Stories from Prism & Pen — January 24, 2021

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by James Finn

Prism & Pen is fiction heavy this week! Did you know we started over two years ago as a “guest” fiction writers’ collective in other publications? It’s fun to see our roots showing sometimes — if you’ll pardon a groan-worthy pun.

I’m featuring two superb fiction pieces in our editor’s choices this week instead of one, because choosing between the two was more impossible than usual.

But don’t overlook the rest of our fiction, which is outstanding. …

Time to stop throwing women in jail for existing

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Illustration courtesy of The Loft LGBTQ+ community center of White Plains, NY

Walking while trans

Loitering laws are often described as “Walking While Trans” bans or “Stop and Frisk 2.0.” Repealing them represents a new, challenging frontier in the fight for justice and equality. A major victory is in sight right now in New York State. It’s time for the rest of the nation to sit up and pay attention.

Loitering laws empower police harassment of human beings on the margins. Black people, transgender women, homeless LGBTQ youth, and others lose big when police exercise power to jail them for merely existing in public spaces. …

What it is, what it can’t be, and the next steps

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President Biden yesterday, with a stack of executive orders waiting for his signature. Screenshot via wfaa news video.

Thank you, President Biden!

Yesterday, President Joe Biden issued what the Human Rights Campaign hails as the “most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president.”

The text of the order is sweeping in reach and technical detail, elegant as an appeal to decency and justice. Alphonso David of the Human Rights Campaign says the order “will begin to immediately change the lives of the millions of LGBTQ people seeking to be treated equally under the law.”

But many LGBTQ people and allies are celebrating the order as if it represents a definitive legal end to anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the United States. Sadly, it does not. The president’s order is important, powerful, and welcome — but like all executive orders can only go so far. …

Resources to get you started

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A proposed LGBTQ ally flag from a collection of public domain images at

Do you have friends or loved ones who identify somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum? Are they lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, or genderqueer? Do you ever think about how marginalized people sometimes have to fight to breathe through a toxic fog of othering?

Maybe you’re marginalized too? Are you Black, Latinx, or disabled? Have you thought about how marginalized identities intersect? About how Black transgender women, for example, get hit from all sides? Think about how racism, sexism and transphobia focus in one spot against one person at the same time.

Advocating for justice and inclusion often means forming alliances based on recognition of shared oppression, probably an obvious thing to say, but possibly less obvious in practice. Allison Gaines, the publisher of Cultured on Medium, wants to get practical. …

A Prism & Pen Writing Prompt

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Image by Lisa Baird from Pixabay

Writers, it’s prompt time!

For those of you new to Prism & Pen, we set a new challenge every two weeks. We hope it’s fun and inspirational. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it can be taken many different ways, but this week it’s pure whimsy.

My cat and I built a snowman a couple weeks ago (yes, of course she helped), just to get some fresh air and sunshine. Ollie’s melted a bit since, and needs some patching, but I was staring out the window at him a few moments ago, so voila…

“The Frosty Wars: Snowmen Amok” is our new challenge prompt. My own snowman is weirdly shaped, vaguely phallic, and not traditional. So if you want your own story to be a bit warped, I’m sure Ollie would approve. …

Prism & Pen stories — January 17, 2021

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by James Finn

Childhood is an unplanned theme in this week’s Prism & Pen. From Abbie Drake’s story noting how Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos attacked trans kids right before departing the Trump administration, to theoaknotes’s memoir of childhood lost, to my own tale of a sports star teaching kids homophobia is ordinary, children feature big.

So do new writers! Let’s give a warm welcome to newcomers Laurence Best and Jeff Harvey, whose superb creative writing I’m featuring this week.

Won’t push for Equality Act in first 100 days

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Joe and Jill Biden at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, Washington, DC, September 2018. Cropped from photo by Ted Eytan. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

To help achieve our vision of equality, I will make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days — a priority that Donald Trump opposes. This is essential to ensuring that no future president can ever again roll back civil rights and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, including when it comes to housing.Joseph Biden, October 28, 2020

The other shoe has dropped

President Elect Joseph Biden, before even being sworn into office, has broken a solemn campaign promise he made repeatedly and forcibly to LGBTQ people. …

Judgmental Moral Certainty and Perverse Religious Morality

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Protesters held up placards of the names of babies buried at Tuam during the Pope’s visit to Ireland in August 2018. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)

The Irish government just released a report detailing a century of horrific abuse of single mothers and their babies. Shocking infant mortality and abuse of women sprang from Roman Catholic teachings of sexual shame and scapegoating. The Irish people have largely abandoned the Catholic Church over its theologies, including its sexual shaming and condemnation of LGBTQ people. But in parts of the world where the Church remains powerful, it still flexes the same political muscles that led to the atrocities in Ireland. The time for fundamental change is now.

A judicial commission in Ireland just released shocking details of almost a century of cruelty that condemned thousands of unmarried mothers and their babies to extreme abuse in institutions run by the Catholic Church and funded in part by the Irish state. …

Only action can counter homophobia

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Justin Thomas after winning the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. Photo by PGA of America. (CC BY 4.0)

I don’t remember the first time somebody called me a faggot

I was used to it by the time I was in 6th grade, which for you non-Americans means 11 years old. I’m 58 now, but I’ve never forgotten what it’s like to be branded that way. I stopped playing baseball, a sport I loved in school, because taunts of “faggot” destroyed the pleasure I took in the game.

I’ve never muttered “faggot” to myself to express frustration. Not once in my life. Why?

As a gay man, I directly experience the slur’s explosive emotional power. …

Prism & Pen stories — January 10, 2021

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by James Finn

The New Year brings fresh voices to Prism & Pen as we offer a nurturing space for queer artists.

Mary-Ellen Maynard offers a gorgeous piece of science fiction, Gaby Spadaro gives us a look at internalized homophobia in femme lesbians, Elena Joy Thurston urges queer elders to share their stories and look out for Gen Z, and Mina Krane shares her discovery of asexuality. Queer Australian Christian advocate Jason Masters anchors the week with his memories of an annus horribilis.

Our regulars are back, of course, theoaknotes featuring as they roar independence from the chains of binary gender and the Othering history of philosophy. …


James Finn

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot.

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