Sunday, November 30, 2008

The origin of identity politics

Certain bloggers have, as a major reason for their opposition to same-sex marriage, insisted upon the existence of a monolithic usage of "identity politics" by gays and lesbians as some sort of evil, echo-chamber-y, brainwashing mentality used by The Gay Agenda to take over the world. Or something. They never quite illicit why identity politics is bad. It just is. And these men expect us to just sort of take their word for it. You know, like red-scare tactics that are all too common of other similar bloggers.

So let's discuss identity politics a little bit deeper for once, shall we?

First, one common definition of identity politics from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is that it "has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups. Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestoes, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination."

The explanation continues a little later, "Identity politics as a mode of organizing is intimately connected to the idea that some social groups are oppressed; that is, that one's identity as a woman or as a Native American, for example, makes one peculiarly vulnerable to cultural imperialism (including stereotyping, erasure, or appropriation of one's group identity), violence, exploitation, marginalization, or powerlessness."

I don't think many would disagree that certain groups, based on identity alone, are oppressed. People are killed in many parts of the world for their same-sex orientation. Many children in the U.S. alone are raised to believe that being gay is wrong.

Fathers are still telling their sons they would rather them commit murder than be gay. (as a gay college professor's dad told him once)

To deny that gay people are oppressed is a farce. And I think most people can at least acknowledge that much, whether or not they think the oppression is justified.

I also don't think that many people, in theory, would disagree that it is okay that these groups should seek to empower themselves. I mean, no one wants to openly be an asshole.

Yet, those same oppressed groups, in reality, often face a huge amount of resistance when they do try to empower themselves. (see women's rights, civil rights, etc.)

My argument here is that identities are defined by the in-group, the ones who hold power. Not the oppressed. Gay people wouldn't know they were "gay" or "queer" or "fags" or "dykes" if it weren't for all the hooting and hollering about it by conservative, right-wingers. By parents. By classmates. By teachers, oftentimes.

Yelling that LGBT folks are playing "identity politics" to get gay marriage passed is merely an attempt to disarm the LGBT person or ally to stop them from fighting for equality.

It is a blatant denial of oppression that is very real.

I understand that many white, heterosexual cis-gendered males may be able to toss around terms that to them are only theories. But to the rest of us, these rights we are fighting for are real. They are our lives.

The formation of identity politics for most LGBT people started on the schoolyard, when a boy called another one "faggot." Or when another boy was beaten up for being "too much of a sissy." Or when the athletic girls were called "dyke" by their classmates, or made an outcast by homophobic teammates.

The formation of politic action groups to protect these people kinda makes sense then, right?

That's why I am extending an open invitation for Chairm, Op-Ed, or anyone else at Opine Editorials to explain why identity politics is bad. Do it on your own blog, do it here. Just explain it for once.

I won't hold my breath. But I just wanted to get my piece out there.

I had the privilege of watching the movie "Milk" yesterday, and though he was assassinated, his words ring on. Everyone should come out of the closet. It will help others see that we really are no different, that we are normal, that we are usually friendly, nice, successful human beings with real needs, too. And none of us deserve to be treated as anything less.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

In the midst of heated debates with other bloggers/commenters on issues like gay marriage and gay rights, it is easy to forget the many luxuries that I do have. For today I would like to forget about debating and just appreciate what I have in the now. Not only am I privileged for living in the United States, as a (relatively) free person, but I am privileged as a white woman who is educated and employed. While I have worked very hard to get to where I am today, I am not blind to the fact that I have also been privileged in many respects compared to what others in our own country and world face.

So, in great Thanksgiving tradition, here are the things for which I am thankful:

-the delicious food I will eat today (most importantly)
-my family and friends
-my girlfriend who, I have no doubt, loves me very much and is good to me (even when I spend too much time in the blogosphere)
-my dog, who also loves me (unconditionally)
-that I have a stable job in tough economic times
-my career is one of a select few in which job prospects will only increase for me over time
-that I am furthering my education and learning a great deal
-that many people in our country likely set aside personal prejudice to vote for Obama, and that he won
-that nearly half of our country believes in equal rights for gays. While, of course, not ideal by any means, it is a huge step from where we were even 10 years ago.
-other bloggers and commenters (on all sides of any debate that I enter), for they truly help me sort out issues, strengthen my arguments, and encourage me to delve much deeper in my thought processes.

Thanks to all who have helped along the way, and have a great day!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bad Haircut Fridays!

In case anyone was wondering what my new haircut looks like, I will provide an example:

So what if my curly-haired hairstylist loves making my wavy hair really big and curly?

Normally, I'm really pretty... I'm just not now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In honor of trans day of rememberance

Today, in honor of International Transgender Day of Remembrance, I would like to take the time out to write about and remember our trans brothers and sisters who have died or otherwise been victims of violence due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. While not included in the official "death stats," this also includes those members of the trans community who have inflicted self-harm or committed suicide as a means of escaping a society that has not been ready to love and accept them as people.

What is important to remember, in the midst of a still very transphobic society here in the U.S., is that these victims were not all transgender (some were transvestites, cross-dressers, or other gender-variants), yet they were all harmed due to bias against transpeople as a whole.

I think this rampant transphobia warrants a further discussion on genderism (the belief that there are only two genders, and that gender is is inevitably tied into biological sex). This is something I am passionate about, yet in light of the day, I will remain silent, leaving only this quote by which to remember our trans brothers and sisters who have passed on at the hands of others:

"The violence, discrimination and hatred heaped upon differently-gendered people is an enormous wrong. This bigotry will stop only when the rest of "us" are able to accept our own gender conflicts and pinpoint our own prejudices about biological sex and social sex-roles."

-Pat Califia

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chicago Proposition 8 Rally

I attended the Join the Impact Proposition 8 rally in Chicago today. Just thought I would share the one picture I took from my camera phone. (Thankfully my two friends brought their own cameras and I will get more pictures later).

Though it was cold and windy (typical Chicago weather), the protest was a good couple thousand people strong, at least, though I am not the best at estimating crowd size. It was very peaceful, organized, and emotional (for me). A handful of Chicago police officers were standing by, chatting amicably with protestors and observing the demonstration. At no point were there any threats or acts of violence. The Gay Men's Chorus sang, several people gave speeches, a little marching band was there, and thousands of LGBT people, families, children, and straight allies mingled and held up their signs. It was a great event, and I feel thankful to live in such a tolerant city. Even the onlookers walking by and people driving by in cars were supportive. At one point, someone mentioned some counter-protestors, but I never saw any of them (I am assuming their numbers were so small they were pretty much invisible).

Just wanted to give a little update from my perspective. Thanks to all who attended the event! It was a welcome, sane, peaceful sight in light of the many events and accusations that have transpired since election day. I am confident that our numbers of supporters will continue to grow, so long as we keep having events like this.

Peace and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Statin drugs and cholesterol, and easy guide

What is all the fuss about that pesky cholesterol, anyway? Why do doctors and nurses care so much about it?

Having high cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for life-threatening cardiovascular events.

For those interested in more detail, cholesterol is a soft, waxy-like substance produced by your liver. Everyone has cholesterol and everyone needs it. Cholesterol produces cell membranes, some of your body's hormones, and other important structures. However, technically, your liver produces practically all that your body needs (about 1000mg per day). The excess comes from your diet (anywhere from about 500-1000mg/day), and that is where the trouble usually begins. If your body has excess cholesterol, it lingers in your bloodsteam and clogs your artieries, causing atherosclerosis, strokes, and heart attacks.

For a good breakdown on types of cholesterol, you can go here.

Do you know your cholesterol numbers? If not, you should, as that is the first step in reducing your risk of cholesterol-related cardiovascular events.

If you have already had a lipid panel, and your previous cholesterol levels were normal, then you only need to get re-checked every 5 years. Of course, that time frame decreases if you already have high cholesterol.

Why am I bringing up this seemingly random topic, you may ask?

Because researchers are making important discoveries regarding medications for cholesterol, and they affect each and every one of us. These studies, for the first time ever, included black people, Hispanic people, men, and women.

And, in all of its inclusiveness, these studies focus on people who already have low cholesterol. In other words, they focus on what nurses love best: preventive care.

A couple years ago, in one of my pharmacology classes, my professor mentioned that cardiologists with already-low cholesterol levels were all taking statin drugs as heart prevention. It appears that they, as would be expected, were probably ahead of the curve.

The above-mentioned study showed that when people with relatively low cholesterol levels take statin drugs like Crestor (rosuvastatin), their rate of heart attack and strokes were half that of the group who took the placebo. [Note: The study I am referring to involved Crestor. However, the researchers believe that the cheaper generic statins would be just as effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular events. Also note that other statins are relatively safer. Crestor especially has been known to cause a rare, but serious, muscle side-effect.]

An article on MedicineNet describes the reasoning behind the study here:

"Statins are generally prescribed only for people with high cholesterol or those who have borderline high cholesterol and other risk factors for heart attack and stroke, such as diabetes or established heart disease.

But as many as half of all heart attacks and strokes occur among people without these risk factors who have LDL cholesterol levels that are below recommended thresholds for statin treatment.

The newly reported trial was designed to explore whether statins might also benefit these people."

The study was originally planned to last for 5 years, yet independent monitors stopped the study when they determined that those in the Crestor-group were faring better than the placebo-group.

Whether or not this finding is cost-efficient is another matter. Crestor is expensive, and that rare muscle-side effect can be very serious. Are the benefits worth the risks and cost in a person with practically no risk factors for heart disease?

The specific findings are as such: "Looked at another way, there were 136 heart-related problems per year for every 10,000 people taking dummy pills versus 77 for those on Crestor."

From the Crestor package insert:

"Creatine kinase (CK) elevations (>10 times upper limit of normal) occurred in
0.2% to 0.4% of patients taking rosuvastatin at doses up to 40 mg in clinical studies. Treatment related myopathy, defined as muscle aches or muscle weakness in conjunction with increases in CK values >10 times upper limit of normal, was reported in up to 0.1% of patients taking rosuvastatin doses of up to 40 mg in clinical studies."

