Tag Archive | queer

Pure unbounded love thou art, or an ex-evangelical looks at trans hate in the church

Church sign reads: “God's love is unconditional as long as you are obeying Christ.”

Someone needs to look up ‘unconditional’ in a dictionary…

I was the kind of kid who asked my Sunday School teachers, ministers, and anyone else set as an authority in church questions that drove them crazy. I wasn’t doing it to be difficult—I never asked if god could create a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it—but I often found myself on the receiving end of a scolding rather than an answer. I know part of that is just being a kid. Children, their minds not quite as burdened by assumptions, expectations, and conventional thoughts, often ask difficult questions. The rest of the problem was that I was smarter than average, had an early affinity for logic, a really good memory, and I was being raised in a denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention) that didn’t have a history of rigorous academia.

Before I get further, let me get a couple of disclaimers out of the way: I have considered myself an ex-Baptist and an ex-Christian for a long time, so some people will want to dismiss anything I say on these topics out of hand. On the other hand, I learned my deep sense of social justice from that church and more specifically their holy book. I was the kind of nerd who read the Bible, on my own, cover-to-cover more than once (and had rather large swaths of it memorized). I have often said I didn’t leave the church, the church drove me (a gay man) away.

One of the big problems I had, again and again, was the many times that teachers and leaders in the church would insist that god’s love and mercy were unconditional—and then they would lay out a whole bunch of conditions that one must meet to earn that love. At first they said you had to believe in him order to get his love and mercy. And don’t forget obey him, or you won’t receive his love. And obey him in the right way, not the way other churches say to do it, or you won’t receive his love. And ignore these parts of the holy book, but these other parts you must interpret exactly as we say, or you won’t receive his love.

That’s an awful lot of conditions one must meet to qualify for supposedly unconditional divine love.

It’s not just unconditional divine love that the fundamentalist evangelicals don’t understand. They have a similar misapprehension of civil rights. Tony Perkins heads to Fox News to defend Trump administration’s latest attack on trans rights. This takes a little bit to unpack. If you missed the news this weekend, the New York Times got hold of a memo from the department of Health and Human Services that outlines how the government could erase all trans rights: ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration. More details became available quickly thereafter: The Trump Administration Wants to Define Gender as Biological Sex at Birth.

An important clue in this memo is the assertion that previous definitions of sex “allowed the Obama administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.”

Tony Perkins mention above is the leader of the Family Research Council, an evangelical fundamentalist hate group that spends all its time an energy not on helping families, but rather on attacking gay rights and transgender rights and so forth. And he has made a very similar argument for years: gay, lesbian, and trans people don’t deserve civil rights protections.

Which means he doesn’t understand what a civil right is: rights aren’t deserved. You have them because you exist, period. They aren’t privileges. The Declaration of Independence referred to rights as “inalienable”—they can’t be transferred or removed. We can argue about what is or isn’t a right, but not who has them. Everyone has them. The moment you argue that some categories of people shouldn’t have their rights protected, well, that’s taking you a very long way down the fascist road.

And it isn’t something that Christians should be fighting for. They are commanded to love everyone, including their enemies. And as the Sermon on the Mount makes clear, love isn’t just about warm fuzzy feelings, it’s action. Love means lifting people up. Love means standing up for people. Love means doing good for people who disagree with you. Love means not just taking care of your own, but taking care of everyone who needs help.

Perkins and his ilk justify their opposition to the rights of transgender people by frequently making the claim that the Bible clear says that there are only two genders. It is true that the Bible frequently refers to two genders, but none of those references say that those two are the only possibilities, nor does it give a definition of those genders. While some portions make a big deal about what sorts of behaviors are appropriate for one gender or the other, other passages contradict those notions. And there there are a few places where the text asserts very insistently that gender is unimportant. Such as:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
—Galatians 3:28, Holy Bible, King James Version

Which seems to back the notion that god’s love really is unconditional, so maybe his so-called followers should stop trying to enforce divisions.


Note: The title comes from the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal

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No one deserves the closet — #NationalComingOutDay

“If Harry Potter taught us anything... it’s that no one deserves to live in the closet.”

“If Harry Potter taught us anything… it’s that no one deserves to live in the closet.”

It’s National Coming Out Day! And just for the record, in case it isn’t clear: I’m queer! Specifically I am a gay man married to a bisexual man. For many years I lived in the closet, and am almost indescribably happy that those days are over. So, if you’re a person living in the closet, I urge you to consider coming out. Coming out is scary. And I know that not everyone is safe to come out—a frightening number of parents throw their children out if they even suspect they are gay (not to mention the cases where parents have murdered their kids they thought were gay). 40% of homeless teen-agers are living on the streets because their parents either kicked them out because the teens were gay (or suspected of being gay), or drove them away through the constant abuse intended to beat the gay out of their kids. This statistic is the main reason I advise kids not to come out until they are no longer financially dependent on their parents. Yeah, there are many stories of kids who came out to their parents and those parents became supportive allies. But not all, by any means.

There are less extreme reasons why it isn’t safe for everyone to come out, I get that. So not everyone is ready. But…

Being in the closet isn’t just an inconvenience. Studies show that being closeted adversely affects your physical health. You live in a constant state of high anxiety about people finding out and what they might do when it happens. This affects us the same as extended trauma, inducing the same sorts of stress changes to the central nervous system as PTSD.

