Archive for the LGBT Issues and Stuff Category

Semantic Wars and Excedrin Headaches

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff on April 16, 2014 by scottsteaux63

Yesterday I shared the following meme on Facebook:

AMERICA

Short and to the point, right?  There is an undeniable irony in a nation in which two people of the same sex who love each other wanting to get married is somehow a threat to “our entire way of life,” while out-of-control and unregulated purchase, ownership, and use of guns in all shapes and sizes is seen as a fundamental American right.  And it’s usually the same people shrieking about both topics:  they look to the Bible to bolster the first argument and the Second Amendment to bolster the second.  The fact that the Bible has virtually nothing to say about LGBT persons as we know them today does not stop them, and neither does the fact that the Second Amendment does not say that everyone who wants guns should be allowed to have as many of whatever kind they choose.

So imagine my surprise when a Facebook friend, a fellow Gay man, decided to nitpick over the use of the words “assault rifle.”  And I made the mistake of mentioning Sandy Hook, which he took as an opportunity to “school me:”  apparently the weapon used there was a 9mm.  

I know little about such things:  I can fire a shotgun, a rifle, and a pistol, but I wouldn’t know the difference between a Winchester and a Glock if my life depended on it.  But what I DO know is that “assault rifle(s)” as such really were not the point and I could not believe this guy was making an issue of something that completely missed the point of what the entire sentence was trying to convey.

Being that we were Facebook friends and that I had never exchanged so much as a minor disagreement with this man in the years I have known him, I was frankly shocked at the way he dug his heels in; not only did he refuse to give any ground, the longer the conversation went on the more he began to sound like someone who would have given George Zimmerman a medal for murdering Trayvon Martin and in the end I unfriended and blocked him.  I didn’t know what else to do; I attempted to back out of it and he would not let me, and as I am not accustomed to giving people what they want just to get them off my back, I told HIM to get lost.

I am not happy about how this turned out.  I wish we could have at least agreed to disagree.  But he was clearly getting really hot under the collar really fast and nothing I was saying was cooling him off.  I wish it could have ended differently.

I am not sure what lesson there is in what happened.  I do know that I would never have expected such a hard line from a Gay man on the issue of guns, but that wasn’t even what happened here.  He objected to the words “assault rifle” which I did not compose and about which I could do nothing.  And even if the Sandy Hook shooter didn’t use an “assault rifle” his victims were just as dead.  I certainly didn’t expect this guy to turn into an “Obama is coming to take your guns” Libertarian before my eyes but the more I see of such behavior the more I think maybe taking away some people’s guns isn’t such a bad idea.

I don’t mind blocking people who annoy me if they are not friends of mine; the Block feature is a good way to get rid of anyone who gives me headaches.  But I hate unfriending people.  There’s a sense of disillusion and also I wonder if I might have handled it better even though I soft-pedaled it as best I could and he was the one who became aggressive.

I guess the lesson is “Be Careful What You Post; It Can Bite You In The Ass.”

Fortunately for me Excedrin relieves pain there too.

 

12 May 2013: Happy Mothers’ Day Mom; Happy Birthday Dad

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff, Uncategorized on May 12, 2013 by scottsteaux63

My parents have both been gone for many years, but today I find myself thinking of both of them.  Because it is Mothers’ Day, of course, but by coincidence this year it also falls on 12 May, which was my Dad’s birthday and if he were here to celebrate it this would have been number eighty-five.  I miss them both very much; to this day there are those “gotcha” moments when I almost reach for the phone to call them.  I don’t suppose those moments will ever end completely. 

I was not the easiest kid to raise, I suppose:  I inherited from my mother a quick temper and a mouth to go with it, and from my father a dogged sense of who I was and what I wanted that made me nearly impossible to turn from a path once I had chosen it.  The only excuse I can make about these flaws in my character is that I came by them honestly.

Ultimately, however, their biggest headaches came from something outside the home:  from the first day I stepped foot on the schoolyard, I was the “class faggot” and was treated as such right up to and including my freshman year of high school.  Why it stopped then, and as abruptly as it had begun, I shall never know.  What I do know is that it would color everything I did for the better part of a decade.

Unable to fight on the schoolyard, I came home and took my anger out on my younger brother.  And when, in middle school, the bullying and abuse became unbearable, I simply stopped going to school.  The thought made me physically ill, and it took more than a year of therapy to bring back the strength I had lost.

So it might seem odd that I chose to major in Drama at University.  I had ambitions to become an actor from the age of five, and had been studying both piano and voice privately for some years.  It was in Drama in high school that my talents finally gained me a measure of respect from my peers, even from some of the jocks, who may have thought what I did was “faggy” but who could not help but respect the talent and dedication it took.

Of course Mom, being a Mom, thought everything I did was wonderful; once when I spent a year touring with a kids’ musical at schools around the Metro New York area, she followed me everywhere and I think never missed a performance.

Dad took some more convincing.  Oh, he knew I was talented; he also knew that I was proposing to enter an industry that is cutthroat to the point of nastiness and in which the competition is so fierce it can eat you alive.  I think he was waiting more to see if I had the balls to follow it through:  I had already showed that I had the talent, though up to my junior year at University nothing I did really stretched my abilities.

Then along came a play, written by a member of the playwrighting class, a long one-act, one-set character study about four inmates of a nursing home, trapped not only in the institution but in their own aging bodies (my character was eighty and the makeup alone took three hours to get into) and failing minds.  I shall never forget the opening night of that play.  My parents were as usual in the audience, and the lights came up on a stage that was empty except for a cafeteria dining table and four chairs.  My character entered first, barely moving, using a walker; I had been specifically instructed by the director to make the walk to my seat the longest walk I could make it.

That play has always remained one of the most intense experiences I’ve had; certainly the most intense one of my student days.  But it was after the curtain fell that the significant moment happened for me.

My father was not a man who gave out praise easily; he was somewhat in awe of my musical talent because he had always wanted to play the piano but he grew up in the Depression and there was no money for lessons on an instrument the family could not have afforded anyway.  My acting was somewhat more doubtful; while it had always been an inside joke in the family that I would grow up to be an actor and Dad would be my agent, he did not see me really give a performance until that evening.  And he told me point-blank that he had not been sure until that night that I could act, that I had what it took, and that he was now convinced.  After that both of them bore a slight resemblance to Mama Rose in GYPSY; Mom had the big mouth but Dad was the sharp-minded business man to whom I could always turn when I needed advice.  It might not always be pleasant, and he never minced words, a trait which I came to value because I could always count on him to tell me the unvarnished truth.

So as I think of both of them today, this Mothers’ Day and what would have been Dad’s eighty-fifth birthday, I remember that in spite of whatever heartache I may have given them, they spent most of my life celebrating me.  Celebrating not only what I could do, but who I was.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you both and I will always miss you.  God truly blessed me when He gave me you two as parents.

Ramblings of a 102° Fever

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff, Uncategorized on May 8, 2013 by scottsteaux63

I am a bad patient.  No, scratch that:  I am a TERRIBLE patient.  Women are always saying what big babies men are when they are sick, and my conscience forbids me to deny the obvious.

The only thing that partially redeems me, I think (you’d have to ask my husband), is that when I am ill I tend to hide.  I crawl into bed, pull up the covers and basically surround the entire perimeter with “do not enter if you value your hide” vibes.  You know, cheery stuff like that.

My husband, naturally enough, IS the stereotypical bad male patient.  He lies in bed groaning while I do the fetch-and carry.  I don’t really mind, but it was rather funny when we BOTH got sick at the same time once.

Anyway, this upper respiratory thing I have has made the rounds of the town of Oneonta this time every year four years running and it usually decimates the entire population for at least a week and sometimes two. I’m on Day Four; we shall see how long it is before I start calling the doctor begging for a Z-Pak.

You would think that after twenty-four years of HIV/AIDS and almost twenty with Bipolar Disorder, a respiratory bug wouldn’t faze me.  And it wouldn’t if not for the fever:  my normal temp runes exactly one degree low (97.6°), and last night I spiked at nearly 103°. That’s enough to make anyone miserable.

Oh well, rant over.  We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

 

D-Day: Sixty-Seven Years Later

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff, Uncategorized on June 6, 2011 by scottsteaux63

Nearly seven decades have passed since that pivotal day in 1944 when US troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in France in one of the bloodiest battles involving Americans in the entire war.  Most of those who served during World War II and lived to come home and tell the tale are dead now, and soon there will be none left.  Which leads me to wonder:  have we learned anything from our experiences in that war?  If so, what are the lessons?  And what will they mean to future generations?

The most obvious answer to the first question is:  yes and no.  Clearly war is hell, but the message obviously got garbled along the way, since we have been involved in wars (or police actions) on plenty of occasions since.  Korea and Vietnam appear to have been largely forgotten, despite the success of the movie and television show “M*A*S*H” and the continuing plight of the Vietnam veterans.  The first Gulf War nobody talks about anymore, perhaps because it was short and the argument can be made that we “won” (though to my mind the end of a war is more about who died and who survived than who won and who lost).  And we’re still fighting in various locations in the Middle East despite the President’s campaign promise to end the wars in this region (one of my few real disappointments with the man, but I have adopted a “wait and see” attitude about him at this point in time).

As a member of the United Methodist Church, I am familiar with my church’s view of war as occasionally being a “necessary evil.”  I am not completely naive, so I do see the sense in that.  It is the unnecessary wars that we have either entered or gotten dragged into since the end of WW II that bothers me.  Korea solved nothing in the end; we were left with a divided nation, one side our ally and friend and the other our enemy whose deadliness has yet to be properly assessed.  Vietnam was even worse in some ways:  the outcome is similar to that of Korea, but the treatment of the returning veterans left a bad taste in many people’s mouths that lingers to this day.  And frankly, I confess I have no idea what we are still doing in Afghanistan and other countries in that region, despite the recent finding and killing of Osama Bin Laden after nearly ten years.

Let me be clear on one thing:  when 9/11 happened, and the best information we had was that OBL was in Afghanistan, I had no problem with President Bush’s decision to go in.  I didn’t like the man much, but really, what else could he have done?  It was what he did next that was reprehensible in my book.  He abandoned Afghanistan and even said at least twice that he didn’t know and didn’t care where Osama Bin Laden was, then turned around and convinced the UN (with the help of UK’s PM Tony Blair, whom I shall NEVER understand) that there were “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq (there weren’t) and that Saddam Hussein was a cruel dictator who needed to be overthrown (okay, there was some truth to that one, but the world is lousy with cruel dictators and mostly we not only leave them alone, we give them billions of dollars in taxpayer money in aid programs to combat hunger, famine, AIDS, you name it.  Just take a look at Africa in the thirty years that have passed since the AIDS pandemic began).

Okay, deep breath.  I am all over the map here, I know.  And as a student of American History (AP class under the terrifying Miss Rosellen Quinn, whose students loved her), in spite of my distaste for war, I can at least find plausible reasons for our involvement in the First and Second World Wars, particularly the Second.  But aside from W’s first foray into Afghanistan, I cannot really find a single good reason for all the wars we have gotten ourselves into since 1945.  Yet it still goes on, lining the pockets of defense contractors and getting thousands of our young people killed.

I am not sure what my point is in all this.  Remembering is important, especially WWII with the Holocaust in Europe and the consequences of using nuclear weapons on Japan (no judgment call here, but all actions have consequences).  If we forget either of those things, we do so at not only our own peril,  but that of the entire world.  And despite everything, genocide has continued to happen.  On this I confess I am of two minds; on the one hand I fail to see why the USA should be like the world’s policeman, yet on the other hand, to sit back and do nothing doesn’t work for me either.

Maybe if our politicians (are there any statesmen left?  I like and admire President Obama, but I am not quite ready to give him that title yet) would spend a little less time planning wars and a little more time trying to figure out ways to influence other countries without going to war, John Lennon’s dream of a world without war might just become a possibility.  I doubt I’ll live to see it, but someone needs to be giving more thought to the kind of world we are handing over to future generations.  We won’t care a bit; we will be long gone.  But I think posterity will judge us harshly for some of the choices we’ve made.

At any rate, if there can be any good that can come out of all the fighting that is going on “over there,” the best thing I can think of is that people will stop being so Goddamn hysterical about being “right” and think about being human.  It is easy to shoot and kill some nameless other that has been dubbed “The Enemy” by the powers that be; when you realize that this “enemy” is a man or woman not too unlike yourself with hopes and dreams and all the rest of it, it is not so easy to pull that trigger.  If future generations do not learn these lessons, the human race is in serious trouble.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  —  George Santayana

Government Shutdown: Here We Go Again?

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff, Uncategorized on April 8, 2011 by scottsteaux63

Well, it looks as though the government shutdown is going to happen.  We have been here before, when Newt “I-only-cheated-on-my-wives-because-I-loved-my-country-so-much” Gingrich, then House Speaker, managed to bring the wheels of government to a grinding halt back in the Nineties.  And then as now, under a Democratic President.

The issues?  Planned Parenthood, National Public Radio, and the Public Broadcasting System.  Yep, you read that correctly:  this is all about Planned Parenthood, NPR, and PBS.

They want to de-fund Planned Parenthood because they provide abortions.  The fact that they also screen both men and women for STDs and are instrumental in both treating and preventing these diseases does not enter the equation.  And it hardly costs the Federal Government anything:  if I remember correctly, it represents something like 4% of government spending.

As for NPR and PBS, they too are minuscule in terms of the amount of money they get from the government; most of their money comes from donations from individuals and foundations established by wealthy families.  The problem the Republicans have here is that neither NPR or PBS are afraid to call a moron a moron when it is necessary.  The fact that PBS has played a major and important role in educating America’s children for over forty years does not come into play either.

In short, the Republicans want to de-fund programs that are not costing all that much to begin with.  And how many guesses do you want as to who will get that money (hint:  three guesses and the first two don’t count, but they produce a substance without which you couldn’t run your car.  Never mind that they are already overpaid.)?

As for the shutdown itself, if you ask me the Republicans will completely torpedo their chances in 2012 if they do this thing.  Americans may not have the longest memories in the animal kingdom, but even the most absent-minded among us are unlikely to forget who caused the government to shut down when it comes time to go to the polls next November.

So I say let them have their shutdown:  it will come back to  bite them in the ass just as it did to Gingrich.

And while we’re on the subject, someone really ought to speak to John Boehner about his incessant crying.  I myself have two words for the man:  crocodile tears.

Republicans boggle the mind.  They weep incessantly and wring their hands over unborn fetuses, but they don’t give a shit about the living who are already here.  Especially if they happen to be poor, non-white, or women.   And MOST especially if they are all three.

Another Year Older…

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff, Uncategorized on April 7, 2011 by scottsteaux63

I turned forty-eight years old today.  Not exactly what you’d call a “landmark birthday,” but it seemed like a good idea to share a few thoughts about it.  So here goes.

For some reason, I flashed on a line from the television movie “A Caribbean Mystery,” in which the late, great Helen Hayes played Agatha Christie’s indefatigable Miss Marple.  One of the characters makes the colossal gaffe of calling Miss Marple “elderly,” to which she responds, “Elderly?  I never think of myself as ‘elderly.’  I feel just the same as I did when I was seventeen.  Only then, of course, I pitied anyone over twenty, and now I don’t!”

In the film, Hayes threw the line away in that offhand manner which she did so well.  But think about it for a moment.  How many times have we heard kids refer to people over thirty as “real old?”  Hell, I’m practically old enough to be the FATHER of a thirty-year-old!

Anyway, growing older is only part of what is on my mind today.  Eleven years ago I became disabled; I’ve had HIV since 1989 and it became full-blown AIDS in 1994.  Medications have kept me in reasonably decent health, but I developed a long and unshakable case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia in January of 2000.  This on top of the Bipolar Disorder that I began suffering from three years earlier.  The combination of the two ended my ability to hold down a full-time job, so naturally I applied for Social Security Disability.  I had been paying into it for well over twenty-two years, but I never dreamed what a nightmare I was letting myself in for.

Social Security moves at about the pace of molasses traveling uphill in January against a prevailing headwind.  It took them six months to send me a terse note denying my claim.  That was just the beginning of the nightmare.

I first became ill in January of 2000.  At the time I had a good job, a beautiful apartment, a car that was less than two years old that I had bought new for cash, and not a penny in debts.  By Thanksgiving of the same year I had lost the job, the car, been evicted from my apartment, and was living in an SRO surrounded by drug addicts and petty criminals.  Sometimes not so petty; during my time at that motel there was a murder.

My Social Security caseworker assured me that they turned everyone down the first time.  Nevertheless, I decided it was time to get a lawyer.  Since Disability lawyers work on contingency fees and take no money up front, this was an easy enough thing to do, and it was a relief to know that I had someone in my corner.

To make a long story short, it would take my lawyer and me the next three years and three separate court appearances before my claim was finally approved.  The first two court appearances were before a sour-faced old judge whose contempt for me was written in bold all over his face and showed in every one of his questions.  He turned me down flat, and in both decisions he wrote that I was “not a credible witness.”

I met with my lawyer and told him that I wanted a different judge for the next court appearance.  He was hesitant to make such a request, since it has been known to backfire.  Judges are a clannish lot and if the old fart decided my request for a different judge was a slap in the face it could kill any chance of getting approved.  I told my lawyer that I didn’t think my chances could get much worse after two denials and that I flatly refused to appear before that miserable old bastard again.  So he really had no choice.

I guess it’s true that the third time is the charm.  Wonder of wonders, the judge at my third hearing had a handicap of his own:  he was blind.  But he took his own notes on a laptop computer and spoke to me more respectfully than anyone in my entire ordeal had done with the exception of my own attorney.

It was a great relief to finally be approved.  I was able to pay off all the debts I had accrued in the interim, and the four thousand dollars my lawyer got was not nearly enough for how hard he had worked for me.

Now, it seems certain Republicans in the government want to eliminate both Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.  And for no other reason than to take away what little sustenance the elderly and disabled have left, so they can turn around and hand it to their rich friends.

Since the Republicans who are trying to do this are mostly of the Teabagger variety, I am hanging onto hope that there are still enough mainstream GOPers with horse sense who will see what they are doing for what it is.  All I can say is thank God we’ve still got a Democratic majority in the Senate plus the President’s veto power.

The richest country in the world also has the biggest gap between its richest citizens and its poorest.  And the gap is widening as the middle class rapidly disappears into a new class known as the “educated working poor.”

I’ve survived a lot of things in my life.  I’ve survived AIDS.  I’ve survived mental illness.  I’ve survived being homeless.  Please God give me the strength to survive the Republicans.

At forty-eight, I suppose I am what one would call “middle-aged.”  But who are we kidding?  I am most likely past the middle of my life.  All I really want is to be able to live decently with my husband for as long as we have together.

Is that really so unreasonable?

5:00 AM: Ramblings of a Non-Morning Person

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff, Uncategorized on April 5, 2011 by scottsteaux63

I hate Daylight Saving Time.  I mean, I REALLY hate Daylight Saving Time.  Here I sit, up before the birds for the second consecutive morning, and all because we have to change the clocks twice a year.

Okay, my initial statement was not quite accurate.  I don’t hate DST; it is very nice to have daylight well into the evening in summer.  What I do hate is having to change the clocks by an hour twice a year.

I am not a morning person.  I have never been a morning person.  And for the last fourteen years I have had Bipolar Disorder.  People with mood disorders are particularly prone to sleep disturbances.  Which means that every time we change the clocks, no matter whether forward or back, I always spend the next month or so waking up too early, waking in the middle of the night (a thing I normally never do), or having difficulty getting to sleep in the first place despite a considerable amount of medication that I take at bedtime.

Concerning the benefits and drawbacks of DST, Wikipedia has this to say:

“The practice has been both praised and criticized. Adding daylight to afternoons benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, but causes problems for farming, evening entertainment and other occupations tied to the sun.”

Translation:  Putting the clocks forward in the spring is primarily about profit.  And it also explains why the produce at the supermarket is so lousy.

Now I know that Wikipedia isn’t the be-all and end-all of reference sources, on or off the Internet, but when I read the whole article, it became clear to me that the primary reason we continue to change the clocks twice a year is habit.  It serves no useful purpose; in fact, it negatively impacts farmers, who already have more than their share of problems, all so a few sun worshipers can spend an extra hour on the beach (getting loaded, as likely as not).

If I had my choice, I would say keep DST year-round; it would be nice to have that extra hour of light at the end of the day in the winter when we really need it.  But after my little bit of research, it seems to me that a return to year-round Standard Time makes much more sense.  People who intend to spend money will do so whether it is light or dark outside, and some of us could use the sleep.