Connect with us

Opinions

The LGBT love affair with ‘hate’

Reaction by some to Gallaudet controversy is indefensible

Published

on

For many in the LGBT community the word “hate” is no longer a noun or a verb. It’s simply an overused adjective with which some have fallen in love.

Following the controversial decision last week by Gallaudet University to place Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Angela McCaskill on paid administrative leave in response to her having signed a ballot petition in her residential locale in Maryland to qualify a voter referendum on the state’s pending same-sex marriage law, consternation and condemnation was the overwhelming reaction.

McCaskill, a 23-year employee at the D.C. campus of the nation’s leading university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, is the first deaf African-American female to earn her Ph.D. from Gallaudet. She was suspended by President Alan Hurwitz following a complaint by a faculty colleague, reportedly an out lesbian, who had discovered McCaskill’s name on the list of signatories published by the Washington Blade.

In announcing the decision, Hurwitz indicated that McCaskill’s petition signing had caused members of the university to be “concerned and confused” – terms more aptly self-applied.

Gallaudet proved more than a tad bit ironic in demonstrating an inability to tolerate a diversity of opinion by its own diversity officer. Although irrelevant, it soon became known that McCaskill had not signed the ballot petition as a result of any anti-gay animus, instead considering it a legislative issue best decided by the democratic process.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, other same-sex marriage supporters and Marylanders for Marriage Equality quickly criticized the university’s decision to punish McCaskill and called for her immediate reinstatement. “We strongly disagree with the decision,” Josh Levin, campaign manager for the organization supporting approval of Question 6, said in a statement. The group also placed an ad in The Capital newspaper condemning the suspension, noting that the issue was “being able to express one’s opinions, freely, and participate in the political process.”

The Washington Post editorialized against the university action, pointing out “there is no evidence that her views on gay marriage, whatever they are, affected her performance at work. To the contrary, until now she was known for supporting a new resource center for gay students on campus. Firing, or threatening to fire, a diversity officer for off-campus political activity strikes us as inconsistent with ‘open sharing of thoughts and ideas.’”

Maryland State Rep. Aisha Braveboy, chair of the legislature’s Black Caucus joined McCaskill at a press conference outside the State Capitol Building in Annapolis this week, indicating that the Caucus was “highly troubled” that Gallaudet would punish its Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion.

Also troubling was the frequently vitriolic comments posted online at mainstream media news reports and on both LGBT and general audience blogs supporting the institution’s indefensible actions.

Worse, a number of the commentaries introduced a new term into the vernacular: “Hate voting.”

This outrageous epithet is presumably reserved for those with opposing political views. A companion expression to the milder “hate chicken,” recently espoused regarding Chick-fil-A.

Is alleged “hate voting” a “hate crime”?

Friends and relatives reportedly described McCaskill encountering “why do you hate me?” inquiries.

Voter petitions are available for public inspection, including for the purpose of verifying ballot qualification. Technology allows easy dissemination of names and addresses.

Although access to such information is a little creepy and can lead to abuse, that genie now roams outside the bottle. However, the notion that identifying neighbors and coworkers with differing political views will result in Kumbaya doorstep dialogue is disingenuous. It will garner further public process disengagement and make petition signature gathering more difficult.

Hurwitz announced on Tuesday the option for McCaskill to return to her job, likely fearing a lawsuit and ongoing blowback. However, he indicated there were unspecified hoops through which she needed to jump.

A public apology is what is called for, Mr. Hurwitz, plus maybe a few extra credit courses in constitutional law.

Maryland voters will soon decide the fate of marriage equality. Let’s hope they overlook Gallaudet University’s boneheaded actions against a fellow citizen and the “hate reaction” by some members and supporters of the LGBT community.

All we can hope is that they not hate us.

Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at [email protected].

Continue Reading
Advertisement
6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Johnathan Ammons

    October 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Oh yes, it wasn't animus, she just thought people should get to vote on civil rights. Completetly understandable. For, you know, someone that doesn't understand the history of civil rights and how mob rule and civil rights are a bad combination.

    So hey… she's either an idiot or dishonest. Not sure either helps her case.

    But regardless… if I were a student or faculty at the university? After hearing about her signing the petition I wouldn't trust her to be the advocate she's supposed to be. Call that petty, if you will, but I've never wanted to vote on *your* marriage, and the idea that you get to vote on mine isn't "democratic", it's tyranny by the mob.

  2. M Viator

    October 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    The author is mistaken: take a look at the 2008 case of Crystal Dixon, Assoc. VP of Human Resources who was fired for anti-LGBT remarks, sued for free speech grounds, and was rejected by the Federal District Court due to the fact that as a public employee, her words were sufficiently insubordinate enough to her job title to merit the firing.

    We do not have unlimited, untethered liberty. The author carrying on and making a ridiculous charade of his righteous indignation is laughable. Stop draping yourself in the Constitution: if you don’t even know the relevant case law, you have no business editorializing.

  3. Sweetfunkystuff

    October 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Amen, Johnathan! I was wondering how to word my comments, but you took the words right out of my mouth.

    Boo-hoo, she’s encountered people asking her why she hates them! Considering that, to right-minded individuals, the battle for marriage equality IS a civil rights battle, and opposition to said equality (or, in this case, tacit support of said opposition) can logically be considered to be borne of bigotry and hatred, what else are LGBT people and our allies to think?

    Since this woman is (like me) African-American, perhaps someone SHOULD ask her if, almost 50 years ago, SHE would’ve been okay letting the citizens vote on HER civil rights. If she were to indicate that she would, then she’d be either a liar or a self-hating moron.

    And, really, so what that she recently supported a resource center for gay students on campus. And? Are we really going to play this game where we treat bigotry like a black-and-white phenomenon when it really is, many, many times, a matter of gradation? As in, some people are fine with gay people, just as long as we know our place. Hmmm, where have I heard that before with regard to another unjustly vilified group of Americans?

    Should she be reinstated? I don’t know, but I do know that, if a white director of diversity had signed a petition allowing people to vote on whether or not blacks should be able to move into white neighborhoods, I would be real leery of having such a person continue in that post.

  4. Kira

    October 18, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    She didn’t do it out of animus, she just thought our rights are “a legislative issue best decided by the democratic process”.. So when do we get to vote on her rights? Not out of hate or anything, just because we think they’re “a legislative issue best decided by the democratic process”.

  5. Tom

    October 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    The biggest irony is that Gallaudet is probably in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act!

  6. Anonymous

    October 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    I'd sign some petition too, if I knew I'd get to go off on "paid administrative leave" for a few weeks. Free vacation! Yay!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinions

Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

‘History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas’

Published

on

National Book Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

I knew Helen Keller was a DeafBlind activist. But, until recently, I didn’t know that some of her books were torched.

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1933 Germany, the Nazis added “How I Became a Socialist,” by Keller to a list of “degenerate” books. Keller’s book, along with works by authors from H.G. Wells to Einstein were burned. 

The Nazi book burnings were horrific, you might think, but what does this have to do with the queer community now?

I speak of this because a nano-sec of the news tells us that book censorship, if not from literal fires, but from the removal from school libraries, is alive and well. Nationwide, in small towns and suburbs, school boards, reacting to pressure from parents and politicians, are removing books from school libraries. Many of these books are by queer authors and feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Until recently, I didn’t worry that much about books being banned. My ears have pricked up, every year, in September when Banned Books Week is observed. Growing up, my parents instilled in me their belief that reading was one of life’s great pleasures as well as a chance to learn about new ideas – especially, those we disagreed with. The freedom to read what we choose is vital to democracy, my folks taught me. 

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Mein Kampf,’” my Dad who was Jewish told me, “I’ll defend to my death against its being banned.”

“Teachers should be allowed to teach it,” he added, “so kids can learn what a monster Hitler was.”

In this country, there have always been people who wanted to ban books from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In the 1920s, in the Scopes trial, a Tennessee science teacher was fined $100 for teaching evolution. (The law against teaching evolution in Tennessee was later repealed.)

But, these folks, generally, seemed to be on “the fringe” of society. We didn’t expect that book banning would be endorsed by mainstream politicians.

Until lately.

Take just one example of the uptake in book-banning: In September, the Blade reported, Fairfax County, Virginia public school officials said at a school board meeting that two books had been removed from school libraries to “reassess their suitability for high school students.”

Both books – “Lawn Boy” a novel by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by non-binary author Maia Koabe feature queer characters and themes, along with graphic descriptions of sex.

Opponents of the books say the books contain descriptions of pedophilia. But, many book reviewers and LGBTQ students as well as the American Library Association dispute this false claim.

The American Library Association honored both books with its Alex Award, the Associated Press reported. The award recognizes the year’s “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

Given how things have changed for us queers in recent years – from marriage equality to Pete Buttigieg running for president – it’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash. As part of the blowback, books by queer authors with LGBTQ+ characters have become a flashpoint in the culture wars.

As a writer, it’s easy for me to joke that book banning is fabulous for writers. Nothing improves sales more than censorship.

Yet, there’s nothing funny about this for queer youth. My friend Penny has a queer son. “LGBTQ kids need to read about people like themselves,” she told me. “It’s horrible if queer kids can’t find these books. They could become depressed or even suicidal.”

If we allow books to be banned, our freedom to think and learn will be erased.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote in a letter to students in Nazi Germany.

Anti-queer officials may remove LGBTQ books from school libraries. But, our thoughts will not be unshelved.

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

Continue Reading

Opinions

Thanksgiving is a time to share

Take a moment to think about what you can do to help others

Published

on

This Thanksgiving, many of us will once again celebrate with family and friends around the dinner table. Sadly at too many tables friends and family members will be missing. They will be one of the over 766,000 Americans who lost their lives to coronavirus. May the shared grief over lost loved ones cause us to try to bridge our differences and lift each other. As those of us with plenty sit down for dinner let us not forget the many in the world not so fortunate and think of what we can do to make their lives better.

In the midst of the pandemic we defeated a president who through his words and actions tore our country apart — a president who managed to poison relationships among family and friends. We elected a president who we felt would try to unite the nation. But we know that has yet to happen and the recent reaction to the not-guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial shows us that. The use of race-baiting in the recent Virginia governor’s election shows us that. We still suffer from the implicit permission the former president gave to some Americans to once again give public voice to their sexism, homophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. That didn’t suddenly end with his loss. While we cannot pretend those feelings weren’t always there it seemed we had reached a point in American society where people understood you couldn’t voice them in public without rebuke. While it will take many years to put that genie back in the bottle we need to try if we are to move forward again. Around our Thanksgiving table is a place to begin. I am an optimist and believe we can do that even while recognizing it won’t be easy.

Thanksgiving should be a time to look within ourselves and determine who we are as individuals and what we can do to make life better for ourselves, our families, and others here in the United States and around the world.

Around our Thanksgiving table we should take a moment to think about what we can do to help feed the hungry, house the homeless, and give equal opportunity to everyone who wants to work hard. Maybe even give some thought as to how we change policies causing institutional racism to ones giving everyone a chance to succeed. It is a moment to think about how we can open up the eyes of the world to understand how racism, homophobia, and sexism hurt everyone, not just those who are discriminated against.

We must renew our efforts to heal the rifts in our own families and make an effort to try to see each other in a more positive light. If we start to do that with those closest to us we might have a fighting chance to do it with others.

I recognize my life is privileged having just returned from a 14-day transatlantic cruise. My Thanksgiving weekend will be spent with friends in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and we will remember our experiences over the past year. For many it also begins the Christmas season and the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend each year Rehoboth Beach lights its community Christmas tree. So surely we will talk about what that season means to each of us.

For me each year it means thinking about which charities I can support as the requests for end-of-year gifts arrive. It is a time to think about volunteering some precious time for a cause you care about.
Wherever you live, there are many chances to volunteer and do your part to make a difference for others. The rewards of doing so will come back to you in abundance. As anyone who has helped someone else will tell you the feeling you get for having done so is wonderful.

So wishing all my friends and those of you who I may be lucky enough to call friends in the future, a very happy Thanksgiving. May this holiday find you happy, healthy and sharing peaceful times with those you love.

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

Continue Reading

Commentary

Fighting for equality for decades, trans elders still face endless hardships

Lisa Oakley rejected by 60 long-term care facilities in Colo.

Published

on

transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

November 20 will mark the 22nd International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international event honoring and commemorating the many transgender people murdered in transphobic hate crimes every year.

Since 2013, at least 200 transgender people have been murdered in the United States alone, 80 percent being Black and Latinx women. This number is undoubtedly an underestimate, as many murders go unreported and trans victims often are misgendered by law enforcement.

These murders are not isolated crime statistics. They grow out of a culture of violence against transgender and non-binary (TGNB) people that encompasses stigma, exclusion, discrimination, poverty, and lack of access to essential resources, including health care, employment and housing. 

These challenges result in early death. In Latin America, for example, it has been reported that the average life expectancy of a transgender person is only 35 years.

This climate of stigma and transphobia is particularly challenging for TGNB older people, who face extraordinary hardships due both to the cumulative impact of lifetimes of discrimination and regular mistreatment in their elder years. Due to isolation from family and greater medical and financial needs, trans older people are more likely to require professionalized elder services and care. 

Unfortunately, these services and the facilities that provide them are often either unavailable to TGNB elders, or hostile to them. A national survey of LGBTQ+ older people by AARP found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed were concerned about how they would be treated in a long-term care setting. This includes the fear of being refused or receiving limited care, in danger of neglect or abuse, facing verbal or physical harassment, or being forced to hide or deny their identity once again. 

This is a sobering reality. In October, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders filed a claim against Sunrise Assisted Living in Maine, which openly denied admission to an older transgender woman because of her gender identity. 

In Colorado, Lisa Oakley was, astonishingly, rejected by 60 long-term care facilities, which her caseworker ascribes to Lisa’s gender identity. One facility that agreed to admit Lisa would only house her with a male roommate. 

After waiting far too long for welcoming care, Lisa eventually got help from SAGE and other community supporters and found a home in Eagle Ridge of Grand Valley. Fortunately, Eagle Ridge has participated in specialized training to be LGBTQ+-welcoming. While Lisa feels welcomed at Eagle Ridge and has made friends, she has been forced to live far from a community she loves. 

These cases in Maine and Colorado are just the tip of the iceberg regarding the discrimination faced by TGNB elders. That’s why it’s so important that Congress pass the Equality Act, which would once and for all prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in key areas like employment, housing, and care and services.

And while legal progress is important, it’s not enough. TGNB elders need more equity in their day to day lives. Older transgender people are more likely to experience financial barriers than non-transgender elders, regardless of age, income and education.

They’re also at a higher risk of disability, general poor mental and physical health, and loneliness, compared to their cisgender counterparts.

These experiences have been part of everyday life for trans elders for far too long. We continue to see them struggle with the long-term effects of transphobia and violence every day. That’s why organizations like SAGE are stepping up our support for TGNB elders by investing $1 million to support TGNB-focused services and advocacy both in New York and nationwide.

And we are continually amazed by the resilience of TGNB elders, creating communities built on their strength and courage. 

Their resilience is nothing new. It dates back generations and was evident during the Stonewall Uprising. Over the years, trans luminaries like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Victoria Cruz—leaders of the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement—and countless others have repeatedly proved that they will not be invisible.  

We see this determination in so many programs and activities led by trans elders at SAGE. 

For example, the TransGenerational Theater Project brings together transgender people of all ages to create theater from their experiences and perspectives. These types of elder-driven programs serve as powerful reminders that transgender older people are leading their lives with resilience, creativity, and perseverance, despite the dangers they face. 

Transgender and non-binary elders have survived and fought for equality for decades. They are brave. They are strong. They are leaders. Here at SAGE, we will continue to walk side-by-side with them as we continue the fight to ensure TGNB elders get the respect, change, and acceptance they deserve.

Michael Adams is the CEO of SAGE, the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ elders.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular