March 24, 2010
Posted by: Chris
It seems us old fogeys weren't the only ones impressed by the courage it took Constance McMillen to force her Mississippi high school to let her bring her girlfriend to prom. (Constance won her legal battle and although the school prom has been canceled, the judge ordered her not to be excluded from a substitute prom some parents are putting on.)
Also taking note was Derrick Martin, an 18-year-old in Cochran, Ga. (pop. 5,200), who asked to bring his boyfriend to the Bleckley High School prom. School officials initially said no but apparently thought better of it and relented.
Happy ending, right? Not so much. Martin's parents apparently couldn't take the heat from the media publicity and kicked him out of the family home. Apparently they'd rather to be known for abandoning their son rather than having a gay one. Derrick is currently staying with friends.
Take a minute and join the Facebook page set up to support Derrick. College scholarship fund, anyone?
February 12, 2010
Posted by: Chris
What is a university to do when one of its chaplains tells students in a calm and clear voice that he believes homosexuals should be executed? The question isn't just an academic one for my own alma mater, Vanderbilt University.
News of the depressing exchange came just weeks after I visited the Nashville campus for the first time in years, welcomed by a story about new chapter of the gay fraternity Delta Lambda Phi plastered on the front page of the Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper. (Stop your snickering; when I was editor we printed T-shirts proclaiming "we had the name first" -- and we did, by some 75 years.)
But now the smiling faces of those groundbreaking gay frat boys has been supplanted by the hood-covered heads of two teenage boys brutally executed by Iran in 2005 for the crime of gay sex.
I first heard from Tony Varona, an American University law professor, about the matter of fact way in which Vanderbilt's Muslim chaplain told students he favored the murder of unrepentant homosexuals.
The outrageous remarks were delivered in deadpan fashion by Awadh Amir Binhazim during an on-campus presentation about Muslims serving in the U.S. military. The Kenyan native, educated in Saudi Arabia, was asked by a student about whether he agreed with Islamic teaching that unrepentant homosexuals should be killed.
Q. Under Islamic law, if a homosexual person began to actually engage in homosexual relations on an ongoing and permanent way, with no intention of quitting, then the punishment under Islamic law would be death, unless, you know, he agreed to quit. As a practicing Muslim do you accept or reject this particular teaching of Islam?
A. I don't have a choice as a Muslim to accept or reject a teaching of Islam. I go with what Islam teaches. … So, the punishment in Islam is certain rules that govern the determinatin [concerning the act and the number of witnesses]. It's a long story and I probably don't have the time to explain it. But you cannot prosecute someone just because you think they are homosexual. There has to be clear proof.
Q. Under Islamic law, is it punishable by death if you are a homosexual?
Video of the encounter (you can watch it after the jump) spread virally on YouTube, forcing the university to issue a statement distancing itself from its Muslim chaplain even as it defended the free exchange of ideas:
During the question-and-answer session that followed the presentation, a student asked Binhazim about Islamic law and homosexuality. Binhazim answered the question with his interpretation of an Islamic law.
For clarification, Vanderbilt strives to bring many points of view on the issues of the day to campus for examination and discussion. This is the purpose of Project Dialogue.
No view expressed at a Project Dialogue or similar campus forum should be construed as being endorsed by Vanderbilt. The university is dedicated to the free exchange of ideas. It is the belief of the university community that free discussion of ideas can lead to resolution and reconciliation.
Vanderbilt is committed to free speech. It is equally committed to a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, national origin or sexuality.
There has been some confusion as to Binhazim's role at Vanderbilt. He is the Muslim chaplain at Vanderbilt, a volunteer position. He is not a professor of Islam and is not associated with Vanderbilt University Divinity School. He has adjunct associate professor status at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in pathology. This position, which carries no teaching or research responsibilities, is also unpaid.
Some have seen Vanderbilt's reaction as too tepid, and have called for some sort of punishment of Binhazim up to and including dismissal. Others acknowledge the need to preserve academic freedom, even as they argue that a Christian or Jewish chaplain advocating death to gays would undoubtedly be removed.
I stand four-square with those who defend the university for taking no action against Binzahim, even as I join those who are condemning this chaplain's cold-blooded endorsement of murder. If we agree that free speech is crucial to the academic setting, then it is only by protecting more extreme views at the margins that we ensure a free exchange of views by those within the mainstream.
That's why so-called "hate speech codes" ought to be anathema to any university, absent some direct incitement to violence. It's the difference between "Kill the gays in this room!" and "I accept Islamic teaching that the punishment for homosexuality is death."
That said, there is still plenty that is wrong, wrong, wrong with Vanderbilt's weak, if well-intentioned response. The attempt to minimize Binzahim's connection to the university comes off as cowardly as it is irrelevant: Is Vanderbilt saying that the same remarks made by a paid chaplain or religion professor would result in sanction or termination? If not, then let's dispense of the red herring. Either academic freedom extends to everyone in the university community or to no one at all.
Also disturbingly weak was the shrugged-shoulder reaction by Rev. Gary White, Vanderbilt's interim director of religious life and an ordained Unitarian Universalist, who told Out & About newspaper:
"Opinions are a dime a dozen. We as an institution are more about ideas. We believe in the power of those ideas and when we have places of rub and controversy, you’re not going to make much headway when you discuss opinions. You have to discuss ideas behind those opinions. What Binhazim expressed wasn’t an opinion, it was a theological ideal behind Islam."
How's that? What Binzahim was expressing was his opinion that he had no choice but to accept an Islamic teaching that gays should be executed. Where is the "idea" here, much less the "ideal"? Laughably, White even tries to reassure Vanderbilt's gay students that they have "no reason to be afraid or fear [Binzahim] at all." That's right, Delta Lambda Phi pledges. Your Muslim chaplain doesn't want to kill you himself; he favors his faith doing the dirty work.
Even still, asking us to imagine how the university would respond to a Christian or Jewish chaplain calling for death to gays is comparing crosses and crescents. It's not even clear to me that chaplains from a different faith would have been treated any differently, if we take Vandy at its word.
Assuming arguendo that's not the case, the differential treatment might well be justified. For one thing, the role of a campus chaplain is, in part, to explain the teachings of his faith, and a Christian or Jewish chaplain would be grossly misrepresenting those religions by publicly pushing the execution of gays. It would be the equivalent of a history professor grossly distorting basic facts or a Spanish professor teaching Portuguese.
In another way, the Judeo-Christian comparison is reminiscent of the oft-heard rejoinder that intolerance toward gays would result in swift and serious retribution if expressed about racial or ethnic minorities. It's a mistake to conflate the great controversy of our time about homosexuality with broadly accepted views about race and ethnicity (and religion). If we try to short-circuit the debate, we will likely succeed only in extending it. Just look at how the decision in Roe vs. Wade did anything but decide the issue of abortion in this country.
No, what's sorely needed in response to Binzahim's bigotry is not repression of speech, but more speech in response. For example, the notoriety surrounding his remarks represent an excellent opportunity to inform fair-minded folks about the medieval persecution of gays in most Muslim countries.
More speech would also call Binhazim to the carpet for trying to dodge a direct question with obfuscation. When the questioner pointed out that gays are summarily executed in Saudi Arabia and Iran, Binhazim zigged and zagged, claiming that no country follows Islamic sharia law completely. True or not, it's an irrelevant point considering the question concerned one particular teaching of Islam and whether it is incorporated into sharia law and enforced in many Muslim countries. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan under the Taliban are obvious examples.
For a supposed scholar of comparative religion, Binzahim also resorts to a simplistic distortion of how homosexuality is treated by other faiths, claiming they all reject this "alternative lifestyle." In fact, many mainstream Christian and Jewish faiths do exactly the opposite, and he ought to explain his ignorance on that point. More to the point -- the one that Binzahim inartfully dodges -- it has been centuries since any other major world religion has advocated the neanderthal punishment of death for gays.
That's not all more speech can do. The student who asked the question, Devin Saucier (pictured), was apparently a plant by a apparently a plant by a conservative student group called Youth for Western Civilization. (Do they cheer "Wes-tern Civ! Wes-tern Civ!" instead of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"?) Saucier's hope was to "expose the gullibility of leftists who grovel at the altars of tolerance and acceptance." Rather than focus on squelching Binzahim and his ilk, another response would be to call out these campus conservatives on the fact that many mainstream Christian faiths, and their advocates in politics right here in the United States, favor imprisoning homosexuals, even if they wouldn't go so far as executing us.
And isn't it conservative Christians who are so vocal these days about how religious freedom requires "tolerance and acceptance" of those who would fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to facilitate the adoption of children by avowed homosexuals? The very same Youth for Western Civilization complains that campus political correctness threatens their own religious freedom. Just how and where exactly do they draw the line here?
