Bradley Manning is Off Limits at SF Gay Pride Parade, but Corporate Sleaze is Embraced April 27, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, LGBT, San Francisco.
Tags: bradley manning, corporate sleaze, corporations, daniel ellsberg, democratic party, gay pride, gay pride parade, glenn greenwald, lgbt, liberals, obama supporters, roger hollander, san francisco, sf pride, wikileaks
add a comment
A seemingly trivial controversy reveals quite a bit about pervasive political values
News reports yesterday indicated that Bradley Manning, widely known to be gay, had been selected to be one of the Grand Marshals of the annual San Francisco gay pride parade, named by the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee. When the predictable backlash instantly ensued, the president of the Board of SF Pride, Lisa L Williams, quickly capitulated, issuing a cowardly, imperious statement that has to be read to be believed.
Williams proclaimed that “Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration” and termed his selection “a mistake”. She blamed it all on a “staff person” who prematurely made the announcement based on a preliminary vote, and she assures us all that the culprit “has been disciplined”: disciplined. She then accuses Manning of “actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform”: a substance-free falsehood originally spread by top US military officials which has since been decisively and extensively debunked, even by some government officials (indeed, it’s the US government itself, not Manning, that is guilty of “actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform”). And then, in my favorite part of her statement, Williams decreed to all organization members that “even the hint of support” for Manning’s action – even the hint – “will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride”. Will not be tolerated.
I originally had no intention of writing about this episode, but the more I discovered about it, the more revealing it became. So let’s just consider a few of the points raised by all of this.
First, while even a hint of support for Manning will not be tolerated, there is a long roster of large corporations serving as the event’s sponsors who are welcomed with open arms. The list is here. It includes AT&T and Verizon, the telecom giants that enabled the illegal warrantless eavesdropping on US citizens by the Bush administration and its NSA, only to get retroactively immunized from Congress and thus shielded from all criminal and civil liability (including a lawsuit brought in San Francisco against those corporations by their customers who were illegally spied on). Last month, AT&T was fined by OSHA for failing to protect one of its employees who was attacked, was found by the FCC last year to have overcharged customers by secretly switching them to plans they didn’t want, and is now being sued by the US government for “allegedly bill[ing] the government improperly for services designed for the deaf and hard-of-hearing who place calls by typing messages over the web.”
The list of SF Pride sponsors also includes Bank of America, now being sued for $1 billion by the US government for allegedly engaging in a systematic scheme of mortgage fraud which the US Attorney called “spectacularly brazen in scope”. Just last month, the same SF Pride sponsor received a record fine for ignoring a court order and instead trying to collect mortgage payments from bankrupt homeowners to which it was not entitled. Earlier this month, SF-Pride-sponsoring Bank of America paid $2.4 billion to settle shareholder allegations that Bank executives “failed to disclose information about losses at Merrill Lynch and bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch employees before the brokerage was acquired by Bank of America in January 2009 for $18.5 billion.”
Another beloved SF Pride sponsor, Wells Fargo, is also being “sued by the US for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages over claims the bank made reckless mortgage loans that caused losses for a federal insurance program when they defaulted”. Last year, Wells Fargo was fined $3.1 million by a federal judge for engaging in conduct that court called “highly reprehensible” relating to its persecution of a struggling homeowner. In 2011, the bank was fined by the US government “for allegedly pushing borrowers with good credit into expensive mortgages and falsifying loan applications.”
Also in Good Standing with the SF Pride board: Clear Channel, the media outlet owned by Bain Capital that broadcasts the radio programs of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck; a pension fund is suing this SF Pride sponsor for making cheap, below-market loans to its struggling parent company. The health care giant Kaiser Permanente, another proud SF Pride sponsor, is currently under investigation by California officials for alleged massive privacy violations in the form of recklessly disclosing 300,000 patient records.
So apparently, the very high-minded ethical standards of Lisa L Williams and the SF Pride Board apply only to young and powerless Army Privates who engage in an act of conscience against the US war machine, but instantly disappear for large corporations and banks that hand over cash. What we really see here is how the largest and most corrupt corporations own not just the government but also the culture. Even at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, once an iconic symbol of cultural dissent and disregard for stifling peities, nothing can happen that might offend AT&T and the Bank of America. The minute something even a bit deviant takes place (as defined by standards imposed by America’s political and corporate class), even the SF Gay Pride Parade must scamper, capitulate, apologize, and take an oath of fealty to their orthodoxies (we adore the military, the state, and your laws). And, as usual, the largest corporate factions are completely exempt from the strictures and standards applied to the marginalized and powerless. Thus, while Bradley Manning is persona non grata at SF Pride, illegal eavesdropping telecoms, scheming banks, and hedge-fund purveryors of the nation’s worst right-wing agitprop are more than welcome.
