Saturday, November 19, 2011

'The Response' returns, but without Perry

This post originally appeared on Houstini.com on November 18, 2011.

Remember "The Response"? The amalgam of Republican Party politics and  right-wing anti-LGBT "Christianity" Gov. Rick Perry used to launch his presidential campaign is back, but this time without Perry. The event's organizers, including Southern Poverty Law Center recognized  hate group the American Family Association, have announced they plan to hold four more prayer rallies modeled on the August event in Houston, but are being careful to distance themselves from partisan politics in general and Perry's flagging presidential campaign specifically:
"Though Governor Rick Perry initiated The Response in Houston, these upcoming state-wide gatherings will not be affiliated with any particular presidential candidates. The Response is committed to prayer above politics, to seeing the church moved to stand for righteousness and to pray for God's mercy for America."
Perry continues to sag in the polls, and his recent gaffes and apparent lack of basic English language skills make him an increasingly unattractive candidate for Republican voters, so it's not surprising to see the Response scurry to flee the sinking Perry ship.
At the same time the locations of the four mini-Responses are interesting: Iowa, South Carolina, Florida and Arizona. All are key states during the Republican primary. So while The Response may have ditched Perry it's clear that at least one of the things they're praying for is a viable Republican presidential candidate.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Firefighter's Widow appeals ruling on Marriage

 This post originally appeared on Houstini.com on Nov. 15, 2011
Capt. & Mrs Araguz in happier times
The widow of a Wharton, TX firefighter killed in the line of duty has taken her fight to defend the validity of her marriage to a Houston court room. Nikki Araguz, whose husband Capt. Thomas Araguz died in a July 4, 2010 blaze, lost the first round of her legal battle earlier this year when Wharton Judge Randy Clapp ruled that Mrs. Araguz's marriage invalid because her original birth certificate identified her as male.

Last week Araguz appeared before Presiding Hearing Officer Jacquelyn Coleman in Houston in hopes of having Judge Clapp's ruling overturned. The pertinent question in the case is whether Araguz is female, as her current birth certificate, Texas issued driver's license and other legal identity documents identify her; or male as her now amended original birth certificate identified her. If the appeals court finds that Araguz is legally male then her marriage to Capt. Araguz is invalid under Texas' constitutional prohibition on marriage equality.

"At stake in this important case are the rights of transsexual people to be respected for who they are and to have their marriages recognized,” said Kent Rutter, the lead attorney for Araguz in the civil rights appeal.
Opposing Mrs. Araguz in court is Capt. Araguz's ex-wife, Heather Delgado. Delgado sued to have the Araguz's marriage declaired void so she would recieve widow's benefits available to surviving spouses of firefighters killed in the line of duty. Delgado claims that she needs the benefits to provide for her two children with Capt. Araguz. Children of fallen firefighters receive separate benefits from surviving spouses including financial support and tuition to Texas state schools. Capt. Araguz's children receive these benefits regardless of the outcome of Delgado's suit against Mrs. Araguz.

"I am pursuing this case to defend my marriage,” said Araguz.

The court's ruling is expected before the end of the year.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chronicle blogger blames ‘It Gets Better” project for LGBT teen suicides

Kathleen McKinley
This post originally appeared on Houstini.com on November 3, 2011.

Kathy McKinley is a self-described “conservative activist” who blogs for the Houston Chronicle under the monicker “TexasSparkle.” In a recent post McKinley took the “It Gets Better” project to task for what she believes is their culpability in the suicides of LGBT teens:
“These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.”
McKinnley’s primary confusion about the “It Gets Better” campaign (other than its name) is the assumption that the goal is to encourage teens to come out of the closet, or encourage them to become sexually active:
“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet. The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later.”
I would like to encourage Ms. McKinley to watch the “It Gets Better” project’s founder Dan Savages’ video. Please, Ms. McKinley, listen, and tell me if you hear Savage or his partner Terry say anything about teens coming out or having sex. I think what you’ll hear them say is that all of the things that most kids, gay and straight, dream of (falling in love, starting a family, having the support of their parents, co-workers and friends) are possible for LGBT teens. I think you’ll hear them talk about how difficult their teen years were, and about the fears they had that their parents would reject them, that they’d never find success and that they’d always be alone.

Choosing to have sex is one of the most personal decision a person will ever make. For LGBT people, choosing to come out is another. I have not watched all of the thousands of videos from people who have participated in the “It Gets Better” project. It’s possible that there are a few that tell kids to come out right away, or to become sexually active, but I doubt it.

Every video in the project that I have seen has had the same simple message: that the person making it understands how tortuously awful the experience of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in Junior and High School can be, but there is a wonderful world of loving, vibrant, successful, engaged LGBT adults out there and if queer teens can just hang on, just for a few years, they can join it. I doubt that any of the contributors to the project think that hanging on for a few years will be easy. I suspect that most of them remember, with excruciating clarity, contemplating ending those temporary years of terror with a permanent solution and that is why they choose to reach out.

I grew up without role models, where people like Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk didn’t exist . I grew up in a small town where the two men with the pink house were talked about in hushed tones that immediately fell silent when I walked into the room, because it wasn’t appropriate for children’s ears. I grew up in a world where my mother wouldn’t tell me what “gay” meant, where the evening news was turned off if it reported on the AIDS crisis, where I wasn’t given words to describe who I was, and so the only word I could find was “alone.”

I was lucky. My suicide attempt failed.

I was lucky, I survived, and went to college, and found a church that embraced and loved LGBT people. That’s where I met doctors and lawyers and business owners and teachers who were like me. That’s where I met two wonderful women who had built a life together for over 50 years. That’s where I discovered I wasn’t alone and that being gay didn’t mean that i couldn’t have all of those things I’d dreamed of.
That is what McKinley missed in her blog post. In her haste to lay blame on anything other than the overwhelming prejudice perpetuated by schools, churches and governments against LGBT people McKinley missed the fact that kids need role models. In her rush to shove queer teens back into the closet she forgot that human beings need the hope of a better world, lest they give up in despair.

McKinley got one thing right in her post. She titled it “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.” Adults are to blame for LGBT teen suicides. When adults hide the stunning diversity of God’s creation from their children they create a vision of reality that some of those children can’t see themselves in. When adults tell LGBT teens that they should be invisible then it is all too clear who is to blame when those teens believe them, and take steps to make themselves invisible permanently.

To all the LGBT kids out there: it does get better. There are adults who care about you and want all the wonderful things you dream of to come true, but you have to hang on. If you need to keep who are secret to remain safe then do so. If you need someone to talk to please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386).