Connect with us

Opinions

2018: near and far, a clash of narratives

Restore and replenish yourself for the battles ahead

Published

on

narrative, gay news, Washington Blade

Ryan Coogler (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

The holiday season with its social obligations and reminders of absent friends brings its special tensions. After a hectic day, self-care guides me home. A warm robe, herbal tea, and quiet reflection are restorative. Before heading out earlier I sent an inquiry to the outpost of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Nairobi on behalf of a suffering gay Ugandan. He texted me thanks from the hospital where he was treated for injuries from a police assault during a peaceful protest days before.

On Dec. 11, DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton wrote to UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi in Geneva urging him to investigate the mistreatment of Ugandan LGBT refugees in Kenya. I stopped by her office on Capitol Hill the next day to thank her. In 1964, she went to Mississippi for Freedom Summer to register African-American voters, an effort from which some volunteers never returned. She knows the price of freedom as only veterans of the struggle can. As a standard courtesy, her letter to Grandi was copied to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, despite the unlikelihood of a sympathetic reception, as illustrated by Pompeo’s insulting visit to Brussels the previous week.

“Cast your bread upon the waters,” wrote Ecclesiastes, “for you will find it after many days…. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that….” A British colleague who also advocates for the displaced Ugandans writes to me about a teenage couple, one of them transgender, who need help. There is anti-gay and anti-trans bias among some of the Kenyans working for UNHCR. An American regime that seeks to erase trans people at home will not speak up for a 14-year-old trans girl waiting with her boyfriend outside UNHCR’s office in Nairobi. So my colleague and I do.

You have to steel yourself for this kind of work. There are many more in need than you can help. If you begrudge yourself every moment of relaxation, you can damage your own well-being and end up no good to anyone. The world is great and you are small. Make a few ripples where you are, and see where they travel.

There will be plenty of opportunities in 2019. The Trump regime has damaged everything from diplomacy to environmental protection to the rule of law to American values. Rapacity has replaced stewardship, fear has replaced inspiration, and spite has replaced cooperation. Migrant children are still dying at our southern border. The GOP still threatens the healthcare of 17 million people. Right-wing ideologues are still packing federal courts.

Mark Harris, a homophobic and transphobic minister and Republican candidate for Congress in North Carolina’s ninth district, hired a convicted felon to help him win. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Dec. 14 signed legislation stripping powers from Tony Evers, the Democrat who beat him. Republicans are branding themselves as cheaters and sore losers.

Tyrants consider their assertions the only evidence that matters. Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered for disputing that, and Trump’s embrace of his murderer despite damning intelligence makes us complicit.

A Greek proverb says that a society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit. Trump’s unconcern for a projected national debt spike because “I won’t be here” confirms his vaunted national greatness as empty sloganeering. We who deplore Trumpism have not only reality on our side, but a more compelling narrative.

The importance of narrative was illustrated in 2018 by gifted young filmmaker Ryan Coogler. His epic movie Black Panther conjures the mythical African nation of Wakanda, untouched by colonialism, with advanced technology and children who grow up with an expectation of success. Beautifully designed and cast from across the African diaspora, it soars.

Confidence is invigorating. After American voters elected women in record numbers, once-and-future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s deft Oval Office sparring with Trump gave a bracing preview of the battles ahead.

Americans have faced challenges before. If we can only connect with our diverse citizenry we can defeat the nihilist in the White House, on whom Robert Mueller is slowly closing in.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at [email protected].

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Opinions

Pinto shepherds ‘Secure D.C.’ crime bill through Council

Republicans in Congress are closely watching measure

Published

on

D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Council member Brooke Pinto is shepherding the comprehensive crime bill, Secure D.C., through the Council. This is not easy considering some Council members are always looking to ensure we aren’t too tough on criminals, especially juveniles. In talking with Council member Pinto, she is cognizant, and reminding her fellow council members that the Republican Congress is watching this closely. 

