Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vancouver in Time

Stunning time-lapse photography of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, site of the 2010 winter olympics and home to my good friend John and was the site of one of my most memorable road trips with my dear friends Burke and Darren. Watching this video brought back memories from a trip I took to Vancouver with three of my best friends--John, Burke, and Darren. I remember a wonderful day we spent walking the beaches and watching the ships move into and out of the harbor. Mesmerizing.



One of my dreams is that C and I would make our home--at least for a few years--in Seattle, Washington, not far from Vancouver. Watching this video makes me realize I'd also be a happy man if we lived in Vancouver.

hat tip: Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama State of the Union Drinking Game

LOL this is awesome (click for a more legible version):


hat tip: Joe.My.God.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How to Respond

Speaking of uncomfortable initial coming out conversations...

~10am today: a elderly widow from my parent's church friends me on Facebook
~3pm today: I accept the friend request
~5pm today (presumably after reading my profile, which includes a great photo of me and C together and our status as married): widow sends me the following message on Facebook:
(no subject)

[Joe], I will always love you, but it will have to be from a distance now. Take care of yourself and please, please pray for clear direction for your life.
How would you respond? How should I?

on Mulligans

I'm a big fan of Misty Irons over at More Musings on Christianity, Homosexuality, and the Bible. She's just posted a good piece about evolving perceptions and convictions. Excerpt:
One thing I have found to be true for myself, and for many straights who think seriously about gay issues, is that it's perfectly natural for your thoughts to be constantly evolving. Once you learn to tune in to the debate, you become aware of how many different angles and perspectives are being discussed all time: gay marriage, gays in the military, hate crimes laws, the teaching of the Bible, the attitudes of the church, coming out stories, ex-gay ministries, and so forth. For the thoughtful person, these debates have a way of injecting small insights into your brain bit by bit so that you are constantly adjusting your attitude toward homosexuality. You confront contradictions in your thinking. You make connections. You have mini "aha!" moments that hit you at odd times of the day.

So if your friend or family member has already come out to you as gay and if, at the time, in your panic, you were only able to produce some half-audible, highly dissatisfying mumble, don't let that response stand as a Monument For All Time representing your attitude toward homosexuality. You were taken off guard. You had a brain freeze. You hadn't had a chance to get out of the starting blocks in this journey. But now you're off, slowly jogging along, taking in the sights.
I heartily agree, and I think the same observations hold for gay people themselves as they come out. My first coming out conversations didn't go so well. That may be partly due to the fact that I had them with very conservative very religious people. But I know it was also partly (largly) due to the fact that I was new at telling the truth. I had shamed, denied, and buried the truth about a part of my identity for years and had presented a fake image of myself, and it was difficult and awkward for me to tell people I had basically been deceiving them for years.

I also wasn't accustomed or very good at discussing orientation. Heck, I had never really discussed it with anyone before except in ex-gay ministry with others who were in my same situation. I wasn't good at discussing being gay with people who were straight.

I've often wished I could go back and redo some of my first coming out conversations with people.

For one, I would have done far less over email. I let distance be an excuse for avoiding face-to-face or phone conversations and a lot of intentions, reassurances, and inflections on both sides were lost in electronic text that would have been present had the conversations had a human face or voice to go along. I took offense from emails I received that may not have been intended to sound mean. People thought I was a completely different person, had abandoned God and faith, etc. when that was not the case at all. Etc. etc. etc.

For two, I would have made the conversations far simpler, shorter, and less defensive. When I was first coming out, I felt like everyone was going to throw a bunch of "yes but what about"s at me, so I tried to anticipate these and shoot them down. Now, after years of coming out conversations, all I feel is to say the truth: "I'm gay. I'm married to a guy. How's work going for you?" If someone wants to make the conversation longer or more complex, they can totally do so, but it's up to them.
Now that you've had a chance to recover and think a little, you can let that gay friend or family member know that the gears of your mind are turning upstairs. Just because you botched it when they first came out to you doesn't mean you can't recover. In fact, you should just take for granted that most people botch it--and that's forgivable--but now you're on your feet ready to think coherent thoughts. They don't have to be profound. This is bit by bit, remember?
Hmm. I know I would welcome people to revisit coming out conversations with me.

I wonder if the reverse is true. Would people who I had uncomfortable first coming out conversations be at all interested/willing to revisit the issue with me? I dunno.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Adorable

Latest story on I'm from Driftwood:

“You and Aba are gay,” my son said to me.

We were in the car, on the way to school.

“Yes, we are,” I said.

“I think I want to be gay.”

“Well, you’ve got plenty of time to figure that out,” I replied (he’s four). “And you know we’ll love you whether you’re gay or not.”

A pause.

“Okay.”

