Meet me at the rally

On the morning of Wednesday, November 5, I awoke with feelings of hope, renewal and pride unlike anything I’d experienced in.. well, at least eight years. On the heels of four days spent knocking on doors; reminding voters in Madison, Wisconsin, to get out the vote; I remained physically and emotionally exhausted, but knowing that our nation had elected its first ever African American president quickly made the pain of aching feet dissipate.

My elation at Barack Obama’s victory was quickly squelched by the news from California that a slim majority of that state’s voters had chosen to reverse the state supreme court’s decision to legalize gay marriage by approving Proposition 8.

How could it be, I wondered in disbelief, that the lefty land of Hollywood, fruits and nuts [as aptly described by my right-leaning — Understatement of the Century — father] had just written inequality into their state law book? How could barely half of a state’s people take away marriage rights from our community? What was to happen to the thousands of lesbians and gay men whom had already wedded in the state? And why, I wondered, did it matter so much to those who had said ‘yes’ to overruling marriage equality? Who exactly are these people, and what do they want from us?

I’m sure that many of you reading this blog have wondered many of the same questions regarding the latest injustice to face our community. And as bothersome as these questions are, I think we need to save finger-pointing and self-deprecation in the past and look forward to the next questions: Where does our movement go from here? How do we spark a revolution?

Our answer can be found in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” We must, as a community, take each others’ hands, hit to the streets and make our voices heard.

Alongside my fellow happy, chilly protesters du jour.
Alongside my fellow happy, chilly protesters du jour.

dscn5044This is precisely what happened yesterday, Saturday, November 15, as tens of thousands of protesters simultaneously gathered in cities across the United States and world to protest the continued denial of marriage and other civil rights to the LGBT community. I was lucky enough to be present at the Chicago rally (click for video clips) which began at Federal Plaza and continued through the streets of the busy downtown loop area, blocking traffic and raising hell, just as intended. Though an accurate number would be near impossible to quote, the amount of protesters was awe-inspiring. Certainly at least 3000 gay men, lesbians and their friends and family were present, making our chants of “Yes we can!” echo against the walls of high-rise office buildings and shopping meccas.

dscn5062I was amazed as I walked alongside people from all backgrounds and of all ages, as a community united in uproar against the disgusting decision. We were greeted with thumbs up, peace signs, smiles, car honks and; in the case of one older man I observed; slow, steady applause accompanied by trembling tears of joy. Not everyone was having it, though. One woman passing by screamed at a demonstrator: “Why do you think you’re so damn special that you can shut down the streets?”

dscn5051This issue is not about being special. It’s about being equal. It’s about spreading love; and as Keith Olbermann so nobly articulated in a magical, must-see special report; treating your neighbors as you would like to be treated. I, like so many others, dream of a day when I can stand before my family, friends and community to proclaim undying love to the person that I want to grow old with. And it’s going to be to a man. It’s going to be a marriage — not anything else going by any other name — and it’s going to come complete with every other right that heterosexual marriages are granted. I believe that everyone deserves the chance to make this dream come true.

dscn5057Saturday’s protest was preceeded the previous weekend by another demonstration against the induction of right-wing-nutzo James Dobson (of Focus on the Family fame) into the Radio Hall of Fame — a demonstration which I was able to report from. Both protests were peaceful but the message was clear: We’re not going to take this lying down. I could not have been more proud of my community for getting out and demanding equality. I have renewed confidence that it is dscn5049going to happen, because — gay, straight, white, black — together we are going to make it happen.

Below are a number of pictures from Saturday’s protest. Want to get involved? Check out JoinTheImpact.com, open your hearts and minds and help to create a better and more equal world for everyone.

Download: Phoenix ‘Rally’

Download: Nina Simone ‘Here Comes the Sun’

Download: Ben Sollee ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ (Sam Cooke cover)

Not my “Pal”..-in.

In the days that have passed since it was announced that Super Hockey Mommy Gun-Lovin’ Church Lady Barbie was to be the Republican nominee for vice president, I have tried to refrain from my immediate reaction. Or actually, my second one, since my immediate reaction, “Who?”, would be difficult for me to deny, as it would be for many Americans.

Palin takes aim at a group of homosexual, pro-choice tree-huggers.
Palin takes aim at a group of homosexual, pro-choice tree-huggers.

But, no. We weren’t punk’d. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; renowned for her extensive diplomatic experience with nearby Russia and research into the causes of global warming and the history of the feminist movement — she is, a feminist, of course; is truly being nominated for the No. 2 most important position in our country’s government.

