Friday, December 29, 2017

All Straight Parents Should Be So Understanding

I recently saw the excellent stays-with-you movie “Call Me By Your Name.”  In this film, Elio, a seventeen year-old Italian Jew, falls hard for his father’s research assistant, twenty-four year-old confident doctoral student, Oliver, from the United States.
Elio lives with his family during the languid summer at a villa in Crema ( Northern Italy). His father is an Antiquities Professor, his mother is a translator, and he is a Musician and a scholar himself.
Although Elio has had sex with an adoring French girl in Crema, it is Oliver he is obsessed with.  Oliver and Elio have only six weeks together, and during most of that time, they dance around their attraction to one another until they finally consummate the relationship, but they tell no one about their romance that incorporates identity, love, friendship, and good chemistry.  They are discovering themselves.  It is 1983, before Gay Pride, AIDS.
At his parents’ suggestion, Elio and Oliver spend three giddy days in Rome before Oliver returns to the states and Elio to his home where he first met Oliver.
Heartbroken after leaving Oliver, his first love, Elio, listless, plops down on the couch at home. His father was well aware of the relationship between Elio and Oliver as Oliver relays in a phone call to the family at Chanukkah.  “Your father started treating me like a son-in-law.”  The mother knew better as well.
“Don’t Cauterize the Pain!”
In a magnificent soliloquy, Professor Perlman, Elio’s father, acknowledges Elio’s pain.  He doesn’t ask Elio to confirm that he had a relationship with Oliver, but  he does let Elio know that what he had with Oliver was rare and special.  Perlman encourages Elio not to shut himself after this experience.
Talking about his own love lost, Perlman tells him:  “I may have come close, but I never had what you had.  Something always held me back or stood in the way.  How you live your life is your business.
But remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once.  Most of us can’t help but live as though we’ve got two lives to live. One is the mock-up, the other the finished version and then there are all those versions in between.
But there’s only one and before you know it, your heart is worn out and as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it.  Right now, there’s sorrow.  I don’t envy the pain.  But I envy you the pain. “ Or in Tennyson’s words, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
You know from Elio’s father’s words, that his son’s life is his business and as a parent, will always be there to listen to him and support him.
What Perlman has done is what every LGBTQ child wishes their parents would do: validate their emotions, not question their sexual orientation, and draw parallels of their own life experiences so the child can relate to another’s past.
 Oliver, in a later phone call to tell the Perlman family he is getting married to a girl in the Spring, confides in Elio that he’s lucky to have such an understanding father and that his own father would have him “carted away to an institution” if he found out about his gay romance.
Although Elio is not coming out to his father, Perlman’s approach is wise.  Says co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016), Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D. “the best way you can help your child not to feel rejected is by remaining involved in the details of his or her life and by not avoiding topics that may make you feel uncomfortable.  Avoidance of certain areas send a tacit message that you may not be accepting of these things.”


Thursday, December 14, 2017

What’s Cooking in those Red Kettles?

Do well-meaning people know that by heeding the call of the uniformed bell ringers and dropping money into those red kettles, that they may be supporting homophobia and transphobia?  

Although the Salvation Army is the largest provider of drug and alcohol recovery services in the United States, and is no “fly-by-night” organization (it was founded in 1865 by a Methodist minister in London), it has come under attack from NYC’s Commission on Human Rights which filed a complaint at one of its substance abuse treatment centers because it discriminated against transgenders during its intake policies.

The complaints from last July charge the centers “with gender identity discrimination for refusing to accept transgender patients and for discriminatory housing policies, including assigning rooms based on a patient’s gender assigned at birth rather than their gender identity, subjecting to physical examinations, and forcing transgender patients into separate rooms.”  

The Salvation Army was blamed for the death of transgender Ms. Gale in Austin, Texas in 2008.  The Salvation Army’s national spokesman Lt. Col. Ron Busroe denies that the transgender woman was turned away from one of their shelters and subsequently died from exposure.  According to Busroe, The Salvation Army in Austin makes specific accommodations including separate bathrooms, for the transgender community.

While the Salvation Army doesn’t turn away homosexuals as its mission is to “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination,” one journalist two decades ago was ordered to break up with his boyfriend if they, homeless, wanted to receive services at that time.

Later, the journalist received an apology. 
The Salvation Army doesn’t lobby at the federal level, and claims it, “with no litmus test,” provides equal benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex spouses of employees.

Although more recently, the Salvation Army’s website, it thinks, has made progress towards inclusion by removing links to conversion therapy sites or more commonly known as “ex-gay or “pray-the-gay away” centers. 

However, it still bans gay people from serving as members and it wouldn’t support Australia’s Safe Schools Anti-Bullying program.

While The Salvation Army attests that it stands against homophobia and wants to be an inclusive church community, where members of the LGBT community find welcome and the encouragement to develop their relationship with God, it follows the Supreme Court’s ruling on “ministerial exception” which affirms the right of churches to hire individuals for religious positions whose values are consistent with church doctrine.” 

The Salvation Army is an evangelical church and one of the church’s beliefs is that marriage should be limited to opposite-sex couples. How progressive is that belief?

Don't be swayed by those cute Santa caps and bells!

Don’t be swayed by those cute Santa caps and bells!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Who Owns The Cake?

Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments about whether a Colorado baker has the right to refuse making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who were married in Massachusetts, complained for being turned down by the baker. It has resulted in a case, The Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that has dragged on for years.  This case resulted in a win for the plaintiffs. The American Civil Liberties Union represented Craig and Mullins during the appeals.
 Rather than comply with a state law, Jack Phillips, the baker in question,  closed his shop near Denver rather than comply with a state law that bars businesses open to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

First Amendment vs. State Rights  

However, Mr. Philips believes that his First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of his religion have been violated.  According to the 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, most Americans endorse same-sex marriage. However, Mr. Phillips disapproves and refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.  He will sell, however, pre-made nuptial products.  He just won’t make a custom cake that he considers his crowning achievement. Through Phillips’s eyes, this is also a matter of artistic expression and freedom of speech. He shouldn’t have to express ideas that he’s opposed to.

Is Phillips’s artistic expression protected by the First Amendment?  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect gays and lesbians who were given the national right to marry just a few years ago.  As it stands now, only twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws like Colorado’s that protect all customers from discrimination based on race, religion, gender or since 2007, sexual orientation.

 The State’s decision was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals on appeal.  The Supreme Court of Colorado declined to hear an appeal.  The National Executive Director of PFLAG, Jaime Grant, Ph.D, will add opening testimony to the rights of the gay couple at the Supreme Court tomorrow.

It’s not just about the cake.  As The Wall Street Journal points out in Review & Outlook “Let Them Not Bake Cake,”  “a ruling for Colorado could encourage other government burdens on First Amendment religious rights, especially in this era of right-left cultural polarization.  Could the state compel Catholic doctors to perform abortions or require Catholic adoption services to place children with same-sex couples?”

On the other hand, the state of Colorado says that the issue is discriminating against gay people, not merely opposition to their right to marry.