Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Today, I'm going to take a break from the regularly-scheduled political commentary to give thanks.

This year, on a personal level, I have been thankful for my health, my family, my friends, my dogs, my job, having plenty of food to eat, having a warm cozy place to sleep, and that I had the courage to take up a new hobby that I find immensely rewarding. I'm thankful that I finally got to travel to South America this year. And, I'm really thankful for the delicious meal I'm about to share with my friends and family this afternoon.

I'm also thankful for the election of Barack Obama and that I get to watch The Rachel Maddow Show regularly. I'm thankful for being able to blog regularly and for (most of) the comments and emails I receive from readers.

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rightwing Roundup: Oogedy-Boogedy Edition

1. You May Not Be Gay But You May Be Next

Why many of us angry about Proposition 8's passage is because, in our view, a bare majority voted to take away the rights of a minority group and circumvented the judiciary branch of our government. While some "marriage defenders" believe that the majority should always rule at all times, our democracy operates under a different concept- one in which an informed-about-things-like-constitutional-rights judicial branch exists to protect the rights of minorities.

Recognizing this principle, Terrance over at Pam's House Blend has reported that the NAACP has joined 4 other civil rights organizations in petitioning the California Supreme Court to have Proposition 8 overturned.

According to the brief [PDF], Proposition 8 has "set a precedent that could be used to undermine the rights of racial minorities." Specifically, "If a simple majority vote could carve out an exception to heightened scrutiny for one minority group, the rights of any group entitled to strict scrutiny under the California Constitution could be imperiled.....[If the initiative process] were to permit the use of simple majority politics to oppress historically disfavored minorities in such a fashion, then we would all be less safe."

In other words, as Terrance writes, "You may not be gay, but you may be next."

This is an interesting argument. Given our nation's past dealings with minority groups, it is not inconceivable that a small misguided majority would vote to take away the rights of a small group of people.

On that note, simple majority rule with respect to civil rights is problematic on so many levels. How many of those who voted for Prop 8 believed the innuendo and lies put out by the Yes on 8 campaign? How many of the pro-Prop 8 voters really didn't have a strong feeling either way but just marked "yes"? How many were misinformed about what the proposition would do? How many of these folks were just on power trips, basking in their power to take away people's rights behind a private curtain? How many really just don't like gay people?

Perhaps some Christians, whites, and heterosexuals would have a better understanding of what we're talking about it if they'd take a minute to imagine waking up in a nation in which they are in the minority. I would hope that then they would be a little nervous of the precedents they have set.

2. Ooogedy-Boogedy

Conservative Obama-endorser (no it's not an oxymoron anymore) Kathleen Parker caused a small ruckus in the extreme rightwing blogosphere by acknowledging what liberals have known for years. Namely, that extreme fundamentalist Christians are ruining the Republican party. She writes:

"Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D....

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh....

Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle."

Now, I grew up in a very "red" area of the country. To many libertarian-leaning Republicans I know, they are feeling marginalized from the current Bible-beating extremist incarnation of the Republican party that has co-opted what it means to be a "real American. My friends believe in Jesus and all that, but what drew them to the Republican party was military service or their belief in a small government. I think there are many people like this. And, I'd bet that if John McCain would have chosen a Goldwater Republican as his running mate, as opposed to his preaching-to-the-choir appeal to the Christianist base, come January he'd be the lucky inhabitant of 9 houses rather than 8.

But alas. It's their problem. They have 4 years to try to fix it.

On a random note, I love the phrase "oogedy boogedy" in describing some of the Christianist demagogues. Given their tendency to exaggerate virtually any social ill as a harbinger of The Destruction of Society and Total Collapse of Civilization, I think the label is apt.

3. $Our Town$

Speaking of oogedy boogedies, the American Family Association has recently released a new DVD entitled "They're Coming to Your Town." I bet you can guess who the "they're" refers to. Yep, that's right ThE hOmOsExUaLz. Apparently, this family-friendly Christian DVD "presents a look at how a handful of homosexual activists infiltrated the Eureka Springs, Arkansas government and changed the very moral fiber of the city."

Fun times.

Upon seeing this ad, I immediately wondered what offense these "homosexual activists" in Arkansas committed other than, you know, existing. Apparently, the AFA has serious issues with gays and lesbians serving their cities and legally participating in their government. You know, when Christians participate in the democratic process their service is honorable and admirable. When gay people do the same, it's sinister. That's why groups like the AFA have to make videos about how to stop it from happening.

Yet, not only does the AFA take issue with gay and lesbian representation in the political process, they also take issue with homosexualists bringing revenue into "their" "Christian" cities. In their own words, the AFA reports that the homosexualists began to "offer a 'registry' where homosexuals could register their unofficial 'marriage.'" And now, dun dun dun, "City Council member Joyce Zeller said the city will now be promoted, not as a Christian resort, but a city 'selling peace, relaxation, history, and sex.'"

You know, I knew that the American Family Association's version of Christianity was opposed to sex, but I didn't know that it was also opposed to cities promoting peace, relaxation, and history. How bizarre.

$$Purchase your copy now$$ Or, as the AFA recommends:

"Show it at home, in Sunday schools, Bible studies and community groups. Purchase your copy, or a 5 pack to share with others today, and spread the news - They're Coming To Your Town."

Okey-dokey. We'll get right on that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama's Gay Agenda

Obama's civil rights agenda is ambitious.

For the past 8 years, LGBT people have endured a president who, when he bothered to mention us at all, did so mostly when he was seeking to deny us equal rights for his own political gain. Come January, however, we will have an African-American president who includes LGBT rights as part of his administration's civil rights agenda. That's big. And, it could go a long way towards helping the general population recognize LGBT rights as a bona fide civil rights issue.

Obama's agenda specifics include expanding hate crimes legislation, fighting workplace discrimination, supporting civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples, opposing a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT), expanding adoption rights, and promoting AIDS prevention. I emphasized "federal rights for LGBT couples" because even if certain states allow same-sex couples to get married, these couples are not entitled to any of the numerous federal benefits and protections of marriage thanks to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

It should also be noted that while Obama opposes the military's DADT policy, he has recently indicated that he will not sign an executive order to end the discriminatory ban, as Harry Truman did in 1948 to end a racially segregated military. In September, Obama explained:

"The reason is because I want to make sure that when we reverse 'don't ask-don't tell,' it's gone through a process and we've built a consensus or at least a clarity of ... what my expectations are, so that it works.

I believe that the way to do it is make sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be. That's how we were able to integrate the armed services to get women more actively involved in the armed services.

At some point, you've got to make a decision that that's the right thing to do, but you always want to make sure that you are doing it in a way that maintains our core mission in our military."

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Some view DADT as an unfortunate reactionary result of Bill Clinton's zeal to quickly overturn the ban upon his election without working closely enough with the military. That Obama is tip-toeing around this issue is, I suppose, understandable if we look at the history of the ban. At the same time, many of us are impatient for the ban to be lifted and believe that it has remained in place for far too long. In fact, currently the vast majority of Americans (75%) support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. In addition, more than 100 retired military leaders have recently called for an end to the ban.

Sure, some anti-gays are gloating right now at Obama's recent announcement that he will delay ending the military ban, until maybe 2010, while he builds consensus on the issue. Let the anti-gays gloat. That's pretty much what they do best whenever there are setbacks to Teh Gay Agenda. As for me, I remain pretty confident that Obama really is trying to do this right, that he's going to try to get reasonable people to agree, and that he's not going to futilely wait indefinitely for self-embarrassing homophobes like Elaine Donnelly to magically come around and see things our way.

In sum, if you'd like to remind Obama of the promises he made to Americans regarding LGBT rights and ask him to follow through, send him a postcard saying so.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Protect Marriage: Prohibit Divorce

I first saw this on my friend Grace's blog:

In case you can't watch the video right now, the gist of it is to challenge "marriage defenders" to take their efforts to the next step and enact a ban that will affect their own behavior and lives- namely, by prohibiting divorce. The makers of this video used all of the language from the Yes on 8 site and replaced the term "same-sex marriage" with "divorce."

I encourage all "marriage defenders" to put their money where their mouths are and sign the petition. To any "marriage defenders" out there who don't support this petition, why not?

My guess is that many "marriage defenders" would rather pat themselves on the back for pointlessly checking a little box in a private voting booth that takes other people's rights away than they would sign a petition that actually affects their own lives in some way.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rightwing Roundup: Theocrat Edition

1. Suggested T-Shirt For Focus on the Family

I successfully defended marriage from homosexualists and all I got was this lousy layoff.

That's right. After "pumping money" into the Prop 8 battle, James Dobson's Focus on the Family has just announced another round of layofffs.

While I don't wish financial disaster on anyone, it is not surprising that during these economic times, donors might prioritize making contributions to organizations that actually address real, tangible problems that families face as opposed to made-up wars against an already-maligned group of people.

2. Loving Christian Quote of the Week

Earlier this week I wrote about the immature name-calling that some "marriage defenders" have engaged in after winning the Prop 8 battle. Jennifer Roback Morse jumps on this unfortunate bandwagon saying:

"The Leftist gay lobby are [sic] a bunch of sore losers. It is not as if the Religious Right is sweeping the country, imposing itself on everyone....We won. You lost. Get over it."

I suppose if this were all a mere game, this sort of in-yo-face touchdown-dance gloating might be appropriate. However, since we're talking about serious matters of constitutional rights, equality, and oppression, I just really find these sentiments unbecoming and bullying.

And really, that bit about the Religious Right not trying to impose itself on everyone, seriously made me spit up a little. I don't know where Morse has been lately but the "Religious Right" certainly has been trying to impose itself on everyone. I mean, that's pretty much what it does best.

3. A "Heavenly" Amicus Brief

This next piece has been circulating throughout the LGBT blogosphere because it shows just how unhinged some "marriage defenders" are.

Honestly, I think it's refreshing when "marriage defenders" put all their cards on the table and are completely up front about wanting our nation to be an extremist Christian theocracy. The person who wrote this document [PDF], one of the most bizarre Amicus briefs ever in the history of ever, is one such person.

Writing on behalf of the "Almighty Eternal Creator" in the "Kingdom of Heaven," one Mariette Do-Nguyen submitted a brief to the California Supreme Court claiming that she is "fully God and fully human in nature" and therefore has super special insight into how God thinks same-sex marriage is wrong. In true theocrat fashion, she then requests the court to "comply with the laws of the Almighty Eternal Creator." Included are amateurish photo-copied pages of the Bible with underlined passages along with the woman's psychiatric evaluation.

To give her some credit, it was a good call to include the psych evaluation but still...what a bizarre brief.

I mean, I can't help but to feel sorry for this woman. Judges see a lot of incompetent and odd pro se briefs, but I would love to see a judge's reaction to this. I just think that this brief is so completely unhinged that it will do nothing but hurt the "marriage defense" side.

I know this brief is odd, but it is actually pretty similar to the arguments that many "marriage defenders" make: Homosexuality is against God's will. Therefore, same-sex marriage shouldn't be allowed. Kudos to this woman for actually admitting it in court.

p.s.- Remember when Jennifer Roback Morse said "It is not as if the Religious Right is sweeping the country, imposing itself on everyone."

Yuk yuk.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

This day "was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice."

We remember.

"Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred."

Unfortunately, our transgender brothers and sisters often face hatred or, at least, indifference. As one example, whether due to indifference or judgmental hatred, the mainstream media often fails to report hate crimes against transgender men and women in a culturally competent manner. Just yesterday, for instance, a newspaper reported a hate crime against a transgender woman and, throughout the article, described her using male pronouns. In addition, the article made the common mistake of conflating gender identity and sexual orientation, even though it's not clear that the victim identified as gay.

Observe how this newspaper describes the death of Teish Cannon

Cannon's family accepted his sexual orientation. Pictures of Cannon in women's clothing were on display in the family's living room, and the family selected one for The Post-Standard to publish. Often when family members spoke of Cannon, they used 'she' to refer to him.

Even though the family clearly referred to Cannon as "she," this reporter continually refers to Cannon as "he" and "him." Good for this family for being so accepting of Cannon, and good for them for not being ashamed of who this woman was. Perhaps they realize that calling people by their preferred pronouns is a simple concession that we all can make out of respect for another human being at no cost to ourselves. Maybe those who deem themselves competent to write about transgender and "gay" issues should familiarize themselves with respectful protocol when it comes to discussing these issues.

It is my understanding that it can be very hurtful when others mis-use someone's preferred pronoun. In the context of an article describing the transphobic hate-based murder of a transgender woman, I can imagine that it would be even more demeaning and offensive to be described as a man throughout.

"Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence."

Today, I'm standing in vigil.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Criticism Is Not Anti-Religious Bigotry: Mormons, Gays, and Taxes

Yesterday, I wrote about how lawful protesting does not constitute intolerance, bigotry, or censorship. Today, I want to discuss the running theme in some "marriage defense" corners that it now constitutes "anti-religious bigotry" to protest a church's involvement in political and social affairs.

While many LGBT rights advocates have been critiquing anti-gay interpretations of Christianity for years, much ado has been made over the fact that many in the LGBT community are angry over the Mormon Church's involvement in the Yes on 8 movement. This particular Christian denomination was rather instrumental in the passage of Prop 8. Specifically, it coordinated a massive fund-raising effort and allegedly donated non-monetary contributions to the Yes on 8 movement. As Americablog reports:

"The Mormon Church made the Yes on Prop 8 campaign a national priority beginning on June 20, 2008 when Church President David S. Monson sent his now famous letter to be read in every church building, where he said, 'We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment (Prop 8) by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman.'"

Because of this involvement, LGBT rights activists began protesting outside of Mormon temples in several cities almost immediately after Prop 8 passed. Unfortunately, several events are overshadowing the fact that, like the nationwide protests against Prop 8, most of the protests against the Mormon church have been peaceful.

On November 13, 2008, for instance, the anti-gay blogosphere was in an uproar after reports that "letters containing a suspicious [albeit harmless] white powder were sent" to Mormon temples in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Yet, at this time, it's not known who sent these letters. It could be some sort of unacceptable sick prank by an LGBT rights advocate- which would be very unfortunate, because the vast majority of us do not believe in or condone such activities. At the same time, it wouldn't surprise me if the powder was sent by a "marriage defender" pulling an Ashley Todd-esque sympathy-inducing hoax. I don't think anyone should be jumping the gun right now without knowing all of the facts.

While I don't agree with threats, I do agree that protesting the Mormon Church is appropriate and does not constitute intolerance, censorship, or bigotry.

"Marriage defender" Jennifer Roback Morse, however, seems to take a different view. Recently, she has referred to the protests of the Mormon Church as "anti-religious bigotry." I'm sorry but calling critism "bigotry" is just a warped, immature understanding of what bigotry is. See, as a lesbian, I am not opposed to the Church of Latter Day Saints' (LDS) right to exist. Rather, I remain critical of the Mormon Church's position on marriage equality.

Just because an organizations is a church, it is not immune to criticism.
For one, as alleged guardians of our collective morals I believe we have a duty to speak out when we believe these entities foster hatred and intolerance rather than love and compassion. Secondly, individuals and institutions who put themselves out into the public arena, especially to the remarkable degree that the LDS did, make themselves fair game for criticism. Just because the LDS happens to be a church, it cannot now back up with its hands in the air and declare any criticism to be off-limits "religious bigotry." It doesn't work that way. If you're going to put your thoughts out into the public sphere, you better be ready to back them up instead of resorting to knee-jerk labeling any sort of criticism to be "anti-religious bigotry." And if you can't handle criticism, as they say, you should probably stay out of the kitchen.

In this country, many people strongly value religion. And that's fine. But at the same time, religion is a choice. Unfortunately, the rhetoric from the right has been that criticizing religious choice is "intolerance" even though these same folks fail to concede that they promote intolerance of other people's "lifestyle choices." I think these people have reversed the situation a bit. They are acting as their religious choice is an inherent trait that other people absolutely must tolerate. Yet, when it comes to tolerating and respecting sexual orientation, something that actually is inherent, they preach the opposite. They expect us to change something that is inherent to us, even though it would be far easier for them to change their religious choice.

The fact is, people choose to accept and believe in certain religious teachings. Considering the fact that so many people use their religious choices as a sword to cut down my own life, I recognize that I don't have to tip-toe around criticizing the religious beliefs of others. Again, if you're going to use your religion to bludgeon my life, you need to seriously reconsider whether your religion is a delicate little flower that must be safeguarded from criticism no matter what.

On a related note, some advocates are pushing for a revocation of the LDS's tax-exempt status. From a legal standpoint, I don't think it's a very good case. It's actually not all that interesting. Under the Internal Revenue Code, tax-exempt organizations may not endorse political candidates, but they may engage in a degree of political advocacy. Considering the fact that it was individual members of the LDS who contributed to Yes on 8, as opposed to the church itself, I just don't think there's a strong case here. Again, I don't think we know all of the facts, and there is evidence that the LDS church itself allegedly contributed some non-monetary donations to Yes on 8. But it's hard to say, as an outsider, whether these contributions were "substantial" or not. Besides, churches in particular are given very special treatment by the IRS when it comes to tax-exemption.

Unfortunately, what is for the most part nothing more than a misunderstanding of tax-exempt organization law and frustration over the fact that the LDS played such a prominent role in the passage of Prop 8, is being framed as yet another example of anti-religious "homo-fascism" and "religious bigotry." What is frustrating to our community is that, in many of our minds, we simply cannot compete with evangelical, Mormon, and other Rick Warren-esque religious million-dollar morality monopolies. In our eyes, what should be loving, compassionate, and kind Christian organizations are nothing more than large bullies using a maligned minority group as a punching bag.

While I don't think think there is much of a case for stripping the LDS of its tax-exempt status as the law stand now, as a society we should be asking serious questions about the degree we want religion to influence public policy. Should we automatically subsidize organizations that tell their congregants that if they don't vote a certain way on an issue they will go to "hell"? Is it really for the common good for pastors to use public resources to influence policy by striking fear into the hearts of basically good, God-fearing men and women?

These organizations hold great influence over the minds of their congregations, and are capable of spiritual blackmail. Fear of going to "hell" is perhaps one of the greatest fears that Christians have. It makes me extremely nervous to know that certain pastors can and do use their bully-pulpits for political gain rather than to help their congregations achieve spiritual transcendence.

Tax-exemption is a privilege, not a right. It is granted by legislators via we, the taxpayers. The denial of tax-exemption for a church does not infringe on anyone's right to practice a certain religion. As the US Supreme Court articulated in Regan v. Taxation With Representation "a legislature's decision not to subsidize the exercise of a fundamental right does not infringe that right."

In other words, churches can believe whatever they want- and as a proponent of free speech I would fight for their right to do so- but they have to realize that it doesn't infringe their rights when we stop subsidizing their beliefs, statements, and religion.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gay Male as "Gay and Lesbian"

Dorothy Snarker recently posted an open letter to Out magazine regarding its male-heavy "People of the Year" cover (which, let's face it, is also very white). On a cover with 3 white gay guys, the sole woman included was Katy Perry- a straight woman who is popular because she sings a song about lesbian experimentation.

Like, was this woman really the most prominent or noteworthy "lesbian" this past year?

Frankly, and I say this as a former Out reader, it's insulting that this so-called "gay and lesbian perspective on style, entertainment, fashion, the arts, politics, culture, and the world at large" deigns to give anything remotely close to the lesbian perspective on life.

It's exactly this false sense of inclusiveness that angers non-white and non-male queers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

On a Non-Political Note.... Survey Says: Alice

What's up with everyone liking Alice from The Brady Bunch?

You may have noticed my little poll on the left side of the blog. Even though I'm sure it violates some sort of human subject research ethics to conduct research on people without their knowledge, I was basically conducting a super-scientific experiment to test my theory regarding the lesbian propensity to identify with Alice. Even though only a few of you participated and non-lesbians also participated in the poll, I think it can be stated as an absolute fact that lesbians like Alice:


Seriously, my research paper can be found at Grace the Spot's Stuff Lesbians Like:

"While some lesbians of a certain age undoubtedly thought Marsha Brady was neat-o, lesbians definitely like the Brady clan's uniformed maid Alice.

This isn't surprising. I mean, let's face it, it's apparent that the sturdy, wise-cracking Alice was the real man of the Brady house.

While many a lesbian have suspected that Sam the Butcher was really Sam the Beard, we lack solid evidence. Yet, Wikipedia has revealed that Alice's "relationship" and perpetual engagement to Sam was a non-sexual arrangement of sorts, calling Alice the show's oldest "virgin."

Assuming that an old maid is a virgin is a mistake that is all too common in a heteronormative society such as our own. As a lesbian, I have my own theories. Without going into too much naughty detail, let's just say that if I were in charge of writing the Brady Bunch Movie, my version would have looked quite different. Specifically, I'd delve a little deeper into explaining the real reason the Bradys needed a maid despite the facts that Mrs. Brady didn't work and the Brady kids were old enough to help out around the house."


By the way, who's the person who voted for whiny Jan?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Book Review: The Frailty Myth

I have been athletic for the great majority of my life. In high school, I participated in multiple sports and it was then that I first started strength training. After training diligently for a year or so, I was finally able to proudly place 25-pound weights on each side of the bench press. When I had successfully completed a few reps at this weight, a middle-aged bodybuilder-type man walked up to me and instructed me to lighten the amount of weight I was lifting. The reason being, he informed me, was that the point of lifting weights for girls is to just get toned, not to get big and strong like him.

That's really almost word for word what he said to me.

When he told me this, I remember feeling guilty, like I had done something wrong that day in the gym. By progressing beyond the light "girly" weights that other girls lifted, I had broken some unspoken code in the weight room. If you've ever lifted weights at a public gym, you know what I'm talking about. Weights are divided into "his" and "hers." It's much more likely that a man will lift weights that are too heavy for him than his ego will let him use the "hers" weights. When I venture down to the heavy end of the weight spectrum, meanwhile, I always feel somewhat apologetic.

