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June 21, 2008

Excellent Opinion Piece In Local GLBT Magazine

I ran across the following piece by Liz Massey who writes for our premier local GLBT publication, Echo Magazine. I just wanted to share this with those of you who may not be aware of this exemplarily Phoenix magazine and may not have seen this piece. Rather than make any comments myself, I'll just let Ms Massey speak for herself - and, in a way, a lot of us. It's well worth taking a couple of minutes to read.

One of the family

When I first came out, almost 20 years ago, gay political choices were simple. You voted Democratic and pro-choice. If you were a woman, you identified as a lesbian-feminist (as if there could be any other sort of lesbian …). Liberals were good; conservatives were bad. The religious right could be counted on to tell us how nasty and unclean we were, and how we deserved all the bad things that happened to us. Gay marriage was a pipe dream.

The world has changed in the last two decades, to the point that it’s getting harder and harder to rely on the old guidelines. California has become the second state to legalize gay marriage; New York appears poised to recognize same-sex marriages performed out-of-state (which is the real headliner, since the “leave it to the states” argument has always presupposed that no red-blooded manly man state wanted to sanction another state’s gay marriages).

Even our old nemesis, the radical right, no longer has the stranglehold it used to on the Republican Party. I mean, they put “God’s man” in the White House, and he has brought forth an endless war, post-Katrina chaos and two economic blights. Plenty of people still think gay marriage is wrong, but it’s far harder these days to get moderate voters, worried about defaulting on their mortgages and how they’ll pay for the gas they need to drive to work, excited about banning it.

Do I think this means that our struggle for equality is almost over? No. Do I think it means the contour of the battleground is changing? Yes.

Now is a good time for us to get to know our straight neighbors better and participate openly in mainstream community life. The goal isn’t to engage in the “culture war” that we’re so often accused of waging. No, we need to do something far more subversive than that: embed our values so deeply in the national civic fabric that no one will ever think of discriminating against us again.

How can we bring our family’s values to the table?

Advocate, seriously, for “strengthening marriage” initiatives that include us, and which might actually do some good, such as programs that teach couples how to communicate better, parent effectively, and manage their money.

Support medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education. Lying or refusing to talk to one’s children about how life begins and how people relate intimately to each other — and the consequences of such — is never moral.

Go out of our way to honor GLBT citizens in the “forbidden” professions for gays: education, the military, and the ministry. Many people still risk professional sanction to teach our kids, defend our country and answer the call of Spirit. Let’s let them know we appreciate the effort.

Most importantly, let’s start talking to each other and to mainstream America about our spiritual lives. Not just the struggle to come out in the midst of a hostile church or family, but the joy and peace that our spiritual practices bring to us. Not only do many of us have faith, that’s what has sustained us when we have been abandoned by those who would call themselves God’s “chosen ones.”

The point of all this isn’t to show how we fit into the paradigm envisioned by the religious right. It’s to assert, and demonstrate, that we fit perfectly into the human paradigm.

Anthropologists tell us that numerous indigenous cultures, including some Native American tribes, found a role for every member of their community — including same-sex-oriented folks. With our help, America can do the same.

This piece can be found at: Echo Magazine

Have a great weekend everyone. I'll be back on monday.

June 20, 2008

Are You Still Eating Beef?

The New York Times ran an opinion piece this morning that talked about the tensions between South Korea and the U.S. over President Lee Myung-bak's decision, under intense pressure from this administration, to again allow imports of U.S. beef. That decision brought tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets.

South Koreans, like most of the rest of the rational free world, are very concerned about eating beef tainted with Mad Cow Disease which is a fatal, excruciatingly painful and debilitating disease. They know that our FDA only checks about 1 in every 1000 dead and slaughtered cattle which is 1% or less of all potentially diseased cows.

What's most disturbing about this is that there is a simple and relatively quick test for MCD but our corrupted FDA won't let any private company (and there have been several who have tried) use this test! The sale of the test kits to private companies is prohibited under an obscure 1913 law that allows the FDA to prohibit veterinary products that it considers “worthless” even though that is the very same test that the FDA itself uses! Which, of course, begs the question -- if it is, in fact, worthless then why does the FDA use it in their own testing program?

