A Great Concert For Newtown, A Good Time For You.

Yesterday I had a lot of fun writing and posting a column about the new musical video that the New York Gays Against Guns group has put up on YouTube.  So in the interests of giving everyone equal opportunity to strut their stuff on my website, I’m going to use this column to promote another gay event on gun violence, in this case a concert to benefit the Newtown Action Alliance which will take place this coming Monday, February 20 in New York.

disarm             But this concert isn’t being held at just any old theater or concert hall; it’s going to happen at The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in the heart of Greenwich Village, and I can’t tell you the memories that the Stonewall brings back to me.  Because it was a police raid of this gay bar on June 28, 1969, that precipitated a bunch of spontaneous demonstrations (referred to by the denizens of law and order as ‘riots’) that probably marked the public emergence of the ‘gay rights’ movement and led to the triumphs (and still some frustrations) experienced by the LGBTQ community today.

In 1993 I was in San Francisco on business, it was a Friday evening and I was sick of going back to the Beverly Hills Hotel to eat yet one more Marriott-catered meal.  So I asked someone where I could get a really good, home-cooked meal with some interesting conversation to boot, and he told me to go to the gay and lesbian synagogue in the Castro district which had a pot-luck dinner after the service every Friday night. So there I am after the service, standing in front of this great, pot-luck buffet, eating my head off and talking to whomever would talk to me. And one of my conversations was with a guy who had moved out to San Francisco from Brooklyn because, as he told me, his parents were Orthodox and he couldn’t break their hearts by staying in New York and coming out gay. He told me that even though he had to entirely remake his life with a certain amount of anxiety and fear, he had ultimately done the right thing.

Later that evening as I was back at my hotel I wondered how many people were like this guy, born before mainstream culture was accepting of gays, having to live a shadow life or change everything in order to come out.  What did Obergefell v. Hodges mean to someone like him?  It’s a question I ask myself from time to time but the answer tells me that just because something is difficult, just because progress seems to be interminably slow, don’t ever assume that things won’t change. And this is how we have to think about ending gun violence – things can change.

Which is why I’m so happy that the concert for Newtown is taking place at the Stonewall Inn.  And what a concert it’s going to be. Dig this: Cate Blanchett’s the headliner in what they are calling a ‘Broadway Review,’ and Jason Hayes, who put together the Disarm Hate rally in DC last year, will also be working this gig.  I don’t know the rest of the lineup but what’s the difference? It’s another opportunity to let the world know that gun violence, like gay rights, isn’t something to be swept into the closet and never discussed, which is what Gun-nut Nation hopes to occur.

Because the truth is that reason that gun violence continues to plague our communities is because those of us who want to reduce it don’t make enough noise.  Now don’t get me wrong. The gun violence prevention (GVP) community works very hard and many GVP advocates have devoted their lives and their energies to pushing GVP issues to the fore.  But what made LGBTQ a mainstream issue was when the mainstream decided to support the cause. And GVP needs to engage more folks from the mainstream in order to win their fight.

MONDAY – SEPTEMBER 20 – THE STONEWALL – GREENWICH STREET – NEW YORK

 

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Liberals And Gays Getting Into Guns? That’s What The BBC Says.

Earlier this week I gave an award to a writer for GQ for the dumbest article about guns written this year. But today I happened to read another article which might be not quite as dumb, but certainly just as uninformed. And this is an article which appeared on BBC (you really can’t blame Brits for not knowing anything about small arms) and purports to explain a sudden, mad rush for gun ownership on the part of liberals and gays, two groups who traditionally have never felt any affinity for guns.

liberals              Of course the reason for this new-found interest in arming themselves is not because liberals or gays are worried about their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’  To the contrary, they claim to be scared of physical attacks from the fervent followers of our soon-to-be President who, after all, is a 2nd-Amendment freak.  And there are even some folks out there, according to the intrepid BBC reporter, Brian Wheeler, who are stocking their survival shelters because the unthinkable has now become thinkable under Donald Trump.

As far as I can tell, Wheeler’s never written about guns, but then again, it’s not like his audience would know whether he’s faking the whole thing or not. When he quotes, for example, a lady from Pink Pistols, the gay and lesbian gun group, who says that the group’s members feel harassed at the range, this is exactly the reverse of what the same lady said about LGBT shooters being accepted in a story that ran after the massacre at The Pulse. As for the survivalists who believe that the Apocalypse is just around the corner, those nuts don’t need an election or anything else to explain the virtues of freeze-dried food.

The silliest part of the article is an embedded video with America’s official liberal gun guy, the author Dan Baum, who published a book back in 2013 that was intended to explain to liberal readers (Dan has written about guns for Harpers, among other liberal mags) that people who like guns just aren’t all that bad.  And to prove this he went across the country interviewing various gun nuts who, as it turned out, happened to be more or less normal people just like you and me.  The book actually reads like a screenplay for a Michael Moore movie, but the best part is when Dan describes how he anguished for months over deciding what kind of handgun to carry after he got a CCW permit in Colorado only to discover that the gun he bought was too heavy to carry around.  So much for Dan the Gun Guy.

The penultimate proof that liberals are flocking to gun ownership is a long spiel about the activities of the Liberal Gun Club, a California-based organization to which I once briefly belonged.  They claim to have members in all 50 states, and according to their website, their goal is to “to provide a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legislation, firearms safety, and shooting sports.” And while they claim to be non-partisan, in fact they oppose virtually every piece of state-level gun legislation, including California’s Prop. 63.  Whether it’s Half-and-Half or Ronald Reagan, everything that’s stupid starts in California and moves East.  The Liberal Gun Club is no exception to that rule and if Wheeler really believes that this bunch represents a shift of liberals toward liking guns, good for him, he found a few liberals who like guns.

Wheeler’s shabby attempt to give us a ‘new’ perspective on gun ownership will become, I suspect, a not-unusual approach that journalists who are paid by how many words they write will employ in the Age of Trump.  Because in a country as large and diverse as ours, it’s not very difficult to find a few people here and there who have been ignored by liberal-leaning culture and now, thanks to Trump, can have their moment in the sun.  And a moment is exactly what it is.

 

Some Gays Think They Need To Protect Themselves With Guns. I Don’t Agree.

One of the things I like about July 4th is that everyone’s out there having a good time.  So I am going to have a good time, too.  And since what I enjoy doing more than anything is writing, I spend part of the July 4th holiday writing something that I know will piss some people off. Which is why I usually go after something having to do with Gun-nut Nation because it’s so easy to piss them off.  And today I’m going to go after a subset of Gun-nut Nation, which is the queer Gun-nut Nation, a.k.a. a phony little group known as the Pink Pistols, and I’m not going to be either polite or politically-correct in what I’m going to say.

guns gays           I think it’s a tremendous step forward that an alliance is forming between the Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) community and LGBTQ.  If nothing else, I hope it will allow me to stop spelling out the GVP acronym as this alliance matures and grows.  But as I have said previously, the strength that LGBTQ brings to the issue of gun violence isn’t just one of numbers, it’s much more one of organizational experience and smarts.  When it comes to changing hearts and minds about a serious issue, LGBTQ has been there, done that, more times and in more places than I could ever know.

But the bad news about this alliance is that once attention starts getting paid to the issue of gays and guns, you can be sure that everyone will try to get in on the act.  And the curtain was first raised by an article in the Washington Post which discussed the emerging GVP-LGBTQ connection but made a point, in the interests of course of fair and balanced journalism, to mention some LGBTQ ‘activists’ who have ‘vigorously embraced’ gun rights.  Four days later, WaPo ran a second, full-length article on a gay guy in Philly who has organized a Pink Pistols chapter with the help of a certified, NRA pistol instructor who also happens to be gay.

So I took a little time to read up on the Pink Pistols, in particular their 25-page organizational manual which tells you who they are, how they got started and what they hope to achieve.  And what they hope to achieve is a national movement that will respond to the ongoing anti-gay violence suffered by the LGBTQ community by getting every member of that community to walk around with a gun: “We are dedicated to the legal, safe and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community.”

This is a complete load of crap and because it’s a holiday weekend I’m being polite.  Sorry, but being ‘safe and responsible’ with firearms is an oxymoron that Gun-nut Nation has been trotting out ever since the issue of gun violence was first raised, and if you want to believe it, go right ahead.  You can also believe that Martians really did land at Area 51 or that Donald Trump will build a wall.

But the agenda of Pink Pistols doesn’t actually bear on facts or the truth, it’s nothing more than a warmed-over enchilada to get another non-gun population interested in joining and supporting the NRA.   Because if you take the trouble to read their manual you’ll discover that the only training they recommend is the NRA “Refuse To Be A Victim” course, which happens to be a course that doesn’t cover anything having to do with guns at all.  It’s basically a little seminar that builds on the idea that we are all vulnerable to crime, but the issue of crimes against the LGBTQ community isn’t mentioned once.  What a surprise.

Want to read something serious and honest about gays and guns? Take a look at the LGBTQ news blog The Advocate and, in particular, the article on ‘Gays and Guns,’ along with John Feinblatt’s commentary on what Orlando meant to him. Then have a safe and happy holiday – GVP/LGBTQ will get it on!!!

Gays Meet Gun Violence Prevention On August 13 — Be There!

Now that an alliance is emerging between the Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) community and LGBTQ, I think my friends who advocate for stronger gun regulations need to whether the regulations they support will really meet the needs, expectations and goals of both groups.  Because the good news is that this alliance merges the talents, energies and experiences of LGBTQ and GVP, but the issues faced by my gay gender friends were and are different than the agenda currently on the plates my friends who advocate for more regulations of guns.

gays against guns           The fact is that LGBTQ folks faced not only de-facto discrimination in past years, but in many cases had to confront legal discrimination as well. Want to marry someone of the same gender? It couldn’t be done.  Want to give a same-sex partner legal claim to your property or your estate?  It couldn’t be done.  Want to bring a child into a household comprised of two gay women or men?  Couldn’t be done.

So we aren’t talking here about the terrible inconvenience of driving to the local gun shop in order to complete a private sale or transfer of Uncle Ted’s old shotgun; we aren’t forcing anyone to sit through a couple of hours of tedious lectures in order to qualify to walk around town with a gun; we aren’t even saying that the Glock in someone’s pocket can only hold 10 rounds.  The NRA prides itself on being America’s ‘oldest’ civil rights organization, but their concern for civil rights and equality never addressed the inequality that dogged life-styles of men and women who happen to be gay.

In fact, there happens to be a gay, gun-rights organization out there called the Pink Pistols, which claims to have 45 chapters nationwide with more ‘starting up’ every day.  The Pittsburgh group has 39 members, the New York City group claims 223, in Dallas there are 106 folks who have signed on; actually these are all folks who have joined Pink Pistol groups on Facebook – who knows how many of them actually own guns?  Of course the national organization felt compelled to issue a statement after Orlando and of course felt equally compelled to use the Orlando tragedy to promote the ‘armed citizen’ nonsense that has become the basic talking-point of the NRA.  But I’ll give these folks some credit for coming up with a new twist on the stupidity and recklessness of armed, personal defense, namely that in localities that prohibit mixing guns and alcohol, exceptions should be made for ‘designated’ concealed carriers of guns.  Okay, now let’s get back to reality.

And the reality is this:  On August 13 there is going to be a big rally in Washington, DC that will cement the alliance between Gun Violence Prevention and LGBT. It’s being billed as an event to promote LGBTQ Equal Rights and Realistic Gun Law Reform and there are already 25 national gay-rights and GVP organizations signed up in support.  One of the gay groups, Gays Against Guns, formed directly after the Orlando massacre and marched in New York’s Pride parade.  Move over Pink Pistols, your concerns about gun rights just won’t fly.

The August 13 event is the brainchild and handiwork of a gay activist, Jason Hayes, who bills himself as a ‘celebrity hairstylist’ and lives in New Jersey but he’s a lot more than that.  Jason has brilliantly tapped into a wellspring of emotion and LGBTQ desire to promote yet another fundamental change.  And the LGBTQ community knows something about change.

But I want to what I said up top, namely, that LGBTQ folks come to this struggle with a very clear understanding of what inequality means, whereas on the GVP side the issue of ‘rights’ is what we always hear from Gun-nut Nation, rather than the other way around. So we need a meeting of the minds before August 13th and we also need as many minds as possible to meet on what will be an historic day.

Gun Violence Prevention + LGBTQ Versus NRA: Guess Who Wins?

Now that I am long past the age when I could have started collecting Social Security, I sometimes enjoy thinking about how my memory about various issues and people is at variance with folks who are younger than me.  For example, I first got interested in politics during the 1960 Presidential election; most of the people who will read this column weren’t alive back then.  And what’s a little scary for me is that the timeline between what I experienced first-hand and what others now only know from what people of my age remember continues to move forward.

LGBTQ           A perfect example of the change in cultural values between what I earlier experienced and what is now reality is the issue of LGBT, or what is now called LGBTQ. Because I remember when, in high school, a few kids were called ‘queer,’ and that was the only mention of alternate gender I ever heard.  And I remember in college that a few boys began calling themselves ‘gay,’ but they didn’t say it out loud.  And I remember back in 1990 talking to a gay man who was originally born in New York but moved to San Francisco so that he could ‘come out’ and not drive his parents to despair.

Now I’m not saying that the fact that same-sex marriage is now law of the land (or at least most of the land) necessarily changes minds or souls.  If we have learned one thing from Street Thug’s Presidential campaign, it’s that racist feelings are alive and well more than 60 years after ‘separate but equal’ was struck down. But to deny a major shift in cultural attitudes regarding gender roles is either to deny reality or simply shows that someone came of age after the shift began to occur.  And this is where, when it comes to Gun Violence Prevention, the rubber needs to meet the road.

Because the fact is that while a majority of Americans don’t own guns, and a majority of Americans support common-sense gun regulations like background checks on private gun sales, a majority of Americans also believe that having a gun around the house makes you safe.  And as long as we continue to support this basic, cultural consensus about guns, the easier it will be for Gun-nut Nation to sell the argument that guns should be considered just another normal, mainstream consumer item that we all should own and use.  After all, you can buy a new pistol for about the same price as a droid, and a Glock 42 is smaller than a Rubic’s Cube.

So when all is said and done, what is needed is not just a change in regulations, but a change in culture, which will lead to a change in the definition of ‘safe,’ which will make it easier to make changes in gun regulations that will keep us all truly safe. And who is better equipped than the LGBTQ community when it comes to promoting cultural change over the last twenty years?

Which is why I am so heartened by reports starting to circulate that many LGBTQ organizations are beginning to shift their focus to the issue of guns. There’s a great statement by LGBTQ Nation on their website; the largest LGBT national organization – Human Rights Campaign – has just announced it will focus its energies on gun violence; and there now appears to be momentum building for the LGBTQ-Gun Reform March on Washington scheduled for August 13.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Senate vote this week and I care but I really don’t care.  Because the momentum created by the Orlando tragedy won’t go away.  And let’s not forget that when LGBTQ began its historic push for cultural change, many of Gun-nut Nation’s best friends (right-wing Evangelicals, political conservatives) tried to block their way. Guess what?  They lost.  And if LGBTQ gets behind gun violence prevention, Gun-nut Nation will lose that one, too.