Remember Atlah Worldwide Church in Harlem? The church that wrote “Jesus Would Stone Homos” and other anti-LGBT messages on its marquee?
They have racked up over a million dollars in unpaid bills, and now the building is up for public auction. The Ali Forney Center, which houses about 107 homeless LGBT youth in New York City, is ready and willing to make an offer, buy the space and convert it into an LGBT homeless youth shelter – if we can help them come up with the money.
The church owes more than one million dollars ($1,000,000) in various bills, mostly water and sewer bills. This is in addition to tens of thousands in fines the church has been assessed for various permit violations. While Pastor Manning personally has federal liens totaling $355,000 for non-payment of federal taxes on his personal income, plus $28,000 in back taxes to New York state, and about $30,000 in other collections. (Who would have ever predicted that someone who has spent time in prison in two different states for burglary, robbery, and larceny would, when he became a hate-spouting preacher, cheat on his taxes?)
The Ali Forney Center is a charity that provides shelter, support, education, and nourishment to homeless youth with an emphasis on providing safe spaces for queer homeless teens. You may remember that at least 40% of homeless teens are on the street because their families rejected them for being gay, lesbian, bi, or trans. The center happens to have one of its locations near the church, and the church has organized anti-gay rallies outside the center on more than one occasion.
They need to raise about $200,000 to be a serious contender in the foreclosure auction. They’ve raised about 20% of that since announcing this yesterday. If you can donate, please do!
In completely unrelated news: you’ve probably already read about a bunch of the Oregon Militia members being arrest this week: WTF Just Happened to the Oregon Militia, Explained. The federal charging indictment is very simple and conservative: they are simply charging them with conspiracy to interfere with a federal employee completing their duties, and the charge is full of public quotes from the militia members that make the case pretty open-and-shut.
Ursula Vernon did a very funny sum-up of the situation on Twitter, which someone has kindly storified so you can go read it in order. It is funny and worth the read: Here’s what I don’t understand about the Oregon militia, and because I’m me, I will use Star Wars as a metaphor…
The only quibble I have with her metaphor is this: the justification that the Oregon militia (and all the rest of the sovereign citizen crackpots) use for their actions is not the equivalent of referring to an ancient document from the Old Republic as if it were binding law on the Empire, it is more like referring to the some words that Jar-Jar Binks is rumored to have muttered in his sleep and claiming that those words are binding laws on the Empire.
I’m glad that this thing hasn’t turned into a massacre, and it’s sad that one of the idiots reached for his gun (it’s really clear in the video that’s what he did) while facing a bunch of feds who were trying to arrest him. Notice that no one else was shot. I hope once the grand jury is convened that they also charge this idiots for violating the native american archeological site and claiming on youtube they were going to sell the artifacts. That will get them some serious, and well-deserved prison time.
I hope the hold-outs give themselves up so that the refuge managers, the Audubon Society, local ranchers, and the Burns Paiute Tribe and other actual stakeholders in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to get back to work.
There’s a “story” on Breitbart entitled “SJWs Are Purging Politically Incorrect Sci-Fi Authors From Bookstores” that several people pointed me to that is so wrong and so laughable that I was going to include a do-not-link to it and do a little dissecting. But I don’t have to do most of the dissecting, because Jim C. Hines has done that part for me: Fact-Checking for Dummies. And Breitbart. The tl;dr summary: a “journalist” at Breitbart takes a single comment off of a post on the sci-fi blog File 770 and represents the comment as a news story claiming that bookstores in Toronto are removing books from their shelves written by Sad Puppies because of pressure for Social Justice Warriors.
It’s a comment, not an actual post. And even as a comment it is presented as an anecdote, “Last month someone told me…” Finally, others have gone to the bookstores in question and confirmed that books written by the specific authors mentioned in the comment are still on the shelves available for purchase. So, the entire premise of the op-ed piece on Breitbart is false.
But there’s more to it. The op-ed mentions specific authors who supposedly have been purged for making homophobic remarks, and then gets all upset claiming that several of those authors have done no such thing. Breitbart grudgingly admits the John C. Wright has made a statement about homosexuality being an aberration, but that barely qualifies! None of the others have said anything homophobic at all!
Here’s where my eye-rolling begins. Wright hasn’t merely said that homosexuality is unnatural. Wright has said, “I have never heard of a group of women descending on a lesbian couple and beating them to death with axhandles and tire-irons, but that is the instinctive reaction of men towards fags.” In fact, he’s said several variants of that: “…the natural reaction of real men confronted by fags is to beat them to death with axhandles and tire-irons.” For a while it was his go-to joke. Until midyear last year when he went through his blog and purged most of the occurrences of that particular phrase. He also rewrote a passage where he had said, “I feel no more personal animosity toward lesbians or other sodomites than I do to termites, but when they invade my house, it’s time to exterminate.” He changed it to instead compare the artist and the writer of The Legend of Korra to termites for the crime of representing two women in love in the final episode of the series, and that artists and writers who positively portray homosexual characters are the ones who deserve to be exterminated. And somehow he thinks that is less homophobic.
But Hines’ take-down of the Breitbart article falls short on a couple of points, so I want to deal with those.
The Breitbart op-ed, as I mentioned, claims that none of the other named “politically correct” authors have ever made any homophobic statements. That’s not true, at all. Brad Torgersen has said things such as: “we didn’t decide that homosexuality is wrong, God did”
No matter how sincerely held a religious belief is, it can still be bigotry. Bigotry is obstinately holding onto a belief in spite of evidence to the contrary. Medical science has concluded that homosexuality is not a matter of choice, it is an innate trait. That’s a fact. Sin has to be a matter of choice, that’s part of sin’s theological definition. Innate traits cannot be sins. Torgerson and Larry Correia (another author Breitbart insists isn’t homophobic, despite repeated statements that “homosexuality is a dangerous lifestyle choice”) and their friends are perfectly within their rights to insist—contrary to the facts—that homosexuality is a matter of choice, yes. But that they do so for religious reasons doesn’t change the truth that the belief is a bigoted one. They are anti-gay bigots.
And more importantly, straight people, like the author of the Breitbart piece, don’t get to decide what I or any other queer person feels offended about. We get to own our own feelings. As Irish drag queen and gay rights activist Panti Bliss said:
“I have been lectured to by heterosexual people about what homophobia is and about who is allowed to identify it. Straight people have lined up—ministers, senators, barristers, journalists—have lined up to tell me what homophobia is and what I am allowed to feel oppressed by. People who have never experienced homophobia in their lives, people who have never checked themselves at a pedestrian crossing, have told me that unless I am being thrown into prison or herded onto a cattle truck, it is not homophobia, and that feels oppressive.”
I could spend a little more time using Google and the Internet Wayback Machine and I would not be surprised if I could come up with similar statements about gay people for each of the other authors that Breitbart thinks have been purged from Toronto bookshelves. I say that because I vaguely recall reading statements from all of them along those lines. And I’m sure that it is a bit hypocritical of me, after lambasting Breitbart for failing to fact-check, not to finish the job.
But unlike Breitbart, I’m not being paid to report things. It took me only a few minutes on Google for each author to find two homophobic Torgerson quotes and four homophobic Wright quotes and a couple of Correia’s homophobic statements. It takes a little longer to track down old blog posts that some of those guys have deleted or revised after the Affair of the Melancholy Canines became big news last year. Frankly, it is exhausting having to constantly re-explain to people that there really are bigots out there still trying to silence, oppress, denigrate, or deny rights to queer people. They can make their off-handed, unproven attacks in seconds, and it takes us much more time to fact-check them and track down the evidence.
So I’m going to stop here and just roll my eyes once again at the straightsplaining and the false accusations and the bigot apologists. And frankly, even rolling my eyes is more effort than the haters deserve.
Edited to add: the original draft of this included a digression about the fact that stories like the Breitbart op-ed are intended, among other things, to stir up animosity toward queer people and our supporters. Just as all that talk about how sinful or unnatural homosexuality is—it is intended to stir up hatred, while claiming to be the opposite. That’s why I included the Stephen Fry quote and graphic originally. Haters want other people to agree with them and hate us, too.
