Marriage Equality Not the Cure All…

29 Jun

marriage equalityWhile I am absolutely elated and ecstatic about the SCOTUS ruling for both healthcare and marriage equality — for I never thought in my lifetime I would see marriage equality in the United States — I am also reflecting on how complicated the institution of marriage is, with its deep roots of misogyny and racism. I am also grateful that I benefit from marriage and happy that the SCOTUS decision was on the anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas, and US v. Windsor.  

There remain many problems around marriage equality. Marriage equality hardly signals the eradication of homophobia, racism, or misogyny. In twenty-nine states, it is still legal to discriminate against the LGBT community in employment, housing, and education. In fact, fourteen of the states that already offered marriage equality simultaneously refuse to provide these basic protections (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming). This is a horrible disconnect. In practice it means that a couple who celebrate a happy, significant occasion are in fact opening themselves up to more discrimination, perhaps even the loss of their homes or livelihoods.

I also want to address why the conversation has to address more than just marriage equality. I hope we will devote our collective energy in eradicating white supremacy, in solidarity around trans rights, in supporting undocumented people, and dismantling poverty.

I am also exceedingly sad about the legacy of hate, bigotry, homophobia, and racism that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia (and Scalia’s minions) are leaving.  Talk about being on the wrong side of history. Scalia is now a parody of himself, with his dissenting commenting, “jiggery pokery.”  Here we have two of the most powerful men in the world, using their power to undermine civil rights. Something to think about as we look at a presidential race in the United States that will be appointing new justices.Demons

While I am happy to celebrate marriage equality, I hope we take a call to action individually and collectively to address all of the intersections of racism, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, and poverty.

Remembering Alan Turing: LGBTQ Pride Month 2015

7 Jun

Alan TuringIt was 61 years ago today that Alan Turing took his life. He was not able to see anyway out of the homophobic culture he had endured.  The irony is not lost that just two years ago the British government finally declared that Turing would no longer be considered a criminal for being gay.

Alan Turing was born in 1912. His teachers and family noticed his immense talent for mathematics early on, and he began a rigorous education. He became a fellow at King’s College at the age of 22 and began work on computation. His pioneering work earned him the title: Father of Computer Science. During the war, he worked for the British government as a code breaker. His methods helped crack critical German codes. Some have gone so far as to give him credit for Britain making it through the war without surrender. Turing’s contributions to computer science, cryptology, artificial intelligence, and mathematics are immense, and his gracious style made his ideas approachable, helping spark further innovation.

He was also gay. He was generally careful about this fact, given that any homosexual activity was still criminal in the United Kingdom, but he did have partners. In 1952, after reporting a break-in at his home, he admitted to the police that he was in a gay relationship with the other man living there. He was arrested charged with “gross indecency.” While he felt no guilt about simply being who he was, he pleaded guilty to avoid the negative publicity of a trial. He opted for injections of artificial estrogen — chemical castration — rather than go to prison.

The conviction revoked his security clearance and ruined his career. It kept him from travelling to the United States to expand on his work. It left him alone and bitter, his promising life in ruins at the age of 40 just because he wanted to live his life honestly. In 1954, he died of a cyanide overdose that was ruled suicide. What a pointless end to an amazing life and we must ask ourselves who is culpable–who has blood on their hands?  How do we learn from this tragedy and learn how to support our LGBT brothers and sisters?

While very well known in math and science circles, the scandal kept his work and life from greater renown. It wasn’t until 2009 that the British government — in a statement from Prime Minister Gordon Brown — apologized for what Brown aptly described as “appalling treatment.” (The Brits did better than the Catholic church, of course, with its habit of taking centuries to apologize for its legal abuses…) In the past four years, a bill has slowly worked through the parliamentary process to formally pardon Alan Turing. It appears poised to pass in October.

It will be wonderful for the charges against Turing to be formally erased. But his life cannot be returned. The amazing things his mind would have accomplished will never come to pass. The horrific impact of homophobia and abuse of power cannot be fully calculated or undone. Over 49,000 men were sentenced for the same crime in Britain — including Oscar Wilde — before the law was finally removed from the books.

There are still many countries with laws like this. There are still jurisdictions in our own country with laws like this. Let the dark example of Alan Turing be a call to action — every life deserves dignity, legalized oppression and discrimination must be stopped. In the end, Alan Turing was a victim, not a criminal. He does not need to be pardoned, the British government does, and this one positive step is simply not enough to wash the blood of thousands from its hands.

Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman

31 May

walt-whitman1Today, Walt Whitman would be 196 years old. While he may not be present with us physically, he lives in perpetuity with his poetry. Whitman, the father of free verse, is one of my heroes.

In my darkest times, I read parts of Leaves of Grass to help ground me.  While there are still some who debate Whitman’s sexual orientation, it seems likely that he did have an affair with Peter Doyle.  Edward Carpenter recounted his intimate interlude with Whitman to his friend Gavin Arthur, who then recorded the affair in his journal. I suspect Whitman today would have worn the moniker of Queer quite proudly.

Whitman’s poetry fills me with optimism about humanity; his words often pull me out of my misanthropic woes.  When I read:

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same,

I feel enveloped in a part of humanity that is flawed, but connected.  The connectedness is the rich good stuff–the stuff that gives me hope and optimism.

I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into a new tongue.

I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

For me, this is my religion. Whitman’s words here seem sacred and his sharing of how connected we are, for me, seems to show how natural and fluid sexual orientation is, and the softness of the lines of gender identity–how natural.  In some respects, Whitman is responsible for this blog.  If you have not read two of my favorites, Leaves of Grass or Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, I strongly encourage you to read these works.

Why Are The Gays So Loud? Unsolicited Advice From David Brooks

3 Apr

David BrooksIn the nasty wake of Republican Governor Pence making it legal to discriminate  against the LGBT community (which Presidential wannabes Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have both applauded), we have been admonished by his holiness, White Hetero David Brooks, shining his beacon from atop his throne  at The New York Times.

While I have never been a fan of Brooks, I used to think of him as being at least a quasi rational conservative, albeit one who never quite understands his position of power and privilege as a white heterosexual man in  the United States. Apparently our uniting and proclaiming that we will not be considered second class citizens was enough to cause Brooks to clutch his pearls and grab his smelling salts. Sadly, Brooks’ latest diatribe does not even bother to include transgender people, or bisexual people.

Brooks has missed the civil rights bus at several stops. First, NO,  the law passed in Indiana is not “just like” the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That Federal Law and the 18 state laws actually modelled after it have their own problems — just look at the recent Hobby Lobby decision irrationally referencing RFRA — but are fundamentally different from the Indiana hate legislation. RFRA prohibits government action from interfering with the faith of individuals. Indiana — just like Arkansas, North Carolina, and Georgia if they are foolish and bigoted enough to follow suit — allows individuals to use their personal beliefs as a weapon against other individuals, refusing services and goods. That is absolutely not the same, something a man with Brooks’ education and background ought to clearly understand.

Secondly, my goodness what great privilege you must enjoy, demonstrated by your ability to remain this obtuse:

Instead, the argument seems to be that the federal act’s concrete case-by-case approach is wrong. The opponents seem to be saying there is no valid tension between religious pluralism and equality. Claims of religious liberty are covers for anti-gay bigotry.

While I would never have claimed you as an ally of the LGBT community, I do fear you are working against us, and this editorial certainly commits great trespass, for which I’m fairly certain you will neither reflect upon, nor make any attempts at repair.

Like many of your contemporaries, older, white, heterosexual males, you seem to be driving the train to irrelevance in the 21st century world. This is not what I would want, for I truly believe there is room for us all, however, the onus to get up to speed and become more inclusive is on you, not those of us who are targeted, marginalized, and have disproportionately less power. One should note, the Anti-Violence Project has reported that the homicide rate against the LGBT community is up exponentially in 2015.

Looking at this through a lens of social justice, I would add that people of color who are also LGBT often have even more at risk, thus I have to bring up the issue of race, as race and misogyny are always inextricable from the conversation.

Mr. Brooks, your aimless, thoughtless piece puts the blame on the victims, wondering why we have to push so hard to make ourselves heard. Your own deafness should answer that question for you. As a Jew Mr. Brooks, what happened to tikkun o’lam? Your behavior along with this editorial do nothing to help repair the world.

Bigot of the Week Award: Mike Pence and Matt McLaughlin

27 Mar
No, I'm Not Gay!

No, I’m Not Gay!

Sadly, Republican Governor Mike Pence signed into law on Thursday the freedom to hate and discriminate. This law is fairly far-reaching in how it will impact many communities.

