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God, Guns, Capitalism, and the Explosive U.S. Firearms Culture

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What appears as a sick and extraordinarily insensitive stunt turned out to be an actual announcement for a raffle to “benefit” the victims’ families of the Orlando massacre at the Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in which a shooter murdered 49 and wounded another 53 people in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016.

The owners of Second Amendment Sports of McHenry, Illinois, are selling tickets in their raffle for the prize of an AR-15 military-grade assault rifle, which is similar to the weapon of mass destruction and death used at the Pulse nightclub.

Second Amendment Sports’ insane raffle represents only the latest installment in the volatile and explosive gun culture of the United States. For example, Spike’s Tactical shop of Apopka, Florida begun marketing its special AR-15 assault rifle, which company spokesperson, Former Navy SEAL Ben “Mookie” Thomas, claims was “designed to never be used by Muslim terrorists,” as the shop’s continuing battle in the Christian Crusades.

On one side of the rifle, shop employees laser-etched the Knights Templar Long Cross of the original Crusaders when they marched to reclaim the Holy Lands from Muslims in 1099 CE. On the other side, they engraved Psalm 144:1: “Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” Called “The Crusader,” the rifle includes a three-setting trigger safety control branded “Peace,” “War,” and “God Wills It.”

“Mookie” Thomas originated the idea for the rifle, stating, “Off the cuff I said I’d like to have a gun that if a Muslim terrorist picked it up, a bolt of lightning would hit and knock him dead.” Unfortunately, owners, employees, and customers at Spike’s Tactical seemed to have forgotten that the Christian Crusades represent one of the most horrific, shameful, and tragic scars on Christendom.

In another installment in the booming gun culture, Bergeron’s Restaurant in Louisiana, billing itself as the home of “God, Gumbo, and Guns,” offers a 10% discount to any customer who brings a gun with them to lunch or dinner. Says restaurant owner Kevin Cox:

“Show it to me out of your purse, out of your back pocket….Show that you have one so if something goes wrong here today, I know you’re here to protect me.” Cox criticizes gun-free businesses like Chipotle and Target: “You make a gun-free zone,” he argued, “that’s where bad people with guns are going to go – dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” Since instituting the discount this fall, business has increased approximately 25%.

Giving new meaning to the term “hunting for a wife,” Jewelry by Harold owner in North Liberty, Iowa last year gave a husband-to-be a voucher for a new Remington 870 rifle with the purchase of an engagement ring priced at $1,999 or higher. Shop owner Harold van Beek stated: “So say: I’m hunting deer, and here is a diamond ring, dear.” To apply for this “deal,” one must be eligible to own a gun in Iowa, and not have been convicted of a felony.

In its attempt to pull in shoppers a couple of years ago on so-called “Black Friday” (the day following Thanksgiving), the camping and outdoors superstore, Cabela’s, handed out envelopes to the first 800 people over the age of 18 who lined up in front of its stores before 5:00 a.m. for a chance to win a Browning A-Bolt Medallion .300 WSM rifle with a Cabela’s 50th anniversary gun case worth $875.

And maybe it’s not too late to go down to Nations Truck Sales in Sanford, Florida where three years ago they offered each customer a brand spanking new assault rifle with the purchase of a truck. Stated General Sales Manager, Nick Ginetta: “We started on Veterans Day. Hey, so many have given so much for this right!”

I’ve heard about people being shot from canons, but for those who want to remain active hunters well after they have “bought the farm,” now their wishes have come true. Be the first on your block to kill long after you have died. For the sum of only $1250, your loved ones can have you cremated with a pound of your ashes stuffed inside genuine bullets, resurrecting you as live ammunition.

For that measly sum, you can metamorphose as 250 shot shells, 100 rifles cartridges, or 250 pistol cartridges. For only $100 extra, until you come alive again as a killing apparatus, your bullet ashes can rest in peace in a decorative wooden coffin-like box.

The company, Holy Smoke Bullet Urns of Stockton, Alabama, has taken quite literally Shylock’s claim in Shakespeare’s 1596 Merchant of Venice: “The pound of flesh which I demand of him is deerely bought, ‘tis mine, and I will have it.”

According to the company’s cofounder, Clem Parnell: You know I’ve thought about this for some time and I want to be cremated. Then I want my ashes put into some turkey load shotgun shells and have someone that knows how to turkey hunt use the shotgun shells with my ashes to shoot a turkey. That way I will rest in peace knowing that the last thing that one turkey will see is me, screaming at him at about 900 feet per second.”

And just in time for the holiday season, the Scottsdale, Arizona gun club now offers its members the service of sending out their Christmas cards with pictures of family members, including infants, posing with Santa while holding pistols and military style automatic weapons, fa la la la la, la la la la. Joy to the world?

I would ask, though, have so many in fact given so much for the right for us to turn our bodies literally into killing devices or for the right to own a “free” assault or hunting rifle?  Do we really want “the last thing that one turkey will see is me, screaming at him at about 900 feet per second”? Do residents of our nation really need so many guns, assault rifles and others?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun related violence has reached epidemic proportions in our country by snuffing out the lives of upwards of 30,000 people and wounding many more annually. Each year, over 100,000 people are affected in some way by gun violence. Many of the guns used in these killings reach military level weapons power, guns which currently remain legal.

Second Amendment Sports, Bergeron’s, Jewelry by Harold, Cabela’s, Holy Smoke Bullet Urns, Nation’s Truck Sales, and gun clubs hold the constitutional right to market their devices of death, but what type of messages are they communicating? Are we really “free” as a society when our right “to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” and barely regulated?

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 30th, 2016 at 1:54 pm

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Community and the Limits of LGBTQ Identity Politics

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I often hear a saying in my Jewish community that “Whenever there are two Jews in a room, there will be at least three different opinions.”

People tell me a similar saying circulates in their various communities, and it underscores a crucial point in that every overall demographic group stands not as a unified, like-minded, like-opinionated, and monolithic block in terms of political, social, spiritual, and economic strategic agendas, but rather, as enormously diverse with internally contradictory and vastly opposing positions on the full array of topics.

If this is true, then how have people in a United States context who share a similar social identity come together in alliance and work for their liberation? In other words, how has the concept of “Identity Politics” been possible?

First, this very question fails to address the fact that each person is composed of multiple identity positions that interconnect with each other. Depending on time and location, some of these identities may appear more or less salient, important, or central to the individual. Some identities our society accords more unearned privileges while simultaneously according less to other identities.

Secondly, as no two falling snowflakes appear identical in structure or shape, no two people are born with duplicate internal temperaments or personalities, nor are they exposed to the same exact forms of socialization during their formative and extended years.  Each person is, therefore, as a unique snowflake regardless of their socially constructed identities.

With that stated though, people have joined in movements around one or a couple of identities, and they have successfully pushed for social, legislative, and political change. For example, lesbians, gay males, bisexuals, and trans* people have come together to increase our visibility in the media and within the larger society. We have joined in alliance to fight for marriage equality, entrance into military service, equality of treatment in housing, employment, insurance coverage, public accommodations, partnership benefits, adoption, and many others concerns.

We have and continue to work to dismantle the social, medical, and religious stigma that have long plagued our lives and our very existence; we have challenged conditions that place our bodies at risk for random acts of violence; we have worked to end the bullying of our youth in the schools and our workers in the workplace; and we have joined to empower each and every one of us to live with pride, dignity, integrity, and authenticity.

Though the political and theocratic Right accuses us of promoting some sort of conspiratorial “gay agenda” on the people of our country, to paraphrase my opening saying: “Whenever there are two Queer people in a room, there will be a least three different opinions.”

Even the use of the term “queer” has been highly contested within LGBT communities. Some lesbian and gay people don’t consider bisexual and pansexual people as part of their communities, while some LGB people would rather trans* people go away and form fully separate communities. Oy vey!

Just look at a few of the enormous array of groups and their “agendas”: there are gays for Trump, LGBTQ Marxists, “Log Cabin Republicans,” LGBTQ people for Hillary, “Gays Against Guns (GAG),” LGBTQ members of the National Rifle Association, LGBTQ anarchists, LGBTQ Catholics, “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” “Ladies Against Women,” “Dykes on Bikes,” LGBTQ atheists, LGBTQ Muslims, lesbian daughters of Holocaust survivors, LGBTQ Bridge clubs, LGBTQ athletic clubs, Puerto Rican gay men’s organizations, black lesbians groups, groups for LGBTQ deaf people and for LGBTQ elders, and yes, even LGBTQ members of racist white nationalist gangs.

So even though Identity Politics has served certain of our purposes and has gained us selected victories, with the incredible diversity within LGBTQ communities in terms of social identities and political philosophies and outlooks, Identity Politics has shown its inherent restrictions. Therefore, its use can only take us to a limited point along our multiple paths.

Though I continue to engage in Identity Politics occasionally on particular issues, I have come to understand that sexual identities and gender identities and expressions with the social oppressions that come with these are simply not sufficient to connect a community, and by extension, to fuel a movement for progressive social change. Therefore, my major focus and energy has been to join and connect with people of similar political ideas and ideologies that cut across individuals from disparate social identities in what some call “Idea Politics.”

My motto is: “I don’t care who’s in your bed. I care instead what’s in your head!”

In this conception, people come together with others of like minds, political philosophies, and strategies for achieving their objectives. Though many differences inevitably remain, overall, we read from a similar if not from the same page.

Oppression operates like a wheel with many spokes in which each spoke represents one of the virtually endless systems of oppression. In a United States context, for example, individual spokes may represent oppression toward African Americans, recent African immigrants to this country, Mexican immigrants, U.S.-born citizens whose parents immigrated from Cuba, white women, trans* women, gay men, Muslims, atheists, people along the autism spectrum, elders, youth, Spanish as first-language speakers, people outside the current socially-determined parameters of body size, and I could continue endlessly.

I have been joining with people who understand that if we work to dismantle only one or a few specific spokes, the wheel will continue spinning and trampling over people. We are working together toward dismantling all its many hideous spokes in our hopes of one day dismantling oppression in its totality.

So, if indeed it is true, as the old saying goes, that “the fish is the last to see or even feel the water because it is so pervasive,” then from our vantage points at the margins or even outside the aquarium, queer people have a special opportunity – indeed, a responsibility – to serve as social commentators, as critics. Our experiences as outsiders give us the tools to expose and highlight the rigidity, the binary frames, of most social identity categories that flood and saturate our environment. We have the ability if we choose to use this to truly challenge the culture to move forever forward and to grow by looking beyond just ourselves.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 29th, 2016 at 4:03 pm

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Gays Against Guns Stands Up by Lying Down

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Violence and the threat of violence comprise two of the many elements connecting the multiple forms of oppression. As marginalized people, we remain at risk of violence based solely on our social identities. Therefore, common sense firearms safety measures serve everyone, marginalized and dominant group members alike.

I felt enormous excitement and pride, but not particularly surprise, when watching on TV iconic civil rights leader, Representative John Lewis of Georgia, leading other courageous Democratic activists by putting their bodies on the floor of the House to stand up for people of this country. These elected officials broke House rules to fix a broken legislative system controlled by corporate greed at the expense of real people’s lives in failing to pass common sense gun safety measures that the vast majority of U.S. residents support.

Likewise, I experienced great excitement and pride, though again, not surprise, when learning of an action conducted by the newly launched LGBTQ gun control group, Gays Against Guns (GAG), at the recent New York City Pride March in which group members shouted chants calling for firearms safety, as people then dropped to the ground in a “die in” to emphasize legislative inaction and silence.

While members of our community voiced our concerns, proposed initiatives, worked with firearms safety organizations, wrote policy papers and editorials, and grieved each time we learned of another mass shooting and individual gun-related killings in inner cities, suburbs, and country sides, possibly the slaughter of innocents, primarily LGBTQ people of color at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, were the bullets that finally broke the backing of the current legislative paralysis on gun safety measures. Maybe, just maybe, we have finally reached a critical mass in demanding that enough is enough!

GAG’s reflexive (pun intended) decision to engage in non-violent direct action follows a tradition in the annals of queer political organizing. For example, LGBTQ people led in the fight to counter the rising AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and 1990s. Groups like the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) protested governmental, corporate, and larger societal inaction and literal silence.

By the time the impending HIV/AIDS epidemic hit, a grassroots network of LGBTQ social, political, and informational organizations had been put in place. Though liberation and civil rights organizing continued as before, the virus injected a new element into the political agenda. On a personal level, virtually everyone had been touched in some ways by the effects of the epidemic. A community-wide bereavement process began as the number of AIDS-related deaths increased.

Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people were on the forefront of a coordinated effort to provide care and support for people with HIV/AIDS. Existing gay and lesbian community centers expanded services, while establishing new centers dedicated to serving the needs of people with AIDS and their loved ones. We formulated safer sex guidelines to help slow transmission. Ironically, queers taught heterosexuals how to engage in sex more safely.

In 1986, the direct-action group ACT UP formed in New York City largely by young activists. A network of local chapters quickly grew in over 120 cities throughout the world. Though independently developed and run, the network organized under the theme “Silence = Death” beneath an inverted pink triangle (turning upside down the insignia the Nazis forced men accused of homosexuality to wear in German concentration camps.) They reclaimed the pink triangle, signifying the ultimate stigmata of oppression, and turning it into a symbol of empowerment, to lift people out of lethargy and denial and as a call to action to counter the crisis.

ACT UP groups, based on a philosophy of direct, grass-roots actions, conducted highly visible demonstrations, often involving acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in which participants on occasion placed themselves at risk for arrest and even injury.

AIDS activists, which primarily included young people, not only challenged traditional ways that scientific knowledge is disseminated, but more importantly, questioned the very mechanisms by which scientific inquiry was conducted, and have even redefined the meanings of “science.”

AIDS activists—including members of direct-action groups like ACT UP, AIDS educators, journalists and writers, people with AIDS, workers in AIDS service organizations and others—have won important victories on a number of fronts, including assisting people in become active participants in their own medical treatment, having greater input into drug trial designs, expanding access to drug trials, and expediting approval for certain drug therapies. In addition, Community Advisory Boards now hold pharmaceutical companies more accountable for the prices they charge.

In actuality, all the major movements for progressive social change have many similarities and synergistic connections. Each has gained from the theorists, activists, and movement leaders who have preceded.

The first wave of the Feminist movement in the 19th century of the Common Era gained its inspiration from the leadership and strategies of the Abolitionist movement. The workers and union movements built on the strengths of the Abolitionist and Feminist movements. The Civil Rights movements continued to build on those who went before. In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gained inspiration for his philosophy of non-violent resistance not only from his religious faith, but also from Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa and India, and Leo Tolstoy in Russia.

The second wave of the Feminist movement recharged from previous movements reflecting back to the first wave and also to the movements during the intervening years. The counter cultural youth movements, the environmental justice movements, movements for peace, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movements, the movement for intersex equality and rights, the disability rights movement, the movement for medical and mental patients’ rights, the movement for youth liberation, indeed, the movements for all oppressed people somehow connect and draw from one another.

Pat Parker, one of my favorite poets, puts the political connections into perspective in this segment from her poem “Legacy”:

Each generation improves the world for the next.

My grandparents willed me strength.

My parents willed me pride. I will to you rage.

I give you a world incomplete,

A world where women still are property and chattel

Where color still shuts doors

Where sexual choice still threatens,

But I give you a legacy of doers

Of people who take risks

To chisel the crack wider.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 28th, 2016 at 6:39 pm

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To Right-Wing Religious Leaders: “Can We Forgive You?”

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Pope Francis issued a verbal apology for the Catholic Church’s abusive and destructive policies and actions against homosexuals. He said recently: “I think that the Church not only should apologize … to a gay person whom it offended but it must also apologize to the poor as well, to the women who have been exploited, to children who have been exploited by [being forced to] work. It must apologize for having blessed so many weapons.”

Also, an article on the front page of The New York Times dated Tuesday, June 9, 2015, stated: “Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights.” Laurie Goodstein, the author, covers an apparent emerging trend, which she summarized:

“As acceptance of same-sex marriage has swept the country and as the Supreme Court prepares to release a landmark decision on the issue, a wide variety of evangelical churches, colleges and ministries are having the kinds of frank discussions about homosexuality that many of them say they had never had before.”

The article reported that evangelical institutions are attempting to navigate a middle terrain between staying “true” to their previously stated positions on issues around homosexuality while simultaneously attempting not to alienate especially younger congregants who increasingly support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

This latter point cuts right (no pun intended) to the core of the questions of “Why this?” and “Why now?” We can look for the answer in the work of Dr. Derrick Bell and his pioneering work in critical race theory.

The late Dr. Bell of New York University Law School forwarded the theory of “interest convergence,” meaning that white people will support racial justice only when they understand and see that there is something in it for them, when there is a “convergence” between the “interests” of white people and racial justice.

Bell asserted that the Supreme Court ended the longstanding policy in 1954 of “separate but equal” in Brown v. Board of Education because it presented to the world, and in particular, to the Soviet Union during the height of the cold war, a United States that supported civil and human rights.

Likewise for conservative Christians, as they see more and more people supporting and more states passing civil and human rights protections based on sexual and gender identity and expression, and more and more people are leaving those religious institutions that have not caught up as welcoming congregations, they seemed to have “evolved” somewhat from dictating policies to at least debating varying perspectives. Whether they will eventually soften their stands is another matter.

Back in 1987, one of my favorite writers and personalities died in France at the relatively young age of 63. James Baldwin, essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, activist, hero to many including myself, expatriated to France where he lived much of his later life. He was attracted to the cultural and political progressivism of the Left Bank, where he could escape the pressures of Jim Crow racism and the enormity of heterosexism in the United States, and where his creative energy could soar.

Reading and listening to multiple obituaries on the day Baldwin died, I distinctly remember a particular reporter recounting an anecdote in Baldwin’s life that has stayed with me ever since. Sometime in Baldwin’s life, a white news reporter apparently asked him the question, “What do Negros want from white people?” Without hesitation, Baldwin responded, “You ask the wrong question, which should not be what we want from you, but rather, the question should be, ‘Can we forgive you?’”

People of color certainly experience racism very differently from the ways queer people experience heterosexism and cissexism. Nonetheless, Baldwin’s rejoinder to the white reporter hit me like a pitcher of ice water to the face waking me and releasing the anger I had attempted to stuff inside when I was growing up during the late 1940s through the 1960s as a differently-gendered gay boy then man residing in a hostile country.

While conservative religious institutions need to go through their processes and hopefully evolve to a more progressive view on LGBT civil and human rights, I continually ask myself:

Can we forgive you for defining us as “inherently disordered,” as “contrary to God’s will,” as “sinners,” as “perverts,” as “heretics,” as “Godless,” as “deceived” and “depraved,” as a “corrupting force on civilization and on the family,” as “contrary to the laws of nature,” and that our relationships “will tear down the very fabric of society”?

Can we forgive you for your insulting and repugnant mantra “We love the sinner but hate the sin”? Can we forgive you in your efforts to deny me and members of my community the rights of self-definition and self-determination, and to deny us our integrity and our humanity by attempting to prevent us from maintaining our subjectivity, our agency, and our voice?

Can we forgive you as you arrogantly tell us why and how we have come to our same-sex attractions and our gender identities and expressions, and that it is a “choice” that we can change? Can we forgive you for your abusive “religious counseling” to remove us from the so-called “gay lifestyle”?

Can we forgive you for your bogus and dangerous “reparative” or “conversion therapy”? Can we forgive you for the defrocking, excommunications, purging, and banishments? Can we forgive you for turning our loved ones against us, and for making us internalize your lies?

Can we forgive you for using our bodies as stepping stones for your own ambitions and political (yes, political) advancement? Can we forgive you for your endeavors to deny me and members of my community the rights granted under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution to equal protection under the law, and in particular the right to marry the person of our choice, to serve our country openly in the military, to equal protections in employment, housing, public accommodations, insurance, inheritance, and to pursue happiness as we see fit?

Can we forgive you in your efforts to legislate us into second-class citizenship and codify your so-called “values” into law and attempt to deny us entry into the institutions of our choice? Can we forgive you in your efforts to prevent me and members of my community from gaining our rightful place in our society?

And can we ever forgive you after you shoot us in our bars and hang us with your ropes in town squares?

When religious leaders preach their damaging interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex relationships or identities and gender non-conformity within and outside their respective houses of worship, they must be held accountable and responsible for aiding and abetting those who target and harass, bully, physically assault, and murder people perceived as LGBT. In addition, they must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these abusive actions.

We are seeing individuals and entire denominations framing themselves as the true victims whenever we challenge their religious justifications in their attempts to perpetuate their already pervasive religious hegemony and social privileges, and their characterizations of others.

Some proponents of the newest wave of so-called “Restoration of Religious Freedom Acts” characterize those who protest against these unnecessary and sham statutes as “religiously intolerant” and as “religious bigots.”

In the final analysis, our challenge remains in no way “religious intolerance” or “religious bigotry,” but rather, it amounts to our standing up to correct a devastating social injustice. It is not “religious prejudice” to challenge offensive, demeaning, degrading, marginalizing, persecution-resulting, violence-provoking, suicide-inducing characterizations of us.

So, to all of you who wish to debate the issues, go ahead. I personally, however, refuse to debate my existence on religious grounds ever again with anyone, since there is no “debate,” for to quote Rene Descartes, “I think therefore I am,” period, the end.

I understand that we as a society have come a long way even from the time I was a young person, and we still have far to travel. What can never be forgotten, however, is that as racism is white peoples’ (my) problem and obligation to eliminate, heterosexism is a heterosexual problem, and cissexism is a cisgender problem. The dominant group has the responsibility to dismantle the forms of oppression that bestow upon itself the multiple array of unearned privileges not accorded to those outside, who are often viewed as the “other.”

One day, maybe, we can truly and fully forgive you, but I can never forget.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 27th, 2016 at 11:32 am

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Trump’s In It Only for the Money

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“I said this was going to happen, and I think that it’s a great thing. Basically they took back their country.”

Speaking at a news conference in Scotland to push his new Turnberry golf course and resort, Donald Trump, boasting as the perennial narcissistic braggart that he is, lauded British voters’ decision to separate from the European Union in the so-call “Brexit” referendum.

As expected, Trump views the vote as “a great thing” for one primary reason: his own economic self-enrichment. This became abundantly clear when he responded to reporters’ questions regarding the possible effects of the vote on markets:

“Look, if the pound goes down, they’re [meaning I’m] going to do more business. When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”

But Mr. Trump, what about the British people? What about the people within the remainder of Europe? Do you give a thought about their economic futures? What about their jobs? What about their incomes?

But, have you really thought it through to its logical conclusion? Yes, people outside Europe will find it cheaper to travel throughout Great Britain — well at least until Scotland and Northern Ireland decide to abandon Great Britain and join with the remaining European Union nations.

But what about your business holding in the United States, Mr. Trump, as Europeans realize how increasingly more expensive it will be traveling to your resorts, golf courses, and casinos on your own shores, or in buying your son’s wine?

The Donald’s frankness at the press conference in Scotland has only solidified the longstanding speculation that he has campaigned to occupy the White House not to actually serve in the high office of President, but rather, for the sole purpose of lining his own pockets.

As nativist, xenophobic, right-wing politicians throughout Europe, and most notably in Britain, campaigned to separate from the European Union to “protect” borders by building walls, both figuratively and literally, Trump has long seen the sweeping tide of nationalism, and he has employed similar nativist, xenophobic, right-wing rhetoric as the corner-stone of his crusade to “make America great again.”

Trump has run merely to increase his brand. As his visibility raises, he can raise the fees and rents on his properties, and negotiate more lucrative agreements on future deals, especially with countries whose currencies are in decline. He has also profited enormously on his cheaply-made tacky red Trump baseball caps, and increased profits on his over-hyped Trump books. He intends to bring out his so-called Art of the Deal in a second edition.

In retrospect, we will soon view former Vice President Dick Cheney’s ties to the Halliburton corporation in the category of a connection to a child’s street-corner lemonade stand compared with Donald Trump’s conflict of interest with his business holdings should he become President.

Maybe one day the entire world will see what many already clearly understand: Donald Trump promotes his worthless brand of snake oil to an increasingly angry and fearful electorate for his own personal gain. The tragedy is that he has had some degree of success.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 24th, 2016 at 1:30 pm

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Silence of Congressional Republicans = Death

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Prior to Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency, George W. Bush vetoed a number of bills the U.S. Congress passed that would have loosened government-imposed restrictions on research derived from stem cells. In previous studies, this research showed promise in the eventual cure of a number of physical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, nerve tissue damage and paralysis, and the regrowth of bodily organs and other structures.

With a swift and certain movement of his pen on a 2009 executive order, President Obama removed many of these restrictions on federal funding for research related to new lines of human embryonic stem cells. Since this historic signing, the scientific community has seen a number of advancements in its quest to improve human health.

One seeming result I personally witnessed on my television screen most of the day on Wednesday, June 22, throughout the night, and into the next morning was the appearance in the development of a collective backbone of U.S. House of Representatives Democrats in finally speaking out and standing up by literally sitting down on the House floor in protest of the intransigent Republican opposition to common sense firearms safety legislation.

Democrats had consistently requested that the House Republican leadership bring to the floor an up-or-down vote on two pieces of legislation that the vast majority of U.S. residents support: one to close current loopholes in the background check process for firearms purchases, and the other to prevent people who are currently on the FBI’s “No Fly List” from buying a gun.

However, following directions from their puppet masters at the National Rifle Association (NRA), House Speaker Paul “Pinocchio” Ryan and the remainder of the Republican marionettes failed to take up the proposal. Ryan ordered House C-Span camera and floor microphones turned off. Later, Ryan chose instead to discuss other issues, such as a Republican-sponsored severely scaled-down budgetary authorization to combat the Zika virus. Following this, Republicans snuck out of the Capitol under the cover of early-morning darkness to begin their Independence Day break.

I don’t remember ever feeling as proud of the actions taken by congressional members, led by one of my heroes, iconic civil rights leader Representative John Lewis, as I was watching the courageous Democratic activists putting their bodies on the floor for the people of this country. I can never remember before shedding tears of gratitude and esteem for elected officials in breaking the rules to fix a broken legislative system controlled by corporate greed at the expense of real people’s lives.

Maybe, just maybe, the slaughter of innocents at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was the bullet that finally broke the NRA’s backing of the legislatures’ paralysis on gun safety measures. Maybe, just maybe, we have finally reached a critical mass in demanding that enough is enough!

As a longtime community activist in the student anti-war movement, and with the Gay Liberation Front, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), and Queer Nation, I know personally the risks one takes in challenging authority and power for a cause. I know how living with integrity and authenticity connected to one’s beliefs can jeopardize reaching one’s career goals, how it can isolate one from peers and family, and how it can sometimes put one’s physical and emotional safety at risk.

I also know very well the costs of not defending one’s beliefs and the resulting loss to one’s personal integrity and sense of humanity that come with failing to speak out and stand up. But I also know very well that the benefits completely outweigh the costs.

In ACT UP we worked under the guiding principle, which we placed on our signage, that Silence = Death, beneath a pink triangle that represented the symbol the Nazis forced gay prisons to wear on their clothing in the concentration camps. Originally facing point down, we inverted the pink triangle in AIDS activism literally turning the ultimate sign of oppression and persecution into an empowering emblem to counter a deadly virus within an intransigent social and political structure, which deliberately resisted mobilizing to defeat the rising plague that was killing so many.

Likewise, the deafening Silence coming from the Republicans = Death to gun violence in the perennially rising plague that is killing so many. How much are Congressional Republicans willing to pay to relinquish their personal integrity and sense of humanity by filling their pockets with the NRS’s blood money? How much are they willing to pay by failing to speak out and stand up for the people’s safety? I wonder how they can sleep at night since they are obviously sleeping on the job.

Well, I hope over the Independence Day break they will have a change of heart and a change in attitude by finally declaring their independence from the NRA.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 23rd, 2016 at 10:04 am

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The Tyranny of the Sex/Gender/Sexuality Binary

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The human brain, through millennia of its evolutionary process, has developed a capacity to categorize reality into easily digestible morsels in its attempt to absorb and make sense of a complex world. We have seen the perennial theme, for example, of Good versus Evil surface throughout the human condition as far back as over 3000 years in Zoroastrianism as valued by Zarathustra, and the theme has reappeared in literary and religious discourses ever since. In some monotheistic religions, within the overarching theme of dualism, for example, God is good, while the Devil is bad; the “right” side (the side of God) is good, while the “left” side (the side of the Devil) is bad; and white is good, while black is bad.

Philosopher and exponent of “objectivism,” Ayn Rand, described anyone who does not view issues upon a binary frame, but rather perceives a continuum with its nuances, as “evil.” According to Rand:

“There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit….”

So, let us consider the implications, the inevitable extensions, of a binary / dualistic / objectivist world perspective in which one side is good, one side is bad, and the middle is evil, in which the following could be constructed as “evil”: people of mixed or multiple so-called “races”; intersex people; trans* people, gender fluid people; bisexual and pansexual people; people who do not have a hand preference (“ambidextrous” literally meaning “having two or multiple right hands”); people following no religious faiths, which, by the way, includes Ayn Rand herself.

Unfortunately, this good / bad / evil worldview stands much more than a mere philosophical exercise, but in reality, it has real-life, often tragic, consequences.

Recently, Chinese law enforcement authorities arrested a man and his father for attempting on three separate occasions to murder the man’s one-month-old intersex infant. The baby’s mother, Yang Xiaoqing, alerted authorities, and said to local news reporters:

“We thought we would have a girl. But soon we were told the ‘girl’ is actually a boy, with an atrophic sex organ. We panicked and got concerned.” She added that her husband attempted to smother the baby because “he is neither a boy nor a girl,” but a “monster.”

In other instances, many parents or guardians and their doctors force intersex infants to undergo needless and dangerous surgeries literally to construct them to the socially rigid and mandatory binary frame of “male or female” where no evil middle is permitted.

Well, the natural world has never conformed to our human notions of “two sides” to everything. Nature shows many hues and forms along a seemingly endless continuum or spectrum, where white and black function amazingly in company with wide ranging tones of grey; where polychrome rainbows of infinite colors excite the Earth and the entire universe; where some animals, including coral reef fishes, come into the world as one sex and change to another in the course of their lives; where the determinant of behavior resides within individuals’ inner sense rather than on socially-predetermined scripts.

I contend that the socially constructed binary and hierarchical view within a Western cosmology represent the connecting factors within the varying forms of oppression. The socially constructed “races” of “white” is seen as good, “people of color” as bad, and “light” as good or adroit (whose root comes from droit, in French meaning “right”) and “dark” as bad and sinister (sinister comes from Latin for “left”); “male” depicted as leader and good, “female” as subservient and inferior; “heterosexual” as good, “homosexual” as bad,” and “heterosexual” perceived as love and “homosexual” as sex; “Christian” considered” good, “non-Christian” judged bad; “rich” as good and virtuous, “poor” as bad and lazy; people of, say, 21 to about 50 as good and in their “prime” versus under 21 as irresponsible and untrustworthy and elders as “over the hill” and “no longer sexual”; “able bodied” as good, “people with disabilities” as unfortunate, once also seen as punished by the Devil for past transgressions, possibly in a former life; and I could go on in this vein virtually forever.

We have seen the many and severe consequence of bifurcated world views, where historically governmental and religious authorities have literally killed people for stepping out of their prescribed roles (for example, Joan of Arc for transgressing her assigned gender expression, and left handed people who the Church viewed as Devil-inspired); where parents and doctors physically mutilated intersex infants in their misguided attempts to “fix” them; where doctors and family members involuntarily committed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* people to psychiatric wards, forced “hormone” treatments, electroshock therapy, and even frontal lobotomies.

In many quarters of our society, we still hear individuals loudly proclaim that compromise (a middle perspective) equals surrender, which in the real world has resulted in a freezing or even reversing of political, economic, and social advancement; where “my way or the highway” has set the stage for war and other human tragedies; where my belief system is right and your belief system is wrong, and, therefore, I have the “right” to impose my system on you and upon your country in the form of colonialism, slavery, forced religious conversion, territorial expulsion, rape, and murder.

Of course, parents and other adults have the inherent responsibility of protecting young people from harming themselves and being harmed by others, and of teaching them how to live and function in society within our ever changing global community. In Freudian terms, we must develop a balance between the individual’s unrestrained instinctual drives and restraints (repression) on these drives in the service of maintaining society (civilization), and to sustain the life of the individual.

We as a society, nonetheless, must set a line demarcating protection from control, teaching from oppression, minimal and fundamental repression from what Herbert Marcuse terms “surplus repression” (that which goes over and beyond what is necessary for the protection of the individual and the smooth functioning of society, and enters into the realm of domination, control, and oppression).

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 22nd, 2016 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Reflections on the Pulse of My LGBTQ Community in the Aftermath of Orlando

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As a strong and steady pulse indicates a healthy heart, in the aftermath of the horrific and tragic events of Orlando, I reflect on the Pulse of my LGBTQ community in this, my 70th year of life. In my mind’s eye, I sense the many LGBTQ Pride Marches I have attended as representing the state of health of this community.

It was a brilliantly sunny, though rather cool, mid-June afternoon. Banners flying, music blasting, people of all walks of life assembled, reuniting, greeting, embracing, kissing, catching up on lives lived in the space between. The signal was given with a contagious cheer rising from the crowd, and for the next few hours the streets would be ours.

Dykes on Bikes revving their engines; shirtless muscled young men dancing to a disco beat atop flatbed floats winding their way down the streets; dazzling drag queens in red and gold and silver; vibrant and proud trans* people marching exalted; the Freedom Trail Marching Band trumpeting the call; a black-and-white cocker spaniel wearing a sign announcing “DON’T ASSUME I’M STRAIGHT”; LGBTQ parents pushing strollers or walking beside youth of all ages; Gays for Patsy Klein decked out in their finest country duds, two-stepping down the boulevard; AIDS activists falling to the pavement of those same boulevards in mock death to expose governmental and societal inaction, which is still killing so many; married same-sex couples walking hand in hand; Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) proclaiming “WE ARE PROUD OF OUR LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANS*, QUEER, & INTERSEX CHILDREN”; alongside political, social, and service organizations, business and religious caucuses of all stripes and denominations, and of course, bystanders watching the procession, holding court from the sidelines.

And in the midst of this merriment and this protest, the humorous posters and angry placards, the enormous rainbow balloon sculptures arching overhead, and the colorful streamers and glistening “fairy dust” wafting down from open windows, amid the shiny black leather and shimmering lamé, the multicolored T-shirts and the drab business suits, came the youth, their radiant fresh faces catching the rays of the sun, marching side-by-side, hand-in-hand, their middle school, high school, and college Alliance banners waving gloriously in this storm of humanity, announcing their entry, their solidarity, their feisty outrage, and yes, their pride, chanting “Two, Four, Six, Eight, Queer is Just as Good as Straight, Three, Five, Seven, Nine, LGBTs are Mighty Fine;” then, gaining intensity, singing, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Homophobia Has Got to Go,” and then, as if hit by an all-consuming revelation, shouting, “We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Not Going Back, We’re NOT Going Back, WE’RE NOT GOING BACK!”

And indeed, they will not go back into those dank closets of fear and denial that stifles the spirit and ruins so many lives. Oh, they will physically return to their schools, their jobs, and their homes. They will continue to study and play sports, to watch movies, listen to their iPods, text on their mobile phones, and write about their days on Facebook, and Twitter. Some will most likely continue to serve as community organizers, and some will go on to become parents, educators, and political leaders once their school days are behind.

The place they will go to, though, is nowhere that can be seen. It is a place of consciousness that teaches those who have entered that everyone is diminished when any one of us is demeaned; that sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, and bisexual, intersex, and asexual oppression (as well as all the other forms of oppression) have no place in a just society.

From the sidelines of the march, beginning as a whisper and gaining to a mighty roar of support: “We are so glad you are here,” came voices from the crowd. “We wish we could have done this when we were in grade school and in college,” cried others too numerous to count. “Thank you so much for your courage!”

Yes, even today, it still takes courage to speak out and counter the stereotypes, the scapegoating, the fear, the ignorance, the violence, and yes, the hatred in the guise of religion surrounding our lives. Yet, throughout the world, on university and grade school campuses, in communities and homes, and in the media, issues of sexuality and gender identity and expression are increasingly “coming out of the closet.” Fortunately, we see young people developing positive identities at earlier ages than ever before. Activists of all ages are gaining selective electoral, legislative, and judicial victories. Primarily in academic circles, greater emphasis and discussion is centering on what has come to be called “sexuality and gender studies” (sometimes referred to as “queer studies” — an  area of critical studies) where writers, educators, and students analyze and challenge current notions and categories of sexuality and gender constructions.

Young people have been integral in the development and success of social movements from the very beginning, and today, they are shaking up traditionally dichotomous binary notions of male/female, gay/straight, and masculine/feminine. They are transforming and revolutionizing the society and its institutions by challenging overall power inequities related not only to sexuality and gender identity categorizations and hierarchies, but they are also making links to the various types of oppression, and they are forming coalitions with other marginalized groups.

They are dreaming their dreams, sharing their ideas and visions, and organizing to ensure a world free from all the deadly forms of oppression, and along their journey, they are inventing new ways of relating and being in the world. Their stories, experiences, and activism have great potential to bring us to a future where people all across the gender and sexuality spectrums will live freely, unencumbered by constraining, outmoded, and oppressive social taboos and cultural norms of gender and sexuality.

As any movement for social change proceeds not as a hurried sprint to the finish line, but more as a continuous marathon relay in which one generation hands the baton to the next, the youth are grabbing the inspiration with all their energy and unique creativity. They represent not only the resilience and strength, but more importantly, the inextricable movement forward and the strong and constant pulse of a community that will ultimately bring about a time when all the disparate varieties of sexual identity and gender identity and expression will live and prosper everywhere.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 20th, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Revolution v. Reform: Beyond “4 Ms” of Queer Politics

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June 28, 2016: The 47nd Anniversary of the Stonewall Inn-surrection

A Cautionary Critique

A few years, before the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, I watched breaking news of the New York State Senate, following the House of Representatives’ lead, pass a bill legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. Within hours, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proudly signed the bill into law.

TV cameras then focused on a crowd, which spontaneously organized at the historic Stonewall Inn in New York’s West Village. One reveler interviewed on camera stated that she showed up “to be a part of history.” Also, some of the nation’s leading economists estimated the potential for enormous revenue increases to New York’s businesses because of the expected surge in marriages conducted in the state as a result of this legislation.

For me, though, watching the news accounts brought to the surface a full array of emotions from subdued optimism to discomfort and even concern.

There are moments in history when conditions come together to create the impetus for great social change. Many historians and activists place the beginning of the modern movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* equality at the Stonewall Inn, a small bar frequented by trans* people, lesbians, bisexuals, gay men, students, and others of all races located at 53 Christopher Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

At approximately one-twenty on the morning of June 28, 1969, New York City Police officers conducted a routine raid on the bar on the charge that the owners had been selling alcohol without a license. Feeling they had been harassed far too long, people challenged police officers on this morning lasting with varying intensity over the next five nights by flinging bottles, rocks, bricks, trash cans, and parking meters used at battering rams.

In reality, even before these historic events at the Stonewall Inn, a little-known action preceded Stonewall by nearly three years, and should more likely be considered as the founding event for the modern LGBT movement. In August 1966, at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, in what is known as the Tenderloin District in San Francisco, trans* people and gay sex workers joined in fighting police harassment and oppression. Police, conducting one of their numerous raids, entered Compton’s and began physically harassing the clientele. This time, however, people fought back by hurling coffee at the officers and heaving cups, dishes, and trays around the cafeteria. Police retreated outside as customers smashed windows. Over the course of the next night, people gathered to picket the cafeteria, which refused to allow trans people back inside.

Out of the ashes of Compton’s Cafeteria and the Stonewall Inn, people, primarily young, formed a number of militant groups. One of the first was the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). GLF was not a formalized organization per se, but rather a series of small groups across the U.S. and other countries. GLF meetings took place in people’s living rooms, basements in houses of worship, and storefronts. Members insisted on the freedom to explore new ways of living as part of a radical project of social transformation.

GLF adopted a set of principles emphasizing coalition-building with other disenfranchised groups — women, minoritized racial and ethnic groups, working-class people, young people, elders, people with disabilities — as a means of dismantling the economic and social structures we considered inherently oppressive.

During the early 1970s, I was an active member of GLF in Washington D.C. We held early meetings at Grace Church, the Washington Free Clinic in Georgetown, and All Souls Church on 16th Street, and we rented a brownstone on S Street in Northwest D.C. for the establishment of a GLF living collective. Meetings provided a space for us to come together and put into practice what feminists had taught us — that the “personal is the political.”

We laughed and we cried together. We shared our ideas and our most intimate secrets. We dreamed our dreams and laid our plans for a world free from all the deadly forms of oppression, and as we went along, invented new ways of relating. For the men, we came to consciousness of how we had been stifled as males growing up in a culture that taught us to hate the feminine within, that taught us that if we were to be considered worthy, we must be athletic, independent, assertive, domineering, competitive, and that we must bury our emotions deep within the recesses of our souls.

My discomfort in watching the joyous revelers outside the Stonewall Inn at the passage of a statewide bill legalizing marriage for same-sex couples stems from my understanding and experience as a political activist and as a student of history, an understanding of the Stonewall rebellion as representing an impetus for revolutionary change within an overridingly oppressive social structure, as opposed to mere reform, accommodation, or assimilation.

When we consider the phrase, “Keep your eyes on the prize,” I now wonder what we consider precisely as the prizes, the goals, that we are working toward?  Are we working under the vision of Stonewall of “a radical project of social transformation” and “dismantling the economic and social structures they considered inherently oppressive?”  Or are we working to reform the current social system in order to assimilate? Or none of the above?  I am sure each of us will have a different answer.

Looking back over the years, as our visibility has increased, as our place within the culture has become somewhat more assured, much certainly has been gained, but also, something very precious has been lost. That early excitement, that desire  — though by no means the ability — to fully restructure the culture, as distinguished from our mere reform, seems now to lay dormant in many sectors of our communities.

In our current so-called “neoliberal” age, emphasis is placed on privatization, global capital, reduced governmental oversight and deregulation of the corporate sector, attacks on labor organizing, and competition. We are living in an environment in which property rights hold precedence over human rights. In this environment, we are witnessing a cultural war waged by the political, corporate, and theocratic right, a war to turn back all the gains progressive people have made over the years.

Within this environment, however, I perceive four main themes as the major focus of the larger lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) movement, what I am calling the “4 Ms” of the mainstream LGB movement.

I do not include here trans* identities because, firstly, I cannot discern a “mainstream” trans* movement, and secondly, the 4 Ms in their current LGB mainstream construction exclude trans* people. According to my colleague, Chase Catalano, “The silencing of trans* experiences often reminds me of how folks in leather, drag queens, and dykes on bikes were viewed with contempt when they wanted to be included in the early Pride events for being too contentious (folks didn’t want ‘those people’ getting the media attention from the ‘normal people’).”

