Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hate Crimes & Free Speech

Dear America--

I know we are all concerned with the economy, whether we fear the Stimulus or hopeful of it, and I know we're all concerned about our moral and ethical integrity, from torture to marriage, from education to childrearing. But let me give you this one bit of hope: Hate Crimes legislation does not in any way stiffle free speech. Reading HR 1913 (the hates crime bill just passed in the US House of Representatives), it seems to provide money for local law enforcement and expands the definition of "hate crime," a definition from Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. And HR 1913 is limited to crimes of violence that are felonies under state, local, or tribal laws, and are bias modivated.

(A)IN GENERAL -- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law ... wilfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person
Why do people only bring up sexual orientation and gender identity? Why not scream religious intolerance about the religion clause? Huh? It's not okay for a pastor to say mean things about, say, Muslims Jews, but it is absolutely okay to make someone mad enough about gays and trans* folk that they go out and commit a crime.

The Hope for America posted a video from an Iowa Congressman talking crap on this hate crimes law and the Iowa Supreme Court (for "forcing" same-sex marriage on Iowa). I would hope America understands that spending three days with a woman and then killing her for being born with male parts was entirely a bias-modivated crime. She wouldn't have died had she been born cisgendered. But, apparently, hate crimes are all about monitoring throught.

It's not about the thought; it's about the crime. Do we look at, say, Nazis and never point out their bias? In fact, when we look at Nazi crimes, we generally only look at one side of their bias. We don't just say "Nazis killed 10 million people" so we acknowledge bais modivating crimes. Why not make sure people are punished for their "crimes of passion" because of their bigotry? It's not forcing a pastor to say nice things about gays or trans* people. It's about punishing people and acknowledging the severity of crimes that are hate-modivated. The US Attorney General has required local law enforcement to track hate-modivated crimes for years (though, having retrieved the information from Sedgwick County law enforcement makes me believe it's not actually being looked at). We know these crimes happen; punish them accordingly

*whimper* Sebelius leaves the state

I am fantastically happy the country can see the good things that can come out of Kansas instead of the constant barrage that is quite mockable. I remain quite sad Kathleen is leaving us. In her time here, she has stopped the spread of coal in Kansas, helped quell the anti-choice takeover, defended National Guardsmen and women, and worked to expand LGBT rights in the state (including gender identity/expression protections, something not picked up even by Lawrence). She is a Progressive Kansan, working to move us forward without leaving anyone, even the reactionary right, behind.

Thank-you, Kathleen Sebelius, for your hard work for our state. I hope we acknowledge your efforts and remember them when election time comes so that we may continue your great momentum.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dennis Kucinich -- Will the War Ever End?

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich & Ed Schultz of MSNBC's The Ed Show talk about Bush's never-ending War on Terror. Schultz accurately points out President Obama's decision to relocate troops from Iraq to Afghanistan shows he's not a pacifist but a hawk. Kucinich, one of the few people in Washington I honestly admire, correctly notes Iraq was a lie (which is a good reason for Obama to order troops out) and war in Afghanistan does not help stop terrorism.

Al-Qaeda isn't going to be stopped by bombing Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been war-torn for a few decades. It is this state of instability that brings out radical elements. The Soviet Union, the United States, and other Western powers have yet to show concern for the people of Afghanistan. That we would continue aggressions only helps al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and others to recruit future suicide bombers, terrorist leaders, and community support for reactionary Islamic groups.

Recently, Frontline took a look at growing Pakistani support of the Taliban. One of the root causes? Pakistan is not a terribly rich country, and supporting public education isn't a top priority (military dictatorship ranks far higher). Taliban-led madrassas provide the only education in the poorest areas. The only education received in these madrassas is a fundamentalist approach to the Koran.

Taliban-led madrassas has long been one of the primary places to recruit al-Qaeda members. As government-led wars and tribal fighting for rule continue, so, too, will hatred against the West continue. Whatever groups the West support will certainly fall out of favor with those who hate our policies. It's not a hatred of America or Americans but a hatred of the way we work globally.

There is no military solution to combat this ever-growing problem. More American troops in Afghanistan will not help. The Western mentality will not work. Rep. Kucinich is correct: we must pull out of both Iraq and Afghanistan, and we must look at regional approaches.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to buy Yellowcake aka What Saddam didn't know but Lehman Bros did

As I'm watching Thursday's The Daily Show , I am stunned beyond belief that Lehman Bros has 450,000 pounds of uranium. And this time, it's actual, real, solid stuff you can touch. Not like all the other commodities they've been selling and insuring and not really having.

You can buy uranium yellowcake? Didn't we invade a country and kill thousands on the allegation Saddam Hussein had bought some from Nigeria? Wasn't war threatened for a few years against Iran for their nuclear program?

And you can buy yellowcake on the open market?

There's a commodities market for yellowcake?! And we bomb countries for having some?!?!

Uranium is a very prominent element on Earth. It's found in dirt all over the planet. In its natural state, it's weakly radioactive and not a problem. But it's easy to break apart and be somewhat stable. You can power nuclear power plants with it and nuclear bombs. And I'm sure the internet has all the schematics possible to do so. Actually having the technology to not accidentally blow yourself up in the process, that's another story.

I know that several countries use nuclear plants to produce their energy. But I would figure regulation would be strict on this considering the potential for badness (and not just on the end of a missle). It strikes me as odd that it's an open market that investment banks can buy it up. Sure, uranium commodity trading is "highly regulated," but wasn't the stock market?

We are one very strange nation. If I buy a pound of uranium, will I be invaded and occupied in the global war on terror?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who needs the right of assembly?

I had not planned on attending (aka counter-demonstrating) a tea party. I didn't understand what the big deal was. To me, the Boston Tea Party represents one of the greatest examples of non-violent civil disobedience in the American Revolution. A few people, under threat of death, threw tea overboard in Boston Harbor to protest the tea tax because they were not represented in British Parliment. The American Revolution was about representation, not taxation, not the British, but about a people able to determine their own future. Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution states the Congress has the right to collect taxes for defense and general welfare. Where's the problem?

But as I read more about the "grassroots" Tea Parties, so grassroots Fox News has been talking about it for weeks and even saying Obamatrons would invade and cause violence , I decided to see what was happening locally. For a couple of months now, an ex-friend of mine was angry that a Tea Party was taking place in Wichita and the media wasn't covering it. Two months out. And as I looked their website, I became more upset. Silent majority? You mean the silent majority who didn't go out and vote in November?

Well, the media is covering it now. So who, exactly, is causing violence?

I made up five signs (since I had five poster boards): "Majority Spoke Obama Tax Cuts"; "I Pay Taxes For Education For All"; "I Pay Taxes and I'm A Patriot"; "Thank You For Paying Taxes"; and "I Pay Taxes for Solders[sic]". I mostly held the first two. I had blue posters so I figured I would stand out as being, well, a Democrat.

As I approached the airport where Wichita Liberty held their rally, traffic was quite backed up on the post office exit. I could see a large crowd gathered. I twittered "oh holy hell. This mmight turn into a riot ... Please tell me i'm not alone out here! #teaparty". Unfortunately, I was. I later learned the local DFA called off their counter-demonstration out of fear of violence.

When I walked over to the demonstration area, I saw there were no sidewalks or other obvious public areas. I asked a police officer where I could stand since I wasn't with the Tea Party. So I stood across the street from them as the officer said I could. As I stood across from their lot, some Tea Baggers heckled me. I heard most of what they said, but I ignored them. After a while, some of them came over to my side of the street saying they had the right to free speech and I "looked lonely". I moved to the corner, next to a group of police officers.

After about an hour, I was told the property was airport property and unless I had a permit, I could not be there. If I wanted to demonstrate, I had to join the Tea Party. I asked why I wasn't permitted on public property and was told it was airport property and I had to move someplace else. With no sidewalks in sight, I had to consider where to go.

I saw two news trucks and walked over there asking them if they knew where I could stand. Though I was trying to make a point more than honestly asking where to stand. It was recommended I try the post office. But when I got over there, I was told they could not allow me to stand there because they weren't allowing the others to stand there.

As I was determing where next to go, I got a call from the reporter asking where I would be. I moved clear to the other end of the demonstration, outside their caution tape, holding my sign. This was a rougher place to be. Here I was flipped off, someone inside the demonstration seemed to be filming me (at which time I posed and asked if he wanted my name), and one passerby said my Obama sign was "treasonist". Reminding people Americans voted a clear majority in favor of the current president is treasonist?

After half an hour, one of the police cars came over near me, lights on, citation book in hand. The only place I could go was inside the tape, with the Tea Party. I walked away. As I walked back, I saw Tea Baggers outside the line with their signs and two signs in the ground outside the line. And yet only I was in trouble. I went back and talked to the reporter. And then I left.

After two hours of counter-demonstrating, I wonder this: if I had good cause to not feel safe inside the line, where could I express free speech and my right to assemble? If Wichita Liberty was warned that "Obamatrons" would invade and cause violence, why would I join them? I did not know I was going to attend, I did not apply for a permit because, to the best of my knowledge, the airport is public property where I have a right to assemble.

Apparently, these Tea Parties are about spending, not taxes. Which begs the question: why the Tea Party? And why did this Tea Party have a "Paul Revere" riding around on a horse? Where is the confusion over American history? Where is the confusion over the Constitution? Why is it so evil that the Founding Fathers knew taxes were necessary?

Why am I a "moocher"? How am I a socialist? Do you know me? Why do you yell at a random person on the street "get a job!" when you know nothing about them? Especially when they're standing across from a field filled with people doing the exact same thing. Do I not have the rights Tea Baggers do?

I am quite upset about this afternoon. These Tea Parties offend me as an American first and foremost. Don't like how your democratically elected officials work? Then vote them out. That's democracy, and it's what you accept by living here. Don't like it? Then leave. I don't really mean that, but I've been told that for 8 years. Dear Republicans: Welcome to the club.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Movie Recommendation -- Split: A Divided America

A few months back, I surprised a co-worker by informing her I'm not a Democratic Party follower. I said part of the reason I'm a Kansas Democrat is because as a heavily Republican Party state, little opportunity exists for a dialogue. The only way to even attempt to have other ideas is to be a Kansas Democrat. I have very strong opinions, indeed, and some are admittedly extremist, but I know full well my ideas cannot exist now (and should they ever, I would hope they don't stick around for long) but the only way to move forward is to have ideas and talk about them. This is sadly missing from American politics.

From Wikipedia:

1) Politics is the process and conduct of decision-making for groups. Although it is usually applied to governments, political behavior is also observed in corporate, academic, religious, and other institutions.

2) Republicanism is, in a large sense, a political theory opposed to monarchy. [and] is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by other means than hereditary, often elections. An important element of Republicanism is constitutional law to limit the state's power over its citizens. Early proponents of Republicanism, such as John Milton, put emphasis on the dangers of corruption and the importance of civic virtues.

3) Classical republicanism was rather aimed against any form of tyranny, whether monarchic, aristocratic, or democratic (tyranny of the majority).

4) The phrase tyranny of the majority, used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, is a criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority's interests so far above a minority's interest as to be comparable to tyrannical despots.

Just some thoughts that have been running through my head for a while now ...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cornerstone of Tradition

Today, my twitter alter ego argued for a few hours with a "libertarian" concerning redefining traditional marriage. He stated the onus of proving the argument rests on those wishing to change the definition, not on those wishing against change. Apparently, the defense only has to smile and nod. While I, believing same-sex couples should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as mixed-sex couples, must argue (endlessly) why the system ought to be expanded. Not changed, in my opinion, but expanded.

Typically, the argument against expanding the legal definition of marriage hinges on tradition. It's always been this way, it always will be. After all, the legal union of a man and a woman along with their legitimate children form the cornerstone of society. As an American, I find this particularly insulting.

Cornerstones and tradition shape our beliefs and understanding, the way we interact with the world around us. As people, we can take the same set of events and interpret them very differently from the person standing next to us.

150-odd years ago, slavery formed the foundation of Southern life. The entire economy relied on slavery to function. Free states viewed slave ownership as an uncivilized while not believing blacks equal to whites. Slave states viewed it as tradition. It is here that Federal rights versus State rights really come to a head. Slave states determined they could secede from the United States while the United States believed they could not.

Following former Confederacy states acceptance of Federal sovereignty, they had to release the people they formerly owned. In addition to the devastation wrought from the war, their economy imploded because there was no one left to work their plantations. And when there were people, they had to pay them for their work. Blacks having rights, including the right to vote and to hold office, further harmed southern states. National Guard units were brought in to protect blacks at the polls and to protect black elected officials. Tradition was destroyed; the cornerstone of southern society gone.

But does tradition and cornerstones justify continuing the practice of slavery? Today, this question is almost universally answered as "no". Black people deserve the protections of America as much as white people (Hispanic people is still questionable). To this day, the south has not completely recovered from the Civil War and its outcomes. Yet who would actually suggest a return to this previous way of life?

This belief of freedom and rights and equality and justice form, in my opinion, the foundation of our society, our combined culture. The cornerstone is the system we created to help ensure everyone can participate in this. Marriage is not a cornerstone any more than slavery. It exists as a system to provide benefits to those who participate. Though not everyone is allowed to participate how they believe they should.

In slavery, slave-owners and the southern economy as a whole benefited. In order to keep the system functioning, it must be accepted that some people could be owned. White people were not the only ones who participated; Indian tribes owned slaves, usually black people, as well. Those born into slavery, even if they escaped to Free States, were not allowed to participate in American society. Laws existed to guarantee escaped slaves could be returned to their owners. So even if one had managed to enjoy, for a while, some of the rights and privileges afforded to those not born into slavery, it could be whisked away. Save for the few fortunate enough to sit before juries sympathetic who, knowing the law and knowing the defendant guilty of a crime, nullified the law and let escape slaves see some taste of another life. And yet, participation in this life was incomplete. Nearly 100 years after the passage of the 14th amendment, blacks and whites received different educations. They could still not participate how they believed they should.

The same can be said for same-sex marriage. Anti-marriage fairness folk say gay people still have the right to marry whomever they want. Of course, the stipulation is to marry someone of a different sex. They can sleep with whomever they want, make legal arrangements however they want, there's nothing to stop them. Theoretically, this may be true. I am free to marry, so long as I marry a man. I'm free to live with a woman and share a life and home, but I can't be married. I am not a cornerstone.

What I really want to understand is why this institution has such a bungled application. I cannot marry a woman, but I can marry a man the moment I meet him. I can divorce him and repeat the process ad nausum until I die. I can have numerous children with all of these men, and all of them would have to support me. So long as I marry a man who is not an immediate relation or married to someone else, I can. There is nothing to stop me. We don't have to live together. We don't have to share a life. We don't have to have children. We don't have to like each other. We don't even have to sleep together. At some point, if we desire, we can pretend it never happened. Or we can dissolve it. Questions are asked but it's granted.

Yet with a woman? Even if we are together for 50 years, making a positive statistic on the divorce rate in this country; even if we provide for each other, our children, our community; even if we pay all of our taxes, no questions asked; even if we tutor school children; even if we are in the Rotary Club; even if we are executives or janitors ... We cannot.

"Marriage" has never had a consistent definition, throughout history or even in this country. For a long time, marriage was not a contract between two consenting adults but, rather, the exchange of ownership rights of a woman from her father to her mother. Marriage is used to provide benefits to children so that they are not bastards and then have the right to inherit property from their fathers. It provided for women who had few options to provide for themselves. It had nothing to do with love or tradition or even the Bible. In the legal sense, the one being "defined," it had to do with money and ownership, either of people or of property.

Expanding the legal application of marriage does not mean destroying it or redefining it. Changing "a man and a woman" to "two consenting adults" does not destroy a cornerstone: it builds upon it. It is the just application of a law. Limiting it to one man and one woman only proves the intention to limit one's rights. Keeping it so narrow cuts deep at America, our foundation, our very core. That we are all created equal and have unalienable rights. We are a nation of law, and this law is inequitable, it is not justly applied, and it keeps some Americans intentionally at the edge of society.

Even if the majority want to keep women from marrying each other, men from having husbands, our nation believes those removed from the system still deserve participation equally. It is the right of every American to participate in the institutions of this nation. It is the duty of every American to apply this and to strive for full and equal participation.

This is not a slippery slope. This does not mean we must let people have multiple spouses. This does not mean adults can marry children. This means adults, not otherwise barred, may completely participate. It does not lessen the importance of the institution or the importance of your relationship.

The only one who can destroy your marriage is yourself. Holding onto it too tightly will break it in the end. Keeping marriage between one man and one woman lessens marriage. And it lessens America.

The Mad Voter - A Victory for Schools

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in April 2008)

When I discuss harassment in schools, my personal story often comes up. People nod and pity me, admit to how horrible harassment in school is, and end up still thinking kids will be kids. After all, I am here, alive, with success and a happy life. But one phrase makes them stop. It highlights one of the real costs of schoolyard harassment and bullying:

There is no reason in the world an eight-year-old should be planning her own suicide.

Dramatic but true. In uber-white Andover, Kansas, I did not have gay slurs thrown at me. This was just the group finding the one person to pick on. And to pick on for years to come. As we all grew up, the group harassment disappeared though the lasting effects remain. Paralyzing anxiety grips much of my life. Even at this point, people still do not understand the depth of this problem, seeing instead the success I have and assuming I have overcome. That actually makes me really fortunate.

Intuitively, we understand anti-gay harassment persists, though much of it appears innocuous to many people. We play off “fag” and “dyke” as kids just being kids. While this is true -- kids are cruel -- in no way does this mean institutions should ignore it. I can say responsibility does not rest on survivors alone to make it through.

Schools provide another place for children to learn. They get to interact with other students which provides as much to our development as books do. Schools must provide a safe environment or some students will not have the same education as others. It is quite difficult to learn when you are scared.

A safe, inclusive school environment prepares kids to live as adults, and making sure they are not only safe but learn to accept and understand differences between people. We must all learn how to work with people we do not like, disagree with, or believe will be on the receiving end of the fires of hell. 

We learn to get along with people of different religious backgrounds (to some extent), though by not teaching about accepting gay and lesbian students, we instead teach this form of discrimination is acceptable not only in personal relationships but in social and professional environments. Even if Kansas modifies laws for adults, students won’t be protected without specific changes to education laws.

For the past year and a half, several local organizations brought together through Students United petitioned the Wichita school board to change their non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. Lawyers for the district argue making their policy different than federal law will open them up to lawsuits (though the opposite has shown to be true). 

In May of last year, the district made a policy change they felt would be helpful. While strengthening their anti-bullying policy, the Wichita school board also added specific examples of classes. Among those lists was sexual orientation. 

Throughout the month of February, the board debated changes made to their diversity policy. Board member Betty Arnold suggested adding sexual orientation to the policies. While these changes do not affect those policies Students United sought changed, they are, in fact, the very changes every school district should have.

“The Wichita Public Schools shall ensure that there is no discrimination based on but not limited to … sexual orientation … in the placement, instruction, and guidance of pupils; the employment, assignment, training, or promotion of personnel; … and in all matters relating to the instruction, supervision, administration, and Board policy making.”

Woohoo! I’m dancing in the streets! Watch me as I dance and jump up and down. .

Wichita remains only one of two districts in the state -- after Lawrence -- to include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. Lawrence is the only one to include gender identity. We, as a community, must carry forth with this momentum and make sure every student in the state -- all 300 districts -- are fully protected.

But until then, let us send letters to the Wichita school board and thank them for taking the time to include sexual orientation in their list of protections. Their students and staff deserve it. Go to for their information.

I raise a glass to those who worked on this. With all my heart, thank-you. Join me in the celebration!

The Mad Voter -- Keep Some Change

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in March 2008)

As I write this, Barack Obama has been president for just over a month. George W. Bush’s “pro-family” agenda has been replaced with Obama’s. We’re promised a great deal of change for a hopeful future where many of us, myself included, live without jobs, too many medical bills, and with limited rights.

One man or one administration or one Congress cannot alone make these changes: if we wish rights to fully include LGBT people, we must demand it. And, more importantly, be the change we wish to see.

President Obama promised in his inauguration to set childish things aside, that we deserve the promise “that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” Will this apply to LGBT Americans? has been updated to include the new administration’s civil rights plan ( LGBT rights represent over half of the webpage. This represents quite a step forward for us over years past!

And in other national news, the NAACP filed paperwork with the court in opposition to Prop 8, joining other racial and ethnic minority organizations opposing this horrific anti-marriage amendment.

“It is imperative that the Supreme Court of California recognize that by allowing Prop 8 to take effect, it is setting a dangerous precedent that allows a bare majority to strip minority groups of their fundamental rights. We are joining this challenge to ensure that the rights of all minority groups are being protected,” said John Payton, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund President and Director-Counsel.

There seems so much happening around us, moving us forward towards full protection and recognition. Can we carry this energy in Kansas?

Unfortunately, I doubt we can.

The Kansas Legislature didn’t gain enough LGBT-friendly legislators to make much of a difference. Positive state representatives moved to the senate, which is good news for all of us, but the house continues to be stacked with ultra-conservatives.

Take, for instance, Sen. Dennis Pyle from Hiawatha. 

Two days before Valentine’s Day, the Kansas Equality Coalition testified before committee on behalf of Senate Bill 169. The bill amends the Kansas Acts Against Discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity, protecting LGBT Kansans from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations (so no getting kicked out of IHOP with my girlfriend).

Sen. Pyle’s concern lies with adding these two classes to the ones that already exist (race, sex, religion, etc). He asked “Would that protect bestiality?” And Rep. Janice Pauls from Hutchinson said the two classes would dilute its effectiveness. I am moved, as always.

February also saw a hospital visitation bill introduced in the State House. At this point, It has not yet been debated.

This legislative session probably will not see much opportunity for our issues to get very far. Budget cuts, especially with fights over education funding, means we probably won’t see the Kansas Act Against Demonstration expanded as this would require more work and money by the Human Relations Commission nor any enforcement of the anti-bullying statute.

There might be some movement in hospital visitation, but as coal and energy continues to pay in many people’s minds, all but the most minor legislation is destined to never make it out of committee.

It looks as if this session will, once again, be largely dedicated to stopping bad legislation such as last year’s attempt to take away Lawrence’s domestic partner registry and 2006’s attempt to keep LGBT (and single) Kansans from becoming foster or adoptive parents. 

Our best hopes rest in Washington, D.C. And this makes it all the more important to be involved in Kansas. While we might not see much movement in the Capitol, we can still work on our local communities.

Our schools are required to have anti-bullying policies. Are they complete? Do they include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?

Hospitals make their own visitation policies. Do the hospitals in your area allow unmarried partners to participate in each other’s care?

Businesses can make policies stronger than federal and state law requires them to. Which businesses in your town provide inclusive anti-discrimination policies? Does your company? Help them make stronger policies! Work with them to include inclusive training materials, such as using “partner” instead of “spouse”.

Many of us find ourselves with some “extra” time on our hands. What can you do with it? And what do you think your community needs? Gather up some friends, and let’s make it happen!

Change isn’t something we’re given by a president or a legislature. We must keep some of our ambitions for change in our hearts and in our communities. Share your change with those around you. If not now, then when?

The Mad Voter -- Exclusive

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in November 2008)

What is this evil Gay Agenda that is taking over our country? It forgot to tell us how to do it.

Concern over the “Gay Agenda,” the fear that gays will take over and marry cows, has our political leaders doing everything they can to ensure us they prefer eating cows over other unseemly things.

Gay is everywhere. Gay marriage, gay agenda, gay lifestyle, gay bars, gay pride, gay rights. Gay, gay, gay! On occasion you hear about lesbians, but they so often come after gays. I have heard many people (most notably gay-identified people) talk about the “alphabet soup”. You know, that attempt by activists to show inclusion. LGBTTIQA and so forth.

Non-gays don’t get it. We should just keep it simple. “Gay and lesbian”. Why confuse people? Why make them think we can’t make up our mind or that we are bearded men wearing dresses to school? At the same time, I’m told that I should just be a lesbian. Give up on men. It would be less confusing that way. Gay people point out to me their own adventures into opposite-sex-land and how they don’t consider themselves bisexual.

I’m all for inclusiveness, simplicity, and a united front. But seriously? Not only should I make sure not to confuse straight people (who largely just want to understand), I shouldn’t confuse gays and lesbians. It’s just easier to not explain the “alphabet soup”. Who needs LGBT pride? If we include BT, we’d have to include TIQA!

Uh, yea. Isn’t that a good thing? GLBT might be too much for some to handle, let alone TIQA, but the choice to write off BT, to use an inclusive gay, reminds us all that the rest of us must stand up for ourselves since those we’re suppose to be struggling with are so quick to drop us for the sake of simplicity.

This isn’t just in terms of alphabet soup. This exclusive “Gay Club” has lead to some gay rights organizations, including HRC, to tell transgendered people to basically wait for their rights to be protected. Once the gays get their rights, they’ll fight for transpeople, too.

Which doesn’t explain why Lawrence passed a non-discrimination ordinance in 1995 with only sexual orientation and hasn’t gone back to get gender identity/expression included. This, in spite of the fact gender identity/expression is protected in the Lawrence Public School District.

This attempt, both personally and politically, to simplify GLBTTIQA to simply “gay and lesbian,” writes off bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, intersexed, questioning, queer, and allies as not only significant to the struggle for civil rights but to also deny rights and recognition to us.

One of the greatest insults to the rest of the alphabet lies in how “gay rights” groups make sure to “protect” trans* rights. It has shown successful in litigation to include gender identity, expression, and characteristics (in some wording) as a definition of sexual orientation. So all those people trying to call gay “inclusive”? They’re telling transpeople that they’re nothing more than a part of gay.

That means, technically, transpeople are protected by the law. But if you walk into a workplace to see yourself on the Kansas Law poster, you won’t find it. And, being in HR, I can tell you that hiding something in a definition, instead of spelling it out doesn’t help much at all. It may give recourse, but it doesn’t limit discrimination.

Straight people aren’t confused because LGBTTIQA itself is confusing. They are confused because the bulk of the gay rights movement focuses around same-sex pairings and refuses to understand, let alone defend, BTTIQA. On occasion, the need to look inclusive, sometimes even be inclusive, comes up. But that gets us hidden in definitions, not out and proud.

I love all you 100% homosexual and otherwise gay-identifying folks out there. I really, really do. Many are good friends and understand. But there are still so many who don’t show the love back.

So, please, try not to use “gay” to describe all of us. Learn about everyone else. If you have a difficult time with it, ask questions. Legislation and policies will come up, in your city, in your school district, in our state, to extend civil rights protections. Demand that it’s inclusive. Make sure it adds sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

But most of all, don’t be afraid of the soup.

The Mad Voter -- Who Wants Your Vote

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in October 2008)

Actions speak louder than words. That’s the old adage. A presidential candidate can promise no new taxes or an open government, but why should we believe them? The only way to believe they’ll do what they say is to see what they’ve done.

So I asked Google. Google led me to LesbianLife.About.Com. I was looking for Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention but became sidetracked by this much-easier-to-research site. I know Obama talked about LGBT rights in this speech and appeared on the Human Rights Campaign’s primary debate earlier this year. I’ll start with him.

Barack Obama’s “lack of experience” apparently stems from several years in the Illinois state senate where he sponsored a bill that banned sexual orientation discrimination. While in the US Senate, he co-sponsored expanding federal hate crimes laws to include both sexual orientation and gender identity. He supports a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HRC agreed to pull the gender identity language to gain more votes for sexual orientation; that was so considerate of … no one). He wants us to serve in the military openly and adopt children. But he doesn’t want us to get married. He’s a good Christian, after all. But he did oppose the anti-marriage constitutional amendment and the Defense of Marriage Act. All in all, he believes we’re fully-realized human beings deserving of the same rights as other Americans.

His pick for VP, Joe Biden, does nearly as well. Still not all into us getting married, he did support a bill that would allow LGB Americans to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration. He also supports a fully-inclusive ENDA, opposes an anti-marriage amendment, but did vote for DOMA. Maybe he’s grown since 1996.

Then there’s John McCain and Sarah Palin. McCain, having served in the Navy for many years, fully supports “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. He thinks we have the best military we’ve ever had. I don’t think it’s because of gays serving in secret; I think it’s because he retired. “Open homosexuality,” he said, “within the military service presents an intolerable risk to morale, cohesion and discipline.” That’s humorous coming from a maverick.

Palin really hasn’t had much to do on our issues. She did sign into law a bill granting same-sex domestic partnership benefits. But only because the Alaska Supreme Court told her to. She stated she disagreed with the ruling but it’s her responsibility to abide by the Constitution. It’s nice to know she will do what the Supreme Court tells her to. She certainly uses the Constitution’s freedom of religion clause in her church to sponsor conversion conferences. “You’ll be encouraged by … His desire to transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality,” says her church bulletin.

I really wish I could speak about candidates in Kansas, but the Kansas Equality PAC has yet to release their state and local endorsements. Hopefully, they'll be published before the election. I will say that over the years, many people have argued for KEPAC waiting until the last minute as the Gay Endorsement could be used as a tool by “the other side”.

Why are LGBT-friendly politicians so afraid of standing up for us when asking for our vote? Am I really someone to be ashamed of? Some in KEC seem to think so. If you haven’t yet made a decision on your state and local candidates, just wait. We should find out in the November issue of the Liberty Press - due to hit newsstands a few short days before Election Day – who is endorsed. Guess it adds to the mystery.

We ought to demand more from our elected officials. There’s so much that goes on, so much crap to wade through, that we depend largely on information from organizations close to our issues – the Alternatives to Marriage Project, League of Women Voters, Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, and so forth – and we hope that they tell us what we need to know to make an informed decision. And don’t look just at the federal level. Many decisions that affect our daily lives come from Topeka and our local communities, not Washington. KEC organizes a yearly lobby day where you can go and meet legislators and discuss LGBT issues. Take the day off and go. It really is a great event.

Get informed. Vote. Stay informed. Demand more from your elected officials. Let them know you’re still around. And if they don’t work for fairness, replace them with someone who will.

The Mad Voter combines a bit of anger, a bit of crazy, and a bit of passion to Make A Difference (MAD) through simple actions and "armchair activism". This column provides ideas to be involved and to know why.

