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I Do.

April 07, 2009 By: jaysays Category: LGBT News, Marriage Equality

“I Do.” Who knew that two words consisting of three characters could result in such intense debate?  Who knew that those two words would result in countless tears, not of joy, but of sorrow?

Today, with the Vermont legislature voting 100 for and 49 against same-gender marriage, I’m experiencing tears of joy over the possibility that, in my lifetime, I may get to say those words and have the country I have lived in, paid taxes in and supported (even when it was hard to support it) say back, “Yes, you do.”

As more states begin recognizing same-sex marriages in the same manner our heterosexual countrymen have their marriages recognized, the federal government will experience more and more pressure to take action.  Particularly as federal benefits are denied to persons who are married in their resident state.

It doesn’t take much to understand why marriage equality is likely the most important issue facing same-gender couples today, but first, a little history of jaysays if I may (which I may):

Christopher and I will celebrate 12 years of blissful togetherness this year. At roughly the half-way mark, my brother, Jack, called me and asked if I would like to go shopping with him.  I eagerly decided to go and we headed off to the local mall where I over-indulged myself in Macy’s madness.  It was August, the birth month of both Jack and Christopher.  Christopher’s birthday was a few days away and Jack’s had just passed.  Upon arriving home from shopping, Jack and his wife, Debbie, escorted me up the elevator to our apartment.  I opened the door and there stood Christopher surrounded by red balloons.  One white balloon floated near-by.

That is the moment of my utter confusion.  Why are we having a party for Jack’s birthday without me knowing about it?  As it turns out, Canada had just approved “gay marriage” and Christopher was ready to propose.  As I looked around the rest of the room, I noted the gathering of my friends and family, all smiling and eagerly awaiting my answer as Christopher untied the ring from the white balloon and Etta James “At Last” played quietly in the background.  As Christopher read from a news article about Canada’s passage of gay marriage rights, I lost all focus.  I answered his proposal with an enthusiastic, “yes.”

Something happened thereafter.  The romantic moment that it was, is now something entirely different for me.  It is a quest, a movement, a purpose.  Rather than go to Canada and get “legally” wed, Christopher and I (mostly me actually) decided against a foreign wedding that would not be recognized by our home country or our home state.

Non-recognized marriage, I concluded, would serve no purpose other than a symbolic gesture.  We could have our “white wedding” but would never be allowed to write “spouse” next to each other’s names on loan forms, insurance policies, titles, or other legally enforceable documents.  Our state and our country gives permission to its citizens to think less of our love, to deny us fundamental legal protections and rights afforded our heterosexual counterparts; protections  and rights many take for granted.

Thus, the crux of why marriage rights are so important.  When marriage between two people of the same gender is recognized by the government we are part of, the government tells all of its citizens, “Believe what you will, but you are no better than anyone else.  We are the same.”  In doing so, many of the problems LGBT people face will start to fade over time, albeit, they may never fully cure.

Arguments often express that by allowing “gay marriage” the government will violate the rights of those that oppose it.  I have tried to see how such would invalidate the countless heterosexual marriages, divorces or fatherless children, but I fail.  Regardless of whether gays can be married, the soci0-economic issues revolving around the family unit will remain unchanged – except for one thing, our government will recognize my family as a family too.

And now I find my mind wandering in so many directions.  Great joy, inspiration and hope for the victories in Vermont, Iowa and Washington, DC these past couple of weeks (two of which were today!) constantly reminding me of the losses in California, Arkansas, Florida and other battle states.  So while I bask in the joy of victory, I also recognize the long battles yet to come, and I am armored today and will be tomorrow.

Are you Unaware of your Bias or Prejudice – Take an IAT

March 14, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Thought of the Gay

Implicit Association Tests (“IAT”) are experimental and intended to measure the automatic association between mental concepts.  In it’s experiment Harvard has designed several IAT’s which measure one’s automatic response to things such as Homosexuality, Race, Gender, Weapons, Weight, Disability and other such categories.

For example, I took the IAT to measure my automatic response as to whether I prefer heterosexual people or homosexual people.  According to the results, I have a “moderate automatic preference for gay people.”  This is proof I’m heterophobic; however, such bias is conditioned upon prior treatment by heterosexuals and safety concerns.

Perhaps not suprisingly I was in the minority 6% of people [as of today].  28% of servey takers showed a strong automatic preference for heterosexuals , with 25% reporting a moderate automatic preference for heterosexuals.  Overall 68% of those taking the IAT had slight to strong automatic preference for heterosexuals with 16% showing a slight to strong automatic preference for homosexuals.  17% indicated they had no automatic preference of either heterosexuals or homosexuals.

