Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I, Rape Survivor

I, Rape Survivor, proclaim that men do get raped, I know this because I was raped. You read that right, and I make no apologies to those who may be offended. Today, I am breaking my silence and coming forward with my story of survival...


The first time someone attempted to sexually assault me, I was just turning 16 and homeless in the streets of New Orleans. I was hanging outside of one of the bars on Rampart (in the French Quarter) and I was starving. To make a long story short, I met a guy and simply asked if I could crash at his place and for food. Thinking that he would be a good samaritan, I got into his car, we went to a fast food restaurant near his house and got food. What happened next made me feel uneasy, he had me to sit in his kitchen and watch him cut the hamburger he purchased in half. I had a terrible feeling as he walked over and handed me half of the burger with the knife still in his hand. "you can have the other half of the burger when we are done fucking." As I refused his advance, he slapped the burger out of my hand and inched closer with the knife. I stood up and continued to refuse and he grabbed me, and he said "Get the fuck out of my house." As small as this may seem, it prepared me for something much worse...

Rape - is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person's consent.

As few months later, I spent the night by this guy who I built some trust with, I needed somewhere to lay my head and food on my stomach. He cooked, we watched tv with his friends and after his friends left he made space for me to sleep on his day bed. The last thing that I remember is the smell of italian food and being extremely tired before I went into a deep sleep. I woke up to shockwaves of pain as I lay in a headlock. The smell of blood and spit hit my nose as I blacked out from the pain. It was only a timespan of seconds that I was out, when I came to, lying paralyzed with pain and fear, I could feel him thrust violently as he ejaculated inside of me. I felt the explosion of his cum and the simultaneous bite to my back as he pulled out. I can remember leaving with my clothes in my hand, scared to talk to the police. Who is gonna believe a man raped another man?! It was the first time that a man penetrated me, I didn't even feel human after that, I never spoke about it until now.

Survivor -1. a person or thing that survives. 2. Law. the one of two or more designated persons, as joint tenants or others having a joint interest, who outlives the other or others. 3. a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

Until now, even after the exposure to all of the acceptance for those who have come forward with their truths. Society at large is problematic when it comes to male on male rape, it is laughed at and therefore, a closet exists. A closet where Black gay men dwell until they have the capacity and strength to speak their truth. We hide to avoid the questions of how and why, we hide to avoid answering the questions about whether or not we led our Villains on. Being a male rape survivor tends bring about a line of questioning where folks like to challenge one on his morality. I, rape survivor, will continue to speak out for those very reasons, until the closet is destroyed, until we get to a place where we don't have worry about someone shaming us and experiencing unnecessary judgement. Where responding with chastisement about how something could have been done differently to avoid rape will be frowned upon. The time has come that we should no longer stand for being shamed,  ashamed and being made to feel less than human. I, rape survivor am comfortable enough to do what needs to get done and say what needs to be said. I, rape survivor will speak out because WE EXIST.

Make a donation: https://paypal.me/AshtonPWoods

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I, Black Atheist

I, Black Atheist, proclaim that G-d does not exist to me and never has. You read that right, and I make no apologies to those who may be offended. The idea of a 'higher power" causes me just as much cognitive dissonance as a believer who might be reading my words regarding what they believe in. I do not live to disavow or disprove the existence of G-d, I simply do not care to attack one's beliefs and I, Black Atheist demand that you not question my existence or my humanity. I most definitely see religion and deity as separate, and in my view religion is a means of social control and domination for those who are in control of governments and other institutions that are used to govern the masses.

The truth is that I have to be harder and more expressive because of a myth that persists within the Atheist and Black communities. The myth is that Black Atheists represent a small, but growing segment of American atheist movement. The truth is that Blacks, we hide our status as Atheist, we attend churches, mosques, synagogues, and other various places of worship. We are often exposed to the constant barrage of G-d talk on in all mediums of daily life, on a level that anything other than being Christian is bad.

"We are forced fed to believe in God even if some of us know in our hearts that Christianity is not what we truly believe in." - Ashton P. Woods

Society at large is problematic when it comes to religious privilege of various kinds. Therefore, a closet exists, a closet where Black Atheists dwell until they have the capacity and strength to stand their ground. I, Black Atheist will continue to speak out for those very reasons, until the closet is destroyed, until we get to a place where we don't have worry about someone flexing their religious privilege. Where responding with chastisement about how THEIR G-d is the real deal and that we need to accept said G-d for our very survival will be frowned upon. When the time comes, we will no longer stand for being forced into a prayer circle or saying grace at a dinner. Mark my words, a time will come when religious privilege will cease to exist.

