A Gay Dad Take on New Books by Barney Frank and Michelangelo Signorile: Do They Make Up the New Bible for Our Movement?

040415 book review evol


For years, the radical anti-gay movement has made a paranoid case that “the gay agenda” was an actual book published in 1990. That book was called After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s . It outlined a suggested plan for addressing America on LGBT issues. Much of its outlook was basic common sense and PR. It, in retrospect, looked directive since people with common sense actually acted accordingly in the years after it was published. They acted that way not because they read the book, or had even heard of it, but because, they too had common sense.

The idea that all LGBT people would have and follow a single manifesto , and that there was an actual “gay agenda” is of course, ridiculous.

Until now.

Two books that have just been released could, together, be looked at as creating a sort of “biblical” arc to our movement. The first, a memoir by out former Congressman Barney Frank, plays like an “Old Testament”. Frank deliciously charts his adventures from the closet to the center of the political stage. He tells the tale of LGBT people forging their way across the barren deserts of homophobia, and the political strategies needed to deal with good and bad kings of yore, otherwise known as Presidents.

Frank bookFrank is candid, and self critical on each step. He details compromises and pragmatic realities. His account of life during the Clinton years is particularly fascinating. Frank describes Clinton not as an “enemy who held out false promise, but as a friend who tried to help us but failed.” This description held particularly true not only with DOMA, a strategy conservatives used to trap Clinton (“Forcing Clinton to choose between signing or vetoing a bill against same-sex marriage was a delicious prospect.”), but also with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” debacle.

Frank’s harrowing tale of DADT, is one of the hapless hero, who sets off an unfortunate chain of events by means of a well intentioned bungle, but then comes through to help save the day just in the nick of time in the end. It was he who came up with a compromise idea to allow LGBT service-members to serve, but confidentially. He stood by in horror as his idea was then bastardized by the administration with terms that not only did not improve the situation, but made it worse. Years later, he was again in the center as he helped force the hand of a Democratic Senate to pass DADT’s repeal literally minutes before a Democratically controlled Congress would be gone for years to come.

Frank’s book, and the “old testament” rendition of the LGBT movement ends just as the brink of the “messiah-ship” of Marriage Equality is about to descend and change the tone of activism as we knew it.

itsnotoverEnter Michelangelo Signorile. Almost on cue, Signorile picks up the charge. As the win of marriage equality descends, he is the voice of what is to come. He is the “new testament” to Frank’s “old.” Where Barney Frank was solely about political process, Signorile is the voice for grass roots activism.

The core of the Signorile message is clear and important, and blazened across the cover of the book: “It’s NOT Over.” Just as the path of the Judeo/Christian movement did not end with the birth of its messiah in the Bible, so has the LGBT path not ended with the societal milestone of marriage equality.

In both cases, it is only the beginning.

Where Frank looked for legal and legislative victories, Signorile takes us further into a path towards winning the American psyche. He points out that positive opinion polls only tell a surface story. He cites psychological studies that show ingrained emotional homophobia has not eroded much at all. Just like racism, there is an intellectualism that has suppressed public displays, but the deeper problem still exists on a more secretive emotionally reactive level.

If conservatives thought some unread, unknown book of the 1990s held a movement changing agenda, their tongues should really wag now— Signorile’s book lays out an actual strategy.

We should listen to it.

He proposes a well researched outline of the forces LGBT will be facing. He describes the “Religious Freedom” strategy designed to chip away at LGBT gains and to increase marginalization. He points out the detriment of “victory blindness” which has already been voiced by celebrities like Madonna and Patricia Arquette, as well as media in general. He describes the danger of LGBT people ceasing to identity strongly with community and becoming invisible and less effective.

His prescription moving forward includes wider education on LGBT history and sociology, the breaking of glass ceilings, physical readiness against hate crimes and an assertiveness with the media that the “debate is over” — there is not longer a need to present bigotry as a counter opinion to every story about LGBT justice.

Mostly, he tells us to stay vocal and visible. “(Exposing homophobia) is in fact what many LGBT activists and bloggers have been able to do in taking on bigotry, from as far back as the vibrant AIDS demonstrations of twenty-five years ago and up to the stories that viral today on the Internet… Every chance we have to direct clicks and eyeballs to stories of LGBT discrimination and ugly incidents of rejection and bigotry is an opportunity to challenge the victory narrative, cut through victory blindness and lay the groundwork for the hard, necessary fights ahead.”

(That means you’ll be hearing more from me in the future.)

The Christian Bible ends with a cryptic, symbol-heavy vision of “end times.” It describes the ultimate judgment day. Neither Frank nor Signorile take us there in their chronicles, but I believe we can write the LGBT “rapture” ourselves, without them.

It is a vision that has been inspired by a modern prophet, Martin Luther King Jr, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism (and homophobia) and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word, “ and “one day (we will) live in a nation where (we) will not be judged by the color of (our) skin, (our sexualities, our genders)but by the content of (our) characters.”

Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage

by Barney Frank

It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality

by Michelangelo Signorile


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Posted in Civil Rights, Entertainment, Equality, Marriage equality, Mixing religion and politics, News, Politics, Prejudice, US Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to Dolce and Gabbana

D and G New Vision

Dolce and Gabbana are not Ben and Jerry. Ben and Jerry are straight. Dolce and Gabbana are gay. Ben and Jerry make ice cream fashionable, Dolce and Gabbana make icy fashions. Ben and Jerry are sweetly pro-LGBT and marriage equality. Dolce and Gabbana are rancid in their attacks on gay and lesbian families.

I buy Ben and Jerry products. To my knowledge, I have never bought Dolce and Gabanna. That is a shame, because now there is a boycott, and I would dearly love to throw my non-buying dollars at it, but, my cash never flowed that way anyway. I had a similar frustration when Huggies did its offensive “dad test” ad campaign. I would have stopped buying their diapers then, but alas, my boys were long out of them and did the stop-buying for me.

11060470_817751198308764_7845821340960910987_nSo when Dolce and Gabbana let loose their recent tirade on LGBT parents, (“The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed” and “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Uteri [for] rent, semen chosen from a catalog.”) as much as I would love to follow Elton John’s lead in calling for a boycott (#BoycottDolce&Gabbana), the reality is, I am a paper, or tweeting, tiger. I can’t really boycott that which I have never bought.

But, I do write letters.

Dear Misters D & G,

As a parent, I have resisted the temptation to place a label on my sons (you ARE familiar with the concept of labels, no?) due to something they have done. I don’t ever tell them they are “bad boys,” but rather, that they made “bad choices.” Likewise, I will refrain from calling you all the names that have temptingly come to mind since your poisonous interview.

I will chalk it up to a bad, very bad, choice on your part. I am unclear as to why you chose to lash out irrationally and arrogantly. You have of course, and predictably, issued a statement designed to mitigate loss of revenue (“it was never our intention to judge other people’s choices.”). My son’s have a similar out: “But, Dad, I didn’t mean to…”

The question is why make such a pronouncement at all? In the past, when not musing about creating children yourselves, you have declared opposition to same sex marriage, and gay parents. My guess is that we should not be surprised. Part of the genius of a gifted designer’s mind is to come out with the unexpected, the unpredictable. What could be more unpredictable than homophobic diatribes from two of the most famous and wealthy gay men?

Except that internalized homophobia is predictable, and as boring as, well, J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn. You’ve gone retro.

Without any basis other than my own life experience, I have often speculated about the seeming increase of creative talents in the per capita population of LGBT people. It would be nice to think that increased talent was tied to whatever sexual orientation instinct driver made us, but that seems unlikely. I believe that it is not “nature” but self-nurture. It has more to do with a deep consciousness within many of us that knew, due to our emerging instincts, that life was not as structured as we had been told in terms of our specific sexual/gender roles and abilities, and therefore, if we gave ourselves permission internally to see those aspects differently, that we could look at other things in the world differently as well. So many of us did, in art, in music, writing and other expressions.

Looking at things differently allowed us to make great accomplishments, as you should well know and acknowledge.

While creativity in some quarters of population of LGBT people may be a common thread, how that creativity expresses itself is as diverse as the millions of individuals that we are. For you, it was in shapes, angles, fits and fabrics.


The D&G ad team had not gotten the memo from their bosses, or trying to get money from LGBT parents was seen as important even if they were going to slam them in the future.

For others of us, it is in the area of love, parenting and procreation. While heteronormativity cries out for a single process of fertilization, gestation and birth, those of us, who have known that we have parenting talents despite societal voices to the contrary, have found ways of bringing our spiritual children to us outside of old conventions.

You of new visuals, colors and ideas must understand this. If we applied the same critique of you that you made to LGBT parents, we would be advocating for the return of the corset and handle-bar mustaches.

In an ideal world, creativity would inspire enlightenment and evolution. It would push the human fabric into the next dimension and towards greater possibilities. It would look to the past only for structure, and ideas, not limitations.

Studies have implied that truly the only endangered children brought into the world are ones who are not wanted. These are children whose parents feel trapped and disinterested in actually being parents. The parents you attacked are not in this category. Your insults were directed to parents set to adore their children.

Your comments around traditional families ignore the realities of millions of kids in foster-care and adoption. Your theory of only a male and female led family’s capacity for a “supernatural sense of belonging” has failed these innocents. Who is stepping up to give them the love they deserve? LGBT parents in “non-traditional” families, that’s who.

I can tell you that for me personally, a “supernatural sense” is exactly what I experienced the moment I saw each of my sons for the first time. The oldest was born pre-maturely to a heroin addicted mother, the younger to an meta-amphetamine addict. Their background did not matter, the cosmic voice telling me that I was their dad — that was what mattered.

My family story, although creative in terms of the “traditional family,” is not unique. It can be matched by thousands of LGBT households that have saved millions of kids from lives of devastation, neglect and death. LGBT families by in large are giving hope and real chance to children already born, and unique life to others, like Mr. John’s, who would not exist otherwise. There is an innate generosity in all of it.

I only wish you felt a calling from a similar sense of spiritual giving and magnanimity.

I really don’t expect that you would understand this. To be fair, I don’t understand your world either. I am personally OK that I could not design something fashionable out of a paper bag, and that my fascination with the movie “The Devil Wore Prada” was that a fashion industry existed at all. I am also OK with you showing complete ignorance to the worldview required to be a gifted parent.

We don’t all need to be all things. Your creations are your designs, my creation is my family. My hope is it is that we both choose to respect and give each other our due.

There is one thing that I DO know about today’s fashion, however: Love is the new trend.

Bigotry and homophobia are out this season, and if I have anything to say about it, they won’t be in style again. This is to say that if I was Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly right now, I would be pursing my lips and glaring.

And you would be back to your drawing boards.


“That’s all….”

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A Gay Dad Sounds Off on the Homophobic Pediatrician and Florist Who Attempted to Humiliate LGBT Families

humil incA popular insurance company pays a great deal of advertising money to let everyone know that they are in fact “our good neighbors.” They populate commercial after commercial with cheery, miraculously at-your-service agents who care about their clients above all else. While I am sure their real agents are customer relations friendly, the reality is they are likely no more so than any other public facing company. The associates, employed by the company, who personify saintly best friend types the most, are the actors in the ads.

The truth is, customers are not important loved ones in the lives of service people. We are, at best, friendly, tip-paying, lucrative transactions. We don’t represent go-to shoulders to cry on, we represent income, and even the warmest heart moving gesture is a business decision.

Likewise, as consumers, we are not buying advice, approval or input from those serving us. The cashier at the local grocery store is not our equal partner in deciding how we feed our family and whether we are good parents or not. He or she does not get a vote in how we run our lives, instead, we look for that person to treat us professionally and with equal courtesy as they would all others.

Proponents of the conservative “Religious Freedom” strategy would have us believe differently. To them, a Christian business person is not only beyond a transaction based relation, they are an intimate who should have a personal say, and commentary on the lives of their LGBT clientele, lives in which most would say the business person has no stake. This “commentary” usually comes in the form of rejection, judgment and the refusal of service. It is rude, and it is humiliating.

In some of these cases, these behaviors are not only mean-spirited, they are illegal and go against local non-discrimination laws. Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Washington, just lost in her bid to discriminate against two gay men wanting to marry. Her flowers had been sentimentally important to them in their romance, and her rejection soured their betrothal.

Others are legal, but wrong. In a recent case a pediatrician, Dr. Vesna Roi, rejected lesbian moms and their baby as clients. She had been vetted and the couple felt protected and validated, then she shamed them for being who they were as parents. The family had no legal protection due to a failure in Michigan’s laws. Such actions are legal in most states. Arkansas and Indiana have recently made moves to not only make sure discrimination is legal; they have taken steps to encourage it.

Refusing service to LGBT families when it happens is cruel and demeaning. The couples it happens to are blindsided. The rejection seems to be rigged like stink bombs going off in the moments that should be positive milestones in the family’s experience.

My letter to two who felt it was their place to degrade LGBT families:

Dear Doctor Roi and Florist Stutzman,

At this point, you have each served dozens of individuals, if not hundreds. Some of those you feel personally about, and intimate — they feel like friends. Others, the doctor needs to check their file to remember details, and the florist knows no more about them than their credit card number.

Looking back to the day when you each decided to work with the public. I have to assume that you went into business to bring happiness, comfort and a high level of satisfaction to whomever stood before you.

Instead, you have gained infamy for doing the opposite. You both behaved in completely heartless ways, and worse, called on Jesus Christ to justify it.

Your rationalization is as disappointing as your actions themselves. You, Dr. Roi stated that you “prayed on” your decision to reject. It is sad that Christian theology has earned a reputation as being supportive of your lack of decency even though the Christ behind it dictated “loving ones neighbor as yourself,” and to do no harm to little children. He made these pronouncements in between the times he was admonishing people for judging others.

Ms. Stutzman, you claim that the act of selling a couple flowers for their commitment to marriage and declaration of life long love violates your “freedom to honor God doing what you do best.” You earned money from the couple as part of their romance and seduction (and presumably sex). That income did fit into your “deeply held” religious principles, apparently. About those transactions you say you “kindly” delivered and “would gladly continue to do so.” Your principles therefore are not against gay sex, they are against life-long love, commitment, honor and responsibility.

While I do hope you re-examine your “logic” behind your actions, I am asking here for something more. I am asking you, and service providers like you, to stop attempting to humiliate LGBT families at the moments that should be the most respected and wonderful of our lives. Quit trying to take away our precious moments.

The Declaration of Independence, as Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore has pointed out, is about a principle that precedes our rule of law. He, of course, wants that principle to be about a God that Roy Moore defines, but his overall point is valid. We each have the human right to pursue happiness in our personal lives, and we do not have the right to attempt to disrupt it in others.

When the Supreme Court of Massachusetts became the first judiciary to declare same sex marriage a constitutional right, they did so by making a significant observation. They pointed out that in a person’s lifetime, the spouse that person chooses is one of the most profoundly, self-determing actions that an individual can take. Likewise, as we go through the process of bringing our families together, the decisions around the details of marrying including the right flowers, the right cakes, the best photography are all integral to the fabric of the memories we are creating. Those things may seem superficial, and in truth they ARE superficial to observers, and they have likely been so to YOU in most of your professional transactions. They are NOT superficial to the people involved. The young men wanted your flowers because of the role your arrangements played in their romance. Your flowers did not bring meaning to the men and their love, their love brought meaning to your flowers.

Likewise, Dr. Roi, every first event with a baby is golden to new parents. The first laugh, the first burp, and especially the first forays into parental responsibility, the first doctor visits. Both my sons were adopted out of the foster care system, and all our “firsts” were done with a back drop of pretty dire and dramatic events. Even with that, the moments were precious as we took on the profound understanding that these little lives were completely dependent on us, and the most important responsibilities we would ever have. A pair of lesbian moms came to you, screened you, and extended you trust in their journey of parental responsibility. Their coming to you did not validate their parenthood, their patronage of you validated you as being worthy of trust.

God did not bring these couples to you so you could judge them. His intention was for you to experience your humanity by serving them. He intended to give you the gift of bearing witness to significant moments in their lives. His intention was to enrich you,

He failed. And, in being the professional you intended to be, so did you.

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Posted in Bible, Civil Rights, Family, Hatred, Marriage equality, Mixing religion and politics, Politics, Prejudice, Religion, US Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Letter to Gay Teen, Austin Wallis, and the High School That Rejected Him

austin willis evol eq

The world of teens and tweens can be a treacherous one. As the dad to two 12 year olds, I see it as a world where childhood cushions and play have fallen away and new, somewhat complex challenges have emerged. It is a world where peer relationships and socializations are paramount. Independence is practically a life force and hormones seem to be pumping through veins previously filled with sugar and spice. It is a world where kids discover themselves and those discoveries can range from the thrilling to crisis, and sometimes both at the same time.

Adults standing on the sidelines to this whirlwind try our best to lead, nurture and inspire. We try to guide our young charges to being their best, and set themselves up to capture a destiny worthy of the love we cloak them in.

Some adults do this except in the cases where the child in question is gay as Austin Willis, a high school student in Texas, discovered this week. Austin has been on an affirming journey over the past year. He not only has discovered who he is, he has introduced the real him to his personal social circles and the public at large through a YouTube channel.

His videos are fun, silly, charming, and his relationships with teachers and friends are warm and mutually supportive. Life has been good, even granting him a handsome boy friend.

From my perspective as a parent, seeing my child find himself so progressively would be life affirming. The principal at Lutheran North did not seem to share that view of young Austin’s development. He categorized it instead as the promotion of sexually immoral behavior. His answer was not to guide Austin Wallis’s development, but to shut it down all together.

We tell our kids to be true to themselves, to nurture self-respect and live with respect to others. Lutheran North did not encourage Austin in any of those initiatives. Instead, they asked Austin to hide who he is, pretend to be otherwise — or leave. He chose to leave.

I am choosing to write them, and him, a letter.

To Mr. Dallas Lusk, Head of School and Austin Willis, Former Student:

Gentlemen. As a father and a Christian, I wanted to weigh in on the current controversy in which you both are active participants. As a parent, I take a sincere interest in schools and their efforts to establish principles for their students, guide them into the world and create the new citizens who will lead us into the future. Whether or not my sons attend a particular school is irrelevant. Their peers, others who may be in their world, will have attended that school and will influence the world in which they live.

This has already happened at Lutheran North. Austin, you have already emerged as its product onto the world stage. You have made yourself known, from your joys to your recent challenges.

Yes. Mr. Lusk had a rule. That rule reads: “Lutheran High North reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a current student participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning: pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity; or displaying an inability or resistance to support the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle.”

I personally believe that “rules” are limited entities. They are based on bigger principles but address very specific situational elements. If the situation changes, the rule then does not have relevance. A city street might have a “rule” of 15 miles an hour due to high incidence of cross traffic. If all cross traffic is blocked, the “rule” needs to be adjusted and 40 miles and hour might be the appropriate limit to fulfill the bigger principle of public safety.

I am not necessarily saying that Mr. Lusk needs to throw out his rule, although its homophobia is evident, but I am suggesting that he needs to understand, support and advocate for the larger principle behind it. The fact is — there was a violation.

No worries, Austin. Neither the rule, nor its underlying principle were violated by you.

The rule states that students must not participate “in promoting, supporting or condoning pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity (emphasis mine).” It does not say that you cannot be gay.

In his videos, Austin, you were clear on your values. You stated that you did not intend to have sexual relations until after you were married. There was no advocacy for sexual activity of any kind, nor recommendations to view porn. You were demonstratively affectionate in the videos, but not sexual.

If the school somehow wants to take issue with the affection you share on camera with your boyfriend and classify that as “gay sex”, then they need to read their Bibles. Your level of physicality is reflected there. Here is the description of the affection between Jesus and St. John at the last supper: “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John) Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?”

I am not implying that the affectionate cuddling on Jesus’s chest by John was participating in, or advocating for gay sex. Likewise, your school cannot and should not be implying the same of you.

So, no Austin, you did not violate the rule. You also did not violate its principle to “to support the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle.” You have been a model for the “golden rule.”

Mr Lusk, you, however, failed this principle in several ways. First, you bore “false witness” against Austin by using a regulation about sexual activity, when in his public pronouncements he specifically stated he has had none. Your punishment of him was not reprimanding him for something he has done, it is reprimanding him for who he is. That is bigotry, not a “Christ-like” lifestyle. Christ was not a bigot.

Second, his social media activity reaches out to encourage and send love to others and to save them from harm. Your own social media activity has been dishonest and self-serving. His is to make fun love-filled videos, yours has been to interact with the review site Yelp and fraudulently portray yourself as a consumer of your school’s services. You then bolstered your school’s online review standing by rating it the maximum of five stars, designed to influence its average total score. (See image below.)

yelp luteran north

Rubbing salt in the proverbial wound of your dishonesty was the statement you made in your self-review of the school. You stated, “The kids really feel welcomed and loved…” By your own behavior, they are made to feel loved and welcomed, unless they are gay. Then they are devastated.

This leads me to my biggest issue with your point of view and actions. As a parent, I deal with the holistic range of my sons. They are not perfect, despite what I might tell you on a given day. There are very few issues that would put them into a zero-sum game emotionally and spiritually however. They may do things that are absolutely wrong, but I help them find ways to do those things better, to make an improved choice, even if they cannot make it to a perfect one. For straight kids in your school, you follow this model. You work with them to be the best of who they are, to help them be the best they can be.

You have demonstrated there is no such scale for a gay student. He is gone, seen as worthless automatically. He has no chance, in your eyes, to better himself as a person, to achieve self-improvement. To you, if he is himself, he is worthless — period. The rest of his behavior could be saintly, or he could be a charlatan, it would make no difference.

To me, that is a travesty, whether it was from a parent, from an educator and most certainly from a follower of Christ.

I don’t mean to be completely negative about your school, however. I have to acknowledge that it has produced a man who does live up to the heart of Christ, who lives honestly and who I would be thrilled for my sons to emulate.

He is the young man you forced to leave, Mr. Lusk.

Mr. Willis, that man is you.


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A Gay Dad’s Letter to the School Seeking to Censor a Mural of a Kiss

The mural evol equals

The kiss. For some reason, it, and the experience of giving and getting one, is a completely integrated aspect of the high school experience. While puckers may have been planted in earlier years, it is the high school ones that create the milestones to adulthood, the firsts we will remember our entire lives and in truth, the magic of our adolescence.

One depiction of such a kiss is not folding harmoniously into the tapestry of its school’s life however. It is causing controversy. Kaela Wilton is a 16-year-old student at Onoway Jr/Sr High School in Alberta Canada. As the subject of an art project, approved by her art teacher and the school principal, she depicted two young men in an affectionate kiss. After its unveiling and subsequent complaints, the school covered the mural and would not allow it to be seen.

They are now deliberating on what to do.

For me, I know what to do, I am writing them a letter.

Dear Onoway School Officials,

I am a gay dad, father of two twelve year old boys. Next year, they will be in a school such as yours. I dearly hope that in that school, there is a mural on the wall exactly like the one that Kaela Wilton has created for you.

I write that not as one who is wildly enthusiastic for public displays of affection, nor as one who is anxious to encourage potentially sexually inappropriate behavior amongst teens. I have set standards for my sons in both those areas, and my expectation is they will adhere to them.

Kaela’s mural is a gentle image of young affection and blossoming adulthood. While its depiction might make some feel it makes such gestures too visible, I would remind them that the audience observing it is participating in school dances, first dates, landmark crushes and unforgettable romantic moments on its own. The image from a purely sexual content level, stays appropriately underneath a PG-13 level.

The value of the image far outweighs any offense to even the most over reacting sensibilities.

When I was 17, I buried my instinctual longing for same sex affection deep inside myself. It was taboo to be gay, and even though my feelings told me that was exactly what I was, I consciously suppressed it. I suppressed it to the point where I reached a suicidal crisis point.

I will never forget first witnessing a same sex kiss. I was on a trip into Los Angeles to look at prospective colleges for the future, and parking on the streets of Hollywood. A man was saying goodbye to his partner, and without giving a second thought, gave him a quick affectionate kiss on the mouth.

My reaction? The reaction from a young closeted gay man? I laughed out loud.

It was not a laugh out of derision or condemnation. It was not a laugh because the kiss was funny. It was a laugh because it took me completely off guard, and even though my psyche was bombarded with same sex feelings, seeing it displayed was completely foreign, and I laughed in the shock of it.

The man shot me a look of disgust, and a sense of violation. He was right.

Years later, and on many streets with different relationships with men I wanted to kiss, I experienced karmic retribution for that laugh. As I wished to innocently reach out and kiss the person I was with, the homophobic world around me rose up and invaded my psyche. I could not give my innocent kiss because some would react badly around us, and many would react as I did, never seeing such a gesture before, with laughter. Or I could kiss my man anyway and make a statement, a bold move in the face of a disapproving public. As Panti Bliss pointed out in a recent TED talk, that option is fine for activism, but my desire to kiss was not to activate, it was to be romantic, and so even to take a bold move would ruin my intention. The romance would be gone.

The first kiss I shared with the man was not until I was 21. It was in a disco, hidden down a secret alley, and populated with only gay men. He was a lovely young british man with a perfect smile and a dancing glint in his eye. He put his arms around me, and gently kissed my lips, and no one around us made us feel ashamed. It was a beautiful experience that I deserved. It is an experience your gay students deserve, and they should not have to retreat to a secret and hidden enclave in which to experience it.

Whether they are LGBT or not, your students have been inundated with opposite sex kisses their entire lives. If not played out in front of them in person, such events are common place on all available media from commercials including children’s programming. They have likely not seen even a single same sex display of romantic expression.

This mural can change that. For your students who have same sex attractions boiling up within them, such an affirmation can be life saving. It gives them and others the opportunity to witness something warm, yet rare, as normal and accepted. It allows them to embrace the parts of themselves they have kept secret, and removes it as a dark excuse for self-harm.

For those who are shocked at the display, they can react to the unfeeling stone wall, so that in the future, when they are in front of real honest to goodness humans they can be un-shocked and react with appropriate support, or have rehearsed how to keep their disdain to themselves.

Ms. Wilton has created something of value, both in its intention and its execution. It should not be kept hidden, but unleashed to inspire hearts, love and acceptance. What could be more important than that?

My sons are on the brink of discovering who they are, and what deep instincts drive them. If they were going to your school and they were finding that their instincts were heterosexual, I am sure they could look around and see plenty of public displays of affection between other guys and their girl friends and feel, “oh yeah, that is me, and what I want.” If it turns out that one of them is actually gay, and he looks around and sees no one, I would hope that he could gaze upon a mural in one of your hallways and think, “Ok, there. There I am…” and walk on to class with hope in his heart, and a dream that a painting on the wall promised him was his to fulfill.


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A Gay Dad Sounds Off On “My Husband is Not Gay” Lies and Abuse

Lies and Abuse

Sunday night was a cornucopia of LGBT television. First came the Golden Globes with a full offering of heartwarming equality affirmations from wins for Transparent ,including a call out for Leelah Alcorn, to a win for Matt Bomer in which he again asserted his standing as a proud gay dad in the world, to the hint of a host-ship next year for LGBT icon Margaret Cho, who was hilarious as a North Korean journalist/general invading this years show. LGBT euphoria turned to LGBT dismay as, with a turn of the channel, I landed on The Learning Channel’s My Husband is Not Gay reality TV special.

My biggest question after watching that train wreck was, “What exactly are we supposed to learn from this Learning Channel?”

Reality TV is not an area in which I have much comfort. I don’t know what a Kardasian is, and I am not clear on the point of real housewives or bridezillas. There seems to be a pre-occupation in this “reality” world with the breadth of “traditional marriages” from Bachelor mating rituals, which are tacky at best, to extreme retro “traditional” with multiple wives or 19 kids. Again, I am not quite clear on what the learning curve is here. Possibly the point is that those who are screaming to only have “traditional” marriages allowed in society need to be careful for which they pray.

Judge Judy is my one “reality television” guilty pleasure. On the trials on her show “the cases are REAL, the people are REAL” and the viewer gets to watch as these participants come on and lie their pants off. Judge Judy suffers the fools only so far as she quizzes them on specifics while working her personal vendetta to determine the real truth. Once she is satisfied at finding it, she has no restraint in bending forward and screaming out to the disingenuous “YOU”RE A LIAR!” Some might find the judge’s loud candor abusive. I find it actually a bit refreshing.

JJudyThey needed Judge Judy on “My Husband’s Not Gay”, where some real dishonesty and psychological abuse is happening.

There has been much legitimate concern about the show and its ties to harmful “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy. Although undisclosed, most of the participants on the show have supported organizations behind such pseudo-“science” that all the major American and Canadian mental health organizations have condemned. The premise of the show, three gay, oh, I’m sorry, “same sex attracted” men are married to straight women and raising families. The show tries not to present this as a “gay men SHOULD do this” but it definitely tries to raise the question “CAN” gay men do this?

On the journey of this show, the men and their wives testify as to how their lives are wonderful, rewarding, desirable to them, even if they fall short of being perfectly ideal. Through out, at several junctures, I was dying for Judge Judy to come popping out screaming “YOU’RE A LIAR!”

The men on the show hold all the cards in the situation. They have constructed their lives in such a way that they get everything they want between being openly ga— sorry, same sex attracted, and living up to the rigid and specific family design of the Mormon Church. (The Mormon Church itself no longer recommends their choice, however. On its site, mormonsandgays.com , it states “Unlike in times past, the Church does not necessarily advise those with same-sex attraction to marry those of the opposite sex. “)

The men have laid down the terms of their lives, and found women who agree to support those terms. The concept of what is needed and required around “same sex attraction” has been taught by the men to their wives who then move forward with a sensitive “understanding.” Most of the “knowledge” and “ssa facts” are fabricated. It reminded me of a fictional story about vampires where the author has to craft all the “rules” for the beings’ survival. This ignorance is understandable given that the people involved come from a world in which one of their straight friends first observations when the same sex attraction topic comes up is, “ oh yeah, there is a big problem with SSA in Argentina.” Say what? Argentina? Cue Judge Judy. What these wives have been given as the foundation to their marriages is a crock.

The men have set the stage with the premise that while they each are very “same sex attracted” — it is described by one as “out of 10 attractions, 9 are men, 1 is a woman” to another saying that he is “super into dudes sometimes.,” that they are also attracted to the women in their lives. This is a claim made through out the show, and one that the women cling to fiercely. One wife has memorized a phrase for herself hinging on the idea, “He loves me so much, he picked me over all the other men AND the women.” She has repeated this not only on the show, but on other videos, seeming to hope that through repetition like the Coca Cola branding, that she will be convinced that it is “the real thing.”

It is not the real thing. That may be a ridiculously bold and inappropriate statement by me, a stranger, to make, but the fact is obviously true. If these men were truly “also” attracted to their women, they would be simply bisexual. Like real bisexuals, the concern about other people regardless of gender with whom they have attraction, would have no bearing on their primary relationship. I may be attracted to furry white men, and also to tall African American men, but when partnered with one of the other, I do not need a whole system to deal with my other attractions.

Hold off on Judge Judy, however. Are these men lying? They seem to be skating into a loop hole, ala Bill Clinton. Where Bill needed to dissect what the definition of “is” is, these men need to clarify what their definition of “attracted to” is. They never really do, but another couple, Mikeal and Mandi, who are in the same situation, have delved into a far clearer discussion of this. Their video is here. They describe an attraction that is functional and mechanical, but not the same as the intimate innate attraction most other couples experience.

Who they are attracted to, how they are attracted, and what happens with the objects of their attraction, rules the world of the men in “My Husband is Not Gay.” It appears to be a complete and total obsession of their lives. The word “object” is key. Their wives are objects—the women willing to sacrifice lovers who are truly passionate about them for best friends and a family structure; and the men they ogle constantly are sexual toys that they are permitted to gaze at, place it on a rating scale, but are not allowed to touch (or at least, touch certain parts of…the terms are unclear.) The core of their concern is their own perceived sacrifice and not being able to exercise the part of themselves that calls out frequently.

In my opinion, these men should not be the focus of whether or not this practice is harmful. Certainly, they are victims of the church, homophobia and fallacies as to how limited family roles need to be. I understand what they are trying to do. I was not Mormon, but I am one of these men. I remember the dilemma of realizing my instinctual self and the life I predetermined I must lead did not match. I listen to how they prayed, and the peace they got in the answer back “ to be themselves.” We only differed in how we moved forward. They molded them into the dogmatic system and have attempted to play by its rules. I stepped out and fought for the right to have an equal system that allowed me a spouse, a family and home, that fits who I am, rather than is forced to accommodate me.

I have a partner who is not made to feel like a life compromise. I have two magnificent sons that I adore. I am the dad I have always wanted to be. Like the men in this television show, I feel my life is the one destiny wanted me to have.

Their wives here are the real victims, in my opinion. The wives are vulnerable to what they are being told on all sides. They are told by the church that they will ultimately be rewarded for their sacrifices. They are told by their husbands that they must put up with behaviors that are mandated in their particular situation. Here is where I can hear Judge Judy swooping in, yet again, in the face of both the Church and the husbands declaring “You’re a LIAR!”

The men have somehow convinced their wives that it is completely appropriate for men in their type relationship to discuss their sexual attractions to others constantly. They have convinced their wives that it is a healthy thing to hang out only with other couples who have a spouse who similarly wants to display their outside interests. The wives have been placated to believe that their men going on overnight camping trips with the objects of such attraction is just a normal thing that should be accepted, otherwise trust will be called into question. I wonder how many straight women would support their husbands’ needs to go camping with a bunch of other women, so he can get “girl time.”

The women’s buy-in on this set up is so complete that when in a dinner party situation where a friend is trying to keep the topic of “same sex attraction” quiet, they cannot keep themselves away from the topic. It is the constant elephant in their living rooms.

Despite protestations to the contrary, each woman displays a sadness, a wound, in her eyes that is unavoidable. Mandi addresses the sadness in her video, but the women of “My Husband is Not Gay” do not. They do not bring up the fact that while their husband might have to give up the ideal sex life he desires, they are forced to live with THE man they desire and every day of their lives be reminded that he is not attracted to them, not really. It is this fact that gives their eyes this slightly hopeless sadness, the kind you might expect from a woman trapped in a home plagued by spousal abuse and cannot bring herself to leave.

I thought the most poignant, ironic moment of “My Husband is Not Gay” came at a dinner party as the group endeavored to match up “same sex attracted” Tom with a single young woman. Tom discussed his passion, musical theater, and specifically the play Les Miserables. She had never heard of it. “It is just this musical where a girl loves a guy and he doesn’t love her back.”

“Oh, that’s the WORST!” she exclaims.

An hour later, Tom is telling her that he is same sex attracted, but wants to see her again anyway. He is essentially offering her, what she had described earlier as “the worst.” He softens that offer with the fib, “But of course, I am attracted to YOU too.”

Cue Judge Judy.

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A Gay Dad’s Requiem for Leelah, the Matthew Shepard of Our Time

Leelah Requiem

I will never forget the stunning image of Matthew Shepard’s hate crime. A young beautiful human was beaten, tortured and left for dead in an unthinkable violation. It shocked me when I saw the images, and I was not alone. Matthew’s fate left and indelible impression that has become part of our collective culture to this day.

This week, another tragedy, another life destroyed, left a similar impression — the death of Leelah Alcorn.

One of the publishers I work with sent me a quick message on New Years Eve. “You might want to write one of your ‘Gay Dad’ letters to the parents of this teen.” It was Leelah’s story. She was known to her family as “Joshua,” and she had killed herself. A pre-published letter appeared online. In the letter she eloquently explained why she was going to end her life in more emotional detail. While certainly many other young people had ended their lives before her, Leelah’s account of what she had endured was unprecedented.

In doing so, Leelah transformed from the latest tragedy to one that emblazed into the consciousness of a mass audience. Her plead to “make her death matter” resonated.

Many progressive bloggers felt moved to write about her including John Pavlovitz, Kathy Baldock, Jillian Page and Susan Cottrell. The evangelical Christian world was starkly quiet, issuing no statements of condolence, responsibility or regret for the environment it inspired. The Christian Post offered no mention of Leelah’s death at all even though it had been broadcast across all major media outlets in the country. Charisma News offered a single article by Michael Brown that called the situation “tragic” but instead of addressing a situation exacerbated by shortsighted Christian dogma, called for “time and energy into looking for the root causes of transgenderism.”

Without a stark image of a cross like fence on a cold crystal Wyoming plain, Leelah made an impression comparable to the crucified Matthew Shepard. She had become the image of the victim of transphobia as he had the victim of homophobic hate. In this case, her own testimony was the cross, and instead of a mother who would become the forward bearer of the message, her mother was cast as the villain.

Her story, as transgender activist Miriam Nadler tweeted, is tragically shared by many. “Cis people: please understand that the death of #LeelahAlcorn is not a statistical outlier. This story is common, cruel, and preventable.”

Susan Cottrell observed, “Yet another destroyed life over people’s ignorance and cruelty.There are no words to express the collective grief over this poor girl’s death, and anger at her parents’ misguided actions that drove her to it. Leelah’s parents made several mistakes and didn’t know it – or didn’t care.”

Author Dan Savage was even more direct, “We know that parental hostility & rejection doubles a queer kid’s already quadrupled risk of suicide—rejecting your queer kid is abuse, Leelah Alcorn’s parents threw her in front of that truck. They should be ashamed—but 1st they need to be shamed.”

Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey disagreed stating, “If you think the best, most effective possible action you can take to advance transgender rights is to harass the grieving mother of a recently deceased child, you lack imagination, humanity, any experience with grief, or some combination of the three.”

For her part, Leelah’s mother, Carla Alcorn, claimed to be ignorant of her child’s struggles. She told CNN that the transgender challenge was in a single conversation and it was not until after her child had died that she had even heard the name “Leelah.” “We don’t support that, religiously “But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy,” she added.

Leelah’s father Doug Alcorn wrote, “We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death. We have no desire to enter into a political storm or debate with people who did not know him. We wish to grieve in private. We harbor no ill will towards anyone. … I simply do not wish our words to be used against us.”

Doug and Carla Alcorn plan to say goodbye to someone named Joshua. The rest of the world is mourning a vibrant young woman named Leelah.

For me, as a gay dad, I have complex feelings around this horror. Front of mind for me is that Leelah’s death, in all its devastation, not be held as an event to be emulated by other transgender teens in similar situations. We must collectively strive to shut down the bloodshed on all fronts. Second, I have written to, and about, worse parents. There are parents who have wished their children dead, violently attacked and killed them. The Alcorns are not one of those. As a dad, I cannot fathom the pain they must feel. I do not know how I could possibly survive the death of one of my children. It is a strength I don’t believe I possess.

The philosophy that Doug and Carla Alcorn labored under is culpable however. As my sons have approached their adolescence, guesswork on where their inner compasses are leading them has commenced. I strive to be there to support their emotional health as they find themselves through hormonal and social growth. I cannot imagine ignoring a deep-seated plea on their part due to my own allegiance to some set of dogmatic rules. Carla Alcorn did that, and still appears to be doing so.

A wave of concern has emerged over how Leelah will be buried, and what name and the gender will be used. Her family seems to be avoiding a memorial all together to avoid the inevitable protests of their actions.

From my perspective, the death of Leelah is bigger than a funeral. Her death is bigger than failed parenting. It is the result of both a religion-based culture that ignores science and a largely apathetic public on the issue of transgender dignity. She is the mark in the sand of our collective societal consciousness. Her death asks the question on human rights — at what point have we reached the breaking point in tolerating transphobic behavior that ruins young lives. Matthew Shepard’s death asked the same question about thousands of hate crimes that had preceded him.

The religious right has framed the conversation as one of “Religious Freedom”. Fear of infringing against their rhetoric, basic human rights violations have been quieted. We have reached the point where we have to ask whether some supposed adherence to these “religious freedoms” that allow for abuse needs to be compromised in order to achieve common human rights and respect for all.

Here is my requiem for Leelah:

To the lovely Leelah, and all the Leelahs in the shadows,

You feared that you could never be loved, and yet here we are. Your absence has broken our hearts. The love for you was in the world all along. It sat quiet, waiting.

In that regard, it failed you. You needed to know it was there, that it was possible. You needed to know that it was your legacy, and it was possible for it to come not from a million strangers mourning your loss, but right back in the gaze of a man, and loving friends who saw you as you were, and met the vision of you with adoration.

I know that was there for you. But you didn’t know it.

It was a love that said, Leelah, we are waiting for you to be you, your authentic self. Whether that self “passed” as a person who was born resembling a woman to your family, or as one who transitioned physically into one— it makes no difference. Beauty is not about cis-gendering, it is not about passing as someone else, it is about being the real person. You were that real person.

I have two 12 year old sons. I thrill as each becomes more and more who he is, every day. Should I falter in being there for them, if I screwed up my parenting and tried to shove them in some role or characterization, I would want the world to step in and correct me and make me allow them to be themselves. I wish someone had done so for your parents.

I am sad that we did not make you feel welcome. I am sad that we did not give you the hope to know your life could be wonderful. I am angry that we allowed the trepidation over infringing on someone’s dogmatic belief system kept us from reaching you and protecting the very basic human rights you demanded and deserved.

As you said goodbye to us, you let us know you had a voice. It was an important voice, and still is. It may have been the most important voice some of us had ever heard, and now, it is silenced.

You are right. Saying “it gets better” is not enough. We all need to be dedicated to making it better — now, and to cry that out. It will be better because we are insisting that changes be made. We cannot thrust our precious transgender brothers and sisters into the mercy of fate and a growing understanding. We need to bring that understanding to fruition as immediately as possible. We lost you while we warmed with the idea that equality was dawning, seemingly ignorant to the fact that pockets of hell still flourished in our patience.

You wanted your death to mean something. You wanted your death to be counted among the numbers of transgender casualties that are all too common.

I would deny you nothing, beautiful Leelah, except for these two requests. I cannot honor your death. It is an event that I wish with all my soul had not happened. I will not fold you into a horrific number that I want to see reduced, not increased.

It is your life that I will honor. It is your uniqueness and the uniqueness of all the others who today suffer as you did. I will fight that all those lives come out of the shadows and live and become powerful. You were not a number. They are not a number. You, they, are incredible and important human lives and I want to feel and experience your impact.

If another Leelah is reading these words, please know that I already respect you as one of the bravest on earth. I am in awe of the discovery you have made about yourself and offer my commitment to hold your hand as people understand who you are.

I am here to fight the hard fight—to make this world safe for you, worthwhile for you, available to you. I will not relinquish.

I will fight like hell. I need you, all the hidden Leelah’s to fight like hell too. We must end the option of transgender suicide. Get mad. Get vocal. Even get militant.

Don’t leave us. Your death stunned us. I can only imagine what your life would have done.


If you are a transgender person thinking about suicide, or if someone you know is, find worldwide resources at http://www.stop-homophobia.com/suicideprevention.htm . You can also reach the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. LGBT youth thinking about suicide can also reach out to the Trevor Project Lifeline (ages 24 or younger) at 866-488-7386.

Thanks to Leap Audio for a reading of this piece.  Amazing job.            http://leapaudio.org/a-special-presentation/

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