LGBT Humanist News: 9 August, 2012 (vol. 1, issue 2)
Hello humanists and allies. Our first weekly issue went well, and here we are with another installment of this week’s LGBT Humanist News. A couple of interesting things have happened this week that I hope will serve to cultivate good discussion and perhaps positive action, much like those putting together GaymerCon (see below). In this issue I bring up tackling homophobia in the online gaming community, I offer more information on the Chick-Fil-A discussion, and a few other interesting items.
It is great to have this channel open to let all of you know what is happening, yet it would be better for us to have two-way channel. As such, I would like you to send us your comments, thoughts, concerns or other ideas. Because there are many of our chapters and other local groups participating in LGBT Pride events, please send us your photos and stories of them. I will be sending out a letter specific to this later. Your contributions of information and sharing of your stories is what will make the LGBT Humanist Council strong.
Lastly, I hope that this bulletin will serve to generate good dialogue with the honesty and sophistication that it needs, and that our community is in a prime place to provide. Please bring attention to these particular news items and ideas to your local group, and share back with us your thoughts. Also, if there is something happening in your neck of the woods that may not have met the national headlines, or have insubstantially been profiled, let us know. The Religious Right has flourished with this type of direct channel, and why reinvent the wheel? I hope that you enjoy this bulletin and if so, please consider making a tax deductible donation to the AHA, earmarked for the LGBT Humanist Council. With your support, we can do more. To contact us, please email email@example.com to help out.
Yours in Humanism
LGBT Humanist Council Coordinator
Mika Came Out
In response to a press-misunderstanding calling him bisexual, “Love Today” and “Grace Kelly” singing popstar Mika cleared the issue up with gay magazine Instinct, saying, “If you ask me am I gay, I say yeah.” Mika furthered this by adding, “And it’s only through my music that I’ve found the strength to come to terms with my sexuality beyond the context of just my lyrics. This is my real life.”
In Remembrance of our Honorary President: Goodbye, Gore.
Eighty-six-year-old playwright and polemicist, “last of a breed,” (Eugene Luther) Gore Vidal (Jr.) died Tuesday, July 31st, at his Los Angeles home. According to his New York Times obituary, as a youth at St. Albans School in Washington, Eugene Vidal extricated himself of his “Christian name” becoming “Gore Vidal” as it sounded more literary. St. Albans is also where he met the first love of his life, Jimmie Trimble. Trimble’s WWII death at Iwo Jima led Vidal to “[never] feel the same way about anyone else.”
Vidal wrote 25 novels and many essays, as well a bevy of screenplays, including an un-credited co-writing of the Ben Hur script. Vidal published The City and The Pillar, a novel of a hansom young Virginia athlete coming to terms with his sexuality and out of the closet. The City and the Pillar led to Vidal’s temporary blacklisting by the New York Times. Vidal dedicated this 1948 book to J.T. (Jimmie Trimble). In Esquire, Vidal said that homosexuality was “as natural as heterosexuality” but not “normal.” And Vidal was anything but normal, yet he did have a long-term, and cohabiting partner (Howard Austen). Austen died in 2003, and upon his deathbed, Austen asked Vidal, “Didn’t it go by awfully fast?” Vidal’s later written reply, “Of course it had. We had been too happy and the gods cannot bear the happiness of mortals.”
Vidal was one of the truly more interesting Americans. Political not just in writing, Vidal was twice a congressional candidate (1960 as Democratic candidate for the 19th District of Upstate New York and 1982 in California for a Senate seat). Yet caution should prevail through warm and fuzzy remembrance. Italian writer Italo Calvino recounted Vidal telling him, “I’m exactly as I appear. There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water.”
In 2009, Vidal succeeded his friend Kurt Vonnegut as Honorary AHA president. AHA President David Niose said of Vidal’s death, “The progressive and humanist values Gore Vidal repeatedly espoused moved culture in a positive direction. He spent his life pointing out the places in society that needed the most attention without worrying who might be embarrassed or upset by his opinions.”
