Pass this one on to your friends and families. Tweet it to them. Email it to them.
Last week after the LGBT community enjoyed one of its biggest civil rights victories in our history with the assistance of four Republican senators, the right wing National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced a two million dollar campaign to defeat them in 2012. Nothing could pour cold water over our momentum for full marriage equality more if these Republicans lost and especially if the LGBT community was missing in action.
Right now we should be writing checks to these four men who showed amazing political and moral courage in the face of powerful opposition. They literally put their political lives at risk so we could enjoy full equality in New York State.
Below are the four men and the email address for them. Take a minute. Click on each one and make a donation. Doesn't make a difference if it is $5 or $500 because we must show them that we will not forget them and leave them at the mercy of the extreme right in this country. They stood up for us and marriage equality happened. We must stand up for them so those who support justice thrive!
And just in case you forgot Senator Roy McDonald's moment of clarity and truth, here, again, is his statement when he announced his YES vote for Marriage Equality:
“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f— it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing,” McDonald said…
“I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics…I’m tired of blowhard radio people, blowhard television people, blowhard newspapers. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing and that’s where I’m going with this.”
The Fire in Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries
On Labor Day Weekend, 1979, 200 men gathered in the Arizona desert for the first Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries. Called forth by Harry Hay (of Mattachine Society fame), Hay’s partner John Burnside, Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker, this first of many Gatherings created a development that spread around the world and combined elements of gay liberation, feminism, environmentalism, new age spirituality and the counter-culture. Thousands of gay and Bi men (later joined by a few women) met in out of the way, rural Gatherings and Sanctuaries, creating a very loose network that defied the LGBT community’s tendency toward assimilation and institutionalism. Creative spirits like Will Roscoe, James Broughton, Andrew Ramer, Toby Johnson, Dan Nicoletta and Charlie Murphy became part of this sub-culture. It was Hay who coined the term Radical Faeries: both Radical (as to the root) and Faerie having to do with gays’ spiritual and cultural traditions rather than "radical" politics.
Among the 200 men who attended that first Faerie Gathering was author Mark Thompson. As Thompson remembers, the Gathering "was definitely a turning point in the burgeoning gay men’s spirituality movement. In some ways, I felt that gathering in the Arizona desert was as historically important as the Stonewall riots had been a decade before. Both events signaled a significant refocusing of values and vision, helping to create a new leap forward in gay culture-making. I attended many Gatherings – mainly in the Western United States – for the next 20 years."
More than thirty years after attending that first Gathering, Thompson, along with Associate Editors Richard Neely (Osiris) and Bo Young, have assembled the first anthology by and about the Faeries. The Fire In Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries, is published by White Crane Books / Lethe Press as part of the White Crane Wisdom Series ($25). "Since their sudden inception on a remote site in the American Southwest in 1979, the Faeries have grown like some exotic species of flora around the world," Thompson wrote in his "Introduction." "This book of many voices continues that early call – a call for freedom of mind, body and spirit from the petty, awful tyrannies of those who have tried every means to destroy us. It is about how being a Radical Faerie has changed a life." Among the contributors are Will Roscoe, Franklin Abbott and Trebor Healy.
Bo Young, publisher of White Crane Books, and Associate Editor of The Fire In Moonlight, began his involvement with the Radical Faeries in 1990, when he first visited the Short Mountain Sanctuary in Tennessee. As Young is quick to point out, "the organizing principle of the Faeries is consensus and the Faerie Circle . . . no leaders. Everyone is ‘equidistant’ from the center. No one person is out in front. . While the Radical Faeries are identified most often as a ‘movement’ it isn’t something you join. It’s a state of mind. If you say you are a Faerie, you are a Faerie. There are Faeries who are into drag and organic farming and wild fermentation and there are Faeries who are theatrical and there are Faeries who are living communally and there are Faeries that are eremitic. There are rural Faeries and there are urban Faeries."
In The Fire in Moonlight, Faeries past and present share in their Faerie experience. According to Jerry Berbiar (Jerry the Faerie), "the Radical Faeries were founded for gay men. The Gatherings were places where gay men could individually recreate themselves, create community, explore faggot essence and create their own culture, free from the dominant all-encompassing hetero viewpoint." "At the heart of the Radical Faeries is a recognition of and exploration into gay men’s souls: our unique way of viewing, experiencing and being in the world," Joey Cain wrote. "I found myself in environments where my very sexuality, my embrace of myself as male and female, my determination that my sexual nature was both natural and magical, were honored and explored," recalled "EuroFaerie" Marco Shokti. "For a freaky little queer boy like me the Radical Faeries were the family I hardly dared to dream might exist," declared Pete Sturman, AKA Mockingbird and Pistol Pete. "The Faeries provided me with a safe environment to try all sorts of different things. I could split wood in high heels, bake bread in my underwear or run around covered in mud. I could laugh like a hyena or take a day of silence. They helped inspire me to become a musician and songwriter, a loud and proud queen troubadour."
One of the most interesting parts of The Fire in Moonlight is the book’s "Faerie Glossary." According to Young (at left in photo), "a shared, unique language is one of the defining elements of ‘culture.’ The Faeries have a very definite and unique use of language and one of the chief motivations of the various traditions such as Sanctuaries is a ‘time out of time’ period in which the gay individual removes him (or her) self from the dominant culture and literally engage in ‘coming to terms’ with who s/he is." Hay challenged the Faeries to self-define, from which emerged a vocabulary which the editors believe required a Glossary. Many Faeries have taken "Faerie names;" spiritual or ecologically-inspired names in contrast to their "mundane, everyday names."
The Fire in Moonlight presents a mostly-positive view of the Radical Faeries. But there are dissenting views. "Improbable Faerie" Artwit, who was active with the San Francisco Faeries during the 1980’s, is critical of a subculture which, like other gay tribes, favors the young and beautiful: "I have no desire to be a Faerie Mormon and make breakfast while the pretty ones sleep in and fuck," he said. Young admits that "one of the challenges we had was finding an African-American contributor. The Faeries are like any other part of this American society and suffers from the inherent racism of the culture. But that said, it is one of the few communities of which I am aware that actually attempts to address that." In short, "The Fire in Moonlight is not meant in any way to be a hagiography of the Radical Faerie movement."
Artwit is in the minority. As Thompson (in photo at right) put it, "once a Radical Faerie, always a Radical Faerie." "The Faeries are by no means a perfectly evolved group," Thompson admits, "but it definitely represents a quantum step in healing gay male relationships and community practice. The Radical Faeries may appear as a rather funky, insignificant tribe of social outcasts, but I have to state here for the record that nowhere have I encountered more intelligent, creative and beautifully self-aware gays in one place than at a Faerie Gathering. A Gathering is the antithesis of a typical gay ghetto environment. It is an intentional community – a destination on the inner journey, not some angry place of refuge. There is a lot of joy that comes from being a Radical Faerie."
"The strongest thing about the Faeries," Young notes, "is their commitment to community and their general awareness of and respect for history and tradition. Another strength is the creation of and maintenance of the Faerie Sanctuaries in their various manifestations," many of which are listed in the "Radical Faerie Resource Directory" found at the back of The Fire in Moonlight. On the other hand, Young admits that the Faeries’ "generally perceived flamboyance tends to scare people away." The Radical Faeries, Thompson says, "claim no particular leaders (we say we are ‘leader-full’) so there is not a problem of domineering egos holding others in thrall. People like that quickly get invited elsewhere. The reverse of this is that sometimes chaos ensues and the group experience can rapidly devolve into incoherent confusion. Over the years, the Faeries have learned how to walk better in balance between these polarities."
"The Faeries," Thompson continues, "have a very significant role in the greater understanding of what I would call our core gay values. Because we are living so in the moment, the archetypal motifs of gay psyche are more keenly felt and expressed. This is one crowd that is not going to be assimilated into mainstream mythology, which is still a narrative of heterosexual dominance. Faeries are shape-shifters, makers of ritual and beauty, natural teachers, healers and soul guides. We walk between the worlds, the seen and unseen, and between the genders. It represents a more authentic vision of who we gay men really are inside." "For myself," Young adds, "the chief asset of most Faeries I know is that they understand a history of same-sex people and tend to see themselves as connected to that history. There are so many other aspects of what I think of more as a culture than as a ‘movement’ . . . the attraction to the land, the care of the land, the rejection of consumerist culture, the sense of humor. It is one of the ancient archetypes of same-sex people to be jesters, culture carriers, interpreters and teachers. The Radical Faeries are all of these. These have always been incredibly important to any vital society . . . and they always will be."
