Categories
Current Events

A Chickenshit Proposal [Update: Not Gonna Happen]

10 p.m. update: People came out in force to decry the proposal. It looks like it’s not going anywhere. I’m delighted that someone discussed the impact shutting down Ybor would have on the LGBTQ community.

Today, the Tampa City Council will discuss a proposal to shut down bars in Ybor City at 1 a.m. There’s another proposal for a youth curfew. Both of these proposals are a response to a mass shooting in Ybor over the weekend in which two people died and at least 16 were injured.

These proposals are bullshit. They’re attempting to fix something that isn’t broken while ignoring the real problem. We shouldn’t stand for it. Think of it this way: If you went to your doctor with a high fever and a sore throat, you’d be shocked if the treatment were to put a cast on a healthy arm.

And let’s not overlook another issue: For some, bars are the only place they feel safe to be themselves. If you want to pass judgment on that, so be it. I’m a cantankerous old man now, but I remember that in my 20s, gay bars were some of the only places where I felt welcome and validated.

Here’s the letter I sent last night to the City Council. I’m not sure if they’ll listen to or care about what I have to say, but I want to go on record.

Councilmembers,

To steal a phrase from Saeed Jones, the proposal to shut down Ybor City at 1 a.m. is “… a testament perhaps to the unique talent Americans have for talking all the way around exactly what needs to be said.”

Bars being open late isn’t the problem, and everyone knows it. This proposal doesn’t mitigate the risk of another shooting — gun violence doesn’t care what time it is. This proposal would deprive Tampeňos and visitors of a place to gather and celebrate when everywhere else is closed — and hurt a lot of local business owners and employees.

I’m sure plenty of people believe that folks out past 1 a.m. in Ybor are drunken partygoers who should be in bed. And they might be right. But there’s another issue to consider: For some people — especially those in marginalized communities — areas like Ybor are the only places they can be themselves and be accepted for who they are.

I worry the most for my siblings in the LGBTQ community. They are being erased from school curricula and demonized by state leaders. Must the city of Tampa compound the harm being done by kicking them out of some of the only places they feel welcome?

Closing down Ybor at 1 a.m. isn’t the solution to what happened last weekend. It only distracts us from what really needs to be discussed, and deters us from what really needs to be done. The only thing that should be shut down quickly is this proposal.

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. 

_____
1 Cf. Target and Bud Light

Categories
Current Events LGBTQ

This Book Is Gay. This Ban Is Grievous.

A week ago, the cowards at the Hillsborough County School Board banned “This Book Is Gay” from middle schools. It was only available at Pierce Middle School, and had been challenged by a single parent who didn’t have a child at that school — and was vetted by two committees before being put in the school library — but the school board saw fit to ban it not just from Pierce, but 121 schools serving more than 80,000 students.

Advocates for banning books said it wasn’t an attack on LGBTQ people, and they were just trying to keep inappropriate materials out of kids’ hands. But bullshit disguised as parental outrage is bullshit nonetheless.

Helen Lovejoy says "Oh, won't somebody think about the children?"

I couldn’t go to the school board meeting to voice my opinion, but I emailed all the board members the day before. Here is what I wrote:

I encourage all board members to reject any action that would prevent students from reading or accessing “This Book Is Gay.” There are young LGBTQ students in every school — a fact that some people do not wish to recognize — and denying them of materials that validate their existence and speak to their life experiences is harmful and stunts their educational and personal development.

As someone who grew up without books like this, I know firsthand what is it like to grow up without seeing positive representations of yourself. Banning this book and others like it will cause real harm, psychological trauma, and self-hatred for many students, making schools not a place of education but isolation — a place where students will suffer, not succeed. You have a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to not let that happen.

Be brave, be principled, and be a board that does not bow down to bullies or bigots. 

LGBTQ people are under attack here in Florida, and nowhere is this more evident — or appalling — than in our public schools. The “Don’t Say Gay” law and other initiatives demean and discredit LGBTQ youth and erase our existence. The book ban here isn’t an isolated incident. It’s the latest step in a campaign of hate and degradation.

Why This Matters to Me

What’s happening now hits me at a visceral level, not just an intellectual one. When I was growing up, there was no discussion of LGBTQ people — certainly not in middle school or high school. All I heard were crude jokes and a sense of disgust. In the news, gay men were dying from AIDS. Politically, LGBTQ people were punching bags. In movies and on TV, LGBTQ people were either considered jokes or made out to be wicked.

