Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections on 2010

Well, it's New Year's Eve.  I'm sitting here in my living room with my husband and two basset hounds as the fire burns in the fireplace.  What else can I do but reflect on the LGBT news of 2010?

1. Without a doubt, the biggest news in the US was the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.  That was, as Joe Biden said about the health reform law, a big @#$^#@@## deal.  And it was.  We shouldn't forget that.  But we also shouldn't forget that the United States was way behind over 25 countries in allowing LGBT people to serve their countries.  Yes, the repeal of DADT was wonderful.  It was also very late.

2. Support for same sex marriage seemed to gaining momentum.  Recent polls reflect that the gap between supporters and opponents is closing.  (One poll even has supporters in the lead.)  This is good news.  It's hard to imagine a sea change in the opposite direction.  The far right will need to find another adversary to rally their troops and raise cash.  I've always felt that the anti-gay hysteria from the right wing was a direct result of the end of the Cold War.  They needed to find another enemy to raise money.  Enter homosexuals.

3. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has at times been very vocal in its displeasure about President Obama.  This was especially true of those supporting a repeal of DADT.  While President Obama and Press Secretary Gibbs were at times offensively dismissive of this activism, it was activist pressure that ultimately changed the policy.  What I have learned this past year is that while I am happy that Obama is president, and while I will almost certainly vote for him in 2012, it remains an unfortunate truth that the real movers and shakers of any equality movement are for the most part, the very folks who are seeking equality.  An extraordinary exception to this is the remarkable leadership Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has shown in the fight for LGBT rights.  Now that Ted Kennedy has passed away, Gov. Patrick is the only straight politician who I trust to defend my right to full citizenship in this country.

I'll post some more thoughts later.  For now, Happy New Year to all!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A War on Christmas?

I don't know about you, but I was pretty angry when, after President Obama noted that Congress might have to work through Christmas, some Republicans balked, saying that this was another example of "The War on Christmas."  Wow.  I started thinking about the people -- many of whom, I assume, are Christians - have to work on Christmas Day (which President Obama wasn't even proposing):

            • Nurses
            • Fire fighters
            • Police
            • Soldiers
            • Doctors
            • EMT workers
            • Servers/cooks in restaurants
            • Toll workers
            • Workers in convenient stores
            • Gas station attendants

Are you kidding me?  If these people have to work during the holidays, why are you the exception?  Or are you just trying to promote the idea that our president isn't Christian? (And, of course, it shouldn't matter if he isn't Christian.)


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Few Thoughts on the Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal

Well, it has finally happened.  DADT has been repealed after 17 years.  This is a big deal.  It is heartening to know that the Senate, the House, and the President did the right thing.  If DADT wasn't repealed before January 1, chances were slim that Congress would have done anything for the next few years, since the Republicans will control the House come January. 

The media coverage has been fascinating.  Because events in history tend to be simplified, I'd like to pose a few questions and comment a bit about some of what's in the newspapers this morning:

• The vote to repeal was 65-33, with (according to the media) 8 Republican senators siding with the Democrats.  But the story is more complicated than that.  There were, in fact TWO votes on DADT.  The first one was by far the highest hurdle because we needed 60 votes for that to pass.  This was the vote to bring the question to the floor for debate.  That vote was 63-33, with six Republicans siding with Democrats.  If this failed, there would have been no repeal.  The second vote -- the one that actually repealed the policy -- only required 51 votes, a simple majority.  My question: two Republicans voted against bringing the question to the floor but then voted to repeal a few hours later.  What was going on here?  Did these two Republicans, once having been oppositional, suddenly change their minds?  Or were they thinking, "Well, now that it's settled I'd better be on the right side of history"?  I hope history makes it clear that when it counted, they were on the wrong side.

• I've been very critical of Joe Lieberman on this blog, but he was a real leader on the repeal, opposing his buddy John McCain every step of the way.  Hats off to him.

• John McCain is turning into a parody of himself.  Some of his vehement arguments to any repeal DADT simply defied logic.  For example, he claimed that DADT was working and that there was no harm done in the implementation of the policy.  Setting aside the terrible harm done to all gay people in the military, how can he say that the discharge of over 15,000 service people was not harmful to military preparedness?  Keep those videos of him turning red with fury as he addressed the Senate.  They'll be helpful examples of bigotry in the future.

• It was great that DADT was repealed, but we shouldn't forget that another bill, the Dream Act, that would have also made the United States a more prefect and fairer union, failed a few hours later.  This bill would have provided a path to citizenship for people who had no say in their arrival in this country: children.  And the proposed path to citizenship was a challenging path indeed: high school graduation, college education, background checks, a five year wait, and on and on.  Then these young people could have applied for citizenship.  But a minority of senators ruled the day.  It did not get the 60 votes needed to bring the question to the floor of the Senate.

So we stop and say, "Yes! DADT is over!"  But we also take stock of what else needs to be done.  The Dream Act.  The Defense of Marriage repeal.  And so much more.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hats off to Steve Jobs

Here are excerpts from a story MSNBC is reporting:

Steve Jobs is now the target by a group angered by Apple pulling a pro-heterosexual marriage app from the App Store for the iPhone, with the group calling Jobs "Big Brother," and releasing a video that portrays Apple's CEO as sinister as Kim Jong-il.

(Me writing here: the application was much less pro-hetero as it was anti-gay.  The fact the straight marriage group called Jobs Kim Jong-il suggests just a weeeeee bit of hostility and anger not associated with most folks who are straight and would like to get married.)

Here's some more:

"He's (Jobs)  made billions taking on Big Brother," intones the narrator in the the video by the National Organization for Marriage, which says Apple supports apps with causes, "provided Jobs agrees with them ... like apps with the right to abortion and gay marriage," and then the camera pans across shots of apps in the App Store, including "Oh My Gay Stars — Gay Marriage in the US" and a voter guide by Planned Parenthood.

 (Me again.  Okay, The National Organization for Marriage has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Also... don't these Tea Party types, these conservatives, these get the government off our backs types  FAVOR  private companies being able to make their own choices?  Would the National Organization for Marriage happily change their organization to except gay marriages?)

But here are some more details about the app that Apple rejected:

The National Organization for Marriage is taking up for the "Manhattan Declaration" app and movement, which condemns same-sex unions. The app was yanked from the App Store recently after receiving petitions from gay rights activists who found it to be offensive. (Me again.  Dah!)

The Manhattan Declaration group describes itself as "prominent Christian clergy, ministry leaders, and scholars," which released the 4,700-word declaration in the "defense of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and religious liberty" in November 2009. The iPhone app asks four questions of its users, including "Do you believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman?"

"Although Apple has not communicated directly with Manhattan Declaration officials, a public relations representative from Apple told media that the app violated Apple’s developer guidelines by being 'offensive to large groups of people..."

Bottom line, NOM folks: you don't have a  right to spew your venom via a private corporation.  Conservatives that you are, I'm surprised you don't know that by now.

Thank you, Steve Jobs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beyond the Pale

Here’s some news I got from John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay of AMERICAblog.

The head of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, had the nerve to claim today that US troops will be killed and maimed if Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed:

"I don't want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda (hospital) with no legs," he said.

Are you kidding me?  Are we now going to accept that officials can say with immunity that gay soldiers will cause the death and mutilation of others?  This seems to me beyond the pale.  Shame on you, General Amos.

Please, President Obama.  Do something.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thank you, Frank Rich

The New York Times

December 11, 2010

Gay Bashing at the Smithsonian

EACH Aug. 4, my wife Alex and I visit a church to light candles for two people we loved who both died tragically on that day two years apart — my mother, killed at 64 in a car crash, and Alex’s closest friend from graduate school, killed by AIDS at half that age. My mother was Jewish but loved the meditative serenity of vast cathedrals. Alex’s friend, John, was a Roman Catholic conflicted by a religion that demonized his sexuality. Our favorite pilgrimage is to an Episcopal church, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, not as some sectarian compromise but because of its AIDS chapel, a haunting reminder of the plague that ravaged that city’s population, especially its gay men, some time ago.

What helps give us some solace is the chapel’s mesmerizing altarpiece. It was the New York artist Keith Haring’s last completed work in the weeks before his death by AIDS at age 31 in 1990. Titled “The Life of Christ” and radiant in gold leaf, it crowns its anguished panorama of suffering with a pair of angels ascending to heaven — all rendered in Haring’s whimsical, graffiti-inspired iconography. Even as he was succumbing to a ruthless disease that had provoked indifference and cruelty rather than compassion from too many of his fellow citizens, Haring, somehow, could still see angels. You needn’t be a believer to be inspired by the beauty of his vision. 

Not every artist struck down by AIDS could hit so generous a note. Such was the case with David Wojnarowicz, a painter, author and filmmaker, who, like Haring, was a fixture of the East Village arts scene in the 1980s. When his mentor and former lover, the photographer Peter Hujar, fell ill with AIDS in 1987, Wojnarowicz created a video titled “A Fire in My Belly” to express both his grief and his fury. As in Haring’s altarpiece, Christ figures in Wojnarowicz’s response to the plague — albeit in a cryptic, 11-second cameo. A crucifix is besieged by ants that evoke frantic souls scurrying in panic as a seemingly impassive God looked on.

Hujar died in 1987, and Wojnarowicz would die at age 37, also of AIDS, in 1992. This is now ancient, half-forgotten history. When a four-minute excerpt from “A Fire in My Belly” was included in an exhibit that opened six weeks ago at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, it received no attention. That’s hardly a surprise, given the entirety of this very large show — a survey of same-sex themes in American portraiture titled “Hide/Seek.” The works of Wojnarowicz, Hujar and other lesser known figures are surrounded by such lofty (and often unlikely) bedfellows (many gay, some not) as Robert Mapplethorpe, John Singer Sargent, Grant Wood, Thomas Eakins, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth and Haring. It’s an exhibit that would have been unimaginable in a mainstream institution in Wojnarowicz’s lifetime.

The story might end there — like Haring’s altarpiece, a bittersweet yet uplifting postscript to a time of plague. But it doesn’t because “Fire in My Belly” was removed from the exhibit by the National Portrait Gallery some 10 days ago with the full approval, if not instigation, of its parent institution, the Smithsonian. (The censored version of “Hide/Seek” is still scheduled to run through Feb. 13.) The incident is chilling because it suggests that even in a time of huge progress in gay civil rights, homophobia remains among the last permissible bigotries in America. “Think anti-gay bullying is just for kids? Ask the Smithsonian,” wrote The Los Angeles Times’s art critic, Christopher Knight, last week. One might add: Think anti-gay bullying is just for small-town America? Look at the nation’s capital.
The Smithsonian’s behavior and the ensuing silence in official Washington are jarring echoes of those days when American political leaders stood by idly as the epidemic raged on. The incident is also a throwback to the culture wars we thought we were getting past now — most eerily the mother of them all, the cancellation of a Mapplethorpe exhibit (after he died of AIDS) at another Washington museum, the Corcoran, in 1989.

Like many of its antecedents, the war over Wojnarowicz is a completely manufactured piece of theater. What triggered the abrupt uproar was an incendiary Nov. 29 post on a conservative Web site. The post was immediately and opportunistically seized upon by William Donohue, of the so-called Catholic League, a right-wing publicity mill with no official or financial connection to the Catholic Church.
Donohue is best known for defending Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism by declaring that “Hollywood is controlled by Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.” A perennial critic of all news media except Fox, he has also accused The Times of anti-Catholicism because it investigated the church pedophilia scandal. Donohue maintains the church doesn’t have a “pedophilia crisis” but a “homosexual crisis.” Such is the bully that the Smithsonian surrendered to without a fight.
Donohue’s tactic was to label the 11-second ants-and-crucifix sequence as “anti-Christian” hate speech. “The irony,” wrote the Washington Post art critic, Blake Gopnik, is that the video is merely a tepid variation on the centuries-old tradition of artists using images of Christ, many of them “hideously grisly,” to speak of mankind’s suffering. Those images are staples of all museums — even in Washington, where gory 17th-century sculptures of Christ were featured in a recent show of Spanish sacred art at the National Gallery. 

But of course Donohue was just using his “religious” objections as a perfunctory cover for the homophobia actually driving his complaint. The truth popped out of the closet as Donohue expanded his indictment to “pornographic images of gay men.” His Republican Congressional allies got into the act. Eric Cantor called for the entire exhibit to be shut down and threatened to maim the Smithsonian’s taxpayer funding come January. (The exhibit was entirely funded by private donors, but such facts don’t matter in culture wars.) Jack Kingston, of the House Appropriations Committee, rattled off his own list of exaggerated gay outrages in “Hide/Seek,” from “Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts” to “naked brothers kissing.” 

It took only hours after Donohue’s initial battle cry for the video to be yanked. “The decision wasn’t caving in,” the museum’s director, Martin E. Sullivan, told reporters. Of course it was. The Smithsonian, in its own official statement, rationalized its censorship by saying that Wojnarowicz’s video “generated a strong response from the public.” That’s nonsense. There wasn’t a strong response from the public — there was no response. As the museum’s own publicist told the press, the National Portrait Gallery hadn’t received a single complaint about “A Fire in the Belly” from the exhibit’s opening day, Oct. 30, until a full month later, when a “public” that hadn’t seen the exhibit was mobilized by Donohue to blast the museum by phone and e-mail.

The Post’s Gopnik has been heroically relentless in calling out the Smithsonian and the National Portrait Gallery for their capitulation. But few in Washington’s power circles have joined him, including the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents — a gilded assembly of bipartisan cowardice that ranges from Senator Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi, to Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. This timidity has been particularly striking given that the city’s potentates gathered to bestow the Kennedy Center Honors last weekend on the choreographer Bill T. Jones, whose legendary artistic and personal partnership with Arnie Zane came to a tragic end when Zane was killed by AIDS at age 39 in 1988.
It still seems an unwritten rule in establishment Washington that homophobia is at most a misdemeanor. By this code, the Smithsonian’s surrender is no big deal; let the art world do its little protests. This attitude explains why the ever more absurd excuses concocted by John McCain for almost single-handedly thwarting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are rarely called out for what they are — “bigotry disguised as prudence,” in the apt phrase of Slate’s military affairs columnist, Fred Kaplan. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has been granted serious and sometimes unchallenged credence as a moral arbiter not just by Rupert Murdoch’s outlets but by CNN, MSNBC and The Post’s “On Faith” Web site even as he cites junk science to declare that “homosexuality poses a risk to children” and that being gay leads to being a child molester.

It’s partly to counteract the hate speech of persistent bullies like Donohue and Perkins that the Seattle-based author and activist Dan Savage created his “It Gets Better” campaign in which gay adults (and some non-gay leaders, including President Obama) make videos urging at-risk teens to realize that they are not alone. But even this humanitarian effort is controversial and suspect in some Beltway quarters: G.O.P. politicians and conservative pundits have yet to participate even though most of the recent and well-publicized suicides by gay teens have occurred in Republican Congressional districts, including those of party leaders like Michele Bachmann, Mike Pence and Kevin McCarthy.

Has it gotten better since AIDS decimated a generation of gay men? In San Francisco, certainly. But when America’s signature cultural institution can be so easily bullied by bigots, it’s another indicator that the angels Keith Haring saw on his death bed have not landed in Washington just yet.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal Fails

So the headlines this morning read, "Republicans Block Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell."  And yes, that is true.  Yesterday they did block the repeal.  But it would be a mistake to let the story end with that headline.

The truth is, both Republicans and Democrats have been playing politics with DADT (and other issues of LGBTQ concern) for years now.  This policy could have been repealed some time ago, just by doing nothing.  Courts had already declared the policy illegal (and have done the same for the Defense of Marriage Act).  The Obama Administration simply had to do nothing, but it decided to appeal the repeal, kicking the case up to a higher court.  This did not have to happen; presidents in the past have let lower court decisions stay without appeal.  And Democrats: Where was your moral outrage about this?

So yes, the Republicans must claim the lion's share of the blame here.  But it would be a mistake to let the Democrats off the hook.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Aversion Therapy

For those of you who aren't familiar with the web series "Web Therapy," I think you're in for a treat.  Lisa Kudrow plays an impatient therapist who would rather work with her patients on the Internet.  Her husband, Kip, has gone to a facility to rid himself of his homosexual tendencies.  The wonderful Meryl Streep plays the head of the facility in this episode. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

This should make your Friday.

I've cut and pasted this from an online magazine.*

How Do You Decide Who To Marry (By Kids)

(1) You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. -Alan, age 10

(2) No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with. -Kristen, age 10

What Is The Right Age To Get Married?

(1) Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then. -Camille, age 10

(2) No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married. -Freddie, age 6

How Can A Stranger Tell If Two People Are Married?

You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. -Derrick, age 8

What Do You Think Your Mom And Dad Have In Common?

Both don't want any more kids. -Lori, age 8

What Do Most People Do On A Date?

Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. -Lynnette, age 8

On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. -Martin, age 10

What Would You Do On A First Date That Was Turning Sour?

I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns. -Craig, age 9

When Is It Okay To Kiss Someone?

When they're rich. -Pam, age 7

The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that. -Curt, age 7

The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do. -Howard, age 8

Is It Better To Be Single Or Married?

I don't know which is better, but I'll tell you one thing. I'm never going to have sex with my wife. I don't want to be all grossed out. -Theodore, age 8

It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. -Anita, age 9 

How Would The World Be Different If People Didn't Get Married?

There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there? -Kelvin, age 8

And the #1 Favorite is........

How Would You Make A Marriage Work?

Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck. -Ricky, age 10

*Home Cook'n, 2006

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just for Fun

Until I have time to write a real entry in a few days, have fun with this.  It'll make your day.  It's from the revival of No, No, Nanette with Ruby Keeler.  (With thanks to Steph who calmed me down backstage during our high school production of the play.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Review of "A Passionate Engagement"

Harvey, Ken. “A Passionate Engagement: A Memoir”, Aequitas Books, 2010.
Becoming an Activist
Amos Lassen

Ken Harvey’s name is not new in the field of gay literature. His previous short story collection, “If You Were With Me Everything Would Be All Right” (2000) won the Violet Quill Award and Lambda Literary declared it to be “one of the twenty books of note”. Now he turns to nonfiction with his memoir in which he takes along on his journey to adulthood from coming out to finding and settling in with his partner and to becoming a political activist and it is quite an amazing story with its candor and its honesty. Harvey has been in the forefront of the same sex marriage issue. By reading his memoirs, we also get a picture of what went on during the movement for same sex marriage in Massachusetts s this memoir serves two purposes—we get the life of a man and the life of a movement.

Gay life in the 1960’s and 70’s was much different from the way it is today and a get a look at how it was here. As he was coming out, Harvey was a closeted school teacher and although he was open around his gay friends, his real coming out was when he married his partner, Bruce. He helped to raise two children and in his book he deals with the issues of youth and gay suicide, the power of the radical right and the right to marry.

He was not loved as a child and he tells us how he first realized that he was not like other boys. He remained in the closet and suffered taunts from his schoolmates yet he attempted to live a straight life style. Gradually he began to accept the fact that he was gay and through clubs and meetings he managed to make contact with other gay men. It is the way that Harvey relates this, in such a straightforward manner that makes this such an interesting read. We feel What Harvey felt and we find instances in our lives that are similar. It is important to remember that coming out today is so much easier than it was when I came out, for example.

When he does come out fully to the people that he taught with, he is not only accepted but supported. He finally is able to be open about dating other men and he reads the ads in the local press hoping to find a man to share his life with. He met Bruce through one of the personal ads and he not only got a partner but two children as well. This marriage brought him to activism and he gives us a peek behind the scenes of what went on in Massachusetts in the fight to legalize gay marriage. He writes about it beautifully and we get a really good explanation. It is further cleared up by the fact that Harvey gives us an analysis of the situation and especially because Harvey, himself, had such emotional turmoil and an abusive youth that he looks at human civil rights more carefully and as one who did not always experience them.

As Harvey looks at his own political life, we see the political life of so many and we are lucky to have this so clearly presented to us in such beautiful language. The fact that it is so personal makes it all the more real and important. It pulled me in on the first page and has a profound effect on me and it looks like it will be heading toward my ten best of 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Excerpt from A Passionate Engagement

I finally attached myself to a group that was chanting “no discrimination in the constitution.” I believed in what I was shouting, but I knew I was holding back. I didn’t want to be the loudest voice in the crowd, the one who stood out. I stood in the rear, sometimes yelling and sometimes just mouthing, then moved on to another group. What was my hesitancy about? Why did I feel little like that boy in the schoolyard on his first day of school watching the other boys play dodge ball? These were people on my side, people like me. Well, sort of. These were young gay college students, people in their sixties and seventies who, if they weren’t gay themselves, I imagined were the supportive parents and grandparents of gay children, the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). A sad truth: many gay men of my generation had died.

    So I felt both welcomed yet out of place, the forty-something gay man, walking about alone, both eager and reticent to claim my voice in the crowd. It wasn’t in me to wave signs at cars or yell at the woman holding the crucifix. So I struck a tacit bargain with those around me: I’ll let you be in the spotlight, I’ll let you be the ones on TV with your voices and your signs, if I can just stand in the back and copy you. I gave myself permission to just be present, to not feel obligated to lead the march or even strike up conversations with those on my side of the issue. I wouldn’t have known who to speak to anyway. With my khakis, button down shirt, dark green overcoat and leather gloves, I looked downright nerdy compared to the young people with brilliant scarves and secondhand chic coats. They had come of age just as the tide was shifting towards gay people. They were confident, not concerned with politeness, not only speaking out but expecting to be heard. I felt like they had come to demonstrate for gay rights while I was waiting for the formal lecture on the topic.

    “This is ridiculous,” I heard behind me. “Next thing you know, they’ll be letting you marry your grandmother.”

    The man, with a stubbled chin and smoking a cigarette, was talking to me. I didn’t know what to say, so I looked away from him. One of the young women who had been chanting spoke to the man.

    “Hey, if you want to marry your grandmother, you go right ahead,” she said. “Personally, I think it’s sort of weird.”

    “No,” the man said, this time louder and more guttural. “You’re the one that’s gonna make it so people end up marrying their grandmothers.”

    “I plan to marry my girlfriend,” the woman said. “You can marry whoever you want. But your grandmother? That seems a little unnatural to me.”

    The man started muttering something about having sex with other relatives, but the young woman smiled at him until he ran out of steam. He walked away.

    “That was impressive,” I told the woman. “I’d never have thought to say that.”

    “You just can’t let them get to you,” she said. “If you do, you’ll never make it through this whole thing.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oh, this is good

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
It Gets Worse PSA

Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Five Star Review for A Passionate Engagement from an Amazon Top Ten Reviewer

From Naiveté of Childhood to Passionate Commitment of Adulthood, November 15, 2010

Ken Harvey has written a memoir that is a fine book on so many levels. The utter simplicity of retelling his childhood is as tender a story as any in the literature. Somehow Harvey manages to completely return to those days as a kid when he realized his attention and desires were not similar to those of other boys his age, his mortification when he progressed to gym class and faced the showers where his fellow students would mock his dreaded indication of arousal, his being a closeted gay man through school and teaching, dating and interacting with women successfully but without the passion he longed to experience, and finally his coming out process in gatherings and clubs where his innocence was magnified with his honesty with those with whom he came into contact - all of this is related in such a keenly written style that echoes of Salinger and Joyce haunt the pages. There is a section when he is describing his trip to Spain and his frustrating encounter with a German man that he sets aside space for adroit philosophizing. 'Above all, I've learned, kids value authenticity in adults. There have been other times when I was visible even though I didn't want to be, times when I didn't want to be visible to myself. I wanted to slip on the comfortable shoes of denial, even if those shoes eventually wear out at the sole, exposing your bare feet to the glass and sharp rocks of the burning pavement.'

At last Harvey comes out to his fellow teachers only to win their support, goes on to date through the local newspaper ads until he encounters the man who will become his life partner Bruce - a man who comes complete with two children that the new couple will parent. From this point on through the rest of the book Harvey personalizes the events that lead up to the equal rights stance of same sex marriage, becoming an activist and remaining an activist to this day. He shares his beliefs, his trials with the ups and downs of governmental decisions and laws and takes us to the present moment when some states have sanctioned same sex marriage while others, like the supposedly emotionally advanced California, have failed to pass such measures as Proposition 8 just this year, and for once that sharing becomes fine literature.

While other writers are producing pamphlets and books and blogs and demonstrations about the inequality that likely at some point in the future will seem as irresponsible as women's rights and racial equality now appear, Ken Harvey offers a different way to analyze the situation. By sharing the turmoil of his innocent but emotionally abusive childhood in such eloquent prose the reader is introduced to the issues of human rights on a wholly different level. We want to hear what this man has to say because he says it so well. This is a book to read for pleasure and a book that should well be mandatory for schools across the country. Ken Harvey is a very fine new voice. Grady Harp, November 10

Monday, November 15, 2010

The High Cost of the 2010 Political Compaign

It's been a while since my last post.  I've been involved in my book release.  Thanks to everyone who came to the reading on Sunday!

I've been thinking about the November 2 election for quite a while now. According to some reports, the congressional campaign of 2010 will cost an estimated 4 billion dollars.  I started thinking about what that money might buy.  These are estimates, of course. Here's what we could buy in the United States:

•tuition to college for over 100,0000 students for four years
•construction of 30,000 houses in the Midwest (houses, not apartments)
•a year's salary for 100,000 teachers in the United States
•a year of food for ½ million families of 4 in the United States
•a pair of glasses for 2 million people in the US (and that's assuming a pair costs $200 -- we can assume much less for  basic, non specialized glasses.)
• almost a million basset hound puppies.  (Okay, a silly statistic, until you think: what would make you happier when you see reports of Washington?  100 senators or almost a million bassets?)
•200 million books for elementary school children
• 750 elementary schools, built at union rates

Okay.  I could go on and on.  And research and research.  Just look at these figures without your political lenses.  Whether you are Republican or Democrat, these numbers are pretty intriguing, aren't they?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Now Available!

My book,  A Passionate Engagement: A Memoir, is now available though and  Or ask for it in your favorite independent bookstore!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Addressing Adult Bullying

This piece has been making its way around the Internet.  It's well worth reading.  The mom's blog is

My Son is Gay.

Or he’s not. I don’t care. He is still my son. And he is 5. And I am his mother. And if you have a problem with anything mentioned above, I don’t want to know you.

I have gone back and forth on whether I wanted to post something more in-depth about my sweet boy and his choice of Halloween costume. Or more specifically, the reactions to it. I figure if I’m still irked by it a few days later, I may as well go ahead and post my thoughts.
Here are the facts that lead up to my rant:
  1. My son is 5 and goes to a church preschool.
  2. He has loved Scooby Doo since developing the ability and attention span to sit still long enough to watch it.
  3. Halloween is a holiday and its main focus is wearing a costume.
  4. My son’s school had the kids dress up, do a little parade, and then change out of costumes for the rest of the party.
  5. Boo’s best friend is a little girl
  6. Boo has an older sister
  7. Boo spends most of his time with me.
  8. I am a woman.
  9. I am Boo’s mother, not you.
So a few weeks before Halloween, Boo decides he wants to be Daphne from Scooby Doo, along with his best friend E. He had dressed as Scooby a couple of years ago.  I was hesitant to make the purchase, not because it was a cross gendered situation, but because 5 year olds have a tendency to change their minds. After requesting a couple of more times, I said sure and placed the order. He flipped out when it arrived. It was perfect.

Then as we got closer to the actual day, he stared to hem and haw about it. After some discussion it comes out that he is afraid people will laugh at him. I pointed out that some people will because it is a cute and clever costume. He insists their laughter would be of the ‘making fun’ kind. I blow it off. Seriously, who would make fun of a child in costume?

