Saturday, October 25, 2008

McCain's Concession Speech

John McCain has spent last Saturday complaining that Barack Obama commissioned a draft of an inaugural address. It turns out that it is yet another tempest in a teapot...a kerfuffle without substance. The speech in question was a draft published six months ago in a book titled "The Power of Progress" by John Podesta. It was written before Obama had become the nominee, and was intended as a study rather than as an actual draft for an Obama Inaugural.

Be that as it may, it seems to me that if Obama has a draft of an inaugural address, then McCain should have a draft of a concession speech. I humbly submit the following for his consideration:

My Friends...

The people have spoken. It is the strength of the great democratic experiment that is America that the people vote, and power is handed over in a peaceful transition. I have asked Dick Cheney to come out from his undisclosed location and prepare to hand over the keys of power to President-Elect Obama.

No, my friends...I know you are disappointed. But this is the American way, and we shall respect the decision of the electorate. I am afraid that when you lose by a landslide the Supreme Court cannot save you.

We can only ask ourselves where we went wrong. I could look back as far as eight years ago. When I lost the Republican nomination to George W. Bush in 2000 I decided that my fate was in the hands of the most radical right wing parts of the party. I kowtowed to them and to President Bush shamelessly. Apparently obsequious subservience does not look very presidential.

Perhaps we went awry more recently when we selected Sarah Palin as our running mate. My friends, I really have no idea what I was thinking. I had wanted my friend Joe Lieberman to run on the ticket with me. I knew that Joe-mentum was what my campaign needed. But the party advisers made it clear that the choice of Lieberman would lose the right-wing base of the Republican Party. I agreed with them, and we threw a dart at a map of the United States. Improbably, that dart landed on Alaska.

I guess it was inevitable that my campaign would falter. I was no longer true to my ideals, but rather had become a machine that would do anything for the role that had been denied me in 2000. My friends, I had become a caricature of my former self. I would preach Bush Doctrine one day, and bash Bush the next. I would claim environmental credentials in one speech, and cry drill, baby, drill the next. I claimed the mantel of champion of the middle class, yet backed policies that destroyed unions, pension plans, health care benefits, and equal pay for equal work.

And my friends, its true, I became a rabid campaigner on whatever issue of the moment came along that I thought would knock down my opponent rather than put forward my qualifications. I used Reverend Wright, William Ayers, and most regrettably Joe the Plumber. I thought Joe was an icon for my campaign. Like all of my erratic political decisions of the last year the process was not pursued with intellectual vigor. Joe was not who we thought he was. We put forward an icon with one hand to represent us, while on the other hand our Vice Presidential pick was becoming an icon that destroyed us.

We thought she would represent us and carry the working women of America. She would bolster our standing with the right wing of the party.

Instead, she represented the worst of personal political power. It came out that she had abused the powers of her office as Governor of Alaska. Far from representing Hockey Moms and Joe Six-Packs, she represented spending sprees at Saks Fifth Avenue. Her stylist became a higher-paid, and more important employee of the campaign than my foreign policy adviser.

She became a loose cannon. Every interview and speech bolstered the suspicion that she did not have the background, experience or gravitas to take over as President should that be required. She was better fodder for Saturday Night Live than potential commander-in-chief.

Her inexperience destroyed my assertion that Barack Obama was not experienced enough for the job of President. More importantly, her obvious lack of qualifications called into question my qualifications for the presidency. After all, her selection was my first presidential decision.

And finally, at its heart, my campaign's problem was that I did not address the hopes and dreams of the American people, but rather played on their fears. Ultimately my campaign tried to be about Barack Obama's past instead of America's future.

For that, the American people have spoken, and though their words hurt me and us this morning, we cannot be true to ourselves if we do not acknowledge that their message is clear, "The dreams of the American People are more important than the political aspirations of one old soldier".

I have had a lifetime of service to America. I do not regret the service, I only regret that in the end, my ambition became more important than the duty that had been my lifetime commitment. This old soldier thanks you for all you have done, and may God Bless America, and God Bless Barack Obama.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Fight for Marriage Equality

In 2004 Michigan passed the hateful and discriminatory Proposition 2. This proposal enacted a constitutional amendment to outlaw marriage equality (among other things)

Martin and I have been together 22 years. The fact that our home state would build discrimination against us into our constitution was hurtful. We know people who moved away from the state because of Prop 2.

Over the last several years many states have enacted similar amendments. However, we have had a few victories in the courts, most notably Massachusetts, California, and now Connecticut. We have only had one victory at the ballot box. In 2006 Arizona (of all places) became the first state to explicitly turn down an anti-marriage amendment.

And now California is being put to the test.

This one is different than the others. If this passes it would take away rights already earned. A loss in California on their proposition 8 would be devastating to this civil rights movement.

California (and especially San Francisco) has always been something of an 'Atlantis' for the gay community. It is our lost homeland. Their fight is our fight. We must do what we can to support our queer brothers and sisters in the city-by-the-bay.

Martin and I will be dedicating the week of October 20 - October 27 to helping them. And what they need now is money. The religious right is flooding California with money to run the campaign to take away marriage rights (Yes on 8). Money is coming in on our side (No on 8) as well, but the stakes are high, and I want the folks playing for us at the table to have the bank to not have to fold when the heat is on in the last week.

Here's how you can help:

  • Donate online at our Equality California webpage. We will match the first $100 in donations!
  • Donate at the \aut\ BAR or Common Language Bookstore. We have donation forms available.
  • Buy Wedding/Marriage books and cards at Common Language. 10% of sales will be donated to Equality California
  • Show up on Monday, October 27th for our Marriage Equality Night. This will be the culmination of our week-long pledge drive. We will have laptops available for you to make online donations that evening, so that the funds will be immediately available for Equality California for the final week of the campaign.
  • Have your picture taken with your spouse / significant other / boyfriend / girlfriend / date / friend / bartender / or just by yourself. Proceeds benefit Equality California
  • Send this link to as many people as you can that you think will want to help prevent California from sliding backwards into discrimination.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Dog and Immigration

I am worried that my dog and I have different views on immigration.

