Articles about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered issues.

On Reaching Out And Giving Chances

It’s now been a week since the unthinkable happened and we are now faced with a Trump presidency. For me this was an outcome I believed never could happen. Trump was so demonstrably wrong for the job that I could not conceive that any person of sound judgement could vote for him. Clearly I was either wrong or there are far fewer people of sound judgement that I thought. Those who have had the misfortune to be facebook friends with me have had to suffer through days of long posts on the subject. This is also likely to be long but the intent is a bit different.

Trump says he wants to be a president for all Americans. He wants us to come together. They are good words. I want the same thing. But, that’s pretty much where the agreement ends. 

Trump helped make the divide in this country worse than it has ever been by running the most divisive campaign I’ve ever witnessed, perhaps the worst in American history. He did this by using racially charged rhetoric. He did it by targeting the members of an entire religion. He did it by having a white nationalist run his campaign. He did it by an utter and complete disregard for the truth. He ran on slogans and didn’t have any substance.

Before people start chiming in with Clinton’s faults and to be sure there were many, this isn’t about her. This is about the kind of campaign Trump ran from it’s beginnings to it’s finish. He denied saying things that he was on record as having said. He lied at a rate that I did not think was humanly possible. People seemed surprised but one cursory glance at Trump’s career showed that this is who he has always been. He has always lied. He has always been a misogynist. He has had a history of discriminatory business practices. He has always been unable to cope with criticism. These are undeniable though Trump denies them. 

Now, after months of demagoguery, he says to us, “Give me a chance.” His supporters say, “That’s just the politics of the campaign. It isn’t how he really feels.”

Seriously? Anyone who believes that is living in a state of serious denial.

If that isn’t how he really feels then he is the most opportunistically vile man I’ve ever seen. If he does believe then he’s just vile. There isn’t a lot of upside here. He did these things and unless you live in the same truth-free bubble Trump lives in you can’t deny it.  He gave voice to the nastiest parts of our society and he made it the calling card of his campaign.

If he wants a chance then he has to immediately change his ways. He has to govern from the center and not the alt-right. Has he shown any signs of that?

The first name on his list of appointments was Steve Bannon, the guy who ran his campaign.  If you have managed to miss that name for the last few months (as Paul Ryan claims to have), he is a proud card carrying white nationalist. They call their movement the alt-right, but it’s white nationalism. It’s anti-woman, anti-black, anti-semitic, anti-gay, anti-muslim. Pretty much if you can put “anti” in front of it and it’s a word that relates to diversity then that’s Steve Bannon and his white nationalists. Look at his website Breitbart and you will be appalled. I refuse to link to it but if you think there is any chance that Bannon is a good human being then you need to look. This is a group that would make Hitler and Mussolini proud.

Throughout the year of the campaign, hate crimes have been rising. They spiked immediately after the election. Yes, some were against Trump supporters but they were 20 times more likely to be against Muslims, immigrants, African Americans and the LGBT community. The people committing these crimes are thrilled that Trump will be president. Many are acting in his name. They see him as one of their own. These are the people that the hateful speech of his campaign has made bold. These are the people who are thrilled that one of their own will be president.

What is Trump’s response? It took five days and all he can say is, “Stop it.” He claims he wasn’t even aware it was happening which doesn’t say much about the guy who will be protecting all of us when he’s only focused on tweeting about the protests against him. I don’t expect his words to have much effect but we’ll see. His attitude seemed dismissive of it being an important issue. When they continue, as they are all but certain to do, we’ll see if he will react. If he continues to be dismissive then that says something about who he cares about protecting.

He still insists that he wants to eliminate a woman’s right to choose. This is not a centrist view. This is an extreme right wing position.

He thinks he’s reached out the gay community by saying that marriage equality is settled law and there’s no need to change it but his transition team is filled with virulently anti-gay people, starting with his VP. The list of potential Supreme Court candidates his campaign listed is filled with anti-choice and anti-gay names. Trump is either naive or deliberately trying to defuse opposition. Could he change the list? Sure, but his transition team is fillled with people like Ken Blackwell who belongs to a hate group. This is not reaching out. This sends a very clear message. It’s hard to trust someone that is more focused on the criticisms of the New York Times than he is on his own transition. 

He still says he supports so-called religious freedom bills which only dress up discrimination in religious language. Trump says he would support a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to discriminate.

Next people will say, “Don’t worry. The Republicans won’t let him go too far. After all, they spoke against him during the campaign.” 

This one is the ultimate form of wishful thinking.

