LGBTQIA+ Defined

by Sue Vogl (she/her)

Yes, I’ve been identifying my gender pronouns for a while now. And, yes, I worked with the LGBTQ+ Center at USC for years (the + is a new addition). But, could I define “non-binary?” No, I could not.
 
Fortunately, our speaker Linda Reeves, a clinical therapist specializing in LGBTQ affirmative therapy and mother of a gay son, was there to explain that and more to our Monday Westdrift Rotary crowd (plus the Zoom crowd). But first . . .
 
Sergeant at Arms Dan Saks reminded me on Sunday that I had agreed to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and deliver the thought of the day, but my cisgender (nope, probably Covid) brain had not retained the information.  Fortunately, our Rotary Book Club recently met to discuss I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, whose quotes are original and inspiring. A bit thwarted by microphone issues (operator error, no doubt), I managed to say, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage. "
 
Past President Tim Hageman was standing in for President Jordan Holbert, who was celebrating her birthday and/or recovering from the celebration. After “retiring” from his Rotary presidency, Tim took two weeks off work to, perhaps, contemplate retirement, but, after four days at home, his wife announced that he is not retiring because he is disturbing her routine.  So, welcome back to the MBPD, Captain Hageman.
 
State of Our City
Richard Montgomery began his State of the City report with some good news. The city, due to Covid expenses, is $8.8 million in the hole but the federal government has stepped up with $8.2 million, half of which will be spent for a new fire station in East Manhattan. He urged members to complete a fire department survey. Outdoor dining was extended until the end of August, and it may become permanent or go back to pre-Covid inside dining. Other plans:  a storm water filtration project, a  potential park on city land at the bottom of 45th St.,  and the possibility of having our own prosecutor.
 
Cause-Based Clubs
Kathleen Terry took over to talk about two new Rotary clubs – satellite clubs and cause-based clubs. The cause-based club she championed, Fighting Human Trafficking, has already attracted 30 members and completed two service projects. Two more – mental health and the environment – are in the planning stages. Satellite clubs can provide a “traditional” club with a way to attract members who may want a more flexible schedule and lower dues. Although our club continues to attract new members, Kathleen assured us that is not the case with Rotary clubs across the U.S., many of which are losing members.
 
Gender Revolution
That provided Kathleen with a natural segue to introduce our speaker Linda Reeves, who diverged from her business career to pursue a master’s degree and become a clinical therapist. The Prism Institute, which she co-founded, has as its mission increasing awareness of LGBTQ issues. Linda is also currently writing a book for parents of transgender children. As Linda progressed in her education, she learned more about the cultural oppression of LGBTQ+ people and became, in her words, “a changed person.” 
 
We are experiencing a gender revolution, she said, but pointed out that gender roles have differed both through time and nationality. After all, as she illustrated, our “founding fathers” wore powdered wigs, pointed-toe shoes, rouge and ruffled shirts. 
 
Back to non-binary. Could we define it? Dave Harris spoke up. His niece is non-binary and uses the pronoun “them.” So, someone identifying as non-binary does not identify as female or male (for them “female/male is no longer relevant,” says Linda). If the use of plural rather than singular bothers you (and, as a journalist, I’m still getting used to it). Linda gave the example of a typical sentence: “We ordered a pizza, and they will bring it soon.” 
 
And here is what my headline LGBTQIA+ stands for: Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer and/or Questioning Intersex Asexual or Ally.
This awareness of fluctuating sexual presentations does not change the fact that discrimination against the LGBTQ community persists and is even encoded in law in some states.
 
Which makes Linda’s work particularly necessary. There wasn’t much time for questions, but one about the decision to have surgery for a transgender person certainly, in Linda’s experience, is a long process that includes the transgendered individual, family, and therapist but, says Linda, “Insurance companies have a lot to do with the decision.” And that is something I had not considered.
 
I would have liked to have time to hear Linda answer more questions but one thing we know about Rotary meetings – they begin and end on time! And we are all thankful for that. Another thing to be thankful for is that Norm Levin, who has been juggling AV and Zoom duties has a new helper, Linda Cappellitti, who will join us each Monday.