Monthly Archives: March 2012

Two Weeks After Attempted Suicide, Gay Ohio Teen Remains Unconscious

Austin Rodriguez - image via WYTV
Austin Rodriguez - image via WYTV

It’s been two weeks since he attempted suicide, and Austin Rodriguez’s mother is asking for prayers in preparation for surgery next week. The Wellsville, Ohio teen remains sedated and on a ventilator at Akron Children’s Hospital after taking over a hundred prescription pills and collapsing in his family’s home on March 16.

This Thursday, Austin’s mother shared the following update with a Facebook group formed to relay information on his condition.

Austin has been fighting with Neuroleptic Malignate Syndrome. A lot of people were asking the name of it. Look it up, it’s really serious. He is looking at surgery mid-week next week to remove the tubes and put in a trach so after a week or so they could try to take him off the muscle relaxers and medications that have him paralyzed, which will be great. No real improvement with his lungs yet. His temp went up overnight to 104 again, but they put him on a cooling blanket again and his temp has come down and stayed down through the morning. His blood pressure is good for now. So please keep him in your prayers and if you have an extra minute please pray for our family. Thank you for all the support.

The Advocate first reported Austin’s attempted suicide last Friday. Local NBC station WFMJ followed up earlier this week.

Bonnie Rodriguez says her 15-year-old son declared his homosexuality just six to eight months ago. First telling family, then friends, and then no longer hiding it from classmates at school.

The teenager’s mother says it was shortly after coming out that her son, who is a straight-A student, began getting bullied at school.

She says at first her son appeared happy and relieved, and then she thought he may have been going through a depression and asked him about it several times, but he never really explained the extent of what he was going through.

From what his mother has learned, the bullying was not only cruel, but enough to make a teenager who was already introverted, feel like an outcast. “It was electronic, it was face to face bullying, they were hiding his gym clothes because they didn’t want him changing in the locker room with them. They didn’t want him to eat by them, or in the school lunchroom,” Rodriguez said.

As he enters week three in critical condition, here’s hoping we’ll soon have some good news on Austin’s recovery. If you have a kind thought or prayer for him, I know he and his family would appreciate it right about now.

FACT: NOM Wants To Start A Race War

nom-logoI would not want to be a follower of the National Organization for [Straight] Marriage (NOM) right now. Last night we learned that yes, what we suspected for the past several years is true: part of NOM’s strategy has been to engender and exploit racism in their fight against civil rights. The revelation comes from NOM’s own internal documents, released by HRC’s NOM Exposed project, which were used as evidence in their failed attempt to get around campaign finance laws in Maine.

MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts had the story this morning.

Two of the passages in question:

The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…

The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity – a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.

Understand, we’ve known through simple observation that this was part of Maggie Gallagher’s strategy. The only surprise here is the hubris and stupidity in putting it down on paper. Jeremy Hooper of GoodAsYou has offered a long list of evidence of Maggie’s racist strategy from the past couple years. And Alvin McEwen of Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters offered his analysis this morning (more at the link):

In addition, all of those other awful speeches and statements by pastors and black leaders pushed forth by NOM now take a more nauseating semblance. None of what they were doing had anything to preserving the black community or helping the black community.

It was just a game. A nasty, hate-filled game. The only thing that could possibly be worse about this situation is if the exchanging of money between NOM and these black leaders was involved.

As Joe Sudbay said this morning over at AmericaBlog:

This scandal creates a number of questions. For me, the first one is: Who saw NOM’s plan to start a race war and agreed to fund it?

There are some likely suspects who have close ties to the anti-gay industry, led by NOM, including the Catholic Bishops, Mormons and the Knights of Columbus. Someone needs to ask each of those groups if they saw this racist plan and if they funded it.

There are many more questions to be asked. It’s going to take days, if not weeks, to unpack a document dump this large. But this one’s big. No more can NOM claim their desire for racial harmony. No, their own papers expose exactly the opposite agenda.

NOM’s Magic Half Hour — Are They Lying About #DumpStarbucks Signatures?

Last Wednesday, the National Organization for [straight] Marriage sent several people to the Starbucks shareholders’ meeting to challenge chairman and CEO Howard Shultz about the company’s views on civil marriage, namely that it shouldn’t be restricted to straight people only. As expected, Mr. Shultz handled the publicity stunt wonderfully, reaffirming the company’s commitment to treat their gay employees and customers fairly.

Also as expected, NOM immediately began a petition campaign against Starbucks. It’s not going very well. Really, really, not very well. At all.

