Monthly Archives: January 2009

Editor Censors Gay Man’s Obituary

I picked up a copy of the new freebie community newspaper last night at the laundromat. They’ve decided to print the headlines in Arial Rounded MT Bold for some reason, but it was otherwise unobjectionable. Unobjectionable, that is, until I got to the obituaries.

The first one on the page had a picture of a relatively young guy. Turns out he was 50. As I read the family roll call I realized that he must’ve been gay. The list of survivors began with the sentence Jeffrey is survived by his friend, Ronald S. Ronald was followed by a listing of Jeffrey’s living brothers and sisters, who were followed by a listing of Ronald’s living family.

I thought that was sweet. Sweet that the obituary had been written to include both of their families, just as you see in many obituaries of straight married people. Sweet that Jeff and Ronald were comfortable enough with their homosexuality to do that so publicly in rural Ohio. It’s a real sign of progress. But something bothered me about it, and as my clothes hit the final spin cycle I figured out what it was.

Friend. Ronald was identified as Jeff’s friend. That’s not typical use even in a small town like this one, especially when you make it clear in the same paragraph that you consider each other’s family your family. An out and proud person generally doesn’t willingly downgrade his apparently long-term, committed relationship to friendship.

Later, I checked the funeral home’s website for the original version. It didn’t say friend. It said Jeff is survived by his partner, Ronald S.

I checked the websites of two other newspapers, one in the nearest city and one where Jeff had lived. Both used the word partner. Clearly someone at this little community newspaper made the change on his/her own. I sent an email requesting clarification on the change this morning, but I don’t expect to hear anything. 1

This is one more reason that civil marriage equality needs to happen. We need to be permitted to marry just like straight folks do and finally use the terms that they do.

It was easy for some small town editor to cross off the word partner and substitute it with friend. Would it be as simple or as accepted to cross off the word husband from a man’s life?

As a final insult, the reality of Jeff’s life was whitewashed even after he died. Presumably it was done for the comfort of  people reading the obituary. But Ronald didn’t bury a friend last week. He buried his long-time companion, his lover, his partner.

His husband.


1 Less than an hour after publishing this post, I received the following response from the editor of the New Carlisle (Ohio) News:


Thank you for contacting the New Carlisle News.

The editing of Jeffrey [redacted]’s obituary was an editorial decision.

Dale Grimm
New Carlisle News

(Here’s a screencap of the email.)

Just so everybody’s clear, Mr. Grimm censored an obituary to hide the fact that the person who died was gay. Unbelievable. I find more than a little pathetic that Jeff’s pride and honesty in life was trampled immediately upon his death.

Dale Grimm, who also owns ISP, can be contacted at 1-877-652-2638 or (937) 284-2715. Or if you prefer email, contact him through this contact form at or this one at his hosting business, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see that disappear again (like it did a few minutes ago). ⇧

High School Students Explore Effects of Homophobia

Elkhorn Area (Wisconsin) High School (Home of the Fighting Elks!) teacher Sarah Arnold is making news this week for designing and teaching an 37-day unit on hidden homophobia for her 11th grade English students. Since others have handled the predictable kerfuffle raised by the anti-gay crowd, I decided to take a closer look at the unit itself.

What I found was an impressive tool for teaching not just tolerance and acceptance of others, but a guide to critical thinking that will be an asset to Ms. Arnold’s students for the rest of their lives.

According to Teaching Tolerance (where the entire unit plan has been made available), the unit began with an essay on what makes each student different in some way. This was followed by a screening of the Oscar-winning 1994 short film Trevor 1, one that I must confess I’ve still not seen. Arnold’s students went on to view and discuss PBS’s The Life and Death of Billy Jack Gaither, CBS’s Gay or Straight?, MTV’s True Life: Gay Parents, Race, Gender, and Sexuality, and HBO’s The Laramie Project. All of these were viewed in the classroom followed by group discussion and essays.

There was also required reading, such as the short story A Rose for Charlie and a choice of novels including Alone in the Trenches, Geography Club, and So Hard to Say, with in-depth discussion for each.

Ms. Arnold also led the class through other academic exercises, such as a massive portfolio project and an exploration of G.W. Allport’s Five Levels of Prejudice:

Allport defined five ways that prejudice can be expressed or acted upon. These five types of prejudiced action are :

  1. Antilocution (name calling, stereotyping)
  2. Avoidance (defamation by omission, exclusion)
  3. Discrimination (refusal of service, denial of opportunity)
  4. Physical Attack (threat of physical violence, murder)
  5. Extermination (mass assassination, genocide)

One vital detail I noticed is that none of the resources used were religious in nature. Ms. Arnold didn’t include, for example, Mel White‘s Stranger at the Gate. By doing this, Ms. Arnold removed many of the religious objections and focused on the sociological aspect of the discussion. I think that given the public school setting, that was a wonderful decision.

So kudos to Sarah Arnold. She took a huge risk with a huge potential pay off. Again, Ms. Arnold’s entire eight-week unit plan is now available at Teaching Tolerance.


1 This film led to the formation of The Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBT youth. ⇧

Documentary Shows Life Within Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

There’s a new documentary being filmed for release this summer that looks to be a good future resource. Out of Annapolis is being made by LGBT alumni of the US Naval Academy to explain the real-life effect of DADT.

The message behind “Out of Annapolis” is that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender academy students and graduates admire the academy and the military, and want to serve their country. But federal law and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy requires them to hide their sexual identity if they want to serve in uniform.

Here’s the rough trailer for Out of Annapolis (updated with May 2010 version):

One bit I want to highlight, because it’s part of the problem not just with DADT, but with the closet in general. An unidentified retired officer says:

I spent six months on a ship with three guys that I spent all day with as my roommates, and I hear about what they’re going through with their wives, or their kids, or anything like that, and I can never share. And I felt like a liar; that the relationships and the friendships I was forming on the ship, I always withheld a part of myself. So nobody really knew me. Nobody…there was no connection, there was no strong sympathy. It added to just the overall stress of performing in combat.

Many of the interviewees for the film are also members of USNA Out, an organization of LGBT Naval Academy Alumni. It’s worth noting that the film doesn’t seem to be casting aspersions on the Naval Academy, just relating their experiences and hoping to help people understand the damage being done by a prejudicial policy.

For more on Out of Annapolis, please visit the documentary’s website.

Soulforce Founder and Son in The Amazing Race

AfterElton reports this morning that Soulforce co-founder Rev. Dr. Mel White with his son Mike will appear in season 14 of The Amazing Race.

Rev. Dr. White was once a ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell before coming out as gay and parting ways with the homophobic evangelical church. (His story is told in the documentary Friends of God and in his book Stranger at the Gate.) He is currently married to his husband, Soulforce co-head Gary Nixon.

White’s son, Mike, is known for appearing in movies like the brilliantly unsettling Chuck & Buck (which he also wrote), School of Rock (which he also wrote), and The Good Girl (which he wrote). He also wrote and directed Year of the Dog (starring Molly Shannon) and was one of the forces behind the shortly-lived fan fave series Freaks & Geeks (in which he also briefly appeared).

To have two gay men who are also relatives and who actively work to promote visibility and understanding on the show is really awesome. Let’s hope they last!

Here’s their intro video from the official The Amazing Race website:

And here’s the team’s bio.

Mike and Mel had a pretty typical family life until Mike was 11 years old, which is when Mel told the family that he was gay. Mel and Mike’s mother remained married until Mike and his sister, Erinn, went to college. Mel is now married to his life partner of 27 years, Gary Nixon.

Mike works as a writer, director and actor in Los Angeles. His writing credits include the feature films “Nacho Libre” and “School of Rock,” in which he also starred opposite Jack Black and Sarah Silverman, as well as the television series “Pasadena.” Mike and Mel are eager to spend some quality time racing around the globe. Mike describes himself as entertaining, thoughtful and “ridiculously pale.” These two might not be the most physical team on the Race, but they’ll surely compensate with their wit and communication skills.

Mel, a gay-rights activist, has worked as a writer, professor, filmmaker and a pastor and is eager to have a once in a lifetime experience with his youngest child. He’s confident that his people skills will give him an advantage over some of the other Racers. He describes himself as energetic, caring and passionate and enjoys scuba diving and racquetball. When asked who he would model his style of game play after, he pointed to Season 7 winners Uchenna and Joyce, while Mike will model his game play after the “never say die” attitude of Charla and Mirna.

Mike and Mel are well-traveled, opinionated and huge fans of the Race.

It’ll be interesting to see how Mel and Mike fare and how well they keep their dignity through the season. My only question: Will they be wearing matching clothes the entire season?

Catholic Church Bribes Charity to Keep Priest Jobless

See update at bottom of the post!

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bishop Robinson’s speech before the Creating Change conference last year. You can find the entire speech here, and for today I’d rush you along to part two, in which Robinson says, “There is risk to be involved when you tell the truth.” It’s a fact that most everybody knows, and someone recently got a personalized reminder of it from the Catholic Church.

I wrote about Father Geoff Farrow back in October. Farrow is a Catholic priest who stood against Bishop John Steinbock of the Fresno diocese by refusing to endorse California’s Prop 8 (the one that removed civil rights from gay and lesbian Californians) from the pulpit. As expected, Father Geoff has been removed from his charge in the Catholic Church. His pension rights were immediately stripped, as were his health benefits.

Father Geoff Farrow pays the price for our civil rights.
Father Geoff Farrow pays the price for our civil rights.

But that wasn’t enough for the Catholic Church. Late last year, Father Farrow had been seeking employment with the Los Angeles chapter of an ecumenical charity. CLUE, or Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, provides assistance to the working poor throughout California.

Father Tony of the Bilerico Project reports:

CLUE derives a significant part of its funding from the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Today I spoke with a member of CLUE’s board of directors, Rev. James Conn, a Methodist minister and Director of New Ministries for the California-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church. Reverend Conn had been directly involved in the recruitment and interview process involving Father Geoff.

I asked him if CLUE had denied Father Geoff a second interview specifically because the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles threatened to cut off all its significant funding for CLUE should Father Geoff ever be offered the position in question.

As Father Tony goes on to point out, Father Geoff was not attempting to pass himself off as a Catholic priest in good standing, nor was the position he was interviewing for related to the split between him and the church.

Let’s be blunt about what Cardinal Mahoney of the Los Angeles archdiocese is doing: In the middle of the biggest recession in decades, he is threatening to shut down a charity that helps the poor in order to keep a former priest from earning a living.

Shame on you, Cardinal Mahony. Shame on you for laying aside the words of Jesus and the needs of the poor in favor of mob tactics and pride.

Update: Father Geoff has confirmed Father Tony’s reporting of the incident.

In brief, I had applied for the position of Executive Director of a non-profit organization in Los Angeles. I had very successfully completed the lion’s share of the interview process and was all but assured that I would be given the position. I had one final interview left with the Board of Directors on December 15th, 2008. Two days before that interview, I received a phone call from a Board Member informing me that the final interview had been canceled. He was extremely apologetic and explained that they had received a phone call from the Archdiocese threatening them with disaffiliation if I were to be hired as the Executive Director.

I have received first a command and then, “warnings” not to publish, not to speak with the media, and not to make public appearances. I am in a “David and Goliath” scenario with powerful churchmen who have the staff and vast wealth of the institution at their command. I was effectively blackballed by the Archdiocese from obtaining the position at CLUE-LA and I am aware that the hierarchy may try this and other means to attempt to intimidate me into silence.

Gay Bishop Comes to The Daily Show

Bishop Gene Robinson was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Tuesday night after the inauguration. Though it’s only a three minute interview via satellite, he was a marvelous guest, made a few salient points (even talking ever so briefly about Rick Warren), and got in one fabulous joke that got me out of my chair.

Translating the Inaugural Benediction

As I was preparing my post on the inauguration, I found that there was one part that needed more room than the rest and decided to post it in the morning. But after seeing the venom being directed at Rev. Joseph Lowery for his benediction, I thought it better to put it up tonight. Here is the benediction that impressed me so much:

Now I’ve been in enough churches to know that a good preacher knows when to inject some humor, and it seemed to me that that’s all Rev. Lowery was doing when he ended the benediction with this:

…we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around [laughter] … when yellow will be mellow [laughter] … when the red man can get ahead, man [laughter] … and when white will embrace what is right.

Rev. Joseph Lowery: An American Visionary
Rev. Joseph Lowery: An American Visionary

Others didn’t see it that way.

It’s interesting to me that so many white folks found this offensive. We’ve certainly got a long enough history of being the oppressor, of not embracing what is right. We’ve demanded that someone who is black sit in back, we’ve told someone who is brown not to stick around. I mean seriously, this is recent recorded history. Is there no collective memory in this country?

But I knew it had to be more than Rev. Lowery just stringing together a few rhymes all on his own. His experience as the Dean of the Civil Rights Movement demands that I give him the benefit of that doubt, so I started digging.

The first thing I found was the song Black, Brown, and White (1951) by blues singer Big Bill Broonzy. This is verse four.

Me and a man was workin’ side by side
This is what it meant
They was paying him a dollar an hour,
and they was paying me fifty cent
They said, “If you was white, ‘t should be all right,
if you was brown, could stick around,
but as you black, hmm boy, get back, get back, get back”.

So yep, here we have a song from right before the Civil Rights movement went into full swing. But maybe there’s more still. Next I found the blog Diary of an Anxious Black Woman and her post from today. In it, she mentions the little rhyme.

For all those who did not get the cultural allusion, and believe that only white people were being chastised for failing to do what’s right, Reverend Lowery was referring to a childhood rhyme about racial hierarchy:

If you’re white, you’re all right
If you’re yellow, you’re mellow
If you’re brown, stick around
But if you’re black,
Get back!

In short, he specifically asked that, in this “new era,” we dismantle the system of white privilege and hierarchy and truly make room for a multiracial America based on racial equality. Unlike those who’ve been calling for a “Postracial” America, in the wake of President Obama, Reverend Lowery reminded us that our goal is really to move towards a “Postracist” America. I’d like to see our first African American and 44th President of the United States committed to the same goal.

YES! I knew there must be more to it! And here we have someone else who knows what it is! I love the internet!!!

(I know this post is getting long, but I think the next part’s worth it. Besides, brevity has never been my strong suit.)
But I still wanted to see more, and I found more in the book Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of Afro-American Folklore, a collection exploring African American folklore edited by Alan Dundes and originally published in 1973. Use the link on the title to get to the section on Google Books, or use this one to buy it at The following is an excerpt from As Crinkly as Yours by Eldridge Cleaver. (Italics denotes commentary by the editor)

There were deeply imbedded [sic] in the thinking and folklore of the race such adages and beliefs as: “If you’re white you’re all right; if you’re brown stick around; but if you’re black—GET BACK!” And some of these same old sayings are still current in the Negro community.*

Think on it: this was the era of the camera. Negroes saw photographs, paintings and portraits in which the beauty of the Caucasian was extolled saturatingly throughout the land. Negroes witnessed beauty contests in which Caucasian men and women were held up and proclaimed the most beautiful creatures that God had fashioned and placed upon the face of the earth (it never dawning on the Negroes that it was the Caucasians themselves who were pinning roses on their own lapels). Great numbers of Negroes were learning to read and write: and in the books which they read, the process took on a sweeping new dimension. When a Negro retired in solitude to relax and enjoy a great book, it was the Caucasian standard of beauty which was flaunted before him and held up for him to praise—and praise it he did, unable to resist or dispute, having no criterion by which to refute. In the novels, he met heroines with creamy white skin, sparkling blue eyes, and long flowing blonde tresses; and heroes with rugged Roman noses, wavy black hair and perhaps a gentle sun-tan. And then the motion-picture industry sprang into being, and with it, a constant deluge reiterating and indisputably establishing the Caucasian standard of beauty.

* This is invariably quoted as a prime example of “self-hate” folklore. Like all folklore, there is some textual variation. The version in William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs, Black Rage (New York, 1968), p. 66, is: “If you’re white, you’re right. If you’re brown, hang around. If you’re black, get back.” The version cited in the first pages of Philip Sterling, ed., Laughing on the Outside: The Intelligent White Reader’s Guide to Negro Tales and Humor (New York, 1965), is:

If you’re white, you’re right.
If you’re yellow, you’re mellow.
If you’re brown, stick aroun’.
If you’re black, brother, get back!

Mr. Dundes goes on to reference nine other instances of this rhyme in other books about African American folklore.

Note that (at least the way I’m reading this) this little ditty isn’t about whites, blacks, Indians, Asians, and Hispanics. This is about the hierarchy within the black community once recognized by both whites and African Americans. I’ve heard of the paper bag test before (skin lighter than a brown paper bag denoting a person of relative superior breeding than skin darker than a brown paper bag), and this bit of oral folklore is another artifact of that sad part of our history.

I guess I have two points here, both directed at the white folks in the crowd. First, think before you cry racism. Were you really that desperate for something to be angry about that you didn’t even consider that there might be a gap in your knowledge?

Second, there is a shamefully deep chasm that separates our understanding of African American culture. It’s our job to at least attempt to fix that. Start today. Start with Rev. Lowery. You’ll find that their cultural history is rich and powerful. We could stand to learn a thing or two from their experience.

Let all who do justice and love mercy say Amen!

A New Beginning with President Barack Obama

Well, the inauguration is over. President Obama (tee hee) took the oath of office 1, gave a phenomenal address, and with a lot of time-honored pomp and circumstance 2, we have a new president.

I’m obviously bothered by Rick Warren’s presence in the festivities, and I found his invocation to be far too Christian a prayer, not terribly fitting for such an occasion. (For a primer on reasonable public service prayer, see Bishop Gene Robinson’s un-televised invocation of Sunday night.)

We're counting on you, Mr. President. Don't let us down.
We're counting on you, Mr. President. Don't let us down.

But this afternoon the game is changes. The lead up between November 4th and January 20th was the equivalent of a political scrimmage, a testing of each side to see what we can expect from each other in the real season. President Obama showed us that his support for our cause is negotiable, especially if there’s a major gain to be had by putting our rights aside. In return, we hopefully have shown him that that isn’t okay, and that we’ll make noise if it comes to it.

In other words, we should bear what we’ve learned in mind, but proceed with a certain amount of trust for what President Obama has said.

President Obama has pledged to support hate crime laws such as the Matthew Shepard Act, support the ENDA for both orientation and gender identity, expand adoption rights, end DADT, oppose legislation like DOMA, and support civil unions. He says he’s on our side and though he doesn’t exactly support marriage equality, he’s not talking about ripping our families apart either.

But there’s more to today’s events than just what it means for LGBT Americans. Politics aside, the fact that a majority of voting Americans voted for an African American man is huge. President Obama’s parents wouldn’t have been able to marry in at least 18 states when he was born, and now he’s in the Oval Office. I watched with the rest of the nation today as we took a big step toward full inclusion of African Americans.

The reactions of people, especially people of color, has been a sight to behold. One picture I found (below, courtesy AP) strikes me as an important piece of this day. The picture is of Farrington James, a man without a home, crying as he watched the inauguration from the Lord’s Place homeless shelter in West Palm Beach. For many like Mr. James, this is more than just a change from GWB. It’s the fulfillment of a promise that they hardly dared to believe.

Yes, Mr. James. It really did happen.
Yes, Mr. James. It really did happen.

As I said in yesterday’s post, the election of Barack Obama isn’t the end of racism. But every once in a while you get a clear sign that we’re getting there. I daresay that Mr. James got that sign today.


1 By the way, it wasn’t President Obama who messed up the oath. Chief Justice Roberts mixed up some words and Obama stumbled and waited for him to correct himself. Then Roberts made another mistake.

2 By the way, did you catch Anthony McGill, that fine piece of clarinetist? I’d like to get some pointers on proper tonguing technique from him sometime, if you know what I mean!

Achieving Martin Luther King’s Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 80 years old this year. I wonder what he would have said about Barack Obama’s inauguration tomorrow. It’s an interesting thought that just 41 years after King was murdered for standing against bigotry, an African American man has been elected president. How far we’ve come.

And how far we still have to go. I had to smile in November when some people started proclaiming that Obama’s election signaled the end of racism in America. Racism isn’t gone; we’ve got plenty of evidence of that. Evidence like the New Year’s Day murder of a subdued and handcuffed Oscar Grant by a BART police officer.

