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One year from now, we return to the polls

A look back at candidate Obama’s 2008 words and promises

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One year from now, American voters will return to the polls to elect their next president. It seems like just yesterday that Barack Obama took the stage in Chicago’s Grant Park after handily defeating John McCain to win the White House.

Obama’s victory represented a historic and iconic moment. And, for the first time, LGBT Americans were along for the ride in a meaningful way. Indeed, one of the Obama administration’s first acts was to post an LGBT section to the official White House website almost immediately upon Obama taking the oath of office. Since then, Obama has mostly honored his promises and commitments to LGBT voters and his support has grown from the symbolic (White House website upgrades) to the bold (refusing to defend DOMA).

Three years later, the 2012 campaign is already well underway, with fundraisers, GOP debates, wildly swinging polls and scandals of the week playing out. Sadly, as Obama and his administration have rolled out pro-LGBT advances — and as Obama himself slowly inches toward an inevitable embrace of marriage equality — his GOP counterparts have moved backward.

From Michele Bachmann’s twisted endorsement of “reparative therapy” to Herman Cain’s schizophrenic views on marriage to Mitt Romney’s laughable flip-flops on our issues, the GOP still doesn’t get it. Just three years after Sen. John McCain granted an interview to the Blade — a first for a Republican presidential nominee — and spoke movingly of his gay role models, the GOP hopefuls aspire to roll back the clock and reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and push for a federal ban on same-sex marriage. This isn’t progress; it’s pandering to the lowest common denominator, something the GOP has turned into a sick art form.

Despite the GOP’s sorry homophobic record, a solid 25 percent or more of gay voters regularly support the Republican presidential candidate on Election Day. As we start the process of evaluating Obama’s record in preparation for November 2012, it’s instructive to look back at candidate Obama’s 2008 promises and words.

Back then, in September 2008, Obama granted the Blade an interview in which he outlined his views. A few highlights follow. Obama:

  • criticized President Bush’s record on combating the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and promised to implement a “comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies.”
  • promised to “make sure the voices of LGBT people are heard in the White House” and criticized Bush for eliminating the position of liaison to the LGBT community.
  • vowed to “work to pass a fully inclusive version” of ENDA and to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act and to enact a federal hate crimes law inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.

How does Obama’s record stack up? As Obama noted in his interview, much of what he hoped to accomplish hinged on Democratic control of Congress and its priorities. Obama and the Democrats succeeded in passing the hate crimes expansion and, with key Republican support, in repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” ENDA, sadly, is another matter. It stalled amid assertions that then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t want to subject conservative Democrats to more than one gay-related vote at a time. When “Don’t Ask” repeal turned into the drawn out debacle it did, scheduling an ENDA vote was a non-starter as the clock ran out. Congress should have adopted a more aggressive posture on ENDA and taken better advantage of its large Democratic majorities early in Obama’s term. Once the Republicans retook the House, pro-LGBT initiatives were dead in the water. DOMA repeal never happened, either, but Obama’s Justice Department took the bold and welcome step of refusing to defend the statute in court.

On other promises, Obama did lay out a national HIV/AIDS strategy after holding 14 town hall events in cities around the country that drew several thousand attendees. The strategy is LGBT-inclusive from the very first page in which sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the vision statement. Unfortunately, the nation’s AIDS Drug Assistance Programs have seen a spike in patients stuck on waiting lists. The ADAP waiting lists made national headlines last summer, when, for the first time, the number of people on such lists topped 9,000. ADAP is part of the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program authorized by Congress.

Obama has appointed a record number of openly LGB and, yes, even T people to administration positions, most notably John Berry as head of the Office of Personnel Management. DNC official Brian Bond was named to the role of LGBT liaison, though his job was broader than just LGBT concerns. Bond left that post and Gautam Raghavan took over last month.

Perhaps more importantly, Obama has included LGBT issues in his broader agenda, including extending hospital visitation rights to partners of LGBT patients. One of the most memorable and impactful moments I’ve been fortunate to witness during his term occurred during Obama’s 2009 Pride month commemoration at the White House. In remarks to LGBT attendees, Obama said, “Welcome to your house.” It was a simple gesture, but one that made a huge impact on those in the room, including me. And it neatly sums up Obama’s approach. We are part of his agenda and welcome in his administration. The same cannot be said of the Republican field, with the possible exception of Jon Hunstman, who’s mired in the back of the pack and last week polled at just 2 percent support in Iowa.

But this isn’t a Bill Clinton/John Kerry moment in which LGBT people are stuck voting for the Democrat not because they are true advocates but because the alternative is so much worse. This time around, in Barack Obama, LGBT voters have a presidential candidate who truly supports them and backs up the words with action. Is Obama perfect? Of course not. But he’s battled a severe recession, multiple wars and an opposition party that has said its No. 1 goal is not to fix the economy or find jobs but rather to limit Obama to one term. In that environment, Obama has performed well on LGBT issues and will surely endorse marriage equality in 2013. The Republican nominee remains to be determined, but if it’s any of the announced candidates, then voters concerned about LGBT equality will have an easy decision one year from now.

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Fathers should speak to kids about drugs, alcohol

Highlight dangers of illicit substances, how to manage peer pressure

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What does it take to be a good father? While there are many answers, it generally involves showing up daily, playing an essential role in their life, being there for them, and loving them unconditionally. 

Fathers are there to provide abundant love and support. Most fathers know the sacrifice it takes to ensure their children are loved and cared for. A father is always there for their kids, offering guidance, support, and education. The greatest joy for any father is seeing their children thrive, do well in life, and be healthy. 

However, things can get derailed in life, and teens and young adults take risks, such as experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Fathers have a responsibility to speak to their kids about drugs and alcohol and help them understand the risks and consequences. 

Data has shown that more than half of LGBTQ youth used alcohol in the last year, and more than one in three LGBTQ youth used marijuana in the previous year. Approximately 11% of LGBTQ youth reported regular use (defined as daily or weekly use) of both alcohol and marijuana.

Illegal drugs today are more readily available than ever before. According to the DEA, drug traffickers have turned smartphones into a one-stop shop to market, sell, buy, and deliver deadly fake prescription pills and other drugs. Amid this ever-changing age of social media influence, kids, teens, and young adults are easily influenced.  

Drug traffickers advertise on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The posts are promptly posted and removed with code words and emojis used to market and sell illicit drugs. Unfortunately, digital media provides an increased opportunity for both marketing and social transmission of risk products and behaviors. 

Fathers are responsible for protecting and preparing our children for the world. Drug education is essential. Take the time to speak to your kids about the dangers of illicit substances, how to avoid and manage peer pressure, and what to look for. Be prepared to share personal experiences and help them understand that some choices have consequences. 

However, it can be challenging to see our kids struggle with things in life, and as fathers, we can also face our own difficulties, making it more difficult to help our children. The responsibility of raising children can be a lot; there are many challenges along the way, and the pressure of being a good influence can get the best of us. 

All of this makes it vital not to ignore our mental health; children, especially younger kids, mimic what they see. How we cope with frustration, anger, sadness, or isolation impacts our children in several ways. 

Our actions have consequences. Children see how we handle every situation, and while no father is perfect, we must be conscious of the fact they are impressionable when they are young. They look up to us, mimic our actions, and see when we are doing well in life mentally.   

The key for fathers caring for children is to take the time to care for themselves. However, if you are struggling, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Taking care of your mental health is the same as taking care of your physical health; it is an integral part of your well-being and contributes to you being the best father you can be.

Nickolaus Hayes is a healthcare professional in the field of substance use and addiction recovery and is part of the editorial team at DRS. His primary focus is spreading awareness by educating individuals on the topics surrounding substance use.

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In debate, Biden must stay on offense

President needs more lines like ‘I am running against a 6-year-old’

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President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

On June 27, President Joe Biden will debate the man he has called a six-year-old. A great line, and he needs a few more like that. Unless there is a clear stumble by either candidate, we know what they will say. Trump will call Biden ‘sleepy Joe,’ among other names. But the reality is, people are used to it. They are not as used to Biden returning the favor. And Biden, aside from referring to Trump as a convicted felon, needs some lines that will make headlines the next day. Something with a little humor in it, but still making a strong point. 

Trump is scary. The recent column in the Washington Post on how Russ Vought, the former president’s budget director, is laying the groundwork for a broad expansion of presidential powers, is truly frightening. Now if it were me, I would be able to use my usual litany of words when referring to Trump: racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic pig, found liable for sexual assault, and convicted felon. I may even go as far as suggesting society replace the word felon with “Trump.” People at trials could be convicted of 34 “Trumps.” But Biden can’t really use that. Maybe Biden can do something like look him in the eye and say, “You can’t really believe all the BS you keep spouting!” Then add, “The world is a complicated place, and even most six-year-olds seem to have a better understanding and grasp of it than you do.” 

