29 June 2009

Real reason for the Military Gay Ban Revealed:

The sky does NOT fall if you become friends with someone different from you!

In a surprising twist, (Professor Jammie Price) found that the straight men with the most evolved sense of masculinity — the ones who forged the tightest friendships with their gay friends — were from military families or had some military training.

These men were used to being “thrown into different environments where it doesn’t matter whether you’re white or black or Hispanic,” Professor Price said. “You’re going to live in this house and you’re all going to be treated the same and you have to get along.”

28 June 2009

It was 40 years ago today...

Around the house somewhere is a photo of me (taken by the Other Half) taken outside the Stonewall Inn during the Stonewall 25 celebrations in New York. That was a great up-all-night-in-the-streets party, and I'm sure this year is no different. One of my strongest memories of that weekend, however is of a moment of unexpected beauty the next day: being outside the bar as a group of young people danced up and down the street carrying an enormous rainbow flag, and looking down to see the sun shining through the fabric and casting a multicolored shadow on the ground.

That beauty and their joy: that's what 'liberation' is all about.

While the Stonewall Riots were not the first pro-gay disturbance, nor really the beginning of the Gay Rights movement (kudos, for example, to the founders of The Mattachine Society and its annual march in Philadelphia on July 4th, Frank Kameny and other in DC, and others in the 1950s, as well as to James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry for their writings in that decade, and to Richard Bruce Nugent for his short story Smoke Lillies and Jade in the 1920s) the Greenwich Village uprising, coming as it did in concert with the civil rights and Black Power movement and the women's movement, truly galvanized 'queers' all over the country. Too often we tend to forget that Gay Rights was part of an entire cultural uprising at the end of the 1960s. And too often, sadly, many in the movement have forgotten that that connection to other liberation movements.
(Thanks to John for an excellent post and the great image above from the New York Public Library's exhibit 1969: The Year of Gay Liberation)

Sadly, however, as much as things have changed, in some places in the country things appear to be still the same. For far too many young people "That's So Gay" is a slur. For all the positive images of gays and lesbians in the media, it still disturbs me how often we remain the 'comic relief' sidekick (but then I have problems with the depictions of African Americans and 'others' coming out of Hollywood also). Astonishingly, black publications covered LGBTQ events in the 1940's but seem to want to avoid them now. And sadly, our political leaders -- the President included -- seem more behind the times than the majority of the people when it comes to the issue of gay rights. A lot of hard work remains to be done.

The first time gay leaders were invited to the White House 32 years ago, they met a mid-level Presidential aide -- on a Saturday. Tomorrow, there will be a Stonewall 40 commemoration with the President -- quite a change, but we need and deserve more. Who knows how far along we will be in 4, or 40 more years.

26 June 2009

Rabindranath Tagore: My Song

That person (Michael Jackson), whom I considered (at the risk of ridicule) very pure, still survived -- he was reading the poems of Rabindranath Tagore when we talked the last time, two weeks ago. -- Deepak Chopra

My Song
by Rabindranath Tagore

This song of mine will wind its music around you,
my child, like the fond arms of love.

The song of mine will touch your forehead
like a kiss of blessing.

When you are alone it will sit by your side and
whisper in your ear, when you are in the crowd
it will fence you about with aloofness.

My song will be like a pair of wings to your dreams,
it will transport your heart to the verge of the unknown.

It will be like the faithful star overhead
when dark night is over your road.

My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes,
and will carry your sight into the heart of things.

And when my voice is silenced in death,
my song will speak in your living heart.

25 June 2009


What a day!

As was true for a lot of people, one of my roommates had THE Farah Fawcett poster up on the wall. Of course I watched Charlie's Angels like everybody else, and had a favorite who was NOT Farah, but you couldn't get away from how wonderful and instantly iconic that poster was. Perhaps more impressive about Fawcett was how she made attempts to prove that she was more than just a pin-up, with The Burning Bed and Extremities, moves echoed by Charlize Theron and other actresses, who know in the mad jungle of Hollywood that they have to 'prove' that they have talent.

I also want to say that how wonderful it was that she and Ryan O'Neal were together in a 'non-traditional' relationship for many, many years, and only got married earlier this week.

And then, this evening, the loss of Michael Jackson.

I'm still processing this, but I do want to say that I believe that Michael's music will survive beyond the crazyness of his later years. Watching his videos now (MTV is showing his videos -- an amazing development in and of itself) I'm struck again by his talents as a dancer and showman, by how many references to classic entertainers of the past he incorporated in his work througout his career (Fred Astaire, Bob Fosse, Al Green, Sammy Davis Jr....), and how his work was the Ur-Text for music videos.
Many of us watched Michael grow up before our eyes, then grow strange. He lived so much of his life in the camera's eye: that fact alone had to have had a warping effect on him. I'm also one of those people who thinks that some of the 'blame' for his later apparent discomfort with his body and looks can be placed directly at the feet of his father, Joe.

But more important than all that, we will always have his music, and the images of him performing on stage, perhaps the only place where he ever felt entirely comfortable.

Huffington Post Top Video choices

Roger Ebert on MJ, The Boy Who Never Grew Up

Time Magazine's (Sort of) Celebrating Michael's 50th Birthday by Josh Tyrangiel

Andrew Sullivan, who's penultimate line sums up what a lot of us feel: "I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life."

18 June 2009

What Talks & What Walks

Wednesday night, President Obama issued a memorandum extending some rights to Federal workers who are part of a same sex couple

The memorandum allows same-sex partners to be added to the long-term-care insurance program for federal employees. Employees also can use their sick leave to take care of their partners and non-biological, non-adopted children. Partners of Foreign Service employees will be permitted to use medical facilities at posts abroad, allowed medical evacuation from foreign locations, and counted when determining family size for housing allocations.

Like many, I wished the President had gone further, done more -- like adding health benefits -- but, its a start. And considering the pleased reaction of some federal workers to the memo, including the couple pictured above, Candy Holmes (left), a 33-year federal employee and her partner Rev. Darlene Garner, who am I to be a curmudgeon?

In spite of the apparent series of talks and negotiations that lead to yesterday's signing, the event had the feel of a rush job. While Obama's silence on same-sex marriage, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and other issues, and his 'fair' answer to the question of whether they/we have "A Friend in the White House" in him, caused initial grumbling amonst "The Gays", the tone of Justice Department's brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act lead to what can only be called open revolt, and causing some activists to call for a March on Washington this October.

In the interests of full disclosure, I won't be going to the March in large part because I will be in Austin Texas, with (what I hope will be) 200-300 of my close personal friends and fellow readers and writers at the Fire & Ink Writers Festival for LGBTQ People of African Descent. But I'm not entirely sure I would have gone even if I were still close to DC.

Personally I think the way to go now is with more locally focused demonstrations and marches, as well as phone calls and visits to state and local politicians. If there were to be a march on Washington right into marcher's congressional representative's offices demanding action -- now THAT I could get behind. The glory of the 1963 March on Washington makes us forget how many small local actions and very difficult years of sacrifice by average people it took to get there.

I do, however, think think that there have been some telling lessons from this week's events. For example, as part of the furor over the DOJ's support for DOMA, a number of gay money men decided they would not attend an upcoming Democratic Party fundraiser. While considering the idea to be 'a mistake', Rep. Barney Frank, who had previously said that he was not going to push for it this term, flipped and now plans to introduce a revised version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that will include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Lesson: When the money starts walking, the Politicians start talking. Bravo/a to those closing their wallets for the time being.

Finally -- at the risk of being called a "Kool-aid drinker," a sell out, or worse (see the comments sections of the Salon.com articles linked below) -- I want to say that some of the comments I've seen on the web have approached same tone as the kinds of ugliness I decried after the Holocaust Museum shooting. Phrases like "He's spit in our faces" and those calling the President homophobe and a fraud, truly bother me. Where was all this bile during the eight years of George W Bush?

And, uh, excuse me but: don't we still have troops in Iraq -- and Afghanistan? Isn't the economy still trying to climb out of the root cellar? Is there or is there not a Health Care Plan making it's way through the Congress. And speaking of that, does anyone remember how Bill Clinton's attempt to repeal the ban on Gays in the Military nearly wrecked his young administration and in part his plans for health care, leaving us with the 'compromise' of DADT?

Barack Obama has been president HOW MANY months (not years but MONTHS) now?

I am very much NOT saying we shouldn't make the President live up to his campaign promises. Obama is far from perfect. For example, I think he should stop or suspend sexual-orientation based dismissals from the military until DADT is sorted out, and I am DEEPLY disturbed by his reverses on transparency and lack of interest in following the torture trail wherever it leads. But then I didn't expect him to be (Uh, well...okay.... maybe I did:)

The man is a politician, surrounded by other politicians, many of whom have a vested interest in keeping the gears of power rolling in exactly the same way they have been for the past 40 years, or longer. President Obama, however, appears to be more 'push-able' or 'pull-able' than the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The move made for federal employees this week? *WE* did that. Those of us who expressed our disappointment and then our anger at the DOJ brief caused things to change. It was hard work on the ground in Iowa and other states brought about same-sex marriage, not some mandate from above. The President has power, but not a magic wand. He can and should do more, but he can't go it alone. We, the people, have to point him in the right direction, tell him where to go (respectfully:), and sometimes (often?) go ahead of him and lead him there.

"No permanent alliances, only permanent interests:" Support for those who support you when they're right, principled criticism and attempts to get them to see 'the error of their ways' when they're wrong.

The Debate on Salon.com John Aravosis vs Chris Geidner.

10 June 2009

The Darkness around us

I've been thinking about writing something about the assassination of Doctor George Tiller, and how terrorism seems to work (Dr Tiller's clinic is closing, getting an abortion is becoming more difficult, other doctors are nervous, and some medical schools are not even teaching the procedure anymore).

Then today, a racist, anti-Semitic white supremacist, walked into the National Holocaust Museum and started shooting.

I refuse to give him any more publicity by writing his name here.

I will, however, name and pay homage to the guard that was killed, Stephen Tyrone Johns (photo at right), who had worked at the museum for six years. My thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to his family. (I'd also urge everyone to actually NOTICE museum security people and other 'invisibles' who surround us everyday, keeping us safe, cleaning up after us, stocking the shelves around us, etc)

I've mentioned before to friends how disturbed I am about a vibe I feel permeating the air in the United States right now (and I'm not the only one apparently). The often unrelated-to-any-fact attacks on President Obama. The wild bleating by the right wing against Judge Sotomayor. The constant whipping up of "the base" (perfect word there, 'base'). The increasing echo chamber of cable 'news' where the daily meme gets repeated from one show to another, with the same old faces recycling the same tired phrases, yelling and snipeing at each other. It's becoming very frightening.

The Rough Beast of Yeats' Second Coming comes to mind:

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I knew that things would be 'interesting' during the term of our First Black President. But now, with this country's long history of violence, and (mainly right wing) terror -- and the lack of focus on it for the past eight years (as well as how much certain people screamed when the FBI issued its report on it, as if it were some chimera, and not a real concern) -- I have the uneasy feeling that Pandora has cracked that box open once again.

I hope and pray that I'm wrong. But sadly I feel that we are at the beginning of a period of genuine sadness for this country. We must call both these acts 'terrorism', and focus our justice system on it with increased intensity. Such horrors will happen again and again until we collectively decide to chain the monster up again.

Colette Garrido is a guard with Wackenhut Services Inc., which provides security at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington Post photo by Marcus Yam