Friday, July 22, 2011

We're Number One!

Ohio leads nation in toxic air pollution [Dayton Business Journal]

Ohioans are subject to the most industrial toxic air pollution, according to a recent study. Ohio’s toxic air pollution levels are 36 percent higher than any other state in the country, according to an analysis of Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Columbus Ranked #8 in Nation for Creative Vitality

Check it out! According to the Vitality Index, Columbus is 8th in the nation for creative vitality. The index measures "a city's human strengths as it respects its social, cultural, and economic complexities."

This report is done by Creative Cities International, LLC, who describe themselves as a "global team of the most dynamic and experienced practitioners in culture and urban planning, market and financial analysis, architecture, transportation and the creative industries."

The report follows on the heels of the announcement of NEA grant funding of Columbus Public Art 2012. Through this competitive process, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, City of Columbus, and the City’s Columbus Art Commission won $150,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts. This money will be distributed to 10-15 artists to support temporary public art initiatives.

Indie Art Capital: I still believe!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

NAGAAA Ends Anti-LGBTQ Policy

The North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance has decided that bisexuals and transgender people should be allowed to play on their no-more-than-two-straights teams. They have also decided to determine sexual orientation based on self-identification (instead of things like a roomful of people who get to question you about your sex life and then vote on whether you are gay enough to play gay softball).

It just took a lawsuit.

I'll leave you with this quote:
The problem with a narrow definition, said Christopher Stoll of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represents the plaintiffs, is how to define “gay.”

“How do you prove if someone is gay or straight?” he said. “One of the most disturbing things about the league’s position in this case is that there’s only one way of being gay, or one view of being gay. The definition did not include bisexual, or transgendered. Our clients break the stereotypes of what gay is supposed to be.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

It Gets Better, Unless You're Bi

Dear Dan Savage,

To use your own theme: Equality! You're doing it wrong. Cheers!

Also, a thanks is in order for the motivation your consistency brings me. Because of your recent column, I have finally decided to do something about this whole mess with you and not being nice.

I'd like to start with your very last statement in that column. I only speak for myself, but I don't want to kick you out of the community. Maybe you were exaggerating, but it's not really funny, and I for one am tired of this whole us/them dichotomy that you and other bullies keep trying to perpetuate. I do define you as a bully. In the past you have abused your bully pulpit to put down bisexual people, trans people, survivors of domestic violence, people of color, fat people... I stopped reading your column years ago for these sorts of reasons, so forgive me if I missed some. Anyway, allow me to introduce as bully evidence (pun intended) the tiresome writing technique of quoting Webster's dictionary. A bully is "a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker." Given your personal position, and the societal position of the groups mentioned above, I'd say the case that Dan Savage is a bully is good and growing. But I digress.

For a while, I've been wishing to simply nip the problem in the bud and start a campaign to get your column discontinued. To make myself laugh instead of being sad or angry, I thought I'd call it "FTMFA." You know, as in, "Fire the motherf***** already." I had too many real world things on my plate, however, to pursue it. No longer. Now I have four things that you ought to fear: an abundance of free time, idle hands, a growing network of powerful and smart people, and a serious bone to pick.

So, Dan, here's the answer to your challenge: I think I might try to get your column pulled. I'm going to start with getting it pulled from our local paper. I'm going to send them this letter, and I'm also going to spread the word around Columbus. If that campaign goes well, I'll do whatever I can to help others get it pulled in their cities, too.

We're done messing around. It's clear from your column that whatever your true feelings are, you don't take us seriously, and you don't respect us. It's time to change that.

The thing is, you've made the argument so much easier. It's simple to say something like, "This man started the 'It Gets Better' campaign, but look at the hateful words that he has written. Did you know the Canadian Community Health Survey showed nearly half of bisexual women and more than a third of bisexual men have seriously considered (or attempted) suicide? That number's at LEAST 10% higher than ALL their monosexual peers and across genders... Do you think there might be a connection between the mental health outcomes of bisexuals and the bullying of bisexuals in things like this nationally syndicated advice column?"

Maybe I'll tell people a little bit of my story, too. I first came out to someone as bisexual when I was 15. The person to whom I came out was also bisexual and had recently come out to the general community. Upon my disclosure, she asked me, "Are you sure you're bisexual? Because you had better be sure before you come out, you know. You just need to be absolutely sure," and more along those lines. I think she also mentioned fake bisexuals. The details of what she told me are vague in my memory, but the overall message was clear: If you're not 100% sure, get back in the closet.

What I perceived as her doubt in my disclosure - combined with the confusion I felt about being attracted to more than one gender, and the cultural beliefs I had internalized about being bisexual - when I perceived her doubt, it was another year before I seriously considered a bisexual identity again. It took two more years for me to come out to myself and my friends. Even after I came out to everyone as an adult, it was another four years until I felt comfortable with a bi identity. The only thing I trusted at that point was experience, specifically sexual experience.

I wish I'd trusted myself more. When I was 15, all it took was one person grilling me for me to retreat within myself. All it took was one person for me to stop growing and give up on what has turned out to be one of the best parts of myself. Thank goodness that with the help of others I was able to give myself another chance.

Dan, saying you are not biphobic doesn't work as a magical shield against further accusations when you have indeed berated bi teens and bi individuals and the bi community right here in this column. You don't get a free pass to hate because you say you're not hating. Your words are speaking for themselves.

It is especially despicable for you to attack bisexual youth by saying they can't be sure. Whether their orientation changes is irrelevant and it's none of your business anyways. I'd like to know how "resent[ing] be[ing] asked" to respect youth at their word is compatible with running the It Gets Better project. Furthermore, by your own logic, any teen coming out as gay or lesbian deserves to be questioned and doubted just as much as any one that says they're bi. For every teen that said she was bisexual and then turned out to be gay, I'll find you a teen who said he was gay and turned out to be bisexual. I know lots of all genders.

Which community do we want to build? A community that questions the very validity of our youth? Do we want to foster a community that at its most generous only begrudgingly tolerates those attracted to more than one gender (as you seem to)? Or do we want to be a community that supports and uplifts each other? I'd like to see more of the second, which is why I'll be forwarding this letter to Outlook Monthly.

In short: Here's to an early retirement!

Merideth

Facilitator, Columbus Bi Network
Co-Advisor, comBIne @ OSU
Participant, Pride Leadership Cycle 4, United Way of Central Ohio
http://cowtown-bisexual.blogspot.com

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What has your legislature done for you lately?

"OHIO BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

The budget approved by the Senate:
  • Requires new casinos to pay the Commercial Activity Tax on all revenue received, not just after winnings are paid out.
  • Requires the state to sell six adult and youth detention prisons to private operators who, in some cases, would contract with the state to house prisoners.
  • Eliminates, beginning in 2013, the estate tax, from which 80 percent of revenue goes to local governments.
  • Authorizes the governor to pursue a long-term lease of the Ohio Turnpike by a private operator, but requires lawmakers' approval of the terms.
  • Raises the threshold at which government must pay union-scale wages on public projects from the current $78,000 to $125,000 in 2012, $200,000 in 2013, and $250,000 in 2014.
  • Allows counties and universities to sell buildings to private owners and lease them back.
  • Does not include House-passed language introducing merit-pay system for teachers. Similar language is in the Senate Bill 5 collective-bargaining law.
  • Eases restrictions on the expansion of charter schools in the state, although not to the extent proposed by the House.
  • Provides no funding for enforcement of smoking in indoor public places and phases out support for the Quit Line."

To read a summary of the final vote and quotes from lawmakers, see this news article in the Toledo Blade.

What really got me was all their talk of what the legacy of this budget will be. I'm not a legislator, but I already know enough about budgets to know that anyone who thinks most of these things are good ideas is an idiot. You are an idiot when you think that tearing down infrastructure, like education, healthcare, safety net services, and other basics, will lead to any sort of progress (besides lining the pockets of you & your fat cat friends).

For more, please see Ohio Budget Watch.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bisexual Discrimination Lawsuit Will Stand in Court; NAGAAA Allowed to Continue Orientation-Based Discrimination

A federal judge has ruled the lawsuit three bisexual men are bringing against the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) will stand.

You see, the NAGAAA has this lovely little rule that permits softball teams to discriminate based on sexual orientation - no more than two straights allowed! The three plaintiffs in this case are bisexual men who were kicked off of a team after a witch-hunt for non-gays:

The plaintiffs — Stephen Apilado, LaRon Charles and John Russ — were members of the team D5, which made it to the finals of the Gay World Series in 2008.

During the game, the manager of another team filed a protest under the rule that limits the number of non-gay players. The men contend they were brought, one at a time, into a room containing as many as 25 people and questioned about their sexual preferences.

The panel members then voted on whether they men were gay or "non-gay." Several ballots were held, and the men said the process was humiliating.

The NAGAAA's response was not to condemn the witch-hunters, but instead to say that it's perfectly okay to enforce the two-hetero rule and that sure, you can include bisexuals in that definition if you want, even though they're not. So the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) took the NAGAAA to court on behalf of the three bisexuals. (The NCLR gets it).

U.S. District Judge John Coughenour handed out a mixed bag of various rulings related to the case. The NAGAAA is allowed to keep their rule stating that only two heterosexuals may play on any team. (Does that sound like a bogus rule for a gay sports association to have? That's because it is! Anyway). The judge also stated that the NAGAAA may still have to pay the price because they have acted as a "public accomodation" and thus must follow Washington state anti-discrimination laws.

This case could have great consequences for all people who do not identify as gay or straight. I hope that it proceeds in a fair and just manner.

In doing some research for this post, I found a copy of the NAGAAA's response when the lawsuit was filed. In this letter, the association makes the NCLR out to be petty, stating that taking this problem to court will cause untold financial problems for the NAGAAA.

Here's a choice quote:
The NCLR, and plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $225,000 for “emotional distress”, etc., plus attorney fees. The lawsuit also demands that NAGAAA rewrite it’s [sic] rules of member participation to reflect the views of NCLR, and demands that NAGAAA award the team D2 the championship trophy for that event. We believe they are in error, and contend that there has been no wrong-doing, and the case is unfounded.

Has anyone at the NAGAAA even ever talked to a bisexual about what it feels like to be a bisexual? I feel like if they had, they wouldn't put "emotional distress" in quotes. Discrimination is real, and it hurts, and what happened here WAS discrimination, and GAY PEOPLE OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER.

If the NAGAAA doesn't like being taken to court, it should've considered an appropriate response when it first heard of this team's actions. If the NAGAAA can't figure out that we're all in this together, then frankly, they deserve to be bankrupted. Let another out sports organization, one that doesn't insist on being in charge of the queer membership cards, take its place.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Quote of the Day

From Why the GOP Hates the National Science Foundation [NeuroTribes]:
The message of Coburn’s report is the message of Sarah Palin’s slams against the media is the message of the right-wing blogosphere’s mockery of climate scientists is the message of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s attacks on public-school teachers is the message of Maggie Gallagher’s attacks on gay couples that want to get married: These alleged “experts” don’t really know anything. Not only that, they think you’re stupid...

...Whatever you do, don’t look at the data. Keep your eye on the sick shrimp on the treadmills, the towel-folding robots, and the Jell-O wrestlers at McMurdo station.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NYC's LGBT Center Reveals Bias

Something bogus is happening at the NYC LGBT Center:

Sherry Wolf is a member of the Siege Busters Working Group, which was planning a "Party to End Apartheid!" for Israeli Apartheid Week at the LGBT Center, where they'd met regularly since last summer.

Then, pornographer and ardent pro-Israel Jew Michael Lucas complained on Tuesday about the event, it was canceled, and Siege Busters was evicted from the Center.

Wolf, a long-time and well-known activist for both gay rights and socialism, talks to Runnin' Scared about her 23 years of being active at the Center, now being labeled an anti-Semitic Jew, and having her group kicked out without so much as a phone call.

Part of what enrages Wolf is that the Center didn't even bother to contact the group. (The Center said in a statement, "When one group's meetings or activities interfere with the Center's focus on our core mission, we reserve the right to ask this group to move." The Center didn't mention that it had played host to an Israeli Apartheid Week event in 2008.)


Follow the link above to read the interview with Wolf. You can also read more of what Michael Lucas said and the Center's short response on the issue here.

I haven't written much about my views on Israel and Palestine in this blog. Though I definitely hold opinions on the issue(s), I don't feel my personal views (or anyone else's, really) are that relevant here. It seems to me that if what Sherry Wolf is saying is true, then it was inappropriate of the Center to cancel this event. If the Center has allowed other potentially politically controversial events to take place, and it lets groups meet there that are not specifically LGBTQIA in focus, then their actions against this group are unfair. Furthermore, it seems ridiculous to evict the group based on one complaint when they'd been meeting there for months already.

So, is New York City's LGBT Center's plan simply to avoid all controversy in the future and cancel everything that might be offensive to someone? Or is it simply to cancel that which doesn't fit in with the current political status quo...? Or is it to follow the money? Or all three?

It can't be all or nothing. Voluntarily claiming the title of "LGBT safe haven" means the Center must be a safe haven for all, not just for those who are in power. Either you welcome the diversity of queer voices on this issue, or you stay out of it completely.


One more thing: this whole casual usage of "anti-Semitic" in reference to anyone who is critical of Israel has got to stop. The last time I checked, questioning - and seeking the most socially just path - were both incredibly important Jewish values. Whether or not one agrees with the Siege Busters, anti-Semites they are not. Sorry.


P.S. A note to Wolf: I heard a rumor there are also bisexual Jews in addition to gay, lesbian, and transgender ones. I heard this blogger might even be one. I also heard that "gay and lesbian" is not the same thing as LGBT. Just something to keep in mind, maybe, when you're making general statements about queers (and oppression, and privilege, and pinkwashing, and all those sorts of things).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Study Sheds Light on Trans Discrimination

The National Center for Transgender Equality and the Task Force released a report today, "Injustice at Every Turn," which details the results of the largest transgender discrimination survey to date. Few studies have been done which take into account gender identity and expression at all. The sample size and focus of study make this survey and its results especially important.

Some of the results are what you'd expect, and some are not. For instance, 41% of respondents had attempted suicide. That percentage is 26 times the national average and is higher than the rate among veterans and people with a diagnosis of depression.

Read the report.

Via the American Prospect, which offers excellent analysis of the results in the following article: Counting the Transgender Community