political

LGBTQIA

Thoughts on Pride from a Queer Chocolatier

Thoughts on Pride from a Queer Chocolatier

In the forty-nine years between the Stonewall Riots and today, the LGBTQIA2+ community has experienced wave upon wave of changes, from new letters of identities being included in our community acronym to the SCOTUS ruling in 2015 that same-sex marriage be federally recognized and from a reboot of Queer Eye and to black and brown stripes being sewn into the rainbow flag.

The month-long celebration of our queerness and trans*-ness in the heat of June sunshine has also changed from its inception. Some of the changes render Pride celebrations hardly recognizable from the early riots, yet much of the emotional outlets and connections remain as true to message as ever: “We’re Here! We’re Queer!”

My wife and I have attended three Pride marches in two states in the last three years. We weren’t married during the first year we marched alongside one another under the brutal Indiana summer sun but, again thanks to SCOTUS, we wed later that same year. Indy Pride was extraordinary that year due to the outpouring of support in the face of the passing of RFRA--Religious Freedom Restoration Act--which was a blatant attempt to codify statewide discrimination against queer and trans* folx.

Hoosiers showed up in large numbers to surround us with love.

 
Cheri and I, before we were married, marching with Indy Feminists in the Indy Pride Parade in June 2015.

Cheri and I, before we were married, marching with Indy Feminists in the Indy Pride Parade in June 2015.

 

Living in Minneapolis for our first year of marriage allowed us to attend the Twin Cities Pride celebrations and, although we knew that it was the third-largest Pride parade outside of San Francisco and New York, we were in awe. It was truly a massive crush of humanity.

We relished in our open celebration of our love in a city that seems beyond accepting of queer folx.

 
My wife and I sharing a Pride-ful kiss at Twin Cities Pride in 2016.

My wife and I sharing a Pride-ful kiss at Twin Cities Pride in 2016.

 

Last year, my wife and I moved back to Muncie, Indiana and our small cadre of queer friends all attended Indy Pride together. Our group has folx ranging in age from 20s to 50s and Pride means different things to us individually as much as generationally. This was also the first Pride where I got to meet up with my aunt and her own queer crew.

 
Our return to Indy Pride in 2017, without marching in the parade this time.

Our return to Indy Pride in 2017, without marching in the parade this time.

 

Queer Chocolatier's First Pride

Bittersweet Truffles (4-pack)
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Queer Chocolatier first became #outandopenforbusiness last August, so this is the first Pride month for the business. As such, Cheri and I put lots of thought into how we want to celebrate the month with chocolate and transparency.

For the month of June--for Pride--I am going to return to my roots and celebrate this month with my Bittersweet Truffles. No rainbow truffles or glitter from Queer Chocolatier.

Bittersweet Truffles represent not only my beginnings as a chocolatier, but they represent pride in the quality of what I offer you as well as serving as a metaphor for the complicated feelings I have about Pride celebrations: 

I am simultaneously critical of and hopeful for Pride.

Pride Critiques

As Pride has grown even more flashy and colorful, it still remains overwhelmingly white, racially-speaking. Recent Pride events across the nation also have increased their rapidly-growing corporate and police presence.

In part, this can be explained because of the organizing bodies that put the work into coordinating Pride events are also mostly white. Observing this isn't meant to be callous; it is a feat to put together such events but the amount of labor, including emotional labor, must be absolutely draining. For someone who is of lower income, or not able-bodied, or of an ethnic or racial minority, such labor may be simply too much to add to their own daily struggles of societal navigation.

In many instances, it is easy to see how today's version of Pride lacks resonance with queer and/or trans* persons of color as well as younger folx. QTPOC are more likely to have negative encounters with law enforcement than white queer and/or trans* folx. And, broadly speaking, our queer and/or trans* youth are savvy and critical of capitalism and conspicuous consumerism in a way that older generations are not. Both QTPOC and younger queer and trans* folx are at greater risk of economic, physical, and mental harm.

QTPOC

When the 2017 Columbus, Ohio Pride parade was blocked by Black Lives Matter protesters who were bringing to light the violence that QTPOC experience, some white organizers and participants were irate that the space was no longer made comfortable for them. Not only were they irate, they aggressively pursued charges against the Black Pride 4, thereby shining a harsh spotlight on the growing chasm between the middle-class white cis queers and QTPOC. There was a stark division on display during this parade and later at the Twin Cities parade, where protesters were quickly mobilized after the acquittal of the officer who killed Philando Castile; it is shameful that cities that have shown a lot of acceptance with queerness have not put in the labor to be as racially and ethnically inclusive.

It is especially shameful that this division is within our own house. Particularly as we owe Sylvia and Marsha a great debt for the roots of our month of celebration but we also demonstrate that we would likely kick them out of "our" space were they with us today. Pride organizers can and must do more to pass the mic and be inclusive.

Queer and/or Trans* Youth

A segment of our queer youth lack a connection with Pride because they haven't directly witnessed some of the ugly historic events firsthand.  Possibly this could be a consequence of the success of society's acceptance of queer and trans* people. But I suspect our queer and trans* youth is sometimes leery of Pride because in part of the pervasive "Rainbow Marketing" corporatization and commercialization of the events.

For the longest time, queer and trans* folx weren't seen as market-worthy. More frequently, we were discriminated against before we even could show that some of us had money to spend; folx would have to remain in the closet when banking or purchasing a home or applying for work. Some still do since there are too many states that still have no legal protections for queer and/or trans* persons. When Pride parades are filled with corporate sponsors and employers touting their diverse workforce, some older queer and/or trans* people see this as progress because they remember a time that corporations willfully forgot that green ($$$) was a color in the rainbow.

However, the youth in our marginalized community are often crushed under the wheel of society's venomous "religious liberty" laws and are more concerned with finding a safe place to call home rather than which company is courting them for their disposable income. Our youth are still suffering from violent bullying, mental health issues, and lack of stability at home or work once they enter the job market. It is shallow to be excited over the next rainbow flavored or colored widget to buy when LGBTQIA2+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness versus others.

These overlapping issues of race and class must be addressed in order for Pride to remain inclusive, relevant, and courageous. 

Pride Praise

Pride is not without bright and shining moments that are praiseworthy. As an effort to listen to and address the concerns of QTPOC, some cities such as Minneapolis and Edmonton, Canada are adopting a policy that uniformed police officers are not allowed at the Pride events but police officers can instead participate out of uniform as members of the community. Whether this will fully tackle the dynamic between law enforcement and marginalized communities is not the question, but the steps taken in engaging with the community on their terms will hopefully bear fruit to show how we can reclaim our spaces.

Again, it cannot be overstated that Pride began as a riotous demonstration of visibility, dignity, and liberty. 

As such, we cannot remain complacent in simply partying and shopping our way to full equality and justice in society. To that point, Anthony Niedwecki wrote in his piece in The Advocate earlier this month, "As we again feel that same boot of oppression crushing down on us and other minority communities, it is time for us to once again use our collective might in active defense of justice and equality." Pride, out of necessity, must be a political event and we need to do all we can collectively to engage one another so that we can more fully resist the oppression of dominant groups.

One way that folx are making a political statement is to throw Queerbomb events rather than participate in the mainstream Pride parades. Queerbomb Austin, for example, turns to crowdfunding instead of courting corporations for money to celebrate their queerness on their own terms, with promoting speakers such as a queer deaf community activist and sex workers' rights activists in 2018. In contrast, Pride events have arguably pursued palatability rather than authenticity. 

I hope Pride can reclaim some of its defiant glory.

But perhaps out of some small measure of defiance, several communities throughout the country organized their first Pride events for 2018. Rural spaces and small towns often are challenging places for queer and/or trans* folx to be visible and free. When communities come together to launch their own Pride parade, without the flash and slick advertising found in LGBTQIA2+ meccas, the main thing on display is courage. Columbus, IN, home of the (in)famous Mike Pence, celebrated Pride in April of 2018 based on the hard work and organization of a bisexual high school student. Southern Illinois is also having its first Pride event this yearwith much of its efforts on supporting the rural LGBTQ youth who struggle with isolation and rejection more than their counterparts throughout the country.

DIY Pride events aren't limited to small towns throwing their first celebration. The National Women's Soccer League recognizes Pride as a meaningful event for its players and fans, however, one team regularly holds out. The Washington Spirit owner, Bill Lynch, is a person who holds conservative political views and projects them regularly over his team and its operations, in ways that include not only dismissing Pride events but also in thwarting visiting team's star Megan Rapinoe's national anthem protest by unilaterally deciding to play the anthem while both soccer clubs were in their locker rooms. As a result, fans create their own Pride Night events as a way to push back against an owner of a club they feel doesn't represent their voice.

Still Proud

When queer and trans folx have adversity to face, we can galvanize to push back and boldly make a statement. But, when we have reached a certain level of "tolerance" or "acceptance" from society, we tend to forget that while some of our struggles have lessened, others in our family are still at risk of great harm. 

As a businessqueer, I am proud of being visible but I recognize it isn't easy for all of us to be so. Founding Queer Chocolatier has given me a platform. For others, Pride may be their platform and for others still, there may not be a platform to be had.

For me, to remember the current challenges and risks faced by the most marginalized in our community is also to remember the recent and historical struggles our community faced. Our liberation must be for our most vulnerable. 

We need to continue to remember our roots. We need to return to our basics. We need to return to unapologetic love. And I can do that while still being proud.


Let me know how you feel about Pride, our community, and Queer Chocolatier. What would you want to see from our business to stand in solidarity with queer and/or trans* folx in our community?

And let me know how you would like to join me in solidarity. Because Pride is about all of us and it is political. And we can't make it in this world without each other.

LGBTQIA

Queer Finances: Should Queers Have Their Own Credit Union?

QUEER FINANCES: SHOULD QUEERS HAVE THEIR OWN CREDIT UNION?

Queer folk can face discrimination at banking institutions. Is it time for queers to have their own credit union?

Queer folk can face discrimination at banking institutions. Is it time for queers to have their own credit union?

If you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, you'll notice that I include a section that I adorably call "News Bites": a curated list of news and media pieces related to chocolate and/or the queer/trans* community. November's issue of the Cocoa Communiqué contained a piece from Forbes (though the original interview was a podcast episode from Queer Money(TM)) and it asked the question: "Should the queer community have its own credit union?"

Dozens of internal responses engaged immediately in a mental traffic jam, desperately trying to nudge their way past another to get out first.

Here's why:

  1. I'm queer and I have some thoughts about how I would like my personal and business finances handled.
  2. I used to be a stockbroker and have a certain amount of financial and economic professional knowledge.
  3. I have an advanced degree in sociology and tend to think about systemic issues, such as the economy and LGBTQIA2+ communities.

Hence, this blog post.

Do I think the queer community should have a credit union of its own? Yes. 

But.

The original interview between Phillip Endicott (who is attempting to launch a queer credit union: Equality Credit Union) and John and David, the hosts of Queer Money (TM), contained some references to data that were interesting and, on the face, very convincing:

  • “In 29 states, you can get married and be denied a home loan because of who you are, how you live and who you love,”
  • Endicott struggles with the notion that LGBTQ people are “considered wealthy and well-off when, in fact, we’re struggling financially.” He continues, “We’ve been adversely affected by all the years of fighting for equality and acceptance.”
  • Endicott says, “We’ve been fighting the HIV/AIDS crisis. We’ve been fighting for marriage equality and equality in general. We’ve been fighting for our rights for so many years.

However, I think there were elements of homogenizing the homos to make a point.

It is true that there have long been battles that the queer community has waged, but some of those battles have been labeled as "LGBTQ issues" instead of what they might have been more accurately described as "cis white gay men" issues. And that's problematic.

Demographics of Wealth and Homeownership

Discrimination of any sort is wrong, particularly when it leads to a barrier preventing financial betterment. In Endicott's reference of discrimination at the bank when applying for a home loan, the only folks who might be shocked or find themselves seeking pearls to clutch are white folks.

People of color (PoC) have long been denied home ownership, which has led to a staggering generational wealth discrepancy between white households and non-white households.

In 2009, a representative survey of American households revealed that the median wealth of white families was $113,149 compared with $6,325 for Latino families and $5,677 for black
families.
— Shapiro, Meschede, and Osoro. 2013. IASP Research and Policy Brief.

These figures are before any consideration is taken regarding sexual orientation, but we can cautiously extrapolate this to mean PoC who identify as LGBTQIA2+ are multiply marginalized and increasingly less likely to enter into homeownership due to discrimination and socioeconomic barriers and, thus, lose out on the biggest wealth generator in our economy. 

Discrimination was pervasive throughout the entire sample, yet the combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural racism was especially devastating. People of color in general fare worse than white participants across the board, with African-American transgender respondents faring worse than all others in many areas examined
— Grant, Jaime M., Lisa A. Mottet, Justin Tanis, Jack Harrison, Jody L. Herman, and Mara Keisling. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2011.

Trans* folks were surveyed and found to have a homeownership rate of less than half of the general population (32% compared to 67%).

To layer on an additional challenge that is far too frequently ignored, our aging LGBTQIA2+ folx are being crushed by our nation's economic machinations. According to a 2014 report by SAGE, our queer/trans* elders are facing "adverse differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities" and "this report attests to the role that discrimination plays in worsening this housing instability among LGBT elders."

Housing instability affects millions of LGBT older people around the country, many of whom face severe financial hardship, challenges with employment and unequal treatment under the law.
— SAGE and ERC Documents Discrimination against Older Same-Sex Couples. 2014.

Sexual orientation and gender identity minorities face housing and banking discrimination, but PoC and the elderly are suffering disproportionately when compared with younger and white cis gay males.

As a small favor, I will begrudgingly leave out the rural/urban divide that can also be layered onto this verbal model I'm outlaying! You're welcome!

Queer Financial Struggles

It is also true that the queer community struggles with the duality of being stereotyped as having gobs of money to spend while also not actually having a strong financial situation or outlook. But this might be simply because of lumping folx together who have vastly different experiences and levels of privilege.

According to Experian's 2012 survey, married or partnered gay men have the best financial partnership out of any possible couplings. The average annual household income for such pairings is approximately $116k while married or partnered heterosexual men household earned nearly $22k less, on average.

When it comes to individual income, gay and straight men may earn roughly the same amount, but married or partnered gay men personally take home nearly $8,000 more, on average, than their straight counterparts.
— Experian. 2012. "Understanding Your Customer."

In a clumsy attempt to compare the venerable apples-to-apples, Experian's survey also referenced that lesbians--single or married/partnered--earn more than straight women, but all this does is muddy the waters surrounding the wage gap between men and women, regardless of sexual orientation. 

This is not to be dismissive of the financial challenges faced by straight, unmarried women but rather point out that the notion of a cis white gay man saying "we're struggling financially" while sitting atop the financial mountain falls flat.

Yay! Queers can get married! Now what? wait, where'd you go, gay guys???

When trans* PoC are being murdered at terrifying rates, with 2017 already surpassing the number of such murders in the previous year, planning nuptials isn't at the forefront of their minds for causes worthy of fighting. Whereas, cis white gay men have the majority of the same socioeconomic and political privileges as their straight counterparts, the main thing they lacked in terms of institutional access was in the ability to legally marry their partners. Thus, the cause célèbre of same-sex marriage was born.

This is not to say that other queer/trans* folx didn't benefit from being able to marry whomever they unapologetically loved, but consider that there has been a deafening silence from cis white gay men on a myriad of social justice and civil rights issues after they won their SCOTUS ruling. The amount of capital (social and financial) gay men initially had to invest in the cause of same-sex marriage had a tremendous return; but where are they now?

The backlash against queer/trans* being given a modicum of equality has led to a more focused attack on our community, particularly the trans* community, with a rash of so-called bathroom bills and preventative measures against enacting the passage of hate crime bills.

Gay cis white men need to use their access and privilege to help build a safer and more just environment for the most marginalized in our community before trying to win over our support for a new cause célèbre of wanting a credit union.

Do I think queers should have a credit union for our community? Yes. Credit unions serve communities and we are a community that has unique financial conditions. But a queer credit union does not need to be led by cis gay white men and it does not need to come into existence through the exploitation of the marginalized socio-economic and political contexts of those in the  LGBTQIA2+ community who do not share in such privileges.