Ryan James Yezak , the creator the upcoming documentary Second Class Citizens , creates a deeply moving video poem that sums up the LGBT equality message very nicely and powerfully. Some might quibble about the need for more ethnic diversity but I don’t think that weakens the message at all.
I have been posting a lot of things about the plight of LGBT kids who are frequently the victims of bullying and who have so much more to deal with as they try to find themselves. This is , of course, just part of a bigger picture as many adults around the world are also bullied simply because of their sexual identity – who they are. It ranges from overt threats of death as seen in proposed legislation in Uganda to more subtle versions in the US in the form of DADT and DOMA. Even in countries such as the one I consider home, Canada, there are still manifestations of hatred based on ignorance. LGBT Canadians and their supporters had a long struggle to bring Canada to a point where a guarantee of non-discrimination is included in the Charter of Rights. I know I was out there marching back in the day.
In Trinidad & Tobago ,where I am now working and living , there seems to be an emerging consciousness that one group is being deprived of basic rights that everyone should be entitled to. As the link in my last post might have illustrated, there is much homophobia here. It may be related to a high level of professed religious allegiance and a lower level of education and exposure to broader ideas – but it exists. There isn’t the overt and disgusting violent manifestation as is seen in Jamaica and, truth be told, there are even a few very out there characters who escape violence even though they are themselves in public places. They can do so as long as they don’t use the ‘G’ word. If they said “we need Gay and Lesbian rights!” they would probably be booed or attacked. The unspoken rule here is that you can be yourself but not if you make it a matter of civil rights. That is just plain wrong. To say that would mean that the rest of society is somehow threatened.
In recent days here we have seen the group CAISO that decided to mobilize against the arrival of an Ex-gay US minister in T&T. They decided to show up en masse to one of his lectures wearing protest T-shirts and ask him questions. It might not seem like much but it was a first for this country. Naturally, as has happened around the world, other parts of the LGBT community decided to argue over this action. Some said it was wrong to draw attention to the ridiculous man, others said that it would only cause a backlash from the religious community. Those points may have validity but to me the fact a group of young people chose to not care about social repercussions and decided to make a statement was important. It reminds me of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project and the fact there was a backlash to that. Never mind he managed to get the US president to speak out on LGBT bullying ( though Hillary did a far better job) . Every little protest action is important in any rights movement. Trust me – I know.
CAISO has complained that they got no media coverage. I can’t speak for the rest of the media, as I have done several news items and interviews on related subjects, but late afternoon on a weekend is not the best time to hold such a thing as we are all stretched for cameramen. It also didn’t help that the Prime Minister had called a press conference at the same time. Word of advice send a press release of your intention to every media house.
I think it is time I bring back humor to my blog . The focus will stay but I need to be more myself and blend it with the issues I care about.
Still reading Simon LeVey’s amazing book Gay, Straight and the Reason Why: The Reason for Sexual Orientation. Everyone should buy it.
I have watched the documentary 8. the mormon proposition twice in the last few days. The first time I saw it I was alone and sat on my couch getting angrier and angrier that any group would oppose the right of two people to marry. The fact it was largely funded by a Utah based church with a history that would qualify it for an Oscar in hypocrisy made it all the more obscene. Here is a trailer for the film that I would urge everyone to see – it isn’t just about California – it is about how religions, protected by tax free status, can use their power to justify the continued inequity being meted out to one group of people.
The second time I saw it was the very next day when one of my best friends Alvin joined me for my evening walk and then came home with me to have dinner. I told him he had to see it and I watched it again with him. I saw him getting more and more irate and asking questions about the mormons ( I refuse to dignify them with a capital letter) to the point that I worried about any mormon who happened to be in his path as he headed home afterwards. Alvin is a strong and rare activist for the gay community in Trinidad and doesn’t seem to give a damn what people tell him. The film hurt him deeply and he is now getting even more active in raising his lone but loud voice to deal with the issues. I think it is important that we see films like this and read as many blogs and news sources as we can. The problem is not a California problem - it is a worldwide problem. As a Canadian I could say that equality is part of my constitution and forget the rest of the world – that would be plainly wrong. As long as there is a single person in the worldwide family who feels he or she is a second class citizen none of us should sleep easy.
Back to the film. It details the fight of the LGBT community in California ,who had only recently been allowed to marry,having to face a ballot proposition that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. It was a measure that the mormon church took very seriously as it was personally threatened by the notion of two people who love each other getting married. The film notes the irony of a church ,which is based in Utah solely because other Americans chased them there as they believed in polygamy , challenging another group over marriage. It is well constructed and shows the reality of lives being crushed without wandering into manipulation. The financial actions of the mormons were appalling and shamelessly secretive as illustrated by documents obtained by the filmmakers.