THE FIRE IN MOONLIGHT Stories from the Radical Faeries Edited by Mark Thompson White Crane Wisdom Series 9781590213384, 309 Pages, $25.00
Mark Thompson’s latest anthology, The Fire in Moonlight (White Crane), is a collection of first person accounts of the Harry Hay-inspired Radical Faerie movement. Hay, a co-founder of the Mattachine Society, joined forces with Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker to start the Faerie movement in order to add a spiritual dimension to the (often dry) nuts and bolts world of emerging gay politics.
Inspired in part by the writings of Edward Carpenter and the Calamus poems of Walt Whitman, Hay saw the homosexual as much more than a creature fighting for rights in a hostile society. The homosexual, according to Hay, was a multidimensional being with roots in the mythic, a sort of alien spirit with special healing gifts for the world.
As Stuart Timmons notes in his introductory essay, “The Making of a Tribe,” Hay once told a circle of 200 Faeries: “We Faeries need to stop saying, ‘My consciousness is better than your consciousness.’ That’s heterosexist. No one person, no one group, no one ideology has the answer. You need a spirit.”
Theologians may quibble with that relativist statement, insisting that if one truth is as good as another truth, then there’s no truth anywhere. One thing’s certain, however: You have to have spirit in order to “build.” For Hay, this meant constructing a homosexual spiritual dimension outside the world of conventional religion.
In a 1975 edition of RFD, Hay wrote: “To be a true homosexual, is to be put at odds with home, school and society….We are so other that we have to learn early how to protect our very survival.”
While this perspective may seem dated post-DADT, Hay was nonetheless insistent that a pronounced queerness was buried inside the homosexual’s “stubbornly perverse genes.” Hay’s vision of a monastic-like collective of queer men of all ages coming together in friendship circles for a process of “shedding the ugly green frog skin of hetero-imitation” started with the first Faerie Circle in Colorado in 1979.
Called “A Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries,” at that Labor Day event hundreds of men (the gatherings would later include women) participated in mud baths and neo-pagan, quasi-Native American rituals like circle hand holding, chanting, and taking turns speaking to the circle while holding a Talking Stick. Many of these ad hoc talks were spiked with references to Aliester Crowley as well as Hay’s own take on what it means to be “queer” and “other.”
In these free-love pre-AIDS gatherings there was ritualized group sex as well as individual couplings. As Timmons observes, “In selecting fairies as a role model for gays, [Hay] combined logic with inspiration to surpass the medieval Mattachines—to a pre-Christian time and beyond human limits.”
With its emphasis on aspects of Native American culture and worship of the earth, the early Faeries attracted gay men who had had enough of the dead end clone life in the urban gay ghetto.
At the second Spiritual Gathering for the Radical Faeries in 1980, in Estes National Forest above Boulder, Colorado, faerie names were adopted and the emphasis on paganism was enhanced. As contributor Carol Kleinmaier notes, besides a denial of spirit-body and male-female duality, Faerie spirituality “was sourced in… the celebration of sacred sexuality, Wicca, paganism and shamanic traditions.”
As one would expect, highly eclectic and a diverse range of spiritual references as well as divergent opinions about the Faerie experience mark these essays.
Allen Page, for instance, writes that during the first gathering he “asked the Goddess (which Goddess he doesn’t say) to show him why he needed to be there.” Meanwhile, “a young man shook a rattle and stands up in a speckled dress.” The philosophy was to embody masculine and feminine energies although one finds in many of these stories a distinct prejudice against patriarchy as well as an emphasis “to take the gifts of the Father back to the Mother.”
Philadelphian Chris Bartlett (The Lady Bartlett) notes:
I like cultures that use rituals to embody choice: the Amish Rumspringa when Amish teens, following a year of exposure to the outside world, choose to join the Amish community (be baptized) or are shunned. Another example is the bar/bat mitzvah when young Jews choose to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. The investiture of a priest in various religions is another moment of powerful choice. When participants in a culture choose to embrace that culture, they become full actors, as opposed to full recipients.
In Faerie circles, identification with the feminine is assumed. It would not be unusual, for instance, for the males in a circle to cry while listening to reports of the rape of a female friend of a member. Since Radical Faeries spanned all age categories, older men were respectfully called elders and were regarded as purveyors of wisdom, even if that “respect” ended at the bedroom door. Wisdom cannot compete with beauty when it comes to a good lay.
Just as in any local city bathhouse, the young are attracted to the young, as the older and less appealing find themselves casting about for a bone or having to spend their nights alone, Trappist monk-style.
