queer


So there’s a story from NPR this past week that’s getting passed around like ladoos at an Indian ceremony.  It’s about gay weddings and Indian-Americans.  I appreciate the sentiment and do agree that it’s moving that there are Indian-American parents who are coming to terms with and celebrating their kids’ unions with others of the same sex. I understand it’s a light-hearted piece, but I have a few very critical reactions to it.

First, it’s a story, in typical NPR style, that’s pre-packaged and presented in sing-song like fashion, from beginning to end.  It’s sad, and honestly nauseating, how so many NPR stories are crafted like “afterschool specials”. Please, treat us with a little more maturity and respect.

Second, and this is my bigger issue, the story celebrates gay marriage and Indian-Americans (a step forward), while celebrating and lauding practices of arranged marriages and twisted ideas of what is acceptable in society (parents advertising their children in the paper, using socioeconomic status and fair skin and other regressive ideas of what is desired in society).  The story ends with this sequence of paragraphs:

And I remembered that old coming-out line: “Mom, Dad, I am not going to get married.” The next generation of immigrant gays and lesbians might have to come up with some other coming-out line.

In fact, I can imagine this ad in the local Indian weekly:

“Hindu very well-established Los Angeles family invites professional match for daughter, 25, 5-foot-3, slim, fair complexion, U.S. born, senior executive in Fortune 500 company. Loves music and dancing. Prospective lesbians encouraged to reply in confidence with complete bio data and returnable photo. Must be professional, under 30, caste no bar.”

It might just be time for the gay arranged marriage.

Gay marriage is NOT the only manifestation of gay/queer relationships, so the idea that in the future most Indian kids who are gay are going to need a coming out line other than “mom, dad, I am not going to get married” is a little silly.  And, the ad in the local Indian weekly, I almost jumped out of my seat when I read it.  The piece is embracing the idea of moving gay marriage into the old ways of representation of desire — socioeconomic status, fairness of skin (don’t say caste no bar when you’re bringing these two things into the mix!).   This is exactly the very fear that queer people have about gay culture and marriage ‘equality’ — that it risks succumbing to the normative model of what is desired and what is not desired in society, as a compromise instead of moving to a model of liberation and love.  Embracing the modern day caste system doesn’t feel very much like progress to me.  Thoughts?

My friend Ramdasha shares her favorite queer music of 2008 (not necessarily from queer identified artists).  She says, so aptly:

to me, music becomes queer by possessing that certain something that hits you right in the gayplace. the same place that tingled whenever the ellen show came on. That’s ellen the sitcom, not the talk show. i mean, bonus if they experiment with music norms but really, its like-does this make me feel awesome and gay? or does it make me feel like queen latifah playing will smith’s love interest in the fresh prince of belair. booored.

right on!  check out her selections.  they definitely hit me in the gayplace.

From Tom Ackerman (via Meteor Blades), an interesting concept:

I no longer recognize marriage. It’s a new thing I’m trying.

Turns out it’s fun.

Yesterday I called a woman’s spouse her boyfriend.

She says, correcting me, “He’s my husband,”
“Oh,” I say, “I no longer recognize marriage.”

The impact is obvious. I tried it on a man who has been in a relationship for years,

“How’s your longtime companion, Jill?”
“She’s my wife!”
“Yeah, well, my beliefs don’t recognize marriage.”

Fun. And instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it’s like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another’s beliefs.

Just replace the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiancé with boyfriend, girlfriend, special friend, or longtime companion. There is a reason we needed stronger words for more serious relationships. We know it; now they can see it…

The rest of the piece is here. Thoughts?

Karoli, who writes at Bang the Drum, wrote about her experience observing a Yes on 8 event in Camarillo, CA. The whole post is quite insightful and moving – check it out. Some excerpts below:

Insights on the talking points from the religious leaders who spoke about Yes on 8:

First point, repeated many times: This is a campaign of love. The first time it was repeated with no explanation for how that could be true. Several repeats later, I heard this phrase: “This is a campaign of love that should not be subject to the tyranny of the minority.” I also heard this: “They’ve got it all. Don’t let them have this, too.” The term “they” referred to gays. “This” referred to marriage. When I heard that, I immediately wondered what they meant by “got it all”. I also wondered how they were reconciling that statement with the idea of it being a campaign of love. Could it be that they were limiting the concept of love to the religious, the heterosexual, the married heterosexuals? Was that kind of intellectual dishonesty truly possible? It reminded me of the kind of love that abusive parents administer. They hold you close and hug you before knocking you across the room with one backhand to the face. That kind of love.

On Lawrence King:

Two men overheard as I was about to cross the street to leave, upon observing the couple with the “Remember Lawrence King” sign crossing the street: “Who is Lawrence King? Do you know?” “No, I don’t.” Barely able to contain myself, I turned with a smile and said “Lawrence King was murdered in cold blood in his homeroom class in Port Hueneme last February. In front of 40 eighth-graders. By a kid taught to be afraid of and hate gays.” I turned on my heel and left. This was front-page news here, and ultimately made the national news as well. It wasn’t a secret. Yet here were two full-grown men who had no clue who that poor boy was. Lawrence King was a resident at Casa Pacifica, a resident facility for troubled teens. It’s always struck me as ironic that, despite being part of a so-called traditional family, those traditional family values failed him. His killer is a troubled boy as well. I certainly don’t see where the ever-sanctified family was an asset to him either, other than to make sure a gun was accessible so he could put two bullets into Larry King’s head at point-blank range in front of his classmates…

I will never forget the tone and manner with which the line “Don’t let them have this, too.” was delivered. That tone will haunt me for the rest of my life, as will the image of Lawrence King’s sweet face… I printed his picture. I put it in my wallet. I will carry it with me to the polls on November 4th, and when I draw my line across the arrow on my ballot pointing to “No” next to Proposition 8, I will say a prayer that he is up in Heaven sending love our way.

Today I saw most of the Visible Vote 08 democratic presidential candidate forum online, LIVE! Some thoughts:

  • The Visible Vote 08 website is TIIIIIGHT! During the live debate, they had live blogging, good photos, rapid video summaries of the candidates who had spoken just minutes prior, the ability for anybody to comment on the debate, good streaming live video with wonderful sound, a vote for which presidential candidate you support most on LGBT issues, and right after the live debate they put together video clips from all the candidates. Sweet! Ok, probably VERY costly to put together, but nicely done.
  • Who won the debate? Hands down, I’d have to say the moderators. HANDS DOWN. I don’t care how eloquent Obama was, how not-angry Mike Gravel seemed, how personable John Edwards was. Gotta give it to the moderators. Melissa Etheridge took the candidates to TASK — remember, this is the JOB of a moderator. She asked personal questions, she came back at a candidate and asked for more clarification on a question if the candidate averted the original question, and she was spontaneous and on POINT. I’ll say the SAME about the other two moderators — Joe Salomnese (HRC) and Jonathan Capehart (Washington Post). (the head moderator was also good — margaret carlson, former white house correspondent). This debate really made me think about the role of moderator. The questions were SPECIFIC, related to actual things each candidate did or said in the past, and oftentimes related the issues to broader issues that the candidates had to answer to. With the exception of a few questions, I found myself going “wow, great QUESTION!” after almost each one. Looking back, these moderators were all queer, all personally invested and politically invested in the issues discussed. Here’s a radical idea — what if we required moderators of all debates to be personally invested or at least politically invested in the issues (not like wolf blitzer or anderson cooper)? I guess that was partially the direction that the CNN/YouTube debate was going in, but the candidates ended up having too much leeway to direct the answer away from the question.
  • I really really appreciate the fact that all these candidates showed up to the debate. This is historic. In so many ways. Just a point of contrast, not ONE single republican candidate has agreed to show for a similar debate. If you will recall, only 2 republican candidates (and not any of the major ones) agreed to a YouTube style debate (like the CNN/YouTube debate for the dem candidates) in September. Notice I titled this post “LGBT presidential candidate forum”. I didn’t mention dems or republicans. What’s the point, the republicans aren’t making themselves visible.
  • Senator Obama. Smooth talking. Somewhat from the heart. Had some good things to say about homophobia in the black community, about his commitment to LGBT rights, but as always was slimy (talking around the issue) when it came to his support or non support of civil unions vs gay marriage. He won the debate online (got 34% of the online poll) but I think he’s mostly a smooth talker.
  • John Edwards. Oh he’s my man. Have I mentioned I *heart* Edwards and feel he is the most electable? As always he spoke from the heart. Was honest about not supporting gay marriage but supporting civil unions. Also spoke passionately about homeless gay teens in los angeles and how he was moved by their stories (after his recent trip to the LA Gay and Lesbian Center). Brought it back to the tale of two americas. Diplomatically refuted a question Melissa Etheridge asked about him being uncomfortable around gay people (NOT true!). He stumbled a bit through the forum, which isn’t like him these days. I missed the dinner/reception he was having at a local LA restaurant because I thought i’d get out of work too late. Heard it was good, from a friend.
  • Kucinich. Wow. Ok, not really electable, but I *heart* him too. Let’s just summarize his time by the moderator’s comments to him: Capehart: “Is there anything that the LGBT community wants that you ‘don’t’ support?” Etheridge: “I hope you always run for president until you win.” But the funniest — moderator: “Congressman, you are so evolved for a member of congress”. Kucinich gets #2 in the online poll on the visible vote website. Supports equal marriage rights for LGBT couples.
  • Mike Gravel. Took some xanax before the show? He wasn’t his riled up self! He was the uncle I want to have dinner with and talk politics with. It was really refreshing to see him casual and confident and pleasant. He’s a great guy, hands down. Check out some of his videos on the Visible Vote 08 site, some GREAT quotes there. Supports equal marriage rights for LGBT couples.
  • Bill Richardson. Bumbling. Slow talking. Brings things back to his record on voting, which is a good tactic. But hardly answers any questions directly. And when asked if homosexuality is a choice or otherwise, he right away answers with “it’s a choice!” He answers so quickly that the moderator has to ask the question again (maybe you didn’t understand the question) and gives background on people who think homosexuality is a choice that can be mended, fixed. I lose attention here as he drones on about how he’s not a scientist, etc. BLAH. Didn’t have an answer for what he’d do if given a bill in support of gay marriage. How is he still in the race?
  • Hillary Clinton. She’s a robot, she knows exactly what to say and when! You’d think she WAS president for 8 years already (instead of her husband). Gotta give her kudos for all that. She’s got good energy, and had quick responses back to the moderators. BUT, she REALLY tripped up when she mentioned that her non-support for gay marriage is a personal position but didn’t give any backup for that. And then she had another moment when she tried to defend her belief that gay rights are really an issue that should be left up to the states. Moderator Solomnese came RIGHT back at her, recalling that racists used states rights arguments when fighting against federal civil rights in the 1960′s. BLAM! gotcha. (see above mentioned winner of forum — MODERATORS!)

Phew! more than I thought I’d say. Check out the videos (already all up online with sections for each candidate — go online team!) at Visible Vote 08. Also check out the reportback from thebrotherlove. We were using Twitter together, sharing thoughts on the forum online as it was streaming live. We’re such geeks!
Over and out…

UPDATE: Anil Kalhan alerted me to a solid criticism of the moderators’ specifically and only asking the black candidate (Obama) about black homophobia and generalizing black homophobia in the first place (the entire black community does not think the way the black homophobes do, so it’s kind of a faulty term).

Ok, so Los Angeles ain’t ALL vain. Damn straight it ain’t. I love this city. Even though the average price of an alcoholic beverage in Los Angeles ($10.66) has now surpassed the average price of same in New York City ($10.12), the city of West Hollywood is representin’ patriotically, because the folks there care about the future of our country:

WEST HOLLYWOOD, July 17, 2007 (KABC-TV) – West Hollywood has taken a stand on the war. The City Council is the first in southern California to call for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

The council unanimously approved the symbolic, non-binding resolution Monday night. The resolution claims Congress and the country were given false intelligence to lead the U.S. into the war in Iraq.

Other charges include orders to spy on Americans, and stripping Americans of their constitutional rights.

It’s about time. Leave it to the gay, hedonistic community of West Hollywood to take SoCal to task :> Rawk! I believe there are 7 cities in California alone that have passed a similar resolution. Anyone know of other cities in Los Angeles that are deliberating on similar resolutions? I’ll find out if my town of Culver City is.

And in the meantime, know of any resolutions to cap the price of a basic alcoholic beverage in this charge-what-we-like city? What about amendment number 45 to the bill of rights — “every person shall be reserved the right to enjoy an alcoholic spirit or beverage for less than $4, and make fun of those who enjoy the same for over $10.66″ — remember that one?

Last night, my brother and two friends and I headed to OutFest, the annual Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. We saw a beautiful short film called Talking about Amy by Yorico Murakami — all animation, and all about the filmmaker’s thoughts on a friend’s free-spirited views on family and social norms. She narrated the film while stop-animations were going on to describe the abstract and concrete thoughts in her head. 9 minutes. That’s all we got, but every second of it was beautiful.

Then the feature film went on — Spider Lilies — a taiwanese film that deals with two womens’ losses and coming to terms and blah blah blah the details of the movie are less significant than the fact that I need to see more movies. Why? Because the symbolism in the movie was partly lost on me, and I was left taking a crucial piece of the story as literal. Oops. Thank goodness my brother could point out the symbolism and I didn’t have to ask the 2 other friends we went there with, who are filmmakers and cinematographers, the stupid questions. (hopefully they’re not reading this).

I’ve been so heavily involved with the literal that I’ve lost some appreciation for the symbolic. I really need to see more movies. Oh hey, OutFest is going on for another week! Jackpot.

This has been circulating on the net. I saw it at Alas, a Blog. My favorites are numbers 6 and 10.

Ten Reasons Gay Marriage Is Wrong

1. Being gay is not natural. And as you know Americans have always rejected unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because, as you know, a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed. The sanctity of Britany Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren’t full yet, and the world needs more children.

7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.

9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.