By: Shannon Ralph
On August 30, 2011, the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church, known for its chants of “God Hates Fags”, picketed a Foo Fighters concert in Kansas City. The church claims that the Foo Fighters’ song “Keep It Clean (Hot Buns)” encourages “fornication” and “fags”.
In response to the picketing, the band held a surprise impromptu gig outside the venue and serenaded the picketers with an ode to gay sex. Rolling up on a flat-bed truck, dressed in redneck beards, wigs, and trucker hats, the band performed the song. Lyrics included, “Driving all night, got a hankering for something. Think I’m in the mood for some hot man muffins. Mmmm, sounds so fine. Yes, indeed.”
During a break in the song, singer Dave Grohl told the crowd gathered in the street, “I don’t care if you’re black or white or purple of green, whether your Pennsylvanian or Transylvanian, Lady Gaga or Lady Antebellum, it takes all kinds!”
“Men loving women, and women loving men, and men loving men and women loving women…you all now we like to watch that. But what I’d like to say is, God Bless America, y’all!”
The band were jeered by the Westboro Baptists throughout the performance outside Kansas City’s Sprint Centre, but also cheered by a large number of fans watching. Foo Fighters are currently on tour with their seventh album ‘Wasting Light’.
By: Shannon Ralph
In a televised Republican presidential candidate debate on Thursday, a gay soldier was booed by the crowd after asking a question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). In a response that is both incredibly sad and a telling testament to their character, not one candidate on the stage came to the soldier’s defense. Not a single candidate said a word to the crowd about booing this man. Not a single candidate took a stand to defend a man putting his life on the line in service to the country they hope to one day lead.
“In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I’m a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job,” said Stephen Hill, whose image was projected on a large TV screen in the debate hall. “My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”
Members of the crowd booed loudly at the question. Rather than first thanking Hill for his service or acknowledging his tour in Iraq in any way, Rick Santorum answered the soldier’s question by launching into an impassioned diatribe about reinstating DADT.
“I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military,” he said. “And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to — to — and removing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.”
The audience began to applaud as Santorum added, “We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform. And I believe this undermines that ability.”
Since the debate, a few candidates, John Huntsman and Gary Johnson, have gone on record saying that they thought the booing was inappropriate, though neither of them spoke up to defend the soldier. Others like Michelle Bachman and Mitt Romney have dodged questions about the controversy. Rick Santorum, in a brilliant display of absolute wussiness, stated that he simply did not hear the booing. Booing? What booing?
“I didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear the boos,” Santorum told ABC News. “I heard the question and answered the question, so I’ve heard subsequently that happened. I’ve heard varied reports about whether they were booing the soldier or the policy.”
“I don’t know what they were booing,” he said. “If you can, go out and find the people who were booing and find out if they were booing because a man was gay or because of a policy they don’t agree with.”
By: Shannon Ralph
Recent statistics out of Britain suggest that same-sex civil partners are less likely to divorce than straight married people. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that after five years, 5.5 percent of marriages had ended in divorce and 2.5 percent of civil partnerships had been dissolved.
Since civil partnerships were legalized in Britain in 2005, 42,778 civil partnerships have taken place —four times the number initially expected. The ONS report states, “Early figures suggest that marriages are more likely to end in divorce than civil partnerships are to end in dissolution.”
There you have it. Hard statistics to counter the assertion that gay people will somehow ruin the “sanctity” of marriage. My partner and I have been together for thirteen years. Both our parents are divorced. My sweet little grandma has been divorced several times. Aunts, uncles, and cousins have been divorced. Friends are divorced. But my partner and I are together and have every intention of staying that way.
Straight people do not need LGBT people to screw up their marriages. Statistics show they are quite capable of doing that themselves.
By: Shannon Ralph
World Travel Holdings (WTH) recently announced the debut of a new website offering a fresh take on planning the perfect vacation. VillaRental.com provides a new and novel way for the traveler to search for and create a customized trip based on their travel style and their specific reasons for traveling.
Unlike other sites, VillaRental.com allows travelers to plan their vacation based on personal interest or “Vacation Themes” rather than solely destination. On the new site, villas are categorized by vacation types. A traveler who knows what they would like to do on vacation, but may not necessarily know where they’d like to go, can search with ease.
Among the “Themed Vacation” options on VillaRental.com are:
Golf or Tennis Hotspots.
“Villa vacations are rising in popularity not only because they offer affordable luxury, but also because it’s the ideal vacation for anyone seeking a truly customizable, private vacation with more amenities and space than at a hotel or resort,” said Steve Lassman, Vice President and General Manager of VillaRental.com.
For more information or to sign up for the new company’s e-newsletter—including villa rental tips, deals, news and more—visit www.VillaRental.com.
By: Shannon Ralph
There is an old quote by George Orwell: But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
I thought of this quote as I was reading a recent news story about young people and the use of crude language in social media. According to an Associated Press-MTV survey of 1,355 people nationwide ages 14-24, most young people are not offended by online anti-gay, racist, or sexist slurs. Fifty-one percent of those polled say they see slurs on Facebook and MySpace, but most (57 percent) think it is just “joking around” when their friends use words like “fag” or “slut”. Only around half that number believe people who use slurs hold hateful views. Just a third of the young people polled saw words like “fag” and “slut” as serious offenses. Other popular jabs include “nigger”, “retard”, and “fat”. Young people see the use of these words in their own social circles as acceptable because “I know we do not mean it”.
