Saturday, September 2nd, 2006
I start to remember in shards, pieces of glass that rip my skin and leave marks. I find tight little cuts all over: one on my left breast, grazing the nipple, and one that starts just below my left eyebrow and turns across my nose to the light brown line of my upper lip. Another is on my back, burning from the base of my spine over the soft roundness of the right cheek of my behind. Yet another one, trying to scab, unable to heal, is buried on my scalp. These are the memories like a broken bottle, memories I can't speak because the glass gets caught in my throat, ripping it, too. I circle these glinty flashes from above for days, weeks, before I can find a way to sit down with them alone in my room, in front of the computer. From my lofty perch they appear minor, mere scratches; it is only when I look closely that I seem them for what they are: self-mutilations and battle scars.
My last blog entry was in part about some bad writing I'd come across, so perhaps it's appropriate that this one be about some writing I am really liking. I'm reading Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, by Rebecca Walker. I'd never heard of Rebecca Walker until I took an English class where I read stuff by her mother and learned about feminist criticism and third wave feminism (which is where Rebecca Walker's name came up) and gender studies and other stuff. Doing research on Alice Walker for a project, I found that she'd been married to a white Jewish civil rights lawyer in the 1960s and that their daughter, Rebecca, had written an autobiography. I didn't have time to read it then, but I do now.

I've only just begun to read it, and though I'm not black, white and Jewish, nor a woman, nor have I lived in the South or New York City, I, like Walker, was born in the 60s and grew up in the 70s, and I remember Big Wheels and Baby Alive and Bubblicious and reading Forever by Judy Blume. And I remember having the right answers to teachers' questions in class and learning slowly that that didn't endear me to the other kids, and I remember having to deal with kids who wanted to beat me up, and I remember having crushes on boys who weren't interested in people like me. And I remember my parents divorcing and my mother needing comforting and being among my father's relatives who didn't know my mother or understand her. And I remember spending lots of time quietly observing people around me, trying to figure out the right way that I was supposed to act and respond.

My childhood wasn't horrible, and not all my memories are shards of glass, but I definitely get what Walker is saying, for I do have bits of broken bottle from the past inside me. She's done a lot of work extracting some of hers. I've done some, but a strategy I've used, for good or for bad, is that of leaving some of the glass alone. Certain pieces have worked their way down inside me, and I can walk around now without even being aware that they're there. Once in a while, though, at unexpected times, say when I shift in a chair while reading a book, a piece of glass inside me moves, and I remember.
Tuesday, September 5th, 2006
I'd like to say that I met my new congressman today, but that might be a bit optimistic. I did attend the grand opening of the campaign headquarters for Richard Chema, one of two Democrats running in the special primary to find a replacement candidate to oppose Mike Turner in the race for Ohio's third congressional district. I went because I wanted a chance to talk to Chema and also because his new office is in my old neighborhood.

I figured Chema would be okay on gay issues, but it's always nice to hear it directly and to see how comfortable a candidate is talking about it. I asked him where he stood on gay rights, and he said that he didn't believe "government belonged in the bedroom," an answer that's not entirely satisfying, so I followed up by asking whether he'd vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would add sexual orientation as a protected class, and he said he would, going on to talk a bit more about keeping government out of "the bedroom."

There are two problems with his immediately thinking of the bedroom when asked about gay rights. The first is that when the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas, they effectively got the government out of our bedrooms, so while I'm glad Chema agrees with that, it's not really a current issue. What's more important is that being gay's not just about sex, no matter how much the radical right would like everyone to think that, and no matter how often even progressive candidates like Chema think that subconsciously. Being gay, at least openly gay, is also about finding housing and jobs and public accomodations, and being in gay relationships is about providing for and protecting one another. Keeping the government out of our bedrooms isn't enough, which I think even Chema knows, although he's not at all articulate about it.
Saturday, September 16th, 2006
OK, it's official. Dick Chema will be running against Mike Turner in the November election to represent Ohio's 3rd district in Congress, having beat Charles Sanders handily in yesterday's special Democratic primary 5,263 (yes, one of those votes was mine) to 1,686, a 75% margin that might seem encouraging.

However, there are over 300,000 registered voters in the 3rd district, and less than 2% of them cared enough to vote for Chema. In May's primary election, Stephanie Studebaker for 12,363 votes, out of a total of 22,082 Democratic votes. Of course, more Democrats came out to vote in May since there was more to vote on. But in May's primary election, Mike Turner, running unopposed, got 35,511 Republican votes, or 62% of all the votes cast for 3rd district candidates. In November 2004, Turner beat Jane Mitakides 197,290 to 119,488, also by a margin of 62%.

So Chema's got quite a task in front of him over the next 7 weeks. Can he win just by convincing more Democrats to come out to vote? I doubt it. Can he get any Republicans to vote against Turner? It'd be quite surprising, wouldn't it?


By the way, why in God's name does the Montgomery County Board of Elections post election results in PDF format?
Tuesday, September 26th, 2006
Yesterday, after my friend Derek made me breakfast in his fabulous Twin Peaks apartment (pictures are in the galleries), I spent the day flying home from San Francisco, adding to my experience as a jaded world traveler.


Is this worth an extra $64?
From that experience I knew that it's good to check in online and print your boarding pass before you get to the airport. When I did that with United for my trip home, I was asked if I wanted to spend $64 to upgrade to Economy Plus seating. For an additional 25% of what I paid for my round trip tickets, I would get 5 extra inches of leg room on one segment of my trip home but no more elbow room (they still pack them in 9 across) and they'd still want an extra $5 to give me a box lunch! I declined. But checking in online did mean that when I got to the airport, I got to sail past all the hordes of people waiting to check in and had to wait behind only one other person to check a bag. Why more people don't check in online, I don't know.

The flight from SFO to ORD was uneventful. I had my snacks and my iPaq full of episodes of Brotherhood. On the way out to San Francisco I watched 4 episodes, and on the way back I watched 2 — I decided to nap some too on the way back.


Not a
terrorist weapon
We arrived on time at O'Hare, and I lucked out in that my United Express flight left from the C terminal, so instead of trekking over to the E terminal I had time to get some fries from McDonalds. I scarfed mine down before it was time to board, but the helpful gate agent announced over the PA that although food could be brought on board, beverages, of course, could not, nor could condiments such as salad dressings or ketchup, so "if you have ketchup, put it on before you board." A terrorist who heads to the onboard john with a fist full of condiment packets is obviously deadset on killing us all, but one who heads to the john with ketchup-soaked fries probably just wants to wash his hands.

Part of the irony about this is that by this time on Monday evening we all knew that in less than 24 hours the ban on dangerous liquids purchased in secure areas of airport terminals would be lifted. At 9pm on Monday the 25th, a packet of ketchup purchased at McDonald's in O'Hare's C terminal is a potentially deadly weapon, but at 8am on Tuesday the 26th it's not? And that's not even considering that TSA had no way to know whether I smuggled a packet onboard in my coat pocket, much as they can't seem to prevent Steven Levitt from endangering the lives of his fellow travelers by refusing to turn off his iPod when asked.

I got to Dayton safely and waited patiently in baggage claim only to discover, along with about 6 other happy travelers, that my checked bag had not made the trip with me. Waiting in line, I got to hear a disgruntled businessman in front of me harrass the poor woman at United's baggage counter about what he was supposed to do about getting contact lens solution at this hour (almost midnight) and whether United was going to reimburse him for his troubles. She truthfuly told him that they weren't going to do anything about that. Yay for corporate honesty. We've already taken your money, all the other airlines are as bad as us, so fuck you! Want to read more bad things about United? Check Michael Bluejay's rant or Untied.com.

When I got to the counter, I handed the woman my claim ticket, and she said, "What does your bag look like, Mr. Perkins?" Well, as I explained to her, my name's not Perkins. How did I get his claim ticket? It's what the agent in San Francisco gave me after accepting my bag. It never occurred to me to double-check her work. Apparently Mr. Perkins and my bag flew to Pittsburgh, but they'd ship my bag back to Dayton, assuming Mr. Perkins would part with it.

Today, I called United's baggage customer service number (800-221-6903) and waded through a bunch of options, only to have the friendly computer tell me they didn't have any information about my bag but that I could say "AGENT" if I wanted. So that's a new tip to add to my world traveler experience — if you call United, say "AGENT" right away, and don't bother talking to their computer. I got a nice friendly Indian woman who was able to report that my bag was in fact on its way to Dayton and would be arriving on flight 5806 at 1:25pm. They'll be kind enough to give it a ride home if it's willing to wait between 2 to 4 hours.
Tuesday, September 26th, 2006 #2
If you look at Diversity Dayton's archive of messages from its Yahoo Group, you'll see a gap over the past few days. I can understand why the group's moderator removed the messages, but sometimes information just wants to be free.
Wednesday, September 27th, 2006
Yesterday evening I attended a Community Conversation put on by the Centerville Washington Diversity Council at Centerville High School on "Gay & Lesbian Issues at the Intersection of Faith & Public Policy." I would not have chosen to go to this on my own — I'm way past the point where I need to hear the same tired arguments brought out by conservatives that homosexuality is wrong and homosexuals need compassion and cures — but my friend and pastor, Mike Castle, was on the panel and asked for people to come be in the audience to support him. Another friend and Cross Creeker called me at work a few hours before the event to see if I'd be going; he was worried about going alone. As you can see from the picture, he needn't have worried. Between Cross Creek and PFLAG there were lots of supportive people there.

Tom Harry
Tom Harry
Normandy United Methodist Church

John Bradosky
John Bradosky
Ephiphany Lutheran Church
Mike Castle
Mike Castle
Cross Creek Community Church

Paul Pyle
Paul Pyle
Dayton Christian High School
I suppose it's good that Centerville and Washington Twp. have a diversity council and that they're willing to discuss gay issues. Still the diversity of the panel selected for the program was a bit ironic — four white men, all Christian, all Protestant. That last bit was unplanned; Dr. Brad Kallenberg, professor of theology at the University of Dayton was originally supposed to be a panelist (no, wait, Kallenberg may actually also be a Protestant), but his spot was filled by Mr. Paul Pyle, who teaches Bible and Yearbook at Dayton Christian High School. Rounding out the panel, in addition to Mike, were the Rev. John Bradosky of Epiphany Lutheran Church and the Rev. Tom Harry of Normandy United Methodist Church. I hadn't met any of these other panelists before. It was only upon hearing about the event that I learned that Harry is the father of a friend of mine at Cross Creek, and it was only after googling Bradosky that I learned he is Centerville's official chaplain (thank God I don't pay Centerville taxes or I'd be pissed).

The format of the evening was that the moderator, WDTN's Marsha Bonhart, posed six questions (presumably written by the Diversity Council), each of which was answered by two panelists (one from each side). Then after a break there was a very brief time during which she read selected written questions from the audience for various panelists to answer. I liked how Bonhart started her duties as moderator; she said she had to be impartial but implied (especially later) that she personally supported the pro-gay side. Rather than echo the questions and responses, I'll highlight some points that caught my attention.

Homosexuality
is an
abomination
but
incest is not!
(You still
shouldn't
fuck kids!)
Bradosky talked about the holiness code found in Leviticus and pointed out that although lots of sexual behaviors are banned, such as adultery and incest, it is only homosexuality to which the term "to'ebah" or abomination is applied. Since Bradosky took such care to point that out, I suppose he feels that homosexuality is worse than incest. I guess it's refreshing that unlike most conservatives he sees a difference between incest and homosexuality.

Bradosky also went multiple times to the creation story in Genesis (surely he realizes there are two creation stories in Genesis) and said that since the story's all about God creating Man and Woman for each other, homosexuality must be wrong. Sex, he said, is about the reunion of two parts. Penises and vaginas fit together. Poor guy doesn't seem to realize that penises and rectums fit together too, as do penises and mouths.

