5 Things That Pissed Us Off This Week: When Did Communion Become Antigay, and Bigotry Become the International Standard?
Welcome back to our weekly round-up of the most infuriating bits of anti-LGBT rhetoric to grace our news feeds in the past seven days. And as usual, right-wingers around the world gave us plenty to choose from — our only problem was picking only five outrageous stories to share here. Read on to see what made the cut, but expect a healthy dose of snark in the following pages — sometimes it's the only way we can get through the day.
5. Ugandan 'Scientists' Answer The Age-Old Question: Homos Were Definitely NOT 'Born This Way'
A team of antigay lawmakers "with medical backgrounds" have prepared a report for Uganda's president that claims to have scientific evidence that homosexuality is "culturally acquired" — and curable.
Antigay activists and scientists apparently took to heart Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's comments last month that he would not sign the country's "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" that imposes lifetime prison sentences on LGBT people, "unless [he] got confirmation from scientists that this condition is not genetic, but a behavior that is acquired."
Less than a week later, a team of "scientists," composed of and backed by the ruling political party known as the National Resistance Movement, prepared a report that claims to prove that homosexuals are made, not born. The lawmakers-turned-quack-scientists are planning to present their report to the president at a 10-day parliamentary retreat.
The team of scientists is composed of lawmakers from the ruling NRM party who have a medical background, reports Uganda's Observer. One of those scientists, who is also a member of parliament, said that he's been engaged in research on the topic for a whole week, and arrived at presumably concrete conclusions.
"From the research that I have engaged in for some time ever since we were assigned by the caucus, I have discovered that there is no gene that is said to produce [homosexuality] as claimed by some people," Medard Bitekyerez told the Observer last week.
Another doctor on the team agreed, stressing his belief that gay people can be turned straight.
"One study revealed that actually 50 percent of the homosexuals revert to heterosexuality if rehabilitated in time," Dr. Kenneth Omona told the Observer. "This, in itself, reveals a behavioral aspect."
LGBT activists in Uganda are mobilizing to offer genuine scientific data to contradict the psuedoscience offered in the lawmakers' report, but they note that President Museveni has so far refused to engage in dialogue with the LGBT community on any level.
Even without the president's signature making the bill law, reports of antigay witch hunts have begun circulating, with news that Minister of Ethics Simon Lokodo has a "homo terror list" with the names of those who he calls "filthy gays that must be brought down," according to a Ugandan academic and LGBT supporter who blogs at SebaSpace. The author notes that Lokodo and his antigay "investigators" are casing homes and bars in suburban Kampala, assisted by Kira Road police officers — who last week ago arrested two men and examined them, without their lawyers present, for supposed "sodomy" after police say they caught them watching "gay porn." That film? Sex and the City.
4. Restaurateur Proudly Denies Service to "Freaks, Faggots," Welfare Queens
Lest we think that outright bigotry has become solely an export of the United States, it's, uh, good? to know there's still some good old-fashioned, unapologetic, down-home hatred being peddled in the U.S. of A. And wouldn't you know, it happens to be demonstrated best by a smiling, proudly bigoted businessman in Oklahoma.
Gary James, who owns Gary's Chicaros restaurant and bar in Enid, Okla., is so confident in his bigotry that he's branded it on the bar's official t-shirts.
James proudly wears t-shirts with racial and gay slurs that threaten violence against Democrats and Islamic people.
"I've been in business 44 years; I think I can spot a freak or a faggot," James proudly told local TV station KFOR. "I really don't want gays around."
KFOR first learned about the blatantly discriminatory — and possibly illegal — service practices after a disabled former patron informed the station that James had kicked him out of the establishment, believing he was on welfare. Gard told KFOR that James also hates African-Americans, Latinos, gays, women, Muslims, and Democrats.
Sound too outlandish to be true? Meet Gary James in the video below, where he politely declines to call the reporter a "chink," unless she gets real rowdy.
Find more outrageous stories on the following pages.
3. Patriotic Russians Arrested While Antigay Bigots Protest Freely at Olympics
In case you weren't wholly convinced that Russia's nationwide ban on so-called gay propaganda is blatantly discriminatory, check out this infuriating bit of news, fresh from the Winter Olympics host country:
Just hours before the opening ceremonies in Sochi, Russia, 10 LGBT Russians were arrested and dragged into police cars in Moscow. Their crime? Singing the Russian National Anthem… While holding a rainbow flag. That was the second reported LGBT demonstration that was broken up by police within 24 hours; an earlier demonstration in St. Petersburg saw four activists — including a pregnant woman — arrested for unfurling a banner citing the Olympic Charter's nondiscrimination language and taking photos with it.
Meanwhile, despite a Kremlin edict banning all protests and rallies of any kind in the city of Sochi during the Winter Olympics, a small group of dedicated antigay bigots proudly picketed in front of the Sochi train station — and police left them undisturbed. The haters trotted out some tried-and-true rhetoric, including the Western classic "Homo Sex Is Sin." According to Sports Illustrated, which captured a clip of the antigay protest, police seemed wholly uninterested in stopping that protest. But pregnant women decrying discrimination and rainbow-waving Russians singing the national anthem? Those are the true threats to Mother Russia.
And the International Olympic Committee? Yeah, they're totally OK with it, since those rascally protestors didn't get permission from the government before protesting… the government's homophobia. A reported 61 demonstrators were arrested in Russia on Friday, the day opening ceremonies began in Sochi.
Watch video from the Moscow arrests below:
2. Catholic Priest Denies Communion to Lesbian… At Her Mother's Funeral
Because if there's ever an ideal time to bring down the theological hammer, it's when someone is saying goodbye to their recently deceased mother.
That appears to be the logic used by a Roman Catholic priest in Missouri, who told a grieving daughter that she would not be allowed to receive communion at her mother's funeral because her mom's obituary listed the daughter and her same-sex partner as surviving family.
Carol Parker has been with her partner, Josephine Martin, for 20 years — for 12 of which Parker was a member at St. Columban Catholic Church in Chillicothe, Mo. Martin says her partner sung in the choir, and served as a lector, and was in good standing with the church. That is, until, Parker's mother died in December. That's when the pastor told Parker that she was not welcome at the altar to receive the sacrament of communion.
"To be singing in the choir and be lectors, and everything, it’s all good," said Martin. "He just took it away in a second. I just really don’t understand where his heart is."
The pastor, Rev. Benjamin Kneib, reportedly sent Parker a letter after the incident became public, apologizing for the pain he caused during an already heart-wrenching time, but still reminding Parker that her 20-year, committed relationship is sinful. Then he invited Parker back to the parish.
Wisely, Parker and Martin swear they'll never set foot inside the church again. Instead, they've found a new, inclusive faith community — though they have to drive an hour to get there, compared to the 10-minute commute to St. Columban.
Watch a report from Kansas City's Fox affiliate, WDAF, below.
Find the most outrageous story from the past week on the next page...
1. Piers Morgan Offers Perfect Example of Straight White Cis Male Privilege
I wanted to like Piers Morgan. I really did. He's said some nice things about gay folks, and taken a few homophobic haters to task on his eponymous CNN program. But then, last week, Morgan hosted transgender author and advocate Janet Mock, and his blatant cissexism and white male privilege was put on excruciating display for all to see.
Morgan's initial interview, which aired Tuesday, was a classic case of someone in a powerful position pretending they understood and advocated for an oppressed person's right to self-agency, while simultaneously talking over that person and removing any semblance of actual agency for the subject to define their story by their own terms.
Now, Morgan never used a transphobic slur to refer to Mock, and he repeatedly applauded her "courage" and "bravery" for coming out as transgender. It wasn't a hostile interview, but there were myriad problems with the final presentation — not least of which was the on-screen text declaring Mock "was a boy until age 18," and Morgan's purient interest in just how Mock revealed to her boyfriend that she's transgender. Mock, for her part, was a gracious guest, occasionally wincing at the problematic focus, but letting her rich, white, cisgender, straight male host direct the conversation. After the interview aired, Mock took to Twitter to voice her (legitimate) critiques of the show. She was understandably upset, calling out the on-screen text claiming she "was a boy until age 18" with righteous indignation, urging the show to "get it the f**k together."
Morgan responded with his own tirade on Twitter, which escalated into full-on insults when Mock's supporters joined her call to point out the issues in the program. Ultimately, Morgan called Mock's supporters "STUPID," "DIMWITS" and "HYSTERICAL," since they were attacking someone who was so obviously supportive of transgender people.
To prove just how supportive he is, Morgan had Mock back on his show Wednesday night, supposedly to clear up the controversy and give Mock a chance to voice her critiques. Instead of engaging in what could have been a thoughtful dialogue — and an important teachable moment about the damage done to the trans community when mainstream media focuses exclusively on a person's transition at the expense of every other newsworthy aspect of their lives — Morgan stuck to his guns, bemoaning how unfairly "attacked" and "victimized" he felt by Mock's supporters.
The irony that this straight, white, cisgender man couldn't tolerate 24 hours of digital criticism, when trans women — particularly those of color, like Mock — face constant threats of physical violence, harassment, and blatant discrimination for quite literally walking down the street, was, sadly, totally lost on Morgan.
When Mock managed to get a word in edgewise beyond Morgan's shrieking, she made valid points, noting that Morgan's show claimed she was "a boy until 18," when she began identifying as a girl as early as age 6. At no point in the follow-up interview did Morgan apologize, or even acknowledge that there were issues with the way his team presented the story. Watch the full interview here.
To really seal the deal, Morgan then hosted a three-person panel to discuss Mock's secondary appearance. There were no transgender people on the panel — because, again, why would we want to include anyone's actual, lived experience in this highfalutin debate? Just one of the panelists, Ebony's Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, came to Mock's defense — at one point brilliantly slamming a conservative panelist who kept shrieking that "science and doctors" agree with him that Mock was born a man.
"Trans identity does not change upon surgery," Hill, a cisgender, GLAAD Award-winning journalist who has covered trans issues in-depth, explained. "You can have a penis and still be a woman, a trans woman." When Ferguson insisted that "doctors and science" agree with him about the fixed nature of sex and gender, Hill shot back. "You're confusing sex and gender," Hill said. "You should really read a book on this."
Morgan could use a few evenings at home reading some Leslie Feinberg and Julia Serrano, too. Because clearly, his definition of being a "transgender ally" needs some revision.
Being an ally isn't a label one gets to confer on oneself. It's a designation given by members of the community in which one stands alongside. It's an ever-evolving process, that takes a lot of genuine effort, and grace from both parties when someone messes up. Because trust me, we all mess up. What determines how effective of an ally we might be is how we react when we get called out on our mistakes, and how willing we are to stand in silent solidarity with those who hold membership in the community, letting them speak for themselves, and tell their own stories as only they can.