Friday, December 19, 2008
I have lots of ideas for writing, but the thoughts need to coalesce. Among other things, I'm working on a two-part piece, but the second part has yet to materialize. Alas, I'm not very prolific at this stage in my blogging career. But no one's reading this blog yet, anyway, so I don't think that matters much. :-) On to what's important now:
First of all, Project Postcard is still going on. I haven't mentioned this before, but they are encouraging us to send a postcard to Obama before the New Year to remind the President-elect to keep his campaign promises.
Tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 20 in St. Louis is Santarchy, a daylong barhop for Santas and elves. At 6 p.m. is Light Up the Night for Equality, and I hope that Santas and allies will participate in this peaceful event.
If you're planning to do Santarchy, you don't have to do the whole thing. It goes from noon to 2 a.m. or so, and I would venture to posit that that's a little too much drinking even for most St. Louisans(?). So if you want, you can still do Light Up the Night before or after Santarchy. There will be a group of people carrying candles in the Loop, and afterwards there will be the option to attend a free holiday concert.
Please note, the candlelit walk in the Loop is a vigil, not the time or place for outrageous costumes, drunken antics, chanting or protest signs. Please dress appropriately and stick to silence or singing if you choose to attend.
The other option, if you're busy with Santarchy or something else, is to light a candle at home and place it on your porch or in your window. For safety's sake, you are encouraged to use battery-operated electric candles.
So if you're going out in the evening, please light an electric candle on your windowsill before you leave. If you'd like, stop by the Loop for the candlelight vigil at 6. Peace and joy to you and yours, and thanks for supporting equality!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
What is Day without a Gay? In short, it is a day for LGBTQ people and allies to "call in gay" to work in order to give back to the community. People are justifiably outraged by the passage of California's Proposition 8, as well as the anti-gay ballot measures in Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas, and other violations of the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans. It is important to stand up and fight, but in order to win, we must get beyond our anger. Volunteering for LGBTQ-friendly organizations is an excellent way to do so.
You do not have to be gay to take the day off on the 10th to support our cause. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and asexuals are all invited to do so, as are people who are transgendered, intersexed, genderqueer, or allies of all of the above. The word "Gay" was chosen simply because it rhymes with "Day." This day is about tolerance and inclusiveness. So please don't let the name put you off.
Another concern that some have about Day without a Gay is the impracticality of taking the day off work. Besides the obvious risks of "calling in gay," some people -- many people -- do not have paid vacation time, and some truly cannot afford to take the day off work. Thus, Day without a Gay has been accused of being classist, and I can understand that viewpoint. I do believe that the day is important, but it's probably not worth losing your electricity or missing your rent or mortgage payment.
But you don't have to take the day off to help. You can volunteer whenever you are able -- perhaps before or after work on the 10th, but really, any day of the year -- and if you're not able, you can do other things to support the cause.
If you are interested and able to attend, Show Me No Hate is sponsoring a Community Education Day as the local (St. Louis) event for Day without a Gay. "This will be a day," according to the site, when "we can get educated, energized, mobilized and prepared" to continue the fight for LGBTQ equality. And at the end of the event, we get to watch the new movie Milk. A limited number of free tickets will be available.
December 10, 2008 is the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The General Assembly of the UN "adopted and proclaimed" the Declaration in 1948. In 1948 we had this proclamation of human rights and human dignity.
Reading the UDHR today, in 21st Century America, I am amazed by how progressive it sounds, relative to American politics. More important, I am struck by how many human rights violations my country engages in regularly.
Article 16 states that marriage is a human right for "[m]en and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion." Gender variants are not mentioned, and sexuality is not specifically mentioned as an unacceptable limitation to marriage. But Article 2 establishes that all people are "entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status [emphasis mine]."
This country and the world still have a long way to go, and the truth is, there are much more egregious human rights violations than the lack of same-sex marriage being committed in the United States and all over the world. Humans are troubled creatures, prone to hatred, violence and divisiveness. I am a realist. I realize that human nature cannot be forced into submission.
But I'm also an idealist. I know that we've come a long way already. And I still hope for the ultimate triumph of love, peace and unity.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Many advances have been made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS since it was first discovered, but the treatments are expensive and inaccessible to millions of poor persons all over the world who are HIV-positive. Knowledge of advances in treatment has led some to engage in risky behavior, unaware of the expense of the treatments and failing to take into account the fact that these treatments are not cures. In spite of scientific progress, HIV is still a deadly disease, and recent efforts to create a vaccine have led to disappointment.
As well, significant stigma still surrounds infection. Some still view HIV/AIDS as a gay disease; thus the stigma surrounding the gay community falls on sufferers of this horrible illness. Although there is less stigma now than there was in the past, it is still a heavy and unfair burden to carry on top of that of the relentless retrovirus.
In light of these facts, defensive pessimism may be the best way to deal with the HIV infection of oneself or of a loved one. There is reason to be cautiously hopeful, though. Scientific research continues, and public health policies are being reevaluated. The idea, based on a mathematical model, that AIDS could be virtually eliminated within ten years, may be unrealistic, but at least one study says that it is theoretically possible.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The Join the Impact Show Me No H8 protest last Saturday was amazing, with a diverse group of eloquent speakers, and an enthusiastic, cheering crowd. Turnout was great in spite of the weather; I am proud of my fellow St. Louisans for coming out and braving the cold. Many thanks to the speakers, the organizers, and everyone who attended. It was truly touching standing with all of you, in one protest of many across the nation, against hate and in support of love.
There were a number of clever signs, and I took pictures of many of them. One of my favorites was the one that read, "WTF?" (spelled out). Also amusing was the "God hates shrimp" sign, reminiscent of a skit I saw at a Charis concert the other year.
Another sign read, "Justice does not mean Just Us"; I liked that one as well. I also particularly admired signs quoting John Lennon and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Fear and hatred cloud our judgment" (Lennon) and "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" (King). Then there was the child holding up the sign she'd made that read simply, "Love is love."
At least one of the signs read, "Honk for equality," and many cars did so as they drove by. It was priceless when a Lumiere Place bus drove by with the words, "Whatever turns you on" written across its side.
Of course, one of the best things about any LGBTQ event is the presence of rainbows, and we had plenty of those. There was no absence of color outside the Old Courthouse that day -- young and old; black and white; gay, straight and more, we were united for equality.
Linked photos are from Aaron X's Moon Shadows photo journal.
According to a Planned Parenthood action alert, the lame-duck President has been rushing to enact a new rule that would allow doctors to redefine abortion to include birth control, and decline to inform patients of or provide them with contraceptive options. Bush is also attempting to relax environmental regulations, including the Endangered Species Act, before he leaves the White House in January. He is trying to do these things in such a way that it will be difficult or impossible for Obama to reverse them.
However, Democrats say they will do their best to stop these last-minute rule changes. Dear Bush: Thanks, but no thanks. Did you get a gift receipt?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Unfortunately, I didn't feel well yesterday; I got up, but soon went back to bed, and slept most of the rest of the day. So I didn't get to attend the event at Wash. U., where they were going to be showing the second half of the documentary series TransGeneration. That was upsetting to me not only because I had really wanted to go, but because I had been planning to take a friend who doesn't have a car and also wanted to be there.
The other night, I watched the first episode of TransGeneration on YouTube. Everything beyond that was just little clips, or too poor quality to be worth watching. Last night, since I had missed the screening, I searched in vain for another source of the series, but finally gave up and fell asleep watching Transamerica on Google Videos.
Obama may not support same-sex marriage, but he does support legally-equivalent civil unions, expanded hate crimes legislation, and employment nondiscrimination. The results of this Election Day were bittersweet for LGBTQ folk and straight allies, but there is hope that things are moving forward. Prop 8 passed by only a slender margin, the California Supreme Court is going to hear challenges to the ban, and the worst bigots are slowly dying off. Most young people I know are supportive of LGBTQ rights; the worst sin of my generation is apathy. Hopefully soon, we can sit back and bask in equality, but right now, activism is needed.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Below is the text of President-Elect Obama’s response to a question from the Human Rights Campaign regarding same-sex marriage. The questionnaire in its entirety with Obama’s answers is available at www.barackobama.com.
I believe civil unions should include the same legal rights that accompany a marriage license. I support the notion that all people – gay or straight – deserve the same rights and responsibilities to assist their loved ones in times of emergency, deserve equal health insurance and other employment benefits currently extended to traditional married couples, and deserve the same property rights as anyone else.
However, I do not support gay marriage. Marriage has religious and social connotations, and I consider marriage to be between a man and a woman. If I was President, however, I would oppose any effort to stifle a state’s ability to decide this question on its own. Whether it was a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage or a bill like the Defense of Marriage Act, I would oppose such efforts. I think the President should do all he or she can to advance strong families. Whatever the make-up of the family, it is the President’s role to provide policies and leadership that enable the family to thrive.
Now, here is an altered version of the same text. I have changed some of the original words to illustrate a point.
I believe civil unions should include the same legal rights that accompany a marriage license. I support the notion that all couples – interracial or not – deserve the same rights and responsibilities to assist their loved ones in times of emergency, deserve equal health insurance and other employment benefits currently extended to traditional married couples, and deserve the same property rights as anyone else.
However, I do not support interracial marriage. Marriage has religious and social connotations, and I consider marriage to be between two people of the same race. If I was President, however, I would oppose any effort to stifle a state’s ability to decide this question on its own. Whether it was a Constitutional amendment banning interracial marriage or a bill like the Defense of White Marriage Act, I would oppose such efforts. I think the President should do all he or she can to advance strong families. Whatever the make-up of the family, it is the President’s role to provide policies and leadership that enable the family to thrive.
The altered version would sound pretty preposterous coming from the child of an interracial marriage. Of course, it's pretty preposterous on its own. But laws against interracial marriage were still in place in several states as recently as 1967.
Granted, it is entirely possible that Obama's lack of support for legal same-sex marriage is at least partially due to the current political climate. Vocally supporting gay marriage would most likely have hurt Obama's chances for election. The wording in his response to the HRC's question about same-sex marriage was likely purposefully mitigating, in order to appeal to both sides of the issue. Appealing to both sides of an issue is what politicians do best.
According to the questionnaire, Obama would oppose legislation that would eliminate states' rights to decide on their own whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage. His personal, religiously-motivated belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman, but he is in favor of granting same-sex couples a separate-but-equal institution that would give them the same legal rights as marriage—just don't call it marriage, 'cause that word is sacred. He supports strong families, but some families have to stand in one line, and other families get to stand in the other line (the one that everyone wants to stand in).
Making comparisons between the struggle for gay rights and the struggle for civil rights for black Americans is dangerous territory, of course, because the iniquities committed against blacks in this country have been, overall, much more egregious and pervasive. However, civil marriage is a civil right, and it's not the same thing as religious marriage. No religion will ever be forced to perform marriages that it believes are wrong. But if straight people have the right to civil marriages, then gay people ought to have the right to them, too. Otherwise, we should get rid of the term "marriage" in terms of government-recognized unions altogether and have everyone stand in the line for a civil union license.
Religious marriage of same-sex couples can be and is performed by religious denominations that support it. The government has granted pastors, priests, rabbis, etc. the right to create a civil marriage at the same time that they create a religious marriage. However, religious leaders who would like to create a civil same-sex marriage at the same time as the religious one are unable to do so. Conservative religious beliefs dictate government policy on this issue. That seems a little like the establishment of a state religion. Thus, same-sex marriage can be viewed as a freedom of religion issue as well as a civil rights issue. How can we pass a Constitutional amendment that eliminates a First Amendment right without also repealing the First Amendment?
Not every church is going to sanction same-sex marriage, and not everyone wants a church-sanctioned marriage, anyway. Not everyone even wants to be married. The right in question is the right to civil marriage for those couples who desire it. Same-sex couples should have the same civil rights as opposite-sex couples. That means either a) giving same-sex couples the right to legally marry, or b) eliminating the word "marriage" from legal licenses and giving all couples the right to civil unions that are legally equivalent to today's civil marriages.
A lot of the argument on this issue is over semantics. Religious conservatives believe that the word "marriage" is sacred and they don't want to change the traditional definition to include same-sex unions. Committed, loving same-sex couples want to call their unions "marriages" and have those marriages be recognized by the law. Civil unions that confer the same legal rights as civil marriages are a step in the right direction. But ultimately, the government ought to pick one term and use it for all legally-recognized committed unions. Using two different terms for two different groups of people perpetuates inequality.
Separate is not equal.
The author invites her readers to join her at the
Change is coming, and it's worth embracing --
History is in the making.
Take my hand, and let us walk together --
Things are going to get much better.
It won't be easy; we must be real:
It will take time for us to heal.
Together, though, we can get through
If you help me, and I help you.
The future calls for us to take a stand.
Can we do it? Yes we can.
I do not think it is mere coincidence that the worst years of my life roughly coincided with the second Bush administration. Now that Dubya's departing the Oval Office, I feel as though a huge weight's been lifted. Things are looking up, and hopefully, in the coming years, we in America and around the world can begin to heal from the injuries caused by our overlord.
On Election Night, I, like so many others, cried tears of joy when Obama won. McCain's concession speech was beautiful and honorable, even though his supporters expressed bitterness about the loss. Obama's speech was hopeful as usual, and the crowd's reaction in Grant Park was positive. Still, as the commentators said, there was a soberness to the occasion. Obama seemed to recognize the fact that he has a long, hard road ahead of him.
We as a nation have a long way to go, but I think that we are headed in the right direction.