3 Things I Unexpectedly Learned From Jehovah’s Witnesses to Honor Martin Luther King Jr.

Many people know Jehovah’s Witnesses as “those people who come to your door to talk about the teachings of God and aren’t Mormons.” You may also know Jehovah’s Witnesses as “those people who don’t accept blood transfusions or celebrate holidays, including birthdays.” Growing up, I was part of their world—raised within this minority religion on the predominantly Catholic island of Puerto Rico. From approximately ages 1 to 12, I didn’t really do holidays or birthdays. Reluctantly, I was eventually allowed to attend birthday parties around age 13. So how did my religious upbringing in the JW universe leave me with valuable lessons about celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth, life, and death? Read on.

Note: This post isn’t meant to holistically explain JW doctrine or take a stance on their overall existence, but use some of the teachings I digested as a vehicle for remembrance of a key historical figure. Though it’s been ages since I left the faith, my family’s still in the JW world.

1. Beware of Birthdays Being Used for Shady Purposes 

I remember being told that part of the reason we didn’t celebrate birthdays as JWs is because they had pagan roots, and historical birthday celebrations were tinged with violence and “sexual depravity.” I vividly recall the story of Herodias asking for John the Baptist’s head at the birthday of Herod Antipas, and stories of a baker being hanged at a pharaoh’s birthday. Part of my child’s brain didn’t get why we had to worry about ancient history if birthdays were something different now, but clearly roots were important somehow. To celebrate birthdays was to invite paganism and a history of sin into my life. Fast forward to the present day, and though I disagree with many teachings of the JW faith and their interpretations of the Bible, the importance of history is front and center in my life.

The roots of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and work are important, as is the history of how he became the only non-White person to have a federal holiday named after him in the U.S., especially for someone who didn’t hold public office. Still, for many people, Martin Luther King Jr.’s day is just an excuse to get out of work and perhaps a reminder to post a half-hearted meme about nonviolence on Facebook. In fact, this is one of the peak days for non-Black folks on social media to misquote and misinterpret a lot of Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings.

This holiday is a time when people spin his relentless anti-racism work into a palatable mush. It’s easy and convenient to misuse this holiday and spit out words about “turning the other cheek” and “peaceful activism” to condemn activists doing disruptive protests, to explain why people of color (and particularly Black people) have to be eternally accommodating and kind to those that infringe upon our rights.

I’m not here for it.

the real martin luther king jr.

I am not interested in celebrations, awards, or acknowledgement given as a silencing tactic or as table scraps.  I am not interested in holidays meant to make a community feel complacent or satisfied. Don’t give me a sanitized version of Martin Luther King Jr.’s politics. He was a radical and he was considered a dangerous rabble-rouser. Don’t buy the modern-day fairytale that somehow the United States government and its White leaders were welcoming and thankful for his nonviolent approach, especially in contrast to Malcolm X’s.

Don’t forget Martin Luther King Jr.’s comments on White moderates, and how he felt they were one of the biggest threats to Black people in the United States, more so than the extremists and Ku Klux Klanners. Don’t let people flatten his history and use his birthday as a way to squash radical anti-racist work. Don’t let those around you repeat the most general statements about “equal rights” and blatantly ignore past and present calls to specific action.

2. Celebrating Birthdays Can Detract From The Issues And WHO/What Should Truly Be Honored

For Jehovah’s Witnesses, birthdays celebrating individuals detract from the glory that should be going to God, seen as the true and only creator of any life on Earth. Additionally, many JWs stress that focusing on celebrating a person’s birth ignores what they did with their life. The latter is way more important to Jehovah; it has implications for one’s place (or lack thereof) on an earthly paradise post-Armageddon! So what does it mean to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with a modified version of that in mind? To me, it means we should look at his life’s work, and that shouldn’t divorce said iconic work from the people who propped him up and helped him become the figurehead he is in our modern day.

There are those who knew Martin Luther King Jr. as a human, and have a visceral, personal understanding of his legacy. There should be space to understand Martin Luther King Jr. as a whole person, flaws and all. However, what he is to most of the U.S. is a symbol, and we can’t forget what that symbol stands for. Here, the man turns into shorthand for a larger story and a struggle for justice. The symbol is useful, but we have to be wary of mistaking the signifier for the signified

So, I don’t generally use the “behind every man there is a great woman” line because it feels really limited and way too heterosexist for my universe, but there is truth in its spirit. Behind our great leaders we have those who support(ed) them in myriad ways (e.g. in the case of MLK Jr., two obvious names are Bayard Rustin and Coretta Scott King). Behind our tireless activists there are the community-members, partners, friends, families, that help feed them, clothe them, tend to their physical and spiritual injuries, love them, laugh with them, cry with them.

None of us are or work alone, even when we feel like a tiny pinprick in the fabric of the universe.

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday can be a way to elevate those connections rather than a way to erase MLK’s sins, prop him up as an exception, and/or spread misinformation. We can take this as an opportunity to reflect on the past and current civil rights movements he influenced, and those he did not live long enough to witness. We can take this as a time to hear about and honor other influential (and often under-praised) figures like Miss Major, Sylvia Rivera, Maria Elena Durazo, Mary Church Terrell, Dorothy Height, Dolores Huerta, Audre Lorde, Diane Nash, Marsha P. Johnson, and Claudette Colvin. What would our struggles for justice be without the femmes, without the women, without the queer and trans people? Let’s give credit everywhere it’s due.

3. We Shouldn’t Wait For Birthdays To Rejoice And Remember

Being part of a minority religion with “weird rules” like no birthdays meant that I had to defend my views pretty often. Though not a religious institution, my K-12 school operated under laicism, or “French secularism,” but still somehow managed to have a catechism class, a place in the yearbook for First Communion pictures, and participation in Christian sports leagues. Birthdays were often celebrated in the classrooms, and by the time I was in 5th or 6th grade, I had vast experience with deflecting criticism and annoying questions. Heck, I had stock answers ready, like “I can receive presents all year round, so I’m not missing out!” or “My family can have other celebrations, and we don’t need to wait for a birthday!”

Though I’m no longer part of the JW faith, those ideas have stuck with me. Anniversaries, birthdays, other holidays can serve as convenient markers of experiences and excuses to party, but it’s silly to relegate all our joy, love, and sharing to those dates. While I can use, say, Valentine’s Day to tell my partners and loved ones how much they mean to me, I don’t wait until that date to do it. Furthermore, in a capitalist society, I should get creative with how I honor the people and values I cherish rather than defaulting to just buying things.

Similarly, we don’t need to wait until Martin Luther King Jr. Day to acknowledge the history of White supremacy in this country. We don’t need to wait until this holiday to acknowledge the great strides being made by the Black Lives Matter movement. We don’t need to buy something to signify our commitment and wear it like an empty promise. We don’t need to wait until Martin Luther King Jr. Day to speak about racism, raising the minimum wage, the importance of climate justice, or any of the other areas of inequality and injustice King talked about.

If this holiday is the only time during the year that we discuss anti-racism and Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, we’re doing something wrong.

Let’s discuss these issues and individuals year round. Let’s use this annual date to expand our celebration and acknowledgement, to provoke brilliant and multifaceted conversations!

martin luther king jr. and BLM protest

Use of this unchanged image is allowed under a CC License. Click through for the original.

So, Go On, Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s LEgacy For Longer than Just 24 Hours:

  • Learn about Martin Luther King Jr.’s history.
  • Teach the little humans around you about MLK Jr. and the civil rights movement.
  • Listen to a Spotify playlist merging his famous speeches with music inspired by his work.
  • Witness the queer activists of color taking disruptive action to protest.
  • Read about the activists reclaiming this holiday in a way that acknowledges the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.
  • Support actions to restore voting rights to all, particularly in light of the impending elections and some of the egregious candidates running for office.

martin luther king jr. clippy quote

Death Salon LA: A Recap

death salon skullIf you know me well, you know I like me some creepy things. I used to park myself in front of the Discovery Health Channel, watch Disney’s So Weird as a kid, and browse websites for tales of the supernatural. During my gawth intellectual phase, I listened to Cradle of Filth, googled all the fancy words and characters in their lyrics (e.g. Gilles de Rais, Erzulie, Lillith, Faust, Walpurgis, and so on), and ended up writing a term paper about Elizabeth “The Blood Countess” Bathory. I even thought I wanted to become a forensic scientist of some sort once I graduated high-school.

