Tag Archives: Facebook

Hero of the Week Award: May 24, Eileen Peterson

24 May

RacismI need to say a huge thank you to friend, activist, and LGBT ally, Bruce Kestelman for nominating Eileen for HWA.  Honestly, Bruce needs to also be celebrated as HWA also for many of the same reasons we are celebrating Eileen.

Standing up for Social Justice seems like it would just be obvious and easy.  Working to ensure space for equity and equality and treating all humans with dignity and respect feels like it should be a no brainer.  Sadly, this is not the case.  I suspect all of us have too often witnessed very ugly behavior on different social media sites around human and civil rights issues.  I know I have seen my fair share of awful, nasty, ugly behavior on Facebook and on LinkedIn around the issues of racial equity and marriage equality.  Garbage that I will not bother to repeat here spews forth from the foaming mouths and frantic fingers of bigots everywhere.

Delightfully, within all of this muck there are gems I find that need to be celebrated.  People with tenacity, grace, and perseverance that gracefully — and at times with great wit — work hard to interrupt oppression.   Eileen Peterson is someone who does not shy away from social justice issues.  I admit that there have been times when comments get so ugly, I throw my hands up in despair and walk away from interrupting oppressive comments.  I recently read a thread on LinkedIn regarding marriage equality and I have to say that Eileen Peterson won my heart over.  She does not use accusatory or inflammatory language, but she does try to hold people accountable for their behavior and she asks great clarifying questions that help to expose they hypocrisy within people’s arguments.

Today I felt the need to celebrate the individual and collective voices that work with great respect and dignity to interrupt oppression.  Everyday people like Eileen, Bruce, Jennifer Carey, and the amazingly large list of friends I have had the honor and privilege to know in the past two years, need to be celebrated for their dedication to social justice and fierce determination to eradicate racism, homophobia, misogyny, and poverty. I applaud you all!

Honorable mention this week goes to the Peace Corps. Reversing a long-standing discriminatory practice, the Corps announced this week that it will allow same-sex couples to apply for joint service. Married heterosexual couples have been able to do so all along. The Peace Corps could have waited for DOMA to fall; instead, they took a proactive step and will usher in equality starting next month. Nicely done!


Bigot of the Week Award: August 17, State Representative Andy Gipson (MS)

17 Aug

Bigot of the Week

Thank you to my friend Chris Wilson for inspiring me to write this article.  This was a very difficult article to compose, for it terrifies me and reminds me that people who have no sense of history are dangerous and scare me personally. Andy Gipson, Republican Mississippi State Representative posted on his Facebook page that  gays should be put to death, as he quotes from the bible:

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

In an email exchange over this post with UnityMS, he firms up his position:

To be clear, I want the world to know that I do not, cannot, and will not apologize for the inspired truth of God’s Word. It is one thing that will never “change.”

Ordinarily I try to leaven these awards with some wit, to point out hypocrisy (like cherry-picking your verses from Leviticus) and skewer idiocy and mendacity with sharp contrasts. This particular bigot filled me with such rage and sorrow that I had to walk away from my keyboard while contemplating what to say. This man, elected to serve all his constituents, wishes death on a whole population to satisfy his narrow faith. That’s the simple truth of it. That simple truth makes him a bigot and makes him an easy winner of this week’s award. How can I not take this personally? This bigot and pathetic man has said he wishes me and my husband dead just because we are gay.  Who would Jesus hate?

Gipson would also win the Coward of the Week, clearly lacking the courage of his convictions. When the story broke nationally, he simply took down his Facebook page rather than stand behind his beliefs. When the Huffington Post rightly observed that he clearly advocated murder, he posted a weaselly non-retraction, trying to rationalize away the impact of his white-hot hate. Using that passage from Leviticus to call out perceived sin also identifies a punishment and implicitly approves of it. This kind of behavior is why the Family Research Council is labelled a hate group, whether they approve of the label or not. This kind of thinking put millions into death camps seventy years ago.

