Gaylingual: October 2007: Archives

October 30, 2007

Costumes, The Castro, & Culture: Is Gay Passe? genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Uncivil Unions

The Castro

I'm opposed to outright gay assimilation as I view it to be a form of capitulation...an ill-advised effort to fit in if you will. In so stating, I am not suggesting that gays embrace cultural isolationism; rather I favor preserving our homosexual identity while engaging the heterosexual community in a dialogue that seeks to find common ground...ground that doesn't require us to adapt our lives to fit the heterosexual template...or visa versa.

A new article in The New York Times sheds some light on the results of gay assimilation. I believe the piece illuminates the emerging erosion of our cultural significance and how that can begin to limit our ability to not only share in society as fully equal partners, but to potentially diminish our opportunities to influence and shape its future.

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 24 — This Halloween, the Glindas, gladiators and harem boys of the Castro — along with untold numbers who plan to dress up as Senator Larry E. Craig, this year’s camp celebrity — will be celebrating behind closed doors. The city’s most popular Halloween party, in America’s largest gay neighborhood, is canceled.

or many in the Castro District, the cancellation is a blow that strikes at the heart of neighborhood identity, and it has brought soul-searching that goes beyond concerns about crime.

These are wrenching times for San Francisco’s historic gay village, with population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging that is also being felt in gay enclaves across the nation, from Key West, Fla., to West Hollywood, as they struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification.

In the Castro, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society held public meetings earlier this year to grapple with such questions as “Are Gay Neighborhoods Worth Saving?"

While the Castro has been the center of a movement, it is also home to “an important political constituency," said Elizabeth A. Armstrong, an associate sociology professor at Indiana University and the author of “Forging Gay Identities: Organizing Sexuality in San Francisco 1950-1994"

“When people were angry about Dan White they were able to assemble quickly, spilling out of the bars," Professor Armstrong said. “Physical location mattered."

I contend that efforts to mimic heterosexuality lay the groundwork for our irrelevance and begin to marginalize our ability to favorably influence the political, social, and cultural climate...one which has been primarily defined by heterosexuals. Inherent in the gay rights movement is a tacit acceptance that all the rights granted to heterosexuals are appealing and therefore sought after. Unfortunately, I don't entirely accept that premise with regards to marriage and I fear that our message fosters a belief that our way of life is incomplete and can be punished by withholding the granting of those rights currently reserved for our heterosexual counterparts.

While I'm not opposed to gay marriage, I fear that making it the focal point of our agenda serves to validate the assumed superiority of the heterosexual relationship model...one that I find to be lacking and one that is likely premised upon a number of false constructs. The fact that gays appear determined to replicate heterosexual marriage seems to suggest that we believe it to be a functional institution. On the contrary, marriage statistics suggest otherwise and that fact ought to be an integral part of our strategy.

In fact, the resiliency of gays to establish functional relationships absent the accoutrements of conventional marriage may actually warrant a rethinking of heterosexual marriage in its current iteration. Let me be clear...I wholeheartedly believe our relationships should be granted the same recognition, protections, and benefits afforded to heterosexual marriages. However, the push for gay marriage seems to send the message that gays have nothing to bring to the relationship table...a conclusion I reject and a point I think merits discussion. Additionally, those who oppose gay marriage view their ability to deny it to us as giving them an added authority and a distinguishing legitimacy. I believe they needn't be granted such dominion nor should such thoughts be allowed to persist.

Frankly, gays should not only be seeking the same rights offered to heterosexual marriages but they ought to be pointing to the many flaws that accompany the institution of marriage. In doing so, the debate can begin to expand beyond the "we have it and you're not going to get it" tug of war. The prevailing argument offered by critics of gay marriage is that it will undermine heterosexual marriage and destroy the current family structure. So long as the debate remains framed this way, gays will struggle to gain traction in their push for inclusion.

The argument for gay marriage ought to be expanded beyond inclusion and into a dialogue that seeks to define what actually makes for a functional relationship and an environment that nurtures children. Clearly, the belief that one qualifies for marriage and child rearing by simply being a heterosexual is laughable and it ought to be aggressively questioned and challenged.

An ideal home environment isn't predicated upon the presence of a man and a woman; it's predicated upon an adult or two adults possessing enough maturity to understand the responsibility that comes with having children and the willingness to set aside one's own self-interests out of an unyielding love for the innocents in our midst.

Further, that love must include more than the ability to slip a child twenty dollars and send them out the door and out of our way. Far too many parents have replaced the hard work of real parenting with the ease of financial placation. Truth be told, the results of that deficient notion are coming home to roost in a never ending string of tragic events involving alienated and troubled children.

The following excerpt from The New York Times, while attempting to understand the shift in gay culture evidenced by a newly emerging generation of gays, actually hits upon the larger societal issue of isolation and lack of interpersonal involvement that results from the current heterosexual family paradigm.

An annual survey by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Community Initiative indicated that in 2007 only 36 percent of men under 29 said there was a gay community in the city with which they could identify.

Doug Sebesta, the group’s executive director and a medical sociologist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said, “I’ve had therapists who have told me they are asking their clients to go back to bars as a way of social interaction."

The Internet is not a replacement for a neighborhood where people are involved in issues beyond themselves, said John Newsome, an African-American who co-founded the group And Castro For All after the Badlands incident. “There are a lot of really lonely gay people sitting in front of a computer," he said.

Which is why the cancellation of the Halloween party by the city has provoked such a sense of loss. Many residents say that their night has been taken away. “It’s proof that whatever sense of safety we have is incredibly tenuous, “ Mr. Newsome said.

I would argue that the phenomenon of isolation described above is not unique to just those gays who are under the age of 29. It is indicative of society's growing disregard for the personal contact which is actually the essence of loving parenting. Those children who are now entering the world as adults are doing so absent the fundamentals which must originate in the home as a result of meaningful parent-child relationships...relationships which aren't measured by the material wherewithal of a parent to equip their children with the properly labeled clothing or the latest gadgets. While parents have found it is possible to occupy a child's time with television and computer games; they do so at the peril of their child's future ability to form functional relationships.

In our rush to define and pursue success as a one-dimensional financial calculation, we have forgotten that a child's evaluation of a successful parent is rarely dependent upon the size of mom and dad's bank account or their titles at work. Having a woman and a man identified as a mom and a dad may fit some rigid religious definitions of proper parenting but if it fails to rear an adjusted and healthy child, it ought to be seen as it is...little more than an inane adherence to established dogma.

Allowing the anti-gay zealots to assail gays while fostering dysfunctional families must cease. Gays must approach the topic of marriage, gay adoption, and parenting as a matter of measuring outcome; not as an equation of entitlement. The ability to parent isn't negated by one's sexual orientation just as good parenting isn't guaranteed by the presence of a man and a woman. For meaningful change to occur, these antiquated assumptions must be deconstructed.

America was built upon numerous cultural influences...cultures that brought differing values and perspectives to marriage and parenting. Those views enriched our society, provided a platform for dialogue, and created a curiosity which allowed us to embrace change. Instead of simply submitting to fear, many Americans found themselves enriched by exposure to the unfamiliar and it made us a better nation. The same can be true with regards to gay culture...so long as the gay community celebrates and maintains its cultural identity and isn't afraid or ashamed to stand up and speak out.

Tagged as: Child Rearing, Culture, Divorce, Gay Marriage, Halloween, Heterosexual, Homophobia, Homosexual, Intolerance, Religion, Same-Sex Adoption, Same-Sex Marriage, San Francisco, The Castro

Daniel DiRito | October 30, 2007 | 10:50 AM | link | Comments (3)
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October 11, 2007

NGLTF Editorial On ENDA By Matt Foreman genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak

Matt Foreman

Efforts to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) have been difficult and time consuming. The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force has been at the forefront in advocating for the passage of this legislation.

Recently, the pending legislation was revised to remove transgendered from the protected status. Since that time, the gay community has debated and rejected the merits of pursuing legislation which would exclude any of the LGBT family. NGLTF succeeded in rallying the community to urge Congress to pass ENDA with full inclusions.

The following editorial is from Matt Foreman, the Executive Director of NGLTF, and it outlines the recent efforts and makes the case for the inclusion of the transgendered in the bill. Please use the above link to find out more about NGLTF and their ongoing efforts.

All of us, every one of us
By Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

At this critical moment in our efforts to pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that includes transgender people under its protections, it is important to recall just why so many of us believe that no one can be left behind.

The last five days have been a grueling and defining moment in our movement’s history. When we learned that protections for transgender people would be stripped from ENDA, an unprecedented groundswell of anger, energy and determination rose up to reverse that decision.

The other day, a letter signed by more than 300 national and state advocacy organizations that work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people was delivered to Congress, asking for more time to garner support for ENDA as it was originally introduced. Some 2,500 congregations were asked to activate their memberships to call Congress. Students are also calling and e-mailing Congress and launching Facebook accounts to build support, working from 120 LGBT campus resource centers. Action alerts, blog postings and opinion pieces supporting a trans-inclusive ENDA have been flying over the Internet.

We at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force are immensely proud to be part of this moment. Our staff mounts a full-court press in the halls of Congress, on the telephones and over e-mail, to convince our congressional leaders that separating transgender people from the rest of us is unacceptable and unsupportable.

Why have we all worked so hard together and in such a dramatic way over this issue? For over a decade, the Task Force, and increasingly our organizational colleagues, has re-embraced transgender friends, family and colleagues as part of our community and part of our movement for freedom and equality. We believe the social disapproval and punishment of LGBT people varies only by degree. Yes, we can be fired if we identify ourselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual. But it isn’t always about who we love; sometimes it’s about a refusal or inability to disguise ourselves — “pass" — as heterosexual.

The freedom to express ourselves and be ourselves is at stake when any one of us is punished and persecuted for stepping outside the rigid rules of gender conformity. Lesbians, gay men and bisexual people historically engage a whole range of dress and behaviors that challenge the traditional gender code. Women who are too masculine and men who are too feminine often suffer job discrimination and harassment at work, just as our transgender sisters and brothers do.

Two women loving each other, two men loving each other, men and women who may love either men or women, and people who self-define their gender identity or expression all challenge and change gender-based assumptions and expectations. Centuries of formal state-sponsored and informal cultural oppression show that none of us are intended to exist, to thrive and to enjoy good and long lives.

There is no more fundamental human right for all of us than to be free to love and live as our minds and hearts guide us. But what is the value of freedom if we can’t get and keep a job, something we all need to make for ourselves a decent life?

Discrimination at work hits transgender people particularly hard. A survey conducted in Washington, D.C., shows that 60 percent of transgender respondents report either no source of income or incomes of less than $10,000 per year, a clear indication of the desperate need for employment protections for transgender people. Employment discrimination undeniably erodes the freedoms of transgender people, and all the rest of us, to live as we know we must.

Uncounted numbers of LGBT people courageously refuse to live a lie. This basic need to live fully as the people we know we are — loving someone of the same sex or transforming one’s self to express the other long-sought gender — forms the foundation of our very movement for freedom and equality. Just as we would oppose any legislation that cut out lesbians or gay men from needed protections, we oppose the re-drafted ENDA that excludes gender identity. We dream that all of us, every one of us, will some day be able to be and tell others who we are, each minute of every day, and not face punishment, prosecution or persecution.

A groundswell of support for a trans-inclusive ENDA, resounding across this entire country, cannot be ignored. We call on congressional leaders and all people of compassion and good will to work harder to win passage of a federal law that protects LGBT people in the workplace so that every one of us can simply live.

Matt Foreman is the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Tagged as: Civil Rights, Congress, ENDA, LGBT, Matt Foreman, NGLTF, Transgendered

Daniel DiRito | October 11, 2007 | 2:45 PM | link | Comments (2)
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Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are genre: Gaylingual & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

October 11th is National Coming Out Day. The act of coming out and allowing others to see you as the person you are...a person like all others with hopes and dreams...does more to advance gay rights than anything else you could possibly do. Each of us has the right to pursue our hopes and dreams. Yes, it can be frightening, but millions of Americans have done it and are now living happy and authentic lives. Do yourself a favor...you don't need anyone's permission to be who you are.

National Coming Out Day

Image courtesy of Kaboom!

Tagged as: Equality, Gay Rights, Homophobia, Humor, LGBT, National Coming Out Day, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | October 11, 2007 | 11:42 AM | link | Comments (2)
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October 4, 2007

Mitt Romney: He's Never Met A Position He Didn't Take genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Video-Philes

During the 2004 presidential election, much was made of John Kerry's statement, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it". The remark was said to be evidence that the Senator was a flip-flopper...although one could clearly argue that the Senator simply used questionable language to explain his reasons for voting for one bill and not the other due to the provisions contained in each bill. In the end, the GOP succeeded in depicting the Senator as a flip-flopper.

In my opinion, Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts and current GOP presidential candidate, by comparison, provides a text book representation of a flip-flopper...one who has been willing to change his positions on social issues as if it were no more significant than the simple act of changing his socks. Romney has suddenly become a social conservative whose values are now magically aligned with those evangelical voters who form a significant segment of the GOP base.

The following video was just released by the Log Cabin Republicans...an organization of gays who remain members of the GOP despite the fact that the party platform advances positions to their detriment. In the video, Romney espouses his support for abortion rights, the upholding of Roe v. Wade, and opposition to the NRA. Romney has also been supportive of gay rights. The following is from a letter he wrote to Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans.

"As a result of our discussions and other interactions with gay and lesbian voters across the state, I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent [Ted Kennedy]."

"I am not unaware of my opponents considerable record in the area of civil rights, or the commitment of Massachusetts voters to the principle of equality for all Americans. For some voters it might be enough for me to simply match my opponents record in this area. But I believe we can and must do better. If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will."

"We have discussed a number of important issues such as the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which I have agreed to co-sponsor, and if possible broaden to include housing and credit, and the bill to create a federal panel to find ways to reduce gay and lesbian youth suicide, which I also support. One issue I want to clarify concerns President Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" military policy. I believe that the Clinton compromise was a step in the right direction. I am also convinced that it is the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation's military. That goal will only be reached when preventing discrimination against gays and lesbians is a mainstream concern, which is a goal we share."

Now I've spent years listening to the GOP assail Massachusetts liberals...particularly Ted Kennedy...and if Mitt Romney feels he would be better suited to serve the interests of gays and lesbians in Massachusetts than Ted Kennedy, just what does that make Mitt? Did I miss our sudden entry into a Seinfeld episode of the "Bizarro World"...or is it possible that Mitt Romney has simply never met a position he didn't take? I'm betting on the latter.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Abortion, Flip-Flopper, GOP, John Kerry, LGBT, Log Cabin Republicans, Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, Roe v. Wade, Same-Sex Marriage, Ted Kennedy

Daniel DiRito | October 4, 2007 | 11:44 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 2, 2007

Ending Discrimination: Put The "T" Back In ENDA? genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak

Equality Supports Diversity

Efforts to pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) are once again encountering difficulties. The legislation has struggled for a number of years, having come very close in 1996; failing to pass by just one vote.

With the legislation scheduled for discussion Tuesday, the LGBT community succeeded in pressuring the Democratic leadership to postpone consideration until later this month. The pressure emerged when the legislation underwent a number of revisions...the primary sticking point being the removal of protection for transgendered individuals.

The issue has fomented disagreement in the LGBT community from a number of perspectives. Some believe this type of legislation shouldn't even be debated until after the 2008 election based upon fears that it may be utilized by the GOP during the upcoming 2008 election. Others contend that the LGBT community should settle for nothing less than full ENDA protection for all the members of the LGBT...including the transgendered. Still others argue that the acquisition of rights is a piecemeal process...one that should pass whatever legislation is possible or feasible and then ratchet that momentum over time into the expansion of those rights.

What is abundantly clear is that the LGBT community lacks a consensus position although that observation may well be disputed by those who believe that they, in fact, represent the community. Thinking back on the civil rights era many years ago, the same dissension existed. The Black Panthers believed rights had to be fought for...inclusive of violence in certain circumstances. At the other extreme, Martin Luther King believed in peaceful, non-violent measures.

While one can argue either side of the equation, the truth of the matter is that change is facilitated by all forms of pressure...and the LGBT community has, over time, utilized some degree of each strategy in obtaining their recognition and rights. Recall the Stonewall Riots in New York City, the abrasive efforts of ACT UP, the peaceful marches on Washington, and the systematic lobbying efforts of groups like HRC and NGLTF. That the cause has involved a variety of efforts is as it should be.

I may be wrong, but the LGBT community would be well advised to forego the internal bickering which seems to suggest that little can happen until such time as a consensus strategy is established. Truth be told, each attempt to secure more rights will have an impact on those who are receptive to such methods. No one size fits all will suffice and no one size ought to be sought.

The history of war tells us as much. While the United States is defended by our military, our military is a composite of differing approaches. The Army, The Navy, The Marines, and The Air Force all provide specialized services structured under the umbrella of defending the nation. While the pursuit of civil rights cannot have the rigidity or the cohesiveness of the military, it can still benefit from the diverse approaches.

In the end, I believe that one thing can be identified as the primary impetus in defining and propelling the goals and objectives of all such causes. It is none other than the dissonance which is created when previously invisible individuals demonstrate a willingness to come out of the shadows and become visible and vocal participants in the larger society...a process which humanizes people who are often excluded for nothing more than a group of stereotypical traits which have been allowed to perpetuate in the absence of alternative experiences.

The LGBT community may share a list of similarly defined goals...but we needn't march forward in lock step. Doing so would actually support the very thing we seek to overcome...doing so would foster the belief that differences should be feared and extinguished. The promotion of diversity cannot be achieved through the vilification of differences. In the end, it is our "differentness" that must be preserved and protected. Anything less is capitulation.

Tagged as: Congress, Discrimination, ENDA, Gay, LGBT, Transgendered

Daniel DiRito | October 2, 2007 | 7:10 PM | link | Comments (4)
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