Accessibility through Social Media for Libraries 101

Just a quick collection of resources I find helpful in using social media to create better and broader access (and accessibility) for library events and more.

ACCESSIBILITY

There are many ways of interpreting the word “access.” The ones I encounter most often are 1) access (as in this thing exists somewhere I can find it or get hands on it, which I think of as ‘discoverability’) and accessibility (as in I can use this, even if I’m a person with a disability, whether my functional difference is visible or invisible).

Golden rules of social media accessibility: http://www.danya.com/files/sma_poster.pdf

Accessibility Hub: Social Media Accessibility – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube: http://www.queensu.ca/accessibility/how-info/social-media-accessibility

Social Media for People with a Disability: https://mediaaccess.org.au/web/social-media-for-people-with-a-disability

SSB Bart Group: Accessibility in Social Media: http://www.ssbbartgroup.com/blog/accessible-social-media/

ePolicyWorks: 5 Things: https://www.epolicyworks.org/epw/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ePolicyWorks_SocialMediaAccessibilityTips.pdf

District of Columbia: Office of Disability Rights: Technical Assistance Manual: Section 508: Website and Social Media Accessibility: https://odr.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/odr/publication/attachments/Web%20and%20Social%20Media%20AccessibilityTechnical%20Assistance%20Manual.docx

Accessibility U: Accessible Social Media: http://accessibility.umn.edu/tutorials/accessible-social-media

Global Disability Rights Now: Creating Accessible Social Media Campaigns: http://www.globaldisabilityrightsnow.org/sites/default/files/related-files/243/Social%20media%20and%20accessibility.pdf
[comment: I find it super ironic that a site on disability rights is providing accessibility content as a PDF.]

LIBRARY EXAMPLES & ARTICLES

Use of social media by the library, current practices and future opportunities: A white paper from Taylor & Francis: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/access/white-paper-social-media.pdf

University of Virginia: Library: Legal Information about Media Accessibility: http://www.library.virginia.edu/services/accessibility-services/media-accessibility-resources/legal-information-about-media-accessibility/

Social Media and the Science Library: How It Really Works: http://www.rsc.org/globalassets/14-campaigns/m/lc/lc16026/royal-society-of-chemistry-social-media-ebook.pdf

#FridayReads: Library and campus engagement through social media: https://link.highedweb.org/2017/02/fridayreads-library-and-campus-engagement-through-social-media/

TOOLS

One of the benefits of social media is that it makes content more readily discoverable by a broader audience in time and space. One of the drawbacks is that many social media platforms aren’t easy to use by people with various disabilities. This is just a tiny sampling of some of the information or tools that might help with some parts of that, although not others.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
– Facebook Accessibility: https://www.facebook.com/accessibility/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/
– Easy Chirp: http://www.easychirp.com/

Lanyrd: http://lanyrd.com/

Storify: https://storify.com/

SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES

If you don’t have a social media policy, you will probably live to regret it. Here are some examples.

Why Have a Social Media Policy for Your University Library? http://www.proquest.com/blog/2013/why-have-a-social-media-policy-for-your-university-library.html

Creating a Social Media Policy: What We Did, What We Learned: http://www.infotoday.com/mls/mar13/Breed–Creating-a-Social-Media-Policy.shtml

Example social media policies from libraries

Cleveland Public Library: https://cpl.org/thelibrary/usingthelibrary/policy-on-the-use-of-cpls-social-media-sites/
Monroe County Public Library: https://mcpl.info/geninfo/social-media-policy
Plum Creek Library: http://www.plumcreeklibrary.org/jackson/Docs/social%20media%20policy.pdf
TAZEWELL COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY: https://tcplweb.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/03/TCPL-Social-Media-Policy.pdf
Thomas Crane Library: http://thomascranelibrary.org/sites/default/files/Social%20Media%20Policy.pdf
UNC University Library: http://blogs.lib.unc.edu/news/index.php/social-media-policy-for-library-employees/
Washington State University Libraries: http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/policies/social-media

GUIDELINES ETC.

