Torture and the Shadow Code

As more revelations of U.S. torture methods — approved at the highest levels of our government — are revealed to us, the complicity of Christians is perhaps especially appalling.

Detainees from the Middle East, suspected of being terrorists, have been held in prison camps — often on the flimsiest of evidence — and subjected to brutalities unimaginable to most Americans. At least we couldn’t imagine them until now.

Many of the same people who participated in, or approved of, theis cruel treatment were conservative Christians. In other words, the same people who tend to crusade against gays. Indeed, exploitation of the Muslim detainees’ cultural revulsion toward homosexuality has been a frequent form of abuse against them by their captors.

The fact that U.S. personnel have so readily resorted to this tactic says as much about them as it does about their prisoners.

There seems to be a connection between the dehumanization of these detainees and the dehumanization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens in the U.S. A sort of shadow code of morality has arisen, driven not by the Gospel of Jesus Christ but by the fears and resentments of “Christian” Americans.

This shadow code seems to exist for the purpose of distracting the public away from the treatment of detainees in prison camps — some of them mere schoolboys, and others elderly men — and giving the public “queers” to disapprove of, instead of the sadists who torture and murder in all our names.

It seems conservatives get more noisily pious — more self-righteous about the “immorality” of certain inconvenient others — every time they themselves are doing something they want to hide.

As deliberations go forward as to whether torture and murder by top government officials should be prosecuted, we can be sure of one thing: we in the GLBT community will be on the hot seat again.

This time, as the red-handedly guilty cry, “Look at the homos,” we must make sure they don’t slip into the shadows again. Make no mistake about it, they’re shining the spotlight on us for just that purpose. We now see, more clearly than perhaps ever before, what we are being used for. We must make certain the rest of America knows it, too.

GOP Support for Same-Gender Marriage?

Update: HuffPo has good post of Schmidt’s speech – religion will kill the GOP!

Towleroad is reporting that Steve Schmidt, former advisor to Republican presidential candidate John McCain, will be urging the GOP to support same-gender marriage.

In an excerpt from Schmidt’s speech to Log Cabin Republicans, Schmidt makes a strong case for conservative support of same-gender marriage:

“There is a sound conservative argument to be made for same-sex marriage. I believe conservatives, more than liberals, insist that rights come with responsibilities. No other exercise of one’s liberty comes with greater responsibilities than marriage…It cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un American or threatens the rights of others. On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence — liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force.”

With four states now performing same-gender marriages and other states like New Hampshire and New York leaning in that direction, perhaps support from Schmidt as well as McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain will provide the tipping point we need on this issue.

It’s just a matter of time before same-gender marriage is legal in all 50 states!

Life for Rural LGBT Christians

It’s tough in so many ways to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but add being a Christian to the mix and suddenly you’re a minority in a minority. Now take your LGBT Christian self and plop down in some rural community. It doesn’t matter where, north, south, east, west – the challenge you face is one not faced by your city brothers and sisters. Where will you go to church? How will you find an accepting congregation in the nooks and crannies of the country? And if you can’t find one – how will you find spiritual community?

Kathleen Lourde is examining this question in a series of stories about LGBT Christians in rural areas:

In many parts of the country, the opportunities for worship in rural areas and small towns are predominantly Christian, and a higher percentage seems to be fundamentalist than in larger cities.

Of the more than 30 people interviewed for this story, many grew up in households in which homosexuality was seen as a sin, even if it was largely unspoken. Many went to churches whose position on homosexuality was that it was sinful. Most eventually turned away from mainline religions and spent a period of their lives studying various belief systems and developing their own brand of spirituality—especially in rural areas, that often included a sense of God in nature.

A few, however, were lucky enough to be raised in, or easily find, gay-friendly churches even in small towns, usually Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or United Church of Christ churches.

Some of those who agreed to be interviewed are part of Whosoever’s online community, where many have found a spiritual home and friendship. To find out more about our groups and how you can join, go here.

Partial Repeal of DOMA at Hand?

The Advocate is reporting that there’s a move afoot in Congress to repeal parts of DOMA – the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-gender marriages.

Legislative aides familiar with the discussions say a handful of congressional leaders have been hashing out the details of the legislation, which would accomplish two goals: repeal section 3 of DOMA as it relates to the federal government’s ability to confer some 1,100 federal benefits on same-sex partners; and provide a way for same-sex couples living in states that do not allow them to marry legally to access the same federal benefits afforded to heterosexual spouses.

The most immediate benefits of passing such a bill would go to legally married gay couples — those who have married or will marry in Connecticut or Massachusetts, those who married in California while it was legal (pending the state supreme court decision over the validity of those marriages), and those soon to marry in Iowa and Vermont. Same-sex couples in New York, which recognizes legal marriages performed outside of the state, would also be among the first beneficiaries.

This would be a huge step forward, especially for those who are already legally married in the four states that have legalized same-gender marriage.

But, the most problematic part would remain:

By all accounts, the bill will not disrupt section 2 of DOMA, which gives individual states the ability to determine what type of unions they deem legal. “It still protects federalism — states are still able to make their own decision about what state benefits to offer,” Anders added.

That means that while married gays and lesbians could get federal benefits, states would still be able to deny same-gender marriages. It still may take a Supreme Court order in the vein of Loving v. Virginia to have same-gender marriage recognized in every state, no matter where it was performed – but this is still and encouraging movement from Congress.

The “Scoop” from Amazon

I sent a note yesterday complaining about Amazon’s de-ranking of my book Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians.

The story has been all over the Web: here, here, and here, just to name a few.

The note sent to me from Amazon made this lame excuse:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon’s main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we’re in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.

Not bloody likely, but thanks for putting the sales ranking back on my page, Amazon.

Bulletproof Faith “De-Ranked” by Amazon

My book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians has been de-ranked by Amazon.com. Apparently, Amazon has decided that gay and lesbian books are “offensive” and are “adult” material and they don’t want them turning up in searches and offending anyone who might innocently be searching for books and one of our filthy, outrageous, titles should pop up.

Amazon.com has been called on this – and over at Twitter.com the #amazonfail group is alive and calling for Amazon’s head over this – and Amazon has responded by calling it a “glitch” that is going to be fixed.

That “glitch” comment, by the way, came after an admission from an Amazon PR flak that removing the sales rankings from gay and lesbian books was intentional because they were “adult” titles and would be considered offensive.

But, if you search for sex toys on Amazon’s site – these “adult” devices still have their sales rankings:

Remarked all-around swell poet Mark Doty across the disorganized sprawl of Facebook, “If you go on Amazon and type in butt plug in the search window, you’ll see a number of them for sale, with sales ranking attached! So, it’s okay to rank butt plugs but not books?” Alas yes. One only finds erogenous things as butt plugs (and whips too!) when specifically searching them out.

Whosoever has been an Amazon associate for years now – but if this situation is not rectified, and soon, we will be disassociating from them and moving on to another bookstore.

In the meantime, I suggest you head over the Indiebooks.org and check out their selection. It’s time to get serious about supporting our independent bookstores instead of the homophobic box stores and online stores.

Update: Some books have had their sales ranks restored, but Bulletproof Faith is NOT one of them. We haven’t won this battle yet.

We Heart the Heartland

Iowa’s approval of same-sex marriage is a vindication for Midwesterners. For a long time, they’ve been seen as rednecks and rubes. But as those of us who live in the Heartland, or have family there, can attest, many are simply decent and well-meaning folks.

Because my own relatives hail from Howard Lake, Minnesota, I have a positive view of Heartlanders. They have steadfastly supported me since I came out. Holding stalwartly to progressive values like tolerance, environmental sustainability and general social responsibility, they are forward-looking even as they hold to the very best traditional values. Iowans who embrace marriage equality for all are cut from the same, durably-quilted cloth.

Imagine my astonishment when I learned that baying-at-the-moon crazy anti-gay Rep. Michele Bachmann represents my relatives’ district! When I hear people make fun of the “kooks and bigots” who sent Bachmann to Washington, it hits uncomfortably close to home. But nobody in my family voted for Bachmann — though they’re stuck with her all the same.

There are loyal allies in the least-expected of places. There are also malignant homophobes in those that seem the most enlightened. Not everybody voted for Michele Bachmann. Nor did everybody support same-sex marriage in states like Iowa or Vermont.

We are right, I think, to see hope in the Heartland because of Iowa’s stand for marriage equality. As we make friends with folks in other midwestern states, we will win them over, too.

My uncle, in his eighties, is working to make his little Lutheran church more welcoming. My cousins routinely support efforts to make their churches inclusive for all. And GLBT Christians who live in or visit the Midwest, out and proud as both GLBT and Christian, can do wonders to transform the hearts and minds of these religious folks. We can do a tremendous amount simply by being honestly ourselves. Truly, the time is past when we can remain closeted just for the sake of our own, personal comfort.

When we have won the Heartland, we will have won America’s heart.

Around the ‘Net

Here are some stories you may have missed:

– Steve Waldman and BeliefNet sheds light on Rick Warren’s recent equivocations over his stand on same-gender marriage. I hear backpeddling is good exercise – Rick could use some.

– Conservative columnist Jack Elgin – in a long and rambling article – makes the conservative case for same-gender marriage. Read it all if you’ve got the time, but here’s the money shot:

The primary role of government is to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but it itself is a tremendous potential threat to liberty. To use the power of government to enforce a moral code or force someone into a moral life is a violation of consevative principles and erodes the bedrock of liberty. Moral and aesthetic arguments are therefore useless when attempting to preserve the Western tradition of marriage as a social contract between a man and a woman. The last argument, that the contract of marriage serves a vital role in building the family as the basic unit of American society for raising the next generation, fails to demonstrate where non-standard unions are either grossly inadequate to the same task, or harmful to these other unions by their existence.

– Same-sex marriage apparently leads to mass murder. Who knew?

– And, saving the best for last, Mark Morford at the San Francisco Chronicle dissects the TV ad portraying same-gender marriage as the “gathering storm” that will destroy us ALL!!!!! Fear the rainbow!

Hard Life for Iraqi Gays

While we rightly celebrate the marriage victories in Iowa and Vermont these past few days, it’s good to remember our LGBT brothers and sisters whose struggles are greater than our own. In Iraq, for instance, homosexuality it against the law, and the LGBT movement there is facing more than just a little discrimination:

In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word “pervert” in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies, the police said.

“Three of my closest friends have been killed during the past two weeks alone,” said Basim, 23, a hairdresser. “They had been planning to go to a cafe away from Sadr City because we don’t feel safe here, but they killed them on the way. I had planned to go with them, but fortunately I didn’t.”

The scary thing here is that it’s not just death squads out shooting complete strangers because they might be gay, some of these LGBT people are being killed by their own family members.

“I don’t care about the militias anymore, because they’re going to kill me anyway — today, tomorrow or the day after,” said a man named Sa’ad, who has been taking estrogen and has developed small breasts. “I hate my community and my relatives. If they had their way, the result would be one gunshot.”

This violent persecution has not prevented LGBT people in Iraq from gathering together. We need to keep them in our prayers as they seek to live authentically in a country that not just oppresses them, but kills them.