Monday, August 19, 2013

Hey WingNuts! We're Still Waiting for the Apocalypse! What Gives?

Well, It's been over a  month.   So I have been diligently scanning all the major news outlets, government websites, and emergency services.  As of today,  I  have discovered something really odd... I was shocked to learn that in the United States, this past month, apparently none of the following things have happened.

·         A mad rush of people marrying their pets...
·         Pandemic Polygamy 
·         All across America,  Kindergarten students taught classes on Gay sex
·         Scores of Clergy rounded up and put in prison for preaching
·         Marriage as a civil institution collapsing and millions of Heterosexual couples getting divorced
·         America as a Nation overrun by godless hordes bent on enslaving our people and destroying our very way of life.
·         A complete stop to opposite Sex couples in America having Children

Which is quite odd when you think about it. Because  recently, I got married. (That in and of itself is not the odd part.) But rather it is the lack of anything odd happing as a result of it, that is strange.   After all, I can't even count the number of times I have heard the cadre of self-proclaimed "Family Values” culture warriors,  spew dire warnings of doom, gloom, apocalypse and general hubbub and brouhaha should Eric and I ever get married.

Well, guess what?  Last month,  on July 9th  at  1:30 pm  at San Francisco City hall,  Eric and I  got .married.    So.... Where are all the promised apocalyptic consequences? Where are the mass divorces of all the marriages we supposedly "attacked" one month ago, by tying the knot ? Where is all the promised damage to millions of children who are now, (according to social conservatives), so confused as to what a marriage is?    Where are the plagues of frogs, locusts and boils? Where is the collapse of Western civilization as we know it, due to its very foundation being rent asunder by the HORROR of Eric and I getting married one month ago? 

 Nothing? .... Anyone? ... Anybody? ... Really?    How terribly disappointing.  After all,  groups like the National Organization for (some people's) Marriage  went to so much trouble making spooky television ads warning everybody about what would happen...

For years now , whenever the subject of marriage equality comes up as part of our national discourse,  those opposed to equal rights for all Americans have liked to say  it is an "attack" on marriage and the family. So I decided to look up the word `attack' in the dictionary.   The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines it as:

Pronunciation: &-'tak
Function: verb
1 : to set upon or work against forcefully
2 : to assail with unfriendly or bitter words
3 : to begin to affect or to act on injuriously
4 : to set to work on
5 : to threaten (a piece in chess) with immediate capture

Hmmm… to set upon or work against forcefully huh? Ok, so if we take the James Dobsons, Pat Robertsons  and Bryan Fischers  of the world  seriously,  it would mean that for Eric and I to have the same rights as any other couple;   Not more rights, not any new rights that other couples do not currently have, but only the exact same rights,  it would injure, damage and potentially even destroy heterosexual marriages and families.

Wow….Uh.. ok.. How exactly?

Does the fact of my marriage now mean that other married couples  have lost ANY of the 1,100 federal benefits and protections that they had one month ago? Does the fact that I am now married mean other married couples can no longer file  joint tax returns, have, adopt or raise children, pass on social security survivor benefits, or make medical decisions for each other?Does my being married now mean that people will no longer want to even get married. and if they are married, will now want to get divorced? 

 In short,  has ANYONE's marriage or family changed in any way as result of what happened at San Francisco City Hall last month?

The answer of course, is no. None of the Right Wing talking points on same sex marriage stand up to even basic common sense. But it's pretty clear that common sense isn't something  that the Right Wing likes to deal in very much.      The “National Organisation for Marriage” (NOM)  likes to say  that gay marriage cheapens or lessens the value of the institution of marriage in the eyes of society. But since none of the rights or benefits that a married couple enjoys have changed in any way as result of my marriage; What social conservatives are  really saying is that for THEM , Eric and I getting married has cheapened  THEIR own marriages in THEIR  own eyes.

My getting married means I now have something that, according to  NOM only heterosexuals are supposed to have . And that makes  them mad. It's not just that they wanted to prevent Eric and I from having equal rights,   It was about making sure  that we didn't have any rights at all..  Tony Perkins  and his ilk,  see equal rights for us, as an attack on them. That's interesting...

Let's be honest, for the anti-gay industry,  ( and yes,  it is  an industry)  this was never about  "protecting marriage". It's about  people they  don’t like  having  the same rights as they  do, and that makes them mad.   Even though their lives  clearly have  not changed in ANY way,  these  conservative crybabies  howl about “activist judges” and  firmly believe  that marriage now has less value, lower status, and the institution itself, could come to an end. All because Eric and I were able to get married last Month.

It suddenly occurs to me there is a word for someone who is irrationally fixated on the preservation of inequality, that they feel is in their favor. It turns out, Merriam-Webster's dictionary has the same word for it.

Pronunciation: 'bi-g&t
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French, hypocrite, bigot
1: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own
opinions and prejudices

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Stephen Fry's Brilliant Letter to the IOC

Just read it.. please.

Dear Prime Minister, M Rogge, Lord Coe and Members of the International Olympic Committee,
I write in the earnest hope that all those with a love of sport and the Olympic spirit will consider the stain on the Five Rings that occurred when the 1936 Berlin Olympics proceeded under the exultant aegis of a tyrant who had passed into law, two years earlier, an act which singled out for special persecution a minority whose only crime was the accident of their birth. In his case he banned Jews from academic tenure or public office, he made sure that the police turned a blind eye to any beatings, thefts or humiliations afflicted on them, he burned and banned books written by them. He claimed they "polluted" the purity and tradition of what it was to be German, that they were a threat to the state, to the children and the future of the Reich. He blamed them simultaneously for the mutually exclusive crimes of Communism and for the controlling of international capital and banks. He blamed them for ruining the culture with their liberalism and difference. The Olympic movement at that time paid precisely no attention to this evil and proceeded with the notorious Berlin Olympiad, which provided a stage for a gleeful F├╝hrer and only increased his status at home and abroad. It gave him confidence. All historians are agreed on that. What he did with that confidence we all know.
Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law. Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment. It is simply not enough to say that gay Olympians may or may not be safe in their village. The IOC absolutely must take a firm stance on behalf of the shared humanity it is supposed to represent against the barbaric, fascist law that Putin has pushed through the Duma. Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions. Let us realise that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics. The idea that sport and politics don't connect is worse than disingenuous, worse than stupid. It is wickedly, wilfully wrong. Everyone knows politics interconnects with everything for "politics" is simply the Greek for "to do with the people".
An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.
He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I know whereof I speak. I have visited Russia, stood up to the political deputy who introduced the first of these laws, in his city of St Petersburg. I looked into the face of the man and, on camera, tried to reason with him, counter him, make him understand what he was doing. All I saw reflected back at me was what Hannah Arendt called, so memorably, "the banality of evil." A stupid man, but like so many tyrants, one with an instinct of how to exploit a disaffected people by finding scapegoats. Putin may not be quite as oafish and stupid as Deputy Milanov but his instincts are the same. He may claim that the "values" of Russia are not the "values" of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great's philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately).
I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler's anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian "correctively" raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.
"All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing," so wrote Edmund Burke. Are you, the men and women of the IOC going to be those "good" who allow evil to triumph?
The Summer Olympics of 2012 were one of the most glorious moments of my life and the life of my country. For there to be a Russian Winter Olympics would stain the movement forever and wipe away any of that glory. The Five Rings would finally be forever smeared, besmirched and ruined in the eyes of the civilised world.
I am begging you to resist the pressures of pragmatism, of money, of the oily cowardice of diplomats and to stand up resolutely and proudly for humanity the world over, as your movement is pledged to do. Wave your Olympic flag with pride as we gay men and women wave our Rainbow flag with pride. Be brave enough to live up to the oaths and protocols of your movement, which I remind you of verbatim below.
Rule four: Cooperate with the competent public or private organisations and authorities in the endeavour to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace.
Rule six: Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement.
Rule 15: Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education.
I especially appeal to you, Prime Minister, a man for whom I have the utmost respect. As the leader of a party I have for almost all of my life opposed and instinctively disliked, you showed a determined, passionate and clearly honest commitment to LGBT rights and helped push gay marriage through both houses of our parliament in the teeth of vehement opposition from so many of your own side. For that I will always admire you, whatever other differences may lie between us. In the end I believe you know when a thing is wrong or right. Please act on that instinct now.
Yours in desperate hope for humanity
Stephen Fry

Saturday, August 03, 2013

When our Heroes Amaze us...

In these early days of the 21rst Century, the concept of "celebrity" has evolved into a very odd thing indeed. In our culture of "reality television" and internet memes , we have the phenomenon of being famous for being famous. Be it the Paris Hiltons, the assorted hoards of Kardashians, or housewives of whatever locale is being filmed this week. People who have done little or nothing of note, being celebrated for nothing more than the fact of their notoriety.

In a way, I suppose you could see it as good thing, if those who become famous for well... nothing, then use that fame for some noble or worthwhile purpose, but alas, that seems to rarely happen.

 So it is always a wonderful thing, when someone who truly is famous for all the right reasons, someone who is so accomplished to the point of being called a "national treasure" in his country of origin, uses fame to give voice to people who otherwise would be shouting at the wind.

As long time readers of this blog  may have noticed,   the past few days have  seen the number of  hits  this modest  little  effort  receives,   fly off the charts.    It  went from  an average  of  65  hits  over a three day period to over  160,000 page views .

There is no way on Earth  I could ever hope to reach that  sort of audience on my own.   So clearly something else had happened..

That "something else",  turned out to be  a long time  hero of mine.  Writer, actor,  journalist and  British "National Treasure",  Stephen Fry.     I have no idea how it happened,  yet  somehow  he found my blog posting on the need to boycott the 2014 winter games  in Sochi, Russia.   Now just knowing that  Stephen Fry  had read something I wrote  is enough for me to die happy,  but he did something more.   He  tweeted it out into the world, and his 6,000,000 plus followers.

For the (I hope very few) people out there who may  not be familiar with Mr. Fry,  here is what Wikipedia has to say:
Stephen John Fry is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television and radio presenter, film director, activist, and board member of Norwich City Football Club.[4]
After a troubled childhood  he secured a place at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he studied English Literature. While at university, Fry became involved with the Cambridge Footlights, where he met his long-time collaborator Hugh Laurie. As half of the comic double act Fry and Laurie, he co-wrote and co-starred in A Bit of Fry & Laurie, and took the role of Jeeves (with Laurie playing Wooster) in Jeeves and Wooster.
Fry's acting roles include the lead in the film WildeMelchett in the BBC television series Blackadder, the titular character in the television series Kingdom, a recurring guest role as Dr. Gordon Wyatt on the crime series Bones, and as Gordon Deitrich in the dystopian thriller V for Vendetta. He has also written and presented several documentary series, including the Emmy Award-winning Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, which saw him explore his mental illness. He is also the long-time host of the BBC television quiz show QI.
As well as his work in television, Fry has contributed columns and articles for newspapers and magazines, and has written four novels and two volumes of autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles. He also appears frequently on BBC Radio 4, starring in the comedy series Absolute Power, being a frequent guest on panel games such as Just a Minute, and acting as chairman for I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, where he was one of a trio of hosts who succeeded the late Humphrey Lyttelton. Fry is also known for his voice-overs, reading all seven of theHarry Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings, and as the narrator in the LittleBigPlanet series of video games.
To say I am amazed by this would be  an epic understatement.   Stephen Fry  was a close friend with another hero of mine,  the late great Douglas Adams (in whose honor this blog is named...)   He is a man with a truly  global voice, who this past week  briefly  lent one small part of  that voice to me,   and  for these incredible  past few days,  he enabled my thoughts to  travel across the world  on his virtual coat tails. Something for which , I will be forever grateful.

Thank you Mr Fry.   

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Danger of Watching from the Side Lines...

I don’t have one of those horrific, tragic and ultimately triumphant coming out stories.  My story is actually pretty boring...

Yes like many LGBT people, growing up was not easy, and the  element of living in the closet added stress and pains that many of you reading this know only too well. But the fact is, after graduating from University, life pretty much got better and stayed that way.  I had the luxury of coming out on my terms and in my own time. I have an incredibly patient and  understanding family that reacted with love, acceptance and even relief.  Relief that I had found my way to self-acceptance. For the most part my friends also, proved to be far more interested in my happiness than in labels and stigmas.

