Monthly Archives: November 2016

Not forgotten

Nineteen years ago today I had to sign some papers.

Then a couple of nurses turned off the monitors, removed the respirator tubes, and turned off the rest of the machines.

I held Ray’s hand, and said “Good-bye.”

I’d been crying off and on for hours—days, technically (though I’d only slept a couple hours out of the previous 59-ish, so it seemed like one really long, horrible day).

I don’t remember if I cried again. My last chronologically-in-order memory is taking hold of his hand that one last time. My memories for the next few months are like the shards of a thoroughly shattered stained glass window.

My friend Kristin recently sent me this picture saying, “How I like to remember Ray.” This was a trip we all took to the beach. He's prepping his kite for launch.
My friend Kristin recently sent me this picture saying, “How I like to remember Ray.” This was a trip we all took to the beach. He’s prepping his kite for launch.
He promised me he would stay with me for the rest of his life.

And he did.

Five months later, Pulse shooting still a gut punch

“Our hearts are broken, but our pulse is strong.”
“Our hearts are broken, but our pulse is strong.”
Five months ago, an angry homophobe walked into an Orlando, Florida gay night club and murdered 49 people, wounding 53 more. It was a Saturday night during Queer Pride month, and it was specifically Latinx Night at that club. It was a planned hate crime. According to the FBI’s reconstruction (and the testimony of the killer’s father), the homophobic killer had decided to buy an assault rifle to kill as many queers as he could after seeing two men kissing in public. In the days before the massacre, the killer had staked out the location several times. He picked the target by setting up a fake profile on a gay hook-up app, chatting up men, and asking them what the busiest clubs were (he never met up with any of the men). Then yesterday, just before the five-month anniversary of the massacre: Newly Released Police Body Cam Video of Orlando Shooting.

Five months later, thinking about the shooting still feels like a punch in my gut. I’m a queer man who has been out of the closet for a quarter of a century. But I grew up in redneck communities during the 60s and 70s. Any time I am out in public with my husband and we show any affection, I experience a moment of fear. I check to see who is around. I am never able to be completely in the moment because a part of me is staying alert to any and all strangers around us and preparing in case they react badly. It’s a dread calculation I find myself making whenever we are out, even with friends: is it all right if I call him “honey,” or will we get harassed? Can I safely say, “I love you,” or will we get threatened?

And it isn’t just me being paranoid. There was a specific incident years ago when my husband was threatened with violence after we exchanged a quick kiss when I dropped him off at a bus stop, for instance. There have been numerous incidents throughout my life where strangers called out slurs and made threats because I was a guy wearing earrings, or purple, or sometimes I don’t know how the person decided I was a faggot, but they did.

For the last few years before this my level of dread had decreased, just a little bit. It was still there, just not quite as bad. Especially when we were in familiar places.

And then the Pulse shooting happened. It is a reminder that even our queer places aren’t safe. And the reaction afterward, as people tried to say that it wasn’t an anti-gay crime. The very same people who have been fighting to take away what rights we have trying to erase the evidence of the anti-gay motives of the killer—to try to say we weren’t targeted because of who we love—reminded me that plenty of people who don’t think of themselves as homophobic are more than willing to ignore blatant crimes against us if it suits them.

When a couple of people who I had long thought were friends were angry at me for being angry, that also reminded me that I can’t always know who will have our back.

So I’m not getting over it. I have absolutely no intention to get over it. If you tell me I should get over it, that just means you either don’t understand how real the threat to queer people remains, or you don’t care.

It took me a while to find the link to the story that didn’t include the actual video on auto-play. The first link, up at the top of this post is that link. They have some pictures, and a link to the video, but no video. Most of the other stories include the video. Like this one: Warning! The following link to the Orlando Sentinel includes some of the actual body cam footage and it plays automatically: Deputies release body cam footage from inside Pulse.

And seeing those threatening letters and such being given to gay and lesbian couples from Trump supporters telling them that they’re going to burn in hell and worse? Yeah, that isn’t helping, either.

Getting indicted, still faking it (badly), & other weekend updates

Congressman Schock has a great anti-gay voting record, but posts pictures of himself to Instagram like this, has never married, and has lived with a string of similar male "roommates" for over a decade.
Ex-Congressman Schock was raised Southern Baptist in a rural community, had a consistent anti-gay voting record, but posted pictures of himself to Instagram like these, has never married, and has lived with a string of young athletic male “roommates” for over a decade.

I’ve written a few times before about the poorly-closeted former Congressman Aaron Schock. He’s in the news again this week, but you may have missed it among all the other crap: Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock indicted on 24 criminal counts and Schock accused of vast criminal misconduct: ex-congressman used his office like a personal money-making operation.

When I say poorly-closeted I’m not just referring to his interesting fashion choices. There have been a series of hunky young unmarried male roommates. Once a reporter caught him and one of said roommates showering together in their condo when the reporter arrived for a scheduled interview. The fact that for a long time the accounts he followed on Instagram were all out gay models and athletes who frequently posted barely dressed pictures of themselves (which he unfollowed en masse when the shared shower story brought a bunch of attention to him).

Totally normal to have your photographer (far right) pose with you in all the official photos rather than actually operating a camera. Even if the taxpayer is picking up the photographer's tab, right?
Totally normal to have your photographer (far right) pose with you in all the official photos rather than actually operating a camera. Even if the taxpayer is picking up the photographer’s tab, right?

And let’s not forget one of the last congressional junkets he took, where a hunky roommate (not the chief of staff roommate mentioned in the story above–they shared a home in D.C., this roommate lived in the uber-expensive house the congressman owned back in Illinois) accompanied the congressmen listed as a “campaign photographer,” yet he attended all of the social events and stood next to the congressmen in all of the photo ops while the other congressmen in the same photos are standing next to their wives. And the many times he was spotted in gay bars or other gay events, such as this one two weeks ago: The Stylish Aaron Schock Wore A Vest To This Big Gay Halloween Party.

I mention all of this because while he was in Congress, in addition to all of the shady financial shenanigans, he had a perfect anti-gay voting record, and gave more than one passionate speech arguing that people should have the right to fire an employee or refuse to rent an apartment to someone that they simply suspected might be gay.

At this point, I almost expect him to come out, then claim that all this stuff is either because of the mental stress of being closeted, or the work of people trying to blackmail him. The day after the indictment he had a major whining session telling reporters it’s a travesty that the FBI is making a criminal mountain out of a “molehill” of small errors. Right. Getting someone to set up a fake business’s bank account, making your constituents pay over $7000 into the fake account, billing the tax payers for the travel the constituents thought they were paying for themselves, and then withdrawing the money is a molehill. Never mind $140,000 in false mileage claims, a $5,000 chandelier for your office, and… and… and…

I guess he’s just a douche.

Speaking of horrible people, Maricopa County voters oust Sheriff Joe Arpaio, elect Paul Penzone. Arpaio is a notorious Sheriff who his county kept re-electing despite (or maybe because) of his awful racist policies, statements, and actions. But the more taxpayer money that went to paying his legal fees, and finally criminal contempt of court charges seem to have driven away most of his supporters.

Babeu and his ex on the right. One of Babeu's pictures he posted along with his ads seeking sex with other men on a local gay chat server.
Babeu and his ex on the right. One of Babeu’s pictures he posted along with his ads seeking sex with other men on a local gay chat server.

Don’t confuse Arpaio with another notorious Arizona Sheriff who lost an election this week: Democrat Tom O’Halleran beats Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu mum on plans after leaving office. Babeu was not running for re-election as Sheriff, instead he was running for Congress. This is his second attempt to run for Congress. In 2012 he ran on a virulent anti-immigrant/family values platform, which was derailed when one of his gay ex-lovers came forward–the ex was an undocumented immigrant, who said Babeu knew it at the time, and that when he broke up with Babeu, Babeu had threatened to have him deported if he ever told anyone about the relationship. Babeu denied all the allegations for a while… then as other exes (all Hispanic; what is it with racists wanting to f– the people they hate?) came forward (and the state’s Solicitor General started investigating), he came out as gay, but denied that he had known his ex was undocumented, not had he ever threatened him.

The ex claimed to have incriminating emails and text messages. The public got so see some pretty incriminating excerpts from the text messages and emails. The Solicitor General eventually announced that he had exonerated Babeu of all criminal wrongdoing, but also said they there would be no charges of filing a false report pursued against the ex, which leads most observers to conclude that exonerated is a strong word. In any case, Babeu lost in 2012, and he lost again this week.

So at least a few elections went the way they ought.


Update: It’s December 13th, and the last couple of days this month-old current events post is getting a lot of hits. I assume it’s because yesterday Totally Not-Gay Former GOP Rep. Aaron Schock Pleads Not Guilty to Funds Misuse. Anyway, there’s now a follow up post you might find amusing: Totally not-Gay Aaron Schock in the news again.

Update 2: Just before April Fool’s Day there was another spike of hits on this post, which I assume was because Schock’s attorney was trying to get some evidence thrown out on rather dubious grounds that week. That story and a similar news story the same week led me to write: Weekend Update 4/1/2017: No need for jokes while we have these clowns in the news. Then an insulting anonymous comment led to a follow-up: More adventures in straightsplaining—bless your heart.

Update 3: And in August this post started getting lots of hits because ex-Congressman Shock’s attorneys asked for all the embezzling and related charges to be thrown out because investigators asked some witnesses whether Shock was gay. That is a completely bogus reason to throw out charges, particularly since one of those charges is related to taxpayer-funded travel expenses for a so-called staff member who never seemed to do legitimate staff work but instead behaved like the congressman’s boyfriend or spouse, prompting me to write: Self-loathing closet cases who bilk taxpayers to lavish international trips on their boy toys must be outed. It also led me to this very interesting article: Court docs reveal Aaron Schock’s aides urged him to stop acting so ‘gay’.

Update 4: And then in March 2019, in what the editors of the Chicago Tribune call “a head-scratcher,” Schock is avoiding prosecution by agreeing to pay a fraction of the misappropriated funds back and to pay backtaxes, causing me to write: Disgraced former Congressman gets an out of jail free pass…. Wow.

Update 5: And in April 2019, Schock was photographed making out with another man at the Coachella festival—not just making out, but with his hands down the guy’s pants! What does a self-loathing closet case anti-gay ex-Congressman do after somehow getting a sweetheart deal on his financial crimes prosecution?. Who didn’t see that coming?

Update 6: In August 2019, Schock asked a blogger to “leak” a conversation between himself and said blogger on a gay hook-up app as a trial balloon about coming out, and also got another homocon blogger to chime in about how awful everyone is for trying to force Aaron out of the closet. And then Schock renounced any and all of it. Or something. I expand on it here: Tuesday Tidbit 8/20/2019: Closeted politician tries to co-opt us to dodge his anti-gay past.

Update 7: Now, in March 2020, Schock had decided to really come out. He means it, this time, because there is a really long post about it on his Instagram. As Joe Jervis notes on Joe.My.God: “The post goes on for several self-pitying pages.” He still doesn’t apologize for all his anti-gay votes and campaigning. The closest he comes is saying if he were in Congress today he would vote differently on LGBT issues. But he also reaffirms several times that he still supports the rest of the Republican agenda. In the self-pitying parts he blames his anti-gay votes on feeling the need to fit in with his Republican colleagues, which I’m going to give myself a silver star for, as I have predicted on this blog that Schock would eventually come out and blame the pressures of being closeted for all his hateful speeches and votes. Anyway, an unrelated news event a couple months ago already prompted me to write everything else I have to say on the matter of self-loathing closet cases who try to come out while still espousing all or most of those hateful beliefs: Confessions of a former self-loathing closet case.

Friday Links (stand up edition)

It’s a Friday. I’m usually happy and excited that the work week is almost over. Happy is not an emotion I’m feeling right now.

However, I also know what a grind it is to confront nothing but more stories about the big thing that happened this week. So I’m changing the format of this post from the usual. We’re going to start with a couple of music videos, followed by Science links and so forth that have nothing to do with the election or its fallout. Then I’ll have a warning that the rest of the links are on the other topic, so you can stop scrolling down and go read some other part of the web instead if you want.

Videos!

Nathan Sykes – Famous:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Eli Lieb – Until You’ve Fallen Down:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Science!

Fastest Animals: Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat Takes Top Mammal Spot From Cheetah.

Rats Can Laugh—Provided You’re Willing to Tickle Them.

Power outage in the brain may be source of Alzheimer’s.

Extinction or Evolution? The Answer Isn’t Always Clear.

Oldest Beer Brewed from Shipwreck’s 220-Year-Old Yeast Microbes.

A funnel on Mars could be a place to look for life.

Wireless brain-to-spine connection gets paralyzed primates walking.

Your flu risk may be linked to the year you were born.

Electrons cooled close to absolute zero reveal their quantum nature.

Beetle Bailing: Beetles represent about 40% of all insects and 25% of all animals.

The Difference Between Highly Sensitive and Hypersensitive: High sensitivity is biological. Hypersensitivity is a coping style..

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

Joshua Sky interviews legendary author Larry Niven.

Fabulous, Darling!

‘Mr. Robot’ Star Rami Malek to Play Freddie Mercury in Queen Biopic.

Orlando to buy Pulse nightclub, turn it into memorial.

Why anti-gay discrimination is illegal, in one short footnote.

Human Rights Campaign President “Formally Apologizes” To Transgender Community.

Drawn to Comics: Annie Mok’s “No Exit” Will Make Your Heart Stronger.

This Week in Tech

Many iCloud users receiving spam Calendar & Photo Sharing invitations, here’s how to fix.

New MacBook Pro has already outsold every other notebook in 2016.

LONG LIVE THE MACINTOSH STARTUP CHIME.

How to restore the classic Mac startup chime to Apple’s new 2016 MacBook Pros.

Farewells:

Janet Reno, First Woman to Serve as U.S. Attorney General, Dies at 78.

2 Live Crew’s Luther Campbell Remembers ‘True Florida Icon’ Janet Reno.

Leonard Cohen, singer/songwriter and master poet, dies at 82.

Leonard Cohen Dead at 82.


Dreadful Things

If you don’t want to read anything about the election, turn back now…

Ain’t That a Kick to the Rubber Parts?

Margaret and Helen: This too shall pass… like a kidney stone.

It Really Is That Bad.

What Happened on Election Day.

Elections have consequences.

The Audacity of Hopelessness .

This Week in Denial

On “Woke” White People Advertising their Shock that Racism just won a Presidency.

This week in Topics Most People Can’t Be Rational About

Consider a Monarchy, America.

This Week in Enablers

Media obsession with a bullshit email scandal helped Trump to the White House.

AMID CLINTON CONTROVERSY, FBI DOCUMENTS SHOW WHY AMERICANS SHOULD WORRY ABOUT INTELLIGENCE GATHERING.

States that passed voting restrictions saw decreased turnout, flipped to Trump.

This Week in Understanding

The Cinemax Theory of Racism.

I’m a Coastal Elite From the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America.

This Week in Dismay

I Still Love America. But, After Trump’s Victory, I Don’t Trust It: I’ve never felt less American and more Jewish. I hear my grandmother’s voice in my ear: As Jews, we know history doesn’t always march forward toward a better day.

In America, Love Does Not Trump Hate.

Trans group reports suicides post-election; LGBTQ hotline calls surge.

Love Will Be the Center of My Resistance. “This election was a referendum on how this country values the humanity of marginalized people, and the message we received is that we are not valued by a vast number of our fellow countrypeople.”

This Week in Wishful Thinking

Despite Republican pledges, ‘repealing Obamacare’ will be almost impossible — but it could be vandalized. Since kicking 8 million children off of insurance rolls in one of the things this article classifies as “vandalism”…

Culture War and Hate Crimes

Transgender Woman Shot to Death in Virginia.

Pence confirms once and for all that Trump will be an anti-LGBT president.

Vandals Scrawl Nazi and Pro-Trump Messages in Philadelphia.

Maple Grove School Investigating Racist, Pro-Trump Graffiti.

Anti-LGBT activists set out their plan to roll back equality under President Trump.

Message Left on a Car in North Carolina: ‘Gay Families = Burn in Hell. Trump 2016’.

Day 1 In Trump’s America.

Ku Klux Klan Steps Up Recruiting After Trump’s Win: Stand Up For The White Man And Fight “Black Savages”.

White Supremacist Leader: Trump’s Victory Means We Now Can Drive A Stake Into Jews And Minorities.

This Week in Cracking Down

Trump’s potential Homeland Security chief says anti-Trump protests ‘must be quelled’.

How I got arrested while recording New York City’s first protest against President-elect Trump.

Trump Shows Every Sign of Carrying Out Sweeping Immigration Crackdown.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Calexit: Californians want to secede now that Trump won.

Here’s What We Can Do When the Trump Administration Challenges LGBTQ Rights.

Muslim Americans Grapple with a Trump Presidency.

No, Let’s Not Congratulate Him.

DONALD TRUMP WILL BE PRESIDENT. THIS IS WHAT WE DO NEXT.

How to preserve the ideals of liberal democracy in the face of a Trump presidency.

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Imagining hope

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”—James Madison
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”—James Madison
I mentioned in yesterday’s post that ordinarily my optimism is almost pathological. I knew when I wrote yesterday’s post that I was in the pit of despair. Or, as another friend described it, metaphorically in a fetal position.

This is not a post where I’m going to tell you I’m getting over it.

I’m still more than worried, and it isn’t idle anxiety. Trump’s running mate is a man who signed a so-called Religious Freedom bill when he was governor of Indiana that explicitly gave people and corporations the right to refuse to obey laws that conflicted with their religious beliefs. That means that an employer can decide not to offer health coverage to same sex partners of their employees. That means an employer can literally fire someone explicitly because they are queer and the employee can’t sue and that state can’t otherwise penalize the company.

Last year, before any judges appointed by someone like Trump were on the Supreme Court, the Court ruled that a private company could refuse to pay for birth control as part of the health care benefits for its married employees if it cited religious objections. And Trump has promised to appoint judges recommended by an anti-gay and anti-abortion group. And he has an open seat to fill.

Other Republicans have been itching to pass a law like the Indiana Religious Freedom law, but they haven’t because they knew Democrats in the Senate would try to derail it, but more importantly that Obama would veto it. But Obama is only going to be there for a couple of more months. So they can pass such a law, and suddenly people like me start losing our rights.

So when someone tells you that we’re fearmongering and gay marriage isn’t going to go away, tell them they aren’t paying attention. Maybe the marriage equality ruling isn’t going to be reversed right away, but if people, including government employees, corporations, and so forth, are free to discriminate (free to withhold legal rights, et cetera) against queer people who have gotten married under the ruling, the ruling stops meaning anything.

Texas has already tried to assert that the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t obligate them to extend health benefits to the spouses and children of same sex couples who have gotten married. Think about what states like that are going to do when the U.S. Justice Department is headed by Rudy Guillianni instead of someone appointed by a pro-equality President.

And this is just one of the millions of ways that a Trump administration can make life hell for queer people. Or people who want or need birth control (some of the people in Trump’s transition team have, in previous parts of the political career, argued that straight married people shouldn’t have a right to birth control). Or women who file sexual harassment claims. Or…

So there are very good reasons for a lot of us to be scared.

I said yesterday that I plan to fight, and I do. And I know a lot of other people plan to, too. But it isn’t going to be easy. We’re going to be suffering the death of a thousand cuts, all of us will be, and at the same time trying to defend each other.

I know that I’m going to find my hope again. I’m getting by right now by imagining what it will feel like to have hope back. I know how it feels to be confident in the justice of my cause. I know how it feels to be determined not to back down. I know how it feels to be righteously outraged at injustice. I know how it feels to feel strong enough to stand up. And I got through a day of going into work and trying to act as if everything is fine by imagining that I was that person feeling those things.

It really does feel as if I’m a character in one of my own stories, at the moment. I’m imagining how a character who feels these things would act, and then trying to do it. It’s a little bit surreal.

I know that I’ll get past the point of faking it. I know that I will start to feel able to step up and face the opposition. I’m just not emotionally there, yet. And I’m not the only one.

Stop saying ‘We’ll get through this’ because not everyone will

“Let's be clear about our choice. When we raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, no one dies. When we cut Social Security and Medicare, people die.” —Annabelle Park
“Let’s be clear about our choice. When we raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, no one dies. When we cut Social Security and Medicare, people die.” —Annabelle Park
Whether you believe that Trump is going to try to do any of the many contradictory, sometimes unConstitutional, things he promised, one thing is very clear: Congressional Republicans will repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they have a whole mess of other social programs they want to cut. That means at least 20,000,000 people will lose their health insurance. Conservative estimates are that from the loss of the Affordable Care Act alone, at least 10,000 people who would have otherwise lived will die each year because of inadequate health care. And other cuts will make that even worse.

Trump and the Republicans have vowed to roll back protections for queer people, especially trans people. They’ve also vowed to fight efforts to raise the minimum wage, cut funding for health care, roll back work safety laws, and many other things which will result in an increase in injuries, financial stress, and preventable illnesses—ultimately leading to even more deaths.

Since Trump’s campaign gained momentum, there has been a slight increase in hate crimes. If the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom is any indication, there is going to be an even bigger increase in hate crimes now that certain people feel their views are validated by this vote. Oh, and the Republicans want to repeal hate crime laws and/or cut back on federal agencies tracking and investigation of hate crimes. So more people injured and yes, even killed.

I can keep going, but you should be getting the idea by now.

Stop saying that it’s going to be all right or that we’re going to get through this. Especially stop saying it if you are straight, cisgender, male, and/or white, because while maybe you will get through the next few years, you’re also not at risk to the same degree as many of the rest of us.

While we’re at it, if you’re one of the people lecturing others to remain calm, and not to place blame, and so forth? Again, stop. Just stop. Many of us are literally in danger of losing our livelihoods, various legal rights, and much more. We are allowed to blame people who have put us in this danger.

Some of us are in a fight for our lives, now. Yes, I fully intend to fight for my rights, but that means kicking up a fuss. That means confronting people. That means doing the opposite of calming down or making nice.

If you’re dismayed by this election; if you’re sitting there in shock because you can’t believe your fellow Americans can be this shortsighted, that they would embrace (or at least enable) hate? Welcome to our world.

As a queer man I’ve been feeling that dread, despair, and the knot of anxiety in my gut off and on my whole life. Not every moment. For example, just four years ago I was feeling the exact opposite when a majority of voters in my state voted for marriage equality. But that punch of bewildered injustice and a fundamental sense of vulnerability happens. It happened on June 12 this year as news of the mass shooting at a queer nightclub in Orlando spread across the world. It happens when legislatures pass and governors sign anti-queer laws and laws that ban queer rights ordinances and all the rest.

I wish I could tell you it gets better. I completely understand the impulse to tell each other that we’ll get through this, I do. I wish I didn’t know the facts that some of us actually won’t. I wish I could believe that if we just calm down and make nice that we’ll get through this and be better people for it.

Yes, if we stick together and hold each other and watch out for each other and fight with whatever tools we find we’re left with, some—maybe even most—who endure this will find new strength. But there is going to be a lot of pain and disappointment and loss along the way. Real loss.

I buried too many friends in the 80s and 90s because of homophobia and a smug indifference because “it’s just faggots” and “they brought it on themselves.” When Trump talks about losers, for instance, when he says that he prefers heroes who don’t get captured during war time he’s expressing that same hatred and indifference, just aimed at a wider audience. And if he and his followers can direct it at decorated veterans and the parents of soldiers killed in combat, that means they’ll just as soon direct it at you, too. Whoever you are.

I’m not offering comfort. I can’t, right now, even see the dim distant possibility of a glimmer of hope. And that’s saying something, because usually my optimism is almost pathological.

And I’m not asking for comfort. Neither am I asking to be left alone. I’m asking for a pledge that you will stand up against this, too. We can’t rely on hope. We must rely on each other.

Everyone needs a good laugh or two…

It’s here. The day we’ve been dreading yet simultaneously wishing would arrive and just get it over with. That day is here. And I’ve already said more than I should about it.

“Gay sex is literally twice as manly as straight sex.”
“Gay sex is literally twice as manly as straight sex.”

So instead, here are some images that have been shared with me recently by various people that made me laugh.

“Gay Jesus offends (some) Christians.”
“Gay Jesus offends (some) Christians.”

Just silly gags that might not make you chuckle as much as I did, but I hope you at least smile at one of them.

“Have you hugged a transgender person today? Are you sure?”
“Have you hugged a transgender person today? Are you sure?”

Inside every joke is a kernel of truth.

“Gay Guys”
“Gay Guys”

Some truths are mundane, some uncomfortable, some surprising.

“I Love Dick.”
“I Love Dick.”

Some might be a little crude for some people. But as a friend recently observed, sex is always just a little bit ridiculous.

“The New Mr. Steal Yo Girl.”
“The New Mr. Steal Yo Girl.”

Some might surprise you.

“Everyone is equal.
“Everyone is equal.

And some aren’t jokes at all, simply truths that we all sort of wish didn’t need to be said, but are glad when we hear tham.

Facing an existential threat yet again…

On one level I understand why during many election years so many Americans talk rather blithely of it being simply a choice of the lesser of two evils. Earlier this year Stephen Colbert and John Stewart incorporated it into a small skit in which they pretended that Stewart has spent all of his time since retiring from the Daily Show living in a cabin in the woods somewhere, and Stephen shows up at his door desperate for help with the election. Stewart says, “Don’t worry! I’m sure Jeb Bush will be fine!” Stewart says.

From the viewpoint of many people, it usually appears that the major parties have each nominated basically similar guys, who have some differences on particular policies, but both talk about opportunity and freedom and respecting the Constitution. Depending on what your personal priorities are, one might say more things you agree with regarding taxes, for instance, but the same candidate says just as many things you disagree with in the topic of medical care. The other one says stuff you disagree with on taxes, while saying things you agree with on law enforcement.

So superficially it can feel as if being asked whether you want a red napkin or a blue napkin with your meal. You’re still going to get a meal which contains some food you love and some you don’t, and the bill is probably going to be a little higher than you hoped in the end, so why should the napkin matter?

For some of us, it has never been like that.

I wasn’t out of the closet in 1980. I was still several years away from the moment I would say aloud for the first time, “I think I might be gay.” But I had had more than a few furtive experiences with other guys and had been wrestling with the conflict between my conservative Christian upbringing and the fact that no matter how much I pleaded with god, the feelings wouldn’t go away. And for several years I had been watching political campaigns to pass laws to make it legal for people to fire me, to deny me housing, to send me to jail, and much worse simply because I fell in love with other guys.

In 1980 one party had for the first time in history adopted a plank saying the people shouldn’t be discriminated against because of sexual orientation. The other party very clearly was in favor of not just discriminating, but actively persecuting people like me.

My ability to live freely was on the ballot the first time I was allowed to vote for a president.

By the time 1984 rolled around, people like me were dying of a then-mysterious and scary disease. I had sat in church with my head bowed and then felt the horror when the pastor unexpectedly thanked god for sending AIDS to kill queers. One party was still saying it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against me, and now the other one was encouraging the people who were explicitly saying I should be dead.

In 1992 the Democratic Presidential candidate didn’t just leave the rhetoric of protecting us from discrimination in the platform, he actively and frequently argued that not only should we be protected by anti-discrimination laws, and not only should we not be left to die if we got sick, but we should actually be allowed to serve openly in the military. That may seem like a little thing, but it was clearly a statement that we were full citizens deserving not just tolerance, but respect. This forced the other candidate to openly say what had mostly been implied by his predecessors: that queers didn’t deserve legal protections, that our very existence wasn’t just regrettable, but it somehow made America less safe.

By 1996 the same candidate who had pledged to help us had been maneuvered into a compromise that made the situation for queers in the military worse, but the other side, oh my goodness, the other side! In my local state the Republican party had planks in the platform that literally equated us with witches and demons, that literally equated tolerance for us with witchcraft, and that literally called for locking queer people up in medical facilities. Yes, the party had been hijacked by what we all thought of at the time the fringe, but our state wasn’t the only one. And plenty of Republicans all over the country were talking about us as dangerous, as needing to be locked up, and more.

In 2000 I found myself arguing with someone who I had thought of as a friend who lived in another state where she was enthusiastically voting for a candidate who promised to make it illegal for queers to work in medical jobs, in child care jobs, or as teachers, and wanted to create a system of “medical camps” where queer men would be “quarantined” for the safety of the rest of the public. While at the top of the the ticket Bush and Cheney both made conciliatory statements about tolerating gay people, they still opposed full civil equality. All up and down the ticket you could find plenty of their candidates arguing that the very existence of queer people was dangerous, that our physical relationships should be illegal (and in many places still were prosecuted as crimes), and so forth.

And then in 2004 the Republicans hit on the strategy of actively pushing for state bans and constitutional amendments to more deeply encode our persecution into the laws of the land! There were far more candidates on that side saying to recognizing us as full citizens would cause god to destroy America.

A lot of people try to make the lesser of two evils argument because in 2008 the leading democratic candidates were arguing for civil unions and against letting queer people marry. To do that ignores the folks on the other side who were still arguing that it should be legal to fire us everywhere (not just the 29 states where we lack antidiscrimination protections), who were angry at the Supreme Court for saying the  laws criminalizing our relationships were unconstitutional, and thus were campaigning to make being queer a crime again everywhere. Again, one side thought we were people deserving at least basic rights, the other argued we were dangerous things that needed to be controlled.

In 2012 the Republicans were spouting all the same anti-queer rhetoric even more vehemently because the other party was arguing that we should have all legal rights, including the right to civil marriage.

And in 2016? This year the Republican party platform is even more viciously anti-gay than the 1996 state platform I mentioned above. This year, a lot of other people feel (rightly) that their very right to exist is on the ballot. This year in the name of fighting illegal immigration and defending us from terrorism, one party is arguing that people of some religions don’t deserve civil rights, that people of some races are automatically suspect as criminals, that people who are poor deserve it, that women who want medical care should only get what conservative white men think they,, deserve, and so on and so on.

And while for a lot of people this feels new, it feels as if a sudden lunacy has seized one party—it’s not. I hate to break it to you, but Romney, McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan were all spouting equally racist, misogynist, sectarian, and homophobic policies and values as the most deplorable Trump supporters are now. Trump isn’t a disease that has suddenly surfaced, he’s a symptom of a decades-long movement in the party to fan the flames of fear, promote racial resentment, foster religious division, and encourage hate. The Trump supporters who call for lynching journalists, beating people of color, deporting non-Christians, scalping people who support same-sex marriage, burning black churches, who claim Hillary is a satanist, insist that Obama and Clinton are literally demons, aren’t the lunatic fringe of the Republican party. They are simply enacting the rhetoric that Republicans have been using to rally their troops for the last forty years.

  • You may have thought that Reagan was talking about the Constitution when he argued for state’s rights at a speech in Nashoba County, Mississippi, but everyone in Mississippi who had lived through the previous decades of civil rights struggles knew that he was saying that in the matter of white privilege vs black civil rights, he was on the side of the white guys while the blacks were clearly the enemy.
  • You may have thought that the elder President Bush’s frequent evocation of Family Values was just wholesome-sounding empty rhetoric, but the thousands of people at the Republican Convention holding up signs that said “Family Rights Not Gay Rights” knew he was telling the anti-gay bigots that he was on their side and the queers had no moral values.
  • You may have thought when Bob Dole said that “disabled people is a group no one joins by choice” he was simply arguing for more rights for disabled people, but he was telling the anti-gay people, the Creationists, and the anti-feminists that queers, atheists/non-Christians, and feminists deserved to be discriminated against and worse.
  • You may have thought that when George W. Bush said as part of a speech about racial equality that African Americans had earned opportunities that he was arguing for respecting everyone, but the Republican base knew he was saying that only some people of color deserved respect, and it is perfectly alright to mistreat any you didn’t think had earned it.
  • You may have thought that when John McCain said “that both parents are important in the success of a family” it was empty pro-family pablum, but anti-gay and anti-feminist members of the Republican base heard him saying the queers who adopt are harming children, and so are single parents (including women fleeing abusive relationships).
  • You may have thought when Romney said that employers should be flexible and let female employees “go home and fix dinner” for their kids instead of making them work late, that he was talking about personal compassion, but the Republican base clearly heard that women only deserved respect when they were mothers and taking care of their man.

I could find a lot more examples from the previous six Republican nominees where they said things that signaled to the racists, homophobes, misogynists, et al that people of color, queers, women, and non-Christians are less valuable than cisgendered heterosexual white Christian men. They have been cooking this nasty stew of hatred for decades.

It’s not just Hillary and The Donald on the ballot. It is also the right for Americans of all races, genders, orientations, and beliefs to live with equal opportunity and dignity in this society. And I don’t just mean the right to be free—for many of us, our very right to live is on the line.

Armed voter intimidation is illegal.  If you see someone with a gun at a polling place text GUNSDOWN to 91990.
Armed voter intimidation is illegal. If you see someone with a gun at a polling place text GUNSDOWN to 91990.
It won’t be enough for Trump to lose. He needs to lose decisively. And the politicians down ballot who support him and the policies that have brought him to us need to be defeated, as well. We need to send a message, yes. But we also have to extend hope and a promise that the American republic and the democratic institutions that protect our rights will remain intact. Because when Trump talks about “opening up libel laws” and “locking up” his opponents and “getting rid” of legal impediments to deportation and more, he’s talking about ending the checks and balances that have existed since this country’s founding.

It isn’t just an existential crisis for the queers, people of color, women, and non-Christians this time. It’s an existential crisis for the republic itself.

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Exploding phones and misjudging customers

Okay, now I may begin to feel sorry for Samsung. I mean, it was sort of cool that a company which has been making money be copying Apple’s look (and producing demonstrably inferior equipment) was losing tons of money and taking a hit to their reputation because of exploding phones, but now it’s even worse: Samsung Recalling Almost 2.8M Washers Due to Impact Injuries. During the spin cycle the drums become detached, crashing into other parts of the machine, causing parts of the outer body to break off and fly away hard enough to have caused broken bones in some cases. Exploding washing machines!

In case you missed the earlier news: one of Samsung’s new phones started exploding, catching fire, and similar things, prompting the TSA and agencies in other countries to ban them from air travel. Samsung did a recall and replacement of some of the models, and the replacement phones also caught fire, resulting in a complete recall of all models: It is the consensus in the tech world that Samsung execs rushed the Galaxy Note 7 into production with a seriously shortened test cycle because of rumors that the iPhone 7 would be a dud–which made them think they could grab a bunch of the market. The reasoning being that rumors were the size and shape of the iPhone 7 wouldn’t change much from the 6s… because people only buy new phones because they come in new shapes, not because of improved cameras or other interior features.

Other people were predicting bad iPhone sales because Apple removed the headphone jack. What has actually happened is that millions of the new iPhones sold the first weekend, and since then Apple has been selling the phones literally faster than they can manufacture them. Apple did report the first year-over-year revenue drop (but still 9 billion dollars of profit) for the most recent quarter, but the new iPhone went on sale at the very end of that 90-day period, so the new phone sales had little to do with the numbers.

Samsung appears to have done worse than shot itself in the foot with this attempt to take advantage of an opportunity that was never there.

There’s a certain type of tech person, the sort who gets a full-time job writing about technology for general interest news sites, for instance, that looks at technology from an extremely skewed point of view. They aren’t the only people who do this, but let’s stick to them for the moment. They seem to be incapable of looking at a product as anything other than a bulleted list of features. And they are especially bad at imagining that anyone in the world would ever use a particular product differently than they do.

I know this because there have been plenty of times that I fall into that mental trap (and the related one of not remembering that people aren’t going to like and dislike the same sorts of things in stories/movies/et al as I do).

Even though way back in the day I had been addicted to my old Apple ][e, I was less impressed with the original Macintosh. Then I got a job testing software and hardware and writing customer documentation for a company that sold software that ran on DOS-based PCs (Windows didn’t exist, yet), and I became obsessed with being about to control every little thing on my PC. I would tweak configuration files to modify which utilities and portions of the operating system would be loaded into which parts of the memory, for instance. I looked at Mac users as people who didn’t really understand the equipment they were using.

Then Windows came along, and over the years the PC world became more and more like the Mac. I don’t just mean the GUI interface and pointing-and-clicking, but more and more of the nitpicky details of how the system was configured were hidden away from the user—not just hidden, but the systems worked in ways that it was not longer necessary to know that stuff to use the product.

