Thursday, March 28, 2013

"6 Things That Happened While Y'All Were Pre-occupied with Gay Marriage"

"Over the last couple of days, many people around the country have been caught-up in the whole same-sex marriage drama that's currently taking place in the Supreme Court. As someone who doesn't feel connected to so-called 'marriage equality' and, frankly, can't fathom so much time and energy and money being poured into getting one more privilege for a group of mostly already very privileged people, at the expense of countless other really important and much more urgent issues facing the queer community and our society as a whole (bullying and suicides of queer and queer-perceived youth, violence against transgender people, invisibilization of disabled queers and queers of color and disabled queers of color, mass incarceration, etc.), I'm just going to save myself a headache and skip the part where I argue for a more inclusive and intersectional movement and instead let y'all know what you may have missed while you were busy being obsessed with single-issue gay politics."

Time Magazine Cover

This week's split cover made me think of the progress we've made since the 1970's TIME article.

From Mike Allen: "Peter Hapak shot the portraits for TIME. The male couple, Russell Hart and Eric LaBonte, are legal domestic partners living in L.A. and are engaged. The female couple, Sarah Kate Ellis-Henderson and Kristen Ellis-Henderson, are legally married in New York state, and have two children. TIME last featured split cover images for the Nov. 12, issue, which had three: Hurricane Sandy, which ran in the Northeast U.S., and two different reversible covers on the election.

--RICK STENGEL, TIME managing editor, writes in his editor's letter: 'We had a long debate in our offices about this week's cover images of two same-sex couples. Some thought they were sensationalist and too in-your-face. Others felt the images were beautiful and symbolized the love that is at the heart of the idea of marriage. I agree with the latter, and I hope you do too.'"

Deciding Not to Decide Gay Marriage?

This is a provocative op-ed from the New York Times that suggests the Court should issue only a limited ruling in the Prop. 8 case, allowing marriage in California but not declaring a constitutional right to marriage throughout the country. "Prudence counsels that marriage equality should be allowed to continue gaining support in the states, and that a federal resolution should be left for another day," writes law professor David Cole. "History suggests it would be unwise for the Supreme Court to impose a uniform solution on the nation now. Doing so could touch off huge civil resistance in the most conservative states."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Today's DOMA Hearings

I found useful this analysis from The Nation of today's hearings on the DOMA case.   
This piece from the SCOTUSblog explains an important tension between the DOMA and Prop. 8 cases: "The challenge to DOMA is undergirded by a sense that marriage is a matter for state rather than federal regulation. The challenge to Proposition 8 is a direct challenge to just such a decision by a state."  In other words, if the Court overturns DOMA on the federalist grounds that the states should define marriage, that might imply that California has the right to decide on marriage and that Prop. 8 should stand.  Or, the court could go further to invalidate Prop. 8 as unconstitutional.

On a historical note, I discovered a documentary film-in-process about the 1975 case in which two men were granted a marriage license in Boulder, Colorado.  (The Time magazine article that we read, "Gays on the March," mentioned this event.) The film is called "Limited Partnership."  Read about the story, learn about the film, and watch the trailer here

Healthcare Coverage: Huge Stakes

The impact of healthcare inequality on LGBT partnerships is huge. Currently, same-sex partners are excluded from federal health program benefits, and companies outside of states allowing gay marriage are not specifically required to provide benefits to same-sex partners, even if the couple was officially married in another state.

Despite inadequate legislation, more and more private companies are choosing to offer coverage to these couples in an effort to recruit and retain qualified employees. Under DOMA, however, healthcare premiums for same-sex partners are treated as taxable income and therefore assign a higher tax burden to homosexual couples, irregardless of any private effort to mitigate this inequality.

For me, the most striking statistic in this article is that according to one study of California, same-sex couples were more than twice as likely to be uninsured as compared to married heterosexual pairs. Healthcare inequality has a significant impact on the quality and price of healthcare access for same-sex couples, but hopefully this will be one of the major areas impacted and one of the major gains from the overturning of DOMA.

On the Profile Pics: A Defense

  So, today, to display anti-DOMA and anti-Prop 8 sentiment, many people adopted a special symbol today as their facebook profile pics.  It was the HRC issued pink equal sign with a red background.  Pretty soon my chat profile pics were almost all that same symbol.  "Ew," I joked, "Everyone wore the same thing to facebook."
    The colors:  the pink is a "gay" color and the red was added, apparently, "because this is about love."  Although I asked a bunch of people before someone looked it up for me and no one really knew what the colors stood for.
  And I wasn't surprised when the backlash showed up in my feed.  This kinda happens whenever a significant amount of facebook takes a day to talk about an issue.
  Counter-argument #1: These profile pics change nothing
  Counter-argument #2:  This is only the mainstream, white, middle-class, monogamist side of a problem and limits visibility of all the other issues that people of LGBTQQIAA...D? people of different classes and colors and relationship structures face.
  Counter-argument #3: You are so lazy, all you did was change your symbol like everyone else did and you should go spend time reading queer theory but I know you aren't.
  Counter-argument #4:  We should abolish marriage entirely.

  This...statement of my opinion should be more polite, but I am really, really tired and I'm a little more than irritated at the sass I saw in my feed.

  In a country where people are still afraid to come out, where the Supreme Court gets the pleasure of listening to such disgusting arguments about how marriage must be about pro-creation such as the ones we heard in 8: the play (which would also disagree with my father's approaching marriage to his female secretary, which would make them, due to age, a childless couple), or the anti-DOMA protestors must stand among protestors holding up signs that quote the Bible and insist children need a mommy and a daddy, where children and adults are harassed even on the suspicion of being queer, God forbid so many friends and strangers use a social networking site to express solidarity with the cause for equality (does that equal sign have rings around it?  No.  Do most people understand what the red means?  Doesn't seem like it.) and show visibility of "Hey!  You!  I'm like you or I am your ally!"  Never mind how valuable and comforting it is to know someone hates oppression, too.  Never mind how many of my friends, queer, straight, or I-Have-No-Idea (not questioning--I mean I don't know their orientation) said "Wow!  It's so good to see so many equal signs!" because it made us feel strong.  Yeah, sorry, I guess that doesn't change the court's ruling.  I guess sentiment, camaraderie, and strength didn't allow so many organizations fighting homophobia and oppression to develop.  It was definitely a Supreme Court ruling.  A sea of profile pics isn't powerful at all.
  See, visibility is the ABSOLUTE reason why I say "Bless the profile pics."  
  Also, perhaps the way people can have freedom under a centralized government is to have choice.  They can CHOOSE to be married, to be monogamous, to gain all of the rights of a marriage (regardless of sex, race, etc., but I'll address polyamory).  And if they choose to be married, they can decide if they want kids, how often to have sex (ahem, any married asexual or demisexual couples?), whatever--it's their private life.  Or couples can choose a civil union.  Or they can choose neither.  Or an individual does not have to be part of a "couple."  Some people want those things.  No choice is the wrong answer, but yes, there IS societal pressure to marry.  What, is changing sentiment about marriage impossible?  And when it comes to marriage, does love ALWAYS factor in as the mainstream marriage equality seems to advertise?  God no.  For years I did not believe romantic love existed, that it was a made-up social construction to help us face mortality (at the moment I'm not sure how I feel, by the way), and I was still pro-marriage equality because it is not my place to judge the reason why people make a decision about their lives that harms no one, be they deluded, greedy, or sincere.  It feels good to know that if anybody chooses those things, they have the right.  Except for, alas, polyamory, which I hadn't even considered until Black Girl Dangerous (who I'm sure hates the profile pics, but still brought up this issue months ago) brought it up, saying they cannot access the (over 40?) rights married people have.  As for polyamory, this monogamous same-sex movement did NOT truly and forever close the door on moving to polygamous marriage next.  There IS hope.  But yeah, it totally, totally sucks, and the people in privilege have to twiddle their thumbs while they decide the minority's fate.  Still, did legalizing heterosexual interracial marriage close the door on same-sex marriage?  In fact, when interracial marriage became legal, was that another victory in the constant war against racism?  Did it not help (not completely and forever, but significantly help) strike down disgusting arguments against black people as a whole, arguments like how their genes were inferior?  Obviously the war didn't end there, did it?  Christ, there are still so many problems.  But that was an achievement.  It was a difference in rights, it reflected oppression, and we do look back and say "Jesus, can you believe you and I couldn't get married back then, if we wanted to?"  If there is a sea of other problems to deal with, does that mean we shouldn't pay any attention to people trying to defeat DOMA?
  I feel one of the issues that sort of motivated the backlash was painting people with a broad brush.  Who says that equality sign was everyone stating they only cared about marriage equality?  Maybe it was urging on a tiny achievement in a sea of problems, of inequality, of inaccess to rights (did I use "inaccess" right?).  I'm not the only one who read it that way, right?  And since when did the fact that I'm on facebook mean I'm not reading queer theory, and if I am not, does that mean I can't have the sentiment of "You know what?  Controlling people's choices based on them being different is kinda bull and I want to stop it." and maybe I actually do participate in activism?  Well, actually, I was reading a queer historical account (aka our homework) when I came across that obnoxious status, but I don't think that makes a difference at all.  Someone's profile pic doesn't actually signal what they are doing at that moment.  Maybe some people ARE fulfilling that stereotype that anti-equal-sign profile pics people are painting (and some people MUST be--I'm not saying they're unicorns).  Some people had this obnoxiously self-martyrizing (that's a word now) profile pic that said "I might lose some friends for this, but I support equal rights", and I have gotta say, regardless of the intentions, boy was that obnoxious, and I'm sure some of the people with that version WERE super annoying, self-righteous jerks. But isn't it awfully presumptive to assume most people with the equal sign are what the anti-profile pic people say they are?  Did we canvass all of facebook and put everyone on trial?
  But I'm not shoving this "I'm just like you" problem under the rug.  So much of the modern mainstream movement unfortunately seems to profess "We're just like you and we behave nicely and don't do icky things in bed and are usually middle class and white and sis-gender" and that is unacceptable.  It alienates so many who deserve respect, visibility, equality.  And this isn't a surprise, I think, to a lot of people wearing those equal signs.  It's wrong to assume it isn't. 
  What does an equal sign mean?  To a lot of people it means equal access, respect, visibility.  The rainbow is a giant series of multicolored equal signs.  It's the struggle of so many different kinds of people who face different problems the world over.  (Hence why my profile pic today was a rainbow American flag because this is about a valuable step in American queer rights, but I'm not here to get on my high horse.  I think this apologist, defensive post makes me vulnerable enough without some silly notion that I've found The Right Way or some bull.)
  We haven't even gotten the rulings yet.  But we had the protests and the counter-protests outside the courthouse.  We had the profile pics.  We have so many in this group suffering injustice from so many directions right at this moment and we will tomorrow.  Not done yet.  Let's go kick some butt.

Edit: THIS! ->


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

More on the Marriage Hearings

Here are some fascinating pieces from today's New York Times regarding the two marriage cases:  A graphic that gives a good overview of possible court rulings in the two marriage cases; a quick guide to the players in the cases; and an article about Theodore Olson and Charles Cooper, conservative lawyers who are on opposite sides on the marriage case. Last week, the Times published this piece about young conservatives who oppose gay marriage.

Best Signs Outside the Supreme Court

Buzzfeed made this compilation of the best 60 signs seen outside the Supreme Court hearings on Prop 8 today.

Supreme Court & Prop 8

Today is a big day everybody! It could be a huge game changer. Will we get equal marriage in California? We don't know yet but if you want to stay informed today check this out! Listen to the testimony from the Supreme Court case this morning! Also just for laughs. If you havn't seen it yet check out Prop 8 The Musical!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Colorado Governor Signs Civil Union Bill

Last week, Colorado's Governor John Hickenlooper signed a civil union bill into law. The bill had been introduced for the past three years and had enough support to pass last session, but the former Republican Speaker of the House blocked the voted, despite substantial bipartisan support. Governor Hickenlooper even called a special legislative session to address the civil union bill, but the Republican leadership still managed to stop the bill. Doing so, they killed several others bills, including "an overhaul of school discipline policies and setting a blood-level marijuana limit for drivers," according to The Huffington Post.

