What does it mean to be Queer? What does asexual mean? Is it okay to ask these types of questions? This episode of the Lady Lawyer League podcast dives into these questions and many more while celebrating Pride Month in Omaha. This episode features Mark Barta, a paralegal and LGBTQIA+ activist, as they explore and discuss what this abbreviation stands for and what you can do to stand up for equal rights in Omaha.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: It’s Pride Month. And on today’s episode we have with us our very own and very proud Mark Bartow who will queersplain some things for us. Mark joined us last time to talk about queer history and his project, Queer Sphere. Today we will talk about all of the letters in LGBTQIA, plus what they stand for. In case you are too shy to ask.
Intro: Welcome to the Lady Lawyer League podcast. They are a league of lady lawyers in an all-female law firm in Omaha, Nebraska, called Hightower Reff Law. On this podcast, you’ll hear stories of what it’s like to be a lady lawyer and an entrepreneur. Now it’s time to talk about the law, share real-life stories about representing clients and discuss the current events of the week. It’s the Lady Lawyer League podcast with Susan Reff and Tracy Hightower-Henne.
Susan: Mark, welcome back to the Lady Lawyer League podcast, coming from down the hall within our own law firm.
Mark: Happy to be here
Tracy: You’re like four cubes down.
Mark: Four cubes down. Yeah.
Tracy: So you’re here to queer splain for us today.
Mark: I’m going to do my best.
Tracy: Okay. So I think it might be best to start with just what these all these letters mean and and what they mean. What you know about the history because of your vlog Queer Sphere, I’m guessing you have some insight on some of these letters.
Mark: Well, I can tell you exactly what they mean.
Tracy: Okay, let’s start there.
Mark: So we’ll go LGBTQIA. The L stands for lesbian, the G stands for gay, the B stands for bisexual, the T stands for transgendered. The Q stands for either queer or questioning. The I stands for intersex and the A stands for asexual or ally. And then plus because there are lots of other that can be incorporated if you, so.
Susan: It’s not a math equation. It is.
Mark: Not a.
Susan: Math because we.
Tracy: Not algebra.
Mark: It is not algebra x equals.
Susan: You would think it’s algebra because it’s letters and an addition sign. But thankfully it’s not. No, we don’t like algebra here.
Mark: But yes, this. What did we figure out?
Susan: This was called an initialism.
Mark: An initialism.
Susan: But not an acronym. That’s right. Because it doesn’t create a word, correct? Yes.
Mark: Little bit quick QE, a bit queer.
Susan: That sounds like was that island.
Tracy: So it sounds like a it’s alcoholic beverage.
Susan: You know Portuguese. You lived in Brazil. Was that Portuguese?
Mark: It wasn’t.
Tracy: It was like some people might ask, what is what do some of these words mean? Like, what does questioning mean? I think the others are maybe more self explanatory. I feel like questioning.
Mark: Is you’re in a transition phase in your life where a lot of the time I would say, you know, as we go through puberty, we have a lot of questions about what’s going on with our body or, you know, who we identify as or who we’re attracted to. So I would say at that point in your life, you’re just trying to figure something out in terms of your sexual identity. Which way you lean, do you technically need to label yourself? Are you okay with just being who you are and that being it? So I feel like the questioning portion of that kind of encompasses that, that portion of of the queer community.
Susan: What about queer in general?
Mark: I think and there are people who do not agree with me, but I believe queer is all encompassing. So queer used to be a term that was derogatory. Some people will still say that queer is derogatory. I’ve reclaimed the word. It doesn’t bother me at all. So I would say that if you’re a lesbian, you’re queer. If you’re gay, you’re queer. If you’re by, you’re queer. If you’re trans, you’re queer. If you’re queer in your career, if you’re intersex, you’re queer. If you’re asexual, you’re queer. If you’re an ally, you’re queer, you know, oh.
Susan: Like so it’s the umbrella It’s the, it’s the rainbow umbrella. Yeah.
Mark: And a lot of the time you just can’t get out LGBTQIA too as whatever it is nowadays, you know, also we’re in a movement like a civil rights movement where marketing matters. So we also have to have one of these initial isms that are memorable and easy to recite and, you know, noticeable. So the longer it gets, the harder it is to kind of use.
Susan: Tell us about the transgender.
Mark: Well, transgendered individuals don’t identify towards the gender that they were born. So a lot of them choose to. For instance, if you were born male, they choose to present as female in their day-to-day life. There could be many. Assets of that. There could be surgery involved or some people don’t have any form of surgery. Sex reassignment surgery and just live their lives as they feel comfortable. But in terms of being transgender, you just don’t identify with what’s on your original birth certificate.