The really big change for me, though, was meeting my husband. In all of my relationships before Michael, I was the person who knew the most about computers in particular, and technology in general. Michael knew at least as much as me, and had an even better knack at troubleshooting and coaxing seemingly broken equipment into working again. And… he started managing my computer. And I found, suddenly, that I had a helluva lot more time to actually work on my writing when I wasn’t acting as the in-house IT department.

Then, because he was tired of spending so much time troubleshooting my Mom’s computer (a series of used PCs coupled with her habit of clicking on absolutely any link she received in an email thus infecting the computer literally with thousands of pieces of malware), we bought her an iMac. And I picked up an old used Macbook that ran the same version of the OS as her machine, so when she couldn’t remember how to do something, I could fire up my machine and walk her through it over the phone. And then I started using the Mac laptop as my convention machine because it was, frankly, easier to use than my Windows laptop.

And during that long journey, I discovered on a new level something that I had constantly found myself (as a technical writer) arguing with engineers at work: the customer cared about what the machine allowed them to do, not how the machine did it.

Right now, people are griping about the headphone jack being removed from the iPhone (interestingly, Motorola dropped it from some smart phones earlier this year, several other phone makers have announced phones without headphone jacks coming soon, but no one is complaining about them). And they’re complaining that Apple is changing its laptop lines to use only USB-C ports supporting USB and Thunderbolt (again, something that a bunch of Chromebooks did earlier, and at least one PC laptop maker has announced they’re doing next). And I understand those gripes, I do.

But so for not one single person—not one—has presented any argument that isn’t the logical equivalent of arguments that were used to protest the removal of floppy disk drives from computers. They are the same arguments that were raised in protest when Apple replaced serial and parallel ports on the iMac with USB years ago. They are the same arguments people made about why compact discs shouldn’t be replaced with downloaded music files. They are the same arguments people made when cassette tapes and vinyl records were replaced with compact discs. The same arguments that were made when VHS tapes were replaced with DVDs. And the same arguments that were made when cable replaced antennae on the roofs of houses and apartment buildings.

And I suspect they are logically equivalent to the arguments that were made when electricity replaced oil lamps.

My five-and-a-half year old Macbook Pro has an ethernet port that I have never, ever used or needed. The Macbook I owned for a bit over three years before that also had an ethernet port that I believe I used exactly once. My current Macbook Pro has an SD card slot that I never used until late last year when I bought an adapter that allowed me to fit a micro SD card in flush with the side of the computer (rather than sticking out as the SD cards do) so I could have a supplemental drive to move some files onto because I’m having trouble getting by on the size of hard disc I currently use. The laptop also has a combo mini video port/thunderbolt 2 port which I use about once every couple of weeks to connect my second backup drive to. I have never, ever used the video port of the port. Nor have I ever used the optical audio port built into the headphone jack.

But I paid for the circuitry and more to support all of those ports as part of the price of the laptop. And I had to pay for those because a small fraction of the other owners of these laptops want them.

I am anxiously waiting for my new Macbook Pro to ship. It will have four USB-C ports. I’m going to have to buy three adaptors in order to use my current accessories with the new machine. Wait, actually, only two. I keep forgetting my external drive uses both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. But those are the only adaptors I will need. And I’m only going to need them for a while, because some of these accessories are even older than my current laptop, and they probably should be replaced pretty soon, before they die on their own at an inconvenient time.

jfydsJust as the original USB was a huge improvement over the serial, parallel, and SCSI ports they replaced, USB-C is a big improvement over the others. If you want technology to get better, you have to let go of the older parts. It doesn’t matter how noble horse drawn carriages look nor how jaunty a coachman appears when snapping a buggy whip, no one born in the last 60 years is willing to give up their cars, light rail, heaters and defrosters inside the cars, or streets free of random piles of horse shit because someone misses buggy whips.

Friday Links (when will this election end edition)

58389555It’s a Friday! But it’s November already. How did THAT happen?!

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again, and we a little surprised at how many links I amassed even though I’m spending less time reading that news.

Anyway, here are links to some of the interesting things I read on the web this week, sorted into various topic areas.

Links of the Week

7 Appearance Related Comments Trans People Wish You’d Stop Making.

Geocachers find woman trapped in wrecked car at bottom of ravine.

7 Reasons So Many Guys Don’t Understand Sexual Consent.

This week in white privilege

“While land rights and anti-Washington activists greeted the jury’s decision as a long-overdue victory for American liberty, others called it a terrifying invitation for armed protesters to occupy federal land and buildings with impunity, potentially putting federal workers at risk.”.

Suspect in ‘ambush-style’ killings of two Iowa police officers taken into custody.

This week in the deplorables

DOJ To Send Elections Monitors To Four Counties In North Carolina.

This week in awful news

Sexual violence is one of the most horrific weapons of war, an instrument of terror used against women. Yet huge numbers of men are also victims. In this harrowing report, Will Storr travels to Uganda to meet traumatised survivors, and reveals how male rape is endemic in many of the world’s conflicts.

This week in awful people

Twitter Suspends Account Posting Voter Misinformation Aimed At Minorities. But only after being shamed in the media about not suspending the account earlier…

News for queers and our allies:

Diana Davies Recorded Early Gay Lib. Here Are Some Of Her Incredible Photos.

The great gay subversion of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”.

These TV Shows Are Finally Giving Queer Women Happy Endings.

Science!

Australians, Pacific Islanders carry DNA of unknown human species, research analysis suggests.

Meet the Seattle scientist who composes horror film music.

Men Pull Out Of Male Birth Control Trial After Experiencing Side Effects Women Have Been Told for Decades Were Just In Their Heads.

Study blames ‘exceptional warmth’ for low snowpack levels.

Scientific Proof That Support For Trump Is Driven By Anger At Women.

DNA clues to how chipmunk earned its stripes.

[Most Articles About] Supermoons Are Super Dumb.

“Parking-garage” structures in nuclear astrophysics and cellular biophysics.

Abandoned in space in 1967, a US satellite has started transmitting again.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

Jillian Holtzmann: queer as a salty parabola, she’s not here for straight people.

Fear of a Feminist Future: The alt-right hopes to be saved by the apocalypse.

We Have Always Been Here, Motherfucker.

Groot’s best friend.

This week in Writing

Maybe You Like Comma Splices, Maybe You Don’t: Jane Austen and Lewis Carroll used comma splices, but your English teacher might have a problem with them.

The POC Guide to Writing Dialect In Fiction.

HOW ROUGH A ROUGH DRAFT REALLY IS.

The connection between writing and dancing: What Beyonce Taught Me.

This Week in History

Which Political Party Has Created More Jobs?

This Week in Tech

No, Facebook, ‘Diversity’ Doesn’t Explain Your Support of Thiel.

Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race. And in at least some cases this is an actual violation of federal law.

I am in a test for Twitter’s new @ reply design and it is a mess. When users are confused, it is not because users are dumb, it’s because the design is bad. Unfortunately, the sort of designers/engineers who assume it is because the users are dumb always make the design even worse when trying to fix it.

How Apple could have avoided much of the controversy. “A lot of it boils down to this concept: We demand Apple innovate, but we insist they don’t change anything.” … “If you think about it, perhaps the biggest change from my older, 2013 laptop is that it’s gone from having seven (yes, that many) ports, each with a specific purpose to having four points, each customizable by a cable to dongle to solve the problem you have… My laptop has a power port, an SD card port, 3 Thunderbolt ports and two USB ports. I know that in the four years I’ve owned it, I’ve never used the SD card, I use the Power port, one Thunderbolt port, and occasionally plug a USB cable in. So half the ports in this thing are never used — and yet I paid for them because they were built into the computer.”

No SD Card slot? It’s the camera companies you should be upset with, not Apple.

How black people built social media.

This week in Health

How the Fight to Legalize Cannabis Balms and Lotions Gave People with Chronic Pain More Options.

Feeling Happy for Others Can Make You Happy.

This Week in Inclusion

Why Queer Retellings of Classic Stories Are So Necessary.

Once Taboo, Gay Characters Are Taking Over YA Fiction. Not exactly…

TV Is Better for L.G.B.T.Q. Characters than Ever—Unless You’re a Lesbian.

This week in Difficult to Classify

Who is buying these $66 collard greens from Neiman Marcus?

Culture war news:

fundamentalism, satan, and the end of a loyal opposition.

School won’t host haunted house depicting Pulse shooting.

‘Token’ civil rights leader attacks Obama’s racial heritage for supporting lgbt community.

‘Ex-Gay’ Speakers Warn That Satan Tries To Drag People Back Into Homosexuality.

Mom wants ‘graphic’ book pulled from high school library.

Christian Dominionism’s Fruitful Distortion of American History.

Anti-LGBT Activist Steve Hotze: Gays Are Eating Away America’s Moral Fabric Like Termites.

The headline should be, “White Supremacist Militia Plots Domestic Terrorism as Election Nears” U.S. militia girds for trouble as presidential election nears.

Justice Department to North Carolina: Stop Illegally Purging Black Voters From the Rolls.

This Week in Fighting Back in the Culture War:

Universities work to purge male students of their ‘toxic’ masculinity.

This Week in Hate Crimes

University of Wisconsin-Stout Student From Saudi Arabia Killed.

This Week Regarding the Lying Liar:

The Ku Klux Klan makes it official, endorses Donald Trump saying ‘Make America Great Again’.

370 Economists Debunk Trump’s Right-Wing Media Myths On The Economy.

Fran Leibowitz on Donald Trump –”He’s a Poor Person’s Idea of a Rich Person”. Watch.

Best reason not to vote for Trump: Franklin Graham: Vote Trump Or Else Right Wing Christians Will Lose Control Of America.

This week in Puff Pieces about the Election:

Staving Off the Apocalypse in Cleveland: I Canvassed in Ohio with Gary Shteyngart and We Saw the Real America.

The Only Article You Need To Read About Why Trump Voters Are Angry. “But, except for roughly 7,200 articles on the subject, there has been scant effort made by the mainstream media to understand the kind of voters who say Trump speaks for them.”

This week in Politics:

CNN confirms James Comey violated FBI policy today by trying to sabotage Hillary Clinton.

FBI’s Comey opposed naming Russians, citing election timing: Source.

Republicans Pile On James Comey Over Handling Of Clinton Probe.

Five Reasons Not to Panic About Hillary Clinton Right Now.

Growing evidence of a hidden women’s vote for Clinton.

FBI Agents Are Attempting to Sway a Presidential Election. That’s Horrifying.

The Strange Career of the Voter-Fraud Myth.

GMA Fined $18 Million over Cover Up in GMO Labeling Fight. That’s my state’s attorney general winning the largest campaign finance fine in history, in this case against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for failing to disclose the source of $11million dollars worth of fundraising they did to defeat a food labelling initiative.

This Week in Racism

Why I Left My Dream Job at Second City.

White nationalists plot Election Day show of force: KKK, neo-Nazis and militias plan to monitor urban polling places and suppress the black vote. It’s not a show of force, it is domestic terrorism.

This Week in Hate Crimes

Met Police ‘sorry’ for not investigating homophobia.

This Week in Sexism

The first time a man hurt me, I was 8. My story isn’t unusual.

Frank Cho & Milo Manara Prove They’ve Learned Nothing at “Art and Women” Panel.

Farewells:

Legendary horror host John Zacherle passes away.

John Zacherle, Host With a Ghoulish Perspective, Dies at 98.

Don Marshall, Actor on ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Land of the Giants,’ Dies at 80.

Star Trek’s Don Marshall Dies at 80, But His Lt. Boma Profoundly Changed Spock.

Things I wrote:

No one else can tell the stories I have to tell.

False equivalency and taking a page from J. Edgar Hoover.

I’d rather be talking about Tricks and Treats!

It’s NaNoWriMo time again!

There wolf! There castle! why sf/f doesn’t have to be serious.

Videos!

Feelin’ Alt-Right (Act 1, Part 1) | Full Frontal with Samantha Bee:

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Feelin’ Alt-Right (Act 1, Part 2) | Full Frontal with Samantha Bee :

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Halloween Treat: Obama Sings ‘Purple Rain’; Halloween 2016 at the White House:

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Beyoncé performance at CMA Awards 50th ft. Dixie Chicks | Daddy Lessons Full Video:

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WONDER WOMAN – Official Trailer [HD] (this is the first DC movie that looked interesting in a long time):

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