My Idea for the LGBT Response to Indiana, (and any other state’s), Religious Freedom Bill

Fair warning dear readers, this post will be a little tongue in cheek, but then again…….maybe not.  Regular readers know from my last two posts that I really don’t find boycotts effective, and I have been slowly converted into Agnostic/Atheism by the Conservative Christians.  However, with the recent passage of the so-called “Religious Freedom Law,” in my neighboring state, Indiana, I have come to a revelation.  It’s time for the  LGBT Community to create our own religion.

For the ten people on holiday in the wilds of Alaska who might not know, the “Religious Freedom Bill,” was drafted by the Republican majority Statehouse in Indiana, as a version of the Federal law of the same name but with much different intentions.  It basically allows public business owners to refuse service to anyone, based on their religious beliefs.  Republican Governor Mike Pence, who has been a potential Presidential candidate, signed the bill into law last week, saying at the time of signing, that the bill in no way allows discrimination.  Of course it does, and by the Governor’s appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, he flat out refused to answer the question that it does not discriminate against the LGBT Community, and even added that he would never make the Community a protected class, exempted from such legislation as many other States have done.

Commendably, many national businesses and celebrities have come out against the law, with some even boycotting expansion or holding events in the Hoosier State.  Angie’s List, Sales Force, GenCon, Yelp, the NCAA, Audra McDonald, Ashton Kutcher, Charles Barkley, and more have voiced their disappointment in the new law.  As much as the law was intended to discriminate against the LGBT Community amid all the growing support for same-sex marriage and equal rights, the law lets anyone discriminate based on any religious beliefs.  So realistically, a Muslim shop owner can refuse service to a woman, because they refuse to wear a burka or some type of head covering.

Now back to forming our own LGBT Community religion.  I looked it up.  It doesn’t really take much to become ordained and to start your own ministry.  An online blessing and certification, along with a quick charter and tax paperwork filed and viola!, you are an official religion that has all the same rights and grievances afforded everyone else in Indiana’s new law.

Let’s start with a name and a Diety to worship.  Personally, I think we should call the religion, “Disciples of Star Fleet,” and worship to our God, Takei.  He will be a benevolent God, teaching in the ways of acceptance and non-discrimination.  I think we should take the shooting star logo from, NBC’s, “The More You Know,” campaign, layering it above the Starfleet symbol.  With the simple prime directive, ummm, I mean religious purpose statement of, “Accepting everyone from all the colors of the rainbow,” we will have just cause to not serve anyone who does not believe as we do.

Not to stereotype, (okay, just a little), what if our first “recruitment” drive to our religion was aimed at all the hair stylists of Indiana.  Most good hair stylists I know are either in our Community, or are strong allies of it.  Could you imagine what would happen if the, “bless your heart, little old blue haired ladies,” could not get their regular weekly or monthly stylings, and could be refused service without promising to accept the LGBT Community?  Heck, just the 15 Republican women in the Indiana State Legislature alone, (thank you google), would never vote for another discrimination bill.

What if just ten percent of the star forwards of all of Indiana’s high school, college, and professional basketball teams came out as gay and refused to play against the religious private schools, on our their religious grounds?  (Basketball is big in Indiana.  Didn’t you see the movie, “Hoosiers,” with Gene Hackman?  Shame on you!)  Or what if one of our stars of stage, screen, or behind the cameras, like Ryan Murphy, Jeremy Jordan, Mike Epps, Vivica A. Fox, and Brendan Frasier, decided you could not see their movie, play or television show because you support LGBT discrimination?

What if our religion really took one of the Bible verses to heart and agreed that the most important commandment is to, “Love one another as I so love you,” with the caveat that it’s only if you aren’t straight.  Wouldn’t that be a kick in the head to the Christian Right?  So in all silliness/seriousness, who wants to become ordained with me in the Disciples of Star Fleet?  Let’s go out and spread the good word in Indiana, and maybe in Arizona and Georgia soon, that our LGBT Community has a religion as well, and some of you all that discriminate against us, may find the shoe on the other foot sometime soon.

Purporting to run a business for the general public should mean the ENTIRE public.  There should not be a law that allows discrimination based on your religious beliefs to just one segment of the population.  It has been tried before with women, black people, Irish people and more, but it just doesn’t stand up.  Not only is it not good for business, it’s not good for your so-called spiritual health.  As I kneel down, all I am asking is that the great and mighty Takei, look down upon our people, and share his enlightened wisdom.

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How Christianity Converted Me To Be An Athiest (A Religious Freedom Parable)

I want to believe in a God.  I was baptized in the Episcopal Church at a young age, but my parents stopped going around my 4th birthday.  No reason really, just life and a baby brother on the way, and they have never returned still to this day.  In Junior and Senior High School, I loved reading about Greek and Roman mythology; their Gods of love and war, the sea and earth.  But something else happened around those same school-age years, I realized I was gay.  The how’s and the why’s of this revelation is really not important, I knew it was something ingrained in me, as i could not push these thoughts and feelings aside, and from what little remained of my brief religious teachings, God made me perfect, and in his image, so I was good to go, Right?  I was still afraid to admit it to anyone, but I only had the regular fears of family and friends not accepting me, since this was clearly not the norm I was surrounded with.  I didn’t even think about religious judgement.

Around my 15th birthday, after many years of selling butter toffee peanuts for a free ride to YMCA summer camps, I was able to become a camp counselor.  (Realizing you are gay and spending summers in a cabin full of boys, is a story for a different day).  If you only thought the Y was a big gym and daycare center, it actually stands for Young Men’s Christian Association.  At summer camp, the Y served what I will call, “Christianity Light.”  Every morning we would have “chapel,” that usually consisted of a few ‘Kum-By-Ya type songs, and a parable story about something like kindness, appreciation, and the like. There was also a “Rag” program, that was a voluntary experience about being a better person, and a little closer to God.

I liked the idea of being a better person and really took to the Rag program.  Because of these summer camps, I decided to see what going to church was all about and went with a couple of friends from camp to one of the local Baptist churches.  There was a band, and singing, and Sunday School, usually refreshments, and occasionally a little basketball or volleyball, so it was not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It took almost 7 months of attending before I really got the opinion of the Church on homosexuality.  I guess I was naive enough, that I didn’t understand til then, that the reason family and friends didn’t accept gay people was because of religion.  I honestly can’t remember what I thought during that time before realizing this.  It was clear to me, that I was not cut out for a weekly church experience.

Although attending church wasn’t a good idea, I still felt the pull to be a better person, and liked the idea that there was a God or something, that has good intentions for us all.  I became the all-encompassing “Spiritual,” in my mind after I stopped going to church.  Let them believe in their God of wrath and persecution, my God wanted more for us, and was much more nurturing, than menacing.  This belief served me well.  I would try to be the best person I could be, still failing at things big and small like we all do, but there was still a grand-design for me to come out on top.

My “Spirituality,” was tested constantly, when I would have to hear stories about Jimmy Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, and of course Fred Phelps, et. al., and all of their fear and hate-based, anti-gay words and actions.  Maybe there was just good and bad people in the world, no matter what their religion or non-religion.  And there is no, “higher-power” who could really give a damn.  Maybe these Agnostics or Atheists, have a point.  I have long thought that the Bible is just a book, but it was becoming more and more propaganda to me, than just a good read.

I can no longer think of being a “Good Christian,” as a good thing.  Between the political religious right and the pastors, they have converted me.  I am now Agnostic at best, Atheist at worse.  And now I don’t consider either of those things bad.  I can not and will not idly sit by, while people speaking in the name of this religion promotes separation and hate.  The Bible cherry picking and total opposite of ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ has become the highest form of hypocrisy.  How can you speak out of one side of your mouth that we are all sinners, and from the other side, say that we must denounce homosexuality more than any other sin.  If all of us are sinners, and all sins are equal, why aren’t there more protests at other “Biblical Abominations,” like at farms growing two separate crops side by side; a clothing manufacturer mixing two fabrics, or protesting the lying lips of almost everyone in Congress?

My point of this entire blog is that we have come so far, that the “Good Christians” of Indiana, in their ivory towers of their House and Senate, have decided to enact a law that frees businesses and entities from serving the public, to those who they feel are opposed to their religious beliefs.  Everyone knows that this is truly a thinly veiled law, aiming to allow people to discriminate against mostly gay people.  Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana, is said to be, “looking forward to signing the bill.”  I cannot in good faith, call myself a Christian if I supported such a bill.  As a business owner, I have decided to open a shop to serve the public, not just some of the public, but all of it, otherwise, I should not become a business owner.  It’s a truly sad day when a religion converts you to stop believing in God.

Are Boycotts as Out of Style as Dolce & Gabbana

So I am coming a few days late to the party of commenting on the Dolce & Gabbana boycott, called out to we gays and our supporters by Sir Elton John and others.  I would hope that we as people, both lgbt and straight folks, can agree that the out and gay designers, put their foots-in-their-mouths with such offensive and stupid statements.  (Use your inside voices boys, don’t spew hate to a wide-audience interview).  Do they have the right to their opinions?  Sure!  Should all personal opinions be given to the world at large?  Definitely Not!  I think we do have to understand that these men are true Italians in a country that has not been very forward-thinking in lgbt rights and equality, and also a country that has a plurality of Catholics, (c’mon, the Pope-Mobile is parked in Italy), where these issues and right-to-life, are the daily group-thought.

My point in addressing this issue however, is not what they said, or the amount of stupidity that I thought they spewed, but is a boycott really the best we can do?  The first lgbt boycott I can remember, was against the Coors brewing company, primarily for their anti-gay hiring practices.  I guess you can call it successful, as it did bring attention to the issue, and I remember it, but was it successful in changing the practice?  Eventually the practice was changed, but was it due to the boycott that was enacted in 1973?  If yes, that’s a long negotiation, because the boycott wasn’t called off until twenty two years later in 1975.Since then, our lgbt Community as called for other boycotts, including: the Heinz Company, the Salvation Army, Target, Best Buy, Chic-fil-A, and Stoli vodka.  To my knowledge, all these companies are still going, have not really changed the issues that we were boycotting against, and I can tell you that personally, without my trusty Internet, mostly been forgotten.

In today’s day and age, is a boycott really worth our time?  I am not saying there are not acts, both in words and deeds, that should not be rallied against in protection or defense of our Community, but with the technology we have available, and the communication that is available, I think we need to re-think our definition of boycott.  Maybe it is my definition of boycott that is archaic, but doesn’t it still mean primarily to stop using your dollars to support the company or person?  Most boycotts that I am familiar with, start with some great press, but after the initial round of press, you never hear anything about it.

I want to support our Community, but a boycott for me and many like me, are just not an option.  I don’t drink beer, I like my fries with Ketchup dammit, and if I could afford Dolce & Gabbana, I would not still be living in Northeast Ohio.  I can participate in physical and virtual protest that isn’t a solitary purchasing boycott, and I could keep at it until we seem some actual hard line results.  I could create a video-a-week about two men kissing or together in a Heinz ad, and send it to their headquarters every day until I saw them show diversity in one of their ads.  I can write letters to the editor and blogs weekly about a candidate who I completely disagree with their politics, that has been supported by some company’s money.  I don’t want to have to sneak into Target to get my next discounted coffee maker.  Look at Elton John, who days after calling for the D & G boycott, had the misfortune of carrying a make-shift man purse, out of an older D & G bag from a prior purchase, just days after calling for the boycott. (See, social media can be a real b*tch).

Our lgbt Community is online like almost no other, and we have a large range of options we can use to put pressure on companies or persons who spread homophobia, hate, or sometimes, just plain ignorance.  Let’s coordinate email campaigns, micro-protests at storefronts when possible, social media posts and videos that can be shared, and shared again.  I am not trying to oppose the “idea” of a boycott, just maybe the execution of one.  How can we come together as a Community and make it successful, and sustaining until we get the change we are looking for, or the acknowledgement of our complaint.  Anyway, that are my thoughts on boycotts, I would love to know how others feel and what alternatives you have found that are working, or what didn’t work.

Age Gaps in Male/Male Same Sex Dating….. WTF

I had a fantastic date night on Friday.  One of my New Years Goals, (I am never resolute that I will finish them, so they are goals, not resolutions), was to put myself back out there and go on at least one date a month.  Mission accomplished since January! The first one was okay, not my particular cup of tea.  The second one was okay, not his particular cup of tea.  But like the baby gay bear that I am, the third one seemed to have gone pretty right.  His name was Evan, and he was 25.  I am not.

Sunday brunch with the friends, and as I start to talk about my date, it started; the conversation about dating outside of your age range.  Although I have always been attracted to and usually dated younger men, it seems this current age gap needing a little more conversation.  One of my good friends, jokingly said, “you Lance’d him,” which he went on to explain was alluding to screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, dating diver, Tom Daley.  It was a modicum of funny, because we are always making up new words to explain situations, although personally I would have gone for “Dustin’ed” because it can allude to alluring him with fairy dust, which is well, gay.  (Don’t ask me why, sometimes my mind goes really gay, all on its own).  Although I was flattered, since a gay man of any age, would be lucky to date an accomplished and physically exceptional young man as Tom Daley, I also took it to mean that he wasn’t giving my chance with Evan much luck, as he has been leery in the past, (I say jealous), of the high-profile couple’s chances of staying together.  Yes we do waste our time talking about celebrity gay couples, whom don’t give a moment’s time caring about what a bunch of men in Northeast Ohio think of their relationship.  (If that was so, we would have had a restraining order from Dustin and Tom, and soccer player Robbie Rogers and television producer Greg Berlanti, many months ago)!

I think that Dustin and Tom have a real chance of working out.  I have known many couples who have been together from their first date, and lasted decades.  In fact, they may have a much better chance than Evan and I, for a few reasons.  First, whatever their age difference, Dustin’s handsome face already has that youthful, smooth white skin, that you would find on many a young Englishman or possibly a vampire, turned in his 20’s. (I swear he would be a perfect choice for a Vampire Lestat reboot, just saying Anne Rice).  Second, this is no sugar daddy relationship, they both come to the table with money and power.  Dustin’s entertainment and writing career allow him the flexibility to be mobile and afford to go most anywhere, and Tom’s diving career takes him all over the world and I am sure there will be many endorsement deals, plus he has his own media business with his calendars and such.  Third, this is Tom’s first same-sex, out in the open, relationship, which I find can be a plus, especially with the right guy, because there is no baggage and preconceived notions, going into the relationship.  Honestly, I think that their only two obstacles from the outside world is Dustin who could doubt his own self-worth in keeping a handsome younger man, (trust me, this I know from experience), the older one in the relationship tend to get a little jealous of others, and because of their power and fame, others who would try to come between them because they think they are too privileged or entitled to everything with their power.  The only thing I am disappointed about is that I didn’t win the double date with the two of them, where I spent $100 entering to support Dustin and Lance’s charities, HRC and Brain Tumor research, I think Evan and I would have had a blast!

My personal thoughts on May/December romances are mostly positive.  I believe the younger one in the relationship will bring out the older’s personality more, making him feel young at heart and in action.  I think the elder can bring wisdom and experience to the younger one, not in any condescending way, but just through the virtue of having more time on the planet.  That has been the experience in most of my relationships.  Without some of the men I have dated who were younger than me, I may not have learned many of the things I am now passionate about.  You forget about doing bonfires on the beach, what’s new in Anime, or which kid in One Direction is supposed to be the gay one. (Okay, I made that last one up, they have all been called the gay one or fans wished they were the gay one).

I bring a lot to the relationship as well.  I have been well-traveled enough to offer some insights on great places to go explore.  As a chubby bear, I know my way around the kitchen and know where some of the best places to eat on earth are.  I know the real reason of gay Pride and the people whose shoulders we are standing on and should salute for the opportunities we have today.  And I can balance a checkbook without having to look up my balance on an app or computer, so there!  As far as the sexual aspect goes, every partner I have ever been with, no matter what the age, are fairly familiar with the correct body parts to stimulate and each can bring a little magic the other has never experienced.

The debate between my friends and I are far from over, and I am sure we will be talking about the “right” and “wrong” type of person to date, for many more Sunday Brunches to come, but the moral of the story is this: Love is Love!  Isn’t that our new mantra as we gain equality in marriage here in the U.S.?  Is Ethan the one for me?  I don’t know, but there is definitely going to be a second date. (For now you get a picture of Dustin and Tom, after the next date, who knows).  No matter what happens, I will probably continue to date younger men unless some silver fox comes and sweeps me off my feet.  Either way, a man can dream can’t he…………….Enjoy……………S

Watching Discrimination Live in Real Time

First off, it has been quite a while since I have written on my blog.  Sorry, and Not Sorry!  Lot’s of things in life get in the way, and I know I cannot call myself a true writer yet, not until all I can think about doing from the time I wake up, until the time I fall asleep, is wanting to carve out a little time for writing.  Obviously I am not there yet, although I am writing about and commenting on daily, things I see and find, on my social media streams.  Last night, I watched some live streaming on the Internet, that compelled me to write again, and for that, I am thankful.

Charlotte, North Carolina’s City Council last night decided once again, to allow discrimination to exist in my LGBT Community, and it was all captured through the magic of the Internet.  An ordinance was debated and voted on, to include protections to the LGBT Community, that are already available by statute, to most of Charlotte’s citizens.  If passed, Charlotte would have become the first city in North Carolina to pass LGBT-inclusive public accommodations and other protections. That would have meant that LGBT people could not be denied service in businesses open to the public, like restaurants, hotels, bars or movie theaters.  Other ordinances proposed for amending — adding marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — included commercial contracting, passenger vehicles for hire and regulations for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee.

To the City Council’s credit, the town hall debate, and subsequent vote, were all streamed on the Internet, Live, although that may happen for all City Council meetings, I do not know.  Almost 120 speakers signed-up, and took turns addressing the Council on their opinions of the ordinance.  It was definitely an example of Democracy in action, and I do applaud the crowd for remaining civil and courteous for the most part, and Council seemed attentive and had an overall control of the room.  The citizenry’s comments lasted from approximately 6pm to 10pm, before the hour or so it took the City Council to vote on the ordinance shortly after 11pm.

To my disappointment, most of those who signed up to talk were against the ordinance, and to no surprise, most were Christian Conservatives.  Also disappointing, was the amount of speakers that did not live or own businesses in Charlotte.  I do not believe that they deserved to speak, since they had no real standing in the matter.  There was the usual religious nonsense and homophobia, but the argument most of them were making, was against the ‘Public Accommodation,’ clause and how they were in fear for their daughters of a man being in the restroom with them.  Some going so far as to say that this would cause sexual predators to start dressing up as women, to gain access to them in public restrooms.  While I cannot say that would never happen, I feel it would happen less than the ridicule that would be meted out for a transgender woman to have to walk into a men’s room to go to the bathroom.

It was a surreal feeling, watching so many people speak out against my rights as on openly gay man, who may also be fired, denied housing, and other discriminatory practices that are also legal here in my state of Ohio.  You often hear of discrimination, but it is different to watch it from face after face, out in the open, not ashamed or afraid to deny a group of people their rights.  I have seen “group-speak,” in the form of protesters, speaking out against our LGBT Community, at a rally or pride festival, but rarely have I seen individuals, one after the other, 70 or 80, speak hatred or inequality in a single setting.  It is off-putting, especially when watching from far away, alone in your living room.

There were a good number of people who did speak up for the ordinance, although they were outnumbered. Voices rose from Allies, Activists, Transgendered, and Religious backgrounds, to speak on why the ordinance should be passed.  There were personal stories of hate and discrimination, and soul affirming support from staunch allies.  I believe these courageous people went in with the wind at their backs, depending on the tide of equality that is slowly rising over our country, would help carry this important piece of legislation. Unfortunately, as my friends and I have been discussing recently, equality and acceptance are two worlds still far apart in most of the United States.

After the speakers had their turn, it was time for the Council to vote. An amendment was immediately brought forth and seconded, to strip the controversial public accommodation in regards to bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and changing rooms, from the ordinance.  The debate that followed showed the split the Council had been working with on this ordinance, with two saying it should be all-inclusive or nothing, and two saying that in order to govern and get “some” progress in the city, they would reluctantly vote for the amendment, and a few steadfast detractors of the entire ordinance.  Six of Eleven Council Members must vote yes, to pass any ordinance.  After the debate, the amendment was accepted, clearing what I thought was the passage of the watered-down ordinance.

Surprise!  The ordinance failed after the two Council Members, John Autry and LaWana Mayfield, the ones that did not support the amendment because they wanted they entire ordinance passed, voted against the amended ordinance, thus stopping ANY protections to be passed.  The vote was especially stinging from Mayfield, as she was the first lesbian, ever to be elected to City Council.  As much as I agree that the ordinance should have been passed as originated, I cannot believe that a member of our LGBT Community would hold up any progress that could be made out of the situation.  I am especially concerned, knowing that it took from the first failure of an equal rights ordinance in 1992, until 2015 to get anything on the agenda again for equality.  I understand her point and passion about an all-inclusive ordinance and that excluding any one of us, is a slap in the face to us all, but even a bitter pill staves off part of an ailment.

I am saddened and disappointed by this vote.  I am sadder still to have witnessed all of the outright animosity to our Community that was on display by so many.  This affects me not only as a gay male here in Northeast Ohio, but as a citizen of these United States of America.  My brother lives 25 miles outside of Charlotte.  I am saddened that the next time I visit, and he offers to take me to one of the fine dining establishments they have in Charlotte, I will have to decline.  It is not a community’s fault for discrimination to exist because there has been no act of trying to change that from within their own laws, but to have the chance to end that discrimination, brought before a governing body and purposefully denied, should not, and will not be tolerated.  For a link to this story, you may go to THIS LINK.  

I am happy to have found some passion to write again, although sad it has to be on this topic of eye-witnessed discrimination.  Thank you if you are still following along, and I hope this inspires me to keep at it as much as I love to inform and discuss……………..Scott