Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holy Chocolate Starfish, Batman!

Five reasons why the "I'm sorry, but I have to do this because my religion says homosexuality is a sin" argument holds no weight with me: 

1.)  A subset of Christians in America use their devout religious beliefs as justification for marrying underage girls against their will, raping and siring children on them.  They further use that religious belief to justify marrying multiple women, keeping them uneducated and highly dependent on the males in the society.  It is their fervent religious belief that this is not only okay, it is actually what God calls on them to do.  See: Religious polygamy in America.  There's a heart-wrenching book about it.

2.)  Certain subsets of Muslims in different countries use religious belief as justification to prosecute, imprison and even execute (whether legally and formally or illegally and informally) women who have been raped, maintaining that the rape victims have committed adultery or that they are now "black virgins".  Families and communities who stand up for the rights of these women often become victims of violence themselves.  See: Honor killings.  There's even--again--a great book about it, probably more than one.

3.)  Certain subsets of Muslims use religious belief as justification for keeping women from getting an education, having a career, or even simply getting a driver's license.  Many of these religious subsets also refuse to allow women to bare more skin in public than what shows around their eyes.  They devoutly believe this is the right thing to do.  See: The recent controversy over women fighting for the right to drive in Saudi Arabia.  See also: Malala Yousafsai, the target of attempted assassination by religious extremists for fighting for the right of girls to receive an education.  These are simply two examples of a widely pervasive problem.

4.)  Religious (and/or cultural) belief in certain parts of Africa (and in many Africans who have immigrated to different countries, including America and England), demands that young women be castrated and have their genitals permanently mutilated in the name of proper femininity, leaving them permanently scarred, incapable of experiencing sexual pleasure, and in many cases leaving them with lifelong, sometimes debilitating health consequences, or even death by infection.  Many of these women find sex to be so humiliating, such a violation and so physically unpleasant (Read: painful) that they engage in it only a few times in their lives in order to produce children, and their husbands often keep mistresses who don't have such physical limitations.  This practice continues despite having been illegal in most places for something like twenty years.  See: Google.  It'll take about 0.2 seconds to find a wealth of information on female genital mutilation.

5.)  Religious belief in certain sects of orthodox Judaism demands that when a newborn boy has been circumcised, the man performing the circumcision must use his mouth to cleanse the wound.  This ancient practice has led to the contraction of herpes in an infant at least three times in the past couple years alone in America, and to at least one death from the illness.  See:  Google again.  Probably a combination of the words orthodox Judaism, circumcision and herpes will get you where you need to go.  (I personally don't believe in circumcising male infants at all.  I think if a person's anatomy is going to be permanently altered for no medical benefit whatsoever, the person should be old enough to make the decision himself, though I also know male circumcision has become absolutely routine in America over the last one hundred years, more as a cultural thing than a religious one, for a variety of "reasons" you'd probably be surprised to learn.  You can Google that too.) 

These are but a few examples of the violation of human rights in the name of religious belief.  The people who engage in these practices believe, devoutly, that this is the right thing for them to do. 

These things, things like the risk of passing on a deadly virus during the commission of an unsanitary medical procedure on an infant (not the circumcision itself, but the use of the human mouth as a cleanser for the blood afterwards), are why human rights should always trump religious rights. 

Yes, people have the right to believe, and they have the right to practice religion in their personal lives.  That right, however, should never allow them to infringe on the rights on another human being. 

I purposefully left off all worldwide violations of the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender individuals in the name of religion, wanting to keep the list simple and easy to understand by alluding to multiple kinds of human rights violations.  "Well," you say, "What I do is nothing like that.  I just state my opinion and stick to my beliefs.  No one is hurt, and I'm not violating anyone's rights." 