Second, the authoritarian, state-and-military-revering mentality pervading Williams’ statement is striking. It isn’t just the imperious decree that “even a hint of support” for Manning “will not be tolerated”, though that is certainly creepy. Nor is it the weird announcement that the wrongdoer “has been disciplined”. Even worse is the mindless embrace of the baseless claims of US military officials (that Manning “placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform”) along with the supremely authoritarian view that any actions barred by the state are, ipso facto, ignoble and wrong. Conduct can be illegal and yet still be noble and commendable: see, for instance, Daniel Ellsberg, or most of the leaders of the civil rights movement in the US. Indeed, acts of civil disobedience and conscience by people who risk their own interests to battle injustices are often the most commendable acts. Equating illegal behavior with ignominious behavior is the defining mentality of an authoritarian – and is particularly notable coming from what was once viewed as a bastion of liberal dissent.
But the more one learns about the parties involved here, the less surprising it becomes. According to her biography, Williams “organized satellite offices for the Obama campaign” and also works for various Democratic politicians. It was President Obama, of course, who so notoriously decreed Bradley Manning guilty in public before his trial by military officers serving under Obama even began, and whose administration was found by the UN’s top torture investigator to have abused him and is now so harshly prosecuting him. It’s anything but surprising that a person who was a loyal Obama campaign aide finds Bradley Manning anathema while adoring big corporations and banks (which funded the Obama campaign and who, in the case of telecoms, Obama voted to immunize).
What we see here is how even many of the most liberal precincts in America are now the leading spokespeople for and loyalists to state power as a result of their loyalty to President Obama. Thus do we have the President of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade sounding exactly like the Chairman of the Joints Chief, or Sarah Palin, or gay war-loving neocons, in depicting any meaningful opposition to the National Security State as the supreme sin. I’d be willing to bet large amounts of money that Williams has never condemned the Obama administration’s abuse of Manning in detention or its dangerously radical prosecution of him for “aiding the enemy”. I have no doubt that the people who did all of that would be showered with gratitude by Parade officials if they attended. In so many liberal precincts in the Age of Obama – even now including the SF Gay Pride parade – the federal government, its military, and its federal prosecutors are to be revered and celebrated but not criticized; only those who oppose them are villains.
Third, when I wrote several weeks ago about the remarkable shift in public opinion on gay equality, I noted that this development is less significant than it seems because the cause of gay equality poses no real threat to elite factions or to how political and economic power in the US are distributed. If anything, it bolsters those power structures because it completely and harmlessly assimilates a previously excluded group into existing institutions and thus incentivizes them to accommodate those institutions and adopt their mindset. This event illustrates exactly what I meant.
While some of the nation’s most corrupt corporations are welcome to fly their flag over the parade, consider what Manning – for whom “even a hint of support will not be tolerated” – actually did. His leak revealed all sorts of corruption, deceit and illegality on the part of the world’s most powerful corporations. They led to numerous journalism awards for WikiLeaks. Even Bill Keller, the former Executive Editor of the New York Times who is a harsh WikiLeaks critic, credited those leaks with helping to spark the Arab Spring, the greatest democratic revolution the world has seen in decades. Multiple media accounts describe how the cables documenting atrocities committed by US troops in Iraq prevented the Malaki government from allowing US troops to stay beyond the agreed-to deadline: i.e., helped end the Iraq war by thwarting Obama’s attempts to prolong it. For all of that, Manning was selected by Guardian readers as the 2012 Person of the Year, while former Army Lt. Dan Choi said yesterday:
As we move forward as a country, we need truth in order to gain justice, you can’t have justice without the whole truth . . . So what [Manning did as a gay American, as a gay soldier, he stood for integrity, I am proud of him.”
But none of those vital benefits matter to authoritarians. That’s because authoritarians, by definition, believe in the overarching Goodness of institutions of power, and believe the only bad acts come from those who challenge or subvert that power. Bad acts aren’t committed by the National Security State or Surveillance State; they are only committed by those who oppose them. If a person’s actions threaten power factions or are deemed prohibited by them, then Good Authoritarians will reflexively view the person as evil and will be eager to publicly disassociate themselves from such individuals. Or, as Williams put it, “even the hint of support” for Manning “will not be tolerated”, and those who deviate from this decree will be “disciplined”.
