Sunday, December 26, 2010

That's the spirit(s)

"[I]t was a Christmas party, one could assume there was [drinking]"

Of course! That explains it.

Why didn’t I think of that?

I’m so glad that a Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s spokesman, quoted a week or two ago in the Los Angeles Times, offered this explanation as to why there was a brawl at a Christmas party for Men’s Central Jail employees, resulting in seven deputies being relieved of duty. It certainly cleared things up.

Never mind that the Christmas party, attended by about 100, including family and friends, was for jail staff. That’s already something to get one’s head around.

And never mind that, as the spokesman helpfully pointed out, "Deputies are supposed to be peacemakers, not law violators."

What’s more, "they’re not supposed to be assaulting their fellow co-workers."

Just in case you’re wondering.

But - excuse me - I’m sorry.... I don’t get it. I’m still confused.

It’s bad enough that New Year’s Eve is devoted to drinking, if not to getting drunk. (Much for this reason, I don’t like New Year’s Eve and spent many holed up at a Quaker retreat deep in the dark, dank California redwoods.) But at least it’s done just to mark time, to celebrate a significant passage. At least it’s not done for Jesus.

I don’t get why Christmas is an excuse, an obvious, natural excuse, for drinking. I don’t get how getting drunk and even out of control celebrates the birth of Jesus, who was all about peace and love.

I’ve never forgotten about the attendant I had years ago who told me she had to stay home on Christmas Eve to make sure things were safe, what with her parents and others drinking.

So much for all being calm and bright.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sitting here in limbo

On one front, things look good, but on the other front, they don’t look so hot.

Or maybe not.

Put it another way, are we taking one step forward and another step back?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

It could be that we’ll end up taking two steps forward or two steps backwards.

Who’s to say when it comes to Proposition 8 here in California and the don’t-ask-don’t-tell rule in the U.S military?

Earlier this month, there was a hearing on Proposition 8 in an appeals court after a judge had ruled the same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. It was reported that the appellate judges - two of the three of them were known as liberal - appeared to want to rule in such a way so that the case won’t go to the U.S Supreme Court. A big fear is that the U.S Supreme Court, which would close the case for at least a while, is increasingly conservative and could well set this cause back decades if it got its hands on it.

However, this reporting was really just tea-leaf reading, and the ruling is likely not to be out for months.

Meanwhile, the congressional repeal of D.A.D.T is, after lots of fanfare, all but dead in the water. There is a bit of talk about bringing it up again, probably on a separate vote, in this lame-duck session, but that looks like a tall order after the brutal fight over the tax-cut extension and when an usually popular nuclear arms reduction treaty is an iffy proposition. Prospects for the repeal look even dimmer come January, when the Republicans will take over the House of Representatives and gain seats in the Senate.

Then again, the courts will likely repeal D.A.D.T anyway. Good - but this path will be more abrupt and a rougher ride for the military.

Good grief! Enough already! Can someone please make a decision? The problem is that everything rides on who makes the decision. Sure, we can have a say on who makes the decision, but, again, that takes time.

Marriage and military service may be abstract and far-fetched for me - unlike, say, attendant-care funding - but, as a gay man with gay friends, I am sick of being a political football, a pawn in a social game, dependent on what time it is and who’s in charge, making the decisions, at the time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rainbow radiance

This past weekend, I was at a gathering which I attend several times a year and about which I have written about before. Near the end of the weekend, a man told the group about being an openly gay teacher at a big-city junior high school in a poor, rough neighborhood consisting of mostly immigrants.

Although he was already "out" at the school, after the recent spate of highly publicized gay teenage suicides, the teacher decided that he had to speak out more. With the other teachers’ blessing, he went to all the seventh grade health classes, beginning the conversation by asking, "Who here is gay?" After some denials and giggling, he would say, "I am." This would produce considerable shock, but then there would be lots of good, constructive questions from the students, which the teacher answered as honestly as possible. When the teacher asked if any of the students know anyone who is gay, most did - a cousin or such - and said that "they are alright."

The man explained that the school shares the campus with a much larger high school and said that, one day after these conversations, he decided to sit outside during recess, knowing that he was taking some risk. He noticed some seventh-grade boys looking and pointing at him and went over to ask what was up. The boys asked him more provocative questions ("Who gives the sperm?"). The teacher was beginning to answer when he was hit by an open carton of milk thrown from afar.

The seventh-graders were nearly as shocked as the teacher and asked him why this happened. The teacher asked the boys if they saw who threw the carton. One or two pointed out a high school student. The teacher, still dripping with milk, went over and confronted the boy, who told him, "Don’t talk about gay stuff!"

After finding out that the high school student is the older brother of a seventh-grader, the teacher was told by school administrators that he had to get a number of witnesses in order for anything to be done about the incident. The teacher found that many students refused to get involved, but he did get enough of them to point out the high school boy, who was then sent to a juvenile rehabilitation facility.

We can admire this man and say that he is brave. We can say that he has balls to teach at a junior high school - not to mention one in a tough inner-city neighborhood and being known to be gay. But that would be too easy.

This man is doing what we in the GLBT community all should be doing, the hard work every one of us needs to do. He is getting out there day after day, standing up for all to see and being honest about who he is. Not only that - and more importantly - he is not letting those who want to deny his existence, shame him and destroy him succeed. In being his true self, he shines and is the one who, in the end, is stronger, survives and thrive.

The failure to do this is clearly evident in the success of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, in California. The gay community couldn’t even say "gay," and the opposition ran with it and made it all the more shameful and frightening.