Feb 28

“The New Black”: Gay Civil Rights and Marriage Equality

“Let’s be clear: this is the unfinished business of black people being free.” Sharon Lettman-Hicks, The New Black

What’s the truth about the black community’s stand on gay issues?

Directed by Yoruba RichenThe New Black is a documentary about gay civil rights and the African-American community, a community in which the church plays a strong role. States the film website, “The New Black takes viewers into the pews and onto the streets and provides a seat at the kitchen table as it tells the story of the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland and charts the evolution of this divisive issue within the black community.”

Martin Tsai, Los Angeles Times, explains how this film came about:

When California voters passed Prop. 8 in 2008 outlawing same-sex marriage, Robin Tyler — one-half of Los Angeles’ first legally married gay couple — and many others rushed to cast blame on African Americans. That indictment was the catalyst for the documentary ‘The New Black,’ a clear-eyed look at both sides of the same-sex marriage debate among blacks leading up to Maryland’s historic Question 6 referendum vote in 2012 — the first time same-sex marriage was approved via a statewide ballot.

Glenn Kenny, Rogerebert.com, sets up the film’s beginning:

This movie opens with a montage featuring a selection of African-Americans getting ready to leave their homes for the day. Radio and television audio feeds on the soundtrack place the time as Election Day, 2012. One hears President Obama’s voice, and Mitt Romney’s. The ordinary images connote ‘ordinary people’ while the urgently edited soundbites say ‘extraordinary times,’ maybe. As a few interviewees soon make clear, it’s also the place that’s important: Maryland. It was in this state, one-third of whose residents are African-American, that a state referendum on same-sex marriage was proposed and, on that election day, passed.

Ernest Hardy, Village Voice, summarizes what follows:

What emerges is an illuminating look at the ways race, specifically blackness, has been cynically portrayed by the mainstream media, rightwing politicians and religious leaders, and even some white queer activists.

Richen points out that the Mormon and Catholic churches were the real forces behind the push to thwart gay marriage — neither of those institutions having black powerbrokers in them. They’re the ones who have spent political capital to put anti-gay initiatives on ballots, have conceived and executed controversial anti-gay-marriage campaigns, have spent countless millions to secure their bigoted goals, and have flocked to polling booths to vote against gay marriage.

Watch the trailer below:

SOME OVERALL REVIEWS

Glenn KennyRogerebert.com: “‘The New Black’ is an informative, measured, and never-not-engaging documentary about the emergence of LGBT consciousness in African-American communities across the U.S., and particularly communities with a strong church presence.”

Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter:

The New Black offers insights into human nature and the notion of minority — and the truth that those long trampled upon do not necessarily rush to lift up others who are persecuted. Particularly penetrating are comments that point to the legacy of slavery: Facing the terrible reality of families torn apart, African Americans have long understood the importance of adapting with nonconformist family configurations, conventional church teachings notwithstanding.

Through formal interviews and fly-on-the-wall observation, Richen’s film delivers a valuable contribution to an ongoing national dialogue. It reveals gradations of LGBT acceptance within black American families and neighborhoods, conversations that don’t make the front page.

Ernest HardyVillage Voice:

If there’s a flaw in Richen’s film, it’s her failure to dismantle, with data, lingering racist myths around California’s 2008 Proposition 8 ballot initiative, which for a time banned same-sex marriage. The Associated Press’s infamous exit polls initially claimed that 70 percent of the state’s African-American voters supported Prop. 8 (later adjusted to 59 percent). But what neither the pollsters (whose methods have been roundly denounced as shoddy) nor those who cited (and still cite) those figures have acknowledged is that black Californians don’t have the actual numbers to have affected the ballot outcome one way or the other.

Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times:

[Richen]…balances crude filmmaking with sophisticated insights…

Despite a seeming bias toward marriage equality, she appears to be motivated by a sincere curiosity that’s as empathetic to the concerns of religious leaders as to the pain of a young black lesbian who’s finally coming out to her beloved foster mother.

WHERE CAN YOU SEE IT?

Try the Screenings page on the film’s site.

Oct 11

National Coming Out Day: Because “Coming Out Still Matters”

It’s National Coming Out Day. As announced just recently by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), this year’s official theme: Coming Out Still Matters.

So, how can I come out further, I had to ask myself for National Coming Out Day.

Well, there is one piece of news. Two weeks ago my partner and I got married in the simplest of ceremonies in our lawyer’s office. About two minutes (my partner says three) (and maybe it was five), no rings, no vows, no friends or family.

Yes, there had been social pressures to do it differently, but we managed to dodge all that. Our plan felt right, and being able to follow through on it felt great. After all this time, still doing it our way. Everyone comes out differently; everyone gets married, or not, differently.

As far as we’re concerned, we’re still “partners.” The spouse label feels weird; weirder still is “wife,” which neither of us will permit, except in jest. I’ve proposed “ball and chain,” which also apparently has to be in jest.

Before our brief marriage “appointment,” we decided we’d go to the movies and dinner afterward. We laughed about how typical for us this was, though the choice of restaurant was special—where we had our first date over 32 years ago. Not the same exact restaurant—that one’s long gone—but the one that’s there now.

We even sat at the same table, we think. At the appropriate time, I launched a re-enactment of a topic we’d addressed there way back then: kids. Do you want them? The answer’s still no. Good thing—we’re in our 60’s.

The movie we saw? A romantic comedy about straight coupling. Things haven’t changed that much that we can readily pick something more relatable for us than that.

Although many in our lives knew we were thinking of getting married, few knew it was actually happening. They and everyone else who’s now learned of the little ceremony have been congratulatory beyond what we could’ve imagined. After all, we only did it for the legal benefits.

Some key friends and family who knew us as a couple for many years just couldn’t wait around long enough and will never know we got hitched. This is kinda sad if I really think about it. So I don’t.

We never expected all the hoopla. If you’ve never actually pictured yourself getting married, it’s hard to picture what comes with it and how other people might feel about it. There seems to be a general consensus, though, that we deserve to be able to do this and that it’s a big deal.

Our previous major anniversary (among a few of them) commemorated the day we moved in together, and we’ve decided to keep that one, having had it for 32 years now.

Back when we started sharing that first apartment together, my partner felt committed to me for the rest of her life. I felt committed too, but one day at a time. On the occasion of our marriage it’s time to officially concede: this is in fact a til-death kind of thing. One day at a time.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Jul 24

“American Savage”: Outspoken Advice-Giver Dan Savage

Dan Savage, the outspoken author of American Savage, is a gay guy with a musical theater degree who for 20 years has been penning a popular sex-advice column, “Savage Love,” and for five years a related podcast.

Other accomplishments:

American Savage

His new book is called American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Love, Sex, and Politics. Publishers Weekly states, “America’s most in-your-face sex columnist and gay-rights activist comes out swinging in these pugnacious, hilarious essays. Savage…proffers more unvarnished and often sacrilegious bedroom and relationship advice…”

Interviews Related to American Savage

A Publishers Weekly interviewer queries Savage about a bit of “unconventional” advice he gives on the issue of marital infidelity. Savage’s reply is consistent with his personal and general view that being “monogamish” (somewhat open to having other partners at times) is a valid choice:

It’s going to happen, so why not do it right? I’m not condoning serial adulterers who are abusing their partners or putting them at risk. But there are times when cheating can save a marriage—for example, when one spouse is seriously disabled and the other, to stay sane, gets his or her needs met elsewhere, discreetly. Or maybe it’s a terrific marriage except for very divergent needs for sex. It overemphasizes the importance of sex to say that, if a marriage is working in every area but sex, a spouse must divorce first and cheat second. There are times when people should cheat first and divorce not at all.

To the question, “Why do you think you get so many calls from straight guys asking about sex with women?,” interviewer Elizabeth Denton, Time Out, gets this from Savage:

Straight boys feel like, as a gay man, you have this secret inside scope on what girls are doing and thinking. I’m like someone who’s never been to London but could draw you a map of the Tube. I’ve never seen a clitoris up close, but I can tell you exactly where to find it.

Advice-giving is likely to have its pitfalls, and here’s one piece he’d take back, he tells Benoit Denizet-Lewis, The Good Men Project: “I once told a woman who didn’t like her husband, or wouldn’t leave him, to encourage her husband to take up drinking and driving. You really don’t want to suggest that someone take up drinking and driving in print. It’s a sure way to get several million angry letters.”

Denizet-Lewis also found out that Savage’s own go-to for receiving advice was his mom, who died in 2008. In an unrelated question about the last time he “really cried,” the answer? When she died.

And the book dedication goes to his male parent: “For my father, who lives in a red state, watches Fox News, and votes Republican — but loves me and mine just the same.”

The thing he’s most proud of in his life is his nuclear family, he tells Denizet-Lewis. “I know that sounds so Rick Santorum–y, but I’m most proud of my little family that exists despite the odds.” The adopted son of Savage and his partner is now 15.

Selected Reviews of American Savage

Publishers WeeklySavage is that rarity, a liberal—verging on radical—who defends his positions with steel-trap logic and scornful humor laced with profanity and stripped of politically correct cant. But in his own way he’s a champion of ‘family values,’ which emerge in warm domestic scenes with his husband and son, in moving reflections on his mother’s death, and in his common-sense understanding of sexual fulfillment as an anchor for stable relationships. Underneath Savage’s scabrous, bomb-throwing exterior beats the heart of a softie.”

Chandler Burr, Washington Post: “‘American Savage’ is best when it is most unusual, an extraordinarily personal, deeply felt book about traditional marriage, authentic and healthy religion and a traditional sex life.”

Kirkus Reviews: “Despite the wide range of subject matter, his general approach to each topic, which can be boiled down to ‘the more freedom, the better,’ is consistent…Savage sees comfort and openness with sexuality as something straight people should emulate, not fear…”

Jun 27

Homophobia: Is External Oppression Gradually Dying Globally?

Tweets following yesterday’s DOMA ruling:

Supreme Court kills homophobic DOMA, outraging millions of homophobic followers of noted non-homophobe Jesus. John Fugelsang

Now maybe we can stop calling it “gay marriage” and just call it “marriage.” Clarke Kant

It’s finally happened. As more and more countries across the world are accepting same-sex marriage,  the U.S. Supreme Court has stepped up as well. Globally, is external homophobia gradually dying?

Below are three video clips. Two are humorous—one about specific homophobic fears and the other about the possible roots of some individuals’ homophobia.

Last, there’s a serious clip about a new human rights campaign encouraging more movement in the right direction.

I. Marriage Equality: It Threatens the American Family

(June 26, 2013) As we celebrate today, let’s spare a warm thought for our opponents, who have lost absolutely nothing. #DOMA, Dave Holmes

If you watch this video and feel worried about this and other heterosexual families, you have homophobia:

II. Uh-oh. Others Have Figured Out Who You Are.

What the -phobic part means/At the end of the day/Is not that you’re afraid of gay people/But you’re afraid that you might be gay. From the song “Probably Gay,” Katie Goodman

This song, combined with increasing gay rights, begs the question: Where do homophobic anti-marriage-equality-type-folks-who-are-really-gay go when their closet doors inadvertently open?

From Katie Goodman‘s Broad Comedy show:

III. Someday the Whole World Will Be Accepting

Every nation is obligated by international human rights law to protect all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination and violence. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

A recent global campaign by the United Nations called “Free & Equal” created this video, “The Riddle”:

May 28

Same-Sex Couples and Parenting: Increased Visibility

A new infographic called “The Evolution of the American Family” includes such phenomena as the decreasing rates of marriage and the increased visibility of same-sex couples and parenting. As Liza Mundy, The Atlantic, recently remarked about the connection between these issues, “It is more than a little ironic that gay marriage has emerged as the era’s defining civil-rights struggle even as marriage itself seems more endangered every day.”

One detail from the infographic seemed surprising: The states with the highest proportion of same-sex couples raising biological, adopted, or step-children are among the most conservative.

Further research led me to this finding from a recent poll by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law (The Huffington Post): “Metro areas with the highest percentages of same-sex couples who are raising children are located in socially conservative states with constitutional bans on marriage equality in place…”

The largest U.S. city in this category? Salt Lake City, Utah.

The largest state? Mississippi.

I know, huh?

Researcher Gary J. Gates says that the prevalence of same-sex families in socially conservative areas is due in large part to a relatively later emergence of LGBT identity, meaning an increased likelihood of previous unions with different-sex partners that produced kids. Another factor is the desire of LGBT parents for proximity to other family members.

Meanwhile, there are always those out to slam gay and lesbian parenting despite studies indicating it’s as least as good as any other kind. Just last month, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics added their official endorsement to marriage equality, and why? Because it’s good for kids. States sdgln.com:

The well-respected group said that marriage, as well as adoption, helps protect children’s right to maintain relationships with both parents, eligibility for health benefits, and financial security. Other prominent groups supporting same-sex adoption include the Child Welfare League of America, the National Adoption Center and the National Association of Social Workers.

And get this: the June cover story of The Atlantic is “What Straights Can Learn from Same-Sex Couples.” Read the article or hear writer Liza Mundy briefly discussing this topic with Hanna Rosin below:

The conclusion of Mundy’s article:

In the end, it could turn out that same-sex marriage isn’t all that different from straight marriage. If gay and lesbian marriages are in the long run as quarrelsome, tedious, and unbearable; as satisfying, joyous, and loving as other marriages, we’ll know that a certain amount of strife is not the fault of the alleged war between men and women, but just an inevitable thing that happens when two human beings are doing the best they can to find a way to live together.

Check out the totality of California Cryobank’s “The Evolution of the American Family” infographic below:

Click to Enlarge Image

The Evolution of the American Family – Brought To You By California Cryobank