Another State Added to the List: New York Votes for Marriage Equality

Tonight is another good night.  After a long week of expectations and delays, the New York Senate voted to approve same-sex marriage by a vote of 33-29.  In the Republican-controlled senate, four of those voting in favor of passage were of the majority party. 

After frequent internet checks all week, I started out the night checking tweets from various bloggers, but then went downstairs to try to find something on TV.  CNN was doing Piers Morgan re-runs, but when 8 o’clock hit, I switched of to see what Rachel Maddow was doing on MSNBC.  Of course, everyone is totally focused on the murder case in Florida, but after a bit, Rachel got off of that and started live coverage from Albany, New York.  At that point a couple of Republican senators who had previously not been committed either way gave speeches saying that they were going to vote in favor of the bill.  Then after a few delays in the procedures, the final votes were read and it was a done deal!

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who really pushed for marriage equality, will now need to sign the bill into law, after that, a 30-day wait, and the state of New York will begin executing same-sex marriage certificates.  Another good thing is that anyone can get married in New York, not just residents!

With New York now joining the states of Vermont, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, not to mention the District of Colombia, we are starting to see the old prejudices and discrimination starting to chip away.

Update:  Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law before I had even finished my original post.  Congratulations to all those who worked so very hard to get this passed!

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How Language Bullies, But When It Might Be OK To Say “That’s So Gay”

“Say Something” seems to be Australia’s equivalent of the “It Gets Better” Project, a youtube campaign that was started Dan Savage, a Seattle columnist, after the rash of gay teen suicides last year.  “Say Something” has been set up as part of the 2011 Sydney Mardi Gras, one of the largest gay events anywhere in the world.

Matthew Mitcham, an out, gold medal diving champion in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has created his video, short though it is, for the Say Something project.  In it he advocates for eliminating the use of the phrase “It’s so gay” in a negative way.

Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this phrase used, except maybe on TV.  I’m not much around the age group, teens or younger, that probably uses this phrase.  However, I know I wouldn’t like it if I were a gay kid in middle or high school and had to hear it all the time.  Frankly, there are far worse words as derogatory syn0nyms for gay people, when they are trying to demean either gay people or even others that are not gay.

For the most part, kids use these stronger perjoratives because they got them from hearing adults say them.  When I was a kid, the “n”-word was the harshest, but  most often used, word that we called each other on the playground.  Strange though it sounds, we could use that word without admonishment, but knew better than to use “real” swear words, which today are commonplace in movies and the music on the radio.  There’s nothing surprising thses days about hearing them in so many rap and hip-hop songs, where they sort of get bleeped out.  But when I hear them come in songs like Enrique Iglesias’ latest hit, I get uncomfortable.

We used the “n”-word, not because we had ever met even one Black person, but because we heard the word at home.  “That’s so gay” seems to be somewhat like that.  The kids that use the phrase aren’t directly trying to be offensive to gay people because they are just saying something like “That’s so lame,” which was used not so long ago, and I expect, still is used by some kids.

And speaking of “lame”, what if the phrase being used were “That’s so disabled” or “That’s so physically challenged”?  Most people probably would find that more offensive than “That’s so gay.”  However, when”That’s retarded” was so popular, there weren’t too many negative ripples.

When it comes to being politically correct (though really I think it has more to do with civility than politics), it’s hard to keep up.  I seem to remember Lyndon Johnson using nigras (which doesn’t sound that different from the “n” word), and he was the President who signed the major civil rights laws in the mid-1960s.  Colored People was once OK; there’s still the NAACP.  Then there’s still the question of African-American (or Afro-American) or Black.

There’s a similar problem with people and newspapers using the term homosexual.  In fact, it has a very specific, somewhat clinical or academic meaning, but most of the time when used outside of certain fields of study, homosexual come with a negative connotation for labeling people, in a way that “colored” was once used by whites, when they knew that there was a more appropriate word.

Just like many use homosexual as a way of emphasizing the “sexual” aspect, as if that the only quality that characterizes us, they also employ the word to hit other people’s buttons that its the “same” sex.  And, “you know, doing with the same sex, well, that’s something so bad, because, you know, the preacher said it in church, and it’s in the Bible, you know.”

So it’s not are far stretch to the same negativity inherent in “That’s so gay.”  The negative connotation from homosexual is carried over to the word “gay.”

It’s really not much different than expressions that have applied to other groups.  I grew up with people using the expression of “jewing someone down,” not having any idea that it came from the negative stereotype of Jewish people.  I’m sure there are kids out there who, when comparing the sizes of dips on their ice cream cones, are screaming, “I got gypped (or jipped),” having no idea that the word came from negative stereotype of gypsies cheating or robbing people.

There are two sides to these pejoratives.  On the one hand, they make the language colorful and precise.  With the internet and other forms of technology, the English language is already being “dummied down” with all its LOLs and other shortcuts.   (Oops, can I say “dummied down”?)  On the other hand, words can hurt, and we know it.  People, especially adults, who use these words to belittle others know what they are doing. 

Newspapers, politicians, and preachers who use the word homosexual know that gay people don’t like to be called that, but they do it anyway.  In reality, it’s just a subtle way to bully.  Isn’t there a verse in the Bible that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?  Doesn’t that mean civility and respect?

It all comes back to civility, doesn’t it?

If people want to use the line “That’s so gay,” they should really use it with the meaning “That’s so creative” because that’s a positive stereotype of gay people.  Think of all creativity put out by hair stylists (let’s go with those straight-thinking stereotypes), artists, playwrights, and composers.  Let’s don’t forget to mention Michalangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander the Great or some current creative gay people like Elton John, Ricky Martin, or Ellen Degeneres.

So maybe when (or if) you read something on here that makes you think a bit, you’ll say, “That’s so gay.”  But, hey, you gotta put the right tone in your voice or it won’t work.

Winds of Change Come to Kansas Both in Energy Producers . . . and in People’s Hearts

Change has come to the Kansas landscape:  the Smoky Hills Wind Farm, Ellsworth and Lincoln Counties

Change has come to the Kansas landscape: the Smoky Hills Wind Farm, Ellsworth and Lincoln Counties

Some complain that Obama and the Congress aren’t doing enough to bring about changes for gay equality. But for real change to happen when it comes to beliefs and prejudices, it has to happen in people’s hearts.

I was raised in a part of the country where big changes don’t seem to happen very fast–no matter what kind of change we might be talking about. That place is western Kansas (central Kansas if you think of the state as having 3 regions), where the wind never seems to stop blowing from one direction or the other.

I read an article today that reminded me of an event I had wanted to write about before. Both of these show that changes in the way others feel toward gay people are being made.

In my little ol’ hometown of Dorrance, the biggest event of every year is Memorial Day weekend. It’s the time when alumni go back for school reunions and other get-to-gethers on Saturday and Sunday. On the Monday holiday itself, there is always a parade that goes from downtown out to the flower-filled cemetery, and the local American Legion post puts on a moving service and tribute. That particular event is so much a part of our local heritage. (And me too. You know, I can’t even explain; it’s something that maybe only people from small towns can understand, but I’m getting choked up as I write this.)

But, anyway, back to the point. I don’t think I have ever been so proud of my hometown and its people as a couple of years ago when I went back for the holiday weekend, and the main speaker at the Memorial Day service was the youngest sister of one of my old friends, who is now a university professor and an out lesbian. I had met her partner the year before at the same event, but I was completely overwhelmed with happiness to see how my hometown of not even 250 people was so accepting and welcoming.

Today an article from the Garden City Telegraph also made me proud, proud of a young gay kid from Kansas. A senior at Garden City High School had taken it upon himself and gotten a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) started. Even though GCHS is one of the largest high schools in the state, the town of about 25,000 does sit out in the flat southwest Kansas plains, surrounded by farms and feedlots full of cattle. By reading the Comments to the article, we find that not everyone is accepting: his father kicked him out of the house. However, all but one commenter had very positive things to say. Except for his father, this young man seems to have a good support network and a very positive attitude. Hopefully, there are some PFLAG people in the area that will help the dad get some better understanding of his own feelings and that the two can once again have a relationship.

Only a few years ago, people thought that tall wind chargers would destroy the unique beauty of the rough Kansas pastureland, but once put in place, the wind farms have seemed to add their own beauty to the landscape, not to mention their benefit as clean energy producers.

I think that’s also what happens with people’s prejudices too: get to know what you fear and you find there’s really nothing to fear, and more possibly there’s something even more to endear.