GaymerCon & The Rise of the Gaymer
(*this article has some explicit language)
There is a meta-world out there, a place where users live online lives of casting spells and shooting down aliens in robot suits. They gather for online role-play communities of multi-player games. The numbers of subscribers and “users” are nothing to sneeze at. At the end of 2011 there were 10.3 million players of World of Warcraft, and by March 2012 3.5 million copies of Mass Effect 3 had shipped worldwide. The distance created by being on the other side of a joystick can serve as a necessary outlet of sociability cultivation to the socially anxious, but it can also generate an environment with a less than pretty and considerably petty parlance. Some people are upset about the social denigration carted by anti-gay slurs (regardless of intent), and some people are doing something about it.
“Faggot” and “gay” are common expressions in the online game world. They are generally used to express discontent rather than intentionally disparaging gay and lesbian people. This does not negate the sting experienced by those for who those words carry the endorsement of social disapproval and stigmatization. A January 2012 essay by self-proclaimed “queer-gamer” David Hollingworth on an online magazine site (Atomic Maximum Computing) examined the issue of “casual homophobia” in the online gaming community. Hollingworth calls flippant online racism, sexism, and homophobia “sadly” normative and at times “incredibly hurtful.”
Hollingworth relates that the most common derogation of parlance are derivatives of homosexual epithets (e.g., “fag” and “gay”). Further, according to Hollingworth, when someone in the gaming environment expresses offense, there are generally a “cadre of people leaping to [their] defense.” Yet (not neglecting the vicious sting delivered by certain words), as language is often defined by contextual usage, the words “gay” and “fag” are somewhat divorced of connotations of sexual orientation and have evolved into stark terms of general disapproval. “These statements can be pretty varied,” says Hollingworth on the usual defense of anti-gay slurs, “but it basically boils down to two beliefs: first, that if you take offense at the term, it’s your own fault, and secondly, that it’s actually got nothing to do with sexuality, because it’s a bundle of wood, ZOMG, get over it, etc.”
Hollingworth closes his essay, “I’m not choosing to take offense – I’m being reminded that my sexuality is offensive. That may not be the intention of some random dude who I’ve just head-shotted, but the reality is the same nonetheless.” A Forbes online contributor (Erik Kain), wrote about this issue at a particular video game company’s convention.
Video game company Blizzard Entertainment’s convention (BlizzCon) featured a video presentation on stage of American death metal band frontman George Fisher carrying on in a string of homophobic slurs. In an outdoor, sit-down interview, wearing a black t-shirt the long-haired, alabaster-skinned Fisher discussed his play of World of Warcraft. In terms of teams, Fisher says that he “don’t play no fuckin’ homo-Alliance neither… Fucking die you fucking emo-cocksuckers.” Appearing to get worked about about the game, Fisher continues, “I’m pathetic, when it comes to World of Warcraft, I’m a pathetic nerd.”
Fisher furthers about if someone were to make his game play difficult: “If I could just reach into my computer, I would fucking punch that mother fucker’s lights out right now.” His anti-gay slurs concomitant with his generous distribution of fleeting expletives seem rife with that flippancy and disregard to their original orientation definitions as per Hollingworth. Yet, to come full circle, Fisher demonstrates beautifully the type of “incredibly hurtful” comment referred by Hollingworth. Upon his fellow players expressing their discontent Fisher says, “Go cry in a river and tell me how you’re going to slit your wrists you night-owl faggot.”
Death metal being an angst-commoditized musical genre, and as a death metal band’s frontman, Fisher’s prolific profanity should instill less shock than if the Dalai Lama would call for the suicide of “emo-cocksuckers.” Blizzard released a statement after receiving complaints: “We are sorry that we offended anyone; everything at our shows is just meant in fun. Thank you all for speaking up. We’ll definitely keep this in mind for future shows.”
The gaming industry is not completely oblivious to the existence of LGBT persons. For example, there are many games that allow you to engage in same-sex relationships in the game environment. A March 2012 post on Freethought Blogs by “Assassin Actual” discussed their experience gaming and the same-sex relationship that their gaming character was engaged in, and Fox New’s apparent slippery-slope disapproval of this in games such as Mass Effect 3.
