Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year('s Eve)!

Hello? *tap* *tap* Is anyone reading this? I have a hunch that many readers are off of work today (and therefore, not bored and reading my blog), on vacation, away from their computers, or preparing for tonight's New Year's festivities.

So, to those of you reading this, "Hi."

And to all readers, new and old, I'd like to thank you for reading Fannie's Room.

As my last post of 2007, I'd like to make two lists. (Because people find anything in list form more exciting than the same info in a non-list.)

My Top 5 (as of today, anyway) favorite famous lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, or otherwise not-completely-heterosexual women, and my Top 5 favorite famous straight men:

Ladies first:

5. Daniela Sea. I know, I know, say what you want about her character on the L Word. I think she's foxy.

4. Angelina Jolie. In pre-Brad Pitt and Billy Bob days, humanitarian-actress-mother Jolie reportedly dated model Jenny Shimizu. (Luckeeeee)

3. Leisha Hailey. She's cute, funny, and into music. What more does one need in a girlfriend?

(ps- just kiddin' Hammerpants)

(pps- countdown: T-minus 1 month until the L Word begins)

2. Jodie Foster. For finally confirming what most of knew anyway.

1. Ellen. Just 'cuz she's still so funny, and positive for the most part.

And now, the guys:

5. Ralph Macchio. Yes, I recently watched The Karate Kid. A movie I was obsessed with when I was little.

4. David Boreanaz. I guess I'm a sucker for men who play dark, sensitive, brooding, vampires with a soul.

3. Will Smith. I've always like him because, like Ellen, he's a good entertainer without being negative.

2. Brad Pitt. I know, he totally stole Angelina from us. But hey, if she's going to be with a man, at least it is Brad Pitt.

1. Matt Damon. It's not that I think he's foxy, I just like the Jason Bourne movies. ;-)

Happy 2008 everyone!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Happy Dog Blog for the Holidays

Perusing through a People magazine at the gym the other day, I came across an uplifting and fascinating article about dogs that I want to share with you. Some dogs can serve a purpose other than being cute. Now, we all know that blind and visually-impaired people sometimes use guide dogs to increase mobility and promote independence. That, by itself, is enough to love dogs. But apparently, dogs can help people with other conditions too.

For instance, the organization Dogs4Diabetics "provides quality medical alert assistance dogs to youth and adults who are insulin-dependent type 1 diabetics." Dogs can be trained "to identify, and more importantly, act upon the subtle changes that hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) creates in body chemistry, changes undetectable to their human companions." Dogs can actually sense changes in blood sugar before the person with diabetes senses the change. The People magazine article included a story of one woman with diabetes whose service dog would wake her up in the middle of the night if it sensed her blood sugar changing.

Anyway, there hasn't been a lot of research studying the extent to which this phenomenon works, but it's a fascinating idea nonetheless. Here's another article about it.

But the more important question is this: would a cat be remotely capable of such a thing?

I think we all know the answer to that...

Dogs 2, Cats 4.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Gay Spokesperson and...... Chuck Norris

Yesterday, I blogged about a dishonest and imbalanced Lifesite article regarding lesbian health.

Continuing to peruse the site, I found that Lifesite has also managed to pin down the spokesperson for all gay people. In case you haven't heard, his name is Gareth Kirby who in the article "Demand for Same-Sex Marriage Was Based on a Lie" supposedly "makes clear how the work for same-sex marriage was a total waste of time and money." You know, because according to Mr. Kirby, gay people don't really want marriage.

In Mr. Kirby, you see, Lifesite has conveniently found a gay person whose conceptions of marriage aligns almost precisely with what anti-gay advocates have been telling everyone that gay people really think about marriage. And because he's gay, he's speaking on behalf of all gay people. Logically.

For instance, referring to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada, Kirby says this:

"[A prominent marriage equality organization] claimed last October that 10,000 couples had married. It was a lie. Very few among us are eager to embrace marriage rights."

And a Lifesite headline was born!

In actuality, according to the Canada Census, about 7,500 married same-sex coupleslive in Canada. Note how the number of couples who "had married" in Canada is a different measure than "number of married same-sex couples living in Canada." Some couples who married in Canada, of course, may now be living in other countries, be deceased, or be divorced.

Now, I will concede that not all gay people want to "embrace" marriage. And that's fine. It's their choice. And, even if "very few" gay people wanted marriage, is that a reason for denying the legal benefits of marriage to those who do want it? Not knowing Mr. Kirby, I have no way of knowing if he is presuming to be Gay Spokesman or if this Lifesite article is merely painting him as such. But he and his group of gays who don't want marriage no more speak for all gay people than a gay person who wants to be married speaks for all gay people. And, Kirby definitely doesn't speak for all gay people when he says this:

"We have something better in our relationships, something that allows for a variety of friendships, f[uck] buddies, lovers, sisters and exes. We don't put all the pressures on one person …"

It's fine and dandy if Mr. Kirby wants his fuck buddies. Last I checked, anyway, having a fuck buddy wasn't a gay phenomenon. But he doesn't speak for gay people who want something other than a fuck buddy. I can agree that one of the great things about being non-heterosexual is that one is able to step out of the cookie-cutter coupled image that heterosexuals often follow. Bravo to all people who, despite the mass artificial idealization of the "sacred" hetero marital unit, form other types of relationships that are meaningful to them.

Yet that being said, many gay people do want legal recognition for their relationships that are the exact same as what the marital relationship has become: two equal romantic partners committed to being a family.

But apparently I am mistaken. Gay people don't want to give up fuck buddies for marriage. Thus spoke our gay spokesman.

Ah yes: Lifesite. Continuing to give "balance" and "accuracy" new meaning. Especially when referring to "the homosexual lifestyle" as a "physical and soul destroying sickness"and publishing this *glowing* review of Rent.

As an aside, and moving on, I noticed another article entitled "Most overlooked issue in presidential debates" by commentator Chuck Norris. (Yes, that Chuck Norris). Chuck Norris is, apparently all about promoting the use of the Bible in public schools, advocating prayer in public schools, and endorsing Mike Huckabee for President. Which only proves the truism that "the chief export of Chuck Norris is pain."

[insert new Chuck Norris jokes]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lifesite: Bringing New Meaning to "Balance" and "Accuracy"

While perusing website, Lifesite, "a non-profit Internet service dedicated to the issues of life, culture, and family," I was startled to learn, yet again, that I am not a "normal" woman. Before I begin let me note the mission of Lifesite: "to provide balance and more accurate coverage on culture, life and family matters than is usually given by other media." Great! A website that claims to be balanced and accurate. So that's all settled.

Yet, right off, I learned that the above mission is obviously sarcastic. Observe this Lifesite headline:

"STDS two and a half times More prevalent in lesbians than Normal Women"

First off, why the odd use of capitilization? This isn't a ransom letter.

But more disturbingly, note the misinformation. The article cited a study that concluded, based on a sample size of 370 women, that lesbians are 2.5 times more likely than heterosexual women to have Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) (I've also decided that "vaginosis" ranks right up there with "moist," "frumpy," and "stud-muffin" on my list of least favorite words).

In light of the cited statistics, let me note some additional facts, that counter this alarmist and misleading headline/article.

(a) Although BV is technically listed as an STD by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is a condition the cause of which is unknown. Rather than definitively being transmitted via sexual behavior, the incidence of BV correlates with having "a new sex partner" or "multiple sex partners." Sex partners of any gender. It also correlates with other non-sexual behaviors, like wearing IUD birth control devices, pregnancy, and smoking. But most importantly, the CDC admits, "it is not clear what role sexual activity plays in the development of BV." Jane Know, a health professional has her own informative critique of this article from a public health standpoint.

(b) The cited study noted that lesbians were more likely than heterosexual women to have this one "STD."


Which makes the headline including the acronym "STDs," in the plural sense misleading a lie.

(c) The cited study, with its small sample size found that 25% of lesbians "carried the disease" compared to 14% of heterosexuals. You wanna know another group of women more likely than other groups of women to "carry the disease"? I'll tell you: African-American women. According to the CDC, 23% of African-American women have it, compared to 6% of Asian women, 9% of White women, and 16% of Hispanic women. Now, does Lifesite wanna make any implications about the sexual behavior of African-American women when compared to the sexual behaviors of women of other races? You know, the way it is making implications about the sexual behaviors of lesbians compared to "Normal Women"?

Thought so.

I bet they wouldn't even open that can of worms. Because African-American women are not, by definition, defined by who they have sex with. Unless, of course, they are also lesbians.

And, for a fun sociological/media experiment, let's replace "lesbian" with "African-American Women" in the headline and see what happens.

(d) So, lesbians may be at greater risk for this condition. Isn't the more important question this: What is the purpose of this article? Information? Or propaganda?

Let me explain where I'm going with this. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while transmission is possible, there have been no confirmed cases of female--to-female sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS in the US. At the same time, the most common way for a woman to receive HIV/AIDS is by having sex with a man.

Now, how many lesbians do you presume read Lifesite (not counting the ones like me who read it for entertainment purposes)? How many heterosexual women read it? Wouldn't a more helpful and informative headline and article to Lifesite's readership be something like this: "HIV/AIDS Much More Prevalent Among Normal Women Than Lesbians"? But yes, I do understand that it doesn't have quite the same "sinister motive" behind it ring to it as the one that implicates lesbians in the transmission of multiple STDs.

Or, perhaps, I am wrong in assigning "sinister motives" to Lifesite. Perhaps the site is venturing into the field of lesbian health education. In which case, I am sure it will correct its errors and dishonest headline. Because if the purpose of the article was to inform, and if the journalist were truly interested in presenting an unbiased, honest, and educational account of the study, she did a piss-poor job of it. In fact, she outright lied in her headline. And starting with that big, bold lie, it's difficult not to question her journalistic credibility.

Oh yeah, which brings me to this:

(e) Lesbians are normal women, journalist Hilary White.

Keeping in mind that one of Lifesite's principles is this,

"Accuracy in content is given high priority. News and information tips from readers are encouraged and validated. Valid corrections are always welcome. Writing and research is of a professional calibre."

I forwarded this article on to a women's health professional who is a specialist in the area of lesbian health. She was all too eager to send a correction.

I'll sit here twiddling my thumbs until Lifesite decides whether her corrections are "valid" ones. In the meantime, I hope for the sake of all women that Ms. White will leave the health education to health professionals whose motives are to inform, rather than distort, health information.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On "Homasexuls"

In my blog regarding presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, I made a side comment regarding the anti-gay movement's continued use of the outdated term "homosexual." The use of the term "homosexual" is offensive, or at least distasteful, to many gay people. I'm not the spokeswoman for all gay people, but I personally cringe whenever I hear some "reverend" or anti-gay advocate start talking about Teh Homasexuls.

Now, I have said before that hyper-political correctness annoys me. Mainly, because I cannot keep track of the ever-changing labels we are supposed to call those of us who identify as anything other than heterosexual. But what bothers me much more than hyper-political correctness are people who wear the "I hate political correctness" badge with honor- using it to justify what amounts to actual hate, bigotry, and/or intolerance.

Because as much as I can see how political correctness can be annoying, if someone were to tell me that my use of the descriptive term describing that person's race, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender identity was offensive, I would consider that person's request. And, if I understood the reasoning behind that request I would comply with it. As a reasonable person, I can see that there is no detriment to me in not calling a person something that he or she does not want to be called. Easy enough.

Professor John Boswell, in my current fascinating read Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality says it well,

" people appear to prefer the term "gay," which they have chosen to apply to themselves, to "homosexual," which was coined and popularized in the context of pathology. There can be no more justification for retaining a designation out of favor with gay people than for continuing to use "Negro" when it has ceased to be acceptable to blacks. One cannot of course please everyone, but it does seem that a reasonable concession of speech is an effort which scholars can make at a very small cost to themselves."

By "coined and popularized in the context of pathology," Professor Boswell is referring to the inclusion of "homosexuality" in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM) as a mental disorder. Even though homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973, the negative connotations from its previous inclusion remain.

And even though gay people and allies used the word "homosexual" during the early gay rights movement, because of the subsequent anti-gay backlash, the word has taken on further negative connotations. For instance, conservatives now use the word "homosexual" to invoke family destruction, disease, immorality, and worse. Peruse any "family values" website for examples.

So, why the continued use of "homosexual" amongst those in the anti-gay movement?

I have several theories, some or none of which, may be true:

Theory #1. They simply don't care that such use is offensive to many people. They see our dislike of the term as yet another instance of political correctness gone too far. And, that we would be offended by a mere word is something that proves how silly and oversensitive gay people, and liberals in general, are.

Theory #2. They don't know that their use of the term is offensive to many people. If this theory is true, it reflects how out of touch anti-gay advocates are with their "homosexual" opponents. And that, despite not knowing any real life "homosexuals" (or not thinking that they know any) or what many real life homosexuals prefer to be called, these "advocaites" know exactly what "the homosexual agenda" is.

Theory #3. They use the word, knowing that it has negative connotations, to lend credibility to their anti-gay goals. It's easy, after all, to scapegoat a group of people who already make some people uncomfortable.

Theory #4. They use the word simply because they can. This is a free country after all. While it's true that we have free speech, wouldn't using a less offensive word be a small and reasonable concession to make "at little cost to themselves"? And, if anti-gay advocates were truly interested in dialogue out of mutual respect and/or respecting all human beings, they would make these small concessions.

Any other theories?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Fun: Dogs, Cats, Lesbians

1. Today, on our morning walk, my dog mistook someone's rolling suitcase-on-wheels for another dog. My dog thought he was really tough barking at the suitcase, too. Until he realized it was a suitcase and stopped, looked confused, and then went on his embarassed way.

Dogs 0, Cats 4.

2. In light of not currently having cats, I realize that I am excluding cat stories. And thus, I am excluding dogs from the opportunity to rack up points. That's not fair, is it? However, growing up, I had many cats. And the only fair way to handle this situation is for me to use old cat stories in order to give dogs some points.

Beginning with these three words: litter box smell.

Dogs 1, Cats 4.

3. Addendum to Wednesday's blog regarding Willow and Tara.


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How immoral icky perverted absurd disgusting hot.

4. I saved the best for last. To the delight of lesbian and bisexual women everywhere, Jodie Foster has finally come out, confirming what many of us already knew anyway! Yet, the revelation was a bittersweet "victory" as we simultaneously learned that Jodie has a long-term female partner with whom she is raising two sons, thus almost completely negating the remote chance that we had with her.


Congrats, girl.

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*cough* Iloveyou *cough*

And because it would probably defy some law of physics if I were to post without making some sort of social commentary, I must object to this headline:

"Jodie Foster reveals lesbian lover"

At what point is one's partner of 20 years with whom one is raising children more than a "lesbian lover"?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In Case There Was Any Doubt....

I will not be voting for Mike Huckabee (R).

Here are my reasons:

1. He is a former Baptist pastor.

That's fine, I suppose, if a former Baptist politician is able to separate his religious beliefs from his duties as a representative of people of all religions (or no religion). That being said, this statement of Huckabee's gives me the willies:

"My faith is my life - it defines me. I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.... My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them."

See, I am okay with having a president who is religious. But I'm not okay with having a president whose religious faith drives his decisions. I don't share his religious faith. Nor do many Americans. And to add more salt on that wound, his particular faith is not the most tolerant.

But wait, Huckabee also says this, indicating that maybe he doesn't hold the same judgmental views on gay people as others in his religion:

"Real faith makes us humble and mindful, not of the faults of others, but of our own. It makes us less judgmental, as we see others with the same frailties we have."

Hmm. Hold that thought.

2. In 1992, Huckabee wrote this, in response to an Associated Press questionnaire asking candidates if measures ought to be taken to "isolate the carriers of [HIV/AIDS]":

"It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crises it represents,"

And, he stands by these statements today saying this:

"'I still believe this today,' he said, 'I don't run from it, I don't recant it.' He said he would, however, state his view differently now in retrospect."

Okay. But, even in 1992, it was commonly known that HIV/AIDS was not spread by casual contact. And, in 1992, AIDS was still largely seen as a gay disease (even though heterosexual rates of acquisition were beginning to significantly increase). So, why the need for quarantine if this "plague" could not be spread by casual contact?

Surely he wasn't making any implications about gay men's sexual behavior...

3. Oh wait. (This is the part where we remember Huckabee's definition of real faith as being non-judgmental):

When asked his opinions about gays in the military, Huckabee said this:

"I believe to try to legitimize that which is inherently illegitimate would be a disgraceful act of government. I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle..."

How very non-judgmental.

And, those are strong words coming from someone who never served in the military. I'd like to see him back up this statement before a crowd of current and former LGBT servicemembers.

4. In fact, Huckabee proudly admits that he is the most anti-gay candidate in the race saying on his website:

"No other candidate has supported traditional marriage more consistently and steadfastly than I have. While Massachusetts was allowing homosexuals to marry, I got a constitutional amendment passed in Arkansas in 2002 defining marriage as between one man and one woman."

You know, I'm reading several books right now on the history of marriage, and I'm learning more and more that the concept "traditional marriage" is a conservative construct that denies the reality that "marriage" has varied greatly over time and culture. Not that many in the "moral values" crowd concern themselves with pesky things like facts, however.

Oh, I also get the heebie-jeebies when people still use the word "homosexual" to refer to.... me.

5. Mike Huckabee also claims to support "the sanctity of life" (that virtuous yet vacuous buzz phrase). He boasts:

"As Governor, I did all I could to protect life. The many pro-life laws I got through my Democrat legislature are the accomplishments that give me the most pride and personal satisfaction. What I accomplished as Governor proves that there is a lot more that a pro-life President can do than wait for a Supreme Court vacancy, and I will do everything I can to promote a pro-life agenda and pass pro-life legislation."


"I will staff all relevant positions with pro-life appointees. I will use the Bully Pulpit to change hearts and minds, to move this country from a culture of death to a culture of life."


So, this wannabe "leader" is admitting that he sees the highest executive office in our nation as a means to be Preacher-in-Chief and that he will use his power as president to impose his religious beliefs on our nation.

Not exactly what our founding fathers had in mind.

Hmm. Well, I suppose if he is so into supporting a culture of life, we will finally have an end to war.

Hold that thought.

6. In Huckabee we would get another messianic "leader" (intentional quotes) who believes he is leading the world to be in an historic battle between good and evil:

"Iraq is a battle in our generational, ideological war on terror....I am focused on winning. Withdrawal would have serious strategic consequences for us and horrific humanitarian consequences for the Iraqis.... I believe that we are currently engaged in a world war. This war is not a conventional war, and these terrorists are not a conventional enemy....As President, I will always ensure that Israel has access to the state-of-the-art weapons and technology she needs to defend herself from those who seek her annihilation."

[*side rant*Do we really still refer to countries as ladies?*side rant over*]

Reflecting on Huckabee's committment to supporting "the sanctity of life," I wonder how his eagerness for war and a military upgrade substantiates his claims of supporting the holiness of all living beings.

I'm thinking of a number. 655,00 to be exact.

Sanctity of life indeed.

7. Now, this final reason is an admittedly shallow reason, but when combined with the other reasons it is sort of the straw that breaks the camel's back: his name. Can one possibly have a more good ol' boy southern name than "Huckabee"? Oh wait, yes, yes one can.

I'll end on these slogans that Huckabee's campaign managers are completely free to use:

Mike Huckabee: One more reason to support separation of church and state!

Mike Huckabee: One reason to vote in the Republican primary just so you can vote against him!

Mike Huckabee: Doing his part to create an evangelical Christian theocracy!

Mike Huckabee: I think gay people are icky too, so vote for me!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Buffy and the WB: A Study In Sexual Morality

I recently began watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. I know, I'm a little late in the game here, as the series began in 1997. Unfortunately, however, I never really watched the show when it was actually on TV. I erroneously believed that the Kristy Swanson/Luke Perry Buffy movie that came out in 1992 was the "real" Buffy and that any TV spin-off was likely to be even more lame than the movie. (I know, blasphemy!).

But now, having actually watched the first 4 seasons over the course of the past few months, I see the error of my ways.

Not only are there feminist themes galore in many Buffisodes, but our hero is a woman. Women in Buffy do not play the token "love interest" or "victim" roles that used to be so common in media portrayals of women. And indeed, this was creator Joss Whedon's intent. He wanted to get away from "the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie" and he wanted "to subvert that idea and create someone who was a hero."

But, as male Buffy fans probably would like to note, having a female hero is not to say that men are unimportant in Buffy. They're not. They are father-figures, love interests, heros themselves, and yes, victims and villains too.

[You will notice from my citations that there is an entire Buffy universe within the pages of wikipedia, proving perhaps the obsession and loyatly the show breeds!]

And then, of course, there's the show's treatment of sexuality. It was one of the first TV shows where one of the main characters was a lesbian. And, in pre-L Word days, we women-folk on anything other than the hetero end of the sexuality spectrum were starved for any positive representation of ourselves in the media. (On second thought, we still are.) Sure, we had Xena: Warrior Princess, where our female hero had an ambiguous relationship with her sidekick Gabrielle. And yes, we appreciate the winks that the writers threw in for us when they could get away with it, but an open and honest portrayal is different. A portrayal that acknowledges the character's non-hetero sexuality affirms the lives and sexualities of its non-hetero viewers. And for non-straight people growing up in isolated and rural areas, the ability to see yourself reflected on TV is meaningful.

As sensitive as the Buffy's treatment of sexuality was, however, I would like to raise some issues that reflect more upon the network than upon Buffy's writers and producers.

What follows is a brief study in sexual morality. Specifically, it's a study in the types of sexual behavior that are considered "more" moral than homosexuality. See, when Willow, Buffy's lesbian character, came out and entered into a relationship with Tara, the two showed no overt signs of being in a relationship. Okay, by that I mean, for as much as the other characters get to make out and have sex, I want to see some woman on woman action.

Apparently, this no-lesbian-action rule becomes null in the 5th season when Buffy moves from the WB to a more lenient network:

"Broadcasting constraints from the WB meant that, unlike the heterosexual characters, Willow and Tara were not allowed to be shown in any sexual scenes. The couple did not have their first onscreen kiss until the Season Five episode, "The Body", almost a year after their relationship began. This changed significantly when Buffy switched networks to the more lenient UPN, with Willow and Tara shown kissing, sharing a bed, and even having metaphorical oral sex (cf. "Once More, With Feeling")."

Can't wait.

I mean, um, how very open-minded and tolerant of UPN.

Anyway, here is my list of WB-constrained sexual behaviors on Buffy that are "more" moral than Willow kissing her girlfriend:

1. 17-year-old Buffy (a minor) allowed to kiss her 300+-year-old vampire demon boyfriend Angel (Surely that counts as some form of necrophilia!)

2. Buffy allowed to have sex with her 300+-year-old vampire demon boyfriend. Now, to be fair, we don't see actual sex scenes from this occurrence of premarital sex. But we do see little snippets and flashbacks.

3. Willow allowed to kiss her boyfriend Oz during her pre-lesbian days and share a bed with him several times.

4. Buffy allowed to have premarital sex with her boyfriend Riley. Including the episode "Where the Wild Things Are" in which they were sort of addicted to having sex with each other and were seen throughout the episode rolling around in the sack together.

5. Xander and his girlfriend Anya's (who is a former demon) allusions to having (frequent) premarital sex.

6. Oz cheating on Willow while in his werewolf state with Veruca, who is also a werewolf. (I think that counts as some sort of bestiality...).

7. Buffy's mom and Giles making out and having sex on the hood of a car.

All that action going on and us non-heteros (and hetero viewers who would enjoy that sort of thing) get nothing from Willow and Tara!!

Anyway, I'm sure there are more. Buffy fans, feel free to point them out. If anything, I hope this exercise helped demonstrate the absurdity of puritanical values when it comes to gayness.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Study in Labels: The Self-Described Liberal Democrat

David Blankenhorn is the founder of allegedly "non-partisan" and "private" Institute for American Values and a self-described "liberal Democrat." Does anyone else find the phrase "American Values" to be always begging the question of whether there is, actually, a monolithic objective set of values that are American?

Anyway, Blankenhorn recently wrote a book against marriage equality (that I recently began reading) on this simple-minded premise, as a USA Today article sums it up:

"Kids need both a mother and a father, and because same-sex marriage can't provide that, it's bad for society and kids."

Now, I have to admit that Blankenhorn's opposition to marriage equality casts a dubious shadow over his claim to be a "liberal Democrat." Especially since he founded a think-tank that has the phrase "American Values" in it, and all the *oh so liberal Democrat* connotations that phrase brings.

Labels are important. And Blankenhorn rightly acknowledges that being labeled a "conservative" (among other things) diminishes his arguments in the eyes of some people. It is intellectually dishonest, however, to dismiss a person's entire argument by merely slapping a label on it.

But at the same time, one should not attempt to give credence to an argument by slapping a label on it that you think will give it more credibility. We should all let a person's arguments stand on their own two feet, and do less labeling and pre-judging.

This relatively uncritical USA Today article is a study in how he and others attempt to bring credibility to his opposition of marriage equality by insisting that it's a "liberal Democrat" position, resisting with all their might against the "conservative" or "fundie" label.

In fact, various irrelevant character labels are slapped on Blankenhorn in an attempt to lend credibility to his anti-equality position.

The quoting begins:

"'My impression of [Blankenhorn] is he's really devoted his life to family issues and would probably do that if no one paid him at all,' says Jonathan Rauch, a senior writer at National Journal magazine and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution who has been on opposite sides of the podium with Blankenhorn."

So, he's devoted to the issue. Neat. Aren't most advocates pretty devoted to the issue? Does his devotion to "his life" and to "family issues" make him more right about the issue than advocates on the other side of the debate? Are they less devoted to their lives and to family issues than he?

And, he'd do it for free? Well guess what- many people actually do advocate for free! And Blankehorn isn't one of them. Heck, I do this even though no pays me at all. Does that make me more right than Blankenhorn, who does it for money?

"My impression is on matters of civil rights and economics and social justice, he's the same warm-hearted Southern liberal he was when he started," Galston says. "It might be more accurate to say a strand of thinking about the family and the culture that in contemporary circumstances is regarded as conservative is something that's become a stronger part of his thinking."

So, he's liberal? Oh wait, he's conservative? Neat.

Frankly, I care less about the political label a person slaps on him or herself and more about a persons reasons for believing what he or she believes.

Oh, and he's warm-hearted? Neat. How is that relevant again? Does his alleged "war-heartedness" make his position on marriage equality more right than that of his opponents?

"Some academics, including [New York Univesrity sociology Professor Judith Stacey], suggest [Blanekenhorn's think-tank] lacks objectivity because its work is not subject to scholarly peer review.

Blankenhorn rebuffs such claims.

'Almost all our work is done in teams of people. We review each other's work constantly,' he says. 'So it is utter hogwash for somebody to say something like that.'"

Um, okay.

Do we have any real scientists or social scientists, or heck anyone who's taken Psych 101, in the crowd who want to explain what peer review means? And how it is different than working "in teams of people"?

And let's talk about working in "teams of people." I'm glad his think-tankers are able to play well with others, but are his "teams of people" comprised only of people at his think-tank who are all opposed to marriage equality?

But more importantly, isn't "peer review" a concept that the founder of a research institute should, um, be familiar with?

Professor Stacey says, of Blankenhorn:

"I'm one of his favorite targets. We have opposing views on the relationship between social science research about families and public policy about families. Not only do we disagree about the policies, but we disagree about what the research says."

If I may interject, Professor Stacey, perhaps the two of you disagree about what the research says because you are an actual scientist who, you know, is familiar with scientific procedure and concepts. Like peer review.

Blankenhorn's reasons for writing his book on marriage?:

"He says he couldn't skirt same-sex marriage any longer because allowing gays to marry and form families conflicts with children's right to know and be raised by their two biological parents."

Ah, the good ol' "married heterosexual biological parents are automatically fit for parenthood" argument.

I can't wait to finish this "liberal Democrat's" book!

And with "liberal" friends like these, as they say....

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thou Shall Not Lie?

There is an unsurprising Christian uproar over Senate Bill 777, a California law that will become effective in January. SB 777 will make it illegal for schools to offer instruction or activity that "reflects adversely upon persons" because of race, gender, color, creed, handicap, national origin, and more. And by more, I mean sexual orientation.

Christian intolerance, lying, and fear-mongering, enter stage right.

Now, the intent of the law is to protect various groups of people from school-taught discrimination. But don't take my word over what the law says, read its text yourself here:

Existing law prohibits the State Board of Education and the
governing board of a school district from adopting for use in the
public schools any instructional materials that reflect adversely
upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap,
national origin, or ancestry.

This bill would revise the list of prohibited bases of
discrimination and the kinds of prohibited instruction, activities,
and instructional materials and instead, would refer to disability,
gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation,or any other characteristic contained in the definition of hate
crimes that is contained in the Penal Code. The bill would define
disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, and
sexual orientation for this purpose." [emphasis added]

To begin, I think that one could make a valid criticism of this law on free speech grounds. I'm not sure I would agree with such criticism, but that's a debate for another day.

Today, I want to focus on how it is NOT acceptable to lie about the law in order to scare people into opposing it.

Yes, I do have an example in mind.

Predictably, anti-gay "Christians" (yes, the quotes are on purpose) are spreading lies amongst their sheeple regarding what exactly this legislation does and says.

Observe this article from WorldNutDaily:

"'With the passing of SB 777, a Christian parent cannot, in good conscience, send their child to a public school where their child will be taught or coerced into a lifestyle or belief system that is contrary to the faith they hold dear,' [conservative Christian homeschooling organization spokeswoman] told WND. " (empashsis added)

Before I begin, are any other Christians or former Christians angry about the hate-mongers who have hijacked Christianity and who now deign to (a) speak for all Christians and (b) define what true Christianity is?

Now, read the whole article and corresponding quotes for some real dishonesty and fear-mongering. Like this:

"Evidently, some are beginning to wake up to the fact that their children are no longer receiving true education, but are being clandestinely recruited into sick social movements threatening to tear families apart at the seams," she wrote.

"When it comes to actively promoting sin to public school children, the homosexuals are light years ahead of adulterers, fornicators and substance abusers, who haven't yet implemented student-run organizations to convince children that such lifestyle choices are normal," she continued.

You know, I've been gay for many years. My whole life, actually. And I have yet to receive my Gay Agenda and Recruiting Manual.

But I digress. Back to the lying "Christians"... A law that says the school board cannot adopt "for use in the public schools any instructional materials that reflect adversely upon persons because of their" sexual orientation suddenly means that gay people will be allowed to recruit and coerce schoolchildren into Teh Gay.

Knowing that some "Christian" groups are lying about this law, the school Superintendent has even tried to clarify what the law actually says and does:

According to him,

"SB 777 simplifies and clarifies existing civil rights protections for California students. It does not expand civil rights protections in the California Education Code, but it does clarify just what those protections include by providing a clear and explicit list of all the prohibited bases of discrimination in publicly-funded kindergarted through grade twelve schools."

A reasonable response, considering:

Fact: The Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 already banned discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation.

Fact: Under one section of the Education Code, students are already protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation in all publicly-funded educational institutions. Yet, other nondiscrimination provisions in the Education Code governing certain programs and activities do not explicitly include sexual orientation. At the same time, these other, non-inclusive, provisions fall under the section of the Education Code where sexual orientation is included. Thus, there is a legal ambiguity.

SB 777 updates and explicitly lists all the prohibited categories of discrimination in publicly-funded educational institutions and standardizes this list throughout the Education Code.

Yet, consider this quote from one anti-gay advocate who shows, yet again, that fundies truly are masters of projection:

"[The Superintendent's letter] is nothing less than an attempt to confuse the public about the true intention of SB 777"

And "the true intention" I suppose is that California's legislators intended to enable gay people to recruit and coerce innocent schoolchildren into homosexuality. I suppose there's absolutely nothing confusing about that "Christian" message.

Now, I'd like to preserve my faith in humanity by working from the assumption that when people lie they at least do so for a reason. And so I asked myself, "Self, why would someone lie about this bill and scare Christian parents into thinking that this bill would cause teachers to teach children to be gay"?

And that's when I saw at least one motivation: Sometimes a lie can make somebody a buck.

Like, perhaps, the Christian homeschooling organization called Considering Homeschooling who definitely has an interest in Christian parents removing their children from schools. Also, to be fair, this organization is a 501(c)(3) organization. Which means (a) guess who supports it! and (b) its mission is not profit-oriented. That's not to say that nonprofits do not try to make money, however. Their very existence depends on making money. Otherwise, there's no way to pay people's (sometimes very large and sometimes very small) salaries.

Okay, so there's one possible explanation.

That still leaves a bunch of other so-called Christian groups who blatantly lie about gay people and legislation affecting gay rights for which I have no explanation yet.

Which begs a more important question, if they're so fucking religious, why do they have to lie all the time?