Atheism - is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

We hide to avoid the questions of morality, we hide to avoid answering the questions about whether or not we have a moral compass. Yes, being an Atheist does bring bring about a line of questioning where folks like to challenge one on his or her morality. Do we know right from wrong? Yes, we do. we don't need some figure to guide us down a path of righteousness. Let me be clear, I, Black Atheist know my know right from wrong. Doing the right thing should not come with the idea or promise of reward from some non existent being for good deeds. We are not fully comfortable with being an Atheist as a collective within the diaspora of Blackness.We are not comfortable as a collective for the reasons listed above, But I, Black Atheist am comfortable enough to do what needs to get done and say what needs to be said. I, Black Atheist am still Black and I still experience the plight that comes with the birthright of Black skin in a racist society. I, Black Atheist will speak out because WE EXIST.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

#RealTalk: NO, La’Porsha Renae Being LGBT Is NOT A Lifestyle

Let me start by saying that, NO the Black community at large is not homophobic and often our language as a collective makes us come off that way. I wanted to ignore this incident, but then realized that this is the moment to teach folks about who we are as the LGBT community.  When I got around to finally reading about all the ruckus about La'Porsha's statement, I almost choked on my tea at Starbucks. Before I go any further with what I need to say, here are the statements that were made:



This is how I feel about the LGBT community: They are people just like us. They’re not animals as someone stated before. They’re people with feelings. Although all of us may not agree with that particular lifestyle for religious reasons, whatever the reason is, you still treat each other with respect. Everybody is a human being. We should be able to coexist with one another...I am one of the people who don’t really agree with that lifestyle. I wasn’t brought up that way. It wasn’t how I was raised. But I do have a lot of friends and a lot of people that I love dearly who are gay and homosexual and they’re such sweet, nice people. We should just respect each other’s differences and opinions and move on.

First La'Porsha, being LGBT is not a lifestyle, calling who we ARE a lifestyle infers we made a choice, that we chose to be who we are in regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. Whether you know it or not, the main part of your uneducated statement where you state that ".I am one of the people who don’t really agree with that lifestyle. I wasn’t brought up that way. It wasn’t how I was raised," indicates that your beliefs are a lifestyle choice. Merriam-Webster defines lifestyle as "a particular way of living" or "the way a person lives or a group of people live." Lifestyles are based on choices that are both voluntary and involuntary because of options and environmental factors than can or cannot be changed. My being LGBT, specifically "G" or gay is not a choice as I have ALWAYS known who I was and am from an early age. Lifestyle is taught, who we are comes naturally for us, you on the other hand, being "brought up that way" and  how you "was raised" indicates you were taught archaic religious principles that teaches hetero-patriarchal gibberish.

Second, you made things worse when you decided to do the thing that White people do when they get check on their White privilege, you decided to invoke your heterosexual privilege. Saying you "do have a lot of friends and a lot of people that" you "love dearly who are gay and homosexual and they’re such sweet, nice people," is using heterosexual privilege and tokenism all at the same time. Saying what you said is just as bad as a White person saying "I am not racist, I have Black friends." You still dehumanized your LGBT "friends" and the rest of the LGBT community with this statement; take note that you need to learn more about being culturally competent with regard to our community. What you said was homophobic, transphobic and paints the Black community in a bad light, as homophobic. What you said in your tweet did not make things better:


Third, you said that “It’s okay. I can understand when I read it back why people were offended and for that I deeply apologize because I wasn’t trying to offend anyone by what I said, I was just trying to honestly answer a question that actually caught me off-guard. It was supposed to be about singing and it becomes political and I’m not a political person at all.” Let me help you out, when trying repair a mistake or address a previous statement don't use not being political as an excuse. It was a candid question and you answered as the real you, which proves what I stated earlier. Don't take this as an attack, take it more as public relations lesson, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything about it.

Let me help you or anyone else reading this out with some definitions for the future:


Heterosexual privilege - Benefits derived automatically by being (or being perceived as) heterosexual that are denied to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers and all other non-heterosexual sexual orientations.

White privilege -  (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit people identified as white in Western countries.

Tokenism - the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly.

Gay - a homosexual man

Lesbian - a homosexual woman.

Homosexuality - sexually attracted to people of one's own sex.

Homophobia - The irrational fear and intolerance of people who are homosexual or of homosexual feelings within one's self. This assumes that heterosexuality is superior.

Bisexual - a person capable of attraction to people of more than one gender.

Biphobia - The irrational fear and intolerance of people who are bisexual.

Cisgender - is a term for someone who has a gender identity that aligns with what they were assigned at birth. The term was created for referring to "non-transgender" people without alienating transgender people.