Not long after leaving University I took a posting to South Korea. There for the first time I had a circle of gay friends, and found myself part of a LGBT Community made up of American Military Personal, Civilians, other assorted Expatriates, and Koreans. It was an experience that gave me  the time and space to become comfortable with who I am. It is where I had my first serious relationship. Which despite the pressures of having to navigate the minefield of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, was an incredibly positive period in my life. (By the way JD, in case I have never said so before… thank you for that…)   

When I moved back to the United States I found myself living in Chicago. I had my first real apartment on the edge of the Lakeview neighborhood. This area is also known as “Boystown” as it is the center of Chicago’s LGBT community. Here I would make wonderful friends and find my own place in the “Gay World”. Not being much of clubber or even a bar-goer I became involved in groups like Equality Illinois, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and the Stonewall Democrats. Over the next six years I would stop thinking of myself as coming out, and instead identify myself as being out. I would date, fall in love, get my heart broken and recover all in a pretty safe gay “bubble”.   

After Chicago I would move to San Francisco. Living South of Market, just a few blocks from what is to many people, the gayest place in America , SF’s Castro district. I would live there for 8 years volunteering at seven LGBT pride celebrations, serving on the board of Lutherans Concerned a group working for broader LGBT inclusion in communities of faith, and champion diversity and equality in my job as learning and development consultant.   

Ironically, It was while living in SF, that for the first time I faced discrimination for being Gay. I fell in love  with a man in London, and as has been well documented on this blog, the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) made it impossible for me to sponsor Eric to move to the US. But, as many of you know, Eric was able to sponsor me to move to the UK. While a difficult process, it all ultimately worked out. So much so that now with the change in laws in America, we could move back the U.S. if we wanted to.

So why am I telling you all this…?

This past week as I  read the horrible details of the entrapment and torture of Gays and Lesbians by gangs of thugs in Russia I can’t help but think of how ridiculously lucky I have been. Sitting here in London, a married man with all the same rights and protections as everyone else, I think back on where I have lived. Very safe gay or at least gay-friendly “bubbles” in the world. Unlike people in Russia, many places in Africa, Asia and Middle East, I have never faced the threat of death for simply being who I am.   

I remember Wednesday October 7th, 1998.  I was puttering around my apartment in Chicago, making dinner when I turned on the TV to CNN. The lead story was a brutal attack of a young gay man in Laramie Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. Shepard, age 21, had been lured into going for a drive with two young men, who then beat him into a coma and left him tied to fence along a rural highway outside the city. The news report noted that the victim was not expected to survive.   

I remember walking down into “boystown” There were lots of people standing around outside the bars, and restaurants along Halsted Street, talking about what had happened in Wyoming. A makeshift memorial had been set up on a street corner. I walked into a convenience store and bought a small votive candle, lit it and placed it with the growing number of candles, handwritten notes and flowers that were being placed around a picture of Matthew that someone had printed off the internet. I stayed for a little while talking to people who were gathered there. Some people were angry that people were still sitting inside the bars, seemingly indifferent to what had happened, 1,009 miles away in a field outside Laramie, Wyoming.

As my husband and I walked through London’s West End last night, enjoying a beautiful Summer evening. I found myself feeling some of those same emotions. Are we in our safe London “bubble” indifferent to what is happening in in Russia 1,815 miles away? On an intellectual level you always knew that there were “gay bashers” out there. People who were so conflicted about their own sexuality that they felt the way to “cure” themselves was to attack others for what they feared most about themselves. Yet today we are seeing this behaviour not just from some conflicted , violent closet case,  but from the Government of the one of the world’s most powerful nations.

One of my favorite television moments is from an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation, where the crew is subjected to a McCarthy-esqe witch hunt for traitors to Star fleet. There is powerful scene where Captain Picard, played by Sir Patrick Stewart, articulates exactly what is wrong with what is happening.

The issue of whether or not the International Community allows Russia to scapegoat an entire minority for nothing more than political expedience is one that truly does affect us all.   If Vladimir Putin’s Russia is allowed to stand upon the world stage, basking in the glow of the Olympic Flame, unchallenged for the horrific acts of state-sanctioned hatred it is inflicting on its own people;  Then we truly do not deserve the safety and freedoms that those of us lucky to live in the Boystowns, Castros and Sohos of the world enjoy and so often take for granted.  

If we cannot  stand up and defend those who are under attack for no reason other than who they are, then frankly we deserve no better than what they are living with now.

Vladimir Putin's Russia must be held to account.. The ice and snow of Sochi is stained with the blood of the Russian LGBT community. If allowed to stand unbroken, the chains of bigotry being forged in Russia will eventually bind us all.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Current Blog Readership

Apparently  the issue of  the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi  is something a lot of folks are talking about...