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Readers respond to Creating Change controversy

Respect for diversity means respect for differences of opinion

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Creating Change, gay news, Washington Blade
Creating Change, gay news, Washington Blade

Protesters on Jan. 23, 2016, gather outside reception at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change Conference in Chicago that was to have featured two LGBT rights advocates from Israel. (Photo courtesy of Andy Thayer/Gay Liberation Network)

Re: “Creating Shame,” op-ed by Kevin Naff:

You could not have said it better.  These were not protesters, they were a mob.  I was there. A private Jewish guest going to a private reception when set upon by the Creating Change mob. I have been an activist with a decades-long pedigree of working in large and small ways working for social justice. I have faced down Jerry Falwell, debated on TV with top spokespeople from Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. I have sat on a plane surrounded by fundamentalist anti-gay PromiseKeepers. I have NEVER faced such a mob of indiscriminate hate. ALL of us were called “motherfucking racists”, compared to the Ku Klux Klan and when in the room, several of them broke in and were screaming that we weren’t really queer and queer activists, that we were killing babies in Israel.

It was assault in that we were surrounded, denied passage, verbally abused and we saw what happened if someone shouted back. The gentleman who is described as “grabbing a Palestinian flag” was in fact attacked by that protester. He was wearing a Yarmulke, and the protester wrapped the flag over his face, covering his eyes, nose and face and jerked his head back.

I personally know many of the attendees, who have given much of their lives and treasure to multiple social justice causes, including that of people of color and to supporting organizations like Jerusalem Open House. We were all tarred with this brush of hate, indiscriminately. Jerusalem Open House was founded about 20 years ago as a community center for Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. These were brave LGBT activists in the middle east who have created real, true, positive change. Yet this event to welcome and help raise money for them to continue their activities was shut down hatefully not by the religious right, not by ISIS, but by other LGBT activists.

Respectfully I ask:
How many protests were there against LGBT Muslims — as clearly they must represent the totalitarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries where the laws prescribe execution for LGBT people? Oh, they don’t represent those governments any more than we did? Why did we catch double-barreled verbal violence?

How many protests were there against LGBT Russian Orthodox? That church in Russia supports more yet more vile oppressive anti-gay legislation currently in there parliament?

How many protests were there against LGBT Nigerians, Ugandans and other African nations that now have laws on the books that imprison LGBT people?

How many “Pinkwashing” protests were there against every American city that solicits LGBT tourism while maintaining police forces and neighborhoods that oppress people of color?

How would any of the mob (not protesters) feel if every conference they went to people would equate them as representative partners of the Chicago Police Department and run them out of town?

No, in fact, there was only one of this scale. We were not allowed to pass to our “safe space” — and in fact one of the protesters inside our reception screamed in my face that we did not deserve safe space. A website called the Electronic Intifada posted video of the event with the note “No peace! No justice!” Featured in the video was a leading Rabbi of Chicago – an incredibly gentle, yet strong consistent voice for kindness and justice in our community, including justice for people of color, for workers, for interfaith respect and dialogue. He has been a force of humanity and care at our congregation for people in crisis.

Doesn’t matter. You see, the protesters had no interest in our decades of fight here and Israel for inclusion and justice. They had no interest in what we thought about the situation and whether we had any views in common with them or how we could fight together to improve the situation.

In fact, Israel is the only country in that area with a working free press, a rule of law judiciary, with government funding for art that criticizes the government, a true multiparty system. It has an equivalent of the ACLU, the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, feminist and environmental organizations and those that work for peace.

Had they really wanted dialogue, they might actually have engaged the activists on the front lines of serving both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. I bet they don’t agree with the government either. However, they might have shared what actually works in that complicated area of the world to actually “create change.”

They could have joined with them and us to support a stronger, better Israel and celebrate the works of LGBT activists who risked a lot to build a true safe space for Israelis and Palestinians.

But no indeed…

I have been violated and my friends and co-religionists have been attacked and libeled. I am physically sick from the violence and anti-Semitism that clearly singled us out and turned every one of us from Jews with long accomplished records of commitment to justice into demons worthy of their verbal and physical violence. And how they crow on their websites about how wonderful they were!

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force should be called to account for this violent, aggressive action — for the failure to provide us safe passage and peace within our own event — for the failure to meet their own purposes of using dialogue, safe space and respect for others to build bridges and “create change.”

I have no illusions that the self-righteous mob will ever look in the mirror and see the very hate that they detest in others. But the leaders of this event must.

Alan Amberg

Chicago

Re: “Protesters disrupt reception with Israeli activists,” by Michael K. Lavers:

It is shocking that activists shut down a Shabbat service and meeting because it included Israeli LGBT leaders and U.S. supporters. Jerusalem Open House is a cross-community group that serves both Jews and Arabs, including many gay men from the West Bank. It is part of the solution. The “pinkwashing” protesters could learn about the conflict by talking to these individuals who live with it every day.

Israel is not a racist, apartheid, or colonialist country. The Israeli-Arab conflict is an extremely complex regional conflict. Israel has very real security concerns, as evidenced by the half dozen wars since its founding and the recent knife and car attacks on Jewish civilians and Israeli soldiers. Jews have always lived in Palestine and in the Middle East, and have a right to national self-determination, as do Palestinians, Kurds and others. Israelis and their American supporters should have the right to convene at a U.S. LGBT activist conference. Respect for diversity includes respect for differences of opinion regarding a complicated geopolitical and historical conflict.

Sean Cahill

Boston

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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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