Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Victory Fund Celebrates Lesbians in Politics

(via Instant Tea) The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund celebrates Women's History Month with this video celebrating trailblazing lesbian elected officials.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TBP--A contest I really need you to go vote in.

OK, I don't normally post promoting these internet popularity contests, but I need you to go read my blog and vote for my friends Jon and Greg right now. Then post this to your facebook, share it with everyone you know, make people go vote. I need this from you. Please! http://www.ultimateweddingcontest.com/entries/22682

Don't let the wing-nut bigots win--vote for Jon & Greg | The Bilerico Project:
"So I'm doing two things here you've probably never seen me do on this blog before. Maybe one more than the other...

gregnjon2.jpgFirst, I rarely if ever really post exclusively about marriage equality--though I do support it--unless there's like a crucial vote looming. I now consider this a crucial vote. I just think that marriage equality gets covered well on Bilerico by the many great voices who have made it their focus. I don't think I need to add anything, usually, but I am adding something today.

Second, I've never endorsed any sort of brand or contest on this blog. I try to stay out of the popculturey stuff. I never talk about TV or products.

But this is war. The Religious Right has interfered here, and we need to make a statement about our power. I also happen to have totally fallen in love with these two boys (not like threesome love, but... well... follow me over the jump)..."

BillMaps - putting Congressional bills on the map

Have you seen this? Its BRILLIANT! I can think of a thousand ways to apply this to try to get better support for your cause in your state.

BillMaps - putting Congressional bills on the map:

The site needs a bit more to it, but its a great start. I can't wait to see where this goes. Maybe they can start a whip-count page!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My latest at the Bilerico Project on this week's protests

The birth of a movement: LGBTQ rights become civil rights | The Bilerico Project:
"Thursday was a crazy day for me. I woke up late. I had a ton of homework to finish. I had a coming out panel. I had a work meeting and my regular work hours. I hadn't scheduled in a revolution.

But that's exactly what happened.

choiISchained.jpgThursday morning - the day of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act blogswarm, the day of the Human Rights Campaign's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' lobby day with Kathy Griffin - something beautiful began to happen.

The 'gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender and queer' rights movement grew up and became the new civil rights movement. LGBTQ activists got serious..."

Visit the site to see the rest, and please leave a comment!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

MSM pick up Choi, McGehee White House arrest story on ENDA/DADT day!

Two Arrested For Chaining Themselves to the White House Gate to Protest Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy - Political Punch:
"ABC News' Steven Portnoy and Sunlen Miller report: An Iraq war veteran and vocal opponent of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was arrested by police officers after chaining himself to the front gate of the White House, in apparent protest of that policy.

Lt. Dan Choi, who was discharged from the military and his role as an Arab linguist for being gay, has long opposed this policy. A second soldier, James Pietrangelo II, a plaintiff in the case turned down in the Supreme Court last year, also chained himself with Choi to the White House gate and was arrested.

Some 150 protesters were also in front of the White House, changing “Hey Hey Ho Ho Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has got to go,” and about 30 Washington D.C. police officers are lined up in a show of force there as well."

The Mainstream media is now running with the story. On this, the ENDA blogswarm day, and HRC DADT lobby day, our movement is about to get a LOT of attention!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Newest at the Reese's Pieces blog: a quick gay history of the theatre!

Don't just check out my latest "Reese's Pieces" blog at the217.com--go read it and COMMENT on it. I've posted the shortest abbreviated introductory teaser ever to get you to go check it out and COMMENT. C'mon. You know you want to!

Reese’s Pieces » Blog Archive » Its all about the footlights: the six century (if not longer) love affair between gays and Theatre.:
"That’s ‘Theatre’ with an “re” not an “er.”

Theatre the craft, and not theater, the building. Theatre the classic Aristotelian cathartic experience, of course. The costumes. The sets. The make-up.

Oh, the make-up!

Since Elizabeth (not Taylor, Tudor) called herself Queen of the British Empire, gay men–and to some extent lesbians and definitely transgender folk–have had a home in the Theatre. They’ve not only been the patrons, but the actors, the directors, the managers, the carpenters, and especially the writers (oh yeah, and composers and choreographers). Theatre has persisted since Shakespeare’s days thanks in no small part to the full and unreserved perseverance of the Theatre queens out there who propel the craft season after season..."

And that's all your going to get for now, so go CHECK IT OUT ON THE SITE and COMMENT to show your love for me!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

This week in LGBT history: March 14th-20th

"Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail."  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 I am grateful that the story of Constance McMillen, who is fighting for the right to go to her Senior Prom with her girlfriend, is receiving so much attention by mainstream media outlets outside the queer press and the queer blogophere.


However, the plight of the Itawamba County Agricultural High School student reminds us that, as much as things have changed over the past several decades, much progress is left to be made before true equality is enjoyed by all Americans.

Today there are thousands of young LGBT young people like Constance at hundreds of schools like Itawamba. As they struggle to make their own mark on LGBT history, what are we as a community doing to help them? Are you playing your part in the battle for equality? Am I? When future generations study our contribution to the struggle for civil rights, what will they think about how we used our time on earth?

Sunday, March 14th: On this day in 1848, Virginia lawmakers lowered the penalty for sodomy to 1-5 years, but kept the death penalty for slaves.

Monday, March 15th: On this day in 1948, Transgender Activist Kate Bornstein wass born. Among Bornstein's many influential publications is Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us.

Tuedsay, March 16th: On this day in 1649, the colony of New Hampshire outlawed sex between men only and established a penalty of death

Wednesday, March 17th: On this day in 1910, African-American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin was born. Rustin's contributions to the civil rights movement have historically been obscured by embarrassment over his sexual orientation and ties to the Communist Party.

Thursday, March 18th: On this day in 1928, transgender writer and museum founder Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was born.

Friday, March 19th: On this day in 1973, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that sodomy laws could not be enforced against married couples.

Saturday, March 20th: On this day in 1979, a North Carolina appeals court held that the state's ban on sodomy applied to heterosexual couples.

Harvey milk loves you

-Phil Reese. Sent from my Google Android phone!

Friday, March 12, 2010

MIKEY GOT ME THE VIRGIN TOUR SHIIIIIIIRRRRTTT!!!

-Phil Reese. Sent from my Google Android phone!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

OK SENATE WANTS TO OVERRULE FED GOV ON GAY HATE CRIMES--DON'T LET THEM!

Holy Shit. This guy, OK State Senator, Steve Russell, must be possessed by really mean, really evil demons. He's basically saying "We want to be able to kill and maim our gays without the Feds getting involved. We love physically harming gay people so much--and harming them JUST BECAUSE they are gay--that we want to override Federal law."

Rod 2.0:Beta: Oklahoma Senate Votes for Exemption from Fed Hate Crime Laws:
"MetroStar News, the Oklahoma-based LGBT newspaper, explains the practical ramifications: 'This would prohibit providing as evidence to Federal authorities a bloody baseball bat or gun used in that type of crime to assist in their prosecution of that hate crime. Since crimes committed due to a victim’s sexual orientation/gender identity are not Hate Crimes under Oklahoma state law, and this restriction would make Federal prosecution of this type of crime in Oklahoma very difficult if not impossible, this would greatly impede Hate Crimes protection for the GLBT community in Oklahoma.'"

Russell's quote? "This protects people to do or say whatever they want..."

TO DO OR SAY WHATEVER THEY WANT.

Like "I hate fags, I think I'm going to kill that one over there." And then go do it. Because that's what they want.

There is a VERY VERY special place in Hell for Steve Russell.

What's worse is that this passed the Senate.

Please write the OK board of Tourism and say you not only will not be visiting OK anytime soon, but you'll also be making sure everyone you know knows why you won't be visiting OK. Then share this link with your friends. It would be great if you followed up your letter/email with a phone call too. Double the impact.

INFO@OKLAHOMATOURISMBOARD.COM

Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department
120 N. Robinson, 6th Floor
Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Hardy Watkins - Executive Director 405-230-8301
Discover Oklahoma 405-230-8433 shel@discoveroklahoma.com
Executive Office 405-230-8309 Terri.Wilkerson@oklatourism.gov
State Parks and Resorts 405-230-8390 Roberta.Helsley@oklatourism.gov
Travel and Tourism 405-230-8400 information@travelok.com

That's for starters.

Representative Benge, Chris, Speaker of the House (405) 557-7340 chrisbenge@okhouse.gov

Don't forget to tell this guy you're not visiting his state if he signs the bill:
Governor Brad Henry
(405) 521-2342 http://www.ok.gov/governor/message.php

Oh yeah, and Steven Russell? Let's make sure he's out of the job next year. If you have information about who gives to Steven Russell, I want to know. Sociopaths like this have no business having power. They deserve to be locked up and have the key thrown away.

RP--Don’t forget: DRAG AT HIGH VELOCITY IS TONIGHT!

Dont' forget its tonight! Visit the blog for more details!

Reese’s Pieces » Blog Archive » Don’t forget: DRAG AT HIGH VELOCITY IS TONIGHT!:
"Yesterday I wrote a little about the history of drag, and the hows and whys, in my blog “What’s a ‘drag?’” Don’t forget you can experience the real thing tonight at Drag At High Velocity TONIGHT, March 11 at 7:30pm in the Illini Union I-Rooms, put on by the IUB and the LGBT Resource Center

Many drag contests operate within the Imperial Court System, a charity organization that does amazing amounts of good in Canada, Mexico and the United States, raising money for AIDS/HIV support and research, hate crimes victims assistance, anti-bullying education, elder-care and homeless youth support and services. Like most good drag shows, tonight’s Drag At High Velocity in the Illini Union I-Rooms, is a charity drag show for the Illini Union Board and the LGBT Resource Center..."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TBP--Anti-gay bill might be gone, but not forgotten

Last week I made a huge fuss on Bilerico.com as well as on Twitter and Facebook all about the discriminatory SB3447 that would ruin the Illinois employment non-discrimination law. This week its quieted down, but now the question is, will we have to deal with this again?

Illinois discriminatory anti-gay, anti-jobs bill gone but not forgotten on the The Bilerico Project:
"Last week I told you about the urgent action needed to stop a bill seeking to water down Illinois' potent gender identity and sexual orientation inclusive employment non-discrimination law. Republican gubernatorial front-runner, Bill Brady, had quietly introduced a bill to expand 'religious exemptions' so much that the law would be nearly nullified. Bill Brady had been vehemently against the law when it was initially introduced, back when he was in the lower house. Now a Senator and GOP Governor hopeful, Brady was seeking to use transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual folks in Illinois to court favor in rural areas, and shore up his conservative base.

Brady is a right wing nut job. He needn't worry about his conservative base. I don't use nut job loosely. Brady is currently campaigning on--among other things--a strong 'reform' platform--specifically touting campaign finance reform and term limits. One of the longest serving lawmakers in the Assembly, Brady voted against campaign finance reform bills numerous times, and also voted against a term limits bill. I'm confused."

Want to find out what the hell is up with this BS? Finish my post at Illinois discriminatory anti-gay, anti-jobs bill gone but not forgotten on the The Bilerico Project

RP--I DID IT AGAIN! My SECOND 217 Post "What's a 'drag?'

Drag is oft misunderstood in our community. With this week's IUB/LGBT Resource Center drag show coming up on Thursday, I thought I'd do a little bit of educating. Check out my SECOND post at the217.com!

GO TO THE PAGE--there are great pictures, video and links! Also, you can COMMENT!

Reese’s Pieces » Blog Archive » What’s a ‘drag?’–the reason why men-dressing-up-like-women-&-lip-syncing is important:
"Did you know that the word “travesty” is gay? I’m outing the word “travesty.” Dear “travesty,” you can’t hide in your closet anymore. Come out, come out wherever you are.

Travesty comes from a French word “travesti,” which in turn comes from Latin roots: “trans,” to ‘cross over,’ and “vestire” which means ‘to dress.’ It means, approximately, to disguise oneself, but specifically, to disguise oneself as the opposite of what one would expect: to disguise oneself as the opposite gender. “Cross-Dressing” shows, were popular in big cities in Europe for centuries, especially in ‘male-focused’ brothels called “Molly Houses.” It is in these red-light districts and Molly Houses drag was born, like the most famous Molly House, Mother Clap’s in the Holborn area of London.

Long before gay men had iPhones (NSFW!) with Grindr, they had to find another safe place to find guys like themselves. These taverns in big cities allowed “mollies,” (effeminate men, cross dressers and their adorers) to hang out and just be themselves. Not only where they hook-up spots, they were also community hubs. There was food and drink, games and rooms to crash and wash-up, and lots of entertainment.

The most common form of entertainment at these Molly Houses, were the cross-dressing shows, where professional cross-dressers would nightly doll themselves up aping the most garish of feminine stereotypes and perform ‘campy’ music to entertain the guests.

The patrons of Molly Houses–especially the regulars, and not the secretive, usually married men looking to step out and go “cottaging”–spoke in a sort of slang called “Polari.” It is this dialect from which we get the word drag. Polari was made up of lots of Yiddish words that had been mixed with Italian, Romany, French and English in a big hodgepodge of fun. In Yiddish, “tragen,” means “to wear” which was eventually shorted to “trag,” when speaking about changing; especially for the cross-dressing queens.

Someone at some point noted that the ill-fitting women’s clothing (”trag”) worn by men would “drag” on the floor, and viola! “Drag” was born!
Lady Bunny poses for the Imperial Court System

“Drag Queens,” or men who dress like women and put on entertaining, over the top, frivolous shows, have been at the center of the LGBT community for centuries, and they’ve played no small part in queer history. Drag has always been a staple of LGBT-focused establishments, and its a convention that is unique to the LGBT community and has yet to be co-opted by the straight community (unlike disco, electronic music, campiness, every fashion trend ever, Subarus and sexual liberation)..."

Want to read more, and learn about this Thursday's drag show benefiting the Illini Union Board and the LGBT Resource Center? Please go read AND COMMENT at the page, What’s a ‘drag?’–the reason why men-dressing-up-like-women-&-lip-syncing is important

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

O&A--What's wrong with BIll Brady?

The first few paragraphs of my latest Out & About Illinois magazine blog post is below. The blog goes along with my column which an be found by downloading the latest issue of Out & About Illinois magazine as a PDF from outandaboutillinois.com! Please go to the site to read (and comment) on the rest of the blog!

What's wrong with BIll Brady?:
"PHIL REESE, MARCH 8, 2010: Have you heard of Senate Bill 3447? Well, if you haven't, you should have. The Bill seems to have gone quiet now after being referred back to the Committee on Assignments, but had it passed out of the Judiciary committee, you might have lost your job. The bill, which was initially submitted by Senator Bill Brady--who hates us--would have expanded the 'Religious Exemption' to the Human Rights Law that protects people from getting fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The 'Religious Exemption' would suddenly apply to almost every employer imaginable, rendering the employment non-discrimination law virtually useless.

The hubub that erupted when bloggers from around the state--including myself--caught wind of the bill swiftly put it to bed. The Judicial committee chair who had planned to give the bill a hearing when he thought the lead sponsor was still Bill Brady, swiftly re-referred the bill to the Assignments Committee when he learned the sponsor had changed to John O. Jones. The bill isn't exactly dead, but its not going anywhere for now.

In short, Bill Brady is a shady shady, sneaky, evil man.

According to Senator Michael Frerichs, from the 42nd District, Bill Brady is one of the biggest obstacles to equality and progress, and has been for years.

'I can not think of any examples in my three years in the State Senate when Senator Brady extended a hand across the aisle,' Frerichs said in an emailed statement.

'This is particularly striking,' continued Frerichs, 'because for my first two years, due to the super-majority that the Democrats enjoyed and the limited number of seats on the left side of the chamber, I sat on the Republican side of the aisle. I developed many working relationships with Republicans because of my proximity, but Senator Brady was never one of the Republicans to work with or socialize with Democrats.'"

After you've finished reading, please add your comment to "What's wrong with BIll Brady?" At the Outandaboutillinois.com website! And download the PDF of the latest issue: Straight But Not Narrow: Central Illinois' Straight Allies Speak Out.

MY FIRST BLOG AT THE217.COM!

The straight people finally gave me my own blog. Ha! Little did they know what I'd hit 'em with! Check out my first ever blog at Daily Illini-run website the217.com--Did I do alright writing for a straight audience?

Reese’s Pieces » Blog Archive » Where is Champaign’s “gayborhood?”:
"We gays are pretty darn clever when it comes to language. After all, we had to spend most of high school playing with pronouns (”My ‘girlfriend’ and I had a fight over AOL instant messenger last night. ‘She’ said that if I take anyone else but ‘her’ to Wicked, we’re internet breaking-up.”), and all of those lonely years of being stuffed into lockers gave us lots of time to read what was in there. So its no wonder some of the best wordsmiths in history were part of ‘the family.’ Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare’s main contemporary, Christopher Marlowe–hell, even Shakespeare himself was a little bi–right down to Michael Stipe, to Lance Bass; the most talented lyricists always end up coming out eventually.

Boystown in Chicago

Eminem, I’m looking at you.

One of the most genius gaynventions is the convention of using “gay,” “-sbian” or “bi” as infix to queer up a word. A lesbian celebrity becomes a “celesbian.” Exploitation of gay or lesbian culture for financial gain only becomes profitable once its become “gaysploitation” or “lezsploitation.” A bisexual yuppie becomes a “buppie.” Aww! Isn’t that cute? We’re just so lez-cellent… I mean excellent at adorable language manipulation. I actually have a college degree certifying my Professional gay-i-fication of language credentials!

Along these lines, a “gayborhood” is often a term tossed about in the community to describe an urban neighborhood that is populated mostly by people who aren’t allowed to get married to one another. There are two types of gayborhoods: there are the traditional commercial gayborhoods, where all of the gay bars and boutiques and cafes and restaurants and Universal Gear and American Apparels are. For those of you familiar with the Wrigleyville area of Chicago, Boystown–the commercial district of Halstead north of Belmont–is such a gayborhood.

However, bars are loud, and one gets sick of cleaning the vom from the soles of your work shoes on a regular basis in the mornings. Over the last two decades, gayborhoods have been splitting in two. The “gappies/guppies” (GAP-wearing young urban professional gays) have began to migrate and congregate in new areas. Usually, these are neighborhoods that were formerly run-down so the housing prices were cheap. The guppies move in, and one by one, their old college roommates and clubbing friends partner up, get real jobs, settle down and become neighbors–and before you know it–housing prices go up, and you’ve got a trendy new neighborhood.

Hence, Andersonville.

Generally–once the gays have done all of the work of fixing up the houses–the cooly-o progressive straight yuppies with new babies feel safe enough to move in, and the gays go find a new neighborhood to “Queer Eye.”

You’re welcome, straighties.

Does every city have a gayborhood? Well, no, not every city can really sustain one. However, any city of a certain size at least had one twenty-five years ago or so.

I’ll do another post about where the gayborhoods are around the nation, and why (guess what? It has to do with big, buff, butch soldiers!) but for now, I want to concentrate on the question of whether or not Champaign has a gayborhood..."

Want to know if Champaign-Urbana is Sodom and Gomorrah? Keep Reading Reese’s Pieces » Where is Champaign’s “gayborhood?”

Sunday, March 7, 2010

This week in LGBT history: March 7th-13th

"I've grown up with a lot of people and I'm good friends with a lot of people who are gay and I think they should have the rights all people should, and I'm not going to swear that they do," ~10 year old Arkansas 5th grader Will Phillips, who refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in solidarity with the LGBT community's fight for equality.

"I believe that whatever history I'm a part of, I'm responsible for. If I feel something is unjust or unequal, I feel a responsibility to do something about i
t." ~ 23 year old Hudson Taylor, a straight college wrestler who, confidently calls himself a feminist and allies himself with the cause of LGBT equality.

When a 23 year old straight college student and a 5th grader from Arkansas can stand up and take responsibility for advancing the cause of equality, it is time for all of us to look in the mirror and think hard about what we are individually doing to, in the words of Hudson Taylor, take responsibility for the history we are a part of.

When studying LGBT history, it is important to remember that it is more than just dates of marches, court decisions, legislative votes, and birthdays of people we've never met. The history we study tells us where we came from and points us in the direction we need to go. It is the history that we live and we make that will tell future generations of LGBT people whether we had the courage of our forefathers and foremothers to leave the world a better place for those who come after us.

Sunday, March 7th: on this day in 1811 Ensign John Hepburn and drummer Thomas White were executed in England on charges of sodomy stemming from the investigation of the Vere Street Coterie.


Monday, March 8th: on this date in 1929, gay American Poet Jonathan Williams was born. His prolific publications included a collection of poems, essays, and photographs entitled Blackbird Dust.


Tuesday, March 9th: on this date in 1989, the controversial American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe died. Mapplethorpe's treatment of extreme subjects became an easy target for conservative politicians who wanted to eliminate public funding for the arts and exploit anti-gay prejudices and stereotypes in the process.



Wednesday, March 10th: on this date in 1867, feminist, social reformer, and public health nurse Lillian Wald was born.

Thursday, March 11th: on this date in 1976, West Virginia decriminalized Sodomy.

Friday, March 12th: on this date in 1922, bisexual "Beat Generation" poet Jack Kerouac was born. Kerouac was known for many works, including the masterpiece, "On the Road."



Saturday, March 13th: on this date in 1906, American feminist, abolitionist, and suffragist Susan B. Anthony died. Anthony's encyclopedia entry on GLBTQ.com has an excellent discussion the speculation about her many intimate relationships with fellow female social reform activists.

My News-Journal Letter to the Editor on DADT Repeal

Shortly after the Senate DADT hearings in early February, I contacted my Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison to urge her support for repeal.

My letter to the editor in today's Longview News-Journal has Hutchison's response to me and my comments on her position:

Sunday, March 7: Supports repeal of Don't Ask policy

LONGVIEW NEWS JOURNAL

I recently wrote a letter to U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison urging her to help repeal the military's ban on gay men and lesbians openly serving in the military — the so-called Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

I hoped that as a member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, and someone with a reputation as a fair-minded legislator, Hutchison would be open to studying a repeal of the policy. To my surprise, Hutchison responded that she flatly opposes a repeal because "the Department of Defense has testified before Congress that the current policy has served the military well."

Apparently, Hutchison is unaware that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen have testified before her committee that the time has come to end the military's discrimination against gay and lesbian service members. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairmen Gen. Colin Powell and Gen. John Shalikashvili have also called for ending the ban.

Furthermore, Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq has voiced his support for a repeal. Even Vice President Dick Cheney, a former Secretary of Defense, has indicated he believes gay men and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly and honestly in the military.

I agree with Admiral Mullen that repealing this discriminatory policy is a simple matter of integrity and fairness. Gay and lesbian Americans have served in the military throughout our nation's history. They have fought and died, and continue to die, for the freedoms we enjoy in this country today.

If even the uniformed and civilian leadership at the Pentagon support repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, why can't the senior senator from Texas do the same?

- Patrick Franklin, Longview

****

Note: I have reinserted paragraph breaks which the newspaper, for some reason, did not.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Citizen Lobbyist: My Conversation With Louie Gohmert

When I hear LGBT leaders like Barney Frank talk about the importance of personally lobbying members of congress, I am filled with despair at the thought of trying to get my Congressman to vote for my rights. This past Monday, however, I renewed my commitment to my democratic obligations, and I began to answer the call of Barney Frank and others to be an active citizen lobbyist for equality.

I've always sort of envied those of you who live in Democratic or swing Congressional Districts. You have the luxury of having your views represented, or at least heard, by your representative in Congress. As I have have previously written, I have the misfortune of being "represented" in Congress by Louie Gohmert, a man who proudly places himself in the same ideological category as Steve King and Michelle Bachmann.

I live with the sad reality that I will likely never convince Gohmert to vote for my interests on any given issue, nor will I likely have the opportunity to help elect a Congressman with a more moderate approach to the issues.

Notwithstanding these political realities, I do have the desire to become more engaged with my congressman. Although it has not been clear to me what form my involvement should take, I have decided that, whether it be through letters, phone calls, petitions, letters to the editor, or other direct forms of action, I need to make sure that Congressman Gohmert knows of my disapproval every single time he casts a vote or makes a speech that denigrates me as a gay person or the greater LGBT community.

It was late last Sunday morning when I learned Congressman Louie Gohmert would be making an appearance at a town-hall-style meeting at a church near where I live. As soon as I learned about this appearance, I knew exactly what I needed to do. The opportunity to directly confront my Congressman with more than just a strongly worded letter was far too good an opportunity for me to pass up.

I spent the rest of my Sunday assembling my talking points, and focusing on the issue on which I would confront Congressman Gohmert. I chose to engage him in a conversation about the repeal of the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which allows the military to end the careers of brave service members who choose not to lie about and hide from their true identity as lesbian and gay people. Gohmert has recently made comments on the floor of the House in opposition to repealing DADT. Given Gohmert's previous comments, and given the fact that the bill to repeal this policy will likely be the next major piece of LGBT rights legislation to come for a vote, this topic seemed to be an obvious starting point.

As the time of the meeting approached, the determination I initially had about confronting Gohmert dissolved into nervousness. I had a strong desire to back out. I was, after all, missing Rachel Maddow to go to this meeting. Still, I put the doubts out of my mind and pressed forward with my plan.

I drove alone to the church where the meeting was held. The short notice did not allow me enough time to find others willing to accompany me. I entered the church timidly, and found a room full of about 100 people. The crowd was entirely white, almost entirely over 50, and I would guess mostly over 60. The gray haired grannies smiled at me, their husbands nodded their heads but did not speak. I quickly found my seat. I chose a chair close to the front so that I could be seen when the question and answer period began, but also close to the door so that I could quickly escape should the crowd become hostile. As the meeting got underway with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, the pounding in my chest subsided.

Gohmert ultimately showed up 15 minutes late, and made his 45 minute presentation. His speech focused entirely on health care and economic issues, with not a single mention of social hot buttons like gay marriage and abortion. As soon as he offered to take questions, my hand went into the air. But I was not called on to ask the first question, nor the second nor the third. Finally, on the fourth question, Congressman Gohmert acknowledged me and allowed me to stand and ask the question I had rehearsed.

"Congressman Gohmert," I spoke as calmly as I could, trying not to betray my nervousness. "I want to thank you for being here in Longview tonight, and I want to, with great respect, challenge you on a position you have held on an issue of deep importance to me."

He smiled, nodded, and gestured for me to continue. I took a deep breath, and began: "Congressman, last month Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen testified at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the time to repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy has arrived. General Petraeus and General Odierno have expressed their support for the repeal process, as has Vice President Cheney. Will you step forward today and endorse the process of repeal that has been initiated by the Pentagon?"

His answer was a quick "no." His explanation was something about foxholes and how distracting it would be for service members to have to worry about being the object of sexual desire while in combat. The roaring applause of the crowd in response to his talking point was a bit off-putting to me, but strangely, it only encouraged me to press on with my question.

"But, Congressman," I challenged, "they are already there. According to the Palm Center, 66,000 gay and lesbian volunteers are serving in the military today."

"But they're closeted." He retorted, which I guess means that straight service members can't me made uncomfortable by the gays as long as they remain secret gays.

"So they can fight and die for the country they love, but they can't be honest about the person they love?" I asked.

In that moment, I am telling you, Louie Gohmert was speechless. He just looked at me. For the tiniest split second, I think I may have made him think.

Feeling on a role, I continued. "Congressman, my question for you is this: there is a review under way at the Pentagon. If the uniformed and civilian leadership of the military come to you with a recommendation that it is in the best interests of the US military to repeal DADT, will you honor their recommendation, or will you cling to your preconceived ideas contrary to what the experts tell you?"

Again, Congressman Gohmert paused, this time for a couple of seconds. It would have been easy for him to dismiss my question out of hand. It would have been perfectly acceptable in that room with that crowd for him to say that he planned to honor the wishes of his constituents. This would have generated lots of applause and he could have quickly changed the subject.

Instead, he replied, "I'd have to read the plan they gave me, but I would want to do what I believe was the best thing for the military." Congressman Gohmert then thanked me for coming, acknowledged that I had entered a less-than-hospitable environment in which to ask my question, and moved on to the next questioner.

Now, of course, I know that, in the end, Louie Gohmert is not going to vote for a repeal of DADT. Not in a million years. But, I choose to believe that the exchange he had with me helped him, for the briefest of moments, to think about the subject in a way that he probably isn't inclined to think about it. I hope that there were other people in the audience who might also have been moved to think differently about the issue of DADT.

But, while my engagement with my Congressman did not move the needle on the national debate over DADT specifically or LGBT issues more broadly, it achieved one thing that a phone call or an email would not necessarily have achieved: Louie Gohmert can never claim that he doesn't have any constituents who care about LGBT equality. That is an accomplishment, however small, of which I am proud.

Oh, and this won't be the last time Louie Gohmert hears from me. My career as a citizen lobbyist has only just begun.

TBP--Take Action: Illinois rightwingers want to gut LGBT protections

Sorry it took me a few days to get this up on here, but my latest post (Monday) over at Bilerico is a MUST read. It looks like for now the hearing has been postponed, but the law isn't killed. Let's keep the pressure on.

"Take Action: Illinois rightwingers want to gut LGBT protections" on The Bilerico Project:
"In 2005, a broad coalition of labor, LGBT, and progressive activists from across the state of Illinois joined together to form 'The 85% Coalition' to pressure the legislature to pass an inclusive amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act [IHRA] to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Illinois' law has been a model for the nation--a sweeping and successfully implemented gender and sexuality-inclusive employment non-discrimination law.

This fall, in fact, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan testified at the federal hearings on ENDA on Capitol Hill, explaining before our law-makers that the law has been a major benefit for Illinois businesses and workers.

Charges filed with IDHR [Illinois Department of Human Rights] also show that religious institutions have not been impacted by the 2006 Amendments to IHRA. Since the effective date of the 2006 Amendments, only a handful of charges based on sexual orientation have been filed against religious institutions. In FY2009 and so far in FY2010, not a single charge based upon sexual orientation was filed against a religious institution.

Most importantly, a significant number of religious institutions were in support of the 2006 Amendments to IHDA. At the time of the passage of the 2006 Amendments, approximately 87 religious institution, organizations and leaders pledged their public support for the amendments.

However, the far right in Illinois has been irked by this LGBT victory for years, and have been looking at ways to send us back to the closet. They're getting their chance with Senate Bill 3447 - a bill initially brought by anti-gay GOP gubernatorial candidate, Bill Brady; now championed by another homophobe, John Jones. This is part of a nation-wide strategy to reverse our rights."

Pick up where I left off to find out how to help. "Take Action: Illinois rightwingers want to gut LGBT protections" on The Bilerico Project