21 May 2014

Life During Wartime (Part One)

This Ain't No Party . . .

Christ, The Gay Martyr will cease being an active blog soon. Before that happens, I'd like to put some final thoughts on record.

On Super Bowl Sunday 2010, the CBS network telecast the big game. The commercials that ran between plays are worth taking note of: CBS reversed a long-standing ban on issue-advocacy commercials and aired an explicit anti-abortion message from Focus On The Family. Most Gay people should know Focus On The Family as a vicious anti-Gay propaganda organization which portrays us as child predators and funds "ex-Gay" movements. CBS had worked extensively with the group to refine the ad and finesse its ideological message, At the same time, the network rejected an ad from a Gay couples matchmaking website. In its place ran a highly offensive commercial featuring two effeminate men engaged in "b*tch slaps".

I take three lessons from these facts. 1) That CBS has no respect for its Gay viewers. 2) That CBS respects and wants to court Right Wing viewers. 3) That if I respect myself, I must never watch the CBS network again.

I grew up with the network of "The Evening News with Walter Cronkite," "The Ed Sullivan Show", "Perry Mason" and "I Love Lucy". It is now as much a part of my past as those shows are!  This is an action I must take for the sake of maintaining my dignity as a Gay man.

Some would accuse me of overreacting, of being "politically correct." Well, if my politics aren't correct, what's the point of me engaging in the political process? LGBT Americans need to draw a line in the sand, and incidents of brazen disrespect are where we should draw it. I'm not OK with disrespect! Are you? If so, why? Nobody should be OK with disrespect, especially the kind that fuels ignorance, misogyny and heterosexism! We've got to start taking disrespect seriously! When it's intense enough, disrespect can escalate into disturbing problems like vilification, disenfranchisement, violence and genocide. Don't look now, but that's already happened! It's been happening for a long time.

If you're Gay, you can be legally deprived of housing and employment in most parts of the United States. The international picture is even more grave. You can be executed in Iran. You can be murdered in México. You can be flogged in Nigeria. You can be fined in Burundi, banned in Cuba, detained in China, imprisoned in Malawi, denounced in Poland and censored in Lithuania. You can be chased by mobs in Kenya, stoned by mobs in Jamaica, beaten up by police in Russia, and tortured to death by Muslim extremists in Iraq. You're sure to be legislated against in Uganda, rounded up in Egypt, deported from the United Arab Emirates, and sent to a labor camp in North Korea. Your human rights are protested in Spain, Zimbabwe, and India, and your existence is criminalized in more foreign countries than I can count; not to mention escalating rates of anti-Gay violence in the United States. And believe me, horrific things can happen to you anywhere if you're Transsexual! Very few countries in the world are safe for you to live in. Check out this State Department report.

Among the many issues important to LGBT folk, there are none that need be prioritized over others. They're all pressing concerns, and they demand acting on simultaneously. Each Gay, Pansexual or Transsexual person prioritizes issues according to his or her own personal needs. That's the way it should be; I've always said so.

However, I do believe there is one overarching issue that unites us all, regardless of ideology, gender, class, color, or national origin: Safety! The right to be secure in your LGBT person. The right to live, work, study and play without being beaten up, raped or killed! Freedom from endless threats and taunts. Freedom from hearing yourself denounced as a menace to society. Freedom from pressure to marry, produce children, identify as male or female, dress in a certain way, or join an "ex-Gay" program. Freedom from the indignity of seeing your citizenship downgraded to second-class! In other words, we need a world in which our basic humanity is respected. In most of the world, even large parts of the United States, such respect does not exist! Everything we do as activists, no matter which issues we prioritize, must somehow be connected to the goal of expanding our safe space.

Knowing how hazardous it usually is to live as a perceptibly LGBT person outside the western world, it infuriates me to see how frivolously and recklessly American Gay people behave! For too many of us, equality goals pale in comparison to the next circuit party, the next steamy porn video, the next over-the-top Pride parade, or the next personal appearance by Lady Gaga. We totally take for granted the relative freedom we enjoy, and seem clueless about how quickly it could be taken away. It happened before, in Weimar Germany during the 1930s. It could easily happen again! All that's necessary is a combination of grave economic times and angry, demoralized masses. Hello! Under such circumstances, citizens are quick to embrace reactionary agendas. We'd better be watching our backs! What do you bet that when our power-hungry Bible bigot enemies see us acting out, they don't also see the word "scapegoat" written across our Pride banners in huge letters?

Some of us believe that humor is the best weapon to use against Right Wingers. The security value of clowning has been greatly exaggerated; Michael Musto can go on cable TV and dress up in Sarah Palin drag as many times as he likes, but she'll never be intimidated by him! Mind you, humor can be a weapon against bigotry, but it's not the best one. The best way to fight any form of ignorance is with education. Behavior that reinforces perceptions of Gay people as celebrity-worshipping, trash-talking, party-hopping, outrageously attired (or barely attired), sex-and-drug-crazed exhibitionists doesn't educate anybody; it leaves ignorance intact!

I've been labeled a "drama queen", and I'm often told to "lighten up" with my criticism of so-called Gay culture. Lighten up, my Black Gay Christian ass! Taking our condition too lightly is precisely the problem! A world where Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena and Lateisha Green weren't allowed to live and where untold numbers of Gay and Transsexual children are driven to consider suicide isn't a world where LGBT folk can afford to act stereotypically "light in the loafers"! David Byrne and Talking Heads said it best on their 1979 cult hit "Life During Wartime": This ain't no party/this ain't no Disco/This ain't no foolin' around!*

At the end of 2009, I listened to TV and radio pundits sum up the year in issues. The only ones who said anything about Gay issues were Gay pundits! We are not taken seriously by the mainstream media. Why should we be, given how the media portrays us? Remember that Gay matchmaking ad I spoke about, the one that CBS rejected? I got a chance to see it online. It played same-gender love for belly laughs, like an outtake from "Saturday Night Live". This kind of burlesque imagery was barely an improvement over the "b*tchy queens" ad that did air. When the Right-leaning Straight media makes LGBT folk out to be freaks and clowns, Left-leaning Gay media should be trying to undo the damage. Instead, it damages us more, eagerly adding its own slanderous, demeaning characterizations to the mix!

It aggressively promotes a lexicon of disrespect. Pundits, journalists and talk show hosts work overtime at "reclaiming" heterosexist insults for casual use: "Queer", "gender queer", "queen", "homo", "f*g", "d*ke", "tr*nny". Suddenly, you can find this ugly terminology everywhere! Now progressive educators who want to validate LGBT students see nothing wrong with mounting "Queer Day" celebrations on campus. One of these misguided events took place last year in Chico, California. Lord deliver me! How much more difficult does going to school need to be for Gay kids?

And how likely is it that a prominent LesBiGay professional like Anderson Cooper, Robin Roberts or Steve Osunsami would want to come and speak to a "Queer Day" assembly? Why does Gay media want to make it harder for role models to leave the closet? Do they really think popularizing slurs won't have negative consequences? There's a heavy price to be paid for identifying your own minority group with sneering put-downs. That price is credibility!

Let me illustrate the importance of credibility in another way. Mexican-American actor Gilbert Roland, one of the stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, was a Pansexual man. In the late 1940s, he briefly took over the role of the Cisco Kid, and in such films as The Gay Cavalier (1946) and King Of The Bandits (1948), he dared to give the character a subtly bisexual edge. A scene where Cisco and another man suggestively smoke cigarettes together is amazing! So is another where Cisco kisses his faithful companion, Pancho, full on the lips. The scene is not comedic; the two of them are about to be executed. Gilbert Roland was definitely not your father's Cisco Kid! But his interpretation of the character was more than just sexually groundbreaking. Roland's Cisco was suave, worldly-wise, artistically inclined and smartly dressed in high Mexican charro style. Duncan Renaldo had already played the role, and he would later put a definitive stamp on it; but audiences still respond strongly to Gilbert Roland's rich portrayal. He brought a pride and dignity to Cisco that was impossible to ignore!

Near the end of his life, Roland spoke of his desire to dignify the screen image of Latinos. "I refuse roles that picture Mexicans as ridiculous, quaint, or foolish", he stated firmly. "I (always) wanted to be sure the Mexican was not portrayed as (a) clown." Why would this be a concern to him? It's because early American cinema was rife with various Frito Bandido stereotypes which insulted both Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. At this time, Latinos suffered social discrimination similar to that Black people faced. Like Sidney Poitier and other socially-conscious stars who followed in his wake, Gilbert Roland understood how uplifting positive media representations are for a downtrodden community. Had he ever portrayed an explicitly Gay or Pansexual character, I’m sure he would’ve made that role as classy as he made the Cisco Kid. I’m also sure he would find the cartoonish, one-dimensional images of LGBT folk that populate today’s entertainment media repulsive!

Positive media images do more than just lift the spirits of a despised minority group. They help increase that minority group's credibility with the power structure. We tend to forget what being in the minority means: that we aren’t plentiful in number! This is especially true of the LGBT population. While we may actually be more plentiful than other groups, it isn't apparent because so many of us are still closeted. Also, don't forget about the Fundie hate machine that cranks out anti-Gay propaganda every Sunday morning! There's still a high number of Straight people who don't know much about us other than the negative stuff they hear in church.

All too often, media images provide heterosexual folk with their only known exposure to openly LGBT persons. The majority’s impression of who and what we are is largely formed by what they see of us on screen. If they see dignified faces, they get the impression that we are a dignified group. On the other hand, if the faces they see are foolish, they get the opposite impression. That’s the difference between what Gilbert Roland did in the 1940s and what Sacha Baron Cohen (Brüno) does today! When are we finally going to move beyond our version of the Frito Bandido stereotype?

Life During Wartime (Part Two)

This Ain't No Disco . . .

The word "Transgender", as I explained in my essay titled "The Angel Gabriel" has acquired an importance to me that I never could have predicted. I now recognize its meaning, its true meaning, as the key to LGBT identity! Transgender refers to people who transcend biological gender. It has nothing to do with the idea of being "born in the wrong body", although people who feel that way do fall under its definition. So do I, a Gay man who has never strongly identified as male.

Ironically, had I been thinking about it back then, I could have gleaned the truth about gender from my high school Spanish books. In Spanish, nouns have gender. Those nouns with the prefix of "la" and that end in "a" are feminine. Those with the prefix of "el" and that end in "o" are masculine. However, there are exceptions to that rule! Some words have blended gender: la mano (the hand), el día (the day), el alma (the soul). Therefore, there are three genders in the Spanish language: Masculine, feminine and neutral. These three genders also exist in nature; LGBT existence is proof of that! It's time for people of binary gender (heterosexual men and women) to stop denying reality. We need to stop denying it, too!

Science has no definitive answer to the question of why some people are homosexual, pansexual and transsexual. However, Scripture does provide an answer. Care to join me for some Bible study? I promise you'll be surprised. What I have to say might even rock your world!

Correctly translated, the Book of Genesis tells us that God created humankind in His own image/In the image of God He created him/Male and female He created him. This passage establishes that God is a Transgender entity! The lower case “him" refers to Adam, whose male and female elements were split into separate bodies so that procreation could start. Men and women are two parts of a whole that long to be united; that's the reason for heterosexual attraction! So this teaching doesn't explain homosexual attraction . . . or does it? Jesus Christ revisits the creation story in the Gospel According to Matthew:

MATTHEW 19: 4-6
(Jesus Christ said) "Have you not read that the One who made them at the beginning made them male and female and said: 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?' So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.

Incorrect translation ("them" substituted for "him") has resulted in a failure of most readers, even Bible scholars, to fully grasp what this Scripture means! Mandated heterosexual marriage isn't the objective here! Men marrying women is the means to reach the objective. The goal is to "become one flesh" as they were "at the beginning". In other words, men and women must become like Adam was in the beginning. Through marriage, they approximate the blended gender that Adam possessed before Eve was created. At that time, he was modeled precisely in God’s transgender image; so the ultimate goal of marriage is to make men and women more like God!

That same chapter in the Gospel of Matthew identifies a special group of people for whom teachings on heterosexual marriage are irrelevant. Jesus Christ calls these people "eunuchs who have been so from birth” (Matthew 19:12). He also mentions eunuchs created by man-made means (castration), but born eunuchs are the ones important to this particular discussion. The word “eunuch” means “castrated man” today, but that was not so in the ancient world! Individuals believed to be of a third gender, a unisex gender, were accorded eunuch status. They also had a reputation for same-gender sexuality (one last time, let me direct readers to Faris Malik's excellent Born Eunuchs web pages for more info).

Significantly, the Savior implies that eunuchs have a connection to Heaven. Now, let’s tie all these loose strands together.!

Science and religion agree that humanity evolved from a single life form. Christianity calls that life form Adam. In order for binary gender to exist today, wouldn’t that life form had to have combined male and female gender within itself? Scripture says that it did. Here is the point where evolution and creationism converge! Adam is the common denominator; and what do born eunuchs have in common with Adam? The blend of male and female in one body. So what modern day group of people fits the description of born eunuchs? Isn't it obvious?

Here, then, is Scripture's solution to the mystery of LGBT humanity: Lesbians, Gay men, Pansexual and Transsexual persons are genetic echoes of Adam in his original, undivided state. We are to humanity what the Model T was to automobiles: The original template! Didn't I say you were in for a surprise? Has your world been rocked yet? If not, then try some of this:

Transgender status, which Scripture calls Fullness, lies at the very heart of Christian faith! God's Transgender creations are the blood that courses through that pulsing heart! Contrary to common wisdom, we are not heterosexual folk who stray from their natural inclinations. We are not freaks “born in the wrong body”. We aren’t perversions of nature by any stretch of the imagination! We are a snapshot of nature as it once was! We are direct descendants of the first life form, whose gender was blended just like ours. (A Gnostic Christian text known as The Egyptian Gospel makes just such a claim. See my essay titled "We Are Family" under the Blended Gender tab.)

Same-gender attraction is nothing but an expression of Fullness! People tend to focus obsessively on homosexuality, but Fullness has never only been about that! Blended gender influences behavior that isn't sexual. Rigid gender roles don’t work well for LGBT folk; we chafe under binary gender conventions, and why wouldn't we? We are as different from ordinary men and women as ordinary men and women are different from each other.

I have come to believe that Transgender or gender-neutral people are linked to God's Covenant with humankind. We’re the human counterpart of those brilliant lights in the sky which signify God's promise not to destroy the Earth. So long as that rainbow of light and the human rainbow both appear, the Covenant will be kept. And you thought our adoption of the rainbow flag was just a coincidence, didn’t you? Of course, it may well be coincidence; this theory of mine is based on an admittedly hazy understanding of Gnostic scripture. When I enter the afterlife, I'll learn whether or not I'm right!

Upon my death, I hope God will also reveal to me the names of all the prominent people in my lifetime who were Gay. If He does, I have no doubt that another theory I hold will be conclusively proven: That civilization could not exist without us! When I see the vast numbers of politicians, scientists, theologians, journalists, philosophers, business tycoons, visual and performing artists, national leaders, war heroes, doctors, lawyers, teachers, social workers, public servants and pioneers of all kinds who were and are secretly homosexual, and I take stock of their many contributions to society, I know they will dwarf those of every other minority group! There won’t be a single social class, discipline or movement that we haven’t penetrated and distinguished ourselves in!

"Queer" is so inaccurate a description of who and what we are, the word would be insulting even if it weren't derogatory! Our presence, our influence, and even our sexuality is normal and essential to the flow of life. Just imagine how much more productive we could be if there was no pressure to hide and deny our true natures. What a curious thing, to be at once so widely disseminated and so widely despised! Curious and tragic, but surely no more tragic than what civilization did to a Man from Galilee ages ago. To me, indeed, to anyone who understands that Man's Gospel, there’s no difference whatsoever between the kind of hatred directed at Him and the kind directed at us.

We haven't always been hated, though! Some cultures like the Hebrews did despise and persecute born eunuchs, but much of the ancient world revered us. Because of our gender neutrality, we were actually regarded as superior to other men and women. We were granted important roles in society, like judge, spiritual healer or chamberlain (the original connotation of the word "eunuch"). Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that we adopt a Master Race theory! All I’m saying is, it makes no sense for us to stagger around with crushing inferiority complexes on our backs.

We who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Pansexual and Transsexual are a blessed people! We must reclaim blessed status from the ancient world. Those of us who, for whatever reason, insist that we choose our sexuality must let go of that fantasy! The truth can set us free, so we must begin believing the truth: That there's nothing unnatural about masculine women, effeminate men, transgender bodies or same-gender love. We are not perverts! We are not predators! We are not pedophiles! We are not mistakes. We are an integral part of both nature and religion, and the world needs to know it. We must conquer shame and take our rightful place in the mainstream of society.

Conquering shame requires cutting off the source of shame. For most LesBiGay folk, that source is the Christian Bible. It's safe to say that the Bible is the most hated of documents among Lesbians and Gay men. Nobody hated it more than me; but just a little bit of research exposed the perverse nature of Fundamentalist religion and brought me back to Christianity.

Is it necessary, then, for all LGBT folk to claim Christian faith?  No, but it is crucial that we all learn how to expose the "faith-based" lies that feed our oppression! Anybody who presumes to lead our equality movement must recognize the importance of doing this. They're not worthy of leadership if they don't!

Life During Wartime (Part Three)

This Ain't No Foolin' Around!

What I'm about to say I've said many times before. People haven't paid much attention in the past. Pardon me, then, while I hit the repeat button!

We must develop a sense of outrage at our own persecution. Without it, the equality movement cannot succeed! In particular, we must stop tolerating "faith-based" organizations that siphon our tax money while banning and condemning us! If we cooperate with our enemies when they subject us to injustices, they will do so eagerly. We must own up to our part in this state of affairs, and change our behavior accordingly!

One way to effectively fight back against organized religion would be a Truth Commission. This commission would stage hearings similar to those held in post-apartheid South Africa. We would give public testimony about how demonizing church doctrine has pushed us past the brink of suicide, torn our family bonds apart, vilified us at our own funerals, excluded us from fellowship, and done everything possible to sever our relationships with God. The Truth Commission would travel around the country soliciting testimony from LGBT Americans. In addition, religious leaders of conscience would be invited to offer apologies on behalf of their faith traditions. Naturally, the hearings would be webcast. Putting our collective victimization on record in this way could be enormously compelling! We could deal a crippling blow to the "Ex-Gay" movement, and seriously compromise the undeservedly squeaky clean image of evangelism.

Also, why don't we have a Gay Tea Party movement? Why aren't we targeting Federal and State laws that discriminate against us with the threat of taxpayer revolt? Jeanne Phillips, the advice columnist known as Dear Abby, suggested years ago that hefty tax breaks for LesBiGay citizens was a fair trade-off for discriminatory public policy. It's time to explore her idea in earnest!

