WBEZ | gay http://www.wbez.org/tags/gay Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en HIV diagnosis leads two friends down different paths http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/hiv-diagnosis-leads-two-friends-down-different-paths-110823 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps-140919-Mark-Rick-bh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&ldquo;Drug addiction is really exhausting,&rdquo; Mark S. King says in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps, recorded at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago&rsquo;s Loop, in conjunction with the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association&rsquo;s annual convention. &ldquo;I was here in this very hotel maybe eight years ago, and was in a room upstairs for five days and never left my room.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Why&rsquo;s that?&rdquo; his friend Rick Guasco asks him.</p><p>&ldquo;Because I had a crystal meth pipe in my mouth and was smoking and injecting crystal meth for five days.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s kind of surprising to hear you say that,&rdquo; Guasco says. &ldquo;So how did you fall into it?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;What happened to me&hellip;It was about 1996 and we had just gone through 15 years of pure hell in the gay community, with AIDS. And I had certainly seen that. I had lived through the &lsquo;80s as an HIV-positive person in West Hollywood. And in 1996, at long last, we had these medications that came out&hellip;and for the first time almost since the crisis began the dying seemed to almost stop in its tracks.</p><p>&ldquo;And It was kind of at that nexus of new medications beginning and gay men looking for a reason to celebrate. And it wasn&rsquo;t long until crystal meth started creeping into that equation, creeping into our community.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s where drug addiction takes you: It makes your world very, very small. You keep shutting out everything else and you&rsquo;re left in a small room, in a hotel room, with you and the drugs and nothing else.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Those of us who have lived with HIV for a longtime&hellip;We came out of it one or two ways: Either we came out of it with a strong sense of empathy and sadness and wanting to do our best to help and understand. Or you come out of it with a real sense of judgment and bitterness, as if this is a new phenomenon amongst young people.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I do feel a little sad and scared for younger gay men. I&rsquo;m not judgmental. I worry for them,&rdquo; Guasco says. &ldquo;I had developed Kaposi&rsquo;s Sarcoma&hellip;the spots. And there were more of them on my legs, and I started to get nervous, worried. And I fell into the sense of denial. The first spot came in May. I didn&rsquo;t get tested until December. And a week before Christmas that year, I found out that yes, indeed, I was HIV-positive.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We have two HIV warhorses here,&rdquo; King says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re learning as we go along. And that&rsquo;s what I try to keep in mind when we are speaking to other gay men, young or old, about how best to get a handle on this epidemic.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/hiv-diagnosis-leads-two-friends-down-different-paths-110823 Gay journalist battles Boy Scouts in court for 18 years http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/gay-journalist-battles-boy-scouts-court-18-years-110793 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps 140905 Noel Tim bh.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Growing up in Berkeley, California in the 1970s, Tim Curran loved camping. When his best friend joined the Boy Scouts, Curran signed up too. He rose up through the ranks, achieving scouting&rsquo;s highest honor, Eagle Scout, during high school.</p><p>Curran, who is gay, came out when he was a teenager. His troop was supportive of him. But after his senior year, he was featured in a newspaper story with his prom date, who was also male. And the newspaper found its way into the hands of some higher-ups within the Boy Scouts, who decided to take action against Curran.</p><p>These days Curran works as a journalist with CNN, but three decades ago, he found himself in a very different position, as the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America. Curran was in Chicago recently for a convention of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association, when he stopped by the StoryCorps booth with his partner, Noel Parks.</p><p>Curran was a freshman at UCLA, when he got a letter at his dorm. &ldquo;I opened it up and it was from the council executive, the head guy of the local scout council, the Mt. Diablo Council. And it said, &lsquo;Your application to attend the national jamboree is rejected. And we need to have a conversation about your future participation with scouting.&rsquo;</p><p>So I called the council executive from my dorm room and I said does this have something to do with the article in the [Oakland] Tribune? Does this have something to do with the fact that I&rsquo;m gay?&rdquo;</p><p>And he sort of hemmed and hawed and said &ldquo;Well, yes, and we can talk about it at Thanksgiving.&rdquo;</p><p>So that&rsquo;s what happened. My mother and my stepfather [and my troop leader] and I met with this council executive guy over Thanksgiving vacation and we had this lengthy conversation the gist of which was, &ldquo;Do you still espouse homosexuality?&rdquo; And I said: &ldquo;If by that are you asking whether I&rsquo;m still gay, the answer is yes.&rdquo;</p><p>And he said, &ldquo;Scouting does not believe that you have the moral qualifications to be a leader. And so we are revoking your registration in scouting, we&rsquo;re revoking your registration in your troop.&rdquo; And he said knowing that my troop knew that I was gay and was perfectly happy to have me. So that was the end of that.</p><p>I just remember shaking with anger at the injustice of it, but also sort of impotent to do anything about it. But also knowing that you&rsquo;re talking with this guy, it&rsquo;s a civilized conversation and you just have to keep cool and act like a scout would act.</p><p>And so in April of 1981, we filed suit against the Boy Scouts of America. We meaning myself and the ACLU of Southern California.<br />It was a trial with testimony, and both sides, my friends in scouting getting on the stand and me getting on the stand, and the council executive, all testifying.</p><p>And the judge at the trial ruled against us, so we appealed. And 18 years almost to the day after we filed that suit, I lost.</p><p>But I have to say that I think it&rsquo;s very much made me a better journalist.</p><p>Because unlike nearly all of the people I&rsquo;ve ever worked with in journalism, I know what it&rsquo;s like to be on the other side of the mic.<br />I volunteered for that. But it has very much informed the way that I treat others and the way that I concern myself with accuracy. Because I heard my story misreported a million times, and knew how the little details could be gotten wrong. And so I really struggled &ndash; much to the annoyance of my editors - to get those details, the nuances right, even though sometimes it takes more time to tell a story that way.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 15:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/gay-journalist-battles-boy-scouts-court-18-years-110793 Life in Northwest Indiana's steel closet http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/steel.PNG" style="height: 470px; width: 325px; float: left;" title="" />As Illinois gears up for its first legal same-sex marriages, across the border in Indiana gay marriage is still officially banned.</p><p>Hoosiers say attitudes there are starting to soften, but some workplaces are still more closeted than others.</p><p>A new book reveals a little-known community of LGBT steelworkers who punch in every day at Northwest Indiana&rsquo;s huge steel mills.</p><p>&ldquo;Steel Closets&rdquo; by the author <a href="http://www.annebalay.com/" target="_blank">Anne Balay</a>, documents life in the macho environment of the steel mills where LGBT workers face discrimination and are often afraid to report it to the union.</p><p>Balay, a former English professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and the University of Illinois at Chicago, spent five years interviewing some 40 current and former steelworkers for her book.</p><p>She and retired lesbian steelworker Jan Gentry joined WBEZ&rsquo;s Michael Puente at our Crown Point bureau.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 Morning Shift: Are private schools tipping the scales of educational equality? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-05/morning-shift-are-private-schools-tipping-scales <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Private School - Flickr - Chicago Architecture Today.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We discuss whether or not the private school system is impeding the progression of public schools by providing an alternative to fixing them. And we talk about the Chicago Fire and how their management, or lack thereof, may be sinking an already losing team.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-58/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-58.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-58" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Are private schools tipping the scales of educational equality?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 05 Sep 2013 08:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-05/morning-shift-are-private-schools-tipping-scales Gay advocacy group wants Chicago to suspend sister city program with Moscow http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-advocacy-group-wants-chicago-suspend-sister-city-program-moscow-108236 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Moscow Sister City_130731.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois wants Chicago to suspend its sister city program with the Russian capital of Moscow.</p><p>The <a href="http://chicagosistercities.com/sister-cities/moscow/">program</a> organizes local events, such as the Russia Day celebrations and the Russian-American Business Forum, to help strengthen cultural and commercial ties between the two cities.</p><p>Russia recently passed a law that bans people from holding gay pride rallies and informing minors about the LGBT community.</p><p>Equality Illinois also calls for Illinoisans to cancel business dealings with or travel plans to the eastern European country.</p><p>Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov says some local businesses have already stopped selling Russian products.</p><p>&ldquo;We live in a city that is very conscious of treating everyone with equal dignity and respect, and by us partnering with Moscow, a city that&rsquo;s... the opposite of where Chicago stands, I think we&rsquo;re going to send a strong message by saying that enough is enough.&rdquo; Cherkasov said.</p><p>Chicago Sister Cities International says they must continue the program so LGBT Russians might still feel welcome here. A statement from the organization also noted that it&rsquo;s important to keep the lines of communication open.</p><p><em>Lee Jian Chung is a WBEZ arts and culture intern. Follow him <a href="http://www.twitter.com/jclee89">@jclee89</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Jul 2013 17:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-advocacy-group-wants-chicago-suspend-sister-city-program-moscow-108236 Morning Shift: Revamping Lake Shore Drive http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-30/morning-shift-revamping-lake-shore-drive-108220 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/LSD-Flickr- guanacux.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The city is planning to revamp Lake Shore Drive to make it more accommodating to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. What will this mean for your commute? How would you change Lake Shore Drive?</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-31.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-31" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Revamping Lake Shore Drive" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Tue, 30 Jul 2013 08:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-30/morning-shift-revamping-lake-shore-drive-108220 Construction begins on Midwest’s first affordable housing for LGBTQ seniors http://www.wbez.org/news/construction-begins-midwest%E2%80%99s-first-affordable-housing-lgbtq-seniors-107501 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/photo (1)(1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Construction vehicles knocked down walls at a building in Lakeview Monday to prepare for what will soon become the region&rsquo;s first LGBTQ-friendly senior affordable housing development.</p><p>The $26 million dollar development will occupy a part of the old 23rd district Town Hall police station on Halsted and Addison streets, as well as the now-vacant space next to it. The building will be home to 79 studio and one-bedroom apartments, as well as a space for community programming run by <a href="http://www.centeronhalsted.org/" target="_blank">The Center on Halsted</a>.</p><p>The development has been in the works for a while. By Lakeview Ald. Tom Tunney&rsquo;s count, he&rsquo;s been working on the issue for at least 10 years. Tunney, one of the first openly gay Chicago aldermen, says the work won&rsquo;t stop once the center opens.</p><p>&ldquo;The selection process is going to be interesting because the demand is gonna be amazing,&rdquo; Tunney said. &ldquo;And getting it open and learning in general how to integrate the community center with the housing component, I think there&rsquo;s gonna be a few challenges there.&rdquo;</p><p>Some Chicagoans have already voiced interest in living in the building. Tom Genley said the senior center would be a safe zone, and thus he was eyeing one of the apartments.</p><p>&ldquo;Here, because I can be me, an out gay man. Here, because I do not have to hide my true self,&rdquo; Genley said. &ldquo;Here, because the closet is for clothes.&rdquo;</p><p>But alongside the celebration and hard-hat photo-ops was an air of disappointment over the Illinois House of Representatives&rsquo; decision not to call a vote on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. During her remarks about the housing project, Representative Sara Feigenholtz called the last weekend of the legislative session one where a lot of &ldquo;broken dreams happened.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We just didn&rsquo;t quite get it done yet,&rdquo; Feigenholtz said. &ldquo;But we&rsquo;re gonna go back and we&rsquo;re gonna get it done.&rdquo;</p><p>Democratic state Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago decided not to call a House floor vote on the bill that would&#39;ve made Illinois the 13th state to allow gay marriage. Harris said he didn&#39;t have the votes but also vowed to bring back the issue.</p><p>The Center on Halsted has been working with <a href="http://www.heartlandalliance.org/" target="_blank">The Heartland Alliance</a>, a local anti-poverty organization, state and city officials on the financing and construction for the affordable housing development.&nbsp; All 79 units will be subsidized, and will cost no more than 30 percent of a given resident&rsquo;s income. Construction on the building is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2014.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Jun 2013 16:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/construction-begins-midwest%E2%80%99s-first-affordable-housing-lgbtq-seniors-107501 Heterophobia is not real http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/heterophobia-not-real-106263 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/89011.jpg" style="width: 601px; height: 260px;" title="(AP)" /></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Quiz question! What does heterophobia have in common with Manti Teo&rsquo;s girlfriend, Keyser Soze, Brontosauruses and &ldquo;Having It All?&rdquo; </span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Answer: None of these things exist.</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">A debate about the existence of heterophobia -- spotted in the wild by scared hunters as it foraged for homosexual berries -- has been at the heart of a recent controversy on Tumblr.</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">In recent months, the heterophobia tag on Tumblr has turned into a space where heterosexual users can decry &ldquo;mean homosexuals&rdquo; who make them feel bad for being homophobic. Instead of looking at criticism as a moment of reflection and a learning opportunity, these folks would rather pull out the privilege card -- and the term &ldquo;<a href="http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/privilege-shaming">privilege shaming</a>&rdquo; has actually been coined. </span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Yes, folks. People are now shaming people for shaming them for being narrow-minded, bigoted bags of phalluses. This is what happens on the internet. To think, some people just look at porn.</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">To describe anti-anti-gay behavior, homophobes are using the term &ldquo;heterophobia&rdquo; to show those angry queers the error of their ways, and one post in particular has been circling the interwebs like a buzzard looking for rotting meat. It claims that &ldquo;heterophobia is just as bad as homophobia.&rdquo; I won&#39;t link to it here, because that&#39;s hits, so you should read this <a href="http://widowblacks.tumblr.com/post/45168796774/heterophobia-is-just-as-bad-as-homophobia-you">response</a> instead. Isn&#39;t that better?</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If you&rsquo;re upset about people just making up words now, a) don&rsquo;t go on Tumblr, ever and b) the term isn&rsquo;t new. According to Dr. Ray Noonan, the misnomer &ldquo;heterophobia&rdquo; was coined in the 80&rsquo;s and first graced the academic page in 1990 as a way to describe the feelings of distrust that queer people sometimes feel toward a society where they are marginalized and systemically abused. It&#39;s not bigotry in the way we think about homophobia. It&#39;s fear; it&#39;s angst; it&#39;s paranoia. It&#39;s that emotion you feel when a group of bros are walking down the street late at night, and you&#39;re unsure of whether you should be scared. It&#39;s learning to expect the worst from a society you think hates you.</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">However, this version is not the same thing. The term elsewhere gained parlance as a way to discredit the growing equality movement and call their campaign for equal rights &ldquo;reverse discrimination.&rdquo; For homophobes, it&rsquo;s not heterosexuals that are the problem, but the gay agenda who sees a problem where one does not exist. Queer people simply <em>hate </em>straight people. Hate is hate, y&#39;all -- except that it&#39;s not the same thing at all.</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Eminem used this argument on his 2000 album, </span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The Marshall Mathers LP</span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">. The record itself, like much of Slim Shady&rsquo;s early career, is stunningly homophobic -- for which Eminem was much criticized by queer listeners. (Remember the Elton John mea culpa performance? That was fun.) On &ldquo;Criminal,&rdquo; Eminem responded to his gay critics in the way only an immature, misogynistic wifebeater can -- by putting the onus on them. Em informed us, on this &ldquo;critically acclaimed&rdquo; track:</span></b></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge/That&#39;ll stab you in the head/Whether you&#39;re a fag or lez/Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest/Pants or dress - hate fags? The answer&#39;s &quot;yes&quot;/Homophobic? Nah, you&#39;re just heterophobic.&rdquo;</span></b></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Since then, Eminem has come a long way on bigotry, but at the time, the song helped &ldquo;bring back&rdquo; heterophobia as a word that people use and a nice &ldquo;Get Out of Bigotry Free&rdquo; Card. The term allows queer people to be dismissed for having an opinion, and the idea has hung around in popular culture, from preachers who use it to sanctify God&rsquo;s law to <a href="http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2011/06/cee-lo-green-tweets-homophobic-comments-following-negative-review/">Cee-Lo Green</a> blaming a female critic for not liking his show. Green responded to the negative review by saying: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m guessing ur gay? And my masculinity offended u? Well f--k u!&rdquo;</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This rationale is similar to the one that <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/amyodell/daniel-tosh-has-been-making-rape-jokes-for-years">Daniel Tosh</a> infamously displayed last year by verbally assaulting a female attendee at his show. In his act, Tosh claimed that all rape jokes were funny because &ldquo;rape is hilarious,&rdquo; and one woman called him out for it. Tosh then replied: &#39;Wouldn&#39;t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her?&rdquo; Rather than taking responsibility for his comedy and the message it sends to women, Tosh blamed the victims.</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;Heterophobia&rdquo; seeks to do the same thing as a rhetorical tool, but the problem is that it makes no sense. Even at a linguistic level, it means the opposite of what its heterosexual user thinks it means. &ldquo;Hetero&rdquo; means difference and &ldquo;phobia&rdquo; translates to fear, equaling &ldquo;fear of difference&rdquo; when you put them together. So, technically, heterosexuals are engaging in the exact kind of activity that they are attempting to shed light on. Call out fail, guys. You can do better.</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">On top of being etymologically nonsensical, inciting heterophobia (to quote my friend, </span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/gay-marriage-conservative-cause-argument-against-equality-106068">Yasmin Nair</a>)</span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> is the &ldquo;most outrageous, insensitive, doltish, demeaning argument ever.&rdquo; To use the term at any time in any context ever makes you Glenn Beck levels of ignorant, stupid and awful. It&rsquo;s a disservice to linguistics, all argumentation ever (sorry, Socrates) and any dignity you have as a human being. Anyone who ever, <em>ever </em>believes that heterophobia and homophobia are even remotely equivalent should neuter themselves with a rusty paper clip, lest future generations mutate more clustercusses of stupidity.</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Heterophobia, as straight people &quot;define it,&quot; is a queer person making you check your privilege. Heterophobia is walking into a space that you don&rsquo;t own and realizing that your rules might not apply here, and that you have to be mindful of your use of pronouns, chosen name and/or consent. Heterophobia is someone telling you that you need to be a better ally and pushing you to be more accountable and mindful in your relationships to others. Heterophobia isn&rsquo;t a phobia at all but a part of life, realizing that you don&rsquo;t know everything and that you have learning and growing to do. </span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If forcing straight people not to erase my bisexuality and be respectful of my gender and the identities of those around me makes me a heterophobe, then sign me up for heterophobia. I&rsquo;m the biggest heterophobe the world has ever seen. I will march down the street waving my flag of heterophobia. I won&rsquo;t stop until my heterophobia is recognized as being valid. I will not rest until we don&#39;t call it heterophobia anymore. We can just call it demanding respect. </span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I&rsquo;ll tell you what heterophobia isn&rsquo;t. Heterophobia is not equivalent to a systemic norm that bullies queer youth and tells them they aren&rsquo;t good enough to live. Heterophobia didn&rsquo;t push me down on the playground or throw my backpack in the garbage. Heterophobia didn&rsquo;t whisper behind my back or make me feel like no one would ever be friends with me, if they knew who I really was. Heterophobia didn&rsquo;t ignore me when I came out or ruin my relationship with my father or scream &ldquo;Hey, there&rsquo;s the f*g!&rdquo; in my high school hallway. Heterophobia didn&rsquo;t tell me I didn&rsquo;t belong in church. Heterophobia didn&rsquo;t tell me that God wanted me dead. </span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Because it doesn&rsquo;t exist. It&rsquo;s the tool of those want to believe that God is right but are too afraid to say it themselves. It&rsquo;s the tool of cowards who would rather feel vindicated in their hatred than recognize it for what it is. It&rsquo;s the tool of those who would rather keep the system the way it is, or refuse to recognize there&rsquo;s a system at all, than work to change it. Heterophobia says you are wrong and<em> irrational</em> for critiquing the system. Heterophobia says that good queers don&rsquo;t question their second class status, because their worth is conferred on them by agreeing with straight people. Heterophobia says that good queers stay quiet. Heterophobia says you shouldn&rsquo;t fight back.</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If there&rsquo;s any good that&rsquo;s come out of this, it&rsquo;s that Tumblr users banded together to drown out the Tumblr homophobes by <a href="http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/heterophobia">reclaiming th</a></span></b><a href="http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/heterophobia"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">e term </span></b></a><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">and taking it back from anyone who even remotely believes the term to be valid. A Tumblr user who goes by the catchy name of &ldquo;<a href="http://shutthefuckupstraightpeople.tumblr.com">Shut the F*ck Up Straight People</a>&rdquo; proposed that <a href="http://shutthefuckupstraightpeople.tumblr.com/post/45688137627/reclaim-the-heterophobia-tag">followers</a> &ldquo;write a post (or numerous posts) about heterophobia. Like, why it&rsquo;s not a thing or why it&rsquo;s amazing or why you are one or anything you like, really.&rdquo;</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">In response, Tumblr has seen hundreds of users flood the dashboard with posts turning the table on the term, showing how hollow and meaningless the idea is. Here&rsquo;s a list of my personal favorite submissions:</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">1. From <a href="http://punkcub.tumblr.com/">PunkCub</a>: &ldquo;</span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">You don&rsquo;t go homo or bi or trans to hell. The expression is &lsquo;going </span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">straight</span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> </span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">to hell.&rsquo; Wake up America.&rdquo;</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">2. From <a href="http://purplebeards.tumblr.com">PurpleBeards</a>: &ldquo;W</span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">ith all the oppression and heterophobia that&rsquo;s been occurring recently, I feel it would really help if I tell them to their face that I for one am very open-minded and have no problem at all with them being straight. In fact, I know quite a few straight people, and I&rsquo;ve never once had a problem with it. I&rsquo;ve been to some straight weddings too, I don&rsquo;t totally agree with it but I&rsquo;ll support their rights all the same. I&rsquo;m a gay ally.&rdquo;</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">3. From <a href="http://cookingpyro.tumblr.com">CookingPyro</a>: &ldquo;</span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Once someone pointed out a straight to me, but it was actually a pair of impeccably ironed slacks. One time, I tried starting a Straight-Straight Alliance club at my school to lure out the heteros, but all I got was a one piece swimsuit, a croissant, and a picture of Ben Stiller.&rdquo;</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">4. From <a href="http://howlsofexecution.tumblr.com">HowlsofExecution</a>: &ldquo;</span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">So, heterophobia isn&rsquo;t a thing. Like, does everyone remember that time that show got boycotted and people were outraged over because a heterosexual couple kissed?! No? You don&rsquo;t remember that? Oh, right. That&rsquo;s because it never happened.&quot;</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">5. From <a href="http://cleromancy.tumblr.com">Cleromanc</a>y: &ldquo;Making heterophobia jokes may not advance &lsquo;The Cause,&rsquo; but it sure as heck makes me feel better about the institutionalized oppression that I gotta deal with every day. So, how many heteros does it take to screw in a lightbulb?&rdquo;</span></b></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.6344994446262717" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Georgia; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">We can&rsquo;t erase homophobia or mend decades of systemic oppression in one Tumblr post, but it feels a lot better when we fight back together.</span></b></p><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago. You can follow Nico on Twitter @Nico_Lang or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>.</em></div></p> Mon, 25 Mar 2013 07:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/heterophobia-not-real-106263 The good, bigoted people http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/good-bigoted-people-105967 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/121227_westboro_baptist_church-_ap_328.jpg" style="width: 530px; height: 280px;" title="(AP Photo) Westboro Baptist Church" /></div></div><p>When you&rsquo;re a kid, you don&rsquo;t see difference. You&#39;re trained to see difference by a society that tells you that other people are not like you. You are told to hate that.</p><p>When I was small, both of my younger brothers were born with genetic illnesses they wouldn&rsquo;t survive. Because we couldn&rsquo;t afford a nurse to take care of them, or food most of the time, the state paid for an in-home nurse. Her name was Julia, and she was black. I was best friends with her daughter, Lauren.&nbsp; Lauren and I would play Cowboys and Indians together after school, and sometimes on school days when our mothers let us play hooky. Because of my brothers, I got to stay home a lot. My preschool teachers always understood.</p><p>I knew that Lauren had different skin than I did, but it didn&rsquo;t register until one day when I was watching <em>Sally Jesse Raphael </em>with her mother, who is an active television watcher like my mother. It was one of the reasons they were such good friends. Julia would lean into the television as if she wanted to touch the people inside it. The segment that day was on being black in America. During one of the discussions in the episode, Sally interviewed a young black woman about her experiences with race, and Julia said to her, &ldquo;I know how you feel, honey.&rdquo; She leaned in as if for comfort. I couldn&rsquo;t tell which direction that comfort needed to travel.</p><p>But I didn&rsquo;t understand what Julia was sad about. Julia wasn&rsquo;t &ldquo;black.&rdquo; Julia was like me, and I was like Lauren. Julia was us, and us couldn&rsquo;t be black&mdash;whatever that signified. I walked up to her and put my hand on her shoulder. I tried to console her, &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t worry. You&rsquo;re not black. You&rsquo;re just made of chocolate.&rdquo; Julia immediately exploded with laughter, so hard that she fell off the couch.</p><p>I wouldn&rsquo;t understand what it meant to be different until I went off to elementary school and saw that no one else looked like her, where the other kids asked me about my Asian last name. It wasn&rsquo;t until I made a drawing of my Native American ancestors as an assignment for Diversity Day, while everyone else created cute cartoon leprechauns and pieces of pizza, and they looked at me as if I drew an alien. It wasn&rsquo;t until I asked my stepsister if she would marry someone &ldquo;who didn&rsquo;t look like she did.&rdquo; She responded: &ldquo;You mean a black person? No, that&rsquo;s disgusting.&rdquo;</p><p>I was ten and my stepsister was eight. We were at my father&rsquo;s wedding to his second wife, her mother, and I told her we couldn&rsquo;t be friends anymore and refused to speak to her for the rest of the reception. When my father found out, he took me outside and scolded me. Trying to be a good husband and keep the party going, my father promised me punishment when I got home. In the meantime, he told me to stop being rude and enjoy myself. He kissed me on the forehead and told me he loved me. This was for my own good.</p><p>My parents taught me what gay people were. Before he divorced my mother, I remember watching a Richard Simmons video at home with my father and Julia. Julia loved Richard Simmons and so did I&mdash;for his loud costumes, wild hair and the way the screen lit up when he was on camera. Simmons didn&rsquo;t look like most other people I saw on TV, and his voice was unbearably shrill, but I liked that. It was how my prepubescent, pre-queer voice sounded. I thought he meant I could be myself. Instead, my father made us change the channel, because he didn&rsquo;t want to watch <em>that</em>. I asked him what &quot;that&quot; was. I wanted know why I wasn&rsquo;t allowed to sweat to the oldies. I felt like Lucy Ricardo, kept from the one thing I really wanted for reasons that weren&rsquo;t clear. Why couldn&rsquo;t I be in the show? He wouldn&#39;t say.</p><p>The next time I saw Richard Simmons on TV, I changed the channel myself.</p><p>A few years later, I was driving down the road with my mother after we went to get a soda at the store. I bought a Sprite because it had the most bubbles, and I liked the way they tickled my nose when they reached the surface. I put it between my legs so I could put my hands out the rolled-down window, trying to grab the summer air. We were listening to Elton John, as he pined in space for a home he could never return to. Elton John was my mother&rsquo;s favorite, and she loved him dearly. She sometimes would sway with him in the dark as she got used to a life without my father. Elton was her candle in the divorce. However, she told me that if she I found out I was &ldquo;like <em>that</em>,&rdquo; she would &ldquo;lock me in a closet and beat me.&rdquo; I got it now.</p><p>I accidentally squeezed the Sprite between my legs, and the bubbles burst everywhere. They didn&rsquo;t tickle this time. They were cold.</p><p>I brought this incident up to my mother almost a decade afterward, because it was a formative memory from my childhood. When I grew older and my queerness became apparent, my mother became an ally and, more importantly, someone I could talk to, and she doesn&rsquo;t remember a time when she was not supportive or wasn&rsquo;t by my side, fighting with me. But I remember things differently. I remember when I was nine and having a hard time relating to the other kids around me, not as athletic and coordinated as the other boys or socially adept enough to hang out with the girls. I felt like I would never be accepted or have someone to love me for who I was.</p><p>When I asked her if she would be my friend, my mother admitted that if she were my age, she wouldn&rsquo;t be. She didn&#39;t hang out with kids like me back when she was in school.</p><p>She probably thought she was being helpful by being honest. She was being a good mother, sparing me years of pain by encouraging me to just fit in and keep my difference to myself. I needed to be like other boys&mdash;or I would always be picked on for being too short and too much of a &quot;sissy.&quot; I would always be the kid whose backpack was thrown in the garbage can and the one nobody would sit next to on the bus. I was destined to be alone. Adolesence is much easier when you drift along with the current and stop fighting the waves. It&rsquo;s a lot like drowning.</p><p>You don&rsquo;t hate by accident. You have to be taught to hate&mdash;in little ways that are reinforced every day, ways you might not even recognize. In my case, hating yourself takes a lifetime. It involves the help of many people around you. It takes standing in church and watching everyone talk to a God they think hates you, listening to a bunch of people silently pray that you will pay for being different, because they think it&rsquo;s the right thing to do. They think they are doing what God wants. I remember the nice ladies in church who hugged me when I was in the closet and hugged me differently after I came out, when I kept going to the same Baptist congregation, daring them not to accept me. They hugged me harder because they didn&rsquo;t want to let go of something. They just weren&rsquo;t sure of what.</p><p>No one thinks of themselves as a bigot. They don&rsquo;t look in the mirror and say, &ldquo;I hate gay people. I am a homophobe.&rdquo; Those women didn&rsquo;t hate me. They loved me so much that they didn&rsquo;t want me to stay the way I was. They didn&rsquo;t want me to experience an eternity of damnation. They wanted to save me, just like my mother did. My mother didn&rsquo;t want me to come home crying or have to stay up late with me because I was too scared to go to school the next day. She didn&rsquo;t want the world to break my heart at such a young age, and it was too hard to ask everyone around me to change. So she asked me to change and broke my heart her own way. I was the one being punished again for not understanding what being different meant.</p><p>I thought about this some months ago when I read a tweet from &ldquo;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/morgonfreeman">Morgon Freeman</a>,&rdquo; a fake Twitter account that facetiously bills itself as &quot;messages from God&quot;&mdash;or Black Hollywood God. In the tweet, Freeman <a href="https://twitter.com/MorgonFreeman/status/236212081978929152">wrote</a>, &ldquo;I hate the word homophobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole.&rdquo; Were those nice ladies from church assholes? Was my mother being an asshole? Is my father still an asshole? My father and I haven&rsquo;t had a real conversation in years, not just because I&rsquo;m queer but because there&rsquo;s something about me he fundamentally can&rsquo;t relate to.</p><p>When I took Eric, my brother from my father&rsquo;s second marriage, to see <em>Life of Pi</em>, my father made a strangely big deal about it, but in a mock-genial manner. He told us it was a &ldquo;girl movie,&rdquo; and we should go see something else instead. How about the <em>Red Dawn</em> remake?</p><p>My father hadn&rsquo;t seen <em>Life of Pi</em>. He didn&rsquo;t even know what it was about. His problem wasn&rsquo;t with the movie. He couldn&rsquo;t articulate what his problem was, the problem he can never talk about, the one we&rsquo;ve never talked about. He was scared that I&rsquo;m growing up to be different than he is and that I&rsquo;m going to have a life he doesn&rsquo;t understand. He thinks he&rsquo;s going to get left behind. It&rsquo;s the same look I saw in his eyes when I was a kid and wanted to play with Barbies or asked to try on a dress. It&rsquo;s the same look I saw when I told him I was going to art school. It&rsquo;s the same look I saw when I eventually told him that the family I create wouldn&rsquo;t look like his.</p><p>He already lost two sons. He was afraid of losing another.</p><p>I thought about my father when I read Ta-Nehisi Coates&rsquo; piece on Thursday in the <em>New York Times</em>, which discussed the recent frisking of Forest Whitaker in a New York deli. This incident was yet another example of daily aggressions and microaggressions, not the capital-R racism that we&rsquo;re constantly told is a relic of the past but the smaller racisms that go ignored, the ones that thrive in the margins. It&#39;s about the racism that&#39;s so ingrained we don&#39;t notice, the racism of &quot;nice&quot; people. Coates writes,</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist&hellip;The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion&hellip;But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>We do this with homophobia. We believe homophobia to be the exclusive territory of diehards, the people who wave signs that &ldquo;God Hates Fags&rdquo; or broadcast their revulsion through a microphone outside Old Navy on State Street. We label them as &ldquo;crazy&rdquo; and quickly look away.</p><p>However, bigotry isn&rsquo;t so easily identifiable. It doesn&rsquo;t always wave signs or march on your funeral or spit in your face at a Pride parade. Bigotry might be your grandfather who turns away slightly when you hug your boyfriend or your grandmother who asks you&#39;re bringing your &ldquo;friend&rdquo; to Christmas. It might be your mother who gave life to you but doesn&rsquo;t know how to deal with this other thing inside you, who fights herself to love you better. It might live in your own heart, tucked away in one of the rooms you never go into, a room you might not know is there. It might shine in that ersatz smile you show to the trans* and queer youth of color that walk down your street, the ones you push past and learn to politely ignore when you get that late-night cocktail at Minibar. It might be the neighborhood you want to keep &quot;nice.&quot;</p><p>When I reflect on 2011&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nico-lang/when-in-boystown_b_1457969.html">Take Back Boystown</a> meetings and the people who told our youths they don&#39;t belong<em> here</em>, I don&rsquo;t think about bad people. I think about people who fear losing something. I think about my father. I think we&rsquo;re all not as different as we imagine.</p><p>A great filmmaker I know once interviewed Rev. Fred Phelps for a documentary. This is how I remember her story. She told me that when she turned the camera on, Phelps spewed the conservative religious dogma he is famous for, performing the intolerance we expect of him. However, after the film stopped rolling, Rev. Fred Phelps became a different person. He offered her a glass of water, because it was a hot day and he worried she wasn&rsquo;t properly hydrated. Phelps and his wife doted on her. They cooked for her. She met members of their family. She shook their hands. She sat on their couch and talked with them.</p><p>When she said goodbye and took her crew with her, they embraced her, hugging her differently than she expected. They hugged her like they didn&rsquo;t want to let go. She told me they were the nicest people she&rsquo;s ever met.</p><p><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 08 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/good-bigoted-people-105967 Breaking up with the church: A gay Methodist love story http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/breaking-church-gay-methodist-love-story-105179 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/michaelandfrankieoverman.jpg" title="Michael Overman, foreground; Frankie Overman; background" /></div></div></div><p>In life, they say that it&rsquo;s our choices that define us and make us who we are. In September, Michael Overman was faced with a big one. As a candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church, the openly gay Overman would not be permitted to be in a same-sex relationship, despite having been committed to his partner, Frankie, for the past three years. (They met shortly before he entered the ordination process.) Before that time, Overman had been out about his relationship in his church and welcomed with love and open arms. However, to become ordained, Michael Overman would have to go back into the closet&mdash;professionally at least.</p><p>Overman had known other ministers who had done the same and sacrificed part of themselves for the purpose of sharing&nbsp;God&rsquo;s love. They had chosen to follow the church&#39;s policy of celibacy. This was not his path.</p><p>During an ordination meeting in August, the committee gently informed Overman&nbsp;that&mdash;as far as the Methodist church was concerned&mdash;he would have to choose between being out about his relationship&nbsp;and his ordination,&nbsp;gaps in his personal and faith life that Overman was determined to bridge.</p><p>This year, Overman is working with the Marin Foundation, whose mission is to bring together the LGBT and evangelical communities, and during the ordination meeting, he shared his passion for helping make the church more inclusive. Like the <a href="http://www.themarinfoundation.org/">Marin Foundation</a>, Overman believes that &ldquo;love is an orientation.&rdquo; In a blog Overman wrote&nbsp;shortly after the hearing, he <a href="http://www.findingthebalance.net/2012/10/07/embracing-wholeness-answering-call/">stated</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;One committee member asked me why I&rsquo;d felt it important to mention my relationship in my paperwork, especially using such red-flag language as &lsquo;significant other.&rsquo;&hellip;He continued, &#39;There are people at the board level who will rip you apart if there&rsquo;s even a hint of you being, well, you know.&#39; Another person asked why I, with my passion for inclusion and with my knowledge and awareness of the state of our denomination not being inclusive, would stay here. Why not go elsewhere?...The committee certified me, and I felt no joy. It had been made clear what I would have to do and how I would have to portray myself in order to receive clerical credentials in the UMC.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>As an atheist and someone outside of the Methodist fold, I asked Michael Overman the same question his committee did: &ldquo;Why would you submit your candidacy to a church that views your relationship as &lsquo;immoral?&rsquo; What did you expect to happen?&rdquo;</p><p>In response, Overman stated that when he came to the Methodist church, all he wanted was somewhere to belong. He had been working in a job he hated, and after six long years without a core faith community, Overman felt no purpose in his life. The church gave him a reason to be&mdash;but even moreso, a reason to hope.</p><p>The 2012 General Conference last May showed promise of a change in the denomination&#39;s stance on homosexuality, and like many LGBT Methodists and their straight allies, Overman hoped that the stance on homosexual relationships would move from &ldquo;incompatible&rdquo; to &ldquo;agree to disagree.&rdquo; Two such proposals, which would have taken a small but crucial step forward, were both &ldquo;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/04/methodists-homosexual-act-incompatible_n_1476042.html" target="_blank">soundly defeated</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>Change did not come. And it wasn&rsquo;t coming for Michael Overman.</p><p>In October, Michael Overman withdrew from the&nbsp;UMC ordination process&nbsp;and left Holy Covenant United Methodist Church, the place he had called home for the past three years. Having written publicly about his decision to leave, several in the church expressed concern than Overman&rsquo;s &ldquo;openness and honesty might impact the ways in which local district committees engaged with and treated queer candidates.&rdquo; However, Overman said that most the feedback about his decision to leave was positive, and his congregation sent him off just as they had accepted him: with love and compassion. Overman knew this was the right thing to do&mdash;to bow out before he &ldquo;lost himself.&quot;</p><p>According to Overman, the process of ordination helped him &ldquo;discover one of the most vital parts of both [his] call to ministry and understanding of the Christian faith: authenticity.&rdquo; The only way to be real and honest in his mission was to seek it elsewhere.&nbsp;</p><p>Instead of making a difference within the Methodist church&mdash;as Overman once strived to do&mdash;he now hopes to make a difference outside of it by &ldquo;naming injustice.&rdquo; In October, Overman spoke to the <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-01/news/ct-met-gay-methodist-seminarian-20121101_1_gay-clergy-denomination-female-pastor">Chicago Tribune</a> about his struggle for inclusion and the church&rsquo;s embrace of the other. Since leaving the Methodist church, Overman has been sharing his story not just with the media but with other people of faith as a way of continuing to ask questions of organized religion and move the conversation forward.</p><p>During our interview, Overman stressed the necessity of religion to act as a force for good in the world&mdash;stating that, at its best, religion can show LGBT folks that &ldquo;we&rsquo;re not simply just creations gone wrong. We&rsquo;re whole people of worth and value.&rdquo;</p><p>According to Overman, queer people of faith have a part in that&mdash;which starts by speaking truth to power. Affecting change starts with being ourselves.</p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. Follow Nico on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang" target="_hplink">@Nico_Lang</a> or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang" target="_hplink">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 28 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/breaking-church-gay-methodist-love-story-105179