The Neverending Story (A.K.A. The Ballad of Margaret Brooks and The CSPH)

I love open letters, especially humorous ones like those I used to read back when I was 13 years old and were aimed at celebrities like Tom Felton (who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series—don’t judge me). Coming in close second, my other favorite types of open letters are those that shed light on things that had previously been hidden in the shadows.

Today, an open letter went out—from Erin Basler-Francis, one of our champs at The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health, to Margaret Brooks. (This is not the first time she gets an open letter like this, though the one I wrote years ago was much shorter and crankier). You should click over and read it, stat. Here’s some context:

The CSPH has faced a fair amount of adversity since its inception in 2009. Members of the Citizens Against Trafficking (an anti-rights, sex work abolitionist group) continue to harass staff and supporters of The Center, particularly regarding our outreach on college campuses. These bullies use both overt and hidden tactics in an attempt to delegitimize the importance of conversations about sexuality, pleasure, sex work, and sexual rights.

Most recently, Dr. Margaret Landman Brooks, director of the Economics Department at Bridgewater State University, sent a series of emails to the provost of Vanderbilt University using a series of red herring, slippery slope, and equivocation arguments as well as ad hominem attacks in an attempt to convince the school that it would be legally liable for sexual assaults that occurred on campus after the Study Sex College Tour workshop, “Brilliant in Bed.” While not the only protestation, Dr. Margaret Landman Brooks decision to use rhetoric causally linking pleasure focused sexuality education to sexual assault on campus is both inaccurate and insidious. 

We at The CSPH have chosen to address this issue publicly because the tactics used by Dr. Margaret Landman Brooks in this case are irresponsible and dangerous when the context of the climate at Vanderbilt University, as well as the current conversations around sexual assault, BDSM, and Intimate Partner Violence.

While part of me kind of wants to commend Margaret Brooks for her passion, it’s terribly saddening that it manifests in the ways it does and I cannot in good conscience do so. We shouldn’t stand for the bullying of youth, and we should also not stand for the bullying of adults at the hands of other adults. Obviously, if you’re working toward social justice and not ruffling feathers, you’re not making big enough waves (to, uh, mix some metaphors there), but man—the repercussions aren’t pretty, and we need to change that.

boston snow

Pictured here: the Snowpocalypse that’s as cold as the attitude from Donna Hughes.

It’s not like we haven’t reached out to Ms. Brooks, either. We’ve personally invited her and her crew to our events, and extended olive branches in the spirit of dialogue both online and in person, and none of them have been acknowledged or even accepted. In fact, we’ve been pretty straightforward and transparent in all our dealings. To her credit, I guess, she DID shake my hand once? This is when I was trying to show her I was a real person and not some nameless undergrad she could just bully without having to ever face. That is more than I can say for Donna Hughes (a professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island—how appropriate, right?), who very much did not shake my hand when I greeted her and gave me a cold shoulder of Boston weather proportions. It was pretty epic. But I digress.

Margaret Brooks is the same person who (along with Donna Hughes and Melanie Shapiro) tried to get a slew of events (including KFAPVD) I organized at Brown University canceled while I was an undergraduate. This is the cohort that misrepresented SO many things about the work the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council (SHEEC) at Brown and The CSPH were doing. This is the person that sent countless emails to Brown’s administration (including the President) warning them of the “dangers” of these events, blatantly spread inaccurate/misleading information, and wrote bulletins claiming that we were to blame for a spike in young RI men contracting HIV. This is one of the people that made my time at Brown tough for a while, and made me have to watch my back really carefully.

On some level, I’m glad it started early so I could protect myself before things got too serious, and I’m very fortunate to consistently work in spaces that respect my endeavors and where I can be open about who I am and what I do, but many people aren’t as fortunate

This is the person that sent my personal Twitter account to professors and deans before it was something I shared as publicly as I do now. This is the same person that sent critique-laden, alarmist emails to my supervisors at Sojourner House—about my personal life and affiliations to organizations that believe in kink/BDSM education and reproductive justice—trying to possibly get me fired, and definitely trying to put me in hot water and endanger a health fair I was coordinating. Fortunately, I was out about my identities at Sojourner House, because if I hadn’t been, she would have outed me to the director and my supervisor, as well as other colleagues. That is not okay.

I am eternally grateful to all the professors, deans, staff, friends, and colleagues who were and have been supportive, understanding and wonderful throughout all this and its multiple iterations. You know who you are. Thank you for believing in me and in sexuality education. While Brown is a deeply flawed institution, certainly, I am incredibly proud that they institutionally backed up my right to hold the events I did, and supported my health and dignity during that process. I firmly believe I didn’t bear a bigger burden while I was an undergrad because I was still a student and thus not as “fair game” as professionals in the working world.

You know who was the fairest game of them all, and the original target? Megan Andelloux—one of the best and most hardworking educators in the field today. megan andellouxMargaret Brooks is the person that time and time again contacts places where Megan Andelloux and her close friends/colleagues present with scare tactics in efforts to squash their/our attempts at education. This bullying not only harms the institutions and their populations who are sometimes deprived of accurate sexuality education, but it takes a huge emotional toll on honest, hardworking sexuality educators and advocates who are trying to make the world a better, more sexually literate place. The case with Vanderbilt is not the first time this happens.

