More Crimes That Never Happen!

November 12, 2015 Artwork, Comics, Gay and Lesbian, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 364

Perhaps the very worst thing about the repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is that voters feared imaginary sexual assault so much that they voted in favor of actual sexual assault. There’s basically no documented history of straight men pretending to be transgender so they can access womens’ bathrooms. There is, however, a long and savage history of sexual abuse of transgender people just for being transgender–and for using the restroom to which their chromosomal gender would assign them.

There are people I respect who believe this vote really was about restrooms, and a visceral response to a perceived loss of privacy. Clearly I am not one of those people.

Continue Reading

The L Stands for Lizardmen

June 30, 2015 Comics Comments (0) 158

This comic first appeared (with a slightly modified last panel) in Fusion.

Continue Reading

The Homosexual Putsch (Love Wins!)

June 26, 2015 ACLU, Gay and Lesbian, In The News Comments (0) 415

Here’s the decision.

FINALLY! We queers can remove our flesh-masks and reveal our true reptilian forms!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go marry a goat.

 

Continue Reading

My search traffic is absolutely horrific these days

June 2, 2015 Blogging, Pop Culture Comments (0) 248

tw: homophobia, transphobia

image

Special thanks to you, person who Goggled The Babadook.

Continue Reading

Backfire and Backlash: Mike Pence and Republican Reality

April 1, 2015 Gay and Lesbian, In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (2) 499

110126_pence_oped_ap_328Three days ago, Indiana governor Mike Pence admitted that he “didn’t anticipate the hostility” that would result from passing the state’s new anti-gay “Religious Freedom” law. Speaking to the press on Sunday and Monday, he emphatically denied that the new law was about anti-gay discrimination. All this, despite abundant warnings from legal experts about the nature of the law, warnings and examples from gay rights groups about the potential backlash, and the fact that three professional homophobes stood behind the governor when he signed the bill.

How could this be?

There are those who assume Pence is being obtuse, that he’s adopting ignorance as a defense against the “unforeseen” backlash, but there is another possibility: The governor of Indiana might honestly have been this out of touch with reality–as out of touch as Mitt Romney before the 2012 election, when he ordered celebratory fireworks and neglected to write a concession speech.

Cognitive dissonance is a fascinating thing, and April 1 is the perfect day to discuss it. As companies across the Internet post their best April Fools joke–from Southwest’s crazy new bag fee system to CERN’s announcement that the Force really is with you–they rely on cognitive dissonance to help you get the joke. When the human mind is confronted with new information that conflicts with what previous experience would lead it to expect, one way to reconcile that conflict is to recognize humor.

There are other responses to cognitive dissonance, however. One of the most fascinating is what researchers Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler termed the backfire effect: the tendency of a person to reject new information when it contradicts that person’s belief or understanding, and double-down on that commitment. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

What Graham Moore’s critics get wrong about “Weird.”

February 24, 2015 Gay and Lesbian, In The News, Pop Culture Comments (0) 335

459167564Graham Moore, the screenwriter behind The Imitation Game, took the stage at Sunday night’s Academy Awards and delivered a brave, stirring speech acknowledging his own teenage depression and resulting suicide attempt, drawing a parallel to the gay protagonist of his film, Alan Turing, and encouraging young people watching the show to “stay weird.” His speech was one of several highlights of an otherwise dull Oscar night, and brought tears to the eyes of many, myself included, delivered by a writer many viewers–myself included–assumed was a gay man. Then Graham Moore went backstage and delivered the lede that launched a thousand thinkpieces: “I’m not gay.”

June Thomas at Slate called the speech “stirring but confusing.” J. Bryan Lowder, writing later at the same publication’s Outward LGBT section, says the speech “reveals a problem in how we think about gayness.” At Buzzfeed, Ira Madison III accused Moore of “simplify[ing] oppression into a hashtag-ready catchphrase,” an act he labeled “deceptive to the point of near cruelty.”

The central complaint seems to be that Moore, who has not self-identified with the LGBT community, cannot understand the pain and social exclusion LGBT kids feel. “The social force behind anti-gay prejudice is far stronger and more pernicious than the animus against social outcasts,” writes Thomas. Lowder adds, “Bullying may suck for everyone, but being a Trekkie or socially awkward or straight edge or whatever just doesn’t have the same weight in that regard as being a sexual minority.” Madison pointed out that gay and trans kids “don’t have the privilege of staying weird in spaces that are only reaffirming to white men.”

While all of these points may be true on a sociological scale, they are totally off-base when applied to the subjective experience of specific individuals–to the point, to borrow a phrase from Madison, of near cruelty. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Trigger Warnings and Tyranny

February 11, 2015 ACLU, Gay and Lesbian, In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (4) 423

Pennsylvania_State_Capitol_Front_PanoramaIn October, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the “Revictimization Relief Act,” which allows crime victims to police the actions of perpetrators for life with almost no limits. The inspiration was a recorded commencement speech by Mumia Abu-Jamal played at a Vermont college earlier that month; Pennsylvania legislators said the speech re-victimized the widow and family of Daniel Faulkner, the Philly cop Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing.

Faulkner’s widow was not forced to hear the speech. Her trauma and mental anguish came only from the knowledge that Abu-Jamal would deliver it. “How could they allow him to speak when Danny no longer has a voice,” she asked in an official statement. “It is my opinion that all murderers should forfeit their right to free speech when they take the life of an innocent person.”

A majority of Pennsylvania legislators agreed. They gave Maureen Faulkner, and other victims, the legal right to stop convicted people like Abu-Jamal from doing almost anything. The law, as written and passed, allows victims to prevent any “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim,” with such conduct defined as that which “causes a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish.”

To many, the idea that one person’s subjective emotional experience trumps another’s constitutional rights is an affront, and the ACLU has already sued to strike down the Pennsylvania law. But the elevation of emotion is emerging as a disturbing theme of 21st century law. [pullquote position=”right”]As more Americans seek to protect people’s feelings, they sometimes find themselves in conflict with the foundation principles of justice.[/pullquote]

This year the Supreme Court will rule on Elonis v. United States, a complicated case in which a Pennsylvania man, Anthony Elonis, was convicted after posting graphic and horrifying Facebook statuses obviously directed as his ex-wife. Elonis’s defense claims he was writing rap lyrics, expressing his darker urges in the style of Eminem, and that the First Amendment protects him. Prosecutors say his messages constitute a true threat, and are not constitutionally protected. The case reached the high court partly because of a question over jury instructions: While the First Amendment and prior case law rely on the speaker’s intent to threaten, jurors who convicted Elonis were told to consider his speech a threat “if a reasonable person would have felt threatened.” [Emphasis added]

In other words, the difference between free speech and a federal crime hinges not on what was written or how, but rather on the emotional response of the person doing the reading. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Here’s what you should think about before making that Bruce Jenner joke

February 4, 2015 Gay and Lesbian, In The News, Pop Culture Comments (294) 1919

Bruce Jenner

Update, June 1 2015: This article was written in February, when Caitlyn Jenner still publicly identified as Bruce, and employs the name and pronouns that she chose at the time. While I’m at it, congratulations to Caitlyn for coming out and living a life that is true to herself.

I have a relative, a nasty closed-minded kind of guy–homophobic, misogynistic, and just generally lousy. A couple of years ago, he saw fit to apologize to me for any gay jokes that might have offended me. I suspect this was prompted by other relatives, and not by any inner guilt or empathy–by my best estimation, this individual isn’t capable of feeling such things.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I hope you know I was just kidding, and I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

I accepted the apology, surprised as I was to receive it, but I took the opportunity to deliver a little lecture. I explained that, as a man in my late 20’s (at the time) I was secure in my queer identity–certainly secure enough that the jokes and opinions of small-minded bigots didn’t hurt my feelings. But, I said, it wasn’t me he should be concerned about. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

First Amendment Friday: 05.02.2014

May 2, 2014 ACLU, Gay and Lesbian, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 270

This is a feature I started in my time working for the ACLU, that seems worth continuing here. It’s a roundup of news stories about First Amendment rights, not only from the United States but other parts of the world where such rights may not be guaranteed. As with any roundup of news stories, please consider the integrity of the linked source–I try not to link articles that feel bogus, but sometimes stories slip through.

  • In a new book, retired Supreme Court Justice Paul Stevens suggests six new amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including a revision to the First Amendment that would place “reasonable limits” on political campaign contributions. [NPR]
  • The NCAA believes the First Amendment gives them the right to profit from using the images of the players it doesn’t pay and doesn’t educate in video games, and they want the Supreme Court to agree. [Bloomberg]
  • Several Christian groups that perform same-sex weddings, including the United Church of Christ, have sued North Carolina because the state’s marriage equality ban, enacted through both state law and the state constitution, violate their religious freedom under the First Amendment. [Wall Street Journal]
  • Defense attorneys for alleged gang leader Ronald Herron argue that his rap recordings, in which prosecutors claim he journaled his crimes, are in fact protected free speech, analogous to Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and inadmissible at trial. [AP]

Continue Reading

Continue Reading