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Gay groups taking on gun issues could backfire

LGBT activists run risk of fracturing efforts with other issues

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guns, gay news, Washington Blade

guns, gay news, Washington BladeLGBT activists have tough issues to grapple with in the wake of the Orlando tragedy.

Do gay activists and organizations run the risk of fracturing equality efforts and the continuing support among constituents for their work by engaging on other political issues, especially when many potential topics enjoy much less than universal, or even broad, support?

Is the sudden addition of advocating for gun control legislation as a component of LGBT political action to become a new line item on the infamous “gay agenda”? Will the political endorsements and candidate rankings of gay rights organizations now include measuring political commitments to specific gun regulations?

These fundamental and problematic observations arise from the political response gay rights groups have proffered in recent days on gun control. It may portend a definitive “fork in the road” for LGBT political leadership and, in particular, some gay activists who have been arguing for a political shift away from a solitary focus on gay equality to encompass other progressive political issues.

The answer could largely determine whether there will continue to be viable political representation on issues directly affecting gays and effectively addressing intrinsic LGBT concerns, or whether gay organizations will instead shift toward engaging in external issues on which not all agree.

When you start scratching below the surface of strong support for background checks for gun purchases, keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists and banning the sale of assault weapons, LGBT opinions begin to diverge on more finite gun control proposals.

Yet gun control laws might be the easiest among the political notions some activists desire intermingling on their preferred long litany of advocacy items, given the relatively strong popular support for specific limited legislation. What happens when left-leaning activists and political party loyalists attempt further extending the “issues of gay concern” to other topics enjoying much less unanimity among an increasingly diverse population with little more than sexual orientation in common?

As assimilation integrates each of us into society, we will more often than not discover that there is a wider range of political opinions in our relatively modest-sized subset than was readily apparent when we were solely focused on shared and unifying personal concerns. Having largely gained the freedom to view our lives and our politics in a more holistic and individualistic manner, any semblance of commonality on non-gay-centric social constructs or political issues is unlikely to prevail.

Local and national gay rights groups should tread carefully on this. If they don’t, LGBT leaders and organizations may find fewer and fewer willing to support them.

 

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

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36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Kyle

    June 30, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    The only gay people who would oppose stricter gun control laws are the numerically insignificant and morally suspect “Log Cabin” types. We cannot let an ethically challenged tiny subset of our community hold us back from doing what we can to prevent more Pulse, Sandy Hook, and Charleston massacres.

    • Lana

      June 30, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      You are a psychopath.

      Thank you to the Pink Pistols an LGBTQ gun rights advocacy group for
      teaching gays and transgenders how to use guns to protect themselves and their loved ones despite people like YOU who want them to be easy prey easy targets.

      Great job Pink Pistols!

      • Foodahz

        July 1, 2016 at 10:34 pm

        And you’re a hyperbolic moron. Kyle doesn’t want anyone to be an easy prey, dope.

      • JackNasty

        July 4, 2016 at 1:52 am

        Look, it’s an NRA sock puppet.

        • BruceMajors4DC

          July 4, 2016 at 5:56 am

          Wow. A parrot just mindlessly making the same reply again and again without any thought whatsoever. Perhaps you were a disarmed gay, a victim of the gun Prohibitionists, and you were gay bashed so savagely by someone who knew you were defenseless that you are no longer capable of normal cognition?

        • parabellum

          July 4, 2016 at 8:05 pm

          As oposed to a central government puppet? Do you have a choice to renew your membership every year?

      • Pat Huffman

        July 4, 2016 at 12:31 pm

        The Pink Pistols do a fantastic job.
        I find it funny that so many of the gay community would have us remain victims, rather than exercise our 2nd Ammendment Rights and protect ourselves.

      • Michelle's Tamale

        July 11, 2016 at 5:25 pm

        That must be a room full of limp wrists!

    • BruceMajors4DC

      July 4, 2016 at 12:06 am

      Pink Pistols membership double the week after Orlando. Every month I read about a transgender person being bashed in Baltimore or a gay guy mugged and sucker punched in Shaw, hospitalized with a broken jaw. Only in jurisdictions where innocent citizens have been disarmed. Not in Loudon County etc.

      • JackNasty

        July 4, 2016 at 1:52 am

        Same hand different sock puppet.

        • BruceMajors4DC

          July 4, 2016 at 5:55 am

          You seem to be thoughtless and without anything to contribute beyond name calling…which is kind of socket puppet like in its mindlessness, no Jackie?

          • Michelle's Tamale

            July 11, 2016 at 5:29 pm

            What’s that smell? Tuna?

      • Michelle's Tamale

        July 11, 2016 at 5:29 pm

        Pink Pistols Suck and Swallow.

    • Dex

      July 4, 2016 at 8:46 am

      So, Kyle: What specific measures do you favor?

    • Jeff Chang

      July 4, 2016 at 10:06 am

      What are stricter gun control laws?

    • Pat Huffman

      July 4, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      Kyle why are we Log Cabin types morally suspect?
      Because we want to protect ourselves and not become victims?
      Or is it the fact that if you’re Republican and a little conservative we can’t be part of your gay community.
      So much for all inclusive freedom.

    • Keith Manne

      July 4, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Sounds ignorant to me…the only gays who support gun control are those who feel they are completely unable to take any responsibility for their own safety, and that is NOT what I believe is accurate of most LGBT folks I know!

    • Margaret Leber

      July 4, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      Pink Pistols *are* doing something to prevent more violence against gays, and you can put your statist, collectivist dialectic where the sun don’t shine.

      It’s more than ironic for you to appropriate the very “morally challenged” and “ethically suspect” innuendo that was once used against *all* gays to try to bully us into complying with your — not gay — but *liberal* agenda.

      The left doesn’t own all queer people, and it’s time for you to figure that out. Maybe those of us who are conservative or libertarian are “numerically insignificant”, but guess what: that’s the same spin gaybashers use on us all.

      Again.

      Sign up to be a professional victim, and the left will love you. Until after you vote…then you will become “numerically insignificant” again until it becomes advantageous for “evolving positions” again.

    • Jeton Ademaj

      July 5, 2016 at 8:37 am

      Kyle you can pretend whatever delusion suits your fancy, but you are going to eat your words.

      Queer people of all walks of life enjoy defending ourselves from attack, and I find queer people of color especially interested in armed self-defense.

      Apparently they either did not get your memo, or they laughed you off.

  2. Watcher

    July 2, 2016 at 1:16 am

    “Do gay activists and organizations run the risk of fracturing equality
    efforts and the continuing support among constituents for their work by
    engaging on other political issues, especially when many potential
    topics enjoy much less than universal, or even broad, support?”

    Oh, you mean like pushing other divisive issues like Libertarianism?

  3. Bob Mitchell

    July 4, 2016 at 1:55 am

    I don’t care what activists do. I never voted for them. I have had guns since I was a kid and being gay has nothing to do with anything. Glad to see more folks at least getting educated. Liberals have a way of breeding ignorant twats.

  4. BruceMajors4DC

    July 4, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Pink Pistols is having a meetup at a shooting range in Virginia July 10 https://www.facebook.com/events/1704585369801037/

    • Dex

      July 4, 2016 at 8:48 am

      We are, indeed.

    • parabellum

      July 4, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      And I’ll even be bringing my Blade-qualified “assault weapon”. (Someone needs to tell these “journalists” that a firearm is not a weapon until or unless used as a weapon. So far, mine have only put holes in paper and dents in steel.)

    • Michelle's Tamale

      July 11, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      Take a breath mint. I smell another man’s genitals on your breath.

      • Dex

        July 11, 2016 at 5:42 pm

        Olfactory hallucination, much?

      • Bruce Majors

        July 12, 2016 at 7:27 am

        You can smell things through your beard?

  5. Sweet Liberty

    July 4, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Libertarians respect the right of all people to own the means to effective self defence from anyone who would do them harm. Gary Johnson 2016 learn more at Outright Libertarians

  6. Dex

    July 4, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I’m a mod on the national Pink Pistols facebook group. About a minute ago, I approved 30-some new join requests. That put us over 8,000. Monday after Orlando, we were at 1,400.

    • Michelle's Tamale

      July 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      Guns, bullets and cans of Crisco – what an organization!

  7. Keith Manne

    July 4, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Mark: actually, you’re wrong about universal support of “banning assault weapons” (already illegal since 1934…you meant “banning standard SA hunting rifles like the AR15”). Pro-defense folks of any sexual-orientation pretty universally oppose anything more than “obvious disqualification” background checks (say, convicted violent criminals, not just politically unpopular folks).

    As for preventing terrorists, we would all like peace, but you pragmatically can’t disarm criminals. That only leaves opposing force from the majority “good folks.”

  8. Don B

    July 4, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    It’s telling how hostile the people are here who don’t like guns. On the Pink Pistols FB group, the vibe is that everyone should decide for themselves. Which is how one talks to fellow grownups.

  9. Sean Sorrentino

    July 4, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    I’m mystified as to why Liberals think that LGBT people would vote to disarm themselves. I guess that Liberals think they own LGBT folks. For those who want off the Liberal plantation, who want to arm themselves for self defense, I suggest you consult this map

    https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1N0_r7Irlhyi94t7IHxhC_jmysFE

    built by a Trans friend of mine (and cohost on my podcast). She wanted to bring ALL of her people together. Gun people, LGBT people, Prepper people.

    I’m on the list. I’ve already taken one person to the range, and we’re going back tomorrow, the 5th of July, to choose the specific handgun he wants to buy. Are you next? Hit the map, contact someone close to you, and learn how to handle a firearm. Decide for yourself. Don’t let your Liberal overseers tell you to get back on the plantation. Tell them you’re free to decide for yourself.

    And if you’re in Raleigh, look me up. I’ll teach you the basics for free.

  10. Corlyss

    July 5, 2016 at 2:00 am

    People should do what they feel comfortable with. If they don’t think they could shoot, they shouldn’t. If they want to have fun with a group of likeminded folks, gay or no, find a Pink Pistols to join, or start a local chapter, or start a different club. Feeling or being threatened constantly is a kind of prison. Fight back.
    Activists are a scourge of modern politics. People should think for themselves.

  11. ECarpenter

    July 9, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Whenever I say I support background checks and waiting periods for all gun sales, and laws that limit the number of guns any one person can buy for “personal use” each month (which limits the number of guns run into the big cities for illegal use), and laws restricting assault weapon sales to the public, I get called a “libtard”, a Marxist, and more, and I’m accused of wanting to take away everyone’s guns.

    When I say we should keep track, nationally, of who, when, where and why people get shot by other people, and do more actual research on how guns affect our world, I get accused of being (once again) a “libtard” who wants to bring Big Brother into our private lives.

    The gun worshipers who have those violent knee-jerk reactions can’t seem to think straight about guns. They certainly don’t want to hear anything about facts or evidence – they don’t want to see if their assertions about the benevolent effects of guns are true or not, so they do their utmost to prevent any calm and thorough exploration of the facts. They have all these victim fantasies going, and think they’re being attacked when they’re just not. It’s really strange.

  12. Michelle's Tamale

    July 11, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    At least, Markie didn’t say that the gun issue would “blow up in their faces”…

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Opinions

Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

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

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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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Opinions

Thanksgiving is a time to share

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

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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.

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Commentary

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

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

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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.

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