Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

National Equality March 2009

Scenes from the National Equality March held in Washington DC on Coming Out Day, October 11, 2009. End Don't Ask Don't Tell. Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Now is the time. President Obama and the Congress have this opportunity to be on the right side of history. Let's help make sure that they take it.

I was proud to be representing my home state of Vermont at the March. Vermont shows that equality is possible. If my little state can achieve it, so can the federal government.

Marriage equality is now threatened in Maine. The Maine legislature passed a marriage equality bill this past spring. But that equality could be stripped away via the discriminatory Question 1. As with Proposition 8 in California, opponents to equality are using lies, hate, and fear-mongering to convince voters to take away the civil rights of others. Visit Protect Maine Equality to see how you can help.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Birthdays

Happy Belated Birthday to the poetic master of song, Leonard Cohen. (He turned 75 yesterday.) And Happy Birthday to Johnette Napolitano--the underrated lead singer of the underrated band, Concrete Blonde--covering Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Patterning Portugal

Now that summer is coming to a close, I'm reviewing the summer that was, recalling it--though so much of this summer in the northeast didn't feel much like summer at all--before letting go. One of the pleasures of my summer was traveling to Portugal for the first time, and one of the many things that will stay with me from that trip is the tile patterns, particularly in Lisbon. They're rough around the edges, imperfect, exquisite, happy, unique, falling apart but holding their beauty, tinged with lost time and nostalgia, taken for granted until they're gone . . . much like the patterning of summer days. Or maybe I'm simply reading summer into them because another one is passing, bittersweetly, like travels you long to return to after they've ended.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why I Love Cows

Last Sunday's New York Times featured an article about how the entire town of New Lebanon, NY was transformed into the set for Ang Lee's Woodstock-themed film, "Taking Woodstock." The townspeople raved how meticulous and considerate Lee's crew was throughout and after the filming. The only folks who were less than impressed were the cows, who--thoroughly un-awed by the celebrities in their midst--posed only reluctantly for the filmmaker:

Mr. Lee’s famed perfectionism was occasionally on display. Sandy Dawson, Mr. Dawson’s daughter, was drafted as a cow wrangler, and Mr. Lee wanted her cows to pose just so.

“Cows are cows,” Ms. Dawson explained. “In the morning they were very happy. Then after lunch it was hot, and cows like to lay down after lunch. We had to physically push them to stand there. They wanted them by this post or that post. And Morgan, he’s a big steer; after a while he was rolling his eyes, like: ‘I’m not doing this anymore. I don’t want to be a movie star, I’m done.’ ”

Cows don't like posing in hot weather. They like a nap after lunch. They don't care about their 15 minutes of fame. To which I say, You go (or don't go if you don't want to), girls (and steers)!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

If I had to pick one video that purely and succinctly sums up the way I most often view life, this may be it.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Nazaré is a seaside town on the coast of Portugal. The town used to be known more as a fishing village than a beach resort, so now it's a combination of the two, with perhaps the beaches winning out. Fresh seafood is displayed in all the restaurant windows, and packs of fisherman's wives can still be seen roaming the town in traditional dress and selling their wares while their husbands are out to sea. There's a touch of tacky honky tonk along the main drag, but the narrow residential streets haven't been much touched by tourism aside from the abundance of restaurants--many quite empty when we visited in late spring. Like many of my favorite photographic destinations, it wasn't the notable architecture that attracted me, but rather the colorful everyday details of people's lives. I tend to take dark photographs, so Nazaré was a welcome change of pace since it forced me towards a lighter, brighter palette. I loved these lived-in yet secretive (most residents were out of view) streets and would have been happy to spend days (alas, I had just one) photographing them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hating Dustin Lance Black or Can Humans Be Role Models?

Small confession: I hate Dustin Lance Black a little bit, and this was before the unprotected sex pics spread like kudzu over the Internet, except on Towleroad, where there's an ongoing brouhaha because Andy Towle has--for unspecified reasons--chosen not to post DLB's sex scandal (he posted Sanjaya's coming out as straight and David Archuleta's father's sex scandal instead) but to post DLB speaking with Anderson Cooper about Obama and the gays . . . now he's, allegedly, censoring bitchy criticisms . . . oh, the outrage when bloggers do as they please!

I don't hate DLB in the same way I hate Pat Robertson or Bill O'Reilly or Ann Coulter. I hate them because they're evil assholes. No, I hate DLB--a little--in kind of the same way I hate Angelina Jolie or Justin Timberlake or George Clooney. In other words, in a jealous, petty, insecure, they're-celebrated-I'm-not kind of way. I hate him--a little, only a little--because he's younger than I am, cuter--with that whole Mormony boyish thing going on, has a silly hairdo I could no longer copy even if I wanted to, has an Oscar, and gets to be on TV, never mind that I'd need to swallow a whole bottle of Ativan to get myself in front of TV cameras and speak coherently (if one can speak coherently after a whole bottle of Ativan) with Anderson (uh-oh, do I have any of those pesky gay sex tapes floating around?) Cooper. Yet, a part of me thinks: hell, I'm gay, I can write and think (when not under the influence of major pharmaceuticals), I would have been happy to research Harvey Milk's life and put together a screenplay, how hard can that be? (To which some might reply: if it's so easy, how come you're not doing it?) So, I must admit that even back when DLB was untainted by the glory and indignities of having his very own sex tape out there in the big world wide web, my response to him, say, when he was delivering his earnest, heartfelt Oscar acceptance speech was a mix of: such a sweet and wonderful gay hero, and someone needs to take that little golden boy tearily holding the golden boy down a notch. I'm not proud of this schizophrenic response, but there it is. (And I know I'm not the only one who had it.)

Then, this week, along came that notch-altering someone (the reliably scummy Perez HIlton etc.) in the form of private sex photos suddenly made public because DLB is a big enough star for someone (i.e. an ex-boyfriend apparently, clearly a very classy one) to cash in on a little notoriety. Clearly, if DLB was anonymous like, say, me, the sex pics would be of little interest to the public. (And probably he's only enough of a star for the pics to be of interest to gay men and to right-wing propagandists who'll try to profit off them in their own sleazy way.) Let's face it, they're not news. Any more than Colin Ferrell's sex tape was. Straight people have sex. Gay people have sex. They have anal sex. Too often they have unprotected sex. And sometimes they film it, cause filming it seems fun and sexy at the time.

I'm sure DLB was more than a bit mortified when the pics saw the light of day. I mean, if he wanted them to be seen, he could have held them up at the Oscar podium and gone--hey, millions of people, look at me! Hot or not? Indeed, DLB has made a public statement--he was a man about it and didn't pretend it was some other blond twink who looked just like him, which it easily could have been--regarding the "embarrassment of this incident" and has apologized for "the misleading message these images send." He goes on to emphasize the "importance of responsible sexual practices." Calls to publicist were likely involved.

When I first saw the pics (of course I clicked on them without hesitation), I found them jarring. The guy in those pics couldn't possibly be the same as the innocent looking tuxedoed guy (I'm thinking altar boy, but do Mormons have altar boys?) at the podium who was held up as an inspiration to gay youths all over the world? The podium guy who has become a spokesperson on gay rights and a role model because of his achievements, yes, but also because he does look so very adorable. As if innocent and adorable looking people aren't interested in fucking. It shouldn't have been jarring, but, even to me, a gay guy who's been around the block more than a few times (and cultivated his own innocent look back in the day, though he really was innocent in deed if not in thought), it was. In fact, instead of salivating over the pics (granted, he's not really my type), I gave them a thorough but quick once over, and clicked them away. Almost wished I hadn't looked. Almost. Damn, now I know that not only is he human but he may, like lots of humans, be dumb about condom use. Another bubble burst. What's next? Kris Allen and a hooker?! Now, whenever I see DLB, I'll be privy to TMI and--being the shallow being that I am--I will think more about the images (no chest hair, pity, average penis, not that I'm a size queen, really I'm not) than about what he has to say about slightly more important things, like the human dignity of gay people.

There are a number of odd things about this "incident"--the type of "incident" that is becoming more and more common in this record-everything-share-everything-with-or-preferably-without-permission world. The first oddity is the idea of writers being role models. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald or Norman Mailer or Tennessee Williams were ever considered role models. Well, perhaps they were, but not in the pious sense that seems obligatory for role models today. Nowadays, even Bruno--a fictional satirical character created by a straight man--is analyzed as a role model before the movie even comes out. And, if by some accident of fame and looks, someone becomes a role model, do they have to give up their crown because they've done stupid things in life? Ideally, DLB could use this "incident" as a talking point the next time he speaks to people across the country about safe sex (which he says he's done), and perhaps he will. More likely, it will be hovering over him like a comics dialogue bubble (the dialogue replaced by amateur sex scenes) every time he's earnestly discussing gay issues, until it either blows over (does everyone still think about Rob Lowe's embarrassing incident EVERY time they see him on screen?) or it doesn't (Pee Wee Herman, poor guy, all for harmlessly masturbating in a porn theater!).

Maybe there will come a day when openly gay celebrities can simply be fallible and do what they do (write screenplays, sing songs, host a talk show), without also having to be official gay spokespuppets. But that day hasn't arrived: Instead, the media loves a scandal (how disappointed they were when Adam Lambert confirmed the obvious without blinking a mascaraed eye--they even tried, unsuccessfully, to force him into labeling himself bisexual just to have some "scandalous" headline), and so do we.

Given the choice, which do we click on first:
Dustin Lance Black's body or Dustin Lance Black's mind.

Friday, May 8, 2009

'Roid Week 2009

Another 'Roid Week has come and gone too quickly on Flickr. But a record of the week remains in the amazing gallery of images from 'Roid artists from around the world. Check out the daily favorites in the Discussion for some of the best of the best. My favorite from among my own humble offerings (I only had a single pack of film to work with, so editing for quality fell by the wayside) was Kevin in the yellow dress aka Our Lady of the Forsythia. My past contributions are in this Flickr ’Roid Week set 2006-09. Time to secure some overpriced film for the Fall 'Roid Week. It seems far away now, but those months pass in a flash.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Idiot of the Week ~ Brian Brown of NOM

Brian Brown and the desperate folks from the National Organization for Marriage are at it again, spreading misinformation in attempt to turn back the clock of progress. But they're starting to get caught in their lies. MSNBC's David Shuster has little patience for Brian's blather (see first video above), particularly when he trots out the debunked examples of how allowing gay couples to marry will allegedly discriminate against religious organizations. First of all, the examples they cite time after time (they don't have many to choose from, thus are forced to repeat) are not related to marriage equality, they're related to discrimination laws, as Rob Tish points out in his dissection of false claims of religious discrimination on Waking Up Now (see second video above). Churches do and should have the right to marry or not marry whichever couples they choose. But, when religious organizations place their services in the secular public arena, it is their responsibility to either justify violating anti-discrimination laws, abide by them, or take their business out of the public square.

Brian Brown also claims that Americans "overwhelmingly oppose same-sex marriage." Really? Funny, then, that a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week found that forty-nine percent said it should be legal for gay people to marry, and 46 percent said it should be illegal. That support is only going to grow since young people overwhelmingly support marriage equality. The acceptability of not including gay couples in civil marriage is sliding out of the homophobes' grasp, and they cannot stand it.

But Brian and Maggie will keep on spouting their bigotry because their lives are centered on it. As is Miss California's now, the poor, bubble-headed thing. Her nonsensical answer to Perez Hilton (we can choose between same-sex and opposite marriage!) is now the shaky foundation for her post-pageant career as the 2009 reincarnation of Anita Bryant. (Carrie made a cameo appearance in a NOM ad this week. Small world!) Remember Anita? What happened to her career after she tried to hitch stardom to homophobia? It blossomed briefly and died. And that was 30 years ago. Miss CA might want to rethink her current direction. Even the Republicans are starting to jump off the anti-gay ship. Best to put that non-Biblically-approved boob job to better use, Carrie. Unless you want to pair up with the likes of Stephen--God wrote the Bible--Baldwin.

Expect more from NOM. They spout nonsense, but they are skilled media whores. The fact that gay couples marrying will not impact their lives one iota doesn't seem to dissuade them from their crusade. Imagine spending your life fighting against love and inclusion.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Details from Québec

Details from a late March visit to Québec City, where the light promised spring and the air remembered winter.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reflections on Marriage Equality in Vermont

My Letter to the Editor that appeared in the April 27, 2009 issue of the Addison County Independent:

After the bill giving gay couples the right to marry in Vermont passed recently, despite his veto, Governor Douglas said, “This is not a time for congratulations; it’s a time for moving on.” I disagree. It is a time for congratulations. And, while it is also time to move on to other matters, it’s worth taking note of our legislators’ achievement.

When I was growing up in Vermont in the 1960s and 70s, I never dreamed that my hometown newspaper would one day carry a story affirming my right to marry the man I love. From an early age, I knew that I was gay—or rather, I understood that I was different. I had no reference for what being gay meant, no role models to show me the kind of life a gay adult could lead. When I finally found references to homosexuality—by sneaking peeks at Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* *but Were Afraid to Ask, for instance—I could only imagine a future of loneliness and shame. Love and marriage weren’t even on my radar screen.

Fast forward to 2000, when Vermont became the first state in the US to legalize civil unions, allowing gay couples some of the rights and protections taken for granted by straight couples. By this time, there were gay characters on TV, in movies and in books. A few celebrities began coming out. And, for the first time, a young person in Vermont could grow up knowing that not only was it possible to have a loving, committed relationship with a person of the same sex, but that relationship could be recognized by the state.

Yet, the recognition wasn’t equal. As far as we had come, the simple right to civil marriage was still withheld from gay people. It remained an impossible dream. The message was clear: we will give you selected rights and benefits, but you are still less than, still other.

Now, because of the actions of our legislators, a young gay person in Vermont will know from an early age that he or she can form a family and that family will be treated no differently than any other family under state law. One day, a young gay person will take the right to marry as a given, just as a young straight person always has. By then, it won’t be called gay marriage. It will simply be called marriage.

Throughout this legislative session, Governor Douglas called the marriage bill a “distraction.” He said marriage should be restricted to a man and a woman without bothering to fully articulate why. Instead, he chose to trivialize the issue and imply it wasn’t worth his or the legislature’s time. He never acknowledged the bill’s deeper meaning for either its supporters or its opponents.

Fortunately, our legislature, unlike our governor, recognized that marriage equality is not only about benefits and protections, as important as those things are. They understood that the question of whether gay couples should have equal access to marriage is the civil rights issue of our time. S.115 became the most discussed bill this session not because it was a distraction, but because it mattered. Marriage matters. The fact that Vermont is the first state to successfully grant gay couples the right to marry through the legislative process, rather than by a court order, matters.

While Governor Douglas failed to see the significance of what happened in Vermont, people from across the country and across the world rightly viewed our legislature’s action as a huge step forward towards marriage equality in the US. We join Canada and Massachusetts and Connecticut and Iowa in lighting the path to a future where all gay kids can grow up unashamed.

Let’s, as Governor Douglas says, move on. But, let’s first congratulate our legislature for seeing this bill in broad human terms and for once again making Vermont a civil rights leader.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Idiots of the Week ~ NOM

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Colbert Coalition's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the gay-obsessed anti-gay group whose aim is to portray the straight Christian majority as victims, seems not to have realized that when you make an absurdly over-the-top ad with incredibly bad acting and even worse "special" effects, the intention of the ad will die and the parodies of it will come alive, much like a gathering storm! I wonder if these "actors" will put this spot on their resumes? I'm guessing no. There are countless parodies on YouTube, but, as is often the case, nobody taps into the idiocy of the right wing zealots better than the play-it-straight Stephen Colbert.

And we worried that comedy would die with the W. administration.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Idiots of the Week ~ Republican Tea Baggers!

Following on the heels of their choice to have April Fool's be the day they decided to reveal their alternative budget, the Republicans continue their irony-deaf attempts to show Americans how wrong Obama's policies are for the country. Of course, they have every right to do so, every right to protest. And they're planning a big protest for April 15, tax day. Legitimate enough. But their theme for the protest: a riff on the Boston Tea Party, complete with calls to "tea bag" Obama, and everyone else. First off, as Bob Cesca on The Huffington Post, and others, have pointed out, the Tea Party analogy isn't quite right. But even if the aim of the protest was in synch with the meaning of the original Boston Tea Party, when you put "tea bagging" into your slogan, well, the protest automatically becomes a joke. The best part of the joke is that those who created it--the perpetually humorless right wing--clearly had no idea what they were doing. You mean tea bagging has a double meaning???? Uh-oh. So, for those who are still clueless about the alternative meaning of tea bagging, here are some clues:

A "Prison Break" star attempts to explain to an obviously clueless Regis, only to have in-the-know Kelly cut to a commercial break. Presumably, Regis now understands that Lipton's aren't the only tea bags in town.

Here, a FOX newswoman earnestly explains tea bagging; cruelly, she didn't share this explanation with the FOX male talking heads, who are urging, without giggling, the FOX faithful to tea bag en masse.

For those Republicans who still need visual aids to comprehend what they've done, Andy Cobb provides remedial education, complete with illustrations.

It will be difficult for the Republicans to top this, but i'm sure they have the balls to do it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, Emmylou

Happy Birthday, Emmylou. Still going strong at 62.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Kissed a Girl X 2

Gay boy versions of the ubiquitous Katy Perry hit. I liked kissing girls, but I like kissing boys better.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Difference 10 Years Can Make

As the Vermont legislature contemplates allowing gay couples to marry, with a vote expected soon, the Burlington Free Press has published an editorial in favor of it. This in itself isn't extraordinary since newspaper editorial pages all over VT have been expressing support for marriage equality. What's extraordinary is comparing this editorial with the Free Press editorial from 10 years ago. Instead of trying to hide their former stance, they're actually brave enough to say how wrong they were. Goes to show that opinion can evolve, particularly when people learn firsthand that allowing gay couples to marry is a lot more dull and a lot less scary than they expected. Most importantly, it represents the societal shift that's taken place over the past decade, one that is likely to continue even as a shrinking core of opponents to marriage equality become more firmly entrenched in their views.

Excerpts from the editorial:

In an April 1999 editorial, the Free Press editorial board wrongly warned Vermonters against gay marriage. The years since then have proven our position to be unfounded.

Ten years ago, as the case that would eventually lead to Vermont adopting civil unions was making its way through the courts, we argued that our laws discriminate when a valid reason is found to do so, giving the 21-year drinking age as an example. We also argued that marriage was not a right.

In the 1999 editorial we spoke of the need to bridge the cultural divide to reach a consensus if we were to embark on such a major change to a fundamental social institution. We went so far as to warn that becoming the only state to allow same-sex marriage would make Vermont a target hostile to the idea, solemnly predicting, “there will be violence.” That prediction of course was pure nonsense.

Vermont’s experience with civil unions since 2000 has shown us that people are more than ready to accept the idea of two people of the same gender should receive legal recognition for a committed relationship. The world as we knew it hardly changed at all for the larger population, though it did for that portion seeking a measure of equality. The fact that civil unions are so unremarkable today is perhaps the best testimony to their acceptance.

We repeat these words from the 1999 editorial that did make sense: “Vermont boasts a long and proud heritage of civil rights and social tolerance” — and we call for adding marriage equality to that heritage.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Idiot of the Week ~ John McClaughry and his Horny Young Males

John McClaughry is a Vermont conservative, and president of the Ethan Allen Institute "think tank," whose views are stuck somewhere in the middle of the previous century, or perhaps earlier. He had an idiotic op-ed in the Rutland Herald this week titled Let the People Vote on Marriage

Never mind that the people of Vermont do vote. We vote for our representatives, whose job it is to be informed on the issues and communicate with their constituents. If we don't like the job they're doing, we vote them out. Unlike in states like California, in Vermont we don't have ballot initiatives that put sensitive issues--particularly civil rights issues--before an often ill-informed electorate. If everything was put up for popular vote, why bother having legislators? We'd just let Joe the Plumbers run the world and let them cherry pick for elimination civil rights that don't conform to their narrow world view. But John seems to think we have a precedent in Vermont for putting "emotionally charged" issues up for popular vote. How recent was this precedent? 2006, maybe? 2005? Nope, 1976!

Here's a few choice tidbits from the op-ed:

Probably a majority of opponents base their opposition on religious grounds, as contrary to church teachings and natural law. There is also a secular argument that deserves more attention than it has gotten.

Marriage, so this argument goes, serves three important social functions: procreation and child rearing, mutual care and assistance, and reining in horny young males by linking approved sex to a serious and long-lasting social commitment.

The gays and lesbians may well say, we're pro-marriage, and those are valid arguments, but how does allowing us, loving and committed couples, to enjoy the status and benefits of marriage undermine the institution of marriage?

The response is that prohibiting discrimination against same-sex couples seeking marriage cannot be limited to just those couples. If two men or two women can marry, why not two of each as a foursome? Or a Muslim taking four wives? Or brothers and sisters? Or an entire Perfectionist "complex marriage" commune (Putney, 1830s)?

And there's the rub. Statutes and judicial opinions allowing every conceivable collection of humans to unite in legal marriage will eventually make the idea and practice of marriage a laughing stock — especially among young heterosexual males who society most wants to channel into stable, legally recognized relationships responsible for child rearing and support.

The Legislature was faced with just such an emotionally charged issue in 1976: whether to create a Vermont lottery. The Legislature decreed a referendum to get the opinion of the people. By a 72-28 margin, the voters supported the creation of a lottery. The next year the Legislature adopted it.

And my response:

I'm not sure if John McClaughry is being disingenuous or simply dimwitted, but his arguments against civil marriage equality are empty.

His most prominent argument for "traditional" marriage is "reining in horny young males by linking approved sex to a serious and long-lasting social commitment." Excuse me, but how does allowing same-sex couples to marry conflict with a goal of keeping young heterosexual men from running wild? Funny, love and respect don't enter into McClaughry's concept of marriage.

Then, there's the old slippery slope argument. Allowing same-sex couples to marry will open the door to bigamists, polygamists, and, presumably, sheep, dogs, and water fowl. Nonsense. Firstly, I haven't seen the polygamist (or duck) community in VT lining up at the Supreme Court's door to make their case. Secondly, if they made such an argument, they would have to make it on its own merits. 12 people marrying is not comparable to 2 people marrying. It's a different argument, and no one is making it. Gay people made their argument, after decades of grassroots work and education, and they won in VT. He can't rewrite the Supreme Court decision.

As for the referendum idea: So, because there was a referendum in 1976, on the subject of the lottery, we should put civil rights up for popular vote? McClaughry seems unable to distinguish between human beings and gambling. (Perhaps why love doesn't figure into his assessment of human relations.) Referendums, on any issue, but particularly on civil rights issues, are divisive, costly, typically filled with misinformation, and unnecessary. They invite outside money and influence and, like billboards, have no place in VT. Our state is better than that.

Contrary to McClaughry's assertion, allowing same-sex couples to marry via the legislative process is a sign of progress, one VT should be proud of. But, since his arguments are rooted in decades-old thinking, his ideas of progress are likely similarly archaic.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Professor Crabby and the Ugliness of Internet Anonymity

It began innocently enough. Towleroad, a national gay news blog, posted a story about the marriage equality bill in Vermont: Lawmakers: Marriage Equality Will Pass in Vermont This Session. I'd heard the news, but it was exciting to see a positive marriage story alongside pessimistic stories about the fading hopes of overturning Prop 8 in California via the CA Supreme Court. Not only was it a positive news story, but it was coming from my home state, where my legislators were forging ahead to give gay couples full equality within the state (alas, nothing will change at the federal level) despite calls from several quarters, and Governor Douglas, that now--a time of economic hardship--is not the time to worry about the civil rights of a small minority with a, gasp, gay rights "agenda." Anyway, I read the story and added this comment:

I am SO proud of my VT legislators. It would have been easy for them to use the dismal economy as an excuse not to take on this bill this session, but they are doing the right thing. I'm also proud of Vermont Freedom to Marry for their smart grassroots efforts over the past 8 years to educate people why marriage (as opposed to just CUs) makes a difference. The VT Freedom to Marry ads are simple and direct--unlike the recent CA ad, they even mention the word marriage! Beth Robinson, the spokesperson for our side in the WCAX clip, is probably one of the most articulate people on the planet. Now, it looks like it will come down to whether the governor will veto or not. His main argument against the bill has been that it's a divisive distraction for the legislature, but once it's passed that argument evaporates, and vetoing it means it will only return next year, which would be a distraction. So, fingers crossed here.

On a side note, I've always found the WCAX reporter, Darren Perron, cute as a button.

Since Vermont isn't the center of most people's universe, I didn't expect there would be many comments on the thread. But there were a couple of positive ones, then came a response by Professor Crabby Ph.D. He (presumably, he) was more skeptical that the bill will escape Gov. Douglas's veto and be enacted into law, in part because he believes that Vermont is a "center right state," less progressive than New Hampshire.

I agreed with him that Governor Douglas is not our friend, and that it's mysterious why Vermont can elect a relatively conservative Republican governor at the same time we elect liberal Democrats like Peter Welch and Patrick Leahy, not to mention the out and proud Socialist, Bernie Sanders. Yep, we're a bit schizo when it comes to our elected officials. But I took exception, a bit cattily, to the idea that New Hampshire is more progressive than Vermont, since the joke has always been that NH is upside down and to the right of VT (thanks, Drew, xo). NH has consistently been behind VT when it comes to gay rights and, unlike VT, it's always been the New England state where Republican presidential candidates think it's worth their while to visit. In other words, the idea that NH is more progressive than VT is ludicrous, and, trivial as the distinction is in the scheme of things, I felt obliged to defend my home turf.

That's when the comments took an ugly turn. Instead of debating the issue at hand, suddenly my life was open to debate:

Ernie, I do live in Vermont, just not in the rarified world of Middlebury. You may have been born in this northern outpost of Appalachia -- let me guess, Chittenden County—and therefore, like a lot of native Vermonters, you think this gives you some sort of special right to interpret all things Vermont. Despite your Vermont pedigree, I don’t think you know too much about this state and the people who live here- otherwise you wouldn’t be spouting that absurd Vermont PR malarkey—. It occurs to me you might actually believe all that Ben and Jerry’s ad campaign business, either that or the Vermont you see out of your window as you and your boyfriend tool up route 7 through Ferrisburg to Burlington and on up to Montreal (such a fabulous life you live Ernie M with your Boyfriend on the faculty of Middlebury—so impressive, yawn). You know nothing about the people that matter to Douglas and have (re)elected him four times, he does not care about you because your idea of Vermont is Burlington, Brattleboro, Middlebury and Montpelier. When was the last time you were in Orange or Caledonia County? Have you ever been there? That Vermont thinks we have plenty too many rights as it is and they are Douglas’s voters not you and me. They matter to him. He’ll have them in mind when he vetoes this bill. I’ve lived here for ten years –and I bet you are wrong about Douglas and this veto—as wrong as you are about New Hampshire—which has more democrats elected (and fewer hillbilly residents) than Vermont --

It took me aback, not only because the presumptions were all wrong, but because there was such venom directed not at homophobes and Governor Douglas, our true opposition in the fight for equality, but at me. Of course, this is the Internet, where vitriol is as ubiquitous as fast food. I've made my share of snarky comments on Internet blogs, but I try to refrain from personal attacks, mostly because I almost always use some version of my real name and often link back to my blog in my comments. In other words, I've generally chosen not to be anonymous on the Internet, and therefore I tend not to say things that I would only say under the cover of anonymity.

I could have, and perhaps should have, resisted responding to Professor Crabby, because the exchange had gone off-topic, and there were any number of more useful things I could be doing, like writing a Letter to the Editor in favor of marriage equality, the reason behind my initial comment. Ah, but it's hard to let personal attacks slip on by, particularly when they're so off-base. So, I responded with sarcasm (unlike Prof. Crabby, I can't make personal attacks, because he has chosen to remain safely anonymous):

Whoa, I guess Professor Creepy Stalking Troll would be more appropriate. Sorry to burst your presumptuous bubble, but I didn't grow up in a "rarefied" part of VT and know Orange and Caledonia Counties and their people very well. I'm guessing my 40+ years in VT gives me more insight than your 10, but who cares? I'm not sure why you're living in a state you hate so much, or why you have such animosity towards fellow gay VTers--you are gay, right?--but that has nothing to do with the equality bill before the VT legislature, the subject of this thread. Governor Douglas (who has a lot less connection to the "real" VT than I do) may veto the bill with the Take Back VTers in mind, but they're a minority (most straight VTers don't care about this one way or the other), and he'd be foolish to do so. Meanwhile, maybe progressive NH is more your style.

Again, I could have made this comment and walked away, but the lure of the Internet squabble, particularly when it involves personal vanity, is strong, and so I checked this morning to see if Professor Crabby had anything to say for himself. He did, and this time it was even angrier and more personal:

Ernie, you sure do seem to spend a lot of time on TR— odd, you link to your pretentious, navel gazing blog for all the world to learn much too much about your trivial life –and then accuse people of being a troll for gleaning the most basic information out of the dreary, drek and poorly done derivative “art” that bloats ernie’ Sorry if I hit a nerve EM –actually, probably not hard to do to a shallow self-absorbed oldish queen with way too much time on his hands –respond away with more questions and little substance I, unlike you, have better things than to respond again—instead of responding, here is an idea–go upload another one of your art photos to your blog and call yourself creative.

Hateful and silly remarks, yet they do tap into core issues about the worth of blogging or of any creative pursuit. Like most people who aren't curing cancer or saving starving children, I question whether anything I'm doing really matters. Crabby Professor wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know, he was just putting it in an especially venomous way, venom being a luxury of the anonymous. Part of me wanted to defend myself--my blog is hardly a personal diary, for instance, since I'm quite aware that the details of my life are trivial--but defending one's self from anonymous attacks becomes navel-gazing of another sort. So, I mostly stepped back:

Wow, Professor Crabby, the anonymous (i.e. cowardly) misdirected hatred and personal attacks are bizarre. There's an easy solution for anyone who doesn't like my blog--don't visit it!

I think we can agree that Gov. Douglas is bad for Vermont and being the first state to grant civil marriage equality through the legislature would be good for VT. I hope it happens this year. If it doesn't, I'll do what I can to make it happen next year, or the year after that. Can we move on?

Good, I can get back to my pretentious blogging now.

I don't know who Professor Crabby is, and I don't expect he'll emerge from the comfort of his anonymous closet. Being the target of bitterness makes me question my choice to not be anonymous on the Internet. To me, being openly yourself on the Internet is not unlike being out of the closet. It makes you vulnerable, open to bullying and attack, but the alternative is hiding, and some of us who spent too much time hiding in our youth are reluctant to retreat to a new closet. So, I'll continue to be out there, with a new awareness of the risks (a recent news story of cyber-bullying--complete with suits and countersuits--that truly got out of hand was another cautionary tale), an oldish queen sharing my navel-gazing and pretentiousness and dreary drek photographs with anyone who cares to view them. (I never quite understand people who complain about Internet content they don't like instead of simply skipping over it.) Farewell, Professor Crabby, and good luck on your anonymous life's journey.

Now, what was the original goal before the distractions flooded in? Oh, yes, marriage equality in VT. (How overly easy it is to lose sight of those original goals online--another good reason to go offline more often.) Fingers still crossed, still proud of my state's legislators for aiming to do the right thing. Forward.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reconciliation or Relinquishment?

This past Sunday The New York Times featured an op-ed by David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch titled, "A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage."

The crux of their "reconciliation":

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

The first thing that struck me about this proposal was the phrase "conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage." MOST? Which ones might be selected out? Who's selecting those federal benefits and rights we might not deserve? Then there's the condition: "Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions . . . " Who will be deciding what is robust enough? And why, when gay people are fighting for civil marriage rather than religious marriage equality, do we need special "religious-conscience exceptions?" Civil marriage equality doesn't interfere with the rights of religions to marry or not marry whomever they please. "Religious-conscience exceptions," however, would likely interfere with my right to full equality under civil law. 

Vermont, for instance, may very well pass a marriage equality bill this year. It will have no meaning federally, yet, but at the state level, there will be no distinction between the marriage of a gay couple and that of a straight couple. What if a few years down the road, Washington enacts federal civil union legislation but disapproves of a gay couple's marriage license in Vermont because it's too equal to a straight couple's marriage license? Would we have to downgrade our marriage licenses in Vermont or else be denied all federal recognition? This isn't reconciliation, it's division. It's relinquishing our right to equality to the appeasement of the religious, who have no business meddling in civil law. It's a cowardly op-ed, one that everyone who believes in full equality for LGBT citizens should reject.

My complete unpublished response to The New York Times and the authors of the op-ed:

To the Editor:

David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch (Op-Ed, Feb. 22) talk about reaching a reconciliation on "gay marriage." But gay people aren't fighting for "gay marriage," we're fighting for civil marriage equality. There is a difference.

The term "gay marriage" implies that gay people should be herded into a special category separate from "straight marriage." "Straight marriage" is viewed as a static institution, one inextricably linked to tradition. Yet marriage has changed remarkably over the centuries. Women now have a role equal to men in marriage. A black woman is now permitted to marry a white man. Gay people don't seek to upend traditional marriage; we seek to become part of its continuing evolution.

Allowing gay people to marry does not threaten religious freedom. Once gay people are permitted to marry, churches will remain free, as they are now, to marry or not marry whomever they please. That is because civil marriage and religious marriage, though often conflated, are two different things. Straight agnostics and atheists are permitted to marry without question. Straight people of different religions are permitted to marry even though not all of these marriages are sanctioned by the church. Potential conflicts between religious organizations and antidiscrimination laws already exist. Should, for example, a remarried woman, whose first marriage was not annulled, receive benefits for her spouse if she works for a Catholic charitable organization? It should be the obligation of religious organizations to justify discriminatory employment practices.

The fact is religion does not own the word "marriage." If it did, then only church-sanctioned marriages--straight and gay alike--would exist. Everyone else would be permitted civil unions only. Many non-religious people, myself included, would be satisfied with this two-tiered system. But if we are to have a two-tiered system, it should be applied equally, without regard to sexual orientation. Otherwise, it is simply discriminatory.

Would federally recognized civil unions be better than nothing? Of course. On that we can agree. To view civil marriage equality as an "extreme," however, is a dangerous mistake. It relegates gay people to second-class citizenship instead of recognizing that civil marriage equality by definition protects religious freedom. Why is it that Canada has managed to reach reconciliation on marriage without unnecessarily dividing its citizens into better-than and less-than groups? Perhaps it is time to seek guidance from the "cooler heads" of our neighbors to the north when moving towards full civil marriage equality for all Americans.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter is a Drag Ball 2009

Paparazzi, please just leave me alone!
Dainty Ivona rests her weary feet towards evening's end.
Zsuzsi, freed at last from the horror of free falling pantyhose, struts her animalistic stuff.
Zsuzsi practices her signature pout, which seems to be the only expression she's mastered.
Ivona is ready for her close-up, even if we aren't.
Lenin, caught up in his manifestoishness, remains immune to Zsuzsi's seductive charms.

Vladimir Lenin woos Ivona with his Communist Tranifesto.
The nearly enchanting Gábor sisters, Zsuzsi (left) and Ivona (right). It goes without saying that Ivona is the elder sister.
The blindingly vivacious Miss Ivona Gábor, one of the (very) lost Gábor sisters. She's also known by her (former) married names, Ivona Kiss and Ivona Koch. Perhaps her next husband's surname will be Makeover?

This year's Winter is a Drag Ball may be over, but the memories live on . . .