I know Mayor Bowser is concerned about this as well. She submitted a bill, most of which is now included in the comprehensive bill, and wants to see it passed without additional amendments. On Feb. 6, the bill was passed on a first vote by the Council 12-0, with Ward 8 Council member, Trayon White, Sr., not voting. It is in his Ward most of the crime is being committed. Those living there deserve to be protected as much as those who live in Ward 3. 

As the Council now moves toward a second vote, which is needed before the mayor can sign the legislation, the plan is to do that in March. The mayor has asked that it be done sooner and that there are no more amendments weakening the bill. Once it is passed and signed, it will go to Congress for the review period and everyone is aware of what they did to the rewrite of the criminal code. Not only the Congress, but the people of the District, want a strong, tough on crime bill. People are afraid. 

Last year was a tough year for D.C. with crime running rampant in parts of the District. There were 274 homicides, a 20-year high. Carjackings were epidemic. There were 906, more than double the previous year. People are scared. A good friend recently told me it is the first time in years he looks behind himself when walking in Dupont in the evening. There was the recent shooting near the Dupont Metro on Connecticut and Q Street. The police have still not released detailed information on that. It was rumored to be a road rage incident, but the facts aren’t out. Again, people are scared, and that is not how anyone wants to live.

I am not naïve. There are many reasons one can point to for the spike in crime, including juvenile crime. The pandemic had a lot to do with that. There are young people who weren’t in school for two years, many without any supervision. Their parents were the ones out working, making a living, having to leave home to go to work. They didn’t have the option to stay home and work remotely so they could monitor what their kids were doing. Many juveniles committing crimes come from homes where there is food insecurity, and other issues impacting their lives. Clearly, we must deal with those issues if we are to change things in the long term. But the reality is we cannot wait to do that, the Council must act now. We must make those who are thinking of committing a crime understand there will be serious repercussions for what they do. 

The bill the Council is considering makes carjacking a more serious offense, as well as any crime committed with a gun. We also need to deal with the parents, or guardians, of children, like the recent 9- and 13-year-olds, who threatened a woman with a knife. Someone must be held responsible for those kids. Do they need to be removed from the situation they are now in? What is that situation? We need to involve the faith community, as well as all city resources, in this effort. However we do it, we must pass a serious crime bill that will pass muster with both the people of the District, and Congress.  

There are issues about the bill that are still being debated. One relates to drug free zones in which loiterers would be subject to arrest. Then they have removed the section that would have allowed all people arrested to be swabbed for their DNA. One issue being debated is how long one can hold both adults and youth in detention while awaiting trials. The bill would make it a felony to discharge a firearm in public, making permanent something that was put into emergency legislation last summer. 

Again, the bottom line is, for both the mayor and the Council, they must do something about crime. The debate is simply how tough to be on criminals, and what programs need to be funded that will make a difference, and make people safer. 

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

Continue Reading

Letter-to-the-Editor

Real Agency for Community Development helps LGBTQ Ugandans who have fled country

Yoweri Museveni signed Anti-Homosexuality Act in May 2023

Published

on

Real Agency for Community Development was established by a proactive group of people who have fled persecution due to their sexual orientation in their respective districts of origin (Isingiro, Mbarara and Ntungamo) and now live in the Nakivale refugee camp where they hoped to find greater safety and freedom.

Homosexuality, however, is illegal in Uganda and they face new challenges: Arbitrary arrests, discrimination, corrective rape, kidnapping, robbery, stigma, homophobia, harassment and bullying. RACD has identified more than 123 LGBTQ Ugandans and other refugees living in the Nakivale and Oruchinga refugee camps. The organization provides them with services depending on their unique situations.

The legal and social marginalization experienced by these people results in many violations of LGBTQ persons’ liberty and threats to their safety. 

Since the beginning of this year, we have already seen three people arbitrarily arrested for being LGBTQ. Another two LGBTQ community members were brutally attacked by a gang of 10 homophobic neighbors in Kampala. One of them had his jaw shattered and had to get a surgery to insert a metal to his jaw. HIV prevention drugs and equipment are always a necessary part of the work with LGBTQ people and female sex workers. The general economic situation in Uganda is decreasing rapidly, and LGBTQ persons suffer the most. Many members reported that they pass many days without being able to obtain any food.

Please email [email protected] for more information about RACD. Donations can also be made to RACD through this GoFundMe link.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Are raids on LGBTQ bars making a comeback in 2024?

Public officials, law enforcement targeting members of the community

Published

on

(Photo by Jose AS Reyes/Bigstock)

There’s been a noticeable uptick in police harassment since 2023, that began with legislators proposing bills aimed at LGBTQ people. More recently police and other public officials have seemingly gone out of their way to target the LGBTQ community. This includes spaces in “red states,” like Missouri where police officers arrested the owners of Bar:PM (a leather bar in St. Louis) after they wrecked their police cruiser into it. “Blue states” however, are not immune to this — as was the case in Seattle where authorities raided The Cuff and The Seattle Eagle citing them for “lewd conduct” because of a bartender’s exposed nipple, and patrons wearing jockstraps.

As many LGBTQ activists are already aware, federal policymakers have been enacting legislation at the local and federal level targeting the LGBTQ community. Among those at the federal level is the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal in May of 2023. Endorsed by President Joe Biden, the bill is a bipartisan initiative to “protect” kids from harmful content online by placing a responsibility on online social media platforms to regulate content and services. Republicans have noted, if passed, the bill would be used to protect “minor children from the Transgender [sic] in this culture and that influence.”

While KOSA seems to have stalled, despite urging from the Biden administration to pass it, some states have begun passing their own versions of the bill — or by enforcing laws at LGBTQ venues like The Cuff in Seattle. Utah’s obscenity laws has even caused PornHub to pull out of states passing these laws, due to their vagueness.

While some may dismiss these concerns as overblown, it seems clear that it is only one part of a larger strategy aimed at curtailing LGBTQ expression. The irony is that those espousing “freedom” are the same ones passing censorship laws. This gradual ratchet effect, which began last summer by targeting children’s books and LGBTQ persons online, has now shifted into something targeting LGBTQ institutions. It’s the same rhetoric used in the 1960s—which included government produced propaganda directed at LGBTQ people painting them as a social contagion dangerous to kids. At the height of this moral panic were laws prohibiting positive depictions of LGBTQ persons, the impact of which is still being felt today through stereotypes and negative framing.  

Even in states that aren’t adding to this moral panic, KOSA has provided the framework by which states can pass vague “obscenity” laws that appear neutral, but in practice are aimed at LGBTQ people. Structural forms of discrimination also exist online as social media platforms act as determiners of what is allowable under their guidelines. In reality, moderation disproportionality impacts LGBTQ people, and especially trans women online. According to a  recent study, content moderation against trans people was roughly five times more to occur than cisgender counterparts. These facts and figures resonate with trans content creators we spoke with, like Polly People who was recently de-platformed for “inappropriate attire” — the same attire that is promoted by cisgender women on the same platform.

Whether it’s jockstrap night at the local leather bar, trans content creators trying to express themselves, or protests of expressions of sexuality at Pride or events at Folsom, we are quickly descending into an age of marginalization that many LGBTQ people haven’t experienced since before Stonewall. While some of the established forms of collective organizing and community have been forgotten or lost, new forms are emerging to fight against these laws and regulations designed to further marginalize and render invisible the lives of LGBTQ Americans.

Christopher T. Conner is assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri. They are author of numerous scholarly publications, including ‘The Gayborhood: From Sexual Revolution to  Cosmopolitan Spectacle.’ Fletcher Jackson is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Missouri, Columbia in Religious Studies and are co-teaching a class in spring 2024. Their research is at the intersection of psychology, spirituality, and queer visibility.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular