Friday, February 21, 2014

Old Ideas, New Victims

I grew up listening to the stories my older family members told me about living through the Jim Crow era.  My mother (along with her sisters and cousins) were in that first integrated class in the city of Hampton.  I heard about the different restaurants around my hometown, where the Black folks weren't allowed to wait inside for their food orders.  There's one section of town where Black folks were told to be out of, before the sun went down (interestingly, the first place I ever went to vote is in that section of town).  My family members, if they wanted to vote in any election, paid their poll taxes until that was outlawed in 1966.  I am saying all of this to say that I can still talk with people who remember a very different country, even though MILLIONS try to pretend that these events happened "so long ago."  I am also saying all of this to say that I am horrified by this new wave of proposed legislation coming down the pike in various states to impose a GLBT form of Jim Crow on their state populations under the guise of "religious freedom."

The state of Arizona, through its legislature, passed legislation that would allow businesses to discriminate openly against the GLBT community on the grounds of religious freedom.  Think about that for a minute. 

Similar legislation has been flirted with (or partially passed) in Kansas, Maine, Tennessee, and Idaho.  There is no justification for embracing segregation of any form.  Besides, I am sure that not a single one of those who have proposed or backed this legislation has considered that he/she might be the victim of their own proposed law.  This is not a nation of just (presumably) straight, conservative, fundamentalist "Christians."  Would anyone in that demographic group be bothered if someone from another faith tradition decided to discriminate against him/her?  What if a Muslim denied service to that conservative "Christian" on religious grounds?  Would that be cool, or would the vitriol begin?  What if someone decided to discriminate against the straight couple "living in sin?"  What about the divorced?  This could continue.

Most of us can take the hint that we aren't welcome some places.  For example, I no longer spend my money at Chick-Fil-A, because of its leader's stance against the GLBT community.  I have no desire to sue the company.  I can just go someplace else (and do).  I've made similar moves with other companies and organizations that support causes that I don't support.  This is, after all, the free market, and I want to know the organizations and businesses that don't want my business, just as I want to know those organizations and businesses that do want my business.  But it is simply outrageous to re-impose legalized discrimination.  Besides, the U.S. Constitution simply won't allow it, so why even start?

So, I wonder what Governor Brewer will do.  Arizona's leading newspaper has asked Brewer to veto the legislation.  Let's see if she does.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Will Being Gay in Uganda Lead to Execution or Imprisonment? XV

My last post about this subject is dated August 17, 2012.  So, it appears that on this day in February 2014 that Uganda has decided that being a sexually active gay/lesbian person should earn that person life imprisonment, and that that should be the law of the land there.  I cannot imagine being G,L,B or T Ugandan.  I am glad that the Obama administration has spoken out against this move, and I will be interested to see if Canada follows through on limiting its ties to Uganda, now that this bill appears to have been signed.  I hope that GLBT friendly governments will offer immediate asylum to those in Uganda who will need it.

UPDATE:  2.21.14
So, President Museveni has delayed signing that odious bill.  I hope he uses his time wisely, and decides to veto this madness.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Coming Out Note of Thanks to Jason Collins

I've used this blog in the past to talk about the fear I had about playing varsity football when I was in high school and in college.  I felt that it was very clear that, as a gay guy, I couldn't risk that truth coming out.  So I lied about my interest in playing.  I made it clear that the books always came first.  I was asked each of my three years of high school to join the football team, and I refused.  I used the same tactic in college.  I think that the Athletic Director was particularly upset that I didn't play, since I would have been one of the biggest players on the team.

I've used this blog to talk about the time I finally did embrace that dream of playing football.  It was when I was working on my PH.D, and some of the other history graduate students wanted to form an intramural football team. I'd come out of the closet by then, so I wasn't worried about what my teammates would think.  They all saw what others saw:  a big dude who would be great on the line.  So I played center for four years, and my team won the intramural championships in three of those four years (we were the runners up in that fourth year).  I also got the biggest kick out of the fact that when another team would hurl anti-gay comments to us (as far as I knew, no one clocked me as the gay one), my team would actually tell them that there was a gay member on our team, and that none of us appreciated hearing that bullshit.  Those were four of the happiest years of my life.  I was deep in the weeds in history, and I was playing center with a group of really good friends.

So I can understand what Jason Collins must have gone through.  I can understand the fear.  I can understand the lies.  I can understand the anxiety.  But I also can understand the sheer relief he must be feeling right now.  Don't let anyone fool you; it takes real courage to come out of the closet.  

Mr. Collins, enjoy breathing in that sense of freedom.  Pay no attention to those who will present words of hatred, because haters are always going to hate.  Please know that your singular act has helped at least one young man out there reconcile his love of a game with his homosexuality.  Please know that you're being a Black man is also extremely important in this mix.  So often, Black folks are portrayed as the most homo-hating community ever known to man (which is bullshit), but there is a real struggle for many within the Black community to deal with the GLBT folks who also happen to be Black.  I know that your coming out has sparked a many conversations in barber and beauty shops across the nation, and that is a very good thing.

Finally, I will add that as important as Jason Collins' coming out is, we should not forget that Baylor University's Brittney Griner came out as well.  Griner is one of the top three draft picks for the WNBA this year.  So the current faces for out gay athletes are those of a Black man and a Black woman.  THAT is sweet justice.