I don’t know which of the following is more comical about this clearly very strategic move by the Republican Party, besides her complete lack of experience:

(a) That they’d truly believe that moderate and hardcore Hillary-loving liberal white women would embrace Palin as a candidate;

(b) That this would be viewed as a giant, progressive step forward in the women’s movement — breaking through the glass ceiling — by Americans everywhere, despite Palin’s clearly anti-choice position;

(c) That both of the above seem to actually be happening. At least in some parts of this nation, thanks in no small part of the right-wing PR machine (which, I must admit as a strategic communications major, is clearly brilliant) and the always-receptive-to-ignorance FOX News, not to mention CNBC. Just look at this ridiculous clip from Donny Deutsch, who claims that Palin is a successful candidate because she knows her place in the world — wearing a skirt — Hilldawg never figured that out.

This whole thing is ludicrous. But to be fair, Palin does have some experience in politics, and her accomplishments should not be ignored. Just to name a few:

  1. While serving as Mayor of Wasilia, Alaska, she looked the other way as victims of sexual assault were charged between $300 and $1200 for rape kits. OpEdna
  2. Also while Mayor of Wasilia, Palin attempted to fire a librarian who refused to remove several books from the library system. Two of the titles? Daddy’s Roommate and Pastor I’m Gay. I love having people in office in a democratic nation who don’t support free speech. The Huffington Post and AP
  3. While Governor of Alaska, Palin supported legislation that made it easier for aerial hunters to brutally kill wolves and other animals during the winter, in addition to many other aggressively pro-hunting policies. Queerty
  4. During her first 19 months in office as Governor, Palin billed Alaskan taxpayers for 312 nights of a “per diem” allowance to cover her meals and incidental expenses. The total bill? Around $16,000; while her family charged the state over $40,000 to travel in that time. Washington Post
  5. Palin’s former church, the Wasilia Assembly of God, has close ties to the abysmal and abusive ex-gay organization Love Won Out. AP

These were just five among many, many more reasons why this woman could not be a worse choice for vice president. Disagree? I’m deeply saddened by your ignorance. Period. I couldn’t agree more with Margaret Cho (an actual feminist)’s quotation from earlier today in the Washington Blade:

“I think [Palin] is the worst thing to happen to America since 9-11,” Cho said. “Someone who has no thoughts about women’s rights and who wants to send women back to the Stone Age? You might as well not let women vote. I came out of the Democratic convention feeling so proud and excited, but now I fear that our country is so backwards in so many ways and the ignorance that exists is greater than we can even imagine.”

Comedian Margaret Cho is an *actual* feminist.
Comedian Margaret Cho is an *actual* feminist.

Kudos for being brave and speaking out, Miss Cho. It’s not easy to do in a country that has been taught in recent years to fear like never before. To obey. To never ask questions. When in doubt, just drive over to Wal Mart and buy more shit. It’s the American way.

Kudos to Cho. Kudos to Gloria Steinem, author of the LA Times piece, “Wrong woman, wrong message”. Kudos to the hundreds who rallied this weekend at the Alaskan Women Reject Palin rally — more than showed up to her Welcome Home Rally on the same day. Kudos to mafuckin’ Tina Fey, for her impeccable impression of Hockey Mommy.

Let’s not stand by and let an anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-violence, completely ignorant non-feminist step within a heartbeat of the Presidency. The time is now.

Have friends getting gay-married anytime soon?

It’s been a busy few months for this ghey, but sanity has finally returned and Reality TV Makes Me Cry is now coming to you live from a new location — Chicago. I may not have cable yet, nor is my Internet connection the most reliable, but I intend to update this blog as frequently as I am able to with remarks on the various crazinesses of our world.

Yahtzee, game on.

Gay-friendly cards are now available from all Hallmark locations.
Hallmark goes gay with new cards.

Ever read a news story while instantly visualizing the next three headlines on that topic in the coming weeks? This was precisely my experience with this announcement from Hallmark that they would begin selling cards appropriate for gay-marrieds becoming civilly unionized, or whatever they call it these days, just in time for Portellen’s joyous union. These new cards arrive on the heels of a series of “coming out” cards unveiled last year by the retailer.

Cue the protesters: A number of Hallmark stores in the state of Idaho have announced that they will not carry the new offerings. The esteemed American Family Association has also added Hallmark to their shit list by encouraging a protest, just as they had earlier this year with the homo-friendly, gay pride mongers McDonald’s. Their rationale?

“… promoting same-sex marriage for profit is not the very best for families or our nation. Hallmark is a private company obviously driven by greed,” reads the official AFA petition. “Let them know you do not appreciate Hallmark promoting a lifestyle which is illegal in 48 states.”

Ho hum. You would think that the right-wing conservatives would find it enough to simply not buy the ghey cards and let the Bush-endorsed capitalist marketplace work itself out by eliminating the unholy pieces of parchment stuffed in equally evil envelopes. This is almost as amusing as the post-9/11 Dixie Chicks protest.

Anna Pastuszwska fall down, go boom, at her July 19 straight-wedding.
Anna Pastuszwska fall down, go boom, at her July 19 straight-wedding.

Speaking of illegal lifestyles and weddings, check out this story about a Michigan couple that was recently straight-married and wound up being tasered and spending the night in separate prison cells. Is this proof that the homosexual agenda has finally gained steam? Or did a bunch of bitches just get schwasted? Judge for yourself

Download: Dosh ‘I Think I’m Getting Married’

Download: Wolf Parade ‘Call It a Ritual’

Download: Telepathique ‘Love and Lust’

How much can you really “reclaim”?

I’m sure that you’ve all heard by now about Jane Fonda’s “C-bomb” droppage last week on The Today Show, during an interview with Meredith Vieira, but in case you missed it (which is highly possible.. I mean, does anyone really watch that show anymore?):

My first reaction to the news — which caused a ridiculous amount of uproar — pretty much matched Vieira’s. I rolled my eyes, apologized to the three people I was speaking with at the time and moved on. It’s not as though Fonda had slammed a glass beer bottle on the edge of a table, brandishing it toward Vieira while screaming a slew of obscenities about the female anatomy. Instead, she had referred to the name of the monologue — “Reclaiming Cunt” — that she had been asked to perform in a performance of The Vagina Monologues.

Our society has reached this bizarre point with censorship where words, phrases and ideas are only punished when they challenge hegemony. As Eve Ensler, the monologues’ author, stated in a People article: “Why is there a buzz about that when there’s no buzz about the word ‘rape’ or ‘plutonium’ or ‘clusterbomb’? … I’m always surprised that people focus on these issues, when one of three women in the world are being raped and beaten and violated.”

These issues are simply not being talked about, while at the same time, the gendering of proper behavior and etiquette for powerful women has never been more strictly policed. Fonda is just another example of this. We are inundated with news whenever Britney Spears eats a Ho-Ho, Hillary Clinton cries a tear or any other woman of influence steps out of line with the norm in some way.

Today in Wisconsin was the primary election, and as expected, Clinton was defeated soundly by Barack Obama, particularly here in Madison, where the “student voice” quickly morphed into a cultish choir chanting “change” and “hope.” Don’t get me wrong — I really like both candidates and am thankful that we as a country are fortunate enough to be able to choose between two fantastic Democratic candidates, rather than feeling stuck with . But, based on the conversations I have had in the past weeks, suffice it to say that I am skeptical about the depth of Obamaites’ knowledge on the issues. Their eyes sparkle from the excitement of a great orator with carefully crafted, brilliantly strategized appeals and imagery, though I’ve heard very little based in actual political discourse to back up the taglines. That is, unless this heinously anti-woman Facebook status message of a “friend,” posted earlier this evening, counts as discourse:

A “friend’s” Facebook status following Clinton’s loss Tuesday.

There simply seems to be no stopping the Obamamania.

Enjoy the song below, which eerily (and catchy-indie-pop-songly) describes my current outlook on life; procrasinating late on a Tuesday night, nearly one-third of the way into my final semester as a student:

This is our decision, to live fast and die young
We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun
Yeah, it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do
Get jobs in offices, and wake up for the morning commute

Download: MGMT ‘Time to Pretend’

The power of free speech

I love Super Bowl Sunday. And not for the game itself. Or the parties. Or the commercials. But it’s a wonderful to actually be able to get a table with an outlet at whichever coffee shop your heart desires on State Street.

So, I’m taking advantage of this rare opportunity by stepping back for a moment and acknowledging the privilege that I am taking advantage of by publishing this blog. Over 200 years ago, our forefathers codified into this nation to a series of unalienable rights, including the freedom for all to speak without risk of government intervention, welcoming (at least in theory) differing opinions and views: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Our nation experiences such a degree of freedom that Tori Amos can go on a diva-rant about what a twat-hater the writer of Britney Spears’ Toxic is, in this November 2007 Blender.com interview. (As a sidebar: I would have to agree with her reasoning here. I mean, toxic shock syndrome is nothing to toy around with.)

As Americans, we eat this stuff up. It’s suddenly front-page news with Diane Keaton says “fuck” on Good Morning America, Amy Winehouse snorts up, or Brit-Brit continues her near-tragic plight — all of which I have, for the most part avoided covering in this blog. Granted, I am not innocent from feeling a certain degree of curiosity with these events, but in many ways, I am distubed to see what democracy has created in this country.

