Sunday, October 10, 2010

LGBT History Month: A look at gay rights - Part I - through 1989.

Although homophobia and heterosexism is persistent, pervasive and not going anywhere anytime soon, strides in gay and lesbian rights are being made (not so much for trans-rights).  Here is a look at some gains over the years, although certainly not all of them.  Since oppositional forces to sometimes help spur positive change, I've noted some of the more infamous events.  My source is Rachel Kranz and Tim Cusick's Library in a Book: Gay Rights (2000).  Almost all wording is directly quoted or paraphrased. Bracketed text is my own words.

1924: The first US gay rights group, the Society for Human Rights is founded in Chicago, but soon disbanded when the wife of a member reports the group to police.

1948: Kinsey puts out that famous 10% number in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.

1950-1954:  The McCarthy witchunts to ferret out homosexuals in the government, military and other areas.  Thousands of men and women lose their jobs.

1951: The Mattachine Society is founded in Los Angeles.

1955: The first US lesbian organization, Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) is founded in San Francisco by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.  In 2004, Del and Phyllis become the first same-sex couple to have their marriage recognized by a government entity.

1961: Illinois becomes the first state to decriminlaize private homosexual acts between consenting adults.

1964: The Socity for Individual Rights (SIR) is founded in San Francisco.

1965: The first gay rights protest in US history occurs when seven gay men and three lesbians picket the White House.  It goes largely unnoticed due to the 20,000 anti-war protestors gathered that same day at the Washington Monument.

1968: The Metropolitan Community Church is founded by Rev. Troy Perry.

1969: June 27th: Judy Garland's funeral coincides with the riots at the Stonewall Inn.  The gay civil rights movement begins in full force.

1970: The Lutheran Church opposes state sodomy laws and supports anti-discrimination legislation for gay men and lesbians.

June 28th: The Christopher Street Liberation Day march commemorates the Stonewall riots.

1971: NOW adopts a policy making the oppression of lesbians "a legitimate concern for feminism."
Idaho repeals then reinstates sodomy laws, making homosexual acts a felony.

1972: East Lansing, Michigan adpots the first ordinance outlwaing discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

1973: The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Lambda Legal is founded in New York City.

Rubyfruit Jungle is published.

1974: Bella Abzug introduces the first federal Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Bill.

Combahee River Collective holds its first meeting in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

1976: The US Supreme Court upholds the sodomy laws of the State of Virigina.

1977: Dade County, Florida passes an ordinace forbidding discrimination based on sexual identity.  Anita Bryant, former beauty queen and orange juice spokesperson, launches a campaign that results in the repeal of the ordinance.  The anti-gay rights movement begins in full force. [I remind readers here of Ms. Bryant's eminent qualifications.]

Harvey Milk wins a seat on the San Francisco board of supervisors, becoming the first openly gay person to be elected to the government of a large US city.

1978:  The Briggs Initiative, which would have allowed gay and lesbian teachers or any teacher who referred positively to homosexuals to be fired, is defeated.

San Francisco has the largest Gay Pride parade in history - 250,000 to 300,000 marchers, parttly in response to the Briggs Initiative.

Harvey Milk is killed by Dan White.

1979: The Moral Majority is founded by Jerry Falwell.

Stephen M. Lachs becomes the nations's first openly gay judge in California.

Dan White is convicted of manslaughter, enraging San Francisco's gay population and the White Night riots erupt.  Dan White will be released form jail in 1985 and commit suicide.

The first national gay and lesbian civil rights march on Washington draws more than 100,000 participants.

1980: The Human Rights Campaign is founded. [For all the good the classist lapdogs do now.]

1981: The CDC reports a new disease it calls GRIDS (gay-related immune deficiency), that later becomes known as AIDS.  [Many papers report about the "gay cancer" spreading.]

Larry Kramer and other activists form the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the first group to respond to AIDS.

The "Family Protection Act" is introduced, which would deny Social Security, welfare, and veterans' benefits to gay people or those who propose that homosexuality is acceptable.

