Tuesday, May 31, 2016

President Obama's Proclamation for June 2016 Pride

President Obama Proclaims June 2016 LGBT Pride Month
Since our founding, America has advanced on an unending path toward becoming a more perfect Union. This journey, led by forward-thinking individuals who have set their sights on reaching for a brighter tomorrow, has never been easy or smooth. The fight for dignity and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is reflected in the tireless dedication of advocates and allies who strive to forge a more inclusive society. They have spurred sweeping progress by changing hearts and minds and by demanding equal treatment — under our laws, from our courts, and in our politics. This month, we recognize all they have done to bring us to this point, and we recommit to bending the arc of our Nation toward justice.
Last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality in all 50 States was a historic victory for LGBT Americans, ensuring dignity for same-sex couples and greater equality across State lines. For every partnership that was not previously recognized under the law and for every American who was denied their basic civil rights, this monumental ruling instilled newfound hope, affirming the belief that we are all more free when we are treated as equals.
LGBT individuals deserve to know their country stands beside them. That is why my Administration is striving to better understand the needs of LGBT adults and to provide affordable, welcoming, and supportive housing to aging LGBT Americans. It is also why we oppose subjecting minors to the harmful practice of conversion therapy, and why we are continuing to promote equality and foster safe and supportive learning environments for all students. We remain committed to addressing health disparities in the LGBT community — gay and bisexual men and transgender women of color are at a particularly high risk for HIV, and we have worked to strengthen our National HIV/AIDS Strategy to reduce new infections, increase access to care, and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV.
Despite the extraordinary progress of the past few years, LGBT Americans still face discrimination simply for being who they are. I signed an Executive Order in 2014 that prohibits discrimination against Federal employees and contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. I urge the Congress to enact legislation that builds upon the progress we have made, because no one should live in fear of losing their job simply because of who they are or who they love. And our commitment to combatting discrimination against the LGBT community does not stop at our borders: Advancing the fair treatment of all people has long been a cornerstone of American diplomacy, and we have made defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT individuals a priority in our engagement across the globe. In line with America’s commitment to the notion that all people should be treated fairly and with respect, champions of this cause at home and abroad are upholding the simple truth that LGBT rights are human rights.
There remains much work to do to extend the promise of our country to every American, but because of the acts of courage of the millions who came out and spoke out to demand justice and of those who quietly toiled and pushed for progress, our Nation has made great strides in recognizing what these brave individuals long knew to be true in their hearts — that love is love and that no person should be judged by anything but the content of their character. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, as Americans wave their flags of pride high and march boldly forward in parades and demonstrations, let us celebrate how far we have come and reaffirm our steadfast belief in the equal dignity of all Americans.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2016 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

More Facebook Commentary: I Want Those In Charge To Have My Back If At All Possible

Expressing one's views on social media is always putting yourself out there and one has to be prepared for differing points of view.

I know, I have had a blog for years and have occasionally gotten ripped to shreds. 

Yes, most gays are Democrats and I think for good reason. Our survival depends on it now more than ever. In the past, I could vote for a person, republican or democrat, based on their stand on a variety of issues - and neither party was so entrenched in an ideology that they could not compromise. Not so now. 

The republican party openly endorses policies that directly threaten my/our freedom, my marriage, my ability to live my life free from religious tyranny and possibly my/our very existence. 

Everything they seem to stand for is antithetical to everything I have fought for and live for and believe. 

And as far as everything takes time, that is no excuse. As far as I am concerned, the time is now. I don't have time to wait for crumbs to fall from the table of the white, male, heterosexual, privileged, corporate, elite, oligarchy. 

 If the republican congress had not obstructed EVERYTHING for the past eight years you would be amazed at what might have been accomplished through an age-old political process called negotiation and compromise. 

I suppose if you are living a comfortable life the status quo works for you. As a member of an oppressed minority who will never go back into a closet and who can be scapegoated at the drop of a hat, I am not at all comfortable. There is no republican I know of who would make me feel comfortable. I want those in charge to have my back if at all possible.

Recent comments in response to Facebook rants

I just get so fed up.

In reply to a rant against Transgender Rights:

You totally don't get it. Transgendered people don't "just wake up one day and state" that they feel like they're the opposite sex. And surgery has nothing to do with being transgendered - it is, for those who can afford it, a way to more fully become physically who they are psychologically and emotionally and spiritually. There are genetic and chromosomal differences that contribute to gender dysphoria. The problem is that the religious far right has confounded the issue and is perpetrating out and out lies to engender fear - unfounded fears - in people who don't have the desire or intelligence to inform themselves of the facts. You may be sick of the "transgendered stuff and all of their rights" but thank god or your stars that you don't have to live as a transgendered individual. I've met and known transgendered individuals and believe me, it is absolutely ludicrous for any of them to be using the bathroom corresponding to their assigned gender at birth. If Theo or Samuel walked into the men's room right behind you, you wouldn't bat an eye. They have been doing so for years. Now some bathroom nazi is going to ask for their birth certificates (and yours) before allowing them (and you) into the men's room? And they, beards and all, would have to go to the ladies' room and potentially "scare little girls" a whole lot more than a trans woman ever would. Ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous.

In reply to a rant against Obama:

You bet I'd vote for Obama again. He is intelligent, dignified, understands international relations and foreign policy, and had done an excellent job DESPITE Republican obstructionism and outright hatred and disrespect. Your poster is simplistic nonsense. I'd hate to see the current republican candidate making critical decisions. He has made the US a laughing stock around the world. The international community is certainly already planning a strategy to deal with a loose cannon in the Oval Office.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Book Report: "Call Me By Your Name" by André Aciman

Now A Film

Update: I must be in the minority of readers of Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman because most have given this book much better reviews. I am hoping the film version is better, but I think it may suffer from the same "almost, but not quite gay" hetero-confusion of the main characters.

I finally finished Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman.

I can’t say it was a real page-turner for me, which is probably why I read it over several weeks. I had read several excellent reviews and hoped that this book would live up to the expectations they engendered. (And learning how the author arrived at the title, I find it a bit contrived - I never heard of a couple using that form of endearment.)

The narrator, Elio, a precocious seventeen year-old becomes infatuated with Oliver, who is a few years older and a summer guest of Elio’s Jewish family living on the Italian Rivera. Oliver is a summer intern for Elio’s father, a professor.

So Elio and Oliver have very intellectual and esoteric conversations, that is, when they are not having coded, innuendo-laden, ambiguous exchanges that hint of homo-erotic desire. This works for a while but by the half-way point of the book has become tedious. Elio is constantly analyzing and second-guessing what it all means ad nauseam.

The reader is left guessing as well: will they or won’t they? Enough mental masturbation and teasing. I became quite impatient with Elio’s self-reflective monologues and endless rumination as well as with the prolonged cat-and-mouse game between Elio and Oliver.

I wasn’t sure who was the cat and who was the mouse or if most of it was just in Elio’s imagination until Oliver confessed to having feelings for Elio even though they both seemed to go to great lengths to avoid, not only their own feelings, but each other.

I am being much too critical here because on some level I can relate to being in Rome as a twenty year-old student and being confused about expressing my sexuality and having been infatuated with a guy that I’d said good-by to in the States - a person I’ve ruminated on and written about in my own memoir and whom I often wondered whether there was anything between us. So the story is, at its core, believable -- but perhaps more believable in 1968.

I did occasionally like the author’s style (presenting dialogue as part of Elio’s reflection or at times, as entirely hypothetical, I think) and I found many of the author's passages beautifully worded, though sometimes to a fault.

I really wanted to read a gay love story but was left disappointed with the characters’ supposed bi-sexual proclivities. I found Elio to be presented as perhaps “gayer” than Oliver, so his sexual exploits with Marzia seemed totally out of character. That, and the insinuation that Oliver was also having heterosexual encounters was a real turn-off for me. I like my men Kinsey-sixes. I guess I wasn’t surprised that Oliver eventually gets married to a woman and has a family. This is too familiar a story.

Back to when Elio and Oliver finally had sex: it was anti-climactic, not at all erotic and only minimally romantic. It was once again Elio’s thoughts, feelings and self-doubts that took the excitement out of it - it was not so much sex as thinking about having or having had sex that was most real for Elio. We never really know much about what Oliver thinks or feels.

I am fascinated with endings. Too often authors seem at a loss when it comes to tying up loose ends and ending a novel. I liked the ending of this book.

When Oliver and Elio meet twenty years later, their final two encounters seem somewhat more real and believable. But even then, both are much too young for the wisdom they seem to have acquired and Elio hasn't changed: he still wishes for Oliver to be, to say the words that would mean, everything to him.

We never know what Oliver says when he says good-bye for the last time. Hopefully it wasn’t “Later!”

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Something for Mothers and.....Too Weird and Too Sad


Grandma, Maria Concetta [Carlino] DeFrancesco
Grandma, Rosa [Nesta] Daversa
Mom, Theresa [Daversa] DeFrancesco
My paternal grandmother, my gramma, Maria Concetta Carlino DeFrancesco was born in Polistena, near Reggio Calabria in southern Italy. The territory was part of Magna Graecia, in centuries BC, and the name derives from the Greek, Polyxene or Polysthene. But I can’t trace my family much further back than my great-grandparents.

My gramma used to tell stories. Stories of the old country. Apocryphal stories about the saints. Stories with lessons about life and family. But she rarely if ever talked about her childhood or her upbringing or her own family.

I can only piece together a sketch of her life in Calabria from things she hinted at when telling her lessons. She often mentioned the fountain, La Fontana, where the villagers got their drinking water, and maybe only once mentioned the olive groves where they shook ripe olives from the trees onto blankets or burlap tarps and gathered them up for the harvest.

She told about how she used to skin rabbits. After making a slit in the rabbit’s skin and inserting a tube of rigatoni she would blow into the pasta tube to make the air separate the rabbit’s skin from the flesh. And she would peel the skin and fur off the rabbit “like-a you’ pajamas” she would say.

The image of grandma as a young girl peeling the furry pajamas off a rabbit still makes me smile just a bit.

Grandma never talked about her parents. I was never sure why that was.

I remember when she came to our house one Sunday and we were listening to a record album of Italian and Neapolitan songs. One of the songs “Mamma,” seemed to cause her to become a bit emotional - a side of her I’d rarely seen.

It was years before I understood that not only did she leave behind her family in Italy, but that her own mother had died when she was young. Her father had remarried and he and his new wife had more children - two that I know of, Maria Antonietta grandma’s half sister, and Salvatore, a half brother.

Maria Antonietta who we called aunt Zi’Mar’Antone also came to the US. I remember grandma having a kind of rivalry with Zi’Mar’Antone and it was clear she didn’t like or respect her half-sister very much.

I think grandma held some resentment toward the woman who took her mother’s place and bore her half-siblings. But I never really knew that for certain. I did come to realize that the pain of losing her mother was something she bore for her entire lifetime.

For my mother and my grammas:

While working on this post for mother's day and deciding to post a rare photo of my mother with both of my grandmothers, I found myself easily diverted to google maps to find the town of Polistena, Calabria, Italy, the town where my paternal grandmother was born.

There I spotted a street named Via Agrati and immediately thought of Don Agrati (Don Grady) of the TV shows,  Mouseketeers and My Three Sons. He of course was one of the first celebrities I had a teenage crush on while growing up.

As one thing leads to another, I Googled: "What ever happened to Don Grady?" only to learn that he died in 2012.

Why I felt such a profound sense of sadness, I'm not entirely certain. He was only four years older than me, and he died at the age of 68, the age I am now. Yet he is, and always will be, a teenager in my mind and in my libido.

I was reminded about the time, a few years ago, that I looked up a buddy, I hadn't seen in many years, Dennis Silva, for whom I had quite the hots back in my sophomore year of college and about whom I wrote in my memoir - where I called him Silvio DaVilla.

I knew that he was on the faculty of a small college in upstate New York, so, using that information, I  Googled him - only to find, at the top of the page, his obituary. He died in 2012 also.

There again I experienced such a profound sadness that seemed out of all proportion. After all, we never kept in touch, so it wasn't like losing a close friend.

Perhaps it was a different kind of loss. Dennis Silva, Don Agrati, both were men I had had crushes on, been infatuated with or maybe even loved in some way. I don't want these men to be dead; I don't want my fantasy to die along with them.

Perhaps it was realizing that death is unfair, that it comes too soon, that it robs the living when it takes a friend, a love, a fantasy. When it rips a secret out of one's heart.

And though I started with a tribute to two generations of mothers, my mother and my grandmothers, I was brought to a totally different place where I reflect on the ephemeral nature of life and my own mortality.


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