Friday, May 30, 2008

Bill O'Reilly running short on reasons to oppose gay marriage

Interesting clip on gay marriage from Bill Not-So-Moderate O'Reilly's show.



Although I ultimately agree with O'Reilly's conclusion (that the lawyer has no substantive argument), I am reminded once again that I detest O'Reilly's treatment of his guests.

Hat Tip: More Musings

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nauseating

I literally feel nauseated after reading an article posted on Mission America by one Linda Harvey. The article is titled "Fairy tales don't come true: Impressionable kids and homosexuality." In it, Harvey tells the story of a fictitious child "Josh", an average 13-year-old American boy with insecurities about his height, weight, and image with the ladies.

In other words, Josh is a fairly typical American adolescent. His family only has casual ties to a church, and his parents consider themselves moderate politically, when they have time or interest to think about it.

Josh’s standards, therefore, are being formed not by parents of high character, but by the American culture, including television, his public school and the Internet. That’s where he developed a keen curiosity about sex and it’s also where he gets his information and values.

You can probably guess the direction this is leading. There is a lot of bizarre content in the article--including Harvey claiming Josh has "never heard or read an opposing viewpoint" on homosexuality and that he decides to give being gay a shot because, in part, "girls seems like a lot of trouble. It would be so much more fun to be physical with someone who likes the same things he does--Nintendo, movies, and role-playing games. And having sex without any thoughts of pregancy, commitment and all that serious stuff"--but I'll skip to the part that really turned my stomach.

Warning: this is where the nausea started for me. According to Harvey, Josh, as a teenager,

will probably pair up with an older homosexual and begin homosexual sex...

Josh’s future probably holds a revolving door of sexual contacts, with his first visit to a clinic to be treated for a sexually transmitted disease at around age 17. Then, if he’s typical, he’ll be treated annually for an STD of some type...

He is already drinking heavily, smoking, and doing recreational drugs. Somewhere along the line, he’ll have several longer-term boyfriends, and may even move in with one or two of them. Their break-ups will happen after six months or a year, and be spectacular events punctuated with drama, screaming fights and threats of self-harm, contributing to the high rates of domestic violence cited for “gay” males.

He will go to a counselor for treatment of depression, anxiety or an eating disorder... Along the way, he may well become HIV-positive. In his thirties, he will start to have relationships with boys who are 16 and 17 [emphasis mine]... He may even transmit the HIV virus to one or more of them.

Josh is likely to die early, probably before 55 and very likely in his 40’s. His grandmother will cry at his funeral, knowing he would have made a great father and even grandfather. But it won’t happen for him.

Ugh. This reading this literally made me sick to my stomach.

In a way, I used to be like Harvey. I used to believe similar stuff to be true of gay people. I believed the average gay person's life was riddled with addiction, disease, casual sex, and no committed relationships. I thought this was the life that would be mine if I were to come out.

But I had never met a single openly gay person. The only "gay" people I knew were "ex-gay" people in the ministries I was a part of for five years. Similarly, the only "research" I had ever done on homosexuality was listening to James Dobson's radio broadcast and reading literature from conservative, openly antigay organizations like Focus on the Family, Exodus, the American Family Association, etc.

Like Harvey, I had been told the "statistics" that gays and lesbians live radically shorter lives than hetero Americans. I believed these numbers to be as true as the Gospel... until I started doing real "research." Once I started reading academic journals for myself, I learned these statistics--and many others like them--were the brainchildren of Paul Cameron, whose methodology is patently ridiculous and whose conclusions are grossly untrustworthy. I also started meeting openly gay folks and discovered their lives are nothing like the stereotype I once held--the stereotype presented by Harvey, Exodus, FotF, and others.

And then I began my own relationship with the man who is now my fiance. After more than two years together, I'm just a week away from our wedding. We have a wonderful, fulfilling, and enjoyable relationship. We love each other deeply.

I was wrong, just as Harvey is wrong. And this reminds me of the teachings of Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: Linda Harvey is not my enemy; ignorance is.

Harvey's antigay screed is filled with inaccuracies and falsehoods. The danger is not that this disgusting article exists; the danger is that people believe it to be true. The enemy here is the misinformation and misunderstanding rampant in what Harvey wrote.

I believe the two most powerful tools for the advancement of the gay rights movement are (1) coming out to family and friends and (2) education. The stereotypes, inaccuracies, and untruths must be replaced with real people's lives and solid, true facts about gay people.

And so I encourage gay and lesbian people everywhere to come out. "Come out, come out, whereever you are." Let your friends and family and neighbors and churchgoers know that gay people are no more unusual or monstrous than their sisters and brothers, their teammates and classmates, the two girls living in the apartment across the hall or the two guys living in the house down the street, the person sitting next to them in the pew.

And I encourage everyone--gay and lesbian or not--to do real research. Don't just read the soundbytes digested by conservative or liberal organizations or the general media. Read source material, the studies of orientation, health, mental adjustment, and fulfillment that have been conducted for the past eighty years.

We have, I believe, the "upper hand" in this struggle for justice, because we are on the side of truth. I believe our greatest efforts should be in making our personal selves known and learning and communicating the factual truth.

hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars

But I don't want to leave you on an unhappy note. So, in keeping with the "nauseating" theme, I give you Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell in "Waiters Who are Nauseated by Food." Enjoy :-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Poll: Californian voters approve of gay marriage by slim majority

The results of a recent poll of 1,052 registered California voters show--for the first time in history--a slight majority approve of gay marriage: 51% to 48% statewide. The same poll indicates voters disapprove of a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that would ban gay marriage and, hence, overturn the CA Supreme Court's recent ruling that has legalized marriage for gays and lesbians in that state.

This finding is compared against six previous surveys of voter opinions on the same conducted by the same polling agency over the past 31 years. In 1977, more than twice as many Californians opposed gay marriage as supported it (59% to 28%). However, since that first poll, public opinion has gradually shifted.

The Field polling agency, which conducted the survey, has posted a thorough 8-page analysis of the poll results on its websites, including breakdowns of voter opinions by age, geographic location, and party identification. Not surprisingly, approval of gay marriage is highest among young voters, city dwellers, and Democrats and lowest among older voters, rural Californians, and Republicans.


This bit of news is balanced by the results of a recent L.A. Times poll of 834 Californians (only 705 of whom were registered voters) which reported public opinion opposed to gay marriage and in support of the proposed constitutional amendment.

hat tip: Mercury News

Friday, May 23, 2008

Texas Megachurch Pastor Arrested

Prestonwood Baptist Church is one of the largest megachurches in Texas. Indeed, it is one of the largest megachurches in the world. Located in Plano, a wealthy suburb north of Dallas, the church's 7000-seat worship center looms over the North Texas landscape. Some 26,000 church members are accommodated in four worship services there each weekend. I remember as a college student driving past the church and mistaking it for an aircraft hanger. We humorously referred to the church as "Prestonworld."

News recently broke that one of the pastors of Prestonwood has been arrested in a sex sting near Houston. On May 15th, Joe Barron, pastor of married adults at Prestonwood, drove 200 miles from Plano to the city of Bryan, where he had apparently made online arrangements to meet up with a 13-year-old girl for sex. That 13-year-old girl turned out to be a police officer, who promptly arrested Barron. Also confiscated from his car was a box of condoms as well as a webcam and computer headset that Barron was apparently planning to give to the girl to facilitate their online relationship.

Police report that Barron is one of 12 men arrested since the city of Bryan began its sex sting operation in November of 2006.

hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Why I Left the Ex-Gay Movement

On his radio program yesterday, Alan Colmes discussed the topic of the ex-gay movement. On the air were Mike Ensley, a young (and kinda handsome--that's him there on the left) staff member of the evangelical ex-gay ministry Exodus, Wayne Besen, an author and activist who devotes much of his efforts to countering the ex-gay movement, and Michael Bussee, one of the original founders of Exodus in the 1970s. Caveat: Colmes's is known for his liberal bias, so some may dismiss this interview on the basis of his bias alone.

In spite of Colmes's bias, I felt the interview was excellent at teasing out the very reason why I left the ex-gay movement: confusion, misleading double-talk, baiting-and-switching terminology. In the following clip, see if you can understand Mike Ensley's convoluted explanation of his present orientation, his former orientation, and what Exodus actually claims to be able to do.



UPDATE: NG has posted links to recordings of the entire interview between Combes and Mike Ensley.

After five years with Exodus, I left because my orientation hadn't changed at all. The orientations of my friends in the programs hadn't changed. Moreover, I had come to learn that the orientation of the leaders of Exodus hadn't changed. Everyone was still gay. I was so disillusioned that the "change" Exodus had claimed was possible hadn't happened, and I was stunned by the fact that no one in Exodus seemed to have experience the "change"!

My questions about the elusiveness of "change" were met with confusing, convoluted explanations similar to Mike Ensley's words in the radio interview. On one hand, Exodus leaders argued that that gay orientation is a fiction--that it doesn't actually exist--and therefore, since no one in Exodus was ever "really" gay, there was nothing to change. This argument seemed deceptive. If this is the case, isn't it lying for them to advertise that "change" is possible? Shouldn't they instead advertise that "there's nothing to change" or "come discover that you're not really gay in the first place"? I guess those slogans aren't as catchy as "change is possible" though...

On the other hand, some Exodus leaders argued that change does occur, but that it occurs in sexual behavior not in orientation. These leaders would claim that they themselves had changed--not because they had different attractions, but rather because they had stopped having sex with people of the same gender. For me, having never had sex with a guy before or during my Exodus years, this argument was completely worthless. There was no sex for me to stop. This nuanced definition from Exodus's lexicon seemed extremely deceptive to me. This was not the operative definition of "change" that I had in mind when I entered the program. Perhaps they should put an asterisk in their slogan (i.e. "Change* is possible") and add some fine print with their in-house definition of change.

I would also like to draw attention to something Ensley mentioned that I think was passed over all too quickly in the interview. Ensley mentioned the core motivator of folks that enter the ex-gay movement: religion, "biblical" Christianity in particular. People with religious conflict over their gay feelings stream into the ex-gay ministries in hope of finding a way to make the gay part of them go away. They hang on the power and promise of the word "change": if they could only be straight, then the huge struggle between their faith and their orientation would disappear.

Since religious convictions are so deeply set among the people in Exodus, it seems they have developed all these complicated, elaborate apologetics to convince themselves that they have been able to rid themselves of "gay" in some sense. As bizarre and incomprehensible as Ensley's words may have sounded to your ears, I believe the number one audience of his complicated words is not Exodus conference-goers; it's himself. I believe Ensley has developed this strange double-talk as a part of an elaborate "self-talk" routine that he uses to convince himself that something about the gay part of him has changed and therefore there is no longer a struggle between his faith and his orientation.

Of course, I don't truly know the thoughts of Mike Ensley. But I feel reasonably confident in making these guesses about his thoughts based on a consistent pattern that appears in the testimonies of many who have left the ex-gay movement and have shared their personal stories of their experiences within Exodus. There seems to be a theme among these stories of people succeeding for a time in convincing themselves that the gay part of their identity had changed.

I do want to give props to the Exodus leadership for refusing to call themselves heterosexuals. While Ensley's description of his present orientation is complicated and confusing, I'm very grateful that he avoids claiming he is straight. This is a wonderful glimmer of truth (or at least an absence of falsehood) in the sea of Exodus double-talk. It gives me hope that all is not dishonest within Exodus.

Epilogue: Reading back over this post, I remember the religious conflict and deep sense of fear that drove me into Exodus in 2000. I was so scared of "being gay." I had so many fears of the "gay lifestyle" described by the leaders of the ex-gay movement: promiscuity, loneliness, addiction, disease, death. I feared rejection by God, by family, and by friends. Who in their right mind would choose such a life! I realize now that I wasn't in my right mind. I had been deceived.

I wish I could go back and have a conversation with myself fifteen years ago. I wish I could talk to myself back before my name changed--back when I was Joe Conservative. I'd love to sit down with Joe C and ask him to talk out his feelings, fears, and conflict about his gay feelings.

I wish I could tell young Joe C how much the lives of real gay men differ from what he believes all gay lives look like. I wish I could introduce him to the wonderful gay and lesbian couples I know--happy, healthy couples celebrating 15-, 17-, even 25-years together. I wish I could describe my own life to him--how thrilling and fulfilling it is and how entirely different it is from his expectations. I'd love to introduce him to my fiancé, the kind, attractive, affectionate young man I've dated for over two years now, the man who will become my husband in just three weeks now (Huzzah! The wedding day is so close!).

And I wish I could blow his mind by telling him how happy I am to be gay. How I would not choose a different orientation today if I were given the choice.

I'm grateful to God and the many people who helped me along the way (some of whom are reading this). God gave me many marvelous friends who helped me gradually deconstruct my fears and misconceptions and gradually identify and understand the truth. My life is immeasurably happier, richer, and more satisfying today. I am such a fortunate guy.

I wish the same for all who are presently in ex-gay programs or are considering them. May God also lead them into the truth, into lives of healthiness and happiness. :-)

hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch

Thursday, May 22, 2008

If it bleeds, suffers, or dies, Phelps will celebrate it

There's a dry joke about local news outlets: "if it bleeds, it leads," meaning that traffic accidents, on-the-job injuries or occasional murders are the biggest news happening in small town America news markets.

A similar saying seems to apply to the press releases coming from Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) folk: if someone suffers or dies, they'll celebrate it. Only it's not just suffering or death in their hometown of Topeka, Kansas. Phelps and company celebrate suffering and death around the world, from praising God for the death of American soldiers abroad to praising God for the deaths of thousands of Chinese and Burmese in the recent earthquake and cyclone in Asia.

But suffering and death need not be large-scale to warrant their celebration. For instance, last week a medical helicopter crashed in Wisconsin, killing three. Ever the opportunists, the WBC folks released the following news release:
Thank God for throwing the new Wisconsin Medical Helicopter out of the air, dashing it to pieces, and killing a surgeon, nurse, and pilot.
Phelps apparently believes the helicopter crash was the justice of God meted out against Wisconsin after a WBC picket in that state was poorly received (in Phelps' words, he's upset about its "unlawful & sinful mistreatment of WBC for preaching God's Word on the mean streets of that evil state"). Promises Phelps about the dead surgeon, nurse, and pilot:
WBC will picket their funerals.

Yes. WBC will picket their funerals in religious protest and warning; to wit: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked." Gal. 6:7. Got Hates Fags! & Fag-Enablers. Ergo, God hates Wisconsin and its violent, sinful citizens, sodomite students (like the wild beasts & incompetent copes at the Univ. of Wisc.--Stout), Military mutts, and law forcement [sic] thugs like Sheriff Todd Nehls. They don't believe in the Bible or the First Amendment in homofascist Wisconsin.

Satanic Land of the Sodomite Damned. [sic; I think there's supposed to be a "be" in there somewhere]
hat tip: WBC website

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Hillary won WV by a landslide

I've been wanting to post this video for a week, but it only appeared on the Daily Show website today. The striking thing about this segment is the interviews with WV voters on why they voted for Hillary... or, rather, why they voted against Obama.



I was stunned when I saw the interviews that appear between 1:50 and 2:30 in the video, but I figured John Stewart was just showing the most outrageous clips (as per usual). However, NPR carried some disturbingly similar interviews with West Virgina voters in its coverage of race issues in the West Virginia primary and throughout the Democratic primary season
"Mr. Obama doesn't have much of a chance here, because they will not vote for a black man in West Virginia. They can't stand the thought of a black man telling a white man what to do." Jo-etta Coon

"Whether he is a Muslim or I'll guess he's not, I guess it's just everything that's going on in the Middle East. It's a little scary being an unknown." Thomas Caldwell

"You know I didn't vote for no colored. [laughing]" Morris King
NPR added that these three West Virginia voters were not asked specifically about race. About 20% of West Virginia voters in the Democratic primary cited race as a factor in their decision.

What's up with West Virigina? Is it just abnormally fearful of black people? Is it abnormally misinformed about Obama's faith? Is it abnormally afraid of Muslims?

So weird.

U.S. Economic Problems = God's Punishment for Abortion

From televangelist John Hagee, pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio.



hat tip: Right-Wing Watch

Bush (inadvertently) Helps the ACLU

From The Salt Lake Tribune: Apparently, membership in the ACLU has doubled over the course of the Bush administration's years in power.
"I think it's very much a reflection of the fact that there was a very aggressive assault on civil liberties," said ACLU national deputy executive director Dorothy Ehrlich. "Over the past seven years, many Americans felt their own cherished values were under attack, and they didn't want to sit by."

The ACLU counted about 250,000 members in the final year of Bill Clinton's presidency. Today, the organization has about 500,000 card-carriers
hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Barack Obama stealing white babies!


Just kidding! But I thought my buddy Pomoprophet would get a kick out of the headline :-)

And isn't the baby that Obama is holding in this photo adorable?

hat tip: Barack Obama's campaign website

Monday, May 19, 2008

Republicans in worst shape since Watergate

This from Jim VandeHei, founder and executive editor of right-wing newspaper The Politico, in an interview with NPR. Mr. VandeHei draws his conclusion from the complex aftermath of the eight-year Bush administration and its policies. The nation is summarily disgusted with the Bush administration and seems to have translated that disgust to Republicans in general. The Republicans themselves seem disenchanted with their own presidential candidate, John McCain, who they reluctantly selected earlier this spring. Most recently, the Republican have lost seats in special elections in Illinois and Mississippi.
For evidence of the party's dismal standing, VandeHei points to the loss to Democrats of the deeply conservative, reliably Republican seat in northern Mississippi's 1st Congressional District.

"Under no circumstances should a Republican lose that seat," VandeHei says. "The Republican brand is as damaged as I can recall."
Now, the story is not yet over. Republicans continue to mobilize large blocks of voters with their positions on security, terrorism, and gay rights. However, if would appear that the party is "in the worst shape with voters that the party has seen in more than 30 years."

Just for reference, dear reader, Joe Moderate is not celebrating this news. I have no fantasies about Democrats being able to save us. I still have yet to decide which party I will vote for in November.

However, I can only hope that the nation's apparent disgust with Bush administration policies will result in a shift away from war and unilateral diplomacy abroad and elimination of rights and freedoms and home. Whether that happens under President McCain or President Obama is fine with me. The devil is in predicting which potential future administration might actually pull it off well.

hat tip: NPR

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Funny Videos

I should be doing work or something, but instead I present to you a few hilarious videos I came across on YouTube this afternoon.

Frank Caliendo doing an amazing impersonation of presidents Bush and Clinton.



MadTV's sketch comedy about the English-speaking Al Jazeera network.



Another MadTV sketch, this one about a poorly pronounced, poorly acted Mexican version of Star Trek, "Estrella Viaje".

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hillary, Obama, and McCain on California Supreme Court Decision


Reactions from the presidential candidates to yesterday's California Supreme Court decision:

Following Thursday's ruling by the California Supreme Court striking down that state's ban on same-sex marriage both Obama and Clinton released carefully worded statements saying it was an issue for the states.

McCain said it should not be a decision for judges to take.

At least on the issue of gay rights, there is not much different between the three leading candidates for the U.S. presidency.

All three are opposed but would grant varying rights to gay and lesbian couples. And all three oppose amending the US constitution to bar same-sex marriage.

Clinton would amend the Federal Defense of Marriage Act that was signed into law while her husband was president to remove sections that bar the federal government from providing benefits to same-sex couples.

Obama would repeal the law altogether and permit civil unions.

McCain would follow the Clinton lead by leaving in place the section barring the government from recognizing gay marriage but he would support benefits for same-sex pairs...

All three have been consistent since the campaign began.

I am particulary impressed with John McCain, who has twice voted against the Republican party when U.S. constitutional amendments banning gay marriage have come before the Senate. He is on record as calling such measures "un-Republican."

I can only imagine how the leading Republican presidential candidate's position is further frustrating the Religious Right. Even three of the four California Supreme Court justices that voted to overturn the gay marriage ban are Republican.

Perhaps this is one more squabble that will finally lead to the collapse of the strange alliance of socially conservative religious folks and the Republican party. I sure hope so! I can only see benefit for all parties involved--the churches, the Republican party, and the United States as a whole--if the Religious Right falls apart.

hat tip: 365gay.com

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Elated

Guys, the hair is standing up on the back of my neck. My heart is racing. I've been paging through the lengthy 172-page opinion published online by the Supreme Court of California this morning. There, at the top of page 12 were the stunning words I never expected to read:
Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional.
Oh happy day! Congratulations are in order for the people of California! I am so happy for them... and for what this court decision indicates for the rest of us--the gradual changing of the hearts and minds in the United States.

I'm so happy I can't sit still. I just called my fiance and my buddy Pomoprophet in California. I feel like celebrating!

May happy days like this come soon for those of us in other states. Indeed, may such happy days come for people around the world :-)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CA Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage *tomorrow*

At 10am (PST) tomorrow, the highest court in California will rule on gay marriage in that state. Justices seemed quite divided on the issue during oral arguments in March. As much as I would like to see gay marriage legalized in California, I'm not expecting that to be the Court's decision. Rather, I'm anticipating the Court will make a decision on what exactly Proposition 22 means and does not mean and leave it up to the legislative process to legalize gay marriage.

But we'll see. It would be wonderful if marriage becomes legal in California! However, it appears that state is not quite ready to make such a step (I'd love to be proven wrong on this!)

I will also be watching the blog of Pomoprophet, one of my closest friends. He's a CA resident, so this ruling affects him and his community directly. I'm interested to see what Pomo says in response to the Court's ruling.

Hat tip: Google news, Mercury news

Back in the Saddle

Sorry for the hiatus, dear readers (all 3 of you!). Things have been busy here with the end of the semester and a surge of wedding planning. I can't believe I'm going to be married in just one month! I'm so excited. In just 30 days I will marry the most wonderful guy in the world :-)

I'm also flipping out because a ton of my closest friends from my years in ex-gay ministry are coming. Friends are traveling ridiculous distances from California, Texas, New York, Florida, Maryland, and even Ontario and British Columbia! I'm so honored. And I'm looking forward to a sweet reunion with those guys.

Things continue to be busy for me. I've taught the last class of my graduate career and now I'm working on finishing my dissertation. Looks like I'll be defending on July 10th! I can't tell you how good it feels to have the finish line in sight.

I've missed a number of interesting issues that I've wanted to blog about in the past two weeks. But the California Supreme Court's upcoming decision on gay marriage (tomorrow morning) is just too big a deal to pass up. So here I am: back in the saddle.

Good to be back,

Joe