Topsy Turvy World: My Ongoing Dialogue with Peter LaBarbera

Some days, you just look around and go… what?

Like the whole GOProud at CPAC thing. The LGBT movement really isn’t too keen on GOProud, gay as they may be. (Here are my reasons.) And the arch-conservatives and tea partiers at CPAC don’t want ANYTHING remotely pro-LGBT at their event. And so, for me personally at least, even though I don’t have much respect for GOProud’s platform, I find myself cheering on the trouble they’re causing in conservative circles. I don’t have to respect GOProud to appreciate differences they might make by subverting the way conservatives dismiss all LGBT issues.

But over the past week, I’ve had my own topsy-turvy experience. I’ve been having a civil and even respectful dialogue (if you ignore the occasional mocking quotes) with Peter LaBarbera on Twitter.

Readers know I use this blog to challenge religious right rhetoric, and I won’t pretend that I didn’t start engaging with Peter LaBarbera with the same motive. But, I’m going to give him a little credit: it’s actually been a constructive and meaningful exchange, as much as one between the two of us possibly could be. I mean, it’s no secret to him that I’m an openly gay atheist, and it’s no secret to me that he orchestrates Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, which promotes a lot of dangerous untruths about LGBT identities.

In fact, Peter LaBarbera has pretty well earned himself the ire of the LGBT community. (I’m still working on a similar reputation among conservatives.) He says a lot of things that are incredibly offensive to us (he tweeted today using the hashtag #trannycare—oy). Over at Pam’s House Blend, he is regularly referred to as “Porno Pete” for the way he always looks for ways to use queer sexuality as a weapon against our community. But in the scheme of things, it works for him, regardless of how much we make fun of him for it. As I just wrote, sexual liberation really freaks out our opponents, and whether or not he has a different motive for pursuing queer sexuality is really just a cheap joke on our parts.

And yet, I’ve found that he can actually engage in civil discourse, a quality that doesn’t apply to many of his anti-LGBT peers. We’ve actually found things we can agree on and jokes we can both laugh at (including GOProud’s Chris Barron’s regular Twitter updates about his workout routines). Today, Peter actually did me a favor. He noticed that I was debating “NGblog” about the merits of Creating Change and pointed out that it’s Nelson Garcia, a fake gay activist with a history of boyloving and pedophilia charges. In fact, Peter went out of his way to call out Garcia’s past on the #cc11 hashtag for all to see. He didn’t have to do that.

None of this changes the fact that Peter LaBarbera and I fundamentally disagree on a lot. I’m eagerly waiting to see what his AFTAH undercover reporters “uncovered” at Creating Change. (Unlike AFTAH’s conference this summer, Creating Change doesn’t limit who can attend, so I don’t know why they had to go undercover to begin with.) [Upon reading this post, Peter informed me he has been escorted out before. I personally expect that protecting the experience of attendees who support LGBT equality is paramount, though I wonder if perhaps a silent observer might be tolerated. There is certainly nothing to hide at CC.] But despite the way that he can trigger me, I feel like there is something profoundly  meaningful about the kind of dialogue we’ve managed to have on Twitter.

I actually asked his permission to preserve our exchange here on the blog, and it seems we’re both interested in continuing the exchange. Below is most of it so far up until today, but it’s still very much underway. I want you all to take a deep breath as you read it because there are certainly a lot of reasons to be frustrated by it, but I am committed to continuing to keep it constructive. I ask that no one disrupt that by resorting to name-calling or mocking (here or on Twitter), as hurt as any of us might be by things he says. Just lift your fingers off the keyboard and let the dialogue continue.

Twitter exchanges are tough to follow, but here is how our conversation has panned out so far. There have been a couple of previous short exchanges between us that I’ve omitted, and there are some loose threads included below as well, but here’s how things have proceeded. (Note: I’ve combined consecutive tweets and sorted some out for ease of reading. Twitter actually does not make this very easy to do!)

February 1, 2011

ZF: If you say gay people should be executed and then gays are executed, how is that not a connection?

PL: sorry lying dude but youve confused Christians (+ me) w/ rad Muslims who say we should push homols off tall bldgs #lgbtliars #tcot

ZF: So it’s more compassionate to just put them in jail for life? You’re the good guys because at least you don’t want death?

PL: On radio Gary Glenn listed #christian victims of #lgbt laws: what kind of “civil rights” mvt TAKES AWAY others’ rel + 1st Am rights? #tcot

ZF: Help me understand, dude. What 1st amendment rights do #LGBT laws strip you of?

PL: #LGBT Freedom of association, for starters. Freedom to live out ur rel/moral creed – the Boy Scouts of America almost lost theirs

ZF: Help me understand. I don’t recall any clauses in the laws that prohibit free association. Is discriminating a freedom?

PL: One man’s “discrimination” is another man’s fidelity to his conscience + moral/rel. code. That’s the essence of this battle. #tcot

ZF: I recognize the right of your conscience, but how does that amount to a right to exclude others’ same freedom of conscience?

PL: + btw, Zack, until you apologize for lying that I called for the “execution of gays,” there will be no exchange b/t us. #tcot

ZF: So, @PeterLaBarbera answer me concisely “No” and I will apologize: Do you support the execution, incarceration, or persecution of LGBTs? Honestly, I would love to be able to apologize for that being a mistake. Would love to call you an ally for human rights!

February 2, 2011

ZF: Peter, I’m hoping you can still answer my question so I can offer you the apology you seek.

February 6, 2011

ZF: BTW, I’m still hoping to apologize. Just answer “No”: Do you support the execution, incarceration, or persecution of LGBTs?

PL: Love how u expanded ur ? after ur erroneous claim that I supp the “execution” of #lgbt ppl. We wuld differ on def of “persecution” … Eg, would u consider denial of SSM or laws ag homo’l adoption “persecution”?

