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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From The Shadows

“Hope is the dream of a soul awake.”  French Proverb~

I have thought over this blog entry for the past several days and even still, I cannot come up with the proper words on how to start this.  It honestly breaks my heart to even think about this.  But as it seems to continually surface in the news, I feel like I need to speak up… to lend my voice with those of my community so that the light might shine again for those that find themselves stuck in the shadows.

Behind the smiles and the friendships and the everyday lives is the pain and the suffering of someone’s soul.  Despite their outward appearance, they find themselves slipping farther and farther away and feeling as if there is no way out… no where to turn for help.  They might be young; they might be middle-aged; or they might be elderly.  It is defined not by any age or race or religion, but it usually ends in the same result… someone with no hope left just giving up.

Whether we know the individual or not, whether it makes headline news or not, it still affects those of us that are left behind.  We wonder how and why.  We look for absolution, though it never comes.  We carry the burden in our hearts and hope that there is no more.

We live in a changing time.  Though LGBT-rights have been making progress over the past several years, there is still much to be done.  For those that have gone before, we keep their memories in our hearts as we move forward.  For those of us that have lived through it, we know that it gets better.  We know that there are places to turn to when we need that helping hand… whether it be a family member, a personal friend, or an organization within the bigger community.  All we ask is that before things get so bad, that one seeks out help and guidance.  There is nothing wrong in admitting that help is needed.  Even I, at one point in my life, needed that crutch, and it helped me get through some dark days.  That crutch was that light that I needed to get me to emerge from the shadows.  And there is a light for all of us.  We just must take the time and not be afraid to reach out for it.

Amongst our changing world, there is plenty of hate, violence, and bullying.  It can seem as though that’s all our culture is.  But there is plenty of love, kindness, and hope that exists out there, as well.  Sometimes, we just have to look a little harder to find it.  No matter who you are… no matter of age, race, religion, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc… there is someone out there that cares about you, and they might not even know you.  It can be hard to turn off all the negativity that exist within life, but it can be done.

Albert Einstein once said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.”  Even if yesterday was horrible and today is no better, there is always hope for a shining light tomorrow.  Regardless of what life throws at you, you have the ability to overcome.  All one must do is plant his/her feet firmly on the ground and march forward.  Suicide is never an option and should never be considered as such.  There is much more to live for, and we all have a reason for being here.  Let us stop the hate and the bullying.  Let us reform our culture to be one of positive energy instead of negative.  Let us build people up instead of always tearing them down.  Let us remember that we are all someone’s father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter, aunt or uncle or cousin, husband or wife, friend or foe.  No one deserves such harsh treatment that they wish to make an early exit from our realm.  Mind your words and your actions for they do have consequences that might not be considered.  Let us together end the suicides that are plaguing our community, and let everyone know, no matter where they are, that there are those of us out here that care about them and will help get them through whatever dark time they are currently in until they can once again emerge from the shadows.  No one is ever alone.  No one is ever alone.

For those that have already fallen, we will never forget them.  For those of us that remain, we must do better to make sure no one else follows them.  We must be willing to stand up and say “We Care!” and reach out to those that need us.  I am proud to stand up and say that “I Care!”.  The bigger question is, do you?  And if you are one that needs that helping hand, do you have the courage to seek that crutch that you need so that you can stand up with us?  I know that within your heart, you do.  So reach out today for your community is here to help you.

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.  There are people there that are willing to listen and to help.  You can also look up your closest LGBT Center.  Remember, you are loved… whether you know it or not… and you can get through this.

“He who has health, has hope.  And he who has hope, has everything.” Proverb~

In Memory of Those that have Fallen…
Let there be light so there are no more shadows.

Modern Family

Today’s modern family is not like the modern family of the 1950s… in what you can see in old “Leave it to Beaver” reruns on some cable channel.  Sure there are plenty of families out there that still consist of mom, dad, and the kids (and maybe some pets, too).  My family is like that.  Even my sister’s is like that.  But in the 21st century, the modern family can be a lot more complex more times than it is simple.  There are step parents, step siblings, and half siblings.  There are single parents, and even grandparents or an aunt and uncle raising someone else’s kids.  There are also adoptive parents and kids.  And yes, there are even gay parents.  Within today’s modern circle, the idea of family has become a bigger circle and yet the concept still remains the same.

And as our concept of the modern family changes in the present time, we must also be willing to change our perceptions of what that means.  Most religious scholars would say that a family is proper with mom, dad, and the kids.  That kids need a mom and dad.  Yet more studies are showing that kids need a loving and nurturing home and environment, and that can come from any of the various types of families that I mentioned above.  In that sense, the term family can take on any of those meanings and be acceptable.

The other week in Congress, the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) was introduced, and I will say that this particular piece of legislation (and what I’m going to say about it) has a personal connection to myself.  So please keep that in mind as you proceed.  This particular legislation in aimed at reuniting families of an American citizen who’s partner is from another country.  With a heterosexual couple, if one person is an American citizen then they can sponsor their spouse for citizenship no matter what country they were married in… whether it be here in the US, in the other spouse’s home country, or even in just a random country.  The marriage is legal and recognized.

As it stands right now (mostly because DOMA — the Defense of Marriage Act), the federal government only recognizes a marriage between a man and woman.  Yet, the federal government says it’s an issue that is left to the states.  Several states have passed gay marriage laws and others have passed civil unions.  But still the federal government doesn’t recognize any of them.  And since the federal government handles immigration, when it comes to a gay couple, a person cannot sponsor his/her partner for immigration (or citizenship)… even if they were married (or entered into a civil union) legally in one of the states (or the District of Columbia) that permits it, or in the other partner’s home nation should it be legal there.  It is a double standard that goes against the very concept of the term “modern family,” and leaves the federal government once again telling its people who you’re supposed to love and making some of us choose between love of that special person and love of our country.  Any heterosexual couple in an international relationship can more or less choose which “home” nation they want to live in, but a gay couple can only choose the one that will recognize their union.

So here’s where it gets to the more personal side.  A couple of years ago I met a British guy when he was vacationing here in my home city.  We were instant friends and there was a bit of a spark between us.  Even since he has left, we have kept in touch through emails and even Skype and what started when he was here definitely hasn’t gone away.  We have found that we do care about each other more than we thought possible for two people living so far apart and having spent just that short amount of time together.  There has been some talk about our future plans together and where we would want to take things.  As of right now, though, the only option would be for me to move overseas to his country as they would recognize our union and allow me entry.  Here in the US, even if we did everything legally, the federal government could still deport him… which wouldn’t happen if he was in a heterosexual relationship.  We have talked overall about what we do if we did have that choice that a heterosexual couple would have over which country to live in.  And the conversation did lean more toward living here in the US rather than Britain.  Though his family and friends are there and that is his home, there were more things at stake.  The biggest (so there aren’t too many details listed) came down to employment.  I’ve been at one of my jobs for 6 1/2 years (and the other 4 years); whereas, he’s only been at his for one.  Though moving to Britain would give me a chance to work for the BBC… and that does kind of have me enticed just a bit.  But the entire discussion we knew was a mute point considering what the US policy is at this time.  This is why the UAFA is an important piece of legislation and why it is so very important to me.

When UAFA was reintroduced, it had a record number of new cosponsors.  Could this be a sign that the times are changing and that the powers that be can now see that the idea of “modern family” is changing, too?  The legislation has been brought up before, but has never been successful.  With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives now, it still seems like a distant prospect, but one can’t help but be hopeful with all the new cosponsors signing on.  Maybe they have heard the voices that have spoken up in support of it.  True, there are plenty out there who will be adamantly against such legislation because it involves gay spouses and their idea of the “modern family” still remains stuck in that old 50s style.  And that is fine for their own beliefs, but unfortunately, there are others that exist within society that do not form to that “classic” mold.

The federal government shouldn’t be making it’s own people feel like second-class citizens, and yet we find it doing just that once again.  This time we find it making a person decide between love of country and the love of their life instead of leaving the decision on where to live up to the couple and what they want… like a heterosexual couple would have.  It is the final line of Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty that comes to mind… “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  The door that opens to American freedoms might be golden for some, but for others that gold has been dulled by the idea that we are all not treated equally under the law and that some of us are held as second-class citizens.

So I ask all of you to think about the concept of modern family and think about how you would feel if you were in mine or someone else’s shoes in this one.  Should the federal government deport a legal spouse of a US citizen simply because it’s a gay union and the federal government chooses not to recognize it?  Is it fair to treat two legally-binding unions differently under the law (meaning heterosexual and homosexual unions)?  It is my firm belief that within today’s society there is no difference between these two types of unions and that they shouldn’t be treated any differently.  So as the entire idea of the “modern family” changes, we have to make sure that we keep up with it.

INFORMATION:  And you can call your Congressman/Congresswoman and Senators to tell them to support the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and/or Reuniting Families Act (RFA) by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Unconstitutional Proposition

This past week, a federal judge ruled that California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex couples from marrying after they were already legally allowed to, was unconstitutional.  It was glorious news that spread quickly amongst the community.  But our celebrations were still tempered as we know the quest for equality is still a long way off.  We knew that an appeal would be made by the defeated side and that this does have the possibility of going all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

But the verdict, though small in nature and only a ripple in history, has given us positive momentum as it corrects a wrong that was committed by the voters of California.  Since when should it be possible for the will of the majority to be able to take away the rights of a minority?  Where must that line be drawn?

Since 2004, the mindsets of the populace have begun to shift.  No longer do they all necessarily believe all the doom and gloom predictions that they were told.  What has changed all that?  Could it possibly be that many of these people have taken notice of the LGBT community that they interact with on a daily basis….such as neighbors, friends, or coworkers?  That would tend to have the greatest impact on such notions… at least in my mind.  And it is this notification… this personal touch… that can allow an individual to place himself or herself into that of the person they know.  Suddenly, this issue isn’t so black and white.  Now they must return to their own thoughts and opinions and reflect on them.   They might hold their beliefs because of their religion or for various other reasons, but they now see the big gray area that is in between the two sides.  They can now see that they can be religious (or spiritual) and still be for same-sex marriage.  Even though their religion will say they cannot disagree, they are beginning to realize that religion should not be so divisive since God loves us all equally.  But another option that  could also be changing minds is that five states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage… and the foreboding warnings that the opposition warned people of have not happened.

Since the verdict, the Republican mainstream has been fairly silent about the verdict.  Is it because the party is having a change of heart?  Not really.  They see the upcoming November election and they are wisely aware that a bunch of anti-gay marriage rhetoric, though it would turn out their core supporters, would turn off the independents and the Democrats that aren’t happy with the Obama administration.  But maybe, they, too, are aware of how much the mindset has changed since Karl Rove used the divisiveness of same-sex marriage to get George W. Bush elected in 2004.

Though to us that must live with this discrimination in our everyday lives, things are not progressing fast enough.  But when looking through the annals of time, the change over the past decade has been quite rapid.  This kind of shift in the mindset of the population has never happened so quickly.  In an age where information flies about at record speeds, it doesn’t take long for one story to hit everyone.  We are able to mobilize and put our voice to the stories that affect us.  No longer can our opposition drown us out.  Now we, too, can be heard.  And we can strike down all the lies and exaggerations that the opposition spreads.

The court verdict that ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional is only but a small pebble that was thrown into a large pond.  But what comes from such a verdict will continue to spread.  And though this verdict will be appealed, the message is already out.  Judge Walker, who presided over the case, raised the bar of the argument we have been making.  Are we, as members of the LGBT community, full citizens of this country or not?  He framed his ruling around two clauses of the 14th Amendment… equal protection under the law (which was used by the Supreme Court in Brown vs. The Board of Education…which struck down separate but equal) and the right to due process (which was used by the Supreme Court in Loving vs. Virginia to strike down interracial marriage).

The stakes have been raised and the future is coming at us.  We are approaching a fork on the road to the future.  The question becomes which path will our society take… one that leads to openness and equality for all the citizens of this country… or one of divisiveness and second-class citizens.  It is time we, as a nation, live up to our founding principal that we are all equal and deserving of the same rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost~

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