Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This Week's Quote

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.

Mark Twain

Source: Quotationary

A Fuss Over History

A straight friend of mine who's an archivist sent me this link to the Bay Area Reporter about the to-do that's developed over the papers of Jim Rivaldo, a gay San Francisco political consultant.

Rivaldo's first mistake was not being clearer about who should get his archives. His second mistake was dying.

Rivaldo helped elect Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1977, and he was the last person to speak to Milk before the gay icon was murdered. The progressive consultant helped other gays win office, as well as people of color.

His collection of work-related materials filled three filing cabinets and 40 boxes. An archivist's dream--or nightmare.

Forced to downsize his living space as he fought with illness, Rivaldo moved his collection to the office of fellow gay political consultant Ray Sloan. The two planned to go through all the material, Sloan says, but in October of 2007 Rivaldo died.

Superior Court Judge Ellen Chaitin, a close friend of Rivaldo's and the executor of his will, then asked for the archives. Sloan slammed the proverbial filing cabinet on her proverbial fingers.

Sloan and Chaitin both claim they want the archives housed where the public can access them. A third party tried to broker a deal, but no go.

Jim Rivaldo was a key player in the growth of gay political power in San Francisco. Three years after his death his personal materials still can't be touched, and that must be making local researchers cranky.

It's clear why this case has caught the attention of archivists around the nation. When two different people claim ownership of historically important archives, a Solomon-esque solution would be nice. Without cutting the papers in two, of course.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Question of the Week

What is your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This Week's Quote

I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.

Jon Stewart

Source: poemofquotes.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

Transgender Steps Forward

Recently our community marked the 12th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a somber day devoted to memorializing those murdered for their gender identity.

Also recently, however, we've seen transgender breakthroughs that are, in a word, fabulousgreatwonderful.

College basketball season has begun, and many a media outlet has covered the story of Kye Allums, a junior guard at George Washington University. At 5-foot-11, Allums won't be shattering glass, but his story is.

"Yes, I am a male on a female team," Allums, 21, told USA Today. "And I want to be clear about this. I am a transgender male, which means feelings-wise, how it feels on the inside, I feel as if I should have been born male with male parts.

"But my biological sex is female, which makes me a transgender male."

This was a college student taking great pains to educate a sportswriter, who's accustomed to X's and O's, on X's and Y's. The sportswriter can expect a midterm.

When Allums' college playing career is over, he intends to transition. He planned to keep quiet until then, but "it just got too tough not to be me."

His teammates, coach and university all appear to be supportive. The NCAA probably thought not long ago that it would have to deal with this issue the day the Rhode Island School of Design won the Rose Bowl.

But the NCAA has a policy, explained a spokesman: "A female who wants to be socially identified as a male but has not had hormone treatments or surgery may compete on a women's team."

So this college basketball season begins with an African-American, openly transgender person playing Division 1 hoop. This represents so many steps forward it's practically traveling.

Turning to a different sport, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) will soon have a different understanding of "lady." GolfChannel.com reported the LPGA will propose in a Nov. 30 player meeting to axe its "female at birth" requirement.

It's not that association honchos experienced an epiphany. It's that they have drivers aimed at their heads.

Lana Lawless, 57, who had gender-reassignment surgery five years ago, filed suit in San Francisco over the LPGA declining her application for tour membership. Her suit claims the organization discriminated due to her transgender status, a violation of California's anti-discrimination statutes.

The LPGA has landed in the rough indeed.

A change to the constitutional bylaws requires two-thirds of the LPGA membership to agree. The association has already told players the old gender rule was established "in a different time," and defending it legally today would be harder than putting with your eyes closed.

Also, the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Golf Association and other golf entities now allow transgender participation. The fairways are getting fairer.

Victoria Kolakowski, who had reassignment surgery in 1991, has scored big in a different arena. In a race so tight it couldn't be called until two weeks after the election, voters in California chose Kolakowski for Alameda County Superior Court.

An openly transgender woman wins a popular election. Thank you California for being . . . California.

Kolakowski, 49, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the election result "speaks well of our ability to look past differences and look to the things that matter: our ability and experience."

Here's hoping she has both, because she'll be scrutinized like an "American Idol" finalist.

Two days after Kolakowski declared victory, transgender LGBT activist Phyllis Frye was appointed a municipal court judge in the Houston City Council chamber, the same room where 30 years ago Frye helped repeal Houston's "cross-dressing ordinance."

Frye, 63, said to the Houston Chronicle, "Things have changed, and it's pretty wonderful."

Two judges in two days. That's the right kind of order in the court.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Question of the Week

What do you guess will happen when the Senate votes on DADT during the lame-duck session?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This Week's Quote

Did you hear about the Scottish drag queen? He wore pants.

Lynn Lavner

Source: allgreatquotes.com

A Sunday Stroll on Campus

Since I was going to be spending an afternoon in Greenville, S.C., I decided to take a stroll on the campus of Bob Jones University, one of the most conservative schools in the nation.

How conservative? BJU prohibited interracial dating until 2000. The school will prohibit gay dating until 3000.

As I walked around, I was mildly concerned that some sensor in the ground would identify me as a lesbian Unitarian and I'd be catapulted over the gate.

I wanted to get the feel of the campus, see what the students looked like, maybe talk to some about, oh, homosexuality.

I got the feel of the campus, all right: It felt dead. On a glorious Sunday afternoon, hardly a soul was about. The library, campus store, coffee shop—all closed. The few students I saw were dressed up and apparently headed for something spiritual.

I know the Soulforce riders visited Bob Jones U on their bus tour of homophobic schools. I hope they didn't go on a Sunday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Week's Quote

My lesbianism is an act of Christian charity. All those women out there praying for a man, and I'm giving them my share.

Rita Mae Brown

Source: quotegarden.com

Look Homeward, Lesbian

It was a North Carolina author, Thomas Wolfe, who wrote "You Can't Go Home Again." My partner Anne decided to ignore him and go home to North Carolina anyway.

I decided to go along to help her clean out the family home in Rutherfordton. Over four grueling days we lifted and sorted an incredible number of boxes. By the end of all that heavy lifting, I'd mentally changed Wolfe's title to "You Can't Stand Straight Again."

In those boxes we found symbols of the tension between Anne's lesbianism and her mother's religiosity. And when Anne and I went into town we discovered another tension, between how we live in Seattle and how we felt we had to behave in a small Carolina town.

There was a third tension regarding the nutritional value of fried okra, but I'll confine myself to the gay bits.

When Anne was 14, her mother became a fundamentalist Christian. That's one way of coping with a budding teenager.

Anne's mom liked to hand out religious tracts, and in one box, along with myriad tracts on accepting Jesus as your personal savior, sat copies of "The Gay Blade." An image of a man with not one but two limp wrists graced the cover.

Copyrighted in 1972, this tract proclaimed, "Out of Satan's shadowy world of homosexuality, in a display of defiance against society, they come forth."

Sounds like a zombie movie.

"Their power structure is widespread—they occupy all kinds of jobs." Some are "even hinted to be in high government positions."

Yup, we snuck in right under the nose of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover . . . oh . . . wait . . .

Most of the tract's pages were devoted to a vivid rendering of the Sodom story, suitable in any decade for putting the fear of God in someone.

Anne's mom handed out anti-gay tracts at the same time her daughter was feeling lesbian stirrings. No wonder it took Anne a bunch more years and a run at Christian education before she became the openly gay woman of her mother's nightmares.

Speaking of Christian education, we also uncovered one of Anne's grade reports from Moody Bible Institute. Perhaps her mom kept it because she was proud of Anne's good grades. Or maybe she kept it, Anne theorizes, as proof that her daughter once had fine Christian intentions.

Anne's mother is still living, still handing out tracts to strangers. When we visited her in South Carolina on this trip, I wanted to ask if her stock included anti-gay treatises. I refrained. I don't want my picture on the next round of tracts.

During The Great Purge, Anne and I occasionally got away from the house and headed to Main Street. There in the town where she was born, where everybody still knows her family, she found herself reluctant to touch me on the street or in a restaurant. A natural toucher restrained.

I felt the same. In that area of the country, where you can't throw a hush puppy without hitting a church, and where I twice heard white people refer to someone as being black "but good," discretion felt nearly necessary. A new feeling for me, and I liked it as much as barbecue sauce on a MoonPie.

When we entered the antiques store, we found Anne's childhood playmate working there. I heard Anne pause before introducing me as her partner. That was not the pause that refreshes.

The next day Anne saw her again, and the woman said she was sorry she couldn't say goodbye to me as well.

You just never know what you'll find when you go home again. In an old box or in people.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This Week's Quote

The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.

Adlai E. Stevenson

Source: brainyquote.com

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Eve

It's election eve, and all is not well.

Gay voters are angry, concluded The Associated Press, "at the lack of progress on issues from eliminating employment discrimination to uncertainty over serving in the military to the economy — and some are choosing to sit out this election or look for other candidates."

The man who two years ago instilled people with hope is now instilling them with lethargy. Moreover, the president is out of touch with our community, remarking in an interview with bloggers, “I don’t think that the disillusionment is justified.”

If he walked a mile in our Pradas, Birks or army boots, he'd know it's justified.

All that said, I believe the LGBT community should vote, and preferably Democratic.

I offer three reasons. Though Obama's efforts have been periodically anemic, he has come up with some of the goods, like the federal hate-crime law and hospital visitation rights.

Second, it's a cliché but infuriatingly true that change takes time. Two years is enough time to get your teeth straightened, but not enough time to get your rights.

Third--and sadly this is my greatest motivator—consider the alternative. If these two years of Democratic "control" have been rough, think about what awaits us under Republican dominion. A Congress dipped in tea promises to be God-awful for us and for our allies.

Please, please vote. If it helps, hold your nose. Or your boyfriend. Anything.