Even the SF Gay Pride Parade is now owned by and beholden to the nation’s largest corporations, subject to their dictates. Those who run the event are functionaries of, loyalists to, the nation’s most powerful political officials. That’s how this parade was so seamlessly transformed from orthodoxy-challenging, individualistic and creative cultural icon into yet another pile of obedient apparatchiks that spout banal slogans doled out by the state while viciously scorning those who challenge them. Yes, there will undoubtedly still be exotically-dressed drag queens, lesbian motorcycle clubs, and groups proudly defined by their unusual sexual proclivities participating in the parade, but they’ll be marching under a Bank of America banner and behind flag-waving fans of the National Security State, the US President, and the political party that dominates American politics and its political and military institutions. Yet another edgy, interesting, creative, independent event has been degraded and neutered into a meek and subservient ritual that must pay homage to the nation’s most powerful entities and at all costs avoid offending them in any way.
It’s hardly surprising that someone who so boldly and courageously opposes the US war machine is demonized and scorned this way. Daniel Ellsberg was subjected to the same attacks before he was transformed many years later into a liberal hero (though Ellsberg had the good fortune to be persecuted by a Republican rather than Democratic President and thus, even back then, had some substantial support; come to think of it, Ellsberg lives in San Francisco: would expressions of support for him be tolerated?). But the fact that such lock-step, heel-clicking, military-mimicking behavior is now coming from the SF Gay Pride Parade of all places is indeed noteworthy: it reflects just how pervasive this authoritarian rot has become.
Corporate corruption and sleaze
For a bit more on the dominance of corporate sleaze and corruption in our political culture, see the first few paragraphs of this extraordinary Politico article on a new book about DC culture, and this Washington Post article detailing the supreme annual convergence of political, media and corporate sleaze called “the White House Correspondents’ Dinner”, to be held this weekend.
THE POPE IS A BIGOT December 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
Tags: bigotry, catholic church, Civil Rights, gay marriage, gay rights, Gay Voices News, lgbt, Pope benedict, Pope Benedict On Gay Marriage, Pope Benedict On Same-Sex Marriage, religious bigotry, The Pope, World Day Of Peace, World Day Of Peace 2013
add a comment
Pope Says Gay Marriage Poses A Threat To ‘Justice And Peace’ In World Day Of Peace 2013 Address
Posted: 12/14/2012 5:18 pm EST | Updated: 12/14/2012 8:08 pm EST
Pope Benedict XVI said this week that gay marriage poses a threat to “justice and peace.” The 85-year-old religious leader went on to suggest that same-sex marriage is “unnatural.”
According to the Associated Press, the head of the Roman Catholic Church kicked off the Christmas season on Friday with the traditional lighting of the tree in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square. On the same day, the Holy See released the Pope’s message for World Day of Peace 2013.
“There is…a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union,” the Pope said, according to ANSA.
“Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society. These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity,” he continued.
The Pope went on to suggest that support of gay marriage “constitutes an offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”
According to AP, the Pope said abortion is also a threat to peace.
This is not the first time that Pope Benedict has vocally opposed same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that the religious leader had denounced gay marriage as being “insidious and dangerous.” Previously, he had called same-sex unions “a threat to humanity.”
Pope Benedict Blesses Top Lawmaker Pushing Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” Bill December 15, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
Tags: bigotry, catholic church, DAVID BADASH, gay rights, lgbt, Pope benedict, rebecca kadaga, roger hollander, uganda, uganda parliament
add a comment
by David Badash on December 13, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI yesterday sent his first tweet from his new Twitter account, then turned around and blessed Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Uganda Parliament who promised to pass the “Kill The Gays” bill as a “Christmas gift” to Uganda’s Christians.
Kadaga was at the Vatican to meet the Pope and to attend the seventh Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights.
Pope Benedict XVI has given blessings to Uganda Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga during a mass attended by thousands of pilgrims at the Vatican,” Nsimbe Kasim at the Ugandan New Vision news reports:
During the service, the Pope launched his Twitter account and sent his first message in several languages to millions of online followers.
“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,” the Pope wrote.
The Ugandan delegation was in Rome to attend the 7th Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights.
Yes, that’s right, the Pope blessed the woman who is about to become guilty of crimes against humanity for passing the Kill The Gays bill.
“Kadaga who led a delegation of Ugandan legislators to the Vatican expressed delight at meeting the Pope and visiting St Peter’s Basilicca [sic],” New Vision adds:
“I think this is a moment that cannot be repeated. We have been reading about him, hearing stories about St.Peter’s Basilica but now we are here physically.
“I think it is something that I will remember all my life. It’s a very great moment and I thank God for this opportunity,” she said minutes after meeting the Pope.
The Speaker dedicated to all Ugandans readings from the book of St.Mark which the Pope quoted in several languages during the Vatican mass.
She handed over to the Pope a portrait of the Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo, a historical place where Christians were murdered because of their allegiance to their faith.
The deathly irony is inescapable.
[At the link below is the full text of the "Reichskonkordat," the political treaty between the Vatican and Adolf Hitler. At the time this treaty was signed, the anti-Jewish racial laws were already in force in Nazi Germany:
Here is an example of what is in the treaty:
In order to foster good relations between the Holy See and the German Reich, an apostolic nuncio will reside in the capital of the German Reich and an ambassador of the German Reich at the Holy See.
Continuing in struggle: New images and statements from WORD! November 28, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Racism, Women.
Tags: bigotry, lgbt, Palestine, racism, roger hollander, shirley chisholm, women, women's rights
|Please share this graphic widely|
In honor of Shirley Chisholm Day, WORD is circulating the above graphic on social media. We celebrate Chisholm’s contributions to the struggle for women’s reproductive rights, health and justice, and honor her pioneering role as a woman of color in U.S. politics. Please continue to share this image widely.
WORD – Women Organized to Resist and Defend – was formed by longtime activists from a number of struggles. Our commitment to those struggles continues as we move forward in the struggle to defend women’s rights.
We are dedicated to fighting racism, sexism and anti-LGBT bigotry. We believe strongly that an injury to one is an injury to all, and our involvement in the continuing struggles of oppressed people across the United States continues.
The most recent WORD statement addresses the consequences of denying abortions to women who need them:
The life of a child is precious. The life of a woman is equally precious. The quality of life for both are stifled by politicians who continually gut public health programs, education, and access to safe, affordable housing.
|WORD at the Bay Area Families March Against Police Brutality|
In the San Francisco Bay Area, WORD joined the Bay Area Families March Against Police Brutality in Oakland, California, to demand an end to racist police brutality in our communities.
WORD Los Angeles joined Justice for Filipino-American Veterans (JFAV) for a march in Los Angeles. WORD supports JFAV in demanding full equity for Filipino-American veterans, and we stand in support of the widows and family members who have been denied compensation and benefits for more than 66 years.
Across the country, WORD has joined demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against U.S. aid to Israel throughout Israel’s eight-day bombing of Gaza.
WORD will continue to stand with the Palestinian people now that a ceasefire has been reached. Please read and share our statement condemning the attacks:
We believe that the issue of war is an issue of women’s rights too. As women, children and their families suffer the indignation of occupation, as they are killed and maimed by weaponry paid for by U.S. tax dollars, we call on everyone to join in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
We need your support to continue our efforts in building the struggle for women’s rights across the United States. Can you make a small donation? Any donation is appreciated, and every cent goes directly to literature and other resources for the struggle. Thank you for your continuing support.
Hours to Stop “Kill the Gays” Bill November 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
Tags: anti-gay, gay rights, lesbian rights, lgbt, Museven, roger hollander, uganda
add a comment
Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill is back. If it passes, this horrific law would allow the death penalty for lesbian and gay Ugandans. It could pass at any moment.
President Museveni once promised to veto this heinous bill. But Uganda’s politicians are desperate to pass the bill and they’re pressuring Museveni to give in. The Speaker of the Parliament is actually calling it a “Christmas gift” to Uganda!
Last May, millions of us stood up with activists from across Uganda to stop this very same law – and it worked. Now we have to do it again. We need to take action and share this far and wide. We need every voice to build a massive outcry that the media and world leaders can’t ignore. The pressure could be enough to stop this bill in its tracks:
According to our partners, the bill is now up for debate and can be voted on at any moment. As Ugandan politicians work to finalize the the text of the bill, one thing is clear – if passed, it will force lesbian, gay, bi and trans Ugandans into the shadows. Despite global opposition, some politicians in Uganda refuse to give up the bill and one is even calling for a new regional law, that would send every gay person in Africa to jail – for life.
If this bill passes in Uganda, it wouldn’t just mean tragedy for gay and lesbian Ugandans – it could set off a domino effect across the continent. Will you add your name and ask your friends to sign with you now?
These politicians are using homophobia to distract Ugandans – and the world – from the very real problems they’re supposed to be addressing at home, from corruption to freedom of the media. They’re playing political games with people’s very lives and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans Ugandans will pay a steep price if they win.
With millions of us together, we helped knocked this bill off course once before. Our friends in Uganda need to know we still have their backs. Sign now and then ask your friends to get on board – there’s no time to lose!
This global movement for the simple right to live and love freely is unstoppable. But, as this hateful bill shows, there are still many hurdles in the historic battle for human rights and full equality. This is one of those milestone moments, and by raising your voice you are making a huge difference.
Thanks for going All Out.
Best, Andre, Hayley, Jeremy, Sara and the rest of the All Out team.
Uganda’s anti-gay bill to be passed by end of year www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/official-ugandas-anti-gay-bill-to-be-passed-by-end-of-year-despite-criticism-abroad/2012/11/12/a4f5d3b8-2cb4-11e2-b631-2aad9d9c73ac_story
Uganda’s President to block “Kill the Gays” Bill www.76crimes.com/2012/06/18/uganda-president-ill-block-kill-the-gays-bill
Ugandan Parliament Speaker pushes for “Kill the Gays” bill www.thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/10/31/1117031/ugandan-parliament-speaker-pushes-for-kill-the-gays-bill
Ugandan lawmaker calls for all homosexuals to be jailed for life www.gaystarnews.com/article/uganda-lawmaker-calls-all-african-gay-people-be-jailed-life111012
Nigeria is days from passing the “Jail the Gays” bill November 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Nigeria.
Tags: anti-gay, Goodluck Jonathan, homophobia, lgbt, nigeria, roger hollander, same sex
1 comment so far
Nigeria is days from passing the “Jail the Gays” bill - one of the harshest anti-gay laws the world has ever seen. The proposed law will mean 10 years in prison for two people daring to hold hands in public.
After a year languishing in the House of Assembly, the “Jail the Gays” bill has been rushed through with zero notice. The only roadblock before it becomes law is one signature – President Goodluck Jonathan’s. Last year, 65,000 of us stood against this bill and it was abandoned! Can you take one minute to help us do it again? It takes only one minute but it could change history:
When the bill was first introduced, politicians said there were no gay people in their country. Our friends in Nigeria have said they are not taking this lying down – they’ve got a plan and they’re asking for our help. Right now, they are organising an unprecedented response of African advocates – both straight and gay – to speak out against this bill. Today, we are showing that not only do Nigerian LGBT people exist, but the whole world has their back. Will you stand with Nigerians against this hateful law and help us to get to 100,000 signatures?
The only way to stop this bill is to trumpet Nigerian voices for equality – supported by millions around the world. President Jonathan can veto the bill – and if he hears these Nigerian voices, he’ll have to.
We know we can drive the right message to every government and media organisation around the world to make sure President Goodluck Jonathan knows his people and their allies will not tolerate him signing this bill into law. Will you take one minute and add your name now?
Thanks for going All Out.
Best, Andre, Hayley, Jeremy, Sara and the rest of the All Out team.
Nigerian law-makers move ahead on anti-gay bill www.nation.co.ke/News/africa/Nigerian-lawmakers-move-ahead-on-anti-gay-bill
Conservative Christian goes undercover as a gay man October 17, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Religion.
Tags: bigotry, Christianity, conservative christian, evangelical, gay, gay community, gay liberation, gay rights, human rights, laura kane, lgbt, religious bigotry, roger hollander, sodom and gomorrah, tim kurek
add a comment
Roger’s note: Shades of John Howard Griffin’s classic ”Black Like Me,” which had a tremendous impact in the era of the Civil Rights movement.
Courtesy of Tim Kurek Tim Kurek, who posed as a gay man for a year to understand the adversity homosexuals face in the Bible Belt.
Courtesy of Allen Media Strategies Timothy Kurek, centre, poses with friends on his first Pride Day in Nashville, during his year of pretending to be gay.
The Cross in the Closet
The Cross in the Closet, Tim Kurek’s book about his year-long experiment.
When Timothy Kurek told his mother he was gay, she wrote in her diary that she would have rather heard she had terminal cancer.
Most of his Christian friends stopped speaking to him. “Jesus doesn’t love you anymore,” one said. As he sat outside a café in a gay neighbourhood, a stranger yelled “Faggot!” and threw a full two-litre bottle of cola at his head.
All terrible, painful experiences for a gay man — but Kurek isn’t gay. He’s a straight, conservative Christian from Nashville.
The aspiring writer went “undercover” as a homosexual for a year to understand the adversity gay people face in the Bible Belt. His book about the experience, called The Cross in the Closet, was released last week.
Kurek said the idea came to him after a friend came out as a lesbian. She told him, sobbing, that her family had disowned her.
“While she was crying in my arms, instead of loving her and trying to comfort her, my thoughts were … ‘Maybe I should give it a go and try to save her, get her to repent,’” he said.
Kurek was raised Independent Baptist and told that being gay was a sin. He remembers learning the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and being taught that God destroyed the cities to punish homosexuality.
But after his experiment, he realized the voice in his head wasn’t God, but religious propaganda.
“I realized I had to kill that voice inside of me, because it was only hurting me and hurting others,” he said.
The only way he could do that, he thought, was to experience what his friend had just gone through. So in January 2009, when he was in his early 20s, he “came out” to his family, got a job at a café gay men frequented and started going to gay bars.
His family was outwardly supportive, although he later found his mother’s diary entry that revealed she was struggling. “I was actually pretty fortunate, compared to a lot of other LGBT folks,” he said.
The first time he went to a gay club, he panicked when a shirtless man began grinding against him on the dance floor.
“I didn’t know whether I needed to punch him in the face or go have a cigarette,” Kurek said.
So Kurek asked a friend, who he described as a “big, burly, black teddy bear,” to pose as his boyfriend, so he wouldn’t be hit on.
He didn’t have relationships with men, but did experience what it was like to wear the label of gay in the South, he explained.
He devotes an entire chapter to the first time he was called “faggot.” To his surprise, it made him weep.
“I had to be held back from attacking the person that did it. I never felt so violated and minimized in my entire life, because of that one word,” he said.
LGBT advocates are divided on Kurek’s experiment. Helen Kennedy, director of Egale Canada, said he can never truly know what it’s like to be gay.
“He can’t see what it’s like to be a gay father, or to be an out man in a straight workplace,” she said. “He’s coming from a place of privilege.”
Irene Miller, president of PFLAG Toronto, agreed, but said she was hopeful the book would change some homophobes’ minds. “Within that evangelical culture, if they listen to his message, then it may do some good.”
When the year had ended, Kurek found his views had completely transformed.
“I went from being a very narrow-minded, hyperconservative Christian to an ally of the gay community,” he said.
His project not only changed him, but also his family and friends. When he revealed a year later that he was in fact straight, his mother said she understood that sometimes you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand them.
She is now an avid supporter of gay rights. His new LGBT friends were also supportive, Kurek said.
And rather than destroy his faith, the experiment actually saved it. “To the conservative Christians who read my book, I say, ‘Hey, there’s a much better way,’” he said. “It’s God’s job to judge, it’s the spirit’s job to convict, and it’s my job to love.’”
Uganda Gay Pride September 8, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
Tags: capital punishment, death penalty, gay pride, gay rights, human rights, lgbt, roger hollander, uganda
add a comment
Why I outed a Christian star August 13, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
Tags: azariah southworth, christian tv, Christianity, evangelical, gay, Jonathan Merritt, lgbt, outing, religion, roger hollander
add a comment
Sunday, Aug 12, 2012, www.salon.com
I’ve been called a bully for exposing gay evangelical Jonathan Merritt. Even I secretly wonder: Was I right?
Ever since I outed an up-and-coming evangelical leader named Jonathan Merritt on my blog on July 23, one sentence has been running through my mind: I might have destroyed his life.
It’s not all the angry emails that made me doubt myself – although some have been wildly disapproving. One, from a longtime supporter, said, “Your actions are arrogant, insensitive, and nothing more. There is nothing brave, honorable or noble about what you’ve done. I am parting ways from you ashamed of you and what you have become.” Others called me a self-promoter and a bully. But their criticism is not what bothers me. As RuPaul once said, “What people say about me behind my back is none of my business.”
No, what bothers me, what overwhelms me with guilt, is the concern for what I’ve done to a person I care about. But then I think of how hypocrisy must be exposed. And I think of this: The truth sets you free.
In 2009, I emailed Jonathan Merritt to simply say I found his Op-Ed in USA Today to be interesting. He is a Christian whose writing on religious and environmental issues has been featured in two books and a variety of publications, from the Atlantic tothe Washington Post. Along with frequent appearances on “The O’Reilly Factor,” “Fox & Friends” and “CNN News,” Merritt has become a star among young people of faith. Oh, and his dad is the former president of the world’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.
Jonathan and I exchanged a few emails, and a year later, in April 2010, we exchanged phone numbers. One night, we started text messaging one another. At this point, I perceived Jonathan to be a heterosexual male. Male he was, but not heterosexual. Jonathan’s text messages became flirtatious, and I became confused.
“Are you flirting with me?” I finally asked him. He admitted he was. And from there, the text messages became very explicit. It was only a matter of days before we met in person. Jonathan was going to be in Chicago at a conference, and he insisted that I be there. Not for the conference but for him.
I knew what it was to be a Christian in the closet. From 2006-2008, I was the host of a syndicated Christian TV show averaging 200,000 viewers a week. That ended after I watched a documentary titled “For the Bible Tells Me So,” a 2007 documentary that explains how the Bible has been wrongly interpreted to condemn LGBT people and same-sex relationships. That movie was the first gay-affirming message I actually listened to and understood, and it helped me unlearn decades of bad theology and scriptural misinterpretations.
