« June 2011 | Main | August 2011 »

126 posts from July 2011

July 31, 2011

4-year-old murdered by cult leader for "acting gay"

New details emerge on the murder of a four-year-old child for "acting gay." I keep looking at the photo of little Jaden Higginbotham in his Spiderman shirt, and wonder how in the world anyone can do such a thing to a child. Look at his pleading eyes. All of his dreams, everything he might have been, snuffed out by an ignorant fanatic. So many children to protect, so much bigotry to overcome. We fight for all of the Jaden Higginbothams. We don't know their orientations any more than they probably do themselves. They deserve a world where they are nurtured and encouraged to make the most of whoever they are. Those who refuse to understand this are helping the abusers, even if they never raise an angry hand or fire a shot. Every set of eyes we open, every heart and mind we change can rescue a child we may never know. Look around — there's plenty of work.

(Inspiration: Joshua, circa November 1995, who loved Spiderman and dinosaurs and his uncle Robert, and is now big enough to carry us.)

Desert sunrise

If you think the summer weather is hot, check out this, one of the most celebrated edits in cinematic history, from David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. I excerpted a couple scenes of dialog from the movie recently, which helped show the quality of the screenplay. This one displays Lean's compositional genius. For the full impact, you have to see this on the big screen. Years ago I saw the restored print on the giant, curved screen at D.C.'s Uptown Theater with the late activist Bob Freitag. Words cannot capture the awe and joy this scene provoked. No small part of the joy is related to the beautiful close-up that immediately precedes the edit. If you know of a more sublimely homoerotic film, please let me know.

Santorum: "New York has destroyed marriage"

Former senator Rick Santorum, campaigning in Colorado, condemns not just marriage-equality supporters but even insufficiently intolerant fellow-homophobes.

GOProud barred from CPAC 2012

Let's see if Chris Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia find a way to spin this as a victory. How cheap they must feel.

Bill Maher makes GOP motivational movie reel

Bill Maher offers the GOP some alternative motivational movie clips.

July 29, 2011

CMs Mendelson, Bowser, and Catania hit Sibley Hospital for discrimination against same-sex parents

Yesterday D.C. Council Members Phil Mendelson, Muriel Bowser, and David Catania wrote a stern letter to Sibley Hospital and the D.C. Hospital Association. Allow me to provide some background.

On July 8, CM Bowser and GLAA were contacted by a local married lesbian couple whose child was recently born at Sibley Hospital. They described their difficulty in obtaining a birth certificate from the hospital, which said it had "set aside" their paperwork because they had requested the parent-and-parent form instead of the mother-and-father form, and required their marriage certificate. It turned out that the hospital presumes opposite-sex couples are married and requires no marriage certificate from them. Enforcing one standard for straight couples and another for gay couples is discriminatory in violation of D.C. law.

To complement CM Bowser's efforts, I put the couple in touch with D.C. Office of GLBT Affairs Director Jeffrey Richardson and D.C. Council Judiciary Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson's committee clerk Brian Moore (a 2010 winner of GLAA's Distinguished Service Award for his work on the marriage equality law and other legislation, including a parental rights law pertinent to this case). Richardson agreed with my assessment. Moore investigated, resulting in this joint letter from the three council members. As the letter states, the law requires all married couples to be treated the same, regardless of sexual orientation.

Thanks to the council members for their "terrific letter," as our colleague Bob Summersgill calls it. Thanks also to the council staffers who assisted in the matter, and to Jeff Richardson for his support. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Senator Scott Brown's anti-gay record

Clarknt67 reports at Pam's House Blend on Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, who faces re-election for a full term in 2012.

Williams Institute study shows rates of anti-LGB employment discrimination similar in public and private sectors

This just in from the Williams Institute:


Complaint rates also similar for sexual orientation, race, and sex discrimination

Press Release - For Immediate Release

Media Contacts:
Brad Sears, sears@law.ucla.edu, (310) 794-5279
Christy Mallory, mallory@law.ucla.edu, (310) 794-9469

LOS ANGELES- Today, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law released a new study supporting that the level of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is similar in public and private sectors. The study analyzed discrimination complaints filed with administrative agencies in those states that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, and adjusted the filings by the number of LGB employees in each state that work in each sector.

Overall, the study finds that sexual orientation complaint filings are slightly lower, but similar, for employees in the public sector when compared to the private sector. The filing rate for state and local employees is 3 for every 10,000 LGB employees compared to 4 for every 10,000 LGB employees in the private sector. Currently, there are not enough data to do a similar analysis of gender identity discrimination complaints and federal employees are not covered by these state anti-discrimination statutes.

“These findings of a similar pattern of sexual orientation discrimination in the public sector when compared to the private sector are consistent with prior studies analyzing data from surveys of LGB employees and other research,” says study co-author and Williams Institute Executive Director Brad Sears. “This is not surprising given the history of employment discrimination against LGB people which started with purges and official discriminatory policies in the public sector that were then adopted and followed by the private sector.”

“Although the data is limited, it also appears that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation may be higher in local governments than in state governments,” says study co-author and Williams Law Fellow Christy Mallory. “This was the case overall and in six of the eight states where we were able to compare complaints of state and local employees.”

Consistent with previous studies by the Williams Institute, the new report also confirmed that employment discrimination filings on the basis of sexual orientation, race, and sex are similar. When looking at all sectors, 4 race discrimination complaints were filed for every 10,000 people of color employees, 4 sexual orientation complaints for every 10,000 LGB employees, and 5 sex discrimination complaints for every 10,000 female employees.

The full report may be found at: http://www3.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/home.html

Mourners challenge pastor's bigotry at Lashai McLean funeral

D.C. comedian and writer Sampson McCormick posted messages on Facebook on Wednesday (July 27) concerning disrespect shown toward LaShai McLean from the pulpit at her funeral on Wednesday (which I unfortunately missed due to a work conflict):

Is this pastor really preaching a 'wages of sin' sermon at this transgender woman's funeral??? #ohhellno

The family is affirming, but the pastor isn't. There was a MASS EXIT when he got up there. Everybody else got quiet.

It was a mess, they kept calling her 'him' and then the congregation would get up and correct with 'SHE'. you would think it waa in the south, but it was right in tge heart if DC. The man who preached, looked like a black, colonel Sanders, and kept saying 'this death is the consequence of living this lifestyle'

... You know some people were objecting, but they weren't standing up saying 'Not my Jesus', they wete getting up saying 'Fuck that.' In long lines leaving. It was crazy. Never seen anything like it.

It was SAD! But u know those queens in there, read his ass for the blood of the saints, honey!!! His name is Pastor A.W. Montgomery, Sr. insensitive, trans-homophobic, disrespectful old man, who looks like THE COLONEL from KFC.

Thanks to Sampson for documenting this, and bless the people who challenged the bigoted pastor and walked out. We cannot change the world or people's minds all at once, but we sure can make it clear that we will not silently accept that kind of disrespect at a funeral.

Also, I have an update to my blog post from yesterday. The Blade this morning (July 29) updated Lou Chibbaro's July 25 story with additional information that he provided after he was accused of speculation and anti-trans bias by the DC Trans Coalition:

Court records show that Mclean was arrested on a charge of “inviting for purposes of prostitution” on Aug. 5, 2010 at 4:45 a.m. on the unit block of K Street, N.E. as part of a sting operation conducted by undercover male D.C. police officers.

Records filed in D.C. Superior Court show that Mclean accepted an offer by the U.S. Attorney’s office to enroll in a court diversion program operated by the local group Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS). The program called for Mclean to successfully complete eight sessions of HIPS’ Trans-In-Formation program, a counseling and self-help program that HIPS created under a federal grant to enable transgender sex workers avoid prosecution when arrested on solicitation related charges and become productive citizens.

Court records show Mclean successfully completed the program and the U.S. Attorney’s office dismissed the charge against her on May 9 of this year.

HIPS Executive Director Cyndee Clay said Mclean worked well in the program and the group was pleased to help her. At the vigil on Saturday, HIPS Outreach Manager Jenna Mellor told the gathering she was honored to have known Mclean.

“Every time you talked to Shai you really knew how strong she is,” Mellor said. “And it’s an inspiration to see someone live that strongly every day.”

Telling Lashai's story without censoring the unpleasant bits does not have to be seen as disrespectful — it can help others. Speaking of HIPS’ Trans-In-Formation program, Chibbaro tells me that their federal grant was not renewed. That is most unfortunate. These marginalized women need a lot of help to escape their circumstances and build a better life for themselves. They need us to speak up for them.

Enrique Yglesias said what?


I am appalled that my friend Ester is gossiping about Spanish singer and heartthrob Enrique Yglesias. But I share her hope that he was just kidding. I also hope he stops mixing whiskey with antibiotics. I've read enough obits lately.

The soft hackery of low expectations

Lou Chibbaro at the Blade reports that D.C. Republican Committee member Jose Cunningham was scheduled to host a $500-a-head fundraiser yesterday for the DCRC, featuring RNC Chair Reince Priebus. Lou writes:

Robert Kabel, a gay Republican activist and former board chair for the national group Log Cabin Republicans, serves as the elected chair of the DCRC. The committee has been supportive of LGBT rights issues for many years, placing it at odds with the national Republican Party.

Kabel has lobbied Republican members of Congress in support of D.C.’s same-sex marriage law....

Kabel said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, was expected to attend Thursday’s luncheon with Priebus. He said he wasn’t sure whether Cooper or Cunningham would bring up LGBT-related issues with Priebus, including whether the national party might adopt a less hostile platform on gay issues at next year’s Republican convention.

“He has been the most welcoming chairman for LGBT Republicans that the RNC has ever had,” said Kabel, who noted that he meets regularly with Priebus in his role as head of the D.C. GOP.

As I wrote in the comments below the article: It’s great that the DC GOP is gay friendly, but it has held Republicans to an awfully low bar on the issue. Back in 2004, it notoriously caved to the national party in pulling then-Republican Councilmember David Catania’s credentials as a delegate to the national convention for his criticism of President Bush, even though he had pledged to vote for him; that move drove David from the party. On March 31 of this year, right-wing nutcase Rep. Allen West (R-FL) was a keynoter at the DC GOP’s Lincoln Douglass dinner, winning a standing ovation for private school vouchers which most Washingtonians oppose but which local Republicans are apparently eager to impose on them anyway. (See http://tinyurl.com/3qq8gdx – and in case you think that’s not a gay-related issue, the religious schools that get much of the voucher money are free to discriminate against gay teachers and students, unlike D.C. Public Schools. But set aside gay-specific concerns for a moment; we cannot even get our local Republican Party leaders to respect self-determination by the District when it goes against their policy preferences.)

What possible difference is made to the treatment of gay citizens by the national Republican Party on account of some friendly private words by Reince Priebus at a $500-a-head fundraiser? Given the corruption scandals plaguing our city, I would love to see a more competitive local Republican Party; But they appear more interested in pandering to the leaders of the national party than building support among the actual local electorate, notwithstanding Rep. West’s promotion of black involvement in the party. So what do they get for it? More social invitations and a welcoming smile at the Republican Club? This is pathetic.

But hey, I give credit where due. I acknowledged Kabel's contribution to the D.C. marriage equality fight here, here and here. I also appreciate Log Cabin's efforts against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as well as its repudiation of Ann Coulter's endorsement of the "ex-gay" fraud. They are certainly more reasonable and useful than the malignant clowns at GOProud.

In short, I try to be nice to our friends across the aisle, but please — what has Bob Kabel gotten for us with his friendly meetings with Reince Priebus? Does staying on good terms with the increasingly Tea Party-dominated GOP outrank gay issues for gay Republicans? If not, prove it.

July 28, 2011

Larry Kramer explains it all for you

Larry_Kramer_2010_-_David_Shankbone Perpetual scold Larry Kramer, the award-winning playwright and co-founder of New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis, tells Chris Geidner that he feels his disparagement of the hoopla surrounding New York's marriage equality victory has been misunderstood. He gives Chris the complete statement he submitted to NYT. Here is a portion:

The historic and cultural significance of this moment is that once again the gay population of this country continues to accept second best. These marriages, in whichever state, are what I call 'feel-good marriages.' They convey little in the way of benefits (and in some instances they are even financially punishing to those who embark on them). Compared to the benefits heterosexual marriages convey, gay marriages are an embarrassment - that we should accept so little, and with so much hoopla of excitement and self-congratulation.

Most straight people who are congratulating us so effusively don't understand that these marriages share none of their federal benefits and entitlements, the right to inherit without punishing taxation, the right for our joint incomes not to be taxed so hideously high, the right to share insurances -- there are over one thousand benefits worth money that the federal government bestows on heterosexual marriages and which our state marriages don't. So why do we continue to get so excited when so few worthless crumbs are thrown our way?

... When are we going to recognize that until the Supreme Court blesses our union, we continue to be worthless and powerless, which is the way our enemies wish us to remain. When will we face up to the fact that no sooner does a state grant us marriage, than our enemies immediately tie up the courts in endless litigations to disallow them, as in the monstrous mess that has become California.... I do not disparage any gay couple's desire to wed in New York, or anywhere else, and in so doing feel and take joy from this act. But let us all recognize that beyond this euphoria, these marriages are hardly worth the paper they are printed on.

And once again, I can only raise the cry: how long are we as a people going to accept such shabby and unequal treatment?

I am sorry, but this is willfully obtuse and insulting. Setting aside what most straight people understand (we can deal with communication and messaging deficiencies in another discussion), it is simply false to say that marriage equality activists "accept second best." The fact that we can't get everything we want in one fell swoop doesn't mean we're settling for a "few worthless crumbs," as Kramer falsely characterizes the real and significant legal protections now available at the state level to same-sex couples in New York. He must be aware of the ongoing struggle on multiple fronts for marriage equality at the national level. So why does he insist on claiming that we're settling for less? None of us thinks that we're done. What would it cost him to say, "Hooray — now we press on for full equality, not just state by state, but at the federal level."

Kramer also says that "until the Supreme Court blesses our union, we continue to be worthless and powerless...." He has been spouting this sort of dire hyperbole for his entire career, and it JUST AIN'T SO. Just because we have not reached the goal, just because we have much more yet to achieve, does not make it remotely reasonable to say that in the meantime we are "worthless and powerless." As Frank Kameny said firmly to Kramer years ago during an appearance Kramer made to D.C.'s late and lamented Lambda Rising bookstore, we have made enormous progress for gay equality over the decades. It's asinine to deny this. Just a scan of GLAA's online archive at www.glaa.org, which only deals with local stuff here in D.C., shows how wrong Kramer is on this.

What pisses people off about Kramer, I think, is not that they imagine he has insulted their marriages much less their love for each other, but that his Cassandra complex makes him unwilling ever to pause to celebrate anything we collectively achieve. It is extremely tiresome. He may have some superhuman drive to propel him, but most of us need these moments of celebration. Those celebrations are not a sign of self-delusion. We are not the fools he takes us for.

As to a marriage that is not recognized at the federal level being financially punishing for some couples, it is certainly smart for people to consult a tax attorney before taking the leap. But that is a choice for each couple to make. Kramer may want to wait until we have won full equality, but he should know better than anyone that for many people, in the words of the song "Love Don't Need a Reason" that Michael Callen co-wrote for The Normal Heart, "What we don't have is time."

I am 21 years younger than Kramer, but at 55 I do not see the future stretching out endlessly before me. The reason I have not yet married my Patrick, despite the tenth anniversary of our first night together approaching next month, is that as a binational couple there are legal considerations that get in our way. But I intend to take what I can get when I can get it, even as we press on toward the goal of equality.

As Dr. King said on December 5, 1955 as he launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama: "And we are determined, here in Montgomery, to work and fight until justice rolls down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

In short, Mr. Kramer, you are not the only person in our community who gets it, who is angered by injustice, or who is committed for the long haul. Your persistent habit of talking as if the rest of us are fucking idiots got old a long time ago.

Savage to Santorum: cut out the anti-gay rhetoric or I'll redefine "Rick" too

Very amusing, Mister Savage, but if you go through with this threat, I think I'll get together with my fellow Ricks and redefine YOUR name. (OTOH, what could we possibly say about a raunchy sex advice columnist that he would even mind?)

Anti-trans murders, news reporting, and the police

Lou Chibbaro's July 25 story on the July 23 vigil for murdered transwoman Lashai McLean has provoked some angry responses from the transgender community. The DC Trans Coalition has posted a strongly-worded attack on what they call "the Blade’s egregious speculation" in response to this passage, which begins with Chibbaro's reference to remarks at the vigil by former Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit leader, openly gay Sgt. Brett Parson:

Parson now works as a patrol supervisor in the Six District, where the incident occurred.

“I know that many of you are hurting right now,” he said. “I know that many of you are angry. And you have a right to be because any time a member of our family is taken from us in such a violent way it should make our entire community angry,” he said.

“I want you to know that we get it. We understand that the anger is not just that Lashai was gunned down senselessly,” he said. “But it’s that Lashai was forced to be in a place and time to be ripe for victimization and that those circumstances have to change.”

Although Parson did not say so directly, he may have been referring to the fact that Mclean was shot shortly after 4 a.m. in an alley near the corner of 61st and Dix Streets, N.E., which is a location well known as a gathering place for transgender prostitutes and the men that patronize their services.

Groomes said police could not immediately determine whether the incident was prostitution related but said investigators were looking into that as a possibility.

The trouble with DCTC's objection is that Lou was not speculating. He had investigated the matter and was reporting. That is his job. The attack by DCTC will probably force him to report details from Lashai's arrest record that he chose out of delicacy to avoid mentioning. Hasty charges of anti-trans bias are unjust and counterproductive.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the Blade article, you can read the comments, to which I contributed. I know this is painful and that there is a lot of justifiable anger at the continued murderous violence against transgender people in this city. There is also legitimate frustration with the Metropolitan Police Department. Some of us are going to meet with Chief Lanier next month to try to press ahead. But addressing the problem requires restraint, respect, and channeling our anger productively. It is mightily difficult to talk about ongoing injustices in a way that promotes needed discussions rather than shutting them down; but we have to try.

July 27, 2011

Massachusetts congressional delegation: It Gets Better

Every member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation except Republican Senator Scott Brown participated in this contribution to the "It Gets Better" project.

LGBT Asylum News roundup

Paul Canning at LGBT Asylum News shares these news items:

Harry Jackson ready to fight Gov. O'Malley

Bishop Harry Jackson, who lost at every turn in his effort to defeat marriage equality in D.C., pledges to take his fight to Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

In the long run, I think that the presence of obnoxious voices like Harry Jackson's makes our job easier by providing an example of the intolerance and lies that we are up against. Increasingly, voters see our advocates as reasonable and our opponents as nasty or nutty. People who already agree with Bishop Jackson will applaud him, but he will repel more of those just discovering him than he attracts.

Yvette Alexander on ethics

Loose Lips reports that Mayor Vince Gray does not think Council Member Harry Thomas, Jr. should resign over the scandal involving his misuse of three hundred grand. Gray says "let justice take its course." LL goes on to report that Council Member Yvette Alexander is backtracking from her earlier remark that she would not have repaid money that she had not wrongfully spent:

Alexander accused those councilmembers calling for Thomas to resign of "a bit of grandstanding" and says the council hasn't always acted consistently when it comes to ethical issues.

She says the council's decision to censure Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry last year looks rash in light of the fact that he wasn't criminally charged with any wrongdoing. And she says no one said a word after news broke that Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham didn't report the fact that his former chief of staff offered him an envelope full of cash on behalf of a taxi advocate.

"We can’t be selective when it comes ethics," says Alexander.

I posted the following comment:

Dear CM Alexander, let's see if we can clear this up. CM Thomas took the money. CM Graham did not take the money. CM Barry (I'm sorry, LL, that should be Mayor-for-Life) blatantly misused city funds, though that did give then-Chairman Gray an excuse to kill all earmarks to close a $600 million shortfall. Did Graham's failure to alert the FBI or fire Loza merit an ethics award? No. Did those events go unremarked? Hardly.

Yes, Yvette, Marion did not go to jail for this one. If avoiding jail is your definition of ethics, then you're in good company.

The undertone of race mongering over these scandals is a thin cover for a practice called Fake It Til You Make It, which is doing such wonders for our city. So tell us, Yvette, what color are the constituents who stand to suffer most from those two CMs' corruption? But Harry Jr. should have consulted Marion on how to be less blatant about one's skimming. Marion would have taken a group of disadvantaged kids along on his golfing trip to the islands. At least try to have some style. But hey, you get what you vote for.

As to another of Yvette's reported comments, I am shocked, shocked to learn there is grandstanding going on in here.

Update: Our friend Joel Lawson (@JoelLawsonDC) tweeted:

oooOUCH: GLAA Forum goes OFF on Councilmember Yvette Alexander's ethics standards - full righteous burn: http://t.co/vvYuLDH

My reply: Why thank you, I think. But a "full righteous burn"? I never broke a sweat. I guess I won't be invited to any more FRs.

And our friend Keith Ivey (@kcivey) tweets:

Disappointed that @mayorvincegray & @CMYMA seem to believe ethics standard is whether you've been convicted in court. http://bit.ly/phAMxb

Yes. What a surprise that remedial ethics training should be needed in this righteous burgh.

July 26, 2011

The usual suspects

As anyone committed to ending discrimination against an unpopular minority should readily grasp, the conventional wisdom is often wrong. One popular bit of false CW is that Muslims are the main source of terrorist attacks in the West. The bloody July 22 attacks in Oslo by Norwegian extremist Anders Behring Breivik are but the latest refutation of that falsehood; earlier counter-examples include Oklahoma City and bombings of abortion clinics. But the Oslo mass murder provides a grim opportunity to correct the myth. Matt Yglesias at Think Progress writes:

According to Europol’s 2010 data (PDF) attacks by separatist/nationalist groups far outnumber attacks by Islamists.

I think this is important since the background condition of fairly widespread terrorism on the part of, say, Basque or Corsican terrorists helps us understand the correct context for a lot of Islamist violence, namely nationalism. If you look at Hamas, or the Taliban, or Pakistan-backed radicals in and around Kashmir it should be clear that ethnic nationalism is a major factor in all of these conflicts.

Zaid Jilani, also at Think Progress, notes that the same is true in America:

As ThinkProgress noted at the time of his first hearing examining exclusively the radicalization in Muslim communities, there have been almost twice as many terror plots from non-Muslims than Muslims in the United States since 9/11.

Bruce Bawer, who recently returned to the U.S. after living for years with his partner in Oslo, writes in WSJ that, while he at first assumed that Islamic terrorists were behind the Oslo attacks, he was not surprised when it turned out that the culprit was a Norwegian Islamophobe:

Several of us who have written about the rise of Islam in Europe have warned that the failure of mainstream political leaders to responsibly address the attendant challenges would result in the emergence of extremists like Breivik.

But I was stunned to discover on Saturday that Breivik was a reader of my own work, including my book While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within. In comments posted in 2009 on a Norwegian blog, document.no, Breivik expressed admiration for my writings, but criticized me for not being a cultural conservative (although he was pleased that I was not a Marxist, either).

Later on Saturday came news of a 1,500-page manifesto, entitled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," that Breivik had recently written and posted online. The first half, in which he indicts the European cultural elite for permitting Islam to take root in Europe, makes it clear that he is both highly intelligent and very well read in European history and the history of modern ideas.

In the second half he describes himself as having revived the Knights Templar. He also outlines in extreme detail how he and his fellow anti-jihadists can acquire weapons, ammunition and body armor and thereupon proceed to use "terror as a method for waking up the masses" to the danger posed by Islam. This makes it clear he is completely insane.

Bawer's main concern still seems to focus on Muslim extremists in European countries. He laments, "It will, I fear, be a great deal more difficult to broach these issues now that this murderous madman [Breivik] has become the poster boy for the criticism of Islam."

I myself have written about radical Islamists and how gay leftists often refuse to criticize them and call such criticism Islamophobic, disregarding the virulent homophobia of the Islamists themselves. Indeed, Bawer quoted me on pages 193 and 194 of his 2009 book, Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom. But Bawer needs to step back here and put aside his Muslim-centric lens long enough to recognize that nativist, xenophobic and religious-motivated violence by native-born Americans and Europeans is a serious problem in its own right and should not be minimized by treating it mainly as an unfortunate diversion from the proper focus on Islamists. (He might deny intending any such meaning; but he is already horrified at having been misused by Breivik, so perhaps this is a good time for all of us who have ventured into these waters to broaden and reframe our messaging.)

If we really want to end violence rather than merely indulge in online flame wars, we need to seek ways to illuminate these contentious issues and resist hot-button rhetoric that effectively shuts down (or cartoonizes) discussions before they can properly start.

For one thing, we can learn from the differences between America's experience with Muslim immigrants and Europe's. The United States has been much better at assimilating immigrants than Europe has. The problem of Muslims in European cities who refuse to learn the local language and demand to be governed by Sharia law is largely the result of liberal post-colonial policies that ghettoized immigrants and thwarted the assimilation process that would have given them more of a stake in their new countries.

In any case, the evidence shows that both Americans and Europeans have far more to fear from home-grown terrorists driven by racist nationalism than from immigrants. In the U.S., gay people have been largely replaced by Muslims and undocumented "aliens" (to use a prejudicial term) as the right-wing's favorite election-year scapegoats. I believe that those of us who oppose nativism, xenophobia, and religious bigotry need to build coalitions with our fellow scapegoats — not in a naive expression of solidarity with people who hate us, but in a clear-eyed recognition of both our differences and the diversity within each population. I (to cite a few small personal examples) have donated to the much-demonized Islamic Center in lower Manhattan, as well as to the re-election campaign of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who is both pro-gay and Muslim; and I have written against the demonizing of Muslims. Fostering trust and cooperation between communities takes time; but speaking out and organizing against the partisan exploitation of xenophobia and religious bigotry, while taking note of the gay community's own racial and religious diversity, will make a good start.

July 25, 2011

ILGA finally wins ECOSOC accreditation

Un-rainbow-flag-225x250 Paul Canning reports at LGBT Asylum News:

ILGA - the International Lesbian and Gay Association, one of the oldest international LGBT groups - this afternoon won accreditation as an NGO to ECOSOC, the UN Economic and Social Council.

ILGA has been fighting for recognition at the United Nations for many years.

Last year the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) won accreditation to ECOSOC.

In May ILGA lost a vote on recognition at the the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.

Good. It's way past time for this to have happened.

Is Mayor Bloomberg an awkward officiant, or is it just me?

I watched this wedding ceremony live on CNN yesterday, and it was squirm-inducing. Bloomberg even mentions that he denied the grooms (who both work for him) the day off today, because the city's in the midst of a budget crisis. Then Joel Grey comes forward to sing for the happy couple, but awkwardly stops to shake everyone's hand first. And after Mayor Mike declares the couple married, they hug their little girls (who served as ring bearers) rather than kissing each other.

Look, if you're not comfortable kissing your spouse at your own wedding for fear that Aunt Agnes might faint from shock, do everyone a favor and skip the ceremony altogether. I mean, really, you're kissing him in front of everyone, not blowing him. Get the hell over it already.

Barron defends Bachmann and Tea Party against "gay left"

Check out this item from Joe Jervis. Apparently, Chris Barron of GOProud is talking as if the well-documented evidence of Michele Bachmman's anti-gay statements and her husband's provision of "ex-gay" therapy is all a fabrication by the gay left to discredit the Tea Party. It is hard to decide if Barron is delusional or merely unscrupulous. Either way, it's a mystery whom he and his cohort Jimmy LaSalvia expect to convince with their over-the-top assertions. Part of their m.o. is to treat any criticism of them as enraged far-left denunciation. But to the extent that people pay attention to them at all, they provoke more amazed head shaking than rage. Their hyped-up rhetoric notwithstanding, they are in self-imposed exile from the reality-based community.

No doubt it suits their purposes to treat anyone in the LGBT community who disagrees with them — which is to say, the overwhelming majority — as a member of the far left, just as the anti-gay right has long pretended. But the far right has no use for them, as was demonstrated by their experience at CPAC earlier this year, in which Barron had to apologize for accurately characterizing Republican super-lawyer Cleta Mitchell as homophobic. (Mitchell, among other things, represented D.C. marriage-equality opponents before the Board of Elections.)

So what's the point of GOProud's bilious performance art? Presumably, like Stepin Fetchit, they are at least getting paid for their degrading shtick.

Pioneering Gay Pakistani Muslim Poet Dies at 64

AP has a great lede for this obit:

Men and women in conservative dress sat quietly before the start of a what promised to be a typical Pakistani Muslim community gathering, until Ifti Nasim — the gay Pakistani Muslim poet, activist and Chicago radio show host — strode in wearing leather pants, a leather overcoat and pimp hat with feather.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

NYT: Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S.

This news from NYT is not good:

The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them, as well as copying multiple passages from the tract of the Unabomber.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

Quacks and busybodies

My latest column uses the scandal over Dr. Marcus Bachmann's use of reparative therapy as a jumping-off point to discuss the "ex-gay" fraud. Here's a portion:

It [seems] increasingly hard to find an anti-gay public figure who is not (A) a closeted homosexual, (B) the estranged parent of a gay child, or (C) a woman embittered by her husband leaving her for his boyfriend. A case could be made for the rebuttable presumption that any outspoken homophobe has a personal gay issue for which his or her anti-gay pronouncements are merely a cover.

To be sure, the junk science known as "reparative therapy" is no joke. On July 8, John M. Becker of Truth Wins Out reported on undercover work in which he received reparative therapy from Bachmann's firm. He concluded, "Based on my experiences at Bachmann & Associates, there can no longer be any doubt that Marcus Bachmann's state- and federally-funded clinic endorses and practices reparative therapy aimed at changing a gay person's sexual orientation, despite the fact that such 'therapy' is widely discredited by the scientific and medical communities."

Bachmann defensively replied that he only offers the therapy "at the client's discretion." Truth Wins Out observed that "if a bodybuilder had asked a doctor to help him or her inject steroids, the practitioner could refuse. If an African American asked a doctor for a skin bleaching, he or she could decline."

... As it happens, an "ex-gay" proponent and busybody named Sharon Kass, who enjoys emailing me, wrote to me on July 14 saying, "Tip: Ex-gay science is real. PC 'gay-affirmative' is not," and provided links for narth.com, gaytostraight.org and peoplecanchange.com. I suggested that instead of sloganeering she should try to refute Wayne Besen's book, Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. I added that I am happy the way I am.

Our happiness, in fact, is the real issue, not whether we can change. We have a right to pursue our happiness regardless of whether our orientation is immutable.

Read the whole thing here.

July 24, 2011

Cheh, Catania call on Thomas to resign

2009_1202_thomas Tim Craig at WaPo reports:

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh said Saturday that her colleague, Harry Thomas Jr., should resign because it “will be very difficult for him to serve the residents” following his decision to settle a city lawsuit against him. On Friday, Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan announced that Thomas (D-Ward 5) has agreed to repay the District $300,000 to clear up allegations he diverted public funds from youth programs and used some of the money to pay for luxury cars and expensive trips.

Thomas maintains he did nothing wrong, but he issued a statement saying he had settled the lawsuit “in the best interest of the city.”

Councilmember David Catania has also called on Thomas to resign. Reports from the Informer and Washington Times. City Paper reports the implausible insistence by Thomas that he did nothing wrong.

"Tommy" Thomas's record on LGBT issues has been mixed (he notably led the opposition to Jim Graham's 2007 bill to allow gay strip clubs displaced by the ballpark to relocate), but we gave him major props for supporting civil marriage equality in the face of strong opposition within his ward. At this point, however, his settlement is tacit acknowledgment of wrongdoing — his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

I am not sanguine about the prospects for electing a gay-affirming Ward 5 councilmember to replace him; but I don't see how he can credibly stay. It appears, however, that if he goes it will be kicking and screaming, as with most politicians. D.C.'s political establishment has taken a lot of hits this year. It is time for the cleanup to begin. As a colleague pointed out, however, recall efforts must wait one year after a given incumbent wins an election. I personally like CM Thomas, and take no pleasure in this situation.

It has really been a grim year for our city's self-government. I might add that the petty infighting among councilmembers has not helped.

Musto on Amy Winehouse

220px-Amy_Winehouse_f4962007_crop Michael Musto at Village Voice writes about the death of Amy Winehouse:

Recently, the same people who were absolutely loving her music just a couple of years ago were sending me the video of Amy collapsing on stage in concert, as if it was the height of hilarity.

I didn't re-post it because I found it deeply sad. (Yes, even I drew the line.)

Would you laugh at a video of a great singer passing out onstage of a heart attack or cancer?

Musto is right: the fact that people are responsible for their own actions does not mean that their friends should not try to intervene. As to fans, they are fickle. I generally do not enjoy watching self-destructive people, and was never a fan of Winehouse. But her sad story is the latest example of how fame can chew people up, or encourage their most self-destructive instincts. Musto is right: it wasn't and isn't funny. But there is also something ghoulish about all the post-mortems if they are just more celebrity-watching and not about how to help other addicts.

The gathering storm over words from Arabic

Alex Pareeene writes at Salon:

A few years back, Arizona got sick of the fact that Texas and Mississippi and Alabama were always the butts of the rest of the nation's jokes about halfwit xenophobic gun-toting pissed-off old white folk, and so The Grand Canyon State decided to really kick it up a notch, in terms of bad craziness and hatred. The tireless work of Governor Jan Brewer, State Senator Russell Pearce and Sheriff Joe Arpaio paid off! Thanks to those three, Arizona is no longer defined by its amazing geography, rich history, and rugged, independent residents. No, when you think of Arizona in 2011, you think of a bunch of armed racist morons.

Yet another example of the hysterical, small-minded stupidity of the people of the great state of Arizona made it to today's New York Times. With massive, dangerous dust storms sweeping through central Arizona, the populace is obviously very worried -- about MUSLIM WORDS.

Adam Serwer at American Prospect gets into the act.

Next thing you know, we will be told we must stop watching Lawrence of Arabia lest we succumb to homoerotic desert fantasies. Never, I say. Never!

What's with Civil War re-enactors, anyway?

This weekend, as temperatures exceeded 100 degrees, Civil War buffs have been re-enacting the Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia to mark the 150th anniversary of that battle. I have never understood this enthusiasm. How do we do justice to our history by romanticizing war? A local newscast showed re-enactors riding proudly on horseback in their costumes. I expect that what will not be convincingly re-enacted are the horrible wounds and the field of dead, dying and wounded. OTOH, a lack of seriousness about the reality of war was notable at the first Battle of Bull Run in 1861, when people from Washington drove to the battle site in their carriages to watch, like ancient Romans at the Coliseum. It did not go well. The weather this weekend is not cooperating, being considerably hotter than it was at the original battle. I suspect, however, that no one 150 years from now will re-enact the silly people passing out in the heat as they play-act the glorious carnage of war. A better use of people's time might be to press their current-day elected representatives to do their jobs and not allow know-nothing fanatism and scorched-earth partisanship to wreck our nation's economy.

As the video above suggests, part of the fascination with war relates to men's love of gadgets. Couple that with gallantry, and you have the stuff of myths. I think of a line from a popular song from four decades ago: "I clean my gun, and dream of Galveston." But Civil War romanticism, however silly, is far preferable to the bloodier dreams of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who has murdered at least 92 of his fellow citizens. Meanwhile, despicably, the fanatics at World Net Daily blame the carnage in Oslo on Muslims.

Update: Bruce Bawer weighs in on the Oslo attack. And Daily Kos here.

Vigil held for Lashay McLean

The early morning hours last Wednesday saw the latest murder of one of our transgender sisters, Lashay McLean. At 7 pm yesterday, several dozen people braved the extreme heat and humidity to gather at 61st and Dix Streets NE, the site of the murder, for a vigil in Lashay’s memory. We were joined by several members of her family as well as police officials, representatives of the mayor, and activists who continue to work for our safety.

Adding sadness upon sadness, Lashay’s mother, overcome by grief, appeared to have a seizure as the vigil ended. Our thoughts and prayers go to her for her recovery and to all of Shay’s family and friends, including the good folks at Transgender Health Empowerment who have served Shay and so many others and have had to mourn far too many of them.

Words come to mind from Duke Ellington’s song “Come Sunday”: “God of love, please look down and see my people through.” Here is a rendition by Mahalia Jackson from the Newport Jazz Fest from 53 years ago:

Update: Metro Weekly reports on the vigil.

First gay weddings held in New York

(Video by Joe My God reader Sean Chapin)

AP reports.

Congratulations to the people of New York on the arrival of marriage equality in that state at midnight last night. One of the most powerful testimonials to the justice of the gay rights cause is the number of longtime couples who are only now able to marry legally. Their stories change hearts and minds. Observers might well think that all that matters in politics is message and spin; but the reality of our lives is a powerful and abiding truth that the lies and slanders of our opponents cannot erase in a country with freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government. That is why we are winning. On this Sunday morning, therefore, let us pause from our continued struggle in order to celebrate our families, share in the joy of today's newlyweds, and thank all of the patriots, past and present, whose courage, vision and resolve have bent the arc of our country's history toward justice.

July 23, 2011

Colbert Report on Education

Stephen Colbert covers history and social studies. 

Ever since Paul Lynde got the center square its been gay, gay, gay, gay, gay.

July 22, 2011

President, DefSec, & Joint Chiefs Chairman certify DADT repeal

This just in:

Office of the Press Secretary


July 22, 2011

Statement by the President on Certification of Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality. In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011.

As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal. As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.

I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war. I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition. Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.

Attached are the certification and transmittal letters concerning the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.


Continue reading "President, DefSec, & Joint Chiefs Chairman certify DADT repeal" »

LaSalvia reacts to hate crime: "Second Amendment rights are gay rights"

GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia, who was attacked on a bike trail a few days ago, explains why hate crime laws are useless because they don't prevent hate crimes, and that what are needed are more guns. As others have noted, I am waiting for him to declare that laws against murder are useless because murders still happen.

Meanwhile, Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly reports:

Republican political operative Roger Stone -- known primarily for his work on opposition research and negative ads -- is joining the advisory board of GOProud, adding another another voice to the group's advisory board that is certain to inflame liberals.

In a release announcing the move, Stone said, "I am a libertarian Republican in the Barry Goldwater mold and I believe deeply in personal freedom, equality and getting government out of the bedroom, which is why I am proud to serve in this capacity."

Stone joins Margaret Hoover, Grover Norquist, Andrew Breitbart, Liz Mair, Chuck Muth, Lisa De Pasquale and Christian Josi on the GOProud Advisory Council.

I think Geidner overstates the bit about liberals being inflamed. The activists I have heard from on the subject seem to regard GOProud more as a joke than a provocation or a threat. I'd say Roger Stone is in good company. Very little of GOProud's agenda has to do with gay rights, and its primary goal, according to LaSalvia, is to defeat "this failed President" whose record on gay rights is the strongest of any President in history. Please. How can I be inflamed when I regard GOProud as pathetic?

Granted, Log Cabin trafficks in partisan rhetoric that I disagree with as well, but at least it has done something useful with its DADT lawsuit. LaSalvia and Chris Barron just talk a lot of trash. Oh, and they brought Donald Trump to the CPAC conference last February, where they supposedly threw a hot party. What tools.

The Psalmist captures my feelings rather well:

By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows we hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors mirth, saying, “Sing us a song of Zion.” How can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning.

DADT repeal certification to happen today

I was waiting for a report that it did happen, not just that it was going to happen, but so far nothing. Here, then, is Chris Geidner's report from late Thursday:

Pentagon officials told Metro Weekly this evening that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were ready to recommend certification of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal to the president, possibly as early as Friday, July 22. That news did not, however, stop attorneys for Log Cabin Republicans from hitting back at the government in a pair of court filings this evening in LCR's ongoing challenge to the law.

Earlier in the afternoon, the Wall Street Journal and NBC broke the certification news, with NBC News reporting that senior officials say that Panetta and the Joint Chiefs already have certified that the military is ready to repeal the 1993 law banning out gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals from military service.

Under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act, Mullen and Panetta, as well as President Barack Obama, need to certify to Congress that the changes needed to implement repeal are "consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces." Mullen and Panetta are scheduled to have an afternoon meeting on Friday with Obama in the Oval Office.

Log Cabin issued a statement. U.S. Army veteran Stacy Vasquez comments at SLDN.

A conference call will be held at 6 pm today with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Assuming it's on the record, I'll let you know after that; but I presume that she'll be telling us that Mullen, Panetta, and Obama have signed the certification and started the 60-day clock ticking to the final repeal taking effect. We'll see. I hope you're staying cool.

July 21, 2011

July 23 - Vigil for Lashai Mclean, 7 pm

DC Trans Coalition announces:

Today, we have sad news. Another trans sister has been taken from us. See here for the news article about the events, and read our press release below (also available as a PDF). Please share this statement, and come to the vigil this Saturday, July 23rd at 7pm on the 6100 block of Dix Street NE.

July 21, 2011

Contact: Vanessa Crowley
202.681.3282 / dctc@dctranscoalition.org

DC Trans Coalition Grieves After Violence Claims Yet Another Transgender Woman’s Life
Group Calls for Solidarity in Response to Violence in Our Communities

Washington, DC – In the early hours of Wednesday, July 20th, 2011, Lashai Mclean, a 23 year old transgender woman, was murdered in Northeast DC. The murder took place near the Wanda Alston House, a housing program for homeless LGBTQ youth operated by Transgender Health Empowerment (T.H.E.). Another trans woman was present during the attack and, thankfully, escaped. The Metropolitan Police Department has no leads or possible motives, and has not classified Lashai’s murder as a hate crime.

Lashai was a friend to many people in the community – including several DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) organizers who offer our sincerest condolences to those grieving this loss. We must stress once again the absolute necessity for the police and media to respect Lashai’s gender identity. The least we can do to honor her memory is to respect her chosen, lived identity.

While nothing can bring back those we have lost or undo the suffering we share, we can and should confront the daily terror and anxiety that trans and gender non-conforming people face. We can do this by building networks of mutual support and solidarity that sustain our efforts to feel safe and make change. Together, we must challenge institutional racism, poverty, transphobic attitudes, lack of social services, criminalization of sex work, and other policies that jeopardize our security.

We demand that MPD make finding Lashai’s killer a top priority, lest she become a repeat of the unsolved 2009 lethal stabbing of Tyli’a “NaNa Boo” Mack in broad daylight, or the 2010 assault of Chloe Moore by an off-duty MPD officer who has not been charged in the case. “Lashai’s murder is yet another visceral reminder that transgender women are consistently placed in dangerous situations. These acts of violence are not isolated incidents. The recent findings of the DC Trans Needs Assessment show trans communities in DC have overwhelming concern for our physical safety,” said Sadie Vashti, a DCTC organizer who knew Lashai. “Regardless of the individual motive in this case, our lives are institutionally marginalized and regarded as expendable. This makes trans women – especially women of color and those involved, or presumed to be involved, in the sex industry – far more susceptible to violence.”

We continue to hope for a future where there are no more senseless and violent deaths in our communities. Lashai’s memory will strengthen our resolve to continue surviving, supporting one another, and struggling for a better world. There will be a vigil July 23rd at 7pm on the 6100 block of Dix Street NE, the site where Lashai was killed.

BTW, I have seen two different spellings of Mclean's first name. I don't know which is correct.

Yesterday's hearing on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act

In case you missed it live (I only saw parts of it) or want to watch again.

Another Marriage Tour

Louis Marinelli, known as the driver for the National Organization for Marriage's Summer for Marriage Tour who then had a great awakening and came out for marriage equality, has formed a new organization called the National Organization for Marriage Equality (NOME).  It all seems so long ago but this was all last summer.  Well, Marinelli will have a new tour to support the mission of the group:

As the Nation’s civil marriage rights organization, we aim to educate the public on the issue of civil marriage equality. Specifically, the organization is dedicated to the following objectives:
  • to protect marriage equality in states where it exists;
  • to educate the public about the importance of marriage equality in states where it does not exist;
  • to grow support for civil marriage equality among conservatives, republicans and independents;
  • to separate misinformation about the LGBT community from the facts

The good news is that NOM set the bar so low last year that anything will seem like a huge success in comparison.

(via Towleroad)

Quote of the day

Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people; before you tell me how much you love your God, show me how much you love all His children; before you preach to me of your passion for your faith,teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors. I'm not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give.

- Newark Mayor Cory Booker

(Hat tip: Alan Sharpe)

Vandalism as advocacy?

Think Progress reports:

Today a group of gay “barbarians” descended upon Marcus Bachmann’s Christian counseling center to protest the harmful ex-gay therapy offered there. During a radio interview in 2010, Bachmann compared gay people to “barbarians” who need to be “disciplined.” Organized by Nick Espinosa, who famously showered Newt Gingrich with glitter, the protest glittered Bachmann’s empty waiting room and reception area, chanting “You can’t pray away the gay — baby, I was born this way!”

(I would share a photo of Bachmann's waiting room being glittered, but it's in a format that's incompatible with my blogging software.) I think throwing pies or glitter is juvenile and boorish. Our opponents love to portray themselves as victims; we should not give them ammunition.