When rape victims are told that it was their fault, when young women and girls are told that they must cover up their “distracting” skin and curves, when they are told to not walk home alone, when they are given pepper spray as presents for dorm life, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.
When children are told to stand up to their bullies, when they are told to stop the personal expressions that attract bullies’ attention, when they are taught preventative self-defense, when they are given bullet-proof mats to protect them in a school shooting, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.
When minimum wage workers, the unemployed, and the homeless are told that they need to use more ingenuity to get by, when they are told to manage their personal budgets better, when they are criticized for not being able to support their children, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.
When LGBT individuals are told that their sexuality and gender expression is a choice, when they are denied their existence and livelihoods, when they are denied dynamic roles beyond the typical stereotypes in popular culture, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.
When “minorities” are criticized for having high unwed birth and single mother rates, when they are seen as less capable of academic and financial achievement, when they are seen as dangerous criminals and drug addicts, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.
When people are encouraged to use guns for self protection, when they keep hidden defenses in their purses and wallets in case they get abducted or kidnapped, when they switch to the other side of the street to avoid walking by dubious-looking others, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.
Instead of examining why rape, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of arbitrary discrimination exist and why society produces these horrors, we are placing the blame on the victims.
We are saying: it’s your fault you were targeted, it’s your fault that you have big breasts for a 13-year-old, it’s your fault that a multi-million dollar corporation does’t pay you a living wage, it’s your fault that your school district does not teach comprehensive sex education, it’s you fault that you’re gay, it’s your fault that American prisons are for-profit and have capacity quotas to meet, and it’s your fault that you couldn’t defend yourself during a mass shooting, a robbery, or a rape.
We are saying, you are the one who is wrong.
We need to turn around and instead examine why the rapists rape, examine why the bullies bully, examine why the CEOs don’t pay a living wage, examine why the homophobes are homophobic, examine why “minorities” are given unfair treatment in the eyes of the law, examine why the murderers murder, and examine why the kidnappers kidnap.
We need to fully examine an individual’s journey to victimhood and see if it’s actually the fault of the victim as we are often too eager to assume in this society. We are brainwashed into thinking that it’s the victim’s fault that they’re in the position they’re in. I’m arguing for deconstructing that idea and re-examing how they became victims, and then pursuing/punishing those whose fault it actually is. I would argue that, more often than not, it’s not the victim’s fault that they’re a victim.Victim-blaming just perpetuates the cycle and it needs to change, now.
“A cultural leap forward, or what Alaskan fishermen, Oregonian fathers, and NYC artists have in common.
From Molly Landredth’s tender vintage portraits of modern queer life to 19-year-old Iowan Zach Wahl’s brave message for marriage equality to Dan Savage’s paradigm-changing It Gets Better project, it’s a time of heartening change for the mainstream’s growing awareness of just how faceted and diverse LGBTQ culture is. It is precisely this faceted humanity that photographer Scott Pasfield, a gay man himself, sought to capture in Gay in America, traveling 54,000 miles across 50 states in 3 years to weave a powerful, profoundly human tapestry of 140 fathers, brothers, sons, and friends from all walks of life, religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds, who happen to be homosexual males. From lawyers to artists to teachers to farmers, his perceptive, deeply personal portraits paint a layered picture of contemporary gay (male) life, the first-ever large-scale photographic survey of gay men in America.
People always tell you to shoot what you love, and that objective led me to this project. I knew I wanted to photograph a subject that I cared deeply about, and to create a body of work that would make a positive difference in people’s lives… I decided that I would find and meet a gay man from every state, listen to their stories, and photograph them in the hope that I could turn that material into a book that would change people’s opinions and educate — the book that I wish had existed when I was a lad. I wanted to produce a profound collection of ordinary, proud, out gay men who would otherwise never find the spotlight.” ~ Scott Pasfield
Alongside each portrait is the subject’s first-hand story — sometimes joyful, sometimes solemn, always earnest.
