Don’t Say It

It’s my second entry in less than a week to rant on my home state of Missouri.  Once again, I find it absolutely incredible that our legislators would waste time with this particular issue when they complain that we aren’t creating jobs quickly enough.  Let’s put two and two together here.  This time, though, this issue is more near and dear to my heart, so I cannot afford to sit back quietly.  Not this time.  Something must be said… especially for those that have no voice.

The legislation in question is House Bill 2051 (HB2051… otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) and is sponsored by Representative Steve Cookson, with the backing of both the current Speaker, Steven Tilley and the Speaker-Elect, Tim Jones.  HB2051 has been referred to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, and isn’t on the calendar for the committee as of yet.  But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous.  The legislation has to deal with the LGBT community… and even more importantly, it has to do with LGBT youth.  And at a time when LGBT suicides seem to be running rampant, this particular legislation does not help.  The text of it is short, but it reaches far beyond.

170.370. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.

My first question is how is this even legal?  How is it not a violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution?  The government does not have the right to tell us what we can and cannot talk about, and it can’t make up laws that do.  What’s next?  Are they going to tell us what we can think about?  I could see a private school doing something of this nature, but for the public schools that are supported by taxpayer dollars… again, this cannot be even close to legal.  This is another case of the Republicans in the state of Missouri trying to demote part of its population to second-class citizens because they’re afraid of the “homosexual agenda.”  But this is a bunch of BS.  Legislation such as HB2051 is nothing short than a “hear no evil, see no evil” approach.  The Republicans in the state legislature believe that if the youth can’t talk about their homosexual tendencies/feelings, then they won’t give in to them.  They won’t be encouraged.  Unfortunately, the majority of the people that support legislation like this don’t know what they are talking about.  Someone either is or isn’t gay.  It doesn’t matter if it’s encouraged or not.  It is already something that is inside them.  No amount of legislation by the government (any government) will make that go away.  All it will end up doing is isolating a vital, productive, and creative part of our overall community.

Our youth will be the most adversely affected by such legislation as it is targeting them and the schools they go to.  Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs will be prohibited, and faculty and administrators will be forbidden to talk about anything dealing with sexual orientation… even if a student needs someone to talk to about it or even if a student is reporting a case of bullying.  Growing up, I was often teased throughout school.  Not for being gay but for basically being more of the nerdy type.  I know how it can make one feel.  Sometimes, I young person just needs someone to sit and listen… and to care.  And as we grow into young adults and starts dealing with more “adult-type” of situations, we need those people more and more.  We are often very careful about who we confide in, as well.  We want to make sure that it is a person that we can lean on.  For some, that particular person is a teacher.  And if this bill is put into law, that teacher won’t even be able to help even if he/she is the only person that kid or young adult feels like he/she can talk to.  It is just shameful.  And it hurts me to my core that our young people are made to feel more alone and more isolated at a time in their lives when they should be embraced and loved.

Missouri is not the first state to attempt a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.  The state of Tennessee voted several times last year on a similar bill, but it drew national ridicule that even came from the state’s Republican Governor.  The Tennessee bill eventually failed… though the state is trying again this year with an identical bill.  And now the state of Missouri is trying.  Apparently, the dumbasses who thought this thing up didn’t think this through very much.  Are they trying to prove that they are more conservative that the Republicans in Tennessee?  Is there a special prize at the end for them?  Well maybe on that last one… re-election by the same crazy voters that allow them to do dumbass things like this.  Again, it’s these same Republican legislators that say that we have fallen behind in creating jobs… that new businesses and new people are not moving to the state.  Yet, they can’t seem to make the correlation that it’s stupid stuff like this that makes Missouri a less-desirable place to live.  People tend not to want to live in a state that is trying to revert itself back to the 1850s (or even the 1950s).  This is the 21st century, and again, the people in Jefferson City need to pull their head out of their asses long enough to actually see the real world.  I know it might seem scary to them at first, but it will subside.

The consequences of such a bill needs to be thought through.  We’re isolating our youth.  We are isolating a part of our community.  Is that really a wise thing to do.  Regardless of our religious beliefs (and yes, I am a Christian), no one deserves treatment like this.  The legislators in Missouri need to realize this first and foremost.  They do not have the right to tell us how to live our lives, nor do they have the right to tell us what type of people we should be.  We are all different and unique, and we should all be embraced.  Even though I have been quite harsh on the legislators in this entry, I am trying my best to go after their actions. Afterall, hate only begets more hate.  I don’t mind when people think differently, it’s just when they act upon those thoughts and try to make others feel inferior… or in this case, feel like second-class citizens and that something is wrong with them.  The LGBT youth are simply amazing, and I think quite brave for all they have to endure at such a young age.  The bullying must stop… not only within our schools but from our government, too.  And if want a state that attracts businesses and new people, then we must stop writing BS legislation like this that makes people believe that Missouri is an ass-backwards state.  Let us move forward.  Let us work together to build a state that embraces everyone instead of isolating.  And let us work together to teach our youth to be good citizens and to be proud of who they are.  I think the youth of our state could teach some of the Missouri legislators a few lessons.  Afterall, to love thy neighbor means to embrace and accept them.

“Homosexuality, is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce.”  Plato~

INFORMATION:
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 1-866-4-U-Trevor (1-866-488-7386).  You can also click on the link for The Trevor Project.

For those living in the state of Missouri wishing to contact their Representative regarding HB2051, please click Here for the directory.

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From The Shadows

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Bully Pulpit

The school year is now in full swing and kids are back in the daily grinds of school, and homework, and extra curricular activities.  But there is also a darker side to this.  While most kids just go about their days as normal, there are hundreds of kids out there that face a living hell each time they walk through the school doors as they are bullied and taunted endlessly by their peers.  In the month of September, at least 4-such incidences have been reported by the media  (there were probably even more than that) in which a kid (or a student) has committed suicide over the endless taunting and teasing over their sexual orientation… or perceived sexual orientation.

This is an ongoing problem that has no end.  Parents report problems to the schools and the schools don’t have a lot of options when it comes to it.  And other classmates usually don’t step in to help on the fear that they will be bullied next.  And the kids that are being bullied just haven’t developed a way to counter it.  They feel alone and isolated and in a hell they cannot escape from.

Even when I was in school, I, too, was bullied and teased.  The effects of such things still linger within me today.  But I learned how to cope with such things.  I kept to myself and quiet… and tried to always stay in the back.  The less I was noticed, the better it would be… though I couldn’t escape everything.  But I did survive such things, and I do know now that there would be better days ahead.  Elementary school, middle school, and high school can be some of the most turbulent times for today’s youth and it takes some tough skin to get through it.

Acceptance and tolerance are key things in this battle.  Though parts of these lessons can be learned at school, the main driving force behind these messages must come from the home.  It is up to the parents to instill these values within their children from a very early age.  Not everyone is going to be like you (act like you, look like you, etc), but that doesn’t give someone the right to pass judgment on that other person.  Think about it for a moment… the way you are judging someone else might be the way someone else is judging you.  You know that you wouldn’t like it, so then why do it?

Bullying is not a new problem and even with anti-bullying legislation making its way through various state legislatures, it’s probably not going to go away anytime soon.  But we can give the school the resources to help out… to make sure that the kids have a safe place to go and someone to talk to… and maybe get action to be taken.  The tough skin that these kids need will develop once they start realizing that they are not alone in the world and that someone out there does care.  And if someone out there is reading this… “I CARE!  And you are not alone.”

There is a vast community out here that can and will assist anyone.  And if you, or someone you know needs help, there is a really good place to turn… The Trevor Project.  They have people standing by 24-hours a day to take your calls and help these kids get through these dark times.  Suicide is not the answer for any child… and it’s time we start making sure these kids realize that they are not alone.  After all, I care.  Do you?

The Trevor Project

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)  24-hours a day

South American Swing

Well, it is now officially legal in the nation of Argentina for same-sex couples to marry.  Argentina became the first Latin American country to make this legal after both chambers of its legislature passed the bill…and the President signed it into law.  It was a close vote in the Senate, but the bill did manage to pass 33-27.  My friend Brad is currently living in Buenos Aries for the next several months and was front and center for the marathon debate in the Senate and was in the streets to celebrate after the announcement came.  Brad had listened and watched as several members of the Argentina Senate stood up and gave passionate speeches in favor of same-sex marriage and equality.  He said he had never heard such passion in such speeches before and wished that members of the US Congress would stand up for what’s right and give the same sort of passionate speeches for equal rights.

