Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm a side-sleeper.

Tonight something came to me. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that, in order for this particular something to come to me, I had to be drunk. Nor would I say that my having run into an ex-friend in Wal-Mart earlier this evening -- a friend with whom I had a particularly painful falling-out last week -- was requisite to this particular insight. And I would be the last one to suggest that talking to a delightful trio of lesbians on Facebook was a necessary mental catalyst for the insight. I'm just saying that, for me, all these factors seem to have helped.

How many hours per day do you spend having sex?

No. It's not a prurient question. Really. Trust me.

How many hours per day do you spend having sex? I would guess that even the most sexually heroic of us could not lay (ha!) claim to having sex more than three hours per day. That's three hours average out of every twenty-four. Feel free to call me on that. No, really. You needn't feel guilty about making me feel like a doddering old bastard. I'll just sit here in the dark with my ham sandwich...

Anyway. Just for the sake of argument, let's say that anyone who has to work for a living is probably not spending more than three hours out of any given twenty-four having sex.

How many hours per night do you sleep?

Even the craziest fucker I ever met slept sometimes. Even people like Winston Churchill took catnaps that totaled to at least a few hours out of every temporal diurnal anomaly. Even the people who make me think "Damn, how the hell can they do that?" sleep around four or five hours per night. Which leads me to conclude that...

Even the most sleep-deprived person spends more time sleeping than he spends having sex.

So that means...

I could ask you "Are you straight, gay, bisexual, other?"

...and the answer to that question would have less bearing on your life than the following question.

"Are you a side-sleeper, back-sleeper, or stomach-sleeper?"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Alterité

Since my conversation with my sister, I've been thinking a lot about trying to understand people who don't share my views about bendy folk. I suppose that's why I made such an unexpected connection last night.

I was listening to Professor Jeremy McInerney lecturing* about Greece in the aftermath of the Persian Wars of the fifth century B.C. My ears perked up when he started talking about how the Greeks defined themselves in relation to their enemies.

McInerney makes the point that, prior to the Persian Wars, not even the Greeks living within the Persian Empire saw the Persians as alien. There are records of Persian rulers of Greeks in Persian territory who worshiped the local Greek gods. Greeks served at the Persian court. Greek craftsmen went, happily, to work on Persian projects.

But then, during the Persian wars, the Greek attitude seems to have shifted. They came to see the Persians as effete, effeminate easterners. War had transformed their neighbors into The Other. In defining themselves, they had taken everything they thought about themselves and projected its mirror image onto their enemies. Some historians call this process alterité.

This all struck me as a possible answer to my question "Why on earth are people -- especially people who aren't even religious -- so uncomfortable with gay folks? What difference does it make?" Perhaps the answer is "They need to strongly define themselves, and this definition includes the assignment of an opposite."

But here's the question that has always maddened me: "Why the U.S.?" Why are we, of all people, so bothered by gays? In our short history we've prided ourselves in giving the finger to authority while we give a voice to the individual citizen. Of all people, shouldn't we be the ones to proclaim that a person's sexuality has nothing to do with his worth?

Well, let's look at us in relation to the Greeks. According to the theory of alterité, the Greeks needed to define themselves in response to war. That sure sounds familiar. World War II filled America's head with visions of its Greatest Generation. Since then the American man has had one heck of an image to live up to. To fulfill this need, did he also require someone to be everything the American man wasn't?

Then, long before the guns were cool, the Russians stepped in and gave us a whopping big boogeyman: a mirror in which we saw our dark opposite. Again the American man had a foil against which to define himself and a source of paranoia. Did this make him look around himself for his antithesis?

And in the midst of all this, some of the biggest civil rights movements in history arose. Liberals became more visible and organized. New media technology showed the world images of the military being called in to enforce desegregation laws. Liberal and conservative had a new arena in which each gleefully saw in the other an evil homunculus. Did this solidify the image of the gay as everything the Real American wasn't?

"What does it mean to be an American?" Aside from the years immediately following the American Revolution, I imagine that the years since World War II have been those in which Americans have most desperately needed to answer that question.

Does our fear of gay people stem from a need to define ourselves?

That question is not academic. It bears on my work as an ally. If the answer is "Yes" then the nature of that work becomes much more clear: my job is to break down the illusion of The Other. My job is to show people that The Other is us.



*Here is a transcription of the relevant sections from Professor McInerny's lectures.

One last aspect of the modern treatment of the Greeks we need to address is that over the last two centuries, as the modern nation states of England, Germany, France, and the US, have taken shape, moving out of being earlier kingdoms or constituting themselves are republics, they developed national identities as all nations have at some point. This is created out of a duel process of a consideration of what we once were, of our past, and of what the other cultures and civilizations are around us, the ones we deal with. This is the process often referred to as alterité, where we look at another culture or civilization and see in it the opposite of ourselves. We take our values and abstract the negative onto the other.

Now in the course of this century we've certainly seen that in the way that we in the western world have looked at the Soviet Union as it one was, and now that it's gone we have much different feelings about the Russians. Yet we thought of that world as being in some sense, our diametric opposite. More generally speaking, there's been a strong notion that we, all in the west, western Europe and the English-speaking world, North America, are somehow different from the east.

This has been a product of our colonial experience and history, and has meant we've had to think of ourselves somehow as being culturally quite distinct. Part of that process of identifying what we are, as opposed to what they are, has been to think about our past and what we come from. So the whole enterprise of studying the ancient world has really often been tainted by this notion of finding some kind of cultural superiority in the west, a superiority of our way of doing things. Whereas the east could point to Confucian philosophy, the aesthetic accomplishments of China or Japan, the western version of this has been to go back to our Classical roots.

...

More importantly, not only is Greece relatively insignificant in terms of the whole expanse of the Persian Empire, this I think is really significant: there were many Greeks living and working in the Persian Empire, and who did not think of the Persians as being a completely foreign and alien people who were the exact opposite of them. We know that, for example, as Persian power increased, and as they called upon stonemasons to build their extraordinary palaces, they were importing Greeks from Ionia, who were working quite happily in the Persian Empire. We know Greeks who were actually living at the court of the great king, working for him, recording, acting as doctors for the great king and so forth.

So I think that it is a great mistake to think that, at the time that the Greeks and the Persians first came into contact, there was an immediate sense that the two were destined to a final confrontation. That's a view that is dictated by subsequent events. But in fact at the time I think the world must have looked very different indeed.

...

The victory of the Athenians, the Spartans, and the rest of the Greeks, had enormous consequences for the Greeks themselves. It's from this time onwards, really, that we find the Greeks more fully articulating a sense of their Greek identity as opposed to another identity. In this case, the Persians playing the role of The Other. You may remember in a very early lecture in this series we talked about the notion of alterité, of defining onesself in relation to another culture. From this time on, the Persians will play that role for the Greeks, as that alien other culture. In fact one very good book written on the Greeks of the fifth century is called The Mirror of Herodotus, claiming that when Herodotus looked at the Persians he was really looking, in a sense, in a mirror, seeing the negative reflection of what the Greeks liked to see in themselves.

Consequences of this victory were wide-ranging and far-reaching. It is from this time, for example, that we find the Greeks in their political discourse often using the term "eleutheria", meaning "freedom". It's quite clear that the victory of the Greeks over the Persians resulted in them more clearly articulating in their own minds the idea of what freedom entailed. And so the characteristic notion of Greek freedom, that takes root at this time, is that it is the freedom of a community to exist autonomously -- free of the influence of an outside power. And this remained a powerful idea throughout the rest of Greek history and remains a powerful idea and an interpretation of freedom even today.

An ignoble question for my bendy friends

My argument with my sister caused me a lot of pain. But my reaction to the pain actually felt worse than the pain itself, because I saw something in myself that I didn't like.

In talking to my sister I felt like I was communing with the ugliest aspects of my family. There's my uncle Frank, sitting around the table loudly proclaiming that "Wherever there are niggers in the world, there's trouble." There's my uncle Stanley sitting within arm's reach of my nephew and niece, saying something nasty about black people, in a house where I'm not supposed to say the word "gay" in front of those same children.

And there's everyone in my whole family talking to anyone but the person they need to talk to. Did person A piss you off? Well then, bitch to person B or C about it, but never talk directly to person A. And if you should actually talk to person A, make damned sure that you don't bitch about what you're really mad about. Bitch about something else. If we actually addressed our problems we might solve them, and where would we be without our anger and resentment?

This is how my sister had reacted to me. And what did I do? I went ahead and followed the same damned pattern. And when I finally let out my feelings, it was like popping a balloon: I don't seem capable of just letting a little of the air out; no, I have to let it all out in a big explosion.

In the midst of all this pain, I had a desire. I wanted to say to my gay friends "Can I have a pat on the head?" I wanted them to know what I'd done. I wanted some recognition, some appreciation, some love that would dull the pain.

That desire is beneath me. It defies everything I believe about morality: that I do what is right because it's right, regardless of whether anyone is watching. A moral act done with the thought of any reward whatsoever ceases to be a moral act and becomes nothing but service rendered for payment.

Yet I want it. I feel small and... smaller than any creature that could even warrant the word "ugly". But I want it. So I have to ask...

Is it OK that I want a pat on the head?

The Abyss Revisited

I've been feeling bad since around Thanksgiving, when I had a troubling argument with my sister while visiting the family home. It wouldn't hurt so much if the argument had been about what happened that day. But it was about something that happened over a year ago.

Last year at about this time I wrote about how my sister shushed me for saying the word "gay" in front of her children. At the time, I got furious because I felt that I finally understood her previously incomprehensible behavior: she didn't actually disagree with my activism because, as she said, "[gay people] may not want your help"; the truth was that she didn't like gay people, and she didn't want me helping them.

So for a year I've been more distant, not talking to her about it because I felt like she hadn't been straight with me. Yeah, I know. Not the most productive behavior.

So when my bottled-up resentment came out, it came out big -- and it got bigger. Because when I first mentioned my anger over her shushing me, she rounded on me, expressing her anger that I would say "that word" in front of her children. I was so furious that I wanted to say to her "You're mad at me? Well, guess what? My mad is bigger than yours!"

So I started out by saying "You want me to pretend that gay people don't exist? Well, I guess I'd better not let them know that niggers exist, either, huh?" She sputtered in shock that I would make the comparison, so eventually I switched tactics. I said "OK, how about albinos? Should I pretend that albinos don't exist? What's the difference?"

My sister kept sputtering about how albinos look physically different, but with gay people it's a sexual preference. And I kept cutting her off, driving home the point that I was not talking about sex. This point is critical to me, because I feel that the primary argument against exposing children to the notion of same-sex couples is absurd. People say that for children to read a book about Timmy's two daddies is to bring sex into the classroom. Nonsense. I say -- and I kept saying to my sister -- that if you claim that the book about Timmy's daddies is sexual, then you have to say that a book about Jane's mommy and daddy is also sexual.

Well, long story short: I told my sister that there are hundreds of ways in which I will defer to her judgment in my interactions with her children, but I will not pretend that my gay friends don't exist. I said that I don't feel that she gets to edit my conversation to that extent. She said that she thinks she does. I replied that I would not bring any agenda to a conversation to her children, but if my friend Mel and her girlfriend should happen to come up in a conversation, I would mention them. And then it would be her choice whether she wanted to cut off my contact with them.

I was enraged and indignant and frustrated that night. My frustration arose mainly from my inability to articulate the distinction between those ways in which I will defer to my sister's judgment, and that one way in which I wont. The distinction is there. It's real. I can see it in my mind's eye, and yet... I can't articulate it to myself, let alone my sister.

I feel that the closest I've come is this: My niece and nephew do not deserve an uncle who is so craven as to desert his friends. They deserve an uncle who would never pretend that his friends don't exist. And I'm going to give them that uncle, or nothing at all. That's why I feel perfectly comfortable with telling her that if she doesn't like it, she can keep me from seeing them.

During the following days my anger faded, and I was able to feel my pain more and more. I wished that I'd brought up the topic earlier so that my anger wouldn't have had a chance to fester. Maybe then I wouldn't have left feeling like I'd just had a deeply encysted wound lanced. Maybe then I wouldn't have felt bad about castigating my sister for something that happened a year ago.

Then, once I was able to think more clearly, a new thought came to me: I missed a big opportunity. Since I became an ally and an advocate, I've known that it's my job to listen to people who disagree with me, because if no one listens then nothing gets accomplished. Only when one party makes the effort to genuinely engage with the other can a dialectic begin.

I let my anger get the better of me, and I unloaded all my self-righteous rage onto my sister. And in so doing I missed a big opportunity. After all, if I can't calmly listen to my sister, whom can I listen to?

So. Next time I have some time alone with my sister, I'm going to calmly ask her to talk to my about why she feels the way she feels. Until I do that, I can't hope to understand it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Meet Teke

On Good Friday 1984 my life ended as I knew it to be. No more going to my upper middle class school. No more hanging out, no more anything.
My church, my father, and everyone in our little town found out the horrible truth about me. On this day....I had to learn things that are never talked about in a classroom. I had to learn quick.
I learned how to hide my face when the beating began.
I learned that ten minutes was not enough time to "Get your shit and get the fuck out of here, FAGGOT!!"
I learned over twenty years would pass and still no family.
I learned a fifteen year old boy is a commodity.
I learned not to vomit in my mouth while old men trembled with exitment as they touched me.
I learned to get the money up front.
I learned what time certain fast food places threw leftovers into dumpsters.
I learned to steal.
I learned the police do not think gay boys can be raped,beaten, and left in a pool of their own blood and piss to die.
I learned......that I had actualy ASKED for that to happen to me.
I learned to carry a gun.
I learned.........to use it!
I learned God had not turned his back on me, its just that he was helping some one with more pressing issues.
I learned that sleeping under a river bridge at night was when I felt the most scared,alone, and very vulnerable.
I learned what the barrel of a gun taste like.
I learned that bullets will not work after they have been wet a few times.
I learned to hate my self.
I learned that this was all my fault for letting my hormones rage out of controll and wanting to kiss another boy.
This was all so many years ago, I have forgotton or blocked many things. I still get jealous when I here of kids with accepting family and friends. I am glad for them at the same time. Maybe some day, no gay kids will have to suffer for it. I know I was actualy one of the lucky unlucky kids.....
I learned........to survive!



I met Teke through Twitter and have enjoyed his YouTube videos ever since. Teke will be happy to know that, as I post this, I am tipsy from the two pints of Franziskaner that I just had at my local watering hole. Thanks Teke!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meet Jacqui

I'm a Canadian living in Ireland with my wife -- we married in Canada almost 5 years ago -- and our cats & dog. I work in retail and blog in my spare time. My blog (BigGayCloset.com) is a collection of stories and news stories related to coming out, aimed at providing gay people with a sense of community, and a place where questioning people can find stories they can relate to.

I'm addicted to news and politics. I love debating the issues of the day, and adore quiet pubs where conversation is possible. A good beer and a great argument make my day.

My parents were both very involved in politics from local to national -- my father is a conservative and my mother a liberal -- so I learned to enjoy politics as a game as much as it is a serious thing. I find nothing more exciting than staying up all night watching election results roll in, regardless of who is winning.

I studied percussion (that's drums and other stuff you hit) in university, but eventually dropped out when I realised I was gay. It all hit me pretty hard, and when a friend offered a chance to run away to England for a year, I took her up on it.

I ended up in Ireland, and fell in love.It's hard to believe that just loving someone changes everything, but it does.

I've been chatting with Jacqui on Twitter and was quite pleasantly surprised to get an e-mail from her tonight with her face of the day submission. Thanks Jacqui!

Meandering Manifesto, Part 4: Stability

This is part four of my Meandering Manifesto series.

Last year, Grace and I went to a second wedding in Michigan. It was much more pleasant than the first one. This time the priest didn't say anything that made me apoplectic with rage. But he did say something that got me thinking.

He began with a statistic that something like one in two marriages end in divorce, then worked his way down a line of increasing religious context of the marriage. I don't remember the following numbers exactly, but that's not the point.

  • Of the couples who were married in a church ceremony, about one in fifty get divorced.
  • Of the couples who were married in a church ceremony and who attend church regularly, one in several hundred get divorced.
  • Of the couples who were married in a church ceremony, who attend church regularly, and who pray together at home, one in about twelve hundred get divorced.

As a left-leaning agnostic this made me squirm a bit. Those numbers made me uncomfortable. I found myself wanting to read up on the research to see if they were skewed.

Later, I realized that the degree of accuracy didn't matter. Because whether those numbers were spot on, or off by an order of magnitude, there's no doubt in my mind that he's right.

He's right.

A religiously involved marriage brings stability to the married couple and to their society.

Just stop for a minute. Don't react. Just breathe.

Now. Hear what I'm saying. We are adults. Not only can we hold contradictory ideas in our heads, we can also parse wildly disparate ideas that at first seem as inseparable as the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water.

We can admit that folks on the other side of the political divide are right to call the bathwater dirty. That admission in no way implies that we favor throwing out the baby.

I admit that religion, marriage, and the potent combination thereof bring stability to our society. I do not, however, agree that the stable structure that we gain is worth the cost. I believe that the foundation stones of that structure rest on the backs of my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends.

Stability always demands unity. Unity always eschews variance. People don't like what is different. Communities and societies and countries develop a collective animus against the unusual. This animus may well have served a vital purpose in primitive marginal communities which could have gone extinct if members had strayed from the norm. But today we are no longer primitive, or so we flatter ourselves. Today our hard-wired animus against sex and gender variance is out of all proportion to any conceivable harm that such variance could cause.

Traditional religious marriages bring valuable stability to my country, my community, and my life. I admit that freely.

And I don't care.

I don't want that much stability. I don't want stability at the cost of hatred. I don't want a life so stable that, while I'm hiking with my good friend Mel, we have to worry that someone might overhear her talking about her girlfriend. I'm not so ravening after peace and quiet that I want Vikrant to be anything less than himself, because I find Vikrant's himself to be quite a delightful one. And I sure as hell ain't willing to pretend that another person's sex life is any of my damned business, let alone that it could somehow threaten my wobbly-ass secular marriage.

Keep your stability. It's covered in blood and lies. My hands ain't the cleanest, but I'll be damned if I'll dip 'em in shit.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Oppose ENDA Because It Could Lead To The Extinction Of Humanity

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, first introduced in 1994, would prohibit job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Contrary to what some activist judges would like you to believe, this is not an isolated piece of legislation. The Proponents of the “gay agenda” are systematically setting the stage for same-sex marriage and the silencing of those who would call their lifestyle immoral and sinful. But that's just the first step in their agenda.

Once we allow that first domino to fall, we are setting foot on a slippery slope. Same-sex marriage will lead, logically and inexorably, to the legalization of polygamy, bestiality, and pedophilia. And in the murky cesspool waiting at the very bottom of that slope lies a society with no moral compass -- a society where a man is free to marry his dog or his horse.

But do you see the truth? Even this is only the beginning.

After the dregs of our society are allowed not only to slake but to sanctify their every fleshy want, whence will their hungers lead them? Logically, they must turn beyond the flesh and into the microscopic world.

Having long ago left behind the sanctity of the marriage of man and woman, the men of this future society will cast aside all common sense in their perverse need to bond with ever more unlikely partners. Their gaze will fall upon the most readily available and eagerly bonding element of them all, and a new perversion will become commonplace: the marriage of a man to the lowly oxygen molecule. This will not only destroy the natural order of covalent carbon-oxygen bonding, but leave our very children gasping for breath.

We must protect the children.

And what is the next step in this clear logical progression? What will happen when that strumpet oxygen, sharing its electrons with anyone it meets, loses its allure? Man will turn to the simple, sublime charm of the hydrogen atom.

Our sun is only about halfway through its main sequence evolution; if it continues to follow God's plan, it has five billion years' worth of hydrogen fuel remaining at its core. Ah, but what if the voracious liberals of tomorrow are allowed to work their deviant ways upon our very cosmology? Far-fetched, you say? Let us turn to the Bible.
Colossians 3:14
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

1 John 4:8
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Do you still doubt that love, the kernel around which misguided liberals want to reform marriage, is powerful enough to tear apart our molecular bonds and through them our very firmament? Nuptuals between man and hydrogen atom will quickly deplete the solar reserves and push the sun prematurely into its red giant phase, engulfing the earth and ending all life.

Everybody likes new ideas, new rituals. The sanctity of marriage will never be replaced by liberal ideas about love. In the end, life and family are about the connection between one man and one woman. And ENDA is about trying to sterilize the earth with fire.

And to me the choice is easy.



The above satire is my humble contribution to the Bilerico Project Enda blogswarm. Please visit the Bilerico page, urge Speaker Pelosi to support ENDA, and fill in the form to let us know how the call went. The text of the Bilerico page is copied below

Take Action: Demand LGBT Employment Rights Today

Note from Bil: The Bilerico Project is participating in a blogswarm today with

Daily Kos,
Open Left,
Towleroad,
Pam's House Blend,
Joe My God,
Michelangelo Signorile,
David Mixner,
Daily Gotham,
Culture Kitchen,
Taylor Marsh,
PageOneQ,
Good As You,
Americablog,
Dan Savage, and others.

We're asking our readers to contact Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask that she move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HR 3017) to a floor vote. Contact info at the end of the article.


The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, first introduced in 1994, would prohibit job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But LGBT people have never been able to achieve the enactment of the bill, known by the acronym of "ENDA".

Last year, the Administration's highest ranking gay official, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, indicated that ENDA was highest priority on the LGBT civil rights agenda.

"If we can get ENDA enacted and signed into law, it is only a matter of time before all the rest happens," he said. "It is the keystone that holds up the whole bunch, and so we need to focus our energies and attention there."


Hearings were held in the House and in the Senate to demonstrate the need for the bill, and testimony was heard on the severe unemployment, underemployment and harassment experienced by LGBT workers. Witnesses testified to the scientific studies demonstrating this.

The reason that workers need this protection is that the LGBT community is a relatively small minority, probably around 5% of the U.S. population, and there are many people with prejudices against them. This is also one reason that the bill has had difficulties in Congress: the minority in need of protection from discrimination are drowned out by the many bigots.

Civil rights, by definition, are needed most by those against whom there is most prejudice.

Various sponsors promised that the bill would move to a vote in August, September, October, and November of 2009. But in order to go to a vote, the bill had to pass through the House Committee on Education and Labor via a "markup" procedure. Markup was finally scheduled for November 18, 2009. But at the last minute, the markup was postponed, and has still not been rescheduled.

Initially, the Committee said that some technical language required tweaking, ostensibly to insure that plaintiffs could not recover too much money or attorney fees, and to prevent lawsuits based on inadvertent discrimination. But it has become increasingly clear that something else is at work.

A clue to the inaction: Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly told Democrats that she would not move controversial bills. Meanwhile, the House Committee has stated its readiness to move, but is waiting for a signal from Speaker Pelosi.

That signal has not come. Meanwhile, LGBT Americans continue to suffer discrimination and harassment with no recourse.

President Obama famously said in a campaign speech that "Power concedes nothing without a fight."

We demand that LGBT people receive the same job rights as other people: to be able to get and keep a job based only on relevant factors, like job performance, and not on irrelevant criteria, like sexual orientation or gender identity.

There is a majority in both Houses of Congress in favor of ENDA. Now is the time to move it.

In 30 states across America, there is no law against firing someone based on his or her sexual orientation, and the same is true in 38 states for gender identity.

Will you join with us in asking that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people be protected from job discrimination?

Click here to contact Speaker Pelosi.

Please call Speaker Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-4965. Ask that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HR 3017, move to a vote. Please be polite, but firm.

After you call, please tell us how the call went by clicking here. If you get a busy signal or hang up, let us know that too.

If you want more information on Speaker Pelosi's position, you can find it here

Let's work together to let Speaker Pelosi know that we want action now!

At the end of the day, we will post a round-up of how the day went. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I recognize that smell.

The Pennsylvania Senate is discussing John Eichelberger’s SB 707, which would amend the PA constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. The Judiciary Committee may vote on it as soon as tomorrow.

For more information see Thomas C. Waters's blog entry, which tipped me to the situation. See also Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, whose blog swarm I'm joining with this entry. People like them know the situation in Pennsylvania much better than I. So I'm not going to tell you about it. But I will tell you a story.

January 27th was the last day of evidence in California's Proposition 8 trial. On January 29th Ron Prentice published a summary of the trial on the United Families International Blog. Here's the part that stuck in my head.

The controlling legal issue is not whether homosexual marriage is good or bad, but rather whether the people have the right to decide what is best.
Really?

Now that's interesting.

Because I thought that the controlling legal issue was the protection of the institution of marriage.

Let me check.

Yup. I was wasn't crazy. Ron Prentice is the Chairman of Protect Marriage dot com. Protect Marriage. Hmmmmm. I can't help but think that when he registered the domain name he thought that the core mission of his group was to, oh, protect marriage.

Make no mistake. When the Proposition 8 trial began it was all about protecting marriage. Just take a look at the Proposition 8 Trial Tracker and you'll see that. If Prentice's defense had had one iota of success in showing that same-sex marriages would harm anything at all, you can bet he'd be singing the same tune that was filling the air in early January. But he isn't. The tune has changed. Why?

I grew up on a dairy farm. My uncle sold the property when I was five, but we only moved a quarter of a mile down the road. So I spent my first decades walking the pastures and corn fields and ravines around that farm. I grew up accustomed to bad smells.

One day when I was in my early teens I was walking alone through the fields when I smelled something particularly bad. It was immediately apparent that something big had died. I followed the increasingly nauseating stench down into a ravine and, sure enough, there was the dead cow that I'd smelled hundreds of yards away.

Ron Prentice's words stink to high heaven. And just like the stench that hit me while walking through corn fields all those years ago, it doesn't take much effort to track the smell back to its source. In this case the big bloated cow carcass is Ron Prentice's desperation. He started by saying that he was protecting marriage, and the absurdity of that assertion has been illuminated. So now he's switching tactics. He'll say whatever he can to veil his hateful actions in a sham of logic.

When you look at the situation in Pennsylvania, don't be confused about What This Is Really About. The people who want to write discrimination into the state constitution want you to believe that it's about anything but discrimination. So they construct a What This Is Really About du Jour. What This Is Really About is plastic. What This Is Really About changes with the wind. Don't listen. Smell what's on that wind.

Follow your nose.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

STRAIGHT DUDE. GAY NEWS. Episode 1: Spectra

Of all the callow excuses for rhetoric I've heard in the marriage equality debate, the argument that allowing gay marriage is comparable to allowing people to marry dogs pisses me off the most. Here is my response. Please pass this along to anyone shameful enough to mention dogs in the same sentence as human beings.



Background links:

Connections between David Bahati and the family

David Bahati and “The Family” in Uganda Do not miss the incoherent rantings of Leroy Swailes in the comments!

Another article about Bahati at Box Turtle Bulletin

Wikipedia article about The Family


Rebuttals containing more nuanced views of the Ugandan connection

Followup NPR interviw: A Different Perspective On 'The Family' And Uganda

Jeff Sharlet speaks very positively about Bob Hunter.

Call Me Ishmael: Bob Hunter, Uganda, and Rachel Maddow

Pam's House Blend "Homobigots" page, which includes a bit about Leroy Swailes.


Mark Twain quote:
Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.


Matthew 25:31-46, King James Bible
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Response From the White House

Yesterday I received the following from the White House in response to my letter of January 18th.
Thank you for your message
Wed, January 27, 2010 12:39:11 PMFrom: The White House - Presidential Correspondence

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Friend:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate your perspective.

Every American deserves equal protection under our laws, and neither Federal nor state law should discriminate against any American. The issue of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights has all too often been used to divide our country. We must treat all of our citizens with dignity and respect, and stand united
in our protection of equality--a founding principle of our Nation and a moral imperative.

I continue to oppose a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and support the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. We must also extend the over 1,100 Federal marital rights and benefits to same-sex couples, because every American should be able to visit a loved one in the hospital, transfer property, and receive equal health insurance and other employment benefits.

My Administration is committed to addressing a full spectrum of issues important to the LGBT community. We can reduce discrimination by strengthening hate crimes statutes; supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; ensuring adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation; and opposing discrimination in public accommodations. To combat HIV/AIDS, we need policies that support people living with this illness and increased funding for prevention, care, and research. I also support repealing the current Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in a sensible way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. Please join me online to learn more about my civil rights agenda at: www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/civil_rights.

Together, we can create a more open and tolerant society that
protects and values all people. Thank you again for writing.


Sincerely,

Barack Obama


To be a part of our agenda for change, join us at www.WhiteHouse.gov.
It's better than nothing, surely, although it doesn't address the subject of my letter. Mostly I consider it pap.

Friday, January 22, 2010

STRAIGHT DUDE. GAY NEWS. Episode 0: Introduction

This is my first attempt at a video blog entry. Please let me know what you think. And please check out the Proposition 8 Trial Tracker, the website whose URL made me stutter.

Does anyone know what's going on with the horizontal compression? It didn't look like that when I was recording it. I'm using a Panasonic SDR-S26.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I believe that what I am doing should not be remarked upon

A few years ago Joss Whedon was honored at an Equality Now event. The video is embedded below. You can find a transcript at the American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank. But please watch the video. If you can get through it without tearing up, you're harder than I.



I keep coming back to it because it's one of the most moving speeches I've ever heard, and because it explains better than I ever will why I do this blog. Just take the excerpt below and replace "Why do you write these strong women characters?" with
"Why do you advocate for GLBT equality?"
How is it possible that this is even a question? Honestly, seriously, why are you -- why did you write that down? Why do you -- Why aren’t you asking a hundred other guys why they don’t write strong women characters? I believe that what I am doing should not be remarked upon, let alone honored and there are other people doing it. But, seriously, this question is ridiculous and you just gotta stop.

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Because equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and women who’s confronted with it. We need equality, kinda now.

So, why do you write these strong female characters?

Because you’re still asking me that question.

So why do I advocate for GLBT equality?
Because equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity; we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the hatred that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and women who’s confronted with it. We need equality--kinda now.

So why do you advocate for GLBT equality?

Because you’re still asking me that question.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Soloist Project: How to Sing to Sports Fans?

I posted the following on SportsFags.com but I'm publishing it here as well so that I get as much feedback as possible.


Focus on the Family is spending $2.5 million on a Super Bowl ad.

I will use my blog to raise opposing voices. My idea is to make this part of "The Soloist Project", a grassroots letter-writing campaign.

Since I don't know sports, I'd like your advice on how to do this in an effective way. What sort of message would sports people respond to? Here's my first-draft idea for a sample letter to the editor. Please comment and make whatever alternative suggestions come to mind. I need help from sports people to communicate effectively.

To the Editor:

While watching the Super Bowl on February 7 you may notice an advertisement that promotes family values. At least that's what "Focus on the Family" wants you to believe. They want it badly enough to spend two and a half million dollars on it.

If you think for a moment it will become clear to you that "Focus on the Family" does not focus on anything of the sort, and that the advertisement does not promote anything. Their focus is on gay people, and their intent is to make sure that gay people remain second-class citizens.

If "Focus on the Family" truly cared about families they would focus on reducing the divorce rate. But they are not interested in telling people to be responsible for their own actions. Instead, they want to convince you that a minority group is the problem. They want you to believe that a minority group is a threat to you.

As you watch the advertisement, please think for a moment. Think about the fact that "Focus on the Family" spent two and a half million dollars in order to prevent people from having the same rights that you and I enjoy. And think about the fact that, if gay people were to gain more rights, it would not hurt your rights or mine in the least. If you don't believe that, then go to the internet and look up the current Proposition 8 trial. Not one of the Proposition 8 supporters has been able to name a single way in which same-sex marriage would hurt conventional marriage.

"Focus on the Family" does not focus on the family. They focus on bitterness, anger, fear and hate. That's a heavy burden. Don't let them hand it to you. And if you are already carrying that burden, then please consider looking a gay person in the eye and seeing that person as a human being just like you. Please consider laying your burden down.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Meandering Manifesto, Part 3: The Prisoner

Continuing from Meandering Manifesto, Part 2: Moral Turpitude...

Grace and I were watching "Strong Poison", one of our old favorites. It's a marvelous BBC dramatization of the Dorothy Sayers mystery. At the outset of the story Harriet Vane stands accused of murdering her former lover. As I watched the first trial scene my gears started to turn.

In his preliminary speech the Judge warned the jury not to take the defendant's lifestyle too much into consideration in their deliberations. His condescending tone spoke volumes about his society. The following comes from the book.
"At any rate, in March of 1928, the prisoner, worn out, as she tells us, by his unceasing importunities, gave in, and consented to live on terms of intimacy with him, outside the bonds of marriage.

"Now you may feel, and quite properly, that this was a very wrong thing to do. You may, after making all allowances for this young woman's unprotected position, still feel that she was a person of unstable moral character. You will not be led away by the false glamour which certain writers contrive to throw about 'free love,' into thinking that this was anything but an ordinary, vulgar act of misbehavior. Sir Impey Biggs, very rightly using all his great eloquence on behalf of his client, has painted this action of Harriet Vane's in very rosy colours; he has spoken of unselfish sacrifice and self-immolation, and has reminded you that, in such a situation, the woman always has to pay more heavily than the man. You will not, I am sure, pay too much attention to this. You know quite well the difference between right and wrong in such matters, and you may think that, if Harriet Vane had not become to a certain extent corrupted by the unwholesome influences among which she lived, she would have shown a truer heroism by dismissing Philip Boyes from her society.

"But, on the other hand, you must be careful not to attach the wrong kind of importance to this lapse. It is one thing for a man or woman to live an immoral life, and quite another thing to commit murder. You may perhaps think that one step into the path of wrongdoing makes the next one easier, but you must not give too much weight to that conclusion. You are entitled to take it into account, but you must not be too much prejudiced."
The judge's disapprobation was palpable, yet his concern was genuine: he had to remind the jury that they were not to let their opinion of Harriet Vane's scandalous behavior dictate their judgment of the murder case.

This scene resonates because we've all heard about local and national scandals that have shaken our certainty that "that doesn't happen here" or "people of that class just don't behave that way". Well it does and they do. Yet folks go right back to believing otherwise, don't they?

Humans need to believe in things that are demonstrably untrue. In the case of sexual scandals, a community brings its collective hand to its mouth and gasps at one of their own having done something so shocking - so unheard of!

The first reason for this reaction is simple: it provides a way for a person to feel superior. She could be genuinely free of vice and fooling herself into thinking that sexual improprieties are rare. Maybe she has her own juicy skeletons but finds ways to rationalize them. Or perhaps she simply enjoys her cynical triumph in covering up her own liaisons better than that sap on the front page. Whatever the specifics, everyone in the community gets to feel superior.

Methinks there's also a potent genetic reason why folks doth protest too much. Let's assume that I'm hard-wired to spread my genes around while keeping my neighbor from doing so. How would I go about it? Well, fulminating about sexual improprieties wouldn't cost me anything but could yield two benefits: it could draw attention away from my own dalliances, and make any guilt-prone people within earshot that much more likely to keep it in their pants. It's a two-for-one deal: cover and sucker-bait! For that kind of reward I could see myself getting very noisy in my hypocrisy.

So people maintain their illusions of propriety by casting stones at those who violate them. And I believe that bendy people make a very convenient target. That's why straight people love to pretend that gay people don't exist, and why they freak out so much when gayness happens. It is in their best interests to play out both acts of the charade.

Meet Vikrant

My name is Vikrant, I'm 29 yrs old, born and raised in North NJ.
I'm a Food Scientist at a flavour company. We develop the flavours that go into your favourite products to make them taste so good, like Soda, Juice, Tea, Candy, and French Fries etc.
You should read Fast Food Nation, there's a whole chapter on our industry, we can make anything taste like anything.
Though I studied Food Science at Rutgers, I never had a clue what I'd wind up doing as a job and I feel pretty lucky to have found it by accident.

I played the Trumpet all through school and I'm still singing in Choir. Music is my life. If I could make a living off of Music I'd do it in a heartbeat, but I just leave that to the professionals. However, the experiences I had at Rutgers were amazing. I had the opportunity to sing all over Europe with the Rutgers Glee Club. It was such an honor to sing a Mass at Notre Dame in Paris and just as exciting to stand and perform in the middle square of Prague. I now sing in an excellent community choir and try to see as many professional and college concerts as possible.
Please see the excellent articles in which Vikrant was recently featured:
You are not a gay
Coming out of the desi closet

Vikrant was my neighbor when Grace and I lived in Millburn. We got to know each other and when the conversation came around to Meet Adam and Steve I found out that he was not only eligible but willing to be a face of the day! Thanks Vikrant!

My Letter to the White House about the National Prayer Breakfast

This is the letter I just wrote using the contact form on the White House website.

Dear President Obama:

During your campaign you promised to be a "fierce advocate" for gay rights. Since then, as many LGBTs and allies lost their patience with you, I stayed hopeful. I told myself that you can't be expected to fix every problem at once. I listened to people who said that, like Lincoln, you want to be forced to move forward on gay rights. I saw how few people were putting that kind of pressure on you, and told myself that you could hardly be expected to make a suicidal expenditure of political capital in its absence.

All that has changed. I've now joined the camp that has had it with you. You're planning to sit at the National Prayer Breakfast and pray alongside David Bahati? The thought is disgusting. If you do that, you will never reconcile your actions with your promise.

Please. Don't let history remember you as just another lying politician. And if your faith truly means anything to you, don't dirty it by sitting in the same room with an author of genocide.

Bahati Go Home

President Obama is planning to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC on February 4. That's cool. Prayer is important. I don't believe in God, but I still say prayer is important. As a matter of fact, I think that the primary weakness of atheism and agnosticism is the absence of a focus for gratitude. I need to count my blessings, because they are great and they are many. It's always a challenge to do that without an entity to thank. I end up offering thanks to the universe, which always feels awkward and vague.

So I have no problem with Obama going to the National Prayer Breakfast. But I do have a big problem with some of the other attendees. David Bahati, M.P. of Uganda, is planning to come. He's the author of Uganda's "Kill the Gays" act. He'll be praying alongside members of The Fellowship Foundation, a U.S. conservative Christian group which influenced Bahati's murderous policy.

I hope that, regardless of your religious beliefs, you agree that this man does not belong in our country, and that our president does not belong in the same prayer session with him. Would you please sign the online petition to disallow entrance into the United States of David Bahati, and tell the White House that President Obama should not be attending the National Prayer Breakfast?