Prop 8 is still awaiting a court decision but I would urge anyone to join the NOH8 Campaign even if you don’t live in California. Sometimes worldwide support can help change things. Also, I don’t believe that religion has any special protection from criticism when it makes no sense . With that in mind I would like to point out that mormons have some seriously warped beliefs. God talks to your church elders personally? Really? The book just disappeared? Sure it did. Polygamy in the afterlife? Ummmm.
Hatred is an awful thing. I have no idea why people don’t see discrimination against the LGBT community as exactly the same as discrimination against any other group. Perhaps if they had an LGBT child they might understand. Whenever I see arguments using words like “choice” or “lifestyle” my blood boils. Seriously, why would anyone choose to be part of a group that suffers such prejudice? I would encourage anyone who thinks about using the choice argument to read some actual medical studies. Also, if you want to pick your fave Old Testament passages and use them as ammunition please ensure you read all the other weird things in there and follow them yourself.
As I was driving to my walking area this evening I actually saw two mormon missionaries in their short sleeved polyester shirts walking along the road – I am not one to hate but it was all I could do not to yank my Ford’s steering wheel in their direction. That is the sign of a good documentary. Or it could just be a sign of my hatred of white polyester shirts.
For the rest of us we can do small things. Let’s show NOH8 that the world cares, let’s write about teenage suicide and show how it reflects on a lack of acceptance and let’s just reach out and show that we care. This month has two big days coming up. October 11th is Coming Out Day – I think people should do that only if it is safe to do so and if they have a strong support network of friends.
More importantly to me, by far, is Spirit Day on October 20, 2010. To celebrate all the lives lost to suicide because of bullying and we have the sad deaths of six kids lately to make that a reality for all of us. Wear purple on October 20, 2010 – let’s show that the concern is worldwide.
And as always support GLAAD – as a media person I take them very seriously.
And the brave souls in Utah who work in the belly of the beast.
It has been a long day for me juggling producing news, doing interviews and trying to finish some deadline writing for Random House. Yet, in between my stress and crankiness today ( apologies to the staff) I spent much of my day thinking of Asher Brown and Seth Walsh.
Here are two young people that had amazing lives ahead of them – because all lives are amazing – who were so bullied because of one aspect of who they were that they chose suicide as their only way of dealing with the pain of humiliation. If only they knew that the best way of dealing with it as living your life with dignity. They will never know because society said it is okay for other kids to pick on 13 year old kids who are different because their parents teach them those values. Values that come from the axis of hate – better known as misguided religion.
I feel heartened as a journalist that Anderson Cooper just had Asher’s parents on. They are noble people and the Stepfather was staunch in his defense of him – saying he was my stepson but in spirit he was my son. He also said that when Asher came out to him they both told him that whatever he was – he was fine with them – they just wanted him to be happy. Apparently, ignorant bullies fueled by deluded Christian families didn’t get that memo.
When I think of these kids dealing with being different and not even knowing what the word for it is- my heart bleeds. The story has been the same for generations and each time the answer is the same : they need to know they are not alone. That is why I am happy to see that Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project. Now, kids in the middle of nowhere ,somewhere in the world, can get a message that it does get better. Thanks to the internet at least there are ways for kids to look for kindred souls. I know that school can be hard when it comes to bullying - trust me on that one.
I quite like the take of Truth Wins Out on this ..ok fine…I totally agree …
“Because they ALWAYS claim there have been no reports of bullying, because they’re too damned preoccupied with Whatever-The-Hell to notice when kids are being relentlessly teased, and hell, some of the teachers and administrators have Perfect Snowflake Babies too, and it never crosses their minds that maybe these kids are not “Just Being Kids,” and perhaps they should step in; meanwhile, well-meaning groups like GLSEN and others try to step in and educate the schools on how to combat this problem, but nothing ever seems to get done; and blocking their path, you have motherfuckers like Focus on the Family and Laurie Higgins, and many others on the Religious Right who fight tooth and nail against any anti-bullying program that deigns to consider gay kids fully human, lest you interfere with their “God-given Religious Freedom” to hate anyone that doesn’t conform to their ridiculous, uneducated worldview, even though half the faggots raised in this world come from their homes, and…
Oh, excuse me, did my foul language offend the purest white virgin ears of the Religious Right?
More than the dead body of a child offends you, a child who killed himself because people like you work every day to create a climate where kids like him learn to hate themselves?
This is the result of your work, Focus, Laurie Higgins, Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber, Bryan Fischer, Scott Lively, Tony Perkins, Peter Sprigg, and all the rest of you. These are dead kids. Happy yet?
But it doesn’t matter to you, does it? They’re just dead faggots. What else, in your worldview, would please your Jesus more?”
Ultimately it comes down to what hate accomplishes. The answer is nothing good.
And for poor Seth Walsh it resulted in his lovely friend who called him the “best person in the whole world” posting another video because that is all she can do at 13. I think it is amazingly eloquent and I still can’t stop crying – and I am not ashamed. Seth and Asher represent thousands who have died .
For my part , I want to put an end to this crap. It has been going on far too long and , as they said in the film Network, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore. “