Monday, November 24, 2008


In a few days it will be the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States. This video is an excerpt from his 1978 speech "You Cannot Live on Hope Alone", given shortly before he was killed.

His speech and his life remind us of how far we have come in 30 years, but also of how much work there is still to be done. There are still thousands of gay and lesbian teenagers that are thrown out of the house, that suffer verbal and physical abuse each day at school, that take their own lives because they cannot change who they are. In more than half of the United States, a person can lose his or her job for being gay. In almost all states, same-sex couples cannot legally join together in marriage, thus depriving them of nearly 1,100 federal rights, benefits and privileges given to married couples. Some states do not allow gay couples or individuals to adopt children, and some do not allow second-parent adoption; which means that when a lesbian couple has a child together, the non-biological mother cannot be considered a legal parent to that child.

But what Harvey Milk's speech reminds us is that we cannot lose hope and we cannot stop working for what we know in our hearts is right. The message of hope that we have heard in this country over the past year awakened a nation and inspired millions of people who once felt disenfranchised and unempowered. Gay and lesbian Americans must keep Barack Obama and Harvey Milk's message of hope alive. We can have a different world.

In an op-ed piece on Prop. 8, the California amendment that took back the legal right of marriage for same-sex couples, Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese gave a call-to-action alongside his own message of hope:

"In recent years, I've been delivering this positive message: tell your story. Share who you are. And in fact, as our families become more familiar, support for us increases. But make no mistake: I do not think we have to audition for equality. Rather, I believe that each and every one of us who has been hurt by this hateful ballot measure, and each and every one of us who is still fighting to be equal, has to confront the neighbors who hurt us. We have to say to the man with the Yes on 8 sign—you disrespected my humanity, and I am not giving you a pass. I am not giving you a pass for explaining that you tolerate me, while at the same time denying that my family has a right to exist. I do not give you permission to say you have me as a "gay friend" when you cast a vote against my family, and my rights.

"Wherever you are, tell a neighbor what the California Supreme Court so wisely affirmed: that you are equal, you are human, and that being denied equality harms you materially. Although I, like our whole community, am shaken by Prop 8's passage, I am not yet ready to believe that anyone who knows us as human beings and understands what is at stake would consciously vote to harm us.

"This is not over. In California, our legal rights have been lost, but our human rights endure, and we will continue to fight for them."

He reminds us that we must both hope for and work for a better future. One thing that Proposition 8 and Initiative 1 (the amendment that voters in Arkansas passed, which prohibits adoption and foster care by unmarried, co-habitating individuals) taught us is that we cannot expect our rights to simply be handed to us. Throughout American history equal rights for oppressed groups have rarely been popular causes and have virtually never been handed over without the hard work and perseverance of those oppressed populations and their allies. Would integration have happened if it had been put to a vote? Would the voters in Virginia or Mississippi or Alabama have said "Yes" to interracial marriage had it been put to a vote years ago? Would women have earned the right to vote without the picket lines, the hunger strikes and the lobbying of countless suffragists? And had those issues been put to a vote, and had equal rights been denied, should those groups have thrown up their hands and said, "Oh well, the majority doesn't want it"? As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed."

As Joe Solmonese reminds us, our human rights still endure. We are still people of worth; we are not second-class citizens. And we must believe that, no matter what the majority is telling us. We cannot give up, even in the face of defeat. Let us be reminded that in 2000, Californians voted on the marriage issue with a margin of 61.4% to 38.6%. This time the vote was 52% to 48%. It is reassuring, but also reminds us that there is still work to be done, to change the hearts and minds of those who would vote to harm gay and lesbian individuals and families. We can remember these words also written by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous letter. He reminds us that time itself is neutral and that, "Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men ... We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy."

It is important that the LGBT communities consider how this work is to be done. For, as Audre Lorde once said, the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. There has been much talk about the sexism, racism, transphobia, etc. that has kept the gay rights movement from being truly cohesive. There have also been criticisms of some of the violent tactics used by small groups of individuals protesting Prop. 8, etc. If we act in hate and violence, we cannot win. I believe that this is a cause that will win through love and understanding. But how can we expect the world to understand and love us, if we cannot understand and love one another? The coming together of LGBT individuals, as well as straight allies, following Prop. 8's passing was encouraging to me. But there is much change still needed within the movement if we ever hope to have victory.

And while we continue our struggle for equality, we must always maintain our hope. As Harvey Milk said 30 years ago, "You cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living."

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Here's a rockin' new music duo with a great sound. Uh Huh Her (not to be confused with the PJ Harvey album of the same name) is made up of lesbian icon Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey, a musician who has contributed her bass and keyboard talents to artists such as Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes. Hailey, best known for her fabulous acting in the role of Alice Pieszecki on Showtime's hit series The L Word, actually began her musical career years ago in the pop duo The Murmurs, which had somewhat of a cult following in the 90s. She left the music world after joining The L Word, but last year decided to make her comeback. She joined up with Grey and Uh Huh Her was born. They released an EP I See Red in 2007, and their first full-length album, Common Reaction was just released this past August.

Their sound has been described as "electropop" with one review stating, "Listening to the electronic-pop / neo-new wave sound of "Common Reaction" is like the feeling you have when drifting in and out of consciousness; the place in between being awake and dreaming. The ladies’ sweet, and sometimes haunting, vocals arouse your senses and leave your body fully stimulated." Says another reviewer of the album, "Remarkably well-versed in ‘80s sonic textures, the duo have crafted a tight-knit sound based on the interplay of Hailey’s breathy alto and instrumentalist Camila Grey’s angelic harmonies."

But it's not just the music on their album that's notable: apparently the two are something to see in concert. I guess I will find out for myself when I see them perform in Minneapolis on November 5th, after which I will report back with a personalized report on the live experience. Until then, check out their MySpace page or watch this video of them performing an acoustic version of one of my favorites ("Wait Another Day") on the AfterEllen vlog, Liz Feldman's "This Just Out."

Sunday, September 7, 2008


How does John McCain get away with criticizing the Bush Administration and "taking on" the GOP when he voted with them 90% of the time in the past couple of years and with the Republican party in general the majority of the time during his many years in the Senate. The way that he is creating this fake Maverick persona for himself just disgusts me. He has the "Straight Talk" express, yet he is anything but straightforward about who he is and where he really stands on issues. He is a CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN! On social issues, on economic issues ... he is NOT a moderate!! He says, "Change is coming", but let's not forget that it was only last year that the Democrats finally took back the House and Senate. For the better part of eight years this country has been completely controlled by individuals with the exact same values as McCain. Electing him would create no type of change in this country.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I'm doing something that I rarely do (and I really, really mean that!) -- I am changing my position on something that I actually felt strongly enough to blog about! Back in May I wrote about Katy Perry's hit song "I Kissed a Girl", deriding it as exploitation of lesbian sexuality. Let me say right off that I still think that the song commercializes on the excitement and controversy surrounding same-sex lovin' without effecting any type of positivity about actual lesbian sexual orientation. It's made pretty clear that the song is about a straight girl experimenting, thereby ridding it of any real "gay pride" theme. But I'll say this for the song: it certainly has showcased society's overwhelming homophobia as well as some incredible double standards. In fact, I have experienced such a mixture of disgust, offense and amusement at some of the things that I have heard and read that I felt compelled to write something in support of a song that I only recently heavily critiqued.

Since the song is so popular and chart-topping, it is on the radio constantly. And this means that parents who listen to the radio with their kids have had to make some decisions. Option one is to change the channel, which a lot of people seem to be doing since it is apparently too "scarring" and "confusing" for their eight-year-old to hear another girl singing, "I kissed a girl and I liked it." The popularity of such a song might pressure their darling daughter into feeling like she has to kiss another girl to be cool!! God forbid!

Let's just examine this first concept for a moment. The idea here is that it is not appropriate to discuss "alternative" sexualities with kids at such young ages. If kids are allowed to hear an explicity "lesbian-ish" song, their parents will have to then explain to them about heterosexuality and homosexuality and clearly talking to kids about gay people is just too inappropriate. After all, telling your child that some people love people of the same sex, is basically the equivalent of drawing them a diagram of sexual positions, right? And if they know that this type of lifestyle is an "option" what's to keep them from trying it? A much better idea is to never bring it up so that when they are confronted with it when they are older, they default to fear and intolerance.

I find people's hysteria over their children hearing this song to be extremely humorous. I mean, the song is about kissing for god's sake! It's not about oral sex or anything actually inappropriate, which makes it perfectly easy to explain to a child who has been raised in a tolerant and understanding household. Let's take my little sister for instance. From the time that she was a toddler, she has been raised to understand that there are all types of families and that love comes in many different forms. This song is not so confusing to her. In her eyes it is no more sexual than a song about a girl that enjoys kissing her boyfriend.

Which brings me to my next point. It seems like many people have some type of paranoia that by listening to this song, their daughters will want to experiment with girls as well. Personally I say, big deal! There certainly are worse things to be experimenting with. Now I don't have children yet, but I am absolutely positive that if I had a daughter and she told me that she had experimented with kissing another girl, I would be happy that she was brave enough to explore who she really was. I know of people who after that type of experimentation have found the answers to a lot of questions regarding their sexuality. I know of lasting relationships that have evolved out of what one person thought was just going to be an experiment. We should
be encouraging our children to explore their sexuality -- not repressing their curiosities. That's how we wind up with a whole lot of self-loathing closet-case gays and lesbians.

If Katy Perry's song makes every girl in America go out and hook up with another girl that would be awesome. Why? Because here is what I think would happen: about 90% of those girls who be like, "Hmm that was (insert adjective -- fun/interesting/gross). Now I know what that's like." And they will never do it again. But maybe around 10% (or maybe more) will be like, "Huh. I've never felt that way before when I kissed (insert boyfriend/ex-boyfriend/etc.). This explains a lot." And maybe those girls will be set down a path of self-discovery that takes some women years -- if not their entire lives -- to go down.

And that is really scary for a lot of people in America who don't want little gay girls to realize their sexuality before ... well, ever. So they have aneurysms over fun-loving, innocent songs of experimentation such as Katy Perry's while completely ignoring the fact that the lyrics of most other "popular" songs are wildly more inappropriate and have the potential to do a lot more psychological harm than a tune called "I Kissed a Girl."

Therein lies the double standard. The most scandalous thing about the song in question is the gender of the two individuals doing the kissing. Let's look at some of the other songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Coming in at #2, after "I Kissed a Girl" is Lil Wayne's "Lollipop." Here are some of the genius lyrics of that song: Man she ain't never / Had a love like mine / But man I ain't never / Seen an ass like hers / That pussy in my mouth / Had me loss for words / Told her to back it up / Like berp berp / And I made that ass jump. Here's some of the words from #8 on the charts, "Bust It Baby Part 2": I juss gave her a nick-name it's wet-wet / Cause when we finish she mess up all the bedsets / She got sommin' to relax me when I'm under stress. Then we have the Pussycat Dolls song "When I Grow Up" (#13) which has lyrics such as Now I've got a confession / When I was young I wanted attention / And I promised myself that I'd do anything / Anything at all for them to notice me ... When I grow up / I wanna be famous / I wanna be a star / I wanna be in movies.

And it isn't just lyrics that explicitly objectify women, glorify violence, adovcat
e materialism and narcissism, drugs, promiscuous sex ... the majority of young female pop stars are singing songs about boys while extremely scantily clad -- sending out the messages that (1) women are defined by their relationships to men and (2) a woman's body is her greatest asset. If parents want something to get upset about -- THAT is something to be upset about. But instead they laugh when their five-year-old shakes her booty to Fergie's "My Lumps" and gasp while changing the station when they hear "Us girls we are so magical / Soft skin, red lips, so kissable / Hard to resist so touchable / Too good to deny it / Ain't no big deal, it's innocent."

Well I'm not changing the radio station and I will happily listen to the "Bicurious girl's anthem", not because it's catchy (although it is) and not because I think Katy Perry has some actual talent (although she does) but because FOX News thinks it's going to make girls kiss each other. I'm hoping. We could use a bit more gaiety in this world.

And Katy Perry, you may be just a straight girl finding fame through sexual ambiguity but bless you for throwing this issue in people's faces. You've made kissing girls cool and pissed off a lot of people while doing it. Keep on rockin!

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Yesterday there was an envelope in my mailbox from the IRS. I got all excited thinking that it was my stimulus check. Despite my misgivings about the efficacy of the whole stimulus package, I'm still a poor 23-year-old. Anyway, it was not my stimulus check. It was a letter telling me that my stimulus check would be arriving in a couple of days.

WTF?! The government really needed to waste the paper and other resources to send letters out to tell people that their stimulus packages would be arriving in THREE DAYS?? I'm so delighted to see that while we can't shell out the money to pay for things like health care or better education, we can apparently waste money on postage and envelopes for several million people. It's nice to see how wisely money is being spent here in America.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


The current #2 song on the iTunes singles chart is the new song "I Kissed a Girl" by up-and-comer Katy Perry (visit her Myspace page here). Now one might think that a song like this is one that the lesbian community can get behind. But, as popular gay blogger Dorothy Snarker comments, "Like everything else it’s all about the context. Are these two drunk girls surrounded by cheering frat boys? Yeah, no thanks. Or are these two women who are genuinely interested in each other." So one really needs to examine the lyrics of Katy Perry's song to determine precisely what kind of song this is. And as it turns out, Katy's song seems to be what AfterEllen writer Malinda Lo christens as a theme song for straight girls who get drunk "and make out with their straight girlfriends while they're out at a club (or in a hot tub) with their boyfriends."

At first the song doesn't seem so bad. It is catchy and upbeat and as Malindo Lo remarks, "The chorus, 'I kissed a girl and I liked it,' repeats often enough that it gives the song a kind of (fake) Gay Pride feel." Lo continues by analyzing the lyrics of the song:

This was never the way I planned
Not my intention
I got so brave, drink in hand
Lost my discretion
It's not what I'm used to
Just wanna try you on
I'm curious for you
Caught my attention

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry Chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it

No, I don't even know your name
It doesn't matter
You're my experimental game
Just human nature
It's not what good girls do
Not how they should behave
My head gets so confused
Hard to obey

As she says, the song is stereotypically bicurious. In the song Katy alludes to having a boyfriend, as though it isn't cheating to kiss someone else if that someone else is a girl. She furthermore says that "it's not what good girls do" and implies that she's only doing this because she's drunk. Like Lo states, it is implied that "kissing another girl is only something you'd do after you lose control of your decision-making faculties."

Just recently Katy released a music video for the song which pretty much confirms that this song is designed more for male titillation than for supporting the right of girls to kiss girls.

On top of all the girls lounging around in their fishnet stockings and lingerie, having pillow
fights, there is also not even any actual kissing going on. As Dorothy Snarker comments, this seems to be a strange omission.

Another popular song of Katy's is "Ur So Gay" which is described as "a bitchy
kiss-off to an ex-boyfriend, in which Katy derides him as a Hemingway-reading vegetarian who drives an electrical car, concluding, 'You're so gay and you don't even like boys.'" Some could argue that these songs of Katy's and her video are meant to be campy (play on stereotypes in a fun way). But Malinda Lo asserts, "I don't think 23-year-old Katy Perry has the right, yet, to make gay jokes. She needs to wear a lot more sequins and way higher heels for about a dozen more years. I mean, she's using a homophobic slur repeatedly, going so far as to explain that the word is actually meant as a slur and not as a description of homosexuality." It's not right for a young, straight woman to capitalize on the gay "lifestyle" by essentially poking fun at it.

Dorothy Snarker compared Katy's "I Kissed a Girl" to another song by the same name, the 1995 hit by Jill Sobule. Jill's song, unlike Katy's, actually portrays kissing a girl as somewhat of a sexual awakening. It could be used as a coming-out type song. It starts out with two friends discussing how their relationships with their boyfriends are not satisfying and then segues into the two girls realizing an attraction for one another. Then:

And we laughed at the world

They can have their di
And we'll have our pearls
I kissed a girl

I kissed a girl, her lips were sweet
She was just like kissing me
I kissed a girl, won't change the world

But I'm so glad I kissed a girl

Now that's more along the lines of a song that lesbians can get behind. Unfortunately songs like Jill's are not being promoted at the moment. Instead we get Katy's immensely popular bicurious anthem. And Katy is just the type of artist that is all the rage right now -- pretty (she looks sort of like the lovechild of Zooey Deschanel and Emily Blunt), fashionable (in a very hipster way) and what seems to be an authentically talented musician. I just hope that in the future she steers clear of further exploitation of lesbian sexuality.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Back in January I wrote a defense of teen pop-star Miley Cyrus after some so-called "lesbian" pictures of her and a friend began to circulate the internet. This was after another entry from last July where I listed Miley as one of the young stars representing hope for Hollywood's future. Now I find myself eating my words after both her recent Vanity Fair photo shoot and more leaked photos of her posing provocatively.

I have heard the varying arguments on the Vanity Fair thing. I know that some people are saying that it's "beautiful" and "artistic". Okay. If we are speaking in the technical sense then, yes, it is artistic rather than pornographic or whatever. But whether it is an artsy photo or not, the fact still remains that she is a fifteen-year-old girl and the vast majority of her fans are under the age of 10. I know that she is supposedly wearing a nude shirt under the sheet or something like that, but it still gives the illusion that she is naked. In what world is it not erotic to be posing wrapped in what appears to be nothing but a sheet? Whatever the excuses, this is still so obviously intended to be a sensual photograph and I think it is wildly inappropriate.

I think that it is natural for a fifteen-year-old girl to express her sexuality. However, to me, owning one's sexuality means being comfortable with, proud of and aware of one's body. A fifteen-year-old girl expressing her sexuality should not come in the form of her body being sexualized in a way that promotes some type of weird voyeurism in a culture that seems obsessed with the infantilization of beauty. I don't want it to seem like I am trying to say that there is something shameful about the female body. There isn't. The female body should be celebrated -- a belief that I think I have pretty consistently advocated. But as my previous point indicates, I don't think this is an appropriate way of doing that.

I know that Miley has spoken out about this photo and said that she didn't realize, blah blah blah and that she is "so embarrassed." I don't believe that for one second, and Vanity Fair has said that Miley's parents and/or handlers were on set the whole time and saw and approved of the digital version of the photograph. Making Miley's statements even less believable are her newest leaked photos:

The excuse that they were "private photos" and were never intended for the world to see only really works once. By now I think this girl should be smart enough to realize that nothing she does is really ever going to be private. Yeah that sucks, but it's the truth. So why is she continuing to take provocative photos of herself when she has to know that everyone in the world is going to end up seeing them? I don't care what she does in private, but I do care about the image she presents to the world -- an image that millions of little girls are going to emulate. Little girls like my six-year-old sister. I don't think it's really appropriate for a fifteen-year-old to be a sex symbol under any circumstance, but I think it's even less appropriate for a fifteen-year-old girl to be publicly sexualizing herself when she is meant to be an icon for young children.

Furthermore, this all indicates a certain amount of hypocrisy in Miley's and her family's supposed values. In the past she has spoken out against sex before marriage, stating that she believes in "purity." She has also openly spoken about being a "Christian" (read: born-again Christian). Now I have a real problem with Evangelical Christian "values" to begin with, so I don't really care whether she is following them. But it is annoying for me to hear her say on the one hand that she wants to remain "pure" until marriage and then on the other hand to see her displaying her body for every pervert, pedophile and adolescent boy (or girl!). Is she trying to say that the only thing sacred about the female body is the hymen? So much for being wholesome.

The whole thing really bothers me because I wanted to believe that she really was a good role model and might actually make it through her stardom untainted. But I was wrong. But, you know, at least the other young women that I wrote about last summer still seem to remain good role models. Of course, Emma Watson and Raven Symone have never reached the legendary superstar status of "Hannah Montana". So, can a young girl really become so famous, so fast without making these types of mistakes? In our society can a girl really be under such intense scrutiny without eventually engaging in some type of exhibitionism? It seems like the answer is maybe no, but I really couldn't say. Miley seems to be one-of-a-kind in the way that things have happened for her.

But then again, all of this attention and focus on Miley and on "fallen" stars such as Britney and Lindsay really takes a lot of attention away from the fact that there are many young women who grew up on film or on TV and didn't make these types of mistakes. Those girls and women are too often forgotten, and certainly don't get enough credit. They really should be cited more often as evidence that fame is not a guarantee of dysfunction.

Hilary Duff, a young woman who never reached Miley's level of fame, but who has followed a similar career trajectory as the fifteen-year-old, was very diplomatic when speaking about Cyrus' Vanity Fair shoot: "People are pushing you to do something, and if you want to do it, that's your choice, you know? It's not what I would choose to do, but if she did then that's fine. That's her choice." The notable part of her statement being "It's not what I would choose to do." Duff, now 20, is no longer an icon for little girls, but from the ages of fourteen to sixteen she starred in the popular Disney Channel series Lizzie McGuire, making her a household name among girls aged seven to fourteen. During her Disney years she also starred in a Disney Channel Original Film, Cadet Kelly, which at that time became the most watched program in the Channel's history. She went on to star in several films which, thanks to Duff's popularity among young girls, ended up being quite successful at the box office. In 2002 she began a music career, with her albums being popular within the tween and teen audience. In 2007 she was listed as #7 in Forbes "Top 20 Earners Under 25." She has also made it onto Maxim's Hot 100 list. Although I have a big problem with that stupid list, I guess it shows that guys think she's sexy.

Even during Hilary Duff's years of high popularity, she always managed to maintain a pretty wholesome image, even when she was dating Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden at the tender age of 17 (he's nine years her senior). Even now that she's no longer a minor, she has managed to be sexual while still leaving something to the imagination. Just take her Maxim photo shoot from last year. The cover is about as revealing as it gets.

But even if she had wanted to be more revealing, it doesn't matter anymore. She's 20 and no longer a Disney Channel star. The important thing is that when she was, she was never caught up in the type of controversy that Miley has found herself in.

There are plenty of other examples of former child/teen stars who managed to avoid controversy during their younger years (Natalie Portman, Raven, Mandy Moore, Emma Watson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anna Paquin, Christina Ricci, Melissa Joan Hart, Soleil Moon Frye, Scarlett Johansson, Jena Malone, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amanda Bynes, Tia and Tamera Mowry, and Reese Witherspoon. Even the Olsen Twins kept it clean during their early years). So let's give them some credit and remember that not everyone is doomed for failure.

Fame is not an excuse for bad behavior and poor judgment. As Mandy Moore says in reference to her own life, "
It’s a choice to put yourself out there in such a public way, and I really don’t thrive on that attention." I'd like to end by linking to an awesome article about Natalie Portman, which gives her "formula" for success. The writer of the article makes perhaps one of the most important points in point number one (Be Smart):

"Lots of starlets can say they did a hot photo spread for Maxim. But how many can claim to
have co-written a research paper that was published in a scientific journal? Portman did it — twice.

But being smart isn’t just about having a bachelor’s degree in psychology and speaking several languages. Portman is smart about her image. She traversed two minefields early on — she wasn’t just a child actress, she was a child actress playing sexually precocious roles in “The Professional” and “Beautiful Girls” — but came out unscathed.

How? Well, ta
ke a look at her behavior. Does she say moronic things to interviewers? No. Does she embarrass herself publicly? Never. Do you see much of her in the press when she’s not out plugging a movie? Are her personal habits and relationships analyzed and deconstructed throughout the tabloids? Nuh-uh. And that’s because you can avoid that stuff if you want to. But you have to want not to be photographed all the time. And that’s smart."

I couldn't have said it any better myself. If only Miley were listening.