Update: Homophobic Attack In Missoula

The Missoulian, KPAX and Towleroad are all reporting on the Missoula beating of a young gay man on his 22nd birthday.

Wipeout Homophobia’s Facebook page posted photos earlier today- I can’t bear to put them up here- they’re upsetting and I don’t think I need to make the point that there are people out there who think it’s okay to beat up people they see as queer- as ‘fags’, as ‘dykes’ as ‘trannies’, as, well, whatever.

There are people everywhere who think it’s okay to do that- not just in Montana.

After the most successful Pride Celebration in Montana history, when more supporters than ever showed up for equality and to support their LGBTIQ brothers and sisters, it’s very hard to see the reality of hate and ignorance that we all have to face every day in the U.S.

It’s not just Montana. It’s not “just” anywhere. It’s everywhere.

And that’s why we can’t be silent. That’s why we need to keep standing up in the face of bullying and violence. It goes against the values of the Montana I know and love. And sadly, bullying and violence still seems to be promoted as a value in some Montana circles (yeah I’m talking about you, Tim Ravndal).

But I still believe more people have our best interest at heart than don’t. The ignoramuses just have the advantage of jumping out of dark alleys.

So, again- please- be careful out there.

Update: Police are now saying that this investigation has taken a turn- from the Missoulian:

Missoula police are examining a videotape that purports to show a young gay man injuring his face while doing a backflip.

The man reported to police that he’d been beaten up outside the Missoula Club early Sunday morning, allegedly because of his sexual orientation.

But the video shows him doing a backflip off a curb on North Higgins Avenue and smashing his face on the sidewalk as he lands.

“Until we finish the investigation, we won’t know the entire story, but it has certainly been a major development in the case,” said Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir.

I’m making no further comments until we know more.

But what I said above applies nonetheless.

Gay Men’s Wives, Homophobia and HIV

(click for source)

Discrimination and homophobia are often more prevalent in rural areas. Outreach workers in Montana know that there are certainly barriers for men to being tested for HIV. One of the most significant is the fear of being harshly judged, labelled and dismissed. It’s one of the reasons some gay/bi men get married to women and start families- they want to be ‘normal’- even though they already are. The sense of shame and guilt can be overpowering- and it’s adding fuel to the fire as far as HIV is concerned.

Rural outreach workers have known this for years- it may be one of the reasons that HIV is spreading so rapidly in the south. It’s almost certainly one of the reasons that HIV is spreading in the African American population. But we haven’t paid much attention- at least scientifically- to this issue. Now it looks as if science is actually catching up to reality. From The Sobering Truth About HIV Among MSM by Gregory Trotter, Chicago AIDS Foundation blog (July 25):

The idea of “turning the tide” against the AIDS epidemic will prove to be no more than a slogan if more is not done to address the growing number of gay/bisexual men infected with HIV worldwide, experts said today.

Speaking at an afternoon press conference today, a panel of experts presented new research – recently published in a series in the medical journal, The Lancet – that confronted the reality of HIV prevalence among MSM (men who have sex with me).  The series concluded that, in addition to medical and scientific advances, more must be done to eradicate the cultural and societal impediments of homophobia and discrimination. Until that happens, ending the AIDS epidemic is unlikely, said Chris Beyrer, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (emphasis mine)

We routinely encounter discrimination in dealing with MSM in Montana- some of whom do not openly identify as gay. In fact, some are married- with children- and do not plan on leaving their families. But they’re having sex with other men- and some are not using condoms with their wives. “If I did, she’d know I was having sex with someone else,” one client told me.

The fear of being exposed for these men is great. One man told me, “I can’t afford to be seen as gay. It would kill me- it would kill my wife.”  Shame from society, churches and social groups abut being gay have forced men to create false lives. But they haven’t stopped sexual behavior. This type of internalized shame is not uncommon here- and the wives of these men could be put at risk as a result.

Shame, homophobia and discrimination are fueling the epidemic- so are apathy and denial (see my essay Gay Men Are Flunking The Test). Part of me wonders when we’re going to start seeing a rise in HIV infection among rural women- the wives of gay/bi men. Back to Mr Trotter:

On average, MSM are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population in low- and middle-class countries, according to Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS.

Many African countries do not accurately report numbers of MSM and some do not even acknowledge they have MSM among their population, said Paul Semugoma,  Uganda physician who serves on the steering committee for the Global Forum on MSM &HIV (MSMGF).

Homophobia is rampant in such countries, he said.

“If we don’t start solving these impediments for MSM, we’re not going to do much about the epidemic,” Semugoma said.

In a recent study in Jamaica, 82% of Jamaicans self-identified as homophobic, largely out of fear of HIV prevalence among gay/bi men, said Maurice Tomlinson, legal advisor on marginalized groups for AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy group.

Such homophobia has engendered a climate where gay men are afraid to buy condoms for themselves, Tomlinson said. Their female friends often buy condoms for them, he said, but refuse to buy lube, as that would imply a female “deficiency.”

