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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

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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

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On Gun Control: Uttering the Unutterable

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I love life, and I love the people of my country far far far more than I value the “freedom” to bear arms. I don’t know if any “reforms” will really solve the problems of gun violence in the United States. In all actuality, I believe we must repeal the Second Amendment now!

There! I uttered the unutterable, the ultimate taboo in U.S. political discourse.

As the horse once served as a primary means of transportation in earlier times, it now grazes and prances peacefully on rich pastures. Possibly during former moments in our history, we may have had reason to enact and enforce the Second Amendment of our great Constitution, but those bygone days have long since passed. Now we must put the Second Amendment out to pasture.

I believe that even our brilliant and well-meaning, but flawed founders did not want unlimited and unrestricted rights of firearm ownership. They could never have imagined the enormous leaps and heights to which the Second Amendment now menaces not only the very lives of our people, but more poignantly, how it imposes an existential threat to our nation.

Even if our early leaders had advocated for unrestricted gun ownership, these are the same men who owned and marketed enslaved Africans, committed genocide against and expelled native peoples, withheld enfranchisement from women, engaged in and killed one another in duels, and so on. Since those early times, legislation, judicial actions, and constitutional amendments have at least attempted to redress those past tragedies. Though we can never bring back the estimated 30,000 victims of gun violence each year, by gutting the Second Amendment we can give our residents a greater chance at life.

I often travel abroad visiting cites and people around the world. Increasingly during my journeys, people express to me that they admire the remarkable achievements and wonders of the United States, but because of the perennial gun violence, they vow not to step foot on this land. These same people believe they have more freedoms in their countries with severe firearms restrictions than we could ever have under our Second Amendment. And because of their well-founded hesitations to visit our country, they will never experience our gleaming cities, our fertile plains, our lush grasslands, our majestic mountains and national parks, and yes, our seemingly endless supply of shops. In the end, the realities of gun violence in the U.S. hurts everyone everywhere, with the possible exception of our enemies who desire to witness us defeated from within.

Rather than working to reduce the supply of firearms on our streets and in our homes, gun sales and ownership steadily increases. The United States ranks number 1 of 178 countries researched in 2014 for the highest rate of firearms with 112.6 per 100 residents, with Serbia coming in a distant second at 69.7, Yemen third at 54.8, and Switzerland forth at 45.7. On “Black Friday” after Thanksgiving 2015, requests for firearms background checks reached historic proportions with over 185 thousand on this single day.

What will it take for us to cease fighting insanity with insanity? How many more of our precious people of all ages will have their lives cut short under the banner of “freedom to bear arms”? What will it take for us to reverse the unholy alliance between corporate America and powerful pressure groups controlling politicians in the service of firearms manufacturers? When is enough, enough?!

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 14th, 2016 at 12:11 pm

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A Memorial Tribute to My Brothers and Sisters in Orlando

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I never met the good people who were shot in the Pulse Club in Orlando, but I feel I know them somehow. Their injuries and their passing hit me like the death of old trusted friends whose loss to me is palpable.

Most of those taken from us far too soon were young people whose lives were still ahead of them to fulfill their dreams and ambitions, to live and to love, to laugh, and to be themselves in a world of expanding opportunities.

But what happened to these good souls is unfortunately nothing new. We see hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and queer people and other targeted social groups on the rise. Pick up any of our publications and each week you will see stories of brutal and senseless attacks. Groups of young males wielding baseball bats and guns at anyone who looks “different,” and men waiting outside women’s spaces attacking women on their way home. Members of the trans* community often suffer the consequences of other truth tellers of the past. Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are trans* women of color.

And these are simply the most extreme examples of hate-related violence in general and so-called “queer bashing” specifically. So I must restate a simple truth — the killer or killers in Orlando live in a society that promotes intolerance, for queer bashing comes in a great many forms:

Whenever people like the Texas Lt. Governor send tweets soon after the mass shooting in Orlando quoting Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,” that’s queer bashing.

Whenever county clerks refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever states like North Carolina draft and pass legislation criminalizing trans* people from entering restrooms matching their gender identities, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever shop owners refuse service and landlords refuse renting to queer people citing “religious freedom” as their justification, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever mainstream religious denominations condemn homosexuality with one breath and actively obstruct frank and honest sexuality education programs in our schools with another, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever hate mongers like the Fred Phelps family threaten to picket and protest the funerals of LGBT people and people who have died of HIV, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever the political and theocratic Right produce newspaper and television ads that promise “conversion” and “escape” from the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” in the guise of Christian love and understanding, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever politicians like former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott proclaim in the media that homosexuality is a disease in the categories of kleptomania and alcoholism, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever the U.S. Senate and other legislative bodies refuse to confirm a nominee for public service, like James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg, simply on account of their sexual or gender identity alone and not on their actual qualifications, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever so-called religious leaders like Pat Robertson blame natural disasters on city governments that have enacted laws protecting the rights of LGBT people, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever parents or guardians toss out young people onto the streets for their sexual or gender identities, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever any person is ridiculed, isolated, confronted, or attacked for not conforming to rigid constructions of gender expression, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever hate crimes legislation is drafted without including the documentation of violence directed against LGBT people, branding this as nothing more than the granting of “special rights,” that’s queer bashing.

Whenever professors in our universities and teachers in our schools exclude the stories of our lives, our experiences, and our accomplishments in the classroom, that’s queer bashing.

Whenever any one of us is taught to hate ourselves each one of us is demeaned, and that certainly is queer bashing, and we have a right, or rather an obligation, to speak up, to fight back with all the energy, with all the unity, and with all the love of which we are capable.

Today we still live in a society that proclaims we don’t have a right to exist, but exist we do, everywhere, in all walks of life.

For as we all know, we are the students, professors, teachers, guidance counselors, day care workers, parents — and still some people and groups attempt to prevent us from having contact with the young people of our nation. And because of their insensitivity and fear, the queer bashing continues.

We are the social workers, psychiatrists, workers at homeless shelters and rape crisis centers — and still some people and groups blame us for the break-up of what they call the “traditional family.” And the queer bashing continues.

The reality is that we are holding up this culture. If all the lesbians, bisexuals, gay males, and trans* people suddenly left our jobs and communities, this country would literally crumble.

While we have made great strides during the past few decades, the fight for equality goes on. We continue to fight a war for hearts and minds: a war against ignorance, which is literally killing our people. And amidst this crisis, segments of our country perpetuate a process of collective denial by refusing to acknowledge the mere existence of this war in its attempts to silence us. But silent we are not, and silent we will never be again.

There is an old tradition in our western states of ranchers killing a coyote and tying it to a fence to scare off other coyotes, and to keep them from coming out of their hiding places. That is what the killers of University of Wyoming college student, Matthew Shepard, did to him on the chilling evening of October 6, 1998. They smashed his skull and tied him to a fence as if he were a lifeless scarecrow, where he was bound for over 18 hours in near freezing temperatures. The message to the rest of us from these killers was quite clear: stay locked away in your suffocating and dank closets, and don’t ever come out.

To the queer bashers I say, no amount of intimidation will ever lock us away again. Lesbians, gay males, bisexuals, trans* people, and our loving and supportive heterosexual and cisgender allies are coming out in greater numbers than ever before, as witnessed in the large outpouring of grief, anger, and love after the tragic event in Orlando. As marginalized people, we are pushing the boundaries unwilling any longer to accept the repressive status quo. In coalition with other disenfranchised groups and allies, we are refusing to buckle under and to assimilate into a corrupt and corrupting system that forces people to relinquish their integrity and their humanity.

One year before the death of another of our slain leaders, gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk recorded a will that was to be played in the event of his assassination. In it he stated that he never considered himself simply as a candidate for public office, but rather, always considered himself as part of a movement: a liberation movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people — and a liberation movement for all people.

Each time Harvey spoke in front of a crowd, he urged people to come out everywhere and often: “Tell your immediate family,” he would say, “tell friends, neighbors, people in the stores you shop in, cab drivers, everyone.” And he urged heterosexual people to be our allies, to interrupt derogatory remarks and jokes, to support us and offer aid when needed. If we all did this, he said, we could change the world.

Well, I am certain that in their brief time with us, the good people taken down at the Pulse Club also changed lives. Their caring souls transformed the people they met. Though their attacker may have succeeded in devastating their bodies, he did not and will never succeed in destroying their gentle spirits, or in extinguishing the heart of a community and a movement for social justice, for their spirits continue, inspiring a people, a nation, and a world.

For all the good people at the Pulse, the people in Orlando, and for all of us, I do believe that love will conquer the hatred. Thank you for the riches you have left us. We will continue the struggle in your name to make the world a safer and more supportive environment for all its people.

May you forever rest in peace.

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 12th, 2016 at 7:21 pm

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Religious Dogma, Heterosexism & Cissexism

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Back in 2005, I wrote a short editorial regarding events transpiring in Israel in what could be viewed as extraordinary. There the leaders from three major monotheistic world religions that were often at odds with one another — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — joined in a united demonstration to protest and to prevent a 10-day international Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride festival planned for Jerusalem in August that summer. While the Middle East has been a flash point of conflict and warfare for millennia, this coalition between religious leaders indicated that agreement, at least of sorts, was possible. In bringing these leaders together, I, therefore, nominated the International LGBT Community for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, an award well deserved for converting warring parties into allies and for reducing tensions that have traditionally separated them.

My point, though filled with irony, was simple: to highlight the fact that the prime stimulus keeping oppression toward LGBT people locked firmly in place and enacted throughout our society — on the personal/interpersonal, institutional, and societal levels — are the destructive doctrines and judgments radiating from primarily orthodox and fundamentalist religious communities.

Fortunately, however, there exists no monolithic conceptualization of religion, for other faith communities’ policies and values are progressively welcoming toward LGBT people, our sexuality and relationships, and our gender identities and expressions. These communities are working tirelessly to abolish the yoke of oppression directed against us.

Throughout the ages, however, 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.

Such texts related to same-sex sexuality and gender non-conformity include but are certainly not limited to:

  • Jewish Bible: Leviticus 8:22: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.
  • In Orthodox Judaism, same-sex sexuality, including male-male anal sex, is in the category of yehareg ve’al ya’avor, “die rather than transgress.”
  • Christian Bible: Romans 1:26: In consequence, God has given them up to shameful passions. Their women have exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural.
  • Christian Bible: Romans 1:27: In consequence, God has given them up to shameful passions. Their women have exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural.
  • Christian Bible: Timothy 1:10: For whoremonger, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.
  • Christian Bible: 1 Corinthians 6-9: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.
  • Roman Catholic Catechism 2357: “…Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life [reproduction]. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
  • Quran: 26:161: Your Lord is the Mighty One, the Merciful, Lot’s people, too disbelieved their apostles. Their compatriot Lot said to them: “Will you not have fear of Allah? I am indeed your true apostle. Fear Allah then and follow me. I demand of you no recompense for this; none can reward me except the Lord of the Creation. Will you fornicate with males and leave your wives, whom Allah has created for you? Surely you are great transgressors….”
  • Quran: 27:54: And tell of Lot. He said to his people: “Are our blind that you should commit indecency, lustfully seeking men instead of women? Surely you are an ignorant people.” Yet this was their reply: “Banish the louse of Lot from your city. They are men who would keep chaste.” So We delivered him and all his tribe, except his wife, whom We caused to stay behind, pelting the others with rain; and evil was the rain which fell on those who had been warned.

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 lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans*. In addition, they must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these abusive actions, and who grow up in religious denominations and larger societies that teach them to deny, to hide, and to hate themselves.

History is replete with groups and individuals facing colossal odds for simply expressing their truth, and for that, they were often forced to pay the ultimate price. Governments and powerful individuals have devised ways of silencing opposition for the purpose of maintaining and extending its control and domination. They commit genocide upon the true human liberators, the profits, the visionaries who advocate for a just and free world. These visionaries, who were persecuted in their own time, have achieved not only exoneration, but more importantly, have become venerated as the visionaries they truly are.

Anyone can believe anything they wish, whether others find those beliefs laudable or offensive. When, however, the expression of those beliefs denies other individuals or groups their full human and civil rights, a critical line has been crossed, for they have entered into the realm of oppression.

We are seeing individuals and entire denominations framing themselves as the 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. My critique, however, does not amount to a simple theological disagreement. This is not a “disagreement” at all! It speaks to issues of power and control; it goes to who has the power to define “the other,” and who has the power and control to define “the self”: the individual and members of social identity groups, or rather, religious denominations.

Therefore, we have a right, no, an obligation to counter this destructive and, yes, oppressive discourse, and to stand up, to transform ourselves from bystanders into empowered upstanders taking with us our voices, our energy, our unity, our intelligence, our righteous indignation, and all the love of which we are capable.

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. I am not naïve enough, however, to believe that we will soon witness general human and civil rights policies or legislation enacted by orthodox religious denomination or in authoritarian theocracies anytime soon.

Though certain religious denominations may continue in their attempts to define us, they will fail. A central tenet of liberation is the right of people to self-define, to maintain their subjectivity and agency over the course of their lives. With our loving allies within progressive religious communities in addition to those unaffiliated with religious denominations, we are taking back the discourse and demanding that religious institutions curb their offensive dogma and take their interpretations of scripture off our bodies.