Susan: And what about the intersex?
Mark: Intersex is is I know we’re going to have to cut this.
Susan: I’ll just not ask that one.
Mark: No, I can talk about intersex. Intersex.
Susan: So start over.
Mark: Intersex. Is there group of individuals who are sometimes born with both pieces of genitalia? So sometimes one part of the genitalia is larger than the other part. It just kind of just is an individual. It depends on the individual, but that is basically what intersex is. You have two forms of genitalia.
Susan: Another book recommendation is Middlesex.
Tracy: Oh my God. Yes.
Mark: I’ve never read that genus.
Tracy: Notice Eugenie’s.
Susan: Well, there’s a D in their vagina. Anyways, Middlesex. So good.
Tracy: You’ve all his books are good. He wrote Virgin Suicides. Oh, my God.
Susan: Yeah. So Middlesex was a really good book about an intersex individual and the story of that person fiction, because otherwise Susan wouldn’t have read it so well. Good recommendation.
Mark: The intersex community is interesting as well because a lot of them will say, yes, we’re part of the queer community and a lot of them will say we don’t want the I.
Tracy: And isn’t intersex the like medical term. It’s a, it’s a medical term, I believe so.
Mark: Because I don’t believe we can use the other term anymore. I can’t even remember what it’s called, but it’s not appropriate to say anyway.
Susan: So ah, the other term sex with a B also asexual or ally. So tell us about both of those.
Mark: Oh. So like.
Tracy: Asexual. Like what’s that?
Mark: So asexual is just a person who has no sexual desires or attracted to anyone sexually basically.
Susan: And then ally.
Mark: And an ally would be the folks in this room with me who want to bring equality to the queer populace and have everyone be treated equally. I would consider an ally to our cause.
Susan: Literally the definition of the ally. Yeah, yeah. I think a lot of the things that we do at Hightower Law in supporting the queer community, I think really speaks volumes to what an ally organization looks like.
Mark: I would definitely agree to that. I would say that Hightower Law is probably one of the most progressive law firms in Omaha. I feel like if there is a case where somebody in the community is being discriminated or affected in a negative way, that we would jump all over that and utilize all the resources that we have to get the best outcome we possibly could. So. And we like a good fight.
Susan: Oh, do we? But do we?
Mark: I like a good fight.
Susan: We like a good professional, respectful fight. We like to win not not physical.
Tracy: We like to advocate.
Susan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And speaking of that, June is Pride Month. And in Nebraska, Heartland Pride is celebrating in July. So we are proud sponsors of the Heartland Pride Festival, which is going to be July 16th, and we’ll be there with a booth at the high.
Mark: I will be there. I’m going to have a computer taken intakes.
Tracy: Mark is going to be signing up people.
Susan: You set your console.
Mark: Special and console.
Tracy: Get a judge over here. Five. Wait, you.
Mark: Just got married. Give it five years. Come back. We’ll do you.
Tracy: Divorce. Oh, just kidding. So let’s talk about some more terms maybe you can help us with so that we are all using the right vocabulary. We all talking about the same thing.
Mark: Maybe some terms that we don’t use.
Susan: But on this topic though, like as we’re talking about this, I want to have you sort of explain like is this curiosity okay in everyday discussions to like obviously you can listen to the podcast. We’re hoping this is some education for for you all. But as we ask these questions to a queer person, is that okay?
Mark: I feel like it needs to be okay. If you want change to come about as a queer person, you need to be available to answer those questions no matter how uncomfortable that situation may be. Because you could be changing someone’s outlook that day. Changing someone’s. Mindset or leading the community in the right direction. So people who don’t want to have those kind of conversations, I’m not sure are really are on board with moving moving the movement forward or progressing the movement where it needs to be. I can understand because I’ve had a conversation with Joy, because we’ve we’re doing some deep training here at Hightower Law. And she discussed that during the Black Lives Matter movement, that she got emotionally and mentally drained because a bunch of white people just kept contacting her about saying, how do I be a better ally? Or, you know, am I a bad white person or these types of things? So as long as it’s done in a tactful, meaningful way, I don’t have a problem with it.
Susan: And also, I think a big part of being an ally, whether it’s in the Black Lives Matter movement or the queer community, is doing some of your own damn research to write, read some books, read some articles, and then find a person who’s willing to have a conversation. And if they’re not willing, then find someone else or do your do more of your own damn research.
Mark: I totally agree with that.
Tracy: Your damn research.
Mark: Yeah. If yeah. If you’re going to be an effective ally, you need to you need to know what you’re fighting for. You can’t just expect the person in that community to be like, hey, do this. You know, it’s more respectful. I think if somebody said, I read this book, I don’t understand something in this, but that tells me, hey, look, you took the initiative to want to educate yourself on something that’s important to me. Why wouldn’t I stop what I’m doing to explain what you don’t understand?
Susan: You might have to read a non-fiction book every once in a while, though.
Mark: Yeah, you might.
Susan: There’s some good ones, Susan.
Tracy: I’ll read non-fiction. Just not a book. I read articles. Oh, yeah.
Susan: Blogs and blogs. My career, my sphere. Yeah.
Tracy: So one of the terms, Mark, that I think we should talk about is gender. What does that mean?
Mark: It means that if you have a penis, you have no problem with your penis. And if you have a vagina, you have no problem with your vagina and you have no problem with your birth certificate and how it’s listed.
Tracy: Would that also.
Mark: Be like I’m cisgender?
Tracy: Oh, yes. So? So queer people could be 100%. So you align with the.
Mark: Gender marker I was born.
Tracy: With. That’s the term gender marker. Let’s talk about that. What does gender marker mean?
Mark: Gender marker. Are those M’s and F’s on your birth certificates or your driver’s license or DS?
Tracy: If it says female, you identify as a female.
Susan: But what about non-binary?
Mark: Well, as we’ve learned and I knew this, but Cory had brought it up that we are, I think, in 2023 that the federal government is now changing passports to give people who are non-binary the option of using a gender marker of X. So that’s interesting. I don’t know how that’s. It’s very interesting because it’s done on the federal level. So then how does that translate into like a state like Nebraska, where it’s a valid form of ID, but that doesn’t.
Tracy: You also have your driver’s license, which is issued by the state, it says.
Mark: And if you haven’t gone through the process of a name change and having your birth certificate change, but you just go and get your passport with an X gender marker, it’ll be interesting to see how that works.
Tracy: So a non-binary person does not identify with their gender marker.
Susan: Does not identify with any.
Tracy: Gender marker, any gender marker, male or right. Okay. See, I’m learning a lot.
Mark: Well, and I mean, to tell you the truth, as a queer person, in the last 10 to 12 years, we’ve had to learn a lot about our own community as well, because it’s all of a sudden in the last five years we’ve got all these new pronouns that people are associating themselves with. And so you’ve kind of had to pick up on on those types of things. Not only that, but like transgendered Americans are coming more to the forefront in terms of media. They exist. They’ve existed for a very long time, but now they’re in your face and America doesn’t like it.
Tracy: Did you hear about the transgender Barbie?
Mark: No. Laverne Cox is getting your own Barbie. Yes.
Tracy: I did hear Laverne Cox and she was involved in the development of the doll and the clothing and the hair and the skin tone. So all of it.
Mark: And Target is actually doing some really cool stuff for Pride. They’re like doing a binder, like they’re offering binders and like, you know, underwear that have like the pocket that basically look like you possibly could have a penis for, like, trans men. And so. Yeah. A lot of things are happening. It’s out there. People are going to actually just have to get used to it.
Susan: And and if you have a problem with the transgender Barbie or the binders or the pockets, just keep walking by them in the aisles.
Mark: Go to Walmart. Yeah. I said it.
Susan: Just feel like we could end the podcast on that note. Go to Walmart.
Mark: I just feel, you know. Yeah, we’re.
Susan: Looking at the picture. Awesome. I and. Oh, my gosh. The outfit. Yes, I that would be like deep in the box. That would be like.
Mark: On an India. So this is international news. That’s pretty cool.
Susan: They’re going to sell out.
Mark: Oh, for sure. I’ll buy one.
Susan: Wait, are they already in Target?
Mark: No, there’s a couple of Mattel.
Tracy: Yeah, it’s. It’s the Barbie, whoever. The normal. Mattel. Is it Mattel? Yeah.
Mark: I love Pride Month because of all of the fun. I’m obsessed with buying Pride merch. Like, obsessed with it. I buy. I bought, like, a box of cereal that will just sit in my second bedroom and it’ll turn to dust because I’ll wake up.
Susan: But you have a Disney World. Yeah, right. Pin. I was so excited to get that for you when I was at Disney.
Mark: I love that. And can I tell you that I was afraid that I was going to lose the back of that pen and I already have lost the.
Tracy: Back of the. There was, there was an extra one.
Susan: Yeah. We it’s sitting on top of the file cabinet. Oh my gosh. I got more too if you need. Yeah.
Mark: Okay, good. Yes, I did love that pen. I love that pen. Oh, and not only another cool thing is they’re doing a pride. $0.05 coin in the United Kingdom, and it’s beautiful. So once they release that, I’m going to try to get my hands on that. It’s gorgeous.
Tracy: A pride coin.
Mark: Yeah. So, like, actual money. Wow. Yeah. And that’s how they’re selling.
Tracy: In the United States. We can’t even get Harriet Tubman. I know. Right on money.
Mark: That fell through.
Tracy: I know.
Mark: That’s B.S..
Susan: Okay, so we talked with you last week and you talked a lot about your project, Queer Atmosphere. And I just want to make sure that listeners know about it and that we will have information in the show, notes about where to find it because you are doing some amazing things on your career and project and people should listen to that. So it’s on Sundays?
Mark: Yeah, I do. Normally it’s around. I try to keep it no more than 7 to 8 minutes because I’ve learned that people just don’t have the bandwidth for more than that. Basically what I’ll do is I get articles from LGBTQ Nation every day, and on Sunday morning I will go through and pick the three that speak to me in some way, and I will record a video of basically reporting on those articles and giving my opinion. And yeah, just Sunday mornings it should normally post by 9 a.m., nine 930, and I’m usually there every Sunday.
Susan: And on TikTok.
Mark: Oh yeah, I’m on TikTok. I’m well, queer misfire on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
Susan: That’s a lot. It is. I mean, it’s a lot of work that you do.
Mark: You know, I would say it’s easy because I don’t put the work that I’m supposed to put into it. Like I just started professionally editing my videos, which I should have always been doing. But you would be surprised that, like, that’s not it’s easy. It’s not hard to do.
Susan: Oh, good.
Susan: Oh, I’m glad you’re doing it.
Mark: So I probably could I can, like, do picture and picture now. Like, you know, once I get a little bit more motivated, it may.
Susan: Mean we’re evolving picture and picture. Picture, yes. All right. Well, what are some things that you want listeners to leave with? As far as what we talked about today, words matter, those types of things. What’s important.
Mark: I think, yeah, words matter. So don’t don’t say anything or do anything. Words and actions matter that you wouldn’t do in front of a queer person, you know, just to be funny or to hang out with your straight people because it’s still as damaging as if we were around, because you are taking that negativity and you’re spreading that and you don’t know if you use that term with somebody else, if that person is going to go to one of their friends and use that term and then it gets spread. And and so I think the biggest thing is if you see something to say something, if you’re going to be an ally, then step up. If you see, you know, people are getting beat up and dying every day for being who they are. So if you see somebody who’s is in a difficult situation, be that person to call 911 or if you’re physically able, step in and see if you can help the person in need. Because we need allies more than than anything right now, being queer and being an American is is not something that I’m super proud of right now. We don’t have the backing from the government. We can’t even pass the Equality Act, for God’s sake. We can’t get federal hate crime legislation on the books. So we’ve got a lot of work to do. So I would just tell people, if you if you want people to be equal, then treat people as your equal.
Susan: Just be nice, damn it. Damn it, be nice.
Mark: And you know, that’s part of the way I end my blog every every episode is I always say start out by being nice and then I’ll add something like, But if that person isn’t buying what you’re selling, then burn the bitch. Good. So always start out by being nice. But if they can’t handle it and if they’re just going to be a complete wash and not want to a learn from what you’re trying to throw down or at least listen to you, well, then just turn the other cheek and just say screw you then and move on and change your day and don’t waste your time. Burn the bitch. Good.
Tracy: Burn the.
Mark: Bitch. That’s right. Use your mouth like that’s one of the most important things. God gave us the ability to speak. So start talking. If you see something that you don’t like, then say something about it because maybe that person doesn’t know or they’re not aware or you know. So it’s all about informing others of what makes you feel comfortable, what makes you feel uncomfortable, what’s acceptable to you, what is unacceptable to you, etc.
Susan: Well, thank you for educating us today on this topic and in Celebration of Pride Month in June. But we get to celebrate it two months in. Yes, in the heartland.
Mark: So I’m very.
Susan: Excited. Check us out at the Pride Festival. Come see Mark.
Mark: He’ll be there.
Susan: Yes, he’ll just be. Not just for.
Mark: Divorce. We could do estate plans, your wills, all that good stuff.
Tracy: All right. Awesome. Thanks for having me.
Mark: Mark. No problem.
Outro: Thank you for listening to the Lady Lawyer League. Be sure to like and subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts. If you would like to learn more about our firm, visit us at hrlawomaha.com. We’ll see you next week.