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Everything Mississippi Should Have Learned from Glee.

April 30, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Youth Issues

Ceara Sturgis denied photograph in High School Yearbook

Ceara Sturgis Class of 2010. Congratulations Ceara on your graduation from all of us at jaysays.com!

It’s starting to seem like the State of Mississippi has declared an outright war on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens.  This bully pulpit is evident in numerous decisions by school districts to exclude openly LGBT kids from school activities.

There’s the obvious and well publicized case of Constance McMillen, an openly lesbian student at Itawamba Agricultural High School (“IAHS”), who, after receiving notice that same-sex couples would not be allowed at the school’s prom, requested permission from school officials to take a same-sex date.  School officials knew they couldn’t legally deny her request, but to prevent her from taking the date she wanted to (and from wearing a tux) they canceled the event all together.  The school eventually had two proms, sending Constance and a few other students to one and the rest of the students to another.

Of course, this wasn’t the first attack at IAHS against LGBT students and won’t likely be the last.  Prior to Constance there was Juin Baize, who was suspended for being biologically male but wearing make-up and woman’s clothing.

It seems it’s now Copiah County School District’s turn at the bully pulpit.  Graduating senior, Ceara Sturgis, not only had her photograph removed from the yearbook because of her choice to wear a tuxedo and sport a “male” hairstyle, but there was no mention of her in the yearbook.

That story line may sound a bit familiar to my fellow Gleeks?  In the Mattress episode of Glee, Rachel wanted the Glee Club photo included in the yearbook; however, Sue Sylvester objected stating that it would subject the student’s photos to graffiti and humiliation (her real purpose wasn’t so noble).  History had not been kind to the outcasts of the Glee Club as photographs were defaced with mean commentary by fellow students; essentially because the vast majority felt that the Glee Club was representative of the outcasts, the geeks, the nerds and the homos.  Unlike in Mississippi, however, the Glee photograph made it into the yearbook.

While no state is immune to bigotry, Mississippi has long since had a reputation for racism, homophobia and sexism that is virtually unchallengeable.  Through the “Christian Identity Movement,” many Mississippians have excused their hate in the guise of religion. Members of my own family from the state have preached the soullessness of the black man (the Curse of Ham), women’s servitude of man, and homophobia in the name of Biblical law.  While it must be stated that not all Mississippians feel the same, it certainly seems to be a prevalent and recurring issue.

Maybe it’s time we give Mississippi a little dose of Glee – Equality style.

This Thanksgiving: Proud to be the T in LGBT

November 26, 2009 By: Lauryn Category: Commentary, Featured, Thought of the Gay

FallLeavesAt one time I thought I really liked holidays.  Over the years as we have lost family, I realized that what I really liked was the time off to spend with family and friends.  Today I give much greater thanks for my family than ever before.  I have truly learned what it means to have others you can connect to in heart, mind, and soul.  My own journey is one that is unique, as we each are unique.  I have been amazingly blessed to have been able to continue to have all of my family as close allies through my entire transition.

I am sure over time you will all hear my full story but on this day of Thanksgiving I want to especially focus on my family.  I consider my family to be all of those that I feel near and dear to, both my nuclear family and my family of choice.  In my family we are bonded and we are very close.  We stick together and although we fight we always stand together against the outside world.  I think this is true with my family of choice as well.  I am using the family of choice term to identify those to whom I feel a special closeness within my band of friendships.

The friends I have are from many places and are as diverse as the rainbow.  I feel very close to my friends at church, they accepted me and saw God’s blessing in me.  I also have many friends in the T community, some of which I bonded with very quickly, Michael Brown being a good example.  Others are in the L, G, B, or H alphabet soup.  I feel blessed to have very close friends that I can depend on who happen to be lesbians, gay or heterosexual (ok some are actually U-unknown).  I am very proud to be associated with each and every one of them.  I sometimes wish I could feel less like a T and more like a “woman” with them but that is really the fault of society as a whole.

I get up almost every day and think today has to be the day that I just go stealth.  Then I get dressed and do it all again being proud of my friends and accepting that they are proud of me for being T.  The relationships are mutual but we don’t always agree.  Sometimes I think they are too gay and they think I am too T, but always we love each other.  I know that I should be more angry or more hurt when gays bash Ts or even worse, just forget us altogether.  It just really isn’t in me to strike back because there are so many wonderful gays, lesbians, and others that I proudly call my brothers and sisters!  I truly believe that each of those I hold close stand with me, and when we are together the haters do not matter.

I am very thankful for all of my family and friends today, I love all of you.  I especially love my partner of 27 years and my 2 children.  The boys have now grown into young men and they have been supportive every step of the way.  It is actually my eldest son who pulled us all from the closet, and as I tell them now, they all had to transition.  I had been transitioning for many years but now it has been their turn.  They have transitioned better than could have been imagined, I am thankful for that as well.

