Shaken not stirred

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The significant other and I hosted my family’s annual Father’s Day celebration at our house this weekend and I realized that out of 13 attendees there were 4 homosexuals.  Well, at least homosexuals that we know of because I’ve learned through the years that you can never know the whole truth about anyone else’s sexuality – nor would you want to.

Now, the fact that 30.77% of my family on this particular day was gay is by far the least interesting statistic about this gathering.  What was more interesting was how my 20-something straight nephew, who has far less formal schooling than I do, was smart enough to get out of jury duty while I continue to trudge through the sixth day of an experience I am not yet able to speak about. Does this mean that a young, tattooed artist/musician is far smarter than a middle-aged, grad school-educated gay writer/college professor?  Well, it depends how you feel about intelligence, jury duty and both my nephew and myself.  Still, despite the limited sample, I would most definitely have to say yes.  And by A LOT.

Do not twist my arm any further because I can’t legally speak.  And besides, this should be enough to satisfy you.  It’s my opinion based on the facts that I know and you certainly can’t argue with my opinion if it is supported by the reality of the world as I see it.  Can you?

Feeling a little less Fonda, a little more Cobb these days

Feeling a little less Fonda, a little more Cobb these days

Here’s what I’m getting at.

This past week failed 2012 presidential hopeful and current Texas Governor Rick Perry decided that it was the right time for him to publicly express his opinion about 30.77% of my Father’s Day gathering in – of all places – San Francisco.  (Side Note:  Once the undisputed gayest city in America, San Francisco this year dropped down to 11th in total gayness, according to a study done for The Advocate making it still pretty gay compared to any city in Texas though not as gay as Washington, DC – which came in at #1.  Which begs the question of just what the governor was thinking in trying to get to D.C. in the first place).

In any event, here is what the Gov. announced this week from a stage at the 11th happiest city in the country about almost one-third of my inner family circle:

Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that.  And I’ve made the point talking about alcoholism.  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 life issue as the same way.

So, now we’re an issue?  Well, okay.

Did I say something wrong?

Did I say something wrong?

The truth is, there are all kinds of ways to reason your way in, out, around and through an issue depending on how much you are willing to say and how hard you are trying to make a point.  My hands are tied re my nephew and jury duty so it doesn’t surprise me that perhaps you reject my argument that he’s much more intelligent than I am for managing to avoid it.  Though, given that the majority of the American public does seek ways to avoid serving as one among 12 potentially angry men (and now even women!), what I’ve said could likely also be just the right mix of words to persuade you to my way of thinking.

Mr. Perry’s proclamation that engaging in an active homosexual life and/or lifestyle is as unwise as the alcoholic who continues to drink has similarly problematic arguments.  I’ve been an active homosexual for I’d say, oh, 35 plus years (Note: Some years more active than others, but still…) and I can personally tell you that unlike the typical alcoholic not only does my skin remain relatively unlined and still looking good after decades of this abuse but my doctor recently told me so does every other organ in my body, including my liver.  Not only that, I was recently talking to a trio of straight people at a bar/restaurant earlier in the week who were convinced I was at least 10-12 years younger than my driver’s license reveals. So, uh – take that governor.  And contact my designated medical professionals for any and all recent organ X-rays and match them against your straight proclaiming own – if you dare.

we do like to work out.

we do like to work out.

As for the effect my homosexuality has had on my family – well, I don’t know – they all showed up for the free food and stayed for hours.  There wasn’t an argument in sight.  And my Dad – now 85 – seems bent on constantly telling me that the S.O. (that’s homosexual talk for Significant Other) is one of the best guys he’s ever met in his life.  Needless to say, that means a lot since we’re going way back before the Second World War.  It might be even better than being a functional alcoholic – or perhaps living a non-compelling homosexual lifestyle, if there is any logic at all in that.

Of course, what Gov. Perry is really referring to is about as analogous to the ravages of alcoholism to one’s face, body or family life as being a self-righteous, born again Christian in politics is to the generally more liberal MAJORITY view of the American people.  Through the abolition of slavery, to giving women the right to vote, down towards the repeal of Prohibition, then up towards the civil rights movement and now gay rights, as a group we Americans have eventually always voted for a freer, live and let live attitude that didn’t dictate personal and social lifestyle choices towards our fellow citizens.

As evidenced by the legality of KFC's Double Down sandwich.

As evidenced by the legality of KFC’s Double Down sandwich.

What Gov. Perry actually means – because he really does need a translator and I’m just the fag man to do it – is he and a very specific, though extremely vocal small segment of American politicians have decided that despite the wave of marriage equality sweeping the nation, the majority of the US Supreme Court, and the long held view of the American Medical Association as well as the country’s most reputable doctors – homosexuality, like alcoholism, is a defect of character.  Or a serious sin that must be dealt with in the most serious of ways by the state or by one’s Church, temple, or God – even if a person, by choice, has no affiliation with any one of the latter three – heaven forbid.

There’s a disturbing and sometimes virulent movement among this quite mouthy group of people – many of whom are affiliated with the Tea Party – which is mostly affiliated with, if not becoming, the Republican Party.  And that is to use their religious beliefs, or the safety of their children, or the threat to the moral fiber of the country as cudgels to dehumanize and, in some cases, demonize that 30.77% of my family who this Sunday were treated to some of the best guacamole and turkey burgers and Caesar salad I’ve ever made.  Their attitude is dangerous, ugly and quite short-sighted since all four of the 30.77% of us would gladly share those and other tasty recipes with them (not only for food, but for life) if they’d only open their hearts and minds just a bit and listen instead of running scared when someone or something doesn’t fit into one of the prettily proportioned recipes they’ve decided to doctor up through the years for the perfect American life.  As if that even exists at all.

