The Co$t Of MT Republican Bigotry

She said “stupidity”, I said “bigotry”, but even if MTCowgirl and I can’t agree on semantics, I like her take on economics.

Bipartisan Curious: Legalize Queer

Matt Singer from Left In The West has added some excellent points to the conversation about my ongoing struggle to publicize the latest Republican debacle.

Check them out HERE.

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


Where Are MT Democrats?

I forwarded copies of my post on The Montana GOP platform plank which proclaims the intention to criminalize gay people to our senators, governor and even our representative. So far, no response.

Not even the courtesy of a reply letter.

Does anyone have any pull here? Where are the Montana Democrats on this issue?

I suspect that just the word “homosexual” strikes fear into the heart of any democrat in Montana up for election, re-election or simply holding onto their office. It’s a divisive issue. But let’s face it, it’s a divisive issue simply because no one in high public office has had the balls to address the ignorance, flaming bigotry and simple unfairness of general public knowledge/attitudes on the part of some of the population of this state.

This is not about the gays. Well it is, probably too much so, especially in the minds of terrified up-for-reelection officials- but it’s got to move beyond that into the arena of fundamental human rights. This is about biology, psychology, sociology, and justice. It is not about weighing numbers, anticipating polls and writing religious beliefs into public policy. It’s about persecuted human beings. It’s about doing what’s right. It’s about looking at the signs of the times and preserving the legacy of Montana as a state interested in human rights, not turning us into a national joke.

Democrats, where are you?

HIV Vaccine Breakthrough

HIV

The Wall Street Journal announces, “In a significant step toward an AIDS vaccine, U.S. government scientists have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered.”

We’ve heard news of breakthroughs before, but this sounds more statistically significant than any other.

Light a candle, cross your fingers, say your prayers….

Montana Cowgirl

If you want some interesting and sometimes provocative Montana political gossip and social analysis, go to the newest Montana page, Montana Cowgirl Blog. I’ve also linked to the page in my blogroll.

She’s kickin’ it!

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.

Two Spirits


My friend Gregory Hinton’s remarks at the West Hollywood One City One Pride screening of the film Two Spirits presented by his creation, OUT WEST. Thought-provoking and amazing enough to share them with you here. Please pass them along to others. This is a remarkable film about a beautiful part of our heritage, often overlooked in modern culture.
OUT WESTtm

LGBT STORIES OF THE AMERICAN WEST

Two Spirits

Remarks by Gregory Hinton

Creator and Producer of Out West

West Hollywood One City One Pride

June 28, 2010

West Hollywood, California

Thank you, Councilmember Horvath for your generous introduction. Welcome all!  Before we screen the film, with the permission of our filmmakers, I’d like to tell you a bit about Out West.

Out West is an educational program series dedicated to shine a light on the contributions of our community to the history and culture of the American West.  I have been privileged to develop Out West with my founding partner, the Autry National Center. http://theautry.org/series/out-west

Tonight, Out West has a new friend – the City of West Hollywood. I am so grateful to the City Council, the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission and its wonderful staff, the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, and the Transgender Advisory Board for including Two Spirits in their 25th One City One Pride program series.   I hope it is the first of many Out West collaborations.  www.weho.org/pride

In one short year, we’ve presented two very successful Out West programs at the Autry, with two more planned for the fall and winter. On July 24th, the Autry is celebrating the National Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl. Their website has the details. Representing the Autry here are my friends Joan Cumming, Senior Director of Marketing and Marlene Head, editor of the Autry’s Convergence Magazine.

Tom Gregory, HBO, Tim Gill, and James Hormel were our first responders.  Our friends at GLAAD and HRC have supported us from day one.

Seated in this theater tonight, are western scholars, authors, musicians, artists, and filmmakers all working on books, songs, paintings, and films to further Out West’s objective of dispelling the notion that there is no place for our community in the American West.  You’ll be hearing more about them very soon.

I myself was born on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, in the remote northeastern corner of Montana.  My wonderful brother Scott was also gay.  We skipped rocks on the Missouri River, near the same banks where Lewis and Clark made camp with Sacagawea.

We later moved south to Cody, Wyoming, founded by Buffalo Bill.  We routinely attended rodeos and powwows. Yellowstone Park was our backyard.  It was a wonderful, magical childhood. It was a time when children wandered, and mothers expected their safe return.

It is for this reason that I am devoted to the mission of Out West. Times have changed since my brother and I were boys.  Born in rural communities, many of us feel forced to leave our families behind to move to the city in search of identity, companionship, and safety.

That said, happily, not everybody leaves. And some of us return. And some of us, city born, visit the American West, like what we see and move there. I encourage everyone sitting in this theater tonight to take your families on a car trip through the American West.  It will change your perspective. It has changed my life.

