Nel's New Day

October 11, 2016

Out of the Closet

National Coming Out Day has been commemorated every October 11 for the past 28 years. It began in 1988 by marking the one-year anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington Lesbian and Gay Rights and continues to invite LGBT people to come out of the “closet” and proudly announce their sexual orientation and gender identity. The “closet” has been more and more associated with the LGBT community because, as Judy Grahn wrote in 1984:

“At present the term ‘closet’ implies a scandalous personal secret, or skeleton, in the family closet. In the case of a Gay person, it refers more precisely to being the skeleton in the family’s closet. That skeleton is the reality of Gayness itself. The sometimes violent and always frightening suppression of Gay culture often forces Gay people to live in the closet, in a secret world….”

The past few decades have marked a time when LGBT people have openly declared their true selves in vastly increasing numbers, a process that has helped increase the extent of legal LGBT rights despite its danger. Because some people suffer from homophobia because of their fear, being openly LGBT is not always safe. San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was assassinated on November 27, 1978, knew that he lived in danger because he refused to hide his sexual orientation.

The conservative environment fostered during the two terms of George W. Bush and solidified in many states by the Tea Party legislators elected in 2010 continue to create peril for many LGBT people. Over half the states in the nation—29 in all—discriminate against LGBT people, many of them worse than others. For example, trans people can be arrested in North Carolina if they use the bathroom that the state thinks is not correct. Same-gender couples can legally marry, but they are still struggling with punitive laws about divorce, adoption, Social Security rights, etc. In those 29 states, people can be fired if they’re merely considered LGBT. This map shows which states continue to discriminate.

Although “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts,” like the one supported and signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, GOP vice-presidential candidate, don’t always identify LGBT people, that community is the focus of these laws.

At one time, it seemed that the LGBT people were the major scapegoats, but the election campaign for 2016, an event that started 16 months ago and still has another four weeks, has pushed far more people into the closet. Many Muslims are forced to hide their religion to avoid hate crimes against them. Homeless people are at risk because Donald Trump encourages violence against them. Others are afraid to openly explain their preference in a presidential candidate because of fear. I have a sign supporting Hillary Clinton that I am concerned about posting because it may encourage damage to my property. Hiding our religion and political beliefs because of fear is just one example of the movement toward fascism in the United States.

This year, National Coming Out Day coincides with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement when people go forward and leave transgressions behind. As Max Antman writes about Yom Kippur and coming out of the closet:

“Coming out is often one of the most challenging, terrifying, and life-altering experiences an LGBTQ person faces in their lifetime. Regardless of whether the process is one of pain or ease, to come out is to surrender the privilege of a heterosexual life, and for many people, that is not only difficult – it’s impossible.

“Move forward into a space of opportunity and growth or remain trapped within perils of the past and fears of the future? The choice seems obvious enough, but the path to renewal is far from easy. Choosing ‘life and prosperity’ requires us to recognize our previous misgivings, but it also challenges us to accept whatever consequences lie ahead. Deciding to move into the new Jewish year through repentance and coming out of the closet are both very difficult choices, for they rely upon our faith in God and in ourselves.”

“As Yom Kippur and National Coming Out Day approach, we are challenged to take advantage of the opportunities they hold. We look at our past both individually and communally, and are given the chance to craft a better way. Even as we acknowledge the challenges and complexities of some of our less inclusive texts, these holidays give us the opportunity to look back at how far we have come in our journey towards acceptance and inclusion – not just as individuals, but as communities and a broader society.”

As more and more people know at least one LGBT person—frequently a relative—the acceptance grows. Two days ago, Anderson Cooper was the first openly gay person to moderate a presidential candidate, an historic occurrence. There were sneers, including from Donald Trump, but Cooper’s ability makes the job easier for the next LGBT person. As people know more open members of the LGBT people, the more accepting they have become. In the 22 years between 1993 and 2015, the percentage of people who were aware that they knew someone LGBT went from 61 to 88 while the level of acceptance ratcheted upward.

Not all LGBT people are safe coming out. I waited until I retired and left the state where I had worked because I would have lost my job. Staying closeted is something that shouldn’t cause guilt. But we all need to work for a world in which declaring a sexual orientation or gender identity or religion or political preference doesn’t put a person into jeopardy. People need to think about this factor in voting on November 8.

rainbow-flag

Meanwhile, LGBT people and our allies can take pride in the latest location of a rainbow flag. Planting Peace, a socially active group, sent a flag into outer space with a high-altitude balloon where it stayed 21.1 miles about Earth for over three hours. The universe is now an LGBT-friendly space; we can work to create the same atmosphere here on Earth.

For more joy, check out these top 20 tweets including one great message from President Barack Obama.

April 26, 2015

Conservatives’ Need for Feelings of Superiority

GOP presidential candidates blame hatred against Christians because the government is trying to provide equality for all. Some of this paranoia is coming to head on Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case about marriage equality.

The basis for conservative arguments against same-sex marriage is the fear of losing superiority. America’s Founding Fathers owned slaves and indentured servants because of superiority. It was perfectly natural for white people to own human beings as property instead of paying them for their work. After the Civil War, white people kept their superiority with “separate but equal” as blacks were forced to use segregated bathrooms, drinking fountains, and lunch counters. Everyone knew that the facilities were not equal–not even the schools–but white people maintained superiority.

Women had to fight for the vote because of male superiority. The same issue kept blacks from voting even after the 14th Amendment to the Constitution extended rights to all male citizens, excluding Native Americans until the 1960s.

In the 21st century, LGBT citizens can vote, but many same-sex couples cannot be legally married in the state where they live. The argument against marriage equality is that LGBT people want “special rights,” which are actually the same rights as the rest of the people in the United States. In a brief opposing marriage equality, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) argues that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage shouldn’t be considered discrimination because everyone is banned from marrying the same sex, gay and straight alike.

220px-Gadsden_flag.svgSome Tea Partiers who claim that the world discriminates against them more than any other group use the flag with the cry, “Don’t Tread on Me.” It was originally used as opposition to foreign countries but evolved into the Libertarian symbol, and from there it became associated with militia and white supremacist ideology. Jerad and Amanda Miller put the flag on the corpse of one of the two  Las Vegas police officers who they killed. Tea Partiers and other supremacists who oppose rights for all because they don’t want to be treated the same as everyone else.

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, is currently leading the charge in this need for superiority. In his op-ed for the New York Times, “Bobby Jindal: I’m Holding Firm against Gay Marriage,” he pictures himself as the standard-bearer “advancing the cause of freedom and free enterprise.” He calls on the business community to “stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for religious liberty” because “the left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence.” IBM has already criticized Jindal for supporting legal discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.” Instead of trying to solve his state’s 19-percent poverty rate and its 17-percent uninsured rate, he focuses on a law based on bigotry and prejudice. As Jindal points out, Louisiana passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits government from unduly burdening a person’s exercise of religion. This 2010 law isn’t enough for Jindal, however. Now he wants the Marriage and Conscience Act:

“The legislation would prohibit the state from denying a person, company or nonprofit group a license, accreditation, employment or contract—or taking other “adverse action —based on the person or entity’s religious views on the institution of marriage.”

Jindal’s rallying cry:

“Those who believe in freedom must stick together: If it’s not freedom for all, it’s not freedom at all. This strategy requires populist social conservatives to ally with the business community on economic matters and corporate titans to side with social conservatives on cultural matters. This is the grand bargain that makes freedom’s defense possible.”

Jindal’s freedom is for those who do the rejecting, not the rejected. It calls for discrimination by those who wish to be superior in the name of Jindal’s freedom. Jindal even tries to show that discriminating against LGBT people isn’t discrimination:

“The bill does not, as opponents assert, create a right to discriminate against, or generally refuse service to, gay men or lesbians. The bill does not change anything as it relates to the law in terms of discrimination suits between private parties. It merely makes our constitutional freedom so well defined that no judge can miss it.”

Jindal justifies his actions through following the consensus of the country, “that marriage is between one man and one women” but acknowledges that “consensus is changing.” He adds, “I will not change my faith-driven view on this matter, even if it becomes a minority opinion.”

Actually, Jindal’s opinion is already a minority opinion: the newest poll shows that 63 percent of “the country” supports same-sex marriage and fewer than 33 percent oppose it. Even states without marriage equality show that a majority approves the right for same-sex couples to marry. As for serving people, 57 percent of “the country” think that business should be required to serve everyone. Among Republicans under 30, 61 percent support marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Jindal concludes by writing, “A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us.” I agree with him: that’s the reason that all people should be served, not just some of them. The law should not make some of the people superior to others.

In the next week, religious zealots will try to flex their muscles of superiority because of the marriage equality arguments before the Supreme Court. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and Family Talk Radio, talks about a second “Civil War,” and Rick Scarborough, Vision America Action, compares his work to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who resisted the Nazis. Tony Perkins warns of a revolution. Objections to legalized marriage equality in a brief from a conservative religious coalition could be a Christian interpretation of the dreaded Sharia law.

“Should the court require the states and the people to ‘ritualize’ sodomite behavior by government issuance of a state marriage license, it could bring God’s judgment on the nation. Holy Scripture attests that homosexual behavior and other sexual perversions violate the law of the land, and when the land is ‘defiled,’ the people have been cast out of their homes.”

The brief relies heavily on Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 24-30. So much for separation of church and state. More ranting can be found here.

While the superiority toward minorities usually comes from white men, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has developed an unusual argument. In her brief, filed with James Bopp, Jr. and Carolyn McLarty, she argues that women should have to marry men because they have a “socializing effect” on men in marriage.

The three assert, “Marriage helps to focus a man’s energy and aggression to socially desirable ends, providing for and protecting wives and children, making their wives and children feel secure, happy, and loved.” Without the need to support a family men probably wouldn’t even work and would certainly have numerous sexual partners without a women.

The brief continues, “Women are more likely than men to initiate divorce because of their different emotional makeup. The complementary, tempering effect of the opposite sex is simply not present in same-sex marriages.”

Because men are too promiscuous and women are too emotional for successful long-term relationships, “the government has no obligation to recognize or promote same-sex marriage.” That’s Blackburn’s argument for forcing both men and women into opposite-sex marriage.

I give the top award for bizarre arguments against same-sex marriage to the man who claims 100 “scholars” blame 900,000 abortions on legalized marriage equality. The twisted logic posits that marriage equality will make opposite-sex couples think that marriage has lost its meaning. They will then not get married. Few marriages lead to unmarried sex which leads to pregnancies out of wedlock which creates more unwanted pregnancies which causes—are you with me?—900,000 abortions. Gene Schaerr used this argument in his amicus brief although he freely admits that he doesn’t see a cause and effect in his “reasoning.” The lawyer who failed in Utah’s case against marriage equality, Gene Schaerr was once a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia.

The question during the next few months is whether the Supreme Court will have enough men needing superiority to deny equal marriage rights to LGBT couples.

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