Tag Archive | religious right

You fight it on the ground: register, remind people to vote, help them get to the polls, and be ready to challenge voter suppression

“Republican Logic: It is wrong for two adults of the same sex to get married; but it's ok for a child molester to become a Senator.”

“Republican Logic: It is wrong for two adults of the same sex to get married; but it’s ok for a child molester to become a Senator.”

I tried to avoid the news last night, because I didn’t want to relive the horror of last year’s election night. So many polls showed that it was either too close to call or that the Republican twice-ousted judge who molested teen-age girls, wants to “outlaw” queers (not just take marriage equality back, but also to make it a criminal offense for us to be gay), wants to bring back slavery, wants to repeal the parts of the constitution giving voting rights to people of color and to women, wants to ban muslims from public office, insists that only Christians are have civil rights was actually leading in the race. Republicans were so fixated on retaining their two-vote majority in the U.S. Senate that some of them said that while they believed the allegations of sexual misconduct, they were still going to vote for him. Evangelical leaders were saying that they were going to vote for him!

But later in the evening, I peeked at my main twitter feed. And then I went the FiveThirtyEight.com’s live coverage. I skimmed through their updates (and wonky math-y talk about polls and margins). When I reached the point when they were calling it for the Democrat, Doug Jones—calling it with a margin large enough to avoid a recount!—I started crying.

A lot of people are going to try to say that this is only because of Moore’s sexual scandal. And while it was a big factor, I think this win in a deeply red state with a well-documented history of suppressing the vote of African Americans and other demographics believed to favor Democrats is a sign. So, how did they do it?

Once a Long Shot, Democrat Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Race

Propelled by a backlash against Mr. Moore, an intensely polarizing former judge who was accused of sexually assaulting young girls, Mr. Jones overcame the state’s daunting demographics and deep cultural conservatism. His campaign targeted African-American voters with a sprawling, muscular turnout operation, and appealed to educated white voters to turn their backs on the Republican Party.

Jones does marathon get-out-the-vote effort while Moore is quiet

“We’re trying to work all angles,” said Patricia Mokola, spokeswoman for the Alabama NAACP. “We’re trying to reach not only African Americans, we’re trying to reach millennials as well. They will be instrumental in this election … We’re not telling people who to vote for, but their vote is their power.

Rallies, leafleting and door knocking all part of effort to urge voters to cast ballots in Alabama Senate race

“We have got to find a way to come together, and we need leaders that are not going to divide us, and separate us, and cut us up, and dissect us, and stand in judgment over some, and lord over others,” [New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory] Booker said at a canvass kick-off in Birmingham on Sunday. “We need someone that is going to remind us of the calling of patriotism, the calling to love, and so this is the moment now. There are consequential moments in our American history, and this is one of them.

How Doug Jones beat Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race

Jones’ victory is all the more remarkable in that it didn’t rely on many Republicans defecting to the Democratic side. Less than one in 10 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for Jones. But Democrats – who overwhelmingly favored Jones – came out in stronger numbers, trailing Republicans in vote share by just six percentage points. And Independents – who make up just one in five voters in this highly partisan race – also favored Jones by nine points: 52 percent to 43 percent.

They mounted a massive get-out-the-vote campaign and sustained it for months. They registered people to vote. They put out leaflets everywhere reminding people when election day was. They called. They went door-to-door. The campaign spent a lot less on TV ads and more putting up billboards in neighborhoods that had lower turnout in the 2016 general election. They funded programs to give people rides to their polling places. They put out information on social media, pamphlets, posters, and signs explaining what kind of ID you need to have to vote, and a phone number to call if a poll worker refused to let you vote. They had observers at polling places. They had teams and lawyers available to respond to those voter suppression issues at the polling places.

Exit polling showed that white voters overwhelming went for the pedophile, but they also showed that Trump’s approval rating even among them has gone way down, and their enthusiasm for the candidate they voted for was lukewarm. Meanwhile, the African American vote (especially women) overwhelming went to the Democrat. And because of the way that the state has reduced the number of polling places in Black communities, and reduced the number of voting machines at those few polling places, it means that those African American voters were more likely to have to stand in line for hours and hours just to vote—and they did!

The ground game—registering voters, reminding them when election day is, reminding them what they have to do to vote, offering them rides, and so on—is how we got results in leaning-blue Virginia, and it’s how we won in deeply-red Alabama. It’s the new strategy of the Democratic National Committee. It’s not the way they fought in 2016. One of the journalists I saw tweeting about this last night summed it up: less money on TV ads, more money to help people vote.

That’s a strategy that can turn the midterm elections.

We can do it! We can do it!

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Don’t try to obscure hate and violence with your false equivalence

“We can disagree and love each other and less that disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

“We can disagree and love each other and less that disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” (click to embiggen)

Since I wrote about the Nazi getting punched yesterday, I thought I was through, but a lot of people have been sharing a tweet that says, “I want to live in a world where people wearing Nazi symbols and people wearing rainbows can do so without being attacked.” And oh, I have so many responses to this. The first is that this is the mother of all false equivalents. When queer people and their allies where rainbows, they are saying “everyone deserves to live free of unfair discrimination no matter their sexual orientation and gender identity.” That is it. When a person wears a swastika, they are saying, “I think people like me should be able to live a life of privilege and that everyone who is a different race or religion should go away and/or die.”

That is not histrionics. When they talk about “saving the white race” and so-called “self deportation” and the like, they are saying “go away and die!” When they say that queer people are a threat to the future of the planet, they are saying we deserve to be killed. When they say that brown and black people are destroying “white culture” they are saying brown and black people deserve to be killed. When Richard Spencer said, literally moments before he was punched in the face on camera last summer, “we have to ask ourselves whether humanity needs the black man, and having confronted that question, then ask how to most efficiently dispose of them” he is saying that black people aren’t human and that they must be killed.

And if you don’t believe that saying that deserves a punch in the mouth, then I question more than just your morals.

In the case of the angry man who was punched in downtown Seattle this weekend: he wasn’t punched just for wearing the swastika. He was punched for yelling at every dark-skinned person he passed on the street, specifically calling them an ape. He was explicitly saying that they aren’t human. He brought a frickin’ banana with him that he eventually threw at someone after screaming that that person was an ape—underlining and emphasizing the claim that the person thus targeted isn’t human (and implying that said people don’t deserve rights, dignity, respect at the least, and that killing would not be murder). That wasn’t just expressing an opinion, that his verbal assault and a declaration of intent. And under the law, throwing the banana is physical assault.

Wearing a rainbow and chanting “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” is none of those things.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can say mean, hateful, threatening things to other people and that those other people have no rights to speak up and defend themselves. Calling other humans animals, and saying or implying those humans should he rounded up and executed is not merely stating an opinion, it is revealing their hateful and murderous character. So if other people don’t want to be friends with a hateful person advocating genocide, that’s just making the decision not to associate with horrible people.

“Your sexuality is valid.”

“Your sexuality is valid.” (click to embiggen)

When we wear rainbows, we’re saying “my sexuality is valid, and your sexuality is valid, and bi, gay, pansexual, transexual, asexual, and straight people are all equally valid and have a right to be who they are.” Yes, we’re saying the straight people are valid, too. We aren’t calling for straight people to self-deport. We aren’t calling for straight people to be killed. We aren’t calling for straight people to be converted. Rightwing anti-gay people do call for queer people to be fired from their jobs, denied the right to rent or own homes, denied the right to put their spouses and children on their medical insurance, denied the right to marry their significant others, denied the right to adopt, denied the right to protection from assault and harassment, denied health care, and so forth. They advocate rounding us up and putting us in prison, or camps, or so-called hospitals (depending on how blatant they are in their bigotry). They advocate the widely debunked conversion therapy. They advocate bullying queer kids in school (when you insist that religiously conservative kids can’t be punished for bullying queer kids or the children of queer parents, you are advocating bullying).

When the anti-gay people (including the neo-Nazis) do that, it isn’t a difference of opinion, it is oppression and assault.

When queer people say we don’t want to be bullied, we shouldn’t be discriminated against, we deserve to have our families and jobs and homes just like anyone else, we aren’t calling for the oppression of anyone else. Because not being allowed to discriminate isn’t oppression. Not being allowed to bully, terrorize, or assault queer people isn’t oppression.

Sexuality isn’t an opinion or a choice. Sexual identity isn’t an opinion or a choice. Sorry, the medical science has been clear on that for a long time.

Hate, however, is a choice. Violence against others because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, and so forth is a choice.

All races are valid. All sexualities are valid.

Not all choices are valid.

There are only a couple reasons that you can’t see that distinction. There are only a few reasons you would defend the hate by attacking its opposite. Either you aren’t very bright, you’re deeply misinformed, or you are blinded by hatred.

Please, step out of the darkness and join us in a more glittery, sunny world of the rainbow.

Weekend Update 9/17/2017: Juggalos, Hillary book signing both outnumber Trump “mother of all rallies”

Trump supposts be like: Black football players kneeling during national anthem? Offensive! Woman protested Trump? Offensive! Holiday Starbucks cups without the word Christmas? Offense! People marching with Nazi flags, Nazi salutes, shouting genocidal/racist Nazi slogans? Free Speech!

Click to embiggen)

So Trump supporters have been organizing a so-called Mother Of All Rallies online for some time, and yesterday was the day. They have boasted, variously, that they had hundreds of thousands of confirmed attendees, or over a million confirmed attendees, et cetera. And how many people showed up? “Hundreds.” They couldn’t even get enough to fill a suburban high school football stadium! Pro-Trump rally draws hundreds, not thousands to Washington.

But just a few blocks away there was a bigger rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial: Pro-Trump Rally Dwarfed By ‘Juggalo’ Demonstration In D.C.. So fans of Insane Clown Posse were able to muster a much bigger crowd the the Make America Great Again people. But it gets worse! On the same day, Hillary Clinton was doing a book signing at a Costco in Brookfield, Connecticut.. guess what? Hillary Clinton Book-Signing Draws More Than 1,000 To Brookfield Costco. Hillary’s book signings are drawing larger crowds that the Trump supporters can muster!

Some folks are pointing to the news stories about former Trump supporters burning their Make America Great Again hats and this rally as indicating his support is slipping among his hardcore. I’m not sure that’s anywhere near the whole story. I think another important part is just how many fake accounts (twitterbots and such) make up the online Trump supporter crowd: Trump Twitter bots, numbering in millions, could be used to blanket internet with weaponized false info (by the way, that headline should read “is already being used to” not could be). A similar problem exists on Facebook, though because of some of the company’s policies, it’s a lot harder to determine just how many fake Americans Russian hackers manufactured to spread fake news and amp up membership on Pro-Trump pages: The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election. So I think one reason the organizers were expecting bigger crowds is they just haven’t figured out how many of their supportors online are fake accounts.

Besides, the Trump supporters burning their hats? They’re doing it for very racist reasons: Trump Supporters Are Burning Their MAGA Hats: They’re not happy about his prospective deal with Democrats to protect DACA recipients. That’s right, the hardcore supporters are angry because undocumented people who were brought to this country as children might, might be given a path to citizenship. You know, that thing the Trump supporter keep angrily asking why the Dreamers and such haven’t already done (because legally they still can’t)?

One more thing: all of those supporters burning those hats? They may want to think about the little American flag on that thing: I Wonder If Angry, MAGA Hat-Burning Trump Supporters Know They’re Burning a Tiny American Flag, Too. Since the pro-trump/anti-semetic/pro-gun demographic (i.e., most of his supporters) is also historically the same people who scream bloody murder if someone burns a U.S. flag as a protest.

But then, you can’t expect consistency from people who define the Statue of Liberty as a non-patriotic symbol, and reduce Christianity to hating queers.

Doubling down on the same-old hate, or drawing a new battle line?

Quit squirming cartoon.

“Quit squirming!” (click to embiggen)

I have a half-finished “Adventures in dictionaries” post that I meant to have ready for today, but I realized that my quick dismissal of the Nashville Statement yesterday isn’t really adequate, given the significance of the statement. I originally dismissed it as just more of the same old hate from same old haters, and made a reference to the fact that a couple of the primary signers of the thing are so-called religious leaders who have been embroiled in scandals covering up sexual abuse within their own religious organizations. Those things are both true, but there is an aspect of the thing that I had overlooked yesterday.

So, in case you missed it, a group of conservative evangelical organizations have banded together, calling themselves The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and they issued this multipart statement of faith, most of which is exactly the same old ant-gay, anti-trans, anti-equal rights for woman, stuff that we are used to hearing from these bigots. But this time there is one important difference.

That difference is Article X:

  • WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
  • WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

In other words, they are now explicitly and emphatically saying that anti-LGBT bias is an essential part of being a christian, and anyone who does not subscribe to their anti-LGBT beliefs are not christians.

Now, for some years many of us on the queer and queer-affirming side of this divide have been pointing out that they have boiled christianity down to nothing more than the hatred of the gays. Politicians who in no other way support what any reasonable person would call Christ-like values, nor who love in anyway according to christian values are given high ratings, endorsements, and money by these organizations as long as they oppose marriage equality, trans rights, and so on.

There was that amusing Tumblr post I linked to awhile back where someone made a joke about homophobes, and scores of angry christians swarmed on the post calling it anti-christian hate. Then the original poster had to point out that the word “christian” didn’t appear anywhere in joke. It literally said “homophobe” but, “you guys went ahead and read yourselves in there.”

But whenever we accuse them of throwing out all of Jesus’s teachings (in the Bible, Jesus never said a single word, not one, about homosexuality) and replacing them with a hatred of us queers, they have emphatically denied it.

Until now.

I’ve seen some folks say to just ignore it, because they don’t officially speak for anyone. But here’s one of the problems I have with that. In May of 1845 a bunch of conservative Baptist churches sent representatives to a meeting in Augusta, Georgia, and issued a 14-point statement of why they were separating from the rest of the Baptist Churches. Twelve of the fourteen points in that statement were affirming the institution of slavery in various ways, along with the segregation of the races and the inherent superiority of the white race. That was the birth of the Southern Baptist Convention, years before the civil war.

Even after the war, that group continued to fight for white supremacy and racial segregation, until 1971… at which time the finally endorsed desegregation and shifted their focus to abortion, women’s rights, and gay rights. They were the core of the Moral Majority. They remain a core consituency of the Republican Party in general and Donald Trump in particular.

I know this, because I was raised in that church. I’ve always been proud of the fact that my own grandfather was one of the delegates to the 1971 convention where racial segregation was finally removed from the official doctrine of the church. I was less proud of how many members of our home church at the time quit to form a new Bible Baptist Church over the issue of racial segregation.

So, 172 years after issuing a similarly bigoted statement, pain and suffering are still being inflicted on some segments of the population. I have trouble not fearing something similar here from the signatories of the Nashville Statement. Adopting hate and sticking to it didn’t make that group whither away. It grew, until it became (and remains) the largest Protestant denomination in North America.

Until now, they have always stopped short of explicitly saying that the christians who disagree with them on this issue aren’t really Christian. I think this represents a new battle line from people who feel emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. I don’t think this is just the same old, same old. These are the same people who, when we point out that the teachings of Jesus contradict them, claim that Jesus’s various admonitions about love and compassion only apply to fellow christians. They’ve been sanctioning the murder of abortion providers for decades, as well as the bashing and murder of queer and trans people. This statement puts targets on many more people.

Don’t laugh it off.

Confessions of a recovering evangelical, part 2

Man dressed as Jesus stands in front of a group of anti-gay protestors. Jesus-guy holds a sign that says, “I'm not with these guys.”

“I’m not with these guys.” (Click to embiggen)

When I was a teen-ager our church had a debate about locks. I think the precipitating event was the purchase of a new organ for the main sanctuary, but I also know there had been an incident of one of the other churches in the neighborhood being vandalized. The upshot was, someone had proposed that we put locks on the main doors of the church. We had long had locks on some specific rooms inside the building, and the auxilliary wing of the church was locked up when not in use, but the main building and specifically the sanctuary (which is the official name of the large room with the pews, pulpit, and baptismal) were always unlocked and open to everyone.

There was a lot of talk during the meeting about insurance—either that our current insurance carrier didn’t want to cover us against theft and vandalism for parts of the building that were unlocked at night, or they were going to raise our rates significantly, I don’t recall which. There were a number of people in the congregation who felt maybe we should start locking the main building. “We aren’t in a tiny town and it isn’t the fifties,” is how I think one person put it. Another person told a story of homeless people routinely sleeping in churches and sometimes not being careful about where they went to the bathroom.

One of the associate pastors rose to his feet on that one and said, “Call me foolish if you want, but I think the proper response to finding a homeless person sleeping in your church should be to offer them a meal, and then ask what other help do they need!”

I grew up in Southern Baptist Churches where the tradition is that all business decisions related to the church are decided by the congregation as a whole. At regular intervals the usual Wednesday Prayer meeting would begin with a business meeting. Any congregation member, no matter their age, who attended the meetings had a vote. I had been attending business meetings at the many churches we attended (as my family moved) for as long as I could remember. I seldom remembered one that became more impassioned than that debate about whether to put locks on the sanctuary door.

It was beginning to look like as if the majority was leaning toward adding the locks. And then one elderly member of the congregation struggled to stand up. She had been frail and needed a walker to get around for some years, but she never missed a service at the church. She let the person sitting next to her help her to her feet, but then she sort of shook him off and raised her face as if she was speaking to the heavens themselves, and I hadn’t heard her voice sound so firm in years. “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me. And they will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick and in prison and did not help you?’ And he will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whenever you did not do it for the least of these, you did not do for me!'” She paused, looked around at all of us, and then added. “We call it a sanctuary! That is what it is supposed to be! This isn’t our house, it is His house, and he already told us what we ought to do!”

And then she sat down.

Every one was very quiet for a moment, then someone said, “I move that we do not put locks on the sanctuary.” About forty of us said, “Seconded!” And the deacon conducting the meeting said, “Everyone in favor, signify by saying ‘amen’?” That was a very loud chorus of “amens.” Then the deacon asked, “Any opposed?” And I think one person said “Nay,” and he was immediately admonished by his wife.

Before I move on, a few notes. It has been many years since I considered myself a Christian. I usually say that I didn’t reject the church, but my denomination (which is still anti-gay decades later) rejected me. At that time, I felt I had no choice but to look for spiritual fulfillment elsewhere. I usually define myself as Taoist, now. But when that woman started quoting the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, I found myself murmuring along with her. I wasn’t the only person, by any means, but my point is that I was the kind of kid who could quote entire chapters of the Bible from heart. Some of those passages still speak strongly to me.

If it isn’t a sanctuary, it is not a house or worship.

So, yes, I was one of the people a bit outraged when so-called christian televangelist Joel Osteen, mega church pastor in Houston, Texas, refused to open his building as a shelter to his neighbor flooded out of their homes: Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch opens to Harvey victims only after backlash. The church’s statements have been slightly contradictory. There are plenty of posts on the internet you can track down of people living nearby walking to the church during the time when the church claimed it was flooded to show there wasn’t any flooding. And during the time when they said it was not locked people walked up and took videos of themselves trying doors and so forth.

So let’s get a few things straight. Osteen’s “ministry” preaches so-called prosperity gospel, the essence of which is: if you’re rich, that’s a sign God likes you. If you’re not, maybe he doesn’t. This runs absolutely counter to almost every word Jesus actually said. The church in question isn’t just a megachurch, it is a former sports arena that the “ministry” purchased for millions of dollars, then spent at least 70million more renovating. The renovations include installing two artificial waterfalls inside the church, yet somehow in all of that they neglected to put in any symbols of Christianity: there are no crosses or any other signs inside the sanctuary that indicate in any way that it is a christian house of worship. Thousands of TV cameras and screens and a top-notch sound system so that you can always see and hear Osteen, though.

While the child inside me who used to love reciting John 16:33, or Matthew 5:3-16, or Matthew 25:31-46 gets outraged at Osteen’s actions, I can’t really say that he is much of an outlier of typical evangelical christian thought. Most evangelical christians believe, whether they say it aloud or not, in the Just World Fallacy: if bad things happen to you, they are almost certainly a punishment from god. In other words, if you’re poor, it can’t possibly be because the entire system of the economy and society is geared to transfer wealth and resources from everyone else to the rich, it’s because you’re probably secretly doing something sinful. If you get a horrible disease, it isn’t caused by a virus or chemicals you’ve been exposed to in your deregulated workplace, et cetera, it’s because you’re doing something sinful, et cetera. And therefore, poor people, sick people, and so forth don’t deserve help and compassion. Like Osteen’s prosperity BS, it is the opposite of what Jesus actually taught.

As if one object lesson in just how uncompassionate and unchristian many of these so-called religious leaders are, at the same time this was unfolding, another group of evangelical leaders were doubling down on their anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-sex, anti-joy hateful rhetoric: Evangelical Leaders Release Anti-LGBTQ Statement On Human Sexuality. The fact that some of those “leaders” have been involved in serious scandals trying to cover-up rampant sexual abuse within their organization is really all anyone needs to know about them.

But someone else described these situations far more eloquently long ago:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
—Jesus, as quoted in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 21-23.

I Didn’t Vote for Trump Because He Was Clearly Unfit for Office—and Still Is

“Who would ahve guessed that a reality TV star with NO government experience, 6 bankruptices, 5 kids from 3 different marriages, 11 charges of sexual assault, and 4,000+ lawsuits could Possiblby Be So BAD at Being President?”

“Who would ahve guessed that a reality TV star with NO government experience, 6 bankruptices, 5 kids from 3 different marriages, 11 charges of sexual assault, and 4,000+ lawsuits could Possiblby Be So BAD at Being President?”

I am really getting tired of seeing headlines about Trump voters who are having buyer’s remorse. And I am absolutely disgusted that we still keep seeing headlines and op-eds urging us to try to sympathize with his voters. We already have plenty of proof that the thing his voters have in common is bigotry. Poor and working class people overwhelming voted against Trump. So stop trying to make a case that people flocked to him because of financial distress.

The Paradox of Tolerance

The Paradox of Tolerance (click to embiggen)

I’m also really tired of bigots and their apologists trying to argue that any criticism of their hatred and bigotry proves we’re just as intolerant as they are. It’s not a new argument by any means. I’ve had people throwing that one at me personally since the 70s, and it’s been around a lot longer than that. Karl Popper called it the Paradox of Tolerance: that the only way to have a tolerant society is not to tolerate the intolerant.

And this isn’t even every anti-gay thing Donald did during the first seven months of his presidency. (Click to embiggen)

It’s a false equivalency, in any case. Let’s look for a moment at the transgender bothroom bills as an example. The bigots who push the bills make a lot of noise about sexual assault (despite the fact that many states have had laws allowing transgender people to use the bathroom the matches their gender identity and there as never been a single case of someone using the law to try to commit assault), or the religious freedom argument. But all of that is just smoke and mirrors. Look at the actual impact of the laws banning transgender people from using a public bathroom that matches their identity. The practical upshot is that under such laws, transgender people cannot safely use any public bathroom. At all. If they try to go into the bathroom that matches their gender presentation, they are violating the law and risk arrest. If they try to go into the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth, particularly if they don’t look like they belong there, they risk being harassed, beaten, and worse. The effect of the law is to make it impossible for transgender people to exist in public places, work places, and so forth. And that isn’t an unintended consequence. The people pushing the laws don’t think transgender people have a right to exist at all.

What’s another word for “you don’t have the legal right to exist”? Genocide. Murder. Take your pick.

But what is the other side of this debate? The other side is saying that transgender people have the right to exist, and therefore other people can’t force them out of existence with the power of the law. The other side is not saying that people who wish transgender people didn’t exist are themselves subject to execution. It simply says that they have to let the other people exist. The bigots aren’t going to be assaulted for thinking unpleasant things about some of their neighbors. The only penalties they will face depend on their actions, not on their mere existence. Yes, if they state their opinions, they might get called a bigot. If they try to act on their opinions, they may face other penalties. But no one is saying they don’t have a right to exist.

Donald’s campaign promises consisted of contradictory statements and a boatload of racist and other bigoted dog-whistles. He didn’t just appeal to the intolerant, he promised that if they acted on their intolerance he would help them get away with it (what do you think the real message of that “I’ll pay your legal bills” was?). It is no accident that certain types of hate crimes went up after his election. It is no accident that some of these hateful people, when they assaulted (or attempted to assault) people of color or queer people and so forth, shouted things like “this is Trump’s country now!”

Besides being unfit for office, Donald campaigned on hate and implied genocide. It isn’t just ludicrous to ask people to empathize with his supporters, it’s suicidal for a free society to do so. So stop giving us those headlines.

“The Five Stages of Trumpism: 1) It's a total lie, never happened, fake news. 2) It happened, but it's not a big deal. 3) OK< if might be a big deal, but it isn't illegal. 4) Okay it's illegal, but Hillary and Obama something-something, so it's okay. 5) Get over it, libturd, your just a sore loser.”

“The Five Stages of Trumpism: 1) It’s a total lie, never happened, fake news. 2) It happened, but it’s not a big deal. 3) OK< if might be a big deal, but it isn't illegal. 4) Okay it's illegal, but Hillary and Obama something-something, so it's okay. 5) Get over it, libturd, your just a sore loser.”

We need to take the victories when we get them

An image from Seattle's Trans Pride March a couple of weeks ago. More here: http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/photos-seattleites-march-for-trans-pride/

A marcher holds a sign urging people not to support the the previous anti-trans initiative campaign. Image from Seattle’s 2016 Trans Pride March. More here: http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/photos-seattleites-march-for-trans-pride/

Last Friday was the deadline for people filing initiatives to the people to turn in their signatures in order to attempt to qualify for the fall ballot. One of those I was worried about was I-1552, the second attempt at enacting an anti-transgender bathroom bill into law. The anti-trans group that has been collecting signatures had made an appointment at 3pm on Friday to turn in the petitions (the Secretary of State’s office asks groups to make these appointments in part because receiving & cataloging the boxes of petitions requires a lot of people), but 3pm came and went and there was no sign of the group. Not long after 3pm word leaked that the group had apparently contacted the Secretary of State’s office to say they weren’t bringing in their signatures. So a flurry of happy and triumphant press announcements went out that the measure wasn’t going to be on the ballot.

I decided not to make this news the topic of my Weekend Update because I couldn’t find any confirmation of those triumphant announcements. Only one of the news sites I checked even mentioned the fact that, technically, the group could miss their appointment, they could even call and cancel, but if they arrived at the office at 4:59pm with thousands of signed petitions, the state would have to accept them and begin the process of verifying signatures. And some of the folks involved in the push for the initiative have played fast and loose with the rules before.

Anyway, I finally did find confirmation: Election Rarity: No Initiatives Qualify For November Statewide Ballot In Washington. So didn’t show up at 4:59 with petitions. No one did, even though about 30 different initiatives were filed this time. There’s more good news besides the fact that for a second year in a row the anti-trans people were unable to get enough signatures to even turn them in and attempt to qualify. I’ll come back to that.

As late as Thursday morning, the anti-trans folks were sending out money-beg emails to their supporters in which they claimed they had more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but they still needed to fundraise because those evil queers and their nefarious allies were preparing to challenge the signatures. I just want to clarify that we were prepared to do more than challenge signatures. Evidence had already come forward that some of the signature gatherers were circulating two versions of the petitions that didn’t conform to the law: they didn’t have the official approved ballot title on the top (instead having a misleading one), and others didn’t contain the full text of the law on the back. Those of us following this case knew that, and the organization leading the Decline to Sign campaign (and preparing to run a No on I-1552 campaign if it made the ballot), had lawyers standing at the ready to raise that issue, among others. Signatures on petitions that don’t meet the legal criteria aren’t supposed to be counted, right?

Anyway, the didn’t have enough signatures, and so decided not to turn them in: WASHINGTON STATE: Haters Fail To Submit Signatures To Place Transgender Rights Repeal On Ballot and Transgender bathroom rule won’t be on fall ballot; group seeking rollback fails to get enough signatures. So that’s good news, for now. This is the second time this has happened. They claim to have collected more signatures this year than last. Because they were prompter to get filed and so forth this year, they had more time to collect the signatures. This time around a lot more Republican politicians and former politicians came out urger voters not to sign, though some waited until awfully late to do so.

But the other bit of good news is that none of the other initiatives filed on other topics turned in signatures, either. Some of them were quite worrisome. I’m very happy that perennial anti-tax, anti-gay, anti-well-anything-decent initiative filer Tim Eyman had a bunch of his usual garbage filed as of January and he was fundraising as usual right up until March, when the state Attorney General filed a lawsuit against him and one of his paid signature gathering groups for campaign finance violations including money laundering and Eyman diverting a lot of funds for his personal use: AG sues Tim Eyman for $2M, says he profited from campaigns. Suddenly, all of his fundraising efforts shifted to begging supporters for money to pay his legal fees: Eyman cries for contributions to counter AG’s ‘stunning witch hunt’.

The guy’s full-time job for a couple of decades has been running these shitty initiatives. He’s been having fewer and fewer successes as time has gone by, and previous disclosures have found a shrinking pool of people willing to donate. The bulk of the money coming into the campaigns and into his so-called political action committee has been coming from a single anti-tax crank millionaire for a while, now. And given the lies, distortions, and evasions he has engaged in over the years in the campaigns, it’s really a wonder he wasn’t charged with something sooner.

In the midst of so much anxiety-inducing news around the world, we need to remember to take the victories that we do get. Even if they’re only in the smaller battles just now.

Weekend Update 7/8/2017: Scandals and Schadenfreude

Muppet News Flash!

Yesterday’s round-up of news links (which covered two weeks because I’d been swamped at work then went on a short trip to deal with some family things) ended with a video of Tim Minchin singing his song, “Come Home, Cardinal Pell.” Which is a good song, but I failed to include a link in the news section about how the named Vatican official has finally been charged with sex abuse related crimes and ordered to return to Australia to face the charges. So first, a little background: Sex abuse scandal has followed Cardinal George Pell for decades.

The tl;dr version: back in the ’70s and ’80s he was the Catholic official in charge of educational institutions and programs in a region of Australia that included the notorious St. Alipius Primary School, a place described later by investigators as “a pedophile’s paradise and a child’s nightmare.” When Father Gerald Ridsdale, one of the worst offenders at that place and similar places for decades before, was finally charges with sex crimes in 1993, then Auxiliary Bishop Pell walked with Ridsdale as he was escorted into court (in hopes that his appearance and support would get Ridsdale a more lenient prison sentence), which cemented in the minds of many his dismissive attitude about accusations of sex abuse.

Eventually Australian legal authorities began turning up more and more evidence of people who had reported the sexual abuse to Pell over the years. Pell conveniently was transferred to a job at Vatican City, and then when the Royal Commission summoned him to testify, he suddenly conveniently became too ill to travel. Eventually, bowing to political pressure, Cardinal Pell agreed to testify via video conference.

“If kids got raped at Denny's as often as they get raped at church, every Denny's in the U.S. would be burned to the ground.” —Dan Savage

“If kids got raped at Denny’s as often as they get raped at church, every Denny’s in the U.S. would be burned to the ground.” —Dan Savage

Most of the allegations against him have been an all-too-familiar tale: Catholic official learns about priests or nuns sexually abusing children in their care, the situation is hushed up, the abuser is whisked away and given a job somewhere far off where they still have access to vulnerable children, the official denies any knowledge of the issue and takes other actions to protect the reputation and financial assets of the church, completely ignoring the victims. And, of course, said official continues in their own job, often rising to higher positions in the church: How Cardinal Pell Rose to Power, Trailed by a Cloud of Scandal.

Finally, it seems, Pell’s past is catching up with him: Police statement: Cardinal George Pell charged with multiple sexual offences – video and The charges against Cardinal George Pell – explainer.

So, we don’t yet know what the charges are. It’s possible that the criminal charges are for not taking action when crimes were reported to him (at least one occasion of which he admitted to during the video testimony). We’ll have to wait and see. Personally, I hope he spends the rest of his life in prison.

While we’re on the subject of officials behaving badly, former Congressman Aaron Schock (of whom I’ve written about a few times) has recently asked, once again, that the court throw out the 24-count indictment for corruption against him. While continuing to proclaim his innocence, he filed a 44-page brief which basically boils down to a claim that House Ethics Rules aren’t laws, so the fact that he violated them can’t be prosecuted. That’s right, he says he’s innocent, and then he says that he did the things but because of legal technicalities he shouldn’t be charged: Schock Rips DOJ, Urges Toss Of ‘Defective’ Indictment.

There is so much I could say about this, but I think this time I’ll give the final word to the Editorial Board of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, who observed:

“Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, once known for his six-pack abs and $5,000 office chandelier, is due in court next month on 24 criminal counts, including theft of government funds, fraud and making false statements.

The German word, schadenfreude, meaning to take joy in the misfortune of others, must have been created for this. It was hard to like Schock, 36, who flaunted the good life, allegedly achieved by treating government and campaign funds as a personal piggy bank. He gaudily redecorated his office to look like “Downton Abbey,” modeled for the cover of Men’s Health and charged thousands of dollars to his government-funded office account for such things as private flights, new cars and tickets to the Super Bowl.

Schock, who was the youngest member of the House when he went to Congress in 2009, resigned on March 31, 2015, immersed in scandal.”

Gay it forward

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

The Department of Justice estimates that about 1.7 million teen-agers are homeless in America at any time. Of those, about 40% identify as queer (that’s 680,000 kids). According to research by the True Colors Fund and similar groups, the single biggest cause of those queer teens being homeless is family rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But note that the next most common reasons are abusive homophobia or transphobia in their school, church, or community, even when their parents don’t go to the extreme of kicking them out.

Growing up in Southern Baptist churches in mostly redneck communities, I knew from a very early age that I didn’t belong. I was constantly breaking unspoken rules I didn’t understand. Nearly everyone–not just my physically abusive father, but other relatives, church leaders, many of my teachers, and a lot of the kids at school–made it abundantly clear that I didn’t act like a normal boy, and that if I didn’t figure out how to man up, there would be even more severe consequences than the beatings, teasing, and humiliations I was already enduring. I was taught–not just at church, but also at public school in health and science classes–that homosexuality was a severe mental disease that turned the people who had it into pedophiles, rapists, and worse. Homosexuals, they said, were evil creatures who deserved to die gruesomely.

When puberty hit, I finally realized that those two messages were one and the same. Puberty hit like a Tomahawk missle, blasting away my hopes of growing up to have what I had been taught was a normal, successful life. Because suddenly I realized that those odd fascinations I had had with certain men and boys wasn’t just friendship, they had been crushes. And now my hormones and body were reacting to the guys my emotions had been before. All of that added up to the horrifying conclusion that I could never man up enough not to deserve the scorn, ridicule, physical assaults, and even worse. It was no longer a matter of trying to figure out what I was doing wrong–it became a matter of life and death that I hide the truth about what I was from everyone I knew.

After fighting my feelings and having a couple of furtive relationships with other guys my age who were just as scared, I came to know with all my being that three things were absolutely true: If the wrong people found proof about what I was, I would be rejected and certainly come to an untimely and probably gruesome death alone and unloved. If I couldn’t stop having these feelings and acting on any of those urges, I would spend eternity in hell. And absolutely nothing I did–no amount of tearfully pleading with god, reading the Bible cover to cover three times, stealing my dad’s porn magazines and trying to make myself feel attraction to the women in them, et cetera–would make those feelings go away.

I was doomed. It wasn’t a matter of if, merely when.

Despite knowing I was doomed, my basic temperament just doesn’t accept no-win situations. So part of me kept trying to convince the rest of me that we could fake it as long as it took. I also had certain glimmers of encouragement I’ve written about before in science fiction. One thing I didn’t have was any role model or even a hint that there might be another kind of life possible.

There were no gay people in any of the communities we’d lived in until I was in my 20s. There were no openly gay characters in TV or movies or the like until at least my mid-teens. Oh, there were characters that seemed to be gay, but they were always either the comic relief or someone you were supposed to despise. When a few openly gay characters started showing up, they were never regular characters or even heroic. They were still either comedic characters, or victims. Very occasionally one would appear on a single episode to make a message about tolerance. But they were alway alone and there was no sense they had a life or friends, let alone a love life!

And then I saw a news story about a gay pride event that changed my life. I had seen some news stories before about the gay protest marches, but they had been brief, and were always accompanied by images of either very angry people with protest signs, or outrageous images selected to portray all the queers as freaks. This story did include some of those images, but there was more of an attempt to give the queer people a chance to speak. They showed brief clips from interviews with several people, but the moment that stuck in my head was when a pair of middle-aged men who were interviewed mentioned that they had been together for nearly 20 years. They were boyfriends, and they had been together for years.

That single bit of data changed everything. I was 19 or 20 years old. I had had a few secret relationships and flings with guys. They had all been steeped in anxiety and fear of what would happen if we were caught. These other closeted gay guys were the only queer people I had met, and they were all, so far as I knew, just as certain that we were going to burn in hell for eternity because of what we were. Though some of the fiction I’d read by then mentioned gay or bisexual people in relationships, it had all be in various sci fi settings where things were very different than the real world.

But there. on the TV in a news program two men who weren’t sci fi characters were comfortable saying on camera that they were boyfriends and had been for years.