So what does this say about us as a culture? Is George Orwell right? Is it true that the language we hear on a daily basis can corrupt our thoughts? Corrupt the thoughts of our children? Where are we headed as a nation when it has become acceptable to use anti-gay, racist, and sexist terms as a “joke”? Perhaps these words have no meaning to a young generation growing up enjoying the fruits of the labor of the numerous freedom fighters and activists who came before them. If that is the case, then we need to do a better job of educating our children about the struggles overcome and the road to equality that still lies ahead of us. Our kids should know, in no uncertain terms, that language is powerful. It has the ability to uplift, and the ability to demean. Words should be chosen carefully, even in seemingly anonymous spaces online.
By: Shannon Ralph
OutServe, the association of actively-serving gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender military personnel, today released the latest edition of OutServe Magazine. The edition features 101 actively-serving military members identified by name, rank, and duty station. Their photos are highlighted in the magazine.
“We could not be more proud of this magazine and the opportunity it gives us to educate and inform all service members —gay and straight—about who we really are,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, co-director of OutServe who until now was known by the pseudonym “JD Smith.” “There is so much misinformation out there about the LGBT community and as we begin a new day for the American military, OutServe Magazine will be a a vehicle to tell our stories and a way of helping all of us understand each other better. As of today, we can speak up for ourselves honestly, so the troops on either side of us can understand, we have more in common than you might think.”
OutServe is the association of actively serving LGBT military personnel that launched on July 26, 2010. With more than 4,000 members and 40-plus chapters worldwide, it is one of the largest LGBT employee resource groups in the world. OutServe works to support a professional network of LGBT military personnel and create an environment of respect in the military with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity.
OutServe Magazine is free and can be downloaded at www.outserve.com. The magazine will also be available at selected Air Force and Army base exchanges.
By: Shannon Ralph
The first gay character in Archie Comics, Kevin Keller, will get married in an upcoming issue.
Kevin Keller first appeared in the comic “Veronica” last autumn, with some critics expecting him to be nothing more than a token character. But the issue in which he appeared, #202, sold out, prompting Archie Comics to issue a reprint for the first time in its history. The character appeared in a mini-series this summer and will also have his own solo title to be released early next year. “Veronica” writer Dan Parent was nominated for a GLAAD award for his creation.
Speaking last year, Archie Comics co-chief executive Jon Goldwater said, “The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie’s hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books.”
Mr. Goldwater added that people who might be offended by a gay storyline “aren’t the kind of people we want reading our comics anyway.”
How awesome is that? I’ve never really been a comic book fan, but I have to applaud any industry that takes a stand against homophobia and actually tells critics that they do not want their business. I am thinking it might be time to introduce my son to Archie Comics.
By: Shannon Ralph
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network has announced the honorees for its seventh annual Respect Awards. Held annually in Los Angeles and New York, The Respect Awards honor the work of corporations, individuals, students, and educators who have made a significant impact in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and safe schools. Among this year’s honorees are Chaz Bono, Michele and Rob Reiner, and Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts.
Bono—an LGBT rights activist, speaker, and author—will receive the “Hero Award.” After transitioning from female to male, he shared his life experiences in the three-time Emmy nominated documentary “Becoming Chaz.”
Michele and Rob Reiner—founding board members of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the sole sponsor of the federal court challenge of California’s Proposition 8—will receive the “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Welts, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Phoenix Suns, will receive the “Inspiration Award.” In May 2011, Welts became the first professional sports executive to come out publicly, and has since dedicated himself to becoming a mentor to LGBT people who harbor doubts about a sports career.
This year’s Respect Awards will be presented on October 21, the last day of GLSEN’s Ally Week, held in schools across the country to identify, support and celebrate allies.
By: Shannon Ralph
A recent study published in the journal Family Process finds that couples in heterosexual, gay, and lesbian relationships are more monogamous today than they have been in the past. The study of more than 6,800 men and women in 1975 and 2000 finds that there is dramatically less extra-relational sexual behavior in 2000 than in 1975 for all couple types.
The percentage of heterosexual men who reported having sex with someone other than their wife dropped to 10% in 2000 from 28% in 1975; among married women, it declined to 14% from 23%. Among gay men, the percentage who cheated on a partner they lived with dropped to 59% from 83%; for lesbians it declined to 8% from 28%. Half the gays and lesbians in the study were in civil unions, half were living together in committed relationships, the researchers say.
The authors of the study speculate that the awareness of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases has led couples to be more cautious and conservative about sex outside of their relationship. However, the researchers also feel that the findings can be in part attributed to greater acceptance of same-sex relationships.
Emily Hecht-McGowan of the non-profit Family Equity Council, which works toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families, agrees. “As public opinion has shifted about gay people and the LGBT community overall, I think same-sex couples are more comfortable living openly in their communities and building families,” she says.
I love it when clinical research supports common sense. Of course societal acceptance strengthens same-sex relationships. Of course any relationship that is forced to be clandestine and hidden from society will suffer. Monogamy suffers. Families suffer. As same-sex couples find more societal acceptance, our relationships will have the freedom to thrive. And everyone, gay and straight alike, benefits from strong families.
By: Shannon Ralph
Harvard University has appointed a Director of Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Life. Lisa “Lee” Forrest, currently the head of the GLBT and Allies Pride Center at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, will start her new position at Harvard in November.
The Harvard Crimson reports that the new position was created after a student group complained that there were not enough resources for GLBT students at the university. There will be new GLBT student space on campus with offices for Forrest and a graduate assistant.
Forrest said in a statement, “The new program will be a valuable resource for the campus community, and it represents a new chapter in Harvard’s history. I am eager to collaborate with Harvard’s outstanding students, faculty, and administrators who have paved the way with an impressive array of BGLTQ-related initiatives, and I look forward to working together toward a shared vision of social justice.”
This news excites me on a personal level. When my exquisitely brilliant children get into Harvard on full scholarships, as they most certainly will (this momma isn’t affording an Ivy League education any other way), I can rest assured that there is a program on campus that supports and affirms their family.