Posts Tagged ‘activism’

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1,000 Hits

June 26, 2008

 

That’s right!  This blog has reached 1,000 hits this month!   That’s a new record.

What have I learned?  I’ve learned that the titles of the posts need to be sensational headlines akin to the National Enquirer. 

I’d like to thank my daughter for being the drum major at IUP.  When all those high school drum majors do a search about audition routines, they end up here. 

I’d like to thank a certain Baptist Church whose members are sneaking over to look at my blog after their pastor mentioned me in his sermon last week.  Yes, I am marrying another man; we’re registered at Lowe’s.  Gift cards are acceptible. 

I’d also like to thank Gretchen and Celeste.  God knows there are plenty of people doing searches for “lesbian couples” and they always manage to find my entry about their wedding. 

Thank you, to my readers.  Some of you keep coming back for more, and I appreciate that. 

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God “Rains” Down His Wrath on the Anti-LGBT Crowd

June 18, 2008

I haven’t seen it. Maybe it’s out there and I haven’t looked hard enough.  I even thought about writing it myself.  I had misgivings about it, so I ran it past a friend of mine who just graduated seminary and got ordained.  She confirmed what I thought, and so I chose not to write it.  It would be taking advantage of other people’s misfortunes, even tragedies, and would discredit your reputation, she said.  

It’s the flooding in the mid-west and the article that I’m imagining is one in which a rabid gay activist charges that this disaster is divine retribution for anti-gay hate crimes.   A connection could be made, in much the same way that Christian leaders have blamed gay folks for natural disasters, as well as acts of terrorism. 

Hate crimes against gays and lesbians have doubled in Michigan.  Flooding has occurred in parts of Michigan.  Could there be a connection?  I so wanted to write a ranting blog entry blaming hostile bigoted fundamentalists for causing God’s wrath to literally rain down on Michigan and the mid-west.  I just couldn’t do it, not even as satire.  I couldn’t make myself write that entry because I know that it’s wrong to take advantage of suffering people and use them for political gain.  I would be stooping to the level of those I oppose. 

The odd thing is that although there are a lot of strong, even militant, gay activists writing online, I haven’t seen any of them take this opportunity to swipe at their opponents. No one has jumped at this chance to blame christians who support anti-gay marriage amendments, or conservative political leaders who resist enacting hate crime laws to protect LGBT people.  No one seems to be willing to say that this devastation is God’s response to the intolerance, bigotry, or prejudice that we have allowed in this country. 

Why do you suppose that is? 

Maybe it’s because we understand that a loving God doesn’t send natural disasters as punishment.  Maybe it’s because thinking people know that invoking God’s judgment to support one’s own political agenda is unethical.  Maybe, having been on the receiving end of such treatment, even the most militant of gay activists have enough compassion to bypass this chance to beat up on the fundamentalists and their political cronies.

To all the folks in the mid-west, I wish you well.  I wish you a speedy recovery from this disaster.  I wish you all the assistance that this country can send to you.  By all means, please forgive me if this little blog entry sounds like a way to use your misery for personal gain. 

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We’ll Have a Gay Old Time

May 13, 2008

My supplemental contract at my teaching job required that I travel for the weekend.  So on Friday morning, I climbed on the bus with the students and headed for Harrisburg, Six Flags NJ, and Philadelphia.  I had no expectations of this trip other than what the director had described in the itinerary:  a performance in the rotunda of the Pennsylvania state capitol building, an adjudication of the choral group followed by a day at Six Flags Amusement Park in New Jersey, and a stop at Independence Hall on the way home. 

What a gay weekend it turned out to be!  We had some extra time to tour the capitol building, and I realized that I could pay a visit to my State Senator’s office.  SB1250, the so-called  “Marriage Protection Amendment”  was recently tabled and the reason given, courtesy of Equality Advocates PA, was this:

The prime sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Michael Brubaker (R-Lancaster), stated that he was proposing the legislation be tabled because the Speaker of the House, Dennis O’Brien (R-Philadelphia), was going to assign the legislation to the House State Government Committee if it passed the Senate.  The House State Government Committee is chaired by Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia), a strong supporter of the LGBT community, who is opposed to the legislation. Rep. Josephs has stated that she would not move the legislation out of committee.

That happened on Tuesday, May 6, and I had not heard any more information since then.  I decided to pay a visit to Senator Kasunic’s office, gather more information on the status of the bill, then ask again that my Senator oppose this proposed amendment.  I wandered the halls with the paper from the information desk and eventually found his office.  As I suspected, the Senator was not in, as it was a Friday, but I did speak to a gentleman in the office.  I was caught off guard.  He told me that the bill was going  “nowhere.”  I was a bit speechless.  I asked more about his statement.  In our discussion, I learned that there was a lot of dissension among the Republicans about the bill.  I also learned that very few of the Senators wanted to cast a vote on this bill during an election year.  It would appear that SB1250 is dead, and those who wish to write discrimination into the state constitution will have to start from scratch during the next legislative session.  This means that the earliest such an amendment could go to a public vote would be 2011. 

PA Senate Chamber

 

On Saturday, we spent the day at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.  I don’t usually like theme parks unless I’m with my kids or my partner.  I rode some rides with the students and the moms who were chaperoning the trip.  It wasn’t long before I started noticing “family members” in the park.  There were groups of gay men, couples enjoying the park.  At one point, I noticed a lesbian couple that had a great situation:  one of the women was butch enough for them to look like a straight couple.  They walked through the park hand in hand, and virtually unnoticed by the thousands of visitors. 

On Sunday morning, we loaded the bus and headed for Philadelphia for a visit to Independence Hall.

 

Independence Hall

Gay Rights Historical Marker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we rounded the corner to the Independence Mall, I felt welcomed by the Equality Forum banners hanging from the lampposts.  Of course, I was a few days late for the events.  I left the bus to explore on my own before our scheduled tour of Independence Hall.  I discovered the historical marker you see above on the corner across from Independence Hall.  It intrigued me, and when I returned home I did some research about the demonstrations in Philadelphia that pre-date the Stonewall riots.  I discovered that there is some disagreement about the influence and importance of the Philly demonstrations, but have decided that any public demonstration that early in our quest for civil rights is of some importance. 

The weekend that I thought would be lost, save for the obligations placed on me by playing piano for the choral group, turned out to be a learning experience and provided several affirmations of my life, my interests, and my goals of working toward equality for LGBT people. 

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You Can Lead a Christian to Knowledge But You Can’t Make Him Think

March 10, 2008

This week, I am having two separate discussions with individuals about the gay issue as it pertains to christians.  I’m using much of the same information in both conversations, but the reactions have been very different from each of these people. 

I mentioned in a previous post that some people from my church were struggling with seeing me and my partner attending worship services together.  I decided that I would meet with those people individually, and so I am fresh from a meeting with one woman that I’ll simply call “C” as I don’t want to name her publicly. 

What a wonderful time we had! We met at a new coffee house, exchanged some pleasantries, and then I asked “well, C, what happened?”  C told me that at the end of an elder’s meeting she brought up a situation in which another member of the church asked her about the new choir member, my partner, and she wasn’t sure how to respond.  Sure wasn’t quite sure how much information to give, and because of her beliefs about the gay issue, she wanted guidance from her fellow elders as to a proper response.  For C, this was the extent of her struggle.  From there, what appears to have been a small matter became larger, for both of us, creating discord in both of our houses, until it was necessary for us to talk this thing out with each other.

Our conversation lasted 90 minutes.  We talked of our children, our dreams, our experiences in our relationships and marriages.  We spoke of things we had in common, things that were so very different.  When she talked about my lifestyle choices, I asked her to refrain from using those terms as they were offensive to me. I explained how they imply that lgbt people choose to be as they are, which is just not true.  That lead us to a discussion of all the major medical and psychological organizations that have declared sexual orientation to be natural, unchangeable, and not a mental illness.  Throughout the entire conversation we were able to laugh and honor each other.  It was the best conversation I’d ever had with someone who holds an entirely different opinion than that of my own. 

 There were some tense moments.  At one point, she brought out the slippery slope argument.  She is afraid that if we “allow” homosexuals to say that they are “naturally” attracted to people of the same gender, that people would then claim that they are “naturally” attracted to children.  I stopped her, and asked her if children could consent to that kind of activity.  C’s response was telling to me: molesters could claim that!  I agreed that they could, but, I pressed on, “can children consent to that kind of relationship?” to which she had to admit they could not.  I asked her to stop comparing my relationship to that of a child molester.  It could not be part of this conversation, as it was offensive to me.

We were both aware of the time and of the weather, which seemed only to get worse as we sat drinking our coffee and talking on about our beliefs.  We countered each other’s statements with valid points, and requests for more examination, and eventually decided that we needed to move on to our respective plans for the evening.  I asked C to continue studying the information I had given her.  She promised she would.  As we left the coffee house, I gave C a hug and responded to her “God Bless You” with the same reply.  I decided in that moment to give her what we all wish to hear:  “I love you”, and was pleased to receive that same blessing from C. 

The second conversation takes place in the blogoshpere.  Q is a guy who is a christian and is struggling with his orientation.  I caught a post in the tag surfer and decided to comment.  Q has a male friend who is gay, christian, and has come to accept his orientation.  That friend has moved on and taken a boyfriend.  Q was lamenting the fact that the boyfriend is a guy that Q would have loved to be in love with.  Q seems to be spinning his wheels, waiting for God to send an angel with word from on high as to how he should live his life. 

My comment included some of my own story of being gay and christian, a link to some good theological study, and an invitation to read more here at my blog.  The response from Q was more internalized homophobia, and that while being gay is not a choice, Q thought it was the result of living in an imperfect, or fallen world.  He dismissed my advice by stating “but for now I haven’t heard it from the Spirit, so I’m having to just say no to man dating.” 

So I simplified it;  I explained how the Bible has only 6 verses that can be interpreted to same-sex behavior, and that when studied in depth, those verses can not be applied to homosexual orientation as we understand it today.  I asked if a loving God would create a class of people with an attraction for persons of the same sex, then not only forbid them from acting on that attraction, but hold them responsible for behaving according to the nature God placed within them. 

Evidently Q’s answer is yes, God would do that.  The evidence comes in his statement “sucks for me.”  I brought this up in the soulforce forums, and some of my friends there went to Q’s blog and joined in the conversation.  Q’s response to this was another blog entry in which he declares it’s useless for us to “puncture his beliefs” with our list of counterpoints.  Q lives his life according to his relationship with Christ.  He’s waiting for a word from the Spirit about the stuff he’s struggling with, and until then the best thing we can do for him is pray for him. 

Q wants it to drop out of the sky without him ever investing time, study, thought, or even much of himself into the process.  The words of those who have been there, and those who have experience in counselling mean nothing to Q.  He doesn’t want to examine his own beliefs, he simply expects a miraculous bit of information to pop into his head. 

Let’s go back to C for a moment.  I emailed her to thank her for meeting me and having our conversation.  She told me that she had spent a restless night, got up early and studied the scriptures.  C said she was drawn to 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians 6, two of the verses that appear to condemn homosexuals.  Her conclusion was that God was telling her she shouldn’t change her beliefs.  I mentioned that perhaps God was asking her to study those passages more deeply.  I asked her to pay attention to the Greek words arsenokoitai and malakoi

I am struck by something common my experiences with C and Q.  It is the willingness of both of them to dismiss the power of our intellect to help us understand scripture and the world around us.  Q even told me that her mind was telling her that everything I said in our conversation was right, but that because it was her “human nature” that controlled her thoughts, she could not make that leap to change her beliefs.  Q is basically saying the same thing:  don’t confuse me with scientific facts, and logical conclusions based on a sound interpretation of scripture; I need to hear from God. 

I thought that humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that we are made in God’s image.  That seems to me, as humans, we have the potential to be high quality products, and as such, at least some of what we learn about the creation in which we find ourselves has got to be of some significant quality as well.  You can bring people to the fountain of knowledge, you just can’t make them take a sip.

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A Mission and Moral Obligation

February 23, 2008

As a gay man who is relatively new to being out of the closet, it’s been just over four years, I have quickly become an activist for fair and equal treatment of gay and lesbian people.  Much of the work I have done has been online in discussion forums, and face to face with friends and acquaintances who are struggling with their prejudices as they realize they can no longer apply those to gay people, especially when their friend comes out of the closet. I have protested at the state capitol, attended the church trial of a minister accused of marrying two women, and marched in protest outside of a rally in which James Dobson was the main speaker. Much of what I’ve learned comes from Soulforce, where I am a moderator of discussion forums, and it’s founder, Rev. Mel White.  Soulforce believes in achieving freedom from religious oppression through nonviolent resistance, in the tradtions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.   

 Recently, I found myself in a situation that has caused me to employ the principles of nonviolent resistance.  As I was exploring those principles, looking for clues as to the best course of action, I began to reflect about the roles of the Oppressor and the Oppressed.  I saw myself in the role of the oppressed, and I was resenting the fact that it fell upon me to aid my oppressor.  That aid was not meant to assist in my continued oppression, but rather to educate the oppressor and move them from that role.  It felt so unfair.  I did all the work to come out of the closet, live life honestly as a gay man, overcome the fears of being rejected by friends and family, erase the memories of bullying I experienced as a teenager, and now I was being called on to help my tormentors.  Surely, they could do the work themselves.  Google is available to everyone, isn’t it?  But what I discovered as I started doing the research for my own nonviolent resistance, as well as for writing about my experience, is that Oppressors are often blind to their power and privilege.  The oppressor has the power to define their social situation which leaves them morally pretentious and ethically obtuse.  (see John C. Raines, Righteous Resistance and Martin Luther King, Jr.)

The Situation

I am a music director for a small, upper middle class church.  I have been the music director for many years.  These good people knew me as a married man with children, although they had their suspicions about my orientation, and handled my separation and divorce pretty well.  They even took the news of my outting with only minor struggles.  The congregation was able to accept the concept of a gay man not only in their midst, but in a visible position at worship on Sunday mornings.  This peaceful existance has lasted these past four years.  But now I’ve pushed past the conceptual homosexuality and have introduced them to the reality of my life.  My partner has begun attending church with me. 

One would think that this wouldn’t be a huge problem.  Of all the ways people tend to view being gay, church attendance would most likely be a check in the positive column for a couple of gay guys.  Think being gay is a sin?  then it’s a good thing those sinners are attending church.  Think being gay is neutral? attending church is harmless, and may be a positive force in their lives.  Think being gay is a natural occurence, perhaps even planned as part of God’s creation?  then gay folks should honor their Creator by attending worship.   I just can’t think of any reason that Gay and Lesbian people of faith should not attend church, either separately or as a couple. 

Yet, word has gotten back to me that a few people are so upset by our attendance at worship that it became the topic of discussion at an Elder’s meeting.  My own dear Pastor has given me a “heads up” on this, and we had a meeting to discuss what we might do.  This is where my sense of justice/injustice has kicked in.  This is the circumstance that has me wrestling with the idea of the oppressed aiding the oppressor. 

The Education

Oppression causes harm to the oppressed and the oppressor.  Oppressors lose when they cause harm.  In this situation, should those who resent a gay couple attending church persist, the church will lose a voice from the choir, and most likely, lose their faithful music director. There are more ramifications to this for the congregation, but for now let’s leave it at two people, making positive contributions, being driven away from the fellowship.

The oppressed have many obstacles to overcome as they fight for justice.  Being in a position of powerlessness brings with it a lack of clarity about the condition of the oppressed. The oppressed may believe what the oppressor has said about them.  The gay community recognizes this as internalized homophobia.  If the oppressed succomb to the temptation to exact revenge, they merely usurp the power of the oppressor and become like them, creating more injustice.  The lack of clarity about the unjust situation can cause loneliness and isolation.  The oppressed do not want to see the lives of others like themselves, the wounds are a much too explicit reminder of their own pain. Oppression causes a mute suffering, leaving the oppressed unable to name what it is that oppresses them, unable to declare the reality of their condition, and unable to protest the indignities that are foist upon them. 

Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that the oppressed have a moral obligation to the oppressor.  It is impossible to meet that obligation without having a clear and objective understanding of the injustice of the situation.  This focus enables the oppressed to name the plight, proclaim the immorality of it, and oppose it.  When this is done, the oppressed are able to unite and stand against their oppressors in nonviolent resistance.  Martin Luther King Jr. showed that having clarity about the oppression is enough to unite the community.  It allows an oppressed group to stand in their own dignity and protest the injury of injustice.  The oppressed become moral agents and then have an obligation to the oppressors to teach them that their ways are immoral.  The goal becomes of greater moral importance then:  reconciliation. 

The Plan

I am still in the stages of examining my emotions about the situation at church, my hurt that my relationship could be the topic of discussion at an Elder’s meeting, the pain at knowing good people are engaged in gossip, yet have never approached me with their concerns when the Bible clearly teaches us to go to each other in love.  I can not say at this point, that I have been successful, because the journey is just beginning.  However, I am making a plan, and I believe, because of the things I’ve learned, that I will be successful, and that success will be demonstrated in reconciliation, not in conquering anyone. 

Communication is key.  I have taken steps to open the lines of communication with at least one person that I know is “struggling” with seeing me with my partner at church.  In her discussion of that struggle with the Elders, she imposes a situation of oppression on my partner and I as a couple, and as we’ve seen above, the entire congregation suffers.  I’ve provided her with information that demonstrates what we all know:  the Bible is not a text book for science or psychology; the few scripture verses that address homosexual activity are for a certain time and place and do not address homosexual orientation as we know it; homosexuality is recognized by all the professional medical and psychological organizations as being an affectional orientation that carries no moral stigma and is not considered a mental health disorder.  To cling to such beliefs is in effect just using the scriptures to justify one’s own prejudices and bigotry.  Along with that packet of information I have issued and invitation to meet, perhaps with our Pastor as a mediator, and discuss her fears, my anger, and come to some reconciliation. 

That is just one person.  There will be others.  For them, perhaps a different plan will be needed.  Each person that I speak to may require a slightly different method.  For one, appealing to the emotions may work, for another, a more academic approach will be beneficial.  At all times, the goal is claiming that moral ground, in nonviolent resistance in the tradition of Gandhi and MLK Jr. and looking for the opportunity for reconciliation, for agreement.  I am convinced that these men have taught us that nonviolent resistance offers us the best chance for success.  Our adversaries are not evil, only misinformed.  Once they have assimilated this new information, they will understand our plight and become supporters instead of adversaries.  Should they choose to remain in their ignorance, it will become clear to others that they have chosen to remain oppressors.  Justice does indeed prevail.

What direction will this journey take?  That remains to be seen.  I do not know if I will be there to see the fruits of my actions.  I may be like those ministers in I Corinthians 3, as one plants the seed, another waters it, and God provides the growth.  I hope that I can revisit this subject in the near future and report some success.  For now, I can only speak of my plans and my hopes for this journey. 

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It’s Time to Get Married

January 31, 2008

With one small action, I took a big step today.  As a matter of fact, it felt like stepping into the breach.  It was simple, just 2 phone calls.  I’ve used the phone before so making these calls should not have caused the anxiety that it did.  I hesitated to dial the numbers, which surprised me, because I’ve had experience in facing the fears and taking the necessary steps to combat the big things in life. 

I called the local offices of my state Senator and state Representative.  I’ve requested an appointment to meet with them and discuss a few bills that have been introduced into the State House and Senate.  House Bill 1400 is the topic of conversation I have planned when I meet with my Representative, Deberah Kula.  This bill would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission law to add sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression to the list of protected minority groups, which already includes the following:  race, color, familial status, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap or disability, use of guide or support animals because of the blindness, deafness or physical handicap of the user or because the user is a handler or trainer of support or guide animals. 

Do I feel oppression based on my orientation?  Generally, no, I do not.  However, I have been subject to discrimination, harassment, and have been served poorly by cashiers or wait-persons which I suspect has been based on my being gay.  Would I like to see some state-wide uniform policy about that kind of discrimination?  You bet I would. 

Of greater importance is my meeting with Senator Kasunic.  He is the only democratic sponsor of Senate Bill 1250, which is a proposed amendment to the state constitution.  This amendment is the so-called  “Protection of Marriage” amendment.  I’m not sure why marriage needs protection, but a fair number of extremely conservative and fundamentally religious types seem convinced that if gays are allowed to marry, the institution itself will suffer irreparable harm.  Pennsylvania already has laws denying marriage to homosexual couples.  I see no reason to write discrimination into the state constitution. 

I also wonder why some people are so concerned about allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Increasing the number of eligible participants seems to make sense.  There is  obviously a significant number of gays and lesbians who wish to purchase a marriage license.  Marriage discourages promiscuity, enforces certain social standards, and allows couples to care for each other in a way that no other relationship can provide.  My relationship with my partner is very much like a marriage.  We don’t have the license, and we don’t have the financial benefits, nor do we have the more than 1200 benefits granted to straight married couples, but we do live our lives as spouses to each other.  None of the straight couples in the neighborhood seem to be suffering because of our presence.  I doubt that a legal document, and the attending benefits, if we could ever secure that license, would affect the quality of the straight marriages here on our street.

We’ve decided that we cannot wait.  We will continue to fight for our right to marry, which is why I made that phone call to my state Senator.  We’ve also made plans to get married.  That’s right, we’re having a wedding.  We will declare our love and allegiance to each other in front of God and family and friends on a bright summer Saturday in August 2008.  It won’t matter that our home state won’t give us the license.  Our love will be the same.  Perhaps you’d better call a marriage counselor, just in case our vows make yours null and void.

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MRSA Gay USA

January 17, 2008

It looks like it is time for hysteria, histrionics, tongue-clicking, and finger pointing.  What’s it all about this time?  It’s a multi-drug resistant methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus MDR-MRSA, for short. 

Oh.  Is that all?  MRSA has left the hospital and invaded our schools and the gym, and anywhere else humans happen to hang out.  What’s with the panic?

 Well, it appears that this particular strain of the bug is hitting the gay community, gay men in particular, pretty hard.  Reuters reports on the study that points the accusatory finger at those bad boys with the fabulous clothes.  The study says that certain geographical communities, and the health services in those communities that serve a relatively high population of homosexual men, are seeing an increase in the number of cases of the MDR-MRSA. 

It seems that the hysteria is premature though.  Numbers may be being twisted.  Careful reading of other reports, like this NPR news story, indicate that the placing of blame may be misleading.  The new strain of the infection is affecting only 20% of gay men who have contacted MRSA:

Among gay men with resistant staph infections, Diep says, about 20 percent in San Francisco and up to 50 percent in Boston “are infected with this more-difficult-to-treat form of USA-300.”

That is 20-50% of the population that has already contacted some form of MRSA has this new MDR-MRSA, and these numbers are from clinics that serve a higher number of gay men than other health clinics.  The CDC states that 12% of clinical MRSA infections are community associated, and that this number varies by geographical location and population.  This report from 2003 is already talking about MRSA moving out of the hospital, into the community, and into certain minority populations.  It also warns that “We should not think of MRSA as either some type of super-staph infection or as a specifically gay health issue.”  according to Kenneth Haller, MD, President of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. 

It remains to be seen if the study by Binh Diep, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine is politically driven.  However, it is clear that the religious fundamentalist groups with an agenda against the gay community are already latching onto this.  It won’t take long for more to jump on the bandwagon.  Even in the time it has taken for me to do the research for this article, the “news” articles from conservative and religious-based sources with anti-gay biases increases with each search I perform. 

Sadly, it appears that we are in a DeLorean, travelling back to the 1980’s.  The accusations of a new “gay” epidemic, and calls for quarantining the gay population are being raised once again.  This time, we are educated, strong, and powerful.  We will not let intolerance, bigotry, and homophobia wipe out another generation of gay men.