Thursday, March 23, 2017

Those Who Object To LeFou Are Fou!


Those Who Object to Le Fou Are Fou!
I took my kids, then 6 and 11, to see “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway in 1994.  Terrence Mann played the beast.  It was a great musical with a good message.  I don’t remember any homosexual overtones, except that one of its creators Howard Ashman died of AIDS, the same year of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast.”
Today, I went to the movie, No. 1 at the box office, and was looking for overtly gay themes that were thought to be scandalous enough to pull the film from a lineup at an Alabama theatre and shelved in Kuwait and Malaysia. Ultra-conservative religious organization such as the American Family Association) are criticizing the movie, reporting that it is “pushing a gay agenda.”
What gay agenda?  In the April issue of Attitude, director Bill Condon confirmed that LeFou is Disney’s first openly gay character.  LeFou, who has been to war with the narcissitic Gaston (whose name Le Fou can’t spell because LeFou admits he’s illiterate).  Riding side-by-side on horseback as Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou jokes that why would Gaston want to marry the town’s pretty girl, Belle, when Gaston can have him instead?  It’s a double-entendre that would go over most cisgender childrens’ heads.  LeFou is a loyal friend, if somewhat clingy, to despicable Gaston. He admires Gaston, but is it a crush?
Says Director Condon, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston, (handsome and fearless,) and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants.  It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.”  If you want a gay stereotype in Beauty and the Beast, look at Stanley Tucci, who is turned into one of the three cross-dressers by the wardrobe in the castle. Condon's inclusion of a gay character may have also been a homage to Alan Menken's collaborative lyricist Howard Ashman.
LeFou’s sexual orientation is so subtle in the movie that it’s hardly worth getting upset about.  In the final scene of about a minute- and –a-half  the former beast, now returned to his princely status, is dancing with Belle in the ballroom with all the town’s people. During this time, LeFou (actor Josh Gad) kisses another man.
Big deal!  If children don’t know personally gay people, they must know of them through television, if nothing else.  The under -30 set seem to “get it,” according to Pew Research.  They are the ones who approve of gay marriage, gay relationships.  It’s the older generation and ultra-right who make a fuss when the arts try to reflect modern values, even if it is Disney!  Whose “fou,” French for crazy?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Conversion Therapy Busted With 20/20 Undercover Investigation

Last night, I watched with horror the testimony of gay boy named Lucas who ran away from a Restoration Youth Camp in Alabama.  His adoptive Christian parents from Naples, Florida sent him to an unlicensed pray-the-gay-away camp because they couldn’t deal with his homosexuality. Lucas ultimately ran away from the camp as he was beaten, put into solitary confinement.  He testified against the camp pastor who received twenty years for manslaughter after a town Police Chief Charles Kennedy stood up for Lucas and other children after he was handed notes written by the minors about the deplorable conditions that Kennedy later saw for himself.  As Lucas reported about Restoration, “at least in prison, you get three meals a day. They try to beat the gay out of you.  It’s spiritually abusive.”

Similarly, a lesbian, Sarah, was sent by her parents to The Heartlight Christian School in Longview, Texas. It’s a residential counseling program for teens who “struggle with a wide range of behavior and emotional issues.” Sarah’s T.V. celebrity cousin, Jeremy Jordan, started a GoFundMe page, seeking to get attorney fees to get Sarah out of Heartlight. She, too, didn’t want to be converted.

Pointless Exercise

Both these institutions were trying to use religion as a weapon.  You can’t convert LGBT children to heterosexuals.  You can’t “pray-the-gay” away.  No psychological treatment or spiritual counselling is effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation.

The American Psychiatric Association and The American Medical Association oppose reparative or conversion therapy.  In fact, they call the treatment unethical. Homosexuality is no longer regarded as a disease in the eyes of the psychiatric community. Yet, although the effects can be dire resulting in depression, guilt, and even suicide, the practice is only outlawed in six states (Oregon, Illinois, New York, Vermont, New Jersey, California) and the District of Columbia.  However, other states are considering laws against this disreputable practice.

It is uncanny that the day before the 20/20 show aired, March 10, reparative therapy’s founder, Joseph Nicolosi of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, died at age 70. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

U.S. History's First

When Gavin Grimm’s ACLU lawyers argue his case, Gloucester County School Board vs. G.G.,  scheduled for March 28th, it will be the first major decision on whether transgender people are covered under sex discrimination law.  Grimm’s case is arguing that his high school’s policy violates Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination.

The background of his case is this: School administrators in Virginia allowed Gavin to use the boys’ restroom for almost two months without consequence...until the school started receiving complaints from some parents and residents of Gloucester County school board. Gavin and his mother Deirdre notified administrators of his male gender identity at beginning of his sophomore year. ( He’s now a senior). Because of the backlash, the school board adopted the new policy on December 9, 2014, by a vote of 6-1.  Consequently, Gavin has been using a single-sex nurse’s bathroom that he finds humiliating. 

What The Supreme Court Justices Have To Decide

The most important question is whether or not the Department of Education had the ability to read transgenderism into Title IX law.  What do we mean by “sex?” has to be determined.  Since this is gender identification not birth gender, you are arguing an idea, not an apparent trait. 

Grimm’s case stands to influence transgender and all gender non-conforming people across the board.  The intersex (having both sex genitalia) community for the first time has filed a Supreme Court brief. Medical associations, unions, artists, doctors, lawyers, scientists, government employees and fifty-three major corporations such as Apple, IBM, EBay, Microsoft have filed Amicus or Friends-of-the-Court’s briefs.  Two hundred members of Congress, sixty current and former police chiefs and sheriffs, thirty U.S. cities, National Education Association, National Parent-Teacher Association of School Psychologists, the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National LGBT Bar Association and the Constitutional Accountability Center and over one hundred transgender adults also signed.

Effect of President Trump’s Directive

Last week the Trump administration withdrew guidelines instructing school districts to let transgender students use bathrooms corresponding to their chosen gender (gender identity). Says Gavin “it definitely hurts to hear your government saying that you’re not deserving of protections that you should have as a transgender student.” It’s a discriminatory bathroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers.
The Williams Institute, that conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, reports that one in every 137 teens identify as transgender. They need, like Gavin, to be assured that they will be protected and feel safe in restrooms and locker rooms and not be harassed. 

   

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, 1939 Mr. Gavin Grimm Goes to Washington, 2017


In the popular movie of 1939, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Gary Cooper plays an unassuming honest senator from Montana who takes on corrupt Washington politicians. This week, a shy, humble and determined seventeen year-old high school student from Gloucester, Virginia, Gavin Grimm travelled to Washington with his mother to be the lead plaintiff in a case that may settle the whole “bathroom issue” once and for all. 
Wearing a hoodie, emblazoned with A.C.L.U., Gavin left his rural town, his pet pig Esmeralda, to represent himself and potentially other transgendered men and women in a suit involving his usage of his high school bathrooms. This suit may go all the way to the Supreme Court and become a landmark case.  After being on “The View,” last Thursday, where he wore a dress shirt stowed in his makeshift luggage, a large white plastic bag, G.G., as he’s known, is now known as an activist for transgender rights and a hero to many transgenders. 
What’s At Stake: More Than Dignity
Gavin, since he was twelve or thirteen, has identified as a boy even though he was born a girl and a twin. Yet, he is not allowed to use the boys’ bathroom at his school.  Gavin’s school has built single-user bathrooms to try to placate outspoken parents and complaining girls.  “It’s incredibly frustrating, it’s embarrassing, it’s very uncomfortable,” attests Gavin who feels that this discrimination makes him feel different from his peers.  He uses the nurse’s restroom instead and that also feels discriminatory.
(Of course, by the time The Supreme Court decides, Gavin may be out of high school, the Supreme Court could send the case back to the appeals court or wait for other cases to piggyback.)
But that’s not the point.  What is the point is that President Trump on February 22nd rescinded Obama’s Federal Directive on Bathroom Use, instructing public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender, not the one on their birth certificate.  The Obama administration’s guidance was based on its determination that Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, also applies to gender identity.
About Face For Trump: Feels Overreach Violates Safety & Privacy of Straight People
Soon after Trump took office, he announced that he intended to continue enforcing an executive order Obama issued to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination. Ha!
Without the Obama directive, it will be up to states and school districts to interpret federal anti-discrimination law and determine whether students should have access to restrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity and not just their biological sex.
Yet, last week, he and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, bowing to the religious right, decided that states’ rights should take precedence.  The Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos did not want to rescind the Obama guidelines, and recognized the severe risk of not having those Federal laws in place.
 Although DeVos told the Political Action Conference, CPAC, on February 23rd, that the “issue was a huge example of Obama administration overreach, one-size-fits-all approach to issues best solved at personal and local levels,” she also admitted that “we have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.” Even Caitlyn Jenner, a Republican, is annoyed at the Republican response to the federal directive.
GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) latest national climate survey reported that 77% of trans students experience harassment or bullying in schools and over 50% of trans youth commit suicide.  Those that identify as transgender will not feel safe, but harassed at school.
PFLAG  (Parents for Lesbians & Gays as well as Transgenders) National & GLSEN relaunched, in response, their joint #Claim Your Rights Campaign from 2009.
Statistics aside, I once interviewed a f-t-m ( born female, transitioned to male), who appeared in the “ Fear chapter “of my co-authored book When Your Child Is Gay,” (Sterling, 2016) Miserable in high school, he used to change into baggy amorphous clothes once he got to school so he could feel more comfortable. However, not totally comfortable in his own skin and at war with the sex he was assigned at birth, as soon as he legally could, realizing he was transgender,  he started taking hormones. He attended college where he was more accepted.  He told me that if he could not have transitioned, he would have killed himself. 

 
 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Who Are You Going To Trust? Not Ghost Busters!



It’s hard to trust the liberal media.  BuzzFeed is not honest-to-God news.  The President tweets on four hours of sleep.  We were told last Tuesday that President Trump will maintain workplace protections for gays and lesbians instituted during the Obama Administration yet supposedly leaks within the hallowed halls of the White House said they Trump was preparing an Executive Order to rescind LGBT rights.  His daughter Ivanka was trying to talk him out of this position. At least 40 anti-LGBT bills, using Religious Freedom Loopholes, have been introduced in sixteen states this year.
LGBT Youth Running Scared
According to Michael Radkowsky, PSY.D., Washington, D.C., “the new government administration has increased gay teen fear.”  The Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights advocacy group and political organization, concurs.  A new HRC survey of more than 50,000 young people revealed a troubling post-election spike in harassment and bullying. Since the 2016 election, 70% of respondents reported witnessing anti-LGBT actions.
Resources Parents & LGBT Youth Can Trust
In these scary times, parents and their LGBT youth as well as their straight siblings who overhear LGBT criticism in the media, can take comfort in the following dependable resources:
·      PFLAG. org. (Parents for Lesbians and Gays and now includes Transgender, Intersex, and Questioning). Organization has nationwide chapters:
·      It also has resources: https:pflagnyc.org/support/resources to learn about LGBT issues.
·      PFLAG also has publications on various topics of concern:
·      HRC has a topic-centered website: http://www/hrc.org/explore/topic/children-youth
·      Lambda Legal has a website whereby you can select any state to learn more about its legal protections for LGBT people and their families. http://www.lamdalegal.org/states-regions/in-your-state
·      GLSEN ( Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), an organization for students, parents, and teachers that tries to affect positive change in schools. See 2015 National Climate Survey that for first time includes insights on bisexual school experience, school policies that specifically affect transgender students, and anti-bullying student education:


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Finally, the Boy Scouts of America are Catching Up with the Girl Scouts!



