Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Anniversary of the Assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone and Other Considerations

A Re-Post from November 27, 2013 with addendum:

Like it or not, we live in a country where all kinds of people occupy space. Most are not descendants of indigenous peoples. We do not share the same ethnicities, histories, religious beliefs, political leanings, philosophies of life, economic status or a host of other characteristics that make us the individuals we are.

And while we all occupy space, either by some god-given right or by chance or fate, none of us have the right to impose our will or belief or righteous indignation on another by means of violence or intimidation. Dan White took it upon himself to assassinate two political colleagues, Harvey Milk and George Moscone because he didn't agree with their views or their politics, or envied their success as popular politicians. Dan White could not tolerate views or opinions or civics lessons or the fact that LGBT folks might have civil rights in his jurisdiction.

Dan White could not abide diversity. So he tried to destroy what/who he saw as his enemy.

Ours is a country built on an experiment - an experiment in human rights. Human rights, if not an absolute, are a constantly evolving concept. But there are still those who see the evolution of human rights as a threat, and those who are the beneficiaries of newly defined rights as the enemy.

LGBT individuals are still scapegoated, bullied, hurt, maimed and murdered because of intolerance, hatred and fear. Many of our local and state government leaders, many members of our US Congress are not so different in their attitudes from Dan White. Hopefully none of them will shoot the collegues they disagree with. But their money, power and influence still harm us and their dismissal of our legitimate concerns stifles the evolution of this experiment in human rights.

On this anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, we remember men who died in service to our and the larger community through the political process - a process that can only work in a spirit of reason and compromise.

November 29, 2014

Thinking of Civil Rights at a time when rioting, violence, gunfire and looting have been in the news in the aftermath of the Grand Jury decision in Missouri, I cannot help but relate the above thoughts to the larger issue of civil and human rights in this country. When, if ever, is such violence justified?

Would the announcement of the Grand Jury decision, no matter whether it returned an indictment or not, to be just an excuse for those who were poised to engage in further violence and mayhem? Does my asking this question belie my own bias?

I have never served on a Grand Jury but I imagine it is very serious business and that the jurors take their task very seriously and conscientiously and that such a process, for all its flaws, has been instituted in the cause of justice. After a bit of reading, it seems to me that the Grand Jury did what was required. I think it is unfair to blame the Grand Jury for all of the injustices people have suffered and for the subsequent rioting, as if the reverse decision would have righted all wrongs and made everyone happy.

The outcome of this Grand Jury was met with anger and violence as other decisions have been. There were riots in San Francisco in 1979 after the jury there acquitted Dan White of murder and convicted him of only of manslaughter - another instance of an imperfect process - and of pent-up anger that spilled into the streets.

There is a difference, however. There was indisputable evidence that Dan White shot two people, twinkies not withstanding. In the Ferguson case, the Grand Jury did not find compelling evidence of a crime to even go to a jury trial. They decided that the policeman's actions were within the legal parameters of his authority. So maybe those parameters need to be changed. Maybe cops need to be required to use all other options. Maybe other changes need to be made to make ours a more just and equitable society. But it was not the task of the Grand Jury to do so, nor was it in their power to do so.

In reflecting on my feelings about the San Francisco riots (not at the time, but much later in 1984 after viewing the documentary,  The Times of Harvey Milk) I realize that I am/was more sympathetic to the LGBT community, to their indignation and anger, and more forgiving of their display of violence than I am toward the black community in Ferguson, their indignation and anger; and I am less forgiving of their display of violence.

Have I changed or am I merely responding on the basis of my own prejudice? Certainly I felt more intrinsically a part of the gay minority as represented by my brothers and sisters in San Francisco and could relate to their anger at a deeply personal level.

I do not relate in the same way to the black community as to the LGBT community, because I am not a part of that community, nor am I welcomed to relate to or understand that community. I think that blacks, like gays, move about in and have a perspective on the straight/white community but the straight/white folks don't necessarily have the same opportunity to move in and understand the LGBT/black community.

So, all things considered, I guess in terms of the experiment in civil/human rights, of achieving a colorblind society, we all have a long way to go.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Shame on Google and a Trans Funeral

Two things got my attention on the blogs today: A hateful game promoted by Google and a transwoman's funeral. I find that the closer we come to being equal in this society, the more such things seem to stand out.
Somehow Google allowed a disgustingly homophobic, hateful "game" to get onto its Android App site. The object of the game, called "Ass Hunter", is for the "Hunter" to kill naked gay men who appear from the bushes; failure to do so allows the naked men to basically rape the hunter.

Not only is the game offensive on so many levels, the fact that Google somehow allowed this garbage to make its way onto a site for Android Apps that Google sponsors, is unacceptable.