This is the cohort of people that tried to stop The CSPH from opening back in 2009/2010. The same cohort of people that have accused my colleagues of pedophilia because they believe in giving kids accurate sexuality information and answering their questions at whatever age they start asking them. This is the cohort that, under the guise of “academic” and/or “professional” writing used blatant inaccuracies and decontextualizations (not to mention shoddy record-keeping and citations) to “make points” about how, basically, we are The Worst.

As far as ethics and academic integrity, I would expect better from a Brown alumna/Economics professor and a Women’s Studies professor.

This needs to stop, and we need people to listen. We will keep doing the work we do because we believe in it, and these things are not going to stop us, but we are not made of steel. We are committed to bringing these issues to light, but remember—all this takes a toll. How are you helping break down this misinformation? How are you supporting the victims of bullying and stalking and professional attacks? If you’re not already, imagine having to watch your back constantly for people like this. Where will they be next? What professional gig will they try to wreck soon? What kind of misinformation will they try to spread? This is why we need to speak up and support each other.

The Ferguson Masterpost: How To Argue Eloquently & Back Yourself Up With Facts

We encourage you to share the link to this rather than reblogging the entire post (since this is frequently updated and we want to minimize the spread of outdated info!): bit.ly/FergusonAEM. Also, comment volume is high enough that personal replies are not always possible anymore; browse through the comments & see if your issues/ideas have been addressed there.

As the folks from Sexplanations say: stay curious! Know that this is just one drop in the bucket. We encourage you to do your own research and follow the links so you can make your own informed opinion.


Introduction From The Curator

Updates & Notes After Initial Publication

Note (12/1/14 at 11:45 PM EST): Overall goal is to overhaul this post in the coming weeks so that it’s easier to read and further updated—taking into account the many, many comments flowing in. An “archive” GoogleDoc version will be made of its previous iteration for transparency and a new cleaned up version (with an extended introduction or a link to another post with such information, as well as a more cohesive author voice hopefully!) will be posted here in its place. Once it has reached an acceptable level/condition, we will probably close edits and comments.

Note (12/1/14 at 2:19 PM EST & 5:25 PM): For those of you asking, I am moderating posts, yes. If a comment is spam or hatemail w/ no points, it’s not going through. If it’s arguing against statements we’re linking to or things we’ve said, that can be posted [but if it’s clear you didn’t read or are willfully misinterpreting the post, nope]. For those of you leaving long refutations or additional details, thank you for taking the time to do so. I have some colleagues working to sort through those before approving the comments so we can fact-check and incorporate into the text as needed. It’s finals season in my world!

Note (11/30/14 at 12:35 PM EST): This was initially meant to be a smaller post, but I feel a duty to keep updating and fleshing it out. Still, I won’t be able to go past a certain point. That said, I hope it’s still helpful to y’all in whatever iteration is final & that you continue the conversation.

Note (11/29/14 at 8:00 PM EST): Holy moly, this got a ton of traction. Thanks to all the folks sharing, commenting, and helping us correct typos, inaccuracies, and so on! Keep it coming, but please note that comments are moderated & this is a one-woman-show from a busy bee, so responses and updates will not be immediate. We’d love to hear what you’re doing with this information, so definitely let us know of success stories in talking to family-members, using it in lesson-plans, and the like. You can say hi through my contact form &/or tweet at me @neuronbomb.

Note (11/29/14, don’t remember time): Consider this a living document! If you have things to add, put them in the comments! Because this is a collective work, there may be areas that need to be clarified, cleaned up, or entirely fixed. Further note: this article is not “Is Darren Wilson Guilty? Was Mike Brown innocent? We have the answer!” — this is a tool for discussions, compiling useful information to PRIMARILY speak about police brutality, racism, and the like.

Note (11/29/14 at 9:25 AM EST): To clarify, just because we link to something doesn’t mean it’s an endorsement or that the source is completely unproblematic. For example, while I personally have my issues with Tim Wise and how many institutions choose to bring him in to speak vs. the many POC who have been doing anti-racism for longer, we do include information about his documentary here.

Actual Introduction To Masterpost

The only kind of bombs I fully support are truth-bombs, and that’s why I’ve come together with a group of POC and select White allies to write this post. We feel it’s critical to have conversations about social justice loudly, noticeably, personally as well as systemically, and eloquently*—in this case, specifically around Ferguson, #stoptheparade, #BlackLivesMatter, #IndictAmerica, and all the myriad things happening right now around police brutality and the devaluing of Black lives. We need to connect our struggles and see where they intersect, while not pretending that we all face the same issues (today I’m lookin’ at you, non-Black POC). To do this, we need tools, scripts, data—means of having and supporting these conversations, as well as our communities.

That’s why we’re here.

We want to give you tools to support that work and that dialogue. If you’re facing tough questions from friends, family, colleagues, or even perfect strangers, we hope this will help you answer them. We need to collectively build support and awareness to build a better society, and part of that means challenging those who assume “we are already there,” exposing those who would further marginalize already disenfranchised communities, and educating those who do not see why any of these things are issues in the first place. Please contact me if you find any inaccuracies in this post; we’ve worked hard to dig things up, but sometimes new details come to light! You may also want to peruse other “master posts” that are out there (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). If you just want to read “what next, and how can I help?” you should scroll all the way to the bottom.

