June 09, 2007

A Call for Support of Sexual and Gender Diversity

From 365gay.com

A coalition of national faith leaders issued an open letter Monday to more than 20,000 religious and political leaders, calling for a faith-based approach that supports diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

The letter, published by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, challenges religious leaders to use the pulpit to spread a welcoming message to all people while educating themselves about the diversity of human sexuality.
Aside from thousands of religious leaders, each U.S. congressional member will receive the document.

"While religious denominations continue to debate issues of sexuality," said the institute's director, the Reverend Debra W. Haffner, "the silence and ... condemnation of clergy have led to destroyed relationships, suicidal despair and discrimination, and violence against LGBT persons. Denying that God created diversity as a blessing is denying biblical teaching."

"Too many religious institutions have failed to embrace sexual and gender diversity," the letter reads. "Some have mistakenly called homosexuality sinful when the real issue is heterosexism or the unjust privileging of heterosexuality. Heterosexism devalues gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, just as sexism and male privilege devalue women.

"Silence, misinformation and condemnation of differing sexual and gender identities have created despair, destroyed relationships, and led to violence, suicide and even murder. Sexual and gender oppression can no longer be portrayed as virtuous and morally defensible."
According to a press release, the letter was developed by theologians and ordained clergy from Jewish, Baptist, Brethren, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist traditions. (The Advocate)

It's sad when politics focuses on divisiveness, but it can be tragic when our churches take the same approach.

That must change, and those who understand need to speak out and work to make it happen.

Let's Talk About Pride Events

I'll be participating in my second Pride event on Sunday, where Pastor Brenda and I will be working at the booth our church, Believers Covenant Fellowship, has at the Capital Pride street festival in the shadow of the U. S. Capitol.

Attending my first Capital Pride two years ago inspired me to start writing this blog (hopefully you think that was a good result). My first post here was about my experience, and as Straight Not Narrow celebrates Pride Month and our second anniversary, I invite you to post a comment here and share you experience at your local Pride event. Our friends Sharone and Erica are participating in Albuquerque Pride, and I bet a lot of you out there will also have stories to tell.

Please do.

June 08, 2007

"The Importance of Being an Ally"

This piece, written by an activist in Michigan, really hits home and expresses many of the thoughts I have as a GLBT ally myself. I recommend reading the entire piece, but here are a couple of excerpts:

Growing up in the United Methodist Church, I was taught that we’re all God’s children and the importance of the Golden Rule. Now, I may have been taught a different version of that basic tenet of life than the homophobes of society, because my Golden Rule never included fine print that read

Treat others as you wish to be treated….but only if they look like you, act like you, believe in what you believe, and aren’t different from you in any major way.

I believe we all have a duty to lead by example, something that I try to practice each and everyday. Allies have the upper hand in this fight, some might even say we already have our foot in the door. By leading by example for our family, friends and neighbors, and showing our support of the LGBT community, we can show others that it’s not just a gay issue, it’s an issue of personal rights and freedom, an issue that needs to be taken out of the courts, the government, and the churches, and an issue that shouldn’t matter, but a personal decision that should be respected and equally left alone.

Good stuff, and something I hope any straight person reading this blog who is not actively supporting their GLBT brothers and sisters will take to heart.

June 07, 2007

Looking at the Damage Done by Gay Marriage Bans

This post on the blog In This Moment looks at some of the consequences of gay marriage bans in various states:

When we fought the Kansas ban on same sex marriage in 2005, I was struck by how vigorously our opponents claimed that the ban would never hurt a soul.

Over and over again, they assured voters that voting "yes" on the constitutional amendment would only ban something that was already illegal. In the end, Kansas voters gave in and approved the ban.

Meanwhile, with every passing day there is new evidence that everything the religious right said about these amendments was a lie. People are being hurt. Both gays and straights are losing health insurance and other employment benefits. Some are even losing the right to prosecute abusers for beating them up, and that's just the start.

What I have never understood is how it helps this nation to keep LGBT citizens from getting jobs and having health insurance. What does the religious right think it gets by hurting lesbian and gay families and their children?

I don't know if those questions can be answered. Perhaps, like many voters in Kansas, people just aren't thinking. Perhaps they don't understand the consequences of their votes, or perhaps, as John Aravosis says over at AMERICAblog: "The religious right pretty much wants us dead."

I know some like Fred Phelps do believe that all gays should be put to death. On the other hand, I know that many other honest Americans don't. I think it's time for folks to wake up and understand what their votes are doing. It's time to stop believing the lies of the religious right.

In this post, it is clear that, at least in some states, gay marriage bans have a broader reach and affect any non-married couple. Sadly, some on the religious right don't care who gets hurt as long as their interpretation of the Bible, or perhaps just their own thurst for power, is satisfied.

Does Jesus Love Transgender People?

This article by Joanne Herman in the Advocate resoundingly concludes that yes, he would, despite what most fundamentalists would have people believe.

Herman does an excellent job in illustrating two key points about misusing the Bible; 1) focusing on one or two scripture verses that, taken out of context, contradict the message of God's love and 2) picking and choosing what scripture to take literally.

Herman points out how Deuteronomy 22:5 and 23:1 are used to condemn transgender people--very isolated references that are not as black and white as many people choose to interpret them. At the same time, she points out, people focus on scriptures like that and the clobber passages while ignoring the laws of the time written right along with them that would, for example, condemn a person to death for working on the Sabbath and prohibit the eating of shellfish.

Could the Bible include any positive references to transgender people?

Meanwhile, biologist Joan Roughgarden has noted that the Bible actually provides evidence that transgender people were a part of regular life even in biblical times. Roughgarden is a transgender woman who has taught at Stanford University since 1972. In her book Evolution's Rainbow, Roughgarden wondered why, if Darwin’s theory of evolution were correct, diversity in the animal population did not seem to be disappearing.

But Roughgarden is also a Christian who has done extensive reading of the Bible. In her latest work, Evolution and Christian Faith, she offers the radical notion that the two beliefs are actually quite compatible. And she goes a step further to claim that Jesus’ beliefs and teachings actually were intended to help Christians live with the diversity that existed then and that would continue to be present.

Of relevance to trans people is her discussion of eunuchs. She references Matthew 19:12, in which Jesus describes three types of eunuchs—those “which were so born from their mothers’ womb,” those “which were made eunuchs of men,” and those “which made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.”

Roughgarden interprets the first category as describing intersex individuals and the latter transsexual individuals. She notes that Jesus’ descriptions line up with those of ancient Roman writers who described those we would today call cross-dressers as well as those who transitioned genders without physical alteration.

She points out that some eunuchs held powerful positions and that “eunuchs were common enough that writers referred to them with such phrases as ‘armies of eunuchs.’” And she asserts that the apostle Philip's baptism of the eunuch in Acts 9:27–38 serves as an “explicit instruction to include eunuchs within the church.”

Newman closes with a critically important point:

Many LGBT people have been hurt by religion used in hate, and transgender people are no exception. I nervously returned to church only when my wife, Barbara, was dying of cancer and I needed a spiritual connection during those difficult days. What I discovered was that there are progressive mainline churches that truly welcome LGBT folks, and their leaders are convinced that Jesus would (and did) too.

So don’t hesitate to question sweeping generalizations about Jesus. And if you are a Christian, please do your own research.

Don't take my word for it either. Hopefully what you read here and other welcoming and affirming resources leads you to consider these points, do your own study, and work out with God through the Holy Spirit what is right and who he accepts.

I'm confident you'll find a lot more of the new covenant Jesus established and a lot less of the Old Testament judgementalism that fundamentalists work so hard to hang on to.

June 06, 2007

The Evolution of Marriage Laws

June 12 is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's unanimous decision in the Loving vs. Virginia case that struck down bans on interracial marriages. The law that was struck down was Virginia's "Racial Integrity Act." Sound a lot like today's marriage protection acts? That's the point of this op-ed piece in the Washington Post.

Interracial marriage bans now seem obviously invidious. But go back far enough and the consensus flips. At one point, most everyone thought such bans were legitimate. The same is true of segregated schooling and discrimination against women. It is true of just about everything the Supreme Court has held that the equal protection clause prohibits: At one point, all of these practices were seen as legitimate reflections of the world, not as invidious attempts to impose inequality. When the court held these practices unconstitutional, it was neither enforcing a rule that had existed since 1868 nor creating a new rule. It was recognizing that social attitudes had shifted, and with them the understanding about what is reasonable and what is invidious.

This point connects Loving to current social struggles, most notably the debate over same-sex marriage. Opponents decry the "activist judges" in Massachusetts who struck down that state's same-sex marriage ban and warn that the Supreme Court will someday follow. So it may -- but, if it does, responsibility will not lie primarily with judges.

The past few decades have brought a dramatic change in social attitudes about homosexuality. The American Psychiatric Association, which once classified homosexuality as a mental disease, abandoned that position in 1973. Public opinion polls show an increasing acceptance of homosexuality, and state legislatures are beginning to follow. Restricting the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples is increasingly seen as invidious, an inequality inflicted for no good reason.

If the trend continues, this view eventually will find expression at the Supreme Court level, just as it did in Loving. This is not judicial activism. It is how we make the Constitution ours.

The writer of this piece, Kermit Roosevelt, is author of the book "The Myth of Judicial Activism," which is the phrase right-wingers use to describe rulings they don't like, so he's done his homework.

I saw a piece from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council where he writes that, of course, interracial marriage is fine because it still involves a man and a woman but same-sex marriage is against God's plan. It is obvious, though, that 40 years ago there were Tony Perkins types arguing that interracial marriage was also a violation of God's will. Fortunately over time people grew to learn that was wrong, just as it appears will happen for same-sex unions.

June 05, 2007

Democratic Presidential Candidates All Oppose "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

This article from The Advocate spells out in some detail the views of the eight announced Democratic presidential candidates regarding the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but the bottom line is that they are came out against it during Sunday's debate.

In Tuesday night's Republican debate, all ten candidates supported "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Pretty easy to draw a line there, isn't it?

Much More on Gay Republicans

I ran across this story which is a good follow-up to a story I posted on Sunday where I questioned how a GLBT person could be a member of the Republican party. I appreciated the conversation that resulted, but here is a lengthy research piece posted on the website of Political Research Associates.

The article focuses on the Log Cabin Republicans, which it reports has about 20,000 members, and some of the best known gay conservatives like Andrew Sullivan. Here are a couple of the points I found particularly interesting:

Among the cadre of gay conservative writers, people of color are also conspicuously absent. This makes sense if we realize that issues like affirmative action, racism, and public education are mostly off the radar of gay right pundits. While gay conservative people of color certainly do exist, their relationship with the gay movement has been problematical, and no one has emerged to represent them nor has anyone been sustained by the usual media.

The power of gay conservative pundits has successfully focused LGBT issues on the narrow frame of gay marriage. This has effectively erased from their line of vision those LGBT people who do not stand to receive its benefits, those not in the solid middle class, poor single parents, and the uninsured.

In 2007, the gay agenda that so worries the Christian Right as a radical remaking of society amounts to the single issue of gay rights, manifest in a primary demand of gay marriage and the remnants of interest in non-discrimination of gays in the military. While gay conservatives may not have consciously engineered this single issue focus, their increasing visibility in the cause during a period of conservative resurgence reinforces the narrow scope of contemporary gay politics.

Strikingly, these narrow goals can be seen as conservative, or non-radical demands - to be allowed to defend national security and to be recognized as identical to heterosexuals under the law. This toes the line of the gay conservative position as does the reality that the gay movement, despite its political diversity, has embraced same sex marriage as its central political demand. Whether done consciously or not, this choice allows some, including parts of the Right, to separate the LGBT community into "good gays," those who just want to get married and settle down, and "bad gays," those who flaunt their sexuality, demand radical change, or challenge gender-normative images. This, riding on the demise of a functioning radical gay left, represents the true influence of gay conservatism on the politics of homosexuality: the gay movement continues to be pulled to the right.

While I believe the extreme left among gay political activists have been effectively marginalized, I personally don't find that the "gay movement" is drifting to the right. I welcome your opinions on that point.

Worlds Don't Have to Collide, They Can Hopefully Coexist

That's the hope for this coming weekend in Binghamton, NY, where a evangelical festival led by Franklin Graham will be held near a gay pride fair. Leaders of both events have openly invited people attending the other one to come to theirs, and there does seem to be a spirit of at least peaceful co-existence if not cooperation. Hopefully that will come to pass.

From the Christian Post:

Tens of thousands of people are expected to hear the message of sin and salvation at an evangelistic festival in Binghamton, N.Y., this weekend. Also coming to town that same weekend is a gay pride fair.

The NYPENN Franklin Graham Festival will hit Binghamton this Friday for a three-day event complete with popular Christian music artists, KidzFest and free admission. It's the first time a Graham festival is landing in the Southern Tier and local organizers are readying two additional overflow venues at the Binghamton University Events Center.

With praying and preparation months into the event, John O'Neil, chairman of the event's executive committee of local volunteers, says the festival is to "reach the un-churched, to provide a message of love, a message of hope, a message of meaning," according to the local Press & Sun-Bulletin.

And one group of people that organizers have extended the festival invitation to is the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community (LGBT). June is “gay pride” month and members of the Binghamton Pride Coalition have a series of events planned for the entire month, including its third annual Pride Fair celebrating the LGBT community on Saturday.

"I'd like to invite them to come to our meeting. I think everyone, no matter what your preferences, can certainly find hope in the message of the Gospel," Art Bailey, director of the Graham festival, told the local newspaper. "People of all persuasions want you to look at everything with an open mind. I think we'd say the same thing."

As Binghamton prepares to welcome Graham to the city for the June 8-10 festival, the city's mayor has already raised the gay flag and shown his support to the LGBT community.

On June 1, Mayor Matthew T. Ryan and members of the Binghamton Pride Coalition kicked off the month with a proclamation, calling it a month to celebrate community diversity and to raise awareness of LGBT issues. Ryan also issued an executive order recognizing same-sex "marriages" in the city. The City of Binghamton now joins Ithaca, Rochester, Albany and Nyack in recognizing same-sex "marriages" legally performed in other states and jurisdictions.

Some students and faculty at Binghamton University protested an evangelistic festival being held on school grounds, claiming the event contradicts the Student Handbook's provision against bias-related activities, as well as a disregard for diversity, according to Press & Sun-Bulletin.

Protestors were rebuffed as the school's administration confirmed that Graham's organizers met all the conditions for rental of the Events Center.

Claudia Stallman of Binghamton, who directs the Lesbian and Gay Family Building project, told the local newspaper that the LGBT community has no plans to disrupt the Graham festival and hopes people who attend the evangelistic event do not disrupt their celebration.

Meanwhile, organizers have high expectations for the Franklin Graham festival and hundreds have been praying for its success.

"It's something that's going to transform this community forever," said O'Neil.

Understanding God's Perfect Love for GLBT People

One of the things I've learned during the last two years of writing this blog is how difficult it is for so many GLBT people to find a path to God that does not require them to forsake their sexual identity for the guise of a heterosexual or a life of celibacy.

This post on Ex-Gay Watch by Eugene Wagner does as good a job of explaining it as any essay I have run across:

Every time I recount the story of how I transitioned from a place of unquestioning acceptance of ex-gay ideology into the journey that I find myself on today, it comes out a bit differently as I focus on different aspects of what was, at the time, a far more complex process than a few pages of text could ever fully capture. If there’s one pivotal event that I hope I adequately account for in every retelling, it’s how I came to truly understand, for the first time, that God loves me exactly the way I am, and that I don’t have to change who or what I am to earn his acceptance

Words cannot fully convey just how revolutionary it was to come to the realization that not only did I not have to become somebody else in order to appease God, but he didn’t want me to be somebody else. Yet somebody else was precisely what I was trying to become through my efforts to “reclaim my natural heterosexuality.”

In practice, the lessons drummed into me in church every Sunday led me to a life of fear - fear of what God would do to my worthless self if I didn’t say and do all the right things, fear of what God will do to those I love if I can’t persuade them to adopt my beliefs and standards, and fear of the terrible judgment God will pour out on our nation if his followers can’t bring enough of our neighbors to repentance.

But if “perfect love drives out fear,” as we’re told in 1 John 4:18, then something must be amiss in our churches. If fear is ever our motivation for doing anything, then perhaps it’s time for us to stop and reexamine what we really believe, underneath what we claim to believe.

Fortunately, Eugene came out of this struggle at peace with himself and with God's love for him as a homosexual child of God.

That path, although difficult and often painful, is available to any and all GLBT people who seek it. It is worth the effort.

June 04, 2007

International Carnival of Pozitives Issue 12

We are ALL living with HIV/AIDS. This is a carnival about living with HIV/AIDS and how HIV/AIDS has affected your life. This site assumes that HIV/AIDS is caused by a variety of HIV viruses, either wild strains or those generated from drug resistance, and is not a forum for those who do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. Your stories of life with HIV/AIDS, including your survival strategies, your medication issues, your friends or loved ones with HIV/AIDS, your efforts for the cause, in fact, anything to do with how you live positively will be accepted.

That's the call for contributions for the International Carnival of Pozitives, which has just published its 12th issue. Here's the link, and I always highly recommend these moving stories of focusing of the positives in a life touched by the HIV/AIDS virus.

Exxon Adds Insult to Injury

With gas prices well over $3.00 a gallon across the United States, it's easy to hate on the big oil companies, especially while they are recording record profits. Unfortunately, Exxon is piling on by the way they continue to show disrepect towards GLBT people.

This from the Human Rights Campaign:

ExxonMobil shareholders voted today with record support for a resolution to add “sexual orientation” to the company’s written equal employment opportunity policy. The percentage of shares voted in favor of the proposal has grown each of the last eight years, with 37.8 percent of shares voting in favor of the policy this year, an increase from 34.6 percent in 2005. The tally represents about 1.78 billion total shares voted in favor of the proposal.

“ExxonMobil continues to have the dubious distinction of being the only Fortune 50 company that refuses to add sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policy,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “With a record number of shareholders voting in favor of equal protections and siding with the overwhelming majority of Americans supporting the right of all employees to earn a living free of discrimination, it is irresponsible for ExxonMobil not to join the majority of companies that provide equal protections and benefits to all families.”

ExxonMobil is alone as the only Fortune 50 company that refuses to write sexual orientation protections into its primary non-discrimination policy. A total of 435 — nearly 90 percent — of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies and 124 — or 25 percent — include gender identity. ExxonMobil’s competitors, BP Corp., Chevron Corp., Dow Chemical and DuPont all have non-discrimination statements inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. Moreover, ExxonMobil does not provide domestic partner health insurance to all of its employees.

Solmonese continued, “In 2006, for the first time, a majority of the Fortune 500 — a total of 266, or 53 percent — offered domestic partner benefits. While most of corporate America recognizes and respects the diversity of their workforce, ExxonMobil continues to resist the most basic protections that should be afforded to all Americans.”

The Human Rights Campaign was on hand at the annual shareholder meeting in Dallas to present the resolution. A group of 21 organizations, including HRC, make up the Coalition to Promote Equality at ExxonMobil.

Mobil Corp. offered such written protection, and domestic partner benefits, to its employees; however, upon its 1999 merger with Exxon, the basic non-discrimination protection was removed and the domestic partner benefits program closed to new employees. Twenty-four members of Congress, and thousands of stockholders and consumers, wrote to ExxonMobil Chairman Lee R. Raymond in December 1999 to protest the policy reversals. In January 2000, stockholders and activists protested at a company facility in Houston, causing the facility to close for the day.

I hope you keep this in mind the next time you select where to buy gas.

June 03, 2007

Mike Rogers Cleans Out Closets on Capitol Hill

From Yahoo News:

Mike Rogers, who writes the blogs Blogactive.com and PageOneQ (where I found this link), is fighting back against anti-gay politicians when he finds evidence that they are actually closeted homosexuals.

He outs them.

Rogers is a muckraking gay blogger who uses his insider's knowledge of Washington politics and broad blanket of contacts to "out" gay politicos — but only, he says, if they are undermining gay rights. Critics call his tactics divisive and politically motivated.

Rogers, a longtime gay activist, started blogactive.com in 2004, using it to yank out of the closet at least two dozen high-ranking political figures, including senators, congressmen and Bush administration officials.

He's outed so many closeted gay politicos, he's starting to make Capitol Hill look like Brokeback Mountain. All of them, he says, use their positions to actively oppose the equal rights of gay citizens while at the same time, secretly live a gay life.

People have called Rogers a gay terrorist, but he says, "The only people who say things like that are people who have a vested interest in protecting the closet."

"I feel more sad for [the people I out] than anger," Rogers says. "... That they are in this position, that they are self-loathing, willing to wake up everyday and go to work against the very community they are a member of is quite shocking.

"Many gay organizations are troubled by outing but stop short of condemning it. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation "doesn't encourage outing, period," says GLAAD's Rashad Robinson. "But there is an argument that can be made — and many make it — for holding closeted political figures who attack and exploit gay people and our families for political gain accountable for their actions.

"However, the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican group, disagree. "Log Cabin is strongly against outing," says its president, Patrick Sammon. "It is unproductive and motivated by vengeance. It does nothing to further the cause of equality for gay and lesbian Americans."

I think the response by the Log Cabin Republicans (I still don't understand how a self-respecting GLBT person can be a Republican given that party's hostility toward the community) is really sad. I applaud Rogers' activities. Of course they are politically motivated, just like the actions of those who work hard to deny rights to GLBT people. I think exposing closeted, self-loathing politicans who work as enemies of gay rights need to be flushed out into an honest public debate outside of their closets.

Honesty and truth in politics--it's a radical idea but it just might work.

2nd Annual Blogging for GLBT Familes

Mombian.com hosted the second annual "Blogging for GLBT Families," which just wrapped up yesterday. I was happy to contribute last year and, although I did not directly participate this time there are still some wonderful posts that are worth your time to read. At last count there are over 130 different posts collected for this event so try to block out some time and check out as many as you can.

Here's the link to the 2nd annual "Blogging for GLBT Families."