1982: Wisconsin has the first statewide gay and lesbian civil rights bill go into effect.

Philidelphia establishes the first high school for gays and lesbians.  In 1985, New York City establishes the Harvey Milk School for gays and lesbians.

1984: The virus causing AIDS is discovered by scientists at the Pasteur Institute in France.

Berkeley, California becomes the first city to extend domestic partnership benefits to gay and lesbian employees.

Wigstock holds its first festival.

1985: New York City passes a gay rights bill fourteen years after its introduction.

1986: The Supreme Court upholds the right of states to make laws prohibiting sodomy and other private sexual acts between consenting adults in Bowers v. Hardwick.

1987: Barney Frank becomes the first congressman to voluntarily announce he is gay.

ACT UP shuts down Wall Street, protesting the cost of AIDS drugs. ACT UP introduces a more militant approach to AIDS and gay rights activism.

Almost 650,000 lesbians and gay men participate in the 2nd March on Washington, which has the first display of the Names Project quilt.

1988: The District of Columbia passes a gay rights ordinance, but Congress votes to deny funding to the district unless the ordinance is revoked.

1989: [In Cincinnati, the city art museum is indicted and prosecuted for violating obscenity laws in its Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit which features photograph potraits of men in sadomasochistic and homoerotic poses and activities and some nude photos of children.  In 1990, the museum director and staff will be found not to have violated obscenity laws by a jury, but this incident allows Jesse Helms to spearhead an attack on the NEA, which has chilling effects on arts funding.]

A New York Court of Appeals rules that a gay male couple can be considered a "family" where housing rules are concerned, allowing a surviving spouse to continue to enjoy his partner's lease.

The San Francisco City College establishes the first university department of lesbian and gay studies in the US.

Part II: 1990-2000 coming soon!

Saturday, October 09, 2010


With the recent spat of suicides and bullying incidents that have been focused on or associated with gay or gay-identified individuals, I've had the opportunity to engage in a tremendous amount of discussion about homophobia.  And, not surprisingly, there are different perspectives and understanding of what homophobia is, what is looks like, how pervasive it is, and what the effects of homophobia are.  Certainly a discussion that covers all of these bases well would constitute volumes and is well beyond my scope.  However, I would like to briefly describe my perspective and understanding.

Informing my understanding of homophobia is Dr. Beverly Tatum's definition of racism in her seminal work "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?"  Tatum (1997) first distinguishes between racism and prejudice.  For Tatum, racism is "a system of advantage based on race" (p. 7).  It goes beyond personal prejudices, "personal ideology" in Tatum's words; rather it is "a system involving cultural messages and institutional policies and practices as well as the beliefs and actions of individuals" (p. 7).  Even when individual people in the dominant group (white or heterosexual) aren't in positions of power or actively act against the interests of black or gay people, they still benefit from the systematic advantages for their group.

Tatum cites Peggy McIntosh's well-known article "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (p. 8) wherein McIntosh details the advantages to being white in every day life.  At minimum, such advantages include the ability to be around people like you at almost any time, to speak with authority and not be questioned by people sharing that identity, being certain that unfavorable institutional practices or decisions by people in authority aren't made because of my identity, no need to question if any negative interactions were because of that identity, and so on. Oppression does not have to be overt and/or hostile - it does not have to be prejudicially based - to effect its force.

Tatum makes note that this definition is "antithetical to traditional notions of an American meritocracy" (p. 9).  While we may not like to bust the myth that all men are created equal, "notions of power or privilege" must be addressed (p. 9).  Tatum also interrogates the interests of those who resist such a definition of racism (and by implication all "isms") :   by not understanding "whose interests are served by a 'prejudice only' definition of racism,...the system of advantage is perpetuatued" (p. 9). She later distinguishes between passive and active racism: failure to interrupt a racist joke would be an example of passive racism while telling such a joke would be an active form (p. 13). 