With Love and Solidarity, 

Aida

The fantastic team who helped out and suggested info included: Renee Cotton (who was a total rockstar), Luisa Ramírez-Lartigue, Sara David, Linda Hower Bates, Tamara Williams, Michael Becker, Katie Lamb, Dani Da Silva, Shanice Yarde, and G Starr Vidal.

Continue reading

Mayhem Around the World: A Roundup

Inspired by a Tumblr post, I decided to expand and succinctly contextualize some of the mayhem going around in the world right now. The following is a corrected and much expanded version of this postworld globe

Brazil: Massive Nation-Wide protests and riots caused by, among other factors, monetary focus on the World Cup and Olympics instead of the well-being of the populace. Government happily destroys important monuments and displaces indigenous folks from their homes to make way for things like parking lots.

Russia: Government creates laws against “the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” (the vote is 436 to ZERO), people protest (and get abused by anti-gay individuals), and the Human Rights Watch reports that anti-gay violence spiked once the bill started getting considered in January.The law imposes significant fines of up to $31,000 for providing information about the LGBT community to minors, holding gay pride events, speaking in defense of gay rights, or equating gay and heterosexual relationships” (source). Also, the Duma approved a law that criminalizes blasphemy with a 3-year prison term for anyone who organizes an activity or stages a performance that aims to “offend religious sensibilities” (on the heels of the whole Pussy Riot debacle, in “which three members of the feminist performance art group Pussy Riot were tried and two of them sentenced to two years in a penal colony for staging a profane performance in an empty church that hurt no one and caused no material damage”).

Venezuela: Massive protests and riots caused by elections that put Maduro in the presidential seat by a narrow margin and people claim it was due to fraud (here’s another source, too). However, after the recount, the National Electoral Council still says the results of the audit corroborated Maduro’s win (CNE). Either way, it is a way closer race than some people expected and sounds like the government might be shifting for future elections.

Greece: Trans* people and sex workers are being rounded up in internment camps, and the health minister has condoned forced HIV tests conducted by the police. Some of the folks who have been detained and found to be HIV+ have had personal identifiable information (including names and photos) published in the media “to protect public health.” And this isn’t counting the many innocent individuals that have been jailed for being “presumed prostitutes.”

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The awesome TX Senator Leticia Van De Putte who also participated in the filibuster and uttered the now-famous line she’s printed on her shirt.

United States: Republicans in Texas aim to pass draconian abortion law (SB5), give media incorrect information about its passing after a 13-hr filibuster, and change online records to fake time of voting, despite the bill being voted on after a deadline and being protested by both the people and a state Senator. (TL;DR: SB5 didn’t pass, but a special session has been convened and further actions will happen after the holiday weekend). Protests at the senate growing, and law enforcement called in. Also, and  even MORE importantly, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been gutted and states that used discriminatory practices to bar poor people, immigrants, and people of color from voting no longer have the same restrictions placed on them re: changing voting rules. People will have to prove claims of discrimination AFTER the fact. Less than a few days after the gutting (and in some, after less than 24 hours), several states changed their voting regulations without needing to clear it with any higher authority. Finally, on the LGBT front, tons of reports of anti-gay violence are coming out, and my eye is on New York City (check out the NY Anti-Violence Project’s reports and blog section for more details.)

Australia: Julia Gillard is dumped as prime minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party, while previous Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is reinstated.

Turkey: Protests escalate as people fight back against state-violence (including violence against the press) and “Erdoğan’s increasingly assertive Islamist administration,” sparked by protests against the redevelopment of Istanbul’s Gezi Park. The government violently cracks down on the dissent, detaining even the medics who were trying to treat the protester’s injuries.

What else is going on, folks? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a place to start.

Q&A: Sexual Debut + Conservative Background = Help!

I’m a 20-something penis-owner who hasn’t yet made his sexual debut. I grew up in an environment that was pretty conservative and repressive, so issues around sexuality were taboo. I’ve since made a conscious effort to fight this conditioning, but I still feel somewhat uncomfortable around sex. Do you have any resources you would suggest to someone who wants to learn more – how to do it, how to reach orgasm, how to help partners reach orgasm, how to do sex in context of healthy relationships?

Hey Anon! Thanks for reaching out!

I made my sexual debut with a partner at 19, so my first comment would be don’t stress about the age bit (if that was even a concern in the first place). Before my first partner, though, I had fulfilling sexual experiences with myself, so I’d like to highlight the positives that solo-play can bring about. Knowing more about one’s own body—how it feels, how it responds, what things are good/bad—can help immensely when it comes to reaching orgasm with a partner, or even just having a discussion about it. (The second piece is all about communication, but I’ll get to that later). I also think that as a society, we should start acknowledging that solo sexuality can still be gratifying for those who practice it, and it’s not like a person’s “sex-life” begins once another person pops into the picture…but anyway.

As someone who grew up under the Jehova’s Witnesses practice (read: a SUPER conservative Christian denomination), I was educated in the ways of “sex before marriage is wrong,” “homosexuality is a sin,” and all that came with that. I even overheard a conversation where it was said that “masturbation is just like losing your virginity—you are no longer pure after that.” (Oops. I was already touching myself by then, so that was awkward.) Somehow, though, I didn’t end up completely shame- and guilt-ridden the rest of my life. I also know a lot of folks who were raised in very conservative families and came out the other end feeling various degrees of sexual empowerment, so I’m sure you can achieve that as well. Hopefully the following resources can help!

The first place I’d like to point you toward would be the website for one of the places where I work: The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health. That is just CHOCK full of information (check out the Pleasure tab, too, which has info about positive porn, lubricants, toys, and more). Within that site/organization, specifically, I’d say check out the Q&A section here. It’s all questions people have submitted, and I think some of them might be helpful in your situation. Here are the main ones:

  1. Climaxing is not always the goal in sexual interactions, but when it is, you want to make sure it happens! So what to do when you have difficulty? This Q&A answers just that for penis-owners.
  2. On that note, not all people with penises masturbate in the same ways or want their penises touched in the same styles! Here are some tips/tricks for solo stimulation that can also be employed in various ways during sex with partners.
  3. A big question (pardon the pun) that many penis-owners have is around penis size and its impact on sex/relationships. That gets addressed here!
  4. In terms of sexual debut and just general sex-having, anal sex might be on the menu at some point, so it’s important to learn about that and prepare beforehand before just soldiering on, especially if you don’t have lube on hand.
  5. Something that might also help is reading about sex-positive spaces and being around sex-positive people, whose perspective on sex (ideally) could balance/counterpoint your conditioning. However, for someone from a conservative background, entering such a space could be weird or even super uncomfortable, so here are some tips on being more comfortable in sex-positive spaces, and even how to FIND those spaces in the first place.
  6. How do I get my partner to be more sexually adventurous? – This one could help you “talk to yourself” or even articulate things to a partner if you discover you have wishes that might be a bit outside of the mainstream.
  7. If you’re interested in vibrators and toys, this is a good intro for when you’re considering/picking something out.
  8. Someone wrote us because they had strong feelings to their partner’s past experiences, and felt insecure when comparing themselves to their partners’ past lovers. We gave some advice about how to deal with that and communicate those feelings. As someone who might make a sexual debut with another person who has already had partners before, this could be helpful to you.
  9. Sometimes penis-owners lose their erections and wonder why that happened. There are many reasons, and though this Q&A was directed at a person whose partner was the penis-owner, I think it’s important for everyone to read.

My second big resource would be Charlie Glickman’s work, and specifically, the “shame” tag on his prolific blog. He writes a lot about shame and the related situations/feelings, as well as how to recognize, deal with, and overcome them. He has many years in the sexuality education field, and his dissertation was all about sexuality and shame, so he knows what he’s talking about ten times over.

The healthy relationship part of your question I could write about forever and still have things to say, so I’m going to write a separate entry about it in the coming week. Stay tuned!

[UPDATED] Debating on Ultra-Conservative Radio

So…I’m apparently debating Laura Ingraham and Isabel Marin (from Yale’s “Choose Life” and “Undergraduates for a Better Yale College“) on the place of Sex Weeks on college campuses. This will be happening FRIDAY (April 20th) at 11:15 AM EST on The Laura Ingraham Show.

You can listen to it by clicking here.

Long story short, Harvard’s Sex Week got profiled in the New York Times and I was quoted in the article. I’m assuming this is what caught folks’ attention and led them to email me this morning asking if a representative from SHEEC wanted to go on air to speak about Sex Week. They were asking if we could do it “today” (read: within less than 30 minutes of the show having sent that email, which is horrible protocol) or tomorrow. Talk about short notice! But still, I said yes. It’s an interesting opportunity and I feel I can hold my own on the air (or at least I hope I can!). (NOTE: the appearance was originally scheduled for April 18th, but they decided to reschedule for the 20th to give us more on-air time. The first paragraph of this post has been changed to reflect that update).

Wish me luck!

For a bit of background on Laura and her show, let’s look at some of the topics she addresses and the stances she takes (via Wikipedia):

  • Illegal immigration: Ingraham frequently advocates “securing the borders” by putting more resources into stopping illegal immigration. She has a segment called “The Illegal Immigration Sob Story” alert, in which she highlights media articles that she believes are gathering emotional sympathy for illegal immigrants who, she states, are simply breaking the law.
  • Pro-life issues: Ingraham is opposed to abortion on demand, and often talks about human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research and abortion, taking a pro-life stance against all three. She was an outspoken advocate against Missouri Constitutional Amendment 2 (2006), a ballot measure that she felt was deceptive and that legalized human cloning. Every January 22, Ingraham promotes and lauds the marchers participating in the March for Life, which calls for outlawing abortion, and takes place on the same day as the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the United States.
  • “Pornification” of the culture: Ingraham frequently highlights sex and pornography on her show. She has criticized people such as Howard Stern, Hugh Hefner, and others who she claims have pervaded the culture with what she describes as “filth” at the expense of “traditional American values.”

I think we can safely say Laura and I are not going to end up BFFs. As for Isabel (who’s part of an organization that recommends fake clinics or “crisis pregnancy centers” to pregnant women), the same applies.

Testimony Around Reproductive Health and Abortion Bills in RI

On Wednesday, I went to the RI Statehouse to testify because there was a hearing for a group of bills around reproductive health. I’d gone last year and found it important to go once again and have my voice heard. Being part of the political process in a room with passionate people (even if they’re not all in my camp) is invigorating and bizarre, especially stuck up in a balcony…but anyway. More on my feelings, thoughts, and observations about the process later. I wanted to capture my testimony (which I wrote as I waited to speak) and share it with y’all.
(BEFORE PROCEEDING: Look at the bills and their text! Check them out here.)
The following is my testimony:
My name is Aida Manduley and I’m here in support of bills 7754 and 7041, and in opposition to the rest of the ones on the docket.

Before I discuss my support of those 2 bills, I want to address what previous speakers have mentioned around intent <Note: For context, this was directed at the legislator who proposed the bill around mandatory ultrasounds and “informed consent.” She kept talking about her intent this and her intent that, how we were “misinterpreting” her intent and blah blah blah>. In making major political decisions, we need to look at context, intent, AND effect…and ultimately, effect trumps intent. Even “well-meaning” legislation can have unintended effects, and THESE effects are what can create barriers to care, misinformation, and unnecessary political interference with personal, medical decisions.

As someone who works at a domestic violence agency, as someone trained in dealing with sexual assault and crisis assistance, as a sexuality educator, and as a woman, I have personal as well as professional experience in what these bills would mean to women across Rhode Island.

In regards to bill 7754, this is a bill to keep our youth SAFE. This isn’t a bill to take parents out of the equation, but to give pregnant teens bodily autonomy–to give them the option to, through contact with trained professionals and authorities, make personal decisions about their future and care. 

In my work, I educate, and encourage parent-child conversations around these issues, but must admit that these conversations are NOT always possible, and not always safe. I’ve encountered minors who are NOT supported by their families, who regardless of their own wishes, would be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term if this bill did not pass. I’ve encountered young women abused by their own families (emotionally, physically, and sexually), for whom it is not safe to require parental consent for an abortion, for whom it is even re-traumatizing to event attempt to do so.

I’ve served and counseled young women, scared and pregnant, some already with children, who are in abusive relationships where condom negotiation isn’t possible, whose families don’t know about their relationships or who are even buddy-buddy with the abusers–women who are already experiencing health disparities and barriers to care…am I supposed to tell them I must repeat the patterns of their abusers? Am I supposed to tell them our legislators have decided that they ultimately have NO choice about what happens to their bodies? Please consider what I have said, as someone who has both personal and professional experience with these issues, and support bills 7754 and 7041.

In Mississippi: Vote NO! Save the Pill on 26! Save the Vote on 27!

This is reposted from an email bulletin by Sister Song, a women of color reproductive health collective:

In Mississippi: Vote NO! Save the Pill on 26!
Save the Vote on 27!
What is Initiative 26?    
 
     On November 8, 2011, Mississippians will be given the opportunity to vote on a dangerous amendment to the state Constitution, which will read, “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof?” This amendment would redefine personhood at conception and it seeks to undo laws that protect abortion rights, stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, and even birth control.
     Many of the amendment’s supporters view it as a means to overturn Roe v. Wade in the state of Mississippi, in order to persecute women who decide to have abortions and the doctors that perform them. However, there are implications for people who decide to parent. By defining “personhood” at conception, this could end up criminalizing women who experience miscarriages, stillbirths, or women whose lives are at risk who decide to save their own lives, rather than the fetus.  Initiative 26 could lead to more government intrusion into women’s personal lives, such as accessing our medical records to investigate miscarriages, dictating what kind of birth control we use and interfering with medical decisions in treating women whose lives are at risk. By giving constitutional rights to a fertilized egg, the amendment could ban emergency contraception, birth control pills and IUDs as well as all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman or girl. In short, our rights will be violated in order to uphold the rights of the fetus.
     This amendment will disproportionately criminalize (low-income) women of color as we have seen in other states. Mississippi has the highest concentration of African-Americans, high poverty rate and low education ranking, allowing for this issue to be at the heart of intersectionality for women of color, especially Black women. Because the majority of anti-choice proponents are Republican and white, this issue is highly racialized. Pro-life often means something different in the African-American community. Because of issues around gender, race, class and cultural history, Blacks may describe themselves as being both pro-life and pro-choice.   We cannot allow Initiative 26 to become a moral issue, especially when it directly impacts and criminalizes so many women, especially poor women of color. We must not be influenced by rhetoric that considers women who choose to have an abortion as “murderers” when 61% of women who undergo the procedure are mothers, and 84% will become mothers.
What is Initiative 27?
     On the same ballot there is also a controversial Voter ID exclusion measure, Initiative 27, which will allow voting restrictions that will directly impact women of color. This initiative, if passed, will implement measures that are reminiscent of the 1960’s lack of access to the ballot. These two initiatives may be one of the most important opportunities on the ground for the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements to work together. To read more about these two Initiatives and what the related intersections mean to women of color, specifically Black women, click here to read an article by our National Coordinator Loretta Ross.
How to join the fight:
What You Can Do..
  • First educate yourself on what these Initiatives really mean and the consequences of their implementation.
  • You can help in this get-out-the-vote effort by voting and urging everyone you know in Mississippi- your friends, family, co-workers, or members of groups you are affiliated with-to Vote No on Initiative 26 and 27 on November 8, 2011.
  • To take direct action, you can donate to various organizations to help the statewide Mississippi coalition campaign buy desperately needed television and radio ads.
  • You can share informative posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to dispel any myths and clarify the impact of these Initiatives.

 

NOM’s Tour Mastermind NOW SUPPORTS CIVIL MARRIAGE EQUALITY!

LOUIS MARINELLI NOW SUPPORTS

OUR CIVIL MARRIAGE EQUALITY!

Yes, you read that correctly. While still not in full support of homosexuality on some levels (where he needs our help to correct misinformation), Louis is now [a] repudiating virtually all of the vitriol that he put on the public record; [b] is owning up to the major role that he’s played with NOM, including admitting that he was the impetus behind the whole summer tour; and [c] is coming out in full support of the civil marriage rights that gay people are seeking. And even more important that that: He, the man who gave NOM its official “protect marriage” Facebook page and who has been working as an independent contractor with the org. ever since (and still is, reporting directly to Brian Brown, at least up until the moment this post goes live)quite literally credits exposure to the NOM tour as the very thing that led to his change of heart!!!!!


NOM’S TOUR MASTERMIND,

FACEBOOK FOUNDER,

AND ONLINE STRATEGIST,

LOUIS MARINELLI, NOW SUPPORTS

OUR CIVIL MARRIAGE EQUALITY!

THE MUCH-BALLYHOOED SUMMER

MARRIAGE TOUR 2010

OPENED HIS EYES! 


Source: HERE! Click through for more information, including an interview with Louis!

Response to Ridiculous TFP Article

Want to read the article I’ll be dissecting? Click here.

What we faced today at Brown University, an Ivy League university, had the flavor of a religious persecution. As we peacefully campaigned, about 250 frenzied pro-homosexual students gathered to scream, spit, taunt, insult, assault, and even attempt to destroy our traditional marriage banner. Only with supernatural protection, and a strong police presence, did TFP volunteers manage to complete the campaign without serious injury.

  • I’d say religious persecution indeed, but the persecutors were TFP volunteers–those who came to our campus waving banners proclaiming their views on “traditional marriage,” upsetting, frightening, and alienating members of our LGBTQ and LGBTQ-friendly population, handing out pamphlets saying we were going to hell, listing all the reasons why we were “wrong” and “sick.”
  • I’d amend their paragraph to say “pro-LGBTQ rights” students. What primarily rallied us together were our feelings about civil rights–a desire for equality, especially in relation to same-sex marriage.
  • We didn’t gather to “scream, spit, taunt, insult, assault” — we gathered to counter-protest. There is a difference between “screaming” and “chanting,” by the way. In any massive crowd of people incensed by a political/personal issue such as this, you will ALWAYS get people who get rowdy or don’t behave in the most tactful manner. However, to pretend like most (or even MANY) Brown individuals were “out of line” is a flat-out falsehood. Similarly, implying that without the Brown police and “supernatural protection,” there would’ve been a threat to the TFP volunteers’ bodily integrity and that only thanks to police were they not seriously injured is ludicrous. Finally, comparing the behavior and “united front” of a TINY contingent (12-15 people at most) of people who are TRAINED in protesting and are doing this as part of a national tour to hundreds of passersby, students, staff, and others who impromptu gathered on Brown’s campus due to the presence of TFP is A TERRIBLE, INACCURATE, UNFAIR comparison.
  • I also need to mention that our central quad is NOT public property and that TFP’s campaign/protest/hatefest invaded our campus without permission.
  • I’m pretty sure no one spit ON protestors. What I witnessed and got captured on film was that some people received pamphlets from TFP, tore them up, then spit on THE PAMPHLETS.

Suddenly, a loud thud-rip noise was heard. I looked up and saw a pro-homosexual student literally crashing through our traditional marriage banner, attempting to destroy it. Running at top speed, he flung himself into it and ripped one side loose. Some students watching from a distance approvingly cheered the act of violence. 

  • That’s true, and I think that student was extremely misguided in what they did. It was inappropriate on many levels and should never happen again.

“Why are you here?” many students asked. We politely told them how the TFP was on a state-wide tour defending traditional marriage. They would just stand there in a sort of daze, and repeat the question again: “But why are you here?” Some of them just couldn’t believe it.

  • Of course they couldn’t believe it. For some people, it’s hard to think that at a generally liberal, tolerant location such as Brown University, there would be such a protest. Being at Brown sometimes shields people from the cruel realities of the world, such as rampant homophobia, so it’s jarring to see that homophobia and hatred right in the center of our campus grounds. Furthermore, it must’ve been a case of confusion due to the fact that TFP is not a student group and did not request to be on Brown’s campus, so they had no permission to be there and people were wondering why/how they were there.

TFP volunteer Mr. Danniel Pribble debated with one pro-homosexual student, illustrating how the acceptance of homosexual vice leads to the acceptance of pedophilia. In fact, during a recent session in Canadian parliament, experts claimed that pedophilia is a “sexual orientation.” / “What moral grounds do you stand on to oppose pedophilia, once you’ve accepted homosexual behavior?” asked Mr. Pribble. “You’re right,” answered the student. “I don’t have any substantive objection with pedophilia.”

  • The conversation about pedophilia is a very complex one that usually gets many parties riled up. It’s also completely irrelevant to this event and its purpose, and the comparison of accepting homosexuality and accepting pedophilia is a stupid one. I’ll point out the biggest hole: pedophilia involves minors, people who are unable to legally consent to sexual activity, while homosexuality, as long as it’s between CONSENTING adults, is exactly that–consensual. Anyway, the opinion of ONE student on pedophilia is by no means representative of the LGBTQ community at Brown or any group, for that matter. 

As Mr. James Bascom distributed pro-family literature, a woman with a rainbow ribbon on her lapel said: “You’re being so intolerant!”/ “Why don’t you tolerate us?” inquired Mr. Bascom. “So tolerance is a one-way street, then?” / “Yes, yes. It is,” said the woman. It became amply clear that free speech at Brown University is not free and that the opposition would do everything they could to silence our message of truth: that marriage is between one man, and one woman.

  • This argument keeps coming up, and it’s still ridiculous every time. Being “tolerant of intolerance” DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. Long story short: tolerance doesn’t have to be awarded to groups that advocate hatred and keeping sections of our population as second-class citizens. Finally, the TFP message isn’t “a message of truth”–it’s a message of OPINION that disguises itself as a “message of truth.”

By now, the number of pro-homosexual students increased to about 250. The pitch of their screaming intensified too, and in the chaos, one of our youngest volunteers, Zachariah Long, 17, was spat upon in the face. 

  • I am SO very doubtful that this happened, so very doubtful.

Approaching Zachariah, one student said: “Can I shake your hand? Because it takes a lot of courage to be out here.” Another added: “This is great! But, I’m going to go right now before something happens. Keep up the good fight. Thanks for being here. It takes a lot of guts. It’s really brave.”

  • If ONE more person says “Oh wow, it’s really brave to be conservative at Brown,” I swear I’m going to have a conniption. Since when is it oh-so-brave to spout hatred and claim opinions as facts? It’s about as brave and informed as going into a room full of women and saying “YOU SHOULD ALL BE IN THE KITCHEN MAKING ME DINNER.” Oy. Bravery is in the eye of the beholder, I guess, though, so what might be “brave” to some, others might just call “stupid” (e.g. facing off against a ravenous tiger just for fun, or protesting like this at Brown). Anyway, even if what TFP did was “brave” by some definitions, it’s by no means positive, right, or something we should be admiring. I’d also like to point out the courage/bravery of all the COUNTER-protestors, as well as LGBTQ people in general.

On the other side of the intersection, Mr. Leo Fitzsimmons, a TFP supporter, explained why marriage is important: “marriage produces children. And there’s no future without marriage. Same-sex ‘marriage’ does not produce children.” This simple reality befuddled the student who responded with profanities. “God bless America,” responded Mr. Fitszimmons. The young student, who looked like an American, was so upset that she yelled, “I’m not American!”

  • Marriage is important because it produces children? So should infertile couples not be allowed to marry? There’s no future without marriage? Oh right, because adoption doesn’t exist, no one is ever born outside of wedlock, people in same-sex marriages can’t bear children if not biologically with their partner, and people have to be married and in love to propagate the human race…
  • Also, what is the need to talk about someone “looking like an American”? What does it mean to “look American”? THIS IS SO PROBLEMATIC. Do they men she looked Caucasian? And who CARES? This entire sentence is so riddled with problems, I don’t even know where to begin. It’s freaking me out.

Seeing the violent attitude of the pro-homosexual students, the police chief wanted to escort us to our van and ensure our safe departure. After completing the 1 hour and 30 minute rally in its entirety, we prayed three Hail Marys, shouted our motto “Tradition Family Property – America” and left. Policemen surrounded us on all sides and were assisted by a patrol vehicle on the street. A rowdy group of approximately 250 pro-homosexual advocates attempted to break through the perimeter to harass us. Without ceasing, they screamed obscenities and yelled in chorus over and over again: “God loves gays!”

  • The Brown police was there to make sure people protested peacefully and nothing got out of hand. MOSTLY, though, they were trying to make sure traffic kept flowing, no one got hit by a car (since the protest and counter-protest were getting huge and, towards the end, it all turned into a march), and that sidewalks remained clear at certain areas. It’s not like they “wanted to escort” TFP to their van, but that it was part of their job to do so as part of the BROWN DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY because they are there at all big events, especially protests.

Thank God, the police protected us as we packed our vans. But when we pulled away from the curb, many pro-homosexual students closed in to hit the sides of our vehicles with their fists or palms. A hard object, maybe a rock, was thrown against one of the vans.

  • I highly doubt something was thrown, but whatever. 

Brown University Against Homophobia

After experiencing a “pro-traditional marriage” rally this past summer (at the hands of none other than The National Organization for [Opposite-Sex] Marriage in its disturbing nationwide tour), I was more than ready to deal with TFP (which stands for, wait for it: TRADITION, FAMILY, AND PROPERTY) coming to Brown’s campus. (For background, please check the sources linked at the end of this post which provide coverage of the events that transpired.) 

