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Everybody Has a Pulse

Last year, I chose to return to undergrad for the upteenth time in order to pursue my Bachelors of Arts degree in Communication. I can now say with excitement that I am just four courses away from graduation. Last week, I turned in my final project for my Media Writing class. The project was a “feature story” that would be published in a magazine. I chose to write about the Pulse Nightclub and coming out. To memorialize the lives that were lost and directly impacted one month ago today, I have chosen to post my final project at the approximate time it all began with little editing (that’s why my citations are in APA style).

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On June 12, 2016, hundreds of people filled the Pulse Nightclub, a bar that catered to the LGBTQ community. The patrons checked their worries and stressors at the door. They were there to let loose, to be among friends, and to dance the night away. Most importantly, they were there to live. Pulse wasn’t any ordinary nightclub. It was a place of empowerment, solidarity, and it was a refuge for so many people that felt the world didn’t understand them. In the early hours of that Sunday, a gunman entered Pulse armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and opened fire inside. Pulse Nightclub was the latest location of the mass shooting epidemic that has plagued the United States for the last couple of decades. 49 people would ultimately perish, with 53 more injured, becoming the deadliest shooting in American history, and the worst attack against the LGBTQ community in the United States. As the names, ages, pictures and stories of the victims began to be released, many people were drawn to the heartbreaking story of Juan Guerrero and his partner Christopher Leinonen. They were planning their dream wedding together. Ultimately, their lives were cut short, but their families knew the undying love they had for one another. Instead of the dream wedding, their families were planning a joint funeral (Merchant, Johnson & Webber, 2016). As everyone was reeling in the pain and sadness of the massacre at Pulse Nightclub, those within the LGBTQ community were having a harder time coping with the tragedy. Juan’s story resonated with so many that identify as LGBTQ. He came out of the closet to his family in recent years. He feared they wouldn’t accept him; a fear many LGBTQ individuals face everyday.

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At 22 years old, Juan Guerrero had been with his partner, Christopher Leinonen, 32, for three years. Guerrero worked as a telemarketer, but had recently started taking college courses at Central Florida University. He had only recently come out to his family, fearing he wouldn’t be accepted. Not only did Juan’s family accept him, but they also revered Christopher Leinonen as a family member (Merchant, Johnson & Webber, 2016).

The fears of coming out that Juan Guerrero had were common. Sexual orientation encompasses a person’s sense of identity, which is referred to as being how an individual feels, what they call themselves, and whom they want to share their life with and have an intimate relationship (Perrin-Wallqvist & Lindblom, 2015, p 467-468). The Human Rights Campaign notes that 26 percent of LGBT youth state their biggest problems include the feeling of not being accepted by their families, trouble at school and bullying, and a fear to be out and open (HRC, 2016). Heatherington and Lavner (2008) state that when a gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual person chooses to come out to family members, it is an important psychological decision and is a major obstacle in the mind of people that identify as LGBTQ. They often fear the negative consequences that can come from coming out to family, including being kicked out, or losing financial or emotional support from their families, and take those issues into consideration prior to and during the coming out process (as cited in Perrin-Wallqvist & Lindblom, 2015, p 468). Many of the victims at Pulse on June 12 lived with those fears.

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There was a report about one victim that had not been claimed by his family. A father was so ashamed of his son’s homosexuality that he refused to claim his body. He lost his life in an unfathomable way, but his father was still too ashamed to say “He is mine,” (Keneally & Lantz, 2016). Another story that gripped national headlines was about Brenda McCool, a mother of 11 that loved to dance, especially with her gay son that she was so proud of. In an effort to save her son’s life, she shielded him from the gunfire. Brenda was a hero, and stood up to the gunmen to symbolically proclaim that “He is mine” (Summers, 2016, para 20).

 

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Whether you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, have a family member, or a friend that identifies as such, know that there is nothing wrong with being gay, nor does anything change. The lives that were lost that night are no less a person’s child than before they were brutally murdered. The coming out process isn’t a cookie cutter. While the process isn’t unique, each situation and story is unique. Coming out experiences can fall into several different categories from planned discussions to spontaneity. Coming out stories aren’t limited to the list provided here, but in part, Manning (2015) classifies coming out as “the pre-planned conversations,” “emergent conversations,” and “confrontational conversations,” (p 127 & 131). The pre-planned conversation, which is likely the most common way of coming out of the closet for an LGBTQ individual, is the conversation in which the person has made a previous conscious decision to reveal their sexual orientation. Juan Guerrero likely used this method to come out to his family. Emergent conversations occur when the topic of homosexuality come up during the natural flow of conversation, and the closeted LGBTQ individual reveals their sexuality during the evolution of this discussion. It’s common for parents to sift through their child’s belongings. Parents may feel it’s necessary to do this in order to ensure their children are not endangering themselves through the people they hang around with, that they are involved in drugs, or engaging in other illegal activity. During this process, parents may discover their children may be gay. The parents discover this through reading notes and letters, or overhearing phone conversations. In these situations, parents describe themselves as being angry, while their children feel betrayed, scared and confused (Manning, 2015, p 127 & 131). Since there are a multitude of scenarios, LGBTQ people, their friends and family experience and deal with the process in many different ways. When dealing with the realities of being LGBTQ, or having someone in your life that is, love the person, embrace them, and dance the night away with them, just as Juan and Christopher did, and just like Brenda McCool did. It’s important that their deaths are not in vain, but instead are springboards to create dialogue, and better assessments of what love, commitment and compassion truly mean.

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In the end, people in the LGBTQ community only want to be accepted for who they are. Only then can lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and those they deeply love begin to cope with the realities that nothing is different. In fact, the lives of Juan Guerrero, Christopher Leinonen, Brenda McCool and the countless lives that were directly impacted by this mass shooting encapsulate that notion. The sonnet that was passionately and eloquently drafted, and spoken by Lin-Manuel Miranda during the 2016 Tony Awards reminds people that “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside,” (Miranda, 2016). Love conquers hate, and no matter how hard people try, that is a constant that will never change. Love one another, embrace each other, and accept each other, because when the dust settles, that’s one of the only things that everyone truly wants.

HRC (2016). “Growing up LGBT in America,” Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved from:

http://www.hrc.org/youth-report/view-and-share-statistics#.V31BmZMrLeQ

 

Keneally, M. & Lantz, D. (2016, June 13). “Mother of Orlando Shooting Victim Makes

Emotional Plea,” ABC News Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com/US/mother-man-missing-orlando-club-shooting-breaks-awaits/story?id=39794076

 

Manning, J. (2015). “Communicating sexual identities: a typology of coming out,” Sexuality and

Culture 19(1). Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=8b5e899c-a41e-4ee9-aeac-c5f0b5660941%40sessionmgr107&vid=4&hid=104

 

Merchant, N., Johnson, C.K., & Webber, T. (2016, June 15). “Victim Vignettes: All remembered

for joy, love they brought,” AP The Big Story. Retrieved from: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/5fb45f7bd2564c769ff6f3692c305c44/victim-vignettes-all-described-kind-loving-full-joy

 

Miranda, L. M.[Entertainment Tonight] (2016, June 12) “Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Emotional

Tonys Acceptance Speech: ‘Love is Love’.” [Video File] Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUffUHGqYco.

 

Perrin-Wallqvist, R. & Lindblom, J. (2015). “Coming out as gay: a phenomenological study

about adolescents disclosing their homosexuality to their parents,” Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal 43(3). Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=ea33bbe5-b183-436c-a921-9107fa13a5c2%40sessionmgr102&vid=3&hid=104

 

Reynolds, D. (2016). “A Father Refused to Claim Body of Pulse Victim,” The Advocate.

Retrieved from: http://www.advocate.com/families/2016/6/24/father-refused-claim-body-pulse-victim

 

Summers, C. (2016, June 21). “’She was the mom everybody wanted’: Orlando massacre survivor

breaks down in tears at funeral for his hero mother who shielded him with her body and saved his life,” Daily Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3652052/Orlando-massacre-survivor-breaks-tears-funeral-hero-mother-shielded-body-saved-life.html

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A Place of Solidarity, Empowerment and a Place to Live

In times of hardships, tragedies and even triumphs, I find myself picking up a notepad, a drafting pencil or a paint brush to allow my creativity to flow. It’s in these moments when I find my motivation, peace and serenity. Often times, I don’t have a difficult time finding the words to say. After many tragedies, I had no shortage of words to write, but in the face of yet another national tragedy, I’ve found myself at a loss for words.

It’s been four weeks, and it is still incomprehensible to think about what happened at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The worst mass shooting in American history where 49 people died, and 53 others were injured. The spot was chosen because of its popularity, and its LGBTQ clientele.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends—our fellow Americans—who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.President Barack Obama (June 12, 2016).

I’ve been working on what to write in the wake of the massacre, but at times I’ve been overcome with grief, sadness, and unable to conceptualize my feelings into words. I’ve wanted to write something that expresses my own feelings, advocates for awareness, and most importantly honors the victims. 

Eight years ago, my friend invited me to her 21st birthday celebration at Martha’s Vineyard, a gay bar in Springfield, Missouri. I had never been to the bar, but I had always been interested in going… as a “straight” guy, of course. While I was eager to go to Martha’s, by the time I got in there, I felt awkward, uncomfortable and out of place. Deep down inside myself, I knew the truth; I was gay, but I wasn’t ready to accept it. As the night progressed, I loosened up, and began enjoying myself. When we were getting ready to leave, my friend’s friend, who is an openly gay man, came up to me. He put his sweaty arms on my shoulders and said “I know you’re straight, but I just want you to know that you’re adorable.” I don’t know what it was in that moment; maybe he whispered a subliminal message to me – it’s OK to be yourself. I found myself at a crossroad in my life. I could wallow in my self-pity and continue lying to myself, but I didn’t want to live a lie anymore. I was sick of the battle, and I wanted to be true to myself, and the world.

Over time, going to Martha’s became somewhat of a weekly ritual for my friends and me. We went to watch drag shows, we went to drink, to dance, to have a good time, and most importantly to be with friends. One of my greatest memories at Martha’s Vineyard was New Years Eve, 2008. The year was being capped off surrounded by friends that just a year ago, I didn’t know. As the clock struck midnight, drag kings and queens got on stage as we all sang “Seasons of Love,” from Rent. In that moment, I was excited for the path my life was headed on. Everything felt right. As I look back upon my experiences at Martha’s Vineyard, I remember how comfortable I felt there. I could be myself without fear of being harassed; I met like minded people and developed a supportive network of friends.

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“Seasons of Love” at Martha’s Vineyard – New Years Eve, 2008

My personal experiences and feelings aren’t unique.  In fact, they are on par with the norm. As I asked my own friends about their experiences at gay bars their descriptions were strikingly similar to my own. They expressed that they felt at “home” and like they were among “family.” Gay bars, diners, resorts, and other establishments that cater to the LGBTQ community are seen as safe havens. We don’t have to fear the harassment, discrimination, bigotry or hatred that people in the LGBTQ community are all too often faced with. Martha’s Vineyard was my respite from a world, and more importantly, a town that didn’t understand. British comedian, David Morgan said:

People have been asking why the media and our politicians keep referring to Pulse Nightclub as a gay establishment, rather than just calling it a nightclub. Pulse is not just a nightclub, and to refer to it as such would be both disingenuous and misleading. The nightclub was not targeted simply because it was a popular bar, but because it was a popular gay bar. Whether the gunman targeted that specific location because of his religious ideologies, or his hatred for the LGBTQ community, the location was chosen because the patrons were gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and straight allies.

The sobering facts that LGBTQ youth represent approximately seven percent of the youth population, but account for 40 percent of homelessness among all teenagers, and LGBT teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide, while questioning youth are three times more likely when compared to their straight counterparts are troubling, but the troubling facts do not end there. In circumstances in which LGBTQ youth are physically or verbally harassed or abused, it is reported that they are two and a half times more likely to engage in self-harming behaviors. Additionally, youth that come from unsupportive families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide when compared to LGBTQ youth that report little to no family rejection.

The raw emotions those of us in the LGBTQ community are feeling understand the struggles the people at Pulse went through in everyday life. We faced the discrimination, the bigotry and the intolerance first hand, just as they did. We know the stories of the “medical experiments,” torture and death those suspected of being gay were subjected to in the concentration camps during the Holocaust that history books tend to forget. We understand the first pride march was a riot – the Stonewall Riots in 1969. We understand the arson of the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans that killed 32 in 1973, and was the largest mass killing of LGBTQ individuals in the US prior to Pulse, was motivated by hatred. We understand that Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence, beaten and left to die, because he was gay. We understand that Lawrence King was murdered because he professed his love to a male classmate, and his educators ignored the warning signs and pointed blame at Lawrence, rather than his perpetrator. We understand that our transgender brothers and sisters are being discriminated against, abused and killed at even greater alarming rates than lesbians, gays and bisexuals, and our politicians seem preoccupied with legislating what restrooms people should use, rather than creating meaningful legislation. We understand that we couldn’t openly serve in the military until 2011, June 30, 2016 if you’re trans, or get married in all 50 states until last year and we understand the “religious freedom” laws for what they truly are. We also hear loud and clear some of the rhetoric being preached in the wake of the Orlando tragedy in the name of “God.”

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While this attack has affected anyone that values freedom and human life, regardless of their sexual orientation, it’s important to realize this tragedy impacts all of us in different ways, and we mourn in different ways. We respond differently, and even have different connections to the victims and location of the attack. You might be mourning the loss of innocent lives, broken dreams, and families and friends that have to deal with the emptiness their lives now have. You may be heartbroken over the carnage that was spilled on June 12 because of hatred, intolerance and bigotry. You have every right to feel the way you do, because the people that died and the people that are dealing with the injuries and scars are ultimately a part of all of us.

As I wrote this, I felt it was important to capture voices from the LGBTQ community and beyond. I asked a couple of my straight friends for their thoughts on the attack, and this is what they had to say:

“It bothers me that a heavily armed man went into a nightclub and shot a lot of people. Those people were someone’s son or daughter. An act of hate took them away from their families. As a straight mother, I keep thinking that there are parents mourning the loss of their sons or daughters, brothers and sisters. I have a five-year-old daughter, and it scares me that she could be in the wrong place at the wrong time someday because of a hateful person with a weapon.” – Jodi

 

“It’s hard to really put into words what I’m feeling. No one deserves what happened in Orlando.I would be considered by many to be very conservative… Perhaps even a “right wing-nut” to some, but that doesn’t mean I lack compassion. I have been praying for the families of the victims, just as I do for any national tragedy. We can all unite and agree that what happened was absolutely terrible. It especially hit me when I heard he had scouted out Disney World. If he had chosen that as his target, it likely would have been the week I was there for my first Disney trip, as I was there during the Disney “Gay Days.” To think I could have been that close to a national tragedy is hard to fathom, and makes things hit a little closer to home. I have friends in the LGBT community, and to think that they could be targeted for their sexual orientation is just as tragic as Christian persecution in the Middle East*.” – Allison

While we understand and still endure the discrimination, hatred, bigotry and tragedies we have faced over the decades in the LGBTQ community, there’s still reasons to be optimistic. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done for equality, especially for our transgender brother and sisters. We’re still going to face the bigotry and hatred that has plagued us, but we’re in a far better place today than we were even just 10 years ago. The Stonewall Inn was just designated a national historic site by President Obama and just last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the transgender ban in the military. We may still be reeling in the pain of Orlando, and that will take time to heal, but I have hope for a better tomorrow.

“The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. […] And you, and you, and you, you have to give people hope.” – Harvey Milk (1978).

In November, I will cap off an epic expedition to Berlin, Barcelona, the Canary Islands, and Puerto Rico in Orlando. I planned to go to Pulse Nightclub prior to June 12, and that plan has not changed. Barbara Poma initially opened Pulse to keep her gay brother, John Poma’s heartbeat alive after he died. She and co-owner Ron Legler vow to reopen Pulse with a stronger heartbeat than ever before; a pulse strong enough to memorialize 50 lives (49 victims that died, and her brother). A good friend of mine that I met through LGBTQ advocacy often calls us a family of choice. While talking about the reopening of Pulse, Poma reiterated that when she said:

“We just welcome those families into our families. and we just have to move forward and find a way to keep our hearts beating and keep our spirit alive; and we’re not going to let somebody take this away from us.” – TODAY Interview (6/14/16)

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If Pulse is reopened by November, I will go there and dance the night away. Otherwise, I will pay my respects in another way. As Barbara Poma said:

“It’s important to never let hate win.”Today Interview (6/14/16)

Love conquers hate, because:

“We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers 
remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love 
is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside”Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony Awards (6/12/16)

 

*- I don’t want to take away from the sentiments of this comment, because it’s important, however I feel it is also important to point out that many groups of people from many different cultural groups are persecuted in unfathomable ways in parts of the Middle East.

Posted in current events, death, funeral, gay, hatred, lesbian, lgbt, news, Uncategorized

I Will Not Rejoice in the Death of They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named

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Over the last week or so, we have seen stories about one of the most hated people in America being close to death. A few days ago, that individual died. Instead of the typical condolences tweets and Facebook statuses, I saw an influx of celebrations and memes mocking their death. While I made a promise to myself when I made my blog almost a year ago now that I would not mention this individual or their cult, I have chosen to break my silence this one time to hopefully make others think.

While I did tell a few people about this individual’s passing, I did not post a celebratory status on Facebook or Twitter. I have not read the articles that are being written about this hateful person, and I won’t. I have not reblogged any memes or humor pieces that make light of their death. I won’t do these things, because I believe in dignity and respect, even when that idea is not reciprocated by others. I don’t believe in rejoicing or celebrating the death of another individual, regardless of how evil they may have been. This person and their family had no impact on me whatsoever. They do the things they do not to spread “God’s” word as they say, but to be provocative and to draw attention to themselves. While they blame everyone else except for themselves for worshipping false idols, they worship themselves. They strive on the attention we give them, and they eat it up. That’s why I don’t give them publicity, or typically pay attention to what they do. I only knew about this person’s impending and eventual death, because of “breaking news” alerts sent to my phone.

I was saddened when I saw their picture plastered on the front of CNN.com with the headline that they had died. I just wish we would spend the same energy on sharing the stories of the soldiers and other difference-makers in the world that have died. I’ve always been dumbfounded about the fascination we have with this person and their cult. This person deserves no more recognition for their death than anyone else, particularly those that die wearing the uniform of this country. It’s utterly ridiculous that we give them the time and energy that we do. Think of the possibilities if we ignored this family. What would happen if we didn’t give them publicity? What would happen if they didn’t grab headlines? They might not go away, but their egos wouldn’t be as stroked as they are today. The “power” – no matter how small it is – that they have is only further legitimized by our own allowances of following their every move.

Over the last four months, it seems like I have been to more funeral homes than I have my entire life. I have learned that it is now customary for us to donate money to charities that the person that died held near and dear to their heart. My grandfather loved animals, and after he passed away in November, people were asked to donate money to diabetes research and to a local animal shelter. I call for anyone that feels the need to honor the death of the evil individual that died last week to consider donating money to an LGBTQ charity, AIDS initiative, or a charity that supports our troops in their name. I’m sure their family will love that token of our appreciation for them far greater than any happy tweets, memes or pickets of their funeral. Once we donate to these foundations, I suggest we erase this cult from our memories and never utter the name of the “church,” or the family members’ names that belong to the cult. We have the power to strip them of any influences that they may have on society. I for one will continue to campaign against them, but doing so in productive ways, such as being involved with initiatives and organizations that advance causes I believe in. I will not stoop to their level, or play their game. I am above that and I will continue to show dignity and respect to every person, regardless of whether I agree with their stances or not. Without open, constructive dialogue, we halt progression.

