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The Danger of the “Call Out” – Confessions of a Recovering Activist: Part 3

March 02, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Confessions

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Confessions of a Recovering Activist series is intended to look critically at activism and shed light on my recovery from being “that activist.” I hope when you read this, you will keep that spirit in mind.]

We Shall OvercomeOver time, the word activism has begun to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve always been fairly certain in my assessment that there is a place for each style of activism, from rebel to reformer, from citizen to change agent, but that began to change as I found more and more rebels fighting against the reformers, citizens and change agents instead of against the most cruel forms of oppression. That statement isn’t intended to point the finger at the rebels, of which I consider myself, but to note a problem in the institution we’ve come to know as activism. Reformers, citizens, and change agents are all just as fallible, and I can easily note many occasions in which their faults cost social justice movements points in the political game, but they are not the focus of this confession.

I’m sure I’ve used the phrase, “We need to call them out,” on at least a hundred occasions. It’s true – we cannot let oppressive ideology go unchecked. However, “calling out” has taken on such a negative connotation in the world of rebel activism that I no longer feel any sort of connection with the phrase. I always felt that “calling out” oppressive behavior was a way to inspire change, which it certainly can be when used appropriately, but now I struggle with how to use it appropriately. More and more I saw the technique used to bully, harass and embarrass people. More and more I felt the technique lost touch with principles of non-violence. We no longer sought to change ideas and philosophies with a “call out” technique, but instead wage war against our activist counter-parts with it.

A recent example can be seen in Plano, Texas. The City of Plano recently passed a non-discrimination ordinance originally designed to prohibit discrimination against people based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. Sadly, the final ordinance, which passed the City Council, excluded sex segregated spaces, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, opening the door to discrimination in the most private settings. To be clear though, as the recent story out of San Antonio illustrated, sex segregated spaces don’t always mean a bathroom. In the case in San Antonio, high school buses were segregated so that “boys” rode one bus and “girls” rode another. Thus, a “sex segregated” space was created in which discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity could take place under the Plano ordinance.

Up until the passage of the Plano ordinance, LGBT organizations largely disavowed any language to exclude these sex segregated spaces from the ordinance. After the ordinance passed, opponents to LGBT rights began repeal efforts. The opposition found unlikely allies in the repel effort in some LGBT rights advocates. Many LGBT activists felt that in order to correct the inadequacy of the ordinance, it must be repealed and resubmitted without the exclusive language. However, several organizations which often represent the LGBT community in political matters have issued statements opposing repel of the ordinance. This is a very serious situation and a debate could circulate around the strategy behind revamping the ordinance.

Unfortunately, any policy debate that could have benefited political activists got lost in the “call out.” Plano area activists, for better or for worse, issued numerous statements claiming that Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas, which refused to support repeal efforts but instead supported amending the now existing ordinance, are supporting trans-exclusive policies. That statement is, at best, “partially true.” At its worst, it is extraordinarily misleading and reminiscent of a Fox News Headline – you know the ones “Radical Muslim Terrorizes School,” then you read the article and it’s about a young man trying to obtain prayer time between classes.

The Equality Summer - ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act)Similarly, “call out” techniques have been used for just about any activist who has supported marriage equality, whether individually promoting same or promotion of it through affiliation with an organization.  I can recall numerous episodes where, in spite of my vocal support and resources being placed behind non-discrimination policies, immigration reform and other policies, I’ve made mention of marriage equality and suddenly I’m “called out” as elitist and on occasion, “racist,” because marriage equality is a cis-gender, white person issue.  The impact of these continued attacks was significant.  I found myself becoming quieter and quieter about any issue of importance to LGBTQ people, rather than empowered to take action.

While certainly my observations and confession are mine alone, I do firmly believe that these types of issues have resulted in the collapse of what was a strong radical movement.  That movement, at its height, was a spark of revolution, but the revolution was stopped short by our own inability to look at ourselves critically while looking at others with less severity.  We, the radicals, continued to “call out” our LGBTQ family and our allies, when what we should have been doing is educating them in.

San Antonio School to Make Changes After Transgender Student Leads Protest

February 26, 2015 By: jaysays Category: activism

Memorial High School Transgender ProtestYesterday, we learned that Jayden Blake Castillo, a transgender student at Memorial High School in the Edgewood School District of San Antonio, Texas, had planned a protest at the school to highlight the discrimination he has faced. Through social media, Jayden recounted the problems he had been facing with the school. Many teachers, including the school Principal, Michael Rodriguez, refused to acknowledge Jayden’s correct gender and insisted on referring to him with female pronouns. The catalyst that sent Jayden into action was a recent episode on a school bus, when Jayden was forbidden from riding the “boys bus” under a newly implemented gender segregation policy.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. yesterday, Jayden, along with his parents, several supportive students and human rights activists, arrived at the school seeking action and answers. Several media outlets were also present. During the protest, Principal Michael Rodriguez, who Jayden alleges had previously been dismissive and condescending to him, greeted the protesters and invited Jayden, his parents, and transgender activist, Nikki Araguz-Lloyd to come speak with him.

Jayden emerged from the meeting with several promises from Principal Rodriguez, which if implemented properly should make the remainder of Jayden’s high school tenure more tolerable. The agreements included sensitivity training from Memorial High School staff and a promise to lobby the Edgewood Independent School District officials to do the same at all schools within its District. The Principal also promised they would stop gender segregation on the buses and would work directly with Jayden to provide him access to a bathroom, in hopes of avoiding future problems.

According to Roland Martinez, a spokesperson for Edgewood School District, the district is reviwing its policy on interaction with transgender students. The current policy is to address such students according to the gender noted on legal documents supplied to the school.

Jayden’s “victory” yesterday isn’t his alone. He’s bold action and bravery will undoubtedly impact future students at Memorial High School and how those students are treated by faculty and staff. However, there is much more work to be done to insure a safe learning environment for transgender youth. As noted earlier, Jayden experienced severe bullying at his prior school.

The Texas legislature enacted anti-bullying legislation in 2011, which provided for a formal reporting process for Texas School Districts with respect to incidents of bullying. However, the original text of House Bill 1942 and its sister legislation Senate Bill 471, were modified after concerns were had over whether the bill was passable with sexual orientation and gender identity included in the enumerated categories. To overcome this concern, the enumerated categories were removed and such enumerations were left to each school district. The end result is that each of the 1,031 School Districts in Texas will be responsible for determining how episodes of bullying are reported, making statistics gathering more difficult and addressing the underlying causes of bullying particularly challenging. Thus, district by district we must walk, to effect the change we hope to see within the education system so that students like Jayden, and every other child in our public schools, has not only equal access to education, but fair access to it.

Transgender Student Seeks Action and Answers for Discrimination at Texas School

February 25, 2015 By: jaysays Category: activism

A student at Memorial High School in San Antonio Texas is taking a stand for gender equality. Jayden Blake Castillo has experienced discrimination first hand during his tenure at the San Antonio school. Now a senior Jayden has issued a rallying cry to gender activists around the state in hopes of bringing attention to the issues faced by our youth in our public school system.

For the majority of Americans, sitting in a classroom based upon your sex never causes a problem. However, for transgender students like Jayden, such a small request as sitting boy and girl can result in an unnecessary classroom disruption. In spite of Jayden’s numerous requests to his teachers, school administration, and staff, many of them continue to mis-gender Jayden by referring to him with improper pronouns and insisting that he sit with the girls. According to Jayden, the principal of the school, Michael Rodriguez, has also refused to refer to Jayden by the proper pronouns.

… as picture day neared, I talked to the principal (his name is Michael Rodriguez), about how we were taking ‘girl’ pictures and ‘boy’ pictures. I told him I was trans and that I wanted to take pictures with the boys. He treated me condescendingly, said it didn’t matter, I would take pictures with the girls anyway, called me by girl pronouns even after I told him I was trans.

Most recently, this unnecessary demand came to a head when the school began segregating the buses by gender. When Jayden attempted to board the bus designated for “boys,” he was told to remove himself and board the bus for girls.

We take a bus in the middle of the day from Memorial to the Fine Arts Academy. Our buses were at first normal, then boys on one side, girls on the other, and then yesterday they were a “boy” bus and a “girl” bus. I got on the boy bus, and the bus driver started giving me a dirty look. She told me to get off the bus, and I told her I was a boy, but she wouldn’t listen. She contacted some other bus driver, said “some girl won’t get off the bus”, and I kept correcting her I was a boy. Then, some school cops came. They got on the bus and asked for my information (name, ID number, grade, etc.) They didn’t even care when I told them the bus lady was discriminating me. I had called my mom to pick me up and take me to the Academy, and when she came, the cops also took her information (name, phone number, address, license, etc.) I was the one in trouble.

The state of the law in protecting transgender students from this very type of indifference and harassment is complicated and most efforts Jayden could undertake will take years in Court to resolve.  By that time, Jayden will have graduated and there would be little impact for future students of the school.  Historically, Texas law has treated “gender” as that sex which one was assigned at birth, making many claims under any Texas law difficult.  However, Federal Law has been much more inclusive of transgender people.  Under Title IX, a school district generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of “single-sex classes.”  The U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines designed to protect transgender students in these single-sex classes on December 1, 2014.  Those guidelines instruct school districts on the proper justifications behind “single-sex classes.”  According to the memorandum, to comply with Title IX, it is only appropriate to use single-sex class environments in the following categories: (1) Contact sports in physical education classes; (2) classes or portions of classes in elementary and secondary schools that deal primarily with human sexuality; and (3) nonvocational classes and extracurricular activities within a coeducational, nonvocational elementary or secondary school if certain criteria are met.  Vocational classes may never be offered on a single-sex basis.

Further, in September, 2014, the mother of a 14 year old transgender student in Michigan filed a federal lawsuit against against Wyandotte, Van Buren and Dearborn Heights school districts, as well as a Michigan charter school, for continued discrimination and harassment of her son .  The lawsuit alleges that the districts not only failed to protect the student from bullying by his peers, but also outed him to peers and their parents as transgender without consent.  The district attorneys sought to dismiss the lawsuit early on.  However, just this week, the U.S. Justice Department urged the federal judge to deny the request to dismiss the lawsuit indicating that the boy has so far stated “plausible claims.”

While there are many provisions in the Texas Education Code intended to protect students and others against gender discrimination, a narrowed definition of gender used by Texas courts would likely exclude Jayden from protection under state law.  Historically, Courts in Texas have considered only the birth-assigned sex when ruling on a person’s sex for purposes of deciding on the validity of his or her marriage.  These complexities in the law and scattered resources make it difficult to navigate the proper course of action for people like Jayden, who are simply trying to obtain an education.

Throughout the country transgender students are often faced with choosing between their identity and the gender bestowed upon them by authority figures.  The reality is that the struggles the transgender community face are in almost every facet of their lives.  From bathrooms to buses, gender equity is threatened.  Jayden has chosen to take action via social media and through a demonstration to be held at the school today to protest Jayden’s removal from the “boy’s bus” and the harassment he’s received from school administration. You can find the event on Facebook.

Patricia Arquette was Right – Confessions of a Recovering Activist, Part 2

February 23, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Confessions

Patricia Arquette at Heart Truth 2009Thanks to Twitter and Facebook and a world of blogs like this one where people can spout out whatever opinion they have of anyone at any given moment, you probably already heard a bit about the “controversial speech” given by Patricia Arquette at the Academy Awards.

In large part, her speech was inspiring and met with applause and acceptance. Here’s the transcript of her speech:

“Okay, Jesus. Thank you to the Academy, to my beautiful, powerful nominees. To IFC, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland, Molly Madden, David DeCamillo, our whole cast and our crew. My Boyhood family, who I love and admire. Our brilliant director Richard Linklater. The impeccable Ethan Hawke. My lovelies, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater. Thomas and Paul, thank you for giving me my beautiful children. Enzo and Harlow, you’re the deepest people that I know.

My friends who all work so hard to make this world a better place. To my parents, Rosanna, Richmond, Alexis and David. To my favorite painter in the world, Eric White, for the inspiration of living with a genius. To my heroes, volunteers and experts who have helped me bring ecological sanitation to the developing world with GiveLove.org.

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

She didn’t stop there though, and generally, this is where all the “social justice advocates” flipped the hell out:

So the truth is, even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are applied that really do affect women. And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now. [emphasis added]

Many in the blogosphere and purported advocates jumped on the bandwagon to “call out” Patricia Arquette for her comments, noting that by stating that it was time for people of color to join women implied two things: (1) that people of color were not already part of the struggle for women’s equality; and (2) that somehow women of color will have to choose between their gender and their race.  The same was applied to her comment for the gays to join the women’s equality cause with a similar response.  Many noted that gays and people of color have already actively participated in the women’s equality movement and are presently actively participating in it.  But here’s where I challenge you, dear reader.  This weekend, go to the nearest “gay bar” and start picking out random strangers, particularly gay men.  After you pick out about 10 or so, go up to each of them and ask them this question, “Have you ever been to a rally in support of equal rights for women?”  My bet is you won’t find any, but certainly it will be the minority.

You see, we, as social justice advocates, assumed that Patricia Arquette was talking about us.  We added that to her words, she did not.  She didn’t play Kathy Griffin and screech, “Where my gays at?”  She DID NOT say “…and all the gay activists, and all the people of color activists that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”  She made a call to all people and her words included women, men, gay people and people of color.  In the end though, we are activists, and as activists we have an ego problem.  We’re so vain, we probably think her words were about us.

As to choosing between your race, sexual orientation and gender, I don’t believe for a moment an ultimatum to choose was given.  You see, all of those things are inherently part of us. We can no sooner choose between breathing or eating.  Without any one of the things that make the whole of us, we are no longer ourselves.  The key to intersectionality is recognizing that all of those things make up our whole selves and none of those things are mutually exclusive of the other.  Until then, we are doomed to repeat the cycle of intolerance against which we claim to be working.

Confessions of a Recovering Activist: Being That Activist

January 26, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Confessions

Trans-Anonymous for Confessions of a Recovering ActivistAs it turns out, I’m not a courageous person.  Perhaps I successfully managed to create an illusion of courage in my attempts to inspire change.  But courage that is merely illusion or which is necessary for self-preservation isn’t the type of courage needed to be an activist.  That courage exists in only the most resilient hearts. My heart wasn’t so resilient.

Are you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy’d satisfaction?
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this façade, this smooth and tolerant manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?

– Walt Whitman

Recently, Mason Hsieh published an op-ed on Huffington Post titled, “Is the Gay Community Scaring Away our Straight Allies.”  In that piece Mason discusses going to an LGBT meeting with a straight friend who asks, “In gay dating, who’s the girl?”  He explains that his friend was immediately and “vehemently” told to “check his straight-cis-male privilege” and told he “should be ashamed.”  Clearly, a safe space was not created for Mason’s friend and it’s unlikely such a space would be safe for a newly out LGBT person or one deprived of “urban privilege.”

In the piece, Mason goes on to suggest ways to improve our relationships with our allies.  A few years ago, I may have disagreed with Mason.  I may have been one of the 280+ commenters on his posting taking a hard-nosed stance and refusing to make room for anyone at the table who would not immediately and quickly call-out a microagression.  Instead, now I feel that Mason didn’t go far enough.  That’s not to say any remark that is oppressive should stand unchecked.  But there are undoubtedly ways in which we can address such microagressions, without being threatening and without ad hominem attacks.

And now for the confession: Mason’s article could have been more accurately titled, “Are Activists Scaring Away the Community they Claim they Represent?”

I have undoubtedly been that activist, and I started to scare myself.  It was impossible to comply with the demands of my fellow activists – don’t eat here, don’t shop there, don’t say this, don’t mention that, don’t ask … don’t tell… don’t… don’t… don’t.  And I was one of the people making even more rules, whether intentionally or not.   I began to dislike myself.  I began to dislike others.  I was at an impasse in activism and had tough choices to make.

I flailed about for a while, continuing to pretend I was somehow making a difference, even though I no longer knew the answers to give to those seeking to inspire change.  I became the person I was most horrified of becoming.  I became “that activist.”

It wasn’t until late in my work as an activist that I began to fully appreciate King’s Six Principles of Non-Violence.  I naively believed that living (or attempting to live) those principles could help me focus my work more directly and limit the “rules” to six. I began reflecting on them and discussing them in more depth with fellow activists, many of whom claimed to have adopted the principles for themselves.  One of those principles stuck out more than others as it applied to our internal and external relationships:

Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.  The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

It was then that I went from being “that activist” to feeling more like Mason’s friend must have felt.  I did not feel safe asking questions or discussing my thoughts, opinions, ideas, life experiences or even what I had for breakfast among my activist circles.  Everything, no matter how innocuous it may have seemed, somehow contributed to the oppression of some group or other, but I was so “first world” starved for a damn Starbucks Coffee.  Was my egg free range?  Did Monsato have a hand in genetically modifying my corn muffin?  Often, a quip intended to bring levity to a serious situation, a technique I used for self-preservation, was met with righteous indignation. Any opinion was almost always met with passionate monologues that rarely seemed relevant to the subject matter. I no longer cared to win the friendship and understanding of even those in my own community, so I certainly didn’t care to win the friendship and understanding of the opposition.  Simply put, I was not strong enough to abide by the principles of non-violence and without them, I felt I no longer had a guide.

So there are many things we can learn from Mason’s story and many things to which folks have already taken offense.  Why should we accommodate those who make such assumptions as gender roles in our gatherings?  The answer, I’d argue, is that we should be working to create a beloved community, not prove ourselves “right.”  Otherwise, we become the evil doer.

North Carolina Pollsters Complete Ballots with “YES” on Amendment 1

May 08, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Headline, Marriage Equality

Huffington Post and others have been reporting possible voter fraud in North Carolina, including ballots that exclude Amendment 1, which bans same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships.  This, however, takes the cake when it comes to intimidating voters:

I was given a ballot that was already filled out for Amendment One.  I made them give me a new one. – N. King

"I was given a ballot that was already filled out for Amendment One.  I made them give me a new one."

The Facebook Photo that Will Break your Heart

April 25, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Headline

In spite of being legally married in the U.S. State of Iowa, Inger Knudson-Judd and Philippa Knudson-Judd don’t get to spend much time together or with their 12 year old daughter.  In fact, prior to this most recent 5 week visit, the couple hadn’t seen each other in 6 months.  Why?  The Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) allows the Federal Government to refuse to recognize Inger and Philippa’s marriage and Philippa is not a U.S. citizen.  These stories are all too common.

In early April, 2012, five same-sex couples who are not able to obtain green cards for their foreign-born spouses filed a lawsuit challenging DOMA’s prohibitions against gay couples petitioning for legal status for their spouses.  Victoria Neilson, legal director for Immigration Equality who is leading the charge, stated that their group has asked that the Obama Administration to change these policies, or at least suspend green card applications rather than rejecting them until DOMA challenges can be resolved.  Neilson explained:

We have recently gotten a definitive no from the administration on that request, so we sort of feel like we’re at the end of the line on advocacy. Our next step is to take it to the courts.”

Which brings us to the photo.  Yesterday, Inger had to drive her wife to the airport after a five week visit and they don’t know when they will next see each other.  So when I opened my Facebook news feed, I saw this photo from Inger:

Inger and Phillippa say Goodbye

Inger and Philippa say Goodbye

And my heart broke.

Via Wipe Out Homophobia on Facebook, Inger released this response:

We have a 12 year old daughter and so are trying to do things the legal way…, but [we] have hit road blocks every step of the way. *** It is really hard to hold your family when their hearts are breaking, my arms just aren’t that long. After 4 1/2 years of trying to find a solution, nothing has changed.

Some say that DOMA protects families, but does this family look protected?  These are the faces of our families; this is the real suffering caused by discrimination.

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.

Bully Attacks Attendees at Anti-Bullying Rally

April 04, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Youth Issues

Flour Bluff School District came under fire last year when its Superintendent refused to allow a Gay Straight Alliance to form on campus. After significant pressure and national media attention, the District tentatively allowed the group to form.  This year, the failures of the administration are again coming into the spotlight.

Teddy Molina, a 16 year old student at Flour Bluff High School, took his own life this past weekend after enduring the wrath of a gang of football players known as “The Wolfpack.”   Although Flour Bluff administrators deny knowledge of The Wolfpack, students have indicated that teachers are certainly aware of the gang and have even asked them to remove their Wolfpack t-shirts in the past.

Teddy was familiar with the Wolfpack.  After being tormented by the group, Teddy turned to his parents.  They withdrew him from Flour Bluff High School shortly before his untimely death.  Some students have stated that the Wolfpack threatened to invade Teddy’s home and harm his mother and sister if “He didn’t do something about himself.”

Of course, none of the accusations can currently be proven, but there is one thing that is clear – Flour Bluff, like many school districts, has a bully problem.

In fact, at an anti-bullying rally this afternoon, things turned violent. One of the students, alleged to be  member of The Wolfpack gang, jumped from the SUV driven by his father and began attacking rally attendees, including family members of Teddy and other students. The gang member’s father, Tommy Martin, accused rally attendees of throwing rocks at them as they passed by.

Video of attack.

Koby Ozias, a District Lead for GetEQUAL TX,  was present. According to Koby, the rally had been going for approximately 2 hours prior to the attack. Several students had noted that members of The Wolfpack gang had been driving by and flipping off the crowd, but no other incidents had occurred.  When the attackers hit children, several rally attendees fought back, while others attempted to seperate the grieving family from the assailants.

After the attack, police demanded the rally attendees leave the site. Although attendees complied, they hope to plan another event for tomorrow.

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.