“My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short.” —Armistead Maupin

“My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.” —Armistead Maupin

Coming out is scary. Some of your family and friends will react badly. There may be drama. You may have the unpleasant surprise to find that some of the people you were sure would be fine with it are not at all. On the other hand (and I speak from personal experience), you may be pleasantly surprised at some of the people who support you—one of my aunts that I was certain wouldn’t react well was the first person to say to a bunch of my relatives, “If you have a problem with Gene being gay, then you’re going to have a much bigger problem with me!”

And coming out isn’t a one and done thing. People will continue to assume you’re straight. You’ll find yourself coming out again and again. But the thing is, being out is so much better than being in that closet. You will be amazed, as you process the aftermath, at how much energy you were expending worrying about people finding out. You will be surprised at the sheer weight of the stress you were dealing with being closeted. Like me, you may discover that a lot of health issues were fueled by that stress, and they get a lot better once you’re no longer hiding, deflecting, thinking of plausible lies, and constantly dreading someone finding out.

I wish we lived in a world where fear of being who we are wasn’t so real.

But one of the small ways we can make the world a little less scary for queer people is to come out. As a teenager, the one time I saw a gay couple on a news program being interviewed about the gay rights struggle probably saved my life. There were two men admitting they were gay—two men who had been in a committed relationship for years and seemed happy. It was a ray of hope I desperately needed.

And that’s one of the reasons I am out. It’s why I mention my queerness as often as I do. So that some frightened queer kid might see that, look, there’s a gay man who is happy, has a good life, has people who love him, has friends—gay, straight and otherwise—who have his back. So, maybe, we can be a glimmer of hope for them.

No one deserves the closet. No one deserves that fear and self-loathing. When you’re ready, come out. It really is a wonderful world outside of that closet.

Hurricane Maria Killed More People Than Katrina and 9/11 Combined

I have a few sci fi related posts and some writing posts half written, and so much gets said about the 9/11 attacks on every anniversary that I wasn’t sure I wanted to add to the pile on. But so much of what is said is used to justify discrimination, oppression, and bigotry, so I shouldn’t be silent when I could counter some of that. We, as a nation, learned the wrong lessons from 9/11. The terrorists won—because we have given up many freedoms for an illusion of security. The massive waste of time and money that is the modern airport screening process doesn’t guarantee that there will be no more attacks; at best those measures reduce the probability of certain types of attacks by an infinitesimal fraction of a percent. We used the attacks as a pretext to invade a country that had nothing to do with them (Iraq), in the process kicking off a sequence of events which made it super easy for radical terrorist groups to recruit thousands of people who would otherwise have been peacefully living their lives. We have been bogged down in Afghanistan, a country the previously bogged down the British for decades in unwinnable war, and then the Russians for more decades in an equally unwinnable war, and now, 17-fucking-years later we are similarly bogged down with no achievable objectives and an eternally-changed timeline for getting out.

We’ve spent trillions of dollars (let alone the thousands of military personnel killed or maimed in the process) an accomplished nothing more than radicalizing who knows how many people who would otherwise might have been allies.

Meanwhile, we have ignored and inadequately responded to other disasters closer to home: Hurricane Maria Killed More People Than Katrina and 9/11 Combined: Harvard Study “4,645 people probably died after Hurricane Maria struck the island last September.” We continue to act as if 9/11 was the worst disaster ever to hit this country, while we ignore the pain and suffering of the American citizens in Puerto Rico. We should be ashamed.

If we are going to talk about 9/11, we should talk about some of the heroes: Remembering 9/11 Hero Mark Bingham Mark Bingham, a 6’4″ tall gay man who had the nickname “Bear Trap” was one of the passengers of United Flight 93 who stormed the cockpit of their pilot, preventing the hijackers from crashing the plane into the intended fourth target that day. Mark and the other passengers died as the plane crashed into a field, instead.

Read about the other, often erased, queer heroes here: The Stories of 9/11’s LGBTQ Heroes.

Malice or ignorance — more reflections of exclusion at sf/f conventions

I need to do a bit of a follow up to my previous post about the issues at Worldcon. I didn’t touch on everything that happened, and since the issue blew up, Mary Robinette Kowal, whose tweet from years ago on a related subject I quoted in that post, has agreed to help redo the programming. Kowal has been running the programming tracks at the annual Nebula conferences for a while, and she had posted a nice summary of their process for trying to put together a program that appeals to many parts of the community. So many of us are provisionally hopeful that the situation will be a bit better at the actual convention than they appeared just days ago.

I have also been reminded that sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between ignorance and actual malice. Now, I was thinking that most of the bigotry that seemed to be motivating the issues were likely unconscious—all of us are often unaware of just how many prejudices we have absorbed from society. Alis Franklin, in particular, has pointed out another explanation for much of the problem:

“This all feels very much like people used to running a small-town parochial con with an established member-base suddenly getting in a twist because they have to accommodate (gasp) outsiders.”

And she’s likely on to something. A lot of this does sound like the people in programming are speaking from their past experience running their local convention, where they believe they know their audience and what those attendees expect. But even if that is the case, I still suspect that their local crowd includes a lot more queers, people of color, and other folks who are interested in topics that their local con doesn’t recognize in programming—because as I said, we’re everywhere, and we’re all used to being excluded and dismissed; so much so that when we raise an issue and are shut down, we often just hold our tongues thereafter.

On the issue of the one pro whose submitted bio was edited to change all of eir pronouns to “he” and “him”, and the insistence for a few days that this was a bio taken from the web (when no one can find such a bio and they can’t provide a link), that gets into the conscious versus unconscious bias. Either the person who copied the bio was simple too ill-informed about non binary people and nontraditional pronouns, and simply assumed it was some kind of extremely consistent typo (which I think is a stretch), or they’re one of those people who balk at pronouns to the point of refusing to use any they don’t agree with and decided to change the bio and then claim it was a mistake if they were called on it.

I don’t know if the same staffer is the one who decided not to use another pro’s usual publication bio and photograph, and instead write a different bio using information that usually was not released publicly and use a photo taken from the pro’s private Facebook. In any case, it is difficult to construct an “honest mistake” excuse for that one. And if it is the same staffer, I think that is more than adequate proof that the changed pronouns on the other bio was an intentional aggression.

In several of the discussions online I’ve seen a lot of people not understanding what the problem was with requesting semi-formal wear for the Hugo ceremony. Foz Meadows summed it up better than I did:

”…the fashion at the Hugo Awards ceremonies tends to be a welcoming, eclectic mixture of the sublime, the weird and the comfortable. Some people wear ballgowns and tuxedos; some wear cosplay; others wear jeans and t-shirts. George R. R. Martin famously tends to show up in a trademark peaked cap and suspenders. Those who do dress up for the Hugos do so out of a love of fashion and pageantry, but while their efforts are always admired and appreciated, sharing that enthusiasm has never been a requisite of attending. At an event whose aesthetics are fundamentally opposed to the phrase ‘business casual’ and whose members are often uncomfortable in formalwear for reasons such as expense, gender-nonconformity, sizeism in the fashion industry and just plain old physical comfort, this change to tradition was not only seen as unexpected and unwelcome, but actively hostile.”

I also note that a few days ago Mike Glyer posted a link to a letter from decades back from E.E. “Doc” Smith (the author of the Lensmen books, among others) when the 1962 WorldCon asked for all the ladies attending the award ceremony to wear long formal gowns. Smith commented that his wife had not owned formal wear since entering retirement and thought it was unreasonable to expect people to go to such an expense.

Which is a nice segue to this: until the 34th WorldCon (MidAmericaCon I, 1976 in Kansas City, Missouri) the Hugo Awards were given out at the end of the convention banquet. The banquet consisted of eating (obviously) while the guests of honor gave speeches. Fans who couldn’t afford the extra expense of the banquet were allowed in (usually in a separate area such as a balcony) for the awards portion. The awards ceremony was separated from the banquet in 1976 for a couple of reasons, but one was to make it easier for everyone who wanted to attend to do so. The conventions had gotten so large that the fraction who wanted to see the award ceremony was too much for the banquet halls of typical convention hotels to accommodate, and there had always been the problem of people who couldn’t afford the banquet ticket. I wanted to close with that because I have seen a number of people arguing that the people who are feeling unwelcome because of this con’s actions are making unreasonable demands to change traditions of the conventions.

The traditions change over time for many reasons. It isn’t about change for the sake of change, it is change of the sake of practicality and realism. People have, in the past, believed that science fiction and fantasy was only created by straight white guys, and was only loved by other straight white guys. That has never been true, but the illusion was maintained through a variety of societal forces and some willful ignorance. It has become increasingly difficult to maintain that willful ignorance, and besides, ignorance is never a good look on anyone. It’s not about whether fandom is diverse, it is about to what lengths some people are willing to go to ignore, silence, or push out that diversity.

Subtracting homogeneity, fighting erasure—reflections on exclusion at sf/f conventions

James Whale who directed Universal's Frankenstein in 1931 and Bride of Frankenstein in 1935 was an openly gay director in the 20s and 30s.

James Whale who directed Universal’s Frankenstein in 1931 and Bride of Frankenstein in 1935 was an openly gay director in the 20s and 30s, just one example of a queer person who created classics in the genre. The movies were adapted from the book Frankenstein written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, a woman, who is credited with creating the science fiction genre with said book.

So a problem that had been brewing for a while with this year’s WorldCon came to a head this weekend. There had been hints and rumblings. I’d heard that many pros were mentioning having problems communicating with some members of staff. Then there was the request to all the Hugo nominees to wear semi-formal wear to the award ceremony, so it would be “elegant and professional looking.” That one rang alarm bells for me because almost everytime I’ve ever heard anyone use the term “professional looking” it was a dogwhistle for everything from “please don’t be obviously gender non-conforming” to “please don’t look like the kind of person who can’t afford a bespoke suit” to “please don’t dress ethnic” and so on—in other words, trying to enforce some homogeneity.

So how things came to a head: a professional writer who has been nominated for a Hugo this year was told they weren’t going to be on programming because “there is a kind of creator who appeals to Hugo nominators, but are totally unknown to convention attendees.” The email also managed to misgender the pro and… well things went downhill, after the pro and their spouse posted some of this information online. The programming people contacted the spouse, asked the spouse to convey their apology and expressed disappointment that they went public instead of handling this privately.

And that prompted many many other writers and creators to come out of the woodwork, posting their own many attempts to deal with similar issues (such as, “why did you discard the bio my publisher sent you, and pull information from my private Facebook account instead?” “What do you mean that people like me aren’t of interest to convention attendees?”)—indicating that a whole bunch of people had been trying to address this privately to no avail.

Only when it became public and dozens of authors who were on the programs wrote in to either withdraw, or at least suggest that other, newer, less well known writers could take their place on some panels, did the con chair issue a real apology (there had been a “we’re sorry if anyone’s offended” style non-apology the night before).

Because the thing is, the people who were being excluded weren’t just new writers to the field, it was overwhelmingly the queer creators, the non-white creators, and the women creators. And at one point, the programming person explicitly said, “Do you expect a WorldCon to be like WisCon?” WisCon being famously more feminist-friendly and queer-friendly than most other conventions.

Other people have written about this situation, and probably better than I, but there’s a part of this whole thing that just really presses my buttons, and it aligns with a theme I’ve written about many times on this blog: to wit, queer people, trans people, people of color, women, and people of many religions and cultures have been fans of sci-fi/fantasy (and created sci-fi/fantasy) for as long as it has existed. We aren’t new. We aren’t exotic. We aren’t fringe or band-wagoners. We’ve always been here, we just have seldom been allowed to be visible. As Mary Robinette Kowal observed at least four years ago:

“It’s not about adding diversity for the sake of diversity, it’s about subtracting homogeneity for the sake of realism.”
—Mary Robinette Kowal

Let’s go back to the explanation that was being given before the backlash forced them to scrap their programming plans and start over: “There is a kind of creator that appeals to the Hugo nominators who is not known by the convention attendees.”

I have at least three responses to that:

First, nominators are attendees. In order to nominate for the Hugo Awards and in order to vote for the winners, one must purchase a membership to the convention. And you know who else are attendees? The pros who are coming to the con that the con com doesn’t want to let on the program. Sure, not every attendee participated in the nomination process, and not every one of them nominated ever finalist, but some fraction of the attendees did. And the number of people who nominate is more than large enough to be a statistically significant sample of fans. So it is an entirely misleading and useless distinction to try to draw between attendees and nominators.

Second, this argument is a form of gaslighting. I’ve seen some people compare it to the old TrueFan arguments (and the more recent Real Fan claims from melancholy canines), and those are good comparisons, but I think a better model is the Moral Majority. I know I hark back to that particular group a lot, and I admit I know so much about them because they originated in the denomination in which I had been raised and they came to national prominence literally as I reached legal voting age, so my earliest election experiences included being told again and again that, because I disagreed with them, I was a member of the implied immoral minority.

This is the same kind of argument: “attendees” are implied as being the vast majority of fans, and these majority of fans don’t find “that certain kind of creator” interesting, unlike the “nominators.” The nominators are, by inference, supposed to be viewed as a fringe, extremist minority whose interests can’t possibly overlap with the implied majority. And just as the Moral Majority’s very name contained two lies (they were neither moral nor a majority), this notion that type of fans who are not interested in a “certain kind of creator” must consititute such an overwhelming majority that virtually no programming to appeals to anyone else is worth having.

Third, the majority/minority part isn’t the only form a gaslighting being attempted. Because here’s the thing: in most of the Hugo categories, it is not people who are nominated, but works of sci-fi/fantasy. The authors are referred to as nominees, but technically it is a specific novel, novella, novelette, short story, et cetera that is nominated. But that phrase, “a certain kind of creator who appeals to the nominators” puts the emphasis on the creator and the creator’s identity. In other words, they are arguing that the nominators really didn’t like the specific story, but have chosen the story to fulfill a quota or something.

In other words, the person who made this statement believes that the story nominated doesn’t really deserve to be nominated, and believes that the nominators don’t believe that either. It’s the same racist/homophobic/transphobic/misogynist arguments that the melancholy canines were making. A “certain kind of creator” is a dogwhistle. The nominators may want queer/trans/women/people of color, but “normal” people don’t. That’s what that statement says. And this is why I still fervently believe the person who said that should be fired from the con com.

Fourth, finally, they are arguing that attendees are only interested in seeing creators they already know and love. Completely ignoring the fact that most fans want to both see old favorites and to find new writers/stories/shows/what-have-you that might become favorites. One of my favorite parts of attending conventions are when I am exposed to new authors I’d never heard of before, and new works that I’d never seen. I’m always writing down names of authors and stories and ‘zines and so forth, and then going to look them up after the con.

Many of the authors who are currently in my personal list of favorites, are people who I learned about at a convention panel. Yes, once they become a favorite, I will look for their names in the programming grid and try to see some of their events, but I’m not just there to see the folks I already know.

The conventions where I ran programming were all smaller than WorldCon, but I have run programming at conventions. I know it is hard work. I know it can feel like thankless work. But one of my goals with that programming was to provide convention attendees opportunities to learn new things, to find new artists or writers and so forth that they didn’t previously know about; to introduce the work of many people to new audiences, while also giving fans a chance to see the people whose work they already liked.

If you don’t see that both of those goals should equally drive the programming of a sci fi or fantasy con, then you absolutely should not be working on programming. Go work for a commercial convention where the only point is to sell autographs. Do not volunteer for a World Science Fiction Con.

Friday Five (Pride bash extravaganza edition)

Where are you on the Gay Spectrum? (click to embiggen)

It’s the forth weekend of Pride Month, and this weekend there are three Pride parades or marches happening in Seattle (and lots of other cities also now have several parades).

My husband and I are, for the third year in a row, attending Locus Awards Weekend. And it just so happens that the con hotel is conveniently close to the part of the parade route and the Seattle Center where the big festival happens. So we’re going to have a fun few days of books and sci fi and fantasy and funny shirts and rainbows and lots of other fun.

Here I present this week’s Friday Five: the top five (IMHO) stories of the week of interest to queer people, five stories that made me go “What the f–k?”, top five general interest stories, and top five videos (plus a recap of my blog posts).

Queer stories of the Week:

Queer Love in Color – Photographs and Text by Jamal Jordan.

What Happens After the Person You Married Tells You They’re Transgender: I’m seeing Pride in a whole new way this year.

7 of the Best Queer Reads for Summer 2018.

The Advocate Publishes a Lot of Photos from all Many of the Pride Events That Have Happened So Far This Month.

Court rejects bid to ban transgender kids from school bathrooms.

Nafessa Williams on playing Black Lightning’s unapologetic, badass lesbian superhero.

This Week in WTF:

Feminists are blaming trans women for ‘forcibly transing’ crocodiles.

Atlantic cover story is a loud dog whistle for anti-transgender parents.

TEXAS GOP APPROVES 24 ANTI-LGBTQ PLATFORM PLANKS, INCLUDING SUPPORT FOR ‘EX-GAY’ THERAPY.

The WTF of this is that we actually need to do this! Here’s How You Can Help Fight Family Separation at the Borde.

ABC Greenlights Roseanne Spinoff Without Roseanne Barr.

Other stories of the Week:

Mexican Nuns Work to Save Endangered Salamander.

Opinion: The State of the Star Wars fandom in 2018.

Led by a Chaplain from Washington State, 600 Members of Jeff Sessions’s Church Charged Him with Cruelty and Abuse.

Gabriel Jesus: Call your mama.

Oregon dog that survived 2 gunshot wounds finds new home.

Things I wrote:

Confessions of a bad son, part 2.

Blasphemy is as blasphemy does — an adventure beyond the dictionary with the anti-gays.

Anger is better than fear — confessions of a militant fairy.

Pride means visibility and hope— confessions of a hopeful fairy.

Pride means love and survival—confessions of a joyful fairy.

Videos!

Rachel Maddow Broke Down in Tears at News of Where Babies are Being Sent at the U.S. Border:

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

Stephen Colbert Trashes ‘Gay Nazi’ Candidate and Uber-Homophobe Scott Lively:

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

St. Vincent – Fast Slow Disco (Music Video):

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

Big Dipper – Lookin [Official]:

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

Shirtless Violinist ft. Tom Goss – Perfect – Ed Sheeran – Cover:

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

Pride means love and survival—confessions of a joyful fairy

“Queer as hell and felling swell”

(click to embiggen)

I’ve been to a lot of Pride parades and festivals since attending my first in 1990. One year I participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade one weekend, flew back home to Seattle where I marched in our parade the following week, and then in August I found myself in Vancouver, British Columbia where I hadn’t realized it was going to be their Pride Parade. San Francisco’s was like so gigantically larger and brasher than any other I had ever seen, while Vancouver’s was small but very enthusiastic.

“Pride equals power”The reason for the parade, ultimately, is to declare our existence–our survival in a society that is less than welcoming. We’re here. We’re your daughters, your neighbors, your sons, your co-workers, your friends, your siblings, or your parents. We’re not mysterious creatures lurking in seedy clubs–we’re the guy sitting across from you on the bus reading a book, or the two gals sitting in that next pew at church, or the pair of guys in the grocery store discussing how many hot dogs to buy for the cookout, or the grey-haired guy trying to read a label on a bottle of cold tablets in the pharmacy, or that kid on the skateboard going past your bus stop, or that guy sipping a coffee at Starbucks, or that gal a couple table over at the same coffee shop laughing at something on her computer.

We’re real, we’re everywhere, and we have hopes and dreams and worries just like you. We’re not asking for special rights, we’re asking for the same rights you take for granted. We’re asking to live our lives as openly as you live yours.

I enjoy watching the parade to acknowledge that survival. I cheer while watching the parade to express my admiration, support, and love for all of these survivors.

I cheer for people who are being brave and marching in their first parade; we see you and welcome you to the tribe.

I cheer and applaud so that those whose families rejected them and told them never to come back will know they have another family, and we’re clapping for them right now.

I cheer so that group of teen-agers (half of them straight and there to support their bi, gay, lesbian, and trans friends) will get the recognition they deserve.

“Why do some people feel more comfortable seeing two men holding hands than holding guns?”I cheer so the couple in their matching sequined costumes will know someone appreciates the work they spent (perhaps being up all night gluing those sequins on).

I cheer the older couples walking together holding hands; we see your love and we celebrate how long you and your love had endured.

I cheer the younger couples walking hand in hand; I wish I had felt free to do that at their age, but I hope they have a bright future.

(click to embiggen)

I applaud and cheer so that the trans* gals and trans* men know they are seen for who they are and we think they’re beautiful, wonderful, and I am proud to call them brothers and sisters.

I cry when I see those who are carrying a photo or wearing the name of a deceased loved one; we see your loved one and share your grief.

I cheer for PFLAG so that straight parents who have spent countless hours explaining to friends and relatives that their queer kids have nothing to be ashamed of, and yes they are very happy, and no those things you’ve heard or read about their health and lifespan are all myths will know their efforts are appreciated by the whole community.

I clap and cheer and laugh and cry as the parade goes on and on showing how big and wonderful and diverse and amazing our community is.

