Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Anti-LGBT Boy Scouts Alternative Forming

A new boys youth group is being formed in response to the recent vote by the Boy Scouts to remove restrictions on gay scouts. The group doesn't seem to have an official new name yet, but it's currently being hosted at the On My Honor website.

The website for the group contains a page that lays out ten reasons for opposing the removal of the restrictions on gay scouts, in addition to containing a page highly critical of the Girl Scouts for being too secular and progressive.

The organization also goes to lengths to detail the differences between the Boy Scouts and their new program. It's mostly a list of the organization proudly affirming its discriminatory, anti-LGBT policies whilst using Christianity as justification. No surprise there. What I want to draw attention to are the following differences, from the website:
"3) The BSA’s new policy appears to require troops to accept transgendered [sic] boys whose 'sexual preference' [sic] is to dress and act out like a girl. The new group does not. 
4) The BSA’s new policy also appears to allow girls who subjectively want to act out as boys as their 'sexual preference' [sic]. The new group specifically requires youth members to be 'biologically male.'” 
Here, whoever actually wrote this guide tries to articulate an opposition to accepting transgender kids in youth scouting groups. The person, either deliberately or ignorantly, creates a straw caricature version of what being transgender is - a version that mostly succeeds in revealing an ignorant, awkward conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity, as they refer to "transgendered" kids as having a "sexual preference" of wanting to be a different gender.

Previously, I have written that I believe a big barrier to civility is understanding. And, specifically, that the language we use to describe our opponents, or even the issues themselves, can often determine whether civil dialogue is even possible. When I see people forming an organization that is greatly opposed to something or someone, I think it is reasonable to expect these people to at least understand that something or someone they're so vehemently opposed to and that they think is immoral.

I'm not sure what a perfectly civil response to this sort of reactionary group is, a group that thus far mischaracterizes and excludes certain groups of people from its membership whilst nonetheless citing the Golden Rule as one of its provisional beliefs.  Maybe they just have a narrow definition of who counts as their neighbors.

I think it's possible to critique a group while supporting their right to freely associate and all that. Along those lines, though, I will continue to struggle with the Christianity-enabled cognitive dissonance that seems to go on in which people treat their neighbors unkindly while professing that they do not and while demanding that we all view them as moral upstanding folks. 

Go ahead. Let people have their anti-LGBT groups and Patriarchy Indoctrination Clubs. But I refuse to succumb to the Tolerance Trap in which people holding bigoted, ignorant, and yes - mean - views demand that we not characterize them as such.

On Bigotry, Again

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

For Religious Reasons

I've seen a few opponents of same-sex marriage quote an article by Richard Garnett, warning of the purported threats to religious freedom that the recent DOMA decision poses. From the article, I highlight this portion:
"At the end of the day, Section 3 of DOMA was struck down not so much because it intruded upon the policymaking prerogatives of the sovereign states but because—in Kennedy’s words—it 'humiliates,' 'demeans,' 'disapprov[es],' and  'seeks to injure.' It reflects, he charged, a 'bare congressional desire to harm' and 'writes inequality into the entire United States Code.' It is unconstitutional, really, not because it imposes a 'one size fits all' definition and thereby hamstrings state-level experimentation, but because the Court majority thinks it reflects unsound, unreasonable, unenlightened, and unattractive opinions about marriage and family.."
Putting aside Garnett's interpretation of Kennedy's reasoning, his second sentence does not follow from the first sentence of "Kennedy's words."

The first sentence, you notice, pertains to Justice Kennedy referencing the harm experienced by same-sex couples and gays and lesbians, and the harm intended, which was also clearly illustrated in DOMA's legislative history wherein the House Committee on the Judiciary clearly stated in 1996 that the law's purpose was to enshrine the disapproval and moral inferiority of homosexuality into law.

Garnett's second sentence, though, includes adjectives that do not reference acknowledge that harm.

Instead of using the descriptor "injurious" he uses "unsound." "Unreasonable." "Unenlightened." "Unattractive."  He does so even though DOMA, whether "marriage defenders" admit, acknowledge, or intended it or not, inflicted real injuries on real people - a fact which was demonstrated by the circumstances of the actual plaintiff in Windsor.

As explicit bigotry is less of a winning argument now than it was in 1996, it is interesting to note the shift in strategy in how "marriage defenders" talk about their opposition 1 to same-sex marriage. Legal arguments in favor of same-sex marriage are caricatured and simplified. Rarely, especially in pop conversations by advocates, are pro-equality opinions analyzed for legal substance that evidences an understanding of the ways the legal system has historically marginalized and denigrated gays and lesbians. The pro-equality rationales supporting same-sex marriage are instead cheaply, dog-whistle-y likened to a fashionable garment that, maybe, a swishy trendy man might wear. Justice Kennedy is accused of practically doing nothing but crafting an opinion that utters the word "bigot" over and over and over again.

And yes, of all that's within Justice Kennedy's opinion in Windsor, it is the suggestion that "marriage defenders" enacted it to harm and disapprove of same-sex couples and gays and lesbians that most seems to rankle those who continue to oppose same-sex marriage.

Yet, doesn't the quest and fear-mongering to grant religious opponents of same-sex marriage special exemptions from having to recognize legal same-sex unions even outside the context of having them performed in their religious places of worship give away the game?

We see Christian employers, "for religious reasons," refusing to provide benefits to same-sex couples in violation of state law or public contracts.

We see a Catholic adoption agency, "for religious reasons," refusing to place children in homes of same-sex couples.

We see some county clerks, "for religious reasons," refusing to do their jobs and issue state marriage licenses to same-sex couples in states where such marriages are legal.

If one believes that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage is a thing that can and should only exist between one man and one woman, it is most definitely not a stretch for us to imagine that such a person would want to use special religious exemption laws as a means to express their moral disapproval of same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Their very argument for these exemptions, in fact, is that that they don't want to be "forced" to recognize that which they disapprove of - "for religious reasons."

I can tolerate having to have an argument about whether special laws granting religious folks special exemptions from complying with laws like everyone else has to should exist.

What I refuse to tolerate is the gaslighting insistence that we all pretend that such laws are not about their expressions of moral disapproval of homosexuality, same-sex couples, and same-sex marriage. I refuse to pretend that homobigotry is over when it's not, just because it happens to be some people's firmly-held religious belief that they believe is good and true.

1 I have no idea what Garnett's position is on same-sex marriage, I've just seen multiple opponents of same-sex marriage quote this piece approvingly, citing the purported harms to "religious freedom" due to state recognition of marriage equality.

Friday, July 19, 2013

It Really Is Ironic

When I was in high school, I listened to Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill approximately 4,319 times.

I didn't even care that her list of "ironic" experiences in "Isn't It Ironic?" wasn't actually ironic. My friends and I would cruise down Broadway in my best friend's clunker, howling the album, eyes closed (all except for the driver, I hope). I'm also pretty sure I wanted Alanis to be a lesbian and to also be my girlfriend, at the time, so, I think I cut her some slack in the lyrics department.

Nonetheless, this version of the song is funny.

Sample: "It's a black fly, in your Chardonnay (that was specifically purchased to repel black flies.)"

Ha ha snort.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Taking Up Space

Soraya Chemaly notes how society encourages girls to take up less space, and boys to take up more, saying:
"To this day, when I sit—in a chair, on a bus, a train, at a desk—I hear my primary school headmistress explain that ladies never cross their legs at the knees. The thought of sitting, arms stretched out on either side on the top lip of the back of, say, a park bench is laughable to me, it’s so physically alien. Usually, in public space, I fold myself up and try, by habit, to make room for others. This is fairly typical for girls and women. On the other hand, many men are very comfortable taking up as much space as possible, indeed actively splaying themselves casually, in public."
Meanwhile, Roxanne Gay observes that "What men want, America delivers," saying:
"The United States is supposedly predicated on the notion of inalienable rights but we have ample evidence that the rights of women are and always have been alienable. Robin Thicke sings about what he knows a woman wants. Fine. Daniel Tosh encourages his fans to touch women lightly on the stomach and film themselves doing so. Fine. Ken Hoinsky believes persistence is a virtue. Fine. Texas governor Rick Perry says, of Senator Wendy Davis, “She was the daughter of a single woman. She was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate. It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.” Fine. In Ohio, any woman seeking an abortion must get an ultrasound. If she has complications from an abortion, she must go to a private rather than public hospital. In North Carolina, pending legislation would require a physician to be in attendance for both medical and surgical abortions. In Texas, if what is now HB2 passes, all but five of the state’s abortion clinics will close. The legislators pushing these initiatives are just looking out for women. Men want to protect women — unless of course, they want to grab those women’s asses. 
Lighten up. Men want what they want."
These pieces, to me, are intricately connected, and reading them back to back I came to a realization about why many men's sitting habits in public spaces, especially shared public spaces like trains, has been so irritating to me.

It's a near-daily occurrence for me to be sitting on a train next to a man who, obliviously or not, has his legs splayed wide open, invading - or trying to invade - the seat next to him. And to be clear, rarely is this space traversal a matter of his size. For, if a person, of any gender, truly requires more room, I think a reasonable person shouldn't get irritated by that.

My issue is with men, and in my experience it's always been men, who, for instance, sit with their legs spread widely apart on the train, sometimes whilst even reading a wide-open newspaper (who even reads a paper newspaper anymore?), taking up much more space than their bodies physically requires, while expecting the woman (usually) next to them to shrivel up and contort themselves so as not to intrude on the Man's Space.

These days, my usual approach when sitting next to such men is to meet their legs with resistance, to let him know that he's traversing polite boundaries, and to remind him that he's sitting next to an actual human being who has also paid full fare and is entitled to a full seat of her own too.

A man sitting in this manner on a train is, to me, a symbolic conclusion to the pervasive "what men want, America delivers" conditioning that cultivates entitlement in men. Why else would a man be sitting like that if he didn't think it's his world and women are just living in it? It's a regular microaggression.  A constant reminder that when men want what they want, it's largely seen as women's job to just deal with it, work around it, and fit themselves into the man's world.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On Privilege and Fear

Melissa at Shakesville has written a great post on privilege and fear.

She articulates so much of what's been going around in my mind since the Zimmerman verdict, noting:
"...[T]he sustained fear of being hurt, being victimized, being exploited—unexpectedly, at any moment, and most frequently by people one trusts—is something that the very privileged do not know intimately, the way the rest of us do. 
Privileged men's lives and the lives of marginalized people are very different in that way—and that difference underlines privileged men asserting that they have a right to feel safe. And law enforcement, and the courts, agreeing with them. 
Because of this difference, most marginalized people learn how to live their lives against a backdrop of present threat, to a soundtrack of the dull roar of constant fear. For the most part, we learn to ongoingly process fear as we move through our days on such a subconscious level it's as natural as our hearts beating without conscious thought—women, for example, position our keys in hand as a potential weapon and scan deserted parking lots for signs of danger and size up dates in search of anything dangerous with the ease that we execute any one of thousands of other routine daily tasks."
It seems as though, because of this implicit right to feel safe, many privileged folks end up articulating their aggression as "self-defense," whether they are acting out because they "feel threatened" by scary young black men or are inventing social movements that purport to defend "traditional marriage" from scary same-sex couples.

[Content note: guns]

I remember last year when a gunman shot a guard outside of the Family Research Council, a moderately-well-known, very privileged, and conservative white woman articulated to me how she suddenly felt a real fear of violence because of who she was and what she stood for.

It was as though, now that the violence had happened once to someone she could identify with, the state of living in fear was suddenly very important.  Suddenly, civility and toned-down rhetoric, at least to and about people like herself, became very important. Yet, previously, I hadn't seen her express a care in the world that people like me, LGBT people, are a bit more frequently victims of violence and that lots of really awful stuff gets said about us, too.

As the weeks went on, even as she continued to defend, befriend, and ally herself with people who say horrible things about LGBT people - things that I believe contribute to hostility and violence toward LGBT people - she urged the LGBT community to tone down our rhetoric lest people like herself become victimized.

Anti-gay conservatives like her felt attacked and threatened and scared.

Some purported LGBT allies further entitled these anti-gay conservatives' mentality that it's primarily they who are under attack, suggesting that LGBT people and other allies need to take it easy on individuals and organizations that dedicate themselves to degrading the dignity of LGBT people - while not also suggesting that, say, maybe the Family Research Council needs to take it easy on us for once.

I don't doubt that the feelings of people of privilege are authentic when they express fear. Sure, sometimes it's probably a facade, but other times they likely are feeling fear. Fear is not a fun thing to experience, but I agree with Melissa that it's a part of daily life. What we are or should be entitled to is to actually be safe, not to never feel fear.

Yet, mainstream narratives condition the privileged to fear the marginalized, and to feel justified in attacking the marginalized because of this fear.

In the context of gay rights, the exchange with the woman above demonstrated to me how very manufactured the anti-gay movement is. The fear of pro-gay politics, after the shooting, seemed new for them. It seemed new despite the many years of fear-mongery blustering about saving the children, saving the family, saving marriage, and saving "Judeo-Christian" values, and saving society.

It was as though this woman hadn't already been truly, legitimately scared.

How nice for her.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Scary Health Commercial of the Day!

This commercial is amusing to me only because I actually used the medication therein to eventually quit smoking in 2006-ish*.

If you can't watch it at the moment or listen to it, it's basically a commercial for an anti-smoking drug that contains about a full minute of dire warnings about possible side effects of the drug, some of which seem more dire than actually smoking.

Anyway, this drug worked for me, but while I was on it, I had the most vivid, tiring, and bizarre dreams I've ever had in my life. So much so that dreaming, let alone sleeping in general, wasn't restful and I'd walk through my days like, "What is even happening right now?"

I would try to describe some of these dreams, but I think that would be irritating, like when you sometimes see a co-worker or friend in the morning and they do that whole, "Hey, I had the weirdest dream last night, okay there was a giant shoe and I was in the house where I grew up, but it wasn't actually the house I grew up" kind of thing. Which, you know, can be fine to mention in passing or on a brief facebook status update, but when the description goes on and on for several minutes it's just not super interesting or even easy to follow.

So, that's my deep thought of the day.

*Yes, unlike some people, I don't know my Quit Date.  Looking back,  my covert strategy against myself was to deny to myself that I was really, actually quitting. It was the only way it could have worked.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Notoriously anti-gay science fiction writer Orson Scott Card has issued a "plea" for people not to boycott the Ender's Game film, which is based on a book he wrote, due to his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying:
"With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute."

As an actual gay person in a civil union who still doesn't possess the full rights of marriage even after the DOMA decision, I beg to differ that the same-sex marriage issue is now "moot."

But, of course, leave it to a hetero privileged guy to have a very surface-level understanding of the relevant legal issues as he casually dismisses the real-world struggles that actual gay people are actually still enduring, in part, because of people like himself. He is, after all, a board member of the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage [Supremacy] - perhaps the most prominent agency in the nation working with a near single-minded devotion to opposing equality for same-sex couples.

Also notable is his reliance on the trusty old how dare you not tolerate my intolerance?! trap.

What will actually be interesting is not how "accepting" and "tolerant" gay people are toward our opponents now that these opponents are losing more and more despite their best efforts, but the extent to which these opponents are gracious in their defeat and truly sorry (or not) for the harm they've caused.

Spoiler alert: I won't be seeing Ender's Game. I read the books more than a decade ago so I actually would have been marginally interested in seeing a film adaptation. Oh well.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

*Record Scratch*

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the federal benefits of marriage won't apply to same-sex couples who are in legal domestic partnerships or civil unions.

My partner and I, who are in a legal civil union with all of the state-level rights, benefits, and privileges of marriage, have been wondering what impact the DOMA decision would have on our lives. At this point, as far as I can tell, it's not even clear that we can receive the federal benefits of marriage even if we were to, say, obtain a marriage license in, say, Iowa, as we do not reside in Iowa.

I'm not particularly looking for advice on what we should do, I'm just noting another absurdity of treating like couples in un-alike ways. Kind of like how civil unions are supposedly a just-fine substitute for marriage. For instance, even though married different-sex couples and some same-sex couples can now file all of their taxes jointly, my partner and I have to complete our taxes roughly 17 times each tax season since we have to file federally as "single" individuals, complete "as if married" federal returns in order to obtain numbers required to complete our state tax returns jointly, and then actually file our state returns jointly like how different-sex married couples file theirs at the state level.

These are nuances and complexities that I don't think many "marriage defenders" really consider when they oppose equality whislt parroting their vague, generalized soundbites and "every child needs a momma and a daddy" platitudes. Or, who knows, maybe these people get off on being able to make other people's lives more complicated and annoying. Kinda like there's some sort of power trip in knowing they can make other people's lives more difficult.

In other news, Ross Douthat recently raised the possibility of Andrew Sullivan being "the most influential writer of his generation."

I don't know how such a thing would even tangibly be measured or if that bold claim was said more for attention, but I'm especially fascinated when generally anti-gay folks try to write, or revise, histories of the importance of various figures in gay politics.  The whole convo seems to have a tone of men only considering other men to be their peers and true competition in life as Douthat goes on to only consider other men - Paul Wolfowitz, Christopher Hitchens, Kenneth Pollack, and Bill Keller, for instance.

So, that's always fun, especially when political conversations, a large one of which is about same-sex marriage, are also largely thought of as same-sex conversations among and by men.

People really love their Great Man narratives of history and politics, don't they?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Duggar Takes Position at Family Research Council

Josh Duggar, one of the sons from the reality show 19 Kids and Counting which documents the life of the fundamentalist Christian Duggar family, has accepted a position with the Family Research Council.

The Family Research Council is particularly notorious for its anti-gay advocacy and for being categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Although, it's also worth noting that the organization also promotes a sexist, "gender complementarist" view of gender roles and identity in addition to opposing abortion rights.

Even though he's only 25, Duggar has been hired as Executive Director of Family Research Council's legislative branch, FRC Action. In the several articles I've read about his hiring, his experience and educational background has largely been omitted, which seems curious. Maybe there just isn't much to speak of?

So, that must be really neat for him to have such a high-level opportunity.

A couple years ago, I ran an interview here with Vyckie Garrison, who recounted her experiences living in a fundamentalist "Quiverfull" movement where women shun all forms of birth control and remain obedient to "God" and men.

The Duggars, to my knowledge, don't explicitly identify as Quiverfull even as their thinking about gender appears quite similar. In the interview with Vyckie, we talk about how that patriarchal thinking really, as she put it, enshrines "the supreme importance" of men and leads to them often holding unrealistically high opinions of themselves, their ideas, and of their importance in the world.

So, I think it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall to see how a young fellow like Josh Duggar, who has grown up within that sort of "supreme man" culture, interacts with women in his new role, especially with those who disagree with him.  For, holding even benevolently sexist ideas about women is often an indicator that darker, more malevolent ideas about whose voices are and are not authoritative are often lurking about an a centimeter under the surface, just waiting for the right context to come out.

In my experience, men who take for granted the intellectual supremacy of men, even if they don't fully comprehend that they hold such a view, often have a rude awakening when first confronted with women who don't live by the "if a man says it, a woman must believe it and agree with it" credo that they mistakenly believe most women live by.  It also seems to cause some of them more than a bit of angst when they learn that even if they think of themselves as Good People for being Christians, that other people think of them as really problematic or, gasp, even bigoted and sexist.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blogging Return

Welp, I'm back.

Did I miss anything?

Seriously though, I'm thrilled about the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. When the news broke, I was on an Amtrak train in the middle of rural Missouri. I began reading the opinions on my phone and when I told my friends in the next seat over the good news, complete strangers began congratulating us and expressing their excitement as well. For me, it will be a "where were you when you heard?" moment that I'll always remember.

I've been completely away from the blogosphere for the past week, so I'm looking forward to reading some of the reactions, including the bigot reactions of doom. Before I left, I remember hearing some buzz about some threat, signed by a who's who of anti-gay bigots, to disregard any pro-gay Supreme Court ruling regarding marriage. So, like that asinine Manhattan Declaration, this new similar statement/threat/temper tantrum/whatever will be super fun to put into the history folder and look back upon.

Feel free to talk about the cases, reactions to it, or whatever. Comment moderation is restored to regular status.