The four themes of the LGB movement comprise an assimilationist / reformist rather than a revolutionary impetus. These Ms are: 1. Marriage Equality, 2. Military Inclusion, 3. Media Visibility, and 4. Making Money.

A Call to Further and Wider Action

While the “4 Ms” are all laudable goals, I believe that if we are going to achieve a truly equitable society, we must reach higher, wider, and broader. As important as these goals may be, I hope we do not envision them as the final resting place over the rainbow.

If we do rest here, after having been seduced by promises of achieving some degree of credibility and respectability, I fear we will have become part of the very problems that so many of us have fought so tirelessly to eradicate.

I do remain hopeful, however. The increasing visibility and recognition of trans* people today has shaken traditionally dichotomous notions of gender, and in turn, other stifling kinds of binaries, which are the very cornerstones for the entrenchment keeping our society from moving forward. Their stories and experiences have great potential to bring us into the future  — a future in which anyone on the gender spectrum everywhere will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and cultural norms of gender. It is a future in which the “feminine” and “masculine”— as well as all the qualities on the continuum in between — can live and prosper in us all.

Metaphorically, oppression operates like a wheel with many spokes. If we work to dismantle only one or a few specific spokes, the wheel will continue to roll over people. Let us, then, also work on dismantling all the many spokes to conquering all the many forms of oppression in all their many forms.

Until and unless we can join in coalition with other groups, I consider that the possibility for achieving a genuine sense of community and a genuine sense of equity will be unattainable. I believe also that sexual and relational attractions and gender identities and expressions alone are not sufficient to connect a community, and by extension, a movement for progressive social change, and that we must, therefore, look beyond ourselves and base a community and a movement not simply on social identities, but also on shared ideals and values among individuals from disparate social identities, with like minds, political philosophies, and strategies for achieving their objectives.

Let us revel in our past victories, for we have fought tirelessly for them. But let us not dwell here because we have further to go to ensure a truly just and equitable society and world. In the final analysis, whenever anyone is diminished, we are all demeaned, when anyone or any group remains institutionally and socially marginalized, excluded, or disenfranchised from primary rights and benefits, the possibility for authentic community cannot be realized unless and until we become involved, to challenge, to question, and to act in truly transformational ways.

I hope, therefore, that we can reignite the revolutionary and transformational flame of what was Stonewall.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press.)

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 16th, 2016 at 7:25 pm

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LGBT People under Tyrants of Radical Jihad

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Throughout history, the prime stimulus keeping oppression toward LGBT people locked firmly in place and enacted in societies — on the personal/interpersonal, institutional, and societal levels — resulted from the destructive doctrines and judgments radiating from primarily orthodox and fundamentalist religious communities.

Individuals and organizations have employed “religion” to justify the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, oppression, and murder of entire groups of people based on their social identities. At various historical periods, people have applied these texts, sometimes taken in tandem, and at other times used selectively, to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and groups targeted by these texts and tenets.

We have seen this throughout the Christian world, from Roman Emperors Constantine I and Theodosius, to the Spanish Inquisition, Queen Elizabeth I of England, through Colonial America, Nazi Germany, to the present.

Islamic tyrants also justify oppression toward LGBT people under Sharia Law, which holds homosexuality illegal and punishable by death. For example, ISIS combatants are conducting a war on the West, on women, and on religious minorities. They are also actively fighting a horrific war on LGBT people by tossing people suspected of engaging in same-sex sexuality (primarily men) from high roof tops as others below pelt them with rocks. We do not yet know if the Orlando shooter’s motivation for murdering LGBT of primarily Latin descent connected with his allegiance with ISIS’s treatment of homosexuals, but initial indications seem headed in that direction.

The repressive Iranian regime, in addition, executes suspected homosexuals.  Now that the brutal reign of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has finally left the scene since he was ineligible to run again in 2014, and the perceived more moderate administration of Hassan Rouhani has risen to power, an easing of tensions between the U.S. and Iran seems more possible, at least more so than at any time previously since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979.

The Obama administration is currently engaged in critical negotiations with the Iranian government to limit that country’s capacity to manufacture and deliver nuclear weapons. In addition, Iranian jet fighters have joined with other countries, including the U.S., Jordan, and Egypt, to degrade and eventually destroy the terrorist group ISIS that has been relentlessly grabbing formally sovereign territories in the Middle East, and savagely raping and murdering citizens and foreign visitors throughout the region.

During this potential thaw in relations, I hope the Obama administration will include an additional agenda item to its list of objectives with the Iranians. Let us not forget that since Iran’s revolution, which replaced the Shah with an orthodox theocracy, many segments of the population have experienced repression under Iranian Sharia law — of the many segments, in particular, include Iran’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* residents.

Since 1979, some human rights activists estimated between 4000 – 6000 LGBT people have been executed in Iran. Same-sex sexuality between consenting partners in private is defined as a crime. Iranian law condemns men involved in sexual penetrative acts (sodomy or lavat) with the possibility of death, and so-called non-penetrative acts with flogging. After the fourth non-penetrative “offense,” the penalty is death.

Women convicted of engaging in same-sex sexuality (mosahegheh) may be made to undergo flogging with 50 lashes. And also, following the fourth conviction, they too are eligible for the death penalty (Articles 127, 129, 130).

Examples are many. Two gay Iranian teenagers, 18 and 17-years-old, were hung in the streets of Iran on July 19, 2005, in Edalat (Justice Square) in Mashbad, Iran. Reports of the widespread repression of homosexuals in Iran have been verified by Human Rights Watch and the Iranian Student News Agency.

Following the Islamic Revolution, trans* identity and expression were also classified as crimes. However, the government reclassified this in 1986 as “heterosexual” if the person undergoes gender confirmation (formerly known as “sex reassignment”) surgery. Today, Iran stands as the country performing the most gender confirmation surgeries in the world, second only to Thailand. Iranian trans* people, however, still suffer frequent harassment and persecution.

Repressive regimes around the world currently and throughout history have scapegoated, oppressed, and murdered LGBT people.  The time has long since passed that we speak out against repression in all of its forms. Though I am not naïve enough to believe that we will soon witness general human and civil rights legislated and enacted in this authoritarian theocracy anytime soon, maybe we can now see, however, some progressive movement in the plight of LGBT people in Iran.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 15th, 2016 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized