Archive for the ‘Equality Forum’ Category

Trans 101, and the Spiritual Heir of Caster Semenya

May 5th, 2012 No comments

Here’s my post on the transgender panel from Thursday night, over at TNCRM.

I won’t try to summarize it here, but most of the discussion revolved around two topics of enduring interest to the transcommunity:

1. What’s the teaching role of transpeople, and are they allowed to get tired of it? Teaching the same course (“Trans 101”) can get tedious after a time.

2. Are gays and lesbians natural allies of the trans-community? On this, the panelists were not of one voice — but all agreed that there was at least one group that had been a steadfast ally. Read more to find out the secret identity of this mystery group!

As for the Caster Semenya reference — well, read the post!


Categories: Equality Forum Tags:

The Pink Wash? Israeli Activist Panel Disrupted by Pro-Palestinian Protesters

May 4th, 2012 1 comment

First post from Equality Forum is up over at the New Civil Rights Movement. Here’s how it begins:

Well, that was interesting.

About an hour into last night’s Equality ForumFeatured Nation: Israel” panel, four or five protesters barged into the room and began shouting about Israel’s inhumane treatment of the Palestinians. They had a huge banner that they never managed to unfurl, and what looked like a manifesto that they never managed to read — because they were quickly dragged out of the room by the hotel’s security staff.

All but one woman. Inexplicably wearing what looked like a Mardi Gras mask, she moved toward the front of the room and tried to speak. For a minute or so, there was a bizarre stand-off between her and several loud and angry audience members, who shouted (unhelpfully) “Get out.”

What happened next? Toggle on over and find out.

Categories: Equality Forum, Israel Tags:

Pumped-up Equality Forum

May 2nd, 2012 No comments

Here it comes again — Equality Forum, Philadelphia’s internationally known and always interesting cavalcade of events that celebrates, informs and provokes on all (or many, anyway) things LGBT. I’ve been blogging the event for the past three years (here’s a compilation of my entries), and am delighted to be doing so again this year.

If you’re coming to this site for EF updates each year, you might be surprised to see that there aren’t already entries for this year’s event. That’s because the format’s been compressed, squeezed from its traditional, week-long schedule down to four days. It kicks off tonight with a big welcoming party, and then jumps into high gear for a bunch of panels tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday.

This new format makes sense. It’s more attuned to people’s busy schedules — especially the many people who come (many of them, for years now) for the entire event. But it does make life tougher for a blogger, because  the highlighted panels for Thursday and Friday run concurrently. I’ll do some combination of running back and forth and simply choosing between the two panels for each session. I might not have any less blogging to do, but I’ll be doing it on overdrive. Highlights from each post will appear here, with links to the full story over at my cyber home-away-from-home, The New Civil Rights Movement. (You should check that site out anyway — it’s packed with information and opinion on LGBT issues. Site master David Badash is nothing if not relentless!)

You can get the full panel schedule here. (All of the Thursday and Saturday national panels are at the Doubletree Hotel.) It’s hard to choose highlights from among so many star-studded panels, but I’m especially looking forward to a few of them, viz.:

  • Tomorrow (5/3), at 7 pm is the National Transgender Panel. It features quite a diverse line-up of subjects of interest to the trans-community, judging from the panelists chosen. In my experience, the TG panels have been among the most reliably interesting, perhaps because, as a community, trans-people have been compelled to think about issues on a level of depth that is not always matched by the rest of our community. (There! I’ve said it.)
  • Also tomorrow, at 8:30, is the Featured Nation: Israel Panel. It features actual Israelis(!), including a city council member and a couple of LGBT tourism promoters. It’s moderated by Mazzoni Center Executive Director, Nurit Shein, who I’ll bet is more qualified than you to be on the panel — she was a career officer in the Israeli Army!
  • Friday at 4 pm, at the National Constitution Center, is the National Legal Panel. Get out of work early and go! Don’t make me repeat myself. They’ll be talking about Prop 8, DOMA, and (apparently) other issues of legal discrimination affecting our community. (I wish they would talk about civil unions, but that’s my axe to grind — and I ground it here.) The panelists are all good — a mix of litigators, policy-makers, and academics — but Bill Eskridge is especially worth the price of admission. He’s really good at explaining legal arcana to those who didn’t invest in a law degree.
  • Right after the legal eagles soar, the National Politics Panel takes the same stage (at 5:30 pm) to talk about the upcoming election and the political landscape. Will appeal to all political junkies of every party (all two of them here in the U.S.).
  • The full Saturday schedule is here. It’s chock-a-block, in part because that’s the day featuring collaborative panels with local organizations and interest groups. Based on my experience, it’s well worth poring over the local options, because you’re likely going to find something of major interest to you — almost every conceivable topic of interest to our community (broadly defined) is represented. There are also great national panels at 1 pm and 2:30 — again, two at each time, so you’ll have to choose (assuming you haven’t already picked a local panel!). Sports, Same-sex Marriage, Military — it’s all here. But perhaps most interesting will be the James Wheeler National Youth Panel, featuring a couple of young men who captured the popular imagination: Chris Armstrong, a U of Michigan student who was harassed by the creepy assistant AG of the state (but who fought back with a lawsuit that resulted in the firing of the jerk) and, most compelling, Zack Wahls. I could go on and on about him, but this will suffice:

There’s also a pretty good play, and more parties than you can shake a groove thing at! (Where…did…I…put…that…groove…thing?) Get busy!

Equality Forum 2011: Transgender Panel

April 27th, 2011 2 comments

Tuesday’s National Transgender Panel at Equality Forum was predictably excellent. This is my third year blogging the event, and the first two panels were just as information-packed, thought-provoking, and moving. (Here are my accounts of the panels from 2010 (second part here) and 2009.)

Moderator Heath Fogg Davis, a Temple University Associate Professor of Political Science, presided over the proceedings lightly, giving each panelist just a few minutes to speak before offering a follow-up question and then turning most of the session over to questions and answers – and the fifty-plus person audience indeed had questions and comments in abundance, drawing the panelists into some interesting and mostly open-ended discussions.

The panelists, in order, were:

Qui Alexander, a community health educator at the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia; Gabriel Arkes, Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering at NYU Law School (and a staff attorney with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project); and Lorenzo Triburgo, a photographer who lives in Portland.

Each speaker was given just a few minutes to offer a few remarks (hardly as formal, it turned out, as the “opening statements” description suggested they might be).

Leading off was Qui Alexander, who teaches sex education to high school and middle school kids (as well as to adults) said that the most imperative task is to focus on youth. Too many – especially trans-yough, are homeless and depend on sex work to survive.

In this regard, Alexander brought up a simple point that had somehow eluded me until now. Although I’ve thought and written about the bullying of LGBT youth (and the ways I think it should be combated), I’d not stopped to realize that this only became a high-profile issue after white gay and lesbian kids started to die. This fate, he noted, is common to trans-youth – and generally unremarked in the mainstream media.

Alexander then concluded by saying that we need to talk about what gender is and what it means. By the end of the session, I’d become convinced that resolving what gender “is” is probably a doomed effort at creating a static definition from a complex process of constantly reimagined definition. Focusing on what it means – as contingent as that project will be – seems a much more fruitful undertaking.

Gabriel Arkes followed. He discussed two illustrative cases from his work on the Sylvia Rivera Project. That initiative, founded nine years ago, takes as its animating principle the insight that injustices aren’t separate, but linked, and then carries that insight into its legal work on behalf of those who are often multi-victimized. The two stories showcase that reality.

One was a young woman – a girl, really – named Elisa Rodriguez. She had grown up in the projects and was doing sex work in order to earn enough money for her sex change hormones. For this, she spent two years – starting at age 15! – in the juvenile detention center where she was imprisoned with boys, and tormented. (As Arkes pointed out later, under the law she would have been considered too young to consent to sex, and therefore been theoretically protected under the statutory rape law.  But never mind justice – or even following the law – when it comes to treatment of the trans-community.)

She sued, and settled for less than she might have in order to bring about policy changes to the juvenile justice system, which have since been implemented.

The second woman (whose name, unfortunately, I didn’t get) was in detention pending deportation because she was born in Mexico. Because of a serious medical condition she required antibiotic treatment, but her medications were taken away when she was in confinement.

Many of her fellow detainees were outraged, and demanded that this woman receive proper treatment. At long last, she was taken to the hospital – too late. Denied the life-saving treatment she needed, she died.

Arkles used these stories to illustrate three basic imperatives for the trans-community.

First, look at health care and ways to improve both its delivery and its quality.

Second, examine and challenge the mass incarceration of transpeople.

Third, stand in solidarity even when doing so courts real risks.

Lorenzo Triburgo then supplied an artist’s perspective on trans-issues, and asked more questions than he answered. He began by describing his work as photographic “representations of trans-masculinities.”

Part of his goal is to make visible female masculinity. (In various forms, each of the panelists made or agreed with the point that some trans-men try to bury their femaleness by creating a hyper-masculine image that, at times, incorporates misogyny.) Triburgo tries to create images of trans-men that depict a certain pride and that play with the idea that a photo can ever be more than a photo – not a representation.

What is at stake, he asked, when we have images created by others that we consume and that others consume?

He’ll be talking about his work today at 2:30 pm. If you want to get a better sense of his art than my poor description can provide, get yourself to his lecture. He’s an engaging and charismatic speaker, and deeply insightful about his work and its cultural context. And by all means, check out his show, which runs all week in connection with Equality Forum.

The rest of the session was taken up with a fascinating exchange between Davis, the panelists, and the audience, mostly about what I’d loosely describe as identity and coming out issues.  A few highlights from this colloquy will have to suffice.

Gabriel Arkles noted that it is unusual to be on a panel of all trans-people. This raises questions about what it means to be connected and represent instead of speaking for other people. (It was also noted, more than once, that the panel was all trans-men; the lone trans-woman who was to have participated had to withdraw at the last minute).

He also spoke to the prevalent conception that trans women are predators, and commented that this view is one of those profoundly damaging stereotypes that’s not based in reality but is instead a way to avoid talking about serious issues. As a pointed example, he discussed the case of young women on a college campus being sexually assaulted in bathrooms, and the diverting response of school officials: Worrying about whether trans-women should be permitted to use women’s bathrooms, given their (wholly unsupported) “safety concerns” —  while doing precisely nothing to combat the actual violence that was going on.

Qui Alexander followed this with the observation that many people would remark that he wasn’t a “real man.” But since he can “pass” as a (non trans-)man, he has the privilege of keeping his identity in reserve, and telling his story when he hears kids disparage the trans-community. He concluded that it’s important to put ourselves out there for others.

Triburgo had a slightly different take, asking these questions:  What are the pros and cons to our community in coming out? Should we make it into an issue? How do we create a space for gender variance?

Perhaps typically for a lawyer, Arkles expressed a more utilitarian view of how disclosive to be of trans-identity. Describing his strategy as “mercenary,” he decides whether to come out as a transperson according to the needs of his clients. (On the other hand, he always comes out as queer. This led me to think about the meaning of queer – isn’t the strength of the term that it takes in all kinds of consciously non-conforming behaviors and identities? – and about levels of societal comfort with these various types of non-conformity.)

Arkles also pointed to safety issues: There are many times when one shouldn’t come out (even less, out someone else) because the result could be their death.

Triburgo then added to the storehouse of things I’d not sufficiently considered before last night’s panel, by asking whether trans-people should use the “natural” argument – to gain legitimacy, and perhaps access to medical and social services they might otherwise be denied. Or should they accept agency for their trans-status, which is the position more in line with the reality of Triburgo’s own political life and identity.

That this had never really occurred to me is just embarrassing. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that homosexuality was “officially” considered a disorder. Getting ourselves “unmedicalized” was a vital step in our continuing battle for complete acceptance into the human community. So let’s start talking about the political and social costs and benefits of terms like “gender dysphoria.”

Let me close with a few observations about mortal matters. All this violence against trans-people – tolerated and even justified by many straight people, as this story about the beating of a trans-woman at a McDonald’s shows – made me think that, for some of them, “every third thought [is their] grave.” (Prospero, from “The Tempest.”)

Why should anyone have to live like this? Arkles spoke with passion in encouraging the more mainstream gay community to get involved in trans-issues.  The violence isn’t the only reason, but it’s reason enough.

I write with more passion and emotion than usual. I’m in the middle of a serious family health emergency, electrically aware of how all of our candles flicker and die. Mostly, we keep these thoughts at bay, but many trans-people don’t have that option, and too many can recognize themselves in Prospero’s chilling line. I wish only that the humanity that we often suppress would flash into the minds of those who would inflict, or stand by and watch, injuries to other human beings.

I won’t be able to deliver on my plan to blog the rest of Equality Forum. I need to attend to this emergency. Life has its own dictates.

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 — 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).

Video from Sunday Out

May 6th, 2010 No comments

Well, it’s really a series of photos set to music — but the stills are moving, nonetheless.

I was talking to a colleague about my Sunday Out post, and I think a point we were discussing is worth reiterating here. Look at the riot of humanity expressing their love and commitment here and then tell me that gay marriages aren’t liberating to straight people, too.  Then ask yourself if you believe that they’re not.

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 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, 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.

Obama Appointees Endure Withering Barrage of Questions and Criticism — But Do Pretty Well

May 2nd, 2010 No comments

Saturday’s Equality Forum panel highlighting some of the Obama Administration’s high-profile LGBT appointees had real fuego potential: Just the night before, Defense Secretary Gates had poured gasoline on activists’ dissatisfaction with Obama et al., advising Congress not to repeal DADT until after the implementation study had been completed. (Here‘s a good summary of what’s been happening.) Many see this as a clear sign that repeal won’t happen until next year, or, in one doomsday scenario, until 2013. Into this tempest strode Brian Bond, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Jenn Jones, Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing (in HUD); an Jeremy Bernard, Director of White House and Congressional Affairs for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Firing questions were moderator Jarrett Barrios, who showed both a whip hand and a new technology facility (7,000 folks were following on Twitter, and some of their questions were asked), and Kevin Naff, Editor and co-founder of DC Agenda (and former Editor of the Washington Blade, which is now up and running again. Great news, if a bit too DC-inside for me to follow.)

I’d say that Bond, Jones, and Bernard are all delighted to be working for Obama Administration. And why shouldn’t they be? By one estimate, there are now about 125 openly LGBT (yes, even two transgendered) people serving in the Administration, including twenty-two “Senate confirmables.” (That term is technically the most accurate, as not all of them were actually confirmed by the Senate; a few took their places via the recess appointment route. Apparently, life in government during the interminable Bush years was a hell-hole, with most formerly out gay and lesbian folks scurrying back into the closet to save their jobs. (I know, it doesn’t sound courageous, but would you give up a job working for the federal government? Are you sure?) Today, the whole atmosphere is different — the first Obama-era meeting of the federal LGBT association drew about sixty people, and the numbers have been increasing. Bond mentioned that committees have been set up to address LGBT issues, including how health care reform can be addressed with relevance to our community. Bond  suggested this clip (which, it must be said, mentions him!) as a way of emphasizing the Administration’s commitment to inclusiveness. It’s long, but moving in that Joe Biden kind of way (especially beginning at about 7:00):

But, to ask the hard question: Has this Administration been good for anyone besides the people with the jobs? Are they tokens to placate us, or are there reasons to think they can or will make a difference?

They already have. Jones discussed a pending regulation that will redefine family in a broader way that will include same-sex couples, a rule change that is now in the review and comment period. Bond reminded us of the recent memorandum that Obama issued to HHS, directing that agency to promulgate regulations that will require almost all hospitals to respect the visitation wishes of patients. Given the first question, I asked whether those initiatives weren’t really measures that were much more than LGBT measures, but ones that would support all kinds of family structures that are currently fenced out under our marriage uber alles regime. “That’s a very good question,” replied Bond. (Of course it is.) Everyone from nuns to WWII vets without spouses can benefit from a sane visitation policy, and the new housing rules will be designed to recognize (and therefore to qualify for housing) all kinds of alternative family structures. (Jones, who grew up in a housing project in Tulsa, has a deep commitment to public housing and those who need it. So it’s not surprising that her advocacy is broad and inclusive.)

There’s more. Under Bush — whom I’m learning to despise even more since the end of his illegitimate Presidency1 — NEH career-types were dispirited because the merit process in place for determining grant winners had been upended by the department head who routinely overrode decisions that offended conservative sensibilities. Now, the process is allowed to work as designed — which of course means that more subversive work will sometimes be chosen.

I know, I know: I’ve buried the lead here. Where’s the good part, the part where Barrios and Naff lay into the beleaguered Obam-ites over ENDA, DOMA, and especially DADT? I’m getting to that, but I wanted to put some of the good stuff Obama’s doing out there —  because these regulatory and policy changes don’t get the press they should, and because tomorrow’s post on my conversation with Dan Choi will provide plenty of pure, righteous, and corrective criticism.

OK, so the fireworks, such as they were: Naff flatly stated that Obama was “not a fierce advocate” for our community, because that term applies only to those who put something on the line, and Obama hasn’t. I think that’s fair. The sub rosa stuff is vitally important to the day-to-day lives of LGBT people, but it’s (mostly) pretty low-risk. And when the chips are down, Obama hasn’t thus far been willing to stand up and shout for us, the way he did so effectively for health care. He’s not taking DADT repeal out on the hustings, making the argument in town halls, colleges, and stadiums. Instead, we get this bewildering “repeal it, don’t repeal it now, declare a moratorium” dance that hardly provides the support that wavering Congressmen and women need.

Would anyone from the Administration defend the Gates memo? Bond did, saying that the Prez was committed to repeal, that it was a question not of “if” but of “how,” and that repeal would happen “soon and right.” He acknowledged, though, that it was going to be messy. But of course it is — let’s see what happens during the next few weeks.

Jeremy Bernard, who seemed to strain not to be too critical (maybe that was just my perception), may have made the money statement that summed up the disconnect between the panel and the angry activists: “We all have our roles. We’re on the inside.”

Yes, they are.

  1. No, “Justice” Scalia, I won’t “get over” Bush v. Gore

Equality Forum’s History Panel: Spotlight on Religion

May 1st, 2010 3 comments

Social justice

You couldn’t swing a rainbow cat at Equality Forum’s History Panel without hearing that phrase. In fact, social justice has been one of the recurring themes at the panels I’ve attended so far, suggesting that the movement is entering a newer, more mature phase and looking toward the day when we can move beyond the identity politics that circumstances have required of us to date.

Of course, one is entitled to expect that the panel of religious leaders would emphasize social justice, and the LGBT rights movement within that context. Although some misguided religious folks seem to spend most of their time on the attack against everything from our community to Obamacare to women’s reproductive rights, any religion (or part thereof) that takes its founding messages to heart invests both belief and blood in ameliorating the difficult conditions in which many people live.

But I was nonetheless heartened (not quite amazed, but…) at the panelists’ willingness to be as direct and forceful as they were. Perhaps the most progressive of the lot were Timothy Safford, who is the Rector at the historic Christ Church Episcopal Church in Old City, Philadelphia. I’ve been there. Two of our closest friends are congregants, and when my partner David had the honor of being named godfather to their second child we attended the baptism. Safford, who’s straight and married, will be one of the three officiants at tomorrow’s blessing of some 100 same-sex unions.

The Episcopalians, of course, are known and celebrated (well, by some) for their progressive stand on women’s issues and for being increasingly welcoming to the LGB (and, to a lessser extent) T community.  Safford and his gay twin (at least as far as dress was concerned — they looked as though they’d decided to confuse us by selecting almost identical clothing for the event) Rodger Broadley, Rector at St. Luke and the Epiphany, had a nice sort of back and forth on issues ranging from the debt the LGBT movement owes to the women’s movement (Safford is particularly eloquent on this point), and on the on-going struggles between the U.S. church and the “home office” back in Britain. With a second gay (lesbian, in this case) bishop to be ordained soon in L.A., both men expect that the U.S. church will be “voted off the island” and made to forge ahead, alone. But that didn’t seem to trouble them, and — oddly, to some — they thought it important not to walk away from the table no matter how exasperated and angry they became. Safford expressly decried his own “moderation” in supporting the compromise reached a few years ago, by which Bishop Gene Robinson’s ordination was “traded” for a promise to ordain no more openly gay or lesbian clergy. As Broadley so movingly put it: “Who are we to tell God who can serve?”

Approaching issues of history and faith from a more academic perspective was L.A. Rabbi Denise Eger. She explained the evolution of the various movements (less formally, “branches”) of Judaism on LGBT issues; as might be expected, the Reform and Reconstructionist sects embraced their LGBT fellow worshippers decades ago, with Conservative Judaism by now fairly far along on that path. She also mentioned that even the Orthodox branch had recently begun discussing our issues, and not in the kind of negative dismissive way that might have been the case earlier, but in a real effort to come to terms with the reality that can no longer be ignored.

Interfaith matters are an area of special interest to Eger, and she described the efforts of a female Muslim cleric in L.A. who is now trying to apply reform principles to that religion. Her comment reminded me that all four of the panelists — as good as they were — represented only the Judeo-Christian tradition. The panel would have been even more compelling had it showcased clergy from Eastern religions.

Rounding out the panel was Francis DeBernardo, who is Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, which has been described as a “national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for lesbian and gay Catholics. I’ll confess that I have trouble understanding why anyone who identifies as LGBT would consider himself or herself Catholic, but that’s my issue. Obviously, not all Catholics (in the U.S. or elsewhere) follow every pronouncement from the Vatican, and many see the Church’s undeniable good works (social justice, again, at least for the poor and the sick) as reason enough to stay. Thinking of what’s going on at the very top of the Church hierarchy these days (do I really need a link here, people?), DeBernardo said that reform within the Church has come at precisely those times when the Vatican leadership seems most ossified and out of touch. Perhaps the Church can get out of the sucking vortex that’s pulling it down, but I doubt it.


This post is a bit later than promised. I ended up attending the Tribute to Brian Sanders last night, staying out late, and then running from event to event today. The good news is that I’ve got tons to write about, and will be busy doing it well into next week.

BTW, the interview I did with David Boies earlier tonight will run on, not here — although of course I’ll provide a link and a summary when it posts.