Friday Miscellany, Year-End 2011

Herewith a few things to think about before you disappear into 2012:

  • Sweeties. On Wednesday, the Virginian-Pilot ran what I thought was an adorable story about a Navy first. Apparently, when ships come in, someone gets the honor of disembarking for the first official welcome-home kiss with their beloved.

It's been three months since the dock landing ship left home for Central America, and all of the usual fanfare is waiting to greet its crew: crowds of cheering families, toddlers dressed in sailor suits, and the lucky, excited woman who's been chosen to take part in a time-honored Navy tradition - the first homecoming kiss.

The twist: this was the first time that the Chosen Kisser had a same-sex partner. The two young women involved, who are engaged, are just cute as buttons. The story made me smile. Channeling my great-aunts, when I watched the video, I wanted to pat their pretty heads and wish them a long, happy, healthy life together.

But apparently I'm an outlier. According to Romanesko, the Virginian-Pilot and the Seattle Times, which also ran a version of the story, reader response was not exactly in favor:

Virginian-Pilot managing editor Maria Carrillo tells Charles Apple that “we’ve had some folks accuse us of losing our moral compass and there’s been stronger language than that …Honestly, I expected more vitriol.”

Maybe I've just lived in Massachusetts too long. Give it a few more years, and nobody will notice you, ladies.

  • Courage. You can say that again. I haven't any such glib encouragement to offer Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan gay activist. For him, I can offer only admiration for his courage. Mugisha's friend and fellow Ugandan activist David Kato was murdered for being openly gay. Yesterday, he took his discussion with his countrymen more public, in a New York Times op-ed that includes this:

Many Africans believe that homosexuality is an import from the West, and ironically they invoke religious beliefs and colonial-era laws that are foreign to our continent to persecute us.

The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia. For years, the Christian right in America has exported its doctrine to Africa, and, along with it, homophobia.....

Being a gay activist is a sacrifice. You have to carefully choose which neighborhood to live in. You cannot go shopping on your own, let alone go clubbing or to parties. With each public appearance you risk being attacked, beaten or arrested by the police.

I remember the moment when my friend David Kato, Uganda’s best-known gay activist, sat with me in the small unmarked office of our organization, Sexual Minorities Uganda. “One of us will probably die because of this work,” he said. We agreed that the other would then have to continue. In January, because of this work, David was bludgeoned to death at his home, with a hammer. Many people urged me to seek asylum, but I have chosen to remain and fulfill my promise to David — and to myself. My life is in danger, but the lives of those whose names are not known in international circles are even more vulnerable.

The only way to end antigay attitudes and persecution is to oppose them with openness and education. Not everyone has the courage or stamina to do so at such a high risk. He will succeed, although he may not live to see his success. I am in awe.

  • Hurrah for the Girl Scouts! The Boy Scouts are infamously anti-gay—they went all the way to the Supreme Court to keep out gay scoutleaders because they conflating "gay" and "pedophile." (See under: Sandusky, Jerry.) The Girl Scouts, by contrast, have been truly open to all—most recently making it clear that they welcome any child who identifies as a girl, even if she was born male. They're getting some flak, as you might imagine, with a number of troops disbanding. Via Huffington Post, here's how national HQ put it: "Rachelle Trujillo, vice president for communications of the Colorado Girl Scouts: 'If a child is living as a girl, that's good enough for us. We don't require any proof of gender.'" It makes me proud to have been a Girl Scout, even if once upon a time, the other kids used to say that meant I was ... um ... oh, well.

  • Goodbye and thank you. In 1998, John Lawrence was arrested in his own Houston bedroom for having consensual sex with Tyron Garner. After the Houston prosecutor charged the two men with sodomy, they agreed to let Lambda Legal appeal their case up to the Supreme Court in a rematch that LGBT legal forces had been eagerly awaiting for years. I remember where I was sitting when I first heard that Lawrence would be appealed: I leapt out of my seat, thrilled, and hugged the Lambda attorney whom I barely knew, knowing that this time we would win—and that the repugnant Bowers v. Hardwick decision would be overturned. That's precisely what happened, in thrilling language, in 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas. It might not be quite the same as risking police beatings, rape, and murder every day, but letting your name and your sexual fling become internationally synonymous with sodomy laws—and going down in history for a private encounter—takes its own kind of courage. MetroWeekly's indefatigable Chris Geidner reports this morning that, last month, John Geddes Lawrence died yesterday at the age of 68. Thank you, Mr. Lawrence. Rest in peace.

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