Alex, Seward, Alaska
Josh & Joseph, Eugene, Oregon
Mudhillin, Newark, Delaware
Michael & Allen, Delta Junction, Alaska
For Pasfield, the project was as much a public service as it was a personal journey. He writes in the preface:
A year before my father’s death [from lung cancer], I started going to a regular group-therapy session for gay men in New York City. That is where I met my partner, Nick. When I was struggling through my father’s illness, he was there for me, calling me in Florida, making sure I was okay. When I came back to New York, we both realized we had fallen in love over the past months and we couldn’t ignore it anymore. The hard part was, Nick was with someone else, and he still wasn’t out to his family. He had two major hurdles to jump before our relationship could begin, and he did so, with grace and with courage. This year we celebrate our thirteenth anniversary together.”
Dallas Voice has a fantastic interview with Pasfield, in which he reflects on the role the Internet played in painting a truly dimensional portrait of gay culture.
The Internet played a big part in how I found people. It would have been much more difficult to find them [10 or 20 years ago]. The thing that surprised me the most is the regularness of all these guys. I think most outspoken gay men and all facets of the LGBT community are those people who defined themselves very much by being gay and they have that issue that they really want to share with the world. They’re very outspoken. I think the type of men I was looking for aren’t as outspoken as a lot of those advocates are. That difficulty in finding them was made so much easier by the Internet. Ten, maybe 20 years ago, I’m not quite sure how I would have found the same men because they’re not going to gay community centers, most of them. They’re not out at a lot of gay bars or clubs in urban areas. I think that that’s one of the major differences doing it now. That I was really able to connect with a lot of gay men that are for the most part under the radar and what most see of the gay community.”
Thoughtful and perspective-shifting, Gay in America reveals the dimensions of humanity well past sexuality, a powerful step towards a culture that no longer conflates sexual orientation with human identity and a worthy addition to the best photography books of 2011.
Edith Windsor in her New York City apartment in December 2012. Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court hears her challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
“The tiny dynamo asking the U.S. Supreme Court to turn the world upside down looks nothing like a fearless pioneer. At age 83, Edith Windsor dresses in classic, tailored clothes, usually with a long string of pearls, and she sports a well-coiffed, shoulder-length flip. She looks, for all the world, like a proper New York City lady.
Proper she may be, and a lady, but Windsor, who likes to be called Edie, is making history, challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. The law bans federal recognition and benefits for legally married same-sex couples.
The crux of her lawsuit is that after living with Thea Spyer for more than four decades, and having a marriage recognized as legal in the state of New York, Windsor had to pay $363,000 in estate taxes when Spyer died because the federal government did not recognize their marriage as valid.
“If Thea was Theo,” she says, “I would not have had to pay” those taxes. “It’s heartbreaking,” she adds. “It’s just a terrible injustice, and I don’t expect that from my country. I think it’s a mistake that has to get corrected.”
‘I Need Something Else’
Windsor was born in 1929, shortly before her parents lost their home and business in the Depression. As a teenager she was, by her own account, very popular with boys, and after graduating from Temple University, Windsor got married.
But as she puts it, when she went to the movies, she secretly identified with movie star Dick Powell, not with his co-star Ruby Keeler. After less than a year, she asked her husband for a divorce.
“I told him the truth,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Honey, you deserve a lot more. You deserve somebody who thinks you’re the best because you are. And I need something else.’ “
After moving to New York City, Windsor worked as a secretary, got a master’s in mathematics from New York University, and soon was on her way to a career as a top programmer at IBM.
All the while, she hid her homosexuality.
In those days, it was “impossible” to be openly gay, she says. “I really was a middle-class girl … and of course you didn’t want to be queer.”
Finally, though, she asked an old friend for help: “If you know where the lesbians are, please take me.” Her friend took her to a Greenwich Village restaurant called Portofino, where Windsor met Thea Spyer, a prominent psychologist, who would be the love of Windsor’s life and, eventually, her wife.
‘Will You Marry Me?’
In 1967, on a drive to the countryside, Thea asked Edie what she would do if she got an engagement ring. After all, if co-workers saw it, they would want to meet “the guy.”
When they got to the house they were renting for the weekend, Thea got out of the car and got down on her knees and said, “Edie Windsor, will you marry me?” Instead of a ring, she presented Edie with a circle pin adorned with diamonds.
At the time, of course, there was no place the two could actually marry. But they led good lives together, even after Thea was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The disease at first progressed slowly.
Thea’s first symptom was not being able to complete her golf swing. “It was very gradual,” Edie says, but eventually “it turned into a fairly vicious, progressive MS.” Edie never thought of Thea as being “sick,” but her partner was becoming increasingly crippled.
Edie eventually took early retirement to help care for Thea, and they waited and hoped for the day New York would legalize same-sex marriage. They thought of going to Canada, where same-sex marriage was legal and recognized by the state of New York, but Edie says that with all the lifts and gear that Thea needed to travel, “my feeling was I don’t have to drag her though that.”
Then suddenly, it was clear that the end was near.
“She got a lousy prognosis, which said within a year, and she got up the next morning and she said, ‘Do you still want to get married?’ “
Edie said yes. Thea said, “Me too.” And they did, flying off to Toronto with “two best men and four best women.”
The photos show nothing but joy.
‘This Magic Thing’
“The fact is, marriage is this magic thing,” Edie says. “I mean forget all the financial stuff — marriage … symbolizes commitment and love like nothing else in the world. And it’s known all over the world. I mean, wherever you go, if you’re married, that means something to people, and it meant a difference in feeling the next day.”
That difference “was profound,” she adds. “And I’ve asked everybody since who gets married after long-term relationships, ‘Did it feel different the next day?’ and the answer is always ‘Yes, absolutely.’ “
Thea Spyer died 21 months after the couple’s marriage. Edie had a heart attack a month later, but she recovered, to fight the injustice she sees in the federal law that does not recognize her marriage.
She has a life-size photo of Thea in their apartment. She says she sometimes leans up against it and talks to Thea about the progress of the case known as Windsor v. United States.”
“Let’s flash back to 1993, to the days before texting and ready Internet access, when living in a small town really could feel like living on the moon. We are in Nebraska, but it might as well be any small town in Kentucky, Indiana, England. Let us say we are dorks, friendless and stilted, moving through high school like occasionally kicked stray dogs. Or. We are wearing someone else’s life, someone popular and ambitious and accomplished and right, holding our breath until we can leave this town and shed the fake skin like a bad sweater.
Let us say that one of us grew up and wrote a lovely play about this corner of the moon, and set it to the music of our favorite tape, beginning with Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting,” the sweetest song this side of Big Star’s “Thirteen.”
Todd Almond’s “Girlfriend,” a rock musical set to Matthew Sweet’s iconic 1991 power pop album of the same name, opened last night at Actors Theatre of Louisville. “Girlfriend” is a winsome crowd-pleaser, a finely acted, delicate and charming romance between two adorable protagonists, Will (Ryder Bach), a nerd who finds himself being courted, sort of, by Mike (Curt Hansen), the handsome jock who turns out to be much more. Almond’s intelligent, witty and unabashedly romantic scriptbrims with authentic dialog, astute observations and heart-stopping moments of pure vulnerability – every muttered “whatever” contains multitudes.
In his brief pre-show speech, artistic director Les Waters, who directed this production as well as the 2010 world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, entreated the audience to “open your hearts very wide” to “Girlfriend.” The house complied – I haven’t witnessed such an openly appreciative group in the Pamela Brown in years. For once, the standing ovation felt spontaneous and genuine, not obligatory, a satisfying end for an audience whose laughter and audible oh!s rang throughout the performance.
In an impressive season brimming with skillful and heartbreaking depictions of doomed, tragic dysfunction, “Girlfriend” is a sweet, fizzy treat, a show I can recommend without qualifying first that “it’s excellent, but I wouldn’t exactly say it’sfun.”
Let me say that I graduated high school in the flannelled late spring of 1994 and I am a sucker for watching cute boys fall in love, so “Girlfriend” pretty much had me from the overture. Like Sweet himself, this is a Nineties show with a hefty dose of New Sincerity, missing most of the weary cynicism and all of the bad haircuts of our actual youth. It’s a musical for the baggy cardigan, hands-stuffed-in-pockets shuffle-swaying at the show set, hearkening back to the days pre-“Glee” and “Smash” and whatever else that’s made musical theater cool again.
“Girlfriend” really is fun, from Will and Mike driving the back roads screaming along to their favorite songs to nearly every bizarrely funny thing that comes out of Will’s mouth (“I’ve been waiting my entire life for a boy to ask me to run errands with him.”). Their romance is so delicately wrought that to simply watch their hands inch close, only to retreat in haste, is as satisfying as the most epic on-stage journey.
Bach originated the role of Will in the Berkeley Rep production, and it’s hard to imagine another actor so fully embodying this character. This isn’t a heavily choreographed musical – Joe Goode has wisely designed dance moves that feel more like private goofing around than full-blown gotta-sing-gotta-dance numbers – but Bach moves at all times with the kinesthetic intelligence of a born dancer, allowing his body to react when Will’s face and voice cannot. And he’s hilarious – his deadpan delivery of Almond’s witty lines allow the private Will to shine, even as public Will shrinks in fear of the future and the wide world. Hansen is a charming foil, his bravado melting as he slowly makes himself as vulnerable as Will has been all along.
Both are strong singers, but they steer clear of that familiar musical theater gloss, allowing their vocals the raw emotion of the shotgun seat aria and the shared, half-hummed chorus. Bandleader Julie Wolf strikes a nice balance between faithful renditions of Sweet’s classics and new arrangements that better fit individual scenes, and with Sara Lee, Kelly Richey and Jyn Yates, the band is on point and ever-present, but never overshadows the action.
David Zinn’s dual-hemisphere set is suitably spare up front where the action happens. A couch functions as Mike’s car, home base for their romance, as well as the centerpiece of his bedroom. Behind them, though, an authentically cluttered basement practice room, complete with wood paneling, overlapping posters and Christmas lights, houses the band. It looks like a music video set from the early Nineties, straight out of “120 Minutes,” – which is to say, perfect.
Social media buzzed with “remember your first love!” after opening night, but I’ll go one further and say that “Girlfriend” gives audiences, gay and straight, the first love experience any lonely teen could have wished for, minus any of the awful, selfish, mean, regrettable things we might have actually said and done to one another in our awkward pasts. It’s absolution with an amazing soundtrack. Will and Mike are good guys who like each other, so sit back, roll down the windows, and enjoy the ride.
book by Todd Almond
music and lyrics by Matthew Sweet
directed by Artistic Director Les Waters
January 29 – February 17, 2013
Presented by Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Brown-Forman Series
Nebraska, the 1990s. Two teenage boys—one a social outcast, the other the quintessential jock—explore a relationship during a summer of self-discovery between high school graduation and the rest of their lives. Set to irresistible songs from Matthew Sweet’s landmark pop album of the same name, this rock musical gives voice to those of us who grew up in small towns, those of us who didn’t quite fit in and learned we were somehow different, and anybody who remembers the terror and thrill of first love.
Recommended for High school and up (Grade 9)
Contains strong language
Posted by Diana Reese on January 29, 2013 at 8:33 am
“History’s being made this month. Last week, President Barack Obama became the first president to use the term “gay” in reference to sexual orientation in an inauguration speech.And on Monday the Boy Scouts of America — which successfully fought against allowing gays into its ranks all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 — said it may reverse its policy next week.
Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, 20, of Iowa City, Ia., the son of gay parents, delivered a 280,000 signature petition to the Boy Scouts of America’s Annual Meeting in Orlando last year, asking the organization to change its policies toward homosexuality. (DAVID MANNING – REUTERS)
Just last summer BSA had reaffirmed its stand to keep gays out. But it wasn’t a popular move. Membership in BSA is on the decline — and financial support is falling as well. The Merck Company Foundation, Intel Foundation, UPS and United Way have stopped or postponed donations due to the anti-gay policy of the 102-year-old organization.
Then there are the negative headlines: A lesbian mom was kicked out of her position as a den leader in Ohio. The Eagle Scout application of a California teen who came out wasrejected. And last summer, a 19-year-old Eagle Scout in Missouri was fired from his job at a Scout summer camp after he announced he was gay.
Deron Smith, a spokesman for Boy Scouts of America, told me the decision to revisit the policy during a private meeting of the national executive board next week resulted from “a longstanding dialogue within the Scouting family.” As he explained, “Last year, Scouting realized the policy caused some volunteers and chartered organizations which oversee and deliver the program to act in conflict with their missions, principles or religious beliefs.”
Smith stressed that the board may consider lifting the national ban, but that it will remain up to the individual chartering organization whether to allow gays as members and leaders. Troops are sponsored by churches, civic groups and schools. BSA would not force any local chartering institution to accept gays.
That makes the national ruling something of a compromise. BSA’s basically giving local groups permission to make their own decision. Some troops have quietly accepted gays; Minnesota’s largest group of Boy Scouts, the Twin Cities-based Northern Star Council, has had an inclusive policy for 12 years.
Keeping it local makes sense to many parents and adult leaders. “I think it’s a good idea to leave it up to the local troop,” said Ken Mason, assistant scoutmaster of my son’s troop in Overland, Kansas, and the father of two Eagle Scouts.
“The individual troop has a much better sense of who has a positive or negative influence on the boys,” pointed out Glenn Carney, another assistant scoutmaster and dad of two Eagle Scouts.
But making the decision locally also puts a burden on the troop — and its volunteers, Kent Bredehoeft, Scoutmaster and father of two Scouts told me. “BSA relies on volunteers, and this puts the volunteers in a difficult political situation that, without clear BSA policy, takes away their attention from delivering the BSA mission.”
He questioned what kind of support the national office will give local troops “except to say it’s your decision.” Bredehoeft added that the decision will “be a very challenging one.”
Another dad, who preferred to remain anonymous, said as long as any Scout met the requirements, including being reverent and morally straight (that phrase was used before straight had a sexual connotation), his sexual orientation didn’t matter.
Just as reaction nationally is mixed, not every parent liked the idea of a change in policy, however. “I lost my ability to advance in scouting as a young man because of a scoutmaster who was a pedophile,” one dad wrote me in an email. “I am dead set against gays in scouting.”
Allowing openly gay leaders seemed tougher for some parents to accept. One mom, who prefaced her remarks with the belief that homosexuality does not equal pedophilia, still admitted she would worry about the safety of the boys.
“Most of BSA’s constituent parents view this as a safety issue more than a moral issue,” another dad wrote in an email. “I think BSA thinks the notion continues to exist among parents of elementary school age boys, making the decision whether to let their sons join an organization where there will be lots of overnight trips to isolated locations, in the company of relatively few adult leaders, that their sons are more at risk of being molested if those leaders include homosexuals.”
Certainly the reputation of Boy Scouts has been tarnished with reports of molestations and the court-ordered release of secret files, also referred to as the “perversion files,” that listed names of suspected child molesters. BSA has worked hard to protect boys in recent years; since 1987, two-deep leadership has been instituted (which, if followed, protects both boys and adult leaders). Any adult member of Boy Scouts is required to update Youth Protection Training every two years. And any evidence of sexual abuse of a Scout must be reported to the local police.
I hope the issue of allowing gays does not end up destroying the organization. As the mom of a 15-year-old who’s been involved in Scouting since kindergarten, I’ve seen the positive side of Boy Scouts. I’ve seen him develop responsibility and leadership skills. I’ve seen other boys grow and mature.
I asked some of the older Scouts in the troop what they thought of the possible change in policy; they didn’t see a problem. One Eagle Scout bluntly put it, “It’s [anti-gay policy] ridiculous….It’s terribly sad to see limited opportunities for others because of stupid and absurd reasons.”
Another Eagle Scout didn’t think sexual orientation should prevent anyone from the benefits of the Scouting experience, including obtaining his Eagle. But he also wondered how many churches across the country would revoke charters to an organization that allowed an openly gay leader.
One dad who sent me an email summed it up well, I thought, using the Boy Scout Law: ” ‘Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.’ Don’t see anything in there that excludes gays.”
Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Overland Park, Kan. and the mom of a Boy Scout who’s working on his Eagle rank. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.”