And then the big day arrives. We get dressed up. We drop Squirt at his preschool and head over to his. Boo doesn’t want to get out of the car. He’s afraid of what people will say and do to him. I convince him to go inside. He halts at the door. He’s visibly nervous. I chalk it up to him being a bit of a worrier in general. Seriously, WHO WOULD MAKE FUN OF A CHILD IN A  COSTUME ON HALLOWEEN? So he walks in. And there were several friends of mine that knew what he was wearing that smiled and waved and gave him high-fives. We walk down the hall to where his classroom is.

And that’s where things went wrong. Two mothers went wide-eyed and made faces as if they smelled decomp. And I realize that my son is seeing the same thing I am. So I say, “Doesn’t he look great?” And Mom A says in disgust, “Did he ask to be that?!” I say that he sure did as Halloween is the time of year that you can be whatever it is that you want to be. They continue with their nosy, probing questions as to how that was an option and didn’t I try to talk him out of it. Mom B mostly just stood there in shock  and dismay.

And then Mom C approaches. She had been in the main room, saw us walk in, and followed us down the hall to let me know her thoughts. And they were that I should never have ‘allowed’ this and thank God it wasn’t next year when he was in Kindergarten since I would have had to put my foot down and ‘forbidden’ it. To which I calmly replied that I would do no such thing and couldn’t imagine what she was talking about. She continued on and on about how mean children could be and how he would be ridiculed.

My response to that: The only people that seem to have a problem with it is their mothers.
Another mom pointed out that high schools often have Spirit Days where girls dress like boys and vice versa. I mentioned Powderpuff Games where football players dress like cheerleaders and vice versa. Or every frat boy ever in college (Mom A said that her husband was a frat boy and NEVER dressed like a woman.)

But here’s the point, it is none of your damn business.

If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off.

If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one.
But it also was heartbreaking to me that my sweet, kind-hearted five year old was right to be worried. He knew that there were people like A, B, and C. And he, at 5, was concerned about how they would perceive him and what would happen to him.

Just as it was heartbreaking to those parents that have lost their children recently due to bullying. IT IS NOT OK TO BULLY. Even if you wrap it up in a bow and call it ‘concern.’  Those women were trying to bully me. And my son. MY son.

It is obvious that I neither abuse nor neglect my children. They are not perfect, but they are learning how to navigate this big, and sometimes cruel, world. I hate that my son had to learn this lesson while standing in front of allegedly Christian women. I hate that those women thought those thoughts, and worse felt comfortable saying them out loud. I hate that ‘pink’ is still called a girl color and that my baby has to be so brave if he wants to be Daphne for Halloween.

And all I hope for my kids, and yours, and those of Moms ABC, are that they are happy. If a set of purple sparkly tights and a velvety dress is what makes my baby happy one night, then so be it. If he wants to carry a purse, or marry a man, or paint fingernails with his best girlfriend, then ok. My job as his mother is not to stifle that man that he will be, but to help him along his way. Mine is not to dictate what is ‘normal’ and what is not, but to help him become a good person.
I hope I am doing that.

And my little man worked that costume like no other. He rocked that wig, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Election Post Mortem

By now, everyone has read that the Republican Party and its Tea Bagging friends are going to take over the world.  It's amazing to me how the media forgets that politics in this country-- especially recent politics -- can change with the bat of an eye.  The last three elections (2006, 2008, 2010) have been pretty much brought with them a change in Congressional and Presidential Power.

I certainly don't want to play Pollyanna here, but I think we do need to remember that not all was lost, and some things were gained:

Massachusetts became Massachusetts again:  I'm beginning to think we should thank Scott Brown for waking the Democrats up in time for 2010, because every single statewide and congressional seat went Democratic.  Even races where the Republicans fielded strong candidates, they lost.  And Deval Patrick, champion of gay marriage, won by a larger margin than expected.

Most incumbent gay marriage supporters weren't punished for their support:  Lynch was re-elected Governor of New Hampshire by a comfortable margin.  He had signed the gay marriage law during his term.  California elected Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman.  As Attorney General, Brown had refused to defend Proposition 8 in the courts while Meg Whitman supported it.  The same goes for Barbara Boxer, who vowed to fight on for same sex marriage in her acceptance speech.

Remember 1994? I sure do.  Hands down that election was one of the most depressing ones for me.  The late and great Ann Richards was ousted as Governor of Texas.   Mario Cuomo was ousted as Governor of New York. On Tuesday his son Andrew Cuomo -- passionate supporter of gay marriage -- won the Governorship by a landslide.  In 1994, Democrats lost both houses of Congress.  This year, we held onto the Senate.  That's important.  In 1994, the Democrats lost 8 senate seats; in 2010, they lost 6.  In 1994, Democrats lost 54 seats; in 2010, they lost 60 (a difference of only 6).  Bill Clinton went on to easily beat Bob Dole in 1996.

• Many of the far, far right candidates lost:  Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Engle, Carl Paladino, and Carly Fiorina.

• So, yes.  This was not a good night for progressives.  But let's keep it in perspective.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Love's why.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Indecision 2010 - Revenge of the Fallen - Sean Bielat & Ken Buck

Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

The truth about Mary Z. Connaughton

The Boston Globe endorsed Mary Z. Connaughton for auditor this morning.   Connaughton signed an anti-gay marriage petition and is backed by radical anti-gay groups.  Sure, the auditor's job is about numbers, but can we really ignore bigotry? Notice how she doesn't answer Jim Braude's question and how she refers to LGBT people as a "special interest."  Did The Globe really feel that it had to back a Republican -- any Republican -- to look unbiased?

Monday, October 25, 2010

On voting November 2

I've already voted.  I'll be in Toronto on November 2, so I went to City Hall this morning to exercise my right.  Call me sentimental, overly optimistic, whatever: I have never missed an election, and, after over 30 years of voting, am excited to put that "X" next to my candidate.

There's been a lot of reporting about the "enthusiasm gap" between Democrats and Republicans this year.  I'm here to say that I am not part of that gap.  My vote to reelect the Governor of Massachusetts could not have been more enthusiastic.  Deval Patrick is a breath of fresh air in this hostile and often vulgar political climate: he's a gentleman who sticks to his guns without demeaning the opposition.

Deval Patrick has angered lots of folks.  He made deep cuts in the budget when revenues fell short.  But given the state of affairs, I can't think of anyone who I'd rather have doing this impossible work.  And he didn't shirk from the very unpopular decision to raise the sales tax to close the budget gap.  So many politicians talk about cutting spending; so few tell you where they are going to do that.

He also put his position on the line when he used his office to persuade the legislature to keep the same-sex marriage decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in tact.  If anyone doubts if Patrick's stance wasn't instrumental in making same-sex marriage the law, take a look at what Mitt Romney did after the Mass Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage unconstitutional in the state.

I also very enthusiastically voted for Steve Grossman for Treasurer.  I saw him on TV in a debate yesterday, and he was diplomatic beyond belief as his opponent threw out what were obviously rehearsed lines of attack.  More important, however, is Steve's business experience combined with compassion. 

I go into detail about my voting because I've read so much about how conservatives are far more enthusiastic about this election than Democrats.  I read the other day, for example, that the LGBT vote in Illinois could make the difference in keeping Obama's senate seat in the Democratic column and that many LGBTQ people are so turned off by President Obama's handling of the Defense of Marriage Act as well as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, that they may sit this election out.  I completely share that anger.  I've been very critical of President Obama lately, but make no mistake: electing right wing tea-baggers will hurt us.  The results of this election will also help determine how Congressional districts are redrawn.  This election will have ramifications for years to come.

So vote, folks.  Vote with your nose pinched, if you have to.   But vote.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Alec Baldwin, gay activist

I've always loved Alec Baldwin as an actor.  Now he speaks in favor of gay marriage with out gay actor, Jessie Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family.

Something to smile at to end the week: dancing hands!

President Obama speaks for the "It Gets Better" project.

Nice job, President Obama.  Now could you make it better by dropping the court appeal of DADT?  And following through on your campaign promise of getting rid of the Defense of Marriage Act?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sick and tired...

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

President Obama, who campaigned on promoting gay equality (even though he and almost every other Democrat repeated again and again  that marriage was an institution between a man and a woman) has now become the obstacle for repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  A summary:  Last week, a judge ruled that DADT was unconstitutional.  The Obama Administration filed an emergency appeal (yes, that's right- an emergency appeal) to block the decision.  The emergency appeal was denied.  But late Wednesday, the appeal was heard by a higher court, and was granted. DADT is in place again.

What this means:  LGBT people who enlisted, or who came out during the brief period of time when DADT was suspended, will now be discharged.

Here's what Newsweek, a magazine whose subscription we ended because we thought it was too conservative, said about the need for Obama to defend DADT in the courts:
There are two different arguments for why Obama could choose not to enforce the law. The first one: he could say it was unconstitutional. At the time that DADT was passed, it was constitutional because there was no Supreme Court precedent establishing that homosexual relationships are protected under the implied privacy rights of the Bill of Rights. Then, 10 years later, the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas overturned an anti-sodomy statute on the grounds that it violated the privacy rights of gay couples... 
Obama’s other option: simply using his executive power to decide how the laws will be, or won’t be, executed. So Obama could simply order the military to stop applying the law, or to use it much more narrowly and infrequently. “There are a lot of laws on the books he doesn’t rigorously enforce,” notes Geoffrey Corn, a military law expert who teaches at South Texas College of Law."
I've read a lot of praise for the "It's Get Better" Project, which has presented videos on You Tube to tell LGBTQ teens that life gets better.  This program is great.  But actions speak louder than words.  What can a  teen conclude who hears, "Yea, you're okay for the military, not you aren't, yes you might be"?  Hillary Clinton has even recorded a "It Gets Better" video.  And yet, she, like Obama, campaigned on the notion that marriage wasn't for gay people.  It gets better?  Great words, but, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, how can a gay kid possibly believe you when you haven't stepped forward to truly support equality in all areas?

It may get better, but many people in power right now aren't helping.  And this ping-ponging back and forth about DADT can only be hurting.

President Obama is now crossing the country trying to energize his supporters for the November elections.  I recently heard Joe Biden lament that (actually, he scolded) progressives were not energized for the election.  I am a progressive.  I donated money to the Obama campaign.  And I am a gay man.  Tell me, please: why should I be energized except to defeat the Tea Party?

Yes, I will vote.  And I will vote for Obama in 2012.  I just didn't expect to do this with regret.

An interesting take on the DADT court decision

Here's a compilation of clips on how the DADT decision is being covered. One story notes that the Obama Administration has said that it is legally obligated to defend DADT. Many, many legal experts disagree, as does history. There have been a number of decisions that Presidents have chosen not defend. We need leadership and courage Mr. Obama. And we need it now. is a news analyzer, not a news aggregator. It looks at how different news organizations throughout the world are covering a story, and it then condenses the information to produce a short broadcast that encourages viewers to form their own opinions on an issue.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Judge denies Obama's appeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell decision

A federal judge formally refused on Tuesday to let the Pentagon reinstate its ban on openly gay men and women in the U.S. military while it appeals her decision declaring its "don't ask, don't tell" policy unconstitutional.

A day after tentatively siding against the Obama administration, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued a written decision denying a government request to lift her own injunction barring further Pentagon enforcement of the ban.

Although government concerns about military readiness and cohesion are important, "these interests are outweighed by the compelling public interest of safeguarding fundamental constitutional rights," she wrote in a six-page opinion.

 President Obama has stated that DADT will be repealed on his watch.  Now, it seems, it might be repealed despite his watch.  Wow.  Does this make me sad.

Dan Choi returns to service

I've written a number of posts about Dan Choi, the serviceman who was kicked out of the armed services for being gay.  Well, since the Obama administration's appeal of the decision was denied, right now DADT is not the law of the land.  Here's a video of Mr. Choi reenlisting:

It Gets Better

Kudos to writer Dan Savage for starting the "It Gets Better" project for LGBT youth.  He was moved by the recent string of gay teen suicides to ask out LGBT adults to tell kids that it gets better after adolescence.  Thousands of folks have made videos, some from well known LGBT people, but most from everyday people.  Here's one from Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop from New Hampshire.  My only caveat about the recent media coverage of LGBT teen suicide is this: it has been a crisis for decades.  I'm not convinced more kids are trying to kill themselves now.  Maybe the issue is finally getting the attention it should have decades ago.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why, President Obama?

In order to do the right thing regarding gays in the military, all President Obama has to do is...nothing. That's right. Nada. A judge has ordered the termination of DADT immediately.

Sadly, very sadly, it looks like President Obama will do something. He is going to petition the court to reinstate DADT. This is the man who called himself a "fierce advocate" for LGBT people.  He doesn't even have to be fierce here.  He just has to do nothing.  Here's the story from the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will ask a federal judge to allow the "don't ask, don't tell" law on gays in the military to continue in force pending an appeal of her order to end it, a lawyer in the case and a person in the government familiar with the discussions said Thursday.

Lawyer Dan Woods said his client, Log Cabin Republicans, which won the ruling on Tuesday, has been notified that the Justice Department "will appeal and seek a stay later today." That word was confirmed by the person in the government knowledgeable about the administration's discussions.

The law bans gay or lesbian Americans from serving openly in the military.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside, Calif., ordered the military to immediately suspend and discontinue any investigation or other proceeding to dismiss gay service members under the law.

The government source said the delay in responding to the judge's order resulted because the Obama White House weighed in on the Justice Department's handling of the case.

This person, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration's internal deliberations, said a couple of White House lawyers did not want to seek a court order that would temporarily suspend the judge's ruling.

The source said the process was back on track and that court papers seeking the stay will be filed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How much do we love Matt Lauer?

Big news today about Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The Associated Press just reported that a judge has issued an injunction on all DADT procedures in the US military. I've selected a few key paragraphs from the story. Great news. But I'm also saddened by the stance of the Justice Department and President Obama.

SAN DIEGO—A federal judge issued a worldwide injunction Tuesday stopping enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, ending the U.S. military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips' landmark ruling was widely cheered by gay rights organizations that credited her with getting accomplished what President Obama and Washington politics could not.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say they are under no legal obligation to do so and could let Phillips' ruling stand.

The federal government is reviewing the ruling and has no immediate comment, said Tracy Schmaler, spokesman for the Department of Justice.

"The order represents a complete and total victory for the Log Cabin Republicans and reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the military for fighting and dying for our country," said Dan Woods, an attorney for the Log Cabin group.

Government attorneys objected, saying such an abrupt change might harm military operations in a time of war. They had asked Phillips to limit her ruling to the members of the Log Cabin Republicans, a 19,000-member group that includes current and former military service members.

The Department of Justice attorneys also said Congress should decide the issue -- not her court.

Legal experts say the Obama administration could choose to not appeal her ruling to end the ban -- but Department of Justice attorneys are not likely to stay mum since Obama has made it clear he wants Congress to repeal the policy.

"The president has taken a very consistent position here, and that is: 'Look, I will not use my discretion in any way that will step on Congress' ability to be the sole decider about this policy here,'" said Diane H. Mazur, legal co-director of the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California at Santa Barbara that supports a repeal.

Woods said the administration should be seizing the opportunity to let a judge do what politics has been unable to do.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but bans those who are gay from serving openly. Under the 1993 policy, service men and women who acknowledge being gay or are discovered engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their own homes off base, are subject to discharge.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A little comic relief

 This is a little hard to hear sometimes, so turn up the volume and laugh.

H/T Joe.My.God

It's time to be outraged

This week brought more news about the deadly effects of homophobia.  Yet another gay teen killed himself, this time after he attended a town meeting in his hometown in which residents debated whether or not to recognize gay history month.  While there were supporters at the meeting, the teen had to listen to three hours of gay bashing.

The New York Times ran a front page story on Sunday about the brutal physical torture of a gay man in New York City for seven hours by eight gang members.  The torture was so horrific that I could barely finish reading the story.

During this time -- and we can't forget the Rutgers student -- the following people/corporations decided to do the following:

• Walmart is now carrying a book for teens by a far right group that teaches about the evils of homosexuality.

•The Republican candidate for Governor of New York went on an anti-gay rant.  Reports CNN:

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino criticized gays Sunday, saying he didn't want children "to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option," compared to heterosexuality. "It isn't," Paladino said at a stop in Brooklyn, New York.
A prepared version of his remarks obtained by CNN from New York affiliate NY1 said that "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual," though Paladino did not wind up delivering that line.
"That's not how (God) created us," the prepared remarks continued, though Paladino did not say those words.
• The Republican candidate for Senator of California released an ad in Spanish attacking gay rights in the hopes of winning over Catholic Latino voters.

• A leader of the Mormon Church preached that homosexuality was akin to an unhealthy addiction.

The list goes on.  When are we going to hold people like this accountable for making gay kids fell like they are worthless?  When are we going to say, "enough is enough"?  When are we going to finally break the silence and state very clearly that these people have blood on their hands?