UPDATE:  05.01.13

I was very happy to see Rod McCullom's article (please check out his blog, Rod 2.0) for Ebony Magazine on Collins' coming out, and it's potential impact for the broader Black community.  This really is a big story.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Sense of Palpable National Pride

I woke up this morning to the news that New Zealand was the latest nation to vote in marriage equality.  However, I didn't expect to see what I saw in the article I was reading.  The people gathered in their parliament began singing.  Later, I found out that the song is called "Pokarekare Ana," and it is a traditional Maori love song (and the unofficial national anthem).  I was moved to tears listening to that expression of pure joy.  I was moved to tears to know that the GLBT community in New Zealand knew, in that moment, that its government had its back.  I was also moved to tears, because I know that I would never see something like that happen in our legislature.  So, I offer a hearty congratulations to the Kiwis.  You've made many, many people around the world very, very happy today.

Monday, April 1, 2013

What You Say to Me is Still "Paper Thin"

I know that the Republican National Committee has conducted its autopsy, and the report is out.  As I started reading through it (and I am not finished), one song came to mind immediately:  "Paper Thin" by MC Lyte.  It is a classic rap single about cheating.  The video shows Lyte going on a hunch, and deciding to get out of her car and hit the subway to clear her head.  And it just so happens that she sees her man on the train with two ladies, and the rap begins.

As I listened to the lyrics, I have to admit that the RNC could easily have been her man, and the two ladies the base of the party.  Essentially, Lyte doesn't believe what her man has been telling her, and she lets him know how she deserves to be treated.  And I am not sure I am ready to believe that the RNC is serious about its outreach, because  all I hear, like a broken record, is that the GOP's "policies are sound," and that it's just a problem with messaging.

Actually, that's not true.  If the GOP really wants to engage with the many, many, many demographic groups that it lost in 2012, then some policy changes will be inevitable.  Until the RNC is really ready to do that, then all that they will say will be just "Paper Thin."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Meaning of Today, with the SCOTUS on My Mind

When I sat down to write this post, I wasn't really sure of what I wanted to say.  My head is in so many mental places right now, and I feel like a swirl of emotions.  As most breathing Americans know, today and tomorrow the SCOTUS will have oral arguments regarding California's Proposition 8, which took away marriage rights from gay and lesbian Californians, after those rights had been granted by the state government, and the (so called) Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which precludes the federal government from recognizing same-sex married couples, even if the couples are married legally in their home states.

This morning, I spoke with my mother, and I said to her that I think I finally understand what it must have been like for her and my grandparents, when she was growing up.  I can now imagine what it must have been like on the day of oral arguments for Brown v. Board of Education.  It is surreal to put one's hope in 9 (well, in the case of these current arguments, 5) people who have no clue as to who you are, or what you're experiencing.  I don't know if I could handle that level of pressure.  But here I am, and feeling a little helpless.  I am hoping with all that I can that at least five justices will understand what it must be like to have your government relegate you to second class citizenship, to have your government imply that you aren't worthy of equal rights under the law, simply because of who you love.

I feel like I am in that place where my grandparents must have been in 1954.  I can also imagine what it must have felt like when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were made into law.  That sigh of relief must have been beautiful to feel.  That sense of better days coming must have been very sweet.  I know that's how I felt each time a state or court (or in the case of Washington, DC, the City Council) moved to grant civil marriage equality to same sex couples.  But I also vividly remember the sting of all of those state constitutional amendments passing throughout much of the nation, and wondered how it must feel to be happy about denying someone a right that would have no discernible effect on you, as though simply knowing that a gay couple down the street is married will cause you personal harm.

Right now, I am thinking about actual friends of mine, gay and lesbian couples, who are legally married.  I am trying to understand the reasoning behind their marriages harming the marriages of my straight friends.  It simply doesn't make sense to me.  However, I do understand that my gay and lesbian married friends are directly harmed by the Defense of Marriage Act.  I think of my Marylander friend who recently married the man of his dreams, who happens to be from South Africa.  I think of them, because their marriage reminds me of a grad school friend who married the woman of his dreams, and she happened to be from Colombia.  Because of DOMA, these two bi-national marriages are treated differently.  The heterosexual married couple will go through the usual processes to ensure that she will not have difficulty remaining in the U.S; the gay married couple cannot go through those usual processes.  Neither marriage affects the other, but the federal government is required, by law, to ensure that the gay couple is treated differently, and to their cost.

I have no idea if I will ever find the man of my dreams and marry.  It's not always in the cards for everyone.  However, I don't want my government telling me that I cannot marry, nor do I want my government to treat me differently (and to deny me and my potential husband federal benefits) from any of my straight friends.  Why is that concept so difficult to understand?

I have no idea how this will end, and I apologize for any repetition of argument.  I just hope that my side wins.  Crass, I know, but it's the honest truth.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The "Undeserving" Women of the Violence Against Women Act

I am glad that the Congress finally passed, and the POTUS has signed, an extension of the Violence Against Women Act.  It was long overdue, and it should have been a "no-brainer" for everyone involved.  But I cannot get over the fact that the people who voted against the bill, particularly on the final vote, essentially gave a big "fuck you" to lesbians, undocumented immigrant women and Native American women.  I think that Rep. Marsha Blackburn came closest to telling the truth, when she explained her decision to vote against it.  She didn't like the groups that the latest iteration of the law included.  I take that to mean that she has no problem with violence against lesbians, undocumented immigrant women and/or Native American women.  That is an incredible admission, and it's one that I think can be attributed to every single member of Congress who voted against the bill.  Some women, apparently, are more deserving of federal protection than others, at least in the minds of scores of Republicans.  It's probably too much to hope that her constituents who know people in any of those "undeserving" categories will remember that, when she is up for re-election in '14.  Then again, I have a sneaking suspicion that the vast majority of her constituency feels exactly the same way.  And that's the real shame here.