Today's Mighty Oak


In June, SCOTUS ruled on the Masterpiece case, handing down a ‘narrow’ ruling.  Basically, they said that how Colorado handled the legal case was in appropriate.

This is still very troubling, and will for sure just open the door and be the first shot across the bow, as it may, The latest tactic against equal rights is the so-called ‘religious liberty’ argument, as we’ve seen with racist house elf Jeff Sessions even putting together a religious liberty commission, specifically to stamp out queer rights.  At the end of the day, this ruling, while narrow, still means that two men were denied service because they’re gay.  But there are larger implications; the court, incorrectly, said that a lawyer for the men was critical of religion, when instead he was critical of what religion was being used to justify (as well as it’s use to justify slavery, segregation and more):

If saying something true, yet critical about religion as an institution is an example of expressing hostility toward religion, then is every comment critical of religion evidence of bias? Are we never allowed to say anything negative about the harms that can be wrought by fundamentalism? It’s now hard to imagine the forces of equality getting a fair hearing if no one can say anything negative about the forces of bigotry when they use religion to justify their hatred.

And of course, the insanity continues.  A GOP lawmaker from South Dakota has said that Masterpiece means business can discriminate based on race.  In good news though, a lower court in Arizona stood by the narrow ruling and refused to allow a a non-discrimination ordinance to be struck down.

We will see more of these, and honestly, I think we are lucky that a larger ruling was prevented due to the technicalities of the legal system.  With a conservative court, without Kennedy, it will only be a matter of time when non-discrimination ordinances are a thing of the past.  As it stands right now, doctors are allowed to refuse to treat patients (for anything, including emergency services) if it conflicts with their ‘deeply held religious beliefs,’ which is why, on all of my race bibs in the emergency information, I have to specify to not be taken to Mercy, the local Catholic hospital.  I have to play the odds, and hope if the worst were to happen and I was already unable to speak for myself, that I could actually get the medical help I need.

All my best,

Mike



Two bits of legality today, one good (but currently probably futile) and one bad.

First the bad.  A jury in South Dakota condemned a man to death because he’s gay.  There’s an additional step in there, but that’s what it comes down to.  A gay man is a convicted murderer, but the jury sentenced him to death because they felt “he would enjoy” life without parole in an all-male prison.

Jurors cited his orientation with disgust and said they didn’t want to send him ‘where he wants to go,’ and the Supreme Court refused to step in to take up an appeal.  Currently (and I just learned this) jury deliberations are kept secret, except when there might be racial bias involved in sentencing.  The same does not apply for sexual orientation or gender expression.

Putting aside the sickening notion of the death penalty, the entire episode is disturbing and vile and quite frankly sickening.

But onto some better, if unlikely to pass legal news: Democrats have put forth a bill to put a federal ban on the ‘gay panic’ defense.

A few states already bar it, but this would ban using ‘gay panic’ as a defense in federal court.  Gay panic, for those unaware, is the idea that someone can be found innocent of a crime (usually murder or the like) if they were hit on by a person of the same sex and they ‘acted out of panic.’  So total bullshit.

Do I think this bill has a chance: no.  But, it’s good to see at least recognition that these things need fixing.

All my best,

Mike



I’m returning once again to write about my bishop, as well as the General Convention.  This comes with some baggage.  Not only did I write about this earlier this month, but it’s also something I discussed at Global Entropy

The bishop did put together a good summary of the actions taken at the General Convention (a summary of just the same-sex matrimony resolutions), which I really do appreciate.  Gears of any large organization take a long time to move, the Episcopal Church is no different.  It’s disheartening, especially since waiting to be fully accepted by your own church hurts, but it’s what we’re dealt, so we can just try to urge things to move along faster.

However, what threw me for a loop, and what I didn’t catch during my first wiring about the General Convention is this:

3. Established a Task Force on Communion Across Difference [A227].
Background: The language of this resolution was drawn in its entirety from Resolution B012 as originally offered. The commission establishes an on-going channel of communication to explore a way forward together, and to avoid future conflicts.
The 2018 General Convention:
• Set membership at no more than 14 clergy and laity, half who believe marriage is a covenant “between two people” and half who believe marriage to be exclusively “between a man and a woman”

This is, again, as we saw in Pittsburgh, bullshit.

