Tag Archives: homophobia

YouTube Sunday: Stand Up

22 May
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A Remarkable Weekend

17 May

Seven years ago today, Massachusetts sparked a fire that has yet to be extinguished when it became the first state in the Union to allow gay marriage.

Since 2004, 25 percent of states in our nation (including the District of Columbia) have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in the form of civil unions or marriage.

The balance of power over the struggle for gay rights has teetered in years since. Both sides have invested precious time and money in their cause, and both sides have celebrated victory and suffered defeat. And while the outcome of our civil rights movement has at times seemed permanently stuck in limbo, something’s happened over the past two years. The game has changed. The seesaw has tilted once more.

This weekend, something happened. Something big.

Following an increase in coverage regarding homophobia in sports after Kobe Bryant’s “faggot” heard round the world and a number of prominent sports figures stepping up and speaking out against bullying and discrimination, Rick Welts did something no active sports figure has ever done in America. He came out as a gay man.

You may not have known his name before his announcement, but you will now. President and CEO of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, Rick Welts spent 40 years in sports before deciding to come out. “This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,” Welts said in an interview with the New York Times. “Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”

His decision to come out at the age of 58 didn’t shock many of his friends and colleagues, but it stands as a significant step towards shedding a dark shadow that has plagued the world of sports for years.

The timing of Welts’ announcement corresponded with the surprising retirement of rugby icon Ben Cohen. And while he may be walking off the green, he takes up a new challenge with the formation of The Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation, an organization focused on combating bullying and homophobia.

“As athletes, it’s not enough just to have strong bodies. We must have strong characters and use our voices to support those in need and deserve it.”

The weekend concluded when Don Lemon, a prominent news anchor on CNN who chronicled his life and career in his new book “Transparent,” directed his Twitter followers to a New York Times article where he came out as gay.

“I’m scared. I’m talking about something that people might shun me for, ostracize me for,” he said. “It’s quite different for an African-American male. It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture.”

But Lemon realized that coming out was bigger than himself. When Tyler Clementi took his own life after being bullied for being gay, Lemon resisted the urge to remove his sexual orientation as a topic of his book. “I think if I had seen more people like me who are out in proud, it wouldn’t have taken me 45 years to say it, to walk in the truth.”

Appearing on Joy Behar’s HLN news program last night, Lemon said, “I was born gay, just as I was born black.”

Thank you, to all of you. Your courage to live with purpose will change minds and save lives.

There is no shame in being who you are. There is no sorrow in embracing your own unique self. We all have a story to share, a journey we have traveled. Your tears and inner pain are not in vein. Until you feel strong and proud enough to share your light with the world, we’re reminded every day by these remarkable stories that it does get better.

It was also 57 years ago today that the Supreme Court ruled that separate can never be equal.

Reaching A Critical Mass

28 Apr

As goes New York, so goes the nation?

Advocates for marriage equality suffered a devastating defeat in 2009, when efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in New York fell eight votes short in the Senate after receiving strong support in the state’s Assembly.

Many may recall Senator Diane Savino’s powerful and heart wrenching testimony in defense of gay marriage prior to the bill’s defeat, stating for all to hear that “we have nothing to fear from love and commitment.”

“If there’s anybody threatening the sanctity of marriage,” Savino said, “it comes from those who have the privilege and the right, and we have abused it for decades.”

A renewed fight to grant marriage equality has resurfaced in New York, stronger than ever. And this time, it may have larger ramifications for the country and the world.

“A win in New York will provide significant momentum for the movement nationally and, quite frankly, internationally,” says Brian Ellner of the Human Rights Campaign. “New York is very significant.”

Why has the landscape changed so drastically in less than two years?

This time, it’s personal.

The true-life stories of decent men and women who have suffered first-hand the inequality of being denied the right to marry the person they love has struck a chord with citizens both in New York and across the country, resulting in many to switch sides.

“That debate has been replicated hundreds and thousands of times over the Internet, emails and coffee klatches and over glasses of wine in New York’s suburbs that has rapidly changed – at an accelerated pace – public opinion.” says Bruce Gyrory, a political science professor at the University of Albany.

Even populations traditionally seen as reliably conservative, such as Catholics, have seen rising support for marriage equality.

Support for marriage has dramatically increased in New York, reaching as high as 58% in a recent poll. “I think at the point you cross 60 percent and approach 2:1 levels of support, the opposition loses its critical mass,” says Gyory.

And as overwhelming support among younger generations continues to make its mark, the realization that this fight is close to a tipping point has begun to dawn.

Law firm King & Spalding, who signed on defend the now defenseless DOMA on behalf of House Republicans, dropped a bomb earlier this week when it abruptly withdrew from the case. Reports of internal conflict and “mayhem” were rampant. “Management was divided, people were threatening to quit,” said one source.

Prior to King & Spalding’s exit, the response from the LGBT community had been strong and forceful. And while DOMA has already recruited fresh defenders in the wake of its latest setback, don’t expect public support to be on their side anymore.

In its latest episode, “Glee” reached new heights of fabulous when its cast belted out Lady Gaga’s gay pride anthem “Born This Way.” It depicted a high school coming together in a defining moment of unity.

Having already called the show a “disgusting gay teen sex romp”, Dan Gainor, a conservative media critic, was less than pleased, panning the show’s creator Ryan Murphy and calling the episode his “latest depraved initiative to promote his gay agenda.”

“This is clearly Ryay Murphy’s vision of what growing up should be, not most of America’s. It’s a high school most parents would not want to send their kids to.”

Hate to break it to you, Mr. Gainor, but you’re dead wrong. Your words have lost their power to persuade. Your hateful rhetoric no longer has a place in a country that is turning increasingly towards love and fairness.

You’re history.

Newspeak

23 Apr

In a move straight out of an Orwell novel, Tennessee state Senator Stacey Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill has advanced out of committee and will be sent to the Senate floor.

The bill would effectively criminalize teachers and school officials who talk about homosexuality before the ninth grade.

Conveying the message that being gay is neither appropriate nor suitable for public discussion, Campfield is attempting to further alienate and isolate a vulnerable population from seeking help and guidance from educators.

Supporters of the bill maintain age sensitivity is the primary goal, but Matthew Parsons, a socially conservative advocate and founder of the anti-gay “Something Better” campaign, may have spoken too soon. “If we’re talking about homosexuality, we are talking about specific acts that are going to be unhealthy for anybody to engage in outside of marriage.”

Let’s be clear. Campfield’s proposed bill has nothing to do with what is “age appropriate.” This is about fundamentally altering society. It would effectively prohibit speech and further push the civil rights struggle away from mainstream radar. Out of sight, out of mind.

“The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill raises all kinds of issues about anti-gay bias, free speech and government overreach,” said Tennessee Equality’s Ben Byers. “It means [teachers] can’t talk about gay issues or sexuality even with students who may be gay or have [a] gay family.”

Once again, we are witnessing a scared GOP attempting to limit debate and stifle meaningful conversation. The party of small government seems perfectly supportive of government’s large hand so long as it furthers their culturally radical agenda.

Senator Campfield’s cowardly attempts to institutionalize discrimination are painfully obvious for anyone with half a mind to see. If it’s a debate about substantive issues you wish to have, I welcome that debate. But leave the children out of it.

Gay Marriage Opponents a Shrinking Minority

21 Apr

A majority of Americans now support gay marriage.

Adding to mounting evidence that gay marriage opponents are increasingly out of touch with rational, mainstream America, a CNN poll released this week revealed that 51 percent of respondents back marriage equality for gay couples. 47 percent oppose.

“This is the fourth credible poll in the past eight months to show an outright majority of Americans in favor of gay marriage,” wrote Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. “Support for gay marriage seems to have been increasing at an accelerated pace over the past couple of years.”

But are lawmakers listening? Will social conservatives, concerned for nobody’s happiness but their own, stop to reconsider their actions?

“If support for gay marriage were to continue accelerating as fast as it has in the past two years, supporters would outnumber opponents roughly 56-40 in the general population by November 2012,” Silver predicts.

Such staggering numbers render opposition a politically bankrupt position. As more and more young Americans come of voting legal age, opponents face an un-winnable battle.

“We have passed an inflection point wherein it is no longer politically advantageous for candidates to oppose same-sex marriage,” Silver concludes.

In more sobering news reiterating the importance of now, a study released this week revealed that LGBT youth were considerably more likely to attempt suicide, show signs of depression, binge drink, and be victims of physical abuse when raised in “unsupportive” social environments.

Who are the worst culprits? “More than 70 percent of the thousands of calls to the 24/7 Trevor Lifeline originate in the southern and central regions of the United States, where there are traditionally fewer legal protections, in-and-out-of-school support services and accepting environments for LGBTQ young people,” revealed a statistical breakdown of the results.

And to those who believe that the war against bullying is a “sexual anarchist agenda,” remember Tyler Clementi. And remember Dharun Ravi, Tyler’s roommate who secretly filmed Tyler with another guy. Remember his 15-count indictment and years of prison that await him.

GayMU

14 Apr

It’s GayMU at JMU! Hosted by Madison Equality, GayMU is a week of events advocating rights and promoting the LGBT community around campus, including musical performances, panel discussions, drag shows, and theatrical monologues.

Being that this Wednesday was declared ‘Gay Day’, t-shirts were handed out on campus which read, “Gay? Fine by me.” Students are encouraged to show their support for equality by wearing their t-shirts on Friday.

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to attend an open-minded, liberal arts college such as James Madison University. To many, the prospect of an active and vocal LGBT campus life may be a fantasy. The accepting and safe environment on campus has been a source of encouragement and comfort to me, and it makes me proud to see so many step up and voice their support.

Last night, unrelated to GayMU but nonetheless raising charity for autism awareness, Queen of Mean Lisa Lampanelli appeared before a packed auditorium of students for a night of comedy. Lisa’s trademark brand of comedy is endlessly rude, vulgar, and if spoken in any other situation, undoubtedly offensive.

JMU Pride!

Her racist, homophobic, and across-the-board offenses never fail to draw hysterical laughter, but they also beg a very different question: is there a space in our discourse that allows words like “faggot” to be excusable?

Having gathered a dedicated gay following, words like “faggot” — among others — are a focal point of her stand-up vocabulary, oftentimes being hurled at an audience member. And like any other minority group that Lampanelli lampoons, she thanks her audience at the end of her show for being good sports and is careful to remind them that these words come not from a place of hate, but from a place of love.

If meaning lies in people and not words, is it your approach rather than the word itself? If you give others permission to laugh, does that take away the sting and power we grant certain words?

Lampanelli told us last night that in her twenty one years of stand-up, she has never encountered a gay fan who was offended by her routine.

Should we be so quick to give comedians a free pass? Or should we be more skeptical?

Lampanelli has made a career of holding a mirror to the American public, magnifying and bringing attention to prejudices while inducing laughter and still drawing attention to the absurdities and horror of what true bigotry looks like.

I believe Lampanelli is keenly aware of what she is doing, and I believe her comedy is more than what meets the eye. You may disagree, and if so I wouldn’t argue.

Sometimes, it’s okay to laugh.


Haters Gonna Hate

12 Apr

Being the shining beacon of light that they so lovingly represent, Liberty University hosted a panel discussion this weekend that addressed ways in which Christian conservatives can effectively combat the so-called “gay movement.”

Apparently, the word “gay” is the problem. Is “hedonism repackaged” too flowery?

“‘Gay’ is a left-wing socio-political construct designed to create grounds for fundamental rights [based on] whimsical capricious desires. Gay identity does not exist,” said Ryan Sorba, chariman of the Young Conservatives of California.

Rather than using the word “gay,” Sorba believes in taking a more level-headed approach. “Same-sex attraction,” “same-sex intercouse,” “sodomy,” “unnatural vice,” and even “anti-Christian” were all popular and well-received replacements.

Because nothing cures the radical “gay agenda” quite like semantical tweaks that seek to demean, belittle, oppress, deprive, and silence those who have been denied equal rights for hundreds of years.

Jerry Falwell would be so proud.

Arguments such as these are never used with the intention of spurring civil debate. They are used to squelch conversation and categorically disrupt claims based in logic and fact. They mean to attack and offend.

Liberty’s panel of so-called Christians even included a man who was ‘cured’ of his “unnatural vice,” 52-year-old Greg Quinlan. He founded the Pro Family Network and is president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays.

“If you had all the facts, you wouldn’t choose to be gay. When you live a lie, you tell a lie… A civil right that conflicts with natural right is no right at all. The [homosexual] behavior is immoral. It divides you from truth and what’s the meaning of life. If you don’t have truth, you have nothing but fake.”

Quinlan underwent extensive counseling to cure his “same-sex attraction,” and he even went on to marry a woman.

He’s now happily divorced.

The panel’s moderator, Matt Barber, couldn’t help himself from attacking the recent repeal of DADT. To him, gays in the military constitutes a serious threat to the national security of our country. After all, those pesky gays can’t turn down an opportunity to lust over straight men in uniform, and when the tough gets going, it all boils down to the soldier who “has your back or the one who wants to rub it.”

Better not drop the soap!

Barber also advanced another conservative favorite, that allowing gays in the military will lead to a spike in HIV/AIDS on the battlefield.

Really?

“Homosexuality is the greatest threat to the criminalization of Christianity,” said Robert Knight, president of the incorrectly-named American Civil Rights Union.

What do we do in the meantime while the “gay movement” continues to make historic headway?

Wait for homosexuals to “self-destruct,” of course.

Summing up her argument with the utmost professionalism, Professor Cynthia Dunbar leaves us with one more poignant reminder. “There are a lot of gay staffers in Congress. They work all hours and they don’t have family lives, but they do have veto power.”

Oh Cynthia, you doll.

Whoever said, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” clearly wasn’t gay. Words hurt. We’ve seen the consequences. And when you cloak your unbridled hatred of a minority under the guise of religious justice and truth, you not only insult millions of gay Americans who have done nothing to take away your rights, you have done a terrible disservice to a religion aimed at providing people with a sense of comfort and guidance.

Those who came together this weekend at Liberty may call themselves Christians, and they may even have themselves fooled, but their brand of Christianity is unrecognizable. The Devil wouldn’t recognize it. What would Jesus say if he had been in that room? Would he be proud to see his followers use his name to spread hate and pit groups against each other? Would he reject gays and call them “anti-Christian”?

To those panelists who have nothing better to do with their lives than to share their unhappiness and dismally low self-worth with the rest of the world, you’re an embarrassment. To those who accuse districts of inserting a “sexual anarchist agenda into public schools under the guise of bullying,” you’re an embarrassment. You’re an embarrassment to the progress of the human race. You’re an embarrassment to the name of Christianity. And to borrow a few words from Jon Stewart, you’re an embarrassment to yourself for wasting all the time and energy it takes to hate.

Most of all, I’m embarrassed for giving you the time of day and allowing your words to hurt me. I may crack jokes and make light of these otherwise devastatingly serious and sad situations, but sometimes it’s the only thing you can do to keep the darkness from getting in.

I’m better than that. You, sadly, are not. My lifestyle is not a choice nor is it a mistake. The light you wish to extinguish will burn on through me and the millions who live to see the day when your words lose their power. I live with purpose you could never dream of, and nothing you say will ever take that away from me.

‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’

Matthew: 25:35-40