ZF: Well, supporting persecution is an invitation for violence. I’d love to hear what kinds of persecution you don’t support. What is your rationale for denying marriage or adoption to same-sex couples?

PL: see what I mean. We cant agree on terms. I bet u also see laws restricting #abortion as “persecution” of women. Hope I’m wrong…

ZF: The only different term I used was “same-sex couple,” which is accurate: not all people in such couples are homosexuals. I would be happy to engage in a debate on abortion at a different time. May we stick to the topic at hand?

PL: don’t twist my words, Zack. I’m not one of ur students. LOL. Denial of SSM is not persec. We have no agreement on terms.

ZF: I didn’t say it was. I asked your rationale so I could offer my perspective in response. I’m trying for legit dialogue here.

February 7, 2011

ZF: If you say, for example, that SSC’s are less effective at raising a child, that’s not factually true, so I’d call that pers. Also, if you say that two people WANTING to commit to marriage somehow hurts marriage, that’s also a demonizing smear.

PL: Ex of “persecution”: govt forcing private bus. owners to subsidize employee “dom partnrships” desp their bel tht homo’y is sinful

ZF: So what I’m understanding is that a religious belief in sin takes precedent over a gov’t definition of discrimination? So, it’s persecution to force someone to be INCLUSIVE, but it’s not persecution to enable someone to be EXCLUSIVE.

PL: my pt is 1 mans “rights” is another man’s “persecution.” U obv’sly define “persecution” acc to ur ideology. Dont assume its true

ZF: Well, my concern is that the 1st Amd says NOT to use laws to protect religion, while the 14th says equal rights for all… But what I hear is that you feel that preserving the religious belief is more important than protecting all people… If you’re not allowed to discriminate based on belief, is that really an infringement of the right to that belief?

PL: First Freedom, Zack. Our nation was founded by ppl fleeing rel persecution. Thank God we have a 1st Amendment. #tcot #christian

ZF: a 1st amendment that ensures our lawmakers cater to all citizens, NOT specific religious beliefs. 🙂 #tcot #atheist

PL: Youre talking about Govt coming in and forcing citizens to comply w/ ideas that are alien to US’s Jud-Chn heritage, wch = tyranny

ZF: haha, Jud-Chn heritage isn’t part of our Constitution. Equality for all and freedom FROM religion is our heritage!

PL: ur distorting history thru ur atheist glasses. The irony is atheist or ANTI-Ch’n regimes are the most oppressive + murderous #tcot

ZF: No, now you’re just attacking me for being an atheist. Read the Treaty of Tripoli, my friend! Christian-free US govt!

PL: Freedom FROM religion? They sure did a bad job w/ all those g’t prayer proclamations, mentions of God, Moses on Sup Ct walls etc!

ZF: Haha, agreed! If only we just didn’t use fear of communists to enshrine religion in our culture like we did in the 50s!

PL: # 1: Communism should b feared + stalwartly fought b/c its a murderous, anti-liberty system (Stalin, Mao, etc) # 2 follows. #tcot

ZF: Given that atheism in 2011 has NOTHING to do with Communism, I agree entirely with point #1!

PL: # 2: our Christ’y-infused + -informed govt system is our roots + is not a result of 1950s “fear of Communism” #tcot #reagan #gop

ZF: That’s a fair point too. Though it was certainly cemented then. Christianity does not inform our gov’t structure though. Christian principles have often overlapped, but our founding document prohibits infusing them into gov’t. Do you agree?

PL: Founders were more concerned w/ pot. abuses of a State Church – which is in a way what libs like u could win w/ statist secularism

ZF: And you don’t think enshrining discrimination in law is abuse of government by a group of religious believers? (What is “statist” secularism? Did you mean stalinist? Surely you don’t think that’s what any secularist actually wants.)

PL: There’s far deeper + longer history beh Jud-Christ’n (biblical) understand’g of rights than newfangled homo’y-based “rights” #tcot

ZF: That’s true! But don’t we have the potential to learn and grow? Can’t we learn new things, incorporate new understandings? Honestly, Jesus brought many new ideas that were contrary to the Old Testament past. Was that a bad thing too?

PL: Whch is to say “gay rights” are not truly “Western” (civilized) but insted really a corruption of a hist’l understan’g of “rights”

ZF: But isn’t it in civilized countries where gay rights are thriving? What distinguishes your “corruption” from my “progress?”

PL: …This explains why today we see #lgbt “rights” advancing (or being imposed judicially) at the expense of rel liberty #tcot #ocra

ZF: How exactly do #lgbt rights impose on religious liberty? I haven’t seen laws that prevent holding specific beliefs.

PL: Banning the outworking of faith (eg New Mex Ch’n photog sued by lesbians 4 not taking photos at their “commitmnt cerem’ny”) (cont) …IS the imposition of “gay rights” against individ’s “rel liberty,” no? What would u call it? #lgbt #christian #tcot #hhrs #tlot

ZF: Well, it sounds like you see the “right to believe” and the “right to discriminate based on belief” as the same thing, yes?

PL: What if I told u that u could (foolkishly) BELIEVE there’s no Creator but cannot ACT on that belief? #tcot #christian

ZF: I guess I’d be bothered by being called “foolish,” but I guess I’m not sure what that would prevent me from doing? Go on. Btw, I really do find this to be a worthwhile and meaningful exchange and hope it continues. Mind if I blog our thread? Also, I’m looking forward to seeing how your AFTAH undercover reporters’ #cc11 experiences compare to my own! Anyways, tell me more about what it would be like if I could not act on my atheism. What would it prevent me from doing? [He gave his blogging okay via DM.]

PL: so lets say u as a very committed atheist artist r approachd by a Ch’n to paint a giant mural message, “Atheism is evil” (Cont) …Should u be compelled (by the gov’t) to work on that mural – even tho ur an atheist – under, say, a “Christian Rights” law?

ZF: Well, I see where you’re going, but is it the best example? Art is about expression, not belief; artists can’t be compelled. I don’t think an artist of any identity should be compelled to paint a certain view; otherwise it’s no longer art.

PL: Elaine H, #christian photog is an artist w/ a busin. Was it persecut’n 4 her to b forced by NM law to shoot a lesb ceremony? #tcot

ZF: She offered a public service, a business like you said. Her photos are skilled, but do not represent expression. It’s no different than a Christian landlord refusing to rent an apartment to someone openly gay. It’s just discrimination.

PL: Says who? Says Big Brother (or Big Gay Brother) gov’t? #tcot #ocra #christian

ZF: It’s blatantly refusing access because of identity. How is that not discrimination? (See “lunch counters circa 1960.”)

PL: Wait a min: Do I have a “right” 2 rent an apt fr a gay landlord? Or a “right” to b a membr or even a leader at an #lgbt org? #tcot

ZF: I have a right to rent an apartment. It doesn’t matter the landlord’s SO. Everyone is welcome as members of #lgbt orgs. You have a right, just as I do, to NOT be discriminated against for your sexual orientation. Unfortunately, I actually do NOT have that right in many states. I can be fired or refused housing just for being gay.

PL: + I can be hired or not hired for being (too) straight, right? (+ lets face it: there’s no rash of “gay” firings these these days! Sorry, typo: that was supp to be “Fired or not hired [by an #lgbt employer] for being (too) straight”…

ZF: I suppose you could be fired for being straight if the laws aren’t there. Does that mean you’d support SO protections? But gay firing still happen all the time, and are still legal in 34 states.

ZF: Let’s face it, discrimination based on race, gender, and religion, and we have protections for those (which I also support). For the record, I would not support an atheist or gay person discriminating against a Christian. The actual numbers: 37% of GL people reported workplace harassment, 12% losing job for SO (2008). Also, elderly lesbian couples are TWICE as likely to be living in poverty as elderly op-sex couples.

[msvavirgo: I was one of both the 37% and the 12% in case you need to put a face to the statistic]

PL: So wld u supp a Chn taking a lead’p role at your campus atheist club – like #lgbt cases try’g 2 sue way into #christian clubs? … Note: the #lgbt students are “suing” using campus “sexual orientation” nondisc codes… #lgbt #christian

ZF: There is no reported case of infiltration. I agree that all people should be eligible to be members and run for offices. If a group is foolish enough to vote someone into position who doesn’t support the group’s mission, it’s their prob. But a Christian who is committed to the work of an atheist group would be great, just like straight allies in an LGBT group!

PL: No I dont demnd right to b hired by @GOPROUD altho then I could get live daily workout updates fr narcissist @ChrisRBarron 🙂 #gop

ZF: As for the workout updates, there’s another point upon which we very much agree. 🙂

So that’s where things stand today. Peter informed me that he would be unavailable to tweet much today, but that he is interested in pursuing the conversation. He has also expressed interest in hearing about my coming out experiences (I shared my posts about arriving at “gay” and “atheist” with him and invited questions), as well as having a discussion about what we each consider to be “adult,” i.e. inappropriate for young people to discuss. Certainly, I will have some critical things to say as he starts reporting on Creating Change from the AFTAH perspective, but something about this exchange still seems somehow fruitful.

As the Zeitgeist dwells on the concept of “civility,” I’m kind of proud that Peter and I can demonstrate a civil exchange, despite how profoundly we disagree.

And I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Bunk Research, Lesbian Recruitment, and a Crazy Poll!

Remember, like… an hour ago when I pointed out that both the American Family Association and Family Research Council are now both certifiable hate groups? Well, the AFA’s news arm, OneNewsNow, has a headline story up today about “research” apparently done by… *Dun dunna duh!* FRC!

A recently released study shows a link between childhood family structure and the rate of female homosexuality — undermining the claim that sexual orientation is genetic or biological.

First of all, there is a lot of research that shows there is at least some genetic component to homosexuality, so it’s not just a claim.

Second of all, it shouldn’t really matter if it’s genetic or biological; it’s still not a choice, and it’s still dangerous to talk about it like it is.

So what did Pat Fagan have to tell us about this study he “co-evaluated”?

“Once the girl grows up in a home in which her father is not present, it’s about three times” more likely she has had or will have homosexual partners, he says — but when she is raised by parents who are married and “always intact, it’s about a four-percent rate.” Moreover, he explains that rate is “slightly higher in the always-intact-but-cohabitating parents — that’s parents who never married.”

Statistics are also higher with step-families, the cohabiting step-family, and the single divorced parent, adds the FRC spokesman.

“The big take away from this study is that clearly, this [type of sexual behavior] is not genetic,” Fagan points out. “The different rates of homosexuality among women are very reactive to the family structure within which they grow up. If it was genetic, you would find pretty much the same rates all across.”

He further notes that, according to the results of the study, women who claim to worship weekly or monthly have a lower rate of lesbianism, while those who rarely or never worship are at a higher rate.

Okay, so this is a joke. And the fact that there is no title, citation, or actual results to this “study” doesn’t help. Remember, too, that this is all written with the assumption that lesbianism is bad and should be prevented. But let’s think about this a bit with the limited information we have.

These anti-gay “family” groups use the word “fatherless” a lot. They assume that the same conclusions about children of single moms applies to children of lesbian moms because both are “fatherless.” Of course, we know this is an absurd assumption to make. A loving committed couple is a lot different than a single working parent.

And so it’s quite possible that some of the children described as “fatherless” are actually the children of lesbian couples. Given that they’d have grown up in a home where sexual orientation was regularly discussed and they had the freedom to explore, it would not be surprising if they were more likely to do such exploring! Further, if the biological mother of those girls is a lesbian, that’s actually evidence in favor of a genetic argument. The ambiguity, unfortunately, does not give us much to work with.

What’s also important to note here is that they identify “lesbianism” as behavior, not identity. By this definition, there are plenty of happy heterosexual women who probably qualify. And thus, the claim that the behavior is not genetic becomes meaningless. No one ever claimed that behavior was genetic. Moreover, the claim that rates would be the same “all across” would be even less true if there were a genetic component.

Lastly, the connection between worship and lesbianism is highly constructed. Given that most religious organizations condemn homosexuality and actively discourage it in their members (to the point of intimidation and bullying), it is not surprising that women who receive more of those messages are more scared to not explore their own sexuality. It’s kind of sad, really.

So, if you’re curious about the way these groups propagate hate, they gave you a shining example right out the gate today!

Oh! And I cannot leave out the icing on the cake, ONN’s accompanying poll. The AFA learned long ago that their polls get crashed, so they began designing them in ways that are win-win-win for them, making them utterly pointless. Take a look and decide how you would vote! I’m not going to show you the results, so you’ll just have to vote and see where you stand. My answer’s in 2nd place.

Stop back here next time for a poll about the best way to trap unicorns.

Bully-Free Zones: Not on NARTH’s Agenda

[Shannon Cuttle is an educator, school administrator, safe schools advocate and trainer, community organizer, and policy wonk.]

This weekend at the Marriott Renaissance-Airport Hotel in Philadelphia, PA, the organization NARTH will hold their annual conference. NARTH is no ordinary organization; draped in disguise as a “scientific research” community lies an organization that uses inaccurate and misguided information that  harms not just adults but youth and families.

NARTH most recently has been in the news over  the Rekers scandal, but even before that they made headlines this past March with a letter that went out to over 800 school superintendents nationwide through their American College of Pediatricians, a fake organization created to be confused with the authentic American Academy of Pediatrics. The letter denounced GLSEN’s Day of Silence and announced a new youth program with so called “resources”  for families. Under the guise of the American College of Pediatricians, the misleading Facts About Youth: Informing About The Sexual Development of Youth website offers inaccurate and  harmful material for all youth, especially gender non-conforming and LGBT youth and families.

The Facts About Youth website outlines “how to seek reparative treatment for your homosexual child” and outlines “what to do if your child shows homosexual tendencies.” Under the topic of Empowering Parents of Gender Discordant and Same-Sex Attracted Children,” the Facts About Youth website also contains inaccurate and misguided information for educators.

The so-called American College of Pediatricians is not a real medical or scientific organization nor is it affiliated with any accredited medical or collegiate association or organization.

The NARTH Facts About Youth website includes a misleading  statement speaking out against real scientific medical associations including the American  Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric  Association, along with the real  National Education Association over the real and accurate document Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth: a primer for principals, educators and school personnel .

During the NARTH conference this weekend, sessions will be held on youth, families, and schools. While 9 in 10 LGBT youth are bullied and harassed and 84.6% endure harassment in school daily, organizations such as NARTH, the American College of Pediatricians, Facts About Youth, the American Family Association, and others are leading the charge to fuel the fire of intolerance and hate.

We need to speak out against those who spread inaccurate and hurtful  information that is damaging our communities and creating a hostile environment for youth. We need to hold those accountable that are allowing messages of hate and intolerance in our communities. And we need to stand up to those individuals and organizations that support them. The lives of LGBTQ youth are depending on it.

No, Really. You Can NOT Change Your Sexual Orientation!

I spent the morning working to develop a training for the directors of some local senior centers about the unique challenges faced by LGBT elders. One of the most telling experiences about folks who are currently in their 50s or older is that they dealt with coming out at a time when homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder.

Thus, when thinking about serving this population, it’s easy to think that it’s only been since 1973 that those 81 words were removed from the DSM. That’s less than 40 years that our understanding of sexual orientation has not seen as disorder and malfunction. That’s barely one generation.

At the same time, it is one generation. It’s also easy to step back and realize that that’s almost 40 years that we’ve known better. From my perspective, that was 12 years before I was born that people had it figured out. And yet, 37 years later, some people still haven’t figured it out.

That’s why this weekend is committed to rebelling against that aging myth. NARTH will be having their annual conference in Philadelphia, a weekend of stodgy old men regurgitating their lies and fallacies about sexual orientation. Their basic premise is simple: some people don’t like to be gay, so there must be a way to not be gay. They care not that the real problem is societal stigma, nor do they care that they are very much enablers of that stigma. The hypothesis that sexual orientation can be changed is, of course, wrong, and even worse, harmful.

And yet, there they will be, continuing to convince each other they’re not wrong.

That’s why I’m proud to support Truth Wins Out‘s “Lift My Luggage” protest. On Saturday, I will join TWO, Equality Pennsylvania, and a number of organizations as well as fellow bloggers Joe Jervis, Jeremy Hooper, and Pam Spaulding to demonstrate outside the NARTH conference. You may recall that one of NARTH’s most prominent leaders, George Rekers, was caught hiring a “rent boy” earlier this year, reminding us that many of NARTH’s participants are motivated by their own internalized homophobia.

Personally, my hope is that the quacks who maintain NARTH will die out sooner than later and help the awful mythology of ex-gay therapy end. Until then, they continue to wreak havoc on young people, and we must interrupt them as we are able.

I’m proud too to be participating in SoulForce’s symposium that is happening simultaneously. The true goal of the symposium is to create some media resources that can be shared well beyond this weekend’s meeting, particularly testimonials and presentations from survivors of the ex-gay movement. While I personally have disagreements with SoulForce’s reinforcement of faith and religion, they still do important work to resist the negative impact by anti-gay religious beliefs.

It seems fitting, I suppose, that I will be participating in the Lift My Luggage protest while my good friend and podcast partner Peterson Toscano will be participating in the Soulforce symposium. Of course, he and I will be recording some interviews while we are in Philadelphia this weekend, so make sure to tune in to Queer and Queerer next week to hear from the brilliant and courageous folks speaking out at these events.

For many, ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy might sound like old, worn-out fads that no longer impact people who are bi, lesbian, and gay. The truth is that groups like NARTH continue to spread their hurtful ideas and cause harm to young people all over our nation and world. While their impact may be shrinking, the harm is not, and I’m glad to be working with so many fantastic individuals and groups to be countering them this weekend.

Hope to see you there!

Why Do I Often Write Against Catholicism? The Catholics Make Me!

After my post last week about the lie-ridden Catholic propaganda being distributed to young people, an acquaintance of mine inquired as to why I feel the need to write anti-Catholic posts so often. Among the comments he made on my Facebook profile were:

Could you go a week without bashing – just let us be who we are?

Well, I could, except that that is exactly what Catholicism does not do for gay people. It’s amazing how often leaders of the Catholic Church (or its messaging) glibly rail on gay people. (These are the same folks whose salaries are paid by your tithing, by the way.)

I don’t know if you’ve noticed what the cultural environment is like for gay people right now, but we’ve finally been hearing about the many suicides committed by people who are persecuted for being perceived as gay. Where do all those bullies get their message?

The Catholic Church is a big source. Take a look at this Catholic Action insight from Cardinal-Designate Raymond L. Burke (hat tip Joe Jervis). You’ll note that commenting on the video has been disabled. Opponents of the gay community thinks this gives their message more power because there is no room for dissent; I think it just shows how insecure they are.

Did you catch that? First he said:

There is a discrimination which is perfectly just and good and namely that’s the discrimination between what is right and what is wrong.

Then, he goes onto say that “people with same-sex attractions” are people who “suffer” and that this attraction is “not right” that they should “correct in themselves” this attraction.

So discrimination between right and wrong is okay. People who are gay are not right. Thus, it’s okay to discriminate against gays. See how obvious the message is?

And if you don’t agree with my conclusion, you don’t have to. The good Cardinal goes on to make it for us:

And so it’s not at all an unfair discrimination to say, “Well, no. Persons who are attracted in this way…”—we can’t do them any good by making up a new idea of marriage contrary to the way in which God has created us.

[Church teachings, scripture, and tradition help us understand why] same-sex behavior is always and everywhere wrong.

I couldn’t quite make out all his words there, but his point was obvious. You can listen to the whole spiel for yourself.

Now, to all you folks out there who say, “Those are just beliefs,” you’re wrong. They are fallacies and they are incredibly hurtful. They’re not just different point of view; they are, in fact, wrong.

So yes, every time religious organizations try to use their beliefs to perpetuate discrimination against gay people, I’m going to call it out and hold the religious organization accountable for the harm it propagates.

Maybe if Catholic Church leaders stopped demonizing us and spreading the message that we’re sinners and in great need of help I wouldn’t have to keep writing about how archaic and dangerous it is.

Pick: Kids Learn About Gays or Kids Kill Themselves

Ever since people first started talking about homosexuality, children have been used to support the fear and demonization of gay people. The message has only become slightly diluted over the past few decades.

Gays are pedophiles (the Catholic Church still thinks so). (Also still: Trans women are just men who want to molest little girls in the bathroom.) Gays want to kidnap kids. Gays want to recruit kids. Gays want to teach kids to be gay. Gays want to teach kids about gay sex. Gays want to teach kids about gay marriage. Gays want to teach kids that gay people exist.

Now, the last two don’t sound so bad, but they are always presented in a way to insinuate the old language. The message is the same: gays are evil and our kids are at risk. We’ve got to protect them!

Today we learned about a number of teenage suicides that were fomented by anti-gay bullying. Justin Aaberg of Minnesota hung himself in July. Billy Lucas of Indiana hung himself just last week. Both were 15. (Hat tip to Towleroad for reporting on each: here and here.)

It seems that students were relentless at tormenting Billy Lucas while teachers and administrators were oblivious.

According to WTHR:

Friends of Lucas say that he had been tormented for years.

“Some people at school called him names,” Hughes said, saying most of those names questioned Lucas’ sexual orientation, and that Lucas, for the most part, did little to defend himself.

“He would try to but people would just try to break him down with words and stuff and just pick on him,” Hughes said.

According to WXIN:

Students told Fox59 News it was common knowledge that children bullied Billy and from what they said, it was getting worse. Last Thursday, Billy’s mother found him dead inside their barn. He had hung himself.

Students said on that same day, some students told Billy to kill himself.

“They said stuff like ‘you’re like a piece of crap’ and ‘you don’t deserve to live.’ Different things like that. Talked about how he was gay or whatever,” said Swango.

Principal Phil Chapple doesn’t deny that students are bullied in the high school, but he said he didn’t know Billy was one of the victims.

“We were not aware of that situation,” said Chapple.

The case of Justin Aaberg reveals how school teachers can be so oblivious to gay bullying: because they’re instructed to.

As reported by WCCO, The Anoka-Hennepin School District has a policy that reads:

Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations.

How horrid is that? A school refuses to teach about a natural part of human diversity and leaves it to the community to continue reinforcing all the negative messages that aren’t based on truth.

And will the school change its curriculum policy? No.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District said the curriculum policy and bullying are two entirely separate issues.

“It’s very difficult. We have a community that has widely varying opinions, and so to respect all families, as the policy says, we ask teachers to remain neutral,” said District Spokeswoman Mary Olson.

Remain neutral. A kid was harassed to such an extent that he didn’t think his life was worth living and teachers have to remain neutral to “respect families.”

Read it again. That is the world we live in. That is enshrined homophobia. That is a policy that represents fear motivated by demonization.

Incidentally, GLSEN today published the key findings of its 2009 National School Climate Survey. Here are some chilling numbers for you:

84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.

63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.

72.4% heard homophobic remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” frequently or often at school.

Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.

That’s last year. Not 1985; 2009. It makes me ill just thinking about it. And what did the study find worked at helping reducing these numbers? In addition to having a GSA,

The presence of supportive staff contributed to a range of positive indicators including fewer reports of missing school, fewer reports of feeling unsafe, greater academic achievement, higher educational aspirations and a greater sense of school belonging.

Students attending schools with an anti-bullying policy that included protections based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression heard fewer homophobic remarks, experienced lower levels of victimization related to their sexual orientation, were more likely to report that staff intervened when hearing homophobic remarks and were more likely to report incidents of harassment and assault to school staff than students at schools with a general policy or no policy.

But unfortunately:

Despite the positive benefits of these interventions, less than a half of LGBT students (44.6%) reported having a Gay-Straight Alliance at school, slightly more than half (53.4%) could identify six or more supportive educators and less than a fifth (18.2%) attended a school that had a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.

What’s worse, we know that these numbers translate into higher education as well. A new study, “State of Higher Education for LGBT People” is being released this month that shows young people continue to experience harassment for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression on our college campuses.

83% of LGBT college students reported experiencing harassment for their sexual identity, with numbers even higher for students who were trans-identified. In fact, 87% of trans-masculine identified individuals reported experience harassment for their gender expression with 82% of trans-feminine identified individuals reporting similar harassment.

The problem here is that our schools aren’t educating. We aren’t willing to talk about what we know. Gender and sexuality are a part of who humans are, but we refuse to dispense uniform informed information to our young people. Out of “respect,” we prefer to let stereotypes and fear persist.

This is a crime against our society, and the deaths of Billy Lucas and Justin Aaberg rest on the shoulders of groups like Focus on the Family who insist that sexual orientation not be taught in our schools.

So you get to pick. Do we teach kids about the realities of the world or do we sustain the ignorance that drains them of all meaning to live?

Could Christwire’s Gaydar Detect MY Gayness?

So, has an article up this week with 15 ways women can tell if their husbands are gay. What, is “an enduring physical and romantic attractions to other men” not a good enough check these days? Apparently this is a problem in our nation. Could it be that the incredible stigma against being gay has forced men to hide their real identity and lead false lives? The way the article reads, the men just don’t know better. In fact, “homosexuality can pop up at any during a long-term relationship.” It’s like sexual orientation whack-a-mole!

And no, I’m pretty sure this is not a Poe. [Hmm… it really has to be. But it’s a good Poe, because it surely has folks on both sides fooled. If people believe it is real, does that make it real?]

I don’t know that I’m the most stereotypical gay. The closet is a figment of my imagination at this point, so I wouldn’t be fooling anybody, but my behaviors don’t necessarily fit. Let’s take a look at how Christwire wants women to identify gay men and see how I fit. (Forewarning: All gay men are obsessed with sex, drugs, and their own bodies.)

By the way, the picture is your first clue: if he’s skinny (skinnier than you), hairless, and has messy Elijah Wood hair, you might be in a really stereotyping photoshoot.

1) Secretive late night use of cellphones and computers

Hmm… I suppose I’m not really secretive about my late night computer use. It’s about 9:30 PM right now as I’m working on this post, which will be visible to the world wide web, so I guess that’s not very secretive.  The author (a man) tells women that “for the sake of trust, a married couple should share everything, including phone logs, email accounts, chat friends and website histories.” Why do I have a hunch a man could easily set up this arrangement specifically to make it easier to hide what he was doing? Hello, Google Chrome Incognito.

2) Looks at other men in a flirtatious way

Alright, guilty as charged. In fact, I struggle with being subtle with my flirtation. I admitted on this week’s Queer and Queerer that I openly objectify my attractive friends. Sorry unattractive friends; when it comes to ogling, I’m as superficial as the next guy. I particularly love my straight male friends who openly flirt back; now that is trust and security in masculinity. Kudos, boys, for getting over yourselves.

3) Feigning attention in church and prayer groups

Not me. While churches might be the best place to pick up dudes, this atheist doesn’t need any closet cases in his life. Sorry, boys, but you won’t have me to prey pray on.

4) Overly fastidious about his appearance and the home

Well, I shower. I don’t have the “certain amount of grit” that “natural men” who sweat and smell have, but I don’t tweeze or get picky about my shampoo. Heck, I’m so old-fashioned I still use a wash cloth and bar soap. That’s gotta give me some straight points. Remind me what this has to do with whether or not I like cock? (Sorry potential employers who are reading this; I’m just being derisive for humorous effect. I hope you’re laughing!)

5) Gym membership but no interest in sports

Nope. Well, not really. I’m not interested in sports, but I don’t have a gym membership either. Just think how much I’ll be able to enjoy life without all the time wasted on my body for the sake of appealing to other guys who are so superficial that not having a six-pack is a deal-breaker. I can be healthy without spending every day trying to look like a Chippendale. Please. (Also, not a big fan of bathroom sex here. Hey! That’s what the article alleges!)

6) Clothes that are too tight and too “trendy”

I do think I look better it fitted clothes, but I’m hardly trendy. My wardrobe largely comes from Kohl’s, Old Navy, and Aeropostale. To all the gay men out there who just fainted, I do at least own one item of clothing from A&F (a super comfy cashmere scarf!). I certainly don’t own skinny jeans, and I don’t have to look at my butt in the mirror to know it looks good, thank you very much.

7) Strange sexual demands

So get this, heteros. If you want butt-sex from your lady, or you want her to tie you up and use you, that means you’re probably gay. You’re not allowed to be adventurous (or even curious) without having “deep emotional abnormalities.” Fetishes are fun. I don’t know who this Stephenson Billings guy is who wrote this POS article, but I’m worried about him. TALK ABOUT REPRESSION. (I’d rather talk about kink!)

8) More interested in the men than the women in pornographic films

There are porn films with women in them? Gross.

(I love you ladies, but… you know.)

9) Travels frequently to big cities or Asia

It’s true that gay culture only exists in Asia. Wait, what? I mean, it’s true that gay culture only exists in big cities. It’s annoying. It drives me crazy that central PA doesn’t have any bathhouses. I mean, where’s a guy supposed to go for lots of random anonymous sex in middle America? (Just kidding, folks, I don’t even know where to go with this one… Thailand?)

10) Too many friendly young male friends

Long hugs with young guys… nice. Incidentally, it was a straight man who bought me that scarf I referenced earlier. He was a good guy. And roommate. I miss him.

He was straight; I promise.

I guess I do have lots of young guy friends, but I’m a young guy, so, I guess, that’s just the way it goes.

11) Sassy, sarcastic and ironic around his friends


12) Love of pop culture

Meh. Apparently, “genuine heterosexual men” avoid gossip websites, Glee, and The Golden Girls. I don’t read gossip sites at all, and I’m not overly thrilled with The Golden Girls (at least not like my gay breathren), but I do love Glee. I’m going to say that this one does not adequately apply to me. Do I care that Chelsea Handler is going to host the MTV Video Music Awards? Who?

13) Extroverted about his bare chest in public

Uhhhhh… nope. No shirtlesness, no speedo at the beach.

14) Sudden heavy drinking

I don’t need to hide my distress. No drinking binges, no smoking, no crying. Sorry, Christwire.

15) Ladies, have you dated men in the past who turned out to be gay?

I did date a few girls in high school. Two of them are currently married. I should go ask them…

So how did I score? Only like… five? But you know what? I am gay.

Hey men, don’t beat yourself up. You don’t have to change who you are to be gay. Just come out and be yourself and be happy. Don’t ruin these poor women’s lives. You don’t need them worrying that they’re going to Hell because they think they’ve been infected with teh gay.

I guess I get an extra point for saying “teh.”

Homosexual Learning Outcomes in Need of Being Mocked

No, we’re not talking about a curriculum about how to be gay. Quite the opposite. We’re talking about a curriculum of hate.

I haven’t written about AFTAH much on this blog, because they are so ridiculously out there that I don’t think they need to be written about to be mocked. Americans for Truth about Homosexuality is a hate group intent on preserving only the most archaic standards of sexuality. Next month, they are offering an entire “academy” to young potential haters about just how to hate on teh gays. Kids as young as 14 are welcome.

Hemant Mehta has offered to cover the costs for any young folks who want to go (and of course report on it). AFTAH requires “references” to make sure attendees aren’t undercover progays, but I’m sure some infiltrators will manage to get in.

Last week, the “academy” unveiled it’s “curriculum,” and whooee! is it a good time. Let’s take a look at the courses propaganda-fests and the wise professors known bigots who will impart their knowledge about homosexuality. (Jeremy Hooper was remarking this weekend about how just the use of the word “homosexuals” can be a big red flag for a person’s perspective on LGBT issues—not that we’re at all surprised by these clowns.)

After an opening prayer, Peter LaBarbera kicks things off with “From gay pride to gay tyranny.” This will be about the way that, after our parades are over, we go strangle teabaggers with our rainbow flags and then fist their children.

“Professor” Rena Lindevaldsen (I use quotes because she “teaches” at the Liberty University School of Law) then moves things along with “History of modern ‘gay’ activism and the courts.” She’ll spend the first 55 minutes bemoaning the way “gay” no longer means “happy,” and the last five minutes sharing everything she knows about courts.

Matt Barber will chime in with “Masculine Christianity: a non-defensive approach to the Culture War over homosexuality.” Part of his talk will explain how the best way to overcome homosexuality is through knowledge of sports and car mechanics, and then he’ll explain how folks like him started the Culture War by attacking homosexuals at every opportunity.

You’ll only get a light lunch so that you have room to stomach “The ‘born gay’ hoax,” presented by Ryan Sorba of Young Conservatives of California. This presentation should be particularly revealing, as Sorba will be sharing never-before-seen schematics of the microchips inserted in the genitalia of all future-homosexuals.

Everybody’s favorite, Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute, is up next. In “Using reason and logic in answering pro-homosexuality arguments,” she will magically not once refer to reason nor logic. She will outline all of the pro-homosexual arguments, then shrug and say, “But they’re wrong.”

Just in case you thought this was a Christian-only situation, here comes Arthur Goldberg from JONAH (Jews Offering Healthy Alternatives to Homosexuality). If you aren’t familiar with JONAH, they discourage people from having gay sex by teaching them new exercise routines and diet restrictions. No, gay men are not allowed to have any fruit. His talk will be called, “Can gays change? Is gay parenting good for kids? Presenting the research on homosexuality.” Here’s a preview: “Yes, No, You don’t really need to read any of it.”

The day is far from over. Next, all of the presenters of the day will form a panel to discuss “Can the effort to ‘mainstream’ homosexuality in American culture be stopped?” While the panel answers questions, participants will be distributed proton packs and the sheet music to Auld Lang Syne for a future field trip to the subway system.

Grab a bite to eat for dinner then return Thursday night for a special presentation by Greg Quinlan of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX). In “An Ex-Gay Christian Discusses Love, Truth and Homosexuality,” Quinlan will describe how hated he was and how much he was lied to while he was homosexual. Now that he’s ex-still-gay, his life is completely delusional, but happy.

Day 2! Cliff Kincaid is ready to tell you about “The battle over blood: ‘gay’ health risks and public policy.” I’m not sure why he needs a whole hour to say, “Don’t let them even touch you; they all have AIDS,” but I’m sure he’ll find a way to repeat it in some interesting ways.

The “professor” is back! “The zero-sum game: homosexuality-based ‘rights’ vs. religious and First Amendment freedoms” is another brief lecture about how Christians are right and nothing else matters.

Corrupting children, politicizing schools: the homosexual youth agenda“: More fisting.

The gender confusion agenda: ‘transgender rights’”: “We don’t get it, so there’s nothing to get.”

Ugh, this is exhausting. Here are the rest of the lectures. You comment with your favorite ways to make fun of them:

“From abomination to ‘gay’: answering ‘queer theology’ — Old Testament”

“The legal strategy to stop homosexual ‘marriage’: triumphs and pitfalls”

“Returning the debate to behavior – getting off the ‘GLBT’ playing field”

“From destroying DOMA to homosexualizing the military: Obama’s radical homosexual/transsexual agenda for America”

“But Jesus never said anything about homosexuality’”: Answering ‘Queer Theology’ — New Testament”

“Destructive legacy: Alfred Kinsey and the (Homo)Sexual Revolution”

“The big, pink plan for a lavender culture”/”How to lobby effectively”

“Combating pro-homosexual media bias, confronting pro-gay ‘conservatives’” – I love that they give “conservatives” the mocking quotes!

“Agreeing with God: a truly biblical approach toward ‘out and proud’ homosexuality”

“Confronting the zeitgeist: new strategies to turn around younger Americans on ‘gay rights’”

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Bleed: stopping Obama’s campaign to homosexualize the U.S. military”

Have at them my readers! Mock away!

If The Pope’s Number 2 Says It, It Must Be True… Right? Pedophilia vs. Homosexuality

The “Deputy Pope,” Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, spouted this complete garbage today:

Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.

That’s how he was quoted in AP’s report, but Reuters reported it similar enough (hat tip Towleroad).

It’s not true. It’s just wrong. It’s the Catholic Church trying to obfuscate their pedophilia problem by scapegoating the gays. They see it as a win-win. Anyone with a brain sees it as just plain evil.

Let’s do a google search for “pedophilia” and “homosexuality,” and ignoring the headlines for this story, let’s see what different sources have to say in answer to the question, “Are homosexuals more likely to be pedophiles?”

The NO’s:

» Dr. Gregory Herek, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis

» WebMD, explained by James Hord, a psychologist who works with abused children

» Psychology Today, “Homosexuality and Pedophilia: The False Link

» Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance

» Box Turtle Bulletin, citing both the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists

The YES’s:

» WorldNetDaily (Arch-conservative “news” source)

» Traditional Values Coalition (Christian right coalition of churches promoting Bible-based traditional values)

» NARTH (Discredited “psychological” organization that promotes the use of reparative therapy)

» The Interim (Canada’s “Pro-Life Pro-Family” Newspaper)

» Family Research Institute (A “pro-family” anti-gay nonprofit classified as a hate group by SPLC)

So you tell me, who’s word are you going to take? The scientists who have done the research or the religious groups with an agenda?

It shouldn’t be a hard choice. Knowledge always trumps belief.

Judy Shepard, An Ally of Strength and Grace

Last night, I had the opportunity to see Judy Shepard speak. What was even more meaningful is I took my own mother with me. The story of Matthew Shepard’s death is familiar and yet no less meaningful. The woman who continues to tell it and to advocate for our community on his behalf is short and soft-spoken, but she is an ally most graceful.

Judy reads the victim impact statement she read to the court over a decade ago, then shares many of her thoughts about what it means to be gay while painting a loving portrait of her son. The Matthew she describes is the kind of guy you wished you knew. It’s a shame the way his story has been twisted in years passed to paint him as some kind of meth head, but Judy reminds us that in the trial, there was no doubt what motivated the crime. It was hate.

She describes society as SIC: silent, indifferent, complacent. I found myself worrying that the college students there at Bucknell University might be pacified by the catharsis of her words—that simply feeling bad about Matthew’s death might somehow count as being a good ally. I hope they see Judy as a model, an example of what being an ally really ought to be, and not just an excuse not to be one themselves.

You are who you are and you love who you love and that’s all there is to it.

Such simple words that can have such a powerful impact on young people’s lives. One of the young men who asked a question seemed himself to be very much struggling with his own religious beliefs and sexual identity, and I can only hope Judy’s words helped him find some solace.

Judy had two calls to action: 1) Educate, educate, educate! and 2) We have to share our stories.

I couldn’t agree with her more. I’m in awe of this woman’s power and strength and so thankful that I was able to hear her story from her directly with my own mother who I love so dear. If you ever have a chance to see her, please go out of your way to do so.

Here is Judy speaking at the National Equality March in October 2009 (I was proud to march with her that day!):

And if you’re curious, here’s an NPR story from October 12, 2009 about the way the Matthew Shepard story has been distorted over the years, including the 20/20 story which Judy said “should be a case study on bad journalism.”

NPR: ‘Ten Years Later,’ The Matthew Shepard Story Retold

‘Ten Years Later,’ The Matthew Shepard Story Retold