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Some gays and lesbians aren’t ready to win

Perpetuating angst and coercing conformity no way to celebrate equality



ideological hegemony, gay news, Washington Blade
ideological hegemony, gay news, Washington Blade

Inclination toward ideological hegemony and political retribution of the sort that would make Chairman Mao proud is substitute for an appropriate sense of communal celebration and circumspect congeniality.

What’s up with us?

The news on the gay civil rights and marriage equality fronts has been nothing short of stupendous of late. Except for the attitudes and behavior of some LGBT people, including many community activists.

Inclination toward ideological hegemony and political retribution of the sort that would make Chairman Mao proud is substitute for an appropriate sense of communal celebration and circumspect congeniality. It seems we’ve become so accustomed to anxiety and alienation that gays don’t know how to be happy.

A broad-based significant majority of Americans now support the national legalization of same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court, having this week heard what is likely to be the historically definitive pleading on the issue, is expected to establish a right to marriage when announcing a ruling in June.

A result of the growing “evolution” on gay marriage, super-majorities also back equal treatment and civic protections on the basis of sexual orientation. The controversy and overwhelming opposition in recent days to attempts by several states to carve out an overly expansive “religious freedom” exception to equal protection provisions and exceeding existing federal standard proved political poison and were quashed.

Never before has support been stronger or transformation of the cultural landscape engaged every demographic group. Some skirmishes remain, but the war is over.

This lynchpin for full equality now includes supportive majorities in every region, among every ethnicity and all age groups under 65, with seniors evenly split. In fact, far fewer than half of all Republicans are strongly opposed, with younger party-affiliated voters fully in support. The leading GOP presidential contenders, however, are at that awkward tongue-twisting stage Democrats stumbled through not so long ago, burdened by voter participation rates of far less supportive Christian evangelicals in primaries and caucuses.

Politicians, as usual, aren’t leading indicators of public opinion or social change.

Businesses and corporate leaders continue their critical leading role in advancing LGBT rights, insisting on the legal uniformity necessary to attract talent and deploy personnel without concern for a byzantine patchwork of laws. Business makes the case that hampering employment benefits and tangling human resource administration in a labyrinth of variable and contradictory regulations is not only an obstacle to economic development but is something that commerce simply won’t countenance.

Instead of heralding these allies and achievements, some are obsessed with preserving a perpetual state of disproportionate collective angst. The worry, of course, is organizational money machines need to keep us crapping in our pants to keep the cash coming in.

Worse is the way we treat our own. Two instances in the past week are clear illustrations.

When generation-spanning Olympian and reality show star Bruce Jenner indicated he’s a conservative Republican, when discussing being transgender in a national television interview, the denunciations and condemnations were swift. Taunts that he’s “self-loathing” or a “traitor” and “despicable” for his political beliefs were emblematic of a lack of tolerance for divergence of thought.

The news that two prominent gay hoteliers, owners of multiple businesses and most of the gay venues on Fire Island, had invited Ted Cruz to a small meet-and-greet to primarily discuss non-gay issues sparked rapid-fire pillory. Lost in the outcry was the fundraising event they had recently hosted for 900 contributors to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Calls for a boycott of their enterprises ensued and they were reduced to issuing an “apology” to avoid continued harassment.

The irony is that it is our very diversity of person, place and politics that has accelerated our acceptance. Shared situations, entwined experiences and common concerns with others have allowed familiarity to engender support for fairness and freedom.

Attempting to outlaw political opinion is not only self-defeating, it’s doomed to failure in a gay-integrated world. Why do we remain tolerant of an abhorrent petty mob mentality demanding “groupthink” and pouncing on nonconformists?

For all the chatter about a need for “safe spaces” it’s time we create such for one another.


Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at [email protected].

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  1. MPetrelis

    May 4, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    What silliness! Who the heck is trying to outlaw speech, in this age of the web? Mark Lee sure knows how to write a dramatic and empty essay.

  2. Seer Clearly

    May 4, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Mark, what ARE you talking about? “Outlaw” political opinion? What law?
    What’s going on here is that a civil rights movement must have a zero tolerance for those that sleep with the enemy. Hypocrisy will destroy the movement in its ranks. This isn’t about “diversity”: how can you support equal rights for gay people when you support the cause of a politician like Cruz whose vacuous agenda is heavily reliant on demonizing gay people? Who cares if you arrange a fundraiser for Hillary when you are too blind to avoid supporting someone who eagerly wishes to undo her work? I’m all for diversity and shared experiences and making friends across party lines. But someone on the other side who claims to be your friend and then heads home to resume stabbing you in the back is no friend.

    What you saw here was no “outlawing” of political opinion; rather, it was the expression of it. I’m disappointed that I have to use the same (flawless) argument on you that I have to use on right-wing-christo-fascists: intolerance of intolerance is not intolerance, it’s standing up for what’s right!

  3. Shelter Somerset

    May 4, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    I agree with Mark Lee. The amazing progress gays have made in America can’t be better summed up than two openly gay businessmen in an open relationship sitting down to discuss business and politics with a presidential candidate. Why does the gay establishment find this so abhorring? It’s a shame the men apologized to save their businesses when they should have been heralded as exemplars of the gay rights movement.

  4. cminca

    May 4, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    You are a fool.

    Has Roe v. Wade guaranteed the freedom of women over their own bodies? Or does the fight continue?

    Did the Civil Rights act bring a level playing field to all? Or does the fight continue?

    Did the allies victory in WWII bring an end to anti-Semitism? Or does the fight continue?

    And Ian and Mati didn’t host a fundraiser for Clinton. A fundraiser was held at their hotel. Big difference.

    • Shelter Somerset

      May 4, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      You’re absolutely correct. Liberty does need to be constantly guarded and nurtured. Which is why many of us are leery of the Left Wing as much as the Right. Which is why I ask the gay establishment–had the hoteliers opened their doors to ISIS would you have been equally appalled? Track record says no. It’s that kind of self-defeating hypocrisy that needs to be brought out into the open, and I’m glad there are writers like Mark Lee, people truly concerned with individual liberty, willing to take the heat.

      • cminca

        May 5, 2015 at 8:10 am

        “–had the hoteliers opened their doors to ISIS would you have been equally appalled?”

        Yes, because diplomacy at that level needs to be left to professionals–not amateurs. But I am glad to see you are equating one dangerous religious fundamentalists with other dangerous religious fundamentalists.

        These guys didn’t sit down with Cruz to promote gay rights or individual liberty. They’ve changed their story more times than a guilty 4 year old with Oreo all over his face. “It was about Israel….no….it was to introduce and old friend…… was about gay rights……no… was about Obamacare……”.

        What it was about was rich right wing power-f-ing with a guy who has connections. This is Melmann 2.0: “I’m rich, they can’t touch me, and they have powerful financial connections I want to take advantage of. Who cares if they want to strip rights from the LGBT community–I can buy my way out of it affecting me.”

        Their money may buy them in the front door–but the Cruzs of the world are still calling them f—– behind their back.


    May 5, 2015 at 2:54 am

    Gay republicans are all about their money and nothing else!

    • Shelter Somerset

      May 5, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      At least they aren’t hypocrites about it. Who isn’t all about money? It’s how you stay alive.

      • lnm3921

        May 5, 2015 at 7:51 pm

        What a tool. Stop going around calling yourselves gay if you won’t fight for those rights or put them second to everything else. I’m so sick of Gay Republicans/Conservatives using the moniker but always defending and voting for those that do nothing for us or oppose everything that benefits us. It’s more than just be used as a GOP doormat to get special recognition so they can point to you whenever they need to describe themselves as “compassionate conservatives”.
        And no, I’m not an extreme leftist either. I have some conservative views but they don’t trump my views on GLBT equality and justice first.

  6. Kyle

    May 5, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Two major problems with this article: 1) no one is attempting to outlaw any speech or associating with others; but if you say or do something controversial, you are not immune from criticism, even to the level of boycotting; 2) rich people (including rich gay people) are not “our own” – I have no common cause with them, and they have no common cause with me, nor need of my affirmation. What the hell is going on with rich people these days? Why are they whining so much about not being loved by the public? Is it because they’ve finally come up against something money can’t buy, namely respect?

  7. Robert

    May 5, 2015 at 11:55 am

    There is no point in demanding tolerance of others if you refuse to tolerate other people’s ideas, ideals, beliefs, choices, or lack there of, etc. Change does still need to happen, but not at the cost of acting like an ass and taking oneself down, instead of simply being a living example of what you really want others to see. “Be the change you want to see in the world” is not just a bumper sticker. It actually is a way of life. Give it a try?

    Sad that so many comments below are hateful. It is true that when someone fights for so long to get what they want, then they get it, they are so used to fighting that they do not know another way to live. Real change takes real courage…all the way through to the other side of change.

    Thank you Mark for always sticking your neck out to shed light on issues regardless of what others think. If you had to write a story that appeased everyone, what the heck would that look like, and who would read it? lol. Keep doing what your doing.

  8. Robert

    May 5, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Also to a post below regarding “Rich ‘Gay’ people not being our own”?
    It seems that you are equating anyone who is rich as being bad. What about all the ‘rich’ people who have given the Gay community so much financial support to bring about change, (including our government). Many of these rich people are gay.

    How was the Whitman Walker Clinic started? Where would the DC gay community be without the significant financial support ir received to open it’s doors to help so many who could not help themselves. Unfortunately your point is lost on me.

    Most rich people have no desire to be public about their wealth. That seems stems from a true humility and gratitude for what they have. People needing publicity will always clamor for it, regardless of their financial status. THAT is a result of a lack of humility and gratitude in their lives.

    However, all rich people seem to fight to keep money the government tries to take from them. I also fight to keep the government from taking from me what does not belong to them. Is that really really wrong? Does that desire eject me from being part of the gay community?

    • Kyle

      May 5, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      Robert, I’m sure you’re a nice guy, you love your mother, pet dogs, and work hard. But if one of your strongest drives in life is fighting to keep the government from taking from you “what does not belong to them,” then no, I am not “one of your own”. I value significantly different things in life from you. We do not have sufficient commonality, I strongly suspect, to consider each other “one of our own”.

      • Robert

        May 5, 2015 at 5:32 pm

        lol… never said it was the most important thing. The most important thing for me to do is to stop building walls between me and other people. Don’t you think it is better to find similarities instead of differences? Solutions are borne by finding similarities. As well as relationships.

        • Kyle

          May 6, 2015 at 1:17 pm

          I guess I’d have to ask at this point, relationships to what end? If gay marriage becomes the law of the land, then gay Republicans are done with the fighting for gay rights, and with progressive rights in general. They’ll go back to fighting “to keep the government from taking their money”. I on the other hand think marginalized and formerly marginalized people should work together toward comprehensive social and economic justice. In fact I often wonder if even the search for gay marriage rights hasn’t diverted us from larger, more important issues. But I get it: maybe I’m the one who isn’t “one of your own”; maybe I’m the one who doesn’t belong in the “gay community”. I can live with that. Coming out of, and learning to resist, religious fundamentalism, I’m a rebel by nature. The venality of the gay community may simply be another thing to resist.

  9. lnm3921

    May 5, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I’m ready to win, I’ve been ready to win ever since I came out over 30 years ago. But unlike you I’m not a naïve Pollyanna! I’ve been hearing that a majority of Americans support GLBT rights for a long while now, but unless it’s codified in law, it doesn’t mean much does it?
    The SCOTUS may well declare a constitutional right for Gays and Lesbians to marry in June but I seriously doubt that ends the battle. Already Christian conservative groups are saying they won’t accept such a ruling, would push for a Constitutional amendment and would use it as a wedge issue in future elections for years to come. Just like Roe V. Wade didn’t end the battle over abortion rights.
    Did a federal appeals court ruling in Alabama instructing them to issue marriage licenses get them to follow that ruling? Did you know that following the Brown V. Board Education ruling Southern Congressman wrote a “Southern Manifesto” to oppose racial integration and accused the SCOTUS of abusing it’s powers? Sounds quite familiar to what we are experiencing now from the opposition.
    We may have majority support against discrimination yet there is no federal law outlawing GLBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations or services and attempts to pass ENDA go nowhere even when we’ve had a Democratic Majority in Congress and a sitting President who would sign it. Obama’s executive order expires after he leaves office. Assuming a new President will honor it is again only and assumption.
    Spare me the typical whine of gay leaders saying these people are on the wrong side of history. They couldn’t care less.
    Anyone supporting the GOP and people like Cruz in particular within our own community deserve scorn. None of the contenders support our rights. That’s no different that gays in Pre-Nazi Germany supporting Hitler only to be backstabbed once he gained power. If you tell me other things are more important than gay rights then why would you call yourself a gay person or group openly if that is secondary?

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Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation



It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

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

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It doesn’t take a miracle

Hanukkah a time for LGBTQ Jews to celebrate full identity



(Public domain photo)

For Jews around the world, Sunday night marked the beginning of Hanukkah. The story of Hanukkah celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, a small and poorly armed group of Jews who took on, and defeated, one of the world’s most powerful armies. 

Upon entering Jerusalem, the Maccabees saw that there was only enough oil to light the Temple’s eternal flame for one night. But the oil lasted eight nights — enough time for new oil to be prepared. The eternal flame remained lit, and light triumphed over darkness.

The story of Hanukkah was a miracle. While we celebrate and commemorate that miracle, we should also remember that it doesn’t take a miracle for one person to make a difference. 

The entire world is shaking beneath our feet. The climate is in crisis and our planet is in danger. A viral contagion has claimed the lives of millions, and there’s no clear end in sight. Creeping authoritarianism threatens the entire world, including here at home.

Sometimes it seems like it will take a miracle to solve even one of these problems. The reason these problems seem so overwhelming is because they are — no one person can fix it themselves.

Here in the LGBTQ community, we have made enormous strides, and we ought to be proud of them. But there is so much more work to be done.

Not everyone in our community is treated equally, and not everyone has the same access to opportunity. Black, brown and trans LGBTQ people face systemic and structural disadvantages and discrimination and are at increased risk of violence and suicide. It must stop.

These are big problems too, and the LGBTQ people as a collective can help make the changes we need so that light triumphs over darkness. But it doesn’t take a miracle for individuals to light the spark.

Our movement is being held back by the creeping and dangerous narrative that insists that we choose between our identities instead of embracing all of them. 

The presentation of this false choice has fallen especially hard on LGBTQ Jews, many of whom feel a genuine connection to and support for Israel. They feel marginalized when asked to sideline their identity by being told that the world’s only Jewish state shouldn’t even have a place on the map. And they feel attacked when asked about the Israeli government’s policies during a conflict, as if they have some obligation to condemn them and take a stand simply because of their faith.

One of the ways we can shine our light is to fight for an LGBTQ community that is truly inclusive.

This holiday season, pledge to celebrate all aspects of your identity and the rights of LGBTQ people to define their own identities and choose their own paths. If you feel the pressure to keep any part of your identity in the closet, stand up to it and refuse to choose. 

In the face of enormous challenges that require collective action, we must not give up on our power as individuals to do what’s right. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

The tradition of lighting the menorah each night represents ensuring the continuity of that eternal flame. One of the reasons the Hanukkah menorah is displayed prominently in the windows of homes and in public squares is because the light isn’t meant to be confined to the Jewish home. The light is for everyone — and a reminder that we can share it with the world every day to try to make it better.

As long as we keep fighting for justice, we don’t need to perform miracles. But we do need to do our part so that light triumphs over darkness.

It is up to each of us to map out what we can contribute to create a truly inclusive LGBTQ community. This holiday season, be the light. If you can, donate to a group that helps lift LGBTQ youth in crisis. Volunteer your time to fight for the rights and the lives of trans people. And be kind to one another.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or of no faith at all, take this opportunity to share your light with the world. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

Ethan Felson is the executive director of A Wider Bridge.

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Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

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



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.

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