29 May 2007

Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil (Part One)

You may not be charismatic enough to win verbal debates with religious hetero-fascists, but you can always trump them in writing! It's relatively easy to do. Coherent writing, after all, requires a certain amount of intelligent thought, and that's something a lot of these nutty preachers are incapable of! Even those who are capable of intelligent thought don't use it to support their anti-Gay positions. Bigotry is the antithesis of intelligence, after all!

There's no intelligent way to promote ignorance. The only way to accomplish it is to fall back on lies, distortions and ad hominem attacks! When you've got the truth on your side, you've definitely got an edge in a fight with a religious bigot. However, that's not enough! You've got to (1) know what the truth is, (2) know which Scriptural citations prove the truth, and (3) know how to use those citations to effectively discredit your opponent.

To illustrate what I mean, I'm posting a letter here that I just emailed to the producers of "Tony Brown's Journal". It's an African-American issues forum that airs weekly on public television (PBS). Of late, host Tony Brown has been featuring Right Wing Black ministers on his show. They discuss the church's role in today's Black community. They also discuss doctrine, and as you'd expect, conversations frequently turn to the "sin" of homosexuality and how the church should address it. Washington DC's Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. was Brown's most recent guest; you may remember him as one of the "Four Evil Kings" I recently posted about!

You'd best believe that the good Bishop really "showed his ass", as we say in the Black community! He claimed that Scripture expressly forbids Lesbian and Gay marriage ceremonies. He imposed a homosexual connotation on certain words translated from ancient languages. He likened LGBT folk to prostitutes! In short, he put his own evil twist on the same set of Fundamentalist talking points we've heard from the likes of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy and the late Jerry Falwell.

Well, I believe in equal opportunity knucklehead-bashing! If Black or Latino preachers decide they want to be hatemongers, they deserve the same treatment White hatemongers rate. I'll be happy to sink my Stuffed Animal fangs into their brown posteriors with all the ferocity I attack pink posteriors with!

Even before Tony Brown's show had signed off, I was at my computer typing up my objections to what had been said. Harry Jackson is one of these Bible bigots who's so confident in his ability to distort Scripture, he's arrogant! He thinks it's enough to just cite a verse and paraphrase it. He doesn't actually quote the text. As you'll see, I made sure there was plenty of pertinent quoted Scripture in my letter!

When responding to false prophets in writing, it's important to both cite and quote the text of Bible verses. You never want your readers to think you're trying to put something over on them; explain a Biblical passage, but reproduce it, too, so they can judge your interpretation for themselves. A working knowledge of the Bible, particularly those parts that pertain to homosexual conduct, is crucial! That's how you can catch preachers in a lie as soon as you hear them tell it! You don't have to wonder about whether this or that wild assertion is true or not, because you already know.

It's also important to expose the Bishop Jacksons of the world as false prophets. Do so in no uncertain terms! Bear down on their obvious ideological bias! Call them on their blatant political partisanship! Yank the covers off their un-Christian behavior! Tell the truth and shame the Devil! Now observe how I, the very modestly equipped Stuffed Animal, undertook the task:

Dear Mr. Brown,

On your Memorial Day weekend telecast, you hosted Conservative Bishop Harry Jackson. This man is fast becoming notorious among Lesbian and Gay Christians for his virulent Bible bigotry. To be sure, he made some outrageous anti-Gay statements on your show, distorting Scripture in the process. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common tactic of the religious Right Wing; they have no shame when it comes to twisting and misquoting Bible verses! There's an urgent need to refute the kind of corrupt theology Bishop Jackson practices and, with your indulgence, I'd like to do so right now. It takes some detailed explanation to clarify texts that are so widely misquoted, so please bear with me. I'll try to make my comments brief. Let me address just five of the most scurrilous points he made:

1. That Bible scripture explicitly forbids same-gender marriage.

There is no such explicit prohibition! While you can reasonably infer from Scripture that the institution of marriage was meant to accomodate the coupling of men with women, you cannot infer that loving commitments between people of the same gender are forbidden. In fact, Scripture indicates otherwise! Look at the Covenant established between David and Jonathan in the first book of Samuel:

1 SAMUEL 18: 1
. . . the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul . . . then Jonathan made a Covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.

1 SAMUEL 20: 17
Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own life.

Right Wing theologians deny it, but the Biblical narrative clearly shows that David and Jonathan's relationship was erotic in nature:

1 SAMUEL 20: 30
Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan(his son). He said to him: "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen (David) the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness?"

2 SAMUEL 1: 25, 26
(David sang) How the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan, greatly beloved were you to me! Your love was wonderful, passing the love of women.

Biblical scholars have confirmed that the phrase "shame of your mother's nakedness" used in the context of the above-quoted verse refers to genitalia (see The New Oxford Annotated Bible). Here, King Saul is accusing his son of having a sexual interest in David! The unmistakably erotic phrase "passing the love of women" is self-explanatory.

Now it may be, as I believe, that the spiritual nature of unions between men and women differs from that of unions between two men or two women. It may well be that "marriage" is not the proper word for Lesbian and Gay couplings. However, that hardly means Gay couplings don't deserve the same legal protections that heterosexual ones get! Nor does it mean religious leaders should impose their subjective Scriptural interpretations on secular law; and it defintely doesn't mean that they're free to create an explicit Biblical prohibition against same-gender marriage where none exists!

2. That the Ten Commandments' prohibition against adultery condemns homosexual conduct.

It doesn't! Here are the Commandments:

EXODUS 20: 3-17
1. You shall have no other Gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in Heaven above or that is on the Earth beneath, or that is in the water uder the Earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them . . .
3. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God . . .
4. Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it Holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother . . .
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house (or) your neighbor's wife, or . . . anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Adultery is sexual infidelity in marriage. As you know, the vast majority of Gay people can't legally marry! Of course, there are homosexual women and men who marry heterosexual partners. They do this either in a misguided attempt to "cure" themselves, or in order to meet cultural expectations. Some of them commit adultery, and some of the few who are legally married to same-gender partners no doubt do so as well. This is sinful. However, the vast majority of married partners who commit adultery are heterosexual! The Seventh Commandment applies equally to them. The sin of adultery has nothing to do with sexual orientation! However, the sin of false witness almost certainly has bearing on the following assertion made by Bishop Jackson:

3. That ancient temple prostitution parallels modern homosexual status, and that all male temple prostitutes were homosexual.

There's no proof that all male temple prostitutes were homosexual, and the Bishop knows it! Some of them undoubtedly were, but intelligent people know that prostitutes come in all manner of sexual orientations. There are Lesbian hookers and heterosexual male hustlers who ply their trade with men as well as women. They sleep with whoever can pay their asking price. Sexual orientation is irrelevant to what they do! The practice is like a job for them, and there's no emotional attachment. Homosexual love, on the other hand, is an emotional attachment! It can only be experienced by Lesbians, Gay men and Bisexual persons. Homosexual status is not synonymous with prostitution! To date, we haven't seen any reputable study concluding that all or most homosexual folk are members of the sex trade. Factual evidence being what it is, I find it highly unlikely that we ever will.

4. That failure to worship God properly leads to homosexual conduct.

This was a contention of Paul the Apostle, as recorded in his famous letter to early Roman church leaders. Here's the passage Bishop Jackson cited:

ROMANS 1: 18-27
For though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened . . . they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being, or birds, or four-footed animals, or reptiles . . . for this reason, God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another.

What Paul argues here is that God causes people to participate in homosexual acts as punishment for idolatry! In no other Scripture do we find this bizarre premise. I submit that Paul was expressing his own highly subjective opinion. Is it so unthinkable that an Apostle could be mistaken? Not unless you ignore the fact that he was human like you and me!

Somebody should ask the Bishop who he worships: God or the Apostle Paul? He would no doubt respond by saying that everything in the Bible is true. He'd argue that the Bible is the direct word of God, and that the Apostles were vehicles for His word; but should God's word change depending on which vehicle is expressing it? Paul's letter to the Galatian churches reveals that the Apostles disagreed among themselves on doctrinal points:

GALATIANS 2: 11-13
. . . when (the Apostle) Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from (the Apostle) James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction; and the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even (the Apostle) Barnabas was led astray . . .

So they were imperfect vehicles at best! As a Bible scholar, Bishop Jackson ought to know this already. Don't the Gospels repeatedly show us how, during Jesus Christ's lifetime, their faith in Him constantly fell short? How could anyone familiar with the Gospel narrative attribute infallibility to the Apostles? Accordingly, since their writings appear in the Bible, how could anyone consider Scripture infallible?

What we call the Bible did not exist in Biblical times! It is neither the direct word of God, nor is it inerrant. Bible scripture is man's interpretation (and re-interpretation over many centuries) of God's word. It reflects humankind's biases and limited understanding of what God does. The aforementioned passage from Romans illustrates those limitations. Think about it: If homosexuality is an abomination to God, why would God cause people to practice it? And if God does punish idolatry by imposing homosexual desire, as Paul claims, wouldn't Jesus Christ have included such an important fact in His own teachings? Why didn't He? And why don't His teachings support the following doctrinal points made in Paul's letters:

. . . I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or robber.

Doesn't this description encompass many of the people that Jesus Christ associated with in his lifetime?

Women should be silent in the churches! For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Wasn't it women who were first told to spread the news of the Savior's resurrection? Isn't it true that His male disciples lacked faith and did not believe?

Clearly, the Apostle Paul sometimes deviated from the teachings of Jesus Christ! He did it often enough that Simon Peter is recorded as having said of his letters, there are some things in them hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16). Yet Paul's Conservative teachings made him the Apostle most favored by early Church leaders. This explains why so many of his letters ended up in the New Testament. However, this ideological favoritism did not and does not make Paul the ultimate authority on Christian doctrine! Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority, as He Himself confirmed in Matthew 23:10: You have but one instructor, the Messiah.

"Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil" continues with Part Two.

Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil (Part Two)

Prohibitions against male homosexual conduct (there are none pertaining to women) appear in the Old Testament, specifically in the book of Leviticus. Levitican law does not apply to Christians; ironically, Paul himself said as much in 1 Corinthians 9:20: To those under the Law, I became as one under the Law (though I myself am not under the Law . . . [I] am under Christ's Law). And what is this Law of Christ that he referred to? It's basically a modified version of the Ten Commandments. You can find it in the 19th chapter of Matthew, but you won't find any prohibition against homosexual contact there:

MATTHEW 19: 18-19
1. You shall not murder.
2. You shall not commit adultery.
3. You shall not steal.
4. You shall not bear false witness.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

In that same chapter, Jesus Christ discusses proper relations between men and women. This would've been the perfect place to re-affirm Levitican prohibitions against homosexual conduct. However, the Savior didn't do that! Instead, He exempted certain men from the requirement to marry:

MATTHEW 19: 11, 12
(Jesus Christ said) "Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery." His disciples said to Him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." But He said to them: "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this (teaching) who can."

Although today the word "eunuch" refers to castrated men, in ancient times it was used broadly to define castrated or uncastrated men who lacked sexual interest in women. Many homosexual Christians, myself included, believe the Savior was talking about Gay identity here. Regardless of whether you agree with that interpretation or not, it's clear from the previous passage that Jesus Christ did not condemn same-gender sexuality! The Apostle Paul may have wished to amend Christian Law to support his personal prejudices, but he did not have the authority to do so. Neither does Bishop Jackson! The Bishop duplicates the error that many of his Fundamentalist brethren make by placing Paul's teachings on the same level as those of the Christ!

5. That pornos, the ancient Greek root for the English word pornography, refers specifically to homosexual men.

There is no basis whatsoever for implying such a thing! Translated from Greek, "pornographos" means "writing about prostitutes." "Graphos" refers to the written word. "Pornos" means a man who sleeps with prostitutes. Some scholars argue that "pornos" can also mean male prostitute, but even if that's true, a male prostitute is not the equivalent of a Gay man! Granted, the Bishop would very much like to equate homosexuality with prostitution; in his comments to you, he made that desire quite clear. However, he cannot impose his own subjective definitions on ancient texts!

The Bishop laughed off suggestions that his doctrine was tainted by political ambition, but I'm sure I wasn't the only viewer he failed to convince. When he speculated so animatedly about the prospect of Conservative mega-church members assuming leadership positions in business and government, his lust for secular power was palpable. Despite protestations to the contrary, Bishop Jackson revealed himself to be exactly the craven political animal he denies being! The Liberal preachers he criticizes, such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, do have their faults, but at least they have enough integrity not to fudge their political affiliations the way he does!

I found the Bishop's statement connecting the Bush administation to "moral" beliefs almost as disturbing as his Bible distortions. I wonder, just how moral does the Bishop think George W. Bush's policies on torture are? Or his policy of permitting corporations like Halliburton to engage in war profiteering? Or his policy of imposing discredited "abstinence-only" education on AIDS-ravaged developing countries? Or his policy supporting the death penalty, which directly violates the Sixth Commandment? If Bishop Jackson thinks such policies constitute morality, all I can say is, Heaven help his congregation! Judging by the Bishop's view of Mr. Bush, as well as some of his own dubious activities, I don't think he'd know morality if it bit him in his buttocks!

The Bishop and a group of like-minded clergy gave a controversial press conference last month. They denounced pending Federal legislation aimed at deterring violent assaults against LGBT Americans. They called homosexual orientation a "choice," a contention that has been thoroughly discredited! They also advanced an absurd argument that extending Civil Rights protections to Gay citizens cheapens the African-American struggle for equality. What sacrilege, to mount such a shameless display of bigotry in the name of God! Would Bishop Jackson dare attempt to support his laissez-faire position on hate crimes with Scriptural citations? His participation in such a hateful event was appalling and reprehensible. No true Christian would ever oppose stopping a group of people from being criminally targeted, regardless of what sin he believed that group had committed!

The Bishop is a fraud! I think Satan is the god he really serves. He dishonors the true God with his self-serving, bigoted and partisan false prophesy. He dresses up hatred in pious robes and tries to pass it off as Christianity! I would strongly caution him to remember what Jesus Christ taught about such practices:

MATTHEW 7: 15-23
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit . . . every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and throw into the fire! . . . not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven. On that day, many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many deeds of power in Your name? Then I will declare to them: "I never knew you! Go away from me, you evildoers!"

What a bitter fate for someone who identifies as a man of God: To be rebuked by the Lord and shut out of Heaven forever! Bishop Jackson had better change his wicked ways. If he doesn't, the thorns and thistles he uses to harm Lesbians and Gay men may well become a means to his own spiritual destruction!


Stuffed Animal

We allow the lies of Bible bigots to go unchallenged at our own peril. I've said so before. If a lie is told often enough and never gets challenged, people will begin to believe it! The Bush administration's war propaganda should teach us that much.

Politically ambitious charlatans like Bishop Jackson deliberately lie about Gay identity! They lie strategically, consistently and often. They peddle their toxic falsehoods wherever they find a welcoming public forum. They accuse LGBT people of destroying the family. They call us sex addicts and conduits for venereal disease. They equate us with prostitutes and pedophiles. They even blame us for catastrophes like the September 11 terrorist attacks! They say any offensive thing about us that pops into their sick imaginations, and they friggin' get away with it!

Despite a total absence of proof for their libelous claims, the national media treats them as if they were experts on homosexual topics! Let an issue like same-gender marriage, diversity education or open military service come to the fore, and TV producers are sure to solicit inflammatory comments from James Dobson clones! These smug propagandists are repeatedly trotted out before the cameras, trusted with giving the "moral" perspective on our issues. Hatemongers, lecturing the public on morality! This is to laugh! Stuffed Animal isn't laughing, though, and neither are millions of other Lesbian and Gay TV viewers who have to endure this sickening spectacle over and over again.

Of course, public affairs TV isn't the only place we get smeared. Churches, synagogues and mosques also serve as anti-Gay propaganda centers, and LGBT demonization is practiced even more effectively there! Millions of Christians, Jews and Muslims are taught every Sunday that we're a blight on humanity and destined for Hell, and they accept this erroneous teaching as (dare I say it?) gospel.

Worse, they also accept as gospel their ministers' scurrilous babble about the Gay "lifestyle", Gay "recruitment", chosen sexual orientation, heterosexual conversion through prayer, and any number of foolish claims. In evangelical churches, superstition, stereotype and rumor run rampant! Radio and televangelists contribute their share of falsehood, too, and one-dimensional TV shows like "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" feed into the climate of defamation. (Sometimes, we really can be our own worst enemy!)

Even so, there's ample scientific evidence on hand to refute the crazy claims made about us. Check out this summary of existing evidence compiled by Dr. Jeffrey Pascoe . . .

Are these facts being disseminated, though? Is their existence even acknowledged by most print and broadcast media? Hardly!  Instead, we get a steady urine stream of undiluted misinformation. Harry Jackson, Jr., relieving himself on "Tony Brown's Journal" is the latest disgusting example! Journalists are charged with getting the truth out to the public, but where we're concerned, truth seems to be the last thing they worry about. This has got to stop!

"Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil" concludes with Part Three.

Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil (Part Three)

ken burns+sarah

KEN BURNS with his lovely daughter, SARAH McMAHON

Wanted: Award-Winning Educational Documentarian!

The 2001 documentary Jazz made me a fan of Ken Burns, double Academy Award nominee and Emmy award-winning documentarian. While I wouldn't call myself a Jazz enthusiast, you'd have believed otherwise if you'd seen how fascinated I was by this PBS mini-series. As it unfolded over a succession of nights, I found myself completely drawn into its compelling story of a classic American music genre and all the legendary artists it produced. I remember how disappointed I felt at having to miss a couple of installments, and how pleased I was later when I found the complete series on VHS tape. Ken Burns was a filmmaker who definitely knew how to make history come alive for a mass audience! The degree of acclaim generated by Jazz and its predecessors, The Civil War (1990) and Baseball (1994) affirmed that I wasn't alone in that opinion.

Mr. Burns has produced other PBS projects since then, and they've been quite well-received; in my opinion, though, they've failed to show off his talents to their best advantage. I've got an idea that would surely put him back at the top of his game! If I could contact the filmmaker (and I actually have tried), I would ask him: Isn't it time you documented the history of Lesbians and Gay men? Why haven't we already seen such a film? Why hasn't PBS commissioned it? I can't think of any subject that would have more educational value, and the American people desperately need to be educated about this subject!

Much of what they know about Gay people is grossly inaccurate, yet they're going to the polls regularly to vote for or against our Civil Rights. In addition, hate crimes ordinances are being voted up or down by city councils all over the country. Issues involving Gay marriage and parenting are increasingly going before our national courts. The US military is straining for manpower, but large numbers of skilled Lesbian and Gay personnel are being expelled for no good reason. Openly Gay men are forbidden from donating blood, again, for no good reason!

Our government demands that other nations honor the basic Human Rights of their citizens even while practicing blatant sexual orientation discrimination as its official policy. What's more, it turns a blind eye when Lesbians and Gay men are persecuted, imprisoned and executed in nations like Zimbabwe, Egypt and Iran. All of this is happening in an atmosphere of profound ignorance, and it's simply intolerable!

We need a nationwide education initiative to facilitate a rational conversation about Gay identity and Gay issues. A multi-part public television series would be the perfect way to jump-start such an initiative. Is that such a radical concept? I don't think so. We've had miniseries on PBS about evangelical Christians and Muslims. We've had miniseries about the Black and Latino Rights movements. We've had documentaries about women's struggles for equality. It's our turn, dammit! Television should present the story of LGBT existence to Straight America, and for once, get the facts straight!

To be sure, a Gay history miniseries would spark controversy, even among some who identify as Gay. It would challenge religious orthodoxy, and the orthodoxy would no doubt retaliate. The Public Broadcasting System would likely be accused of "radical secularism", and its Federal funding would probably be threatened. None of those reasons justify not doing this kind of documentary. The risk of backlash is far preferable to living with the miserable status quo!

If PBS could lessen the tremendous amount of ignorance that exists about who and what Gay people are, it would be well worth the potential trouble! It would be worth a generation of Gay people pledging lifetime financial support to PBS, and if the documentary was as compelling as Roots, The Civil War, Eyes On The Prize or Jazz, I think that could happen. After all, there's every reason to believe that Lesbians and Gay men form a significant portion of the viewership for public TV!

So . . . are you listening, Mr. Burns? How's about it, Corporation for Public Broadcasting? Are you prepared to document a people whose incredible diversity encompasses every race, every religion, every class and every nation on Earth? Are you ready to tell the story of Magnus Hirschfeld, the pioneering German Gay Rights advocate? To introduce America to Edward Carpenter, a defiant openly Gay man in 19th century England? To discuss the influence Black Gay men had on the 1920s' literary and cultural movement known as The Harlem Renaissance? To describe how military purges of Lesbian and Gay soldiers during World War II directly led to the formation of modern Gay identity?

Don't you want to spotlight activists like Harry Hay, Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings, Gay Rights pioneers whose activism predated Stonewall? To highlight the work of famous LGBT musicians like Dusty Springfield, Lesley Gore, Johnny Mathis, Elton John, Ricky Martin and Luther Vandross? To honor the work of famous LGBT actors like Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Danny Kaye, Tyrone Power, Sal Mineo, Dirk Bogarde, Paul Winfield and Raymond Burr? To focus not only on Gay contributions to the arts, but also to academia, politics, national defense and the health care fields?

How can you pass up a chance to explain the significance of the Stonewall rebellion and its aftermath? To reveal how groups like ACT-UP and Gay Men's Health Crisis helped turn the tide on the American AIDS epidemic? To examine the behind-the-scenes intrigue that led to the removal of homosexuality from the APA's list of mental illnesses, and the repeal of US sodomy laws? To show that the late Mychal Judge was just one of millions of Gay people whose presence in the Christian church has enriched it over many years? And that's not even the half of it, Mr. Burns! The lessons you'll learn about human gender will be nothing less than astounding.  This is a story so fascinating in nature and so all-encompassing in scope, it promises to take you and your viewers in myriad directions simultaneously.

Are you willing to tackle the project of a lifetime? LGBT folk have a remarkable history, and you've got the kind of seasoned storytelling skills that can bring it to life. Dude . . . let's do lunch!

23 May 2007

What About The Word "Queer?" (Part Three)

Anybody who's been reading my blog for any length of time knows that the word "queer" is anathema to me! I hate that this demeaning term (facetiously coined in the early 1990s by Outweek editor Gabriel Rotello) has now become the preferred way for homosexual men and women to describe themselves. Like baggy jeans worn without a belt, it's a dumb-ass fad that refuses to die; now it seems there's no usage that's too blatant or inappropriate, and no manner too ludicrous for the word to be used in!

A book with Gay subject matter is called "queer literature." A movie with Gay characters or a Gay storyline is an example of "queer film." A course on Gay American history qualifies as "Queer Studies." A painting, sculpture or performance piece by a Gay artist is labeled "queer art." Whatever happens to be going on in a Gay ghetto gets called "queer culture." Non-White Gay people get branded "queers of color." When Gay teenagers get together, the gathering must needs be called a "queer youth" group. A same-gender couple with children gets singled out as a "queer family." A Lesbian or Gay man who believes in Jesus Christ is now supposed to be a "queer Christian"!  WTF? Can you say "blasphemy"?

As if that wasn't bad enough, what about "queer Bible study?" That one almost made me lose my lunch when I heard about it. We all know about the infamous TV shows "Queer As Folk" and "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy"; thankfully, one has gone off the air, and the other has all but ended production. However, I wouldn't be surprised if some Gay writer or producer weren't busy devising a new show that incorporates "queer" in its title. It seems the more I rail against this rotten word, the more common it becomes! Would you believe even some of my Straight acquaintances have begun using it around me? As you can imagine, this has led to some very tense moments.

Sometimes, it seems as though I'm alone in my disdain for denigrating language. Twenty-first century Amerian culture certainly is awash in it: From Conservative pundits calling presidential candidates "f*ggots", to comedy routines riddled with insulting dialogue, to inner-city parents screaming unspeakable names at their infant children in public. It's got me in a perpetual state of shock!

Yet I'm heartened by the outrage that greeted radio host Don Imus when he casually used a sexual slur to describe a women's basketball team. I'm also encouraged by the serious discussions now taking place about bigoted, hateful and demeaning song lyrics. Even some Gay activists are getting the message! Yesterday, I picked up a copy of a local Gay periodical, and found something inside I had despaired of ever seeing: An editorial that takes LGBT folk to task for adopting obscene monikers. Frankly, I was overjoyed to see it!

The author of the editorial is Ms. Stephanie Bottoms. She's a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, where she served as editor of Vanguard, a campus newsletter for LGBT students. The use of "queer" is especially popular among young LesBiGay adults, but thankfully, Ms. Bottoms isn't typical of her age group. Somehow, she's managed to rise above the okey-doke mindset of current political analysis. She understands what constitutes minority group empowerment, and what doesn't. Her essay got down to the real nitty gritty, and I found it  refreshing to read! Here are some key excerpts:

Some people choose to embrace the word "queer" because they believe it is an all-inclusive term for individuals who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersexual. It's a one-syllable word that puts us all on the same playing field, right? Let's consider that. Imagine you have just moved to the big city, and after being taunted in your small town with names such as "queer" and "f*g", you are so excited and relieved to know that you are coming to a place with a higher acceptance (of) LGBT individuals. You start looking at a list of local organizations, trying to find the Gay-Straight alliance in the area. You're ready to get involved and start living your life as a happy, "out" individual. And what do you see as your heart sinks? The "Gay-friendly" local organization is called Queers United! All-inclusive? Try telling that to this person.

Here, Ms. Bottoms smashes the lie that our frequent use of "queer" cleanses the word of its hostile connotation. As if we had the ability to erase its traditional meaning! What a joke! We can't even agree among ourselves on what the revised meaning should be (see my previous essays on this topic).

Even if we could, it's hardly enough to just re-define a word! You have to get everybody to accept your new definition. Bigots and bullies will never accept a benign version of "queer"! Not when the derogatory version gives them so much power. It has always enabled them to view LGBT folk as inferior and contemptible. It's a weapon of supremacy that they're not about to give up; radical "queer" activists are chasing a linguistic pipe dream!  And they could be making so much better use of their time!

Moving forward with her analysis, Ms. Bottoms takes aim at the language fascism currently practiced by arrogant Gay leadership:

So how do (Gay) organizatons justify using this word in their names? In 1997, Queers and Allies at the University of Kansas published a response in its organization's magazine . . . regarding its (controversial) name change. As the Vanguard stated, the group decided to change (its) name "because 'queer' is a word gaining wider and wider acceptance in political and academic circles, and we consider ourselves to be part of the forefront of this movement" . . . I understand that LGBT groups are always trying to . . . keep the Gay Rights movement rolling. However, coming out of the closet is hard enough, and "queer" alienates prospective members and supporters. If some members of the LGBT community want to use the word to describe themselves or their friends, that's fine, but leaders of organizations should not take their personal opinions and impose them on citywide and national LGBT populations. Isn't (that) creating more of a gap among members of (the) community?

It most certainly is creating a gap. To say the least, it's insensitive to lump disparate groups of people together under a demeaning name with no regard for how they might feel about it. How dare an elitist cadre of Gay activists presume to manipulate the public's perception of me? That's no different than what Right Wing propagandists do!

I, for one, refuse to affiliate myself with any group calling itself "queer"! Surveys have shown that older Lesbians and Gay men, political Conservatives and most people of color aren't likely to do so, either. I don't agree with Ms. Bottoms that it's ever OK for LGBT individuals to identify with the Q-Word, but her point about the divisiveness of derogatory labeling is well-taken. And she doesn't stop there:

The LGBT community is constantly battling Conservatives, bigots and all those who generally disagree with our beliefs. What do you suppose they call us behind our backs? How can they take us seriously if we are the ones calling ourselves "queers"?

More important, how can we take ourselves seriously? How can we effectively fight our oppressors by adopting the very language they use to oppress us? As political strategy, it's nothing less than insane!

"What About The Word Queer" continues with Part Four.

22 May 2007

What About The Word "Queer?" (Part Four)

To justify wrapping the Q-word around themselves, White Gay folk often point to the Black community's fondness for the word "n*gger." They cite the way many African-Americans exchange it as a so-called endearment, and note its prevalence in Hip-Hop and Rap lyrics. And yes, it's true; that disgusting slur has been a part of my ethnic group's casual vocabulary for as long as I can remember!

I daresay a majority of Black people in North America may be in the habit of using the N-word (or its working class variant, "niggah"). That doesn't make it right! During World War II, a majority of US citizens took to calling all people of Japanese descent "Japs." It was a shameful thing to do, but in time, most Americans repented of this racist usage. Obviously, we didn't retain the lesson we learned back then! Today, the widespread use of "n*gger" is every bit as shameful and racist. Who's using it doesn't make any difference!  When are we going to get a damn clue?

Lately, public utterance of this obscenity has gotten completely out of control. It's now commonplace to walk down a city street and hear youngsters yell the N-word as a greeting . . . and not just Black youngsters, either! I've heard White, Asian and Latino kids do it, too.

I'll never forget how startled I was one day while riding public transportation. A teenage Latina was sitting behind me; her command of English was modest at best. Nevertheless, she was complaining in English about her boyfriend to a girl sitting next to her, and guess what name she called him? Congratulations! You win this evening's door prize!  Girlfriend sure wasn't using it as an endearment, either! I assure you, hearing the N-word pronounced with a strong Mexican accent wasn't even a little bit cute!

Just as in the case of "queer," the traditional, insulting definition of "n*gger" has not disappeared. Listen closely to the context in which it's used in Gangsta Rap lyrics, and also take note of what streetwise Black men tend to scream at one another when they're angry! It's not so benign after all, is it?  To be sure, White racists don't define the word any differently than they did before (and neither, it seems, do scorned Latin lovers).

Epithet cleansing doesn't work! Black folk have been trying to redeem the N-word since the days of slavery, and they still haven't done it. They never will! You can normalize racial and sexual slurs easily enough, but as long as bigotry continues to exist, you cannot de-stigmatize them. Frankly, I'm ashamed of the part African-Americans have played in keeping this horrible remnant of bondage and segregation alive!

One thing Black people haven't done, though: We haven't plastered the N-word on our social and political organizations! Nor have other marginalized groups adopted slurs for official use. You're never going to hear about a "Jungle Bunny Student Union" or a "United Darky College Fund" or a "National Association for the Advancement of N*ggers." Don't hold your breath waiting for a "Sp*c Studies Department" to appear at your state university, or for a conference of the "National Council of W*tbacks" to be booked at your local convention center! It'll be a cold day in Hell before you can play bingo at the neighborhood "K*ke Community Center", and you'll be cold in your grave before you hear Gloria Steinem speak at a seminar of the "National Organization for C*nts." File those examples under the heading of Things That Ain't Never Gonna Happen! African-American, Latino, Jewish and feminist leaders understand the value of presenting a respectable public face. Why don't Gay leaders understand this?

That we dare to come together in groups called "Queers and Allies", rave about a stereotypical reality show called "Queer Eye", talk pompously about "queer theory", demean our Straight friends by calling them "f*g hags" and "lezzie lovers", and stigmatize our children by calling them "gaybies" and "queer spawn"(can you believe the level of idiocy?) reveals an appalling level of political immaturity on our part, not to mention internalized self-hatred.

We should be ashamed of ourselves! Instead, we display our lack of maturity as if it were a badge of honor. We brandish words like "f*ggot," "d*ke," "tranny", "b*tch" and other slurs like they're going out of style! We disrespect Lesbian and Gay elders and others who object to the "queer" label by using it on them anyway, if not in their presence then behind their backs. We foolishly brag about "reclaiming" vicious epithets, ignoring the fact that they were imposed on our predecessors by hatemongers and were never ours to begin with!

Why do we need to bathe ourselves in profanity? We say it's necessary in order to avoid "political correctness". Necessary, compared to what? We say it's important to appear "cutting edge", but why? Since when has Gay identity been the equivalent of haute couture, constantly needing to keep up with fashion trends? Where are our priorities? Exactly how is publicly identifying ourselves as "queers" going to win respect for our Civil Rights struggle? What good does it do us to affirm Straight society's perception that LGBT status is abnormal? That's what the word "queer" means; it doesn't merely connote "unusual" as some misguided souls have attempted to argue.

Never mind about negative consequences, though! We've convinced ourselves that embracing sexual slurs is a smart thing to do. Yeah, we're smart, all right . . . so smart that we've figured out a way to be radical and reactionary at the same time! Man, that's the kind of smart that gives education a bad name!

In my opinion, it's not how we come across to others that's the most important thing to consider. It's how we come across to one another. The question Stephanie Bottoms posed deserves an answer: How can a closeted Gay girl or boy who's grown up surrounded by anti-Gay sentiment feel comfortable around people who bathe themselves in anti-Gay insults? Is this derogatory self-identification supposed to be a manifestation of Gay pride? To an outsider, it sure doesn't look proud. Nor does it look that way to insiders like me. It looks twisted! It smacks of masochism and decadence. It feels like a marginalized community that's resigned itself to pariahdom. Who in their right mind would want to leave the closet in order to join a group like that?

Quiet as it's kept in certain circles, most Lesbians, Gay men, Pansexual and Transsexual persons don't want to be pariahs. Ostracized or not, more and more of us refuse to see ourselves as outcasts. We know that we're an integral and necessary part of mainstream society! Ellen DeGeneres gave eloquent voice to our feelings in 1997 when, during a TV interview after coming out, she said: "I (am not) going to sit in the back of the bus anymore! I belong (up front) with everybody else."

Amen, sister! Tell the truth! We're not separatists! We're not interested in giving society the middle finger. We're not leaving the closet in order to appear shocking and subversive. All we want is to be accepted and/or respected for who we are.  And who are we? We're gender-blended human beings. As it states in the book of Genesis (translated correctly from ancient Hebrew), we're like Adam was in the Garden of Eden before Eve was separated from him:

So God created Adam in His image, in the image of God He created Him, male and female He created him.

We are closer to the androgynous image of God than the rest of humankind. Therefore, we can't possibly be defined as "queer"! We are normal. We are natural. What is queer, then? It's any definition of normality that fails to include us! Our presence in the human family does not "queer" it! We don't distort the family portrait, we complete it. We make humankind all that God meant it to be.

There's a lot of talk in Right Wing circles about the so-called Gay agenda. Well, I'll tell you what that agenda is: We want non-LGBT folk to recognize us as family! That's as revolutionary as it gets for most of us, and really, it doesn't need to be any more radical than that.

In closing her brilliant essay, Ms. Bottoms writes:

Organizations that have embraced the word "queer" in their titles . . . have done a backward slide into murky waters . . . if these groups really want to be all-inclusive . . . then they should consider name changes. Otherwise, (they) are encouraging and perpetuating the use of this historically derogatory term. It's time to realign our goals, our messages, and our agenda with a moniker that garners respect and coöperation in mainstream society.

Yes, it's high time we did that. However, I fear the Gay Rights movement has a lot of growing up to do before we can get to that point! We have to outgrow this adolescent fascination with radicalism and rudeness and shock value. I hope the political wild child known as "queer" activism will eventually acquire the wisdom and discipline it needs to reach maturity, and I hope it does so in my lifetime!  Living like Peter Pan can seem awfully fun, but if you never grow up and assume adult responsibilities, just like him, you end up stuck forever at a certain point in time; and, to quote the Rock'n'Roll standard "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" (originally performed by The Shangri-Las in 1966), that's called sad.

09 May 2007

Don't Listen To Toyko Rose! (Part One)

Tokyo Rose

Over at his Christian LGBT Rights blog, my pal Jerry Maneker is recovering from a terrorist attack! A recent essay he wrote about the over-sexualization of Gay identity drew the ire of a Right Wing blog jihadist who called himself "North Dallas Thirty". This joker car-bombed Jerry's comments section with a stream of ideological rants about Gay activist politics, peppered with random links that he demanded be read and responded to.

Jerry was quite bewildered by the surprise attack. His desire to accommodate open discussion left him vulnerable. He briefly allowed himself to be put on the defensive at his own blogsite. I knew what the jihadist was up to, so at Jerry's invitation, I interjected my own thoughts into the exchange. Once I was able to steer the conversation off the wrong track and back on the right one, Jerry realized that his attacker had little or no interest in what he had written. "North Dallas Thirty" was merely using his comments section as a vehicle for the advancement of a personal anti-Gay agenda!

This is a perpetual danger for bloggers who choose to leave their sites un-moderated. Believe me, propagandists will try to hijack your forum! They'll take advantage of your desire to promote dialogue by posting messages of an incendiary nature, messages they have no intention of seriously debating with you. Their only objective is to shout you down, in much the same manner ultra-Conservative pundits shout down voices of reason on mainstream TV news outlets. They want to hone their Tokyo Rose technique at your expense, perhaps with the goal of becoming the next Right Wing media star. (For those too young to remember, "Tokyo Rose" is a generic name that dates back to World War II. The United States War Department gave the name to a group of female radio personalities operating out of Japan. These women were infamous for broadcasting anti-American propaganda in the South Pacific.)

I don't allow such nonsense at Christ, The Gay Martyr! I nip propaganda in the bud before anybody gets the chance to see it. Commentary is, has been, and will always be moderated! This blog is my personal outlet for expression, and it's going to remain so. I'm not about to surrender my forum! I've said it before, and it's worth saying again: This is not a free speech zone!

Free speech is fine in theory, but far too many people nowadays abuse the privilege. They use it as a weapon to attack, to disrupt, and to insult. They use it to encourage the targeting and persecution of ethnic and social groups. Increasingly, they also use it to express themselves publicly with raw, filthy language! I want to keep Christ, The Gay Martyr a family-friendly blog, and that desire alone justifies my decision to moderate responses. I don't want people to click into my comments section and discover a foul-mouthed chat room there.

What Progressive Christian blogmasters like Jerry must always remember is this: You are the producer, director and moderator of your own talk show! You can control who is allowed to speak, what is said, and how much is said. You can invite guests, and you can un-invite them, too, even after you've let them on the air! You never have to surrender your forum, and you really shouldn't. If you do, you risk seeing your oasis of reason temporarily turned into an island of lost souls, and that’s exactly what propagandists want to do! Don't let Tokyo Rose compromise your ministry for even one second!

I wrote a letter to Jerry in the aftermath of the aforementioned incident, and with his permission, I'll share it with you here:

You've just had a close encounter of the reactionary kind! North Dallas Dingbat is a typical Right Wing neanderthal! I know the type. They get off on getting mad at folks who are different from them. Bigotry goes over big with their crowd. Unfortunately, as you know, there's a thriving industry that caters to their unhealthy lifestyle. They can and do listen to the fascism of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage on the radio, read Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin's newspaper columns like they were Holy Scripture, tune in faithfully to Fox News every night and believe every word they hear, and bask in the reckless rhetoric that emanates from a coterie of regressive politicians. They get lots of positive reinforcement for their bad attitudes, which just encourages them to stink up blogsites like yours and mine with their crap!

More than anything, they love to parrot their favorite Conservative pundits: They can't open their damn mouths without political talking points spilling out! When NDT demanded that we denounce a Lesbian predator, I recognized the tactic as textbook political race baiting; it's the equivalent of Ann Coulter requiring Barack Obama to denounce Louis Farrakhan just because both men are Black. As if one member of an ethnic or social group is responsible for what every other member of that group may say or do! It's perverted logic, something the pundit-ocracy is extremely fond of. Dogged repetition of discredited talking points, frequently veering away from the topic of discussion, peppering arguments with red herrings, and sneaking veiled insults into rejoinders are other examples of political PunditSpeak. NDT tapped into all of them!

Deluded people like him live within the boundaries of their own narrow worlds. God forbid somebody should remind them there's a wider reality on the other side of the dungeon door! Poor besieged crybabies! Beset on all sides by feminists, LGBT activists, environmentalists, pacifists, secularists, agitated racial minorities and all other manner of "Liberals". What else can a fascist pig do but bellow and squeal? You'd think terrorists were after them! For sure, the idea of same-gender marriage is enough to make these porkers wet their pants! Honestly, I think the idea of legalized Gay relationships scares them more than Osama bin Laden and a whole armada of 9/11 jihadists! What's really pathetic is how they cling to prejudice like a drowning man clings to driftwood. NDT's arguments were so desperate, so ludicrous, and so unbelievably ignorant, they were almost quaint!

Only they weren't quaint, Jerry, they were sad. If you read between the lines, you'll see that NDT was all but begging us to validate his delusions. He wouldn't back down until we did, and no amount of reasoning could dissuade him. It's like his very life depended on convincing us that Gay people only care about sex. He didn't dare acknowledge the existence of same-gender love and devotion; he had to strip Lesbians and Gay men of their humanity and liken them to dumb animals, incapable of tenderness and solely motivated by primitive carnal urges. That's what I found most offensive about his frenzied broadsides, and why I refuse to dialogue further with him. He can swap that swill with his fellow bigots, but he ain't gonna swap it with me!

Granted, there are Lesbians and Gay men who do think of themselves strictly in terms of carnality. We both know that. I criticized their mentality in my essay titled "The Pleasure Seekers, Part Three". Fortunately, the proliferation of enlightened attitudes means that the numbers of such people are growing fewer and fewer. They're a dying breed, just like NDT. I can hardly wait for the day when they're all put out of their misery; it really can't come a minute too soon!

Here's something else I've said before: The Rush Limbaughs of America have an embarrassment of media outlets to choose from! From what I've seen, broadcast and cable networks jump at the chance to put reactionary pundits on the air. (I strongly suspect it's because, at the corporate level, these networks share their exclusionary, exploitative politics!) As a result, the public is bombarded with Right Wing talking points, so much so that conventional reporting has been thoroughly corrupted by them. If you doubt what I say, then ask yourself why almost every bit of economic news we hear skews toward corporate interests and ignores the concerns of ordinary working people? Ask yourself, too, why Progressive religious views like those Jerry and I espouse are all but absent from mainstream media?

There are precious few venues from which Progressive voices can be heard. We need to monopolize those venues that are available to us, and that includes our blogs. Don't let greedy blog terrorists sublet your corner of cyberspace! Put the kibosh on their crap by enabling comment moderation! Restrict their trash talk to the outlets that already exist for it. When Tokyo Rose comes calling, send her away! Nancy Reagan said it best: Just say no!

"Don't Listen to Tokyo Rose!" concludes with Part Two.

Don't Listen To Tokyo Rose! (Part Two)

Tokyo Rose

The psychopath known as North Dallas Thirty, whom I referred to in the first part of this essay, evidently can't read! The knucklehead is trying to post his bigotry to Christ, The Gay Martyr now! This morning, he sent me this insolent message:

Poor Stuffed Animal. So devoted to tolerance and open discussion . . . so prone to name-calling and censorship. :)

Yesterday, he tried to post another outrageous statement on Jerry Maneker's blog in response to my comments. This last one accused me of promoting incestuous relationships, and worse, of being a NAMBLA sympathizer (NAMBLA is an organization that advocates for legalized pedophilia and pederasty). Here's a tiny excerpt of his libelous outburst:

. . . since you have claimed society has no right to pass judgment on whether or not "love" is valid, then your attempts to prevent groups like NAMBLA from acting on what they define as "love" is hypocritical.

Have you ever read anything so disgusting? NDT isn't just a Class-A bigot, he's a pervert, too! (How's that for name-calling? And that's hardly the worst I could call him. Were it not for my Christian values, I'd be dropping some epithets on the joker vicious enough to hurt his ancestors' feelings!) Even his smiley-face punctuation looks sick!

To equate Gay people with incestuous lovers and child predators is reprehensible, but North Dallas Thirty went much further than that. He dared to talk flippantly about pedophilia, a crime that emotionally cripples countless young people. That's inexcusable! Anybody who'd do that ought to be investigated by the police, because it's a strong indicator of dangerous sexual depravity. NDT has shown himself to be a profoundly disturbed individual, and he needs to seek psychological treatment! For sure, he ought not be posting commentary to blogs. Lord only knows what evil thing he'll feel forced to say next!

I'm making the following statements for my readers' benefit; these comments aren't meant for him, because he is beneath my contempt!  I never enter into discussions with depraved people if I can help it. Who would? I refuse to tolerate bigots, and I say so with pride!  If anybody wants to accuse me of being a censor, then he or she should go right ahead and do it!

Do it forcefully and often, until your face turns red! See if I care. I've been called much worse in my time. Actually, the name "censor" doesn't offend me. Unlike a lot of Progressives, I don't think of censorship as a dirty word. Censorship is like strong drink; too much of it can lead to disastrous consequences, but used in moderation, it can be quite good for you!

It's good for raving bigots to have their inflammatory comments censored! It teaches them a valuable lesson. They learn that some people won't put up with their wild ideological ranting, their ad hominem attacks, and their lewd insinuations. That lesson isn't taught nearly often enough in today's media culture! Just like I told Jerry Maneker recently:

. . . you, being rational and sensible, deleted that comment (from North Dallas Thirty) immediately so that no one else would be exposed to it. But often on TV news shows, depraved "Christian" ministers like Donald Wildmon and local nutcase Jerry Johnston spout the same kind of swill, and they are never censored. No, they're not even challenged, and (their) outrageous statements are clearly false and libelous.

We all need to get in the habit of telling Tokyo Rose to take a hike!  It's the responsible thing to do, it's the intelligent thing to do, and it's patriotic, too! Damn right! Real American values are affirmed every time we refuse to let irresponsible people trivialize and dishonor our Freedom of Speech.

This is a truism that goes well beyond conversations about Gay Rights. It applies to debate on the war in Iraq, abortion, illegal immigration, stem cell research, and everything else we're dealing with right now as a nation. We have the power to make our national debates whatever we want them to be! We can discuss controversial topics in a way that's reasoned and civil, or we can let such discussions deteriorate into acrimonious free-for-alls, divorced from factual evidence and devoid of mutual respect.

We don't have to surrender our public forums to trash talkers! It's all about imposing standards. There will always be standards imposed at Christ, The Gay Martyr! If that fact doesn't sit well with some people who patronize this blog, then they can leave here the same way they came in . . . may the door not hit 'em where the good Lord split 'em!

Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

06 May 2007

Island Of Lost Souls (Part One)

The climate is horrible in Jamaica these days, and I'm not talking about anything related to global warming. I'm talking about the climate for justice. Jamaican LGBT folk are finding it anything but balmy and mild!

The island's heavily macho culture has mixed with virulent heterosexist theology and genocidal Pop music to create a toxic atmosphere, one where anti-Gay violence is not only tolerated, but encouraged. You've heard the old saying "the truth will set you free?" In Jamaica, the truth can shorten your life! The closet is culturally enforced with Gestapo tactics! Anyone suspected of being Gay risks getting mobbed in the streets. Anyone suspected of involvement in a same-gender relationship risks getting killed. The same goes for anyone who openly advocates for Gay Rights.

A bloody trail of shootings, knifings, stranglings, bludgeonings and stonings winds along the streets of Kingston, Negril, Mandeville and other towns; the list of hate crimes lengthens with each passing month. Within the past three years, two prominent Jamaican Gay activists have been murdered in cold blood. Unbelievable as it may seem, the deaths of Steve Harvey and Brian Williamson were greeted with cheers, raucous laughter, and even singing! A crowd of leering spectators gathered at Williamson’s home to celebrate his fatal stabbing.

According to an October 2006 story posted at GayCityNews.com, members of the assembly screamed: Let’s get them one at a time! and That’s what you get for sin! Others mouthed hateful lyrics from “Boom Bye Bye,” a popular Reggae tune that calls for the extermination of all Gay men (such recordings are common in Jamaica, as I wrote in a previous essay titled “Blood On Their Hands”). A few months ago, two women suspected of being Lesbians were executed Mafia-style and dumped in a latrine!

A new version of ethnic cleansing based on sexuality seems to be in full effect on the island. Law enforcement officials often turn a blind eye to such atrocities. Worse, some may even be abetting them! An eyewitness alleges that police in Montego Bay participated in the mob beating of a Gay man, who later died from his injuries.

Jamaican Public Defender Earl Witter probably didn’t even blink an eye when he heard about it. At a news conference last week, he stated in no uncertain terms that Gay people who "flaunt" their status deserve whatever happens to them! After delivering a plea for tolerance that was more limp than a damp dishcloth, Witter excoriated "brazen" Gay men whose public displays of effeminacy "excite violence and mayhem." Blaming the victims wasn't enough; Witter then proceeded to paint them as criminals! "Buggery (anal intercourse) is an offence punishable by imprisonment at hard labor," he cautioned, and added ominously: "Tolerance has limits." Evidently, so does human decency!

I learned about the latest outrage committed against LGBT Jamaicans at PamsHouseBlend.com, an excellent blog when it comes to current events. Someone with a cell phone camera documented a murderous mob's vicious attack on a Transperson in the town of Falmouth; Pam Spaulding was one of the first bloggers to post the horrendous scenes online. At Jasmyne Cannick's blogsite, I found this detailed news account of the crime, taken from The Jamaican Observer:

According to eyewitnesses, the man was spotted at approximately 8:30 AM in the town center, apparently waiting for transportation. He was wearing heavy make-up, high-heeled shoes, a long pair of shiny earrings, a black leather jacket over a snug black-and-white blouse, a tight-fitting pair of jeans, a black wig, a pair of sunglasses and a handbag slung over his broad shoulders. It was not clear yesterday how the alarm was first raised. However, the Observer was told that the assault began as soon as someone in the busy square shouted that the person was actually a man wearing female attire.

The news of the man's presence in the community spread rapidly, and in a matter of minutes, scores of angry residents converged on the scene and began to rain blows all over the cross-dresser's body with sticks, stones, and whatever weapon they could find. "Where is the police station at?" the frightened man screamed. During the melée, the wig the man was wearing fell off, and wads of newspaper stuffed in a brassière to lift the man's chest dislodged, while a cosmetic kit containing lipsticks of varying colors was thrown from a bag he was carrying, much to the amusement of the large crowd who stood watching. "Batty boy fe' dead!" persons among the mob shouted. The sentiments were echoed by the rest of the riled-up crowd: "Falmouth no pet no batty boy! We no want none a' them 'bout here", one woman yelled.

The term "batty boy" is vulgar Jamaican patois used to refer to Gay men. It's the equivalent of "f*ggot" or "queer."

After the mob dispersed, the victim was whisked off in a police service vehicle, much to the disapproval of the crowd, who rushed upon the vehicle demanding the man's release. "If you ever did see him, him dress hotter than you and me", one young girl was overheard telling her friend. "Nu worry, man, we gi' him a proper (beating)", one man said proudly. The man was admitted to hospital. However, a police spokesman said last night that a group of people, who wanted to beat the man on his release, were waiting outside the hospital, which, he said, could delay his release from the health facility.

Horrendous! And lest anyone be tempted to think this was an isolated incident, the news account adds:

Yesterday's beating was the second such in a month in western Jamaica. In the previous incident, several men alleged to be homosexuals (sic) were chased, beaten and stabbed, resulting in one of them being hospitalized, during the Supreme Ventures Carnival on Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay. The men were said to have gone onto the stage and gyrated (???) on each other, angering the patrons.

What chilled my blood most when reading this news account was the attitude of these mobs. They were totally unrepentant! Shameless in their bigotry, and arrogant in their homicidal philosophy, these murderers were downright proud of their heinous acts! In their twisted minds, men "gyrating on each other" (whatever that's supposed to mean) or a Transperson in wig and high heels deserved killing. They felt justified acting as judge, jury and executioners, and in public, no less! What barbarity! What degeneracy! What a perversion of the Christian values they dared to espouse! These savage Jamaican bigots displayed no sense of morality, at least none that most sane people would recognize. It's as if civilization had passed them completely by!

Right now, it's mainly Gay bloggers who are spreading the news of this appalling incident. Over at Jerry Maneker's Christian LGBT Rights blog, you'll find a call to action from the head of the Metropolitan Community Church. The Reverend Nancy Wilson has asked all people of faith to bombard Jamaica's Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, and the Jamaican Council of Churches with emails. She's urging everyone to vigorously protest the island's genocidal climate for homosexual men and women. I really couldn't comply with her request fast enough! Here's the email that I sent:

I'm addressing this email to Prime Minister Miller, and to the leadership of the Jamaican Council of Churches. Please act to curb the horrible atrocities that are occurring in your country! Far too many times, I've read detailed news accounts of Jamaican Lesbians, Gay men and Transgender people being persecuted, brutalized and murdered. The Reverend Richard Johnson, Brian Williamson, Steve Harvey, Victor Jarrett, Nokia Cowan, Candace Williams and Phoebe Myrie were some of the murder victims. In some cases, the killings were celebrated by crowds of people singing violent Dancehall Reggae lyrics. Jamaican Reggae artists, once famous for their songs of peace and justice, are now increasingly notorious for their musical celebration of violence and anti-Gay hatemongering.

It seems to outsiders like me that contemporary Jamaican culture all but encourages these outrages. That culture must change! Public officials and theologians must speak out forcefully! You must reaffirm both secular and religious law that condemns murder. Even if you misread Bible scripture and believe that LGBT folk are deserving of misery and death (something that runs contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ! Read the laws for Christians that He laid down in Matthew 19), you cannot believe that people who visit misery and death upon them are blameless in the eyes of God. Before Jamaica becomes internationally known as the Capitol of Anti-Gay Violence, you must act to raise consciousness and enforce the rule of law.

It may already be too late! Jasmyne Cannick calls Jamaica "the most homophobic place on Earth" and has given up hope that the situation will ever get better. "(Bigotry is) so ingrained in their culture," she says, "and (it's) practically condoned by the government." Should the island's officials continue to let anti-Gay violence rage out of control, an economic and cultural boycott is definitely in order! If Jamaica's government is indeed a genocide government, like Jasmyne believes, then we need to give it the same treatment we gave the apartheid government in South Africa!

"Island Of Lost Souls" concludes with Part Two.