Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Act now to save ENDA!

Bad news: ENDA has been shelved. Congress is putting off voting on ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) until the beginning of 2010 -- when election-year pressures will make it harder than ever to get this important legislation passed.

It is now more urgent than ever to call and write your senators and representatives to demand that they pass ENDA now.

(Read more at the St. Louis Activist Hub.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

March Against Violence

Last weekend at the St. Louis nightclub the Complex, three young men were approached by four men from another bar who called them "f-----s" and then attacked them because they're gay.

Also last weekend, a woman who uses a wheelchair was raped and robbed by two men near a gas station in Ladue.

In response to these vicious crimes, local activists in the LGBT community have organized a candlelight vigil, march and rally to be held Friday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. along Manchester Ave. Speakers at the rally will include Sen. McCaskill, the Mayor's office, Rep. Clay, the NAACP and others.

(Read more at the St. Louis Activist Hub.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rally at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica

Catholic Action Network, the Holy Families Committee, and Show Me No Hate are organizing a rally to be held at the steps of the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica on Sunday, November 29.

(Read more at the St. Louis Activist Hub.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Don't forget the "T"!

Once again, it is Transgender Day of Remembrance, the one day set aside every year to remember and honor our transgender friends whose lives have been lost due to hatred and bigotry. Anti-transgender hate crime is some of the most vicious and brutal violence out there. It's unacceptable that so many are murdered just because their bodies don't happen to match their genders.

I am lucky to have many creative and caring friends who are very dear to me. One of my friends, who happens to be trans, has expressed her appreciation that I treat her like just another person.

Receiving gratitude for not discriminating against my friend is an odd experience. I have never had a friend with, say, freckles tell me how glad she is that I treat her the same way that I treat other people.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who treat trans folks as though they were less than human. Even among LGBs, trans people are often treated with intolerance and disrespect, and it breaks my heart to see it. LGBs of all people ought to understand what it's like to be hated and excluded. Though it may be tempting, there is no excuse for passing on society's contempt for us to a group of people that is even more marginalized than we are.

My dear friend Robyn of TransHaven Missouri says that trans people are just people, like everyone else. I agree with her for the most part, but I would modify that statement: Trans people are people who, by and large, have been subjected to psychological abuse throughout their lives, and who sometimes have to hide who they are just to avoid being killed.

If you're in St. Louis, I invite you to join me this evening at 5:00 at Wash. U. for a TDOR memorial. I will stand by my trans friends to remember their dead and give thanks that my friends are still alive.

Cross-posted to St. Louis Activist Hub

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Women Are Animals, Too

Feminist bloggers alerted me to an offensive billboard ad campaign by PETA. I want to make it clear that PETA does not represent all vegetarians.

As others have pointed out, there are plenty of vegetarian foods that are not good for you. Going vegetarian will not automatically make you skinny. But even if it did, that would be irrelevant here.

This billboard is not about fighting obesity; it's about degrading women and others who are overweight. If PETA wants to make a point about the potential health benefits of vegetarianism, it should do so in a non-derogatory manner. Judging humans by their body shapes does nothing to advance the welfare or rights of nonhuman animals; rather, it merely perpetuates human hatred and inequality.

I made the moral decision to "go veggie" 20 years ago when I was 7 years old. I did it because I had compassion for other sentient beings. Ads like this one lack compassion and give vegetarians a bad name.

I expect better from an organization that claims to support animal rights. PETA needs to remember that human beings are animals, too.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is Obama giving up on the public option?

Today, the Associated Press published a story claiming that the White House appears ready to abandon the public option. Without a public option, there is no real health care reform.

(Continue reading at the St. Louis Activist Hub.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Breaking News: CA Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Marriage Equality

The California Supreme Court has announced its ruling on Proposition 8: As had been anticipated, the court upheld the amendment banning same-sex marriage, but the estimated 18,000 marriages that were created before the amendment passed will be allowed to stand.

I have no words to express my reaction to this injustice. California's highest court has upheld the tyranny of the majority.

St. Louisans, please join us at 5:30 p.m. downtown in the City Hall Rotunda to express your outrage at this ruling.

Cross-posted to St. Louis Activist Hub

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Day of Decision" Rally

The California Supreme Court has announced that it will be ruling on the legal challenge to Proposition 8 this Tuesday, May 26. Supporters of marriage equality will rally across the nation regardless of the decision.

Ed Reggi of Show Me No Hate is organizing a rally in St. Louis to be held at City Hall on Tuesday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. From the Show Me No Hate blog:

A pro-Equality court decision would help fortify our community against what could be difficult years of economic strain and scapegoating.

A[n] anti-Equality court decision would likely fuel the heightened level of violence already recorded against the LGBTQ community across our nation. It will embolden more bigotry and homophobia.

If the court overturns Prop 8, we will all be celebrating. If the court upholds the proposition, we will all unite in protest. "We must pack our City Hall to stand in solidarity with California and the world," Reggi said. Please join us downtown on Tuesday evening as we stand united for equality!

Cross-posted to St. Louis Activist Hub

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Marriage Is Love" Revisited, or "We just saved a bundle on car insurance!"

~~~ See end of post for important update! ~~~

Yesterday, I attended the Marriage Equality Town Hall Talk at Central Reform Congregation. Two of my closest friends went with me. My friends enjoyed the talk and found it informative and thought-provoking.

Over dinner afterward, we chatted about marriage equality. One of my friends told me that the talk was really good. She said she learned some things that she hadn't known before. She even said that if she were to attend a marriage equality rally, the sign she'd make would say something like, "I can get married; why can't they?" That was thrilling, because back in November, she hadn't seemed interested enough in the issue to want to attend a rally in protest of Proposition 8.

At the talk, we heard from some of the couples who traveled to Iowa on May 1st how life has or hasn't changed since they got legally married there.

Many said the day was bittersweet. It wasn't how they had imagined getting married. They had wanted a normal wedding with all of their family and friends present. Some had hesitated before deciding that boarding the bus was the right thing to do.

But most were surprised by how meaningful the day turned out to be. They didn't encounter any protesters, and the people of Iowa City were welcoming. The bus and the church in which they tied the knot were full of love and support that day.

And they returned home to some unexpected benefits of marriage. For one thing, getting married in Iowa entitled the couples to a legal name change for the $35 cost of the marriage license -- and the name changes cannot be contested in the state of Missouri. Other same-sex couples have spent thousands of dollars getting their names changed without a marriage license.

Ed Reggi spoke of how the businesses with which he holds accounts wanted to change his account status to "married." Because of their new married status, Ed and his husband Scott Emanuel were able to save hundreds of dollars a year on their car insurance. I now think that the newlywed couple ought to star in a GEICO commercial:
"The state of Missouri won't recognize our out-of-state marriage license. But there's good news!"

"What's that?"

"We just saved a bunch of money on car insurance!"
During a question-and-answer session, I asked if it's true that it's a misdemeanor to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony in Missouri. Rabbi Susan Talve confirmed that it's a misdemeanor in this state "to solemnize a marriage without a marriage license." Religious leaders are representatives of the state when they conduct wedding ceremonies. The government grants them the right to officiate, to create a legal marriage along with the spiritual union. By default, all same-sex weddings in Missouri are performed without a marriage license. In 2004, Missourians passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Rabbi Talve has never actually been cited for officiating a same-sex wedding, and she has done so numerous times. "Let them try!" she quipped. But technically, she doesn't have the legal right to marry same-sex couples, even though her religion fully supports such couples' right to marry. She spoke of the sadness that accompanies her joy when conducting same-sex wedding ceremonies. She wants to be able to make the marriages legal, and she can't. This is the heart of why legalizing same-sex marriage is a matter of religious freedom.

Another person asked how a separate-but-equal right to civil unions for same-sex couples would be different than the right to civil marriage. Reggi summarized what he has heard from lawyer friends: The word "marriage" is written into law on so many different levels that creating an entirely new institution would pose no end of legal challenges. Even if civil unions were legally equivalent to civil marriages, problems might arise when, for example, couples with a civil union license crossed state lines.