Transgender - is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression is different from those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate). Not all people who consider themselves (or who may be considered by others as) transgender will undergo a gender transition.

Transsexual - Transsexual refers to a person who experiences a mismatch of the sex they were born as and the sex they identify as. A transsexual sometimes undergoes medical treatment to change his/her physical sex to match his/her sex identity through hormone treatments and/or surgically. Not all transsexuals can have or desire surgery.

Transphobia - Fear or hatred of transgender people; transphobia is manifested in a number of ways, including violence, harassment and discrimination.

Gender identity - is a person's private sense and subjective experience of their own gender. This is generally described as one's private sense of being a man or a woman, consisting primarily of the acceptance of membership into a category of people: male or female.

Sexual Orientation - The deep-seated direction of one's sexual (erotic) attraction. It is on a continuum and not a set of absolute categories. Sometimes referred to as affection, orientation or sexuality. Sexual orientation evolves through a multistage developmental process, and may change over time.  Asexuality is also a sexual orientation.

Sex - refers to biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs.
 
Gender - describes the characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine.

Gender expression - refers to all of the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and some characteristics that may be accepted as masculine, feminine or neutral in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another.

Gender transition - Transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. This may or may not include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures.

Friday, April 8, 2016

#RealTalk: Why I May Not Vote In The Presidential Race This November

It should have never come to this point, the point where the dangerous possibility exists that neither candidate on the Democratic side will earn my vote November. I know I will NEVER vote for a Republican, so the only alternative is to not vote at all. In all honesty I have had ill feelings about the fact that a Person of Color did not run in this cycle, that there seems to be a rush to get a White body back into the oval.


Never have I had such a conflict to contend with outside of the fact that I never liked the two party system of politics and how it has held us back. Anyway, many of you know that I have fearlessly supported Hillary Clinton without the need to explain why and I never will. I am entitled to support who I support and I am also entitled to change my mind when compelled to do so. I Felt that she was the lesser of two evils, when in truth I longed for a Latino, Asian or even another Black candidate.

WHY the rush to put a WHITE person back into the Presidency? Why the rush to put an OLDER, WHITE MAN back into the oval?

Was there a concerted effort to have people who may have been well qualified, People of Color perhaps, to hold off and wait for the WOMAN who happens to be WHITE to run? The questions have to asked, because I have always taken issue with folks who feel that they have permission to, I meant White folks, to pick who a leader is from a community they aren't part of. That is essentially what happened with Barack Obama, he has been a great president and I will miss him. At the same time, he has made some truly horrible decisions with domestic policy, especially immigration. They picked him because he was palatable to them, and he was a great option for those of us on the outside looking in. Now we are dealing with a similar scenario, one in which they think our next leader should be the woman. The question persists on whether Clinton is the woman for that job.

Clinton has a history of good and evil, I am not sure anymore that the good outweighs the evil in her case. From her support of the criminalization of Blackness & Black bodies to the other issues that put me and countless others at odds with her in the POC communities, the fact is that she may not be good for us. Hell, for that matter Barack wasn't that great on many of our issues in some respects. My level of distrust for her is not about whether or not she is honest, it is about her past words and actions that have had direct on the very fabric of this democracy, especially what I deal with as a Black man. Then we have Bernie Sanders, who is so far left there is not a lot to hate about him. In my lens, whether anyone agrees or not, he is a typical progressive.

I see him as what we talk about in academic circles and in general, the older white man that runs western civilization. He talks a good game, but he comes off as a person who will tell people what they want to hear in order for them to support him. His speech after winning in Wisconsin was telling as he dissed President Obama, it came off as "thanks for holding my seat son, you tried, but I the White saviour am here to do it the right way." This is typical of White progressives, they think they have it down on issues of race, gender and sexuality and they don't.  He kept saying gay, gay gay in his speech....umm L. G. B. T. - LESBIAN - GAY - BISEXUAL - TRANSGENDER!!! There are more than gay men out there and I for one hope that who ever he has on his team teaches him that.

Neither of these candidates are for me...

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

#‎GayMediaSoWhite‬ - Addressing The Erasure Of Queer People Of Color

"This hashtag isn't begging for the white man's approval. This is about the demanding answers and holding people accountable."
- Viktor Kerney


Over the last two years the media in general and more specifically LGBT media in various forms have been taken to task in regard to their erasure of People of Color, the latest action being called #‎GayMediaSoWhite. Broadly, People of Color are ignored unless they meet some odd standard of beauty, sometimes it is about specific races being ignored or erased. Locally, I had to deal with erasure from the mainstream and LGBT media when the fight to save (HERO) Houston Equal Rights Ordinance came into being. One of my biggest issues about HERO was that the media coverage would only show specs of minorities and had been very Whitewash and Cisgender in nature. We didn't see very many Trans persons, let alone Trans People of Color in any news coverage. The lack of Persons of Color being represented in this fight to protect an ordinance intended to protect ALL Houstonians was a fatal flaw. We witnessed Council Member Boykins say that the LGBT community is not involved in issues pertaining to the Black community.

