Tag Archive | lgbt

“You’re not going to believe someone like that, are you?”

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.

Weekend Update 4/29/2017: Show me what a man hates and I’ll tell you what he is

“So many homophobes turn out to be secretly gay that I'm nervous I'm secretly a giant spider.”—Jeremy Kaplowitz

“So many homophobes turn out to be secretly gay that I’m nervous I’m secretly a giant spider.”—Jeremy Kaplowitz

We are deep in the shack nasties as we’re trying to get moved, but a couple of things popped up in the news since I posted this week’s Friday Links that I just have to comment. First up, Study confirms some men use anti-gay and sexist & homophobic jokes to shore up their masculinity. Many of us have observed this anecdotally, but it’s nice to have some new science on it. “The study, from researchers at Western Carolina University, assessed how heterosexual men responded to various forms of humor when they felt their masculinity was being questioned. The men who placed more value on how they conform to expectations of masculinity were more likely to embrace humor that denigrated women and gay men if they felt they had to prove that their masculinity was in check.” Note that the study specifically looked at how the men responded to jokes and then what sorts of comments they might make while discussing humor in general. So the context was reading, writing, and discussing humor. The study is therefore revealing a single manifestation of a deeper phenomenon—the more insecure a man is in is own masculinity, the more likely he is to denigrate women and queers. Note also that the study shows the other side of the effect: a guy who feels secure in his masculinity was less likely to bash women and queers.

Keep that in mind as you read these news stories:

Tennessee Passes ‘Natural and Ordinary Meaning’ Bill Which Will Strip Rights From Same-Sex Couples, Women

Rep. Randy Weber Tearfully Begs God To Forgive America For The Sins Of Legal Abortion And Marriage Equality

Fox Contributor: Gay Men In Bars Should Expect To Be Assaulted And Women Shouldn’t Breastfeed In Church

The Alabama Legislature Voted To Let Adoption Agencies Turn Away LGBT Parents

Kentucky Judge Refuses to Hear Any Case Involving a ‘Practicing Homosexual’ Wanting to Adopt a Child

Chechnya’s President Vows To Eliminate Gays By The Start Of Ramadan

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?

The incredibly true confessions of a totally queer sci fi geek

“Half naked... staring at phallic spaceships... totally straight, right?” © Syd Barrett (Click to embiggen)

“Half naked… staring at phallic spaceships… totally straight, right?” © Syd Barrett (Click to embiggen)

The Hugo Award Finalists were announced yesterday. This is the first year with two rules changes that were enacted to try to prevent certain angry reactionary (misogynist racist homophobic) parties from slate-nominating a bunch of horrible stuff onto the ballot. The pups took over entire categories of the ballot two years ago (but we No Awarded all of those categories), and slightly less-destructively last year. The good news! They only got one nominee in on a few categories (plus two nominees in one), and even then, several of their slate pics were works that almost certainly would have gotten on the ballot without their help. I don’t want to re-hash the two puppy camps, their arguments and so forth here, because plenty of pixels have been spilled on that already. For this queer old fan, a big reason science fiction and fantasy holds a big place in my heart because its promise of better worlds and a better future was how I survived the bullying, bashing, hatred, and rejection of my childhood. That there are people who so despise people like me being included in works of sf/f that they’ll organize a bloc-voting scheme is more than a little infuriating.

But there are a few things to talk about on this year’s finalist ballot and the new rules. Mike Glyer at File 770 does some number sifting in an attempt at Measuring the Rabid Puppies Effect on the 2017 Hugo Ballot. David Gerrold, science fiction author (including perhaps most famously the Star Trek Original Series script, “The Trouble with Tribbles”) and 2015 World Con Guest of Honor sums up a lot of my throughs in a post of Facebook, part of which I excerpt here:

“My seat-of-the-pants analysis (I could be wrong) is that the Hugos are in the process of recovering from the 2015 assault, precisely because the Worldcon attendees and supporters see themselves as a community.

There’s a thought buried in that above paragraph — that communities unite to protect themselves when they perceive they are under attack. This works well when the attack is real, such as Pearl Harbor. But it can also have negative effects when hate-mongers such as Bryan Fischer and Pat Robertson (both of whom were in fine form this week) invent a scapegoat (LGBT people) for unwarranted attacks in an attempt to unite the community around their own agendas.

So while those who have a long history of participation in Worldcons will see this unity as a good thing — those who identify themselves as the aggrieved outsiders will see it as more evidence that the establishment is shutting them out.

Myself, I see it as a collision of two narratives — one that is based on 75 years of mostly healthy traditions, and one that is based on a fascist perception of how the world works.

Most important, however, is that most of this year’s ballot suggests that we are seeing a return to the previous traditions of nominations based on excellence. Most of the nominations are well-deserved, and my congratulations to the finalists.”
—David Gerrold

I would characterize the two narratives as:

  • one thinks that a better tomorrow includes the notion that Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations is a good thing, and
  • the other that thinks the world was a better place when the heroes were alway white men and women only appeared in stories for the two purposes of being rescued by the hero and being his reward for a job well done.

But Gerrold’s wording works well, too.

Anyway, because of the drubbing they received the last two years and the rules change, one of the puppy groups essentially folded up shop. The other, realizing that the rules made it nearly impossible for them to take over entire categories, went with a more limited ticket this year. As mentioned in one of the links above, this resulted in them naming about 7% of the nominees, and a few of their picks are complete piles of steaming meadow muffins. Which means in every category we have four or more excellent choices to evaluate and choose from. Not everyone sees this year’s ballot as good news. One puppy apologist tries to claim that this year’s balloting numbers proves that the Hugos have driven off half the fandom (here’s a Do Not Link to his post if you want to read it). Now this is a person who claims that we’ve been telling Christian and conservative fans that they aren’t welcome. Whereas all that has happened is that more than a token number of people of color and an occassion LGBT person has made it onto the ballot.

Anyway, his reasoning is dubious on a mathematical level. First, he shows that the number of nominating ballots dropped by between 42-46% in some categories, and that sounds dire. Until you remember that the number of nominators surged last year way above the usual number precisely because after news got out about how the puppies had piddled on the ballot in 2015, a bit more than 2300 fans who had not previously been voters bought supporting memberships and voted in 2015. The overwhelming majority of those new voters resoundingly voted No Award in the categories the puppies had taken over. Fewer of those fans returned to nominate in 2016 for variety of reasons, but not all of them, by any means. Again, the majority handed the puppies a resounding rebuke and we passed two rules changes that made the bloc voting scheme less likely to succeed.

Statistical analysis of the nominating and voting in 2015 and 2016 showed that the number of puppy voters was probably no more than about 250 people those two years. That many people nominating in lockstep could take over the entirety of some down ballot categories, but it couldn’t win. The larger of the two puppy groups gave up this year—not posting recommendations, not writing their angry blog posts, and generally not bringing a lot of attention to the cause. Their 250 people could not account for more than a fraction of the 1600 nominator drop that happened this year. Most of those 1600 who didn’t participate are from that group of fans who joined for the explicit purpose of opposing the puppies, and now believe that the rule changes and so forth have taken care of the problem.

Analysis of the partial numbers we have from this year’s nominations indicates that the remaining puppy voters number between 65 and 80 people. That’s a 68% drop-off in their group, a far more significant number, I think.

There have always been fewer nominators than voters. Nominating (filling in five blanks in each category) is harding work than voting (choosing from a small list of finalists in each category). And in order to vote or nominate you must purchased at least a supporting membership to WorldCon. A lot of fans don’t have the extra money laying around to buy a membership to a WorldCon that they aren’t attending. So you have to be pretty devoted to the ideas of sci fi/fantasy and/or feel a certain amount of sentiment toward the Hugo Awards themselves to participate year in and year out. Folks who normally don’t spend those funds on that felt something we loved was under assault, and we shifted our priorities a bit to make a stand.

The puppies whipped up some reactionary anger by referring to certain past winners as being motivated by nothing more than Political Correctness, and spinning a very distorted narrative that some of their favorite authors weren’t winning because of an anti-conservative or anti-christian agenda. And angry desire to give the middle finger to so-called PC elites might motivate people to spend some money and do some copy-and-pasting once or twice, but it’s hard to sustain that anger.

I love science fiction and fantasy. I think of it as a literature of hope and imagination. Even dystopian sf, in my opinion, touches on that hope for a better tomorrow even while it portrays a dire future. I am not the only fan, by any means, who was drawn to the literature because I felt like an outsider who didn’t belong in the present. Sf/f has always attracted outcasts of all sorts, which is why many more fans (not just the people of color, the women, and the queers) felt it was worth defending. I know that at least some of the puppies feel as if they are outcasts, though their argument is difficult to back up with facts. White male authors still make up a disproportionately overwhelming majority of the published works, and usually a majority of the nominees for these sorts of awards. They aren’t in any danger of being excluded. I’ve voted for books and stories in the past written by people I knew I disagreed with politically, because the story was good. It isn’t the political views of the author (and not usually of the story, though some of the examples in 2015 were so heavy handed with hitting the reader over the head with politics and religion that I started to wonder if it wasn’t supposed to be a parody).

I want sf/f to be welcoming, yes. But not so welcoming that people who have literally called for the extermination of writers who include queer characters in stories to feel welcome. Or call an author who happens to be African a savage. I do have my limits.

See, I want the awards to recognize cool stuff written by people who really love telling stories. I like it when the ballot includes stories and authors I’ve not previously heard of. I like it even better when those stories make me want to read more by that person in the future. I don’t want “inclusive” stories or “diverse” stories for the sake of diversity, I want stories that look like the real world, where women and men and trans people and people of color and people of many different religions and people of no religion and people of different abilities are all included. Not to meet a quota, but because that’s how the real world is now! Yeah, as a queer man I’m happy when I see queer characters in a story, but it isn’t enough on its own to make me vote for it.

More adventures in straightsplaining—bless your heart

“Go ahead! Explain to us how you, a straight person, know more about homophobia than we do.”

“Go ahead! Explain to us how you, a straight person, know more about homophobia than we do.”(Click to embiggen.)

In a recent post I commented on the case of Andrew Shirvell, a former Michigan assistant attorney general who lost his job because he mounted a harassment and stalking campaign (using state resources) against an openly gay college student. During the post I commented on how Shirvell pings everyone’s gaydar and talked about the roots of his particularly vicious and obsessive homophobia. And a new commenter decided to explain to me how very homophobic it is for me to characterize Shirvell’s mannerisms and speech patterns as prissy.

Oh, straightsplaining again! Hurrah! Thank you, so much, anonymous straight person, for explaining homophobia to me. How foolish of me to think that my 50+ years of surviving the slings and arrows of homophobia gave me any understanding of it.

Okay, let me clarify a few things:

Fact the First: you are correct, not every gay man is a sissy. Bully for you for being so open-minded!

Fact the Second: there are actual studies that show that, while not all queer men are sissies, at least 75% of boys who exhibit the characteristics causing them to be labeled “sissy” during childhood grow up to come out as queer.

Fact the Third: no matter what their actual sexual orientation, every boy who ever lived in our society who exhibits any of those gender-nonconforming behaviors was bullied because of them.

So, whether you believe that Shirvell is a closet case or not, my assertion that homophobic bullying is part of the root of his insanely over the top obsessively vicious homophobic campaign against that college student is still valid. You’re barely technically correct that we don’t know Shirvell’s orientation for certain (though I’m 99.99999% certain that he is queer of one sort or another). But the sheer level of sissy behavior one sees in any of the video interviews Shirvell gave back when he was defending his campaign tells me that he wasn’t just bullied occasionally as a child, but quite viciously and continuously. And we know from many studies that enduring that kind of bullying is one of the sources of adulthood excessive homophobic attitudes and behavior.

While we’re on the topic of those studies: those studies also show that the more virulent an adult man‘s homophobic attitudes and opinions are, the more likely it is that their body will exhibit involuntary arousal at the sight of scantily clad men. In other others, the more homophobic, the more likely that they are a self-loathing closet case. Add that to the study above, and it’s possible that my 99.99999% assessment is too low.

Fact the Fourth: I was a sissy. My childhood bullies included not just my classmates, but many of the adults in my life: family members, some teachers, and many adults at church. Yes, during my early teen years I was verbally homophobic. In my later teen years the only reason I wasn’t was not because I had become enlightened, but rather because as I had given in to my hormones a number of times, I wasn’t willing to be a hypocrit. But I was still convinced that I was going to go to hell for giving in to those feelings. So I understand Shirvell’s situation.

I do feel sorry for Shirvell the child. I know he had a horrible experience, even though I don’t know all the details. However, he’s an adult, now. He’s been exposed to information about sexual orientation, including the medical studies that it is not a choice (and therefore, since part of the theological definition of sin is being a willful disobedience, that means homosexuality cannot be a sin). He’s had more than enough time to start coming to terms with his childhood trauma and at least make the decision not to be the kind of bully that made his childhood hell. He has very emphatically chosen not to do so. Shirvell the adult deserves not one iota of sympathy. Not one.

Fact the Fifth: Please understand, I’m not stereotyping Andrew Shirvell as a gay man, I’m stereotyping him as a self-hating closet case—and he’s given us so, so much ammunition. It’s not just about the way he prances or speaks, it’s what he says as he’s ranting about the imagined sexual depravities of the targets of his homophobic rants—he simply sounds like he spends an inordinate amount of time imagining queer sex.

And there isn’t a plausible heterosexual explanation for that.


Note: Comments on this entire blog have always been moderated. Specific commenters have been whitelisted, but everyone else’s comments sit in a queue until I approve them. And I don’t see any point in approving comments that are insulting, or obviously coming from sock puppets or—such as the comment alluded to here—indicate the person isn’t interested in listening.

The first openly queer person to run for U.S. public office and win was not who you think

“This is the first time in the history of the United States that someone has run openly as a gay person and been elected to public office.” – Kathy Kozachenko, Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 2, 1974

“This is the first time in the history of the United States that someone has run openly as a gay person and been elected to public office.” – Kathy Kozachenko, Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 2, 1974

On April 2, 1974, forty-three years ago, University of Michigan student and Human Rights Party candidate Kathy Kozachenko was elected to the city council of Ann Arbor, Michigan, making her the first openly gay or lesbian person to run successfully for political office in the United States. Notably, Kozachenko was not the first gay or lesbian person to serve openly in public office; in fact, her predecessors on Ann Arbor’s city council, Nancy Weschler and Jerry DeGrieck, came out during their first and only terms, making them the first openly queer officeholders in the United States. (To be clear: the distinction is that Kozachenko was openly gay as a candidate, whereas Weschler and DeGrieck did not come out until after their elections.)

After serving one term, Kozachenko stepped out of the public eye, though not out of the activist life entirely. After meeting her life partner, Mary Ann Geiger, and having a son, Kozachenko retreated more fully into private life and her place in queer history went virtually ignored for decades.

In “The First Openly Gay Person to Win an Election in America Was Not Harvey Milk,” a 2015 piece for Bloomberg politics, Steve Friess explored the factors that contributed to Kozachenko’s diminished place in the history of gay liberation: geography, misogyny, timing, messaging. When asked why the groundbreaking gay journalist Randy Shilts referred to Harvey Milk as “the first openly gay elected official in the nation,” for example, Kozachenko “figures there was little fuss at the time because it was just liberal, small-city Ann Arbor.”

“I don’t think I was brave,” Kozachenko told Friess, “because I was in a college town where it was cool to be who I was. On the other hand, I stepped up and did what I felt needed to be done at the time. Maybe that’s the whole story, that ordinary people can do something that then other people later can look back on and feel really good that they did this.” #HavePrideInHistory #KathyKozachenko (at Ann Arbor, Michigan)

(Reposted from LGBT HISTORY ARCHIVES IG: @lgbt_history.)

Is it weird for me to think this is a cool coincidence one day after I write about a much more recent openly gay person at the University of Michigan?

Defining my existence as inappropriate; why should that worry me?

“Sick of your heteronormative bullshit.”

“Sick of your heteronormative bullshit.”

Not long before my 16th birthday we moved to southwest Washington and began attending the church where my maternal grandparents were members. My new Sunday School teacher was a middle-school librarian in his day job. This particular church had all Sunday School classes segregated by gender (which was fairly typical for Southern Baptist Churches3) and by age, so it was a bunch of guys ranging in age from about 14-18 years old. One Sunday morning shortly after we joined the church, the teacher was telling an anecdote from his public school job, and he mentioned the novel Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret?. “Some of you may have heard of it,” he said.

Without thinking, I nodded my head and said, “Yeah, it’s a pretty good book.”

The teacher turned on me as if I had just transformed into a rattlesnake and was switching my tail ready to strike4. He had the most appalled look on his face. Then the expression changed to very amused condescension, “Oh, Gene! You would never have read this book! It’s a book for girls, and is completely inappropriate for a boy!”

I shrugged and said, “If you say so…”

He shook his head, chuckling even more condescendingly, and then went back to his story.

But I had read the book, several years earlier. I had gone through a pretty intense Judy Blum phase6, see. It started with the novel, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t which was, among other things, about a boy dealing with puberty and significant changes in his family’s financial situation. I had loved the book so much, that I proceeded to read everything else of hers I could get at the public library (or through inter-library loan) in the small Colorado town we had been living in at the time. Sure, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is a book about (among other things) a girl going through puberty and all that entails. But it’s also a book about one’s relationship with the faith they were raised in, and learning to make adult decisions about what you yourself believe.

The idea of boy’s toys and girl’s toys and boy’s books and girl’s books is pretty messed up when talking about small children, but it seems to me it is much more messed up when talking about teen-agers8. Some people will immediately point out that the teacher may have been so appalled because he thinks of menstruation as a sexual topic9, and good Christian boys who are not yet married10 aren’t supposed to know anything about sex. As if that argument is any less BS than the idea that a boy could never possibly read and enjoy a book that some people think of as a girl’s book.

It’s all heteronormative BS. My church insisted on separating girls from boys in Sunday School classes in part to supposedly thwart sexual improprieties12. But heteronormative BS is not limited to members of fundamentalist evangelical churches.

YouTube's completely BS explanation for why they're restricting videos that just happen to be made my Queer people. (Click to embiggen)

YouTube’s completely BS explanation18 for why they’re restricting videos that just happen to be made my Queer people. (Click to embiggen)

YouTube is hiding some videos touching on various topics related to the LGBT community17. Not sexual videos. Among the videos that have been found to be hidden the Restricted Due to Mature Content label are: trans people showing how to apply make-up, a gay vlogger talking about 8 LGBT African-Americans who ought to be remembered during Black History Month, music videos without sexual content that happen to have been made by queer musicians, some coming out videos, and so forth.

Before anyone tries to lecture me of all people that this doesn’t constitute censorship (which I never said it did), let me explain. YouTube is privately owned, yes. But it offers a service to the public, and therefore must abide by the legal and ethical obligations that comes with offering a public accommodation. They incur those obligations whether or not they charge fees for the service. Among those obligations is one that is sometimes referred to as truth in advertising19: if you represent that your product or service does a thing when it does not, you can face penalties. YouTube claims that it is simply labeling content of a “mature or inappropriate nature” so that other users who choose to surf in restricted mode will not see offensive20 material. They also keep referring to it as a voluntary program.

“8 Black LGBT Americans Who Inspire Me” is not mature content. How to apply foundation, eyeliner, and lipstick is not mature content. “How I Came Out to my Family” is not mature content. Nor are any of those inappropriate.

It is also misleading in the press release to say the program is voluntary. Yes, whether or not a viewer choose to see content that has been labeled “Restricted” is voluntary. Whether a creator’s material is thus labeled is not. Neither are the creators informed that their material has thus been labeled. They have to log into YouTube as a different account and set that account not to view Restricted material and then try to view their own videos to see which ones have been labeled “Restricted.”

So I’m exercising my free speech right to call BS on YouTube. This isn’t a misunderstanding on our part. It is a discriminatory business practice21. It is more of the same old heteronormative BS where anything that admits that queer people exist is treated as if it is pornography, even when they are doing something as innocuous as sharing make-up tips22.


Footnotes:
1. By “we” I mean my mom, my oldest sister, and myself. Dad had remarried and was living in Utah by that time, with where my step-mom was had just given birth to the youngest of my half-siblings2.

2. It is worth pointing out that the precipitating event of my parents’ divorce was the discovery that Dad had been carrying on an affair with the woman who became my step-mom for years.

3. Many years later that particular church decided to allow a mixed gender Sunday School class, but only for the people over 65 years old. And members who happened to be that age but didn’t want to attend Sunday School in a mixed gender setting were allowed to attend the adult men’s or women’s class, instead. When my grandmother told me about it, she actually tittered and made a comment about how radical it was to let men and women discuss the Bible in the same room. My step-grandfather then commented that, “Well, I guess at our age they don’t expect anyone will misbehave.” From which you can correctly infer that one of the things at least some Evangelicals believe is that you can’t put people of the opposite gender in rooms with closed doors without the very real risk that sexual hijinks will ensue.

4. Which may seem like a really strangely specific metaphor, but because one of the churches we had briefly attended during my nomadic childhood had included some members who were into snake handling5, I actually had seen another man in a church have the exact expression as this teacher did when a rattlesnake in a jar that most of us didn’t realize one of the members had snuck into the church, suddenly got very tired of being trapped in said jar.

5. Snake-handling: A practice in certain Pentecostal and Evangelical churches inspired by a literalistic reading of Mark 16:17–18. Handling venomous snakes without being harmed is seen as a sign of one’s faith and possession of the Holy Spirit.

6. To be fair, many years later, when I mentioned something about Judy Blum during a conversation at work, at least one of my co-workers gave me a rather startled look and asked, “You read Judy Blum when you were a teen-ager?” When I said that I had and mentioned a couple of my favorites7, her response was a very emphatic, “Wow!”

7. Deenie, It’s Not the End of the World, and of course Then Again, Maybe I Won’t.

8. Although, attitudes like this teacher’s make it easy to believe the story that gets shared around from time to time of the adult male legislator with a wife and teen-age children who didn’t know that menstrual blood flow was an involuntary biological function.

9. It’s a biological function that occurs in members of one sex, yes. And it is related to the reproductive cycle, yes. But it’s biology. And sometimes a health issue. Fully functioning adult members of a society ought to have at least a passing knowledge about the health issues of their species, regardless of whether they experience it themselves.

10. I should mention that two of the guys sitting in that Sunday School room with me that morning would, in less than two years time, each have a rushed marriage to their respective girlfriends who would each give birth to their first child only a few months afterward9.

11. A situation which studies have shown again and again and again would happen much less frequently if kids are given accurate information about sex, sexuality, reproduction, et cetera.

12. Because sex (and flirting and dancing14) can only happen between people of opposite sexes, right16?

13. There is no thirteenth footnote.

14. An old joke which was much beloved by my college debate coach (though I’ve heard it from others before and since): “Why do Baptists condemn sex other than missionary position15? Because they’re afraid it might lead to dancing!”

15. It’s true, even married people are not supposed to do anything other than very vanilla sex. Which is the inspiration of a similar joke: “Why do Baptists say it’s sinful for a woman to smoke cigarettes? Because they’re afraid it might lead to oral sex!”

16. Which is ridiculous. I know for a fact I wasn’t the only queer boy sitting in that Sunday School classroom that morning. Not that I had any romantic or sexual relationship with the other guys, just that I and two others each came out of the closet years later. One of them I’ve run into a few times since, as he lives in Seattle, now, too. Last I heard, the other was living in San Diego.

17. YouTube faces social media storm over LGBT-blocking ‘restricted mode’

18. You can read a bit more of YouTube’s side here: YouTube apologizes for blocking LGBT videos. Note that the headline is completely false. YouTube’s statement is not an apology for blocking the content. It says the word “apologize” but it’s for our supposed confusion at not realizing that they’re restricting LGBT content for reasons and not because of other reasons. Except we aren’t confused, we understand perfectly.

19. The principle is not limited to advertising. Any communication about the use of the product can be subject to this scrutiny.

20. Oddly enough, a lot of videos spouting off white supremacist, racist, and anti-queer bigotry (often making the kinds of hate speech which YouTube’s user guidelines says are not allowed) are freely available on the service without the Restricted label. So it is reasonable to conclude that the service is applying a definition of “offensive” that tilts cartoonishly far in one particular political direction.

21. Restricting or denying service due to the sexual orientation or gender identity of the people producing it, which is clearly the case in the vast majority of the identified videos.

22. And if you think that it’s universally offensive for people of some genders or some gender identities to wear make-up, then please explain why we keep having to see the horrific spray-on tan of our deplorable president.

Weekend Update 3/19/2017: Support trans kids

Young girl holds say that says, “I'm the SCARY TRANSGENDER person the Media warned you about.”

“I’m the SCARY TRANSGENDER person the Media warned you about.” (Click to embiggen)

Since I spent the majority of Friday and quite a good chunk of Saturday at the hospital while my husband had surgery and then recovered, I didn’t pay as much attention to the news as I often do. Oh, I did wind up spending a lot of time trying to read news online, but I wasn’t really processing it. When I could concentrate, I worked on a short story that I need to send to a ‘zine editor before the end of the month. Turns out I was also distracted enough Thursday night that I made a rather serious error in Friday links.

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.

Orlando Pulse Shooting must be remembered for the anti-queer hate crime that it was

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, Orlando Weekly.

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, Orlando Weekly.

Nine months ago today an angry man walked into Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, and murdered 49 people. According to the FBI and his own family, during the weeks and months leading up to the attack, he had become more noticeably outraged every time he saw gay men in public together. He plotted the crime carefully. He set up fake profiles on gay hook-up apps and used conversations there to find out which night clubs would have the biggest crowd. It was a carefully crafted anti-queer hate crime.

A crime that is still being prosecuted: Orlando Nightclub Shooter’s Widow Is Denied Release On Bail.

I’ve written before about why this particular crime hit so hard for queer people in general, and me in particular. I’ve also written about why it is unacceptable to argue there is nothing that we can do about this kind of crime: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either. I’ve also written about why we shouldn’t ignore the anti-LGBT hate crime aspect of this act of terror, and why the people who do so are perpetuating and enabling the hate that caused it.

And I’m not the only one: Call the Orlando shooting what it was: a homophobic hate crime, not ‘an attack on us all’.

I didn’t let myself write about the shooting on the 7th- or 8th-month’s mind1 date of the shooting because the lingering depression from election night made it too easy for me to leap into slathering rages over things. I had a very difficult time writing a post at the 6-month mark because of it. But there are reasons we shouldn’t forget: Gov. Rick Scott Honored Pulse But Never Mentioned LGBT People – Florida’s governor described the shooting as terrorism and never noted it targeted queer people.

I’ve gotten into the spiral of argument with some people that all hate crimes are crimes intended to cause terror, so it is technically correct to call it a terrorist act. And while that is true, it sidesteps the issue of just who was the crime intended to terrorize? We know that the gunman was targeting queer men. We know that because of all the angry outraged rants his family and colleagues have revealed during questioning. We know because he told his wife that he wanted to kill fags (she knew what he was planning, which is why she’s under arrest). We know because of the conversations he had on hookup apps where he would engage in conversation with gay men and ask which clubs were the hottest—where can he go to find the biggest crowds, the most popular places for gay men to have a good time?

He did not commit this crime to terrorize straight Americans. He was out to kill as many queer men as he could, and to put the fear of death into all queer people not to be out. That’s the point of this crime: to make queer people hide, go back into the closet, stop being out and open and unashamed of who we love. And if you don’t refer to this crime as an anti-queer or anti-gay or anti-LGBT crime, then you are doing exactly what the gunman wanted: you are erasing us from public life and discourse.

And if you get insistent and defensive about failing to mention that it was a anti-queer crime? That tells us, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that on some level, you agree with the gunman.

That’s not me calling you a bigot. That’s you being a bigot.

If you don’t like to think of yourself as a bigot, then you need to do something about that. A really good first step is to admit that being uncomfortable denouncing a crime as an anti-queer/anti-gay/anti-lesbian/anti-LGBT/anti-trans crime is a symptom of some level of prejudice. Which you need to let go of. Start calling this shooting what it was: a hate crime aimed at the LGBT community.

Victims killed in Pulse in Orlando this last weekend.

Victims killed in Pulse in Orlando June 6, 2016. (Click to embiggen) (Facebook/AP/Reuters/Rex)

Yes, 49 people were killed in Orlando that night. 49 queer Americans were gunned down. 49 queer people who just wanted to be out and happy and not have to hide who they were instead were murdered. 49 queer people were murdered by a man who was outraged at the idea of two men kissing in public. Remember them. Don’t erase their identities. Don’t erase their killer’s anti-gay hatred. Don’t ignore the toxic homophobia the pervades American society and fed the gunman’s hatred. Don’t help the killer erase us. Don’t.


Footnotes:

1. “Month’s mind” a practice in some traditions where family and friends gather about a month after someone’s death to celebrate that person’s life2.

2. Yes, I’m pedantic enough that I don’t like using the word “anniversary” to refer to periods of time of less than a year. I know people have been doing it verbally since at least the 1960s, and in writing since the 1980s, and I’m not normally a staunch prescriptionist regarding dictionary definitions, but this one still bugs me a little. Most of the terms that have been proposed to substitute (mensiversary, lunaversay, and uncianniversary) for this monthly commemorations strike me as silly. But knowing that there is an older, if obscure liturgical term, that I can pronounce it easily, I’m going to give it a try.

Weekend Update 3/11/2017: Ex-gay torture, dark clouds, and darker motives

“Some people are like dark clouds, when they disappear, suddenly it's a sunny day.”

“Some people are like dark clouds, when they disappear, suddenly it’s a sunny day.”

I’m sure that someone will tell me (as they have when other infamous bigots have died) that I should not speak ill of the dead. I will point out that the one of the oldest recorded instances of a this admonishment (a Greek text from about 600BC) is more accurately translated as, “Of the dead, nothing spoken unless truthfully.” So in that spirit, let me say that a dark cloud has passed, NARTH Founder and Leader in Ex-Gay Torture Movement Joseph Nicolosi Dead at 70. And that I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment in this headline about this death: Ex-Gay Therapy Should Die With Its Pioneer, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.

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.

The science is clear: so-called reparative therapy fuels self-hatred and depression, increases the risk of suicide, and has no effect on a person’s sexual orientation or desires. None.

Source: thedesmondproject.com/Homelessness-Info.html (Click to embiggen)

Joseph Nicolosi caused a lot of people—a lot of vulnerable children—pain and suffering and actually increased the odds they would commit suicide. His propaganda encouraged parents to 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.

Confessions of a public restroom avoider

“If you don't like trans people using the bathroom, just look away like you do with corruption, war, poverty, environmental destruction, and homelessness.”

“If you don’t like trans people using the bathroom, just look away like you do with corruption, war, poverty, environmental destruction, and homelessness.”

Midway through my second grade year my family moved from Colorado to Nebraska. My dad’s job in the petroleum industry meant that we moved a lot (ten elementary schools in four states). I had a number of unpleasant experiences the first week at the new school. I misunderstood several things. The teachers and other school officials simply didn’t tell me about several rules. And the other kids weren’t exactly welcoming to the new kid. when I say unwelcoming, that’s putting it mildly. The second or third day there, I was cornered in the bathroom by several boys only some of whom I recognized from my classroom. They wanted to know if I was the idiot who got in the wrong line at the lunch room. I don’t remember everything that was said to me, but they communicated as only grade school bullies can that I was a stupid sissy—a freak who didn’t belong with the real boys.

The school was far more regimented than either of the previous grade schools I had attended. There were rules and assigned times for everything. We were sent to the restroom at three specific times each day, for instance. And my new bullies singled me out for taunting and humiliation every single restroom break.

I didn’t want to explain what was happening. Previous incidents of being bullied by other kids had always resulted in my dad yelling at and beating me for being a pushover. When I attempted to stand up for myself as he’d said, I got in trouble at school, which resulted in more yelling and beating. So I couldn’t let my parents know what was happening in the bathroom. And I knew I couldn’t let the teachers know, because eventually they would inform my parents.

So I stopped going to the bathroom.

I convinced my mom to let me walk home for lunch instead of eating at the school cafeteria. I don’t remember how I convinced my parents, but I did. I used the restroom at home in the middle of the day. At school, when we were marched off at our appointed times midmorning and midafternoon, I would loiter outside the restroom until we were collected and taken out to recess. Since I was eating at home, I skipped the midday restroom trip. I changed my drinking habits. I stopped using the drinking fountain at school, because if I didn’t drink water I wouldn’t need to pee as often. And so on.

I managed to avoid going into the restroom at that school almost entirely for the rest of the time we lived in that town. I still got bullied on the playground, in the classroom, and so forth. But because teachers were always nearby, the kind of bullying that happened was slightly less horrible that what could happen when a bunch of the mean boys had you trapped in a room that the adults seemed to never enter.

When we moved to a tiny town in Wyoming next, I wasn’t able to avoid the restrooms. The town we moved to didn’t have a school, so we rode a bus to a town almost an hour’s drive away. I can still remember how scared I was at what would happen the first time I went into that school’s bathroom. That school was less regimented, so I as usually able to get by with only one trip per day, and I could time it so I wasn’t using the restroom when a lot of the other boys were. Similarly with the town back in Colorado but near the Kansas border that we moved to for the last part of my third grade. And the next town, and the next.

Even when I was in high school, I learned to avoid certain bathrooms and certain times of the day. Because yes, even in my teen years, there were guys ready and eager to demonstrate to the class faggots just how despised we were, and the boy’s restroom was a place that they could do so with impunity.

I’m not trans. I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of the trans community. But I am very familiar with that cold fear that strikes like a fist in the gut when walking into a public restroom and someone looks at you in a less than friendly way. I’m a grown ass man in my mid-fifties, and there are still moments of anxiety any time I am in a public restroom and there are other people in there with me. There are little checklists that part of my brain runs through. Am I behaving the way I’m supposed to? Is this person going to interpret something I do in the wrong way?

Heck, part of me still freaks out if a straight co-worker strikes up a conversation in the restroom at the office! Making eye contact or saying anything to the wrong guys was the surest way to get bullied when I was a kid, and it doesn’t matter how many years ago that was, the conditioned reflexes are still there—the surge of stress hormones and keying up of fight or flight response happens every time.

So these bills and court fights about where or whether trans people can use restrooms at school and other public accommodations strike close to home. I get really upset that people think keep portraying the queer people as the dangerous ones in public restrooms.

Everyone needs to eat, drink, breathe, and yes, people also need to pee from time to time. We have public restrooms for that. A number of places in our country have had laws and policies that explicitly allow people to use the restroom of the gender they identify with for many years, and there has never, not once, been an incident of a trans or otherwise queer person using those policies to assault anyone in a restroom. The only incidents of people going into a restroom to harass women have been straight anti-gay people doing it to try to make headlines in order to justify these bathroom bills or to yell at a woman who doesn’t want to sign their anti-trans petition.

Seriously.

This isn’t about privacy. It isn’t about protecting women or girls. It is about making it impossible for trans people to exist in public spaces at all. It is about punishing trans and gender non-conforming people. It is about giving bigots an excuse to harass queer people or anyone who seems maybe a little queer.

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