This argument also applies to the idea of the government getting out of the marriage business: If civil marriages were replaced by civil unions, then opposite-sex couples wishing to form a civil union would most likely run into the same legal hassles. And all because certain people don't want to share the sacred word "marriage" with committed, loving same-sex couples whose unions are just as sacred as theirs.

One member of one of the couples compared the opposition to same-sex marriage with the opposition to interracial marriage by a previous generation. "It's the same discrimination all over again," she said. Her parents are an interracial couple.

Next up in the fight for marriage equality is the Prop 8 Day of Decision. The California Supreme Court has only until June 3rd to rule on the challenge to Proposition 8. The ruling will be on either a Monday or a Thursday. Supporters of marriage equality need to be ready to rally, regardless of the decision!

IMPORTANT UPDATE 5/22/09: Today the California Supreme Court announced that it will rule on Prop 8 this Tuesday, May 26, at 10 a.m. Pacific time (12 noon Central). Ed Reggi is planning a rally in St. Louis for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Please add him as a friend on Facebook and be ready to protest or celebrate!

Cross-posted to St. Louis Activist Hub

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Daring to Live Authentically

Until now, I haven't discussed my own sexual orientation in this blog, for a couple of reasons: 1) because it shouldn't be an issue, and 2) because it is an issue.

In my opinion, my own sexual orientation shouldn't have any relevance to the issues I discuss here. What's right is right, what's wrong is wrong, and love is love, no matter how or whom the author happens to love personally. My sexual orientation ought to be a non-issue.

However, prevalent homophobia has made sexual orientation an issue. Whether due to religious beliefs or simply personal discomfort, there are many who find only heterosexuality acceptable. While I'm not terribly concerned about strangers who think or feel that way, I have been worried in the back of my mind that someone in my family who assumes I'm hetero might eventually stumble across this blog, figure out that it's mine, and reject or disassociate from me.

This morning, I came out to my father.

I told him that I'm bi, because I know he's familiar with that term. Pansexual would be more accurate, although still imperfect. Panamorous might be better, but it's a relatively unknown term. Labels are kind of a pain in the a--. The point is, I'm not hetero, and saying that I'm "bi" was the best way I could think of to get that point across to my dad, without emphasizing the "sexual," which I'd rather not discuss with him.

Awhile ago, I came out to my mother. It was more of a process, really, than a one-time discussion. She's supportive, but I get the feeling that the concept is rather foreign to her. She asks questions in an odd tone of voice -- a mixture of concern, curiosity, and something else I can't identify. I try to answer her questions as best I can. When she acknowledges my answers, she sounds as though she's taking notes.

My dad said that he isn't concerned about it either way. He said that it's my choice. I said, "Actually, it's not a choice." He said okay, and immediately changed the subject: "So, what else is new?" Then we had a brief conversation about other things. I had been planning to offer him the link to this blog, but decided not to, because he sounded uncomfortable. He sounded as though he had a forced smile on his face. (I came out to him by phone. It was my compromise between seeing him to do it, and taking the easy way out by e-mailing him.) I guess I need to give him time to let it sink in, even though he acted as though it doesn't matter (and, of course, it shouldn't).

I still haven't come out to anyone in my extended family. Most of them are pretty conservative, so it's not something I'm looking forward to. Besides, I am already a black sheep. Telling them I'm bi would be another strike against me.

But they might not all be as closed-minded as I'd previously thought. At a recent family event, someone brought up homosexuality. Someone else said, "There's nothing wrong with that." I don't know how many people were paying attention, but no one raised any objections to that statement.

I learned from the women's movement that the personal is political. Coming out provides human faces for the alphabet soup of LGBTQIA. When queers come out of the closet, prejudiced people see whom they are talking about. It is harder to discriminate against people that one knows and loves.

I have been working on having the courage to be honest about who I really am. It's a process, with many fits and starts, but well worth the effort of perseverance. I want to thank Ed Reggi and Scott Emanuel; the other 16 newlywed couples; Bill Donius; and numerous friends, lovers, and teachers for inspiring me to be me.

Marriage Equality Advocacy Celebration Photos

The other day, I had the privilege of attending the Marriage Equality Advocacy Celebration in honor of the 17 Missouri same-sex couples who got legally married in Iowa on May 1st. Listening to their stories, tears of joy and inspiration filled my eyes. If you weren't able to attend, I wish you could've been there.

