Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out and About – December 2011

Another busy month – one that started with my friend Javen Swanson and I co-facilitating a marriage equality presentation in St. Cloud on the evening of December 1.

Javen was there for OutFront MN while I was there for Catholics for Marriage Equality MN. We made a great team! Pictured with us above is Kelly Doss, who was a key organizer of the event.

Left: Part of the evening included the screening of the video series Catholics for Marriage Equality. For more information about this series, click here. To view the five "video vignettes" that comprise the series, click here.

Above: On the evening of Saturday, December 10 my friend Kathleen hosted a lovely Advent dinner at her home in South Minneapolis. Pictured from left: Brian, Bob, John, Kathleen and James.

For The Wild Reed series "Advent 2011:Thoughts and Reflections," click here.

Above: With my friends (from left) John, Kathleen and Brian – December 10, 2011.

Right: On Saturday, December 17, I had some friends over to my St. Paul home for a little Christmas celebration – one that involved an "Aussie Quiz"! Pictured from left: Raul, Paul, Mark, me, Walter and Tim. It was a fun night!

Left: Friends Darlene, Noelle, Eileen, Kate, Jim and Phil. For more images of this gathering, click here.

Above: Another evening of fun took place December 23, watching Velvet Goldmine and enjoying rum spiked eggnog with friends Jacob, Phil, Curtis and Liana.

Christmas Eve was spent at the warm and welcoming home of my friends Ken and Carol (above). Also present was their son Paul and daughter-in-law Carrie, Paul and Carrie's two boys Cass and Oscar, and friends Kathleen and Sue Ann.

Left: Enjoying some Christmas cheer with my friend Kathleen.

Above: Paul and Cass – Christmas Eve 2011. For a picture of Cass' brother Oscar, click here.

Above: Christmas Day dinner was spent at another warm and welcoming home – that of the Jacquet-Morrison family. From left: Jackie, John, Carmen, Kim, Noelle, Liana, Phil, Alicia and Curtis.

Left: With my friend Phil – Christmas Day 2011.

Right: Liana and Curtis. And to think there wasn't even a hint of mistletoe in sight!

Above: The always welcoming and generous Noelle and John. Thank you!

Above: Boxing Day dinner with friends Joey, Kathleen and Mary.

Left: Joey, the young (and very talented) violinist!

Above: With my friend Kathleen – December 26, 2011.

Right: With the inspiring Polly Mann at our mutual friends Ken and Carol's New Year's Eve gathering.

Above: My friend Daniel (standing) also hosted a New Year's Eve get-together.

Above: I saw the actual New Year in at a third gathering – one hosted by my friend Mark. From left: Mark, Raul, Dan, Walter and Jim.

The Wild Reed's Year in Review

Part 4: October – December 2011

Following is a final selection of 2011 Wild Reed posts, the putting together of which I found particularly meaningful. Many of these posts have also generated the most comments from readers.

If you’ve yet to read these posts then I hope you'll take the time to do so. I also hope that the experiences and insights they convey will, in some way, resonate with you and encourage and inspire you on your journey.


October 2011

Rocking the Cradle of Power

Solar Brother

Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry Victim

Quote of the Day – October 7, 2011

Truth in (Satirical) Fiction

Frank Bruni on Portugal's "Big Gay Leap"

The Paradox of Dirk Bogarde

Autumn Hues

The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality

Progressive Perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's Anti-Gay Activism

Adventures in Mississippi River Bluff Country

A Hallowtide Reflection

A Visit from Raph

Out and About – October 2011

November 2011

Thomas Fox: "Our Gay and Lesbian Brothers and Sisters Have So Much to Teach Us"

Patrick Hornbeck on Why Good Catholics Are Challenging Church Line on Homosexuality

Jon Stevens: Still Bearing Testimony to Love and Hope

Quote of the Day – November 12, 2011

As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible

Responding to the "Continued Harm Our Bishops Cause"

Just in Time for Winter: Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow

Revolutionary Reconciliation

A Head and Heart Response to the Catholic Hierarchy's Opposition to Marriage Equality

A Musical Weekend

The Inspiring Zachary Quinto: "It is My Intention to Live an Authentic Life of Compassion and Integrity and Action"

Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 1)

"You and I Are One": Blessed Bernardo de Hoyos' Mystical Same-Sex Marriage to Jesus

Out and About – November 2011

December 2011

Thoughts on Archbishop Nichols' Support for Civil Unions

Dionne Warwick: "Being Human is What It's All About"

Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"

Happy Birthday, Mum!

From Australia, "Possibly the Most Beautiful Ad for Marriage Equality"

Lanae Erickson on Taking a Lesson from Down Under

The "Gay Civil Unions" Approach of Some Within the Catholic Hierarchy: Too Little, Too Late

People of Faith Are on Both Sides of the "Marriage Amendment" Issue

Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality (Part 4)

Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 2)

Rumi and Shams: A Love of Another Kind

Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 3)

Vanessa Redgrave: "She Has Greatness"

Another Time, Another Place . . .

Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 4)

A Christmas Message of Hope . . . from Uganda

What a Man! – Nick Youngquest

An Aussie Quiz

Doug Mataconis on the Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Living in a Civil Society

Out and About – December 2011

See also the previous post:
The Wild Reed's Year in Review: January – March 2011
The Wild Reed's Year in Review: April – June 2011
The Wild Reed's Year in Review: July – September 2011

Image: "Reeds" by Robert Morris (2003).

Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo of the Day

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Doug Mataconis on the Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Living in a Civil Society

Over at Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis offers the following well-reasoned response to the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops' claim that compliance to non-discrimination laws is a threat to their religious freedom. Mataconis includes in his piece an excerpt from Laurie Goodstein's December 28 New York Times article, "Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Freedom of Religion."


The Catholic Church has basically taken itself out of the adoption and foster care business in Illinois rather than comply with new rules that require adoption agencies to treat gay couples equally when making placement decisions:

Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have shuttered most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than comply with a new requirement that says they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents if they want to receive state money. The charities have served for more than 40 years as a major link in the state’s social service network for poor and neglected children.

The bishops have followed colleagues in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts who had jettisoned their adoption services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws.

For the nation’s Catholic bishops, the Illinois requirement is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.

The Illinois experience indicates that the bishops face formidable opponents who also claim to have justice and the Constitution on their side. They include not only gay rights advocates, but also many religious believers and churches that support gay equality (some Catholic legislators among them). They frame the issue as a matter of civil rights, saying that Catholic Charities was using taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Tim Kee, a teacher in Marion, Ill., who was turned away by Catholic Charities three years ago when he and his longtime partner, Rick Wade, tried to adopt a child, said: “We’re both Catholic, we love our church, but Catholic Charities closed the door to us. To add insult to injury, my tax dollars went to provide discrimination against me.”

The bishops are engaged in the religious liberty battle on several fronts. They have asked the Obama administration to lift a new requirement that Catholic and other religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and charity groups cover contraception in their employees’ health plans. A decision has been expected for weeks now.

At the same time, the bishops are protesting the recent denial of a federal contract to provide care for victims of sex trafficking, saying the decision was anti-Catholic. An official with the Department of Health and Human Services recently told a hearing on Capitol Hill that the bishops’ program was rejected because it did not provide the survivors of sex trafficking, some of whom are rape victims, with referrals for abortions or contraceptives.

Critics of the church argue that no group has a constitutional right to a government contract, especially if it refuses to provide required services.

But Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel and associate general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, disagreed. “It’s true that the church doesn’t have a First Amendment right to have a government contract,” he said, “but it does have a First Amendment right not to be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs.”

The reality, of course, is that the Church is not being discriminated against because of its religious beliefs, it is being denied state funds and a government contract because of its refusal to comply with the laws and regulations of the government entity with which it would contract. Should Northrup-Grumman be permitted to build a fighter jet if it refused to comply with the design specifications of the Pentagon? The answer to that question, of course, is obviously no, but the situation is complicated to some degree by the fact that it is impossible for any private entity to engage in adoption or foster care services without being involved with the state in some manner. Even if there were no state funding involved as there is in Illinois, an entity that places children will still be licensed by the state. If all that were involved were a state license, would that permit the state to require the Church to comply with anti-discrimination laws? Or, to turn the tables, should a licensed private adoption agency be free to discriminate for racial reasons if it chose to?

It’s a close issue, and Jonathan Turley does raise some interesting points in the Church’s defense. However, I think it’s fairly clear that requiring the Church to comply with the law is not an infringement on their religious liberty. As mistermix notes, Catholic Charities does so much great work, for which I commend them, but if they are going to enter into contracts with the government and take money from taxpayers, then they should be required to comply with the same laws that every other government contractor has to comply with. If their distaste for homosexuals is stronger than their desire to see children placed in loving homes, then they must make the appropriate choice. It would be the wrong one, in my opinion, and it would harm the children, but they are certainly free to make it.

The most important point, though, is that religious liberty does not mean the right to take public money without having to comply with the law because the teachings of your faith tell you those laws are wrong. That’s not how you live in a civil society, and if the Church cannot comply with that simple rule then it needs to rethink its priorities.

– Doug Mataconis
"Catholic Bishops Claim Laws Allowing Gay Adoption
Violate Religious Liberty
Outside the Beltway
December 29, 2011

For comments from Outside the Beltway readers to Mataconis' article, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry Victim
Persecuted "Enemies of the State"? Or Just Sore Losers?
Joseph Palacios: "The Church is Not the Victim"

Recommended Off-site Links:
Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Freedom of Religion – Laurie Goodstein (New York Times, December 28, 2011).
Catholic Bishops Use Freedom of Religion to Justify Homophobia Eideard (December 29, 2011).
Religious Persecution? – Bob Felton (Civil Commotion, December 29, 2011).
The Catholic Hierarchy: "Suffer the Little Children" – D Gregory Smith (From Eternity to Here, December 29, 2011).
Laurie Goodstein on Catholic Bishops' Religious Freedom Rhetoric and Gay Parents – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, December 29, 2011).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

Sometimes life just wants to make us hide. You may find it surprising that "divine depression" is one of the names of the Beloved, yet there are moments when honoring what seems like the "least" in us may be the most important thing to do. As my own Sufi guide Moineddin Jablonski once told me, "Sometimes your worst is good enough."

What feels small in us may resist the light of consciousness and want to remain hidden in the shadow. When we find the love of the One in our own love for this aspect of our self, the part of us that feels diminished can be integrated into the soul as the awareness of another divine potential reborn. And yet, to accomplish this, we have to overcome our tendency to shy away from looking into the unknown corners of our being.

. . . Looking in the dark corners means a journey into our depths. Where is the place that we find least lovable? It may prove to be the key to our greatest power and joy.

– Neil Douglas-Klotz
The Sufi Book of Life
pp. 58-69

An Aussie Quiz

On Saturday, December 17, I had some friends over to my St. Paul home for a little Christmas celebration – one that involved an "Aussie Quiz"! The winners that evening (including Curtis and Liana, pictured at right) received a packet of Tim Tams!

Dear readers, feel free to have a go yourselves at this quiz via the comments box, where I'll post the answers in a few days.


1) Australia is called:

“The Land _________________”


“The Great _____________ Land.”

2) According to the indigenous people of Australia, the world was brought into existence by . . .

a. a prehistoric race of people

b. God

c. songs

d. the Rainbow Serpent

3) If someone says they are 'fair dinkum,' they mean . . .

a. they know how to swim a little

b. they are telling you the truth

c. they were born in Australia

4) The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland and the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent took place in what year and by sailors from which European country?

Year: _____________ Country: ___________________

5) If someone asks you where the dunny is, what are they looking for?

a. the pub

b. the boss

c. the toilet

6) In Australia, a ranch is known as a _________________.

7) What do you call the Aussie favourite sponge cake cubes dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut?

a. Koala Cubes

b. Delights

c. Lamingtons

d. Croc Chocs

8) Name one well-known race held annually in Australia.

9) What two animals are on Australia’s coat of arms?

10) How many of the Australian birds perched on Michael’s TV can you identify? (For a clue, squeeze each one to hear what sound they make!)

11) Australia’s national dessert is named after a famous ballerina and is made of meringue, whipped cream and topped with a selection of tropical fruits. What is it called?

a. Nurmova

b. Tropilova

c. Zilatmova

d. Pavlova

12) Name six well known Australian landmarks – 3 natural ones, and 3 of human construction!

1. _________________________ 1. ________________________

2. _________________________ 2. ________________________

3. _________________________ 3. ________________________

13) What is Australia’s national anthem?

a. God Save the Queen

b. Waltzing Matilda

c. Advance Australia Fair

d. I Am Australian

14) If someone says let's 'crack a tinny', what are they going to do . . .

a. open the sun roof on the car

b. open a can of beer

c. race a boat

15) In eighteenth-century Australia, an outlaw (or highway man) was known as a ______________. Can you name a famous one?

16) From which Australian films are the following lines taken:

(i) “That’s not a knife. This is a knife!”

(ii) “[It has] only two states of being: dangerous or dead.”

(iii) “You know the law: Two men enter, one man leaves.”

(iv) “You’re terrible, Muriel!”

(v) “That is going straight to the Pool Room.”

(vi) “Just because it is, doesn't mean it should be.”

(vii) “And don’t worry, Mademoiselle, we’ll only be gone a little while.”

Above: Friends: Darlene, Noelle, Eileen, Kate, Jim and Phil – Saturday, December 17, 2011. Darlene and her husband Tom feature in Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's recently released video series.

Right: Jim Smith, Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's Parish Inreach Coordinator, and MN State Senator Scott Dibble – December 17, 2011. Scott was another big winner in the Aussie Quiz that night! Oh, and he and his husband Richard also feature in C4ME-MN's video series.

Above: Hello, boys! From left: Raul, Andy, Mark, Paul, Walter
and Tim
– Saturday, December 17, 2011.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Another Time, Another Place . . .
Sydney Sojourn
Christmas in Australia
Swallows' Ledge

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

The Chicago Gay Pride Parade attracts 800,000 people. It proceeds through a heavily congested, dense urban cityscape. Absolutely positively everything in its wake is disrupted. What on earth makes one service at one church on one day special enough to change the start time of a gigantic parade? Let alone excuses comparing 'the gay liberation movement' with the 'Ku Klux Klan'? No, Cardinal [George], the Gay Pride committee is not targeting the Catholic church. 'The gay liberation movement' is not targeting the Catholic church either. Your church building is affected in no way any different from hundreds upon hundreds of buildings for miles in all directions (Lake Michigan notwithstanding). You really do need to get out more.

– Rex Wockner
Quoted in "Chicago Cardinal Defends Comparison of Gays to KKK"
December 28, 2011

Actually, if Chicago is anything like the Twin Cities and most other places, then Cardinal George also needs to know that thousands of Christians, including many Catholics, will be part of the Gay Pride event that he's so upset about. Members of the church's clerical caste have become so adept at portraying (and dismissing) LGBT folks as the ultimate "other" that even journalists like Rex Wockner forget to acknowledge the reality that gay people are (and have always been) part of the church; that for many "out and proud" gay people, their faith is an important aspect of their lives. All the more reason, I guess, for blogs like this one. . . .

See, for example, the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2011)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2010)
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2009)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2008)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2007)
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Dan Furmansky: "Why We Have Pride"
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Gay Pride: A Celebration of True Humility
Coming Out: An Act of Holiness
The Gifts of Homosexuality
Gay People and the Spiritual Life

For MN Senator Scott Dibble's response to Cardinal George, see:
Quote of the Day – December 23, 2011

The Wild Reed's Year in Review

Part 3: July – September 2011

Following is a further selection of 2011 Wild Reed posts, the putting together of which I found particularly meaningful. Many of these posts have also generated the most comments from readers.

If you’ve yet to read these posts then I hope you'll take the time to do so. I also hope that the experiences and insights they convey will, in some way, resonate with you and encourage and inspire you on your journey.


July 2011

Teilhard de Chardin and the Heart of Jesus

Return to the Abbey

The Bishops' Reaction to Marriage Equality: "Wrong-Headed and Counterproductive"

Sharing the Good News of Marriage Equality at the Basilica Block Party

David McCaffrey, 1947-2011

"God is in the Roses . . ." – Celebrating the Life and Legacy of David McCaffrey

Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality (Part 1)

The Lost Art of the Arioi

Sam Sparro

Responding to Some Very Misguided Comparisons

Boris and George

What's Your Favorite?

Out and About – July 2011

August 2011

Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality (Part 2)

Play It Again, Sam

A Cardinal Breaks Ranks

Summer Round-Up

Ballet Amore

Adam Sandel on the Queer Appeal of Harry Potter

NOM's Minnesota Battle Plan

Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality (Part 3)

The Latest from Darren Hayes

On the Issue of Contraception, the Catholic Clerical Caste Does Not Speak for "the Church," Let Alone "Religion"

A Gay Catholic Man's Testimony of Courage and Grace: "God Made Me and Loves Me Just As I Am"

Out and About – August 2011

September 2011

Good News from the Minnesota State Fair

In Mychal Judge's Heart "There Was Room for Everybody"

Soft Bigotry

More on the “Soft Bigotry” of Fr. James Livingston’s Recent Op-Ed

Another Testimony of Courage and Grace: "In Finding Myself, I Found God and My Voice"

Local Catholics Premier Video Series on Faith, Family and Marriage

Out and About – September 2011

NEXT: Part 4: October – December 2011.

See also the previous post:
The Wild Reed's Year in Review: January – March 2011
The Wild Reed's Year in Review: April – June 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What a Man!

Earlier this year I started highlighting well-known straight men who, regardless of the risks to their careers or popularity, are taking very public stands for LGBT people and their civil rights. To date, The Wild Reed's "What a Man!" series has spotlighted three sportsmen (Ben Cohen, Sean Avery and Hudson Taylor) and one U.S. Republican politician (John Kriesel). Tonight the focus is on Australian rugby league footballer Nick Youngquest!

I should say first, however, that I think it's important (and helpful) to highlight celebrity allies such as Youngquest as their support for gay people and gay rights issues, including marriage equality, is a hopeful reminder that the world is indeed moving forward. Such support is a no-brainer for the younger generations. And, personally, I appreciate being reminded of this overwhelmingly pro-gay and pro-marriage equality stance of the younger generations – especially when, in my work, I often have to deal with attitudes and statements such as these and these. So, yes, I'm grateful for straight male allies such as Nick Youngquest.

On that note, following (with added images and links) are excerpts from's June 2010 interview with Youngquest. Enjoy!


Even before professional rugby player Nick Youngquest struck up his public friendship with his out teammate Gareth Thomas, many gay men were already aware of the very handsome Youngquest.

After all, the 26-year-old Australian has appeared in rather racy pictorials for not one, but three gay magazines – DNA in Australia, Attitude in the UK and the French magazine Têtu. And those weren’t even the first time Youngquest had stripped down, having first done so in 2006 for a charity calendar in Australia that raised funds for National Breast Cancer Foundation.

But it is Youngquest’s recent friendship with his Celtic Crusaders teammate Gareth Thomas [pictured with Youngquest at left] – so humorously documented via their tweets – that has elevated Youngquest from just being a sex symbol for gay men to actually being an incredibly cool gay ally.

By showing he’s not only comfortable being admired by gay men, but in so publicly being “mates” with them, and even – gasp! – sharing a locker room with a real live gay rugby player, Youngquest has demonstrated that the homophobia of professional athletes like Australian rules footballer Jason Akermanis isn’t the only attitude in the sporting world. recently caught up with Youngquest via email to discuss being a gay sex symbol, how he came by his pro-gay attitudes and more. How did you and Gareth meet?

Nick Youngquest: Gareth and I met this year when he came to the club we both now play for called the Crusaders. I remember the first day he turned up and everybody was in awe of him because he is such a big deal in the rugby world, especially here in Wales!

AE: What did you first think when he came out?

NY: I don’t actually remember hearing, “What about that guy coming out?” at the time and if I did would have thought “good on him.” I only found out he was gay when it was rumored he was coming to the club, and naturally because I have done gay magazines before, the boys were saying he was coming because he saw me on the front cover and this and that.

What he has done is so admirable and a decision I know now he is so glad he made. He is such a good guy and everyone in our squad loves having him here with us!

AE: Is he the first gay player you knew?

NY: To be fair there are always rumors, but yeah, he is the first guy I have played with or against that is [openly] gay. There was Ian Roberts in our sport in Australia who came out, but I was fairly young back then! I’m pretty sure Gareth is the only gay person who is out still currently playing in their chosen sport and that’s a massive thing for him and the world in general. He is such a good role model to the world.

AE: Are you aware how important the fact your friendship with him is so public? That it's groundbreaking, in fact? You are really showing the world that a straight athlete can be mates with a gay one and it's no big deal.

NY: In the big picture I do, but to me Alfie is a mate of mine, not because he is gay or anything else. He is such a good guy and since he arrived here he has done nothing but go over and above for everyone. He is so down to earth. I am happy that people can see that in sport being gay or straight or whatever doesn’t matter.

The world is such a fickle place sometimes and I am glad that myself and also Alfie are in a sport where our environment discriminates against nobody and that’s the honest truth. Although the jokes become very very funny at times!

AE: You seem incredibly cool with gay guys and very pro-gay. Where did you come by that attitude from?

NY: Yeah, for sure I have no problems with it at all. I have a lot of friends that are gay and have never been different! My ex was a dancer and she had lots of gay friends and it was always something I enjoyed about our relationship that we have friends from all different walks of life.

My family also shaped me so I guess it stems from there also. Not that mum or dad said always be nice to gay people or whatever, but just to [be nice to] people in general so I take people for who they are. That’s a trait I am glad the instilled in me, that’s for sure.

AE: I'm assuming you support gay marriage?

NY: I have never even thought about whether I do or don’t to be fair, so that has to be a yes. I don’t see any reason why two people who are in love can’t exchange vows and rings just as any other couple in the world. It’s not about being gay or straight when it comes to that. It’s about two people loving each other in my opinion!

. . . AE: Like Ben Cohen and David Beckham, you're fine with being seen as a sex symbol to gay men. When did you first realize so many gay men found you attractive?

NY: I have no problem with it at all, if they want to look at me that way that’s all good! I wish sometimes I got as much attention of the ladies as I do off the men to be honest, but it’s all good. The first time I realized it was after doing a calendar in Australia in ‘06 for breast cancer. It was a naked calendar and I think gay guys took a liking to it then. Flattering, but you can hardly put me in the same category as Cohen and Beckham though! . . .

. . . Oh, I don't know about that, Nick!

Actually, like both Ben Cohen and David Beckham, Nick Youngquest models underwear – and a masculinity that conveys both sensuality and vulnerability. I don't know about you, but I find that very appealing.

It's also quite queer in that it's the antithesis of that narrow and destructive “macho” understanding of what it means to be a man. As I've
mentioned before, to be queer is simply to be open and willing to go beyond (in thought, word and/or deed) the parameters of gender, race, heterosexuality, patriarchy, and other socially-constructed (or manipulated) concepts. I think it's good that young men like Nick are so open to embodying such a liberating queer spirit. It too is a hopeful sign that we're moving forward, away from limiting and destructive attitudes and stereotypes.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
What a Man! – Ben Cohen
What a Man! – Sean Avery
What a Man! – Hudson Taylor
What a Man! – John Kriesel
Rockin' With Maxwell
Ian Thorpe's "Difficult Decision"
The New Superman: Not Necessarily Gay, but Definitely Queer
A Fresh Take on Masculinity

Monday, December 26, 2011

Photo of the Day

Image: "Make a Wish!" by Michael J. Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christmas Baubles
A Christmas Message of Hope . . . from Uganda
The Christmas Truce of 1914
Clarity and Hope
What We Can Learn from the Story of the Magi
A Christmas Reflection by James Carroll
Quote of the Day – December 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . In Jesus’ native Aramaic the concept we know as heaven has an imminent quality. According to scholar Neil Douglas-Klotz, the Aramaic carries the image of “light and sound shining through all creation.” There is not a sense of above and beyond as in the English word heaven. But we already know this. Generations of Catholics learned that God is everywhere, omnipotent and omnipresent; then we stuck the Divine up in heaven and that was that.

Christmas can help us readjust, help us see the Divine more transparently in life, in places where we would least expect. A barn, for example, a baby. The Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas is a call, our belief in it a commitment, to seek awareness of the Divine free of the impediments of culture, class or even catechism. That process calls for a degree of openness most of us rarely embrace or even know as possible. Yet I have a feeling the Divine is so imminent, so within the essence of things, that it is only a matter of learned blindness that keeps us from seeing. It is not something natural to us to be so dense. We can do better. We can break through. . . .

– Angie O'Gorman
"The Divine is Greater Than Our Dogmas"
National Catholic Reporter
December 22, 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
A Christmas Message of Hope . . . from Uganda

Image: Photographer unknown.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Message of Hope . . . from Uganda

Frank Mugisha is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda. Recently he had a powerful op-ed in the New York Times in which he shared what it is like to be gay in Uganda. Frank grew up Catholic, and I find his op-ed very appropriate for the Christmas season. Why? Because despite the horrendous situation for LGBT people in Uganda, Frank Mugisha continues to hope.

"There are encouraging times when my fellow activists and I meet people face to face and they realize we aren’t the child-molesting monsters depicted in the media," Frank writes. "They realize we are human, we are Ugandan, just like them."

I also appreciate Frank's observation that in Uganda, as in other so-called developing nations, it is homophobia — not homosexuality — that is the "toxic import."


Interestingly, Frank Mugisha's words of hope and truth were published the same day that the media reported the comments of Chicago's Cardinal Francis George (right) comparing the gay rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan. Such a comparison has rightly sparked outrage, and there have even been calls for the cardinal to step down.

Writes Fr. Geoff Farrow:

Cardinal George’s comparison of LGBT people who are simply seeking full Federal equality as American citizens with the KKK, a notorious hate group that seeks to deny full Federal equality to minorities, is both an inversion and a denial of the truth. George’s words constitute both a grave injustice and a moral outrage. By vilifying members of a minority group he targets them for prejudice and hate crimes.

A simple apology is insufficient, since an apology is merely a public announcement of one’s personal feelings. I believe that cardinal George is morally required to ask for forgiveness of the LGBT people, their families and loved ones, who he has vilified. His immediate resignation, upon asking for forgiveness, would manifest his sincerity and serve as a reproach to bigotry in our society.

Writing for New Ways Ministry's recently established blog, the excellent Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBarnardo, like Farrow, 'makes the connections' when he observes that the verbal abuse exemplified by Cardinal George’s comments fuel the homophobia that leads to the hateful and violent attitudes and actions that Frank Mugisha and others endure in Uganda. "Cardinal George, and other Catholic leaders, could learn a lot from Frank Mugisha," says DeBernardo.

Indeed they could. For a start they could learn to stop being so fearful and defensive. This would go a long way in preventing them making the types of asinine and erroneous statements we recently heard from Cardinal George. Second, they could take steps to dispel the obvious ignorance that they have of LGBT people. One way to do this would be by taking the time to actually meet and converse with LGBT people and learn about their lives, their relationships, and their current struggle for equality in terms of civil marriage rights.

A Christmas prayer

Good teachers are good listeners. Yet I see no effort whatsoever on the part of the bishops to be in dialogue with LGBT Catholics and those who know and love them – Catholics like Eileen Scallen and her family, for instance. I have absolutely no doubt that if they took the time to enter into such "face to face" dialogue, the bishops would realize that gay people are not out to destroy the church or civilization, that we're not monsters of any type, and that, to paraphrase Frank Mugisha, we are human, we are Catholic, just like them.

That's my prayer this Christmas season and beyond: that this type of enlightenment in the hearts and minds of our bishops breaks through the layers of fear and ignorance that I believe holds them back from being authentic teachers and from being authentically Catholic and authentically human.

Frank Mugisha is a gay man seeking to be true to his deepest convictions about himself. Accordingly, he's a man willing to risk his life for the human rights of his fellow LGBT Ugandans and all who are viewed and treated as "less than." I see in his words and actions something that, for now at least, I fail to see in the words and actions of the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church: the embodiment of what Christmas is all about – the emergence, the breaking through of hope, love and truth in and through human life.

Following with added images and links is Frank Mugisha's December 22 New York Times op-ed.


Gay and Vilified in Uganda

By Frank Mugisha

New York Times
December 22, 2011

When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced this month that the United States would use diplomacy to encourage respect for gay rights around the world, my heart leapt. I knew her words — “gay people are born into, and belong to, every society in the world”— to be true, but in my country they are too often ignored.

The right to marry whom we love is far from our minds. Across Africa, the “gay rights” we are fighting for are more stark — the right to life itself. Here, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people suffer brutal attacks, yet cannot report them to the police for fear of additional violence, humiliation, rape or imprisonment at the hands of the authorities. We are expelled from school and denied health care because of our perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. If your boss finds out (or suspects) you are gay, you can be fired immediately.

People are outed in the media — or if they have gay friends, they are assumed to be “gay by association.” More benignly, if people are still single by the time they reach their early 20s, what Ugandans call a “marriage age,” others will begin to suspect that they are gay.

Traditional culture silences open discussion of sexuality. I am 29. I grew up in a very observant Catholic family in the suburbs of Kampala. From the time I was old enough to have romantic feelings, I knew I was gay, but we weren’t supposed to speak of such things.

When I was 14, I came out to my brother. Later, when others close to me asked if I was gay, I didn’t deny it. Though some relatives accepted me, I came out to the rest of my family slowly. Some simply chose to ignore the fact that I was gay, or begged me not to tell anyone, fearing I’d shame our family name. Others stopped speaking to me altogether.

Many Africans believe that homosexuality is an import from the West, and ironically they invoke religious beliefs and colonial-era laws that are foreign to our continent to persecute us.

The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia. For years, the Christian right in America has exported its doctrine to Africa, and, along with it, homophobia. In Uganda, American evangelical Christians even held workshops and met with key officials to preach their message of hate shortly before a bill to impose the death penalty for homosexual conduct was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in 2009. Two years later, despite my denunciation of all forms of child exploitation, David Bahati, the legislator who introduced the bill, as well as Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem and other top government officials, still don’t seem to grasp that being gay doesn’t equate to being a pedophile.

In May, following criticism from the West and President Yoweri Museveni, the bill was shelved. But the current parliament has revived it and could send it to the floor for a vote at any time. Meanwhile, the bill’s influence has been felt in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, all of which have recently stepped up enforcement of anti-gay laws or moved to pass new legislation that would criminalize love between people of the same sex.

Not all Ugandans are homophobic. Some say there are more pressing issues to worry about than gay people and believe we should have the same rights as anyone else. But they are not in power and cannot control the majority who want to hurt us.

A veil of silence enforced by thuggish street violence and official criminalization is falling over much of Africa. Being a gay activist is a sacrifice. You have to carefully choose which neighborhood to live in. You cannot go shopping on your own, let alone go clubbing or to parties. With each public appearance you risk being attacked, beaten or arrested by the police.

I remember the moment when my friend David Kato [left], Uganda’s best-known gay activist, sat with me in the small unmarked office of our organization, Sexual Minorities Uganda. “One of us will probably die because of this work,” he said. We agreed that the other would then have to continue. In January, because of this work, David was bludgeoned to death at his home, with a hammer. Many people urged me to seek asylum, but I have chosen to remain and fulfill my promise to David — and to myself. My life is in danger, but the lives of those whose names are not known in international circles are even more vulnerable.

Still, I continue to hope. There are encouraging times when my fellow activists and I meet people face to face and they realize we aren’t the child-molesting monsters depicted in the media. They realize we are human, we are Ugandan, just like them.

Standing on David’s shoulders, we are no longer alone. Political leaders like Mrs. Clinton and religious leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu are willing to publicly state that being gay is just one of many expressions of what it means to be human. I call on other leaders — particularly my African-American brothers and sisters in politics, entertainment and religious communities — to come to Uganda, to stand with me and my fellow advocates, to help dispel harmful myths perpetuated by ignorance and hate. The lives of many are on the line.

Frank Mugisha, the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate, is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda.

Recommended Off-site Links:
An Interview with Frank Mugisha, LGBT Freedom Fighter in Uganda
– Darnell L. Moore (The Huffington Post, November 14, 2011).
All Are God's Children: On Including Gays and Lesbians in the Church and Society
– Desmond Tutu (The Huffington Post, June 11, 2011).
Dear Ugandan Christians: Stop Torturing Your Citizens
– Joseph Ward III (The Huffington Post, January 1, 2011).
Christmas Gift from America: Catholics Should Raise Voices to Defend Human Rights of LGBT Persons – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, December 25, 2011).
Breaking the Silence on LGBT Human Rights Violations – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, December 25, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Uganda, a "Fearless Voice" for Gay Rights is Brutally Silenced
Quote of the Day – December 24, 2011
The Scourge of Homophobia in Economically Impoverished Countries
A Prayer for International Day Against Homophobia
To Be Gay in Iraq . . .
Coming Out in Africa and the Middle East
The Vatican's Actions at the UN: "Sickening, Depraved and Shameless"
The Blood-Soaked Thread
Catholic Church Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People
And a Merry Christmas to You Too, Papa