Friday, June 26, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Gay Marriage Legal in All 50 States



Victory! Let us rejoice in a chorus of "Yaas!" as marriage equality is now the law of the land! Of course, there will be dissenters and stragglers--like my governor Bobby Jindal, who vows to fight marriage equality until the bitter end, all in the name of trying rev up the base for his anemic presidential run. And just like President Obama's historic victory in '08 did not usher us into a post-racial era, this ruling will  not magically wash away all forms of homophobia and transphobia.

But this, to state the obvious, is historic, an irrevocable game changer. Watch President Obama's speech about the ruling below.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rachel Dolezal and The Problems With #TransRacial


Unless you've sworn off all forms of social media over the last few days, then you are aware of the revelation Rachel Dolezal, president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, has been outed as a white woman after posing as a black woman for more than a decade.

Dolezal's true racial identity came to light via her family, who say she first began to "disguise herself"around 2006 or 2007, after they adopted four black kids. Dolezal was also recently confronted by a reporter about her background when a photo of her with an older black man she claimed was her father was posted online as part of promotion for an NAACP ceremony.

If you're like me, your initial reaction to all of this was...wait, no whut? And it likely turned to "Really?" when it was revealed just how deep Dolezal went in, receiving a full scholarship from Howard University--who thought she was black by the way--teaching African studies, identifying herself as black, white and American Indian on an application for a city chairwoman position, and blogging about her "experiences" of growing up black in America.

Those latter actions are part of what makes this whole scandal so troubling. If Dolezal were simply a random oddball who decided to "become" a part of another race, or a writer or performance artist doing some type of social experiment that'd be one thing. But she essentially carved out a prominent, professional space for herself based on a complete lie, taking valuable space (not to mention coin) away from actual black women to share their experiences and perspectives. While Rachel may have a deep appreciation for black culture and empathy with the issues that affect our community, she would have made a infinitely more powerful statement by simply showing up as herself, a white woman, and becoming an ally to the cause.

What's been equally irritating is some folks defense of her, with some bringing up the long history of black people passing as white. Issues of self-hatred aside, many black folks passed as white, not due to shame about their identity, but to have the opportunities and privileges they wouldn't have otherwise gotten due to discrimination. Privileges Dolezal already has by virtue of her race.

Others have even gone so far as to compare her transformation to Caitlyn Jenner's gender transition, throwing the transracial hashtag all over the Twitter-verse. Now look, I have my issues with Ms. Jenner--her support of the Republican party being one of them--and the way she has been lifted up as the spokesperson for the entire trans community (a role she has resisted). However, she has not lied about her gender identity or the journey of her transition. She is not claiming to have been born a cisgender woman or regaling anyone with stories of getting her first period or pregnancy scares. Dolezal, on the other hand, has gone to great lengths to pass as a black woman and make everyone believe she is one.

More than that, race, while a social construct, skin color is hereditary, as other have pointed out. As Huffington Post's Zeba Blay so eloquently states:

"Transracial identity is a concept that allows white people to indulge in blackness as a commodity, without having to actually engage with every facet of what being black entails -- discrimination, marginalization, oppression, and so on. It plays into racial stereotypes, and perpetuates the false idea that it is possible to "feel" a race. As a white woman, Dolezal retains her privilege; she can take out the box braids and strip off the self-tanner and navigate the world without the stigma tied to actually being black. Her connection to racial oppression is something she has complete control over, a costume she can put on -- and take off -- as she pleases."

So to sum up, Dolezal wanting to lend her voice to fighting against racism, to studying, appreciating and educating others on black culture and becoming involved in activism is not the problem. Lying about her racial background and infiltrating spaces she could otherwise entered with no problem like some kind of tanned, transracial Trojan horse is.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Irish Equality Minister Promises To Strengthen LGBT Workplace Protections


The luck of the Irish ain't no joke. In the wake of the country's historic popular vote on marriage equality, and the government's adoption of expanded same-sex parental and family rights, Minister of State for Equality Aodhan O Riordain has unveiled plans to extend workplace protections for teachers and staff at religious schools and hospitals.

According to Out Magazine, which cites The Irish Times, says the current law allows denominational institutions to discriminate against potential and current employees if it is felt an individual "undermines their ethos." While O Riordain  feels a repeal of that section of the law would be unconstitutional (and if these organizations are privately funded, it would be), he contends it could be worked around by “rais[ing] the bar of the ‘undermining’ to be so high as to be irrelevant what somebody’s personal life would be.”

“Effectively you have a situation where an awful lot of teachers in primary and secondary schools would have voted Yes [in the marriage referendum] on Friday, would have gone out and celebrated over the weekend, possibly went back into their staff rooms on Monday morning and didn’t tell anybody what they were up to because they felt it would impact on their promotion prospects in the school," he said.

O Riordain believes the momentum of the marriage equality vote will lead to amendment of the law.

OITNB's Danielle Brooks to Join 'The Color Purple' on Broadway



Some other Orange Is The New Black-related news as the show's third season looms closer...Danielle Brooks, a.k.a. Taystee, is making her Great White Way debut as Sofia in a Broadway production of The Color Purple.

Brooks joins Jennifer Hudson, who is slated to play Shug Avery, and London-based star Cynthia Erivo, making her stage debut as Celie. Tony Award-winning director/set designer John Doyle, who's previous credits include Sweeney Todd and Company, is on board to helm the project. 

Previews for the production begin November 9, with the show opening to the general public on December 10. 
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