Next I’ll be taking the IAT regarding race to find out if I have an automatic preference toward one particular race.

The IAT takes approximately ten minutes and requires that you eliminate distractions as results are largely based upon response time.  To take the test, please visit Project Implicit’s website.  I encourage you to share your experience with me either via the comments or by way of the contact page.

Promoting Hatred with the Word of God

February 19, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Religion

Historically, the Bible has been used to secure the white heterosexual man’s superiority.  In spite of this, we still haven’t learned our lesson.

Biblical passages have been used to define specific gender roles, including eliminating women from church leadership.  In fact, during the second century, Tertullian wrote:

It is not permitted to a woman to speak in church. Neither may she teach, baptize, offer, nor claim for herself any function proper to a man, least of all the sacerdotal office.

This sort of thinking continued on, and more recently, Martin Luther wrote:

…the wife should stay at home and look after the affairs of the household as one who has been deprived of the ability of administering those affairs that are outside and concern the state…

This was a blatant attack on not only women in the church, but also women in politics and matters outside that of the “home.”  Unfortunately, in spite of efforts of many churches to be more inclusive of women, the archaic belief that women are inferior remains even in modern times.  Evangelical author, John MacArthur, Jr., wrote:

One of the most devastating, and debilitating, and destructive movements in our day is the ‘Feminist Movement.’ It is changing not only the world but sadly it is changing the church, and as a result the Word of God is being dishonored; opponents are having plenty bad to say about us and God our Savior is being dishonored and shamed. Radical feminism has brainwashed our culture. It has brainwashed our culture to the degree that even the church has fallen victim to this.

Many who believe that a woman is less than a man and that men should rule over women cite the following passage from the Bible:

To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband,and he will rule over you.’  Genesis 3:16

Other Bible passages cited to support the degradation of women include:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Ephesians 5:22-24

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  Timothy 2:11-14 [ESV]

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.  Corinthians 11:3 [NIV]

Evangelicals also use the Bible to disenfranchise, insult, enslave and demean “people of color”.  This is largely based on the story of Canaan, or “The Curse of Ham”  (See Genesis 9:20-27)  This “curse,” purportedly illustrated by the color of one’s skin to evangelical Christians, has mostly faded away in modern times; however, it still exists but is NOW generally considered to be non-christian and occult like.  Historically; however, the “curse” inspired such statements as:

Bar Hebraeus (Syrian Christian scholar, 1226-86): “‘And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and showed [it] to his two brothers.’ That is…that Canaan was cursed and not Ham, and with the very curse he became black and the blackness was transmitted to his descendents…. And he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan! A servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.’” Sprengling and Graham, Barhebraeus’ Scholia on the Old Testament, pp. 40-41, to Gen 9:22.

According to Catholic mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich, “I saw the curse pronounced by Noah upon Ham moving toward the latter like a black cloud and obscuring him. His skin lost its whiteness, he grew darker. His sin was the sin of sacrilege, the sin of one who would forcibly enter the Ark of the Covenant. I saw a most corrupt race descend from Ham and sink deeper and deeper in darkness. I see that the black, idolatrous, stupid nations are the descendants of Ham. Their color is due, not to the rays of the sun, but to the dark source whence those degraded races sprang.”

— From Wikipedia

Unfortunately, the discriminatory use of Biblical text continues and is even popular ideology with regard to homosexuality.  Some comments which claim to hold the word of “God” include:

Homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible (Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:22-32; 1st Corinthians 6:9,10; Jude 1:7). Let every believer speak out against the evils of homosexuality in society today, for it is our responsibility…

Homosexuality is disgusting, unnatural, and just plain wrong and God hates it.

Well, we know punishing homosexuals by death would be extremely hard in today’s society,but we hope that we can help to drive it underground so in about twenty or thirty years, the punishment can fit the crime.

Evangelical Christians have been whining about how society is starting to make fun of them and treat them as “less” than human.  They have been calling gay rights advocates terrorists and claiming that they are being threatened with violence.  Frankly, I disagree with threats of violence against the evangelicals; however, there is a little smirking part of me that wants to scream out, “HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE THE TIDE TURNED AGAINST YOU!?!!?”  Michael Novak had this to say:

“There is a bigotry rampant in America, against evangelicals. It is the last respectable bigotry.” (Michael Novak)

So, after centuries of being the “bigot” and discriminating against, enslaving, dehumanizing, murdering and otherwise belittling group upon group of persons, now you want to play the victim card?  Perhaps you are now just reaping what you have sown.

How Far is Too Far for Civil Rights

February 11, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Thought of the Gay

Yesterday, I received a text message from a very dear friend.  For purposes of this story, we will call her Irene and her employer XYZ Corporation to protect the identities of both.  The message was to advise me that she had just been “written up” at work for using racial slurs.  I was shocked.  Irene is not someone I would ever consider to be a racist.  In fact, she is a triple minority (a woman, part Asian, part Hispanic).

I messaged her back, “what happened?”

The response was nothing like what I expected.  Apparently, Irene was to have her picture taken for a new security badge.  She remarked during that she did not want to have her picture taken, because she “would look like Yoko Ono, just like every other Asian.”

This resulted in the reprimand for “racial slurs.”  An ugly blemish on her employment record because she stated what she believed was a fact about herself – that she looks like every other Asian person. The particular funny part is why she believes this to be a fact.

After her graduation from college, she received an email from another friend advising that her Alma Mater had just placed a picture of her on the front page of their website.  Irene was so excited, she forwarded the link to everyone, including her fiance and her mother as well as to me.  We were all so excited for her.  After a couple of months passed, I received a phone call from Irene.  She asked if I remembered the photo and I said, “Of course.”  She then told me it wasn’t her in the photo, it was another Asian girl. I was floored.  Not only did I believe it to be a picture of her, but she believed it, her mother believed it, her fiance believed it… etc… etc… I pulled the picture back up and looked closely at it.  It was Irene, not another Asian girl.  Then I realized that the girl in the photo was wearing her “chords” which were not part of Irene’s ensemble and was shaking the hand of a different person than Irene had at her graduation.  Thus, Irene’s theory that she looks like every other Asian was seemingly true.

The question becomes, have we gone so far in our efforts to obtain “civil rights” that we have become humorless, unforgiving clouts?  Should Irene have been written up for her remark about her own race and how being within that race has made her “look like” other members of that race?  Is such an off-hand remark a “racial slur?”  It can’t be, but had it never happened, I wouldn’t have spent the better part of yesterday evening calling everyone of my friends and relaying the story while laughing hysterically.

For the record, Irene is recovering from this tragic enforcement of anti-discrimination policy. In fact, the entire time she was being reprimanded, and well into last night, she was laughing about the situation.

Having Laid My Eternal Soul to Rest

February 10, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Religion

As many of my readers know, I am an atheist.  This does not mean I lack faith, morality or inspiration; it merely means I find such outside of “God” or “Jesus” or “Allah.”  I find my faith, morality and inspiration from other people and from within myself.  Lately, however, I’ve come to some moments of questioning.  This is not to say I am questioning whether or not I believe in God; that is something that I feel is unquestionable.  I do not.  I’ve recently allowed myself to open discussions with people of the Christian faith and in so doing have realized something that may be a source of religious unkindness toward me; I have closed my heart and mind from religion.

Yesterday, my partner of 11 years, Christopher, was having a conversation with a friend.  The friend offered Christopher some coupons she had for Chick-Fil-A.  Christopher advised her that he is no longer eating at that establishment because of their contributions to organizations which continue to support violation of equal civil rights for homosexuals.  A person nearby, purporting to be a Christian, approached the conversation and emphatically stated that mariage was between a man and a woman, the Bible says so.  As you can imagine, Christopher was angry and frustrated that this person, who was in no way part of the conversation, felt obliged to approach him.  He relayed his story to me and I began pondering the question I pose here:

What is it about my eternal soul that makes Christians feel they have the right to deny me my mortal joy?

This is particularly relevant in my case because, as an atheist, I laid the idea of my eternal soul to rest years ago.  I don’t believe I have an eternal soul and therefore don’t feel it needs to be saved. Although Christian Fundamentalists may feel they are doing the right thing in attempting to save me, I feel they are degrading my personal beliefs, choices and sense of self.  Am I a danger to their eternity?

As I thought about what happened to Christopher, I became more and more angry; then it hit me.  I’m angry and passionate about my own belief in civil equality and I expect them to listen to me, but I refuse to listen to them; am I thus a hypocrite?

I’ve always considered myself to be a free-thinker, open minded and very kind and loving.  These are the qualities I thought best defined me.  But I realized I had closed my mind to religion and dismissed it entirely, not just to those within religion that have caused our people [LGBT people] to suffer so greatly.  In fact, I had become so entangled in my own disdain for religion, that a simple “God Bless You” after a sneeze would result in me rolling my eyes.  So, today I emailed a Baptist Pastor, who has extended an offer to me to join him for lunch after his church service, to advise him that I accept his offer.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to better my understanding of his faith and, with any luck, open a door in my heart to religious people that has been closed for many years.