Thursday, October 14, 2010

Senior Editor of The Nation, Richard Kim, on Anti-LGBT Activities in the U.S.

this somewhat rare solo photograph of Richard Kim was found here

I hate it when Queer/LGBTI rights issues are referred to as only "Gay rights issues". It's not only sexist, but in many cases it's invisibilising of everyone else who marches behind or holds up that colorful banner. I'll add that to the list of things that needs to change. Another problem: the G moving back in front of the L in many Queer spaces, in oh so many ways. With my complaining out of the way, I found Richard Kim's comments on the Tyler Clementi suicide particularly challenging--in a useful way--about the two students who broadcast his private moments with another man, precipitating his death and whether or not they were behaving in a homophobic manner intentionally. Regardless, the effect was surely anti-queer, that's for sure. But he does raise a good point about not lumping together all the perpetrators of what is, intentionally or not, anti-queer violence.

All that follows is from Democracy Now. Please click on the title to link back.

While Celebrating Halt to "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," Gay Rights Movement Confronts Teen Suicides, Homophobic Electioneering and Violent Attacks

Dadt-salute
The Nation's Richard Kim joins us to discuss some of the major issues facing the gay rights movement in America today, including Tuesday's decision by a federal judge to end the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy; the surge in gay teenagers committing suicide; the homophobic remarks of politicians ahead of the midterm elections; and the recent brutal beatings and torture of three New York men because of their sexual orientation. [includes rush transcript]

JUAN GONZALEZ: A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the United States military to immediately stop enforcing the seventeen-year-old "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law that prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Judge Virginia A. Phillips of the Federal District Court for the Central District of California issued an injunction one month after she ruled that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law is unconstitutional. Tuesday’s ruling bans enforcement of the law and orders the military to immediately suspend any investigations or discharge proceedings.
The decision is likely to be appealed by the Department of Justice, but White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the injunction is under review and reiterated that President Obama will, quote, "continue to work as hard as he can to change the law that he believes is fundamentally unfair."
AMY GOODMAN: Many gay rights groups have welcomed the ruling, but the decision comes at a grim time for gay rights advocates. Ten men have been arraigned, two of them just last night, on hate crimes charges here in New York after they allegedly brutally beat and tortured three men because of their sexual orientation.
September and October have also witnessed a rash of suicides by gay teenagers across the country. In the past five weeks, at least seven gay and lesbian teenagers have committed suicide, in many cases following incidents of bullying or public humiliation by classmates.
For more on all of these stories, we’re joined here in New York by Richard Kim, senior editor at The Nation magazine. His latest blog post is called "Against 'Bullying' or On Loving Queer Kids."
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Richard.
RICHARD KIM: Thank you, Amy. Thank you, Juan.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let us begin with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Explain the significance of yesterday’s ruling.
RICHARD KIM: So, you know, the Log Cabin Republicans were the people who brought forward this case, and they’re actually urging people in the military to not come out yet, because there might be an appeal. But what you saw here is really the party of no; the Republican Party is really the party of homophobia. When Obama came to office, he campaigned, in part, on getting rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He put in place a review in the military, legislation in the last defense appropriations bill that would have gotten rid of it. Senator John McCain filibustered it. And not one—not one—Republican member of the Senate moved over to the Democratic side to break the filibuster.
So, what you’re seeing here is really the courts being the avenue of last recourse. And the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, wanting to do this legislatively, they were stopped by the filibuster. And the courts consistently, whether it’s on issues of marriage or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or employment, have been really the avenue of last recourse, because there’s been no legislative progress on this.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But now the administration is in the difficult position now of having to decide whether to appeal a ruling that it—in essence, a law that it has said it opposes.
RICHARD KIM: Right, and that’s the same situation that it faces in the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama has said that he doesn’t agree with that legislation. That’s being challenged by the state of Massachusetts and a bunch of gay rights groups. So, you know, it’s in this position where, is it going to defend these just on federal prerogative? Is it just going to assert, you know, it’s the federal government, it has the right to determine law? Or is it going to do what is right?
And this is really important, moving into the next Congress, because any chance we had of reversing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or DOMA legislatively is going to go from, you know, small to zero. And so, the courts really are the only avenue here. And the Justice Department, the Obama administration can take a different position and say, "We are not going to appeal these decisions. We agree with them." They’ve already said they agree with them. And they should do the right thing at this moment and really, you know, let justice take its course.
AMY GOODMAN: As of yesterday, does this mean that no one can be kicked out of the military?
RICHARD KIM: At the moment, there’s an injunction, and no one can be kicked out of the military. There will be an appeal of that injunction, and it’s unclear what happens with that process.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to this horrific torture session that happened over the weekend, this terrible attack on three young men. Can you describe what happened in the Bronx?
RICHARD KIM: So, there were two seventeen-year-olds and one thirty-year-old, and they, in varying times, were picked up by this gang of youths, tortured and sodomized, forced to drink, really brutalized over the course of many, many hours.
AMY GOODMAN: And forced to torture each other.
RICHARD KIM: Forced to torture each other, burn each other with cigarettes. Really, really horrific crime. The police made a first set of arrests over the weekend. And that was when Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor, chose to make his remarks basically saying that gay and lesbians are inferior people. So—
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, actually, let’s go right to his remarks.
RICHARD KIM: Yes, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Wasn’t going to do this quite yet, but the Republican gubernatorial candidate here in New York told a group of Hasidic Jewish leaders on Sunday that children should not be "brainwashed" into thinking homosexuality is acceptable.
CARL PALADINO: I didn’t march in a gay parade this year—the gay pride parade this year. My opponent did. And that’s not the example that we should be showing our children, and 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 much 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. It isn’t.
JUAN GONZALEZ: That was Carl Paladino speaking to a group of Hasidic leaders on—over the weekend. This is him on Monday appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America defending his comments.
CARL PALADINO: I’m not a homophobic. I have no reservations whatsoever about gays. The only—except for marriage. And Andrew Cuomo said he took his children to a gay pride parade. I was at one in Toronto. One time we stumbled on it, my wife and I. It wasn’t pretty. It was a bunch of very extreme-type people in bikini-type outfits grinding at each other and doing these gyrations. And I certainly wouldn’t let my young children see that.
AMY GOODMAN: This is very interesting, the Buffalo billionaire businessman attacking gay men and lesbians, because, Juan, in your newspaper, the New York Daily News, the piece reads, "Carl Paladino says kids shouldn’t be 'brainwashed' into thinking it’s okay to be gay or be taken to a 'disgusting' gay pride parade.
"But he had no problem when his son, William, ran Cobalt, a nightclub once dubbed Buffalo’s 'gay club of the moment.'
"And he had no problem cashing [in] the rent checks from Cobalt and another gay club called Buddies II, both of which were located for years in buildings [that] he owned."
Richard Kim?
RICHARD KIM: So, you know, this just reveals the utter hypocrisy of Carl Paladino. Gays are really OK when they’re contributing to his coffers and making a lot of money for him. When it’s time to court the Hasidic vote, he panders to really the worst kind of homophobia. The comments he made don’t necessarily have a policy implication, but it’s much broader than that: it engages in the systematic dehumanization of gay and lesbian people. And that’s absolutely related to the attacks that happened in the Bronx and to the incidents of anti-gay bullying that we’re seeing across the country. You know, I think he’s really revealed himself, in addition to the racist emails he sent, as quite a crude, hateful politician.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, in addition, he also blasted his Democratic rival, Andrew Cuomo, for taking his daughters to a gay pride parade, saying, "Would you take your children to a gay pride parade?"
RICHARD KIM: You know, there are tons of children at the gay pride parade in New York. You see politicians marching in it all the time. And, you know, Carl Paladino has apologized, in part, for his remarks, and I would hope he comes to the next year’s gay pride parade, in whatever capacity, hopefully as a private citizen, and, you know, sees what it’s really about.
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead, Juan.
JUAN GONZALEZ: You’ve written in The Nation about—we talked about this rash of teen suicides as a result of bullying by classmates, and you’ve talked in a Nation piece about your own experiences in terms of bullying and how—the impact on gay teenagers across the country of this epidemic, really, that rarely gets much attention.
RICHARD KIM: Right. So, we now—latest numbers say that as many as thirteen gay and lesbian or trans teens have killed themselves since September. And the scary part is, this may not even be an uptick. This may actually be the norm, and we just don’t have very good tracking on this. You know, that includes Aiyisha Hassan, a lesbian who killed herself, a Howard student; Zach Harrington, who was just nineteen, who killed himself after he attended a town hall meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, where people were debating whether there should be a gay and lesbian history month, and people used the word "perversion," "sick," "deranged" at that meeting, and he took his life shortly thereafter. So, what you are really seeing here is the human consequences of politics and ideology that dehumanizes gays and lesbians.
And, you know, you could also draw a really straight line from all this stuff to the Bush administration’s abstinence-only education policy, which puts into schools curriculum that either doesn’t mention the fact that gay and lesbians exist at all or, when it does, compares it, homosexuality, to bestiality or incest. This is millions and millions of dollars over the last nine, ten years going into this kind of curriculum. So this is what people are actually taught in schools. Is it really any surprise then that there should be a rash of bullying and suicides as a result of this?
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what happened in Rutgers, also right nearby in New Jersey.
RICHARD KIM: So, there was a student there, Tyler Clementi. He was just eighteen, a violinist. It was the beginning of his freshman year. He had had a sexual encounter with a man, which was broadcast by his roommate, without his knowledge, obviously, online. And then a few days later—
AMY GOODMAN: And just to explain, he had asked his roommate if he could have the room alone until midnight or something.
RICHARD KIM: Right, right. And the roommate had put out a tweet saying, "It’s happening again," and went to a neighbor’s room, Molly Wei, and the two of them together broadcast it online.
AMY GOODMAN: They had turned on the webcam in the room—
RICHARD KIM: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN:—unbeknownst to Tyler.
RICHARD KIM: Exactly, exactly. And this was not the first time they had done this, in fact. This was the second time they had broadcast it. So, Tyler, then, a few days later, jumped off the George Washington Bridge. And, you know, it’s a horrific, horrific, awful tragedy.
What I find somewhat disturbing as a result of this is that the attention has been so much on the punishment of the two Rutgers students, who undoubtedly contributed to an awful act, are immature, prurient, and deserve some punishment for invasion of privacy, at the least. I’m not so clear that they did this just out of anti-gay bias, and I don’t want to also lump them into the teens that attacked the people in the Bronx. I think we’re looking at very different crimes, and we’re looking at very different places where we can make interventions.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But the general problem, obviously, is still that America has not come to grips, whether it’s among teens or adults like Carl Paladino, with its deep, deep-seated anti-gay bias that continues to affect so much of the public discourse on this issue.
RICHARD KIM: Yeah, you know, you’re seeing people come out a lot earlier. This is very new, in the last five or six years. And you’re seeing them come out not when they move to New York or San Francisco, but in Oklahoma, in Michigan, in the Bronx. And, you know, it’s challenging America, I think, to really look at teenagers differently, to look at sexuality differently, to look at gay and lesbian identity differently. It’s difficult for parents and teachers to do this. We need to have a real national conversation about that and then to put into place education policies that are about comprehensive sex education.
AMY GOODMAN: You, at the same time, have this controversy with the South Carolina Senator DeMint, who reiterated a statement he made back in 2004, so this is not reviving a controversy by someone who wants to take him on in his senatorial race, but it’s saying that gay men and lesbians, saying that single women, should not be teaching in schools.
RICHARD KIM: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And he brought it up and said he agrees with what he said then.
RICHARD KIM: Right. And, you know, DeMint is not the only one. You have Marco Rubio in Florida, who supports a ban on gay adoptions.
AMY GOODMAN: Who’s ahead in the Florida race.
RICHARD KIM: Who is comfortably ahead now. Charlie Crist used to support that ban, and then he sort of tacked to the center. You have Sharron Angle, who also supports a ban on gay adoptions. Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, who’s running for Senate, supports a ban on gay adoption. So, you really have a policy in place across the Republican Party, but especially in the Tea Party, that says, "We don’t want gays and lesbians raising children. We don’t want gays and lesbians teaching children." And the real message here is actually not so much at gay and lesbian adults, but it’s at gay and lesbian kids who might find comfort and nurturing from these adults. And the message is: please don’t exist. That is the message that these people are sending.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, I was watching, after the attack, after Tyler committed suicide, Rutgers had a speak-out, where all the administration was there, and one young person after another described what it meant to be gay on campus or to grow up and be harassed. What should schools do? I mean, the numbers for young gay men and lesbians growing up is staggering, how many say that they were harassed, and gay men and lesbians who are grown up.
RICHARD KIM: Well, I first want to say it can’t just be schools. It has to be parents—a lot of this starts at home—parents of gay and lesbian children, but also parents of children who aren’t gay and lesbian and who engage in the bullying. What schools can do, there’s two sort of tracks. One is to put in place—and some states, like Massachusetts, have done this—anti-bullying laws, which require teachers to report incidents of bullying, to have trainings about that. I think that’s fine. But before that even, we need comprehensive sex education in this country that teaches children that gay and lesbian and transgender people exist, that they’re part of the spectrum of human sexuality. And we are so far, Amy and Juan, from approaching that, in part because of the years we spent going backwards on sex education rather than forward.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Richard Kim, we want to thank you very much for being with us. Richard Kim is senior editor at The Nation magazine.

