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Fight the urge to caricature your opponents

Gays aren’t all liberal and flighty; Republicans aren’t all straight and rich

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In Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” a hobgoblin creates a mirror that shows the worst of everyone: moles overwhelm otherwise normal faces and items of beauty resemble boiled spinach. The mirror shatters and shards of it enter peoples’ eyes, which leaves them unable to see good in anyone. This mirror and its shards might be real, for their existence would explain much of our politics.

If there is bipartisan agreement on anything, it is that our side is on the side of angels and the other guys are on Satan’s payroll. The Democrats are out to swindle the public for government bureaucrats, while Republicans are puppets of Wall Street and big business. Gay people are out to destroy the family, while straight people are hypocrites who love marriage’s benefits more than their freshly divorced spouses.

When we view politics through the hobgoblin’s mirror, we see only caricatures, sort of like the ugly litany in the previous paragraph (for the record, the authors would like to state that some of their best friends happen to be straight). Caricatures exist because they’re a tempting shortcut: instead of doing the difficult work of trying to understand people who think differently, we make it easy on ourselves and set up a straw man whose evil justifies knocking him down—if not burning him at the stake.

When TV becomes a screaming match, remember that the people aren’t yelling at each other. They’re yelling at a caricature. The screaming heads on TV are putting on a show; the other guy didn’t take an oath saying, “evil, be thou my good,” but he looked at facts and drew a different conclusion. His conclusion might be wrong, but it was probably arrived at honestly, and screaming at him is unlikely to change his mind and likely to harden his heart. Worse, anger grows when we feed it, so screaming leads to more screaming.

It would be lovely, yet naive, to say that all we need to do to stop the screaming is to stop screaming. This simple solution doesn’t work because an underlying cause of anger is the reliance on the caricature. We do not rid ourselves of caricatures by holding hands and singing Kumbaya. Caricatures are created in part because we look at others through the hobgoblin’s mirror; ironically enough, we can rid ourselves of them when we use that mirror on ourselves.

Looking at ourselves thus is unpleasant. Do our most bitter critics have valid points? If they do, we must overcome them. Self-criticism is painful, and less fun than criticizing others, but if we do the latter without the former, we too become the caricatures. We hate it when others make uninformed, unthinking judgments of us, but we easily do it to others—just because it’s easy.

When we assume the worst about people with whom we disagree, we caricature ourselves.  With our friends and people we love, we are quick to attempt to try to see how they might see the world when they do things we don’t understand. We are usually less understanding with political adversaries. As soon as we begin to hurl accusations of bad faith around, we stop ourselves from understanding others and make it harder for them to care enough to understand us. People with different opinions from us are not caricatures, and should not be treated as such.

In a strange sense, we become invisible when we’re caricatured. Someone looks at a person and based on a caricature makes a series of assumptions: if gay, then promiscuous and liberal and flighty; if conservative, then stodgy and rich and straight; and so on. These caricatures are usually of us at our worst.

The first step to stopping the politics of caricature is not to become horrible caricatures ourselves. It’s hard work and less rewarding than a gig as a screaming head — but whoever said that being gay or political was going to be a lucrative cinch? Others will treat us badly, but when we overcome the temptation to caricature others, we make it harder to be ourselves caricatured. And when others stop seeing caricatures and start seeing us at our best, we might even change minds and hearts.

Robert Turner is president of the D.C. chapter of Log Cabin Republicans. Reach him at [email protected] or @DCBigPappa on Twitter. Mike Hubbard is a board member of the D.C. chapter of Log Cabin. Reach him at [email protected] or @mikeahub on Twitter.

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  1. Doctor Whom

    December 16, 2011 at 9:11 am

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, two common failings in mainstream queer activism are that we try to challenge our opponents’ ideas by remaining willfully ignorant of what those ideas even are and that we do not pay enough attention to how the fence-sitters will perceive our actions. For example, I have heard activists justify a publicity stunt that made us look spectacularly bad to the general public by arguing the “fact” that Communion represents the minister or religious institution, as opposed to any connection that it might have to Jesus Christ. Even worse, when I pointed out the issue to one activist, he insisted on wallowing in his willful ignorance.

    Activists’ ignorance of Christianity is especially frustrating since Christians have made such an effort to make the needed information available. How often do you hear that Christians refuse to discuss their beliefs?

    The above applies to secular political ideologies as well. Many people in the P.C. left tend to lump everyone who disagrees with them into some undifferentiated “right.” What do neocons, theocons, paleocons, populist conservatives, limited-government libertarians, and anarcho-capitalists all have in common, other than the “fact” that they are all on the “right”? An argument that would make perfect sense to an Objectivist might deeply offend a traditionalist conservative, and vice versa. Moreover, we should stop using terms like “corporatism” and “laissez-faire” without looking up what they mean.

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Opinions

The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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Breaking barriers as an out trans ‘Jeopardy’ champion

Amy Schneider’s run inspires us all

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Amy Schneider (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)

“When was the last time anybody said ‘wow!’” a friend asked me.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone I know (including me) had any “Wow!” moments. Until I heard about trans woman and software engineering manager Amy Schneider’s 29-game winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

You wouldn’t think anything could dispel our COVID exhaustion and political divisiveness. Yet, news about a champion on “Jeopardy,” a quiz show that has been on TV since 1964, has broken through our gloom.

In our culture, there are few things that everyone loves. But, “Jeopardy” is beloved by many, from theater geeks to 80-year-old sports nuts. A progressive friend was over the moon when his brother was a “Jeopardy” contestant. A buddy, a hetero (non-Trump) Republican, is a “Jeopardy” fanatic and a gay librarian pal is a “Jeopardy” freak.

Many of us daydream about being on “Jeopardy.” But we know that we wouldn’t have a chance on this legendary quiz show with its deceptively simple format: You give the answer to the (often incredibly hard) clues in the form of a question. You have to have a strategic military commander’s and a world-class athlete’s coordination: so you can press the buzzer to answer the clue.

The game’s categories run the gamut from opera to mountain ranges. Most of us, mere mortals, would be lucky to know even one category in the first round of the game. Let alone in the “Double Jeopardy” round or the “Final Jeopardy” clue. I might jump on clues about Katharine Hepburn movies or M&Ms. But that would be it for me.

It’s exciting to watch a “Jeopardy” contestant become a long-running champion. You marvel at the player’s intelligence, endurance, and nerve. It’s thrilling when the contestant on a winning-streak is part of your community.

Many of us LGBTQ “Jeopardy” fans are thrilled by Schneider’s record-setting winning streak. As I write this, Schneider has won more than $1 million in 29 games of “Jeopardy.” She is the fifth millionaire in “Jeopardy” history, and only the fourth player to reach this milestone in the regular season. She has won more than any other female “Jeopardy” contestant.

Schneider, like so many of us, doesn’t want to be defined by her gender identity or sexuality. Schneider’s life is multi-faceted; she has many interests. Schneider lives with her girlfriend Genevieve. They have a cat named Meep.

Yet, Schneider doesn’t want to hide that she’s trans. On “Jeopardy,” Schneider brilliantly dealt with this dilemma. She didn’t make a big deal about being out. She just wore the trans Pride flag pin.

“It was something that I wanted to get out there and to show my pride in while not making it the focus of what I was doing there,” Schneider told the New York Times. “Because I was just there to answer trivia questions and win money.”

As a cisgender lesbian, I can’t speak to how Schneider’s record-setting “Jeopardy” streak feels to transgender people.

But, as a trans ally, I’m cheering for Schneider. Kudos for her bravery! At a time when many states are passing anti-trans laws, it takes guts to be out on TV and the Internet.

Few things are as mainstream as “Jeopardy.” I bet that many “Jeopardy” viewers who are frightened at the idea of trans people, will become more comfortable with transgender people after watching Schneider on the popular quiz show. Because folks on TV come into our living and bedrooms and we feel as if we know them after watching them for a while.

“Amy looks like everybody else,” my neighbor said when I told her Schneider was trans. “She doesn’t act odd. She’s not strange.”

Transgender people encounter violence and discrimination in everything from housing to health care to employment.

I know Schneider’s “Jeopardy” triumph won’t end transphobia. But her winning streak will go a long way toward jumpstarting a change in hearts and minds.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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SCARY: Tucker Carlson now the conscience of GOP

Cruz bows down, kisses ring of Fox host

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Tucker Carlson (Screen capture via Fox on YouTube)

The Republican Party has sunk to a new low, hard to do, when a sleazebag like Tucker Carlson is now their conscience. Seeing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) groveling before him is laughable, disgusting, and frightening all at the same time. 

As reported in Rolling Stone, Cruz said, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.” Then “Cruz was lambasted by Tucker Carlson that night, prompting him to hop on Carlson’s show Thursday and beg for forgiveness. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said before Carlson cut him off and said he didn’t believe him. Cruz took it up a notch, stammering through an absurd bit about how he wasn’t talking about the “patriots across the country supporting President Trump,” only those who assaulted police officers, and that he’s always described anyone who assaults a cop as a terrorist.

Carlson has made a career of being a pompous commentator. Interestingly he worked at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before finally landing at Fox in 2009. According to his Wikipedia page he went to Trinity College where he earned a bachelor’s degree and Carlson’s Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the “Dan White Society,” an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the CIA, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that “they’ll take anybody.” Reading this clearly raised my opinion of the CIA and based on what we see in some media today I agree with Carlson’s father on his view of journalism. 

When you have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor those who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and only two Republicans show up, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president, one understands the influence Carlson has on the GOP. The rest were afraid of being criticized on-air by him or lambasted by Trump. 

Dick Cheney remarked on the GOP, “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.” He spoke to ABC News saying, “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution.” 

There is a leadership void in the Republican Party today. Their so-called leaders are afraid to say what they think if it differs in any way from Trumpism or Carlson’s view of the world, which requires total fealty to Trump. He found a home on Fox where he can lie with impunity and have millions believe his lies. 

President Biden said, in what many think was the best speech of his presidency so far, these people are “holding a dagger to the neck of democracy.” He went on to say, “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” 

Tucker Carlson and his ilk have never bothered to answer a question the president threw at them, which is how they can accept all their down ballot victories, governors, and members of Congress, which occurred on the same ballots, cast by the same people, on the same day, as those for president. Of course, Carlson has no need to make sense, tell the truth, or speak rationally because of his platform on Fox, which doesn’t require that.

My question is whether Carlson is as dumb as he makes himself sound or is he brilliant and this is all a big act? Either way the acolytes that follow Trump don’t seem to care and are bowing down to Carlson’s big audience. It’s as if he can tell any Republican senator or congressperson, or Republican candidate for those jobs, to just ‘bend over and take it’ and they do. All we can do is mourn for the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower. Non-Trumpers will have to work hard and speak out if they ever want to resurrect a GOP that can be respected.

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

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