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?