I believe that America's strength has always been in our immigrants. They come to America to fulfill the American dream. They have brought a strong work ethic which has been the backbone of the miraculous productivity of America. With each wave of immigration they have also revitalized our culture.

My dog, on the other hand, believes in protecting the perimeter.

I was sitting in our backyard the other morning having coffee. We have a relatively new neighbor behind us. There is a privacy fence between us, so until some other neighbor introduces us I am not sure when or how we will meet. This neighbor has a dog, and the dog came to the other side of that privacy fence, and the two dogs started barking up a storm.

This is a regular event. I call Teddy, our border collie, and he obediently stops barking and comes to my side. But it is obvious that he is serious about protecting our border. I have started referring to him as our furry minuteman.

Teddy's views are based on pure instinct. A xenophobic instinct has served pack animals well in their effort to survive. Its hard to hold his views against him.

Humans are the ultimate social animals. So why do the minutemen's instincts not serve us well in our fight for survival?

A society's strength depends on renewal from the outside...renewal of ideas, culture, and even gene pool. Isolationism has never served America, or any empire, well. Successful empires find unique ways of exporting the empire's vision to the outer reaches of the empire, while embracing the best that those cultures have to offer. The "Pax Romana" or Roman Peace was a 200 year period of relative peace in the Roman Empire. During that time Rome built roads and cities that helped the provinces flourish. Military might alone could not have successfully held such large holdings for so long with such relative peace. It was the mutually beneficial arrangement of local rule, military protection, economic expansion, and cultural exchange that made it work.

America is an empire. We established the empire through an incredible industrial growth, which led to an economic imperialism. The current administration has led America to unilateralism in foreign policy. American corporations, with blessings from the government have changed the underpinning of our economy from production-based to finance-based. Both can have disastrous consequences, and we are seeing the beginnings of those consequences now.

In the past, much of the rest of the world wanted to be like America. Now many people around the world hate us. If we wish to retain our standing in the world we have to regain our position of respect. We will only get there by opening our arms to the world, not shutting them out. Much of America is aghast at how prevalent the spanish language has become in our country. I embrace it. This is exactly the type of cultural infusion that will make our country stronger. In the pack analogy, this is akin to the need to breed outside of the pack to ensure genetic diversity.

I should point out that my dog is an incredibly friendly animal. Three-year-old children can pull his tail or stick their fingers in his mouth without fear. And though he barks at the approach of anyone to our front door, he is incredibly friendly once they have been admitted.

Perhaps our views are not so disparate. He just wants an easy path to legal entry. I can live with that.

But I still wish he wouldn't bark every time the neighbor's dog was on the other side of the fence. And I don't think building a taller fence is the answer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

How are Hillary and Howard Alike?

I've got several blog posts in the works, but recent news stories inspire me to get this one out quickly...

How ARE Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean alike?

  • They are both Democrats.
  • They both ran for President of the United States of America.
  • They both lost in the primaries.

How are Hillary and Howard's supporters alike?

  • Ya got me.

I was a Howard Dean supporter. More than supporter, I had invested hopes, dreams, and money into his campaign. I had visions of the first same-sex sleepover in the Lincoln bedroom after he moved into the White House. I was elected a Howard Dean delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. It was incredibly exciting. In spite of the popular story that it was "the scream" that destroyed his candidacy it remains my belief that the old guard of the democratic party had more to do with his downfall.

And I was not a particularly happy camper about a John Kerry presidency. John Kerry did not just beat Howard Dean. He had undermined the candidacy. Oh, the Dean campaign made some mistakes (that the Obama camp learned from), but the "politics-as-usual" group worked behind the scenes to ensure Howard's defeat.

By the time I got to the convention I had come around to John Kerry. It is part of the party process that folks win and folks lose. And it is imperative that losers get on board with the winners. I could write paragraphs about how much better John Kerry would be as President than George Bush. He was not just the lesser of two evils. John Kerry would have been a multilateralist in international relations. He would have stood for regulation of the financial industry. Those are positive things that would make America a different country today. And I could take solace in the fact that he had courageously voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

And now Hillary's supporters are lukewarm about Barack. I have some harsh words for any Hillary supporters who are equivocating about supporting Obama:

Get over it.

And get over it quickly.

And if you are believe that it is adding insult to injury that Hillary was not seriously considered for the vice-presidential spot, I can only say that winning the White House is more important than hurt feelings. I cannot read Barack's mind, but I am sure there are many reasons she was not seriously considered. But I bet at the top of the list is this:
One of the most important rules in selecting a VP is "Do not pick someone who will take the spotlight away from you".
And if Hillary would not take the limelight, her husband would. Though I was a fan of Bill's presidency, he proved during his wife's campaign that he cannot stay out of the limelight, and he was, for whatever reason, not effective.

If I can get over what the party brokers did to Howard, then Hillary's supporters can get over the fact that Barack ran a better campaign. Please folks, get a grip and realize that Obama would be a brilliant leader. John McCain would be a disaster for all of the things that Hillary stands for. He would continue America's militaristic adventures around the world. He would be beholden to a plethora of special interests. His campaign staff is littered with lobbyists. Not to mention he is horrible on LGBT rights.

I understand the disappointment after investing hopes and dreams in Hillary. Its not easy. Let me share what helped me get over my crushed dreams...Howard got over it. He had said from the beginning that the campaign was not about him. He was running because he thought he was the best candidate to get George Bush out of the White House. As soon as his campaign was over he proved that he meant his words. The campaign was not about him. He started fighting for Kerry immediately. I figured if he could get over it, then dammit, so could I.

For my sake, for America's sake, for Hillary's sake, and especially for your sake, I say to every Hillary supporter that it is time to move on. I don't want to hear any more whining. Whining will lose us votes, and we are going to need every one of them on November 4th.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


In May of 1978 I turned 21. This was not as auspicious a birthday as it would be today. At the time the Michigan drinking age was 18. I did NOT drink multiple shots of tequila and countless beers. I had already done that on my 18th birthday. There is probably a blog entry that could be written about that occasion.