Friday, December 7, 2007

On Gay Parenting

In reading anti-gay blogs and websites, I mostly find that anti-gay advocates make the general claim, presenting no evidence, that all children need a mother and father. And worse, some go so far as saying that it is a form of child abuse for same-sex couples to raise a child because every child deserves a mother and a father.

Now, I personally believe that more important factors than gender that determine whether an individual and the two individuals in a couple are good parents. But, my humble opinion is not likely to convince anti-gay advocates that gay people can be, and often are, good parents. Nor should it. See, I am just as unconvinced by one's personal opinion that "gender complementary" parents are a prerequisite to good parenthood as others are by my personal opinions.

So, today I am going to mostly let the experts do the talking and then draw conclusions from their arguments and findings. I want to focus more on the argument some make that a child needs both a mother and a father as opposed to the more easily discredited and based-in-stereotypes arguments against gay parenting like "gays are child molestors" and "children raised by gays will turn out gay."

First, we have a psychologist, professor, and researcher Gregory Herek, PhD providing an honest round-up of the data regarding parenting and how it is often misused. Following that, we have gay dad Terrance giving us a round-up of some "poisonous" parents who demonstrate the danger in thinking that "natural" "heterosexual" parents are automatically, unquestionably fit for parenthood.

1. The Research and Its Misuses

In the words of Dr. Gregory Herek, who has published extensively in this area, (he has his own blog here) research regarding parenting is often misunderstood and/or mis-used by anti-gay advocates:

"When Dobson and other Christian Right activists claim that research shows “children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father,” they are not talking about research comparing gay versus straight parents.

Instead, they are trying to apply the findings from studies comparing children from two-parent (heterosexual) homes and children raised by a single parent, often in poverty. Many of the single-parented kids in those studies had endured divorce, the death of a parent, or other types of family disruption now known to have negative effects on children’s well-being.

Those studies show that, all else being equal, children generally do better with two parents than with one. However, they don’t address the question of whether the parents’ gender or sexual orientation makes a difference.

As I’ve discussed in
previous postings, the research that has actually looked at families headed by sexual minority adults has consistently found no inherent deficits among gay parents. Moreover, their kids have proved to be as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents." (Emphasis Added).

So, the bottom line is that anti-gay advocates often use research comparing two-parent versus single-parent families to draw conclusions about two-parent opposite-gender families versus two-parent same-gender families. And, when they do acknowledge the faulty analogy, they try the "the data is not conclusive either way, so we should err on the side of assuming children are harmed by having two same-gender parents" argument. Even though, as Herek states, the research actually looking at same-gender families reveal no inherent deficits or adjustment problems.

Ultimately, the opposition to same-gender parenting comes down to some anti-gay advocates' personal opinion that "every child deserves a mother and a father." Or, perhaps, that no child should be deprived of its natural parent because a natural parent is inherently a better parent than an adoptive or non-biological parent. And further, they believe that a child having a married mother and father is the most important prerequisite for good parenthood. Natural and biological parents, you see, are automatically fit for parenthood.

So, let's examine that belief now.

2. Good Parenting Requires Parents Who Lead, Love, Guide, and Protect, Not Who Have Different Genitals

Read gay parent Terrance's article on "Poisonous Parenting" where he presents evidence that good parenting depends less on the parents' gender and more on other traits like, you know, sanity, caring, and compassion. He actually has a running series on "poisonous parenting" where he highlights abusive heterosexual parents who are parents more because they are able be, rather than because they actually want to be or are particularly good at it.

For instance, Terrance writes of one woman who kept her "12-year-old son chained to a shed, beating him with a hammer, cans, metal poles and other items." The boy, at the police station, was found with scars and marks all over his body. The boy's father was arrested for doing nothing to stop the repeated attacks. Terrance sarcastically writes,

"Now there are two candidates for Parents of the Year. But I can’t criticize them. They met the bare minimum set by the Maryland Court of Appeals, something I’m biologically incapable of, even if I spend my time kissing my son’s “boo-boos” instead of giving them to him."

The point of this series is not, I think, to degrade heterosexual parents by only showing examples of horrible hetero parents. We all know that there are many good heterosexual parents. Heck, most of us were raise by them! His point is to show the primitive logic of some in assuming that (1) heterosexuality and (2) ability to procreate = good and fit parents.

As his response to one commenter questioning whether Terrance was a "real" parent indicates:

"Apparently, in this commenter’s eyes someone who ejaculates and evacuates is more of a father than someone like me, who’s spent the last five years loving and raising an amazing little boy. And, if I may say so myself, doing a pretty good job of it....[The potential to procreate] is privileged above all else, including loving and raising the resulting children in homes where they can grow up knowing they are loved, wanted, safe, respected, and appreciated. So long as you have the working body parts to get them into the world, it matters somewhat less whether you have the capacity or desire to see them safely through it."

I'll end with this quote:

"In the time it took to ovulate, ejaculate, and thus procreate, [the highlighted abusive parents] did indeed manage to do something the hubby and I can’t do. At least not with one another. For the last five years, however, we’ve managed to do something the parents above and the rest of the parents in this series did not. We do it every day, because it’s what we love most of all to do, and we’ll continue to do it: loving, teaching, guiding, protecting, and raising our son to a happy, healthy adulthood.

Tell me again. Why do we deserve less recognition, and fewer rights and protections than them?"

Good question. I challenge anyone to logically explain, without mis-using research and using more than your own personal opinions, how the poisonous parents Terrance details are more deserving of parental and marital rights than Terrance and his partner are.

Remember, "logically" is the key word here.

Cue the crickets chirping.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Shut Up and Sing: Gendered Attacks on the Dixie Chicks

Recently, I watched the Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up and Sing. For those who are unfamiliar, the documentary details the fallout from lead singer Natalie Maine's notorious/famous statement about George W. Bush at the beginning of the war where she said this to an audience in England:

"Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."

The documentary shows Maines making this statement while her audience applauds and cheers. There was a huge backlash against the Dixie Chicks when those in the US caught wind of this statement. Country music turned its back on the Dixie Chicks, radio stations refused to play their music, and rednecks and so-called patriots decried Maines' statement. The Dixie Chicks eventually triumphed over the backlash by channeling their anger, hurt, and other raw emotions into a multi-Grammy-award winning album Taking the Long Way.

Now, I'm not going to re-hash the entire controversy here. It happened a few years ago and you can watch it all unfold in Shut up and Sing.

But what was most shocking to me, that I did not previously know about, was the vitriol and character of the comments directed at Maines and her bandmates- comments that I do not believe would have been made if Maines were the male lead singer of a band called the Dixie Dudes.

Let me explain.

See, how a genuine criticism works is like this:

"I disagree with Natalie Maine's statement [insert logical argument against the statement itself]"

For instance,

"I disagree with Maine's statement because a public figure should not criticize our President overseas."

Now, I disagree with the above statement, but it would be a valid criticism of Maine's statement because it is attacking the statement as opposed to Maine's character, gender, intelligence, or some other personal characteristic.

Within this clip from Shut Up and Sing, on national television, various pundits and newsperson make the *so very* rational gendered attacks against the Dixie Chicks:

If you can't open the video, here's a transcript (the quotes are in italics):

"Female pundit: Free speech... or bad manners?"

Male pundit: "Their opinion is so ignorant."

Male pundit: "They don't know what they're talking about."

Male Pundit: "I think they are the 'Ditzy Twits.' These are the dumbest, dumbest bimbos, with due respect..."

Because saying "with due respect" after calling someone a twit and dumb bimbo, like, totally erases the personal attack.

Bill O'Reilly: "These are callow, foolish women who deserve to be slapped around"

Female pundit Rebecca Hagelin: "Ab-solutely!"

How is it ever acceptable to claim that women "deserve to be slapped around"? How does Bill O'Reilly still have a job after saying that? Apparently there is a market for such speech and thought. Wonderful. Feminism is dead, indeed.

These statements make me ashamed that their speakers are American.

And further, if these pundits are making these public statements, one can only imagine what people were saying over the internet, especially under the cloak of anonymity.

The level of rage directed at Maines and the Dixie Chicks was surprising and shows that, perhaps, those who claim to so very much cherish our freedoms truly only do so conditionally.

That is, even though we, as a country, value freedom of speech, as the tagline of the movie states, "Freedom of speech is fine as long as you don't do it in public" or disagree with what some people think.

