What Does SCOTUS Decision on DOMA Mean for Married Same-Sex Couples Living in States that Ban Gay Marriage?

941427_474607709299535_716725950_n

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down DOMA declaring it “unconstitutional [and]…a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”

What Does This Mean?

Well, it means that the American government must now recognize same-sex marriage on a federal level. Therefore, same-sex couples, who are legally married in states that recognize their marriage, are now eligible for federal benefits. They don’t have to pay inheritance tax. They get social security survivorship and federal income tax benefits just to name a few. For a list of the 1,138 federal rights of marriage, click here.

This is a huge win for married gay couples everywhere, and I can’t tell you how excited I am as well.

Close but more excited than that!

Close but I was more excited than that!

This is about right!

Yeah, that’s about right!

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder:

What Does the Decision Mean for Married Gay Couples who Don’t Live in a State that Recognizes Same-Sex Unions?

First of all, it means that my husband and I are still not married in Texas, which has defined a marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

I know, right?

I know, right?

This will hold true for similar couples living in the other 36 states that do not recognize same-sex unions.

However, on a federal level, married couples like my husband and me will be able enjoy the federal benefits that had been previously denied to us. So while our state doesn’t recognize my marriage, my country now does.

That’s definitely a step in the right direction.

How a Final Exam Restarted My Writing Career

Many of you know that I teach college English, and this week is finals week. Cue the fanfare and confetti because in just a few short days, I will be on summer vacation and pounding my computer keyboard as if it were hot, sweaty man flesh. It will definitely be time to

celebrate.gif

But as I sit here today, I can’t help but think of an important final exam that occurred a couple of years ago.

While my students were taking their final and I was updating Facebook (because that’s what I do while they are taking their two-and-a-half-hour final!) I started thinking, and as Gaston says in Beauty and the Beast, that’s

Gaston from Beauty and the Beast

Lost of things were happening in our country at that time. I was extremely worried about the direction we were headed. I’m not going to get all political on you, so don’t worry. But I started thinking: what would happen if the “moral majority” took power and got everything they wanted?

So, I started a little writing exercise. You see, I hadn’t written in years. I had abandoned writing for my career in higher education and to focus on my family.

But at that moment inspiration struck.

Inspiration strikes me with rainbow stars :)

Inspiration strikes me with rainbow stars :)

I had to do something with it or I was going to explode right there in front of my students. So while they worked on analyzing poetry, I imagined a nation where morality became prescribed. Because basically, that’s what I felt some people wanted. They wanted everyone to share their values and their beliefs whether they did or not.

Who decides which one is which?

Who decides which one is which?

I then drafted The Moral Amendments of the Constitution of the United States of America.

In that document, I created a fourth branch of government, one that was responsible for overseeing the moral character of its citizens. That fourth branch of government became known as the Moral Authority.

Once that new branch of government had been created, I made the Moral Authority get to work.

A year after the amendment that created them, the Moral Authority helped pass another constitutional amendment known as The Definition of Marriage, which stated: a marriage between one man and one woman was the only legal domestic relationship that would be valid in the country.

Naturally, that started a political firestorm in the America of my imagining. States that had previously allowed gay marriage were forced to abide by the law of the land. This created such a backlash among the gay community. The country was then forced to deal with angry Americans rioting against the new law. Therefore, a new amendment was passed two years later, where homosexuality was abolished. Being gay was now a criminal offense just like drinking alcohol had once been during Prohibition.

What? No more rainbows too?

What? No more rainbows too?

This created an uproar in my future America. Citizens started to revolt, claiming that the Moral Authority was overstepping its boundaries, so the Moral Authority enacted another amendment two years after abolishing homosexuality to quell the rising tide of unpopularity that threatened to remove their power. They established a Moral Code for all citizens. Everyone was expected to do as the government dictated by following prescribed standards of care, fairness, loyalty, respect, and purity in their relationships with others and within their daily lives. A new moral law force was created to uphold moral code, and a new armed forces division was created to serve as a moral army. They were dubbed the K3, and their purpose was to deal with domestic moral terrorists, who sought anarchy through breaking moral law.

The fist of moral order

The fist of moral order

Needless to say, I was exhausted after creating this new America, and my students still hadn’t finished their exam. Now, however, I needed to do something with that new America. I couldn’t just let it sit there. I needed to populate it to show what could happen if individual rights were continually stripped away by government interference.

And during that final, approximately three years ago, I once again reclaimed my passion for writing, which turned into my novel Moral Authority.

So as I prepare for finals this year, I think back on that momentous day in my life. I have come a long way since I started scribbling out a dystopian America. I now have two published books under my belt and three more set to be published this year, one of those is the second edition of Moral Authority.

Moral Authority 2nd Edition

I can’t wait to see what I come up with next during these final exams. Stay tuned!

Guest Blogging at J.p. Barnaby

I’ve posted a guest blog on the website of the wonderful and generous J.p. Barnaby. She allowed me to talk about the origin of my new novel 3 and the lesson I learned from the book. If you’re interested on how this novel came about, hop on over and take a look.

J.p. Barnaby–The Uncommon Trio: http://www.jpbarnaby.com/?p=906

War on Religion? Give Me A Break!

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing right wing extremists spouting that any effort for equality is a war on religion. Here are a two cases in point that drive me crazy. Texas State Representative Louie Gohmert believes that the Employee Non-Discrimination Act clearly proves Obama’s war on religion and opponents of The Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”) believe that forcing private organizations that use state funds to pay for employee birth control is another sign of Obama’s war on religion.

Let’s look at these for what they really are. The ENDA is a proposed bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We currently have laws that prevent discrimination hiring practices against race, faith, gender, or physical handicap. What this shows is that this nation, over time, came to realize that discrimination in any form was unjust. In fact, 26 states currently have some form of state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

To claim that the ENDA is proof of an attack against religion is absurd. The ENDA promises equal protection under law for every citizen in the nation. How could that goal possibly be connected to a war on religion? Isn’t religion, in theory anyway, supposed to come to the defense of those being mistreated? Not according to people like Representative Gohmert from Texas. But then again Gohmert isn’t really trying to defend his religious principles; he’s advocating bigotry against gay and transgendered people.

As for private organizations being forced to pay for employee birth control thanks to “Obamacare,” they too have it wrong. Churches are exempt from this, as they should be, but church sponsored organizations that utilize government money are not. Just like every other citizen and public organization that accepts money from the government, they too must follow the law. The government isn’t forcing people to use contraceptives, even though a majority of people including Catholics do. In fact, “28 states already impose such requirements,” which shows that this, once again, isn’t indicative of Obama’s war on religion.

There is a war in America, but it isn’t a war against religion. It’s a right wing extremist war against homosexuals and those who don’t prescribe to their views with hatred and prejudice at its very core. I just wish they would call it what it is. Though the Westboro Baptist Church is filled with a bunch of loons, at least they don’t hide their hatred. They are upfront about it. I can respect that more than politicians using the veil of religion to mask their bigotry.

If you want to hate me or someone else, then just hate. You’re free to do so in this country, but you’re not free to deny me or anyone else in this country equal protection under the law, and whether some people want to admit it or not, The Constitution of the United States of America proclaims we are all created equal.

Watch “The Outs”

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to “The Outs.” It’s a six-episode web series produced and located in Brooklyn, NY. The tag line for the series is “Just because it’s over, doesn’t mean you’re over it.” Based on the first two episodes, which are only about 12 minutes long, the series focuses on relationships and their complexities. And even though we might not live on the East Coast, I’m sure we have all been where these characters are at one point in our lives, whether gay or straight.

The story lines are solid and the acting is well done. I’ve included the first two episodes here. The third episode is hopefully coming soon.

The Adonis Factor in the Gay Community

YouTube Preview Image

The clip above is from a documentary called “The Adonis Factor” by Christopher Hines I recently watched, and it got me thinking about the typical gay male quest for physical perfection. Why do we as gay men put such an emphasis on body image and how healthy is this pursuit on the individual as well as the community at large?

To find the answers, I started by looking at myself. I’m just as guilty at propagating this quest, and most who know me well are at this moment nodding their heads vigorously in response. It’s not like I can deny it. I watch my caloric intake–no more than 1,600 calories per day. For breakfast, I eat a protein shake with a banana and flax seed. I have a whole wheat chicken sandwich, another banana, and a protein bar for lunch, and for dinner a nice meal lovingly prepared by my husband, who knows my caloric and dietary restrictions. I drink water all day. No carbonated drinks cross these lips unless I’m having a vodka and sprite on those rare nights out. I go to the gym six days a week religiously, and I can be quite the bear if my workout schedule is interrupted.

Why do I do this?

Well, I do it to stay healthy. As the fat kid for most of my life, I have no desire to once again weigh 195 pounds, which is what I weighed at my heaviest, and since I stand only 5’6″, we all have to admit I was quite chunky.

But is health the only reason I do this? Of course not!

Looking good means being appreciated by others, and who doesn’t enjoy that? I certainly do, and I’m married with children! So to say that the quest for physical perfection is merely what we do to snag a mate is not true. The strive for physical perfection doesn’t stop once we’ve reached the happily ever after. And it’s not just me. I know many gay men who continue to hit the gym and watch their calories way after they are in a fully committed relationship.

“The Adonis Factor” claims that gay men are “visually programmed” and that “attractiveness is key to a man’s self esteem.” I can’t argue with those points. Like women, gay men are inundated with models of physical perfection in the media daily. The hunky models and the shirtless actors affect us as much as supermodels sometimes spur women to reach for physical perfection. We want to be desired like those hard bodies we see on the screen or in the magazines too. Also, to catch someone’s eye or cause that shirtless muscle man across the bar to stop mid sentence and stare at you with his mouth open just feels damn good.

Gay Times Ad

Sample Ad depicting gay life

But I think the gay male’s quest for physical perfection goes beyond being visually programmed or self esteem. I think it appeals to a more base instinct–competition. Men are competitive by nature, and most don’t like to lose. I know I don’t. So while the promise of sex and the boost to our self-esteem are definitely contributing factors, I think so is competition.

Think about it. We work harder, so we can be the best, or as close to it as we are going to get. When gay men see someone with a hot body, do they want to be with that person sexually? Well, yeah. That’s usually a no-brainer. But most also secretly want to have that body longer than just for the night. They want their pecs to be as sculpted, their biceps to be as bulging, and their abs to be just as flat.

You can see it happening at any gym or gay bar. Gay men dress to impress, but their eyes are constantly scanning the crowd in search of a body they not only want sexually but one they wish they could have. The guys with the best bodies are usually either shirtless or wearing the tightest shirts possible, and they typically get the most guys coming on to them. They put what they have on display, and it motivates gay men who fall just shy of them to increase their reps at the gym or the number of sit ups the next day. When the inevitable craving for a chocolate bar or a pizza hits, those striving for physical perfection think about the hot guys at the club or on television, and they pass on the empty calories for the delayed gratification of a flatter stomach and more muscle mass.

And while this makes for a more healthy conscious community, what effect does the pursuit for physical perfection have on the individual and on the community?

There are certainly positive effects. Gay men maintain their bodies for far longer than straight men do, and as a result, typically suffer from less health problems. A study conducted by American Journal of Public Health and reported on in South Florida Gay News states that “… gay men are 50 percent less likely to be obese compared to their heterosexual counterparts.” Since we watch our weight, we suffer less from diabetes, heart disease, or other illnesses related to lack of physical fitness. The study also quotes Dr. Greg Pizzi, a psychologist, who states that “men or women, who are in relationships with men would generally take better care of their bodies, since men tend to be more visual in their attractions and make it pretty clear that they are looking for a partner who looks good.” So while gay men take care of themselves better than their straight brothers, there is no true altruism behind the gesture. They do it to remain sexually attractive and competitive with other gay men.

