Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during September, 2010

Dr. Flamingo Jones And The Sacred Band Of Thebes

September 29th, 2010

Dr. Flamingo Jones stands beside the Lion of Chaironeia.

I’m very happy to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.

Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. I apologize for my long absence in contributing to this esteemed publication, but I do so without regret. In the intervening year since my last article, I have been on sabbatical from my position as head of the Department of Queer Anthropology at the University of Oxbridgeshire to travel around the world in my ongoing quest for both modern and ancient truths.

With all the controversy in the last few years over the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the U.S. military, I thought it would be rather illuminating to share with you an example of one of the greatest military teams from antiquity, one which had rather the opposite belief when it came to the sexual orientation of soldiers: the Sacred Band of Thebes.

2388 years ago, in 378 BC, a Theban military commander by the name of Gorgidas had an interesting idea for forming a novel type of elite military unit that would be more loyal than any other. He decided to put to use the homosexuality that has always been quite commonplace in military units throughout the ages. From the regular Theban army, Gorgidas hand-picked 150 pairs of skilled soldiers who were lovers with other soldiers. The logic behind this was that a soldier would fight with utmost ferocity and loyalty if he were fighting alongside his lover, defending him at all costs. The Theban commander himself would often fight among the Sacred Band with his own special companion.

Different commanders would use the Sacred Band of Thebes as a special forces team in different ways, scattered through the front ranks as a morale booster for the other troops, or solidified in one ferocious fighting unit. During the years of the Sacred Band’s existence Thebes gained greater and greater power in their region, even breaking free from Sparta’s dominance when the Sacred Band helped to defeat an army three times their own size.

Unfortunately, in 338BC the Sacred Band was annihilated by Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great). According to Plutarch, most of the Theban soldiers fled in the face of Philip II’s superior military technology, but not the Sacred Band. They stood, fought, and died as one that day, and are even buried together on that same spot, marked today by a statue known as the Lion of Chaironeia. Plato, in his Symposium, best describes the love and determination found of the Sacred Band of Thebes, in which he wrote:

And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this.

Mayoral Candidate Compares Gay Flag To Nazi Flag

September 27th, 2010

You flew a pride flag, therefore you have to fly the international infant-eating flag. QED.

Sherry Clymer, a first-time mayoral candidate in Ajax, Ontario, is feeling a little out of her league after lashing out at the incumbent mayor during a public debate late last week.

Clymer, a former taxi dispatcher, triggered media controversy on Thursday when she attacked mayor Steve Parrish for raising a rainbow flag during Pride Week in June. “What makes the gays any more deserving of their flag hanging than anyone else?” she asked the mayor, adding that he should “also be hanging up the Nazi flag.”

This rather silly line of reasoning has been used before. In 2008, Allister MacDonald, a councilor from Nova Scotia’s Pictou County, said that raising a gay pride flag would inevitably lead to flying “everybody’s flag.” “It could be the Nazi party or the bikers,” MacDonald illustrated, “it could be anyone.” Just a year before that, mayor Bill Mills of Truro, Nova Scotia, made up a flag for his slippery slope argument. “If I have a group that says pedophiles should have rights, do we raise their flag too?” he asked.

Now, this should go without saying, but flying the rainbow stripes during the community’s gay pride week doesn’t mean you then have to fly Nazi and pedophile flags. The latter doesn’t even exist, for one, and I can’t imagine that the Ajax city hall has ever received a request to fly a Nazi flag once in the entire history of the town. But, forgetting all that, if you honestly can’t think of a good reason to not place symbols of genocide and child rape at the forefront of your town, you’re not a very fit mayor.

In a media interview meant to regain favour after the incident, Ms. Clymer apologised for her Nazi remark, clarifying that she didn’t mean to compare gays to Nazis; she just simply opposes any recognition of the struggles and achievements of the city’s gay community. “What is so good about being gay?” she asked rhetorically during her apology interview. “If you are promoting entering the gay lifestyle, that’s wrong.”

And this is what all these stories boil down to. Ignorance.

First, let’s get this nonsense about “entering the gay lifestyle” out of the way. Gay people lead all sorts of different lives; they have different careers, different hobbies, and like different activities. Sexual orientation is a trait, not a lifestyle. It’s innate, unchangeable, and no more possible to “promote entering” than the tall lifestyle or the blue-eyed lifestyle.

It’s clear to me that raising the Pride flag isn’t what Ms. Clymer likes to think it is. It’s not a recruitment tool because there’s nothing to recruit for. It’s simply a gesture of recognition on the part of city hall. Recognition that the gay community, as diverse as it is, universally has to put up with exactly this sort of nonsense nonstop, and a simple gesture that everyone in the town, including gay people, are valued for who they are. Gay people are a part of Ajax’s diverse community. If Ms. Clymer can’t value her constituents, she’s not ready to be mayor.

Ending Homophobic Bullying Is A Priority

September 24th, 2010

A father angrily calls his son's school, saying that telling students to stop bullying gay kids violates his religion.

Two more school districts in B.C. have joined in adopting anti-homophobia policies to help put an end to bullying.

This encouraging news is particularly timely. Earlier this month, Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old student in the United States, hanged himself, unable to bear the taunts and harassment at school. Billy may or may not have been gay, but the bullies all thought he was and harassed him relentlessly for it. It’s especially heartwrenching news because stories like Billy’s are completely preventable. Anti-homophobia policies work, noticeably lowering incidences of bullying.

Still, there’s work to be done. Programs, like those being introduced in B.C., face opposition. Just last May, pressure from a handful of parents lead to the cancellation of anti-homophobia events at Columneetza Secondary School in Williams Lake, B.C. The events were to feature assemblies including guest speakers and a short video about the impact of homophobic bullying in schools. It’s particularly shameful that parents were responsible for the cancellation, sending a signal to the entire school that anti-gay attitudes aren’t just acceptable, they’re important and require parental interference to defend their presence.

Luckily, schools are slowly starting to get the picture, and—in the meantime—there’s lots of other help available. My favourite advice columnist, Dan Savage, recently started the It Gets Better Project. To start it off, he and his husband Terry have posted a video on YouTube sharing their experiences being bullied in school, emphasizing how much better things have gotten since then. It’s an important message, and one that I can personally attest to. I was bullied relentlessly throughout junior high. Other kids taunted me for my skinny build, shoved me against lockers, pushed me to the ground, called me gay and other homophobic slurs, and the Catholic school administration did nothing to help. It was the worst years of my life, but I made it through. And after that, things got a whole lot better.

As for B.C., eleven schools districts now have full anti-homophobic bullying policies enacted, prioritizing the well-being of their students over the misinformed and insensitive complaints from a handful of parents. Here’s hoping the other 60 districts will follow suit.

Homophobic Landlord Fined

September 22nd, 2010

In the natural world, the zebra find presents his 12-month tenancy agreement and security deposit.

William Goertzen, a landlord from Yellowknife who refused occupancy to a gay couple because he felt homosexuality was “unnatural,” has been fined for his actions.

Goertzen had already signed a one-year lease with Scott Robertson and Richard Anthony, but refused to honor the legal agreement when he found out they were a gay couple. He then kept their $1,125 security deposit and wouldn’t pay it back until he was ordered to by the rental court.

Charming lad.

The couple finally took Goertzen to the Human Rights Tribunal, where he argued that his personal religious beliefs exempted him from recognising the couple’s legal rights. Homosexuality, Goertzen claimed, was “unnatural and against nature,” adding that his religion “warned against being associated with such wickedness.” (His religion had no strong opinions against forcing people onto the street and stealing $1,125 in damage deposits, of course.)

Luckily for everyone, religious freedom doesn’t mean you get to ignore your legal responsibilities. Goertzen was fined $13,400 in injury and punitive damages.

Acceptance Of Gay Families Inching Forward

September 17th, 2010

Tony and his magnificently stupid sibiling, Professor Slobberboots.

A new survey out of Indiana University suggests that 68 percent of Americans now consider gay couples with children to be families. This is an increase from 2003, where only 54 percent of respondents said so.

Encouraging as that is, there’s still a large group—30 percent—who indicated that pets count as family, but not same-sex couples. No word on how many of them have actually tried to declare Mister Snugglekins III as a dependent for tax purposes, but these kooks sure have a crazy idea of what makes a family. Of course, they’re also largely the same group of people that like to define themselves as “pro-family,” (as opposed to the more accurate “anti-gay”) even though—by their definition—it’s legal to have some members of your family put down if they get too expensive to care for.

In the meantime, I guess a third of Americans had better update their wills to include Sir Wigglepuss, or they’ll have some costly family legal battles to deal with later.

A big thank you to Slap reader Matt for the story!

Lesbian’s House Burned Down In Possible Hate Crime

September 15th, 2010

A witch burning

A two-story house was burned to the ground in what is suspected to be an anti-gay hate crime. Carol and Laura Stuttle moved to Tennessee five years ago, and had been threatened and harassed by a neighbour ever since. Two Saturdays ago, while the couple was celebrating their anniversary in Nashville, their home was burned to the ground and the word “queers” was spraypainted on their garage.

The couple is too afraid to visit the site where their home once stood, not that there was anything left to rescue. The police have confirmed that the fire is arson and that suspects are being interviewed. The Stuttles, in the meantime, are living in a safe house.

It always astonishes me the levels that hate can reach, considering it always starts off in much the same way. Casual homophobia, unchallenged, be it from politicians, churches, or individuals, contributes to an atmosphere where cruelty of this nature feels justifiable to those who commit it. It is not acceptable to leave anti-gay sentiment unchecked, and it is not OK for it to reach this sort of level before any attention is paid. Challenge homophobia wherever it’s found, even if it seems like just sentiment, or inaction upon inaction will let it escalate to unimaginable levels.

Court Upholds Gay Blood Ban

September 13th, 2010

CBS spokesperson says that blood contaminants are highest in donors over the age of 1, and are therefore deferred.

An Ontario court has ruled that Kyle Freeman, a gay man who was sued by Canadian Blood Services for lying on his blood donation questionnaire, was negligent and does not have the right to donate blood. Freeman indicated on his form, untruthfully, that he had not had sex with other men because answering honestly would have deferred him as a donor for life. CBS has a long-standing policy on permanently banning blood donations from any man who has had sex with another man—even once—since 1979.

I’ve been a longtime critic of this policy, but have always respected the letter of it, even if it is deeply flawed. Canadian Blood Services does, indeed, have the right to refuse donations from whomever they choose. No individual, straight or gay, has to have their blood donations accepted by CBS. In this sense, the Kyle Freeman case was an unfortunate way for this issue to have reached the courts; his claim was based on a right that doesn’t really exist. That said, CBS must stop defending its policy as it stands.

My beef with the policy isn’t that I believe I have some inalienable right to donate blood, it’s that the policy focuses on the wrong traits, ignoring the real risks in demographics and instead overtly spreading the myth that gay men are such an inherent danger that having sex with one—even once, since 1979—threatens the quality of Canada’s blood supply.

The flaw is easy to illustrate. Canada’s fastest growing HIV demographic is young, heterosexual women, who already make up 25% of all HIV infections in the country. Yet they aren’t deferred from donating blood. Nor should they be. Why assume, after all, that everyone in the YHW community is a risk when most aren’t? Yet this is precisely the logic used behind CBS’s gay blood ban.

CBS’s policy has got to be replaced by one that emphasizes unprotected sex and the number of sexual partners of a donor, regardless of their gender or the genders of the people they have sex with. Monogamous gay men and those that practice safe sex with limited partners are not a risk to the blood supply, something the American Red Cross has repeatedly noted. CBS already screens every donor with more than acceptable accuracy. That they continue to stand by a policy that focuses on sexual orientation instead of risky sexual practices reinforces the stereotype of the promiscuous gay male and, worse, lends a reputation behind that stereotype that harms the entire gay community.

