Monday, December 16, 2013

Pope Francis I is STILL a Homophobic Bigot

This is from the "Are you fucking kidding me Advocate?" files.  The Advocate--a mainstream LGBT magazine for those who don't know--gives out a person-of-the-year deal to somebody who has been the most positive influence on LGBT lives in the past year.

Because The Advocate is apparently distributing the wrong kind of drugs to its staff, they gave it to Pope Francis I, complete with a computer-generated "NOH8" stamp on his cheek.

Let me put this in clearer language for you: The Advocate, which bills itself as the leading source of LGBT news, just gave a fucking pro-LGBT honor to an openly homophobic bigot.

I'm not going to lie: I'm actually really offended.  Reading this literally almost made me vomit on my computer screen.  It's unacceptable.

This is a guy who has called adoption by LGBT people child abuse and is a huge player in fighting against same-sex marriage.  He only supports civil unions--allegedly, as this isn't an official position--as a "lesser of two evils" (essentially to prevent same-sex couples from gaining real equality, the same reason any other bigoted hetero would support civil unions and not marriage).  He's only cool with gay priests because--newsflash--priesthood requires celibacy in the Catholic church anyway.

In short, there isn't a pro-queer bone in this man's body.

This situation highlights a lot of the reasons I don't identify with the mainstream LGBT movement and haven't for many years.  There's a lot of talk about "stepping stones" and "incremental progress" that usually benefits more privileged LGBT folks while leaving everyone else in the dust, and part of that is readying the lips for ass-kissing whenever some public figurehead doesn't want to outright murder us.  GLAAD gave an award to Bill Clinton, the guy who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law and who was largely responsible for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell..." the very two pieces of legislature Gay Inc. had been crying about for years.  LGBT folk tirelessly campaigned for Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama--draped them in fucking rainbows--even when they both staunchly insisted they did not support same-sex marriage*.

It's not like The Advocate doesn't know that the Pope is not pro-queer, either.  Their entire essay lauding this man is peppered with quotes and stories that totally acknowledge his mediocrity with regard to the subject of LGBT rights:
Pope Francis did not articulate a change in the church’s teaching today, but he spoke compassionately, and in doing so, he has encouraged an already lively conversation that may one day make it possible for the church to fully embrace gay and lesbian Catholics."
 Translation:  "He didn't actually fucking do anything, but he started a conversation."
"The Catholic Church is opposed to the legalization of gay marriage, but teaches that homosexuals have the same dignity of every human being and condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse."
That "unjust" qualifier is really important, because it basically gives the Catholic church the right to define what "unjust" means.  It also literally means nothing.

“The Catholic Church has never been opposed to the decriminalization of homosexuality, because we have never considered gay people criminals"
See that one's just a bald-faced-fucking-lie right there.

If there's one thing that makes me totally alienated from the mainstream LGBT community it's its consistent dedication to mediocrity.  There are hundreds of queer/LGBT people out there who are tirelessly working toward full equality--whatever they may define "equality" as--and yet we continue to reward straight people who don't have any actual interest in LGBT rights or who have historically botched-the-fuck out of them instead.

That's where this whole thing fails.  It's only natural that a queer or progressive Catholic will be excited that there is a Pope who is slightly less of a shithead than prior popes have been.  As a community, though, it is a monstrosity that such a major--secular!--publication would give this guy cookies.  A monstrosity.

* As an anti-marriage queer it might seem odd that I would be so irritated at the support of people who are against same-sex marriage.  The reality is that there is a huge difference between being against marriage as an institution and being against marriage only for same-sex couples or trans folk.  More can be read here.

** For an earlier take on his popishness you can check out my earlier essay after which this post's title is designed, "Pope Francis is a Homophobic Bigot."

Monday, December 9, 2013

The War on Christmas II: The Baby Jesus Commute

Also known as "13 Reasons Why The Courthouse/Town Hall Doesn't Need Another %@#$ing Nativity."

One of my relatives listens to conservative talk radio a lot and seems to enjoy baiting me into conversations I don't want to have based on whatever he hears on it.  Usually I say right away that I don't want to talk to him about politics, to which he responds that he "just wants to hear my opinion" before dragging me into the never-ending abyss of bullshittery he hears.

One of his favorite things to bring up is how we shouldn't be taking down Nativity scenes from government buildings "just because some atheist doesn't like it."  He usually says this as if there's no chance I'm going to disagree with such brilliance, despite the fact I have expressed my opinion on this subject on many occasions, usually ending with him angrily saying "We should agree to disagree although I think you're dead wrong" ("Dead Wrong," I've learned, is this man's code for "This is something you have lived experience in that I don't but I'm going to fight you every inch of the way anyway because talk radio").

There's a perception among Christians that the reason these monuments are "worth preserving" is because they're traditional.  The reality is that many (although certainly not all) of these monuments are being placed on government property by reactionary Christians who are frantically worried about their dwindling privilege.  They deal with this by introducing new Christian-themed monuments where they didn't always exist and then pretending they've always been there so they can moan about non-Christians destroying American traditions.

As a Pagan this issue touches me deeply because there have been cases where in the interests of fairness legislators have decided to just allow everyone to put their own holiday monuments up just to avoid having to take down the Nativity scene.  In Green Bay a Pagan display was erected that was promptly vandalized, prompting them to bar the Pagan display while ludicrously continuing to allow the Nativity.

This is the thing liberal Christians who support these monuments don't understand:  There's no way to actually make them fair to all faiths.  Minority faiths have their monuments defaced and removed.  We wind up having to use government buildings with the symbols of an oppressive majority faith plastered on them, telling us pretty clearly that our rights are not going to be viewed as quite as important as those of others.

"Well, it's just a decoration."  No, it's not just a decoration.  It's a statement, and it's a statement against minority faiths and nonbelievers.  There's no excuse for it.

The most interesting thing for me, though, is how many people are clinging to this nostalgia as if removing Nativity scenes from government buildings is going to dramatically change the landscape or take something away from the community.  The reason this is so interesting is that practically no reasonable person is lobbying to remove peoples' right to erect Nativity scenes or any other holiday decorations for that matter.  Since Christianity in this country is a majority faith it means there are ample opportunities for people to see Nativity scenes absolutely everywhere.  I photographed thirteen of them--and there were plenty more--on my half hour commute to work last year.  That means I saw a Nativity scene on average every two and a half minutes, most of them tastefully decorating private residences with a fair amount adorning churches.  There are also at least eight of them where I currently work, which is a Catholic institution.  Nativity scenes can be found in abundance in areas where it's totally appropriate to see them... so why do we need them on public property?

Again, the answer is that this is more a statement than a tradition.

But let's pretend it really is a tradition.  Say these are decorations that have been going out every Christmas for fifty, sixty years.  What then?

The answer is this:  Sometimes traditions aren't worth keeping.

This could be an uncomfortable statement for a Christian to read, because people don't like hearing their faith traditions referred to as "not worth keeping."  Part of this is due to the common belief among United Statesian Christians that Christian beliefs and traditions have a universality about them that can be related to even among the most hardcore atheist.  As I've already written about before, this isn't the case.  Hell, a lot of Biblical values aren't even relatable for your average Christian let alone the rest of us.

Unless you're a hardcore Christian reconstructionist who wants to turn the United States into some theocratic shithole (in which case I don't know why you're even here), there's no reason to support Nativity scenes on courthouses, public school grounds, city halls, or anything else of the like.  Put it on your own property.  We'll all see it there anyway.

For your amusement (and inspiration if you're into that), here are 13 of my Nativity photos with varying image quality:

Unfortunate camera phone picture, right next to a
"Keep Christ in Christmas" sign.

This one's kind of shadowbox-ish.

Most Nativity scenes around here are some sort of internally lit plastic.

Is there anything more American than a scene depicting a Middle Eastern deity?

I'm not even sure this is on private property but we'll pretend.

Speaking of which, in addition to greeting cards (pictured), y'all have stamps.

More internally lit plastic.

Internally lit plastic.

This is a popular model, too. It creates a shadow on a building.

This Mary and Joseph don't even really care about Jesus it seems.

This is probably also plastic, but it's a particularly pretty model.
At this angle it looks like Mary and Joseph happened upon
a freezing, snow-covered Christ and panicked.

Same model as above, but without the lighting and with festive decorations.

This internally-lit plastic scene guards an empty flowerbed.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The War on Christmas Part I: The Cult of Disclaiming Oppression

I'm writing a series I'm calling "The War on Christmas" as an homage to the droves of high-ranking Christian bigots (and a fair number of people who have literally no idea what religious minorities go through) out there.  I expect the series to take at be at least a three-parter but hey, who knows?

For a quick clarity here: I am a Pagan who celebrates Yule, I don't really make a distinction between Christmas and Yule in my daily life.  They are the same holiday with two different interpretations, and both Christians and Pagans have borrowed from each other various practices.  I also am one of a large majority of non-Christians who doesn't usually get personally offended when somebody says "Merry Christmas."

I say "a large majority" because although I'm certain such a phenomenon exists, the idea that there are droves of non-Christians out there being snide about people saying "Merry Christmas" is pretty much a myth.  In fact, it's often non-Christians who post stuff like this:
Which I think is a nice diagram for ignoring religious hegemony and oppression.

Let me explain here: It's not that I think there's anything wrong with just going with whatever greeting a person happens to use with you.  It's that being subjected with a barrage of endless posts like this is a constant reminder that the way this is treated is not equal between faiths.  You can talk all you want about how everyone should just be able to use whatever greeting is appropriate in their faith or culture, but unless you're celebrating Christmas or constantly around people who share that faith or culture people are not going to look at it as just another greeting.

There's a reason most of us don't stray beyond "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."  Anything other than these two can reasonably be expected to seen as a direct insult to Christianity if you use it with a Christian.  If you're a non-Christian you're expected to bite your tongue, but there's no way Facebook posts are going to convince Christians to do the same because Christianity is an entitled majority faith in this region.  That's where the disparity is: The lecture being given is essentially "Don't worry what people are greeting you with because it's all meant in good cheer anyway."  It's a great message that can only realistically benefit people who say "Merry Christmas" or a generic holiday greeting, and yet they always stick some other religious holidays in there (usually Hannukah, Kwanzaa, maybe Yule or Winter Solstice) as if they are part of the picture just to make it look equal.  They aren't, though.  That's why most of us don't use them.

It's for that reason I do get unnerved when people say "Merry Christmas" to me without having any understanding of my background or history.  Because I can and do acknowledge that this dialogue is stacked almost entirely in favor of preserving Christian hegemony and NOT interfaith tolerance. 
And you know what?  There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are uncomfortable with "Merry Christmas."  It doesn't make you a horrible person, it makes you a person who is aware of a terrible disparity of privilege that is being hijacked by the media as a "War on Christmas" when really it should be called "teaching people not to make assumptions about other peoples' faith practices."