In the five days since NOM’s petition at DumpStarbucks.com went live, they’ve managed to amass nearly 19,000 signatures for their petition. That’s not horrific, though pretty not-great in terms of heavily pushed international social media campaigns. On Sunday evening, NOM crowed through their DumpStarbucks twitter account about a new signature count.

Sunday bragging
Sunday bragging

I challenge their reporting. See, I’ve been checking in on NOM’s signature updates over the weekend, and they don’t pass the smell test. Something…fishy happened around noon on Saturday. At 11:57, their automated tweeting application announced 8,048 signatures.

Saturday, 11:57 am
Saturday, 11:57 am

A mere 23 minutes later, the automated tweeting application announced 15,157 signatures.

Saturday, 12:20 pm
Saturday, 12:20 pm

So NOM claims that they trucked along at a steady pace of about 2,500 – 3,500 signatures per day from Wednesday through Saturday morning, had a burst of 7,100 signatures in a half hour, then abruptly returned to their previous rate. In 23 minutes, according to NOM, they got almost as many signatures as they had in the previous three days combined.

That kind of sudden increase and identically sudden reversal are, to be polite, unlikely. Factoring in that the burst of support supposedly happened on one of the slowest internet traffic days of the week, it becomes even less likely. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume for a moment that the claimed sudden burst of support happened. Why would it happen?

NOM has been pushing their DumpStarbucks Twitter account pretty hard, so it’s reasonable to figure it’s coming from there. The problem with that is that their Twitter campaign has been, in a word, horrible. They currently have a grand total of 137 followers. Even worse, a Topsy search for the auto-filled DumpStarbucks tweet you’re given after signing the petition turns up only 63 tweets so far (Monday 3:00 AM), and that includes people deriding the campaign. Saturday morning before NOM’s magic half hour? A whopping two tweets. The burst, if it were true, simply couldn’t have come from there.

There’s surely some traffic from Facebook, and Maggie Gallagher’s NOM post on Friday afternoon was shared on Facebook over a thousand times by Saturday morning (Thanks to Jeremy at GoodAsYou for the Saturday morning screencap.) But are those thousand shares enough to explain 7,100 new signatures in a magic half hour? I don’t think so. If they did, how would you explain the precipitous drop at the end of the half hour? It just doesn’t add up.

What happened? It’s worth noting that the Saturday tweets during the magic half hour were automated and Sunday’s were manually tweeted. (See the notation under the tweets.) In fact, the 15,157 tweet was the last from the automated application. It’s not unreasonable to consider that NOM’s automated system may have malfunctioned in its reporting before it was caught and shut down. Come to think of it, we know it malfunctioned on Friday; in two separate tweets it reported zero signatures.

Another possibility is that the system under-reported for three days, corrected itself during the magic half hour, then started under-reporting again. (Remember, the sudden drop is as suspect as the sudden increase.) That seems even less likely.

Then there’s the third option. Someone saw that NOM’s campaign was a dismal failure, knew they’d need something to brag about at the start of the week, and thought doubling the count over the weekend would do the trick.

And make no mistake, NOM’s campaign is a failure. By comparison, the PumpStarbucks petition at SumOfUs, which thanks Starbucks for supporting civil rights, has 12.5 times more signatures than NOM’s corporate-backed petition. At 3:00 am on Monday (I should really be in bed, you guys), their independently tallied signature count is sitting at 222,043 to NOM’s 18,725.

Facebook Yet Again Censors Gay Kiss

Spanish newspaper El País (via Instinct magazine) reports today that Facebook has removed yet another image of two men kissing because their administrators consider gay men kissing to be controversial. The photo by Spanish artist Juan Hidalgo had been posted to the Facebook page of Visible Cultura, ironically, an anti-homophobia project. Here’s the kiss in question, with a censor bar added by page administrator Pablo Peinado after Facebook removed the image.

Image by Juan Hidalgo (Click for his website.)
Image by Juan Hidalgo (Click for his website.)

Facebook later acknowledged that they were wrong to remove the image, but this isn’t the first time they’ve been caught. By my count it’s the third in a year, and that’s just the ones that have made the news. Facebook isn’t alone, though, and I think it’s important to acknowledge the obvious effect this has on both gay kids who are being told that their very natural feelings are disgusting, and straight kids who are taught that it’s okay to treat their gay peers with such disrespect and derision.

The continued branding of G-rated affection between gays as pornographic and offensive is the impetus behind my tongue-in-cheek series Shocking STR8 Kiss, which I hope (perhaps in vain) will help straight folks understand the absurdity of censoring gay affection by censoring culturally celebrated images of straight people showing affection for each other. Please share them with your friends. (Not sure where to start? Show them Ross and Rachel’s kiss from Friends.)