5 comments:

Amna said...

I hope you don't mind that I have transfered my earlier comment, or rather, set of questions to this post. Otherwise, I can send you an email:

Since we are on the subject of gay/lesbian marriage-- may I ask why there is a movement for gay/lesbian "marriage" when historical movers and shakers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin and William Blake and later Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs and miscellaneous "hippies" pushed for "Free-love."

What is it to demand gay rights from religions that are anti-homosexuality or hypocritical?

On the other hand, why even have civil marriage? What happened to love? Does it mean now that love is not enough to keep two people together? Is the free-love movement dying out and we are reverting to the institution of marriage?

What about common-law marriage rights?

Can common-law couples not adopt children?

Also, why is there explicit sexual activity, or in other words spanking on naked male bottoms crouched in doggy style and wearing nothing but leather, in gay pride parades? Isn't that indecent exposure?

Why do women not have a pride day for breast-feeding or menstruation or child-birth?

Is it because men (in spite of being gay) still have more power than women in the western world or the world at large?

I mean how many lesbians, or butch women do you see on T.V? This is a point you made yourself in the Glee post.

You say that White HET men are responsible for capitalism, but what about femme gay men on T.V and in western society who ARE the very picture of capitalism. They not only dress fashionably, but also often have the role of turning "ugly" women into "butterflies."

In a similar vein, women (especially western women) have been criticized for being excessive consumerists. In the western world, whether it is white women, black women, brown women or asian women-- they are all, more or less, willing recipients of the spoils of capitalism, aren't they?

Julian Real said...

Thanks so much, Amna, for reposting your questions here! I will respond in several parts below.

Since we are on the subject of gay/lesbian marriage-- may I ask why there is a movement for gay/lesbian "marriage" when historical movers and shakers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin and William Blake and later Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs and miscellaneous "hippies" pushed for "Free-love."