Where to start first

Federal Social Media Accessibility Toolkit https://hackpad.com/Federal-Social-Media-Accessibility-Toolkit-xWKKBxzGubh

Federal Social Media Accessibility Toolkit Hackpad: Improving the Accessibility of Social Media for Public Service https://www.digitalgov.gov/resources/federal-social-media-accessibility-toolkit-hackpad/

More resources

Section 508: Create Accessible Video and Social Media https://www.section508.gov/content/build/create-accessible-video-social

Media Access Australia: Social Media for People with a Disability: https://mediaaccess.org.au/web/social-media-for-people-with-a-disability

Improving the Accessibility of Social Media in Government: https://www.digitalgov.gov/resources/improving-the-accessibility-of-social-media-in-government/

Social Media and Accessibility: Resources to Know:
https://www.digitalgov.gov/2015/01/02/social-media-and-accessibility-resources-to-know/

The One-Minute Haggadah and Other Mysteries

Technology is weird, and strange, and it allows us to do things that people would probably not have imagined a few years back. Like this, that just appeared in my Facebook stream — a Rube Goldberg machine to tell the Passover story, which is an essential part of the Jewish Passover seder through the series of prayers known as the Haggadah.

Or this, DIY Haggadah generator, an online interactive tool to help you create and share your very own custom haggadah.

DIY Haggadah Tool - Haggadot
https://www.haggadot.com/

People have done some really interesting and creative things with making their own Haggadahs. I’d like to share some of them with you, but first a bit of context. While I am not Jewish, I have sometimes had the privilege of being invited to the Passover seder celebration, which is beautiful and meaningful. I confess to being surprised by some of the range of Haggadah I’ve stumbled across, and the fluidity with which some have taken the story and personalized it in ways that range from profound to hysterically funny. I suspect some of these examples are probably not actually something a Rabbi would approve, but I’m pretty solidly a Gentile, so I will leave that to the experts. For this list, I just collected a few examples showing some of the creative and diverse ways in which people have explored this beautiful tradition in ways that may or may not make it more timely or relevant in their own context. For myself, I’m inspired by the creativity of how people are telling the essence of the same story in so many very different ways. Some of these links simply to point to a discussion about an example, while others provide the full text. I will note these latter in italics.

Absolut Haggadah

Adam and Steve Haggadah (LGBT themed)

The Baseball Haggadah [Book]

The #BlackLivesMatter Haggadah

Bruce Springsteen’s rock’n’roll Passover Haggadah

Bubie’s Haggadah (for children)

Different from all other nights: A Queer Passover Haggadah, from the NYU Bronfman Center

Dr. Suess-style Haggadah [sic]

The Freedom Seder T(inspired by Martin Luther King)

Exodus: Movement of Jah People (includes parody tunes such as “Take me out to the Seder” sung to the tune of “Take me out to the ballgame”)

Freedom Seder for the Earth (Haggadah for the Earth, PDF)

Haggadah for the Liberated Lamb (vegetarian)

Hamilton Haggadah (about, download, audio)

The Harry Potter (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah [Book] (about 1, about 2)

Immigrant Roots, Immigrant Rights; Labor Seder (about the Labor seder)

JQ International GLBT Haggadah

The Kahoot Seder (done with interactive classroom clicker technology)

Ma Nishtana: A GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER, QUESTIONING, ALLY HAGGADAH

The Medium is the Matzo (urban themed)

Monty Python Haggaddah

The Neverending Haggadah (a crowdsourced haggadah collection)

Peace is Sexy Haggadah

Poet’s Haggadah [book] (about)

Pride Freedom Seder Haggadah (LGBT-themed)

Refugee Stories (HIAS Haggadah Supplement, PDF)

So Called Seder: A Hip Hop Haggadah [CD]

The Stonewall Seder (LGBT-themed)

The Two-Minute Haggadah: A Passover service for the impatient.

Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah for Pesach with a cover and slideshow version (an open source haggadah by a poet, also a woman rabbi)

Worthy is JAH Lamb, a Rastafari Passover Haggadah (pdf)

Zombie Haggadah [Book] (about)

Your Opinion Matters

Legendary Phoenix: Your Opinion

I find myself disturbed by today’s TeeFury special, by Legendary Phoenix. The image shows Rick, a stereotypical scientist in a white lab coat with messy hair, a unibrow, eyes ripe with ennui, bags under his eyes, a pointy nose, and a glum descending (and condescending) mouth. The scientist is saying (in a word bubble), “I’m sorry, but your opinion means very little to me.”