The problem is that a lot of people aren't just voicing a belief.  They're using that belief to actively discriminate against other human beings, even in this country, even when they think what they're isn't discrimination, just an exercise in religious beliefs.  They use religion as an excuse to refuse to sell products or services to homosexuals and to transgender men and women.  They use religion as an excuse to fire those men and women from their jobs.  They use religion as an excuse to refuse death benefits to the surviving partners of same sex couples after one of them has died.  They use religion as an excuse to bully children and teenagers, to keep them from attending certain schools, from using certain bathrooms or even from wearing certain types of clothing or from going by names that are different from what is listed on their birth certificates.  They use religion as an excuse to keep people from getting married.  They use religion as an excuse to keep homosexuals from visiting family members in the hospital, or to keep them from obtaining legal rights to their children, or to keep them from adopting children, or to keep them from providing vital health and life insurances for their families.  They use religion as an excuse to deny fertility services, such as artificial insemination, egg donation and surrogate pregnancy services to gay and transgender individuals, couples and families.  They use religion as an excuse to protest and to hold picket lines at the funerals of LGBT citizens, or even at the funerals of members of the military who are not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender themselves, bringing additional pain to already grieving families.  They use religion as an excuse to send LGBT youth to schools for "ex-gay" therapy, schools in which they are emotionally, psychologically and even physically abused, schools from which it takes them years to recover, if they ever do.  They use religion as an excuse to disown children, to push them out onto the streets.  They use religion as an excuse to exclude LGBT individuals from public events.  They use religion as an excuse to publicly heap verbal abuse on men and women who have behaved in no way inappropriately except to dare to be themselves or to be a family in public.  In extreme situations, they use religion as an excuse to commit hate crimes--to murder, rape or physically assault members of the LGBT community simply for being LGBT.  They donate their money to American religious organizations who "fight for traditional marriage", and these organizations are largely responsible for using that money to influence the governments of countries like Uganda, whose recent human rights violations include enacting lifetime prison sentences for same sex sexual activity, and prison time for anyone daring to found or participate in LGBT rights organizations. 

I'm sure I can think of more, but I've already made myself sick with just this short list of atrocities committed in the name of faith. 

Your religious belief does not give you the right to deny civil rights to another person.  You should not choose to use Christianity or Islam or Judaism or Hinduism or any other religion as justification for denying rights to LGBT individuals, or to women, or to any other human being, living or dead. 

Here's a legal news flash for business owners:  In many states (and soon, I believe, in ALL states, due to impending new federal laws, though I could be mistaken on this), you cannot refuse to sell your products to gays anymore than you can refuse to sell your products to blacks or Muslims.  You own a public business, and therefore you have to abide by civil laws.  Religion is for your personal life, not your professional one. 

Keep some perspective. 

If you wouldn't use religion as justification for executing a victim of rape, why would you use it as justification in discriminating against a gay person? 

The same thing goes for those business owners using religion to deny certain health coverage to their employees on the basis of religious birth control.  If you don't believe in birth control, don't use it.  Believing that it's wrong doesn't give you the right to inflict that belief on someone else.  For a woman whom you pay $7.25 an hour to work thirty-nine hours a week, birth control may be exactly what she needs to keep herself from having more children than she can afford to raise, and at that rate she clearly doesn't make enough to afford it without the aid of medical insurance.  Personally, I believe contributing to the birth of children who will go hungry, under-clothed and without proper healthcare is a much bigger religious violation than contributing to the use of preventive care to keep this from happening.  Schools should keep that in mind when they refuse to teach anything other than abstinence in their "sex education" courses. 

Catholic hospitals:  You absolutely do not have the right to refuse to inform a woman that she is in need of a lifesaving medical procedure after her water breaks eighteen weeks into her pregnancy.  Termination of pregnancy in this case is not an elective procedure, and facing the reality of her unborn child's probable death after such an occurrence is traumatic enough without the possibility of her own death hanging over her as well if she doesn't get the treatment her condition requires.  In many places in America, Catholic hospitals are the only hospitals in the area.  People don't have the luxury of choosing to go elsewhere, and therefore you shouldn't have the luxury of choosing to refuse them the care that they need.

Politicians:  You serve the people of the United State of America.  We do not serve you.  As public servants, you agreed to uphold the Constitution, a Constitution which guarantees equal rights and protections to all citizens.  This country was founded on ideals of keeping religion and law separate from one another, and therefore your religious beliefs have no place in your politics.  Do your job and support equal rights.  Otherwise, you are not  a proper servant of this country, and you should be immediately stripped of your position and relieved of your governmental responsibilities and privileges.

I, too, am a public servant.  I am a 9-1-1 operator.  If I take an emergency call from a person whom I believe serving is against my religious beliefs--for instance, if a woman is suffering medical complications from an abortion, and if I believe abortion is a sin--I still cannot refuse that person service.  If I do, I can be fired, sued and potentially even criminally prosecuted if they suffer illness, injury or death due to my negligence.  I can believe all day long that it is against my religious beliefs to provide a specific person an ambulance or to provide lifesaving instructions over the phone line prior to the arrival of that ambulance, but if I refuse to offer any of those services, I am breaking the law, and I am engaging in discrimination.      

