March 11, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
A European government is about to be tested on how committed it really is to a gay person's most fundamental rights. This test of Britain's Labour government could take on a bigger significance - whether the liberal political and cultural traditions of Europe will truly resist the murderous onslaught of radical Islam when it comes to us gays, or simply throw in the towel.
A 19-year old gay Iranian citizen who was studying English in Britain in 2006 learned that his boyfriend back in Iran had been arrested, charged with sodomy and hanged by Iranian authorities. His family told CNN that they were then visited by police, who were holding an arrest warrant for their young relative. He immediately applied for asylum in Britain, fearing for his life. His claim was denied, and a few days before he expected to be deported back to Iran, he fled Britain in a panic and is now in a Dutch detention center awaiting his fate.
Gay rights activists in Iran, and the British Home Office as well, have said they tried to investigate the gay teenager's claims but were unable to confirm them. The Iranian activists say they did manage to locate the executed boyfriend's family, but none would talk to them.
But the young asylum seeker's family is talking. His uncle lives in Britain and is standing by his nephew forcefully, confirming all the claims that "Mehdi" (not his real name) is making, and adding that the father has "disowned his son for the shame that he has brought on the family."
It should not be any surprise that the claims are hard to confirm. When people are executed for something in gruesome public hangings, why would anyone on the street in Iran dare speak for the accused? But even if Mehdi's story is wholly true or not, the galling part of this story has been what both the Iranian regime and the British government have said in response.
For its part, the Iranian embassy in London told CNN they have "no knowledge" of Mehdi's case, despite its high international media profile. This sounded eerily similar to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement last year at Columbia University: "In Iran, we have no homosexuals." Despite boastful public announcements by Iranian authorities (including from an Iranian government minister on a visit to Britain, no less) that gays are being executed in that country "for the crime of homosexuality", and that Iranian human rights activists report that over 4,000 homosexuals have been executed by the Iranian government since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and the chilling photographic evidence [LINK WARNING: Graphic content] of the public hanging of two gay teenagers in 2005, the butchers running Iran shrug and smirk and play dumb, hoping no one will call them on their subhuman beliefs.
But when it comes to flying in the face of overwhelming evidence apart from the Mehdi case, the British Home Office's reaction was even more appalling in its sweep:
"...although homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, [the Home Office] does not believe that homosexuals are routinely persecuted purely for their sexuality."
This official statement read on the air by CNN today is part of an "outrageous and shameful" pattern by the Labour government on gay asylum cases, says British gay activist Peter Tatchell of the group Outrage!, which seems to be rather alone among most European direct-action gay groups in raising the profile of official government persecution of homosexuals in countries which Europe does business with, like Iran and Russia. Tatchell says that the British government is putting the reduction of asylum cases above their merits, and thereby is less likely to look deeply enough into a case like Mehdi's.
Whether the facts around Mehdi's claims are proven true or not -- either with new revelations, or in the form of a photo of Mehdi hanging by his neck in Iran -- there is one very clear, fundamental fact that the British government concedes: homosexuality is a crime. There is another fact that, despite their astounding double-speak, they cannot refute: that crime is being punished with death sentences, and such practices have been staunchly defended by an Iranian official on British soil.
Will the British public, knowing what they know, agree to send Iranian gays back to Iran? If so, it casts a dark pall over that nation's soul at this moment in history.
January 26, 2008
Posted by: Chris
You may have heard the awful story about how a woman arrested in Arizona for killing bicyclist Paul L'Ecuyer laughing with a friend in a tape-recorded jailhouse phone call about the fact her victim was gay. A friend tells Melissa Arrington she deserves "a medal and a fucking parade because you took out a fag, a cyclist, a tree hugger and a Frenchman in one shot."
Now an Associated Press has the chilling audio, complete with Arrington's laughter in reaction. The judge was right. The whole exchange is breathtakingly callous. Arrington definitely didn't get the last laugh, however. The judge refused to buy Arrington's promise to launch a Mothers Against Drunk Driving-type organization after her release from prison; she got 10 years, which is likely more than double what she would have received otherwise.
December 21, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Once in a while you come across a story from the Bay Area that has a certain twist that makes you say, "Only in San Francisco…" In just the last two days, I came across two. Both are serious, mind you, crime stories actually. But they take that left turn at Albuquerque and never look back…
- "Gay son's death in trans woman's attack angers mom": QUICK LOOK: The mother of a gay man who died after a fight in the Castro last year is blasting a decision by the San Francisco District Attorney's office this week not to refile manslaughter ... (MORE)
The first comes from the Bay Area Reporter, San Fran's venerable gay newspaper, about the district attorney's decision not to seek a retrial of Kyle Adams in the death of Chad Ferreira, a gay man, in a street fight in the Castro. Adams was found guilty of felony assault but the jury deadlocked on more serious counts.
According to the prosecution, Ferreira confronted Adams for punching Ferreira's friend. After the two came to blows, Ferreira was knocked to the ground and hit his head on the curb. Adams subsequently kicked Ferreira in the head, but the jury couldn't agree on whether it was the fall or the kick that actually killed Ferreira. All terribly sad and tragic.
The "San Francisco twist"? It's not even the fact that Adams proclaimed after the trial that he is actually a she, as in a transgender male. It's that the victim's mother and the jury foreman agree that the gender switch was actually a ploy for sympathy in winning a lighter sentence.
"It's awfully convenient," the foreman said. Adams was indignant in response:
Adams told the B.A.R. that she had identified as a transgender woman before her fight with Ferreira. But she said on the night of the incident with Ferreira, she was dressing as an effeminate flamboyant man and not as a woman. Adams says she considers herself to be a pre-operative transgender woman and is taking hormones. She learned she will be able to continue to receive hormones in state prison. Unless her sentence is overturned on parole, Adams will have to serve three years in state prison before being eligible for parole.
Sounds like a heavier sentence came with its own set of benefits.
- "S.F. man arrested for stalking over post-sex trans secret": QUICK LOOK: A 25-year-old California man allegedly shocked to learn that he was engaged in a sexual act with a transgender woman was sentenced yesterday to four months jail for engaging in a month-long terror... (MORE)
The second story involves a young man angry after learning he had engaged in a sex act with a male-to-female transgender woman. Police say Robert Delavictoria "posted threatening
anti-gay screeds on the front door of the couple's San Bruno home and
plastered much of their apartment complex with homophobic graffiti." Some of that graffiti alleged the transgender woman was HIV-positive, which the prosecution said was untrue.
Delavictoria was initially charged with six felonies, including two hate crime counts, but eventually pled no contest to one felony count of stalking with a hate crime allegation.
The San Francisco twist? The victim actually appeared in court to ask for lenience in sentencing, arguing Delavictoria was in need of counseling and sensitivity training more than punishment. There are several levels of irony here, including that the whole point of hate crime allegations is to increase punishment, not decrease it.
So rather than eight months in jail, Delavictoria got half that, along with mandatory counseling from Community United Against Violence, "a multicultural organization working to end violence against and within our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) communities." So much for arguing that hate crime laws aren't intended as a form of thought control, if those convicted are forced to undergo re-education, however well-intentional, from our own advocacy groups.
The final irony, at least for me, is trying to imagine what Delavictoria will be taught in his sessions. There's no question, of course, that his vandalism, mischief and stalking were completely unjustified under the circumstances, but this isn't a course in anger management.
Will he be taught that it's perfectly OK socially for a transgender woman to not reveal her "status" -- even with her own sex partners? I can think of perfectly reasonably arguments both ways on that one, and I would imagine that 99.9% of us would want our sex partners to volunteer that type of information.
Not doing so certainly doesn't justify vandalism, stalking or violence, but it's also not particularly good manners, and in fact quite inconsiderate and (dare I say it?) deceitful. Will Delavictoria's re-education stay neutral on that point or insist otherwise?
December 02, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Dutch authorities are commissioning a study to determine why Moroccan men target gays in Amsterdam, considered one of Europe's most gay friendly cities. Amsterdam has experienced a growing number of attacks on gays and lesbians, Der Spiegel reported Friday.
In 2006, the Dutch metropolis registered 32 hate crimes directed at gays, but during the first half of 2007, 26 had already been counted, the newspaper said.
Mayor Job Cohen commissioned the University of Amsterdam to conduct a study on the motives behind the attacks. Half the hate crimes were committed by men of Moroccan origin. Some researchers believe they lashed out at local gays after feeling stigmatized by Dutch society, the newspaper said.
Regular readers of this blog know that my partner and I were holding hands as we walked through the gayest neighborhood in "the gay capital" of Europe when we were bashed by seven men who looked of Moroccan origin. I wrote a column about the experience for the Washington Blade and it blossomed into a big news story over there -- probably because it touched lots of buttons, including the threat to tourism and the cultural effect of so many Moroccan and Turkish immigrants to Holland's famously tolerant society.
It's depressing to see that the next year, in 2006, there were so many gay bashings, and considering the number that always go unreported the true figure was likely at a rate of one per week. And the number so far in 2007 is even worse.
Mayor Cohen was wonderful to us, including an invitation back to Amsterdam for Gay Pride weekend in 2005, and it's good to see he's continuing to take the problem seriously.
My only concern is the direction the university study might take, according to the UPI report, which is itself a translation of an article in the German newspaper Der Spiegel. The theory that Moroccan Dutch lash out against gays to protest their own mistreatment is not a new one. Scott Long of Human Rights Watch advanced a similar hypothesis about our attack.
"There's still an extraordinary degree of racism in Dutch society," Long told PlanetOut in an interview back then. "Gays often become the victims of this when immigrants retaliate for the inequities that they have to suffer."
It was extraordinarily dispiriting and offensive to have a so-called human rights activist excusing a violent attack because of "inequities" allegedly suffered by our attackers. I wrote another column back then taking Long to task, and he subsequently backed off some. But the Der Spiegel account makes clear that the "blame the victim" mentality still holds water in at least some P.C. circles.
It's not just that whatever connection between mistreatment of Moroccans and gay bashings is extremely indirect, if causal at all. But it sends the signal that bashings gays is a legitimate way to register protest against Dutch racism. What's more, it lets off the hook those who could actually improve the climate in a much more direct way.
The city of Amsterdam and especially it's gay community were incredible after our attack. Not so incredible were local Muslim leaders, who criticized me for describing the physical features (and accents) of our attackers, despite the growing trend of bashings there now obvious to everyone.
I waited in vain to see one of these "leaders" take the initiative to condemn violence against gays, whatever their own beliefs about what the Koran says on homosexuality. Unless and until cultural leaders respected by the thugs in the street isolate and condemn the intolerance, expect it to continue.
April 28, 2007
Posted by: Chris
It's not been a good week for quality reporting by the Washington Post of gay rights issues. First "
In the Loop" columnist Lois Romano fell for a snow job by the Human Rights Campaign's Joe Solmonese about the membership size and strategy of the organization. Then today in the Religion section, reporter Hamil R. Harris completely misses the boat in coverage of the new federal hate crime legislation.
Under the headline "Conservative Black Pastors Fight Bill on Hate Crimes," Harris reports on a coalition of African-American ministers lobbying black Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to oppose the new bill, called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act:
[The ministers] say it would pin the hate crime label on their sermons against homosexuality, which they consider a sin.
"This bill will offer a status for gays, lesbians and transgender people under the equal protection status that can muzzle the black church," said Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., pastor of Hope Christian Church in Lanham and founder of the High Impact Leader Coalition. "This law can be applied in the way that can keep the church from preaching the Gospel."
Fair enough to give "Bishop" Jackson (his church is nondenominational) and his allies their say, and Harris does goes on to quote a black pastor who favors the legislation, comparing it to other types of civil rights measures.
