About a month ago a political scandal reared its head in Seattle. An anonymous man filed a lawsuit against Mayor Ed Murray—our fist openly gay mayor, a man who served many years in the state legislature as an openly gay man—alleging that decades ago when the plaintiff was 15 years old, Murray had paid him for sex. Because of the age of the plaintiff at time, if the allegations are true, it would have been consider sexual assault, child rape, et cetera because the younger man was below the age of consent.
It was difficult to know how to respond to the allegations. The lawsuit was filed just six weeks before the filing deadline to run for mayor. The law firm representing the plaintiff is headed by a notorious anti-gay activitist. False accusations of sexual predation on underaged boys are lodged against gay men all the time. The lawyer handling the case has since behaved as if this is a crazy PR stunt rather than a case. For example, going online on local news sites to make long and very unlawyerly comments on stories about the case, or filing “motions” with the court that have nothing to do with the case but contain long press release-style recounting a of rumors about odd things that have happened around the mayor.
Three more accusers have stepped forward, two of whom had tried to make similar allegations some years ago, but were unable to convince police in Portland, Oregon in 1984 to file charges, and more recently even the local Republican-leaning paper felt there wasn’t enough evidence to print their story of being abused in a group home where Murray worked in the 80s. The paper rushed to publish the 9-year-old interviews as soon of the law suit was filed.
To be clear, among the reasons I leaned toward thinking the allegations are probably false is that in 1984 police in Portland, Oregon were not exactly known for being pro-gay, neither was the Multnomah County Prosecutor. At the time, Murray was an openly gay man with a degree in Sociology working with troubled youth. Not exactly the sort of person you would expect the police or prosecutors to go easy on in regards to charges of child rape. That led me to think that in the 1984 investigation it wasn’t merely a lack of corroborating evidence, but that there was actually evidence refuting the charges.
On the other hand, my own experience of surviving physical and emotional abuse from a parent, and how people didn’t believe me (even people who witnessed some of the abuse), as well as the many accounts of survivors of various kinds of abuse whose allegations are dismissed out of hand, the stastistics about rape victims being disbelieved, and so forth, made me reluctant to leap to the conclusion that the allegations were false.
But then there was the way Murray chose to defend himself. Rather than simply deny the allegations and say that he was looking forward to his day in court (the statute of limitations for criminal charges is long past, so it’s a civil lawsuit), Murray and his lawyer initially attacked the two non-anonymous accusers for their criminal records and drug histories. He suggested that the lawsuit was being filed for political purposes, and questioned why the plaintif was suing anonymously and waited so long to file.
Attacking the credibility of accusors is a classic abuser tactic. It doesn’t prove that Murray did it, but if he was able to dispel the scandal this way, it would have a chilling effect on abuse survivors who have less-than-perfect pasts.
The original plaintif then revealed his identity and explained that he had remained quiet all of these years because he didn’t want is father to know that he had worked as a prostitute during his teen years. His father having recently passed away, the plaintiff felt free to come forward now.
Certainly the attorney’s odd behavior (which has actually provoked sanctions from the judge) makes one wonder what his motives are for taking this case on contingency. Murray isn’t fabulously wealthy, so I’m not sure any judgement earned is going to justify the months of work the lawyer will undertake between now and the trial date (scheduled for next year). Since the initial filing of the case came off as a mini media circus, he clearly wasn’t hoping for a quick settlement to make the scandal go away. But no matter how impure the lawyer’s motives may be, it doesn’t mean the underlying allegations are false.
The four men in question have far from spotless records. But the other thing they have in common is that all four were, as teens, in very bad situations. It isn’t unexpected that coming from such a background they would find themselves turned to crime and drugs just to get by. And it is very difficult to break out of such a cycle once it is started. Vulnerable people, particular vulnerable teens, are exactly the sorts of victims certain types of abusers seek out, precisely because “respectable” people are disinclined to believe them.
On yet another hand, Murray is notoriously thin-skinned. He’s infamous for shouting at people who disagree with him, not to mention shouting at his own staff members when things don’t go his way. That means he’s exactly the sort of person who, if he is innocent of the charges, would react by attacking his accusers. But routinely shouting at people who work for you is also indicative or a particular kind of abusive person…
Fortunately, enough prominent people were willing to make public statements about how the Mayor’s defense tactics cast a chilling effect on abuse victims and rape victims and so forth. The calls for him to at least drop his re-election campaign all focused on that, leaving the truth of faleshood of the allegations for a jury. So, yesterday he announced that he won’t seek re-election, though he plans to serve out his term.
If the allegations are false, it is sad that a man who has devoted so much of his life to furthering the cause of civil rights for queer people has had his career ended by them. If the allegations are true, it’s sad that his victims weren’t believed and that they felt unable to come forward publicly sooner. And it’s going to be infuriating when (not if) the usual anti-gay a-holes use this as an example that queer people are evil.
I hope the charges aren’t true, but if they are, I hope that a jury figures that out and that at least some form of justice is served. Because everyone, no matter their class, status, or past, deserves justice.
Keep that in mind as you read these news stories:
Gee, what has all of these men so angry at gay men, lesbians, and women?
Also, remember that it isn’t just one study from this year. Here are a few more: Homophobic Men Most Aroused by Gay Male Porn for 2011, and Study Reveals Homophobic Men Are, In Fact, More Likely To Be Gay from 2014, and Scientific American: Scientific American: Homophobes Might Be Hidden Homosexuals – A new analysis of implicit bias and explicit sexual orientation statements may help to explain the underpinnings of anti-gay bullying and hate crimes from 2012, and Homophobia correlated with Homosexual Arousal from 2010, and let’s not forget from 1996 Is Homophobia Associated with Sexual Arousal? (spoiler: yes), and… and…
Draw your own conclusions.
One last thing, the new study that I cited at the beginning? It also showed that test subjects who showed, on a pre-study survey, a higher degree of Precarious Manhood Beliefs, and then were exposed to information that affirmed that a man being able to see things from a women’s perspective and a woman being able to see things from a man’s perspective were both good things? They were less likely to verbally bash women or queers. Which seems to back up the notion that all this misogyny and homophobia within the culture is causing harm. Gee, who’d a thunk?
Fischer is described over on Rational Wiki as someone who “makes even the most cuckoo-bananas conservative talk radio pundits seem sane and reasonable in comparison.” He’s always going on about gay people (and how gays and nazis are the same thing) and gay sex (and how hyper masculine aggressive gay sex is destroying everything). Besides making him sound like a kook, it also proves that he thinks about gay sex a whole lot more than most gay people do. Hmmmm, where have we seen that phenomenon before?There are so many things wrong with this assertion that it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, he quotes from the end of the story of Noah in the old testament to justify his claim that queers have stolen god’s invention. I’m going to quote a bit of that: “13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” That’s god talking to Noah, and please note what god himself says: the rainbow is a sign of a covenant between god and the entire planet. A moment later he emphasizes that it is a sign of a covenant between him and all living creatures of every kind. Gay people are part of the planet. Gay people are a kind of living creature.
So, if you believe (as Fischer frequently claims to) that the bible is the inerrant word of god and literally true in every word, well, that means that queers have just as much a claim on the rainbow as any inhabitant of the earth or god himself. I’m just quoting god from Fischer’s holy book, here!
Lots of people had fun with Fischer’s tweet. Part of what cracked me up about it is that this is one of the sections of the Bible that got me in trouble when I was a kid, because I kept having questions that my Sunday School teachers and other church leaders couldn’t answer. Such as, how did all of the land species that live only in Australia get to Noah’s boat? Seriously, did a bunch of kangaroos and koalas and so forth build a mini ark and cross the ocean to get to the Arabian Pennisula? And if they did have a way to survive crosses the Pacific and Indian Oceans, why did they need to get on Noah’s ark to begin with? How did they get to Noah’s ark? And how big was this ark, really, because just assembling every species of, say, feline is going to require a very big boat. And then how are you going to keep all those big cats away from the pairs of the 20+ species of deer?
But let’s get back to the rainbow. The sorts of Christians who insist that every word in the Bible is literally true absolutely despise the notion of evolution. And one of their favorite arguments against evolution back when I was a kid, was to look at the complexity of the eyeball: you have the lens and receptors and tiny muscles to adjust the lens in order to change focus and so on and so on, and just a beautiful perfect organ for focusing and interpreting light could not possible have evolved by chance! Seriously, they think that’s an argument the undoes all of science. Anyway, when making this argument they get very insistent that god design the eyeballs of humans (and every other species on the planet that sees the way we do) and they have all had them since god created the world in a famous six-day run, right? Here’s the problem: the very same laws of physics that allow that lens in the front of those perfectly designed eyeballs to focus images on the retina? They are also what make rainbows appear when there is sunlight shining through an atmosphere littered with tiny water droplets. If god didn’t tweak the laws of physics to allow rainbows to appear in the clouds until after Noah’s flood, then none of the characters in the Bible who lived before Noah could have had the power of sight. They would have all had these perfect organs for seeing in their heads that didn’t work at all.
And they had to be able to see because sight is mentioned in several of the Bible stories before Noah. Also, god is supposed to have created humans in his image and we still are supposed to be in his image (Jesus affirmed that in the same story in which he endorsed paying your taxes), so that means we’ve always had these eyeballs, which were apparently useless appendages until after Noah’s flood.
And I’ve completely skipped over the parts of this story in which god admits he’s very forgetful and prone to rash, unwise decisions. He says he put the rainbow in the sky to remind him from time to time that he’s promised never again to destroy the world with a flood. So god needs to leave himself post-its, “Don’t commit mass genocide.” And the whole flood story begins with god realizing that he should have never created humans to begin with, because all of them are dirty rotten scoundrels. Then god reconsiders and decides that maybe Noah, his sons, and his daughters-in-law might be worth keeping around. But only them! Everyone else has got to go! And how does this supposedly all-powerful, all-knowing, wise and loving god decides to get rid of the scoundrels? Does he unleash a plague that would only infect humans, so that all of them die off and leave the planet to the birds and animals and plants? No, he takes out the dirty rotten people by wiping out every living thing on the surface of the earth. Wipe out billions of innocent mice and puppies and so forth to get rid of a few thousand or maybe millions of humans. That sounds like a plan that a smart omnipotent being would cook up, right?
When I brought up these inconsistencies as a kid, the adults would usually try to handwave about god’s plan, and us poor mortals not understanding. As I entered my teens and got better about pointing out the problems with that, they would talk about symbolism and poetic language. Which of course completely contradicts the notion that ever word is literally true. Then I would usually be admonished for being obstinate and willfully difficult and wasting time on trivial technical questions.
But complaining about who gets to use the rainbow as a symbol of hope isn’t wasting time being obstinate over trivial things?
Queers aren’t the first people to latch onto the rainbow as a symbol of diversity, freedom, resistance to oppression, and so on. There are several reasons for this. Just because the International Cooperative Movement (since 1921), or the Peace Movement (since 1961), or the Rainbow Coalition (since the mid-sixties), or the LGBT community (since 1978) and so on use the rainbow as symbols doesn’t do anything to the rainbows that appear in the sky after a storm. Those rainbows that god talked about in the book of Genesis are still there. We haven’t taken them away. According to Fischer’s religion’s own holy book, the rainbow is given as a symbol to every living creature on the earth. It even literally says “every kind” of creature. If you think you have the right to tell any of us that the rainbow isn’t ours, well, then you just don’t understand the real meaning of rainbows or love or dreams…
Muppet Movie – The Rainbow Connection:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
It’s kind of pathetic.
I keep half expecting Schock to eventually come out and try to claim that the pressure of the closet unbalanced his mental health and all of his wrongdoing was the result. Or maybe just to claim that the FBI’s investigation into his financial wrongdoings was all some sort of homophobic plot. Which, given that Schock on at least one occasion gave a speech in the House of Representatives chambers in which he insisted that it should be legal for employers to fire people just because they think they might be gay, landlords to evict or refuse to rent to people they suspect are gay, and so on.
Once he’s convicted I hope he gets a long sentence.
