Sunday, February 22, 2009

The shame in their grandchildren's eyes

I liked what Sean Penn said tonight at the Academy Awards.

For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, and, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.

Friday, February 20, 2009

No More Goodbyes, Please - Part 3

My boyfriend Tobi is in an immigration crisis. I blogged previously about this here and here.

Tobi recently found another job, so the deportation clock has quit ticking. (Yay!) I can't really go into the details here, but the job he found is provisional at best. He is continuing to look for other employment in his field, and the situation continues to entail a lot of risk and uncertainty. Of course, if Tobi had state-approved anatomy, we would not have to worry one minute about our ability to live together in the U.S.

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate that would help same-sex binational couples like Tobi and me. The law would give "permanent partners" the same immigration protections that opposite-sex married couples currently enjoy in the United States. You can read a summary of the pending legislation here.

In order to pass, this bill needs support. You can help couples like Tobi and me by writing your congressional representatives. It's easy, and you can do it online via the Immigration Equality Web site.

Tobi and I do not know what the future will bring for us. That we are "at risk" is an understatement! If anyone ever tells you that legal protections for gay people do not matter, feel free to use Tobi and my situation to let them know otherwise.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The longest thread ever

Here's a story of how one woman's family was affected by Prop. 8. It's one of the 400 or so comments on a particularly lively Feminist Mormon Housewives post about gay marriage. The commmenter, Lorian, is a married Californian with children:

"That said, Lorian, I really do understand how [having your marriage invalidated] felt to you, and frankly, it is sad to hear your story. Putting myself in your shoes (trying to, anyway), I can understand how it must have all felt. It makes it all the harder to take a stand, but ultimately, we still each have to make choices based on what we believe is best in the long run.

I guess I hope that someday you can understand [the LDS viewpoint on gay marriage] at least a little."

I thoroughly understand your side of the coin. I simply disagree with it. I was raised with the same prejudices you were raised with. On the other hand, since you are not gay, and since you just worked, by your own admission, so hard to deprive my family of civil rights, I sincerely doubt that you DO understand how it felt to me. If you did, you could not have done the things you did.

"I didn’t make this choice as an in-your-face thing. I remember talking to someone who deliberately chose to demonstrate in a place that wouldn’t be where so many gays were. I know people were concerned about this along the way, even if it didn’t feel like it to you and others."

Um… really? That should make me feel better, that people made an effort hide their actions from me while stabbing my family in the back? Sorry, I know I’m expressing some overt anger here, and I don’t wish to cause offense on this board, but your posts display such a complete and utter lack of any real understanding of the magnitude of what was done to gay-parented families in this state last November.

YOU don’t seem to understand what YOU, personally, helped to do to MY children — MY Ruth and MY Rose. They are beautiful little seven-year-old twin girls. They knew they had two moms, but never even knew what “gay” meant until Prop 8 taught them all about it. They know that their “Mommy Honey” (that’s what they call their other mom — I’m “Elmo Mommy” for reasons which can only be understood in the mind of an 18-month-old, but it stuck) had to adopt them in front of a judge, and they know that this was unfair, and that now in California families with two moms or two dads don’t have to do that anymore. They don’t know that in other states, they still do, except, of course, those in states where the non-bio parent can’t form any legal relationship to his or her children at all.

Rose is autistic. She is the most beautiful child you can imagine, with flowing golden waves of hair and innocent blue eyes. She is an artist and has been drawing and painting the most unbelievable works of art since she was less than three years old. She perseverates, as many autistic children do. We had to stop attending church when she was 4 because she began perseverating on “the cross” and “When is mommy going to die on the cross? When am I going to die on the cross? Are they going to put me on the cross, Mommy?” If you know anything about an autistic child’s perseverations, they are intense and inescapable.

We have finally been able to begin attending church again in the past couple of months, having finally located a church in our area which accepts families with two moms. Rose has outgrown that particular perseveration, but, again like many autistic kids, is extremely concrete in her thought processes and has difficulty believing in things she cannot see or touch. Ruth, on the other hand, is receptive to God and to spiritual ideas. We have to protect her from those who would portray God as the hateful, vengeful being that Mommy Honey and I were raised to believe in.

Ruth is a brown-haired, brown-eyed beauty who loves music and singing, is a star pupil at school and has already memorized all the advanced extra-credit spelling words for her entire 2nd-grade curriculum. She swims like a fish and loves everyone. When she was three and four years old, she used to walk up to people when we were shopping at Costco and tell them things like, “Your shirt is so beautiful!” or “I love your brown hair!” Their faces would light up with pleasure. I remember one incident when we were waiting for our turn in a restroom. A very elderly lady made her way out of a stall with difficulty, leaning on a walker. Ruth turned to us and said, quite audibly, “Mommy! That woman is SO beautiful!” The woman’s face just melted into a smile of joy. I still cry when I think of that memory.

These are my children. I love them beyond all thought or reason. They are fun and loving and difficult and smart and full of energy. They push my buttons sometimes, and melt my heart ALL the time. I would give my life for them without a moment’s hesitation.

THEY, these two beautiful little children, are the people YOU harmed by helping to pass Prop 8. They are the children who desperately need ALL the rights that are given to children whose parents are allowed to be legally married — not just SOME of the rights. Not just a FEW of the rights. Not just the rights you think are “fair” for same-gender couples to have. No, they need and deserve ALL the rights that are due to them in this society.

Prop 8 did not primarily punish homosexuals (hey, that’s easy enough to justify, right? They’re flouting “God’s laws,” flouting the rules imposed by your church. That’s just wrong!) Prop 8 primarily punished the children of same-gender parents, both those here in CA who are at least left with Domestic Partnerships for their parents, but also those all over this country, who are counting on CA to do the right thing and grant full marriage rights to gays and lesbians so that gay-parented families all across this country are one step closer to being able to protect THEIR children, their little Ruths and little Roses, with ALL of the CIVIL rights of CIVIL marriage.

No, the LDS Church was not by any means the only culprit in converting this religiously-motivated prejudice into a restriction disenfranchising children in this state (and, by extension, all over this country) of their CIVIL rights. But the LDS Church certainly did their part. And I’m addressing that part here with you because you admit that you participated in this terrible, horrible injustice, motivated at least in part by your church leadership’s urging and instructions to do so.


I am not suggesting that the LDS Church change its stance on homosexuality. I’m merely raging (maybe I should cap-lock that) that it saw fit to impose that stance on people who are not LDS members, by encouraging and, in some cases, compelling its membership to support a program of blatant, bald-faced lies to pass a law disenfranchising a percentage of the population of CIVIL (caps-lock again!) rights.

It takes a long time to read through 400 comments, but for those of you with patience and way too much time on your hands, or possibly insomnia, the thread is an excellent exposition of how Mormons and those who were harmed by Prop. 8 view the situation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Video: Don't Divorce Me

This is video shows the faces of those who will be forcibly divorced if the California Supreme Court listens to Ken Starr.

I don't understand the hardness of heart that it would take not to be moved by the injustice these couples are experiencing. How can you look at the face of a couple that have dedicated their lives to each other for almost 50 years and say, "You are legal strangers"?

Anyway, enjoy the video (it has a good soundtrack, too).

See Courage Campaign if you want to sign the petition.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Christmas in Utah

I mentioned a while ago that I was facing a some Prop. 8 fallout while spending Christmas with family members who are staunch LDS believers.

On the appointed day Tobi (my boyfriend) and I, along with my son A., packed our bags and headed for Zion.

 Tobi helped spread the Christmas cheer by bringing some Japanese snacks. If you click on the photo you can see the jelly beans I bought plus the pickled octopus and dried baby crab shells that Tobi so generously provided. The visual effect of the pickled octopus was just great. (My sister's family is not particularly adventurous when it comes to food.) I have to give them credit; everyone tried the octopus and crunchy crab shells. I have to say that the jellybeans were more popular.

Tobi liked the American style of Christmas celebration. It was the first time he had spent the holiday with a large Christian family. He was shocked by one aspect: there was a huge pile of shredded wrapping paper and ribbon after the massive frenzy of present opening. In Japan it is very bad manners to rip the wrapping paper off of a gift. You have to unwrap the present gently and neatly fold the wrapping paper, even if it will be thrown away later. The idea is that the wrapping is part of the gift, and you shouldn't show disrespect to the giver of the gift by tearing off the paper.

Prop. 8 was the elephant in the living room during our visit. My sister and her family were generally kind to Tobi and me, but we weren't welcome to stay in the house with the rest of the family. Instead, we spent nights at a nearby bed and breakfast. To be fair, the house was full, but nonetheless I think some accommodation would have been made if we were a married opposite-sex couple.

One evening my son (who did stay with his cousins at my sister's house) came down the stairs and heard two of his uncles (two of my brothers-in-law) talking about gay marriage in the living room. My brothers-in-law didn't know my son was passing in the hall, and so my son overheard their conversation. My son stood in the hall with a sinking feeling in his stomach as his uncles dismissed gay marriage as unholy and civil unions and domestic partnerships as a slippery slope. Hearing this really hurt my son a lot, especially because he knows very well the tough situation that Tobi and I are in precisely due the lack of civil protections for our relationship. I guess I'm glad that at least my brothers-in-law didn't have the guts to say what they thought to my face.

Later I told my son that he could have gone in and defended what he thought was right or just kept walking.

I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I sense that the recent extraordinary involvement of the church in anti-gay politics has harmed relations in my family. There's a new rift. There's a sense of caution that I didn't notice before, on my part as well as theirs. I know they view me as a sinner and an apostate, even though I am by far the favorite uncle of my nieces and nephews. (I'm the best cook in family and over the years have organized some of the most memorable family events and outings.) I, in turn, see their moral views as self-serving justifications for out-dated patriarchy. I'm a sinner, and they're bigots. That's a fine kettle of fish!

The silver lining is that the older generation's attitudes will die off. The generations are very different in terms of politics. My nieces and nephews all voted for Obama, even though their parents are social conservatives who supported the McCain/Palin ticket. The younger generation's views on gay marriage are mixed. In my family, I'd say that 60% of the active Mormon's under 30 support full marriage rights for same-sex couples and the rest are okay with federally recognized civil unions that have all of the rights of marriage without using the name. In time, the next generation will prevail, and long-held prejudice will fall by the wayside.

This is a picture of my son and the husband of one of my nieces. (Neither of them are LDS.)

You can see that the snow was fresh. This kind of weather makes me love Utah. I love my Mormon family as well. I just wish they could open their hearts.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Recipe: Pasta e fagioli

I feel inspired to pass on one of my favorite recipes. I made this for dinner tonight. It is deceptively simple, but the taste will knock your socks off. It's one of those miracles of Italian cooking. It's also inexpensive to make and super healthy.

The recipe requires a pressure cooker (my favorite is made by the Swiss company Kuhn-Rikon; I have the "Duo" set), but if you don't have a pressure cooker, you can just cook the beans in a regular pot for a longer time. By the way, I swear by pressure cooking-- it's fast, and the results are superb.

P.S. I didn't watch the Superbowl today. Instead, I went to a musical. Only afterward did I realize how that comes across.

Anyway, here's the recipe. You won't be sorry if you try this.

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta with beans)

16 oz (2 cups) dried cannellini or Great Northern beans (or Navy beans)
2 stalks celery, diced into 1/4" pieces
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
Kosher salt (approx 1 Tablespoon, to taste; or about 1 1/2 tsp if using regular salt instead of kosher salt)
16 oz ditalini or spaghetti broken into 1 inch pieces (I use spaghetti)

Soak the beans in water for 6 hours or overnight. Use about 2 quarts of cold water.

Pressure cook the beans for 18 minutes. (You start timing once the 2nd ring of the pressure gauge becomes visible.) Be sure the soaked beans are covered by 1 or 1.5 inches of water in the pressure cooker before you close the lid.

While the beans are cooking, cook the celery and garlic in the olive oil over moderate heat in a large pot. When the garlic just starts to color, add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.

When the beans are done, release the pressure (put the sealed pressure cooker under cold running water). Discard excess cooking liquid from the beans. Leave just enough water to fully cover the beans. Add the hot beans and the cooking liquid to the tomato sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer, mashing some of the beans with the back of a large spoon.

Stir in the pasta and simmer, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, tender yet still firm to the bite. The mixture should be very thick, but add a little boiling water if it seems too thick. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This makes a large batch, enough for 8 full-meal servings or up to 16 pasta course servings. Serve with a green salad and a dry red wine (or sparkling water if you don't drink wine). It stores well (refrigerated or frozen) and can be reheated without loss of texture or flavor.