This is a somewhat complicated issue. To approach answering it I have to both accept and deny "my people" are a unified group. Or, rather, I must note that while lesbians and gay men are oppressed by heterosexist society, in many ways which go unrecognised, we are also not politically unified--nor could we be. So there are radicals who are opposed to putting for "marriage" as a key or central agenda item. At the same time, marriage, if it is offered to heterosexuals as an option for social, cultural, religious, and State recognition and validation of one's love for another person, certainly ought not be denied that option only because one isn't heterosexual. That violates the U.S.'s constitutional protections against discrimination, protections which have had to be added on as the Founding Fathers basically only considered themselves human, while Indian men, Black men, and women of all colors, ethnicities, and nations were "not people"--they were, instead, the property of white het men.

Having said all that I must note that at least one of the people you list as counter-cultural was very pro-status quo in at least one regard: Allen Ginsberg was a child molester of boys. In this he joined ranks with his het male brothers, who were perpetrating against girls, primarily. Some child molesters don't choose victims based on gender, but rather on levels of access and perceived vulnerability of those targeted for assault and violation.

So Ginsberg, and many other white and/or male movers and shakers, are not role models for me in the least. They are rather exemplars of some forms of the worst of what white het male supremacy protects--whether that be adults' rights of access to children, whites' dominance over people of color, or men's subjugation of women.

Julian Real said...

What is it to demand gay rights from religions that are anti-homosexuality or hypocritical?

Lesbian and gay activists who are fighting for the right to marry have every reason to challenge any and every institution--secular or religious--to succeed in securing this civil and human right.

It's not a priority for me, personally, and I think protecting our youth from bullying and harassment, depression and suicide, would have been a wiser move on the part of the white movers and shakers who decided to make "marriage" a central issue at this time in history.

I believe heterosexuals, exclusively, should not be allowed to marry, thus putting them on par with those of us who are lesbian and gay.

On the other hand, why even have civil marriage?

I'm opposed to heterosexuals exclusively having that option also.

What happened to love? Does it mean now that love is not enough to keep two people together?

Love, clearly, has never been enough to keep people together. Or, rather, what passes for love that is often infatuation, "falling in love", attraction, allure, deep connection, and beyond. Often sexual attraction is seen to be a good indicator of "who would make a good intimate partner" before either person knows how attractive the other person's values and behaviors are. Love as it is marketed in the U.S., at least, is a commodity that comes and goes. We have moved away from a white-led hippy culture that was predominantly based in middle class backgrounds and carried into them white and middle class privileges. It's values were not implicitly or explicitly feminist or anti-racist. So it was, in my view, a failed cultural project only because it didn't have a broad base of support and communication, nor did it understand how the forces of patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism conspire to re-establish dominance in response to any anti-status quo movement. Coca-cola moved right in appropriating the images and language of that cultural movement, and got a number one hit with "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing". Selling what? World peace or soda pop that no one needs to be healthy?

Is the free-love movement dying out and we are reverting to the institution of marriage?

I agree with your sense that we have been rolling back away from a more open structured understanding of love and how it manifests, to a more rigid racist heteropatriarchal one.

What about common-law marriage rights?

Those do offer some protections for heterosexual people who are partnered, co-habitate, and then break up after a certain number of years. But misogyny, classism, racism, and heterosexism are so bound up in social and legal practices, that it remains the case that among heterosexuals who are married and divorced, or co-habitating and who separate, that the men leave with the bulk of the wealth, if there is wealth, and the women leave the relationship more likely to be in poverty, if not in poverty already.

Can common-law couples not adopt children?

As far as I know, in the U.S. common-law heterosexual couples can adopt children in most if not all states.

Julian Real said...

Also, why is there explicit sexual activity, or in other words spanking on naked male bottoms crouched in doggy style and wearing nothing but leather, in gay pride parades? Isn't that indecent exposure?

That's a tangle of issues for me, Amna! I am fully supportive of queer pride parades and don't think queer people should have to look the way heterosexuals want us to look while we're in that parade.

That said, I'm not a fan of human sexual exhibitionism, of the fetishisation of things like leather or spanking, or other "play abuse". But that's not particular to queer people. That some of our more WHM supremacist practices are displayed while parading, is simply a function of male entitlements, white entitlements, and the reality that all aspects of our emotional ties to one another are considered freakish or evil by far too many heterosexuals. And one response to that judgment is to flagrantly display that which is judged as "wrong" by the sexual dominants, who, in the U.S., are class-privileged white heterosexual men.

Why do women not have a pride day for breast-feeding or menstruation or child-birth?

I'd welcome human beings honoring breast-feeding, menstruation, and child-birth as human experiences that are generally disrespected, unappreciated, or considered "disgusting" by men--het and gay.

And it's the raising of children that's a core concern for me. To raise children in ethically healthy environments where bigotry and violence aren't inflicted onto the young ones, and where they can grow up in societies not governed by the unethical parameters of capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and heterosexism.

Is it because men (in spite of being gay) still have more power than women in the western world or the world at large?

Gay men are being threatened with death right now for being gay. So please be careful about not attributing too much power and control to that group. Gay men do have some male privileges and some patriarchal power, and it is exercised, too often at women's expense. But heterosexual privileges and power is exercised also, at the expense of lesbians and gay men, and other queer-identified people.

The governor of Arizona is a white heterosexual woman who, along with her mostly male Religious Republican Right-wing zealots and bigots, promote lesbian and gay self-hatred in queer people across class, gender, and race. That's real power too. White women have real power over women and men of color in the U.S. There are way more white women in the House of Representatives and the Senate than women of color or men of color. White het women have a great deal of power in this country, as a voting block. But not power to stop men from being misogynistic and sexist. Not the power to stop rape, battery, and other forms of gross exploitation and dehumanisation.

Julian Real said...

I mean how many lesbians, or butch women do you see on T.V? This is a point you made yourself in the Glee post.

Very few. That has always been the case. Very few.

You say that White HET men are responsible for capitalism, but what about femme gay men on T.V and in western society who ARE the very picture of capitalism. They not only dress fashionably, but also often have the role of turning "ugly" women into "butterflies."

But those gay men are not in charge of the corporations, Amna. They are pawns, who are oppressive to women, yes, but who are not in control of the systems which oppress all queer people and all women. White het men control the systems, regulate the wealth, and enforce the laws that keep white het men the most rich and powerful group in this country.

In a similar vein, women (especially western women) have been criticized for being excessive consumerists. In the western world, whether it is white women, black women, brown women or asian women-- they are all, more or less, willing recipients of the spoils of capitalism, aren't they?

Anyone who lives in a wealthy Western capitalist country will likely absorb the values and customs of the society. We are all raised to be consumers, aren't we? To think that purchasing things with money is the secret to happiness. But strong community and regional economies are going to make people strong, not buying into corporate ideas and practices of sex, culture, education, medicine, governance, and religion.

You say "willing recipients". But please keep in mind those in poverty are not willing recipients of poverty. And the richest 5% of people now own an extraordinary percentage of this nation's wealth. So much so that if only the millionaires and billionaires were taxed at 15%, we could cut our deficit in half.

People's willingness to be part of capitalism is on par with people's willingness to be part of white supremacy and male supremacy. In so many ways, we can't choose to be uninvolved, or separate from those systems of harm.

What people can do is organise on the grassroots level to expose the hidden violence in those systems, and make sure that the visible violence is registered consciously as "wrong"--such as with U.S. wars abroad--and not "freedom fighting" or "protecting democracy". Wars don't do either. They protect power being in the hands of the most powerful.

The forces of white het male supremacy are strengthening in this country. And this will necessarily negatively impact all women, all people of color, and all queer people--many of whom are both women and of color.