He’s not the only homophobe formerly employed by the government in the news this week: Former Michigan Asst AG Andrew Shirvell Loses Law License for Anti-Gay Attack on UM Student Chris Armstrong. Shirvell’s story is weird. Back in 2010 Chris Armstrong, was elected student body president at the University of Michigan. Armstrong was the first openly-gay person elected to that office. Shirvell, meanwhile, worked as an assistant attorney general in Michigan. The minute Shirvell saw a news story about Armstrong’s election, he logged onto Facebook and created a page called Chris Armstrong Watch and posted a bunch of barely coherent anti-gay rants. Facebook suspended the page as a violation of community guidelines, so Shirvell created is one blog (which for a long time had as a banner a picture of Armstrong with an image of a gay pride flag with a swastika superimposed on it and the word RESIGN scrawled across Armstrong’s face).
But it wasn’t just hundred s of anti-gay blog posts. Shirvell spent nearly every night parked in his car across the street from a house where Armstrong and several other students lived, taking pictures of everyone who came in and out of the house. He posted the pictures (and when he could the names) of each one, writing about what sorts of lewd sexual depravities he assumed had to be going on inside the house. On one occasion when Armstrong and his housemates hat a party, Shirvell drove around the block for hours, taking pictures and trying to get proof that they were serving underaged people alcohol. We know he drove around the block for hours because a) he blogged about it extensively, b) he called the police at 1:30 and tried to get the partiers arrested for disturbing the peace and in his official statement to the police told them he had been driving around the block for hours, and c) several of the neighbors had called in the suspicious car circling the neighborhood. And just to be clear, Shirvell didn’t live nearby!When Armstrong attended various gay student alliance events and similar public activities, Shirvell was there with homophobic banners. When Armstrong got a summer intership with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Shirvell called Pelosi’s office and ranted at staffers about why Armstrong should be fired. Most of this during Armstrong’s senior year at college. Shirvell was eventually fired from his job as an assistant Attorney General not for the hate speech and protesting, but because he had done some of the harassment when he was supposed to be working, used his state-owned work computer for some of it, conducted some of the harassment in a way that implied he was acting as a state official, and then lied about it to internal investigators. He tried to sue the state because he claimed all of the activity was protected under the first amendment (the judge found that the reason for firing was for specific conduct and not for stating his anti-gay opinions).
Armstrong eventually sued Shirvell for harassment, stalking, and related things asking for legal fees and $25,000 in damages. The jury awarded $4.5million in damages. On Shirvell’s appeal, that judgement was reduced to $3.5million, but otherwise all findings of the jury were upheld by the appeals court. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Shirvell’s appeals. It’s unlikely that Armstrong will ever get the money, but the principle at least has been upheld that a government employee can’t harass a queer kid (Armstrong was 21 years old for most of this, but he was a college student, for goodness sake!).
No one has ever been able to get a reasonable explanation from Shirvell for why Armstrong of all people became the target of his fierce and vitriolic obsession. Even under oath on trial (where acting as his own lawyer, he questioned himself for two hours, and then under cross-examination was forced to admit everything he had just testified about Armstrong and the situation was a lie)! Sure, Shirvell was a University of Michigan alumnus (he graduated 8 years before Armstrong became student body president), so you can argue that his initial interest was simply because he followed news about his former school, but the obsessive behavior against someone he otherwise didn’t know was really over-the-top.
The reason he can’t explain himself is that that there isn’t a rational explanation. There is, sadly, a very understandable irrational one. Shirvell is a 36-year-old man who has never been married and never been known to date a woman. In video appearances he doesn’t merely ping a lot of people’s gaydar, it’s like a mega-super-gay four-alarm alert. Shirvell is a self-loathing closet case. And I’m hardly the first person to realize this.
Shirvell had been involved in a few public anti-gay activities before the Armstrong case (my favorite was the campaign to get a local pizza parlor to stop putting a rainbow flag in its window during Pride Month), and his rants then were a bit crazy. He appears to have been raised in a conservative Catholic family (he attended private Catholic schools for his primary grades and high school, and got his jurisdoctorate at a Catholic law school—in fact the University of Michigan is the only public school he ever attended). In interviews Shirvell comes across as not just mildly effeminate, but very prissy. I have no doubt that he was bullied throughout his childhood. So Shirvell’s spent his entire life desperately trying to prove to people that he’s straight. He hid himself and denied his feelings and subjected himself to the torture of the closet his entire life. He’s likely never had even a clandestine romantic relationship!
…And then he sees that news story about an openly gay student being elected student president at his alma mater. He sees the smiling pictures of a young man who isn’t hiding those feelings, isn’t suffering alone in the closet, isn’t loathing himself. Shirvell sees that this good-looking, happy-looking young queer man isn’t merely being tolerated by his family and fellow students, but he’s well-liked and even celebrated! No wonder Shirvell over-reacted. Shirvell has been a powder keg of self-hatred and insanity just waiting to explode. So far he’s destroyed his own reputation, gotten himself saddled with an impossible financial obligation, and now even lost his law license because his actions weren’t just creepy and crazy, they constituted legal misconduct.Some would argue we should feel sorry for Andrew Shirvell. But honestly, the number of times during the trial that Armstrong said if Shirvell would just apologize he would drop the case represent only a fraction of the opportunities that Shirvell had to get off this particular crazy train. At this point he has no one to blame but himself.
But I really love this local news site’s take: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal on Trumpcare Fail: “It Was Such a Sweet Moment To See”.
President Trump today blamed Democrats for
bungling internal party negotiations on a piece of legislation that they’ve been campaigning on for over seven yearsthe bill’s demise, to which Jayapal replied, “Hahahahahahah.”
They have a majority of both houses. They don’t need a single Democratic vote to pass anything. And we didn’t even get to the Senate and any attempt to filibuster, so there isn’t any way to put this on Democrats. Except that they will, and a certain number of their voters will believe it. Of course, they had a majority in both houses for most of Obama’s presidency, and they never managed to repeal Obamacare then, either. The ugly truth that they were keeping from themselves is that they only reason any of the votes to repeal passed in the house was because several factions within the Republican ranks knew it was a meaningless vote. Complete repeal wouldn’t pass in the Senate, and President Obama was ready to veto it if they did.Even pro-Republican news sites were reporting earlier in the week Only 17% of Americans support ‘Trumpcare’, yet just hours before the rescheduled vote, folks like Newt Gingrich were tweeting and bragging about how Obamacare was going down. I mention Newt because just 7 hours later, Newt had changed his tune to “Why would you even schedule a vote?”
One reason it failed is that, yes, thousands of constituents called their Republican congresspeople and urged them to vote no. But don’t forget that another reason it failed was because there exists a group in Congress who want the replacement to hurt even more poor people: TrumpCare Postponed: Too Horrible for Moderate Republicans, Not Horrible Enough for Freedom Caucus. Even when Donald tried to negotiate directly with this small group, they couldn’t get them. And each concession Donald and the Speaker of the House offered the Freedom Caucus drove more of the moderate Republicans into the no camp. Obamacare is seen favorably by 57% of voters, making it far more popular than the replacement, our so-called president, or congress itself. And the provisions that the Freedom Caucus want to remove enjoy a walloping 90% approval from voters (as mentioned in that article), which makes if really hard for me to see how, even if they got this thing through the House, how it would have passed in the Senate.
But that doesn’t mean we should relax!
One of the stories in my weekly round up of the news this week was: Here’s What Happened At The Parents Of Trans Kids Mardi Gras Float. Which is actually a quite heartwarming stories about the parents of a bunch of trans people who put together a float about how much they love their trans kids and rode Sydney, Australia’s Mardi Gras parade. I originally planned to include that link in the section titles “News for Queers and our Allies,” but I also sometimes have a separate sections for news pertinent to particular portions of the Queer Community. And this week there were a lot of links related to trans people. So I kept moving those links around.
Unfortunately, several of the news pieces this time were about trans people were about less than happy things. Anyway, somehow in the course of moving all the trans pieces together, then moving some of them to another section, then moving others to yet another section, I accidentally moved the happy story about parents who love and support their trans kids to the “This Week in Awful People” section and didn’t notice until today!
So if you haven’t yet, go click on that link and look at the cool pictures and read some good news!
Since we’re on the subject of people being supportive of trans rights: Joe Biden Slams Trump Administration for Rescinding Protections for Trans Kids. Go, Joe! Now there’s a man who knows how to be an ally!
“Instead of focusing on the fact that 40 percent of the homeless youth on the street are identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [and] rejected by their families out on the street, and what do we do about that, we’re now focusing on whether or not a transgender child, which bathroom they can use.” —form Vice President Joe Biden
And if Joe isn’t enough to convince you to support trans kids: Dear Cis People, Please Support Trans Kids
“In their most vulnerable and difficult stage of life, trans kids are not just facing opposition from their peers, but from the government, from society itself.”
Being supportive of your kid shouldn’t depend on whether your kid conforms to your pre-conceptions of the person or kind of person they should be. Antonia Elle D’orsay posted a great cartoon about this earlier in the month:
If you can, give a donation to: National Center for Transgender Equality. And if you want to help queer kids who have been rejected by their families and kicked out on the street : True Colors Fund or The Ali Forney Center are good places to start. Many communities have local programs focusing on teen homelessness and particularly queer teen homelessness, a quick Google search with the name of your city or town, and the words “queer teen homeless” should point you in the right way.
I gather lots of memes, info graphics, and succinct comments that I think might make a good companion to a blog post someday. A lot of them are potential illustrations for the next Friday Links. And then I don’t use them all. So I thought I could make a post with a bunch of the recent ones.
About tolerance and intolerance
About the lying liar and his masters
Who’s going to get hurt by Trumpcare
About economic inequality
What we need to do
Nicolosi is just one of many who have profited over the years with the torture and bullying of gay people, often driving them to suicide. He was most recently in the news in 2012 when he tried to sue the state of California to overturn their ban on so-called gay conversion therapy for children and teens. A lawsuit which he lost, thank goodness! And just because another old, hateful bigot has died I know it doesn’t mean that this particular type of oppression is going to end. I can just hope that this death will get is a little closer to that ending, all right?
And in case you don’t know why this practice needs to be banned everywhere, remember that the ex-gay therapists and programs prey on vulnerable youth, making money off their pain, suffering, and sometimes suicides. They use bad therapy including pornography, lies and scare tactics, and discredited medical practices.kick their gay children out on the street, leading to more pain, suffering and death. And he profited from that pain and suffering. The organization he founded still profits from it. So, damn right I’m going to speak ill of the dead.
And the usual arguments why one shouldn’t speak ill (he’s not here to defend himself, think of his grieving family, et cetera) should all be overruled by the fact that there are thousands of dead queer kids who not only aren’t here, either, but had no one to defend them from Nicolosi and his fellow bigots. Their memory and their grieving families deserve the truth. And the truth is, the world is a slightly better place now that Nicolosi isn’t part of it.
And let’s not forget that Vice President Pence is a big advocate for so-called gay conversion therapy for children. So the fight goes on!
In completely unrelated news, The DOJ Just Called for the Firing of 46 Obama-Appointed U.S. State’s Attorneys, Including Preet Bharara. This was very abrupt, and included at least one such prosecutor who was specfically asked to stay on recently by both Donald and Sessions. A mass firing is unusual in itself, and the initial reports of this made it clear it was very disorganized. At least one of the prosecutors admitting that he learned of his firing from the news—not even from a reporter calling for a comment. Also, the Justice Department doesn’t have any replacement prosecutors ready to nominate.
Which leads one to ask what the rush is. And a few people have spoken up: Feinstein: Trump’s firing of US attorneys hurts independence, and Trump “fires” 46 U.S. attorneys: standard practice or outrage? Yesterday’s round up of links included Trump Knows the Feds Are Closing In on Him – The president’s recent tweets aren’t just conspiratorial gibberish – they’re the erratic ravings of a guilty conscience. And that’s not all: Ukrainian attorney calls for probe into text message claims that Paul Manafort ‘knowingly’ had people killed or Connecting Trump’s Dots to Russia or Donald Trump panics over Russia: Jeff Sessions, Priebus, Bannon all huddled at Mar-a-Lago. Hence the weird claims about illegal wiretapping under Obama that went so far that a Fox News correspondent even called them false!
It’s becoming clear that there is more than enough evidence to indict a lot of Donald’s inner circle over various criminal charges, many of which border on treason. And if such an investigation got enough core Republican voters up in arms, Congress might actually do their job and start investigation the president himself. Getting rid of a lot of experienced federal prosecutors who are, by law, supposed to operate somewhat independently is one way to decrease the chances such a thing will come to pass.
It’s also yet another tin-pot dictator move, which this administration keeps doing again and again.