April 07, 2007

Another Anti-Bullying Battleground

Shouldn't governments do everything possible to insure that public schools are a safe place for ALL students? There are, to me at least, a surprising number of legislators who disagree, and it just makes my hair hurt.

One of the major issues being debated these days across the United States that affects the GLBT community is bullying in schools. Michigan has turned into a battleground state for that issue, and it's a battle GLBT students are in serious danger of losing.

The bill under consideration lists several specific areas for which students may not be harassed, one of them being homosexuality. From the Detroit Free Press article:

Opposition largely exists because the measure would prohibit bullying based on a victim’s sexual orientation — along with a number of other characteristics such as height, weight, religion and race.

Michigan law shouldn’t formally recognize homosexual behavior, conservatives say, nor should gays get special protection. Republicans favor a broad ban against all bullying in schools.

"Formally recognize homosexual behavior?" What are they doing, forming their own government and seeking diplomatic relations? Not recognizing GLBT students will keep them in their place, these conservatives are probably hoping--the closet.

Gay rights groups and others respond that the bills don’t single out any group and say listing why students may be harassed would keep schools from ignoring certain types of intimidation.

A law would send a strong message that bullying must be taken seriously, says Kevin Epling of East Lansing, whose 14-year-old son, Matt, killed himself in 2002 after being smeared with raw eggs and syrup during a hazing incident.

“This isn’t a political issue. This is a very simple issue of right and wrong,” Epling said. “Our kids should not have to be going to school and fearing for their own safety.”

If the measure is enacted, it would be the first time state law separates gays and lesbians into a protected class, according to the Midland-based American Family Association of Michigan.“Public school officials have a legal duty not to put children at risk by in any way legitimizing or encouraging homosexual behavior,” said Gary Glenn, the group’s president.

I wonder if Mr. Glenn has spoken to Mr. Epling. Perhaps Mr. Glenn should visit Matt Epling's grave and consider how legitimate Matt's life was.

April 06, 2007

GLBT Equality Advocates Need to Focus on the "Grays"

So what does that mean? It is a term used in this report on The Huffington Post. Writer Geoffrey R. Stone analyzes a new survey by The Third Way Culture Project that reveals "a general national warming trend on issues relating to gays and lesbians." More from that story:

The Third Way report found that heterosexual Americans fall into roughly three equal size categories when it comes to gay issues. The "pro-gay polars" strongly support equal rights for gays and lesbians and do not attach any moral value to sexual orientation. Most of these individuals have come to this view over time and believe that the transformation in their thinking reflects significant insight, understanding, and personal growth. The "anti-gay polars" believe that being gay is "unnatural and against God." They tend to view gays as "societal outlaws." Although they generally oppose violence and bigotry directed against gays, they fear that extending equal rights to gays and lesbians would "put America on a dangerously wrong path." The third group, the "grays," are conflicted. They are torn between their desire to be tolerant, fair, and respectful of individual liberty and their lingering discomfort with homosexuality. The "grays" tend to accept that sexual orientation is not simply a matter of choosing a lifestyle, but they worry that "society is moving too fast."

The Third Way report concluded that those who want to move public opinion along the path toward greater acceptance of equal rights for gays and lesbians should focus particularly on the "grays" and should emphasize three points: (1) Legal protections for same-sex relationships address a real, not a made up problem. (Interestingly, a majority of Americans (56% v. 39%) do not believe that same-sex couples lack significant legal protections.) (2) The legal recognition of same-sex relationships does not undermine the institution of marriage. (Perhaps ironically, at a time when fewer and fewer Americans are marrying, there is a concern that the legal recognition of same-sex relationships could be the death knell for the institution of marriage.) (3) The legal recognition of same-sex relationships represents progress for the nation. (Although 70% of Americans believe the United States will legalize civil unions within a decade, almost half of all Americans worry that this is not progress. They are concerned that greater acceptance of gays and lesbians could cause the erosion of moral standards and damage to children raised in such families.) These are all serious political concerns that merit a serious response.

In the end, the goal, in my view, should be to enlighten all Americans to understand that the legal recognition of equal rights for gays and lesbians is an appropriate extension of the American ideal of equality and the proper next stage in the nation's long and admirable struggle to provide equal treatment to all persons, regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, disability, and now sexual orientation.

In political elections, the target audience for campaigners is usually the undecided voter. Regarding GLBT issues, a primary target audience for advocates needs to be the "grays." I hope some of them drop by and read this blog.

April 05, 2007

Go Ahead and Teach the Bible in Schools--Carefully

I read the controversial Time magazine article, "The Case For Teaching The Bible," and finally decided to throw in my two cents here since it could be a hot button issue for some of this blog's readers.

Back in the dark ages , the 1970's, when I went to high school and there actually was effective separation of church and state, my school offered classes titled, "The Bible as Literature." I regret not taking them then, but friends I spoke to didn't feel like they were being taught religion. They went through the text as they would books like Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations," (I'd love to have the month of my life back we spent studying that novel in English lit) going through and discussing writing styles and weaving the various stories together. It was an elective so nobody was forced to take it, and I never heard a complaint about those classes except the difficulty of the text and the demands of the teacher.

Not having kids, I've lost touch to some extent regarding school cirriculums, but I gather classes like that have been phased out over the years. I believe that, if taught within the perameters I recall from my high school days, this could be an interesting and challenging elective class. No student should be required to study the bible, and controversial issues like the time frame of creation and biblical views on homosexuality should be avoided. There is plenty of value to study in the Bible without addressing specific religious doctrine. It would be difficult to achieve this balance, but not impossible.

I would suggest going one better. I believe schools should offen classes in the Koran. If I were still a student, I'd be at the front of the line to sign up for it. I'm not Muslim nor do I have any interest in converting, but I would like to understand what that religion is truly about. I don't trust talking heads on television or biased radio talk show hosts to tell me if the Muslim faith is by its very nature dangerous. I think it would only benefit young people to study the book as it is written and draw their own conclusions.

Sadly, I think this is the last thing the Religious Right wants people, especially young ones, to do and will do everything they can to discourage it. If people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson come out and support Bible teaching in schools, I will be instinctively distrustful because I believe they would only support something that would suit their agenda of preaching hate and exclusion in God's name. They don't want people approaching the Bible with open minds, and they most certainly would not accept any teaching of the Koran that did not totally demonize Muslims.

I'm all for open, unbiased education--the best weapon to use against radical, conservative right-wing zealots.

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" John 8:32

April 04, 2007

New Community for Ex-Gays

My fellow blogger Peterson Toscano has teamed up with Christine Bakke to start a new community for ex-gays, "Beoynd Ex-Gay." This from their website:

We believe that ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good. Certain people who currently identify as ex-gay say they are content as such. We don’t seek to invalidate their experience. For us such a lifestyle was not possible or healthy.

Not that it was all bad: Some of us received positive help through our ex-gay experiences. We grew to understand our sexuality better and in some cases even overcame life-controlling problems.

There's not anger or hatred there, just open hearts and open arms for others that they want to help either avoid the pain that they've endured or walk them through it and facilitate the healing process.

If you have gone through therapy with the goal of "curing" your same-sex attraction or are currently "struggling" with it, I highly recommend you hook up with these folks.

Peterson will also be appearing on the Tyra Banks show that will be brodcast on April 12--check it out.

April 03, 2007

Gay Youth: GLBT Ambassadors

That's the conclusion of this article from The Advocate.

Young people, some barely in their teens, are becoming the gay rights movement's newest ambassadors at statehouses from Olympia, Wash., to Montpelier, Vt. Their advocacy, unheard of as recently as a decade ago, reflects the slowly growing acceptance that is emboldening gays and lesbians to come out of the closet while they are coming of age.

Veteran activists credit the political participation of gay youths, their straight friends, and children of same-sex parents with a string of recent legislative victories, including last month's passage of an anti-bullying bill that provides specific protections for gay and lesbian students in Iowa.

One of the greatest challenges of being a young man or woman is figuring out what you believe in. Of course, a person is going to be much more effective with that if they understand and accept who they truly are. After all, can we really be effective advocates for any issue if we don't believe in ourselves?

April 02, 2007

The Right Wing Homophobes Lose One

This is an excerpt from a column written by Joe Murray for a publication in Philadelphia, The Evening Bulletin writtin in response to General Pace's recent "homosexuality is immoral" comments:

If troop safety is AFA's (American Family Association)primary concern, and not fear-mongering, why hasn't AFA demanded Bush bring these soldiers home? Does it really think the "political situation" of gays in the military presents a greater harm to soldiers than the bullets flying in Baghdad or are other motives being subtly conveyed to an America populace who are already fearful, thanks to past action alerts, of the "homosexual agenda?"

Conservative groups had an opportunity to bring a sense of Christian compassion to this debate, but opted instead to scare supporters into believing homosexuals were trying to raise the rainbow flag over the Pentagon. This is not political activism based upon Christian principle; it is fear mongering based on the politics of man.

Good stuff, and it gets better. Pace used to work for the AFA and was one of their propaganda writers. Over at Pam's House Blend, Pam Spaulding interviewed Murray about his change of heart. I recommend reading the entire interview, but here are a couple of highlights:

After adopting the AFA party line for some time, something in the back of my head kept tearing away at my conscience. How could AFA, an earthly organization, declare the divine intention of the God and condemn the souls of homosexuals? How was it that men could make the declaration of who was getting into Heaven and who was getting the one-way ticket to Hades?

That being said, the issue of gay rights has been weighing heavy on my mind for quite some time. The gay issue is a human issue, and thus I strongly believe that it must be approached with concern and compassion. Furthermore, the individuals engaging in the debate must recognized that behind the theories there are real life human beings that are made in the image of the Creator.

Gays and lesbians are "real life human beings made in the image of the Creator?" Boy, having a former employee say that must really grind the cookies of the AFA leadership.


April 01, 2007

Gaining Strength From Accepting Who You Are

This article from the New York Times does a wonderful job in showing how gay youngsters are coming to terms with their sexual identity and benefiting from it. The article also relates how parents are also doing a much better job than they used to in dealing with it.

Dan Woog, a writer and longtime soccer coach at Staples High in Westport, helped found OutSpoken in 1993. He says for the first 10 years, the typical member was 17 to 22 years old. “They’d come in saying: ‘I’m gay. My life is over,’ ” Mr. Woog says. “One literally hyperventilated walking through the door.”

But in recent years, he says, the kids are 14 to 17 and more confident. “They say: ‘Hi, I’m gay. How do I meet people?’ ”

For the first 10 years, Mr. Woog never saw a parent; meetings were from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, so members could get out of the house without arousing suspicion. Now, he says, parents often bring the child to the first meeting.

He believes teenagers are coming out sooner because the Internet makes them feel less isolated and they’re seeing positive role models in the media.

This article details the process of a teenager named Zach O'Connor and his family as they walked together through the process of Zach coming out. The thing that strikes me the most about this is all of the "unlearning" that Zach won't have to go through. Since I've been involved with the GLBT community, I've seen many horror stories of how people coming out in their 20's. 30's and 40's have to learn a brand new set of social skills. If you've been brought up to act one way, it is an uphill battle to develop an entirely new lifestyle.

Fortunately, it appears more young men and women are avoiding that these days.