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Guest commentary: Shift in progress

[Ed. Note — Paul McNeal has a great guest contribution below. I’m encouraging him to become a regular InterstateQ.com contributor. I’m sure you’ll like his stuff and hope you encourage him to join the club, too! — Matt]

“When I am president of the United States, Gays and Lesbians will have somebody who will fight for equal rights for them, because they are our brothers, and they are our sisters…” — Barack Obama

In this video, Barack Obama eloquently discusses his vision for a United States of America. Growing up in a socially conservative environment, it was a struggle to talk about my feelings and emotions as a Gay Christian. To take it a couple of steps further, a Gay African American Military Christian Man –- try that one on for size. (smile)

What I am starting to notice, since my departure from the military (2001) is a cultural shift. I would call it an awakening but we have not really been asleep on the issues I will discuss, it’s actually been in discussion for quite some time.

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What I am going to say may seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out. No, John McCain is not as good on many gay issues as the leading Democratic candidates, who at least pay lip service to gay issues like ENDA and relationship recognition, and who did show up to LOGO’s debate last year – but John McCain’s nomination as the GOP candidate for president is very good news for GLBT Americans, and his presidency would be even better.

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Matt said recently, “Republicans don’t like poor people.” As a counterpoint to that broad statement, I asked Casey to share her thoughts on how Republicans interact with the problem of economic disparity in America. We’ve asked her to pipe up whenever she’s got something on her heart. Hopefully she’ll find time in her busy schedule to share with us often. — Brian

Hi Interstate Q readers – I’m Casey Pick, proud Log Cabin Republican and sometimes Soulforce Q activist. Clearly, by definition I enjoy a good debate, so I’d like to thank my friends Brian and Matt for inviting me to play in their sandbox for awhile. Let’s share some ideas, and have some fun with this. In the end, we have more in common than what divides us, and we’ve always got something to learn from each other.

So, why don’t conservatives just admit we hate poor people? Very simply, because most of us, like most liberals, don’t. We care deeply about the poor – some of us, myself included, have even lived below the poverty line for much of our lives – and generally we view ourselves as compassionate, reasonable human beings. We just have different beliefs about what will best serve the least among us. So in the interest of combating the notion that conservative policies are based on “stupidity and arrogance” any more than liberal policies, I’d like to offer some examples of why many people believe conservative ideas and policies are better for America as a whole, and poorer Americans in particular

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All of us, every one of us

GUEST COMMENTARY
By Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

At this critical moment in our efforts to pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that includes transgender people under its protections, it is important to recall just why so many of us believe that no one can be left behind.

The last five days have been a grueling and defining moment in our movement’s history. When we learned that protections for transgender people would be stripped from ENDA, an unprecedented groundswell of anger, energy and determination rose up to reverse that decision.

The other day, a letter signed by more than 300 national and state advocacy organizations that work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people was delivered to Congress, asking for more time to garner support for ENDA as it was originally introduced. Some 2,500 congregations were asked to activate their memberships to call Congress. Students are also calling and e-mailing Congress and launching Facebook accounts to build support, working from 120 LGBT campus resource centers. Action alerts, blog postings and opinion pieces supporting a trans-inclusive ENDA have been flying over the Internet.

We at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force are immensely proud to be part of this moment. Our staff mounts a full-court press in the halls of Congress, on the telephones and over e-mail, to convince our congressional leaders that separating transgender people from the rest of us is unacceptable and unsupportable.

Why have we all worked so hard together and in such a dramatic way over this issue? For over a decade, the Task Force, and increasingly our organizational colleagues, has re-embraced transgender friends, family and colleagues as part of our community and part of our movement for freedom and equality. We believe the social disapproval and punishment of LGBT people varies only by degree. Yes, we can be fired if we identify ourselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual. But it isn’t always about who we love; sometimes it’s about a refusal or inability to disguise ourselves — “pass” — as heterosexual.

The freedom to express ourselves and be ourselves is at stake when any one of us is punished and persecuted for stepping outside the rigid rules of gender conformity. Lesbians, gay men and bisexual people historically engage a whole range of dress and behaviors that challenge the traditional gender code. Women who are too masculine and men who are too feminine often suffer job discrimination and harassment at work, just as our transgender sisters and brothers do.

Two women loving each other, two men loving each other, men and women who may love either men or women, and people who self-define their gender identity or expression all challenge and change gender-based assumptions and expectations. Centuries of formal state-sponsored and informal cultural oppression show that none of us are intended to exist, to thrive and to enjoy good and long lives.

There is no more fundamental human right for all of us than to be free to love and live as our minds and hearts guide us. But what is the value of freedom if we can’t get and keep a job, something we all need to make for ourselves a decent life?

Discrimination at work hits transgender people particularly hard. A survey conducted in Washington, D.C., shows that 60 percent of transgender respondents report either no source of income or incomes of less than $10,000 per year, a clear indication of the desperate need for employment protections for transgender people. Employment discrimination undeniably erodes the freedoms of transgender people, and all the rest of us, to live as we know we must.

Uncounted numbers of LGBT people courageously refuse to live a lie. This basic need to live fully as the people we know we are — loving someone of the same sex or transforming one’s self to express the other long-sought gender — forms the foundation of our very movement for freedom and equality. Just as we would oppose any legislation that cut out lesbians or gay men from needed protections, we oppose the re-drafted ENDA that excludes gender identity. We dream that all of us, every one of us, will some day be able to be and tell others who we are, each minute of every day, and not face punishment, prosecution or persecution.

A groundswell of support for a trans-inclusive ENDA, resounding across this entire country, cannot be ignored. We call on congressional leaders and all people of compassion and good will to work harder to win passage of a federal law that protects LGBT people in the workplace so that every one of us can simply live.

Matt Foreman is the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Guest contributions to InterstateQ.com are provided for thought, reflection, dialogue and civil debate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of regular InterstateQ.com Contributors nor those of Matt Comer.

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Guest Contribution: ‘One Word: Peace’

So… InterstateQ.com has its first Guest Contribution. Thanks to Micah Beasley, UNCG student for submitting to us his guest column he submitted to The Carolinian (UNCG). Micah’s guest column is in response to the guest column by Jason Crawford, entitled “The Matt Hill Comer problem,” published a couple weeks ago (see more about the aftermath here). Unfortunately, The Carolinian website has not yet been updated, so I can’t provide you the link to the online publication of Micah’s guest column, but he has sent me the full text for posting here.

One Word: Peace
by Micah Beasley

Submitted as a guest column to The Carolinian (UNCG), Issue 2/6/07

In light of Mr. Crawford’s thoughts on homosexuality that warranted two responses in the editorial section, I feel the need to offer my opinions on our society as a whole and how it affects those of us with so-called “alternate” lifestyles. I will not take the route of picking apart Bible verses; I believe that they change nothing. In my opinion, what these misplaced scriptural references do accomplish is to further discrimination and hate against homosexuals, a hate that leads to sign yielding radicals proclaiming, “AIDS cures fags.” I do not know when this started, but in this society the basic human right of respect has perished. When did America, the supposed land of freedom, prosperity, and acceptance become a society where you can be met with cruelty and harm because of your personal lifestyle?

I am not unpatriotic, but I am not proud of the society we live in today. Rather, I am disgusted by this society. Disgusted, because our country is running rampant with intolerance. Disgusted, because there are people out there in personal turmoil who are afraid to love because they fear they will be victimized.

I am in constant disbelief that there are those who have socialized younger generations into believing that we are not all created equal and that certain individuals should be ostracized for any reason, let alone their sexual orientation. Fortunately, though, there is hope. It lies within one simple word, peace. The ultimate gift that one human can offer to another. However this word and the ideas behind it have been left trampled upon and forgotten. It is no longer a mainstream thought for Americans. I no longer witness it in our relations with foreign nations and especially with the disregard for nations that really need our help, such as Darfur. We spread democracy, but not peace. I also certainly do not see it amongst my fellow Americans.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Mrs. Judy Shepard at UNC-Chapel Hill. Mrs. Shepard is the mother of Matthew Shepard, who was heinously beaten to death simply because he was a homosexual. It was a shock to our nation, yet nothing was done to prevent it from happening again. Everyone turned their heads. What followed were similar crimes that received less media attention and affected less Americans. Mrs. Shepard urged homosexuals to tell their stories in attempts to further the acceptance of diversity and addressed how imperative it is that heterosexuals fight for gay rights. She commended those who have already done so, but blamed the society that meets diversity with hate—this same society that raised these two men to think it was perfectly acceptable to take a young man’s life.

I stand behind her thoughts whole-heartedly. Intolerance is at our doorsteps America. Will we continue to turn our head the other way, or will we finally face this problem, head on, and fight against oppression? In the words of Mrs. Shepard, “our voices are beautiful,” and they will be heard. I would like to encourage everyone to visit the Matthew Shepard Foundation at http://www.matthewshepard.org to learn how you can “replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.”

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Have an interesting writing? Want to give your wicked awesome opinion on the latest news or controversy? We accept Guest Contributors! In fact, we LOVE them! To email your writing or for questions or inquiries, contact me.