Yes, the obvious community it allows for hate and discrimination against is the LGBTQ community. I would also like to call attention to the fact that this “Religious Freedom” law also paves the way for police officers to refuse to defend mosques or synagogues because it may go against their Christian beliefs. This law now allows the refusal to help women experiencing domestic violence, as previous laws in place to advocate for women  may not apply to someone whose religion says someone may discipline their spouse and children however they deem proper. I presume this law also allows the medical profession to now legally deny women access to birth control.

Help me understand how this law is beneficial to anyone’s civil rights? How is this not about protecting the fear of white heterosexual Christian men?

Demonstrating his enormous privilege and horrific lack of reflection, Pence had the audacity to observe

This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it.

As icing on the one-man-one-woman-only wedding cake, he also signed the legislation in a private ceremony. Just a little shy about making your hate public, Governor?

In other atrocious news, a most dishonorable mention must go to Matt McLaughlin. McLaughlin is backing the bill in California called the Sodomite Suppression Act, which calls for the execution of gays with a bullet to the head. Goodness, McLaughlin certainly seems obsessed with anal sex! Gratefully, California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, is desperately trying to find a way to just dismiss this modern-day Nazi bill.

Enough awful news! I am in search of all of the many heroes that need celebrating.

Women’s History Month 2015: Women on 20s

20 Mar

Rosa20What a great movement to initiate during National Women’s History Month — getting women’s faces on our currency. How sad that while women make up more than half the population, we only see white men’s faces on our currency.

How might we look at this more equitably? How can we work together to put a woman’s face on the twenty dollar bill? Who should it be? I know Alice Paul is getting a lot of traction, as is the amazing Shirley Chisholm. I must confess, I am rather partial to seeing Rosa Parks on the twenty dollar bill, although I do love Eleanor Roosevelt.

 

A Call To Action: Click here to cast your vote! A Women’s Place is on the money!

Tom’s Treasonous Temper Tantrum

12 Mar

TraitorsThe Republicans in the U.S. Senate have hit a new low, which is pretty hard for a group that has dug such a deep, disgusting hole in which to dwell. Led by freshman Senator Tom (would you like a cup of Tea)  Cotton of Arkansas, a stunning 47 out of 54 Republican Senators have signed a letter to the leaders of Iran. The letter is a petulant rant warning that any agreement the Obama administration might reach with Iran over nuclear materials will become null and void as soon as a new President takes office.

Where do we start with something like this? It’s a clear violation of protocol — direct foreign relations are the purview of the Executive branch, not Congress. It’s a blatant slap in the face to a President who has seen nothing but racist obstruction and disrespect from the GOP members of the Senate. Under one of the oldest laws in the land, it probably qualifies as treason.

The Logan Act was passed in 1799 to restrict the ability of unauthorized citizens to act in a way that is intended to influence a foreign government on matters relating to an ongoing controversy or dispute. Iran’s nuclear program clearly qualifies. Senators have the authority to do many things, but negotiating foreign policy isn’t one of them. That power belongs entirely to the Executive Branch unless there is a formal treaty proposed; that would require a 2/3 vote of approval from the Senate (sorry to bother people with pesky facts).

Angry that the President isn’t just going to abdicate after the disastrous 2014 election, Cotton and his cronies decided to stamp their nasty feet and play a dangerous game. They may not like the direction the President takes, but it’s up to him. By acting independently, they show just how ugly they can be with the added bonus of making the country they are sworn to serve look foolish, confused, and inept. Of course those adjectives come up a lot with Republicans/Tea Partiers in Congress…

Cotton is new to the Senate, but that doesn’t excuse him — or the 11 other new Republican Senators who ALL signed his malicious missive — from learning and following protocol and obeying the laws of the land. Other signatories have even less of an excuse including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate President pro tempore Orrin Hatch, and omnipresent crazed, cranky, crackpot John McCain. When asked why he signed the letter, McCain responded with”…well I sign lots of letters.”  Oy! How on earth is he in office?

It’s unlikely the Logan Act will be invoked — that’s only happened once, in 1803. Attempting to prosecute 47 sitting Senators would grind the barely functioning government to a complete halt, and the President has been able to use this irresponsible act to highlight his own policies and strength. Getting away with it doesn’t make it right. Let’s hope that the people who can hold these ignorant, vicious men and women responsible — the voters — will take this matter seriously in years to come.

Do we need to issue a statement to the globe: “Nothing to see here folks, just keep moving.”

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