The Q Word
November 21, 2003
To the Editor:
In the November 13-19 issue, I read of Christopher Benecke’s suit for legal recognition of the positive nature of the word “queer” when used to describe a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered person (“Just How Queer Are We?” by Paul Schindler). I’m very much aware that some gay persons have a philosophy about the word “queer” on how, for them, the word has a positive meaning. “Queer is a word I’ve always used,” he explained.
Nevertheless, for many of us, the word is filled with dreadful memories of rejection and pain. “Queer” is an insult that is deeply hurtful and separating quite similar to the “N” word for others.
If Mr. Benecke succeeds in his suit, what rights before the law will I have when a gang of thugs attacks me and the epitaph “Queer!” Their use of the word is not positive but the law will argue that the use of the word is acceptable, normal, and positive, and thus not a crime. Would I then be advised to reclaim the word?
I would suggest that before speaking for everyone, Mr. Benecke attempt to develop some empathy for many who can’t and won’t reclaim the “Q” word.
An Invitation to Wesley Clark
December 4, 2003
To the Editor:
Kudos to the staff at Gay City News for your unrelenting coverage all these years of our struggle for civil marriage rights. Were it not for your incisive reporting on the issue many of us would not be able to muster getting past such insulting commentary as was published by Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark (“Equal Rights for All Should Mean All,” Dec. 4-10).
How can Clark purport to have “welcomed the Massachusetts decision with open arms” while stating that “marriage is a decision best left to churches and state legislatures”? One would hope that a candidate wishing to lead this country is able to make the distinction among civil unions, domestic partnerships, and equal marriage rights. Civil marriage is a system that has nothing to do whatsoever with religion and to not support one of our greatest allies in our quest for a true democracy—the concept and the law of “separation of church and state”—is hardly a sign of “new leadership.” What’s more, there is the huge social significance in allowing us “marriage”—as opposed to “civil unions.” To trivialize the right to marry, to use the word “marriage” interchangeably with “civil unions,” and/or to leave matters to “churches and state legislatures” is ultimately to come down on the side our continued state of discrimination and despair.
Clark and all other candidates quickly need to appreciate the fact that we have fought dearly to ensure that civil marriage laws apply to same-sex couples throughout all of the states despite the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the 37 state laws banning recognition of same-sex marriages. What’s more, our great legal representatives and our grassroots organizations are prepared to argue and advocate in support of the Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause, which will make use of the Massachusetts decision to end discrimination in marriage throughout the nation.
We don’t anticipate that increased signs of support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman will in the end threaten the inroads that we have made in our struggle for simple equality. We trust that Clark, his party, and a handful of Republicans are bright enough to foresee that our passion for marriage will very likely translate into the inevitable—a widespread realization among Americans that tampering with the Constitution by officially declaring us second class citizens is divisive at best and immoral at worst.
The day will much sooner than later when our families and our relationships are accorded all of the 1,049 federal rights, privileges, and responsibilities—as identified by the U.S. General Accounting Office—that sex-discordant couples exclusively enjoy.
Mr. Clark, we’ve done our homework this time around. There’ll be no pulling the wool over our eyes, but rather the clicking of champagne glasses and the widespread elation that will ensue when Americans can finally claim a true road to an increasing democracy.
Rather than insult our intelligence, we suggest you help us prepare for the party and then RSVP ASAP.
Jesus Lebron is the founder and former Co-chair of Marriage Equality, an advocacy group for same-sex partners seeking civil marriage.
When Life’s A Drug
December 9, 2003
To the Editor:
Again I thank Gay City News for the article by Duncan Osborne which details the life and efforts of activist Peter Staley and his recent recovery from crystal abuse (“Clean Addict Funds Anti-Drug Ads,” December 4-10). Bravissimo to Mr. Staley. His description of emptiness and spiritual death reminds me of my own experiences with the drug that knows no boundaries. When, at the Butch Ball several years ago, I found myself leaping onto the stage from the dance floor, I realized how strong I was. And I wanted more, I was already addicted and soon I turned into the boy who couldn’t say “no” when offered it.
Even after having a serious meltdown one rainy September night where I found myself naked in my garden in the rain wondering if I were dying. That seems like eons ago. Things are more under control now. I thought to myself that it would be truly senseless to survive HIV only to die of an overdose of a party drug. For me crystal was a rite of passage. Having explored the innermost limits of my being I feel I have acquired a greater ability to conquer challenges and diseases—as long as I can steer clear of the white powder. Three years ago I stopped my HIV medicines because I realized I had allowed myself to become totally dependent upon pharmaceuticals for survival. I blatantly challenged the sacred cow of HIV health care. My life is definitely better now.
But I am writing regarding Peter Staley’s highly publicized Verizon phone booth ads, which, starting this January, will read “Huge Sale! Buy Crystal, Get HIV Free!” I wonder what does such an ad do to deter the usage of crystal? Is anyone still afraid of HIV? And when a sexy model tells us to buy it do we obey? Or when a doctor tells us we had better take HIV medicines do we blindly accept?
If Peter Staley is still the activist that I was so in awe of, why does he not begin fighting for our rights for better education about the entire immune system? Or special workshops for those who must make the most difficult decision to date—stopping their HIV meds and assuming responsibility for their own health?