Thoughts:

  1. Adorable :-) I wonder if C and I will ever have a conversation like that.
  2. Just for reference--as discussed in the Prop 8 trial last week--children of gay parents wind up identifying as gay in the same percentages as children of hetero parents.
  3. I wish my parents would have said that.

Comment Changes

This blog has been hit with spam comments recently, so I have decided to make some changes. Ironic as it may sound, Joe Moderate doesn't really want to moderate comments, so I'm taking the intermediate step of requiring word verification on comment entry. Hopefully this will stop the majority of spammers. If not, I'll finally have to live up to my last name and Moderate comments.

On a related note, in the sea of comments (221 and counting) on my unexpectedly most popular post have been numerous calls for commentators to identify themselves by a moniker other than Anonymous. Several people have been holding comment arguments under "Anonymous" and it has become confusing for people to know who they are speaking to. So I've decided to require some form of identification for posts. It doesn't have to be a google account, it can just be an "open ID".

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Things Getting Interesting in the Prop 8 Trial

The first week of testimony in the federal trial of California's Prop 8 came to a close Friday, and things have become quite interesting. Three items of note:
  1. Four of the six Prop 8 defense witnesses have dropped out.

    Prior to the first week of the trial, several of the witnesses for Prop 8's defense had indicated they would not testify if the federal court continued with its plan to release videos of the trial on YouTube. These concerns were laid to rest--at least temporarily--when SCOTUS put the kabosh on the YouTube idea early in the week (see item #3 below). But that hasn't stopped the defense witnesses from heading for the hills. By the end of this first week of the trial, four of the defense's six witnesses have decided not to testify. Timothy Kincaid speculates these decisions may have come after the potential witnesses observed how the plaintiff's witnessed were grilled on cross-examination.

  2. Lineup of plaintiff expert witnesses are systematically presenting and defending the research that has led the scholarly communities to conclude gay and hetero relationships are equal.

    The single most important factor in my own coming out process was information. From 2005-2006 I spent roughly 9 months in the stacks of university libraries poring over the scholarship of the last 100 years that has led the academic and medical communities to conclude that gay and hetero relationships are equal. Study after study overturned the myths and misinformation I had been told about gay people growing up in a religious community in rural Texas. At the time, I attempted to capture this information in a little volume I assembled called "If Only I Had Known" that I shared with my family.

    A far better presentation has played out in the Prop 8 courtroom this past week. The Plaintiffs have called to the stand experts in a variety of fields that have testified about the science of orientation, the history and rationale of marriage law, the quality of gay relationships, and the equal ability of gay people to rear children. Prop 8's defense lawyers haven't given them an easy time, attempting time and again to trip them up on cross-examination. But the scholars are presenting science, not opinion, and the scholarship has withstood the opposition. It's exciting for me to read the transcripts of the expert witness testimonies--particularly under cross-examination--as the conversation playing out in the courtroom is similar to what occurred in my own life 5 years ago: careful, systematic, scientific deconstruction of myth and misinformation. It's fantastic stuff. I strongly encourage you to check out the live blogs of the trial or read Timothy Kinkaid's daily summaries of the trial.

    Regardless of the immediate outcome of this trial, it seems clear to me that the testimony from this trial will be a reference point for many legal debates for years to come. I hope the full transcript of the trial becomes available, as I would love to share it with my family. I imagine the conversation/argument format will be much more accessible than the compilation of academic papers I sent them several years ago.

  3. The Supreme Court of the United States has issued a ruling related to the trial that may telegraph how the Court will lean if/when it hears the appeal of the case.

    If items #1 and #2 above seem to be favorable to the plaintiffs, this item favors the defense. As alluded to above, the federal court was initially planning to release videos of the trial on YouTube each evening. SCOTUS, however, nixed this plan in a 5-4 ruling they released on Wednesday. The Supreme Court's opinion on the video plan is being scrutinized carefully for any indication how SCOTUS may rule on the case if/when it is appealed to their level. The LA Times thinks this may not bode well for the good guys:
    Legal experts on the left and right gleaned three insights from the high court intervention: First, the justices are following this case closely. They typically rule on appeals after cases are decided. It is rare for them to intervene in a pending trial. Second, the court's conservatives do not trust Walker to set fair rules for proceedings. Their opinion described how he had given shifting explanations of his plans. This suggests Walker's ruling on Proposition 8 may be viewed with some skepticism. And third, the majority has a distinct sympathy for the foes of same-sex marriage. The justices cited a series of newspaper stories reporting on the threats and harassment faced by those who have publicly opposed gay unions...

    Last week's intervention in the San Francisco case "suggests the majority has a very strong sympathy for Prop. 8's supporters," USC law professor David Cruz added.
Things are indeed turning interesting in the courtroom in San Francisco.