The interesting part is that the voters of Michigan approved a constitutional amendment just a few months later that raised the drinking age to 21. Having recently been an 18-21 year-old, and feeling my peers deserved the constitutional right to party, I voted against that amendment. Nevertheless, it passed and the 18-21 age group was forced to resort to subterfuge to imbibe in spirits.

Even more interesting, if the 18-21 year-old population had turned out to vote in the same proportion as the rest of the population, and had voted against the amendment in the same proportion as the 18-21 year-olds that DID bother to vote, the amendment would have been rejected, and they would have still been able to drink.

Moral of the story: People do not always using the voting booth to protect their own self-interest, even when there is nothing BUT their self-interest at stake.

This Tuesday, August 5th is the Ann Arbor Primary election for City Council, Mayor, Sheriff, 15th District Judge and more. While the general election will be very important this year, the primary is going to decide who wins in November. And there are many local issues that will affect us more directly than the national election.

Historically, very few people show up for the August Primary. Your vote WILL make a difference. Anyone who knows me knows I have plenty of political opinions. As a result we have endorsed Sandi Smith in Ward One, Carsten Hohnke in Ward Five, and John Hieftje for Mayor, among others. But more important than voting for who I want you to vote for, I encourage all readers to go to the polls on Tuesday and vote for the candidate of your choice.

If you are not registered to vote, it is too late for the primary. But it is NOT too late to register for the general election. We will be hosting voter registration drives on Saturday, August 9th and Saturday, August 23rd at the \aut\ BAR. You can also check with your City Clerk’s office to find out how to register, how to get absentee ballots, and much more.

Eighteen years earlier, in November of 1960, my mother stepped into the voting booth and pulled the lever for Richard Nixon. She vividly described the experience to me many years later. She did not particularly like Nixon, but she bought into the fear that JFK, a catholic, might owe his first allegiance to Rome, and not to the United States. Within moments of leaving the booth she regretted what she had done. She has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1960.

Moral of the Story: People often make different decisions once they are in the voting booth, even decisions that they did not know they were considering.

The two biggest enemies of a healthy democracy are apathy and fear.

The danger in November is fear. The republican noise machine has already started the subliminal campaign to remind voters that Obama is black, and black people want to steal from you, rape your daughter, and take your job.

And many good people will buy into this subliminal fear. Pollsters have not figured out how to get past what people say and figure out what they are actually going to do when they get in the voting booth. So all of the polls showing Obama in the lead could be meaningless. I would not be surprised if up to 5% of voters will vote their irrational fear over their enlightened self-interest.

If you are gay, a woman, African-American, or anything other than a rich white guy a McCain presidency is going to represent another four years of the same policies we've been experiencing for the last eight years. We MUST move beyond our fears, and vote for hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Family Values

Another Right Wing Republican has been caught with his pants down with another man. Its getting to be old news. And yes, this guy was another hypocrite who has been blaming the homosexuals for everything wrong with America.

The guy's name is Troy King. He is Alabama's Attorney General and many thought he was a likely front-runner for governor in 2010. When I first heard the name I assumed he grew up on Troy Street and his first dog's name was King. Or vice versa. Or however it is you figure out someone's porn name.

The sordid details can be found at a variety of sites reporting the news:

The basic story is that Troy King's wife came home and caught him in flagrante delicto in their marital bed with a young man, apparently an aide. King has been quoted as saying homosexuality is the "downfall of society". He has worked tirelessly to outlaw sex toys. Apparently "male aides" are not "sex toys". King was head of McCain's leadership committee in Alabama, and suddenly all references to King have been wiped clean from the McCain campaign's website.

If the bare bones of the story sound familiar its probably because we get this story so regularly, only the names change: Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Jim West, and the granddaddy of all of them, Roy Cohn.

Meanwhile Martin and I just returned from the Rainbow Families-Great Lakes (RFGL) Family Week.

Eighty Families come together to play and learn. Most important, the kids have a chance to just have fun with other families that look like theirs. Kids of gay parents learn early that its OK to be different, and that families come in all shapes and sizes. Being different can be both a blessing and a curse, and it is pretty special to these families to have a week without the stress of adapting to society's norms.

These families have often had to live a part of their family life in the closet: in order to get an adoption authorized, or to get custody of a child, or get decent housing, or get a school to help their children. The satisfaction of their family life is in direct proportion to how openly they can lead their lives.

For one week these families can truly live a family life out of the closet.

It is a joy to behold.

Like most gay folk I lived a period of my life in the closet. And like most gay folk I would do all sorts of things to deny what I knew to be true about myself.

And it was miserable.

It almost makes me feel sorry for right-wing closet cases. Almost. However in many cases these folks denial of their sexuality is literally killing people. Because they have more power than the average gay-guy-in-the-closet they can kill AIDS education programs, prevent needle exchange programs, create roadblocks for safe-school programs, outlaw second-parent adoptions, and generally screw up parental rights. Their political actions give bullies power in the schools and comfort perpetrators of hate crimes.

Perhaps we need to start a special camp for closeted right wing nut cases. I envision seminars on "dealing with your inner demons", and "finding appropriate sex partners", and the most important one, "Coming Out 101".

Good Luck, Troy.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day Musings

July 4th 1981 was my “Coming Out Day”. As it turns out the actual date was rather arbitrary. I had been coming out to friends for several months, and it would be years until I came out to my parents.

But I was ready to come out to most of my world, and it seemed like an appropriate date. Just the NAME of the holiday seemed right…Independence Day.

Coming out was indeed liberating.

Even more important to me was the association of the day to Thomas Jefferson. No, he was not gay. I wish. This was the day of the publication of the Declaration of Independence, largely created by TJ. There were a lot of philosophers at the time writing about human rights and democracy. The rallying cry in France was “Life, Liberty, and Equality".

But TJ made a subtle but important change in the rallying cry, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

That small change changes everything.

You can argue all day about homosexuality being nature or nurture. Our founding document does not care. Whether you were born gay, became gay, or, yes, even “chose to be gay”, the only way you will be happy is to be able to express yourself. And Thomas Jefferson says that I have that INALIENABLE RIGHT.

Take that you conservative pundits.

