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The New York Times is reporting that despite being unenforceable, irrelevant and ridiculously out of date, Kansas sodomy laws are being kept on the books by Governor Sam Brownback.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

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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 Sam Brownback created the Office of the Repealer to recommend the elimination of out-of-date, unreasonable and burdensome state laws that build up in any bureaucracy over time.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“We were pretty much the first in line with our request to have this unconstitutional ban on gay and lesbian relations repealed,” said Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition.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?

Lettin’ in “the gays”

The ban on allowing only certain people to serve without secrecy and shame in the United States Military has ended, giving all LGB (not T?) persons another venue in which to pursue their chosen career path with a semblance of integrity.

I have always had mixed feelings about the ban. On the one hand, having worked with a number of U.S. veterans, I think military culture often has a negative impact on individuals, especially when it comes to relating to civilian life. Life in the barracks or on active duty can be far removed from the reality of most Americans’ day-to-day lives. Some of my military friends say that is how it needs to be in order to combat the enemy. I’m not so sure. I do know that the culture offers very little support for soldiers re-entering civilian life, resuming relationships and entering the workforce. It’s even worse for those with PTSD.

On the other hand, I think everyone has the right to choose their own path to empowering themselves as human beings- sometimes this is the only (or at least glaring) option for those without other resources to gain a shot at higher education or skill training. So if someone wants to serve, being able to do so without shame or fear of discovery- at least officially, can only make the military better, and camaraderie more honest. And when official shaming ends, we move closer to full acceptance and integration into society- and further away from internalized homophobia and humiliation.

All good things.

And for those who think the president hasn’t done enough: I believe he and his administration are doing as much as they can- and carefully enough that the changes they do make will stand. Across the board, from Health and Human Services to the Justice Department to the FDA, changes that reflect good science and social practice are being carefully integrated into public policy- as are the diversity of the personnel involved (which include a large number of LGBT persons). That isn’t often remembered because it’s not sexy, sensational or scintillating. But it’s totally important to our well-being as a diversity-accepting country. It’s the Obama Long Game. And I’m a fan.

They haven’t lost me, because I know this would have never happened under President McCain.

The Holidays: Stress, Secrets and Statistics

“There’s always so much stress for me at this time of year – and everyone’s pushing drinks.”

This is a statement from a gay male therapy client who is also in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. He continued, “I don’t feel particularly strong right now, and it would be easy to just say ‘screw it’ and grab a drink off the tray.”  

He didn’t grab that first drink, mostly because of his strong commitment to his recovery program and the personal support he’d cultivated around staying sober. But his situation is a good reminder of something we may not pay enough attention to.

In general, the holidays are much more stressful than any other time of year. LGBT persons have their own particular set of stressors, and remembering some helpful tips can help make the holiday season easier.

But there’s one thing that we would do well to remember and be aware of:

LGBT persons are much more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than the general population.

Stay with me here.

Maybe it’s the stress of being different that makes us want to self-medicate to feel better. Could it be a way to drive away the suspicion of judgment we fear from those closest to us? Maybe it’s the constant struggle to secure rights, respect and dignity that make it so easy to reach for something to relax. Maybe it’s the higher amount of depression we have as a community. Maybe it’s the culture of bars that seem(ed) to be our only support- and the dogged pursuit of the LGBT dollar by alcohol and tobacco companies. Maybe it’s the simple feeling of comfort and relaxation that became a driving need. Maybe it’s the stress of keeping secrets.

Maybe it’s all of the above.

Whatever the reason, the reality is this:

LGBT persons are 3-5 times more likely to abuse substances, less likely to abstain and more likely to continue heavy use later in life than the general population (NALGAP, 2002).

To be clear: this is not a consequence of sexual/personal identity, but of society’s response or reaction to it, often leaving us reaching for something to help cope with the confusion and pain. And because many of us cope in this way, often in the company of our peers – perspective is often a hard thing to come by.

And because, for many of us, carrying the dual secrets/shames of being a sexual minority and having a problem with substance abuse/addiction is so difficult and even scary, we find it hard to talk about – much less deal with.

To help facilitate some perspective and discussion, allow me to offer the following distinction between abuse and addiction:

Substance Abuse: Using a substance in an abusive manner, esp. in ways that may be (temporarily) harmful, impairing, or disabling. Not all people who abuse substances are addicts.

Substance Addiction: Compulsive use of a substance characterized by four elements:

  1. Loss of control- (non-rational compulsion) The user has no ability to deny the compulsion
  2. Continued use despite adverse consequences- the addict uses even though they know it causes problems
  3. Cravings- intense psychological preoccupation with getting and using the substance
  4. Denial- distortion of perception, unable to see the risks and consequences of use

Because a person doesn’t have to use drugs or drink alcohol every day to have a problem, it’s often difficult to recognize the signs of drug and alcohol addiction. This checklist of common alcohol and drug abuse symptoms can help you identify the signs of addiction, determine if yourself, a friend or loved one is having a problem with addiction, and if additional help is needed.

Please remember that even if a person shows any of the following signs and symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that they have a drug or alcohol addiction. The presence of some of these symptoms could relate to stress, depression or other problems that may or may not be related to substance abuse.

General signs and symptoms of addiction/consistent abuse:

  • Observable signs of deteriorating personal hygiene
  • Multiple physical symptoms and complaints
  • Accidents
  • Personality and behavioral changes
  • Many drug prescriptions for self and family
  • Frequent emotional crises
  • Behavior excused by family and friends
  • Activities involving drinking alcohol are a priority
  • Arguments/violent outbursts
  • Sexual problems
  • Extramarital affairs
  • Withdrawal from and fragmentation of family
  • Neglect of children
  • Abnormal, illegal, anti-social actions of children
  • Separation or divorce
  • Unexplained absences from home

Medical and Physical Signs:

  • Observable decline in physical health
  • Signs of weight change
  • Pupils either dilated or constricted; face flushed/bloated
  • Emergency-room treatments such as drug or alcohol overdose, unexplained injuries, symptoms of migraine headaches, auto accidents
  • Claims of having been “mugged” but without witnesses
  • Inability to focus and track in a conversation
  • Signs of shakiness, tremors of hands
  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteady gait
  • Constant runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Observed by Friends and Community

  • Noticeable signs of becoming personally isolated
  • Embarrassing behavior
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or a drug
  • Legal problems
  • Neglect of social commitments
  • Unpredictable behavior such as inappropriate spending

Workplace Signs

  • Signs of workaholic behavior
  • Disorganized schedule
  • Decreased workload or workload intolerance
  • Signs of poor work performance
  • Alcohol on breath with attempts to cover with mints or mouthwash
  • Frequent unexplained absences or prolonged breaks
  • Tardiness or leaving work early
  • Withdrawal from professional committees or organizations
  • Defensive if questioned or confronted
  • Poor judgment
  • Observed occurrences of drug or alcohol intoxication, drowsiness or hypersensitivity during work hours
  • Deadlines barely met or missed altogether
  • Frequent job changes or relocation
  • Avoiding supervisor or other co-workers

The good news: There is a lot of help for LGBT people who want it. Recovery programs, addiction centers, therapists, hospitals, churches and even workplaces can be sources of help and support. Online groups are even available for those who have difficulty talking face to face about their fears and possible problems.

But remember, the best way to have perspective is to be aware.

Be aware of your own habits and behaviors around substances. Be aware of the habits of your friends and social groups. Do we need to gather with alcohol in order to have fun? Do we insist others have a drink? Do we make it difficult for them to refuse? Are we sensitive to (or even aware of) those in recovery?

Be aware that you, your friends and (chosen) family may be more susceptible to addiction than you thought.

And, maybe, with that increased awareness, we can make the holidays – and our community – a whole lot healthier.