In closing I want to share a blog that my son wrote only a day or 2 after meeting Lauryn for the first time.  Both of my children got their intelligence and writing skills from their other parent, I am also thankful for that blessing.  This short statement expresses what I hope, and believe, much of my family feels, both nuclear and by choice.  I am proud to be the T in LGBT because of the love the L, G, and B have shown and that they continue to demonstrate every day.  Today, I am blessed and I give Thanks!

Dear T – by Mark Farris

I am writing to you because you have been left behind, because you have been pushed into the wilderness alone. There has been a lot of ground made on the part of the L, G, and B but alone still stands the T. The conservative right, have grown to accept the L, G, and B as mere lost souls.  They are lost souls that need to be “saved” by God’s grace to free them from their chains of self identity.  The T though is still being accused of having a diagnosable disorder, one that with time and patience can be cured.  The Conservatives raise the claim that God created humans as man and woman, forever to be separated as one or the other.  They claim that the perfect union of these two sexes comes with marriage and marriage alone.

At one point the slaves of this country were considered to be nothing more than beasts of the field. The African American population with time rose up to meet their oppressor.  With time people began to accept them as humans.  At one time women were nothing more than domestic robots that were to do as they were told, and leave the rest to men. With time they rose to meet their oppressor.  With time the glass ceiling fell away in small pieces here and there.  People however came to accept them as humans.  At one time homosexuals were viewed as the cause for the AIDS virus.  With time it was realized that the AIDS virus was affecting the whole human race.  Slowly but surely they were not blamed any more.

It is time for people to realize that the L, G, B, and T are all people.  God created man and woman, Genesis 1:27 “in his own image, male and female.”  This is the passage quoted by the conservative right.  The claim made is that God purposely created men and woman separately to be different from one another.  This language is not present here.

God created humankind in his likeness.  The use of the pronoun “his” is used as the label given to God by the original translators and writers of the texts.  There is no language to suggest what gender God is.  God is a being that created human in the likeness of self.  Woman and man were created to complete the picture of human kind.  Humanity would not be complete without both woman and man. The T, you represent both aspects of humanity.  You are the full representation of the image of God.  There will come a time when even the T will be accepted, and there will come a time when accepting both genders will not be viewed as a disease but will be viewed as a blessing.

With this blessing I would like to stress, that I am a heterosexual that is in support of this cause of this fight. I will not stand silent any longer. All I ask is that the LGBT people unite not only within themselves but unite with the H, the heterosexual population.  We as heterosexuals are not disadvantaged by not being T, we in many cases choose to challenge our gender in different ways.  We all must accept our humanity.  We all must accept each other as a member of humanity.

We must unite together, with a creator in mind.  The road is long, but it is a road that needs to be walked down.  I hope to do my best to fight this fight, with the resources and skills that I have.  We must not be hung up on the labels of “male,” “female,” “gay,” “straight,” but we should unite together under one label, one soul, humanity. God is not a man or a woman, God is not gay, or straight. God created an identity for all living things.  I hope this message finds you well T.  With courage you shall rise up and shall break the closet door down. “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:”Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” With devotion and hope, Mark Farris.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: The Endangered White Male Species

October 21, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, iQreport, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationIf you are like me, you can always think of a great comeback to an offensive comment. One day later.

This last week was a whirlwind for me. One week past the National Equality March and I’m still processing everything that I experienced and felt. I felt so prepared to take on the world with such powerful words given to me by the speakers, with such energy and friendliness from everyone that I met.

So imagine my surprise when I was caught off guard by a man seated next to me on an airplane. It was fairly clear that he was relatively conservative. We kept the conversation light and delicately danced around controversial topics, as often happens in real life. A part of me had been longing for real life conversations. Because on the Internet, it is so easy to be rude. I often find myself thinking, would you say that to a person’s face?

Now it was my turn to wonder what I would say to a person’s face.  As the flight was close to its end, my fellow passenger stated that he was worried about his son’s ability to find a job after finishing college. Well, who wouldn’t be with the current economy? My son is in college and I said “I hear ya.”

He continued “Yea, I’m worried because there are all these special groups that want protection. Sexual orientation, Latinos. I worry about my normal white male species disappearing.”

I could see by his facial expression that my face already revealed my feelings. The tension rose. My mind went in several directions in those few seconds. Do I stay silent? Silence implies agreement. As a person who does not like conflict, who was raised to be polite and not start arguments, I wanted to fight that urge. My emotions wanted to oversimplify this person into a bigot and put him down. There’s a lot of indignation in the world these days. The media and the blogosphere thrive on it. It’s easy to be irate. I get irate all the time. There is a lot to be irate about.

This was in real life. What would I say to a person’s face? After all, here I am a self-proclaimed LGBT ally and supporter of human rights for all people. I, of all people, should have been able to remain clear headed and have the perfect persuasive response.  The right words that would open this man’s mind and heart in just 30 seconds.

I blurted out something like “I don’t care about a person’s race, sexual orientation, religion or politics when I hire employees. I want them to work hard, be honest and decent. We are all human. If your son can do that he will be fine.”

Awkwardly, I half smiled and left the plane. Was this man part of the “movable middle”? Did I make him think? Or did I lose that one and only chance that many people will give you? Did I anger him?   Will he be quiet, yet still have those feelings? I’m all for getting people to stop saying hurtful words. Knowing it is unacceptable is the first step to ending the cycle of bigotry and discrimination, but if children are still taught discrimination at home, it won’t really end.

So what did I think of a day later that felt like the perfect comeback? Not an answer but a question. A question asked in all sincerity. Because really, we should want to know the answer. It’s a question that all of us should ask ourselves. We find civilized discourse, honest reflections and soul searching to be boring and weak. Yet, they are the essential keys to changing another person. To changing ourselves. I don’t know how I affected this man because I didn’t ask him a question. I made a statement with a tone that said “This is final” and I missed my chance to know if I could make a difference. After all, I was not in any danger of physical harm.

I wish I had asked  “And how do you think you would feel if your son were Latino or gay? I’m serious, I would really like to know.”

Is this response perfect? I don’t know. But it is open and sincere. Without defensiveness.  Given in the hopes of letting someone feel safe enough to change before my eyes.

If you have arrived at this website by accident, if you don’t like gay people, or any other group, take a moment to ask yourself how you would feel if it were you.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can be quite the wake up call. Take a moment to be human. Take the next moment to realize that we are all human. Then watch your understanding unfold before your eyes.

Next time, I’ll be ready. After all, now I am hoping you are the stranger next to me that strikes up a conversation.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

My Cousin, My Hero: Why Coming Out Matters.

September 19, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, Religion

shirleyBy the time I was 15 years old, I had already had my first boyfriend, kind of.  I had begun to accept that I was “gay,” but I had also experienced the sting of being a “fag.”  Society, it seemed, disapproved.  The disapproval was so great that I’d often be chased home by groups of boys on bicycles throwing rocks at me and calling me “fag.”

I remember walking home from school one day at 12 years old and coming across the one person in that small Arkansas town I thought I could call friend.  She was interracial; and like me, she was the “only one in the village.”  She was well accepted in a town that was overwhelmingly white and entirely protestant.  As her story was told to me, her mother had been raped by a black man, and decided, rather than succumb to the sin of baby murder, to have the child; this interracial child.  Because her mother wasn’t willing, the town’s people felt it was “o.k.” to allow a “negro” there.

One day, I walked up to her smiling and laughing about a recent experience in the classroom, she looked at me and screamed, “Get away from me, you faggot.”  That was society’s doing.  She was taught that I was worthless.  I was rejected even by those that were rejected.

I often think of that every time I hear someone say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  At 12 years old, I was a virgin, had never kissed another boy and certainly wasn’t ready to do so.  I had not sinned, but I was hated.

Go forward again to 15 after I’d escaped back to the “big city” of San Antonio, Texas and you’d find me sitting in my room talking on the phone with various girlfriends.  We’d usually be on a three-way call and sometimes four or five people would be on conference together using a pre-determined three-way calling chain.  I’d call Jen, who would call Jeremy, who would call Cathy and so forth and so on.  What the girls on the call didn’t know is that sometimes Jeremy and I would talk without them on the line.  We’d laugh and carry on, flirting mercilessly with one another.

My first “gay” kiss was with Jeremy.  He was 2 years my senior and so much wiser.  The result was that Jeremy was ready to come out, and decided to take me with him – unbeknownst to me.

Imagine my surprise the next morning at school when I found that my carefully planned disguise/girlfriend, Emily, was now fully aware that I had a “boyfriend.”  Imagine my horror to discover that many of my friends had been taught the same way as those in the small town of Arkansas and I was again, “fag.”  I cut all ties with Jeremy and hid myself away until finally, my mother advised we were moving.  God was smiling down to save me and back to the closet I went, safe from the torment.

I had a bit of a social shut down.  At my new school, I dared not attempt to make friends, they would find out.  Society hated me.  Society was my enemy.

I had been raised around a highly evangelical family.  God was invoked for nearly every situation.  Whatever it was, it was in his hands. But still, I hadn’t been told anything like, “being gay is a sin.”  I was wholly (or holy) unaware that God hated me as well.  I found solace in God and heaven and knew I could endure the torment some day, if I just had enough faith in God.  I was almost ready to tell the world again; to come out.  With Jesus as my companion, I would prevail.

Then I turned on the T.V. one day to see a televangelist smiling down his nose at me.  His words spoken, then flashed onto the screen, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.”  As the Bible reference appeared, I went running to my room, devastated. I read the words in Leviticus 18:22 from the perspective of a 15 year old boy whose only true friend was Jesus.  My friend, it seemed, had betrayed me.  There was no one left to love me because I was gay.

I could go on about the countless nights of tear-stained pillows, the chronic depression and suicidal thoughts carefully hidden away least someone find out why I was so depressed.  I could tell you about my prayers where I begged God/Jesus to let me die in my sleep.  I dared not commit the sin of taking my own life or live the sin of being a gay man, but that is not the point.

God, the supreme power, the one that we all are told we can turn to when life brings us down, was off-limits to me.  Society rejected me and God rejected me.  I was out of options — or so I had been taught.

Then I went to visit my extended family.  My cousin was a few years older than me and we’d always been fairly close growing up.  We went running around the town without a mission or purpose with her girlfriend.  I knew she was a lesbian thanks to rumors from the family, but she’d never told me herself.  That night she did tell me and I suddenly wasn’t alone.

That’s another one of the many reasons why Harvey Milk was right.  We have to come out.  We have to tell people.  We have to let kids that are in that dark place know that they aren’t alone, that not everyone hates them, that God has not abandoned them and that we will not abandon them.  We have to keep them safe.

Thank you, Shirley, for unwittingly saving my life.

LGBT Notable News Happenings – (September 3, 2009 – September 10, 2009)

September 12, 2009 By: MJ Category: Featured, LGBT News

LGBT NewsGay Sailor Brutalized by Own Unit and Discharged in CA (September 3, 2009)

Former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha was brutalized for more than two years by members of his own unit in Bahrain. He was returned to CA suffering from P.T.S.D. and was forced to admit to his sexual orientation – then was discharged under D.A.D.T. Others were also brutalized and the military is investigating.

Bill Recognizing Harvey Milk’s Birthday Passes CA Legislature (September 4, 2009)

Once again a bill to recognize Harvey Milk is waiting for the signature of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – and would recognize Harvey Milk on his birthday – May 22nd.  If signed – Harvey Milk would join the only three other days of recognition in the state.

LGBT Activist Runs For Mayor in Idaho Town (September 5, 2009)

Melissa Sue Robinson is an LGBT activist and transwoman running for mayor of Nampa. She was previously married for 17 years and her ex-wife now plays a major role in her election campaign. Some of those not so pleased that she is running include a person who started a fraudulent Twitter account in her name – which has since been closed.

Los Angeles Mourns Death of Albert L. Gordon –  Gay Rights Attorney (September 6, 2009)

Albert L. Gordon was married and had twin sons – both sons are/were Gay. Mr. Gordon became an attorney in his 40’s and fought for LGBT rights. His first wife and one of his sons died before him. He was known as the leading pro bono lawyer to L.A.’s Gay community.

Catholic Church in Maine Supporting Anti-Gay Marriage Referendum (September 6, 2009)

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has requested that its parishes have a special second collection this coming weekend – with the money collected to go to Stand for Marriage Maine. Stand for Marriage Maine is leading the effort to repeal legal Same-Sex Marriage in Maine – the Catholic Church is exempt from federal taxes as a non-profit religious institution in spite of its political dealings.

Openly Gay Man Accepted for Training in Church of Scotland Ministry (September 8, 2009)

The Church of Scotland has selected to train a Gay man –  in a Civil Partnership – for ministry despite a ban. Church officials backed his candidacy after receiving advice from an internal body that supports would-be trainees. The ban was put in place after the appointment of The Rev Scott Rennie.

Lesbian From U.S. Army Fighting Deportation From Canada (September 8, 2009)

Former Pte. Bethany Smith – who changed her name to Skyler James – requested discharge then decided to leave the U.S. Army after harassment and death threats from within her unit. She was unable to report the threats because of D.A.D.T. and was outed by another soldier. Skyler James is now fully employed and living in Canada. but faces deportation.

Proposed Law to Repeal Ban on Healthy Gay and Bisexual Blood Donations (September 8, 2009)

There is new proposed legislation which would allow healthy Gay and Bisexual men to donate blood. The legislation was approved by the Assembly Tuesday and is called the U.S. Blood Donor Nondiscrimination Resolution – and it moves to the state Senate in January 2010.

Gordon Brown Honors Contributions of Alan Turing During WWII in UK (September 10, 2009)

Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician and was most famous for his work in breaking German Enigma codes during WWII. In 1952 he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ (for being Gay) and sentenced – then took his own life just two years after that. Gordon Brown acknowledged that a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT Activists made it possible for Mr. Turing to be honored.

mjpngwnz: MJ, a/k/a pngwnz, is summarizing LGBT current events each week for jaysays.com and the Why Would You Say That – Really? series. She is an out lesbian with an affinity for the music of Phil Collins and Carole King.

Being Gay in the WASP’s Nest – A Covert Minority View

August 19, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, Thought of the Gay

waspAt some point I have to face it, no matter how hard it is for me to accept.  I can deny it all I want and make jokes with my friends about the fact that I’m not a white man, but I am – even though I think I’d make a good Latino (well, except I don’t like guacamole).  Having spent my entire life as a white man and often being perceived to be your standard WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant), there are certain privileges that have been bestowed upon me.  I will never truly understand what it would have been like to have grown up a black woman.  All I can do in that regard is try to understand and try to put myself in their shoes.  It’s the best I know to do.

Though I’ll never know what it’s like to be a black woman, I’ll also never know what it’s like to actually be a WASP, particularly a heterosexual one.  In spite of the fact that observers may think the person they see before them is a member of the majority, I know that I’m not.  That shadow looms over me in most every situation.  I find myself wondering whether or not someone will attack me or treat me differently once they find out I’m a queer.  I find myself anticipating the gay jokes, the snide remarks or the outright repugnant label of “fag.”

Because of this, I sometimes want to introduce myself to newcomers by stating, “My name is Jay and I’m a queer.”  That would get it out of the way and I’d no longer be concerned, right? Then I try to put myself in that black woman’s shoes.  She doesn’t have a choice in the matter – people know right away she’s a black woman and I think how lucky she is not to have to wait to find out her fate in these matters.  She’ll be able to know her friends from her enemies right away.  She won’t have to be worried about the outcome any longer.  But if that were the case for me, maybe I wouldn’t get to see for myself how people really feel.

In order to truly appreciate being a covert minority, a bit of my family story is necessary.  I’m lucky to have a very unique group of siblings (a biker, a red-neck and me, the queen).  It’s given me ample time to learn the politics behind their group of friends.  The bikers, with there “I don’t give a damn, let’s ride” attitude and the rednecks with the “I’m macho and have boots” sort of life, generally speaking of course.

One night, after going out with friends, I called up my redneck brother and asked if he’d like to meet for a late-night weekend breakfast.  He agreed and said he was inviting some of his friends to join us.  My best friend, a short but very feisty lesbian, tagged along with me.  Apparently though, my brother invited the entire redneck bar to come. I sat, cornered in a booth next to my best friend and a herd of cowboy hats and tight jeans, watching as several drunk cow-folk laughed and joked about things foreign to me.

Eventually, it happened.  A good friend of my brother decides to tell a story about some “faggot” at the bar, apparently unaware that his friend’s brother, sitting only feet away, was [and is] a “faggot.”  Being a covert minority, these sorts of things happen a lot so I responded in my typical way, silent observation.  I like to know what is going to be said before I speak up.  As he continued my brother intervened and asked, “Jay, do you want to tell him or should I?”

I turned to his friend and said, “I’m one of those faggots and my friend here is a dyke.”  He responded simply by saying “ok” and continuing his story.  At that very moment, he became irrelevant to me and I began gauging the faces of those surrounding us.  For the most part, no eyes met mine.  They remained diverted by feigned interest in the story about the “faggot.”  One young lady was different though.  She watched me as closely as I watched her as he progressed with his story.  We had a brilliant, but silent conversation.  I watched as she toyed with the idea of saying something, but what?  I answered with a smile, and her eyes glistened with tears.

That was one of the many moments I wished I would have introduced myself as a queer.  Perhaps that’s the answer to why we have to “announce” our sexual orientation – we just can’t stand the anticipation.

I’d rather be black than gay because when you’re black you don’t have to tell your mother.  – Charles Pierce, 1980

At some point I have to face it, no matter how hard it is for me to accept.  I can deny it all I want and make jokes with my friends about the fact that I’m not a white man, but I am – even though I think I’d make a good Latino (well, except I don’t like guacamole).  Having spent my entire life as a white man and often being perceived to be your standard WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant), there are certain privileges that have been bestowed upon me.

Answering a Call From God: Christians, Atheists and Gays

August 07, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, Thought of the Gay

silenceI sat down the other day and penned “Murder of Gay Youths in Tel Aviv: I’m the One to Blame.” Although many have misconstrued the message to be an apology for “blaming religion” for anti-gay attitudes, it was really a call for us each to take personal responsibility in obtaining social and civil equality.  We need to answer the call from “God” to ensure social and legal equality for all people.

While writing the post, I remembered, if only briefly, the slogan, “Silence = Death.” For those too young to remember, the slogan was about the HIV/AIDS epidemic sweeping the nation and our government remaining silent on the issue as people died.  The slogan was later popularized by the group, ACT UP!  At that time in our history, HIV/AIDS was considered a gay disease, having originally been named, GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency).  While it didn’t take long for society at large to be infected by a virus straights thought they couldn’t “catch,” the damage was already done.  HIV/AIDS was now an epidemic because no one was listening to the cries for help from gay community, no one cared about dead and dying queers.

I sat thinking about that and how the slogan remains applicable today, both in relation to HIV/AIDS and in the murdering of LGBT people in violent actions such as what took place in Tel Aviv. If we remain silent, we die.  We just have to speak up.

This thought train took me somewhere else, to our religious opponents that claim morality is on their side.  They believe they are answering a call from God with their bigotry and intolerance, but I offend by calling them bigots.  They would have you believe that such a term does not apply to them because they condemn the action of being gay, not the person who is gay.  The religious folks have made these sorts of claims in the past – that some group is beneath them, worthless, soulless, sinners and should be ruled by this “Christian God.”

It was then that I had a realization.  Although I’m an atheist and a gay man, I am also answering a call from God because I am responding to their alleged call from God.  There is a certain level of humor in that for me.  It’s very difficult to respond to claims that some deity I don’t believe in dislikes me without just saying, “I don’t believe in the tooth fairy and I don’t believe in God.”  After all, there is no requirement in this country that I believe in the same things that others believe.

But that doesn’t work in talking to our greatest U.S. adversaries, the Christian Reich. They can’t fathom the concept that people believe differently than they do, they can’t handle the fact that the “truth” they are speaking is actually only belief.  I don’t believe that gay is a sin.  In fact, I don’t believe in sin at all.  I believe in right and wrong.  It is wrong to hurt people.  It is wrong to try to rule their lives based on your beliefs.  It is wrong to steal my rights, just as wrong as it is for me to steal yours.  Unlike our Christian opponents, I don’t need a belief in God to do the right thing.  It’s not fear of an eternity in hell that keeps me from murdering people, it’s humanity, compassion, honor, dignity and even morality that stays my hand.

A great thing has swept the nation – perhaps we have Proposition 8 to thank for it – but LGBT people are starting to come together as a true community of people. We must not back down now.  They are wrong and they will not win.  Change is happening, but change needs your help.  Whether your straight or not so straight, you must speak up or we will continue to have our rights denied.  You must find courage in yourself and give courage to others.  We can do this.

Imagine if you will a world where Rosa Parks said, “Yes ma’am, you can have my seat on the bus.”  Or a world where Eleanor Roosevelt advised, “Why do I need to vote, my husband thinks the same as I do.”

We have to break free of the fear that the intolerant have bestowed upon us and just say no. No, I won’t hide any longer. No, I won’t be oppressed any longer. No, I won’t allow you to hurt me anymore.

My dream – that future generations will live free of the fear associated with being LGBT and I’ll continue fighting to realize that dream.  Now, I ask that you dare to dream too.  Release your fear and speak out against bigotry and hate.  Call your local churches, your politicians, your anti-gay aunt and tell them, “We’re here, we’re queer, and we aren’t going to hide in the shadows anymore.”

“Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.” — Cheri Huber

Upcoming Closet Talk Episodes

April 24, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Closet Talk, Community Outreach

Closet TalkHere’s a line up of the upcoming episodes of Closet Talk with jaysays.  Remember, if you are interested in being a guest on the show, please visit the Closet Talk page and complete the form!

Closet Talk: Kyle’s Story – 4/29/2009: 10:00 PM CT / 8:00 PM PTCloset Talk

In this episode of Closet Talk, jaysays talks with Kyle Levinger, a 22 year old gay man who came out at 19 years old. Kyle grew up in Idaho but moved to California 3 years ago. He is an artist whose work can be viewed at http://www.kylelevinger.com.

Closet Talk: Preston’s Story – 5/6/2009 : 10:00 PM CT / 8:00 PM PT

Preston Parsley, a member/organizer for Join the Impact San Antonio, will be sharing his story with jaysays during this episode of Closet Talk. Preston came out at 16 years old and received a mixed response from his closet family members. Although he misses his family, he recognizes the familial relationships available to him within the gay community.

Closet Talk: Becky’s Story – 5/13/2009: 10:00 PM CT / 8:00 PM PT

Becky is a heterosexual; however, her son recently came out of the closet as “gay.”  In this episode, we will be talking about Becky’s own “coming out” as a parent of a gay child and how it has impacted her life and relationship with her son.

What if Science Told you Your Child Would be Gay?

April 23, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, Thought of the Gay

Gay KidOne of the blogs I follows, itisalwaystoday.blogspot.com, is written by a molecular biologist, self proclaimed hippy, heterosexual gay-activist that I’ve come to admire and respect very deeply.  Recently, she discussed the potential for science to find a “gay” gene in her blog post, “Is Being Gay A Birth Defect? What if We Could Treat It?”  Because I found it brilliant, I repost it here in its entirety (with permission).  I encourage you to check out more of It Is Always Today – I’m sure you’ll find it refreshing and thought provoking.

In the last week, a news story came out about a seven year old girl who has a Y chromosome. It was found during an amniocentesis and the child was determined to be a boy. Everyone was surprised when, voila, a girl was born. Physicians examined the child and determined that she was a fully equipped girl, with normal female genitalia. So how did this happen? A gene on a non-sex chromosome (meaning, not on the X or Y chromosomes) was defective. The protein made from this gene is involved in starting the development of male genitalia. This interesting story clearly shows that the development of gender is not simple, nor is it restricted to the chromosomes that we typically associate with gender; X and Y. Details on this story can be found at:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16934-girl-with-y-chromosome-sheds-light-on-maleness.html

I’m curious. Will this little girl grow up to be a straight girl? Transgendered? A lesbian? Is the development of genitalia related to our sexual orientation? Clearly, there is already evidence that being gay is influenced by genetic, biological and developmental factors in the womb.

How is gender determined? How is sexual orientation determined? Is there something different about the brains of people who are gay? As a biologist, I have always been fascinated by the human brain. It is, without a doubt, the one organ we understand the least. And arguably, our most important organ.

It’s a legitimate scientific question, worthy of objective, controlled studies.
I won’t be providing the references for these studies as that would make this blog so long, I don’t think anyone will keep reading. So look forward to visiting Blogging For Truth
http://bloggingfortruthmay2009.blogspot.com/2009/03/blogging-for-truth.html during the week of May 25-31st, when this blog will be dedicated to the scientific research in this area.

To highlight a few studies that support that being gay has biological origins:

· Birth order – having older male siblings increases the odds that subsequent male children will be gay. This is thought to be due to maternal antibodies that feminize the brain.
· Identical twins have a 50 to 70% chance of being gay. Side note – some people argue this proves that being gay is not genetic. These people lack an advanced understanding of genetics and development. Being gay is not controlled by one simple gene. If it was, that mystery would have been solved.
· There are correlations to being left handed.
· Fruit flies can be made gay by changing a single gene. Note: Humans are not fruit flies.
· Being gay occurs in many animals, most notably penguins in zoos that mate for life and will not convert to heterosexuality, no matter how many fabulous looking female penguins are presented.
· Women with gay children have higher fertility rates.
· If two brothers are gay, there is a higher rate of other family members being gay.
· Pheromones – straight women and gay men are attracted to a pheromone produced in the sweat of men. Gay women and straight men are attracted to a pheromone produced in the urine of women. This study was done using PET and MRI scans, looking at areas of the brain that reveal sexual arousal, not the opinions of the participants. It was also published in a very prestigious journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Now let’s explore one study in a little more depth. I have taken an excerpt from an article that can be found at:

http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/gay-brain-science-homosexuality-a-birth-defect/

“Scientists at the Karolinska Institute studied brain scans of 90 gay and straight men and women, and found that the size of the two symmetrical halves of the brains of gay men more closely resembled those of straight women than they did straight men. In heterosexual women, the two halves of the brain are more or less the same size. In heterosexual men, the right hemisphere is slightly larger. Scans of the brains of gay men in the study, however, showed that their hemispheres were relatively symmetrical, like those of straight women, while the brains of homosexual women were asymmetrical like those of straight men. The number of nerves connecting the two sides of the brains of gay men were also more like the number in heterosexual women than in straight men. “

Where science leads, technology follows. Two years ago, scientists in Oregon reported an attempt to “interfere with defeminization of adult sexual partner preferences” in sheep. Their method, as they described it, was to alter hormonal inputs in pregnant ewes “during the period of gestation when the sheep brain is maximally sensitive to the behavior-modifying effects of exogenous testosterone.” When the attempt failed, they concluded that the dosage should be increased.

Would hormonal intervention work in humans? Should we try it? Some thinkers are intrigued. Last year, the Rev. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote: “If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use.” Mohler told the Associated Press that morally, this would be no different from curing fetal blindness or any other “medical problem.” The Rev. Joseph Fessio, editor of the press that publishes the pope’s work, agreed: “Same-sex activity is considered disordered. If there are ways of detecting diseases or disorders of children in the womb … that respected the dignity of the child and mother, it would be a wonderful advancement of science.”

If the idea of chemically suppressing homosexuality in the womb horrifies you, I have bad news: You won’t be in the room when it happens. Parents control medical decisions, and surveys indicate that the vast majority of them would be upset to learn that their child was gay. Already, millions are screening embryos and fetuses to eliminate those of the “wrong” sex. Do you think they won’t screen for the “wrong” sexual orientation, too?”

(And now back to geekgirl) Here we are. We’ve arrived at the intersection of science, ethics and morals. We are already capable of treating many conditions while the baby is still in the womb. Most of these are structural defects corrected by surgery. For some children, this is a matter of life and death. For others, it improves the quality of their life. Hearts can be repaired, bone marrow transplants, a closed urethra can be opened. I doubt that any of us would argue that this is unethical. We view it as a triumph of modern science and helping an unborn person.

But what about correcting being gay? Surely well intentioned parents will ponder sparing their child a life of discrimination, hatred and fear. One could even argue this is a compassionate act. But is it? If you have a child who is “different” in any way, you will know what I mean. My son is a high functioning autistic teen. (Note: I’m not comparing autism to being gay. I’m talking about what parents feel when trying to protect their children) Do I wish he didn’t struggle so with social interactions and making friends? You bet I do. But would I have fixed him in utero? I don’t know. Now that he is grown, I ask myself, would he be as smart, creative, artistic and such an original thinker? I love him as he is. He’s able to function, is amazingly logical and mature, and continues to consciously learn what the rest of us learn instinctively.

Let’s talk science first. A physician’s first obligation is to do no harm. How would we treat this? Not surgically. With hormones? How would we determine if there are dangerous side effects? Now we’re messing with physiology. Sex hormones are connected to many other systems in the body. Working out a safe treatment would require very expensive, long term research. As a scientist with a little knowledge of how the system works, I can’t even imagine what it would take to prove to the FDA that this treatment would be safe? Is this where we want our tax dollars spent? Or would we choose a vaccine for HIV, ways to prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimers?

If we choose to “correct” sexual orientation, why do we deny transgendered people insurance coverage to pay for hormone therapy and surgery? These are adults, who know who they are inside, capable of making their own decisions about their bodies. Certainly from a medical point of view, there is less risk than administering an in utero treatment.

So let’s say, we can’t fix it. Can we determine if a fetus is gay? Scientifically, again, this will take a lot of research. Let’s say that happens. That leads to questions of ethics and morality, the first being abortion. It doesn’t get more controversial. This is one controversy where I understand the logic on both sides. I would prefer to see abortion used only in cases of rape (better yet, use the “morning after” pill) , if the mother’s life is truly at risk, if the child has a severe medical condition that is untreatable and would result in a child with a terminal illness or so debilitating that there is no quality of life.

What are we correcting? Gay people are born with the same range of characteristics as straight people. Physically normal, normal intelligence and mentally healthy. Where is the medical condition that impairs their quality of life? There isn’t one. It is society that causes gay people to be stressed and live in fear, not their biology. If we correct being gay, what will we lose? Would Ellen be funny? Would Michelangelo have been a lousy artist? What kind of songs would Melissa Etheridge write?

Worse, would my best friend, a lesbian, be less understanding when she listens to me whine about the stress in my life? My life has been vastly enriched by my gay friends, starting with my best friend in high school – a guy. It is scary for me to think that they could be different if they weren’t gay. What would I lose? What would all of us lose? There’s a reason straight women say that all the good ones are gay or married.

Think about it. There is probably something about you that someone disagrees with. Something they don’t like. Would you want to be corrected to suit the beliefs and comfort zone of someone else? Should I propose that we find the combination that lightens the skin of black people, in the name that they will face less prejudice? Is there a biological combination that creates Republicans or Catholics? Hate, anger, or bigotry? (Ok – I admit – that one is tempting). Should we change people’s brains so they are submissive? So they don’t believe in God? Yes, there is evidence that belief in a supreme being is programmed into our neurotransmitters. That’s a whole different blog.

“Treating” being gay is the choice of a biased and prejudiced society. It is equivalent to denying people basic human rights that we see in China and Middle Eastern countries. A form of oppression. Medical intervention should be reserved for clear cut cases of improving the quality of life of the individual – treating an inherent limitation or disability, not “a disorder” imposed by the flawed belief systems of the religious right and conservatives. Leave science to scientists and the medical definition of a disorder to physicians. No, they are not always right. But their batting average is better than those with an agenda of discrimination.

Closet Talk: MJ’s Story

April 23, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Closet Talk, Community Outreach, Featured

Closet TalkCloset TalkIf you missed Closet Talk last night you missed a great story from MJ (as well as some technical distractions from yours truly at the beginning of the show).  MJ, an out-of-the-closet lesbian, eloquently told her story of life before and after the closet, weaving us through her fears and feelings of loneliness but always leading us right back to where we should be, hopeful.

You can hear the archive of the show at Blogtalk Radio: Closet Talk with jaysays or using the player below: