February 24, 2007

A Straight Ally In Connecticut

Connecticut is one of the current battle-ground states in the fight for marriage equality, and columnist Susan Campbell of the Hartford Courant (the newspaper with the largest circulation in the state) has taken a stand. Here is an excerpt as she writes in response to some e-mails she has received from people that assume because she is advocating for GLBT rights that she herself must be lesbian:

What if I told you that I am not a lesbian, that I am in a monogamous relationship - a marriage, yet - with a man I love, whom I don't always understand? That we've raised two children to adulthood, that we vote, mow our yard and worry about our adjustable mortgage? And that, in those last characteristics, I am much like your garden-variety coupled homosexual - just an average citizen getting by.

What if I told you that I did not come to my present and permanent stance because of some intellectual tic on my part? I am public school all the way, born in Kentucky, raised in Missouri, came to Jesus in a fundamentalist church.

What if I told you that I read the same scriptures you do and that I've spent time with the text I was taught to hold so dear? And what if I told you that I consider marriage equality every bit as important as any other civil rights question, be it racial or gender, and that I don't have to belong to the oppressed group to speak up?

In fact, in these times, it's incumbent on those who are blessed with marriage rights to speak up.

I'm here to tell you that if a red-state fundamentalist Christian hillbilly can figure it out, there is ample hope for the likes of you.

Minds can be opened and prejudices can be unlearned. Fortunately, Ms. Campbell is open enough to share her journey with thousands of readers in her state and a few folks on this blog.


February 23, 2007

How Arizona Did It

Last November, Arizona became the first state to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage.

This article from Campaigns & Elections via Equality NY tells the story of how advocates for equality pulled it off.

“The campaign logged the hours and built a broad-based coalition of faith groups, chambers of commerce, police officers, firefighters, seniors and children’s advocacy groups,” (campaign treasurer) May said. “We did the research, unveiled the truth behind Prop 107, and stayed disciplined in our message.”

It sounds simple but it's not. Check out how they did it.

Working for Transgender Equality at the University of Florida

This from the University of Florida's student newspaper, The Independent Florida Aligator:

Fear of insults or attacks convinced Ivana Black to hide her transgender identity when she enrolled at UF in 2004. Black had faced discrimination before and did not want to be targeted again, she said. She used her long hair and convincing curves to pass as a woman. But when she noticed that other transgender students were reluctant to embrace or reveal their own identities, she felt compelled to come out.

"In order for me to feel comfortable and for other people to be comfortable, I had to be visible (as a transgender)," she said.

During her stay at UF, Black worked toward making UF a more welcoming place for transgender students by educating people about transgender issues and culture. By the time Black graduated, she had made UF a home, but it still had a long way to go. The Student Body constitution, for example, didn't have a protection for transgender students.

But that could change if students approve a referendum during Student Government elections, which will be held Tuesday and Wednesday.

If the referendum is approved, the Student Body constitution's nondiscrimination clause will be amended to include the terms "gender identity and expression."

Click here to read more about Ivana Black and her campaign for equality.

February 22, 2007

Weary From the Hate and Negativity

That's how I've been feeling more frequently as I write this blog since much of my commentary has been to refute the bigotry and hatred of the religious right and others who seek to deny GLBT people their basic human rights.

After sharing those thoughts with Pastor Brenda, I decided to shift my focus here somewhat. Rather than harp on the negativity directed toward those seeking to diminish GLBT people, I'll be seeking out more stories like the one I posted below. There are people, members of the GLBT community and their straight allies, who are making a difference, a positive one, in how GLBT people are welcomed into God's kingdom and how they are working to attain legal rights in society.

While there will still be some important issues with a negative angle I'll address, there will be more emphasis on those stories where people are making a positive contribution. If you run across any you think the readers here would appreciate, please send an e-mail with a link to me at straight_notnarrow@yahoo.com.

Thanks and God bless you.

GLBT Ally: Anne S. Wynne of Atticus Circle

This story was posted on Mombian:

Straight allies are an invaluable component of the struggle for LGBT equality. Anne S. Wynne is the founder of Atticus Circle, an organization that educates and mobilizes straight allies in support of equal rights for LGBT Americans and our families.

Anne agreed to answer some questions about her organization for Mombian’s interview series. Below, she talks about her journey towards creating Atticus Circle, the group’s ongoing work with other LGBT organizations, getting straight people involved who have never before spoken out on LGBT issues, and why you should ask your straight friends and relatives to join.

This from the home page of Atticus Circle:

It is time for us to stand up and stand with our gay and lesbian friends who are being systematically denied the most basic rights and recognition – the very things we, in the heterosexual world, take for granted day after day.

It is time for all children, regardless of their parents’ sexual orientation, to share the same rights and protections.

And it is time for our country to acknowledge that the right to love a partner, be a parent and build a family is a fundamental, equal right for each and every one of us.

Today we need your help to win this “civil rights battle rooted in love.” We need you to add your voice to the growing number of our friends who say, “This just isn’t right.” We invite you to come into the Atticus Circle and stand with others who say, “I’m ready. What can I do?”

For one, you can sign up like I did and offer your voice and support to their advocacy efforts.

Click here to read the Q&A on the Mombian website.

February 21, 2007

"Learning the Hardaway"

Wayne Besen takes a look at the backlash against recent celeberties who have made public homophobic remarks in his latest column:

As we have learned with racial and religious minorities, the new public climate will not eliminate the cold private chill of discrimination. There will be winks, nods, glass ceilings and new code words to decipher. However, moving hateful words behind closed doors opens the closet door even further, greatly benefiting the GLBT movement. As adolescents hear less overt anti-gay rhetoric, it lessens the consequences of coming out, both emboldening and empowering the next generation. Ultimately, this translates into more out homosexuals, the number one defense against anti-gay bigotry.

If you think about it, fundamentalists vastly outnumber the GLBT community and our opponents have infinitely more financial resources. Yet, we are winning this culture war because coming out has unique transformational power that changes attitudes and minds. Most people will not reject their family members and friends who come out and are often willing to rethink their most basic assumptions and core beliefs.

It seems to me that the more homophobic comments and rhetoric the general public hears, the less they like it.

"The Respectful Decline"

Jen Austin had a very interesting post recently on her blog. Titled "The Respectful Decline," Jen writes about a co-worker who refused to do production work for "Pride Radio," a gay-oriented radio station being startup up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The co-worker is a professed Christian (as is Jen), but rather than come down all judgemental he respectfully expressed his reasons for not wanting to support this initiative, and he and Jen had a mature, sensitive exchange of views regarding this issue.

I love what Aaron said to me about declining to produce the Pride Radio promo. He said, "I just hope nobody else hears about this, and feels like I'm judging them....I'm really not....I'm judging myself more than anything. Sometimes I get caught up on something, and get COMPLETELY freaked out about it. I start worrying about whether I'm doing the right thing or not, and then I get all legalistic about it. Sometimes I forget about grace."

This is not the kind of hateful bigotry the GLBT community so often has to deal with from those professing their Christianity. Instead, it is the sincere beliefs of someone trying to do the right thing and apparently not yet convinced he has all the answers.

By the way, here is the link to Pride Radio which is just up and running.

February 20, 2007

"Ex-gay" seminar in San Francisco protested

San Francisco seems like an odd place to find one of the "ex-gay" seminars, but there was one held there last week.

"I've had gay friends all my life," said the Rev. Michael Brodeur (the host pastor), who said he came of age in San Francisco's counterculture. "I'm not homophobic or anti-homosexual. But I am very pro-Jesus."

Why do people think "I've had gay friends all my life" and "I'm not homophobic" is enough cover to fool people into discounting everything else coming out of their mouths? Are they that delusional or do they think that other people are that stupid?

This just in--most people aren't that stupid.

Walking Away From Basketball To Find Herself

Far from her family and the friends of a basketball life, removed from the Baylor University community where she helped win the 2005 NCAA women's championship, Emily Nkosi has taken a once unimaginable turn. At 21, as a student at the University of Massachusetts, she has not held a basketball since last fall, when she helped young children discover the value of a game she left behind.

Her name was Emily Niemann when her obsessive pursuit of a national championship required a daily commitment throughout her adolescence. But after playing an essential role in Baylor's NCAA championship victory against Michigan State, Nkosi chose a path that led her to leave the school, publicly acknowledge her life as a lesbian, give up the game and embrace a new identity.

Click here to read a wonderful story from USA Today about a lady who figured things out at a fairly early age.

February 19, 2007

Looking Ahead to How History Will View Us

Here is an interesting take on the same-sex marriage issue:

Forty years from now, when students of history learn that there were once laws that barred gay and lesbian couples from marrying, they are going to shake their heads at the injustice of it.

And when they do, Liz Bradbury and Patricia Sullivan of Allentown can trot out their 2007 application for a marriage license that's marked ''refused.'' The couple were among about a half-dozen who, following the rally, applied at the courthouse for marriage licenses they knew would be turned down.

Just as in today's society it is hard to imagine (at least for most of us) how human beings were once bought and sold as property and how the rights of women were severely limited, there will be people shaking their heads in the future trying to understand why two people in a loving, committed relationship were once denied the right to marry.

"Story, Narrative, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity"

Holly Stevens, who is the editor and publisher of the website "The Storyteller and the Listener Online," was kind enough to alert me to a feature she posted today regarding the GLBT community.

Holly hosted a Q&A with an eclectic panel to discuss the role or story and narrative in addressing issues involving the GLBT community. Here are a couple of highlights:

Christopher Maier: Being among the listeners to the GLBTQ panel of storytellers at the National Storytelling Conference in Rhode Island was momentous for me. The polyphony of voices -- including straight allies along with GLBTQ tellers -- really exposed my heart to how deeply we all suffer from our society’s skewed perceptions, homophobia and fearful blindness about sexual orientation and gender identity matters. It awakened my awareness of how much more I as a straight teller can do to work for gay rights/gay pride and for inclusion of these other voices in storytelling events. The stories that are the most eclipsed in our culture are those which we most need to hear.

How can storytelling in families nurture inclusive attitudes towards people who have different sexual orientations and gender identities?
Rob McCabe: By telling stories of GLBT people and acting as if the only thing different about them is whom they love -- by nature. I think it is a very strong case that GLBT people are born. It is no one's fault, although many mothers, including mine, have asked, "What have I done?" or "What have we done?" By telling stories showing how difficult it is being the "outsider," perhaps people will see that there really isn't anything "wrong" about being queer.

Patti Digh: When we choose stories to tell our children that involve nontraditional families and gay and lesbian characters, we are -- in essence -- giving voice to a broader reality for them. We are allowing them to realize that definitions of "normalcy" are broader than the general population might allow for. We are opening the door to a dialogue that might be difficult when faced head-on, but can be broached when the door is opened through story.

There are more excellent, thoughtful, open-minded ideas that are worth checking out in this Q&A and I encourage you to do so.

February 18, 2007

"Embrace Our Differences"

Here are some excerpts from an op-ed piece written by someone who is clearly an expert on diverse cultures:

.....our own globalized era is regrettably marked by rising intolerance, extremism and violence. Closer proximity and improved communications have often led not to mutual understanding and friendship but to tension and mutual mistrust.

.....the misconceptions and stereotypes underlying the idea of a “clash of civilizations” have come to be more and more widely shared. Some groups seem eager to foment a new war of religion.

Demonization of the “other” has proved the path of least resistance, although healthy introspection would better serve us all. In the 21st century we remain hostage to our sense of grievance and to our feelings of entitlement. Our narratives have become our prison.

Unlearning intolerance is in part a matter of legal protection. The right to freedom of religion, and to freedom from discrimination based on religion, has long been enshrined in international law and incorporated into the domestic law of many countries. Any strategy to build bridges must depend heavily on education, not just about Islam or Christianity, but about all religions, traditions and cultures, so that myths and distortions can be seen for what they are.

The writer of the piece is Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations. With his approach of inclusion, education, and tolerance of differing views, it's no wonder he was not embraced by the Bush administration.

This piece is not about homosexuality, but it could be. The principles that Annan eloquently wrote about sure do apply to not just the tolerance but the ultimate acceptance of the GLBT community as full-fledged human beings.