31 Methodist churches in North Carolina file suit to leave denomination

Holy moley, man.

All the problems facing the world and some United Methodist Church nutjobs are STILL, after ALL THESE YEARS, saying they want to leave the denomination over LGBT issues.

Thirty-one United Methodist churches in western North Carolina are demanding they be allowed to leave the United Methodist Church and have hired a Florida legal firm to push their claim forward.

The National Center for Life and Liberty sent a letter to Bishop Ken Carter, who oversees both the denomination’s Western North Carolina and Florida annual conferences, to request that they preserve documents and other communications should a lawsuit be filed.

The same firm also sued the Florida Annual Conference on behalf of 100 churches wishing to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church last month.

Legal action — or the threat of legal action — represents a new strategy on behalf of churches that want to join the new Global Methodist Church, a new denomination launched largely over differing beliefs regarding the ordination and marriage of its LGBTQ members.

Fine, I say. Let ’em go.

Perhaps without congregations like these the Methodists — the REAL Methodists, that is — can move on to more important matters like child welfare, war and poverty rather than what consenting adults do with one another.

You can read the rest of the Religious News Service article at this link.

United Methodist headquarters.

Game sites respond to blatantly homophobic effort to remove NYC pride flags from Spider-Man

It’s no secret that the tech industry in general, and the gaming industry in particular, can attract more than their share of cretinous bro types, full of themselves — and misogyny and homophobia.

So it’s nice when part of that industry steps forward and does the right thing in a very public way.

First, some background:

If you are a fan of Marvel’s Spider-Man you’ve no doubt been aware since 2018 that there are pride flags interspersed in the game throughout Manhattan. Checkpoint Gaming explained at the time:

Ryan Benno, one of the developers on the game, responded to a popular tweet highlighting Spider-Man in front of the flag making it clear that the choice was deliberate.

Further to that the game includes a secret achievement that asks you to photograph secret locations around the city which includes this particular flag adjacent to a rainbow mural. Upon taking the photograph you receive an on screen prompt that this location represents the Stonewall Inn, a location steeped in LGBTIQA+ history.

While it may seem like a small detail this does point to active decision by the team at Insomniac. The flag and the fact that it can be found across the city for Spider-Man to perch on for selfies shows a recognition to the large impact the LGBTIQA+ community has had on New York. While this small moment might have brought a smile to my face I cannot imagine what it would do for younger members of our community who so desperately need to see welcoming imagery in the media.

A subsequent version of the game, Spider-Man Remastered, included the NYC Pride flags and, as far as I can tell, may have added a few more.

But recently some bad actors in the genre have been uploading a version to popular modding sites that pointedly removes the pride flags.

How big a loser do you have to be to take the time to remove something so ancillary, yet so positive, using a game mod? (If you are unfamiliar with mods, read this article.)

I’ve been doing LGBTQ civil rights work for a very long time, and this becomes more true the longer I am around homophobes: the more obsessed someone is about gays and gay sex, the higher the likelihood that they are actually seeking it out in secretive ways on the side. I’d bet the person(s) who did this pride flag removal mod spends a lot of time on Grindr hating themselves.

Anyway, back to the mods that removed the pride flags.

People on mod sites had become aware that people, quite possibly the same people on all mod sites, were uploading this anti-LGBT PC game mod for Spider-Man Remastered.

To the credit of the people who run some of the most popular mod sites, they acted quickly:

NexusMods and ModDB, two of the biggest online sites for PC game mods, have removed a project that cut the in-game pride flags from the recently-released PC port of Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered. As NexusMods explained in a blog post, the mod was uploaded to its site by a brand new account with no modding history, which the site’s administrators suspect is a secondary account for one of the site’s users — a “sock puppet” account.