Hat tips: Box Turtle Bulletin, Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Prop 8 On Trial

Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that banned gay marriage in that state, is on trial this week in federal district court. The plaintiffs are widely expected to win the trial at the district court level, but regardless of the outcome the case will most assuredly be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Paul Hogarth has become my personal hero of the month for live blogging each day's proceedings. If you happen to pass my desk during the day and wonder what I'm checking on my iPhone once an hour it's his blog. You might want to add it to your blog reader.

For a very thoughtful overview of the trial from the plantiff's standpoint, check out Newsweek's cover article "The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage: Why same-sex marriage is an American value" written by Ted Olsen, lifelong Republican, and former U.S. Solicitor General under the second Bush administration. An excerpt:
I understand, but reject, certain religious teachings that denounce homosexuality as morally wrong, illegitimate, or unnatural; and I take strong exception to those who argue that same-sex relationships should be discouraged by society and law. Science has taught us, even if history has not, that gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than the rest of us choose to be heterosexual. To a very large extent, these characteristics are immutable, like being left-handed. And, while our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others. I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

If we are born heterosexual, it is not unusual for us to perceive those who are born homosexual as aberrational and threatening. Many religions and much of our social culture have reinforced those impulses. Too often, that has led to prejudice, hostility, and discrimination. The antidote is understanding, and reason. We once tolerated laws throughout this nation that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. California's Supreme Court was the first to find that discrimination unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed 20 years later, in 1967, in a case called Loving v. Virginia. It seems inconceivable today that only 40 years ago there were places in this country where a black woman could not legally marry a white man. And it was only 50 years ago that 17 states mandated segregated public education—until the Supreme Court unanimously struck down that practice in Brown v. Board of Education. Most Americans are proud of these decisions and the fact that the discriminatory state laws that spawned them have been discredited. I am convinced that Americans will be equally proud when we no longer discriminate against gays and lesbians and welcome them into our society.

In addition to Paul Hogarth's live updates, check out Timothy Kinkaid's daily summaries of the trial proceedings over at Box Turtle Bulletin. Another excerpt (Olsen's piece really resonated with me, can you tell? ;-) ):

California's Proposition 8 is particularly vulnerable to constitutional challenge, because that state has now enacted a crazy-quilt of marriage regulation that makes no sense to anyone. California recognizes marriage between men and women, including persons on death row, child abusers, and wife beaters. At the same time, California prohibits marriage by loving, caring, stable partners of the same sex, but tries to make up for it by giving them the alternative of "domestic partnerships" with virtually all of the rights of married persons except the official, state-approved status of marriage. Finally, California recognizes 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place in the months between the state Supreme Court's ruling that upheld gay-marriage rights and the decision of California's citizens to withdraw those rights by enacting Proposition 8.

So there are now three classes of Californians: heterosexual couples who can get married, divorced, and remarried, if they wish; same-sex couples who cannot get married but can live together in domestic partnerships; and same-sex couples who are now married but who, if they divorce, cannot remarry. This is an irrational system, it is discriminatory, and it cannot stand.

Americans who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in the 14th Amendment, and in the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and equal dignity before the law cannot sit by while this wrong continues. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American one, and it is time that we, as Americans, embraced it.


Hat tips: Ameriqueer, Box Turtle Bulletin, Pomoprophet, and Joe.My.God.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Glenn Beck Uses Vicks to Cry on Demand

The other day I saw a clip of Glenn Beck crying "for lost America" in a clip on the Daily Show and I was struck by how much his seemingly artificial crying reminded me of videos of televangelist Robert Tilton doing the same. So I was searching for videos on YouTube of Beck crying to do further Tilton-Beck comparisons.

I came across this video of a makeup artist applying Vick's Vapor Rub under Beck's eyes to cause crying-on-demand for a photoshoot. This may be old news to everyone out there, but it's my first time seeing it.

So my question is, does he use this same technique on air?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

James Dobson to Start New Organization, Radio Show

James Dobson's name is virtually synonymous with Focus on the Family, a socially conservative family values organization he founded in 1977. Dr. Dobson, now 73, resigned from Focus last year. The New York Times is reporting that Dr. Dobson has announced on his Facebook page that he is founding a new organization, to be called James Dobson on the Family, which he will co-host with his son, Ryan.

I have mixed feelings about this. Following the death of Jerry Falwell, Dobson is arguably the most powerful and widely-heard voice of misinformation about gay people and our families. I am sad to learn he will again be on the air regularly.

However, I am encouraged that this development may ultimately reduce the spread of misinformation, as some but not all of Focus's donor base is likely to switch to James Dobson on the Family. It is unclear whether together the two organizations will have the combined income that Focus has presently, but my hope/expectation is that some donors will be confused or disillusioned by the move. It's too early to be sure, but my guess is that two small voices will be less effective at spreading misinformation than one large voice.

We'll have to wait and see.

Hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch