Who Run the World?

Generally I’ve always liked women more than men. On the surface, this would seem ironic for a gay man. On closer inspection, it’s really not.

When I was growing up it was just easier to be closer to the gals. I didn’t like traditional “guy” things like playing sports, though I did collect baseball cards and loved the NY Yankees in particular. In fact, I actually knew (and still know) their entire starting lineup from 1966.

OK.. and their smiles didn’t hurt either

Oh, don’t be so surprised. I’m certainly not.

We’re all a bit of an imperfect puzzle and if you’re homosexual those imperfections feel that much more complicated, especially to mainstream America.   Yes, even still.

But let’s table the rainbow soapbox for the moment and stick with women. I did for decades in every which way but sexually. They shared my interests in the arts, or even if they didn’t they liked hearing about it. They really listened to me when I spoke, liked to engage in discourse and seemed to generally care even when the world didn’t.

Not to mention, they seemed receptive to my opinions, so much so that at one point towards the end of high school and all through college there were almost too many women in my life to handle.

Yep, that’s me!

I remember late one afternoon my stepfather being absolutely flabbergasted at the beautiful young woman who had come over to hang out with me for the first time (Note: In retrospect, she was pretty stunning. And smart. I looked her up on Facebook recently and she has become a respected lawyer).

But even at the time I knew he couldn’t fathom how this short, slightly less than macho, snide young man he had lived with for the last five years could EVER attract the attention of the gorgeous creature he couldn’t stop staring at in our entryway.

A John Hughes rendering of the situation

It amused me to no end that I had the secret that would always elude him, and too many straight men, especially in the late sixties and early seventies.

I was actually INTERESTED in her. Instead of being interested in HER.

I won’t go into the Mika Brzezinski/Joe Scarborough brouhaha this week (Note: This can fill you in. Or this.)…

…Other than to say when the current ELECTORAL POTUS insults you on Twitter with bon mots like crazy, low I.Q., dumb as a rock and his requisite reference to any attractive female who challenges him – their BLEEDING from one orifice or anotherwell, you know you’re doing something right.

You’ve gotten under his skin.

Shakespearean in scope

Still, what’s gotten under my skin this week is Friday’s UNANIMOUS ruling by the 9-member Texas Supreme Court reversing the city of Houston’s decision to extend health and life insurance benefits to the spouses of city employees in same sex marriages.

Instead of these benefits being an automatic right based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling two years ago legalizing gay marriage across the country, these Texas judges want a trial in Houston where this issue can be fought out in court. Though how this can be anything but a waste of time and taxpayer money is beyond me since same-sex marriage is the law of the land.

It is interesting to note seven of those nine judges were men. Two were women. All were Republicans. I maintain if any one of the many women I grew up with – especially the now adult aforementioned woman in my entryway who stepdaddy stared at all those decades ago – were on the court the ruling would surely not be unanimous. There would be at least one dissent. Which would be a start.

Let’s not forget that Wendy Davis is a proud Texas woman. #theydoexist

Still, I grew up in NYC and not Texas so perhaps mine is as irrelevant and regional an opinion and argument as the one coming from the Texas Supreme Court ruling will (hopefully) eventually be.

Fortunately, there will be THREE women from my neck of the woods – all of them from the various, glorious boroughs of NYC – on the US Supreme Court when later this year they hear the case of the Denver baker who in 2012 refused service to a gay couple that merely wanted him to bake them a wedding cake.

Yes, that one’s actually going to trial.

Even though on a recent episode of The View the baker, Jack Phillips, said:

I don’t judge people when they come in. I try and serve everybody.

Summon some Alice realness right now #eyeroll

Still, he chose NOT to try and accommodate the two about-to-be married young men, previous customers of his establishment, when they merely asked for a cake for their wedding reception. In fact, he told them it was against his religious beliefs. Even though it is against the law for a public business like his to refuse this service.

I can only imagine what Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor will make of this. Actually, I intuitively KNOW what they will make of it based on decades of experience with women like them – women who have spent years making their voices heard to those who choose to listen – or not – to them.

YES. YES. YES.

These are women who, in turn, have devoted their entire adult lives listening to others in an attempt to level the playing field for many who have come after them and have, for various and nefarious reasons, also not been heard and valued for what they had to do or say.

The trouble is there are once again NINE Supreme Court justices and this time a full FIVE of them are straight white males (and the other is Clarence Thomas). Not to tar them all with one brush.

I mean, it is 2017.

Cmon man, get with the times!

Who in their right mind would do that to someone based on their sex, or sexual preference, even if they have said things and done things in the past and present with which they vehemently disagree?

Well, certainly not anyone in their right mind. Certainly, no one in the highest echelons of the court.   Or the government.

Which begs the question of just when WILL we elect a woman president and how much worse IT (Okay, HE) will have to get before we finally come to our sense and do so?

“Respect” –  Aretha Franklin

Shaken not stirred

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 11.32.59 AM

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.

All The Same

Just(ly) Married

Just(ly) Married

I don’t cry at weddings.  For me, weddings are a joyous moment between two people who love each other that attendees are asked to share in.  Hence, I always find them a happy experience assuming:

a. I agree with the spousal choices of the couple in question
b. I like (or at least don’t dislike) the couple in question
c. I am happy with the gift I am giving the couple in question (if indeed there is a gift involved)
d. I am not sitting uncomfortably in some lame outfit or unnecessarily bizarre location mandated by the couple in question.

But tears?  Not so much.

However, I did cry at a wedding of two people I didn’t know and wasn’t even invited to this week.  It was the wedding of Jeff Zarillo and Paul Katami, two men who after the last few days I feel as if I do know because they were the newly victorious co-plaintiffs of the recent marriage equality case before the US Supreme Court.  And as LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stood up for a few minutes in City Hall to marry them, and I watched it being telecast live on The Rachel Maddow Show (which seemed especially apt considering – well, you know), big wet tears suddenly started sliding down my face.  Like, really suddenly.  Without warning.  Even my male partner of 25 years who I am not currently married to (why rush it?) was a bit taken aback.  Who is this weird guy crying at a televised wedding and who kidnapped the cynical queen (my words, not YOURS) I’ve lived with for the last quarter century, he must have wondered.  Well, I wondered the same thing.  Just goes to show you that no matter how much time you spend with another person, or yourself, there will always be surprises.

Work that waterproof mascara, girl.

Work that waterproof mascara, girl.

The same is true of the world.  No matter how many years you believe you understand the universe you can always get the rug pulled out from under you at any given moment.  Certainly that is also how large groups of people of all sexual persuasions must have felt simultaneously this week when they were told that it will likely be much, much harder for them to cast votes in the next election (and all others after that).  Votes that, as the years go by and our electoral differences further solidify between right and left with very little of the soft center remaining (think mismatched Oreo tops without the fillings), become more and more essential if we’re to truly call ourselves these UNITED States.

The Supreme Court also rendered another verdict this week – overturning one of the cornerstones of Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s – Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.  This law required that states with a history of discriminatory voting laws against non-white people (mostly southern states) needed to be pre-approved before amending any of their current voting laws.  This essentially meant that states that previously made it harder for Blacks (and other non-whites) to vote and went kicking and screaming into what we now think of as the integration of all races in US society, need special policing because they had proven time and time again that they were likely to fall back into their old ways of doing things.

EVERYONE deserves a sticker!

EVERYONE deserves a sticker!

Simply put, if you were a black or brown person, or even a white person who was a member of a certain group in states like Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and a few others, you were going to need more sophisticated ID’s and the lines were going to be A LOT longer before (and sometimes even with) Section 4.  Think this is my liberal bias?  Well, not this time.  Since the dissolution days ago of #4, Texas has already proposed a new voting law that says concealed hand gun licenses are acceptable voter IDs but that student IDs and disabled veteran IDs alone are not enough to allow a citizen to vote at their local polling place.  Other states like Alabama, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia are also planning to reactivate voting laws that limit the number of hours certain polling places are open (particularly in poor neighborhoods) and put restrictions on advance voting (a time-honored tradition in many African American communities).

Oh – and by the way – Happy 4th of July.

Boom

Boom

Well, at least you could feel the public fireworks spreading for gays and lesbians nationwide as the Supremes ruled that same-sex marriage is officially legal again in California and, even more importantly, that the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that defined marriage as solely between one man and one woman, thereby ostensibly outlawing ANY federal rights for same sex couples for all eternity, is unconstitutional.

What does this mean?  That pretty soon gays and lesbians who are married in any of the 13 states (and counting) that now allow gays and lesbians to marry – including New York and California, two of our most populated states – will be able to file joint federal tax returns, receive spousal Social Security benefits and participate in hundreds of other privileges their fellow citizens have always enjoyed.  That is, in a word I refuse to credit to Donald Trump – huge.

EXCEPT –

There is a problem.

Not to be a party pooper but here’s what I’ve learned as a lifetime member of at least three minorities (gay, Jewish, and men 5’7” & under).  The rights of all people deemed less than or the other by those in power are forever intertwined.  It is, all of it, the same issue.  Who is going to be the next other?  That’s anyone’s guess.  But I can no sooner be overjoyed at being granted permission to legally marry at long last without being devastated that the rights of my fellow non-white citizens are in danger of being infringed upon at the ballot box in the next election.  And this is not because I’m a liberal and certainly not because I am a particularly good person.  It’s because – they are all THE SAME RIGHTS.

Equal is equal.

Equal is equal.

As sure as I’m sitting here writing this, the absence of rights for some other minority group means that my just gotten ones could very soon be in jeopardy.  All it takes is a slight tipping of the scales in the other direction that newly discriminatory voting practices could insure. No minority is safe alone.  But all are safe if they are woven together. Because contrary to what is being spewed by the far right wing among us – we are a nation that is built on the uniting of minorities: religious ones, freedom-loving ones, multi-colored ones, and even sexually varied ones.  This thought does not EXCLUDE the most conservative or religious among us.  It simply INCLUDES everyone else.

Wendy Davis, a Texas state Senator who has become a new personal hero of mine, proved that fact when she stood for 11 hours without food, water or a bathroom break and successfully filibustered a pretty hostile group of her fellow legislators in order to stop a proposed Draconian law in Texas that was going to force the closing of most of its health clinics for women and thus severely deny statewide access to birth control services (nee abortion rights) for many females (most of them poor ones).

Greatest American Hero

Greatest American Hero

Ms. Davis, a Harvard-educated lawyer, is blonde, tall, thin and white – all of which make her part of the privileged elite in Texas and most other states.  But it took only one day after her victory for the very conservative Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an avid supporter of the now defunct bill, to marginalize her into underprivileged, minority status by roaring publicly that that woman who filibustered had a child at 19 and was raised by a single mother.  This quickly lifted Ms. Davis into what Gov. Perry hopes will be one of them in the minds of the majority of the state.  Not content to stop there, the governor elaborated:  What if her (Rep. Davis’) Mom said, ‘I just can’t do this?  I just don’t want to do this?’  …It is unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters. 

See how quickly even a successful white woman can be reduced to an unfeeling, immoral, underage mother who, if given the access to the health care she advocates, couldn’t be trusted to not abort her own daughter?  Never mind that if you count numbers Rep. Davis, a female, is actually in the MAJORITY of the population.   The largest groups among us are not always the most powerful, especially if one travels many thousands of miles away to, let’s say, our financial landlords, China.  Of course, sometimes one need to look no further than one’s back door to make that point, as Ms. Davis and the rest of her fellow teenage Moms, gays and lesbians, and the minority voters of the United States so amply demonstrate to those who want to use them as a wedge issue of the future.

However, if you put all of us together – and add the rest of the nation’s immigrant population (that’s pretty much ALL of us aside from native Americans if you go back far enough) – you’ve got something else.  It’s called, as we like to say around the Fourth of July, these United States.

Happy Birthday to us (native Americans included).  All of us.  And that means – everyone.