The American West – its art, its history and vast natural resources – belongs to everyone.  Its stewardship cannot – must not – be left in the hands of those who would restrict our community’s right to the pursuit of happiness openly and without fear.

The rights and freedoms afforded us by the vision, vigilance, and hard work of the leaders of West Hollywood are far from the realities of our sister communities in the rural West.  Missoula recently became the first Montana city to adopt anti-discrimination laws to protect our community.  Opposing forces – including the father of a young Lesbian who pushed it through – have now filed suit to overturn it.

It is my hope that national organizations will step up efforts to support our country family, which often feels marginalized because its numbers are few.  And perhaps through Out West, urban communities such as West Hollywood might become “sister cities” with their rural western counterparts: Laramie, Bozeman, and Boise.

The city and the country have a lot to catch up on.  We have much to teach each other. To protect our rural kids, and our rural elders, our community must be visible, like a porch light streaming into the western night sky.

And now, to Lydia and Russell, the filmmakers of Two Spirits, thank you for your advocacy by flipping on the switch.

Two Spirits is the story of Fred Martinez, a Navajo boy who was also a girl. It is also the story of Pauline Mitchell, the mother who loved him, who prayed every night for his safe return.

It speaks to the prescience of the Navajo culture.  Imagine a time where Two Spirit children were adored, their talents cultivated, their spirits revered.

The World Premiere of Two Spirits was sponsored by the Matthew Shepard Foundation in Denver.  I recently told Judy Shepard that in addition to experiencing bias as a gay man, I have also experienced bias as a rural westerner. I asked her if Matt loved Wyoming. Judy told me he stayed in Laramie because it was home and he loved the out of doors.

The love of mothers and courage of sons astonishes.

Stay home if you want. Be who you are. This is the mission of Out West.

And now, Two Spirits.

Following the fifty minute screening, producer Russell Martin will speak to us and introduce Lydia Nibley, the director. After remarks from Lydia, our honored guest Dr. Wesley Thomas, Dean of Humanities, and renowned Native American Two Spirit authority from Arizona’s Dine College will be introduced, with a Q & A and reception to follow.

The West belongs to everyone.  It’s our history, too.   Thank you, West Hollywood!

www.twospirits.org

Freedom Day in the USA

Happy Fourth of July, folks!

The promise of freedom still beckons in this country, despite the fact that many of us are not as free as others. People are still doing things they don’t want to do because they have no money. People are still being exploited because they have no power. People are being unnecessarily discriminated against because they do not have equal access to a quality education. Race and gender are often obstacles to overcome rather than diversity to be embraced. Persons are still persecuted openly because of their religion. People are still being attacked, beaten and killed because of prejudice. People can lose their jobs because of whom they love, not to mention that marriage for a significant part of the population is mostly out of the question. There’s work to be done, and blessings to be remembered. Many of us can remember the crowded and dark closet of our pasts with co-existing nostalgia and horror. Nostalgia that we survived, horror at what we actually endured. And a sigh of relief that it’s mostly no longer necessary.

I believe that taking my freedom and dignity and doing what I can to create more, for myself and others is the only way to go. This happens in my own awareness and understanding of the beauty and possibility of the world around me- and inside me. Freedom is another word for shamelessly and happily being totally myself- and allowing and encouraging others to do the same. This quote has inspired me to do just that:

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
~ Albert Camus, 1913-1960, Nobel Prize for Literature, 1957

Freedom begins in our hearts and minds. Take your blessings and make freedom a reality for everyone- that’s the American way.

Despite what anyone else thinks.

Proud

I hold my head up, barely-
with parades in it, it’s heavy.
I look at the world and know
that they’re all looking at me.
They are.
I’m important.
I have to be or there wouldn’t
be such a beautiful fucking parade,
Right?

At least today they’re looking.
They can’t really ignore the music
and the sweat, and the skin and the feathers.

Some bring their kids,
I automatically make way for strollers.
I notice lots of dogs, some very fancy.
I get tangled, briefly, in a sparkly leash
when a bulldog in a tutu
takes a turn for  a terrier.

There are beautiful, beautiful people.
Beauty, I know, a distraction from pain.
Smile, it’s your day!
They smile, on cue-
they really want to mean it.
There are old people- at least fortysomething.
It’s funny, they smile anyway.

Some stand back,
not really there, but they have to be.

And some, I know, are quietly holding
a heavy excuse to beat me with
(they practice on themselves, like I did).
But not today,
They’re outnumbered.

Is blue the sky, or the other way round?
Today, it doesn’t matter.
My eyes are clear
my back is straight,
my neck getting stronger
with every passing feathery float.

~ D Gregory Smith