By Ben Cartwright | Back Out With Benny
I love women; I was raised by them, educated by them, have worked for them, and have benefited from their many contributions to our society and world.
After the recent Women’s Marches held across the country and globe, which were initially created as events to speak out for women’s rights and evolved into human rights marches, I have found myself thinking about the women who have been in my life over the years and my relationships with them.
As a gay man, I feel like many of us have a special connection to the women in our lives. Often, it was the other boys who would taunt and harass us because we were different, and it was our female friends who often held our hands, hugged us and stood up to the bullies who made our childhoods difficult. It was often our mothers who were there for us when our fathers disapproved of our “lifestyle choices” (their words, not mine) and it was women who were leading the way in the fight for equality.
Women continue to have it harder: As a group, they’re paid less for doing equal work, pay more for “feminine” clothes and products, and have to live in a society that often places the blame on them when they are victims of things like rape or sexual harassment. But so many of them have fought so hard, carried on, and been there for those of us who couldn’t always take care of ourselves.
My mother, who divorced my father when I was 4 years old, spent most of our childhood working harder than anyone I know; working full time, raising us on her own, and finishing an advanced degree. She was working in the accounting field in the 1980s, a career dominated by men. She had to put up with a lot of sexism, but was better at her trade than any of those men. While I know she struggled immensely, we always had food on the table, and my brothers and I had a very comfortable childhood. And as I’m almost 37 years old now, mom is still there for me and occasionally helps me out when I need extra money for this or that.
Both of my grandmothers were very supportive women, as well, and the one who is still living continues to be there for all of my brothers and me, as well as her many other grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Because my mom was often at work and school when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with one of the neighbor ladies who became like a best friend to me. While no one could replace my mother, it was nice to have this woman to talk to, share my secrets, and laugh with (I was always more comfortable speaking to adult women than men).
Many of my favorite educators growing up were also women. From kindergarten through the completion of a master’s degree, I had a mix of educators, but most of my favorites were women.
One educator in particular, whom I will never forget, is Ms. Candace Pauchnick of Patrick Henry High School in San Diego. She passed away late last year, but spent her 30-plus year career as a high school teacher working to chip away at hate and prejudice by hosting educational panels on LGBTQ issues, race issues, and more — even when her administration didn’t permit it. When asked why, she would tell me, “I just can’t imagine not teaching my students to be good human beings.”
I’m also lucky to work for and with a number of amazing women, including the CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, Dr. Delores Jacobs, whose wisdom, passion and patience have made The Center what it is today. Our community is a better place because of these women, and I’m grateful for it.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of other women in my life who I love and value and can’t imagine the world without them.
We need to be better to our women — including transgender women — and make sure they are paid equally, treated equally and valued. If it seems funny to you that in 2017 I would still need to make such a statement, you might need to re-assess your view of how this world really works.
To all the amazing women who have shaped my life over the years: THANK YOU!
Getting out with Benny
This weekend is the Imperial Court de San Diego’s biggest event of the year: Coronation. While most people know about the main event on Saturday night at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley, there are a number of smaller shows and parties that are a lot of fun. I always make it a point to attend the last event of the weekend, the Sea to Shining Sea Show, which celebrates the newly elected monarchs with performances by entertainers from across the country. The show will close out Coronation weekend on Sunday, Feb. 5, from 5-7:30 p.m. at Numbers. More info about Coronation is at tinyurl.com/2gchly.
The 2017 Bayard Rustin Civil Rights Honors event will be held at The Center on Friday, Feb. 10, from 6-8 p.m., honoring a number of leaders in San Diego’s black and LGBTQ communities. A $15 donation includes a soul food buffet, entertainment and program. Visit tinyurl.com/jk3pz6s.
And the fabulous Tantrums & Tiaras: Battle of the Bar Queens is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 19, from 7-10 p.m. at The Observatory North Park. This fabulous contest between amateur drag entertainers who have little or no experience is one of the best events of the year, and it benefits The Center. For details, visit tinyurl.com/j3gfc33.
—Benny Cartwright is the director of community outreach at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He can be reached at 619-692-2077 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.