September 30, 2010
Tyler Clementi played the violin. He won a scholarship for his playing, and as of this fall he was a member of the Ridgewood (New Jersey) Symphony Orchestra—pretty impressive for an 18-year-old college freshman, and he’d been playing in the RSO since high school. A friend recently said this* about his talent: “When you picked up the violin and began to play, it was as if everything just paused until you put it down again.” Here is a photograph of Clementi playing, courtesy of the New York Times**:
That picture reminds me so much of one of my friends from high school; I like to think that if I’d met Tyler when I was his age, we would have been friends.
Perhaps that’s part of why I’m so thoroughly heartsick that Tyler Clementi appears to have killed himself last week. (The phrasing “appears to have killed himself” is a pretty heavy dose of denial on my part, but since today’s ABC News article—linked below—states that “Officials are still trying to determine today whether a body pulled from the Hudson River Wednesday is Clementi”… I guess I just want to believe that he might not actually be dead, that this was all some elaborate scheme for revenge. I’m not sure what that says about me, exactly.)
Here’s what happened, via the New York Times (linked below): Read the rest of this entry »
February 12, 2010
Kansas senators endorsed a plan that tells federal lawmakers to stay off their turf.
Senators voted 33-7 in favor of a nonbinding resolution (SCR 1615) Thursday that asserts the state’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The resolution takes aim at the federal government for taking a bigger role in everything from education to health care.
I’m kind of wondering where these senators were when No Child Left Behind came around, if they’re really so concerned about the federal government interfering with state sovereignty where education is concerned — but maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe they were up in arms about that, too, but since I didn’t live in Kansas at the time, I wasn’t aware of it. At any rate, it gets better (and by “better” I mean “more horrifying”):
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, asked what statement the resolution might make about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The resolution calls for compulsory legislation to be repealed.
“Would this language indeed say that those federal acts should be repealed?” he asked of Sen. Tim Owens, whose Judiciary Committee brought the bill to the full Senate. “That that would be the opinion of the Kansas Legislature to repeal those two acts?”
Owens, an Overland Park Republican, said that was a possible interpretation.
“I find that very troubling,” Hensley said.
Yeah. Me too. I have a bad feeling this is going to become a “red state” trend, if it isn’t one already, and while I appreciate that the resolution is nonbinding, I think it has troubling implications, particularly with regard to issues of civil rights.
E pluribus what now?
February 2, 2010
Banning same-sex unions from being legally recognized is a curious business. Prop 8 supporters in California have tried to make the argument that such a ban is not discriminatory, and yet witness the effect Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage has had on the lives of Kelly Glossip and his partner, Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard:
When Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard was killed in a Christmas Day traffic accident near Eureka, the agency described him as single with no children.
Gov. Jay Nixon called on Missourians to pray for Engelhard’s family, who “lost a beloved son and brother.”
Neither statement tells the whole story.
Engelhard, hit by a car that lost control in the snow, was gay. He left behind a partner of nearly 15 years who was not mentioned in his obituary or official information released by the Highway Patrol, although members of the agency knew about his sexual orientation.
If Engelhard had been married, his spouse would be entitled to lifetime survivor’s benefits from the state pension system — more than $28,000 a year.
But neither the state Highway Patrol pension system nor Missouri law recognizes domestic partners.
The combination of laws and restrictions combine to form quite a quandary: your partner can only receive your pension benefits after your death if you’re married, and you can’t get married because you’re gay. Read the rest of this entry »
November 4, 2009
By a narrow margin, Maine voters have rejected the legislature’s decision to allow same-sex couples to marry in that state. I’m heartbroken, I’m frustrated, and to be honest, I’m confused. I have heard the arguments against legalizing same-sex marriage, and while I suppose I understand them on an intellectual level, on a gut-deep, visceral level? They’re truly beyond me. Read the rest of this entry »
June 4, 2009
So much has happened lately: the issues of torture and the abuse of detainees continue to rear their ugly heads. President Obama nominated Justice Sotomayor for the Supreme Court (and the wingnuts, predictably, went completely batshit) on the same day the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8. Dr. George Tiller was murdered. On all of these subjects I tend to find myself vacillating between being at a complete loss for words and babbling incoherently, and ultimately I feel like there’s really nothing I can say that others haven’t already said better. I’m not a journalist; I need time to let things stew before I can adequately articulate my thoughts and feelings. To wit, when Evil Bender told me on Sunday that Dr. Tiller had been murdered, first I said, “No,” partly disbelieving him entirely and partly hoping Tiller had been shot and rushed to the hospital and had been thought to be dead but would actually turn out to be alive. My next response was to tear up and say, “Motherfucker.” Neither word makes for a particularly substantive blog post.
Okay, so why am I going into this now? Well, something goofy came across my desk this morning that I thought would make for a nice lighter-side post, but I was concerned that without having at least acknowledged the other things going on in the country these days, it would come off as insensitive (at the least) and/or as if I’d been living under a rock. So. There we are.
February 9, 2009
Doctor: Is she your sister?
Willow: She’s my everything.
–Buffy the Vampire Slayer 5:19, “Tough Love”
Nearly a year ago now I spent a week in the hospital with my mother as she underwent cancer treatments. Every morning I went downstairs to retrieve a wheelchair with which I would deliver Mom to her appointments. Mom had introduced me as her daughter to just about everyone we encountered upon our arrival and afterward, and our relationship was accepted as a given. No one ever asked me what I was doing pushing an empty wheelchair into an elevator or walking to the food court by myself. I never had to prove my relationship with my mother – which was rather handy, considering that we have different last names and I don’t generally travel with my birth certificate.
I thought of that hospital experience I came across this story over the weekend. It is the sort of story that is becoming terribly, heartbreakingly, familiar:
As her partner of 17 years slipped into a coma, Janice Langbehn pleaded with doctors and anyone who would listen to let her into the woman’s hospital room.
Eight anguishing hours passed before Langbehn would be allowed into Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. By then, she could only say her final farewell as a priest performed the last rites on 39-year-old Lisa Marie Pond.
Jackson staffers advised Langbehn that she could not see Pond earlier because the hospital’s visitation policy in cases of emergency was limited to immediate family and spouses — not partners. In Florida, same-sex marriages or partnerships are not recognized. On Friday, two years after her partner’s death, Langbehn and her attorneys were in federal court, claiming emotional distress and negligence in a suit they filed last June.
My knee-jerk reaction to this story was: this is why we need same-sex marriage. Upon further reflection, though, it’s clear to me that the situation is far more complex than that. I think the root of the problem really lies with a limited definition of family – generally restricted, as it was at Jackson Memorial Hospital, to “immediate family and spouses.” That definition excludes more than just long-term partners – what about, for example, situations in which a grandparent or aunt or uncle stepped in as a child’s primary caregiver, and that child is now an adult? If the (adult) child is in a car accident, shouldn’t that grandparent or aunt or uncle be allowed to see their loved one? Furthermore, what about step-parents, or people whose family aren’t related to them by blood or romantic relationships?
I also thought about identification in emergency situations. As a general rule, if someone says, “You have to let me see him; he’s my husband/brother/father,” do people at the hospital take them at their word, or do they ask to see some sort of ID? What if, as I alluded to before, the last names are different? If Janice Langbehn had just told the people at the hospital that Lisa Marie Pond was her sister, would that have solved the problem?
I appreciate that hospitals have these policies because they want to protect their patients (at least ostensibly). I don’t have any suggestions as to how hospitals could accommodate expanding definitions of “family” while still keeping patients safe and un-harassed (though that begs further questions: what if the patient is estranged from their immediate family? What if their spouse is abusive?). Still, I can’t help but feel that these policies – or at least their enforcement – have a judgmental feel to them, that hospital officials consider themselves the arbiters of what is and isn’t family. And it seems to me that the only people that ought to be making that decision are the family members themselves.
December 3, 2008
(How is it December already?)
On Thanksgiving and how it relates to, affects, and is regarded by North American indigenous peoples: Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians and Teaching The Young To Disrespect Indigenous Culture by Renee at Womanist Musings
On expectations for children with Down syndrome: More on Peter Singer and Jamie Bérubé by Michael Bérubé
On freedom of speech: Why defend freedom of icky speech? by Neil Gaiman
It’s not exactly cheery material, so “happy reading” doesn’t seem appropriate. Still, I think an exhortation to enjoy wouldn’t be out of line, since I personally enjoy thought-provoking reading. So: enjoy!
November 20, 2008
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved. …
The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.
Jack at Feministe points out that “Remembrance is important and necessary, but we cannot stop at remembrance. If we want this violence against trans people to stop, we must move beyond mourning our dead and take up the fight for the rights of our living,” then goes on to list a number of ways to do so.
Some facts compiled by the Remembering Our Dead Project:
- As of November 11, 2008, 16 transpeople [the site says 30 elsewhere] have died as a result of transphobic violence. This is already double last year’s number. These numbers include not only those who were murdered for being trans, but also those whose deaths were caused by transphobia in other ways. One example is Tyra Hunter, who in 1995 “died from non-life-threatening injuries received in an auto accident because EM workers stopped treating her when they discovered she was Transgender.”
- Twelve states, along with the District of Columbia, have hate crime laws that include gender identity. Is your state one of them? If not, what can you do to change that? If so, are those laws being enforced?
- Transpeople themselves aren’t the only victims of transphobic violence. Being in a relationship with a transperson can put someone at risk, too. Indeed, even just the slightest sign of gender non-conformity can be an excuse for the transphobic to act out: “Willie Houston was not a transgender person, but faced anti-transgender and (and anti-gay) violence because he was carrying his wife’s purse, and assisting a blind male.”
Also, Little Light expresses frustration at the HRC trying to get involved in Portland’s Trans Day of Remembrance (and trying to shift the focus “to ‘Trans Awareness Day,’ something much more upbeat, much more focused on feel-good celebration of the community, something much more acceptable to upper-class, culturally-normative assimilationists you can put in the newspaper without making anyone feel threatened”):
The Day of Remembrance is ours, and it is sacred. It is the one day we set aside to honor those in our community, overwhelmingly poor trans women of color, who were killed due to bigotry and hatred. It is a single day in the year where we make certain that the names of the murdered are heard and held up, so we can all remember that these people mattered, were real, were loved, and are missed. It’s a day to gather the community together and call attention to the violence directed against us and the caring we have for each other. It came from us. It was built by us. It was never supposed to be flashy or glitzy. It is a solemn mourning for the dead, a place to hold hands, and a promise to those who violence took away from us that we who are still living will hold together, take care of each other, and push forward together into a world where that violence is only a painful memory.
Other posts worth reading: queenemily at Questioning Transphobia: How to Mourn, Cara at the Curvature: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2008, Autumn at Pam’s House Blend: Today is the Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Remember. Mourn. Act. Speak out.
October 29, 2008
I support same-sex couples being granted the right to marry, and therefore I oppose measures like California’s Proposition 8. (I seriously doubt that’s a surprise to anyone reading this.) To be honest, it seems so simple and straightforward to me: either America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans citizens are equal to its straight (or bi-partnered-with-the-opposite-sex, or closeted) citizens, or they aren’t. This country was founded, in part, on the ideal of equality, and throughout the country’s history our understanding of who is deserving of that equality has broadened, expanded. My belief is that that is as it should be. Everything in me rails against the notion of “equality for me but not for thee.” I think there’s room in the equality tent for everyone. If, then, I can marry my current partner — which, legally, I can — I want that same right to be extended to everyone else, gay or straight. I’ve been to weddings where I’ve wept with joy and I’ve been to weddings where I’ve shifted uncomfortably in my seat — why should I not be able to do one or the other or both or something in between at the weddings of my beloved lesbian and gay and bi friends? What kind of sense does it make to tell someone that they can’t enter into a legal marriage with their chosen partner because they’re different? How the hell does Pam and Kate getting married denigrate heterosexual marriage? To the religious zealots, social conservatives, etc. pushing Prop 8: how does two people of the same sex deciding to get married even have anything to do with you?
To my Californian readers: please vote on Tuesday, and please, please be sure to vote against legislated inequality by voting no on Prop 8.
September 23, 2008
Politics are a balancing act: opposing viewpoints struggle for recognition and for dominance, and politicians work to find balance between ideals and electability. With that in mind, then, I can understand, intellectually, why, in spite of relatively progressive words spoken at the Democratic National Convention — “I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination” — Barack Obama would have someone like Doug Kmiec stumping for him on his “Faith, Family, and Values Tour.”
But understanding it intellectually doesn’t keep me from being frustrated by it.
As a Republican, I strongly wish to preserve traditional marriage not as a suspicion or denigration of my homosexual friends, but as recognition of the significance of the procreative family as a building block of society.
As a Republican, and as a Catholic, I believe life begins at conception, and it is important for every life to be given sustenance and encouragement.
As a Republican, I strongly believe that the Supreme Court of the United States must be fully dedicated to the rule of law, and to the employ of a consistent method of interpretation that keeps the Court within its limited judicial role.
As a Republican, I believe problems are best resolved closest to their source and that we should never arrogate to a higher level of government that which can be more effectively and efficiently resolved below.
As a Republican, and the constitutional lawyer, I believe religious freedom does not mean religious separation or mindless exclusion from the public square.
In spite of all that, he supports Obama. There’s something to that, to be sure — in order to be truly productive, it’s helpful for Presidents and Presidential candidates to appeal to both sides of the aisle. That said, though, I find the fact that this man is being used as an Obama surrogate on this tour troubling. He has been vocal in his support for California’s ballot proposition 8, which will ban same-sex marriage in that state. And while that is far from the only LBGTQ issue worth mentioning — where does he stand on DADT? What about hate crime and/or anti-discrimination legislation? — it is particularly visible at the moment, and so many people feel like Obama is shoving LBGTQ people under the bus. Again, it’s frustrating. As Deeky asks, “how am I supposed to reconcile Obama’s promise of lives free of discrimination, with his tapping of an anti-gay, anti-equality bigot as his messenger in the final days of the campaign?”
Furthermore, I wonder how much good this will actually do. If Michelle Obama is correct in her estimation that young people will have a significant impact on this election, then I’m not sure how effective someone with such traditional views as Kmiec’s will be in drumming up votes for Obama, considering that so much Obama’s appeal is in his message of change, and as a general rule each new generation is more progressive than the one that preceded it.
I guess we’ll see.