But this craving to remain as sexually attractive and competitive for as long as possible also comes with a price. I found an article titled “Men are Dying for Sex: Mating Competition Explains Excess Male Mortality” on Phys.org, a popular science, technology, and research news website that focuses on biology, among other subjects. The article states that “men compete with other men for mating partners and trying to make themselves attractive…. This competition leads to strategies that are riskier for men both behaviorally and physiologically, and these result in higher levels of mortality.” While the article focuses on male/female relationships, the information found within it can definitely be applied to gay men.

In the gay community, where gay man battles gay man for physical perfection and mating rights, the results can be dire, as stated in the Phys.org article. A recent survey reported on in PinkNews, a large European gay news site, states that:

48% of gay men would sacrifice a year or more of their lives in exchange for a perfect body.

The research also said 10% of gay men would agree to die more than 11 years earlier if they could have their ideal body now.

Nine in ten gay men admit they enforce ‘unrealistic’ images of lean and muscular men in conversation.

In comparison, only a third of straight men said they would give a year or more for an ideal body shape, and 77% admitted buying into the body image ideal.”

As you can see from the survey, the quest for physical perfection is problematic, when half of our community would die early just to have the perfect body. And if they are willing to die early, then logically this means that many gay men are falling into unhealthy body image issues, such as bulimia/anorexia, steroid usage, and cosmetic surgery. According to the survey, “record numbers” of men are seeking these alternatives. Another study conducted by psychiatrist D. Blake Woodside, a faculty member with the University of Toronto, states that gay men make up a significant portion of the 1 million men suffering from eating disorders.

So not only are gay men willing to die for physical perfection, but many are also killing themselves to accomplish it. Apparently, many gay men will do whatever it takes to be as competitive as possible in the meat market.

This has to stop. Perfection isn’t possible. We are human–gay or straight. As such, we are inherently flawed. The pursuit of perfection is unattainable and if we measure ourselves by our BMI, we may find ourselves alone but with a flat stomach. In our drive to reach perfection and the competitive sexual games played as a result, we focus on the exterior instead of what is on the inside. This is why dating sites like Manhunt or apps like Grindr and Scruff can be problematic. They reduce gay men to profile pictures that other gay men window shop through in order to find the picture that is most appealing, the perfect man with the perfect body. They also add fuel to the fire of left wing rhetoric that gay men are superficial and incapable of maintaining long term relationships.

We need to remember that what’s on the outside doesn’t reveal anything that is lasting. Our bodies will grow old, and they will get flabby and saggy. That’s simple biology.

Instead of striving for physical perfection and being competitive about that, let’s get competitive about being compassionate, loving, caring, industrious, intelligent human beings. If we commit to that with the same verve we pursue physical perfection, there are no limits to what the gay community can do. We could call this the Franklin Factor, after Benjamin Franklin. He was a flawed man, who tried his best to become the best man and citizen he could be. He even kept a journal on his progress toward becoming a better man.

If we as a community strove for the Franklin Factor, something far more lasting than physical perfection, we could bring about societal change that would not only benefit us but future generations, and if we eat healthy and exercise instead of strive for physical perfection, we will also look damn good while we do it.

So instead of trying to be an Adonis, as a community we should grab the occasional slice of pizza, see others for more than just their bodies, and enjoy the lives and bodies we have.

That certainly sounds like a better deal than killing ourselves for the perfect body. What about you?

Santorum: Children Better Off With Father in Jail Than With A Gay Dad

First off, I want to thank my good friend and former colleague Chris H. for bringing this article to my attention. It’s hard to believe I missed such stupidity spewing from Santorum’s face hole, but I did. Mea culpa.

According to Addicting Info, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum spoke to an LGBT community in New Hampshire this past January. During his talk, Santorum said about gay parents and gay marriage:

You’re robbing children of something that they need, they deserve, they have a right to. They have a right to be known and be loved by their dad or their mom. Marriage is not a right. It’s a privilege that is given to society by society for a reason … We want to encourage what is the best for children. Even fathers in jail who had abandoned their kids were still better than no father at all to have in their children’s lives.”

Once again, Santorum’s hate and bigotry continues to corrupt his ethical character. Well, if he really had any to corrupt. Last year alone, there were 254,375 children entering foster care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Services. Those children, who were given up by their straight parents, had no home and were waiting to enter a loving home that would give them unconditional love, emotional support, and security that their biological parents could not. I wonder how many of those children would have loved to have been adopted by a gay couple, who understand being outcasts of society?

As a gay man and a father, I find Santorum’s condemnation of gay parents revolting and unworthy of a human being, much less a politician. I had a straight father, who had no problem casting me aside, and he is certainly not a better father than I am to my daughter. She has certainly not lacked for love, support, guidance, and discipline simply because I am gay. My sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with my ability to parent nor does any person’s sexuality.

Being a good parent involves never-ending sacrifice, infinite patience, and boundless love. Those traits are hallmarks of a good human being, something Santorum proves time and again that he is not.

Second Class Citizen: “I Want to Know What It’s Like”

YouTube Preview Image

The clip above is from Ryan James Yezak, a film maker in California. The clip is titled “I Want to Know What It’s Like” and it addresses the plight of those who are bullied and/or discriminated on because of prejudice. It’s a moving video, narrated by actors speaking in poetic verse. The purpose of the video is to raise funds to shoot his film Second Class Citizen. The film is a documentary and according to Yezak, it will:

…encompass all areas in which we are discriminated against. The general population is not aware that discrimination against the gay community goes beyond marriage & bullying. There is far too much hate directed towards our community and I want to capture that hate on camera. In addition, I want to explore where this hate comes from, why it continues to exist, and what we must do to get rid of it. A better solution is needed because the solution we have right now isn’t working fast enough.

I hope you enjoyed the clip as much as I did, and I can’t wait to see the documentary.

A Valentine’s Video For A Closeted Boyfriend

I came across this video from a Seattle Vlogger named Matt Brown. He composed the video for his boyfriend who lives over 5,000 miles away in a country that doesn’t accept homosexuals. The video is titled “I love you more than…” and Matt cites a litany of cutsie items and situations. It’s sweet and silly, but after the silliness comes the meat of the video.

The second half of the video showcases pictures of Matt and his boyfriend, who is pixelated in each one. If his identity was made known, if those who employ him and consider him friend and family were to learn of his sexuality, Matt’s boyfriend would lose his career and his family. In all, Matt loves his man more than the pixels he hides behind, and in the video he vows “And with all my might, I will rip those pixels off, one by one, until their souls are raw.”

Here is what Matt had to say about the video he made:

It wasn’t meant for anyone else’s eyes, but I thought the message was sincere and good enough to be seen by others…This is the Valentine’s Day video by me for my partner, XXXXXXX XXXXX. My partner lives somewhere across the Atlantic. He lives a very hidden life because of the way his society will treat him if it found out about him being gay. I’ve made this video for him to show the support and passion toward my Love and human rights. It was supposed to be a private video, solely for my boyfriend’s eyes, but it turned into a statement of fighting for the one you love when I realized I wouldn’t be able to say his name or show his face in the video. XXXXXXX, Happy Valentine’s Day! Someday society will let us feel fully accepted!”

What this video shows is Matt’s unconditional love for a man, who is trapped within a society that would shun him should he embrace true love as openly as most everyone else does. What could be truer love than that?

Matt’s video also shows those who believe that homosexuals are promiscuous partiers who cannot maintain a long-term relationship what true love really is. It’s not about what anyone else says about you or who you love. It’s about how you feel about each other, and about the fires you would willingly walk through to be with the love of your life.

(story via Queerty)