Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Holiday Message to the LGBT Community

Nathan and I went for a late night walk last night. Goal: to get a coffee from the local coffee shop that is open 24 hours. The walk not only gave us a chance to get out of the house, but it also gave us a chance to look around at the new fallen snow and relish in the beauty of a still winters night. As we walked, we passed by our local shelter for at-risk teens, which was, unsurprisingly, bustling with activity. As we passed by, I felt a twinge of sadness, for as Nathan and I prepare to hit the road tomorrow for a long trip filled with friends and family, these teens, many of whom have been ostracized by the family because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have only the Youth Shelter as a place where they can be themselves.

As people all over the world gather with family and friends over this holiday season, it is important for us to recognize that there are many within our community who are hurting and feel like they have no hope. They are all around us, yet we often do not see them. It could be the young man we see at the bus stop, who is afraid to go home because his father will call him “faggot” and “queer”. It could be the young woman, who hides her true identity from her family, because she does not want to be rejected. It could even been the religious teen, who feels that God will not love him if he embraces his sexual orientation. Many of us know what these individuals are feeling; we too have been ostracized by our family or have felt the bitterness of being surrounded by people who supposedly “care” about us, yet would reject us if they knew the truth.

Our community has come a long way in the past few decades. We are slowly starting to see our work bear fruit, as the votes this past November in Maryland, Washington, and Maine show. Yet to the young gay teen in Memphis, whose parents are active members in the local Southern Baptist Church, the progress that we have made does nothing if his whole world is crashing down around him. He can read in the newspaper that voters in Minnesota have not put an anti-gay amendment in their Constitution,  yet that does nothing for the hell that is his life.

So this holiday season, as we gather with those closest to us, it is important that we think about those who are not as fortunate. Send up a prayer on their behalf, that they would find peace and happiness in who they are, no matter the obstacles that they may face. Yet don’t stop with prayer and supportive thoughts, actually get out in the community and do something for these kids. Volunteer with your local gay and lesbian community center, or be a consistent fixture at your local shelter for at-risk kids. It is up to us, those who have overcome the negative societal and family pressures that these kids are experiencing, to support and guide these kids in their time of need. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Founding Fathers Actually Believed States Could Ban Guns

Since the tragic shooting a little over a week ago at Sandy Hooks Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been a significant amount of discussion on social media about gun control and the reach of the Second Amendment. Though such a discussion is important, it is just a tad bit irritating that many who are on the “pro-gun” side of the argument seem to have a warped view of what the Second Amendment was originally supposed to mean. These “pro-2nders” as I like to call them, assert that the Founding Fathers believed that the Second Amendment denied Government – both State and Federal – the ability to curtail and/or ban guns in their respected jurisdictions. Such an understanding of the “founder’s intent” is widely held, yet is extremely flawed.

Though it may come as a shock to some people, the drafters of the Bill of Rights (which includes the 2nd Amendment) never intended the Amendments to apply to the States. Instead, the Amendments were only meant to apply to the Federal Government. There are certain reasons for this, the main one being that the Federal Constitution was designed to be a limit on the Federal Government, while State Constitutions were designed to limit the reach and power of State Governments.  The fourth Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, in his groundbreaking decision Barron v. Baltimore, echoed this perspective on the relationship of the Bill of Rights to the States, stating,

“The Constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States for themselves, for their own government, and not for the government of the individual States. Each State established a constitution for itself, and in that constitution provided such limitations and restrictions on the powers of its particular government as its judgment dictated. The people of the United States framed such a government for the United States as they supposed best adapted to their situation and best calculated to promote their interests. The powers they conferred on this government were to be exercised by itself, and the limitations on power, if expressed in general terms, are naturally, and we think necessarily, applicable to the government created by the instrument. They are limitations of power granted in the instrument itself, not of distinct governments framed by different persons and for different purposes.

To the Founders (many of whom did not want a Bill of Rights to begin with – see Federalist 84), applying the Bill of Rights to the States eliminated a very important element of Federalism. That is, the value of having different State governments which would embody the beliefs of each particular States population. New York would have different Constitutional protections than Georgia would, because the people of New York would value certain rights differently than Georgians. Instead of respecting these differences between States, applying the Bill of Rights to them would restrict the ability of individual citizens to enact Constitutional change. In a system where the Bill of Rights applied to the States, citizens would have to go through the cumbersome federal amendment process, rather than the relatively simple (in comparison) process of amending their State constitution. Such a restriction was viewed by the Founders as less than desirable, as Government gained its legitimacy through individual citizens having greater access to the channels of political power.

Since the Bill of Rights was attached to the Constitution in 1791, other amendments have been put into the Constitution, including the 14th Amendment. This amendment came into being during the Reconstruction phase of American history after the Civil War. Because the 14th Amendment’s purpose was to enhance national power rather than preserve notions of “state’s rights” (a key reason that the war was fought), the 14th Amendment gave the Supreme Court the ability to “incorporate” the Bill of Rights protections and freedoms to the States. Some rights, such as the 3rd Amendment’s protection against quartering soldiers in one’s home, still only apply to the Federal Government. Yet other rights, the Court has deemed to apply to the States. For example, in the 2010 decision McDonald v. City of Chicago the 2nd Amendment was fully incorporated and applied to the States.

Thus, when a “pro-2nder” attempts to claim that the Founding Fathers believed that every citizen should be able to “keep and bear arms”, kindly remind them that the Founders believed no such thing. Instead, they viewed the 2nd Amendment as limiting the power of the Federal Government, and believed that the States could do with guns as they wished. To assert otherwise completely ignores the intention of the Founders, as well as glosses over two hundred years of Constitutional Law.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What is a Partner??

Yesterday evening I attended a panel discussion at the Ford School of Public Policy here at the University of Michigan regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. The panelists gave an excellent discussion about DOMA, how it impacts people directly (immigration, child custody, financial security), and what might happen either if the Court strikes down the law, or where our movement would go if we lost our DOMA cases. During the discussion, the panelists were asked whether our community should fight for civil unions vs. marriage, and whether the focus on the word “marriage” is hurting same-sex couples who need the legal rights and benefits that civil unions would provide. In answering, the panelists emphasized the social differences between calling someone your “husband” as opposed to calling them your “partner”. For example, one of the panelists is entering into a civil union in Illinois, and when she and her fiancĂ©e were sending out the invitations for the ceremony, they did not know what to call the relationship. Do they say they are entering into a civil union? A marriage? Is she becoming a partner? A wife?

I have also been on the receiving end of this linguistic controversy. As one who has been legally married to my husband Nathan for almost three years come this January, I have come across many individuals, some of them part of the LGBT community, who refer to my husband as my “partner”.  Sometimes it is unintentional and when I correct their usage of the word, they apologize and refer Nathan as my husband for the rest of the conversation. Yet other times, even when I make this correction, they push back and assert that because I am not legally recognized as married where I am, Nathan is my “partner”, not my husband.

Though individuals in any sort of relationship are free to call the relationship that they are in whatever they want (whether that be partner, spouse, husband, boyfriend, etc.), the automatic usage of words like “partner” show a deeper divide within our community. It seems as though we have become so caught up on the legal status of marriage that we forget that marriage is also a social institution, sanctioned by our religion, family, and friends. It seems as though, in our fight for equal marriage rights, we have twisted the meaning of marriage only into a legal issue. Does our community consider a couple “married” only if they have all the legal rights afforded through marriage and are called “married” by the State?

In our legal arguments, we assert that the term “partner” is inferior to the word “husband” or the word “wife”. We claim that civil unions and the like are separate by equal, that it sends a message to society that our relationships are inferior when we have civil unions rather than actual legally recognized marriage. Only through having access to full “marriage” will we be considered as equal to our heterosexual neighbors. This argument underscores the social nature of the institution of marriage. It is not just a legal issue, the Government can give same-sex couples all of the legal rights and responsibilities that heterosexual couples have, but because our society attaches a significant cultural value to the term “marriage” and the words that go along with that term, denying our community access to that term treats our relationships as less than.  

Given the significant meaning that society attaches to words such as marriage, husband, wife, and spouse, have we not ourselves created a social “second class status” by referring to our marriages and relationships as “partnerships”? Though we may like to think that our relationships only affect those who are in them, the outside world looks at how we view our relationships and how we refer to each other.  Given that many within our community use the word “partner”, could society not say that we have accepted that our relationships are “second-class” because we do not use the cultural terminology of marriage when we refer to our spouses?

I recognize that many will take issue with my assertion that by calling our relationships “partnerships” that we are asserting that our relationships are inferior. I realize that many will say that we should be able to call our relationships whatever we want and that by using husband and wife that we are caving to a dominate heterosexual culture. Though I find that argument possible and having legitimacy, I personally do not find it persuasive. Though we may wish that we could call our relationships whatever we want, reality says that we live in a society where words have connotations that are attached to them. Maybe that is not the idea, but that is the cards that we have been dealt.

I would be interested in hearing my readers’ thoughts on this issue. What do you refer to your significant other as and why? 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Banning Reparative Therapy - A Proper Restriction On Parental Rights

A few days ago, the California Assembly passed SB1172, a bill which bans reparative “ex-gay” therapy for minors. It now goes back to the California Senate for a concurrence vote then to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown. The full text of the bill can be found here.

Personally, I am pleased with the decision of the California legislature to prohibit reparative therapy by licensed professionals to minors. As one who went through reparative therapy, both before and after I turned 18, I find that such a law is essential in protecting those children whose parents think they “know” what is best for their child and seek to subject them to this form of abuse.  Yet not all have been pleased with this development – and no, I am not just talking about those on the religious right. A few days ago, I was on twitter, and was having a discussion with a gentleman who was more cautious than overjoyed about the California legislature’s passage of the law. Though he understood the damage that reparative therapy has upon individuals, he was more libertarian in his views and did not believe that it was appropriate for the California legislature to pass a law dictating that parents could not seek such therapy for their children. He also wondered where we draw the line when it comes to what parents can or cannot do to their children.

Though I appreciate that critique, and I am one of the first people to say that adults should be able to undergo such therapy if they choose too, I feel that children should be treated just a bit differently. There are a few reasons why I feel this way.

First, we allow adults to undergo things that may not be “good” for them, because they have the ability to make that personal decision. In the case of minors, it is often not them making the decision to go and see a doctor who practices reparative therapy.  Instead, it is their parents making that decision.  The protection of autonomy that is essential from a libertarian/small government point of view, does not apply to a minor, because the minor is not truly autonomous.

Yet, some would argue that through this law we are restricting a parent’s right to raise their child how they see fit.  That is correct, yet that denial of parental rights sounds worse than it actually is. We have many laws which do not allow a parent full control over their child; they cannot beat them, allow them to drive when they are under 16, or buy them alcohol. We have these laws because we as a society have recognized that parents have to have certain limits upon how they raise their children. Parents do not raise their children in a vacuum, but instead society has to deal with the repercussions of how that child was raised.  Thus, though society cannot, and should not, dictate how a parent raises their child, there are limits – very few limits – to what a parent can do with their child. In my opinion, reparative therapy should fall into this limitation. It should not be the parents right to force their children into a program that demeans and causes psychological damage to their child, especially because that child has done nothing wrong.

Second, this restriction has another affect, yet one that is not readily apparent. Under this law, when a parent seeks out professional help for their child’s “sickness”, they will be informed that licensed professionals do not engage in therapy that seeks to change a minor’s sexuality. This is a good thing because parents often do not realize that reparative therapy is a form of emotional abuse. They often don’t realize the consequences of such therapy and instead think that being LGBT is just a “phase” that can be dealt with through therapy.  Though it may be my optimism, I hope that when that parent seeking to change their child’s sexuality hears that a professional counselor does not practice reparative therapy, it may cause them to second guess their position and maybe even do a little more research into exactly what it is they want to put their child through. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Actually You Didn't Build It

Each evening this week, I have sat and watched the Republican National Convention.  Though such a focus upon the RNC might be construed as a large waste of my time – as I know that I am voting for President Obama – watching the event allows me to focus in upon what drives the Republican Party. Though I could talk all day about my perceptions of the GOP, one aspect of the Convention has really stood out at me, and surprisingly, it is not the party’s stance on LGBT issues. Instead, it is the popular catchphrase that Republicans have been using for the past month that has irked me, the phrase “We Built It”. This phrase which conjures up the rugged individualism of “pulling one up by their bootstraps” to do something great and hearkens us back to an era when the government was little and the world was much, much smaller.  Yet, even though the speeches at the RNC have all echoed this theme, the rugged individualism that is the underlying premise of this theme is actually an extremely arrogant position to take.

All of us depend, in some way, upon other people as well as government. We might not like to admit that, as it may pop the bubble of belief in how we create our own success, but a denial of this reality does not make that reality any less true.

I can use my own story to emphasize this point. By any objective level of analysis, I am doing pretty well for myself. Yes, I am still a student, yet I graduated from undergrad with absolutely no debt and am currently a student at one of the United States’ great law schools.  To achieve this result, I put time, energy, and countless hours into my studies. While other friends were having fun, I realized the future goal of what I wanted to accomplish and I focused upon that instead of the temporary benefits that I would receive from spending time with my peers.  I also, during that period, worked almost full-time hours to support both myself and my husband. By Republican standards, I should be considered a “model”…I worked hard and am being rewarded for that work.


My story is not a complete picture of the successes that have accompanied my pursuits. Each portion of my tale has parts that can be conveniently left out if I chose to do so. But to do so is not only intellectually dishonest, it is unfair to all who have assisted me in being where I am right now.  Two things stand out at me when I look back at my life over the past five years.

First, I would not have been able to succeed academically in University without two things. 1. A mother that taught me how to study, what to focus my energy upon, and how to apply my knowledge and 2. Professors and Administrators at Memphis, Saskatchewan, and Brock (I did a few exchange programs) that had interest in me as a student and dedicated time and energy in ensuring that I was successful in my studies.  But, some might say, that is not what we are talking about, because the RNC position is not that other people cannot help you succeed, but that Government does not help you succeed. This gets to my second point.

After I did my months in “gay camp”, I thought that a college education was a pipe dream. I had no idea how I could afford to go to the University of Memphis, work full time, and still survive; in fact, I was struggling just to make ends meet.  Additionally, I was not able to get student loans to go to school because my parents would not fill out their portion of the FAFSA.  But what happened? I was given a scholarship by the University of Memphis so that I might attend their university – and subsequently, the Universities that I went on exchange too.  Though this scholarship did not cover the entirety of my tuition, it was a substantial amount, and allowed me to go to school debt-free for all four years.  Without this scholarship, which should actually be considered “government money” as the University of Memphis is a public institution, I would not have been able to prove myself academically, and be where I am today. 

What the GOP miss in their claim of “We Built It”, is that Democrats and Liberals do not believe that Government should be able to take the credit for what individuals, small businesses, or corporations achieve. Instead, Democrats and liberals recognize that government investments – whether they are roads, bridges, police, military, research, or yes, even scholarships – allow each of us to achieve our full potential.  Governmental investment is just that, investment. It is our society – through our tax dollars – investing in our nation’s future.  Without investments in things such as higher education, many Americans would not have the ability to achieve their dreams. I know that I wouldn’t have. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Religious Liberty for Me - But not for Thee

Religious Liberty is a buzzword within conservative circles, with organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, and the designated hate groups the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, attempting to assert that granting full equality to LGBT people would infringe upon individual religious freedom. Though there can be a robust debate on this topic, the issues that such organizations bring up are more peripheral to the religious liberty issue (eg. A focus upon public accommodation and public financing of discriminatory organizations). Interestingly, though the Right screams about religious liberty, LBGT people and our allies are the ones, based upon their conservative religious logic, that have a more persuasive argument for religious liberty than those who oppose our full  equality.

I will preface this discussion by saying that this is not a legal argument. In fact, I would assert that the Courts would probably find the following argument of governmental favoritism not especially persuasive. Yet, not all arguments that we have in our arsenal need to be arguments that are “legally powerful”. Instead, we can have arguments that are powerful in the moral force that they bring to the discussion.  For as I like to tell people that I talk with about LGBT rights, our battle is not only for the legal equality of LGBT people, but instead is also for our full moral and social equality.  The former, is important for our participation within the legal sphere and with our governments, yet the latter are important for our participation within our families and religious/ethnic communities.  Only through an intense discussion of the latter, can we show our friends and family the hypocrisy that drives their animosity towards marriage equality.

Currently, in the vast majority of States, the only legally recognized marital relationship is between one man and one woman.  This exclusionary definition of what marriage is has narrowed the definition of marriage to what certain religious sects believe. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints officially believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Episcopal Church, Reformed and Conservative Judaism, and the Unitarian Universalists (just to name a few) perform and bless marriages between same-sex couples.  On the surface, it would seem as though the Government has chosen to abide by the exclusionary SBC and LDS definition of marriage rather than the more inclusive and equal definition of marriage offered by the latter groups. And if you stopped here, that would be correct to an extent, yet not necessarily a powerful moral argument on how that harms religious liberty. Instead, we go must go further, and see what the Governments definition of marriage actually does.

Right now, a Southern Baptist minister will only marry a man and a woman. Thus, in theory, 100% of marriages that this minister performs as an agent of the State will be considered legal (yes, I know there are tiny flaws in this hypothetical, such as if one person is already married, but bear with me).  On the other hand, a Conservative Rabbi will marry both heterosexual couple as well as homosexual couple.  Yet when he marries the heterosexual couple, he is considered an agent of the State, yet when he marries the gay couple,  he is not.  The State is, in essence, telling the Rabbi that some of the marriage ceremonies performed and blessed by him are not “actual marriages”.  The State is not telling this to the Baptist or LDS ministers, for their own religious definition of marriage lines up with what the Governments definition is, but it is telling the Rabbi and the Episcopal Priest what marriages that the State considers “actual marriages”.

You see, a large percentage of conservative opposition to marriage equality is religious in nature, with many believing that marriage is a religious institution established by God. If we accept this perspective of our conservative friends and family, that the underlying essence of marriage is religious, then it seems as though religion should be the main overseer of what is considered marriage – not the State.  If that is the case, then the main thrust of the above argument – that the State is telling religious groups what is considered marriage – should be an anathema to these individuals.  If not, and these religious conservatives stay stuck in their opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples based upon these religious reasons, they are showing that they believe that the State should be an arm of the Church, enforcing their own religious dogma at the expense of others who believe differently.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

TN Rep. Ragan Feels the Heat

Knoxville Tennessee's paper Knoxnews is reporting that LGBT issues are taking a center place in this years race for Tennessee State House District 33. State Representative John Ragan, a notable enemy and antagonist of the LGBT community, is running against Democrat Jim Hackworth, whom he beat by almost 1,300 votes in the  2010 election. 

Democrats and the Tennessee Equality Project have leveled numerous accusations against Ragan, including:
- He worked to give school bullies a "free pass" by exempting politically or religiously motivated actions from classroom behaviors deemed disruptive.
-  He responded to a constituent's letter by calling sexual orientation "a description of feelings," adding that "feelings do not control the behavior of a mentally healthy adult human being."
-  In the same response, Ragan allegedly compared homosexuals to murderers, prostitutes and pedophiles.
The letter that Knoxnews is referring too, can be found here

Though Representative Ragan's comments are offensive, unfounded, and baseless, it is heartening to see that the Democrats in Tennessee feel comfortable enough to voluntarily bring up this issue. It shows that though there is a long road ahead for that states equality movement, extreme rhetoric and blatant hatred towards our community is no longer a politically safe option for Republicans, and instead will be used against them in legislative races - even in the states of the South. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An LGBT Deceleration of Independence

I posted this last year for Independence Day and thought it appropriate to do it again this year. Let us continue to proclaim to the world that we will not take the denial of our rights without a fight.

 A Declaration For Equal Rights

 When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for an oppressed minority to declare for themselves the full rights and responsibilities that the laws of reason, nature, and natures God entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to demand as such.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women of all sexual orientations and gender identities are created equal, and are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the duty of the oppressed to deny any allegiance to it, and to insist upon the establishment of a new government, one which shall be most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, dictates that government should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown that humans of all sexual orientations and gender identities are disposed to suffer, when such evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same end, evinces a design to reduce them to absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such a government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient suffering of LGBT people under this government, and why they now demand their equal place at the American table.

The history of humanity is a history of continued persecution on the part of the heterosexual majority over those with differing sexual orientations or gender identities, having the direct consequences of leading to a complete and utter tyranny over LGBT people. Let the following facts be submitted to a candid world,

They (which from here on refer to the most – but not all – of the heterosexual majority) have required LGBT people to hide their true sexual orientations and gender identities in order to be accepted and validated by society, family, and government.

They have required them to submit to laws, to which they did not have a legitimate and honest voice in making. They have, based upon sexual orientation alone, excluded them from one of the foundational social and religious institutions of all time - marriage. This exclusion imposes not only social and religious stigma upon LGBT relationships, but also imposes legal and financial hurdles not faced by their heterosexual counterparts.

They have forced LGBT people into the closet at their place of employment, for they have allowed employers to discriminate against them, based not upon their actual work, but instead because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

They have required that LGBT people hide their sexual orientations and gender identities in order to serve the United States of America through its armed forces.

They have spread vicious and harmful lies about LGBT people and their relationships; in order to ensure that LGBT people are not accepted by mainstream society.

They have contributed to the psychological abuse of LGBT people by continually informing them of their differences; yet instead of validating these differences, they use them as subjects of derision and ridicule, leading many LGBT people to suicide, depression, and despair.

They have forced LGBT people to undergo psychological treatments like “reparative therapy” in order to change what they believe is a deviant nature, a process which causes irreparable psychological and emotional harm to LGBT people.

They have, using religious texts, validated hatred against LGBT people, and instilled in their children the notion that this hatred is legitimate, as it is the will of God.

They had made being LGBT a criminal offense, which, though the law may be only recently lifted, still informs many citizens thinking regarding LGBT people.

They have allowed landlords to refuse accommodation and services because of the sexual orientation and gender identity of LGBT people, leading many LGBT people to lives of homelessness and economic hardship.

They allow LGBT people to belong to some religious organizations, yet though doing so, restrict their access to the leadership and deem them unworthy to participate in the ministry.

In each of these oppressions, we have appealed to the very humanity of our heterosexual brethren; for we have raised our voices and demanded countless times that we be counted, validated, and allowed to have a seat at the American table. Yet, though there have been some who have listened and responded to our plight, the majority, despite our continued pleas for respect and equality, have turned a deaf ear; instead choosing to validate the above despotism through the force of law.

We, therefore, as equal citizens of the United States of America, demand that LGBT people be afforded the same rights and privileges as their heterosexual counterparts. We will stand no longer for LGBT people to be the subjects of ridicule, religious and sexual conversion, or political inequality. We demand that these walls of hatred and condemnation be torn down and be replaced instead with the bonds of equal rights, respect, and affirmation.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tennessee Legislative Interns Say - IT GETS BETTER

About two months ago, a few of us took it upon ourselves...given everything that had been happening in the United States, to produce an "It Gets Better" video on behalf of the interns in the Tennessee Legislative Internship program. No matter ones political views, individuals should not be bullied based upon their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, race, disability, or anything else. So here is our video, hope you like!!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ex-Gay Group Seeks to Infiltrate Schools During Day of Silence!

The organization Parents and Friends of Ex-Gay’s and Gays (PFOX) has decided that GLSEN’s annual Day of Silence is the perfect opportunity for their supporters to pass around flyers promoting “ex-gay” therapy.

In an interview with the far-right “news” organization World Net Daily, the president of PFOX – Greg Quinlan – said,

Since members of these gay affirming clubs agree to remain silent for the day, April 20 is the time to distribute ex-gay information without interference or harassment from any gay activist faculty or GSA clubs

They are encouraging supporters to distribute flyers that say that “there are no scientific studies to support that a person can be born gay” and that “sexual orientation is based upon feelings and is a matter of self-affirmation and public declaration”. 

Such is the tactic of organizations like PFOX. Instead of providing an environment where LGBT students can feel supported and free to be themselves, they are instead spreading the message that “for many youth, homosexual attraction develops due to traumatic experiences, such as sexual abuse. These students need therapy for the trauma, not affirmation of a gay identity” that “sexual re-orientation therapy has been proven effective for those with unwanted same-sex attractions” and that “it is not the schools role to treat any students medical condition”.

The information in the last paragraph is not in the flyer that PFOX has said that they want to distribute on school grounds, the latter quotes are in this flyer, yet the usage of the first flyer is purposeful. Instead of focusing upon the idea that LGBT students have a “medical condition” or that “sexual reorientation therapy has been proven effective”  PFOX is purposefully attempting to lure those children who are struggling with societal and religious pressures about their sexuality, into participating in a psychologically harmful activity (reorientation therapy).

Organizations like PFOX do not care that their words and actions have consequences. Instead, they care only about ensuring their own validity within their religious community, to hell with the well-being of LGBT children. And the fact that they are attempting to sneak in their harmful message on the Day of Silence, a day which is supposed to show support for those who are forced into silence by outside pressures, shows just how deceptive their message truly is.  

You can read my own experiences with "Ex-Gay" therapy here

Monday, March 19, 2012

Abstinence-Only Education Marginalizes LGBT Students

A few days ago the Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, vetoed the abstinence-only education bill that was passed in both the state Senate and House. If signed, the bill would have restricted any public education on sex to teachings about abstinence as well as eliminate any teachings of any other sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.

The bill was widely criticized by Democrats in Utah as well as individuals and organizations from across the United States. Even the normally conservative populous of Utah was not impressed with the bill, polls showing that the majority of the states’ population wanted the governor to veto the legislation.  

But, as more and more states start to jump on the bandwagon of “abstinence-only” education, the impact upon LGBT students’ needs to be addressed. Even if the Utah bill had not specified that homosexuality and gender identity should not be discussed in the classroom, there would have still been dire consequences for LGBT youth.

In the election of 2004 – an election known for its anti-gay rhetoric – the people of Utah passed their own anti-equality marriage amendment, effectively eliminating any chance for same-sex couples to enjoy any of the rights of marriage in that state. Because of this amendment, the status of marriage within society is obviously unavailable to same-sex couples. This is where the problem lies.

Abstinence-only education teaches children that one should wait until they are married in order to have sex. Proponents claim that abstinence before marriage is the best and only way to ensure that one does not get pregnant or contract STD’s. This poses a problem for LGBT youth in states – such as Utah – which have marriage amendments, because the reality of their sexual experience is left unaddressed. According to the proposed sexual education guidelines promoted by Utah legislators (and other states), because marriage is only between a man and a woman, and because LGBT people cannot get married, it stands to reason that these lawmakers believe that LGBT children should be celibate.  

Such a manifestation of underhanded homophobia prevalent within abstinence legislation is not something that surprises me. Even in the transcripts of the Utah discussion over their bill, lawmakers like John Valentine expressed a deep desire that discussions on sexual orientation should not be encouraged in the classroom.  But the fact that lawmakers are willing to marginalize LGBT students for political gain is what sickens me.  Instead of affirming that each child’s sexuality is unique and a key component of whom he/she is, lawmakers in states like Utah are engaging in nothing short than bullying. They are not only inferring to LGBT children that their lives are not worth learning about, but they are also telling them that the only way they can be productive members of society is to live their lives alone. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

GOProud's Homeschooling Whitewash

GOProud has released their 2012 legislative platform a few days ago, and boy was it a doozie. Though I will let other people discuss the first nine points of their platform, I feel a responsibility to discuss their tenth proposal, which deals with education reform.
10 – EDUCATION REFORM – The answer to the serious problem of bullying is not more federal intervention in education. Instead, we support empowering parents and families by supporting school choice initiatives and protecting the right of parents to homeschool their children.
In a further interview, GOProud executive director Jimmy LaSalvia explained why this proposal “makes sense”.
“It allows parents who have kids who are bullied to make sure they go to school in a safe environment. If they decide that their school isn’t safe, they can take the child to a school of their choice. We have taken the position that big government solutions, government-mandated curriculum, is not the solution,”
Though such a policy position by GOProud might make sense in their own little world of conservative principles, the reality of their proposal is less than appealing.

First, GOProuds position puts the onus upon those who are being bullied, the victim, to change. If the victim (aka. the LGBT person who is being bullied) does not feel safe, it is up to them to change their surroundings. Instead of actually punishing the bully, the bully not only gets off without punishment, but he/she is also validated because through their bullying they have gotten rid of the “problem”. The position of GOProud tells the victim that in order to be/feel safe, they must suffer the consequences of having to change schools.

Second, GOProud’s fealty to homeschooling is not a true solution, because homeschooling can often reinforce the bullying experienced by students. When the LGBT community thinks of bullying, it too often focuses upon the bullying that students get from their fellow peers, yet the ignores the bullying that LGBT students face on a day to day basis by their parents. I for example, grew up in a homeschooled environment that was far from LGBT friendly. I was video taught by a man who believes that LGBT people should be executed (George Grant), went to a camp where LGBT people were made fun of and ridiculed (Worldview Academy), involved with a political organization that lamented the rise of equal rights for LGBT people (TeenPact), and was taught (thorough the influence of magazines and media such as WORLD mag and Wallbuilders) that in order for the United States to become a strong nation the homosexual agenda must be stopped. Such an environment did not encourage me and reinforce my self-esteem, in fact, it made me think that there was something inherently wrong with me and that I was a danger to not only myself but also to my country. Though homeschooling is not all bad (I for example, know many parents who are raising their children to support equality and tolerance), the reality of parental homophobia and the homophobia prevalent in homeschooling curricula, should not go unaddressed by GOProud.

Lastly, lets believe for one second that all parents could afford to either homeschool or send their kid to a charter school (with or without governmental assistance). Instead of curbing the bullying that LGBT students may face in the schools, GOProuds position could actually lead to more bullying. Because some parents will view the “homosexual agenda” (aka. each person is valuable and deserves to not be bullied) as a threat to their belief structure, with the new tools proposed by GOProud, they might choose to homeschool or put their children in charter schools. Such a scenario would have horrible repercussions upon LGBT students who were born to parents which ascribe to a worldview that believes that LGBT people are less than. Instead of having the option of a school counselor with whom they could be honest about themselves, they are faced with an education environment which has a no holds barred disdain and hatred for anything LGBT. Instead of being in an environment where there might be a safe place to be themselves (ex. a gay-straight alliance), they are stuck in an environment where they feel alone and without hope.

These three realities are significant obstacles to GOProuds belief that homeschooling and charter schools are the best place for LGBT students. Not only does their position favor the bully, but they also fail to realize that for many LGBT children and students, the root of the problem is not in school, but instead in the home. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Its OK To Be Ex-Gay!

The organization Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays (PFOX) has been all up in arms lately over the situation in Montgomery County Public Schools regarding the school districts anger about the distribution of PFOX flyers promoting “ex-gay” therapy.  According to an editorial published in the Washington Times by Peter Sprigg, the controversy over the flyers promoting the idea that “change is possible”, is nothing more than discrimination and intolerance. In fact, according to Sprigg the issue is,
“The message that “change is possible” with respect to sexual orientation means just that. It does not mean change is mandatory; it does not mean change is easy; it does not even mean change is desirable for those who do not desire it. It also does not mean that people “choose” to experience same-sex attractions. However, people do have a choice what to do with those attractions - whether to engage in homosexual conduct, whether to self-identify as “gay” and, yes, whether to seek help to change those attractions.
First of all, a point of clarification. As an “ex-gay” who has walked “out of homosexuality” does that not mean that one is heterosexual? Therefore, why is the name “ex-gay” needed if not to make a political point against the LGBT equality movement. (if one takes a cursory look at their blog, it can be seen that they do not promote tolerance of LGBT people, but instead advocate for governmental suppression of LGBT people). But, that is not the real issue behind why the school district was correct in deeming the flyers as “reprehensible”.

It must be realized that the ex-gay ideology that is propagated by PFOX is not innocent. That is not meaning that adults should not be allowed to make the decision (even if such a decision is to their psychological detriment) to attempt to “flee homosexuality”. Us who have gone through these “ex-gay” organizations know full well that they do not work, but hey, if you want to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to attempt to change ones natural sexual orientation, be my guest. But the real issue with “ex-gay” ideology is that it does not exist within a vacuum.

Sprigg attempts to paint the picture that everyone has the ability to make a rational decision with what to do about their sexuality. But such a belief does not take into account the outside factors that go into ones decision making calculus. If one is told that being gay is inherently sinful, one is more likely to attempt to change. If one is given the ultimatum of accepting your sexuality or keeping your relationship with your family, one is more likely to choose the latter. If one is faced with the reality of living in a culture which demeans and persecutes LGBT people, one is inclined to try to adapt to that culture instead of embracing your biological identity.
All of these factors are negatives associated with a homosexual orientation. They automatically put an impetus upon LGBT people that in order to be “normal” they must change. Such a starting point in addressing ones orientation is not healthy nor does it allow one to engage in a rational thought calculus regarding how one truly feels. That is why it is extremely difficult to come out, because by coming out, we are fighting against these negative factors that many of us have to deal with on a day to day basis.

Though Sprigg may like to think that by advocating for “ex-gay” therapy, he is advocating for the ability to make a choice on which “identity” one follows, it is nothing more than an attempt to further reinforce the negative factors that LGBT people are faced with on a daily basis. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Who Is The Bigot?

I just finished reading the recent DOMA decision given by Judge White of the Northern District of California, and I must say, it was a home-run. As I posted on my facebook page, as more and more of these decisions start to come out, it can be clearly seen that the arguments of our opponents are not only fallacious but are also intellectually dishonest.

Though the entire decision is worth a read, for me the end of the decision was quite important. On the second to last page, Judge White briefly touched upon the concept of animus, and the forms that animus may take. Drawing from the case Board of Trustees of University of Alabama v. Garrett, Judge White stated that  

“Even though animus is clearly present in its legislative history, the Court, having examined that history, the arguments made in its support, and the effects of the law, is persuaded that something short of animus may have motivated DOMA’s passage:

Prejudice, we are beginning to understand, rises not from malice or hostile animus alone. It may result as well from insensitivity caused by simple want of careful, rational, reflection or from some instinctive mechanism to guard against people who appear to be different in some respects from ourselves”.

Judge Whites usage of this passage from Garrett is quite insightful, for within this passage, White not only educates us on what exactly animus might mean, but he also has pointedly called out the gay community on a particular issue – namely, that we are often prone to believing that all who oppose our rights are “bigots” or have some negative feelings about us.  But as Judge White points out, opposition to something does not always come from a pure hatred, but many times is more rooted in instinctive fear.

Why do people oppose same-sex couples being granted full equality within American society? Why do people oppose transgender people being able to use the bathroom of their identified gender? Often, it is because they are afraid. They have not been exposed to the realities that we live with on a day to day basis, and therefore when these issues come up, they seem foreign and bizarre to them.  Does that make these issues bizarre – not at all – but their perception is that they are. This is not to say that there are many who instinctively hate LGBT people and seek to deprive us of our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, but to label all who are not “pro-marriage equality” or “pro-ENDA” as being homophobic bigots sidesteps the root of the issue – that is, a lack of understanding of the issues that LGBT people go through on a daily basis.

It is for this reason that we are actually winning the overall war against those who seek to deny us an equal status with heterosexual couples. As more and more LGBT people come out the closet, we eliminate the fear and lack of understanding that many of our opponents have. We tear down the walls that our society and religions artificially create among groups, and instead we build bridges.  That is why the most important thing that an LGBT person can do today is live in openness and honesty to their families, friends, co-workers, and society as a whole. To take that first step into living this life is hard, but once one does that, you feel free. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ex-Gay - The Role Of Authority Figures

This morning, I was able to watch a rerun of the show What Would You Do on ABC. This particular episode was quite impactful for me, because of my experience with “ex-gay” therapy.  I have the link embedded, and it is a segment that must be watched.

This situation brought up something that I have wanted to discuss in relation to this, namely, how should we as the LGBT community respond to those who subject their children to “ex-gay” therapy? Do we sympathize for them, as they are obviously confused about the situation, or do we call them out on what they are doing to their children?

Through heavy thought, I have determined that the latter is the correct avenue that our community must take. Forcing children through the psychological and emotional torment of ex-gay therapy should be considered, and is, nothing more than child abuse. To tell a child that feelings that they have had for years make them un-natural and that one must be “fixed”, is no better than beating a child for getting a bad grade on a report card.

Though one may take issue with my comparison (after all, the consequences of physical violence are immediately seen vs. the consequences of emotional abuse are manifested over time), the fact that such differences exist, does not make the comparison less valid. When a father or mother beats a child, the emotional impacts of such a beating are just as real as the impacts of when a parent tells their child that their entire being is despicable.

Many times, when parents subject their child to “change” therapy, it is couched in the language of love. To these parents, this therapy is necessary, because they do not want to see their child suffer with this burden of “sin”. They do not want to see their child live a “lifestyle” which they believe is harmful and will make them go to hell. Such justifications are shouted from the rooftops, echoed as valid by religious leaders, other family members, and those in authority .

But these justifications are nothing more than a smokescreen. Instead of unquestionably loving their child, their actions are motivated by fear – what will the other family members think if they find out my son/daughter is homosexual or transgender, what will those in my religious community think, what about the expectations that I had of my child? Instead of deciding to talk with their child and seek to understand what their child is going through, they automatically assume that something is “wrong” with him or her, and thus shove their child in front of a “counselor”.  These parents choose to uncritically believe what society and their religious leaders tell them, and when confronted with the issue, would rather place their child in harm’s way than re-examine their beliefs.

Too often in our discussion of ex-gay therapy, we look at the facilitators of such therapy, organizations like NARTH and Exodus. But, in all of our indignation about the issue, we never look at the actual perpetrators of abuse – the families that force their children to seek “help”.  Through our inaction, we are not holding these individuals to account for the tens of thousands of lives that have been negatively affected (and even lost) through their actions.  As we struggle to rebuild after the emotional onslaught of hatred, negativity, and falsehoods, they are going through life thinking that they did what was best.

Instead of giving into such passivity, we must stand up to these individuals. Now in “standing up”, I don’t mean that we need to get into a shouting match, or become violent with these family members or friends who have wronged us, but instead, standing up means telling these individuals our story and how their actions have hurt us.  Though this might be hard and embarrassing to some (believe me, I’m in the same boat), such discussions must be had.  As we stand up to those who have abused us, we are letting them know that their actions have consequences.  They cannot, and should not, live life without knowing how their choices affected us.  It is only through conversation, dialogue, and heart to heart discussions of our lives, can we affect the change to make ex-gay therapy a thing of the past.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Voice of Apathy

A few days ago, I wrote an article in which I asked whether or not gay people should up and leave the South. There has been quite a bit of discussion regarding that article, from facebook comments, tweets, as well as even a YouTube video, on how the LGBT community should deal with the persecution that we face daily within this particular region of the country. Though, as many commentators have pointed out, homophobia and transphobia exist in all areas of the country, there is something particular about the level of disgust for our community in the South, and it is because of this discrimination that we face on a day-to-day basis that many have called for an exodus of LGBT people from these states.

As I said in that article, the belief that we must leave our homes, families, and lives so that we can be accepted, is not only counterproductive to our very movement, but makes us cowards and not deserving of the rights that we are entitled to have. That article argued against the voices of 'reason', in favor of staying and fighting. It argued against willfully giving up, and knowingly backing down.

But my focus upon these voices of cowardice has seemed to muffle the other voice that cries out at our community, a voice that is just as, if not more dangerous than the former. The voice of apathy.

I wrote a piece in October that touched upon the voice of apathy, and how it impacts our fight for equality. When I observed the level of excitement and involvement by our community when it came to participating in Mid-South pride, I was struck with profound sadness. I wrote that,
In some estimates given, there were thousands of LGBT people and straight allies at this event; yet does this "pride" in our community spill over into the ballot box? We can have floats and marchers galore, but how many of these people who put time and energy into building a float, put the same time and energy in advocating for our legal and social equality? Why does our community come out in droves for events such as Pride, but yet when we have the option to elect pro-equality members of our city government, no one shows up? 
LGBT southerners might bristle at the notion that we must leave our homes so that we might be more equal, yet where are we when our religious institutions speak out against equality? Where are we when our state governments consider legislation that would have devastating effects upon our community? Why is it that  more gay men are at the bar on a Saturday night than at a rally trying to defeat amendments that enshrine discrimination in our constitutions?

To be blunt, our community is selfish; we expect others to do the hard work for us. I know this from personal experience, because there have been many times where I have unwittingly bought into this selfishness. I have told myself, "why should I write a letter to my representative or editor, I am sure that someone else will do it, it probably won't get published anyway".

We might not intentionally listen to the voice of apathy, but our lives show that we do. We spend hours insulated within our little communities, without venturing into the 'real world', where homophobia and discrimination exist. We try to hide ourselves, not wanting to recognize that we exist in a fundamentally unequal society. We tell ourselves, "I'm not planning on getting married anytime soon" or "My boss is OK with gay people, so I don't need any employment protections" as rationals for doing nothing. Because we do not see these inequalities as being pertinent to our lives, we don't feel the need to address them. Instead, we focus on the instant gratification of our Pride parades, our bars, and the cute guy who winked at us at the grocery store. Are these bad in an of themselves? Not at all!! But when our focus becomes these instant pleasures versus the long-term health of our community, we must ask ourselves whether our priorities are out of whack.

Many will find issue with my analysis of selfishness and its relationship to apathy. To some, there are legitimate reasons to not getting involved, such as ones emotional health and well-being. To these people, the negativity and the constant barrage of hatred that surrounds our fight is too painful. It may be too much for them to constantly hear from society that they are "inferior", "deviant", or "going to hell".  Though such feelings are understandable, I would challenge these individuals to consider how such pain is actually perpetuated by not doing anything. We do not exist in a vacuum, for cultural attitudes have both direct and indirect impact upon our emotional well being. If we exist in a society that 'hates' us and where it is ok to openly compare LGBT people with pedophiles and murderers, we will still feel and have to deal with such pain. Instead of working to end such pain, silence reinforces it, and lengthens its approval within society. Additionally, it could be said that when we engage in advocacy, we establish for ourselves a safety net of emotional support. No longer are we gong through this fight on our own, but instead can be encouraged by others who are working through similar problems.

Our community has some amazing people that put enormous time and energy into fighting for our rights. In Tennessee, I know many individuals who have made it their priority to make this state a welcoming haven for all Americans, no matter what sexual orientation or gender identity they have. Yet these individuals can only do so much. They need our help to make our society safe for our community. Instead of listening to the voice of apathy and wallowing in the selfishness of complacency and instant pleasure, we must stand and fight.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Should Gays Leave The South?

On their facebook page today, Out on the Town Magazine asked a question of their readers regarding the status of equality for LGBT people in the South. Their post said, “a lot of comments on these stories place blame on gay Southerners for choosing to live in such an intolerant place. How do you respond to people who believe its “your fault” for being discriminated against in a region we consider our home?”. 

Such comments regarding LGBT people in the South are not an anomaly, for I have also noticed, on both LGBT and non-LGBT blogs and news articles, comments that have the same tone.  To these commentators, many of whom live in more progressive states like New York and California, it is incomprehensible that LGBT people would willingly subject themselves to the overt discrimination that exists in the states of the South. They can’t understand why we won’t pick up and move to places where we won’t be fired because of our sexual orientation or gender identity; and they can’t understand why we stay in states where religious leaders and politicians are able to spew vitriol, lies, and hatred openly about our community.

Though I am not from the South originally (I hail from Illinois), I consider Tennessee more of my home state than where I grew up, and thus, it is quite discouraging for me to read many of these anti-Southern comments. Yes, it is known that the South has a long way to go when it comes to equality for its LGBT citizens, but is “retreat” the answer to the hatred that we face? Should we allow the people and the states of the South to continue in their persecution of LGBT children and adults, yet offer no rebuttal or fight? Does that not make us cowards and undeserving of equality, when we won’t even fight against our oppressors and instead capitulate to their hatred by leaving for greener pastures?

The attitude that LGBT people should just leave states that are not welcoming, whether they are in the South or not, also fails to recognize that LGBT adults are not the only ones who live in these states.  Many times, LGBT children are not given the option, or even have the resources, to pick up and leave these oppressive environments. Are we to sacrifice their well-being so that we adults might feel more equal? If all the LGBT adults are gone, who will be there to fight for anti-bullying legislation? Who will be there to offer support and guidance to these children when they experience discrimination and persecution in their lives? Yes, there will be straight allies, and God knows I love them, but these children need role models who have experienced the same persecution, yet have overcome it.

Those who say to us, “come to the welcoming states, why would you want to live in the South” want us to take the easy way out. Though they might not realize it, by asking why any LGBT person would want to live in a bigoted society, what they are truly saying is that such societies are too far gone to be of any use to our community. I reject this notion, for I see the South as having the potential to be a haven for LGBT people, and I am thankful that are people in my life who have stuck it out, fought the good fight against the constant barrage of hatred and discrimination, and who strive to make an impact for our community each and every day.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gay Kids Choose To Be Bullied

The bullying of LGBT children has become a common theme of late, with state governments around the nation addressing this controversial topic. Just this past Friday, a 14-year old boy from Tennessee took his own life because of the constant harassment and degradation that allegedly went unaddressed by school officials. Countless others have taken their lives over the past few years, because of the torment that their fellow students inflict upon them because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.

In response too many of these tragic deaths, religious individuals across the nation have decided that instead of addressing the topic of LGBT bullying directly (aka. punishing the bully), it is the fault of those students who are LGBT that they are being bullied. These people assert that if those students would be “normal” (aka. straight), they would not be bullied. But because these children have ‘chosen’ to be gay, it comes along with the territory that they would be bullied for that ‘choice’.  To these individuals, the increased rates of suicide, depression, and substance abuse of LGBT teens is a direct consequence of their choice in sexual orientation. Because they believe that there is something inherently disordered about a homosexual sexual orientation or a differing gender identity, they ‘logically conclude’ that such a disorder has other consequences. A gay kid commits suicide, not because he is bullied because of his sexual orientation, but because he knows that there is something intrinsically wrong with him. That the tormenting words of the bullies are true, that he is a “fag” and that he somehow made the choice to be one.

The psychological torment associated with such a belief drives many LGBT children to depression and even suicide. When you are told that you have chosen something inherently disordered, yet do not even recall making that choice, you start to believe that there is something wrong with you; that you are “damaged goods”. To these children, there seems to be no hope, because no matter how hard they try, they cannot change the feelings and attractions that they have.

I know what the kids feel, because I have been there. From my first recollection of having a “crush” (I was six, so I don’t know if crush is the best word) on the tour guide at Disney world, I knew that I was different. Though I was homeschooled, and thus escaped much of the daily harassment that LGBT children go through, I was exposed to some through sports leagues. I was told I was a sissy, a girl, and made fun of for sitting with my legs crossed (and this was in a religious league). I have known the hopelessness of being told that something was ‘wrong’ with me, and that I was living in rebellion. I have tried to change my sexual orientation (8 months’ worth of trying), and could not make myself ‘normal’.  I barely escaped with my life, some days just wanting to end it all because I could not live with myself, knowing that I was gay, yet trying to come to grips with the messages that were being flung at me by my religious community, my family, and my friends.

In my last post, I discussed the notion of power when it comes to rights, responsibilities, and protections of vulnerable minorities. The new tactic by religious leaders, state legislators, and religious individuals of blaming the victim for anti-gay bullying ties well into this power framework. If these individuals recognize that such bullying exists and that it must be addressed, their very conception of homosexuality and gender identity as ‘disordered’ and ‘sinful’ must also be addressed. No longer will it be appropriate to tell these children that they made the choice to be gay and that they must live with the consequences of such a disordered choice, for instead such children will need to be protected and validated. Such validation goes against the entire pyramid of Judeo-Christian superiority, where ‘traditional morals’ must be enforced even if such morals destroy the lives of countless children, families, and churches.

Thankfully, the American public is waking up to the fact that bullying, no matter if it is because of ones’ sexual orientation, weight, race, or creed, is wrong. They know that the fault for bullying lies not with the victim, but instead with the oppressor. And it is because of this that I know that the virulent rhetoric of fundamentalism, which blames the oppressed instead of the oppressor, is increasingly falling on deaf ears. But till such voices are finally regulated to the fringe, I must ask - how many children must we lose before the American people fully recognize that being bullied because of one’s sexual orientation is wrong? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Loss Of Christian Social Power: The Threat Of LGBT Rights

At the start of the American experiment, when the delegates from the individual states met in Philadelphia to rework the Articles of Confederation, there was a debate over power. It is not a debate that we often hear in our history classes, or read about in our textbooks, but this debate pitted the Northern States against the slave owning States of the South. From the beginning, the South held the North hostage in the proceedings, refusing to budge unless the southern slaves were fully counted as part of a states population. This became an issue, because the South felt as though the populous North (which had dispensed of slavery by this time), would use their vast population (and the representation that such population would bring) to eliminate one of the key institutions of the Southern economy. In the end, the delegates decided upon the 3/5ths compromise, which counted every slave as 3/5ths of a person.

Throughout the debate over the 3/5ths clause, we saw a debate over power. The South did not want its power diluted, and its society made equal. Instead, it wanted the status quo to reinforce its power pyramid of racial superiority. Such a historical example plays quite well into our discussion of rights for LGBT people; for in American today, we see a similar struggle over who controls society. It it Christian conservatives, who wish to project their religious beliefs onto an unbelieving populous, or is it the LGBT community, who wishes to be equal to those Christians in rights and privileges.

Before I go any further, I would like to make a disclaimer. I am in no way painting all of Christianity with this brush of oppression. I know many great Christian people who agree that ones religious beliefs should remain private and not be imposed upon a religiously different populous. Instead, this post is describing those Christians who take the scriptural commands of "dominion" far too literally, and who, instead of promoting a more perfect society, regress that society into a pseudo-theocracy.

Power is what makes the world go round. Who has it, who utilizes it, who we have power over - all of these dictate the inherent class structure of society. Throughout American history, it can be noted that those at the top have been those who hold to a Judeo-Christian religious worldview. But, beginning in the 1960's, with the emergence of the sexual revolution and the throwing off of traditional morality, those who were at the top of the power pyramid realized that their influence was shrinking. Thus, in the 1970's we saw the push-back of the Moral Majority, and the birth of the Religious Right. To these religious fundamentalists, it was important that the old systems of morality and legal legitimacy (aka. the law is from God), be upheld in the popular culture and government. During this time, we saw Phyllis Schlafly advocate against the Equal Rights Amendment, and other influential figures like Anita Bryant advocate against the evils of homosexuality and legalized abortion (or infanticide as they deem it).  Such religious based advocacy has continued even to this day, from the establishment of marriage amendments around the United States, invasive abortion regulations, as well as the back to back Iowa wins of noted social conservatives - Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012.

Now what does this power struggle that has emerged in American society have to do with LGBT rights? I feel that in order to understand why the culture war is a "war", we must understand what those who fight against us feel that they are losing. To them, it is about Power. With LGBT people placed upon an equal playing field as them, they have lost their status as the movers of society. Instead of society being viewed as a pyramid when it comes to LGBT rights, where heterosexuals are "better" than homosexuals, every victory for LGBT people (whether that be marriage equality, workplace protections, anti-bullying policies) alters the playing field and makes it slowly more equal. Instead of being able to arrogantly look down upon us as "sexual deviants", they are required to look upon us as social and legal equals.

Such equality is why our opponents fight so much against us. That is why you have a bill being introduced in Tennessee that would allow exemptions for Christians to bully gay kids. That is why you have a bill being passed in Michigan that strips same-sex domestic partners of benefits afforded to heterosexual couples. And that is why you have the people of countless states voting to enshrine discrimination into their Constitutions with marriage amendments. Such manifestations of blatant hatred are the dying breaths of a movement that is afraid of losing its grip upon American culture,society, and government.

Now, as much as our community likes to say that extending our rights will not impact others, that is only half true. Yes, my marriage to my husband does not affect the married couple next door, but at the same time, it does affect our society. Instead of the blatant homophobia that we hear from Presidential Candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney, with the elevation of our rights to equal status, such homophobia no longer becomes acceptable. In that day, the supposed "morality" of claims like "gay people are deviants" or "gay people can change, thus deserve no protections" will no longer be the norm, and instead be viewed as eerily similar to the moral justifications for treating women and African-Americans as property. And it is that day, the day that we are social and legal equals to our heterosexual brethren, that I hope I will live to see.
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