Archive | May, 2014

Standing Up To Transphobia: Lea DeLaria Says “No” to MichFest

28 May

DeLariaThe Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival — popularly known as MichFest — is one of the oldest ongoing music events in the country. Founded in 1976 as a women-only camping and entertainment event, it has been in the same location since 1982, drawing thousands of women each year. Sadly, it is also driven by what founder and organizer Lisa Vogel refers to as “The Intention.” This policy declares that only “womyn born womyn” are allowed to attend, actively excluding any women not assigned female gender at birth.

This deplorable transphobia flies in the face of true feminism and dangerously ignores our need to stand in solidarity. By subscribing to a narrow binary of gender identity, Vogel tragically perpetuates the kind of marginalization that she maintains the festival was created to eliminate. Since Nancy Burkholder — a trans woman — was ejected from the festival in 1991 transgender activists have worked hard to raise awareness of “The Intention” and its harmful effects.

This year an actor and comedian has led an exodus from MichFest in protest to the policy. Lea DeLaria, a strong advocate for all of the LGBT community throughout her career, has gained recent attention starring in the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black. After signing up to perform at MichFest she learned about The Intention from co-star Laverne Cox — one of the most visible transgender entertainers. Not content to just walk away, DeLaria issued a strong statement rebuking Vogel and MichFest for their shameful practices. She also noted some of the more dramatic protests mounted by activists outside the festival, including physical harassment and bomb threats.

After over 30 years of gay activism and as an out, proud member of the LGBTQ Community, I do not wish to be a party to infighting. We queers need to find a way to stop this fighting and work together towards our common goal. Both sides of the Michigan Women’s Music Festival dispute refuse to listen to each other. Due to their unyielding stance, I am withdrawing from the festival. I truly look forward to the time when all LGBTQ stand as one. Perhaps then we can collectively laugh at how fucked up is it when I’M the voice of reason.

Nicely done, Lea. Other performers have joined the boycott, including out folk duo Indigo Girls, poet Andrea Gibson, and rockers Hunter Valentine.

Marriage Equality Makes It To Oregon At Last!

19 May

Oregon-United-for-MarriageMay 19, 2014 what a lovely, historic day for the state of Oregon and for the country. The Honorable Judge McShane made it clear that same sex couples should enjoy the privileges of marriage.  This is a time to rejoice and celebrate, for I believe that the liberation of LGBT people only contributes to the liberation of cisgender heterosexuals.  Here we have a decision that has a far reaching ripple effect. Marriage equality by design addresses issues of sexual orientation, race, class, privilege, power, and the intersections of all of these identities.

Well Done!  It looks like Robert and I need to get in line to get a marriage license.  Today we celebrate and tomorrow we pick up the torch to continue our dedication to expanding civil rights for all.

Toxic Tea Party: Repealing Obamacare?

19 May

Tea PartyAs the midterm elections grow near, the bizarre behavior of extreme right wingers moves into action.  Of course, they are bringing out the typical fear mongering tactics with heavy doses of homophobia and misogyny, but now we are hearing right wingers such as Oregon U.S. Senate hopefuls Jason Conger and Monica Wehby threaten to “overturn Obamacare.”

I would love to see the implementation of this overturning of Obamacare. Do the Tea Party and GOP plan on visiting every one of 8 million plus people to revoke their health insurance?  Who will pay for these home health revocation visits? One by one the Affordable Care Act horror stories funded by the Koch brothers have turned out to be lies, half-truths, willful misrepresentations, and strange irrelevancies. By the thousands come the stories of people whose lives were improved — often saved — by better access to healthcare. The ACA is far from perfect, but it is making a positive difference in the lives of millions and the changes needed look nothing like Conger’s repeal-and-replace demands or Wehby’s wishy-washy wanderings.

One has to love Wehby’s mantra of “We need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps”  (a phrase heavy with racist overtones). Well that would be lovely, Dr. Wehby, if we were all on a level playing field and if all people started off with bootstraps to pull up.  I must confess that I do so enjoy watching her fumbled and waffled attempts to answer ANY questions on pressing issues such as marriage equality, poverty, and abortion. Wehby clearly took inspiration from Charles Durning’s performance of “Dance a Little Sidestep” from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  

Sadly, Jason Conger makes Wehby look reasonable. Lacking her ambiguity, he is burdened with the ability to form coherent sentences, most of which are toxic odes to the furthest Tea-stained extremes. Conger’s anti-marriage equality and “only men should be able to govern women’s bodies” approach to politics makes me think he took his inspiration from Rick (the P is silent) Santorum.

Across the nation GOP candidates are stuck trying to explain how they would actually care for their constituents whose healthcare they want to strip away. Supposedly endangered Democratic senators like Mark Pryor of Arkansas are defying expectations by standing up for the law and leading in the polls. The right’s racist obsession with dismantling the President’s signature accomplishment coupled with a narrow-minded and oppressive desire to block fundamental rights is a scary thing indeed. Let’s hope voters are smart enough to make choices that help move the country forward. I know here in Oregon, Jeff Merkley is the right choice.

Mother’s Day 2014

11 May

Mom and Me June 2010On May 8, 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson (Yes, the president that jailed women for wanting the vote…) declared Mother’s Day a national holiday in the United States.  Of course it was 44 years prior that Julia Ward Howe made her Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870.  Here is an excerpt from Howe’s proclamation:

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause…

Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Really a lovely quote by Howe. Now I would like to share a personal memory that is just a small reminder of why I love and honor my mom.

When I was 16 years old and my mom was teaching me to drive in her 1979 red Thunderbird — a car that seemed like it was a mile long — I was determined to get my drivers license, as it was a status symbol of adulthood, a right of passage.

When it came time to take my driving test, I was quite nervous and anxious. The woman who came out to administer the driving test was quite intimidating to me. She was well over 6 feet tall and probably twice my size.  The driving test did not go well. The examiner was laconic and rather unpleasant, which just added to my anxiety. Sadly, I did not pass my driver’s test.

On the way home, I was mortified and in tears. My mom reached over and touched my arm and said: “We don’t have to tell anyone. You can just keep practicing and take the test again.”  That moment just made me love my mom. It took off the pressure and while I was still exceedingly disappointed in myself, I was no longer devastated.

Adolescence was a very difficult time for me, and my mom was the only friend I had. I was quite unattractive. I was very skinny, had wild hair that was out of control, and suffered terrible acne. I had such bad acne that there were days I could not bear going to school and enduring the ridicule of my peers. Being skinny with bad hair, horrific acne, and the fear that I was gay was almost too my for me at times. My mom allowing me stay at home a couple of days because of my acne was the tonic I needed to just survive.

I don’t think we can underestimate the power of moms.  When I think back to moments throughout childhood, I am grateful for my mom.  Happy Mother’s Day.

The ERA and Oregon

6 May

ERAToday I would like to address the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and Oregon.  My dear friend and social justice advocate, Nancy Campbell Mead, was kind enough to visit with me and talk about how the ERA benefits all Oregonians. I have known Nancy for five years and I am consistently amazed and grateful for her voice and dedication for social justice. Nancy stands in solidarity with those who face oppression. I was elated to learn that she has now taken up the torch for the ERA.  The message of equality for women is especially timely and poignant given that the House of Representatives just voted against equal pay for women.

Nancy, what will the ERA do for Oregon?

 The language of the proposed ERA is simple:

(1) Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on a count of sex.

(2) The Legislative Assembly shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this section.

(3)  Nothing in this section shall diminish a right otherwise available to persons under section 20 of this Article or any other provision of this Constitution.

Equality for women is not currently expressly guaranteed in the Oregon Constitution.  Nor is it guaranteed in the federal constitution (The federal ERA, though passed in both houses of Congress, was only ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states; there is currently a renewed effort to get it ratified).  By passing the ERA we can make certain that Oregon women and girls have their equality written into the state’s constitution.  Twenty-two (22) states have ERA’s; Oregon does not.  Oregon women do have substantial protections through legislation and caselaw, but neither provide the security that the Constitution provides.  Both legislation and caselaw are much more “fluid” than is the Constitution; legislation and caselaw are constantly changing, but it takes a vote of the people to modify the Constitution.  Explicit constitutional guarantees of  sex equality provide legislators and judges a mandate to treat sex-based discrimination as highly suspect and provide the framework under which laws are written and court cases are decided.

How can we get this on the ballot for November of 2014?

 In order to qualify for the ballot we need 116,284 valid signatures by July 3, 2014.

We need everyone’s help NOW in making sure we have enough valid signatures to qualify.  With our statewide polling at over 82% support from Oregonians we know the ERA will pass if we get it on the ballot!

Here is how you can help us achieve this goal so all Oregonians have equality expressed in the constitution:

Volunteer:

Collect signatures, host house parties, speak to your organizations…  For more on how you can volunteer, email: Info@VoteERA.org

Donate:https://secure.c-esystems.com/voteera/donation.aspx

Nancy, what else would you like to share with people regarding the ERA? How is this a social justice issue?

Having an ERA in Oregon’s Constitution is important.  How important?  Just read these quotes from three of our nation’s leaders:

Former President Jimmy Carter:  He calls the treatment of women and girls “worse than any war we’ve had in history.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:  “If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment… I think we have achieved that [equality] through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered.  So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion – that women and men are persons of equal stature – I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”   Nancy added that:  Bader Ginsburg was referring to the U.S. Constitution, but certainly the same argument can be made in favor of an ERA in the Oregon Constitution.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:   “Some people say, ‘It’s [the ERA] only symbolic,’” Clinton said. “Well, yes, but symbolism is important,  and it can also be a great message and even lead to actions that further equality, so I think if you can have that kind of debate here in this state [Oregon], you might be starting something beyond your borders.”  Nancy added that:  While I do not for a minute think the ERA is “only symbolic” I do agree with Clinton that “symbolism is important”.  Because it has been many years since any state has approved an ERA, Oregon passing a state ERA will hopefully serve as an impetus to get the federal ERA “rolling” again.  As Clinton said, we “might be starting something beyond your[our] borders.”

Having the Equal Rights Amendment in Oregon’s Constitution is important because it will mean future generations of women and girls can read our constitution and know that the people of Oregon believed that their rights were important enough to secure them in the constitution which can only be changed by a vote of the people.  The legislation and caselaw we currently have are generally good, but they are subject to being changed by the legislature or a judicial decision.  Expressly stated constitutional protections are much more secure.

I want to thank my friend Nancy for taking the time to visit with me and talk about the ERA.

Call to Action: Please click on the links above to get involved and stand in solidarity.

Happy Birthday, Tammy Wynette

5 May

Tammy-WynetteToday Tammy Wynette would have been 72 years old. Sadly, Wynette died at the very young age of 55 from cardiac arrhythmia.  She was known as the First Lady of Country Music. Like many other country music legends (such as Dolly Parton), Wynette did not shy away from real issues around the disparities and complexities of women. There are plans to honor Wynette with an upcoming postage stamp.

Wynette was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998.  While most people know her song, Stand By Your Man, and D.I.V.O.R.C.E., one of my favorites is Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad, probably because of my association of that song with the movie Sordid Lives. Leslie Jordan plays a homosexual imprisoned in a psych ward for being gay and impersonating Tammy Wynette.  If you have not seen this movie, I strongly recommend it.  Later in the television series of Sordid LIves, Tammy’s daughter Georgette Jones plays Tammy’s ghost.

Some will argue that her best work was in partnership with her tempestuous and passionate marriage to George Jones. I liked the album she did with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, Honky Tonk Angels.  In 1991, Wynette showed her gay friendly side and recorded the hit Justified and Ancient, with the British pop group KLF.

In the last years of her life, Wynette struggled with addition issues and pain medications. I can still hardly believe she is gone and to have been so young. Happy Birthday, Tammy Wynette.  You are still with so many of us.

 

The Clippers: An Opportunity for Healing

2 May

NBA: New Orleans Hornets at Los Angeles ClippersWhile I was not particularly surprised to learn that Donald Sterling reared his racist head, I was exceedingly disappointed that we have yet more evidence of how much work still has yet to be done around race and how our nation still perpetuates the targeting and marginalizing of African Americans.

Let us hope this horrific moment from Sterling will create space for us as a country to have conversations around race and racism and that we will also  include conversations around misogyny and homophobia and what I might call the intersections of oppression. If we can have authentic and empathic conversations around race and oppression, we can also pave the way for healing.

Of course, our collective hearts go out to the Clippers and for all of the African Americans renting apartments from Sterling — for all of the lives Sterling impacted with his ignorance. Perhaps the tonic will come in the form of a new owner of the Clippers. I have heard three names thrown about and a most wonderfully creative uniting idea. I have heard that Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, and David Geffen have all expressed an interest in buying the team. Personally, I think there is some type of poetic justice in Oprah Winfrey (a black woman) and David Geffen (a white gay Jew) co-owning the team.

I am also drawn to the idea of a collective ownership. A man named Rob Wilson has started an Indiegogo campaign online to get as many as one million Clippers fans to join him in funding a bid to buy the team. He observes

Major sports teams no longer need to be in the hands of a few wealthy individuals whose values are detached from those of its fans. Technology has leveled the playing field in many industries. Now, let’s use technology to change the ownership suite… This is an opportunity put the LA Clippers in the hands of its fans, supporters and others who will not discriminate against others.

Approaching this from a social justice lens, I hope this awful incident (an incident NOT in isolation) will provide opportunities for us to unite as a nation and focus on issues of racial equity and equality. For me, issues of race are also tied to issues of misogyny, homophobia, and how we target people who are not part of the dominant culture.

CALL TO ACTION: I hope each of us will examine ways we can stand in solidarity with those people who are targeted and oppressed.

%d bloggers like this: