Archive | September, 2012

My Love For Kathleen Turner

29 Sep

Kathleen Turner first caught my eye when I was quite young, and she was starring on a soap called The Doctors.  Her beauty and sultry voice were captivating. And of course who could forget Turner on the cover of Vanity Fair?  Later I saw her in Body Heat, and wow what a performance.  It was not until Romancing the Stone that I truly fell in love with Turner.  Not only was she amazingly beautiful, but she was bright, independent, and finds her own voice. Here we are in the 21st Century and I think I actually am more in love with her now.

Turner is one of the handful (and I do mean handful) of women who have refused to alter her appearance and has not succumbed to superficial pressure of what women are supposed to look like. For this she has earned my eternal devotion. In fact, I find her even more beautiful because she is her own woman, and her own person.  Her brilliance shines through!

Of course, I also find her politics and use of celebrity amazingly sexy.  Turner has used her celebrity for civil rights causes, including marriage equality and health care rights for women.

Last night, my husband and I watched The Perfect Family, in which Turner gives an absolutely amazing performance and shows how hypocritical and dangerous Catholicism can be.  Turner plays a devout Catholic who is up for The Catholic Woman of the Year Award.  The movie does a great and subtle job of exposing the misogyny and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. It also does a nice job of dealing with LGBT families.  What is also worth noting is that Turner looks her age, which I find brilliant!  What an amazing role-model for women. Ms. Turner, if you ever get to Portland, I hope you will have supper with my husband and me.

Hero of the Week Award: September 28, French President François Hollande

28 Sep

Hero of the Week

What a delight to celebrate a world leader taking a strong international stand for basic human rights. French President François Hollande made an historic speech at the United Nations this week. Using his own nation as an example, he discussed the obligation of leaders to fight for universal human rights and freedoms.

France will continue to engage in all these struggles: for the abolition of the death penalty, for women’s rights to equality and dignity, for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality, which should not be recognised as a crime but, on the contrary, recognized as a sexual orientation.

All member countries have the obligation to guarantee the security of their citizens, and if one nation adheres to this obligation, it is then imperative that we, the United Nations, facilitate the necessary means to make that guarantee. These are the issues that France will lead and defend in the United Nations. I say this with seriousness. When there is paralysis… and inaction, then injustice and intolerance can find their place.

Well said, Mr. President! How nice to see that France replaced Sarkozy with someone truly presidential. Let’s hope American voters are smart enough not to do the opposite this November.

Honorable mention this week goes to two women who shared their personal struggles to help improve the lives of thousands. Katie Couric revealed her youthful battle with bulimia in an interview. A few days later, Lady Gaga expanded on her Born This Way foundation to include victims of poor body image, discussing her battles with anorexia and bulimia because she “felt like a freak.” Let’s hope that the courage and leadership they have shown help remove stigma and move the dialog forward productively.

Bigot of the Week Award: September 28: Archbishop John Myers of Newark

28 Sep

Bigot of the Week

Oh what bounty! Sadly, there were many choices yet again this week. We won’t pick on the Romney / Ryan ticket for their serial lies, hypocrisy, racism, classism, bigotry, and oppression since everyone else has been kind enough to do that for us. Instead, the BWA goes to (brace yourselves) yet another Catholic Archbishop. John J. Myers, Archbishop of the Diocese of Newark, decided to wade into election season and instruct his flock (enjoying that tax exempt status, Archbishop).

Archbishop Myers released a “sweeping pastoral statement” this week. Feeling that many Catholics were “at odds with church teaching” he decided to apply his privilege and abuse his power. “No one has said things clearly to them for years,” he said. Well he took care of that. When looking at candidates, he said that true Catholics should examine the full spectrum of each candidate, including how they stand on abortion and a “proper backing of marriage.” He clarified why opposition to marriage equality is valid by using this old false equivalency:

Even those who propose radically altering the definition of marriage would not advocate allowing two brothers or sisters or an uncle and his nephew to marry.

Not content to spew his misogyny and homophobia, he went on to take an extremist position even for the Catholic church, saying that people who disagree with his guidance or who might vote for candidates who take different stands should “refrain from receiving Holy Communion.” That’s right, folks, vote my way or no eternal salvation for you! How very christian (in my best Church Lady (Dana Carvey) voice).

Dishonorable mention this week goes to Sen. Scott Brown (R – Mass. of Bigotry); he only came in second because of his previous win last July. Infamous for pretending to be a moderate Republican while marching in lockstep with the worst of their obstructionist behavior, the Senator managed to become even more odious this week. As part of a series of attacks on his opponent, the wonderful Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Brown has latched on to her Native American heritage. Defying the truth and common decency, he has accused her of trying to “cash in” on that heritage, something she has demonstrably not done.

As a result of these attacks, his campaign staff got a bit out of hand at a rally, shouting down Warren supporters with war whoops and tomahawk chops. The Senator (after a delay of days) finally said that this behavior wasn’t very nice, although the whole thing was Warren’s fault for not being white enough. Anyone wondering where they got the idea, however, should look to Sen. Brown’s words during the recent debate.

Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American, a person of color, and as you can see, she’s not.

REALLY? What should a Native American look like, Senator? Just to round out his GOP credentials, when he was interviewed about his comments, plainly recorded and available for public consumption, he said, “I never made that suggestion at all.” It looks like he’s hoping for a place in a Romney Administration…

A Sermon for Equality on Yom Kippur

26 Sep

Rabbi Alexis Berk

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. My good friend Donna sent me a link to a sermon from last year’s Yom Kippur which beautifully captures the spirit of the day. Rabbi Alexis Berk has served as rabbi of Touro Synagogue in New Orleans since the summer of 2008. It is a Reform congregation, committed to continuing the conversation started in the Torah. Looking around her, Rabbi Berk felt compelled to discuss marriage equality and civil rights for the LGBT community. Her words are powerful and invite hope.

She begins with a tribute to Rosa Parks and imagines a museum of the future that looks upon today’s anti-gay bigots much like the Parks memorial looks at racism. She then discusses a lesbian couple who were interested in joining her congregation and her struggle to find an honest answer about how accepting the community might be. Not how accepting they ought to be, but truly were. She then looks at the basis of Judaism.

First, what is written in Torah is the first record of our people’s struggle with God, one another, and ourselves. The Torah’s great sacredness comes from the fact that it links us in wonder and longing with our ancestors. After five years of seminary and ten years as a rabbi, much reading and study, no one has ever convinced me that Torah is or was ever meant to be the immutable word of God. And no one has ever convinced me that it has to be that in order for it to be a deeply holy, deeply valuable voice in our tradition. It is an echo of antiquity with time-honored relevance. It is a foundational tale of our coming to be a people, with a God. But, in my rabbinic opinion, it has elements of the Divine and elements of the human.

In that light, the conversation must continue. After a delightful romp through the many things that are banned (and permitted!) in Leviticus, she gets to the heart of the matter.

In this shellfish capital of the universe, I feel that is enough said [regarding Leviticus]. The Torah itself has not changed, but we have evolved in relationship with it. We have evolved very much. And, what about Jewish marriage? It too has evolved. And now we are asking questions such as: should a rabbi perform a same-sex marriage? If it is Jewish law that says no, that would mean that a rabbi should likewise never, ever perform an interfaith marriage. Or, for that matter, a rabbi should really never witness a marriage between two Jews who do not practice strict adherence to Jewish law according to the many codes of Jewish law. And, what defines a Jewish marriage according to strict codes of Jewish law?

The entire sermon is powerful and worth reading. The clincher comes — naturally — toward the end.

So, here’s the deal: if you want to loathe homosexuality, that is a personal choice. If you want to judge gay, lesbian, transgender, queer individuals or couples, that is a personal choice. If you want to use your energy and soul to prevent gay marriage, that is a personal choice. But loathing, judging, and preventing gay, lesbian and queer couples’ marriages is not supported anywhere, in any way, in Reform Jewish ideology or practice. So, if there is ever a consideration of hanging bigotry or hatred on a Jewish—let alone liberal Jewish—hook, forget it. It won’t hold.

Regular readers of TSM know that I have little patience with organized religion, especially as it is frequently practiced to divide humanity and belittle the “outsider.” I do understand that progress requires allies, however, and religious and spiritual allies who truly understand equality are invaluable. Thank you, Rabbi Berk, for being such an ally and for sharing your words on such an important day.

The Dowager Countess Goosenberry

24 Sep

The Dowager Countess Goosenberry

I first met the Dowager Countess Goosenberry in 1992 when she was visiting the States. At that point she was just the 12th Countess Goosenberry, for her husband, Alfred, was still alive.  I have been very fortunate to remain close friends with the Dowager Countess Goosenberry and she has given me permission to make public some of our very private conversations.  My thanks to the Dowager for her candor on issues ranging from governments around the world to her views on women’s rights and the rights of the LGBTQ community.  My additional thanks to my husband and my friend Brad for helping corral the Countess, for she was given to the drink during this particular interview.

When did you first become an ally to the LGBTQ community?

That moniker has become quite cumbersome, hasn’t it? Honestly, Michael, I’m not sure I ever met a gay until my dear son Tarquin introduced me to some of his friends.  My Tarquin is quite open-minded and obviously a member of the Labour party (as am I on certain occasions).  Might I add that he is quite the debonaire bachelor, ladies.  He can cook and sew, in fact he did my makeup for this interview  Yes he is quite a catch, my Tarquin.  I’m now in my eighth decade and the whole kerfuffle seems to me to be much ado about nothing. Back home in Shropshire the gays can make their partnerships official — but then we Brits have always been ahead of you Americans in regards to civil rights.   In fact,  my Tarquin said he actually went to a gay wedding and it was quite lovely. I don’t like to drop names, frankly I’m not a name dropper, but Tarquin went to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s wedding. Tarquin designed Portia’s dress.  I just can’t figure out why some young woman hasn’t snapped up my dear Tarquin yet.  Might I just add, Michael, that we in Great Britain do not discriminate against gay boy scouts.

Countess, is it true that you are personal friends with the Queen and with other members of the Royal Family?

I don’t like to discuss with whom I keep company, but yes. Liz and I are old friends.  We used to play on lawns and landscaped gardens together. When my Tarquin was younger, Prince Edward once gave him a Woody.

I beg your pardon. What?

Oh yes. My Tarquin loved the Toy Story movies and Prince Edward was kind enough to give him the Woody figurine, it is not a doll mind you; it is a figurine.

Oh, I see. Countess, I know you live in Shropshire now, but have you any thoughts about our upcoming Presidential election?

Michael, you know I thought your Mr. W. Bush was just ghastly and it  seems to me that your country  wants more of Bush with that odious Mr. Romney.  I don’t mind telling you that we are not fond of Mr. Romney back home. His behavior in London was unforgivable, and his attitudes towards women are shockingly medieval. Although I do sometimes don a wimple–it can be very forgiving on the neck of a woman of my age. Before my Alfred died, he would have given Mr. Romney an earful. (Just between  you and me, my late Alfred did tend to lean toward the Labour Party. Made for some awkward drinks parties, I can assure you!)

Countess, I want to be respectful, but didn’t your late husband have an affair?

Yes, yes. It is true. My Alfred did have several dalliances, but then we did love each other to the very end. If you want the truth, I looked forward to my time alone. So many seasons, I would find myself hinting over the top of my ladies’ magazine, “did you see that pretty little so and so down in the village. I do believe she was eyeing you inappropriately.” Even after his tryst with Maggie Thatcher, we were still able to hold our marriage together.  You know they met at a leather bar?

I’m sorry, what? They met where?

Yes, at a leather bar. You see they both were buying new saddles for their respective horses.  I seem to recall the mention of some sort of stud fee, as well. Alfred told me all about it.  Apparently, Maggie has quite a grip and is much taller and more muscular than I remember.

Oh, I see. It seems an unlikely match.

Well, it was on the order of opposites attracting, really. I believe she also reminded him of a German nanny he had in the 30s… Ah well, it was brief and in the long run made our union stronger. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for a Brazillian wax. We shall chat again soon!

The Dowager Countess departed before I could get her to clarify that statement. I look forward to sharing our next chat with you as soon as I can.

Happy Birthday, Victoria Woodhull

23 Sep

Happy Birthday to one of my personal heroes, Victoria Woodhull.  Woodhull was the first woman to run for president of the United States in 1872 against the horribly corrupt and hypocritical Ulysses S. Grant with Frederick Douglass as her running mate — if only she had won!  She was also the first woman to hold a seat on the stock exchange. Woodhull also started her own political party, the Equal Rights Party and ran her own newspaper which published articles exposing the affair between Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Tilton.  Our Woodhull also coined the phrase “Free Love,” and asserted that women should have governance over their own bodies–my what a novel idea.

Victoria and her sister  Tennessee Celeste  displayed psychic powers which their parents exploited in a traveling medicine and fortune-telling show.  Their “psychic power” caught the attention of  Cornelius Vanderbilt, who had a strong interest in Spiritualism, and he backed them in opening a successful brokerage firm in 1870.  There was speculation that Tennessee and perhaps even our Victoria were providing more than just spiritual guidance to our Cornelius.

In a letter from from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, dated April 15, 1871, Stanton reports her impression of Woodhull:

Dear Sir,

Have just returned from Philadelphia where I visited Lucretia Mott. Mrs. Woodhull had just spoken there and visited with many of your Quaker friends and me. We were charmed with her. I have not been associated with Mrs. W. as all my time this winter has been passed in the west, but all the women most interested in our cause feel that she’s a valuable addition. Neither Anna Dickinson1 or Kate Field has thought enough of our movement to make a speech on our platform; it ill becomes them to question the wisdom of Susan B. Anthony or myself in welcoming any one to our ranks who is ready to share our labors.

In regard to all the gossip about Mrs. W, I have one reply to my gentlemen friends. When the men who make laws for us in Washington can stand forth before all Israel and the sun and declare themselves pure, unspotted from all the sins mentioned in the Decalogue, then we will demand that any woman who makes a constitutional argument on our platform shall be as chaste as Diana. If all “they say” is true, Mrs. Woodhull is better than nine tenths of our Fathers, Husbands, sons, and woman’s purity amounts to little in the regeneration of the race as long as man is vile. Now if our good men will only trouble themselves as much about the purity of their own sex, as they do about ours, if they will make one moral code for men and women, we shall have a nobler type of manhood and womanhood in another generation than the world has yet seen.

When our soldiers went to fight the battles of freedom of the late war, did they stop to inquire into the antecedents of everybody by their side?

The war would never have been finished if they had.

Now although I believe Mrs. Woodhull to be a grand woman, I should be glad to have her work for her own enfranchisement if she were not. I think she would become a better woman by thus working and by assuming all the rights, privileges, and amenities of an American citizen.

Yours sincerely,

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Our Woodhull certainly puts women like Ann Romney, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann to shame.  We certainly need her voice today during this serious backlash against women.

Hero of the Week Award: September 21, the Toronto Blue Jays

21 Sep

Hero of the Week

Perhaps the homophobic tide is slowly turning in professional athletics. Just weeks after two NFL players made headlines with their outspoken support of marriage equality, a major league baseball team handled the homophobic actions of a player in a clear and decisive way.

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar is known for writing slogans in white paint on his eyeblack. According to teammates and news items, most of the writing is “inspirational or motivational.” Last Saturday, however, the writing was neither of these things. The eyeblack (which comes in adhesive strips making it easy to augment with words or images before applying) he wore on the field said “Tu eres maricon,” Spanish for “you are a faggot.”

The outcry was swift. Escobar held a press conference with a lame “everybody says it in the locker room” defense; he then moved on to a “it doesn’t really mean anything,” sounding like a high school kid caught slinging the word “gay” indiscriminately. He also played the “lots of my friends are gay” card although he could only name his decorator and hair stylist. fortunately, Blue Jays management didn’t buy his nonpology. After consulting with the Baseball Commissioner, they handed  Escobar a pretty stiff penalty.

The player was suspended for three games and his salary for those games (equalling an impressive $83,000 and change) will go to two charities. The bulk will go to the relatively new You Can Play project, whose mission is:

You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. […] You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.

What a perfect choice! The balance of the penalty will go to GLAAD, another fitting selection. Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos described the decision clearly.

Taking away from all of this, there is a problem not only in sports but a problem in society, and how do we move forward to help with that problem? If at the end of the day the Blue Jays become a vehicle and Yunel becomes a vehicle to improve things and make them better, as unfortunate as this is, hopefully some good will come from it.

The management team also acknowledged their responsibility, noting that eyeblack writing is so common that it is often overlooked. They hope that this action will make players think twice and are instructing coaches to pay closer attention in the future. Nicely done, Blue Jays, and thank you.

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