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Day in LGBTQ America

Filming, Caregiving, and Fighting: Your #DayInLGBT Diary

Filming, Caregiving, and Fighting: Your #DayInLGBT Diary


The second part of our diary series, capturing the #DayInLGBT.

In addition to The Advocate's annual #DayInLGBT photo project, this year the day is described in your own words. Here are a few vignettes of what our community did on December 9, 2014.

Welcome, Mr. President
I would really like to welcome President Obama back to Nashville today. Seriously. Casa Azafran, a community center where the president is scheduled to deliver a speech on immigration, has room for only 75 people, and I did not get one of the invitations for his speech today. Gov. Bill Haslam did not bother to greet the president on his last two visits to Tennessee and may not do so again today. I guess he is too busy not doing anything on Medicaid expansion to meet with the president of the United States. So I am volunteering my services to run out to the airport to speak with the president in lieu of the governor not doing so. Just give me a call, Bill! -- Marisa Richmond

Me, My Mom, and the Table
Who am I as a member of the LGBT community on this day? I am like many of my other friends in their 50s who are finding themselves facing the challenge of taking care of one or two parents.

This problem crosses all lines -- whether you are straight, gay, whatever, there is nothing like hearing those words, "Your mother has Alzheimer's." Then you scramble to try and find either a place for her to live or a place in your home, and try not to have it affect your life with your wife or partner.

Today my mother and I are painting a table. It's a simple thing for me, just dipping the brush and painting the straight lines of wood, but it's a little more difficult for my mom, who sometimes remembers she has to dip the brush in the paint.

But you know what, I don't care. I intentionally picked a table that doesn't have to look perfect. This will forever become known as mom's table in my mind, and every time I look at it I will remember what she was and what she is becoming.

I love her as much today as the day she loved me when she gave birth to me. Our roles have now reversed, and I am taking care of her. And as a lesbian I am glad that I am able to do that because she has done nothing but support me since the day I opened up to her about being a member of the LGBT community.

She asked if I was happy, and I said yes. Mom, I hope that somewhere inside your deteriorating brain, today is a happy day for you, spending it with your lesbian daughter, painting your table. -- Sue Green

A Fateful Snag in Pastry Purchasing
The Frenchman at the bakery counter is as charming as usual, meaning he vaguely smiles and only seems to recognize us as regular customers. That's about as much greeting a customer should expect here, and it suits me. That's why I come.

Same goes for the tall and lanky but model-beautiful Frenchwoman who takes our order. She does it with the full knowledge she will take a hundred or a thousand more orders before the day is through. Then there's a glitch in this system of lackadaisical service.

The credit machine suddenly won't swipe my American Express. And the woman warns me it might be the card. But the man, who I've always suspected is the owner, and who still wears the same fitted black T-shirt and blue jeans every day though he could probably wear whatever he wants, says no, it's the machine. That machine is like nothing I've seen in the last decade or so. It's a marvel the thing has never broken during the countless times I've bought pastry or coffee or breakfast. The slowness, the way it had dragged its feet, had once only added to the charm of the deliberate yet plodding service at this cafe. On this day, though, the machine may just ruin everything.

What if we can't pay for this birthday cake? Today is a birthday for Michael, the new graphic designer, and I'm the boss so my job is finding the right cake. This one is hazelnut, which I hope adds a special ingredient to an office ritual. My coworker and I already stopped by Whole Foods and found nothing suitable. But my little party is just one among many ecosystems at risk due to that precarious means for running a business.

The guy next to me wants to pay for a coffee to go. "She's running it now," the owner assures, though none of us seems confident he's right.

What if this thing never starts taking money? Doesn't every piece of machinery go kaput one day? Maybe today's its day. How will the owner keep all the customers from leaving while he rushes to figure out some alternative? A single day without customers, I imagine, would be a financial calamity for a small business. I suppose they'd cope; just grab a pen and write down the card numbers and start ripping off sections of that roll of receipt paper that stubbornly won't print from the credit contraption. I wonder if then the gray-eyed Frenchman would break character and show any sign of worry. I know it would stress me out.

"You don't have any cash, do you?" the owner asks the man who so desperately wants that coffee.

I've lost track of how long it's been. The owner is still bringing out plates of breakfast food to tables in the cafe. Maybe he is just willing the machine back into service. He's just carrying on in faith that the damn little box will never die. It has to keep working, because there's no backup. And then he's right.

The tall Frenchwoman returns to the counter gracefully, with a delicate fistful of receipts that were run and voided and run again. I sign the right one, and we have a birthday get-together around a cubicle later that day. And I suppose it was a close one. -- Lucas Grindley

Playing the Long Game
I had an appointment with a bone and joint specialist on #ADayinLGBT. As someone who has been living with HIV for over 25 years, I'm part of the 50 percent of people living with HIV who are now over the age of 50. Many long-term survivors never expected to live this long and are now dealing with issues such as cognitive impairment, stigma, isolation, and long-term medication side effects including bone and kidney damage. Part of my work is advocating for increased research and funding to address the unique issues faced by this population and helping to give them a voice. -- Jeff Berry

News and Underwear
One of my favorite parts of each morning is strolling into my boss's office to review the headlines I've collected for us to report at The Advocate. The informal meeting accounts for rare one-on-one time with the man at the top of the editorial food chain, a fellow newshound who reacts emphatically to the most outrageous, incredible, and enraging news of the day.

And so it goes on this #DayInLGBT, when we gasp and shake our heads in unison at an Alabama license plate that reads "NoHomo," the arrest of dozens of men in Egypt for daring to gather at a "gay" bathhouse, and South Carolina's latest effort to legalize discrimination against married same-sex couples ... because "religious freedom."

We come to a headline that notes the FBI, for the first time, has included gender identity in its reporting of hate-crimes nationwide. It's an important but possibly dry story, so we brainstorm ways to turn the results into an infographic that could more readily share the relevant information.

Then my boss explains that our talented graphic designer likely won't be able to create such an image for us today -- because he is working on a pressing campaign known as "The Underwear Awards."

And I am reminded of the uniquely queer challenges that come from trying to prioritize content inside an LGBT newsroom with a small staff -- smaller than most people realize. Certainly, making editorial judgment calls (and cuts) is nothing foreign to news editors around the world -- but I have to imagine the stories other editors waffle between covering are often less ... titillating.

I am reminded how sincerely I love my job -- and also how incredibly frustrating it can be. And then I set aside my feelings and start writing. -- Sunnivie Brydum

Healthy Discussion
On my #DayinLGBT, my partner and I had an open conversation about where we are health-wise. As a serodiscordant couple, we think it is very important to have these open and honest conversations, and we make it a priority to be safe and check in on this topic every few weeks. Later that evening, we had dinner with my sister -- who is due to have a baby girl in January -- and the thought came to me that without our healthy lives, we would have nothing. We owe it to ourselves as individuals to continue to do what we need to do to be healthy and happy.

I've certainly come a long way -- for years I lived alone, not sharing my HIV status, because I was ashamed. Then I started having more frank conversations with my doctor, then my family, and now with the general public as part of my HIV advocacy work. Today, I encourage people living with HIV to prepare for and engage in open conversations with their healthcare team as part of my work on the I Design campaign. -- Mondo Guerra

Positive and Living Positively
During #DayinLGBT, I sat in my studio and felt so much gratitude. When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1996, I was unsure what the future would hold for me. That's why today and every day, I am a tireless advocate for people living with HIV. In fact, all of the people behind me in this picture are also HIV advocates, and we share strength in numbers. As a proud LGBT African-American living positively with HIV, I hope to encourage others to speak up about HIV to continue to raise awareness, since education is key to chipping away at this epidemic. That's some of the work that I do as part of Merck's I Design campaign. If you're living with HIV, be vocal about how you are feeling with your health care team to figure out the best HIV treatment plan that will work for you! -- Duane Cramer

Missing Academia -- Sort Of
It's finals time, and both of my younger sisters are still in college. Stephanie is getting her Ph.D. in psychology at Cleveland State, and Nile is in her last undergrad semester at UCLA exploring gender studies.

When I call Stephanie on my way home from work (I walk the two miles between work and home nearly every day), she says she's convinced her body has finally given up and decided to acclimate to not sleeping anymore. It's just the life of a Ph.D. candidate, I guess.

During my walk, my friend and coworker Neal drives by in his Toyota Camry, which he affectionally calls the White Whale. I've called him the fourth Garcia sister on multiple occasions. He offers me a ride, so I hop in the car and I put Stephanie on speakerphone. She dishes about her plans with her boyfriend for the holidays, as Neal and I lob questions about them.

When I get home, I see Nile's texted me to let me know she emailed me her term paper for one of her LGBTQ-themed gender studies classes. She wants me to take a look at it before she sent it to her professor. The name of her paper? "Bye Bye Bi," written in huge pink text. It's a six-pager on bi erasure in popular culture. I read it, and I couldn't be more proud of the kid. It feels like just yesterday, I was teaching her synonyms for the word "poop," and now she's quoting Pat Califia and Lisa Diamond in her term papers. Time flies. -- Michelle Garcia

On Set in Florida
Today I find myself in one of the swankiest country clubs that Florida has to offer. On my break, I encounter some formidable female bridge-playing retirees in the snack area of the women's locker room and get invited into a game, but duty calls and I'm needed on set once again. I'm in Palm Beach, working in production on a film shoot with a kick-ass, well-known athlete (who I cannot name here ... sorry!). Today we are running equipment tests and I'm learning about all the fun high-tech toys that our camera department gets to play with when the talent arrives tomorrow. I'm 3,000 miles away from my home in the beautiful West Hollywood, i.e. the epicenter of the gays, but even all the way out in South Florida, I am surrounded by a fun, dynamic, brilliant and accepting crew that I'm completely out to and everyone is an ally or part of the family as well. Happy Day in LGBT to you all! -- Katie Boyden

Toasting the Big News
I spent my #DayInLGBT on a rainy, cold day in Cambridge, Mass. As the founder of Bisexual Women of Color (BIWOC), I'm celebrating the exciting news that I'll be a new board member of the Bisexual Resource Center, the oldest national bi organization. -- Gwendolyn Fougy Henry

A Day to Hear Stories
I was humbled yesterday to see my name appear in a headline for HIV Equal's "10 Most Captivating Voices of 2014" for my work in HIV advocacy. As a journalist and essayist, most of my work in HIV is not exactly grassroots -- though I have been an active member of ACT UP and other groups working to end the AIDS epidemic. However, on the same day that I was told that my captivating voice was necessary, I was also reminded that sometimes my voice is unwelcome.

I am never just LGBT. I am always LGBT and brown. On this #DayinLGBT, I am reminded of how complicated, real, and fabulous my identity is, and that I can't celebrate or show you what my day being LGBT was like without also showing you what it was like to be LGBT and brown.

One of the topics I write about the most is HIV prevention -- specifically, ideas around PrEP. After seeing another dust-up start on a Facebook group dedicated to PrEP, I took to my own wall to vent some frustrations about how young gay men of color seem to be ignored and that too much PrEP activism seems to be centered around the wills of older white gay men. I was quickly supported by some of my community members and silenced by many who told me that my activism would be better if I just shut up and got in line with more "legitimate" activists.

My day in LGBT was a reminder that we have farther to go as a community that encompasses many people -- we have wounds to mend between people of various socioeconomic statuses, many genders, many colors, many experiences and different serostatuses. On this #DayinLGBT, I am honored and humbled to have outlets to tell my story -- queer storytelling is extremely important to our survival. I am also renewed in my commitment to helping others tell their own story. Whether the story is loud and bombastic and commands attention, or it is so quiet and small, that we must stoop down to listen to a whisper, every story must be told and heard. -- Mathew Rodriguez

Remembering Why I Fight
My #DayinLGBT was spent fighting legislation that would harm LGBTQ folks in Michigan and trying to bring attention back on to legislation that could actually help us. In Michigan, where I work and live, we are in the midst of a lame-duck session that is considering a growing list of legislation that directly impacts the LGBTQ communities in Michigan. So most of my day was spent explaining to people why we need better laws in Michigan and why it is bad to give people license to discriminate in Michigan in the form of laws that allow you to do just about any discriminatory thing you want and get away with it so long as you claim religious freedom. I work to educate people about LGBTQ issues in the usual places like the Michigan capitol and not-so-usual places like Wikipedia and WikiQueer because I believe it is vital to our efforts.

When I finally made it home last night and was able to stop doing work from there, I was able to spend time with my partner, Bobby, and remind myself why we put in these hours and do this work. All the countless work hours, receding hairlines, strategy arguments, and conversations with sometimes not-so-polite strangers is about making things better for our families. The people I work with to advance LGBTQ equality are not in it for the glory and certainly not the money; they are doing it because we all want tomorrow to be a better day for LGBTQ people than yesterday was. -- Gregory Varnum

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