Archive for November 2008

The Danger of Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Isn’t

November 28, 2008

My sister in California and I were talking about the backlash from gay people over Prop. 8. She wondered if the anger from the gay community helped our cause. All I could say was that sitting back and saying nothing certainly hasn’t. Not that I advocate knocking the Styrofoam crosses out of the hands of the opposition, even if they did come to a candlelight vigil looking for a fight.

I do, however, believe in using money as a political weapon. I for one have never faulted the Southern Baptist Convention for boycotting Disney because the company is gay friendly. I thought their reason for boycotting was stupid, but in my opinion withholding your private dollars is a good way to get a message across.

So, I wonder why there is so much public surprise that gay people and their supporters are now throwing their financial weight around over the recent stripping of their marriage rights in California.

If a company, or the leadership of a company, donated to support Prop. 8 via a public political action group, then there is no way John and I are giving that company our hard earned dollars.

But is it fair to criticize individual citizens for donating against us?

Take for example, Bill Raddon who is, or was, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival. He resigned (note that he wasn’t fired) over the backlash he received from donating $1,500.00 to a political group that supported passage of Prop. 8.

Don Cheadle (Hotel Rawanda) and Forest Whitaker (Last King of Scotland) are on the board of the Festival and were among those who supported Raddon (I wonder if they would have if he’d donated to a political action group in support of eliminating interracial marriage rights, another pet project of the Mormon’s back in the ’50s). But gay board member Bill Condon, director of Dreamgirls and Chicago did as well, saying:

“I’m personally saddened by the outcome,” “Someone has lost his job and possibly his livelihood because of privately held religious beliefs.”

Raddon quit, but whatever, Condon, see if I ever pay to see your sparkly Broadway film adaptations again. Anyway, Raddon a “devout Mormon” issued a statement that said:

“I prefer to keep the details around my contribution through my church a private matter.”

There is the key question, hidden in those last two quotes. Did you catch it? The pivotal question is, “Was Raddon’s contribution to Prop. 8 simply an expression of ‘privately held religious beliefs’?”

And the answer is no. Heads up would-be political activists. Donations to political causes are PUBLIC RECORD. There was no witch hunt, no McCarthy-ist tracking down of who donated what. If Raddon had simply donated to a church he thought would support Prop. 8 his name never would have gotten into the media for this. But he didn’t. He donated to a political action group, which means any U.S. citizen has access to the record of the donation.

I’m sure that Raddon and many others probably had no idea that their choice would be brought into the light. Raddon never thought he would have to sit next to a gay co-worker who knows full well that he donated well over a grand just to keep that co-worker from marrying. And I don’t suppose Raddon can sit by the ill-informed Condon all day long.

So do I feel sorry for people like Raddon?

Pardon me if I don’t. I’m too busy feeling sad for the millions of Californians who have had their marriage rights stripped away.

Here’s the civics lesson for Raddon and others like him. Donations to a public political cause are public statements so before you make them, consider how you or the organization you represent is going to have to defend them.

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Mike Huckabee Has Rocks In His Head But Wants Them Upside Yours

November 20, 2008

So, Mike Huckabee was on The View the other day spouting off about how he didn’t think gay people had a civil rights struggle on their hands because black people were victims of violence during their struggle, and gay people aren’t.

Really, Mike? What number of cracked skulls are required to fit your definition? Did the Japanese-Americans in internment camps meet it? How about women getting the right to vote?

Suffering violence should not be a prerequisite for equality, but here’s a list of gay folks who certainly have suffered and/or died because of who they are. Violent enough for you, Mike?

Last week, Tiesh Cannon, Syracuse, NY, was shot and killed with a .22 rifle while sitting in a car for being gay. Her brother, also gay, was shot at the same time.

A Memphis transgendered woman (born a woman with male physiology), named Duanna Johnson was beaten by cops and then murdered weeks later by an unknown assailant.

In August, 18-year old Michael Cause died from wounds incurred by gay-bashing thugs in U.K.

Jane Currie and Anji Dimitriou were beaten while dropping off their children at school. Their children had to watch them be bloodied to the point of needing stitches, and so did the children of the man who attacked them as well as several other parents and their children.

The day of a rally in support of Jane and Anji, two gay teens were beaten for being gay at a party to which they were invited.

Then there’s Todd Metrokin of DC who along with his friends got jumped by a bunch of thugs in Adams-Morgan. (Warning, pictures not for the squeamish).

It’s ironic that Huckabee chose this week to cock off something so insane since it is the national week of remembrance for people murdered for being transgendered.

The above was just the result of a five-minute search. There are scores more. The list of victims is much longer for this year alone. Every week I hear another story, so spare me Huckabee. In your mind there would never be enough violence to make ours a justifiable civil rights struggle, because people with your mindset read the Bible in a way that justifies killing people like us. I won’t look for you to stand up for the safety of gay people anytime soon.

Sadly, Huckabee is only giving voice to a growing reality. The closer we get to winning this battle, the more threatened cavemen like Huckabee feel. And, as a result, the more violent towards us they become. While I would like to imagine it will be otherwise, I expect our world to become more violent for gay people rather than less in the near future. Something for Mike Huckabee to look forward to, I suppose.

What About My Mom? A Response To A Reader’s Comment

November 13, 2008

A friend sent me the following question in my comments section asking how to talk to her Catholic mother about the marriage issue. My reply follows:

So how do I reply to people like my mom, who insist that gay marriage is a moral issue, not a civil rights issue? She claims that her position on gay marriage is not a judgment on the gay community. She thinks that gay marriage affects *every*body, because if gay marriage is normalized (God forbid!), then it will have to be taught in schools as ‘normal, acceptable behavior.’ It feels silly even just typing this out, but she seems to be drinking the Kool-Aid 😦

Don’t feel silly. Your mother’s feelings are understandable given the amount of fear-mongering about gay marriage that has been floated out there. Here are some thoughts. I invite my other commenters to chime in, too.

The truth is that schools do not teach marriage—straight or gay. Schools often teach about family structures, which in your mom’s eyes could be just as frightful if she finds the idea that “families are formed in a lot of different ways” scary. But that is the reality today, and it has been for a while. There are between 8 and 10 million children being raised in gay households in the U.S.

Your mom may believe her position isn’t a judgment on the gay community, but if married gay parents being considered “normal” in school bothers her so much that she would advocate legislating against their being treated equally, it most certainly is a judgment on the children of gay parents. Your mother is right. This is a moral issue, and I can’t imagine that she wishes to make sure our government treats these children’s families differently.

Would your mom prefer that a kid with two dads be taught that his family doesn’t exist or that his family is second best, faulty, dangerous or immoral? That is what legislating a prohibition of his parent’s right to marry says to that child. Even if she believes these couple’s unions to be inferior to ones with differing genitalia, how would she know? She really needs to get to know gay families to make such an important call accurately.

For now, we’re back to school, where, by the way, genitalia only come up in conversations about reproductive sex so you can’t blame gay couples if kids see pictures of parts in a classroom. Since sex discussions happen in older grades anyway, let’s focus on younger kids.

Consider a children’s book called King and King. Some teacher in Massachusetts read it aloud to her elementary students, and a couple of parents decided that their kid hearing it was one of the worst things that could happen to him. Here’s a summary (We own the book, and know it well. Are you ready for it?):

The story is about a prince whose mom is trying to marry him off to one of the many women in nearby kingdoms. He is pretty bored by the whole affair until he meets one of the prospect’s brothers. They enjoy hanging out, decide to be together forever, and the queen throws a wedding and a big party for them. The End. It’s kind of a Cinderella story with two guys.

The moral of the story isn’t that boys should marry boys. It doesn’t teach marriage any more than Cinderella does. The message is that finding whom you really love is something to be celebrated. I don’t know what bothered the parents of the child. I suspect it was the same thing that bothers parents of people who believe creationism is more scientific than evolution. They tell their kids one thing. The school tells them another. The result is home drama the folks don’t enjoy.

But the school still has a responsibility to do the right thing. Even if gay marriage is not yet legal in your state, why should children of gay couples be ignored or taught that their families are inferior simply because of another’s religious beliefs? To them their family is normal. As long as the parents’ relationship is mutual and does not disadvantage one of the parties (polygamy, incest, marriage to minors) what is the problem? I can assure you that most gay families are not teaching their children that straight families are bad.

At the end of the day, religion is often a matter of the heart. I don’t know that your mother would do it, but the best advice I could give her is to become very good friends with families of gay people. Though not all the kids at Broadway Methodist Church are in gay families, many are. I even know some incredible gay-and-at-Mass-every-Sunday-Catholic families I could introduce her to.

But I should warn her; the gay families I know are terribly normal. They stay at home and watch Disney movies on Friday night because the parents are too tired to go out. They struggle to keep on top of laundry and to keep healthy food on the table and to stay away from McDonalds. Their kids read the gospel lessons from the pulpit at church on Sunday. Seriously mundane. Feel free to pass on the information to her anyway.

Finally, here is some encouragement for you. Don’t give up on changing your mother’s mind. I have found that I am most likely to win arguments when I gently (okay, at least I try to be gentle. It’s hard sometimes when the discussion is so personal) keep coming to the table. And you never know who else is listening as you do.

High Profile Straight Guys Against Prop 8

November 12, 2008

First, from Conan the Governor:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday expressed hope that the California Supreme Court would overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage. He also predicted that the 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who have already wed would not see their marriages nullified by the initiative.

On Sunday, he urged backers of gay marriage to follow the lesson he learned as a bodybuilder trying to lift weights that were too heavy for him at first. “I learned that you should never ever give up. . . . They should never give up. They should be on it and on it until they get it done.”

And then from MSNBC’s Kieth Olbermann. It’s kind of long (6:30 minutes), but he covers a LOT of ground. I was actually kind of shocked.

I Want YOU!

November 10, 2008

Okay, I’ve calmed down from my Prop 8 tantrum. I had a great epiphany as a result of going through it and it was that gay people need straight people.

Of course we always have, but what I mean by “gay people need straight people” is that John and I will never have marriage rights without the stand-up support of our straight friends and family members. Here’s why:

Mother Nature only makes between 2% and 10% of the population gay. And despite what the religious right nutjobs will tell you, it is not possible to recruit people to be gay. Unlike ethnic groups who can grow their numbers by going forth and multiplying, gay people will always be a statistical minority.

The only way we will win equality is if more gay people come out and fight AND if our friends and families stand with us. What does that mean?

Be vocal. If you’re at a party and someone starts talking about how “wrong” gay marriage is, remember they are talking about us. You don’t have to knock ‘em out or anything. In fact, being loving is recommended, but you could say something like:

“My (friend, brother, cousin, son) is gay. He and his partner have chosen to commit their lives to each other and as tax paying citizens they have a relationship that deserves the same rights and protections as any other married relationship.”

Or if you don’t want to get into all that, just say, “I disagree with you.” Many otherwise good people simply spout off what they’ve heard all of their lives, UNTIL they hear someone they respect disagree with them. All of a sudden that person has permission or a challenge to think differently.

Be educated. I can help with that. I read a lot of gay political news. A LOT! I post only a fraction of it here. I realize only about half of my readers are gay, so if I bother to post something gay related, it’s because it is a pretty high profile item. Never be afraid to e-mail me with questions. Maybe you aren’t even sure what you think about John and I getting married. If you have specific questions, don’t worry about offending us. I was raised a conservative Southern Baptist boy. There probably aren’t many morality related questions on this topic that I haven’t considered.

Be brave. This goes for my gay friends, too. Don’t be afraid to have the courage of your convictions. Gay people either learn to be brave or to hide. Ethnic minorities are more likely to face prejudice in the midst of families and friends like them who can say, “don’t listen to those racist jackasses, this is who you really are.” Many gay kids, on the other hand, grow up in families who not only don’t understand them but who reject them outright. Family members and friends may see them as other, less than, immoral, dirty, wrong. That’s a hard mountain for a gay kid to get on top of. Don’t be part of the problem. Learning to be brave is a challenge, but hiding is death.

So just so you know, John and I need you. Please help.

Dear Straight Person:

November 5, 2008

Would you please stop referring to me as your friend? I’ve been meaning to ask you not to do it for awhile. I put it off at first because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. I tried to make it clear by ignoring you and avoiding eye contact. Then I heard you tell someone that we’re friends, again, and I’m all, like, “What, your friend? Really?”

So, for the record, I’m not your friend. Don’t make it complicated. It’s very simple: if you don’t believe I should have the right to marry the adult of my choice, we simply don’t have the basis for a friendship. Period.

I’m sure you understand.

Oh, wait. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to interrupt. It’s just that I don’t need to hear all of the reasons your religion gives you or your non-peer reviewed research or the research you take out of context or the lies people made up that you bought into without bothering to think about whether or not they were true. I don’t need your sorry ass excuse for love either. Thanks, though.

It’s fine if it makes you feel better. I’m just not gonna listen to it. Why? Well, the main reason is because it’s horse shit.

No, I do listen to reason, like it quite a bit really, but it has to actually be reasonable for me to enjoy it.

Things probably won’t change that much between us. I’ll smile to be polite as I offer you a ride to the polls. I’ll help you out with neighborhood clean up days. I’ll work alongside you at church. I’ll register you to vote and convince others to help you if your rights are being violated. I mean, I have to work for the common good. Not doing that just because I don’t like you is stupid.

We’re clear then? We’re not friends? Great.

So before you open your mouth again for that conversation; you know, the one that starts, “I love my gay friends, but…,” and then you go on to talk about how we shouldn’t be allowed to marry someone we are attracted to or shouldn’t have access to the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits as every other married couple, or shouldn’t be parents and how our children should remain bastards all of their life– right, that one– before you start that conversation, remember our little talk, okay?

Just to be on the safe side, why don’t you practice it with me: “I don’t have gay friends. I don’t have gay friends. I don’t have gay friends.” See, that’s not so hard.

Not your friend,

Troy

This letter is in response to this bit of news we got today:

Los Angeles stops issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

The Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office stopped issuing same-sex marriage licenses after a majority of voters approved a ballot measure to eliminate the right of gay couples to marry, the agency said Wednesday.

Voters in California, Arizona and Florida weighed in on constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

As of 11:30 p.m. ET, 52 percent of voters had approved California’s Proposition 8, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

The amendment to the state constitution overrides a state Supreme Court ruling in May that legalized same-sex marriage.

My First Day In A Blue State

November 5, 2008

My brother-in-law, Paul was the first to call me this morning to give me the news that Indiana had gone for Obama. We went to bed after O’s bomb acceptance speech (cried like a baby) not knowing for sure. After I said goodbye to Paul I popped out of bed, put on the same Obama t-shirt I wore yesterday (I know, but I don’t care!) and marched myself right outside.

Now I’m having the most bizarre impulses. In the last hour I’ve had a strong urge to buy a bunch of iTunes, drink a triple Americano, and hug complete strangers. So far I’ve only given into the second one, which, given the randomness of this post, won’t likely come as a surprise to you.

I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about what’s next. Last night after insulting large folks by using that tired “the fat lady sang” line, Tavis Smiley threw out a phrase that struck me as interesting: engagement dividends. He wondered how Obama would spend the surplus of energy an engaged electorate brings to the table.

It’s a really great question, but maybe not one that Obama has to answer by himself. Those engagement dividends belong to the common good. Though I fully expect him to provide some ways for average citizens to take part in his administration, I see no need to limit my involvement that way.

As for me, I’m watching my part of town very closely. Right now, it is still a swirling cloud of friendly energy working to pull itself into ball of successful hotness. There are eleventy million ways for anyone who lives on the East Side of Indianapolis to take part. And if there is one thing working on this campaign taught me, once you are involved at all, you will care in more ways than you ever thought possible. This is doubly true if you are working in the area of your gifts.

So, think about it. Do you get a sense that there are engagement dividends in your neck of the woods? Is there a way to grow them? Because if there was ever a time to turn the common good into uncommon good, it is now.

(Update: I hugged a complete stranger at The Goose Market this afternoon!)