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How Dare You Protest A President During an Election Year – An Historical Perspective

April 23, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Featured, Thought of the Gay

Alice Paul - Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty
“Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty”

About a hundred years ago, then Governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson remained *undecided* on the issue of women’s suffrage.  Although he was a dedicated progressive, taught at a women’s college and had two daughters who were suffragists, his opinions were still evolving on whether or not women should be allowed to vote. Giving women the right to vote, it was argued, would lead to federal interference in elections and, *GASP* voting rights for African Americans.  Thereafter, Wilson became President of the United States, and his position on women’s voting rights remained ambiguous during his first term.

A parallel can be drawn between then-President Wilson and now-President Obama.  Although President Obama’s stance on human rights (more particularly gay marriage) is evolving, one cannot truthfully say that President Obama supports full LGBT equality.  In fact, President Obama, in spite of stating during his 2008 campaign that he would sign an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has now refused to do so.  Further, even though he declared support for ENDA, he failed to fiercely demand it when the House and Senate had “hope” of passing the legislation.

The Suffragists of the Congressional Union (later known as the “National Woman’s Party” [NWP]) began staging petition drives and demonstrations to get President Wilson’s attention and demand he endorse the right of women to vote. At first, these demonstrations were largely met with bemusement and condemnation.  In spite of the demonstrations and petitions, Wilson failed to act.  The NWP stepped it up a notch and threatened to actively campaign against Wilson and the Democratic Party during the 1916 election.  But war broke out in Europe and the issue of peace became more important to many, but not all, of the suffragists, and they in turn supported the re-election of Wilson.

When the United States joined World War I, many thought the demonstrations by the suffragists would come to an end, believing that no one would dare protest a war-time President.  However, the NWP continued its demonstrations outside the White House, including chaining themselves to the White House fence. They were met with great hostility from both men and women, many of whom had also been and perhaps were still suffragists.  Banners were torn from their hands, they were spit on, insulted and demeaned all because they refused to bow to an establishment which ignored them – or worse, treated them with hostility.  They were arrested and often jailed for substantial lengths of time on trumped up charges, but their actions made headlines around the world giving momentum to their cause.  The suffragists who were more moderate took advantage of their more radical counterparts and presented themselves as a more obvious alternative.  This rebel/reformer approach is discussed in detail in Bill Moyer’s book Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements.

Fast forward again to 2012: Many LGBTQ organizations have also stepped it up notch to demand President Obama take action to protect employees from discrimination.  Leading the way in this endeavor is the grassroots organization GetEQUAL, which is best known for protest actions that lead to arrest, including chaining members to the White House fence and blocking Las Vegas Boulevard. Like the suffragists, these more radical activists are facing severe criticism of their tactics from the “more moderate” human rights groups; however, the mantra is slightly changed. No longer is the criticism because of war-time, but because this is an election year for President Obama.

Like Wilson, Obama’s position on LGBT equality is ambiguous in many respects.  For example, Obama has clearly stated that he does not support marriage equality, but that he supports equal rights for LGBT people under the law.  Some LGBT advocates argue that this is his way of winning the upcoming election, at which point he will “evolve” on the subject of marriage equality, while others see it as mere subterfuge and the President putting his own safekeeping ahead of the safety of the people he represents.

Many LGBT bloggers have condemned the actions being taken by GetEQUAL and others as a childish, fame-seeking approach to activism that will result in the election of Mitt Romney.  Some have gone as to declare that our “real enemies” are out there and we should go after those “real enemies.”  This attitude assumes that a person who does not support marriage equality and who has failed to take action to protect workers from unfair discriminatory practices is not a “real enemy.”  But the assumption goes far further – it assumes that these activists are “going after Obama,” when they are clearly designed to defeat the injustice created when another campaign promise by the LGBT’s “fierce advocate” was broken.

While many remain content to be beaten as long as the blows don’t break the skin, I for one prefer not to be beaten at all.  That is not criticism of my reformer friends who are accepting of the blows of the President without question, but it is where I stand within this equation as a rebel.

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Human Rights Lesson from the Murder of Trayvon Martin.

March 30, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Thought of the Gay

While there may be much debate around the circumstances involved in the murder of Trayvon Martin, one thing is now for certain: Racism is still alive and well in the United States.  One has to look no further than comments on news articles relating to the murder or online forums to find such fabulous tidbits as this:

But really, who is surprised? Go ahead and pick an article or forum for yourself and I’m sure you will find similar commentary.

The right-wing majority in this county has been waging war against any non-white, non-christian, non-heterosexual, non-cisgendermale person since the birth of the United States.  Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender People, Women and more have been wrongfully imprisoned, brutalized and made to fear what will happen if they rock the boat.  In spite of this commonality, those oppressed by the system are entirely failing to unite.

I originally believed this was the result of having been ostracized into our own communities for so long, that joining forces was something else to fear.  Will the Latinos push forward without meWill the “LGB” sell out the “T” againWill Black men stand-up for the ERA?

One anti-human rights organization recognizes that uniting our voices would put a crushing end to their ability to continue to degrade, belittle and intimidate our communities. Recently released Court Documents illustrate that the National Organization for Marriage [NOM] (a voice in opposition to marriage equality), has a TWENTY MILLION DOLLAR plan to make sure the “gays and blacks” remain divided.  According to NOM’s $20 Million Strategy for Victory:

The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key democratic constituencies. We aim to find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; to develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; and to provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party.

Sadly, even before NOM’s $20 million budget, the plan has been successful.  In fact, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s youngest daughter lit a torch at her father’s tomb to kick off an anti-human rights campaign to prevent marriage equality for LGBT people in 2005.  The purpose was to dehumanize LGBT people so that “human rights” and “civil rights” would not be associated with the apparently “inhuman” gays.  Sound familiar?

I Am Man- Withers

I Am Man - Withers

Of course, Coretta Scott King and many of Dr. King’s children disagree, invoking the teachings of Dr. King to show the need for equality and “tolerance” of LGBT people.

But a similar battle plays out between women, Latino groups and labor unions.  Perhaps the most glaringly obvious division is marked annually with the Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice.  Cesar Chavez was a labor leader and civil rights activist who fought for better working conditions for farm workers.  He, along with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association.  After his death, he became an icon for the Latino community.  While city streets and statewide holidays rightfully celebrate Chavez’s work, Dolores Huerta is all but ignored in spite of her significant contribution.

Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.  You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read.  You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride.  You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. — Cesar Chavez

Currently, a similar wedge exists between Latino Community leaders and the LGBT community.  In fact, the founder of the San Antonio Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice, Jaime P. Martinez, is alleged to have provided no assistance in fighting for hate crimes charges against the murderer of his son, Troy Martinez Clattenburg , in spite of his position as a civil rights leader in the Latino Community.

It is not enough for us to claim to support human rights when the rights we purport to support are not across the board.  Gay rights, Transgender Rights, Immigrant Rights, Worker’s Rights, Women’s Rights, etc., should be based solely on our status as human beings.   As Hillary Clinton said in recognition of Human Rights Day:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And with the declaration, it was made clear that rights are not conferred by government; they are the birthright of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them.

Gay Group Goes Public to Celebrate DADT Repeal – Members Leave in Response

September 20, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Thought of the Gay

Gay San Antonio Facebook GroupThe Facebook group titled “Gay San Antonio” will be marking the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by “coming out” from the “private” setting to the “public” setting on Facebook.  When the Administrators formed the group, they originally set the privacy settings so that, without an invitation, the group postings and its members remained hidden.  The chosen method of celebration seems appropriate and symbolic, but not all members support the change. Several of them announced that once the group goes public, they will be removing themselves from it for fear of retaliation by their family, co-workers and friends.

One of the group members who is leaving stated:

Sorry I can’t be a part of it but being a part of a political organization like this in the public eye will greatly harm my credibility at work. I’d rather be semi-in-the-closet and employed than openly gay and broke.

This is a very real and reasonable fear shared by many. “Coming out” of the closet as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is far too often a career killer.  It’s no wonder that the repeal of DADT is so bittersweet for me.  I see through the rose-colored, celebratory glasses and look directly at our oppressors and oppressions ruling us with fear.  The reality that our lives are still governed by this fear is a grotesque ode to the heavy toll denying dignity and freedom to a people has on their lives.

So to all members of Gay San Antonio (past, present and future), I offer you this video of Ms. Nina Simone, answering the question, “What’s freedom?”:

A Sad Bullying Irony in My Facebook Feed

March 09, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Thought of the Gay

Two headlines appeared in my Facebook feed one right after the other tonight, in what can only be described as a sad irony (if I use the word “irony” as liberally as most).


If you stop the hate, you can stop the violence.

 

 

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/03/07/16_Year_Old_Arrested_for_Antigay_Beating/

HRC on the Record, Part 1: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Diversity.

March 09, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Thought of the Gay, Youth Issues

Human Rights Campaign LogoIt’s no secret that I’ve been critical of some of the decisions made by the Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) and comments made by their spokespeople, but what should also be apparent is, like any organization, the HRC was developed with people power.  Like me, all of those people are fallible.  Mistakes can and do happen.  It took me a long time to recognize that for myself.  Sometimes, I speak for me, sometimes I speak for an organization – at no time is my speech necessarily correct.

About two months ago, I had an interesting conversation with Darrell Parsons.  Mr. Parsons is a member of the Board of Governors for HRC and Chair of the San Antonio Gala Planning Committee.  He suggested that I come to the Gala Planning meetings as media, putting on the record “the good, the bad and the ugly.”  It was an offer that a queer blogger and grassroots activist like me could not pass up.  For one, it would allow me to grow my understanding of the motivations of those involved with the HRC.  It would also provide me with a method to hold the organizational process publicly accountable when I witnessed them going astray.  While I saw the opportunity as a way to prove me wrong about some of my perceptions of HRC, I did not fully consider the very real possibility that I could be right.  What could my “report” mean for the community?  Will it build it up or further tear it down?  Would an “ugly” moment divide us more than any “good” moment could possibly pull us together?

After two committee meetings and finding budding friendships with many of those participating, I now find myself reluctantly upholding my responsibility to report “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

The Good.

One of the most obvious “good” scores was discussed in the preceding paragraphs.  It’s the fact that I was even invited to attend these meetings on the record.  This shows a willingness on the part of our local HRC chapter to be transparent to the community and to be held accountable publicly should they go astray.

Another “good” score was obtained by the HRC Gala committee developing a “Diversity and Outreach” sub-committee.  As an enormous fan of radical inclusiveness, I would be candidate number one to be on such a committee; however, my purpose with the group is as a reporter, not as a committee chair.  That position was filled by Kevin, who is also the faculty advisor for a college LGBT organization, “OUT.” While diversity should be a key factor of any organization rather than a sub-committee, this development at least shows that there is a willingness to try to solve the overall exclusion problem within the larger HRC organization – even if it is an afterthought.

The good didn’t stop there.  This year, the committee decided to offer a significantly reduced student rate of $75.00.  To further that, they have offered to allow members of the community to purchase a student ticket at that rate and have the ticket later donated to a worthy student.  They’ve also allowed for payment plans – HRC Gala, on lay-a-way.  The reason I put this in the “good” category isn’t because a $75.00 meal is affordable, but it is certainly a step in the right direction to bring less affluent members of our community to the table.

A less substantial “good” that deserves a mention is the social aspect of volunteering with the HRC.  There are many wonderfully charming and intelligent people volunteering their time to promote the organization. When asked, many stated that they chose to work with the HRC because they believe that we are all deserving of equality.  Whether we agree or disagree on the methods and inclusiveness of various organizations, we can agree that at the finish line, we will all celebrate the victories.

The Bad.

In the “good” section, I discussed the fact that the committee had a sub-committee devoted to “Diversity and Outreach.”  A bad moment was when Mr. Parsons found himself stumbling for a way to explain the committee’s function, stating its purpose was to reach out to those that might not be familiar with HRC and try to get them to come to the Gala event.  Examples of this outreach included approaching the black and Latino communities.  This was “bad” to me as it seemed to solidify the perception of the organization as being a predominantly white, upper class group that is completely out of touch with the remainder of our community. It’s possible that it would make it into the “ugly” section as it seemed to focus more on race than full diversity; however, diversity is often difficult to explain and starting with race is often the easiest path for people to get to the whole picture.

Another bad revolves around the issue of giving credit where credit is due.  I mentioned the Target debacle to Darrell Parsons and the recent interview in Billboard Magazine with Lady Gaga.  I noted that it seems like the company may be making an effort in the near future to make amends with the LGBT community and Mr. Parsons quickly noted that HRC pressured them into it.  While I would concur that HRC contributed to the pressure on Target with their petition campaign and removal of the company from their buyer’s guide, credit should also be given to grassroots organizers who took actions against the store – including, but certainly not limited to, a PFLAG mom who, on her own volition, returned a basket full of items purchased from Target and explained the rationale behind her return to management, and the group Queer Rising, who invaded Target stores in their “Target Ain’t People” campaign declaring, “Attention Target Shoppers” – know when you shop at Target, your money is going to fuel hate. Pressure on the company came from many avenues within our community without one direct action being planned by HRC directly.  No one organization or group deserves full credit for any progress made.

This isn’t the first time HRC has ignored or outright taken credit for grassroots’ efforts.  In fact, immediately following the National Equality March, HRC declared the event “big” and responsible for a “burst of momentum” in a fundraising email.  At no point did they mention that they fought against the National Equality March tooth, nail, fist and high heel all the way to D.C.

The Ugly.

Perhaps the thing that makes the “ugly” so very “ugly” was the fact that it directly affected one of the “good” items on my list, the reduced rate for student tickets.  I heralded the more reasonable rate on Facebook, noting that San Antonio is trying to bring more people to the table.  However, when a “Table Captain” and active member of the Steering Committee for HRC was asked about purchasing an entire table for students, the inquirer was quickly told that the problem with donating a table to students is that students won’t pay attention, won’t “bring anything to the table, will be drunk and won’t purchase silent action items.”

While this is ugly on its face for the “drunk” comment if for none other, it’s also terribly wrong.  I have worked closely with the students and LGBT Youth organizations on many occasions as a volunteer to help them out and as an organizer looking for them to help me out.  Each time, the students have brought a lot to my table, including: passion, energy, intelligence and hard work.  While it may be this person’s experience that students aren’t worthy of a place at the HRC Gala, I wholeheartedly disagree and would like to refer this individual to their Diversity and Outreach committee for further training.

It isn’t the official policy of the Human Rights Campaign to disregard the value of students.   According to Mr. Parsons, “Students are our future and bring a great deal to the table; which is why we have focused on supporting the student organizations over the past few years.”  But actions speak louder than words.  The San Antonio chapter of HRC has taken pro-student actions in the past, including assisting St. Mary’s University students in getting recognition for their GSA and speaking to the Alamo Community College District Board in support of a fully inclusive anti-discrimination policy; however, it is still “ugly” to call the students drunks and dismiss them for choosing to have a meal the next day instead of buying silent auction items.

Righting the Wrong.

I’ve always believed it’s never too late to right a wrong.  Hopefully, the Gala planning committee, and more particularly the offending “Table Captain,” will make it up to the students by donating a table to the local student groups, free of charge as the benefactor had originally intended to do, and with no obligation for the purchase of a silent auction item.  Of course, they may have to lock up the liquor cabinet before inviting all those pesky alcoholic students.

HRC on the Record: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Diversity, Part 1.

The American Dream, Yes We Can — “You Can’t”: a Poem in Video

February 10, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Thought of the Gay

When I was a child, patriotism rested in the hope that I can be whatever I choose to be.  I could become anything I dreamed of becoming.  I could live as I wished to live because I was in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  In those sentiments, I found the American Dream.

This feeling of patriotism that hope bestowed upon me sung loudly in the words of now President Barack Obama:

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.  – Barack Obama

Sadly, the reality isn’t the dream .  Our President tells us “Yes we can,” but our laws and country tell us, “You can’t.”  Why?  Because some feel they have the right to take away our American Dream.  They believe that they are the righteous and moral and we, the LGBTQ community, are less than and undeserving.  They believe and even teach that our families are not the families that deserve the same rights and privileges of their families because we are “different.”

Yes we can, but “You Can’t”:

Thank you to the young woman who created this video.  You are speaking your truth and people should hear it.

Glee’s Chris Colfer wins Golden Globe and Delivers Anti-Bullying Message

January 16, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Quick Bits

I’m an admitted Gleek, in spite of the ups and downs with the show.  I’m thrilled to see more positive messages than we’ve seen from say, “Queer as Folk.”   Tonight, Chris Colfer [Kurt], won a Golden Globe.  His short acceptance speech was dedicated in part to “All the amazing kids… who are constantly told ‘no’ by the people in their environments, by bullies at school, that they can’t be who they are or have what they want because of who they are, well, screw that kids.”

Here’s the clip:

National Organization for Protection of Marriage to Request Ban on Obese Marriages.

January 15, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Camp Gay, Featured

The National Organization for Protection of Marriage has begun soliciting signatures to convince legislators in all 50 states to ban obese people from marrying. Maggie Gaylaher, the Founder of the group, notes that obesity is the leading cause of heart disease, diabetes and other ailments and thus premature death.

“Children deserve a mother and a father. If either or both are obese, it’s more likely that those children will wind up in a single parent environment and destroy the traditional family,” she said.

Ms. Gaylaher further argues that genetics will predispose the children to obesity, adding a further burden to our already strained health care system.

“This is not what traditional families should look or be like,” she says. “First is obesity, then single parent families. We must put an end to it now before it’s too late.”

So far the group has obtained two signatures, that of Ms. Gaylaher and her husband. 

“Obesity is an epidemic. Society and our schools are  teaching our children that it’s okay to be fat.  This has made it difficult to gain support. Gluttony is a perversion of the laws of nature and a sin according to God.  It should not be accepted or taught in our classrooms.”

Opponents of the proposal from the Human Obesity Campaign released a statement declaring the proposal absurd. Joe Solmaneate, the HOC President told jaysays.com in an exclusive interview, “Over the course of this campaign we will be fighting back. On March 4th, the Human Obesity Campaign will protest this disgusting bid by holding our annual fundraiser, Eat for Equality.”

/snark.

ATTENTION PERSONS MARRIED UNDER DC LAW – YOUR MARRIAGE MAY BE NULLIFIED!

December 14, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Headline, Thought of the Gay

As you may recall, Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup were married this past October. Their marriage was officiated via Skype by a person authorized to perform marriages by the District of Columbia, who was physically in DC at the time of the service. Mark and Dante decided to conduct their vows in their home state so that family and friends could be in attendance without the significant costs and problems of flying everyone to DC.

However, after the Skype wedding made headlines DC officials intervened and nullified the wedding on the grounds that Mark and Dante were not in the District at the time the ceremony was performed.

More recently, and in what can only be an effort to prevent future public relations disasters, a DC Clerk’s office posted this sign:

DC Clerk Posting - Marriages must physically be in DC

However, such provision is not presently included in the District of Columbia’s Official Code governing marital relationships (See: Division VII, Title 46, Subtitle I, Ch. 4). Instead, DC has taken upon itself to enforce a provision of law which does not exist. This means, if you or someone you know obtained a marriage license from the District of Columbia, but conducted the ceremony even inches outside the confines of the District’s border (perhaps for a better view of the ocean), your marriage may be nullified, too.

For example, let’s say you’ve lived and worked all your life in DC as has your future spouse. You and your spouse decide to get married, head off to the clerk’s office, get your license, abide by the 3 day waiting period, plan your ceremony, go to Little Falls Park (5.6 miles from the center of DC) and get married. YOU WERE NOT IN D.C.

Or let’s say you take a look at popular wedding places in the D.C. area and choose one of the top ten venues, Brookside Gardens. You are not in D.C., and therefore your marriage is not valid!

DC retroactively nullified the marriage of Mark and Dante due to this “requirement.” How many more marriages will they nullify? Will yours be next?

Will Glee Get Away with Transphobic Remark? Yeah, Probably.

October 27, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Thought of the Gay

Last night, Fox Network’s show Glee took on the challenge of a Rocky Horror tribute.  As a Gleek and a Rocky fan, I was excited to see the show, particularly to get to see who had the great honor of dressing up as Dr. Frankfurter.  I was pleasantly surprised by Finn (played by Cory Monteith) dressed up as Brad and playing the awkward, but surprisingly attractive dork we’ve all come to love.  Perhaps more surprising was Mike Chang’s (Harry Shum, Jr.) offer to play the famed Dr. Frankfurter.  I gasped at the thought of him prancing around in fishnets and leather.  Then, disappointment and, dare I say, horror, hit when Mike not only advised that he cannot play Frankfurter in the performance, but that it was because his parents didn’t want him “dressing up like a tranny.”

The line could have easily been altered or perhaps left with an implication to the audience (as it’s generally obvious why a conservo-head parent would object to their son dressing up as Dr. Frankfurter).  Perhaps it could have been “dressing up in fishnet stockings” or “revealing that much of my body publicly,”  but no… it was the T-bomb and highly inappropriate.

I take great offense to the use of the word tranny (and even reluctantly use it here); although, I admit that many transgender people often use it to describe themselves.  Regardless of context, I flinch at the word.  It is the “T” equivalent of “fag” in my opinion – and the opinion of many of my dearest T friends.  Perhaps even more shocking was the silence.

During the episode, my Facebook wall and twitter stream exploded with “Rocky this” and “Glee” that, but upon the pronouncement of the T-bomb, not a soul, sans perhaps myself, said one thing about it.  Imagine, if you would, that the writers of the show had changed Mike’s line slightly to say, “”I really want to do it, but they’re just not cool with me dressing up like a fag.”  The outrage from my LGB brothers and sisters would have been evident.  Queerty, Americablog, Bilerico and all the others would have rushed to be the first to stand up against the outrageous line and demand an apology (in spite of the fact the show is generally “gay mecca”).

So where is the outrage?  Where are the demands for an apology?  The silence is not music to my ears.

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