December 20, 2008

More Thoughts on the Warren Controversy

This is part of an e-mail response I sent to one of my Facebook friends who commented on my last post:

I do have some understanding of the pain that you and many GLBT people are feeling in the wake of Prop 8. This is where I believe the leadership of the major advocacy organizations have let the community down by fanning the flames of this issue into a major controversy rather than keeping it in what I believe is a more appropriate perspective.

I think there is one other important thing to remember here. Obama has, to my knowledge, never hinted that he favors marriage equality. By supporting civil unions, he is merely in favor of less discrimination toward GLBT people. This is still a major improvement over Bush and what McCain would have done, but it still approaches same-sex couples as less than equal members of our society. Perhaps in the euphoria of Obama’s victory some people have lost sight of that and developed what I believe could be unrealistic expectations of what an Obama administration could mean to the GLBT community. Perhaps the backlash toward Warren giving the Inaugural invocation is at least partially caused by the first hint of that realization.

Just to be clear, Warren is definitely anti-gay. Check out this video of his recent NBC Dateline interview. That doesn't mean that Obama is giving him a forum to spew that at the Inauguration. Warren will likely offer a prayer asking for God's blessing on Obama's presidency and our nation.

That's something I believe most of us can agree on.

Added: Just found this post by Bill Browning, the editor of th.e widely respected GLBT blog "The Bilerico Project" which shares my perspective and has much more discussion from readers.

December 18, 2008

Some Perspective on Obama and Warren

There has been much hue and cry in the LGBT community since the announcement that Rev. Rick Warren (of "The Purpose-Driven Life" fame) will deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration.

Warren is very much a Southern Baptist preacher who campaigned for the passage of California's Proposition 8. It is understandable there is anger directed toward Warren by the people whose rights he advocated taking away. I get that, and was disappointed at his activism in that campaign myself.

That being said, though, let's keep it in perspective.

It's a freakin' prayer people! It's not like Obama nominated Warren to a cabinet position or some form of policy making or advisory spot. It's a prayer. Anybody selected for that role is bound to piss some group off, and it happened to be the LGBT community.

It apparently has not been a one way street, however. According to Obama, he was recently invited to Warren's Saddleback Church:

"I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americas. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency. What I have also said is that it is a time for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues. I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak despite his awareness though he was aware that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights when it came to issues like abortion. Nevertheless I had an opportunity to speak. And that dialogue, I think, is what my campaign has been all about.

"We're not going to agree on every single issue. But what we have to is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things we hold in common as Americans."

The level of outcry over this decision I believe reflects much more poorly on LGBT people than it does on Obama, taking a relatively minor issue and drawing the dividing line of us vs. them in a situation where I don't find it to be very productive. In fact, I think that gives some easy ammunition for anti-gay rights advocates to point to a lack of tolerance from LGBT people.

As a passoinate ally, I would strongly urge leaders of LGBT advocacy groups to pick their battles more wisely.

December 17, 2008

"Some of My Best Friends are Christian"

A serious point can sometimes be made by using satire, and this essay from Bilerico is a good example. Tired of right-wing homophobes denying they are anti-gay by claiming to have gay friends, writer Alex Blaze says he can not possibly be a "Christophobe" because he has Christian friends:

Some of my best friends are Christian.

I know, I know, it may be hard to believe. Some of you may ask, "Alex, why are you friends with members of that radical cult? Don't you know that they want to subjugate women, erase queer people's existence, institute slavery, and convert the entire world to their bizarre lifestyle?"

To which I'd respond, "Yes! But being friends with someone doesn't mean that you have to accept their beliefs or lifestyle!"

It would be ridiculous to accuse me of being a Christophobe, because I have Christian friends. While Radical, Militant Christians like to paint anyone who supports the venerated institution of throwing Christians to lions as a bigot, that's just their way of silencing free speech. If they had their way, believe me, anyone who tried to throw a Christian to the lions or even preached about the importance of the institution would be put in prison.

Not all Christians are like that, though. And I'd suggest all of you go out and find a Christian friend. Let them know that you care and that you're trying to help them move away from that lifestyle.

This isn't about hating the believer, just the belief.

Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn't it? That's the idea.

Click here to read the entire tounge-in-cheek essay at Bilerico.

December 15, 2008

"Gender Identity and our Faith Communities"

The HRC caught a lot of grief for supporting the exclusion of transgender people from the ENDA legislation in Congress, but they do appear to be making a effort to rectify that and make the T in GLBT not merely an afterthought.

One step they have taken is preparing this excellent resource, "Gender Identity and our Faith Communities: A Congregational Guide for Transgender Advocacy."

Here is part of the description from the HRC website:

Because of the commitment to justice and the tenets of loving hospitality at the core of our faith traditions, we know that faith communities are the ideal site for empowering new allies and advocates for transgender rights. Sadly, though, we also know that some of the harshest discrimination against transgender people has come from people of faith cloaking prejudice in religious discourse. By exploring a wide range of religious experiences and offering thoughtful biblical analysis and commentary, our hope is that this curriculum will embolden participants to see in their faith a plea for understanding and a revitalized call for equality.

The guide is divided into three parts:

"The Stories" explores the varied experiences of transgender people, probes the complexity of gender identity, and helps participants develop a vocabulary around transgender concepts;

"Gender Identity and Faith" gives participants a choice of three different exercises that will encourage them to have deeper conversation about religion and transgender people; and

"A Call for Justice" provides a step-by-step training to move people of faith from acceptance to public advocacy.

In addition to the curriculum, we have included a series of dramatic readings, a participant’s handbook, and twelve outstanding essays from our contributors. Audio files are available for each dramatic reading and for the exercises titled "the Gifts of Transgender People." An explanation of how best to use these files is provided in the curriculum.

I have skimmed this guide and believe I will find it to be a valuable resource in understanding how to encourage others of faith to be open and accepting to transgender people. I encourage you to review it yourself and leave a comment here with your feedback.

HRC guide "Gender Identity and our Faith Communities."

December 14, 2008

LGBT People Are Just That.....People

Every now and them it's good to be reminded of the basics. For this blog, one of those is the fact that LGBT people are not deserving of being cast off into a lesser class of citizens. They are full fledged members of the human race and should receive all rights that go along with it.

Here's an excerpt from a passionate essay from The Huffington Post by Sara Whitman that serves as a reminder of that fact:

I don't want pity. I am stronger than most people. I can haul wood or groceries or laundry endless distances. I can stay up all night and rub a sick child's back until they can fall back asleep again. I can cook dinner for my family every night or for 50 people on Superbowl Sunday.

I can hold unbearable past experiences and still breathe in the joy of my life today.

I am a good friend. I care deeply about my neighbors, my community, my country. I donate my time, my money to help better the world.

I am not on the other side. I am not a tiny piece of a small fragment in this country.

Don't ever feel sorry for me.

Let me have the full responsibility of being an American. Because we deserve an American workforce free of discrimination, we deserve the strongest military in the world and every child in this country deserves a family.

I am an asset to this society. Let us all erase the lines of Us and Them. Think of what we can do if we do it together.

I want excellence. I want a stronger America.

It's something, I believe, we can all agree on.

You've got complete agreement here, Sara.

Click here to read the rest of the essay on The Huffington Post.