Bradosky certainly knows the party line on homosexuality. Other old faithful points he trotted out include:
  • love the sinner and reject the sin
  • marriage has always been defined as heterosexual (hmm, well marriage hasn't always been defined as one man, one woman, though, has it?)
  • that the majority decides issues is the American way (too bad the majority in the South couldn't vote to continue slavery or Jim Crow laws?)
  • Scripture doesn't promise that life will be fair (hmm, I guess there's no need to work for justice here on Earth; just believe in Jesus and you'll get your rewards in heaven)
  • research on long-term same-sex marriage says such relationships last only 7 years, while the average heterosexual marriages last 21 years — pressed later for a source he said the Institute for Sex Research, which I couldn't find online (does he mean the old Institut für Sexualwissenschaft from Berlin? does he mean the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction?)
    What I did find online says that marriages last an average of 9.4 years, not 21.

Pyle did pretty good for his team too. He kept insisting on two things, that we have to live our lives by Biblical authority and that homosexual behavior leads to destructive behavior. Pyle does acknowledge that the Bible is silent on some "disputable matters" on which people may disagree, but lest we think that Jesus was silent about homosexuality, we need to remember that Jesus went back to Genesis to answer a question about divorce and Genesis is, as Pyle's teammate Bradosky already pointed out, all about Man and Woman fitting together, so actually Jesus said homosexuality is wrong without having to resort to so many words. In the words of the Church Lady, how convenient! that we have Pyle to interpret the Bible for us.

Responding to a later followup question about what he would do if a child of his came out as gay to him, Pyle told us about his daughter who suffers from mental illness and how he struggles to help her find counseling that will help her avoid destructive behaviors. It's obvious that Pyle didn't get the memo that the American Psychiatric Association doesn't consider homosexuality to be a mental illness and that he doesn't know a whole lot of gay people. After the forum, I went up to Pyle to invite him to come to Cross Creek where he can get to know some gay people whose lives aren't all about destructive behavior. (I suppose I should hope Pyle never finds the pics I took at Folsom, though he can find plenty of pics of heterosexuals engaged in destructive behavior too if he cares to look.)

Harry did an okay job explaining what he saw the purposes of marriage to be (procreation, faithfulness, sacrament which points to God's loving nature, and support/companionship) and explaining that procreation was more than fertilization but also nurturing and caring for children. I'm sure he came across as wildly secular humanistic though to the conservative members of the audience because when asked in a followup question what the authority for his beliefs was, he said he'd sort of come up with his views on his own (an honest answer which probably mirrors my own thoughts but not appealing to people who like Biblical Authority).

Mike personalized the issue, talking about his partner Dan and their children Gideon and Jamie, about how Dan wouldn't receive Social Security spousal benefits if Mike died and about the difficulty in providing legal protections for their non-heterosexual family. Oh well, in the words of Pastor Bradosky, "Scripture doesn't promise that life will be fair."
Saturday, September 30th, 2006
Well I took an hour and a half today and made some phone calls (80, to be precise) for MoveOn.org's Call for Change program. I don't know how much difference it will make, but it was fairly painless. The last time I did this kind of calling was in 1992, at a phone bank set up in a union office on a back street in the Oregon District. Now you don't need a phone bank — everyone just uses his or her cell phone, which is especially good because, since cell phone long distance is free, organizers can have volunteers call across the country to key districts.

All my numbers were area code 724, south west Pennsylvania, near West Virginia, places I'd never heard of, like Waynesburg and Carmichaels and Wind Ridge and Jefferson. So I was in Ohio calling on behalf of Bob Casey, who's running against Rick Santorum for Senate. Casey's adequate on gay issues (also a bit stupid on gay issues — he supports "same sex unions that would give gay couples all the rights, privileges and protections of marriage" but just doesn't want to call it marriage). However, Santorum is pure evil, so it felt good to do a little work towards getting him defeated. Don't forget, santorum means "that frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex" (oops, yet another thing Mr. Pyle probably shouldn't see).
 
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