Dec 22, 2012

On Being a Gay Statistician

I just read this great article on Huffpost by Guy Branum, and it resonated strongly with my own feelings on this subject. You should definitely read the whole thing, but here is a bit of it:

I had no clue Silver was gay. He's got a nice, interchangeably Jewish name, which, in the context of politics and journalism, just seemed normal. Therefore, I assumed he was "normal" for that job in most other ways: mid-50s, white, heterosexual.

But he's not. He's 34 and gay, which is awesome. The "Out 100" has, for most of its history, been dominated by performers (most of whom came out well into their careers) and activists working to promote gay rights -- professional gays or folks in gay professons. So now, at long last, we have a dude who's doing something unrelated to homosexuality who killed it this year. Good for us, no?

Well, no, actually. "To my friends, I'm kind of sexually gay but ethnically straight," Silver says in the Out feature. He is also said to consider "gay conformity as perfidious as straight conformity."


So why the refusal by many, gay and straight, to define gay men and women as a culture or subculture?

When I was 17, like a good, politically minded Jewish boy, I read Benjamin Netanyahu's book A Place Among the Nations. In it he explained that the Palestinians were not a people, just Jordanian tenant farmers with no distinct culture. I believed him. Then, a few years later, I was reading an article from Germany in the 19th century that explained that Yiddish wasn't a real language, just corrupted German, a jargon. I started to realize that denying the existence of a culture is a really great way of denying the needs of that culture. Yiddish isn't the language of a people, just bad German. Palestinians aren't a distinct culture, just some people who should move out of Israel. Gay bars and Grindr aren't the cultural tools of a people, just trashy behavior.

Keeping gays from identifying as a group is a great way of keeping us from supporting each other and our rights. But even the people who would deny our rights still acknowledge that we have shared culture. Any schoolyard bully or gender policing frat boy knows what a fag is. We have litanies of stereotypes for "fags" and "dykes," and they're just all kinda bad. So we want to define homosexuality as an act, define a culture associated with homosexuality, but insist upon the right of people committing homosexual acts to distance themselves from that culture.

The article may use Nate Silver as an example, but it addresses a much broader problem. I have encountered this many times. The assumption that "gay" is an identification and not identity, that it is a culture you could opt out of, instead of a minority you belong to. It is very clear to me that we are the most self-harming group of people in the history of mankind, because it is possible for us to "pass", to hide who we are, and we do it constantly because we are taught from birth that "gay" = "less than straight". The result? Teen suicides, identity issues going well into adulthood, and a slow progress of gay rights due to the fact that a good two thirds of our community are either in the closet, or ashamed of it and distancing themselves from it.

It has been our greatest weakness that we are able to escape who we are as a group. Black people can't pass, and neither can women or Hispanics. They are who they are, and because they can't be in a closet, they have had to face it, deal with it and grow strong in the process. Yet so many gays still treat homosexuality as something to be ashamed of and hide, try to escape any labeling if they can, and will be the first to denounce gay culture, as if it is a fixed thing that - once branded with it - changes everything about you. When the truth is we ARE gay culture. What we do is gay culture because we are gay. And if we want to not be defined by being gay, we should teach the world - and apparently ourselves - that gay can be anything we decide it to be.

Dec 13, 2012

Marriage Equality in Illinois Just a Few Weeks Away?

Illinois same-sex marriage advocates are pushing for a January vote.

After counting heads and consulting with legislative leaders, the chief sponsors of a bill to permit same-sex couples to get married in the state disclosed this morning that they intend to push for a vote in the General Assembly's lame-duck session, which will occur over two weeks just after New Year's.

And, in an indication of how big a campaign the pro side is launching, they've hired the firm founded by top presidential adviser David Axelrod to help them with media, organization and outreach to potential supporters, including corporate officials.

Make sure to read the full article. As an Illinois resident, I am pretty excited about this. We have the Governor behind us, and pushing for an early vote, as well as other state officials. Let's hope we don't drag this one to a state ballot...

The Pope Endorses Genocide

Because Sidious hasn't done enough to harm us (and Christianity all across the globe), he just effin BLESSED Uganda Parliament Speaker Rt.Hon. Rebecca Kadag, who last month promised to give Uganda the infamous Kill The Gays Bill as a "Christmas gift to Christians".

Since then the bill has supposedly been watered down to only "imprisonment for life", although details remain very murky to say the least. Which, of course, hasn't stopped hate groups from endorsing it, including one of its fathers, Scott Lively, who is currently being sued for crimes against humanity.

The Don't Kill The Gays But Imprison Them For Life And Possibly Still Kill Them Secretly Anyway bill is still pending...

Oh, and by the way:

Just saying.

Dec 7, 2012

Breaking: Supreme Court Will Grant Hearing to Prop 8 and DOMA

The Supreme Court finally stopped cock-teasing us and announced that it will grant hearing of both the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. While Prop 8 really didn't need a hearing (and hate groups are jumping gleefully, pointing this out and claiming it's a sign that SCOTUS will overturn the 9th Circuit's decision), I am definitely excited about DOMA, since they have picked the Windsor case - the one with high scrutiny that has a higher chance of being upheld by the Supreme Court. Personally, I am optimistic, and after ten consecutive courts declared that abomination as unconstitutional, I'm having a hard time imagining SCOTUS deciding otherwise, even with all the conservative doom and gloom that presides over it.

More on the subject:

Huffington Post: Gay Voices

Various Reactions

And The Actual Decision

Nov 24, 2012

Why You Simply Can't Vote GOP. Ever. Period.

This is a video from a while back, talking about Romney in particular, but I figure it gives a very good explanation why nobody in today's GOP should ever be voted for, no matter how "normal" they appear. Do I believe there are no decent people in that giant party? Hell no. In fact, I imagine there are still more decent people than the Horde of Crazy. But does it matter really? When the crazies are so powerful within the party structure that you simply HAVE to fall in line, or your career is dead? And the higher you go in the food chain, the more obvious this becomes. Forcing pledges on people, supporting presentation of fairy tales and facts on equal terms in schools, being anti-everyone non-white or male... This is not a party that can sustain a thinking voting pool. And if it wants the moderate, independents voter back, it needs to show him that it doesn't need the crazy religious nutjobs, that they do not define the policies the party promotes.

Because what good is a moderate Republican, if he is a tiny island of sane in a sea of crazy that his election into whatever office he occupies opened the door for?

Nov 19, 2012

Wedding Trade Expects Boost From Gay-Marriage Laws

To nobody's surprise, ABC News has this here article about the business boost expected from gay marriage being legalized in the states of Maine, Maryland and Washington. Here's some of it:

Nearly 18,000 same-sex couples in those states will exchange vows in the first three years after the new laws are in effect, estimated The Williams Institute, a national think tank at the UCLA School of Law, and the laws should generate at least $166 million in wedding spending in the three states over the next three years from in-state couples alone, boosting tax revenues and creating new jobs.
Wedding-related spending for in-state couples is projected be about $16 million in Maine, $63 million in Maryland and $89 million in Washington.

The numbers go up when figuring in out-of-staters who travel to those states to be wed. In Maine, for instance, the new law could boost the state economy by $25 million and create up to 250 new jobs in the coming three years, said Lee Badgett, research director at the Williams Institute and an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts.

Make sure to read the whole article. This is another blow in the face of hate groups whose rhetoric often includes how harmful gay marriage is for small businesses.

Nov 8, 2012

"Every Time People Have Voted on Gay Marriage, They Have Voted Against It... Update: Never Mind!"

Nobody can deny that marriage equality won on Tuesday, or that it won in a dramatic reversal of the trend. The biggest argument hate groups have used - that it's all the workings of us evil homofascist, helped by "activist judges and politicians", and that when the people have a say, they reject it - was not just tentatively dented, it was crashed, killed and destroyed in an across the board landslide that left no room for doubt and no way to call it a fluke - in FOUR states people were asked to stand with marriage equality or against it, and in ALL FOUR they chose to stand on the side of justice and human dignity. It is a resounding defeat of bigotry that has already changed the marriage discourse forever, and will have serious implications in future fights.

Meanwhile, hate groups, GOP nut jobs and self-appointed Christian Neanderthal moralists all across America are - as Joe hilariously puts it - "having the sadz", and whining their precious hearts out. They were outspent, the poor dears, after pouring millions into pointless hatred. The Four were "deeply liberal". It was an "uphill battle". Gotta love a language change and role reversal. All in all, this is what Tony Perkins, Maggie Galaghar, Brian Brown and the ever so magically quaffed Kalley Yanta have to say about what happened on November 6:

Yes, I feel not a shred of graciousness in myself right now. Victory tastes good!

A Dramatic Win For Justice, Vision And Equality

Two months ago I made the decision to stop blogging until the 2012 Election was done. Too much information, too much static, too many barbs thrown in all directions. Now that the craze is over though, and I've come down from the full body orgasm high from Tuesday, I can resume programming.


All across the board we won. Our President, out senators, our rights won in a way that not even I expected. The American people said a resounding NO to fear mongering, religious bigotry and the unquestioned superiority of rich white males.

I could gush all over our victories (and i will in another post about our Four Out of Four historic triumph), but instead, I'll just leave you with this here video in which the love of my life Rachel Maddow summarizes all that went well on Nov. 6. Enjoy.

Sep 8, 2012

Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom"

I don't normally review entertainment on this blog, but I think this show more than merits the attention. I hurry to disclaim the hell out of this review by saying that other than The Social Network, I'd had no previous experience with Sorkin's writing prior to watching the first season of The Newsroom, so I will not be comparing it to his previous works.

The show focuses on a news team in the made up ACN network, led by superstar anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). After years of hiding in his comfortable job and ignoring the low level of political discourse in the country and the ignorance of his viewers, Will finally reaches meltdown point at a lecture in Northwestern University, and unleashes a scathing speech that resounds throughout the media. That's when his idealistic boss Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterson) sees an opportunity and brings in a new producer - the talented Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) who has had a tumultuous relationship with Will in the past. Together, they turn "News Night" into a critical engine, devoted to informing, educating and revealing the truth no matter the cost.

The plot of The Newsroom is fairly simple, and the character interactions are there more as decoration than the point of the story. A lot of their relationships have a goofy, comical vibe, even in the serious moments, and it is easy to see that Sorkin's goal has been to expose the degradation of the news in the US by showing us an idealized version of what they could be. Will McAvoy is a former prosecutor, borderline genius, and a man with unflinching integrity in the face of falsehoods who stops at nothing to expose them. His entire team is devoted to finding the truth, reporting it first, and reporting it in the best possible way

There are two things that make The Newsroom so compelling. One, Sorkin's trademark "on crack" dialogues. People talk a lot, talk fast, all over each other, and it's dynamic to the point of vertigo. It tip-toes on the edge of becoming just blabbering and talking for the sake of talking, but mostly it stays clear of it. What it does though, is create an environment that feels so alive and active that you have no choice but to believe that those people will report the news to you seconds after they happen.

The second part - and by far the strongest element of the show - is the subject matter. The story takes place between early 2010 and August 2011. Which means that it deals with social and political events that are as up to date as you can be without dramatizing the world in real time - from the oil spill in the Mexico gulf to Osama's assassination. A huge chunk of the show is devoted to unmasking and debunking the lies of the Tea Party and the absurd level of incompetence and lack of political understanding that its members exhibit. However, The Newsroom is not some "liberal" propaganda. Will is portrayed as a proud Republican who cannot stand that his party has been hijacked by fanatics with neither knowledge, nor respect of the political process, and Sorkin is careful to make the distinction between "Republican" and "Tea Party" (as well as steering clear of Mitt Romney who gets only one little barb in the last episode).

I used the word "dramatizing" in the previous paragraph, and I think I will do it again. Because this is what makes The Newsroom the amazing experience that it is. The fact that if you see what's wrong with the politics in this country, and can't stand how no source of information is untainted by partisanship, you have the chance of experiencing the news in a dramatized form, with characters reporting the truth in the way that you would want them to in real life, yet ones who aren't just reporters, but also people you get attached to as the season goes. The perfect blend of the pros of both fiction and non-fiction, with barely any of the cons (with the possible exception of some soapy drama occurring here and there). The Newsroom has the potential to be an eye-opener in the real world, and I am extremely excited about Season 2, which will air next year.

Sep 5, 2012

Prop 8 And DOMA Cases Distributed For the Supreme Court September 24 Review

So says Prop 8 Trial Tracker. The review will decide whether the cases would be taken up, left for a next review session or denied. In case you need an update, we are hoping for Prop 8 to be left alone, as that would make the 9th Circuit's decision final. However, Section 3 of DOMA needs to go, and it is highly unlikely that SCOTUS will pass the case. Fingers cross. The endgame is coming!