But last November, Democrats gained control of both houses of Colorado's legislature. Four gay Democrats, including the new Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, sponsored this year's bill. Seven Republican legislators voted for the legislation this year, last year, or both sessions.

Colorado has a mixed history of gay rights legislation. In 1992, voters passed a constitutional amendment which prohibited laws to protect gays from discrimination. It was struck down the by the Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans. In 2006, voters approved an amendment to define marriage as between a man and a women.

The upcoming Prop. 8 case may affect marriage equality in Colorado. If the Court rules that giving gay couples the same protections of marriage without calling it marriage violates equal protection, Colorado and the eight other states with civil unions may become marriage equality states.

Will Portman "Coming Out"

Recently, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) reversed his position on marriage equality. He said he had a change of heart after his son, Will, came out as gay.

Will Portman just published this op-ed column in his college's newspaper, the Yale Daily News:

It is well worth reading for Portman's personal story of coming out and his great perspective on open-mindedness.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More support for same-sex marriage from pediatricians

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

BGD: Obama Loves Queers! (Except Not)

So, reading that Gay Manifesto before break reminded me a lot of this article I read last year on Black Girl Dangerous because it speaks to the shift in gay activism.  It seems like 1960s-1970s discourse was "We ARE different from you, we will NEVER be like you, you got that right--we are WEIRD" as a reaction to constant oppression and a response to the "Just act like everyone else" 1950s Homophile approach.
  This article speaks to the sympathies of "You know what?  People DO weird things in bed and have weird lifestyles, and you need to get over it and let everyone live their lives with as many rights and as much respect as everyone else" sentiment in Gay Manifesto, just like that part in it that talks about "dirty sex" and bestiality.

  (Can this count as my second first-half-of-the-semester blog post since spring break isn't over yet?)

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Dad Overhears Son’s Plans to Come Out, Assuages His Fears with Preemptive Letter of Acceptance"


"A Transgender Child's Victory"

Read this article!! The story features a third-grader gaining the right to be considered and treated as a girl at her elementary school in New Hampshire.  It highlights the challenges that face transgender children in their everyday lives, but at the same time uses the story to demonstrate some of the progressive initiatives (i.e. Baltimore County's transgender discrimination ban) that are positively affecting the lives of LGBT children throughout the nation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Pope

As you must of heard by now the Vatican has a new Pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a 76-year-old Argentinean has taken on the name Pope Francis. Now why does this pertain to the gay community? The pope is an incredibly influential figure in constructing the ideology of the over a billion people on this planet who identify as Catholic. Pope Francis' views on homosexuality coincide with the church's official stance on homosexuality. Francis has been recorded as saying that "same-sex marriage is a destructive act on God's plan" and that same-sex adoption is "discrimination against children." While this isn't big news as probably none of us expected a queer friendly pope I believe it is useful for us to know how one of the most powerful people on this planet views us. Here is the link to the full article

Boy Scouts Survey

The Boy Scouts just sent out a survey to members on the organization's ban of gay members and leaders. Questions went far beyond a yes or no question on whether the ban should be continued.

This article in the New York Times does a good job of looking at the questionnaire, which asked questions such as:

"Should gay and straight scouts, for example, be allowed to share a tent on a camping trip? What role should faith play in scouting, if a church sponsoring a local scout troop has taken a position on the inclusion or exclusion of gays and lesbians in its congregation? Does the scout oath, with its language about staying “morally straight,” declare a value about sexual orientation or just a general, admirable code of conduct?"

It will be interesting to see if this leads to a long overdue change in policy.

For comparison, the Girl Scouts have a much more open policy for LGBT members and leaders. The Girl Scouts do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Here is a good look at how the organizations differ.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dan Savage vs. Brian Brown: The Dinner Table Debate

This video documents a debate between Dan Savage, writer of the Savage Love Column, and Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage. They talked at Savage's home in Seattle, debating same-sex marriage and the Bible.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Divorce Equality

Certainly less exciting to rally around, but an important component of the marriage equality discussion.

Nostalgia Chick and Needs More Gay: Gay and Lesbian Culture and Disney

  So, as a huge fan of Nostalgia Chick, I was PUMPED that she was going to team up with Rantasmo for her new episode to talk exclusively about gay culture in media.

So, my thoughts on the review:
  --I'm not thrilled that Nostalgia Chick says she normally looks at videos through a feminist lens and was now going to shift to a queer lens.  Beyond the fact that I'm in an academic environment that also draws on a web environment that says "feminist narratives include race-related, queer-related lenses" and so I don't feel the spheres should be separate in media analysis, Nostalgia Chick herself has treated her reviews under a feminist lens that also include race-related critiques, like in her reviews of Bay movies, The Craft, TLC, um that one movie with Justin Timberlake and Sarah Michelle Geller, and Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarves, and a bunch of other stuff.  And this isn't just a case of NChick miswording and meaning to say that she will be looking exclusively through a queer lens, either, because I can't really recall her spending much time on queer visibility or heteronormativity.  And I'm a big fan, so I think I'd remember.  In any case, I hope she includes this crucial perspective in her future critiques, whether Rantasmo is present or not.
 --I'm really pleasantly surprised that Disney is a pretty good place of employment in this day and age for gay and lesbian employees and customers--I'd never even heard of these Gay Days!  Of course, it is upsetting that Disney is torn between this market/group of fans/sentiment and socially conservative market/fans/sentiment, and so Disney has to kind of keep things "under the table", as NChick says.  With that in mind, however, I've gotta whoop for joy and say step in the right direction, even if it is a problem and their media is still uber heteronormative.
--I also feel that Rantasmo and NChick needn't have said they were looking as Disney through an LGBT (never mind all the other letters) lens because...that "T" part especially gets no visibility in this critique.  It's pretty much all about gayness, and even bisexuality doesn't get much time if any in this critique.  And it's not like there's no material to go on for trans especially--I mean, look at the lyrics to Reflection, man!
--I'm really glad that the critique also mocked the hell out of the "sassy gay friend" trope.  I'm really tired of the media and consequently people in real life thinking: "Gay guy!  He shall be fashion expert, wise, insightful, be a colorful spirit guide to lovelorn (white) girl!"
--My friends and I have noticed, too, that often one has a foppish villain to make them seem a deviant, which is villainous, but also feminine and vain, which is non-threatening.  It was interesting to consider the fop character as a good guy as well, that the nonthreatening nature can also be used to make a friend.  Of course the concept of "acting girly makes one nonthreatening" is troubling, but this whole discussion of the fop (I hadn't known there was a term for this character) just kept making me think about my constant struggle with what to make of in the characters in...well, Transformers and especially Transformers: Prime (JEEZUS, Knock Out and Starscream, tho!).  I can't figure out if their heavily-implied gay identities are mostly good things or mostly bad things.  My friend has recently dragged me into the fandom and we've been talking about the fandom under a queer lens (not just gay, but also asexual) for months and...oh God do I smell thesis.  Maybe I'll post about Transformers next in this blog.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Mickey Mouse supports gay marriage!"

Gay Wedding Is Embraced by Disney in Tokyo:

Koyuki's and Hiroko's wedding last Friday was the first same-sex marriage held in the Tokyo Disney Resort.

The article expressed the hope that their wedding would continue to stir public debates about LGBT rights and support the struggle for LBGT equality in Japan; it furthermore states that Japan has undertaken some steps towards LGBT equality (ban of discrimination at workplace f.ex.), but much more needs to be done to end oppression and discrimination and to "build a society where we can just be ourselves," as Koyuki put it.

Old Homosexuality Laws Still Hang Over Many in Germany

The following article, published today in the New York Times, fits nicely into our discussions about LGBT discrimination and persecution during the post-WWII era by opening up a transatlantic perspective:

In 1957 West Germany declared paragraph 175 (homophobic law) to be constitutional; great numbers of LGBT people were criminally persecuted during the 1950s and 60s. Only in 1994, homosexuality was decriminalized, but still today a lot of victims of homophobic persecution are still waiting to have their police records cleared.

With regard to the upcoming federal election in September, the conservative party has recently made a major turn in their stance on LGBT rights by signaling their support for gay equality and we will maybe see some developments concerning the clearing of LGBT people's police records.

Monday, March 4, 2013

More great movies!

This weekend I searched for the Transgeneration series and couldn't find it online for free so I checked to see if there was an MTV true life about it, and there was. It is called True Life: I am changing my sex. It was really great. The episode follows a male transitioning to female as well as a female to male. It shows doctors appointments, family relations, day to day life as well as interviews about their decision and plans for the future. Here is the link if you want to watch it!

Also, I was scanning Netflix and I found a huge number of interesting gay and lesbian documentaries that are streaming. I decided to watch For the Bible Tells Me So (2007) which was incredible. Very very interesting. The documentary looks at the intersection of religion and homosexuality. It follows a few families who are quite religious and have a GLBTQ son or daughter. They tell their stories from childhood to figuring out they were GLBTQ, telling their parents, up to where they are now from both the child's perspective and the parents. I found it really emotional and relevant, being that religion plays a huge role in many American's lives and has such a strong influence on the legal debates surrounding gay rights. 

A Fascinating Story & a Webinar for Allies

This post contains two unrelated but both very timely pieces that correlate with the discussions we've been having in class.

First is a blog post by Justin Huang (Pomona 2009) detailing his run-in with "a homophobic cop" in Los Angeles.  I was infuriated to read the account but very proud of this fellow Sagehen's reaction.  Indeed, homophobia--or at the very least, profiling of homosexuals--is alive and well in the LAPD.  If you don't have time to read the whole account, this is the most jarring excerpt:
The officer is grinning now, clearly pleased with himself. "Based on my expertise, I say you're intoxicated. I'm going to perform a breathalyzer test on you, and if you resist me, I'm going to spray you in the face."
Then, he adds, "I'm sure you're used to that." He smiles at me, as if expecting me to laugh.
If we think that institutionalized homophobia like that described by Dale Jennings in today's readings is a thing of the past, then we are sadly mistaken.

Second, and on a more upbeat note: Friendfactor, an equality-focused social media network that I have done some work for, is hosting webinars this week to train allies how to best support the LGBT(etc) community.  If you're interested, more information and a signup can be found here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Westboro Baptist Church in Santa Monica

In this post I would like to do a little bragging as well as a little bit of reflection on the nature of queer rights activism in our society today. On Monday February 25th The Westboro Baptist Church protested my alma matter Santa Monica High School because of its prominant GSA and tolerant atmosphere twords LGBTQ students. In response to this protest, over a hundred members of the Santa Monica community as well as many students and faculty members at Samohi organized a counter protest right across the street from where the WBC was stationed. First of all I am very proud to be part of a community that stand up for it's queer members, but I also have a slight qualm with the nature of this counter protest. If you are not familiar with the WBC, it is a cult that uses certain passages in the bible as well as their own twisted views on society to justify publicly demonizing everything from LGBTQ individuals to war veterans to catholic priests to athiests. In coloquial terms they hate everybody but themselves. I have been fascinated with this cult for many years now and have watched several documentaries on them. What stuck out to me most from interviews with members of the WBC is that they use the attention they get from having their protests broadcast in the media in order to recruit more members. Essentially for them "Any press is good press." This is what fuels my internal debate about the public attention their rally received at Samohi. They see it as a win if they have people yelling back at them and getting all riled up by their actions. So, while the counter protest at Samohi was a peaceful one it was exactly what they wanted. However, I can not fully criticize the actions of my hometown because by showing up with giant rainbow flags and signs they did make a public stand for Santa Monica's queer youth which is such an important cause. I posted this story and my perspectives on it in order to open up a dialog about the WBC and hopefully hear your insights onto the matter. I hope this fuels a lively debate. Here is the link to the Huff post article about the protest including a video shot by my friend as Samohi student Ben Ross.