Intersectionally speaking, that was a statement of erasure, erasure that I have always talked about at length. It is a big problem to be a Black man out here fighting for rights of groups that are representative of one's intersections, only to be told by both sides that "you do great work," and then be erased in the same breath. With all of the national attention came national media coverage of various forms. One of the biggest issues that I saw is that when Black and Brown people are shown at length and often, it was usually the opposition and fed into the idea that the Black community specifically is inherently homophobic.  Around the time HERO passed Houston City Council, Outsmart magazine published an edition of its magazine with a big spread on HERO and I was pissed at the time, at the lack of People of Color.


It was in that moment I started a hashtag called #BlackPeopleWhoShowUp in an effort to show that there was actually support from the Black community for HERO. Ironically I gathered all the Black folk around in the lobby of City Hall and we took pictures, which prompted the Mayor Parker to hop in  and it wound up in the news paper!


Then we took up arms to start the #BoycottStonewallMovie movement and took Director Roland Emmerich to task.  As gay white man he directed this movie out of his desire to illustrate a historic moment in our country. He hired a gay white man to be his screenwriter and developed a fictional white gay male character to take the place of people who are well documented in literature as a protagonist. We called him on his BULLSHIT, and he did what we expect cisgender White men to do, ERASE, erase people in order to create a more comfortable REVISIONIST history.

"You have to understand one thing: I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people,” he said. “I kind of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, [Danny] is a very easy in. Danny’s very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him." - Emmerich

Emmerich released said this in response to LGBT protesters of his movie:

"When I first learned about the Stonewall Riots through my work with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, I was struck that the circumstances that lead to LGBT youth homelessness today are pretty much the same as they were 45 years ago. The courageous actions of everyone who fought against injustice in 1969 inspired me to tell a compelling, fictionalized drama of those days centering on homeless LGBT youth, specifically a young Midwestern gay man who is kicked out of his home for his sexuality and comes to New York, befriending the people who are actively involved in the events leading up to the riots and the riots themselves. I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how this character’s involvement is portrayed, but when this film – which is truly a labor of love for me – finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro — and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance."

If our struggle was the same for acceptance, we wouldn't really be in a struggle, you are the poster boy for privilege: White, Cisgender, Male. Do not co- opt a struggle that you know nothing about, this is not to say that you don't experience homophobia, but you don't know shit about being Black, Trans or a woman and I would suggest you go and ACTUALLY learn LGBT history so that you don't keep up this theme of revisionist history. - Ashton P. Woods

In the latest social media action #‎GayMediaSoWhite, we took on the media via Twitter and called out LGBT centering publications for their clear lack of inclusion and diversity when it comes to Queer People of Color. It is more than not being featured on the covers, it is about our stories not being told unless it is through the lens of our pain by criminalizing us or exploiting our possible tragedies when we are victimized. Then we have to constantly see the cultural appropriation and our narratives being told through white lens while completely erasing our perspectives. This is is us saying that we can no longer allow these practices to take place and that we demand the respect and equality from the media that they proport themselves to represent.

 Victor Kerny the originator of the fabulous hashtag had this to say:

"Since the ‪#‎GayMediaSoWhite‬ hashtag took off, it's been amazing to see how many people got involved. And it was disheartening to the see how many people didn't say anything.
There were some folks who said we were complaining and whining, while no providing any solutions to combat this issue. I'm sorry to disappoint, but we were not complaining, we were demanding answers. All of these sites, blogs, publications and social media outlets should have an answer to as why their work does not reflect the true diversity of the LGBTQ community.

We have a right to know the truth, and regardless of the answers, we would love to hear them. The silence from these gatekeepers have been very telling. You know the lack of POC images/stories is a problem.

You can't sit up here, as a member of our community and talk about embracing our differences, when you refuse to celebrate our diversity? It's high time we called this out.
It's time for you: writers, editors gatekeepers and bloggers to step up and start doing better. You can change this, so do it!"


Friday, April 1, 2016

#RealTalk: Why I Stopped PRETENDING To Be A Christian

"The truth is that I see religion as a means of social control and domination for those who are in control of governments and other institutions that are used to govern. It does not mean that do not respect a person's convictions or belief in a higher power, and in my acceptance, I am exposed to the constant barrage of God this and prayer that memes, comments and posts via social media. The problem comes when I decide to make a post in reference to my Atheism, someone tries to flex their privilege and respond with some chastisement about how THEIR God is the real deal, mind you, I don't comment on others' posts when it regards religion! I have constantly question whether or not I want to go to certain events because someone will try to guilt me into a prayer circle or saying grace at a dinner." - APW

I have said it before and I will say it again, I have NEVER truly believed in a higher power and I have total dislike for the need of religion, ALL religion. I maintain that I respect the beliefs of all and the right to believe in a higher power. Anyway, I was raised by my Grandmother, actually my entire family. Moma is a Jehovah's Witness and she never forced it on me, I did go with her to the Kingdom Hall and out to field service as a child. I never really truly had a feeling about it one way or the other, until I started to see how people were affected by religion going into my preteens. I used to see kids get whippings for not wanting to go to church and hear classmates talk about how much they love God. I didn't take much offense to this until I became more comfortable with my being gay, mainly because believers came at me as if I could fix my attraction to men by being correct and dating women. My pretend christian-hood really took shape when I was in my first relationship, and he decided for some reason that he needed more God in his life.

In truth I had been dealing with the fact that he came out because of me, I was trying to find my way and determined to figure out who I wanted to be. At the time I was 5'9 on my way to the 6ft I am now, about 170 pounds with a 32 waist. Basically, what you see today as masculine features were not so masculine back then. He HAD to come out after being undercover for so long, he broke up with his girlfriends and told his family. I guess it was too much for him so he dragged me to church where folks were told that I was his little brother, when in reality he was playing catcher for my bat. To make a long story short, I had to continue to be closeted around certain people to protect him and even went to church with him out of love. Fast forward to 2008/2009, I tried to be a believer. I tried and failed, what I mean is that I joined a church and got baptized. I tried to build community, friendship, and family when I already had those things. I did learn a lot from the pastor, and will always have a great deal of respect for how thoughtful he always was. Here is the thing, I was not happy, I paid tithes and did all that stuff you do in a church when I had the time to do it. There was a common thread in my life as a pretend Christian from 2002 until 2013:

I thought that I had to PRETEND to believe in and love a God that did not exist to me. I thought I had to pretend because almost every job that I had, there was an atmosphere of rewarding those who fellowship at a church or those who held a form of religious beliefs. I felt the need to pretend to love God because of the homophobia that existed in workplaces. I have heard the phrase "it's bad enough to be gay, but to not believe in God, that really bad," many times.

I met other Atheists and wanted to reach out so badly, I was in a closet hiding the fact that I was/am not a believer. I was out gay, hiding my HIV status because of stigma, and my being an Atheist due to on big question:

WHO WANTS TO BE FRIENDS WITH OR EVEN IN LOVE WITH A PERSON WHO IS OPENLY GAY, LIVING WITH HIV AND DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GOD?

I  found out the answer to that question in parts and phases, some warm answers, some cold/cruel answers and most of it was learning to be comfortable with myself. I had to stop pretending for my sanity, because I was no longer cool with the respectability politics, the ridiculous standards, and the false narrative of being blessed. For me there was no God, there is no God, there is only the means of social control to manipulate those who need something to believe in and give them hope through their hardships and poverty of various forms. Privilege exists within the construct of religion, not just the idea of hope, I spoke of it earlier...promotions, better relationships and etc come from being a member of a congregation. Because I could no longer pretend, I now believe in checking religious privilege in the same way I would check male privilege, cis privilege and of course white privilege. I respect the journey that I had to take in order to get here.

FYI:


Atheism - disbelief of lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

Agnostic - a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

Agnosticism -  is the view that the truth values of certain claims – especially metaphysical and religious claims such as whether or not God, the divine or the supernatural exist – are unknown and perhaps unknowable.

Christian privilege - is the system of advantages bestowed upon Christians in some societies. This system arises out of the presumption that the belief in Christianity is a social norm, leading to the exclusion of the nonreligious and members of other religions through institutional religious discrimination. Christian privilege can also lead to the neglect of outsiders' cultural heritage and religious practices.

Religious discrimination - is valuing or treating a person or group differently because of what they do or do not believe. Specifically, it is when adherents of different religions (or denominations) are treated unequally, either before the law or in institutional settings such as employment or housing.
Religious discrimination is related to religious persecution, the most extreme forms of which would include instances in which people have been executed for beliefs perceived to be heretic. Laws which only carry light punishments are described as mild forms of religious persecution or as religious discrimination.