These are probably the same people who tried to pass this off as food...

These are probably the same people who tried to pass this off as food…

There are many other extreme examples of this kind of behavior towards LGBT American citizens any one of us has heard or read about in the news in the last months or years.  No need to list them now.   Though my favorite is the recent proclamation from Scott Esk, current Republican candidate for the Oklahoma State legislature, who last week publicly and repeatedly said that, in keeping with the teachings of scriptures, he believes gays and lesbians should legally be stoned to death.  Don’t believe me?  Check out these links:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Fringe as this may seem, Gov. Perry’s views are truly only a stone’s throw away (see how I did that?) from those of Mr. Esk.  The Texas state platform of the Republican Party recently and very vocally endorsed the widely discredited treatment of “reparative therapy” for homosexuals as a way to “cure” gay people of their alcoholically analogous behavior.  As the leading state Republican, Gov. Perry has a great deal of pull in what the party does and there is no reason to think he believes any differently.  More importantly, one wonders and worries what goes through the minds of all of the adolescent, young gay women and men in Texas as they come of age in a state, and perhaps household, where they hear such hogwash being legitimized.

They are probably thinking: Wendy, Wendy, Wendy

They are probably thinking: Wendy, Wendy, Wendy

The views of Gov. Perry, Mr. Esk and the Texas State Republican Party are insulting to myself and to all of the members of my family who attended our little Father’s Day gathering.  They are also illogical in that they run counter to the vast majority of current medical experts and scientific teachings in the field.  But, most importantly, they are downright dangerous to young people – both gay and straight – who have enough on their plates in continuing on in the world without having to deal with the fire and brimstone of a bunch of overzealous nitwits who are determined to infiltrate the political system.  And to do what exactly?

Well, that remains to be seen – doesn’t it?

As for Gov. Perry, he can kiss my ass.

Figuratively, that is.

Will It Get Better?

This week I had intended to talk about something else but sometimes life gets in the way.

This week an American soldier got booed and scorned publicly at a political debate for asking a question.

This week yet another young person – in this case a 14 year old boy in Buffalo, New York – killed himself because he could no longer take the relentless bullying he endured at both his school and from his online community.

This week I publicly acknowledge – both of these events are connected because both of these young men (certainly compared to me they’re young) are (in the case of the 14 year old it’s “were”) gay.

Stephen & Jamey

This week I thought about a famous quote:  “People get the governments they deserve.” (FYI, it’s been attributed to everyone from French philosopher Alexis deTocqueville to 60s Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and is usually intended to those of us lucky enough to live in a democracy).

This week I decided that what is important is not who said it (or any variation of it) and in what context, but rather

  1.  Is it true?  – and –
  2. Can it be applied to other areas in life?

This week I decided – the answer is – “yes.”  To both 1. and 2.

This week there are two clips I must ask you to watch and listen to.

The first is from Anderson Cooper and centers on the 14 year-old Buffalo boy, Jamey Rodemeyer.  It features footage of Jamey doing an “It Gets Better” you tube video just four months ago to encourage other gay youth to stick it out and not feel bad about themselves.  It also features footage from a right wing evangelical Christian leader proclaiming that a. bullying is merely part of growing up, and b. the opinion of a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives noting the “gay problem” and the legitimizing of this group in mainstream society is a more serious problem in this country than terrorism.  [On the latter point, I couldn’t help but think of this as the “Jewish problem” many Germans talked about pre-World War II and wondered if this Congressperson (her name is Sally Kern) was pondering some similar “Final Solution” to take care of what she sees as our current problem.  She needn’t worry in the case of Jamey – he found said solution without her.]

Watch the entire video here

The second is a short clip from the Wednesday night Republican candidates debate when Stephen Hill, a young soldier who, thanks to the recent overturn of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” respectfully by Skype (or maybe it was on a pre-tape) came out as gay and instantly gets booed.  He soldiers on (as our men and women in uniform do) and asked the candidates across the board whether they would reinstate said policy.  Needless to say, Sgt. (or Soldier?) Hill did not receive the public support or even answer he had hoped for.

And the second video here.

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This week I was reminded of something I’ve known for a long time but sometimes choose to forget because I have a pretty good life free of this insanity – the booing of this soldier, who is far more brave than I will ever be, and the fact that not one candidate on that stage spoke up to chastise the audience for booing a man of uniform in a time of war, is undeniably connected to the toxic atmosphere that pushed young Jamey to his death and will push other young Jameys to the same fate in the coming months and years.

Can we do better?

This week I acknowledge that it’s a lot more fun and entertaining to talk about film and television and why they’re great or why they suck and what this says about us as a society and how artists can make a difference in the world.

And how you can be a great artist.

And how you can fight all the self-doubt.

And how we all have a lot more in common on that score than we are all willing to admit.

And how, as a wise person who at one point I didn’t particularly like but then actually grew to like very much told a group of people I was in from all economic backgrounds and from all over the country that — “you’re more alike than you’re different.”

This week I’m particularly thinking about this last quote and wondering whether it is really true.  Because unless I’m mistaken, it’s not unreasonable to think that Sally Kern and her kind don’t feel this way at all and, in fact, are looking at their own “solution” to some of what (or whom) they consider society’s problems.

This week I’m considering whether I bear at least part of the responsibility for not speaking up (and doing) more when something like this happens.

As some of you have been nice enough to say – I do talk a good game.   But this week I have decided to take whatever brains, talent and cleverness I have (limited though it might sometimes be) to work on a new project that will try to change things in a more active way.  (More on that at some future date).

This week I’m hoping that – in whatever small, big or in-between way you can see fit – that you can take some small or larger action and try to do the same.  Because in no way, shape or form do I think or believe this week represents who we are.  Or – what we deserve.