Posts Tagged ‘advocacy’

h1

Spiritually Deaf and Blind: 2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad

June 23, 2008

I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in somewhat of a dialog with a Southern Baptist Minister for the past day or so.  I thought the discussion was pleasant until this morning when the minister voiced his concern that he was being targeted for his anti-gay speech.  Very quickly, he shut down his church’s blog to comments from the general public.  Note to bloggers:  if you put it out there in the public realm, you can be sure someone will see it, comment, and perhaps disagree with you. 

Pastor Rick’s blog announced that he would be preaching against gay marriage this Sunday morning (June 22) and gave the scripture reference.  I suspected that this would be prooftexting so I made a comment that asked Pastor Rick to go beyond Romans 1: 18-32, and include Romans 2, which demonstrates what Paul was trying to teach the christians in Rome at that time.  Many believe that Paul was condemning homosexuality with this scripture, but careful reading reveals that this is just not the case.  It is hard for some christians to accept this, and this appears to be the case with Pastor Rick. 

By Sunday afternoon, we get a sense of the direction this is going to take.  Pastor Rick feels targeted by myself and the one other person out of six that I messaged about this blog. I brought it to their attention with the purpose of reading my response, not to engage in an attack against Pastor Rick.  We very quickly hear the slippery slope arguments of allowing gay marriage will mean that polygamy, child prostitution, and all forms and expressions of sexuality would become legal.  In a later response to my friend, Matt, Pastor Rick distances himself from comparing homosexuality to child rape, yet it’s clear by listing them together, even in an order meant to show levels of depravity, that P. Rick does not think very highly of gay people. 

I downloaded the sermon and listened to what the good pastor had to say.  I took some notes.  There was a carefully planned introduction that made sure the audience knew that this week’s news story about gay marriage came from a sinful place: California. He now refers to it as the “left coast” because it has “left” America’s morality; it’s left sensibility. There you go, let’s get started with the sweeping generalizations.  P. Rick is in favor of a theocracy as evidenced by his statement that “What is not legal in God’s eyes should not be legal in man’s eyes.”  Human dignity regarding LGBT people is disregarded throughout the sermon as the vocal inflections imply sarcasm: “People who say they are gay” and an elongation of the word “ho-mo-sex-u-al” with a drawl.  Keep in mind, Californians, because of you, “we’re going down the toilet.”

Outside of Matt and myself, Pastor Rick knows all he knows about gay people from his 2, count them, 2 college friends who are gay.  Here’s what Pastor Rick knows:  gay people are not happy, they are afraid of disease, and afraid that their partner will leave them because “that’s the nature of this kind of relationship”; they live in fear.  When Matt pointed out that these were “sweeping generalizations” P. Rick pointed to his 2 college friends as evidence that this was not a generalization.  Hint, P. Rick: drawing a conclusion about an entire group of people based on your experience with just 2 of them is generalizing.  Perhaps these college friends are just losers. 

There is much more in the sermon, but I want to take a look at the interaction that took place today, in P. Rick’s blog.  In the comments section of his blog, I pointed out the inconsistency regarding his “sweeping generalizations” as well as the religious and political conservative’s opinion that LGBT people should be denied Civil marriage.  I asked how he can deny gay and lesbian people the opportunity to commit to each other in a monogamous relationship, then turn around and ridicule them for being promiscuous.  It’s clear to me that people, gay and straight, have looked to their religious leaders for guidance and received bad advice.  When your pastor stands in the pulpit and says that gay men have sex with hundreds of other men in their life time, the young gay man sitting in the pew hears this is what is expected of him because of the way God created him.  Gay people hear that their relationships are worthless, not valid to be considered for marriage, and often fulfill that expectation. 

At this point, something seems to snap.  Pastor Rick is suddenly complaining that we’ve taken the time to respond and engage in discussion.  In what appears to be anger, he states “You guys knocked on MY door. YOU initiated this. You are the ones that conspired together to make comments on my church website.”  I apologized and assured Pastor Rick that he had not been “targeted” and that there was no conspiracy.  Here’s the final paragraph of my last comment:

You, Bro. Rick, have a degree in psychology. You are probably aware that not only the American Psychological Association, but other professional organizations believe that a homosexual orientation is naturally occurring and unchangeable. How is it justifiable to deny people CIVIL rights based on your religious beliefs when the science says this is natural for some people?

Perhaps that is what ended the discussion.  However, I noticed something about all of my comments; most of them were ignored. There was no acknowledgement that he did indeed make generalizations based on stereotypes or limited exposure to LGBTpeople.  There was no response to my appeal to his psychology degree and the scientific evidence of which, as a psych major, he would surely be aware of.  There was no hint that he understands a marriage license issued by the state government is not the same as a religious ceremony conducted by a minister in a church.  Instead, we get a mantra of “it’s a sin” because God says it is, and a list of buzzwords typically used by fundamentalists to degrade LGBT people:  lifestyle, alternative choice, and claims that orientation is changeable, yet groups like Exodus can not provide valid and reliable studies to demonstrate this. 

Finally, Pastor Rick explodes with this:

You are using a common intimidation argument by GLBTgroups. Civil rights are reserved for groups of people based on race, gender, disabilities & age, but not sexual orientation. While there have been some gains by GLBTgroups in this arena, you aren’t guaranteed civil rights based on your sexual preferences. So don’t go there.

Matt,

 

To all, since this is my website, I get the last word. Comments are now turned off on this post.

 

 

 

My thanks to Wendy at bridgeout for the idea of using the church sign generator to create this pic. 

Advertisements
h1

Way to Go California!

May 15, 2008

Grooms

 

California strikes down the same sex marriage ban clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to get married legally!  That makes 2 states who have recognized they can no longer deny equal rights to couples based on their orientation.

Story from Yahoo News here.

h1

Pittsburgh Blog for Equality Day

March 31, 2008

Blog for Equality Day

 

So I was out doing some tag surfing and discovered that today is Pittsburgh Blog for Equality Day, thanks to Irene over at Eleventh Stack.  I commented on her blog, and realized then that I needed to write something here today about marriage equality.  After all, my partner and I are in the thick of planning our own wedding.  (note:  we still don’t have a photographer; know anyone available on August 9th?)  I did a little more research and found that this event is being sponsored by The Pittsburgh Women’s Blogging Society, and though I’m not a woman, I do live near Pittsburgh and I certainly have an interest in obtaining marriage equality.  My partner and I deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to getting married.

It is interesting that this topic comes up today.  A few things have happened that seem to feed into this particular topic.  First off, there is my procrastination on calling my state Senator, Richard Kasunic.  I had intended to do that on Friday morning, but somehow neglected to do so.  It’s been almost 2 months since I contacted that office trying to get an appointment.  The secretary was to call back when the senator was taking appointments, and of course, that never happened.  I need to get on this again, and soon. 

I’ve spent the past few days working on our wedding plans, calling the dj, thinking of the guest list, contacting someone who might have been able to photograph our event.  So the wedding is very much on my mind.  With that, comes the thought that this is a ceremony for us, and our friends to share in our joy, but we will gain nothing as far as legal benefits are concerned.  Not only are same-sex marriages illegal, or not civilly recognized, but there is currently a bill in the state senate to amend the constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. 

I stayed at work a bit later than usual today, and as I headed back to my classroom after having a long conversation with a colleague, I could hear my cellphone vibrating.  It was Scott, my soon-to-be-husband.  He was quite excited, words rushing out of him, and ideas all over the place.  I kept asking him questions and finally figured out what had happened.  It seems we’re the talk of our little town.  I’ll go with exaggeration on this point, but it does seem that word is out that we are planning our wedding.  An aunt took it upon herself to visit Scott’s mom and quiz her about our upcoming nuptials.  Mom didn’t offer much information because she doesn’t have all that much to offer.  She knows we’re planning a wedding.  She might know that it is in August.  The rest of the conversation was spent talking about mom’s disapproval of the wedding and how the “kids” are taking it.  We both have children from when we tried to “choose” heterosexuality and married women. 

I doubt this meddling aunt would have grilled Scott’s mom if this were another straight marriage.  Families can be strange systems, and sometimes relatives swoop in to cast their opinions on matters that don’t concern them.  I suppose dear auntie would express her dismay if Scott were marrying the crack whore who lives down the street.  I’m even willing to guess that when pressured, this woman would have glowing things to say about me;  she knows me, and always speaks to me when I meet her out in public.  There’s no reason to be concerned about Scott marrying a character like me.  So that leaves the gay issue, and the mistaken belief that heterosexuals can declare who is worthy of a marriage license based on the gender of the 2 people involved. 

Please, if you believe in equality, if you believe that marriage is good for individuals, couples, families, and children, contact your state senator and ask them to oppose SB1250, the Marriage Protection Act.  Marriage doesn’t need protected from loving committed same-sex couples;  it needs protected from heterosexual couples who meet no other requirements for marriage except that one of them has a penis and the other has a vagina.  Find out more at Equality Advocates Pennsylvania.

h1

Holiday Clean Up

March 21, 2008

I’ve been meaning to post here as I like to have some consistency to this blog.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened for the past month or so.  There are several entries I want to write, but I want to do them justice, so I’ll take the time to work on them before I post.  Let’s just use this entry as a catch-all, general update.

 The musical:  Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods went rather well.  We performed the show March 13-16.  The music is difficult, but I had strong singers for most of the parts, and I also had a talented pit orchestra.  The show is a big reason I didn’t get to update as regularly as I’d like.  Rehearsals were up to 4 hours every evening, and more intense as opening night approached.  It’s rewarding to work with a talented group of singers/actors to produce a fine piece of entertainment;  rewarding, in the sense of gratifying emotionally, not monetarily.  Not many community theater productions exist for their ability to generate a profit.

The situation at church:  Things have improved.  I’ve made peace with “C” and while we may disagree on things, I think we both understand each other a little better.  I’ve also given some information to another person who holds the opinion that a person cannot be gay and christian.  He was receptive to the brochure I gave him, and came to me last night to say that he found it interesting, is continuing to study it and looking up scriptures.  He is looking forward to meeting with me for a discussion of the information.  Ah, another chance for me to hone my debating skills! 

I’ve still got a pet peeve about the discussion that took place at an Elders’ meeting.  You may recall that this is what brought about the stress I’ve had at church.  Last evening, for our Maundy Thursday service, half of our Elders and even fewer of our Deacons attended.  This really bothers me, given that they felt they needed to discuss whether my partner should be attending church with me.  At least we’re there!

Pennsylvania Government:  HB1400 which amends the PA Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, is still as far as I know, in committee.  This should be a no-brainer, and as I pointed out in an earlier post, my own State Representative, Deberah Kula, has promised her support of the bill.    

Unfortunately, SB1250 has been voted into the Appropriations Committee, which means this amendment to our state constitution has cleared another hurdle on its way to becoming law.  PA already has a DOMA law on the books.  This amendment would not only prevent same-sex marriages, but would also permanently prevent same-sex couples from participating in civil unions.  Read more at Equality Advocates Pennsylvania

Finally, it is time to wish you, my faithful handful of readers, a Blessed Resurrection Day!  In spite of all the teachings I’ve heard about Christ being all about “love”, it has taken some time to sink in, at least for me.  I believe that Jesus came to teach us a radical new way to love each other, and because his message was such an affront to the religious leaders of his day, the only logical outcome for him was death.  I have great trouble with the idea of substitutionary atonement theories.  I’ve discovered that others do too.  Want to take your head for a spin?  Read this article by S. Mark Heim.  As I write this, on Good Friday (one could ask good for whom?  certainly not Jesus) I am filled with thoughts about the use of the word “Easter” in connection with this celebration.  The word itself has pagan connections, and while I hold nothing against the pagans, I’m not sure Christians should be borrowing so heavily when presenting what is to be the most important event of the church year.  So, once more, let me wish you a Blessed Resurrection Day!

h1

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. 

h1

How Big is Your God?

October 31, 2007

Once again the fundies are claiming that a natural disaster is God’s judgment against this country for tolerating gays.  That’s right, California is burning because gays are allowed to wiggle their wienies where they shouldn’t be wiggled!  Here’s one report:  Matt Trewhella Email  Trewhella claims that the California Bill SB777 signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 13, 2007 is the direct cause of the San Diego fires that started on October 20, 2007.

The bill, SB777 is a hate crimes bill that prevents describing groups of people in negative terms. 

Existing law prohibits a teacher from giving instruction, and a school district from sponsoring any activity, that reflects adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry. This bill would revise the list of prohibited bases of discrimination and the kinds of prohibited instruction and activities and, instead, would refer to disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic contained in the definition of hate crimes that is contained in the Penal Code. The bill would define disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation for this purpose.

We all know how much God hates that “love thy neighbor” stuff. 

The point is, the bill that was signed by Ahnold is basically a hate crimes/anti-bullying bill.   A few, homophobic fundies see it as just another liberal attempt to legalize the “gay lifestyle” and force it on our children.  This time though, God isn’t taking it lying down.  God has sent a fire!

Ummmm, aren’t there a lot of non-gay people being punished for this bill?  I mean, if the gays are the problem, couldn’t God just find a way to take them out?  Perhaps God could start a fire at a gay bar.  Maybe there could be a power outage at a gym frequented by gay men and as they scramble to replace the weights, they could crush each other under the heavy iron plates they’ve been lifting.  God could cause electrical shorts in the blow dryers of homosexual hairstylists.  There could be lead in the paint used by interior designers, or automotive jacks could fail crushing hundreds of gay mechanics.  Really, if the gays, and their acceptance by heterosexuals is pissing off the Great Almighty, surely the Big Guy has enough power to rid the earth of gay guys and the ‘ros that love them.

Evidently not.  The fundie God is weak. He has to use massive and ineffective natural disasters that take out large numbers of heterosexuals and their habitats.  Think “Katrina” with its devastating loss of life and property, but no significant reduction in the number of homosexuals.  Think of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, or the Pentagon, with high numbers of casualties but relatively few flamers actually killed.  The fundie God seems to be kind of an oaf. 

The God I’ve come to know is loving and kind, and certainly very powerful.  It seems to me that if the God I’ve learned to love would decide that something, or someone should need to “go” then it would happen in decisive manner.  No hurricanes, no fires, no floods to take out large numbers of people, both gay and straight.  If “the gays” are the major affront to our most holy supreme being that some would have us believe, then that Omnipotent One should be able to remove the gay offenders, and their straight allies, with surgical precision.  A fire?  really?  Hundreds of square miles, vegetation, animal life, illegal aliens, the homes of God-fearing heteros, businesses, infrastructure are all destroyed because this weak, fundie God can’t target the ten percent of the population that likes to play “hide the hot dog” with some other hot dog vendor. 

God spoke the word and a universe fell into space.  A few days later, another word and humans are frolicking in the garden. Am I to believe this same God can’t find a few queers and turn them to stone, or salt, or ashes?  No, we’ve either got a pansy posing as our Almighty Counselor, or the gay issue isn’t as important to the Prince of Peace, the Alpha and Omega, the Everlasting Father, as we’ve been lead to believe.

h1

Sisters of the Divine Scandal

October 16, 2007

Who is allowed to go to church?  Who is permitted to attend mass and receive the sacraments?  Who are we to make that judgment of others? 

It seems there are a few folks in California who feel they have the power to make these kinds of decisions.  This news story, if you can call it that, is floating around out there in some biased sources, but so far I haven’t been able find a reputable media outlet that is willing to create and report a balanced account of the events at Most Holy Redeemer Church, San Francisco. I suppose I should mention that Bill O’Reilly mentioned it on Fox News.

Here’s the story as near as I can piece it together.  It seems that two members of the activist/charity group known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence  attended the 10:00am Mass at MHRC on October 7, 2007.  The Sisters are not a legitimate religious organization, nor are they an extension of the Roman Catholic Church.  I should also add that the sisters are also not women. 

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence appear to do two things judging from their website and the scant few news articles I can find.  They raise money to fund their grant program.  The grants are awarded to small under-funded non-profit organizations that serve the LGBT community. 

Since our founding in 1979, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have raised and distributed over a million dollars to non-profit organizations that serve the queer and sex positive community. Each year, we raise thousands more. The next time you see a Sister with a collection bucket, drop a couple of bucks in. The money goes right back to the community.

Historically, The Sisters have given grants to under-funded, smaller organizations and projects providing direct services to our communities. The majority of these organizations and projects receive little, if any, government or main-stream funding and may be in the early stages of development. Our grants are typically $250 to $1,000.

We are especially attracted to progressive projects that promote wellness, identity, tolerance and diversity within our communities. We have a vision that encompasses diverse communities and groups that have a common interest in human rights, people of every gender, gender identity, race, class, age and sexual orientation.

The second mission they perform appears to be calling the church to some kind of responsibility for the ways in which they have traditionally treated gay and lesbian people. The history section of the sisters’ website is a long list of gay positive fund-raising, and political/social activism, including criticism of the Catholic church. 

So back to our story:  two Sisters attend mass, and of all the scandalous things they could do, they go forward for communion!  Archbishop George H. Niederauer was the celebrant for this particular mass.  The video I have seen of the service shows the 2 men, dressed in nun’s habits with brightly colored additions, and white face makeup, approach the Archbishop for communion.  The Archbishop does not appear surprised by their appearance and serves them the Eucharist.  Now is a good time to note that no one else in the congregation appears disturbed by the appearance of the men in drag, posing as nuns. 

Accusations have been flying about as to the intentions and motivations of the 2 men, who are members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  Some say they were there to mock the church. Others say they were there to protest, but the subject of the protest is somewhat vague.  A few are claiming that the men “invaded” the church with the intention of disrupting the mass.  It’s clear from the video that none of those things were accomplished.  So perhaps, none of them were intended. 

Sister Delta Goodhand

The Archbishop claims he had no idea that these two were members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  He even issued an apology explaining his version of the events of the morning.  I agree that it is difficult to believe that Archbishop Niederauer did not know these men were part of the group that mocks and criticizes the church.  Yet, I’m not sure denying them communion is the answer.  Whom did Jesus turn away? 

So now it becomes a matter of determining the legitimacy of the individuals worthy of receiving communion. Will we require priests to quickly scan parishioners for appropriate attire and make an on-the-spot decision as to the whether an individual will receive communion?  Should people be turned away from the Eucharist based on their ability to dress appropriately for a worship service?  How about their ability to resist temptation?  Will we turn people away from Christ because they didn’t follow all the tenets of the faith, thus causing them to be in less than full communion with the church?  Where is the line?  Can a person be divorced, but not at fault in the divorce, and continue to receive the sacraments?  Can someone disagree with the church’s teachings about birth control, or abortion, or confession, and still be deemed worthy of taking communion?  Again, I have to wonder how Jesus would have handled the situation.  I know of his anger as he flipped the tables in the synagogue, but I also know of his penchant for hanging out with the most despicable, depraved members of his community. 

As if I haven’t been stating my own opinion here, I want to add just a bit more of it.  I don’t know that I support every aspect of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  They are “out there” pushing the envelope.  I think I’d be uncomfortable doing what they do.  However, I’m glad they do it.  It takes someone out in the front-lines, pushing the envelope to achieve something great for civil rights, social change, political change.  The Sisters are doing that.  Because of their actions, we all benefit.   In the back of my mind, do I think there was an agenda in the actions of these two men that Sunday morning?  I sure do!  Is it worthy of the verbal crucifixion that’s taking place in certain media outlets?  Absolutely not!