“It was very clearly done deliberately to be a troll mod,” NexusMods writes. “The fact the user needed to make a sock puppet like a coward to upload the mod showed their intent to troll and that they knew it would not be allowed. Had they not been a coward and had they used their main account instead, we would have simply removed the mod and told them that we did not want to host it, only banning them if they reuploaded it again after being fairly warned. The creation of the sock puppet removed any doubt and made it a very easy decision for us.”

As well as removing the mod, NexusMods says it’s banned both “the sock puppet account and the user’s main account.” The mod replaced the pride flags found around New York City with the United States flag, which is frequently seen in the original game.

This is a hopeful development during a time when anti-LGBT hatred is starting to make a comeback in very public ways.

You can read the rest of Jon Porter’s article in The Verge here.

The GOP goes after LGBT kids and their school lunches

There is no level to which Republicans will not stoop in their hatred of LGBT folks:

Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service updated its nondiscrimination policies to cover sexual orientation and gender identity for the department’s nutritional programs, including the National School Lunch Program. A coalition of 22 Republican-led states sued USDA this week to reverse the update. In the lawsuit, the states sought to assuage the court about their intentions. “To be clear, the states do not deny benefits based on a household member’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” they insisted.

That would be somewhat comforting if the states didn’t have a “but” to add in the next sentence. “But the states do challenge the unlawful and unnecessary new obligations and liabilities that the Memoranda and Final Rule attempt to impose—obligations that apparently stretch as far as ending sex-separated living facilities and athletics and mandating the use of biologically inaccurate preferred pronouns,” the states went on to say. The USDA does not generally have authority over student athletics or pronouns, and the agency told Politico last month that it would only enforce the rule for discrimination that was directly tied to the school lunch program.

The lawsuit itself is only the latest chapter in the GOP’s legal war on LGBTQ rights at the state level. Indeed, in a separate battle, many of those same states are also directly challenging the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX for public schools, in the wake of a major Supreme Court ruling on LGBT rights two years ago. Some legal conservatives have suggested that their primary concern is transgender athletes’ participation in girls’ sports. But the USDA case shows how far some Republican-led states will go to resist any legal recognition of LGBTQ rights whatsoever.

You can read the rest of The New Republic article by Matt Ford by clicking on this link.

Sen. Susan Collins threatens to torpedo same-sex marriage bill over Manchin/Schumer maneuvering

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is such an unprincipled pig, and I don’t call someone childish names like that very often.

But that’s what she is. An opportunistic political whore devoid of deep principles and convictions.

How else to explain this?

Sen. Susan Collins, one of a handful of GOP senators working to garner support in her party for a bill to codify gay marriage, said the Democrats’ surprise embrace of a tax and climate change bill made her job much harder.

“I just think the timing could not have been worse and it came totally out of the blue,” the Maine senator told HuffPost Thursday about Senate Democrats’ unveiling of their bill to raise taxes on some companies, boost IRS enforcement and spend the resulting money to fund anti-climate change efforts.
news that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) had arrived at an agreement broke like a thunderclap over official Washington early Wednesday night. The bill still faces hurdles, including ensuring all Senate Democrats are on board and will be available to vote on it when it comes to the floor. But if Democrats pull it off, it could be a big political victory for the party and the White House.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), seen here on the right talking to fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), said the news that Democrats are making progress on a tax and climate change bill hurt bipartisan efforts to codify gay marriage, which she and Murkowski support.TOM WILLIAMS VIA GETTY IMAGES
Still, Collins warned that the manner in which that victory was secured, where it appeared Democrats kept Manchin and Schumer’s negotiations under wraps until a separate bipartisan computer chip production incentive bill was passed by the Senate, hurt the effort to gather support among Republicans to bring the gay marriage bill to the floor.

“After we just had worked together successfully on gun safety legislation, on the CHIPs bill, it was a very unfortunate move that destroys the many bipartisan efforts that are under way,” she said.

You can read the rest here.

Susan Collins

Why are the media so afraid of naming this guy as the fascist he really is?

This piece over at Unpopular Front by John Ganz has been making the rounds, and with good reasons.

It’s one of the best explanations I’ve seen online of the motivations — the true motivations — of billionaire fascist Peter Thiel.

Ganz starts out by noting the weird dance that the media do around the truth about Thiel:

Peter Thiel is a fascist. There’s really no better word for what he is. For some reason, people have a lot of trouble grasping this or just coming out and saying it.

In his biography of Thiel, The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power, Max Chafkin writes, “The Thiel ideology is complicated and, in parts, self-contradictory, and will take many of the pages that follow to explore, but it combines an obsession with technological progress with nationalist politics—a politics that at times has seemingly flirted with white supremacy.” Let’s see, we’ve got some futurism, nationalism, maybe a little bit of racism here and there…hmm, what does that all add up to? What a mystery this guy is!

Ganz goes on to note:

Where to begin? First of all, yes, Thiel’s libertarianism is about freedom—freedom for him and people like him, the entrepreneurial elite of the capitalist class. He’s openly antidemocratic. In an essay for the Cato Institute, Thiel once wrote, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible…” Why? Because if you empower the demos, they will eventually vote for restrictions on the power of capitalists. and therefore, restrictions on their “freedom.” He continues, “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy‘ into an oxymoron.” In that 2009 essay, Thiel imagines a kind of futurist program of utopian projects “beyond politics” in cyberspace or “seasteading,” but it’s clear now he’s returned to believing in politics, or at least an anti-political form of politics.

The brand of radical libertarianism favored by Thiel and his crony Curtis Yarvin has long looked to crackpot authoritarian solutions that would enable unalloyed capitalist domination. In the ’90s, Murray Rothbard, who took his primary political inspiration from the America First movement, conceived of a “Right-Wing Populist” strategy that envisioned a Trump-like figure who could “short-circuit” the political establishment and smash the remnants of the New Deal order. He also made common cause on occasion with holocaust deniers. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Rothbard’s protege, has advocated monarchism and “covenant communities” organized on essentially totalitarian basis. His book Democracy: The God That Failed divides humanity into producers and subhuman, parasitic “pests.”

You can read the rest here. The piece is so good.

Peter Thiel, no doubt thinking of ways that he can thwart poor people and women who should never have gotten the vote.

Lovely obituary for a man who helped bring much LGBT progress in London in the 1970s

We are losing all the bright lights who helped to solidify in the 1970s what little progress had been in made in the late 1960s on what then known only as gay rights.

That is the natural order of things, of course. We all get old, we all die.

But too many of these people who gave up so much of their lives (and, often, personal and professional safety) are dying in obscurity as they’ve gone on lead quiet lives out of the spotlight.

So it’s nice that Keith Porteous Wood (no slouch in the activist world himself) wrote a nice piece for The Guardian memorializing Terry Sanderson, who also happens to have been Wood’s partner.

My partner, Terry Sanderson, who has died aged 75, was an early gay rights activist. He was devoted to fighting injustice, and much of his working life was spent helping adults with learning disabilities, initially in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and then in Ealing, west London, where we later settled.

The youngest son of a miner, Sandy, and his wife, Margaret (nee Goodgrove), a farmworker, Terry was born into grinding poverty in the mining village of Maltby in South Yorkshire, where he went to Maltby secondary modern school, leaving without any qualifications.

In the 1970s, when the local council refused to allow a gay disco that Terry hoped to organise on local authority premises, he challenged the decision in the local paper. By doing so, he came out to both the village and his family, who were supportive of him and, later, of us both.

He went on to form a local branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) and from his bedroom also established, in 1974, Essentially Gay, a mail-order company to help those who were closeted and isolated further afield. It ran until 1984.

You can read the rest here.

Terry Sanderson. (Photo: Guardian.)

Once again I ask: How is Adam Nagourney still writing for the New York Times?

New York Times writer Adam Nagourney, an openly gay man, has been awful for as long as I can remember.

One of his worst fuck-ups, in a long line of them, was when he co-wrote a June 16, 2015, article about a residential balcony collapse in Southern California during which six people were killed, and seven others injured.

Because the students were part of an Irish student exchange program, Nagourney decided that, instead of treating it as the straightforward tragedy it was, he was going to highlight the drunk Irish partier aspect. The relatives and friends of the victims were rightfully horrified.

Nagourney would later say, “[T]here was a more sensitive way to tell the story. I absolutely was not looking to in any way appear to be blaming the victims, or causing pain in this awful time for their families and friends. I feel very distressed at having added to their anguish.”

At least he apologized (sort of) for that fuck-up. He has rarely even admitted he was wrong even when he was spectacularly wrong. And he’s done stuff like this his ENTIRE career. And, yet, he keeps getting rewarded with jobs like LA bureau chief.

Anyway, Nagourney has an article in the New York Times (here via Yahoo) headlined: “Once a Crucial Refuge, ‘Gayborhoods’ Lose LGBTQ Appeal in Major Cities.”

“I walk around the neighborhood that encouraged me for so many decades, and I see the reminders of Harvey and the Rainbow Honor Walk, celebrating famous queer and trans people,” Jones said as he led a visitor on a tour of his old neighborhood, pointing out empty storefronts and sidewalks. “I just can’t help but think that soon there will be a time when people walking up and down the street will have no clue what this is all about.”

Housing costs are a big reason for that. But there are other factors as well.

LGBTQ couples, particularly younger ones, are starting families and considering more traditional features — public schools, parks and larger homes — in deciding where they want to live. The draw of “gayborhoods” as a refuge for past generations looking to escape discrimination and harassment is less of an imperative today, reflecting the rising acceptance of gay and lesbian people. And dating apps have, for many, replaced the gay bar as a place that leads to a relationship or a sexual encounter.

Many gay and lesbian leaders said this might well be a long-lasting realignment, an unexpected product of the success of a gay rights movement, including the Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex marriage in 2015, that has pushed for equal rights and integration into mainstream society.

There are few places where this transformation is more on display than in the Castro, long a barometer of the evolution of gay and lesbian life in America. It is a place where same-sex couples crammed the streets, sidewalks, bars and restaurants in defiance and celebration as LGBTQ people in other cities lived cloistered lives.

It was the stage for some of the first glimmers of the modern gay rights movement in the late 1960s; the rise to the political establishment with the election of openly gay officials like Milk; and the community’s powerful response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

“Gayborhoods are going away,” Cleve Jones said. “People need to pay attention to this. When people are dispersed, when they no longer live in geographic concentrations, when they no longer inhabit specific precincts, we lose a lot. We lose political power. We lose the ability to elect our own and defeat our enemies.”

Cynthia Laird, news editor of The Bay Area Reporter, an LGBTQ newspaper based in San Francisco, said she was reminded of this transformation every time she walked through the neighborhood.

“I wanted to get a picture of people walking in the rainbow crosswalk at the corner of Castro and 18th Street, and there was nobody walking,” she said. “The Castro and San Francisco have changed a lot over the past 25 years. We have seen a lot of LGBTQ people move from San Francisco to Oakland — which is where I live — and even further out in the East Bay.”

This “younger gays no longer need old-fashioned gay neighborhoods” trope has been around a long time, so Nagourney is once again very late to this party.

But as Nagourney marvels at all the progress that has been made that is allegedly making gay ghettos obsolete, you’d think he’d mention one simple fact that should give everyone pause in the “post gay” celebrating: it can all be taken away, and very well might be.

Not once does awful Adam Nagourney mention that we have a Supreme Court that stands ready to kick out the foundations of every sexual orientation-related pro-gay decision ever handed down by SCOTUS. The same goes for GOP governors and legislatures and supreme courts in several states, all of whom are itching for test cases where Clarence Thomas might get his wish to overturn Lawrence, Obergefell and a host of other privacy-related decisions.

I see no reason to not do an article about the demise of “gayborhoods,” even if Nagourney downplays that real estate is the chief reason the most famous of them are less gay all the time. Even Cleve Jones, the anchor of this week’s Nagourney article, says he is leaving because his rent was jacked up.

But at least also mention the ever more powerful forces that are allying themselves against the LGBT community, instead of writing this shit article that makes it seem as if the chief reasons are that we simply don’t want or need those neighborhoods because we’ve moved-on to a LGBT utopia.

That would require a depth Nagourney has always lacked.

Awful Adam Nagourney.

LGBT folks and their “chosen families”

The New York Times has a touching article up about the concept of “chosen families” and the desire to find a place of belonging when your own family can be less than welcoming:

When Lenny Lasater moved to Georgia in her early 20s, it didn’t take long to find her family. She quickly met the Bickersons, a group of queer women scattered across the South who met through mutual friends and banded together. Each Bickerson had given herself a name that started with the letter B — Ms. Lasater eventually became known as “Big Star,” because she was active in the local theater scene and played in a band.

Over the last 35 years, the Bickersons have become a family with its own set of rituals and traditions — fishing trips; holiday parties at a farm in North Carolina; an offshoot affectionately known as “Butch Club,” during which some of the Bickersons could sit around a firepit, sipping Crown Royal and pinky-swearing each other to secrecy.

“We didn’t have to censor,” Ms. Lasater, now 65, said. “We were real, we were honest, and we could expect to be met with compassion and understanding.”

The Bickersons stepped in at a time when Ms. Lasater was barely in contact with members of her biological family. When she was 19, her mother found love letters she had saved from a girlfriend in Tennessee. “I would literally rather see you laying dead in a casket than to know this about you,” Ms. Lasater remembers her mother saying.

She broke off most communication with her family after that, visiting only once or twice a year. They eventually reconciled, but Ms. Lasater said she never felt fully connected with her mother, who died in 2020.

Ms. Lasater lists members of the Bickersons as her emergency contacts. Maybe, she muses, they’ll form a retirement community together; for now, she’s grateful to them for stepping in where her birth family did not.

“That’s how I found myself, my place in the world,” she said. “Where is my tribe? Right here, with the Bickersons. Where is my family? Right here, with the Bickersons.”

You can read the rest here.

Fireworks start panic at NYC LGBT Pride

This is where we are as a country:

Fears of active shooters at Pride events in New York City and San Francisco caused chaos Sunday, overshadowing the celebrations amid heightened concerns about previous shootings at LGBTQ spaces and the frequency of mass shootings in the United States.

New York City police said on Twitter there were “NO shots fired” at Washington Square Park, the center of Pride celebrations in the city, after loud noises sent crowds fleeing and nearly caused a stampede. “After an investigation, it was determined that the sound was fireworks set off at the location,” police said.

With many Pride events — which are often held in June — returning this year for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, extremism researchers have highlighted increased risk.

President Biden warned last month of “rising hate and violence” targeting LGBTQ communities. On Saturday, two people were killed in a shooting at a gay bar in Oslo, and police in Idaho foiled a plot this month by affiliates of a white supremacist group to disrupt a Pride celebration in a park.

I’m old enough to remember when you’d have to keep one eye on the Pride festivities and the other eye out for trouble of any kind. But even back then your first worry wasn’t guns. It was carloads or truckloads of men with fists and boots and crowbars and baseball bats.

Those times were bad enough.

But this gun thing adds a whole other terrifying dimension to fears I thought we’d mostly relegated to the ash heap of history. (In most parts of this country, anyway.)

I should have remembered, as Jews have always had to remember: Even the most civilized societies can turn barbaric given the wrong kind of leaders exploiting fears and bigotries.

BTW the Times of Israel and some onlookers say there was as an actual stampede, albeit one short enough to prevent any serious injuries.

Washington Square Park in NYC. (Wikimedia Commons)