Instead, I ended up going to Brown University and concentrating on gender and sexuality studies, but the passion for these issues lived on. Nowadays, this interest in the “creepy and dark” manifests more obviously in things like my love of the TV series Hannibal, unique earrings (e.g. baby doll arms, a bobcat’s jawbones), and the history of medicine. I’m still entranced by mortality, rituals, bodies, and how we deal with all of these, so it must have come as no surprise to my friends and colleagues when they heard I was attending Death Salon LA.

After avidly consuming tons of posts from The Order of the Good Death website (finding it via the founder’s Ask a Mortician series on YouTube), I heard about this event and promptly freaked out with joy. I immediately told one of my colleagues (the inimitable Megan Andelloux, or “Oh Megan”) who shares my fascination with these topics. After some deliberation because our schedules were pretty packed, we booked our trips from Rhode Island to Los Angeles and got ready for a weekend full of intellectual stimulation.

In just one day at Death Salon LA, I learned about demonic semen transfer systems, the mortification of female saints, cadaver saponification, decorated Bolivian and Peruvian skulls that are said to be miraculous, the mummified Capuchin hanging wall friars in Palermo, the democratization of images via post-mortem photography, anthropomorphic taxidermy, anatomical Venuses, St. Bartholomew’s flayed skin that he held as a sash, death cabarets in 20th century Europe, and more.

The experience was wonderful and illuminating, and it balanced subjects so there would be something for everyone. Still, there was definitely a big emphasis on gender and sexuality, which I obviously really appreciated, and the interdisciplinary, multimedia approach catered to a variety of knowledge levels. I’m terribly excited to see where it goes from here, and though I probably can’t go next year (it’s in Europe in 2014), I’m looking forward to it in 2015 when it comes to Cleveland.

As a demonstration of my obsession with documentation, and as a means to share information with those who couldn’t attend this year, I tweeted up a storm while I was there, and upon returning to RI, crafted a recap of the media bits I nabbed in LA. You can check out the 2 days’ worth of relevant images, tweets, and pieces I corralled:

You can also see the version posted on the official Death Salon website. I was sadly unable to attend all the events, so I wasn’t able to recap the Atlas Obscura trip to a local cemetery or the Death Salon LA Soirée with death-themed food and drinks. I’ll leave you all to dig up those resources, no pun intended.

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!

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.

The Devil and Shelley Lubben

Shelley Lubben: The sketchiness around her, her work, and her “charity” is really intense. In short, she’s an ex-porn performer turned anti-porn activist who runs a non-profit called the Pink Cross Foundation. In their own words:

Pink Cross Foundation is a faith-based IRS approved 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to reaching out to adult industry workers offering emotional, financial and transitional support. We largely focus on reaching out to the adult film industry offering support to women and men. Pink Cross Foundation also reaches out to those struggling with pornography offering education and resources to recover.

Pink Cross Foundation also works to combat community deterioration due to pornography and prostitution through attempts to educate legislation in order to enforce health and safety laws within the pornography industry, to protect adult industry workers from sexually transmitted diseases and other job-related abuses, to ameliorate the secondary negative effects of pornography on the general public and to toughen laws to protect children from accessing online pornography.

However, I hope we all know that what someone CLAIMS to do and what someone ACTUALLY does can often be two very, very different things. As a 501(c)(3), the Pink Cross Tax Returns are public record. Check out toward what the money has gone! You can turn to one of the comments on this blog post that succinctly highlights it. Also, check out these LENGTHY exposés: Part 1-2 and Part 3. Want more? Check out this and this.

When you look at the numbers, it really seems like she’s only marketing and helping HERSELF.

Personally, I have ZERO respect for this woman. Profiting from her fake desire to “help those stuck in the porn industry,” placing the blame for her mistakes and situations on the porn industry and taking ZERO responsibility herself, spreading lies and misrepresentations to further her own agenda instead of providing clear facts in context, overacting to elicit “compassion” and show “how intense” her “struggle” was? Horrible, horrible stuff. As someone in academia and the sexuality field, I think what she’s doing is damaging, irresponsible, WRONG, and utterly reprehensible.

