13 June 2016

PRIDE - Something to Celebrate

Over the years, I've heard many people question why there are Pride festivals, what LGBT people are "proud" of; why they need a festival and/or a parade to be "proud"; and especially in recent years, why we need to keep having it now that everything's better. ('Cause that's how it works; racism is all better, too.)

First of all, you can google Stonewall. That's where "Gay Pride" started, a celebration of survival and solidarity and "pride" as a counter to shame, the latter being where too many have lived and continue to live their lives.

That should be enough. But to go further, am I "proud" of being gay? Well no, not particularly. It's not something I "accomplished," after all, the "gayness" itself. It's just who - and what - I am, and it's just one of a host of characteristics I couldn't deny even if I wanted to. But it's a thing that other people have turned into a big freaking deal, and too often used as an insult, a joke, a denigration, or a weapon against me.

But even knowing that, I have never lied about who I am. It took me a good long while to uncover it, to outgrow the small-town, childish insults and name-calling, the meaning of which I didn't even understand at the time. But once I did figure it out, I never lied. I never hid this characteristic from anyone. I have often been nicer to strangers than I felt like being, because I could feel prejudice flaking off of them as they moved through my space, and you do what you can to minimize harm to yourself, or risk of it. I consciously make myself as unthreatening as possible, in hopes that the truth of this characteristic is received smoothly, but I am always truthful. I have never hidden who I was dating from family or friends, changed pronouns, pretended or asked them to pretend they were less to me than they were, or even purposely maintained distance from people I wouldn't have otherwise because I was afraid of their reactions. 

I am proud of my self-awareness, and my long and continuing pursuit of more of it.
I am proud of my honesty, even when it's really hard.
I am proud of my willingness to live in the open.
I am proud of my courage, and it does take some.
I am proud of my ability to reassure the uncertain that I am not a threat, even though I should not have to.
I am proud of my ability to remain kind and compassionate in my heart, even in moments of great anger, or at least return to it quickly when I slip.
I am proud that I am also not a doormat, that I am unafraid of fully expressing what I'm feeling.
I am proud of my resilience, my ability and willingness to remain all of these things even with so many people so motivated to hurt me for this one thing about me.
I am proud of my fellow LGBT+ people who practice the above with me and demand respect for me and for themselves, even when they're rewarded with violence.

This Pride is not an arrogant pride. It is a constant and a comfort, an emotional touchstone that lends strength in darker moments and reminds us of the solidarity we have with each other. It's community. It's hope and determination... and forgiveness. It is self-perpetuating and grows exponentially when embraced and practiced consistently. It makes me better, and it makes the world better, and it deserves to be celebrated. It deserves a parade.

12 June 2016

Our PULSE Beats On

CNN reports that his father says he was deeply upset by seeing two men kissing in front of his family a couple months ago.

I do not care what religion or nationality the killer was (even if that's all the media and far too many anti-LGBT politicians can talk about). Those factors have nothing to do with this at all. Get that straight first. He was just as likely to be a white, 5th generation American, "christian" with stupidly poorly restricted access to stupidly unnecessary guns, especially at this point in our ignorant, violent, prejudice-driven history. And do NOT make this all about ISIS, because that would be a huge cop-out from admitting what good old American hate does to people all on its own, which still lacks some serious admitting." All Americans" are not feeling the effects of this attack. "All Americans" are not condemning it. "All Americans" are not "standing together" in the face of it. I guaranfuckingtee you that a whole lot of Americans are saying "'they' had it coming." And ignoring that is as cowardly as the act itself.

For all the admonishments I've already seen to not let it matter not only who the killer was but who the victims were or his motive for killing THEM, sorry, you're just wrong. And if you're straight, you need to think really hard about that, because it's an insulting level of privilege. When 50 people are killed solely because they are who I AM, "why" matters. We don't just share hobbies or interests; we might share none. We share a single characteristic that we can do nothing about. It doesn't make us more likely to have cancer or freckles or some kind of allergy; it ONLY makes us more likely to be beaten and tied to a fencepost in rural Wyoming or shot in a nightclub in Orlando or subject to a million acts of violence in between... for nothing more than living our lives openly and honestly and with a modicum of self-esteem and self-respect. If I lived in Orlando and felt like going out, this is the kind of place I would go. If you know me and care about me, understand that, because it's not limited to a specific city or state or building. This attitude is rampant, especially right now, this ridiculous hatred of LGBT+ people.

When you see this hate sanctioned in a hundred ways every day, by everybody from businesses to churches to states to friends and family, "why" absolutely matters. If you hate "gays" (or transgender or bisexual people) or go around saying stupid shit like "I don't hate anybody, but it's just wrong" or "I don't hate anybody but I don't want them in the bathroom with me" -- or you hate or fear BEing "gay" and let the people around you dictate to you whom it's "acceptable" for you to LOVE -- you fuel the environment that makes this more likely. You condone the hate and shame and the false, empty idea that there's any basis for it. It could happen anyway, but I guarantee you that the nasty attitude and gas thrown on it simply because more of us can get married anywhere now makes me feel a lot more at risk of being one of these victims than I would be if the bigots among us would all just quit being bigots.

But it still doesn't make me wish I weren't gay, because there's not a fucking thing wrong with me. Get that through your heads, too. I will continue to be gay and happy and entirely at peace with myself and only because of that, able to live in a way that I can and will continue to be loving toward all other groups, since we insist on having "groups," including the groups of you who hate me for being me. My "gay" doesn't hurt anybody. Bias hurts everybody.

I will be at a table at Twin Cities Pride the weekend after next (6/25-26), Loring Park. Feel free to stop by. I AM gay, couldn't change it for you if I wanted to and don't want to. For anybody who has wondered why LGBT+ people have "Pride" festivals -- THIS is exactly why, and Pulse will continue to beat in all of us. Some of you break my heart, but I will not let anybody's cowardly, ignorant, wasted hate shame me or scare me. See you there.

12 August 2011

"Independent" Wealth? What a Load of Crap.

Gotta love Facebook. I saw this post earlier, and it set me off:
"I think I found the solution to the US debt problem:

Salary of retired US Presidents...$180,000 for life
Salary of House/Senate...$174,000 for life
Salary of Speaker of the House...$223,500 for life
Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders...$193,400 for life
Average Salary of a teacher...$40,065 per year
Average Salary of Soldier Deployed in Afghanistan...$38,000 per year

I think we found where the cuts should be made!"

Actually, the president does get a decent percentage of his/her $400,000 salary for a pension (after running our COUNTRY, with none of the $15 million Wall Street bonuses), but most congress members don't get anywhere near their salaries for life. They DO pay into Social Security, and they ARE on the same retirement plans we were on in the postal service, except that they're required to contribute a bigger chunk of their salaries to them (per Senate website et al.).

They also have to serve at least 5 years to be eligible for a partial pension, at least 20 years to be eligible for their full pension at age 50 (same as p.o. and other fed. jobs), or they have to be at least 62 or have served at least 25 years, to collect the money they contributed from their own salaries. There are other factors, too, like military advantage and which specific plans they choose, and whether or not they invest in other savings funds. They also voted overwhelmingly in both 2010 and 2011 to not accept federally mandated cost-of-living increases.

(Lots of people continue to whine and cry for term limits, but that's just an excuse to not vote and get even lazier about it. We have always had term limits: They're called elections. If we legislate limits, even fewer people will give enough of a damn to get off their asses and vote than do now.)

Now, as far as the president's salary goes, personally, I wouldn't take less than 5x that amount for trying to guide the lazy, selfish, ignorant, hateful babies that seem to take up a greater percentage of our potentially awesome country every day. We shouldn't be at war, and teachers are dreadfully underpaid, always have been. There's no mistaking those issues. But the problem is still mostly outside of government.

Only 20% of our population make over 50% of our aggregate income, with the top 5% making over 20% of it themselves, and these aren't primarily people making a comparatively piddly $400K a year or less. These are also the people with the most tax breaks. "They made it, they should get to keep it," people like to argue. Well, who did they make it OFF of, so to speak? (Besides teachers and soldiers, for starters.) Well, if not the dime-an-hour victims of multiple American human rights violations worldwide, then likely off of the "lower" 80% of Americans who work in their factories and offices and drive their shit around the country. A whopping 80% of our people make less than half the aggregate income. 60% of our people take in around a QUARTER of our aggregate income. (This is all available on the Census site, per the 2010 census, numbers reported by people about themselves, not propagated by the mythical "liberal media.")

In other words, say you buy a car from a group of ten people for $100. Two of the people, probably the two who made the deal, take $50, half the money. Two of them take another $25 to share. The other six people have to share the last $25 of the profits, even though they're probably the ones who dragged the car home from the junk shop, fixed it up, painted it, maybe lost a couple of fingers in the whole process, inhaled some lead, that kind of thing. Well, news flash, I'm one of those six. Bigger news flash, you're probably one of those six. The other four are the ones voting consistently and the top two are the ones paying for the elections that decide your fate. They're even willing to cut your six-way-shared $25 down even further, whatever it takes to avoid parting with one more cent of their $25 apiece.

A few more numbers you need to consider... Between 1984 and 2009, the annual mean household income of the lowest-earning 20% of our good American people went from $5,436 to $11,552 (as of just 2 years ago, 20% of the people here are living - or trying to - on an average of just over $11K/year). In those same years, between 1984 and 2009, the mean income of the highest-earning 20% went from $62,121 to $170,844. The top 5% went from $93,774 to $295,388. And President Obama just wanted the top 2% to pay what they owe, without all the damn loopholes! Conservative or liberal, educated or not, it's not hard to see the formula here: the rich get richer by climbing up the backs of the poor, even while DENYING THEIR EXISTENCE and cutting the lifelines necessitated by their exploitation. And yet the ridiculously wealthy don't want to pay ALL of THEIR taxes???? OMG. I am so sick of the vitriolic rhetoric and blatant lies thrown around by that top 20% to protect their damn assets! The problem is NOT our government in practice (which is us, by the way). The problem is our GREED.

The last time the market tanked, my wife and I scraped together a little money (literally) and bought some stocks. One of the companies I bought was Williams-Sonoma. You know why? Because I was betting that the people who shop there wouldn't feel as pinched, they'd still need their supplies, and they weren't about to start slumming and buying their base-model Teflon pans at Wal-Mart. Because I was right, our 13 shares have more than tripled in value, yep, even after this week. I wish it was enough to get us health insurance, or married in our home state. We're Americans, too, and the bullshit Tea Party version of "small government" is our worst enemy. If the other 60-80% of you were paying attention instead of just constantly whipping the ass of the rhetorical dragon to get more fire, you'd know they're your worst enemy, too.

A few credits...if you want more, find them like I did.