It's questions like these, and any number of others, that will generate real dialogue and expose extremism and hypocrisy in all its anti-gay varieties. Punishing speech, however repulsive, only drives it underground and misses a golden opportunity to make our own case. Let's have confidence enough in our own arguments that we don't resort to bullying into silence those with whom we disagree.
(Top: The execution of two Iranian youths for homosexual acts in July 2005, via Washington Post)
February 02, 2010
Posted by: Chris
"Sure there are those who are forced into prostitution, but I think most of them volunteer. Many, many children have been scared straight because of arrest. … Arrest is a valuable life-saving tool that must be used. We need to hire more cops to arrest the prostitutes."
— Sue Ella Deadwyler, publisher of a conservative Christian newsletter, speaking out in opposition to a Georgia bill that would treat as victims, not criminals, girls under the age of 16 pimped out as prostitutes, providing them care instead of prison terms.
The age of consent in Georgia is 16, so under current law these girls are simultaneously considered victims of rape and criminals guilty of prostitution.
Joining Deadwyler at a press conference opposing the bill were representatives from the Georgia Christian Alliance, the Georgia Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, and the Georgia Baptist Convention. Republican candidate for governor John Oxendine, who made his name as insurance commissioner blocking private companies from offering domestic partner benefits, also attended.
February 23, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
If an Oscar were given for best acceptance speech while receiving an Oscar, Dustin Lance Black would win my vote. Black, who won the Academy Award for for Best Original Screenplay for "Milk," brought tears to my eyes with a brief description of his own personal struggle of being gay in a hostile world, then gave hope to millions of young gays by paraphrasing Harvey Milk, asking them to love themselves and assuring them that very soon they would have equal rights federally across this land.
December 16, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Yes, you read that right. File this one under... "Huh?"' Right next to "Gay Men who are Rabid Pro-Lifers"...
Lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers are at significantly higher risk for pregnancy during their teen years than their heterosexual peers, suggests a survey published Tuesday in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. …
One of the reasons for higher pregnancy among sexual minority youth, say the report’s authors, is the stigma gay teens continue to face and the strategies they may engage in order to cope with that stigma.
For example, in 1998 among the teenage girls surveyed, 7.3 per cent of lesbians and 10.6 per cent of girls who said they were bisexual reported pregnancy compared with 1.8 per cent of heterosexual girls.
Among boys, the numbers were also higher that same year for gay teenagers, with 9.6 of gay males and 11.6 per cent of bisexual teen boys reporting involvement with a pregnancy, compared with 1.5 per cent of heterosexual young men.
Pregnancy rates declined slightly overall in 2003, but remained much higher among gay and lesbian teens than heterosexual teens.
(H/t: Rex Wockner)
March 27, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I've read this article twice, about how upset some Marylanders were when a small town council member responded to a question about school bullying by noting the higher incidence of bullying of gay and gender-nonconforming kids:
At a town hall meeting in Clarksburg last week, Councilman George L. Leventhal said many victims of bullying are gay after a resident commented about that her daughter was being bullied at school.
‘‘It was totally inappropriate,” said Kathie Hulley, president of the Clarksburg Civic Association. ‘‘If the County Council is going to come out to a town meeting and somebody in distress asks a question, to go off on a tangent, which has no bearing to what she was asking, is really bad.”
Councilman Marc Elrich, who also attended the meeting, said ‘‘I don’t know why [Leventhal] went there.”
Huh? Were they upset because the remarks suggested the daughter was gay? Or minimized her victimization if she wasn't? The article never says, dancing around it in some sort of silly suburban code.
Even more bizarre than the reaction to Leventhal's answer was the rambling question he was responding to:
During a question-and-answer segment, Derwood resident Valerie Ricardo described how her daughter was being bullied at an area middle school. Ricardo went on to discuss the county’s anti-discrimination law covering transgendered individuals, and also discussed her fears of being approached by ‘‘a man with an exaggerated walk, a female walk” and ‘‘evil intent in his eye.”
‘‘So I want to say that the risk is real and I think that we need to take these situations of violence and bullying and crazy situations for what they are and begin to do something about it,” Ricardo ended her statement.
Double huh? So we feel sorry for her daughter -- and we do -- and we blame it on men who prance a bit too much?
Can anyone else translate this for me?
March 19, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Me thinks the bullies of the world are protesting too much when they claim the word "gay" has been transformed into an innocuous insult that means "lame" or "stupid." On its face, it doesn't excuse using a word that describes a group of people as an insult. Would it be OK to use the names of other groups that way?: "That shirt is so Jewish!"
A new survey of schoolteachers in the U.K. confirms that "gay" is only one in a series of homophobic words that top the list of student insults. Here's the list of insults, according to the British Association of Teachers and Lecturers; the percentages indicate what proportion of teachers heard the particular word on a regular basis:
- Gay (83%)
- Bitch (59%)
- Slag (45%)
- Poof (29%)
- Batty boy (29%)
- Slut (26%)
- Queer (26%)
- Lezzie (24.8%)
- Homo (22%)
- Faggot (11%)
- Sissy (5%)
Of the top 11 insults, eight words (including Brit slang like poof and batty boy) are explicitly homophobic, and three words (bitch, slag and slut) suggest promiscuity and are usually used against girls.
And yet somehow the adult "experts" are buying into the claim by kids that gay has been 'de-gayed' and isn't anti-gay when hurled as an insult:
One reason for this increase in use could be because "gay" has partly lost its sexual connotations among young people, says slang lexicographer Tony Thorne. While still pejorative, for the majority of youngsters it has replaced words such as "lame".
"I have interviewed scores of school kids about this and they are always emphatic that it has nothing at all to do with hostility to homosexuals," says Mr Thorne, compiler of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. "It is nearly always used in contexts where sexual orientation and sexuality are completely irrelevant."
Whether or not the teens who use "gay" intend it to be homophobic, it's place at the top of a list of other popular insults -- almost all explicitly anti-gay -- suggests otherwise. So does the history of how it became an insult:
"In the early 19th Century it was used to refer to women who lived off immoral earnings," says Clive Upton, professor of Modern English Language at Leeds University. Around the 1970s it was claimed by the homosexual community as a descriptive term for their sexual orientation, now its most popular meaning. By the 1980s it was finding its way into schools as a playground insult.
"Every generation grows up with a whole lexicon of homosexual insults, in my day it was 'poofter' or 'bender'," adds Thorne. "They were used much more because they were considered more offensive than 'gay', which is more neutral."
I've noticed how the use of "gay" as an insult has come out of the playground and crept into pop culture, including films and TV shows. I hope our friends at Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who've done a bang-up job the last several years consigning "fag" to the dustbin of unacceptable slurs, can reclaim the word gay from being further cheapened as an insult that is somehow not homophobic.
(Photo of bullying via BBC)
February 27, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Since I took some potshots at my college alma mater last week for perpetually trailing the curve of societal progress ("An alma mater behind the curve"), I feel obliged to highlight how so many at my law school alma mater are too busy being "offended" to meaningfully contribute toward that change.
The impetus comes from a story about Heather Corliss, a hapless instructor from Boston Children's Hospital who gave a lecture at the Harvard School of Public Health about violence against GLBT youth:
Harvard University students objected to a guest speaker's use of the term "minority" and an apparent lack of concern shown for transgender people during a presentation about the discrimination against homosexual youth yesterday. … Some said calling gay, lesbian and bisexual youth a "minority" is wrong because of the stigma attached to the term.
Corliss said she did not intend for the word to encourage discrimination, and said she did not include statistics for transgender youth in her presentation because those available were not as thorough as those for gay, lesbians and bisexual youth.
It's depressing to see how 17 years after I graduated, the P.C. police in "Moscow on the Charles" are every bit as myopic as they were in the late '80s. I still remember my first night in the law school dorms, at a mixer down a long hallway from my room. I went to the bathroom nearby, not realizing that this half of the hallway was for the other gender. Fortunately, I realized my error and skulked out of the restroom before causing a problem.
"I had no idea that was a girls' bathroom," I said to a few others once I returned to the mixer in the lounge. "Hisssssss!" came the reply from a female student nearby. "No, I'm sorry," I said to her. "I really didn't realize that bathroom was for girls." "Hisssssss!" she said again. "We're women; not girls!"
And so it was for the next three years, and I found myself growing more conservative by the month in response -- the exact opposite impact of my four years on a conservative college campus. As editor of the Harvard Law Record, the student newspaper, I even became something of a lightning rod for P.C. indignation.
The straw that broke the camel's back was an editorial I wrote criticizing the Black Law Student Association -- the third rail for a white student. A big Chicago law firm had been in the news for an outrageous job interview given by a senior white partner to a black female law student. His sick idea of a stress test was to ask her questions like, "Why don't black people go to their own country clubs the way Jews do?"
Months later, representatives from that same firm were scheduled to attend a workplace diversity seminar at Harvard, but the BLSA went ballistic and succeeded at getting them disinvited. My editorial condemned the partner's conduct but also questioned BLSA's response. Wasn't this firm -- more than any other -- in dire need of a diversity seminar?
In response, the BLSA president wrote an angry letter he distributed in the mailbox of every law student. "I look forward to graduating soon," he wrote, "so I will longer have to deal with ignorant white men like Chris Crain." I have to wonder whether he found the real world more or less challenging than the Harvard cocoon. I also have to wonder what Barack Obama thought of all this silliness, since he was a member of the BLSA at the time. I have little doubt that engaging that Chicago firm made more sense to him than the defiant and pointless boycott. (Donnie McClurkin, anyone?)
Perhaps Obama's attempt to transcend identity politics will also rub off on our alma mater, and the good GLBT folks there can get over themselves about being called a "minority."
February 26, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I've written before on occasion about those days when I wake up and see gay activists so wrong-headed that I feel like they're putting us on "the wrong side" of the Culture Wars.
That's how I felt when the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders tried to use a public accomodations law to force an Irish gay group into Boston St. Patrick's Day parade or when Lambda Legal tried to force the Boy Scouts to change their membership rules. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked both those attempts.
It's how I felt when a gay bar in Melbourne tried to exclude heterosexuals, and a gay men's bar in Montreal tried to exclude women. And it's how I felt when a lesbian sued eHarmony to force a matchmaking and a lesbian couple sued a Methodist church in New Jersey to force it into accepting their wedding on its property.
But none of that compares to the anger and disbelief I felt when I read yesterday about how gay groups in Canada are trying to block an effort to raise the age of consent there from 14. Here's how Xtra, the Canadian gay paper, reported it:
The proposed changes will have a disproportionate impact on gays, said Richard Hudler of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario.
"My first lover was 17 years older than me. And this is common [among gay people]," he said. "It is dangerous — considering the attitude toward sexual orientation in schools — for a young person to attempt to make sexual contact with a peer."
Hudler looks like he's right out of central casting for the creepy older homosexual angry that our access to 14 and 15 year-olds might be limited if age of consent laws are changed. Not only is it ridiculous to suggest that first gay relationships are more often with much older partners, it obviously plays right into offensive stereotypes about predatory gay men.
Age of consent laws are arbitrary by nature and cannot take into account the differences in maturity levels among individual teens, and Canadian activists are right to challenge the higher age of consent for anal sex (18). But the idea behind such laws is clear and laudatory: setting an age at which youth should be protected from the risks to their physical and psychological health that come from sexual relationships.
Yes some teens can handle sex well, but many cannot and gay activists ought to be on the side of protecting youth as much as possible -- giving them the "safe space" to figure out who the are before actual sex comes into play. To see creepy activists like Hudler advocating their exploitation by their elders is, well, disgusting.
(Photo by Brent Creelman via Xtra.ca)
December 16, 2007
Posted by: Chris
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Tonight on "60 Minutes," Army Sgt. Darren Manzella will tell the story about how he came out to his commander in Iraq after receiving anonymous emails threatening to out him. He was investigated pursuant to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and even provided photos of himself kissing his boyfriend to authorities. But rather than being discharged, Manzella was told there was insufficient evidence of homosexuality, and he was retained by the Army.
His story may seem shocking, but actually it's par for the course because military leadership knows the ban on service by out gays is an anachronism, since gays are generally accepted without incident by fellow soldiers and sailors, just as they are in the armed services of the U.K., Australia, Israel and many other countries.
Manzella highlights several of the most outrageous aspects of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," among them being government policy that allows gays to serve but requires that they lie in deference to the (presumed) personal prejudices of other service members.
Just as disturbingly, the policy allows a loophole for straight service members to avoid war in Iraq or Afghanistan by claiming they are gay -- think of a modern-day version of Klinger in "M*A*S*H." There's no question that some significant percentage of those higher discharges since Bill Clinton agreed to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are heterosexuals escaping their military obligation.
Finally, it's clear that the U.S. military, strapped by two wars and extended international commitments, has little interest in discharging gay service members with good records doing good for their country. Discharges have dropped from 2,000 a year in 2001 to half that amount in the last several. To be fair, it's not up to the military to change the policy, since it's now the law of the land, but the Pentagon could be more blunt with Congress and the White House that the time has come to end the ban.
October 30, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The headline from Science Daily was a real eye-grabber: "Over One-third Of Former American Football Players Had Sexual Relations With Men, Study Claims." The magazine reports:
In his study of homosexuality among sportsmen in the US, sociologist Dr Eric Anderson found that 19 in a sample of 47 had taken part in acts intended to sexually arouse other men, ranging from kissing to mutual masturbation and oral sex.
But then, the fine print reads straight out of The Onion:
The 47 men, aged 18-23, were all American Football players who previously played at the high school (secondary school) level but had failed to be picked for their university’s team and were now cheerleaders instead.
Either the good Dr. Anderson, who hails from the University of Bath, is completely unaware of male cheerleader culture in the U.S. — George W. Bush excepted — or he was aiming to bias things from the get-go. Nonetheless, the study's conclusions are intriguing:
“The evidence supports my assertion that homophobia is on the rapid decline among male teamsport athletes in North America at all levels of play,” he writes in his study, entitled ‘Being masculine is not about whom you sleep with…Heterosexual athletes contesting masculinity and the one-time rule of homosexuality’ …
“I find informants actually engage in sexual activity with other men. But this does not mean that they are gay. My informants do not feel that their same-sex sex jeopardizes their socially perceived heterosexual identities, at least within the cheerleading culture. In other words, having gay sex does not automatically make them gay in masculine peer culture.”
Dr. Anderson may be right about declining homophobia in American sports, mirroring general cultural trends. But it's hardly justified to conclude these guys who have had sex with other men aren't gay because they are comfortably heterosexual "within the cheerleading culture." Talk about a workplace that embraces gender non-conformity, at least among men…
More likely, these cheerleaders in their 20s are figuring out who they are and whether they can accept being gay. Having acted on it before graduating college, they're already ahead of me at that age.
Next up for Dr. Anderson? I'd suggest an in-depth study on the extent of homosex among college fraternity presidents, or student body presidents, or those recent-grad fraternity employees for that matter. Three more completely unbiased peer groups. Right up there with drama majors.
September 28, 2007
Posted by: Chris
As far as the candidates were concerned, they acted according to form: Edwards tried to suck up, Obama tried to be inspirational, and Clinton basically punted.
Here's the background, via AP, though you can read the entire debate excerpt if you follow the jump to this post:
The Democrats were asked during a debate Wednesday night whether they would be comfortable with having a story about same-sex marriage read to their children as part of their school curriculum, as a second-grade teacher did last year in Lexington, Mass.
The top-tier Democratic candidates — Clinton, Obama and Edwards — generally said they favor teaching children tolerance for others, including gays and lesbians. They did not expressly embrace or reject including the same-sex marriage as part of a second-grade curriculum.
Edwards, who has a 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, said he wants his children "to understand everything about the difficulties that gay and lesbian couples are faced with every day," but added that teaching such issues might be "a little tough."
Obama, who has daughters ages 6 and 9, said his wife has discussed same-sex marriage with their children and urged them "not to be afraid of people who are different."
Clinton said, "With respect to your individual children, that is such a matter of parental discretion ..."
For me, Obama's reaction was the strongest, and is worth the read in full on the jump. Edwards tried to segue-way into his gay rights sound byte and Clinton just avoided the question.
The reaction to the Democrats was swift and predictable, and the mainstream media badly mangled the coverage. Mitt Romney, who has turned out to be as craven politically as is basically imaginable, released a statement that suggested the top Dems were in favor of sex education for second graders. Again, from AP:
Republican Mitt Romney criticized his Democratic rivals Thursday for not rejecting the inclusion of gay-related issues in sex education for second-graders.
"Last night's debate was just the latest example of how out of touch the Democratic presidential candidates are with the American people," Romney said in a statement released by his campaign. "Not one candidate was uncomfortable with young children learning about same-sex marriage in the second grade."
The role of public education is to teach our young people about the world around them. The existence of gay people isn't something that should be hidden simply because some people object to us. It's ridiculous that Hillary Clinton would suggest that parents should decide when or whether children can learn that there are gay couples in the world.
If our relationships are entitled to equal treatment under the law, as she keeps claiming we are with "civil unions," then there should be no debate about when children learn about gay couples: It should be whenever they discuss straight couples.
Romney is guilty here of a phenomenon that extends far beyond him, to many gays actually. The equating of gay relationship with sexuality. How many times have you heard closeted friends say, "I don't talk about being gay at work because what I do in bed is none of their business." John McCain has used similar language, as if gay relationships were uniquely sexual and private and "in the bedroom," while straight relationships are appropriate for cocktail parties, photos on office desks and office chit-chat.
September 24, 2007
Posted by: Chris
It's always nice when we can bridge the gap between West and East, Judeo-Christian and Muslim, left and right. Thanks to the Columbia University Queer Alliance, we can now say for sure that if you travel far enough left down the ideological spectrum, you'll circle round to the far-far-extremist right.
Columbia Queers, meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It turns out you crazy kids agree on one important point: There's no such thing as an Iranian homosexual.
You may have heard that Ahmadinejad offered that nugget of wisdom when confronted at a Columbia University appearance about his country's long history of abuse, including arrest, brutality and even capital punishment, for gays.
"We don't have homosexuals" in Iran, he said in response. "I don't know who told you we had it."
Well it certainly didn't come from Columbia's uber-progressive queer student group, who previewed Admadinejad's visit with a warning -- not to the "petty dictator," as Columbia University President Lee Bolinger memorably referred to him -- but to the rest of us:
We would like to strongly caution media and campus organizations against the use of such words as "gay," "lesbian," or "homosexual" to describe people in Iran who engage in same-sex practices and feel same-sex desire. The construction of sexual orientation as a social and political identity and all of the vocabulary therein is a Western cultural idiom. As such, scholars of sexuality in the Middle East generally use the terms "same-sex practices" and "same-sex desire" in recognition of the inadequacy of Western terminology.
There you have it, the radicals of the left tolerating even the most brutal forms of intoleranceon the right. It's bad enough that "scholars of sexuality in the Middle East" are, like the Iranian president, so anti-West and anti-gay that they would write us out of existence. But it's downright depressing to see bright young minds so tortured by self-hatred for their own culture than they buy into the bullshit.
There are gay people in Iran. Just ask Pegah Emambakhsh.
For a complete gay news summary on Iran, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/iran
December 21, 2006
Posted by: Chris
While the BBC is censoring anything that dares to "offend" minority groups, we see how back in the USA, limiting free speech usually works to the majority's advantage. In Charlotte, N.C., the school superintendent banned a book about two male penguins who raise a baby from school libraries:
"And Tango Makes Three," the real-life story of "the very first penguin in the zoo to have two daddies," has drawn objections in schools or public libraries in seven states. …
The district pulled the penguin love story without a formal complaint. [School Superintendent Peter Gorman] said a couple of parents had asked him about the book, in which two male penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo pair up and hatch an adopted egg, and Republican county Commissioner Bill James had e-mailed him.
James said he read an online article about the book and asked Gorman whether the district libraries had it. "I am opposed to any book that promotes a homosexual lifestyle to elementary school students as normal," he said.
The battle over "Tango" plays into a larger debate about whether exposing students to the existence of gay people necessarily involves discussion of sexuality that isn't age-appropriate for the pre-puberty set, or as the GOP commissioner put it, teaches that "the gay lifestyle" is "normal."
The job of schools, of course, is to teach students about the world around them and to prepare them for higher education and/or a job. Gay people are a part of the outside world, living in 99% of the U.S. census districts, and paying the taxes for public schools just like their heterosexual (and conservative heterosexual) counterparts. An increasing number of gay couples are raising children, as well.
Teaching the mere fact of gay people (or penguins) does not require a discussion of sexuality anymore than teaching the existence of straight couples (or penguins). The job of teaching what's "normal," whether that means natural or not sinful, doesn't belong to public schools; that should be left up to parents and their churches, synagogues and mosques.
It's also not the job of public schools to hide from students the existence of gay people out of deference to the private religious views of some parents, even if their beliefs are in the majority, anymore than schools should hide the existence of unmarried parents, interracial couples or single moms or dads.
The problem with "political correctness" — at least when government is censoring speech so as not to "offend" — is that the pendulum can swing in many different directions, depending upon who is empowered to decide what "offends." The better choice, for both the progressives in the U.K. and their conservative counterparts in the U.S., is to let speech with which they disagree be countered by more speech. Children should receive moral guidance from their parents and religious counselors, not from overzealous school superintendents or network TV censors.