Image by jessebucksc via FlickrToday Michael and I celebrate our 11th anniversary. On New Year's Eve 1997 we spent a beautiful night in Charleston, SC on the beach at Sullivan's Island. We did not have a "wedding" or "commitment ceremony" but we did have a beautiful moonlit beach, dolphins playing just yards offshore, the lights of the city across the harbor and the bells of an almost 200 year old church ringing for us.
The night was cold and I had brought along my wool 18th Century cloak that I used for living history events to keep us warm. We both wrapped into it as we strolled the beach and talked of our lives and our hopes and dreams. At one point we stopped near the large rocks forming a bulwark against the harbor and shared a long kiss. In that moment I knew I had met someone incredible and someone who would probably change my life.
Later over dinner it seemed we had known each other forever, despite the fact we had known Buck & Michael in April 1998
Image by jessebucksceach other barely two months and had seen each other in person less than 24 hours before our beach walk and kiss.
Michael had found my old style "personal web page" through some gay site link and sent me an email in November. I was surprised since most emails I got from gay guys included a description of their various body parts and often a picture or two of those parts. Michael's did not. In his email he told me about himself and wished me well. Intrigued but not particularly hopeful, I replied and apologized for taking several days to respond since I had been away at a living history event.
Over the next weeks we exchanged emails frequently. We still have those emails in a binder that Michael presented to me along with a complete printed version of my website when we finally met in person.
He also sent along a photo of himself. After all these years I can now honestly say that it remains my least favorite picture of him ever taken. I don't know who shot the picture (need to ask, although I'm sure he's said before) but it was an unflattering angle shot slightly below his line of site. He is standing with arms crossed wearing a brownish shirt against a tree. Still, he radiated kindness and love.
Finally, he called me and we began to talk frequently by phone as well as email. He sent me a copy of his music on tape and I listened to it often and even shared it with my mother. I can still remember her reaction to his treatment of the Aramaic first line of the "Lord's Prayer" translated as "Abwoon d'bwashmaya". Listening in the car one day she turned to me and remarked "What in the world is he saying? Bring me some marshmallows?"
Over New Year 1997 a friend from Canada was supposed to be coming down to visit me for a few days. He called at the last minute and said he was stranded by weather and car trouble and would have to turn around so he would be back in time to return from his leave (he was Canadian military).
I was saddened that my plans to spend New Year with a friend had fallen through and when I spoke to Michael he suggested maybe he could come visit. I thought it was a great idea and he made plans to fly into Columbia, SC the day before New Year's Eve.
Michael in 1974He rented a car in Columbia and drove to Newberry since I was working. He arranged his own hotel room for the trip and met me at my office just before I finished up for the night. He was wearing a tan baseball cap, a blue jacket and brown corduroys when he walked in that night. After I finished up we stopped by his hotel room where he gave me the book of our emails and then had a late dinner. When we returned he didn't seem to expect me to fall into bed with him. That was quite different. I'd never met a man who did not expect sex within 15 minutes of the first "hello". Besides, I was still very unsure of getting involved beyond friendship with anyone because of a horrible relationship in the past year.
Then we went to Charleston for the night and shared our moment on the beach. Returning to Newberry we continued to "date" and at the end of each night Michael would drop me off at my house and return to his hotel.
Finally, as I realized I was madly in love with this man, I decided to spend the night at his hotel with him and we talked about how much we enjoyed being together (among other things). We joked about him moving to South Carolina because he knew that the long distance relationship I had ended in the past year and left me very unsure about relationships.
When he left for his flight back to Arizona I realized how terribly I would miss him. The next day he called and asked how I would feel about him moving to South Carolina. I didn't even hesitate, strangely, and said I thought it would be great.
While he made plans to pack up his life of over 20 years in Arizona, I began looking for a house for us to share. In February he arrived in his little pick-up truck and his belongings including two grand pianos followed a few days later.
Buck in 1983
The rest, as they say, is history. It's funny to think how much we still love each other and how much we've been through together. I am still amazed by the depth of his love for me. He knew from our talks that I refused to be with anyone who was in the closet because of past experiences. So, he came out fully to his parents and family who were the only people not aware he was gay. This simple act created a rift with his father that has only begun to heal in the past two years.
We took care of each other during my transplant process and his cancer treatment. We have loved, laughed and yes, fought over the years but we have always managed to let our love for each other overcome.
I still realize how much I am in love with him as I still find myself watching the clock on days he works in anticipation of his arriving at home. He can still make me laugh and even though we are both solidly in middle age now, even watching him standing at the sink washing dishes barefoot can make me have butterflies of desire.
So, for all those who say the "homosexual relationships" lack staying power I say: 11 years and counting and just as in love today as on day one.
So, can Dr. Hillman explain to me why half the football players in my high school came to the fat queer kid to help them with their research papers and explain Shakespeare to them?
The California Department of Education (CDE) looked for a correlation between fitness scores and test scores. They found that kids who were deemed fit (by a standard test of aerobic capacity, BMI, abdominal strength, trunk strength, upper body strength and overall flexibility) scored twice as well on academic tests as those that were unfit. In the second year of the study, socio-economic status was taken into account, to possibly eliminate that variable as an explanation. As expected, those in the upper-income brackets scored better overall on the academic tests, but within the lower-income set of students, the same results were observed - kids who were more fit performed better academically.
Charles Hillman, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois, was able to duplicate these findings with 259 third and fifth-grade Illinois students. His team also noticed that two of the tests, BMI and aerobic capacity, were significantly more influential to higher academic scores than the other four fitness factors. Digging deeper, he isolated two groups of 20 students, one fit and the other unfit. They were given cognitive tests of attention, working memory and processing speed while their brain's electrical activity was being measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG) test.
The fit kids' brains showed more activity in the prefrontal cortex, known for its executive function and control over other brain processes.
Oh well, who said science was, well... scientific.
BTW: That's actually Michael as star running back for Roncalli high in 1973. He's one that proves Dr. Hillman correct since he did very nicely academically. Oh well... maybe the two of us together could throw a wrench into the good bureaucrat's work, since Michael was also a jock/academic/stoner. Explain that one, Doc!
But, then again, when I was in 5th grade I was a skinny kid who was always running around outside with my friends. It wasn't until about 4 years later that I suddenly exploded overnight when the hormones kicked in and my metabolism tanked. Hmmm....
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights said its investigation found that the refusal of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association to rent the oceanfront spot to the couple for their same-sex union in March 2007 violated the public accommodation provisions of the state's Law Against Discrimination.
While the ruling is decisively in favor of the couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster, it does not end the case. An administrative law judge still must decide on a remedy for the parties.
"What this case has always been about from my clients' perspective has been equality," said Larry Lustberg, the lawyer for the couple. He said they will seek an order that requires the pavilion to be "open to all on an equal basis."
Brian Raum, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based group that represents the Methodist organization, Camp Meeting Association, said his clients would keep pushing back against being forced to allow civil unions on the property.
"Our position is the same," he said. "A Christian organization has a constitutional right to use their facilities in a way that is consistent with their beliefs."
Meanwhile, the parties in the dispute are awaiting a ruling from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether the issue should be decided in the division on civil rights or in federal courts. A lower federal court has ruled that the state could consider the case.
Note: Of course the nutty and Orwellian named ADF has to get its hand in the pot. Reminder, I hate Phoenix but specifically I hate Scottsdale and its other Stepford wife pseudo cities which is Arizona's answer to Orange County in California.
Back on topic: I have mixed feelings on this one. While I can certainly see the point of applying the public accommodation laws to a resort property I also have mixed emotions about forcing a religious group to do something clearly against their own beliefs.
Looking at the Ocean Grove Meeting Association website however, it becomes clear that while the church maintains it is a place for spiritual renewal rooted in the Methodist tradition in a seaside setting, the group also sells "Beach Badges" which are passes to use the beach recreation area.
More importantly they "rent" their facilities to groups unaffiliated with their own church. Although the form they require with the deposit states that they only allow use of the facilities that are "consistent with the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline." Of course, you have to buy the Book of Discipline from their online store to know what uses they would find acceptable. However, unless they have added a statement against civil unions in the years since I left that church, a civil union regardless of sex wasn't mentioned to my knowledge. I can't imagine they would find a need to mention a civil union in a religious handbook unless they clearly had stepped even further into the arms of extremists but its possible, I guess.
So, here we have a "church" facility that seems to be set up not as a real church but rather a beachfront resort. They rent facilities in exchange for money, they sell passes to their beach, they rent rooms and campsites and none of those things require that you be a member in good standing of the United Methodist Church. You're free to come and use the facility as long as you're willing to part with the cash - unless you're LGBT or any other minority that the UMC decides it doesn't like. As long as you are heterosexual you can be a member of any Judeo-Christian faith, presumably and use the facilities for your wedding or other ceremony or celebration (as long as you don't bring pets or booze). But, gays need not apply.
So, where does that leave us? If this were a real church, e.g., a building dedicated solely to the use of a particular faith and overseen by an actual ordained minister, then I would have a great problem with this couple trying to sue for access. However, in light of the fact that this is not a real church but rather a public "chapel" and "resort" with no resident minister (in fact they can "suggest" local ministers and pianists to help with ceremonies) then I feel that this may truly be a public accommodation issue on a par with a hotel running a "wedding chapel" service. The fact that a religious group simply bankrolls the operation doesn't mitigate the fact that this is primarily a resort property and the church designation probably keeps the tax man at bay. After all, I'd bet Donald Trump would love to declare one of his hotels/casinos a "church property" and never pay another corporate tax.
In the end though, that will get lost in the reporting. What will get reported, even by LGBT publications is that a Lesbian couple are suing a church over the use of their property for a "gay wedding" and it will simply inflame public opinion on all sides. Looking at the photos of the place though, I wonder why you'd want to use it. It's a bit kitschy and surely there are nicer stretches of the Jersey Shore. Besides, would you want to kick off your life together in a place with such negative vibes?
Not me... as you will see tomorrow, my relationship started on a beach. No minister, no church, no facility rental agreement required.
What I found was that the gadget didn't do much to increase participation at all. In fact, very few people rated the posts using the system. Then tonight when I visited my blog I began getting wild popups asking for my "credentials" to display images from Sezwho. Now, I don't know if someone over there messed up and password protected their image servers and thereby broke the whole thing but the continuous popup security screen made my blog unreadable. I tried it on my desktop and laptop with the same result. Entering even my Sezwho username and password did not make a difference so I figured it was a problem on their end.
Anyway, because it was an annoyance to anyone trying to read my blog I removed Sezwho completely. After tracking down the code I finally got the security prompt to stop and returned my blog to normal.
So, with such a major problem that served to kill my blog for God knows how long because someone messed up on their end, I won't be using Sezwho now or in the future. Hopefully, they can get their problems worked out but any tool that has the ability to make blogs unusuable because of a config error on their end isn't worth risking in my book. Sayonara SezWho.
Today, while a DVD of The Times of Harvey Milk sits in my player still, I noticed a post at The Progressive Puppy saying that the film was available online for free viewing. How interesting.
So, whether or not you've had a chance to see the incredible film Milk starring Sean Penn and brought to us by Gus Van Sant, please take a moment to view the original documentary from 1984 on this incredible man. You will find the information to be very beneficial if you plan to see the current movie or if you've already seen it but are interested in more information.
The documentary ends by mentioning the release of Dan White from prison. Michael asked me when we saw it why they didn't mention White's suicide. The reason for that is the documentary was released in 1984 and White did not off himself until 1985. At the time this film came out he was living in Los Angeles a free man after committing two execution style double murders.
So, here is the seminal documentary: The Times of Harvey Milk
I'm tired of waiting.
I am tired of being lectured about how we should all just keep quiet and stroke the egos of those in power in hopes they'll one day do something for us.
I am exhausted from hearing about how the newer media slick bigots are a "big step forward" and are fundamentally different from people like Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. I'm tired of hearing people in my own community justify the actions of people who will pretend to pat them on the back while thrusting a knife into their ribs. I am tired of being told to get in line or take a number.
I'm 42 years old. I'm not some 28 year old graduate student who lucked into a "community leader" job with Obama as the token gay staffer. I'm not out there cruising the bars or pretending that while I'm Gay the reason I don't have time for a partner is because I work too hard for the "community".
I have a partner, I've had a partner for 11 years. We've seen each other through cancer and a liver transplant. We've shared our ups and our downs. Yet, if something were to happen to him tomorrow or to me tomorrow the survivor would be in trouble. We can't share health insurance, we'd have to fight life insurance companies (if we could even afford it right now). We don't even get the "married" discount on our car insurance!
I'm tired of waiting for such ordinary things that my straight friends take for granted. I'm sick of hearing how I have to make nice with bigots in order to get the basic human dignity and rights most of the population takes for granted without a thought.
I'm sick of being lectured to by people who claim to be "leaders" but who don't lead. Instead they stand around trying to figure out how to best ingratiate themselves to the very people who use them and abuse them for their own purposes. I'm sick of "leaders" who are nothing more than dupes and morons for the Religious Right. I'm sick of "leaders" who obviously on some level believe that truly we aren't equal.
Otherwise, how could they continue to tell us to be quiet and just wait to see what happens. How could they tell us we have no right to voice our disapproval when a politician deliberately slaps us in the face after we supported him despite our own misgivings about his policies and beliefs?
No, to all the sissy "community leaders" out there who think it might be best to just tone it down and act like nothing happened with Obama and Warren I tell you this: I will not. I will not move to the back of the bus. I will not stop talking about our place in the world and I will not pretend that hate even dressed up in Hawaiian shirts and AIDS Charities is not hate.
This year was my first Christmas away from my family in South Carolina in 42 years. Although our holidays have gotten smaller and smaller as we've aged and grandparents and parents have passed away. No longer did we get together on Christmas day with extended family of cousins and aunts and uncles with the celebration sometimes numbering nearly 100 people. Over the past 15 years our holiday celebration had shrunk to my my sister, her children, Michael and myself. Sometimes my brother and his wife might attend but they were often busy with their own families and his in-laws.
Yet, despite the shrinkage of our family celebration I still felt a bit strange not being with my own family. For the past almost 11 years with Michael in South Carolina and the chill with his father we'd always celebrated with my folks. This year, we're in Arizona and near his family so we'd be spending the holiday with them.
Although I've gotten to know his family much better over the past year and have always had a great relationship with his sister and most of his siblings, I was a bit concerned. Sure, there was a thaw with his dad beginning about two years ago when Michael was diagnosed with cancer and I was sick and awaiting a transplant. But, the steps had been very small. They began with a handshake and his ability to talk to me on the phone for a moment before asking for Michael. Just calling our home was a big step since for the first 8 years of our relationship he refused to call for fear, I assume, of me answering the phone.
But, now I've stayed in his home (albeit in separate bedrooms) during recent visits to Prescott Valley and we've gotten to know each other better. I think in some ways I broke down his stereotypes of what a gay man should be. After all, I used to be a competition marksman for black powder weapons, I am well versed in military history, and I don't lisp and swish.
Yet, I was a bit concerned this year. He is very Catholic and the Pope recently issued another invective against gay people saying we were as much a threat to human survival as Global Warming. How would this latest pronouncement chill the air?
With some trepidation I set off with Michael to Prescott Valley. Yet, all seemed well when we arrived. As always his father rose to shake my hand and we chatted about family stories. His story of meeting and marrying his wife is very similar to my own parents who met after World War II. I shared that with him.
During the weekend he asked for my help a couple times with computer issues even though his Mac loving youngest kids got him a Mac and I know zip about them. Still, with a bit of research I was able to fix his issues for him and he seemed somewhat impressed.
I thought that Christmas night I had made a major error. I was giving Michael's sister a deck of my tarot cards and a box. She has long been interested in Tarot and I've given her some lessons in the past. I had planned to give her the cards after their dad went home for the evening but Michael handed her the package with him sitting directly across. Later, Sandy would laugh and tell me the expression on my face was priceless when I saw the package handed across. Yet, their dad said nothing about the gift. I expected the next morning to hear some disapproving remark but he was as cheerful as ever.
We were leaving on Friday to drive back to Tucson and after a lunch at Applebee's we returned to his house to gather our things and get on the road. As we were saying our goodbyes he gave me a wonderful present.
As always I reached out my hand to shake his. He grasped my hand and pulled me toward him and gave me a hug. My breath caught. I was actually getting a hug from a man who had once considered me the ruin of his son. A man who had rather his own son not attend his 50th wedding anniversary than to bring me along was wrapping me in a warm embrace. A man who for 8 years pretended I did not exist was now welcoming me into his arms.
That was the nicest Christmas gift I have ever received. In that one moment he restored my faith that people can change and grow and that with time and understanding we can heal and come together.
Regardless of your views about the religious aspects of this season, take the time to share yourself with your loved ones, be they the family you were born with or the family you chose later in life. Know that we are all perfect as we are and have no need to change despite the words of so-called religious leaders.
This year, resolve to enjoy the holidays in your own special way and make merry wherever you might be!
There are three main steps in cult recruitment:
- Immediate Importance - the prospect is affirmed to the extent that they are made to feel essential and important to the success of cause they are confronted with - since it is how those needs and their fulfillment will be met
- Instant Intimacy - the prospect is provided with a high degree of almost instantaneous caring and sharing with other group members who unhesitatingly make themselves available for the development of deep, close relationships
- Interactive Introduction - the prospect is brought into (and caught up with) a community of people who have a vibrant social life totally centered around their collective involvement with the revelation or philosophy that the group holds is the "truth" that will save the world
We can see that Warren immediately plays to Etheridge's ego by claiming to be a fan. This remark would disarm her by making her feel important in relation to his importance as a newsmaker and the mastermind of Prop 8 that she fought so hard against. In other words, by purposely playing to her ego and shattering her notions of what a "preacher" should be he put her in a position that short circuited her critical thinking skills. As we will see in a later statement, it is likely that Warren told Etheridge that her involvement in diffusing the situation around the Inauguration would be essential. I wouldn't be surprised if the words "as a leader" didn't get mentioned at some point. We know that Etheridge was a major supporter of Obama and like most of us probably wants to believe that he is all he said he was and more. Warren has given her an opportunity with the meeting to feel she is now essential to Obama's success since Obama has linked himself to Warren.
Etheridge: "He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.
When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future."
Point two is instant intimacy. Here we see that Warren relates a very traumatic time in Etheridge's life, her battle with breast cancer, to his own life. This builds a bond that further deflates her skepticism of his message. He then suggests that she attend his church as a "guest" further stroking her ego since she knows, or should know, that LGBT people are not welcome to join Rev. Warren's church. She's special and as his good friend she will be welcomed with her family when others might not. Then to seal the deal he gets her to call him "Pastor Rick" establishing what amounts to a nickname between them and finally through physical contact breaks down social barriers by literally drawing her into his arms.
Etheridge: "They don't hate us, they fear change. Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world."
Point three requires an interactive introduction to the community where the subject becomes completely surrounded by others sharing a common goal. In this case, Etheridge not only wants to attend his church passively but has or seems to have accepted an invitation to work actively with social causes linked to this group whose goals she shares. Furthermore, she now proselytizes that others should follow her lead and abandon their criticism and instead join in the work to be done.
Rick Warren did a beautiful job with Melissa Etheridge. He knew enough about her before the meeting to probe her weaknesses and disarm her incisive mind.
I don't know a great deal about Melissa Etheridge's psyche but I do know having gone through a major illness that often there is a desire to "reach out" or "make peace" long after the event. To this day I find myself shying away from direct conflict. I might be able to write a beautiful rebuttal here, but in person those skills have been blunted by my own brush with death. Could I withstand Warren's charisma? I'd hope so, but honestly I couldn't be 100% sure in person. I might well walk away from such a meeting with the same conversion experience as Melissa.
PHOENIX — Attorney General Terry Goddard said Tuesday that he might be willing to consider legalizing marijuana if a way can be found to control its distribution — and figure out who has been smoking it.Goddard's comments came after a press conference Tuesday announcing the breakup of a major ring police said has been responsible for bringing about 400,000 pounds of marijuana across the border and into Arizona each year since 2003.The attorney general said marijuana sales make up 75 percent of the money Mexican cartels use for their other operations, including smuggling other drugs and fighting the Army and police in that country.He said that makes fighting drug distribution here important, to cut off that cash.Goddard acknowledged those profits could be slashed if possession of marijuana were not a crime in Arizona. But he said a number of other hurdles remain before that even becomes a possibility.The issue of Arizona drug laws came up during questions about the operation of drug cartels and the violence associated with their operations, particularly in the Mexican state of Sinaloa."The key is, they will no longer exist when people don't buy marijuana," said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of the office of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "This is a market-driven economy and this is a market-driven activity."Allen said the question of legalization to eliminate those profits is a policy question."But if we're going to go down that road, what is the acceptable amount of marijuana that you want a bus driver to have in their system?" he continued."I believe it's zero," Goddard said later.Goddard said a lot of time and money are spent on enforcement activities like the one that resulted in the bust announced Tuesday. He said that requires "a hard look" at the issue.But Goddard said it's not as easy as simply declaring it legal. He said there would need to be some controls on who gets the drugs — and how much they use.
Yes, we all knew it was too good to be true. At the end of the day Goddard and Allen fell back on the same tired old arguments that line the pockets of ICE and Law Enforcement agencies. Of course, I'd ask Mr. Allen and Mr. Goddard how much alcohol was acceptable for a bus driver to have in his system as well. Oh, but wait, alcohol is legal so doesn't matter to them until AFTER he's killed all the passengers.
Come on guys, you almost came up with something original and right just try a little bit harder to ween yourselves off the DEA money and those cool toys that make you outfitted better than Green Berets.
According to Melissa she was suitably impressed with what a nice guy he actually was:
Heartwarming isn't it? Melissa goes on to chastise her "brothers and sisters" for our uproar over Warren being invited to deliver the keynote prayer for Obama's historic inauguration. She calls on us to "Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world."
On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.
When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future. (Huffington Post)
In other words, in those few brief minutes Rick Warren managed to convince Melissa Etheridge that everything he'd said, everything he'd written had all been a big mistake and misunderstanding. Somehow, in those brief moments he even managed to erase from her mind the fact that he and his church were the backbone of the Prop 8 campaign. What's even more amazing is he managed to convince her to use her celebrity status to preach to the rest of us that we should drop our opposition to him, his church and his policies and instead sit down and shut up - or even more amazingly give our time and money to support him, his church, and its "social programs" that still include conversion therapy!
Immediately, the appeasement and assimilation crowd cheered Melissa's conversion. Her message was hailed as "beautiful" and "inspiring" and those who expressed doubts or concern over her new found faith in the Religious Right were shouted down as agitators and "hatemongers" - exactly the same talking points that Warren would use only hours after his meeting to reach out to his own supporters - about LGBT people.
Yes, while Melissa Etheridge was basking in the glow of her audience with the Pentacostal Pope he was hard at work crafting a new attack on LGBT people to put on his website. In his new attack he has his Associate Pastor deliver the invective against LGBT people in a new webcast. Warren himself takes to the Internet not to own up to his own missteps as Melissa claims he did in their private meeting, but to blame everyone but himself for the trouble.
In the hours after their "meeting of the minds" and "bridge-building" Warren did not call up the lawyers paid in part by his church and ask they withdraw their motion to invalidate Etheridge's own marriage. He did not issue a statment to his church asking them to put their money behind a new measure to create Civil Unions even if he can't quite stomach "homosexual marriage." No, he did none of those things. What he did was continue his past pattern of behavior behind the scenes while using Melissa Etheridge as his shill and posing with a gay worker at an AIDS charity thrift store.
In other words, Warren is an evil genius. Like the best cult leaders he managed to sway a very bright and smart woman's long standing opinions in mere minutes. He completely broke down her defenses and all but converted her to his belief system by playing to the "common ground" of peace and service that she holds dear.
The man is smart, I'll give him that. If there were ever a stronger argument that anyone can be susceptible to a cult it would be the way he manipulated such a brilliant artist as Melissa Etheridge in an evening.
That, is truly scary and I wonder how long it might be if Melissa remains his "friend" before she will have thrown Tammy aside and entered Rev. Warren's own Conversion Therapy program.
PS: If you need any confirmation how bizarre things have become, Andrew Sullivan that self-hating GOP/War hawk Queen thinks Melissa's conversion is just peachy keen!
SAN FRANCISCO — A woman in the San Francisco Bay area was jumped by four men, taunted for being a lesbian, repeatedly raped and left naked outside an abandoned apartment building, authorities said Monday.
Detectives say the 28-year-old victim was attacked Dec. 13 after she got out of her car, which bore a rainbow gay pride sticker. The men, who ranged from their late teens to their 30s, made comments indicating they knew her sexual orientation, said Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan.
"It just pushes it beyond fathomable," he said. "The level of trauma _ physical and emotional _ this victim has suffered is extreme."
Authorities are characterizing the attack as a hate crime but declined to reveal why they think the woman was singled out because of her sexual orientation. Gagan would say only that the victim lived openly with a female partner and had a rainbow flag sticker on her car.
The 45-minute attack began when one of the men approached the woman as she crossed the street, struck her with a blunt object, ordered her to disrobe and sexually assaulted her on the spot with the help of the other men.
When the group saw another person approaching, they forced the victim back into her car and took her to a burned-out apartment building, where she was raped again inside and outside the vehicle. The assailants took her wallet and drove off in her car. Officers found the car abandoned two days later.
The woman sought help from a nearby resident, and she was examined at a hospital. Although the victim said she did not know her attackers, detectives hope someone in the community knows them. One of the men went by the nickname "Blue" and another was called "Pato," according to authorities.
Richmond police are offering a $10,000 award for information leading to the arrest of the attackers.
Gay rights advocates note that hate crimes based on sexual orientation have increased nationwide as of late. There were 1,415 such crimes in 2006 and 1,460 in 2007, both times making up about 16 percent of the total, according to the FBI.
Avy Skolnik, a coordinator with the New York-based National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, noted that gay, lesbian and transgender crime victims may be more reluctant than heterosexual victims to contact police.
"Assailants target LGBT people of all gender identities with sexual assault," he said. "Such targeting is one of the most cruel, dehumanizing and violent forms of hate violence that our communities experience."
Skolnik said the group plans to analyze hate crime data to see whether fluctuations may be related to the gay marriage bans that appeared on ballots this year in California, Arizona and Florida.
"Anytime there is an anti-LGBT initiative, we tend to see spikes both in the numbers and the severity of attacks," he said. "People feel this extra entitlement to act out their prejudice."
Associated Press writer Haven Daley in Richmond contributed to this report. (Huffington Post)
Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. On a candid examination of history we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions, which in republics, have more frequently than any other cause produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of the ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes.–James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention on Control of the Military, June 16, 1788
Equality Arizona has been critical of the effort noting that since all laws refer to "marriage" in their text that Civil Unions would be ineffective and not provide the necessary protections for LGBT unions.
Honestly, I don't know how I feel about this yet. My gut reaction remains that separate is inherently unequal and the "Civil Unions" are nothing more than a "feel good" crumb to make us shut up.
Yet, another part of me wonders if at least a baby step would not be some step toward full equality. However, the problem then becomes one of complacency. If we have a "Civil Union" will the Uncle Tom gays be content to stop fighting? Will our straight allies assume that all is well and then stop working with us on full equality?
Still, as long as the federal government remains silent on marriage equality even full marriage at the state level remains fairly meaningless outside individual communities.
Should Prop 8 be overturned in California, Michael and I could travel to California to be married. Yet, the moment we crossed the border back into Arizona it would not be worth the paper upon which it is printed. For LGBT married couples from Massachusetts and Connecticut their marriages are dissolved the moment they leave their respective states. If you are married in Massachusetts and happen to be in South Carolina for some reason your marriage doesn't exist until you return to Massachusetts. There is no recognition of the "Full Faith and Credit Clause" of the Constitution when it comes to our rights. We are always at the mercy of state legislatures and the religious bigots who pull their strings.
So, what about Meriano and his Civil Union proposal? Do I support his efforts which, with the right amount of money might have a slim chance of passing someday or do I remain committed to the idea of full equal rights in Arizona, thus adding one more state to those where our rights are protected?
It's a tough question. Civil Unions would be much more than I could ever hope for being from South Carolina, but at the same time it still strikes me as insulting with the potential to create more problems than solutions.
After all, Mr. Meriano's business is arranging "commitment ceremonies" so he has a vested financial interest in getting some type of law on the books whether it be a real solution to our problems or just a "feel good" measure to spur his business.
This will bear watching.
Story in The Tucson Citizen. (Thanks to Queerty for covering this as well.)
Back then there was a large contingent of the more well to do gays who very much supported Democratic candidates regardless of their viewpoint on gay issues. No matter how many times they were slapped down they kept coming back to these anti-gay politicians and begging for more.
Their belief was that somehow they could change minds by simply remaining a solid voting block and begging for a handout. Of course, that handout never came because the politicians knew that they didn't have to put out in order to get the votes.
When Harvey Milk came along he turned that on its ear. He eschewed the "moderate gay" idea of begging for table scraps from Democratic politicians and instead advocated running gay candidates and agitating in the streets. He made deals with powerful allies like the unions to support their causes in return for them supporting gays through anti-discrimination rules and political support.
In the meantime, the "moderate gays" kept fighting against him. They assured everyone who would listen that he would wreck any chance of getting anything done and they even ran their own candidates against him who were willing to sit quietly and do nothing unless asked by the powers that be.
This strategy is playing out today in the gay community. As I read comments I find so many "Uncle Tom" gay Democrats who are willing to just go along with anything. They don't want to "make a fuss" and think that anyone who expresses outrage over the lack of inclusion of LGBT issues in the Obama administration as well as his choice of Rick Warren to kick off the celebrations. Their refrain is to just shut up and get along. If we all just sit down quietly and don't make a scene somehow the Democrats will be grateful and help us out. If we just let the Right Wing keep spewing their filth then all will be well because they'll see how delightful we are and suddenly change their views.
Are they nuts? I really think they are. Either that or there's some major self-hate going on in the background. Ahhh, now I think that is exactly what is happening now as it was then. Many of these people aren't technically "in the closet" but are the next best thing. They want to blend in. They don't want people to notice that they're gay or lesbian. They're afraid to stand out and stand up.
These are exactly the people who will not move us forward but will forever hold us back. They think that the way to make progress is to sit like a pack of hounds under their master's table and hope a few crumbs drop their way at some point.
I for one am tired of waiting and I'm tired of these Uncle Tom faggots taking the lazy and cowardly way out.
There was a big shift in public opinion after the Prop 8 vote. Polls showed that enough people had changed their minds who voted for it to actually overturn it. Did that shift happen because after the vote everyone said "Well played! Maybe next time." and went home? No, it happened because people got out in the streets and made a ruckus. People agitated and got the point across that this was wrong. People got passionate.
In Harvey Milk's time the chant that would ring throughout the Castro when people were needed to protest was "Out of the bars and into the streets!" Public protest and outcry will be the only way to make the point. We cannot continue to sit around hoping that someone will notice how well behaved we are and decide to give us a scrap, maybe a minor governmental appointment or someone on the cabinet who has a friend who has a third cousin who is gay or at least "experimented" in college or something. No, the only time we have made progress as a community is when we have taken to the streets and when we have publicly agitated for our own rights. It's time to stand up, not shut up.
Come out of the closet and come out from under the table!
Gays and lesbians are angry that Barack Obama has honored Warren, but they shouldn't be surprised. Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships. He did throughout his campaign, one that featured appearances by Donnie McClurkin, a Christian entertainer who preaches that homosexuals can become heterosexuals.Cloud goes on to question why LGBT people supported Obama with time and money in the first place. He has a point. I sent a small donation, all I could afford because I thought he was the best man for the job. Although, I didn't agree with his position about marriage (he's opposed) I felt he was open minded enough to at least not work actively against the issue and to promote equality in other ways. Now I see that I was royally punked. Man, I could use that money back too.
Obama reminds me a little bit of Richard Russell Jr., the longtime Senator from Georgia who — as historian Robert Caro has noted — cultivated a reputation as a thoughtful, tolerant politician even as he defended inequality and segregation for decades. Obama gave a wonderfully Russellian defense of Warren on Thursday at a press conference. Americans, he said, need to "come together" even when they disagree on social issues. "That dialogue is part of what my campaign is all about," he said. Russell would often use the same tactic to deflect criticism of his civil rights record. It was a distraction, Russell said, from the important business of the day uniting all Americans. Obama also said today that he is a "fierce advocate for equality" for gays, which is — given his opposition to equal marriage rights — simply a lie. It recalls the time Russell said, "I'm as interested in the Negro people of my state as anyone in the Senate. I love them."
Many gays I know gave money to Obama, which mystified me. The favored explanation was that he doesn't "really" believe gays shouldn't be allowed to marry; he just has to say that in order to win. People seemed to feel that once he had won, he would find a way — in his contemplative style — to help convince Americans that gay people really do deserve basic equality. Instead, he has found a way to insult gay people deeply.
Read Cloud's entire article at Time.
"Sen. Feinstein obviously disagrees with the views of Rev. Warren on issues that affect the gay and lesbian community. However, Sen. Feinstein respects the president-elect's prerogative to select a cleric to deliver the invocation."
In other words, "Hey Barack, you screwed up royally and I'm not taking the fall for it!"
The statement came after Obama's staff tried to initially lay off the debacle of having a homophobic, bigoted, religious huckster like Rick Warren deliver the invocation at the Inauguration on the Congressional committee headed by Sen. Feinstein that oversees the ceremony.
However, as the Senator pointed out, they simply make the arrangements for the people the President-Elect chooses to include and do not choose those people themselves.
As always I love the Alex Delaware novels by Jonathan Kellerman. Compulsion centers on strange murders that under normal circumstances would seem to be murder-for-hire. Unfortunately, the deeper Alex and his friend Milo Sturgis dig, the more confusing the motive seems. Those profiting from the murders don't seem to be aware of why the murders might have been committed and they also seem to be in danger at times from the killer. Then a seemingly unrelated murder ties the whole plot together.
Fast paced and an easy read, the book clicks along at a breakneck pace until suddenly - it seems to fizzle. The resolution comes too quickly and as too much of a coincidence. After building momentum the book suddenly ends with a chance encounter that left me feeling a bit let down.
Still, a nice read but it seemed that Kellerman either got tired of spinning the tale at the end or his editors wanted to shorten the novel and had him create an uninteresting and anti-climactic conclusion.
View all my reviews.
Getty ImagesHave you ever seen those stupid shows like Jerry Springer where they have a woman on who's in an abusive relationship? You sit there listening to her cry and moan about how terrible the boyfriend or husband is and then in the next breath professing her love and how much she'll stay with him no matter what?
Or what about those poor sots who go on and find that their boyfriend has been cheating and has six kids by another woman. They cry and moan about what a terrible guy he is then in the next breath profess they'll stand by him because one day he'll change.
What do those poor sorry sots have in common with the Gay Community? Quite a lot it seems. Over the past several months Barack Obama used LGBT Americans to get out the vote. He relied on our money, our energy, and our dedication to push his campaign along. Yet, once he was safely ensconced as the President-Elect he bitch slapped us by asking homophobic preacher Rick Warren to set the spiritual tone of his administration. Then when we raised a ruckus he slapped us down again telling us we shouldn't question his dedication. I sort of got the feeling that beneath that cool exterior the words he wanted to say were: "Bitches, don't you be talkin' back to me!"
But what have we heard from most of the "liberal" Democrats during this uproar? Well, they've echoed Obama's excuses for his straying to the hateful side of the room and reiterated the call for us to all sit down, shut up, and please step to the rear of the bus.
So, we moan and we cry about how betrayed we feel. But you know what? Come 2010 we'll be right back out there working for the Democratic Party machine. We'll be supporting Democratic candidates who couldn't care less about us as people and see us only as a political tool. Come 2012, we'll be right out there following along behind HRC and the other big organizations supporting Obama for re-election because, well, what other choice do we have?
Actually, we have plenty of choices. If we as an entire group simply refused to vote for a Democrat who was not Gay or Lesbian in the next elections they would have no chance of winning. Maybe then they would see that we're not a group to be toyed with any longer.
I've said it before and I'll say it again... it is high time that LGBT Americans stood up to both of the major parties and refused to just "go along" anymore. We can always vote for a third party or we can always sit home. Either way, the only thing that will ever get their attention is showing them that not only can we win them elections but if they screw us over then we can also insure they lose them as well.
That's power and gay people with power is a marvelous thing.
The film grabbed attention early as the opening sequence shows archival footage of police raids on gay bars in the 60's and early 70's. Still shots mixed with film of police raiding bars and arresting people for no other reason than being present. The police also were famous for calling the press to make sure that those they marched out in handcuffs could be photographed to be sure that they lost their jobs, their homes, and sometimes their lives.
Early on in the film the audience is the given the explanation for the ubiquitous whistle worn by Gays in the 70's. Many people assume it was just a "disco" affectation but it served a real purpose as it was used to bring help when gays were attacked by bigots and bashers on the streets. One scene shows Harvey Milk talking to a police officer about two men who have been beaten to death near his store. The cop makes a point of referring to one man's lover as his "trick" and Milk corrects him about the relationship.
At that point I found myself uttering: "Fuck Mike Huckabee!" under my breath. Of course, Huckabee recently commented that LGBT did not deserve equal Civil Rights because we have not suffered violence at the hands of others nor open oppression.
The film picks up with Harvey Milk meeting Scott Smith who would be his lover for a number of years. They move to San Francisco from New York and open their camera shop in the Castro. Milk then undertakes the task of becoming a community leader and organizer.
We follow Milk's transformation from San Francisco hippie into a political leader over several failed campaigns culminating in his election to the Board of Supervisors for San Francisco in 1977.
The story of Harvey Milk's life is well known, or should be, to any LGBT American, so I won't recount the storyline here. What I do want to touch upon are the great characterizations and universal themes in the film.
When Harvey Milk was elected to his office I was 11 years old. I did not think I had any strong memories of any of these events until I saw this movie today. Suddenly, watching Anita Bryant deliver her hate-filled speeches I realized I remembered quite well seeing her on television and in interviews spouting her poison.
In one archival scene they show her delivering a speech. Watching her I couldn't help but think that this woman was completely crazy. She was evil personified. In this actual footage of her she is spewing her filth and lies and looks as though she is having an orgasm. I do not exagerrate. She literally looked as though her hatred was a sexual release. I could easily see a woman like her presiding over Death Camps and masturbating while she gassed those she deemed "Un-American, Dirty, or Perverted." If there was a pervert from that period, Anita Bryant was it.
What was most interesting in this rehash of historic footage was how little the religious right has shifted their rhetoric in 30 years. The words coming from the mouths of Bryant and others were almost verbatim the type of evil spewed this past election season by people like Rick Warren, Sarah Palin, and almost every rank and file Republican.
I couldn't help but be astounded by the actors in the film, though. As far as I know (correct me if I'm wrong) but all were straight. Yet, they managed to play a range of gay men with subtlety and without overdoing it. That's extremely hard for straight actors when faced with out gay characters. The usual error is to become too stereotypical or not stereotypical enough. There are as many types of gay men as there are straight ones. Some are effiminate, some are not, some are very masculine, some are overly masculine, some are androgynous, and some are all of those things depending on the situation. Gay men have a natural ability to filter their behavior because of the way the world works. This was even more true in the period shown in the film.
Sean Penn simply shines as Harvey Milk. His performance is subtle and realistic. There are no attempts to make Milk be some superhero nor gloss over his faults. In this age of monogamy it could have been very easy to whitewash gay life in San Franciso in the 70's by pretending that sex outside of relationships didn't happen or that casual sex was absent. Instead, the film shows how often one night stands would turn into relationships which were often very wonderful but also rocky and short-lived. There were also references to the bath houses and their role in social life even for those in relationships. Penn allowed Milk's humanity to shine through without turning him into an unrealistic charicature of the man he was.
The supporting cast was excellent. James Franco as Scott Smith showed a man who longed for a quiet life and ultimately could not handle Milk's increasing role as a politician and community organizer. Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones showed a great transformation from a flighty party boy into a strong leader and activist. Jones himself consulted on the movie and Hirsch seems to have easily learned the craft of turning up or down the flame depending on the situation. Again, something straight actors generally are unaware that gay men do all the time.
However, the other breakout role in the film would have to be Josh Brolin as Dan White. Despite the fact that we all know how the story ends, Brolin manages to entice and actually make you wonder if he actually will pull the trigger. Even more than that Brolin's decline during the film raises many questions about White's actual motivations for the murders. The scene where he confronts Milk just before the murders while intoxicated simply rivets and I truly felt my stomach drop as I flashed on anti-gay bullies I've encountered over the years.
I have to agree with reviews I've read that mention how Jack Lira, Milk's second lover seems one dimensional. He did seem more broadly drawn than other characters in the film. I don't know enough about the real Jack Lira who committed suicide to comment on the veracity of the portrayal. However, I can say that I have known people much like the character in the film that Diego Luna portrays. These are needy, desperate people who seek validation in others. Lira seems to be utterly lost without Milk or someone in his life. I could certainly see someone suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder in his frequent mood swings and his panic if Milk was not available on a moment's notice to validate him in some way. In one scene he even locks himself in a closet because he is afraid Milk has stood him up in order to make sure Milk pays him attention at a party and then when Milk arrives he screams at him to go away. Certainly, that's classic BPD behavior.
I was surprised by the soundtrack and score of the film. After seeing the trailer on TV a number of times I was expecting a soundtrack heavy with 70's rock. Bowie's "Queen Bitch" features prominently in the trailer but only a very short clip is used in the film. Refreshingly and surprisingly the film tends toward Classical music and often dips into Tosca to reflect the emotional underpinning of a scene. DiStefano's "e Lucevan le Stelle" makes a beautiful background to the scene where Scott breaks up with Milk and moves out of their apartment.
But, one of the central themes of the movie deals with the Prop 6 campaign in 1978 that sought to remove Lesbian and Gay teachers from the public schools. Anita Bryant and other evangelicals threw their weight behind the measure and in a close run thing the Prop 6 was rejected by the voters that November. In an amazing parallel to the present we can see the same strategies that failed in 1978 that succeeded in 2008 with Prop 8. Watching how Prop 6 was fought in '78 also points out the errors made in 2008. Harvey Milk took the fight to the people and worked hard to build bridges with all sorts of people. He was not afraid to get into the midst of the fight even in Orange County, the base of both 6 and 8. Yet, in 2008, activisits did not venture out of their comfort zone instead writing off entire areas as "hopeless" and thereby not engaging people directly.
I found it quite funny that the film uses a clip of President Carter saying briefly he is "against Prop 6" during a visit to the state in '78. In light of Obama's almost dismissive gesture the other day in the wake of him inviting the current anti-gay demigod to speak at his inauguration, the line was bittersweet. Obama managed to throw us the same bone 30 years later that Carter did in '78. How prescient of Van Sant to include the clip.
Milk is a moving and uplifting story. It reminds us all of how much work there is to be done, how much things have changed and how much they have stayed exactly the same. I hope that every young person will see this film either straight or gay. Further, I hope that gay leaders of today will remember that it's best to agitate in the streets and deal in private. That as Harvey Milk showed us, turning thousands into the streets on a moments notice can add the push necessary to make a change.
But most importantly everyone should see this film to know that hope never dies.
575 Castro St. from FilmInFocus on Vimeo.