Monday, October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day — Stand Up to Hate

In the wake of vicious anti-gay violence and hatred in New York, New Jersey, anti-gay rioting in Serbia, and blatant homophobic comments by a gubernatorial candidate, it seems more important than ever that today is National Coming Out Day.

So, first things first, let me be very, very clear: I’m bisexual! I’M BISEXUAL, and proclaim it again today. We need to stop the violence and hate, and the only way to do that is to foster understanding and acceptance. Gays need to stand together in solidarity, and people of all sexual persuasions need to speak out consistently and forcefully against homophobia in all of its ugly guises.

I am deeply saddened even sickened by the recent anti-gay hate crimes that have sparked headlines across the globe, and has also rocked gay rights groups as well as every person with even a shred of humanity.

I am also appalled at homophobic remarks made yesterday by New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino who actually read from a prepared statement saying that homosexuality isn't an "equally successful or valid option" to heterosexuality.

Paladino, who has gotten support from the Tea Party movement, spoke at a campaign appearance in the Williamsburg section of the Borough of Brooklyn to a gathering of religiously and socially conservative Hasidic Jews.

The Republican was trying to draw contrasts with his opponent, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, New York State's Attorney General. Sadly, Paladino used his deep opposition to gay marriage as one area of difference. Shockingly, Paladino went much further than that saying:

“...We must stop pandering to the pornographers and the perverts who seek to target our children and destroy their lives.

I didn't march in the gay parade this year, gay pride parade this year. My opponent did. And that's not the example that we should be showing our children. Certainly not in our schools.

And don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie. My approach is live and let live.

I just think my children and your children would be much better off and more successful getting married and raising a family. And I don't want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option.”

At another point in his prepared remarks, Paladino verbally cuffed Cuomo for bringing his daughters to the gay pride parade.

Meanwhile, several news sources reported that Paladino's speech as written contained even more anti-gay language that he apparently decided not to deliver.

Whew. Clearly, Paladino’s idiotic and harmful language does more than just "hurt homosexual people in any way."

His comments underscore the current of homophobia (bigotry) that if left unabated can eventually build into a tsunami of hatred that destroys and even kills innocent people simply because of their sexuality.

Guess what, Mr. Paladino? Gays don’t “brainwash” the innocent into a cult of perversion, it’s ignorant bigots like you who do that. Your hate-talk, just like all blatant prejudice, sends a very clear message that anti-gay behavior and speech is OK, accepted and even encouraged. Shame on you, Mr. Paladino, and shame on everyone agrees, but is smart enough not to articulate it.

Even our mainstream language reflects this growing anti-gay trend. The phrase, something’s “so gay” has been the ultimate damaging cut down, cop out and insult among teens and others in recent years, along with many others.

Science is sooo gay! Translation, "I find science boring." You are such a fag! Translation, "I think you are stupid." You queer! Translation, "You are crazy." The words gay, fag and queer fly between teenagers as insults and descriptors. However, this isn't innocent badgering, it's also building a hurtful bias of bigotry within our society that is potentially damaging self-esteem and destroying personal responsibility.

Breaking the prejudicial cycle requires immediate, intelligent parent reaction. It also requires sensitive adult reaction if you hear someone who should know better repeat the anti-gay slurs.

A woman in Serbia commenting on the anti-gay rioting at a gay pride parade explained it best, "When you develop that mentality of us and them, and we hate them and we fight them, then in the end you always find somebody who is unlike you to fight."

I find it astounding that I actually have to present a roundup of recent anti-gay atrocities because there have been so many:

— The most violent of the incidents occurred in the Bronx, when a group of Hispanic gang members of the Latin King Goonies allegedly tortured two teenage boys and a man in anti-gay attacks earlier in the month.

Yesterday, eight teenage and adult males were arraigned in Bronx Criminal Court on a range of charges including sexual assault, robbery, unlawful imprisonment, intimidation and hate crimes. Two were held in lieu of $100,000 bond, and the others were held without bond. Police said a ninth member of the gang was still at large.

Police said the attack happened Oct. 3 after the gang members heard a rumor that one of their recruits was gay. They allegedly found the teen, stripped him, and beat and sodomized him with a plunger handle until he confessed to having had sex with a 30-year-old local man in the neighborhood.

The gang members next allegedly hunted down a second teen they suspected was gay and also tortured him, police said. Then they allegedly lured the 30-year-old man to an abandoned house by inviting him to a party there. The suspected allegedly burned, beat and tortured him for hours, and sodomized him with a miniature baseball bat, police said.

The man, a gay Hispanic immigrant known in his Bronx neighborhood as "la Reina" Spanish for "the Queen,” was the most severely brutalized of the three victims.

— Those horrible attacks came on the heels of another anti-gay beating that also occurred on Oct. 3. A D.C. gay man was attacked in New York’s at Stonewall Inn, site of the historic 1969 protests that many credit for launching the modern gay rights movement.

Ben Carver, a Shaw resident who works in communications, was in New York for a weekend of leisure with his boyfriend. He was allegedly harassed by two straight men in the restroom who asked him for money, called him a faggot and struck him multiple times. He fought back and was able to get away. Carver’s boyfriend called 911 and chased the attackers as they fled the bar. They were apprehended a short time later.

New York police have charged 21-year-old Matthew Francis, and 17-year-old Christopher Orlando, both of Staten Island, in the attack. They face charges of third-degree assault as a hate crime and attempted robbery.

— There have also been a string of suicides attributed to anti-gay bullying, including a New Jersey college student's Sept. 22 plunge off the George Washington Bridge in New York after his sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was secretly streamed live online by his dorm roommate.

The body of Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi, was recovered from the Hudson River. Clementi, only 18, was also an accomplished violinist.

Police charged his roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, with privacy violations and related offenses, for using "the camera to view and transmit a live image." Ravi allegedly activated his camcorder that captured Clementi and an unnamed man from another computer in the Rutger’s dorm room of a friend of Ravi’s, Michelle “Molly” Wei, whose room was across the hall. Wei, 18, has also been charged with the same spying offenses. They may also be charged with hate crime offenses.

— Two days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Belgrade, the city erupted in a wave of violence yesterday.

Thousands of homophobic bigots tried to break up a gay pride march, clashing with anti-riot police. More than 110 officers were injured and more than 200 rioters arrested in what was a test for the Serbian government to show it can protect human rights.

Running battles lasted hours, as the protesters and nationalist right-wingers hurled Molotov cocktails and bricks at police. Cars were set on fire, shops were looted and a mobile breast cancer detection unit was destroyed.

Roughly 5,600 policemen were deployed in four concentric cordons to keep marchers far away from rioters who were chanting "Death to Homosexuals!"

Throughout the Balkans, it is an understatement that societies have been slow in accepting gay rights.

As gay supporters with rainbow peace flags gathered, lawyer Mrko Tipkovic could not hide his disgust for homosexuality.

"It is highly morbid," Tipkovic said. "Medicine says so, psychologists and psychiatrists say it is morbid. New age is total catastrophe."

Interior Minister Ivica Davic said it's very worrisome that among the 6,000 well-organized rioters, more than one half were under 18 years of age.

Radmila Stojanovic, who came to show her solidarity with the marchers, said violence is a legacy of strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

"This country has been at war hating this nation, that nation, this group, that it perpetuates itself," Stojanovic said. "When you develop that mentality of us and them, and we hate them and we fight them, then in the end you always find somebody who is unlike you to fight."

Under intense security, some 1,000 gay pride marchers were ushered into a park. There was a large contingent of foreigners, western diplomats and journalists.

Many gays stayed home for fear of being recognized by their neighbors and employers.

Ivana Howard of the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy says there are several factors that encourage homophobia: "Violent politicians who themselves use hate speech. The church is playing a very negative role portraying homosexuality as a disease, so it is hard to expect of an average citizen to understand why this is important and why these citizens have equal rights like everyone else."

A woman who goes by the name of Kosmogina wore a T-shirt reading: "Nobody Knows I'm A Lesbian."

"It is very difficult to show feelings, relationships," Kosmogina said. "Just holding hands, kissing, it is dangerous here in Serbia, it is dangerous."

Cheering and blowing whistles, marchers took a brief walk around government buildings on empty streets secured by thousands of police flanked by armored vehicles.

Dutch gay activist Frank Van Dalen helped organize this first Serbian gay pride event in nine years. In 2001, police stood by as hooligans beat many marchers to a pulp.

"This is a small step," Van Dalen said. "But it will take many years before every single gay and lesbian in this country can be out and open in the pride."

The festivities were abruptly cut short when police ordered an immediate evacuation.

Dozens of police vans — usually used to transport prisoners — were put at marchers' disposal. Locked inside, in complete darkness, they were escorted to safety.

— The Curator


  1. What a hard thing to have to say. Thank you for saying it. Also - love the pin!

  2. Thanks for the kind comment. Our world needs to get a grip, don't you think? The information that so many of the anti-gay bashers in Serbia were 18 years old is chilling. Good example of what so many are teaching the next generation. Good grief.

  3. We all need to come out in support of the gay community. Those of us who are straight need to come out as ally and supporters, and those of us who are gay need to come out to be a stronger community. Happy coming out day :-)