Conspicuously absent from the report, however, is any attempt to test the complaint made by Jackson and the other opponents of the law. The bill's supporters aren't quoted on whether the hate crime bill could, in fact, actually make criminal an anti-gay sermon, and the law's language isn't quoted either.
Is this what passes muster at the Post these days? Of course, the bill would have absolutely no relationship to anti-gay sermons given by Jackson and his conservative cohorts — unless of course they are exhorting their congregations into violence against gays with a "clear and present danger" of the layfolk acting.
The hate crime bill does not prohibit any form of speech, from the Gospel or otherwise. It doesn't even prohibit any actions, including violence, that aren't already illegal under existing federal, state or local laws. It only assists in the prosecution of crimes that are motivated by bias and enhances the punishment for those offenses.
Ironically it is "Bishop" Jackson, not the gays, using the language of violence to describe the debate about our rights. "The gays are aggressive! Gays have called war! Gays are attacking traditional marriage!" Jackson yelled at a press conference last June before Congress debated — and rejected — a constitutional amendment that would block states from marrying gay couples.
Surely Bishop Jackson, a Williams College grad and Harvard MBA, can read the bill and know what it actually provides. If Harris had been doing his job, Jackson would have been asked whether his real complaint with the law is really fear about being arrested for sermonizing.
Harris' shoddy report may well be the result of classifying this as a "religion" story, which makes it about "faith" not "laws." And perhaps Harris himself is biased — in a News Channel 8 interview about a story he wrote, Harris started off by saying, "It's a blessing to be here." And then this gem, unearted by Washington City Paper through a FOIA request for emails to/from D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry. The exchange is actually between Harris and Barry flak Linda Greene:
From: Hamil Harris
To: Linda Greene
Subject: Re: Barry To Hold Press Conference Today
Date: Jan. 13, 2006, 2:22 p.m.
I am praying for him and you
These are trying times but God has not changed
From: Linda Greene
To: Hamil Harris
Subject: RE: Barry To Hold Press Conference Today
Date: Jan. 13, 2006, 2:44 p.m.
Amen, it’s good to hear from you.…
Whatever Harris' bias, no editor should have signed off on today's story, when the central claim of the headline goes entirely unchallenged.
April 25, 2007
Posted by: Chris
A New York City countroom this week offers a glimpse at how hate crime laws work in the real world, and how the name can be a bit of a misnomer. Contrary to the biggest headlines, they don't always involve crimes where the victim is sought out out of "hate" for his race, religion or sexual orientation. In the case of Michael Sandy, it was because three drunken losers thought a gay guy would be easy prey for robbery.
They told the police that they thought it would be easy to rob the gay man. It was not easy.
The gay man ran away when they punched him, they said on videotaped statements played yesterday in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. He climbed over a guardrail along the Belt Parkway, stopped a lane of traffic, waved his cellphone as if to call for help, stumbled into the next lane and was hit by a car.
They said they dragged the gay man off the road and searched his pockets for money and drugs but his pockets were empty. They went home and drank beer and the gay man died in a hospital.
The three of them were charged with murder as a hate crime, a distinction that could affect their sentences if they are convicted. Prosecutors said they chose their victim because they thought gay men were weak and afraid.
As I outlined yesterday, hate crime laws often work the same way existing sentencing guidelines have for years: punishing crimes more severely if a victim is targeted for perceived weakness. That additional punishment isn't there because the bias itself is a crime, but because the impact to society of the crime is more serious if victims are selected based on this sort of perceived weakness.
Consistency is hard to come by on this issue, at least among hate crime opponents. Oftentimes the first to scream "First Amendment" when anti-gay hate crimes are under discussion, are also the first to yell support for legislation that punishes more severely any act of terror or threat of same.
April 24, 2007
Posted by: Chris
He caught wind of an item on the Christian News Wire, buzzing with a press release by the Biblical Family Advocates, arguing that the campus shooting illustrated the “absurdity” of hate crimes legislation.
Of all the gay-related reactions to Virginia Tech, this was the most timely. Just two weeks earlier, Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) reintroduced a bill that would allow federal prosecution of hate crimes, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Similar legislation had been introduced in the House two weeks earlier, and has passed one or the other houses of Congress numerous times over the years, but never made it to the president’s desk.
This year, the bill has renamed to honor Matthew Shepard, another college student struck down violently just as he began his adult life. But to hear the conservatives tell it, all violent crime is motivated by “hate,” so punishing some more than others is “hypocritical.”
“How can anyone say that it was not a hate crime for any of these [Virginia Tech] students or faculty to die the way they did?” asked Phil Magnan, director of Biblical Family Associates. “Where is their equal protection of the law? The fact remains that all crimes are a crime of hate.”
In fact, most violent crime among strangers is motivated by greed and indifference, not outright hate for the victims, but Magnan’s analysis isn’t only wrong there. Our laws regularly punish crimes differently based upon the intent of the perpetrator and the societal impact of the offense.
The U.S. federal sentencing guidelines, for example, allow for a more severe punishment if the criminal singled out the victim based on his or her old age or other frailty. The victim’s vulnerability makes the crime particularly heinous.
Civil rights laws similarly punish burning a cross in the lawn of an African-American family much more severely than burning some other object in the lawn of a family without regard to their race because the impact of the crime is much more severe. It’s intended to intimidate not just the black residents of that house but others in the area.
The same is true of hate crimes where the victims are selected based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Two years ago this weekend, during gay-friendly Amsterdam’s annual Queen’s Day festivities, my partner and I were walking hand in hand down a busy street.
A group of thugs spat on us and muttered an anti-gay obscenity, and when we didn’t flee, they attacked us, leaving me with a broken nose and two black eyes. No doubt there were other street scuffles during the course of that weekend, some perhaps resulting in more serious injuries. But the attack on us was intended to terrorize us, and others like us, from exercising the basic human freedom of walking down the street holding hands.
Consider for a moment if Cho Seung Hui, the Virginia Tech shooter, had been Muslim, and his videotape message had said his attack was part of an anti-American jihad. The crime would no doubt taken on even greater significance, probably resulting in all sorts of anti-terror measures.
The motivation of the criminal matters, even if he’s acting on a hostility against gays that is a perversion of Christianity, in the same way terror attacks can be a perversion of Islam. Gordon Smith was right when he dismissed concerns that the Matthew Shepard Act would infringe on the free speech rights of those opposed to homosexuality on religious grounds.
"This act is about the prosecution of crime, not prohibition of speech," Smith told the Washington Post. "Unless they believe part of their religion is the practice of violence against others, they should not be affected by this bill."
What do you think? Take a moment to vote in the Vizu Poll to the right of this post. As usual, you don't leave the site to do it.
April 23, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Some surprising results from last week's Sunday Survey, on the nature of sexuality among (not necessarily between!) the genders. The poll was based on the latest report on controversial sex researcher J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University, who argues that men are generally straight or gay and women are mostly bisexual.
Visitors to this blog disagree with Bailey about both genders. Given the option of saying that each gender was "generally either straight or gay," "along a spectrum from hetero to bi to gay," or "mostly bisexual," a near majority of you selected the second, along a spectrum option, for both genders: 49% thought so of men; 47.1% thought so of women.
Bailey's view came in second for both genders: 37.3% thought men were either straight or gay, while 39.2% of you thought women were mostly bisexual. Trailing far behind were the beliefs that men are mostly bisexual (13.7%) and women are either straight or gay (3.9%).
I say the results are "surprising" because they run counter to my own experience; so apparently I need to get out more…
This week's survey is on hate crimes. I'll be posting later today on the subject, since it's the piece of gay rights legislation most likely to be enacted by Congress this year, having been reintroduced last week as the Matthew Shepard Act. Hate crime laws are controversial among conservatives and libertarians, including gay conservatives and libertarians, because they make bias, or thoughts, into a crime.
