Thursday, September 30, 2010

Question of the Week

The apparently bisexual Tony Curtis died yesterday at 85, so now is a fitting time to ask: Which of his over 100 films is your favorite?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Save Our Kids, Part 2

And now for something completely the same.

As I finished writing the post below about LGBT kids killing themselves, my partner alerted me that another horror story had just popped into the news.

A Rutgers University freshman jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week after his roommate broadcast live images of him having sex with another guy on the Internet. The body of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi hasn’t been found.

Ah, the carefree days of youth . . .

Save Our Kids

This has been a notable month for the LGBT community. In September there's been a whole lot of DADT action (see the column below), and four young men who attended Bishop Eddie Long's megachurch have accused the prominent homophobe of coercing them into sex when they were teenagers (don't see the column below as it doesn't exist yet).

But to my mind the biggest story of the month is the one you may not have heard. Three boys in their early teens killed themselves in September. They lived in Indiana, Texas and California. Relentless antigay bullying took them all.

Their parents grieve, and we grieve. They died for nothing.

Perhaps we can give their deaths some meaning. Yes, folks, this means making a real effort. Get back here—I see your finger wandering to the escape button. We need to get involved. We need to save our kids.

Dan Savage had a great idea. He's launched a YouTube channel—www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject—providing video proof to LGBT youth that their lives will improve.

What else can we do? If you have a suggestion, large or small, please leave it in the comments section. It's time to do something, anything. Some among us have been struggling against youth suicide for a long time. They need the rest of us to join in. Think of it as the biggest gay party ever.

Monday, September 27, 2010

DADT's Hectic September

Boy, there's been a lot of action around Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) lately. Let's all follow the bouncing ball.

On Sept. 9, a federal judge in California declared DADT unconstitutional. Judge Virginia Phillips of Federal District Court struck down the military's ban on openly gay soldiers after the plaintiffs challenged the law under the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. It was the Log Cabin Republicans that brought the suit.

On Sept. 10, every gay organization kicked itself for allowing the gay GOP'ers to get there first.

On Sept. 12, two gay and two lesbian soldiers, all DADT victims, escorted Lady Gaga to the MTV Video Music Awards. The five people involved wore dress uniforms—for Lady Gaga, an Alexander McQueen ensemble including tall gold feathers on her head is a dress uniform. The former military members looked dignified and handsome.

On Sept. 13, I wondered if I could get a military escort for going to Safeway.

On Sept. 20, Lady Gaga turned up in Portland, Maine, to speak at a rally aimed at pressuring the state's two senators to vote for DADT repeal. She suggested a new policy for straight soldiers who are "uncomfortable" being around gay soldiers.

She said, "Our new law is called 'If you don't like it, go home!'"

On Sept. 21, every American soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq claimed to be uncomfortable around gay soldiers and asked to go home.

Also on Sept. 21, political D-Day arrived. The "D" wound up standing for "Doofuses." In the Senate, each Republican and two Democrats voted against repealing DADT. Everybody accused everybody of playing politics, and everybody was right.

This vote was a blow to the gay solar plexus. But it's possible the Senate might address the issue again after the elections. We can hope during a lame-duck session the senators will act more like owls and less like ostriches.

Often in our struggles we've had to count on politicians, judges and voters treating us fairly because it was the right thing to do. Now we actually have public opinion on our side—according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, over 75 percent of Americans think gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. Such approval feels weird, but I could force myself to get used to it.

Again on Sept. 21, the GLBT site JoeMyGod.com reported on the Senate vote, and someone left this comment: "All Faggots must die." The message was traced to the office of Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

On Sept. 22, Chambliss' office issued a statement saying that so far it was unknown which person there left the comment. Then I issued a statement saying apparently the senator hires staffers with the soul of a plum pit.

On Sept. 23, U.S. government lawyers filed to stop Judge Phillips (see Sept. 9) from issuing an injunction that would immediately halt DADT. They argued she should confine any injunction to the 19,000 members of the Log Cabin Republicans.

Now there's a bizarre idea. Only Republican gays can be soldiers.

In further bizarreness, the White House tried to explain why government lawyers were defending a policy President Obama wants to eradicate. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs must go through Excedrin like candy.

On Sept. 24, a federal judge in Tacoma, Wash., ruled that Maj. Margaret Witt, a lesbian and decorated flight nurse booted from the Air Force, should get her job back. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton, an active Republican, became emotional as he recalled some of Witt's testimony.

He decided her discharge advanced no legitimate military interest, and in fact weakened her squadron. So an open lesbian is going back to the military.

Two weeks of a DADT roller coaster. Forget cautiously optimistic--I'm nauseously optimistic.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Question of the Week

Given this week's maddening setback in the Senate, when do you think we'll actually be rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Banishing Florida's Ban

Today a Miami appeals court ruled unanimously that Florida's 33-year-old law banning adoption by gays is unconstitutional. The case will probably go to the Florida Supreme Court for resolution.

But the real resolution will be when Rosie O'Donnell finally gets to adopt every foster child in Florida.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oklahoma OK

It's sad but true that when I think of Oklahoma I think of Sally Kern, the vocal state legislator so terrified of gays she'd rather have her hair cut by Osama bin Laden.

That's why it's terrific when good news comes out of the Sooner State. Yesterday the Tulsa school board voted to add sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy for students, staff members and parents. The vote was unanimous.

Kern, a former teacher, must be itching to rap some knuckles.

In June, the Tulsa City Council and the Tulsa City-County Library Commission added sexual orientation to their anti-bias policies.

These dominoes have to be driving Kern wild. Is Tulsa lost?

We can only hope.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Question of the Week

What words would you like to hear Pope Benedict XVI say on any gay issue?

Monday, September 13, 2010

They Meant Well

We've reached a point in America where many companies seek to do right by gay people. Once in a while, they get bit on the butt for it.

Microsoft recently lost a piece of its posterior to 26-year-old Josh Moore of West Virginia. Moore is an avid gamer, and as an unemployed factory worker, he's got plenty of time to indulge his passion for Microsoft's Xbox Live.

Moore favors "shooters" like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and Ghost Recon. Since I don't know Ghost Recon from Casper the Friendly Ghost, I'm out of my depth here.

But I do grasp that people play these games online, and Moore was gearing up for a Search and Destroy competition when Microsoft searched and destroyed him, or at least his alter ego. The colossal corporation suspended Moore's gaming privileges, believing he had violated Xbox Live's code of conduct.

In his profile, Moore had listed his hometown as Fort Gay.

Can you see where this is going?

Fort Gay is a real town of about 800 located along West Virginia's border with Kentucky. But somebody, presumably a fellow gamer, smelled insult among the bullets, explosions and general mayhem, and complained to the Xbox Live folks.

"Someone took the phrase 'fort gay WV' and believed that the individual who had that was trying to offend, or trying to use it in a pejorative manner," said Stephen Toulouse, director of policy and enforcement for Xbox Live, to The Associated Press. "Unfortunately, one of my people agreed with that."

Moore found himself up a creek without a joystick.

"At first I thought, 'Wow, somebody's thinking I live in the gayest town in West Virginia or something.' I was mad . . . It makes me feel like they hate gay people," he said.

"I'm not even gay, and it makes me feel like they were discriminating."

I am gay, and I'm confused.

It's not clear whether Moore thought Microsoft or the person who complained was discriminating against gays. Either way, Microsoft and the complainer were actually trying to do the opposite. Moore intended no offense. Microsoft intended to prevent offense. Moore was offended.

Who, huh, wha'?

An angry Moore called customer service, figuring he could explain that Fort Gay really exists. But the representative said if Moore put Fort Gay in his profile again, Xbox Live would cancel his account and keep his money.

Now I know whom they use as a model for their games' tough-guy characters.

"I told him, Google it—25514!" Moore said, listing Fort Gay's ZIP code. "He said, 'I can't help you.'"

Mayor David Thompson got involved, and I can just imagine his call to customer service: "What do you people think I'm the mayor of, Brigadoon?"

Even if Thompson managed to convince the representative of Fort Gay's existence, it didn't solve Moore's problem. The mayor was told the city's name didn't matter—the word "gay" was inappropriate in any context.

Hmmmm. Protecting us by eliminating us. Making us as ghostly as Casper. I'm feeling mighty pallid.

The employee got that wrong, said Toulouse, the Xbox Live rules enforcer. The player's contract says users may not write profile text that could offend others. But the Code of Conduct says players can use such words as gay and transgender in their profile.

Toulouse said the company has modified its training, and he plans to apologize to Moore.

Microsoft might be feeling that no good deed goes unpunished. In this swirl of good intentions, the vacuum sucked up everybody. It's a good thing, though, that this incident showed the Xbox honchos the need to refine their procedures. Before they get calls from Gay, Mich., and Gay, Ga.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Question of the Week

What is your favorite lesbian movie?

RIP Inspector Pine

Seymour Pine, who died last week at 91, was a crucial figure in LGBT history. A less likely candidate you never saw.

In 1969, Pine commanded the New York Police Department's vice squad for Lower Manhattan. On June 28, he led eight officers on a raid of the Stonewall Inn.

You know what happened next. The L's, G's, B's and many T's fought back. The pumps and purses were a'flying. The Stonewall riots lasted for several nights, and had a profound effect all over the world.

"The Stonewall uprising is the signal event in American gay and lesbian civil rights history because it transformed a small movement that existed prior to that night into a mass movement," author David Carter told The New York Times.

On that hot June night, Seymour Pine, WWII veteran and father of two, walked into the illegal gay club and tripped right into history.

He spoke at the New York Historical Society in 2004 on the uprising. Back in '69 the police "certainly were prejudiced" against gays, Pine said, "but had no idea about what gay people were about."

They could've asked. But I digress.

Pine insisted the cops routinely raided gay clubs because many clubs were controlled by organized crime. Also, officers saw arresting gays as a means to boost their arrest totals. "They were easy arrests," he said. "They never gave you any trouble." Well, alllllllmost never.

Someone in the audience at the Historical Society stated Pine should apologize for the raid. He did. Classy fellow.

“There’s been a stereotype that Seymour Pine was a homophobe,” David Carter said. “He had some of the typical hang-ups and preconceived ideas of the time, but I think he was strictly following orders, not personal prejudice against gay people.”

“He once told me,” Carter said, “‘If what I did helped gay people, then I’m glad.’”

It did help. Perversely, we thank you for arresting us. You pissed us off beyond endurance, and things haven't been the same since. You belong in our pantheon. Make sure that uniform is pressed.

Thursday, September 2, 2010