Tag Archives: Dan Savage

Hero of the Week Award, June 26: Harvey Fierstein and Dan Savage

26 Jul
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Let my start this week’s award with a sincere thank-you to my friend Jay, a fierce supporter of LGBT rights, for pointing out these two powerful responses to a horrific situation. Russia is not known as a particularly friendly nation toward the LGBT community. In fact, it is more than just hostile. Years of oppression and occasional violent outbreaks have escalated in recent years. As more nations adopt marriage equality and LGBT rights are promoted by the United Nations, internal pressure has caused a real backlash, including lethal violence against gay rights activists and pride participants. This slideshow (which features some graphic results of violence) is a harrowing review of recent treatment of the Russian LGBT community.

Rather than provide courageous leadership to prevent this atmosphere, President Putin has encouraged and signed virulently homophobic legislation including an adoption ban and a “gay propaganda” law that is so vague it makes Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill look like a coming out speech.  My, who knew that President Putin seems to be obsessed with us gays.  I’m a little scared.

Award winning actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein and journalist and provocateur Dan Savage have taken up the fight to demand international pressure on Russia and its leaders. With the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the opportunity to make a strong statement is better than ever.

Fierstein penned a powerful Op-Ed for the New York Times outlining Putin’s nasty legislative ways. He rightly points out that a gay athlete simply being out could result in arrest under the new propaganda law. Looking at the larger picture with his distinctive critical eye, he calls out the President and deftly demonstrates where this trend will lead.

Historically this kind of scapegoating is used by politicians to solidify their bases and draw attention away from their failing policies, and no doubt this is what’s happening in Russia. Counting on the natural backlash against the success of marriage equality around the world and recruiting support from conservative religious organizations, Mr. Putin has sallied forth into this battle, figuring that the only opposition he will face will come from the left, his favorite boogeyman. Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians.

Savage, citing Fierstein, demands attention and action as well. He wrote a nice piece for Slog promoting a boycott of Russian vodka. This strong, simple statement is something that millions can participate in and requires none of the business or political leverage that other trading blocks might.

That one of the most powerful nations in the world does nothing to protect its LGBT citizens is appalling. That its president actively works against them is even worse. International attention and pressure are critical, and the United States should lead the way. Thank you Harvey Fierstein and Dan Savage for leading the charge.  President Putin is carving his legacy and it looks so very similar to that of Uncle Joe Stalin and Hitler.  Some may remember that Hitler said Germany would not enforce the genocide of the Jews and of Gays for the three weeks during the 1936 Olympics.  Now Putin has said Russia will not enforce the bloodbath of persecuting the LGBT community during the 2014 Olympics.  How sad to see history repeating itself.

Of Actions and Accountability: A Tale of Two Apologies

1 May

Isn't it ironic which one we say is on the "right"?

Cast your mind back two months. Remember when right-wing millionaire bloviator Rush Limbaugh attacked a law student for speaking facts when invited to a Congressional hearing? Limbaugh grossly misrepresented the situation and avoided any factual information in his character assassination of Sandra Fluke: he called her a slut, said she wanted Federal money so she could be promiscuous, and demanded that she post sex videos online so he could see what he was paying for. When reasonable people expressed concern, rising to outrage, at his behavior, he doubled down, spending three days of broadcasts generating further lies and more hysterical behavior. Fortunately, Fluke stood her ground, public pressure cost Rush advertisers, and his eventual non-apology was too little too late. What’s telling, however, is that he thought he could use his bully platform to say whatever he wanted, shaping reality to his own ends, and suffer no consequences.

Fast forward to last week. Gay rights advocate, writer, and It Gets Better founder Dan Savage appeared at a high school journalism conference to discuss the issue of bullying. Reasonably pointing to the all-too-frequent use of religious faith to defend homophobic bullying, he pointed out the many inconsistencies between biblical teaching and modern “Christian” practice, using the robust defense of slavery in the Bible as a repeated example. His references to outmoded biblical requirements as “bullshit” outraged some attendees, who walked out of his presentation. As he transitioned from this part of his presentation to his broader theme of bullying, he commented on the walk out.

You can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back now, because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.

Cue the right-wing outrage machine. Savage was attacked for his use of language and for belittling the faith of his audience. Now for the real point of contrast between his story and Limbaugh’s. Rather than react immediately to the furor, Savage took the time to reflect on the situation. He then crafted a smart, careful response, addressing all the nuances of the situation. He accepted responsibility for the name-calling use of the term “pansy-assed” and apologized to the students who had walked out while making an excellent point

I wasn’t calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself. But that’s a distinction without a difference—kinda like when religious conservatives tells their gay friends that they “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Nicely done, Mr. Savage. He then wittily stood by his thesis

I didn’t call anyone’s religion bullshit. I did say that there is bullshit—”untrue words or ideas”—in the Bible. That is being spun as an attack on Christianity. Which is bullshhh… which is untrue.

It’s an interesting study in contrasts isn’t it? On one side: lies, hyperbole, and false outrage defended and compounded for days on end; on the other: a careful analysis of the situation, a reasonable (if somewhat unnecessary) apology and a careful restating of the thesis.

Sadly, this contrast plays out all too often. Calling out bigoted actions and unreasonable behavior by people ranging from right-wing pundit Juan Williams to narrow-minded “celebrities” results in their digging in their heels, counter-calling for apologies, and refusing to take responsibility for their actions. Vice President Biden reminds Americans that Mitt Romney said going into Pakistan after Bin Laden would be a horrible mistake and Romney adopts a “how dare you repeat exactly the words I said!” attitude. Yet Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who caught hell for merely repeating Ann Romney‘s own claim that she did not work, looked carefully at what she said and how she said it, then responded to the criticism directly and honestly.

I apologize. Working moms, stay at home moms, they’re both extremely hard jobs… I’ve fought my whole life for women to have the choices that Ann Romney talked about. What I meant was that Mitt Romney is using his wife as an economic surrogate. He himself said it. And I just thought that that was off-base.

Denial, finger-pointing, lying, and dodging responsibility for one’s own actions or thoughtful responses and personal accountability — it shouldn’t be hard to determine which of these is the more desirable approach from our leaders, role models, and commentators. Looking at the examples sure makes the gridlock in Congress snap into focus, doesn’t it?

Some of my best friends are gay…

22 Jan

Really Rick?

Thanks to my nephew Tim Jung for inspiring me to write this article.  Tim shared with me an article written by Dan Savage a couple of weeks ago.  He was spot on with his observations of homophobia and how the media participate in institutionalized homophobia, but I will extend it to racism and sexism as well.

I grow so tired of people behaving in extraordinarily homophobic, racist, and or sexist ways and then absolving themselves of any culpability with the glib, “and some of my best friends are gay, or black.”  Really?  Really?  I would love to meet the LGBT, and Black folk, and women who are supporting Tea Party extremists like Newt Gingrich or Rick (the P is silent) Santorum.  How does one help create and maintain a platform of HATE by signing a pledge of discrimination and then say, “but some of my best friends are gay?”

As Dan Savage points out, I suspect these “friends” are quite imaginary!  Why do we never see them or get to hear them being interviewed?  I encourage you to please read Savage’s article.

Bigot of the Week Award: July 28, Senator Scott Brown

29 Jul

Bigot of the Week

How incredibly wonderful that ALL of the Senators and Representatives from the state of Massachusetts released a It Gets Better video.  Well, all except one bigoted Republican known as Scott Brown.  Brown’s refusal to participate in the It Gets Better campaign and his mindless adherence to party lines, as a typical sheep, earn him this week’s BWA.

Brown was invited to participate but declined. In fact, when asked about the message he thought his lack of participation sent to LGBTQ youth, Brown responded with a bizarre ad hominem attack on It Gets Better founder Dan Savage:

It’s truly reached a new level of desperation in their efforts to tear down Scott Brown, but we look forward to hearing whether state and national Democrat leaders agree with Dan Savage’s long history of lewd, violent and anti-Christian rhetoric. Given their press conference call today, one has to presume at this point that they do.

One can only hope the good people of Massachusetts will vote for a person with stronger leadership skills and a stronger character in 2012. As a tonic to Brown’s bigotry, I encourage you to watch the video that the elected officials of Massachusetts made.

Bigot of the Week Award: April 15

15 Apr

Bigot of the Week

Obviously, Kobe the Homophobic Bigot Bryant earns a dishonorable mention this week.  Stay tuned to read about the reaction from Nike and if they will keep the Bigoted Bryant as a spokesperson for their products.

This week’s BWA, however, goes to Bret Easton Ellis.  Some of you may remember Ellis as the writer of American Psycho and Less Than Zero. Ellis’ comments were particularly cruel and venomous. Here are some of the unforgivable comments made by the washed-up has-been writer:

I like the idea of Glee but why is it that every time I watch an episode I feel like I’ve stepped into a puddle of HIV?

This comment alone is so offensive on so many fronts.  The blatant homophobia combined with the disgusting discrimination against those battling HIV is nothing less than sociopathic. (Click here to see the first source).  The self-identifying bisexual Ellis then followed with several TweetsNot to bum everyone out, but can we get a reality check here? It gets worse. The next tweet, pushes this pacifist to want to have Ellis committed to a psychiatric ward:

No, I wasn’t drunk last night. I was watching Chris Colfer singing, um, “Le Jazz Hot” and I felt like I had suddenly come down with the hivs.

Regardless if Ellis is just doing this to get some attention because he is no longer in the spotlight, this type of homophobic and discriminatory/inflammatory language shows some significant pathology. American Psycho indeed.

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