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Tucson Day of Decision Rally

(Tucson, AZ) Rainbow Foot Soldiers in coordination with local activists and supporters of Marriage Equality will gather at Catalina Park in downtown Tucson, AZ on May 26, 2009 for a rally in response to the California Supreme Court decision on the validity of Proposition 8.

The California case will directly impact many couples here in Tucson who were married in California and whose marriages hang in the balance. The decision will be announced at 10am on Tuesday morning and the rally will go forward at 6:30pm with plans for a human billboard along Speedway Boulevard.

“Being 'next door' to California, many of our friends were married before Proposition 8 passed in November. They have gone about their lives as any other married people, continuing to work toward the day when a marriage in any state will be legal in every state. Yet, after November, they have been in limbo. Will the state and religious groups force them to divorce against their wills or will this be a day of celebration when the court reaffirms the right of all to love and create a family?” said Buck Bannister of Rainbow Foot Soldiers.

"For our families, this isn’t about politics, this is personal," said Pamela Brown, Marriage Equality USA Policy Director. "Being told that marriage is not an option for you is an absolutely devastating verdict to receive, after all Romeo and Juliet ended their lives upon hearing such news and they weren’t subject to a popular vote on whether or not they could marry. Our kids are confused and don’t understand why people would do this to their families. They are subjected to school yard bullies and taunts that their parents can’t or are not really married. For years, our families have been living on an extremely emotional roller coaster. We've been used as a wedge in Presidential elections, we've been given a window of six months to pop the question and plan a wedding, and we've had a mere majority of Californians vote to take away our fundamental rights. Recognizing the strain our community has been under, win or lose, Marriage Equality USA has helped organize a series of community gatherings across the state for all Californians supportive of the freedom to marry to come together on the Day of Decision."

Speakers will be on hand with information about the impact of the decision as well as local couples who will share their thoughts about this momentous case.


Keith Vs. Secessionists

Here's Keith Olbermann talking about the Texans still wanting to secede from the Union. I loved this piece and he gets in one of my favorite quotes about my home state on the eve of the Civil War: "Too small for a Republic, too big for an insane asylum."

Anyway, as usual Texas is just full of hot air and no guts. Come on guys, just do it already. We really, really, really won't miss your crazy right wing butts.


Top 10 Facebook Tips

Facebook has become the de rigeur place for political organizing lately. But beyond that, it's a great place to reconnect with old friends and family and make new connections.

For many people though, Facebook (especially the new version) can be tough to navigate. With lots of options for privacy as well as for customizations to display information in the "newsfeed" from friends and family, the options can be confusing and sometimes difficult to understand.

So, here are my top 10 Facebook tips for new users.

1. Sort your "friends." You'll find that on Facebook you'll run into childhood pals, extended family, co-workers, and people you know in the community. If you're politically active you'll also end up with contacts for organizations. Sorting these people into groups can help you manage your communications as well as what information about you to which those people have access. After all, you might be fine with your sister-in-law across the country having your address and phone numbers, but not so sure about someone you met at the last political meeting you attended. Likewise, you might want to send an announcement about something to family and not include those unrelated to you. Using "lists" can help you with that.

It's easy to do, go to your friends page and select "create new list". Give the list a name and select the "friends" you want to add to that list. As you add new friends you will have the option to add them to an existing list. Forgot to add someone? Go to your friends page and scroll down till you find the friend and click on "add to list" next to their name and add them to the correct list.

2. Use those lists to limit access to your personal information. It's easy to do. Now that you have all your "friends" sorted into lists go to your "settings" at the top right (next to your name) and choose "privacy settings." This page gives you control over almost all aspects of Facebook. Choose "profile" to limit what personal information is shown to people in various lists. Choosing "Contact Information" will allow you to limit who sees your personal information. I have two levels of "friends" that I don't know in the real world. Those friends are placed in "Facebook Friends" or "Casual Friends" and their access to information like phone numbers and my address are limited. Clicking the "edit custom settings" allows you to add or remove groups from your privacy screen. (see photo)

3. Stop all those stupid app announcements! If you have friends who love sending "gifts" on Facebook you can get annoyed in a hurry because your newsfeed can be dozens of those announcements. Want to stop them? It's easy. On your main news feed (click "Home") as someone posts an application to your newsfeed simply hover your cursor over the right hand side. You'll see two options appear magically: "Hide (person's name)" and "Hide (application name)". You'll want to choose "Hide (application name)" to make sure that those announcements no longer take up space in your newsfeed. (see photo)

4. Block those apps! If your friends who like to post those announcement also want you to use those apps and annoy more people it's easy enough to put an end to that without hurting feelings. As the invitations come in choose "block application" and no one will be able to send you an invite or a "gift" using that application again. Your friend won't be offended that you "turned down" their gift, hug, or whatever else but the next time they are choosing names yours simply will be grayed out, preventing more invites.

5. Skip the update. If you play games or do many other things on Facebook the developers of those things love to announce you're using their stuff. Facebook will give you a pop-up asking you if you want to "publish to newsfeed and wall" as you're finishing up. If you don't care to have the information announced to all your friends then choose "skip" and it won't show up in your newsfeed.

6. Bookmark things you use! As you use certain features on Facebook you'll see an option in the bottom left corner to "bookmark." Make use of that feature since sometimes it's hard to find your way back to things on Facebook.

7. Be a chatty Cathy! On the lower left of the screen you'll see a space that says "online friends" with a number. These are the folks you know who are using Facebook right now. You can click a name to chat with that person. It's a great feature.

8. Use Messages. Facebook has a built in messaging system that works much like email. It's a great feature and you can communicate with several people in a "discussion board" style. If you don't want to reply to all in a multi-person discussion choose "reply" under that person's photo instead to send your reply ONLY to them.

9. Manage your account! Clicking on settings in the upper right next to your name and then "account settings" will allow you to manage your account. You can change your password, email address, name and other information. However, you might want to pay attention to the "notifications" tab. Here you can tell Facebook when to send you an email about something happening. If you check Facebook several times a day, you might want to have no notifications of things. If you tend to go several days without checking you might want to be notified about messages, friend requests, or other communications from friends. It's up to you.

10. Have fun and meet people. Facebook tends to be less a free for all than MySpace. You will meet new people but generally they will be people that friends know. Over time your friends list will grow naturally as you meet friends of friends and add them to your lists. You will also find old classmates as well. If you fill out your school information when you sign up you can click the name of your school in your own profile and be connected to others on Facebook from your class as well as other graduates of your school. It's a great way to re-connect with a long lost friend from high school or college.

Bonus tip: If you make a "friend" or have a really annoying relative on Facebook whose comments about things you just can't take anymore you can remove them from your Newsfeed without rudely dropping them from your "friends." (For me it is hyper-religious relatives whom I love but do not care to hear their constant paranoia about Christianity under attack.) Just as we did for hiding the applications on the newsfeed, click their name under "hide" and they won't show up in the newsfeed anylonger. Your stress is reduced and no one's feelings have been hurt so next Thanksgiving isn't uncomfortable (well even more uncomfortable).


Small Town Gay Bar

Much to my surprise, out of the Netflix pile Michael chose "Small Town Gay Bar" as our dinner and a movie last night.
Deep in the heart of the Bible Belt, it is evident the fight for equal rights is far from over. Homosexuals in these areas lack social outlets, still face cruelty, ridicule and even violence. Despite being attacked on all sides by the Christian coalition, several spirited bar owners have created an oasis for gays to call home a Small Town Gay Bar. Executive Producer Kevin Smith presents an intimate portrait of these establishments and the patrons who inhabit them. Exploring the gratefulness the patrons feel for these various places we learn there is much more provided than a evening of entertainment. (film synopsis)
So, that's the synopsis of this documentary. Being from the south (South Carolina) I had expected to more or less identify with the people in the film. I couldn't have been more wrong. The bars in the film are in very small towns and cities in Mississippi, far from even the comfort of cities like Columbia, Greenville, Charleston or Charlotte in South and North Carolina.

The people who frequent these bars are for the most part closeted, or at least believe they are. Like so much in the deep south an effeminate man can be tolerated as long as it is never spoken aloud that he is gay and never dares to express his sexuality or affection for another man in any way publicly. In other words, Don't Ask Don't Tell, has been a cultural norm in the South since time immemorial.

So, these people gather at these tiny ramshackle bars where sometimes even the owner isn't out of the closet in order to meet other gays and have a few precious hours when they can be themselves. The bar is their only link to other gay people because they dare not associate outside the bar for fear of reprisal.

The film covers one young man who lived his life openly and how his brutal death sent shockwaves among the isolated gays living in northern Mississippi. Scotty Joe Weaver was murdered in 2004 for being gay. He was tied to a chair and beaten over a period of hours. He was stabbed repeatedly then partially decapitated. His body was then moved outside where it was doused in gasoline and burned. Obviously, I was struck by the pertinance of this story as we look at Federal hate crimes legislation and in light of Rep. Virginia Foxx's comments about Matthew Shepard's murder being a "hoax." After all Rep. Foxx is from an area of North Carolina much like this area of Mississippi where the Bible is used to justify hate and violence under the guise of "love."

During the film at times I was struck almost speechless by the feeling that these people lived in a different country almost. Even in my native South Carolina we were fairly progressive as a gay community. Yet, in these remote rural areas of Mississippi the gay community lives much as it did in the 40's or 50's elsewhere in the country. The patrons of the bars remain closeted and because they cannot live their lives openly they tend to seek release in excess.

One of the segments concerned a bar called "Crossroads." This club which was mainly a series of shacks tacked together served as a major outlet for the community of Meridien, MS. The owner of the club put on unusual and extravagant entertainments that were almost like a Redneck Caligula. Sex was rampant and he parked busses around the bar that he was turning into a "hotel" but seemed more geared toward quick hook-ups for the patrons - even underage ones. It was as though he had listened to the stereotypes spun by the religious right and, absent any other ideas of how to be "gay", adopted them as a lifestyle. It was heartbreaking.

The bar has now been purchased by a lesbian couple who live openly together and they have redone the bar as a cleaner and more decent place for the small community.

But, it still shocks the senses of those of us fortunate enough to grow up and live in other parts of the country, just how much these people must go through just to get together. In one case, the American Family Association, which was based in Mississippi originally, would send out members to write down the license plates of cars at the bar. Then the next day the names of the car owners would be read on the local radio with the information they had been at a gay bar. The implication was that they would be fired or labelled as pervets in the community. At one point they blocked a bridge leading to the bar and threatened patrons with violence. Police were, of course, complicit in these schemes.

It's hard to imagine, for those of us who have been out for years and live in places where our community and our allies would not tolerate such harrassment or where such tactics would be useless. However, in an area where the owner of the local gay bar remains closeted and one of the few openly gay men is brutally tortured and murdered as a sign to other gays, such intimidation could well have a chilling effect.

Small Town Gay Bar left me with a feeling of both extreme sadness and sympathy for these people, but also at times disbelief and anger that they seemed to accept this harassment as normal and simply a part of life. Listening to the interviews, many did not seem to grasp that they were part of a larger national gay community. Their isolation was so complete that they seemed to focus solely on weekends at the bar and hold no hope for ever being afforded even the most basic human rights and dignities.

If the portrayal of life in rural Mississippi in this film is even moderately accurate, those of us in parts of the country need to be aware of their plight and perhaps even organize to assist them in some way.

Regardless, the film certainly is worth a look and I urge you to check it out.