To me, the answer is pretty obvious. Like oil and pharmaceuticals, the multi-billion dollar beef industry controls the FDA. And the politicians and government bureaucrats are afraid that if they found too many cattle with MCD then the public would stop buying beef. Duh!? They would rather protect their fiefdoms and treasuries than protect the health and well being of their own citizens.

It seems that in this country even discussing this issue in the broadcast news media (where most Americans get their news) has become a no-no. When it is mentioned, it's given short shrift. The emphasis is on the news events (i.e., Korean riots) and virtually nothing is discussed about this country's testing program. The interested parties have succeeding in pushing the issue out of people's minds and making it seem a little like discussing UFO's.

My partner and I gave up eating beef when the story first broke years ago precisely because we didn't trust the government's assertions that the beef supply in this country was safe. After the EPA telling New Yorkers that the air around the fallen towers was safe to breath, it's pretty hard to believe what the government tells you anymore. I'm really glad we made and stuck to that decision. But whenever I try to discuss it with friends or co-workers who are still eating steaks and burgers, the responses are always pretty much the same; "Well, you're going to die of something anyway." or "That's all way overblown." Can you say blind denial?

If you're still eating beef, you may want to reconsider. At least until this country institutes an effective and comprehensive testing program. I agree that we're all going to die of something but why chose to do something that YOU KNOW has a very high risk of killing you far sooner and far more painfully than might have been the case otherwise? It's kind of like waiting for the walk light to turn red and then crossing the street.


June 19, 2008

Immoral Presidential Medal of Freedom Award

I just read a brief article on The Advocate's website that announced that President Bush will be awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

For those of you who don't remember, General Pace said in a March 2007 interview with the Chicago Tribune that he thought that gays and lesbians were immoral. In the article he is quoted as saying "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts."

I totally agree with the comment made in a press release by Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network; “Honoring General Pace with the country’s highest civilian award is outrageous, insensitive, and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops currently serving on active duty in the armed forces. Our men and women in uniform are making tremendous sacrifices for our country and are looking for the president to recognize leaders who offer them praise and vision, not condemnation and scorn.”

Being a veteran of the United States Air Force myself, I personally find this award to be wholly repugnant and is, in my opinion, disgustingly immoral itself! To say that this president is incompetent, inhumane and immoral doesn't even begin to express my feelings. Fortunately, he will finally be out of office permanently in five and a half months.

If you would like to check out The Advocate's story, go to advocate.com.

Fascinating Cross Gender Brain Study

This is basically an addendum to my posting yesterday. This morning I found (through Yahoo's News Headlines) a fascinating blog posting from, ironically, Zoe Brain in Australia who, by her own account, has had a very confusing gender identity situation since childhood. The article is a pretty detailed account of the results of a bran scan study carried out by the Stockholm Brain Institute in Sweden. The study shows pretty conclusively that gender-typical behavior patterns, sexual orientation and gender identity are set in neurology.

According to the study, gay men and straight women have striking similarities in their neurological makeup as do lesbians and straight men. This study offers even more evidence that sexual orientation is hardwired into our neural circuitry.

And the beat goes on...

If you would like to read Zoe's detailed account of the study, you can find it at: aebrain.blogspot.com.

I stongly recommend that you take a look at it. It is fascinating.

June 18, 2008

Changing Sexual Orientation In The Womb

More and more lately, science is discovering concrete, demonstrable, physical differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals. These discoveries are rapidly validating what we have known all along. We were born to be gay. It never was a "choice" and isn't a "lifestyle". It's a biologic reality.

The problem with these ever increasing discoveries is that the religious fanatics are beginning to realize that all their arguments against homosexuality are being proven wrong. Logically, you would think that this would be a good thing. If we're not an abomination against God and we're not the evil sinners they've preached about, that we are, indeed, born this way then devout christians should begin to embrace our community as another of God's natural creations and rejoice in the incredible and wonderful diversity that is life itself. Well, think again.

Last year, the Rev. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote: "If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use." Mohler told the Associated Press that morally, this would be no different from curing fetal blindness or any other "medical problem." The Rev. Joseph Fessio, editor of the press that publishes the pope's work, agreed: "Same-sex activity is considered disordered. If there are ways of detecting diseases or disorders of children in the womb … that respected the dignity of the child and mother, it would be a wonderful advancement of science."

It's obvious that no matter what the cause, these fanatics would rather manipulate the natural make up of the fetus in the womb to make it just like them rather than embrace the wisdom of, in their own words, "God's Supreme Plan." This is about as hypocritical as it gets. But then again, we've all known that the biggest, most glaring attribute of these fanatics is the astounding hypocrisy and outright non-truths of their assertions across the board.

I took the above quotes from an excellent and very disturbing article written by William Saletan and posted at Slate.com this morning. This is something your really NEED TO READ in its entirety.

Clearly, the next battlefield the gay civil rights movement, hell - the HUMAN civil rights movement, is going to find itself pushed to is the scientific, biological battlefield.

Full story at Slate.com.

June 17, 2008

Congratulations California!

I just wanted to add a quick post to congratulate California's new newlyweds. There has probably been more national and international coverage of this story than almost any other news story of late so I only want to thank the California Supreme Court (a majority of which are republican appointees) for their fairness, foresight and wisdom in declaring the ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional in California.

AND MOST OF ALL, I want to congratulate all those who have gotten married. CONGRATULATIONS!! to all of you. And to all those who intend to do the same in the days, weeks and months ahead. As a good friend from GAA in New York, Chuck Solomon, told Vito Russo and I in 1970 when we told him that we had decided to make ourselves a couple --- "MOZEL TOV!! May your lives be filled with love, joy and purpose."

June 16, 2008

Upcoming Biography of Vito Russo

Sorry I haven't posted anything since last week. Recently, I've spent most of my time researching info for interviews I've been having with Michael Schiavi in New York. Michael is putting together a biography of Vito Russo who wrote the groundbreaking book "The Celluloid Closet" which chronicled how gays and lesbians have been treated by hollywood through the years. The book was turned into a movie in 1995 and starred Lily Tomlin as the narrator. Ms Tomlin was also a very good, personal friend of Vito's. Vito and I were partners and fellow activist in the Gay Activist Alliance in New York City in the early seventies and he was one of the most unique, gregarious and loving people I've ever known.

Vito's concern over how LGBT people were presented in the popular media also led him to co-found the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a watchdog group that monitors LGBT representation in the mainstream media and presents the annual GLAAD Media Awards. The Vito Russo Award is named in his memory and is presented to an openly gay or lesbian member of the media community for their outstanding contribution in combating homophobia.

When Michael initially contacted me, I didn't know who he was or what his ultimate intentions were and I wanted to be sure that whatever information I gave him about Vito would be used positively so I asked him a few questions. In response, he said:

"I've been fascinated by Vito for 20 years. In 1987, as a closted and terrified college freshman, I accidentally discovered THE CELLULOID CLOSET. I can't tell you how much comfort I received from knowing that someone was out there writing about both homosexuality and film (my other major passion, then and now).

Three years later, out and proud--due in no small measure to the self-respect I got from THE CELLULOID CLOSET--I learned that Vito had died. I remember standing in my dorm room, reading the obituary in tears, feeling that I'd lost a cherished uncle. It's one of my biggest regrets that I never got to tell Vito what he and his work meant to me.

Ever since, I've been curious to know more about him. It astonishes me that there is no full-length biography of this pioneer in the GLBT movement and in film studies. During the past year, I discovered Vito's papers at New York Public Library, where it's been a joy to learn of his life. I've also been interviewing dozens of people who knew or worked with him. I have to say, after 10 years of being a professor, I've never so enjoyed, or felt more personally connected to, my research."

Since then Michael has conducted over a hundred interviews for the biography and I have gotten to know him a lot better. There is no doubt in my mind that I can trust his honesty, integrity and intentions and I've come to personally respect him a great deal. Michael is taking a sabbatical from his teaching duties to concentrate solely on Vito's biography.

I'll keep you posted when more information is available.