The Republicans Missed A Chance For Inclusivity- On Purpose

Frank Bruni in today’s New York Times articulates beautifully the guilt and shame purveyed by the Republican party:

America

America (Photo credit: acb)

WHAT the Republicans painstakingly constructed here was meant to look like the biggest of tents. And still they couldn’t spare so much as a sleeping bag’s worth of space for the likes of me.

Women were welcomed. During the prime evening television hours, the convention stage was festooned with them, and when they weren’t at the microphone, they were front and center in men’s remarks. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney both gushed about their moms in tributes as tactical as they were teary.

Latinos were plentiful and flexed their Spanish — “En América, todo es posible,” said Susana Martinez, the New Mexico governor — despite an “English First” plank in the party’s regressive platform.

And while one preconvention poll suggested that roughly zero percent of African-Americans support Romney, Republicans found several prominent black leaders to testify for him. Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, delivered what will surely be remembered as the convention’s most stirring and substantive remarks, purged of catcalls and devoid of slickly rendered fibs.

But you certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa. More to the point, you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians. Scratch that: Mike Huckabee, who has completed a ratings-minded transformation from genial pol to dyspeptic pundit, made a derisive reference to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. We were thus allowed a fleeting moment inside the tent, only to be flogged and sent back out into the cold.

Read the whole article here.

HIV-positive Women Find Support In Dating Again

 

Being HIV-positive is a challenge. Being HIV-positive and single is often a nightmare. We all want to love and be loved, but the barriers- social and psychological- for HIV-positive persons are high. From The Seattle Times:

 

Like many women with HIV/AIDS, Nicole Price worried about love and life, post-diagnosis. She now counsels HIV-positive women on forging romantic relationships, knowing each time out that disclosing one’s status can be a deal-breaker.

 

In 2000, Nicole Price’s ex-boyfriend fell ill. They had recently ended a five-year relationship, so she went to see him in the hospital. He had AIDS.

English: HIV positive dating

She got tested. She was 24.

“It was the longest two weeks of my life,” said Price, now 37. We thought we would get back together because we both had it.”

At the time of her diagnosis, Price was using meth and living in California when her mother, a Bothell resident, learned about a Seattle-based support group for HIV-positive women.

Within two years, she packed her bags for Bothell for a fresh start.

Like many women with HIV/AIDS, Price worried about love and life, post-diagnosis. Once she settled here, she became increasingly involved with the support group, BABES Network-YWCA, eventually rising to program manager. Price now counsels HIV-positive women on forging romantic relationships, knowing each time out that disclosing one’s status can be a deal-breaker.

“They can stop having sex altogether and never do it again,” Price said. “Some of our women have chosen to be in a lesbian relationship. Actually quite a few of our women have. I think they feel that betrayal. They feel like maybe they got betrayed, and now they have issues when it comes to men.”

Trusting a sexual partner and dealing with rejection are regular topics at BABES.

Through peer counseling, support groups, educational lectures and retreats, BABES tackles the challenge of maintaining relationships — especially romantic ones — after testing positive. Women take part in mock disclosures, an exercise meant to ease the stress of telling a partner about being HIV-positive.

“I encourage women to date when they’re ready. I ask them questions to see if they’re ready. When do you want to disclose your status? Are you ready for the response?” said Brenda Higgins, a BABES peer advocate.

“I’m never ready for the response I’m getting,” she added. “There’s really no way of preparing someone with that.”

 

Read the full story here

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.”

A Closer Look At Pro-Gay Republicans In An Anti-Gay Party

Video on msnbc.com: Frank Rich, writer-at-large for New York Magazine, talks with Rachel Maddow about the wild disconnect between Republican power players (both politicians and donors) who support gay rights and the Republican presidential field who are competing to pander to the most extreme right wing of the party.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Sound Familiar?

To Montana LGBT folks it does.

The New York Times is reporting that despite being unenforceable, irrelevant and ridiculously out of date, Kansas sodomy laws are being kept on the books by Governor Sam Brownback. Excerpt:

English: Photographs of the Rally to Restore S...

Image via Wikipedia

Gov. Sam Brownback created the Office of the Repealer to recommend the elimination of out-of-date, unreasonable and burdensome state laws that build up in any bureaucracy over time.

For gay men and lesbians, there seemed one particularly obvious candidate: Kansas Statute 21-3505.

That would be the “criminal sodomy” statute, which prohibits same-sex couples from engaging in oral or anal sex. The law was rendered unenforceable nearly a decade ago by a United States Supreme Court ruling, but it remains enshrined in the state’s legal code.

But on Friday, when Mr. Brownback, a conservative Republican, released a list of 51 laws to recommend to the Legislature for repeal, the sodomy statute was not among them.

The decision, despite public and private lobbying, has angered gay leaders here. “We were pretty much the first in line with our request to have this unconstitutional ban on gay and lesbian relations repealed,” said Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition.

“This isn’t just some archaic law that’s sitting on the books and isn’t bothering anyone,” Mr. Witt continued. “It’s used as justification to harass and discriminate against people, and it needs to go.”

Mr. Brownback, who is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage on religious grounds, declined to comment, and his spokeswoman would not say whether he would support repealing the law against same-sex sodomy, a misdemeanor that officially carries a prison sentence of up to six months.

This is familiar, because the Montana Legislature did the exact same thing last session, refusing to remove an anachronistic, irrelevant law from the books– ostensibly to shame and vilify LGBT persons.

It’s simple hate, bigotry and discrimination. As I’ve said before, these Christianist conservatives don’t give a shit about human rights, they don’t give a shit about science and they don’t give a shit about gay people.

The only cool thing about this is that the tide of public opinion is steadily going against actions like these– making the case that these bigots are out of touch with the common sense of the American people, and will soon be anachronistic and irrelevant themselves.

Full NYT story here.

World AIDS Day in Montana

On World AIDS Day we should not only remember the lives we’ve lost and think of those who are continuing to battle this disease, but we should also remember the challenges we’ve overcome and move forward towards the challenges ahead.
Here in Montana, we have a lot of challenges in regard to HIV/AIDS, but it’s important to me to highlight something some people may not pay particular attention to; something that drives me crazy every time I think about it;  the particular challenge of Congressman Dennis Rehberg.
Congressman Rehberg has a long history of furthering stigma and reducing access to treatment for people with HIV.
When he was our Lt.Governor, Congressman Rehberg argued against providing treatment for people with HIV, saying, “The problem with AIDS is, you get, you die, so why are we spending any money on people that get it...”
And no apology.
I’ve documented more recently that Congressman Rehberg hasn’t changed his thoughts on fighting this disease. In fact, he wants to eviscerate the budget. His recently released budget bill (in which he solicited no input from Montanans) would cut nearly $33 million from the CDC to fight the spread of HIV, Hep-C and other STDs. Obviously, Congressman Rehberg doesn’t realize that stopping the spread of these diseases now will save us millions of dollars in health care costs down the road- and potentially save the lives of millions of Americans and hundreds of Montanans.
He’s too busy pandering to the Tea Party.
I attended the Governor’s World AIDS Day awards today and I heard the award recipients and the many inspirational people talk about the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, “Getting to Zero: Zero Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS-Related Deaths.” It struck me as I was listening to the speeches, that, over his decades as a politician, Denny Rehberg has done an incredible disservice  to his hundreds of constituents living with HIV/AIDS- and their families. His ignorance and inability to separate HIV from stigma and shame is repugnant- and the exact opposite of the hope, selflessness, dedication and service those people in the Capitol Rotunda represented today.
Let’s make sure that by next year’s World AIDS Day Congressman Rehberg won’t be able to work against our efforts to stop the spread of this disease and the stigma associated with it.

2010- When Official Republican Persecution and Bigotry Went Unchecked

For me, 2010 is/was about Republican political shaming of The Gays. The Montana GOP approved a platform which included this blatant piece of ignorance and bigotry:

We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.

And, despite the fuss I made, that others made,  the discomfort from one Montana Republican leader (no leader of the Democrats said a word), the platform plank is still there. No one really paid much attention. Despite my letters to elected officials, to the Log Cabin Republicans, to advocacy groups, no one really paid much attention. fact, I only got one lukewarm response- from GLAAD. The issue got mentioned a few times- including once by Rachel Maddow, then it seems, was forgotten.

It’s sad. It’s even more sad when you figure the Texas GOP into the equation. They, too have a “Jail The Gays” plank.

Why can’t we get it together?

I tried to make the case that “Montana Matters“- a few nibbles, a few more voices added to the chorus, but still, nothing changed. I’m not sure I should be surprised, but it doesn’t keep me from being disappointed. I want us to be better than that. I want the LGBT community to speak out against this with one voice. I want Republican allies and Log Cabin Republicans to take a stand. I want straight allies and parents of LGBT children to speak up. I want Democrats to see this for what it is: blatant persecution and bigotry- and do something about it. I want to live in a world- or at least a state, where ugliness and hate don’t win- not even one round.

I know. As my mother says “..and people in hell want ice water.”

But they won this one. Again, I remind you, nothing changed. That plank is still there. In both states. Despite the amazing victories we’ve had this year, despite the DADT repeal, despite the increased awareness of anti-LGBT bullying, despite the increased polling numbers for same-sex marriage, despite the popularity of Glee- institutionalized homophobia is alive and well.

They got away with it. 

My resolution for 2011 is this: I will work to bring liberty and justice for all- even in the so-called “flyover” states. Because this phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t true yet. Because the erosion of our humanity is happening right in front of our noses- and I find it troubling, offensive, perverse and distinctively Un-American.

Don’t you?