Monday, December 29, 2008

Yet more evidence why abstinence-only education is a failure

Why rely on anecdotal evidence of the failure of strict abstinence-only sex education such as that offered by Sarah Palin's daughter? This policy, favored by the fundamentalist Christian right guarantees only one thing, takes a hit on the statistical side of things with the release of a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showing that teens making abstinence pledges are just as likely to have premarital sex. What's worse is that these same teens are less likely to use condoms. Abstinence-only approaches are a great way of boosting the teen pregnancy rate, something I can't imagine anyone would desire.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hypocrisy in action: Hater Rick Warren accuses gays of hate speech

True to his right-wing evangelical stripes, Rick Warren, rather than apologizing for his on-the-record remarks about gay couples being in the same category as pedophiles, or saying that gay people are "immature" or that they can be "cured," Rick Warren now goes on the attack. He sees himself as the object of hate speech and "Christophobic." You can't make this stuff up. So not only, in this man's views, are we members of the LGBT community somehow immature or sick, we are accused of hate speech for the mere fact of speaking up when we are so accused. The Christian right expects us to be silent as they lie about us. And this is the man whom Barack Obama has chosen to give a national stage on what should have been a day, his inaugural, for optimism and new beginnings. The incomparable Rachel Maddow sums it up nicely:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obama's Cabinet Pleases Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson is "very pleased so far" with Obama and his cabinet choices. When Pat Robertson of "the gays and feminists are to blame for 9/11" fame is pleased with something, I know that spells trouble. Not that I was thrilled anyway. So which party won this election?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist Richard Cohen on Obama's Choice of Rick Warren

This piece hits all the points I've been making concerning Barack Obama's choice of preacher Rick Warren to lead the invocation at the upcoming inaugural: Warren On? Party Off.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Biden can ask homophobes for donations...

Jane Smiley of Huffington Post put it succinctly in her blog entry from December 18th. That was the day, on the heels of the Warren pick, I received yet another email from Joe Biden asking me for my gay money. Perhaps he should go ask homophobic right-wing fundamentalist Christians for money instead. I wish him luck.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The US in league with the Vatican and Islamic countries in opposing gay rights...

The US has refused to support a draft UN resolution calling for the decriminalization of homosexual relationships and acts. The US is thus keeping company with the Roman Catholic Church, Islamic countries and China. Apparently my government agrees with the others that it's OK for lesbians and gay men to be subject to punishment for our sexual orientation. I feel so well represented. The full story is in The New York Times.

Reactions to Barack Obama's Insult to the LGBT Community

There are people far more eloquent (and much more polite) than I could ever be, leaders in our community, voicing outrage at Barack Obama's choice of bigot Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation. Apparently, even a self-professed "fierce advocate" (his word) of our community such a Obama is happy to insult an entire segment of the American people. Here are some reactions:
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Human Rights Campaign
US Rep. Barney Frank
LA Gay and Lesbian Center
I'm left to wonder if he might have so readily picked an antisemite, misogynist or racist to this role in his inaugural. Somehow I doubt it. Apparently, in Barack Obama's world view, the LGBT community is the one group which still does not deserve the respect afforded others.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More troubling signs from Obama

Many of Obama's cabinet picks have been safe centrist or even right-of-center, which is troubling by itself. But now we learn that right-winger and homophobe Rick Warren will deliver the inaugural invocation. I keep being told to give Obama a chance or that he's reaching across the aisle. But picks like this demonstrate that he clearly doesn't concern himself with the folks who have actually supported him. He's risking playing so hard to the right that he ignores his progressive supporters.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Count on the Vatican to promote hatred

After two thousand years of fighting human progress at every turn, it shouldn't come as a shock that the Roman Catholic hierarchy can be relied upon to oppose equal rights for lesbians and gay men. The Vatican opposes a resolution to be proposed to the UN by the EU (as represented by France) calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality.

It's remarkable that in an age when the gay rights debate, at least in the OECD countries and many others, has moved on to issues such as the right to marry, adoption and parental rights, ability to serve in the armed forces, etc., the Roman Catholic hierarchy actually believes that same-sex attraction (and particularly same-sex relationships) should remain against the law. I hope Roman Catholics worldwide understand that, every time they contribute money to their churches, they are contributing to an organization that sides with countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and countless others who regard lesbians and gay men living full lives as criminals.

