Baby!

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Irony Alert

Noted social science expert Mark Regnerus recently warned people against the use of bad statistical data:

Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas in Austin, says something called “confirmation bias” might be at work. In other words, people like statistics that reinforce their beliefs.

His colleagues responded:    Read more…

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Boom De Yada

I love this video!

(via Slacktivist).

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A Story for Friday

I have a good-hearted friend, the sort of guy who will spend 30 minutes in your kitchen at the end of your dinner party washing your guests’ dishes just to make things easier on you the next day. He posted this on his Facebook page and I thought reading it might be a lovely way to start the weekend:

Today in the gym locker room at work, someone made what I interpreted to be a homophobic comment. It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t even from the dude that likes to constantly call people ‘sissy.’ The locker room was full. It was awkward. I thought about saying something, but didn’t. As I felt the embarrassment and anger stew within me, I considered wearing my socks into the shower stall so as not to expose my freshly-painted rainbow toenails. I quickly talked myself out of it. Fuck it, I thought to myself. Off I waltzed barefoot into the stall, determined to enjoy my hot post-workout shower and sing my little lungs out as I do every morning. If the fellas weren’t familiar with the Frozen soundtrack from their daughters, they certainly are after this week. Also, I use the term ‘sing’ loosely.

I stepped out of my shower, still a little disheartened, and was immediately told by one of the guys, “Jake just left but he said he wished everybody around here was as happy as you are.” I stopped and smiled, surprised. I always figured the guys were rolling their eyes at the weirdo belting out girly songs in the shower. Then the guy who made the disparaging comment earlier walked past me and I saw his eyes dart down to my feet. “Well now…” Here we go, I thought, ready to jump on the defensive. I’ve seen a lot of things in my days,” he chuckled, “but never rainbow toes.” I laughed and we proceeded to have a lovely conversation about his daughter, the joy of pedicures, and the value of not taking yourself too seriously. We won’t be going to get sushi and mani/pedis any day soon, but I did make a new gym buddy.

Sometimes the smallest and most seemingly insignificant of events can teach us some of the most valuable lessons. Today I was humbly reminded:

• People can only be as big, or as small, as I allow them the space to be.
• Every moment is a choice. I choose to make each moment an opportunity to learn and to grow.
• Be me. 100%. All the time. No apologies, no excuses, no exceptions.
• Living openly, honestly and unapologetically is the most powerful form of activism and the easiest way to change hearts and minds.
• With discomfort comes challenge, and with challenge comes growth.
• Nobody can accept me unless and until I accept myself – flaws, quirks, shortcomings and all. I am perfectly imperfect.
• I will always be my own worst enemy. It is just as important – if not more – to be kind to myself as it is to be kind to others.
• There is no reality. Only perception thereof. I choose to create an empowering interpretation.
• Rainbow toenails don’t just make me smile.

Happy Friday!

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HELP! Homosexuals Want to Socialize with Nice White People!

[Trigger warning for racism, sexism, religious bigotry, and homophobia.]

Everything we do as gay people is aggression. You know that, obviously. It was in the pamphlet, right?

Recently I stumbled across an articulate, horrifying, “traditionalist” Catholic blog called The Thinking Housewife, the sort of place where people worry a lot about white gentile oppression; where readers debate whether black women are significantly less attractive than white women or only slightly so; where it’s “an absolute deal breaker” if a white woman, no matter how attractive, has a black ex-boyfriend; where Francis‘ scaling back of papal ostentation is a moral crime; where a fella can toss out references to “Jew-mongers” without the PC police getting all up in his business.

What makes this blog so horrifying isn’t just the content, or the fact that it’s widely-read, but that it’s actually pretty well-written. My warm, comforting stereotype is that these must be ignorant fools who resort to ALL CAPS and crazy, Punctuation!!! but that’s not the case here at all.

In a recent post, Laura (the Thinker Herself) asks readers for advice on Charles’ social dilemma. As he describes it:

My wife and I are members of an informal social group of about 15 couples in our late 50′s and early 60′s who meet monthly in a member’s home for purposes of enjoying good wine (65 million Frenchmen can’t be all wrong!) and discussing topics of mutual interest.  The membership consists of well educated and successful upper middle class white couples who could be characterized (with one exception) as basically apolitical suburbanites who always vote Republican, probably by default and without giving much thought to it.   Nice people, nice homes, nice manners, nice clothes, otherwise preoccupied and utterly clueless  –  you know the type.

The exceptional couple are trendy left-liberal childless professionals who occasionally get in your face about some silly left wing issue of one kind or another…

At the last gathering of our group, I happened to overhear the left-wing couple mention to another member that they intend to propose for membership an openly homosexual couple who were recently “married” and with whom they are friends.   I know this homosexual couple very casually and they are successful, educated and socially presentable people  –  we are not talking about grungy, emaciated, tattooed and pierced social freaks here.  Nevertheless, the thought of a homosexual couple joining our small and highly congenial group simply turns my stomach.    Read more…

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Bigotry, Duck Dynasty, and Courage

I don’t think we’re learning the right lesson from the uproar over Phil Robertson, A&E’s Duck Dynasty star and sex-with-minors advocate. The real lesson is this:

We know we’re right and we know we can show it. Let’s have the courage of that conviction.

I haven’t blogged much the past few months so I missed the initial furor, but on December 18 I did post this on Facebook:

I thought what the Duck Dynasty guy said was reprehensible, but I’m not thrilled about A&E him suspending from his show for it. Obviously A&E has the right to do whatever they please within the parameters of the contracts they sign, but if we’re going to silence stupid arguments, I’d rather do it by pointing out their flaws rather than punishing the speaker. Certainly, if this were turned around and someone hated what I was saying, I’d rather they engaged my statements instead of punishing me into shutting up.

One hundred and thirty-five comments later, I can say it’s my most controversial status update ever. It wasn’t deeply argued. It just focused on my gut reaction to A&E’s suspension of Robertson. When I looked deeper, I found two sources of my misgiving.

One is simply that I tend to sympathize with the person over the corporation. A&E is not a person (Citizens United notwithstanding), and I want to give our corporate overlords as little control over our lives as possible. I understand they can restrict my speech in the workplace and on the job, but I’d like to feel as though the rest of my life is the rest of my life. I’d hate to be called into my boss’s office and told, “You’ve written some pretty harsh things about opponents of same-sex marriage, so we’re letting you go.”

Of course, when it comes to Robertson, it’s easy to argue against this position. For instance, your advocacy of certain views outside the workplace might ruin your effectiveness on the job. I thought it was perfectly reasonable for Bank of America to tell viciously anti-gay Frank Turek, You can’t publish books and go on the radio maligning an entire segment of our workforce and then expect us to hire you to conduct trust-building exercises with them, for fuck’s sake! (Not a direct quote.)

Similarly, A&E might decide Robertson is too damaging to the show’s ratings or the network’s brand. In that case, people aren’t being fired for the content of their views, or for expressing them, but for making themselves bad at what they were hired to do. Also, given the presence of an A&E rep in the room during the interview, it’s easy to argue that Robertson was actually at work and not speaking on his own time. Ultimately, I’d be happier if A&E fired or suspended Robertson for business reasons than because he said something I detest.

But another factor is this: I don’t like attempts to silence people just because they say things that some find offensive.    Read more…

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The Abstinence LoopHole

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Funny money-beg from NOM

I got my regular NOM money-beg email today and it contained this unintentionally hilarious line:

The good news is that 2014 promises to be a year full of opportunity for the marriage movement to regain ground and seize back the momentum!

Well, yes, that’s absolutely true. The only time you have an opportunity to “regain ground” and “seize back the momentum” is when you’re losing.

Looked at from that angle, 2014 may be NOM’s opportunitiest year ever!

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Get ready to melt your cold shriveled heart.

Panda babies.

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When Doctrine Overrides Humanity

Thomas Peters, NOM’s communications director, shows us the limits of empathy.

Peters suffered a diving accident that left him with a fractured fifth vertebrae, a severe spinal cord injury, and doubtful prospects for recovery. Fortunately, it seems, he’s doing better than most with this kind of injury, though he still may never walk and has limited use of his upper body. Recently, on NOM’s website, he posted “Reflections on my Time Away.”

It’s a sad read, and not just because of his trauma. I had hoped for a moment that it might be inspirational. I thought of Republican Senator Mark Kirk, who had a stroke in January 2012. A year later he was able to climb the steps of the Capitol, and a few months after that he issued this statement:

When I climbed the Capitol steps in January, I promised myself that I would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others.

Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage. Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most.  Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back — government has no place in the middle.

Thomas Peters has experienced no such epiphany, which makes it bittersweet for a gay man like me to read his moving tribute to family:

The accident has taught me the essential value defended by the principle of subsidiarity: the value of family and friends as the first line of defense when things go badly. My family and friends have come forward to help my wife and I in ways that have taken our breadth away. They brought us meals, helped pack and move our home, loaned us their cars, contributed their professional advice like how to plan our financial future and cover medical expenses, they have organized prayer groups for us, designed wristbands to help remind people to pray for us and offered us gifts so generous I have had to firmly say no because they are simply too much. The man is never poor or alone who has good friends. My wife and I simply could not gave survived this were it not for our dear family and friends.

The accident has taught me more about the incredible gift of marriage. My father, during his speech at my wedding reception, said the sacrament of marriage gives us the grace to do the impossible. I have met people during these months who think it is incredible, even impossible, that my wife and I survived a trauma like this having been married only three months. I tell them it helps to marry the right woman and get married the right way, the way the Church taught the two of us what marriage is and why it should be honored. People have told us that they are inspired and receive hope from the witness of our marriage – it inspires us too, I respond! We feel it is possible to face anything, even a future of me paralyzed, so long as we cling to each other, to God, and to our marriage vows.

That’s hard to read, because even as you’re thinking, Exactly, exactly!, you also know Peters is still determined to deny you the right to marry, deprive you of the honor and and hope and inspiration that come with it:

But make no mistake, as soon as I am able, I am coming back to fight harder than ever for all of these things [the causes of life, marriage and religious freedom] because I know now that it is prayer that makes the warrior his strongest.

Mark Kirk’s stroke left him with greater empathy and the courage to act on it. It didn’t merely deepen that empathy — it broadened it, too, extending it to a greater chunk of humanity than it had previously known. When the senator calls his stroke “a gift from God,” we can understand what he means, even as we’re daunted by the great price of that gift.

But not so for Peters. His empathy extends only to those who are like him. He sees his family and friends and supporters as people, but gays and lesbians are only abstractions. He can’t conceive of us as actual human beings gifted with marriages that we experience in just the same way that he does with his wife. If he did, he could never come back determined to destroy them.

For Mark Kirk, faith and tragedy gave him a light to see more of humanity. For Peters, a self-described “American Papist,” they led him into the legalism and strictures of his religion. They led him away from humanity.

What might it be like for Peters to follow Mark Kirk’s path? I see a clue in NOM’s blog posts. They refer to the Senator, but do not mention his stroke or the reasons for his change of heart. They simply call him a “GOP turncoat.” His actual life and experience are irrelevant. For them he’s defined simply by his betrayal of their doctrine.

This, I think, is what happens when doctrine overrides humanity, and here I find I butt up against the limits of my own empathy. I’ve never gone through a trauma as terrible as what Peters is dealing with now, and I can only struggle to imagine how it would feel. I don’t know how I would cope, what refuge I would take, what comforts I would seek. I suppose I can see why Peters would shy away from being labeled a turncoat by those he depends on the most.

Simply put, I can’t fault him for falling back on what he knows. All I can do, then, is congratulate him on what he’s accomplished so far, wish him strength in his battle ahead, and hope that recovery of the body is matched by growth in spirit and soul.

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