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Day in LGBTQ America

Editor's Letter: Why #DayInLGBT Matters If You Are 'LGBT'

Editor's Letter: Why #DayInLGBT Matters If You Are 'LGBT'


If we do this right, today can help us learn more about what it means to be LGBT.

It's really hard to hate us when you know us. Just ask any professional activist who has worked on marriage equality ballot initiatives.

On its own, changing hearts and minds of the mainstream is good enough a reason to participate in today's #DayInLGBT. Vladimir Putin's government actually tells people we want to show porn to children, and evangelical leader Pat Robertson has said on TV that we stab people with sharp rings to infect them with HIV. As much progress as we've made, a photo still shows the world it has nothing to be scared of.

I mean, this morning I'm likely relaxing with some Starbucks; nothing nefarious here... I should probably take a photo.

But in an equally important sense, I want this #DayInLGBT to serve double duty as a message to our own community. Today when you post a photo to Twitter or Instagram and tag it with #DayInLGBT (yes, it's that simple), it can be about celebrating the myriad of ways we differ. The point is: there is no prevailing picture of what it means to be LGBT.

Did you know that "gaybros" is one of the most popular search terms on Google for Here Media's network of LGBT websites? The term possibly started as a Reddit community of men who appreciate things -- like sports and beer -- that are normally considered straight.

None of us likes the idea that rooting for the Patriots or Celtics or Bruins means some clever fella will eventually comment about how un-gay that seems. So will someone please post a photo today wearing a jersey? Let's consider it a note to that guy, the one who inevitably makes a joke about gay guys not normally wearing hockey jerseys.

Are you religious? Because I know many of us go to synagogues or meditate at home, or have a crucifix hanging in your apartment, but we don't talk about it enough. I'd like this #DayInLGBT to show that, yes, you can believe in a higher power and still be LGBT despite all the persecution we've faced.

(RELATED: See Live Feed of Photos From #DayInLGBT)

During the last year or so, The Advocate has added numerous dedicated channels -- Transgender, Religion, Bisexuality, Families, Sports and more. Believe it or not, some of the audiences for these channels intersect. There are sports lovers who happen to be trans. There are bisexual men who are religious -- just ask contributing writer Eliel Cruz. The point is being LGBT isn't one thing. It isn't one kind of person.

I remember back to the start of the Transgender channel. We worried commenters would misgender people, or would generally say offensive things, but I felt it necessary because nothing would change if LGBs never know more Ts. The goal of this channel and others is to create opportunities to learn about each other.

I know it all sounds simplistic. Knowing someone, and just one person, shouldn't matter as much as it does.

For example, I'm convinced that sometimes trans and bisexual people are treated as merely theoretical. The resulting conversation about those communities then remains impersonal -- and yet about human beings. We don't get each other, in part because we don't see each other.

We also need to hear and see and experience LGBTs who freaking love science, those who choose to have children, those who geek out about The Hobbit, and don't care one lick about decorating.

(RELATED: Special Cover Series of Your Photos From #DayInLGBT)

But we shouldn't get angry when we do hear from someone who likes to decorate (uh, in full disclosure, I like to decorate).

With too few portrayals of us in the media, or in film and television, the stakes feel artificially high on whether any representation is inclusive. The dads on The New Normal were criticized for being too white and rich, and still their story was based on the life of the show's creator, a real human being named Ryan Murphy. The backlash against the ubiquitous rich, white guys is at least partly a statement about how few chances anyone else gets to be on TV, in music, on the playing field, fighting for our country, and so on.

All of this pressure is ruining us. No one should tell another of us to skip telling their life's story because it isn't representative of the greater community. No one should ever tell an effeminate man that he's a stereotype and a disservice to the movement. No one should tell a gay dad that he's ruining gay culture by assimilating. No one should tell the religious LGBT person that he's betraying his community. Those examples are not theoretical; I've heard them all. The solution is more representations, not fewer.

This used to be called the "Day in Gay" America because it rhymed.

Day in "LGBT" is slightly better, though many of us hope that term is one day replaced too. Among my favorite photo essays of 2014 show people who refuse to pick a mainstream-approved label. They look defiantly into the camera, holding a sign with "genderqueer" written on it, or another identifier. Maybe "gay dad." Maybe "pansexual, or maybe just "loves whoever I want." They're proud of who they are -- all of who they are.

We aren't all the same. This should go without saying, but it shouldn't go without showing.

LUCAS GRINDLEY is editorial director and vice president for Here Media, living in Los Angeles with his husband and two daughters. Contact him on Twitter or Instagram @lucasgrindley.

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