Anyway, what this post was actually about–I wanted to let you know there’s a documentary in the works about her! Parts 1 and 2 are HERE and HERE.  P.S. RACISM ALERT. There’s a lovely bit in Part 1 of the documentary where she discusses a client who was “a crazy Chinaman” whose penis was “too small” for a condom. She goes on to say he accidentally impregnated her and how horrible it was because she didn’t want to “give birth to an ugly Asian baby.” WHAT. She also does a marvelously insulting faux Chinese accent. Check it out. Way to go, interlocking systems of oppression.

We want to celebrate that with you…unless you’re gay


Link to video of Maggie G. speaking @ the Aldrich Mansion (for NOM Family and Marriage Day Celebration in RI).

Dear Maggie,

You should look into the history of marriage before you speak.

Love, Aida

Anyhoo. The sad thing is that the beginning of this speech is pretty cute. Yeah, “we want to celebrate your loving union with you.” Unless you’re a same-sex couple, that is. Get your cooties off me!

Oh, and a little gem from the speech: as she was speaking about how marriage happens in basically every culture and blah blah blah, and it’s the union of one man and one woman, she goes “or at LEAST one man and one woman because *dismissive hand gesture* we know a bunch of small tribes believe in polygamy.”

Yikes.

Taking Responsibility, Corporate Style

BLOUNT RESPONDS TO QUESTIONS REGARDING AN EVENT SPONSORSHIP IN RHODE ISLAND.

FALL RIVER, MA (AUGUST 11, 2009) – Corporate philanthropy and good citizenship has been part of Blount’s mission since inception. In keeping with that, we have a long track record of donating Blount-brand chowder and other products to all non-profits in our home area that request it for events. These donations of soup are just simple gestures of goodwill and were certainly not intended to be interpreted otherwise. It’s very concerning to us that anyone would think otherwise and as a result, we are reviewing our policy going forward.

Additionally, Blount notified the organizers of the Rhode Island event in question that the company would not be providing a donation, soup or otherwise.

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I repeat: it impossible to construe donations for this event as “simple gestures of goodwill” with no ideological ramifications. If BFF gave donations to EVERY cause that sidled up asking for chowder and products, things would be different, but if they are actively picking and choosing who they donate to, that means they are exercising judgment of some sort and knowingly supporting whatever cause they are sponsoring. Being a sponsor of an event has its obligations and implications, and it’s not like NOM is an organization whose mission is not understood, so the mock surprise and concern on the part of Blount Fine Foods is kind of offensive.

But regardless of what Blount Fine Foods has ended up doing, the person I’m most pissed at is Christopher Plante–the Executive Director at NOM, Rhode Island Chapter. I personally believe Mr. Plante is a douchebag. That may be harsh, because I believe everyone has positive attributes…but when it comes to civil rights, respect of freedoms, and championing for justice and fairness? No. He fails. And he’s deceitful and deluded.

In relation to the Tim Horton’s lack of support after a media backlash, Plante said: “They rescinded the offer today as a direct result of the hubbub in Canada,” in this article. “This is an issue only north of the border.” Oh, my mistake. I thought this was an issue in the United States as well. *eyeroll* I don’t care if the local rep for Tim Horton’s approved supporting the event–the company’s policy states that the company “does not sponsor individuals, those representing religious groups, political affiliates, book endorsements or traveling sports teams.” Anyway, my biggest beef with him is because he is, like I said, deceitful and deluded and hypocritical. Let’s start looking at the blatant hipocrisy and ridiculousness, in 3 parts.

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PART ONE: THIS ISN’T RELIGIOUS OR POLITICAL…except it is.

The celebration will feature food, gospel/worship music, and a chance for couples to renew their wedding vows. It is described (on the event website) thusly: “This is a great opportunity to take a stand for marriage as God ordained it. Our goal is to esteem marriage to its proper place in society and make a statement that Christians in Rhode Island believe strongly in this cherished institution.” *AND YET* Plante says “My concern and my disappointment is that my event has been tainted as religious or political. Neither of those are correct. The event itself was not designed to be political, as a rally would be.” Furthermore, he states that “It’s held by an organization that, whatever you think of our politics, is not religious, we accept folks of all faiths and of no faith.

WHAT?

First of all, because the event isn’t “political as a rally would be” doesn’t mean it’s not political. Having a friendly little barbecue with people who share your beliefs is very different from having a big, advertised, sponsored event that actively seeks to further and celebrate the (VERY POLITICAL) missions of your organization.