TeeFury: Legendary Phoenix: Your Opinion

I expect some science geeks to jump up and down with glee and say, “You see? It’s not about OPINIONS! Ha! Gotcha!” However, one of the greatest challenges in science communication and science literacy is this perception that scientists are unpleasant, self-centered, passionless, people unwilling to listen or hold a civil conversation within the public sphere. “Your opinion means very little to me” could be “because I really prefer evidence over opinion” or it could be “because I’m socially inept and don’t care what people think” or it could be “because I bloody well don’t think you have anything to offer, and so I’m not listening” Or all of the above (and more).

And however you read it, these imply scientists have nothing to learn from experience, no compassion, no courtesy, no duty to educate or inform or improve science literacy among the broader populace, no understanding of intellectual sharing or community building, etcetera. Of course, real life is actually the opposite, on all counts, but this is the common perception.

This common perception has resulted in dangerous and ill informed policy decisions, reduced funding for research, strategically ill-applied research funding, poor translation of science findings into practice, and ultimately, unnecessary deaths and misery among those (all of us) who would benefit from the implementation of scientific discoveries.

“Scientific literacy is an urgent and important issue. Why should we care? The answer is simple: Our way of life and our survival are at stake.” – G. Wayne Clough, Secretary Smithsonian Institution

Your opinion matters

What I want to say is, “Your opinion matters. It matters because I care about how you got to your opinion, and I can learn from that. It matters because you might have information or resources or data that informs that opinion which aren’t available to me. It matters because I might have information or resources or data that aren’t available to you, and which might help both of us. It matters because if we put together what you have and what I have and more, we might get a picture of the problem or solution that are closer to what we really need. It matters because what how you feel about your opinion and how I feel about my opinion give an emotional context that is important in telling stories and shaping policy. It matters because IT MATTERS. So, tell me what your opinion is, share your sources and stories, listen to mine, and let’s learn together.”

I’m not buying the t-shirt. Or maybe I should, so that I can have this conversation over and over again.

Visual Abstracts — Thoughts from a Medical Librarian

Visual Abstracts (Screenshot)

You might be interested in this initiative arising out of surgery, and primarily developed by Andrew M. Ibrahim MD, MSc of the University of Michigan. Dr. Ibrahim is a Clinical Lecturer in Surgery here and a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation. His idea of a visual abstract is kind of a blend of visual literacies, infographics, posters, and science abstracts.

In surgery, this is being adopted as a new strategy for creating journal article abstracts. It is being mentioned by the Annals of Surgery, Cochrane Collaboration, Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS), and the World Journal of Surgery, among others.

It lends itself to plain language explanations of concepts, clarity for funding agencies and policy makers, and as a tool for public outreach and education. The visual abstract may be more accessible to folk with cognitive or learning disabilities, while being less accessible to those with visual disabilities. There are powerful benefits, especially in this era of publicly contested science findings, as well as some significant drawbacks if we were to depend on the visual abstract to replace written abstracts. Another challenge is that it isn’t actually searchable in databases, and the issue of how to include and discover visual abstracts in MEDLINE remains to be addressed by the National Library of Medicine. Personally, I’m not sure that it replaces the full functionality of the traditional abstract, but rather supplements it, which I suspect is the intent. Offering both strongly empowers science communicators and educators, especially if the images are licensed to promote use and dissemination. It would be ideal if the standard of practice for visual abstracts would be to make them Creative Commons licensed.

Medical librarians must be aware of this, and should develop the competencies and skills necessary to make them so that they can help support their institutions as well as creating these for their own articles and research. One of the most common questions about this is how to locate or create icons to use. Just a few quick suggestions. If you have a significant budget, hire a graphic designer. If you have a smaller budget, consider licensing icons from the Noun Project. If you have more time than money, consider using Open Clip Art, where the images are free, but it may take more digging or editing for images you can use.