Not even a week after the Senate’s vote, a call for legalizing same-sex marriage came from the LGBT community of Uruguay and even the country of Paraguay.  Uruguay is probably a more likely candidate for such a move as it is one of three nations (and French Guiana) that already recognize civil unions (or other types of partnership).  The other two countries are Colombia and Ecuador.  Paraguay has banned all types of partnerships so the battle there will be long and hard.  It was only in 2008 that Uruguay became the first Latin American nation to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, but now they seem poised to follow Argentina in giving same-sex couples full equality.

It makes one wonder here in the US why our legislators can’t get on board with equality and same-sex marriage like the ones in Argentina…and soon to the Uruguay.  Sure, the religious fanatics here start to freak out with any kind of thought of either of those things, but religion is a big thing for Argentina, too… where the Catholic Church is quite dominant.  And even despite the fact that the Catholic Church (and I’m sure other organized religions) were opposed to such laws, the legislators chose to rise above such hateful discrimination and do what is right for its citizens.  And that is something our legislators here in the US need to do, as well.  It’s interesting how once there is equality (and even same-sex marriage) that there is no issue anymore.  It just tends to go away.  And it’s because all the religious zealots that are out there preaching against same-sex marriage and equality tend to shut up (more or less) because their dire predictions have not and will not come true, and they realize that.  Their fear tactics didn’t work.  Unfortunately, in the US, their fear tactics tend to rule out and most people believe just about anything they hear without actually thinking about it for themselves.

My next question is whether Ecuador and Colombia could follow in Argentina and Ecuador’s footsteps.  Since they already recognize other types of partnerships, is it that far of a step for these two nations to legalize same-sex marriage and grant full equality to their LGBT citizens?  It is very much possible.  Only time can tell.  And hopefully, we can welcome those nations to the growing list of nations that have already stepped up to the plate for such things.  The leadership of Uruguay only made its announcement earlier in July, so we will see how they proceed.  But I am rooting for an expedient process so all of its citizens can be free and equal.  And it would be nice to have Brad still front and center to give me a live, in-person account of the proceedings and celebration.

The US could learn something from those in Argentina.  How to separate what you personally believe with the rights of others.  Just because you vote in favor of same-sex marriage, doesn’t mean that you have to support it personally.  There is your right to choice but then the freedom of all the citizens that should be paramount when legislators are doing their jobs.  When I read the final vote and the passage of the bill, to which Brad had successfully predicted would be a close vote, I did cry for Argentina, but they were tears of great joy.  I personally hope the momentum continues to sweep through South America, and I hope that our US legislators are watching closely because we here in the US are going to start demanding a whole lot more from them.  We want to hear those same kind of passionate speeches in favor of same-sex marriage and full equality echo through the halls of our Capitol.  It’s time they step up to the plate, and it’s time that they start fully supporting equality for all of their citizens.

Celebrating Pride

My friends and my fellow citizens, we find ourselves once again in Pride month.  It is that time of year that we reflect on what it means for us to be part of the LGBT community and to celebrate our own identity.  We remember the triumphs of the past year and the set-backs.  We welcome our new brethren who are just discovering who they are and what being part of the community will mean to them, and we honor those that have left us with only their memories.

Our community is rich and diverse.  We come from all walks of life.  We are young and old and middle-aged.  We are rich and poor and middle-class.  We are white, African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American and from many other ethnic backgrounds.  But regardless of who we are and where we come from, one thing unites us all.  We are all part of this community…this pride.  For this one brief moment, we turn our focus inward to ourselves and to those around us.

Our voices ring louder during this time…making sure that the public and our elected officials know that we aren’t going away and that we will continue to fight for our equal rights.  We want the mainstream public to see that we are part of all walks of life and that we are proud of who we are.  We are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender…and we are Americans.  We love our nation, and we want the best for our nation.  And we know that what is best for our nation is to have all its citizens contributing to better the society in which we live.

The time is upon us to celebrate ourselves and our community, but we know that the fight still continues for our equality within society.  Pridefest brings us all together and reminds us of what we have in common.  It unites us once again for the battles that are to be waged in the months ahead.  It also has an internal…more personal… touch to it since we are all very much different from each other.  For some, we take the time to reflect on how we came to be the individual that we are and how being part of this community has shaped our lives… and how our lives have impacted our community and our overall society.

We cannot take who we are for granted.  Our culture is here for us, and we must honor it and cherish it…even as we are molding it.  Our community is our pride and our culture is what we offer to the rest of the masses.  We are unique and diverse…and that is something worth celebrating.

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