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Archive for the ‘Gender and Sexuality’ Category

Politics, Humility and Homophobia: The Strangest Bedfellows of All


by: on October 14th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

I opened my email to the news that Governor Brown had vetoed AB 1229 which would have allowed local governments to require a smidgen of affordable housing along with luxury developments. Immediately, I felt tense and angry, outraged that rent control is illegal in California, and now this further setback. I was despondent and disgusted that a liberal governor would veto one tiny step toward affordable housing.

Then I opened another email about a community college inviting for-profit education companies, at least one of whom had said public education was “broken,” to hold a conference on campus.

My stomach tensed. My forehead ached. I felt antagonistic, judgmental, enraged and ready to shout.

Once this state of mind didn’t trouble me. I may even have welcomed the adrenaline.


Chuck Hagel: Not a Dot-Connecter


by: on October 12th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Over at The Atlantic, Steve Clemons has an in-depth interview with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. It is well worth reading. Clemons, who has opened up avenues of U.S. foreign policy discourse that were virtually nonexistent ten or fifteen years ago, is an unabashed supporter of Chuck Hagel. Therefore, don’t expect a Mike Wallace-style interview should you read it. Nonetheless, Clemons does draw Hagel out on a “whole host of issues” – as our dapper president would say – and that may not be such a great thing for Chuck Hagel, or the country. Indeed, if our nation’s enemies learn what a terrible dot-connecter the Secretary of Defense really is, we’re in more deep doo-doo than we thought.


This Massacre Must End: The Lethal Consequences of Compulsory Pregnancy


by: Margaret Morganroth Gullette on September 27th, 2013 | Comments Off

As soon as the Battered Women’s Shelter opened in my Sister City in Nicaragua, I got to know the abused girls (all thirteen to fifteen years old), who came to live there. I have a favorite, Adelina, the silent, skinny, thirteen-year-old who came first. Adelina had been prostituted by her mother to a neighbor who paid in groceries. Social services found out, arrested Adelina’s mother and neighbor, and sent Adelina to us.

(Credit: Amnesty International/ Creative Commons)

Adelina thought she was in love with the perpetrator. I met her the next morning, after her night of wakeful tears. I knelt down, watching her draw and speaking to her through a finger puppet. “Me gusta tu dibujo,” the puppet said in a squeaky voice: “I like your drawing.” Eventually, by saying “I wish I could draw, but I don’t have any fingers,” in puppet-voice, I succeeded in making her laugh. That laugh founded an affectionate relationship.

She lived in the shelter for over a year, studied, and proudly got admitted to the Free High School for Adults. Then she was remanded back to her mother, continuing to arrive for therapy every day. Now I learn she is pregnant, by a boy three years older. He is a drunk who has been seen passed out on the waterfront. I am distraught and helpless. She is vomiting and miserable.


Thou Shalt Not Employ a Transgender Professor? It’s Not a Verse in the Bible


by: on September 27th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

I don’t know H. Adam Ackley, the professor of theology at Christian Azusa Pacific University who was recently fired after coming out as transgender after teaching there for fifteen years, but having gone through my own difficult coming-out experience at Yeshiva University, I can imagine some of what Professor Ackley is going through.


Dr. H. Adam Ackley tells his students for the first time of his transgender identity. He had just written his name on the board. Credit: RNS/Annie Z. Yu.

Unlike Yeshiva University, Azusa doesn’t grant tenure. If I hadn’t received tenure before coming out, I am sure that like Professor Ackley, I would have been terminated, and for similar reasons. Some may think that religious universities are driven in this regard by fear of God, but there is no verse in the Bible in which God says, “Thou shalt not employ a transgender professor.” No, religious universities, like secular organizations that fire transgender employees, are acting out of fear of human beings: fear that students won’t register for classes with a transgender professor; fear of parents, who might send their children and tuition elsewhere; and fear, above all, of alienating alumni and other donors whose contributions keep the lights on and the doors open.


Burying the Aborted Dead: Can Pope Francis and Spiritual Progressives Find Common Ground?


by: on September 22nd, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Across the world, gay Catholics and allies have been rejoicing over the comments made by Pope Francis in his America magazine interview. Yet looking strictly at the pope’s comments on homosexuality, I see only a more clever iteration of the Catholic church’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” teaching. Frankly, as one who rejects sexual identity labels as nothing more than the social trauma-rooted intellectual residue of the twentieth century, and who embraces homosexuality as an extraordinary erotic gift from Almighty God that is available to all men and women of open mind and open heart, I think the pope’s ever-evolving cleverness on homosexuality is getting way too much attention.

Yet far more interesting and substantive are his remarks on abortion, given in his America magazine interview and subsequent sermon to a group of Catholic gynecologists.

Credit: Creative Commons

To the Catholic gynecologists, Francis said abortion was part of the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” Just a day earlier, the pope caused a stir stemming from his America magazine interview when he said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.”

Reviewing the pope’s zigzaggery on this issue, at least in terms of his communication style, a legitimate question could be raised: Could Pope Francis be trying to turn a new page on the Catholic approach to abortion, specifically an approach that would uphold the fundamental sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception, while simultaneously steering conservative Catholics away from their decades-long effort to use the heavy club of state power to control the lives of women who seek elective abortions?


Sacramento, Not Washington, Sets Pace for Immigration Reform


by: Elena Shore on September 17th, 2013 | Comments Off

(Cross-posted from New America Media)

SAN FRANCISCO – Local leaders of LGBT, women’s rights and immigrant rights groups are looking to Sacramento, not Washington, as the best hope for change.

(Credit: Creative Commons)

With federal immigration reform stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, activists here are turning their attention to a series of bills moving through the Democrat-controlled state legislature that could make California one of the most immigrant-friendly states in the nation — nearly 20 years after Republican Gov. Pete Wilson pushed to deny health care and public education to undocumented immigrants.

“The [national] landscape has changed in the past two weeks,” since the developments in Syria, said Ben de Guzman of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance in Washington, D.C. “We didn’t know what was going to happen on immigration reform; we have [even] less of a sense of what’s going to happen now.”

But one thing is clear: For many immigrant rights advocates, the greatest hope for reform may lie in Sacramento, not Washington.


Buffoon Politicians and the Saga of Anthony Weiner, et al.—A Systemic Disorder of Character


by: Phil Wolfson on August 16th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

I hate when people say ‘I told you so!’ but as I am now on the giving end, I find this is a bit of redemption that feels pleasurable. My piece that came out at the end of May entitled “The Soiled Men Want Your Vote! And They Think They Can Get It” was criticized by some of my male friends for picking on the Weiner fellow – perhaps because these friends sheepishly identified with him just a tiny bit. My friends claimed that I exaggerated Weiner’s responsibility, as his sexual peccati were not harmful to others and only hurt his own reputation – i.e., victimless follies. Of course, I noted to them that his wife, baby, and family would not be happy with him, but we all have our flaws, they rationalized. And I truly do not have a hard-on for the Weiner. He is a small fish indeed.

Anthony Weiner. Credit: Creative Commons/Talk Radio News Service.

And there seems to be a reliable addition of other foolish fellows, most recently including San Diego’s mayor Bob Filner with his unwanted intrusive actions towards his workers, a liberty of action he presumed kosher, lost as he is in his own powerful narcissism. Weiner is but one particle of the host in the cloud chamber – who knows how long they will last and where they are going? Hopefully, towards a rapid decay.

Personalities are hardly the focus of our interest – save as drama, scandal, the ridiculous, and exemplars of the perversion-producing nature of this system. In this sense, I was and am now focused on character and its persistent psychological and social manifestations.

On the individual level, we know it is hard to change and we have rigidities of personality that are often disconcerting, even to ourselves. I expected more revelations from Weiner and the possibility of his exhibitionism continuing. Yes, he could not stop – even after getting caught and suffering grievous harm. There is a lovely shrinky term for this kind of lapse in a presumably otherwise moral human: a superego lacunae, or hole in the fabric. It allows an escape from our otherwise controlled expressions.


Nuns Who Commit Sexual Abuse and the Annexation of Mercy


by: on August 15th, 2013 | 10 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons.

Steve Theisen, 61, is the Iowa director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Unlike the vast majority of men and women whose lives have been positively affected by the support SNAP provides to victims of clergy abuse, Theisen was not sexually abused by a Catholic priest: he was sexually abused by a Catholic nun.

The abuse began in the 4th grade, when Theisen was just nine-years-old. He stayed after class one day to wash the blackboards. Alone with the nun in the classroom, she showed him how the Eskimos kiss: by rubbing noses. Some weeks later, she then showed him how Americans kiss. Then a few more weeks passed. The nun then said to the boy, “This is how the French kiss.” And with that, the forty-something nun stuck her tongue in the boy’s mouth. It escalated from there. As Thiesen recalls, the nun never touched his genitals, and neither of them were ever disrobed. But from 4th through 6th grade, after school and sometimes on weekends, the nun would have him on the floor, French kissing and necking. Sometimes the nun would be on top of him, other times she put the boy on top of her.

Theisen also recalls sitting next to the nun in chapel. She would hold his hand under her religious habit so that no one would see.

It was not until well into adulthood that Theisen told someone what had happened to him: his therapist. It took 18 sessions with the therapist to finally open up about the experience that so affected his life. As Theisen explained to me, trust does not come easy to victims of child sex abuse.

Theisen’s testimony is gut-wrenching to hear, for those who are willing to listen. Not only did he live in daily fear as a child that someone would find out what was happening between him and the nun, he was also wracked by guilt. For when the school children would ask the nuns why they wore rings on their fingers, the nuns would tell the children that they were married to Christ. During the abuse, Theisen thought he was committing “the most grievous sin in the entire world because he was fooling around with Jesus’s wife.”


Bishop Katharine: Seeing the Divine in All People


by: on July 30th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Bishop Katharine, the first presiding woman bishop in the Anglican Communion. Credit: Creative Commons.

In May, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, came under blistering criticism within her own and other Christian denominations for a sermon she gave on the island nation of Curaçao. The sermon was so provocative that it led critics on the Christian right to charge that the first presiding woman bishop in the Anglican Communion was possessed by the devil.

In six sentences, the bishop upended a longstanding interpretation of an event recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, in which St. Paul is said to have delivered a young pagan slave girl from demonic possession. The slave girl was also a fortune-teller in the city of Philippi, and her craft brought great profit to her slave masters. When Paul and his companions arrived in Philippi to spread the Gospel, the girl followed them around, shouting to everyone, “These men are servants of the Most High God; they will make known to you a way of salvation.” The slave girl did this for several days until Paul finally got annoyed, turned to her and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you, come out of her!” (Acts 16: 17)

From then on, the slave girl was silenced.


Can’t Stop Here: DOMA, Immigration, Discrimination, and the Struggle Ahead


by: Claire Bohman on July 1st, 2013 | 1 Comment »

I remember the day that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was made into law. It was the fall equinox and it was cold and rainy that day in 1996. I was 15 years old. I was a part of a queer youth group in the DC area called SMYAL (Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League). We had been encouraged to attend a press conference announcing the anticipated passage of the bill. Honestly I don’t remember many of the details of that day. But I have a distinct memory of the feeling in my body during that press conference.

The Supreme Court's recent decision struck down much of DOMA and Proposition 8. Here, clergy and people of faith protest in the wake of Prop. 8's initial passage. Credit: Claire Bohman.

It was sometime in the afternoon. We were standing under a large tree somewhere around the Capitol. There wasn’t a lot of media there other than the gay press. Some Senator was giving a really depressing speech about the bill. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act had just failed again a few weeks before. I was a teenager, queer, and living in Virginia in the 1990s. What did I have to look forward to in this life? Congress had just sent a very clear message that my love wasn’t real love and that I wasn’t even worth a job.

The world seemed bleak and overwhelming the day that DOMA passed. I remember looking up at the leaves on the Oak tree as rain from the sky and mixed with the tears on my face. The rain was cold on that dark fall day. I remember feeling a deep chill of hopelessness inside my body as I rode the metro home. I couldn’t imagine what my life was going to look like as an adult in a world that hated me so much.

Last week the Supreme Court, by what seems like divine intervention, struck down much of DOMA and Proposition 8 in one fell swoop. After the racist repeal of the Voting Rights Act earlier last week, I was not feeling hopeful for a positive ruling on DOMA. I received the news from a childhood friend who still lives in Virginia. She and her partner have been waiting for this ruling to figure out the next steps in their lives. The victory is not a full victory because the clause in DOMA making it legal for states to deny marriage rights to same-sex married couples from other states was not challenged or changed. This means that states like Virginia do not need to recognize same-sex marriage.