Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From Erica: in the news lately

After my unexpected absence due to intense legal term papers to write, I'm back! With some recent news items, no less. Check them out:

The Episcopalian Church has elected a lesbian woman to be the new bishop for the archdiocese of Los Angeles, which is causing a massive schism in the broader Episcopalian community. You can imagine my two cents on the issue: homophobia is far from over in our country, and extends way beyond the issue of gay marriage. But another question that comes to mind when I consider the issue is this: why are people of faith so much easier to convince of the veracity of an interpretation of a religious text when it's interpreted in a hateful, bigoted, or restrictive manner?

In acronym-land, news organizations and scientists are starting to pick up on yet another letter in meaning of LGBTT2IQQA. While for most people the acronym is just LGB or LGBT, the long version (standing for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual"- and it's STILL underinclusive) has acknowledged for a long time that there are folks out there who simply aren't interested in sex, or sex with other people. Science is finally catching up as researchers acknowledge that asexuality is, in fact, a real state of being. Welcome to the 21st century, science, where sexuality isn't as easy as looking for biological imperative.

In Orlando, Florida, a trans teen was harassed by the manager of a McDonald's to which she was applying when she was forced to check male or female in an optional application question. The manager apparently thought it was acceptable to point out that the sex she checked and her gender presentation didn't match his idea of the binary, and used various slurs to refer to her before kicking her out. Thankfully, Zikerria has a spine of steel, and has sued for discrimination. The manager's been fired, and hopefully her lawsuit draws attention to the continued inequalities our society forces upon trans folk. Good luck, Zikerria- you'll need it.

We also highlight a whole can of worms when we celebrate the fact that Huston, Texas is the first major American city to elect an openly lesbian mayor. Not only is she a lesbian, but she's also conservative- which may seem like an oxymoron, but is exciting solely for the reason that it demonstrates to the broader populace (we hope!) that sexuality and politics are not synonymous. The newspaper that brings us this story also brings us a summary of the year's landmark events for "gay rights," as they call it, from Proposition 8 to this mayoral election. It's been quite a year, folks, and while we've brought a lot of visibility to queer rights, we've also lost a lot of ground.

Finally, Nevada state officials have approved a method for testing male prostitutes for STIs, which means that soon male prostitutes will be able to be work with a license. The current regulations permit prostitutes to do sex work if they are approved for licensure, and the license requires regular testing for STIs- that is, it requires regular cervical testing. The new law permits urethral testing for men, which sounds quite uncomfortable but is a step in the right direction for protecting males who wish to be sex workers. I have to admit, though, I'm curious why the language had to be so specific in the first place as to require cervical testing. Did the legislators of the state renowned for its Sin City honestly think that they didn't have trans or male prostitutes?

That's all for now, folks!


  1. "why are people of faith so much easier to convince of the veracity of an interpretation of a religious text when it's interpreted in a hateful, bigoted, or restrictive manner?"

    As someone who has somewhat conservative beliefs about sexuality, but not for hateful reasons, I'm cautious about assuming that people are more easily convinced of hateful interpretations of scripture. "Hateful" is just such a loaded word that I try to avoid attributing it to individuals. I think your question about why people are more easily convinced by restrictive interpretations, though, is very interesting.

    My personal thought is that people aren't very easily convinced of restrictive arguments that involve restricting their current behavior. However, when it involves learning that someone else's behavior is wrong, and that their current behavior is right, well, that's quite convincing. And I'm including many movements I admire in this statement.

    for instance, people who disapprove of gay marriage are convinced homosexuality is a sin, but that their efforts to limit someone else's access to marriage is not a sin. Meanwhile, those who promote gay marriage are quick to dismiss resistance of gay marriage as "hateful," even though the very individuals who support gay marriage often bristle if someone suggests gay marriage is similar to polygamy or incest. They think gay marriage should be allowed, since it's accepted in their culture, but they usually don't want to allow other forms of marriage not found in their culture. And they don't think it's hateful to prevent cousins from marrying or to prevent two individuals from marrying the same person.

    Personally, I think we feel better about ourselves if we can believe that we're in the right and others are in the wrong. It helps us feel validated, and it shows us that we have accomplished something, even if the only thing we've accomplished is not doing something sinful/hateful.

  2. Remember, though, that there's validity to the argument that hateful consequences can come from actions that aren't intended to be hateful. Racist attitudes are considered racist because their effects are hateful, even though most of us are completely oblivious when we're doing or saying something racist and are embarrassed to find we're capable of racism.

    Also, to be honest, I don't have a problem with polyamoury. I think everyone should be able to marry the partner(s) of their choosing, so long as all involved are informed of the situation and are consenting (and, of course, capable of consenting). Biologically speaking, marrying cousins isn't a problem unless the same cousins intermarry repeatedly over the course of several generations (i.e. European, especially British, royalty). It wasn't considered problematic in the US until well into the 20th century, even.