(click to embiggen)

The very first Liberation Day Parade in New York City, was a protest march on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (the first Pride was a riot). People were afraid of what would happen at the first march. Only a couple dozen people showed up at the starting point, with their protest signs. But they marched. And all along the announced route of the march, the sidewalks were lined with people. Street queens, and trans people, and gay men and lesbians and queers of many other stripes.

(click to embiggen)

And then completely unplanned thing happened. As the small group of marchers went be, queer people and supporters started stepping off the curb and joining. By the time the marchers reached the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park, the crowd numbered in the thousands.

It has been a tradition of Pride Parades ever since, that spectators step off the curb and join the march.

So when I march, there comes a point where I do that. I have cheered and applauded and made sure that others were seen. I have witnessed their love and courage and unique style. Until it is my turn to join the march. To be visible. To declare by my presence in that throng that I am queer. I’m here. And I will never go back into the closet.
Me with my rainbow parasol

Pride means visibility and hope— confessions of a hopeful fairy

“Promote Queer Visibility”

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I’ve written many times about the first time I watched a Pride Parade. Because of the lurid press coverage I had seen before that, and even some of the critical things I heard from certain queer acquaintances, I was expecting something very different that what I actually saw. So what did I see? Mostly a lot of very ordinary looking people. There was a group of people in shorts and t-shirts who were marching with their dogs on leashes. There was the group of people driving a particular small foreign car. The drivers were wearing matching t-shirts, and I suspect shorts, though it was hard to tell. There were many, many groups where most of the people were wearing matching t-shirts and shorts and walking behind a banner that declared they were with one non-profit organization or another. A lot of them.

There were a lot of pink triangles. There were also rainbows, some lambdas, and some labryses. A lot of people had pink or purple hair. Most of the groups had at least some members who had their children marching along beside them.

There were people dressed very scantily. There were banners and floats that had some sort of sexual innuendo as part of the theme. There wasn’t any actual nudity, but there were a few costumes that were very close to it. But the thing is, not quite a year before my first Pride Parade, I had attend my first Seattle Torchlight Family Seafair Parade with a bunch of co-workers. And at that parade—an official city parade with the word “family” in its title—I had seen a whole lot more near nudity, many more sexual innuendos as themes for floats, and a whole lot of drunken participants in the parade.

I should mention that there didn’t seem to be many queers in the pride parade who were under the influence. Certainly nowhere near as many as I saw at the Seafair Parade.

The difference was, that all of the sexual content and near nudity in the Seafair Parade was clearly aimed at the heterosexual male gaze. Just as I see a lot more sex in the typical set of Super Bowl commercials that I have ever seen at a Pride Parade. And that’s the thing: straight people are so used to straight male sexual desire used to sell everything from cupcakes to beer to automobiles, that they don’t even notice it any more.

Heck, in Seattle we have another annual parade called the Fremont Solstice Parade, and it is famous for have scores of nude bicyclists in it every year. Under Washington state law, if you have body paint on, it counts as not being nude. And it was a community parade put on by mostly straight people who was doing it for years before the queers in Seattle started doing it in our Pride Parade.

“Homosexuality is not a choice, but homophobia is. Got pride?”

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So if you’re one of those people who objects to Pride Parades because you think they’re too wild or sexy or whatever, I am just going to laugh at your cluelessness. I’ve written a few times about the people from within the community who hate it, and I have yet to meet one whose arguments didn’t boil down to being equivalent of the bigots. So if you’re one of those people you don’t get my laughter, you get my pity and a hope that someday you will stop being a self-loathing hater.

If you’re one of those people who think Pride isn’t needed because bigotry is somehow far behind us, please take this does of reality:

Finally, if you’re one of those people who asks, “If you’re born this way, what’s to be proud of?” First, look up at that list. Remember that that is barely scratching the surface of the hate, bullying, and oppression that every queer person has survived. So, what do we have to be proud of? Some people want us dead, but we’ve survived. Some people wish we were invisible, and we have stepped out into the light and shared our beautiful glittery freaky selves. We have been told we aren’t worthy of love, but we have found loving friends and chosen families and yes, even someone to call husband or wife. People have tried to bury us in hate, and we have shown the world our love. They have knocked us down again and again, and we have gotten back up, fiercer than ever. They have tried to force us into the shadows, and we have shown the world our light.

I’ve quoted before the old Jewish joke that the meaning of all Jewish holidays is, “They tried to kill us. We’re still alive. Let’s eat.” In the spirit of that sentiment:

They wish we were dead or invisible. We refuse to hide.

Let’s dance.

Anger is better than fear — confessions of a militant fairy

“I am NOT afraid!!! Queer Nation”

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I was astonished, after I had been out of the closet for a bit, to look back on my previous life and realize how much of time and energy had been spent living in fear. Fear of being found out. Fear of being rejected by family and friends. Fear of being physically assaulted. Fear of living a life without love. Fear of dying alone. Fear of what would happen if the preachers were correct and a lake of eternal fire awaited me.

“You only gave us rights because we gave you riots. Queer Power”

“You only gave us rights because we gave you riots. Queer Power” (Click to embiggen)

All of those fears were based on real experiences. My dad’s most angry beatings were all accompanied with him calling me worthless, a faggot, and a cocksucker. And for several years I didn’t know what those last two words meant. The kids at school who bullied me (which often involved physical attacks) always called me a sissy or pussy while doing it. The teachers who verbally bullied me called me a sissy or faggot while doing so. In high school, a classmate I knew well was jumped by a group of jocks who were convinced he was gay (he wasn’t—years later he’s married to a great woman and they have two wonderful kids and we still chat online) and was in the process of being beaten up until a group of us found them and broke it up. Another classmate who I didn’t know very well was beaten so badly he was kept in the hospital for a few days. Again, it was because a group of guys at school thought he was gay (he was—last I heard, he and his partner of several years were living in Boston). A couple of other classmates who were outed in embarrassing ways were kicked out of their homes by their parents, and wound up living with relatives far away. One of my uncles (the same one who insisted that I was such a sissy because my parents let me own an action figure) said he would kill any of his sons if they turned gay.

So it wasn’t just anxiety. It wasn’t all in my head. The danger was real.

“Being gay is not a sin. Neither is being lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The Bible never claims that it is. Christians should stop saying it—because it's killing people.” Johnpavlovitz.com

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And because I’d been raised Southern Baptist, and I was the kind of nerdy kid who read the Bible all the way through on my own at least twice, I spent many, many hours begging god to take these feelings away from me. I spent a lot of time studying the guys that never got called out like I did, trying to figure out how to act more like them.

And while for many queer kids the world is a more tolerant place than it was for me in the 60s and 70s, thousands of teens in the U.S. are still thrown out on the streets every year by parents whose religion teaches it is better to drive the kid out than to “encourage their lifestyle.” Hundreds of children and teens still commit suicide every year because of bullying by people who suspect they are queer.

All the bullying, anxiety about being rejected, and so forth affects us. Studies show that most adult queers bear at least some of the neurological markers of PTSD—just like domestic abuse survivors. Coming out and finding communities that accept us doesn’t make that go away. We are always on the lookout for the next potential threat.

This is another variant rainbow flag that's been around longer than the More Colors Flag.

This is another variant rainbow flag that’s been around longer than the More Colors Flag.

There were always moments when I would get angry because of the way I was treated. But particularly when I was a young kid, anger was never useful. I was physically unable to stand up to the bullies (for instance, the middle school bully who was enough bigger than me that he held me upside down for many minutes while his buddies kicked and spit on me).

Over the course of several years anger began replacing fear. There are many moments I can point to, but one that sticks out came in my early 20s. I was sitting in a church pew in a church where the musical ensemble I was directed had performed several songs for to support a revival meeting. The visiting preacher had delivered an unusual message for a revival: he had talked about unity and finding common ground among fellow Christians who didn’t always agree with us on every detail. It was conciliatory, rather than a fiery call to fight evil, which was a much more typical revival tone.

“Gay pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn't a straight pride movement, be thankful you don't need one.”

“Gay pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.”

And then one of the pastors from the local church gave the closing prayer. That how I found myself with head bowed and eyes closed and suddenly shaking in fear as the pastor thank god for sending the scourge of AIDS to wipe out the evil homosexuals from the face of the earth. Oh, he went on and on about it. And because as far as I knew I was the only homo (very closeted) in that room, I half expected people to pull me aside for an intervention afterward. Or maybe that I would be jumped and beaten to within an inch of my life somewhere.

I realized some time later that the pastor wasn’t targeting he was arguing with the visiting pastor, using the passive-aggressive platform of a public prayer. But over the following days and weeks, as I realized that no one was targetting me, I began to get angry. And the more I thought about how that pastor had used a prayer to spew such hate, the more angry I became at the entire system.

That may have been the final nail in the coffin of my membership in the Baptist denomination—if not all of Christianity together.

“The only choice I made was to be myself.”

“The only choice I made was to be myself.”

There are many people who will tell you not to become an angry, militant advocate for anything. They will urge you to try to find middle ground, to compromise, to make peace with those you disagree with you. The problem is that there isn’t an acceptable middle ground between the propositions: “I want to live” and “you deserve death.” And the people who thank god for AIDS, who tell parents to kick their queer children out on the street, who argue that transitioning treatments are not medically necessary, and who argue we shouldn’t have marriage rights (which legally include the right to make medical decisions for one another and so forth)—they are all implying, if not outright saying, that queers deserve death.

Seriously, the only middle ground is that some queers deserve death. How is that a morally acceptable position for anyone?

“Love is a terrible thing to hate.”

“Love is a terrible thing to hate.”

So, yes, I am frequently an angry, militant queer. But all of the people on the other side are arguing in favor of murdering at least some queer people (or, I suppose you could argue that they are simply willing to allow some or most of us to die). That means that what I feel is righteous indignation. And if you don’t feel it at least a little bit on behalf of those kids bullied to death, the murdered trans people, and so on, well, I’m sorry to say, that means you’re on the side of the hateful murderers. I’m sure you have some rationalizations for why your position isn’t that, but you’re wrong. If you don’t believe our outrage is justified, then you’re not one of the good guys.

If that realization makes you unhappy, well, you have the power to fix it. Come over to the Light Side. Join the fight for justice, love, and life.

Blasphemy is as blasphemy does — an adventure beyond the dictionary with the anti-gays

“Jesus had two dads & he turned out just fine.”

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A few years ago one of the large anti-gay political action groups sponsored a protest march that was supposed to be in favor of “traditional” marriage. All of the signs and banners carried by participants in the rally were extremely anti-queer, and not one single sign was actually in favor of any kind of marriage. Now, because we monitor these things, I was one of literally thousands of queer and queer-allied people online who hijacked the hashtag of the anti-gay folks to post pro-gay memes and comments. There were so many of us queers and allies posting pro-queer rights comments, that we overwhelmed the bigots’ message, at least on social media.

I received a lot of interesting replies. One person was particularly upset with me for sharing a meme similar to the one at the top of the post that talked about Jesus and his two dads. “Can’t you disagree without the blasphemy of saying god had a sexual relationship with Joseph?”

I responded by pointing out that the meme doesn’t mention sex, it simply affirms the Biblical texts which referred to Jesus as both the son of Joseph and the son of God. Then I said that the only blasphemy I saw were people trying to force some of their religious views into law, penalizing people who weren’t part of their flock. There were a couple of back and forths, but I had already promised myself that any bigots who chimed in would get two replies of me trying to clarify or whatever, and then after that my only reply to any further comments would be “Bless your heart.” So the discussion petered out.

blasphemy noun, Profane talk about something supposed to be sacred; impious irreverence.

I’m sorry, but I really was merely taking the Bible literally: the text calls Jesus the son of Joseph in some places, and the son of god in others. In fact, it refers to him as the son of Joseph more often than it calls him the son of god. The oldest surviving copies of the gospels never call him the son of god. And then there’s the whole genealogy in one of the gospels, showing how Jesus is descended from King David–through his father, Joseph!

So if it is profane to talk about Jesus having two dads, the profanity starts in the Bible.

If we’re going to get upset about any sex involving god, what about the nonconsensual impregnation of Mary? I mean, looking at the text, it’s pretty clear that god roofied Mary, then sent “the Holy Spirit to overshadow” her and conceive the child. I say nonconsensual because while an angel appears to Mary before it happens to tell her it is going to happen, at no point does the angel ask if she agrees to this thing. And really, Mary was almost certainly a teen-ager, confronted by a powerful otherworldly being who tells her that an even more powerful being is about the knock her up. With such a power differential, is the concept of consent even possible?

I’ve seen the arguments made, sometimes by people who claim to take the Bible literally, that this is just a standard divine intervention trope: Eqyptian and Greek mythology, for instance, are full of stories of gods having sons from mortal women. As if “everyone else is doing it” is a moral precept?

Among the many problems with people of various conservative types of Christianity imposing their beliefs on others through the force of law, is that even their own holy book isn’t very clear on these points. The person they have named their religion after, Jesus Christ, never once said anything about gay people, one way or the other. And believe me, there were gay people there in Galilee and Judea. If being gay was such a big sin, you would think he would mention it.

There are only six verses in modern English translations of the Bible that appear to refer to homosexuality directly. However, the four in the New Testament have only been that way since a re-translation in the 1920s. In the oldest versions of the text we have in the original languages (Arameic and Greek), the words were gendered references to temple prostitutes in two passages, the third is a reference to two separate sins (cheating on one’s spouse after making a monogamous committment, and having sex with someone before you have married). The fourth, meanwhile, no one knows. The Apostle Paul made up a greek word that occurs nowhere else in any ancient greek document my combining two existing words meaning bed and lewdness.

Honesty, given how opposed to marriage of any kind Paul was (he thought it was a waste of time and energy that would be better spent evangelizing), this might have been a word he coined to refer to those men who “so burned with lust” that they couldn’t concentrate on god’s work unless they married and had an outlet for the aforementioned lust. If so, then Paul was calling heterosexual marriage an abomination, not gay sex.

As to the old testament passages: modern Christians have no problem ignoring the other parts of Leviticus they don’t like (the prohibitions on bacon and shrimp, for instance), so it is difficult to take them seriously on this. Further, I’ve read more than one argument written by Jewish Rabbis that those texts should never be discussed out of context of the rest of the books (including a lot of commentaries and documents that were not absorbed into the Christian Bible), and are probably referencing some specific issues at the time of writing with men visiting temples of other gods and partaking of temple prostitutes. So it is more likely those verses are admonitions against idolotry and sex with someone other than one’s spouse after making a monogamous committment.

Please note I am paraphrasing. Wrestling with the Torah is a lifetime commitment of its own, and the fact that the church I was raised in has co-opted a not-terribly-well-done translation of the Torah doesn’t make me an expert.

Holy books, no matter whose holy books we are talking about, were written by humans. You can believe that they are divinely inspired if you wish, but the words were written by imperfect humans, using imperfect language, which is being read centuries later by other imperfect humans with imperfect understandings of languages that have changed during those centuries. Just to narrow it back down to the bible, that book itself contains many stories of people who were absolutely convinced that they knew what god wanted them to do, who turned out to be wrong. It also contains stories (go read an annotated version of the Saga of Sampson for one of the most entertaining) of people who were believed to be immoral or otherwise unsuitable for god’s work by all the godly people around them, who were actually the ones doing god’s work.

As my Bible professor in my university days was fond of saying, “The text keeps telling us that we can’t find all of the answers in the text. We have to think and develop compassion and a sense of justice on our own. And that’s a lot of work.”

If your argument that people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, trans, nonbinary et cetera don’t deserve equal rights is to quote your holy book without applying compassion, testing the situation against the notion of justice, and just thinking about whether you are even holding yourself to a similar standard, then you aren’t doing the work. You are failing your fellow humans. You are failing at your own religion.

And you are failing to regard the life and well-being of some of your neighbors with reverence. And that is true blasphemy.

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