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The Stories Behind #DayInLGBT 2016

stories behind

Here are a few diary entries of what folks were doing and thinking on Day in LGBT America. 

This year in Day in LGBT, hundreds of folks took to Twitter and Instagram in order to show the world a glimpse from their lives. On December 13, we drank coffee, dropped our kids off at school, went to work, gave to charity, created art, and partied with drag queens. In short, we did what we do every day: lived our normal lives. This visibility reaffirmed our humanity in a time when many still seek to dehumanize us.

In addition to photographs, The Advocate also asked folks to submit written and oral stories from their day. Here are a few notable diary entries from Day in LGBT.

Yezmin Villarreal, Los Angeles

I wake up before the sun rises. Grab my phone and scroll through Twitter. Kanye West is at Trump Tower. Too much. I put my phone down. Turn on KCRW. Rick Perry is to be the new secretary of a department he previously said he would abolish if he were president, says the radio. I watch a video of Kanye and Trump. Surreal.

Will my days continue to be like this once Trump becomes president? Why am I always thinking about Trump? It's not my job to look away or to turn off. The final days of many people living in Aleppo are being broadcast on the internet today.

Russia played a role in our election -- to elect Trump, a reality show celebrity, president. It's the type of plot you hear about in dystopian films, something you think will never happen here, not in America. People are making comparisons between George Orwell's 1984 and Trump. Hitler and Trump. We're searching for something in history to lead us toward a solution. But this is something that's never existed before, at least not in America.

Allison Tate, Los Angeles

Every morning we meet in the conference room. Every morning we discuss the latest oppression. Most mornings I sit at the head of our Citizen Kane-size table. I like to look out and see everyone tastefully tackling daily discrimination. I like to sit there and imagine the future as it could be. A world without men ripping off women's hijabs. A world without panels of exclusively cisgender straight white men discussing how to break the mold of animated princesses, a world without needing to set up Google alerts for trans people killed.

On #DayInLGBT, I sat there pondering how to topple the patriarchy, as I am wont to do, and I remembered one of my favorite quotes by Dan Millman: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Yes, my call to action for toppling the patriarchy is quote from a man. That's because my toppling tactic is not about destruction at all. It's about creation.

When I asked Jill Soloway how to topple a patriarchy, she said, "How can you do it? Well, if you're a filmmaker, it's sort of just like relentlessly pursue your filmmaking and your vision and your artistic voice, all day long every day, as much as you can all the time." I think of that and smile. I vow to do just that with with my creative output, including my next short film, Carol Support Group. I plan to use my privilege as video producer at The Advocate to empower and give opportunities to voices of the oppressed. Because when we put ourselves at the center of the story, we are no longer oppressed. We are no longer helpless victims or deranged monsters or scorned pariahs. We are heroes, going about our day. We must tell our own stories. I'm telling mine. What's yours?

Jenny Boylan, Maine

Lucas Grindley, Los Angeles

Everyone knows I have a lot of meetings. And this ought to be no different. I oversee a morning meeting to plan The Advocate's coverage every day at 9 a.m. Then I have the same kind of meeting with the editors at Pride at 9:30 a.m. I actually got so busy earlier today I forgot about the inauguration coverage planning meeting that was supposed to happen at 10 a.m.

But now it's already 10:30 a.m. And it's time to, literally, plan The Resistance. Our coverage of the opposition to Donald Trump's anti-equality agenda has become so -- shall we say -- far-ranging that we've decided to convene a weekly meeting to plan that too. On my Outlook calendar it just says, "10:30 AM | Resistance Meeting." It was only a few short weeks ago I could never have imagined reading those words on any given Tuesday's schedule. I sort of hope, though, that it's popping up on many of your calendars.

We can't do everything, right? There's not enough space in the day for every "priority." But if it's important, then you need to set aside the time.

Neal Broverman, Los Angeles

Off to the races #work #losangeles #dayinlgbt

A photo posted by Neal Broverman (@nealbroverman) on

My LGBT day started like my heteronormative ones -- dragging myself out of bed, getting presentable, and rushing to the light rail station. On the ride that morning, I appreciated the diversity of faces on the train (most staring down at a lit screen). My city, Los Angeles, is a mix of every kind of humanity, something that's rarely a problem, at least on the morning commute.

Even better than the lovely mix of people that I travel with every day is the fact that not once have I seen or heard one proclaim any allegiance to Donald Trump. While his face and lies fill the stories and social media posts we bury ourselves in every morning, his vitriol and xenophobia also feel far removed from our daily existence. The one thing this election has taught me is that I moved to the right place 16 and a half years ago. If I had to see a Trump Tower every day, I'd lose my sanity.

Alexander Cheves, Atlanta

When #DayInLGBT came last year, I was living in Los Angeles. A month prior, my partner called me on the phone. "Alex," he said when I answered, "I want us to break up."

Over the next two months, I thought about him every day. I carried him around with me from one hookup to the next, from drug to drug. When I crawled around on beds with fucked-up strangers in West Hollywood, I imagined our old bed, the one with the tatty feather duvet, still without a cover, strewn in messy heaps across the mattress. Their names and bodies were all forgotten by the next morning. The sex I had with them was hard and fueled by a worsening habit.

Today, I am exploring the beauty of sobriety. I'm on a different side of the country now. I have hugged him in person many times this year. I have made peace with him. The ability to do so, to accept that our lives are better for having separated, is an honor.

This is what I do at the ends of years. I get reflective. Facing 2017, I have so many fears. With Trump's election, time seems to have looped back on itself. Once again, we take up our old protest signs and buckle ourselves in for a fight. But even in this bizarre time, the particulars of my private love story shine stark in their importance. This business of love, the things we do with each other -- hooking up, getting wrecked, falling in love, and falling out of it -- are the markers by which we measure our strength. Not presidents. Not campaigns.

It's easy to get lost in the political language of protest, but what are we fighting for? I am fighting for the right to have my heart broken again many times over. We must never let them forget that we are fighting for the most intimate and important parts of our lives. On this December 13, I had the honor of writing an article about gay escorting, working for a company that creates fabulous gay sex toys, and doing everything I can to make sex less frightening and more awesome for queer people. Tonight, I will stand in a circle with other gay men trying to stay sober, arm in arm with them, undivided, with liberty and justice for all.

Nate Berkus, West Hollywood

Trudy Ring, Los Angeles

Another day, another round of bad news about the incoming presidential administration, and I spend my Day in LGBT America reporting it. Donald Trump is said to be naming Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, failed presidential candidate, and notorious homophobe, to head the Department of Energy. Time to write up Perry's anti-LGBT record, which includes likening homosexuality to alcoholism and suggesting conversion therapy. Oh, plus he's a climate change denier and once wanted to eliminate the Energy Department -- during a 2011 debate, it was the one he couldn't remember when he was listing federal departments he wanted to ax.

Oh, but first, do a story on Congressman Ryan Zinke being offered the job of secretary of the Department of the Interior. Turns out he once called Hillary Clinton the Antichrist (he later said that shouldn't be taken seriously). And in a debate with his opponent in the last election, Denise Juneau, who's a lesbian, he talked like sexual orientation was a choice. Politico says he's better on the environment than many Republicans, but that's a pretty low bar -- he voted in line with the League of Conservation Voters just 3 percent of the time.

For something of a palate cleanser, though, there's watching Rachel Maddow in my boss's office to see if there's news to report out of her interview with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, one of the many Obama administration officials we'll be sad to lose. Lynch has some reassuring words about history being on the side of marginalized people, who will eventually get justice. I so hope she's right. And I know I can count on Maddow to report on the nefarious deeds of the Trump administration. Since I've been hugely busy, a colleague volunteers to do a story on the Maddow-Lynch interview once the video becomes available online. I work with good people, and one of the few things that makes the current political situation bearable is knowing that we're fighting the good fight.

A few hours later, it's home to a late dinner and watching Jeopardy!, my favorite game show, via DVR. This isn't mentioned on the episode, but I've read that one of the contestants, Cindy Stowell, died of cancer the week before it aired. (Episodes usually air two or three months after taping.) She wins, so she'll be on the next night. I'm so glad that at least she got to have this moment. And her winnings will be donated to cancer-related organizations, as she wished. I remain enraged and despairing over politics -- but seeing her helps me put it into a bit more perspective.

Angela Jude, Los Angeles

I woke up still thinking about the film Jackie. An icon descending into madness before my eyes -- what a treat! As I took two buses and a train to work, I thought about the artistry of the film and how film is truly a tool. In the director's case, he used it to peel back and reveal the complexities of a beloved first lady. And for others, like me, it is a tool for activism and change. I look at the folks on the train, and I am always curious about their lives and their inner workings and if they have a story to tell. It's a question that is always met with yes. All people have a story to tell, and as I head to work, I am overcome with excitement to share mine.

Lenny Gerard, Los Angeles

Not being openly gay felt like I was hiding something from everyone. It felt horrible and unnatural. I came out when I was just 13 years old. I decided that I wanted to live my life freely and wasn't going to let anyone get in the way of that. At the time, I was at a liberal private school, and the news of my homosexuality was well-received by (most) of my peers. When I transferred to a public school later on, things were totally different. Getting bullied on the daily sucked and became something I deemed "normal." It was definitely a daily occurrence. I became known as the token "gay kid" at school and in my neighborhood, as I was the only one who was out, proud, and ready to fight off the ignorant, harrowing bullies.

My mother used to say to me, "Don't let them get you down. Screw 'em! Tell them to step out of your way. You are going far in this life and they wish they could say the same." I knew that If I hid my sexuality from my peers, I wouldn't be helping society or my peers change. I saw too many closeted LGBT students suffering during the most impressionable and pivotal years of their lives -- adolescence. I realized making a safe space for LGBT classmates to hang out at lunch break was ideal and totally possible. I formed and became president of my school's gay-straight alliance. Together with the club and our allies, we formed a group that would protest California's Prop. 8 every Saturday throughout downtown San Diego and down to City Hall. The fact that society was voting on my rights made me feel completely violated as a human being. I remember thinking, I want to get married -- who are you to vote on what I can and can't have? Each weekend there were more people protesting with us -- the word was spreading. We made it on the news, both television and print, several times. I've never felt more alive or passionate in my life and have always wondered if this feeling would ever come back.

Today, I'm writing this from the Advocate offices here in Los Angeles. That feeling of being "alive" I've been forever chasing since protesting Prop. 8 is something I now feel every day here at work. It's way too surreal. I've had a lot of jobs in my life, but never have I felt so enthusiastic and passionate about my work.

Steve Grand, Chicago

Jack Andraka, Stanford, Calif.

December 13 fell right in the middle of finals for me here at Stanford. Taking 20 credits, I was caught up in my own world of checking code, proofreading papers, and going over problem sets, too consumed by studying to even comb my hair!

During a break I checked Twitter and was caught up in #DayInLGBT tweets and photos. I read messages from people I knew only from social media, telling me they couldn't post #DayInLGBT photos of themselves because of the threat to their safety from being publicly out in their culture.

I began to reflect how important #DayInLGBT really is to all of us -- LGBT or not, out or not. Love is too powerful and important to be forced to live in the shadows, and this day shows everyone that our community is full of people with the same human emotions and struggles we all face -- making a living, working to to improve our lives and those of the people we love, studying, celebrating, living, and loving.

It also gave me space to reflect on and thank the many advocates who came before us to make LGBT lives better, often at great personal sacrifice. I would have difficulty attending the college I do without help from the Point Foundation. I'm glad to have the chance to speak up, speak out, and help change the world. #LoveIsLove

Daniel Reynolds, Los Angeles

This Day in LGBT America, I took a trip to downtown Los Angeles for a fundraiser benefiting the Human Rights Campaign. The event was coordinated with the Producers Entertainment Group, which manages many of the stars to emerge from Logo's RuPaul's Drag Race. Thus the evening featured many musical numbers from drag performers. Alaska Thunderfuck, Phi Phi O'Hara, Carmen Carrera, Sharon Needles, Ginger Minj, and Jiggly Caliente all took the stage to belt out holiday favorites as well as their own irreverent takes on Yuletide hits from their new album, Christmas Queens 2.

Whenever I see Drag Race alumni, I am struck by a swirl of memories. One of my assignments at The Advocate is to interview each contestant after their elimination. So I've had conversations with most of them about the topics du jour. Drag is always political -- this year's All Stars was a master class in wheeling and dealing for the crown -- but I've been impressed how unafraid these drag performers have been this year to address political issues in the real world. The cast of season 8 spoke openly with me about whom they would vote for at the Los Angeles premiere. At the finale, they blasted transphobic legislation in North Carolina. RuPaul, who once said politics is a "stupid bore," endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Many of the contestants also declared #ImWithHer in a humorous lip-synched PSA.

Sadly, Clinton did not prevail in the presidential election. And the new president-elect, Donald Trump, has given LGBT people many reasons to worry. To drive the risks home, the representative of HRC speaking at the event stressed how now is the time to act to defend our rights.

As I looked out at the drag performers who had come together to help raise funds and awareness, I gained a newfound appreciation for artists who defy the rules of gender. "During really oppressive regimes, there tends to be a resurgence of underground, [subversive] art," Thunderfuck told us after she won All Stars and before the havoc unleashed on Election Day. Let's hope that is the case. This Day in LGBT, I look forward to seeing how drag performers will employ their art in The Resistance in the hard years ahead.

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