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Archive for the ‘Gender and Sexuality’ Category



New Hope Ministries Offers No Hope At All

Feb2

by: on February 2nd, 2015 | Comments Off

Three women holding up a picture of Vanessa Collier at a demonstration

A pastor at New Hope Ministries in Colorado stopped Vanessa Collier's funeral in the middle of the service because she was a lesbian. Vanessa's friends are shown above, demonstrating at a rally in front of the church. Credit: Craig F. Walker/ The Denver Post)

I am continually amazed, but no longer surprised, when I witness incidents where individuals and entire denominations justify and perpetuate acts of bigotry and tyranny in the name of God and religion. From scorn, marginalization, forced conversion, and expulsion to kidnapping, rape, enslavement, invasion, and murder, throughout the ages up to our current epoch, people have taken literal and not-so-literal interpretations of their scriptures to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and entire nations targeted by these texts.

The latest incident in this heinous saga comes from the New Hope Ministries in Denver, Colorado when at approximately 15 minutes into conducting a funeral service, Pastor Ray Chavez suddenly stopped and announced that he will not continue. He then ordered that the funeral must be moved since, apparently, he discovered that the deceased was a lesbian.

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Running in High Heels? Not!

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

high heels

Credit: Creative Commons / SPERA.de Designerschuhe, Taschen und Accessoires

There is an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) television commercial that shows a woman in a short skirt and high heels while the voice over talks of finding a career you love at any age and about life reimagined. Whenever I see this spot called “I’ve Still Got It”, I think that when anyone is old enough for an AARP card, there are some things you should know, one of which is running in high heels is a dumb idea.

If you are old enough for an AARP card, you ought to be able to recognize a non sequitur, a logical fallacy where the premises do not lead to the stated conclusion. A miniskirt and high heels have nothing whatever to do with continued vitality as we age, nothing whatever to do with working on exciting projects either as a career or not after age 50, nothing whatever to do with re-imagining life’s possibilities.

If you are old enough for an AARP card, you should know, especially if you are a woman, the history of high heels. They were first used in ancient Persia by men who used the heels to keep them in stirrups when riding horses. Over time, high heels have been used by short kings and queens to make them appear taller. The aristocracy used them to distinguish themselves from the lower classes. The heels showed that unlike the lower classes, they did not have to walk. With the Enlightenment, men were thought to be rational and useful, in charge. They stopped wearing high heels. Women were seen as sentimental and as decoration. The more successful the man, the more beautiful the woman or women with which he was associated. Once upon a time, the only women who wore high heels were prostitutes. Today, many women wear high heels because they are supposed to make a woman’s legs look longer and shapelier. They cause her to walk with more sway to her hips. Many women wear high heels so that they feel confident and sexy.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Inescapable Network of Mutuality’

Jan20

by: on January 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

“My husband, Martin Luther King Jr., once said, .’We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny…an inescapable network of mutuality….I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be.’ Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”

— Coretta Scott King, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference Plenary Address, Atlanta, Georgia, 2000

At this time of year, as we commemorate and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am reminded once again of his vibrant image of the “inescapable network of mutuality” that links humanity. Dr. King envisioned an inclusive model of social justice because he believed that “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Though the concept of “social justice” has been defined a number of ways, I have constructed my definition as:

“The concept that local, national, and global communities functionwhere everyone has equal access to and equitable distribution of the rights, benefits, privileges, and resources, and where everyone can live freely unencumbered by social constructions of hierarchical positions of domination and subordinationbased onsocial identities.”

Yes, identities based on race and sexual and gender identities, for example, are very distinct, and the weight of oppression often falls on members of these groups differently. However, many argue that since “race” is an immutable biological trait that people are born with, certain protections must be provided to prevent the dominant group from persecuting minoritized “races.” They also assert that same-sex and both-sex attractions and gender identities and expressions outside the binary are not factors that people are born with but rather “choose” later in life, and therefore, they do not deserve nor require “special rights” for their chosen so-called “life styles.”

I see an underlying assumption to this argument: there are only limited rights to go around, and since there is such a scarcity of rights available, we must divide them among people on the basis of biology. This “scarcity” theory results in marginalized groups competing for what they see as the crumbs of a small and limited pie, rather than joining together to work for a larger and more equitable pie. This argument also fails in that it neither understands nor even acknowledges individuals’ intersecting and multiple identities or multiple positionalities from which they experience the world.

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LGBT Equality and the 2012 GOP Presidential Candidates

Jan14

by: on January 14th, 2015 | Comments Off

I would like to provide a bit of a historical retrospective as we begin to enter the sweepstakes for the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. I do this for the purpose of assessing whether Republicans — individual candidates and as a larger Party – remains attached to the policies of the past or has evolved and moved forward in terms of issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality (LGBT).

Back in 2011, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum described marriage for same-sex couples as “a hit to faith and family in America,” and he asserted that if legalized, “their sexual activity” would be seen as “equal” to heterosexual relationships, and it would be taught in schools. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” he continued. Previously, he said that marriage between same-sex couples will cause our country to “fall.”

When asked by Jane Schmidt, student coordinator of the Gay/Straight Alliance at Waverly High School in Waverly, Iowa on November 30, 2011, “Why can’t same-sex couples get married [throughout the United States]?,” Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann responded that gay and lesbian people should have “no special rights” to marry people of the same sex, insisting that “the laws are you marry a person of the opposite sex.” She added: “They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man.”

Bachmann has consistently represented same-sex attractions and sexuality as a “disorder” that encourages child abuse and “enslavement.” Her husband, Marcus, has been roundly criticized for his so-called “conversion therapy” (“praying away the gay”) practices at his Minnesota counseling center. Michelle Bachmann’s Iowa co-chair, Tamara Scott, was recorded as asserting that the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples would ultimately lead to people marrying turtles and inanimate objects, like the Eiffel Tower.

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Cruel & Tyrannical Christian ‘Conversion Therapies’

Jan13

by: on January 13th, 2015 | Comments Off

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was. They’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something….Fix society. Please.”

Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old trans* girl, wrote these tragically poignant words just before stepping in front of a 18-wheel tractor trailer on December 28, 2014 at 2:20 a.m. as she walked along the southbound lanes of I-71 near her home in Kings Mill, Ohio. Also in her suicide note, she outlined her troubled relationship with her conservative Christian parents who would not accept or support her trans* identity claiming their religious beliefs as justification. They sent her to a so-called “Christian therapist” who refused to grant her permission to undergo gender confirmation medical procedures.

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Marriage Equality: Not The Cure-All

Dec17

by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on December 17th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

This has been a good year for marriage rights for the LGBT community in the United States. Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor gutted the so-called Defense of Marriage Act – an unfortunate legacy of the Clinton administration – a tide of legal decisions has washed away state bans on marriage equality. At this moment, thirty-five states offer full access to marriage for same-sex couples, covering nearly two-thirds of the country’s population. Five more states are poised on the brink, and the high court has refused to even take up appeals from the forces of bigotry.

Yet while marriage is an important right that carries many benefits, opening the nuptial doors hardly signals the eradication of homophobia or misogyny. In twenty-nine states, it is still legal to discriminate against the LGBT community in employment, housing, and education. In fact, fourteen of the states that offer marriage equality simultaneously refuse to provide these basic protections (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming). And all of the five that are likely to have marriage equality soon (Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas) allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is a horrible disconnect. In practice it means that a couple who celebrate a happy, significant occasion are in fact opening themselves up to more discrimination, perhaps even the loss of their homes or livelihoods. Again, we have a labyrinthine system for LGBT individuals to navigate with a level of risk that can result in loss of income, housing, healthcare, and consequently further targets in their communities.

Employment discrimination sexual orientation in US

This map is current as of 2012. Credit: Creative Commons / Center for American Progress


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Remembering Leslie Feinberg—A Queer and Trans Fighter for Justice

Nov19

by: Dean Spade on November 19th, 2014 | Comments Off

I will never forget the first time I saw Leslie Feinberg speak – New York City, 1996. The auditorium was full of young people like me who had read Stone Butch Blues and wanted to hear about gender and queerness. Leslie spoke about those things, but also about war and labor struggles and racism and U.S. militarism, refusing to deliver the narrow single-issue politics that the mainstreaming gay rights discourse had trained us to expect. It blew my mind and transformed what I thought was possible to say and be. I still think of Leslie every time I give a speech, hoping to build connections like the ones I saw Leslie build.

Feinberg

Leslie Feinberg speaks at a rally.

I read Stone Butch Blues not long after I moved to New York City in 1995. The scenes from that book – scenes of violence as well as scenes of love and finding connection to resistance movements – were burned in my brain, shaping how I understood the city. I still think of scenes from that book each time I enter certain subway stations or walk certain streets. In so many ways, Leslie made maps for queer and trans Left activists that we all continue to use to navigate, whether we know it or not.

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Smash Hit Gone Girl Just Reinforces Rape Stereotypes

Nov19

by: Jessica Renae Buxbaum on November 19th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Gone Girl

Credit: Creative Commons/lajmi.net

Since the film’s release on October 3, Gone Girl still remains number three at the box office, has garnered $300 million worldwide making it almost the biggest money-making film yet, has a rating of 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and is even in the running for the Oscars. With its critical acclaim, fan buzz, and record-breaking consistency, the movie is a smash hit and already on the IMDb’s user-generated Top 250 movies of all time. But amidst the praise is a lack of consideration for what Gone Girl is really depicting and reinforcing: rape culture.

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Alan Turing Helped Save the World and They Persecuted Him

Nov18

by: on November 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

“[Alan Turing] was and is a hero of all time…a man who is a gay icon, who didn’t deny his nature, his being, and for that he suffered. … This is a story that celebrates him, that celebrates outsiders; it celebrates anybody who’s ever felt different and ostracized and ever suffered prejudice.”

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing on set of The Imitation Game. Credit: Creative Commons/ touchedmuch

Though I usually find TV award shows to project primarily fluff and silliness, and they rarely stir deep emotions in me, listening to Benedict Cumberbatch’s acceptance speech in the Best Actor category for his portrayal of Alan Turing in the film “The Imitation Game” at the American Film Awards ceremonies brought me to tears. This stemmed from a sense of deep pride and an endless abyss of sadness. Cumberbatch’s commitment and passion shinned through on stage as he talked about transforming Turing’s story, his brilliance, and his humanity to the silver screen helping in his way to give him the long-overdue wide-scale recognition he rightly deserves.

Alan Mathison Turing was a pioneering computer scientist, and he served as a mid-20th century English mathematician, logician, and cryptanalyst who, working during World War II at England’s Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, succeeded with his team of scientists and linguists in cracking the “Enigma code” used by the Nazi command to conduct covert communication operations. Because of Turing and his colleagues’ efforts, Cumberbatch stated that there is now general agreement that they significantly shorted the war by at least two years saving an estimated 17 million lives. Prime Minister Winston Churchill singled out Turning as the person whose work contributed the most to defeating the Germans.

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In Remembrance of Matthew Shepard

Nov3

by: on November 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off

The Laramie Project

Scene from The Laramie Project, a play based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Last year, when I was teaching a university Queer Studies course, I opened a unit on the topic of violence directed against members of our community. As I discussed Brandon Teena, Gwen Araujo, and Matthew Shepard, a number of students stated that while they had heard of Brandon Teena because they saw the film “Boys Don’t Cry,” they were not familiar with Gwen Araujo (even though her story was profiled in the film “A Girl Like Me”), and most surprisingly to me, they had not heard of Matthew Shepard or the remarkable play and film “The Laramie Project.”

It was difficult for me to conceal my disappointment and concern, but on reflection, I know that I cannot expect young people to know their own history when the schools continue to omit our history, our literature, our contributions, and our voices in the classrooms of our nation.

Though I had difficulty reading through to the end without breaking off with emotion a few times, I read to the students in my Queer Studies course an address I gave on Thursday, October 15, 1998 on the Amherst, Massachusetts Town Commons, three days after the death of Matthew Shepard as part of a memorial tribute called in his honor.

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