Cool Toys Pic of the day - Noun Project

So, how do you make these? Dr. Ibrahim has examples, videos, and guidelines available at his site.

Here is the direct link to the primer, including guidelines and best practices for the creation of visual abstracts, but I have not been able to get the direct link to work consistently.

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5854aaa044024321a353bb0d/t/58b8f5b437c5816223531822/1488516555585/VisualAbstract_Primerv2.pdf

Increasing numbers of journals are requesting visual abstracts as part of article submissions or are creating them as part of promotional content for highlighted articles. You can find many examples on the website, and more in the Twitter stream for the hashtag #VisualAbstract. Here are some examples from the past couple weeks.

Have You Seen … What NIH is doing with their videocasts?

EDITORIAL ASIDE:
Yes, I’ve been away for a long time. I have so much to share, and so many lovely blogposts and concepts parked in “draft” mode. It’s been a rough few years culminating in a really rough year. More on that later. For now, I want to dip my toes back in with something short and easy that I can do quickly.


If I had infinite time, or several dozen of me connected to a shared massive brain, one of the things I’d like to do is lurk in various lecture series and soak up all kind of cutting edge info, philosophies, science, research discoveries, and so forth. Recently, I’ve been closely tracking the NIH Videocasts. So much wonderful information being presented, and lucky for us, most of it ends up on Youtube as NIHVcast!

Here are a few highlights from the Youtube channel, mostly from the NIH Director’s Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series and the Demystifying Medicine series, but with a few also from the Translational Research in Clinical Oncology (TRACO) program.

NIHVCAST HIGHLIGHTS

Demystifying Medicine 2017: Mitochondria, Aging, and Chronic Disease

Germs, genes, and host defense

TRACO 2016: Precision Medicine and Nanotechnology

Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past

Democratizing discovery science with n=Me

Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee – July 2016

Decoding the human genome: getting to 20/20

MicroRNAs and their regulatory effects

The epigenetic clock, biological age, and chronic diseases

Genome regulation by long noncoding RNAs

Demystifying Medicine 2016: How Long Can and Should We Live & What Centenarians Teach Us about Aging

Bacteria as master regulators and aphrodisiacs

Demystifying Medicine 2016: Robotic Planetary Exploration and Thoughts about Human Spaceflight

Age, genes, sex, and smell: predicting Parkinson disease

Demystifying Medicine 2016: Cholesterol: Too Much and Too Little Are Bad for Your Health

Biomedical research: increasing value, reducing waste

Demystifying Medicine 2016: Trauma in the Modern Age: Injury and Stem Cells

On My Own: An Afternoon with Diane Rehm

Demystifying Medicine 2016: Multiple Sclerosis: Mechanisms and Imaging the Process

Innate molecules in the inflammation and cancer

Using human stem cells to understand and treat diabetes

Adventures in brain plasticity: from memory palaces to soulcycle

The “July Effect” and Tips for New Doctors

THE “JULY EFFECT”

It’s that time of year again. Maybe you’ve already heard of the “July Effect”? Here’s a post making the rounds again today illustrating the depths of sarcasm and irony with which this meme is sometimes considered in healthcare.

Ask a July 1st Medicine Intern http://gomerblog.com/2015/07/medicine-intern/

But this is an idea that goes back for years. The gist of the idea is that it’s dangerous to go to the doctor in July because the new interns start then.

Here are a few pieces presenting that perspective.

Kirchheimer, Sid. Avoid the Hospital in July. Why? New doctors and nurses report to work for the first time. AARP June 2013. http://www.aarp.org/health/doctors-hospitals/info-06-2010/why_you_should_avoid_the_hospital_in_july.html

Headed to the Hospital? Beware the ‘July Effect’ — July means a fresh crop of medical residents. Should that scare you away? http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2014/07/21/headed-to-the-hospital-beware-the-july-effect

This idea has been around for decades, at least since the 1980s.

Dedra Buchwald, MD; Anthony L. Komaroff, MD; E. Francis Cook, ScD; Arnold M. Epstein, MD, MA. Indirect Costs for Medical Education: Is There a July Phenomenon? Arch Intern Med. 1989;149(4):765-768. doi:10.1001/archinte.1989.00390040007001. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2495778

Of course, it’s not as simple as the popular press would like to make it sound, and there is far more research presenting the opposing (but less well known) view, or that it is a small effect and one which impacts only certain patients in specific circumstances. Basically, the idea is that The “July effect” is mostly not true, and has been well debunked.

“For the subset of patients with internal medicine diagnoses, the expected “July Phenomenon” was observed, with significant relative declines in diagnostic and pharmaceutical charges in teaching hospitals over the academic year. In contrast, surgery patients showed an increase in length of stay and various charges over the academic year in teaching hospitals. There were no meaningful effects of housestaff experience on mortality, operative complications, or nursing home discharge. These results indicate that housestaff training is significantly related to the use of hospital resources for inpatients, but that the degree and direction of the effects differ by specialty.” (Rich et al, 1993)

“Although this study finds no support for a “July Phenomenon” in terms of quality of clinical care, house officers were found to be more likely to have poor documentation practices earlier in the academic year.” (Shulkin, 1995)

“There was no evidence of an increase in negative outcomes early in the academic year compared with the end of the academic year. We believe that a systematic approach to the diagnosis, resuscitation, and treatment of trauma prevented a July phenomenon.” (Claridge et al, 2001)

“Although small differences in outcome exist with respect to the academic time of the year, the timing of these differences indicates that there is not a “July phenomenon” in obstetrics at our institution.” (Myles, 2003)

“We find that the annual house-staff turnover results in increased resource utilization (i.e., higher risk-adjusted length of hospital stay) for both minor and major teaching hospitals and decreased quality (i.e., higher risk-adjusted mortality rates) for major teaching hospitals. Further, these effects with respect to mortality are not monotonically increasing in a hospital’s reliance on residents for the provision of care. In fact, the most-intensive teaching hospitals manage to avoid significant effects on mortality following this turnover.” (Huckman & Barro, 2005)

“The data suggest a “July effect” on some outcomes related to shunt surgery, but the effect was small. Nonetheless, the potential morbidity of shunt failure, infection, and the cost of treatment indicate that continued vigilance and appropriate supervision of new staff by attending surgeons is warranted.” (Kestle et al, 2006)

“Conclusions: High-risk acute myocardial infarction patients experience similar mortality in teaching- and non-teaching-intensive hospitals in July, but lower mortality in teaching-intensive hospitals in May. Low-risk patients experience no such July effect in teaching-intensive hospitals.” (Jena et al, 2013)

“Particularly in major teaching hospitals, we find evidence of a gradual trend of decreasing performance that begins several months before the actual cohort turnover and may result from a transition of responsibilities at major teaching hospitals in anticipation of the cohort turnover.” (Huckman et al, 2014)

“Data from a single institution study did not show a “July Phenomenon” in the number of operating minutes, overutilized minutes, or the number of ORs working late in July.” (Sanford et al, 2016)

“These data, in combination with the findings of Shah et al,1 suggest that the July phenomenon can largely be debunked in the modern era of surgical education.” (Thiels et al, 2016)

… and much more (Pubmed, Wikipedia)

The basic fundamental idea is, unless you are a high-risk patient, it is PERFECTLY SAFE TO SEE THE DOCTOR IN JULY.

TIPS FOR NEW DOCS

Why is it safe? Because the new docs are well trained, and have experience in a variety of situations. This all made me very interested in the annual event on Twitter in which experienced docs share tips with new docs just starting out. The biggest and best hashtag is #TipsForNewDocs, but others included #DearIntern, #DearResident, and #DearPatient.

I’ve collected a bunch of these awesome tips for all those new docs that started today, and you can find them here.

It’s about Orlando. But it’s not just about Orlando.

Chalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando): Wax from burned down candles at the chalked PRIDE flag

This morning I took pictures of UM Diag, where a PRIDE Flag has been chalked in support of the survivors of the Orlando massacre. The candles had burned to the ground, and melted away, leaving wax in the cracks between the bricks.

Chalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando)Chalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando): Orlando We Are With You

Last night I was one of a some hundreds of people at the Candlelight Vigil for Peace sponsored by the /aut/ Bar, also in support of Orlando.

Candlelight Vigil for Peace #OrlandoStrong

Yesterday afternoon, I sang with the Out Loud Chorus at Motor City Pride in Detroit.

Motor City Pride & Out Loud ChorusMotor City Pride & Out Loud Chorus

A week before that, I was riding the train home, curled up in a seat by the baggage, away from the other passengers, with tears streaming down my face, grieving for the loss of a dear-to-me friend who was a transgender woman.

DentLib: Exhibit: Boys Will Be Girls, Girls Will Be BoysDentLib: Exhibit: Boys Will Be Girls, Girls Will Be Boys

Two days before that, I’d walked 22,464 steps, because I couldn’t find a cab to get me to the memorial of Robin, one of my BFFs (best friends forever), married-with-children, who had died of cervical cancer.

Robin's MemorialRobin's Memorial

Two weeks before that, the breast cancer community, the healthcare social media community, the WORLD lost Jody Schroger, who I also considered a friend, even though we never met in person, because of the sweetness and richness of our six years of conversations on Twitter. Jody was a breast cancer survivor and advocate, until she wasn’t anymore.

Conversation with Jody - 1Conversation with Jody - 2
Conversation with Jody - 3Conversation with Jody - 4

These things are all connected, and not just through my recent life or experience. They have in common issues of community, loss, love, health, and more. They have in common issues of how to feel safe, how to be safe, how to be heard.

Jody was a hugely influential breast cancer advocate, one of the founders of the famous and successful #BCSM Twitter chat. Jody started out fighting for herself, but that just wasn’t the kind of person she was, so after her diagnosis, she basically spent the rest of her life fighting for everyone else. Yes, especially for breast cancer patients, but it wasn’t long before that became a very gracious and determined effort to encourage equality, access, information, and empowerment for ALL patients.

Chalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando): I always wish I could to more. Slowly I realize that love is all the more I can give.

Robin had cervical cancer, one of the cancers for which healthcare has done a pretty good job of prevention, or at least really reduced the incidence. Here’s a line from the American Cancer Society about this: “Most invasive cervical cancers are found in women who have not had regular screening.” Now, right up front, I want to say that I don’t really know anything about Robin’s own personal medical history with this, and I wouldn’t share it if I did. What I can share is that sense of hurt and betrayal that comes with the death of a loved one that is perceived as preventable, except for … fill in the blank. While I know that Robin and her family were incredible people, joyful, kind, funny, and generous to a fault, there were times when they had to make tough choices about financial stuff. I’ve had to do the same, but I’ve always had the failsafe of employer health insurance. Not everyone does. I imagine that because there were times when one or another of them worked multiple part-time jobs without insurance, or were self-employed, that perhaps there were a few times when routine screenings for perfectly health people seemed unnecessary. But, as things turn out, the screenings were needed. Is this something that happened because we didn’t yet have Obamacare? Because the insurance people have doesn’t cover what they really need? Is it a question of access or information or health literacy or trust in the healthcare system? I don’t know. But I know that ALL of those issues play a part in the pain and suffering and losses experienced around us every day. And whatever we’re doing to fix them is too little too late for Robin, and I will miss her for the rest of my life.

Chalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando): "Knowledge was more powerful than fear."

I’ll tell you that while coming home from one memorial is a rough raw time to get the news about another friend’s death. When I got the news, I was no expert, but knew enough about the context of trans* lives to know what you ask when a transgender person dies unexpectedly: suicide or murder? Those are the two questions that leap into your mind, and which you try not to ask. When I hear about a sudden loss of other friends, I’ll ask was it an accident or cancer or some other illness. But not for trans* friends. As friends talked with me about my grief, I was surprised how many had no idea about this.