Outside of a longer discussion on the nature of profanity, and the freedom of expression v. ideas of social etiquette, I think that it is contingent upon ourselves to look at how certain people are mitigating the social stress they feel from hearing words that they feel give them pain and turning it into a positive. In response, a “gaymer” (gay gamer), Matt Conn, decided to organize a “welcoming” gaming and technology convention “with a focus on LGBT geek culture.” According to GaymerCon’s Kickstarter page, the intention is to draw not just “gay white dudes.” They “want all genders, races, and sexual identities including [their] straight friends and allies to come together and have a gay, geeky good time.”  This collection of gay and lesbian multi-player, video game enthusiasts (‘gamers’) and their allies are planning to meet August 3-4, 2013. According to GaymerCon, one of the goals is to have an environment removed from the social pressures of judging others.
Intrigued, I did what any aspiring literary journalist (or for that case, any curious person should) do, I contacted GaymerCon, and Operation Director Jack DeVries responded.
Frye: How pervasive is homophobia in the gaming world?
DeVries: Gaming is a very energetic and competitive environment. And as such there’s a lot of aggression in there. Most of it is playful like it is in most sports, but there is definitely some hostility in there when things get heated. Likewise gaming hasn’t been traditionally progressive when it comes to the depiction of gay people. Stereotypes abound, and positive images of gay people are not prevalent. It’s not an overt homophobia so much as it a lack of positive imagery, and a dash of ignorance mixed in.
F: When the terms “gay” and “fag” are carted around the gaming world, how directly are they intended to disparage gay and lesbian people, v. unintentional hate-out-of-context?
D: I would say the majority of gay hate speech on services like Xbox Live are not directly intended to put down someone for their sexuality. But that doesn’t make it any less damaging. Regardless of context, gay terminology should not be used as an insult. And when you’re a young gay person, hearing those words used angrily so often can by very damaging.
F: What games are the most flagrantly unfriendly [to LGBT people], and which games are the most cognizant of these issues?
D: I wouldn’t say any games are more unfriendly than others. Online games in general tend to have the same problems. And gay people aren’t the only targets. Hate speech in general is pretty prevalent. That said, games like The Sims, and the more recent RPGs (role playing games) from BioWare like Mass Effect and Dragon Age have made great strides for showing gay relationships as a normal part of the human experience.
F: What would you like the atheist and humanist community to know about GaymerCon?
D: GaymerCon is being put on by a diverse group of passionate individuals of different cultures, backgrounds, and creeds. We’re striving to be inclusive and accepting of everyone, and we welcome everyone who feels the same : ) . (smile emoticon inserted into email).
F: Do you see GaymerCon serving to have a direct influence on the gaming community in toning down homophobic slurs?
D: That’s definitely a positive outcome we would like. We’re not trying to make this a political statement, but by showcasing the large and flourishing gay geek community we hope that we can educate people and maybe open their eyes to a group they may not have realized was there.
In the end, it seems as though the gaming industry is not so homophobic in attitude but in using homophobic words to describe other things. Secondly, it seems that the gaming industry is homo-friendly in that they do allow players to explore and have online same-sex relationships, but not so homo-friendly that they curtail such rampant use of slur. GaymerCon is commendable as an expression of creating the world that you want to see, rather than enduring under one that doesn’t necessarily see you. GaymerCon is currently raising funds to host their event. According to creative crowd-funding website Kickstarter, by August 8, 2012 GaymerCon had already raised $38,701, and more information can be found at www.gaymercon.org.
Parrying-Pollo-Protestors & Other Chick-Fil-Ad-Nauseam
There are different varieties of discrimination. One significant variety is that of direct and indirect. Direct discrimination tends to be illegal when directed at legally protected classes of people (race, religion, etc). Indirect discrimination happens when you influence the social and legal architecture toward inequality. In terms of marriage equality, Dan Cathy and his private company Chick-Fil-A have most recently been accused of the latter, but not so much the prior. Cathy uses his Chick-Fil-A earnings to sponsor “traditional” marriage campaigns. Essentially, for gay and lesbian couples, Chick-Fil-A the restaurant does not deny you service; but Dan Cathy the CEO actively works to deny you the right of civil marriage. Active discrimination is a slightly different animal; indirect discrimination may be more enduring and easier to do, while active discrimination is more immediate, and easier to stop. An example of active discrimination against gay couples occurred recently.
When Dave Mullin and Charlie Craig walked into a Lakewood Colorado cake shop, their pursuit of sampling potential wedding cakes came to an abrupt impasse. Masterpiece Cake Shop owner Jack Phillips, who “takes every cake personally,” found that Mullin and Craig’s matrimonial intent violated his confectionary conscience. Phillips said that he “would close down the bakery before [he] would compromise [his] beliefs…” Phillips furthered his comments saying that “if the state won’t recognize gay marriage, neither will we.” Mullin and Craig have expressed their feelings that their civil rights have been violated. If refusing cake service to gay couples is not a codified civil rights infraction yet, at least the pair had been treated unfairly.
Thought emotionally heated, this interplay has been generally good for the different sides of the issue. As intolerance toward gay and lesbian people gains a heavier, louder, and almost hyperbolic voice, public sympathy toward gay and lesbian people generally increases. On top of this, the Gay Rights movement benefits from the “free advertising” by the financial and political-influential juggernaut that is the Religious Right. The Religious Right also has a socio-dynamogenic benefit of the rallying cry of “saving sexual sinners,” and being persecuted by the society for which they actually exercise considerable control. These seeming opponents are in a strange way symbiots.
Then there is another interesting animal of “reverse discrimination” that has been added to the Chick-Fil-A discussion. From mayors to city councilors, different municipal officials across the country are expressing disfavor at Cathy’s acts of indirect discrimination. In Humanist Network News (HNN), Examiner reporter and “Dangerous Talk” host Staks Rosch offered his opinion that as a long-term (since early 2000s) boycotter of Chick-Fil-A, he supports the different and oppositional protests, but is against the pursuit of local officials in different cities (e.g., Chicago and Boston) to ban the restaurant. Then again, with Sarah Palin’s Facebook page having received more than 260,000 likes on a smiling and thumbs-up photo of the former half-term governor of Alaska and husband Todd posing with two Chick-Fil-A sacks, it begs another question: What degree is sincerity consistent amongst those voicing an issue? Are people using this to gain particular attention rather than feeling authentic violation of their principles?
Since last week’s bulletin, there have been some updates to this story. Following gay rights groups’ call to boycott Chick-Fil-A, former Arkansas governor and current Fox News talk show host Mike Huckabee roused 630,000 internet supporters in his launch of Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. This of course gave rise to jokes about Huckabee’s obesity and the easy double entendre of “eating cock.” Outside of ratings-driven infotainment news, there is also a human element. Yet the neglecting of the human element is what got us here in the first place.
Speaking to The Huffington Post, one Chick-Fil-A employee called Huckabee’s “Appreciation Day” “Hater Appreciation Day” and said that it was a “very, very depressing experience.” Another employee said that he was confronted with diners saying such things as “I’m so glad you don’t support the queers, I can eat in peace.” Ironically, while walking food out to cars, this employee was admonished by the protestors of “Appreciation Day” as “a god-loving, conservative, homophobic Christian.”
In response to “Appreciation Day,” GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Preisdent Hernon Graddick said, “Without question, Dan Cathy has every right to voice his opinions and beliefs, but he should meet and get to know the people…harmed by his company’s multi-million-dollar decisions.” On Friday, August 3, gay rights supporters and activists held a nationwide kiss-in outside of Chick-Fil-A restaurant locations. This was a drop in the bucket compared to the multitude of pro-Chick-Fil-A supporters; only around 15,000 people signed on to participate in the kiss-in. The morning of the counter (kiss-in) protest, employees of a Torrance, CA Chick-Fil-A were greeted to black graffiti reading “Tastes Like Hate” alongside the image of a cow (a common element in the chicken chain’s ad campaigns).
Cartoon cows and kissin’ queers aren’t the only blowback to Cathy’s social sentencing for being “guilty as charged” on the marriage equality issue. A sort of indirect discrimination mutiny is taking place in New England. Anthony Picolla, manager of New Hampshire’s only Chick-Fil-A, said, “In both my personal and professional life, I have had, and continue to have, positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the LGBT community, it would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.” He has announced that he will be co-sponsoring a Granite State Pride festival. Keep in mind that Chick-Fil-A is a franchise establishment where store owners pay a licensing fee for the use of name reputation.
This is the private sphere. Though there are necessitated anti-discrimination laws to maintain equal access in public accommodations, the private sphere has a greater latitude of liberty than the actions of government. When the government acts, it bears the legitimated collective use of force and sometimes is under greater restraint on the actions of those operating under the cloak of government authority (government actors). It is difficult for a private actor to violate your constitutional rights. So, when a private actor places his private funds behind a particular political issue-campaign, it is far different than when a civil official expresses a motivation to deny that person’s participation in the public sphere. In the past couple weeks we have had mayors and other civic officials coming out expressing their desire to make establishing a business more difficult for Cathy. This of course may be done out of authentic indignation, or to curry electoral favor. The lines of the borders of government authority are sometimes grey. I think that in these penumbras, this is where the fun begins.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined a growing list of his elected municipal colleagues (i.e., Boston, Chicago, D.C., Philadelphia, and San Francisco) who have expressed distaste and disappointment in the Atlanta-based company’s positions on gay rights. Villaraigosa said, “I’m so proud to support [the “vibrant” Los Angeles LGBT community] as we call on Chick-Fil-A’s leadership to reconsider their position and join the growing majority of Americans who support marriage equality.” Villaraigosa continued, “In Los Angeles and in America, love and liberty will always triumph.”
In response to these mayoral slanders, Chicago-area Republicans filed a formal complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno’s desire to block Chick-Fil-A from a Chicago district in response to their corporate antipathy to “gay marriage” and gay rights. Calling this “economic bullying,” Chicago GOP Vice-Chair Chris Cleveland said, “[Moreno] has used the government power to engage in overt religious discrimination against a person who has expressed a sincerely-held religious belief.” Cleveland says that is illegal under Illinois law. In an official statement, the Chicago mayor’s office spokesperson Tarrah Cooper said that the mayor would not be involved in blocking Chick-Fil-A. “If they meet all the usual requirements, then they can open their restaurant, but [Emanuel] does not believe the CEO’s [Dan Cathy] values are reflective of our city,” Cooper said.
Yet pro-Chick filings are not the only ones occurring in the Prairie State. Chick-Fil-A received multiple complaints filed against them with the Illinois Department of Human Rights by unnamed claimants as an “intolerant corporate culture” violating Section 5-102(B) of the Human Rights Act. That section of the HRA prohibits a “public accommodation from making protected classes ‘unwelcome, objectionable or unacceptable.’” Those in favor of Chick-Fil-A’s political initiative sponsorship say that it is about upholding “tradition” and avoiding improper government interference, while those against are against Cathy’s interests say that these outside and indirect acts of discrimination violate human rights. Regardless of what happens. It will sure be interesting, and serve as a compass for future similar issues.
In thinking about these issues, part of me is drawn to dig deeper than hearing “anti-gay” this or “homophobic” that. I wanted to see where Chick-Fil-A was sending its money, and one group that it is said that Cathy has supported was the work of Exodus International, a group that until recently was a major proponent of the “pray-the-gay-away” “reparative therapy.” There were several news stories recently of how Exodus had decided to drop its prescription of reparative therapy. They have, but their position on homosexuality, though slightly altered, has little changed.
Exodus has slowly been evolving on the issue of homosexuality themselves. Exodus has been pulling a scaling back of sorts. In October 2010, Exodus International pulled its support from its “Day of Truth” counter-protest of the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)’s annual “Day of Silence” observation. The Day of Silence began in 1996 as a yearly one-day vow of silence in schools by students to represent those silenced by homophobia, and to bring attention to “anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.” Started in 2005 by the Alliance Defense fund, the “Day of Truth” was created to “counter the promotion of homosexual behavior and to express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective.”
“Reparative therapy” has not worked so well for Exodus either. After falling in love and marrying each other, two of Exodus International’s co-founders (Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper) eventually declared the “pray the gay away” movement that they helped start to be ineffective. Bussee, former Exodus International Europe President Jeremy Marks, and the former director of an Exodus referral agency (Paraklete Ministries) Darlene Bogle have all since apologized for how their former inefficacious organization had failed people to the point of depression and suicide.
Pivotal reparative therapy pioneer, co-founder of the Family Research Council, and former National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality board member George Alan Rekers was thrown to their midst when Rekers was discovered to be in the company of a male sex worker who divulged the details of their sexual escapades. We also have the fallen, toe-tapping former Idaho Senator Larry Craig. Likewise, who can forget the personages such as the self-proclaimed “managed bisexual” Ted Haggard.
Outside of those who either rose or were condemned to being free of the closet, someone who is both a bane and beacon to gay equality changed his tune on the issue of reparative therapy; a tune to which the melody he helped compose. Dr. Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist who in 1973 led the American Psychiatric Association charge that homosexuality was not a disorder, who later provided research supporting the efficacy of so-called “reparative therapy,” who later still apologized for his self-proclaimed “unproven claims.”
Via expediency, reason and reluctance, the platform of reparative therapy is falling apart. Exodus International president Alan Chambers addressed the attendees of their 37th annual conference Thursday, July, 26 2012, saying that reparative therapy “sets up the person seeking therapy for failures by giving him or her unrealistic expectations.” According to Chambers, instead of asking people with same-sex attraction (SSA) to pursue heterosexual relationships; that they should “pursue a relationship with Christ,” and that celibacy is the suggested method for those “unable to be in a heterosexual monogamous relationship.” Though reports have confirmed that Exodus does not outwardly support reparative therapy, they have not changed in their antipathy toward gay and lesbian relationships. On the matter of reparative therapy, according to Chambers, though Exodus no longer outwardly supports or practices reparative therapy, those who do and those who believe in it may still minister to the organization.
Via Chick-Fil-A, Cathy was sponsoring something that did not work and was admitted to be a failure regardless of a certain tenacity to maintain it. Hopefully, Cathy’s other aims against preserving “traditional” marriage will meet the same realizations. I think in the end, the interplay of working to increase or obstruct direct and indirect discrimination as well as attention-seeking have served to further the discussion of marriage equality. Yet, it has increased the polarization between the rapidly expanding base of marriage equality supporters and their ideological opponents whose numbers are deflating much faster than their waistlines ever will after eating that much soapbox fried chicken.
Marriage Equality Minute
Here is some quick news in marriage equality, and I call it the good, the “bad-for-them,” and the ugly. There was a heartwarming story out of Olympia, WA as Lutheran minister and father of two gay sons Gib Rossing has come out saying that he wants marriage equality so that he can perform his sons’ weddings. On video, Gib and his wife Beth both said that “by getting to know them better” they have accepted their son’s relationship with his partner. In “[coming] to love him for who he was,” Gib said, “we watch Jonathan and Ryan and see their profound love for one another and how they support one another.” Earlier this year Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed an equal marriage bill passed by the state legislature. The law is now up for the general election. The Rossing’s story is part of a Pride Foundation campaign “[emphasizing] love and commitment.”
Insatiable as always, calling the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ Prop 8 ruling of unconstitutionality a “judicial death sentence for traditional marriage,” Prop 8’s sponsors and supporters asked the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday (July 31, 2012) to hear the case, filing for a writ of certiorari. Prop 8’s proponents say that the Ninth Circuit’s decision “unfairly labeled a majority of California voters as bigots… [Defaming] over 7 million California voters and other Americans who believe that traditional marriage continues to serve society’s legitimate interests.” It will be interesting if the court accepts this, considering that both the district and the federal appeals courts essentially ruled the same thing.
