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.


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

*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.