Monday, December 20, 2010

Know Your Bigots: Virginia Delegate Robert G. Marshall

Now that the federal government no longer has the power to keep openly LGBQ citizens from serving in the military, America's bigots are looking for other ways to deny us the right to serve.

The face of a hater.

Under the claim of states' rights, Virginia state congressional delegate Robert G. Marshall wants to keep "active homosexuals" out of Virginia's National Guard:

[Marshall] said the Constitution reserves states with the authority to do so and that he'll introduce a bill in the state General Assembly next year that ensures the "the effect of the 1994 federal law banning active homosexuals from America's military forces will apply to the Virginia National Guard."

"With the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' President Obama seeks to pay back his homosexual political supporters," the Prince William County Republican said, echoing a sentiment shared by many of the repeal's most ardent opponents. "This policy will weaken military recruitment and retention, and will increase pressure for a military draft."

"The Constitution never would have been ratified if states were not [guaranteed] unqualified control of the militia, now called the National Guard," he said.

Yes. President Obama is definitely "paying back" his queer supporters with this one. And in the alternate universe where the mere presence of queers nancies up a government's military enough to actually affect its performance, I'm sure the repeal of DADT will have a severe and fierce effect on our military's ability to do ANYTHING. Y'all, these queers in the military are going to mess everything up so badly that we are going to have to bring back the DRAFT. Let the hand-wringing commence! (No limp wrists, though).

It's certainly not the case that in other countries where queers serve openly, their militaries operate just fine:

"President Obama and a majority in Congress are conducting a social experiment with our troops and our national security while Americans in uniform are fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, indeed, might be called into battle in Korea," [Marshall] said.

And it's certainly not the case that many in the U.S. military's leadership support letting queers serve openly, or that most people currently on active duty in the U.S. military also support letting queers serve openly. I mean, why take facts into account when bashing "active homosexuals" is just so much more fun?

So at this point, Marshall's brought up states' rights and the Constitution. Could we also get a little Founding Fathers name drop? Heck yes we can:

Though the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and the statutory ban date only from the 1990s, Mr. Marshall argues that it really tosses aside 232 years of American military tradition, saying "the practice of barring homosexual participation in the armed forces dates back to the American Revolution, when Gen. George Washington commanded the Continental Army."

"Gen. Washington did not tolerate personal behavior by his troops that was incompatible with the character traits he expected from his soldiers in exercising their military duty," he said. "In March of 1778, Washington discharged, via public rebuke, a soldier who had attempted a homosexual act with another soldier and then lied about it under oath."

Marshall is certainly correct in using Washington as a proper example on moral matters. In dealing with these sensitive topics, we should always look to men like Washington and certainly must never question their judgment as something that might also have been influenced by the culture of their time. If it was good enough for the late 18th century, it was good enough for the Founding Fathers; therefore, it's good enough for us today!

I'll tell you what the commonwealth of Virginia is NOT gonna do! They are not gonna let the Feds tell us we must tolerate f*gs serving in our military, boy howdy. States' rights!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Open Letter to Michael Moore Regarding Wikileaks

Dear Michael Moore,

I heard on the radio this morning that you posted bail for Julian Assange. I wanted to believe it wasn't true, because a lot of the time I like what you do. So I got online and read your letter explaining why you did it. Most of the letter would be great if it were relevant to anything having to do with why Assange is in jail. Unfortunately, it's NOT relevant. Assange is not actually being prosecuted for anything related to Wikileaks. He's being held on sexual assault charges.

Let's take a minute to examine the most problematic part of your letter.

For those of you who think it's wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he's being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please -- never, ever believe the "official story." And regardless of Assange's guilt or innocence (see the strange nature of the allegations here), this man has the right to have bail posted and to defend himself. I have joined with filmmakers Ken Loach and John Pilger and writer Jemima Khan in putting up the bail money -- and we hope the judge will accept this and grant his release today.

I love that your very first line of reasoning on this issue is, "all I ask is that you not be naive... Please -- never, ever believe the 'official story.'"

Unfortunately, as ridiculous as you think the charges against Assange are, some of these charges - if true - are clearly assault, no matter how you want to look at it. Sticking your penis into a sleeping woman is rape.

What's naive about wanting to investigate rape allegations?

Seriously. What's naive about wanting to investigate rape allegations? Or is Julian Assange exempt from rape laws just because he does Wikileaks?

It's awful to think that these charges might be false. But how much more awful would it be if these charges are true? How much more awful would you feel as a human being after posting a blog about how these women are clearly just making it all up, as pawns of the American government, working through the Swedish government, to recruit two women who have already previously had sex with Assange, to bring up false rape charges and have their names sullied across the globe as sluts who are just mad they let themselves get f*cked without using a condom?

Why are you so quick to assume these women might be lying? Could it be because they are accusing a powerful man of sexually assaulting them? The way you've handled this issue is no different from how the press handles pretty much any woman who alleges that a powerful man assaulted or harassed her. We know the incidence of false rape reports is similar to most other crimes. It's low. On top of that fact, we also know that SO MANY rapes are never reported. Why do you think that is? Could it be because of - dare I say it - the way that people like you view women who DO have the courage to speak out? These women could be lying. Statistically it's actually much more likely that they are not.

But we can't know for sure, and it's not up to any of us. At this point, it's up to the courts. The ultimate point of this letter is that this is between no one but the plaintiffs, the defendant, and the Swedish courts. Assange has the right to bail and such if it's within his rights in Swedish courts. Assange also ought to have the right to a just trial. But so do the women he allegedly assaulted.

Follow the power in this situation. The U.S. government is powerful, and so are the UK and Swedish ones also, I'm sure. But Assange has power as well. He's not helpless. He is a hero to millions. He did something internationally renowned. He'll make it after this just fine. And until someone else brings a case against him, Sweden can't hold him in jail for any other charges besides the assault ones on which he's been brought up.

Are you comfortable with the fact that you might just have bailed out a rapist just because he did something awesome? Or should you maybe think about the whole picture next time before you act? Nothing you've done here is atypical of any other victim-blamer. For that, you and every other person who mindlessly defends Assange should be ashamed.

There are many things that make liberals different from conservatives and progressives from neocons. One of those things is liberals' recognition of our duty to the victimized, to the poor, to those who are not in power. Today you have stepped away from those important moral values. Our right to government transparency must be defended, but we will never truly be free if that right comes at the potential expense of survivors.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Gay and homeless: In plain sight, a largely hidden population"

Good article from the LA Times examines the situation of homeless LGBTQ youth in Los Angeles. I'm so grateful for the courage of these youth to share their stories with the world.

When are people like AJ and Alex, Jonathan, and Christopher and going to be a priority for us? We already know that poverty disproportionately affects queer and trans folk and that our youth are more likely to be homeless for a number of different reasons. While we're busy worrying about whether we can get our partner's benefits through marriage or whether we can join the military so we can go to college, we should not be forgetting those among us who are some of the most vulnerable.

And YouTube videos about how it gets better, as important as that message might be, are not enough, either.

It's (way past) time for our movement(s) to re-evaluate what we are really fighting for. Issues relating to youth, the poor, and elders must not be allowed to fall through the cracks. We say we are working for equality. What kind of equality is it, and who, exactly, gets access to it?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Studies illuminate challenges for LGBTQ youth

Two studies have been released that illustrate some of the challenges that LGBTQ youth face. This article from CNN describes some of the specific findings and talks about where more research needs to be done. When you consider how things were in the past, it's clear we've made some progress, but there's still so much that needs to be improved when it comes to how our younger siblings are treated.

If you're already familiar with what queer kids have to deal with, some of the findings from these studies won't be a surprise to you. What struck me most about this article, however, was the (multiple) stories about school administrators participating in bullying queer youth. Those people should be completely ashamed of themselves. If adults can't be trusted to respect the humanity of the people they serve, they don't deserve the privilege of working with youth.

It's nice to see coverage on the bullying issue that's specific to young LGBTQ people, and it's especially nice to see good coverage of social science studies. I hope to see more press like this article in the future.