And so many gay/bisexual Jamaicans use petroleum jelly, saliva or even hairspray as a lubricant, he said.

“In those cases, it would be better if they used nothing at all,” Tomlinson said.

To learn more about how HIV affects MSM throughout the world and possible solutions to problem, read the full series in The Lancet titled HIV in Men Who Have Sex with Men.”

Study: That Queer-bashing Bully Could Be Gay

A fascinating study, discussed in the New York Times this morning, reveals that, at least in a clinical setting, “very straight” persons often struggle with same-sex feelings:

No Homophobia logo

No Homophobia logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One theory is that homosexual urges, when repressed out of shame or fear, can be expressed as homophobia. Freud famously called this process a “reaction formation” — the angry battle against the outward symbol of feelings that are inwardly being stifled. Even Mr. Haggard seemed to endorse this idea when, apologizing after his scandal for his anti-gay rhetoric, he said, “I think I was partially so vehement because of my own war.”

It’s a compelling theory — and now there is scientific reason to believe it. In this month’s issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we and our fellow researchers provide empirical evidence that homophobia can result, at least in part, from the suppression of same-sex desire.

Well, as anybody whose been following Glee knows, the bully can often turn out to be the would-be boyfriend. I remember a few of them from my own life- who were the most vehement haters of the gays- and later turned out to be, as one of them told me later “a relieved homosexual.” The authors conclude:

It’s important to stress the obvious: Not all those who campaign against gay men and lesbians secretly feel same-sex attractions. But at least some who oppose homosexuality are likely to be individuals struggling against parts of themselves, having themselves been victims of oppression and lack of acceptance. The costs are great, not only for the targets of anti-gay efforts but also often for the perpetrators. We would do well to remember that all involved deserve our compassion.

Read the full article here.

GLAAD Announces ‘Commentator Accountability Project’ To Expose Anti-LGBT Voices

From AmericaBlog:

English: Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defama...

Image via Wikipedia

Sick of seeing the homophobes spewing their hate on tv? Most of us are. And, we wonder why so many media outlets are willing to give them face time. GLAAD is launching a project to make sure the media knows exactly who they are dealing with:

The GLAAD Commentator Accountability Project (CAP) aims to put critical information about frequent anti-gay interviewees into the hands of newsrooms, editors, hosts and reporters. Journalists or producers who are on deadline often don’t have the time to dig into the histories of a commentator. Audiences need to be aware that when they’re not talking to the mainstream media, these voices are comparing the LGBT people to Nazi Germany, predicting that equal treatment of LGBT people will lead to the total collapse of society, and even making accusations of satanic influence.

The Commentator Accountability Project is bringing all of these statements to light, while calling attention to the sentiments behind them. We will show that the commentators who are most often asked to opine on issues like marriage equality or non-discrimination protections do not accurately represent the “other side” of those issues. They represent nothing but extreme animus towards the entire LGBT community.

Have you seen these anti-LGBT voices in your local media? Let GLAAD know today.

It’s an excellent idea- and local human rights organizations are encouraged to participate. Any Montana candidates? Send them to me through the comments- I won’t publish them unless you give me permission.

Remembering Fatal Homophobia

In an excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times this morning, we are reminded that homophobia isn’t simple ignorance- in some parts of the world- as in the author’s Uganda- it’s fatal:

English: No Homophobia logo

Image via Wikipedia

The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia. For years, the Christian right in America has exported its doctrine to Africa, and, along with it, homophobia. In Uganda, American evangelical Christians even held workshops and met with key officials to preach their message of hate shortly before a bill to impose the death penalty for homosexual conduct was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in 2009. Two years later, despite my denunciation of all forms of child exploitation, David Bahati, the legislator who introduced the bill, as well as Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem and other top government officials, still don’t seem to grasp that being gay doesn’t equate to being a pedophile.

Please read the rest here.

Tracy Morgan And Montana

You may have heard that actor Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) mentioned in his stand up act in Nashville Tennessee that if his son were gay, he would “pull out a knife and stab” him.

Of course, GLAAD and HRC were all over him, as were many in the LGBT and the mainstream media. And Morgan later apologized.

So what does Tracy Morgan have to do with the State of Montana?

Well, Montana got away with it.

Both the actor’s statements and the official Montana Republican Party Platform plank calling for the criminalization of The Gays are equally offensive to me. Morgan’s statement much like the Montana GOP sends a clear and dangerous message to gay and lesbian youth: You are not our equal. You are criminally offensive.

Tracy Morgan is one man, the Montana GOP represents a whole STATE.

So, where was GLAAD? Where was HRC? Where were the Log Cabin Republicans? Where was our local media?

Just another reason to not renew my HRC membership this year. To the big LGBT rights organizations, it seems, Montana doesn’t matter.

We’re collateral damage.

 

 

 

Where’s The Outcry?

by Jamee Greer

Most of you have probably already heard that the MT GOP platform was reaffirmed on June 19th, and included a plank under the heading of “Crimes” calling for recriminalization of gays and lesbians. (http://www.mtgop.org/platform.aspx)

This reflects how much power the religious right has on the Montana Republican Party today.

MCA 45-5-505, the deviant sexual conduct code, was ruled unconstitutional in 1997 by the MT Supreme Court – and 2003 by the US Supreme Court. The law, which is still on the books despite multiple attempts at removal both before and after the court rulings, calls for up to 10 years in prison and/or $50,000 in fines. (http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/45/5/45-5-505.htm)

LGBTQ Montanans are our family, friends, neighbors, firefighters, police officers, and small business owners. LGBT Montanans staff our hospitals, teach our children, build our towns, and pay taxes. We cannot be forced back into the dark and discriminatory shadows of this unjust law.


There are real and disastrous consequences associated with supporting recriminalization.

In 1995, the legislature tried to force lifetime registration of gay men and lesbians convicted under the law, that is, lifetime tracking and reporting through the sexual or violent offender registry simply for being gay or lesbian. The law, and its supporter’s rhetoric, is not just archaic and discriminatory, but can encourage violence against members of the LGBTQ community in Montana.

There’s been one press story on this that I know of, and it ran in the Missoula Independent.

(http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/lgbt/Content?oid=1273242)

There’s a growing chorus of voices upset by the fact that the MT Democratic Party hasn’t come forward in support of Montana’s gay and lesbian community.

I get the feeling as a gay man – and what the opponents like to call “professional homosexual” – that some in the party think talking about gays and lesbians hurts their chances at winning. When you’re talking about discrimination in the workplace, polling of likely voters suggests otherwise. Most Montanans support non-discrimination protections that give LGBT people equal protection under the law in housing, employment and public accommodations, like hotels and doctor’s offices.

The GOP has taken this to a new level and is calling for criminal status for all gays and lesbians! Both sides of the aisle should be coming alive, speaking out and taking action.

Beat the drums loudly. Talk about this on your blogs. Talk about it with your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends and your families.

I know this list is statewide, are there central committees interested in bringing forward resolutions condemning the platforms? Is there some statewide listserv to get that word out on? Can everyone commit to writing about this – and calling for both Democrats and Republicans – to denounce the platform?

Thanks to all. Let me know if I can be of any help.

Best regards,

Jamee Greer
Montana Human Rights Network
jamee@mhrn.org  406-241-7716


Why Montana Matters

I’ve been getting some exposure over my post Montana Republicans Are Now Officially Homophobes and Bigots. Andrew Sullivan linked to my blog. Outrage was expressed on the Montana GOP’s Facebook page. Another Facebook page wants to “Tell MT Republicans to Remove Hate from their platform“. The Missoulian published my editorial. Several other media outlets picked up the story. I’ve been doing my best to keep the legs under this issue. Other people have been great at spreading the news.

It’s not enough.

People are asking me if I’ve lost my mind- “Why does this matter so much to you?” “Why can’t you let go?” Let me explain.

As long as that plank is in the Montana Republican platform, it sneers at all LGBT persons throughout the United States. As long as that plank exists, it allows bigotry and homophobia to claim official  sanction.  It encourages intolerance, hate and the violation of human rights. It promotes ignorance, both social and scientific. It takes a segment of human society and seeks to criminalize them because of their biology, their sexuality, their choice of self-expression. It creates confusion, shame and fear in the minds of children, parents, institutions and churches. It also creates attitudes of moral superiority and bullying, mocking that phrase “all men are created equal,” substituting Orwell’s “some are more equal than others”. In short, it’s in the best interests of every human being in this country to see that this plank is changed.

Why?

Because you never know who’ll be next.

Sure, Montana isn’t exactly the political mainstream- it isn’t mainstream at all, really. Sure, there aren’t a lot of LGBT persons here. Sure, there isn’t a lot of impact on the rest of you. But this is a STATE. One of Fifty. And along with Texas, it’s discriminating against a specific group of Americans. Where does the creeping stop? Will Wyoming jump on board? Is Idaho next? Utah? Nevada? Arizona? Alaska? Who knows?

Make fun of us if you want, but if you discount Montana and it’s impact on the United States of America, you misread history. Montana’s natural resources and people have nurtured this nation since Lewis and Clark pioneered the Missouri. This isn’t just the home state of Gary Cooper, Myrna Loy, Ivan Doig, Norman MacLean, Evel Knievel, Charlie Russell, Henry Plummer and Ted Kaczyinski. It’s the place that nurtured such prominent political and social figures as Mike Mansfield, Jeannette Rankin, Chet Huntley, Lester Thurow, Lee Metcalf, Jack Horner, David Lynch, Marc Racicot, etc. Political leaders have made this a place to see and be seen. Teddy Kennedy on a bucking bronc in Miles City, or candidate Obama marching in the Butte fourth of July Parade- in fact he was here twice- and returned as president.

It matters. Maybe not to you. Not yet.

But stopping this now will be a hell of a lot easier than later, when it’s YOUR bedroom they’re talking about.