The Mad Voter -- The Gay Smear

(Originally published in the Liberty Press, September 2008)

Welcome to this new political column, The Mad Voter. I am your host on this mad adventure, Carolyn Marie Fugit. I have a fairly colorful resume: professionally, I am a human resource manager; as a volunteer, I serve on the Board of Directors for the Wichita Peace Center, and until mid-August, I served as chair of the Wichita chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, founding chair of the Kansas Equality Foundation, and served on the KEC state Board. I was also director of the Fair & Safe Schools Campaign, and before that, I was vice-chair of Wichita Pride. What’s on my resume is not nearly as important as why it’s there.

On occasion, I have been accused of being gay. In our circles, “gay” is not an accusation. But oftentimes, people bandy about the word as a horrifying epitaph, the end of civilization, as if we would all burst into flames or pillars of salt. And those that believe we LGBT folk might have some inherent human right to live free - you know, allies - receive almost as much hostility. Allied elected officials face losing their offices if seen as gay-friendly, and we need courageous men and women in office working for us. It is quite disappointing that “courageous” is an apt word for someone choosing fair legislation.

More disappointment lies with candidates and interest groups who choose to prey upon some voters’ homophobia to win elections. Wedge issue, red herring, diversion, ignoring all other issues . I say gay is an important issue but not because we happen to be. This election season proves to be no exception. This year, three openly LGBT candidates ran or are still running for office: Aunesty Janssen in Olathe, Inga Taylor in Wichita, and Christopher Renner in Manhattan. Janssen, running for state House of Representative, and Renner, running for state Board of Education, made it to the general election. Taylor, however, lost her bid in the primary against Gail Finney. As nasty as the Taylor/Finney campaign became, the repercussions reach beyond the primary and into other campaigns.

Without going into detail (Google and the Washington Blade provides more information than even I can), the Taylor/Finney campaign ended with Taylor’s sexuality becoming the primary focus. Between damning emails from Finney, subtle postcards and calls, and an out-right hateful whisper campaign by Finney supporters, Finney somehow managed to come out with the support of the Kansas Equality Coalition, the Sedgwick County Democratic Party, and other Democrats from around the state. Taylor, on the other hand, resides in the middle of the heated exchanges between KEC, Finney, and the Victory Fund.

In all of this, Victory Fund seems to want to stay out of Kansas elections for the time being. According to Renner in a post he made to the Kansas Rainbow List, Victory Fund has decided on a “hands-off” approach to our state based on the “debacle” here in Wichita, leaving him short on campaign funds. Even before his ultra-conservative opponent won her primary, Kathy Martin or her supporters started automated calls asking “Do you want a pervert on the State Board of Education?" Martin has never been a friend to us; in a questionnaire response to KEC, Martin stated “I do not support promoting the homosexual lifestyle choice, but I do support treating all of God's people with dignity, respect and goodness.” I feel dignified, don’t you?

The Gay Smear can be even subtler. When the Kansas Legislature finally voted on a measure to outlaw Lawrence’s domestic partner registry, a political tactic sent the bill back to a committee instead of asking legislators to outright vote to support unmarried partners registering with the city of Lawrence so they might be able to get health insurance from their employers. This hidden support of the registry meant none of their opponents could call them gay lovers. It’s a terribly quiet way of apparently supporting us.

I have long believed that we Kansans are a fair-minded group. These Gay Smear campaigns prey upon our concern for our neighbors and escalates into fear and hate. While Martin tells the people of Manhattan that Renner is a pervert, Dodge City High School has a Gay-Straight Alliance; another GSA formed in Winfield this summer. USD 259’s Board of Education included sexual orientation as a protected class in their safe-school policy without a monumental hate campaign before, during, or after the decision. And two rural school districts decided to start the school year off with a gay-inclusive safe-school policy. When we focus on community and each other, fairness and Kansas values, we collectively move forward to a more inclusive state.

I hope to end each mad adventure with some encouragement and ideas to help make change happen. This month, I have the tried-and-true “get out and vote,” but also pay attention to your local KEC chapter. Support an allied candidate by baking cookies for a fundraiser of theirs. Make sure to tell them you are there because they promise to support LGBT-inclusive legislation. Tell friends who don’t usually vote that they should vote for allied candidates. And most of all, be friendly to our friends!

And PS: I am, much to the bemusement of many friends, bisexual.

The Mad Voter combines a bit of anger, a bit of crazy, and a bit of passion to Make A Difference (MAD) through simple actions and “armchair activism”. This column provides ideas to be involved and to know why.