Secondly, because you “accept people of all faiths and no faith” doesn’t mean it’s not religious (e.g. a religious/spiritual summit that caters to “everyone,” but is, oh, whaddya know, STILL RELIGIOUS).

And, finally, let’s review the National Organization for Marriage’s mission:

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it. NOM works to develop political messaging, build its national grassroots email database of voters, and provide political intelligence and donor infrastructure on the state level, with a focus on developing new strategies for increasing influence in the Northeast and West Coast, where marriage is most under threat.

Nothing further with the witness, Your Honor. Hmph.

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PART TWO: EVERYONE IS WELCOME…except not really.

“We knew full well in opening this event to the public that we were inviting people who might oppose us,” says Plante. “If they choose to come and enjoy the food and beautiful venue, they’re more than welcome. They’re not welcome to come and protest. We’ll expect them to be respectful and treat us with dignity as we would do with them.”‘ Mmm, respect and dignity. I’d love to get some of that from all you NOM people. OH WAIT. You won’t give it to me. 😐

Plante’s main argument against the backlash Tim Horton’s and Blount Fine Foods received was based on the supposed fact that the event was “apolitical and non-religious” and that it was “open to everyone.” While the latter may TECHNICALLY be true, allowing queers to go to an event doesn’t mean they SHOULD go or that they’re HAPPILY INVITED or that they’re even WELCOME. It’s like telling a person of color “oh, hey, you can come to this nifty little KKK gathering.” Honestly. Come on, Plante. You’re not buying it and neither are we.

Plante said that gays and lesbians are welcome to attend the event, and added that if they want to, they may also rise to renew their vows. “If gays and lesbians want to come in with their children, they are more than welcome to come, and make sure they find me, and we’ll have a Coke and sit down and talk.”

What the article neglected to mention was that the queers could stand if they wanted, sure, but that the vows to be taken will be specific to man and woman, to celebrate heterosexual marriage and will not apply to same sex marriages at all. Like I said–allowing someone to attend and event is VERY different than WELCOMING them at it and making them feel comfortable. I’m fine with you having events for your organization (it’s within your right), but just don’t fucking LIE about them.

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PART THREE: THIS IS ALL ABOUT GAY BULLIES…except it’s not

In regards to Plante’s allegations that “This is about the organized approach to squash all private and public comments on marriage” and that Tim Horton’s had been “bullied by a vocal minority” into pulling out of an apolitical celebration that was “open to all,” including same-sex couples. *facepalm* This is not about squashing dialogue! This is about us asking a company to NOT GET INVOLVED AT ALL or at least OWN UP TO what they’re DOING. This is about us saying that, if they take this route of action, there will be consequences.

It’s within our right to boycott a company whose views we do not agree with, and I feel it’s a perfectly viable way to create pressure for change or just demonstrate our allegiances and funnel money to organizations whose values we agree with. It’s NOT okay for a company to support certain movements and not expect a backlash, and it’s COWARDLY for a company to support something and then back out of it because they fear losing money. I’d prefer a company that is open about the beliefs they espouse than one that flip-flops when the water in the pot starts getting hot. I mean, I’d prefer one that stays out of these debacles in general, or at least supports the side(s) that are all for dialogue and equality and fairness, but that may be asking for much.

“It’s stressful, it’s sorrowful, it’s saddening,” Plante said. “The marriage equality folks are making this a boycott threat. That’s sad. It has become our job now to remind Rhode Islanders that this is what’s to come.” Um…what does that last sentence even mean? Is he implying that we’re crazy gay bullies who will boycott everything we don’t agree with? Because, well, that’s probably true (save for the bullies part). It’s NOT true, however, that we’re bullying people into not having a right to express themselves.

Personally, I think this debate about marriage is totally ridiculous and shouldn’t be happening in the first place. An organization like NOM shouldn’t even exist. Why? Because this is not about agreeing with homosexuality or not–this is about EQUALITY and JUSTICE. Kind of like what Voltaire said: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” I don’t care if you love me or hate me, but GIVE ME THE SAME RIGHTS. As a human being and citizen of this country, I’m entitled to them.

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And now, some ranting:

  • You know what I really FUCKING HATE? When people act victimized to gain sympathy. “Omg, halp, I’m a lil’ intolerant Christian douchebag and my religious rights are being taken away from me! Haaaaalp!” No. Your religious rights are not being taken away. Oh, and if by “religious rights” you mean “right to talk shit about others and advocate for inequality and intolerance and even hatred,” then I really think we need to redefine what “rights” mean. If you had half a brain cell you might realize this, but as long as you’re kissing the ass of the “Gathering Storm” ad and NOM and other organizations like it, you won’t notice. No one is taking your rights away by GRANTING RIGHTS TO OTHERS. This is the whole point of people fighting to allow same-sex couples to marry. One doesn’t even have to agree with homosexuality! One just has to agree with the ideals of equality and choice and freedom and civil rights/liberties.
  • Other things I hate–twisting language to gather sympathy and MANIPULATE THE TRUTH. Oh, I’m “pro-family” and “pro-marriage.” Guess what? Me too! But ohhhh, by pro-family you meant MOM AND DAD AND KIDS family and by pro-marriage you meant OPPOSITE-SEX PARTNER MARRIAGE. Oh, my bad. I thought we were on the same boat, being pro-family and pro-marriage and all, but I guess I was wrong. 😐 (That’s the reason why the pro-choice vs. pro-life labels annoy me a bit, but at least those labels make a little more sense.) That’s why I also think NOM’s name itself is stupid. No, you are not “pro-marriage,” you are pro keeping marriage as a solely male-female institution and keeping the links between specific religions and the state alive and well. You are pro denying same-sex couples the right to marry and get the same rights as opposite-sex couples. You are not pro-marriage; you are pro inequality. Let’s talk straight here (no pun intended) and actually say WHAT WE MEAN.

This Is Your Nation On Privilege

I fully support and encourage introspection. I think if more people thought about their lives and the what, why, how, when, etc, things would be pretty different. So click on the following articles and read them through; you may be surprised by some of the things you take for granted. AND remember to please read the critique at the end (last link)–it provides necessary critique/analysis of all these lists, which, while helpful and illuminating, are certainly not perfect (and are of course problematic in their own ways, as most things are).

via HERE.

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I’m hoping that the comments to this post can be used to interactively keep this post up-to-date. So if you know of a link that you think is relevant to this post, or if you notice that one of these links has died, please leave a comment.

UPDATE: Maia has a critique.

God Hates Fags…of COURSE.

Brown University – College full of God-hating know-nothings! Waterman St. & Thayer St – Anyone who is claiming to go to college is saying they want to hear instruction. The problem is, this college or university has no sound instruction to give. So, we will come and help them along in that endeavor. Here is your duty, little college brats: Proverbs 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Proverbs 4:1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. Proverbs 8:33 Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Proverbs 19:20 Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. Proverbs 19:27 Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge. Alas, it seems too late for you because you are stiff-necked. Jeremiah 17:23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.


^ From the Westboro Baptist Church Picket Schedule. Oy vey. This is actually not that bad compared to the shit they’ve written about other locations. They’ll be picketing in Rhode Island on the 29th, going to high-schools, Brown, the RI State House, and a bunch of Jewish places, including the Holocaust Memorial.

I’m pretty happy that there’s an alternative which doesn’t involve counter-protesting (because that, while simultaneously fun and frustrating, brings attention to the hateful message of the WBC and gives them exactly what they want–media coverage). This is the alternative. 🙂

The Brown Queer Alliance (for which I’m currently Head Chair, woot) has signed on to a joint statement issues by several groups in the RI LGBTQQ community. Here it is:



Community Statement Responding to Fred Phelps’ Visit to Rhode Island

On May 29, 2009, the notorious Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas and his family will be visiting Rhode Island to protest against LGBTQQ people, Jewish people, and members of the military. Phelps and his protesters, who have been labeled a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, have announced plans to protest at a Rhode Island high school, a college, and a military establishment, among other places.

Rhode Island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) community and its allies met over the past several weeks to consider how best to address the upcoming protests by Phelps’ so-called “God Hates Fags” church. Mr. Phelps’ family travels around the country protesting at military funerals, holocaust memorials, and any organization or event representing the people Phelps hates. The group employs young children to display posters containing vulgar depictions and inflammatory speech against LGBTQQ people and anyone who supports us. Phelps’ protesters scream obscenities in the streets in an apparent attempt to incite bystanders. They claim that the tragic events of September 11, 2001 were the fault of LGBTQQ people in this country.

Because Phelps’ group operates so far outside the bounds of human decency, many of Rhode Island’s major LGBTQQ and supportive organizations determined after much careful consideration that organizing a face-to-face counter-protest would only lend undeserving attention to a sensationalistic fringe group that delights in practicing hate speech. We the undersigned ask that other fair-minded individuals and groups sharing our concerns refrain from any counter-protests, thereby denying Phelps the attention he so desperately seeks. We ask Rhode Island’s journalists to refrain from covering the Phelps protests in any way other than to elicit statements of strength and unity from the subjects of Phelps’ protests. To sensationalize this story would only be to give Phelps exactly what he wants.

Nevertheless, we are mindful of the real pain and anguish which Phelps’ hate speech will certainly inflict upon the youth at East Providence High School, where Phelps’ group will be appearing. Accordingly, our diverse groups are united in our support of Rhode Island students and youth who will be injured by Phelps’ hateful rhetoric. To this end, we have organized an online Phelps-a-thon, which will raise needed resources for Rhode Island’s GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Coalition, which provides support and resources to GSAs and LGBTQQ supportive groups in our state’s high schools and colleges. We invite all fair-minded Rhode Islanders to participate in the Phelps-a-thon to demonstrate that the forces of hatred can be denied and converted to good. To participate, please visit www.phelps-a-thon.com

At the end of the day, Phelps will exit Rhode Island, we hope, with little press attention, knowing only that his hate speech simply fueled an outpouring of support for the very people he hopes to destroy.

Signatories: 

AFSC-SENE
AIDS Care Ocean State
Brown University Queer Alliance
COLAGE of Rhode Island
East Greenwich United Methodist Church Missions Ministry
Equality Rising
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD)
The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence
Lawyers for Equality and Diversity (LEAD)
Marriage Equality RI
Marriage Equality RI Education Fund
The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island
Moses Brown Gay/Straight Alliance
National Association of Social Workers – Rhode Island Chapter
National Education Association of Rhode Island
Ocean State Action
The Partnership to Address Violence through Education
PFLAG East Bay
PFLAG of Greater Providence
PFLAG South/Central RI
Mayor David N. Cicilline, City of Providence
The Providence Human Relations Commission
The Religious Society of the Bell Street Chapel
Rhode Island Behavioral Health Coalition for Marriage Equality
Rhode Island College Rainbow Alliance
Rhode Island Commission on Prejudice and Bias: Hate Crime and Civil Rights=
=C2=A0Training and Ed Program
Rhode Island Democratic Party
Rhode Island Juvenile Officers Association
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
Rhode Island Pride
Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality
The University of Rhode Island Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Center
United for Justice
www.RIFUTU
RE.org
Young Voices
Youth Pride, Inc.
=C2=A0
Eric Aardoom and Cileine de Lourenco
Ken Abrams and Terri Hassele
Joyce M. Anderle
Linda Asselin
Frank Balla
The Rev. Jose Ballester
Thom Bassett
Raymond Baxter
Marcia Beaulieu
Wendy Becker and Mary Norton
Amanda Bettencourt
Lisa Blesst
Judith Burki-Cohen
Jeffrey Cabusao
Brienna Caparco
Gregg Carter
Richard Corso and Don Laliberte
Lisa and Gregg Carter
Tom Chandler
Debra Delvecchio
The Rev. Eugene T. Dyszlewski
Debbie Easterling
Sandra Enos
Rep. Frank Ferri
Robert Harvey
Rich Hite
Joe Ilacqua
Antoine Joseph
Mark Kershaw
Kathy J. Kushnir
Rabbi Michele Lenke
Judy Litof
Wanda Jean Lord
Susan MacNeill and Cassandra Ormiston
Brad Martin
Judy McDonnell and Wendy Baker
Kevin J. Nelson
Anthony S. Pelliccio and Keyron D. Spencer
Susan T. Perkins, Esq.
Peter Quesnel and Thomas Koch
Wendy Rich-Coleman
Lisa Rinaldi
Tom Roach
C. Kelly Smith
Don Smith
Mike Sutila
Jeffrey Weinberger
Nanci Weinberger and Molly DiSario
Andrew Winters

Linda Ziwich