“They will say we are not here”: Choices, From Uganda to Arkansas

David Kato’s murder in January 2011 was a brutal footnote in the ongoing attempt to fully criminalize homosexuality in countries which are heavy in Abrahamic religion and light in liberal arts education. U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement of support for same-sex marriage in May 2012 was a touchstone in the history of LGBT people’s relationship with the U.S. electorate.

Two events in LGBT history involving two men of color of renown in two different political climates, in two years.

But I think that they, both Kato and Obama, are examples of what can happen when someone decides not to hide, but to stay, come out and fight.

Some time before his murder, Kato told filmmakers Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright this:

So if I run away, who will defend the others?

And defend he did, even to his last breath, even as the threat of the upcoming Anti-Homosexuality Law continued to enshadow so many LGBT people in Uganda. It has gotten worse since his death, with the bill now law and more Ugandans seeking asylum in neighboring Kenya or elsewhere.

By contrast, Obama was one of countless beneficiaries of those in the United States who did not run away from their home communities, but stayed and fought for better conditions. By the time he stated his support for marriage equality for same-sex couples, tens of thousands of couples had already gotten married and challenged other states’ prohibitions on their marriages. Several more jurisdictions – state, county, city – had placed non-discrimination laws into their books. But none of these laws would have been instituted had the LGBT residents of these jurisdictions had ran away or focused on their vacations in more LGBT-friendly destinations rather than sought change in their own neighborhoods.

California would not have overthrown Proposition 8 had safer conditions had not been fought for in the 1960s and 1970s by the likes of Harry Hay, Harvey Milk and Jose Sarria. New York would not have gained marriage equality in 2011 had the Stonewall riots not happened against gross police brutality. No anti-discrimination laws would have been sought to the present without a bunch of activists getting them put into law in Ann Arbor and Lansing, Michigan in 1972.

People stuck it out and fought for their posterities when their own sexualities and gender identities were proscribed under state law, when they were subjected to police abuse, when there was nothing to protect them from violence or discrimination.

And now, you have marriage equality in freakin’ Arkansas! South of the Mason-Dixon Line!

So if someone stuck it out here in the Southeast, if someone waited for all these years somewhere in a region which tends to be the last to do anything that is politically inclusive and progressive until after every other region has written such legislation into law, then why can’t I?

My friend Edric from Macon, who runs PFLAG Macon and MaconOUT, tells me often about how so many LGBT people in Middle Georgia would rather indulge in Atlanta Pride every year rather than have a pride festival in Macon or Middle Georgia. But is there nothing in Middle Georgia that is positive for LGBT people?

Nothing at all?

This is why I’m torn right now. I will put myself more into website design, make some money, pay for my expenses, and spend the rest on LGBT-related or UU-related work. But when I have the opportunity to leave for a greener pasture, will I leave? Or will I stay and fight?

Politically, I want to stay, whether it is in Columbus or in Macon, but I want to stay and help the LGBT community here in Georgia.

I want to help build a better, more inclusive community for HIV+ people in the community, LGBT people, women, people of color, organized labor, secular atheist, etc. – in Middle and West Georgia.

By the day, I revisit my interest in going to places like California, with its enticing tech sector, but right now, it’s only half a place I’d want to live in and half a place to visit. The people there are leaps and bounds ahead of where we are here in Georgia, but their experience of equality is only one experience by people who already have a lot more going for themselves.

I think these two regions of Georgia, if we pulled hard and long enough, can go much further. I think this place can be much more inclusive. We can have non-discrimination ordinances, and domestic partnership registries, and more pride/diversity events, and LGBT people being elected to office, and less homeless or destitute LGBT adults and young people on our streets.

I hope to help with that, just as I’ve already helped as President of a Gay-Straight Alliance in college. I plan to stay and fight, whether in Columbus or in Fort Benning, until more people are awakened to the possibilities and can fight for themselves.

David Kato stated “If we keep hiding, they will say we are not here”. That can accurately describe the present situation in Middle and West Georgia.

Edric, let’s not hide. Let’s stay and fight. For Middle Georgia and West Georgia.

My weapon of choice will be this blog.


RIP, Irving Martinez

My friend, Irving Martinez, died yesterday at age 51 in Macon.

He was very passionate about politics, and last time I saw him, he was very talkative about perceived corruption in Macon city politics. I first met him at a downtown bar after a Bibb County Democratic Party conference at Macon City Hall. Openly identifying as bisexual, he claimed to have been a participant in the landmark Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969. We talked about the work that I did with PFLAG Macon, and about the political status of LGBT people in Macon and Middle Georgia. We friended each other on Facebook that night.

The last time we met, or even spoke, was during my 16 April 2013 guest spot on The Morning Roast, a live-streaming Internet show hosted by Irving, Derrick Barrett and Anthony B. Harris. On a 2 April episode, they had hosted then-incumbent State Senator Miriam Paris.

I’ll never forget what he kept saying to me during my guest spot: “Look at the camera!”

Unfortunately, the video of the episode is blocked on YouTube for music copyright reasons. Last I read, he pursued his political dream and gained 6 percent in the Democratic party primary, forcing Paris and former State Representative David Lucas into a runoff which Lucas won. Perhaps his message got through to that district.

The last time he posted to his Facebook account was on 6 February. Nothing in his post indicated what would happen this past Sunday morning, 16 February 2013.

Solidarity for his friends and family. I hope that The Morning Roast will press on in his stead.

Hypocritical Prudes vs. Out2Enroll

logoDespite the operative issues with Healthcare.gov and the unforgivable technical compromises during rollout of the ACA (which I’ve experienced), I still get my hackles raised when the machines of hatred against the ACA roll over whole classes of people in their rush to find the worst in the law.

The issue that sticks in my craw is when both right-wing Christians and LGBT people exercise a selective puritan disgust against gay-inclusive expressions such as this:

Of course, those with anti-Obamacare sentiments already have their reasons for viewing this video with disgust – to them, it is “pandering” of the “worst” kind. Similarly, for those who are both pro-Obamacare and fearful of the White House’s every stumble and misstep toward wider healthcare coverage, the video is simply marketing through an independent third party to a target demographic.

But then the Log Cabin Republicans, the LGBT wing of the GOP, have their own charge against the ad:

“Today Log Cabin Republicans, the only LGBT advocacy organization on the Obamacare Repeal Coalition, denounced a video advertisement by Out2Enroll exploiting gay stereotypes to encourage gay men to enroll in the Affordable Care Act.

This cynical ad betrays the depths Obamacare advocates will sink to in order to pad their pathetic enrollment numbers,” Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo declared. “As a self-proclaimed ’fierce advocate’ of gay equality, President Obama would do well to distance himself from this nonsense and denounce it immediately. This ad is also an example of the left promoting harmful stereotypes that gay men are nothing more than sex-crazed lechers. If anyone on the right made such a comparison, liberals would be apoplectic. At a time when left-wing propagandists are decrying ’Duck Dynasty’’s Phil Robertson for equating homosexuality with promiscuity and deviance, Out2Enroll and others should take a look in the mirror and ask if the truth is that they are the ones responsible for promoting such harmful stereotypes.”

Sex-crazed? Lechers? Am I even looking at the same video as Angelo and his outfit?

The video shows underwear models and gym bunnies prancing around the set to music and flirting with each other. It’s freakin’ yaoi, ya’ll!

But of course, this video makes Sodahead users and readers of National Review Online, FrontPageMag, Washington Times, WorldNetDaily, NewsMax, TheBlaze, DailyCaller, and the outlets of right-wing Christian America want to “vomit” to see young adult men – oh, excuse me, “PERVERTS” – prancing around, but not the irregularly-employed video vixens who populate hip-hop, country and rock music videos.

If men’s rights activists would have any objection to how men are oppressed in this society, I would offer how these men are treated by their fellow males when they show their bodies on camera.

Finally, the titles of these articles indicate that the writers and their benefactors find it very difficult to ascertain when an organization is operating independently or in association with a government entity. Out2Enroll is, for the last time, NOT a government agency.

Once again, someone ruins a silly advert with their own projections, insecurities and hypocrisy.

Just to at least support the imagery of beautiful adult men of all shades of color, I’m plugging Out2Enroll for my readers to peruse.

The End of Gay Victimhood

The author has a point on how the dialectic of civil rights has moved to allowing LGBT people to fight for civil responsibilities such as marriage, adoption and military service. However, to say that the nation, as a whole, has moved this way is rather uninclusive of those states and other jurisdictions in which LGBT-related protections are non-existent. Georgia is one such jurisdiction.


Like most gay Americans, I still remember the shock of hope colliding with fear when I heard that Massachusetts’ high court had ordered same-sex marriage. I dreaded a national backlash against gay marriage and gay people; I hoped for a chance to show that married same-sex couples pose no threat.

The backlash materialized and brought an outpouring of state laws and constitutional amendments that banned gay marriage and, often, partnership programs too. But the sky did not fall in Massachusetts, and 10 years to the day after the state Supreme Judicial Court handed down Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, more than a third of the U.S. population lives in states recognizing marriage equality. The federal government also recognizes same-sex marriages, and everyone can see which way the trend is pointing.

