By my count, I've been out for 17 years, since late winter of 1993, when I began telling my family that I had a girlfriend, and that they would be meeting her at my college graduation. I suppose I'd been out to varying degrees before that (out to friends, out in class) but for me opening out my family was my first sense of "coming out." My family was very encouraging, and I felt very lucky to have come out in such supportive circumstances.
What I've learned over and over since then is that coming out is never over. This is true for a couple of different reasons. One is that we change and as we change we need to keep coming out. Another is that we continually meet new people who were not part of our lives during our initial coming out process and so we are always coming out to the new people in our lives.
I came out first as lesbian. I thought that I had left romantic and sexual relationships with men behind when I discovered my desire and love for women. Later I met a man who made me rethink that. I found myself deeply attracted to him despite his gender and realized that I'd created an artificial wall for myself between my ideas about gender and my ideas about sexual orientation. In terms of gender I was willing to accept a range of expression and a lack of anything more that socially constructed reality behind the discreet categories of "man" and "woman." Indeed in thinking about my own gender I much more often felt like someone who existed in the borderlands between gender categories than like someone who was entirely "woman". Yet, during my process of opening up sexually, I had kept a tight boundary around my sexual orientation, linking it only to women for a couple of years until this man caused me to reexamine my desires.
Some good news from the US Supreme Court this week: Schools do not have to tolerate discrimination. Sound like a radical decision? If you believe the dissenters you'd think that free speech as we know it is about to fall to pieces. Don't be fooled.
The question was whether or not a student organization that intended to exclude gay and lesbian students was entitled to official recognition as a student club, a status which would entitle them to use of school resources (funding, computers, facilities), and use of the school's name and logo. The school is Hastings College of the Law and the student organization is the Christian Legal Society.
Lawyers for Hastings argued that it was simply enforcing a policy that required all official student organizations to be open to all Hastings students. (Actually, as the editorial page of the New York Times points out, first they asserted that the club violated their nondiscrimination policy, then later shifted strategies to focus on the narrower "all comers" policy which says that student clubs must be open to all interested students.) Lawyers for the CLS students argued that the policy in question violated students' rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.
A bit of satire for you by Susie Day
WITH HELP, HETEROSEXUALS CAN BECOME GAY
(PU) A recently released study has found that heterosexuals can, with effort, become gay. Eighty-six percent of a survey group of straight women and men were able, through various forms of reparative therapy, to transform their sexual orientation and achieve “good homosexual functioning.”
Dr. Marvin Flabcock, of the American Psychiatric and Floral Design Association, conducted interviews with 200 former heterosexuals who expressed satisfaction at finally becoming “full human beings.” Dr. Flabcock said that he cannot yet estimate what percentage of the larger heterosexual population can become gay, but that if heterosexuals are “highly motivated,” there is hope. “The secret is self-hatred,” stated Dr. Flabcock. “You’ve really got to loathe yourself if you want to lead a normal life.”
Most of the study’s participants said that, in order to effect their sexual transformation, they used more than one form of reparative therapy, including support groups, individual counseling, or dressing up in monks’ robes and flagellating themselves in deserted grade school restrooms. Many of their sexual conversions were religious in nature.
“Praise Jesus!” cried a recently self-avowed lesbian, one of several study participants who agreed to be interviewed for this article. “For years, I was boy-crazy,sin-soaked, and born-to-breed. But my encounters with the opposite sex were quick, empty, and loveless, and I hated the decadent heterosexual culture. Then, through intensive therapy and daily prayer, I was able to uncover a childhood trauma in which I was once yelled at and made to clean the erasers by a heterosexual math teacher. It really screwed up my sexuality, and gave me terrible math anxiety. But with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, I saw that girl-on-girl action is part of God’s plan for us. I still can’t do long division, though.”
Winning rights isn't about patience. It is about persistence and perseverance and the recognition of progress that it happens.
A wonderful orator, he started with gratitude for the opportunity to open for Lady GaGa. He went on to say many important things but one was "None of us wants to be defined by just one part of what makes us whole" after saying that every issue he deals with touches on the LGBT community: jobs, war, schools, health care. EVERYTHING is an LGBT issue. And he recognized progress made in some areas specific to LBGT communities while acknowledging that progress has not come fast enough in other areas, saying that it was not for him to counsel patience any more than it would have been appropriate to counsel patience for African Americans during the civil rights movement.
Meanwhile in DC:
- President Obama attended the HRC event and promised to sign the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill next week.
- President Obama acknowledged that LGBT residents are denied their full rights and responsibilities as citizens, but also that justice is not done by seeing people for a single part of their identities.
- President Obama indicated that he supported an inclusive ENDA.
- President Obama said we are going to end the discriminatory practice of keeping people out of the country based on HIV/AIDS status.
- President Obama indicated that we are moving ahead on Don't Ask Don't Tell.
- President Obama called for the rest of us to pressure him to make the case across America that these changes and others need to be made.
Is there much more that needs to be done.
Can we do it?
Yes, we can.
(Do I still get a thrill out of typing 'President Obama'? Yes, I do!)
Where is thy kindness
Hid in the heart
Where is thy cruelty
Below the belt
What doth the one hand
Holds the heart
What doth the other
Unbuckles the belt
Who sings thy song
My soul and my sex
To whom do they sing
Each to the other
Where is thy kindness
Below the belt
Where is thy cruelty
Hid in the heart
--From "The Male Muse", edited by Ian Young, 1972
Good news today from the Iowa Supreme Court: In a unanimous decision the court ruled that the state's ban on same sex marriages violated the equal protection clause. The original lawsuit was filed in 2005 challenging Polk County's denial of marriage licenses to six couples. A lower court found that the denials were unconstitutional and this ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court upholds that lower court ruling.
The case is called Varnum v. Brien and you can see the full decision in PDF form here.
According to a Huffington Post article, it is unlikely that the Polk County Attorney's office does not plan to ask for a rehearing, and according to John Sarcone, the Polk County Attorney, the decision can't be challenged in the courts by same sex marriage opponents because they have no legal standing, and the case does not raise any federal issues.
It sounds like marriage may be secure in Iowa in a few weeks. Of course opponents are furious, asking if this "perversion" is allowed what will be next, and no doubt they are already lobbing for an amendment to the Iowa constitution.
According to the anti same sex marriage Alliance Defense Fund's DOMA Watch, thirty states have amendments defining marriage as exclusively one-man+one-woman. Ten others have legislation that ban same-sex marriage. Iowa was one of those 10, and now it's ban has been declared unconstitutional.
This is an issue that ultimately needs to be settled at the federal level. Marriage should not be a state-by-state prerogative. I should not have to worry, if I move from one state to another, that my marriage will no longer be valid because of the gender of my partner. The Defense of Marriage Act needs to be repealed and the US Supreme Court needs a case like the Loving v. Virginia in which arguments can be made that prohibiting marriage based on gender is as unconstitutional as prohibiting marriage based on race.
Two nights ago someone (or some group) vandalized the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth Center (LIGALY). The front door was shattered as were the windows on the van that LIGALY uses to help teenagers get to the Center for meetings and social events. Nothing was stolen. It was clearly an act intended to send a message rather than for any kind of personal gain.
LIGALY (pronounced "legally") is one of my favorite Long Island organizations. It was started by David Kilmnick, who I'm proud to say is a friend of mine. He began with nothing but an idea for a project as he worked toward his Masters in Social Work and built one of the most powerful and wide-reaching LGBT organizations on the Island. (He also got his Doctorate in Social Work along the way.) LIGALY now serves not only young people but also LGBT seniors, offering social, educational, and support services. Its Safe Schools Initiative helps counter homophobia in schools, and offers organizing assistance to students wanting to start or maintain Gay Straight Alliances in their schools.
The good news is that there has been an enormous show of support for LIGALY. David reports thatthere have been phone calls, blog entries, news stories, and even a letter from Governor Paterson. Most importantly just since yesterday there have been enough donations to help get the Center's door fixed and its van back in service.And then there's the bad news.
City University of New York Graduate Center . Part archive, part museum, part encyclopedia, it is a rare resource in that it makes scholarship on LGBT history widely accessible outside of academic journals.
This very important project needs your help. Please make a donation if you can! Because of the economic crisis and its impact on public higher education in New York, CLAGS can't continue funding the project, and the grant that established OutHistory expires on December 31, 2008. In an email sent out today by CLAGS director Sarah Chinn and OutHistory director Ned Katz, the importance of the site and its need for funding is put like this: Continue reading after the jump
Good news from Connecticut this morning: The CT Supreme Court ruled that the state's marriage laws apply to same-sex couples making it the third state to allow same-sex marriage. Even better news: The governor, Jodi Rell, though she does not agree with the decision, will not challenge it. Of course challenges may come from elsewhere. There is a question on the November ballot asking whether direct initiatives should be allowed in CT, as they are in CA, where voters in November will be able to decide directly whether the state's constitution should be amended to expressly limit marriage to couples who fit the one man and one woman formula.
People like Pat Robertson or Fred Phelps will never succeed in silencing the voices of queers. They're too recognizably vile, and create an instant, impassioned response against them, to ever act as anything other than very good rallying points for people who believe in social justice and sexual equality. The worst enemies of sexual minorities come from within the LGBT communities themselves. They're the people whose vision of LGBT activism involves making the homos just like the heteros, and want that so badly that they strive not to broaden our culture's vision of sexuality, but instead work to narrow the community's vision of itself. Look, for example, at this quote from Joseph Sabrow's editorial in Metroline, a New England gay and lesbian publication, that Autumn Sandeen spotted: