Thursday, July 2, 2009

Obama and LGBT (in)action

by Thúy-Lan Võ Lite

In lieu of mixed feelings in the LGBT community about President Obama - some think he's moving too slowly in fulfilling his campaign promises, while others are willing to be patient - it's pretty ironic that his inaction on Tuesday is definitely something we all can celebrate. According to the AP, the 30th marked the deadline for our president to appeal the decision in Schroer v. Library of Congress, which affirmed that transgendered individuals are covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Library of Congress offered Diane Schroer a job as a terrorism analyst but revoked the offer a day after she informed a library official that she was undergoing a sex change. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on her behalf in 2005, and on April 29 of this year, "a federal court awarded [her] maximum damages of $491,190 for back pay, other financial losses and emotional pain and suffering after finding the Library illegally discriminated against [her] because of her sex." (In the previous administration, the Justice Department tried to argue that the Civil Rights Act applied only to women and men, not people transitioning between the two; how close-minded is that?)

While it's certainly good news that this important court decision remains, it's hard not to be anxious about the rest of the promises the President has made to LGBT citizens. There's so much left to be done; I'm still waiting for DOMA to be repealed, for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to disappear, and for full health care coverage for same-sex partners of federal employees...

Cross-posted from the Feminist Majority Foundation blog

India decriminalizes homosexuality, and some more

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

Pride Month just ended, but New Delhi's highest court's decision to legalize gay sex is amazing news. The NYT has the full story, which you can read here - but briefly, homosexuality has been illegal in India since 1861, when "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" was criminalized by the British (dontcha just love colonialism?). The ruling will only affect India's capitol city of New Delhi, but it will force the national government either to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court or repeal the law entirely.

In the ruling, the judges wrote, “Discrimination is antithesis of equality...It is the recognition of equality which will foster dignity of every individual." Damn straight.

Also, if you're interested in the fruits of my desperate attempts to catch up with the news (and not do my reading) - here's a Bloggingheads video about the debate in France over banning the burqa. I think that the French are hijacking the language of women's rights to discriminate against a minority that refuses to completely assimilate into French culture, regardless of whether the veil is oppressive (and that's something that can be debated also), but it's an interesting conversation - what do you think?

And this just makes me thankful that I'm an ocean away from all this bullshit - Fox News is just the latest in a slew of news outlets who are referring to Maria Chapur (the woman with whom South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford had an affair) as Sanford's "mistress," a "beautiful brunette with big eyes" who was Sanford's "star-crossed lover." Now, I know what you're going to say - what am I expecting from Fox News? But I'm going to tear into it anyway. First of all, it's totally disrespectful to refer to Chapur as Sanford's "mistress," which implies that she was some kind of kept woman - when in fact, she was supporting herself and her two children. And really, what's the male equivalent of "mistress"? There isn't one, except "master," which does not imply what Sanford should really be called, which is more along the lines of "lying, cheating dirtbag." But no - he's the governor, and she's the mistress.

Yes, Ms. Chapur did not make a good decision when she got involved with a married man who is also a state governor. But Fox manages to at once disrespect her and glorify Sanford - saying that she's a hottie who speaks several languages and exercises constantly - I mean, what would you have done? I'd totally sacrifice my political career and humiliate my family for that kind of star-crossed love. This whole thing is a mess, and is being handled terribly by the U.S. media - there is no excuse for putting this woman's personal life on display and objectifying her while treating this like the greatest love story of Mark Sanford's life. I hope that Sanford drops quietly out of politics and tries to make this up to his family, and lets Ms. Chapur get back to piecing together her life.

Thanks to Charlie for the tip!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stuff you may have missed this week

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

Once again, a brief and very incomplete summary of what's been going on in the world for the past week, in case you're relying on us for your feminist news.

A very moving and compelling essay in the American Prospect by Jaclyn Friedman about the legacy of Stonewall, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the riots in Greenwich Village. Friedman points out some disturbing truths about the status of the gay rights movement, 40 years after one of its most important events. She writes, "The modern LGBT-rights movement owes its existence to the heroes of Stonewall. And while much has been gained in the intervening decades, a certain crucial something has been lost. We've become a movement that will settle for anything vaguely positive that proves we exist."

Idiotic Bloggingheads video debate about the idea of paying women not to have abortions. This is going to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies - how? We want to give financial incentives to stay (and probably, as some interpret it, to become) pregnant, but we can't provide adequate welfare, because that encourages people to rely on handouts from the government.

Lynn Rosenthal was named the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Just one more reason to love Joe Biden!

According to the NYT, vibrators are as common in American households as toaster ovens. Well, maybe not that common.

Can we just pause and ask why Ross Douthat is allowed to publish in the NYT? His latest column basically asserts that lower-class people are having wilder, more unsafe sex, but also sex with more "romantic excess," while feminism has trapped men in the kitchen where they are unable to seduce their wives. Does anyone else understand what he's trying to say? Over-educated feminists aren't having enough unsafe sex, but lower-class couples should try to take it down a notch? My question is - why the hell would anyone (regardless of their economic status) care what Ross Douthat thinks about their sex life?

And, straight from Vietnam, my sexist comment of the day, courtesy of my tour guide in Saigon this past weekend. Imagine this accompanied by an unnecessarily large wink:

"You know, sometimes in Vietnam they call 'ladies of the night' mermaids. So when I take large groups to some towns, at night I tell the women that they can go shopping, and men can go fishing."