Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Adoring Paul Rudd

I know I'm not the only gay guy who adores Paul Rudd. He's funny, he's sexy without trying too hard, he seems like a genuinely nice guy, he likes to make fun of himself, and, last but not least, he likes to take his clothes off. What's not to love? Another reason we like him is that he comes across as comfortable enough in his sexuality to allow himself frequent homo moments. Take last night's SNL, which Rudd hosted. Pretty much every skit had a gay vibe, or was, like, totally gay (the Beyoncé dancers, featuring Justin Timberlake, for instance). SNL doesn't always go gay inoffensively, but I can't think of another straight actor who can go gay more pleasurably than Paul Rudd. He lets the joke be on him instead of on us. (Not that many of us would mind having Paul on us, or vice versa.) He oozes good-humored tolerance and nonchalant masculinity. And did I mention he likes to take his clothes off? Keep doing what you're doing, Paul. Unless you let success go to your head, you're the perpetual frontrunner for Coolest Straight Guy on Earth. And the SNL digital short, "Everyone's a Critic", with naked (aside from some careful pixilation) Paul and Andy Samberg was really funny.

Here's to Wanda!

I've been a huge fan of Wanda Sykes for a long time. Wanda calls it as she sees it, and is one of those people--like Maggie Smith (not that Wanda's and Maggie's typical dialogues have much in common)--who tickles me by pretty much saying anything. In writing about the aftermath of Prop 8 and race, I listed Wanda as one of our allies. Turns out Wanda is not only for our side, she's on our side. Yes! (How much more satisfying it is to claim someone like Wanda than someone like, say, Larry Craig or Ted Haggard.) During the Join the Impact anti-Prop 8 rally in Las Vegas yesterday, Wanda spoke not only about gay marriage but about her own recent marriage to a woman. Wanda being a lesbian didn't come as too much of a shock to most of us gay folks. There are a number of celebrities who aren't quite publicly out but whom we more or less assume are on the team, or at least very gay friendly. Some may ask: what took her so long to come out? But, as Wanda says at the rally, she didn't go around blabbing about her sexuality yet she didn't exactly hide it, either, and was out to the people around her. More importantly, Wanda has stood up for gay people all along--as evidenced by the YouTube clip on gay marriage--and she's certainly never worked against us, unlike certain closeted, mostly Republican politicians. As Wanda also says, if gay people had equality, we wouldn't need to be standing around holding signs, proclaiming our gayness. We would simply be. Our sexuality would be no more or less visible than straight people's sexuality. The closet would disappear. So would gay activism. But that day's not here yet. Now is the time to be visible instead of invisible. Now is the time to be, like Wanda, pissed off and unwilling to back off until we have the equality we deserve. As Wanda says re: "gay" marriage: it shouldn't even be a debate. It's divorce that's threatening "straight" marriage, not gay people. So I'm not going to knock Wanda for not wrapping herself in the rainbow flag earlier, but I am going to officially welcome her to the team. We're one richer today. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Join the Impact ~ Vermont

Like many LGBT people and our allies across the US today, Kevin (to the right) and I joined in a national day of protest against Prop 8 as part of Join the Impact. Photos and other coverage of the day's events (many much larger than ours!) can be found on Towleroad. Our rally was in Burlington, Vermont, on a miserably wet afternoon, but that didn't stop a crowd of us from standing up against the vote on Prop 8 (and the other anti-gay votes this past election day in Arkansas, Arizona, and Florida) and standing up for full marriage equality. Since VT became the first state in 2000 to allow civil unions for gay couples, we've been gradually working on a grassroots level towards full marriage (which will still have no meaning, yet, at the federal level). We're hoping that in 2009 the VT legislature will pass a marriage bill because separate is never equal. After recognizing that CUs have had no negative impact on anyone, the people of our state now support marriage equality by a wide margin. We are ready for it. And we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the country fighting for the basic civil rights we all deserve. Marriage equality has already happened in Canada and in some European countries. It will happen in the US. Let's make it be sooner rather than later. There is nothing to be afraid of.

Vermonters, get involved at Vermont Freedom to Marry. We need your help.

Patterns of Falling

Friday, November 14, 2008

The (Artificial) War Between Blacks and Gays

No one has more astutely captured the absurdity of the post-election-post-Prop 8-passage "war" between blacks and gays than Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report. Ever since the right wing got wind of a rift between blacks and gays following the big black Yes vote on California's Prop 8, they have been frothing at the mouth to fan the racial flames and start a new culture war that will pit minority against minority and make gay people as scary as they find black people. (Black gay people must be truly terrifying to the white right.) Evangelical wingnut Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, did it the other day with Anderson Cooper on AC360, and Bill O'Reilly can't get enough of the black/gay divide. Nothing makes him more orgasmic than setting up a scapegoating mud wrestling match between the scary blacks and the scary gays.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are moving on. Gay people, white and black, and our allies, white and black, are protesting Prop 8 (and other anti-gay measures passed on election day) across the country, including a nationwide protest November 15. We are speaking out against the Mormon Church (who knew the Mormons are black?!), the big power and money behind Prop 8. We are boycotting businesses that devalued their gay clientele by supporting a discriminatory proposition that shouldn't have been put up for popular vote in the first place. As blowhards like O'Reilly seek to manufacture a distracting culture war, sane straight people like Whoopi Goldberg (who, shockingly, is black!) are speaking out against the real culprit, injustice.

You know something's funny in the world when you compare O'Reilly's clip and Colbert's clip, and Colbert comes off as the rational one. So let the losing right, who's looking for shit to stir up since that's all they've got at the moment, keep fanning the flames. It makes for excellent comedy. The rest of us would be wise not to take the racial bait.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Proposition 8: One Week Later

It's been a week now since Barack Obama was elected and Prop 8 was approved in California. Of course there was more to the election than these two things (including anti-gay legislation in Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas), but, for many gay Americans, this is how the 2008 election will be remembered: elation that Obama became our first African-American president; anger, hurt, and disappointment that the voters of CA decided to strip away our right to marry and write discrimination into their constitution. (Inevitably, this will go back to the courts. Civil rights should not be subject to the whims of the majority.) At first it seems impossible that the Obama victory and gay rights defeats could happen simultaneously, but what this jarring juxtaposition demonstrates is that the path to equality is rarely smooth or linear.

In the aftermath of the Yes victory on Prop 8, there has been a lot of finger pointing over why we lost: Mormon money, effective (if blatantly false) fear-mongering and prejudice-inflaming Yes on 8 ads, an ineffective and poorly run No campaign, No on 8 ads in which gay people didn't appear, the misguided theory being that straight people would be more apt to support us if they didn't think of Prop 8 as a gay thing. Then there was half-hearted, late in the game No support from prominent CA politicians. There was Barack Obama saying he does not support gay marriage, those words used by the Yes on 8 people even though Obama was on record (tepidly) in favor of No on 8. Ultimately, however, it was in the hands of the voters, and the voters (52% of them anyway) decided that gay people don't deserve the same right to marry as they do.

Then the exit poll statistics on which voters voted which way started to come in, and that's when the Prop 8 victory became a racial thing. 70% of black voters voted Yes on Prop 8, a disproportionately high Yes vote when compared to white, latino, and asian voters. (The accuracy of this much tossed around 70% statistic has been called into question.) Many gay people were taken aback by the lopsided black Yes vote. How could the same people who voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, a liberal who supports gay rights (if not marriage), vote against us? Gay voters overwhelmingly supported Obama, an African American, shouldn't black voters have returned the favor? This reasoning neglects the fact that most white gay people didn't support Obama because he was African American but because he was the best candidate. But even if Obama hadn't been in the picture, shouldn't black voters have known better? Gay people see obvious parallels (along with differences) between our struggle to overturn sexuality-based restrictions on marriage and the struggle to overturn race-based restrictions on marriage. (The language around Loving v. Virginia was undeniably similar to the language used to oppose same-sex marriage.) Shouldn't black people automatically recognize the parallels and support civil rights for another minority? Many white gay people, in the immediate aftermath of Prop 8, felt that this was the thanks we got for our support of civil rights for all minorities. Whether white gay people were truly as supportive of black civil rights (say, in the 50s and 60s, when many gay people were closeted and subject to the same prejudices as straight white people) as some like to pretend now, the sting of being slapped in the face by black voters was genuine.

Suddenly, the other Yes voters on 8 were pushed to the side so that we could fully blame the black people for putting Prop 8 "over the top." (Gay black people were rendered invisible, as were the 30% No voters, as were important black allies like the late Coretta Scott King, Deval Patrick, David Paterson, and celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, Wanda Sykes, and Chris Rock.) The reasoning went that if all those black people hadn't come out to support Obama, one of their own, Prop 8 wouldn't have passed. (A useful discussion of the rhetoric around the black vote can be found on Pam’s House Blend.) But who's to say that it was specifically the black vote that put Prop 8 over the top and not another vote? White Republicans (who made up a significantly larger proportion of the CA electorate than ALL black voters) voted 82% in favor of Prop 8. Couldn't they have been the ones to put it over the top? Or what about eligible gay voters who didn't bother to go to the polls? Or the way the campaigns for and against were run? Or the huge influence of (tax-exempt!) religious money and power? But, no, it was definitely the black vote that did it. (The latest person to make this claim, with his usual simple-minded, divisive bluster is Bill O’Reilly.) As soon as this became the accepted perception (echoed all over the media), the demonizing flourished. In reader comments on blogs like Towleroad, the side issue of race trumped the main issue of marriage equality. On the one side were the "PC people in denial" who were letting blacks off the hook; on the other side were the "racists" who had been waiting for an opportunity to scapegoat black people. The reasonable middle ground collapsed, leaving bitter polarization, which the right wing will continue to encourage since minority vs. minority is a Fox dream come true.

I spent days arguing, with minimal success, that blaming black people for Prop 8's passage was both wrong-headed and useless. Don't get me wrong. My initial response to every straight person, black or white, whose vote said to gay people--WE ARE BETTER THAN YOU ARE--was Fuck you, asshole.

It's not letting black people "off the hook" to say that religion is more to blame than race. It's not letting black people off the hook to say that the power structure and funding behind Prop 8 was largely Mormon and largely white. (Black people weren't the ones who put Prop 8 on the ballot to begin with.) It's not letting black people off the hook to speculate, in hindsight, that there could have been more educational outreach to people of color, some of whom see gayness as a rich white thing. (Using TV as one's guide, it pretty much is.) It's not letting black people off the hook to understand that variables such as education, class, faith, and the relationship between family and the closet could have played a role in those black Yes votes. Seeking to get beyond racial profiling to analyze why the black vote went down as it did and learn from that is not the same as excusing black anti-gay prejudice. But narrowly heaping the blame on blacks (who only made up an estimated 10% of the CA vote) distracts us from the primary reason ballot initiatives like this can pass: color-blind faith-based bigotry.

Religious fundamentalists (not all, it should be noted--many people of faith support full marriage equality) believe that "gay marriage" is wrong. The Bible says it's so. Marriage is a 5000 year old tradition that should not be tampered with. (In fact, marriage has continually evolved throughout history, yet fundamentalist leaders insist it is a static tradition.) Children need a mother and a father. (This overlooks straight divorce and single-parenthood, but never mind.) The problem is not the religious beliefs themselves, however much I, or anyone, might disagree with them. The problem is that anti-gay religious beliefs are being used by powerful religious institutions to meddle in gay lives. Religions should be free to hold whatever beliefs they choose, but they should not be free, in a secular society, to employ those beliefs to infringe upon the civil rights of others. And let's be clear: it is civil marriage gay people are fighting for. Barack Obama said, "God's in the mix" when it comes to marriage equality, but he--like many--is wrong. God is in his personal mix. God (or, rather, individual interpretations of God's word) should not be in the marriage equality or civil rights mix. I am not taking away a straight religious person's right to freely practice his faith. But he wants to use his faith to take away my right to be equal under the law. That is wrong. (Michelangelo Signorile effectively explored this distinction when he dissected the faith-based argument of Nancy, a Mormon caller, on his radio show.)

While the passage of Prop 8 was clearly a (temporary) defeat for gay people, it may ultimately be a tipping point towards victory. We are pissed off and we are letting the world know about it. Gay people and our allies are energized and protesting across the country. Our opponents are discovering that we will not quietly go away. Some of the gay people who either didn't care or didn't think our rights could be taken away are waking up. Some of the straight people who voted Yes but not for religious reasons are seeing that real people's lives are at stake. Homophobes may never be swayed to our side but arrogant or misinformed straight people may be forced to imagine what it would be like to have someone break into their house and shred the marriage license they take for granted. Businesses that donated to Prop 8 will be boycotted by gay people. (They were free to donate; we're free to deprive them of our dollars.) One of the most eloquent voices of support for marriage equality comes from a straight man whose life is, by his own admission, entirely unaffected by Prop 8. Keith Olbermann asks same-sex marriage opponents the obvious but often overlooked question: "What is this to you?"

What, indeed. For when marriage equality becomes a reality across America (and it will), straight people will learn that gay people getting married will have no discernible impact on their lives whatsoever. (That's not quite true: the service industry is likely to benefit economically from some fabulous gay weddings.) In Canada and parts of Europe, where marriage equality has been a reality for several years now, straight people seem to be going about their lives just fine. Future generations will look back and wonder at the absurdity of all that energy poured into fighting against something that harms no one. Future generations will find it difficult to fathom that some straight people spent years of their lives obsessing over homosexuality and fighting against the thoroughly non-threatening prospect of two loving and committed gay people sharing the same rights and responsibilities as two loving and committed straight people. Looking back, the unreasonable straight resistance will seem quaint, a bit silly. (Not that there isn't some queer resistance, too, but that's another story.)

But, right now, the struggle towards equality will continue. And, if the damaging race baiting can be put aside, the passage of Prop 8 will be remembered as one of the major catalysts in giving us the determination to move forward past setbacks until we achieve full recognition of our basic humanity. As I write this, gay couples are lining up to marry in Connecticut. These couples are the future, and another step forward in the positive evolution of marriage.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes, We Could, and Now . . .

As an American, I could not be prouder of our presidential choice yesterday. We will have, in the Oval Office, the first African-American president, a man of great intelligence, who proved himself steady and strong during the campaign, a friend of the middle-class and of diversity, someone who will change for the better the place of the United States on the world stage. The negativity and fear-mongering of the Republican party did not work this time around, at least not at the presidential level. It is a new day.

As a gay person, yesterday's election also proved how far we have to go. As a gay person, I remain, today, a second-class citizen. Anti-gay marriage amendments passed in Arizona and Florida. A gay adoption ban passed in Arkansas. Gay families are not valued, and they should be. Proposition 8 in California is still too close to call, but it appears that it too will pass, stripping away the right of gay people to marry in California, writing discrimination into the state constitution, a new and terrible precedent. (An "L.A. Times" article on the results of Prop 8 and where it might go from here.) These amendments and propositions demonstrate the danger of handing civil rights over to the whims of the majority, a majority who thinks in terms of us and them, instead of us. They demonstrate a fear of gay people and gay families that has everything to do with arrogance and homophobia and little to do with reality. And now some gay people are channeling this fear back, scapegoating black people for voting against us in California (something that needs to be acknowledged and viewed in historical context) because they're an easy target. The power behind hateful anti-gay amendments is overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly religious, but there is plenty of blame to go around. Heterosexuals who take their privilege for granted deserve blame. Gay complacency is at fault, as is the closet. But blame won't create change. Taking stock and moving forward, strategically fighting for the human rights we deserve will, in time.

Time will be on our side. History will be on our side. Equal marriage rights will be the reality one day across this country because people will gradually understand that equal rights for gay people, for all people, does not threaten anyone else. Equal rights will not make the sky fall. (If that were the case, the sky would have already landed on Canada and European countries with full marriage equality.) While Barack Obama cannot wave a magic wand to bring about equality (as a supporter of gay rights but an opponent of equal marriage, he, like many others, has room to evolve), but he can set a different tone, a tone of unity instead of division. By acknowledging gay people in his acceptance speech last night, he began this process. There are reasons for all of us to be hopeful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fired Up, Ready to Go!

I love this clip from Obama's last big rally in Virginia before the election. It's great to see him so relaxed and confident, so down-to-earth and comfortable in his own skin, sharing a human story, showing how something large can grow from the smallest of moments. Fired up, ready to go!

History in the Making

Like millions of other Americans, I went to my polling place this morning. A beautiful, uncharacteristically warm late autumn day. No lines at the town gymnasium, a perk of living in small-town Vermont. Our ballots are of the fill-in-the-circle (completely!) variety, and I checked mine several times to make sure I'd filled in the correct circle for President. As we were leaving, we picked up an "I Voted" sticker, which also said, "Early Ballot." When we told one of the elderly poll volunteers that our sticker wasn't quite accurate, since we weren't voting early, she said, "It's still early in the day!" It is that.

Since I was first eligible to vote in 1980, I have voted for exactly one winning president: Bill Clinton. After the close-but-no-cigar (or win-but-still-no-cigar as the case may be) elections of 2000 and 2004, I, like many people, despite what all the polls are saying, will not be popping the champagne cork until the win has been confirmed. But, at the end of this long election process, it really does seem that historic change is in the air. I hope that everyone who tries to vote today will not be disenfranchised by long lines or artificial hassles. I hope that everyone's vote will count. I hope that tomorrow will be a new day for my country, because we need one.

As endless as the campaign season has seemed, it will be sad in some ways to have it over. The level of engagement, as ugly as some of it has been, was inspiring. If that level of engagement carries over to the work ahead of us, maybe change really can happen. But the election's not over until every ballot has been counted. It will be an exciting day and evening ahead.

Monday, November 3, 2008

RIP, Yma Sumac

I think it can be safely said that Yma Sumac had a unique voice that will not be easily duplicated.

NO on 8 ~ Here's Why

Perhaps the most effective NO on 8 ad I've seen thus far. What the supporters of Proposition 8 want to do is barge into the lives of gay and lesbian families and arrogantly snatch away their rights. Proposition 8 will write discrimination into the California constitution and will set a terrible and mean-spirited precedent.

Earlier this year, gay and lesbian couples were celebrating the fair-minded California decision.

Tomorrow, Proposition 8 could take that away. YES on 8 has been funded by bigotry and fueled by lies. Churches (not all, it should be noted), particularly the Mormon Church, have poured millions of dollars into depriving gay people of the rights straight people take for granted.

Excellent comprehensive coverage of Proposition 8 can be found on Towleroad .

Say YES to equality, say NO to Proposition 8.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

'Roid Week 2008

One of my favorite things on Flickr is the annual 'Roid Week during which Flickr members with access to Polaroid cameras and film share their shots. Since Polaroid has announced it will stop making film, 'Roid Week has become more precious and nostalgic. The pictures themselves have become more precious, as well, at least to the photographer, because the film--what's left of it--doesn't come cheap, and it's unlikely to get cheaper as supplies dwindle. Each shot I took recently cost $1.50, which makes failed shots sad indeed. But, for the moment, 'Roid Week lives on, and as long as the Flickr 'Roid groups and the Polaroids themselves last, so will the uniquely Roidian images from photographers all over the world. Check out this Flickr group with self-portraits captioned with pleas to keep the film alive and testaments to the importance of Polaroid in many photographers' lives. This group is connected to the Save Polaroid website. To see some great Polaroids, check out the 2008 'Roid Week pool. My humble contributions to the pool are below. Unlike the true masters, I'm not sure I've ever taken the perfect Polaroid, but as long as I still have access to the film, I'll keep trying.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Idiots of the Week: Morning Joe Co-hosts

There are too many idiots to choose from these days, but I was struck by a video featured on Huffington Post in which "Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist hangs around the Upper West Side wearing a McCain/Palin T-shirt. Not too surprisingly, he doesn't find many other McCain supporters in his neighborhood, but, while many passersby make their election preference clear, I didn't hear anything that could be construed as hate speech. When Geist and his cohorts discussed the video afterwards, however, they found it "troubling," the people in it "so close-minded," an example of the "really hostile people on the left." I guess viewers were meant to be shocked by these offensive elitists who believe they're "intellectually superior" to real Americans.

Let's contrast this video with a video of McCain supporters in Pennsylvania. Which is more troubling? Which shows more close-mindedness? Where is the hostility really coming from? Those are questions for you, Willie, and the gang at "Morning Joe."

Their Last Desperate Trick?

So this is what it comes down to: Obama's aunt is an illegal alien on welfare who donated taxpayer money (a whopping $260, apparently) to fund her callous nephew's presidential dreams. This is what we're supposed to care about now. (The fact that it has no relevance to anyone but Obama's aunt, who has harmed no one, doesn't matter.)

Obama is a Muslim didn't quite stick.
Obama pals around with terrorists didn't quite stick.
Obama is not like us didn't quite stick.
Obama is un-American didn't quite stick.
Obama is a socialist didn't quite stick.
Obama is a communist didn't quite stick.
Obama's preacher is a radical black racist didn't quite stick.
Obama isn't a United States citizen didn't quite stick.
Obama wants to redistribute the wealth didn't quite stick.
Obama has shady friends in Chicago didn't quite stick.
Obama's wife, Michelle, isn't proud to be an American didn't quite stick.
Obama wants to meet recklessly with evil world leaders didn't quite stick.
Obama hates Israel and Jews didn't quite stick.

But, now, a few days before the election, "suddenly" there is a "surprise" revelation, one that will become, if the right wing is successful, the culminating focus of the campaign, the final smear to show why we should all be afraid of Barack Obama. (Or do they have another smear in waiting in case this one doesn't play as well as they'd hoped? Or will straightforward vote manipulation be the chestnut tactic of choice?) Their dream (not a new one) is that enough voters will be thrown off guard by this last-minute desperate distraction and will vote for the "safer" choice, John McCain. Never mind that McCain has proven himself increasingly erratic on the campaign trail and that his VP choice has been deemed wholly unqualified by even die-hard Republicans. I'd like to think that my fellow Americans are better and smarter than all this, but, after the last two presidential elections, is difficult to have faith in American voters. Which is why Obama supporters aren't yet popping champagne corks no matter what the polls say, aren't even buying champagne because perhaps the mere contemplation of victory could jinx everything. We've become rightfully suspicious, fearful of being cast, once again, as hopelessly naive Charlie Brown set to kick the football, only to have it pulled away, once again. 

If Obama wins on Tuesday, it will show that we are bigger than smear tactics. If McCain wins, he--and Sarah Palin, a heartbeat away--will show what a cynical, gullible, and fearful nation we've become.

So, go for it, Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin (who's taking pains, of course, to link this to 9/11--when in doubt, use code words) and the other rabid Obama haters. Give it your best try. We wouldn't expect anything less from you.