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Conor Lynch suggests that 2017 could be even worse than 2016. As he writes, "there is little reason to celebrate the year's end this weekend, or to be hopeful for 2017:"

And when "deplorable Don" arrives in Washington, he will have a Republican-controlled Congress full of partisan lackeys, unscrupulous sycophants and empty-suit pontificators to lick his boots and kiss his ring -- as long as they can slash taxes for their wealthy donors, privatize Social Security and Medicare and, of course, repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In no time at all people will be feeling nostalgic for 2016 -- longing for the days when Donald J. Trump was just a billionaire demagogue running for president, without any real power. Before he became the most powerful toddler in the world.

Trump, Lynch continues, "did more than any other individual in recent American history to normalize public racism, sexism and xenophobia, as well as political violence:"

His provocative campaign emboldened bigots and misogynists and rejuvenated white-supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups, while poisoning political discourse and accelerating the country's descent into a post-truth reality. If Trump had lost the election to Hillary Clinton, he would still have left the country hopelessly divided and more vulnerable than ever before to the forces of extremism and bigotry. But at least he would have left the country breathing.

Lynch writes that "this lunatic will have real and terrifying powers," leading to a "great potential for catastrophe:"

There is no telling what Trump will do once he is in the Oval Office, or how much of his campaign rhetoric was empty talk. But his erratic behavior since the election and the far-right cabinet he has assembled over the past month indicates that he will be every bit as reactionary, demagogic and impulsive as he was on the campaign trail.

He concludes with no small amount of resignation that "it is all but certain that 2017 will make 2016 look like the good old days, regardless of which beloved celebrities drop dead." Amanda Marcotte looks at political resolutions, noting that "2016 was a vile, no-good year that can go suck eggs:"

Unfortunately, there is every reason to believe that 2017 will be treating us no better. In fact it is quite likely, with President Donald Trump in the White House, to be a waking nightmare from which there is no escape.

She offers "three resolutions I'm undertaking to preserve my sanity:"

1. No more attention given to dudes who want to relitigate the Democratic primary.

2. A strict outrage diet for Donald Trump's culture war antics.

But it's become clear that Trump's provocations -- from the Mike Pence "Hamilton" fiasco to whatever asinine thing he's saying on Twitter this week -- are rooted in his reality-TV background and his understanding that glib provocation is a great way to sow chaos that both distracts from and helps dismantle our democracy. So my goal is, every time Trump is spouting distracting culture war nonsense, to start looking for whatever, usually more serious, story he's trying to distract the public from.

3. Having a life outside politics.

But with Trump ripping through our democracy like a tornado, it's doubly important to remember that there are things in this world that aren't terrible. So it's important to take the time to read a novel or go to a museum or listen to a record the whole way through.

Similarly, AlterNet's Les Leopold explains why resisting Trump is not enough:

While resistance is critically important, we will fail unless resistance is contained within a long term strategy to reverse runaway inequality and upend neoliberalism (defined as systematic tax breaks for the rich, cuts in social programs, anti-union legislation, financial deregulation and corporate-managed trade.) If we don't build an alternative movement, our defensive struggles could enhance Trump's popularity rather than to diminish it.

He then lists the risks of a "resistance only" response:

1. It makes our politics Trump-centric or even Trump-dependent.

"Of course, resistance is badly needed," he says, while also stressing "a pro-active positive agenda:"

The key items include a financial transaction tax on Wall Street, free higher education, single-payer health care, massive infrastructure spending, a halt to the off-shoring of jobs, criminal justice reform, taking money out of politics, and reducing global warming. That's our agenda, not Trump's.

The fact that few if any of these issues are being discussed today shows the weakness of a Trump-centric approach.

2. Trump resistance can slide into defending the status quo:

3. Resisting Trump by itself will not win back swing states

Key swing states may remain in Trump's column if all we do is resist. A marginal voter could view progressive resist actions as simply disruptive if we don't put forth a positive agenda that frames our resistance and expands the debate. [...] The future goes to whichever camp develops the most compelling vision for America. A negation of Trump is not a vision.

4. Resisting Trump on trade and the off-shoring of jobs is a big mistake.

5. Betting on Trump's failure is reckless:

"it is not a forgone conclusion," he writes, "that Trump's economic policies will fail:"

So waiting for Trump's collapse or just pushing for it, seems like an irresponsible political strategy. Instead, we actually have to do the hard work of building something new that is independent both of Trump and the neo-liberal establishment.

5. Resisting Trump could turn into an excuse to stay within our issue silos:

This could cause "extreme fragmentation among progressive organizations:"

There is no common agenda, no common strategy, no common structure. We have enormous experience in promoting our specific agenda silos and very little practice in working together around a hard hitting common program that transcends all of our silos.

"We need a tangible organizing effort that brings together our many issue groups," he writes, which "entails four tasks:"

• We need a common agenda and common analysis.
• We need a national educational campaign that explains the agenda and analysis all around the country, as the Populists did in the 1880s.
• We need a new national organization that we can all join as dues paying members.
• Finally, we need to expand our own perceptions of the possible.

The Advocate's list of 6 things we must do the survive Trump's America, penned by Mark Joseph Stern, calls the spectre of Trump's presidency "a disaster for LGBT people throughout the nation:"

There can be no doubt that the Trump administration, together with a Republican-dominated Congress, will roll back hard-fought victories and stall the push for ever greater equality. [...]

Trump will take office at a moment when LGBT people enjoy historically high tolerance and support from the American public. His presidency will not change that, at least not immediately. The supermajority of Americans will still support marriage equality; trans people will continue to gain greater visibility, and thus acceptance; and despite distractions about "religious liberty" and discrimination, most people will still believe that nobody should be fired because they're LGBT. "Don't ask, don't tell" will not be revived. The Supreme Court, even one stacked by Trump, will feel immense institutional pressure to respect the precedent of marriage equality. We will elect more openly LGBT people to statehouses across the country. [...]

If Hillary Clinton were assuming office after Obama, the path forward would be clear and manageable. It will now be tortuous and grueling.

He offers "six suggestions as to how the movement can protect and even expand its rights over the next four years:"

1. Remember: Trump may not be a virulent homophobe, but he is a threat.

In order to shore up evangelical votes, Trump has already declared that the Supreme Court's marriage-equality decision should be overturned, that states should be allowed to deny transgender people access to public bathrooms, and that President Obama's executive orders protecting LGBT people should be rescinded. As president, he will surely continue to throw LGBT people under the bus when Bannon -- who has stated his desire to "turn on the hate" -- thinks it's convenient.

2. Keep the focus on Pence.

Dangerous as Trump may be, his vice president is significantly more threatening to LGBT people's safety and well-being. [...] It is too early to surmise the extent to which Pence's unrepentant, unrelenting homophobia will influence the Trump administration.

3. Watch out for cabinet cronies and "religious liberty."

Obama's appointees have interpreted bans on "sex discrimination" in existing civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity; as a result, they have granted LGBT people new protections in housing, credit, education, and employment. Trump's appointees will quietly reverse these interpretations, stripping LGBTs of vital federal protections.

These reversals should be met with public protests.

LGBT advocates should also prepare for a drawn-out brawl over bills designed to legalize discrimination in the guise of "religious liberty." Pence's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" allowed "religious belief" to supercede nondiscrimination ordinances in certain circumstances; congressional Republicans appear poised to offer Trump an even more extreme variation on this genre. Their "First Amendment Defense Act" would broadly legalize any anti-LGBT discrimination ostensibly required by one's "religious belief or moral conviction."

4. Focus on state politics and the community.

"Instead of wasting energy on the federal level," he writes, "LGBT advocates should find room for improvement in the states:"

These [pro-LGBT] governors can work to expand LGBT protections -- and veto gerrymanders that would permanently entrench an anti-LGBT Republican majority in the statehouse.

Meanwhile, every supporter of LGBT rights should get involved with their communities to protect the most vulnerable among us. Young queer people will soon face a barrage of hate, which starts at the top and trickles down into the classroom and home.

5. Change the legal strategy.

Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who toppled the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as Mississippi's same-sex-adoption ban, thinks activists should shift their focus to blatantly hateful and extreme laws that explicitly license religious-based discrimination.

6. Don't lose hope, and don't back down.

The past eight years have marked a new era of openness in the United States. [...] Marriage equality marked a point of no return, and we are still just beginning to experience the benefits that will flow from that decision. We will not retreat; we will not become invisible; we will not stop demanding the full array of rights that are owed to us under the law.

In reference to National Geographic's Gender Revolution issue, The Federalist's Walt Heyer writes that "Transgenderism is today's popular social delusion." For once, it's not completely clueless pontificating from the right-wing site. Heyer writes that "like Avery Jackson, I was a cross-dressing boy at the age of nine:"

Eventually, I did become a female transgender. I was approved and underwent the full range of hormone therapy and surgeries and legally changed my identity. I lived life as a female, Laura Jensen, for eight years. All too late I realized transgenderism was all "B.S."--a surgical masquerade to superficially project a change of gender. Like others who elect to live the transgender life, I painfully discovered it was only a temporary fix to deeper pain.

A cover photo is visually exciting and can persuade young people that male and female gender models are not fixed, when they are. Photos like the one on the cover of National Geographic can encourage a child to question his or her gender and sex and act out accordingly.

Well, that didn't take long to go off the rails. "The activists' theory of gender fluidity, or gender spectrum," he writes, "suggests that God-designated genders of male and female indicated by biology is too limiting."

No, the scientific theories of biology indicate the spectrum.

Heyer also argues that "changing gender is encouraged, nurtured, and celebrated seemingly everywhere."

Really?!

When he claims that "Young people are told transgender feelings are permanent, immutable, physically deep-seated in the brain, and can never change," I can only respond [citation needed]. Heyer continues by accusing NatGeo editor of "recklessly using the magazine and this child to promote gender questioning and the theory of gender as a spectrum:"

The magazine cover is designed to change minds and influence gender transition. [...] It completely abandons any pretense of covering male-female gender inequality. Like the special issue of the magazine, the "documentary" [a two-hour feature of trans kids and their parents] is an indoctrination for the activist transgender point of view. It endorses cross-gender affirmation and transition for children to the exclusion of any other less-invasive treatment.

This Is Child Abuse

Studies have shown that childhood gender dysphoria does not inevitably continue into adulthood. An overwhelming 77 to 94 percent of gender dysphoric children do not become adults with gender dysphoria. Given this, it's social, medical, and psychological malpractice to push young children to lop off or sew on body parts and take highly charged cross-sex hormones that can further destabilize their prepubescent bodies and minds, especially when they are highly likely to regret what grown adults pushed them into before they were able to sort through such life-altering decisions.

The study, "Ethical issues raised by the treatment of gender-variant prepubescent children," explains this more realistically:

Gender dysphoria in childhood does not inevitably continue into adulthood, and only 6 to 23 percent of boys and 12 to 27 percent of girls treated in gender clinics showed persistence of their gender dysphoria into adulthood. Further, most of the boys' gender dysphoria desisted, and in adulthood, they identified as gay rather than as transgender.

The study also describes treatment at a California clinic "where a child is supported in socially transitioning to a cross-gendered role without medical or surgical intervention:"

As in the other two clinics, only at the onset of puberty are medications administered to suppress development of unwanted secondary sex characteristics. This approach presumes that an adult transgender outcome is to be expected, that these children can be identified, and that children who transition but then desist can revert to their natal gender if necessary with no ill effects.

This cautious but compassionate approach is nowhere near the "child abuse" alleged by Heyer:

Given that how any gender identity develops is an unknown, is it not possible that opposing a wish to explore cross-gender expression is harmful to some children? Whether they persist or desist in their transgender behavior or identity, children may internalize disapproving attitudes toward atypical gender behavior and expression (transphobia), with possible negative consequences for adult development.

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Returning to NatGeo, their Gender Revolution issue (above) features an editor's note from Susan Goldberg that discusses nine-year-old Avery, the subject of the left-hand cover photo:

She has lived as an openly transgender girl since age five, and she captured the complexity of the conversation around gender. Today, we're not only talking about gender roles for boys and girls--we're talking about our evolving understanding of people on the gender spectrum. [...]

We hope these stories about gender will spark thoughtful conversations about how far we have come on this topic--and how far we have left to go.

Yep, that sounds like indoctrination all right.

The issue also examines how science is helping us understand gender, describing a 14-year-old, identified only as "E," who, the author writes, "searched for the right label for her gender identity:"

"Transgender" didn't quite fit, she told me. For one thing she was still using her birth name and still preferred being referred to as "she." And while other trans kids often talk about how they've always known they were born in the "wrong" body, she said, "I just think I need to make alterations in the body I have, to make it feel like the body I need it to be." By which she meant a body that doesn't menstruate and has no breasts, with more defined facial contours and "a ginger beard." Does that make E a trans guy? A girl who is, as she put it, "insanely androgynous"? Or just someone who rejects the trappings of traditional gender roles altogether?

Superseding high school biology, the piece points out that "on occasion, XX and XY don't tell the whole story:"

Today we know that the various elements of what we consider "male" and "female" don't always line up neatly, with all the XXs--complete with ovaries, vagina, estrogen, female gender identity, and feminine behavior--on one side and all the XYs--testes, penis, testosterone, male gender identity, and masculine behavior--on the other. It's possible to be XX and mostly male in terms of anatomy, physiology, and psychology, just as it's possible to be XY and mostly female.

The actions of the SRY gene or conditions such as complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) may mean, for example that:

The baby looks female, with a clitoris and vagina, and in most cases will grow up feeling herself to be a girl.

Which is this baby, then? Is she the girl she believes herself to be? Or, because of her XY chromosomes--not to mention the testes in her abdomen--is she "really" male?

Those gray-area questions lead to the observation that "Gender is an amalgamation of several elements:"

...chromosomes (those X's and Y's), anatomy (internal sex organs and external genitals), hormones (relative levels of testosterone and estrogen), psychology (self-defined gender identity), and culture (socially defined gender behaviors). And sometimes people who are born with the chromosomes and genitals of one sex realize that they are transgender, meaning they have an internal gender identity that aligns with the opposite sex--or even, occasionally, with neither gender or with no gender at all.

20170103-identitysexexpression.jpg

The article also points out that "one finding in transgender research has been robust: a connection between gender nonconformity and autism spectrum disorder (ASD):"

According to John Strang, a pediatric neuropsychologist with the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Gender and Sexuality Development Program at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C., children and adolescents on the autism spectrum are seven times more likely than other young people to be gender nonconforming. And, conversely, children and adolescents at gender clinics are six to 15 times more likely than other young people to have ASD.

Far from the aggressive push toward "malpractice" that Heyer sees, the medical consensus is cautious one, that "biology can be put on hold for a while with puberty-blocking drugs that can buy time for gender-questioning children:"

If the child reaches age 16 and decides he or she is not transgender after all, the effects of puberty suppression are thought to be reversible: The child stops taking the blockers and matures in the birth sex. But for children who do want to transition at 16, having been on blockers might make it easier. They can start taking cross-sex hormones and go through puberty in the preferred gender--without having developed the secondary sex characteristics, such as breasts, body hair, or deep voices, that can be difficult to undo.

The Endocrine Society recommends blockers for adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Nonetheless, the blockers' long-term impact on psychological development, brain growth, and bone mineral density are unknown--leading to some lively disagreement about using them on physically healthy teens.

George Michael

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George Michael, writes Slate, was the gay icon we didn't know we needed, beginning with the "I Want Your Sex" controversy back in the Faith era:

At a time when the mainstream associated gay sex with the AIDS crisis, Michael was finally a pop icon who exalted its joys. Here was a gay celebrity who loved to fuck.

A decade later, a different notoriety was obtained when he "was arrested for a 'lewd act' in a public bathroom by an undercover cop:"

1998 was an early time to come out in our contemporary history, and when Michael did, he wore the cultural stigma as a badge of honor. Michael may not have had the freedom he craved in his own life, but he certainly cleared the way for others. [...] Michael showed no remorse for the act itself. Instead, he gave an almost insouciant response: "I don't feel ashamed and I don't believe I should," he told CNN.

Michael further embraced the incident later that year, when he released the single "Outside," a disco anthem that celebrates cruising and flagrant, illicit public displays of affection. The single works as a statement of Michael's own personal coming-out process: What was once veiled in subtext had been brought wide into the open. [...] It's a bold, radical, campy video that still feels remarkably defiant in today's political environment.

Also interesting is George Michael's interview in the October 2004 issue of GQ:

George went into therapy as soon as Anselmo was diagnosed [in 1991], and it was three years after his death [in 1993] before he felt able to consider another relationship. Then, in 1996, he met Kenny Goss the chisel-jawed Texan who shares his life to this day. [...]

"My biggest problem in life is fear of more loss. I fear Kenny's death far more than my own. I don't want to outlive him. I'd rather have a short life and not have to go through being torn apart again.

The piece also notes "another George Michael revelation... sexually, he swings both ways:"

"When I walk into a restaurant I check out the women before the men, because they're more glamorous. If I wasn't with Kenny, I would have sex with women, no question," he enthuses. "But I would never be able to have a relationship with a woman because I'd feel like a fake. I regard sexuality as being about who you pair off with, and I wouldn't pair off with a woman and stay with her. Emotionally, I'rn definitely a gay man."

"George had worked out he was bisexual," the piece observes, "during the making of Wham!'s second album" way back in 1984:

He told Andrew Ridgeley and close friends immediately, and was ready to tell the world. "I had very little fear about it, but basically my straight friends talked me out of it. I think they thought as I was bisexual, there was no need to. [...] But it's amazing how much more complicated it became because I didn't come out in the early days. I often wonder if my career would have taken a different path if I had."

"One of the complications," the piece continues, "was not being able to be completely honest with people:"

"I used to sleep with women quite a lot in the Wham! days but never felt it could develop into a relationship because I knew that, emotionally, I was a gay man. I didn't want to commit to them but I was attracted to them. Then I became ashamed that I might be using them. I decided I had to stop, which I did when I began to worry about AIDS, which was becoming prevalent in Britain. Although I had always had safe sex, I didn't want to sleep with a woman without telling her I was bisexual. I felt that would be irresponsible. Basically, I didn't want to have that uncomfortable conversation that might ruin the moment, so I stopped sleeping with them."

A 1999 Advocate interview asks, "Why, after a career-long battle to keep his personal life away from the press, is George Michael sitting down with The Advocate and doing what he swore he'd never do?"

"People are still telling me to be careful," he sighed. "But at the end of the day, all I can be is honest. I've reached a very good point of self-acceptance. I don't have any shame about my sexuality. I don't think people are going to desert me because they know more about me--"

Here are some bits from the Q&A:

How did your father react to your arrest?

He was great, actually. He called me the next day and said, "Tell them to fuck off. You are who you are." I was very impressed with that.

"What's really interesting," he said later, "is that it [revealing his bisexuality] didn't stop the women:"

It actually made the women more involved. It was a challenge. I wasn't really gay; they could change me. I got that a lot. I slept with quite a lot of women, especially at the end of my Wham! days, because I was still thinking, Maybe I could still be straight. It would make life easier. But suddenly it turned into a time where bisexuality seemed to be the most dangerous form of sexuality--and I suppose it still is--so I felt like the bad guy. I couldn't have it both ways with AIDS around.

AIDS changed what bisexuality meant. It used to be a safer place to be.

And quite cool. You just had more options. But gay and straight people look at me with suspicion when I say, "I'm bisexual." They want me to be one way or another.

What's in a name?

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Christina Cauterucci ruminates on the label lesbian and young queer women. She discusses her peer group and mentions that "Some of our resistance to the term lesbian arose, no doubt, from internalized homophobic notions of lesbians as unfashionable, uncultured homebodies:"

We were convinced that our cool clothes and enlightened, radical paradigm made us something other than lesbians, a label chosen by progenitors who lived in a simpler time with stricter gender boundaries. But with a time-honored label comes history and meaning; by leaving lesbian behind, we were rejecting, in part, a strong identity and legacy that we might have claimed as our own. While all identities are a product of their respective historical moments, starting from scratch is a daunting prospect. And so we're left in a gray area of nomenclature, searching for threads of unity in our pluralism, wondering what, if any, role lesbian can play in a future that's looking queerer by the day.

Cultural connotations aside, the main reason my friend and I felt (and still feel) more comfortable with queer than lesbian was practical: The word lesbian, insofar as it means a woman who is primarily attracted to women, does not correctly describe our reality. My personal queer community comprises cisgender and transgender women; transgender men and transmasculine people; and people who identify as non-binary or genderqueer.

"Losing lesbian" she points out, "means losing a well-defined commonality around which to socialize and mobilize:"

Perhaps that commonality was never as common as it seemed; at any rate, it's clear that lesbian doesn't properly explain our collective identity any more. But as queer women and our comrades mourn the losses of lesbian bars and media outlets the nation over, it's worth wondering how we might expect a dance party or magazine to cater to us when our identities and politics appear to prevent us from sharing a name.

She observes that "Queer people have generations of experience reclaiming words and cultural traditions that weren't explicitly meant for us:"

The tea dance is a brilliant example of our capacity for reinvention and asserting belonging from within. If queers can transform a formal social gathering for biscuit-nibbling heterosexuals into a mainstay of the gay party circuit, imagine what we could do with lesbian.

Irin Carmon's "My Sluthood, Myself" gives us some details of her long dry spell, followed by a Craigslist Casual Encounters hookup that prompts her to declare that "sluthood is scary:"

Because we've been taught to fear it all our lives, and that training doesn't just go away because we understand the agenda behind it. And because there are real risks involved. Society likes to punish slutty women. And so do a lot of individual men, some of whom frequent Craigslist Casual Encounters.

I left my roommate a note telling her what I'd done and where I was going and to call me at 11 and if I didn't answer to call the police. (What they were going to do about the fact that her 30-something roommate had gone on a CE date and wasn't home after two hours I mercifully didn't wonder at the time.) And then I went down to the local bar and met him.

You've probably already guessed that I didn't get axe murdered. Instead, we spent a lovely hour chatting over a couple of glasses of wine, he used the phrase "male hegemony" critically in a sentence (entirely unprompted by me), and then he asked me if I wanted to go back to his place, which was nearby. And once again, to my shock and terror and excitement, I found that I did. Though not before asking him for his address, calling my roommate with it in front of him, and letting him know I had extensive self-defense training.

Reader, I fucked him. Three rounds worth that night. And it was awesome.

After talking a bit about privilege, she says, "I'm telling you this because it's important for everyone to understand:"

Sluthood isn't a disease, or a wrong path, or a trend that's ruining our youth. It isn't just for detached, unemotional women who "fuck like men," (as if that actually meant something), consequences be damned. It isn't ever inevitable that sluthood should inspire violence or shame. Sluthood isn't just a choice we should let women make because women should be free to make even "bad" choices. It's a choice we should all have access to because it has the potential to be liberating. Healing. Soul-fulfilling. I'm telling you this because sluthood saved me, in a small but life-altering way, and I want it to be available to you if you ever think it could save you, too.

Interestingly, Kate Carraway opines that queer women can't be sluts:

There's a crucial difference between a straight slut and a queer slut, and it's the shame factor. But it's not shame in the way you might think.

She continues by observing that this is "because 'slut' doesn't exist as an idea without its association with shame:"

This is why there's no original analog for a "male slut," why we have to dredge up horrible jargon like "himbo" and "man-whore." These all provocative-on-purpose jokes cannot be taken as seriously as to call a woman a "slut."

"A slut without shame is not a slut at all," she continues, "and a queer slut is, mostly, freed from all of the still-in-effect stigmas and judgments of straight straight-up sluts:"

This is because the shame of "slut" is specifically about the fear and subsequent judgment of women making themselves available and in some ways vulnerable to men. But we're not so much worried about a so-called slut's emotional well-being as we are afraid of her being used up, spoiled, pregnant with a fatherless baby -- because all of that stuff is bad for women, individually and collectively.

But these fears don't -- can't, really -- translate to the lesbian community.

I'm not sure that I completely agree with her take on the semantics of sluthood, but it's worth considering.

Reuters' Daniel Trotta discusses the early transitioning of trans kids:

Increasingly across the United States, doctors and parents of transgender children are embracing their identity as soon it starts becoming obvious, sometimes around age 3. Many say they are finding much greater chances of happiness and well-being when children are nurtured in their new gender identity at such a young age.

Although there is not a consensus on the issue, some clinicians who work with transgender children have concluded that when children persistently identify as the nonconforming gender, the best course is to socially transition, or live as the other gender, even at age 3.

Other specialists in the field advocate a more cautious approach because the long-term psychosexual results for young children can vary widely and unpredictably.

"Whatever the age," Trotta stresses, "parental support is crucial:"

Fifteen percent of transgender Americans say they ran away from home or were kicked out of the house, according to a survey released on Dec. 8 of nearly 28,000 transgender adults.

The same study, by advocacy group the National Center for Transgender Equality, found transgender adults were nine times more likely than the general population to attempt suicide.

But transgender people with supportive families were far less likely to attempt suicide, be homeless or experience serious psychological distress - by nearly 20-point margins compared with those who lacked family support, the survey said.

Johanna Olson-Kennedy, medical director LA's Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children's Hospital concurs:

Because prepubescent transgender children require no more physical change than a new hairstyle and clothes, the initial transition is completely reversible, Olson-Kennedy said.

Of some 1,000 patients she has dealt with, only one switched back to the natal gender, and without any harm, she said.

bromosexual buddies

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The Conversation discusses bromosexual friendships:

For a long time, friendships between gay men and straight men - what some now call "bromosexual" friendships - were uncommon. Homophobia was likely one reason; another was that straight men probably assumed didn't they have much in common with gay men.

But lately, "bromosexual" friendships have started to receive more attention, acceptance and interest.

The article asks, "which straight men are the most likely to befriend gay men, and vice versa? And what determines whether these friendships prosper?"

For one, the timing of when these friendships form may be crucial. We know that gay men are now coming out at an earlier age. Gay men who disclose their sexual orientation to their straight male friends earlier in life may be able to build more open and honest friendships with them into adulthood.

Second, recent research has argued that gender and sexual orientation might not be as black and white as previously thought, which opens up new avenues for exploring how gay and straight men can relate to one another. If a straight guy and his gay male friend are less rigid about their masculinity and sexuality, they'll probably be more likely to discuss details about their sexual and romantic lives openly with one another.

These discussions are particularly important because they normalize same-gender attraction. Friendships also strengthen when each side discloses personal information, which can include discussing sexual experiences.

The NYT piece mentioned in the article, "The Rise of the 'Bromosexual' Friendship," has a wealth of anecdotal tales--and quotes Michael LaSala (author of Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child) on the difference between gay and straight worlds:

He relates this to friendships between those of a different race. "Some of us who are white are rightfully accused of being 'colorblind,'" Mr. LaSala said. "There's an equivalent for straight men who can be 'culture blind.'"

Anabelle Bernard Fournier writes that even straight people should explore their sexuality:

Research into the development of heterosexual identity in young adults shows that the most secure and happiest heterosexual individuals actually came to adopt this identity through exploration and experimentation.

One particular study by Sally L. Archer and Jeremy A. Gray, published in the journal Identity in January 2009, showed that heterosexual people with the highest sexual satisfaction and happiness were those who had consciously explored their sexuality.

"We can come to a few conclusions about having a healthy sexuality," she writes, "based on this study:"

The first: sexual exploration is healthy. The participants who had explored different options for their sexual identity scored the highest on sexual health measures. It means that taking an active part in choosing your own sexual identity is a good way to ensure that you'll have a happy sexual life.

Another conclusion coming from the study is that there is no difference in gender when it comes to identity achievement and foreclosure [and] sexual exploration is as common in men as in women.

This is good news. It means that for men, exploring sexual identities is more acceptable than it used to be. There is much less stigma attached to men trying on and exploring sexual identities; the heterosexual identity is not as widely assumed as it used to be.

The third and last thing I want to note from this study is that sexual exploration leads to better sexual decisions.

I've used a food analogy before: If we never stepped out of our comfort zones to try something new, we'd still be drinking breast milk (and/or formula) for sustenance. How many favorites things would we be slighting by doing so--and why should [adult, consensual] sexuality be any different?

Before taking a look at the study and its conclusions, here is a brief vocabulary lesson on the four identity statuses:

Diffusion is represented by a lack of exploration and commitment. Foreclosure is represented by commitment without benefit of exploration of alternatives. Moratorium is signified by the presence of exploration with a desire for commitment in the near future. Identity achievement is characterized by an exploration of alternatives that results in a commitment that feels right to the individual.

The following point, in line with other observations about sexual fluidity, struck me as particularly relevant:

Men were significantly more likely to be committed without exploration (foreclosed) about sexuality [...] whereas many women appeared to be seriously weighing options.

Eliason's 1995 study of "self-identified heterosexual university students in the United States" noted that:

...the majority of narratives reflected a foreclosed or diffuse process of establishing the participants' sexual identities. In line with the default notion of heterosexuality, the most common theme of the narratives was the statement that the participant had never thought about his or her sexual identity.

trans voices

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Tyler Ford's piece on my life without gender [from August 2015; I'm a bit late to it] is quite an intriguing read. Ford relates that, "At 17, I was sitting in a psychology class when I found myself admiring a girl in the corner of the room:"

Instead of feeling relief upon discovering that I was what other people would call a lesbian, I felt guilt, as though I were an impostor. I knew I was not like the girl I admired from the back of the classroom. I was not like any girl I had ever known. I did not know any more than this.

Ford continues with the observation that, "Learning about the existence of transgender people for the first time, at college, allowed me to start imagining a future for myself:"

Researching trans issues became a round-the-clock hobby: instead of going to class, I endlessly watched videos of trans men at various stages in their transitions, read blogs about gender identity, researched the effects of hormones, and tried to piece together my identity and my future. After eight months of exploration, I decided I wanted to start hormone replacement therapy, and I started coming out to friends and family as a transgender man.

"I came out to myself as a non-binary person," Ford continues, "someone who does not identify with either binary gender (man or woman). [...] I have been out as an agender, or genderless, person for about a year now:"

To me, this simply means having the freedom to exist as a person without being confined by the limits of the western gender binary. I wear what I want to wear, and do what I want to do, because it is absurd to limit myself to certain activities, behaviours or expressions based on gender. People don't know what to make of me when they see me, because they feel my features contradict one another. They see no room for the curve of my hips to coexist with my facial hair; they desperately want me to be someone they can easily categorise. My existence causes people to question everything they have been taught about gender, which in turn inspires them to question what they know about themselves, and that scares them. Strangers are often desperate to figure out what genitalia I have, in the hope that my body holds the key to some great secret and unavoidable truth about myself and my gender. It doesn't. My words hold my truth. My body is simply the vehicle that gives me the opportunity to express myself.

As fetching as Ford's miniskirts are, trans bodybuilder (and former Marine, world champion powerlifter and father to three sons) Janae Marie Kroczaleski reminds us that there are other ways to be trans. Here are some interview excerpts:

When was the first time you told someone you felt different?

I never said a word about it to anyone until I was 23.

In the Marines, a few of my buddies sensed there was something different about me. Even though I found women attractive, dating relationships were always very difficult. I was always an alpha male and a leader -- someone who had to be top dog. But when it came to relationships I was very uncomfortable in the male role. It took a long time until I could put two and two together, and it was confusing and frustrating.

Today, you describe yourself as gender-fluid or nonbinary. How do you describe that?

It means I don't fit neatly into our male-female system. [...] So right now I don't really fit into any of the boxes society tries to put us in regarding gender or sexuality. I think it's going to take a unique partner to find me attractive -- whether that's a woman, a man or someone like me.

I've always been powerfully attracted to women and so far, I haven't felt a connection with a man like that; but if that were to happen I would be open to it. These days I am much less concerned about "what" someone is and am more interested in who they are.

If I think something is going to make me happy, I have no problem following the adventure.

The ever-wonderful Janet Mock declares that we will not be forced to be silent, writing that "we're going to have to fight. But we've always being fighting:"

"What we have to do is ensure that all those people who are othered, whether they're disabled folks, trans folks, undocumented folks, queer folks, women--that everyone bands together to stand up in power, saying we will not be forced to be silent," Mock explained. "We will not have our rights taken away. We will develop deep coalitions that are intersectional, that are deliberate, that are clear about the kind of world and kind of country we want to live in."

resistance agenda

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Robert Reich proposes a 100-Day resistance agenda against Trump--everything from getting Democrats to oppose Trump's agenda, marching and demonstrating, boycotting all Trump brands, writing letters to the editor, op-eds, and social media posts to investigative journalism ("We need investigative journalists to dig into the backgrounds of all of Trump's appointees, in the White House, the Cabinet, Ambassadors and judges"), launching lawsuits ("Throw sand in the gears"), and fomenting intellectual opposition ("Take Trump on where he's weakest--with serious ideas. I'll try to do my part. You do yours, too.").

TruthOut looks at the long con on Trump voters and predicts "a chance that Donald Trump will be impeached:"

If so, the Republicans will lead the effort, and it will probably take place within a year of his inauguration. At that point, the ultra-"conservative" Republican establishment will get what it could never accomplish at the polls -- President Mike Pence.

Pence supports the privatization of public education, favored "an Indiana law that would have guaranteed the right for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people," and signed "the most reactionary anti-abortion bill in the country." Salon's Nico Lang shows us that the backlash against LGBT rights has already begun, writing that "Over the next four years LGBT rights will face a sustained challenge from entities on the far right:"

Although Georgia's "religious liberty" bill passed both houses of the state's General Assembly, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it last April. The legislation, which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers based on "sincerely held religious beliefs," was a virtual clone of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in Indiana last year. That law, which was later amended, cost the state a reported $60 million in economic backlash.

Senate Bill 242 "could force educators to out queer and trans students to their parents," Senate Bill 92 "will void local ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination," and the so-called "Women's Privacy Act" would "force transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth:"

The Texas Association of Business has warned that passing such laws could have a detrimental impact on states. The group estimated that the three proposed bills could cost Texas as much as .5 percent of its GDP every year they're enacted. That doesn't sound like much until you do the math. The Texas economy brought in $1.4 trillion in 2013 (the most recent reliable economic measure); at the estimated rate that's a loss of $7 billion a year.

Radical Faeries

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Matt Baume's look back at four decades of Radical Faeries asks, "What the heck is a Radical Faerie?"

That's a hard question to answer -- intentionally. For some people, it's a movement. For others, it's a way of life. And for some, it's a fun pastime.

But whatever it is, its roots were deeply serious. Even before the group's inception, the Radical Faeries were devoted to challenging the status quo, and to queer liberation. Though decentralized

and lacking much structure at all, they are all universally dedicated to freedom: politically, artistically and sexually.

"Those lifestyles were adopted by free thinkers like Harry Hay," he continues, "previously an organizer with the Communist Party and Mattachine Society:"

Because the Radical Faeries are now so popular and unmanaged, it's likely they'll always exist in some form or another. But that also means a dilution of their founding goals -- far from being a radical movement, now they are often regarded as simply an aesthetic. But for those who take Radical Faeriedom seriously, it remains a driving force that pushes queer people to recognize that they are always free to push boundaries and transgress.

Push onward, Radical Faeries--you are much more dangerous than clowns like Milo Y.

representation

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GLAAD's annual report on LGBT characters on TV, the "Where We Are on TV" study, "looks at the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and streaming services for the 2016-2017 TV season:"

  • Of the 895 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming in the coming year, 43 (4.8%) were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer. This is the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars GLAAD has ever found. There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters.

Racist and sexist under-representation are still evident:

  • While this year's report marks a record-high percentage of black series regulars on broadcast (20%), black women remain underrepresented at only 38% of all black series regular characters.
  • This year, 44% of regular characters on primetime broadcast programming are women, which is an increase of one percentage point from last year but still greatly underrepresents women who make up 51% of the population.

The Advocate proclaims that "TV has never been queerer," although LGBTQ Nation notes that "More than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters died on scripted broadcast, cable and streaming series this year:"

While TV remains far ahead of film in gay representations, the medium "failed queer women this year" by continuing the "harmful 'bury your gays' trope," the report said. [...] It's part of a decade-long pattern in which gay or transgender characters are killed to further a straight character's storyline, GLAAD said, sending what it called the "dangerous" message that gay people are disposable.

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's CEO, comments that:

"While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it's important to remember that numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community," said Ellis.

forgiveness?

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20161019-hate.jpg

"By now you've probably seen this disgusting bumper sticker [seen above; visit Snopes for details] depicting a figure outfitted in a Confederate flag kicking a figure in a rainbow flag," writes Robbie Medwed at NCRM:

In the recent days, though, there's been another drawing that's surfaced that's been shared widely on Facebook and other social media sites. It depicts the same figures, except the rainbow-clad person is embracing the Confederate figure with the title, "Forgiveness 2016."

20161019-forgiveness.jpg

My response to this new graphic? Very simply, it's "no."

Here I will quote Medwed at length:

I get that the intention is good. I get that people want to cross lines and build bridges and all of that happy touchy-feely emotionally-satisfying mumbo jumbo. It's also incredibly naive and abusive.

For decades LGBT people have been tasked with forgiving those who want to cause us real harm. We've had to fight (and we're still fighting) for the right to simply live in happiness and safety - and with every battle won we're supposed to forgive those who worked to harm us, without any repentance or apology on their part.

The people represented by the Confederate figure are abusers and oppressors. They have dedicated themselves to tearing apart our families, to imprisoning us for existing, to demonizing us for using the bathrooms, for inflicting violence upon us, and so much more. [...]

If someone who was anti-LGBT wants to apologize for all of the harm they've caused us - if they want to actively take ownership of the damage they've done and re-dedicate themselves to undoing it? I will gladly sit down with them and work towards forgiveness, without a doubt. But true repentance takes work. It doesn't happen over night, and it has to come with the understanding that much of the harm that's been caused can never be undone.

To expect LGBT people to blindly forgive those who cause us harm simply because it will make our oppressors feel better about themselves? Absolutely not.

school safety

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Despite progress on many fronts, LGBT students are still not safe at school [remember the trans kid forced to wear an armband?]. Non-binary trans student Salem Whit's experiences attending high school in Spring Grove PA involved being taunted with insults such as "What is that thing?"

"I skipped classes," they admitted. "I quit every extracurricular. I stopped participating in sports, gym, and drama--anything that separated us by gender. I even stopped talking for a while, because my gender dysphoria caused me to really hate the sound of my own voice." At 16, feeling lost and lonely, Salem attempted suicide.

"According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's new report, "Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited" (PDF), such experiences are all too common:

LGBT youth in middle and high school have lower grades, more attendance problems, and are less likely to complete high school than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. Many experience long-term emotional effects from the bullying, harassment, and anti-LGBT bias they face as students. Life may have gotten better for many in the LGBT community in the last decade, but for LGBT youth in middle and high school, there is much room for improvement.

While the 2015 report shows minor, gradual improvements have occurred for LGBT youth in schools over the last 10 years, heterosexual and cisgender students still experience less victimization and better grades and are more hopeful about their futures than their LGBT counterparts. This difference in school experience between LGBT and non-LGBT youth may have lifelong consequences for LGBT students. [emphasis added]

The curriculum issue ("only 20 percent of students reported learning about LGBT topics in any of their classes"), while appalling, pales by comparison.

unerased

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Dawne Moon explains how, at least for her, queerness erased bisexuality. She writes that "Bisexual as a term seemed to apolitical, too evasive, too namby-pamby, too binary; it sounded too much like a disavowal of gayness rather than an avowal of anything:"

For twenty-five years or so, I've identified as queer -- a queer person, a queer activist, a queer-theoretically informed sociologist.

During this time, I sat uncomfortably among those queers who for some reason seemed realer to me -- mostly gay men and lesbians, for whom queerness reflected their edginess and intellectual incisiveness. Looking back, as certain as I was that I was bisexual, I was afraid in some ways to be identified as bisexual.

She notes that "At a Christian conference [in Fall 2015], someone caused me to shift my whole paradigm:"

Eliel Cruz was leading a workshop on bisexuality at a conference of The Reformation Project. He spoke of bi-invisibility and bi-erasure, concepts developed by bisexuals in the 1990s, but that I had completely ignored, so busy was I making myself fit in. Reading up on it later, I learned from an article by legal scholar Kenji Yoshino that every sex survey that has ever been done has found at least as many bisexual men and women as gays and lesbians. Far from being a teensy and inconsequential minority, bisexuals actually make up half, or more, of the LGBT population. I actually WORKED on one of those studies as a graduate student, and I never knew this. Erasure and invisibility are apt terms.

Her comment that "queer politics is just beginning to open up to the vast ranges of human possibility" should give the entire community pause.


07:41/08:01
The infamous Milo "dangerous faggot" Yiannopoulos "has made a name for himself by becoming a professional internet troll:"

He would have you believe that the danger lies in his message, that he is somehow speaking truth on a topic other people wouldn't dare touch. However, if you look closely enough you see that he isn't actually saying anything worthwhile; he's admitted that himself. He's simply spouting the most inflammatory and controversial diatribes he can concoct. And as we all know, there's nothing dangerous in that for the speaker. It might even lead to a presidential nomination.

Milo is not a dangerous faggot; Milo is a lazy writer who lacks the capacity to receive or reflect human compassion.

Bringing the focus back to his slogan, the piece observes that "There is nothing dangerous about hiding behind self-created controversies for the sake of expanding your particular brand of hate:"

There are plenty of dangerous faggots in the world; I would hope I am considered to be one of them. To be a person who seeks the truth in a culture that has become fact-averse. To be a person who welcomes discourse and leans in to difficult conversations with the hope of learning and of bringing people together. To be a person who is unafraid to say "black lives matter" and "trans is beautiful" in a society that clearly does not always agree. To be a person so in love with their country they will stop at no lengths to help it fulfill its promise, when their country has not always loved them back in the same way. Being a dangerous faggot does not mean saying things that put others in danger; it means loving others enough to put yourself in danger for them.

When considering culture in this manner, the question of https://aeon.co/ideas/can-liberal-values-be-absolute-or-is-that-a-contradiction can liberal values be absolute? comes to the fore:

Is liberalism an idea fit only for the contemporary West, proper to this particular historical, social and geographical context? Or is liberalism right for everyone, for all peoples and ages and cultures? That is to say, should liberal values be seen as relative or absolute?

In fact, the answer is neither. It is possible to steer between localist relativism on the one hand and ahistorical absolutism on the other. [...] What separates the liberal West from the brutality of its past is several hundred years of change, premised on the rejection of tradition and a refusal to be swayed by the argument that 'this is how we do things'. Liberal values cannot be defended by looking backward and inward, since they arise from a perspective whose gaze is towards the future and the greater party of humankind.

Even those who defend diversity in values and practices often appeal to a relativism of their own. Liberals should be tolerant even of those who are illiberal and intolerant, because those are 'their' values, grounded in 'their' culture and history. This leads to a worrying moral permissiveness, both at home and abroad.

Marcuse's repressive tolerance is relevant here, as are other caveats:

If liberalism cannot be local and relativistic, it equally should not slide into an uncompromising absolutism and universalism. Insisting that the current manifestation of liberalism in the contemporary West is the timeless, universal, absolute guide to moral life is as fraught and historically blinkered as the appeal to 'our values'.

"Values are right and good only," the piece continues, "to the extent that they allow people to live acceptable lives together. This is the pragmatic middle way:"

In attempting to draw the pragmatist middle line between relativism and absolutism, Western liberal democracies will have a new message for their immigrant populations. Newcomers should accept liberal values, not simply because they happen to be the law of the land, nor because they are timeless ultimate truths, but because they have been found to work by those who have tried them, because the lives they allow are good lives for the livers, because they have permitted the cultures that abide by them to achieve unprecedented safety, health, dignity and wellbeing.

But liberals should also be open to the possibility that listening to these new voices will change the way they see things. Westerners might learn something valuable, just as their cultures did when they started to listen to those once excluded, such as Jews, women, blacks and the poor.

(Not to mention the LGBT community, etc...) It's all the more important that those once-marginalized voices include more than empty provocateurs such as Milo Y.

super-power bottom

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Charles Pulliam-Moore discusses the latest events in the Midnighter and Apollo series:

At some point between rinsing plates and hanging them up to dry, the couple take advantage of the fact that they're finally alone and get down to having sex right there in the kitchen. The moment's spontaneous and intimate and reflective of the fact that Midnighter and Apollo have been on-again, off-again soulmates in various comics for nearly 20 years.

