Posts Tagged ‘glbt’

Last week, I listened online at work while testimony was presented to the Washington State House of Representatives prior to their vote on whether to legalize gay marriage in Washington State.

Now, I came out as a lesbian in 1991 and I’ve been in a domestic partnership for almost a decade.  I’ve heard it all:  that gay marriage will lead to people marrying dogs, for example.  Or that legalizing my relationship will result in the downfall of “traditional” marriage (see: Newt Gingrich, Liz Taylor, and my personal fave, Kim Kardashian’s possibly sham marriage to Kris Humphries). And I’ve heard that gays are an abomination, that our relationships are  “unnatural.”

But those complaints no longer cause any bitterness for me — just irritation.  Once you’ve watched the media attack the gays during the HIV/AIDS crisis, it takes an awful lot to get riled up.

HOWEVER.  During live testimony at the State House, I kept hearing how irresponsible it was for WA State to spend its time and resources on a polarizing social issue like gay marriage when so many people are out of work and hungry and losing health benefits.  In truth, I can’t argue with that too much, except to say that if it weren’t for the opposition and their testimonies, the vote could’ve happened pretty quickly and the legislature could get back to whatever important business is on the agenda in Olympia.

I felt like they had a valid point.  Until I watched the local news just 2 days later.  KREM.com reports:

“The Washington State Senate has approved a bill that would allow a new form of traction device for vehicle tires called tire socks.

KREM 2’s Othello Richards found out that not many people, including local tire stores, have ever heard of them.”

Are you friggin’ kidding me????  This is the IMPORTANT business that the WA legislature needed to back to instead of insuring legal protections for thousands of couples in WA State, and potentially boosting some portions of the local economy in the process?  SOCKS for tires??

Read Governor Chris Gregoire’s beautiful speech on why gay marriage is the right thing to do.  Why separate but equal isn’t really equal.  Why my family is as legitimate as yours.  Why protecting gay families is important.

In my opinion, gay marriage is a lot more important than being able to use socks on my tires instead of chains.

Now I’m pissed.


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Photo: Stephen Samuel

While I was putting myself through college at the University of Texas at Austin, I lived for a while in a small apartment complex in the Clarksville neighborhood.  It would’ve been the mid- to late-nineties.  For a brief time, Marc Katz’s ex-wife, a realtor, lived across the street from me.  She gave me her card once:  “Katz Always Kloses.”

But I digress.

I was trying to figure out some things about my life, make sense of my past and figure out who I was going to be in the future.  It was a heady time.  I had trouble getting quiet in my mind, though.  Friends of Bill W. suggested I might benefit from long walks along the Town Lake, and I did.  Five miles from Clarksville to the bridge where North Lamar becomes South Lamar, up to Barton Springs, through Zilker Park, up to MoPac, back to North Lamar.  A wonderfully quiet, nature-filled 5 mile walk smack dab in the middle of a bustling city.

I have fond memories of those walks.  Feeling the perspiration evaporate off my sweaty arms when I rounded the northern, shaded edge of my route.  The sound of my footsteps on fine gravel.  Long leaps to avoid mud puddles.  Neighbors greeting one another as they passed walking in opposite directions — even Governor Ann Richards if it was early Sunday morning and you were lucky.

There was a spot along Barton Creek where I always stopped to watch the mallards and geese.  I can still envision the late afternoon sunshine lighting up thousands of bright green and yellow leaves.  A gentle breeze made the flowers and grasses sway ever so slightly.

The Sony Walkman had just become affordable enough that I’d managed to obtain one.  I bought cassette tapes at Waterloo Records or Tower.  One of my favorite accompaniments to those long meditative walks was Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing.  Society was so high tech then; we could take actual recorded music in our pockets on a long trek.  Who would’ve imagined it possible?  These were good times. Sarah MacLachlan’s style was helping to usher in a new era of popular female vocals.

“Your love, is better than ice cream” the mezzo-soprano crooned as the newly out lesbian tried to figure out why she couldn’t get a date.

The very sound of Sarah McLachlan’s voice has brought fond memories to mind ever since.  Some of her nineties songs feel like audio hugs, lovely and comforting.  A walk down memory lane.  Warm fuzzy feelings pour over me every time I hear Sarah McLachlan’s voice… even today, right?

No!  Not anymore.  Not since she’s become a spokesperson for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

From the ASPCA’s commercial, on YouTube:

“Every day thousands of dogs & cats are abandoned, left to suffer alone .”

And that’s just the beginning.  I can’t bring myself to tell you any more.  You’ll have to watch the video yourself.  Gawd, I’m getting teary-eyed just writing about it.  I’ve been playing the video so I can quote it accurately.  Gah.  It’s killing me.

Damn it, I hate you Sarah McLachlan.

Hate. You.

Because I can’t stand, omg the kitten face, the sad hound… oh (dabs eyes with kerchief).  Okay.  I feel soooo guilty.  It doesn’t matter that I already live with two cats who might’ve ended up on the streets otherwise.  One came from a house full of teenagers who needed to find homes for a litter of kittens, and the other lived in foster homes or shelters the entire first year of her life.  But I can’t take on any more.  Nobody would rent to me ever again, I can’t afford vet bills for a third pet, and our Alpha Cat would just eat another animal anyway.  And right, I could send money, but the budget is tight these days.  Tight.  Besides, by the time the commercial tells us what the ASPCA is actually asking me to do, I’ve tuned it out.  The guilt causes an involuntary reflex.  One I’m not proud of:  denial.

Chosen ignorance.  A closed heart.

Damn it.

I hate you, Sarah McLachlan.  I really do.

Willie Nelson, you’re on thin ice yourself, my friend.

(Ed. Note:  Sarah has helped raise at least $30 million for the ASPCA.  But there’s always more to be done.  Donate here:  ASPCA.)

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An open letter to my newly out pal, Victoria:

When I came out in the early nineties, a kind young man from work handed me a mix tape.  “Music every dyke should have,” Ethan said.  And it was.  Jane Siberry, kd langJamie Anderson, Suzanne Vega, Michelle Shocked.  No Indigo Girls.  (He was, after all, a gay man.)  And thus began the soundtrack of my new life.

Music was just about all we had in those days.  And even then, we often had to imagine that a song might contain a cryptic message to us — a gay nod nobody else would recognize.  We had little else. Some cities had specialized gay bookstores that carried books with gay plot lines, but many of us were afraid to go inside lest we be outed.  Storefronts were smashed, people were harassed.  The public was afraid of AIDS.  We weren’t mentioned in the papers or on the radio or on the (gasp) barely functional internet unless it was to discuss how dangerous we were.

And now here were are.  2010.  We’re pretty much normal, we just happen to love differently.  We can insure our gay partners. Our employer offers FMLA benefits to gay families, even though the Feds do not.  We can adopt children.  We can hold hands in public.  We can go to church if we like.  We can go to a straight bar and not get beat up for dancing together.  We can take a date to a company event or a family gathering.  We can go to the mall with short hair.

How are you to know where we’ve been as a community?  This blog post is the 2010 version of the mixed tape:  information every dyke should have.  Welcome to the club, my friend!  Did you get your toaster yet?

  • Overview: Wikipedia’s in-depth Timeline of LBGT history
  • First major gay novel: The Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall.  Published in 1928, and the best known homo novel for decades.  Friggin’ depressing (as many GLBT lives were in those days) but a real classic.
  • Pulp Fiction: Lesbian and gay pulp fiction were once the only information people could get about gay relationships or gay life.  They didn’t have Ellen Degeneres or the internet.  Or out neighbors.  They had pulp fiction.  You should check out the sub-genre lesbian prison pulp sometime to see exactly how fluid we’ve become.  Tereska Torres’ Women’s Barracks is a good place to start.  Women caught buying or owning these books were in much danger, especially during the McCarthy era paranoia.
  • Butch/Femme: The history of butch/femme identity is nicely summarized by GLBTQ.com here.  In the forties, butches were still socially forced to wear feminine clothing in public, only putting on trousers and pressed shirts for weekend bar dates or parties.  Then we decided to stop living “double lives” and butches began to “pass” as men in the big cities were there were fewer family ties.  You can see the beginning of this transition in Fried Green Tomatoes.  As the 50’s progressed, we took factory jobs that weren’t available to women, and tried not to get beat up.  More overview here.
  • 1955 Sisters of BilitisFirst lesbian rights group in the US.
  • 1969 Stonewall Riots: It should come as no surprise that queens love Judy Garland.  On June 28 1969, the day after her funeral, a bunch of morose gays were drinking their sorrows away at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village NY.  The police happened to raid that gay bar that night (a not uncommon practice at the time).  As best we can tell, that night was the first time the fags fought back.  I recommend a wonderful book on the Stonewall Riots & the birth of the gay rights movement, Becoming Visible by McGarry and Wasserman. The photos are excellent too.
  • 1970 Gay Pride Marches: June 28, 1970, the Stonewall Riots were commemorated with the first gay pride parades. They were initially held in New York, LA, and Chicago.  Now they are everywhere, mostly worldwide.  This is why Seattle Gay Pride is always the week after Fremont Solstice. 😉
  • 1972 PFLAG: Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
  • 1975 Leonard Matlovich: First gay service member came out on the cover of Time in 1975.  Bless him.
  • 1978 Harvey Milk assassination: He was the first openly gay man to win a public election.  Read more about Harvey here.  Randy Shilts’ book, The Mayor of Castro Street, was turned into a documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk in 1984.  Highly recommended, though Sean Penn also made a great Harvey here.  They even used real footage from the ensuing riot.  Well done.
  • 1979 Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence: Spreading joy and charity of all types.  These nuns ROCK!
  • 1980 Alyson Books: Our own gay publisher!
  • 80’s AIDS: Read or watch Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On.
  • 1993  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Sodomy is still grounds for discharge from the military.  Still, Mr. Obama.  YOU HEAR ME??  Anyway, in 1993 this was seen as a victory that might end the gay witch hunts.
  • 1993 Go Fish: It has its dialogue and production problems, but this little indi film rocked our world when it came out in 1994.  Director Rose Troche also brought us the L Word in 2004.
  • 1993 Brandon Teena: You’ve already seen the documentary. Read more here or see Boys Don’t Cry.
  • 1996 Early Embraces published: Groundbreaking lesbian anthology, including Laura Vess’ “Lover”.
  • 1997 movie explains Pink Triangle: The movie Bent will break your heart, and will explain where the pink triangle came from.  This movie is everything they never told you in history class about gays and the Nazis.  Check out Mick Jagger in the opening scenes. Beautiful film.
  • 1997 Ellen Comes Out: Ellen came out on her sitcom in 1997.  We cheered, but knew the show wasn’t quite enough.  More would come.  (Will & Grace, L Word…then Rachel Maddow and Suze Orman and countless others.  Still waiting for Anderson Cooper.)
  • 1998 Matthew Shephard: This shocked everyone.  And changed us all.  Read about Matthew’s life & death, and the resulting political shift, here.
  • 1999 Texas Governor Bush refuses gay adoption & Byrd Hate Crimes Bill: A rare piece of gay news in mainstream news here.
  • 2000 Chris becomes co-host of “Queerwaves” at KOOP Austin. We started by reading the news, but my co-host Taylor Cage thought the news was too depressing & we needed to have more fun.  So, we added music.  Our first PSA had “God Save the Queen” playing in the background.  Queerwaves theme songs included Bette Midler’s I’m Beautiful (Damn It), Meg Hengtes’ This Kind of Love.  No Indigo Girls, per Taylor (except on my birthday — such a kindness).
  • 2000 If These Walls Could Talk II: A television movie following 3 different lesbian story lines through different periods of time.  Beautifully done.  A must-see.  Seriously.  Really important.
  • 2001 James Byrd Hate Crime Bill signed: Finally signed into law by Texas Governor Rick Perry.  The previous governor, otherwise known as “Dubya” had refused to sign the bill because in its original form, it would include hate crimes against gays.
  • 2002  Chris buys Early Embraces: in the Peachtree district (holla!) of Atlanta, during Pride.   She bought it cuz she’d just met this lesbian writer named Laura…
  • 2003 Lawrence v. Texas: So the story goes like this.  Dude got dumped by his boyfriend for a younger guy.  Dude realized ex-boyfriend & younger guy are crewing in dude’s house.  Dude calls cops & claims he’s getting beat up.  Help help!  Gives cops the address & guess what — they bust down the door and catch ex-boyfriend and younger guy having anal sex.  (This story may not be accurate.  It was told often in the bars.)  Sodomy was against the law in Texas.  Off to jail they went.  All the way to the Supreme Court.
  • Gay Marriage: A very long story.  We can now marry in 5 states + DC.  We used to be able to marry in California as well.  Back in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act reared its ugly head, many queers thought that seeking gay marriage rights was wrong.  They thought it would mean succumbing to the hetero paradigm.  Get your feet wet here.
  • 2005 Chris & Laura (an old married couple by now) find another copy of Early Embraces at Barnes and Noble in Seattle’s U-District. Not a gay bookstore. Not a gay ghetto.  Mainstream!
  • 2008 California’s Prop 8: This is so involved.  California had judicially-approved gay marriage, then these people got a lot of money together (a bunch of it from the Mormon Church, who owns Kroger.  Just sayin’) & put a referendum before the voters who decided to revoke gay marriage in CA.
  • 2009 R-71 passes in WA State: First time in gay history, I believe, that the voters GAVE rights to gays.  Gave them, as in “not deny.”  And I got to vote for it!
  • August 4, 2010 Prop 8 Unconstitutional. Republican-appointed Justice Vaughn Walker deemed Prop 8 unconstistutional for violating both the equal protection and due process clauses of the constitution:  a major victory for gay rights.  Super major.  The best ever. Because the ruling, if it stands, means that the GLBT community can no longer be treated as second class citizens.  It’s unconstitutional to do so..  Now the appeals process in in place.  We may know more in December.  Stay tuned, and in the mean time read Walker’s verdict.  It really shows how we’ve been treated unequally & how ridiculous that is.
  • 2010 Portia di Rossi will take Ellen Degeneres’ last name.  AWWWWW!

Whew.  By now, tons of people have come out.  Ricki Martin & Lily Tomlin & Neil Patrick Harris & Anna Paquinn — and now we have Chaz Bono as well.  Too many to mention.  But this is an overview of gay history as I know it.  There are errors here and omissions, and probably typos.  I’d like to add photos.  But it’ll get you started.

P.S.  Laura misses lesbian coffee nights, lesbian brunches, and taking over karaoke night at the gay boy bars on a regular basis.  The price of normalcy.

Thanks to Cookie, Kim, Becky & L.A. for their input.  Everybody add comments and I’ll write a sequel!

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