I have no idea what consequences Ontario’s ruling will have on the movement to adopt a more effective screening questionnaire, but it certainly hasn’t given CBS the kick it needs to reflect on its own policy and to listen to the doctors and medical organisations that oppose it.

XBox Gamer Suspended For Living In Fort Gay

September 10th, 2010

A pink fort with a rainbow and the words Fort Gay

An American gamer was surprised to find that his XBox Live account had been suspended by Microsoft because the name of his town, Fort Gay, West Virginia, was deemed to be offensive.

After discovering the suspension, Josh Moore called Microsoft to re-enable his XBox Live service, but was warned by an employee that entering the name of his hometown again would result in another suspension and that his two year subscription fee of $288 would not be refunded. Josh pleaded with the employee to do a quick  search online and confirm that Fort Gay was a real place, but was told that the town’s name contravened the company’s policy on offensive language and that nothing could be done.

Confused, Josh contacted the press. “At first I thought, ‘Wow, somebody’s thinking I live in the gayest town in West Virginia or something,'” Josh told the Associated Press. “I’m not even gay and it makes me feel like they were discriminating,” he added.

A spokesperson for Microsoft eventually apologised, calling the screw-up a “miscommunication.”

Well, I’m glad it turned out in the end. Besides, it could have been worse. Josh could have been from Penistone, England.

Slap Into Action

September 8th, 2010

“Curing” gays shouldn’t be a charitable activity in Canada. Help stop phony charities and Slap into Action!

Texas Forces Gay Couple To Stay Married

September 8th, 2010

A hand with a wedding ring, clamped into place like a car boot.

An appeals court in Texas has ruled that a gay couple who married out of state can not get divorced.

The couple, who married each other four years ago while living in Massachusetts, are now forced to remain legally married unless they move back to Massachusetts and get a divorce there. While a lower court initially granted the divorce, it was appealed by the state’s Attorney General on the claim that granting a divorce would lead to same-sex marriage.

So, there you go; forcing a gay couple to stay married is now a state strategy in keeping same-sex marriage illegal. It’s almost logical, I suppose… like stopping a kid from smoking by forcing him to finish an entire pack of cigarettes. Or something.

Texas, of course, doesn’t recognize equal marriage rights. What the state was really afraid of is that granting a divorce would essentially amount to having recognized the marriage. It’s a bit of absurd paranoia, if you ask me. Particularly since equal marriage rights is an inevitability as more and more people shed their fears and prejudices about gay people. In the meantime, enjoy your forced marriage, anonymous couple. Texas is seeing to it!

Slap Into Action: “Curing” Gays Isn’t Charity

September 3rd, 2010

Slap Into Action

Update: I’ve set up a sub-page to help organize a campaign. Visit http://www.slapupsidethehead.com/action/

On Wednesday, I posted a story about how Exodus Global Alliance—a religious organisation that offers “freedom from homosexuality” through prayer and something they call sexual reorientation therapy—was denied charitable status in New Zealand.

This piqued my curiosity, and a quick search of Canada’s registered charities showed that Exodus is, indeed, enjoying tax benefits as a registered charity here in Canada.

Since Wednesday’s post, a lot of people have emailed me in agreement that “curing” gays should not be considered a charitable activity in Canada and have been asking what they can do about it. Here’s what I know, and what I think can be done.

First, though, a bit about Exodus Global Alliance and what they do.

What is Exodus?

Exodus is a U.S.-based religious organisation whose slogan is “proclaiming freedom from homosexuality.” Despite all scientific evidence, Exodus claims that homosexuality is a mental disorder and that gay people can change through prayer and reparative therapy.

Exodus, in association with the American Family Association, a U.S.-based, anti-gay lobby group, is mainly responsible for the Love Won Out conference, held several times a year across the U.S. and Canada. This conference includes unaccredited counseling sessions, seminars for dealing with gay family members as if they are disordered, and prayer sessions.

Why is this a bad thing?

Reinforcing the idea that people should detest their natural sexual orientation can lead to demonstrable harm, but more basically, sexual orientation is not a recognised disorder and cannot be changed. There are simply no peer-reviewed studies to support it. The best that Exodus can cite are participant surveys like Jones and Yarhouse, published in a non-scientific journal by InterVarsity Press, a Christian publishing company; Schaeffer, et al., published by the in-house press of Biola University, a private Evangelical Christian school in Los Angeles; and Ponticelli, who hand-selected a statistically unusable sample size of only 15 participants for her results. As participant surveys, none of these are objective studies. (A participant survey of suicide cult members, for example, would suggest that joining such a cult is a life improvement because the members would report satisfaction and believe that they’re doing the right thing. It’s an extreme example, but it demonstrates the flaw.) And yet, even these surveys largely show that a majority of participants were unsatisfied with their experiences at Exodus!

While Exodus likes to spin the same argument around and claim that the “gay lifestyle” (whatever that means) is harmful even if gay people don’t agree, this is not backed up by the medical and psychological community. The world’s largest and most well-respected medical organisations have all gone on record to say that homosexuality is not a recognized disorder, that gay people are not inherently worse off than straight people, that sexual orientation is unchangeable, and that attempts to change it often result in serious psychological harm. These organisations are easily citable and instantly recognisable, including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, and many others.

The consensus from the medical community is further evidenced by Exodus’ spectacular failures, including the coming out of two of its founding members and several former Exodus leaders, as well as the countless private members who have left their organisation confused and distraught.

Do Exodus’ activities violate Canada’s rules for charitable status?

Probably. All registered charities operating in Canada must provide what the Canada Revenue Agency calls a “public benefit.” This is a long legal definition that I can’t claim to fully understand, but, of particular note, a charitity’s activities must be “regarded as valuable by the common understanding of enlightened opinion,” and such value “must be weighed against any harm that may arise from the proposed activity and a net benefit must result.”

Since homosexuality is not a recognised disorder by any respected medical organisation, it’s questionable as to what benefit could come out of trying to treat it as one. Moreoever, the consensus in the medical community is that all attempts to treat homosexuality as a disorder may cause serious psychological harm. With no clear benefit, and demonstrable harm from Exodus’ actions, I think there’s a strong case to argue that Exodus’ activities do not meet Canada’s criteria for charitable status.

Exodus has already been awarded charitable status; can it be revoked?

Yes. Charitable status can be revoked for one of three reasons: Voluntary revocation (unlikely in this case), Revocation for failure to file taxes (also unlikely), or revocation for a cause other than a failure to file. The latter is complicated, but states that charitable status can be revoked for “a failure to comply with the requirements of registration,” which may include the “public benefit test.”

According to Revenue Canada, claims of public benefit by any charity “may be […] rebutted by concerns raised,” and there is definitely legal precedent of this.

How do I raise a concern with Revenue Canada?

Contact Revenue Canada’s Charities Directorate at 1-800-267-2384 and ask for your concerns to be directed to the Charities Compliance Division, or write to them:

Charities Directorate
Canada Revenue Agency
Ottawa ON K1A 0L5

You can also submit your concerns via email. CharitiesComplianceDivisi.LPRA@cra-arc.gc.ca

While you’re at it, contact the Office of the Commissioner and Office of the Deputy Commissioner of the CRA:

Mrs. Linda Lizotte-MacPherson
Commissioner — Chief Executive Officer of the CRA
7th Floor
555 MacKenzie Avenue
Ottawa ON K1A 0L5

Mrs. Lyse Ricard
Deputy Commissioner of the CRA
7th Floor
555 MacKenzie Avenue
Ottawa ON K1A 0L5

I recommend simply stating something along the lines of the following:

I’m concerned that the activities being performed in Canada by Exodus Global Alliance, a registered charity, do not meet the criteria of a public benefit as defined by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Exodus’ primary activities include the promotion and treatment of homosexuality as a mental disorder—a notion not supported by the medical and psychological community. Since homosexuality has not been listed as a disorder in medical literature since the mid 1970s, it does not require treatment as promoted by Exodus. Several respected medical and psychological associations, incuding the American Medical Assocation and the American Psychological Association, have issued official statements attesting that such treatments may even result in serious psychological harm.

For these reasons, and in the interest of Canadians, I believe Exodus Global Alliance’s charitable status should be re-evaluated according to the Canada Revenue Agency’s public benefit criteria.

I think it’s reasonable to expect that, with enough expressed concern, and backed by a supply of evidence that Exodus simply can’t refute, the CRA will launch the process of revocation for a cause on Exodus Global Alliance. But they need to hear our concerns first. Slap into action, share this story with your friends, and let the Canada Revenue Agency know that “curing” gays shouldn’t be a charitable activity in Canada.

Where can I learn more about these gay “curing” societies?

The activities and distortions of several Exodus-like organisations are well-documented. I strongly recommend visiting Truth Wins Out, an organisation dedicated to exposing the myths and political motivations behind organisations like Exodus. Box Turtle Bulletin also regularly posts exhaustive investigations into these organisations, exposing the deliberate distortions used to back up their claims.

“Curing” Gays Isn’t Charity

September 1st, 2010

A man asks for charity status for his organization which shoves gays head first into boxes of spiders.

New Zealand has tossed a purely anti-gay organization to the curb after it had applied for charitable status in the country.

Exodus Global Alliance, an U.S.-based religious organisation whose goal is to keep alive the myth that gay people can be cured through reparative therapy and prayer, was seeking tax benefits through charitable status before it was soundly rejected. The commission reviewing the application was thorough in their justification, noting that since homosexuality was not a recognized mental disorder, it did not need curing. While the commission cited the American Psychological Association in their decision, they could have just as easily added the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counselling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and several other well-respected organisations who have all gone on record to say that sexual orientation not only isn’t a disorder, and not only can’t be changed, but that all attempts to treat homosexuality as a disorder can cause significant psychological harm.

Knowing this, Exodus has been very careful recently when advertising its claims. A careful observer will note that they don’t even define what they mean when they say homosexuals can “change” (normally this amounts to promoting lifelong chastity). Still, that doesn’t stop countless people from trying their methods, fed by the bizarre claim that there are tens of thousands of “ex-gays” out there.

In reality, Exodus is doing demonstrable, but incalculable, harm to people everywhere. The ministries’ success stories amount, essentially, to brainwashing. A large number of participants end up confused and depressed after being taught to hate their natural sexual orientation. It’s not a surprise therefore that the group’s failures are spectacular. Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, two of Exodus’ co-founders, quit the group shortly after they formed it and married each other in a commitment ceremony. In 2007, two other former Exodus leaders joined Bussee and issued an apology for their role in the organisation, saying that they are all openly gay. Just this year, Bussee confessed that he had never seen one Exodus member actually change their sexual orientation.

Given all this, it’s expected that New Zealand would have rejected the application for charitable status, but it’s not a surprise that Exodus was seeking it. Exodus is primarily a religious organisation with a strong political goal that relies on the worldwide spread of their myth. Anti-gay lobby groups use the existence of organisations like Exodus to promote the notion that there is no such thing as gay people—only straight people who are caught in sin. And with no such thing as a real gay person, there’s no need for equal rights such as marriage, employment and housing protections, and so forth.

Good for New Zealand for siding with the medical community and seeing through all of Exodus’ nonsense. It’s too bad Canada isn’t as wise in this respect. Exodus Global Alliance is, sadly, a registered charity in Canada.

Super hat tip goes to Arthur at AmeriNZ for the story!