“From our experience working with transgender people, we had prepared ourselves for high rates of suicide attempts, but we didn’t expect anything like this,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Our study participants reported attempting suicide at a rate more than 25 times the national average.” http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2010/10/07/study-high-rates-bullying-suicide-attempts-among-transgender-and-gender-non

“A staggering 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population,ii with rates rising for those who lost a job due to bias (55%), were harassed/bullied in school (51%), had low household income, or were the victim of physical assault (61%) or sexual assault (64%).” http://endtransdiscrimination.org/PDFs/NTDS_Exec_Summary.pdf

“The Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project systematically monitors, collects and analyses reports of homicides of trans people worldwide. … The name lists present the names and some details about the deaths of the otherwise anonymously reported trans murder victims. These lists are specially compiled for the annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance. The tables present statistics on the world region, country, date of death, location and cause of death, and the age and profession of the victims. The maps illustrate the worldwide scale of the reports of murdered trans persons.” http://tgeu.org/tmm/

If you are one of the good hearted people who is surprised by this, you are probably asking, “Why?” Basically, it comes down to fear as one of the primary motivators of hatred. I could go on a long time, but you are smart folk. Just look in Google for “transphobia” and you will find plenty. For the heartbreak of suicide, I’m a big fan of the Social Media for Suicide Prevention (#SPSM) group who meet on Twitter at 9pm Eastern Time on Sunday evenings. I don’t know of a similar regular chat for transgender life, but there are a lot of Twitter hashtags that might be relevant. Here are just a few: #Transgender / #Trans / #Transpeak / #StopTransMurders / #TwoSpirit. The lesson I take away from these awful statistics, and from the death of my friend, is that love doesn’t always win, at least not at the level of individuals, but that we can keep working toward a world in which love does win. You know, my trans friend who died last week? The events in Orlando would have infuriated her so much. We had a memorial for her tonight, and someone said it was almost like she was one of the victims of Orlando, what with the two coming so close together.

Chalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando): Love Always, ALL WAYS WINS

At Motor City Pride, I was singing with Out Loud Chorus, which is one of the choirs I sing in. Why do we sing in choirs? For a lot of reasons, but right up there at the top is for friendship, community, creativity, and challenge. (There are a lot of health benefits, too, by the way. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4) Why do LGBT communities have PRIDE events like Motor City Pride? Some of the same reasons (community, friendship, creativity), and some different (it’s a safe space is probably one of the top). “Safe space” is a concept that has been mentioned an awful lot since the Orlando Massacre. Where I’ve seen it, it’s been mentioned as part of a larger explanation of why and how LGBT folk are not and do not feel safe or included as members of our broader culture.

I remember vividly the first time I felt attracted to another woman. It was in high school. She was an upperclassman — lean, olive-skinned, wearing shorts and a man’s sleeveless undershirt. I felt like someone had zapped me with electricity, skin prickling, mouth hot and dry. And I had absolutely no idea what had just happened, because nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I eventually figured it out, years later. In the meantime, yes, I’d been dating guys, been married and divorced, had a kid. By the time I was divorced, a safe space was the number one thing I wanted most in the world. After I had a kid, I wanted the safest place possible for BOTH of us. Attraction to women was something I felt sometimes, but not very often, and frankly, it wasn’t something I sought out or looked for, and never acted on. A big part of “never acted on” was feeling distinctly unsafe. I’d heard the stories, knew about the things that happened to people who were gay. Some of them were pretty horrible stories. Of course, the decision wasn’t as simple (or as reasoned or conscious or aware), as I’m making it sound here.

When I joined Out Loud Chorus (OLC), decades later, I was firmly wearing my rainbow ALLY button. Quite a number of people in the choir are LGBT allies, so I didn’t feel strange about that. I recently sang in my first concert with OLC, selections from which were what we sang for the crowd at Motor City Pride. The title of the concert was “Destination: Me.” It was about transitions in our lives, how we change, how we choose to change (or not). Parts of it were about transitions experienced by the transgendered. As we prepared for the concert, what I kept noticing over and over was how incredible the people are in the choir. The bravery they take into their everyday lives, almost as if they don’t even think about it, it just IS. The determination and laughter. The unquestioning honesty and acceptance of people the way they are. There was a man at the concert in May who stopped the choir in the hall while we were lining up, and said a bunch of hurtful, almost vaguely threatening things to the “queer choir” as we lined up to go perform. I was taken aback. I’m accustomed to being the ally on the side who intervenes when things like this happen. It’s different when you stand there as one of the people with the invisible target on your chest. There is a very distinct “straight” privilege that belongs right there beside white privilege.

I stopped wearing my rainbow ALLY button recently. Today, I started giving away the rainbow ally buttons I have, because, for me, right now, it feels like a lie, and one that, after Orlando, I can’t bear to live with.

Gay Pride Ally Button//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

At the Candlelight Vigil for Peace, one of the phrases that was repeated over and over by speaker after speaker was, “knows what it’s like to be afraid to hold hands in public.” You know, there are health benefits to holding hands, too, of course. Rumor has it that this is maximized when holding hands with a romantic partner. Think about that for a moment. Holding hands makes people feel healthier and happier. But if you are gay, you are probably afraid to, or have been. It was strange for me to listen to this over and over. I’ve held hands with people. Usually, just people who are friends. There was one romantic partner with whom I enjoyed holding hands. I’ve held hands strategically when a man was threatening me or endangering me, and it calmed him to hold hands. I’ve held hands with people when my hands were hot and theirs were cold (or the reverse). I’ve held hands with my kids probably more than any other human beings. But I have never held hands with a woman who had romantic potential for me. And even so, I knew what they were talking about, about being afraid to hold hands, about being afraid to even want to hold hands.

My favorite speaker of the night was Amanda Edmonds, the Ypsilanti mayor, who spoke of putting her wife on a plane to Orlando just a few hours after the shootings. Of worrying. Of crying, and not being able to stop. Of not being able to help the way she longed to help. And of finding different ways to help, but starting here, with the people and places where we already are. There were other great speakers, so many of them. It was so special when Jim Toy said we need to remember not only the victims of Orlando, but all the victims, and to stand in solidarity with not only the gay communities, but other marginalized communities who suffer from isolation and exclusion, and when he explicitly stated the need for us to befriend the Muslim community, the crowd practically roared with support and applause.

There was music. This little light of mine, which is probably sung at many candlelight vigils. We shall overcome. The small choir sang a thoughtful piece, with this wonderful phrase: “There is no map for where we go. There is no map for where we go. We’re not lost, we’re here.”

Not lost

Some folk have focused on the why of the Orlando massacre pretty heavily. Was it ISIS? Was it homophobia? Was it self-hatred? Was it planned? Was it mental illness? I’m not sure if it really matters at this point. Or perhaps there is value in both sides, working from a multiplicity of perspectives toward a variety of solutions? Personally, I think there is significant value in taking a nuanced or multifaceted view, in considering aspects of all of the proposed causes. I’m not sure that it really matters to find a single cause to blame for this. The potential causes proposed are all reasonable considerations, they are all ongoing problems. We should be working to correct and improve all of them, as potential causes of future incidents, at the same time that we work to improve safety and provide healing for the families and communities involved in this and other tragedy.

You see, what happened in Orlando is terrible, but it isn’t just about Orlando. There’s a post going viral on Facebook about all the places you can’t go or can’t be unless you are willing to be murdered. It starts with your home and your office. There are similar posts about getting raped. And if there isn’t one, there should be one about who you aren’t allowed to be if you want to be safe in America, with LGBT, Muslim, disabled right at the top of the list, complete with “a different color” and “from a different place,” ending with just plain “different.” You want to be safe? Find a hole and crawl in, and never come out. You want to be safe? Don’t be different, don’t get sick, don’t get injured, don’t be born to the ‘wrong’ parents or have the ‘wrong’ friends or family. Don’t love, because that’s dangerous.

After 9/11, the local Buddhist temple painted an MLK quote on their walls that resonates with me today: “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” The messages written around the chalked flag on the UM Diag today focused largely on similar messages, of love, and its power to heal. There was one in particular that seemed to describe an ideal vision for all the underserved, excluded, wounded, isolated, underprivileged people; be they gay or straight or genderfluid; be they patients or survivors or family or providers. The gist of it was that when all our children love themselves, this won’t happen anymore. For our children to love themselves, we first have to love them, and love each other, and set a good example for how to love. You know what? That may be the hardest thing any of us ever do.

Chalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando): When ALL our sons and daughters like ourselves, this won't happenChalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando): Muslims Stand With Orlando
Chalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando): The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear Itself.Chalking Our Pride & Sorrow & Strength & Love (Orlando): Love Over Fear