Tonight, on the eve of election night 2012 I’d like to post something about how I got see both Barack and Michelle Obama at their own respective events here in Jacksonville.
First off, I got to see President Barack Obama during the summer before the 2012-2013 school year and I went with one of my students. I stood in line for HOURS and I had a general ticket, which meant “standing room only” once I entered the Prime Osbourne Center. I went to see the President before the upcoming Jacksonville City Council vote regarding whether or not to include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in its Human Rights Ordinance. I was wearing my “Yes on 296″ sticker, I was talking to people who were standing around me in line, I saw a drag queen walk by, I saw our own UNF VP Chief of Staff Dr. Tom Serwatka get to stand behind the President while he was speaking. I was exhausted from standing, tired from having to get up early only to sit in line, but most importantly I was standing with a large group of people who truly represent who America is: people with disabilities, the elderly, racial minorities, sexual minorities and gender minorities.
I was proud, I was hopeful and most importantly I felt that my rights and equality was just as important as the cisgender heterosexual person standing next to me. It was incredible. I wish I could’ve gotten on stage or even shake the President’s hand. But after a long weather delay, a long line, and a long period of standing/waiting I was just exhausted. Shaking the President’s hand was going to have to wait another day.
[Pictures from my iPhone waiting in line and President Obama giving his speech at the Prime Osbourne Center.]
On November 1st, 2012 I got a chance to see the First Lady Michelle Obama. I knew what to expect this time and her appearance at the Prime Osbourne was earlier in the day so as soon as I got up I was out the door to go stand in line. It was slightly brisk but I anticipated this and I also wanted to look good in case I needed to run off to work immediately afterwards.
As I was standing, in line with a group of African-American campaign workers from a neighboring county, two campaign workers were walking up and down the line and pulling people aside. Ok, now it’s about to get real.
I eavesdropped and listed to one of them explain that they were looking for people who were willing to stand during the duration of Michelle’s speech, to be energetic, and also to represent a diverse crowd of people. As soon as he said “diverse” I immediately perked up. I talked to one of them and started playing every single card I knew I had: the Asian card, the queer card, and even the UNF card. It worked! I got to stand, on stage, behind the First Lady!!!!! I also got to see Stevie Wonder up close and personal! Not only that, but I could actually sit down when there was down time. I was corralled with the group of other people who were also selected to stand behind her and one couple took one look at me and asked, “Didn’t you speak at city council?”
[Much better picture of me, bored, reading, and sitting next to the Steel Workers for Obama. Picture from the Florida Times-Union]
If you look at this picture you’ll see some lesbian friends (not a couple because one of their partners couldn’t get out of work), next to me is a Latina woman with her mother, a member of the UNF Delta Gamma sorority sitting behind me, an elderly African American woman, a JSO officer, a pregnant woman, etc. WE had almost every single representation of the American population.
Michelle spoke about how she never could’ve gone to college without financial aid, how Barack Obama respects and appreciates women to make their own decisions, how he witnessed his grandmother passed over for promotions because she was a woman, how it was not fair for insurance companies to charge more for the same coverage a man would receive in health care, how cutting Sesame Street would do nothing to help balance the budget, how military people are now free to be who they are, and how this economic mess cannot be solved in a short span of four years.
I was moved. I was cheering. I felt safe in my identity as both a sexual and gender minority. I was chanting for four more years but most importantly I was in absolute awe of this strong, independent and powerful woman.
Four more years of recognition, of being invited to the table, of being heard and in hopes of gaining rights and equality. Four more years…
PS — I know I said I would try to add a video from my iPhone but I guess WordPress is saying “NO!” =/
Hi, my name is N. Nguyen and I live on Hamilton St. in Jacksonville. I moved to Jacksonville in the fall of 2004 after receiving my first bachelor’s degree and I immediately knew that I was no longer in Kansas. I just knew that to be “different” or to be open-minded was something that was frowned upon so my friends from back home they don’t come to Jacksonville, to bring their tourist dollars to the city. I did not feel safe in this city and even at the young age of 22 all I could think of was how much I wanted to get out of this city, a place that was not accepting, not open, and at times, even oppressive. Whether it is because I’m Asian, that I’m the first generation to be born and raised in here in America, that I was raised Buddhist, or even the fact that I am female. I didn’t always wear my hair short or wear ties but I have noticed a stark difference to how people treat me, no matter how nice the clothes or haircut.
I’d like to think that people are all about the bottom line, that they will see me as a respectable paying customer, as the good neighbor who bought a nice house in Murray Hill, as someone who works with our future leaders here in the city and as an educated person who now has 2 bachelor’s degrees and will be completing a master’s at the end of this year. I’ve been working with young teens and college students for years and the most common thing I hear from them is how much they can’t wait to leave Jacksonville. To live and work in a city that is open, accepting, and makes a concerted effort to keep them there.
My parents immigrated to the US 3 years after the fall of Saigon. My father was a political prisoner, former paratrooper officer who worked with the US Army and now 1 of only 3 children still alive in his family. My mother is the oldest of 9 children and was the first to come to the US. They had a total of $500 to their name and my father, a newly wed young man, went looking for an apartment in a predominantly Italian-American community in Kansas City. Even with a clearly visible “for rent” sign displayed out front, landlord after landlord continuously said “no” to his face. 33 years later they now realize that times have not changed that much for their only child. They worry, as most parents do, about their only child being treated unfairly, about being discriminated against or even being picked on. My father always taught me to fight and stick up for myself, so now I am sticking up for myself and for city council to pass Bill 2012-296.
Summer is known as “down” or “quiet” time in academia. Majority of the student population has left, moved out of their dorm, using the summer months as a way to re-coup their finances or re-charge their mental battery. While going through data and information for the 2011-2012 annual report I noticed a binder, larger than any of the other binders, marked “2006-2007″ – the first year of the UNF LGBT Resource Center’s existence. I could just as easily throw the hundreds of evaluations out (since it’s past the five-year record-keeping mark) but curiosity got the best of me. “What is the progression from 2006-2012?”
Sure, we have the climate survey to mark our fifth year anniversary (comparing the 2010-2011 academic year vs 2005-2006) but that was voluntary. People who filled it out were going to either have an agenda (for or against LGBT) or were curious how much of an impact their answers would make. Most people just dismissed the email and lumped it in with their junk mail. Out of a campus size of 15,000 students, faculty, and staff we had more than 3,100 valid responses, or about a 20% response rate. From 2006-2012 we have spoken to (via classroom presentations) 2,020 students. Another thing to keep in mind – the 2011-2012 academic year saw the largest number (as of yet) of college students. In the first year alone we spoke to 530 student compared to a much smaller student body population.
But the evaluations are more than just facts and figures – it is a litmus that also shows the progression of acceptance, understanding, apathy, hate, tolerance and what topics are still “unknown” or uncomfortable to the majority. Here are some of the things that I’ve noticed:
People still don’t understand Transgender
- Whether it’s the transition process itself
- The transgender term/identity
- What the differences are between Transgender vs Cross Dresser vs Transsexual
Back then (as if it was eons ago when it really wasn’t) it took a lot more courage to speak about LGBT identity/issues
- Comments commending our courage, bravery, honest were more rampant
- This is a contrast to more neutral, if any, comments made on the most recent evaluations
The rating of “excellent” or “good” (regarding our presentations) continues to decline the further back it goes in years.
- LGBT people are facing a world that is more knowledgeable. Not necessarily tolerant or accepting but at the very least more aware that the LGBT population is growing.
- In the first years of its inception, those who are extremely homophobic (or unrelenting to acceptance) made it known. Now-a-days people are either apathetic or go by the old saying, “if you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This could also be because of the media attention regarding bullying and suicides.
More and more people are coming to the center no matter the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- This past academic year we ballooned to 4,459 students, faculty, staff and community members who walked into the LGBTRC’s doors. This is up 808 people compared to 2010-2011.
- More heterosexual people are not paranoid about the idea of being mislabeled as LGBT by association or by simply coming into the LGBTRC.
The more professional people we have working in the center, the more people are coming in.
- This is somewhat of a given – if the doors are open more often, more people are willing to come to the center. If the hours are sporadic or if the center’s closed, people will go somewhere else.
- Remember that 4,459 students, faculty, staff, and community members who came in during the 2011-2012 academic year? This is a huge contrast to the 538 people who came into the center when our staffing was extremely limited.
As the saying goes – upward and onward!
The LGBT community has influence over pop culture including fashion. From the androgynous runway model Andrej Pejic, style icon and t.v. talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres to creative fashion designers such as Tom Ford, and Christian Siriano the Fashion Industry has been able to make leaps and bounds regarding femininity and masculinity.
American women in the twenty to thirty age group appear to push the envelope in regards to style versus older generations, by finding inspiration from “boyfriends” clothes whether it’s accessories, pants, or an over-sized tee-shirt.
From February 9th through the 16th, New York will host Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The fashion world will display upcoming trends for 2012. Expect to see more gender-pushing styles such as short suits, color-block, abstract tees and bottoms.
Ever wondered about LGBT comic books or characters? There is a potential spoiler alert, though!
The LGBT Resource Center is putting out a call to all graduates from the 2010/2011 school year! If you graduated in Summer 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, or Summer 2011, you are eligible to participate in the Lavender Graduation Ceremony.
This ceremony started here at the University of North Florida and is now celebrated at colleges and universities across the nation. Our application is online and the deadline to apply as a graduating honoree is Friday, March 11 at midnight.
The RSVP deadline is Friday, March 18 at midnight.
The applications can be found at the following links:
Graduates MUST fill out both surveys to ensure that everyone is invited, and that enough food will be ordered for each person.
Community members and LGBT Resource Center Patrons are asked to only fill out the RSVP application.
Links to both applications will be available on the Blog, the Website, and Facebook.
Finally back from the Creating Change Conference in cold Minneapolis, MN. It was: amazing, exciting, thrilling, empowering, enlightening, celebrating, learning, and of course, exhausting. So here’s the brief summation of how my 3 days and 3 nights went.
- Arrived to single-digit temperatures, snow, dry skin, and static electricity
- Had dinner with my cohort (Ryan Miller) and one of his colleagues to an extremely busy hotel restaurant jam-packed with LGBTQA leaders, youth, advocates from across the nation. You could feel the energy of excited people exchanging ideas, expectations, and resources
- Called it a night in my 20th floor suite, which happened to be on the same floor as the POC (people of color) hospitality suite
- I was so excited about being there I decided to hit the gym… at 7am! I am NOT a morning person but I just could not stay asleep so I hit the gym and of course, everybody’s hogging the cardio machines. Good thing I prefer free weights anyway. Did some circuit training, went back to my room, showered, and dressed in my usual shirt/tie combo.
- Started a full day of LGBT campus administrators sessions from 9am – 6pm. A great ice-breaker of sorts and mingles makes me realize that not only do I NOT fit in the gender binary but I also do not fit in the Mac vs PC binary (I use both). I guess I am pre-destined to forever be in the middle
- During the day-long session I broke off into a POC group and found it both welcoming but also frustrating. Welcoming because I was no longer the 1 non-white person there. Frustrating because of all the horror stories that come with being both queer and a minority. I still walked away with a sense that there’s a purpose for everything.
- Went out afterwords to have dinner and explore COLD downtown. Thankfully, all establishments in the city of Minneapolis prohibit smoking – in other words, if a person wanted to smoke a cigarette, you’d have to go outside and freeze (if that’s not incentive to quit, I don’t know what is).
- Session 1 (9-10:30am) — Woke up early again, still not feeling tired, but man my skin’s super dry! I forgot how much winter wreaks havoc on skin. There are more 25 (1.5 hr) sessions I can choose from or I could go to one of 6 academy workshops (3 hrs). I go for the sessions, unfortunately I picked one that I didn’t like (info was too specific and dis-heartening). I almost wanted to demand a refund of my morning.
- Session 2 (10:45am-12:15pm) — went to an AMAZING session on guerilla marketing. The facilitator was very knowledgeable brought relevant examples, and was humorous/entertaining. I hope to get her sources soon via email.
- Lunch (12:15-1:30pm) — went walking around in the Skyway (human-sized hamster tunnels) and found a subway.
- Plenary (1:30-2:45pm) — State of the movement Address from Rea Carey. I didn’t stay for the whole thing but I did catch that we need to advocate for Social Security. Many people rely on social security for their main source of income and she drove the point home with “if our parents no longer have social security, and have no other financial means, they will end up moving back in with us!”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people running to sign up to send a letter to their senators.
- Session 3 (3-4:30pm) — Learned how to be a board star. Man this is a lot harder than I thought since I am on the board for both OUT Jacksonville and OASIS.
- Session 4 (4:45-6:15pm) — More board related stuff, learning how to ask for money. Also very important and very good.
- Caucus 1 (6:30-7:30pm) — Ryan and I facilitate a Southeastern US session on the issues that LGBTQ populations face in the southeast region: racism, heterosexism, gender binary, HIV infection rates, poverty, religion, lack of trans resources, etc. The only unfortunate part about the timing of this caucus is that it’s also during POC caucuses and we were lacking in both trans and POC representation.
- Evening events — Decided to go out and explore Hell’s Kitchen (which by the way, is NOT named after the TV show). Awesome restaurant that turns into a great night club/bar/hot spot. It not only gets packed but what was great was that several people and I had a really in-depth conversation about what it meant to be queer, young, and a person of color. It was great to have that conversation just for the hell of it.
- Session 5 — Learned about community center resources, and a great survey and statistics of the state of CBO’s (community based organizations) and NPO’s (non-profit organizations).
- Session 6 — originally went to learn about interpersonal violence and campuses and it turned out to be something else. Disappointed, I ducked out as soon as I could and went upstairs to Kink, Race, and Class. It was a packed house of people discussing the issues of being a POC and how we’re sometimes tokenized, made to play a certain role, and how it can trigger safety issues and psychological reactions.
- Lunch at Hell’s Kitchen, which was insanely packed for not only weekend brunch, but people from the task force looking to get out of the hotel. It was warm, I walked around in a sport coat and I was fine, it was 25 degrees. Guess I’m still a mid-westerner at heart.
- Session 7 — went to learn about how to move swing voters but this was after a very full lunch and I had a hard time staying awake. Tried to look for coffee but since it’s the weekend everything (in downtown) is closed.
- Session 8 — HOORAY! A session on API (Asian Pacific Islanders) LGBT organizations! Jacksonville is severely lacking in queer API visibility. I got some ideas on how we could try to bring some visibility, but let’s see if it happens.
- Caucus 2 — had a HUGE space to talk about butch/femme issues. It was great to talk about all the issues and all the perspectives.
- Evening events – decided to stay in, pack, and study (the joys of being a grad student)
- Wandered around for a bit and said goodbye to the feeling of inclusion and celebration of all my identities. That and the great view of the city I had. Back to humid Jacksonville.
Can’t wait until next year!!!