The Silver Lining of All the Hate

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Cross-posted with Equal Writes*TRIGGER WARNING*

by Elizabeth Cooper

I feel like I'm "supposed" to feel one way or another about major LGBT news stories - generally some variation of happy or sad and/or mad. Let's complicate that original impulse. All of the stories Brenda mentioned are objectively, very sad. And the momentary win for same-sex marriage in California this summer was very happy and exciting. But there are other, perhaps unexpected, impacts of both stories.

Today, I went to a lunch about Bisexual Health, sponsored by Health Professions Advising, the LGBT Center, University Health Services, and Women's Center. One comment noted that in light of the general positive trend towards acceptance (exemplified by support for same-sex marriage), people have been expressing hate that much more vehemently. The presenter pointed out that while LGBT people already firm in their identity can brush off hateful words, these words can deeply hurt those still questioning their identities. The youth that are currently being highlighted in the media as victims and survivors of anti-gay sentiment are among those most vulnerable.

But there is a silver lining. In the wake of these heartbreaking deaths, we as a country are forced to take homophobia and transphobia seriously. LGBT youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts. These incidents have started a dialogue on what we as policy makers, teachers, students, etc. can do to help what is clearly still a problem.

Too Much Hate

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Cross-posted with Equalwrites.orgTrigger warning: hate crimes, bullying, and suicide.


There have been far too many hate-crime-related deaths in the past two weeks, and they are only the tip of the iceberg of those that go unreported.

On September 17, 2010, Curtis Martin, a waiter, was stabbed inside a Denny's restaurant after answering affirmatively to the perpetrator that he was gay. Fortunately, he has survived the attack. 

On September 19, 2010, Seth Walsh, a Houston 13-year-old hanged himself from a tree after enduring homophobic bullying, passing away this past Tuesday in the hospital. 

Asher Brown, another 13-year-old, shot himself in the head last week after enduring homophobic bullying at school, even after his parents had called school administration in attempts to intervene. The police will not file charges, and the school denies ever having heard complaints from the parents. 

On September 30, 2010William Lucas, a 15-year-old high school freshman in Indiana, hanged himself after being tormented about his sexual orientation. 

And this Wednesday, September 29, 2010, we learned of a Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his roommate secretly broadcasted him having sex with another man. 

 

The types of repeated psychological torture that LGBTQ youth endure at the hands of bullies are terrible and tragic crimes. LGBTQ youth are more likely to commit suicide than their straight-identified counterparts. It is unfathomable to me that our society continues to condone and dismiss homophobic attacks and verbal abuse. I am speechless at the events of this past month. The hate must end.

Marriage as a human right and remembering Republicans are humans, too

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gaygop.jpgThis article was originally published by Freedom to Marry.

Paying almost any level of attention to the pseudo-reality that we call 'politics' in the United States, one might get the impression that identifying as 'conservative' is anathema to being 'gay' and vice-versa.  Hypocritical behavior like that of former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman who publicly came out as gay recently, might certainly be viewed as validation of this 'reality'.  

The Republican Party will have you believe that you can use the same line of political reasoning to scoff at government's role in healthcare, as you can when vigorously maintaining a government interest in promoting an 'ideal' human relationship.  They call this all conservatism.  If you believe in by-your-bootstraps-capitalism, and marriage equality?  Why, then you're fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.  

Wrong.  


The Rainbow Weekend - a Party, Protest, or both?

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 dykemarch.jpgCross-posted with Equal Writes, Princeton's feminist blog.

Pride invaded NYC a few weekends ago, and like many queer women, I partook in some of the festivities. Note my choice of language. Festivities. I just read a Gawker article "A Straight Person's Guide to Gay Pride" where they describe Pride as "a giant celebration of living somewhere over the rainbow." Yet the organizers of the Dyke March, an event in Pride weekend, describe it as "a protest march, not a parade." So, what is Pride? A party or a protest? What does it represent to the LGBT community, LGBT individuals, me and you?

Vitter's Family Values

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vitterI was living in New Orleans when the David Vitter prostitution scandal first broke, and many of my progressive friends wondered when Vitter would resign — especially since a year earlier Vitter said that he was “a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history.” It turns out that despite cheating on his wife and breaking the law, Vitter would not only refuse to resign, but would be cruising to re-election a few years later. It turns out that Republican voters don’t actually hold Republican office-holders to their own professed standards:

Vitter is clearly being boosted by President Obama’s unpopularity in the state, and by Melancon’s low name recognition. But a bigger factor may be a peculiar form of partisanship.

Within the past year, PPP has canvassed Republican voters in three states represented by scandal-dogged GOP politicians: Vitter in Louisiana, Sen. John Ensign in Nevada and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. (Ensign and Sanford both had extramarital affairs.) In all three cases, the support of Republican voters remained solid. Last year, when Vitter’s embarrassment was fresher in voters’ minds, Republican voters in his home state still gave him a 62-19 approval rating.

AIDS in D.C.

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At the D.C. gay pride festival this past weekend, I heard a lot of anti-Fenty rhetoric regarding the mayor’s supposed lack of attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Having been a D.C. resident for only a week or so, I’ll defer to others on Fenty’s performance, though there is some evidence that he has on at least one occasion inappropriately used the issue as a bargaining chip in his battles with the City Council. But Fenty has dealt with some of the most severe failings of the District’s AIDS Office since his term began and called HIV/AIDS one of “most serious problems” facing the city. And he’s right.

At least 3% of D.C. residents have HIV or AIDS, and officials believe that figure significantly underestimates the true number of those affected, as the estimate is based only on those who have been tested. For purposes of comparison, the CDC characterizes a population with a 1% incidence of HIV as experiencing a “generalized and severe” epidemic, and Shannon L. Hader, director of the District’s HIV/AIDS Administration, notes that the District’s HIV rate is “on par with Uganda.” The most recent data shows HIV/AIDS is on the rise throughout the U.S., but the District has the highest AIDS case rate in the country and new AIDS diagnoses are twice as high in D.C. than in New York and five times higher than Detroit.

Smearing Elena Kagan, and a counterfactual

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In a recent blog post and an appearance on -- our favorite. . . FOX News! -- Newt Gingrich has claimed that the New England penal colony we know as Harvard has a double standard on gay rights. His real agenda, though, is to smear Elena Kagan, whose vociferous opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is hardly a secret. The back-story is that Kagan was dean of Harvard law school in 2005, the same year that the University accepted a large gift from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to advance cross-cultural understanding. As we all know, the Saudi regime is notoriously repressive towards homosexuals, and sodomy is punishable by death under the law of the land -- which just happens to be Sharia (Islamic law). Gingrich never explicitly questions Kagan’s moral character, but the implication is clear: Harvard (and by Harvard we mean Elena Kagan) has historically lambasted the US military for its discriminatory policies towards gays and lesbians, yet is willing to accept a donation from a country infamous for its persecution of homosexuals. Never mind that 1) it wasn’t Kagan’s decision to accept the gift, 2) she was in a poor position to undercut Harvard’s initiatives as its employee, 3) this happened in 2005 yet Gingrich has waited until now to smear “Harvard," 4) Georgetown University’s 2005 acceptance of a similar gift from Prince Talal is glossed over, and 5) that this tells us nothing whatsoever about the kind of Justice Elena Kagan might be.

Here’s a counterfactual. Suppose Kagan had come out (pun intended) against Harvard’s acceptance of Talal's gift to the detriment of the school's public standing. Do you really think Gingrich would have applauded Kagan for taking the moral high ground? Isn't it more likely he would have suggested  that Kagan’s views on gay issues compromised her ability to be professional, and that this has implications for a career as Justice? Who does Gingrich think he’s fooling here? Newt me.
 

Freedom of (personal) Expression

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gay-scene-sv-300x265.jpg

When I first read Andrew’s op-ed piece in the ‘Prince’ this week, then his resposting on Qmmunity, I was a bit distressed about his assumptions of what it means to be gay. Unfortunately, his assumptions are also held by many others in and out of the LGBTQ community, so I think it’s useful to address some of this confusion.
 
I should start by saying that I appreciated Andrew’s honesty in speaking about the ever present homophobia on this campus. Though there is great institutional support, many students would rather LGBTQ people be unseen and unheard, quietly left to the confines of the rainbow lounge in the LGBT center. A printed article describing this environment speaks to the strong desire for this to change. As someone who has been harassed in the ways Andrew describes, I appreciated that section.
 
My issue with the column, however, has to do with the descriptions of ‘homosexual expression.’ What is homosexual expression? Let’s deconstruct that phrase. A homosexual is someone desiring of sexual relations with someone of the same sex. So wouldn’t homosexual expression be acting upon those desires? Andrew describes the harassment (gay) male students at Princeton have experienced while making out with other males. He even goes on to note that the kind of harassment gay males endure is strikingly different from the kind endured by gay females. In fact, the harassment of gay females is more aptly described as over-sexualization and infatuation, neither of which are appropriate responses. This is a rather unfortunate double standard that I would hope one day changes. This is the homosexual expression to which he seems to refer.

Why "Don't Ask, Don't Give" Is a Mistake

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DNCgay.jpg

Almost everyone in the LGBT community is disappointed with the Obama administration. Granting hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners was a step in the right direction, but then came more of the same: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) -- the most visible gay issue nationwide besides marriage equality -- has yet to be repealed. This latest failure to achieve equality has come to embody the totality of Democratic inaction in recent years regarding gay rights, and LGBT resentment is mounting as the party continues to balk at the gay agenda.

Some -- John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay, to be precise -- have made it their mission to finally stick it to the Left after years of waiting in vain for change. Their brainchild, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Give” campaign (DADG), is a boycott of the DNC pending the repeal of DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Unfortunately, DADG won't force Democrats’ hand on these issues. Even worse, it will likely damage the gay rights movement in the long-run.

Jazz: A Straight Man's World?

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parse.jpg“Are you straight?"

As a jazz pianist, I'm asked this almost every time I’m at a session. In this context, it is slang that we musicians use to verify that players know what the form of a tune will be before it starts. Among a few close musician-friends who know my sexual orientation, I sometimes joke in reply: “No, actually.” But when the question comes up at a gig or jam session with unfamiliar musicians in France, Holland, or Boston, I just smile to myself and reply, “yeah.”

It goes without saying that one’s sexual orientation -- just like gender, race, religion, you name it -- has no place on the bandstand. All that should matter is what a player brings to the musical conversation. If any genre has come to stand for an affirmation of common humanity, it is jazz. Despite being borne out of the suffering of a distinct ethnic group, its endeavor to transcend the historical memory of African American suffering has earned it almost universal appeal.