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.

Jun 12

Born Gay–Or Not: Proven or Unproven? Does It Matter?

Born gay? As in, does gayness exist at birth? That is, are we gay people “born this way?”

An interesting correlation to the contemporary “born this way” bandwagon: increased social and political acceptance. At the same time that Gallup tells us that a majority of people in the U.S. now support marriage equality, another new finding: “For the first time ever, 47% of Americans opted for homosexuality being a birth trait while 33% said environment and upbringing played at least some part. This 14% gap is the biggest difference Gallup has measured to date and is a marked change on 2011 figures, which saw the general public about evenly divided on this question.” (Info from Care 2 Make a Difference.)

But are we, in fact, “born this way”? Or are the poll numbers the result of subtle (or otherwise) brainwashing over recent years?

Some gay/lesbian folks believe the birthyness of it all, others don’t. No studies, however—and many have been conducted—have been able to conclusively establish to date that anyone gay is “born this way.”

Ditto for anyone straight.

Check out a very interesting article called “No One is Born Gay (or Straight): Here Are 5 Reasons Why” on the website Social (In)Queery. Or just read the main bullet points below:

  1. Just because an argument is politically strategic, does not make it true.
  2. The science is wrong (Part 1) (studies are flawed)
  3. The science is wrong (Part II) (research is culturally biased)
  4. Just because you have had homosexual or heterosexual feelings for as long as you can remember, does not mean you were born a homosexual or heterosexual.
  5. Secretly, you already know that people’s sexual desires are shaped by their social and cultural context.

Bottom line: Acceptance should be more forthcoming no matter how you were born or how you identify yourself. But, then again, “Not Sure If We Were Born This Way or What Happened Along the Way” doesn’t make for a very catchy slogan (or song title), does it?

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.

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