In light of a recent mass murder suicide in Santa Barbara, California, there has been a frenzy of impassioned speculation as to what spurred the killer, Elliot Rodger, into carrying out his crime. One point of view put forward is that it was the phenomenon of violence against women; not just on his part, but on the part of men in general that spurred him on to commit this crime. That and abuse of women at the hands of men is tolerated in US society in a “culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity.” The abuse of women is a problem and without any doubt reprehensible, but is it fair to lay the blame solely on men? Is it reasonable to assert that the abuse of women is tolerable in US society? These questions merit discussion, but in short, my answer to both questions is a resounding no. Continue reading
The story of the life and love shared by Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone resonates with me to this day. I learned of their life together and the tragedy that befell them in viewing It could happen to you, the YouTube video produced by Shane Bitney Crone in memory of Thomas Lee Bridegroom, who died in a tragic accident on May 7, 2011. Though I do not know either of these men, I was so moved in a way that I normally am not upon hearing of a personal tragedy that strikes people who are strangers to me. Watching It could happen to you had a profound effect on me; I felt grief and outrage well up inside me upon learning of the injustice and iniquity that was heaped on Shane Bitney Crone following the death of his partner, Thomas Lee Bridegroom. As same sex couples could not marry in California at the time of Tom’s death, Shane had no legal standing as Tom’s partner and could do nothing as the Bridegroom family claimed Tom’s body, his assets and barred Shane from attending his funeral. This is so wrong and it happens to other couples. From the grief and outrage I experienced I was inspired to join in the effort to advocate for full civil rights for gay people, marriage rights in particular. Continue reading
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down rulings this week concerning marriage equality in law for same sex couples at the federal and state levels. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, was declared unconstitutional and the court refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California, the ballot measure that changed the California Constitution to add a new section 7.5 to Article I, which reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional by a lower court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2012 and the government of California chose not to defend the law on its appeal to SCOTUS. Consequently, a majority of the Justices refused to hear the appeal on the grounds the appellants did not have the constitutional authority, or legal standing, to defend the law in higher courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial. These rulings are the latest in an interesting history of legal battles over the definition of marriage in the United States.
“Keep passing the open windows” is the phrase that comes from the John Irving novel The Hotel New Hampshire, published in 1981. It is a catchphrase among the Berry family, the characters whose story is told in the novel. It is drawn from a story that the Berry parents tell their children, about a street performer called “The King of Mice.” He committed suicide in jumping from a window. “Keep passing the open windows” is the family’s way of saying to each other to carry on when the going gets tough. I read the novel in 1983 and saw the feature film version released in 1984. This catchphrase and the sentiment behind it has remained with me over the years and I have applied it in my own life in “passing the open windows.” However, I understand while it is easy to tell someone who is troubled, having a hard time coping with life, its joys and sorrows, to “keep passing the open windows”, promising them things will get better, sadly, not all stories have a happy ending. Continue reading
Tap, tap, tap is the gesture Shane Bitney Crone and Thomas Lee Bridegroom, a young gay couple, devised to show affection in public without revealing they were gay. As the day draws nearer to the premiere screening of Bridegroom: A Love Story, Unequaled, at the Tribeca Film Festival, April 23, 2013, more details, including this one, of their life together are coming to light. The more I learn about them, the more I recognize the similarities in my own life. The struggle for acceptance they experienced is all too familiar. Shane disclosed in an interview that both he and Tom “tried to pray the gay away. We tried to ignore our feelings and our natural attractions, to fight biology and live by society’s “norms.” But it just isn’t possible.”(Huffpost) When I read these words, it struck a chord. I was astonished. This is exactly how I felt during my adolescence in the latter half of the 1970s when gay liberation was just getting underway. It was a very lonely time for me, as there were no gay youth groups and homosexuality was still largely condemned as unnatural, immoral, disgusting, etc. In spite of the negative attitudes against homosexuality prevalent at the time, feelings of same sex attraction were manifesting themselves in me and I was horrified. I tried to ignore them. At the time people said it was a phase, a symptom of adolescence, of raging hormones and the like and not to worry: it would pass.
Knox, a nondescript town located in the northwest corner of the state in Starke County, Indiana with a population of 3704 souls became the focal point in hard lesson of life for me. Knox is well represented with churches, primarily Protestant denominations including Pentecostal, Baptist and various semi-independent Evangelical sects. While Knox is well outside the Bible Belt, the religious culture is very much like that you will find there. This is particularly so with regard to attitudes toward homosexuality. Generally speaking, it is a religious culture in which homosexuality is neither accepted nor tolerated. You may be wondering how it is that I came to know about and am so interested in Knox, Indiana and its religious culture. The reason, in short, is that Knox is the birthplace of Thomas Lee Bridegroom, a young gay man whose life and untimely death I learned of in a youtube video published by his grieving partner Shane Bitney Crone. It could happen to you is the video Shane published in memory of his partner Thomas Lee Bridegroom. Continue reading