Some say that impinges on free speech, others say free exercise of religion. Still others argue, as the Human Rights Campaign's Joe Solmonese wrote in this week's Washington Blade, that "the hate crimes bill sends a strong message that society does not tolerate hate violence against our community."
What do you think? Vote in the Vizu Poll to the right, and as usual voting will not open annoying pop-ups or navigate you away from the blog.
April 22, 2007
Posted by: Chris
One thing I learned from almost a decade in the gay press: Every big news story has a gay angle. It would drive some homos crazy that we reported on gays affected by Hurricane Katrina or every last homosexual impacted by the 9/11 attacks, but their stories are often lost in the media melee that inevitably follows huge news events.
The Virginia Tech massacre is no exception, so herewith are a few nuggets:
GayNgle: No. 1: Was shooter Cho Seung Hui a latent homosexual, acting out his anger against his own same-sex urges? So thinks
quack shrink Helen Morrison, interviewed by (not-so-latent) glass-closet-case Anderson Cooper:
COOPER: Dr. Morrison, what do you make -- you know, in his writings, there seemed to be sort of an obsession with the debauchery, the hedonism of other people. He seemed to need to prove his masculinity a lot.
MORRISON: Well, one of the early theories about paranoia is that it's a defense against the person's own urges of homosexuality. And that's a very old theory.
But, if you look at the writings he had in both of his plays, they are focused on things occurring that would generally happen only in a same-sex-type relationship. But they're very threatening. And his response to those threats is to kill.
COOPER: But he seemed to be attracted to women.
MORRISON: Well, but, you know, it's like anything else. If you are trying to prove yourself, and trying to show that you're the complete opposite of what you might be afraid of, you will definitely stalk. You will definitely look into a woman's eyes and see promiscuity, which is one of the things he talked about.
But the focus on the sexuality of females was only masking what appears to have been a tremendous fear that he was not truly attracted to females.
GayNgle: No. 2: There were gays among those killed in Cho's shooting rampage, reports Lou Chibbaro of the Washington Blade. But the gay student leader on campus gets it right, when he says the tragedy is "not a gay thing; it's an everybody thing":
“Thirty-three people were killed,” said Curtis Dahn, president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Alliance of Virginia Tech. “Some were queer, and others were straight allies. The GLBT community at Tech grieves in the same way as others — deeply and as part of a greater whole.”
Dahn declined to disclose the number of gay or lesbian students killed or wounded in the incident, nor would he identify them, saying he and the gay alliance group wanted to wait until they were certain all families were notified about the loss of their loved ones.
“Yes, there were gay people that were killed,” he said. “One was a very close friend of mine. But I don’t feel comfortable talking about it because I haven’t talked to the families and I want to be respectful to the families, first and foremost."
Dahn also said he doesn't "want this to be a gay thing, because it’s not a gay thing,” he said. “It’s an everybody thing.”
GayNgle: No. 3: The good Rev. Fred Phelps, best known for his "God Hates Fags" signs and for picketing Matthew Shepard's funeral and those of soldiers killed in Iraq, plan to do the same at the funerals of some Virginia Tech shooting victims:
The organization, founded and led by Fred Phelps, believes the United States has condemned itself to destruction by accepting homosexuality and other “sins of the flesh.” Phelps’ daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, said the Virginia Tech teachers and students who died on Monday brought their fate upon themselves by not being true Christians.
“The evidence is they were not Christian. God does not do that to his servants,” Phelps-Roper said. “You don’t need to look any further for evidence those people are in hell.”
GayNgle: No. 3: POZ magazine founder Sean Strub sent an email highlighting the positive role played by Nicki Giovanni, an out lesbian professor at Virginia Tech who alerted school officials about Cho and helped rally and heal the campus after the shootings. Writes Strub:
Over the past few days I have thought that the fact that it was an out African American lesbian who so dramatically inspired the mourners at the VA Tech all-campus memorial service had gotten insufficient press play. She's also the one who recognized that Cho was seriously ill, complained about him to school administrators and refused to allow him to remain in her class.
Nikki's a legend and I've always thought her insufficiently honored by our own GLBT community. And this was an occasion to which she rose with an elegance and strength that makes me really proud. I've never met her, but I have admired her for years.
Then I went on the web and, to my surprise, I can't find any references to her as an out lesbian. I guess that may explain why I might she's been insufficiently honored by the community. I've always thought of her as being out, but I may be in error. I understand she lives with her partner. I have no idea whether she thinks she is out or not or how or if she identifies her sexual orientation.
More about Giovanni at her website. And I'll close with Prof. Giovanni's remarks at the Virginia Tech convocation honoring the dead:
We are Virginia Tech.
We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.
We are Virginia Tech.
We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.
We are Virginia Tech.
We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.
We are Virginia Tech.
The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.
We are the Hokies.
We will prevail.
We will prevail.
We will prevail.
We are Virginia Tech.
November 27, 2006
Posted by: Chris
I've heard from a number of folks in the last 24 hours that Fox News aired a news report this weekend that included a brief reference to the bashing of me and my boyfriend in Amsterdam in April 2005 by a seven young men we described as looking Morrocan. The report apparently shows the photo of me after the attack, with a broken nose and two black eyes, and puts the event in the bigger context of fundamentalist Islam clashing with tolerant Western Europe, since my boyfriend and I were beaten for holding hands in the street.
It's more than a little ironic for Fox News to draw such broader conclusions from a gay bashing, given the conservative media outlet's simultaneous lack of interest in whether fundmentalist Christianity bears responsibility for fostering a climate of intolerance here in the United States that results in gay bashings (of much greater frequency and often of much greater ferocity). Muslim bigotry plays much better to Fox viewers, obviously, than the homegrown Christian variety.
In reality, it's simplistic to imagine our Moroccan attackers in Amsterdam were acting on some fundamentalist religious faith. As I pointed out in a column just one week after the attack, we were attacked as we walked back to our hotel room in the wee hours on Saturday morning through a street full of holiday revelers. Our attackers were not on the corner for morning prayers.
There are those, of course, who do engage in violence — against gays, women and other innocent targets — in the name of fundamentalist Islam. We have become so inundated with such bloody attacks over recent years that many Westerners have come to conclude that violence is inherent in the practice of fundamentalist Islam. Pope Benedict XVI outraged Muslims worldwide in September when he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor for that proposition. The pope has since apologized for the remarks and distanced himself from the emperor's view, but the violent backlash in some parts of the Islamic world — like the violent reaction to the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed earlier this year — only seemed to prove the emperor's point.
In addition to the Fox News report that mentioned our Amsterdam attack, the network is also reporting this weekend about the massive protests in Turkey over Pope Benedict's scheduled visit there next week. There's more irony here, since the 25,000 who took to the streets outraged by the pope's remarks haven't felt similarly motivated to protest on the many occasions when fundamentalists Muslims actually do engage in bloody violence against innocents in the name of Allah. Surely such jihadist claims do greater insult to Islam's reputation as a peaceful faith, and yet they almost never elicit much protest.
My own view is that fundamentalist faiths of all stripes are directly responsible for a great deal of violence in the world and indirectly responsible for an even greater amount. When fundamentalist leaders aren't explicitly condoning violence — something fundamentalist Muslim leaders do today to a much greater degree, obviously, than their Christian counterparts — they are fostering a culture of intolerance and giving aid, comfort and religious support to all kinds of bigotry.
The point can be overstated. The greatest violence of the 20th century was committed in the name of nonreligious ideology, whether Hitler's facism or Stalin's communism. But since religious leaders claim to offer a path to peace, the violence committed in their name is an even greater perversion. We would go a long way toward building a culture that is truly tolerant and open when we can see such perversions from within the Western-Christian world with the same clarity we condemn it within Islam.
November 01, 2006
Posted by: Chris
* Violence in the Castro last night, when 10 people were wounded after gunfire broke out between two rival groups attending the gay neighborhood's massive Halloween street party. I'll give 100-to-1 odds the gunplay wasn't the doing of the gays and their friend in attendance. Reports AP, "members of the district's large gay community say the party had started attracting gay bashers along with the usual colorfully costumed characters." There's a good reason why even nightclubs with metal detectors routinely disconnect them for "gay night."
