Inclusive Catholics in Vancouver

23 Jul

ArchThank you to my friend and LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this story. Good news in Vancouver, BC for transgender youth. Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese has adopted new policies that honor the gender identity of transgender youths. This is a huge move in the right direction for civil rights within the Catholic community.

Unfortunately, the Catholic school district did not create the new policy organically, but rather as the result of a lawsuit. Tracey Wilson, an 11 year-old transgender youth, was denied appropriate accommodations at her school and consequently left, moving to public school after her family filed a human rights complaint. While I’m sad that the Catholic school district only came to adopt the trans-inclusive policy as a result of a lawsuit, I am exceedingly happy that they are moving in the right direction regarding human rights.

While Tracey Wilson has no plans to return to the Catholic school, she offered that she hopes the new policy will help other transgender youth:

When I was going through the process of noticing my difference, I felt alone and not accepted and it was very hard…It was just a horrible process and I don’t want that to happen to anybody else.

Doug Lauson, the superintendent for Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese said, “We are people of the Catholic faith. Our schools will be as inclusive as we can while still retaining our Catholic identity.”
Fortunately here in Portland, we have an organization that advocates for the rights of Transgender youth around the world. If you know of any youth that is struggling with gender identity and or gender expression and is in need of advocacy, please contact TransActive.

The Seneca Falls Convention

19 Jul

seneca2Today marks the 166th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were the architects of this historical event to address women’s rights and the disparities and barriers women faced during the 19th Century.  Stanton, Mott, Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt created the plans for the two day convention, July 19 and 20th, 1848. All but Stanton identified as Quakers and all were known for their dedication to the abolitionist movement.

Some of you may remember that Stanton  instructed the minister to eliminate the promise to obey from her wedding vows, later observing, “I obstinately refused to obey one with whom I supposed I was entering into an equal relation.” She also assumed the name Elizabeth Cady Stanton, refusing to be subsumed as Mrs. Henry B. Stanton.

While all of these women worked hard to create a convention (attended by over 300 women — including 40 men, including Frederick Douglass), it was Stanton that drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which she based on The Declaration of Independence. Stanton stated that:

all men and women had been created equal [and went on to list eighteen] injuries and usurpation -the same number of charges leveled against the King of England-on the part of man toward woman.

Within the Declaration of Sentiments, Stanton included eleven resolutions, making the argument that women had a natural right to equality in all spheres.

Sadly, writing this piece 166 years later, I have to reflect on how much work has yet to be done around gender parity.  While women now have the right to vote and own land, we as a nation still have a long way to go towards full gender parity.  It was quite embarrassing that the Republican controlled House voted against the equal pay bill, and I was mortified by the Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, which has a huge impact on women’s health.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention how all of these disparities have an even larger impact on other targeted populations, such as women of color, undocumented women, and transgender women.

Call to action: I implore all of us that are dedicated to issues of social justice to stand in solidarity with all women as we work towards a more equitable world.

 

Boehner’s Ill-Fitting Suit

18 Jul

BoehnerYet again the people of the United States are witnessing an enormous waste of tax-payer money and political grandstanding, as the third most powerful man in the country is filing a lawsuit against President Obama regarding the Affordable Care Act. We saw this waste of money and grandstanding before when Boehner hired a legal team to defend DOMA – that was a colossal waste of money and time to promote bigotry.

With the success that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is enjoying, what do Boehner and his cronies have planned? Will they be making home visits to revoke health insurance from families that now are insured? What is the purpose of this frivolous lawsuit? I wonder why Boehner and his GOP House of Shame can’t work on creating jobs and repairing infrastructure, as President Obama has urged and the American people have demanded.  Sadly, for me, this feels like a great deal of racism being stirred up again.  I suspect Boehner must not have a single gay/black/female, or any minority friend given where he spends his negative energy as the Speaker of the House.

Boehner claims that the root of the lawsuit is an effort to curb executive abuse of power. That doesn’t make any sense. Congress — specifically the HOUSE which Boehner hypothetically leads — has a tool to deal with such abuse. It’s called impeachment. Despite many GOP claims that such action would be justified (and a deep tide of Tainted Tea encouraging it), it’s pretty clear that there is no way impeachment could succeed and polls indicate that it might backfire in November’s mid-terms.

So Boehner is trying an ironic, hypocritical, unprecedented Legislative power grab. Curiously, his claim of “abuse of power” which he links to Obama’s executive orders and signing statements, is an outright lie. Relative to every president of the last 50 years, President Obama is the least frequent implementor of these two LEGITIMATE tools of executive authority. Even Gerald Ford issued more executive orders in barely 1/3 the time in office. Curiously, the king of executive orders is Saint Ronald the Addled. The all-time champ of signing statements is George W. Bush aka Cheney’s Sock Puppet. So it’s fine when conservative white guys do it, but when a legitimately elected man of color facing the most obstructionist Congress in modern history tries to actually govern…

It’s also curious that Boehner singled out the ACA’s mandate for the lawsuit. Irony #1 – President Sock Puppet issued an executive order delaying Medicare sign-up penalties. Sounds a lot like what President Obama did with the ACA; that is, he established executive policy to smoothly implement a complicated law. Irony #2 – Boehner ignores the primary area where most Americans feel the administration may have overreached: NSA spying and tapping. I guess even unpopular strong executive action is fine if the Speaker AGREES with it.

CALL TO ACTION: Draw attention to this sham. Have every member of the House who supports it dragged into the light come election time. This lawsuit is frivolous, wasteful, vindictive, and hypocritical. Let’s make it cost Boehner and his rabid base come November.

Drug of Choice

14 Jul

Pride and Prejudice 1995 (1)I suspect most of us who identify as humans employ a variety of coping mechanisms just to get through the four letter word called life.  Over the course of almost half a century now, I have used different coping methods and have relied heavily on several during exceedingly difficult times in my life. I talk about, and try to live my life through, a lens of social justice. This piece has no judgment but does hope to make space for how we each try to make it through trying times.

In 1996 I had seen the A&E adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Now I must confess, during difficult times I would read and re-read Pride and Prejudice. When I saw this seminal film version of a most beloved novel, I knew I was home. Through the next several years, I would put the VHS tape in and watch this movie ad nauseam to soothe and console me. I so saw myself as Elizabeth Bennett played by the amazing Jennifer Ehle. It truly was my drug of choice. I was grateful to discover that I had a partner in crime, for my dear friend Bethie was equally addicted.

Years later, when I was feeling blue and down out, I found that I would keep re-reading the third Harry Potter novel.  In fact, in 2003 when I was working on an NEH grant, I was reading the fifth Harry Potter novel.  Upon finishing it, I asked my husband to mail me Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as a tonic.

A while ago, I was at work — I do diversity/inclusion and racial equity workshops while also teaching social work. I was confronted by a white man in a workshop who was doing some posturing and asked “so what do you think about the gay agenda and should we also accept the pedophile agenda?”  I have been doing these types of workshops for many many years now and rarely do I feel as though I have had the wind knocked out of me, but wow — I felt the severe punch.  All I could say was: “I’m not sure I understand the question, or if  there is a question?”  I try to meet everyone where they are at on their respective journeys and I have to keep in mind that one cannot force someone to be where they are not. I also have to keep in mind that for those of us doing work around issues of diversity and inclusion there will always be an acceptable amount of trauma. That being said,  when I finally got home, I knew I was going to self-medicate.  I told my husband what happened, made myself a martini, and yes, we watched Pride and Prejudice. 

As I write this, I am keenly aware of my own position of privilege and am also grateful that how we treat people with addictions looks much better than it did just 15 years ago. I’m grateful there are harm reduction models available and I hope we will continue to rely less and less on shame and blame. I also hope we continue to look at addiction and intersectionality. Are targeted groups more likely to rely on substances and if so, how do we change systems to create an equitable society and culture?

As we do this hard, important work and move together through the complicated journey of life, I hope everyone has as safe and reliable a drug of choice as my freedom to escape into the world of Miss Eliza Bennett.

Soulless Supreme Court Sponsors Corporate Christian Religion

7 Jul

Roberts CourtThe United States is still reeling from the Supreme Court decision last Monday, July 1 — now a day living in infamy. Disappointing, but not wholly surprising to see the Koch Bros. purchased Justices: Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, and Kennedy imposing their collective Catholic male dominated perspective on a nation that purportedly honors separation of church and state.  Our SCOTUS is starting to feel and look more like a branch of the Papacy pre-Vatican II, rather than part of a system of checks and balances among the three branches of American Government.

This infamous decision by the Catholic Five is not just about access to birth control — it is directly about women’s health and who gets to determine women’s health.  This decision also reinforces the never accurate and consistently sexist idea that sex is solely for the purpose of procreation and must never be considered for recreation by consenting adults. It sends a clear message that women are here for the sole purpose to produce children — they are objects owned by their husbands.  Yes, I am astounded that we are even having this conversation in 2014.  What will the next decision be? Shall the Catholic Five on the Supreme Court designate a police force to police every bedroom to ensure people are only have sex for the purposes of procreation?

What happened to separation of church and state? What will be the ripple effects of this monumental disaster of a decision? Do we now have a set precedent where corporations can limit services or goods to the LGBTQ community or the Muslim community? The intersections of race, class, gender, and religions other than Christianity are apparently now targeted officially by the highest court in the land. The Hobby Lobby decision shores up any potential cracks in the Citizens United decision where we witnessed how corporations can purchase their very own supreme court justices.

Fortunately, we have the sage voice of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If you have not read her dissent, I encourage you to read her wise words and warnings. We also have an ally in President Obama, who is dedicated to using executive orders wherever possible to minimize the damage. However much the Teahadists may bemoan his actions, we must remember that the Presidency is part of the three-party system. The Executive branch can — and at times MUST — check the judiciary when it over-reaches!

Don’t let the complacent, corporate cogs at the major news outlets fool you. This is no “narrow” decision! If corporations have free speech and religion rights, what else might they do? Do they have the right to form “well-ordered” militias? If one religious sect can impose its will on a common good like health care — based on their “firmly held” but scientifically false beliefs — what else might lower courts decide they can do? With the death of DOMA we saw how quickly lower courts will adopt a major SCOTUS ruling and effect a sea change in state laws. Is Hobby Lobby the next wave? If so, this will be a tsunami of hate and bigotry.

Sadly, we now see the floodgate of religious hate sanctioned and legalized with the Wheaton College injunction.

CALL TO ACTION: The Justices are in it for life. Little can be changed on the Judicial front for now. We need Congressional action to reverse Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, restoring the corporate veil and re-affirming that corporations are NOT people. That won’t happen in Boehner’s house or if the GOP takes over the Senate. Vote wisely this November. Targeted populations, like women, African Americans, LGBTQ people, and other intentionally marginalized populations who tend not to vote in mid-terms must mobilize to send the message: We will not stand for this!

LGBTQ Pride/History Month 2014: Reflections and Work Yet to Be Done

30 Jun

pride_monthAs we celebrate the last day of LGBT History Month, I am reflecting on the amazing civil rights work being done by Binyavanga Wainaina.  Let us all hope that every country in Africa will celebrate and embrace the LGBTQ community.

I am also hopeful that the transgender community will be celebrated and embraced with the visibility and leadership of people like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock.

I think it is also important to look back and be able to honor those that came before us — to pay tribute to those who assumed level of risk, so that future generations might have an easier life just for being who we are.  Thank you, José Julio Sarria.  Thank you, Harry Hay.

While many states can now enjoy and celebrate marriage equality, this does not mean that LGBTQ people are no longer targeted or marginalized. Of course, we must not forget that the disproportionality of targeting/marginalization is greater for people of color who are also LGBTQ.

Of course, this is also the time when I get to highlight some of my favorite LGBTQ stories over the years.

Yes, our Dumbledore is on the list of favorites, as is Professor Sprout (Miriam Margolyes).  Of course, I have to include Bayard Rustin as one of my favorite heroes.

As with Black History Month and Women’s History Month, I wish we did not need LGBTQ History Month, but the fact is we do! We must not fall into the delusion that people in the United States and all over the world are treated equally by virtue of being human.  In most states in the south it is not safe to be part of the LGBTQ community.  In Uganda it is legal to kill gay people – a proposal seen just recently here in the United States.

I bring up Black History Month and Women’s History month because of all the people who have multiple identities and experience oppression on multiple levels. Marriage Equality is just a small portion of what needs to be addressed regarding civil rights.  Violence against the LGBTQ community has increased by 13% over the past year, with people of color, transgender and gender non-conforming folk being especially targeted.

A Call To Action: I ask that all of our allies/supporters to raise your voices — stand in solidarity with those of us in the LGBTQ community. Together we have the power to eradicate homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, and poverty.

LGBT Pride and History Month 2014: Jared Polis

29 Jun

JaredpolisToday I would like to honor and celebrate Representative Jared Polis from Colorado.  Polis is currently one of a handful openly gay member of congress — no small feat given how welcoming John Boehner has made the House of Representatives for the LGBTQ community. He’s also the first out gay parent to serve in Congress.

Polis has dedicated his life to improving education. While his business enterprises have been diverse, he has focused his extensive philanthropy and political aspirations on ensuring access to quality education for everyone. His first elected office was to the Colorado State Board of Education, where he served part of his term as Chair. He also worked to ensure the passage of the largest school bond proposal in Colorado history, improving and modernizing educational facilities in the Boulder Valley School District.

Polis has put his own money to work as well, creating a foundation dedicated to creating “opportunities for success by supporting educators, increasing access to technology, and strengthening our community.” His work focuses on ensuring that schools have adequate technology to prepare students for success in a rapidly changing world. He also demonstrates amazing dedication to issues of racial equity, as he strives to create better access for targeted and immigrant children.

Since 2008, Polis has been the Representative for Colorado’s 2nd District. In Congress he continues his push for quality education, serving on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. He also chairs the Red to Blue program, helping Democratic candidates in competitive Republican-held districts. Rep. Polis is an outspoken critic of the lives and money the U.S. has wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan. A staunch supporter of civil rights, he has supported legislation and action opposing US involvement in countries with anti-gay laws as well as programs supporting the LGBT community in Iraq, Honduras, and elsewhere.

Jared Polis has been open and out throughout his career, providing a visible example of a proud, successful gay man as well as a supportive partner and father. I would also like to take time to thank all of the LGBTQ parents raising children and being visible! It is still relatively early in Rep. Polis’ career, but his work thus far indicates a commitment to equity and opportunity. I look forward to seeing how that passion grows.

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