Friday, November 23, 2007

The Reason For The Season

'Tis the season for re-posting my annual updated anti-Black Friday post.....

The malls here in Miami began decking the halls 2 months ago, and had Santa's train installed just as the last back to school sales were ending. I know it's cliche at this point to feel nostalgic for the days when the holy season of giving gently revealed itself shortly after Thanksgiving. Today, a 5am scuffle in the line outside of Best Buy on Black Friday merely marks the halfway point in the season of stress and artifice.

Again, this year, I'm committing to honoring the reason for the season - the winter solstice - and celebrating this beautiful time of year by spending quality time with the people that I love, and sharing meaningful gifts instead of spending time fighting the crowds so I can check people off my list with iPod iPhone accessories.

For the like minded:

World Wildlife Fund

Now go for a walk with someone you love.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Acid House Flashback # 1

"Voodoo Ray" - A Guy Called Gerald - 1988

Friday, November 09, 2007

Nibbled By An Okapi

Ok…now about that Okapi thing. A new blog buddy recently asked, “Why an okapi? Just Curious.” Well, the okapi thing has several different origins.

When I was a kid, I was truly obsessed with two things: Disco music and my Safari Animal Cards. When I wasn’t dancing in the living room to Saturday afternoon Soul Train, I was memorizing and categorizing my animal cards and fantasizing about future expeditions to Madagascar. My favorite animal was the okapi. I was captivated by its graceful lines and mysterious past, and I loved the idea that this really large animal could have remained undiscovered by Westerners until the 20th century.

A little later in life, I read, and enjoyed, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and was particularly amused when it was revealed that the main character’s “only brother was long ago nibbled to death by an okapi.”

Then I discovered The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. It is one of my three most favoritest books, ever – the other two being Beloved and Prodigal Summer. Here’s a beautiful okapi-infused excerpt from The Poisonwood Bible

She is inhumanly alone. And then, all at once, she isn't. A beautiful animal stands on the other side of the water. They look up from their lives, woman and animal, amazed to find themselves in the same place. He freezes, inspecting her with his black-tipped ears. His back is purplish-brown in the dim light, sloping downward from the gentle hump of his shoulders. The forest’s shadows fall into lines across his white-striped flanks. His stiff forelegs splay out to the sides like stilts, for he's been caught in the act of reaching down for water. Without taking his eyes from her, he twitches a little at the knee, then the shoulder, where a fly devils him. Finally he surrenders his surprise, looks away and drinks. She can feel the touch of his long, curled tongue on the water's skin, as if he were lapping from her hand. His head bobs gently, nodding small, velvet horns lit white from behind like new leaves.

…That one time and no other the okapi came to the stream, and I was the only one to see it.

When I first read that, it took me back to the comfort and magic of solitude that I felt as a kid exploring the woods. It still does. And, that is where the okapi thing comes from.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

One For All And All For None

Way back in 1974, Representatives Bella Abzug and Ed Koch introduced to Congress the Equality Act of 1974 which would have added sexual orientation as a protected class to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The “Gay Rights Bill,” as it became known, failed to make it through the House of Representatives.

In 1996, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was proposed, and would have made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation in hiring and employment and the treatment of employees. It failed in the Senate on a vote of 49-50.

This past April, Representatives Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Deborah Pryce and Chris Shays re-introduced ENDA as HR 2015. That version would have protected people based on sexual orientation as well as gender identity – with exemptions for small businesses, religious organizations and the military.

In September Representative Barney Frank backed away from HR 2015 and introduced a new bill, HR 3685, which would not provide protection from discrimination based on gender identity – only sexual orientation. Rep. Frank assumed his new position due to a lack of support for a gender-identity inclusive bill. He, and the Human Rights Campaign, have taken the position that a limited, but passed, ENDA is better than no ENDA at all. Apparently, there is a glimmer of hope that the federal government could possibly decide that it’s time to pass a law to protect people from being fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation – but there is no hope that the time has come to stop discriminating against trannies.

HR 3685, in effect, would make it illegal to discriminate against “straight-acting” gay men, lesbians and bisexuals – but would still allow for discrimination against transsexuals and transvestites and anyone who gender-identifies in a way that differs from traditional gender roles. The vote on HR 3685 could take place today. Of course, it would still have a long way to go to become federal law.

I am so disheartened by the angry discussions that I’ve witnessed around whether we, as a community, should support the passage of HR 3685 and leave out the protections for gender identity, or whether we should hold out until there’s a possibility for an all-inclusive law covering all sexual orientations and gender identities. The differing viewpoints have created a rift in the community – with the Human Rights Campaign supporting HR 3685, and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force refusing to support the non-inclusive bill.

Over at Joe.My.God. the debate is raging with a lot of commenters taking the position that it’s better to have something than nothing, and that once the Gs, the Ls and the Bs of the GLBT community are protected – then we can work towards having the Ts added later. I think that’s a valid position – it’s not my position – but it’s a strategy that might work. But, what really stung me, in reading the comments, was how many people were taking the position that “they” are not “us” - so fuck ‘em. Some of the gay commenters expressed a lot real hatred and disgust for transsexuals.

On Joe.My.God. Pintuck wrote: I oppose "LBGT" on a more primal level than the ENDA. I'm not a lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered person. I'm a gay man. Your lamely-imposed label means nothing to me and has no bearing on my life. And that's a simple statement of fact. If that makes me your enemy, then may your hate give you an ulcer, cause I don't give a fuck….And most of all, a drag queen who wants to cut off his dick and give himself a frankenpussy is NOT a "gay issue"!

Over at Michaelangelo Signorile’s blog, Southern Decency said: Trans advocates were behaving as an appendix to gay/lesbian-rights activism, assuming that when gay/lesbian rights pass, trans would automatically included because gays/lesbians have some sort of historical debt to the trans people. Well, they were fooling themselves, and I can't help but find some fault with them as well. That they're now whining like you do, instead of engaging in the necessary activism and education, shows that they are part of the problem.

It’s just fucking unbelievable to me that these people, who are gay themselves, could be so disinterested in standing up for the most vulnerable of our community – and whether they like it or not, those who live their gender in ways that aren’t traditional are a part of our community. It seems to me that people who express such animosity towards transsexuals, drag queens, drag kings, transvestites and the various other folks who fall under the “T” in LGBT, do so because of their own insecurity and internalized homophobia. I think of them as roughly the same people who strive to be “straight-acting” and post online personal ads claiming to be bisexual because they think it’s somehow “less gay.”

The fact of the matter is that without the protection for gender identity, it will be possible to deny employment to a qualified applicant, simply because he was too effeminate, or she was too masculine. What is being overlooked by the “abandon the trannies” crowd is that too a large segment of the anti-ENDA public, there is very little difference, if any between a gay man and a cross-dresser. No matter how far you distance yourself from the gender queers, you will never be straight to the straight people.

I’ve lived my entire life without the luxury of equal treatment under federal law. If ENDA doesn’t happen because we refused to allow our community abandon our most vulnerable, our lives won’t be any different than they were yesterday. If we do accept the “gift” that they’re willing to give just some of us, then we’ll have sold our community’s soul for a bill that will almost certainly be vetoed by Dubya anyway.

Who will have won then?
UPDATE: The House of Repesentatives actually passed HR 3685, the non-inclusive version of ENDA. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Devil Made Me Do It!

Pure Comic Genius...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

American Justice

This past week, in holy Baltimore, the hometown of John Waters and Divine, a real judgment was handed down against Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Church. A federal jury in Baltimore awarded $10.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Al Snyder, the father of Matthew Snyder, a Marine who was killed in Iraq after the church members protested and picketed Matthew’s funeral carrying signs that said “Thank God for Dead Soldiers!” and “America Is Doomed!”

I feel sad that a grieving father was pushed so far by the Westboro Church monsters, and, at the same time, I’m nearly giddy that finally there’s the possibility that Fred Phelps and his ilk have been put out of the hate business.

But I do wonder, who has been funding these hatemongers for so long? I’ve been trying for a long time to quit my job and just travel, and somehow they’ve been doing it for more than 15 years - protesting and picketing at thousands of events! I’m pretty certain that they aren’t being comped by JetBlue and Red Roof Inns, so how are they affording their very demanding hate schedules? I’d bet an investigation into their finances would turn up some very interesting trivia.

I also wonder why it was ok for Fred Phelps and his followers to picket and protest at the funerals of countless gay people, including Matthew Shepard’s funeral, but suddenly the conservative bloggers and pundits are all up in arms because the Westboro Church-goers have diversified their focus to include the funerals of people lost in the war. For all those years of spewing their Calvinist craziness at the funerals of gay people, I never saw the Fred Phelps clan being lambasted on political talk shows or confronted by angry television pundits. As a matter of fact, when they limited their hatred to gay people, I never saw the mainstream media report on them at all.

But, in 2003, the Westboro Church decided to increase their visibility by protesting at the funerals of military members. And, it’s really worked well for them. Obviously, mainstream America was ok with the Westboro Church members “practicing their religion” by carrying signs that said “God Hates Fags” and “Fags Burn in Hell.” They did it for years with no media attention.

Then, in 2005, they crossed the line of decency by not only picketing military funerals, but by implying that these fallen war heroes might be gay – or “gay enablers.” And that did it. America had had enough, and the conservative right-wingnuts found themselves on the same side of the fence as the gay community in being disgusted by Phelps’ antics. Soon, Fred Phelps had become a hateful, repulsive, contemptible, vile national pseudo-celebrity – just like Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck.

So now, now, the conservatives are speaking out against the Westboro Church. Now states are scrambling to pass laws, specifically limiting the right protest near a funeral, and, last year, President Dumbya signed the “Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act,” which makes it illegal to protest near some military cemeteries.

Now, I’m sure that there are some who, thanks to lack of media attention, just never knew about the funeral protests, until they started hosting them at military funerals. But, we all know that most of the Fox News set would be thrilled with the Phelps clan if they just went back to protesting fag funerals, and stopped bringing mainstream attention to the raw hatred that serves as a foundation for the conservative ideology. They aren’t angry at what he’s saying – because they agree. Just like Phelps, the conservative base of America believes in an angry, vengeful God that hates homosexuals, and just like Phelps they believe that America is doomed because of its diversity.

They just want the Westboro Church to shut up, and to stop bringing the public’s attention to the evilness of fundamentalism. Now, back to my earlier question. Who has been funding these loonies for the past 15 years?