Though this isn't the first time that Midnighter and Apollo have been depicted being sexually intimate with one another, this particular scene of the two raised a number of fans' eyebrows because of the not-so-subtle implication that Midnighter, a hyper-violent, über-butch Batman analogue, is a bottom.

The event in question, as delineated by Fernando Blanco, looks like this:

20161012-powerbottom.jpg

Pulliam-Moore continues:

Last night, during a panel about representations of race and sexuality in comics at New York Comic Con, Midnighter & Apollo writer Steve Orlando described how a fan of the new book came up to him and said that he'd scored one for the bottoms.

Once the clapping and cheering died down a bit, Orlando insisted that sex scenes like this are an integral part of creating honest stories about queer people in pop culture. Considering the fact that we've seen characters like the Green Arrow performing cunnilingus on Black Canary, Orlando said, seeing Midnighter and Apollo getting down shouldn't really shock people.

Not in the civilized world perhaps--but the Bible Belt might be a different story.

Even in more complex, nuanced depictions of gay culture, bottom-shaming--the mockery of men who prefer to be the receptive partner during intercourse--is still fairly common. Like all forms of homophobia, bottom-shaming is tied to the idea that gayness and gay sex are feminine things and that feminine things are less-than.

In showing Midnighter as a bottom (though he could very well be versatile), Midnighter & Apollo is inviting its readers to broaden their understandings of gay men, gender, and homosexuality. Butch guys can be bottoms, feminine guys can be tops, none of that defines their masculinity.

...and comics can be sexy without featuring scantily-clad women.

Iceman goes clubbing

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I saw this Brian Andersen piece on why queer comic-book characters matter last week, but I didn't have time to dig into it. Anderson is right that Iceman's gay revelation is "an important moment," especially considering the media attention involved. "Iceman is a very well-known character in pop culture," he writes, and "His queerness is more impactful because it's hard to hate someone (even a fictional character) you've welcomed into your life for years:"

In case anyone was worried Iceman revealing his homosexuality was just a gimmick to sell comic books, this past week, in All-New X-Men issue 13, Iceman visits his first gay club. Two of his straight mutant friends actually drag him to the club in effort to help him meet another guy.

An entire issue spent on a gay character trying to meet, flirt with, and date another man in a major mainstream comic book? Progress never felt so wonderful.

This comic book is pretty special in just how nonspecial it actually is. It features just a regular, straightforward story. It wasn't touted as a "very special" issue. It wasn't polybagged to protect impressionable youth. It didn't have a parental warning label on it. Its cover was as typical as anything else on the comic book stands. We've come a long way since The Rawhide Kid, baby.

Bravo!

Milo Y's "puff piece"

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ThinkProgress issued a condemnation of Out's Milo Y puff piece, writing that "the profile negligently perpetuates harm against the LGBT community:"

Here is a white supremacist whose entire career has been built on the attention he can get for himself through provocation. His attacks against women, people of color, Muslims, transgender people, and basically anybody who doesn't like him are as malicious as they come, and he catalyzes his many "alt-right" followers to turn on any target he deems worthy of abuse. This puff piece -- complete with a cutesy clown photoshoot -- makes light of Yiannopoulos's trolling while simultaneously providing him a pedestal to further extend his brand of hatred. Indeed, he does so in the profile itself, openly slurring the transgender community, which Out published without any apparent concern.

The Advocate talked to Out magazine editor Aaron Hicklin:

"If LGBTQ media takes its responsibilities seriously we can't shy away from covering queer people who are at the center of this highly polarized election year," he wrote, "and we ask you to assess Milos Yiannopoulos, the focus of this profile, on his own words without mistaking them for ours."

Hicklin has taken to social media to insist that Out's profile is actually an example of the best of journalism.

trans Americans

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Carrie MacDonald writes about a trans student who was forced to wear an identifying armband in school:

It's a scary time to be transgender in America. It seems as though there is a new law being considered every week to deny transgender people equal rights.

Now,a Kenosha, Wisconsin school district is being sued for allegedly forcing one of its transgender students to wear a bracelet identifying him as transgender.

The lawsuit [PDF] claims, in part, that the school is guilty of:

"...Instructing guidance counselors to issue bright green wristbands to A.W. and any other transgender students at the school, to more easily monitor and enforce these students' restroom usage..."

Given that "Transgender persons of all ages are subject to harassment and ridicule on a daily basis," as MacDonald writes, "We need to do everything we can to combat these discriminatory practices and defeat these heinous laws." It's worth pointing out (yet again) that being trans is not a mental illness. Matt Miller provides a quick history lesson:

It's a bit embarrassing to remember that it was less than half a century ago that being gay was listed as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. The organization declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973 [which] marked an acknowledgment by the psychiatric profession that many of the problems seen in gay patients--depression, anxiety, suicide attempts--were the result of societal judgment and hostility, rather than the sexual orientation itself. In essence, that it was finally OK to be gay--or at least, it was no longer listed as a mental disorder.

Today, being transgender is facing the possibility of a similar paradigm shift as the medical establishment seeks to better understand the condition.

Miller later notes the following:

Research out of Mexico this week underscores the APA's findings that a hostile environment is to blame for the pain that transgender people experience and may help move the needle. The researchers, who interviewed 250 transgender people about their experiences, concluded:

Distress and dysfunction were very common, but not universal, and were more strongly predicted by experiences of social rejection and violence than by gender incongruence, consistent with the perspective that these reflect the result of stigmatisation and maltreatment rather than integral aspects of transgender identity.

Forcing trans kids to wear armbands certainly qualifies as stigma and maltreatment...

opened up

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HuffPo reports that Kristen Stewart is now "publicly confirming the rampant rumors about her sexuality for the first time." Elle UK quotes KStew as saying, "right now I'm just really in love with my girlfriend:"

"When I was dating a guy I was hiding everything that I did... But then it changed when I started dating a girl. I was like, 'Actually, to hide this provides the implication that I'm not down with it or I'm ashamed of it, so I had to alter how I approached being in public. It opened my life up and I'm so much happier."

arguing marriage

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Paul Waldman at American Prospect discusses the super-sexy case against same-sex marriage, writing that "this amicus brief filed by Robert P. George and two colleagues...is so laughable that it shows how far his side has to reach." Waldman notes that "according to George's logic, if there isn't a penis going inside a vagina, they won't have a 'true marriage':"

So conservatives (at least some of them) have retreated to a point where they're arguing that marriage is only secondarily about things like commitment or responsibility or love. Most importantly, they say, it's about sex, and if there's no sex, or not the right kind of sex, then it isn't "true." Talk about redefining marriage.

On the hyperbole front, New Civil Rights Movement quotes RI state senator Harold Metts explaining that "a cosmic battle between God and Satan...is the reason he opposes same-sex marriage."

Zack Ford points out at ThinkProgress that the "greatest challenge for gay and lesbian civil rights [is] the fact that sexual orientation is an invisible identity:"

Unlike race or gender, it cannot so easily be superficially assessed. Thus, conservatives are counting on doubt and distrust, urging the Court to dismiss whatever gay people actually say about their lived experiences -- discount every individual's coming out story, ignore decades of gay culture and gay history, and disregard the scientific conclusions of the entire major medical community. In fact, opponents of equality regularly claim that "the gay agenda" is merely a conspiratorial quest to validate sinful behavior -- as opposed to an effort to allow millions of people to participate fairly in society. [...]

The magic words to look for if the Supreme Court legally recognizes gay people is "heightened scrutiny," which is how the Court determines that the government cannot target a specific group for unfair treatment without substantial justification. For example, classifications based on sex are subject to "intermediate scrutiny," and classifications based on race are subject to the highest level, "strict scrutiny."

Ford concludes:

The end result of these cases will determine the legality of same-sex marriage, but for the first time, the Court could actually acknowledge that gay people exist and thus deserve protection under the U.S. Constitution. On both a symbolic and legal level, the latter victory could be much more significant.

conversion

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AlterNet maintains that Christians are good at getting people to convert--to agnosticism or atheism:

If the Catholic bishops, their conservative Protestant allies, and other right-wing fundamentalists had the sole objective of decimating religious belief, they couldn't be doing a better job of it.

Sometimes education does the trick, sometimes life experience opens one's eyes, and "[s]ometimes a believer simply picks up a copy of the Bible or the Koran and discovers faith-shaking contradictions or immoralities there." Institutional homophobia is a primary factor in driving people out of the church, as it "makes Fred Phelps a far better evangelist for atheism than for his own gay-hating Westborough Baptist Church." Biblical literalism fails because "it is easy to find quotes from the Bible that are either scientifically absurd or morally repugnant:"

But the more they resort to strict authoritarianism, insularity and strict interpretation of Iron Age texts, the more people are wounded in the name of God and the more people are outraged. By making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition, they force at least some would-be believers to choose "nothing."

One notable part of these spiritual successes is their long-standing war on gays. Mel White's new book Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tells Us to Deny Gay Equality "examine[s] the innate cruelty and proto-fascism of the Christian right:"

"When I moved to Lynchburg it was a blue city, in spite of Liberty University being there," White said. "The reversal came with the collapse of our financial system [in 2008]. Suddenly everything blue was seen as costing too much money, including helping the poor. There was a revolt led by Fox News and its allies. It's difficult to find a restaurant or bar in Lynchburg that isn't playing Fox News. People quote Fox as though Fox is the arbiter of truth."

Tired of being scapegoated, White and his partner left:

"By the time Gary and I moved away from Lynchburg, a majority of Virginians seemed to be turning against gay people," White said. "They passed a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and new laws saying we cannot adopt [children] or provide foster care. More than half the people of Virginia seem to see us as the enemy." [...] "Too many of my sisters and brothers in the gay community don't seem to understand the power of religion," White lamented.

White points out that "[w]ithout religion there would be no homophobia:"

What other source of homophobia is there but six verses in the Bible? When Bible literalists preach that LGBT people are going to hell they become Christian terrorists. They use fear as their weapon, like all terrorists. They are seeking to deny our religious and civil rights. They threaten to turn our democracy into a fundamentalist theocracy. And if we don't reverse the trend, there is the very real possibility that in the end we will all be governed according to their perverted version of biblical law."

Here is Mr Fish's great illustration of religion's danger to humanity:

20120528-jesusjaws.jpg

Reason Being discusses the Catholic Church's war on America, observing that "The Church is waging a war on women, religious freedom, and general American values." This war is not merely punishing their own nuns, but by restricting the rights of non-Catholics to obtain contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Prime among these offensive campaigns is the Catholic Church's demand for special exemptions from healthcare laws:

One of the main problems that we are facing is the dishonesty of the Catholic leadership. Under the leadership of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Dolan the Church is trying desperately to frame this issue as a violation of their religious freedom. It is not. In truth, the goals of the Church would be a violation of the religious freedom of all non-Catholics in America. [...]

If the U.S. government were to pass a law that allowed Catholic institutions or businesses owned by Catholics to not offer contraceptive services it would violate the 'free exercise' clause of all non-Catholics. It would, in effect, be forcing people to live under the rules of Catholicism in many areas.

Commenting on the venality of the Vatican, RB cautions us to "not be fooled by the rhetoric of Rome:"

No one is forcing Catholic Churches to marry same-sex couples. Yet, this organization is fighting mightily to prevent unions between homosexuals. They are fighting against civil rights. When we remove religion from this conversation, the debate crumbles. The only opposition to same-sex marriage comes from religion in this country. That is wrong. [...] If a same-sex couple wishes to get married that is their business and none of the Church's. The Church should have no say in matters of civil rights.

Chris Mooney follows up his PolitiFact analysis by observing the fact that conservatives are more wrong, more often:

The fact-checkers do try very, very hard to temper their competence, and to be fair, they don't have much choice. As a non-partisan outfit, PolitiFact probably feels compelled to blow a few things the left says out of proportion or they wouldn't look that much different than Media Matters. [...]

Yet for all their even-handedness and efforts to be fair, conservatives still fare worse. PolitiFact has pulled the yoke about as far as it can go without breaking, and have lost nearly all credibility on the left as a result, and they're still not within 20 yards from the 50 yard line.

He recommends that PolitiFact should "decide this is the last epicycle they're going to tack onto their centrist model of the solar system, and finally come to accept the political equivalent of Kepler's ellipse: asymmetry:"

As the data show - despite PolitiFact's best tampering - one side just has a much tougher time with the facts. PolitiFact can either deal with it, or double-down on denial.

While we're on the subject of conservative denialism--see my 2004 and 2009 pieces on marriage equality in Massachusetts--Slate wonders does gay marriage destroy marriage? "[B]y tracking what happened to marriage and divorce rates in the subsequent years" [after same-sex marriage] we can tell whether right-wing fears are valid:

Start with Massachusetts, which endorsed gay marriage in May 2004. That year, the state saw a 16 percent increase in marriage. The reason is, obviously, that gay couples who had been waiting for years to get married were finally able to tie the knot. In the years that followed, the marriage rate normalized but remained higher than it was in the years preceding the legalization. So all in all, there's no reason to worry that gay marriage is destroying marriage in Massachusetts.

The other four states that have legalized gay marriage--New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire--have done it more recently, somewhere between 2008 and 2011. But from the little data we have, it looks as if the pattern will be more or less the same--a temporary jump in marriage followed by a return to virtually the same marriage rates as before gay marriage became legal. Washington, D.C., which started accepting same-sex marriages in March 2010, saw a huge 61.7 percent increase in marriage that year, though it's too soon to see where it will settle. Again, no signs of the coming apocalypse.

The states' divorce rates haven't worsened, either:

In each of the five states, divorce rates following legalization have been lower on average than the years preceding it, even as the national divorce rate grew. In 2010, four of the five states had a divorce rate that was lower than both the national divorce rate and the divorce rate of the average state.

I'm sure that conservatives will eventually try to spin this into a we-were-right-all-along scenario--as they tried to do with civil rights--but I just don't see how they could do so.

Waged on many fronts, the conservative war on marriage is driven by "a conservative economic program that has wreaked havoc on the family lives of struggling Americans:"

For many, [marriage] rests on a commitment of two people to share their lives, to create a permanent union that provides support for children, and to manage the tradeoffs between careers, finances and services necessary to manage a family. This is an ideal held by both heterosexual and same-sex couples who are more financially secure. But it no longer fits large numbers of working-class couples who conceive children together. That's because the foundation for their relationships has been destroyed by the very people who accuse President Obama of a war on marriage.

They've attacked wage and job stability (unions in particular), work/family balance (including unemployment benefits and paid leave), women's autonomy, reproductive freedom, and fostered high incarceration rates and income inequality--and, typical of their projection-laden mode of discourse, the Right accuses liberals of waging a war on marriage for--horror of horrors!--recognizing same-sex unions. Obama "cited his Christian faith as a motivating factor in his decision" to support marriage equality, but New Civil Rights Movement looks at religion-driven homophobia and asks can we trust Christians?

Homophobic Christianity is rampant in our culture and made even more virulent by a media culture that over-emphasizes conservative Christianity. It also understates (or all out ignores) its moderate and progressive Christian counterparts.

There are over 5,000 congregations in the U.S. that have declared their unequivocal affirmation of LGBT equality. Four of the seven largest mainline Protestant denominations have institutionalized LGBT equality measures - ranging from ordination of LGBT pastors to embrace of same-sex marriage.

The piece suggests that "we must support 'conflicted' individuals as they journey towards LGBT equality:"

Just as President Obama needed to "evolve" on this issue, so will countless others. Our support of this process is essential for true change to occur...supportive Christian voices are necessary to win full LGBT equality. So today, let's stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow LGBT advocates-even those who are Christian.

Adam Lee discusses the religious war on women--including the youngest and most vulnerable. Catholic bishops, he notes,

...are widening their quest to find and root out dissent wherever it may hide, and their gaze has landed on the latest culprits preaching radical feminism and undermining sound doctrine: that den of vipers known as the Girl Scouts.

Why? Because, as noted at HuffPo:

Critics contend that Girl Scouts materials shouldn't contain links to groups such as Doctors without Borders, the Sierra Club and Oxfam because they support family planning or emergency contraception.

Lee observes that "It's stories like this that make all the church's lofty rhetoric ring hollow:"

They claim they want to help the poor, but they're rabidly opposed to empowering women and letting them control the size of their families, which is absolutely essential if you actually want to reduce poverty in the long run. They've taken the teaching of Jesus - "For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them" (Mark 14:7) - and turned it into a prescriptive statement, actively fighting efforts to reduce poverty and thus ensuring an ample supply of poor people upon whom they can bestow charity to demonstrate their virtue.


update (5/23):
Rmuse writes at PoliticusUSA that Republican traitors declared war on the American people, observing that "it started in earnest in January 2011 when Republicans assumed control of the House of Representatives and several state legislatures:"

Shortly after taking their oath of office, Republicans immediately singled out women for their initial assault, and then set out to increase hunger and poverty with vicious spending cuts affecting the poor, children, and elderly Americans. [...] Cutting food stamps, housing and heating assistance, healthcare, and aid to children cannot be misconstrued as anything other than a war on the poor because none of the cuts will reduce the deficit or create jobs, and in fact will eliminate hundreds-of-thousands of jobs if not millions.

Rmuse analyzes Romney's 'first day in office' fantasy, and sees the underlying nightmare, commenting that "if Americans are not appalled at the blatant oligarchy Romney plans, then they are stupider than dirt," an opinion somewhat mitigated by the forces involved. "Republicans have the finest weapons their corporate money can buy," Rmuse notes, "racists, ignorant Americans, and the media:"

If Republican's supporters could get past their hatred of an African American President or their rank stupidity, they would ask Romney and Ryan what exactly they intended to do for the people. If their supporters were not stupid, they would ask why the GOP thinks giving the rich more tax cuts will have any different outcome now than it did eleven years ago when Bush tax cuts were first introduced. If the media did their jobs as advocates for the truth and transparency, they would ask Romney and Ryan how their economic plans benefitted anyone but the rich and corporations, but they do not and it is why Romney gets votes, and Ryan has support for his Draconian budget. The media is as complicit as Republicans in this war on America for never asking the right questions and failing to report what Republican legislation really entails, and if not for the Internet, few Americans would be aware of the looming crisis if Republicans prevail in November.

20120514-gaypresident.jpg
Andrew Sullivan's NewsBeast cover story calls Obama the first gay president and talks about attending a Spring 2007 "private fundraiser in a tony apartment in Georgetown" where Obama equivocated on marriage equality with "I think civil unions are the way to go. As long as they are equal." Sullivan was disappointed with this "excruciating nonposition:"

I didn't believe it. I thought he was struggling between political calculation and his core belief in civil rights. And it was then that I realized he was both: a cold, steely, ruthless, calculating politician who nonetheless wanted to do the right thing in the end.

In the runup to last week's announcement, Sullivan writes that "I braced myself for disappointment. And yet when I watched the interview, the tears came flooding down:"

I was utterly unprepared for how psychologically transformative the moment would be. To have the president of the United States affirm my humanity--and the humanity of all gay Americans--was, unexpectedly, a watershed. He shifted the mainstream in one interview. And last week, a range of Democratic leaders--from Harry Reid to Steny Hoyer--backed the president, who moved an entire party behind a position that only a few years ago was regarded as simply preposterous. And in response, Mitt Romney could only stutter.

He disagrees with the cynics who call Obama's statement of principle "pure and late opportunism:"

...when you step back a little and assess the record of Obama on gay rights, you see, in fact, that this was not an aberration. It was an inevitable culmination of three years of work. He did this the way he always does: leading from behind and playing the long game. [...] This, by any measure, is an astonishing pace of change in one presidential term. In four years Obama went from being JFK on civil rights to being LBJ: from giving uplifting speeches to acting in ways to make the inspiring words a reality.


update (5/15):
History News Network (h/t: Will Bunch) assails the magazine for "cheap sensationalism," noting that "Newsweek is desperate for sales:"

The caption is a superficial way to characterize an important development of thought that the president -- along with the country -- has been making over recent years. It is also entirely wrong. [...] There can be no doubt that James Buchanan was gay, before, during, and after his four years in the White House. Moreover, the nation knew it, too -- he was not far into the closet.


update (5/17):
Michelangelo Signorile notes that "For almost four years the president, for political reasons, didn't say he was for marriage equality:"

Then, after being pressured by gays, and after many in his own administration couldn't hold back their own support for marriage equality, the president announced his support in the midst of an election campaign.

The president still qualifies his support, arguing that marriage is a state issue rather than a federal right...the president still hasn't signed the executive order that would give LGBT people who work for federal contractors protections from employment discrimination.

"Let's give the president immense credit for coming out for marriage equality," writes Signorile, but "let's leave the 'gay president' label to those of the past who actually may be shown to have been homosexual...like James Buchanan and--in a fact especially horrifying to Republicans--Abraham Lincoln.

An article asking why atheists align with Democrats finds a reason for the unsurprising "preponderance to be towards the left (Democratic) side of the political spectrum:"

The less religious a topic, the less atheists oppose it and the more divided they are in their opinion of it. The more religious a topic, the more atheists oppose it and the more homogenous their opinion of it. This becomes extremely clear with the following issues of women's rights, gay rights, and science [particularly evolution and stem-cell research].

The growth of atheists' numbers combined with their "align[ment] with Democratic policies and issues" has some positive implications:

As the voting block grows, there simply won't be the political support for right-wing religious issues anymore. No matter how hard they try, Republicans won't be able to ignore atheists. They can either fear them and lose or embrace them and change.

Or, more probably, they will do both. As demonstrated by the Uncle Tom Log Cabin Republicans, there could eventually be a group of atheist Republicans whose mere existence could be used as an alleged big-tent example while being demonized by the party's rank and file. The LCR problem is, of course, due to Republicans serving the Bible instead of the Constitution on LGBT issues:

The fact that Republicans immediately, in the dark of night, attached an amendment to a $51.1 billion Department of Justice and Commerce funding bill that reinforces the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) proves they are serving the Christian bible and not the Constitution. It is more evidence that Republicans are bible-inspired bigots who hate any American who is not a white Christian male and does not fit their paradigm of a good American married couple. The blatant hatred Republicans have for the LGBT community that they are willing to spend taxpayer dollars to defend discrimination and punish same-sex couples is nothing less than passive bullying. [...]

They may not be physically bullying gays like Willard Romney did in high school, but they are legislating state sponsored discrimination under authority of the Christian bible and they are breaking their oath of office to support the Constitution's guarantee of equal rights in the 14th Amendment, and failing to abide by the Separation Clause in the 1st Amendment. Their assertion that same-sex marriage is an attack on traditional marriage is fallacious in theory and practicality, but they are not known for objectivity when fear-mongering has worked so well for them in drumming up religious opposition to same-sex marriage.

The Boston Globe points out the evolution and de-evolution in presidential candidates' stances toward marriage equality. "By any objective standard," notes the article, "Obama's previous position was simply untenable:"

His administration ended "don't ask, don't tell" and stopped enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between and man and a woman. Privately, he supported gay marriage, and how and when he would make that clear was regularly discussed among his advisers and the press. But he was plainly in no rush.

"If Obama's evolution was awkward and embarrassing for a modern president," the article continues, "the same is also true of Romney's devolution:"

In 1994, he proclaimed himself "better than Ted Kennedy" on matters of gay rights. But by the time he began running for president in 2007, Romney had restyled himself, in typically heavy-handed fashion, as a staunch social conservative who favored a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- a shift in public emphasis no less expedient than Obama's.

In a sense, Obama and Romney are mirror images of one another: on gay rights, each is a cautious pragmatist trying to catch up to his party, although this entails their running in opposite directions.

Obama has progressed to meet both the Democratic majority position as well as that of the whole American people--while Romney has regressed to please Republican reactionaries in a stance that grows more embarrassing with each passing day.

WaPo reports on some "troubling incidents" in Romney's past, particularly a 1965 attack on a fellow student during Romney's senior year of high school at Cranbrook:

John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn't having it.

"He can't look like that. That's wrong. Just look at him!" an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann's recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber's look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school's collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber's hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another.

One participant, who later apologized to the victim, called the incident "vicious...a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do" to Lauber, who was "terrified." Three decades later, Lauber responded to another classmate's apology for participating in the attack: "It was horrible. It's something I have thought about a lot since then."

Romney's campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul claims that Romney "has no memory of participating in these incidents," which--like many of his claims--strains credibility.


update (4:06pm):
ABC News has more details on the vicious--although brief--assault that Romney is shrugging off as one of a series of unremarkable "pranks" and "dumb things:"

One former classmate and old friend of Romney's - who refused to be identified by name - said there are "a lot of guys" who went to Cranbrook who have "really negative memories" of Romney's behavior in the dorms, behavior this classmate describes as "evil" and "like Lord of the Flies."

The classmate believes Romney is lying when he claims to not remember it.

"It makes these fellows [who have owned up to it] very remorseful. For [Romney] not to remember it? It doesn't ring true. How could the fellow with the scissors forget it?"

A year ago, Obama claimed that "attitudes evolve, including mine" on the issue of same-sex marriage, but it's been an open secret for over three years that he supported marriage equality before reaching the national stage. David Corn called Obama's support for marriage equality "one of the worst kept secrets in Washington," calling it "a looming dilemma for the president:"

Biden's unplanned comments placed this challenge on the center stage, and the president and his aides decided now was the time to confront it, realizing the political consequences could be mixed.

In his landmark speech today endorsing same-sex marriage, Obama grounded this evolution in the faith he shares with the First Lady:

"we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that's what we try to impart to our kids and that's what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I'll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I'll be as president."

Religion Dispatches points out this "at odds" situation with right-wing religious rhetoric:

Obama didn't just endorse same-sex marriage today. He abandoned conservative religious rhetoric about it and signaled that religious conservatives, even his close religious advisors, don't own the conversation on what Christianity has to say about marriage.

Predictably, Fox freaked out over the statement and claimed that Obama "declared war on marriage," to which Jason Easley of Politicus USA responded:

They think that it is still 2004 and same sex marriage is a potent culture war issue that will carry them to victory. Same sex marriage is a wedge issue, but not in the way the right thinks it is. [...] ...when Fox News and the right try to revive the culture war and use gay marriage as political wedge, they are only hurting themselves and their party.

Andrew Sullivan cautions that "The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House" while observing that "Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear:"

He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That's why we elected him. That's the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to "cure" gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?

My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory.

Obama should be confident that he's on the winning side of this issue, as--for the second consecutive year--a majority of Americans support marriage equality.

20120509-marriage.gif

update (9:23pm):
After being questioned about same-sex marriage, Romney complained to a reporter, "aren't there issues of significance that you'd like to talk about?" In contrast to this insulting dismissal, Obama sent this pro-marriage email to his supporters:

Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer: I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. [...]

I've always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.

But over the course of several years I've talked to friends and family about this. I've thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I've gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.

What I've come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.

Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn't dawn on them that their friends' parents should be treated differently.

So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.

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