Religion is personal. 

Human rights are global, or at least they should be. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Duck, Duck...Whoops.

Okay, there are words in my head, so I'm going to put them down before me and weigh in on this whole Duck Dynasty thing.  I don't want to.  It feels like a waste of time, but I also feel compelled.

Let me begin by saying that I don't watch Duck Dynasty.  I don't hunt.  I don't like guns, and I'm not a big fan of excess facial hair, so it's never even been on my entertainment radar.  Frankly, I've got enough problems keeping my own whiskers in check...I don't need to look at someone else's.  I didn't know who Phil Robertson was until last week, and frankly I just don't care who he is.  He is of absolutely no interest to me, and I don't give a damn what he believes or what hate he spews across the airwaves.

Oh, wait...I do care about that.

Not about him specifically, but about all those like him, about the millions who are influenced by him.  About the "Christians"--and practitioners of other religions--who believe as he believes and who pass those beliefs on to their children.  It's an epidemic, a virus that gets under the skin and into the mind.  It poisons the very fabric of the world to the point that India has re-criminalized homosexual sexual activity.  Uganda has made it punishable by life in prison.  Russia has made it illegal to even mention the existence of any relationship other than a heterosexual one to minors, and a number of countries reserve the right to execute their homosexuals simply because they ARE homosexuals. The foundations who have failed to have same sex marriage outlawed in the U.S. Constitution (It can't happen now, folks.  Thirty-seven states would have to ratify it, and the 17/18 states who have legalized same sex marriage clearly won't, giving them a max of thirty-three.)  have started making their moves in more vulnerable countries such as the ones I mentioned a moment ago, using millions of "Christian" dollars to enable gross human rights violations.  Russia is threatening to go so far as to take the children of homosexuals away from them, terminating their parental rights.

Now, personally, I tend to believe Robertson was suspended by A&E more for his racial slurs and his insinuations of Christian-superiority-to-any-other-religion than anything else.  I mean, it's 2013.  At this point, we should all acknowledge that blacks fought damn hard for their civil rights and that they bloody well deserve them.  He also implied that non-Christianity is responsible for every major conflict in the last few hundred years, forgetting (I guess) all the major wars Christianity DID influence, and that (contrary to his belief) Christianity played a huge role in the Third Reich (Geez, Phil, can't you do a little research before you judge?).

Even if his anti-gay comments did play a role in prompting his suspension, however, it's not a free speech issue.  Freedom of speech in the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom from government persecution for stating a belief, and it was actually largely enacted to protect the rights of minorities (gasp!).  It doesn't guarantee protection from punishment by employers, or from backlash by the public.  I'm a Grey's Anatomy girl (much more my speed than guns and beards), and as such I know that the actor who played Dr. Preston Burke was fired in season two for anti-gay slurs.  Now, the public didn't get up in arms about this and defend HIS "freedom of speech" (probably because they were too busy watching Duck Dynasty), but the truth remains that it happened.  He spoke his beliefs, and the network canned his ass because stating said beliefs went against his non-discrimination contract.

My employer has similar guidelines that we were all made aware of when we were hired, and we're made aware again every time there are updates to those policies.  If we violate them, it's our own damn fault and my employer has the right to fire us.  Since I live in Alabama and don't have equal protection under the law here, they can also fire me for being a lesbian.  Thankfully, however, they don't seem inclined to do that (possibly because it would take six months to train my replacement).  It's business, and that's how business works.  He was suspended, not for being a Christian, but for using racially demeaning and discriminatory speech in a public capacity.  You represent your employer, wherever you are and whatever you are doing at the time.  Violate this at your own risk.

Now, I believe Duck Dynasty makes A&E a lot of money, and money is what they ultimately love.  Therefore, good ol' Phil will probably get his job back in short order, and he'll probably make A&E even more money than he was making them before, and his whole family will probably get a raise on the $200,000 an episode they're already making.  In a few weeks, this whole thing will be as forgotten as Paula Dean and whatever she may or may not have said about black people.

Except by me, and by the millions like me, because there IS a problem with the Robertsons of the world which has absolutely nothing to do with their right to say whatever it is they want to say and everything to do with their choice to exercise that right.

The "Christians" of this type (and I place this doubt on the word because I know real Christians.  I know beautiful, God-loving Christians who spend every day working to make this world a better place, and these people are NOT them) zero in on sexuality and gender identity like they are the end-all, be-all and source of all sin in the world.  Granted, it's not just "Christians".  It is the practitioners of many faiths and religions around the world, but I'm focused on the Christian aspect of things because I grew up (and still live) in the deep American South, in the heart of the Bible Belt.  Christianity is huge down here, and homophobia comes to children as easily as breathing (Well, maybe not breathing.  Breathing is instinct; hatred is taught).  Some of them misguidedly believe this hatred is actually love.  They subscribe to the "love the sinner, hate the sin" philosophy of living, and I believe these people know not the harm that they do even with this gentle kind of hatred.

The first of the problems with the Robertsons of the world is that they are preaching words that were written thousands of years ago and have been translated a dozen times in a dozen different ways.  The original language was Hebrew, and unless you can read that, you actually have no idea what it originally said.  Even if it was translated with exact efficiency, it reflects the values of people who lived so long ago that their prejudices shouldn't apply to a modern society who has so much more scientific information about the world around us, such as the scientifically proven fact that sexuality and gender identity are completely innate, deeply rooted in the human psyche and cannot be chosen or changed.  The Robertsons also seem to forget that (from what I remember of my Bible studies) all sins are equal in the eyes of God, and there are many, many more sins that are outdated for today's life and that we tend to disregard without thinking, if we ever knew about them at all.

Here's a short list of other things listed as a sin in the Bible, most of them punishable by death, either by stoning or burning alive (Does that sound like a society whose laws are actually still applicable today?):

 1.) A woman being raped.  Yes, the WOMAN shall be executed for being raped if it occurred in a city, since if she had objected (by screaming for help), her screams would have been heard and she would have been rescued.  Hence, if she didn't get rescued she clearly didn't object.  (Um...yeah. Okay.)
2.) Divorce.  Also, marrying someone who has previously gotten divorced.
3.) Raping a virgin woman who is engaged to someone else.  (If she isn't engaged, all you have to do is pay her father a small penalty and then marry her...and gee isn't that just wonderful for her?)
4.) Lying about your virginity, if you are a woman.  (Guilty until proven innocent, and boy is that innocence just impossible to prove, especially if a man is judging your virginity on whether or not you bled on your marriage night.  Not all women bleed, and of course once he's slept with you, you no longer have proof that you were a virgin beforehand...)
5.) Incest, and I only mention this because it includes marrying your brother's wife after your brother has died.  So if you take comfort in your loss and find love again together, you shall both be put to death. 
6.) Perjury.
7.) Ignoring the orders of a judge.  (As in, trying to fight against a decision like the one the New Jersey or Utah court made to legalize same sex marriage...)
8.) Trying to convert people to a different religion (Sorry, missionaries...).
9.) Being a drunkard.
10.) Murder, unless you beat your own slave to death.  In that case, you'll only be punished, not executed.  If the slave survives the beating, you'll only be punished if you damage his teeth or eyes.
11.) Not being circumcised, if you're a male.
12.) Engaging in sexual activity with a woman who is on her period.
13.) Consuming blood, which includes eating rare meat.
14.) Cutting your hair or shaving your beard (guess the Duck guys are okay on this one...).
15.) Cutting or tattooing your skin (I'm going to guess that piercing is equivalent to cutting, since it divides the skin, so say goodbye to those ear piercings, ladies.)
16.) Having the audacity to go to church if you're disabled. (He who has a blemish, is blind, is lame, is broken of hand or foot, etc...)
17.) Wearing cloth woven of two different fabrics.  (Poly-cotton blends, anyone?)
18.) Eating shellfish, pig, rabbit and many other delicious meats.
19.) Arrogance.
20.) Breaking the secular laws of your land. (Presumably this includes non-discrimination laws.)
21.) Love of money.
22.) A woman wearing a man's clothes, or a man wearing a woman's clothes. (It's a credit to the misogyny of our society that we think nothing of the first and everything of the second.)

Boy, I included only the ones I think are frivolous or ridiculous (and mind you, that's definitely a matter of personal opinion), and I still ended up with a pretty long list.  This isn't my way of saying everything in the Bible is total crap, but it IS my way of saying maybe we're taking some of this a little too seriously, all sins being equal in the eyes of God.  Jesus personally never said anything against homosexuality (not that I could find, anyway), and what he DID say is that the most important of all the laws is to "Love thy neighbor as thyself".

Also, "Judge not lest ye be judged."

Jesus kept company with prostitutes, beggars, lepers, and "sinners" of all kinds.  In fact, the only people Jesus didn't like keeping company with were those who were filled with self-righteousness and believed they were above any kind of sin.  He also wasn't a really big fan of preaching or of praying in public, making all the public sermons Phil Robertson has engaged in over the last many years (and I've read the transcripts of dozens of them over the last week, and listened to them as well, so I can say with certainty that his anti-gay slurs are not at all limited to simply paraphrasing scripture, and that he's also been pretty guilty of promoting both racism and misogyny in his sermons and Bible Study classes as well) questionable at best.  Jesus was a socialist.  He believed, above all else, in loving people, in helping the poor, the hungry, the needy, the downtrodden and the persecuted.  These things were most important to him, something the "Christians" who spend their time espousing the evils of the LGBT community seem to forget.

I'll move past what I consider to be either the knowing or ignorant hypocrisy of people like this and move on to the actual damage inflicted by these lessons and this viewpoint.  Discriminating against homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender and agender, and asexual, individuals--about 6% of the world's population when you include the asexuals in the statistic--is harmful because they can be nothing other than what they are.

That's right.  They cannot change.

Legitimate, objective science has proven a dozen times over that sexuality and gender identity cannot be changed.  We may not know the exact origin of sexual identity yet, but we know it is developing from birth and even before.  We know it is deeply, deeply rooted in the human psyche, and we know that there is no such thing as an "ex-gay".  "Ex-gay" therapy does NOT work.  It is not actually possible to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity, through religion, psychology, surgery or any other means.  We are who we are, and if you don't believe that, then ask yourself one simple question:  When did you first decide you were going to be straight?

Did you make a decision when you turned eighteen, or fourteen, or three, that you were going to be attracted to the opposite sex, and that you were going to make a life with a member of that sex?  Or was being attracted to the other gender simply a part of who you were, of who you became as you grew and developed?

It is not any different for a gay person or a bisexual person, or for a male mind in a female body.  These concepts may be confusing for you to understand.  They aren't what you know; they aren't what you are.

As confused as you may be, you have no idea how much more confused or anguished someone is who actually goes through the experience of realizing these things about himself, or herself.  Take me, for example.  I grew up in south Alabama.  I still live in south Alabama, and I heard about the abnormality, the sin, and the disgusting nature of homosexuals a thousand times before I entered high school, and a thousand more before I graduated.  The only people I was brave enough to come out to in high school were two friends of mine, twin girls who were also LGBT and came out to me before I came out to them.  Sex and sexual attraction are only a small part of sexuality.  It encompasses everything about you, and everything about the way you view and interact with the world around you.  When I came out to him and introduced my girlfriend (now my wife) to him, my father told me he'd suspected I was a lesbian from the time I was three.  There was just something about me that seemed different to him.  Not bad, not depraved or wrong, just different. 

I was lucky.  My father was supportive.  My sister and brother, they supported me.  My mother...she was embarrassed and thought it reflected badly on her parenting skills.  She thought it was a phase.  Eventually, though, she came around and now she supports me as enthusiastically as my other relatives, from aunts and uncles to distant cousins I've never met.  I have a wonderful family of open-minded and, yes, largely Christian individuals.

In the South, however, the whispers against homosexuals and our rights are largely propagated by the Christian community.  Many are not so lucky with their families as I was.  Only 5% of the world's population is homosexual, bisexual or transgender, but conversely 33% of the homeless teenagers living on the streets in America are LGBT.  One third, because they've been kicked out by families who believe they are condemned to the depths of Hell simply for being what they are.  Societal stigma and the constant commentary about how we're going to Hell (no matter in how loving a voice the words are said), how we're abnormal and God can "fix" us, results only in psychological damage and anguish, depression, mental illness, and disproportionately high rates of suicide and suicide attempts by LGBT individuals.  We all learn eventually what many churches refuse to believe or to teach--we cannot change.  And believe me, many of us try, with or without the aid of those "ex-gay therapy retreats".

We are who we are, from birth, and we cannot change.  Telling us we are damned for something we have no control over damages us internally.  It breaks children, destroys millions of fragile teenagers and pre-adolescents the world over, and it causes irreversible damage. 

Even quick research can determine the position of the legitimate scientific community on sexuality and gender identity.  Homosexuality was taken off the list of mental illnesses in the 70's, over forty years ago, and there are only two major studies (and these two are widely cited) that even support the "theories" that homosexuality is depraved, immoral and largely caused by childhood abuse or overbearing mothers, and that homosexuals are abusive parents who teach their offspring to be gay, and both of these studies were biased, non-scientifically conducted, paid for by anti-gay foundations and have been completely discredited.  Objective scientific studies have actually found that family cohesion is higher in families with same sex parents because of the open-minded nature prompted by the parents' social situations and that, as I have said again and again, and will continue to say, we cannot change.

