Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Here is an excerpt from President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s June 1, 2021 Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month:
The uprising at the Stonewall Inn in June, 1969, sparked a liberation movement — a call to action that continues to inspire us to live up to our Nation’s promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all. Pride is a time to recall the trials the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community has endured and to rejoice in the triumphs of trailblazing individuals who have bravely fought — and continue to fight — for full equality. Pride is both a jubilant communal celebration of visibility and a personal celebration of self-worth and dignity.
While June is coming to an end, our pride doesn’t have to. All of the celebrations of pride should continue year round. The companies that show support for the LGBTQ+ community with rainbow themed marketing strategies need to continue to advocate for LGBTQ+ equality. Our politicians, community leaders, businesses, etc. need to do tie to to support “our Nation’s promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all.”
This Pride Month, we have recognized the valuable contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals across America, and we have reaffirmed a commitment to advocate for LGBTQ+ Americans as we struggle against discrimination and injustice. This cannot end as the month of June ends. Until LGBTQ+ Americans have full equality and protection under the law, we cannot let up. We still have a lot of work to do. My dream is that one day no LGBTQ+ individual will ever have to fear coming out, we will never have to hide who we are, and our sexuality for all the many interpretations on the sexual spectrum.
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
By Regie Cabico
—for Creativity and Crisis at the National Mall
tell my students i'm gay
tell chick fil a i'm queer
tell the new york times i'm straight
tell the mail man i'm a lesbian
tell american airlines
i don't know what my gender is
like summer blockbuster armrest dates
armrest cinematic love
elbow to forearm in the dark
humor me queerly
fill me with laughter
make me high with queer gas
decompress me from centuries of spanish inquisition
& self-righteous judgment
like the blood my blood
that has mixed w/ the colonizer
& the colonized
in the extinct & instinct to love
bust memories of water & heat
& hot & breath
beating skin on skin fluttering
bruise me into vapors
bleed me into air
fly me over sub-saharan africa & asia & antarctica
explode me from the closet of my fears
graffiti me out of doubt
bend me like bamboo
propose to me
divide me into your spirit 2 spirit half spirit
& shadow me w/ fluttering tongues
& caresses beyond head
fist smashing djembes
between my hesitations
haiku me into 17 bursts of blossoms & cold saki
de-gender me in brassieres
& prosthetic genitalias
burn me on a brazier
wearing a brassiere
in bitch braggadocio soprano bass
magnificat me in vespers
of hallelujah & amen
libate me in halos
heal me in halls of femmy troubadors
announcing my hiv status
or your status
i am not afraid to love you
implant dialects as if they were lilacs
in my ear
medicate me with a lick & a like
i am not afraid to love you
so demand me
About the Poet
Regie Cabico's work appears in over 30 anthologies including The Spoken Word Revolution (Sourcebooks, 2003), Chorus & The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1999), and Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café (Henry Holt and Company, 1994). He is the co-editor of Flicker & Spark: A Contemporary Anthology of Queer Poetry and Spoken Word (Lowbrow Press, 2013), nominated for a 2014 Lambda Literary Award. He is the Youth Program Coordinator for Split this Rock Poetry Festival.
🏳️🌈 LGBT POETS FOR PRIDE MONTH 🏳️🌈
Monday, June 28, 2021
The White House has installed an exhibit dedicated to “celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month 2021” on the Ground Floor Corridor. The exhibit is the first physical display of historical items dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. The items were borrowed from the Smithsonian Institution and in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum on American History.
The exhibit features artifacts from historic LGBTQ+ community figures like Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, and Jerame Davis, the former executive director of National Stonewall Democrats. Another figure highlighted in the exhibit is Rose Cleveland, who was the sister of the 23rd and 25th President, Grover Cleveland.
“Rose Cleveland, President Grover Cleveland’s sister, served in the role of White House hostess until his marriage in 1886,” the exhibit reads. “For almost 30 years, Rose Cleveland maintained a romantic relationship with Evangeline Marrs Simpson Whipple. The women lived together in Italy from 1910, until Rose’s death from the Spanish flu in 1918.” The exhibit notes that Rose and Evangeline rest “side by side” in Italy today. Correspondence between them was published in 2019 by the Whipple Collection from the Minnesota Historical Society, where they are housed today.
There are artifacts describing major events in LGBTQ+ history such as the Stonewall Riots and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Photos shared online show the corridor illuminated in Pride colors, the first known time in history, the Advocate reports.
LGBTQ+ activist, columnist and Philadelphia Gay News founder Mark Segal reported that upon visiting the National Museum this week, personal artifacts of his “from that first Pride in 1970, which we called Christopher Street Liberation Day March” were among those included in a series of items shared with the White House. The items included a flyer given out over 50 years ago promoting the march and Segal’s marshal badge worn that day. “That 18-year-old boy at Stonewall never expected that not only would he be asked to dance with his husband at the White House, but that one of his personal artifacts would be on display there,” Segal wrote. “Fifty-two years ago that was inconceivable to me. Now, it’s a joyous reality.”
The exhibit is curated from the LGBT Pride exhibits currently at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum. One is the “Illegal to be You: Gay History Beyond Stonewall” exhibition on display at the museum since 2019, and planned to close on July 6, 2021. The items I took he ongoing Smithsonian exhibit showcase different aspects of LGBTQ+ American history, activism and the “everyday experience of being queer,” according to curator Katherine Ott. The display includes knives used to lobotomize gay men during the ’70s, lab equipment from 1980s HIV researcher Jay Levy, a full figure skating costume from gay Olympian Brian Boitano, shoes from trans tennis player Renée Richards and cosmetics used by irreverent gay director John Waters.
LGBTQ+ Pride Month was established by President Bill Clinton in June 1999, though back then it was called Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. Clinton said at the time that he signed the 1998 executive order that made it possible for people of any sexual orientation to work in the federal government and to receive security clearances. “Today, more openly gay and lesbian individuals serve in senior posts throughout the Federal Government than during any other Administration," Clinton's June 2000 proclamation stated.
The previous twice impeached, traitor’s administration did not even acknowledge Pride Month until 2019, and only half-heartedly then. In the first two and a half years of that administration, the former president took numerous steps to curtail LGBTQ+ rights, from nominating judges aligned with anti-gay hate groups to banning transgender people from the military. George W. Bush declined to recognize June as Pride Month during his eight year administration.
President Barack Obama issued a proclamation every year he was in office. "All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation," Obama's June 2015 proclamation read. “During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are."
On June 25, President Biden declared "pride is back at the White House," delivering remarks in a day of events intended to mark the contributions of LGBTQ+ Americans. He spoke after signing H.R. 49, which designates the site of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting as the "National Pulse Memorial." Biden recognized that much work remains to be done to give equal rights and protections to LGBTQ Americans. The president invoked Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, and said he was right when he said it "takes no compromise to give people their rights." He called on the Senate to pass the Equality Act to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
"When a same-sex couple can be married in the morning but denied a lease in the afternoon for being gay, something's still wrong," Biden said. "Over half of our states — in over half of our states, LBGTQ+ Americans still lack explicit state-level civil rights protections to shield them from discrimination. As I said as a presidential candidate and in my first joint address to Congress, it's time for the United States Senate to pass the Equality Act and put the legislation on my desk. On my desk."
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke before the president was introduced, and both the secretary and Biden gave a shout-out to Buttigieg's husband, Chasten. "Us even being here proves how much change is possible in America," Buttigieg said. Also at the Friday afternoon ceremony were members of the Congressional Equality Congress, including Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congressman David Cicilline; one of the highest-ranking openly trans service members, Lieutenant-Colonel Bree Fram; and state legislators.
Sunday, June 27, 2021
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
— Exodus 20:16
I was trying to come up with an LGBTQ+ Pride topic for this week's Sunday post. I decided to write about being our "authentic self." Isn't that a large part of coming out? We want to be true to ourselves and to stop lying to others about who we really are. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is the ninth commandment (the designation varies between religions) of the Ten Commandments. According to the New Testament, Jesus explains that obedience to the prohibition against false testimony from the ten commandments is a requirement for eternal life. According to Jesus, false testimony comes from the sinful desires of the heart and makes people unclean.
However, when I googled “the bible and authentic self" most articles are about how Christians should resist being their authentic selves. One piece said, “To those who are of the world, ‘be yourself’ means speak your mind, don’t hold anything back, love yourself more than anyone else, and openly reject anyone you just don’t like. The advice to ‘be yourself’ can quickly turn into an excuse to be unfriendly and overly blunt." The problem with this is that this statement is only valid if you are a terrible person. "Love yourself more than anyone else, and openly reject anyone you just don’t like.” While that sounds like a lot of Christians I know today who reject those who aren’t like themselves, it is certainly not in the spirit of the Bible.