Looking back I can see that the muscular man was, on some level, threatened by me- a skinny 15-year-old girl. See, there is a myth in our society that has been perpetuated and maintained for many years- the myth that women are weak and men have a monopoly on physical strength and ability. When women expose this myth for what it is, some men become threatened. This myth is what Colette Dowling explores in her book The Frailty Myth. (All quotes in this review are from The Frailty Myth).

1. History of the Frailty Myth

Despite what some overly-defensive MRA-types will tell you, Dowling states outright that there was no concerted conspiracy to make women believe that weakness was "their natural condition." Dowling writes, "There wasn't a plot. No single group could be held accountable. What made the concept so powerful was the influential mix- the various groups whose interests came together into a single compelling philosophy about woman's purpose on the planet" (3). Rather, the frailty myth was maintained and perpetuated by various physicians, educators, psychologists, clergy, and others.

What was the frailty myth?

"The theory behind the frailty myth was this: Women could not be allowed to follow their own pursuits- physical or mental- because every ounce of energy they could generate was needed for maintaining their reproductive processes" (4). If you think about it, what better way to keep women out of the public sphere than to tell them that the future of humanity requires them to forego their every ambition? You know, I've written about how anti-feminism and anti-gender-equality ideologies are really affirmative action programs for men since their end goal is to keep women at home, where they can't compete with men for jobs. That's why you should be wary of people who still, to this day, insist that women's motherly duties prevent them from following their ambitions or pursuing careers. They're likely just out to maintain special rights for men in the public sphere.

For instance, physicians in the middle of the 19th century had a handy-dandy panacea for virtually any symptom a woman presented with: the "rest cure" (19). First off, the mid-19th century was notable in America because women were beginning to make some inroads into the public sphere. Yet, because of their ovaries, uteruses (uterii?), and vaginas, it was still believed that women weren't up to the task of living full lives. This myth became a self-fulfilling prophecy for physicians during this time. You see, what the rest cure "treatment" entailed was that a woman "was sent to bed and not allowed to sit up, use her hands, or read. The 'treatment' lasted up to eight weeks" (Ibid. emphasis added). How was this treatment considered in any way logical? Well, the theory at the time was that virtually every problem a woman faced was attributed to "the greater freedom they were beginning to gain." Therefore, the reasoning went, they should concentrate solely on domestic life (20). As an aside, this myth played an important role in the life of Jane Addams. Despite being placed on the "rest cure" for part of her life she endured these stereotypes and had a quite successful public life.

In the late 19th century, physicians re-framed this argument into a new scare-tactic. This threat, perhaps since it is the one thing that separates men from women, involved telling women that if they exercised too much, they would lose or harm their reproductive capabilities. (Oh, and as a note to self, doctors also advised against female cycling as "friction from the saddle would cause ladies to masturbate") (27).

Basically, as Dowling recounts in pretty good detail, "anything and everything was used to 'prove' that women couldn't cut it physically" (29). The running theme for much of our nation's history was that, unlike men, women were too weak and fragile to fully participate in physical activity. Even today, we have remnants of this type of thinking, as my bodybuilder friend reminded me when I was a mere 16-years-old. More broadly, men have excluded women for much of the modern Olympics. What I didn't know before reading The Frailty Myth was that women were allowed to the participate in the Olympics only in small, sport-by-sport increments during the 20th century. It wasn't until 1964 that the first team sport for women (volleyball) made its debut in the Olympics (169).

Today, despite remnants of the frailty myth, the top female athletes in some sports compete at levels comparable to that of men. The stronger, better, and faster that women get, the more this threatens men (192). To slow the advance of women, men have taken steps to deflect attention away from the fact that males and females actually are very similar (Ibid.). For one, even though there are no good reasons for having men and women compete separately in sports like fishing, bowling, shooting, and darts, some have insisted on keeping men and women separate in these sports.

"Another tactic has been the creation of minor differences in the rules, which makes it harder to compare men's and women's increasingly similar abilities" (193). Dowling, for instance, gives the example of archery, in which men shoot at 30, 50, 70, and 90 meters and women shoot at 30, 50, 60, and 70 meters. Personally, I've always wondered why girls have grown up playing softball and boys have grown up playing baseball. It just seems so arbitrary to change the rules of what is essentially the same game and then have boys play one and girls the other. In some sports that rely on strength and endurance, such as ultra-long distance running and long-distance swimming, women actually outperform men (219).

2. Becoming "Feminine" and "Masculine"

Dowling also treads into gender theory territory. She first notes that "so much gets determined by a concept [gender] that is basically 'socially constructed' or made up" (44). Basically, we don't know "what differences, if any, there are between the essence of what it is to be female and the essence of what it is to be male" (45). You know, I've asked anti-feminists and anti-gays what these essential biologically-based differences between the sexes are and no one's been able to hand me a list of man-traits and woman-traits. When I ask, for instance, what specific characteristics a man brings to parenthood that a woman just isn't capable of, the best I've gotten is "a man brings his fatherhood." Okay, but what specifically does this "fatherhood" entail and why couldn't a woman bring it just as well? It's just all very circular and, even though it's just "common sense" to some people that man = father, the rest of us are just left scratching our heads like "how is that a logical argument?"

Anyway, what we do know is that these gender "differences" are often used to deny rights and opportunities to certain groups- usually women and LGBT folk. For,

"Without difference you cannot have heirarchy, or one up, one down. You cannot have better and worse, strong and weak, superior and inferior. Heirarchy is how social inequality is maintained, and 'masculinity' and 'femininity' are about heirarchy. Supposedly 'natural' differences between men and women are used to validate the differences in the amount of social power they hold" (48).

For as much as some like to insist that masculinity and femininity are "complementary" and, thus, equal, we all know that isn't really how the world works. Stronger is better than, more than, weaker. And unfortunately, women are taught to be weak, rather than strong. "'Emphasized femininity' begins in the cradle, and it is something girls are taught (51). Studies show that parents raise boys and girls very differently. While boys are encouraged to be active, explore, and are left alone to play, girls receive negative reactions for running, jumping, and climbing (Ibid.). To summarize, these parenting trends continue through childhood and adolescence significantly affecting the physical competence and athleticism of girls. So, what often appears as boys' "natural aptitude" for athleticism and sports, is often really nothing more than the fact that they, when compared to girls, have been much more encouraged and taught to be athletic, coordinated, and good at sports.

Thanks to Title IX, athleticism is becoming an expectation for girls. Dowling writes "The mystique of innate ability has been penetrated and the truth revealed: high performance for women is eminently achievable" (76). Yep. One of the last bastions of hyper-masculinity- is being integrated. That's probably very threatening to some men and I have no doubt that's why they mock us. If you're a female athlete, I have no doubt that your "femininity" has been attacked at some point in your life. Such ridicule is meant to humiliate us so we'll crawl back with our tails between our legs back to our proper place in life.

3. Integration of Sports

Many men have fought desperately, almost to ridiculous levels, to keep women and girls out of sports. Dowling reminds us of the Little League Baseball "controversey" in which "Little League officials spent almost $2 million fighting to keep the girls out.... and where teams eventually voted to suspend activities rather than allow girl players. Whole families marched on the state capital in protest against the hideous possibility" (96). The fear here, of course, is the prospect of little girls being better at a "boy's game" than a little boy. That would shatter some very important myths in our society- namely that (1) there are Big Differences Between Boys and Girls and (2) that masculinity = stronger = better than femininity.

What has been key to the integration of women into sports, and what will remain key, are parents who encourage and support their daughters in physical activity.

Boys, you see, have already learned that they are entitled to sports and to the power that sports and physicality bring them. In fact, "in boys (and in boys only), athletic team participation has been linked with 'identity foreclosure,' or stunted identity- that is, psychological development that comes to a premature halt" (137). As I think back on the hyena-pack-like abusive natures of some of the male athletes I went to high school with, I can agree with that conclusion. Frankly, it sickened me to see these homophobic, entitled, and malicious boys glorified by the school, the town, and the local newspapers.

In conclusion, I greatly enjoyed reading this book. I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s and even then I felt, in the words of Doris Murphy, like a "weird girl, or a strange girl because I could play" sports. I grew up during a time before women had professional sports and before female athletes were shown on TV all that much. Yet, even then, I was cognizant of the unfairness of it all. I see now that I'm not weird, strange, or unnatural for being a good athlete and for wanting more than society was ready to offer me. Rather, it is those who have tried to hinder me along the way who were stunted and scared.

As I get older, I continue to play organized sports with other women and men and I enjoy being able to use my body in this way. I can't imagine a time in life in which I won't be active. Even when I really do become frail and of hip-breaky age, I'm sure I'll be in a pool somewhere with my Cocoon buddies. I have no doubt that being physically strong and interacting with other people on the field has contributed to success in my academic and professional life. That women have endured and thrived, in spite of myths that still often tell us it is our "feminine" destiny to remain weak and frail, shows just how not frail we are.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Arkansas' Adoption Ban

One ballot proposal that's received relatively little attention post-election, has been Arkansas' initiative to banning children from being adopted or placed in foster care to unmarried "co-habitating" couples. Although this ban targets unmarried "cohabitating" heterosexuals as well as gay and lesbian couples, the organization responsible for placing the initiative on the ballot- the Family Council Action Committee (FCAC)- has said that the goal of the law was to ban gay and lesbians from adopting. Specifically,

"The Arkansas Adoption Act makes it illegal for adoptive and foster care children to be placed in homes with individuals who cohabit with a sexual partner. Single people, living alone, would be free from the restrictions.

The FCAC lists three primary reasons for the law: For the safety of children, to increase the number of prospective homes, and to 'blunt a homosexual agenda.'"

Despite the fact that the FCAC obviously opposes the "homosexual agenda," whatever that is, it also claims:

"We’re not here to judge single parents, unwed couples with children, or anyone’s sexual orientation."

What is notable about this statement is that it is demonstrative of the new strategy that anti-equality advocates have been successfully using in recent years. In a nutshell, the messaging strategy is this: We're not bigots or anything, we just don't want gay people to have equal rights.

This message lets ordinary people who are basically not all that interested in or concerned about "the homosexual agenda" know that they can in good conscience vote against equal rights and rest assured that they are not bigots or haters.

But take note. Delving a little deeper into the "About the Act" and "FAQ" sections of the site, we see the same old mis-use and misrepresentation of studies to justify inequality. All the FCAC gives us, in fact, are grand, sweeping statements of "fact" with absolutely no citations or analysis:

"Thousands of studies prove that children fare best in stable homes with a married mother and father. There are no studies indicating that children fare best in cohabiting homes.....In contrast to married households, many cohabiting homes suffer from critical deficiencies. They are more likely to break up. Child abuse is more prevalent. Alcohol and drug abuses are more likely. Children are more likely to suffer from behavior problems, and do poorly in school. They are more likely to live in poverty, and they may lack male and female role models that children need."

Okay, well if there are "thousands of studies" proving something, one wonders why the FCAC doesn't actually cite a single one of these studies. This failure to provide actual citations to these claims is extremely problematic because, for one, it doesn't allow us to ascertain whether the "referenced" studies are comparing married heterosexual families to cohabitating heterosexual families or whether they are comparing married heterosexual families to cohabitating gay-headed families.

Most studies cited (when they're actually cited) by "family values" folk usually compare married heterosexual families to unmarried "co-habitating" heterosexual families. That doesn't tell us much about how these families compare to gay-headed families especially considering the fact that many same-sex couples would marry if they were legally capable of marrying. Simply put, a strong argument could be made that heterosexual couples who choose not to marry are qualitatively different than gay and lesbian couples who want to marry and have that firm legal commitment in place but who are unable to do so.

When it comes to parenting by same-sex couples, as Dr. Greg Herek, who has published extensively in this area, writes:

"On the specific questions of (a) whether the children of gay parents are less well adjusted than the children of heterosexuals, and (b) whether their parents are less fit, we actually know quite a lot, especially about families headed by lesbians. The research to date has consistently found no inherent deficits among gay parents, and their kids have proved to be as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents."

In fact, even though most "family" groups state over and over again that children generally have better outcomes when raised in two-parent homes compared to single-parent homes, this Arkansas' gay adoption ban allows for children to be adopted by single parents. So, in theory, a gay person could adopt a child, as long as that person did not have a partner that she or he lived with. Gays and lesbians in Arkansas who want to adopt children must now make a choice- remain single or adopt a child. How ironic. In order to roll back the "homosexual agenda," an Arkansas "family values" group is, in essence, promoting single parenthood. This law just makes no sense. Being raised by a gay couple is bad, but being raised by a gay individual is just fine?

I wonder if the FCAC is concerned with these important details, specifically with respect to what studies actually show when it comes to parenting by same-sex couples. I'd venture a guess and say that if the FCAC were to become more familiar with the "thousands of studies" that it cites, as well as the thousands of studies it ignores, some major cognitive dissonance would occur. While "family values" groups accuse others of promoting social policy according to ideology rather than fact, it certainly looks like these same groups are pretty into perpetuating patriarchal ideologies based on nothing more than false gender-role stereotypes.

In which case, I'll end by quoting the FCAC:

"The children of Arkansas should never be used to promote the social or political agenda of any special interest group."

Indeed. The FCAC's website cites the number of children in Arkansas' foster care system at about 3,600. Other sources put that number at around 9,000. As of 2005, "There are 7.2 children in foster care for every foster care home statewide." This law, based in misinformation rather than fact, just decreased the chance that some of these children had towards living in a stable home.

The FCAC, not surprisingly, disagrees:

"Any decrease in the number of adoptive homes will be more than offset by new adoptive parents who become aware of the need through awareness generated by the passage of this new law."

Ah. Because of all this super-duper "awareness" brought about by this discriminatory law, hoards and hoards of loving married(!) heterosexual families will magically come out of the woodwork and begin adopting children. I'll check back in a year or so and see how that all worked out. I hope I'm wrong about this, but I just doubt that this law is the cure-all for getting kids out of the foster care system and into married heterosexual homes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Race, Sexual Orientation, and Honesty

In light of our nation's history of racial injustice, seeing Obama take the podium November 4, 2008 brought tears to my eyes. But seeing that an estimated 70% of black voters voted against marriage equality in California, my initial disappointment over Prop 8's passage turned into anger.

Now, I'm not blaming this loss on black voters in California, who comprised something like a mere 6% of the state's voting population. The organizing and resources of the mostly-white professional "marriage defense" set and the millions of white voters who formed the core of the Yes on 8 base had far more of an impact than black voters did. What disappoints me is that clearly there's some sort of disconnect going on that prevents many black heterosexuals from seeing LGBT rights as the crystal clear issue of basic equality and fairness that many gay men and lesbians see it as.

