Archive | October, 2011

Hero of the Week Award: October 28: Aretha Franklin

28 Oct

Hero of the Week

I did not think I could love the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, anymore than I already did.  I had five people nominate Aretha for HWA, so I had to jump to it.  Franklin came to New York to perform at the wedding of Bill White and his long-time partner Bryan Eure.

How fantastic is it to have the Queen of Soul perform Respect, and I Say a Little Prayer at your wedding?  Kudos to Aretha Franklin and nice that she earns the HWA.  TSM loves the opportunity to celebrate Franklin.


Bigot of the Week Award: October 28: Shorter University

28 Oct

Bigot of the Week

Thanks to my friend Brad for pointing me to this week’s Bigot.  The Southern Baptist college in Rome, Georgia, aptly named Shorter (certainly shorter in human rights), has adopted a “faith” policy that bans the employment of gay people. The university also adopted a new motto: “Transforming Lives Through Christ.”  Who would Jesus hate?  Apparently Shorter University believes that a man who was inseparable from 12 other men would hate the LGBT community.

Employees of Shorter University must now sign a statement:

I have read and agree with the Personal Lifestyle Statement and will adhere to it in its entirety while employed at Shorter University. I understand that failure to adhere to this statement may result in disciplinary action against me, up to and including immediate termination.

Lifestyle?  What lifestyle choice are they talking about? When did gay become a “lifestyle” choice.  This is as laughable as the Gay Agenda.

Not only do I feel horrible for all of the LGBT employees at Shorter, but my heart breaks for all of the LGBT students and the LGBT community in Georgia.  What an ugly message of hate Shorter is sending.  What type of world is Shorter envisioning?  What is hiding in the closets of the Board of Trustees?

While I know the LGBT community will need the support of our religious brothers and sisters, it is clear that we will not be getting support from the Southern Baptist like the bigots at Shorter University.

Click here if you would like to read the full article.

Race, Gender, Activism: My Interview with Moka King

28 Oct

Moka King is a friend of mine that has also dedicated her life to issues around social justice and equality for the LGBTQI community. She is a Generation Xer with an amazing capacity for love and generosity.  Here is an opportunity to check out what Moka is doing and for us all to take inspiration to take action.

Moka identifies as a cisgender British African-American lesbian. She is the host of Moka’s Corner radio program.  Moka lives in Philadelphia, PA.  She plans to legally marry in the late spring. She is a passionate champion for all within the LGBTQI community.  She was kind enough take some time to visit with me and talk about some current projects she is devoting a great deal of energy to.

Moka, can you share with the TSM audience what you try to accomplish on your radio talk show?

I focus on LGBTQI issues and political issues that face the LGBTQI community.  We try to educate the LGBTQI community. I look for ways I can help.  I have been looking at the Ugandan Bill to Kill Gays and the political climate against the LGBT community here in the United States.  Gender identity is a social construct and we all fall on a fluid spectrum of gender identity.  I come  from a strict Baptist background but I knew was a lesbian from early childhood.

Click here to follow Moka on her radio show, or follow her on her Facebook page.

What are you currently working that we need to be aware of now?

We are planning a mass protest by wearing blue which represents clarity, purity, innocence and universal love. As of this time we already have the complete backing of Transgender Author Toni Newman Kayo Anderson of KAM, Runway Magazine, OurSistersCircle a web based lesbian social group, and Change the CD counseling and support group for LGBTQI community with special outreach to our youth. We have contacts within the LGBTQI community who will be confirming to us in the coming week.

The dates we have set for this protest are Nov 16th and 17th. You may ask why these dates. November 16th is the International Day of Tolerance. This day represents humanity to all. November 17th Is National Transgender Day of Remembrance. World wide it is reported that a member of the transgender community is tortured violated or murdered everyday. We hope to bring awareness to the problem our brothers and sisters face not only overseas but here in the United States as well.  For more information click here.  Remember it’s not just their rights but our rights too.

I want to thank Moka for taking time to visit with me and with the TSM audience. Moka is a great example of someone who understands the intersections of oppression and takes action to stop discrimination of all forms.

Wednesday Word of the Week, October 26: Epistle

26 Oct

Where is the SEND button?

This week’s word is EPISTLE

a piece of writing in the form of a letter

Over the past week, I have had two separate experiences which have caused me to ponder the value and relevance of written communication in the modern age. Both of these events are related to my work as a tutor for college students in the Boston area.

Although, at 29, I am barely a half-generation (at most) removed from most of the students with whom I work, the gap in communication strategies is wide. I willingly own a piece of this given my willful resistance to most social media, but as someone who participates in this online community and keeps in touch with many friends by email, I was surprised by how starkly the moments struck me.

The first event involved a conversation with a student about the novel Dracula. It was her first experience with an epistolary novel and she found the experience jarring. She understood the principle of writing letters and obviously knew that the Victorians had no email, but the art and value of letters as communication and persuasion was lost on her. Her entire context for communication was texting and occasionally exchanging emails. The results were immediate and the need for lengthy description and explanation was utterly absent.

Surely, she opined, the author was taking liberties with the form and no-one would ever have written letters like this in real life. This led to a fascinating discussion (and a good thesis for her paper, fortunately) about the very different requirements for communication in a pre-electronic age. Not only could weeks or even months pass between messages, but one party to the communication might well be in a place that the other would never see at all. This required a sense of description and a sensitivity to the information conveyed. It also meant that the writer of a letter had to reflect on his or her content in a way not required by modern communication tools. The result of the communication was INTIMACY

a close personal relationship; something personal or private that you say or do

not immediacy. Such reflection certainly prevented many of the consequences of thoughtless typing that we’ve seen in recent months.

The second event was a conversation with a student regarding his settling into life on campus. I asked, perhaps naively, how the transition from old friends and family to new acquaintances was going. He indicated that he hadn’t met many people outside of his roommate and casual classroom acquaintances because he was still so well connected with his friends from high school. This ought not to have shocked me, but it did. The prevalence of electronic communication (through a device always on one’s person) has evaporated the sense of DISTANCE

the fact or feeling that two people or things are far apart from each other

This student was accustomed to communicating frequently and consistently with friends by text and tweet. The physical distance matters to some extent, but the nature of the communication is not particularly jarring. Looking again at my own experience, things were quite different. I was certainly able to communicate with people via email, faster than the postal service and cheaper than the phone, but I had to be at a computer and had no expectation of an immediate response. That made electronic communication a poor second choice. As a result, I had to turn to the people around me for ENGAGEMENT

the feeling of being involved in a particular activity or group

I had left one home and was building an new community. That experience helped me mature as a person and develop new ways of thinking. The friends who remained from my life before college did so in new ways, reflecting their maturation and growth as well. Based on the conversation with the one student, I later discussed this with others whom I tutor. A significant percentage (not quite a majority) are at least as engaged with their pre-college friends as with any aspects of their new communities. This certainly provides a level of comfort and security, but it also stifles the valuable need to make the most of a new experience. One value of a college education is the development of coping and growth skills. How will people who have never truly needed to fully engage with a new environment succeed when thrust into a work situation that demands participation with new people? It will be interesting to see what employers are saying about this trend in three to five years.

Please do not misunderstand me. I believe that most modern advancement is a good thing. The abilities to maintain connections and receive rapid feedback can be worthwhile. I fear, however, that we are losing our sense of the art of communication. If all one’s friends are old friends and every message is a fixed length, where do we have room to grow as humans?

All definitions courtesy of Macmillan Dictionary Online.

Kudos to Ohio University: Halloween and Conversations Around Race

25 Oct

As the Halloween holiday approaches and kids and adults alike look to create scary or witty costumes, now seems the time to remember our own privilege and power and not use abuse either.  STARS (Students Teaching Against Racism) have done a fantastic job of creating a series of posters that I would qualify as a PSA.

STARS mission is to:

to educate and facilitate discussion about racism and to promote racial harmony and to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings.

I confess to my own prejudice here.  I was surprised that the state (Ohio)  of John Boehner produced such a great group of thinking progressive students.  I need to be more generous to Ohio, despite people like Boehner.

The posters do a great job of addressing racism towards African-Americans, Latinos, and Muslims.  I hope everyone will enjoy Halloween if you celebrate it, but I want to conclude by saying that Racism is never funny!   Click here to see the full article.

Sonny and Cher and Ronald Reagan: Now Tie These Together…

23 Oct

Late last night my husband and I watched an old Sonny and Cher show — a great piece of nostalgia.  We got to see a very young and cherubic Steve Martin and a baby-faced Teri Garr.  What started as a lark turned out to be a very interesting conversation and reflection of just how far backwards we have gone as a country.

In the early 1970’s, America was on a progressive trajectory.  We witnessed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the second wave of the Women’s Rights Movement, and Roe v. Wade.  We witnessed desegregation finally being implemented in the South. We also saw a nation angry and protesting the war in Vietnam and it was safe to be anti-war / pro-peace and still be considered patriotic.  All of these values are reflected in a witty and fun-loving way on the Sonny and Cher Show.

The particular episode we saw included a skit that both mocked and celebrated CBS’s All in the Family.  The skit was exceedingly well crafted and addressed racism, misogyny, homophobia (Steve Martin plays the gay character), and hypocrisy.  It was this particular skit that gave both my husband and me pause to reflect, “what the hell happened to this progressive trajectory our country was on at that time?”

We had no further to look than 1980 and what I will call the American Reign of Terror for 12 years: the Reagan/Bush Years.  While the GOP have canonized St. Ronnie (and today he would be considered a socialist by Republican standards), Reagan set into motion the undoing of the United States.  Reagan gave voice to religion in a qualitatively different way that set a course for the co-opting of religion to its current incarnation of a cult of unadulterated hate; by no means am I lumping together all religions, but certainly the loud and powerful christians.

Reagan can also take credit for expanding government and for his signature “Trickle Down Economics.”  We have now had over 30 years empirical data to prove how ineffective and damaging Trickle Down Economics is, unless you are part of the top 1% of Americans. Is it any surprise that we have the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, with Republicans categorically refusing to create jobs and raise taxes on the wealthiest of Americans?  Talk about obstructionist!

While watching one of my favorite skits, The Vamp, I experienced both being tickled by Cher as Nefertiti and saddened as I thought about where we are today as a nation. When I think about the Tea Party (the party of hate and blatant racism, homophobia and misogyny) and I think about the current crap (oops, I mean crop) of GOP presidential candidates, I’m horrifically shocked at the downhill slope our country has taken.

I hope the OWS movement will pave the way for thinking Americans to take back our country from being held hostage by white heterosexual christian terrorists. I hope Americans will learn from people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who refers to Rousseau’s Social Contract. I hope we, as a nation, can stop the greed and talk again about peace and civil rights for all.

And the beat goes on…

Hero of the Week Award: October 21, We Do!

21 Oct

Hero of the Week

Regular readers of TSM will know that I am not an adherent of any organized religion; in fact, the behavior of many “people of faith” toward the LGBTQ community has left me wary at best. What a delight, then, to be able to celebrate a movement within the Methodist church for this week’s HWA. The Methodist church itself retains an antiquated and discriminatory ban on marriage equality. Methodists In New Directions (MIND) has launched the We Do! Project in New York and Connecticut. Since both of those states practice marriage equality, the signers of the We Do! covenant agree to practice it within their congregations and implore the New York Conference of Methodists to reform its practices in the matter. In a delightful treatise which quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Methodist founder John Wesley, the members of the project lay out a faith-based defense of equality for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. Impressively, the signers include active clergy as well as lay members of the church.

We, United Methodist clergy, in accordance with our ordination vows to “seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people,” commit to marrying all people, both gay and straight, who seek the blessing of the church, without bias or discrimination.

How wonderful to see these nearly 1,000 people (and more every day) signing on to change their broken church from within and practicing true love for all. The tag line on their banner sums up their message: “God welcomes everyone. So should we.” Bravo, MIND and We Do! May your efforts prevail.

Bigot of the Week Award: October 21, Viki Knox

21 Oct

Bigot of the Week

Thanks to my friend “Voice of the Trailer” for nominating this week’s BWA.  Viki Knox certainly earns the great dishonor with her homophobic comments on Facebook.  Knox, a public school teacher in New Jersey, demonstrated how LGBT youth are bullied by those in power–the teachers that are charged with educating and protecting.

Knox posted on her facebook page:

…that homosexuality was a “sin” that “breeds like cancer” and that marking LGBT History Month was like parading “unnatural, immoral behavior before the rest of us.”

Of course, Knox is pulling the “victim” card about freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Sorry, Viki.  You don’t get to be both the persecutor and victim at the same time. If a comment by a teacher had been against blacks, Jews, Muslims, or any other oppressed and marginalized population, she would be fired.  Shame on you Viki for not seeing how your comments only help to support a white, male, heterosexual power structure.  Double shame because you are a teacher.  When did you chose to be heterosexual?

Wednesday Word of the Week, October 19: Obstruction

19 Oct

The party of NO strikes again!

This week’s word is OBSTRUCTION

the act of taking action in order to prevent someone from doing something or to prevent something from happening – Macmillan Dictionary Online

An equally accurate definition

Republicans in Congress – Wednesday Word of the Week

It has been true for nearly three years, but now it is more clear than ever. The Republican response to everything is “NO.”

A clear majority of Americans indicate in poll after poll that their top priority for Congress is job creation. The President created a jobs bill. The Republicans stymie it, using the ridiculous filibuster rules in the Senate. They have no alternate proposal.

The Federal government lacks an operating budget and is limping along on stopgap agreements. No real budget is possible without revenue increases. The majority of Americans believe that millionaires should be taxed more fairly; even many millionaires agree. The Republicans refuse to budge on any increase in revenue.

The Justice Department determines that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and decides not to defend it further in court. This is completely within the purview of this department. Republicans in the House dedicate money to hire an outside council to defend the law, wasting taxpayer money.

The President uses his Constitutional authority to nominate a head for the new Consumer Protection Bureau. Alarmed that Elizabeth Warren might actually do the job she was appointed to do, Senate Republicans block her nomination. (Just wait until they have to deal with her in the Senate!)

The list goes on and on. One is left with only two possible conclusions.

Perhaps Republicans hate government so much (they certainly say they do) that they want to starve it to death. Given that the people withholding the nourishment are members of the government, this is pathetic and pathological at the same time.

While it is entertaining to believe that Congressional Republicans are all certifiably insane, the more likely explanation is both simpler and nastier. The economy is rocky. America needs forward motion. They don’t want President Obama to get any credit for such forward motion.

Simply put, defeating a duly-elected President is more important to these monsters than doing their sworn duty and protecting the interests of ALL Americans.

In just over a year, we’ll have a national election. The choice is crystal clear. We cannot afford to reward the party of obstructed morals.

Women’s History Moment: Elizabeth Bagshaw

18 Oct

Pioneer in Women's Health

Happy Birthday,  Elizabeth Bagshaw.  Bagshaw was a pioneer for women’s rights and health in Canada. Bagshaw was the Director of the very first birth control clinic in Canada.  She ran the clinic from 1932-1966. Yes, much of that time it was illegal for women in the United States to use many different forms of birth control and it was illegal to have an abortion.  This disparity in health care between the Unites States and Canada points not only to our care for women, but specifically the issue of class.  In the U.S., women with resources could purchase birth control or have a safe abortion in Canada, whereas women with few or no resources had no access to birth control and no access to safe abortions.

Fortunately, at least for today, women have the legal right to an abortion and to birth control–I know this vexes many men that cannot control the reproductive organs of women, as well as right wing women who have internalized deep rooted misogyny. It is also very fortunate that Canada maintains the Elizabeth Bagshaw Women’s Clinic:

The Elizabeth Bagshaw Women’s Clinic is a registered non-profit, accredited medical facility committed to providing reproductive and abortion services with full counseling, in a safe and confidential atmosphere.

We have much to learn from our neighbors to the north regarding standard of health, human dignity, and gender parity in health care.

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