So Goodridge launched the gay-marriage era. But it also had an effect that none of us foresaw…

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Interview by Daniel Landreth regarding Equality

This interview was conducted by Daniel Landreth for The Macon Statement, March 16, 2012.

1. What do you think the major issues of inequality are and what do you see in the future if inequality isn’t resolved?

The major issues of inequality are the following:

  • Lack of protection against anti-gay discriminatory behavior by co-workers and superiors in the workplace.
  • Lack of protection against anti-gay bias-motivated violence and intimidation.
  • Lack of robust pubilc education in favor of welcoming and affirming peers of all orientations and gender identities or expressions and against intimidatory rhetoric or behavior.
  • Lack of legal and institutional recognition for domestic relationships (including marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships) for gay couples.
  • Lack of institutional provision and accomodation for LGBT people and relationships.
  • Lack of presence, clout or positive imagery for LGBT people in local telecommunications channels.

What I see as the future of any polity if such inequalities are not rectified is the continued intimidation of people of differing sexual orientations and gender expressions into silence and closeted darkness. I also see us staying in a state of ignorance or malice against LGBT people and relationships because of the lack of equality and equal treatment. I see LGBT people continuing to be demonized, dehumanized, dispossessed, ostracized and destroyed by their peers and authority figures because their sexual orientation or gender expression are misrepresented as “bad”, “loathsome”, “evil” aspects.

2. What government policies/programs affect the ability to resolve this problem?

The government, as the institution charged with the defense of its citizens and institutions from uninvited, massively-impactful dangers, is the top institution of power to look in regards to why any legal inequality exists. Right now in Georgia, there is no state-level hate crime law to more closely regulate crimes motivated by malicious hatred against sexual orientation or gender expression. In Georgia, there is no state-level recognition or protection for relationships between two people of the same sex; in Georgia, there is no legal protection from discrimination or firing by public or private employers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The state government practically pales in comparison to the protections being afforded in many states throughout this country: even Texas, the one of the largest states in the Union, has a hate crimes law which covers sexual orientation.

This inactivity towards protections for LGBT people has the effect of relegating LGBT people to second-class citizenship in the native state of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought against such in his lifetime for both African Americans and for low-income laborers.

Furthermore, pandering to reactive political movements which dehumanize and illegitimize whole swaths of the population as “freaks” who do not deserve so-called “special rights” does no one, not even the participants in such campaigns, any long-term good. The so-called “defense of marriage” amendment which restricted marriage to heterosexual couples in Georgia and many other states does no one, not even those who back such amendments, any good by forcing the government to remain legally oblivious and ignorant to close, mutual relationships between two persons who simply happen to be of the same gender. Such amendments are anti-marriage and anti-human, and fly in the face of the science which affirms and supports the humanity of LGBT people both in our neighborhoods and all around the world.

3. What could we as a society do to help?

We, as a society, can help toward recitifying inequality by reconsidering our past thinking and rhetoric about homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender people. We can at least begin building social groups of solidarity and affirmation around our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender family members, peers, neighbors and service custodians, as well as their mutual, consensual relationships. We can do such in our homes, our workplaces, our places of worship or reverence, our schools, our political chambers, our social and political gatherings, and so on.

We can also speak up for equality when we know that other rhetoric is being directed against LGBT people. We can also press our lawmakers for laws which affirm and dignify LGBT people and relationships. We can even press people in positions of influence to change their assumptions or rhetoric about LGBT people until they realize that sexual orientation is not a choice, a fetish or a preference, but an immutable characteristic which is not a bad or avoidable thing.

Frankly, if one feels that equality and equal treatment for all people are good things to embrace, it is no longer enough to say that we know gay people or have gay friends or coworkers. We actually have to be there for our LGBT citizens and act when they are in danger.

4. How does inequality affect families?

Inequality affects families in not only their treatment of their LGBT members, but also affects whatever positive developments or rhetoric that could occur between members. Family members who are not knowledgeable of what equality can be for LGBT people can give off wrong, incorrect or downright-terrible information to their younger or older peers, miscoloring their worldview and affecting how they treat openly-LGBT, closeted or simply non-conformative people both inside and outside of their families. Such can have a snowball effect of rolling from a simple naivete and ignorance to a full-blown malice against “fags”, “faggots”, “homos”, “queers”, “freaks” and others.

For families who consist of at least one same-sex couple, such misinformation ultimately snowballs into their relationships by affecting the confidence and integrity of the relationship, the treatment of their children at school, the treatment at the hands of neighbors and landlords, the treatment at the hands and mouths of other family members, and so on.

5. How have people who support equality of the LGBT community been affected?

Inequality provides a disappointment for supporters of LGBT equality. The lack of equality means that our society will continue to lack grace and dignity for our citizens, that our society will continue to ignore the plight of those who do not fit within antiquated, inadequate and diversity-averse molds. Such molds do not address the long, lurid and ghastly history of treatment of LGBT people by our government, our institutions of power or influence or our channels of conversation. Inequality also makes for the frustrating statistics of deprivation and despair of LGBT people in our society, aspects which taint and miscolor our society as being anti-freedom, anti-liberty, anti-empathy, and anti-human. Such views are not what we who support equality for American LGBT citizens should project or allow to be projected without a challenge.

But, at the same time, inequality also provides a continuing opportunity for advocates and supporters of equality to push even harder and reach even farther and wider for support. Inequality provides advocates and supporters the opportunity to expand their vocabulary and reclaim the language for hope and equality rather than shame or inequality.

Ultimately, inequality or the threat of inequality, once recognized, is the only reason for any civil rights movement to exist. When equality prevails, the whole society benefits, and the civil rights movement can either stay on as a vanguard for the gains of equality in the years ahead, or can expand to other long-running civil rights issues, or both. The movement for equality did not start nor end with women’s rights, it did not start nor end with ethnic minority rights, and it did not start nor will it end with LGBT civil rights. These aspects of equality affect us all both now and in the future, no matter who we are, and we and our children will be better off when equality is accomplished and enshrined as the norm of everyday living.

Answers to questions on the Middle Georgia State College Gay-Straight Alliance

This interview was conducted by Andrew Willis for The Statement, February 24, 2013.

1. What is the general purpose of the GSA?

The purpose of the Gay-Straight Alliance is to be a safe space of discussion and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals. We say that “Yes, it’s OK to be gay, and who you love or what gender you identify as does not affect the content of your character.”

2. Do you have to be gay to be in the GSA?

No, it is open and welcoming for straight, transgender and bisexual individuals to join and participate, and we encourage straight students to do so. However, it is expected by myself and our organization that our discussions and actions will be affirming and welcoming of both same-sex and opposite-sex sexuality as well as gender non-conformity. We will support, not condemn, your sexual orientation or gender identity.

3. How would you describe the GSA’s involvement in MGSC? (What events have you put on in the past? Do you have any plans for the near future?)

Members have engaged in advocacy both on and off campus. In the past, our members have protested against anti-gay hate speech in our student newspaper, participated at protests against so-called “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapy as advocated by various misguided religious institutions, advocating before the Bibb County School Board for safer schools and, as done in February 2012 by our former president Amanda Studebaker last year, advocated before the General Assembly in Atlanta for the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Bill (HB 630), a bill which would outlaw employment discrimination against state government workers on the basis of sexual orientation. Our GSA actively supports its passage into law, and members signed letters to our representatives calling for its passage.

In addition to regular meetings, where we discuss news, personal experiences, history and activism, we have held an LGBT Movie Night in the Residence Life Game Room, a welcoming event for a cross-state bike ride ridden by members of Georgia Equality (a civil rights advocacy organization from Atlanta), a trip to the LGBTQ and Allies Conference at Georgia Southern University in November 2012, and a “NOH8” protest against anti-gay bullying during the “Day of Silence” on April 19. In the future, we will hold another Movie Night and more events, and we invite ideas for more LGBT-inclusive events and activities on our campuses. We hope to extend this in the future to Warner Robins, Cochran and other campuses.

4. How would somebody get involved with the GSA at MGSC?

I would suggest coming to one of our meetings, usually on the Macon campus, in order to get a feel for what we discuss. But since the Macon and Warner Robins campuses have a history as commuter-friendly campuses, we also encourage people to get into contact with us on Facebook, Google+, and by email at mscgsa@googlegroups.com. For personal, one-on-one inquiries, I can also be contacted by personal email at harry.underwood1987@gmail, and our advisor Dr. Sheree Keith can be reached at sheree.keith@maconstate.edu. We invite honest, good-mannered questions and messages of support.

Also, could I get your major and age for the article? And just to clarify, what is the title of your position in the GSA? Thanks again for answering these questions!

My name is Harry Underwood, I’m a senior majoring in New Media and Communications (NMAC) and pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Science, and I’m the president of the GSA since Fall 2011. I will be graduating this semester.

Thank you for your questions!



Today is normal and secular, and lives have been made better

I wrote this on another blog on the occasion of the victory in Windsor v. United States. This week, the Hawaii State Senate will send a bill legalizing marriage equality to their state governor, Neil Abercrombie, signifying the end of a 20-year era since a state court became the first in the country to rule that same-sex couples ought to get married.

Meanwhile, next year will be 10 years since Georgians voted to ban state recognition of same-sex couples. Just like Hawaii, may we similarly mature as a state, sooner rather than later.

World of Values

The request to those who advocated most strenuously for marriage equality to observe magnanimity in “victory” is short-sighted. There was no victory, no score, no feather on a cap. 

Same-sex couples do not exist to “win” anything. They exist out of long-term love and affection, and they exist for that same purpose. 

That gays were made into targets of culture warriors is a major tragedy, albeit not as grievous of an offense as the scapegoating, criminalization, demeaning and incarceration of homosexuality into a forced closet. 

There was no victory, only realizations. A realization of unconstitutionality, a realization of forcible impoverization, a realization of meaningless, unreasonable denial of humanity and worth. 

Yesterday, our nation, as a whole, realized yet another facet of our inhumanity toward other Americans, and reduced that inhumanity a bit more than the last time that we made such a reduction. 

It is a progression, one on which…

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ENDA passed in the U.S. Senate, may be killed in GOP-held House

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was passed 64-38 on Thursday in the U.S. Senate, with all Democrats and 10 Republicans voting for the bill. The bill, which would prohibit discrimination in employment and hiring on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by civilian, non-religious employers with at least 15 employees, received ample protections for religious-owned facilities and businesses.

The bill now awaits action from the House, which is controlled by the GOP. Speaker John Boehner has voiced his disapproval of the bill, which likely reduced its chance of getting a hearing before the House.

ENDA has been re-introduced in every session of Congress since 1994, and the most recent version of the bill contains language protecting employees on the bases of both sexual orientation and gender identity. It first passed in the Democrat-controlled House in 2007 after stripping gender identity language from the bill, but failed in the Senate that same year.

President Barack Obama backs the bill, but has been criticized by labor rights activists for refusing to sign an executive order protecting LGBT federal employees. He has said that the issue is better resolved through congressional action.

The week in the nation so far…

This week has already seen a number of exciting developments in LGBT affairs:

  • On Tuesday, the Hawaii State Senate overwhelmingly passed marriage equality, 20-4. On Thursday, 14 hours of testimony are scheduled before the State House Judiciary and Finance Committee (which will run until midnight, with any extra testimony to be scheduled for 1 November), and no full vote has yet been scheduled. It is expected to be a close vote. Hawaii already has civil unions which are available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples, but same-sex couples are currently banned from marriage.
  • Cory Booker, former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and steadfast LGBT rights ally, has been sworn into office as Senator from New Jersey. A Democrat, Booker will serve out the remainder of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s term in office. Booker is the third African-American senator in U.S. history, after incumbent Tim Scott of South Carolina and current U.S. president Barack Obama of Illinois.
  • The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has secured the support of the entire Democratic caucus and two Republican members of the U.S. Senate, and the aforementioned Booker is a likely 57th vote for the bill, as Democratic Senators Nelson, Pryor and Manchin have finally given their support after months of pressure. The bill, which has languished before Congress since 1994, is now 1 vote shy of passage without a filibuster, and advocates are actively seeking for one more Republican endorsement. The bill, which is likely destined for failure in the GOP-controlled House, would protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Terry McAuliffe, the pro-LGBT candidate in the Virginia gubernatorial election, continues to lead the rabidly anti-LGBT candidate Ken Cuccinelli by wildly-fluctuating margins in the most recent polls. McAuliffe’s running mates Ralph Northam (running against the rabidly-anti-LGBT E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor) and Mark Herring (running against the anti-LGBT Mark Obenshain for attorney general) also lead by comfortable margins.
  • Momentum continues to build in Indiana against a bill for an anti-equal marriage amendment to the Indiana state constitution, with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce  and the University of Indiana coming out against the bill.

Ga. Department of Revenue issues guidelines for same-sex couples filing state tax returns

Dyana Bagby from The GA Voice reports from Georgia Equality in Atlanta: Ga. Department of Revenue issues guidelines for same-sex couples filing state tax returns.

Essentially, in the wake of Windsor v. United States, Georgia will join a number of other states (all of which maintain constitutional bans on same-sex marriage) in compelling same-sex couples who have been legally married out of state to continue to file separate state tax returns. These include Kansas, Michigan, Utah and North Dakota.

LGBT News in Columbus, GA