“Andi Mack” and Representation

In April of this year, Disney Channel premiered the show, Andi Mack, To simplify the plot, it follows the story of a young girl, Andi, who discovers that who she believed was her sister is actually her mother. A show dealing with the concept of teenage pregnancy and a single mother was a huge step for Disney Channel, and was met with a bit of controversy when it premiered. However, the show does seem to be generally well-received and, as a casual watcher, I find it to be very realistic and tasteful in dealing with what would be a “mature” topic, at least for Disney.

Now, Disney, with this very same show, has taken another large step by announcing that one of the main characters, a friend of Andi’s named Cyrus, will be the first main character in Disney history to be openly gay.

Now, Disney has had non-heterosexual characters before; a child with two mothers in Good Luck Charlie, same-sex kisses in Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, and most recently with LeFou in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. But they have never had a character who is deeply rooted in the plot of the show portrayed this way.

Without giving away too much of the first season’s plot, Andi is interested in a boy at her school, Jonah, who does seem to be interested in her as well. This is explored throughout the first season. With this announcement, the second season, episode 1 preview, and certain scenes in season 1, it appears that Cyrus is also realizing his interest in Jonah. Disney states that he will be coming out to his friends, and that the response will be one that is positive and encouraging.

In a public statement, Disney stated that “Andi Mack is a story about ‘tweens’ figuring out who they are…Everyone involved in the show takes great care in ensuring that it’s appropriate for all audiences and sends a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity.” On an Instagram post from Joshua Rush, who plays Cyrus, he expresses his pride and excitement to be portraying Cyrus in his groundbreaking story.

Andi Mack season 2 premiered tonight, October 27, 2017, at 8 p.m. EST. I am watching along, eagerly watching Cyrus’ journey and cheering him on, as all deserved to be cheered on in an endeavor like this.

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A Letter To Linkin Park

Joe, Rob, Brad, Dave, Mike, and Chester,

I’ve been meaning to write you for a while now, and especially since One More Light came out.  I wish the circumstances for finally writing were different, but I think it’s important regardless.

I knew a few of your songs as a kid — In The EndNew Divide, Numb — songs that were on the radio or in movies.  When I was a kid, I never really listened to anyone or anything in particular, and to this day I still don’t know the title or artist for most of the songs I would listen to.

Middle school was an… interesting time for me.  I didn’t feel I had any close or consistent friends, I felt alone, I felt isolated, and I didn’t really know what to do about any of the negative feelings growing inside me.  I was afraid, and I didn’t think anyone would understand or take me seriously.  Toward the end of middle school, my boyfriend at the time showed me Waiting For The End, and I fell in love with the song.  It resonated with me in the way I needed, and as I listened to more of your music I fell in love with pretty much every song you had released.  I even used to take lyrics from different songs and mix them together to create something from everything.

I remember noticing at one point about how Chester seemed like something was bothering him.  But I was just a teenager, I didn’t think there was anything I could do.  Or maybe I was just overreacting, maybe there was something I didn’t know or something I was misinterpreting.  So I mentioned it to the person who was with me at the time, and wasn’t really sure what else there was for me to do.

That has never left me.  It has been almost (if not) seven years, and I still remember the concern I had.  I realize now that maybe that’s why your music was something I could always connect and relate to, why it made me feel better in some way — because I wasn’t the only one hurting.  And when One More Light (the album) came out (which I immediately listened to while finishing up work for the end of my semester), I felt it.  All of the hurt, the pain, the constant fighting to be okay, the journey, the progress.  When One More Light (the song) played, I stopped working.  I listened to it again.  I let myself feel it, really feel it.

This afternoon, while playing a video game with a friend, my brother texted me that Chester had killed himself.  I immediately closed the game.  My friend had no idea what was wrong, and I couldn’t bring myself to say it, so I found an article and sent it to him.  A network of us who have been positively impacted by you had slowly begun to contact each other, making sure we were okay and that we found out from friends.

The world lost a special kind of person today, the kind of person who takes pain and tries to turn it into something good, something that can help people.  You have, together, made music that makes a difference, and will continue to make a difference.

To Chester: I can’t know what it’s like beyond this life, so I can’t know if you will ever know the contents of this letter.  Regardless, I want to thank you for your words, your music, your story, and your passion.  You helped so many people and you fought for so long.  You will not be forgotten.

To Joe, Rob, Brad, Dave, and Mike: I have no way of knowing if any of you will ever read this.  But if you do, I want to ask you to remember two things.  The first is that it’s not your fault.  Because that’s probably one of the hardest things to remember right now.  The second is that you’re not alone.  Your families are with you.  Your fans are with you.  Everyone your music has ever touched is with you.  I am with you.  We may not all physically be there with you, but we are here for you and ready to help however we can.  If there’s anything I can do, or anything anyone else can do, we’re here.  Just like you’ve been here for us.

Our hearts are with you.  Always.

Tyler

For anyone who may need it, now or in the future:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA): 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741-741

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Remembering Pulse, One Year Later

It’s been one year since the tragedy at Pulse.

I can’t even begin to know the pain of those who were there, and those who are or were close to them.  But I can and do know the pain I felt as a member of the community and as a friend of someone who made a last minute decision not to go to Pulse that night.  I attended a vigil a few days after, and I still have my candle on my desk.  I attached a rainbow flag to it as well.  It hurt.  And it still hurts.  But we came together, and that’s always remarkable.

A few weeks ago, the band Linkin Park released a new album, and in the song One More Light the chorus goes:

Who cares if one more light goes out
In the sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out
If a moment is all we are
Or quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out
Well I do

I do.  And I think you do too.  We all came together to grieve and feel together after this happened.  We showed each other and the world just how much love can come out of an act of hate.  In the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”  We proved that, and we continue to prove that every day, worldwide.

If you are still hurting, you are not alone.  If you are still scared, you are not alone.  If you are still on the receiving end of hate for who you are, you are not alone.  No matter who you are or how you feel, you are not alone.  The world hurts.  The world is scary.  The world is full of hate.  But the world is also full of love.  We have the power to help others see that.  If you can, try to take a moment today to appreciate the people in your life who help remind you that there is love in the world.

If you want to help take it a step further, the HRC is collecting messages of support for survivors and families, and you can submit a message here to help remind others that there is love in the world.

If you would like to pass this message on, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, or even write your own post (you should tag us if you do!).  And you are always more than welcome to leave a comment below or contact us directly if you have anything to add or just need to talk to someone right now who gets it.

Posted in Content Warning, LGBTQ+, Personal, Societal | Leave a comment

What We Can Do

There has been a lot going on lately politically, and I’m sorry I didn’t post sooner and that this post is coming on the first day of pride month.  But I’m here, and I want to make sure I share this with you guys because there are threats being made to health care, education, the environment, and, ultimately, people’s rights.

Here are some of the things you can do:

1. Contact your senators
If you want to contact your senators, I made a handy document to help you reach out.  They are there to represent you, so why not let them know how you feel about what’s been going on?

2. Share your story about health care and the ACA
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is collecting and sharing stories about how health care and the ACA has helped people, and if you have a story you’re comfortable sharing you can submit it here.

3. Attend a local political event
Your elected officials are there to represent you, so let them hear you.  This website is compiling a list of events happening all over the USA.

4. Show your pride
It’s pride month!  There are tons of events happening right now.  If you’re not sure what’s going on in your area, this calendar might be able to help.  Getting out there and showing your support not only shows that there are people who are willing to speak out, it also shows others that you are an ally and that you support them.  And I cannot stress enough how important that is.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to show support right now.  But I hope this serves as a reminder that there are things we can do, whether we believe it or not.  Above all, remember to always stay safe in whatever way you show support.

We are not completely helpless.  Let’s show them that.  Together.

Update (June 13, 2017):
This list was compiled of contact information for each senator’s legislative assistant.  It is a great counterpart to the document I created with contact information for senators.

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Get Rid Of The Gender Binary, Researchers Too!

This is a crosspost from The Communicated Stereotype.
You can view the original post here.

Dear Researcher,

Thank you for the work you do and for inviting my children to participate.  We have been participating in these studies since my children were babies. This time, as I mentioned to the research assistant on site when they participated, it was a little different of an experience and I wanted to bring it to your attention.

From the moment I read the consent I was a bit surprised that the questionnaire only indicated male/ female as options for gender. Considering the visibility of transgender /gender fluidity in mainstream culture I would have expected a state of the art psychology research facility to be more proactive about inclusivity. In my case this is particularly relevant because I would consider my son transgendered and, if given the choice, would have selected that as an option. I was also not allowed an “other” option or a “prefer not to answer” option which are pretty standard now. This binary forced choice question was also surprising considering that I was later to learn the study was related to gender and perception.

Most shocking to me, though, was the emphasis of a study on gender on a forced choice binary response in which the children were told repeatedly some version of the phrases “correct” “mistake” “wrong” “right” related to how the photos of people were categorized into one gender or the other. This is decidedly problematic because my son would not easily be divided this way and forcing this type of answer requires a child to accept 1) that there is only one option applicable and 2) that the other option is wrong. This not only reinforces gender binaries that are harmful but actually, in as much as you are dealing with young children, constructs/ teaches/ enforces/ imprints such binaries on these children who might not otherwise think of them that way. I strongly considered whether to take my daughter out of the study. I decided not to because I knew I could explain it to her later (which frankly many parents would not be able to do or even think to do) and I wanted to see where the study was going in case my son was participating in the same one. I quickly learned, to my relief, that he had not participated in it.

If my son had participated in this particular study, I would have immediately taken him out if I was the one with him. Imagine a young, impressionable transgender child participating in this study. Over 40% of transgender people attempt suicide. Your study promotes the very mindset that leads children and adults to do so. This is shocking from a child study psychology program and, frankly, when I spoke to the research assistant about it, I compared it to torture. Consider my son. He would have been required to sit there, without understanding his right as a minor to leave at any time. He would have been without a legal guardian present for supervision who would be able to enact this right for him. He would have been told that you can look at a person’s face and decide based on that information alone whether the child is male or female. He would have been told that there must only be one right answer and that any other answer is incorrect/ a mistake/ wrong. What does that do to a transgender child’s mind? To make this worse, the guardians of the child would never know that this is what the study entailed/required because they were not allowed to be in the room during the study.

As it turns out, I am a Ph.D. in communication and a well-published researcher who studies stereotypes. That my son is transgender is a lucky coincidence that helps him get to be himself without me enforcing binaries. My background is also why, for the first time in participating in studies with your department after all these years, I insisted on being in the room while the study was conducted. After I saw that only male and female were options were indicated on the consent materials, after I learned that the study was about perceptions related to gender, I knew I should be vigilant in my responsibility as his parent. The combination of a mother who studies stereotypes and a son who is transgender participating in a research study is, I can only imagine, rare. How many of your participants would be knowledgeable enough of the content area, understand research design, be open minded about gender, and have a comfort level and personality that would allow them to feel comfortable complaining?

I urge you to take my concerns into consideration and stop the current study to rework the design. I look forward to hear what actions will be taken to resolve these concerns so that no other families need to risk their children being taught, albeit inadvertently, about the gender binary as a “right” way to understand gender. I know that your department can and will be forward thinking about how it responds to my concerns. Research studies may ethically study morality, but it is inappropriate for them to teach it.

Thank you.

Stereotype Guru

Posted in Content Warning, Crosspost, Gender, Guest, Issue, LGBTQ+, Spectrum, Stereotypes | Leave a comment

An Open Letter

This is an open letter to the oppressed.

The outcome of the election has truly shown us where this country stands. What its beliefs are. What its thoughts on minorities are. On people of colour. On the disabled. On women. On the LGBTTQA+ community.

They may think that they can get rid of us, and destroy us through the means of oppression. They think that with their fear-mongering hatred and bigotry, they can right the wrong that we are; but we are not wrongs to be righted.

We are not some wretched ink-stains on the parchment that is the history of mankind. We are not some trend that will fade away in a decade or two, only to be looked back upon jokingly. We are not a phase that will be erased from existence just because they point oppression and violence our way. We’ve endured that poison for as long as we’ve been alive.

We are a proud people. We wear our hearts on our sleeves, and they beat with the passion, power, and ferocity of all those lives that they think they have silenced with their senseless violence.

The time of silence is behind us now. They will hear us, as we are not some whimpering children crying over some trivial issue. We are a proud people that will unite, we will flood the streets, and march with the unbridled ambition and determination to seize a better life. We will be heard, not because we ask to be heard, but because we demand it.

We will stand together, for one-another, crying out with a chorus like thunder. Our iron wills harden our bodies, turning a crowd of regular people into a regiment of resolute archangels, undying in our cause to seek justice.

These are dark times, the sun is seemingly eclipsed by the fear that haunts us, and yet, we must remember that there is still hope.

There is always hope.

-Hunter

Posted in Content Warning, Gender, Issue, LGBTQ+, Prose, Romantic Orientation, Sexuality, Societal, Spectrum | 1 Comment

Thoughts for a Different Version of Me

Different Version of Me,

We may not have met yet, and if we haven’t, I hope someday we do.  Regardless, this is a difficult time for many of us, so I want you to remember something.  You are not alone.

Whether you are cisgender, transgender, agender, or any other gender identity on the spectrum, you are not alone.

Whether you are heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, or any other sexual orientation on the spectrum, you are not alone.

Whether you are heteroromantic, homoromantic, aromantic, or any other romantic orientation on the spectrum, you are not alone.

No matter who you are, no matter your identity or the color of your skin, no matter where you came from, no matter your age or your ability or disability, you are not alone.

Right now it is important to make sure we stick together and support one another.  Fear is okay.  Fear means you aren’t apathetic to the situation we are currently in, and the minute we stop caring is the minute we fall.

Don’t be afraid to care, to own your voice.  I believe in you.

I believe in us.

We can do this.

With love,
Tyler

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Resolutions

With the dawn of the new year comes the time where everyone talks about their resolutions.  And I see a lot of negativity about resolutions because 1) many people will combine them with the phrase “new year, new me,” and 2) resolutions are often broken.  I want to talk about each of these, and then talk about my own resolutions.

The phrase, “new year, new me,” while well-intentioned, can also be problematic.  It inherently defines people as quickly changeable, and outlines when exactly this change takes place.  And I find this problematic because one of the things I think is most important to remember when coming out is that you are the same person you were before, and as likely to change gradually as before, others just know more about who you are now.  When someone comes out to you, it’s not that they’ve changed, it’s that the amount of information they have shared with you about themself has changed.  Just because the year has changed, doesn’t mean that you’ve necessarily changed in some fundamental way.  And I understand the point is to strive toward change to make a “new me,” which brings me to my next point.

Resolutions are often broken, and I don’t mean this to be disparaging.  Sometimes, we aim too high too quickly.  I think a great way to make sure you stick to your resolutions is to start by setting smaller goals.  As great as it is to make a huge change, things don’t happen overnight.  They take time and work.  Smaller steps can help make this more manageable because you’ll have a bunch of little accomplishments along the way, which can help make it more encouraging to work toward your goals.

For me, there are three things I’m focusing on right now.  One of them is to do little things to help myself get to a better, more focused place mentally.  It’s been a strange and crazy past few years, and I feel this is important for me to start making more of an effort to do because I think mental health is extremely important and should not be overlooked.  One of the things I’m doing, which is also another one of the things I’m focusing on right now, is to make sure I have positive messages to go to when I need them.  Whenever I think of a positive reminder, I write it on a small piece of paper, fold it up, and put it in a jar on my desk.  If I ever need them, or if anyone else ever needs them, I know they’re there, waiting to encourage someone to keep going.  If anyone’s curious, the most recent thing I’ve added to my jar is: “Some risks are worth taking.”  Another thing I’m focusing on right now is my breathing.  I consider breathing highly important.  Focusing on my breathing, especially in times of high tension and stress, helps me to calm down and keep myself in more of a place of control, rather than letting that tension and that stress get the best of me.  Doing these things helps me to be more mindful of myself and understand what gets me into certain states of mind, if anything specific does at all.

There are little things we can all do to make everyday changes in our lives.  While they may not lead to us drastically changing right away, these little things can add up and lead to gradual change.  Let us know some things you hope to accomplish this year.

Posted in Discussion, Personal, Societal | 2 Comments

2017: The Younger Sibling

Because you are expected to follow 2016

With beauty and grace;

You are expected to bring

Better days,

Happiness;

You have the weight of the world

Resting in your hands

As if you were Atlas himself.

But you aren’t Atlas,

And you aren’t the solution 

To everything that’s gone wrong.

You’re 2017,

And I want you to know

There’s at least one person

Who doesn’t expect you to be

More than you’re capable of.

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2016: A Year In Memoriam

What can I say?

There were bad moments…

A lot of them…

There were deaths

Other than yours

And history was made

In what many feel is the wrong direction.

Nevertheless,

There were also amazing moments:

Wonderful connections were made,

Beautiful people came into the world,

And people came together

In the name of hope.

2016

I’m sorry to see you go,

But I’m even more sorry

That people are excited to see you off.

I will remember you.

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