That really takes a toll on you.

In 2015, I took the Complimentary Spouse on a tour of my elementary and middle school in London, and when we turned a corner, I saw this:

LGBTQ-safe-zone-at-ACS

I was choked up, and I’m still emotional when I think about it today. There was no overt effort to exclude LGBTQ people from schools when I was there, but there was also no recognition that we existed.

Seeing that flag years ago filled me with hope. I know it’s still there today.1 It shows children at my elementary and middle school that they’re welcome, accepted, and loved.

Sadly, children in my county will never see a symbol as important as this one. And, in a way, that’s worse. As a kid, I didn’t know what it would mean to be recognized. These kids will know what it means — and see that they’re being deprived of it.


_____
1 Here’s my former school’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion statement. Florida is dismantling DEI initiatives at schools statewide.

Categories
Current Events LGBTQ

“Do You Have a Problem With Gay People?” No, I Have a Problem With This Person.

Behind the scenes, I’m very opinionated and work hard to advance civil rights. In public, though, I’m a bit more guarded with my comments. I’ve been this way since my reporter days — I didn’t want anyone ever to doubt that I could be objective and fair, even though I didn’t side with many of the people and causes I was covering. Today, I’m much more vocal but still strive to appear impartial.

Right now, though, I’m not going to hold my tongue. Something happened in the Tampa City Council race on Monday that made me see red. 

What’s the Background?

If you’re not a Tampeño, these bullet points will quickly get you up to speed.

  • In the District 3 race, incumbent Lynn Hurtak is being challenged by former state senator Janet Cruz.
  • Hurtak is an uncompromising progressive, which often puts her at odds with mayor Jane Castor.
  • Cruz is virtually the mayor’s mother-in-law. I say virtually because she’s the mother of Ana Cruz, who is our mayor’s partner. They’re not married.

Got it? Good. 

What Happened?

On Monday night, both Hurtak and Cruz spoke at a Hillsborough County NAACP candidate forum. Hurtak, not surprisingly, spoke against some of the mayor’s policies and priorities, such as the proposal to convert wastewater into drinking water. Cruz lashed back by accusing Hurtak of being homophobic.

Let’s go to the tape. Go to the 38:20 timestamp:

First, Cruz says, “I don’t know what Hurtak’s problem is with my daughter and the mayor.” At this point, the booing starts. She then turns to Hurtak and says, “Do you have a problem with gay people?”

What. The. Fuck?

My jaw dropped when I saw this. I had to go back and watch again to make sure I didn’t mishear. I didn’t.

The incident was covered in Creative Loafing and the Tampa Bay Times.

Why Are You So Pissed, Dave?

You can now forget about all the political stuff I mentioned above. That’s just background information so you can put things in context. If this were about something Hurtak said to Cruz, I’d be just as mad.

Let me explain why this is a massive slap in the face for all LGBTQ Tampeños and their allies.

There are very real homophobic monsters in Florida politics that are actively destroying the rights, liberties, and dignity of LGBTQ people. Just look at what’s happening in Tallahassee. Trans kids are being denied healthcare that’s not just affirming but also life-saving. Age-appropriate LGBTQ books are being stripped from school libraries. And hate speech skyrocketed after the passage of the draconian “Don’t Say Gay” law.

In an environment like this, accusing someone of homophobia just because they’re your political opponent isn’t just careless. It’s dangerous. It dismisses the danger of homophobia — it’s no longer a grave threat, just an idle insult. 

Where’s the outrage?

What if Cruz had called Hurtak a child molester? Compared her to Hitler? Said she hated Blacks? Everyone would be up in arms, saying Cruz had crossed a line.

But lumping Hurtak in with Fred Phelps, Omar Mateen, Rick Santorum, Timothy Dolan — and a growing list of grotesque bigots in Tallahassee and Washington — somehow gets a pass? 

But, Dave, What If …

Let me cut you off right there. You’re wondering if Hurtak deserved the comment because she is actually homophobic.

Not only is that not the case, but everyone knows it’s not. Hurtak is one of Tampa’s top advocates for LGBTQ equality. The first time I met her, she told me how she and her husband flew to New York to get married because they didn’t want to get married in a state where LGBTQ people couldn’t. I, of course, shared the story of how the Complimentary Spouse and I had to fly to California to get married. Lynn was endorsed by the LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus at both the state and local levels.

It’s bad enough to dismiss someone as a homophobe because you can’t defend your political position. But dismissing an ally as good at Hurtak makes it even worse. Hurtak has a problem with nepotism, not lesbianism.

FFS! Why Are You Making Such a Big Deal About This, Dave?

Someone has to make a big deal about this! Language has been used to attack and suppress LGBTQ people for too long, which only changes when we fight. If you say, “that’s so gay,” about something lame, I’ll push back. Gay is not a negative descriptor.

If you say “sexual preference” instead of “sexual orientation,” I’ll push back. Sexuality is not a preference.

If you say “gay lifestyle,” “special rights,” or “gay agenda,” — well, you’ve got the idea.

There are two other reasons why I make a big deal out of these things: because I can and because it makes a difference.

Whenever I think it’s time to shut up about LGBTQ issues, I come back to these two quotes:

The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives.

Armistead Maupin

There will always be LGBTQ people who can’t march, who can’t protest, who don’t live in places where they are safe enough to speak out. We need to speak for them.

Richie Jackson, “Gay Like Me”

Any Final Thoughts?

Don’t @ me to defend Cruz or disparage Hurtak. As I said above, the political shadiness isn’t what makes me mad, and I’d be just as upset if the candidates’ roles were reversed. What would a political campaign be without some drama, after all?

What still pisses me off, two days later, is the cavalier way one candidate casually — and wrongly — accused another of homophobia to score some political points. In 2023, this isn’t acceptable political rhetoric. It can cause real harm. It minimizes what’s really happening to LGBTQ people.

I don’t want anyone who doesn’t understand this on the City Council. Period.

Categories
Current Events

The Art of War

I haven’t written much on the Daily Dave recently because it seems inappropriate to do something frivolous when people are dying in Ukraine. Suddenly, telling people what I’m wearing every day doesn’t seem proper. (And, anyway, it’s almost always a polo shirt and a pair of shorts.)

It’s just so frustrating to know there’s so little I can do and so few people I can reach at this time. Perhaps that’s why I’m in awe of the street artists who have the talent and canvas to share their passion for peace (and anger at Russia) on walls all over the world. Here are some of my favorites from the accounts I follow on Twitter and Instagram.

The first one is by Seth Globepainter, a Paris-based street artist whose work I admire. He’s known for paintings of roundheaded children who face away from the viewer — I think I’ve only seen a face in one of his artworks. The combination of innocence and defiance in this new painting is just brilliant.

https://twitter.com/joannefisher63/status/1498884488746913798?s=21

I am not familiar with all the artists below. I’ve included the full tweet, which in some cases doesn’t name the artist. If I get that information, I’ll update this post.

https://twitter.com/olebur/status/1500012835430092803?s=21
https://twitter.com/streetartdream/status/1500382122959380480?s=21

Categories
Current Events

The Freedom to Curate

Joe Rogan and his medical disinformation podcast have reignited the national bitchfest over “cancel culture” and freedom of expression. I have a few thoughts and would like to add another term — “freedom of curation” — to the discussion.

I’ve written before about how “cancel culture” does not exist. My conclusion was:

“It’s a false narrative that shifts blame away from those who should be ostracized and onto those who are rightfully holding them accountable for what they’ve done.”

And this is where freedom of curation comes in.

I believe the expectation of free expression in America extends to what we don’t express as well as what we do express. As the owner of this blog, I decide what gets posted. It’s not an open platform. If I choose to welcome contributors, I retain the final say on what gets published and how it’s edited. 

In other words, I have the freedom to curate what goes on my platform. It’s really that simple.

It’s Common Sense

I think I’m the first to use the term “freedom to curate,” but the concept is easy to understand and shouldn’t be controversial. The New York Times doesn’t have to print every letter or opinion piece sent to them. LGBTQ pride parades can turn away floats from homophobes. Disney has no obligation to turn your Star Wars fanfic into a new series.

This isn’t “cancel culture.” It’s common sense. It’s why you won’t find my weekly recaps of RuPaul’s Drag Race in Yiddish in the Daily Stormer. 

