Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day: Remembering Leonard Matlovich

Via The Bilerico Project:

Memorial Day: Remembering Leonard Matlovich: "

'When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.'

-- Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich was a Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Matlovich was the first gay service member to fight the ban on gays in the military. The quote above is written on his tombstone.



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Finding our Voices

Today is the first ever Harvey Milk Day in California, and celebrations are planned across the US.  In honor of Mr. Milk, I just finished watching the movie about his life, "Milk".  One of Harvey's biggest points was that we've got to stand up and be counted.  LGBT people cannot just sit on the side lines.  When various anti-gay laws are proposed, we need to stand up and let people see just who it is they are affecting with those laws.  We also need to remember that LGBT people come from all sorts of backgrounds.  The issues facing various LGBT people also affect other communities. 

Racism is an LGBT issue.  There are LGBT people of color, who are doubly discriminated against both by the LGBT community, and by their 'racial community'.

Immigration status is an LGBT issue.  Not only are laws like Arizona's "Papers, Please" affecting LGBT people of immigrant backgrounds, many 'T's do not have documentation that match their gender presentation due to various legal hurdles.  Thus they could face jail time for having incorrect papers, or perhaps even deportation.  It also affects bi-national families.  If one partner in a gay family is from the US, they cannot sponsor their same-sex partner for citizenship like an opposite-sex couple can.  The non-American partner then faces deportation when their visa is up, leaving the American partner to make the heartwrenching decision about breaking up the relationship or out-migrating to another country.  This is why we need the Uniting American Families Act.

The economy is an LGBT issue.  Despite popular myth, LGBT people tend to be at the bottom end of the earning spectrum, transpeople especially.  In 31 states it is legal to fire employees simply due to their orientation or transition status, regardless of job performance or other qualifications.

There are many ways that the LGBT community fits into other groups of "us"es.  Not only do we need to stand up and speak out about wrongs done to gay people, we need to speak out against injustice, period.  No one is safe until we're all safe.  We're all in this together.  Remember Martin Niemoller's poem:

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

and by that time no one was left to speak up."


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Widening one pothole on in the intersection to fill another: Religious Conservativism and its practical effects

With all of the news regarding George Rekers and what he did or did not do with his rentboy, I got to thinking about how popular religious, conservative figures actually end up contributing to the social maladies that they are supposed to be fighting.  I especially thought about it in relation to several prominent religious conservative politicians in my home state of Minnesota.  Current Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, US Representative Michelle Bachmann, and Republican Gubernatorial candidate/Current State Representative Tom Emmer all have expressed anti-gay attitudes in their legislative habits.  How do their actions contribute to social maladies like homelessness, drug abuse, and sex-work trafficking?

I was originally going to write a headline for this article that read "Pawlenty, Bachmann, and Emmer linked to sex trade and drug dealing in Loring Park", but I thought better of it.  While the headline would be attention-grabbing, I don't have the direct evidence to back it up. 

What I do have is circumstantial at best, but I think it is compelling.
  • Fact: Governor Tim Pawlenty has vetoed any pro-Gay legislation when it has come up
  • Fact: Due to his refusal to raise taxes, he has cut various educational, health and government assistance programs.  While the legislature has proposed many versions of the budget, Mr. Pawlenty has rejected them and sent them back because they did not include cuts he favored.  According to Minnesota Senator Ken Kelash, the delay in approving a budget has resulted in the legislature being required to make even more cuts because a Federal grant will not arrive in time to affect the budget shortfall.
  • Pawlenty, Bachmann and Emmer have all campaigned to remove various LGBT rights or block granting them.  In 2003 and 2006, Michelle Bachmann introduced an anti-gay marriage amendment (which failed both times) and has made multiple antigay statements, implying that LGBT people are child molesters and are sexually dysfunctional.
  • Pawlenty and Bachmann are both self-identified conservative, evangelical Christians. While I have not seen anything from Emmer identifying his beliefs, his campaign certainly seems in line with Pawlenty's and Bachmann's publicly expressed opinions.
  • A 20-40% of the homeless youth in America are homeless due to anti-gay attitudes in their families.  Some ran away; others were kicked out.  Conservative, evangelical Christians often kick their children out when they find out that they are gay, and express other anti-gay attitudes as well.  These attitudes are given credence by the various statments from Mr. Pawlenty, Ms. Bachmann, and Mr. Emmer.
  • Because these young people are kicked out of their homes due to conservative attitudes, and no safety net due to the budget cuts, they struggle to provide for basic needs--food, shelter.  Education falls to the wayside and they often drop out of school, further complicating the issue.  Now they have no skills to get better paying jobs and work their way up. 
  • They turn to sex work and drug dealing because those "jobs" don't require an education, and are often lucrative for short periods.
In conclusion,  by publicly making anti-gay statements, taking anti-gay political actions, and cutting the various saftey net programs, Minnesota's GOP stars are contributing to the decline of society.