Archive for the ‘GLBT’ Category

H-Town Elects Openly Gay Mayor

Congratulations to Houston, TX Mayor-elect Annise Parker!

The Third Coast has shown us that sexual orientation is no barrier to high office. Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S., and it is now the largest U.S. city to have elected an openly gay leader.

What is especially encouraging to me is that sexual orientation only became an issue late in the race. I think this suggests that homosexuality is becoming less of a wedge issue. Voters in Houston responded more to Parker’s extensive record in handling government budgets in a fiscally responsible way than they did to last-minute attack ads about her being gay. To put it another way, “fiscal conservatives” lined up behind a candidate that “social conservatives” attacked.

I like this trend. Texas 2010 election season is going to be an exciting one!

Annise Parker campaign website

October is LGBTQ Awareness Month

A month filled with educational, engaging opportunities is underway this October: GLBTQ Awareness Month.

GLBTQ = Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer/Questioning.

So far, I’ve been to three events for GLBTQ month. Monday during my lunch break, I went to the brown bag lunch with Shelby Knox, hosted by the Texas Tech Women’s Studies program. Shelby, a Lubbock Native and subject of the 2005 documentary The Education of Shelby Knox, travels the country speaking and organizing for comprehensive sex education. She has appeared on many TV shows — Dr. Phil, Today Show, Daily Show just to name a few — and has testified before Congress (the sound is messed up, but that’s the best clip I could find on YouTube). It was a great discussion, and I learned a lot.

Monday night I attended a fascinating panel discussion about “outing,” and the sometimes unforseen consequences of outing someone who doesn’t want to be out. Being “out” can sometimes be an emotional minefield where individuals are out to one group, but not to others — e.g. out to friends and family but closeted at work. Modern socializing, especially via social networking sites like facebook, can make accidental disclosure more likely or more devastating. It was another great discussion, and I learned a lot there too.

Tuesday night, I saw the film “Shelby Knox Redux” a 40-minute film designed for public education in California. It summarizes the contents of The Education of Shelby Knox and includes Shelby’s recent (late 2008) return visit to Lubbock, where she visited with her family, LGBT activists including 2005 co-star Ricky Waite, the welcoming congregation at St. John’s Methodist Church, and (of course) conservative pastor Ed Ainsworth (aka “Sex Ed”). A panel of people who were in the film answered audience questions after the film, and the discussion was excellent. Once again, I learned a lot.

Here are some things I learned from three events over two days:

Lubbock has had a 200% increase in HIV/AIDS cases from 2006 to 2009, and that Lubbock media (with the exception of the Avalanche-Journal Editorial Board earlier this year — kudos to them!) has been silent about it.

LISD still has abstinence-only sex education in schools, if there is any sex education at all. Parents have a right to see the curriculum for sex education / health that their children are being taught. Reviewing these materials would be a good starting point for talking to LISD administration about getting comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education. Planned Parenthood has a comprehensive sex education program called “Straight Talk” that is available for families and could supplement what is taught in school.

Here’s a great internet resource for comprehensive sex education in Lubbock:

Here’s a blog about transsexual issues at TTU: TransTTU. One of the most relevant struggles for transsexuals right now is adding unisex bathrooms wherever possible, and the TransTTU blog is starting a list of venues that have unisex bathrooms.

There are plenty of exciting events throughout October as part of GLBTQ Awareness month. Here are few that interest me:

* 2 free screenings of the 2008 film “Milk”
* GLBTQ Allies training
* The Laramie Project epilogue, ten years later

A pdf calendar of events for the entire month is available.

Alan Turing Apology

I love it when a plan comes together. Or, in this case, an online petition accomplishes something.

(Honestly, I don’t want to see statistics on what percentage of online petitions result in action… I bet it’s a low number.)

Today, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for the British Government’s treatment of science hero Alan Turing in the 1950s. From Gordon Brown’s statement:

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ - in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence - and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

AlanTuringThis news is exciting not only because a war hero and scientific giant (you’ve probably heard of the “Turing Test,” for example) has finally been exonerated, but also because of the manner in which it was done. The British government maintains an online petition system as part of its website, and 10,000+ British citizens signed this one, moving it up the list quite rapidly. I first found out about it via Facebook last week.

Online activism is still evolving a great deal, but I believe that this is a successful form of it. It used social networking sites in conjunction with an established infrastructure for online petitions that someone somewhere with some amount of authority or influence looked at. It’s great that the UK government has embraced online petitions in this way. Given the overture toward online openness for which the Obama administration is already known, maybe we’ll see something like this soon in the States.

For now, as someone who spent a significant amount of undergraduate classroom time proving that this-or-that algorithm is reducible to a Turing machine, and as someone who wants to see an end to homophobia, I call today a good day.

Don’t Divorce Us

A few friends have pointed out this video from the Courage Campaign as an example of very effective advocacy against marriage discrimination in California. Check it out:

“Fidelity”: Don’t Divorce… from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

(Why is it that Ken Starr’s high-profile cases are ones where he acts like a big jerk?)

If that video moved you, consider signing a petition to the California Supreme Court to encourage them to invalidate Prop 8, reject Ken Starr’s case, and let loving, committed couples continue to marry. Be sure to do so before Valentine’s Day so that the court receives the message in time.

Civil Marriage Equality

It’s easy to spend a whole day reading Daily Kos, so on most days I limit myself to only their front-page articles. Today, an article about an EqualityMaine press release caught my eye:

EqualityMaine Announces Bill for Civil Marriage Equality

At a State House press conference today, EqualityMaine and several coalition partners unveiled a bill that would extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples in Maine.

The bill, titled “An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” is sponsored by Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Hancock).

Not only are the folks at EqualityMaine framing this important issue correctly, they are also cutting to the truth of what the commonly-referred-to “gay marriage debate” is all about.

The good framing of the issue is made clear in the title of the bill before the Maine Legislature. “An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” does two important things. First, it asserts that one or more groups of citizens are being discriminated against (gays and lesbians, for example). Second, it asserts that the dominant group in this power relationship (i.e. straight people with church marriages) is not going to lose anything as a result of this new law. It’s win-win.

The cutting-to-the-truth is suggested by the bill’s title as well. “Gay marriage” is not about gays or lesbians. It’s not even about marriage. It’s about equal access to the law.

From the EqualityMaine FAQ:

How would marriage equality affect my church?

That’s entirely up to your church. Remember, the issue is civil marriage, not religious marriage ceremonies. Religious institutions are not required to perform civil marriages, and may set their own boundaries for marriage. Some faith leaders will not perform marriages for people who have been divorced, for example, or for people of different religions.

Marriage equality does not challenge the autonomy of religious institutions in any way. Advocates of marriage equality focus strictly on civil marriage, and leave decisions about religious marriage ceremonies to faith leaders.

And that’s the way it oughta be. It’s already the case in America that marriage in the eyes of the law and marriage of the eyes of the church are not the same. To assert that all persons have access to marriage under the law does not threaten any church’s definition of marriage.

I have a hunch that I’ll get some comments about this one. What are your thoughts about the struggle for civil marriage equality in the United States?

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