Archive | December, 2013

Number 1 Bigot of the Year Award 2013: Vladimir Putin

31 Dec
Not Gay At All!

Not Gay At All!

Bigot of the Year is always troublesome for me. I confess, I do not enjoy looking at and writing about bigots. It weighs heavy on my heart the plethora of bigots to choose from each year. This year was a particularly difficult choice, for many bigots could have easily taken first spot. I reflect back on some of the more nefarious BWA, such as: Paula Deen, Ted Cruz, and of course (somewhat ironically, given this year’s Hero!) the United States Supreme Court for basically eliminating the 1964 Voter Rights Act.

One figure managed to rise above (or is that sink below?) the rest: this year’s Bigot of the Year Award goes to Vladimir Putin. As the leader of one of the world’s most powerful nations, Putin’s aggressive support for Russia’s new “Gay Propaganda” law makes him one of the worst human rights violators alive today. The climate of violence in which Russian LGBT folk live is horrific. That Putin would enshrine this bigotry into law and then defend it as a necessary step is unconscionable. As usual, people who are so focused on the LGBT community and so actively violent against our community make me wonder what their own issues/struggles are around being gay.

Putin’s actions are a direct lift from the Nazi playbook, demonizing an unpopular minority to bolster his political standing. Each day he is in office is served on the backs of millions of LGBT Russians. Insisting that he will enforce these evil laws even for visiting diplomats and athletes as his nation hosts the Winter Olympics is vile icing on his cake of hate.

Here’s to French President Hollande for refusing to attend the games and to President Obama for sending an openly gay delegation. We must stand in solidarity with our Russian brothers and sisters and refuse to bow to this ghastly oppression.

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Number 1 Hero of the Year Award 2013: United States Supreme Court

31 Dec

marriage-equalityI always love to find people and events to celebrate, especially when they move humanity forward.  This past June, the Supreme Court helped to create equity and equality and move humanity forward with its decision to end the nefarious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a rather sad legacy of President Bill Clinton. One presumes he has had a change of heart.

Sadly, the move towards equity and equality was not a resounding unanimous cheer.  The country certainly needs to celebrate and acknowledge the wonderful work of Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Not a big surprise that the following four justices leave a legacy of hate, bigotry, and discrimination:  Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin (I hate the gays) Scalia, Samuel Alito, and of course Clarence Thomas.  How very sad for these four powerful men and even more sad that the Chief Justice sent a very loud message about how he will misuse his power regarding civil rights.

Today, we now have 18 states (if one counts Utah) that provide marriage equality; this is far better than what I expected in my lifetime. Now I have hope that we will see full marriage equality throughout the United States within my lifetime.

There were many nominations for the following Honorable Mentions this year:

Antoinette Tuff

Russell Brand

Pope Francis

I look forward to being able to celebrate many heroes in 2014!  Happy New Year!

A Holiday Invitation…

25 Dec
Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

As this year draws to a close,  I suspect many of us are in an introspective mood.  Many of us are reflecting back on the losses of family and friends and social justice pioneers, such as Nelson Mandela and Lou Reed and to a certain extent Pope Francis and of course Wanda Coleman.  I know I am constantly looking at what my legacy for humanity will be. I extend an invitation for us all to challenge anyone who shows a lack of generosity and heart — to challenge these human flaws with kindness and with love.

I believe that if we are serious about eradicating racism, homophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, and poverty, we must all be engaged – we must all stand in solidarity with one another. When we commit any type of trespass against another human being, we must be willing to do some repair work.

How lovely that we don’t have to do the heavy work of social justice in isolation, but instead we find ourselves more and more engaged with the world. There may not be a point of completion, but we have the power both individually and in community that we make progress. I challenge us all to make the world a better place and cast away the very false notion of “people need to pull themselves up by their boot straps.”

Let us hope that we are each carving out a legacy that creates equity and celebrates our shared humanity. We are all responsible in creating a  community where we can be our authentic and vulnerable selves.  I wish everyone a wonderful, safe, peaceful, and reflective holiday season.

Bigot of the Week Award, December 20: Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty (and his defenders)

20 Dec
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Long-time readers will know that I don’t watch much television. My husband and I have a few favorite programs but don’t keep on top of all the big shows. As a result, I barely knew what a Duck Dynasty was, much less who Phil Robertson might be. Sadly, this week he burst painfully into my consciousness, using his questionable celebrity to spew bigotry. In an interview with GQ, Robertson felt the need to wax homophobic at length.

Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong… Sin becomes fine. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.

He then misquoted the Bible to substantiate his position. Just for fun, he also spent some time discussing anatomy. What hatred, ignorance, bile, and bigotry! What a sad abuse of power, especially power afforded on such a flimsy footing.

To their credit, A&E — the network that airs Duck Dynasty — has suspended Robertson indefinitely observing that:

His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.

While that was the right thing to do, I wonder does it address reparative justice?  And sadly, A&E continues to profit from the series in syndication. Even more regrettable,  Robertson immediately fell back on the faith defense, basically blaming Jesus for his ugly words and then saying:

I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me.

I’m afraid the ship has sailed on that one, Mr. Duck. Robertson should also take a careful look at the people who have stood up to defend him. Failed candidate, half-term governor, and perpetual pseudo-celebrity Sarah Palin and perpetual hypocrite Gov. Bobby Jindal both rushed to his defense, calling his suspension and outrage.

Both Palin and Jindal call it a violation of his First Amendment right of free speech, thus also demonstrating their fundamental misunderstanding of the law. As with Juan Williams and so many others, Robertson has the right to speak. A&E, as his employer, has the right to say that those words aren’t appropriate and to take action. Sponsors have the right to withdraw their sponsorship. Viewers have the right to turn off the TV. Actions have consequences, even legally protected actions.

As a gay man, I have to suspect that racism and misogyny are probably also issues that our Mr. Robertson is mired in along with his homophobia. I wonder what it would have been like for A&E to have addressed this problem directly on the show and then talked about reparative justice? What would it be like for Robertson to have to travel the country and witness how the LGBTQ population is targeted and how the LGBTQ population of color is targeted even further? What concerns me most is that here in 2013 we have further evidence of just how far we have yet to go around eradicating homophobia, racism, misogyny, and poverty.  Of course, this Duck Dynasty does not have to worry about poverty, for they have been wealthy stars because of “reality tv.”

Call For Nominations:

Yes, it is that time of year again. Here is the official call for nominations for 2013’s Bigot of the Year Award and Hero of the Year Award. Please submit your nominations now.

Bigot of the Week Award: December 13, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

13 Dec
BIgot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Thanks to my dear friend and ally of the oppressed, Bruce Kestelman for supplying this week’s bigot. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R – WI) has a long history of nasty behavior. He helped lead the impeachment hearings of President Clinton and was a primary sponsor of the so-called PATRIOT act. He is a long-time denier of basic science, including climate change. He has supported vicious anti-immigrant laws including the draconian Real ID act. He opposed providing aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina (my how Barbara Bush of him). He threw a famous tantrum as chair of a hearing on PATRIOT act renewal; incensed that Democrats wanted to discuss the civil rights violations permitted in the law, he shut off the lights and microphones in the hearing room and literally took his gavel and went home.

With a career like that, it should come as no surprise that Sensenbrenner finally earns his first BWA. Sadly, he earns it for a stunning display of racism and disrespect. At a meeting in his district, he loudly opposed President Obama’s decision to fly flags at half-mast in mourning for South African President and social justice pioneer Nelson Mandela.

Lowering the flag should be for mourning Americans and not for foreign leaders.

Let’s ignore the fact that US Code stipulates that the President has full authority to decide when to lower the flag and includes international leaders and dignitaries in the list of possibilities. After all, Sensenbrenner has shown that facts aren’t his strong suit. Instead, let’s look at the horrific gall that it takes to spit on the legacy of one of the 20th Centuries greatest leaders. Let’s consider the shocking lack of sympathy for the oppressed around the world — including his own district — who mourned a great man. Lets’ look at the fact that the only reason he was likely to bring it up at all is because it was a decision by that guy in the White House, the duly elected leader of this nation whose every move Sensenbrenner aggressively opposes.

We all earn our legacies. Good ol’ Rep Sensenbrenner just confirmed his. I am curious as to what is with the state of Wisconsin–the state  of  Joe McCarthy, Scott Walker, and Jim Sensenbrenner.

Eleanor Roosevelt and My Birthday

10 Dec
Me Age 6

Me Age 6

As 50 creeps upon me and I celebrate 47 today, I am comforted  that this day also marks the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by Eleanor Roosevelt. Here is the Preamble to the now 30 articles in the Declaration:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

I love that the goal is for this to be the “common standard of achievement.”  Sadly, we have certainly missed the mark here in 2013. I look at the structural and government mandated homophobia in Russia and Uganda.  I look at the racism we still are fighting against in our own country, as I read about Shannon Gibney, a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and am in disbelief that three white students filed a complaint because they were uncomfortable; thus Professor Gibney was reprimanded for doing her job. I can only hope those three white students will evolve and have a better understanding of structural racism.

My Birthday Wish: My birthday wish is that all of humanity take some action, no matter how small a step, to STOP racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ageism, classism, eradicate poverty, and all other forms of marginalization.  We must learn how to interrupt oppression and yet keep people engaged in conversations.  What does it mean to be an ally? I would argue that being an ally is not a status, but it is action.

Salvation Army Responds…

9 Dec

TSAApparently my previous story on the Salvation Army’s sexist and homophobic practices caused a bit of a stir. Here is the original story from last week if you feel you need to refer back to it.  The day after I published the story, I received an email from Major Ron Busroe from National Headquarters for the Salvation Army. The email simply said:

Good morning Michael. I would appreciate if we could talk a few minutes about your blog. Let me know if you are willing and available.
Thanks.
Ron

In the interest of being fair, I called Ron and we did chat about the blog. The following is the exchange between Ron and myself.

I’m trying to reach out to folks and correct perceptions that are not accurate.  The whole idea that the Salvation Army is anti-gay and discriminates against people that are gay is just not true.  It is not happening today.  We have an employee in Communications that is gay and he lives in Maryland and is married.  I have a dear friend and he is an officer in the Salvation Army and he is gay.  We don’t ask people if they are gay.

Does the gay employee in your Communications Department receive full benefits and domestic partnership benefits?

Yes, he does.

How would the Salvation Army deal with an employee or volunteer who was proved to be discriminating against an LGBT person?

We will investigate any claims of discrimination.  If it is an employee the employee would be reprimanded.  The officer would be dealt with — they would not be fired but they would be told that is not policy of the SA.  Disagreement does not constitute discrimination.  We have lost the ability to disagree agreeably.  We do not believe homosexual orientation is a sin.

But there are numerous examples of people in authority in the Salvation Army who say that it is a sin. George Hood said that hiring LGBT employees would destroy the fabric of the Army; Maj. Andrew Caribe went so far as to say that gay people deserve to die.

The person in New York was not authorized to say that on behalf of the SA so it should not be counted.

Ron, might I ask you to look at the impact against the LGBT community when top officials that represent the Salvation Army make homophobic comments? Their being authorized to speak on behalf of the SA becomes immaterial — the damage is done. I hope you can appreciate why the LGBT community would be distrustful at best.

One last question, Ron.  How did you get my private email address?

[Silence.]  I’m not sure.  I asked if there was a telephone number.  We have a firm that works for us that monitors  all the information that comes in out about us.  I told them I wanted to reach out to that person.  I don’t know how that happened.  The name of the firm is Richard’s Group out of Dallas, Texas.

Ron can you understand how that feels rather creepy to me that you were able to gain access to my private email address? You could have simply left a comment on the blog, or emailed me through the blog.

I have the feeling we are going to have another bad article here aren’t we?

No, I don’t want to be unkind.  I want to share what you have shared with me today.  I think my responses to the thread of comments are evidence that I am not out trying to bash anyone.

I have not read the comments. I just read the story.

That is too bad. I wish you would have read the comments, for they speak volumes about people’s character.  I would specifically point to Xena who was kind enough to share the experience of her friend and the amazing comment from Steve, who has worked for the Salvation Army for 29 years.  His comment should humble us all.  If only he were running the organization. I also have to include Philip here for offering a sincere apology and helping me appreciate the power of dialogue within threads such as these.

Finally, I want to thank Major Ron Brusroe.  I am still uncertain what to think of the general philosophy under which the SA operates.  I will say that they seem to be working very hard to repair the history and damage to the LGBT community. I would also say that I would donate money to the chapter Steve works with.  While I am grateful that Ron took time to contact me and visit with me on the phone, it would have been nice if I received some recognition and repair around how creepy it felt that he was able to gain access to my private email address.

It would have been nice if Ron had offered or acknowledged the history and damage and followed up with some repair, such as I am very sorry people have been hurt by this organization, please know we are working very hard to ensure that ALL people are being served.  Perhaps I am expecting too much.

For all those within the SA that are dedicated to social justice, I offer my most sincere apology if I have committed any trespass. I know there are many of you working very hard to make the world a better place.

Update as of December 14, 2013:

I received an apology from The Richard’s Group and an acknowledgement that it “did feel creepy to me” that they were able to gain access to private information and then shared with the Salvation Army, albeit there was no malintent on their part.

I also have to include this link provided by my friend, Nel Ward. This link shows the most recent activity of the SA. Nel and I were both bemoaning the right to privacy seems to be completely gone in our current Orwellian culture.

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