I would like to claim Jefferson as part of my liberal beliefs. And when I was a young radical in the 60’s I claimed him as part of my heritage. And my conservative-leaning father claimed him as part of his political heritage. And folks MUCH more conservative than my dad point to his State’s Rights views to justify some very conservative views. In fact earlier today GWB invoked Jefferson to justify “the spread of democracy” to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Part of Jefferson’s genius was that he often wrote about big universal ideas. If the ideas are big enough, a wide variety of folks can claim them. This incredibly diverse country has suffered and thrived from the ambiguity of our founders.

On the surface I am so-o-o-o sure I am right in all of my opinions. When I dig deeper I have come to believe that there is strength in ambiguity.

Kurt Vonnegut commented once on the strange eye-on-the-pyramid on our money, and mottos in Latin even though it is a dead language, and a National Anthem that is near gibberish, sprinkled with commas and question marks. He said, “It is as if a nation were saying to its people, ‘In Nonsense is Strength’”.

I long for the day that queer folk are legally afforded life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the meantime I fear the forces that have given us DOMA, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and a legion of state constitutional amendments that legalize homophobia and discrimination. In that climate I embrace the ambiguity of Jefferson, and the absurdism of Vonnegut.

Happy Fourth of go pursue some Happiness!


Monday, June 30, 2008

Sandi Smith, First Ward

I am happy to endorse Sandi Smith, Democrat, for First Ward in Ann Arbor City Council.

One of the joys of the internet is that I can write, and people around the globe can read what I write. (I know I have one reader in Geneva). It would appear from the first sentence that I am ignoring that potential global audience and only writing for a very local audience.


And No.

The actual endorsement is indeed to encourage First Warders to vote for Sandi, and that is a very local action. However, there is a bit of history that might make interesting reading for all.

A Bit of History

In 1972 Ann Arbor elected Nancy Wechsler to the City Council. She was a member of the Human Rights Party (HRP). While a member of the Ann Arbor City Council Nancy came out, becoming the first out lesbian elected official in the history of the United States.

In 1974 she declined to run for reelection. Kathy Kozachenko ran for her seat, and won, becoming the first openly gay candidate to successfully win an election in the United States.

Think on that! Ann Arbor holds two significant firsts in the history of LGBT politics.

We have not had an out lesbian on the City Council since then. We have had one openly gay man, Chris Kolb. That’s rather sad commentary after having achieved such a significant “First” so many years ago.

The Current State of LGBT Politics

There are many organizations that support LGBT, as well as LGBT-friendly candidates, but as far as I know there is only one organization out there whose sole function is electing out LGBT candidates, The Victory Fund. The Victory Fund has a priority of electing officials in “Horizon States”. A Horizon State is a state with no openly LGBT officeholder. Amazingly there are still several.

Electing openly gay candidates just because they are gay remains an important goal in many places. Meanwhile an important evolution is happening. There are openly LGBT candidates running throughout the country whose reason for running and whose platform are only peripherally related to the fact that they are gay or lesbian. Certainly their sexual orientation informs their politics. However, they are not single-issue candidates. They are running to serve a multitude of communities: geographic, demographic, economic, ethnic, etc.

We do not yet live in a post-gay world. In Michigan we live under the hateful Constitutional Amendment enacted by Proposition 2 in 2004. Yet in Ann Arbor we have laws that protect sexual orientation as well as gender identity. While we may have to yet win some hearts and minds in our town, our battles with City Hall are minimal. We have lawmakers and public servants who truly want to protect and serve all of the citizenry. As Sandi said to me in one of early discussions about the possibility of running, “If Ann Arbor’s statutes need some tweaking, I am sure Jim Toy will tell me about it and we will get it changed”. In other words, she is happy to advance LGBT causes, but recognizes that in this town and at this time there are not major battles we need to fight. And even more important, she knows who to talk to when she needs advice on LGBT political issues.


I am always thrilled to advance LGBT rights and LGBT political power. For that reason alone I would consider an endorsement of Sandi.

And yet, I endorse Sandi not because she is a lesbian. She is very open about her sexual orientation. She and her partner, Linda Lombardini, own a business together and are an integral part of the city’s LGBT Community. She is running, however, on her solid progressive values and her history of accomplishments.

Sandi’s campaign stresses sustainability, both economically and environmentally. While a member of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), and as chair of that organization, she supported a variety of progressive initiatives, including installation of bicycle lockers and bicycle hoops, construction of pedestrian friendly sidewalks, funding for several non-motorized transportation studies, getDowntown program, go!passes, The Link, and more.

She supported Art in Public Places, historic preservation, the Farmer’s Market renovation, and soon, thanks to Sandi, we will see Recycling Containers next to trash containers throughout downtown.

Sandi has served on boards and volunteered for organizations as diverse as the Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project (WRAP), the Ann Arbor Board of Realtors, the Greenway Taskforce, FestiFools, websiteTask Force on Sustainable Revenue for Affordable Housing, and more.

In short, Sandi has progressive values, a belief in a better Ann Arbor, and a history of accomplishment. Others may talk about what they WANT to do. Sandi has a history of “Getting It Done”. She has gotten it done as a businesswoman in the First Ward, as an active citizen, as a member of the DDA, and as a member of the LGBT community. These are challenging times in Michigan and in Ann Arbor. We need someone with a proven record representing us on City Council.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gay Days 2008

I suspect that this blog entry may largely interest Disney-philes. As I explained in the “Gay Days at Disney” entry, I have not always been a Disney-phile. I used to be a Disney-phobe because Uncle Walt was a homo-phobe.

But all that has changed. We have just returned from another fun-filled and queer-filled weekend at Disney's Gay Days.

The week is filled with circuit parties, pool parties, business expos, dances, films, support groups, and more. However, our involvement has always been rather basic. This year it was more than enough to do the Gay Days Theme Park Rotation:
  • Thursday – Animal Kingdom
  • Friday – Hollywood Studios
  • Saturday – The Magic Kingdom (the BIG DAY)
  • Sunday – EPCOT

Random Thoughts and Memories of Gay Days 2008:
  • The idea of Gay Day is that we are in the majority on Saturday in the Magic Kingdom, and we prove the point by wearing red. So what is up with the queer folk who show up without a red shirt?
  • I was blessed with Good Bus Karma this weekend. It seemed every time I wanted a bus, monorail, train, or boat it showed up in less than five minutes.
  • We were picking up fast passes for Space Mountain. Martin got his. Mine did not print out. So a Cast Member (Disney Employee) came over, banged his fist on the Fast Pass Machine, and eight printed out. In response to my compliments on his technical prowess he said, “We are trained in the magical arts”. We proceeded to gain more Good Karma by coming back at our Fast Pass Time, and handing out all those extra Fast Passes good for that moment. Folks were elated. Queers not in red shirts were not eligible.
  • We learned about the “Disney Point”. Disney Cast Members never point with a single finger. There are two theories behind this. The theory Cast Members are told is that in certain cultures pointing is offensive, and you are likely to point AT someone unintentionally when you are giving directions or bringing something to a customer’s attention. Therefore you GESTURE with two fingers or your entire hand…never with a single finger. Notice that flight attendants and other public customer service folks have picked up on the “Disney Point”.
The OTHER theory is based on this bit of trivia. Walt Disney was a heavy smoker. All photos of him in Disney control have been altered to airbrush out the cigarettes (though amusingly the smoke and shadows often remain). So there are many photos of Disney with two fingers extended. The theory goes that all Cast Members must use the Disney Point to rationalize the odd photos of Uncle Walt. While the airbrushing story is true, I have found nothing to corroborate this as the origin of the Disney Point.
  • The 1:00 p.m. performance of the Country Bear Jamboree was attended by over 1000 Bears (requiring 3-4 performances). As always it was one of the highlights of the day.
  • Disney has renamed the MGM Theme Park as Hollywood Studios. This is in keeping with a greater emphasis on Pixar throughout all of Disney. The newest attraction is Toy Story Mania, and it is truly awesome. A 3-D Midway Games with the gang from Toy Story. Zowie. (Little Green Army Men, “Break Those Plates! I Am Not Your Mother! Break Those Plates”.
  • Disney employees love Gay Days. And not just the queer Cast Members. The straight folks seem to love joining in the fun. Many of them request to work Gay Days. One (straight) woman has worked the Bear Run at the Country Bear Jamboree for four years now. And she is having almost as much fun as the rest of us.
  • Pin Trading at Disney is a fairly recent craze. People collect Disney Pins based on favorite characters, or movies, or parks. For the last three years they have produced special rainbow pins. This year's were fun pins with "Bobble Feet" of Rainbow Mickey, Rainbow Minnie, and for the first time, Rainbow Donald. Check them out: (The rainbow pins are all the way to the bottom of the page on this link).
  • Best Meal of the weekend: Toss-up between our first time at Les Chefs de France in Epcot right after our arrival and a repeat visit to Narcoossee’s on Saturday, watching the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from across the Seven Seas Lagoon. Honorable Mention always goes to the campy (but very tasty) Prime Time Diner at Hollywood Studios.

Overheard comment from a man (in red) in a wheelchair, and a person who appeared to be his partner, “All those years in the closet. I think this is the happiest I have ever been”. Truly Disney World is the “Happiest Place On Earth” for this fellow on this particular Gay Day.

Michigan Smoking Ban Follow-up

“I blog therefore I am.”

Would Rene Descarte say that today?

“I came, I blogged, I conquered.”
Would Caesar say that today?

I wonder these things in the context of wondering why I (or anyone else) blogs. There are, I am sure, a myriad of reasons: to make a difference, to make people think, to change someone’s mind, to inform people, to entertain readers.

But no matter what the reason, bloggers want to be read. We know we are being read from various statistics packages that tell us about unique visitors, length of time a visitor spends on the blog, country of the visitor, and more.

But nothing confirms readership more than feedback. I have received more feedback on my entry about the State of Michigan smoking ban than any other subject. I’ve gotten email, phone calls, and many folks have stopped me in the \aut\ BAR to talk about it.

The biggest question is, “What is happening with the ban?”

An excellent question! There had been a lot of activity in Lansing and a lot of media coverage. Suddenly about two weeks ago it all fell silent. News searches turn up nothing and there has been no activity in either the House or Senate. So I went to one of my best Lansing sources, House Representative Rebekah Warren. Our friendship with Rebekah was forged by fire. During the Proposition 2 fight of 2004 Rebekah did more to try and defeat that hate-inspired amendment than any straight person in the State of Michigan.

I called her office this afternoon expecting to get information from a staffer. Lo and behold the afternoon House session had ended early and I had a chance to have a long discussion with Rebekah on the subject. Here’s what I learned:

Details have stalled the bill

If you read news reports this is not news, but here is a recap. The Democratic-controlled House passed a smoking ban that exempted several categories of businesses (casinos, cigar bars, bingo halls, and a few others). The Republican-controlled Senate passed a version with NO exemptions. For a bill to become law both chambers have to pass identical versions. Several democratic house members are worried about passing a ban without an exemption for casinos. The casinos are major employers in their districts, and are lobbying against the ban. As of now the House does not have the votes to pass the bill without the exemptions, and the Senate does not have the votes to pass it with the exemptions. The current status is a stalemate.

In about two weeks the Legislature will recess, and members will go into full election mode. In other words, if a compromise is not reached and passed in the next two weeks it is unlikely that anything will happen again until the end of the year at the earliest.

Behind the scenes negotiations are taking place

House Majority Leader Andy Dillon and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop are talking. They are also being lobbied hard. In fact, Rebekah tells me that of all the issues the House has tackled since she took office no issue has generated as much response from her constituents as the smoking ban. In her case she has received overwhelming support for the ban.

Action you can take

Of course you can always contact your State Representative or Senator, but frankly the power is in the hands of a few right now. The most important are the leaders of the two chambers. Drop these guys a letter, email, or call their office and tell them this is too important to let die over minor differences. Ask them to find a workable compromise and pass the ban.
Andy Dillon
Speaker of the House
District 17
Ph: 517.373.0857
Room 166 Capitol Building

Senator Mike Bishop
Senate Majority Leader
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
(517) 373-2417
(517) 373-2694 – FAX
To email him you have to follow this link to the Senate Contact Page:

The stumbling blocks in the house are the Detroit area Democrats. If you visit casinos, or like to visit them, let your state representative, or a Detroit state representative know that you would visit, or visit more often if the casinos were smoke-free.

That’s the summary from Representative Rebekah Warren. Drop HER a line at and thank her for being the best friend the gay community has in the State House right now.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Gay Days at Disney

We are on our way to our seventh year attending the big party for Queer Mouseketeers. We return every year because Gay Days has so many elements that make for a perfect vacation:

Queer Friendly

There is a reason that GLBT folk like to travel to places that have a lot of us. Coming out is stressful. We have to do it over and over. It gets easier with repetition. That first time telling a friend that you like boys is one of the hardest things any of us ever do. And then informing the parental units! And a little piece of that stress is with us every time we are introduced to someone new and we let them know that "No I am not married. I've been with the same man for 22 years, but we are not allowed to be married".

Why go through that on vacation? When we check in to a gay guesthouse in Key West no one stops to consider our sexual orientation.

Disney is pretty-much queer friendly anytime of the year. I have heard that 30% of Disney World Employees are gay. Not a surprise. They are one of the biggest employers of musicians, entertainers, and service industry employees in the country. And if there are any careers that scream queer they would probably be musicians, entertainers, and the service industry.


Okay, not such a big deal the first weekend in June as we finally get a taste of summer in Michigan. But after such a long winter I welcome the thought of near-sweltering weather.


In my younger years my escapist vacations were trips to the far North Country. Bush pilots (no not THAT Bush) in northern Canada would fly us hundreds of miles away from civilization, and we would paddle our way out. They were great trips. Alas, I am in no shape to try such a trip again, and probably would not be able to arrange enough time off to do so in any case.

In lieu of that, how much more escapist can you get than to spend a part of your day in Muppetvision 3-D or going to Infinity and Beyond to help Buzz Lightyear defeat the evil Zurg? Or going inside a Twilight Zone episode then being dropped 13 floors by a possessed elevator?

How about spending 15-20 minutes with animatronic bears doing a "Country Bear Jamboree" in Grand Ole Opry fashion. If that's not enough, see the show at 1:00 p.m. on Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom when all the Bears (yes, those bears) gather to watch the production. Oh my. It is a hoot and a holler, and one of the most fun things you could ever imagine.


Gay Days started seventeen years ago on the whim of some friends. It has grown into a week-long event that is attended by over 100,000 GLBTQ folk and our allies. There are circuit parties and business expos, drag shows and leather contests, Pool Parties and Comedy shows, Film Festivals and Beer Busts. All this and more.

But at the heart of it all remains Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom. It is always the first Saturday in June. Thousands of the entire diversity of the queer community attend. There are gay and lesbian parents with their kids, circuit boyz a bit hungover or strung out from the night before, every gender expression imaginable, bears and twinks, femmes and butches. Singles, couples, and truples.

And we are all there for one reason.

Have fun at the park.

And it is so much more fun when you get to be the majority. And we get to SEE that we are the majority because everyone wears red. The sea of red over the land of the Mouse is a sight to behold.

But here is the best thing. It was not always like this. Disney used to be the evil empire. Gays were banished from the magic Kingdom by edict of Uncle Walt himself. It did not fit with his ideas of "family". I think the change started within minutes of Walt's death. The company was an entertainment behemoth, and therefore had more queers in it than a production of Chorus Line. Once the cult Father Figure (or in this case Uncle Figure) was out of the picture Disney went from oppressor to friend remarkably quickly.

A trip to Gay Days is a celebration of who we are and the change that can happen in our society. It is also a chance to take a picture of your partner with a triceratops.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gender-Bending Musical in the Upper Peninsula

Our niece is graduating from High School. The call came from the family matriarch to appear for the graduation. The gay uncles found out the niece is appearing in "High School Musical" the weekend before graduation. The gay uncles said they'd rather see the musical than the graduation. All parties were fine by that decision. Reminds me of the "Gay? Fine By Me" t-shirts. So her two gay uncles packed up the car and the dog and headed out for the weekend.

Sounds pleasant. The downside is the brother teaches at Michigan Tech. The drive is at least ten hours from Ann Arbor (in southeast Michigan) to Hancock, MI. Hancock is located on the Keewenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula. The Keewenaw is the bit of land that juts into Lake Superior. You would need a boat to go further north.

The trip is 540 miles entirely within Michigan.
To put that in perspective, a trip to Washington, DC would take us through Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia...and it is ten miles shorter.

Our friend Mike loaned us a Garmin for the trip. Garmin is a GPS system. It works remarkably well. It has me worried. I believe my main function in our relationship is getting us from one place to another. Garmin does this better than me, and does a multimedia presentation as well. How can I compete with that?

Garmin was flawless until we reached our final destination. It kept trying to send us to a non-existent road. We found out later the road used to exist. We are all too familiar with this phenomonen. The Ann Arbor Homoplex (\aut\ BAR, Common Language, Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project, and SH\aut\ Cabaret and Gallery) is located on Braun Court. Every online and satellite map believes Braun Court is a real street that can handle traffic, and that it goes from Fourth Avenue to Main Street. It does not. Braun Court stops at an alley halfway to Main Street. We get calls on a regular basis from people cruising up and down Main Street looking to turn on to Braun Court.

At last we find our hotel and head out to the highlight of the weekend. Our niece is appearing in a production of "High School Musical".

A little background.

Being a Disney nut, I have certainly heard of High School Musical. Zac Efron and the show are almost as big as Hannah Montana right now. But I really knew nothing about the show. I was in a car with a few Theater nuts about a week ago and asked them about the show.

Nut #1: "Wild Dogs could not drag me to that show"

Nut #2: "Its like Grease without the music, lyrics, choreography or story"

I explained I was heading to the Upper Peninsula to see my niece in one of the featured male roles in the show. "That", they both agreed, "would be worth seeing".

So off we went to see the Copper Country Intermediate School District, All-School Gender-bending production of High School Musical.

What can I say about the production? The main reason our niece was playing a male role was lack of male talent, not because the director was trying to make a statement about gender. She is athletic (National Junior Olympics), deep voice, tall, sinewy, and musically talented. And she was fabulous (of course). There were several other strong performances. There were also several budding homosexuals who 'sold' their roles, regardless of their talent. And finally, there were a bunch of kids who did not know they were supposed to play to the audience and could barely carry a tune.

In other words, it was like thousands of other high school productions. So much for the northwoods gender-bending high school musical.

Searching for any signs of gay or queer culture is difficult in the Upper Peninsula. The only gay bar is a (very straight) bar called "The Gay Bar" in the village of Gay, MI. For gay culture we had to settle for a couple of great antique stores. From the safety of Ann Arbor it is easy to forget how far the gay civil rights movements has to go.

But even more dispiriting than the lack of gay culture was that on our drive home we drove through snow between L'Anse, MI and Marquette, MI. This should not be happening in late May.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Smoking Ban in Michigan Restaurants

Both houses of the Michigan State Legislature have passed a version of a comprehensive smoking ban that would cover all bars and restaurants in the State of Michigan. The bills are different, and will have to be resolved. It is still possible that this smoking ban will be derailed. However, it is also possible that the ban is near-at-hand.

Some bars and restaurants have been fighting this legislation. The main reason the ban has not passed until now is the powerful Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA) lobby.

Many states, counties, and cities across the country have passed similar bans, and the news for bars is actually good...with a caveat. The initial result is a downturn in business. But an upturn begins very shortly thereafter. Within 3 to 6 months business is better than before. Here's what happens:
  1. Smokers decide they don't want to go out to non-smoking bars. Business drops
  2. Smokers start dealing with the new reality, and start returning to the bars within weeks.
  3. Non-smokers take a while to start coming out. After all, they've been trained for years to stay away. But they eventually realize that they can go out to bars, too.

I am looking forward to making my bar a non-smoking bar.

Why (I hear you ask) didn't you change earlier if that is what you want for your bar?

Simple...if a bar acts unilaterally only step one (above) occurs, and the bar goes out of business. This is something that has to happen over as wide a geographic area as possible, or it does not work. For the first five years the first floor of the \aut\ BAR was non-smoking. The instant the kitchen closed it was dead. We could not keep bartenders on those shifts.

Martin and I used to belong to the Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA). We decided not to renew because it was such a conservative organization, and we didn't want our dues lobbying for some of the causes we did not believe in. However, while members we did try to cause a little trouble.

Every year the MRA holds a "Lobby Day". Members are encouraged to travel to Lansing and lobby their representatives on a variety of issues. Matt and Rene Greff of Arbor Brewing, and Martin and I would show up. We were always grouped together since we were the wacky Ann Arborites. I guess the powers-that-be in the MRA figured we would cause less damage together than if we were spread out over the capitol.

We would walk in to a legislator's office and Rene would assertively paraphrase Howard Dean, saying "We represent the Democratic Wing of the Michigan Restaurant Association".

She would then hand them the position papers from the MRA on smoking bans. Then we would give OUR opinion.

Over the course of a couple of years we saw other MRA members joining our view. Interestingly, they too recognized that bans needed to have wide geographic scope to work. However, they were not looking at the public health issue directly. Instead they saw lawsuits on the horizon from non-smoking workers claiming they were forced to work in unhealthy environments. The bar and restaurant owners wanted the legislature to help them out of their dilemma.

And that is why the Republican-held State Senate actually passed the more aggressive ban.

I used to smoke, and like any addict I still consider myself a smoker. I just haven't had a cigarette in a bit over ten years. And also, like any addict, I realize that other addicts cannot be told to stop. They will have to face their demons in their own time and their own way. My desire to see the smoking ban is not to "force people to quit". It doesn't work that way.

It may actually help promote a non-smoking culture that will make it easier for people quit, or discourage people from starting in the first place. I am not optimistic about those possibilities, and that would be a lousy reason for the ban. That would be as effective as prohibition. The most important reason for the ban is to guarantee a safe environment for people at work and at play. Imposing smoke on other people is not only unhealthy. Its rude. And I can't believe how rude I used to be. So let's legislate some manners.

What do you think of smoking bans? If you want this one you should contact your State Representative immediately and let them know what you think.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fred Phelps - Agent of Hate

Fred Phelps announced he was coming to the Ann Arbor area.


He has been a regular visitor over the years. That's because we believe in faggotry...including anal penetration (That verbiage comes from Fred's own press releases).

I'm not being fair to Fred's message. He doesn't believe you have to do the dirty deed to be condemned to hell. You just have to be supportive of queers to earn eternal damnation. You could belong to an inclusive church, allow a gay-straight alliance in your school, put on a production of The Laramie Project, and so much more.

For this protest he is condemning the Campus Crusade for Christ. I guess they are accepting homos now.

Y'know, if the guy was sincere I might have a little sympathy for him. But here's the real story. Fred makes his money through lawsuits. He has never gone to any seminary or religious school. He is not a minister. He is a disbarred lawyer. Keep that in mind. It is all about the money.
And if you want the full-documented version check out the Southern Poverty Law Center. They did an exhaustive report on Fred's tactics.

He has been known to the gay community since the 80's when he started protesting funerals of gay men who had died of AIDS. It was sick. But the straight community figured it was a free speech issue.

More people came to know him when he protested at the funeral of Matthew Sheperd. Matthew's brutal murder touched a nerve in many parts of straight America. But again, most of straight America thought of him as the sideshow clown in this tragedy. And we believe in free speech, right?

Meanwhile, queer America was starting to figure out how irrelevant Fred was becoming. We joked about him, made fun of him in movies, and our own strategy which we have named Every Minute Counts. Fred came to protest the \aut\ BAR. We marginalized him economically by pledging money for every minute he was protesting. The money went to the LGBT Community Center. In other words, the longer he protested, the more money he helped us raise for a cause that he cannot stand. It preserves his free speech, and let the message be about our response, not about his hate. And I think it really kills him since it is all about the money. We are raising it at peaceful counter-demonstrations and he is not.

He needed to change his strategy. His hateful message was not provoking the attacks that let him get those lucrative lawsuits. He had to push more buttons.

Fred was the first of the wacko evangelicals to claim that 9/11 was God's revenge on America for allowing all that anal penetration to happen. But evangelicals with a lot more press and media coverage than Fred were making the same claim.

That is when he hit upon the idea of protesting soldier's funerals. Rather ironic since our forays into Afghanistan and Iraq can be seen as America's holy wars. But Fred saw it differently. He claimed that these American boys were dying because other American boys were diddling with each other. It did not need to make sense. It just had to push some buttons.

And it did.

Suddenly straight America cared. Suddenly it was no longer a free speech issue. Laws were passed to preserve the dignity of military funerals.

I actually believe that some of these laws are well-crafted. They let Fred hold his signs, they just demand a certain distance from the actual services. Its a good compromise that allows Fred his free speech, and gives mourners at least a little space from his vitriole. I just wish that they had enacted these statutes about twenty years ago so that all those men who were perishing during the height of the AIDS epidemic could have been allowed peaceful and respectful memorials.

As it happens, Fred was a no-show at his announced Ann Arbor area appearance. Too bad. The Eastern Michigan University LGBT Resource Center ran an "Every Minute Counts" pledge drive. They had received pledges totaling nearly $27 for every minute he would have been there. In addition, the Coors Brewing Company jumped in and said they'd match the first $1000 raised. They could have raised $2600 for a fund that usually struggles to raise a couple hundred dollars per year. Not bad for a fund drive that lasted less than 24 hours.

I plan on fulfilling my pledge, as if Fred had been picketing 60 minutes (his usual picketing time). I hope others do the same.

Its never too late to support a good cause. You can still pledge at The EMU LGBT Office will contact you to fulfill a 60 minute pledge.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I Voted on Tuesday

Here's some exciting news:

I voted on Tuesday...and my vote counted.

That's right. Michigan insisted they could not POSSIBLY hold a do-over election. It would be too complex and costly.

Guess what. There was an election this last Tuesday. All of the infrastructure was already there. I went in, poll workers welcomed me (by name, thank you very much). I got a little "I voted" sticker and everything.

There was one contested race on my ballot, a whole bunch of uncontested races, and two school millages. I'm a childless gay man. I have no kids to benefit from the public schools. But I truly believe that a free democracy depends on universal and quality public education. So I voted to keep taxing myself. This tax is not a "tax burden". It is a public investment. (And both millages passed).

And my candidate in the one contested race lost. So be it. That is democracy in action. They counted my vote and everyone else's and the majority wins. Even if only 8.4% of eligible voters turn out, we count ALL the votes.

Sadly, America is getting away from that concept. We saw it in Florida and the nation in 2000. And I still wonder what the heck happened in Ohio in 2004.

Perhaps it is time for me to revive my plan for Ann Arbor to secede from the Union. The original plan was proposed about ten years ago. Chris Kolb kept running for mayor, and Ingrid Sheldon kept beating him by fairly narrow margins. I proposed a parliamentary monarchy. Since (at the time) Ingrid seemed to be our permanent mayor I proposed that she become Queen Ingrid the First of the Grand Duchy of Ann Arbor. Chris was the policy wonk, so he would become the first Prime Minister.

I proposed a zero defense budget. I counted on our one-way streets to confuse any invading army into submission.

I made no provisions for chickens.

Do you think we need chickens in Ann Arbor? Should we secede? And when was the last time you felt your vote counted?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Michigan Conundrum

To all of my Democratic Party Officials, State and National, Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and especially to Howard Dean and Mark Brewer:

In 2004 I was honored and privileged to be a Dean Delegate to the Democratic National Convention. There weren't many of us. Shortly after the Michigan primary Howard Dean stopped earning delegates. The Dean campaign had been a very special campaign that brought a lot of new people into the political conversation. He was a refreshing voice, and I was honored to have worked for his election, and to represent that legion of supporters.

In our congressional district, we elected two Dean delegates. By the rules of the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) the Kerry delegation could have swamped the Dean caucus and elected "one of their own". As it happens several people with a significant voice in the party stepped forward and said that the enthusiasm of Howard's supporters would be needed in the general election. Let the Dean supporters elect the Dean delegates. Even though it turned out to be not enough to get Kerry elected, they were right.

Here's the that point it did not matter to the outcome of the National Convention. Kerry had the nomination sewn up.

Michigan is in a very different position now. The outcome of the nomination process is not yet clear. Personally I am supporting Barack Obama. For that reason I should be happy that Michigan is not being counted. But I am not. I believe in universal enfranchisement. This process has disenfranchised me, and millions of others.

The election was fraudulent. You cannot tell people that an election is not going to count, and then later try and say it does. The results are bound to be skewed...especially if one of the candidate's name was not even on the ballot.

I am not writing with a solution. There were several workable solutions that either the national or state party could have embraced in the past. Those opportunities have slipped by. It is not up to me or ANY VOTER IN THE STATE to produce the solution. We are the victims of disenfranchisement, not the cause.

Blame can be shared between the MDP and Democratic National Party. And you cannot wait until it does not matter and seat a meaningless delegation. And yet, that seems to be what party officials are doing.

The stakes are high. Mitt Romney is going to be stumping for McCain in Michigan. And in spite of McCain's "lost jobs" comments during the primary, he has a history of bipartisan support in this state. Many democrats crossed party lines to vote for him in the 2000 primary. Yes, some of them were thumbing their noses at Engler...and it worked. The McCain victory was the beginning of the end of Engler's electoral political career. But tens of thousands of crossover voters fell for his "maverick" appeal.

I know that McCain is not a maverick. He is a very conservative politician who believes in the war in Iraq. As much as I would detest a McCain presidency, it remains that I have had no say in the selection of the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. And I am campaigning with all the enthusiasm of a disenfranchised voter. Exactly none. And I am not alone.

As I play with an electoral vote calculator I can find scenarios that allow a democrat to win without Michigan...but the options are limited. If the candidates are serious about winning in November, they have to sit down with the Michigan Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee to find a MEANINGFUL solution soon.

(If you have suggestions for a meaningful solution, let me know. Or even better, let Mark Brewer and Howard Dean know.)