Gay Conversion Therapy Spitzer is a hero of the LGBTQ community.

Don’t know who he is?

Let me inform you.  Spitzer was, in the words of Scott Stossel of the Atlantic Magazine “the driving force behind the American Psychiatric Association’s removal of homosexuality from the official realm of psychopathology in 1973.”

With his fame secured as a civil rights advocate, you would have expected Dr. Spitzer to retire into a quiet life and go down in history as one of the major advancers of human rights.

Sadly, Spitzer’s later research in psychology, albeit with likely good intentions, led to some horrific conclusions.

In 2001, he appeared at a conference and presented his research entitled “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation”.  While the last decade has more or less concluded that the answer is a definitive NO!, this was not without the emotional trauma inflicted on many in the LGBTQ communities.

So in November of this past year, “Gay Conversion Therapy” was officially challenged in court as four men who had undergone the treatment sued in court for emotional trauma.  The charges are not criminal, only civil, and claim that the therapy violated NJ’s Consumer Fraud Act.

We should not blame Spitzer, however, for the last decade of “GCT” procedures.  We should instead find fault in a society that pressures gays and lesbians to undergo radical treatment to “fix” what is wrong with them.

Spitzer was the man who tried to explain 30 years ago that homosexuality was normal, perhaps not normal in American society, but normal in nature.  He should always be praised for his outstanding support then even if his research led him to a dark place later in life.

For the record, Spitzer’s further research has proven the error of his initial proposal.  He has since apologized.

“I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works.”

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The War On Men

When I saw this article written by Suzanne Venker over on Fox News, I wasn’t sure entirely how to react.

Yes, it might be true (statistics are still cloudy) that “women have become the majority of the U.S. workforce” and that “they’re also getting most of the college degrees”, but I was always led to believe that this wasn’t a problem at all.  Given that women tend to be most prominent in the rapidly growing sectors of education, health care, and the service industry, (all of which require higher levels of education) those numbers make perfect sense.  This, coupled with the sad but true fact that manufacturing jobs (which are dominated by men) continue to be outsourced means that unless something dramatic changes, this trend will remain in place.  Of course, the male dominated industries tend to have a higher salary rate, so presumably men still earn a higher overall income than women, regardless of the actual total number of jobs (which again, is a debatable number).

But to truly understand Venker’s bizarre hypothesis, we must first come to grips with her underlying purpose in writing the opinion; that a woman’s role in life is to get married.

Many women do want to get married.  According to Pew Research, as high as 37% of the female population between the ages of 18-34.  But that means that a whopping 63% of that age group do not see marriage as important, and nor should they.  We no longer live in a society where a woman needs a man for the basic necessities of daily life.  That is most definitely a positive.

This is not to say that marriage is bad thing.  Studies have indicated that there are some benefits to children born of married couples, but it is also likely other unmeasurable factors play just as equal a role.  Personally, I think marriage is important, but I would never advocate that it is the right fit for everybody.  Modern society allows for self-fulfillment through other ways; career advancement, advocating for policy changes, or simply enjoying life with a close knit group of friends.  It should be up to the individual to decide what is best for herself.

Men have not been “pushed off their pedestal”; trust me, we still act like we are Kings of the world.  If anything, the supposed “battle between the sexes” has only pushed us higher.

She is correct though, men are tired.  We are tired of being overworked, not by the women in our lives, but by our jobs; overworked and underpaid.  I’m sure many women agree.

I am a man, and I do not feel persecuted or attacked on a day to day basis.  Actually, I never feel it at all.  Thank you Ms. Venker for defending me, but I think I can take care of myself.

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Obama is Gay

Neal Gabler wrote an article entitled “The GOP’s Macho Posturing” a few weeks ago in The Nation.  I have written a summary and commentary on it for your benefit.  The Nation restricts access to its print publication without an online subscription so I apologize that you cannot read the article.  

I thought that title might get your attention.

No, the President is not a homosexual (not that there is anything wrong with that) but he has been smeared by Republican operatives as something less of a man.  And this is certainly not the first time that this has happened.  In 2008, Obama was ridiculed for going up against the great war hero John McCain; in 2004 John Kerry was accused of being soft on war despite his prior military history; Al Gore in 2000 was laughed at for his strong support of environmental protection; Michael Dukakis was “weak on crime” in the Willie Horton scandal.   I could keep going further into history, but I think you all get the idea.

It is interesting to note though that the GOP continues to promote the idea of manliness, despite their strong support of outsourcing blue collar jobs and their undying love of the financial industry; which with the finely tailored suits, lack of heavy lifting, and gourmet foods is not exactly the epitome of rugged independence.

Somehow their Texas-two-step has worked, as Romney gathered 52% of the male vote (compared to 45% for Obama) but lost the female vote with only 44% to Obama’s 55%.  Apparently it wasn’t good enough though because, as we all know, the President won reelection in a pretty dominant performance.

The political ramifications of this over-manliness is too complex to discuss, and not really the point of this post either.  It is merely to note that, for some reason, the GOP will use femininity as a dis-qualification for good governance.  Obama can’t be president, not because he is black, a non-citizen, a muslim, a fascist, a socialist; no they’ve tried all those already.  He couldn’t be President because, well, he is a woman.

Of equal importance is the association between being gay and having similar behavior to the opposite sex.  Yes, certainly many gays and lesbians are more feminine or masculine than their given gender may dictate, but I would imagine that is more of a stereotype than being out of line with statistics of the overall population.  There are certainly quite “manly” gays, and “feminine” lesbians as well.  So even if Obama was gay, in the world of the GOP, that wouldn’t be the actual problem.  It is the association that gay equates to being less of a man, (or heaven forbid a woman!) that is the true problem.

Oh well, let the GOP do as they want.  They are fighting a losing battle and, while it would be nice if they changed their rhetoric, it is good to know that if they keep beating the same drum they will continue to lose election after election.

So is Barack Obama homosexual?  That answer is no.

But is he gay?  Well, he and the Democrats certainly were on November 6th.

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Education of the Educators

This past monday we watched a great movie in a class, The Education of Shelby Knox, which followed the high school years of high school girl in Texas and her career on the student council.  She fights for an increased focus on a structured  sex-ed program in her high school, especially given that her town of Lubbock, Texas, has one of the highest STD and teen-pregnancy rates in the country.

Many of the students in Lubbock take an abstinence pledge while in high school, although presumably that has no effect on the community.  Knox’s quest is not so much because she believes that there is nothing wrong with being sexually active, rather it is in response to a growing problem that needs a more adequate response.  She herself took the pledge, and struggles with balancing here Christian beliefs and her understanding of social responsibility.

Knox’s response is quite honorable, and her balance between her religion and good government has played itself out throughout all levels of government -most recently with Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi’s support for gay marriage, despite their strong Catholic beliefs.  (Surprisingly, Catholics support gay marriage at a higher percentage than the general population) Knox appears wise feel beyond her years, and her ability to understand the differences between private religion and public social responsibility is truly honorable.

The mixing of religion and education leads to a dangerous balance between what is good for society and what is good for the soul.  Abstinence itself is a perfectly viable response to unsafe teenage sexual activity, but it is not the only option.  In a perfect world, children listen to what they are told and follow instruction to the letter of the law.  Everybody knows that that is definitely not going to happen.  Given that, while abstinence may be an option, it is certainly not the only option, especially when it has been proven to a fail in a specific community.

Knox’s response is perfect to the situation she lives in.  She herself (implies) that she believes in abstinence and took the pledge to dedicate herself to that idea.  But she understands that others will be sexually active and they need to know what to do to ensure their safety and their partner’s safety.

There is no one size fits all approach to teenage sexual activity and it is truly up to the individual, with the help of their family and community, to ensure a safe and responsible approach to sex.

You can follow Shelby Knox on Twitter or by visiting her personal website.

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Blackness the Movie (Video #3)

So Christine, Tessa and I teamed up to create another visual masterpiece.  I’ll post the youtube clip now, and add a little more supplemental information tomorrow.

Good Night all.

Edit 10:50 11/20:  The idea behind this video was to keep it simple, as that would convey the most powerful message.  Obviously, images with music is fairly simple.

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Interview with Jill Filipovic

Jill Filipovic is a blogger for “Feministe” and a writer for The Guardian.  She has a background in writing, having graduated from NYU with a degree in journalism, and later went on to attend law school at the same institution.  After Professor Daniels tweeted Jill’s article on Hurricane Sandy, I began to follow her on twitter, and was enthralled by her on-the-money commentary.  She has also made numerous video appearances which can be viewed on her YouTube page.  I look forward to reading Filipovic’s future writings and following her promising career.

Zack:  Where did you attend college and what was your major?

Jill:  I went to NYU and majored in journalism and politics, with a minor in gender studies. I also attended law school at NYU.

Zack:  What news networks, blogs, newspapers, and magazines do you read or watch routinely?

Jill: I read the New York Times, the Hairpin, Slate, the Washington Post, Feministing, NYMag and the Stranger every day (I spend way too much time reading the internet, obviously). I subscribe to the New Yorker and Vogue, and buy or borrow the Economist pretty regularly. I used to read GOOD every day, but then they fired all my favorite writers so I haven’t actually been to that site in months. A few times a week I check Salon, Jezebel, Gawker, Buzzfeed, the National Review, the Awl, the Nation, the American Prospect, the Paris Review, the New Yorker blogs and the LA Times. Maybe once or twice a month I remember to check the NY Review of Books and the London Review of Books. And then there are a smattering of feminist and social justice blogs that I read regularly, like Pandagon, Shakesville, Racialicious and Post Bourgie. STFU Parents, Refinery29, and Apartment Therapy are my guilty-pleasure reads. And I probably go through images from the old Domino Magazine flickr archives at least once a week when I’m bored and want to make my apartment prettier.

Zack:  Do you consider yourself a feminist blogger/journalist? How is it different from mainstream journalism?

Jill:  I consider myself a feminist blogger and an opinion writer (I also write for the Guardian and a few other places). I’m a journalist in the sense that I’m an opinion journalist, I suppose, but I think the trend of bloggers calling themselves “journalists” is not a great one. Journalists investigate. They tell stories. Ideally, they at least try to present a nuanced and mutli-faceted take on an issue or a story, and if they’re doing their jobs well, they’ll present all of the relevant angles. That’s not what I do. I’m an advocate; I have a clearly-defined set of ideas and ideals that I write about, and I try to persuade readers. The op/ed pages have always been a part of a newspaper, but they’ve been intentionally segregated from the news content — in the New York Times building, they’re on a separate floor. I think that’s a good thing, and I don’t think that recognizing the fact that like most bloggers and opinion columnists I don’t do first-person investigative journalism doesn’t take value away from what I (and other bloggers and opinion writers) do offer.

Zack:  What was the idea behind starting “Feministe”?

Jill:  I actually didn’t start Feministe — I started a different feminist blog almost a decade ago. Feministe was started by a woman named Lauren, who was a single mom in Indiana and wanted an outlet for feminist thought. I joined the blog in 2005 and when Lauren left, I started running it. The idea, I suppose, was to use this new connective tool (the internet) to start conversations with women all over the world about feminist issues. It seems to have worked.

Zack:  Should women be considered a voting bloc?  Aren’t “women’s issues” really societal issues?

Jill:  The idea that there are “women’s issues” is indeed silly, since women are 50% of the population and our needs aren’t exactly marginal or special-interest. But because men still control most of the political universe (and most of the media universe), women’s rights are considered “special” rights, or extras. The basic right to control reproduction, for example, is seen as a wedge issue in the culture wars because it disproportionately impacts women (although it impacts lots of men too); by contrast, corporate taxes (which disproportionately impact extremely wealthy men) are economic issues. So no, women shouldn’t be considered a voting bloc, but given the current political climate we necessarily are considered a voting bloc, and I don’t think it’s a terrible idea for feminist activists to respond by pointing out that right-wing laws are hostile to women as a class.

Zack:  In what ways do you believe social media has enhanced yourself as a writer?

The main way is by bringing a lot of different perspectives right to my doorway. I get a lot of my reading and information from Twitter — I follow a bunch of interesting people, and they post interesting stuff all day, and so I read at least five things every day that are awesome and fascinating and well-written. As a writer, the most important things you can do are (1) write and (2) read good writers. In the olden days before the internet, it was pretty easy to remain immersed in only reading people like you — journalists were mostly from the same racial and economic class (and mostly men), book awards and recognitions and even publishing contracts were mostly given to men of the same racial and economic class, etc etc. There were magazines for black men and black women, and white men and white women, and newspapers for whatever pocket of the country you lived in, and publications based on your interest areas and hobbies. Of course, plenty of people still do only seek out their own tribe on the internet — that happens on the right and the left. I obviously consume far more “liberal media” than conservative media (although I do read conservative opinion writing and news pretty regularly). But with Twitter and Facebook, a lot of stuff that’s outside of your usual Reads list comes directly to you. It’s expanded my reading list, and the diversity of the pieces in terms of topic, who writes them, etc has (I hope) made me a more thoughtful writer.

Zack:  You are a young, attractive, and fashionable woman.  Do you believe that helps or hurts (or is a non-factor) in promoting issues you find important.

Jill:  Both. Being young and white and having the money and ability to present oneself in a particular way is beneficial — you look “professional” and get taken more seriously, you look accessible to younger women, you can’t be as easily written off as a bitter ugly femi-nazi. That said, I have been written off many times as a bitter ugly femi-nazi, and as a stupid bubble-headed femi-nazi. If you’re a woman writing on the internet, you’re going to get treated like shit a whole lot. The Internet isn’t a monolith, and plenty of folks have decided I’m not worth listening to because I’m a fat ugly cunt, while other folks have decided I’m not worth listening to because I’m a fuckable airhead. I know women who are further away from the really narrow Barbie-doll standards of American beauty — women who aren’t white, who aren’t able-bodied, who don’t present as feminine, who are fat, who are older — get it even worse. Or they just get ignored. Every woman I know online is routinely pilloried for her physical appearance, no matter what she looks like. But more “conventionally attractive” women are more visible and are considered more relatable, and that’s a huge privilege. And I think that’s true nearly everywhere — there are very few female politicians who are fat, for example (especially compared to male politicians), and obviously very few female actors who aren’t conventionally attractive. Even looking at female CEOs and corporate higher-ups and law firm partners, you see a trend — white, able-bodied, relatively thin, feminine-presenting.

There are tons of talented female and feminist writers online, and while I like what I do and I like to think I’m pretty good at it, I’m definitely not under the impression that I have a platform solely based on my unique individual talents. My physical appearance, including my age and my race, certainly help quite a bit. At the same time, I’m a woman writing about “women’s stuff” — that in itself is often grounds for being written off or ignored. And I’ve been dismissed as a bimbo or an intellectual lightweight many times over by people who simply dislike my opinions, while watching my male peers receive criticism for their actual arguments. So it helps and it hurts.

Again, Thanks to Jill for agreeing to provide us with this interview.

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Queer Blogging (Assignment #6)

Social Media, New Media more specifically, has opened the door for more and more smaller social issues to rise to the forefront.  Traditional Media is important and it serves a useful purpose, but it caters to the masses and is thus less responsive to some minority discussions.

But blogging and easy access internet has allowed nearly everyone to devote their time and energy to publicizing a cause that they most believe in.  The LGBTQ has certainly been no exception.

According to a recent Gallup study, a little under 3.5% of the American population is part of the LGBTQ community.  That is larger than the Jewish and Muslim population, and approximately the same as the Asian population.  But when it comes to electoral politics, and certainly media publicity, it seems that these other groups get far more attention than the LGBTQ world.

But with the advent of blogging, it has become very easy to carve out a niche audience on the internet and then expand that to more mainstream society.  

This plays itself out even more in societies where not only are LGBTQ folks discouraged from participating in public life, but threatened if they choose do so.  The United States of American falls under the first category – where “Gay” culture isn’t quite accepted by society but is also not persecuted by the state.

India and Latin America fall into the second category.  In an article written by both Rahul Mitra and Radhuka Gajjala, they analyze the way that “queer Indian bloggers” have reached out to their brothers and sisters in foreign countries to help raise awareness of their situations.  In addition, they also note that the online world of blogging eventually leads to an increase in discussions in the real and physical world.

In a piece by Elisabeth Jay Friedman, she discusses similar ideas in Latin America gay communities.  She points out that as these blogs have developed and become more popular, so to has some level of acceptance taken place in the real world.

Obviously there is much work to be done, but small steps are better than no steps at all.

As Friedman concludes her article so eloquently:  “The Internet is no panacea; the potential of the virtual world is determined by how it is deployed in the real world.”

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