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Blogging Equality Forum 2011

April 25th, 2011 No comments

Equality Forum 2011 The Global LGBT Event

Starting very late tomorrow night, look for my blog posts — both here and over at 365gay.com — on this year’s Equality Forum. Here is the link to this year’s site. There will be a whole bunch of these posts, and it will probably take me a few days after the event to catch up.

I’m especially looking forward to the panels on LGBT rights in Latin America; the family panel; the TG panel; and the International Equality Forum dinner, where I’ll likely be interviewing Patrick Murphy (of DADT fame), Dan Choi (same, with a very different approach!), and Daniel Hernandez (the young man who probably saved Rep. Giffords’s life in Tucson, AZ).

A Hunger Strike? Really?

May 27th, 2010 1 comment

Lt. Dan Choi, the most visible, articulate and angry activist against the DADT policy, has just announced that he’s going on a hunger strike, even as the compromise hammered out between the White House and Congress is set for vote today.

I’ve written about Choi’s views before, and I have tremendous respect for what he’s doing. It’s not too much to say that the compromise might not have happened had it not been for his courageous leadership. By this I mean no disrespect to the many others — former military like Alex Nicholson and his Servicemembers United group, clear and direct politicians like Patrick Murphy, and other activists (including bloggers) — who have been leaning against this wheel for some time. But Choi (and the GetEqual folks with whom I associate him) might have provided that crucial extra leverage to actually start that wheel in motion.

That said, this hunger strike is a colossal blunder. There are three conditions that must be met before he’ll end it, but none are likely. The first, that the study of implementation be stopped immediately, isn’t even a good idea. (This isn’t the same thing as saying that the compromise law, as drafted, is a good piece of legislation — it isn’t, because it allows for the possibility that it will never become law. I have a post going up later this morning over at 365gay.com on this subject and will link to it when it posts.) Of course the implementation should be carefully considered; allowing openly gay and lesbian soldiers to serve will be a major change for the military, which is still surrounded by a toxic cloud of homophobia. Even for the sake of the gay soldiers, for heaven’s sake, considered and thoughtful implementation is a must.

When I heard Dan Choi speak earlier this month, I thought that he well understood the history and the strategy of activism. It seems I was wrong. A hunger strike is a desperate, last-ditch effort to call attention to an atrocity. It’s an all-or-nothing gambit that can’t be repeated (credibly). In this case, it will be nothing.

A Conversation with Dan Choi

May 6th, 2010 No comments

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/05/26/california.same.sex.marriage/art.dan.choi.cnn.jpg

Just posted over at 365gay.com is my take on the conversation with Lt. Dan Choi that highlighted Equality Forum this past weekend. The comments coming in reflect very different views of Choi, whose activism either excites, scares, or annoys people.

Here’s an excerpt, but it’s hard to capture the full measure of what he was expressing without reading the whole thing:

He understands that, at this moment, events like the passage of Prop 8 and the explosion of social networking have enabled his kind of activism to bloom in crazy proliferation. And there’s plenty to protest: More than once, Choi listed a mix of governmental and private discrimination against us, including the gay blood donation ban, bullying of gay youth, and the negation of our relationships by hospitals. These issues don’t go away with economic success.

But it’s Choi’s mention of these issues that leads me to a criticism: He overlooks that the Obama Administration is already addressing some of these issues, albeit not in a way that grabs headlines. Consider the recent memo directing HHS to issue rules respecting patients’ visitation wishes, or the DOJ’s motion to intervene in a gay bullying case based on a contested and progressive view of gender-based stereotyping. I guess a D- is better than an F, but I didn’t hear any acknowledgment of the positives.

It’s not Choi’s role to do that, though. In ways brilliant, blunt, and brave, Lt. Dan Choi is the kick in some clean, crisp pants that need some grass-roots stains.

Sunday Out at the Piazza — Equality Forum Concludes

May 4th, 2010 No comments

At about 1 pm this past Sunday, I set out with my pre-school twins for the newly chic Northern Liberties section of the city, where Equality Forum‘s Sunday Out event had moved. I was especially looking forward to the interfaith blessing of a slew of same-sex commitment ceremonies. Our neighborhood is very progressive and we have many friends but everyone else is either (1) straight or (2) if gay, childless. (Just a couple of weeks ago, a gay couple on the next block adopted a kid. Hooray!) So I thought that watching all of those commitments would provide a cultural corrective to the onslaught of straight messaging and iconography that is so, er, wedded to marriage that I sometimes worry that my kids have trouble understanding anything else — in spite of the evidence right in front of them.

Before I get to that event, though, I want to talk about the misnamed “Family Fun Zone.” It was for LGBT families, all right, but it wasn’t much fun and was hardly a “zone,” unless that term can be accurately applied to a rectangle of scorching blacktop at some distance from the epicenter of the Piazza. When we got there, only a handful of other kids were on hand, and the events were few. Hoping for something jumpy or watery, we settled for face painting — which was actually quite good. Alexa, heavily into a dinosaur phase, opted for T-Rex, whose teeth were cleverly painted around her mouth for a terrifying effect when she spoke. Courtnee opted for a full arm’s worth of rainbow butterflies.

After that, Alexa looked around and said, “There isn’t much to do.” There was no arguing with that (a much better effort needs to be made for next year), so we stopped for some ice cream and then headed back to the Piazza for the interfaith blessing.

We entered from the side furthest from the stage, and at first I wasn’t optimistic about the event. The Piazza was barely half full, and it was hard to see where the undifferentiated crowd gave way to the couples. So we wandered closer. And then I was delighted to be in attendance. The celebrants complemented each other perfectly: Tim Safford, who’d appeared at the History panel earlier in the week, was bright and affirming; Joseph Tolton, of the Rehoboth Temple, was emotional: happy, yet visibly angry at the continued injustice (here‘s a nice thumbnail of his ministry and activism); and Rabbi Linda Holtzman closed the proceedings with a heart-felt Hebrew chant and the ceremonial breaking of the glass. When has that act, meant to reflect the challenges facing the newly married couple, held such rich symbolism? Holtzman offered a communal narration of the ritual, reminding the couples that their joy would be found even in the face of the challenges that not only their relationship but the broader society would throw in front of them.

The kids were quiet and attentive. The only comment I recall during the ceremony was Alexa’s statement that she wanted to stay. Remarkable, given that it was easily 90 degrees on the paved piazza, and that we’d by that point been walking around for about an hour and a half. More than once, they asked me whether “all of these people” were two men and two women. Yes, look around. Two men in matching tuxes. A lesbian couple, with one in a dress and one in a beautiful pants and flowing blouse. An African-American couple, with one man in a wheelchair pushed by his spouse. Some very unconventional couples; others conventional in all but their sexual orientation.

How liberating! Not just for us, but for everyone who just wants to be able to define their marriage in their own wonderfully idiosyncratic way. By now, the crowd had doubled and a huge cheer went up at the end of the ceremony.

Why, oh why, is this so hard for people to understand or, failing that, to at least allow? In an image that flashed briefly in a video following the ceremony, I read this familiar but forgotten sign:

Some people are gay. Get over it.

Is it really more complicated than that? Does anyone still believe that our most virulent opponents are free of their own pyscho-social issues; problems that animate their vitriol? Just today, another story emerged of a sad man, George Alan Rekers — co-founder of the dangerously homophobic Family Research Council — who was spotted with a male escort disembarking from an airplane after a long vacation together. No one’s even surprised by these stories any more. (This guy was really nasty to the community. Read the whole stories for the infuriating details.)

Sorry…where was I?

After that, we wondered around a bit more, found a horse stable (fillies in Philly?) to spend some time, ran into a few folks, and left. While the Family Fun Zone needs some improvement to live up to its aspirational name, the kids learned plenty about family on Sunday.

———-

My piece on the Saturday conversation with Dan Choi will appear sometime during the next few days on 365gay.com. When it does, I’ll link from here. Then I’ll offer a wrap-up piece on the week-long event.

Still to Come on Equality Forum

May 3rd, 2010 1 comment
EF Logo

The event wrapped up today with the sweltering Sunday Out, but I’m still catching up. Here’s a summary of what’s to come:

I’ve written up my interview with David Boies. It will run on 365gay.com, either later today (Monday) or tomorrow. I’ll link to it and excerpt when that happens.

The Conversation with Dan Choi (tomorrow or Tuesday).

Impressions of Sunday Out (not later than Tuesday).

I may also do something on the Sports Panel (depending on availability of panelists to interview), and a wrap-up post.

And so to bed.