Smoke

Issue XII, Vol. XXVII, No.326 | September 2022

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Gray Alliance News

John Richardson

Gray Alliance is a group for LGBTQ+ seniors, and we get together for potlucks the last Sunday of each month.

​​

We will have a potluck Sunday September 25th at the First Congregational Church from 2-4 pm. We will meet in the Fireside Room of the church, which is located at the south end of the church at 2131 N Van Ness Blvd in Fresno. Please note that although we are using a church facility, Gray Alliance has no religious affiliation.

If you have any questions, please contact John Richardson at 559-260-1565. Hope to see you soon!

Youth Alliance News September 2022
David McGee

 

This year, summer radiated right through mid-September with double-digit heat and Scirocco winds. Finally, in mid-month, we have been blessed with fall temperatures and even a bit of rain! Our LGBTQ Youth Alliance members never complained about the heat this past season, and luckily, the air conditioning in the room we rent from the Big Red Church was sufficient to keep us cool when we met on Friday nights!

 

In the past month, youth group members spent several meetings responding to questions from a book of 3000 questions that Rachel (AKA Banana) brings to group. The questions in the book ask about personal opinions on various topics, such as love, life, and some vague questions on political beliefs. The group members are always quite candid, and one person’s answers often spark debate among the group members! A recent question we all answered was whether we would consider following a vegan or vegetarian diet for a month. The answers we all gave were hilarious! Several group members reported they would consider a restricted diet, and the rest of us vehemently refused!

At our most recent Youth Alliance meeting, Banana asked the group to make a list of cis (straight) male stereotypes, cis female stereotypes, and queer male and female stereotypes. The group came up with at least 20 characteristics for both cis categories, but then had trouble listing the stereotypes with which they are often treated! We had a great time discussing the answers to the three characteristics and why the group had so much trouble listing the biases they frequently face! At the end of the evening, Banana let folks talk amongst themselves, and no one wanted to leave when 8:30 came around! They were having too much fun talking to each other!

 

We save our last Friday of the month for a potluck meeting. At our most recent potluck, we had plenty of pizza, chips, soda, and dessert! Attendance that night was low, and the youth who attended decided to sit in a circle on the floor and yack it up for the entire hour and a half! Everyone had a great time! Potluck night is a great night for new attendees to come since we let everyone talk without asking formalized questions!

 

The LGBTQ Youth Alliance meets in person at the Big Red Church (First Congregational Church) on Friday nights from 7 to 8:30 PM! Unfortunately, we have given up on using Zoom to provide our group meetings online for now. The church’s Wi-Fi signal just doesn’t reach our meeting room continuously—we’re connected one minute and disconnected the next! But we will continue to post on Facebook, and now that we’ve got our Instagram account going, we’ve published on Instagram, as well! We urge all LGBTQ school-age youth to join us Friday nights at the Big Red Church, located at 2131 N. Van Ness!

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Local Organization Endorsements for the Upcoming Election
 

Fresno Stonewall Democrats are dedicated to advancing the equal rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, preference, or identity. We support the Democratic Party and those Democratic Candidates who support our mission. Below are the candidates endorsed by Fresno Stonewall Democrats in the upcoming November 8 General Election:

 

FEDERAL ENDORSEMENTS:

U.S. Senator: Alex Padilla

U.S. Congressional District 20: Marisa Wood

U.S. Congressional District 21: Jim Costa

 

STATE ENDORSEMENTS:

CA Governor: Gavin Newsom

CA Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis

CA Secretary of State: Dr. Shirley Weber

CA Attorney General: Rob Bonta

CA Treasurer: Fiona Ma

CA Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond

CA Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara

CA Senate District 12: Susanne Gundy

CA Senate District 14: Anna Caballero

CA Assembly District 27: Esmeralda Soria

CA Assembly District 31: Joaquin Arambula

 

EDUCATION ENDORSEMENTS:

Fresno Unified School Board Area 4: Veva Islas

State Center Community College District Trustee Area 1: Destiny Rodriguez

State Center Community College District Trustee Area 5: Gilbert Felix

Central Unified School Board Area 4: Nabil Kherfan

 

Check your Voter Registration Status: https://voterstatus.sos.ca.gov

Register Online to Vote (California only): https://registertovote.ca.gov

 

More information about the election and these candidates can be found at our website:

https://fresnostonewalldemocrats.org

Local

 
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Governor Newsom signs bill to help LGBTQ military veterans reclaim benefits
BDavid McGee

On Saturday, September 17, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will help LGBTQ veterans, discharged for being LGBTQ, to reestablish their eligibility for Veterans Affairs benefits.

The bill, AB 325, sponsored by Assembly member Jacqui Irwin, a Democrat from Thousand Oaks, assists LGBTQ veterans in updating their records and accessing education, health, burial, and other benefits available to honorably discharged service members.

Nationwide, it is estimated that in the entire history of the US military, more than 100,000 service members were dismisses based on their sexual orientation or gender identities—14,000 of them were dismissed during the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policies that were set in place in 1993.

(Source: msn.com)

Texas judge blocks investigations of transgender youths’ families
David McGee

A Texas judge recently expanded her order blocking the state from investigating families of transgender youth who have received gender-affirming medical care. Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from investigating members of the LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG, Inc, over gender-affirming medical care. The group has more than 600 members in Texas.

In July, Meachum issued an order blocking the investigations against two families of transgender children who sued the state. Meachum’s recent order blocked the state from investigating another teen whose family sued the state, and it now applies to any family in Texas who has a transgender child.

Meachum’s ruling was the latest judgment against the state’s efforts to label gender-affirming care as child abuse.

(Source: abcnews.go.com)

LGBTQ Columnist’s 2017 explanation for why we need Pride events now more than ever still holds true
David McGee
 

The Huffington Post has reposted a column by Michelangelo Signorile, a contributing columnist for the Huffington Post in 2017, who noted that whenever LGBTQ activists start thinking that the LGBTQ community may no longer need Pride events, the country moves backward in its acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, reminding them that the community still needs Pride events to counter hatred and bigotry.

Signorile told readers that the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s, the death of Matthew Shepard in 1998, the Orlando massacre in 2016, and anti-transgender bathroom bills, which are still a current problem, have all reminded the LGBTQ community that the fight is not over. Currently, the LGBTQ community is still embattled over bathroom rights, gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, the Don’t Say Gay bill in Florida, 300 other bills across the US that undermine the wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals, as well as the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade. Clearly the LGBTQ community is not out of the woods.

Signorile’s conclusion is that Pride celebrations are still needed. He stated that Pride celebrations may be “hokey and kitsch, commercial and whatever.” But Pride belongs to the LGBTQ community. And it’s also “diverse and vibrant and enormous and powerful.”

(Source: huffpost.com)

National

 
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Queen Elizabeth II ruled through decades of change on LGBTQ rights, but her LGBTQ legacy is complicated

David McGee
 

Queen Elizabeth was supposed to be a symbol of unity, which lead her to refrain from giving her opinion on issues seen as partisan, such as LGBTQ rights.

 

In 1952, when Elizabeth took the throne after the death of her father, same-sex relations were criminalized in England and the Commonwealth countries it colonized.

 

By the time Queen Elizabeth died, the landscape for LGBTQ rights looked dramatically different in the United Kingdom—in part because she approved many pro-LGBTQ measures, such as same-sex marriage. That support has led some to argue that she was a quiet supporter of LGBTQ rights, but others say she was just doing her job.

 

Charles Upchurch, a professor of British history at Florida State University, said the queen gave her assent to any bill passed by Parliament, so people shouldn’t give her credit for the passage of pro-LGBTQ legislation. Upchurch reports it was Princess Diana, who, as a member of the royal family, got involved in HIV activism in 1980, and was able to reach out to individuals with HIV disease in London and New York. Upchurch says Diana was a clear supporter of LGBTQ individuals, despite the crown’s history of remaining non-partisan in all matters of state.


On the other hand, Carl Austin-Behan, the first openly gay lord mayor of Manchester, who met the queen in 2021, recently told the BBC that the queen was proud of the advancements the country has accomplished for LGBTQ people. Austin-Behan told the BBC, “I feel she genuinely cared about our community.”

 

(Source: nbcnews.com)

International

 
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Enlighten Me

 

Fixing the world’s problems in your head

Mark Lang
 

 

Oh, the plight of the troubled mind. It seems as though the human mind is constantly trying to solve problems. Think about it. As soon as you got up this morning, you probably started to focus on problem-solving thoughts such as, “How much time do I have before I need to leave the house? What will I have for breakfast? What do I want to wear? What do I need to do today?”

 

And isn’t it true that as soon as your mind solves one problem, it finds another one? You look around and wonder if you can find something not quite right, something which needs changing. Is your mind ever content? When was the last time you had no problems at all for your mind to solve? When is your mind ever at rest?