It was several more years before I would even utter aloud to anyone the words, “I think I might be gay,” but knowing that there were actual, flesh and blood queer people out there who were in love and having relationships is what let me hold on to hope for a few more years and gave me the strength to finally come out.

“I a not a sinner”

“I a not a sinner”

And that is another reason I support Pride Parades and all sorts of other out gay events. Because there are tens of thousands of frightened queer children out there scared to death to be who they are. Worried that their own parents will reject them or worse. And because we know that every years hundreds of those kids commit suicide because they have no hope. As long as we have our crazy, flashy, glittery, contentious but fabulous pride parades and festivals and so on, then news sites will run stories about them. It doesn’t matter that the coverage may be slanted. Some of those frightened kids will see those stories. Some of them will click on those images. They will know that they aren’t alone. If we can give some of them hope, then our mission has been a success.

All of us who are living our lives out and proud got here because of the hard, brave work of the drag queens, trans activists, marching gays and lesbians and so forth who came before us. We owe them a debt we can’t repay directly. So we have a duty to not just pay it forward, but gay it forward.


Edited to Add:

If you can, give a donation 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. And if you want to hlp support transgender kids, please donate to: National Center for Transgender Equality.

The long, lonely death spiral of the anti-gay defenders of “traditional” marriage

“I mean clearly straight people are trying to convert gay kids to be straight, not the other way around. No one tells straight kids they're just confused or wrong or evil for how they feel when they fall in love.”

“I mean clearly straight people are trying to convert gay kids to be straight, not the other way around. No one tells straight kids they’re just confused or wrong or evil for how they feel when they fall in love.” (Click to embiggen)

So the so-called National Organization for Marriage hosted an event in Washington, DC that was supposed to be a March for Marriage (as a protest against Marriage Equality), and the attendance was even worse than last year: March For Marriage Draws Tens, But Promises Ultimate Victory Over Obergefell. The article I linked mentioned how previously the crowd was bolstered by people bused in. What they don’t say is that several of the busloads brought in last year were under false pretenses: a New York State legislator put out fliers in Spanish in community centers advertising a free trip to DC to see the monuments, so there were about a hundred people—mostly older ladies who didn’t speak much English—standing around looking confused at the edge of a small crowd, during the speeches, then they all wandered off to look at monuments on their own while an even smaller group of people marched to support traditional marriage. Oh, and they literally let a visiting French politician who was the leader of the French Nazi Party (I am not making this up) not only give one of the speeches, but she led the march!

None of the groups who previously organized bus trips did so this year. And the crowd, as the headline says, was tiny. One non-attendee who sort of live tweeted the event said that she counted the entire crowd: “47 if you include the babies.” The speeches were the typical anti-gay fare: how letting queers marry is destroying society, et cetera, et cetera. Then the not-quite four dozen people apparently marched down the street and glared at the Supreme Court building.

The downward spiral of this particular anti-gay hate group has been going on for years. I’ve written before about their tax and fundraising shenanigans. The tl;dr version: small donors stopped giving to them several years ago, so they are supported by a very small number of anti-gay millionaires (most of whom demand anonymity), and have had to resort to taking multi-million dollar loans from their associates religious “charity and education” non-profit to shore up the political side. They’ve skipped filing required tax documents since then (again), but I suspect when they are finally forced to disclose again the situation will turn out to be even worse.

I should mention that in the previous years some of those buses who brought people to the march were paid for by NOM. The story I linked says “groups,” but that’s another bit of chicanery. Most of the other non-profit groups that they used to like to list as supporting them were little more than shell companies of the main National Organization. People who were board members of NOM were each listed as the president of one of the smaller groups, and the individual groups didn’t do any serious fundraising, they were supported by the national organization (in turn relying on those aforementioned anti-gay millionaires). You may infer what you wish from the fact that most of those organizations have been dissolved and there were no buses bringing folks to the march. Can’t pay for buses without money, right?

I assume that if there is another event next year, that it will soon look like the pathetic ex-gay pride event four years ago: literally the only attendees were nine employees of the organization trying to sell ex-gay therapy, and about four internet news people covering the so-called rally. Note by that point, even Fox News was unwilling to send someone to cover the event.

While it’s tempting to take some delight in the downfall of some professional anti-gay people (seriously, peddling anti-gay hate is how people like Brian Brown make a living), this hardly means that no one hates us anymore, or that there aren’t plenty of anti-gay groups out there supporting politicians who are passing laws to take away our rights. All it means is that on the topic of marriage equality we long ago passed the tipping point where a majority of Americans think queer people should be allowed to legally marry if they want. And it means that before then we also got to a point where a majority of people believe sexual orientation can’t be changed.

But there are some nuances. Polls have shown that about 10 percent of the people who think marriage equality should be legal, also still believe that queer people are either immoral, or mentally ill, or some other category of “less than” —they don’t approve of us, they don’t approve of our relationships, but they don’t think their objections rise to the level of justifying legal prohibition.
There is a more disturbing segment (but I haven’t been able to find any surveys that have asked the right question to quantify these folks; I’ve just read a lot of their opinions in various places) of people who agree that sexual orientation can’t be changed, and therefore ex-gay therapy is a fraud, but they also believe that we are irretrievably broken, or otherwise inherently flawed. So again, it’s not that they approve of us or support all our rights, it’s that they’ve come to the conclusion that therapy can’t fix us.

The war isn’t over, it’s just that the battle lines have changed. We may have won the battle for legal marriage, and the battle against ex-gay therapy, but there’s still plenty of fight to be had.

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