It’s been about three years since I’ve lived in Arizona, but while I lived there, I used to contribute to the best political blog in the state – Blog for Arizona; in this capacity, I was privy to a lot of the sheer ridiculousness that the Legislature of that state passes off as “doing the people’s work”. I didn’t think much could surprise me anymore — not when they outlawed ethnic studies; or banned affirmative action; or passed SB1070; or even passed the birther bill after Arizonans were convinced then-Senator Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya.
But, I gotta tell you, SB1062 — which passed the Arizona State Senate yesterday by pretty wide margins — has thrown me for a bit of a loop.
The Dari Project aims to document and share the life stories of LGBTQ Korean Americans, in an effort to help provide a resource for queer Asian American youth. Launched in 2006, they hope to create a printed resource bilingual resource that will raise awareness about LGBTQ issues and identity in the Asian American community, and help promote cultural acceptance of gay Asian Americans. Here’s the skinny:
Dari Project is a volunteer-led, grassroots organization that develops resources to increase awareness and acceptance in Korean American communities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people of Korean descent. By documenting and sharing the life stories of LGBTQ Koreans, we seek to build bridges among Korean American families, social networks, institutions and faith communities.
Since its inception in 2006, the Dari Project leadership has dreamed of publishing the first collection of personal narratives of LGBTQ Koreans as a bilingual resource for LGBTQ Koreans and their friends and families, and we’re so close to making this dream a reality!
We’ve solicited 27 stories from members of our community, which represent multiple experiences, including homo/bi/transphobia in Korean American communities, coming out as an LGBTQ person, building relationships with family, and membership in faith communities.
Thanks to some friends and supporters we’ve been able to get started but we need your help to publish this collection as a bilingual print resource for our community. Your generous contributions will help edit, translate, design, and print our stories this summer. If we can make our goal of $7000, it will help make this book available for FREE to your friends, families, communities, and people you care about.
Since Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy sounded off on traditional marriage and biblical principles, everyone from conservative provocateurs to liberal politicians to my Facebook friends voiced their Johnny-come-lately support or opposition to waffle fries and iced tea. You can recap who said what when elsewhere. My point is that this entire faux flaptrap is really stupid.
Normally I reach for more eloquence, but it’s difficult to write poetry without inspiration, and I find nothing inspiring in another fake controversy designed only to increase page views and public profiles while further dividing Americans. It’s hard to ignore the obvious free speech implications – however ill-advised, Dan Cathy is a private citizen who expressed political views publically. It stretches credibility to taint his business with discrimination’s stench when no evidence of any kind has been unearthed to suggest that Chick-Fil-A franchises have ever discriminated against anyone based on sexual orientation or perceptions thereof. If one doesn’t wish to patronize a business based on the private political views of its chief executive, that’s fine. But we don’t call that a strike against intolerance. It’s just a personal choice.
And that’s what rankles – we aren’t supposed to exhibit independent thinking in America anymore. Independent thought – the ability to decide issues for yourself – allowed me to oppose many elements of the gay rights movement for years. I didn’t understand why rainbow flags and safe spaces and same sex public displays of affection were important, or why they should be to me. I never heard of the concept of gay marriage before college. I once thoroughly embarrassed a friend of mine by visiting his sociology class as I toured Penn State at seventeen. The professor invited some spokespeople from a local gay rights group to discuss their experiences before the class. One woman discussed feeling trapped in her body – she desired men, but felt she should have been born a man.
For whatever reason, this concept floored me. I didn’t possess the good sense to shut up. My hand shot skyward. My voice intoned disbelief. “Doesn’t what you’ve described make you straight? Wouldn’t it simply be easier to remain female? What could you possibly hope to gain by surgery? You’ve just listened to two gay men describe their persecution: why choose that?” The class reeled. The teacher blanched. My friend seethed. I was young, but not innocent.
Now I’m neither. I recognize that I turned that classroom into a public hearing on the nature and morality of gender manipulation, an experience which no trans person should ever be subject. It was hurtful. I pressed the interrogation without regard for the practiced indifference to personal narrative adults call tolerance. I was honest – I didn’t understand her point of view, and I wanted her to explain it further. Years later, I can’t say I’ve personally experienced anything like what that woman described, but I do understand that other people can. That matters. Being exposed to mind-bendingly different points of view matters. If anything, the widespread support gay marriage enjoys among members of my generation stems directly from the personal familiarity many of us have with gay people. We know, much more than our parents can know, that gay people are just and fallible and beautiful as the rest of us. They are us, and nothing is gained by denying human liberty to any of us based on identity alone.
The point is that we (some of us, anyway) have to have the space and the time and the desire to learn that. Independent thought is still the only real American freedom. Not to paraphrase Aaron Sorkin in The American President, but it’s true – this is advanced citizenship. You have to be willing to choose what you believe for yourself, and change your mind when presented with new data. I believe earning one’s keep here means engaging the debates about our economic future and our unemployed present, about our eagerness to incarcerate and our unwillingness to educate, about our desire to assimilate immigrants and our fear of losing ourselves.
And foolish culture war hysteria like this Chick-Fil-A thing is killing the debate! We can’t discuss culture anymore without safe spaces and political correctness. Warring camps aim potshots across the rhetorical demilitarized zone that used to represent public consensus on domestic and foreign policy – even when that consensus denied opportunity and full citizenship to many minority groups. Even when we were wrong, we were wrong together! Or so I’ve read. This is another one of those American lives I’ve never personally experienced.
I was born after Atwater; weaned during the era of welfare queens and Star Wars. Corporate clientelism and microtargeting campaigns dissected the American electorate before I learned to walk. By elementary school it didn’t matter if you kept Hope alive; Willie Horton kept your playmate’s parents afraid of you. The point is that we have always suffered Americans who benefit from the perpetual campaign, who profit from cultural demarcation and segregated society. Given this, we have the benefit of hindsight. Yet too many liberals today emulate the dividers! I used to have the same three debates every time I hung out with friends in Drinking Liberally Tucson – why do conservatives run the media, why do conservatives hate science, and why aren’t conservatives as tolerant and multicultural as me?
My answers? They don’t. They don’t profit. You’re not.
But the questions are the trouble. Using labels to discuss people ensures that your audience will only recognize the humanity in those people if they view themselves in the subject group. This was why in my experience at Drinking Liberally Tucson, no one was ever chastised for using the word ‘conservative’ as a pejorative, but people were regularly offended when I spoke about White people. Look, this isn’t anti-label advocacy, this is a appeal to common sense. Liberals, unless you have personally purchased a chicken sandwich and lemonade from Chick-Fil-A only to find Leviticus 18 and 20 printed like some Jerry Falwell fortune cookie inside the oily foil wrapper, shut up about boycotting Chick-Fil-A.
I didn’t say go purchase food from them, I said shut up about it. The company isn’t intolerant, Dan Cathy is. And he’s within his rights to be as intolerant as he likes. You don’t have to support his company, or all the service industry workers who process chicken parts into fried breaded goodness with pickles. But you can’t pretend you are fighting corporate intolerance when the corporation isn’t intolerant! It’s just silly. Divisive. Stupid.
Nor has biting into a chicken sandwich become a partisan fuck you to the gay rights community. It’s just a damn sandwich. When a politician who once championed weight loss (including his own) as a public health issue encourages increased fried fast food consumption in a dangerously obese nation to support those to oppose gay marriage, his public comments lack import, and respectable voters no longer need heed his words. Stop taking pictures of yourself buying and eating Chick-Fil-A sandwiches, people! Gay people don’t care about your lunch. Your Facebook friends don’t care about your lunch. No one cares about your lunch! You can’t order solidarity with Christian tradition by number in a drive thru.
Especially since the company is guilty of nothing. Dan Cathy transformed ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ into yet another cultural Rorschach on which we project our biases, and we can’t have a reasoned debate about gay marriage or any other cultural touchstone amid all the projecting. America is neither Christian theocracy nor cosmopolitan Europe. America is the debate. We have the right to disagree with the choices’ other people make, but our Union is best preserved when we attempt to understand those social and political choices. I’m older now. I’ve known different people. I’ve read Randy Shilts. More than just a positive life choice, marriage in my view is a human right that should exist for all people. If you disagree, that’s fine. Let’s talk about it. After you are done with your lunch.
Co-publisher Dan DiDio previously said that the company would not change the sexual orientation of an existing superhero and would bring in a new one altogether.
But at Kapow Comic Convention in London on Sunday, he revealed that an existing character – who was previously assumed to be straight – will become ‘one of our most prominent gay characters’, according to comic blog BleedingCool.com.
Of course, this has prompted a deluge of online speculation regarding whom Didio is talking about. Here’s my Top Five list:
#5 Kendra (Hawkgirl)
Hawkgirl was the chosen estrogen injection for the animated JLU series, so she’s definitely prominent enough to warrant a press release. Kendra is also rumoured to be reintroduced soon in the New 52 universe. Finally, the Hawk mythos asserts that Hawkman and Hawkwoman are destined to be together, and find love despite being reincarnated into new hosts; there’s much romantic angst to be had if Kendra/Hawkgirl is gay, and has to ward off the unwanted advances of Hawkman.
Unfortunately, there’s also reason to discount Hawkgirl: a few years back, DCU already introduced a major lesbian superhero in 52’s Batwoman. So, it’s likely that this time ’round, DC’s major unveil will be a male gay character.
Didio’s statement didn’t specify that the character was a superhero, just a prominent character previously assumed to be straight. Unlike many DCU characters, including members of the JLA, Joker has massive pop culture name recognition. Further, there has been in-cannon and fandom speculation that Joker’s obsession with Batman stems, at least in part, from unrequited attraction to Batman. Irredemable‘s Modeus, written by Mark Waid, is inspired in part by arch-nemeses like Lex Luthor and Joker, and his attraction to the series’ Superman pastiche, Plutonian, is explicit.
Personally, I’ve always been a fan of stories that include sexual tension between Joker and Bats, so I would appreciate DCU making Joker officially gay.
#3 Ray Palmer (The Atom)
The Atom remains one of the few prominent DC characters who has yet to make a significant appearance in The New 52 (Wikipedia notes that Ray Palmer Atom shows up in Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. as S.H.A.D.E.’s science adviser but I haven’t read the story to know enough about how he’s characterized there), but he’s a well-known JLA member who has featured heavily in many of the DCU’s recent story arcs (e.g. Identity Crisis, 52). Further, unlike other characters, wherein a romantic interest is integral to their traditional origin story, Ray Palmer’s relationship with Jean Loring isn’t critical to his mythos (and only achieved any particular significance in Identity Crisis).
In short, there’s plenty of room to reinvent Ray Palmer Atom as DC’s newest (and super-intelligent) gay character.
#2 Ollie Queen (Green Arrow)
I’m a little behind in my comic reading, but I think the latest issue of New 52 Justice League introduced Green Arrow as a JLA wannabe who is subsequently offered his own super-team (the Outsiders?). Like the Green Arrow we are familiar with, New 52 Ollie Queen is quippy, witty and self-confident.
Reasons why Green Arrow might be gay: Black Canary — usually a pretty important part of the Green Arrow mythos — hasn’t been introduced yet in the New 52. Could it be that DC is going to reintroduce Ollie as a self-confident, gay, hilariously clever superhero and leader of his own band of superpowered vigilantes?
Reasons why Green Arrow is unlikely to be gay: His last name is Queen. I’m pretty sure DC wants to steer far clear of that potential PR disaster.
If anyone has been following the New 52 Teen Titans, the rebooted Superboy has been dealing with quite a big of angst associated with having been grown in a lab as a biological weapon of mass destruction. Thematically, Superboy has been struggling with a host of identity issues (analogous to early adolescence) while he learns to integrate into the real world; a coming out narrative actually fits perfectly into this reimagined Superboy mythos.
Further, a gay Superboy certainly achieves the kind of prominence that would warrant a DC press release. Superboy wears the “S”-shield, which is easily the most recognizable comic book icons in modern history. To make a member of the Super-family gay is just one step short of making Superman, himself, gay.
A final argument in favour of Superboy: the recent introduction of Superboy in Teen Titans and his comic title have taken great pains to note Wonder Girl’s “hotness”. Almost every male character in the title, including Kid Flash and Robin, have quipped about Wonder Girl — all, except (to my recollection) Superboy. Further, a quick Google of the aftermath of The Culling (the current Teen Titans story arc) reveals that Superboy and Wonder Girl will be stranded together on a deserted island for an extended period of time: this is either a perfect opportunity to spark a romance between these two teenaged characters, or alternatively to introduce the absence of any sort of romantic tension due to Superboy’s sexual orientation.
Personally, my money is on Superboy. Agree with me? Disagree with me? Let’s start the betting pool…
Bonus: Who It’s Not Going to Be
Superman: Lois Lane is too critical to the Superman storyline
Batman: Lots of reasons why it won’t be Bats, but I think the main reason is that Bats is simply too obsessive about crime-fighting. In my mind, he’s almost asexual — his ability to have any kind of emotional relationship or attachment to others are too damaged to be able to tell a decent story about his sexual orientation.
Wonder Woman: We already know that Steve Rogers has unrequited attraction to WW in New 52, and we know that WW was raised in an all-female culture. But, let’s face it: Wonder Woman is simply too obvious a choice. I’m going to give DC a little more credit than this.
Green Lantern: The Star Sapphire / jilted love thing is pretty important to the Hal Jordan Green Lantern mythos, and there’s lead-up to it in the DC movies. I don’t think DC will mess with this in the comics.
Martian Manhunter: Can a shape-changing martian with fairly loose affiliation to any particular gender be gay?
Aquaman: Aquaman was introduced in a stable and committed relationship with Mera, and there’s no signs that he’s dissatisfied or not attracted to her. I doubt DC has left themselves any room in his title to reimagine him as gay. Also, if you’re not reading New 52 Aquaman, you should be — it’s hilarious!
Any member of the Bat-family: one word — Batwoman. It would be a little weird if the second major gay character in the DCU was also Bat-affiliated.
Lt. Dan Choi led thirteen protesters who demonstrated on the White House lawn yesterday by chaining themselves to the White House fence. The protesters included several veterans and former servicemen, including Choi himself, along with a handful of civilian activists, and was organized to mark the start of Congress’ lame-duck session, which is generally believed to be the last chance for DADT opponents to obtain a repeal.
The thirteen protesters were protesting “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, and the Obama Administration’s failure, thus far, to repeal the policy that prevents military servicemen from serving openly. Lt. Choi led the protesters in chants of “Barack Obama… Silent Homophobia” and “I am somebody! I deserve full equality!”
After several hours of demonstrating, all thirteen activists were arrested.
This makes the fourth (if I’ve counted right) time that Lt. Choi has chained himself to the White House fence in order to protest DADT. Frankly, I’m worried that the tactic is becoming commonplace. Demonstrations such as the one that took place yesterday rely upon a certain amount of “shock value” in order to get media outlets to cover the story, thereby persuading public goodwill to side with you. I’ve been a strong supporter of Lt. Choi and his anti-DADT struggle for nearly a year, but lately I’ve been concerned that Lt. Choi is letting himself be cast in the media as a “professional activist”, and I’m worried that the continued reliance on demonstrations such as this one will soon cause Lt. Choi to lose his relevance. With respect, it may be time to investigate other strategies of public civil disobedience, so that the fight against DADT can continue to have maximal impact.
Lt. Choi also took the time yesterday to distance himself from KnightsOut and OutServe. Choi founded the former group — a support network for LGBTQ servicemen — and it was a little surprising to me that he repudiated the group on his Twitter feed. It turns out that KnightsOut and OutServe released statements that seemed non-committal about the removal of language that would repeal DADT from the latest Defense spending bill. Their reasons for taking this stance are unclear to me, given their fervent anti-DADT stance in the past, but it seems that for this reason, Choi has quit the group and joined other LGBTQ organizations in condemning them. KnightsOut and OutServe have since clarified that they meant that they were in support of the Defense spending bill without DADT’s repeal in it, but did not support its removal. But, it may have been better for these groups to have simply stayed mum on the issue: one simply cannot claim to be against DADT, while simultaneously backing a bill wherein a repeal of DADT is actively removed.