Lastly, despite being dismissed by a lower court, anti-gay group Liberty Counsel requested that the New York State Court of Appeals review the dismissal by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Rochester. Liberty Counsel is challenging New York’s established equal marriage law in that closed-door meetings between marriage equality supporters and state senators leading up to the law’s passage had violated New York’s “open meeting law” (requiring public access to the deliberation of legislative bodies). The Appellate Court ruled unanimously that the meetings were lawful.
Pride Round the World and the Ugandan Bravery
Things are beginning to change in our global community and pride is coming to places that even until recently were thought inconceivable. More than 100 participated by demonstrating on the streets of Hanoi in Vietnam’s first pride parade. Things have changed relatively quickly in Vietnam, where just a few years ago gay was taboo and today the Justice Ministry is considering including gay and lesbian couples in an overhaul of its marriage laws. Viet Pride was held August 3-5. According to Viet Pride organizers, gays and lesbians in Vietnam are commonly referred to as Pê ?ê (pedophiles). Last month (July), Vietnamese Prime Minister H Hugn Cuong spoke out against homophobia.
The same weekend as Viet Pride, half a million flooded the streets of Stockholm for the city’s 15th annual pride celebration. A week earlier the Faroe Islands (self-governing while under the control of the Kingdom of Denmark) held 5,000 revelers celebrating the island chain’s first pride in five years. The Faroe Islands are also set for a new marriage equality bill to be introduced this fall.
Nepal enjoyed a pride march of its own. In the city of Pokhara, demanding anti-discrimination protection, equal marriage, and third-gender government-issued certificates; nearly 2,500 gay rights demonstrators joined in a Memorial Day (Gaijatra) parade.
Courage, an understatement to say the least, describes activists engaging in Uganda’s first pride event. Nearly all of us have heard of Ugandan legislator David Bahati’s fast-becoming-perennial bill calling for capital punishment for homosexuals and incarceration for those who don’t report known acts of homosexuality. There is a brave group that is standing against the hate. I will have a special interview coming soon with Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha.
Looking at this, I have a few final thoughts. Gamer is a lifestyle, Vegan is a lifestyle, Conservative Christian is a lifestyle; gay or lesbian is an element. To harken back to Gore Vidal, “gay” is natural, not “normal.” Gay is not the norm, but being outside of two and a third standard deviations from the norm does not invite value appraisal. It is not necessary, nor feasible. If there were lifestyles attached to “gay,” they would more likely be things such as “gym-bunny,” “leather,” or “straight-acting;” and as long as straight people are also capable of being, and are abundantly entrenched within those lifestyles, we can easily drop this argument. Just because we are less common does not define us as less valuable. In many ancient cultures this is what made us exceptional. We were the people of the two-spirits, celebrated because of our uniqueness.
Perhaps rather than ancient lessons of angry authoritative gods, we should take a note from those not yet contaminated by the superstitions of Abrahamism. Perhaps in place of engaging in Western-commoditized-woo ideas of karma, we should take a note and celebrate what is unique about ourselves and how we may contribute it to the beauty of the group. The wonderful thing about humanism is that by looking at history we realize that not only were we the author, but we also hold the pen.
This is a world that we share with those of a wide divergence of opinion, especially those who we would immediately find ourselves at odds with in terms of the “god” question. Yet, within the ranks of the faithful there is some division and quite a variety of opinion. Let us have a discussion on Christianity and gay relationships between George Rekers, Dan Cathy, and the good reverend Gib Rossing. Let us not forget that as human beings who have gone astray in realizing the equal worth of other human beings, Cathy and Rekers also have a legitimate stake in the world. Though I personally reject teleological arguments, perhaps if humanists have a purpose, it is serving to remind others of their own and shared humanity.
 Jason Frye email interview with Jack DeVries. (8 August, 2012).
 Fetner, T. (2008). How the Religious Right Shaped Gay and Lesbian Activism. (Social movements, protest, and contention; v. 31). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.