Tag Archives: LGBT

Veterans Day

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World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had set the war in motion. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The United States Senate refused the ratify the Treaty of Versailles that officially ended the war with Germany because it contained the League of Nations Charter. The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I with the Knox-Porter Resolution signed into law by President Harding on July 2, 1921. Congress officially recognized Armistice day when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. In much of the rest of the world, November 11th is still honored as Armistice Day or in the Commonwealth as Remembrance Day, renamed after World War II to celebrate and remember all veterans.

The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

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Considering the main goal of this blog, I would particularly like to honor all the LGBT service members who have fought and died for our country. For most of America’s history you have served in silence, and often persecuted for who you were. Yet you strove to fight for your country. One of the earliest goals of the gay rights movement, under the leadership of the Mattachine Society in the 1950s and 1960s, was to allow the gay men to serve in the military without persecution. Today service members can finally serve their country as out and proud gays and lesbians. Yet we should never forget those who risked everything to serve their country in silence, even when their country refused to give them full equal rights.


ENDA

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Workplace discrimination is alive and well. If the fact that I was gay became common knowledge at the school where I teach, then it is likely that I would lose my job. I believe that I would have the support of my headmaster, a good portion of the faculty, and several people on the schools board of directors. However, even that might not save my job, but the U.S. Senate passage of S.285, the Employee Nondiscrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA) yesterday could give me the protection I would need if it also passed the House and was signed by President Obama. If passed, ENDA would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees. Though my school may consider itself Christian-oriented, we are not affiliated with any religious organization and we have more than 15 employees. Therefore, they could not be exempt from ENDA.

I am not the only teacher in America who works extremely hard to educate America’s children who risk losing their job each day because of their sexual orientation. Besides, it does not just pertain to teachers, but all professions. The American people have, over the past two decades, become much more amenable to LGBT Americans, and LGBT rights in general, yet there are still parts of the country which need a push further in the right direction (i.e. the South). According to the Williams Institute at UCLA Law, between 15 and 43 percent of LGB people have experienced workplace discrimination or harassment, and between 8 and 17 percent have been hired or fired due to their sexual orientation. Just as startlingly, up to 41 percent of LGB employees have experienced anti-gay harassment or abuse in the workplace. That number soars up to 90 percent for trans people. Meanwhile, gay people can still be fired for their sexuality in 29 states. (For trans people, it’s 34.)

The first time the full U.S. Senate had an opportunity to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was on Sept. 5, 1996, after the legislation had already died twice in what was then known as the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. When all of the votes had been cast, ENDA lost by just one, 50-49. Flash-forward to today, and ENDA has now passed the Senate by a 64-32 margin. The Senate roll call vote tells the tale: of the 50 seats from which a “Nay” vote was cast in 1996, 20 are now occupied by “Yea” voting senators, while only four “Yea” voting seats have flipped back. In Alaska, Colorado, and New Hampshire, there have been complete makeovers — two “Nays” swapped out for a pair of “Yeas” in each state.

One of the most commonly observed features in the growing support for LGBT people across the country is the fact that younger Americans tend to be leading the shift in opinion. Interestingly enough, there were some examples of this in the Senate vote. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted for the bill Thursday, 17 years after her father, then-Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), voted against it. And Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) voted in favor, while back in 1996, his father, then-Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.), did not vote.

Republicans should support these protections, and I hope the GOP leadership in the House schedules the bill for a vote. It’s the morally right thing to do. No one should lose their job, or not get hired, because of their sexual orientation. Allowing people to be successful in their workplaces is an essential piece of individual opportunity and liberty. Working for a living is one of America’s freedoms. It’s a virtue to be encouraged — and supporting it is important to the future of the Republican Party. In an era in which the government often punishes hard work and individual success, this bill encourages it.

At its core, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is about individual liberty. All employees should be treated the same and be judged on their job performance. No one should receive special treatment, and no one should be fired because of their sexual orientation. Since the 1960s, Congress has passed laws ensuring that employers can’t discriminate on the basis of race, religion or gender — personal characteristics that have nothing to do with how well someone does his or her job. These laws are widely accepted throughout our society. Who among us today would say an employer should have the right to fire someone because of their faith or the color of their skin? The same sense of fairness and respect should apply to the hundreds of thousands of qualified, hardworking Americans covered by ENDA.

Many in the business community, recognizing the importance of a qualified, skilled workforce, are well ahead of the federal government. Now is time for the government to catch up so that nondiscrimination laws protect workers at all companies, not just some. The reason there is Republican and business support for ENDA is simple: It’s reasonable. The bill respects many different viewpoints, allowing exemptions for religious organizations, for example.

Senator John McCain put out a statement Thursday before the vote, indicating that he planned to support the bill:

I have always believed that workplace discrimination – whether based on religion, gender, race, national origin or sexual orientation – is inconsistent with the basic values that America holds dear. With the addition of an amendment I co-sponsored with Senators Rob Portman and Kelly Ayotte strengthening protections for religious institutions, I am pleased to support this legislation.

Republicans in the House claim that the bill would encourage frivolous lawsuits that have more to do with enriching attorneys and less to do with fighting discrimination. But there is no evidence to suggest that would not be the case, based on the experience of the states and municipalities that have already adopted ENDA-like policies and the growing number of businesses that have done the same. If Fortune 500 companies were concerned about lawsuits, they wouldn’t be tackling discrimination on their own.

I hope the House Republicans do the right thing by bringing ENDA up for a vote and voting for its passage.


God’s Infinite Love

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“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:15-20

The president of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality made some shocking claims this week about practicing Christians who have decided to embrace lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals: you’re doing the work of the devil.

Appearing on “Crosstalk” for a show titled “Same-Sex Marriage Tsunami,” Peter LaBarbera informed host Vic Eliason that Christians embracing LGBT-identifying individuals are engaged in an “insidious lie… straight from Satan’s talking points.”

These kind of statements are precisely what is wrong with Christianity in America. Peter LaBarbera and others like him bear bad fruit. They are drawing Christians away from the love of Christ and only teaching about hate. It is sad and frustrating that they have so little regard for God. The truth is that God is love, and the devil is hate. Therefore, if you preach hate then you preach for the devil.

Mr. LaBarbera has it wrong, it is not the accepting Christians who are “doing the work of the devil,” it is the men who preach hate who are “doing the work of the devil.” They are the false prophets and are the devils tools who use their pulpits to spread hate. How can someone who is a Christian claim that God hates? God is all that is good and positive. God may be disappointed in us when we go against his will and do not ask for forgiveness, but he never hates us. God loves each and every one of us for who we are.


In their own words: Why students, educators support LGBT youth and #SpiritDay

Spirit Day, this October 17th, is about uniting in solidarity with LGBT youth everywhere by standing against bullying. A few of the students and educators participating this year are making their voices heard, explaining why it’s important to support the youngest members of the LGBT community through grassroots initiatives.

GLSEN has found that of the many students who reported not having supportive staff members at their school, more than three-fourths of them feel unsafe in their school. GLSEN further reported that in the past year, 81.9% of LGBT students were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation and 63.9% were verbally harassed because of their gender expression. GLAAD recently brought you the stories of the tragic results of bullying for teen girls in Florida and Nevada.

High schools, colleges, and graduate schools throughout the country have signed on as Spirit Day partners. A few of them have spoken with GLAAD about their interests in going purple and raising awareness about anti-LGBT bullying.

DOLMSU_0.pngJennifer Carruth, a student at Mississippi State University, is a member of her school’s Safe Zone Advisory Board and president of the LGBTQ and Ally Service Sorority Delta Omega Lambda. Speaking to the importance of ending anti-LGBT bullying, she told GLAAD, “There are so many tragic endings that can be prevented if allies would raise their voices and protest bullying, educate others on LGBTQ issues, and advocate for LGBTQ youth… No one should have to live a life of fear and isolation because they are afraid to be who they are. Everyone deserves the right to shine, enjoy life, and be their true self.”

Spirit Day is an opportunity for a diverse range of communities to come together in their support for LGBT youth. Stonehill College, a Massachusetts school rooted in Catholicism, is one such example.

stonehill%20edited_0.pngMary Charlotte Buck, Student Government Associations’ Executive Board Vice President and an ally to the LGBT community, played an integral role in partnering Stonehill with GLAAD for Spirit Day. Mary Charlotte, who has an extensive background in working with teenagers, sees an important link between her school’s traditions and allying with the LGBT community. She said, “I think respecting, honoring, and loving the inherent dignity of all people is one of the most important aspects of our Catholic Identity, and I’m psyched we’ve chosen to recognize such a great day and cause! I’m proud to say we’ll be joining the schools supporting this day.” Faith based organizations from a variety of religions and denominations are going purple this year.

i%20am%20an%20educator%20edited.pngFaculty and students at Connecticut College, which recently ranked as one of the top 25 LGBT-friendly schools in the country, are going purple this year, too. Carol Akai is an Assistant Professor with the school’s Human Development department who specializes in children’s developmental psychology. She provided GLAAD with her professional opinion on supporting LGBT youth.

“One of the most compelling aspects of human development is our enormous capacity for change,” said Professor Akai. “As a society, we are at the beginning of what I hope is a paradigm shift toward the insistence of just treatment for individuals with LGBTQ identities under every circumstance.”

Spirit Day is about creating a safe and supportive environment in which all kids, teens, and young adults are given the opportunity to flourish. Educating people on the daily struggles of our community’s vulnerable members is the key to ultimately strengthening our at-risk members as well as the cause at large.

Spirit Day initially launched four years ago when Brittany McMillan, then a high school student in Canada, took to Tumblr to promote remembrance of the young lives lost as a result of bullying. Now, Spirit Day has grown into an international movement and is a testament to young people’s transformative powers as agents of change.

Professor Akai added, “As today’s college students become scholars, I hope they will combine their academic knowledge with their generational influence to affect widespread change that replaces intolerance and ignorance with kindness and complex understanding.”

There’s still time for you and your school to get into the spirit by:

  • Turning your Facebook, Twitter and other profile photos purple atwww.glaad.org/spiritday and spreading the word by using hashtag #SpiritDay
  • Wearing purple on October 17th and encouraging classmates or coworkers to do the same
  • Uploading photos of you wearing purple to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr using hashtag #SpiritDay and Spirit Day graphics
  • Downloading the Spirit Day App
  • Educating your friends and family about bullying and the LGBT community
  • Getting your school, GSA, organization, etc. to become a Spirit Day partner

Time is running out to go purple on Spirit Day as a participant and partner, and to join the Facebook event! Sign up today and spread the word.


Spirit Day: Go Purple on October 17, 2013 for #SpiritDay

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I could not decide if I should post this tomorrow or today, but then I decided that if you are like me, you might plan your wardrobe at least a day in advance, so I decided to give you a head start.

Millions wear purple on Spirit Day as a sign of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and to speak out against bullying. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by high school student Brittany McMillan as a response to the young people who had taken their own lives. Observed annually, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals and celebrities wear purple, which symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. Getting involved is easy — participants are asked to simply “go purple” on October 17th as we work to create a world in which LGBT teens are celebrated and accepted for who they are. Learn more & go purple at www.glaad.org/spiritday.

Since I began teaching, whether as a professor’s teaching assistant, a substitute teacher, college instructor, or currently, as a high school teacher, I have always had LGBT students who feel more comfortable around me than their peers or other teachers. Most of those students have never known whether I am gay or not, but there is an intuition that allows us to find each other (most call it gaydar). Some have come to me and confided in me; others are just more relaxed around me. I always do my best to make sure that I have a welcoming atmosphere for all of my students, and I fight bullying at every turn.

When I was a student in high school, I had no one with whom to discuss issues such as sexuality or feelings of same sex attraction. Though by college, I was pretty sure I understood those feelings and in my early grad school years I came out, I wish I had been able to go to someone with whom I could discuss these issues. Being alone with my internal struggles, I began in my teenage years battling depression, which I still battle today. As I have said before on this blog, my depression got to the point that at 16 I took a handful of prescription medicine to end the suffering. I thank God each day that my stomach rejected those pills and over several hours I vomited them out of my system. I was incredibly lucky and stupid. Too many LGBT youth are not as lucky as I was, and we lose them to suicide each year.

By wearing purple tomorrow, you will be showing your support for the LGBT youth in your area. Most people won’t even realize why you are wearing purple, but as tech savvy as youth are today, the LGBT youth you come in contact with will most likely be aware of Spirit Day, so the subtlety of wearing purple will not go unnoticed by them. Sometimes that little bit of encouragement is all it takes for a kid to know that everything is going to be okay and that it does get better. Because of the politics of my school, I can’t be out, but I can be supportive in more subtle ways and make their school experience, at least in my classroom, a little better.

Getting involved is easy: Wear purple or go purple online on October 17th and help create a world in which LGBT youth are celebrated and accepted for who they are.


The Importance of Individualism

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I have been reading up on summaries and analyses of Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.” I put off the reading and discussion of the essay until we return to school on Tuesday. I knew that if I started yesterday, I’d be interrupted for the holiday weekend, so I put it off. It also allowed me to study up on Emerson more. I’m trying to make it as interesting and thought provoking as I can so that we can have a good discussion, which means I need to make it as simple as possible for this particular group of students, who can be a bit lazy at times. Though you, my dear readers, may not be as enamored with Emerson and Transcendentalism as I am, I hope you will stick with reading this post as I get around to explaining why I think that a reading of Emerson today, of all days, is especially important.

As I was reading commentaries on Emerson, I came across the article “The Foul Reign of ‘Self-Reliance’,” in which Benjamin Anastas exposes what he considers to be the havoc wreaked by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s seminal essay on generations of Americans. Anastas asks us to consider: Did the great Ralph Waldo Emerson get it wrong? Have we? Have we turned self-reliance into self-centeredness? And while I tend to think he goes a bit overboard in laying virtually all American self-centeredness at Emerson’s feet, his ultimate point about his interpretation of self-reliance being an unassailable (and dangerous) moral and spiritual principle these days is one that is at least worth taking a closer look at. And we certainly wouldn’t advocate for a return to the dehumanizing, piety of the Puritanism to which Emerson was responding.

Early in the heart of the 19th Century, young America was in trouble. A brutal economic bust. Banks collapsing all over. Confidence was wavering. And here came the brilliant transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, like a blazing star. Trust yourselves, he said. Look inside. Speak what you think in hard words. Above all, embrace self-reliance. And boy did that go deep. It’s American bedrock. Maybe too deep, which is what Anasta says in his article. It’s become self-centeredness. Polarizing rigidity. In an interview with Tom Ashbrook. Of NPR’s “On Point,” Anasta states that he wrote “The Foul Reign of ‘Self-Reliance’” in an Emersonian style of purposeful antagonism. I personally think that he was a bit too antagonistic, and that “Self-Reliance” spoke to him in a totally different way then it did to me.

Anastas read “Self-Reliance” and sees a call for each person to be concerned with their own self and not be concerned with others. At least, he claims this is how Americans interpreted it and has in turn become the American pursuit of self-interest and self-centeredness.

However, I believe that Emerson’s true point is not to advocate selfish people, but to advocate non-conformity. Emerson wanted people to rely on their inner self. That inner self which is guided by a rational God. No two people are identical. We were created that way on purpose. If all we do is follow others, then there is no free will. We simply conform to the pack mentality. Does this mean that we should be selfish? No it doesn’t. Emerson believes that our true inner voice is not selfish. If we rely on our inner moral code then we work for the betterment of all mankind.

