Thursday, October 08, 2015

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Florida's Unnecessary "Pastor Protection Act"

GOP political whore, Scott Plakon
The Christofascists remain insistent on securing passage of legislation that underscores their special rights, even when the legislation is unnecessary.  And Republican political whores are only too willing to bow and genuflect to Christofascist demands.   It's all about making religious extremists and gay haters feel special. A case in point is Florida's absurd and wholly unnecessary "Pastor Protection Act."  The Advocate looks at this ridiculous legislation.  Here are excerpts:
The U.S. Constitution assures that clergy members won’t be forced to perform any marriage they don’t endorse, but that’s not good enough for some Florida lawmakers, who today advanced a piece of state legislation that does the same thing.

The Pastor Protection Act, approved by the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee, would provide an “extra layer of protection” for clergy who oppose same-sex marriage, said its sponsor, Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, according to The Palm Beach Post.

The subcommittee approved the measure by a vote of 9-4, Republicans in favor, Democrats against. It now goes to the Judiciary Committee, which will consider whether to move it on to the full House. The Senate has yet to take it up.

The vote came after the subcommittee heard impassioned testimony both for and against the bill.
Plakon acknowledged that the Constitution’s First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of religion, already assures that clergy members have discretion over who they’ll marry. But because of “numerous changes in the law and culture,” the state law needs to make clear that they’re free to decline to perform ceremonies that conflict with their beliefs, he said.

Some clergy members, from LGBT-friendly denominations such as the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ, said the bill is rooted in homophobia. “It’s that somehow an LGBT person who is looking to get married is a threat to other people of faith,” said Rev. Brant Copeland of the First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee. “I urge you not to adopt this unnecessary and, I think, basically homophobic bill.”

Texas and Oklahoma have passed similar laws this year, and the idea has been floated in some other states, including Georgia and Tennessee.
The cynic in me wonders how long it will be before we hear about Plakon being involved in a gay sex scandal!

America's Toxic Masculinity Crisis

Being gay, one is often only too aware of the toxicity of "real man" Masculinity in Virginia.  Gays by definition pose a threat to the sensibilities and self-esteem of those whose sense of self-worth depends on their macho self-image and desperate need to be a "real man."  In the wake of the recent Oregon mass shooting, it appears that the killer,  Christopher Harper-Mercer may have been one such psychologically unbalanced American male who held a grudge against women and clung to the trappings of supposed masculinity, including an obsession with guns.  A piece in Salon looks at the shooter and the frightening online world that he seeming lived in.  Here are excerpts:
In the wake of any tragedy, there’s a natural impulse to wonder: How did this happen? Who was to blame for this? In the week since Christopher Harper-Mercer’s execution of nine students at an Oregon community college, the question has become the same: Who is at fault here? 

Wedged among the proliferation of dank memes, choruses of copycat threats, violent Pepe .gifs, and cries of “Beta Uprising,” the 4chan forum /r9k/ might be closest to actually having an answer. According to the users, women were to blame for this rampage: If “the sluts” had just given it up to Mercer, he might never have gone on to murder innocent people. As horrible as 4chan may be, this claim is seemingly backed up by Mercer’s own words. In the days leading up to the attack, he posted complaints on a number of online forums about being chaste against his wishes. In his rambling manifesto left at the scene of the crime, he reportedly wrote: “I am going to die friendless, girlfriendless, and a virgin.”

Mercer’s frustration and rage at being a virgin likely contributed to his lashing out at innocent bystanders. But the real issue wasn’t that Mercer was a virgin and that this whole thing could have been avoided with a pity-fuck. The problem is that Mercer—like the community that it seems he was a part of—felt that he wasn’t a “real” man because of it.

The state of being a man is a compilation of external influences that ultimately define whether someone is a “real” man or not. Guns, sex, and money serve as a sort of holy trinity for traditional masculinity, the tropes by which a supposedly true man is known. When it’s stripped down to its toxic core, “what is a man” ends up being defined by how many chicks he can bang, how much ass he can kick, and how much money and “status” he has. 

Of course, for all the swaggering machismo and bravado of these would-be alphas, their concept of masculinity is so fragile that a trending Twitter hashtag can threaten it. When we define so many aspects of “manhood” as being external to just existing, it means that manhood is something that can be taken away from you at any time.

[P]art of being “a man” in the traditional, hyper-masculine sense means being a virile sex machine. A (male) virgin is, thus, an aberration, a mistake, and a pretender who doesn’t deserve his penis. The incel boards and forums are full of young men complaining about how they’re subhuman, genetic refuse that mistakenly made it off the production line. They live in deep pain and resentment over the fact that they are not men the way they feel like they should be.

The more than men believe in the tropes of traditional masculinity and gender roles, the more they feel the pressure to live up to them, and the more pain they feel when they believe they fall short. But they can’t express that pain. After all, the traditional masculine man isn’t allowed to express pain, weakness, fear, or insecurity. They’re expected to be stoic, a silent pillar of strength. Their only acceptable emotion is anger. 

Violence is somethinganyone can do. When you’re feeling powerless, then you take that power back—preferably from someone else.

In fact, a study published in the medical journal Injury Prevention documents this phenomenon quite clearly: Men who feel the most male discrepancy stress (that is, who feel the worst about not being manly enough) are also the most likely to have committed violent assaults on others, as well as committing assaults with a weapon.
Gun manufacturers post advertisements featuring loving images of big, erect rifles with the caption: “Consider your man-card reissued.” The message is clear: You may not measure up, but you can buy a substitute to make up for it, chock full of copper-jacketed death sperm.

Charles Harper-Mercer felt he couldn’t measure up as a man by being a lover, so he decided to show the world just how big his semi-automatic murder penis was.

Mercer was someone who was obsessed with the trappings of masculinity that he felt he couldn’t measure up to and lashed out, as statistics show that so many do.

We need to recognize just how damaging it is to sell the idea of men at their worst—brutish, violent and barely in control of themselves—is the only way to be a “real” man. We’ve stuck ourselves with a toxic idea of masculinity where you continually have to prove you’re a man—being willing to hurt others in order to do so—instead of manhood being something inherent.

The defenders of toxic masculinity love to portray those who don’t conform as being unmanly or beta white-knight manginas—sexual quislings who seek to betray their gender because they can’t measure up. It’s a way of derailing the conversation, to pit people against one another rather than to accept the truth: This form of masculinity has failed us. It doesn’t produce men; it produces anger, rage, and pain. It teaches us that the only way to be a man is to aspire to be the worst in us. We can do better. We can be better.
Obviously, I hold these "real man" types in low regard.  They hold gays in low regard if not contempt, but it's really only because they hold themselves in such low regard and because gays threaten their sense of masculinity.   Behind most "real man" types you will find a homophobe worried about his own lack of masculinity regardless of the outward bravado.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

More Wedneday Male Beauty

Vatican Accused of Sending Gay Priests for "Ex-Gay Cure"

While Pope Francis and the endless number of bitter old closeted men at the Vatican continue to malign gays and blather about God's plan for male-female relationships during the Church's synod on the family, the Roman Catholic Church remains incapable of avoiding one gay related bombshell after another.  On top of yesterday's story of the summary firings of two gay priests, now a story has broken about the Vatican sending gay priests to a monastery to  subject them to voodoo like "ex-gay" cures.   Never mind that all reputable - i.e., all non-Christofascist - medical and mental health associations condemn so-called conversion therapy.  In light of the 300 years it took the Church to admit that it erred in condemning Galileo, this latest embrace of ignorance and bigotry is all too par for the course.  Christianity Today looks at this new issue plaguing the Vatican and underscoring its anti-knowledge mindset.  Here are highlights:

The Vatican has been sending gay priests to a monastery to "cure" them of homosexuality, a former clergyman has alleged.

Mario Bonfanti says he was asked to go to the Venturini monastery in Trento, northern Italy, after it was discovered he was gay. Despite having maintained his vow of celibacy, the priest was dismissed from his parish in Sardinia three years ago when he refused.

Following Bonfanti's allegations, the head of Venturini, Father Gianluigi Pasto, told Italian reporters: "I can only say that here we help the priests become healthy".

The Independent reports that Fr Pasto denied the monastery is specifically for gay and paedophile priests in an interview La Repubblica, but did not deny that they may have come in the past. "Priests come to us for a period of formation and personal reflection," he said.

The allegations come in a week that the world's eyes are on Rome, as Pope Francis hosts the Synod on the Family with a particular focus on marriage and homosexuality.

During the opening Mass on Sunday, the pope reaffirmed Catholic opposition to gay marriage, but called for the Church to be welcoming and compassionate towards all people, regardless of their sexuality.