Google pulled the cartoonish App after registering the outrage from the community. But the game is still out there. Thrilling the likes of immature imbeciles in the French- and English-speaking world who hoot and holler whenever they kill a gay or or their buddies get it from behind from a naked gay guy. The epidemic of stupidity is out of control, the epidemic of hate is a part of it.

On over to the funeral in Idaho: (If the NY Daily News can be trusted) A young transgender woman who died of a brain annurism was displayed in open casket as a male with all references to her transition and life as a woman virtually eradicated, including her legal name change.

All done by decision of her family who were not supportive or of her in life, and even more disrespectful of her in death. Sad story and such a very ignorant family.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

LGBT Homeless Youth Crisis

See NPR for story on homeless LGBT youth.

Partly because young people are coming out at an earlier age than their predecessors, more are being kicked out of their homes or, if not kicked out, forced out through intimidation.

And most of these homeless kids are on the streets as a result of their parent's "religious beliefs" - beliefs that they choose over supporting their own children.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Unexpected Praises From My Younger Brother!

I got this email from my brother.

When I read it, it blew me away.

I never expected such praises from him. Mainly because he is usually rather reticent about such things. Or at least not quite as profuse. And he put it in writing, and he wrote a review on Amazon as well!

To be honest I thought he might consider my book to be 'just ok" and probably say some kind, but neutral, words to me about it when I see him at Thanksgiving.

But he emailed me this unsolicited praise; and of course his opinion is completely objective and unbiased:

I LIKED IT A LOT!!!! I literally could not put it down. I read a little over half of it last night, went to bed at midnight, couldn't sleep, got up at 1AM and read the rest of it. I haven't read a book like that (in one day - actually 2 since it was before and after midnight) in ages. 

I also wrote what I thought was a good review in Amazon. I might have gone a little over the top comparing it to other famous literary works but what the heck, a little salesmanship can't hurt, besides I really was enraptured with it which is more than I can say about most other books I've read. 

I guess knowing you personally has a lot to do with my level of interest in what you had to say and the stories you told and it was pretty much impossible to try and read it from a detached point of view, but you really do have a way with words. Parts of it were humorous such as in one of the first chapters when you guys are playing cards and you are telling anecdotes and trying to be somewhat deep and serious and the other guys just keep busting your stones. 

Many parts are very serious and inspiring. I don't have much more to say other than I don't remember being at the Cape with you unless you kind of made that part up.

My NOTE: Memories are funny things. I was positive my brother was at the Cape that time when we were there with all our cousins at a cottage in Harwich. There was a fresh water pond in back and we all went to the Mashpee PowWow and to Ptown for whale watching.  If I had doubts I would have checked it with my brother before putting it in print, but I was trusting my memory.

It doesn't change things in any substantial way however, so I defer to his memory of not being there! And I'll call my flub poetic license

So, to see what he thinks is so good, buy the book! (click on the book pic on the sidebar or go to Amazon here.

Below: Original mock-up of front and back covers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sign Of The Times - In A Good Way

When Leon and I married on October 25th, ( And here) we had our immediate families and closest friends at the ceremony and for dinner at Pagliacci's Restaurant. And while we knew our families were supportive, we couldn't be so sure about extended family members and others.

We decided that we would let family and friends know that we are now legally married. And that our status in the community had changed.

We sent formal announcements to many extended family members, straight friends and old neighbors. Others learned of our nuptials from those attending. 

Although we haven't heard from all of them, we did receive cards and even a few gifts from many. When the cards and hand written notes started arriving, some of them blew our socks off!

Really, I don't think we've often given people credit for how genuinely they have embraced Leon and I and our relationship over the years.

I'd like to share a few here:

From a former neighbor lady and her son, when we lived in New Britain 15 years ago. 
She used to make pierogis once a month for fundraising at a very conservative Polish Catholic parish and always brought us the "factory seconds". She is now in her nineties:

From my old boss, a straight guy in his 70's:

From two Catholic nuns who live with my sister:

From my cousin and her husband along with a gift saying that Leon has always been a part of the family:

From my brother's mother-in-law, a very Irish Catholic woman:

From a 68 year old woman who was an HIV client of mine back 8 years and more ago:

From my Ex who I wrote about in my memoir and who now lives in Florida (can you hear his Acadian-French  accent?):

From Leon's cousin in San Jose:

From my ninety year old Sicilian Aunt and my cousin:

Many of our gay friends were not as excited and congratulatory as many of our straight friends and relatives, including some very "Catholic" ones.

Perhaps they are the real "silent majority" and despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of the Fundies and TeaBaggers and Hate Groups, maybe these loving people do represent a growing new majority - at least here in the Northeast where same sex marriage has been legal for years without a major breakdown of straight marriages or signs of Armageddon.

Perhaps is is that our (in the collective sense) "coming out" makes more and more people realize that some of their friends, family members, co-workers are LGBT; that they really do know, love and respect someone who is gay.

Perhaps we are the "new normal" and our legal unions are, on the one hand no big deal, and on the other hand, something the straight world is eager to celebrate.

Go figure.

From my sister:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why I Won't Vote For ANY Republican in 2014

My letter to the Editor of the Bristol Observer which appeared in Friday's edition. Thanks to you bloggers and news feeds, I gleaned the details from the internet. This goes along with video posted below (last post).

To the Editor:
            I will not vote Republican. Period.
            I’m sure there are a few well-meaning Republican candidates out there, but well-meaning is not good enough. I cannot, in conscience, foresee casting my vote for any Republican. Here’s why:
             Any political candidate who calls her/himself a Republican (and I’ve noticed over the past twenty years or so that that label on their mailings is usually in very small print, if it is there at all) – must implicitly approve of GOP views against marriage equality, unbridled campaign financing by big corporations, legislation that would institutionalize discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals under the guise of religious liberty, regressive immigration legislation, the primacy of fundamentalist christian doctrine in legislation and government, “reparative” therapy for LGBT individuals, the right to bear assault weapons, and a whole litany of idiotic, insensitive and misogynistic pronouncements by a host of Republican wing-nuts, among them:

             Glen Grothman, a Republican state senator: "I've interviewed over a dozen people who check out people who pay with food stamps, and all felt people on food stamps ate better — or at least more costly — than they did. [People] who work in food stores indicate that many people who use food stamps do not act as if they are genuinely poor." 
             Todd Kincannon, former executive director of the South Carolina GOP in a Tweet “I hope the dumb bitch who initiated physical violence with her NFL player fiancĂ© learned a good lesson when he justifiably beat her ass.”
            Stacey Campfield a Republican Tennessee state lawmaker, who introduced a “Don’t say gay” bill in 2009 who also said "Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community. It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall." He also introduced a bill that would cut welfare benefits to parents whose children aren't doing well in school.
         Renee Ellmers, a two-term Congresswoman from North Carolina. “Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level…We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and with everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.”
          Arizona state representative Adam Kwasman, mistaking a bus full of America children on their way to YMCA camp for undocumented immigrant children"I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces.... This is not compassion."
         Rick Perry of Texas GOP which in June adopted their new platform that supports “reparative therapy” for The Gays"Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that. I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way."
             Scott Esk, an aspiring candidate for the Oklahoma House of Representatives who when asked if he thinks the Gays should actually be put to death based on his religious beliefs, said: “I think we would totally be in the right to do it.”
             Pam Bondi as Attorney General of Florida said about not wanting to recognize same-sex marriage: because those marriages would "impose significant public harm."
             Representative Andy Gipson, a Republican legislator about the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act says the bill protects “Christians in the state from discrimination,” meaning people can use their religious beliefs to discriminate against anyone, most notably The Gays.
             Republicans Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, introduced a bill that would allow adoption or foster care providers to refuse service on the basis of their own personal religious objections. (While aimed at gay and lesbian couples, the bill could be used by non-christian agencies to deny adoption of children by Christian couples!)
             Arizona Republican Jim Brown said this on Facebook: “I want folks to think about something. I want folks to think about how slavery really works. Back in the day of slavery, slaves were kept in slavery by denying them education and opportunity while providing them with their basic needs.  Not by beating them and starving them. (Although there were isolated cases if course) Basically slave owners took pretty good care of their slaves and livestock and this kept business rolling along.”
            Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has named 19 members of Congress, 18 of whom are Republicans, who “go out of their way to oppose any step toward equal protection under the law or to protect LGBT Americans from violence, discrimination and harassment.  They proactively work to undermine existing legal protections and promote anti-LGBT discrimination.” These congresspersons sponsor or co-sponsor, in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, and the State Marriage Defense Act; in the U.S. Senate, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, and the State Marriage Defense Act.
            The 19 are: Senate: Ted Cruz, R-TX, Michael Enzi (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeff Sessions, (R-AL); House (14): Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Andy Harris (R-MD), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Walter Jones (R-NC), Mike Kelly (R- PA), Steve King (R-IA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Steve Pearce (R-NM), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Randy Weber (R-TX)
            The people I mention ( and there are so many more) are not just loose cannons; they speak for their party and they espouse Republican ideology. So, to the obstructionist Republican congresspersons, Republican candidates, national or local, I say: If you belong to the club, to the Republican party, I must assume that you are more or less sympathetic to the beliefs and principles that are antithetical to my own. You will not have my support, nor in the case of the local ballot, my vote.    

It Would Be Funny If It Weren't So True

No, it is really funny.


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