Then there is the focus on the very serious part of the debate. The discussion of issues including the economy, abortion, contraception, and foreign policy. Reminding people, it was Trump who killed the immigration bill in Congress, telling energy billionaires if they raise him a billion dollars, in essence bribe him, they can “drill baby drill.” The president needs to speak to African Americans, Latinos, women, and the young. He needs to tell each of those groups what will happen if the six-year-old he is running against, were to become president again. 

Then he needs to look directly into the camera and say to the audience at home, “It isn’t only Trump you need to fear, it is the people he will surround himself with. His sycophants and cult, who will let him get revenge on anyone who says a word against him.” You can count on the fact it will be much worse than the last time around when he tried to stage a coup, because no decent person will work for him.

The first debate will take place 18 weeks before the Nov. 5 election. So much can change between then and the election. Remember when we talked about an October surprise? In today’s world there could be July, August, and September surprises as well. Between now and election day we will be treated to an overload of polling, most of it wrong. We will read hundreds of headlines, many of them clickbait. If you watch TV you will get to listen to hundreds of talking heads, many knowing no more than you. The difference being, they are being paid to spout off on the election, giving not facts, but their opinions. 

It seems every four years we hear this could be the most important, the most crucial, election of our lifetime. Well, this time those who say it just may be telling the truth. One candidate, convicted of 34 “Trumps,” is telling you he will be a dictator, and using Hitler’s words. He has the likes of Russ Voight advising him, and openly says he will seek revenge. Nothing could be more frightening. He is telling the young he doesn’t care about climate change, and telling the poor their programs will be cut because he will cut taxes for the rich.  

He calls our soldiers, those who sacrificed their lives and died in wars, “suckers and losers.” He called John McCain “a war hero because he was captured,” saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.” This frightening, sick man, with the world view of a warped six-year-old, will lead the United States if we aren’t willing to stand up to him, and his MAGA cult. Yes, I am afraid! And you should be too! If you are a woman, a minority, a member of the LGBTQ community, or just poor, be scared, be very afraid! If Trump and his cult win, you will lose what little you think you now have.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Why you should celebrate pride with a musical about GenderCannibalism?

Rose: You Are What You Eat, through June 23 at Woolly Mammoth.

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Photo courtesy of Woolly Mammoth.

Because when I came out as trans my aunt told me it was because I ate my twin in the womb…and that’s what the show is about

Because…remember that time when you decided to dress like exactly like your older sister; or you stole your mothers’ makeup or your brother’s tie; or you decided to dress up like Katherine Hepburn for halloween when you were (i dunno) 10; or you started to look eerily like your lover…..that’s all gender cannibalism

Because because because because because….” because if you know that song this was made for you…and if you don’t…it’s okay, we’ll work on it

Because you can probably find a cute date at the show irl instead of just swiping in your phone…think of theater as an in person dating app without as much drunkenness as the bar

Because maybe that cute date is me

Because you can sing along to music written by a bunch of queers from Philly and D.C. 

Because we are all so hungry and so so thirsty 

Because I guarantee you will leave feeling fed

Because cannibalism puns are tasty

Because it’s a comedy

Because there are pay-what-you-can tickets

Because it plays all of June

Because we are consuming gender all the time but rarely watching what and how we eat it 

Because it’s an anti-assimilationist endeavor: the corporations can’t co-opt “gender cannibalism” for pride month (but there is merchandise available at the show…)

Because it’s only 75 minutes

Because I dance around in tighty whities with socks on my hands

Because there is a free clothing swap and treats in the gallery next to the show

Because why not?

Because you will be cast as my Mother, and that’s the role of a lifetime (or at least my lifetime)

Because you won’t know what will happen; you can’t pause or rewind the show; you will be taking a risk; you will find it’s more than just entertainment; you will feel me talking right to you

Because I’ve been writing this show for 34 years and am finally ready to share it with you

Because I’ll be in the lobby afterwards to say hi, and receive hugs, stories, and phone numbers 

Because I made this piece for you, my dear deviants, trans folx, genderful ones and for the people that care for us. It is a good laugh and a good cry and meant as a gift, a way to end your day feeling loved, nourished and worthy

Because don’t you want to be nourished and reminded that you are loved and worthy? 

And frankly because art needs you to survive and you need art to thrive

Because I took the time to write this letter to you and you took the time to read it, and neither you nor I want to waste that investment

Because you won’t want to miss it

Get tickets to Rose: You Are What You Eat, playing through June 23rd.

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