Here’s where the Rogan controversy comes in. Even though people are already screaming about “cancel culture,” Rogan’s podcast is still very much uncancelled. Spotify, the exclusive host of the podcast, is walking a tightrope by condemning him without penalizing him. 

What if Spotify decides to let Rogan go? That’s fine by me. And if they keep Rogan? Also fine by me.

That’s the freedom to curate. Spotify has it. You have it. I have it.

Your Decisions. Your Consequences.

No one but you should control the time, resources, and money you invest into your privately owned platform. At the same time, you are not immune to criticism for content you publish or host. 

Therefore, no matter what Spotify does, people are free to hold both Rogan and Spotify accountable for their actions. Just as Rogan has the freedom to express himself, and Spotify has the freedom to curate its platform, everyone else has the right to respond to what Rogan and Spotify do.

That means Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and India.Arie can remove their music from Spotify’s platform. It means consumers can leave Spotify and spend their money with Apple or Amazon.

What About the First Amendment?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting speech or discriminating against certain viewpoints. But that’s not what’s happening here. The platforms I’m discussing are not owned, directed, or managed by the government.

I believe the people who own these platforms, whether individuals or businesses, have a Constitutional right to express themselves without government regulation. Deciding what and what not to publish is a form of expression. Ergo, the freedom to curate is a Constitutional right. It’s legal for a platform to set guidelines and restrictions for users, ban certain types of content, and even boot a user without government interference.

Curation and Consequences in Action

Let’s all take our cue from one of the great moral leaders of our time, Homer Simpson. He handpicked everything he wanted to publish when he launched his first website. It was a reflection of his interests. It had a unique point of view. It was … well, a mess. But it was Homer’s mess.

Eventually, Homer took some good advice from Lisa and replaced the crap with articles he had written. He was still in charge of all content decisions, though — no one else told him what to write and what to take down.

Eventually, Homer’s scandalous lies got him kidnapped and banished to a mysterious island (which was a parody of the village in The Prisoner). He was held accountable for what he published on his platform. The fact that drugs and evil koalas were involved was just a bonus.

Be like Homer, my friends! Go forth and curate! It’s your right.

Categories
Current Events

Cults, Myths, and Conspiracies

On Tuesday, hundreds of Qanon supporters turned out in Dallas1, believing that John F. Kennedy Jr. would return from the dead and dance the batusi with Steve Buscemi.2

Spoiler alert: JFK Jr. didn’t show up. But the bigger picture is worrying.

I’m not the first person to realize that, for some Americans, political identity has been perverted into a cult, fed by a steady diet of vitriol and misinformation. There are plenty of articles, books, and essays exploring the cult mentality, and there’s no need to repeat them here.

So why am I writing this?

Because I found a fresh perspective on cult thinking from a book about a completely different subject. It’s “The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World” by David Deutsch, and it’s about how scientific advancement — in fact, human advancement — is driven by our need to explain things.3

In the first chapter, Deutsch looks at myth-making as a flawed method for explanation.

“… when their theory is refuted by experience, they do indeed switch to a new one; but, because their underlying explanations are bad, they can easily accommodate the new experience without changing the substance of the explanation. Without a good explanatory theory, they can simply reinterpret the omens, pick a new date, and make essentially the same prediction.”

“The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World” by David Deutsch

Deutsch was writing about how the Greeks used the myth about Hades, Persephone, and Demeter to explain why it gets cold in winter. But he could also be describing why people in Dallas won’t be dissuaded by hard evidence — JFK Jr. being a no-show — from showing up for the next cockamamie conspiracy event.

My takeaway: Cults and myths are built on the same foundation: inability to adjust one’s premise based on new evidence. But myth-makers centuries ago had no scientific framework for improving their explanations for things. Today, people do — but some are deliberately not doing to.

What happened to myths? The Enlightenment stripped them of their power, Deutsch said. 

“An entire political, moral, economic and intellectual culture — roughly what is now called ‘the West’ — grew around the values entailed by the quest for good explanations, such as tolerance of dissent, openness to change, distrust of dogmatism and authority, and the aspiration to progress both by individuals and for the culture as a whole.”

“The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World” by David Deutsch

What will happen to cult-like thinking? Let’s hope the ideals of the Enlightenment roar back with a vengeance. And soon.

_____
1 Check out The Washington Post article. Here’s an excerpt:

Uscinski reviewed polling and found QAnon support is founded in anti-social personality traits and behaviors, like narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.

The Washington Post

2 Actually, what they believed was more ridiculous.  

3 I’m oversimplifying quite a bit. Check out the book. 

Categories
Current Events

Let’s See What’s in the News

Here are a few articles and essays that have stood out to me in the past few days:

The Advocate: Ohio High School Cancels Play After Furor Over LGBTQ+ Character

Seriously? Have fun trying to find a play that doesn’t have a connection to LGBTQ people in the plot, in the cast, or behind the scenes.

As Fran Lebowitz once said, “If you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture, you would pretty much be left with Let’s Make a Deal.”

I’m reminded of this song from The Producers:

Heather Cox Richardson: Substack Newsletter for October 27, 2021

This is the kind of essay that keeps me up at night. After exploring some recent developments in the United States and Europe, she explains just how revolutionary the idea of American democracy was at the time — and how people have been chipping away at it as early as the 1820s. I can’t help think of Animal Farm when I read this:

And there it was: the replacement of the idea that all people are created equal with the idea that some people are better than others, and that those people, who truly understand God’s laws, should rule.

Heather Cox Richardson

NBC News: Woman claims strawberry Pop-Tarts don’t have enough strawberries, sues for $5 million

Who else noticed that the author of the Pop-Tarts story is named Popken? 

Entertainment Weekly: A public domain photo of The Office star B.J. Novak is being used on random products worldwide

I’m delighted by this. Check out the photos.

Categories
Current Events

Dangerous Lies-isons

How curious that both stories above the fold in today’s St. Petersburg Times are about delusional people trying to delude the public:

Related note: I’m really sorry about the bad pun in the headline.

Categories
Current Events

The Freedom to Make Mistakes?

I recently heard someone say that having freedom means having the freedom to make mistakes.1 This was mentioned in the context of mask mandates during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

This seemed like a reasonable opinion at first, but something about it gnawed at me. After some rumination, I think I know why. It’s because it’s a kindergarten-level understanding of freedom: A very simple jingoistic statement that kids might write in crayon, ignoring the context, meaning, and reality of what freedom means in society.

First, we do not have the freedom to make certain kinds of mistakes. Here in Tampa, a police officer was killed recently by a wrong-way driver. In fact, the officer may have saved lives by deliberately crashing into the wrong-way driver to stop them from hitting anyone else. Driving the wrong way is a mistake. No one should be afforded the freedom to make this kind of mistake, even in the most Ayn Randian of worldviews.

I know this is one example, but there are plenty of reasonable scenarios where mistakes must not be written off as freedoms. Is it freedom if a surgeon, air traffic controller, mechanic, NICU nurse, anesthesiologist, or engineer makes a mistake?

This brings me to my second point: personal responsibility. Claiming you have the freedom to make mistakes doesn’t absolve you from being accountable for your actions. A recent example is the horrific murders of eight people in Atlanta.2

When the suspect was arrested, a representative of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said the shooter was just “a really bad day.” We can quibble over semantics, of course, but that sounds a lot to me like dismissing the killings as a mistake.3

Finally, being unable (or unwilling) to make an evidence-based, timely, logical decision is not a mistake. It’s ineptitude. 

To a very wide degree, yes, I think we have the freedom to make mistakes. Let me say —  declaratively and loudly — that mistakes are essential human experiences that promote emotional and intellectual growth. But, c’mon, we all know those weren’t the types of mistakes that the original speaker was referring to.

No one has the freedom to jeopardize others with their mistakes. No one is immune to the consequences of their mistakes. And no one has the privilege of disguising willful ignorance as a mistake.

So put on the damn mask.


1 This is somewhat of a lie. I didn’t hear this from anyone directly. It was relayed to me by a relative’s spouse, who heard it from one of his relatives. 
2 The murders seem directed toward people of Asian descent, but the usual chorus of know-nothings are claiming the murders could not possibly be racially motivated.4
3 And let’s not overlook this: “Georgia Official who Said Spa Shooting Suspect Had a ‘Bad Day’ Appeared to Promote Racist COVID-19 Shirt.”
4 Then how do we explain a 150% increase in anti-Asian-American hate crimes over the past year?