Although not the sum of her arguments, I will finish highlighting Tatum's definition with her caveat: "It is important to acknowledge that while all Whites benefit from racism, they do not all benefit equally.  Other factors, such as socio-economic status, gender, age, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, mental and physical ability, also play a role in our access to social influence and power" (p. 12).

So, using Tatum's definition, I define heterosexism as systematic advantage based on sexuality or sexual orientation.  Homophobia, for me, is the fear or hatred of non-heterosexual people or the philosophy that such people are morally corrupt or psychologically abberant.  Homophobia, in my mind, informs heterosexism in almost every instance and is the larger problem.

There are people who may be heterosexist without being, or meaning to be, homophobic.  Non-homophobic heterosexism may show itself in such ways:
  • Asking if you have a significant other (this is both nosey and heterosexist)
  • Assuming your significant other is the opposite sex of you
  • Social events that presume only opposite sex couples will attend
  • Marketing that targets couples and only show opposite sex couples
  • The ability to find a community or group of straight people anywhere at almost any time
  • The ability to see representations in any form of media of (well adjusted) heterosexual people (in stable, healthy relationship or sexual active in a socially acceptable way, or...)
  • Ability to enter a locker room and not have others presume you're interested in their bodies
  • The ability to easily find, read, hear or otherwise access the history and contributions of heterosexuals
  • Forms with forced choices such as  "married, single, divorced" that don't recognize the validity or existence of different forms of same-sex relationships might be non-homophobic
  • Some individuals who say "that's so gay" (although the phrase is rooted in homophobia, some may say it in ignorance of the implication)
And so on...

Listing non-homophobic heterosexist manifestations is actually pretty difficult, because so few of them exist. Even the last two examples must come with the caveat that it is difficult, if not impossible to tell, if they are products of homophobia or simply a heterosexist society.  I will briefly mention that a specific brand of homophobia impacts straight-identified men as well: sissyphobia.  This is a more direct expression of the misogyny that underlines homophobia.  A fear, hatred, or dislike of men who have effeminate characteristics or personalities betrays the hatred of women that is the basis for homophobia.  I heard a rabbi once say that "homophobia is a room in the greater house of misogyny" and I firmly believe this.

I've been inclined in my discussions to use blatant examples of the pervasiveness of homophobia, but homophobia manifests itself in the smallest of interactions and assumptions, just as heterosexism does.  Still the homophobic, active oppression of gays and lesbians is a major force in society today.

Homophobia manifest itself in some obvious ways; here are just a few:
  • National and global religious leaders frequently make speeches regarding the evils of homosexuality.
  • National and global religious leaders often talk about some perceived agenda homosexuals persue to destroy traditional societal institutions and roles.
  • National, locals (and sometimes global) politicians claim that homosexuals are unfit for certain jobs, especially those around children.
  • National and local politicians and national and local religious leaders and organizations advocate and advance anti-gay legislation, including opposing legislation that would protect homosexuals from being fired and denied housing or medical care because of their sexual orientation.
  • National and local politicians and national and local religious leaders and organizations oppose legislation that would allow same-sex couples hospital visitation rights or the ability for same-sex couples to make financial and health decisions for their significant others.
  • National and local politicians and national and local religious leaders and organizations oppose legislation that would allow same-sex couples who seek the legal rights, responsibilities and protections that a civil marriage provides to have access to the same rights and protections they enjoy.
  • National and local politicians and national and local religious leaders and organizations oppose legislation that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children, advancing the idea that a child in foster care or an orphanage is better off than with a loving gay or lesbian parents.
  • Religious and secular leaders of all levels promote the idea that homosexuals are (more likely to be) child molestors /pedophiles and/or seek to convert people, but especially children, to homosexuality.
  • Religious and secular leaders of all levels promote research that does not meet well-established scientific criteria or backing to advance lies and falsehoods about gays and lesbians.
  • Religious leaders of all levels promote that homosexuality is a sin that is worse than any other sin simply by the amount of attention they devote to it compared to all other sins.
  • National religious leaders have declared that homosexuals are responsible for 9/11, Katrina, and other disasters that have befallen the United States.
  • National and local politicians and national and local religious leaders and organizations have found legislation that would establish anti-bullying regulations because they believe such legislation would silence their abusive depicitions of homosexuals.
  • Gay and lesbian military service members are not allowed to express or share their feelings for their significant others or their sexual interests, unlike their heterosexual counterparts, who may do so with impunity.  Debate over repeal of DADT often centers around the implicit idea that gay service men (in particular) will be sexually predatory on or inappropriate with their heterosexual peers. 

I could go on, but the picture is clear and obvious to anybody who pays the least bit attention to these things.  But some of these are all too easily dismissed as being uttered by clearly fringe individuals or organizations and that they don't impact the day-to-day lives of gay and lesbian people.  But homophobia is more insidious and dangerous than obvious attacks on gays and lesbians. 

Homophobia is deadly because on a daily basis, it causes some people to:
  • Lie about their lives to continue to live and/or associate with their family and/or friends.
  • Be thrown out on the street without money because they come out to their family when young.
  • Be sent against their will to ex-gay ministries or psychotherapy to "cure" their sexuality.
  • Be ostracized from religious and other organizations they have been members of all their life.
  • Be unable to find other positive representations of other gays and lesbians.
  • Be unable to find people in their community who will be supportive of them.
  • Be rejected by some family members, even if other family members are supportive.
  • Be rejected by some friends, even if others are supportive.
  • Be told that they are "okay" but can't bring their significant other around children (because it would be too hard to explain).
  • Be told they are loved, but are still going to hell or are sick/perverted/etc.
  • Be fired or not hired for jobs they are qualified for because they are gay/lesbian or appear to be.
  • Be unable to find someone to date or otherwise establish a romantic and/or sexual relationship.
  • Be unable to find someone who can understand the issues being gay or lesbian causes for them.
  • Dress to fit in rather than how they would prefer to dress.
  • Not be trusted around children.
  • Enter into unfulfilling opposite-sex relationships in order to "fit in" or because that it what they've been taught is ideal.
  • Cheat on their opposite-sex spouse because their sexual and emotional needs can't be met.
  • Be called names by people who disapprove of their identity.
  • Be assumed to be the expert of and for all gay and lesbian people.
  • Wonder whether disclosing they are in a same-sex relationship will result in some negative repercussion.
  • Wonder if publicly holding hands, hugging, kissing or other appropriate display of affection with their same-sex other will result in violence or other negative repercussion.
  • Prevent some people from publicly displaying affection for fear of such repercussions.
  • Wonder how new neighbors will react if you disclose you are gay or lesbian.
  • Strategize and wonder about places (states and cities) where it is safe and supportive to live as a gay or lesbian.
  • Speculate and keep on guard for areas where one must move into, whether it is safe or supportive or not.
  • Plan their career around professions that are generally accepting of gays and lesbians.
  • Look only for companies that will not discriminate against their sexual orientation and/or offer benefits for same-sex couples.
  • Wonder if other people speak negatively about them when they are not around.
  • Wonder if other people judge their same-sex relationship differently than heterosexual relationships.
  • Wonder if decisions made against them by authorities were because of their sexual orientation.
  • Wonder if they were pulled over by a police officer because they have a pro-gay or gay- identifying sticker on their car. (Or fearing they will be, do not put one on their car.)
  • Wonder if a negative interaction with another person was because of their sexual orientation.
  • Worry that they will burn in hell forever.

Not all gay and lesbian people experience these things, but most of us do experience some of them, to varying degrees.  I have personally experienced many, if not most, of these.  And certainly the list is not comprehensive or halfway complete.

As Tatum mentions, our other areas of privilege mediated the degree to which homophobia and heterosexism impacts us.  An older, white, middle income, highly educated, Protestant male like me may experience any or all of those impacts, but have enough power and privilge through our other identities to deal with those, or most of those, issues.  A young, Hispanic, lower middle class woman who is lesbian may experience them much more profoundly and deeply because she does not have the support systems or financial or other resources to off-set their impact.  And so, she may be forced to live in a community where she must hide her true self and forego a romantic relationship in order to sustain herself and simply survive.

Regardless of one's other privileged identities, these things, big and small, to take a psychic toll. It can wash over some like a raging river or slowly wear on others, eroding them like a stream does a rock over time.  Being able to be in communion with those who understand and who are supportive and loving can help counteract a lot of this, but not all.  For those who do not have such connections or those who may be too young to know how to get out or lack the experience to counterbalance homophobia, it may be a sudden drowning experience.

Why we can't address only bullying; we must address homophobia

The tragic situation of Tyler Clementi has received special attention lately for several reasons, but I suspect mostly because he is one in a recent string of suicides with young gay or gay-perceived people who were bullied. I also think he has received particular attention because of the sensationalistic nature of how it happened  In other words, people think: "it happened at a college!"; "it could happen to anybody!"; "sex was broadcast on the internet!"  The believed sacred and protective bounds of the white tower have been violated; who among us might be the next victim?  Why, this could even happen to straight people!  Clearly, I am tempted to make a case that it receives attention despite the fact that it happened to a young gay man; other more overtly homophobic acts of bullying are receiving less attention than Tyler's case. A possible explanation is that media and its consumers believe that those were just some poor fags and I don't have to worry about them because I'm not one.

For those who are emphasizing the homophobia involved in the Rutger's case, I don't think most people are trying to make a martyr out of Tyler, but rather to use his case as one in a series of examples of how homophobia impacts people.  From the facts that we know, I would say that we can't tell if the webcam broadcast was done because Tyler was having sex or because he was having sex with a man.

I think it's largely irrelevant. The act was a form of bullying and invasion of privacy. That needs to be addressed. Period. We need to quit making excuses for bullying ("boys will be boys" etc) and address the fundamental unacceptability of bullying. (For more on this particular point, see Kate Harding's excellent profanity-laced post.)
What needs to be understood, however, is how a pervasively homophobic society adds a crushingly oppressive element that results in some young people being unable to handle the bullying. Although suicide is not a rational choice, the conditions under which many of these kids are taking their lives are cruel and inhumane and they likely see no recourse, no hope for escape.

There was a study done on North Korean POWs that implicates the denial of “the emotional support that comes from interpersonal relationships by using “self-criticism” and the “withholding of all positive emotional support “(Rath, 2005). Those POW camps had the highest death rate in US military history despite the relatively little use of physical torture.

So, imagine if you can that you are a young gay person who is being bullied. You have people directly telling you that you are worthless: you are worth only abuse. Even if that abuse isn’t directly tied to your sexual orientation – you have a society where on a daily basis you receive negative messages about your worth. Politicians and religious leaders on a local, national, and global scale talk about your moral depravity – your assurance to go to hell – and that during your time on earth you aren’t worth basic civil rights (job protection, housing protection, protection from bullying) and they’ll actively fight to deny you those rights.

On top of that, you may not be able to tell family, friends, teachers, counselors, or ministers about your sexual orientation because those people believe - from the messages they’ve heard – that you’re sick. Your family might throw you out – it happens frequently – or they might try to “cure” you by forcing you to go through psychotherapy or worse, ex-gay ministries. Friends and trusted authorities may also reject you.

So, you’re isolated, with nobody to turn to, and few, if any, resources. You’re isolated, you’re being constantly criticized about your identity and your future prospects seem bleak. You are, in fact, a POW of a homophobic society. At this point, suicide could seem pretty fucking rational. You’re already in hell; why not take your chances with the next life? It could only get better, right?

Bullying in all forms and for any reason must be stopped.  But homophobia is what contributes to making an irrational choice seem rational. We must not and cannot deny the power that homophobia exerts on young people not being able to endure the bullying.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review of JLA: Crisis on Two Earths

Wherein I not only review a movie, I have a brief divergence on morality in comic books…

I greatly enjoyed JLA: Crisis on Two Earths. It seems very loosely based on Grant Morrison’s JLA: Earth 2. Even though the Crime Syndicate was around a long time before Morrison’s graphic novel, the movie clearly takes its cues or at least its jumping off point from that work, possibly also working in hints of Alan Moore’s lost proposal “Twilight.” The animation and colors look spectacular on Blu-Ray although the audio is quite lacking. The voice talent seemed perfectly cast to me, having not watched any DC animation in the past couple of decades I have no preconceived ideas about what the characters should sound like. James Woods in particular was standout as Owlman.


Herein I take on some of the criticisms I have seen of the film on the web.

One of those criticisms is some questionable moral decisions that Batman makes at the end. Since I tend to take any kind of movie of characters as unique takes not beholden to comic continuity or exact characterization, how Batman (or any character) may respond in a comic is not how I necessarily (within certain fairly broad frames) expect him to respond in a movie (although Final Crisis did have Batman use a gun on Darkseid, as a last option, and although it received some criticism for this, most people exonerated Batman's decision here (or perhaps, more accurately, credited Grant Morrison's creative decision, given the general good will he's banked as a writer). Still, I don't find his decisions particularly out of step with Batman. Johnny Quick is warned (and Batman's silence is not necessarily an affirmation that he _knew_ what would happen (and, indeed, how would he?) and Owlman was committing a murder/suicide. If you stop a suicide-murderer from the murder portion of their plan, is it a lack of regard for human life on the hero's part? Is it murder on the hero's part then? I have a hard time saying it is.

If anything took me out of the movie, it was how it ended in a nice, tidy package. Unlike the more sophisticated Earth 2 book that ended with the heroes being unable to change the world, this had a more Speilberg-ian happy ending. I get why it does, particulary in this medium and it works fine in the context of this film, but it was such a difference from the work that helped or partially inspire it that it took me out of an otherwise highly satisfying film experience.
I will add that I greatly enjoyed the cameos of various second and third tier DC characters in their Earth-2 incarnations, particularly the Marvel crime family, as this is what specifically reminded me of Moore’s “Twilight” proposal (as did the entire Mafioso style organization set-up).


The Spectre short, which everyone is raving about, certainly gets outstanding marks for mood and its style. It’s pretty flat on plot, however. I thought, “hey this could be a real murder mystery,” but that element is not even really tackled – the audience has no opportunity to guess about who did it, why, or much less care. Still, it is stylistically captivating and definitely a cool addition.

I wish there were some commentary or a making-of of the JLA movie although the documentary on how Didio steered the current DCU into a post-9/11 age is interesting, if not for what is said about how might positively conceptualize many plot and character developments that at least much of the internet fan base has seen asmostly negative than for what the people don’t say about it – how these events drive or are driven by marketing, if thinking about comics like TV episodes is a good or bad thing, how /why/should post-9/11 comics be different from post-WW II comics, among other topics.

Johanna Carlson Draper expresses her thoughts on how the modern direction of DC comics may be attributable to “New York overraction.” Although I am hesitant to call it that, since the trauma of any and all New Yorkers regarding that event must be huge compared to what any of us experienced, I do think that Didio has let his own shock impact how he has steered the comics. Regardless, I personally disagree with how 9/11 makes us think about heroes. If anything, 9/11 showed us that heroes don’t have to be mythic creatures who do things that the rest of us cannot. Heroes are (in reality) and can be everyday people do extraordinary things. 9/11 humanized heroism. It reminded us that being a hero is not somebody else’s job: it’s our job. And, yes, it’s usually about taking some kind of risk, but the risk is not always life threatening. Sometimes, it’s the risk of just doing the right thing that inspires us. I would argue that even or particularly in life-threatening situations, that the harm element only augments what is really inspiring us: doing the right thing.

Therefore, I find Didio’s comment about needing to know that heroes put their lives on the life struck me as not just odd, but completely wrong. In comic books, I know that my heroes aren’t going to die; I’m not interested in seeing them “put their lives on the line.” I’m much more interested in how they solve the situation, the character developments, and the psychology of how do you navigate difficult situations – and navigate it by doing the right thing. And while the right thing may not be something everyone agrees on, it should be founded on a moral philosophy that we can at all least understand and makes sense with the character. Wonder Woman’s decision to kill Maxwell Lord is certainly a decision founded on utilitarian moral thought – and therefore has a legitimate moral basis – but is Wonder Woman a utilitarian? Even if she is, wouldn’t Wonder Woman think in a more morally creative fashion? How does killing a villain reconcile with the woman who can “stop a war with love?”

In summary, and coming back to the review in hand, even without a making-off documentary, there are some nice extras not mentioned above (including other JLA cartoon episodes as well as live-action pilots of the 70's Wonder Woman series, famously starring Linda Carter and the pilot for the much more recent Aquaman would-be series) and the movie is probably the best cartoon super-hero movie I've yet to see. (The best up to this point would either be the first Hellboy animated or the animated New Frontiers adaptation.) Some may consider this to be damning with faint praise, but this is truly an entertaining movie and a happy addition to my collection.

The Male Slave Leia Cosplayer

From Comic Alliance, this great gender bending take on a familiar costume...

I've got to say I find him nerdy-cute too...

The Male Slave Leia Cosplayer [ECCC]

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I knew it: Bearclaws are totally gay

Because, of course, they're BEAR claws...what else are they gonna be?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What Marriage Equality Does Not Do

Quoted on the Washington Post's blog was this statement, from a woman thrilled to be marrying her partner:

"We're whole now. We will actually be a true family just like everyone else."

No, sorry, you're not. Perhaps I should not argue the semantics of this statement, but rather take it in the spirit it was likely intended, but this is a dangerous line of thought.

While I firmly believe that the failure to permit same-sex couples to enjoy the legal rights and benefits bestowed upon opposite-sex couples is a form of legalized discrimination and oppression, in no way do I think that it legitimizes my relationship. My family is ALREADY true and whole, as much so as anyone's family is. The fact that it is not legally recognized does not change its authenticity, completeness, truth, or reality.

I do not seek the endorsement of the US government for my relationship; I seek the fulfillment of my rights as a citizen. If we are after the blessing of our society in this endeavor, then count me out. I don't need it or want it. I don't need other peoples' approval. What kind of violence does a statement like this woman's do to all the myriad types of relationships entered into by heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, trans people, or others?

We must realize our own truth; we must affirm our own unions. Some of us may seek the blessings of a Higher Power and I understand that. There are sanctuaries available for those who seek this. Legal recognition is not equivalent to a spiritual blessing. With our without a blessing, we must understand ourselves as already whole - as fully formed and already deserving of the recognition that heterosexual unions are entitled to. We seek legal status not as affirmation but because we have already affirmed our love and are waiting for the rest of the nation to get there with us.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crossing the Streams: Captain America doesn't want you teabagging

So rarely does my interest in comics and social interests overlap. From an article on Yahoo! news about a recent Captain America comic that includes a reference to the teabaggers, comes this quote:

In response to Marvel's explanation and apology, Tea Party Movement founder
Judson Phillips told Yahoo! News that it "sounds less like a genuine 'we're
sorry' than it does a 'we're sorry we got caught' statement."

"When I was a child in the '60s Captain America was my favorite superhero,"
he said. "It's really sad to see what has traditionally been a pro-America
figure being used to advance a political agenda."

Like most things with Teabaggers, facts don't get in the way of a good sound bite. In fact, Captain America had in his creation as anti-Nazi WWII propaganda. He fought Hitler, horrible German and Japanese stereotypes, advocated for war bonds, you name the type of propoganda, Cap was not just part of it, but a response to it. Later in the 70's, Cap has always struggled with his moral and political place in the world.

Captain America has almost always since his revival in the 60's asked himself which America he represented: does he represent the government, the people, or some American Ideal? He's struggled both figuratively and literally with comic-book stand-ins for Nixon and Reagan.

Captain America has always been and always probably will be political.

I also find the not uncommon implication that comic books shouldn't and/or can't deal with political or other serious materials to be, not surprisingly for a Teabagger, short sighted, uninformed, and narrow minded. I would suggest he go read some of the classics of sequential literature, but I'd hate to suggest he actually go read original and creative thought.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rise of $3 Dollars: American Taliban Update

An upcoming change in my life will hopefully prompt me to revive my blogging career. More on that in a few days... for now, this article was enough to get me to post an entry.

Via Joe.MyGod.:

American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer has called for sending homosexuals to prison for forced reparative
therapy, a move he says is sanctioned by the Bible.

[Mr. Fischer clarifies:] It might be worth noting that what I actually
suggested is that we impose the same sanctions on those who engage in homosexual
behavior as we do on those who engage in intravenous drug abuse, since both pose
the same kind of risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. I'd be curious to know what you
think should be done with IV drug abusers, because whatever it is, I think the
same response should be made to those who engage in homosexual

If you believe that what drug abusers need is to go into an
effective detox program, then we should likewise put active homosexuals through
an effective reparative therapy program.

Mr. Fischer then goes on to quote one of our favorite of the "clobber passages", (passages that are frequently brought up to dismiss non-heterosexuals as deviant, corrupt, immoral, or less than) 1 Timothy 1: 8-11. Mr. Fischer's Bible translates the unlawful as being among murders, liars, profaners, enslavers, people who hit their parents, and "men who practice homosexuality."

We'll skip for now how the Bible NEVER addresses female same-sex activity (not even in Romans) and look briefly at how the word homosexual could possibly show up in the Bible. The term homosexual, was created in Germany around the mid to late 1860's and became more widely known through Nazi literature and the rise of psychoanalysis (not to conflate the two).

Daniel Helminiak in What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality concludes that the two words that Paul uses are completely debatable. One term is very unclear and the other doesn't refer to "homogenitality" but rather "soft" or "effeminate" and then only in the sense that effeminacy was opposite to a virtuous man (so it is rooted in negative concepts about women, not same sex behavior). The other fairly unknown and uniique term likely refers to sexual perversion, prostitution, pederasty or sexual abuse.

The best argument against this term being applicable today is we we would view as modern forms of homosexual expression were not forms Paul (or anyone of that day) would know about - which is not, IMO and as an aside, a basis to make a case for the politically expedient but potentially dangerous "hey we're just like you but gay" argument.

One of my other favorite arguments against Biblical condemnation of homosexuality is that while the Bible may have injunctions against us, the Bible teaches a lot of things that we do not endorse in modern Western society.

All of that to say this: 1) these kinds of arguments make little if ANY headway against members of the American Taliban /Religious Right and 2) the great thing is that, so far, our country's laws are not based on any religious text, so in terms of who has what rights or who gets sent to jail, what does it matter what the Bible or Koran, or Talmud or any similar religious work (Dianetics?) say?

To answer my own rhetorical question, what matters of course is that there is at least a percentage or concentration of individuals who think our laws should be based on their particular interpretation of their (usually the Bible) religious work and there are politicians who either agree with that viewpoint or are willing to pander to it for votes. The religious right should not be ignored or trivialized. It is still a movement with some degree of power and influence, although that seems to be waning. However, the calls to action and voice of the leaders of the religious right has become more strident and intolerant than ever - hopefully because they see their power diminishing - but things can get much worse before they get better. It will still be a while until these fascists are fully and completely disregarded as the hate mongers they are.