Tag Archives: gay rights

On Becoming a Footnote

It’s such a strange world. Sometimes I have trouble keeping up. In November, we allowed right-wing moralists to push through stripping hard-won civil rights from gays in several states. Our former president tried to convince us that we are attacked because others hate our freedom. Perhaps he didn’t mean the freedom to marry or to adopt. And Iceland now has a lesbian as Prime Minister.

And you know what is so remarkable about a lesbian holding the top job in Iceland? Apparently, nothing. At least not to Icelanders.  Prior to becoming PM, Johanna Sigurdardottir was the Social Affairs minister and had a 73% approval rating. Her civil union to partner, Jonina Leosdottir, in 2002, was widely known and basically, nobody cared.

Klaus Wowereit, during his campaign to become mayor of Berlin, was cheered when he made the statement “Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so.” (“I am queer, and that’s how it should be”).  Paris has a gay mayor and so does Hamburg. There are openly gay members of parliament in France and the United Kingdom. 72% of voters in Spain support equal rights for gays.

So what is it about the “land of the free”? I have my suspicions but its late and that kind of rant could keep me up all night. Besides, I’d like to get some feedback here. Why do you think we claim freedom as our motto, something we sacrifice our sons and daughters to defend, and yet stingily dole out with so many restrictions?

Silvia Jaen, secretary-general of the Spanish Federation of Gays, Lesbians, Transsexuals and Bisexuals, was quoted as saying about being “out” in most of Europe,  “There was a time when you would have received a lot of extra press coverage for being gay – these days it’s a footnote.”

So, now we know what we’ve been working for all these years — to have that little quirk of difference become nothing more than a footnote.

Hmmm…..I’m not sure how I feel about that…..

JFK to Rick Warren

I have few memories of JFK before those surrounding his death. The doings of presidents meant little to a twelve year old back in 1963. But I remember exactly where I was the moment I heard that he had been shot. And I bet that most of you do, too. That’s a connection we will always share.

From then on he became “our president”. Who knows if he would have had a successful administration. Maybe — maybe not. What we do know is that he became a symbol for a new generation. And that symbol was immortalized in the words “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

When did we turn our backs on that sentiment? When did we decide that we have to go on the offensive every time something doesn’t go our way? When did it become about me instead of about us? Or am I being naive and its always been that way?

I know that Rick Warren was a poor choice for the inaugeration. But let’s face it, Barrack Obama has repeatedly said that it is his belief that we can disagree about certain issues but still find some common ground to work together. We are not going to like all of his choices — and neither is anyone else. Wouldn’t it be better to give him a chance to at least get sworn in before we judge what kind of a president he is?

Besides, if you think about it for a minute, which religious leader could have been chosen for the invocation that would have met with eveyone’s approval? Ah…maybe that should be the focus of some of this dispute.  There shouldn’t be an invocation during the inaugeration. No matter who does it — no matter what they say — a large number of American citizens will be offended and feel as if their beliefs are not being honored. That’s the whole point of separation of church and state.

I think we’re a little scared. We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that it was our turn to take our equal place in society. We got bruised pretty badly in November. Now, we’re wondering if Obama said all the things we wanted to hear so that we would help get him elected.

Personally…..I’m still hopeful. I’m still excited about the inaugeration. If Rick Warren starts spouting religious hogwash, there’s always the volume control button on my remote.

This is going to be my president — I’ve waited a long eight years for him to get here.

Sometimes a Dime is Worth More Than Ten Cents

My partner saved dimes. I don’t know why. But they didn’t weigh much or take up a  lot of space, and it was one of those small things that made her happy. So, we filled jars and tins — until we would hit one of those really rough stretches. Then we would make lots of little stacks, count them and cash them in. She never seemed to mind having to spend them and sooner or later we would start filling containers again.

This morning, as I was about to get in my car, I spied a shiny dime in the grass right next to the driver’s door. My immediate reaction, before the rational side of my brain kicked in, was that it was a gift. A little sign that she’s still around and that she knows I’m having kind of a tough time. Knows I’m struggling with some decisions about moving on and that she’s giving her blessing.

Naturally, that other part of my brain wanted to make the case that I had simply dropped the dime getting out of the car last night and it meant nothing. I thought about that for a moment. Certainly more rational. But…

You see, I’ve never believed that anything was meaningless. Or that something could be explained away as coincidence. Meaning comes from within each of us — it’s how we choose to respond, interpret, react to what we encounter in life.

Finding that little dime gave me an instantaneous shot of happiness. Whether I dropped it or it appeared for some other reason is irrelevant. The result, the meaning for me, was the same. It put me in touch with what I already know — the awareness that it doesn’t matter whether I’m making the “right” decision or not. It’s simply time for me to make some sort of movement forward.

And that I’ve always had her blessing — no matter what — and that I will always take it with me, no matter where I go.

Maybe I’ll hang on to the dime. Just in case I forget…..

Moving Forward

We’ve spent quite a bit of time discussing “big pictures” — politics, economy, equal rights. As the New Year unfolds, we will be revisiting those topics as well as others that affect us as a community. So, what do you say, for a few moments, we narrow the focus to our own individual selves?

What do I want for 2009? For me, personally.

My situation is a little different. Losing a life partner is pretty much the same as losing your life. It simply no longer exists. When people suggest it’s time to “snap out of it” or “get back to normal”, I’m sure they mean well, but they have no idea what they’re saying. There is no normal to go back to. Everything has changed, and it will never be the same again.

Okay, so it’s taken me over two years to figure that out. Now what?

Seems to me that there are only a couple of choices — since there’s no going back, there is only standing still or moving forward. I’ve tried standing still, and it served its function. I was certainly not capable of making any decisions. But now I think I’m ready to try moving forward.

If you read the OTGH newsletter, you know that we are kicking off 2009 with a special program designed to encourage changes that will have a significant impact on our reader’s health and fitness levels — gradually, one small step each week of the year. This program is being developed and presented by my co-publisher. Not only is she a personal trainer, fitness instructor and owner of a fitness studio, she is the real deal. I’ve been in her kitchen — everything’s organic and comes from a health food store. There’s not a partially hydrogenated fat or molecule of high fructose corn syrup to be found (trust me, I looked). No sodas in the fridge (except when I’m there) and if you ask for a glass of water, you’ll get it at room temperature.

I know — how can you listen to such a person? Well, she’s in her mid-fifties, looks at least ten years younger, teaches athletes how to run properly and took up roller blading last year. But! Lest you think this is someone you wouldn’t be able to relate to I will share a little secret — I was driving the day we had to try at least four exits on the way to South Carolina because of the search for a Krispy Kreme doughnut. And it wasn’t for me!

So, I’m thinking this is a great opportunity to give my “moving forward” plan a head start. I would just as soon no one mentioned to her that I’m going to be following her suggestions — she would just pester me about it. But by this time next year I can either be healthier — or not. Seems like kind of a no-brainer. Maybe I’ll even share my progress and thoughts on the process in the newsletter.

How about you? What kind of year is 2009 going to be for you? Are you going to buy into the doom and gloom permeating everything we hear and read? Or are you going to choose to move forward on your own path?

Its always a choice, you know — your choice.

Sexual Jihadists — Who Knew?

I couldn’t help but think about Robert Hillsborough today. Oh, I honestly didn’t remember his name, but I’ve never forgotten him. And it wasn’t hard to find. Just had to do a quick search on the gay man that was stabbed to death while his attackers shouted “Here’s one for Anita”. It was two weeks after Anita Bryant’s “Save the Children” campaign overturned Dade County’s non-discrimination ordinance.

Why think of him today? Because another contemporary of Bryant has written a column so hateful and inflammatory that it almost surprised me — and this stuff rarely surprises me. Pat Boone, white buck shoes and all, felt the need to lash out last week at Proposition 8 protesters with statements such as “…there is a real, unbroken line between the jihadist savagery in Mumbai and the hedonistic, irresponsible, blindly selfish goals and tactics of our homegrown sexual jihadists.”

Homegrown sexual jihadists? What is it about Christian singers anyway?

And what is it with people who purposely spread hatred and incite violence? Sure, Boone will probably become the next greatest thing to happen to gay rights. Just like Anita Bryant was. But that doesn’t make up for what happened to Robert Hillsborough. Or to Ovidio “Herbie” Ramos. He was a gay activist in Miami who committed suicide following the backlash from the Bryant campaign. After participating in a radio talk show where callers said gays should be deported, forced into concentration camps or executed, Ramos told a friend “I didn’t know they hated us so much”. A couple days later he shot himself.

So, what do we do, now?

For starters, we continue to support organizations like HRC. I sent my donation in today and they promised to send Pat Boone a note stating that a donation had been made because of him. I thought that was a nice touch. I’m sure they will do the same for you. Tell Pat Boone you’re no terrorist

More importantly, though, I think we need to focus on the incredible progress that we’ve made. We suffered some heartbreaking losses at the polls but the entire tenor of the campaign was different. The vast majority of our opponents were falling all over themselves saying that we certainly deserve equal rights — just don’t call it marriage. That’s a huge difference from the standard rhetoric of just a few years ago.

We still have a lot to do. But I honestly believe that the momentum is now with us. I think the “other side” knows that too and that’s what is motivating this last push. So, it may get a little worse before it gets better — but one of these days….

Yeah, one of these days!

A Day Without Sunshine

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. In the aftermath of stunning losses for the gay community in California, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas, I find myself thinking of one of my favorite stories….

There was once a young man who came from a very poor family in China. When he was out for the day, his horse ran away. On his return, the villagers ran to his father to express their sadness for this financial loss.

“Isn’t this terrible?” they wailed. The aged father shook his head from side to side and calmly stated, “Maybe good. Maybe bad.”

On the following day, the son went out to hunt for the missing steed and, to his great joy, he found a herd of wild horses and was able to bring them back to the village. The elated crowd ran to his father and exclaimed, “Isn’t this wonderful news? What great fortune!” The elder again merely stated, “Maybe good. Maybe bad.”

The next morning, the boy went out into the corral to try to break in a horse for himself. In the process, he was trampled and made lame. When the townspeople saw his ruined leg, they ran to his father to convey their grief. The reply was again the same, “Maybe good. Maybe bad.”

A day or so later, the Chinese army came to the village to take all the able-bodied young men away to war.

Sometimes what appears to be a tragedy turns into a blessing. I’ve always believed that Anita Bryant was the best thing that ever happened to gay rights. California’s Proposition 8 and the other blatantly discriminatory ballot initiatives may end up having the same effect.

Just today, I followed a link posted in Margaret and Helen‘s blog to Atticus Circle, which is an organization of straight folks working for gay rights. Who knew?

And, also today, I watched the Keith Olbermann video on gay marriage. I’m not much of a fan of his stuff but I saw so many references to it that I finally watched. If you haven’t seen it, you should.  

Once in awhile, at the end of “a day without sunshine” the clouds part….