Beat Cancer! #beatcancer

In honor of my brother, David, who is fighting cancer, an my mother, Anne who passed away from cancer nearly ten years ago, I am joining the social media campaign to fight cancer today. For every blog post, Facebook update, and Twitter post with the hashtag #beatcancer, $.01 is donated to cancer charities. I’m helping to raise funds to #beatcancer, by blogging, tweeting and posting Facebook status updates. Click here to join me!

A Plea for Decorum and Civility

Since the Presidential debates of 2008, I have been a believer in the potential of the Internet and social networking tools to be productive tools of public discourse. It was so exciting to come home from work every day and watch the news or the debates and connect online with people all over the country about issues.

I am decidedly left of center politically, a proud liberal dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, and I am guilty of conversing with others who more often than not share my convictions. It is not that I don’t want to debate the issues, with people on the right, but I will admit that I don’t relish the conflict.

I would be interested in civil public discourse, but I have to say that the extreme views of the Tea Party led by Rush Limbaugh and the Fox Network are not conducive to such constructive discourse. And now it seems that some social networkers on the right are interested in public discourse, but only anonymously and only to be personally insulting and abusive to individuals who oppose them. At least that has been my experience.

It is natural for debate about important issues to make people angry, but if we can’t commit to treat each other with respect, and only resort to trying to intimidate each other by yelling down people with insults at town halls or tweeting cruel insults anonymously at people we disagree with, we’re never going to be able to find sustainable solutions to major problems.

I have invited conservatives to productive and respectful dialog here before, and I am doing it again. I continue to believe that finding common ground is possible, but this is a two way street, and people on both sides have to be willing to meet in the middle. Clinging to opposite extremes is only going to keep us stuck where are instead of moving productively forward.

Minding the Semantics of Marriage Equality

I’ve been seeing a lot of headlines in the press, mainstream and LGBT, about marriage equality framed in the term “gay marriage.” Here is an example from a tweet from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

I it unfortunate that “gay marriage” is the term that has stuck in the popular vernacular. My wife and I were on the front lines in the beginning of this civil rights movement when it began in 2004.  At that time, we were coached by the leading activists of the movement, including many folks from NCLR, not to talk about “gay marriage,” but rather same-sex marriage or marriage equality. There are many good reasons not to use the term “gay marriage.

On of the reasons I am opposed to the “gay marriage” frame is that many lesbians, myself included, don’t identify as “gay.” “Gay” is by and large a term used to describe homosexual men, and as a woman, I simply don’t identify. Gay is gender specific and exclusive of women.

Perhaps more importantly, the term “gay marriage” frames the civil rights issue as if the institution of marriage would be different for same-sex couples. Someone once said to me “we don’t want a disco version of marriage! We want equal marriage rights!”

I also understand the fact that “gay marriage” is the dominant paradigm, and that when people do a news search about it they are not going to search for marriage equality. Bloggers, journalists, and activists want their web pages to appear in the search, so they have to use the terms, too. I know, also, that “gay” is three letters and will take up far less real estate in a headline or a 140-character tweet.

However, is is too much to ask the queer press to at least make an effort to frame the national conversation differently? The example of the tweet that I cited before from NCLR didn’t take up nearly Twitter’s 140-character limit.

I understand the reasons why so many in the queer press write and talk about same-sex marriage using the frame of “gay marriage,” but I see plenty of opportunities where people can be mindful and talk about marriage equality instead. I fear that “gay marriage” has become so pervasive that we in the marriage equality movement have fully adopted it, too.

I sincerely hope that people will be more mindful and change the frame of the conversation whenever the opportunity arises.