“A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent and now, as of January 30, 2017, his troop includes transgenders.
This all came about because a mother sued because her transgender boy was excluded from a New Jersey Scouting unit.  Because of her staunch opposition, the issue of determining gender based on birth certificates in the BSA is a moot point in the new BSA policy. Before now, there was limited attention paid to transgenders in the Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts seem to invite controversy when in 2013, BSA Council approved a ½ (ass) measure that would allow openly gay scouts into the troops, but not allow gay Scout Masters.  This policy presented a problem for the Eagle Scouts, who once turned eighteen, wanted to be Scout Masters.  Finally, in 2015, the BSA ban on gay scout leaders was lifted.
The Boy Scouts will undoubtedly pay a price for admitting transgender troop members when conservative churches and corporations that are large donors, withdraw their financial support.  But the world and family has changed since its founding, and the BSA should reflect its commitment to the BSA’s Oath to ...”do my duty to God and my country and the obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” 
I’m glad that the organization realizes that you don’t have to be straight to be morally straight!
The Girl Scouts have always been more progressive than the BSA. It addressed this discrepancy as far back as 2012 when it admitted a transgender girl into a Denver troop despite the controversy it ensued from conservative groups who otherwise may have financially supported the Girl Scouts.
In so expanding their inclusion, the GSA was true to their Position statement: “we recognize the basic human rights of all people, including LGBT individuals.  All citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, have the rights to housing, employment, and be free from violence and inequality.”


 


Friday, January 20, 2017

Heeding Martha & The Vandellas’s Advice



“... Oh, it doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there.  “Dancing in the Streets,” a number one hit in 1964, wanted the world to be one big block party.
Two nights ago, 200 people took to the streets outside of now V-P Mike Pence’s rented house in Chevy Chase, Maryland to protest his anti-gay policies that have included voting against same-sex marriage and approval of “conversion therapy.” The latter is an attempt to convert gays to being straight, but has been outlawed in several states because not only is it ineffectual, but because it elicits guilt and depression in those who are trying to be converted in these religious camps.
Dancing to tunes of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Madonna, the Facebook event was organized by WERK for Peace and Disrupt J20.  (In case, you’re wondering what Disrupt J20 is, it’s a protest group that calls for a bold mobilization against today, the Inauguration Day, January 20). The dancers did not actually reach Pence’s house, but the crowd, dressed in rainbow colors and sequins, made their point: “Daddy Pence, come dance.  We are here, we are queer, we will dance.”  This was a tame, but loud demonstration.  They could have thrown molotov cocktails at Pence’s house.
Public Shaming Smart?
This is not the first time that Pence has been shamed.  During a November 2016 performance of “Hamilton” with his granddaughter in tow, Pence was booed by the audience at the theatre. After the show, with the cast on stage, Brandon Victor Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, read a note, “we wanted to stand up and spread a message of love and of unity. We are a diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us.  We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of us.”
Was it wrong for Pence to be called out in a public theatre?  Although Pence listened to the message and didn’t object, Trump, on the other hand, demanded an apology (which he never received) from the producers of the show for “bad behavior.” The theater was not the place to make a spectacle.
Pence was a gentleman and shrugged it off as he explained to his granddaughter “this is Democracy in action.”  But Trump will tweet for  the slightest “tit for tat” as he did with Meryl Streep. The lauded actress used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes on January 8th to indirectly criticize Trump as she drew attention to the diversity of background in the arts as“just a bunch of people from other places.”
Although Trump was elected without my help or vote, perhaps we should show more class than he does at times.  Was it necessary for the Republicans today to boo Hilary Clinton when she and Bill sat two rows behind Trump at the Inauguration?  Isn’t it enough that she showed up haven’t lost the electoral college, but winning the popular vote?  Her gesture showed humility and class. 
On many levels, you can see why the LGBT population is afraid of the new administration: their voting records, their control of the Senate and the House. But remember that Obama credited with the first LGBT initiatives evolved.  His Vice-President Biden during a “Meet the Press” interview in May 2012 prematurely said that Obama was for gay marriage, almost forcing Obama’s hand to accept it. At that time, Obama was supporting civil unions and was still “evolving.”  Obama was not the only President who evolved.
President Bill Clinton signed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1994 before he evolved.
Let’s give Trump a chance.  Not only Presidents evolve but parents who initially aren’t accepting of their LGBT children evolve, the military has evolved.  Let’s hope for the best as we all grow and evolve.