Media


While I have visited Occupy Wall Street twice over the past few weeks and have supported the movement in various ways, I refer to the movement and its participants as “they,” only because I haven’t invested enough time in it to truly consider myself a part. Here is my take on the infuriating dismissals of the seriousness of the protests and my call to action. Photos throughout this post were taken by me. Please give credit and link back to this post if you use them.

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I’m tired of people dismissing the legitimate concerns of the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together movements. It’s especially hurtful when it comes from people on the left. For example, New York Magazine ran this silly piece in last week’s magazine that insulted the intelligence of partipants using silly pop quizzes. On the next page of the magazine, they took free yoga classes waaay too seriously and explained them using terms like “democratization.” Way to give due seriousness to serious matters, guys. Or even this column in the progressive magazine Mother Jones, where a former Obama staffer, despite supporting the movement’s larger goals, still insists on calling the initiators of Occupy Wall Street “all crazy ones.”

Stop Corporate Greed

But this is old news. Ever since the beginning of the movement, media outlets, politicians, left-wingers, right-wingers, and members of the public have tried to discount the Occupy Wall Street protest activity by accusing participants of not having concrete plans, of being vague and decentralized, and of not streamlining their messaging. The coverage always insists on reiterating the same question: What exactly are you people asking for?

But the burden of proof should not always have to fall on the public. Occupy Wall Street and associated protest movements have identified the circumstances of the crisis and have pointed to the context that drove them to action: no jobs, no affordable healthcare, impunity for the real crooks of the financial crisis, staggering corporate profits and executive bonuses, a widening wage gap, too much corporate influence in our government, and much, much more.

Concrete Ideas

These are the collective concerns, many of which were outlined in the Declaration on September 29, and yet people keep accusing the movement of not having any tangible complaints or proposals for change. Well, I have a two-pronged response.

1.) Coming up with policy solutions and proposals should not be the job of Occupy Wall Street. Protestors should not have to have centralized messaging, single-issue demands, or charts and graphs to demonstrate their rationality and seriousness. Occupy Wall Street and its partner protests around the country have pointed a finger at a crisis. They cannot reverse it or make steps to prevent it from happening again without the collaboration of larger social institutions. It is the work of economists, elected officials, the President’s cabinet, members of government agencies, and nonprofit advocacy organizations to put into motion reforms, laws and regulations based on the people’s demands. The people have cried out for help to ensure that corporations don’t have undue influence over our government, that there are no more predatory lenders or rapid stock trading. Now it’s your turn to act, America.

2.) Of course, Occupy Wall Street protestors aren’t just sitting back and waiting for the world to change. Protest is not just about getting the attention of those in power and hoping that they’ll respond to make lasting change. Occupy Wall Street participants are spending their time actively responding to and shaping an alternative to the moral crisis in this country. Through the consensus-based model known as the General Assembly, people in New York City’s Zucotti Park are creating the world they wish to see. The micro-communities camping out all over the country are modeling themselves after a world that doesn’t exist in the U.S., a world where grassroots democracy is a reality.

Watch this incredible short video to get a taste of the consensus model if you haven’t already seen it in action, or just to be re-inspired if you already know about it:

And that should be enough.

Indeed, many unlikely allies have begun latching onto the messaging of Occupy Wall Street to show that the protest’s concerns are real.

First, there are charts from Business Insider that show how “inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.”

David Weidner, Wall Street columnist for MarketWatchpenned an op-ed arguing that “the bankers who brought us this mess not only walk free, they drive free in Bentleys paid for by money looted through toxic mortgages, trading debacles and derivative madness…The ones outraged by greed run amok, reckless behavior and fraud are getting wrestled to the pavement and arrested.”

So why not stop trying to malign the movement? They are here to stay. Take them seriously.

The Economy Could Be More FairThanks for listening.

Moscow Pride 2011 Logo: Features a cupola like the one on Moscow's famous St. Basil's Cathedral, except in rainbow colorsThe Russian Government has marked the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) by once again banning Moscow Gay Pride. Moscow’s Deputy Mayor Ludmila Shvetsova cites the city’s inability to provide adequate protection and security from the anti-gay forces who will inevitably attend the event.

This is bullshit. One of the main threats of violence for the Pride organizers and marchers comes from Moscow’s Police and Riot guard themselves, who have interrupted the marches and violently arrested participants year after year.

While organizers of 6th annual Moscow Pride on May 28th of this year plan to hold their event regardless of the City Hall decision, this certainly comes as a blow to their organizing and once again reflects the stubborn bigotry of Moscow’s leadership. Their next step is to move their plea directly to the federal government and apply for a permit to march in front of the Kremlin, the federal seat of power, an area which is under the direct jurisdiction of President Dmitri Medvedev.

Organizers are quite used to this kind of treatment by their own government and have always circumvented it by planning events in secret and being prepared for arrests, intimidation and interruption. After all, they managed to hold Pride events even under former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who famously called the “faggots” “satanic.”

I met Moscow Pride’s main organizer, Nikolai Alekseev, at an event earlier this year. Alekseev’s persona moves easily from high-profile professional as he travels the world speaking about human rights to on-the-ground rabble-rouser. He told those of us in attendance at a Columbia University-sponsored event that his organization’s tactic keep getting more and more James Bond-esque because they have to do so much of the planning in secret to avoid getting shut down before they even hit the streets. Alekseev says that organizers are followed and have their phones tapped in the weeks leading up to Pride every year.

Alekseev is not all gloom and doom, though. In that talk (watch a complete video here), he confidently insisted that within a few years, the debate in Russia will change from whether or not to ban marches to the more serious considerations of marriage equality, sex ed and homophobia. Not only that, but Russian LGBTQ activists had a victory late last year with the city government of St. Petersburg authorized its first ever gay rally.

I encourage you to check out the complete video of Alekseev’s talk to learn about the history of the Moscow Pride movement, their victories at the European Court of Human Rights and their dreams for the future.

Tennessee couple, Laura and Carol Ann Stutte, whose home was burned to the ground and whose garage was spray-painted with the word "QUEERS."

Photo: Bob Fowler / News Sentinel

I usually write my own original content in this blog and don’t simply repost other people’s words. I try to add my perspective to what’s being said about LGBT issues. But this email I just received from GetEqual was so shocking and upsetting and really said it all, so I am just going to repost it here:

Dear friends,

Sadly, even with each step we make towards progress, we can’t forget the discrimination LGBT folks face across the country…

We’re working with an extraordinarily brave Tennessee couple, Laura and Carol Ann Stutte, whose home was burned to the ground and whose garage was spray-painted with the word “QUEERS.” Returning from an anniversary celebration weekend six months ago to the ashes of their former life, they have been fighting with their insurance company (American National Property and Casualty) simply to honor their homeowners policy and allow their family to move forward.

The Stuttes’ neighbor had threatened them before, pledging to kill their dog (found poisoned shortly thereafter) and to burn down their home (done). They’re now living in another part of Tennessee, fearful that their neighbor will find them and kill them, since she announced to them that, “The only thing better than one dead queer is two dead queers.”

We’re committed to doing everything we can to make sure that this family sees justice, and have partnered with Change.org to mobilize as many justice-minded folks as possible to petition the insurance company, ANPAC, to make good on the Stuttes’ policy.

Sign the petition here!

Please help the Stuttes family in this small way to at least let them recuperate from the damages done to their home. This will in no way make up for the trauma and violence enacted upon them, but will allow them some stability to move forward and rebuild.

My wishes go out to them and to all survivors of vicious hate crimes.

Brady Much Remixed

Silly photo illustration by me.

I had a conference call earlier this evening for the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (I’m on NYAC’s Board of Directors) and it got me thinking. (NYAC works to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ youth does this through advocacy for and with young people and capacity-building with youth-serving organizations.)

At the start of the call we went around and introduced ourselves (many of us have never met in person) and said how many siblings we have. I think this was a great ice breaker (thanks Amita!) because it was a simple question: not too invasive, but still unexpectedly revealing.

As we went around, two people said they had seven (!) siblings, two more had four siblings, and the rest had fewer. People answered the question in different ways: some just said the number, some explained whether the siblings were biological, half, or step, some gave context beforehand explaining ages and birth countries. (more…)

{ cross-posted at feministing }

Update (4/22/10): The Washington Post ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, responded to my email and CCed the author of the article:

“Thanks for writing. With this response, I’m sharing your e-mail with Ms. Parker.

Best wishes,
Andy Alexander
Washington Post Ombudsman”
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Now this is disappointing.

A profile from today’s Washington Post about Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, only quotes white men.  The article is all about the criticisms of the HRC from within the LGBT community, yet the author, Lonnae O’Neal Parker, didn’t quote, source, or reference a broad enough swath of the LGBT activist population. There are at least five people quoted in the piece, Messina, Kameny, Elmendorf, Hauslaib, and Petrelis, and based on my research, they are all white men.

This is a wholly unrepresentative sample of the movement. Her oversight severely weakens the point, that there is dissent within the community, especially when some of the biggest complaints about Solmonese and his leadership come from transgender and people of color communities.

The reporter is well-known for her writing about race and ethnicity.  Too bad she didn’t do her homework on this one.

Queer APIs (Asian Pacific Islanders) were invited for the first time ever to participate in New York City’s annual Chinese New Year Parade held in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Check out this article and great video that interviews many of the participants, including Pauline Park, well-known transgender leader who I saw at the recent Creating Change Conference:

Steven Tin, executive director of the Better Chinatown Society, said there was no reason to exclude the groups. “Why not?” he said. “We basically welcome groups that want to do a cultural celebration.”

I was at the Chinese New Year Parade in Flushing, Queens (a smaller affair than the Manhattan festivities), so I missed this. I didn’t see any LGBT groups at the Queens parade.  Who wants to change that?!

(P.S.: The Year of the Tiger is my year!)

Check out my latest article at the Campus Progress online magazine.  I did a ton of interviews and research to get to the bottom of this question:  Is Facebook making young people less interested in attending their high school and/or college reunions?

The standard line of thought about why you should attend a reunion goes something like this: Find out if the jock is now a nerd, if the nerd is now a stud, and if the head cheerleader married young and already has kids. Yes, some of that shock and surprise might be somewhat diminished because of the ubiquity of online profiles, but that doesn’t eradicate the usefulness of reunions. By checking out other reunion attendees on Facebook, you can quickly dive into a topic you already know you have in common, which can facilitate a more genuine conversation.

Get to the bottom of it by reading my article!  I look forward to any comments or questions.  Post them here or directly at the article.

Sita deconstructs (and ultimately trashes) the word “problematic” and its over usage in certain activist circles.  Check it out — I couldn’t agree more:

Last week, I was talking to a McGill student about upcoming elections for one of the student groups. She was concerned that the political gains she had ben working on would be lost if the group faced a coup d’etat by people she deemed to be “problematic.” This word seems to stand in as a bizarre synonym for another equally strange term: “oppressive.” In her mind, people were divided into two camps: oppressive and anti-oppressive; problematic and unproblematic; good and bad.

The whole conversation made me want to scream. Her perspective was so woefully simplistic, and an apt demonstration of the way in which the language of “anti-oppression,” in this particular social milieu, has replaced the usual youth vernacular. Put simply, you can’t call someone a bitch (that’s like totally oppressive and like, patriarchal, y’know?), but you can call them “problematic,” and essentially mean the same thing.

A state legislator in Tennessee has just introduced a bill that would ban any discussion of homosexuality from the state’s public elementary and middle school classrooms:

TEP – HB 821: Prohibits the teaching of or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8.

Rep. Stacey Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill aims to prevent teachers from talking about the topic. Luckily, the education committee in the Tennessee state house has decided to wait to vote on the bill for a year while they “study the issue.” Currently, individual school boards decide whether or not sexual orientation and gender identity will be discussed within the sex-ed curriculum.

First off, Rep. Campfield has one of those awesome names that used to be for men only, and now is popular for women, too. So that alone is pretty gay.

Second of all, he’s using the argument that he’s not anti-gay–the topic is just too heavy and “confusing” for youngsters to have to face. That’s bullshit. This article quotes Chris Sanders from the Tennessee Equality Project, pointing out Campfield’s homophobia:

“If you can’t mention something, that sends a signal that there is something wrong with it,” Sanders said.

Third, this is the same state rep who apparently introduced a bill to require death certificates for aborted fetuses, and who recently signed onto a lawsuit questioning Obama’s nationality.

Loony!

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