Another article Sue Bohlin, a speaker/writer and “webmistress” for Probe Ministries, lays out precisely why so many Christians fear authenticity, “In today’s culture, coming out and admitting you’re gay is applauded as ‘being authentic.’ Claiming you are a man trapped in a woman’s body, or vice versa, is ‘being authentic.’ But refusing to accept such labels means you’re inauthentic.” The Bohlin goes on to say:
More and more Christians are throwing in the towel in their fight against unholy sexual and relational temptations, claiming to follow their “authentic self.” Even worse, a growing number of churches are doing something similar by embracing same-sex marriage. I have a question for them. If God really created them to be gay and blesses that identity today, what will happen a hundred years from today? Will there be homosexuality in heaven? There will be no sex in heaven because the only marriage will be between the Church and the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. If one’s identity is wrapped up in same-sex attractions, as it is by those claiming to be “gay Christians,” who will they be when all sexual and relational brokenness is a thing of the past, a mere memory of earthly life?
I suggest that a believer’s true and real and lasting “authentic self” is all wrapped up in not who we say we are, but who God says we are: His beloved child, redeemed and purified and made holy as He is holy. Chosen, accepted, and included a citizen of heaven and a member of God’s household. Belonging to Jesus because He bought us with His very lifeblood. Sealed with the Spirit, made brand new from the inside out.
There is a MAJOR flaw to her argument. When she says, “A believer’s true and real and lasting “authentic self” is all wrapped up in not who we say we are, but who God says we are,” is her fatal flaw. Our authentic self is who God says we are. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image.” John 1:3 says, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” God made us. He made us in his image. Therefore, if we are gay, God is also gay. God is also straight, bisexual, transgender, asexual, etc. He represents all things because he created everything; therefore, he is every part of every aspect of the spectrum of sexuality.
The most significant issue is that most Christians are closed-minded and narrowly focused on their beliefs. They pick and choose what Bible verses they want to follow and ignore those inconvenient for them. For example, they condemn LGBTQ+ people, but they do not condemn divorce of which Jesus does condemn in the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, what is most curious is that if homosexuality was so wrong (an abomination), why did Jesus never mention it, not even once? Furthermore, LGBTQ+ issues are not discussed anywhere by any of the New Testament authors. Yes, there is a verse that is often misinterpreted in Leviticus to condemn homosexuality, but if Christians follow that one verse from Leviticus, then shouldn't they also follow all of the other prohibitions from Leviticus?
Leviticus 18:22 prohibits male same-sex intercourse, and Leviticus 20:13 prescribes the death penalty for violators. But Christians have never lived under the Old Testament law. The Old Testament contains 613 commandments for God’s people to follow. Leviticus includes rules about offerings, clean and unclean foods, diseases, bodily discharges, sexual taboos, and priestly conduct. But the New Testament teaches that Christ’s death and resurrection fulfilled the law, which is why its many rules and regulations have never applied to Christians. Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Colossians 2:13-14 says, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Hebrews 8:13 says, “In that he saith, A new covenant [New Testament/Jesus’s Teachings]*, he hath made the first old [Old Testament/Laws of Moses]*. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
Even greater than cherry-picking verses from the Bible, many heterosexual Christians often still claim that sexuality is a choice. Because of their close-mindedness, they cannot understand that LGBTQ+ individuals are born this way. They were created by God in his image, in all the various degrees of sexuality. They are often so small-minded that they cannot imagine being born anyway other than cisgender heterosexuals. They do not want to open their minds to God’s true words because then they may have to look at themselves and see their own flaws. The only choice we have about our sexuality is whether or not we choose to be our authentic selves the way God created us.
As members of the LGBTQ+ community, so many of us for so long have been taught to be ashamed of who we are because we do not fit the predominant image and standard profile of acceptable persons. We have been taught to look at ourselves through lenses that cannot see our true beauty and essence as citizens in society, as people of God, and as children of the greater universe. When we look at ourselves, we must try as best we can to see everything there, but this is sometimes hard to do without a genuine desire to take a hard look and see what's there, to view ourselves clearly, squarely, and freely. The beauty and goodness of what we see sometimes give way to the not so beautiful things that we see, say, and do. We must cast aside all fear in taking that honest look if we are to grow into a greater awareness of who we really are and what we can ultimately become as genuine persons of promise and value.
*Added for clarification.
Saturday, June 26, 2021
Friday, June 25, 2021
Thursday, June 24, 2021
If you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR), then you likely know who Todrick Hall is. I’ve always found him incredibly sexy, and I do like some of his music. Starting with season eight, Hall became a resident choreographer and occasional judge on RPDR. In addition to RPDR, Hall is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, director, choreographer, and YouTuber. He gained national attention on the ninth season of the televised singing competition American Idol, where he made it to the semi-finals. Following this, he amassed a following on YouTube with viral videos including original songs, parodies, and skits. He aspires to be a role model for LGBTQ+ and people of color, and includes his experiences as a Black gay man in his art.
As a singer-songwriter he has released four studio albums, including the visual albums Straight Outta Oz (2016) and Forbidden (2018). In 2020 he released an EP, Quarantine Queen, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic featuring "Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrub," and was the international host of Global Pride 2020. On June 8, 2021, Hall released his fourth studio album, Femuline, which was preceded by the singles "Boys in the Ocean" and "Rainin' Fellas." The album is inspired by gay pride and features appearances from Chaka Khan, Tyra Banks, Brandy, Nicole Scherzinger and Ts Madison. He’s also released trilogy of EPs titled Haus Party, Pt. 1, Haus Party, Pt. 2, and Haus Party, Pt. 3.
I particularly enjoy two of his songs. One of them is his new release "Rainin' Fellas," and the other is his 2019 song “I Like Boys” from his EP Haus Party, Pt. 1.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Randolfe Wicker was wearing a black suit and tie when he participated in what’s thought to be the first U.S. picket for gay civil rights, which took place in New York City in 1964. He wore it when he answered questions on-air in 1965 as one of the first openly gay men to appear on television. And he donned that suit again when he protested New York’s prohibition against serving gay patrons during a “sip-in” in 1966. Wicker jokes that he looked like a preacher for most of the 1960s—but for one of the earliest LGBTQ+ activists, it was a political choice.
Wicker believed that being perceived as respectable would gain LGBTQ+ individuals civil rights. He told Time Magazinethat, “A black suit and tie works wonders anywhere, because if you wear a black suit and tie people will stop and listen to you and consider what you have to say. It was assumed we [gay men] were mentally ill; it was considered that we were certainly criminals, and we were also considered to be morally depraved. But people would still sit and listen to you, and that’s the beginning of a conversation.” But was it?
Wicker was a member of the Mattachine Society (Initially called the Mattachine Foundation), which began as a secret organization in Los Angeles in 1950, with their first Statement of Purpose drawn up in 1951. The group was founded by Communist organizer Harry Hay and other leftists, including Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, Dale Jennings, Konrad Stevens, James Gruber, and Rudi Gernreich (Jewish Refugee). The Mattachine founders borrowed the initial structure of the organization from the Communist Party, and the leadership, the "fifth order," was anonymous, so members didn't even know their names. The Mattachine Society became one of several prominent groups organizing during the period of LGBTQ+ activism referred to as the Homophile Movement.
Thousands of men and women across the country were arrested on charges related to their sexuality each year throughout the 1950s. In California, certain sodomy convictions could carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. And even when the charges resulted in a slap on the wrist from a judge, an accusation could result in the loss of jobs or even homes. But after Mattachine co-founder Dale Jennings was followed and harassed by a police officer, the society mounted a defense—and won the case. Within just a few years, the group would grow to include thousands of members across the country in places like New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. But, while the Mattachine society believed respectability was the best path to civil rights, the organization’s ties to the Communist Party USA were always a problem for gaining any respectability.
The arguments for respectability politics have continued to be part of civil rights strategy in all areas of civil rights. We saw this during the BLM riots last summer, and we see it in LGBTQ+ individuals who condemn gay pride celebrations for its (sometimes) outlandish aspects. Here’s the problem respectability politics; they don’t work. They are based on a false notion that says if only we behave, if only we play by the rules, if only we are good enough, then the church will love and accept us. But it’s not true. Because even if we tell our detractors that we are celibate, they still think we are having sex. (Trust me, I know this firsthand from my mother.) And even when we quote the Bible to them, they still distrust our reading of it. Even when we dress like them, talk like them, and marry like them, they are still waiting for us to mess up so they can discredit us. And if we play into respectability politics, we are working against liberation. We are saying, “I’m not like the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m one of the good ones.” And by saying that, we allow straight and cisgender people to say it as well, and suddenly the "bad queers" are pushed to the side, or worse, pushed out entirely.
Respectability politics set up a hierarchy that allows straight and cisgender people to hold up the “good gays” and silence the “bad gays.” And who are the bad gays? We are anyone who believes that liberation should be for the whole LGBTQ+ community. We are the ones who get angry or raise our voices about injustice. We are the ones who say that it’s not okay for allies to speak over the LGBTQ+ community. We are the ones who say that there is more than one way to be LGBTQ+ (it’s the reason for the “+”). We don’t have to be celibate, and we can medically transition if that’s what’s right for us. We are the ones who dress the way we want. We act the way we want. We are proud of who we are and every aspect of the gay community. Maybe something is not your cup of tea, but that doesn’t make it wrong. I love drag queens, but I have no desire to be one. I love seeing men in skimpy outfits at Pride, but am I comfortable doing the same? No, I’m not, but if I had their body (or body positivity), then I might be right there with them.
When the people who hate us come for us (and they will), they won't care if we have conformed to some false heteronormativity. They won’t care that we are white, dress nice, and toe the line. They will look at us as if we are just like all of the other members of the LGBTQ+ community, the ones that you have said you aren't like. They won't see the differences between us. They will lump us all together. In that moment, your respectability will not save you. They will still say that you don't have a place in their churches, you don't deserve to have civil rights, and it would be better off if you would just go away. Setting up this hierarchy allows people to control us. It also allows people to say who deserves respect and rights. They say only those who toe the line and behave deserve rights. They think you only deserve respect if you are polite and don’t get angry and speak softly, yet it will always be false respect if they ever give it at all. When it comes time to allow us civil rights, they will have a myriad of excuses for why we don’t deserve equal or civil rights.
You can live however you want. You can choose celibacy, singleness, or marriage for yourself; that is not the issue here. But when you demand it from other people or when you set it up so that your choice is the one that is acceptable by the straight and cisgender people, you become part of the problem. Liberation is about liberation for all of us, and if it’s not liberation for all of us, then it’s not liberation at all. When you narrow the rules so that only the “good” get in, you're not actually working for liberation. You're working so that someone else's rules and priorities can define us, and that's not good enough. We all deserve to be free.
For many years, I cared deeply about acceptance by my family and friends in Alabama. I wanted my parents to see that I am who I have always been and that there is no shame in my gayness. In recent years, I have realized, they will never change their minds. I watched them throw their support behind our former, twice-impeached president when he represented everything my parents taught me not to be. (I even pointed that out to them, but it got me a dial tone on the other end of the line.) They relished in his hate and lies. I realized that if they could turn against all they believed to “better” call themselves Christian; then they would never accept me for being gay. One thing this pandemic has done is that it has kept me away for a year and a half (two years if I go back down at Christmas, which I probably will). At first, I was sad I would miss them last Christmas, but I got over it. I didn't want their constant judgment and to be forced to "be straight." I hope and pray that I will have the courage to be who I am when I go back to Alabama to visit my family the next time.
In the LGBTQ+ community, some criticize pride parades because they see them as having an undue emphasis on sex and fetish-related interests. They claim this as counterproductive to LGBTQ+ interests and expose the "gay community" to ridicule. However, traditional media outlets often emphasize the most outlandish and non-representative aspects of the community. The main issue is not whether gay people will be ridiculed for the sometimes outlandish and sexualized aspects of LGBTQ+ pride parades, but that pride parades are visibility. We aren’t going to change anyone’s opinion of us by being “respectable” during pride events. When I was growing up in Alabama, I never remember any pride parades in the state, though Birmingham has had a pride parade since 1989. As pride parades have become more common, in addition to Birmingham, there are celebrations from Huntsville to Mobile. The same is true of Mississippi. I think Jackson had a pride parade when I lived in Mississippi from 2000-2009, but now, pride parades are held across the states.
The fact that there are pride parades in states like Alabama and Mississippi shows that LGBTQ+ visibility has increased in the United States in the past 20 or so years. Pride parades are not just for big cities anymore. When I moved to Vermont, the only pride parade was in Burlington, but now there are celebrations in Montpelier, Rutland, and Bennington. Visibility is the primary goal of LGBTQ+ pride, but it's also about belonging. Respectability politics is counterproductive to LGBTQ+ visibility. It forces us to hide and pretend to be something contrary to who we are. The variety of expression at LGBTQ+ pride events shows the diversity of our community. It brings out of the margins all of our community to proudly proclaim, "We're here. We're queer. Get used to it!” because we aren’t going anywhere. We don’t need acceptance. We don’t need approval. We don’t need permission. We need liberation.
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Between the Dragon and the Phoenix
By C. Dale Young - 1969-
Fire in the heart, fire in the sky, the sun just
a smallish smudge resting on the horizon
out beyond the reef that breaks the waves,
fiery sun that waits for no one. I was little more
than a child when my father explained
that the mongrel is stronger than the thoroughbred,
that I was splendidly blended, genetically engineered
for survival. I somehow forgot this, misplaced this,
time eroding my memory as it erodes everything.
But go ask someone else to write a poem about Time.
Out over the bay, the sun is rising, and I am running
out of time. Each and every year, on my birthday,
I wake to watch the sunrise. I am superstitious.
And today, as in years past, it is not my father
but my father’s father who comes to shout at me:
Whether you like it or not, you are a child of fire. You
descend from the Dragon, descend from the Phoenix.
Your blood is older than England, older than Castille.
Year after year, he says the same thing, this old man
dead long before I was born. So, I wake each year
on the day of my birth to watch the fire enter the sky
while being chastised by my dead grandfather.
Despite being a creature of fire, I stay near the water.
Why even try to avoid what can extinguish me?
There are times I can feel the fire flickering inside my frame.
The gulls are quarreling, the palm trees shimmering—
the world keeps spinning on its axis. Some say I have
nine lives. Others think me a machine. Neither is true.
The truth is rarely so conventional. Fire in my heart, fire
in my veins, I write this down for you and watch
as it goes up in flames. There are no paragraphs
wide enough to contain this fire, no stanzas
durable enough to house it. Blood of the Dragon,
blood of the Phoenix, I turn my head slowly
toward the East. I bow and call for another year.
I stand there and demand one more year.
About This Poem
“Can the dead visit you? Can a grandfather who died before you were even born come to you? Every year on my birthday, I get up to watch the sunrise. And every year, I feel quite clearly my father’s father is there with me.”—C. Dale Young
Why I Chose This Poem
I chose this poem because I was looking at poems for LGBTQ+ Pride Month on the Academy of American Poets website, and the title of this poem, “Between the Dragon and the Phoenix,” caught my eye. I have a tattoo on my left arm of a dragon and a phoenix. The tattoo is very meaningful for me because it represents a friend of mine who died last year. He had been a friend of mine from about the time I started blogging. He had helped me through some difficult times, and I will forever be grateful for his friendship. In the last few years of his life, he had suffered some major health problems, and he was not able to recover from them.
He lived in Hawaii but was of Chinese descent. We rarely exchanged Christmas gifts, but we always sent each other something for Chinese New Year and for birthdays. One year, I sent him a drawing of a dragon and phoenix in the classic Yin and Yang position. I had an artist friend of mine draw it and I had it framed and sent to him. When his mother saw it, she became very excited as it was nearly the exact same design as had been on her wedding dress many years earlier. Because he cherished that piece of art and displayed it prominently in his house, I had a similar design tattooed on my arm to always remind me of him and his generosity.
Like in the grandfather in “Between the Dragon and the Phoenix,” I feel that my friend is with me always.
About The Poet
C. Dale Young was born in 1969 and grew up in the Caribbean and South Florida. He received a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and English at Boston College in 1991 and went on to earn an MFA in English and creative writing and a doctoral degree in medicine, both from the University of Florida.
Young is the author of five poetry collections: Prometeo, (Four Way Books, 2021); The Affliction: A Novel in Stories (Four Way Books, 2018); The Halo (Four Way Books, 2016); Torn (Four Way Books, 2011); The Second Person (Four Way Books, 2007); The Day Underneath the Day (Northwestern University Press, 2001).
In his review of Torn, Mark Doty writes, “C. Dale Young’s poems employ sly forms of repetition, touching back to phrases we’ve already encountered as if to guide us along the poem’s winding way. How important—and how fierce—these directions turn out to be as his poems push into their deepest territory: the burden of expectation and guilt, the fiercely pressurized experience that an education in the ‘healing arts’ becomes. … [Young] brings all his strength to bear on the necessary work of art, which is also a means of tending and of stitching, a craft that by its very artfulness implies the possibility of hope.”
Young’s honors include the Grolier Prize and the Tennessee Williams Scholarship in Poetry from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, as well as fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. The former poetry editor of the New England Review (1995–2014), Young currently practices medicine full-time and teaches in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He lives in San Francisco.
🏳️🌈 LGBT POETS FOR PRIDE MONTH 🏳️🌈
Monday, June 21, 2021
In response to Saturday’s Moment of Zen post about the pharmacy guy, VRCooper said, “Girl...We have to send you back to gay school.” I know it was mostly a joke, but I never went to “gay school.” Growing up in rural Alabama in a religious family, I never knew any gay people or anything about gay people until I went away to college and began reading gay books and researching what it meant to be gay on the internet.
Most gay people I know have gay friends. I never had a gay friend (notwithstanding a few short-term boyfriends) with whom I could hang out, go to bars, watch a movie, or go to gay events. I had one gay friend and confidant, who lived about a thousand miles away. We met through my blog and became good friends. We texted each other all the time. I am so much better at texting than being on the phone. Then, my friend died in a car wreck, and I've never had another close gay friend. I am a painfully shy person. I've always hated talking on the phone because I’ve hated how my phone voice sounds. You can ask Susan. We also became friends through my blog, and it took her forever to convince me to talk to her on the phone. Now, we talk on the phone at least once a day. She's my closest friend and confidant. I don't talk nearly as much to my best friend who lives in Texas.
I’ve never made friends easily. I've made female friends more easily than male friends, but they are still few and far between. I have a hard time talking to people I don't know. So, when VRCooper suggested, “Strike up a conversation,” it’s quite a difficult thing for me to do. I feel awkward. The truth is, I need constant encouragement to give me a little courage to be my charming self, and I am a charming and good-hearted person. My friend who passed away was always encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. VRCooper also said my “tone in writing reeks of defeat.” I know it does because I have zero self-confidence when it comes to men. Once I get to know someone or become comfortable around them, I can talk their ear off, but I am not one to initiate a conversation. When the other person is a man, it is even more challenging getting comfortable with them.
Even when I do make friends, I tend to have a hard time opening up. There are certain things about my personal life I have a difficult time discussing. I had an easier time with my friend who passed away because he was gay. There were things I could talk to him about that my conservative, sheltered upbringing doesn't allow me to talk about to just anyone comfortably. There was something exceptional about that friendship which is why I was so devastated when he died. It took me a long time to try to be social again. I finally decided that is what my friend would have wanted me to do. I had to try to get back in the saddle which is an apt analogy. I fell off a horse when I was a kid and got kicked in the head. Every time I’ve gotten on a horse since, I find it impossible to get comfortable and enjoy it. However, if I ever had the chance to ride a horse again, I'd hop back in that saddle and try to enjoy it.
Also, I have often found like with any group of people, gay people have their clicks. Before the pandemic, I went to as many gay events in Burlington as I could. Sometimes I had one of my female friends go with me; sometimes, I went by myself. Whether it was First Friday (monthly drag shows and dances) or Burly Bears (the only gathering for gay men in Vermont), I tried to fit in. I tried to make conversation but found it extremely hard. Occasionally, someone would come over to talk to me, and I'd chat and have a good time, but inevitably they went back to their friends. Again, I was left standing there alone with my drink. Soon, gay events will start up again in Burlington, and I will try again. I have also tried to meet local people online for friendship, but no one ever seems to want anything more than sex. It seems impossible to find someone willing to have just dinner or even just meet for drinks.
I know I sound incredibly pathetic, and I know I’m complaining. I just needed to voice my frustrations. But I also want to say I’m trying to do better; I'm trying to be bolder. But it's not easy. I've spent my whole life hiding behind my shyness, and I know it's time I got over it and be more confident. What better time to do that than during pride month? It's a time when we celebrate ourselves and boldly proclaim who we are. That’s why I went to the pharmacy on Friday hoping to see the cute pharmacy tech (CPT). I wore my pride polo shirt. It’s subtle, but hard to miss. It was obvious people noticed it. Unlike in the South, where I would have gotten ugly looks and rude behavior, everywhere I went that day, and everyone I saw including the tech at Verizon, the cashier at PetSmart, and yes, the CPT and others at the pharmacy, they all seemed nicer and friendlier.
Sunday, June 20, 2021
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.— Galatians 3:28
On Thursday, the Supreme Court decided unanimously that religion supersedes the law, at least regarding LGBTQ+ rights. In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the justices voted nine to zero to allow a Catholic adoption agency, Catholic Social Services (CSS), to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. The adoption agency sued after the city refused to refer cases to the agency due to its refusal to consider LGBTQ+ foster parents. The city argued that the agency’s willful violation of local nondiscrimination law meant the agency wasn’t qualified to get city business.
“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” the Court ruled. “Under the circumstances here, the City does not have a compelling interest in refusing to contract with CSS. CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”
The decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, was signed by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch didn't sign the majority decision, and three concurring opinions were filed. In essence, the decision creates an exemption for existing protections for LGBTQ+ people. Combined with the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commissiondecision of 2018, which sided with a baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, the conservative justices have made it clear that the rights of LGBTQ+ people are subject to exemptions.
The decision should hardly be a surprise. For one thing, the Court is packed with a particular kind of Catholic. Six of the justices are Catholic—Roberts, Barrett, Kavanaugh, Alito, Thomas, and Sotomayor. The first five are conservative Catholics; only Sotomayor represents the views of the majority of Catholics, who tend to be Democrats. While we have some racial diversity on the Supreme Court, there is little religious diversity. Breyer and Kagan are Jewish. Gorsuch is the first member of a mainline Protestant denomination to sit on the Supreme Court since the retirement of John Paul Stevens in 2010; he was raised Catholic, but married an Anglican and now attends an Episcopal Church. After marrying in a non-Catholic ceremony and joining an Episcopal church, Gorsuch has not publicly stated if he considers himself a Catholic who is also a Protestant or simply a Protestant.
I cannot fathom how claiming to be a religious organization or claiming to be religious allows you to break/ignore laws against harming others. How many children have been in foster homes or orphanages over the years who have suffered abuse at the hands of those who are supposed to be protecting them? How many of those were under the tutelage of a religious organization? Let’s face it, the Catholic Church does not have a great track record with children. The child sex abuse scandals of the Catholic Church have plagued them for decades (they’ve plagued the church for centuries, but only in recent decades has the problem been made public). Just one of many examples of this is in my own backyard as former residents of St. Joseph’s Orphanage have recounted horrific abuse at the hands of “religious” individuals.
The tension between religious freedom and civil rights stretches far back in American history. In battles over slavery and racial segregation, proponents of discrimination and opponents of progress have often cited religion and scripture to justify maintaining inequality. Until the civil rights era, refusals to serve African Americans were often cloaked under the guise of religious freedom. As social norms changed, the religious justifications for this bigotry became legally untenable. Religious freedom has been weaponized so frequently in civil liberties debates because of the cultural and constitutional weight it carries. Such appeals have the potential to reshape cultural and religious worlds: to make a group's political convictions and cultural practices appear more "religious," or more central to their religion than they otherwise might have been. For this reason, the scope and meaning of religious freedom have been constantly contested throughout American, which is why religious freedom must always be balanced against other American ideals, lest we allow it to trample on other deeply held values.
In the 1982 case Bob Jones University v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom did not give Bob Jones the right to claim tax-exempt status while practicing racial discrimination. So why are these organizations allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans and retain their tax-exempt status? The constitutional right to religious freedom protects the sanctity of personal belief; however, that freedom ends when the exercise of one’s faith harms the rights or well-being of another. Religious freedom and nondiscrimination protections are complementary values rooted in the fundamental principle that every person should be treated equally under the law. Taxpayer dollars should never pay for programs that exclude or discriminate against participants.
Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Churches have ignored this passage throughout history, much like they ignore many verses of the Bible that are inconvenient for them. When will LGBTQ+ Americans be given the same rights as all other Americans? Religion should be a tool to lift people, not knock them down. It should never be used as a weapon of hate, fear, or discrimination.
I am all for the First Amendment, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Speech, press, and assembly all have limits, so why does religion also not have limits. When the government starts allowing religious organizations to dictate how our laws are implemented or what laws should be enacted, then this is an "establishment of religion." If religious organizations are going to provide a charitable service, they should not be allowed to discriminate against anyone. Religious organizations can no longer discriminate based on race, so why should they be able to discriminate based on sexuality?
In the decisions of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court has done the opposite of what they claim they are doing. They have forced others to bow to the religious dictates of another person's beliefs. They have essentially established a religion by claiming that religions are exempt from following the law. They infringe on Americans' rights to practice a belief that is in disagreement with a more powerful entity (By that, I mean large, wealthy religious organizations, not God). The Bible tells us that we "are all one in Christ Jesus.” If we are all one, why is CSS allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people? They are not following their own religious beliefs, but they are following the prejudices of man.
Shame on the Supreme Court for forcing the City of Philadelphia to follow the beliefs of CSS when they are contrary to what God commands CSS to do. Besides, why should Philadelphia be forced to send adoption cases through CSS when they have a track record like St. Joseph's in Burlington, Vermont, or any number of Catholic organizations. And this goes far beyond the Catholic Church. It is part of all organized religions. Why should we protect a church's religious freedoms when they disrespect and disregard the religious liberties of others? We should be protecting individuals' right to practice religion not organizations. And no one, not even under the guise of religious freedom, should a person or organization be able to hide behind religious freedoms and the First Amendment to discriminate legally.