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Skylar’s Naughty and Nice List 2009

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It’s Christmas Eve, which means one thing for my loyal readers: it’s time for Skylar’s annual Christmas presents! Last year, instead of giving presents, I created a naughty and nice list. People responded so well to it that I’ve decided to once again list my naughty and nice in 2009. So despite the fact that it’s not even noon, I’ve got a cocktail in hand and carols playing in the background. And while Santa has made his list and is currently checking it twice, I’m going to let you know just what you naughty and nice buggers have meant to me this year.

Naughty

5.  Kevin Smiley
Running on a platform of breathing new life into SGA and eliminating the good-ole-boy system, you–in not so many words–blasted Kayla Shelton and myself for corruption and lack of vision.  Upon taking office you appoint your brother as your chief-of-staff, showing the buddy system is stronger than ever, and you proceed to make appointments based on personal friendships and political alliances rather than qualifications.  You were good to me when I resigned, for which I give you credit, and you’ve done some good work, but your lack of judgment in your appointments has earned your position on this list.

4.  Jack Tweed and Jackiey Budden
Your wife and daughter, respectively, passed away and not long after the two of you descended into petty behavior and viscous attacks on one another. Jade loved you both—why, I’ll never know—and instead of honoring her memory you took to the press to publicly eviscerate one another. While we all agree that death was Jade’s finest hour, for the two of you, it was your lowest point.

3.  Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo
Proving that you are still the king of screwing up, you cursed Governor Beshear for not supporting you and, seemingly at every turn, opposed the governor on coal and any other issue you could.  It’s funny, because all you’ve done is ruin your own career.  You began 2009 as the apparent Democratic nominee the US Senate seat being vacated by Senator Bunning, but you end 2009 a disgraced man who will not only lose your bid for Senate but has been replaced as Lt. Governor on the next go-round.  Way to go, Dr. Dan.

2.  Senator Joe Lieberman
Dude, seriously?  Where do I even begin?  You started the year on my shit list and you end it as the political equivalent of Satan in my book.  You’ve done everything you can to oppose President Obama and his agenda–from endorsing McCain in last year’s election to single-handedly holding true health care reform hostage–and you’ve done it all with that arrogant smirk of an entitled buffoon.  It is my sincerest hope that, in 2012, the people of Connecticut will have had enough of your smug ego and do what they should have done in 2006–rid themselves and the rest of us of your presence in the Senate.  For good.

1.  Every single Member of Parliament.
One of the good things of being a transatlantic sort is that you are fluent in two cultures: American and British.  The expenses scandal that rocked Westminster and the whole of the UK back in May took everybody by surprise, and I found myself confused.  This was behavior I had come to expect from politicians on the western side of the Atlantic.  But not in Britain.  If anything, this served as a wakeup call to me (and to scores of others) that Westminster was not as incorruptible as perhaps we’d have naively liked to believe.  No party was left unscathed, and even those who didn’t use taxpayer money to clean their moats or claim a second, third, fourth and fifth home undoubtedly knew something was rotton and said nothing.  Disgusting.

Nice

5.  Dan Choi

You sacrificed your career in order to stand up for equality.  In doing that you became a gay rights icon and a leader of our movement.  Having two siblings in the US army, I know the sacrifices you have made and still make, and I appreciate everything you’ve done so much.  You are a true American hero, and you represent what I love about this country.  Thank you for everything you’re doing on behalf of my equality–and the equality of all LGBT Americans.

4.  Meghan McCain
Sure, we don’t agree on everything, but in 2009 you have shown not only a new side to the Republican party but why we Millennials are so amazing and epic.  Meghan, you are an inspiration to millions of twentysomethings around the country who aspire to be as poised, dignified, and informed as you are.  You have stood up for equality, which as a gay man I am eternally grateful for, and you have been a voice of moderation and reason in a party that to many of us seems to be a party of extremism.  You subscribe to the conservatism of Goldwater and  live-and-let-live philosophy of small government and low taxes which anybody can respect.  I look forward to seeing what you do in 2010 and the ensuing decade, and I have a feeling I may one day be voting for you to be my president.  (A boy can hope, anyway.)

3.  Matthew Sephton
Who would have known the boy I started chatting with on Facebook all that time back would go on to be the Tory PPC to challenge Hazel Blears!  I am so intensely proud of you.  You have shown poise and dignity with everything going on in your campaign, and as the head of LGBTory you have managed to raise the stature and presence of the organisation and really set it on course for success.  You are one of the most intelligent and friendly people I know, and the people of Salford and Eccles would be truly blessed to be represented in parliament by someone like you.  Wishing you the best for 2010!

2.   Rachel Maddow
You have been the ONLY voice in the MSM here in the states to consistently bring up progressive points and counter reactionary arguments.  Your coverage of “The Family,” including their role in the Uganda “Kill the Gays” bill, was invaluable and you have helped to raise the status and stature of progressive journalism.  As an out lesbian you have also helped to raise the banner of equality in the way other LGBT people in the public eye (i.e. Ellen and Adam Lambert) have shied away from.  Your keen insight and analysis and synthesis of the day’s events have allowed a progressive voice to be heard, for which I am enternally grateful.

1.  All of my Tweeps, especially Joe (@joemcd), Will (@willswearsprada), Billy (@wchardin), Colin (@icolin), Ashley (@veganindigo), Jason (@jaekay), Pete (@PeteyBennett) Lawrence (@LawrenceMills) and Patrik-Ian Polk (@patrikianpolk)
2009 was the year I began Tweeting, and thank God I did.  You all have made 2009 bearable for me.  Knowing I could come online and rant and rave to you all was such a comfort during the hard times, and you never failed to entertain me.  I’ve connected with so many amazing Tweeps, and I love you all to death.  Joe, you were probably my first Tweep, and I can’t tell you how much your Twitter-friendship has meant to me.  You are the scarecrow to my Dorothy in the Twitterverse, and I really hope we do get to meet in person soon.  Will, you manage to crack me up whenever I’m down, and I won’t soon forget how you cheered me up when I was especially down.  I hope we get to meet soon, too, cos I think we’d have a proper laugh in between sarcastic banter and putdowns.  Billy, you and I bonded over being from Kentucky, being Hilltoppers and being Anglophiles and in you I found a kindred spirit.  I will be meeting you soon and I cannot wait!  Colin, you let me confide a secret in you and I thank you for that.  You, too, make me smile more than you probably know.  Can’t wait to meet you next week, too!  Ashley, it was so great to meet another intellectual and activist.  You have brightened my life more than you can possibly know.  Jae, buddy, I love tweeting with you and I wish we talked more than we do.  You are absolutely brilliant and our banter makes my day.  Pete, I remember watching you on Big Brother 7 and thinking how much I would love to be your friend.  Following you on Twitter is one of the best decisions I made, cos you always crack me up and bring a smile to my face.  You following me back and a tweeting with you from time to time has been a highlight of 2009 for me.  You’re amazing, perfect Pete!  Lawrence, we’ve only just started getting to know one another, but chatting with you brings me so much pleasure.  You’re such a ray of sunshine.  And Patrik-Ian, you have been such an inspiration to me and your support has meant the world to me.   Thank you for everything you’ve done and all the encouragement you’ve given me.  I love you all!

So there you have it: my naughty and nice list for 2009.  There are tons of people who deserve to be on both lists, so coming up with five for each was difficult.

I hope you all have a blessed, joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  Thank you for your continued support and love.  Each of you have meant the world to me.

Merry Christmas.

x. Skylar

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Free speech, sodomites, and you

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I live in the American south, the land of bigotry, bumpkins, bourbon and yes, Bibles.  Hailing from such a conservative area, “queer” and “faggot” are words I’m deeply acquainted with.  Being told I’m responsible for the decline and fall of Western civilization is as much a part of my daily routine as putting the kettle on or having a shower.  I don’t particularly enjoy any of this, but I recognize the fact that, living in a democracy, the bigots I encounter have every right to express their views.  When possible, I engage said bigots in a constructive dialogue about homosexuality.  Other times I simply stick up a middle finger and continue walking, my head held high.  Living in a democracy, that is my right.

This is the responsibility and burden of democratic societies.  Even odious, hateful opinions can be freely expressed without hesitation and without fear of persecution.  All citizens, regardless of ideology, have a right to speak their minds.

That is, unless Labour has its way. The government is fervently attempting to pass a law which would ban incitement of homophobic hatred, which is odd, considering Parliament passed the same law last year.  In fact, what Labour is attempting to do is delete a protection in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 which reads:

the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.

Labour MPs are attempting to eliminate such language–and with it, any guarantee of religious freedoms–from the Coroners and Justice Bill.  This is a complete violation of the civil liberties of evangelical Christians and conservative Muslims and should outrage all Britons, regardless of sexual orientation.

I’m a gay man, and I’ll be the first to admit that being called a godless sodomite is downright hurtful and utterly offensive.  However, there is no inalienable right (to borrow a phrase from my American heritage) against being offended.  If anything, the inalienable human right is the freedom of expression, to pronounce your views, no matter how atrocious and deplorable, without the fear of persecution.

It’s this right that Pauline Howe, a 67-year-old grandmother, thought she was exercising when she wrote to her local authority, the Norwich Council, complaining about a gay pride parade on the grounds that the “perverted sexual practises” of “sodomites” are responsible for “the downfall of every empire.”  I admit, if I saw Mrs Howe, I would tell her exactly what I think about her opinion and where she can put that Bible.

Because that’s my right, the same as it is Mrs Howe’s right to express her odious views.  Freedom of speech doesn’t just protect those you agree with.  More importantly, it protects the rights of those you disagree with.  The freedom to speak your mind about any deeply held convictions you have, regardless of how offensive they are, is the hallmark of a liberal democracy.  As a human being, you possess an innate right to express yourself.

Any society which begins to legislate thoughts and feelings–no matter how disgusting–is a society dangerously on the verge of losing its liberties.  We look back on the trial of Oscar Wilde, who was prosecuted for “gross indecency” and who had to defend his works against accusations of “perversion” with a level of disgust rightly deserved by such fascist laws restricting one’s ability to love and express the truth within you.  Yet here we are, in 2009, with the shoe on the other foot, doing the same thing.  Only this time, instead of legislating against gays, we’re legislating against Christians, Muslims, and any pious citizen who dares be publicly critical of homosexuality.

Ed West put it brilliantly in his 28 October blog at the Telegraph:

Hating cannot [be] a crime, because it’s an emotion, not an action, and those who wish to make emotions and thoughts criminal are the enemies of freedom and liberal democracy. They are the ones creating a form of theocracy, in which we are punished for thoughts, rather than actions.

Those actions are what we need to be worried about.  As I reported following the assault of James Parkes, the 22 year old trainee cop who was brutally attacked in Liverpool in what police are calling a homophobic hate crime, violence against the LGBT community is on the rise.  Rather than focus on curbing this disturbing trend, Labour is intent on criminalizing speech.  Lord Dear, the crossbench peer and respected former chief constable, wrote in The House Magazine this past July that the judgment of police officers will be severely restricted, should the new law pass:

An officer is bound to record and fully investigate the incident, even if he is pretty sure it will never lead to a conviction.  Such is the wooden, automatic response demanded of our police  officers, who are already dogged by targets and discouraged from thinking for themselves.

What this essentially amounts to is a “boy who cried wolf” syndrome, where the police are busy investigating ever claim made by any offended gay or lesbian person, even if no true hate crime has been committed.  More importantly, it diminishes the effects of true homophobia–the assault on James Parkes, the murder of Michael Causer–which hinders any progress gay and lesbian Britons hope to make.  It is impossible to achieve social equality at the expense of our opponents’ legal equality.    All this does is foster resentment, winning us few allies in the process.

Homophobia is a real issue in Britain.  In a poll published last year in the Observer, 24% of Britons said they would recriminialise homosexual sex.  However, by prohibiting this 24% from speaking their minds, this government is only worsening the situation by ramping up the animosity they feel toward LGBT people.  Not only that, but if they can no longer publicly speak their minds, the gay and lesbian community loses a valuable chance at having a constructive exchange with homophobes and heterosexists, making it that much harder to win the hearts and minds of these people.  Instead, we drive their homophobia underground, where it can pass undetected, festering like an open wound on society.

Currently, in the United States, there is a movement away from pretending we are “color blind” and engaging in a frank, honest discussion about race and racism.  The same can–and should–be done regarding homosexuality and homophobia, but laws such as this make it that much difficult to truly engage in any meaningful conversation.  Without such a conversation, homophobia will continue to flourish.

Perhaps, more importantly, though is the fundamental right all Britons possess.  It wasn’t but a few decades ago that gay and lesbian people were the ones being silenced and oppressed.  Now, Labour is guilty of doing the same thing to those who disagree with homosexuality.  Whatever their reasons, these people feel as strongly in their position as I do in mine, and they should have the freedom to express it openly.  Turnabout is fair play; as I have every right to criticize their religion, they ought to have every right to criticize my sexual orientation.

Restrictions on freedom of speech should concern all free-thinking democrats, as any infringement upon the liberties of our neighbors is a potential infringement upon the liberties we ourselves enjoy.  LGBT Britons know what it is like to be intimidated to speak your most personal truths, and I should hope nobody would inflict such fear on another human being, no matter how vehemently we disagree with them.

I’ll throw Labour a bone and say their intentions are noble, but misguided.  Instead of focusing on criminalizing the words being spoken, we ought to focus on changing the minds being lost.  After all, it was the virtues of democracy, including freedom of speech, that advanced the cause of LGBT rights.