Homosexuality doesn’t destroy families, homophobia does.

Homosexuality doesn’t destroy families, homophobia does.

People rest comfortably in the sentiment that they don’t ‘hate’ gay people. They simply feel that gay relationships are unnatural and that the people in them are confused. They don’t wish harm on gay people, just wish they’d stop being so burdensome on the psyche with their…presence.

“I don’t agree with your lifestyle, but that’s just my opinion,” they say, citing the usual suspects as reasons — religion, biology, zoology, and the always high-minded “eww” factor of gay sex. 

But you know what? I call bullshit.

Homophobia is a choice. And all the justifications for why you “disagree with that lifestyle” are rooted in an inability to imagine life outside of your own box. It would be different if homosexuality was linked to some degradation in society, much like violence and ignorance are. But it isn’t. It would be different if you had to be gay. But you don’t.

Gay people haven’t perverted marriage. Same-sex parents aren’t raising damaged children. On the contrary, people have been experts at ruining their own lives, and those around them, for centuries without help from the gays.

If you’re curious about what homophobia (and sexism) looks like, check this: Dr. Umar Johnson, “Educator, Psychologist, Political Scientist and Pan-Africanist,” according to his website, recently argued that overbearing Black single mothers are responsible for the existence of gay Black men. This is so dangerous.

And yet, so easily disproven. For example, I submit the [Magic] Johnson family. How does this happen, Dr. Johnson?

http://marcgordonshow.com/rich-kids-of-beverly-hills-star-ej-johnson-signs-with-wme-exclusive/

Fabulous son, E.J. Johnson, mama Cookie, daddy Magic. (Just so we’re clear: EJ flames, honey. He’s gay.)

Couldn’t be because people are, I don’t know…different? That even a father could be different from his son? The psychologist, scientist, and educator didn’t find this explanation in any of his life studies? Homophobia makes you blind to evidence that’s right before you.

Don’t let people with credentials consign your ignorance.

As National Coming Out Day approaches, I urge families to be better than their biases. Be better than your fears of the unknown. Be better than your disappointment about your expectations. I understand that you may never understand how a person could be into someone of the same gender. But consider this: It’s not about you.

I don’t understand how people can listen to Bob Dylan or consider Wiz Khalifa attractive, but that’s not my bag. I don’t have to understand it to respect it. To regard it. Homophobia is the opposite — because you don’t understand, you disrespect and disregard. There’s nothing noble about that, even if, in your rationalizing, you believe you’re doing the Lord’s work. One person’s salvation doesn’t depend on another’s, does it? I only went to Vacation Bible School for the snacks and the $20 my parents gave me, so I could be wrong.

Even if I am though, how do you know that my spiritual convictions aren’t just as strong as yours? Don’t assume faith has to look the same; don’t assume family has to look the same. Don’t assume life has to look the same. It does not.

Remember that few rational people would risk family shame, abandonment, and judgment by coming out if it wasn’t something they felt compelled to do.

If you find out this weekend that a loved one is gay, don’t let homophobia destroy your relationship. Be better than your fear of what you don’t know. Be better than your disappointment about your expectations.

Nobody’s going to talk to you about sex on the same day they come out. But if you find that that’s all you’re thinking about, then you’re dropping the ball. Snap out of it and get back to the person who just bore their soul to you. It’s about more than sex to them.


5 Thoughts on the Ray Rice Incident

I need to share some thoughts. Because some of the failures of logic presented as opinions in the last 24 hours would be silly if they weren’t so serious.

1) Victims of abuse often make decisions that individuals with healthy states of mind and in healthy relationships would not make. The fact that Janay Palmer married Ray Rice after he knocked her out isn’t evidence that she’s cool with domestic violence. Instead, it is evidence of just how common and insidious abuse is. There are loads of research on this.  See Stockholm Syndrome for a dramatic example. 

2) The circumstances around leaving an abusive situation are far more complex than those of us on the outside can appreciate. But equally important is that women do leave abusive partners and are still abused. In 2009, I met a woman who went to high school with my girlfriend.  She was memorable because she was cool. She had dimples, I think, and laughed easily. Less than a year later, that woman was killed on her doorstep by her EX-boyfriend, who subsequently killed himself in a car a few blocks away. Leaving him wasn’t enough. Rational actions mean nothing to irrational people. For more on this, see #WhyIStayed

3) I don’t condone domestic violence no matter the gender of the aggressor. However, I also do not condone fallacies of false equivalence. Ray Rice’s left hook to his fiancé’s face is an utterly disproportionate response to ANYTHING that occurred before it happened. If you see this in a ‘she hit him and deserves to get hit back’ binary, then your critical thinking skills are lacking, and could use some work. My nephew punched me in the eye a few months ago. I learned in the most unfortunate way that the kid’s got a solid right hand. By the flawed logic I’ve seen floating in cyberspace, I should’ve punched him right back. He’s 2 and 1/4 my size, but eye for an eye. No exceptions.  

4) When it comes to football, cats treat the game like the holy grail and coaches and players like gods. It’s disturbing. Remember that the entire Penn State football program turned a blind eye to rampant acts of sexual abuse of children. Those men protected Jerry Sandusky, and Penn State football, for years. The kids, not so much. 

Of course, Ray Rice isn’t the only football player who has committed a crime against women. As many have pointed out, Rice’s firing makes no profound statements about the League’s tolerance for domestic violence. So, this isn’t a watershed moment. Nonetheless, that others haven’t been punished isn’t grounds for leniency in Ray Rice’s case. It is grounds for investigation and/or policy changes for the entire organization. 

5) Lastly, some folks agreed when Stephen A. Smith opined that, lest they be subject to a beat down, women would save themselves trouble if they just wouldn’t provoke men. This reasoning is problematic because it lets men off the hook for behaving like fucking savages in a civilized society. Provocation is incredibly subjective when “provoking” a man who, in most cases is physically dominant, can range from an involuntary smile or touch to a deliberate act of violence. Provocation is an arbitrary concept and leaves all the onus on women; it leaves us to walk on eggshells around men. And ain’t nobody got time for that.

As an evolved society, we should expect that adults can control themselves enough to not resort to violence when they have disagreements. We’re not there, I acknowledge that. However, at the very least, we should be disgusted witnessing a bully knock his wife-to-be unconscious.  

 


Grown Woman

Bey Grown Woman

…I can do whatever I want.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Mrs. Carter Show.  Man, let me tell y’all why I stan for Beyoncé Knowles Carter.

The woman empowers me.   She makes me feel strong because I am a woman, and not in spite of it.

In my experience, many, if not most women younger than 40 define themselves as contemporary women — those who can be assertive, sexually liberated, both brainy and beautiful, both around the way and upper echelon.  I think Beyoncé successfully bridges the gap between women who personify traditional values, bra-burning feminists and these contemporary women.

I heard somewhere that if an artist catches you at a critical point in your life, you’ll stick with them forever.  Well, ‘4’ was the album and Beyoncé is that artist who has recorded the soundtrack of my life over the last few years.  I’ve liked Beyoncé since the Destiny’s Child days but I really became a fan after spending some quality time with ‘4’.  In that period, I gained clarity about love and relationships, and I confronted my negative conceptions of womanhood. Though I’d shutter to say it aloud, I admit that in the deep recesses of my mind, I associated femininity with weakness. I thought, for example, that traditional women (stay at home moms, cook, clean, and serve type ladies) devalued our struggle.  I was wrong.

I appreciate that Beyoncé embraces the entire spectrum of femininity, and that painted a clearer picture for me.

I can be bad if I want / I can do wrong if I want / I can live fast if I want / I can go slow all night long / I’m a grown woman / I can do whatever I want  

I realized there wasn’t just one way to express womanhood and certainly more than one way to conceive of strength and power. There are socially and culturally constructed standards, but those are constructed – negotiated and decided by society. They are not genetic.

Speaking of genetics, I often hear these expressions of disdain for parenting girls, and it makes me sad because typically, the excuse is no more complex than “girls are difficult.”  I understand that we tend to identify first with what or who we already are, so I get why a man might wish for a son. It is disconcerting though to hear women dismiss the beauty in having little girls and raising strong, proud women because “boys are easier.”   Certainly, the world can be an ugly place for girls, but must it start this early? Imagine that it is your little girl who changes the world for the better, and it’s because you taught her from the jump how dope, and not how difficult girls are.

Beyoncé said in her ‘Life Is But A Dream’ HBO documentary that feminism isn’t about changing laws per se, it’s about changing the way we think. We are conditioned to think of women as one-dimensional beings.  She’s either a wholesome homemaker with a man and some babies, or she’s ruining the family dynamic and the social order with her divergent interests and ambitions.   Here’s a counter paradigm for your consideration:  women are human beings first.  This means we won’t all fit within the narrow boundaries that patriarchy has set up for us.   Women make up 51% of the population; we exist as more than adornments for men.  We are partners in this life.

While our strengths are sometimes different from men’s, they are strengths nonetheless.  We have babies and run businesses, we are supportive wives, family providers and heads of households — with or without men present.  We are both assertive and submissive when appropriate and with whom we consider appropriate.  The beauty of modern feminism — that which Beyoncé represents so well — is that none of these qualities is inconsistent with what it is to be a woman.  No one dictates to us what our role in this life is; we make those decisions for ourselves.  We are grown women.  We can do whatever we want.

All hail King B for bringing home such a powerful message.


“Why does it always have to be about race?”

9267368072_11533350da_zI have been unsettled about the George Zimmerman verdict since it was rendered Saturday night. I’ve bounced back and forth between anger and disappointment. It’s not that a “Not Guilty” verdict was a surprise, it’s that the offense that led to Trayvon Martin’s death is, by nature, hard to prosecute. How do you put a person’s subconscious on trial? How do you prosecute an entire mythology that profiles Black boys as probably dangerous and probably up to no good?

Why does it always have to be about race? Because race is a factor. Race has value attached to it, and ignoring that reality is a privilege. I know some of you will say, what privilege? I’m white and I don’t get anything extra because of it. I disagree. What you get is to belong everywhere. You get to avoid the specter of suspicion brought on by your mere presence in a place. You get to just be.

Why is it always about race?  Because since the beginning, race has informed the structure of our institutions and our policies. But we pretend to be color-blind. This way, we don’t have to wrestle with the disparities that exist between Blacks and whites at almost every level of existence, nor the subliminal messages we receive from media about criminal pathologies to which Black Americans are genetically predisposed, I guess.

Why does it always have to be about race? Because this color-blind society of ours affords some of us a presumption of innocence and paints others with the presumption of guilt. The 1947 doll test and subsequent studies showed that, subconsciously, brown skin is akin to menace. That’s the offense. You could never get the Zimmerman jury to believe that the menace in this situation was George Zimmerman.  He was the creepy one.   Did they ever consider that George Zimmerman was suspicious to Trayvon Martin?  Why was that such a stretch of the imagination that the Prosecution would need to lead them there?  Zimmerman had the arrest record for domestic violence and the loaded gun.  Yet, he gets to be suspicious and the unarmed Black kid gets to be the suspect.  He is wrong, but the law protects his bad inference.  It was lose-lose for Trayvon Martin the moment George Zimmerman encountered him.  There is no justice in that, in life or in death.

So what now?  I’m not here for marches or rallies or riots because, well, I’m over that. I’m also uninterested in wilfully obtuse conversations about reverse racism or the indignity of ‘cracker’ vs. the indignity of ‘nigger’. I am interested in honest discussions about race. Ask me questions, challenge my assumptions, and allow me to do the same. I’m willing to confront race and acknowledge the differences because my Blackness is not incidental for me.  I am not color-blind and I admit that being Black informs my worldview. Similarly, you have to admit that not being Black has informed yours. After watching Juror B37’s interview last night, it is clear that some people have no experience with Black people, save the stereotypes from media or the music they listen to.  We have to change that.  Start by engaging the conversation.  Listen more than you speak.  Understand that you are not representative of the whole.  Understand, too, that you may not be racist, or you just may not know it.

Lastly, two things: First, O.J. Simpson’s acquittal was an anomaly. I’m not sure if Black people thought he was innocent, or if we were just tickled to see the system work in a Black person’s favor, petty as that seems. In contrast, George Zimmerman’s acquittal was a page right out of a Black history book. No Black people on the jury and no acknowledgement of the role of race as an aggravating factor. Only in the absence of context are these two cases similar. Second, miss me with the ‘don’t be mad about Trayvon if you aren’t mad about Black on Black violence’ meme. Jamelle Bouie’s piece, “The Trayvon Martin Killing and the Myth of Black-on-Black Crime,” notes that the large majority of crimes are committed by people who know each other or live near to one another. This means that if Black on Black crime is a thing, then so is white on white crime, as 86% of white victims are killed by white offenders. Still, even if the proliferation of Black on Black crime wasn’t a myth, don’t police my emotions. Black people can decry street violence and the targeting of our young men at the same time. And even then, again, only in the absence of context are these two incidences the same.

I said all of this to say: If you find yourself asking why certain conflicts “always have to be about race,” recognize that privilege is not having to know the answer to that question.


You’re a Homophobe, Dude.

Check yourself.

Check yourself.

Last week, I ignored the comments made by San Francisco 49er, Chris Culliver, about how gays were unwelcome on his team, and unwelcome in his team’s locker room. I ignored them because, well, you just can’t fight every battle.  But then, a Facebook status popped up in my news feed, declaring that those who didn’t ignore Culliver’s comments were just sensitive to folks’ discomfort with homosexuality. There was a chorus of agreement with points like, “yeeees … enough with the political correctness,” and “I don’t hate gays…I just wish they’d go back into hiding….”

Right. Because that’s all we’re doing when we oppose discrimination, being politically correct. Moreover, prefacing statements with “I don’t hate gays…” and then going on to say some hateful shit is really a waste of energy.  Just say you do hate gays.  That way, you can at least be consistent in your logic.   You don’t have to reconcile how it is that one could not hate an individual, but merely wish that he or she remained in the margins of life -unprotected and invalidated, and unseen.  It wasn’t Chris Culliver’s brazen display of ignorance and immaturity that bothered me, it was the people who agreed, and tried to defend him that wouldn’t allow me to remain idle. Here’s what Culliver said:

“I don’t do the gay guys, man. I don’t do that …. Ain’t got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.” Asked to reiterate his thoughts during the interview, Culliver dug deeper, stating that he wouldn’t welcome a gay teammate, no matter how talented. “Nah. Can’t be … in the locker room, nah,” he said. “You’ve gotta come out 10 years later after that.”

The reason what you’ve just read is stupid (which is an academic term, in my opinion) is because it’s based on an irrational fear – the urban legend of the gay man hemming up some unsuspecting hetero, and forcing him into submission. This is irrational because it’s heterosexual men who are responsible for most sexual advances – wanted and unwanted. Allow me to add some perspective by pointing out that I have several gay male friends, and only one of them has ever hit on a straight man. On the contrary, almost all of them have been propositioned at least once by a so-called straight man…

See, homophobia isn’t the fear of gay men and women, per se. In my view, it is a fear of how homosexuality challenges our traditional norms and conceptions of masculinity and femininity. I love the hypocrisy, for instance, when guys balk at the assertion that “all men” are the same of anything, but trot out their “man laws” in the very next breath — ascribing for all men an arbitrary litmus test of masculinity.

The problem with Chris Culliver’s comments, and homophobia in general, I guess, is that they assume so much that has no basis in fact. Culliver’s first assumption is that he’s never had a gay teammate before (folks, gay men play football too) and that he’s never been in close proximity (in a non-sexual way) with a gay man.  Secondly, he assumes that because a gay man is attracted to men, then he’s attracted to all men and is therefore a threat to heterosexual men.  By the same logic then, heterosexual men are a threat to all women. If you find this analogy acceptable, then it’s not gay men who should bear the brunt of your ire. It’s men. Generally speaking.  I maintain that this homophobia folks display so proudly says more about the wearer than the intended target.  Pardon me, but your ignorance is showing.

Additionally, I’m told I can’t be mad at a man for stating what he believes. It’s “his opinion,” they tell me.  Say what now!? I can’t judge an individual based on what he thinks and says? Only when you’ve allowed your biases to corrupt your good sense is this a viable argument. Cats gotta be responsible, at the very least, for what they say.   I agree that everyone is entitled to think and say what she or he feels.  However, once it’s out, the peanut gallery gets to respond. There’s that proverb that goes:  it is better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt. In other words, I can think the world is flat all day long if I want to. It’s not though, no matter how assured I am in my opinion.

The reality is, friends, that gay people are gonna be gay whether you like it, believe in it, support it, or are comfortable with it. Like it or not, we live among you.  We are your neighbors, your teachers, your doctors, your trash people, your hair stylists, your choir directors, your classmates, your brothers, cousins, sisters, moms, dads, and daughters.  In a secular society like the one in which we live, there is no rationalization for homophobia.  Gay people want the same things heterosexual people want – peace, security, happiness, love, opportunity, and respect.  Thus, in this society wherein homos and homophobes seek to find common ground, I submit most sincerely to the latter:  check yourself.  It’s not us, it’s you. Grow up.

P.S. I won’t say Culliver’s poor performance in the biggest game of his life is karma being that bitch again. But prolly.


It is About Guns (and other stuff too), but mostly Guns

It is about guns. And gun culture. And mental illness. And horrible, awful individuals who are of sound mind.  The tragic event that took the lives of 20 babies and 6 courageous adults has these factors baked in.

I’ve resisted posting my thoughts on Facebook or Twitter in the aftermath of all this because, I think, sometimes silence and reflection, not knee jerk responses, are warranted. And because, what could I say that would lessen the blow that some bastard had walked into a first grade classroom and just let off rounds. Those babies deserved better. Life is full of tragic circumstances, but the malevolence shown in that classroom on Friday morning feels beyond cruel. Beyond, ‘bad things happen to good people.’ Something this bad shouldn’t have happened to people who, by virtue of their young age, were this “good.”

I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the gun control (gun safety?) debate. Indeed, ultimately people are responsible for killing people. But let’s be honest: they kill people with guns. The gun is the most lethal, most effective, most easily accessible weapon for folks ready to take their own lives, or inclined to take someone else’s. For example, a robbery is a robbery to the criminal justice system. That is, unless a gun is involved, and then its “aggravated” robbery, and the conviction carries a higher sentence. For the empirically minded, here’s a bit of perspective: Of the 22 Chinese children attacked with a knife on Friday, not one had life threatening injuries. Eventually, they went home to their families.  …no gun to aggravate the situation, you see.

The statistics on gun violence in the U.S. compared to the other industrialized countries is staggering. Sure there are factors like racial and cultural diversity that make direct comparisons a little shaky, but still. There were something like 10,000 deaths related to gun violence in the U.S. in 2011. The next highest number was less than 50 in Japan.  The U.S. is number 7 in high school graduation rates, and number 1 in deaths related to gun violence.  Something is wrong here.

While you may have been taught responsible gun ownership by dutiful parents, you aren’t shooting up elementary schools, movie theaters, places of worship, and shopping malls either. The bastard that took the lives of all those people on Friday did so with semi automatic handguns and a fucking assault rifle, all purchased legally.

But not by him. And this is the conundrum in the discussion, where the legal regulations and the freedom to bear arms fail us.  Thanks to Connecticut’s strict gun laws, the shooter himself was found unfit to purchase weapons. But someone’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment gave him a small home arsenal to choose from anyway. And so, the legal regulations that would have been sufficient to keep those kids safe fell through.

Because some of y’all think your right to own a gun is more important than our collective right to PUBLIC SAFETY.

And to this point about owning guns for hunting and personal protections: no. So you hunt for ‘sport.’ Where’s the sport in using a gun and motor vehicles, and devices to help seek out your prey? Where’s your bow and arrow, your spear, your camouflaged with buffalo skins in the bushes, on your knees, stalking your prey authenticity? You have all the advantage. Hell, if you don’t kill something with the odds stacked so heavily in your favor, then really, get your meat from the grocery store and find another way to harness masculinity.

Ah yes, masculinity — the socially and immaturely defined description that impregnates men with this thought:  ‘Imma get me a glock/pistol/rifle (that I don’t know how to shoot), and put it next to my bed, where my wife and me sleep. So that when/if the perpetrator ever busts through my door, my gun experience from movies, music, video games and folklore, will surely direct my untrained firing of a dangerous weapon to center mass. I’ll be the protector.  I’ll be the hero.’  I suppose this could happen.

Or.   Your curious/socially awkward/depressed/angry kid could find it.  And use it.

What I’m saying is that both sides on the gun control debate have a valid point: people are horrible to each other whether or not they have guns and ammo behind them. However, the easy accessibility of guns, and our country’s obsession with violence as the ultimate display of strength, aggravates our tensions. It elicits permanent solutions to temporary, solvable problems.

Conflict and the fatalities that arise from them are inevitable pieces of the human experience. Truthfully, there are people among us with no redeeming qualities, whose sole purpose in life is to wreak havoc, making us miserable. Death, for them, may be a welcome destination, but I’ll be damned if we’re going to make it easier for them to take innocents along for that dark ride.

As individuals, we should be invested in building our own mental, physical, and spiritual health. And we should be invested in helping others build theirs too. We should seek first to help each other, not to ostracize and degrade. But we do not, and until individuals take better care of themselves and each other, a public safety hazard warrants a public safety response.

It’s beyond time to have the conversation about gun control. It’s beyond time for our culture to become more civilized, more evolved — both in terms of social interaction and our political responses. This is a uniquely American problem. We can’t blame brown-faced terrorists with Arab-sounding names, and this isn’t about the lack of God in schools. God is in individuals — God was in those children and teachers who protected those babies, whether or not it was sanctioned by the government. Can’t blame this on God or the supposed absence of God. A man killed 27 people with guns he shouldn’t have had. This is a man in the mirror moment for our people. Who are we as Americans? What do we want our future to look like?

 


A Suggestion for Compromise on the Fiscal Cliff

FiscalCliffFeature2_0

In a perfect political world, each side gets what it wants.  Since that aint the world we live in, let’s work with what we got.

  1. Dems get their tax increases.  This shouldn’t even be negotiable.  The Bush tax cuts were woefully unproductive at promoting growth, but “amaaaaaaazing” at tackling on billions in new debt.
  2. Republicans get to raise the age of Medicare to 67.  People are living and working longer.  Until our culture is one that values rest, our policies address it in a language it understands.

But here’s the catch:  In exchange for raising the age to 67, Dems get to invest in a National health and wellness program.  The Federal task force would work with Governors, Mayors, and local leaders to create a reasonable contract with state-centered targets.  We could have a quarterly public evaluation to provide accountability and keep the issue fresh — something like a national weigh-in for states.

The rationale is this:  A government is not a business.  Unlike a business, it has a responsibility to promote and protect the public welfare.  But doing that isn’t free, and government must also be prudent in how it spends.  This compromise, then, is an investment in both economic and public health.

The potential outcome is that we accept a national commitment — not one sponsored by independent organizations or non-state actors — a national one that unites us around the goal of reducing the number of incidences of avoidable diseases.

My opposition might dismiss this suggestion as too big a reach, or too intrusive a job for government.  To them, my reply is:  get over it.  Government will be a part of your life for as long as you live.  Might as well use it to help you live longer and healthier, so you can make more money — that it doesn’t have to use to care for you.


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