June 27, 2011
Note: Will Kohl over at Back2Stonewall asked me if I’d write him a guest post about some of my experiences in Brazil. Here is that post, originally posted at Back2Stonewall.com
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t Gay friendly. But it took coming to Brazil for me to become a full-fledged Gay ally. That change started almost immediately upon my arrival.
Marcelo – my Brother-in-law – is a Gay Brazilian male. I was one of the few that knew this about him almost 10 years ago, when even he struggled admitting it to my wife and her sisters – his closest allies.
Marcelo didn’t fully come out of the closet until a year ago. He had been trapped there by his fears for 30 years. His coming out was met with love, acceptance and hugs. As he said afterward, “It was like farting in the ocean.”
Grupo Gay da Bahia, the oldest gay advocacy group in Brazil, published yesterday their yearly report on violent deaths of gay people in Brazil. According to the report, the number of people who are murdered because they are gay is up, 198 murders in 2009, compared to 189 in 2008.
Brazil leads the world in homosexual victims of murders. Mexico comes second (35 deaths) followed by the United States (25 deaths), according to the GGB.
Among the murdered, 117 were gay men (59%), 72 were transsexuals (37%) and 9 were lesbians (4%). Most of the crimes go unpunished (more than 90%).
It has been a joy watching Marcelo become the man he was always supposed to be this past year. With a cadre of Gay friends, he has gone from hiding and sneaking, to being open and proud. Not long ago, I asked him a question, only to be ignored as he was lost in Facebook conversation (he quickly learned and joined the Gay communities that permeate social media.)
“Marcelo,” I said, jokingly imitating the show Intervention. “Your Gayness is affecting me negatively in the following ways: You just ignored me.”
We laughed, knowing that just over a year ago, that joke could never have been made within earshot of others.
“It’s not that a homosexual can’t play ball. If he wants, than play it. However, form his own team and start another federation. Schedule games with those that prefer to fight against themselves.”
“By the way, this popular saying is very precise: Each one in their own area, each monkey in their own branch, each rooster in their own coop, each king in their own deck of cards.
That is what I think, and because I think like this, in the condition of a judge, I say it!”
– Brazilian Judge Manoel Maximiniano Junqueira Filho, in throwing out a defamation of character lawsuit filed by soccer player Richarlyson.
It has not just been Marcelo who has shown me the courage of being an openly Gay male in Brazil. In fact, the majority of my male friends in Brazil are openly Gay.
There is Paulino, a friend of my wife and her family for years. His life in Sao Paulo, where he is a well-regarded nutritionist. He told me of his first Gay experience, when his retainer kept falling falling out of his mouth.
“This is your first time, isn’t it?” His first partner kindly asked.
There is the flamboyant and wonderful Pedro – a successful businessman. Having never really spoken with a Gay male about how he learned he was Gay, I asked.
“All my fantasies were about men when I was young,”he said. “I thought it was a fetish or something. But then realized that’s all I fantasized about.”
My wife, sitting next to me, gave me a nudge, “You don’t have to talk only about Gay things, you know.”
Brazil’s 11-member Supreme Court decided that those in same-sex civil unions will have the same rights as heterosexual married couples.
The move is a landmark achievement for Brazil – a nation that has struggled with violence against the gay and lesbian community. That move also is a stellar achievement for new President Dilma Rousseff, who had her top prosecutor, Attorney General Roberto Gurgel fight for the verdict.
“Homosexuality is a (the way people are), not a crime. So why can’t homosexuals have families? What has been preventing this is two things the Constitution finds abominable – intolerance and prejudice,” said Judge Luis Fux.
Brazil is often paradoxical when it comes to the Gay and Lesbian Community. There is an ingrained homophobia in many Brazilians, a homophobia stoked by the Catholic Church.
But it’s also a country that holds tightly to civil liberties. This was a nation under a military dictatorship not long ago, and this is something still in the minds of politicians and many Brazilians. There is a belief that the rights of all are of the utmost importance, and that belief has led to impressive actions.
Still, the horrifying specter of violence against Gay males is always hovering in my mind. I have fears for Marcelo, Paulino, Pedro and my other Gay friends. But they have chosen to live freely and openly, and if they are afraid, they don’t show it to me.
There is an incredible LGBT community in Brazil. It is based on Pride and determination. And they have seen their hard work pay off. They will not be defeated. And they will never stop.
This is what being a straight man in Brazil means to me. It is a nation where I became forever connected to the Gay community. It is a nation that has introduced me to some of the best men I’ve ever known. It is a nation where violence against Gay males remains at a horrifying level. It is a nation where I need to do more to be part of the fight.
But in the end, this is for Marcelo. I love you. And I couldn’t be more proud of you. Thank you for sharing so much with me. Thank you for helping my eyes grow wider.
September 23, 2010
Somewhere sort of like here …
“And this abomination, this insult to Our Lord, it will continue to take us down a path of depravity and immorality that will destroy this great nation. These depraved, perverted individuals must be stopped. This behavior must be eliminated! And it can only happen with the help of God. You are his hands on Earth. You will help to stop this menace before all is lost!”
“Amen!” shouted Pastor Doug’s congregation, as one. But anyone walking by could hear that this response was not a joyous one. Such a holy word, yet such hate emanated from it.
Jeremy starred down at his plate of shrimp. A lifetime of shame flashed through his mind. His stomach seemed to want to leap out of his body sit next to him and taunt him. But Jeremy was also more excited than he’d ever been. He was literally pulsating from head to toe. Was this really going to happen? Was his only true fantasy going to become a reality? He was frozen with anticipation, fear, lust and hunger. He hadn’t eaten since lunch, after all.
“Dude, just eat it. Seriously, it’s going to be Ok,” said Michael.
Michael. Jesus Christ, Michael tempted him. But he made him feel amazing. They had been high-school sweethearts. They were the King & King at the prom, even. And the relationship had somehow grown only stronger in the two years since they graduated. Friends and family were already telling them to “just set the date already.” They were the perfect couple and deeply in love.
The only issue had been Michael’s Shellfish Eating. They were only 15 when Jeremy saw him eat a shrimp for the first time. Raised in a strict Catholic household, he couldn’t even admit his secret desire to gorge to Michael back then. It was too forbidden. It was, as Leviticus had written, an abomination. Even now, at age 20 and as logical as he had ever been, he feared for his very soul.
He had spent his high school years haranguing Michael with Bible verses, tears, and outright demands that he stop. Luckily, Michael didn’t look like someone that ate shellfish, and didn’t take the harassment that other suspected shellfish eaters took from vicious high school bullies. Jeremy prayed every night for God to rid Michael of his deviant behavior. That the two never came close to breaking up was a testament to their love.
When they were both 18, Michael came out of the freezer. And it seemed like the more he told people, the more people he wanted to tell. Jeremy was beside himself. How could they get married now? An Abstainer couldn’t marry a Shellfish Eater. But Jeremy could never leave Michael. And finally, a few weeks after Michael had come out, Jeremy told the love of his life that, yes, he had fantasized about eating shellfish. Not that Michael hadn’t figured that out years ago, mind you.
“Jeremy,” Michael said softly but firmly. “It’s time. Let go. It’s not an abomination. Leviticus says homosexuality is an abomination, as well. Does anyone pay that any attention?”
Jeremy chuckled nervously. He was a nervous chuckler. But Michael was right. What difference did it make to anyone? Whose business was it? Who was he hurting?
“No, they don’t,” said Jeremy, looking into his soul mate’s eyes with a smile. “They don’t.”
With that, Jeremy picked up the shrimp and put it to his lips. And then into his mouth. As he chewed he let out a small moan. He had taken his first step toward freedom.
Senator McBride was exhausted. The Shellfish situation was becoming a real problem. It seemed like ever since Ellen Degeneres came out as a Lobster Eater on her Popular TV show, a majority of the general public had decided to follow her. Or at very least, decided they just didn’t care that people consumed shellfish. It made no difference that Ellen’s show was canceled soon after (many felt she had been discriminated against, but the simple fact was that all her shows started to revolve around lobster and it just got sort of repetitive and preachy). A genie had been let out of the bottle and it wasn’t going back in any time soon.
The U.S. had always been a step behind when it came to civil rights. Women and African-Americans had to scrape, claw, protest and shout to get their voices heard and their votes to count. Still, even in 2010 there were sizable gaps in regard to the equality of women and minorities.
As for the Shellfish Eaters (“Shells” as they called themselves and “Eaters” as they were called derogatorily), the past decade had seen remarkable progress in their efforts to gain equality. There had been a cultural shift, as shellfish could now be eaten on TV – Network TV – and no one even blinked an eye. There were even prominent Shells that had come out of the freezer, and were applauded and respected for doing so.
But there was a hollowness to this liberation. Because to the right of all this acceptance was simmering hatred. There were still millions of Americans who not only abstained from Shellfish (Abstainers, they called themselves), but actively despised the Shells and truly wanted them to be eliminated.
Some demanded that Shells work to suppress their desires or pray them away. Some worked day and night to put laws on the books that would not just ban shellfish, but ban Shells themselves. Some just wanted to hurt or even murder Shells. There were scary people in the U.S., and more of them than anyone liked to imagine.
And because of this increasingly loud but increasingly small minority, true civil rights for Shells were still just a dream. Shells that had come out of the freezer couldn’t serve in the military, couldn’t adopt children, couldn’t get married, and were denied an almost incalculable amount of rights that Abstainers received.
“Think of the children,” was the common refrain. It made almost no sense, however. The desire to eat shellfish wasn’t something that could be passed along. You were either a Shell or you weren’t. The need to consume exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates wasn’t a choice. It was as natural as could be. Even most species of animals were involved in shellfish eating to one extent or another.
Senator McBride understood all of this. But as the Senator from Arizona, one of the nation’s most conservative states, it was his job to ignore it and do whatever he could to mollify his hyper-conservative Christian constituency. It was his job to put his foot on the gut of the Eaters.
Mind you, the Senator didn’t really care one way or the other. Votes were what mattered, not minorities, women or Shells. But this issue had taken on national significance. The blogs were out of control, screaming for Shell Civil Rights. The right to eat Shellfish – which was still outlawed in 45 states – had become a cause célèbre, with more and more celebrities and those with influence jumping into the water daily.
While Sen. McBride didn’t hate Shells, he did hate liberals. And liberal bloggers could all be lined up and shot on pay-per-view for all he cared. Actually, he fantasized about that a lot more often than was healthy. So when he stepped up to the Senate podium to give his remarks about a bill that would repeal the U.S. military’s ban on Shells, he concentrated on the Liberals. Screw them.
“My friends, I know the military. I am a proud veteran, and I tell you now that allowing Eaters to openly infiltrate our military will put every last American at risk. I stand firmly against Eaters in the military. Eaters can take the road to Hell if they like, but they will not take this country with them! Not while I’m in this Senate!”
Sen. McBride took a breath and surveyed the Senate. On the right, his Republican colleagues cheered, some even hooted and hollered. To his left, he saw his Democratic foes looking at him with disgust. This. This was what it was all about for the long-time Senator and one-time Presidential candidate. And he was just getting started.
At the exact same moment that Sen. McBride was working to deny Jeremy’s rights as an American citizen, Jeremy was outside of Congress holding a protest sign.
“Shrimp is not a 4-Letter Word: Equal Rights Now!” the sign said. It was just one of hundreds of signs in a peaceful protest rally that had drawn thousands of Shells and Shell Allies. Standing next to his man, Jeremy felt a swell of pride run through his body.
The six months prior to this protest had been the best of his life. After weeks of nibbling on lobster, crayfish, shrimp, oysters and other shelled delicacies in the privacy of their own home, Jeremy could not take it anymore. Things felt so good. So right. He was fulfilled. He was finally free and he wanted to shout it out to the world. And he did. With Michael at his side, he came out of the freezer to his parents.
It went terribly. His mother cried. His father threw them out of the house.
“I did not raise a disgusting eater!” his father screamed at him as they left.
It hurt Jeremy terribly. He had lost his family because of something some idiot had written a billion years ago. He decided to stay in the freezer. That lasted a day. It was too late. He was out now, and there was no going back.
Two week’s later, Jeremy’s father called and asked his son to come visit him. When his father told him that all he wanted was his son, and his eating habits were nothing to him, a weight came off Jeremy’s chest. In time, his entire family not only learned to accept Jeremy as a Shell, but they supported him, as well.
This. This was what it was all about for the long-time frozen Shell. And he was just getting started.
With Sen. McBride’s help, the ban on Shells in the military stayed in place. Shells still could not get married. An employer still could fire a Shell just for being a Shell. Shellophobes were more blatant than ever.
But at that moment, the Senator could care less. He was crying. Actually, he was bawling as he sat in front of Pastor Doug.
“I’m sooooo screwed,” whined Sen. McBride, a small snot bubble forming and popping.
The Pastor looked down at him. His arrival at the Senator’s home was part of the well-oiled public relations effort to revive McBride’s image after he had been caught throwing down oysters in a Las Vegas motel room. The public was outraged at the hypocrisy.
So the Senator cried. And he cried real tears. Because one of the women he was eating oysters with was actually a liberal blogger. He had been a Shell since he was 12, but was so far in the freezer he had a burn. There had been rumors, of course, but no one dared make such an accusation in public about a war hero. But this Liberal blogger had him dead to rights, and the Internet exploded with the news. The secret video the blogger had taken became the year’s most viewed. Sen. McBride’s secret life as a Shell had gone viral.
“People will forget,” said Pastor Doug, thinking about the money that would pour into his church for his breakthrough performance as the man who saved Sen. McBride’s soul. “Just start focusing on immigration issues and everything will be just fine.”
“Shut Up!” shouted McBride, standing up and taking a deep breath. His re-election chances had taken a mighty blow. The public wanted a True Abstainer, not an Abstainer in name only. He was screwed. And he knew it.
“Fucking liberals!” he shouted at no one in particular.
Jeremy and Michael never heard them coming. Walking down the street, holding hands after enjoying a delicious feast of shrimp scampi at the medical shellfish restaurant (not having shellfish gave them headaches, they told the doctor), they were in their own private heaven. How could God punish someone for doing what came so naturally and felt so right, thought Jeremy? He looked at his fiancee and smiled, love making him feel almost dizzy. And then Jeremy saw Michael take off and fly away.
“You fucking Eaters are going to Hell,” screamed one of the attackers. Jeremy felt a flash of fear. And then he felt the back of his head explode. And the lights went out.
Five days later, someone turned on the lights again. Jeremy’s eyes opened. And Michael was the first thing he saw.
“Hey Honey,” said Michael, his eyes swollen from tears but his smile dazzling. “They said I might see you today. We got attacked. But you’re going to be Ok.”
Michael leaned over and gave Jeremy the lightest kiss he could. To Jeremy, it felt like a punch in the mouth, so bruised was his entire face. But the kiss was also the most delicious he had ever been given. He smiled up at Michael. Or at least tried to smile. His face would take a year and two surgeries to fix.
“We’re going to be Ok,” said Jeremy, through his broken teeth. To Michael, the words sounded like “Werging Bee Kays.” But he understood what his lover had said, nonetheless.
With that, Jeremy closed his eyes. And for whatever reason, for the first time, he really believed they’d be Ok. The fight would continue, and he’d be there. He’d march, protest, write letters and vote. He wouldn’t quit. There would be equal rights for Shells, and if some Shellophobes thought this beating was taking him out of the fight, they had another thing coming.
Because Jeremy had finally, truly come out of his shell.
Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles
August 27, 2010
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3
August 23, 2010
NEW YORK – Ann Thomson, an 83-year-old widow, was awoken last last night to screams of protests by angry conservatives at her her home on 39th Street, in an area known as Hell’s Kitchen.
The protesters were angry that Thompson, a long-time liberal, had told a friend that she didn’t mind the Islamic Center being built two blocks away from Ground Zero.
Opponents chanted “No mosque, no way!” and carried signs reading, “9-11-01: Never Forget,” as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” blared over loudspeakers.
Thomson, who has lived in the same apartment for 34 years, said she wasn’t sure what the fuss was all about.
“I read the papers and watch TV. I know that the center is for Sufi Muslims, and they are no friend to al Qaeda,” said Thomson.”
Still, the protesters, led by professional Muslim hater Pam Atlas, said having a liberal live so close to America’s Hallowed Ground was a slap in the face to all freedom loving people.
“I have records that show Thomson voted for Obama,” said Atlas, arms and legs akimbo. “If we are going to allow liberals to live within 50 blocks of the most hallowed ground in America, then we may as well just accept Sharia Law.”
For her part, Thomson seemed unperturbed by the protest.
“I just turned down my hearing aid and went to bed,” said Thomson. I had my gun ready, just in case. Because, you know, liberals are allowed to have guns, too.”
The crowd left Thomson’s building early in the morning, and went to scream at an Italian guy who was selling falafels in a cart near Broadway.
“The food of Satan,” screamed Atlas, hair akimbo.
July 12, 2010
Futurama tackles an issue on which we all have an opinion – Robosexual marriage. And wouldn’t you know, it’s a closeted robosexual leading the charge against robot/human marriage:
|Futurama||Thursdays 10pm / 9c|
|No on Infinity|
June 27, 2010
“I am a transsexual sportswriter. It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words. … When you reach the point when one gender causes heartache and unbearable discomfort, and the other brings more joy and fulfillment than you ever imagined possible, it shouldn’t take two tons of bricks to fall in order to know what to do.”
– Christine Daniels, April 26, 2007.
Less than a year ago, I was waiting for a flight at an airport in Portugal when a tall, very striking woman caught my eye. Unable to look away for a moment, I noticed something about the woman – she was transgendered. I immediately poked my wife and whispered, “Wow, look at her, that’s a man.”
I’ve thought a lot about my reaction that day, feeling both guilty and introspective. It still bothers me that I – as someone who has so often written about LBGT rights – so easily reverted to an unenlightened spectator, looking and speaking of this woman as if she were an oddity rather than a fellow human.
While I have made efforts to understand and support transgendered people, I must confess that I have often so focused on the LGB much more than the T. And as someone who is very well aware that violence against the transgendered is both commonplace and horrific, it is a confession that hurts my soul. But it is also something I work to rectify.
Which brings me to Mike and Christine. Born Mike Penner, he was a long-time sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times. Then, more than three years ago, Mike Penner went on vacation. And came back as Christine Daniels. She wrote about her decision in a beautiful column for the Times:
Today I leave for a few weeks’ vacation, and when I return, I will come back in yet another incarnation.
Christine’s announcement was initially met with a rush of positivity, as readers wrote in to support her.
“Writing that piece, which I didn’t initially want to write, ended up becoming one of the best things I have ever done,” Daniels said in an interview. “And a day I dreaded all my life has ended up being one of the best days I’ve ever had.”
I hate to be judgmental about these things, but Christine is not an attractive woman. Which probably isn’t a surprise when you’re 50 and have spent your in-the-world life as a fairly drab guy. Who has a fairly prominent Adam’s apple (not all of us do) … Who also isn’t exactly petite. Maybe 6-1, 200?
So … she looks like a guy in a dress, pretty much. Except anyone paying any attention isn’t going to be fooled — as some people are by veteran transvestites. …
The thing is, and maybe this is cruel, but there were women in that room who were born women in body as well as soul. And the difference between them and Christine was, in my mind, fairly stark.
It seemed almost as we’re all going along with someone’s dress-up role playing … and I assume it’s far more important than that inside this person’s head. But it’s going to take a while for the Average Joes among us to get our minds around this. And I’ve got to assume Christine understands that.
For a while, she thrived as Christine. She wrote a blog for the Times titled “Woman in Progress” where she detailed her changes and her life. And offered invaluable support to other transgendered people. She used her new name as her byline. Then, after less than a year, Christine Daniels took time away from the Times. And returned again. As Mike Penner, in byline only as he worked from home.
“Eight months into the transition, we started hearing less from Christine. By the middle of 2008, we heard nothing. By October, she’d gone back to the Mike Penner byline, writing a notes column from his LA house. He didn’t return e-mails, texts or calls,” wrote ESPN columnist Rick Reilly.
I write this to remind myself and others to not overlook or ignore the “T” in LBGT Pride Month. I write this to remind myself and others that to be progressive means to embrace all who don’t comfortably fit into an easily understood box. I write this to remind myself and others that to be a supporter of LGBT rights means you must be a supporter of transgender rights.
As much as that, though, I write this as a thank you to Mike and Christine.
Mike Penner, the veteran Los Angeles Times sportswriter who made international headlines in 2007 when he announced he was transsexual and began working under the byline “Christine Daniels,” has died.
Colleagues said today that Penner was found dead at his Los Angeles home and that suicide was the suspected cause of death. He was 52.
Originally posted at Alan Colmes’ Liberaland.
June 24, 2010
June is LGBT Pride Month. I, like many, have often overlooked the Transgender part of that equation, even though I’m well aware of the violence and intolerance directed toward them. I wrote down some of my thoughts on that issue in my latest post at Alan Colmes’ Liberaland – Mike and Christine.
McChrystal’s Ouster: Gen. Stanley McChrystal is out and Gen. David Petraeus is in. But that doesn’t change the fact that things are still out of control in Afghanistan.
Still Gushing: For a time, yesterday, British Petroleum’s oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico was going full force. But with the cap back on and new plans in the works, BP is anticipating the gusher to be stopped … some day.
Health Care Woes: Remember when Republicans argued that the U.S. had the world’s best health care system? They were lying.
Twitsky: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has now entered the world of Twitter. Lenin weeps.
Jesus Returns: Forty percent of Americans believe that Jesus will return by 2050. If they really read the Bible, they’d be terrified.
USA! USA!: Nearly 24 hours after Landon Donovan’s World Cup-saving goal against Algeria, no referee has come forward to disallow it. So I think the U.S. is safely into the Final-16. Looking forward and dreaming: The U.S. could find itself in the semi-finals with wins over Ghana and South Korea if things play out right. But it’s all gravy from here on out for the boys in Red, White & Blue.
Still Playing: At Wimbledon, John Isner and Nicolas Mahu played for 10 hours until darkness forced them to stop – with the fifth-set tiebreaker at 59-59.
Bad Astronomy: Whooping cough is now an epidemic in California. Another victory for Jim Carrey and his merry band of ant-vaxxers.
Campaign for America’s Future: Every way you measure it, it’s been downhill for all but the wealthy since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981.
Trini Salt Like: The U.S. may have destroyed Trinidad’s World Cup dreams 20 years ago, but here’s one transplanted Trinidadian who has learned to love U.S.
Tweet of the Day
“If Italy can beat Slovakia by three or more goals in #worldcup tomorrow, McChrystal gets his job back. FIFA has weird rules.”
June 17, 2010
BP Shares Go Up: One right-wing talking point will have to take a break – despite destroying the Gulf and having President Barack Obama speak sternly and take $20 billion from them, shares of BP went up.
BP Controls the Media: While his separation is what is on people’s minds, Al Gore stands up against BP’s censuring of Gulf news.
Prop. 8: The closing argument for Proposition 8 supporters? Marriage is for having children. Luckily, my child-less marriage still stands.
Forever Young: Say what you will about jellyfish, but the turritopsis nutricula may just be immortal.
Argentina Scores Big: Despite having its defense pressed by a scrappy South Korean squard, the magic of Leo Messi and goal-scoring of Gonzalo Higuaín led Argentina to a 4-1 World Cup triumph.
Swiss Stun Spain: After being unbeatable the past few years (except for a Confederation Cup loss to the U.S.), Spain was flat and unable to stop a focused Switzerland, losing 1-0 in the biggest upset of the World Cup, thus far.
ScienceBlogs: The worst-case scenario for the British Petroleum oil disaster? It’s not pretty.
Alternet: The Tea Party movement is faux-conservative.
Towleroad: When Eminem comes out in favor for Gay Marriage, you know the tide has turned.
Daily Beast: BP boss Tony Heyward to apologize, spread the blame around in front of Congress today.
Tweet of the Day
“Breaking: After meeting Thatcher, Sarah Palin to dig up Ronald Reagan for discussion on Conservative issues.”
June 16, 2010
Obama on the Oil Spill: Taking to his biggest bully pulpit, President Barack Obama laid out steps the government has taken and will take in fighting British Petroleum’s oil disaster. The final step? Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.
Ashburn Changes Course: Since being nabbed for a DUI coming from a Gay bar, California Sen. Roy Ashburn has seen the light. This Q&A showcases the new and improved Ashburn.
Prop. 8 Closing Arguments: The Federal Trial to judge whether California’s Proposition 8 is Constitutional is today. Here’s a handy guide to follow the action.
Wealth Inequality in U.S.: Not that facts should matter, but we are truly living in a second Gilded Age.
More: The first steps toward austerity in the U.S., the Truth of Bloody Sunday finally revealed, Arizona wants to toss American children out of the country, Westboro Baptist Church brainwashing children with hate.
Brazil Beats N. Korea: The North Koreans did all they could to slow down powerful Brazil, but an impossible-angle goal by Brazilian Maicon helped lead Brazil to the three points in its first 2010 World Cup match. In news from Brazil – the whole nation was up until 3 a.m. shooting fireworks after the game, my dogs are going to have a long World Cup.
Portugal-Ivory Coast Tie: Not a lot to say about this evenly matched game, except that when it comes to the top players in the world – Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – I’ll take the humble and professional Messi over the vain and spoiled Ronaldo any time.
Bonus Portugal & Brazil Fact: You know how Polish jokes have long been a staple of American humor? Well, in Brazil they make those exact same jokes – but about the Portuguese. It’s a fact.
Lakers Force Game 7: When the Lakers are playing at their best, Boston has no chance. In Game 6, the Lakers left it all on the court, and forced a Game 7 with a remarkably efficient 89-67 victory.
Black Politics on the Web: The election of Barack Obama hasn’t translated into more Black political candidates.
David G. Simmons: Taking a look at Obama’s speech from the Oval Office.
DagBlog: The great Libertarian wonderland of New Hampshire is not quite all it’s cracked up to be.
Tweet of the Day
“Remember when Ronald Reagan solved the Iranian Hostage Crisis thru power of Prayer (and selling arms to Iran)?”
May 5, 2010
Dear Mr. Rekers,
We just wanted to send you a message to thank you for choosing Rentboy.com to “carry your luggage” and helping give us more publicity than we could have ever hoped for. Your help will put us on top this year.
So again, thank you so much for choosing Rentboy.com, and remember, if you ever need your luggage carried again, we’ve got the boys for you.
The RentBoy.com Team.
P.S.: Give our love to James.
April 28, 2010
Eugene Delgaudio, the Republican District Supervisor in Sterling, Virginia, is a man that works hard to spread homophobia and keep many rights away from gay and lesbian Americans.
But in writing a fund-raising appeal, Delgaudio somehow turned all that hate into one big homoerotic masturbation story. An Expert from Thomas Wellborn at Alan Colmes’ Liberaland:
Trembling with worry I went inside. It was worse than I ever imagined. Row after row of boxes bulging with pro-homosexual petitions lined the walls, stacked to the ceiling. My mind reeled as I realized hundreds, maybe thousands, more boxes were already loaded on the tractor-trailers. And still more petitions were flying off the press.
Suddenly a dark-haired man screeched, “Delgaudio what are you doing here?” Dozens of men began moving toward me. I’d been recognized. As I retreated to my car, the man chortled, “This time Delgaudio we can’t lose.”
Driving away, my eyes filled with tears as I realized he might be right. This time the Radical Homosexuals could win.
Ok, seriously, I’m heterosexual but that was starting to get me hot and bothered. Too bad it was written by a homophobic hate-monger.
Read more at The Washington Note.
March 5, 2010
WASHINGTON – Faced with waves of Republican pressure over the handling of the Khalid Sheik Mohammed trial, U.S. President Barack Obama has announced that he will personally shoot the terrorist mastermind in the head.
“Khalid Sheik Mohammed is evil incarnate, and he must be dealt with in a way that will protect our citizens,”said Obama. “Therefore, I will bi-partisanly blow his brains out myself.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the President thought long and hard about his decision.
“Being that Khalid Sheik Mohammed is not a human, shooting him in the head is not against the law,” said Gibbs.
The shooting will take place on April 1, and will be televised on the new C-Span Pay-per-view channel. The shooting will be followed by a mixed-martial arts battle between UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir.
“If you order 24 hours a head of time, you get $5 off,” said Gibbs.
The White House has yet to say which type of gun they will use on Mohammed, though former presidential candidate John McCain advised using a “big-ass shotgun.” McCain added that he had been confident that Obama would back down on civil liberty issues like the KSM trial, as it’s been something he has done in the past.
“Finally, we’re treating foreign criminals the way they should be treated,” said former Vietnam hostage John McCain. “Soon, he’ll back down on things like health care, as well.”
February 26, 2010
HEAVEN – God, the all-powerful entity that controls all things on the planet, spoke to his people today for the first time in hundreds of years. Using the voice of actor Dennis Haysbert so that he wouldn’t shatter the eardrums and souls of ordinary humans, God was swift and to the point.
“Beauty Pageant Contestants are all going to Hell,” said God, 46. “Did you not read what I said about pride?”
God’s surprise announcement comes only days after Miss California contestant Lauren Ashley said that gays and lesbians should be put to death.
“If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination,” Ashley reportedly said to Fox News. “They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.”
God’s comment regarding Pride has to do with Proverbs 8:13, where God says” “Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”
God ended his speech with a warning toward judgmental beauty contestants and their families.
“How about you people lead your lives, and then I’ll judge you,” said God, originally from Cerritos, Calif. “Oh, and if you enter your young child in a beauty pageant, you get eternal damnation. No compromises.”
“Beauty pageant contestants are an abomination,” said Palin. “I’ve always believed that.”
February 22, 2010
My friends, we live in a dangerous time of social and cultural revolution. And those revolutions have turned political, meaning the very fate of the United States is in the balance.
That is why we must learn from terrorists like Andrew Joseph Stack. We must not allow these type of people to again get through our guard. I speak of aging white guys who hate taxes. They will take us all down in a blood-splattered massacre and have us kneeling to the West praying to their God if they could.
And that is the truly frightening part – they have enormous numbers. You can’t swing a stunned ferret without smacking one of them. They’re easy to spot – they are white, with no discernible ethnicity aside from color. They are pissed off. Constantly. They are not young.
Look around. There are probably a couple near you as you read this very sentence. Don’t stare.
While the United States has the world’s largest military by far and could pulverize the world right now if it was how we rolled, it is not without its weaknesses. A nation as large and diverse as the United States is not able to be defended from threats inside and out. Which is why we must start being wiser.
Because while the U.S. is on the lookout for every Muhammad, Ahmed and Hamid, it is truly every Tom Dick, and in this case, Joe that we have to fear.
Think about it – not only did Stack manage to get a plane and the ability to fly it into buildings, he did so without landing on anyone’s radar. It was a security breakdown of Apocalyptic proportions.
This is why I believe that aging white guys pissed off about their taxes have become the most dangerous sector of society. It is time we take notice.
The Founding Fathers didn’t create the great experiment known as the United States of America just so some angry white guys who hate paying taxes could screw it all up. This is a fight for survival. It’s time to take the fight to them.
February 8, 2010
It seems the moment that Barack Obama took over the Presidency of the United States, his overall message changed. “Change We Can Believe in” morphed into “Bipartisanship: Now and Forever.” Like Bill Clinton before him, the need for Republican acceptance has become a an almost fetish for Obama, with the results thus far quite predictable – the U.S. government is now radically partisan.
Of course, there’s one thing Obama could do – today – that would briefly appease some of his most vociferous critics. That would be to pardon Jack Johnson.
Jack Johnson was the first African-American Heavyweight champion. And despite having not thrown a punch in anger in more than 70 years, and having been dead for more than 60 years, many still consider him the greatest boxer in history.
As one can imagine, being the first Black Heavyweight champion – he won the title in 1908 – led to Johnson being the most reviled figure of his time. A surge of racism ran through the blood of even the most prominent writers and politicians of the day, and a concerted effort was made to take him down. To White America, the flashy and cocky Johnson needed to be shown his place.
Unable to find a white man to beat Johnson in the ring, they used the legal system to take him down. In 1912, Johnson was first arrested for a violation of the odious Mann Act. Unable to secure a conviction, he was then again arrested in 1913 for the same offense. The offenses? “Transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes.” Johnson knew both women well. The “crimes” he committed actually took place before the Mann Act had been ratified. But the U.S. judicial system did what no white boxer could do. They beat Jack Johnson, sentencing him to a year and a day in Federal prison.
Simply put, Jack Johnson had been convicted for being an unapologetic Black man.
Johnson fled the country, eventually losing his title to Jess Willard in 1915. Johnson finally returned to the U.S. in 1920, and served his sentence in Leavenworth. It is long past time for that sentence to be stricken from his record.
Jack Johnson does not deserve to be pardoned for being a good man. He was, in fact, a bad man in many aspects, with the onus of that description being his violence and abuse of women. But this is not about Johnson’s other sins.
Jack Johnson does not deserve to be pardoned because it’s African-American History Month. That is but an intangible moment of time.
Jack Johnson does not deserve to be pardoned because Barack Obama is the first African-American to serve as President. That is ridiculousness.
Jack Johnson deserves to be pardoned because he was arrested and tormented by the U.S. government solely because he was a Black man. His story is by no means unique. But his prominence and historical importance makes his story stand out and helps us all recognize the blatant crimes committed against African-Americans by America’s judicial system. His arrest – like many so many others – was purely racially motivated.
Both the House and Senate have demanded that Johnson be pardoned. The bill is on President Obama’s desk. But he won’t sign it. Because the Justice Department said it prefers to focus its pardon resources on people “who can truly benefit” from them.
“In terms of Jack Johnson, I think the Department of Justice came back recommending — not recommending a pardon on that,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
The resolution Congress passed to pardon Johnson said in part that it was “for the racially motivated conviction in 1913 that diminished the athletic, cultural, and historic significance of Jack Johnson and unduly tarnished his reputation … [It would] expunge a racially motivated abuse of the prosecutorial authority of the federal government from the annals of criminal justice in the United States.”
It is long past time to pardon Jack Johnson. The posthumous pardon has bi-partisan support, as Sen. John McCain and Rep. Peter King – Republicans both – are among those that have championed his cause.
But Jack Johnson should not be pardoned because it achieves some type of non-partisan unity. He should be pardoned because he was imprisoned for being a Black man. He should be pardoned because it would truly benefit us all.