I came out in 2008, and at the time I met with Jonathan, I was beginning a national speaking tour with a famous Christian singer, Ray Boltz. Ray had come out six months after me, and we decided to travel together sharing our stories. After our first show in Alabama, I drove to Chicago to meet Jonathan in the lobby of the downtown W Hotel. He had bright blue eyes and boy-next-door good looks. I was smitten. He seemed a little paranoid, though, and it wasn’t hard to figure out why. The hotel was filled with evangelicals in town for the Q Conference, which is like the young evangelical leaders’ version of a TED conference.
Jonathan and I left the hotel and took a taxi to a bar. After a few drinks we took another taxi to another bar. The alcohol was kicking in, and Jonathan’s inhibitions were coming down. In the second taxi, he began to unzip my hoodie after he realized I didn’t have a shirt on underneath. I was shocked by how forward he was — especially with the taxi driver in the car. After the second bar, Jonathan wanted to go to a grocery store for a bottle of wine. He’d had a lot to drink, but he didn’t forget to tell the cashier “no receipt.” As the title of his first book declared, he was “Green Like God.”
We made our way to my car, parked in an open and now empty parking lot. In the back seat of my stylish Oldsmobile Intrigue, Jonathan started chugging the bottle of Riesling and passed it off to me. I’m not one to chug wine, so I sipped. We were alone in the parking lot, surrounded by the skyscrapers.
I kept declining his advances. “I don’t want you to do something that will cause you to live a dishonest life,” I said. After all, my speaking tour was titled “Living True.” But Jonathan insisted it was fine. And I wanted him just as bad.
By the end of the night my lips were raw and chapped from his unshaven face. I felt a little dirty and used, but more than anything I felt bad for him. I knew the guilt that would ensue for him. I’ve been there. It’s so freeing when you connect with another gay person before you’re “out” but when it’s over, you reenter that world of secrets and lies. You’re surrounded once more by the immense social pressure to look and act a certain way within your faith community. Being gay makes you feel so alone. It makes you feel like you don’t belong, like you’ll never escape the torment and spiritual violence imposed on you by bad and broken theology.
I dropped Jonathan off a block away from his hotel at 4 in the morning. He gave me a kiss goodbye and got out of the car. As I drove the three hours back home, watching the sun rise in the east, I ran the night around in my mind. Will I get to see him again? Would he ever come out for me? What if I met his family – what would they make of me? I wasn’t head over heels for him, but I was crushed out, and I couldn’t help imagining a future together, even if part of me knew it was impossible. The sexting and Skype sessions continued for a few more months. Turns out, he did want to see me again. We made plans for another meeting in October 2010 in Atlanta.
But that meeting never took place. My speaking engagement was canceled, and we stopped communicating other than sending the casual “Happy Holiday” text message.
Outing Jonathan was not an easy decision. I mulled it over for more than a year and discussed it with friends. Those conversations always ended in, “Yeah, it’s probably not a good idea.” So, what changed my mind?
I was tired of the lies. I was tired of hearing Jonathan say that being gay is not “God’s best.” Meanwhile he enjoys the company of men. Jonathan’s approach to LGBT people and issues may be less extreme than that of the late Jerry Falwell, but in the end the results and message are the same: Your sexual orientation is a sin and you need to change with God’s help. It’s all lies — and the conversation not only needs to change but the leaders as well.
I’m tired of my humanity as a gay man being invalidated by hypocritical leaders like Jonathan, who then expect my support in return.
But I do feel conflict. I do feel a sense of guilt. And that’s because I do have one regret, which is not discussing it with Jonathan first. That was wrong of me. If I had to do this all over again, I would have contacted him first and then decided how to handle the situation from there based on his reaction. (Merritt has admitted in an interview that “we had physical contact that went beyond the bounds of friendship.”)
Outing a person is complex. There is no blanket formula for how and when and why to do it. I don’t think it’s right in every situation. If someone is in the closet and they’re not making an effort to demonize LGBT people, then I say, leave them alone. But if someone is using a public platform to discuss these issues, and doing that while hiding behind a false identity that ultimately destroys the foundation of the arguments they’re making, then, yes, a full disclosure of that person’s false identity is in order. Go to that person and let them know your intentions. If they refuse to come forward with the truth, then publicly call out their hypocrisy.
I am not asking people to “declare a side in this culture war” as the New York Times suggested in its interview with me. I am asking for our leaders to be honest and transparent. I know we are human. I know we all make mistakes, and there will always be hypocrites. But what is done in the dark can be brought into the light. So lead with integrity. Those are the kinds of leaders we need.
I may continue to be haunted by what I’ve done, but in my heart, I know the truth. Do I think I destroyed Jonathan’s life? I do not. I gave him the opportunity to live life at his best.
Azariah Southworth is a college sophomore at Indiana-Purdue Univ. of Fort Wayne majoring in Media & Public Communication. Once the host of a widely watched Christian TV show, he now dreams of being a cast member on “1 Girl and 5 Gays.”
“Gay panic” is not a defense July 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Australia, Criminal Justice, LGBT.
Tags: australia, australia law, gay bashing, gay panic, gay rights, homophobia, lgbt, mary elizabeth williams, panic defense, queensland, roger hollander
1 comment so far
Monday, Jul 16, 2012 11:10 AM EST, www.salon.com
Believe it or not, there are still places where an alleged killer can claim the victim was coming on to him
Who could use a reminder today that not all Christians are homophobic lunatics trying to bend the Bible to justify their bigotry? Meeeeeee!
So let’s give props to the Catholic priest Rev. Fr. Paul Kelly of Maryborough, Australia, who took a stand against — and illuminated the horrific stupidity — of one his nation’s most cruelly backward laws. As Father Kelly explains in the Change.org petition he started, “A loophole in Queensland law allows people accused of murder to defend themselves in court by claiming ‘gay panic’ — that is, if someone who they think is gay ‘comes onto’ them, the sheer panic they feel is partial justification for murder.” And you thought Stand Your Ground was dangerously insane? There are places in the world where the mere perception that someone of your own gender might be into you gives you the right to kill him or her.
As Father Kelly writes, “A man was killed in my church’s grounds, and one of his killers used this same ‘gay panic’ defense. They were eventually acquitted of murder.” In 2008 Wayne Robert Ruks was punched and kicked to death by two men at the church. His killers claimed Ruks “made homosexual advances” and tried to grab Pearce’s crotch. They were jailed for the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Ruks’ family, by the way, has stated that he wasn’t gay. And Opposition Leader Campbell Newman argues that “It’s important to note that the defense of provocation is not based on one sexuality, it’s open to any Queenslander.” But the Queensland government vowed six months ago to close the legal loophole that would allow a defendant to use the claim of nonviolent homosexual advances as a justification for killing in Queensland.
Sadly, that promise recently fell through. Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie confirmed Monday that “The Liberal National Party remains tough on crime. However, given these laws are yet to be tested, (it) does not intend to make any further amendments to the provocation defense at this time.” He described any amendment to existing law as “unnecessary.”
As Father Kelly says, “I’m utterly appalled that a law that so revoltingly and openly discriminates against gay people is still tolerated in a modern society. Laws like the ‘gay panic’ defense are a crucial part of legitimizing and reinforcing a culture of hate which means that 73 percent of gay and lesbian Queenslanders are subjected to verbal abuse or physical violence for their sexuality.” And while we’re being revolted here, let’s add the fact that loopholes like this are hurtful to gay and straight citizens alike. They tell everyone that any paranoid freak has the right to interpret their actions as some big scary gay come-on and bash their heads in accordingly.
As a person who had this happen in his own parish, Father Kelly can speak with unique authority on why this is utter BS. He seems like a pretty cool guy in general. If you leaf through some of his recent sermons online, you’ll see a man who preaches to his flock about the value of “wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, courage, reverence and wonder,” and who tells them that “fear is the great enemy.” He’s doing the work a spiritual leader is supposed to do – inspiring social change and positive action. His online campaign has in recent days caught fire, garnering 163,000 signatures, including Stephen Fry’s. It’s also created a Twitter storm against “#gaypanic” and earned the endorsement of Kelly’s fellow clergy. Over the weekend, Capetown Catholic priest Father Stefan Hippler tweeted his “support for my brother priest in Australia and his campaign.” Hippler, by the way, is busily and fiercely fighting for tolerance among his own followers, most recently condemning Uganda’s Catholic bishops for speaking in favor of “traditional family and its values” within a culture that punishes homosexuality with death.
In a world where people are still so freaked out by the mere idea of homosexuality — by the possibility of a same-sex gesture — that they can use it to justify the most violent and despicable acts, we all need to speak out and say this is beyond wrong. That this is stupid. We cannot as a society excuse repellent behavior; we have to strike down outdated laws that protect it. And to do so, we desperately need people who have a voice and a platform. Maybe even a pulpit, guys. Father Paul Kelly was personally affected by an unspeakable crime at his doorstep, so he’s doing something about it. He’s fighting hate with humanity, ignorance with light. Because that’s exactly what Christians are supposed to do. Thanks for the reminder, Father.