 

Here’s a fresh idea: just for a moment, give your mind a well-deserved sabbatical and let things be. Try not solving anything just for a few minutes. Can you do it? (Don’t try too hard now, or you will turn this little task into a problem to solve.)

 

Please understand that I am not saying you should ignore your problems and live in denial. On the contrary, I am saying you would be far better off emotionally and psychologically if you recognized there are some things within your control and some out of your control.

Ultimately, you can only control two things in life—your attitude and behavior. The rest of the world events are entirely out of your hands. Therefore, accept the inevitable and face reality. Sometimes realities can be tough to deal with such as aging, nasty weather, world catastrophes, or rush hour traffic. So, stop struggling with things outside your control.

(Side Note: I must admit, it has been a fantasy of mine to control that one slow-ass driver at the head of the traffic jam. You know the guy; the one who causes everyone else to be late. Sometimes if I squint, I think I can see him way up ahead. He’s the one with his brake lights on the entire time. If I were in control of the world, I’d order a spaceship to hover over his vehicle to beam him up in one of those much-theorized alien abductions. Wouldn’t that be nice? Sigh.)

 

We play this kind of mind game all the time. We all have some preconceived notions in our heads for how we think the world should be. We try to solve our inner problems with external things. However, external fixes for internal problems don’t work. Come on; we can’t expect our minds to fix everything. So why do we torture ourselves by engaging in that mental struggle? Why not just acknowledge that some things are out of our hands and let it go? There is a sense of peace which comes from letting things be. At first read, that pithy, little phrase may seem to be common sense. However, how many of us put it into practice?

 

You see, it’s not the actual situation which bothers you—it’s the negative emotions you attach to that event. (Let me say that again in case you were daydreaming.) It’s the pessimistic appraisal you attach to an incident which produces negative feelings. The underlying problem is that you do not feel at peace within yourself. If you did, you would not feel the need to change the world to fit your preconceived notions.

What ends up happening is that you reconstruct the outside world inside your mind in a way which fits your thinking. You unconsciously do this because you desire a feeling of control, and you are the prime ruler of the world in your head. Once that task in neatly done, all you have to do is live in your mental world. (Come to think of it, you have nowhere else to live!)

Think of it this way: your inner-thoughts are a running dialog of your moment-by-moment experiences. For example, you are walking across a dimly lit parking lot one night, and your inner voice says, “Wow! It is very dark out here!” The thing is—you already know it is dark, so why does your inner-voice even bother telling you?

It’s your mind’s way of trying to give you a false sense of control over the outside world. It’s like waiting for an elevator, and you keep pushing the button over and over. (As if that’s going to help, right?) You just keep doing it to feel a sense of power over what is happening. (Get it? Got it? Good!)

Something to meditate on today. The next time you catch yourself trying to solve your inner problems with outside solutions, notice how you are not solving the real problem. What you are attempting to do instead is avoid unpleasant emotions such as anxiety. To address your internal problems, go beyond your comfort zone. Face your feelings instead of avoiding them. Then take a deep breath and finally let your problem-solving mind be at peace. Exhale.  

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THE CREEPINESS THAT LURKS

 

My gym workout was complete. I headed into the locker room to grab my stuff. Deciding to shower at home, I marked out a spot on a bench to change out of my sweaty clothes. I paused though. Being distracted by a very distinct sound. A grotesque. Yet familiar one. I listened. But hence. It came no more.

 

Maybe I heard wrong. That damp space was crowded, chaotic, and noisy. Plenty of strange things clicked to life from the cacophony of cell phones. Locks snapped open and shut. Athletes were clanging and mixing their protein drinks in bottles.  

 

I proceeded with my exit routine. Opening my locker. Grabbing my duffel bag and setting it next to me on my seat. Checking my own Android device to see if that somehow produced the awful, harsh sound I heard in that jarring moment.  

 

Amidst the hullabaloo, I changed into a dry T-shirt, underwear, and shorts. Then before attending to my feet. It came again. That mangled sound. Piercing the air with its unnerving quality. That repugnance furiously swept around the metal rows of lockers. It couldn’t be what I thought. That would be utterly ghastly. Not in the middle of this many men and boys moving about.  

 

Once more it ceased. All the fellas around me just carried on. Seemingly oblivious. I wondered if none of my health club mortals were hearing this grim and grating noise too. And feeling horrified by it all. I felt I was doubting my sanity. Perhaps I was going a little mad. Only imagining it.  

It would be understandable. I was exhausted from a long day of meetings. Followed by an hour of cardio exercise on both the bike and the elliptical machine. Adding to that my howling hunger pains and my monster thirst for Gatorade. Fatigue had me in its gruesome clutches.  

Here I was. Simply wanting to get home and shower and eat my dinner. So I nudged myself out of that trance. Forgetting about those weird noises. Pulling off my shoes and socks. I then searched my bag without success for the extra black socks I’d packed.  

Barefoot. I retraced my steps. Guessing that those ankle length Hanes had fallen out of my bag. My hunch was dead right. There they were. Sitting in my locker. Folded together in a ball.  

As I began my way back toward my seat; I stepped upon something jagged while in bare feet. I leaned against a beam to try and inspect the devilish detritus that had nestled into the spot between my toes. Wiping away the debris that unpleasantly carved into my skin there.  

The next several steps had me frightfully hopping up and down. It was as if I’d walked across a floor full of tiny shards of glass. I stopped. Bent down to examine it closely. Revealed in horror to me were large raggedy toenail clippings embedded in my soft soles. And spread forbiddingly all over the deathly cold tile floor. Many of them were a macabre, dingy, dark color.  

It was petrifying. I had literally been walking over a grisly graveyard of keratin and fungus. I located the guy who was bewitching us with this disgusting sorcery. He was several feet away on another bench. Continuing his accumulation of more gnarled discolored toenail clippings to the locker room floor.  

That was the dreadful sound I’d been hearing in this very public space. Toenail clipping. It was sort of like staring into the eyes of Medusa. I thought I’d immediately be cast into stone from the hideousness that I’d seen.  

Panic stricken and aghast with what other bodily parts lie in wait for me on the floor. I spun away from him. Quickly gathering my socks and shoes into my sports bag. Turning and running barefoot straight to my car. Bolting out of that disturbingly morbid scene.  

Beware the creepiness that lurks nearby during your 31 days of Halloween.  

This hair-raising story of what lies beneath is brought to you by that guy of midnight mysteriousness. That guy putting nails in the coffin is Ron Blake and he can be sent a batty message at rblake5551@hotmail.com.  

New Wellness

 
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Small Angles by Lauren Owen

   A Kaylia Metcalfe review

Let’s talk for a quick second about genre.

Most of us have a few genres we are drawn to and a few that we shy away from. I, for example, will read almost anything under the “speculative fiction” umbrella (sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia) but have a hard time talking myself into reading things labeled “romance” or “World War 2.”

 

In the last few decades, genres have shifted. Some, like YA, have grown and expanded, encompassing now all sorts of subgenres. There are YA sci-fis and YA romances, etc.

 

A relatively new -to the mainstream- genre is LGBT or Queer Lit.

 

Queer Lit can technically be either the primary genre type or a subgenre. However, in most places and spaces, a book is LGBT first and then whatever else second. So, a Gay Romance. A Queer Historical Fiction. A Lesbian Mystery.

 

Now, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing will be a mix of personal opinion and historical baggage. One must wonder if the reason that such gay romances are called “gay” romances is to make sure that no one accidentally reads a romance and is surprised to find gay people inside it. We wouldn't want that, would we? People ought to know if there will be gayness in their books before they start! How else can close-minded bigots avoid maybe encountering people (characters) outside their comfort zones?

 

The other side of the coin is maybe more valid. Representation matters and queer people deserve to be able to find and read books that reflect their community.

 

Again though… will a book be limited in terms of the audience if it carries the LGBT tag? Will it be ignored or passed over by general readers who are drawn more to the other labels, that of “mystery” or “horror” or whatever? Will people assume that if it is a queer book it is only for queer people? And just how queer does a book need to be to get that label? Queer characters…. Sure, but do they have to be the main characters? What if the LGBT characters are just bit players? What if there’s only one? Who gets to decide if a book is queer enough to be considered Queer Lit?

So where does that leave us?

 

Well, this is a book review, not an Op-Ed, so where that leaves us today is discussing Small Angels: a ghost story that features magic, superb writing, a mystery, and -oh yes- queer characters.

 

As usual, I will use my ASPECT method.

 

A: Atmosphere (tone).

It can be difficult to balance between a ghost story that feels like a fairy tale and a contemporary story that has enough tension and character development that we actually care about what happens. Owen manages to do this. We are in a very specific setting. The woods, the farms, the town, the pub… the country lanes sparsely populated with villagers and ghosts alike create a place that the reader can instantly envision. Owen’s writing is almost cinematic in terms of creating the feeling of the village, the church, and the forest paths… and the reader is quickly drawn into the story.

S: Style.

There are several stories within the story. More than just flashbacks, these are fully fleshed-out narratives that stitch together as the book progresses. Some readers might get frustrated with the movement back and forth through time or the fact that the ghost story and village urban myths are talked about in the same tone as the more mundane aspects of village life. Our parallel storylines do intersect and the merging of the two neatly sidesteps any clunkiness by the reader’s own realization that they have been getting the story in the same pieces and order as the characters.

P: Plot/Pacing.

This is a ghost story first and foremost. There is a magic that must be dealt with. There is also a wedding, a family in need of reconciliation, a village in need of acceptance, a ghost in need of a sacrifice, and a pair of lovers in need of reunion. This is not a short book but it is paced well. There is a definite build-up of tension even if it is a relatively slow build, and the climax is appropriate in scope.

E: Entertaining.

Yes. This isn’t a page-turner by any means, but I was curious about how it would all shake out. There were no twists, per se, but there were a few “a-ha” moments. I was invested in the mystery and drama, and I found myself emotionally preparing for a variety of different outcomes. The page count might seem high, 383, but it never stopped being interesting.

 

C: Characters.

This is a spoiler-free review so I won't go into too much detail, but one thing I feel I must say is that the collective group of the villagers was fascinating. Very few were multi-dimensional, they were, after all, the background side characters. However, the fact that the villagers know about the magic but either turn a blind eye or refuse to accept what they can clearly see…. And the fact that they allow some pretty messed up things to occur because those things were happening to “others” and not them, were probably some of the most sinister and recognizable parts of the book. It’s hard not to see parallels of our own society in the actions of these willfully “ignorant” (read, apathetic) community members.

 

I would be remiss to not mention the lesbian couple as this book does hold the label of Queer Lit. Here’s the thing though, the lesbians in this book are treated in the same way as the straights. Yes, there is a thwarted love and yes there is drama and miscommunication and people having to compromise… but the same could be said for the other main couple in the book, the hetero couple.

And… I loved it. I loved that the queerness of these women was not their driving motivation, their main personality traits, or even all that important.

 

Yes, they were lesbians. But the reason others were against their pairing was more about familial obligations and family secrets. The queerness was moot. And that made it even more refreshing. The queer and straight main characters -the three women- were all written well and felt like authentic people. They were complicated and interesting.

 

T: This… as in, Why THIS book? (AKA, Would I recommend it?)

I’ll admit that I found this book on an “LGBT Books of 2022” list. And… of course, I am glad that it is on that list, and I am glad to have enjoyed the company of the lesbians within its pages.

 

Yes, I would recommend it… however, I would recommend it to anyone who wants a ghost story fairy tale about magical woods and literary levels of how society treats outsiders. It isn’t overly spooky, but the prose is beautiful, the magic was folkloreesque, the ending satisfying, and bonus… a lesbian couple!

 

I do think that this is a great book that happens to have queer characters rather than a strictly queer book… and I hope it finds an audience beyond just the LGBT community. In my humble opinion, we need more books like this one. Books that eschew the confines of genre and labels in the same way that many of us do and deserve to be read (loved) for their individualism and uniqueness. This book was great not because it had queer characters, but because all the characters were written wonderfully and the story was engaging and beautiful.

Kaylia Metcalfe is a freelance audio and copy editor based in Fresno CA. She produces podcasts as part of the KMMA Media Network and cohosts

the monthly radio show It’s A Queer Thang on KFCF. For more information, visit kayliametcalfe.com

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Book Flow

 
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TRUNK OR TREAT
SUNDAY, Oct 23, 2022 - 5 - 8 PM

1649 Van Ness Ave

Join us for the First Annual Fresno Rainbow Pride Trunk or Treat!

 

A free event for all families. Sponsored by Welbe Health of Fresno.


Treats

Games

Craft station

and much more!

Events

 
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Contact Us

P O Box 4959, Fresno, CA 93744

newslnk@aol.com  |  Tel: 559-266-5465

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News and happenings for, by, about and affecting the LGBT Valley.
Project of Community Link, Inc: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Service Organization. 
EST. September 1995

Community Link Projects