The facts are quite clear. The Vatican has thrown its lot in with others who, by criminalizing same-sex attraction, subject lesbians and gay men to fines, imprisonment, torture and execution. While the Vatican no longer has the power to burn people like me at the stake as it once did (we can thank the Enlightenment for that), it is still so unabashed and unapologetic in its hatred for men and women like me that it readily sides with those countries that would. This doesn't surprise me at all in light of this institution's long history of oppression and hatred of human freedom and happiness. It is, after all, an institution that has long been dedicated to sacrificing human happiness on an altar of illusions. I can't blame it for being true to its nature as surely as no one could blame a shark for attacking its prey. But I can and do blame supporters of this institution for lending aid to an organization that is inimical to justice and happiness.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fed Up With Inequality Town Meeting

Garden State Equality of New Jersey has announced that Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk's nephew, will address GSE's upcoming Fed Up With Inequality Town Meeting. New Jersey gays should definitely make an effort to get on GSE's action mailing list and come to this and future meetings. We need to work together for full equality.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shostakovich's Piano Quintet

Today marks the anniversary of the public premiere in 1940 of Shostakovich's Piano Quintet. I have a live recording of this work performed by Sviatoslav Richter and the Borodin String Quartet and never tire of listening to it. Every movement in this work, every motif or turn of phrase, is Shostakovich at his best. I suppose the contrast in tone color between the piano and strings appeals to me regardless of composer. Nevertheless, this work stands out (as does the same composer's Piano Trio No. 2). How ironic is the lighthearted theme of the finale given the context of the Stalinist terror in the years leading up to the German invasion the following year.

DADT: A bad policy that will remain in place for now

Jennifer Vanasco of 365gay.com blogged a couple of days ago about the failed Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy that has cost the military money and talent in its witch hunt for lesbian and gay service members while doing nothing to improve performance. She raises a point that has in fact troubled me: If the incoming Obama Administration is indeed going to put off tackling DADT, a policy a large and growing number of officers in the services agrees has failed and needs to be abandoned, then what are we to expect with regard to other pressing issues such as the needed repeal of DOMA (the absurdly-named Defense of Marriage Act), passage of an inclusive ENDA, battling hate crimes, etc? If what is arguably one of the least controversial elements of moving this country forward with respect to full equality is something that will be put off, I can't help feeling pessimistic about the rest. I hear a lot about President-elect Obama's courage and coolness under fire, qualities he demonstrated under the Republicans' blistering attacks during the campaign. In fact, these qualities are among the reasons I supported him. Let's see those qualities in action. Justice delayed is justice denied and, as we all know, justice for lesbians and gay men has been denied for far too long. Let's move forward now.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Survivor's guilt

I had another routine physical exam at my oncologist's office on the upper east side of Manhattan yesterday. I'm about eight months out from my second cancer diagnosis (but who's keeping count?) and the protocol for my specific case calls for frequent x-rays, scans, blood draws and physical exams for the first several years. Even though I've only been doing this for a comparatively short while, these visits already have a sense of familiarity to them. But there is also an element of danger, as I remember often that the whole reason behind these tests is because I have some real risk of relapse from this latest cancer as well as a risk of a secondary cancer from the treatment (full-field radiation therapy) for my first cancer from over a decade ago. So it's with a very odd mix of boredom and anxiety - oil and vinegar if you will - that I go to these visits.

Each time, so far, I've emerged from those visits with a mix of relief and guilt. Relief at getting through yet another milestone, knowing that based on what we know about my type of cancer, the longer out I get from my diagnosis, the lower the odds that I'll relapse. For a few days, I even manage to forget that there will be another set of tests and poking and prodding on the horizon. Another milestone to pass.

But there is the guilt. I can't help feeling guilty of being healthy, at least as healthy as the latest testing shows. After all, at the very same moment I'm hearing that my latest scan is clean, that my lymph nodes aren't too big, that my blood isn't bearing witness to something growing inside of me, there are people who are not hearing good news. I know of men younger than me fighting to stay alive a little longer or who have not made it. I know of men my age facing an uncertain future. There are men who suffer from permanent hearing loss as a result of treatment. There are people all over this country and all over the world who are being injected with chemicals so toxic that the bags containing them need to be handled with special gloves, all with the objective of killing a tumor before the chemicals kill the patient.

I suppose it's a question any cancer survivor asks: why do I live while others die? Why do I prosper while others suffer? Why do I get an all-clear while others are told they have relapsed. What did I do to deserve good news while others do not? What makes me so special? These are questions that have no answer, at least not for this atheist. I suppose if I believed in sky gods or spirits or any other creature of some human belief system, I might be able to come up with some rationalization. But I don't. I look at life as it is, the product of a complex nexus of risk factors: environment, development, life choices, genetics, in sum, nature. There is no ultimate justification for why things happen as they do, only a growing understanding, however limited, of how nature works.

So I'm left at the crossroads of my rational understanding that there are so many variables at play in terms of one's survival and my emotional need to come to understand how good people can suffer while I do not. From this need arises the guilt. Why do I get good news from my oncologist while others do not? Because a unique combination of factors has worked in my favor. That's the rational answer. But the rational answer isn't satisfying to the emotional self. That self demands to know why in a way that seems just, that seems fair. To that sort of question, there is no answer. Not because some deity is "mysterious" but because we are mere organisms. Organisms possessed of the ability to ponder the "why" of everything around us.

So each time I leave my oncologist's office, walking a little faster and lightheartedly than before, I feel relief tempered with guilt. Until the next visit, perhaps.

Ellen and Rosemary

Daily Kos has a poignant story about an elderly lesbian couple. It's short but beautiful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What do you call someone who would deprive an agrieved minority of fundamental rights?

It is at once amusing and maddening when anyone, seeking to justify institutionalized discrimination against a small group of people, resorts to appeals to religion, tradition, etc. That seems to be the approach taken by those who favor California's Proposition 8. They can't argue from the point of view of justice and equality before the law, needless to say. So they argue instead that marriage is "sacred" or "traditional" ignoring the fundamental fact that civil marriage is not a religious institution. Period.
I find it hard to believe that even now any intelligent person in this country could misunderstand the very fundamental principle of separation of church and state in this country. Our laws are not the product of religion. To argue otherwise is to argue against the very principles behind the foundation of the Republic. So given this, I can only conclude that those people making appeals to "religion" and "tradition" when wishing to prevent lesbians and gay men from having access to the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage do so as a cover for something far uglier. No one can argue that religion can form the basis for law in a civil diverse society such as ours and as envisioned by the founding fathers. So to do so must be a smokescreen. It's a smokescreen for what amounts to a visceral dislike for people like me. I call that bigotry.
So let's stop this charade about "religious values" and "tradition" and the like. Let's be honest and call hatred for people like me what it is: bigotry. If you oppose equal rights for lesbians and gay men in our country, you do so not out of concern for your own personal religious beliefs. For surely you must realize that in our country, our laws are not and should not be based on your subjective religious biases. Besides, a better way to safeguard the "religious sanctity" of marriage might be to ban divorce. No. You oppose equal rights because you do not feel comfortable with lesbians and gay men. You do not like them. They're "different" and just don't belong in your vision of a perfect world. You hate us. You're a bigot.
I write this after coming across a column by Chuck Norris. Yes, Chuck Norris of action movie and infomercial fame. Now, Chuck Norris is not anyone I would ordinarily take seriously on any issue, much less and issue concerning public policy. Yet for some odd reason, he seems to be the darling of some people on the right. Reading his column, I come across the inevitable references to "sacred" and "religion" as justification for the Yes on Prop. 8 vote, with the consequent special pleading that Prop. 8 supporters aren't bigots. But Norris doesn't stop there. Apparently, he believes that not only should gay people be deprived of equal rights but they should also just shut up about it. Not only are gay people not entitled to the same rights and protections people like serial-adulterer Newt Gingrich take for granted, we don't even have First Amendment rights to protest. Sorry, Mr. Norris, statements like yours only reinforce the inescapable conclusion that the one thing that seems to animate your view and that of others concerning people like me is this: hatred. How else to explain a view that not only am I not entitled to the same rights as Britney Spears, I and people like me aren't even allowed to protest about it? Mr. Norris and people like him are bigots. It's an ugly word for an ugly way of thinking.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Join the Impact

I was so impressed with the sheer number (under-reported by the press, of course) of people who came out on November 15th to march for equal civil marriage rights for lesbians and gay men. The movement continues, with more planned on the Join the Impact web site. We need to make noise. Lots of noise. Change never came to those who are well-behaved and quiet, after all.

December 10th: A day without a gay

I found out that one of the next steps in the ongoing grass-roots effort to reach the goal of equal civil rights will be A Day Without a Gay on December 10, 2008. I'm taking the day off from work and will not give anyone my business that day. All lesbians and gay men should do the same. If this society will not treat us with the respect we, as citizens, are entitled to, then we need to take advantage of these admittedly modest gestures to demonstrate our strength in numbers.

Is this the beginning of disappointment

After eight years of watching our country move backwards, I can be forgiven for being impatient for real movement forward under the new president of the United States. So I can't help feeling disappointed with the indications that people like Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder will be a part of the new administration. I can't help feeling cheated that an egomaniac turncoat like Joe Lieberman is forgiven for effectively campaigning against the party with which caucuses in the Senate. Is this the beginning of a season of disappointment? I hope not.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dishonor Roll

There are at least two lists of organizations and individuals who donated money to the campaign to take away the right to civil marriage in California — Propostion 8 — in this latest election:
http://www.californiansagainsthate.com/dishonorRoll.html
http://www.hrc.org/news/11542.htm
There are many ways of combatting hatred and discrimination, not the least of which is boycott. While most of the organizations and businesses in the second list, that compiled by the Human Rights Campaign, are based in California (with a few from, not surprisingly, Utah), I would expect progressive individuals in those states to boycott those businesses.
Also worth noting is the large amounts of money donated by so many organizations and individuals who claim to be Christian, including the Roman Catholic Church and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Now, while not a Christian, I do know enough of the Gospel's to be left wondering what would be the more Christian thing to do: donate money to feed and clothe the poor, or donate money to strip loving couples devoted to each other of their civil rights, rights which have nothing to do with religion or the free exercise thereof.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why can't US religious leaders leave people alone?

Here's Anderson Cooper of CNN interviewing Dan Savage (of the great Savage Love syndicated column) and Tony Perkins, yet another homophobic religious troglodyte. They're discussing California Proposition 8, the ballot initiative banning same-sex civil marriage in that state and which passed with a simple majority and became law immediately.

What this amounts to is simple tyranny of the majority. A simple majority of individuals voting in that state have quite simply stripped a minority of its civil rights, rights that the majority takes for granted.
While I don't live in California, I am a gay man in a permanent loving relationship with another man. Just as permanent and loving as any opposite-sex relationship. The difference is that I can't get married but my heterosexual friends, family members and colleagues can. This is not a religious issue since this concerns the legal rights and responsibilities bestowed by the state as accruing from the legal status of married. If religious institutions don't want to marry two people, the state cannot force them to do so. So, in this sense, there can be no misunderstanding: marriage as bestowed and recognized by the state and affording significant rights and responsibilities, cannot possibly be construed as a religious institution. To argue otherwise is to argue that the state is actively violating the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution every time a couple gets a marriage license.
However, it appears that religious sects such as the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), the Roman Catholic Church, and many others, not satisfied with this state of affairs, want all the protections of the first amendment to the US Constitution but apparently do not feel compelled to respect the separation of church and state when it comes to interfering in the lives of the general population. Speaking for myself, I do not attend any church, do not believe in any deity, spirit or any other incorporeal entity. It follows that I live my life expecting that I shall be left alone by religious sects just as surely as I leave them, and their members, to follow whatever belief they choose. It also follows that I expect to be accorded the same rights and responsibilities as any other citizen.
Nevertheless, the Mormon church, the Roman Catholic Church, and other so-called Christian organizations have chosen to interfere in the lives of others through a massive advertising and smear campaign in California. By so doing, they have broken the implicit social contract embodied in the Establishment Clause. At the very least, by injecting themselves into a matter of public policy carried out in the political arena, they should forfeit their tax exempt status as they no longer can hide behind the cloak of being exclusively "religious" organizations. The fact that California has a constitutional framework allowing people, motivated by religion-inspired bigotry, to vote out the civil rights of a minority flies in the face of the very basis for the US constitutional system.