This is far from the case in other nations.

In China, blogger-activist Hu Jia was arrested in December for “subverting state power,” joining the ranks of at least 50 other online dissidents. His wife and two-month-old daughter have now been placed under house arrest and barred from accessing the Internet. Similarly, in Havana, Cuba, Yoani Sanchez continues to blog about life under stifling communist rule, using Internet cafes, alias and disguises in order to skirt the surveillance efforts of their government. And why does she continue to do it, constantly risking arrest, or perhaps even her life?

Yoani Sanchez, blogging from her Havana, Cuba apartment.

“The latest reflections of Fidel Castro have ended my patience,” Sanchez wrote on her blog, ‘Generacion Y’. “To try to evade or distance oneself from our problems and theorize about things that occurred thousands of kilometers away, or many years ago, is to multiply by zero the demands of a population that is tired, disenchanted and in need today of measures that alleviate its precariousness.”

The written word still has incredible power. Let’s not take that power for granted. It has the power to inform, to persuade and maybe even the power to change. Complacency? Apathy? Defeated. Let’s give the generations to follow something to talk about.

Download: Rage Against the Machine ‘Calm Like a Bomb’

We cannot walk alone…

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring the birthday of one of the leading proponents of nonviolence and spokespeople of the civil rights movement. In addition to providing a day off from school, work, etc., the holiday gives us all an opportunity to look around us and ask whether the world we currently live in lives up to Dr. King’s dream of freedom, equality and justice.

Are we there yet? That depends who you ask. George W. Bush would probably say we’re doing pretty well, judging by a statement made earlier today. In Bush’s words, “by simply living a life of kindness and compassion, you can make America a better place and fulfil the dream of [King].”

But what about the nearly 36 million Americans living under the poverty line? Or the family and loved ones of the many transgender people murdered annually around the world because of their gender identity? Or the legions of gay, lesbian and other queer citizens who cannot legally get married, serve openly in the military or adopt children (in some states)? What would they say? Do the powers-that-be even care?

martin-luther-king2.jpg

Happy birthday, MLK.

Download: Patty Griffin ‘Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)’

Don’t ask, don’t fuck with me

The weekend is here, as is December, and snow is falling here in Madison. Bravo is televising a seasons 1, 2 and 3 epic marathon of Project Runway, and I am holed up finishing (starting?) a paper on transgender in(ex)clusion in LGBT community organizing. So, I am cracking open the Diet Coke and proclaiming “bring it” to the end-of-semester stress.

As you probably already know, Wednesday evening was the CNN/YouTube Republican Presidential Debate, and it was just as captivating as one could have ever expected a gathering of middle- to older-aged white men discussing gay-hatin’, Jesus-praisin’ and gun-lovin’ to be. Outside of the expected content, the below question really got to me.

I am so tired of the bullshit response of “unit cohesion” concerns among conservative politicians, and the far-reaching generalizations made over those serving in the military is insulting not only to gay and lesbian troops, but to heterosexual troops assumed to be too close-minded to deal with those who are different with them. The U.S. military is in no position whatsoever to be turning down help from wherever it can get it, and serving our country is something that means a lot to many Americans who choose to enlist. Not allowing them to openly be who they are while putting their life on the line is downright degrading, and I’m still waiting for a better response to questions like Brigadier General Keith Kerr’s from this debate than what we have been hearing for the past decade. The rousing applause of the debate’s audience after the candidates continued to babble on about “family values” and “homosexual lifestyles” was nauseating.

Allegations were later made by a number of conservative bloggers that Kerr’s question was planted by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, given that Kerr serves on a Clinton LGBT-related steering committee. CNN producers have since pandered to their accusations by apologizing for including the question in the debate, despite Kerr’s repeated statements that he was acting as an individual and that he “has not done any work for Mrs. Clinton.”

The whole controversy misses the point, in my mind, given that the whole idea of YouTube debates is to open the forum up to questions from any individual with something on their mind, which may or may not represent the interests of the entire constituency. Democracy is about everyone coming to the table and having their voice heard, as well as the “watchdog” duty that bloggers have taken up in the past several years. Although it is important, and noteworthy, to know that Kerr is associated with the Clinton committee, that shouldn’t mean that the question needs to be completely disregarded. As the above article from the Washington Times points out, many of the questions asked in the debate were contributed by individuals with organizational ties from both ends of the political spectrum. This is simply the nature of the beast. When democratic ideals are used to encourage censorship, something has gone wrong.

In case you didn’t catch this entry’s thesis: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is fucked up.