With Boston Pride coming up next week, the issue of “pride” and being out is on my mind of late.

One reason why civil rights for sexual minorities—from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and marriage rights—are so very important at this time is because of the demolition of the closet. It’s not just a matter of how living your life in the closet is unhealthy (and it is), it soon may not even be a viable option.

The spread of social networking, issues surrounding online privacy, and studies like “Project Gaydar” at MIT are demonstrating that the conservative idea that minority sexual orientation is something that should remain “private” (i.e., should not be revealed or talked about in the public sphere) is built on a rapidly erroding foundation. It used to be relatively easy to compartmentalize and keep different aspects of one’s life separate. You could have a circle of gay friends and family and a circle of straight friends and family, for example, even live two (or more) different lives. But what happens when they all share your online friends list and “meet” in the virtual space of places like Facebook?

Sure, you might not have a Facebook account but, as the MIT study reveals, even sharing your photos on Flickr or your playlists on iTunes may tip your hand in terms of aspects of your life you think are private, from your sexual orientation to your political affiliation, your hobbies, or your spiritual beliefs. As more and more communication and life in general moves into the vastly distributed network on the Internet, it becomes harder and harder to cut one’s self off from it. “Privacy” may come at the price of being a virtual hermit (so to speak). Even now, not having an email address is as big an anachronism as not having a telephone number. Soon, not having an online identity may well be the same, and that raises questions about the management of said identity.

If you think maintaining the lie of living in the closet was hard before, just imagine it multiplied by a hundred or a thousand; maintaining not only constant vigilance over your own behavior, but also over the behavior of everyone you know, all in real time. The closet is a rapidly shrinking box, more and more uncomfortable to live in than ever. Gay pride and gay rights issues are going to come to a decision point because the default position of the opposition (go back to being invisible so we don’t have to deal with you) is very soon not even going to be a real option (in as much as it ever was). When there’s nowhere to retreat, nowhere to hide, then you have no choice but to fight.

Or, as the gay civil rights chant goes: “We’re here, we’re queer ... get used to it!”

The trends of history and technology say you may have no other choice.
Remember my post about the marriage referrendum in Maine? The recent vote on marriage rights in the NY state legislature is demonstration of the kind of mindset such referrenda encourage: that gay rights, civil rights, are somehow “optional” – things to be voted upon. That “all men are created equal” has exceptions.

There are already protests happening in New York and that’s good, because we are going to have to demand our rights and some accountability from the elected officials who court us during elections and then think they can ignore us once they’re in office.

Like I said before, this isn’t over by a long shot.
I’m a churning mix of emotions this morning reading about the passage of Ballot Question 1 in Maine, rejecting a state law legalizing same-sex marriage. I feel angry, sad, and nauseous. I’m also struck by the number of people (on Facebook and elsewhere in my online social networks) who are completely unaware of the whole thing. Why should they be, after all? It’s not their state and, quite often, not their issue.

Here’s why what just happened in Maine matters: it not only reinforces the idea of shoving gay people back into the closet and encourages the forces of discrimination in this country, it supports the idea that the majority should get to decide on the rights of the minority. Think about that for a moment. Consider what it is like to have your personal rights, your future, decided by a public referrendum of people with basically no stake in giving you anything, and likely some reasons to leave things as they are. It’s called “the tyranny of the majority” and it is a key reason why the judiciary in our country is supposed to have the power to say “no” to majority decisions that violate the spirit or letter of the rule of law.

Opponents of minority rights get all up in arms about “activist judges” who are “legislating from the bench.” They whip people up into a mob mentality over how their right to vote, their ability to decide is being “taken away from them.” Well, here’s news for you: sometimes the majority is just plain wrong. Sometimes, society needs an independent judiciary, with the kind of tenure it takes to stand up to the majority and say, “This is what is right and fair and in the spirit of our laws.” More often than not, these decisions are progressive: after all, if they didn’t go against majority opinion, then they wouldn’t be necessary in the first place, would they?

How long would it have taken the majority of voters to outlaw slavery, or segregation, or establish civil rights, or a woman’s right to control her own body, or any of the numerous landmark decisions of the US Supreme Court? Would they have done them yet?

If there are any “activists” in all of this trying to take anything away form anyone, it is the anti-civil rights and so-called “pro-marriage” types, who not only want to ensure gay people don’t get the same rights they currently enjoy (not “special rights,” the same rights as everyone) but also want to undermine one of the fundamental elements of our system of law and government when it fails to serve their agenda. They resort to mob rule tactics because it’s all they have left: whipping people up with fear-mongering and sending them rushing to the polls to stop “those people” from carrying out the vague threats promised in attack ads and editorials. It’s the modern, electoral version of angry peasants with torches and pitchforks, a latter-day witch-hunt.

What happened yesterday in Maine, and previously in California, may have been legal, and may have been democracy in action, but don’t for a minute think that it was fairness or justice. The state can legislate that I am less of a person than others all it wants. The fearful majority can try to take away my rights. But I know the truth, and they can never take away my dignity, self-worth, or my willingness to fight for those rights that are due all people; not just for myself, but for the generations who will look back and wonder at the culture that could have been so narrow-minded and afraid.

This is far from over.
... but one step back.

Mixed emotions about the election results from last night. On the one hand, I’m elated that Barack Obama is President-elect, and feel a renewed sense of hope about the future of our nation. When I first decided to support Obama back in the primaries, it seemed like a long-shot, and he has run a great campaign against difficult odds. For the first time in a long time, I’m proud of our political leadership.

On the other hand, my jubliation and relief are tempered by the fact that various anti-gay initiatives passed last night: bans on same-sex marriage in California, Florida, and Arizona, and a ban on same-sex adoption in Arkansas. The very idea of writing discrimination into a document meant to define and protect liberty chills me to the bone, and I’m really at a loss for how to respond to such hatred, for hatred it is to deny people their rights for no other reason than discomfort with the idea of treating them as full human beings.

We’ve come a long way over the course of this political campaign, America, but we’ve got a long way yet to go.
Know hope.
... this pretty much nails it in terms my people can understand.

(Tip of the hat to [livejournal.com profile] southernpm for the link.)
You simply can't write stuff like this. Fortunately for SNL, parody of Gov. Palin pretty much writes itself...

Sen. Obama responds to the crazy Clinton notion that he should be thinking about taking a VP slot...

We’ve got a choice in this primary season. To me, it seems like a crystal clear one.
An interesting site on how Barack Obama is doing in the race, and how the “superdelegates” could take it away from him (and us).
Now that an Iowa district court ruled Thursday that same-sex couples can marry.

Depending on how the appeals process goes, this could be a hot issue in Iowa in the Fall.
stevekenson: (flaming)
Interesting op-ed piece from Stephen Benjamin, former Navy Arabic translator discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, along with dozens of other qualified Arabic linguists... not that such men and women are at all needed in the military at this time. The key points:

“Consider: more than 58 Arabic linguists have been kicked out since “don’t ask, don’t tell” was instituted. How much valuable intelligence could those men and women be providing today to troops in harm’s way?”

“As the friends I once served with head off to 15-month deployments, I regret I’m not there to lessen their burden and to serve my country. I’m trained to fight, I speak Arabic and I’m willing to serve. No recruiter needs to make a persuasive argument to sign me up. I’m ready, and I’m waiting.”

How does this fail to be considered “not supporting our troops” while any talk of actually bringing them home or providing them the support they need is “defeatist” and “weakening morale”? Maybe the President believes God will provide translation, speaking in tongues style...
stevekenson: (lance)
In a continued brilliant streak of nominations, apparently the President’s choice for Surgeon General, Dr. James Holsinger, Jr., founded a chruch that, among other things, helps “cure” people of being gay. Look for an interesting Senate confirmation hearing.
Someday, when I’m really old (maybe after I’ve copied my mind into a new clone or something), I will take pleasure in telling some yung’un about how, when I was a child, people attracted to the same sex were expected to hide, for fear of persecution and violence. I’ll tell them how gay people were treated as objects of ridicule and it was considered not only fair, but morally required to discriminate against us.

Then I’ll explain that I was born the same month as the Stonewall Riots. How I remember when same-sex marriage first became legal anywhere in the United States, and how I remember civil unions passing the House and the Senate in New Hampshire, all things I once wondered if I would see in my lifetime. Heck, maybe by then I’ll just dig through the terabytes of files in my personal datanet and show them this post from my LJ!

Civil Unions Passed in New Hampshire! ... another reason to look forward to 2008!


Nov. 7th, 2006 11:26 am
stevekenson: (calvin)
I have voted. Now comes watching and listening to the election coverage (and looking forward to the Daily Show/Colbert Report combined Midterm Midtacular tonight). Oh, yeah, and getting about a bazillion things done today.... I still have to agree with Jon Stewart when he said (and I paraphrase) "You know, maybe the reason we don't hear as much from the moderates is because they all have shit to do..." (not that I count as a "moderate" to, well, pretty much anybody).

Anyhow. Voted. Got stuff to do. Later!



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