As a personal side note, I find it paradoxically amusing and sad that all those fervent Bush supporters at the beginning of the war have jumped off the bandwagon. Natalie Maines was brave enough to be a very public voice of dissent during a time when Bush's approval ratings were much, much higher than they are now. The war, that so many Bush supporters blindly supported just because Bush wanted them to, is largely seen as a failure. And, pointing this out says less about our troops there and more about our nation's lack of leadership. For, it is possible to support our troops while not supporting our president.

I'm sure Natalie Maines would hate to say she told you so, but.... nahhh, on second thought, she'd probably love to say she told you so.

Friday, November 30, 2007

48th Carnival of Feminists!

The latest Carnival of Feminists is up. Check it out for some new feminist reading materials.

Oh yeah, my Gender Card in Politics article was featured in this edition!

Not too shabby, I suppose, for a gal who *isn't even a feminist*, or so one anti-gay lady claims.

Coming Out Fridays! A Straight Man Comes Out.

After National Coming Out Day, I wrote my belated coming out story. I hope that you found it interesting. And, perhaps one day someone who is struggling with his or her sexual identity will come across my story, or the stories that others have written, and will be helped by it in some way.

Which got me to thinking, maybe Fannie's Room needs a periodic guest blogging series where others, some of you perhaps, tell your stories. In addition to possibly helping others, telling our own real stories can be an effective way for those who do not know any gay people to, hopefully, see us in a more compassionate light. Perhaps, they will come to see us, not as evil threats out to destroy marraige and steal their children, but as real people who are at times vulnerable, scared, and just as human as all of them.

Or they'll just make fun of us.

Whatever. That's fun too.

The first storyteller in this series is regular visitor John. If you've been here regularly you will recognize John as a heterosexual married man who supports marriage equality. He is also a contributor to the group blog Live, Love, and Learn. I think that it's important to recognize that, sometimes, heterosexuals (who I believe will be the key to our eventual victory for equality) have to "come out" too. Homosexuality is not yet fully accepted in our society, or in many parts of the world. And I think it is far easier to go along with the peer-pressurey crowd that ridicules, mocks, and sometimes hates gay people than it is to stand up and say "But I support marriage equality."

And, I think, it is easy for many heterosexuals to think "I don't really care about gay rights, because it doesn't really affect me." Thinking of this easy complacency, I wonder what motivates hetereosexuals to be allies in the struggle for equal rights. In John's case, there were several reasons- a major one being an embarassing display of backlash to judicial decisions affirming gay rights. But enough of me talking, here's John's story in his own words (which he also posted on Live, Love, and Learn):

"My own 'coming out' was a process that took place over many years, and it seems to involve four major steps. The first was seeing homosexuality as simply ordinary. This was easy for me, but it came about in a rather strange way.

I was raised in a very strict Roman Catholic home, which has a lot to do with why I have never viewed homosexuality as anything other than a natural variant of human sexuality.

Think about that for a moment.

I just said that I view homosexuality as a natural variant of human sexuality BECAUSE of my strict Catholic upbringing. At this point you may properly ask what it is that I am smoking. You see, when I became a young teen, I would think of sex a fair amount of the time. In fact, all I had to do was hear or read certain words and I would think of sex; words like girl, skirt, leg, outboard motor, etc. But in my Catholic home anything that could even be remotely connected to sexuality was simply never discussed. So I had to learn on my own with no input from my caregivers.

The most influential source of my education was a weekly series of magazines called, "The Story of Life". It was a 53 week series that explained in clinical but readable detail everything about human life, love, and sexuality. One issue was dedicated to "Lovers of the Same Sex", and it dealt with the issue in a frank and totally non-judgmental manner. Since this was my only real source of information, I had no reason to think that there was a judgment to be made.

It is difficult to explain why the second step should be necessary, but while I could accept homosexuality as a natural and normal variant of human sexuality, intellectually, I could not comprehend how one could feel a sexual attraction to a memeber of the same sex. I guess I still can't, really, but for some reason seeing the effects of same sex attraction helped me see just how real it is.

As a teen (or very early 20's) I, and a few friends (one of whom is a lesbian), experimented with each each other to test our responses to same and opposite sex stimulation. I doubt you'd want to hear details of such experimentation, but it was an eye-opener for me.

The third milestone was moving beyond seeing homosexuality in sexual terms and seeing it in terms of relationships.

I am ashamed to admit that until the Goodridge decision, I never gave even a moment's thought to gay relationships, especially with respect to marriage. My attitude towards Goodridge was pure indifference. It didn't affect me or my marriage in any way. My feeling was that is two people of the same sex want to marry, who the hell am I to even voice an opinion on the matter?

But then a backlash began. A petition to ban SSM by constitutional amendment was signed by enough voters to put the measure to a vote. As many as twenty states (insert real number here) passed constitutional amendments to ban SSM, and I was absolutely horrified by the rhetoric. The talk shows hosts, the religious press and even the Republican Party (that Party of cold sober realists who preach "rugged individualism" and "get the goverment of my back") became preachers of pure hate.

I had never been so disgusted by my countrymen or more ashamed of my nation.

I didn't feel like an American or a Christian anymore.

The idea that in these United States of America in 2007, that the people should vote on the civil rights of my fellow citizens has shocked me to core. And that the Party of Lincoln would lead the charge has changed me from a passive supporter to an outright activist.

And I have learned more about gay relationships; I started reading the testimonials of gay couples. I now know that gay relationships are identical to straight relationships in every pertinent way. And only then did I realize how much I take my own protections of marriage for granted.

And then there is step four.

I am a Christian. While I don't fit the mold well, as I have little use for organized religion and am somewhat agnostic in my view of Providence, I recognize that for millions, Jesus is a abundant source of comfort and provides a moral compass. It is of major importance to me to be able to show others that Jesus's message of love, tolerance and acceptance can not abide the bigotry expressed in Paul's sermons.

That final understanding of Jesus's complete and total acceptance came form my (on-line) association with the Rev. Dr. Jerry Maneker.

His blog is here:"

Thank you, John- for your story and for your support.

John brings up a good point here:

"The idea that in these United States of America in 2007, that the people should vote on the civil rights of my fellow citizens has shocked me to core."

Here, he is referring to constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage that were brought about as a response to the Massachussets judicial ruling that it was a denial of equal protection and due process for the State to deny same-sex couples from marriage.

In other words, the fundies didn't like the constitutional rules so they decided to make up new ones. Effectively, the judicial branch of government that was created specifically to a avoid tyranny of the majority was circumvented to allow tyranny of the majority. That's not democracy.

And that is something that all Americans should be ashamed of.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Crazy..... Crazy For Feeling So.... Paranoid

I came across this letter on Allied Blog Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters. It's a fake letter written by Janet Folger, president of conservative Christian group Faith2Action. In this letter, titled "Letter From a Future Prisoner," Fogler is pretending that she's writing from the year 2010, after Hillary Clinton has been elected President of the US.

Readers, here's what our world will be like.

*Cue Creepy Music*

"Nov. 20, 2010
To the Resistance:

I'm writing this letter from prison, where I've been since the beginning of 2010. Since Hillary was elected in '08, Christian persecution in America has gotten even worse than we predicted.

When the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" was signed into law, my radio program was yanked off the air along with all the others that dared discuss moral issues on Christian radio. The networks just couldn't bring themselves to air a pro-abortion program or one that advocates the homosexual agenda for the government mandated "balance" because broadcasting lies went against their basic beliefs – I don't blame them.

We knew "Thought Crimes" was in danger of becoming law back when it passed Congress in 2007, but thankfully, President Bush kept his promise to veto it. But, tragically, Hillary signed that most dangerous bill in America – ushering in the criminalization of Christianity. And now, even my book, "The Criminalization of Christianity," has been banned as "hate speech" just as I predicted when I wrote it back in 2005.

When the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act" ("Thought Crimes" for the Workplace) became law, businesses and ministries were targeted by homosexual activists and were forced to close when they wouldn't comply with a law forcing them to hire those opposed to their beliefs on moral issues.

When they canceled my program, banned my book and targeted my ministry, I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd be forced into "prison ministry" against my will. Unfortunately for our nation, that ministry is growing fast. A homeschooling mom was assigned the cell next to me. I try to comfort her, but she cries constantly at the thought of her kids being raised in government foster care.

The forced labor here makes me think that I should have done more for our brothers and sisters in China sent to labor camps for the crime of hosting a home church, or those imprisoned in every Muslim country for choosing Christ over Allah. We should have seen the writing on the wall when Yahoo turned over confidential searches to the Chinese government, sending people to prison, and when Google barred American Christian sites from its search engines as "haters." Finding allied ministries is now almost impossible.

Most didn't see it coming. I try not to think about how the 2009 "Freedom of Choice Act" wiped out every single pro-life law from parental notice to the ban on partial birth abortion. And how "anti-reproductive rights" was added to the "Thought Crime" statute, which, like California before the election, means a year in jail if someone claims to feel "intimidated" by anything a pro-lifer might do – like express their beliefs in public.

But, like the homeschool mom in the cell beside me, I cry too. I cry mostly because it didn't have to be this way. Just three years ago – in 2007 – we had a chance to unite and achieve our lifetime goals of restoring protection to children in the womb, and protecting our foundational relationship of marriage between a man and a woman. And now the suggestion of it is treated like the illegal mention of a "mom" or "dad" to the California School Board.

Martin Niemöller's words ring true. I see them with a modern twist:

When they came for the Chinese, I did not speak up because those slave-labor goods were so very cheap.

When they came for the Afghan and Iraqi Christians, I did not speak up because I didn't want to undermine the war effort.

When they came for the German homeschoolers, I didn't speak up because I live in America.

When they came for the Philadelphia 11, I didn't speak up, because I was from Cleveland.

When they came for me, speaking up had become illegal.
No, in 2007 and 2008, American Christians were so used to the status quo that they forgot we were in this to win. Compromised and divided, they choose to protest rather than protect.

When the Christian and conservative leaders couldn't stop fighting over their candidate of compromise or their favorite "tier two" pick, we missed our last chance at victory – victory for children facing the abortionists' knife and victory for the institution foundational to our society – marriage.

All the money in the world couldn't buy Mitt Romney's trust. And no one seemed to remember what Rudy Giuliani had said of the previous Clinton administration: "Most of Clinton's policies are similar to most of mine." Or how he praised the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, and offered up a citywide proclamation honoring the infamous racist eugenicist, whose organization has brutally killed more babies than any other in the Western Hemisphere.

Did they really think we would have a chance to beat Hillary with "Hillary-lite?"

There was a tier-one candidate that stood for our goals of life and marriage – that man was Gov. Mike Huckabee. Had we nominated Huckabee to run against Hillary, the stark difference between the two would have brought voters out in droves. And we never would have seen the Supreme Court appointments of Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein. If only there were a way to go back in time to change … I've gotta go. The guard spotted me writing again."

Now, upon reading this letter, I had a couple mixed thoughts. After a few brief moments of laughter thinking, I said to myself, "Fannie, now surely this letter is a joke. And it was probably written by some progressive blogger to mock the world-is-ending tactics that conservatives so often use." But alas, it's not a joke. This woman, Janet Folger, is serious. This letter is her vision of what the world will be like if we do not elect Mitt Romney to be our next president. Folger has a real organization and website and everything. Her tagline, in fact, is "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." I hear that some extremist Muslims would agree (with the part about using faith as pretext to spread hate).

Anyway, in the comment section of a previous article I wrote, regular visitor Vieve mentioned how people who devote their life mission to opposing and negating others maybe have some sort of psychopathology. Reading this letter I don't see how anyone who believes in it could be anything other than mentally ill, or at least very ignorant. And, it is a perfect example of the hypocrisy, paranoia, lying, and distrust that is so rampant among those fundamentalists who claim to be so much more loving and righteous than the rest of us. Unfortunately, such religious "leaders" have much influence over the masses- who trust that they are hearing the truth because those who are speaking claim to be loving and righteous.

Such groups persecute others- namely non-Christians and gay people. And, when we stand up to them and say "do that on your own time, but not on state time" they accuse us of persecuting them. When we tell them to go to their churches to pray and ask that they don't force everyone to pray in school, they accuse us of "criminalizing" Christianity. And when we try to pass hate crimes laws, they misinterpret or blatantly lie about these laws- scaring the masses by describing them as "thought control." (I address that lie here). They accuse others of wanting to ban their books, when in reality, they are the ones trying to get books banned. Harry Potter anyone? And, while the President that they elected has been whittling away our civil liberties since 9/11 they have the audacity to predict a future world that lacks freedom because of us?!

If this isn't some sort of mass psychopathology, I don't know what is. If this isn't mass ignorance, I don't know what is.

Anyway, I try to keep faith in the human race by telling myself that it is one of those two relatively blameless reasons, as opposed to pure hatred of others, that makes some people devote their entire lives to negating others...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Missed Connection with Identity: Internet Trolls and Feminism

Internet bullying is something I have been wanting to write about for some time. I first encountered internet bullying in the late 1990's as the "world wide web" was beginning to really take off. As a young adult, I would venture into discussion boards and chat rooms and would inevitably run into personas whose main purpose of online interaction seemed to be to get away with saying anonymously what they would never say to someone's face.

Flash forward a decade and this trend continues. I currently read various blogs covering many different topics. As you may have noticed by looking at the blogs on my blogroll, I like reading political, legal, and social blogs- I particularly like those from a feminist perspective.

What is disturbing to me, however, is that most of the blogs I read or link to have had some experience with internet coward/bullies who attack not the content of the blog, but rather they attack the blogger's gender, sexuality, race, intelligence, etc. in a vicious, aggressive, and shallow way. Blogs of all types have run-ins with internet bullies.

Yet, comments written by men and directed towards feminist women are particularly angsty, sexualized, and aggressive. In fact, women in general are targeted in a sexually aggressive way much more often than men are. This Washington Post article says it well:

"Men are harassed too, and lack of civility is an abiding problem on the Web. But women, who make up about half the online community, are singled out in more starkly sexually threatening terms -- a trend that was first evident in chat rooms in the early 1990s and is now moving to the blogosphere, experts and bloggers said. A 2006 University of Maryland study on chat rooms found that female participants received 25 times as many sexually explicit and malicious messages as males" [emphasis added]

Importantly, these findings reinforce how much feminism is still needed in our society, despite claims that feminism is now "pointless," "dead," or "unncessary."

On top of this aggression is the nature of internet communication itself. Internet communication is similar to the depersonalization that occurs when driving a car. Most drivers do not think of other cars on the road as being handled by a person (yes we all know that cars aren't Herbie the Love Bug, but stay with me here)- they think of driving in terms of "That stupid car just cut me off." Accordingly, people are more likely to act aggressively while driving than they would on foot. And at the same time, we lose a sense of personal identity when we drive- we turn from individuals into "cars."

The internet is similar in that we don't often see the people on the other end of the computer as human beings that are as nuanced and complex as we are. We see the facade that they present to us through their writings. And likewise, in our own writings, we present to the world whatever we want the world to see of us. And so, a man who may, in the real world, be a friendly enough person, turns into an anonymous harasser in the internet world- giving voice to thoughts he would probably never say in person to someone.

Social Psychologists call this "deindividuation"- the idea that if we reduce our own sense of identity, we are less likely to follow social norms, like not behaving aggressively. It is as though an anonymous troll does not associate his mean-spirited comments with his personal identity, and therefore he does not have to feel guilty about making the comments. Or, he knows that he probably won't get "caught" for saying what is really on his mind, and so he says whatever is on his mind.

Due to the nature of the internet, human beings, and a society that is largely resistant to feminism, I believe that trolling will probably always be an issue. Trolling is pretty much an expectation when you're a political blogger, especially a feminist one. That doesn't make it okay or right. And it certainly doesn't mean we have to tolerate it.

But today I want to look at some instances of trolling and how others have dealt with it.

1. Comment Moderation and Registration

The easiest and most obvious way to deal with a troll is to delete the trollish comments. Deleting comments and/or requiring approval before publishing comments is called "comment moderation." Easy enough.

The popular feminist blog Feministing, which trolls love to hate and harass, has devoted several articles to the issue of trolling and comment moderation. In 2005, due to a combination of spam and "asshole" commenters thinking it's "okay to appropriate feminist spaces for their own agendas," Feministing began requiring users to register. A registration requirement inhibits comments from both assholes and those who want to comment honestly. By reducing anonymity, commenters prone to trollish behavior will be less likely to engage in trollish behavior. Yet at the same time, those who do want to engage for valid reasons, may not want to go through the registration process. Feministing's writers also "moderate" comments that are directed at a person rather than an argument- a sometimes subjective call.

Critics often decry such comment moderation as "censorship" or "fascism," which is a fascinating pseudo-self-victimization. For, when the dominant ideology in all of society is that feminism is unnecessary and/or harmful, I don't believe that it is harmful for feminists to ask for a space of their own on the web to discuss and analyze feminist issues amongst themselves. Feminists, believe it or not, often have issues they want to work out and discuss amongst other feminists without being derailed by anti-feminist lines of questioning like "why do all feminists hate men"? As fun as that dead horse is to beat. Again. But more, many feminists do not want to deal with those who condescendingly try to save us from our feminism by enlightening us as to the "distate" with which every other person in society regards feminism.

As for the "censorship" cry, I don't recognize such comment moderation as "censorship" when in the US we each have the freedom to write our very own unmoderated blogs.

2. Public Ridicule and Humor

Another tactic some use for dealing with trolls is ridicule and the use of humor. Rather than trembling in fear at Scary and Mean Anonymous Troll, as some trolls want women to do, feminists laugh at trolls, write articles about the ridiculous lack of logic trolls use, and expose the type of misogynistic thinking that is still present.

You know you're striking a chord amongst some anti-feminists when the best they can do is call you shrill (oooh, I've been called that one!), hysterical (that too!), femi-nazi, lesbian (so?), whore, frigid* and man-hating.

*Basically, I've decided that anti-feminists will call a woman a "slut" or "frigid" if the anti-feminist believes that the woman would not have sex with him in real life. Which, in all honesty, she probably wouldn't. But it's an interesting dichotomous paradox nonetheless.

Anyway, the point is that these men cannot attack your arguments and are probably really threatened by them. So they want to threaten you. Or something fucked up like that.

I guess the upside of all this is that the exposure of hate-mail and trollish comments can, at times, be humorous and an effective way of showing that misogyny is alive and well in society. Because nothing says feminism isn't dead like "Corky Loomis'" comment to Feministing: "If you all weren't so young I'd try to have my way with you, but you'd never give me the time of day. Bitches."

Probably not. But thanks for proving our point, "Corky."

And more disturbing than shallow trolls are the trolls who threaten or encourage physical violence against women (and some men) who are feminists.

Some of my fellow bloggers and I had a creepy run-in of our own with an anti-gay misogynistic "anonymous" blogger awhile back who urged us all to put guns in our mouths and kill ourselves because we are lesbians. Yep, homophobia and misogyny is, like, so non-existent.

In these cases, it's probably best to ignore the trolls and, possibly, involve the authorities.

3. Treating Schoolboys Like Schoolboys

As alluded to earlier, some anti-feminist trolls are dead set on "saving" us or the world or men or something from feminism. And while they do not always make outright personal attacks, they do come into feminist blogs with the expectation that they will easily enlighten feminists as to the errors of feminist thinking. Such persons appear to be more interested in exhibiting their argumentative prowess than they are in having actual dialogue with feminists.

In one of the best articles ever written on such behavior, feminist blogger Dizzy says it well:

"It appears that my blog (and many like it) has become akin to an intro women’s studies class where a few tardy, unprepared, dialogue-dominating, self-righteous freshman boys, who are taking it in order to get what they think will be an easy A and to sharpen their debate skills, only listen to female voices in anticipation of finding a faulty theoretical argument to attack and use against them."

So true.

I have, in fact, had the experience of having one particular anti-feminist, anti-gay blogger tell me that my position on an issue was wrong BEFORE I had actually stated my position. He, being a man I suppose, already just knew that this little lady didn't know her stuff. I'm sure others can relate.

Anyway, Dizzy proposed that we call such men Freshmen. I think it's a fitting title for those who think that feminism (much like some believe gay rights advocacy) is just "a fun little academic exercise" that doesn't matter in the real world. Because I, for one, don't have much patience for people too busy denying that women face particular harms in society to have constructive dialogue with people who talk about the harms that women face in society.

Tactic: Call them out as the Freshmen they are, point them to the Feminism 101 blog, and send them on their merry fucking pedantic ways.

That's it for now. Does any have any other tips to offer?

And, before I end today, I'd like to say this- I think a main puprose of trollish behavior is to reduce the number of women, particular feminist, bloggers. If women are harassed, many of them will step down, reduce their internet participation, or censor their own feminist thoughts. I guess I don't know what the right thing to do is. No one should have to endure online harassment- especially threats, but it's also sort of inevitable and we have to continue blogging.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Marriage Benefits #2 and #3: Social Security Benefits

This article is part of my running series on legal benefits, protections, and privileges of legal marriage. I hope you find it at least somewhat interesting, as I think it's important to make the phrase "benefits of marriage" as real to people as possible. If anything, at least so some people may come across my blog and see exactly how the marriage debate affects real human beings. Debating about marriage equality is not just some theoretical, abstract game that gay people are trying to win. Many gay people want to be legally married because marriage has many legal and financial implications (on top of the implications for human dignity and equality).

Last time, I talked about the importance of health care powers of attorney and health care surrogacy laws. Today's topic is about Social Security benefits and their relation to the status of legal "spouse."

In most states, a same-sex partner is not a legal spouse. And, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)- the law enacted to make super-duper sure that any given state does not have to give full faith and credit to a legal same-sex marriage from another state- the word "spouse" means opposite sex married partners only. Even if a person had a legal marriage to someone of the same-sex in, say, Massachusetts.

Here's how that distinction affects Social Security benefits:

According to the Social Security Administration, some of the Social Security taxes you pay go towards survivors insurance for workers and their families. And, when you die, your spouse, children, and dependent parents may be eligible for these benefits. Your spouse will be able to receive full survivor benefits at age 65, reduced benefits at age 60. However, a spouse taking care of your children may receive benefits at any age. The amount of benefits that you, your spouse, or your children receive depends on how much you put into Social Securtity via payroll taxes during your career.

In addition to survivors insurance, spouses are also eligible for a spousal benefit. Generally, this benefit is based on the other spouse's earnings and is about one-half of what the working spouse receives. For more information about the spousal benefit read this Fox news article discussing the pesky timing problem that those who actually get to receive the spousal benefit have of when to take the spousal benefit (before one spouse retires, or after?) Gosh. If it's so darn complicated, maybe we don't even want the benefit!

Yadda yadda yadda. I bet you can guess what "spouse" does and does not mean with regard to Social Security benefits. That's right. An opposite sex partner only.

If you are gay, this means that while you pay survivors insurance via your payroll taxes, survivors insurance goes towards other peoples' spouses. Not yours. Not the person who you spent your life with. And currently, 12 million of the 45 million people receiving social security benefits are spouses or children of deceased or disabled workers. That's 1 in 4. Same-sex partners and spouses, as well as some children of gay and lesbian couples, are not included in this number. This denial is estimated to cost the LGBT community $124 million per year in unaccessed benefits.

So yes, we have benefit #2 (survivors insurance) and #3 (spousal benefit) that same-sex couples are denied because they happen to have the same genitals.

Again, this doesn't matter, right? Because all gay people, especially old gay people, are rich, right?

Okay, I admit. I'm kidding. And in all seriousness, like other benefits of marriage, this denial of Social Security benefits will hit poor and working class gay families harder than they will hit more well-off gay families.

Evan Wolfson says it well,

"Compared with the relatively cheap option of marriage, the creation of a legal web meant to simulate some of the protections of marriage is an expensive and time consuming project that simply cannot serve as a viable alternative for people of lesser means.

Working and middle-class same-sex couples who cannot afford legal services are therefore without the ability to properly plan forms."

Same-sex couples are able to simulate some of the benefits and protections of marriage, through crafty estate planning. Crafty estate planning, of course, takes a lawyer, something that working class and poor families cannot always afford. And because free and low-cost legal aid program operate on a triage system- where the most urgent cases like eviction take precedence over less urgent ones like estate planning- the poor do not have many options to receive estate planning services from a professional.

At the same time, the Social Security benefits are an example of a marital benefit that cannot be duplicated. Currently, there is no legal way for a same-sex partner to receive any type of Social Security benefit based on the work of his or her partner.

Here are some legal options that would grant Social Security survivors insurance to surviving same-sex partners:

1) Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), so same-sex spouses legally married at the state level will be eligible for federal benefits.

2) Amend the Social Security Act to grant survivor's benefits to same-sex surviving partners.

3) Grant same-sex couples the right to be legal spouses.