(v 1.2)

Posted in crime and punishment, current events, gay, lgbt, news, Psychology, Sexuality, Uncategorized

Error: The American Psychological Association Declassifies Pedophilia as Mental Disorder

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In 1973, the American Psychological Association (APA) caved under mounting pressure from the far left and homosexuals to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, or at least that’s what the anti-gay political pundits and religious leaders would like us to think. All too often, we see those on the far-right say that homosexuality is still a disorder, despite mounds of evidence that prove the contrary. They say the APA removed homosexuality as a mental disorder as a political ploy to legitimize a deviant lifestyle choice that can be cured with a prescription of treatment and the healing powers of their religion. Since 1973, the United States and other parts of the world have made significant strides in ensuring every LGBTQ individual is provided equality and equal protection under the law. In the heat of the marriage equality debates, we’ve heard the slippery slope fallacy that if homosexuals are given rights, then the only logical next step is legalizing pedophilia, bestiality and incest.

But is there a possibility that maybe these anti-gay neoconservatives were right? Could legalized pedophilia be just around the corner? Some on the far-right would like us to think so. A few days ago, the American Psychological Association committed an egregious error when they were discussing changes to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). “Cultural expert” Sandy Rios ran with the error and created a controversy that pedophilia was being declassified in the latest edition of the DSM-V. She argued that just as the homosexuals had pressured the APA in the 1970s, NAMBLA and their supporters had successfully done the same. A prominent “Christian news” organization picked up this story, and it quickly went viral online, which in turn created hysteria .

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Failing to act as any reputable journalist would, the “news” site, Sandy Rios and her posse failed to conduct a simple two-second fact-check that would have eased anyone’s fears that what they were reporting on was a false reality. Instead, the far-right, anti-gay blogosphere ran amok, fear-mongered and manipulated those that hang on every one of their ill-gotten words in the hopes that they’d eat it right up! It seems as though many others failed to conduct independent studies to determine the validity of these claims and instead ran to the neoconservative sites clamoring to Antoine Dodson’s famous words, “hide yo kids, cuz they comin’ for you.” “How can we protect our children now,” one concerned parent said, “What has happened to this country,” another cried with dozens of question marks to reiterate the urgency of their question.

When the APA made a statement explaining their error, the Christian site, Sandy Rios and the neoconservative blogosphere didn’t redact their statements that had been creating hysteria in some circles as any credible news agency or person would do. Instead, they wrote a little disclaimer announcing the claims that pedophilia was now a sexual orientation similar to heterosexuality and homosexuality was “in dispute by some.” Others waited until a more intelligent individual came along and pointed out the error in their comments section.

This unfortunate event occurred after the APA was attempting to explain that pedophilia is no longer the term used to describe a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. They have changed pedophilia to “Paraphilic Disorder,” in an effort to create more uniformity in the way the disorders were named in the DSM-V chapter about pedophilia. If you’re curious to know what the criteria for the newly-worded disorder is, you can read this PDF file that explains what Paraphilic Disorder is and the criteria required for a diagnosis. The bulk of the importance for this disorder says (Emphasis is mine):

Most people with atypical sexual interests do not have a mental disorder. To be diagnosed with a paraphilic disorder, DSM-5 requires that people with these interests:

feel personal distress about their interest, not merely distress resulting from society’s disapproval;

or 

have a sexual desire or behavior that involves another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death, or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent.

You might be asking yourself why would Sandy Rios and her cronies intentionally mislead the public into ignorantly thinking pedophilia is now a sexual orientation, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. It’s quite simple, really. The LGBTQ community has made great strides in losing the second-class citizen status that we’ve been labeled with for generations. Approval of marriage equality is at all-time highs, Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell kicked the bucket years ago (and the world didn’t end!), 14 states, Washington, D.C., and a handful of counties in New Mexico now have marriage equality, with Oregon recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of state and Hawaii possibly being on the cusp of extending marriage equality to their citizens. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been garnering headlines lately, and all the challenges to bans on same-sex marriage have been clogging the state and federal judiciaries. What better way to buck this trend than to make concerned parents think their children are in danger of falling victim to sexual predators if support for equality continues. Sandy Rios and the gang don’t care if what they say isn’t true, the truth doesn’t fit into their losing agenda to codify discrimination into this country. They hope to sway people away from supporting LGBTQ rights by passing on ignorance to those that cling to their every word. These people are salivating at the mouth. They can finally say, “I told you so,” even if there’s not an ounce of truth to what they told us.

Radio talk show host, Fox News Contributor and apparent "Cultural Expert" Sandy Rios
Radio talk show host, Fox News Contributor and apparent “Cultural Expert” Sandy Rios

In the coming weeks, months and years, I suspect we’ll be hearing more about this error by the American Psychological Association. The anti-gay neoconservatives will jump on the bandwagon conceding that the APA made an error, while pointing at the mistake as evidence that people are softening their views on pedophilia. Those on the losing side of history will cry that it’s only a matter of time before our children will become sexual prey and the we’ll have to sit idly by as pedophiles exercise their “equal rights.” They’ll say the pedophilia mishap was just revealed a few years sooner than they had planned.

Posted in current events, gay, lesbian, lgbt, news, religion, Uncategorized, violence

Changing the Message: How Anti-LGBTQ Zealots Mask Hatred in Religious Convictions

Described as one of the worst hate crimes to be committed against an LGBTQ person in America since Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder in 1998, the slaying of 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King by a fellow classmate in February of 2008 has been depicted in the new HBO documentary, Valentine Road. The film weaves through the events that led up to Larry’s murder, the aftermath and the trial of his 14-year-old killer, Brandon.

Larry King
Larry King

Larry was anything but an ordinary teenager. He identified as bisexual, was effeminate and enjoyed wearing women’s clothing and makeup. He was the victim of relentless bullying by his classmates. Just like any other teenager, Larry had a crush on one of his peers, Brandon. Leading up to Larry’s death, Larry harassed Brandon. He called him his love and spread rumors that they were in a relationship together. A few days before Valentine’s Day, Larry went up to Brandon while he was playing basketball with his friends and asked Brandon if he would be his valentine. In the days leading up to Larry’s death, Brandon became increasingly agitated towards Larry. On February 12, 2008, as Larry sat in his English class, he was shot at point-blank range twice in the back of his head by his crush. He succumbed to his injuries a day later.

Shockingly, several individuals interviewed in Valentine Road were unsympathetic towards Larry while they sympathized with Brandon. Two teachers said Larry wouldn’t have cross-dressed and worn makeup if he was in their classes. One teacher said she would have spanked the transgenderism right out of him, while she condoned Brandon’s interest in white supremacy. Another teacher said Larry would still be alive if she was his teacher. She would have made him check his cross-dressing at the classroom door.

Three jurors that served on Brandon’s 2011 mistrial were shown sitting around a kitchen table portraying Larry as Brandon’s aggressor, not Brandon’s victim. One of them said that Brandon was, “Just solving a problem,” in justifying Larry’s murder. After Brandon accepted a plea deal that put him in prison for 21 years, the women talked with cameras outside the courthouse saying his sentence was too long because he was just a kid, had no prior criminal history and “It wasn’t like he kidnapped anyone.” Brandon may not have kidnapped Larry, but he did rob Larry of his right to life.

Matthew Shepard
Matthew Shepard

When we hear about murders like Larry King’s and Matthew Shepard’s, suicides that result from anti-gay torment, and people being bullied for being LGBTQ, we often find ourselves seeking answers as to why these things are happening. The answer is quite simple; it’s the message that gay people are morally and spiritually repugnant. In the wake of Larry’s murder, Ellen Degeneres made an emotional plea to her audience. Ellen said, “Somewhere along the line, Brandon learned that it was so threatening, so awful and so horrific that Larry wanted to be his valentine that killing him seemed like the right thing to do and when the message out there is so horrible that being gay can get you killed, we need to change the message.”

With politicians, religious leaders and pundits raising the Bible to divine status, the environment they have created has resulted in society believing they are the moral authority over the world – as though they speak for God. This has seemingly resulted in the Bible being used as a weapon of power to oppress others. The Church’s oppression has not been limited to the secular world, but has even been used as a weapon to oppress its own faithful. Not only have these people used the Bible to oppress, they have used it to justify discrimination against the LGBTQ community under civil law.

Many lawmakers and religious leaders encourage the families of LGBTQ people to exercise “tough love” with a “healthy detachment.” In the documentary, For the Bible Tells Me So, Mary Lou Wallner tells the story about how her daughter, Anna committed suicide after Mary Lou exercised a tough love mentality. A few months before her death, Anna told Mary Lou that she had, “Done colossal damage to her soul with her shaming words.” The shaming words Anna spoke of were the words Mary Lou’s church had taught her.

Mary Lou Wallner’s story in For the Bible Tells Me So:

Not unlike Mary Lou Wallner’s story, the relationship between Mary Griffith and her son, Bobby is depicted in the true story, Prayers for BobbyMary told Bobby that she wouldn’t have a gay son and if he prayed and dedicated his life to the Bible that God would deliver Bobby from his abomination. Bobby couldn’t deal with his mother’s ignorance. He jumped off a bridge, killing himself instantly.

Trailer of Prayers for Bobby:

In both Mary Lou and Mary’s situations, they both began seeing the Bible in a different and more loving light after their tragedies. Unfortunately for them, their change of hearts were too late for Bobby and Anna. Instead of living a life of regret, Mary and Mary Lou wouldn’t let their children’s suicides be in vain. They both became pioneers in changing attitudes about the relationship between sexuality and Christianity. On her non-profit organization’s web site, Mary Lou Wallner quotes a Bible verse we all should live by:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV).

While Mary Lou Wallner and Mary Griffith discovered the errors of their ways after it was too late, politicians and religious leaders continue to lead families down the road Mary Lou and Mary once found themselves down. As long as these politicians and religious leaders continue to dupe society into oppressing their children, their colleagues and their peers while making society believe the gay community is destroying America and asking for the wrath of a vengeful God, then the message we send Matthew’s murderers, Larry’s killer and all the bullies out there is that what they’re doing is justified.  In reality, it’s the anti-gay crowd that is destroying this country, ripping families apart and leading the charge for bullying, violence and self-injury.

During the height of the news media covering teenage suicides resulting from incessant demeaning bullying in 2010, the It Gets Better Project was launched. Kathy Griffin participated in the video campaign by providing her own video. In part, Griffin said, “The politicians, so-called religious leaders and pundits who have made careers out of saying being gay is wrong, or immoral, or that gays are somehow less than, all have blood on their hands.”

Kathy Griffin’s full It Gets Better video:

I’m uncertain as to whether neoconservative radio talk show host and FOX News contributor, Sandy Rios saw Kathy Griffin’s video, but she was recently caught trying to wash the blood off the hands of political pundits and religious leaders that have profited from destroying families. On the eve of the 15-year commemoration of Matthew Shepard’s death, Rios took the stage at the Family Research Council’s annual “Values Voter Summit,” last weekend to introduce a new theory into Matthew Shepard’s murder. According to her, the gay community and liberals conspired to savagely murder Matthew. The LGBTQ community and liberals needed a martyr to gain sympathy from society. By framing two anti-gay killers, the conspirators succeeded in faking-out Americans, thus garnering unabashed support from society, which led to the advances in equality we have seen over the years. As we all know, Matthew Shepard didn’t die as a result of some grand conspiracy. He was tortured and murdered because at some point, Matthew’s perpetrators learned that he was a threat. Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard once said, “When you call someone a ‘fag,’ it identifies them with a group, a group that in today’s climate is open to harassment. So by calling someone a ‘fag,’ you are giving yourself and the people around you the license to either damage this individual verbally or physically.”

In one of the most poignant moments in Prayers for Bobby, Mary Griffith’s former pastor spoke during a city council meeting about how the LGBTQ community is spitting in the face of decency and morality. Afterwards, Mary took the podium. She talked candidly about how she believed that homosexuality was a sin and that homosexuals deserved to live an eternity in Hell. Her opening remarks were met with great enthusiasm and praise. As Mary continued speaking, she admitted that she did everything in her power to help cure Bobby of his sickness only to learn that everything she was taught was bigotry and dehumanizing slander. Fighting back her tears, Mary said that Bobby’s suicide was a direct result of his parents’ ignorance and fear. Her church had taught her to act as she did when Bobby was alive. She encouraged church members and leaders to reconsider how they broached the topic of homosexuality, reminding them that children were listening. Mary was met with a roaring standing ovation after her remarks.

Mary Griffith’s speech at the city council meeting in Prayers for Bobby:

Families, bullies, Matthew’s murdereres, the teachers in Larry’s school, Brandon and his jurors weren’t born with the ignorance and hatred they espoused. They were taught their beliefs from powerful forces that represent us in government and preach from a pulpit each week claiming to speak for God. I may not be religious, but my knowledge of the Bible is far greater than the average joe’s understanding of it. I must say, I remember a very different God from the God described by those that use religion as a means to promote their own agendas for personal gain while claiming to be God’s speakers.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, he had a dream that one day people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, I yearn for the day when individuals aren’t judged based upon who they love, but by who they are as a person.  We are all different in many different ways, but one commonality we share with each other is that we’re all human. Each of us deserve dignity and respect. It’s time for people to stop using a weapon of oppression to rationalize discrimination and bigotry and use the Bible as a tool to embrace diversity, love, acceptance and compassion for one another, just as the book they hide behind commands us to do.

Posted in current events, government shutdown, news, news and current events, politics, Uncategorized

Washington Plays Chicken with American Lives

shutdown

For the first time in 17 years, the United States government is shut down. In the 11th hour, the United States Congress were unable to meet a resolution to fund the government and now we are faced with the reality that our politicians have failed us. It’s hard for me to not point blame for this absolute failure by our elected leaders, but in the end, both major political parties are to blame. Just as in tort law, which takes into account the negligence of the plaintiff and the defendant and chooses a judgment based upon a percentage of blame, I blame Republicans for the bulk of the situation we are in, but we can’t lay all of the blame on them. Democrats and the President are also guilty.

President Barack Obama (D)
President Barack Obama (D)

While I wholeheartedly believe in a clean bill to fund our government, sometimes we have to swallow our pride and negotiate. I don’t fault Republicans for trying to negotiate, but I do fault them for attempting to pass intangible demands. The U.S. House, which is controlled by the Republicans, and Speaker John Boehner made demands they knew would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate. Even if by some miraculous divine intervention these bills would have passed the House and Senate, President Obama would likely have veto such a bill before either House had dried the ink. An infamous way of figuring out whether you’re insane or not is when you try the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. You would think that after the U.S. House passed a resolution to defund the Affordable Care Act 42 times that they would get the picture that the result was going to be the same. Apparently not. Not only has the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to defund the ACA 42 times, but they have attempted to attach that vote to the funding of the government to avert a shutdown, attempted to delay the implementation of Obamacare by a year and attempted to limit the availability of contraception for women.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

Now, the right-wingers are likely saying, “Woah, woah, woah! The President and the Senate said they’re unwilling to negotiate!” This is true, and where the Democrats fall short of being able to point full blame for this government shutdown on the Republicans in the House. As I said before, I believe in a clean bill that would fund the government without any additional amendments to it, but when Republicans stood strong on their convictions of adding amendments to a spending bill, the Senate and President should have been more open to negotiating. I understand they didn’t want to come to the table with Republicans because of their attempts at defunding the Affordable Care Act or delaying the ACA, but at some point you must put your pride aside and realize your stubbornness isn’t going to avert the government shutting down.

The moment Congress came back from summer recess both sides of the aisle should have created a committee that would negotiate a compromise on funding the government. In the Senate’s defense, the House refused to create such a committee until they were backed into a corner with the deadline looming and the GOP seeing plummeting approval ratings for Congress with polls showing they would get the brunt of the blame for this now in-effect government shutdown. With 15 minutes to spare, Senator Harry Reid announced there would be no compromises and no committees after Speaker Boehner announced they were willing to assemble a committee to negotiate a fair resolution to the crisis plaguing over 1,000,000 people right now.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

Our elected officials are given the privilege of serving their constituents under the agreement that they will do something. The 113th Congress is on track to be the least productive legislative session in modern history. Washington has become so polarizing and so power-hungry that they’re unwilling to work together. I’ve said in some of my previous posts that ‘bipartisan’ is becoming a dirty word on the Hill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

As hundreds of thousands of federal employees woke up today, they were faced with the grim reality that they’re either furloughed without pay, or required to come to work unsure of when they might see their next paycheck for the foreseeable future. They struggle to know how they’ll make ends meet and put food on their families’ tables as Congress plays a childish game of chicken. If you’re worried about our Congresspeople getting their paychecks over the course of this shutdown, do not fret; they will be paid on time. Federal prison guards and some of our military personnel will continue to perform their job descriptions likely living paycheck to paycheck, while our representatives and senators continue to receive their $174,000 yearly salary and Obama gets a slice of his $400,000 a year salary.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

This is the first government shutdown to happen since the last democrat was in office, working with Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Republican-controlled House. You should expect to start hearing the soundbites that democratic presidents are inept at averting a shutdown, while democrats point out that the Republicans are unable to control Washington without a shutdown over the course of the next three years. I don’t think this is a Republican problem or a Democrat problem, but it is a Republican and Democrat problem.

Have you ever seen Undercover Boss on CBS? It’s the show where wealthy executives shadow average employees within their companies. The premise is to see how their policies affect the average individual, but by the end of the show, the executive realizes how difficult their minions’ jobs are and how many of their employees have a difficult time making ends meet. Congress is complacent. While they’re busy bickering about ideologies and pointing the blame at one another, they forget how the “little” man lives. I envision Congress as a horse wearing blinders. They can see each other, but they can’t see the wider picture of how their decisions, or in this case indecisions affect their constituents.

We put our Congresspeople in Washington to fight for us. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, they have fought for their own agendas at the cost of taxpayers. If I worked for an advertising firm and had to pitch a presentation to a group of my clients, but missed my deadline, I likely would be packing my desk and be unemployed. Most politicians know they can get away with such blatant disregard for what is good for this country because come election time, we’re unlikely to vote them out. It’s time we hold our politicians accountable. If they can’t get the job done, we can replace them with people who will, while at the same time reminding them they work for us, not their political party. Save your polarizing banter for a rainy day. Both parties are only alienating themselves from each other and halting the government to a standstill. If Republicans want to defund Obamacare, let there be a referendum on November 4, 2014 and November 8, 2016. Don’t hold everyone else hostage and refuse to compromise on a resolution that could free the hostages. It’s time for D.C. to stand up and do something, instead of having yelling matches and pointing fingers between the two chambers. If I was able to make a rule for Capitol Hill to follow, it would be: you can’t leave until the job you were elected to do and granted to you by the Constitution is done.

I will leave you with this quote that has been circulating around the Twitosphere by our second president of the United States, and one of our founding fathers:

“In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, 2 is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.” – John Adams