Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy birthday, Harvey Milk. You were taken much too soon.

Today would have been gay rights leader and San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk's 79th birthday had he not been, along with Mayor Moscone, murdered on November 27, 1978. The details of Harvey Milk's life and the circumstances of his death are well known through books, documentary films, and a recent bio-pic. I can't help wondering what he would make of where we in the LGBT community are today, of the progress we've made, but of the persistent level of ignorance and hatred that still manifests itself today. I suppose he would tell us, as he so often did, to cling to hope and to fight like hell. Happy birthday, Harvey.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Generosity

Until my second cancer diagnosis about a year ago, I rarely involved myself in fund-raising activities. I participated a couple of times in the Philadelphia AIDS Walk in the late '90s but, looking back, was probably too self-involved to consider participating more actively and more frequently in volunteer or fund-raising work. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took a second cancer diagnosis to wake me up to the fact that, in the face of relentless diseases like cancer, sitting back and doing nothing is simply not an option. Well, it's not an option if we care about something that affects all of us. And it's not an option when our leaders too often spend much of our country's fortune fighting wars of choice overseas when they should be investing (yes, "investing") that fortune to fight a war of necessity here at home.

But this post is not about the failure of our government to do more to combat cancer, particularly as there are hopeful signs that we are waking up to the pressing need for more research and better treatment options for this disease. Rather, it concerns the one thing that humbles me as I do what I can to raise money among my professional colleagues, my friends, and my family members: generosity. I can't help being inspired by the willingness of so many people to give so much.

Many of these people have been closely affect by cancer, either as patients, as care givers, or as people who have lost someone to this disease. As a cancer survivor, I understand now better than ever the motivation, born of a frustration in the face of cancer, to do something, anything, to fight this scourge. For the people who have been robbed by cancer (that's what it feels like to me), it becomes a lifelong need to do something so that others need never suffer the same. The people who have suffered because of cancer and choose to do something about it inspire me because they see themselves not as victims, but as warriors. They have chosen not to be defeated by cancer but to fight back.

But I'm impressed in a different way by the generosity of people who have never suffered the pain and loss of cancer. Those people evidently give not out of a personal experience but rather out of a sense of empathy. They are able to imagine the sense of loss that others must feel. They understand that we all share the costs of cancer as this disease ultimately touches all of us in one way or another. Empathy and compassion are the qualities I've felt I've lacked for much of my life and which I've come to appreciate now as a two-time cancer survivor. I'm humbled by the fact that so many people who have not had to face cancer are nonetheless so ready to give out of precisely the sense of empathy.

So as I see the donations on behalf of my participation in the August 2009 Philadelphia LIVESTRONG Challenge pour in, I feel a deep sense of awe at this abundance of empathy translating into generosity. It is this very quality — the willingness to translate feeling into action — that we need more of in our society today.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cancer, celebrity, and confidentiality

Cancer patients are probably more aware, and more protective, of the need to protect their privacy than most people for many reasons. After all, fighting cancer is such a deeply personal and painful experience. Furthermore, patients can too easily fall prey to employment discrimination, exploitation, and scams. This is why it's all the more horrifying when a medical center violates the trust (and the law) patients rely on to protect their privacy. It's in that context that Farrah Fawcett's case, one in which details of her treatment were leaked without her consent, serves as a reminder of just how vulnerable patients can be. While most of us are not celebrities and therefore are probably of little interest to the tabloid-reading crowd, it's chilling to read Leonard Pitts' (an excellent columnist, by the way) column in The Miami Herald on this actress' battle and how her privacy was violated.

Medical insurance challenges faced by gay couples

In today's The New York Times, there's a piece describing the difficulties and added costs faced by gay couples when seeking coverage for both partners. If the current health insurance climate is challenging in general, it is all the more so for lesbian and gay couples.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

We've all been there...

Who hasn't been in a family photo that just came out wrong? I'm thinking particularly of those posed wooden awkward photos in which nobody looks like what they usually do. Well, there's an entire site devoted to those photos: AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com . Enjoy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Look out, Senate pages, Gov. Crist is coming

Closet-case orange-skinned Republican governor of Florida and all-around gay-rights opponent (and thus, hypocrite) Charlie Crist plans to announce his run for the US Senate. He's probably a shoe-in for it. Senate pages should run for cover. Actually, the up-and-comers (insert your own joke here) will probably seek out his attention. I just wonder if he'll leave his beard of a wife behind in Florida. Check here for the, ahem, "straight" news story or here for a snarkier take on it. By the way, go see the movie "Outrage" for some more Crist background.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A fit of anti-science on "Hardball" last night...

I usually enjoy watching "Hardball with Chris Matthews" on MSNBC while weight-lifting. Some of the discussions get me fired up enough to help me squeeze out a few extra reps or add on some more weight on the bar many evenings. However, I was appalled at the level of science illiteracy on display last night as Tom Tancredo (a man who is on the wrong side of almost every issue) spewed a bunch of "Intelligent Design" nonsense completely unchallenged by the host of the show. I thought perhaps I was alone in being disgusted by yesterday's show until I came across this piece in Daily Kos reflecting very much my feelings. How is it possible that in a country which has contributed so much to the sum total of scientific research, we can still witness people using the public airwaves to deny established facts (e.g. the fossil record, the reality of evolution, etc.) of nature unchallenged? This isn't even an issue of balance. Rather, it was witnessing two people speaking gibberish. I could almost feel my head ready to explode last night.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Same-sex marriage in Maine!

Maine is yet the latest state to acknowledge the fundamental injustice of denying same-sex couples the protections and responsibilities of civil marriage, as just reported by CNN.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Bravo Television will premiere "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" next Tuesday according to this article in today's The New York Times. I haven't watched the previous versions of the "Real Housewives" series (Atlanta and New York having been recently profiled), particularly as reality shows feel like the television equivalent of junk food: it might even taste good but you know it's just empty calories. Nevertheless, as a New Jersey resident who has witnessed the behavior of too-much-cash-and-too-little-taste trophy wives in our little state (a trip to Short Hills Mall suffices), I can't help being drawn to this new installment. My partner would call a show like this "deliciously trashy" and, given the subject matter, I'll have to agree. I'll probably tune in, if for no other reason than to reinforce what I already know: New Jersey has more than its fair share of superficial tasteless over-monied trashy trophy wives.

Friday, May 1, 2009

You tell 'em, Barney!

Barney Frank on the long-overdue hate crimes legislation: