Is there a “War on Christianity?”

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Once again, we are being bombarded with stories and complaints about the supposed “War on christianity.”  All over, there are stories of people using “religion-based” bigotry.  When called out on this bigotry, suddenly, they complain that they are the ones being persecuted.

For example:

Memories Pizza.  This is a family run business that very blatantly said that they wouldn’t cater to same-sex weddings due to their “beliefs.”  (First question:  What self-respecting gay couple would want their wedding catered by a pizza joint?)  When called out on their hatred, they closed their doors out of fear of “retribution from the hordes of angry gays.”  Somehow, they were able to raise almost a million dollars through crowd-funding!

Tom Delay:  “I have the RIGHT not to serve gay sinners, because they undermine my “religious liberty.”  His complaint is that the “Gay Agenda” is out to squash “religious liberty.”  Ummmmmm.  does he not take into account, or does he simply choose to ignore the incredibly large number of LGBT people of faith?

An article in a publication called “Right-Wing News” by a guy named Walter Todd Huston starts out with:  “We are seeing it nearly every day. lately – Christians in our own country being attacked by radicals. and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is exactly right when he says the Christians now need legal protection for their “Religious Expression.”  In the article, he does a fairly good job of standing up for Jindal’s “defense if his state’s RFRA, but ends the piece with this gem:  “The Left’s goal is to outlaw Christianity, and they intend to do it through misusing our own laws against us.  Liberals want freedom for everyone…unless you are a Christian.”

True, I am an atheist, but I was raised in a christian family.  In fact, I held on to my faith into my late forties.  most of my family still clings to their belief, and I have some dear friends who are staunch and TRUE christians.  I’m not a idiot when it comes to knowing what christianity is supposed to be about.  What I do know is this.  Anyone who feels the need to use their faith as a weapon against ANT other person, is NOT a true christian.  You’ve take what you were taught by the person you pretend to worship, and you’ve perverted it to your own warped translation.  The :Christ” I was taught about, as a child, was a man of love, forgiveness, redemption.  Not hate, discrimination, anger.  He never said that you should force your will on anyone.  In fact, he said quite the opposite.  “If anyone will not welcome you, or hear your words, then leave that home, or twon, and shake the dust off your feet.”  Matthew 10:14

But let’s get to the “real” story here, that of this so-called “war on christianity.”  Let’s take a quick peak back through history.

The Crusades:  How many were killed by “good” christian knights simply for being born in a muslim country, and for trying to keep what they considered  THEIR Holy City out of the hands of “infidels?”  True, they fought back, and killed off countless crusaders, but, what do you expect?

The Inquisition(s):  This is a great one!  Millions, yes millions, tortured and killed while being forced to accept the “supremacy” of the church.  Forced into conversion at the point of the sword. Even after conversion, many were still “executed.”  Yup.  That’s real godly love for ya!

The first explorers of the new world.  Columbus in the Caribbean, Cortez in Mexico and Central America, the list goes on.  All used the bible to justify subjugation and murder.  In some cases, entire cultures were wiped out.

We can go through slaver, the subjugation of women, Adolph Hitler’s “I believe today, that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the almighty creator.”

But lets move ahead to what’s been called the “Civil Rights Movement of our Generation.”

This is a fight that’s been coming since the dawn of religion.  The Gay Rights Movement.  For millenia, LGBT people have been belittled, (at best) down trodden, beaten, and (at worst) murdered, simply because they were born differently from religious norms.  For most of that time, it has gone on without resistance.  Over the past few decades, a few brave souls have risen up and said “Enough.”  These heroes were followed by a growing number of people who found strength by their example.  Add in our allies, and now we’re a force to be reckoned with.  There are enough LGBT activists, that we are noticed on the world’s political stage.  Hell, when the President of the USA speaks in a positive light about you in his inauguration speech, you KNOW you’ve grown up!  In my opinion, this scares the hell out of the people who’ve been walking all over the LGBT community for ever.  More and more, we’re hearing from some more inclusive and progressive religious leaders that homosexuality is NOT a thing to be despised. We also know that the few bible verses used by right-wing religious nuts are fundamentally flawed in their translation.  But they continue to tenaciously cling to them and use them as weapons.

Now that the LGBT community is actually going toe-to-toe with the religious right, they’ve suddenly had to become defensive.  Their new rallying cry is”  “They’re using their ‘Gay Agenda’ to step on my ‘religious freedoms’.”  Grow up, it’s not happening. You still have your “freedom of religion, and I still have my “freedom FROM religion.”  Fortunately, the laws in North America are based on something call the Constitution, and not the bible.  In both Canada, and the USA, we are guaranteed HUMAN Rights.  ALL people have the right freely, openly, and in celebration of whatever defines us.

There you have it.  There is no “War on christianity.”  It’s not real, it never was.  If there is a war on anything, it’s a war on hatred, anger and discrimination, whether religiously-based or not.   Having said that, if your version of christianity  includes hatred, bigotry and discrimination, then I, for one, am a very willing soldier in the war on you!

Ken

Hollow Victory: Damage Control and the Continuing Fight Against the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Hollow Victory

Well I think my governor may have grown tired of being a national punchline for the last week. After the protests, the boycotts, and the potential loss of millions of dollars in state revenue from conventions, concerts, and job opportunities, Governor Pence signed an amendment to SB 101, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”, which is designed to clarify the bill. The amendment, passed by the statehouse and signed by the governor on April 2nd, reads as follows:

“This chapter does not: (1) authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military services; (2) establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal by a provider to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military Service.”

Governor Pence certainly seemed happy with himself, in a press release issued shortly after signing the amendment, he said, “Now that this is behind us, let’s move forward together with a renewed commitment to the civility and respect that make this state great.”

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma likewise patted himself on the back, saying “We’re here to announce that it’s fixed.”

But not all of Pence’s cronies were happy, Micah Clark, head of the American Family Association of Indiana, said “Our legal advisors tell us that it actually changes our law in a way that could now erode religious freedom across Indiana.”

Clark’s statement is very telling about the original intention of the bill. Even though Governor Pence and his posse in the statehouse swore up and down that this bill had absolutely nothing to with discrimination against LGBT folks, Clark is insisting that this amendment essentially guts the bill, rendering it useless for its intended purposes. Do you have a bit of a wild card in your stacked deck, Governor? Did Clark state the truth against your better judgment?

The response from our allies has been mixed as well. Noted actor and LGBT advocate George Takei was quick to claim victory, writing on his Facebook page “I am very happy to replace ‪#‎BoycottIndiana with ‪#‎IndianaForAll, with the hope that Hoosier hospitality once again can flourish. This has been a difficult and soul-searching week for many on both sides. But from here we move forward, together, towards an inclusive society where religious beliefs and individual civil rights can exist in harmony, side by side. This is a great day for Indiana, and for the entire nation.”

But Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff didn’t appear to be so fast on going back on his promise to reduce his business in Indiana due to the law. In an interview on CNN, he told the reporter that he was looking to help employees move out of the state, saying “I just got an email on the way to studio from another employee who said, ‘look I don’t feel comfortable living in this state anymore, you have to move me out,’ and I gave him a $50,000 relocation package and said, ‘great, you’re clear to go.’”

So is this amendment the fix we needed? Does it put an end to the fight here in Indiana?

Nope; first off, while the new amendment does offer a first in Indiana history, the first time LGBT people received civil rights protection on a state level, it applies exclusively and only to this bill, only to SB 101. There are still no state-wide civil rights protections for LGBT folks on a general level.

Furthermore, while it appears to limit the potential damage, it’s not as all-encompassing as it might seem. Look at another part of the governor’s press statement issued shortly after signing the amendment, “The law also enhances protection in religious liberty cases for groups of individuals and businesses in conscience decisions that do not involve provision of goods and services, employment and housing” [bolding done by the journalist]. What does that mean? What else does a business potentially cover outside of the provision of goods and services and employment? I think there’s still something extremely fishy there.

The biggest thing with this “fix” is that if it is a victory, it feels like a hollow victory to me. It feels like a cheap shuck carnival trick, a bit of political maneuvering, nothing more. We had Governor Pence on the run, he was cancelling appearances all this week, seemingly locked in his office, pulling out his hair, screeching “Holy shit, what have I done?!” It has been rumored that Pence has his eye on the White House and it felt like we had dashed those hopes for him, crippling his political career once and for all.

And now, with a quickly signed amendment and a press conference, it seems like Pence is breathing easy for the first time in a week. He thinks the media circus is over and picketers will pack up their signs, banners, and flags and go back about their business. He thinks the newspapers and television stations will quit sticking a notebook or microphone in his face, demanding to know just what the hell he was thinking.

We could give him that. We could count this as a victory, be grateful we got the half a loaf that we did and move on. But I think that would be a fatal mistake on our part.

Look, we got the amendment to explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity under the protected classes and it’s great that we were able to do that. But why stop there? Why just be happy that our equality applies only to this bill and not to state law as a whole? Why be happy with a little PR victory and the fact that we got Micah Clark to gnash his teeth in public when he felt he lost?

Our foot is in the door and now the ball is in our court, what are you gonna do, brothers and sisters? Are you just gonna be happy with what you got and have a cocktail over it? Or are you gonna say, “You know what? Fuck half the loaf, we’ve been getting that for too long, it’s time we got a whole loaf for once, goddamn it!”

The national press can move on to another story and the Gay Inc. groups that leeched themselves onto this cause can put out their press releases and raise a glass of champagne to their “victory” in Indiana. But this is one journalist that ain’t moving an inch, this is my home, I got my foot in the door and now I’m gonna push the door wide open.

Who amongst you is gonna stand alongside me? Who else is gonna demand nothing short of full equality in the state of Indiana and the total dismantling of RFRA?

Stand up and be counted, brothers and sisters, Indiana still needs you.

Hoosier Hospitality: Notes from the Anti-RFRA Rally in Indianapolis, IN

Hoosier Hospitality

My governor, Mike Pence, managed to make our state the laughing stock of the whole damn country earlier this week when he signed SB 101, the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Celebrities and companies quickly managed to make their outrage known with calls to boycott the state and calls to remove Governor Pence from office. My Facebook wall and messages began to run hotter than hell by Thursday afternoon, mere hours after Pence signed the bill.

I had heard there was a demonstration going on downtown on Saturday at the statehouse through some activist friends and immediately made plans to attend. The first order of business was to hook a ride, then get the signs and Colors ready. Getting a ride was no problem, I called my buddy Dave who had stood the line with me when we protested against Westboro Baptist Church when they came to our fair city on the occasion of the Super Bowl (I guess God hates the NFL?). He was anxious to get on the lines again and we immediately set up a 10:30 AM rendezvous on Saturday morning to go into it and kick ass.

Unfortunately, when I called Dave as I was driving home from work on Friday, he sounded sick and was out for the weekend. It took some scrambling on my end and a few panicked phone calls, but finally I contacted Kathleen, a fellow worker from the Indiana IWW. I knew she would be going to the rally. She agreed to pick me up at 11:15 in the morning after she finished up some union business down in Bloomington.

I got up around 9:00 AM and turned on the coffee maker. After about an hour, I called Kathleen to make sure things were still on. She assured me they were, but she was running just a wee bit behind. I said that was no problem, we would still have plenty of time.

She was running a bit more behind than planned; we finally hit the road to Indianapolis at 12:30. She apologized profusely, but I assured her it was alright. We would be cutting it razor’s edge close and unfortunately for my friends who wanted to tag along they would be on their own. We lit a cigarette and sped off.

We hit the picket sight at around 1:15, we missed the opening blast; apparently the Indianapolis Gay Men’s Choir came out and sang some songs. But that was it as far as what we missed.

We hooked up with Sebastian, Cassius, and Millie. I gave them picket signs to hold as they requested. I tied my flag around me cape-style and then called Brother Tom from Ohio. He said he was gonna be there and wanted to meet up. I told him I was by the big statue with the guys. Soon he sauntered up, holding his GetEQUAL clipboard. We had known each for years online through mutual friends in the activist community and now we were meeting in the flesh on a picket line. Christ, how much more poetic can you get?

We were at the back edge of the crowd and couldn’t hear a thing; Tom said he knew a way to get closer so we followed him to a spot in the thick of the crowd. Unfortunately, we still couldn’t hear anything; the sound system wasn’t powerful enough to carry the calls for revolution through the crowd.

And Jesus, what a crowd! I’ve been doing queer related pickets throughout the state for the last twelve years and I had never seen anything like it. Here in Indiana, if you get a couple hundred folks, it’s a big event. There was probably 2,000 Hoosiers standing on the statehouse lawn, waving signs, waving flags, united in the voice that our governor sucked and this “religious freedom” bill was a load of bigoted horseshit.

It wasn’t just the size of the crowd, it was the mix; there were mothers, fathers, little children, there were stone obvious street activists like Tom and I, there were college students getting their first taste of action, there were atheists and preachers (one group held up the flag of the Episcopal Church, the local diocese had just issued a press statement against the bill). It was beautiful, a wide mix of folks who wanted to show the state and the country that the bill was a complete affront to the Hoosier Hospitality our state was famous for.

Bad sound system or not, the crowd roared, cheered, sang, and chanted. I continued to run into old friends on the picket line, college buddies, fellow union members, comrades in the Socialist Party, I even ran into Suley, an old counselor friend from the Krietenstein days. It was great to see so many buddies out on the line to stand up for equality in our home state.

The rally came to an end shortly before 3:00 with a call to keep up the fight and meet up again on Monday for another action. The news cameras got their footage and the newspapers got their photos, the message was clear, we weren’t gonna let Governor Pence get away with this bullshit without a fight.

One thing that really struck me about the rally was the lack of a counter-demonstration. If you listened to Governor Pence and his cronies, it was only a small minority that was against the bill, most people supported it. Well gee, if the RFRA had such broad support, I didn’t see it anywhere on the lawn of the statehouse that Saturday afternoon. There was supposedly one guy standing off to the side holding a sign against us, but I didn’t see him.

After the rally fizzled out, with a few stragglers still singing some songs and jawjacking about the next event; my group agreed that we needed to get some lunch. Tom said he would give me a ride home since Kathleen had to get on to Terre Haute to hash out some union related business. I waved bye to Kathleen, then myself, Tom, Tiffani, Sebastian, Cassius, and Millie walked off to get some chow.

On the way to Tom’s car to drop off the picket signs, this lady came up to us and asked if there were any signs laying around. She was with the Indianapolis Public Library and wanted some signs for a display to mark the event. We directed her towards the statehouse lawns where there were still a few stragglers, but before she left, I gave her one of my signs for her display.

We ended up at this joint called Sahm’s (pronounced “psalms”) just a block from the hotel Tiffani was staying at. We managed to find a table big enough for our group and then sat down. The waiter came around for drink orders and while everyone else stayed dry, ordering Cokes and tea, I ordered a shot of Wild Turkey. The rally was finished and the stress was starting to seep out of my head, a shot of bourbon would be the perfect toast.

Sandwiches soon arrived and we spent the next hour or so gorging ourselves and telling war stories from work and picket lines. I suppose to some it may have seemed like we were agitated, but it was a table of six militant queers, unwinding from a demonstration and letting their hair down.

After lunch, Sebastian, Cassius, and Millie went to their car to drive home and I went with Tom and Tiffani to get a ride back to Avon. On the way, Tiffani got a phone call from another coordinator in GetEQUAL. I didn’t catch the whole bit, but from the tone of it, it sounded like Tiffani was pleased with how the demonstration went. I smiled a bit inwardly, feeling pretty proud that my home state’s action against bigotry would impress somebody from Texas.

Tom and Tiffani hugged me goodbye and got on the road at around 6:00. It had been a long day and I needed desperately to unwind. My brother knocked on my door, brandishing two bottles of Thunderbird wine. We gorged on the gutter hooch and I passed out shortly before midnight.

I woke up the next morning nursing a wino headache and ABC’s This Week on the TV. George Stephanopoulos was interviewing none other than Governor Mike Pence. Pence was supposedly on the show to “clarify” SB 101, instead he ended up making a total ass out of himself on national television. Stephanopoulos asked him point blank if the law was discriminatory, if the law was designed to be used against LGBT folks and Pence kept giving him the run-around. Stephanopoulos grew increasingly flustered and said straight-up “Governor, it’s a yes or no question.” Pence still gave him the exact same run-around, accusing opponents of the bill of misreading it, of not understanding it. If Pence wanted to clarify the bill, he did a piss-poor job of it and left George Stephanopoulos even more confused.

The appearance on This Week wasn’t the only media clusterfuck the Governor caused that weekend; he was interviewed by the Indianapolis Star on Saturday and with several thousand people standing right outside the statehouse, he said he didn’t anticipate the backlash of the bill. Well gee, Governor, you signed a piece of legislation that opens the door to discrimination hardly a year after a proposed constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality in Indiana (an amendment you supported) failed in the statehouse. You and your supporters have been looking for revenge against LGBT Hoosiers and you wonder why everybody’s so upset with you?

I love Indiana, I grew up here, my friends and family are here, my life is here; I’m proud that my state had a reputation for hospitality. Unfortunately, my governor unzipped his fly and took a long steaming piss on the legendary reputation of Hoosier Hospitality. Thanks a lot, Governor Pence; you turned our state into the laughing stock of the country.

Show about Zombies Ignites Hatred Over Eight Second Kiss

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“The rights and freedoms of all People should be Mainstream.” Quoted by Greyson Orlando- fighter for equality.

Everyone be warned! Be very afraid! Something most horrific has happened that may destroy us all.  I’m not talking about the zombies that may be lurking in your closet, or the ones who may be creeping up behind you as you read this. I am talking about a kiss. Beware the two men who show affection.

It sounds pretty silly doesn’t it? This is exactly how many viewers of the popular show The Walking Dead reacted only a week ago. During an episode, there was featured an 8 second kiss between two men who were just happy they were alive. Only moments after the episode ended, the media flooded with homophobic remarks that were full of hatred. The amount of rage against this short lived moment on television was utterly jaw dropping.

For those that have not seen The Walking Dead, it is basically a show put on by AMC that centers on a massive, zombie apocalypse. It is widely known for its intense action, violence and gore. There is a lot of cannibalism, among other disturbing elements. The show has actually featured a lesbian, who is one of the main characters, but suddenly when two men who aren’t even regulars on the show share a small smooch on the lips it had gone too far, when no one blinked an eye when everything else happened, like the gore and rape. There are people right now who are calling for the shows cancellation because producers and directors chose to show a small, affectionate kiss between two men.

The scene takes place in an old abandoned warehouse where the two men have sought refuge. One of the men is wounded and can’t walk, and is sitting on the ground lying up against his duffle bag with his injured foot propped up. The man, who is obviously his romantic interest, walks in and discovers he is alive. The man walks over to examine him and becomes overwhelmed with joy and gives him a heartfelt, comforting kiss. And that is what the whole uproar was over.

I decided to challenge this and I showed the video clip of the kiss to eight selected straight friends of mine. They did not know what they were watching when I showed them. What they saw didn’t offend them, it didn’t turn them gay, and those of them who watch the show can’t wait for the next episodes. This blog goes to them. This time my straights will take the stand with their statements in support of a very sweet gesture the producers and directors of The Walking Dead created with a simple yet moving scene of love.

Note: The statements you are about to read are opinions expressed by each individual and are their own. The credit goes completely to them. None of them have been edited and will appear as they were quoted.

Nick Jaramayo– All I saw were two people showing affection. This level of hate shows how the world really is.

Amanda Personally, this doesn’t bother me because I have seen this in the media periodically my whole life.

Michael Napodano– Condemning a show because of two guys kissing, but condoning a worldwide flood that killed every living thing, including innocent animals, women and children, just doesn’t make sense to me.

Robby Headley– It is hard for me to engage in a serious debate with people like this, because their opinion isn’t important to me, nor does it matter to me. This is 2015, and this level of silliness and hatred won’t stand.

Kaitlyn– There has been homosexuality since the beginning of time. One simple kiss on a television show shouldn’t cause such a dramatic amount of chaos. This is not the first show to feature two men kissing. People need to realize that love is love. Just because some people don’t agree with it, that does not mean it isn’t going to happen. Everyone is equally entitled to their happiness. A man should be allowed to show his love and affection to another man. If you don’t want to see it, don’t look. Maybe they feel the same way about you.

David Stevens Kudos to the Walking Dead for showing a moment of genuine, non-exploitative affection between two gay characters. While one rarely has to wait longer than a few minutes to see two straight people kiss in any movie or TV show, it is refreshing for a major show to give some screen time to a display of love from a same sex couple. It is high time that such scenes become part of the entertainment norm, and no longer such a rare phenomenon. Our LGBTQ sisters and brothers have sat through enough hetero kisses; it’s time that we straighties return the courtesy.

Kelly Digges There’s a quote I really like from author Mary Robinette Kowal: “It’s not about adding diversity for the sake of diversity; it’s about subtracting homogeneity for the sake of realism.” In other words, the reason to have characters with a wide variety of backgrounds is that real people have a wide variety of backgrounds. Your stories (and worlds, in the case of science fiction and fantasy) will be deeper, more realistic, and more engaging to a wider group of people if they reflect the diversity that the real world has to offer. Despite the diversity of the real world, there’s very little pressure on media to be inclusive. It is always safe for your characters to be straight white males. Diversity in media doesn’t just happen–it takes work. So when media creators make sure their cast of characters covers a broad spectrum of humanity that deserves recognition. Hopefully someday a gay kiss or a majority black cast will be totally unremarkable. But we’re not there yet. The thing is, though, whether I–a straight white man–commend those creators is actually not very important. Sometimes when creators make sure their fictional world is as full of different kinds of people as the real world is, I see people (almost always people who don’t belong to the represented group) say that it’s “forced,” or “pandering.” But what they’re really saying is that it didn’t speak to them–it was clearly meant for somebody else. And that’s how “everybody else” feels almost all the time: like they’re reading and watching and listening to things that are made for somebody else. And when creators take the time to tell stories that speak to those people, it can have a huge impact. (Just as an example, Whoopi Goldberg was inspired to become an actress in part by seeing Nichelle Nichols’s character Uhura on Star Trek–a black woman in an important role on television at a time when that was virtually unheard of.) So that’s really the important part: making sure that a broad swath of people sees themselves and their experiences reflected in media. I am always in favor of that.

Greyson Orlando– I have been watching The Walking Dead since season 1. It is an excellent show, well written, and with a diverse set of characters. It is also intensely violent and gory. It showcases some of the best and a lot of the worst sides of humanity. That’s what makes it so compelling. And now there are calls for cancellation over, of all things, a kiss. It was a kiss between a man and his partner who is just happy to see him alive. This is a show that has featured adulterers, racists, murderers, psychopaths, and the undead. And yet, when two men kiss, there is an outcry. Suddenly it’s gone too far. The reason for this, I think, is fear. It is the fear from those who oppose gay rights that they will no longer be able to pretend that gays do not exist. It is the fear that society will “accept” homosexuality. This is exactly why scenes like this gay kiss in The Walking Dead need to exist. Without scenes like this, these people will be able to continue to pretend that sexual orientation is not a real thing and that gay rights is something that needs to be stamped out before it goes “mainstream.” The rights and freedoms of all people should be on the mainstream. The more society looks at homosexuality as a normal part of humanity, the faster we can eradicate prejudice and oppression of gays. I commend the creative team for The Walking Dead in taking us another step in that direction.

“On behalf of the show and its cast, we commend the directors, writers and producers for making this sweet yet simple kiss. Thank you.”

An Open Letter to Conservative Christians

Open Letter
Walter Beck
Picket Lines
Drag Bars
Queer USA

March 18, 2015

The Family Research Council
American Family Association
National Organization for Marriage
Bryan Fischer
Scott Lively
Tony Perkins

Dear Conservative Christians,

I am a young American queer activist and I have been on the front lines since I was a teenager. It’s been a long, thrilling twelve years in the trenches. And of course, you gentlemen and your constituents have been my opponents throughout this time. As you are well aware, the Supreme Court is set to rule on the marriage issue in June and the smart money says that the ruling will go our way; which is why I’m writing to you.

You have no doubt been thrown into a panic by the slew of legal rulings in our favor and the changing cultural dynamic. And believe me, on a certain level, I sympathize with you, you gentlemen have been power brokers in American politics for the last thirty years and it can be hard to give up that sort of power without a fight.

So in a last ditch effort to maintain a semblance of control and power, you have been sponsoring, calling for, and lobbying for so-called “religious freedom” bills in various states throughout the country, claiming these bills are necessary because you have been viciously persecuted by us queer folks. To double down on the PR panic spin, many of these bills have been rushed through as “emergency” legislature.

Well, we have spent the past decade or so trying to play diplomatically with you gentlemen, trying to allay the public of all the fears you pump into them. We have maintained a strictly squeaky-clean, non-aggressive image, even shunning some of the more radical elements of our community in a vain attempt to maybe convince you to tone it down on the paranoia.

Our efforts have failed on that level and this is one queer activist who’s taking the gloves off and is done lathering on the soft soap with you bastards. You continue to speak of us in the most degrading language imaginable, comparing us to people who practice necrophilia and bestiality; you continue to compare us to child molesters, reiterating long debunked claims of “recruitment”; and a few of you have openly compared us to Nazis, trying to blame us for the Holocaust, one of the most horrific events in human history.

And now you’re the ones who want to claim that you’re “persecuted”, yeah well, listen up, cupcake, you self-righteous hateful bastards don’t know the first goddamn thing about persecution! You don’t. Who do you drudge up to offer proof of such persecution? A few local businesses that were found guilty of violating civil rights laws? A couple of reality TV stars who got put through the media shredder for speaking bigotry? That’s all you have? Please! Those who were so “persecuted” seem to be making a pretty decent living on the conservative speaker circuit, raking in thousands of dollars in speaker fees, and getting more free publicity than they could have ever dreamed of; seems to me like “persecution” was the best thing that ever happened to them.

You assholes wanna know about persecution? While that phony redneck Phil Robertson was whining to Fox News about how persecuted he was for comparing us gay folks to people who practice bestiality, I was reading obituaries and articles about young brothers and sisters such as Leelah Alcorn, Zander Mahaffey, and Ash Haffner who were murdered by society because they felt they weren’t loved enough, that nobody cared if they lived, died, or grew mushrooms in their crack.

Those young brothers and sisters certainly weren’t the first that we had to bury way too soon, we’ve also had to lay to rest brothers and sisters such as Tyler Clementi, Ryan Halligan, and Jamie Hubley. In the aftermath of tragedy, we tried to make things better by urging states to pass stricter anti-bullying laws and what did you do? Hmm? You tried to eviscerate such laws by making sure there were “religious protections” in them. Yep, that’s exactly what you did. Before these young brothers and sisters were even cold in the ground, you were testifying before state legislators claiming that if a student beats one of our young brothers or sisters in the face with a Bible, that it should be excepted from such anti-bullying laws. That’s right; you went out of your way to protect the bully.

And it ain’t just in the legal realm that you have pissed on the graves of our fallen brothers and sisters, your shock troops, your street preachers seem to delight in the death of another one of ours. I remember when I was a student at Indiana State University and we were holding a candlelight vigil for the fallen, there was a street preacher by the name of Brother Larry who just had to come to the event, waiving his Bible and yelling his bigoted rhetoric. I’ve seen similar reports about other street preachers doing the same thing. Hmm, seems like there’s not much difference between you guys and the Westboro Baptist Church, does it? You can’t even let us mourn and bury our dead in peace.

But it’s more than death, isn’t it? You go out of your way to make our lives a living hell even as we walk the streets. Your politicians that you bought and paid for will whine into the nearest microphone about it’s “a hostile environment for people of faith” out there, but let’s cut the shit, alright? It’s still a hostile environment for us and it’s one that you created. You got a story for me about a kid who was kicked out of his home because he told his parents that he was a Christian? You got a story for me about an employee who was fired because her co-workers found out that she went to church on Sunday? You got a story for me about a state where Christians can’t get legally married simply because they’re Christians? Hmm? You got any of that for me? Nope, I didn’t fucking think so.

The old die-hards of your movement may fall for this phony PR spun “persecution” bullshit that you gentlemen are slinging, but the American public isn’t. The raw, naked truth is out and open for anyone to see, you’ve been kicking us in the groin for the last fifty years and you’re trying desperately to get a few more shots in before you’re shuffled off to the graveyard of American politics. Our bloody and bruised bodies have fought too long and too hard to let you get away with it anymore.

But you know what I think really burns you guys up? It’s all the battles you’ve lost over the last decade. The hundreds of thousands of us that you didn’t get to see in the grave or in the hospital. We repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, even though you howled at the top of your lungs about how it would “destroy” the military. Shit, guess what? That didn’t happen. Our military is doing just fine and now our service men and women can march without fear or shame. No more will they face the hell of denying themselves to serve their country. And while we still don’t have marriage equality on a national level, Federal judge after Federal judge has thrown out various state statutes and state constitutional amendments, doubling the number of states with marriage equality over the last year from 18 to 36 (and more states added all the time); we now have happy couples in over half the country raising families, just as happy as clams in high tide. Oh man, that just has to fry you, doesn’t it? All those gay and lesbian couples raising kids and being all-American families. I know, you swore up and down that “God’s wrath” would be upon this country if we were allowed to get married. Well gee fellas, we’ve had marriage equality in some parts of the country for over a decade and I ain’t seeing any plagues yet. As Tom Waits once said, is God away on business? Or maybe God decided you guys were full of shit from the get-go and doesn’t really mind that we’re becoming more free and happy with every passing day. Maybe God saw you for the con artists and hucksters you really are. Ever think about that?

Welcome to the end game, gentlemen. It’s D-Day, the writing’s on the wall. As the Good Doctor once said “the fat is in the fire”.

I’ll see you on the last front of your culture war,

-Walter Beck

The Pink Panthers Movement

Guerrilla Warfare: The Splintering of the Fight for Equality

Guerrilla Warfare
“Strength and muscle and jungle work…” –Warren Zevon

We’re coming up to a crossroads on the equality front, brothers and sisters, and I don’t think we’re quite ready for what’s ahead of us. For nearly the last decade, we’ve depended on a united national front to secure marriage rights for all across the nation and very soon, I believe we will reap the rewards of that long hard battle when the Supreme Court bangs the gavel in June. I’ll write about that when the time comes.

It’s not just on the marriage front; we also depended on national organization when it came to the repeal of DADT and the seemingly endless fight to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (the battle still rages). We’ve learned to unite as one and so far, it’s paid off pretty well, even if some of the best street fighters don’t always get their due.

While we’ve been reaping the rewards of a united movement, the backlash has begun to hit us. It started in Arizona, with the attempts to pass bills barring trans folks from using public restrooms (failed) and an attempt to pass a “religious freedom” bill which would allow folks to dodge anti-discrimination laws by claiming a “sincerely held religious belief” (also failed).

Many of us, me included, thought that was the end of it, Arizona is one of the most conservative states in the country and if they couldn’t get such bills passed, no state could. They tried a state approach and it failed, the battle was over, chalk another one up to our side.

But other states are more hard-headed than Arizona, in the year since Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the Religious Freedom Bill, other states have taken up similar bills though few of them have succeeded.

In North Carolina, Senate Bill 2 would allow magistrates to opt out of issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples if the magistrate had a “sincere religious belief” objecting to such licenses. The bill would also allow registers of deeds and deputy registers to opt out of issuing marriage licenses. Within the text of the bill, there is no definition of “sincerely held religious objection”. None, no legal definition of what such an objection entails. Senate Bill 2 remains in the North Carolina Statehouse and has not been made law yet.

Arkansas tried for more subtle language with SB 202. The bill became law just a little while ago and it prohibits local towns and counties from protecting classes not already covered under state anti-discrimination law. The bullet of the bill reads “A county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.” Guess who isn’t covered under Arkansas anti-discrimination laws? LGBT folks.

West Virginia has virtually copied the text from the Arkansas bill in their own HB 2881; “No county, municipality or other political subdivision may adopt or enforce a local law, ordinance, resolution, rule or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.” The West Virginia bill has not been made law yet.

The most maddening state of the bunch has undoubtedly been Oklahoma, where Representative Sally Kern has introduced two bills directly attacking LGBT citizens. There is no coded language, no attempt at double talk; the bills say it in black and white.

House Bill 1599 states “No taxpayer funds or governmental salaries shall be paid for any activity that includes the licensing or support of same-sex marriage. No employee of this state and no employee of any local governmental entity shall officially recognize, grant or enforce a same-sex marriage license and continue to receive a salary, pensioner other employee benefit at the expense of taxpayers of this state. No taxes or public funds of this state shall be spent enforcing any court order requiring the issuance or recognition of a same-sex marriage license.” And if a state judge decides to issue a marriage license anyway, the judge will be dismissed on the spot “If a judge violates this act, the judge shall be removed from office pursuant to Section 1 of Article VII A of the Oklahoma Constitution.”

House Bill 1597 is even more insane, and serves to directly attack us: “No business entity shall be required to provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges related to any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, group or association.” Under this bill, a business owner wouldn’t even have to claim a religious belief; they could straight up say “We don’t serve queers, now fuck off” and they would be fully protected under this bill.

Neither of these bills has become law yet.

So where does that leave us? Well as you can see, while we’ve been fighting as a united national front for our equality, our state legislators have been trying to slip a fast one on us by introducing bills to undo our efforts of the last ten years. They’re realizing that there’s little hope of winning on a nation level, so they’re trying to do it piece by piece, state by state.

We’re gonna have to learn how to do it locally and grassroots again, brothers and sisters. I’m in Indiana; I won’t be able to help a sister in Oklahoma fight against Sally Kern’s bigoted insanity. Likewise a brother in Arizona won’t be able to help me if my state legislation decides to pull this bullshit (which by the way, they have). Sure, we can still offer each other moral support, but the hard fact is, the backlash is occurring locally, so it must be fought locally. We’re gonna have split up into the jungle and do it guerrilla style.

But how? Many of us have forgotten how to fight locally since we’ve gotten used to fighting nationally. The first point is find your local allies, your friends, your classmates, your co-workers, hell, it could be your favorite bartender. Find people in your area who are just as tired of this crap as you are, organize them, have a discussion group, a meeting, whatever you wanna call it. Start scoping out your state’s legislation website and find bills related to this cause, usually they are related to “religious freedom”, anti-discrimination, or marriage. Local news is also a prime resource for this, they will often report on legislation being considered before an official bill is drafted.

The second point is finding your local legislator; they’re certainly more answerable to you than your congressional representative or senator. Go on your state’s website and find the contact information for your local legislator, there is usually an email address and phone number listed. Call them, email them, and let them know that you give a damn about LGBT folks in your area and that you won’t stand for them being treated as second-class citizens. Just as a personal note, I prefer a phone call, it’s harder to ignore than an email.

If you need some handy information on how to organize locally, I recommend Naomi Wolf’s Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. It’s not LGBT specific, but it’s a pretty good field manual and should help you on your way.

Remember, our Revolution started with a local fight. The Stonewall Riots were sparked based solely on a local issue, the NYPD raiding gay bars. A group of locals got fed up with that and said “Enough!” And well, you know the rest of the story.

Community organizing and grassroots street work are the only way we’re gonna roll back this backlash against us. It’s gonna take some good local sweat and muscle here, you’re gonna have to get to know your neighbors and know your local laws. Roll up your sleeves, brothers and sisters, and let’s show these bastards that we ain’t finished by half yet.

Thoughts on the Oscars 2015

oscars     In general I’m not a big fan of Hollywood and celebrity status. Although I love a good horror, documentary or animation.

Often I’m often turned off just by the concept of celebrity alone. People who make their living pretending to be one of us average folk in society.

     Thin and beautiful millionaires convene once a year for the Academy awards and give each other gold trophies, thank god and advocate world peace.
There is no doubt in the potential power of celebrity in concept of platform and audience alone but too often I am disappointed. When I
think about world problems and celebrities I wonder why there are so many stars with so much money, resources and platforms that
go unused? Why aren’t celebrities more of a driving force for social change?  Of course as a gay man I’m happy to see an out gay man host
the Oscars. It’s a cultural shift in our society in visibility alone.  For too long Hollywood erased gay men. Rock Hudson, Robert Reed and Liberace come to mind. All gay male celebrities that died in the closet from HIV.  So yes I was content with Neil Patrick Harris. Although I’ve never been a NPH fan or watched his work I was excited about the possibilities of a gay man, live with an audience of 37.3 million at his feet and a room full of money.  However I was only to be let down by poop jokes and a half naked NPH standing in his briefs; amounting to what some on twitter described as desperate. Tegan and Sara, lesbian sister singers whom I usually enjoy, performed a horrible song called “Everything is Awesome” the sound was funky and it’s just an untrue statement in these times because everything is not awesome. The awful sound and swirling, plastic legos dancing around the stage and audience was appropriately fake, and plastic just like that song.  One of the lego dancers gave Oprah a fake, plastic, Oscar award. All performers knowing of the ire the Oscars were drawing over race. All knowing not a single acting nominee was a person of color. Giving Oprah a fake Oscar felt too staged and desperate for blackness. At one point Neil Patrick Harris put the microphone in the faces of two random blonde, white women, sitting in different sections who both turned out to be ‘seat fillers’ NPH seemed horrified the two people he picked were seat fillers. I was interested in why his subconscious chose two, white, blonde,thin women? Even more interesting knowing the controversy around the Oscars, Why were the seat fillers white, blonde, thin beautiful women?
     Openly bisexual singer Lady GaGa for whom we have long depended to bring the edge and a beat performed a slow, classical like tribute to The Sound Of Music. A musical, A movie not every gay man enjoys believe it or not. A musical shot before my time, I struggled to understand why GaGa whom is way younger than me would choose such a number but I was weaned on techno, dance, and rock. For me, musicals are like a joke that I’m not in on. I struggle to enjoy any aspect of them and have never understood the almost cult like following The Sound Of Music has with some gay guys. Likewise people often don’t understand my bias towards musicals.  I have a hard enough time paying attention, combine any slow music with the long night and long speeches and it becomes a job. If I was directing the Oscars I would insist on upbeat, happy, or energetic musical numbers to offset the long night, long speeches and to wake people up at home.  If I was in charge of the Oscars I might request Oscar winners say their thank yous to 25 different people via twitter or press release, after the show.
     German Playwrite Bertolt Breecht once said “Art is not a mirror to reflect reality but a hammer with which to shape it” and Austrian writer Ernst Fischer once wrote “In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful must also reflect decay”.  I don’t know about you but I was born and raised in the city in a post segregated school and neighborhood. My playmates, classmates and teachers were often black. At no period in my 40 years alive have I lived anywhere where blacks sing, dance and deliver gold gifts to rich white people.
     There was supposed to be a red carpet protest but regrettably it was cancelled at the last minute per request of the Director of Selma.  On twitter I pushed the boycott organized by black twitter where I was met by comments like “blacks have to earn Oscars on merit” But how can you be nominated if there are no roles for you?  Why was Selma the only black movie? And consider the budget difference in black movies. Selma was only budgeted for $20 million while American Sniper had $60 million to work with. And why are there black movies to begin with? because traditional, white Hollywood refuses to portray the reality that many of us live in racially diverse neighborhoods.
     Neil Patrick Harris didn’t perform poorly but I wasn’t razzle dazzled. I can’t help but wonder, does NPH, a rich white gay, famous since childhood have any idea what it is like to be a gay youth homeless on the streets as I was and thousands of lgbt youth are now? Does Neil Patrick Harris have any idea what its like to struggle with food insecurity as many of us do?  Why does it seem like if every rich, famous, connected gay could organize with Cyndi Lauper at the FortyToNone Org we could start to put an end to homeless LGBT youth? And while we are on the topic why was Cher the only celebrity to say anything to Governor Hutchinson in Arkansas about SB202? How many movie tickets, t-shirts, books, recordings etc do we have to buy for everyone in Hollywood to tweet Arkansas?  Why don’t celebrities care about us? Why aren’t they all hopping on a plane to defend the lgbt community riding off into the sunset to save the day together? I mean if they really wanted to; they could do that, but seriously a tweet would of been nice.
     “We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850 — Bravo John Legend.  2,266,800 people are in US, federal, state and private for profit prisons.  1 in 31 people in the United States is in the grips of the criminal justice system. The highest rates in the world thanks in large part to the war on drugs. Many of these prisoners are in for non-violent crimes and 1 in 31 also potentially represents 1 in 31 families that are shattered by the government due to our national twisted obsession with punishment.
     Depression and suicide is rampant. According to the World Health Org approximately one million people per year are dying of suicide.  An increase of 60% in the past 45 years. Suicide did get a shout out from best documentary short subject, producer Dana Perry. Her film is Crisis Hotline.
     3.5 million people are homeless in the United States, many of whom work at least part-time if not multiple jobs just to stay alive. 46.5 million Americans are living in poverty now, the highest the poverty rate has been in 54 years! The creative ways people are coping with their situations deserve Hollywood’s attention.  If you believe in listening to the message and not the messenger, Patricia Arquette gave a shout out to equal pay for women but her comments were overshadowed by backstage comments about gays and people of color finally helping women for a change of pace. And again she is a millionaire complaining about her pay but hey, at least she got a conversation started!
     Activism is alive and thriving in LGBT rights, marijuana and #BlackLivesMatter among other movements. Washington DC is divided. Many people are angry. The country is polarized, black and gay power is palpable, these are very exciting times we are living in where things are rapidly changing.  If Fischer or Brecht are correct about art reflecting society good and bad, Hollywood is doing a miserable job in my opinion. Academy membership is 94% white and 76% male. These numbers are totally unacceptable. However these conditions are producing some amazing and resilient people who will help shape our countries landscape. It may not be pretty, romantic or funny but these are the conditions millions of us are living under. But it’s the truth and people like the truth and what’s familiar. People like to see their lives reflected back in the arts. I can only guess but it’s probably why reality television is so popular. Even though most people know that reality tv is often scripted or staged people are clinging to the hope  that some moments are real and authentic.
     The arts and the movies may sometimes have the power to change hearts and minds by storytelling but not if that story is placed too far out of reach. We can’t all be lawyers and Doctors and that movie has already played. The only thing close to reality drama in my book is Empire. A new, groundbreaking show on Fox that reflects, angry, black, gay, homophobic, and violent America. It’s an urban jungle out here and people want something real they can hold onto. Something that represents them and their struggles.
     In the end the Oscars were punished with their lowest  viewership since 2009 and a decrease of 17% from just last year.  To make matters worse; despite her lengthy career in show business, Joan Rivers, Queen of the red carpet itself was left out  from the death roll montage. Perhaps the academy knew it would be controversial and felt that controversy was Joan’s calling card.  The twitter outrage was one final controversy in the life of Joan Rivers. The culprit most likely, unfortunately is the Hollywood boys club. Johnny Carson locked her out of any recognition as a serious, legendary entertainer and in a final dig of disrespect so did the academy. Something you would expect from an academy that is 94% white and 76% male.
     The Academy Awards have the potential to change, evolve and diversify becoming something people of all backgrounds can enjoy but only if movie makers themselves have the courage to take those steps so that Hollywood’s future is diverse, bright (and dark) and symbolic of the actual times we live in.