Fighting bigotry is both an external and an internal process. We must check our own behavior for evidence of internalized homophobia. For example, a lot of Gay-interest blogs and websites publish photos of professional sportsmen hugging or patting one another's butts after scoring a goal. These photos are accompanied by snarky captions to the effect of that's so Gay, or snide jokes that question the players' sexual orientation.

This is reprehensible! What makes this kind of ridicule any different from the scornful f*g-baiting that heterosexual males engage in? I scolded the staff of gay.americablog.com for doing this, and much to my surprise, they removed an offending post. It's the first (and probably the last!) time any Gay activist website listened to me.

Whether I'm listened to or not, facts are facts: Adopting the oppressor's methods of talking and thinking about ourselves empowers nobody but the oppressor! "Reclaiming" the hateful habits of our enemies is a monumentally foolish act, akin to hugging a venomous snake to your breast. The most vicious bite is the one you invite! I've posted this quote from the late Lesbian author Audre Lorde in countless comments sections, but it seems to resonate more strongly every time I use it: "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." Drop those tools, dammit. Drop them now!

The most alarming effect internalized homophobia has on us comes in the form of lethal sexuality. Millions of young Gay and Pansexual men, especially those of color, risk their health with shame-based sex practices like "fisting", "sounding", "bare-backing", double penetration, auto-erotic asphyxiation and promiscuity. Alcohol and drugs tend to flow freely during these activities, distorting sound judgment. It's fatalistic hedonism, a mindset that Madonna chillingly captures in her song "Revolver": My love's a revolver/My sex is a killer/Do you wanna die happy?/Do you wanna die happy?*

Massive death by orgasm is as effective a way as any to halt the progress of Gay Rights; but would we really die happy, knowing we had rendered the Stonewall riots meaningless? Please think about future generations of LGBT kids. Don't they deserve a better example? We must decline society's invitation to become sexual automatons! An automaton is a mindless life form that doesn't care what it does. Once you stop caring, you stop being human! People who've given up their humanity are neither pleasant nor safe to be around! They make easy targets for scapegoating, too.

As I wrote this essay, Madonna's music was on my stereo. Her hit song "Four Minutes" makes me think of the quickie Gay activism that's become predominant in this era of YouTube and reality TV. Activists today hustle for their four minutes of fame (whittled down from the proverbial fifteen minutes that Andy Warhol spoke of), and it's always about the four minutes, not about advancing equality goals in any substantial way!

I call them the Pig Farmers of Gay Pride! They've learned how to make thousands of Gay people come running at the sound of their hog calls. Squeal! Let's have a kiss-in! Squeal! Let's have a Million F*g March! Squeal! Let's hit workplaces with a Day Without Gay! Squeal! Let's march on Washington for the umpteenth time! Squeal! Let's tape "It Gets Better" videos for Gay bullying victims to watch in-between f*g-bashings! Squeal! Let's protest marriage inequality by having Lesbians marry Gay men! Squeal! Let's protest Proposition 8 with a lewd comedy sketch! Squeeeeal! Let's stage a Gay Rights demonstration in the nude! Lipstick on a pig never looked more ludicruous!

These miserable excuses for effective Civil Rights initiative amount to self-promotion for the Pig Farmers, brazen opportunism at the expense of reforms they only pretend to care about. It is cynical and dishonest and appalling! We must learn how to recognize phony political activism. We must think before we act: Think about who we want to reach, what the best way is to reach them, and how reaching them in a given way will advance equality goals. It's never been true that doing any damn thing is better than doing nothing! Spontaneity is no substitute for careful planning. Instead of buying into every new Pop-Up protest strategy, our time is better spent researching how to discredit Fundamentalist religion and use the Tea Party model to become a constituency that elected officials don't dare ignore!

There's growing realization that we are not being well-served by our advocacy organizations. Not only does that have to do with opportunism, it's a (mal)function of those groups' Democrat Party affiliation. Gay Rights leaders long ago hitched our movement’s wagon to Liberal politics, ensuring that our fortunes would rise and fall with that of the Democrats. That is, whenever they feel it’s safe to acknowledge us as a constituency! Often, they don’t! It's a miracle that Gay Americans have even the modicum of political recognition we currently enjoy. I'm sure feminist, immigration, poverty, health reform, anti-war and environmental activists feel the same way sometimes. When it comes to progressive issues, the Democrats are weaker than watered-down Gatorade!

Is there anything more impotent than the Progressive movement in this country? It jawbones endlessly about pushing government in a Socialist direction, and then campaigns for Democrat candidates whose policies list toward the Right: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama! How much sense does it make that disaffected Republicans would launch a Tea Party movement? They do this after giving George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the most reactionary President and Vice-President in American history, two consecutive terms! Bush genuflected to the call of his Right Wing constituents, and he's got the Supreme Court nomination record to prove it; but the Limbaugh lobby still isn’t satisfied. So Conservatives get what they want but agitate for an even more extreme agenda, while Liberals rarely get what they want but settle for whatever crumbs the Democratic Party brushes on them! This is smart politics? Compared to what?

Settling for crumbs guarantees that we’ll get nothing but crumbs! We must reject incremental remedies for injustice. We must stop trying to hedge our bets and figure out the surest path to equality. All bets are off when dealing with the high degree of antipathy we face! We must begin acting like full-fledged citizens, instead of like sniveling outcasts, grateful for the tiniest consideration from politicians! Nobody ever gets mad at Aunt Thank-You-Ma'am; she's always so obsequious and agreeable. The other side of the coin is that nobody respects her, either! They know she'll settle for any old piece of garbage that's thrown in her direction.

Aunt Thank-You-Ma'am

It is not our responsibility to keep certain candidates or a certain party in power! Rather, it's the responsibility of political leaders to justify us keeping them in power. If they don't, we must withdraw our support from them and seek others more worthy of it. In doing so, we must become blind to party affiliation.

Accordingly, we must stop approaching elections as if they were crap games! We can't continue to support Democrats who are lukewarm or cold on our issues just because we think they have the best chance of winning. Instead, we must be doggedly issue-driven, like our opponents on the Right Wing. Gay Rights platforms must be for us what anti-abortion platforms are to Fundamentalist voters: A make 'em-or-break 'em litmus test for candidates! Progressives frown on single issue voting; as political strategy, they think it’s unsophisticated. If it’s such a lousy idea, then why has it worked so well for the other side?

Unwavering commitment to local and national candidates who consistently champion Gay Rights, for as long as necessary, will ultimately make them viable for office. We'll start out losing more races than we win, but if we hang in there, our winning tallies will increase over time. You don’t have to take my word for it, though: remember a dude named Ronald Reagan? For years, nobody thought he could win Federal office. Oddsmakers counted him out time after time, but he held fast to his Conservative principles, and the tenacity of his supporters finally paid off . . . and how!

More and more Republicans like Ted Olson, Andrew Sullivan, Meghan McCain and (believe it or not) the Cheney family are bucking the Fundamentalist wing of their party and declaring that equality isn't a partisan issue. Libertarians and Independents tend to favor our causes, too. We have a broader range of options now, if we're smart enough to pursue them. We'd better be!

The Democrat Party is like Archie Andrews, burning up the ballroom floor with Betty Cooper but all the while, the redheaded bastard is cheating lustful glances at Veronica Lodge! Bettykins, girlfriend! You'd better learn how to vary your dance card, or you'll always end up going home alone!

Life During Wartime (Part Four)

The Revolution Begins At Home!

I know all about going home alone. The Gay blogosphere and I have had a most difficult relationship! I've been banned from the comments section of the Ex-Gay Watch website, threatened with banning at Pam's House Blend, and savaged by patrons of Wayne Besen’s blog while the blogmaster remained silent. The last time I spoke to “Ex-Gay” ministry survivor Peterson Toscano, he called my writing "gunk." Blog trolls have threatened me physically. That’s just the negative stuff I can remember; there was lots more! What brought such stinging disapproval down on my head? Nothing but my message that Gay identity should be respected. That it should always be thought of, spoken of and treated with respect, and that the process begins with Gay people themselves!

I really do believe that the revolution begins at home, and I desperately want it to begin. Accordingly, my goal has been to light a fire under the Gay blogosphere. If I felt it was necessary, I wouldn't hesitate to burn bridges! I've criticized the exhibitionism and frivolity that dominates Gay Pride celebrations. I've criticized the consensus idea that Gay = Sex. Repeatedly, I've criticized demeaning portrayals of Gay people in the media. I've criticized activists for not pushing Gay-related instruction in school curricula. I've criticized violent and racist imagery in Gay pornography. I've called out counter-productive and self-promoting Gay activism. I've scolded activists for their reluctance to directly confront the religious Right Wing. I've hammered home the point that Civil Rights struggles are about morality, not politics. Drama for its own sake never interested me, but there’s nothing like it for raising consciousness!

I like to rip the bedclothes off retrograde thinking and expose idiocy in all its shameful nakedness! Gay organizations allying themselves with groups like NAMBLA (which has happened a few times over the years) is wrong, and I've said so. Denouncing marriage equality on Left Wing ideological grounds is wrong, and I've said so. Praising TV shows that treat Gay people like fetishes ("Queer As Folk", "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy", "The L Word") is wrong, and I've said so. Marginalizing LGBT history as "Queer Studies" is wrong, and I've said so. Exporting the label "queer" to Gay activists in the developing world is deplorable, and I've said so. Dialoguing with "ex-Gay" propagandists as if their arguments were reasonable is dangerous, and I've been penalized for saying so. I don't give a damn! I'm not afraid to get personal, either. I've laid into extreme butch/femme role playing, the equating of Gay sex with sado-masochism, and public sexual activity.

My take-no-prisoners attitude proved unpopular, and I really shouldn’t have been surprised. Saying things nobody wants to hear or think about will make you unpopular, no doubt about that! However, the alternative is to STFU, go along to get along, and be just another dishonest pundit, pretending that the Emperor parading down the avenue isn't as naked as a jaybird. I find myself temperamentally incapable of being that kind of pundit!

Dig it . . . I'm the guy who'll tell kids that Santa Claus is a myth! I'm the guy who'll tell Sinatra fanatics that their idol didn't sing so great in his later years. I'm the Black guy who'll disagree when Black folks deny skin color was a factor when they voted for President Obama. Lord deliver me . . . I just can't help myself! I've got an automatic bullsh*t detector that won't quit! Not only will I risk going home alone, I won't even dance to music that I don’t like. Guess I took the lyrics of that old Mama Cass song too much to heart:

You're gonna be knowin'/The loneliest kind of lonely/It may be rough goin'/Just to do your thing/The hardest thing to do/But you've gotta make your own kind of music/Sing your own special song/Make your own kind of music/Even if nobody else sings along.*

I still like that song. I like it because the lyrics ring so true. It is hard to do your own thing, and most people don't! They conform to the status quo, even if it's corrupt.

The majority of LGBT folk conform, especially those who fancy themselves the most radical thing since seafood pizza! Society tells them that they're deviant, so they claim deviance. Society tells them that they're promiscuous, so they act promiscuous. Society tells them that they're fringe, so they distance themselves from the mainstream. Society excludes them from marriage, military service, religious faith, etcetera, so they adopt political stances that decry all of those things.

My friend, Rev. Jerry Maneker, has coined a name for them: they're Happy Perverts, willingly buying into the pariah status that cruel heterosexists have created for them. What they get out of it is the right to call themselves culture rebels. In exchange, they give up dignity, integrity and justice. I'll be damned if I ever do a business transaction like that!

The life options that Happy Perverts reject are essential options worth fighting for! That's why I've declared war on the Pervert Mentality, and there will be no truce declared! My mission is to root saboteurs out of the Gay Rights movement so that its objectives aren't compromised from within. I know the odds are stacked against me; I've come under heavy fire, and I've been wounded a few times; but I'm in this thing for the duration! I've gotten used to life during wartime, so . . . see you on the battlefield, sugar!

Christ, The Gay Martyr has been an incredible learning experience for me, and I hope it's been so for others as well. Now, it's time for me to explore new opportunities. To those few who became followers of my blog, thanks so much for walking this journey with me! Extra special thanks to Jerry and Eileen Maneker, who’ve been my battle buddies for many months. Join me next time, when I open and close my Final Book of Testimony.  

Originally published in March 2010.

Rainbow America

*Excerpt from "Life During Wartime" by David Byrne, copyright ©1979 Blue Disque Music/Index Music (ASCAP). Excerpt from "Revolver" by Madonna, Dwayne Carter, Justin Franks, Carlos & Steven Battey and Brandon Kitchen, copyright ©2009 Webo Girl Publishing/Artist Publishing Group West/j. Franks Publishing/Apartment Four Publishing/Mall B Publishing(ASCAP)/Warner-Tamerlane Publishing/Young Money Publishing/Artist 101 Publishing Group (BMI). Excerpt from "Make Your Own Kind Of Music" by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, copyright ©1969 Screen Gems/EMI Music (BMI).

19 March 2014

Echoes From A Birmingham Jail (Part One)

Coretta Scott King

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s April 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is one of the defining documents of the American anti-segregation movement. Just about anybody who was alive in the early 1960s has heard of it. Dr. King wrote the Letter during a period of incarceration in Birmingham, Alabama. This was one of numerous occasions when civil disobedience on behalf of racial equality landed him behind bars. If the work MLK put into his "Birmingham Jail" essay is any indication, he certainly used his time in lock-up constructively! It was written in response to a public statement by eight White Alabama clergymen who opposed the confrontational tactics he used. They’d denounced him for leading street demonstrations, and argued that other, less disruptive means should be used to combat institutionalized racism.

It should come as no surprise that Dr. King’s oratory was no less powerful on paper than it was in the pulpit. After publication in the 12 June 1963 edition of The Christian Century, his response stirred such a strong reaction that it was distributed more widely. Most people read the text when The Atlantic Monthly reprinted it later that month. The following year, the Birmingham Jail letter became the centerpiece of Dr. King’s best-selling book Why We Can’t Wait.

After the passage of Proposition 8 in California, and many media stories about Black Californians supporting the measure by huge margins, an old debate flared up again: Are Gay Rights civil rights? Are Gay activists being arrogant when they answer that question in the affirmative? And is it wrong to expect President-Elect Barack Obama, an African-American, to identify with LGBT citizens fighting separate-but-equal provisions?

To me, a Black Gay man who has endured both racism and heterosexism, and who sees no difference in the kind of discrimination they generate, this debate has always sounded silly! That said, I find it outrageous that some anti-segregation veterans would argue that Black folk have an exclusive claim to the term civil rights, and that no other movement dare use it. I beg your friggin' pardon? Have these folks never heard of the Women’s Rights movement? The Farm Workers’ movement? The Disabled Rights movement? I don’t recall hearing any objections when those groups adopted the language! I find it even more outrageous that some idiotic Lesbian and Gay pundits lend this argument credence!

In the final decade of her life, Dr. Martin Luther King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, stressed repeatedly that Gay Rights was a civil rights concern! She was the “fierce advocate” President-Elect Obama now claims to be, but unlike him, she walked the talk! In 1998, she called for Civil Rights Movement veterans to support our struggle. In 2003, she personally invited the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to participate in a 40th anniversary commemoration of her husband’s March on Washington speech. In 2004, two years before her untimely death from cancer, she shocked many in the Black community by championing marriage equality (something her colleague, Rev. Joseph Lowery, still refuses to do). Mrs. King also stated publicly that, contrary to what some religious reactionaries might believe, her late husband did have LGBT citizens in mind when he spoke of equal rights for all people!

I knew this was true because an openly Gay man, Bayard Rustin, had been one of Dr. King’s chief organizers. But is an understanding that Gay people deserve equal rights reflected in his writings? While MLK never made any explicit references to LesBiGay Americans (nobody with a national profile spoke openly about us back then! Besides, his enemies were f*g-baiting him behind the scenes), I suspected his language was broad enough that support for LGBT equality could be inferred. I also suspected that a study of his writings would point up strong parallels between racism and heterosexism. My suspicions were confirmed almost immediately; I had to look no further for confirmation than Dr. King’s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail". I found the text conveniently located on the Web, and I’d like to share excerpts with you here; as is my habit, I've edited them slightly for style.

I’m struck by the similarity between the jive talk MLK had to deal with four decades ago, and the jive talk today’s Gay Rights advocates hear. We're currently catching more flak than usual from the Mormon church and other Right Wing religious institutions. Why? Because we've finally summoned up the courage to picket their houses of worship and cry out against their cruel persecution of us! In December, they went so far as to spend thousands of collection plate dollars on a mendacious New York Times ad, portraying themselves as innocent victims of Gay intolerance. (Yiddish lesson for today: Can you say chutzpah?) That ad can be seen as a modern spin on the 1963 White clergymen's statement targeting Dr. King. Our national advocacy organizations have yet to answer this gross distortion of fact with an ad of their own (and they probably won't), but it's instructive to read how MLK responded to the outraged Fundies of his day:

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects, and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's White power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known . . . Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

I wouldn't presume to estimate how many times equality advocates like the Rev. Mel White and others have approached hetero-supremacist churches, seeking to initiate constructive dialogue. I only know that many such approaches have been made over the years, and every one I've heard about has been rebuffed! The organized Church is firmly entrenched in its philosophy of heterosexual supremacy, a (faulty) Scriptural interpretation that it’s not content to just espouse within its own walls. Oh, no!  It must need spread this pestilence in the public sphere! Worse, it seeks to impose heterosexual supremacy on secular society by targeting the civil liberties of homosexual citizens!

Here's my response to the Fundies' absurd accusations of anti-religious bigotry: If they don't like people objecting to their frequent violations of Church/State separation, they only have themselves to blame! If they think they can expect us to lie still while their feet press down on our backs, they're out of their sanctimonious minds! But that's the kind of clouded thinking that supremacy doctrines produce. Isn't it our duty as compassionate human beings to help them think clearly again?

To be sure, Dr. King had his own beef with the institutional Church. He wrote:

I have been so greatly disappointed with the White church and its leadership . . . I felt we would be supported by the White church. I felt that the White ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement, and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous, and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows . . . in the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched White churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.

I've watched Straight and even some Gay religious folk do the same thing! They're quick to talk about Church unity, which they value over social justice. They evidently want the heads of Lesbian and Gay Christians bowed in shame as well as in worship! They decline to challenge their leadership's hateful proclamations against LBGT identity (yes, I'm talking about the Pope, but certainly not him alone), and they won't lift a finger to correct the Church's distorted Gospel. Have you ever asked questions similar to the ones Dr. King asks in this next excerpt?

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other Southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings, I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"

And where were their voices when celebrity pastor Rick Warren likened Gay relationships to pedophilia and incest? When Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. equated homosexual love to ancient temple prostitution? When Bishop Eddie Long called Gay men "f*ggots" from his pulpit? When Rev. Ken Hutcherson joked about dismembering effeminate men? When the Pope characterized Gay and Transgender humanity as a threat to the Earth's survival?

Conservative evangelicals swear they don't engage in hate speech, but I beg to differ: The record speaks for itself! How many of their Sodom and Gomorrah sermons have motivated the fatal beating of a Gay man (or a presumed Gay man, such as happened recently in New York City)? How many of their misquotations from the Apostle Paul's letters have triggered the gang rape of a Lesbian? How many Transsexual teenagers have committed suicide because they validate a defunct Holiness Code that never even applied to Christians? Exactly how many LGBT youngsters are bullied and ostracized every day because of their reckless condemnations? Where is the Church’s support for victims of its own vilification? A vilification that has neither basis nor justification in Jesus Christ's teachings? More important, where is its repentance? There's a terribly urgent need for repentance here!

Dr. King wanted to know what God such cold-hearted "Christians" worshiped. I'd answer his question with one of my own: Can Satan be considered a god? Nearly half a century ago, MLK took critical note of how far the organized Church had strayed from its Gospel, and he warned that a day of reckoning was nigh:

So often the contemporary Church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church's silent, and often even vocal sanction of things as they are . . . but the judgment of God is upon the Church as never before. If today's Church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early Church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

We're living in the twenty-first century now, and there’s been no discernible improvement in the organized Church’s behavior! On the contrary, it’s gotten progressively worse. There’s nary a trace of authenticity left! As Jesus Christ did before him, Dr. King indicted the Orthodoxy in no uncertain terms, but he praised religious leaders who dared to defy their status quo-loving denominations and call for racial justice. His words of affirmation are also balm to Straight allies like Rev. Jimmy Creech and other Gay-affirming clergy who suffer the wrath of Church administrators today:

Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the Gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

Speaking of disappointment, you'll get plenty of it from reading Gay pundits! Right now the Gay blogosphere, as well as news-oriented sites like The New York Blade and The Huffington Post are riddled with stern op-eds from self-described “queer” activists and their heterosexual (heterosexist?) sympathizers. These op-eds scold Gay people for daring to want marriage equality, for objecting to hatemonger preachers like Rick Warren at a President's inaugural, for demanding full recognition of their American citizenship! That's not the worst of it, either! In an 11 December 2008 Blade article, Neil Giuliano, the president of GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), declared: “It (the equality struggle) isn’t about demanding your Rights.” Incredibly, he saw nothing wrong with making such a spineless statement!

Giuliano and his oh-so-pragmatic colleagues at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund advised us to cease and desist irritating the powers-that-be with explicitly Gay concerns. They said we should concentrate on the economy, health care and other “big tent” issues. If the United States government failed to live up to its promise of equality for all, so be it; our “leadership” couldn't have cared less! According to them, brazen discrimination against LGBT folk can and should be tolerated for the greater good of society.

Dr. King was also interested in society’s greater good. The difference is, there was nothing exclusionary about his concept of society! He believed that discrimination against any minority group threw our justice system out of balance, and that such an imbalance threatened everyone’s Civil Rights:

I am cognizant of the inter-relatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Our “fearless” leaders seem to feel that just electing a Democrat to office is enough to set the stage for equality. We’re supposed to throw all our hopes on the Democratic candidate, work like crazy to get him elected, and then hurry up and wait while he attends to every other constituency’s needs but ours! Oh, he’ll eventually get around to Gay Rights, the pragmatists assure us. He just can’t proceed too quickly or aggressively on our behalf, because that would cheese off his other constituents who happen to friggin' hate our guts!

It’s in our best interests to always put his agenda before ours, and if he appears to renege on his promises, God forbid we should make a fuss! In other words, the Gay Rights struggle is a partisan political fight, to be waged according to partisan political wisdom, and no emphasis at all should be placed on the moral considerations that justify it. This strategy is so embarrassingly lame, it’s almost quaint! Dr. King had to confront the same retarded reasoning in 1963. Here’s what he had to say about trusting a political candidate to correct social inequities:

We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights.

Try substituting the name "Barack Obama" for that of Albert Boutwell, the name "Mr. Bush" for that of Mr. Connor, the label "heterosexists" for segregationists, and the term "Gay Rights" for desegregation. Try it, and you’ll see how Dr. King could easily have been referring to the last Presidential election! Certainly, Wayne Besen and other high-profile Gay activists spoke of Mr. Obama as if his victory were the linchpin that would trigger full LGBT equality. However, when they saw the President-Elect kissing up to enemies like Rick Warren, they had reason to worry about him keeping his promises!

They have yet to learn what MLK understood implicitly: No disenfranchised minority group gets its civil rights served up on a silver platter! You can hire whichever cook you want to cater the dinner party, but if you aren't sitting at the table, you’ll never taste the food! You've got to make reservations at the dinner party. If you can’t make reservations, you've got to disrupt the damn meal! You must make it absolutely clear to the power structure that it can’t dine in peace until your place at the table has been set! Never mind my clumsy dining room metaphors, though. MLK explains the process much better than I do:

My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily . . . we know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed . . . there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

“Echoes From A Birmingham Jail” concludes with Part Two.

Echoes From A Birmingham Jail (Part Two)

Coretta Scott King

Dr. King shared my annoyance with those who counsel the disenfranchised to wait for justice. Wait until a court victory is certain! Wait until there’s less bigotry in the culture! Wait until the political winds start blowing in your direction! He heard all those kinds of warnings. MLK certainly wasn’t blind to the political realities of his day; but as a minister of the Gospel, he saw himself spearheading a moral crusade!

He knew that a moral crusade couldn’t align itself to a partisan political timetable and retain its credibility! He also knew that African-American equality would never be a priority for politicians counting on the votes of racist constituents for re-election. In 1963, that category included John F. Kennedy, the man Barack Obama has frequently been compared to. Dr. King and his civil rights marchers couldn't count on President Kennedy to do the right thing. They had no choice but to crash his dinner party! They had to create tension in the Kennedy administration and lay groundwork for progress on racial issues. This is what LGBT "leadership" fails to grasp! Much of it blanches at the idea of protest rallies and marches. They seem to think the Democratic Party can and will do most of our work for us. Just when did "career politician" and "Gay Rights activist" become interchangeable terms? Far too many people are sold on this wacky idea, even though Dr. King yanked the rug out from under it nearly 50 years ago:

Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well-timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied" . . .

Dr. King also shared Rosa Parks’ impatience with life as a marginalized citizen (see my 2008 Christ, The Gay Martyr essay titled "Save The Country”, Parts One and Two). He didn't suffer segregation laws silently, and I doubt he would understand today's calls for Gay people to tolerate ongoing injustices like DOMA and the US military's "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy! The most important thing about his Birmingham Jail letter is that it made palpable for millions of White Americans the sting of bigotry’s lash on the backs of their Black compatriots. See if you don't feel it, too, all these years later:

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim . . . when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your Black brothers and sisters . . . when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society . . . when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children . . . when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do White people treat colored people so mean?". . . when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you . . . when you are humiliated day-in and day-out by nagging signs reading "White" and "Colored" . . . when your first name becomes "n*gger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs." . . . when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments . . . when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobody-ness", then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

How can anyone counsel patience when every day, Lesbian, Gay and Transsexual citizens are victims of murder or attempted murder? When every day, LGBT school children are beaten up and taunted with ugly slurs they’re too young to even understand? When every day, mainstream preachers, bishops, rabbis, imams and Popes spew dehumanizing definitions of gender-blended people and call it doctrine? When every day, Lesbians and Gay men of faith are subjected to psychological torture in bizarre “ex-Gay” programs designed to stamp shame on their hearts?

When every day, Gay couples avoid kissing or holding hands in public for fear of being harassed, assaulted or killed? When every day, Gay policemen and firemen stay closeted for fear that their colleagues will desert them in a life-threatening situation? When every day, qualified soldiers, sailors and airmen lose their military careers because they refuse to lie about who they are? When every day, Gay or Gay-appearing men enter the prison system and administrators leave them vulnerable to terrorism and rape by other prisoners?

When every day, LGBT folk who work with or care for children live in terror that they’ll be fired by employers who equate them with pedophiles? When every day, textbooks and other literature depicting LGBT folk in a positive manner is challenged for curriculum inclusion and/or banned from libraries? When every day, children of blended gender are disowned by their parents, and parents of blended gender are forbidden access to their children?

When every day, a same-gender spouse is denied the right to visit her sick partner in the hospital, or claim her deceased spouse’s body, or attend her wife's funeral? When every day, religious Right Wing strategists huddle in their million-dollar complexes and dream up draconian ballot initiatives to separate Gay citizens from their Constitutional rights? When every day, our tax money funds “faith-based” public services from churches that not only refuse to hire us but also fuel the bigoted environment that creates the other intolerable situations I’ve discussed here?

It appalls me that so many of us have made peace with life under these conditions! We act as if second-class citizenship were a privilege instead of an insult! If I have to read another op-ed like this one by Pansexual actor Alan Cummingpresuming to tell me what rights LGBT folk should or shouldn’t want, so help me, I’ll go postal!

I'm sure that some of you will compare my list of grievances with that of Dr. King, and you'll come away saying: “African-Americans have suffered far more than LGBT Americans ever have!” Others will come away thinking the opposite. Personally, I don't go there. Why should I? Why should you? What's to be gained by comparing levels of oppression? That’s hardly the point.

The point is what Dr. King said about injustice: All Americans lose when any American is deprived of his rights! When we fail to honor our founding principles, our nation stops being a democracy and begins morphing into a fascist state. However, when we enforce civil rights for every citizen, we set a shining democratic standard that people all over the world are inspired to strive for. Organized Christianity’s stance on LGBT equality notwithstanding, we also set a standard similar to the one Jesus Christ set for His followers. You know . . . that mushy stuff about loving others as we love ourselves?

By the way, the Savior never said Christians should wait until it was easy to meet that standard! He commanded us to meet it immediately, or risk losing our souls to Satan. The Ken Hutchersons and Joseph Lowerys and Rick Warrens of the world are tardy in carrying out their boss’s orders. Please! Let’s not write an excuse for them! Let's not give them permission to dawdle any longer. Let's insist that they live up to the title "Christian", and do it right now and not later!

How about a couple more excerpts from Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"?  I'm sure you won't mind:

We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here . . .

MLK was referring to African-Americans here, but he surely could’ve been talking about LGBT folk. You know what? He really was talking about us! Does anyone doubt that there were Lesbians, Gay men, Pansexual and Transsexual persons among the Black slaves? We already know from historical accounts that the Native tribes Conquistadores found in the New World included Transgender people. What about some of those Pilgrims, too? We tend to marginalize ourselves so completely, we forget that we're all members of other social groups. It's high time we started remembering!

If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

Allow me the liberty of paraphrasing Dr. King's words a bit: If the dark days of imprisonment and institutionalization prior to the Stonewall rebellion couldn’t silence us. . . if the pain of ostracism, ridicule and bullying as children couldn’t break our spirits . . . if the scourges of drug abuse, alcoholism, AIDS and breast cancer couldn’t wipe us out of existence . . . if relentless attacks from thousands of Right Wing televangelists couldn’t drive us back into the closet . . . if the passage of 29 marriage protection amendments couldn’t spoil our appetite for equal treatment . . . and if the traitorous boosters of heterosexism among us don’t succeed in their efforts to turn us off the road to full citizenship, the opposition we now face will surely fail!

We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation, the righteousness of LGBT identity, and the eternal will of God, upon whose Transgender image we are modeled, are embodied in our proud demands. Believe me, it’s no accident that the inspiring messages of Martin Luther King, Jr. transcend racial applications; they were meant to! The provisions of our Federal Constitution transcend them as well.

This Black vs. Gay conflict over terminology is beyond ludicrous! It’s nothing but thinly-veiled antipathy coming from a bunch of Black bigots (both African-American and African). What infuriates me most, though, is the apparently widespread notion among Gay pundits that Black Gay people don’t exist! Ever heard of actor Paul Winfield? He was born Black and Gay. How about playwright Lorraine Hansberry? She was born Black and a Lesbian. Jazz arranger Billy Strayhorn was born Black and Gay, too. So were Blues singer Alberta Hunter, Hollywood choral director Hall Johnson, writer James Baldwin, and Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. A couple of these people were important figures in the struggle for African-American equality, along with the aforementioned Bayard Rustin.

Being Gay didn’t make any of them less Black! Being Black didn’t make any of them less Gay! Most important, being either didn’t make any of them less deserving of their Constitutional protections. Quite a document, our Constitution; read it, if you get the chance! Ditto for the written works of Martin Luther King, Jr., a source of endless inspiration.  Whatever you do, don’t ever let anybody get away with telling you Gay Rights aren’t civil rights!

Read Dr. King’s complete, unedited "Letter from a Birmingham Jail".
Originally published on New Year's Day 2009.