There is no such thing as an "ex-gay".  Even several of the "ex-gay" organizations themselves have come out and admitted this recently.  Their most "successful" individuals are men and women who still struggle daily with what they cannot change and simply avoid most contact (even innocent) with members of the same sex, and most people (largely minors forced into it by parents who have all the control) spend years attempting to recover from what they were put through in these programs.

Even if we never go into one of these programs, we can be damaged.  I was damaged.  I came out in college, and I--a meek, terrified, non-confrontational young woman--was verbally attacked (though thankfully not physically, as my brother was beaten into unconsciousness at his college over his sexuality) by a dozen students there, on multiple occasions.  At the job I worked all through college, I had pamphlets put into my locker daily.  Some of them were advertisements for a local "ex-gay" group who claimed they could cure me of this affliction.  Others quoted all the Bible scriptures that condemned me.  Others were simply inflammatory sermons that quoted nothing and condemned everything about me, even while preaching about how much they loved me.  When I finally figured out who was doing it, I reported the abuse to my boss, who eventually fired the employee.  I wasn't the only gay individual working there, you see, and I wasn't the only one being harassed.  It was an uplifting moment, especially since I live in a state in which sexuality and gender identity are not defined as traits that are protected from discrimination.

Worse than the tangible abuses, though, are the insidious societal implications.  From early childhood we are taught that this is not normal.  This is not desired.  This is not acceptable.  This is a sin.  This is something to be embarrassed by.  This is something to be kept hidden, and this is something to change.  This is something about us that God hates, even though he loves US.  These things are taught in many churches, and are a large part of the reason I became disillusioned with church, and disenchanted.  I haven't been in years, and in many churches down here I simply am not welcome.  My family is not welcome, and many people don't consider us a family at all, just a gross parody of what is true and righteous.  These things are taught by the language we use, language that has kids laughing at something they consider stupid and saying, "Man, that is so GAY."  It's taught through whispers, sideways glances and facial expressions when a same sex couple is brazen enough to hold hands in a supermarket down here.  It's taught through the simple words of people who say, "I don't mind people being gay, but I believe they should keep it to themselves and not shove it in our faces."

It is taught by the law itself.

I am a second class citizen.  I do not have the same rights as my neighbors, my friends and relatives, my coworkers.  There are a thousand rights that go along with the right to get married, and I have none of them.  I have a wife, and we have a daughter together, a child we struggled to have and who we love like nobody's business, and I have no legal rights to her.  My wife and child are not protected under my health insurance, and if one of them goes to the hospital, there is no law saying I have to be allowed into the room.  After all, I'm not family.  And that IS the basis my former employer used against me during my wife's pregnancy.  I was not family, and therefore I could use none of my paid leave (or even unpaid) when she went into labor.  I exercised my right to free expression, and I quit.  My next job gave me a week off when she went into labor, no hesitation.  I still work for them.

My employers aside, what do these laws teach me, or teach my children, or teach ANY children?  We live in a country that promises equal rights and protections for all, and yet I do not have all of those rights, or those protections.  These violations of the U.S. Constitution are the reasons our nation's founders worked so hard to keep religion and law separate from one another.  Make no mistake, this country was founded not on Christianity, but on both freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion.  The arguments people make about the inclusion of religion in the foundation of America are largely fabricated.  The phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was added in the 1950's, for instance, just like "in God we trust" on the money we print.  The truth can be verified with a simple internet search.

One person's religious beliefs, by the very foundation of our society, are not supposed to affect the rights of another person.

And yet they have.  They do, and they will continue to do so for some time, though I believe not forever.

"Christians", men and women who are supposed to love all people, who are supposed to help the poor and feed the needy, who are supposed to refrain from judgment and leave all of that to God, these "Christians", these Robertsons of the world, are the ones who are contributing so heavily to the death, destruction, physical and mental anguish of their fellow human beings, of my brothers and sisters.  My brother literally, since he had such emotional trauma from trying to come to terms with his sexuality that he didn't come out until his mid-twenties.  He went through depression and drug addiction, and though he has recovered and grown into an amazing man, these traumas would never have happened to him if people were loving, were compassionate and non-judgmental, were all the things their religion teaches them to be and that they refuse to embrace when it comes to simple sexuality.

If sexuality other than hetero is a sin, it is one that harms no one but the "sinner".  There is no gay agenda.  There is no recruitment process.  Just as there is no such thing as turning a gay person straight, there is no such thing as turning a straight person gay.  It's not a disease; you can't catch it.  It has always affected about 5% of the population--and it spans dozens of mammalian species, not just humans--and that number seems neither to rise nor fall, no matter the society involved or its laws.  It is what it is, and what it is affects no one but the individual involved.  Children raised by homosexuals are no more likely to be homosexual (or bisexual, or trans or agender) than any other children.  Sexuality and gender identity are things that are completely apart from the situation in which a person is raised.  They simply are.  They don't decrease the world's population or impede procreation.  They don't spread disease.

They harm no one.

Why then are so many people so determined to destroy us?  What threat do we pose to them? Make no mistake that the violence is one-sided.  The so-called "militant" gay movement is a myth.  We seek only equal rights and protections under the secular law.  Some of us are Christians, and those who are have already made their peace with God.  They need not the approval of the church, only His, and they believe they have it.  They will find churches who believe the same.  There are no hate crimes committed by homosexuals on Christians because they are Christian.  There is no law preventing Christians from worshiping or from being Christian.  There is no impact on the institution of marriage caused by allowing same sex couples to participate in it.  It has no impression on the rights of others and does harm to no one.  

There is no threat from the LGBT community, whether overt or covert. 

There is a threat, however, to me and mine.  Because of the beliefs rampant in society, I have reason to fear my daughter going to school.  I have reason to fear the bullying she could suffer for having two mothers.  I have reason to fear for the safety of my family when we go out in public together.  I have reason to fear my family getting sick or injured since they have no health insurance despite my legal marriage to my wife. 

I have reason to fear, and that alone should be a shame to the Christian community, since their ultimate aim is to promote love and peace.

Peace and equality are all I want. 

I am furious at Phil Robertson, not for expressing his beliefs but for holding them in the first place.  I am furious at a society who rises up to protect his right to spew hate speech but who fight against the exact same rights when it comes to women like the Dixie Chicks or Pussy Riot (who have been in prison in Russia for over a year, simply for exercising "free speech", a right NOT protected in that country).  I am furious at a society who defends him and others like him, who flocked to Chik-Fil-A last year to spend millions of dollars in support of their CEO's similar hate-mongering.  These so-called Christians are spending their money and their time not in food banks, not in ending war or supporting the rights of women who are arrested and executed for being raped in dozens of different countries, not in ending the sale of children into slavery even in this country, but in buying cheap chicken sandwiches in support of discrimination.

I am furious at a society like I saw in my hometown this week, who rose up in anger and hatred against a dance group called the Prancing Elites, a group of men who did nothing illegal, nothing hateful and nothing to be ashamed of.  They simply danced in a Christmas parade wearing dance uniforms typically worn by a woman.  For that they have endured physical threats, jeers and cursing, vile commentary about their sexual depravities, their influence on children and their right to life itself.  After the parade they danced in, they were also banned from a second parade to be performed on New Year's Eve, for no other reason than who they are.  And I know it's for no other reason because they even agreed to wear gender nonspecific jogging suits throughout the entire parade, and they were still cut from the lineup. 

Where is the societal fury at the trampling of their right to free expression?  Are they not supposed to have the same rights people are screaming that Phil Robertson has?

Oh, that's right.

Free speech only protects against government prosecution, not public backlash.  I said that already.  Oh, the hypocrisy of humans, though.  You see, the same people who defend Phil Robertson's rights to free expression are the ones who are screaming for the censorship of the Prancing Elites, who are demanding they be pulled from the lineup of all local events because they wear effeminate clothing and like to dance, a perfectly legal thing to do and far less harmful than spreading hate speech. 

I am an American, and as such I will defend Phil Robertson's right to state his beliefs, and I will defend the Prancing Elite's right to dress as they wish and dance like anyone else.  I will continue fighting for my own rights, for those of my family and those of people I have never met.  I will fight for a society who will one day realize Robertson's beliefs are damaging, that they are UN-Christian and extremely antiquated.  I will fight for children and teenagers who want to know why God hates them (and I do NOT believe that He does) for something that they cannot change, for something that is simply a part of who they are, for something that has nothing to do with their personalities and the good they may do for their fellow human beings.  