First, all the Republicans have fallen into line. Paul Ryan is doing his best to pretend that the last year never happened to the lengths of pretending he has no idea who and what Steve Bannon is (“I’ve never met him. I don’t know anything about him”). Uh huh. It seems that Ryan, like Trump doesn’t watch the news. Second, the modern Republican Party was already an extremist party. It’s 2016 platform is explicitly anti-gay, anti-choice and anti-immigrant. The only reason they don’t look extreme is in comparison to the campaign Trump ran. These issues got very little media coverage except around the time of the RNC convention. Expecting them to protect the civil rights of anyone who isn’t one of the Right People is yet more wishful thinking.

Many of the people who voted for Trump think it’s about the economy. Most of them don’t believe that any of the scary predictions we have made will come true. But the people they voted in have a very clear agenda. They haven’t been shy about saying it but they got enough Americans to believe it wasn’t  real. Even if Trump himself may not be as radical (I have my doubts about that but I’m willing to concede the point since it’s ultimately irrelevant), the people around him are almost universally enemies of civil rights except for white, straight, male Christians.

So, give him a chance? No, not until he has shown me he isn’t trying to destroy the very things that are what make America actually great. He is the one that won and he is the one who must earn my trust and the trust of anyone who values civil rights. He’s got a steep uphill battle to do that. It’s hard to trust someone who lies and will clearly say anything. It’s hard to trust someone whose words and actions do not align. 

People say we should be reassured because he’s now softening on some of his campaign promises. Again, it’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t seem to have any relationship with the truth. Even if he is backing off the promises the only thing I’m sure about Trump is that he’s looking out for Trump. In the meantime we must watch.  He must reach out to us and it must be with more than words. He’s proven his words are worthless. Only his actions will bring trust. 

We can expect the first of these actions soon with the release of his intended cabinet appointments. If it’s the people from the list of names we’ve seen so far (climate science deniers, oil executives, serial quitter Sarah Palin, etc.) then we will know exactly where we stand. It will be on opposite sides of an ever widening gulf and Trump will be the one doing his best to continue making it wider.

I don’t want to end on such a negative note. The next few years look bleak, to be sure. We must be ready to use every peaceful means at our disposal to oppose any actions that give legitimacy to the alt-right. We must organize. We must be vigilant. We must be ready in 2018 to elect progressive candidates. And, if you believe in the power of prayer, then pray that the progressive wing of the Supreme Court stays healthy and doesn’t give Trump any additional opportunity to appoint more than the one candidate from his list he seems certain to get.

Most of all, stay involved. Don’t tune out. This is a setback worse than 2004 (just see how devastated my posts are from back then) and despite the fact that it’s worse because we thought America had changed for the better, it is only a setback and we will overcome this. If I made a mistake in 2016 it was of complacency and overestimating that Americans would see through Trump. The truth is that even if they did see through him they didn’t care. I’m not going to go into my analysis of why and how he won. Others have done that and better than I could. Instead, I’m focused on learning from our mistakes and learning how we can build a bigger, and stronger coalition so that people will not be so desperate for change they turn the keys back over to the group that ran the economy off the cliff in the first place. If there is a cruel irony here that is it.

When Congress begins meeting in 2017 to begin advancing Trump’s agenda, pay attention. If there is something good in it then support it. If you think it is wrong then call your congressman and senator. Telephone calls are more effective than letters or emails according to former staff. Pick up that phone and let them know what you are worried about.

Pay attention at the state and local levels. This is where a lot of anti-choice and anti-LGBT legislation is going to come from. Expect more religious discrimination bills and more attempts to prevent women from exercising their rights. It’s already started in Florida and Texas. The organizations that fight this are going to need our help more than ever. Make donations, make monthly ones if you can.  But, do more than donate. Make your voices heard. Talk to the people you know who supported Trump and try to show them what the unintended consequences of their actions are. Go the marches that will be happening. Keep the attention of the media focused on these issues since the media has the attention span of a gnat. Actually most gnats seem to have longer attention spans.

Let’s work together and show Trump and his alt-right cronies that America is bigger than them and that American won’t stand for the prejudice and bigotry of their cause. And if, by some miracle, he surprises us all and turns to the center then let’s support that. I don’t expect it to happen but I’m prepared to accept it if it does. 

A Personal Plea

I know all of us want this death march of an election to be over. Before that happens I wanted to reach out to those who know me and also might be considering supporting Trump or a third party candidate. Many of us think that the choices we make on election day don’t really matter all that much. No matter who wins it won’t affect the life of people we know one way or another. 

I’m here to let you know that if Donald Trump gets elected that it has the potential to harm my life in a very direct and personal way.

You may wonder why I say that. After all, Trump doesn’t target gay people like Bush and Romney did. And it’s been a bit of a blessing for gay issues not to be a major factor in the election this cycle. However, because of that it’s easy to overlook that while Trump himself may not be overtly anti-gay the people he is surrounded by definitely are.

His running mate, Mike Pence has made a career of being anti-gay. As the governor of Indiana he signed a horrible legalized discrimination bill that lets people hide behind religion to justify discrimination. He’d love to eliminate marriage equality. And that’s just to start. He’d probably go further given the chance.

But, unless Trump dies in office, Pence wouldn’t have much of a platform to work from. The real issue is the Supreme Court. The odds are good that the next president will have up to three seats to fill and the names Trump has listed as likely candidates would love to hear a case to repeal marriage equality. If that happens you can expect regressive legislatures around the country to do their utmost to dismantle our marriages through legislation.

So, for me, this is personal and I’m hoping it will be for you also. Help Lauri and I protect our marriage and elect Hillary Clinton. If you can’t vote for her on her own merits then do it to help protect us. Do it to protect the women in your life who could be harmed by the decisions of a Trump court. Your decisions do matter so, please, get out there and vote!

Libations With Linda, Episode 3: Lauri – Coming Out In The Air Force

In this episode I speak with Lauri about life in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1980’s and what it was like to be a lesbian and serve in the military.

Our libation is Ménage à Trois Midnight, a delicious red wine blend.

The book mentioned in the episode is Secret Service: Untold Stories Of Lesbians In The Military by Zsa Zsa Gershick. My suspicion is that it is out of print now, but it makes fascinating reading.

Libations With Linda, Episode 2: Rachel – Gay Marriage In The Church

The podcast has made it to episode number two!

In this episode I speak with Rachel about same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church where she can speak from personal experience. Along the way we enjoy some Stash Chai Spice Black Tea.

On a technical note, while the audio quality is a bit better in this episode the need for better lighting is obvious. Apologies for the quite noticeable video noise. Hopefully some better lighting can be obtained before the next episode.

Here are the links mentioned in the episode:

Libations With Linda, Episode 1: Mike – Coming Out

This is the first episode of a podcast I’m putting together. This is somewhat experimental. How often it happens or even if it continues to happen will depend largely on feedback and whether I can find guests on a regular basis.

The idea for the show is to sit down with someone to enjoy a beverage and discuss the topic of the day along with the beverage.

Future episodes will hopefully cover a wide variety of topics so if you have an idea for a topic or want to sit down with me to enjoy a beverage then let me know!

In this first episode I sat down with my nephew Michael and we discussed his coming out. Our libation was Premium White Peony from Teavivre.  This was a great white tea that we both enjoyed. It’s one of the better white teas I’ve had in my limited sampling of white tea so far.

Here are links to the sites mentioned in the podcast:

Apologies for the video noise and background hum. This was a first effort and I need to work a bit on the videography end of things still.

HB1414 – Marshall’s Anti-Gay Attacks Continue

Delegate Bob Marshall, the notoriously anti-gay legislator from Manassas has apparently recovered from his apoplectic fit he threw when the court struck down his beloved anti-marriage equality amendment. For the 2015 session he has introduced HB1414. This little piece of work seeks to exempt state employees or officials from having to help gay citizens.

Here’s the text:

Provides that a person shall not be required to perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action or refrain from performing, assisting, consenting to, or participating in any action as a condition of obtaining or renewing a government-issued license, registration, or certificate where such condition would violate the religious or moral convictions of such person with respect to same-sex marriage or homosexual behavior.

He has the gall to call it a “conscience clause”. The irony is that the judge who struck down his anti-marriage amendment cited an animus on the part of the state to its LGBT citizens. I guess animus never goes out of fashion.

Even if there were a legitimate religious reason for having such a law (and the legitimacy of any such reason is up for healthy debate), freedom of religion is only one of the freedoms that we enjoy in America. It is just one among many and must be balanced against the other freedoms we enjoy.

However, even bothering to have that debate gives Marshall more legitimacy than he deserves. This bill is state-sponsored discrimination, pure and simple. To call it anything else is to miss that Marshall is using religion to attack a group of people simply because he doesn’t like them. It is more than past time for Virginia to be done with this nonsense.

I urge everyone in Virginia to write to your state delegates and senators to urge them to vote against this bill.

Hypocrisy: Virginia

Recent events in the effort to eliminate Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban have done nothing but reinforce the findings of the judge in the Oklahoma case who found that same-sex marriage bans serve no purpose other than demeaning a class of society.

The roar started when the newly elected Attorney General, Mark Herring, announced that Virginia would switch sides in the case from being a defendant to arguing with the plaintiffs. The usual suspects immediately began criticizing Herring, some going so far as to begin an impeachment attempt.

Their “reason” is that the Attorney General does not get to pick and choose which parts of Virginia’s constitution to defend but must defend them all. On the surface this actually sounds reasonable. But, it’s only part of the story. In addition to defending the Virginia constitution the AG must also defend the US constitution. In this case Herring has decided that Virginia’s constitution is in conflict with the US constitution.

There’s plenty of precedent for this. Most recently, then AG Ken Cuccinelli refused to defend a Virginia law in 2013 saying that he believed it was unconstitutional. Yet there was no outcry. No call for him to be removed from office.

What’s different in this case?

The Gays.

This outcry over Herring’s action and the soon to be wasted time and money by the General Assembly in a unwarranted and unwinnable effort to oust him just go to prove that the judge in the Oklahoma case was correct. The lawmakers like Bob Marshall only care about preventing gay Virginians from having any rights under the law and will go to any lengths to attempt to preserve that status quo.

The arguments hold no more water than they every have but it is certainly a sign of their desperation that the volume has increased to such a level.

An Amazing Night

Obama: Reelected.

Kaine: Elected.

Connolly: Reelected.

On any given election having the candidates I supported elected would be more good news than I expect. This is only the second election where my vote for president actually counts at the electoral college.

The good news doesn’t stop there. Perhaps more significant than the above:

Maryland: Marriage Equality passes!

Maine: Marriage Equality passes!

Minnesota: Marriage equality ban fails!

Washington: Looking good for marriage equality!

To win one would have been more good news than I would have expected. To win three (and probably all four) is amazing beyond words!

I was so giddy with excitement last nights news regarding marriage equality that I had to wake Lauri up to tell her the good news. Then it took another 45 minutes before I settled down enough to be able to go to bed.

To all my family and friends in Maryland and Maine: Thank you! You’ve been amazing!

That’s the good news. While there is far more of it than I would have predicted at the beginning of the day, there are still lots of problems.

I won’t bother to list the ones we heard about for months in election ads. We all know what they are. The ones that I mean are the structural problems built into our political system. The fact that the country elected Obama and sent a much more moderate Senate yet sent a conservative House back to Washington points to more years of gridlock. It also points to how political the House districting system is. The party in power sets up the system to stay in power. It will take 3-4 House elections before this structural inequality has a chance to change based on population movement.

If our political parties don’t learn how to compromise our system is in danger of breaking apart. Politicians need to start representing their constituents and not their parties. This is imperative. John Boehner, in particular, needs to look up the word “compromise” in the dictionary and put it into practice.

Boehner isn’t alone. Both parties are playing Brinksmanship with America. This must end. Remember, all of you work for us. Your job is to govern. Your job is not to scramble for power at the expense of the country.

Hopefully this election will put some of the social issues behind us so we can have a meaningful discussion about the issues facing our country.

How The Marriage Debate Has Shifted

On Saturday, Lauri and I drove her new RAV4 out to Front Royal to visit Skyline Caverns. It was the first road trip with her new car. Everything aligned to make for a wonderful day. Traffic was light, the weather was beautiful, and the cavern tour was fun and enjoyable.

Afterward, we stopped at the Main Street Mill Restaurant & Pub for lunch. The food was good and the eavesdropping was even better. Not that we intended to eavesdrop but the gentleman’s voice carried clear across the top floor of the restaurant to where we were sitting.

The gentleman in question had a problem with gay marriage. However, to my surprise, his problem wasn’t with anything but calling it marriage. In his loudly broadcasted view, we should get all the rights but shouldn’t be so stuck on using the word “marriage.”

Lauri and I had a hard time not joining in the conversation but he was clear across the restaurant and it would have been a challenge. We don’t know what got him started nor do we know what his conversation companion thought. The other gentleman’s replies were inaudible across the restaurant.

The thing I found most interesting was how far the debate has moved. He was dead set against “gay marriage” but he was “100% in favor” of “unions”. He said we should have all the rights but just use a different word. That’s a far cry from just a few years ago when Virginia passed it’s anti-marriage amendment.

I would have loved to engage him in a real debate to see if I could get to the root cause of his objection. It’s almost certainly an emotional reaction. It would have been nice to see if he could be reached by a rational discussion or if he was locked into his gut reaction.

Even with his anti-marriage stance his pro-civil union stance is a fair distance from where someone in Warren County was just six years ago.

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