Gipson called for the execution of people based solely on an aspect of their humanity. This kind of declaration is unacceptable in a public servant and should be rewarded with the loss of office.  So Mr. Gipson, who will be next on your target list of those you think should die? Who appointed you to a position of who gets to live and die?  I only pray that you are not allowed any children and that your venom does not cause another teen suicide. May you deal with your internal demons and I will try to feel sorry for you, rather than be full of rage at your behavior.

Following the President’s lead, social media get their gay on

23 May

President Obama’s announcement that he supports marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples may be almost two weeks old, but the impact on the Internet is still reverberating. A recent AP story indicates that both posting and viewing of YouTube videos related to marriage equality rose sharply and remains strong.

In fact, on the day of the President’s interview, searches for “gay marriage” and “Obama” spiked 458% between 10 am and 6 pm. According to the AP

Following Obama’s announcement, more videos with the key words “gay marriage” were uploaded on YouTube than ever before, drawing more than 3 million views and 100,000 comments.

In fact, a quick look at a few search terms on YouTube and its parent company, Google, is very informative. Searching the term “gay marriage” (which tends to be the most common term used although the LGBT community prefers the more accurate “marriage equality”), YouTube has over 6,800 videos uploaded in the past month, accounting for 17% of all relevant videos. On Google, the term yields nearly 28 million hits in the past week. For the same week (May 15 – 22) in 2011, the number was just over one million. Interestingly, that week also had big news, with a Gallup poll showing majority support for marriage equality for the first time. Searching related terms like “same sex marriage” and “marriage equality” finds smaller numbers but similar trends. For those of us on Facebook, the issue of marriage equality has become a dominant theme.

The intersection of gay rights and social media is no surprise. The LGBT community were early adopters, as isolated or closeted people found powerful new ways to build social connections. Age is also a factor. While interactive online sites and tools are hardly the unique province of the 18 – 25 set, younger users tend to be more embracing of and more deeply engaged in them. This same demographic is also more broadly supportive of gay rights in general and marriage equality in particular as well.

Social media also allow a broader sense of engagement with the stories, which allows topics that might not otherwise rise to national attention to go viral. Iowa student Zach Wahls wound up creating his own website to handle all the attention he received when he made an impassioned speech asking lawmakers to recognize marriage for his lesbian moms. Nerdy Apple, aka “Daphne’s Mom,” got the surprise of her life when a sweet post about her son dressing as a female cartoon character for Halloween got the attention of gay rights supporters and opponents both.

Even people in the news can benefit or suffer from exposure of their civil rights stands on YouTube. Former presidential candidate Rick Perry’s ad “Strong” — in which he opposes the active service of gays and lesbians in the U.S. military — has over 8 million views. Likes = 26,448; dislikes = 768,696. He also inspired dozens of parodies and responses.

Marriage equality is hot topic like never before. Strong popular (and Presidential) support is at odds with ballot box success. Upcoming votes in Maine and Minnesota and possibly Washington will either continue or break the trend. Whatever the case, social media and personal engagement in the story is finally driving a narrative in the “mainstream” media and that’s a good thing.

Hero of the Week Award: November 18, Zachary Huston

18 Nov

Hero of the Week

This week TSM celebrates another brave youth who is standing up to adversity. Last month, Zachary Huston was beaten by bullies at school, the culmination of a long series of bullying events he has suffered because he is gay. The beating was recorded by another student who posted it to Facebook. All this occurred despite the school district’s clear anti-bullying policy, a policy which sadly does not explicitly cover sexual orientation or gender identity.

This week, Zachary and his mother, Rebecca Collins, together with the ACLU of Ohio, have told Ohio’s Union-Scioto Local Schools that they will file charges against the district unless school officials convene a meeting. Zachary wants the policy updated and a discussion of how anti-bullying work will be carried out in practice, not just on paper.

Bravo, Zachary! Even now it is difficult enough to be honest about one’s sexual orientation in high school He deserves recognition for that fact alone. The HWA comes from his willingness to speak out to the authorities and demand change. This is the kind of courage and leadership we need in the next generation of LGBT leaders. Kudos to his mother as well for standing by her son and demanding that the school district be held accountable for his safety.

Honorable mention goes to Dionne Malinowski and her friend Kirk, two transgender students who are speaking out against the unfair practices of this week’s Bigot, Colorado’s Poudre School District.

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?

Thank you, Facebook.

23 Sep

Dear Facebook,

I just wanted to write to say thank you for doing my thinking for me. I really appreciate you taking control of what news I’m able to see, what friends I should be in touch with, and only allowing me to see what you deem appropriate for me. I know that as a 44-year-old man, I’m not really capable of making these decisions for myself.  I need the Facebook to determine what I am able to see and process; just as women really can’t be trusted to make decisions regarding their own health and reproductive rights.  How long before Facebook will determine civil rights I wonder? Will Facebook and Google merge and the world will finally be the incarnation of Orwell’s 1984?

Thank you also for determining what is important enough to reach my email now. Surely, I can’t be trusted to filter through my own email.  I’m just glad the pictures are bigger–I hate having to read.  I’m certain the pictures are enough, just as I am sure that everything on the Internet is true and that Republicans care about the poor and disenfranchised.   I also heard about a Gay Agenda, so that must be true.  Thank goodness for those trustworthy GOP Presidential candidates making sure the poor, black, aging, LGBT communities will not be treated equally.  Alas, I don’t have to worry about anyone reading this on Facebook, because I’m sure they will determine it is not suitable to be read on their newsfeed–let’s face it, I don’t have any lovely photos to share with this article.

Thanks again, Facebook, or shall I just call you Uncle Joe?

The Perils of a Virtual Community: Take Three Breaths

18 Jul

The Perils of Social Networks

As a blogger and someone who participates in several social media networks, including Facebook, I have been able to celebrate camaraderie and people joining together in solidarity to work, via the keyboard, to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, I have also seen a darker side of humanity, where people seem to leave their manners aside when commenting, thus at times leaving a rather acrid taste in my mouth for human connection in a virtual world.

I am often surprised and disappointed seeing people’s comfort level leaving comments on people’s post(s) that are sanctimonious, disparaging, and presumptuous.  Existing in a virtual community also means that one often does not have the advantage of knowing a person’s background or history, nor does one have the benefit of hearing an accent, cadence, or inflection. I have seen this result in people commenting while operating without a full picture or context and in a very ungenerous manner.  I have seen people threaten others with: “Change the title of this post or remove it,” “Change the title of this post and when you do, I will remove my recommendation to hide your post.”  Unfortunately, even a group of people that purport to be interested in making the world a better place can get caught up in their own egos and fall into a mob mentality, resulting in bullying behavior that feeds off of itself. Here is a pair of related examples that demonstrate how immediacy of information in social networks can be either dangerous or beneficial: Chris Rock’s ill-considered Twitter defense of Tracy Morgan and the really quite wonderful Twitter response from Wanda Sykes.


I wonder if it might be helpful for people (myself included) to take a few breaths when leaving a comment for another person. To keep in mind that we may not have the full context or backdrop for each person we interact with and it may prove beneficial to give each person the benefit of the doubt.  I wonder, if at times, it is best to say nothing at all, rather than say something ugly which you cannot take back. There is great power in social networks–in these virtual communities we have created, but there is also the equal power of damage and bullying that can occur.  I wonder if the anonymity of social networks gives voice to social bullying. Take three breaths.

Power of Our Voices…

20 Jun

My friend Tom McCollin has started a group called Power of Our Voices.  This group is for all LGBTQ voices.  I rather think of it as a way for the community to record its history.  Please feel free to share your story or stories in this safe environment.  For now, the group is hosted on Facebook.  Click here for the link.  If you are not on Facebook, let me know what stories you would like to share and I’m happy to help.  I do believe this group will help show our solidarity and our power individually and collectively. What better time to launch this group than LGBTQ History Month.  Thank you, Tom for taking this heroic effort on as yours.

Wednesday Word of the Week, June 15

15 Jun

The 3 e-Stooges

Today’s word is: CONSEQUENCES

the outcome of an event especially as relative to an individual – Macmillan Dictionary Online

This has been a fascinating week to look at the ACTIONS

something you do, especially something that seems wrong or unusual to other people – Macmillan Dictionary Online

of famous or powerful people and see just what the OUTCOMES

the possible or likely result of something – Macmillan Dictionary Online

of those actions have been.

Let’s start with the unfortunately-named Representative Anthony Weiner and his sexting scandal, which was significant enough to the blogosphere that it has its own Weinergate page on Wikipedia.

  • What was his action? Sending at least semi-lewd pictures of himself to women he barely knew (or knew only virtually) via Twitter and yfrog.
  • What was the outcome? He got caught because of one careless Tweet.

Had it ended there, I think most people would agree with my assessment that it was a matter between the Congressman and his family. Foolish? Perhaps. Criminal? No. Cause for resignation? No. Sadly, he decided to engage in another round of consequences.

  • What was his next action? Flat-out denial of the events and accusations of hacking and sabotage.
  • What was the outcome? He got backed into a corner and had to recant the accusations and admit what he had done.

As a result of this, he has lost credibility and power within his party, where he was something of a rising star. Many believe he should resign; I believe that is overkill, but some sort of censure for publicly lying and an investigation of whether or not he used House wireless equipment are certainly in order. At the end of it all, he took a leave of absence to regroup and to heal with his family, a very sound decision.

Next, let’s look at the Gay Girl in Damascus blog. Millions followed the life of this oppressed lesbian freedom fighter in Syria. Her fate seemed tenuous at best and her passionate posts about the situation there were very compelling. The only problem with this situation being? It turns out that Gay Girl was a straight guy from Georgia living in Scotland.

  • What was his action? Creating a fictional person who became such a sensation that it grew out of his control. So out of control, in fact, that he tried to kill her off more than once.
  • What was the outcome? The blogger was uncovered and had to make an abject apology as he closed down the blog.

In what may have been an honest attempt to raise awareness and sympathy, Tom MacMaster exploited and trivialized the gay community, the freedom fighters, and the legitimate blogosphere. He will probably pay no real price other than shame for his actions, but the ripples contribute mightily to the pervasive cynicism of the digital age.

Finally, we have the amazing consequence chain of Tracy Morgan.

  • What was his action? Believing himself immune to criticism because he was practicing his typical, offensive brand of humor, he engaged in a rant against the gay community.
  • What was the outcome? Much to Morgan’s surprise, an offended audience member posted a reaction to his screed on Facebook and that reaction went viral.

The outcry was enormous, and Morgan found himself confronted with the horror of his actions. The story became more interesting however, when more consequence chains arose. Enter Chris Rock:

  • What was his action? He released a knee-jerk tweet that defended Morgan, apparently on hypothetical free speech grounds.
  • What was the outcome? Rock got hammered by the blogosphere (including TSM), some of the press, and very notably Wanda Sykes.
  • What was Rock’s next action? He looked more carefully at Morgan’s rant, retracted his support, and apologized for his initial reaction.
  • What was the outcome? Overall, people were supportive of Rock taking prompt action and admitting his mistake quickly and honestly. His long history of support for the LGBTQ community gave him the credibility he needed to weather the storm.

Disappointingly, many progressives defended both Morgan and Rock on free speech grounds. As we have emphasized on TSM before, this is no defense for either man. The U.S. Constitution promises no government interference with free speech. This First Amendment protection covers the despicable Fred Phelps when governments try to stifle his horrific expression. Private citizens, employers, and corporate sponsors, however, can choose to impose consequences on offensive actions. Two fairly recent examples illustrate this point effectively:

  • Juan Williams violated his contract with NPR and was dismissed. He had the right to speak (action) but lost his job (outcome).
  • Kobe Bryant was sadly just one athlete to utter offensive words during a game. In this case, his sponsor, Nike, chose to stand behind him, so action was taken by the outraged members of the public, who maintain a boycott against Nike.

Unfortunately, it looks like Tracy Morgan’s case is going much more the way of Kobe Bryant. Despite fellow comedians Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes pointing out the harm of his words, NBC and producer Tina Fey have offered tepid apologies for their 30 Rock star and moved on. What will the consequences be for Morgan? It remains to be seen. Will he lose his job, possibly his career, like Michael Richards, Juan Williams, and Isaiah Washington? Or will his media pals give him a slap on the wrist and a public service announcement like Kobe Bryant? Let’s hope his actions will have an appropriately stern outcome.

Looking at all three of these examples, I am struck by one common thread that strikes me as a cautionary note. Weiner got caught by Twitter; MacMaster pushed out too many lies on his Blogger page; Morgan got caught by a Facebook post; Rock got slammed for a thoughtless Tweet.

In the highly-connected age of social media, our instincts turn to quick action. Sadly, the outcomes of those actions are magnified by the size of the audience and made permanent by the digital record. We need to learn from these examples and be more thoughtful in our actions. How many others have been stung by their careless actions or the virtual mistakes of someone else and paid the price? The lineup of the famous leads one to assume that there are thousands of victims less well known.

Actions have outcomes. Everyone should know that their behavior may have consequences. In this day and age, the ripples are large and fast. A deep breath and a careful pause are our best allies, as the best preventative for consequences is

a moral duty to behave in a particular way – Macmillan Dictionary Online


(P.S. – We can only hope, of course that this parade of yahoos is forced to take responsibility for their actions come election day…)

Facebook and Censorship: Misunderstandings and Assumptions

19 Apr

The Kiss That Launched 1,000 Assumptions

The Internet, especially its social media tools, is a powerful force. In the best of circumstances, it allows a free, fairly public platform for exchanges of ideas and dissemination of information. In the worst of circumstances, however, it is the fastest way for misinformation to take on the appearance of reality. Take, for example, the Myth of the Censored Facebook Event.

A quick recap: As we reported here at TSM, the owners of the John Snow pub in London removed two gay men for kissing in their establishment. That was clearly wrong and resulted in a flurry of righteous outrage including a kiss-in outside the pub. Activist Paul Shelter organized the event on Facebook. Dangerous Minds publicized the event using a photo from the show Eastenders; their writer Richard Metzger posted that photo to Facebook to help publicize the event. Apparently, Facebook received a complaint and removed the photo. Metzger was angry that a fairly innocent picture was censored and wrote a piece in Dangerous Minds. Sadly, this is where things went viral and wrong.

Metzger noted that the Facebook page for the kiss-in was no longer available. He made an unfortunate assumption (at least implicitly) and linked that event to the removal of the picture from his page, resulting in an online firestorm against Facebook for their supposed homophobic behavior. As it turns out:

  • Paul Shelter, the kiss-in organizer, made the Facebook event private after the actual kiss-in ended because trolls were leaving very hostile comments. The reason he went private with the event is very sad, but it is not Facebook’s fault in any direct way.
  • Facebook appears to have a “delete first and investigate later” policy when anyone complains about content. This is still a bit vague, but everything I’ve been able to substantiate points to this. Since some content could be truly offensive or dangerous, this is an aggressive but somewhat understandable system, especially since
  • Facebook did investigate the picture and restore it with an apology to Metzger. The social media giant has a policy and a procedure and followed both of them. You can disagree with the policy and even lobby Facebook to change it, but don’t use an extreme example of one thing to assume a broad pattern of behavior without proof.

This is the peril of the world of too-fast information and not enough research. Metzger posed a fairly bold hypothetical in his piece, the comments page went wild with it, and in days the myth that Facebook deleted the kiss-in was everywhere. I have to confess, when I saw Metzger’s original article and sensed the brewing storm, it seemed like an over-reaction. It turns out I was right.

It is all too easy to make quick assumptions and share them everywhere these days. That’s very dangerous and can lead to outright lies becoming part of the fabric of the Internet. We are conditioned by our online tools to expect fast answers when just a little patience would give us the truth. When you read something, engage with the text; question the assumptions; consider the source. The interconnected nature of social media can create great change for good (just look at Egypt), but it can also spread confusion. When you hit “share” be sure you are part of the positive change and not just another part of the noise.

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