Halloween is the highest of the Gay High Holy Days, or at least I'm told. Some say its gay because ancient pagan priests, who were often queer men, believed that the boundaries between Earth and the spirit world are thinnest on this day. Because gay people live in a place between the extremes of masculine and feminine, and a day the celebrates the thinning of the veil of between the extremes of physical and spiritual is a day we can claim as our own.
Some say it's gay because Halloween is really campy. Everything is exaggerated and not much is taken seriously. The drag queen is the modern incarnation of camp, and gay historians point to San Francisco's Halloween costume contests where drag queens would enter alongside straight folks as a turning point in October 31 becoming a big gay holiday.
While the history is important, I think Halloween belongs to us because it's a day we can safely express ourselves. Society tells us we have to look and act a certain way, and Halloween gives us a chance to be more authentic.
When I was in grade school, I went as half man, half woman one year. While that's not the right expression for me today, the time I took to plan that look and then express myself as somebody who sits between masculine and feminine was powerful. As an adult, my favorite costume has been a prison jumpsuit. I could have fun letting my slightly wicked side out. It gave me the opportunity to express a part of myself that doesn't often see the light of day.
Whether or not you put on a costume, take advantage of the opportunity to express yourself a little more freely today. All you need is a little imagination and the willingness to be campy.
This blog entry also appeared on Huffington Post Gay Voices.
Over the past decade, the LGBT community has made significant strides toward full equality. We have leveraged the political process to achieve many of our important goals. These goals included passage of hate crimes legislation, the right to openly serve in the armed forces, and marriage equality. Each of these fights was won because people got politically involved, either through executive order, legislative action, or the courts.
While marriage equality was an important milestone for our people, we still have other important goals to achieve. In over half of the United States, it's still perfectly legal to fire a person just for being LGBT. If you and your future partner want to adopt children, in most states you may have trouble finding an agency that will support your desire to add to your family. In most states, you could legally be refused service in a store, not allowed to eat in a restaurant, or kicked out of a hotel, just for being gay. Gaining equality in these important areas will require us to stay politically active.
As we fight for full equality, here are five ways young LGBT people can make a difference in politics.
1. Be out. If it's safe for you to be out, be out. If it's not safe for you to be out, you can be vocal about your political opinions. Being vocal is not as effective as being out, but it is a good start. People who know somebody LGBT have a much harder time voting against us. Your parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, siblings and friends will have to think about how their vote effects you. If you are out to them, they are more likely to vote in a way that makes your life better.
2. Volunteer. Many political campaigns run on the power of committed volunteers. It's easy to donate a few hours a week supporting candidates and causes that are important to us. You can connect with volunteer opportunities through your school's political clubs (if your school has them), or you can reach out to the candidate or cause of your choice through social media. Not only does volunteering make a political difference, but it can help you develop important skills for your future career.
3. Attend a rally or protest. There's nothing more exhilarating than being around thousands of people who believe in a cause. Politicians, business leaders, and the public notice large groups of people gathering to make a statement. If you choose to attend this kind of gathering, be sure that you know what you're getting into and have an exit strategy if the protest turns into something else. It may not be worth getting arrested and affecting your future career prospects -- or, depending on the cause, it might be worth it.
4. Personally communicate with your elected officials. It's easy to email your legislator, sign an online petition, or post your opinion to social media, but the personal touch is far more effective. Legislators listen to people from their districts, and will take a personal note that crosses their desk much more seriously than a form letter. You can also pick up the phone and call their staff. My phone call to a state legislator allowed me the opportunity to testify against "conversion therapy" a few years ago. I was invited to share my experience because I shared my personal experience and not a form letter.
5. Vote - and encourage your friends to vote. Fewer than 25% of people under 30 voted in the 2014 midterm elections. Had every eligible young person registered to vote, and then showed up at the polling station, we would have a very different political landscape today. Younger voters are much more friendly to gay people and gay causes. If we want to achieve full equality, young people need to show up and vote!
Most young people can't afford to make large donations to their candidate, and a $10,000 per plate for a fundraising dinner is out of reach for most of us. A lack of funds should not stop us from working hard to make a difference in our community. These five options are free and will help us achieve full equality.
You can tell a lot about a man's character by how he treats the people around him. This is especially true when you witness a man's behavior toward those who are in less powerful positions, like food servers.
When you're first getting to know a potential romantic interest, he will probably be on his best behavior with you, but he usually won't be out to impress the food server. Notice his interactions with the staff. Is he polite and friendly? Is he demanding and entitled? Is he rude and callous?
In addition to food servers, notice your date's interactions with the cashier at Target, the barista at Starbucks, and with anybody else in a service-type job.
And, don't put up with bad behavior! If your date can't be polite, find a date who can. If he's are a jerk to a stranger, it won't be long before he is a jerk with you.
This video may be the best three minutes of your day. It shows the moving story of a farmer dad giving advice to his flamboyant son. It's great advice, and a great story. It's well worth watching.
As you grow into adulthood, you will become more and more responsible for your finances. The adults in your life will no long be responsible for making sure you are comfortable. Today's tips offer some general guidance about your money.
Today's thoughts come from Tim K., the straight dad of a gay son, and grandfather to two gay youth.
Sex is a healthy, natural part of life. And, it’s healthy and natural for you to want to have sex. As a young gay man, you will have plenty of opportunities to engage in casual sex (aka hook up). If you choose to hook up, be smart about it.
Here are seven ways you can be smart if you choose to hook up.
1. Set your limits in advance – and stick to them. When I was a younger man, everything seemed like fun. So many things were new and exciting, and I wanted to try them all – right now! Just remember, you have a long life ahead of you, and the truth is that you will have years to try all those new and exciting things. If you’re going to hook up, decide what you will and will not do. And stick to your limits! If the other guy is amazing, and you want to try other things with him, then go back later.
I’ve also learned that it’s best to say no if something is making you uncomfortable, even if it’s not “off limits.” When I was younger and choosing to hook up, I would occasionally find that something wasn’t quite right. The first time I ran into this, I squirmed uncomfortably and tolerated the experience instead of speaking up. I left feeling a little gross, and I can’t imagine it was fun for my sex partner either. After that, I promised to stop the action and go back to doing something I liked. You can do the same. Again, you have a lot of life ahead of you – you can always try again later.
2. Know who you're hooking up with. These days, our phones are hook up machines, and it only takes a few keystrokes to set up an anonymous encounter. Until you’ve spent more time feeling out your limits and understanding your environment, stay away from anonymous sex. Unfortunately, there are men with bad intentions out there. We hear stories of gay people being robbed, beaten, or even killed because they were looking for anonymous sex. At this point in your life, avoid it altogether.
If somebody is really hot, and you think you would have a great time, meet them in a public place. If they aren’t willing to meet you, move on! You will have plenty of opportunities to hook up later.
3. Make sure somebody knows where you are. Chances are good at least one person in your life has earned your trust. Tell that person where you are going (or that you are meeting at your place) and when they should expect you to be done. This means they know the physical address of your hook up, and if you don’t text or call them when your hook up is over, they will be looking for you. One of my friends calls this a silent alarm.
If you can’t tell anybody that you are going to hook up, simply tell them you are going to hang out with a friend, and ask them to check in on you. The point here is to make sure somebody knows where you are, and when they should start to worry.
In addition to being a silent alarm, you can use your friend to help you get out of a bad hook up. Let them know when you’re going to be meeting, and have them text or call five or ten minutes after it starts. If you need to politely leave the situation, you can use your friend’s call as an excuse to leave.
4. Safer sex is YOUR responsibility. If you think your hook up is going to include the need for condoms and condom-safe lubricant, you need to bring them. Don’t rely on your sex partner to provide these.
5. Be aware of sex offender laws. 25% of the people on sex offender registries landed there before they turned 18. In many places, having sex with somebody under 18 -- even if you are under 18 yourself -- is against the law. Even if your sex partner consents, all it takes is one upset parent to report you to the police. Being on the sex offender registry can ruin your life. Be very aware of sex offender laws in your state.
6. Make sure you actually have consent. Many schools struggle to define what consent means when two students have sex. You should understand these rules and follow them. Getting kicked out of school could set your life back considerably. More importantly, you should understand what consent is, and make sure you have it before and during your hook up.
7. Take care of yourself afterwards. Hooking up can be an emotionally exhausting experience. You may find yourself very excited, or you could find yourself depressed. Orgasm releases tons of hormones into your system, and it’s hard to say how they will affect your mood. Be ready to spend some time alone, or talk to your trusted friend.
Hooking up is a part of our culture today. And the choice to hook up or not is deeply personal. If you choose to hook up, be smart about it. Keep in mind, the choices you make today could affect you for the rest of your life. Remember, it’s okay to wait. You have many more years to explore your sexuality.
When you need to look your best for a job interview, wedding, funeral, or other event, picking the right knot for your tie is important. The tie is an important thing to get right because most people will spend time looking at your face, and the knot is the closest thing to your face. Everybody will see it.
You want to pick your knot based on two things - the collar on your shirt and the shape of your face and body. Two good guidelines will help set you on the right track.
1. A wider face requires a wider knot.
2. Your knot should fill the gap in your collar.
There are a bunch of sites that will guide you through the right collar, and some great YouTube videos on how to tie the actual knot. Don't just pick a knot and go with it out of habit or desperation. Spend a few minutes choosing the right knot and make sure you look your best.
Our breath is one of the few things that will always be with us. It can have a controlled pace, or it can be ragged and rushed. But, usually, it follows a strong even rhythm.
There are hundreds of bits of advice on how to breathe properly. They'll tell you to breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. They'll tell you to fill your belly before your chest. Or, they'll tell you the exact opposite.
I'm not sure how we breathe really matters. The key is that we start to focus on something other than the chatter in our head. By noticing our breath, we get an opportunity to slow down for a second and go back to the primal part of our brain that isn't worried about what's just happened, or what's going to happen. It lets us focus on the now -- and if we can take time to breathe in the now, then everything will turn out alright.
Today's offering is a guest blog by Joseph Luther, who works for an insurance company.
Health Care Insurance is front and center these days with the creation of the Affordable Care Act. There is so much to know about health insurance. Some young people are under their parents' plan till the age of 26, or you’re in your first job and the company offers health insurance as a part of the benefit package.
The plans that are offered have different coverages, what providers are contracted, and what is needed to have the service covered. When you are an adult, it is your responsibility to understand and know how your coverage works.
Here are some basics that will help you to understand how Health Insurance works.
Effective Date: This is when the plan starts. Find out when you plan starts before going for services. If you're working, you can check with your HR department, or you can always call the Insurance Company. Sometimes there may be a delay of the information that was sent from HR to the Insurance Company, so you want to make sure you are covered.
Deductibles: The deductible is what you pay out of pocket before your coverage benefits will be active. Some plans have a deductible and they can range from $100 to $4000. There are also plans with no deductible at all. For example, you have a $100 deductible and go see your Primary Care Provider. If the cost of that office visit is $325, you will be billed the $100 deductible plus the copay for that office visit. Now that the $100 deductible is met, your benefits will be active going forward. Deductibles are annual and will occur each year.
Copays / coinsurance: Copays are the amount you will pay for the office visit or other services like an inpatient stay. This sets a limit on what you pay for the service. Coinsurance refers to a situation where the insurance company covers a percentage and you pay the remaining percentage. With coinsurance it is best to find out the cost of the service before having it done.
Out of Pocket Cap: This will be the most you pay for medical services within a plan year. Once the out of pocket cap is met, all covered services for the rest of the year will be paid in full by the insurance company.
I think these are terms that you should know about your health insurance.
For those people under their parents plan, you should know that your coverage will end 31 days after your 26th birthday. Once that happens, you have to find your own plan through your employer or the Health Exchange.
Joseph Luther is a gay man who lives in the Seattle area. He works for Group Health Cooperative, a local insurance company and health care delivery system.
I'm a gay father with gay sons. My mission is to work with the community to prepare them -- and other young gay men -- for a happy and successful life.