My feelings about the event were definitely mixed. On the bright side, I thought the response from people at Brown was tremendous. It was invigorating to see so many folks (and tons of heterosexual allies) showing their support, chanting, holding signs, donning rainbow flags, pins, and even blankets to demonstrate that TFP’s message of intolerance and religious fanaticism wasn’t going to be tolerated on our campus without, at the very LEAST, a counter-demonstration. I was glad we finally had one of these groups come to Brown while people were HERE and could do something about it (unlike, say, the Westboro Baptist Church Hate Machine a few years back, which came right after we all left for summer break). Plus any opportunity I get to wear my ROY G. B(I)V outfit is welcome!
On the not-so-bright side, though, I was upset by the fact that they stepped on my beloved campus spewing their hateful message. It’s always somewhat scary (and really bizarre) to be surrounded by people who hate what my communities stand for and who legitimately think we’re going to burn in some hell, who see our lives as revolting and horrible. It’s personally offensive to be reminded that many people still consider us subhuman or sick or harmful to society. It’s painful to be reminded that many politicians and state legislatures think same-sex marriage isn’t necessary, or isn’t a worthwhile cause/investment, and to know that so many people have suffered because their relationships haven’t been acknowledged.
This isn’t just about marriage, though. In what’s known as a blue-state, in the heart of a liberal campus, we are yet again reminded that we are not considered equal citizens. Just as recently as 2009, Governor Carcieri vetoed a bill that would have added domestic partners to the list of people authorized by law to make funeral arrangements for each other.  His reasoning?  “This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.” (Thankfully, this bill eventually passed in 2010.) Even more recently, in 2008 and 2010, Mr. Carcieri ALSO vetoed House Bill 7044/Senate Bill 2055 that would’ve added “gender identity and expression” to RI’s hate crimes statute. Reasoning? “Those who struggle with gender confusion deserve our compassion and understanding — not laws that cement them into an identity which denies biological and objective reality.” (This bill was just heard once again on Tuesday, so we’ll see what happens now.)
While inside (or facing off against) any crowd of staunch conservatives, Republicans, anti-choice/pro-life people basically saying that I’m going to hell, that I’m a horrible, degenerate human being, that my family is ashamed of me, that I’m something that shouldn’t exist, and even worse…I wonder…how many of these people do I pass by as I walk down the street? Does the cashier at CVS secretly hate these big things I stand for? What about the woman sitting next to me on the bus? My professors? Will I ever run into people who were at the protest and wrote horrible things that entirely misrepresented what happened? I’m all for finding connections with people and trying to get along on SOME level, even if we have fundamental differences of opinion, but when those bridges we’ve built are rickety and sometimes depend on ignoring REALLY big differences, you can’t blame a girl for being nervous.
Anyway, just because I’ve gone through this type of thing before (again, this summer’s anti-NOM protest was a perfect example), it doesn’t make it any less infuriating. Like I told the Brown Daily Herald, I think the group came here, in part, to gain media attention. “Because it’s a college and there’s this idea that kids are wild and crazy, especially at Brown, they think they can find fodder for their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.” It pisses me off because I KNOW what their interest is, I KNOW what they’re going to do with the footage. No matter how peaceful and “proper” we are, they will always spin it into something different. This past summer, NOM did the same thing, except our “battlefield” was the RI Statehouse.
If you want to see for yourself, just compare this NOM blogpost with this TFP blogpost. Similar? No surprise there. So many anti-LGBTQ/same-sex marriage folks use the SAME DAMN TACTICS each and every single time, it actually makes them easier to spot. NOM folks misrepresented attendance, artfully cut their sound-clips and videos, and basically tried to portray all the anti-NOM-ers as these wild, violent rainbow-wielding creatures who were going to hurt their children (both the ones at the rally and those all over America) and try to take over the world with their big, gay agenda of degenerate ideas.
*facepalm*

It’s good to remind myself that there are many places in the world, even in my own backyard, that aren’t like my LGBTQ-friendly, sex-positive circles. It reminds me why I have to continue doing the work that I do; there is still a lot of violence, hatred, shame, and misinformation in the world. The important thing here is that we will not give into their fear-mongering. We will stand and we will take action despite (or even because of) our fears and insecurities. As I said in an interview for the Brown Daily Herald: “We know they have a right to free speech, but if their speech is hateful, the Brown community will not stay silent.”

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And now, for the utterly laughable and entirely unfortunate coverage from the hate-group itself: “Video: Pro-Homosexuals at Brown University Respond to Peaceful TFP Rally with Violence”
[Update: As of 3/29, YouTube has removed the TFP video for some reason. Strange, but I won’t complain. The less hate on the internet, the better.] While I could deconstruct the video, its tactics, its supporting group, and their horrible little mission, I’ll instead leave you with a comment that someone on YouTube left in response to the TFP statements about provocation (TFP claims they weren’t provoking the campus and were met with “shocking violence,” among other things):
I think you would do well to look up the meaning of “provocation.” When bagpipe-playing, 20-foot-tall banner toting groups of people come to the place where you live to courteously inform you that you are going to hell and there is nothing you can do about it, I would be hard pressed to find anyone who would be pleased. There were no assaults; please, try to stick to the facts. And your victim rhetoric? Please. 20 seconds of feeling unsafe? Try a lifetime.