Ahead of the Synod, however, the Vatican dismissed a priest from his position in the Holy See after he came out as gay in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.
As I have noted many times, what should a gay Catholic do?  Walk - no run - from the Church and get their family members and friends to follow suit.  Given the countless times throughout history where the Church has been dead wrong - e.g., supporting slavery, rejecting science and condemning  scientists and the intellectually curious, one has to wonder why anyone with a brain listens to the garbage being uttered by the Church hierarchy and the members of the closeted priesthood. 

Finding "Someone who Completely Gets Me"

I have had the pleasure of meeting Dustin Lance Black - or Lance as he calls himself - on three occasions and have found him to be a sweet, thoughtful and unassuming individual.  He is also someone who has been on a mission to bring marriage equality nationwide and was a founding member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.  Now, Black is engaged to marry Olympian Tom Daley and he has made some touching statements.  The Christofascists seek to denigrate same sex love, but Lance's statements cut through to the beauty of loving same sex relationships.  Here are excerpts from Gay Star News
Newly engaged, Oscar winning screenwriter and LGBTI activist Dustin Lance Black is opening up about his feelings for fiance Tom Daley and their relationship.

‘I met someone who completely gets me,’ he tells the podcast Defining Marriage.

‘I definitely know that we’re better for having each other. We dream bigger. Things seem so much more possible together. Two and a half years in and it still feels like every day is a dream.’

The couple announced their engagement with an announcement in a British newspaper last month.

He says of getting married: ‘There’s power in the word, that the word is understood by society and it means that when you say “I’m married” or getting married, it’s a promise you make to the person you love, and I think that promise creates so much. It creates so much potential, and is understood by so many people.’

Black, who won the Academy Award in 2009 for his screenplay for the film Milk, has been deeply involved in the fight for same-sex marriage in the US. He was a founding member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights which successfully fought in the US Supreme Court for marriage equality in California.

He recalls the dreams he said in his speech the night he accepted his Oscar: ‘There’s two things I said: I said full federal equality, and we have that now in terms of marriage; I also said that one day I hoped that I’d be able to fall in love and get married. I never dreamed in that time I would meet somebody and fall in love and get engaged. I just never knew if that was something I’d be able to appreciate in my own lifetime.’

I wish them both much happiness.  I was especially touched by Lance's comments because my husband often describes me to others as "Someone who Completely Gets Him."

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

The Virginia GOP: Opposing Medicaid Without Good Reason

Next month the entire Virginia General Assembly is up for reelection - or preferably, replacement in the case of many of its Republican members.  In the noise machine that is the run up to the 2016 presidential election, including the ongoing GOP clown car circus, many Virginians seem oblivious to the election on November 3, 2015, and may fail to vote - something that favors the Republicans whose base, while crazy, tends to always go to the polls.  Among the issue to be addressed in the 2016 session of the General Assembly is the issue of Medicaid expansion, something opposed by Republicans largely because it is part of the Affordable Health Care Act championed by Barack Obama.  These individuals - who pretend to be the party of faith - happily throw 400,000 some Virginians in the gutter rather than had Obama a success.  The Virginian Pilot blasts these modern day Pharisees in a main editorial today.  Here are highlights:

REPUBLICAN state lawmakers' refusal to accept billions in Virginians' federal taxes to subsidize insurance for some 400,000 uninsured people has repeatedly been exposed as the partisan political ploy that it is.

The expansion of Virginia's managed-care Medicaid program, the most efficient of two divisions of Medicaid in Virginia, is a prime objective of Democratic President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

The 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of that federal law, however, left to the respective states a decision whether to accept the return of federal tax revenue for Medicaid expansion. In Virginia, where Republicans control both chambers of the legislature, GOP delegates and senators dug in their heels and refused.

The effects of that fiscally irresponsible position extend far beyond the health care of lower-income, uninsured Virginians.

Republicans have chosen to bleed hospitals in their own districts of necessary revenue, diminishing access to quality health care while undermining local and statewide economic development efforts. All so they can politically oppose a lame duck president over a law twice declared constitutional and which the GOP doesn't have the votes in Washington to overturn.

State data show one-third of Virginia's acute-care hospitals lost money operating in 2013, as the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association pointed out in a statewide public-awareness campaign. Roughly half of rural Virginia's acute-care hospitals lost money that year.

Those figures are unsustainable, and they portend a looming crisis for health care - and for the economy - in Virginia. That crisis could be averted simply by expanding Medicaid and returning Virginians' federal tax dollars to the commonwealth.

The health care industry is the top employer in the vast majority of Virginia's rural counties, providing critical jobs and tax revenue.  It's worth noting many of those areas are represented by Republican legislators, who seem intent on punishing their constituents in order to score a political victory. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has focused heavily on economic development, campaigned in 2013 on a pledge to increase health insurance coverage.

Under the law, federal funds would cover 100 percent of costs for expanding Medicaid coverage through 2016, and then gradually phase down to a floor of 90 percent in 2020.
There is no business case for refusing the return of billions in tax dollars already paid by residents to improve health care for Virginia's working poor, shore up Virginia hospitals' ailing financial conditions and strengthen an industry critical to Virginia's economy.

A Last S.O.S. for the S.S. United States

The super liner U.S. United States was built at Newport News Shipbuilding less than ten miles from where I sit typing this post and was launched in the same year that I was born.   In her prime, she was the fastest ocean liner afloat and counted presidents, movie stars and royalty among her passengers.  Now, she is a rusting hulk facing the scrape yard if funds are not raised to maintain her while a plan to develop her into a water front attraction and hotel in New York City are completed.  The S.S. United States is small compared to some of today's massive cruise ships that resemble mammoth hotels slapped on a hull, but her sleek lines and wind swept superstructure recall the days when crossing the Atlantic was most often for the rich and famous.  The New York Times looks at the ship and the fate that I hope she manages to dodge.  Here are excerpts:
A Titanic-sized supership that once ferried presidents, Hollywood royalty, actual royalty and even the Mona Lisa has a place in the history books as the fastest oceanliner in the world. The owners are now racing to avoid having the ship, the S.S. United States, relegated to the junk heap.

A preservationist group, the S.S. United States Conservancy, saved the vessel from being scrapped a few years ago. Its members are working with a developer to give the mothballed vessel a new life as a stationary waterfront real-estate development in New York City, the ship’s home port in her heyday.

Their big dreams, however, now face a financial crisis: Short of money, the conservancy in recent days formally authorized a ship broker to explore the potential sale to a recycler. In other words, the preservationists might have to scrap their vessel.

The conservancy continues to seek out donors, investors or a buyer to preserve the ship and press forward with development. But unless something happens by Oct. 31, the group said in a statement, “We will have no choice but to negotiate the sale of the ship to a responsible recycler.”

The decision to seek bids from scrappers was “excruciating,” said Ms. Gibbs, particularly since the development plan emerged in the last year. “We’ve never been closer to saving the S.S. United States, and we’ve never been closer to losing her,” she said.

In the 1950s and ’60s, the ship was a marvel of technology and elegance, offering regular passenger service between New York and Europe. The 1952 maiden voyage smashed trans-Atlantic speed records. She was so fast, her propellers were a Cold War state secret.

Passenger jets doomed the superliners, however. The S.S. United States left service in the late 1960s. Today she is docked in Philadelphia, stripped of her interiors and rusting in the Delaware River across the street from an Ikea store.

The redevelopment plan is underway, said Keith Harper, vice president for design at Gibbs & Cox, the firm that originally designed the S.S. United States. Late last year, a real estate developer hired the firm to help devise specific ideas for possible reuse. . . . . The ship has roughly 600,000 square feet of floor space.
Admirers remain optimistic. Among them is John Quadrozzi, whose company happens to own a pier in Brooklyn big enough to accommodate an oceanliner. He says he would welcome the ship there, where docking costs would be considerably lower. The conservancy is considering the move, if the money can be raised.

The S.S. United States was conceived with two purposes: to provide luxury passenger service to and from Europe, and to quickly convert into a superfast military transport, although that need never arose. Built partly with government funds, the ship represented a powerful expression of American postwar optimism and ambition.

Newspapers speculated on her secret top speed and wrote about her comings and goings like no airplane route gets written about. In the 1950s and ’60s, she was featured in a Disney movie, a Munsters movie, and a sequel to the Marilyn Monroe blockbuster “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” according to a conservancy history. Her twin red-white-and-blue stacks can be glimpsed in the opening of “West Side Story.”

America, unlike much of Europe, destroys its history and historic buildings and, in this case, ships.  The S.S. United States is one of a kind and I hope the funds are found to save her and make her into a waterfront destination.    Consider making a donation here.