Artwit, for instance, writes that at one gathering he got lucky three times so that his “usual depression at being alone while the slender twinks slept in pairs was less severe.” Highly critical of many in the Faerie community, Artwit states that “self righteous beliefs about food seem to be a hallmark of the Faeries. We used to joke in the kitchen about making ‘Cream of Vegan’ soup for our next meal.”
Artwit also writes about the Faerie Drag Wars.
The first two Gatherings had that old rustic-northwest-jeans-and-flannel flavor and here come these queens from California doing wigs and make-up. So a small culture war was started at the Gathering, with the hosts deciding not to send the Call to California next year. “[But] over the years, wigs and makeup won and overtook whatever Heart Circles there were.
For Artwit, the Faeries main problem was making social problems into personal ones.
“I have no desire to be a Faerie Mormon and make breakfast while the pretty ones sleep in and fuck,” he writes.
Editor Mark Thompson is to be commended for not editing out Artwit’s less than flattering reminiscences. The inclusion of such criticism is a tribute to the Faerie generosity of spirit, although there’s enough good stuff in this book to make Harry Hay proud.
As Berbiar (Jerry the Faerie) puts it, “We need queers who have radical askance alternative viewpoints to dominant cultural mores. May the Radical Faerie movement continue to play its role in providing a cauldron of change so needed in this ignorant and repressive world.”
Subscribe to LambdaLiterary.org RSS feeds for posts and comments.
History is, whenever the male powers-that-be go after women, gay people aren't far behind on their scary agenda. Here's what the radical right and their Republican flunkies are pushing for at the moment:
1) Republicans not only want to reduce women's access to abortion care, they're actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven't.
2) A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain "victims."
3) In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.)
4) Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids.
5) In Congress, Republicans have proposed a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.
6) Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids' preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.
7) And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool.
8) Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.
9) Congress will vote any day now on a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country.
10) And if that wasn't enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses.)
You can't make this stuff up. Call your representatives and let them know you are watching. And to stop gutting the rights we've struggled to secure.
First, thanks to JoeMyGod and David Mixner for making this transcript known. For the record, I spit on the grave of Ronald Reagan and I would spit on Nancy Reagan if she came within spitting distance. [click on the image to enlarge for reading.]
I get more than a little tired of the oft-heard complaint that someone or other “wants their America back”…as if some horrible change had transformed this country. Aside from how ridiculous the comment is (which America do they want back? The one where we had rampant racism? Where women weren’t allowed to vote? Where we had slavery or no electricity in the rural areas of the country?)
So I was more than a little pleased to read this list, for which I give my gratitude to my old friend David Mixner [http://www.davidmixner.com/]:
I want the America back…
– Where guns and bullets were used to put food on a hungry family’s table and not for creating policy or building power.
– Where religion was in the forefront of fighting for civil rights and not fighting against them.
– Where dialogue in the Congress of the United States was respectful and conducted with dignity.
– Where young people dreamed of being the President instead of being taught to hate the President.
– Where corporate leaders took great pride in building great economic institutions to create jobs instead of buying them, tearing them down and putting people out of work to make a quick profit.
– Where we had ticker tape parades for great pioneers and achievements and not just sports teams.
– Where a person could serve their country and run for office without being personally destroyed.
– Where a citizen could get sick and recover without having to declare bankruptcy.
– Where if people had something important to say, they respected their audience by dressing as if they had something important to say. (No Shirts, No Shoes, No Say)
– Where music didn’t incorporate hate and advocate killing anyone and instead was used to bring people together and inspire.
– Where we cared for our rivers, mountains and the environment and expanded our parks and wilderness areas as sources of national pride.
– Where many Republicans at one time were advocates for civil rights and civil liberties.
– Where advocating love and peace was an honored position and didn’t mean you were weak or powerless.
– Where our elderly were revered and taken care of with dignity.
– Where our children could attend our institutions of learning without being screened for guns or drugs.
– Where we were proud of our education system and we were number one in the world because of it.
– Where we had money and insight to explore the new frontiers of space refusing to limit our knowledge.
– Where religion was a personal belief and not a principle of public policy.
Please feel free to add your own in the comment section.
About a month ago I went and saw “Hide and Seek,” the Queer portraiture exhibit now at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. I had just started a long term on grand jury and regularly found myself in that part of the city when a member of the jury urged me to go. So one evening my partner and I joined a friend and took in the show before dinner.
What I saw stunned me. We went from room to room and I found myself repeatedly goggled in disbelief that I was seeing what I was seeing. Many of the pieces I had heard of or seen over the years in textbooks or online. Many were by artists whose work I had always wanted to see and never had the chance before this show. Artists like AA Bronson and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, the Cuban-American artist whose portrait in this show is perhaps the most unconventional and most memorable. A small pile of beautifully wrapped candies against a corner weighing exactly 175 pounds – his partner's body weight at the time of his death. The artist requested that the viewer take and eat a piece to "participate" in the “wasting away” of his partner – a bittersweet evocation of the way that time fades on the tongue. As I went from artwork to artwork I felt as if I was participating in a sacred pilgrimage, witnessing the relics of masters and their attempts to put into visual form a lasting record of their lives, their loving, and their loved ones.
The well known artists are well represented: Andy Warhol, Annie Liebowitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe… the "usual suspects" you'd expect in an exhibition about Gay portraiture. Their place is certainly deserved. But this exhibition aims at more than mere predictability. It seeks to lay bare what has been long known but consigned to whisper. So there is work by Robert Rauschenberg, and his lovers Cy Twombly, and Jasper Johns. There are also canvases by Marsden Hartley and perhaps most daringly Grant Wood. Think about that for a minute. These are all artists largely understood by those in-the-know to have been Gay (or whatever term theorists want to apply to men-who-loved men back in the day). But their families and estates have stubbornly refused to acknowledge the fullness of their sexualities. This show does not hedge its bets. It seeks to lay bare the closer truths of these lives.
I was especially delighted by what I perceived as hidden, or perhaps just accidental, pairings. The aforementioned portraits of and by Hartley appear across the room from the works of Charles Demuth. Hartley and Demuth were contemporaries and colleagues and traveled in many of the same circles. They were also both Gay men. But they chose to live their lives in very different ways. Hartley was conflicted and embittered by his sexuality (his early letters and poems to Walt Whitman's executor and friend Horace Traubel reveal the young painter's awkward attempts to reconcile and find joy in his sexuality — sadly to no lasting avail). Demuth on the other hand was surprisingly "out" for his day and lived a productive life as an individual cherished by a wide circle of friends. Demuth is best known for his symbolic portraits (William Carlos Williams’ portrait as “I Saw the Figure Five in Gold”) and his precisionist floral watercolors. But his luscious portraits of 1920s New York's gay bathhouses speak across the decades and are represented in this show. It was as if these two artists were “speaking” to one another across the hall and my mind began to spin. This exhibition continually had that effect on me.
And then there's the direct influence of poets in this exhibition. A handsome portrait photograph of Walt Whitman holds pride of place. This is fitting since it was the curator David C. Ward's inclusion of a portrait of Whitman and his lover Peter Doyle that led to his meeting the Gay scholar Jonathan D. Katz. Their collegial friendship led to this historic exhibit. But Whitman's work also pops up in David Hockney's "We Two Boys Together Clinging" on loan from a museum in England. The other poet whose life threads through the exhibit is Frank O'Hara. Not surprising since O'Hara was very much a part of New York's mid-century art scene as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. The Jasper Johns in this show is based on one of O'Hara's poems and O'Hara is physically embodied in four portraits here.
I could go on about this exhibition. But the important thing here is this: if you have even the faintest interest in this subject matter, you must see this exhibition. You should do whatever it takes to get on a plane, drive a car, or take a train to the nation's capitol and see this show. It is not hyperbole to state that this may be the most important Queer exhibition of the decade. This is our King Tut exhibit. That is, perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime museum experience. Why? Because it’s hard to imagine the stars aligning again anytime soon to have all of these works in one place. The pieces are on loan from museums across the United States and Europe — itself a miracle of curatorial good-fortune. For this brief window of time these portraits are here speaking to each other. And they are here to speak to you.
As Gay people, this is our inheritance and a breathtaking exhibition of our stories. These are works of art by men and women who came before us and tried to make sense, in their way, of what it means to be men who love men and women who love women. And even all of that aside, the art itself is stunningly beautiful. That the Smithsonian has mounted this show is a feat that would be staggering and unprecedented for ANY arts institution in the country and they are to be applauded for their boldness and gutsyness. Do not let this opportunity pass you by. The show is on till mid-February.
Get off your asses and make it to this show. Trust me. This is one exhibition that will stay with you for a very long time.
UPDATE: as many of you know this exhibition is now getting media attention because right-wing religious fundamentalists and many Republican elected officials are outraged about the content and want the show shut down. Even more reason to go see this exhibition as soon as you can.
I've been reflecting on the recentnewscoverage of gay teen suicides for a week now. While for those of us in the queer community, where the knowledge of teens committing suicide as a means of escaping the daily psychological torture of coming to grips with sexual identity is nothing new, it seems the mainstream media have finally caught on to this very serious problem. But why now? Why not 40-50 years ago in the infancy of the American gay liberation movement? Why not 30 years ago during the peak of the AIDS crisis coverage? Why not 12 years ago when the Trevor Project started? Why are gay teen suicides finally getting mainstream national media attention? Because we're finally starting to see the overwhelming change in social attitudes required to shift mainstream thought to be inclusive of gay people in general, and the deaths of these young people are catalyzing that change. I know the phrase "paradigm shift" has been used ad nauseum since Thomas Kuhn wrote his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, but that premise still holds true. It takes years for a change in society to really take hold of people, and what I think we're seeing in this news coverage is a huge step forward not just for acceptance but more importantly for inclusion in the larger social fabric of the nation.
In this very year we have seen the transcript from the Prop 8 trial, and the ruling of Judge Walker in that case which held that the proponents of this proposition had no defensible reason to support the exclusion of gay people from the institution of marriage. What little evidence they presented was unsupported by history or fact, and their expert witness (of which there was only one) was basically rejected as unqualified to actually comment on the matter at hand. It was abundantly clear that the sole motivation of proposition 8 was to oppress a sexual minority for no good reason. Even members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who were instrumental in the campaign to support proposition 8 are looking back at the division and strife that they have caused and it is driving them to tears. I have no doubt that as the wheels of the judicial system continue to grind away, that this and all other state constitutional amendments that discriminate against gay and lesbian couples will be erased as a thing from a less enlightened time.
Also in this very year we have seen Bishop Eddie Long, Ted Haggard, and many, many others. These men, a product of a conservative ideology that says that homosexuality is sinful and wrong, have worked diligently to uphold that worldview, even unto the suppression and utter destruction of their own self-identity. The lives and well-beings of gay people everywhere have been dramatically influenced by people like this through religion and politics. These are gay men who live in denial, believing that their lives are wrong, that we must continue to support the heterosexual relationship as the only type of relationship that matters. But in secret, their hearts pull them elsewhere, and they turn to abusing themselves, others, or both. Ultimately we get fire and brimstone from these bully pulpits, where they push their own self-hatred outward to others, forcing more gay people and their families to experience the same pain and conflict that they are feeling. Again, there is no defensible reason for this, and ultimately these structures will change both from within and from without.
It's these very outre political and religious statements against homosexual people that have brought to light the gay teen suicides. It took a political campaign the size of prop 8, the national conversation that surrounded it, the trial that brought out the facts behind the prop 8 supporters, exposing the hypocrisy of the political and spiritual leadership who wrangled it into being and seeing the emotional damage that it caused, for people to finally realize that anti-gay speech and actions are a devastating practice that can drive young people to suicide. When your state tells you that you don't deserve the same rights as other people, when your minister tells you you're going to hell for what you feel, when you believe no one around you feels the same way you do and calls you names for what's inside of you, when you fear what may happen to you if you share this secret with your own family, is it any wonder that you would become isolated, downtrodden, lonely, despairing and feeling that there is no hope left. Suicide seems like the only option. It is a tragedy, and one that has sadly been repeated for a very long time, long before these most recent notable deaths.
But the fact that these suicides, which under any other circumstance would have been the story in a local newspaper if that, have been taken up by the mainstream media like CNN and the New York Times, to me that says there has already been a change. Poll numbers in support of gay marriages are rising. Important religious figures are taking a stand and changing the tone in the church and calling their faith traditions on their stance. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is on the brink of repeal. The teen suicide stories have sparked a number of celebrity campaigns to speak out against anti-gay bullying including the star studded "We Give A Damn" campaign and the more down to earth "It Gets Better" campaign onYouTube. Anderson Cooper called out a Michigan Assistant Attorney General for stalking and cyber bullying the openly gay president of the U of Mich student council in a hate filled blog. All of these stories combined tell me that we are already living in a different time, and that there is no turning back any more. The American public is finally looking critically at homophobia and its disastrous consequences, and it is only a matter of time before we have a sea change of public opinion.