Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Gayskool: The Big, Boring Impact of Obergefell

This polite tirade started as a really short LinkedIn post but just kept growing.

Yesterday was the eighth anniversary of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which made marriage equality the law of the United States. Looking back at the joyous media coverage in 2015, you’d think the issue was about cake, confetti, and matching tuxedos.

Well, it was. But it really wasn’t. The real legacy of Obergefell is more meaningful — and less exciting — than you can imagine.

Yes, less exciting. Let me explain why:

My husband and I had been married seven years before Obergefell, but our marriage was only recognized in a few states. In our home state, just like at the national level, we had the legal status of roommates. It was confusing and degrading — and also unfair from an economic perspective.

For example, when we tried to add me as a second driver for a rental car in Las Vegas in 2011, the agent said there would be an additional charge. This rental company didn’t charge for spouses, so I said, “We’re married.” Loud enough for everyone to hear, she cruelly clapped back with, “Married? Not in Nevada, the hell you’re not.”1

I bring this up for two reasons:

  • That indignation haunts me to this day.
  • Being charged $10 or $15 a day for an additional driver is an example of the countless economic benefits we were denied but opposite-sex married couples could take for granted.

The economic inequality same-sex couples faced was especially prominent and painful at tax time. Even though we were married, my husband and I couldn’t take advantage of hundreds of federal benefits for married people filing jointly.

For example, as the husband of a university professor, my MBA and other master’s degree should have cost nothing: Free tuition was a perk for spouses of employees. But even though I didn’t have to pay the school a penny for anything except books and parking, I had to pay federal income tax on the full imputed value of the courses I took. That added up to thousands of dollars that an opposite-sex spouse wouldn’t have to pay.

We also had to pay taxes on the healthcare benefits I received when I needed to switch to my husband’s plan. Opposite-sex spouses didn’t have to pay taxes on their healthcare benefits.

The Obergefell decision was about dignity and equality. It’s easy to remember the parties, champagne, and wedding gifts, but I am most grateful for how Obergefell made our lives better in millions of small, mundane ways.

We feel the impact of Obergefell when we file taxes, sign paperwork, and apply for loans. We feel it when we go through customs and immigration at the airport and present our passports together, like any other married couple. We feel it when we’re shopping for auto insurance.

And trust me, we feel it every time we’re at the car rental counter in Las Vegas. Are we married in Nevada? Hell yes we are!

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1 I’m using a skosh of artistic license here. What she said probably wasn’t as loud or nasty, but it certainly made me feel terrible.

Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Gayskool: What the Doctor Ordered

On a flight from Tampa to Chicago in 2011, the Complimentary Spouse and I sat in front of two men lamenting political correctness and the decline of religion in public life. 

One said he hoped Michelle Bachman would enter the presidential race soon to put an end to this nonsense.

“Yeah, it’s getting bad,” the other guy agreed. “Kids can’t even play ‘smear the queer’ on the playground anymore.”

I snapped. I stood up (as much as one can stand up in seat 3E), turned around, and let them know in no uncertain terms that their bigotry robbed people of their dignity and deprived them of equal rights. 

I also told them they were complicit in creating an environment so toxic that kids would rather kill themselves than endure the pain and humiliation. I quoted suicide statistics as proof. 

Addressing the lack of religion, I said the man sitting next to me was raised in a Southern Baptist household in a religious community and knew more about the Bible than both of them combined.1 And he is my husband.

They shut up. I sat down. They didn’t say a word for the rest of the flight and wouldn’t make eye contact with us as we deplaned.2

I don’t know if Dr. Betty Berzon would applaud my behavior or be aghast at it.

Doctor Who?

Dr. Betty Berzon was a lesbian psychotherapist and activist who began fighting against discrimination and stigmatization in the medical community when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness. She’s also the author of “Setting Them Straight,” a handbook for confronting bigots and homophobes in personal and public interactions.3

“Setting Them Straight” was published in 1996, when discourse about LGBTQ issues was shifting away from the AIDS crisis and toward social issues like marriage equality and the military. In the ’90s:

  • We got DOMA and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Boo!
  • People like Melissa Etheridge, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, and Greg Louganis came out of the closet.
  • LGBTQ representation in entertainment improved — sometimes problematically — with movies and TV shows like “Ellen,” “The Birdcage,” “Will & Grace,” and the absolutely delightful “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”

I read “Setting Them Straight” in 1996. Berzon said the best way to confront bigots is not to try to reply tit-for-tat with whatever points they make. Instead, ask them why they feel that way. When you do that:

  • You get to the root of their hatred: It’s probably based on things like myths, misinformation, discomfort, or religious indoctrination. 
  • It puts the burden of proof on them: You’re no longer on the defense. They are the ones that need to justify their beliefs, statements, and actions.

A Pro-LGBTQ Force in an Anti-LGBTQ World

Berzon, a psychotherapist, came out in 1968 and began working with LGBTQ clients. She told people to be proud of their identity — nothing was wrong with them. It was a revolutionary message at the time. She pushed for the American Psychological Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness — and, in 1973, they did.

I care about who you are, who you have been, who you want to be. I open myself to you to listen and learn about you. I cherish you, not just my fantasy of who you are, not just who I need you to be, but who you really are…

Betty Berzon

So, let’s return to that encounter on the plane. If Berzon were there, I think she’d be proud that I called out bigotry but unhappy that I took a confrontational approach.

The next time I’m in 3E — or anywhere else I hear bigotry — I’ll remember to do better. Thanks, Betty.

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1 This is an exaggeration. I know many LGBTQ people who had to overcome strict religious backgrounds, but they weren’t on the flight, so I used their experiences to pump up Britt’s religious resume. It’s easier to hit a point home when you have a living, breathing example of it sitting next to you.

2 Britt remembers this differently. He says:

  • I didn’t say anything until the flight was over.
  • I was more reserved in my comments than I recall.

Britt’s memory tends to be better than mine, but I’ll stick with my story because it makes me feel like more of a superhero. But Britt also takes poetic license in his retelling — he says it happened in 2008 as we were flying to San Francisco to get married.

3 This is actually one of her lesser-known books. She’s best known for “Positively Gay” (1979), “Permanent Partners” (1988), “The Intimacy Dance” (1996), and her autobiography, “Surviving Madness, a Therapist’s Own Story” (2002).4

4 So, why am I writing a whole blog post about this book and not one of the more famous ones? Well, it’s the only one I’ve read. I haven’t written about books I’ve not read since middle school.5

5 OK, high school.6

6 Fine, college. Are you happy now?

Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Gayskool: Selling Out

Depending on which expert you talk to, Americans see between 3,000 and 10,000 ads daily. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed a shift in the way these ads — well, some of them — speak to and interact with LGBTQ people.

That’s certainly true during Pride Month when pinkwashing is out of control. But it’s also evident year-round. Sometimes, LGBTQ inclusion is subtle — like a blink-and-you’ve-missed-it scene of a gay couple in a mainstream ad. At other times, it’s more overt.

Big Sea, a local advertising and marketing agency, has done a deep dive into LGBTQ history and its effect on advertising. Look here: “A History of LGBTQIA+ and Pride Month Marketing.”

As an amateur LGBTQ historian, I was really impressed with the blog post. I reposted it on LinkedIn and shared my thoughts. Here’s what I wrote:

Big Sea — a great agency here in the Tampa Bay area — has done a tremendous job here of guiding readers through LGBTQ history and showing how marketing messages evolved in response to cultural and political changes. 

These types of campaigns and ads are only successful when there are LGBTQ people involved at all levels — leadership, creative, research, media buying, human resources, and so on. Market reserarch and audience data is no match for the experience, input, and insight of LGBTQ people on your team. 

Consider the Subaru ads in the ‘90s that winked at lesbian buyers. Market research may have identified or validated the the market opportunity, but only a lesbian would know themes, language, and cultural references that would resonate with the audience. Who else would think to sneak a reference to Xena the Warrior Princess into the ads? I assure you it wasn’t a straight cisgender guy! 

Companies that build meaningful and profitable relationships with LGBTQ customers don’t just slap a rainbow on their logos in June. They hire, empower, and listen to LGBTQ professionals. They have LGBTQ people in leadership roles. They provide development and advancement opportunities.

We’re seeing some pushback now against LGBTQ marketing, but I hope it’s just a blip and we’re back on the path to progress soon. 

David Simanoff on LinkedIn

Thanks for the great history lesson and insight, Big Sea!

By the way, I posted something else on LinkedIn a while ago about Subaru’s LGBTQ outreach. Check it out here.

Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Gayskool: History’s a Drag

Drag was around for a long, long time before RuPaul smeared some Vaseline on a low-resolution camera and launched Drag Race in 2009.1

Men have been dressing as women for entertainment for centuries — what, you didn’t learn about Shakespeare? And women have been dressing as men for just as long — the most famous “trouser role” in opera is Cheribino from The Marriage of Figaro, which I forced the Complementary Spouse to endure in 2018 and will be his Exhibit A if he files for divorce. (Calm down, sweetie. A little culture never hurts anyone.)

Drag, as we think of it today, has existed for more than a century. “Legendary Children,” a 2020 book by Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez, explains how the conventions of Drag Race (reading, celebrity impersonations, fashion, comedy, singing) have deep cultural, societal, and entertainment roots.

Like all drag queens backstage, the queens on Drag Race share tips and techniques from time to time — when they’re not engaging in that age-old drag technique of simply stealing from or copying each other. Drag is an old art form, and quite a bit of what you see the queens do in that Werk Room is born out of decades of men and women perfecting the form and passing on their technical expertise to the next generation.

— “Legendary Children” by Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez

Here in the Tampa Bay area, drag has been around for 125 years. As the Tampa Bay Times reports, the shows were considered family entertainment, drew large crowds, and even offered discounts for children’s tickets.

How is drag both timely and timeless? How is drag both part of our culture and a commentary on it? It’s because it’s all about invention and re-invention. Just ask Mama Ru:

Drag really is all about dipping into pop culture and then reshaping it into something else.

RuPaul

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1 Go watch that first season. You’d think it was shot through cheesecloth in an abandoned shack with a ten-dollar decorating budget. The production values were terrible.

Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Gayskool: Thank You for the Music

Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.

Jimi Hendrix

Yesterday, I wrote about dance music. Today, let’s talk about music in general.

For LGBTQ people, music reflects the full spectrum of our experiences, from angst, loneliness, and anger to exuberance and celebration.

Luke Howard, a DJ in London, told Gay Times:1

Maybe as children we feel a little isolated, so we find listening to music a way of connecting with the wider world. So when we discover clubs and we’re in a room of like-minded people, we start to feel safe and we don’t feel so anxious about being who we are. That’s a wonderful way to experience freedom.”

Luke Howard

I created a Super Pride Playlist a few years ago and update it yearly for Pride Month. Check it out:

A few songs you might not know:

  • “I Know a Place” by MUNA is about having a safe place for LGBTQ people to express themselves. It took on new meaning after the Pulse massacre.
  • “Glad to Be Gay” by the Tom Robinson Band is a British song from 1976. It references many of the anti-LGBTQ legislation and policies from that time.
  • “Snug Slacks” by John Grant is a wry take on love lust at first sight. It’s got some bizarre references: “But I do love me some Angie Dickinson / Let’s be clear, Joan Baez makes GG Allin look like Charlene Tilton.”
  • “Momentary” by Jake Wesley Rogers mentions Marsha P. Johnson and Harvey Milk, two LGBTQ icons. I’ve been a fan of Rogers since I saw him as a guest host on Legendary. He’s the living reincarnation2 of Elton John.
  • “Black Me Out” by Against Me! is a trans woman’s angry reply to those who want to demean and dehumanize her. It’s 100% vitriol.

Enjoy the music!

Pink in concert at Amalie Arena
Pink in concert at Amalie Arena
Indigo Girls in concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall

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1 This would have been a good article to cite yesterday, as it’s primarily about dance music.
2 I don’t know if “living reincarnation” is a thing, but it should be.

Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Gayskool: Dancing Queens

What do gay men enjoy more than a dance song? The extended dance remix of the same dance song!

OK, there’s a bit of stereotyping going on there, but lots of gay men go gaga for Gaga, wanna be Madonna1, and are crazy for Kylie. 

My theory — more like an informed guess — is that this love for dance music goes back to the days of disco. Here’s why:

  • Disco didn’t have prescribed gender roles — that is, no one leads.
  • It emerged in the early days of gay liberation, when people took their first steps out of the closet and were ready to celebrate.
  • It winked at gay fans with songs like “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” “Y.M.C.A.,” and “I’m Coming Out.”
  • It’s pretty darn fun to listen to. Even sad songs like “Band of Gold” had awesome hooks and incredible beats. We even turned Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” into a disco hit!

Disco got gay men on the dance floor, and we’ve been shaking our groove things ever since. Just ask the Complementary Spouse and me:

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1 Here’s Madonna’s “Finally Enough Love,” a collection of 50 remixes. I have played this album, approximately, 1,000 times.

Categories
Current Events LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Gayskool: Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves

Let’s jump into a recent controversy to kick off Gayskool ’23.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have been in the news because they were invited, disinvited, and re-invited to the L.A. Dodgers Pride Night planned for June 16. (As Daily Dave readers know, the Dodgers were one of the first baseball teams to have a Pride event, although it wasn’t official.)

The New York Times has the story here: Groups Return to Pride Night After Dodgers Reverse Course. If you can’t get past the paid firewall, here’s what the Dodgers said:

After much thoughtful feedback from our diverse communities, honest conversations within the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and generous discussions with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Los Angeles Dodgers would like to offer our sincerest apologies to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, members of the LGBTQ+ community and their friends and families.

I’ve seen the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence somewhere. They roller-skated past the Complementary Spouse and me on roller skates — a blur of nuns’ habits, white face paint, and glitter. I can’t remember where this happened, but if I were a betting man, I’d say it was the Russian River Valley near San Francisco. Britt believes it was Provincetown. It may have been the Castro. One thing is certain, though: It wasn’t Branson, Mo.

The Sisters describe themselves as a “leading edge Order of queer and trans nuns” who “believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty.” According to their website:

We use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.

So, who went apoplectic when the Dodgers asked the Sisters to join the festivities at Dodgers Stadium? Well, let’s ask Homer:

Homer says "you see, there are some crybabies out there, religious types mostly, who might be offended."

The Dodgers’ knee-jerk reaction was to disinvite the Sisters, and the response from the LGBTQ community was swift and forceful. Many groups, including LA Pride and the ACLU, backed out of the event. Forced to decide between caving to bigots or standing by their commitment to diversity and inclusion, the Dodgers decided to do the right thing.

Here is the Sisters’ statement:

A full apology and explanation was given to us by the Dodgers staff which we accept. We believe the apology is sincere because the Dodgers have worked for 10 years with our community and as well they have asked us to continue an ongoing relationship with them. In the future, if similar pressures from outside our community arise, our two organizations will consult and assist each other in responding, alongside our colleagues at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and others from the LGBTOIA2S community, now more closely tied with the LA Dodgers than ever before.

Someone asked me yesterday what I thought about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I said I thought of them as a protest group: They fight against oppression by assuming their oppressors’ language, garb, and traditions. Creativity is one of the most powerful tools LGBTQ people have to fight bigotry.

As for the people who feel offended? Let me be direct: These bigots have used their twisted interpretation of religion to ostracize, demonize, and dehumanize LGBTQ people for millennia. They have done serious harm — it’s not hyperbole to say their actions have a body count. How has a bunch of men wearing makeup and nuns’ habits affected their lives in any real way? Their feelings are hurt? World’s tiniest violin. They’re not victims.

I asked Siri to summarize that last paragraph. Her response: “Duck them.”

Sadly, I think we’ll see many more stories like this in the news. Organizations committed to LGBTQ equality and inclusion are under attack from increasingly rabid and empowered extremists.1

We’ll soon learn which organizations have been paying us lip service and which ones will live up to their word. 

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1 Cf. Target and Bud Light