From what I've read and talked about with people, I believe that this disconnect has several related causes. It is a failing of predominately white LGBT organizations to reach out, and speak to, to the black community. It is attributable to sexual prejudice in black communities that are centered around churches that preach intolerance of gay men and lesbians. I also think part of the disconnect comes from the black/gay civil rights analogy that some gay people too readily use. Personally, I once heard a rich white gay guy compare himself to Rosa Parks and I cringed a little. I listen to black people opposed to gay rights, for instance, and hear them express contempt for a "false" civil-rights movement that has co-opted the "real" (ie- black) civil rights movement. The analogy insults and outrages some blacks, such as virulent anti-gay Ken Hutcherson. I've written about this before. The gay/black civil rights analogy is imperfect, any analogy is, but the similarities are there. Just because we point out the similarities, it doesn't mean we're trying to denigrate what African-Americans went through.

Speaking of Mr. Hutcherson, there is another factor in all this that bears mentioning. Specifically, no single oppressed group holds a monopoly on "real" oppression. To put it bluntly, some minorities (whether gay or black or whatever) mistakenly believe that their minority status excuses or immunizes them from being prejudiced themselves. White gay people are just as capable of being racist as black heterosexuals are of being homophobic. Yet, sometimes these very people are often so focused on their own sense of oppression, that they fail to see their own racist, sexist, or homophobic thoughts for what they are- bigotry and/or ignorance.

So, I don't find it at all surprising that some white gays are saying really despicable, really racist things in the wake of all this Prop 8 hoopla. To these people I can only implore them to stop. Something that all minorities know is that the actions of a few are oftentimes attributed to all. And now, thanks to the words of some angry white gays, the All Gay People Are Rich White Racists stereotype is starting to solidify and further divide the black and gay communities.

Less benignly, when outright racism and homophobia aren't an issue, many people are unaware of the fact that even if they are oppressed in some ways, they can be privileged in others. As a lesbian, for instance, I see that many gay men are clumsily unaware of their own male privilege- believing that they are the default gay human being around which all "LGBT life" revolves. As a white person, I have no doubt that I have my own blind spots. These need to be pointed out without angry accusations and the then knee-jerk defensive-ness that is pretty common in these discussions.

You see, what really gets me is that white "marriage defenders" play on and perpetuate these divisions to further their own goals. And you better believe they are laughing at us now as they gloat in the glow of their post-coital "marriage defense" victories. I have written about this before too. (Mostly white) "marriage defenders" use sexual prejudice to their advantage by expressing concern for the black community when it furthers their own interests and, often, then abandoning this community when it does not further white self interest (see affirmative action and hate crimes legislation). They feed into this idea that homosexuality is somehow responsible for the "plight" of the black family or that same-sex marriage will worsen black fatherlessness.

These theories have no basis in reality, of course. Yet that doesn't stop "marriage defenders" from lapping this division up, egging it on, and opportunistically pitting the black community against the LGBT community as though this is all a zero-sum game where if gay people win then black people lose. Our friend the Playful Walrus, for instance, suggested that so many blacks voted against Prop 8 because "racial minorities don't like it when their voting rights are taken away by a court." He's referring, of course, to the fact that the California Supreme Court invalidated a voter-approved ban on gay marriage. Ah. Note how this argument equates the disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the Jim Crow era with our basic democratic process of judicial review. Yet, if I remember correctly, racial minorities actually sort of did like it when the court "took away" the voting rights of majorities that had oppressed them for decades.

Looking on the bright side of all this, Prop 8's defeat in California is teaching us something about the complexities and nuances of race, sexual orientation, and identity in America. The white LGBT community is not reaching the black heterosexual community, and LGBT people of color still remain largely invisible in all this. The day after the election Pam Spaulding wrote an excellent article about race, homophobia, and sexual orientation. Coming from someone who is a part of the African-American and the LGBT community, she acknowledges that sexual prejudice in the black community and racial prejudice and privilege in white LGBT communities is something that needs to be addressed honestly and openly.

In order to address homophobia in the black community, we have to be able to acknowledge that it exists without people of color and "allied" white liberals knee-jerk calling anyone who does so a "racist." Calling each other names and then angrily retreating back to our own segregated little corners of the world because some things are too "taboo" to acknowledge won't get us anywhere near addressing this. White LGBT people need to acknowledge white privilege and call people out for making asinine, racist comments on the internet and in the public sphere. Just because you are gay it doesn't give you a free pass to be racist or sexist.

These discussions are too important for that kind of stunted knee-jerk type of thinking.

Not only does homophobia contribute to the escalating rates of HIV/AIDS in the black community, but the denial of marriage rights for gay men and lesbians is unfair discrimination, inequality, and intolerance that stamps gay people with a badge of inferiority.

I anticipate realizing Obama's promise of hope and change for all Americans. I celebrate what his victory means for our nation and to African-Americans. As one commenter here said a few days ago, it's a great time to have a black Democrat in the White House. Now, we have work to do. We are all harmed when the rights of some of us are taken away or denied. Even though the injustices we face are different, I remain in solidarity with all people who face true injustice.

Friday, November 7, 2008

When Discrimination Harms Your Economy

The New York Times is reporting that the supporters of Proposition 8 dealt a blow not only to same-sex couples, but to California's economy and small businesses.

Specifically, floral shops, gift shops, bakeries, and others in the marriage business have had a spate of cancellations since Prop 8 passed. The mayor of Palm Springs reports 8 cancelled ceremonies in that city alone in the past few days. Of this, he says, "That’s a huge economic impact, which is gone in these difficult economic times."

It's no surprise that businesses, in general, are struggling and that financial times are tight. Yesterday, in fact, the Governator proposed higher taxes to address a swelled state budget deficit.

The passage of Prop 8 didn't cause this deficit, but it will play a part in worsening it. Weddings are big business. Gay people are going to be more reluctant to spend their dollars in a state that just took something important away from them.

I certainly hope "family values" organizations obsessed with defending a word had some sort of contingency plan to recover this loss of revenue. Maybe they can pass the hat around to the millions of California voters who caused this loss of revenue.

Friday Fun! Race, Divorce, and Wanda

Until I can think of something halfway coherent to say about the fact that 70% of black voters in California voted for Prop 8, I'm going to link to Pam Spaulding's article about it and keep mulling it over. All I have been able to do thus far is to note the supreme irony of celebrating how "far" we've come as a nation to have elected a black president in light of the fact that we've also just regressively enshrined discrimination into several more state constitutions.

Yippee fucking skippee.

People have also been wondering if the passage of Prop 8 will take away the marital status of the same-sex couples who married pre-Prop 8. At this point, the consensus is that there is no consensus as to what's going to happen. The legal uncertainty created by the state supreme court declaring separate legal schemes for same-sex and opposite couples unconstitutional and a subsequent passage of an anti-equality amendment is unprecedented.

What is clear is that marriage amendments, court rulings that conflict with state laws, and separate legal arrangements for same-sex couples leads to mass legal uncertainty that could easily be resolved by just. allowing. same-sex couples. to marry. Anyway, it would certainly be another great irony if all those neighborly Prop 8 do-gooders claiming to defend marriage and protect families just legally divorced thousands of same-sex couples. How protect-y.

Stick that on your "I'm not a bigot, I just don't believe in equality" pin.

Need a real laugh?

Here's a funny friday video of a chat between the fabulous Wanda Sykes and Ellen (on Halloween, hence the silly costumes).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Letter to Our Internet Friends Who Oppose Marriage Equality

Hello readers. Today I'd like to direct you to this piece by our anti-equality friend "Ken the Playful Walrus." (My friend Jane wrote about this yesterday). Ken has basically written a letter of advice to his "homosexual friends" advising them to pretty much just get over the fact that California voters opposed marriage equality on November 4. He informs his "homosexual friends" that they are feeling "very angry, upset, or depressed" because Prop 8 passed but not to worry because the movement wasn't based in hatred. Ahhh, remember that good old mysterious case of the invisible homo-bigotry? It's amazing to me how those so involved in the "marriage defense" movement, just because they themselves don't hate gay people, so often fail to see evidence of hatred in other people. But I digress, that's not the point of this article.

The point of this article is to ponder Walrus' tidbits of advice. For, he informs us:

1) "If you really want the legal trappings of marriage, then get domestic partnerships."

Okay. Done.

Oops, but Walrus, domestic partnerships don't offer same-sex couples the federal benefits and protections of marriage. What if I want to file jointly with my "domestic partner" on income taxes? What if she were a citizen of another country who wanted to move to the US to live with me? Thanks to DOMA, state domestic partnership and civil union arrangements do not allow for these "legal trappings of marriage." And, it bears mentioning that civil unions and domestic partnerships are only offered by a handful of states, not including the state where I live.


If only it really were so easy for me to get full equality by just getting domestically partnered.

2) "Stop obsessing so much about what other people think of your relationships."

Walrus goes on to let us know that we, gay people, can still go on to live full, happy lives with our partners even if we can't marry our partners and that we should just go on and have our own ceremonies anyway. Who cares if lots of people, as Walrus does, think being gay is wrong and that our marriages aren't real. In other words, we're just too sensitive.

Okay then. I think it's safe to say he's missing the point.

Let me be very clear. It doesn't matter much what Walrus or "marriage defenders" think of my relationship, eternal soul, or my sexual orientation. Personally, I'm all set when it comes to spirituality and self-esteem. At the same time, it's clear that my sexual orientation, while not a problem to me, is often only a problem to other people- people who pity me, vilify me, and/or pray for my conversion. My sexual orientation becomes a problem only when other people make it be a problem by enshrining their beliefs into our legal code.

So, while I have learned to tolerate this basic schoolyard intolerance, institutionalized intolerance of the type enshrined in our society's laws and constitutions is different. It's a bit more serious. Ken is certainly right that we should have thick skins when it comes to what other people say about us and our relationships. That's just practical advice. Yet, while we can slough off the judgments that some people make about us, to advise gay people to just brush off what our shared legal system says about us- namely that it places a stigma on us and one of the most important relationships of our lives- is profoundly regressive, invidious, and sort of abusive to be quite honest.

See, in addition to being a lesbian, I'm also a tax-paying, law-abiding, upstanding American who is denied a right that similarly-situated heterosexuals have- the right to marry the person of my choice. When I decide to get married to a woman, I will call it a marriage because that is what it will be. What I want from the system that I pay for and contribute to are the rights that I am entitled to as a full citizen of the United States of America- and that means not having this system brand me with a badge of inferiority. That is exactly what "domestic partnerships" do to same-sex couples. Marriage is the standard by which all relationships in our nation are measured by. So, even though "marriage defenders" are willing to grant us some of the rights of marriage, insisting that we call it something else legitimizes this idea that we are inferior or "less than" heterosexual couples.

But in Walrus's eyes, we're just being overly-sensitive queers. You know, his whole argument reminds me of the schoolyard bully who calls people names and then justifies it by telling his victim to toughen up. In the bully's eyes, the problem is not with himself, the abuser, but in his victims for being so damn weak.

Ah who knows, maybe we could just take some special Playful Walrus self-esteem workshops and get over pervasive societal and legal sexual prejudice.

Now, since Walrus probably doesn't have his finger on the pulse of LGBT life, it bears mentioning that we gays have been having our "own" ceremonies for many, many years despite the fact that these ceremonies are legally meaningless. Why do we have these non-legally-recognized ceremonies in front of our friends, families, and communities even though these ceremonies give us nothing "new from the government? It comes from the basic human desire to demonstrate and receive recognition for our love- a good emotion remember!- in front of other people that we love. Walrus might call this desire for social blessing an "obsession," but heterosexuals take this stamp of approval for granted every time bridezilla forces everyone around her to "obsess" about her relationship for months on end- including her "homosexual friends" who Walrus informs to just stop "obsessing" about what other people think about their own relationships.

And "obsessing"? Pot, meet kettle. The way many of us see it, we don't understand why so many Kens are "obsessed with" denying us the right to marry when it so clearly doesn't affect them at all. That they create anti-equality "home party kits" and write dozens and dozens of letters to newspapers simply amuses, and sometimes sickens, us. I seriously just threw up in my mouth a little imaging "wholesome" family fun for the whole neighborhood that revolves around coming up with reasons to continue branding people as inferior.

3) "Consider that perhaps your activist group leaderships have been misleading you."

The gist of his argument here is that people in charge of LGBT advocacy groups keep the marriage debate alive because if they don't, then they will be out jobs. Nope. Sorry, but that completely un-cited claim just won't convince anyone who doesn't already agree with Walrus. These kind of generalized defamations contribute nothing of value to the discourse.

For, those of us on the side of equality could just as easily say, once again, pot, meet kettle.

The "marriage defense" industry thrives on keeping this controversy alive. Perhaps what Walrus doesn't understand is that he can live a full life with the person he loves even if two women or two men are allowed to marry each other. Activist groups want to perpetuate the idea that Same-Sex Marriage Affects Everybody to further their power over others, not to make his life better. The better he realizes his life is, the more he would understand that he already has his rights and that they aren't in jeopardy of gay people can get married. When he realizes this, the professional "marriage defenders" are out of a job.

Anyway, the Walrus claims that he doesn't hate gay people, and I'll take his word on that. But when he makes statements like the following, I can't help but wonder if he at least thinks there is something very wrong with us:

"...I suspect the anger and the unhappiness will never be removed through court decisions and laws and public affirmation. They are symptoms of something else, and as long as the focus is elsewhere, the real problems will not be addressed."

Walrus is certainly free to elaborate on his statement here, in front of my predominately LGBT audience, what exactly he is diagnosing us with. Tell us, sir, what do you see as the "real problems" affecting gay men and lesbians?

Had he bothered to ask a gay person about her anger, he'd likely get an up-front answer and would not have to rely on his own made-up theories. My anger, for instance, comes from the fact that I know deep down in the core of my soul that I am fine and good the way I am and, in spite of that, people like Ken pity me and insist that I am deficient, sinful, and/or miserable with who I am. The problem, you see, is not that we have to deal with being gay. It's with the fact that so many other people deal with this natural difference in humanity so poorly.

I fully realize that if a dialogue ensues here, it will have the potential to get heated and personal. I urge all commenters to abide by basic rules of civility. No name-calling. Assume good faith. You know the drill. My patience for derailed train-wreck side conversations and character trials has seriously reached its limit.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fannie's Quickie Election Rundown

The Good:


The Bad:




The Ugly:


It is a disappointment that all four state-level anti-gay campaigns, campaigns based on intellectually iffy and oftentimes dishonest messaging, were successful. Considering the magnitude of the deception and propaganda, I think it says something about the shift in public opinion about this issue that the "marriage defense" campaigns actually were not more successful than they were. Considering the fact that "marriage defense" groups routinely cite the gay and lesbian population at something like 1-2%, that almost 50% of California voters opposed Prop 8 means that the vast majority of supporters of same-sex marriage are heterosexuals.

What also gives me a glimmer of hope is that we seem to be losing less badly with these initiatives over time. Let's remember, for instance, back in 2000 and 2004 when marriage amendments passed by much greater margins than they did this year (with a high of Mississippi's whopping 86%!) Yes, the outcomes definitely depends on the state we're in- it's no surprise to anyone when marriage amendments pass in the Confederacy- but public opinion overall is shifting. Virtually every major (and many minor) newspapers in California opposed Prop 8 as did Barack Obama, California's Republican governor, and other Republicans Against 8. That being said, I still believe that the civil rights of minority citizens should not be up for majority vote and that it is profoundly un-American to restrict people's rights in constitutional documents that are usually used to grant people's rights.

In short, I remain hopeful for the future. Our side certainly isn't going to let up anytime soon. And, unlike our current divisive President, we the people have just elected Barack Obama, a leader who opposes DOMA, opposes constitutional marriage amendments, favors gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, and favors protections for same-sex couples.

January 20, 2009 is a new day.

Prop(aganda) 8: Religious Freedom Edition

Happy voting day everyone! Thankfully, after a long and heated campaign, California voters will finally be voting on Proposition 8. I'm hoping that after the election, the anti-equality advocates will tone down the dishonesty a few notches.

One of the less-than-honest scare tactics that the anti-equality Yes on 8 movement in California has used this has been to warn that places of worship might lose their tax-exempt status or be forced to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies if same-sex marriage remains legal in California.

1. The False Innuendo

For instance, a "coalition" of Yes on 8 supporters have put out a list of (mostly false and misleading) "consequences if Propostion 8 fails." One of these alleged "consequences" is that:

"Churches may be sued over their tax exempt status if they refuse to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in their religious buildings open to the public. Ask whether your pastor, priest, minister, bishop, or rabbi is ready to perform such marriages in your chapels and sanctuaries."

This claim just isn't true. It's a scare-tactic and a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the law of tax-exempt organizations. First off, as law professor Morris Thurston has explained, this statement is a misleading allusion to the New Jersey case in which a Methodist organization lost its property tax exemption for a pavilion for refusing to make its public pavilion available to all members of the public. This religious association's tax-exempt status as organization was never at issue, it was a property tax issue.

What these "persecuted" Christians should note is that the IRS wasn't forcing the Church to marry same-sex couples. Nor was it even forcing the Church to allow same-sex marriages on its property. It was just saying that the Church could choose to allow a same-sex marriage ceremony on its property and keep its property tax exemption, or it could choose not to allow a same-sex ceremony and lose its property tax exemption. The Church chose the latter and, as Thurston notes, the amount of property tax levied on this organization was $200. Hardly an amount to put this Church out of business.

2. Tax-Exempt Organizations and Discrimination

Secondly, this predicted "consequence" is an inaccurate representation of the law governing tax-exempt organizations. Law professor Nicolas Mirkay, in a law review article about sexual orientation discrimination by tax-exempt organizations [PDF] recounts the law with respect to this issue. Specifically, federal income tax law does not currently address discrimination by charitable organizations. Quoting Mirkay, as the law stands now:

"The only possible restraint on discrimination exists in the public policy doctrine enunciated by the US Supreme Court in Bob Jones University v. United States which granted the Treasury Department (and the IRS by delegation) the power to revoke the tax-exempt status of an organization whose purpose violates 'established public policy.'"

The IRS, as Mirkay notes, however, has only revoked the tax-exempt status of organizations who have engaged "in racial discrimination, advocated civil disobedience, or have involved themselves in illegal activity." The holding of Bob Jones, in fact, was pretty narrow. The Court explicitly stated that "racial discrimination in education violates a most fundamental national public policy." To suggest that this holding would absolutely require churches to perform same-sex marriages seems tenuous at best. Unlike racial discrimination in education, there is simply no similar "national public policy" that says it's wrong for churches not to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples.

And, when discussing churches, it must always be noted that churches and religious organizations are treated differently, specially that is, by the IRS. I won't go into all of the details but this special treatment includes not having to file an application for tax-exemption and not having to file certain annual returns that other tax-exempt organizations must file. What gives churches and religious organizations special protection- particularly when it comes to discrimination- is that, here in the US, we have that nifty First Amendment and its free exercise (of religion) clause. Requiring churches to perform religious ceremonies at the threat of losing tax-exempt status would, arguably, intrude on freedom of religious belief.

What this all means is that yes, as a society we value non-discrimination. But, we also value religious freedom even when that freedom entails discrimination. To outright state that churches would absolutely be required to perform same-sex marriages or risk losing their tax-exempt statuses is a gross oversimplification of the issue. And, it's just not accurate.

In fact, it's precisely this Loss-of-Religious-Freedom scare tactic that has necessitated special language regarding "religious freedom" in Illinois' pending civil unions bill: The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act. In granting legal recognition to same-sex couples in Illinois, this proposed law states very clearly:

"Nothing in this Act shall be construed to interfere with or regulate religious practice of the many faiths in Illinois that grant the status, sacrament, and blessing of marriage under wholly separate religious rules, practices, or traditions of such faiths."

In light of the fear-mongering, this sort of language is obviously needed to ensure passage and approval of protections for same-sex couples. Personally, I do not believe that religious organizations should be forced to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples if doing so goes against their religion. Frankly, I don't see why any gay person would even want to get married in such a place of worship. If explicitly writing this into laws is what it will take for marriage and civil unions laws to pass, then so be it.

3. On Religious Freedom

In light of all this fear about losing "our" religious freedom, let's stop and actually talk about religious freedom for a moment. See, what I've noticed with respect to the campaign to write discrimination into California's Constitution is the remarkable degree that religious leaders and organizations are involved in this political campaign. Considering the fact that we're debating laws regarding civil marriage (as opposed to religious marriage), we should all be asking why the input of clergy is even relevant to this secular debate.

I find it frightening that the major backers of Proposition 8 are, mostly, religious or religious-based organizations of the fundamentalist Christian (mostly) and Orthodox Jewish sects. Oddly, (and perhaps ironically) members of the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints have contributed staggering amounts of money in favor of Prop 8. These religious folk want to codify their religious view of marriage into our shared, secular civil conception of marriage. They do this in spite of the fact that religious freedom and tolerance of diversity requires that marriage be divided into religious marriage and civil marriage. This division is a compromise. It allows for religious organizations to continue performing religious marriage in accordance with their particular religious beliefs without imposing same-sex marriage on them by forcing them to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

In their quest to completely ban same-sex (civil) marriages, however, these religious groups seek to impose their religious conceptions of what marriage is on all of us, even those of us who do not share their religious views. That certainly doesn't make the rest of us very free now, does it?

As a relevant aside, I'd like to express thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin for compiling the list of newspapers that oppose Prop 8. It is definitely worth noting that most major newspapers (including smaller ones in conservative counties) oppose the discriminatory religiously-motivated Prop 8.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Deep" Thought #23: "Fun" For the Whole (Hetero) Neighborhood

Now this is just plain weird:


It's a "One Man One Woman For Life" home party kit.

You know, at first blush, one would think that a "One Man One Woman" marriage "home party kit" would include tips on how one man and one woman could have a successful marriage for life together. But nope. Rather, it seems that when men and women are married, these couples require special CDs and bumper stickers telling them how the legalization of same-sex marriage affects "everyone" and how society, therefore, should not legalize it. They also require having little parties telling their friends all about this. You know, because that'll save your (heterosexual) marriage.

Right. "Deep" thoughts.

And um, do people actually buy these kits?

Do some marriage defenders who obsess about the legalization of same-sex marriage remind anyone else of Ray Finkle from Ace Ventura? Obsess much?