Menstuff® has compiled information and books on Gay, Bi, and Transgender issues. This section is Robert N. Minor's weekly column featured daily on our homepage. Robert is the author of Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He may be reached through www.fairnessproject.org or at E-Mail.
Fred Phelps and his tiny, no-account, insignificant Westboro Baptist Church perfected it in the field of religious bigotry. But attracting attention when youre a nobody to the rest of the world is now an established strategy.
Its fueled and enabled by the mainstream media since it changed to make everything it follows provide moneymaking entertainment. There are no more money-losing news bureaus maintained for the public good. Instead, 24-hour cable news channels compete for public attention so they can deliver eyeballs to their advertisers.
Theyve made a perfect publicity manipulating enemy of ISIS and the perfect politician of a talentless businessman/entertainer named Trump. The Donalds TV ego and its outrageousness, which hes displaying in his joyride of a presidential race reality show, are branded in the entertainment catchphrase: Youre fired.
And media have created a presidential race ideal for Newt Gingrichs advice: If you want to sell books, run for president. Add: if you want to become a media commentator or an overpaid blowhard on the lecture circuit for suckers, particularly religious ones.
Getting this level of attention when little else is notable in ones life requires an extraordinary outrageousness that raises someone above the crowd. It also means that if theyre going to continue getting media attention, people regularly must ramp up the offensiveness of the outrageousness.
And like watching a train wreck, the more offensive and outrageous, the more the media cant resist and the more the pubic wont turn away. We tune in, repost, discuss, express surprise and unbelief, complain, get angry, and search for more.
Phelps learned early. When local news started ignoring his tiny family churchs protests, he doubled down, displayed more outrageous signs, travelled to higher-powered funerals, and targeted attacks on well-known people outside the LGBT community.
So, how many unimportant, nobody-cares-about-them, churches are out there whose leader would love to be known on a national stage? And how many of these leaders have a desperate need for more attention in their otherwise unnoteworthy routine of preaching the same old, same old to the same old, same old?
Remember how Terry Jones, pastor of a little nothing congregation he dubbed Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, became the center of worldwide attention hed never otherwise deserve? In 2010 he announced his plans to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Jones thereby found a shtick and the attention he needed to feel like a big shot. So, he followed that with similar attention-getting behavior in 2011, 2012, and 2013 because he learned how this manipulated the media to his benefit.
Now, another nobody-cares-about-him-otherwise minister suckered the media into validating him through his outrage over nothing more than the plainness of red holiday cups at Starbucks. Well, actually hes an Arizona no-church-pastor, a self-labeled evangelist named Joshua Feuerstein who describes himself appropriately as social media personality.
Of course this was manufactured outrage. Starbucks had never put explicitly Christian symbols on its cups while actually selling products mentioning Christmas such as its Christmas Blend coffee. But this made another Christian-nobody-cared-about the latest national hero in that annual right-wing and FOX outrage called the War on Christmas.
Right-wing religious leadership in particular draws people who are starved for attention. There are numerous reasons why theyre drawn to right-wing religion, including that it lures them in by agreeing that theyre worthless sinners.
Right-wing religious teachings are inherently abusive and thus it attracts those whove been brought up as abused children. It validates anyone with low self-worth with its teaching that all people rightly deserve hell, an eternal child abuse from their Heavenly Father.
Their kind of salvation is supposed to be the way out of this, but for most born again feelings fade, so something more is needed. Maybe thats more church attendance, more praying, more Bible reading, more testifying to others.
Others attention needs propel their whole career into the church, thereby becoming professional Christians. That, they believe, should get some necessary attention particularly from their only Heavenly Father.
But attention from an invisible being is hard to measure or convincingly feel. So theyll need visible evidence.
Religious professionals arent supposed to admit these needs even to themselves, of course. But becoming pastor of a mega-church or televangelist can feel someones special to God with all those adoring, donating, self-sacrificing fans.
Even a lavish pastoral lifestyle can be taken as visible proof that Heavenly Daddy is paying special attention through all the faithful contributing to it. In a consumption-oriented society, material success is the goal of many seeking to feel theyre worth something.
Yet, realistically, when someone is emotionally starved for attention, nothing will ever feel as if its enough. Mega-church pastors wont be able to settle even for these.
Imagine the unfulfilled attention needs of the thousands of pastors of tiny, indistinguishable churches often in the middle of nowhere. How can they get the attention from God and humanity to fill their void?
The answer is: be like Donald Trump or Fred Phelps. Act outraged and be outrageous enough to get the attention you crave.
When we in turn give them attention of any sort, we collude with them because they dont care whether that attention is positive or negative. As the old quip goes: It doesnt matter what theyre saying about you as long as theyre talking about you.
To them persecution, after all, is real proof that theyre righteous. Mockery only sounds like what they believe Jesus received from sinners.
What we need to face is that these are needy grownup children whove been wounded in their upbringing and are victims of religious abuse and religious exploitation of their woundedness. They dont need our pity, but understanding that the real issue isnt a rational one solved by logical discussion.
This means that the most powerful thing we can do is to
say this and then treat them like the attention-needy
children they are down deep. Surely, lets not give
them attention for their outrageousness, but stand our
ground modeling the humanity-affirming and psychological
healthy alternative of our own lives.
Before we settle down with families to eat this Thanksgiving Day, lets take the time on November 20th to remember those whove been killed as a result of what weve come to call transphobia -- the fear and resulting violence about gender nonconformity that is directed at transgender and gender non-conforming people.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, graphic designer, columnist, and activist, to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts because Rita didnt conform to culturally-conditioned gender expectations. Now we remember all those human beings harassed, abused and killed because of gender nonconformity. This years reported murders have hit an all time high: 24 deaths in the U.S. alone as of October 15.
Something is very wrong above and beyond the tragic suffering that people who identify as transgender or otherwise gender non-conforming experience. And, as in most such fear and hate based violence, whats wrong isnt the victims of the violence - transgender people - but something systemic about our society that we dont want to face, much less change.
In transgender people, right-wing religious pushers have found another group to condemn. Right-wing politicians have found another fear to exploit for political support. And because transgender people are becoming more visible, theyre lightning rods for cultural fears, confusion, and dysfunction.
Its important that we keep pushing for the rights of transgender people to express their gender identity without retaliation anywhere. But its also important for us to challenge the systemic factors that keep gender issues stuck; and those represent issues for us all.
They begin, as so much does, from the moment children are born. From then on, all of the institutions that make up our system enforce three crucial misunderstandings: (1) there are two and only two genders; (2) gender is inherent, not culturally conditioned; (3) males are the best gender.
Havent things changed regarding this? Yes and no: were now giving it an attention we never did before and even claiming things are different, but the sum of all our institutions and their inter-workings (the system) still teach these three ideas.
The system also continues to enforce them, doing so by seeing that anyone who challenges them is marginalized and punished. Its okay to think about them in private, but dont flaunt your rejection of them publicly. And thats what the out and open lives of transgender people are seen to be doing.
Its the unusual child in our culture who hasnt absorbed these three misunderstandings early in life. Conditioning begins with the first question adults ask when a child is born.
We all know what that question is: What is it? And we dont want the answer to be that the baby is a fully human human being with all the possibilities all humans have.
We adults are the ones asking if the newborn is a boy or a girl; not the baby. The baby isnt insisting that it will only be happy with certain colors of blankets and clothing.
So, lets admit it: weve been conditioned to feel that we need to know which of two genders the child is in order to relate best to the child. Can we ever be comfortable if we dont know?
We know from all the studies of parenting that from that point on the adults around the child treat babies differently depending upon what they perceive the gender to be. So do all the institutions with which that child has to do.
The young baby doesnt understand this gender binary and all of the limitations and conditions it comes with, but if the young childs genitals are unambiguous (or if theyve been surgically adjusted to be so by attending physicians in the cases where they werent) the pressure to conform to the culturally conditioned gender roles is enforced by adults out of their own fears around the alternatives.
Systemically each of the two acceptable genders finds certain behaviors, feelings, and expectations enforced on them and others denied to them. And the adults around them, even those who have some understanding, continue to embrace assumptions about gender.
Listen to fairly enlightened discussions: Im trying to get in touch with my feminine/masculine side. This assumes the gender binary and its limitation of certain qualities to one side of it rather than seeing them as human qualities our culture has merely said each gender cant have.
I thought my son was gay because when he was little he was so gentle, kind, and sensitive. Since in our culture lesbians and gay men arent supposed to fit the appropriate gender role, this also accepts the idea that heterosexual people cant deviate from the appropriate gender roles in the binary; heterosexual boys and men cant be gentle, kind and nurturing.
Did you see the athlete who came out and doesnt fit the stereotype? The stereotype is a question of gender performance does the athlete look or act effeminate or masculine. We might hear the language of gay or straight, but what were really talking about is binary gender conformity.
Did you hear about the student who was harassed for being gay? Actually what the bullying is based on is the boy or girls deviation from the conditioned gender role. The boy acts too feminine, the girl too masculine. Its seldom about sexual and emotional attraction.
The three assumptions around gender mean that everyone, not just transgender people, is supposed to conform to boxes they didnt build and are expected to enforce. It limits those who identify as female from expressing their power, leadership capacities, career orientation or anything that only males are supposed to exhibit. It keeps males from expressing the nurturing, sensitive, creative, caring, and relationship qualities that all human beings possess.
And these assumptions and the transphobia they spawn
promote homophobia as well: that fear of getting close to
ones own gender that limits all relationships from
friendships to intimate ones by keeping us wondering that if
we dont feel like conforming to gendered relationship
expectations, does it mean were, oh no, really LGB or
Stonewall: The Reality that
Director Roland Emmerichs film "Stonewall," a fictional story based upon real events of the Stonewall uprising in 1969, drew criticism as soon as its trailer appeared as whitewashing because it portrays white men led by Jeremy Irvines character, Danny, as central characters in inciting the fight against police brutality in those early morning hours of June 28, 1969. On-line petitions multiplied, one saying: Do not support a film that erases out history. Do not watch Stonewall.
Though the events of those early morning hours in June 1969 outside a Greenwich Village gay bar called the Stonewall Inn are often called the beginnings of the Gay Rights Movement, we know thats historically inaccurate.
Organizations such as the Daughters of Bilitis, ONE, Inc., and the Mattachine Society were founded back in the 1950s. In that decade, gay people also began to turn to the courts to fight for the right to receive gay magazines in the mail or to congregate in bars without police harassment.
The civil disturbances that came to be called the Stonewall Riots are more symbolic, the way the Battle of Bunker Hill or Paul Reveres late night ride symbolize the beginnings of the American Revolution. They were LGBT people saying: Enough is enough, or, as Popeye would put it, Thats all I can stands cuz I cant stands no more.
Was that night at Stonewall disorderly? You bet.
The order of things was bigoted, harassing, and deadly. And when people oppose the order of things, the keepers of the status quo accuse them of disorderly conduct
To be orderly is never a neutral, non-political act. It promotes the skewed values and normal discrimination of the current structures.
Was it messy? Definitely.
Real healing makes messes. Democracy itself is messy. Its not for neat freaks or the anal-retentive. Its not for those who want to look good in the eyes of people who set the dominant, sick agenda and who reward anyone who supports it.
Was it done perfectly? I doubt it and would hope not.
We lose much in the struggle for freedom when leaders wait until it can be done perfectly. It was a hot, muggy night of spontaneous resistance, the kind that explodes out of a long lasting, wearing, burden of oppression that the larger community refuses to acknowledge.
Was it led by gay leaders who worried about what straight people would think of them if they didnt remain moderate, middle-of-the-road, straight-acting, and nice? Of course not.
If any worried mainline gay leaders were in the bars that night, they didnt want to stand out. They probably criticized these revolutionaries as ignorant rabble.
Did it take place in a boardroom, theater, concert hall, dinner party, or fine, well-mannered social club? Are you kidding?
The Stonewall Inn (next door to the present New York bar by that name) was a shabby dive that served watered-down drinks in glasses that were questionably sanitary. It wasnt really even a drag queens bar. Only a certain number of drag queens were allowed in at a time and only if the owners knew them.
Was it led by gay leaders who drank expensive wine, read style magazines, could afford to attend expensive fund-raisers, hob-knobbed with politicians, and invested wisely? No.
As if to throw the whole issue of LGBT classism in our faces, it was led by drag queens and street people, many of color. This symbol of LGBT liberation isnt about the cultured, coiffed, and privileged but the least understood and the down on their luck. They were looked down upon by others as lazy, dirty, and low class.
But thats not how the real combatants saw the scene. The late transgender person, Ray Sylvia Lee Rivera, who remembered she was dressed fabulously that night, recalled that to be there in the midst of the disorder of the Stonewall revolution was beautiful and exciting:
Im glad I was in the Stonewall riot. I remember when someone threw a Molotov cocktail, I thought, My god, the revolution is here. The revolution is finally here. . . . I just knew that we would fight back. I just didnt know it would be that night. Im proud of myself as being there that night. If I had lost that moment, I would have been kinda hurt because thats when I saw the world change for me and my people. (In Leslie Feinberg, Trans Liberation, 1998, 109)
To have the symbol of LGBT liberation as the resistance of drag queens and street people of color reminds us whats important. Its not the ability to fit in, rest in privilege, and gain the approval of the powers that be.
Its the prophetic disturbance by the outcasts of society. Stonewall thereby symbolizes our connection to the other human issues it represents: poverty, gender oppression, and racism.
Was it non-violent? Hardly. For someone committed to non-violence, thats a hard to fact to face.
But United States was born in violence and symbolizes its birth violently, which probably contributes to the violent nature of our country. Our leaders use violent images to justify American emphasis on the symbols, mythology, and responses of war and our war-dependent economic machine.
Wed like to believe that all positive change is non-violent certainly its not passive. Yet, when any people have been oppressed long enough, and other attempts to get society to focus attention on their need for humane treatment have incited no interest, then the volume of their cry for relief increases, and the methods used escalate and break out in direct confrontation.
When we hear privileged LGBT leadership collude with the
structures by saying, Just calm down and relax.
Dont get worked up over it, then we know that
such leadership is out of touch with the sufferings of LGBT
people. We also know theyre not leaders who would have
been caught up in the reality of Stonewall.
When the Supreme Court decided on June 26th in Obergefell v. Hodges that marriage could not constitutionally depend upon the gender of the partners in a married couple, it also affirmed that the gender of parents no longer legally matters. Children do not need both a father and a mother to be a part of an American family.
Heres another reality that drives the right-wing nuts about marriage equality. And notice that this too has to do with gender and gender roles, an issue that transcends the fight for equality for transgender people while transgender people remain the lightning rods for the broader issue of cultural gender limitations for everyone.
The presumption that children need both a father and a mother for their health is widespread and has been used to argue against same-sex adoption as well as marriage equality all the way up though the judiciary to this Supreme Court decision. Right-wing religious organizations repeat this belief, manipulate data to claim to back it up with science, and use threats to it as a scare tactic that appeals to those solidly in their base and draws in others who might fall for it.
Weve lived under this presumption for generations - so long that its ingrained in adults across the political spectrum. There are liberal people who still believe that they suffered for not having both a father and a mother around instead of the type of fathering or mothering they did experience.
Its not because research shows that having both a father and a mother results in a healthier child. The health of a child is actually correlated to numerous other factors.
Back in 2005, the American Psychological Associations review of the research entitled: Lesbian and Gay Parenting concluded just the opposite:
In summary, there is no evidence to suggest that lesbian women or gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of lesbian women or gay men is compromised relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children's psychosocial growth.
And studies since this review have corroborated what the APA says. The problem is still rooted in the popular but inaccurate on-going presumption that children do better with both a male and a female as parents.
So, what is a single parent, much less a same-gender couple, to think in the midst of the commonly propagated belief that their parenting is somehow inferior? We cant expect mainstream media to correct this error especially when the media regularly enable the right-wing to spew all their claims as if theyre factual.
Why its claimed that children need the male and female genders before them as they grow up is the belief that children need models of what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman. That is, the claim goes, they need to see examples of people acting out the culturally-installed gender roles for real men and real women.
Based on gender assumptions, men and women are taught to be a certain way, feel things a certain way, react to things a certain way, and relate to others a certain way. And in all this they are not to be or act like the other gender.
Children - born completely human - are taught to suppress what doesnt fit with the role thats set before them and encouraged to perform in terms of what the role for their assigned gender prescribes. The process of thereby raising children in our culture is to install what Ive argued in Scared Straight are actually unhealthy scripts that limit human beings, put them out of touch with their unconditioned humanity and their varieties of inborn proclivities, harm relationships with every gender, and promote mental distress.
The stress of in-breeding these gender roles, which are installed through fear, is actually an additional harmful element of what child-rearing experts such as Alice Miller in works such as For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence (1990) have called a poisonous pedagogy. And these roles, in spite of all the gains of the LGBT movement, are enforced by the fear of what will happen to a child and adult if they dont fit them and are therefore punished as queer.
Parents pass these roles on to their children in order to protect them from the violence, threats, ridicule, humiliation, isolation, and rejection that parents fear their offspring will experience if they dont conform. It takes a lot of courage and living counter-culturally to buck this systemic assault.
To do so parents must face their own fears that little Johnny wont grow up to be man enough or little Susie will never get a man if she doesnt conform to feminization. Theyve got to be willing to let their children chart their own path to whatever expression of humanity they choose.
That will take some emotionally difficult work on the part of parents getting appropriate support, building a surrounding community of like-minded members, facing down their fears, and ignoring the gendered-advice of relatives.
But the reality is that if a single parent or two parents of any gender decide to live their own lives in their full humanity, sloughing off all those expectations that have in fact limited the parents themselves, theyll be able to give to their children everything children need. Theyll be able to model for their children what it is to be full, healthy, human beings with all the inherent traits humans have and can express in a world where theyre not limited by being scared straight.
The majority of justices and progressive activists have
affirmed freedom from gender imprisonment as a new norm.
The right-wing has gone crazy since the Supreme Court sanctioned marriage equality in late June. What theyd been praying for didnt come to pass their angry, righteous, warrior deity didnt intervene with fire and brimstone or floods and pestilence.
Neither Pat Robertsons senile predictions nor the other threats of impending Armageddon materialized. Chaos did not ensue and the heterosexual divorce rate has yet to spike.
The American legal system moved on as if right-wing objections no longer mattered. And, believe me, that had to hurt the religious right-wing thats been working for a generation to be taken seriously.
Right-wingers responded as if not knowing what to say. But clearly their responses play to their bases, frightening them about everything that will now victimize them, including one pastor saying that Christians pastors will now be punished for not marrying LGBT people.
It was such a good issue to rile up the base for fund-raising and voter turnout. It was easy to demonize LGBT people and, with heterosexual marriage so precarious and disappointing to many, all of that distress could be blamed on the desire of LGBT people to join in a sick institution.
Their ultimate argument was that the marriage of two people of the same gender would destroy what they mislabeled traditional marriage. Up to the time when marriage equality was on the horizon, they had said family values were threatened, but the push for same-gender marriages eclipsed that well-worn trope.
In spite of the silly, historically uninformed response of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court -- who said things like: the Court orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are? -- history tells us that the marriage of one man and one woman is no more traditional than any form of marriage from polygamy to arranged marriages where couples seldom shared sex.
Most marriages historically were clearly that of a patriarch taking a wife along with other property such as slaves and livestock. One only need to page through both testaments of the Christian Bible to see that biblical marriages involved numerous arrangements other than one man and woman in love, in spite of what right-wingers pontificate about today.
Even the Mormon Church got into the act, declaring that traditional marriage was between one man and one woman. They never mention the US troops in Utah that helped convince them of that fact.
Very few Ive seen none - mainstream reporters will contradict the phony claims repeated ad nauseum by anti-gay religious leaders and politicians, that traditional marriage has forever been between one man and one woman. But then, who any longer expects enlightened conversations on most cable television or those Sunday morning news shows and their ilk?
Traditional marriages in most societies were clear about the roles of the man and the woman. Marriages were about property, not love or companionship.
In fact, marriage and family historian Stephanie Coontz , who took on both family and marriage to explode the myths involved in our cultures backward nostalgia, subtitled her 2005 book Marriage, A History with From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage. She begins quoting George Bernard Shaws quip about modern marriage as an institution that brings together two people "under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions. They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part."
Historically, the woman was the property of the man transferred from her father. She was to have no financial status and little value beyond her roles as wife and mother. This ideal was especially kept by a cultures elite upper classes while lower class women worked alongside their husbands in the fields, factories, or shops.
It was post-World War II society that produced what the right-wing wants us to believe is traditional marriage, which was coupled with another non-biblical ideal: the nuclear family. In that recent definition we see an ideal of straight marriage in which gender roles are clearly established and one is assured thereby who the man and the woman is.
Now, straight marriage is not natural to heterosexual people either. Its not how they would necessarily live if they hadnt been conditioned by the institutions around us to expect what marriage really means and what the roles of husband and wife clearly are.
Straight marriage as enforced since World War II is clear about who is supposed to do what. And if particularly the man deviates from these expected roles, the nature of the relationship is questionable.
Everyone knew which gender should mow the lawn, do the outside barbequing, wield the hammer for fix-it projects, be the primary bread-winner, drive the car when the family rides together, and be sexually dominant. Whether heterosexual people actually live the straight marriage role, we can all recall whos supposed to do the laundry, host the parties, cook most meals, change the diapers, and change her name with the wedding ceremony.
If the image of a traditional marriage is this historically recent straight one, then its no wonder the right-wing looks back to the fifties as the good old days of Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver. And if the right-wing definition of traditional marriage is this straight-acting one, then, yes, same-gender marriage will upset it.
Feminists have called for its destruction long ago, and theyve been accused by straight marriages idolizers of doing just that. So, if two people of the same gender marry, theres no way to ensure that either will live by straight marriages gender roles.
LGBT people as couples will actually have to sit down,
talk with each other, maybe regularly, about who is going to
take out the garbage and who is going to stay home with the
sick child. And that human interaction is actually healthy
for any relationship but a real threat to
From the Duggars to the weekly examples of the latest clergy or legislator who has professed Family Values which everyone knows is code for anti-LGBT equality - it has become routine, even expected, to find that the more someone righteously protests, the greater the likelihood that they have related skeletons in their closets struggling to burst out. Its been a psychologists expectation for generations that the louder people object, the more likely it is that theyre covering up their own guilt.
Theyre easily, and rightly, labeled hypocrites. And preaching moral outrage against others while living and doing what it objects to is a necessary part of legalistic, moralistic right-wing religions.
But labeling them hypocrites is too easy. It actually lets the religious views, and most of the people who endorse them, off the hook.
Any right-wing religionist can agree that someone didnt live up to the standards they blame on divinity. Were all sinners, after all. But if these sinners are willing to seek some kind of forgiveness, to the right-wing it really doesnt matter what they did. Their slate is cleansed and right-wing religion is thereby reaffirmed.
Hypocrites to them are not only an anomaly but merely human beings whove back-slidden. If backsliders claim that theyre forgiven and born again, all is well and the beat can go on.
What the term hypocrites doesnt do is stick long enough to affirm what it is thats inherent in right-wing religion itself that not only spawns hypocrites but drives right-wing religions judgmental meanness. It frames the problem as a personal one, a set of mistakes, human flaws, youthful indiscretions, or common foibles, not a problem deeply embedded within right-wing religion.
Whats exposed when we see right-wing religious people acting out sexually, judging others ruthlessly, affirming moralistic superiority, resorting to violent language and activities, abusing children and others, and condemning to hell-fire all those who dont agree, is the sexual dysfunction and erotophobia, tribalism, violence, abusiveness, and self-righteousness inherent in right-wing religion.
Exposed is not only the psychological problems of the individuals whove come to light, but the very nature of right-wing ideology and practice that attempts to cover-up those problems with a veneer of some kind of godliness. Its the latter that takes damaged psyches and encourages them to find their answer in a religion addiction.
No matter how we might not want to admit this to ourselves, we can no longer give right-wing religion itself a pass by calling predictable future examples we will witness hypocrites. We must expose each example as the fall of a façade that covers what right-wing religion really is.
Right-wing Christianitys inherent violence and abusiveness can be seen in the Jesus it chooses. Seldom does it focus on the Jesus of the Gospels who values others by their treatment of the least of these my brethren. Instead its enamored with the warrior Jesus of the Book of Revelation who comes in judgment and destructiveness, armed for battle against all enemies and ultimately throwing them in the lake of fire for everlasting torment.
No wonder so much right-wing Christianity supports the gun lawlessness pushed by the National Rifle Association. And some churches have even given away rifles as premiums for membership.
Only a religion of violence and abuse could trumpet The Cage: A Young Childrens Guide to the Biblical Teaching on Hell, by a C. Matthew McMahon, Ph.D., Th.D., which Puritan Publications of Tennessee published in June, describing the book as tastefully illustrated. As the books Note to Parents warns:
Some parents may be thinking that this kind of exhortation to children will give little ones horrible nightmares It would be better for them to have nightmares now while you teach them about the realities of hell than to wind up in the reality of the nightmare that is hell. To the Christian parent of young children, I plead with you to teach your children about hell and the power of Gods wrath. Teach them that Christ is their only hope Teach them that they are locked in a spiritual cage and that it dangles over the fires of hell.
This religious abuse of children was exposed by Donald Capps in The Childs Song: The Religious Abuse of Children (1995). But its abusive to adults as well.
Sometimes it breaks out in public adult shaming. Like a punishing parent from his own childhood, pastor Jonathan Leeman labels this discipline in his book: Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus, saying rigorous church discipline is one of nine central components that comprise a biblical church.
Dartmouth professor Randall Balmer, author of The Making of Evangelicalism, is thereby reminded of past public heresy trials that had implications not only for church membership but also an individuals job security.
The Puritan model is to put people in the town square or the village green in the stocks as a way of shaming the individual, Balmer writes.
And theres nothing more shaming than right-wing religions attitudes toward sexuality. In a culture already confused about the place of sexuality while using sex to sell everything it can, right-wing religion stifles accurate discussion with abstinence only, anti-contraception, and anti-womens self-determination moralisms. Its easy to make people feel guilt about their sexual lives, and right-wing religions known how to play on that well.
Right-wing religions inherent tribalism is manifest in its obsession with insiders versus outsiders. It has divided into hundreds of sects over who has it right and who is wrong on every question of doctrine and practice.
The arguments of centuries ago can still be heard among its leaders today. And lets not even get started on a discussion of what it did historically to those judged as heretics before secular law stepped in.
All of this informs whats really going on and what
were actually denying by calling those from whom the
veneer drops hypocrites. And in order to make
that clear, we have to change our framing: What were
seeing is the heart of what right-wing religion itself
really is, not merely hypocrisy.
Can Lincoln Still Happen
Here and Now?
The laudatory goal of that January 1865 backroom and back-alley horse trading was to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, outlawing slavery and involuntary servitude. Lincoln and Secretary of State, William Seward, were uncomfortable with offering direct monetary bribes to buy the necessary votes, but instead authorized agents to under-handedly contact Democratic congressmen with offers of federal jobs in exchange for their support.
Americans can cling to the idea that their country is somehow virtuous, even uniquely so. But contrary to what we might want to believe about America as an exceptionally pristine nation moving in some providential way toward the expansion of liberty, the fact is that the good thats been accomplished has often been achieved by moving politicians through appeal to their pocketbooks, their desire to amass fortunes, offers of opportunities for their personal futures, and other base, egotistic needs.
Theres no evidence that such political motivations have disappeared. But what has changed is that what Lincoln had to offer as incentives is no longer effective.
Honest Abe offered patronage appointments that guaranteed that lame duck politicians could live out their days in secure federal jobs. Back then that was an effective payment for their vote.
Today a similar offer of a government job has little appeal. It cant compete financially with vastly more lucrative corporate, lobbying, or consulting jobs waiting to reward politicians who vote pro-corporate and, thereby, earn those positions before they exit government.
Todays reality is that even being voted out of office is hardly a penalty in the on-going culture of the best Congress money can buy. To lose an election means that one is going to enter a much better paid career through the revolving door into lobbying and consulting.
Yet one will only earn that reward if one has consistently voted for what benefits these future corporate employers. So, though we might ask why many politicians arent thinking logically, or in the light of what works economically, or for the betterment of the whole country, these have become less relevant questions.
Sadly, its true in either party. It explains why Democratic leadership is repeatedly unwilling to actively confront Republicans, why they keep acting as if Republican leadership includes honest brokers, why the Democratic millionaires in the Senate appear to think that Republicans will miraculously repent and act in ways they havent in over a decade.
Most in Congress, no matter what political party they claim, will financially benefit personally from Republican victories. Thus, Democrats are willing to move further to the right-wing while the right-wing jumps up and down in the same place.
There are exceptions among the Democrats, probably none any longer among the Republicans in Congress. But for some reason Senate Democrats continue to elect Harry Reid as their leader even though he cant seem to lead his majority to a progressive win.
Reids recent whining about Republican misuse of the filibuster follows his capitulation to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell after expressing his frustration with Republican filibuster misuse in 2012. Reid caved, and one wonders what Harry got out of the deal for himself.
Either Harry and the Democrats who continue to let him lead dont know how things work and dont pay attention to recent history, or they have a stake in keeping things the way they are.
Fool you once, Harry, shame on the Republicans. Fool you how many times now, Harry and your senators, shame on you.
So, what motivates lawmakers today? Choose one or more:
(1) Ideology. So entranced by their ideological stands, and so caught in ideological bubbles, or so caught in an Obama derangement syndrome, no set of facts will change them. Theyre like advanced addicts for whom only personally hitting bottom could dislodge them. Otherwise, theyll never identify with anything thatll disrupt their entrenched worldview.
(2) Power and Prestige. Once people have accumulated massive fortunes and found that money doesnt bring fulfillment, they turn to seek personal fulfillment in the accumulation of power and adulation especially from those in the upper class whom they accept as worthy competitors. Theyre more likely to be affected by the threat of losing their elected positions, unless, like Jim DeMint, they become convinced that theyll accumulate more power in the world of lobbying. And another source of prestige is the attention they can get as FOX News personalities.
(3) Money. There are lawmakers committed to corporate goals because they see this as the way to further their careers and accumulate millions after leaving politics. A legislative position is the place to increase their financial value to corporate America by making insider government connections and proving they are worth the money they hope to gain later.
(4) Security. Politics is a tool to secure these lawmakers personal business interests by ensuring laws increasing their tax and other advantages. They see themselves as barriers preventing government from adding restrictions and financial costs to their wealth.
(5) Benevolence and pity. No matter how much of it is money-raising and at times kow-towing to people with money, politics is a chance to improve the lives of others even at personal cost. That price could be financial loss, but doing the right thing could even mean the end of political office.
Staying in power can have multiple, often lower, motives. No matter how we want to believe that politicians will be moved by benevolence, logic, facts, the good of the country or whats best for citizens, the reality is usually quite different.
So, when we approach politicians, lets abandon any illusions. Lets do it realistically.
Lets recognize that were confronting
self-centered reasons for hanging onto power. And then
proceed in the light of Frederick Douglass realism:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did
and never will.
Thus, the overwhelming accumulation of examples of down-right lying among them. Then, sadly, add denial that they could be lying from those whom the lies hurt continues.
Their fear makes right-wingers doubt and desperate to do anything to promote their righteous cause and gods no matter how deceitful it might be. Saving souls or their pocketbooks from hell is all the excuse they need to deceive.
Enter their academics who are so convinced of the rightness of their cause that questionable studies are commonplace. And right-wing journals salivate over publishing anything that comes from anyone who supports the ideology they push.
In March, The American Independent obtained documents exposing The New Family Structures Study published in June 2012 by Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas Austin. Its just one recent example of the right-wing use of flawed research.
The study was funded with a $695,000 grant from the Witherspoon Institute founded by Princeton professor Robert P. George, founding chairman of the notoriously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage - and another $90,000 grant from the extreme right-wing Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee.
The Witherspoon Institute recruited Regnerus to conduct the widely cited research critical of gay relationships and their impact on the children of gay parents, and then choreographed its release in time to influence major decisions of the Supreme Court. Anti-gay activists have cited it in court cases since.
Scholars have attacked the study for lack of academic integrity, flawed methodology, and its controlling funding sources. In fact, Regnerus professional organization, the American Sociological Association, recently filed an amicus brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry (which seeks to overturn Californias Proposition 8), contradicting his study for providing no support for the conclusions that same-sex parents are inferior parents or that the children of same-sex parents experience worse outcomes.
This tactic is nothing new. Right-wing foundations create studies that get passed around by people who want to defend whatever the studies are built to conclude.
And the religious are especially gullible because its what they want to hear. It gives them some science to quote in their arguments so they dont have to fall back on arguing merely on the basis of their religious prejudice.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for example, filed a friend of the court brief in the Proposition 8 case, arguing that, A mother and father each bring something unique and irreplaceable to child-rearing that the other cannot. Their brief cited Regnerus study to falsely parrot that children raised by married biological parents fared better in a range of significant outcomes than children raised in same-sex households.
How long did it take the right-wing to begin to get over the faked statistics of rabid anti-gay psychologist Paul Cameron even after the American Psychological Association expelled him in 1983 for not cooperating with an ethics investigation and the American Sociological Association and Canadian Psychological Association accused him of misrepresenting social science research? His quackery, after all, was useful to the religiously prejudiced so they could claim science, not their prejudices, proclaimed gay people were disgusting.
In the field of history, there are beloved pseudo-historians like David Barton, evangelical Christian minister and co-chair of the Texas Republican Party. He founded a Texas-based organization, WallBuilders, to promote through historical writing the view that the separation of church and state is a myth.
Bartons 2012 book The Jefferson Lies was voted "the least credible history book in print" by the users of the History News Network website. A group of ten conservative Christian professors reviewed the work and concluded that Barton has misstated facts about Jefferson.
In August 2012, its Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson withdrew it from publication, explaining that they had "lost confidence in the book's details" and "learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported." The New York Times wrote: "many professional historians dismiss Mr. Barton, whose academic degree is in Christian Education from Oral Roberts University, as a biased amateur who cherry-picks quotes from history and the Bible."
Yet because he says what they want to hear, the right-wing continues to quote his historical quackery to argue that America was meant to be their brand of Christian nation. Thats why Barton regularly appears on right-wing television and radio with the likes of Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck (who praised Barton as "the Library of Congress in shoes").
Two movements have put pressure upon the academic community to go soft on right-wing research claims that amount to little more than propaganda. Yet, the more that the academic community fights for integrity, the more the right-wing claims its just liberal bias.
The first is the public de-funding of education along with the greater corporatizing of educational value. The more the government portion of the cost of students educations declines, coupled with the increased valuing of an institution by the amount of private dollars it brings in, the more academics must rely on mostly conservative sources for research funding.
Grant-getting in many major universities is now rewarded as much as production of sound academic scholarship. And further grants are more likely for those scholars who please grant-givers.
The second is the continual right-wing attack on colleges and universities as bastions of liberalism. The reality is closer to the fact that they are warehouses for liberals in the humanities and social sciences who are most rewarded for producing research for each other in the jargon of their discipline. Only conservative professional fields are rewarded for consulting.
So, in order to show right-wing politicians that they arent liberal, the pressure is on to move to the right. This seldom means faking the data, but it certainly skews whats studied.
And if someone is too scared that their gods cant
prove them right, the resulting scholarship is just what the
Thats only one year of victimization in what military brass admitted before Congress was a cancer. If it werent for the seven women on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Id expect such reports to be buried.
Hearing so many of the old Congressmen respond to this with stupidity, sexism, and pseudo-science, even surprised those of us who expect so little out of right-wing politicians. And blaming the existence of women in the military ignores the fact that 14,000 of those victims were men.
Thats 6.1% of the women in the military and 1.2% of the men. And 98% of the reported sexual assaults on men were committed by other men.
In one of the most insightful analyses of this epidemic, Ana Marie Cox of The Guardian concludes: its something about being in the military today , at this moment in history, fighting the kinds of wars were fighting with the kinds of troops we have. [The Real Roots of the US Militarys Epidemic of Sexual Assaults]
Its a truism among feminists if not senators that rape is a crime of violence, not of sexual attraction . Could it be that the real crisis in todays military is tied to not who these soldiers are, but the nature of what were asking them to do?
Todays military with a growing number of soldiers and veterans diagnosed with mental illness and chemical dependency, with the tactics of modern warfare and the length of troop service, exacerbates what weve taught our men culturally and our military men in particular.
It starts with what we teach our boys as they enter puberty about what manly sex is. In Scared Straight I called that conditioning, the Nine Layers of Getting Laid, a paradigm that continues to dominate junior high and high school male gender roles idealized in the studs of contemporary media.
This cultural conditioning is often excused as the male sex drive. Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss said in the Senate hearings: Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur.
But the third of those layers is that Getting Laid for high school boys is impersonal. It is best if a boy isnt otherwise acquainted with, or a friend of, the sexual object. One does not marry the girl who is the best lay . Getting laid, therefore, is not about the person.
The more that this impersonal layer is internalized - the more its felt that the sex isnt done to a person but an object - the easier it is to deny that theres violence involved. One isnt really hurting another person.
Add to this the seventh layer - that Getting Laid is self-centered, that its done to someone on the agenda of a real man - and the sexual act becomes an act of power over another. One can see this in the raping of men by men who identify as heterosexual in our prisons a situation thats often made into a joke.
Now, most of our boys know that something like this conditioning is there in their teen years but they fight it silently, internally and seemingly alone because men dont talk about their deviations from manhood. But what happens when we add the conditioning men encounter in the military?
A key goal of the militarys basic training is turning recruits into warriors wholl be ready to kill others if called to do so. But a man cant do this if he thinks of the enemy personally.
Thats why enemies must be turned into stereotypes and described with phrases such as: human life isnt valuable to them. The face of the enemy must be inhuman or it would be hard to destroy it.
Military conditioning thereby adds another layer to thinking impersonally of others. Other human beings are objects, not living, loving human beings who are sons and daughters of real people.
But it also de-humanizes the warrior himself. His own value comes to be understood as contingent upon not only is ability to kill others but his willingness to be killed defending the system.
Violence to others becomes even easier. And violence against oneself as a just a killing machine whos been put further out of touch with his own, caring, feeling humanity also becomes easier.
A true warrior expects violence. He could even use its presence to finally provide value for his own insecure manly self-worth.
He can earn a medal from real men at the top for killing another man, after all, but be killed for loving one. Valuing oneself for such violence turned inward has spurred a record level of suicides among those who serve and veterans, so that in the past twelve years more have died by their own hand than by enemy fire.
Whats actually surprising is that these figures arent much higher. The conditioning is doing everything it can to encourage sexual assault as an act of power and violence over some object so as to assert ones manhood and worth.
But theyre not, because men arent inherently like this. Theyre not naturally driven by testosterone and hormones, no matter how we might use these as excuses.
Its not that boys will be boys, for a lot of abusive manhood conditioning software has to be installed in our little naturally loving, caring, feeling boys to make them killers and sexual assaulters. And enforcing that is the fear that if they dont act tough, hard, cold, and object-oriented enough, theyll be put down as girly and fags.
Add to this their impression that society has given up on men. Its not challenging their conditioning but sending them to anger management, drugging them, or finally throwing them away in prison.
Conditioning is all learned, and what is learned can be
unlearned. But do we have the courage to lead that
Now, What Will the Celebration Over
ENDA Look Like?
Now its back to the states, for this Court is for nothing if it isnt states rights. The President can decide if federal marriage benefits are defined by the definition of marriage in the state one lives or the state one is married in, but the battle for full marriage equality depends upon politics at those state levels and some long, drawn-out court cases that must begin soon with same-sex couples suing for recognition in their non-accepting home states.
One legal hurdle is gone, and the celebrations all around the nation were exuberant, maybe overly. There should be relief that on the way to full human rights the law has taken this turn even as the right-wing flails in reaction and theres so much more to do.
The push for marriage all began with the hope embedded in Hawaiis surprising legalization of marriage equality in 1993. Since then, the majority of the resources of the LGBT community and its allies have been focused upon marriage equality.
In addition to this lengthy court case, thirteen states have since changed their laws with one or two more following soon.
The concentration of resources on marriage equality isnt surprising because for those in LGBT communities who are privileged not to have to worry about their jobs and wealth - those who control the most resources - this is the cause that touches most immediately upon their self-interest.
But in the 29 states where someone can be fired for being gay and the 34 for being transgender, those not so privileged experience more life or death issues. The more basic issues of jobs, careers, and income loom large.
As Harvard professor and author of A Queer History of the United States , Michael Bronski told Salon.com: All of these probably white, probably upper-middle-class people whove been fighting for marriage because its a good fight, will they be as willing to give $500 a year to Lambda [Legal] to fight trans youth harassed by police? Were dealing with how peoples politics come out of their experiences.
A white middle-class couple living in the suburbs of Illinois may not have much desire to think about transgender youth, possibly of color, living in New York City or San Francisco. Isnt that the job of the national organizations to convince people that this is as important as the issue of same-sex marriage?
Journalist-filmmaker David France, known for his documentary chronicling activism during the AIDS crisis, How to Survive a Plague , was even more concerned: This is a deeply conservative victory and, yes, a too expensive one, given what our leaders have let slide in recent years. Marriage wont stop the runaway HIV epidemic among our young. It wont stop religious hatred, sexual assaults, reparative therapy crimes, bullying, Mormons, Boy Scouts or popes.
Although I am myself gay-married, and while I do enjoy being endorsed by a SCOTUS majority, even a slim one, Ive been utterly dumbstruck watching every resource at the communitys disposal channeled into this one optional and limited middle-class goal.
We used to be revolutionaries. We once were outlaws. And now: betrothed? If we settle for this, we let the whole world down.
For those not privileged, news that the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act had obtained its fiftieth U.S. Senate sponsor and was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee by a 15-7 bipartisan vote on July 10, could have raised the hope of some economic security.
But even FOX and CNN gave no coverage to the furthest ENDA had advanced in the seventeen years since it was first introduced to Congress. And one wonders how many in the LGBT community even know ENDA is a cause.
Even in the former slave state of Missouri, the states senate ended its session by for the first time passing the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act. The fight for this first step by Missouris LGBT political advocacy group, PROMO, has been long and grueling, but it hasnt received anything like the amount of attention and financial support that has left Missouri to promote the marriage cause.
Its not unusual for those in any demographic who have risen in a class system above overt discrimination to forget what its still like for the majority. Its not unusual for them even to deny the discrimination others experience, refuse to believe that much discrimination still exists, or blame those who experience it as bringing it on themselves. Just think Clarence Thomas.
But times like these are also tests as to whether any community of people actually exists. Is the category being used to lump people together a fiction? Or is economic class what really and primarily divides Americans from one another when it comes down to it?
The pursuit of marriage equality without the same effort invested toward ending workplace and accommodation discrimination confirms the claims of many activists that there really is nothing we can call the LGBT community. There are the elite and the rest, different generations, Ls, Gs, Bs, Ts and others, as well as many other divisions whose identities are based upon their personal interests.
Even the earliest versions of ENDA did not include provisions to protect transgender people. It was added in 2007, but Barney Frank then believed transgender people should be sacrificed to make its passage more successful, thereby riling many activists.
Socio-economic class is the major divider in Capitalist America. So well see how it plays out in the so-called LGBT community. But for those who really want permanent equality for all, it cant be a barrier.
People shouldnt consider themselves
progressive just because they support their own
rights, said veteran LGBT activist Allen Roskoff.
Im tired of people saying theyre
progressive because they just support their own rights more
than equity for all.
Boycotting sponsors is as Capitalist an act as any. Its about consumers voting with their feet and pocketbooks.
Its not about free speech even if the plan is to boycott sponsors of some offensive radio talker. Its about not paying to have them spew their vitriol because corporations are buying their ability to do it in the media.
Crying interference with freedom of speech is a laugh. Sponsored speech isnt free; its bought and paid for, its about providing their speech with a microphone.
But boycotts have to be carefully thought out if theyre going to do any good, even symbolically. They have to target what really matters to their target: its income stream.
Its hardly possible today to boycott a nation by refusing to buy an internationally distributed product identified with it. International corporations have little loyalty to any country theyre in beyond making money off of them.
Coors and Miller are owned by a South African company, Budweiser by a Belgian/Brazilian company, and Stoli Vodka by a Latvian company thats currently fighting with the Russian government.
So when columnist Dan Savage called for a boycott of Stoli in response to anti-LGBT legislation passed in Russia in June, it seemed like a good idea, but turned out to be controversial. Something clearly had to be done, because the new Russian law against gay propaganda was only the latest in Russian anti-LGBT brutality that marked violence toward and prohibition of Gay Pride demonstrations as well as a proliferation of right-wing torturing of LGBT people.
This coming February we are supposed to appreciate the Winter Olympics in Sochi as if Russia deserved to get worldwide accolades for hosting an event that claims to celebrate worldwide togetherness, inclusion, and acceptance. Yet on June 30th Russian President, Vladimir Putin signed the anti-gay law, reflecting not only his usual arrogance toward world opinion, but his need to pander for votes to those outside the major cities and for money from his wealthy elite backers to bolster his chances in the next election.
In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights had already ruled that Russia violated the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms when Russia prevented gay pride parades in Moscow in 2007, 2008, and 2009. But the anti-gay crackdown continued, and in May 2013 authorities in Moscow refused to allow a pride parade because, according to an official, its imperative to, "work clearly and consistently on maintaining morality, oriented toward the teaching of patriotism in the growing generation, and not toward incomprehensible aspirations."
And if Republicans in the US could get the religious right-wing to vote against their own economic interests by playing the fear-the-gay card to protect children, why not Putin? After all, he needed the Russian Orthodox Church on his side as well as the rural vote to solidify his political future.
The anti-gay propaganda legislation, after all, had begun out in the provinces in 2006 with similar local laws. In that year the Ryazan region banned "propaganda of homosexuality among minors," making promoting homosexuality among juveniles punishable by fines of up to 20000 rubles ($608).
As if that werent enough, in July Putin eagerly signed a law banning the adoption of Russian children by same-sex married couples and single people who live in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. At the end of the month the Chairman of the St. Petersburg legislature's committee for legislation and the author of that city's anti-propaganda bill said the laws will be applied to foreign athletes and visitors during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
But who is responsible, and who should be boycotted if something effective is to be accomplished? Well, according to the Director of Global Initiatives of Human Rights Watch in an interview with Michelangelo Signorile: "The International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, the so-called top corporate sponsors -- Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble -- these companies all, as [HRW] did, tracked the progress of this law."
If any of the Olympic stakeholders, the sponsors who are literally paying for the Games, or the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic Committee or the other Olympic committees, if they weighed in on this, I don't think this law would have been signed by Putin or passed by the Duma. If they had leaned on [Russia] before the law was signed, it would not have been signed. That is absolutely true."
Individual athletes are courageously standing up daily to protest, but LGBT institutions and their supporters who distribute, sell and use sponsors products can do it most effectively. How about refusing to buy from Coca Cola until this is settled? What about all the gay bars refusing?
What about emailing McDonalds, Procter and Gamble, and NBC Universal. That would be protesting that really matters targeting the real sponsors of the events.
And the International Olympic Committee and US Olympic Committee could end this at any time.
In July, the IOC responded: The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation. The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.
If it were committed to international human rights, the IOC could ban Russia from its own Olympics. And the US Olympic Committee could put heavy pressure on Russia as they have in other cases.
But on top of boycotting those sponsors who are paying
for this showcase in Russia, any of us can write both
Committees telling them not only that we will not attend,
but will refuse to watch unless an open and proud LGBT
athlete is in the event. Its the least we can do if we
think it matters. Its the least we can do to support
our sisters and brothers who are suffering in Russia
Thats the response I get in my workshops and lectures on gender and homophobia from college-age adults today. In some ways thats surprising, and in others its not.
Maybe its because most of my work isnt in the big cities on the coasts. But then, again, much of what passes as entertainment out of those cities exploits a love-hate relationship with gender roles and their accompanying homophobia.
And in every part of the country one still finds loud religious personalities who use the fear of homosexuality to stir up their crowd, increase whats deposited in their offering plates, and attract undue attention. Even with progressive churches coming out of the closet, the backward ones act as if they hold a monopoly on truth.
Historically a lot has changed, and thats an important reason why knowing history provides hope. Much of the change has been in the legal arena with the end of Dont Ask, Dont Tell and a part of the Defense of Marriage Act as well as the number of states that have embraced marriage equality.
Theres also the fact that people now know more LGBT people and that young adults accept that there is something called gay. Older generations hardly knew there was such a thing.
Gay is all over the news as much as its found in entertainment. And it especially all looks better to those whove risen highest in Americas class structure.
But those who say that what I wrote in 2001 in Scared Straight about the relationships of homophobia, gender expectations, and the acceptance of LGB and T people still touches on systemic attitudes are looking at something deeper that fuels their uneasiness.
Now, it isnt news that gay slurs have functioned for generations to keep men in a tightly-defined masculine box that celebrates all thats self-destructive about machismo. It was assumed that gentle, caring, effeminate boys were gay. So, calling them fags and queers was meant to butch them up.
Religious ministries that brainwash gay people to try to get them to act, and maybe become, straight, taught boys how to be real men and girls how to be demure ladies. The common criticism of accepting LGBT people was that itll destroy our supposedly definitive gender dichotomy of opposite sexes.
Its therefore seen as some kind of progress when an athlete comes out: Look how macho he is! He fits our idea of what a real man is and he is gay. Who would have thought? Can you believe that hes gay?
Though it seems important (almost a relief culturally) to know that there are gay men who fit our concepts of hyper-masculinity and lesbians who wear lipstick and dress like ladies, young people in my workshops sense that something crucial still hasnt changed.
The May Atlantic pinpointed the issue in an article entitled What About the Guys Who Do Fit the Gay Stereotype. It began with the report of the fatal shooting that month of Mark Carson who was walking with a male friend just blocks from - of all the enlightened places - the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
Reports say that the killer taunted the two for blocks with, among others, the well-worn faggot slur before shooting the 32-year old gay man at point-blank range. Coincidently, the article reports, anti-gay crimes in New York City are on the rise while over-all hate crimes decline.
Sociologist Michael Kimmel reminds us repeatedly that: homophobia is a central organizing principle of our cultural definition of manhood. It keeps men exaggerating all the traditional rules of masculinity, including sexual predation with women.
And thats what these young people still see. They know that the gender roles for both men and women (Women athletes are assumed to be gender non-conforming.) are still there and that no matter how much theyre told they can be themselves, society still tries to squeeze them into an acceptable masculinity and femininity.
Unless the gay boy or the lesbian girl fits the gender stereotype, theyre more likely to suffer at the hands of those around them even as gay people are becoming increasingly accepted by younger generations. Gender non-conforming students are still as likely to experience negative comments and harassment as theyve always been.
This comes down hard on transgender young people as much as it does on their elders. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in 2012 reported that trans people were 28 percent more likely to be physically assaulted, and that trans women specifically made up 40 percent of hate murder victims.
So the worry among young people who say not much as changed is that as the question of sexual orientation becomes less an issue for some, what remains in tact is a version of the strict male and female gender roles that today define who thinks, feels, and acts straight enough to be acceptable. In fact, they report that on campuses there may even be a resurgence of gender performance, especially among the elite of college Greek culture.
So celebrating the coming out of those who dont fit a gay stereotype could actually be further enforcement of gender roles. And while these remain, acceptance will depend on how willing lesbians and gay men are to conform, to play the gender game.
This will mean that the men who dont fit the macho role and women who dont seem feminine enough will continue to be harassed no matter what their sexual orientation. And if its true that those males who do not fit societys on-going definition of a man are more likely not to conform to heterosexuality and those females who dont fit the strict feminine gender role are more likely to also identify as uninterested in coupling with men, we still have a way to go to get to the point where both sexual orientation and the often accompanying gender non-conformity are insignificant matters for society at large.
These young people who say things havent changed that much want us to break free soon.
© 2015 Robert N. Minor
Robert N. Minor is the author of Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He may be reached through www.fairnessproject.org
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