Once again, the process is based on the forced inclusion of those who believe I should not have access to the same sacraments as other people in the church.  The bishop writes:

steps were taken to include LGBT people more deeply in the life of the whole Church, and to honor their relationships

I’d love to know how (thankfully not me, as I’m not on any committee), having to sit in a room and defend your right to God’s love to people who want to force you into a loveless life honors and includes us?

The Episcopal church is leaps and bounds ahead of others, and has always been a home for me.  My parish is easily one of the most liberal in the country, and I’m proud of that fact, but this kind of process drags us all backwards.  This did not work in Pittsburgh, although I expect the larger church, with such a small committee, will have no problems filling up either side of the ‘debate.’

And for me, I’ve always been much more of the ‘doing’ rather than going to church every week, and that won’t change.  I go, especially when I need a bit of recharging, but I’ve always been drawn more to the community events and volunteer work I can do through the church.

All my best,

Mike



This week was the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  Every three years, a bicameral legislative body (House of Bishops and House of Deputies, made up of priests and laypeople) get together and make decisions about the church.  This year, aside from big news about the diocese of Cuba (we welcomed them fully into the church, yay!), there was also forward movement about same sex matrimony.

Basically, even though we’ve had provisional rites for same-sex matrimony (written by my now retired Rector), Bishops were able to refuse them to be performed in their diocese and they were basically in a ‘trail period.’

Now, the wheel of the church grind slowly, but this week at the General Convention, things at least started to move:

This sets the stage for creation of new liturgical texts to respond to the needs of Episcopalians across the church while continuing to use the Book of Common Prayer that was adopted in 1979.

Resolution A068 originally called for the start of a process that would lead to a fully revised prayer book in 2030. The bishops instead adopted a plan for “liturgical and prayer book revision for the future of God’s mission through the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.”

The bishops’ amended resolution calls for bishops to engage worshipping communities in their dioceses in experimentation and creation of alternative liturgical texts that they will submit to a new Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision to be appointed by the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

It also says that liturgical revision will utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity, and will incorporate understanding, appreciation and care of God’s creation.

One line in the bishop’s proposal prompted questions in the House of Deputies. The resolution “memorializes” the 1979 Book of Common Prayer “as a prayer book of the church preserving the psalter, liturgies, the Lambeth Quadrilateral, Historic Documents, and [its] Trinitarian Formularies.”

Here’s some more of the nitty gritty of what will actually happen:

The resolution now calls for creation of a Task Force on Liturgical Prayer Book Revision to be made up of 10 lay people, 10 clergy and 10 bishops, appointed by the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. The members ought to reflect “the expertise, gender, age, theology, regional, and ethnic diversity of the church.”

This task force is to work with the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons to give the 2021 General Convention proposed revisions to the constitution and canons for more flexibility in liturgical choices.

  • Liturgical revision will utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity; and will incorporate understanding, appreciation and care of God’s creation;
  • Bishops are to engage worshiping communities in their diocese in experimentation and creation of alternative texts;
  • Every diocese is to create a liturgical commission to collect these diocesan resources and share with the proposed task force; and
  • All materials are to be professionally translated into English, Spanish, French and Haitian Creole.

So things are starting to move, and it was a compromise.  Bishops themselves can opt out of the same-sex matrimony, but any person will be able to call upon a different bishop for ‘oversight,’ finally opening this sacrament to every single person in the church.

It’s also slow going, but as someone pointed out, when the next version of the Book of Common Prayer comes out (slated for 2030), which is pretty much the defining document of our church (and also responsible for what most people think of when they think of the church for the wording used in marriages and funerals), it may (hopefully will) include the more gender neutral language.  It’s a long process, but it’s progress.

Interestingly, there was a separate Resolution that provide an apology for those who were hurt by the wording of a hymn that was included:

offers this apology in recognition of the pain our liturgical language may at times inflict.

The same could, and should be said of sacraments that for decades, excluded the same sex couples in the church.  But, progress is progress, and we’re making good, forward progress, even if it’s not as quickly that I’d like.  It’s more progress than I actually expected to see, for that, I can be thankful.

All my best,

Mike



Yesterday it was announced that the magazine/journal “Hello Mr.” will publish one final issue before shuttering their doors.

Over and over again, through six years and their soon to be published tenth issue, “Hello Mr.” provided the widest breadth of queer writers and I was always impressed with the quality of the writing.  Combine that with innovative photo spreads and entertaining layout, and it was always something I looked forward to.

From their announcement:

From the start, Hello Mr. was a space to understand each other better through a deeper understanding of ourselves. But I was determined to create something bigger than that. With the support and validation from this community, we built a platform to showcase new stories on a global stage. We may not have “rebranded gay,” but we exposed some flaws in the existing models, and opened the door for queer people to demand more, by showing them how.

Whether you contributed or consumed it, the content we produced, issue after issue, amounted to something truly powerful. I can’t thank you enough for believing in it unconditionally. The world we live in today is a very different place than the one that originally afforded me the space to subvert gay media through a branding exercise. “Marriage can wait” meant something different in 2012 than it does now. After six dedicated years pushing our queer stories forward, I’ve learned a few things about my place in this conversation. When I came out a decade ago, for instance, I could have never imagined that my visibility, the thing I feared most, would become such a powerful form of activism.

It’s certainly a sad day, but also a time to look back on what they were able to produce an where we are now as compared to 2012.  The world has changed, and the world continues to change.  I’m happy to have been along for the ride as a dedicated reader.

Looking back helps move us forward. Decades of various kinds of activism paved a way for me to make the most of the chance I was given. Now, it’s up to you to continue defining the future you want to live in. You already know what’s possible, so trust yourself and manifest that shit already! I’ll be seeing you.

Back issues are available at hellomrmag.com, I’d suggest anyone looking for some amazing writing to check it out.

All my best,

Mike



Note: Yesterday’s Camp NaNoWriMo writing was a recap for one of my DnD games, so it’s nothing published here, but I’m still on track for the month!

This morning was the Second Annual Pittsburgh Frontrunners Back of the Pack Fourth of July Run and Brunch (For a Cure).  Note, it’s not really ‘For a Cure,’ I just add that.  Anyway, our little pace group is wonderful.  The tradition started last year when the Fourth fell on one of our normal running days we go out with the Frontrunners, and instead of skipping the day, we got together, and a tradition was born.

There’s something to be said for being with groups of the same people.  Yes, safe spaces are vital and needed, but that’s just one step.  Actually being with other people that are also considered ‘other’ is hugely gratifying.  It helps us remember that we’re not alone, that we’re not wrong in any way.

As brunch continued, the conversation turned to queer theory, and in this case, the actual use of the word, ‘queer.’  We were able to discuss, in a candid way that I think would have been prohibitive if there weren’t other queer people there, the evolution of the word, it’s use in the lexicon and how different generations view and use the word.  That spawned side conversations that spanned coming out stories, workplace discrimination, travel, safety precautions, family dynamics, therapists and Netflix specials.

We talked freely about going to different parts of the county and being cognizant of hiding who we are in order to remain safe.  Even in places like San Francisco, the world is dangerous, and though we’ve come so far in the 49 years since Stonewall, we still have a ways to go.

But maybe, just maybe, earnest conversations, with friends and way too much food, will help to bring us all a little closer together.  A little tighter community.

All my best,

Mike



Today marks the 49th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which launched the LGBT-rights movement.

If you’re not familiar with the riots, here’s what happened:

We owe so much to those brave trans-women of color, homeless youth and drag queens who launched the riots and the queer revolution.

People ask why we celebrate pride.  NoFo writes it much more eloquently than I ever could, here is an excerpt:

We’re proud because despite relentless persecution everywhere we turn—when organized religion viciously attacks and censures and vilifies us in the name of selective morality, when our families disown us, when our elected officials bargain away our equality for hate votes, when entire states codify our families into second-class citizenship, when our employers fire us, when our landlords evict us, when our police harass us, when our neighbors and colleagues and fellow citizens openly insult and condemn and mock and berate and even beat and kill us—we continue to survive.

We’re proud because—thanks to the incredible bravery shown by gay people who lived their lives openly in the decades before us—we can live our lives more and more openly at home, at work, with our families, on our blogs … and even on national television.

We’re proud because after all we’ve been through, the world is starting to notice and respect us and emulate the often fabulous culture we’ve assembled from the common struggles and glorious diversity of our disparate lives.

We’re proud because this weekend we’ll celebrate with drag queens, leather queens, muscle queens, attitude queens and you’d-never-know-they-were-queens queens, and together we can see through the “pride” in our parade and enjoy the underlying Pride in our parade.

Quite simply, we’re proud that we have so much to be proud of.

We can take some time, and even in the face of hatred, bigotry and discrimination, we can carve a place in this world, claim it our own and celebrate.

We can celebrate, because this is our party.  We don’t need anyone’s permission to celebrate:

Because even if Pride doesn’t change many minds in the outside world, it’s our PARTY, darlings. It’s our Christmas, our New Year’s, our Carnival. It’s the one day of the year that all the crazy contingents of the gay world actually come face to face on the street and blow each other air kisses. And wish each other “Happy Pride!” Saying “Happy Pride!” is really just a shorter, easier way of saying “Congratulations on not being driven completely batshit insane! Well done, being YOURSELF!”

We can celebrate the community that we have, the radical acceptance that we embody and the fact that we’ve survived.  We have a chance to come together, remind ourselves we belong to a larger community, have some fun and take back our city; just for a little bit.  We know that hatred will continue, but still we march forward.  We have pride because it helps those coming after us.  In the words of Harvey Milk, it gives the next generation hope:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWo8BKJCxYQ

And this is a chance to celebrate the fact that I’ve survived.  A chance to celebrate the fact that I’m a proud gay man.  And even that act, powerful unto itself, has hopefully made a difference.

The most important and powerful action a person can make is to come out to those around them.  Then the LGBT community isn’t a scary abstract anymore, it has a face.  If you know someone who is openly LGBT, you see their humanity.  You can understand that we’re not asking for anything special, just the same rights everyone else is guaranteed by the constitution.  A chance to be happy.  A chance to live the life we want, surrounded by those we love.

When will we stop talking about coming out?

“Many of us want to, and will: when a gay, lesbian or transgendered kid isn’t at special risk of being brutalized or committing suicide.

“When a gay person’s central-casting earnestness and eloquence aren’t noted with excitement and relief, because his or her sexual orientation needn’t be accompanied by a litany of virtues and accomplishments in order for bigotry to be toppled and a negative reaction to be overcome.”

We will stop talking about coming out when it’s not news anymore, when the last barriers have finally been broken down.  We’ll stop screaming for our rights when we’re finally treated as equals by our government.  We’ll only stop telling our stories when they don’t matter.

The anniversary of Stonewall comes just two days after marriage equality came to all 50 states (and the anniversary of decisions in Lawrence v. Texas and Windsor v. United States), a major piece of the equality dream the drag queens, homeless youth and the rest of Stonewall protesters had less than 50 years ago.  In 11 years, we’ve gone from no marriage rights to full equality across the country.  We still have a lot to fight for, ENDA being at the top of that list, but for now, we can celebrate the ‘thunderbolt’ of equality that we have achieved:

So we keep fighting for progress, wherever we can.  We celebrate our advances and keep chipping away at our obstacles: and this month we can celebrate both, as well as the individuals that make up our amazing community.

In light of the Orlando massacre, it’s more important than ever to celebrate Pride.  To not be intimidated by the hate, but to instead keep rising, demand equality and fight for our very right to exist.  What hurts the most about Orlando may be the reminder that even our own spaces, which we thought were safe, aren’t.  Or maybe they never really were, not while hatred and prejudice still exist.  But as we face, united, the epidemics of gun violence and homophobia, we can at least take solace in the fact that we, as a community, know how to win epidemics.

We’re proud of how far we’ve come.  We’re proud to keep fighting.  We’re proud.



It’s bad.  Really bad.

After the election, I knew four couples who quickly got married, afraid that we would lose the right.  And that’s a fear that straight people don’t understand.  The few civil rights we have are new, and are still fragile.  And as it turns out, they might have been right to be so worried:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Texas ruling that said the right to a marriage license did not entitle same-sex couples to spousal benefits under employee insurance plans.

This is certainly just the beginning, and Sue over at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents sums it up:

Limiting same-sex marriage is the objective here – benefits, adoption, tax deductions, legal rights, etc. Restricting LGBTQ people across the board is the goal.

That decision was followed up with the arguments in Masterpiece Cake Shop which looks to use the bullshit idea of ‘religious freedom’ to hide bigotry and legal discrimination.  There are a lot of lines being drawn between this case and the racial discrimination case Piggie Park Barbecue from the sixties.

If a business is open to the public, what they sell should be available to all of the public.  The baker would be just as wrong if he declined to make a wedding cake for a black couple, citing his religious beliefs.  If you sell a product (in this case, wedding cakes), you should not be able to put restrictions as to who you will sell it to, that would take us back to the times of delis with signs saying they would not serve Irish and lunch counter sit-ins.

Although, to no one’s surprise, the white house would be all for bakeries (and other businesses) hanging up “no gays” signs.

Slate has a great article going through the myriad of reasons why this is insanity, give it a read.  It rips apart most of the arguments I’ve heard, including this quote:

Telling minorities who have suffered a history of discrimination that it’s unneighborly, unseemly, or discourteous to fight for rights that they’re being denied but you’re enjoying is shameless—ultimately just another mechanism for denying those rights in the first place. Do you actually think the minority members love always having to be the loudmouths reminding the world that they deserve the same rights as you already have? And to the extent that some activists become almost permanently wedded to the “angry activist” position, can you really blame them?

Sadly though, legal scholars (and myself, not a legal scholar) are not optimistic about the outcome, which will open a floodgate of further discrimination where literally any business could turn me away at a moment’s notice.  Not exactly a world I want to have to navigate.

We’ll find out over the summer when the ruling comes down, until then, I’ll be a ball of nerves over this hugely important case.

All my best,

Mike



Thank you to the woman who fought for love and brought down DOMA.  She leaves a giant legacy behind, and we keep fighting in her memory.



If you follow along with gay men’s health topics as much as I do (so you probably don’t, and that’s okay), you may have heard about PrEP.  Basically, it’s a pill, that prevents someone from contracting HIV.  The science behind it is much more complicated, but it’s kind of like a vaccine.  Side note, there’s also PEP, which is taken if you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, to prevent yourself from seroconverting (acquiring the infection).

It has had its detractors, some saying it will lead to an increase of other STIs, although you’re still supposed to use condoms when on PrEP, since it does not protect against anything else, and new research has showed that it actually has brought down the rates of several STIs, by as much as 40%  To continue being on PrEP, you have to be tested every three months, and knowing your status is the best and most effective way of stopping the spread of these infections.

There’s a new ad campaign out about PrEP, and while overall I really like it, the first ‘episode’ of it seems to paint condom use in a bad light, but they correct that in the next videos.  It’s also refreshing to see some more explicit images, especially since it’s a drug mainly targeted to gay men, as we’re a high risk group (but also any couple in a serodiscordant relationship, meaning one has HIV and the other partner does not).

Episode 1:

 

Episode 2:

 

Episode 3:

 

Episode 4:

 

There’s more info available here, as well as some awesome behind the scenes discussions about the project and PrEP itself, and how it fits into a full, healthy regimen of safer sex.

All my best,

Mike

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