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.”

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:

SELECTED 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.

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.

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.

Publishers Weekly, reviewing American Savage: “Savage 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.”

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: “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” by writer Liza Mundy. The conclusion of her 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
Feb 18

“Same Love”: Gay Equality Song

Some Lyrics from “Same Love”

When kids are walking ‘round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start 

Although Presidents Day isn’t about Obama, we can still celebrate finally having a national leader who stands up for gay equality, including the ability to get married if you so choose.

The short film available below is set to the song “Same Love” written by gay ally Ben Haggerty (stage name Macklemore) to support marriage equality in the state of Washington.

It’s performed by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and features vocals by Mary Lambert. Since its release last year the song and video have gained popularity among many who identify with its themes, which include:

    • growing up gay but confused
    • dealing with stereotypes and homophobia
    • coming out
    • the struggle for acceptance
    • anti-gay hostility
    • getting married
    • growing old with a partner

 

The Lyrics in Full (AZLyrics.com)

When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
‘Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-k, trippin’.”
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.
I remember doing the math like, “Yeah, I’m good at little league.”
A preconceived idea of what it all meant
For those that liked the same sex
Had the characteristics
The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And “God loves all his children” is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago
I don’t know

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
“Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we’re saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ’em
Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
Live on and be yourself
When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom ’til we’re equal, damn right I support it

(I don’t know)

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

We press play, don’t press pause
Progress, march on
With the veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
‘Til the day that my uncles can be united by law
When kids are walking ’round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever God you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up… sex

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is patient
Love is kind
(not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I’m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I’m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I’m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
Love is kind

May 10

Lesbian Moms: Zach Wahls Testifies Regarding “My Two Moms”

In the controversial children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, written by Lesléa Newman in a liberal New England environment and self-published in 1989, the titular offspring was a preschooler. Today, if Heather weren’t fictional, she’d be in her 20’s and probably still dealing with the fact that her and her lesbian moms‘ story was one of the most banned of the 1990’s.

Only two years after the introduction of “Heather,” one pair of actual lesbian moms, on the cutting edge of the so-called “gayby boom” phenomenon, welcomed their infant son Zach Wahls into the not-so-liberal state of Iowa. Who could have predicted that nineteen years later, he would openly testify before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee on the issue of being raised by lesbian parents? Or that the moving video would go viral more than once?

And now the 20-year-old has a book, written with the assistance of Bruce Littlefield and published last month, entitled My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family.

Publishers Weekly: “‘I’m not gay, but I know how it feels to be in the closet,’ he writes of his sometimes veiled responses when asked as a child about his father. Wahls reflects on bullies and bullying, family values, Unitarian-Universalism (of which he is an adherent), the impact of chronic disease on the family (one of his moms has MS), and the reality of a marriage between women. Wahls has a fresh voice, and while still relatively young, his evenhandedness and willingness to use his own experiences to address larger social issues is admirable and will likely appeal to all walks of life.”

Kirkus Reviews: “The book works best when there’s more levity amidst the earnestness, as when the author humorously answers questions he’s asked most frequently (e.g., ‘Which one of your moms is the man?’). Few minds will be changed by this book—it seems unlikely that a homophobe would read something titled My Two Moms—but Wahls’ heart is in the right place.”