Furthermore, we will not accept their framing themselves as the victims of “religious bigotry” when we challenge their Medieval, hateful, fear-inspiring, cruel, and yes, oppressive interpretations of our lives, interpretations targeted to perpetuate their domination and control.

I 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.

For in the prophetic words of Bob Dylan,

“The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be passed

The order is

Rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’”

To see my PowerPoint presentation, Religious Texts Used To Justify Persecution, click here.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 12th, 2016 at 3:01 pm

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Heterosexism Hurts Everyone

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I find it paradoxical that in our society, love of difference makes one the same, while love of sameness makes one different. In this regard, I cannot help thinking about something Frederick Douglass, who escaped enslavement and worked for the cause of liberation, once said when he described the dehumanizing effects of slavery not on those enslaved alone, but also on white slavers whose position to slavery corrupted their humanity. While the social conditions of Douglass’s time were very different from today, nonetheless, I believe Douglass’s words hold meaning by analogy: “No [person] can put a chain about the ankle of [another person] without at last finding the other end fastened about [their] own neck.”

Though it cannot be denied that oppression serves the interests of dominant group members, eventually it will backfire and the chain will take hold of them. Therefore, I have come to understand that within the numerous forms of oppression, members of targeted (sometimes called “minoritized”) groups are oppressed, while on many levels, members of the dominant or agent groups are hurt.  Although the effects of oppression differ qualitatively for specific targeted and agent groups, in the end everyone loses.

This is true as well within the social oppression called “heterosexism,” which I define as the overarching system of advantages bestowed on heterosexuals. It includes the institutionalization of a heterosexual norm or standard, which establishes and perpetuates the notion that all people are or should be heterosexual thereby privileging heterosexuals and heterosexuality, and excluding the needs, concerns, cultures, and life experiences of people who do not define as heterosexual or gender normative. In truth, heterosexism is pervasive throughout the society, and each of us, irrespective of sexual or gender identity and expression, stands at risk of its harmful effects.

First, heterosexist conditioning compromises the integrity of people by pressuring them to treat others badly, which are actions contrary to their basic humanity. It inhibits one’s ability to form close, intimate relationships with members of one’s own sex, generally restricts communication with a significant portion of the population, and, more specifically, limits family relationships.

Heterosexism locks all people into rigid gender-based roles, which inhibit creativity and self-expression. It often is used to stigmatize, silence, and, on occasion, target people who are perceived or defined by others as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender but who are, in actuality, heterosexual.

In addition, heterosexism is one cause of premature sexual involvement, which increases the chances of teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Young people, of all sexual identities, are often pressured to become heterosexually active to prove to themselves and others that they are “normal.”

Societal heterosexism prevents some LGBT people from developing an authentic self-identity, and adds to the pressure to marry someone of another sex, which in turn places undue stress and oftentimes trauma on themselves as well as their spouses and children.

Heterosexism, combined with sexphobia or erotophobia (fear and revulsion of sex) results in the elimination of discussions of the lives and sexuality of LGBT people as part of school-based sexuality education programs, keeping vital information from all students. Such a lack of information can kill people in the age of HIV/AIDS. And heterosexism (along with racism, sexism, classism, sexphobia) inhibits a unified and effective governmental and societal response the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

With all the truly important issues facing the world, heterosexism diverts energy and attention from more constructive endeavors. It also prevents heterosexuals from accepting the benefits and gifts offered by LGBT people, including theoretical insights, social and spiritual visions and options, contributions in the arts and culture, to religion, to education, to family life, indeed, to all facets of society. Ultimately, it inhibits appreciation of other types of diversity, making it unsafe for everyone because each person has unique traits not considered mainstream or dominant. Therefore, we are all diminished when any one of us is demeaned.

The meaning is quite clear: When any group of people is targeted for oppression, it is ultimately everyone’s concern. We all, therefore, have a self interest in actively working to dismantle all the many forms of oppression, including heterosexism.

I believe we are all born into an environment polluted by heterosexism (one among many forms of oppression), which falls upon us like acid rain. For some people, spirits are tarnished to the core, others are marred on the surface, and no one is completely protected. Therefore, we all have a responsibility, indeed an opportunity, to join together as allies to construct protective shelters from the corrosive effects of prejudice and discrimination while working to clean up the heterosexist environment in which we live. Once we take sufficient steps to reduce this pollution, we will all breathe a lot easier.

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-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 11th, 2016 at 11:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized