Thursday, May 29, 2008

New York to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages

As activists continue to applaud the California Supreme Court for ruling in favor of nuptials for same-sex couples, New York Gov. David Paterson has directed all state agencies to recognize these unions performed in Massachusetts, Canada and other jurisdictions where they are legal.

This mandate comes in response to a state Appellate Court decision earlier this year that found Patricia Martinez, an employee at Monroe Community College in Rochester who married her partner in Canada, could not be denied health benefits because of the long-standing precedent of recognizing marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other jurisdictions. The Court of Appeals rejected the college's appeal, and Paterson's directive seems to put New York State on something of a fast-track to extend marriage to same-sex couples here.

Activists continue to pin their hopes for this reality on a Democratic-controlled state Senate next year, but Paterson's directly certainly puts additional wind into their sails as they set their sites towards that goal.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seven years and counting

Life is often marked by personal and professional milestones and today marks seven years since I came out to myself. I made that fateful decision while waiting for my clothes to dry at a laundromat in Bristol, New Hampshire. It was a cool and rainy May morning, and I had just completed an intense leadership development program sponsored by my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. I had come to the realization during the five day program that I needed to acknowledge what I had long suspected and come clean -- for a lack of a better categorization -- to myself. One of my group's co-facilitators, who remains one of my best friends, followed a similar path the year before, and his guidance remains an immense source of strength and inspiration. I came out to myself as a bisexual man via my journal, but the rest is... well... history...

Coming out remains a life-changing decision for the arguable vast majority of LGBT people in this country and around the world. One of the more hurtful things that came out as a result of my experience was a gay man at UNH who rather arrogantly tried to convince me of my own personal internalized homophobia in order to potentially justify his own self-imposed superiority complex. I was 19, but words, as they say, truly hurt and it took me a long time to eventually move beyond them. But coming out truly transformed my life. I was finally honest with myself, and the process put me onto the path which eventually brought me to New York, to Fire Island and to this craft we call journalism. What a truly magnificent ride it has been!

Friday, May 23, 2008

A pre-summer share

With jubilation over last Thursday's landmark California Supreme Court decision, a recent ruling on the integrity of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and other pro-LGBT developments over recent months, an easy cliche can be made in terms of activists and others taking some much needed time off -- or at least a few days over this Memorial Day weekend.

My pre-summer share, if you will, on Fire Island began last Friday under cool and rainy day and raw temperatures, but the Mr. Fire Island Leather contest and other events throughout the Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove prove summer lays just around the corner. This island remains a celebration of fantasy and hedonism in many ways, but it rather selfishly feels good to escape the city for a day, a night, or in my case the summer. The beach is waiting, but enjoy a few hours, or days, away from the computer, blackberry and Internet and enjoy the weekend...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Another pre-season Fire Island perspective

This leatherman (he repeatedly requested Boy in Bushwick omit his actual name from this blog) serenades an all too eager crowd at the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove with his rendition of "Bolero" on an accordion clad only in his leather jock strap.

The weekend has come and gone here on Fire Island and I have a few minutes to post what remains a relatively long overdue update of the last few days.

The weather on the beach was absolutely dreadful -- rain with a steady northeast breeze and raw temperatures -- on Friday afternoon upon my arrival with suitcase, two bags full of groceries and my trusty laptop in hand or on shoulder. The weather improved dramatically on Saturday, and I have an ever-darker tan from my day spent running around the beach after the annual Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association meeting.

Leather men from across the region descended upon Cherry Grove for the eighth annual Mr. Fire Island Leather contest. An orgy featuring Gefil Tefish feeding the winner, who entertained this writer and the crowd with his Meat Rack fantasy that included a performance of "Bolero" on his accordion wearing only a leather jock strap and boots, grapes and a bar boy serving him a dildo on a silver platter. To take a page out of Paris Hilton's arguably limited lexicon; it was hot!

Fire Island remains a place to escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life. This blog will almost certainly continue to reiterate this talking point about the beach throughout the season -- to the point which it may become nothing more than an overstated cliche. But that fact remains part and parcel of this beautiful beach... and of course the leather men in chaps, jock straps and various metal accountrements are part of the local charm!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

California extends marriage to same-sex couples

The collective movement for LGBT rights and its allies continues to rejoice in response to the California Supreme Court's ruling earlier today that overturned the Golden State's ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Activists across the country had prepared for months -- and even years -- for this decision, and they immediately applauded the landmark ruling.

"There is no more important and deeply personal decision than whether to take on the commitment of marriage," Shannon Minter Price, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement released shortly after the court announced its decision. "With today's ruling, the California Supreme Court declared that lesbians and gay men have an equal right to make that cherished commitment."

Equality California executive director Geoff Kors agreed.

"The California Constitution was written to protect the freedoms and equality of all people, creating a place where every person can realize his or her hopes and dreams," he said. "That is the California we choose to live in - a state that ensures dignity and respect for its diverse communities and families."

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has indicated he plans to respect the decision. He expressed opposition to a proposed amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples during the Log Cabin Republican's annual convention last month in San Diego. Activists expect opponents of same-sex nuptials will seek to overturn the ruling, but Kors remains confident Californians will support the decision.

"We are confident that Californians will respect the court's ruling for fairness and opportunity and affirm that lesbian and gay Californians deserve full equality under the law," he said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yet another hypocrite revealed

New York has experienced a bumper crop of political scandals this season with former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation after his trysts with a prostitute came to light, the revelations surrounding Gov. David Paterson's private life and the New York City Council slush fund scandal that threatened to derail openly lesbian Speaker Christine Quinn's mayoral aspirations. And married Staten Island Congressman Vito Fossella's DUI arrest earlier this month after he visited his daughter with another woman is the latest in this laundry list of indiscretions from our elected officials.

Fossella's transgressions, however, also add him to the long list of so-called family values politicians who emerge as nothing more than hypocrites. The Daily News reported yesterday he refuses to attend family gatherings if his lesbian sister Victoria and her partner are in attendance. Fossella also voted for the federal Marriage Protection Amendment. He supported a bill that would have banned funding for gay couples to adopt children. And Fossella also called upon the Department of Housing and Urban Development to withhold funding for San Francisco unless the city repealed its domestic partner benefits.

Fossella has clearly used gays and lesbians to enhance his reputation among those in Brooklyn and on Staten Island who voted him into office. But even he cannot live up to the narrow definition of family values he and other like-minded hypocrites continue to put forth in the name of political posturing. And he now finds himself laying in the bed he made for himself. Way to go Vito!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A May weekend on Fire Island

I write this blog from the Fire Island News office in Ocean Beach on this cool and increasingly cloudy Sunday afternoon. A cool ocean breeze continues to blow off the 50 degree Atlantic as I await the ferry to bring me back to the mainland. But this cool Sunday afternoon marks the end of my first weekend on Fire Island this season.

Things here in Ocean Beach look more or less the same, but Cherry Grove was abuzz last night with the opening night at the Ice Palace. Long-time resident Sal Piro will manage the ageing complex this season, and it was a rare packed house last night with Porsche, Bella, Rose Levine and an uber-cute new bartender named Evan.

I spent the previous hours in the Pines with my publisher before heading to the Pines Conservation Society fundraiser in Whyte Hall. It makes the unofficial start of the Pines social calendar, and it was truly wonderful to reconnect with long-time contacts and friends, and to make new ones. Architect Scott Bromley even brought me up to the DJ booth that overlooked the scene below.

I am the first person to proclaim one should not take Fire Island too seriously -- after all, it is largely a seasonal enclave south of Long Island where people largely come out to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. But the beach has a charm and identity all its own. The people certainly create the uniqueness that has defined Fire Island over the decades. And I remain blessed to be back out here once again.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What is diversity?

The question posed in the headline is one I have asked myself over the last few days upon my return from New Hampshire on Tuesday afternoon. The University of New Hampshire inducted 17 alumni, including myself, into its Diversity Hall of Fame last Sunday in a ceremony that was followed by a gala dinner on campus in Durham. I reconnected with two classmates I had not seen since I moved to New York. My parents and good friend Adam joined me at the ceremony, and I truly felt honored to attend. That said; I was shocked and somewhat puzzled to receive a Facebook message from one of my fellow inductees that implies his concept of God disapproves homosexuality.

This person made the argument in the context of people following the "logic of the "Social Justice" movement" and how "this movement is not always aligned with GOD!" This person further pointed to how "the Social Justice movement is now being used to push forward the agenda of homosexuality." And this person concludes the "Bible is clear with this issue, and it is important that we do not start to out-think GOD whose ways and thoughts are much higher than ours!"

The UNH administrators who organized the Diversity Hall of Fame certainly have the best of intentions. They are honorable people with the noblest of intentions to raise the profile of non-white heterosexual people in a state where the population remains more than 90 percent Caucasian. This charge is very honorable. But I do question the process through which the nominees are chosen in the context of this person's homophobic comments. I am a 26-year-old gay man who grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire. I am proud of who I am. And I am equally as proud of the work I did during my undergraduate career to advance inclusion and diversity at UNH. But I fear, however, this person's nomination threatens to make a farce out of an event that promised to celebrate those who advance inclusion and diversity in their respective post-UNH communities. These comments fail to deliver on both of these promises. And university officials should look beyond their fundraising and recruitment goals in future attempts to define diversity. This alum expects nothing less.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Boston and the family

It's a beautiful Monday afternoon as I sit outside Quincy Market in Boston having lunch between meetings. I brought my cats to my parents' house in New Hampshire on Friday, and the University of New Hampshire inducted me into its Diversity Hall of Fame in Durham on Saturday. I head back to Brooklyn tomorrow morning, but I leave here with additional piece of mind after coming out to my Aunt Cheryl last night.

This process is a long and often difficult one for many LGBT people in this country and around the world. Many people who have come out to their friends and especially family arguably take their acceptance and support for granted. I have felt particularly drawn to my aunt since I met her a few years ago. She is a very cosmopolitan woman with friends from a variety of diverse backgrounds. My cousins equally embrace this diversity, and it felt almost mandatory to talk about my sexual orientation last night. My aunt and I were talking as she was preparing dinner. My cousin came in and joked my grandmother would diapprove of both of our lifestyles. We all laughed, and that was the end of it. No dramatic speech. No awkward attempts to explain why I like men. It was a simple 10 second conversation that gave me additional peace of mind before we sat down for salmon, sausages and steak. It was a wonderful evening with the family.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Boy in Bushwick celebrates 10,000 hits

As this writer prepares to leave for New Hampshire tomorrow to attend an awards ceremony at the University of New Hampshire, I am proud to report that Boy in Bushwick achieved 10,000 hits yesterday morning.

I launched this blog as a way to reclaim my voice upon my departure from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in February 2007. In many ways it has evolved into a place where I can express my editorial voice. People across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and in countries, including Saudi Arabia, have all logged on to read my thoughts about the movement for LGBT rights and the city in which I live. I thank those who have taken the time to read the blog, and I look forward to another 10,000 hits.