Friday, May 27, 2011

Why I Love New York - Bloomberg, Mets, & It Gets Better

A fellow Family Dinner participant who is in no way related to me gave me a heads-up on this story. Thanks, Luis!

Bloomberg championed marriage equality like a BAMF. He might be Republican, but at least we can agree on two things: 1. Marriage equality is important. 2. Homeless youth should freeze to death. 3. It Gets Better is a good idea.

Okay. Maybe we can only agree on one thing. I mean, the guy released an It Gets Better video...after he cut funding for homeless kids (which disproportionately impacts queer youth). As for marriage equality, he had this to say:

"The time has come for us to fulfill the dreams that exploded into Sheridan Square 42 years ago to allow thousands of men and women to become full members of the American family, and to take the next step on the inspired journey our founding fathers first began."

It is my hope that members of the state senate majority will recognize that supporting marriage equality is not only consistent with our civic principles — it is consistent with conservative principles. Conservatives believe that government should not intrude into people’s personal lives — and it’s just none of government’s business who you love" (Bloomberg quoted by The Advocate).

Bravo.

So, yesterday I posted a Change.org campaign focused on getting the NY Yankees to make an It Gets Better video. As a faux-New Yorker, it is important to me to blend in with the culture. I should scowl, use a black umbrella, and NEVER excuse myself for roughly bumping people onto their asses.

However, I need to be fair to my neighbors. Some of them might support the Mets and not the Yankees! Well, this is for them:



By all means, please sign both petitions.

We gotta help queer youth somehow - this is as good as any place to start.
_

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tell the Yankees to Make an It Gets Better Video!

Many Americans look up to athletes. Lets see if we can get more athletes to be role models for LGBT Youth.


_

My "Retarded" Epic - How Using the R-Word is Wrong

My friend Olivia encouraged me to stop using "retarded" as a pejorative term. For me, it was a simple choice not to use it around her - she didn't like it, and it offended her. End of story.

Here's the thing. Although I chose not to do it, I didn't like not being able to use the r-word. Every so often, I had to censor myself around her. Olivia's arguments against using the r-word made me feel like I could be a bad person. What if she was right? I didn't want to be mean. I didn't want to offend my friends with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I didn't want to be a bad person. The easy rationalization in this case was to dismiss Olivia's position and go with mine. Hell, I wouldn't have to change a damn thing about what I was doing. Easy, n'est pas?

But I don't jive well with the easy way - which is probably why I'm blogging and cussin' at AFruit4Thought and not checking my tongue at NPR. (NPR, if you're reading this - I really, really would like to work for you. I'll stop cussin,' I swear!) Actually, it'd be easier not to be progressive at all and go for an even more mainstream, moderate news source.

The point is, good things aren't always easy. That's why I've moved to being a mostly-vegetarian (read about that here). That's why I do my best not to use the term "bitch." That's also why I've successfully eliminated the r-word from my speech.

I'm a success story, guys. You, too, can eliminate "retarded" and "retard" from your vocabulary! It's not easy, but it's the right thing to do. Deep down, you probably know it, too. Go to R-Word.org for some ways to help you break the habit. Also, go there if you think this blog post is a bag of shit that's not worth dropping on your queerphobic neighbor's front porch and setting on fire. At least look at what they have to say.

All of this stemmed from a PSA featuring Jane Lynch and Lauren Potter from Glee:


I joined the discussion on Queerty: "The success of the campaigns against 'that's so gay' prove that we can remove 'retarded' as a pejorative. People who say that it's embedded in their speech just don't feel like trying. It's easier to rationalize using 'retarded' because we're comfortable with it. It's harder to see that we're hurting people and should change. Don't take the easy way out and blind yourself to the pain you're so carelessly dealing out."

Go to Queerty and join the discussion - it's offensive to me to see a group of gays complaining about people using "that's so gay" and then shouting about how they don't want to stop using the r-word.



And thus, I have successfully quoted myself on my blog. How's that for shameless self-promotion?
_

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nick Espinosa Pranks a Tea Party Rally Against Immigrant Rights

This is just a cool vid I found about a guy named Nick Espinosa who uses pranks to further social change. Espinosa is the same person who glittered Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista.

Espinosa, going by the alias Robert Erikson, pranked a tea party rally. He gave a speech against immigration that eventually called for the removal of European immigrants, who "stole this land through genocide and ethnic cleansing." The crowd goes wild cheering...towards the end, some of the Tea Partiers start to get the joke. They're not particularly happy.


Unfortunately, the cognitive dissonance this event triggered is just going to further reinforce their crazy ideas. However, the prank does provide a good argument for people on the fence about immigration rights and reforms. Aren't we all immigrants to the US (Amerindians did immigrate here a bajillion years ago)?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Big Business Supported Tennessee's New Anti-Queer Bill

You know what sucks?

My vacuum, the bathroom exhaust fan, and my AT&T phone.

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce made the decision to support House Bill 600 and Senate Bill 632. On the surface (the absolute tippy surfacey bit), these bills were aimed at enforcing the state's ability to control anti-discrimination laws. This is important because...Well, I'm not really sure. Besides streamlining the way that big companies can do business across town lines...

Let's examine this: On Sunday, companies were bound my LGBT anti-discrim laws in Nashville, for example, but not in Middle-Of-Nowhere-Ville. With the governor's signature on the bill yesterday, now companies aren't bound my anti-discrim laws in Nashville or in M-O-N-Ville.

Thus, in practice, the bill struck down local LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances.

Some of the companies on the board of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce are FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Nissan, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield. At this time, AT&T, Nissan, and FedEx have released statements saying that they have strong anti-discrimination policies in-house. They go on to say the law was meant to level the playing field statewide and was not directed at the queer community at all.

They didn't know if would hurt the queers! It's not like they have an army of lawyers or anything.

A highly visible supporter of the bill, the Family Action Council, is extremely anti-queer. FAC lobbied heavily for the bill, even producing the following disturbing advert. Of course, I'm sure the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce was entirely unaware of the other lobby groups because that's the way to win a political campaign...They couldn't have known about the Family Action Council. No siree!



Somehow, every transgender anti-discrimination ANYTHING is turned into a...duh, duh, duh!... BATHROOM BILL!!! Oh no! No laws anywhere criminalize men who stalk little girls!

Oh, wait. Isn't that illegal everywhere in the US? My bad - these emotional ads totally destroy my capacity to think rationally.

The companies are starting to distance themselves. It's too late for the LGBT anti-discrim laws in TN, but it's not to late to teach these companies a lesson. Sure, some of them got perfect score for their LGBT in-house policies from the Human Rights Campaign. Then again, if you love sea turtles, and if you're not driving the bus, and if the bus is going to drive over endangered sea turtles, maybe you'd hop off the damn bus - even if you liked the sites on the other side of the beach.

In essence, what my fatigued brain is trying to say is, if you the love the queers, and if (somehow) your vote doesn't matter, and if the Chamber of Commerce is going to throw in support for something that hurts the queers, maybe you should get off the damn roller coaster.


Please see AmericaBlog Gay for more information. See AmericaBlog Gay's action page if you want to change something about how these companies do business.




Totally random fruity thought:

I was very excited to see that Change.org advertised on my blog. In that vein, please visit my petition against SEPTA's gender stickers. If you don't know already, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority requires its monthly passes to be marked with an "M" or an "F." Other genders, no gender, many genders...you are not represented. Oh, and if the driver deems that you don't look like the gender on your pass, you can be booted from the bus/train/etc.


_

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"What is the Internet Hiding?"

...asks MoveOn.org. Eli Pariser answers in the following TED Talk. Pariser educates us on how Google, Facebook, and other media services cater themselves to the individual user...and how this catering makes us all dumber.



When I do internet research, it's imperative that I get an unbiased search result. Signing out of my Google account no longer gives me a lens-free look at what's buzzing on a certain topic. When I'm working for social change, this can almost kill my current campaign - at least I'm still saavy enough to find and neutralize the competition's arguments (to the best of my ability).

Not cool.
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Monday, May 16, 2011

I laughed, I cried...I puked on the futon!

Readers, you may have noticed the advertisements that AFruit4Thought is now displaying. Someone has to pay for upkeep and such (that someone is me). Anyway, I almost died this morning when I noticed that New Yorkers for [Un]Constitutional Freedoms had put up an ad for their May 24th anti-marriage rally in Albany (NY's state capitol).



I thought it was hilarious. I thought how sad it was - fundie groups sneak ads into queer blogs all the time (I have yet to see an instance where queer blogs sneak onto fundie blogs...maybe I'll be the first!). I thought about how sickening it was that these ads were up on my site for who knows how long. Luckily, it looks like no one clicked on them!



"New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms is dedicated to influencing legislation and legislators for the Lord Jesus Christ."

The Lord Jesus Christ has apparently developed a hatred for gays, Planned Parenthood, and some other issues. Let it be known, though, that Jesus mostly hates the queers and the freedom to choose an abortion (or to choose not to have an abortion).

Speaking of NY's GENDA (the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Bill), NYCF said:
"The Bathroom Bill would open all public accommodations, including restrooms, high school locker rooms, health clubs, dorm rooms and other single sex residential facilities like homeless and family violence shelters to both biological genders dependent upon how a person chooses to self-identify. Any man could legally gain access to facilities reserved for women and girls simply by indicating, verbally or non-verbally, that he inwardly feels female at the moment."

Someone give me a source that demonstrates that this has ever been an issue in real-life (as opposed to "inside fundies' heads" life). Please.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Apologies that AFruit4Thought has not been updated recently. My new apartment is experiencing internet woes, and the past 4 cafes have had bad connections.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gay couple struggling to stay together over threat of deportation

My newest article for Out In Jersey:

 Josh Vandiver (left) and Henry Velandia (right)

"It's a B movie nightmare - the government takes your true love and ships them off to another continent. For Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia, this nightmare has been a daily reality. Although the couple was married last year, Velandia could be deported back to his native Venezuela despite Vandiver's US citizenship. On Friday, May 6th, a rally was held in Newark, NJ in support of the couple. GetEQUAL, Garden State Equality, the Princeton Equality Project and many other LGBT equality organizations sponsored the event. Later that same day, Velandia's deportation proceedings were adjourned until December by an immigration judge.

Although Vandiver and Velandia were married in Connecticut, the Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from recognizing their relationship. Since 1996, DOMA has been a huge roadblock for many binational, same-gender couples. The Obama administration recently stated that it could no longer support DOMA because it violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. This development has brought new hope to the cause.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services generally allows a US citizen to sponsor their spouse for a green card. Lavi Soloway, the lawyer for Vandiver and Velandia, told Out In Jersey, "Immigration laws bend over backwards to keep families together, especially married couples." Vandiver, however, cannot sponsor his husband like other couples because he is in a same-gender relationship. When DOMA is repealed, Vandiver and Velandia will have a much better chance of staying together in the US.

On Friday, Immigration Judge Alberto Riefkohl adjourned Velandia's deportation proceedings until December. Stop The Deportations: The DOMA Project reports that the decision is the result of the pending status of Vandiver's green card petition and Attorney General Eric Holder's intervention in another NJ gay couple's deportation proceedings. Riefkohl's ruling is solid good news for a couple that has been riding an endless immigration roller coaster.

The couple has a heart-warming story. Velandia said, "We met four years ago in November 2006. We met in Princeton on campus. I live around the area, we kind of clicked and it was really great to meet Josh. That's when I came out to my mom, the same day I met Josh." Velandia, a native of Venezuela, came to the US in 2002. Vandiver is currently attending Princeton University for his PhD."

Click here for the rest of the article!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

If Porn Company Sues, Do Gay Kids Die? (or is this just hype?)

As you may now from my previous post, gay porn giant Corbin Fisher is finally starting to sue some BitTorrent users for distributing their videos.

Being the good blogger that I am (try not to laugh too hard), I contacted Corbin Fisher about some of the allegations against them. Mainly, that they are being crass and unfeeling ass-hats. Corbin Fisher did not deign to respond. Now, none of my sources are solid enough for me to feel comfortable saying this is how it is, but I can't help but feel like Corbin Fisher didn't get back to me because the alleged emails do exist. That or I'm not important enough. The lawsuit can be viewed in full here.

As I said before, this issue is more than just a hot button because the word "porn" is used. It has relevance across the board - what are our responsibilities regarding protecting closeted queer youth?

Queerty released a blog post from an alleged victim of the suit who will kill himself if his parents find out. One of the founders of Unicorn Booty, Kevin Farrell, posted a vlog (video blog) where he talked about almost killing himself because his parents found his porn on his computer (at age 12). A week later, they kicked him out of the home. He moved to his aunt's house. At 16, he got beat up by his best friend (and cousin) because the cousin found gay porn on the computer. Later, his aunt kicked him out, and then he tried to kill himself. Corbin Fisher even said that they have been contacted by people afraid of being outed.


According to Unicorn Booty (yes, that's the real name of the blog), Corbin Fisher has been unimaginably callous in regards to their current lawsuit. According to Unicorn Booty, the porn company's lawyer (Marc J. Randazza) called underage defendants "thieving little shits." That same link will show you an unscientific guess by an unnamed nationally renowned sex educator that there is only, like, 1 in 100,000 chances that a kid will commit suicide from the lawsuit. In my less-than-humble opinion, any chance is too much. Randazza is quoted in another article as saying that the mudslinging about teens killing themselves is "laughable." The company allegedly sent an email to a Unicorn Booty reader who contacted Corbin Fisher saying that they are "liberating" gay teens from the closet by outing them.

So, we've established that he's a bad public liaison. Who cares?

Regardless of what is true or not here, it makes me think about the implications of lawsuits, the power of the porn industry, and the hidden dangers to queer youth. So maybe no one will kill themselves...but what if? Then again, if we are always crying wolf, nothing can ever get done. When do the risks outweigh the benefits? When is it okay to say, "yeah, someone could kill themselves, but I doubt it, so let's keep going."

To cap it off, Corbin Fisher's legal team seems just plain silly:
"But it’s the the fourth charge — negligence — that is the most ridiculous. The suit alleges Internet service customers (like most anyone reading this website right now!) who don’t properly secure their wifi networks through password encryption are guilty of facilitating infringement, because these customers let anyone hop on their connection to distribute illegal content" (Queerty).

I'm going to try to pick up our moods now that we've read about suicide among some of our most vulnerable community members. I had to check the Terms of Service (TOS) on the Corbin Fisher main page before accessing the site to email them. I wanted to contact them (or Liberty Media Holdings, their parent company), but I didn't want to deal with any shoddy lawsuits about freedom of the press. Plus, it's not worth it for me to be the self-righteous victim when getting a lawyer would be a huge stretch of my pocketbook.

Sooo...duh duh duh duuuuuuuh!...the legalese from their TOS. I've highlighted my favorite parts. I like the part where "especially no fucking U.S. Transportation Security Administration employees may be members." "Fucking" is a legal term frequently used in legal term places. It generally means, "I don't take this seriously, so let's see if someone has read this far."

The text is tiny, but you can enlarge it in a few ways. PC users can hold the CTRL key and spin that wheely thing on their mouse. Or hold CTRL and use the up arrow and down arrow keys. Mac users with a touchpad can zoom in with the touchpad (generally by moving two fingers apart from each other).

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Terms and Conditions

Liberty Media Holdings

http://www.corbinfisher.com

Effective Date: January 1, 2009

Last Modified: March 24, 2011


1.7.3


You agree to re-visit Our Website(s) on a weekly basis, and to use the “refresh” button on Your browser when doing so. Upon each visit, You agree to note the date of the last revision to this Agreement. If the “last modified” date remains unchanged from the last time You reviewed this Agreement, then You may presume that nothing in the Agreement has been changed since the last time You read it. If the “last modified” date has changed, You can be certain that something in the Agreement has been changed, and You agree that You will re-review the Agreement in its entirety and that You will agree to its terms or immediately cease all use of any or Our Website(s).


5.1.1.


Duplicate any part of the Website(s) or the materials contained therein (except as expressly provided elsewhere in this Agreement)


I hope that doesn't mean copying their TOS in part...and I'm pretty sure they can't do anything about this to a member of the press.


5.2.


Additionally – Use of Our Website(s) is strictly prohibited for any use other than for personal, non-commercial use. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, the following:


5.2.1.


Competitors are not authorized to access or use LMH’s Websites without express, written permission from LMH in advance of such access. Such permission will be liberally granted.


5.2.2.


Members of the law enforcement community, their agents and employees, are not authorized to access or use LMH’s Websites.


5.2.3.


Employees of the United States government, their agents, and their contractors are not authorized to access or use the Company's Websites.


5.2.4


No employee of the United States Department of Homeland Security and especially no fucking U.S. Transportation Security Administration employees may be members.


Somebody's cranky.


6.6


You agree to take all possible measures to keep your username and password secure.


6.7


You agree that if your password security is breached, you are solely responsible for any damage or liability occurring by this breach.


6.8


You are on notice that you are responsible for safeguarding your account information. You agree that, even if you can prove hacking by clear and convincing evidence, you are still liable for any 3rd party use of your username and password.


6.9


You specifically agree that if your account is used to download any of Our content and that content is later found on a one-click hosting site, a file locker site, a torrent site, a tube site, or any other site, service or server or any other medium used for sharing content, that You will pay liquidated damages of $25,000 to Us. However, if it can be shown that your account was compromised because of a security breach at Corbin Fisher, and not a result of your negligence or intentional sharing of your account, then you will not be responsible for these liquidated damages.




9.2.


In no event shall Our maximum total aggregate liability hereunder for direct damages exceed the total fees, actually paid by You, for use of one of Our Websites for a period of no more than one (1) month from the accrual of the applicable cause or causes of action. Because some jurisdictions prohibit the exclusion or limitation of liability for consequential or incidental damages, the above limitation may not apply to You.


10.4.


You acknowledge and agree that upon transmission of Your complaint to us, You will be considered to have engaged in settlement discussions with Us, and neither party will initiate formal legal action while non-adversarial resolution is in progress. You agree that You will not file suit unless and until We issue a statement to You that We have taken Our final action, and that no further action will be taken without adversarial proceedings. At that point, You may proceed with arbitration as provided for under this Agreement.


10.5.


You acknowledge that once You accept any of Our offers of non-adversarial resolution, that You irrevocably waive any and all possible claims for any allegedly offending material on Our Website(s) and that if You do bring any action against Us that You hereby stipulate that You will bear Your own costs and fees incurred in the action, regardless of the outcome of that action, and that You stipulate that Your damages will be limited to $1, and no more, and that You hereby acknowledge that such amount of $1 is sufficient and adequate.


11.1.1.


Governing Law – This Agreement and all matters arising out of, or otherwise relating to, this Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of California, excluding its conflict of law provisions. The sum of this paragraph is that any and all disputes between the Parties must be, without exception, brought to court and litigated in San Diego County, California.


11.1.1.1.


All parties to this Agreement agree that all actions or proceedings arising in connection with this Agreement or any services or business interactions between the parties that may be subject to this Agreement shall be tried and/or litigated exclusively in the state and federal courts located in San Diego County, California.


11.1.1.2.


The parties agree to exclusive jurisdiction in, and only in, San Diego County, California.


11.1.1.3.


The parties agree to exclusive venue in, and only in, San Diego County, California.


11.1.1.4.


The parties additionally agree that this choice of venue and forum is mandatory and not permissive in nature, thereby precluding any possibility of litigation between the parties with respect to, or arising out of, this Agreement in a jurisdiction other than that specified in this paragraph.


11.1.1.8.


Any final judgment rendered against a party in any action or proceeding shall be conclusive as to the subject of such final judgment and may be enforced in other jurisdictions in any manner provided by law if such enforcement becomes necessary.


11.2.


Assignment – The rights and liabilities of the parties hereto will bind and inure to the benefit of their respective assignees, successors, executors, and administrators, as the case may be.


Can the Executor of my estate take my membership for his/her/ze's personal use?! Whoopie!


11.3.


Severability – If for any reason a court of competent jurisdiction or an arbitrator finds any provision of this Agreement, or any portion thereof, to be unenforceable, that provision will be enforced to the maximum extent permissible and the remainder of this Agreement will continue in full force and effect.




11.4.


Attorneys’ Fees – In the event any Party shall commence any claims, actions, formal legal action, or arbitration to interpret and/or enforce any of the terms and conditions of this Agreement, or relating in any way to this Agreement, including without limitation asserted breaches of representations and warranties, all parties shall bear their own costs and fees.






11.7.


Headings – All headings are solely for the convenience of reference and shall not affect the meaning, construction or effect of this Agreement.


Thanks for the clarification there. I thought it was like the Da Vinci code and was running the heading numbers through my scrambler.


11.1


Service - In order to relieve themselves of the cost, hassle, and inconvenience of traditional service of process, the parties hereby stipulate that either party may serve the other with a complaint and summons by mail, Fed-ex, UPS, or by email. The parties both hereby waive their right to traditional process-server delivered complaints and summons. With respect to e-mail service: both parties agree that email shall be sufficient service of process if the e-mail is sent to the e-mail address on record provided by You when initiating Your membership. Personal, physical, or mail service is not required. This stipulation to receive e-mail service extends to any disputes between the parties, whether they are relevant to this Agreement or not.


12.1.


In various provisions in this Agreement, We have outlined liquidated damages amounts to be applied as penalties against You if You violate these specific provisions. You specifically agree to pay these amounts. In agreeing to pay liquidated damages, You acknowledge that this amount is not a penalty and that the actual damages are uncertain and difficult to ascertain, but that this amount represents the parties’ good faith attempt to calculate an appropriate compensation based on anticipated actual damages.


12.2.


For any breach of a portion of this Agreement that does not specifically state a liquidated damages amount, You hereby agree that any breach of this Agreement shall result in liquidated damages of $5,000.00 per occurrence. You specifically agree to pay this $5,000.00 in liquidated damages.


12.3.


For any breach of this Agreement resulting in liquidated damages owed by You, You specifically agree and We expressly reserve the right to assign Our rights to these liquidated damages to a third party.


12.4.


If We are required to enlist the assistance of an Attorney or other person to collect any liquidated damages or any other amount of money from You, or if We are required to seek the assistance of an Attorney to pursue injunctive relief against You, then You additionally agree that You will reimburse Us for all fees incurred in order to collect these liquidated damages or in order to seek injunctive relief from You. You understand that even a nominal amount of damages may require the expenditure of extensive legal fees, travel expenses, costs, and other amounts that may dwarf the liquidated damages themselves. You agree that You will pay all of these fees and costs.


A lawyer would understand that "extensive legal fees, travel expenses, costs, and other amounts" are involved in some cases. But thanks for telling the average person this...who probably hasn't read a damn part of this agreement.

---

To the best of my meager knowledge, some of the terms would not hold up in court. If that is true, why are they in Corbin Fisher's Terms of Service in the first place? Many of these terms are probably there to scare people away, serving much the same purpose as the lawsuit and the publicity generated around it. The grabbing of correct IP addresses for Corbin Fisher's suit might not be foolproof enough for court, but the porn company did get lots of publicity and some money from those who turned themselves in.

If nothing else, I'm just as guilty of fear-mongering and sensationalism as Unicorn Booty and Queerty. But behind the keywords and catchy terms, there is the real possibility that we have no idea how to handle suicide and depression among queer youth.



(On another note, it looks like Queerty is coming back. Thank goodness - otherwise many of these links would be useless.)
_
Headache of doom
Working too hard
Need to sleep
Or head will
Essplode!!!!