I didn't take many photos, because I wanted to be fully present in the moment. But I thought I would share a few of the photos I did take.

Congratulations to the newlyweds! May you all have long and happy marriages. :-)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Show Me Marriage Equality

Today, Ed Reggi and Scott Emanuel, as well as 16 other same-sex couples from Missouri, traveled by bus to Iowa City, Iowa to get legally married in that state. While their marriages won't be recognized by the state of Missouri when they return home tonight, their trip makes a powerful statement that there are same-sex couples who would get legally married in this state if they could, and that marriage equality is an important goal for Missouri and the rest of the nation.

Tomorrow, from 3-5 p.m., there will be a Marriage Equality Advocacy Celebration at Washington University's George Warren Brown School of Social Work. Drinks and cake will be provided; however, attendees are encouraged to bring a dish to share. The event is free and open to all, but the organizers will be collecting donations for PROMO, Sage Metro St. Louis, Growing American Youth, the LGBT Community Center, and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, in honor of the 17 newly-married couples.

Congratulations to Ed, Scott, and the other newlyweds. May this day be the beginning of a long, happy wedded life for each of you; and may your marriages be legally recognized by this state and by the federal government, as they ought to be, sooner rather than later.

Mazel tov!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (and yes, I'm still alive)

This is the clich├ęd-yet-obligatory "I'm not dead" intro. I haven't posted in this blog for several months, due to personal and family goings-on. But I've decided that it's time to start writing again, because--among other reasons--this is the end of April. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and I wanted to share some thoughts about it.

Whether you know it or not, rape, incest and sexual assault affect everyone. If you haven't been a victim yourself, someone you know and care about almost certainly has. These are crimes that are woefully underreported, by male survivors most of all:
Many people don't take male sexual assault seriously. This is one of the reasons why male victims have a difficult time reporting what happened and why the rates of male sexual assault are thought to be significantly underreported. If a male survivor's friends think that male sexual assault is a joke, he will feel isolated and afraid to tell anyone. Sexual assault is a painful, traumatic experience for any victim.
The National Center for PTSD elaborates:
There is a bias in our culture against viewing the sexual assault of boys and men as prevalent and abusive. Because of this bias, there is a belief that boys and men do not experience abuse and do not suffer from the same negative impact that girls and women do. However, research shows that at least 10% of boys and men are sexually assaulted and that boys and men can suffer profoundly from the experience. Because so few people have information about male sexual assault, men often suffer from a sense of being different, which can make it more difficult for men to seek help.
There is some controversy over statistics regarding the prevalence of male versus female sexual assault in this country. I will not address the controversy here, as I have not done enough research to speak as an authority on this issue. Most statistics I have found indicate that women are victims of rape and sexual assault much more frequently than men. But it is clear that rape, sexual assault, and other forms of abuse* affect all genders. And sexual violence or abuse of anyone is unacceptable.

Here are some ways you can help a loved one who has been raped or sexually assaulted. Most of these guidelines apply or can be adapted to help a victim/survivor of physical assault or domestic violence. Self-care is also imperative, though often difficult. Please see the links near the bottom of the webpage for some guidelines regarding self-care, for friends and family members as well as for survivors.

If you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault, you can get help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE(4673). If you are currently a victim of domestic violence and need help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233). (Please keep in mind that computer and phone use can be monitored.) You are not alone, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You need not listen to the voices of abusers anymore.

* WARNING: This video contains graphic, disturbing images of real violence, which may be triggering to some. If you have been a victim of assault, battering, or other forms of domestic violence and have symptoms of post-traumatic stress, please do not watch this video unless you are in a safe place by yourself or with people you trust, and are confident that you can watch it without being triggered. If you feel triggered after watching this video, try watching something cute and fuzzy to help you calm down. If you experience a flashback while watching this video and do not feel safe, please call a trusted friend or a crisis hotline such as the Life Crisis Line in St. Louis, MO (314-647-4357).