voice, speaking out against all forms of oppression. Free us from apathy and grant us the grace of activism. With the blue stripe in the rainbow, motivate us to call for justice.
Violet is for vision, the wisdom of spirit. Interconnected Christ, you are our Wisdom, creating and sustaining the universe. Free us from isolation and grant us the grace of interdependence. With the violet stripe in the rainbow, connect us with others and with the whole creation.
Rainbow colors come together to make one light, the crown of universal consciousness. Hybrid and All-Encompassing Christ, you are our Crown, both human and divine. Free us from rigid categories and grant us the grace of interwoven identities. With the rainbow, lead us beyond black-and-white thinking to experience the whole spectrum of life.
Rainbow Christ, you light up the world. You make rainbows as a promise to support all life on earth. In the rainbow space, we can see all the hidden connections between sexualities, genders and races. Like the rainbow, may we embody all the colors of the world! Amen.
I got the idea for the Rainbow Christ Prayer as I reflected on Patrick Cheng’s models of the queer Christ. Patrick and I each spent years developing the ideas expressed in the Rainbow Christ Prayer. It incorporates rainbow symbolism from queer culture, from Christian tradition and from the Buddhist/Hindu concept of chakras, the seven colored energy centers of the human body. The prayer is ideal for use when lighting candles in a rainbow candle holder.
The Rainbow Christ Prayer has been welcomed and used by many progressive Christian communities, but denounced as blasphemy by conservatives at Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.
I first wrote about linking the colors of the rainbow flag to queer spirituality in my 2009 reflection on Bridge of Light, a winter holiday honoring LGBT culture. Meanwhile Patrick was working on his models of the queer Christ based on LGBT experience. In 2010 he presented five models of the queer Christ in his essay Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People at the Jesus in Love Blog.
In a moment of inspiration I realized Patrick’s various queer Christ models matched the colors of the rainbow flag.
Patrick and I joined forces and the Rainbow Christ Prayer was born. With wonderful synchronicity, Patrick had already added two more queer Christ models, so he now had seven models to match the seven principles from Bridge of Light. He wrote a detailed explanation of all seven models in his book From Sin to Amazing Grace published in spring 2012 by Seabury Books.
Gay spirituality author Joe Perez also helped lay the groundwork for this prayer in 2004 when he founded the interfaith and omni-denominational winter ritual known as Bridge of Light. People celebrate Bridge of Light by lighting candles, one for every color of the rainbow flag. Each color corresponds to a universal spiritual principle that is expressed in LGBT history and culture. I worked with Joe to revise the Bridge of Light guidelines based on my on own meditations on the chakras and their connections to the colors of the rainbow flag.
The symbolism of the rainbow resonates far beyond the LGBT flag.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the rainbow stands for God’s promise to support all life on earth. It plays an important role in the story of Noah’s Ark. After the flood, God places a rainbow in the sky, saying, “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:15-16).
Lastly, in the Book of Revelation, a rainbow encircles the throne of Christ in Heaven.
I’m looking forward to having a good time tonight. The Pride Center of Vermont is hosting their 18th Annual LGBTQA Community Celebration to honor those who have made exceptional contributions to the LGBTQA community of Vermont. Along with two friends of mine, I will be going tonight. They will have Inspired food stations with tantalizing culinary delights by Vermont’s best chefs. Amazing auction items so you can bid on an experience. I plan to have a fabulous evening surrounded by LGBTQA community. The celebration is being held at the Echo Aquarium in Burlington and should be pretty fun. If it’s not, then we will just go out drinking instead, lol.
I’ve never been to an event like this before, and I have only ever been to one Pride event and that was a pride parade in Paris ten or so years ago. Pride in Paris is great because if you’ve ever seen French men, they have the best asses I’ve ever seen. Italy has the biggest dicks; France as the best asses. Just my personal observations anyway. I got a little off subject there. While this will be nothing like Paris Pride, I do expect to have fun and at least meet some new people.