* British pop star George Michael is complaining that his gay fans abandoned him after he came out of the closet. "Gay fans are only interested when you're in the closet," he said during a U.K. TV special last night. "Once you're out, they don't give a toss." Of course, George "came out" when he arrested in 1998 for trying to have public sex with an undercover police officer. At the time, gay sympathy was generally with him, but he's squandered it since with a series of embarrassing stunts involving more public sex in London, and falling asleep at the wheel (pictured) under the influence of various substances, usually marijuana or GHB. Caught after one particular incident, he said that cruising for public sex is "what gay men do." Later, after making still further headlines for smoking a joint during an interview, he offered one wish we can all agree on: "I hope my future is very different. I hope I learn to shut my mouth. If I did, I would probably have all the sex I like, wherever I like. Which I do anyway, to be honest with you.”
* A new poll shows that 7 out of 10 heterosexual Americans know someone who is gay. The rest of the Harris online poll is not so useful, focusing on what percentage of self-identified gay respondents consider themselves "out" to friends and family. Hello — if they self-identified as gay in an opinion poll, aren't they fairly likely to out in general?
* Elementary and secondary schools in Spain are launching a program to teach the existence of gay families, a year after the country begin marrying same-sex couples. This is a kind of nightmare scenario for conservative Christians in the U.S., who see it as pro-gay indoctrination. In fact, it's teaching students about the world around them. It remains to parents and churches to add to that lesson whatever moral condemnation they have for gay relationships. But it's not the job of the government to hide the existence of gay people from students to satisfy the religious teachings of some parents, whether or not they're in the majority.
* Meanwhile back in my home state and hometown of Memphis, Tenn., the state has given up attempts to regulate a facility where parents can send their children to undergo therapy to supposedly avoid becoming gay or to convert back to heterosexuality. The facility, operated by the "ex-gay" Love in Action group, was ordered closed as an unlicensed mental health facility. Love In Action sued, claimed their First Amendment freedom of religion (i.e., indoctrinating minors to their religious beliefs) was being violated. The issue came down to whether LIA was " controlling patients' access to their prescription medication," as if that were the only way to measure whether unlicensed mental health therapy was being practiced. In a settlement, the state dropped regulatory efforts and agreed to pay LIA's legal fees because the facility will no longer handle patients' meds. So the abuse will continue… (Hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch)
Posted by: Chris
At this point the report is secondhand, but I was told by a gay American living here in Rio De Janeiro that there was a gay-bashing Sunday night in Ipanema. According to the account, a gay man was sitting inside Bar Bofetada (which means "slap" in Portuguese) when he looked at a man on the sidewalk outside.
Bar Bofetada is located on Rua Farme de Amoedo, the "gay street" leading to the "gay beach" in Ipanema (and is visible in this picture from a few months ago, if you can ignore the cheesecake in the foreground.)
The man on the sidewalk apparently thought he was being cruised and went a few doors down to a bar, recruited three friends, and returned to Bofetada to drag the gay man into the street, where he was cut in the face with a broken bottle and beaten up pretty severely. The crowd at Bofetada apparently cleared out as a result of the attack, heading to another gay bar a few blocks away for refuge.
The victim reportedly left the scene without calling the police, who are not exactly well-known for protecting gays from bashers. Back in March, during Carnival, a gay couple were attacked by five men for the crime of kissing on the gay section of the beach in Ipanema, at the end of Rua Farme de Amoedo. Police showed up, interviewed the agressors, and let them go, according to media accounts posted by gay blogger Juliano over at MadeInBrazil. Only after protests were the bashers arrested.
Bashings can happen anywhere, even places well-known for being gay-friendly, but they are a reminder that with progress (legal, political, social and otherwise) inevitably comes backlash. The important thing is not to intimidated back into the closet.