Years ago a friend shared an article from Writer’s Digest that referenced the old Krazy Kat newspaper comic strip, which had a running gag involving one of the characters getting hit in the head with a brick. The article said that the place to begin your story is the moment your protagonist his hit in the head metaphorically by the problem or conflict or riddle which forms the basis of the plot. The moment when the character realizes this is a big problem. The moment when the character discovers that this isn’t just going to be another day in her life.
I read a lot of amateur fiction, fan fiction, and rough drafts of other people’s work. And I’ve noticed that lots of people don’t understand that. They start the story long before the brick. They may still start the story when something disruptive happens in the character’s life, but it’s more like a moment that they character stumbled on a door step, days or weeks or months before the brick.
The worst are stories that end with the brick. We meet a character who is in a difficult situation. We meet some of the other characters in the protagonist’s life. Things happen and the situation gets worse. We see the character struggle with the issue, trying to figure out what’s really happening. The character attempts to get out of the bad situation a few ways, and either fails entirely or achieves a temporary relief that leads to a worse situation. And then there’s a big dramatic, shocking moment… and the story just stops. We’ve finally reach a point where the story has gotten really interesting, and the writing snaps the book closed and snatches the story, metaphorically, from our hands.
I just finished a story like that, where the character suffers through a lot, persevering through an unjust imprisonment and enduring various indignities, making a teeny bit of headway with one of the other prisoners, and then finally learning a little bit about one (and only one) of the mysteries the writer had been teasing us with for the entire story, and then that was it—an previously unseen character whose existence had been hinted at appears, causes a lot of damage, rescues the other prisoner and leaves. We get a denouement in which the protagonist is released, receives an apology of sorts from some of the authorities and goes. We never know what happened to any of the specific people responsible for the imprisonment, we never learn why a lot of the things that happened to the character happened, et cetera.
That’s not an ending, that’s an abandonment!
I know that someone will defend the author’s decisions by saying that we don’t always get all the answers in real life, and that bad people don’t always get what we think they deserve, and so on. But this isn’t real life. It’s fiction. The difference between real life and fiction is that fiction has the make sense. The author is free to tell and omit what he or she wants, yes, but never forget that it is a sin to waste the reader’s time. You may not want to tell the story about the mysterious character who rescues one of the others in the end for whatever reason. But by structuring the rest of the story this way, the author has teased the reader. Worse than that, the author has misled the reader. The author has laid out a lot of intriguing questions, sprinkle in some enticing tidbits, clearly implying that those breadcrumbs would lead to something interesting. And then the author didn’t deliver.
It’s a bait and switch.
Don’t get me wrong: leaving some things open-ended for the reader to debate and wrestle with is all right. But the conflict introduced the beginning needs to be resolved (by the protagonist’s own actions) at the end. Not solved, necessarily, but resolved. I failure to solve the problem is a resolution, after all.
This particular “story” isn’t actually a story, it’s the backstory to a story the author didn’t write. At least the way it is structured. It’s like. Sci fi story I read a long time ago in which a journalist is approached by a crackpot claiming people are being replaced by robots. The journalist doesn’t believe the guy at first, then various things happen that make it seem there might be something sinister going on, then the crackpot suddenly changes his tune, insisting he was mistaken and off his meds. The story ends with the journalist laying in bed, unable to sleep, something makes him check his wife for a heartbeat. And the final line of the story is that he can’t hear a heart beat in her chest, just a mechanical whirring!
It might have even ended with more than one exclamation point.
That wasn’t an ending, that was a beginning. Because the interesting tale isn’t that people don’t believe dangerous things are happening around them. The most interesting conflict is: what do you do when you find out your loved one has been replaced by an android?
Go back to the brick. Crackpots spout nonsense at people all the time. You don’t have to be a journalist to have some stranger come up to you and make extraordinary claims. Just stand at a bus stop on a busy bus line for a few hours and it will happen a lot. If you are a journalist, it must be even more common place. So that wasn’t a brick, it wasn’t even a stumble. It was business as usual. The brick was finding out the crackpot was correct. The story scould have begun with, “Everything fell apart night John discovered his wife had no heart. He had been chuckling to himself just before hand. A crazy man had contacted him, insisting he had proof of a conspiracy. John had known it had to be a delusion, despite all the evidence and the strange incidents that happened with the cars with darkened windows and mysterious sounds behind closed doors. He had only checked as a joke. It would make a funny story to share at the next cocktail party. But then he put the stenthoscope to her sleeping chest…”
And then you go from there. You don’t need all the back story. You can fill in details later, if needed. Fit the facts the reader needs to understand in dialog, that sort of thing.
Find the brick. Hit your character in the head. And then show us what she does about it!
A lot of Tumblr is about reblogging and liking stuff other people have posted. Or more realistically, reblogging stuff someone you follow reblogged from someone the follow who reblogged it from someone else, ad nauseum, that someone else posted.
A certain amount of commentary happens, though the tools aren’t really designed to foster conversation. But that’s another topic for another day.
The post, also shown in the screenshot above, came to my dashboard by one of those multi-reblog chains, and it much more succinctly demonstrates the point I expounded on in Invisible? Refusing to see what’s already there… which I also alluded to a few days ago in Confessions of an incorrigible shipper.
The original post was put up last July, as seen here.
Whether you call it a double standard, unacknowledged straight privilege, heterosexism, or homophobia, it’s all the same.
This one happened Thursday night, but I didn’t see the story until midday Friday, after I’d posted yesterday’s Friday Links, which is why I didn’t include it: Woman seriously injured in Renton theater shooting.
So, a bunch of people were sitting in the theatre, about 20 minutes into Michael Bay’s latest atrocity, that Benghazi movie, when a drunk guy is seen fumbling with a pistol and it goes off, striking a woman in another row, putting her in critical condition. Then the drunk guy flees the theatre, throwing the ammo clip in a trash can on his way out. Ninety minutes later, a man called the police to report that his 29-year-old son was “distraught” because he dropped his gun in a theatre and thinks he might have hurt someone. Police come and arrest the 29-year-old, who they decline to identify, but note that he has a concealed weapon permit. The victim, meanwhile, has been hospitalized and her condition has been upgraded to “satisfactory.”
This particular multiplex is one that I’ve actually been to, as it’s local to me (the third time we saw the Star Trek reboot was in this theatre, for instance), so there were a number of stories on local blogs and outlets. One that I read yesterday, but haven’t been able to find again, quoted a witness inside the theatre who saw a guy several rows ahead of him pull the gun out, which prompted the witness to slip his phone out of his pocket and quietly turn it on, fearing the worst. This witness insists that the guy never dropped the gun, but appeared to be playing with it, and definitely didn’t have to stoop down to pick anything up off the ground after the gun went off as he fled.
In a follow-up report, police say that the suspect claims he got his gun out because he was afraid there might be a mass shooting, and he wanted to be ready: Police: Suspected theater shooter brought gun to movie fearing mass shooting.
Well, good on him! The usual definition of a mass shooting is a single shooting event in which four or more people (not counting the shooter) are shot or killed. By shooting only one person, this guy successfully made sure that it wasn’t a mass shooting, I guess.
There’s a whole lot I could say about this, but they all go down the rabbit hole of the topic no one can be rational about. So, let’s limit it to a couple of questions:
- First, why are they protecting this idiot’s identity? Seriously, no one is a stronger believer in the Presumption of Innocence in our justice system than I am, but why do they keep withholding his name? He has been booked into jail. That’s a matter of public record. I could understand if we were talking about an underage suspect, because we treat juvenile defendants differently under the legal principle of Diminished Responsibility. This shouldn’t apply here, right? He’s 29 years old. The victim’s name and face have been plastered all over the place, including naming the hospital where she’s being treated. Why is the shooter’s identity being withheld? Maybe he hasn’t been formally arraigned, yet? I don’t know, but it seems weird.
- Why did throw away the ammo clip? I get that he apparently was intoxicated. Maybe you can attribute all of his stupidity to the alcohol impairment, though I have more than a few quibbles with that. But even in the intoxicated mind, what is the point of throwing away the ammo clip? It’s he gun barrel that is likely to be used as evidence against him, right? We all understand how they match bullets to guns: it isn’t by the clip, it’s the barrel that the bullet was fired through. I’m genuinely curious.
The only silver lining I see to all this is, if he’s found guilty of felony assault, this idiot won’t be allowed to legally own guns any more.
While we’re on the topic of local idiots: Judge Rules Eyman Measure Unconstitutional. Tim Eyman is a local con artist and professional Initiative Sponsor (literally, that is the only way he’s made any income for many, many years), whose main target is taxes. Though ten years ago he took a detour into anti-gay territory and filed a referendum intended to repeal the state’s laws protecting discrimination based on sexual orientation. He literally showed up at press conference announcing the anti-gay referendum dressed in a pink tutu and thought that was a clever stunt. He switched to a Darth Vader costume for his actual filing of the initiative after the tutu evoked much criticism. That particular initiative failed to get enough signatures to even qualify for the ballot.His schtick of getting voters to pass limitations on taxes and the ability of the legislature to raise them have usually succeeded at least temporarily, though they are often thrown out as unconstitutional. This one is a great example. Washington’s constitution sets up relatively easy initiative and referendum processes (the signature threshold to get them on the ballot is very low, there is only one specific court that is allowed to rule on whether an initiative meets the definitions to go on the ballot before hand, so they can’t be tangled up in a long appeals process before the people get to see them), but there are some limitations. Initiatives must adhere to only one topic, for instance. And referendums to repeal a law have to turn in their signatures within a certain number of days after said law is signed by the governor.
The constitution is also very clear on the process of amending the constitution: all amendments must originate in the legislature and be passed by a two-thirds majority of both houses before being submitted to the public for a simple majority vote. The constitution explicitly forbids constitutional amendments to be made through the initiative process.
This particular measure was essentially an act of extortion: if the legislature does not place a constitutional amendment requiring any future increase in taxes to pass with a two-thirds supermajority, then the current sales tax would be lowered, resulting in a loss of about $8 billion dollars in the next fiscal year. Voters, some of whom are eternally eager to believe that they can get all the state services they require without any taxes to actually pay for them, passed it, of course. But the judge ruled that the initiative is unconstitutional in two distinct ways: 1) it doesn’t adhere to one subject, being about both an amendment to the constitution and the current level of sales tax, and 2) it attempts to start a constitutional amendment through the initiative process, which the constitution clearly forbids.
One of the things that really annoys me about Eyman and his eternal initiatives (he’s already raises $1.2 million to put more on the ballot this year), is that he doesn’t even have to appeal this ruling. The state attorney general is obligated to appeal the ruling, and to defend the initiative (which every legal expert agreed was unconstitutional for the reasons the judge cited) all on the taxpayer’s dime. Meanwhile Eyman keeps rolling in the dough running more of these things up the flagpole.
That’s not quite right. The sentence is true, but it doesn’t convey the full meaning. It’s equally true that I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know about Ray Bradbury’s incredible stories. He isn’t the only author who falls into the category. Since my Mom read to me from her favorite two authors: Agatha Christie and Robert Heinlein, since I was a baby as part of her plan to make sure I learned to talk correctly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about Heinlein or Christie. And it’s more than slightly likely that Mom read some Bradbury in there at one point, so that might account for it… Read More…
And Han, being a much more experienced man, also, to my mind, knew that there was never any chance that a guy like Luke could win the princess, either. That was the other meaning of that smile. And during the dozens of times I re-watched the movie over the next three years, I was still convinced that there wasn’t going to be a serious conflict between Luke and Han trying to win Leia’s heart.
I was definitely in the minority. Lots of people expected, if there was a sequel, that a love triangle would figure heavily in the next movie.
I would like to be able to argue that I had somehow perceived some hint of the revelation that was going to come along later that Leia was Luke’s twin sister. But that wasn’t it. It wasn’t until after I first saw The Empire Strikes Back, that I realized what had been going on in my subconscious. Empire remains my favorite movie of the series for a lot of reasons, but after the first showing I had very mixed feelings about one subplot.
I was still deeply closeted at that point, but I was quite aware that I had a crush on Harrison Ford (or at least all the characters he played), while I had also very strongly identified with Luke, but didn’t have the same kind of feelings for Mark Hamill. I realized that my subconscious had been rooting for a romance, all right, but one between Luke and Han. Which in 1980, when Empire was released, was absolutely impossible in a mainstream film. Heck, even the most radical art house films seldom portrayed mutual same sex romances. They might show a homo obsessed with another man, but it was unrequited and tragic and depressing.
But that was what my subconscious saw precisely because we never saw it on the screen. I’ve written before about why queer people read same sex attraction into all sorts of characters in movies, television, and books. Because if we didn’t imagine them, we never got them. The unrelenting message of culture and media is that queers don’t exist, queers don’t matter, queers don’t love, and if they dare to, they deserve whatever horrible things befall them.
That’s why it’s homophobic when straight people roll their eyes or demand to know why we “do that” to characters who aren’t explicitly identified as gay. It isn’t necessarily malicious or intentional, but being annoyed that we dare to imagine such relationships perpetuates our erasure and is condescending at best.
But to get back to Empire, the movie did such an excellent job of portraying the complex emotional relationship between Han and Leia, that by the time of Han’s famous, “I know” answer just before he was frozen in carbonite, I was cheering for them. Of course they were in love! They were perfect for each other! At least that’s what one part of my heart said. Meanwhile, another part was mourning the loss of the love between Han and Luke that I’d hoped for, even though I knew it wouldn’t happen in a mainstream movie.
But once I got over my disappointment, I was totally on the Han and Leia train, and was happy to see them decades later (“You still drive me crazy”) as a realistic older couple who have had their ups, downs, and a falling out but still caring for each other in The Force Awakens.
I don’t only ship same sex couples. The first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I was totally a Willow/Xander shipper. I so wanted Xander to pull his head out and realize that Willow loved him. At different times in the series, yeah, I was elsewhere. I’ve written Xander/Spike fic (and if I ever finish my WIP there’s also some steamy Graham/Riley action and hot Gunn/Buffy action in there). I adore well written Buffy/Spike fic. For a while I was a Xander/Scott shipper, but have often been completely onboard both the canon Xander/Anya and Willow/Tara relationships. I realize if you’re not familiar with the show that you won’t know that half of those are opposite sex couples. In another fictional universe, I remain an unapologetic Parker/Hardison/Spencer One-true-threesome shipper!
But yes, I saw the chemistry between Finn and Poe during my first viewing of The Force Awakens, and given how many millions of other fans saw it, it clearly isn’t an unreasonable inference. I get that other people see the Rey/Finn pairing, and I’m not saying I wouldn’t be able to enjoy that, but I would really, really like for a galaxy filled with aliens of all shapes and droids and so forth the acknowledge that queer people exist, too. (Also, hey! Why can’t we have a Finn/Poe/Rey triad? Polyamory is real, too!) That’s why I enjoyed reading Rian Johnson Gets It, where I first saw the cartoon I linked above.
As Chuck Wendig said in a post I’ve linked to before regarding people who were angry he put gay characters in an official Star Wars novel:
“…if you’re upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you. Sorry, you squawking saurian — meteor’s coming. And it’s a fabulously gay Nyan Cat meteor with a rainbow trailing behind it and your mode of thought will be extinct. You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the fucking Empire, man. You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire. If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars. It’s like trying to picture Jesus kicking lepers in the throat instead of curing them. Stop being the Empire. Join the Rebel Alliance. We have love and inclusion and great music and cute droids.
Also, I was really pleased with this: when a fan recently asked Mark Hamill on line if Luke was bisexual, Mark replied, “His sexuality is never addressed in the films. Luke is whatever the audience wants him to be, so you can decide for yourself.”
The official Moral Majority organization wasn’t founded until 1979 (when I was 19 and only just barely still a teen), but it was merely a culmination of the efforts of several conservative Christian organizations which had been fighting against de-segregation, legalized birth control, interracial marriage, and the decriminalization of homosexuality since at least the late 1960s. The leader of the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell, was a Baptist whose radio show (The Old-Time Gospel Hour beginning in 1956) was extremely popular with people who attended the churches in which I was raised, so I was very familiar with his work long before he launched the Moral Majority. I was intimately familiar with a lot of people who supported him.