FOR FATHER’S DAY

Have you seen the promo for the new Steven Wright DVD? (You know Steven Wright; the gloomy deadpan guy? As in, for example: ‘Borrow money from pessimists – they don’t expect it back.’) He makes fun of everything. (‘All those who believe in psychokinesis, raise my hand.’) The promo clip I saw: ‘I think it’s wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly.’

FOR JOHNNY HAS TWO MOTHERS DAY

I’m not saying your Mom has no sense of humor; just that – at the risk of sounding old fashioned or sexist – I think you need to consider getting her something nicer than a comedy DVD.

In the meantime, for the boy who has two moms, there is the continuing question of what we are to think – and the extent to which we are comfortable restricting the rights of others based on what we think. For example, it’s one thing to think inter-racial couples should not marry; another thing to forbid them to.

One reason the country is making steady progress toward acceptance of its gay and lesbian children is simply that they’re getting to know them. (Is it even notable any more that Ellen Degeneres is gay? She’s just as widely beloved as any other celebrity in America, isn’t she? And considered more wholesome than many of them?)

So if you have 12 minutes to meet some really nice people, both straight and gay, here they are. The focus is on what happened in Wisconsin – where the people voted down the right of their fellow citizens to marry – and what may happen in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, and supported by the Governor and nearly three-quarters of the legislature . . . but where there’s a risk it will be outlawed by referendum. The clip speaks for itself, and appeals to the angels of our better nature.

FOR JOHNNY’S DAD IS A MOMMY DAY

The House may vote today on extending hate crimes legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

I know some of you believe there should be no hate crimes laws at all.* But that’s not today’s question. Today’s question is, since there already ARE hate crimes laws on the books, should one much-hated group – queers – be excluded from them?

* The conservative position is that all crime is hateful, regardless of motive. And that – while distinctions should be made based on intent (first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter, and so on) – dragging a randomly selected black man on a chain behind a pickup truck until his head falls off, just because he was black (or for blacks to do the same to a white guy, just because he was white), does not fall into a category of crimes that threaten our diverse society more than any other. I disagree.

The other reason special legislation is needed is that, sometimes, law enforcement in a given locality shares the same bigotry that led to the crime in the first place. In those cases, the law provides added resources to encourage the pursuit of justice.

It would be odd to protect all religions except, say, Catholics; odd to protect all races except, say, Asians; odd to protect all ethnicities except, say, Poles. And so it seems odd to exclude one of the most hated and frequently assaulted groups of all – queers.

(Many young gays and lesbians actually prefer that word; I never use it. But in the context of hate crimes, it does seem to have a place in the discussion.)

Anyhow, as you would expect, most Democrats favor expanding the hate crimes protections to cover the LGBT community; many Republicans do not.

Today’s outcome may revolve around procedural maneuvering over ‘gender identity.’ That is, can the bill be passed (or scuttled) by excluding from its protection the most hated and threatened group of all – the effeminate boy or masculine girl.

One Democratic Congressman I know pretty well, who comes from a district far from New York or San Francisco, was wrestling with this issue last night. ‘Gender identity,’ he told me, was not a term the voters in his district knew . . . or would be comfortable with if they did. Come the fall of 2008, he could get beat up pretty bad, he feared, if he voted to include these protections.

I don’t know how he will come down on it. Today will be an interesting day.

My pitch was that – apart from it’s being the right thing – and the thing, certainly, Jesus would have done (can you imagine His saying ‘Blessed are the meek, except the sissies, whom you may judge without fear of being judged yourself, and beat up, because you are stronger than they are’?) – apart from all that, if his opponent did attack him for this, he might just be able to make it work to his advantage. As in:

Well, you know, I’m a pretty square, straight, white guy. I had never even heard of ‘gender identity.’ But what it’s basically about is boys getting beat up or killed because they’re effeminate, and girls getting attacked or killed because they’re not feminine enough. Nobody’s for that, unless there’s a lot of hate in their hearts — and I know first hand there’s not a lot of hate in the hearts of my constituents. I’m kind of shocked that my opponent takes the sides of the bullies in this. Well, if that’s his best credential to represent you in Congress, so be it. But now let’s talk about jobs and why the Republicans have us paying so much more for prescription drugs than we should.

The other thing I relayed to him was the story of my fellow high school alum (a dozen years ahead of me), Renee Richards. As it happens, she was profiled on CBS Sunday Morning just days ago, so her story is fresh in mind: Princeton tennis champ, military man, married, a dad . . . sex change operation, ranked 20th in the world on the women’s tennis circuit, highly respected eye surgeon (operating on a patient even as we speak) – and still much loved by her son.

Is hers a typical story? Hardly. Is it likely to make people uncomfortable at first? Sure. But the few transgendered folks I’ve gotten to know a little have more courage and personal dignity than just about anybody. And, in any event, this is America. I hope my Congressman friend votes the right way.

 

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