If we were to blindly follow and conform, then no LGBT person would ever come out of the closet. Today is National Coming Out Day. It is a day for us to celebrate who we truly are. National Coming Out Day is observed annually to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBT community and civil rights movement. The holiday is observed in a wide variety of ways: from rallies and parades to information tables in public spaces. Participants often wear pride symbols such as pink triangles and rainbow flags. Whereas, I may not go around telling people, especially those who have no need to know, that I am gay, I have become more comfortable in my own skin. If people want to assume I am gay or assume that I am straight, then that is their prerogative. However, the one major thing that Emerson has taught me is to be who I am. Being who we are has been a bit of a theme this week for this blog, and I thank Emerson for that reminder.


Love in War

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The Second World War was a huge disruption of American life. People from farms, small towns, and cities, from all regions and classes now found themselves suddenly uprooted and thrown together. People who had never traveled more than 5 miles from home now found themselves in the South Pacific or flying over Central Europe. This was true, not just for soldiers, but for civilians on the home front. The war created desperate labor shortages in factories contracted for war production. Those jobs were filled by women, African Americans, and other minorities. Like the soldiers, many of these workers left home and found themselves living together, sometimes in close quarters in alien environments. Time honored customs and beliefs about class, gender, region, and race came under unprecedented strain. While this created incredible stress for many, for others, this created unexpected opportunities and raised expectations.
 
Gays and lesbians were an invisible minority; not only invisible to society at large, but to each other. Most of the American population at the start of the war still lived in small towns and on farms. A lot of gay men and lesbians from those backgrounds who previously felt very isolated now found each other in the military or in wartime production. Within the ranks of the military, a huge underground gay culture began to flourish. Gay soldiers in the South Pacific would create “gay beaches” for gathering sometimes within days of capturing an island from the Japanese.
 
A gay soldier from rural America recalled visiting Paris within days of liberation in 1944. He sought out a once famous Parisian gay night spot thinking it may still be closed for the duration. When he arrived, the place was wide open and packed with soldiers from a dozen different countries. He described American and Free French soldiers dancing together with Polish and Italian partisans and British troops. Not only did this soldier no longer feel isolated, he also began to see a certain potential. Gay men may have been a minority, but they were not a small minority. Formerly isolated gay men and lesbians discovered that there were lots and lots and lots of people like them. This caused a lot of people to rethink some things and to get some ideas.
 
Regulations and anti-sodomy laws had limited gay service since the Revolutionary War, leading to dishonorable discharge, courts-martial, or imprisonment for men found having sex with other men. The massive manpower needs during World War II and the growing influence of psychiatry in America led the military to classify some homosexual troops as psychologically unfit for service. Still, among the sixteen million Americans who served in the Armed Forces during World War II were hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian military personnel who proudly served. Only about 5000 of the eighteen million men called before draft boards and medical inspectors during World War II were screened out initially because of homosexuality.  As Charles Rowland, a gay draftee from Arizona explained, “We were not about to be deprived the privilege of serving our country in a time of great national emergency by virtue of some stupid regulation about being gay.”
 
The military’s policies toward gays and lesbians became increasingly aggressive and more punitive as the war drew to a close.  The American military only used the ban against LGBT service members when it was convenient; times of war, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, were not convenient times for the American military.  They often overlooked homosexuality because they needed the manpower.   However, just as African- American servicemen saw freedom abroad, so did LGBT service members.  The Stonewall Riots of 1969 are often credited with being a watershed moment that fundamentally altered the course of gay history. This, of course, is true. But it was not the watershed moment. Long before gay bar patrons rioted against the NYPD and gave momentum to the largest political mobilization of gays and lesbians in history, World War II was setting the stage for Stonewall.  This emerging gay culture continued to flourish, and it survived the war’s end. Large American port cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco found themselves with huge populations of gays and lesbians at the end of the war; people who couldn’t or wouldn’t go home again. Friendships and communities formed during the war would quickly become useful for resisting and pushing back as an increasingly paranoid Post War America tried hard to put the genie of expectations for women, African Americans, and LGBTs back into the bottle.
 
A particular letter of love and loss between two World War II soldiers is making its rounds on the Internet, and the heartbreakingly beautiful story it paints for the reader will have you reaching for the tissues.
 
Long before the days of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and its subsequent repeal, the two men appear to have met and fallen for one another while on duty in Africa. However, their idealistic romance seems to have been cut short.
 
An excerpt reads,
 

This is in memory of an anniversary — the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I have ever known. Memories of a GI show troop — curtains made from barrage balloons — spotlights made from cocoa cans — rehearsals that ran late into the evenings — and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice … The happiness when told we were going home — and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon…

 
The heart-rending love letter was written by American World War II veteran Brian Keith to Dave, a fellow soldier he met and fell in love with in 1943 while stationed in North Africa. It was penned on the occasion of their anniversary and reprinted in September of 1961 by ONE Magazine, a groundbreaking pro-gay magazine first published in 1953.  The original is supposedly preserved in the Library of Congress. Read the rest of the letter below, and have a somber glimpse inside the mid-century romance of Dave and Brian.
 

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Here is the full transcript:
Dear Dave,
 
This is in memory of an anniversary — the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop — curtains made from barrage balloons — spotlights made from cocoa cans — rehearsals that ran late into the evenings — and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel — perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran — a misunderstanding — an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.
 
Drinks at “Coq d’or” — dinner at the “Auberge” — a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured — muscatel, scotch, wine — someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible — a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player — competition — miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms — the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea — pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.
 
The happiness when told we were going home — and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.
 
We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better — you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.
 
Goodnight, sleep well my love.
 
Brian Keith
 
I recommend Alan Berube’s book Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II. Bérubé argues in Coming Out Under Fire, “the massive mobilization for World War II relaxed the social constraints of peacetime that kept many gay men and women unaware of themselves and each other.”  

Bad Teacher

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The 2011 movie Bad Teacher was about an immoral, gold digging Chicago-area middle school teacher at the fictional John Adams Middle School who curses at her students, drinks heavily, smokes marijuana, and only shows movies while she sleeps through class. However, all of that does not compare to the story I read the other day about a South Carolina teacher.

The teacher is alleged to have bullied the student starting in early April. The student’s mother alleges that the teacher repeatedly belittled her son in front of his peers, calling him “gay,” “gay boy,” and other names. The teacher repeatedly told the student’s classmates that the student was in a homosexual relationship with another classmate, the suit states.

The mother alleges that the teacher encouraged and asked other students to pick on her son during class. She alleges that her son was made to feel that he could not report the bullying to school administration. The student was also made to feel he could not appeal to any of his classmates because of the resulting alienation and isolation that the situation created.

The student’s mother filed a lawsuit on her son’s behalf against the Charleston County School District alleging that a high school teacher bullied a male student by repeatedly telling the class that the student was gay. The unidentified student, referred to in documents as John Doe, was a student at West Ashley High School, according to the complaint.

On the West Ashley High School web site, the teacher identified in the suit is listed as a member of the math faculty. The suit against the school district says that the emotional stress created by the teacher’s conduct caused the student to become physically ill. The student attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself as a result of the bullying, according to the complaint. The student has allegedly suffered severe emotional and psychological damages and has been forced to withdraw from school. He is being home-schooled. He is also receiving mental health counseling, according to the suit.

A spokesman for the school district said he could not comment on pending litigation. The suit alleges that the school district failed to properly hire, train and/or supervise the teacher. According to the complaint, the school district’s negligence entitles the defendant to an award of past, present and future damages sufficient to properly compensate him for the pain and suffering, the mental anguish, the permanency of his injury, the loss of enjoyment of life, the alienation of his lifestyle and his past and future medical bills.

If the allegations are true, they are beyond disturbing. I’ve known of parents to complain that a teacher was “picking” on their child and treating them unfairly, and it is usually groundless because the student either perceived he was being singled out or because the student was covering for his own misdeeds. I’ve had allegations of singling out a student before, but the complaint is generally because I told the child to behave and the students reaction was, “But everyone else was doing it.” However, the allegations against this teacher goes far beyond anything I have seen before.

As a teacher (and if you’ve been reading my blog for a while) you know, that I have no tolerance for bullying of any kind. My former headmaster actually encouraged bullying saying that “it helped students conform.” Our current headmaster has a zero tolerance for bullying, which is a relief. His policy is immediate expulsion, as it should be. This South Carolina case seems even worse to me because it is the teacher, and it seems to have been taking to extremes because, most likely, the student did not “conform.” A student with bad behavior is one thing, but one who may be socially awkward or “non-conforming” in some way should never be singled out. We are all unique, and it’s one of the great characteristics of humanity. We should not be punished for our uniqueness.

Experts have linked school bullying to an increased risk for mental health problems, substance abuse and suicide. Students who are victims of bullying are also at risk for poor academic achievement on standardized tests. They are more likely to feel isolated, to participate less in school activities and to miss, skip or drop out of school, according to stopbullying.gov, a website that provides information on the issue from various government agencies. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) youth and those perceived as LGBT are at an increased risk of being bullied, the website says.

If the bullying by the teacher has reached such a level that the student was withdrawn from the school, had to seek counseling, and for a lawsuit to be filed, then I suspect there is a great deal of evidence to supports the student’s and his mother’s claims. I. This case, I feel, that the appropriate response from the school district should be suspension of the teacher until an internal investigation is concluded. If the allegations are true, and for some reason (i.e. personal intuition) I suspect they are true, then the teacher should be fired and his teaching credentials revoked.

I hope and pray that the allegations are false, because it is inconceivable to me that a teacher would do this to a student. Teachers are protectors of our students. Teachers are there to provide an education. Teachers are their to encourage students. What this teacher is alleged to have done is none of these. I may not like some of my students, but it is because of their apathy and misbehavior, nothing else.


What Defiles a Person

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And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Mark 7:14-23

Last week, I wrote that I would continue my previous post with a follow-up to answer the last question posed to me. My commenter asked: “Regarding Jesus, what do you think Jesus means concerning sexual immorality defiling the heart in Mark 7:20-23? What sexual immorality would He have in mind and how would we know what He meant?”

First of all, you will notice that the verses that I quote above are Mark 7:14-23, not just Mark 7:20-23, because I wanted to present the wider context of what Jesus was saying. What is the key to living a life of truth and purity in Christ? Is it following the traditions of the church? No. Jesus in this section showed that purity in Christianity was not an outward thing but a matter of the heart.

Jesus had just scolded the Pharisees for following their traditions rather than following the word of God. In fact they gave such importance to their traditions that they completely negated the word of God, which was leading people astray. Jesus showed the error of their ways and then went on to correct them.

The argument came up over the washing of hands before eating. This was a tradition the Pharisees were teaching and were annoyed because the disciples of Jesus were not following their tradition. In showing the error of their argument, Jesus said to all the people that, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” (Verses 14-15)

A person is not defiled by eating without washing their hands, at least not in the sight of God. A person is defiled when they behave poorly towards their fellow man. Real defilement is a matter of behavior not food. When someone behaves badly towards another they are showing a lack of respect and of love for that person. The basis of both the old and new covenants is love. So when a person acts in opposition to love, they are defiled for they are not acting in accordance with the nature and the will of God.

To eat with unwashed hands could make you sick physically, but it will neither commend nor cause your rejection before God. He does not care whether we wash our hands to eat or not. The old saying that “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” is completely wrong. What will cause you to be defiled is anger, wrath, malice, evil behavior, fornication, licentiousness, adultery, murder, deceit and so on. These are the true blots and blemishes on the character of man.

The application of what Jesus is saying goes far beyond the issue of what foods we eat. The same principle applies to the music we listen to, the beverages we drink, the movies or tv shows we watch, the books we read etc. There is nothing external to you that will defile you because sinful corruption and defilement comes from the human heart. Your goal should not be just to rigidly and ritualistically avoid all the things external to you that you consider unclean and unrighteous. Your goal should primarily be to surrender your heart to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your heart, transform your motives, and transform your desires so that your heart no longer desires to sin but desires to obey God and live a life of purity. Do not think that by avoiding all the “unclean” foods, drinks, places, or activities that you will automatically be clean and righteous. It would be a tragedy if you spent your life, like the Pharisees, completely preoccupied with all the external issues but never dealing with your internal heart issues.

So nothing outside of a person corrupts him/her, does that mean we’re free to eat, drink, watch, read anything we want anytime we want? Be careful. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 Paul addressed this issue by saying, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” So in a sense, barring any explicit Biblical commands to the contrary, yes we are free to “do anything.” However, it is not always constructive or beneficial to “do anything.” For example, a Christian who is a recovering alcoholic has the freedom to drink alcohol, but it probably would not be beneficial for him/her to do so. Jesus’ proclamation that nothing outside of a person makes him/her unclean and unrighteous is not meant to be used by you as an excuse to simply do whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, and however you want.

Remember, the root issue is your heart. If a person is pursuing sinful behavior, it is not because something external to that person caused them to become sinful, but is because their human flesh wants to sin in that way. Your sin isn’t a result of something outside of you; it is a result of your human heart and flesh wanting to be in rebellion against God. Read through that list of sinful vices Jesus listed, keeping in mind his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount that even looking at a woman lustfully is adultery, or that even being angry can be as bad as murder. After reading that list ask yourself, “Which of these/how many of these have I committed in the past day? Week? Month? Year?” How have you attempted to overcome those sinful behaviors? Simply avoiding external things and abiding to external rules is not enough to defeat your sin. You need Jesus. You need your heart to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Instead of simply trying to correct your behavior, continually be surrendering you heart over to Jesus, and continually be seeking to have your heart, desires, and motivations conformed to the will of God. Only with a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit will you be able to experience true victory over sin.

Though the question from my commenter explicitly asked to address what Jesus meant by “sexual immorality,” I find the complete context to be more beneficial to study than two words near the end of the passage. However, I do want to address this because I think it is important for LGBT Christians to understand. Sex outside of marriage, i.e. rape, fornication, and adultery, is clearly defined as sin, as are the lustful thoughts that go with them, even without the act, as Jesus states in the Sermon on the Mount. However, that being said, when different places forbid LGBT marriages, they take that away from us. We are denied the right to be married and have a fulfilling and loving relationship within the confines of marriage. Furthermore, homosexuality as a sin is a tradition of man and is not upheld by a true reading of the scripture of the New Testament. Those who condemn homosexuality are no better than the Pharisees that Jesus corrects. As was pointed out in our study of the Book of James, we must be hearers and doers of the Word.

In Jesus we have the opportunity to overcome the nature of man. We can have the victory over the flesh by learning and applying the words of the truth. The path we are to follow is not the traditions of man, but the truth of the gospel of Christ. Seek His ways and you will find a path where there is no defilement.


Wentworth Miller Comes Out

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Though rumors of him being gay were rampant when he was on Fox’s Prison Break, Wentworth Miller never responded to the rumors. Now, he has revealed that he’s gay in a letter to the Russia’s St. Petersburg International Film Festival declining their invitation to attend.

Wentworth’s letter, which is posted on GLAAD’s website, thanks festival organizers for an invitation but states that “as a gay man, I must decline. I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government.”

“Wentworth’s bold show of support sends a powerful message to LGBT Russians, who are facing extreme violence and persecution: you are not alone,” said a statement from GLAAD representative Wilson Cruz, who is also an actor (My So-Called Life).

Miller’s announcement comes amid international condemnation of tough laws targeting homosexuals that the Russian government has passed in recent months. The new laws include fines for individuals accused of spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors, and penalizes those who express pro-gay views online or in the news media. Gay pride rallies are banned as well, as is the adoption of Russian-born children by same-sex couples.

Here’s a bonus picture of this sexy man:

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