I will fight for humans, for that is what we all are, and that is how we all deserve to be treated.  This post represents my opinion, and I did not provide links to research or verification of the very, very few statistics that I used because I encourage you to do your own.  Learn.  Grow.  If you believe in humans and in human rights, then look up the truth about sexuality and gender identity, not the tripe spewed by men like Phil Robertson.  Don't fall into the trap of parroting doctrine that has remained the same for thousands of years and even doctrine that has changed (Same sex marriages, for instance, were performed by the Catholic church up until about the 14th century) over the years to become discriminatory. Five percent of the world is LGBT.  That's one in twenty.  One in twenty children are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  It's so easy for your child (or children, in my parents' case) to be among them.

What will you do?  Kick them out?  Tell them God loves them, but hates what they are?  Love them, but be embarrassed by them?  Urge them to change, to just TRY to be different?  It's so easy for an LGBT youth to fall into depression, into drugs, into suicide.  All it takes is one parent with one disgusted look.  One bully at school with ignorant parents.  One brush with the beliefs of so many people, so many people who think they should go voiceless, who think it would be better if they didn't exist.

How does that feel, to be told you shouldn't exist?

It feels cold.  It's a violation that cuts through your soul and leaves you gutted.  Dying on the inside.

Unwanted.  Unloved.  Unaccepted.


Don't fall into the trap of telling someone they are less than human.  Please.

Believe in human beings.  Believe in this country that promises equality to all its citizens.  And if you do believe, share.  Share this if it makes sense to you, and share something else if this isn't good enough for you.  Counter the damage of words that preach hatred and discrimination by spreading knowledge, by spreading equality, by spreading love. 

Use YOUR right to free speech, as Phil Robertson and his supporters have used theirs.  Use your voice, and use it to teach love and acceptance.  Use it to teach peace, yes, but above all love.

Love, after all, is the most important law for any Christian to follow.  I know, because I read it in this book people seem to put a lot of stock in. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I've had a busy week.  An amazing, and amazingly busy week.  There's been work and play and sleep, and lots of secrets.  You have to keep secrets.  My daughter has a secret, and if she could read well enough to read this, I wouldn't be telling you about it because she'd kill me.

She's a superhero, you see, and she has a secret identity that only her mommy and I are allowed to know.

Her superhero name is Learning Girl, and I'm no longer allowed to say it even when we're alone together, for fear someone else might be listening.  She's very protective of her secret identity.  Superheroes have to be.  She needs a mask and a costume, so I guess we're going to have to help her put one together at some point.


If you know me and you know her, when you see us again do NOT under any circumstances mention the Learning Girl.

I'll be toast if you do, because Learning Girl has magic powers, and she knows LOTS of things, and she's always learning new things, so I could be in real trouble if she finds out about this post.  How can she save the world if everyone knows her secret identity? 

Her words, not mine.  Maybe she watches too much television, or I read her too many superhero books, but I don't think wanting to be a superhero is at all a bad thing.  There are a lot of real life superheroes.  Nelson Mandela was one, an amazing man who changed the lives of millions, and inspired hope and change around the world.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is another.  Rosa Parks. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell.  Sojourner Truth. 

Malala Yousafzai, who is both a child and a hero.

Every doctor or surgeon I've ever met, every nurse, every emergency dispatcher and first responder, every soldier, and every person who has ever put another person's welfare above their own, or who has made an effort to better the life of another person for no other reason than that it was a good thing to do.  

So Learning Girl watches and studies and learns everything she can so she can fix the bad things in the world.  Last week she fixed my tangled shoelace (which she tangled up in the first place), and this week she struck again.  She ripped the cushions from the leather couch in my dining room (so we like to chill after what?  That couch is perfect for reading books...), and revealed all the dark things hiding beneath the surface.  She rescued spoons, cookie crumbs and--to my complete bemusement--a potato!  She even tossed the crumbs in the trash bin and washed the rescued silverware herself, restoring order and balance to the universe.  

She comforted a crying boy on the playground and made him smile again, and she fixed Rainbow Dash's injured foot.

The Amazing Learning Girl--a hero of many talents and many faces.

It's never too early to be a hero.  Maybe she can even teach the comic book and movie industries a thing or two--women are way, way under-represented in the world of superheroes.  Hell, even the female superheroes who ARE in the comics rarely make their way into the movies, like every female Avenger ever.  

Wake up, Hollywood.  Girls totally rock, and not just when they're wearing lingerie on screen.  What's up with that, anyway?