These instances of racist violence are fewer and farther between than they were in Dr. King’s day, but a quieter racism remains. There is still much to do, but it is good to be reminded of how far we have come. I say “we” because the end of racism isn’t just good for the African American community; it’s good for all of us. The end of bigotry that Dr. King and other heroes of the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century struggled for is one that we in the LGBT community and many others are continuing with them today.

I’ve been trying to come up with something new to say on the 80th anniversary of Dr. King’s birth, but it all seems to have been said by others more educated and more eloquent than I am. Instead, I found a couple of important excerpts of Dr. King’s writings to share. As my focus is on two fronts, civil and religious, so is the focus of these brief excerpts.

From Dr. King’s collection of sermons, Strength to Love:

Softmindedness often invades religion. This is why religion has sometimes rejected new truth with a dogmatic passion. Through edicts and bulls, inquisitions and excommunications, the church has attempted to prorogue truth and place an impenetrable stone wall in the path of the truth-seeker. The historical-philological criticism of the Bible is considered by the softminded as blasphemous, and the reason is often looked upon as the exercise of a corrupt faculty. Softminded persons have revised the Beatitudes to read, “Blessed are the pure in ignorance: for they shall see God.”

An American Prophet
An American Prophet

From the book Why We Can’t Wait, which includes Dr. King’s famous Letter From Birmingham City Jail:

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Free at last! Free at last!
Free at last! Free at last!

Finally, from the speech for which Dr. King is best known, collected in the book A Testament of Hope:

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968
January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

We’re getting there, Dr. King. Happy birthday.

Obama Makes Bishop Robinson Invisible

See update at the bottom of the post!

It’s been five days since it was announced that Bishop Gene Robinson would be giving the invocation a pre-inaugural concert tonight. The concert was broadcast by HBO, and since I don’t have cable anymore I’ve been sitting at the computer here at my folks’ house waiting excitedly for a video clip of the event to appear on youtube or at another blog. Something to show the world that not only do LGBT people exist, we can be as spiritually fulfilled as anyone else.

So imagine my disappointment when reports started coming in that HBO decided not to air Bishop Robinson’s invocation, either on the live broadcast or on the immediate re-broadcast tonight. No word on why HBO decided to black out the moment, but this has been major news for nearly a week. It’s not as if they weren’t aware of how much people were talking about Robinson’s appearance.

It’s a new disappointing twist in this embarrassing start to President-elect Obama’s presidency. To add insult to injury, I’ve also seen reports that Robinson’s prayer was nearly inaudible to the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial. The cherry on top is that the DC Gay Men’s Chorus was apparently the one and only participating group not to be identified tonight.

I won’t bother to wonder whether Rick Warren’s prayer will be blacked out Tuesday. He’ll be front and center with working microphones and several cameras capturing the moment in high definition as a man who considers me and my LGBT brothers and sisters no better than incestuous pedophiles, undeserving of equal protection under the law and in need of repair by whatever means he deems possible.

Fortunately, we have unofficial video and a transcript of Bishop Robinson’s prayer thanks to Christianity Today magazine. HBO may not have run it and millions around the world may have been kept from hearing the words, but the invocation, in all its inclusive, healing, uplifting glory is available to be seen and read. More importantly, these words made it to the throne room of heaven with or without HBO’s approval.

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama
By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Welcome to Washington!  The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and  warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe.  We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one.  We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe.  Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


(Just two days left, Mr. Obama.)

update: According to the Box Turtle Bulletin’s recounting of Bishop Robinson’s interview today on NPR, he was unaware of the plan for his invocation to be unaired until he saw a schedule of events shortly before he went on.

Further, neither Barack Obama nor Joe Biden were present when Bishop Robinson was on stage. This was not an accident, as there very well could be political fallout if pictures of the president-elect and vice-president-elect were taken with a gay bishop.

HBO says it’s the Obama camp’s fault, the Obama camp says it’s HBO’s fault. I’m inclined to believe HBO right now, so I’ve changed the title of this post accordingly.

Fellow Gays, this does not bode well. Even on simple symbolic gestures that have no policy ramifications, Barack Obama seems to be willing to sacrifice us to gain support from the Religious Right. (You know, the ones who think we’re just like pedophiles and need to be put in therapy until we stop feeling our feelings.)

I hope I’m wrong. I really, really hope I’m wrong.