Watch Your Phraseology

Tribal Rights

June 28, 1969, the Stonewall riots happened and kicked off the modern LGBT movement. Pridefest, which just happened in Denver, happens across the country in honor of those folks who said no. Today we live in a world full of identity politics and there are some questions as to how that benefits and harms us a nation. Erik and Aicila spent some time looking into identity politics and how it shows up today.

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What's with Millennials?

Ageism is frequently viewed from the perspective of how we treat older people. It is, however, far more wide reaching and complex. In this episode Erik and Aicila explore the question of Millenials and how they are perceived.

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Up in Smoke

Marijuana has been legalized in several states at this point. CO and WA were notably the first to legalize recreational use of cannabis. So far the sky hasn't fallen and yet, things have been happening. We dug in a little and ended up with more questions than answers.

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Are You Sisters?


I remember the first time I held her hand in public. Not where we were, how it felt. The headlines were full of the Rebecca Wight murder. Wight and her girlfriend had been camping in the woods. Another camper met them on the trail and, when he learned they were lesbians, he stalked them and then shot them 8 times, severely injuring Brenner and killing Wight. He was convicted for his crimes, not before his lawyer introduced the defense of "gay panic".  In 1988, when the murders occurred, it was admissible in court to claim the panic of being exposed to homosexual behavior could create a legitimate, violent response.

I remember the act of courage it felt like, to reach over in a public mall in Orem, UT, and touch my fingers to her fingers. I remember forcing myself not to look around and see if people were looking as our hands slid from touching to entwined. I remember the simple, sweet feeling of her palm against my palm. And my racing heart, inspired by the first rush of romance and the background awareness of possible violence. Was I creating gay panic with my fingers caressing her fingers? 

Other headlines, like Sakia Gunn and Matthew Shepherd's murders, furthered a belief of unexpected violence. Friends of mine, told me stories of being teens and playing "smear the queer" with their friends. (A game where several boys would chase one boy and then kind of beat on him.) They hadn't known what it meant and felt pretty awful about it. And where did they get the idea? Kids learn these things. In 1992, Colorado passed Amendment 2. The only place in the country where it became legal to discriminate against LGBT people. A psychologist, Glenda Russell, studied the impact and eventually wrote Voted Out. She learned minority groups show signs of PTSD when their basic human rights are voted on. That doesn't surprise me. I felt constantly under siege. 

Flashback to 1999. I put gay bumper stickers on my car, hopeful I wouldn't find my tires slashed because of it. We moved to Tacoma, WA and bought wedding rings. We probably paid more for them than we should have, we were both so delighted when the salesperson commented we were a cute couple. She worked Borders and I ran the Rainbow Center, Tacoma's LGBT Center. We decided to be out, as much as possible, to stand for those who couldn't be out. I volunteered with the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington and appeared on television and debated in public across the state. We were interviewed by the local paper, twice. We got married in Canada when it became legal and had it spread across the front page of the paper. And still, when she was stuck on the freeway in a snowstorm and I had to call the highway patrol, I told them my sister was trapped. I didn't want our gayness to delay her possible rescue. And I believed it might. 

I didn't wonder if I was safe. I knew I wasn't. When 9/11 struck and the country reacted with panic and fear, I realized the rest of the population was having a moment of experiencing what I felt when I held my girlfriend's hand in public. I didn't feel less safe after 9/11, I felt less alone in knowing I wasn't. 

We have come far. We have achieved social equality and legal equality in many areas. I don't fear for my life when I hold a woman's hand in public any more, most of the time. And, on Feb 10, I sat and listened to Orlando, a poem about the 2016 massacre of LGBT people at a nightclub in Florida. It reminds me however far we have come, we have farther to go.

Modern Canaries

I am committed to the values of our country, flawed though the implementation may be at times. Democracy offers hope of a different way. It requires more of us than self-interest. As people, we fail in this at times. And the stories we tell are victim centered. Women are harmed by men. Immigrants are harmed by citizens. Black people are harmed by white people, cops. The harm happens. The stories confuse the issue. 

The story we fail to tell is the larger story. Black people bear the burden of the stigma of racism. Immigrants are disproportionately affected by the stigma of xenophobia. Women show the more obvious wounds of patriarchal assumptions. And we all suffer. They aren't the victims. They are the canary in the coal mine, indicating the toxicity we are walking toward. Warning us of a future we can avoid. 

Being black is being strong and resilient. Being an immigrant is a sign of courage and strength. Being female is a simple fact of living. Who a person is, is not the problem. None of these identities are the reason folks suffer. They suffer because as a society, we have put the burden of our fears on these identities. Citizens aren't going to lose jobs because immigrants are working. White people aren't going to be less capable because black people are treated as the capable people they are. Men aren't going to be diminished because women are acknowledged as strong and powerful. 

As long as we make this about the identity of the people suffering, it sounds like a hand out to a victim. It is insulting. Who they are isn't the problem. Who we are is. We, all of the different 'we's' need to fix our problems, deal with our insecurities, so other people don't walk around carrying our problems and their problems. We need to intervene and work to create equity.  We need to create equity to address the suffering we handed off to immigrants, women, and black people to hold for us.