So there we have it. Here is a quick break-down:

-If you have low cholesterol and don't take a statin, you could be one of the 136/10,000 people who have a serious cardiovascular event (1.36%).

-If you have low cholesterol and take a statin, your risk of a cardiovascular event decreases to 77/10,000 (.77%).

-However, if you do choose to take a statin, your risk of rhabdomyolosis is about 0.1%.

One thing worth mentioning is that if you have low cholesterol, your doctor is not going to put you on a maximum dose statin, either, as that increases the rhabdomyolosis risk. While I am not a fan of having to take or prescribe daily medications when they aren't necessarily indicated, the study offers promising news in preventing those heart attacks that occur despite a lack of any known risk factors. Or in preventing heart attacks in those with low cholesterol but high C-reactive protein levels, which some doctors believe increases risk of heart attacks.

Just a thought, while I am not saying that everyone should start asking for a statin prescription today for heart attack prevention, it is something you can bring up with your doctor if you are concerned. It is perhaps especially worth mentioning to your doctor if you have any other risk factors (high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, family history of high cholesterol/early heart attacks) or your cholesterol levels are nearly elevated.

It will be interesting to see if any physician groups or the American Heart Association start to change their guidelines and advocate for use of statins for everyone for heart attack prevention.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Some final thoughts, before I put this to rest for a while

This has been taking up too much of my time. And, honestly, the end of the semester is nearing, work is busy, and the holidays are approaching. I am working on putting a lot of this nonsense drama-queen Proposition 8 stuff past me so I can move on with my otherwise happy life.

However, I was compelled to write one last bit before I completely switch gears. I am completely burned out on the topic of Prop 8 and the 2008 election, so this will be it for a while.

It has come to my attention that some anti-SSM bloggers are throwing a fit over one of my recent blog articles.

Within the article I wrote, I had pasted a picture of two little girls wearing "god hates fags" shirts, immediately after a sentence in which I had linked to Opine Editorial's member "On Lawn" and his blog article, where he discussed celebrating the passage of Proposition 8 with his first-grader:

"Last night our first grader (who stood with us cheering on prop 8) was noticeably sad. She was worried Prop 8 would not pass. When she told me why, I was nearly devastated.

It turns out she thought if it passed, same sex marriage would be the law -- meaning men have to marry men and women have to marry women. The wording "same-sex marriage" has a large part to blame in that, but so do we as parents who did not explain it better before. It took a moment of deep empathy to feel the pain she must have gone through to believe that defeating Prop 8 meant breaking up our marriage. Even though her fears were not true, they were real."

Haha! How like, totally, cute. And stuff. His first-grader thought her daddy was going to have to marry another daddy!

While I probably should not have posted a picture of anonymous children wearing such hateful shirts, and for that I apologize, I refuse to apologize for my words that came after:

"I think it's sad that those who shriek at the thought of schools teaching 'sex and marriage' in schools to first-graders are the same people who have no problem telling their first-graders about 'sex and marriage' (ie-gay people) in their homes when GLBT rights are taken away."

What is also sad is that children, before their parents are able to teach them that homosexuality is wrong, often have no reason to dislike gay people, or to root for the passage of a measure that leaves intact gay and lesbian-headed families without the same legal rights as intact heterosexual-headed families.

It's a sad day when children start to believe that their parents' prejudice is "the way the world should be." It is sad because a little girl who cheers for the passing of Proposition 8, an amendment that I am sure she did not look up the meaning of herself, might take that support she learned from her father, and put it to use by making fun of a child with gay parents. Or in some other way she may try to make that child feel inferior.

Chairm, in his reprimand to a pro-SSM blogger, continued about me,

"The mischaracterization produced by that blogger is par for the course for her and almost every SSMer in the blogosphere.

In that blogger's case, this is what she does, relentlessly, and is not something that arose, momentarily, due to dissappointed [sic] with the vote on November 4th."

He also ordered her to "Please acknowledge, confirm, clarify, and/or correct the compliment you gave for that blogger, under that blogpost, before proceeding any further here in our comment sections."

[She did so, which you can read here.]

And you can read my response.

While I am ashamed at some of my past actions, notably even bringing up someone else's innocent children [who may or may not grow up to be just as homophobic as their fathers], I stand by my statements that I made about this anonymous "On Lawn" character over at Opine. I also can not take back anything in the past that I have said or done. Some of my comments, especially the older ones, are when I was also a neophyte blogger and were my knee-jerk responses to blatant homophobia and ill-will towards me and my family.

While I am sure Seda would love a civil discourse, and it looks like that has been going on over there for the time being, what I do not appreciate is being made, by Opine Editorials, to look like some overly sensitive lesbian blogger who thinks that everyone who opposes same-sex marriage is a bigot.

I have had many a thought-provoking, decent conversation with people who oppose SSM and have ended up agreeing to disagree on the issue. The difference has been in their approach, lack of overt hatred towards GLBT people, and kindness.

I think that people can, actually, oppose SSM and not be homophobic. It's just that that is hardly ever the case.

You see, while Chairm was busy trying turning me into the bad guy in all of this, he casually forgets his own mistakes and bias. While he is busy turning every pro-marriage equality argument into "just another example of overly sensitive gays and lesbians playing identity politics," he is forgetting that he is playing his own form of identity politics, his own heterosexist invisible ideology.

If I have seemed unjustifiably harsh towards the Opine fellas by calling them homobigots, it is because for the past year and a half, I have seen them stand idily by while other Opine members say horrible, horrible things about gays and lesbians, and worse, about their families and children.

And nearly every time outright bigotry has been brought to their attention, someone at Opine rationalizes the bigoted behavior.
I would not feel so inclined to dismiss them as more bigots if they didn't have, as a tagline to their blog the following Shakespeare quote:

"Were kisses all the joys in bed,
One woman would another wed."

[Obviously, they have practically no understanding of what lesbians really do in bed]

While they feel completely justified in attacking our families and the way we raise children on a daily basis, they don't understand why they are called out sometimes in the way they are raising theirs. They can't see that attacks on our family lives are just like attacks on theirs.

That gosh darn invisible heterosexism again.

My current thinking, then, has been that some people are so incredibly far to the right on the issue, that they can't concede even the simplest of things about gay and lesbians families, that they will never change their minds.

In case people have forgotten, I have made several honest, good-faith attempts at dialogue with Opine members. Ones that were actually grossly misused and taken advantage of.

I am open to considering other points of view, but when those points of view are stubbornly strewn about with innaccurate information and religious-based articles, there is really no point. At least, there is no point in wasting my precious time and energy engaging in direct dialogue with people who bombard and constantly bait and switch. Bait and switch. Ad nauseum.

And if that means calling people out and exposing them for what they are, then so be it.

No one's real identity is known here. They can go about their lives in the real world, while quietly [or not?] obsessing over gay families on the internet every day.

With alleged friends of homosexuals like Opine Editorials claims to be, I would rather them my enemies.

All that being said, I wish Seda the best of luck in her dialogue over there. For the time being, they seem to be abiding by her rules respectfully.

Listen, I would love to think that the boys at Opine have somehow changed their ways and are now all of a sudden all about peaceful, respecful dialogue. But I won't hold my breath.

[UPDATE: In case anyone thinks Opine has changed in the least bit, I invite you to observe the following conversation they are having with someone named "Velvet Blade" just today, observe how they ignore homophobic Jose's long-winded diatribes against "sodomy." Observe how On Lawn and Chairm make up their own propaganda speak and then expect their opponent to intrinsically know what it means. And if you don't know what it means, watch them order their opponents to go read through the propaganda archives of their blog. Observe how several members at once write book-length comments to Velvet Blade and expect him to address each and every point they make... or else that means he isn't sticking to the original topic. Watch Fitz dismiss arguments as "silly," forgetting that he can't spell or use simple grammar most of the time (as a lawyer). I'm just sayin'. They will never change.]

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Prop 8 perspective

The Los Angeles Times recently published an interesting perspective of Proposition 8.

Jasmyne Cannick, an L.A. resident, offers her perspective on the issue as a woman who belongs to two groups with often conflicting ideological views (black and lesbian). I'll be honest, it was hard for me not to become angry and defensive when reading her letter. Her letter, at times, comes across (to me) as an attack on white gays and lesbians.

And yet, putting myself in her shoes as much as I can, I understand her perspective a little more. She is both black and gay. And, In the midst of many white gays placing immediate blame on blacks due to Proposition 8's passage, she is likely also coming from a defensive standpoint. She also may, right now, feel like she has to "choose" who she is going to side with on the issue.

Just another example of how anger and hostility can keep on escalating, so that in the end, we are all just our separate little groups at war with each other instead of a stronger, more united front. In an effort to unite us, I thought long and hard for a couple days about what an appropriate response to Cannick's letter would be. I know she will likely not ever read this. And I know my blog isn't read by a huge number of people. Yet, I could not rest until I wrote this.

Cannick states that she canvassed the streets urging people to vote for Obama, but she was not inspired to tell them to vote against Proposition 8.


"Because I don't see why the right to marry should be a priority for me or other black people. Gay marriage? Please. At a time when blacks are still more likely than whites to be pulled over for no reason, more likely to be unemployed than whites, more likely to live at or below the poverty line, I was too busy trying to get black people registered to vote, period; I wasn't about to focus my attention on what couldn't help but feel like a secondary issue."

It is true. All of it. In the hierarchy of social issues like employment, socioeconomic status, and police discrimination black people have it worse than white gays and lesbians. No one is denying that. They, I am sure, have more pressing concerns than gay marriage.

"The way I see it, the white gay community is banging its head against the glass ceiling of a room called equality, believing that a breakthrough on marriage will bestow on it parity with heterosexuals. But the right to marry does nothing to address the problems faced by both black gays and black straights. Does someone who is homeless or suffering from HIV but has no healthcare, or newly out of prison and unemployed, really benefit from the right to marry someone of the same sex?"

To this, my answer is that we must vote in every election on issues that may or may not directly concern us. But if one is truly to say that they believe in equality, then surely ending this type of discrimination against same sex couples is a step in the right direction for everyone.

I am not about to argue with someone over which group, gays or black people, have had it worse. One has to admit, on any side of the debate, that both groups have been treated rather shoddily by a mostly white, mostly straight, mostly religious majority in the U.S. We have a remarkably embarrassing past in the way we have treated black people, and the effects are still evident in many ways today.

Yet, 94% of our nation's people would vote for a black president. And thank the goddess, we finally have a President of our country who is not white. A President who gives more hope to all of our nation's black men and boys that they, too, can aspire to our nation's highest office.

I know, gays were never slaves, we have never had to sit at the back of a bus, we aren't always easily spotted as an "outsider." Yet gays are still fighting discrimination in very real ways, too.

Roughly half of our nation's people still think it is okay to pass laws specifically banning "homosexual" couples from things that heterosexual couples take advantage of every day. Only 55% of our nation's people would vote for an otherwise qualified presidential candidate who also happened to be gay. In many ways, America is still stuck in the 1950s regarding issues of gay rights.

That is different from me claiming that gay people are treated exactly like black people used to be treated. The two groups, and their members whose Venn diagrams overlap into the two groups, have unique challenges and obstacles. The types of discrimination the two groups face are completely different.

And yet still so very much the same. Discrimination is still discrimination. And anyone that is not fighting against it, may as well be marching up there with a "God hates fags" shirt (which is why I purposefully included that picture in a previous blog).

More excerpts from Cannick's letter I wanted to address are as follows:

"Maybe white gays could afford to be singularly focused, raising millions of dollars to fight for the luxury of same-sex marriage. But blacks were walking the streets of the projects and reaching out to small businesses, gang members, convicted felons and the spectrum of an entire community to ensure that we all were able to vote."


"Likewise, holding the occasional town-hall meeting in Leimert Park -- the one part of the black community where they now feel safe thanks to gentrification -- to tell black people how to vote on something gay isn't effective outreach either."

I am offended for one that Cannick claims white gays can somehow afford millions individually for anti-Prop 8 advertising. As if we are one monolithic white gay culture feasting at $500 plate dinners, donating our hundreds of thousands of spare dollars to the campaign, and then jetting away to Milan.

Most of the anti-Prop 8 donations were small sums from individual donors. The millions were from large organizations and celebrities. It is just as racist to accuse an alleged monolithic "white gay culture" of all being rich, snobbish, and single-issue oriented. Many of us are hard-working, honest, non-profit salaried employees working for largely poor, largely black/gay/Hispanic organizations. I'm just sayin'. Drawing inaccurate charicatures of people does nothing to alleviate racial tensions.

Now, if that bit about Leimert Park is true, it is a shame. But I think we all need more information regarding whether the white people were "too scared" to venture elsewhere in the black neighborhoods.

Also, racism indeed exists in the white gay community. I have seen it time and time again, having grown up in a small, mostly white, rural area. But I believe I have done my part to help To be white, gay and racist it hypocritical. But it works the other way around, too. To be black, straight, and against gays also seems a little hypocritical to many white gay people. The same way being black, gay, and against whites would be too.

But don't think that just because I am not black, I am not going to fight against racism. Honestly, I don't notice how racism affects me, like, ever. Laws concerning blacks and minorities don't affect me in the least. And honestly, when other things come up that do affect me more directly, I am more interested in them. But I also can reject racism, acknowledge that in many ways I am privileged solely on the basis of my whiteness. And I can still help in the little ways I know how to fight racism against black people and other minorities.

Because, as my 6th grade teacher taught me, to be silent, to be apathetic "just because it doesn't concern me" is wrong.

The person who witnesses a violent crime and does nothing to stop it,
the person who watches a schoolyard bully call an innocent boy "faggot" and does nothing to stop it,
the person who sits silently as racist jokes are being told,
they all may as well be the perpetrators of those injustices.

I know there are larger, more important issues than gay rights and same-sex marriage. But most people, at least I hope, are not single-issue voters. Further, simply because there are more important social justice-y issues is absolutely no excuse to let them slip on by, under the radar.

I will end with the same Elie Wiesel quote that Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese ended with in a mass email he recently sent out:

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lies and more ad Nazium watch...

According to the One News Now website, the organization is now shrieking at what they are calling "Homosexual Pledge Cards." To everyone else, the pledge cards are simply a promise not to call others LGBT-related slurs.

You know, slurs that people learn from their parents and other children, and then think it's okay to use on the playground at school. "Faggot," "queer," and "dyke" are, to many kids still today, the ultimate put-down and insult.

To folks like Peter LaBarbara, apparently, this is akin to Nazism:

"This is just bizarre, and it shows how the teachers with their radical sexual agenda want to start early to reprogram these kids' minds. They want to undermine the faith teachings that the kids have at home; this is part of a plan," he suggests. "To me, this is like Hitler with Nazi Germany and the Soviets wanting to get to the youth and change the kids by getting to them at a very young age."

Um, since when is vowing to make schools a safe place for everyone and promising to stop using harmful slurs on par with the Nazis? They seem to think that there is some hidden "Gay Agenda" at play with every move that includes "LGBT" in it, when usually it. really. is. just. about. equality.

I have a feeling that if schools were instead teaching children that homosexuality is wrong, an aberrant "lifestyle choice," they would find nothing wrong with that. So, it isn't the alleged "teaching of homosexuality" they disagree with. It is the teaching against hate speech that they disagree with. Okay, got it.

And seriously, Nazi references are a bit overdone by now, don'tcha think, Peter?

Do they ever learn?

They should be ashamed. And even if they will never be ashamed, they should learn by now that if you don't really have a valid argument to make, simply throwing in a "Nazi" reference is only going to hurt your side more.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Are atheists unhappy?

I ran across an interesting article by Yale professor of psychology, Paul Bloom, today in Slate. The title is "Does Religion Make You Nice?" Given the current political climate, I was immediately drawn to it.

Bloom begins the article by providing us with the link to a 2007 Gallup Poll, which shows a majority (53%) of Americans would not vote for an otherwise qualified Atheist presidential candidate.

95% of Americans would vote for a Catholic person
94% would vote for a Black person
92% for a Jewish person
88% for a woman
87% for a Hispanic person.
72% for a Mormon
67% married for the third time
57% 72 years of age
55% for a homosexual
45% for an atheist

Good to know where we all stand.

To me, the Presidential candidates our country would vote for are a litmus test of tolerance towards anything other than white, male, and Protestant. If people will automatically discount an otherwise qualified candidate solely on one of the above bases, that is the textbook defintion of intolerance and prejudice.

You can go read the poll for yourself, but it's no surprise that conservatives are far less tolerant of most "non-traditional" groups than liberals and even most moderates.

[On a side note, this is a big, fat told-you-so to those who insist that about half of our country's people are not homophobic despite voting against gay rights consistently]

But I digress. In a nutshell, Bloom tells us of a review published by Science last month, in which "psychologists Ara Norenzayan and Azim Shariff discuss several experiments that lean pro-[Laura] Schlessinger." In other words, if you believe a God or other deity is watching over you, you are less likely to cheat, and more likely to donate money.

More surprisingly even, people are less likely to cheat or misbehave in a room where the posters have eyes on them. Maybe then, if religious people are indeed nicer, it's because they believe someone is watching them at all times.

However, before we start having to defend our atheist and agnostic selves against the religious people in America, Bloom writes about the Danes and the Swedes, who are "probably the most godless people on earth."

He goes on:

"They don't go to church or pray in the privacy of their own homes; they don't believe in God or heaven or hell. But, by any reasonable standard, they're nice to one another. They have a famously expansive welfare and health care service. They have a strong commitment to social equality. And—even without belief in a God looming over them—they murder and rape one another significantly less frequently than Americans do.

Denmark and Sweden aren't exceptions. A 2005 study by Gregory Paul looking at 18 democracies found that the more atheist societies tended to have relatively low murder and suicide rates and relatively low incidence of abortion and teen pregnancy. "

Bad news for the religious Right in the U.S. When they treat sex, drugs, and rock&roll like Eve's forbidden fruit, they of all people should know the consequences.

Bloom goes on to say that perhaps the reason religious people do so well in the U.S., is not so much their "religion" but the sense of community they get from it. Here, atheists are ostracized from many communities.

Bloom states, "Humans are social beings, and we are happier, and better, when connected to others."

Since America is so obviously still a Christian nation in many respects, perhaps it is true that atheists are not as happy. But this is not really the fault of atheism, or not having a god.

"[S]cattered individuals who are excluded from communities do not receive the benefits of community, nor do they feel willing to contribute to the communities that exclude them."

I don't mean to say, of course, that all atheists are unhappy and do not have a sense of community. Nor that they are bad people. I have been atheist or agnostic since I voluntarily stopped going to church in 5th grade, around the same time I told my parents that I had known for years that Santa Claus wasn't real.

Sure I was happier not going to church. I no longer had to pretend to believe in something that to me was entirely not real. It's not fun to live a lie.

However, it hurt to be ostracized and judged by my many neighbors who were avid church-goers and believers. What Bloom's article gets at then, is not that atheists' unhappiness in America is due to atheism; but that our country, no matter what our Constitution claims, is still too religious to tolerate anything that is not Judeo-Christian.

Or as Bloom says, "The sorry state of American atheists, then, may have nothing to do with their lack of religious belief. It may instead be the result of their outsider status within a highly religious country where many of their fellow citizens, including very vocal ones like Schlessinger, find them immoral and unpatriotic. Religion may not poison everything, but it deserves part of the blame for this one."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Consolation" to their "homosexual friends"

Some vocal pro-Proposition 8 voters in the blogosphere apparently have not forgotten their alleged "homosexual" "friends."

[In case you were in a coma yesterday and today, Proposition 8 very narrowly passed in CA, 52-48%.]

I find it ironic, to say the least, that one giant step for civil rights for racial minorities has also led to pretty big step backwards in civil rights for gays and lesbians. Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, and California all passed some form of anti-gay measures yesterday.

Further, 70% of black voters in California supported Prop 8, while whites narrowly opposed it, and Asian and Latino voters were split.

Yet, before we go getting all racist and starting a Black vs. Gay war, let's remember that black people only made up 6% of the total vote in CA. More importantly, let's remember the major funders and creators of false advertising for Proposition 8 were the Church of LDS and "pro-family" organizations.

Let's also remember that black people have been fighting their own war against horrible laws and prejudices for centuries. I don't mean to take anything away from Obama's victory and what it means for black people in this country.

And, of course, let's remember our black AND gay brothers and sisters. They often fight homophobia from within their black communities, and racism from within the GLBT community.

While no one likes to paint herself a victim, nor do we sit idly by and let it happen, these ARE realities for gay people and racial minorities. Homophobia and racism, obviously, exist.

So, while I just claimed that gays and lesbians suffered a giant step backwards in the civil rights timeline yesterday, the truth is that we should all celebrate the giant leap forward that Obama's nomination is for everyone.

As an aside, I think the connection between the pro-Prop 8/black vote is rooted in Christian fundamentalism, not race. Higher percentages of black people are religious, and their religions tend more often to be the ones that disapprove of gays and lesbians. And fundamentalist religious people oppose same-sex marriage in much greater percentages than do non-religious people and non-fundamentalists.

Pam, over at Pam's House Blend, addresses the issue much better than I ever could:

"For those of us who are black and gay, a group too often marginalized within a marginalized community, I see this as a clear signal to the LGBT advocacy community. There hasn't been enough outreach to those groups who voted against us. We haven't reached them; there hasn't been enough effort expended"

Now we know where to direct some new outreach efforts.

I was just sayin', as I said yesterday, it was a bittersweet election.

But, we will trudge on and keep fighting. While hugely disappointed in the outcome of the different amendments last night, the fact that much of the opposition to equal rights for gay and lesbian families is rooted in homophobia/sexism/bigotry just makes me want to keep fighting even more.

Which leads me to my next topic. Some homo-bigots in the blogosphere, in the midst of celebrating with their first-graders the passage of discriminatory homo-bigot laws, have decided to offer their warped version of "consolation" to their "homosexual" "friends" [sic].

It's times like these I wish I had access to a magical split-screen camera to show across the nation. One would show bigot-headed families like On Lawn's, celebrating with their children the fact that they helped restrict innocent people's civil rights and pursuit of happiness. The other would show a family headed by a gay or lesbian couple, hanging their heads in sadness at the continued discrimination they will face by laws in this country.

I think it's sad that those who shriek at the thought of schools teaching "sex and marriage" in schools to first-graders are the same people who have no problem telling their first-graders about "sex and marriage" (ie-gay people) in their homes when GLBT rights are taken away.

In spite of the mockery On Lawn and other anti-gay people purposefully make towards gay families on a daily basis, I was surprised at his attempt at reconciliation today. While I am sure in his delusional mind, he believes he is now making nice with the families he denigrates every day, observe how he ignorantly fails miserably:

"Its [sic] a somber day for those who's [sic] efforts did not bring victory last night. Lets remember that it could have been us. I feel a great empathy for them, though the fears and emotions are not true they are none the less real to them."

A-wha? Did I just hallucinate all that hoopla about rights getting stripped from gays and lesbians last night? Thank you very much, On Lawn, for telling us exactly how we feel, and which of our feelings are figments of our sensitive, wittle gay imaginations.

I mean, is he serious? Some people just never get it. And I have a feeling he never will.

On Lawn then provides a link to Ken the Playful Walrus' article, entitled, "To My Homosexual Friends [sic] Re: Marriage Amendments."

Ken states, "I voted for Prop 8. I argued vigorously for it in this very blog. I do not hate you. I don’t think most of the people who voted for these amendments hate you. Do you really think that blue state California is so full of homophobic bigots? Some, yes. But so many? If you tell yourself that, you misdiagnose the situation, and that will hinder your future success."

Ken offers the following "advice" to gay people:

"Stop obsessing so much about what other people think of your relationships. If you think your happiness depends on what other people think of your relationships, or what the state calls it, you’re going to be miserable for a long, long time..."

I take issue with this. Serious issue. Not because it is not true. Of course it's fucking true. Yet I doubt any gay or lesbian couples placed all of their happiness eggs in the Proposition 8 basket last night. We gays are pretty smart people.

What does our "friend" Ken think gay and lesbian couples have doing since time immemorial until today? Sitting around crying and being miserable until the homo-bigots say we are no longer sinners?

Thanks, but no thanks.

We have gotten by and will continue to do so. My relationship will not fail because homobigots aren't ready to share a word they think belongs only to them. Nor will we ever stop existing. Ken is right about one thing, the fight is far from over, and I know one day we will get marriage equality.

All that being said, if you yourself have access to a word, with all it's legal privileges, rights, and responsibilies, that other people don't have, you are in no position to tell them they should not want it.

My response to Ken, therefore, is this: if YOUR happiness so greatly hinges on what other people think of other people's relationships, then you my friend are already in serious trouble.

The picture I get in my head of Ken, is one of an overweight man eating a giant slab of mouthwatering chocolate cake, matter-of-factly telling a starving man, "If your happiness depends on this cake, then you're going to be miserable for a long, long time."

You know, Walrus, sometimes it IS about happiness. Or at least a fair shot at happiness that heterosexual couples enjoy. It is already established that marriage is supposed to be that one ultimate form of relatioship, a symbol of undying, unconditional love for your partner for life. On the relationship hierarchy, it is tops, eins, numero uno, the Great Bambino of relationships.

Restricting our right to a shot at that kind of legally and socially recognized relationship, is kind of a big deal.

So yes, it is about happiness.

And it is always about dignity. Separate is NOT equal.

But I doubt Ken or On Lawn know anything about either of those things. While gays and lesbians will get by as we always have without equal marriage, one day we hope to have equal access to happiness and dignity that heterosexual couples often take for granted and abuse every single day.

One day in the not-so-distant future, adults will be adults and learn how to share a word. Or better yet, a Right.

And they will realize, sharing isn't so bad. It's the nice thing to do, really.

And they will say, "What was all that fuss about? I am still me. I am still happy. I am still legally married to my own loving spouse. In fact, nothing at all was taken from me."

And then they will say, "Now I know what it is like to truly call a homosexual 'my friend.'"

And then they will find a new group to hate...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bittersweet election day...

The night our nation elects our first Black President, thus far at least 3 anti-gay amendments have passed in different states. Let's hope CA's Proposition 8 is an exception. And yet, despite my sadness, I can not help but sit with tears of joy streaming down my face for the Obama family and all Black people and racial minorities. Each advance in civil rights is one step closer to civil rights for us all. Congrats to President-Elect Obama!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Analysis of the latest Prop 8 polls by Dr. Herek

Continuing his excellent work regarding "sexual orientation, prejudice, science, and policy," Dr. Gregory Herek offers an analysis of the most recent field polls indicating support of and opposition to California's Proposition 8. You can find it here.

Dr. Herek's analysis and explanations are among the most detailed found on the internet right now. I will let you all read it for yourselves, however opposition to the proposition is still in the lead 52% to 44% in support of it. This is a significantly tighter race than in September.

Of note, regarding why the race is still so close, Dr. Herek's explanation is that "old prejudices die hard." He states:

"Perhaps instead we should be remarking on the fact that so many voters have proved reluctant to write antigay discrimination into the California constitution. The widespread opposition to Prop. 8, and the fact that proponents of the measure have been so careful not to publicly bash sexual minorities, are signs of a sea change in public attitudes.

Nevertheless, old prejudices die hard. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are still stigmatized throughout the United States and in much of California. Powerful groups — including the Mormon Church and Focus on the Family — have dedicated their vast resources to perpetuating sexual stigma. And many heterosexuals with generally enlightened attitudes are still uncomfortable thinking about same-sex relationships.

In my own research, I’ve found that heterosexuals’ opinions about marriage equality are very closely linked to their general attitudes toward gay men and lesbians. Other factors are also important — including religious beliefs and political values — but antigay attitudes are usually the strongest predictor of marriage attitudes."

Herek's advice? The key factor in the election will be trying to sway the undecided voters. He is urging those who oppose Prop 8 to talk to everyone they know, urge them to vote NO, and tell them why you are voting NO on 8.

I am excited for the likely advance in civil rights that will take place on election day!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

They've finally gone too far

In what may have been the worst move yet in the entire Proposition 8 debacle, the Yes on 8 movement has likened a U.S. with legally recognized same-sex marriages to that of Nazi Germany.

In what has sadly become an overused scare tactic piece of propaganda, Pacific Justice Insitute invoked images of Hitler and Nazi Germany as part of that organization's campaign on behalf of Proposition 8 [I refuse to link to it on my blog].

The Anti-Defamation League has issued the following statement in response to the ad:

"We are outraged and deeply offended that a spokesman for the Pacific Justice Institute has chosen to invoke images of Hitler and Nazi Germany as part of that organization's campaign on behalf of Proposition 8. ADL opposes the Proposition, but in our view, no matter what position one takes on this controversial contemporary moral and political issue, this analogy is hurtful and inappropriate. We should not lose sight of the fact that six million Jews perished in the Holocaust. Unfortunately, it has become all too easy for some advocates of various political positions to suggest that their opponents are like the Nazis. Such comparisons are profoundly hurtful and should be off limits."

What I find the most ironic and asinine is that they are grossly misusing the Holocaust to their advantage, while at the same time practicing anti-Semitism within their organizations!

Do the intolerant have any boundaries? I think their actions speak for themselves.