Pennsylvania is the 19th State to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage & That Makes Me a Hugely Happy Heterosexual

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As a white, heterosexual male I have been a beneficiary of most of the unearned privileges this nation has to offer. Now that Pennsylvania, the state in which I live, has become the 19th state to legalize same-sex marriage and the last in the Northeastern U.S. to do so, I am so happy for all lesbian, gay, and bisexual citizens of our state. I am also celebratory for my lesbian, gay, and bisexual friends and loved ones living in this state who I have personally seen struggle for years for so many reasons that are directly related to homophobia, a lack of *basic civil rights, and an absence of many of the unearned privileges I have always taken for granted.

As a heterosexual Pennsylvanian, here are five more reasons, in no particular order, I am happy that same-sex marriage is now legal in Pennsylvania:

  1. We are one step closer to no longer being called “Pennsyltucky” by most of our neighboring states who are more progressive.
  2. No more searching all over the place trying to find stores that sell “commitment ceremony” greeting cards.
  3. No more having to pay extra for embroidered housewarming gifts that charge by the number of stitches. Believe me, “wife” and “wife” or “husband” and “husband” cost far less than “domestic partner 1” and “domestic partner 2” on a set of towels.
  4. Every adult citizen of Pennsylvania now has the legal right to get married for all the wrong reasons.
  5. Every adult citizen of Pennsylvania now has the legal right to be miserable.

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ADD MORE FUN REASONS YOU ARE HAPPY FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN PENNSYLVANIA IN THE COMMENT BOX UNDER THE “LEAVE A REPLY” SECTION BELOW!

*Currently an employee can be fired from his/her job simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender in 29 states across the U.S. That’s right, none of the civil rights laws of the 1960’s and 1970’s included lgbt individuals as a protected group. In fact, even in some of the states that have legalized gay marriage, including Pennsylvania, if “sexual orientation” is not listed as a protected group in your employer’s non-discrimination employment clause, an lgbt employee can be fired simply because of his/her sexual orientation. For those who believe that lgbt employees need not be included in the non-discrimination employment clause because you believe that being lgbt is a choice, religion is also a choice and it is a protected group throughout the U.S.

How to Spot a Real Live Racist and an Actual Homophobe In the Wake of the Donald Sterling, Michael Sam Events

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There is more than one definition for the term racism and there is more than one definition for the term homophobia. However, at their most basic levels the definition of racism is the belief that one race, usually your own, is inherently superior to another race or races. This form of racism is also known as active racism. The basic definition of homophobia is the belief that heterosexuality is inherently superior to homosexuality. This form of homophobia is also known as active homophobia. Extended definitions of these terms apply to institutional racism (known in the U.S. as white privilege) and institutional homophobia (known in the U.S. as heterocentrism or heterosexism). In this article, I am going to focus on active racism and active homophobia only.
To The Forefront
In April and May 2014, the news media profiled two public events relating directly to racism and homophobia that would have likely never garnered the same kind of attention ten years earlier. They had to do with two individuals named Donald Sterling and Michael Sam.
Donald Sterling, the owner of the National Basketball Association’s, Los Angeles Clippers was heard in a recorded phone conversation with his mistress, making controversial comments about people of color, primarily African-Americans. The recording was leaked to the press and was released to the public where it rapidly gained national attention. Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, took swift action and banned Mr. Sterling from attending any NBA events for life. There is now an undertaking by the commissioner to force Mr. Sterling to sell the Clippers so that he can no longer be affiliated with the NBA in any way.
The public’s reaction to Mr. Sterling’s comments was overwhelmingly negative. He was admonished over and over again for what he had been confirmed as saying and,as seen in photographs and in video from around the nation, there was an immense display of unity from people of all races, standing up against racism and what Mr. Sterling had said.
Just over 2 weeks later, Michael Sam, a former defensive end for the University of Missouri Tigers football team and the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year was drafted by the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams in the 7th round of the NFL draft. He is the first openly gay athlete ever drafted by an NFL team.
It turns out that the overwhelming response regarding Mr. Sam’s draft into the N.F.L. was positive. In fact, just two days after the draft Mr. Sam’s St. Louis Rams jersey was the 2nd highest selling jersey in the nation despite the fact that he was the 249th overall pick in the draft.
However, there were also highly public negative reactions to Mr. Sam after he kissed his significant other, Vito Cammisano on live TV, in a celebratory response to his being drafted. Some of the most reported reactions were made on twitter and included the following:

  • Don Jones of the Miami Dolphins tweeted “OMG” and “Horrible” in response to either the drafting of Mr. Sam or the kiss or both. The Dolphins have fined and suspended Mr. Jones and he will reportedly undergo “sensitivity training.”
  • Former NFL running back Derrick Ward tweeted, “I’m sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national tv. I’m fine with it being a new day in age but for him to do that on National tv is disgusting. Gay or not. Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can’t believe ESPN even allowed that to happen.”
  • University of Mississippi basketball player Marshall Henderson tweeted, “Boycotting sportscenter til this michael sam nasty ass shit is off …. My brothers are 7 and 11 and saw that!!! #SICKENING.”

How to Spot a Racist and a Homophobe
When you truly know the basic definition of racism, you understand that Donald Sterling’s comments can be labeled as racist. (He was also urging his mistress in the phone call, to practice racial discrimination by not inviting “black people” to Clippers’ games). But this only makes Sterling an active racist if he genuinely believes in his racist comments. It is hard to imagine that when an individual makes a racist or homophobic remark, that he/she does not also believe in what they have said. But, at times, they actually do not. Mr. Sterling has claimed he does not believe in what he said. You can determine whether or not you believe him.
When you truly know the basic definition of homophobia, you understand that the negative comments made on twitter about Mr. Sam can be labeled as homophobic. But this only makes those who posted them active homophobes if they genuinely believe in their homophobic comments. You can determine whether or not you believe them if they claim they are not homophobes.
Both Mr. Sterling and Mr. Jones apologized for their comments. Mr. Henderson claimed he was helping a fellow student with a psychology experiment to tally reaction. When you truly know the basic definition of an apology, you understand that the comments they made can be labeled as apologetic. But this only makes Mr. Sterling, Mr. Jones and Mr. Henderson active apologists if they genuinely believe in their apologetic comments. You can determine whether or not you believe them.
A Homophobe is a Homophobe is a Homophobe
So if you say it, it can be labeled as a racist remark or a homophobic remark. Just saying it does not prove you are a racist and/or a homophobe. If you believe that your racist and/or homophobic remarks are true and/or correct, then you can be labeled as a racist and/or a homophobe. It is that simple.
But oddly, there are still a number of individuals who seem determined to freely distribute homophobic remarks, some followed up by the verification that they believe in their remarks but then deny that they are, in fact, a homophobe. In the United States, one has every right to freedom of speech, speech that includes homophobic remarks. In the United States, one has every right to be a homophobe. But one cannot change the actual definition of a word in order to accommodate one’s own bigotry. And even if one exercises his/her right to freedom of speech, he/she still may have to face the consequences of that speech if it is interpreted as hate speech. If you say it and also believe it then, well, you are a homophobe. If you are against gay marriage because you believe it will denigrate the institution of heterosexual marriage; if you believe that homosexual relationships are less valid than heterosexual relationships; if you claim that you love your homosexual brethren but pray for them to see the way to heterosexuality then all of these examples illustrate the most basic definition of homophobia. Believe what you wish. You have every right to do so. But a homophobe is a homophobe is a homophobe. It is that simple.
The Kiss
I have been a professional diversity trainer for more than 16 years. I was a college professor who taught graduate courses in social and cultural diversity and multicultural psychology for 7 years. In my trainings and in my classes, I have covered the topic of confronting homophobia every year since 2000. There have been times when I have commenced with the discussion of confronting homophobia to large audiences and in classrooms and have observed highly educated, adult professionals glare at me with intense loathing for my unmitigated gall to even broach the topic. The vitriol was intense.
However in the last 5 years, I have seen a major change take place among these audiences. The level of positive support for confronting homophobia and wiping it out in our schools and throughout our nation has become immense. The anger from these audiences has shifted from being directed toward me to being directed toward those who make homophobic comments, commit homophobic acts, and speak out against the LGBTQ communities, even if they use religion as a rationale for their homophobic beliefs and actions.
Many educators who teach young children in the elementary grades (k-5) frequently disclose to me that although their students may be initially shocked by displays of affection between people of the same-sex – just as they may be the first time they see anything new – they adapt quickly and become accepting and even supportive of their classmates who happen to have two parents of the same sex. When discussing the topic with educators in the past, a kindergarten teacher once told me, “Kids gravitate toward kindness and love and away from cruelty and hate.” However, educators also disclose that the adults in some of these children’s lives are the ones who present the most resistance and difficulty in their attempts to establish safe, respectful classroom environments for students. Additionally, the resistant adults apparently do so in the guise that “children should not see such things.” Things like kindness and love?
You see children are really not bothered by this stuff. Oh sure, at first they may grimace but they adapt far more quickly than adults do because, although they may hear adults make racist and homophobic comments, young children are not yet infiltrated with racist and homophobic beliefs the way adults are. It takes adults to help them attain those.
Take a look at the kisses. It was one of the greatest moments of Mr. Sam’s life but the kisses will not likely win any passion points. In my opinion, young children should not see adult sexual behavior or strong violence on television. That is not what they saw when Mr. Sam and his boyfriend kissed. I wonder how many of those same children, however, are allowed to watch explicit violence or comparable heterosexual behavior on their televisions?
I understand if it makes some people feel uncomfortable. I sometimes even feel uncomfortable watching people kissing in front of me, regardless of the gender of those doing the kissing. But my comfort is not an automatic privilege and using children as justification for establishing a victim status is simply groundless. Bigots have used the old “oppressor as victim” tactic in the United States since the days of the Emancipation Proclamation. It will continue to be used now and in the future. But it holds no merit. Homophobia and racism are what need to be abolished not homosexuality and racial diversity. It is that simple.
Legacy
Based upon my observations working as a diversity trainer, a college professor, and as an individual who, for more than 15 years, has closely watched what has occurred nationally around this topic, I genuinely believe that in less than 5 years from now, those who posted their homophobic comments in response to the kiss will be considered pariahs in many, many circles because of their remarks, in the same way Donald Sterling was for his racist remarks as soon as they were made public. The homophobes will hold a legacy that will not be positive and they may have to apologize over and over again for what they stated in order to simply re-establish any credibility for the rest of their lives. They may even be remembered for their comments after they die beyond anything else they ever accomplished in life.
In 20 years, the negative backlash in response to the kisses between Mr. Sam and Mr. Cammisano will be laughed at for its absurd bigotry. The children who saw the kisses on TV will, as adults, shake their heads in disbelief as to how ridiculously the adults in their lives responded to the kisses. Some of those adults will have been branded as the hopeless, out of touch, member of the family who is simply tolerated once a year at Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, they will still be loved but they will not be liked.
How do I know? I know because none of this stuff is unprecedented. Many of today’s adults have exactly the same reactions and feelings about the racist adults they heard as children who freely and proudly vocalized their racist remarks and opinions in front of them years ago. Today, even after many of those racist relatives have passed away, the dominant legacy they leave behind is their racism.
Homophobia and racism have reared their ugly heads in the past and they will again in the future. Sometimes it looks like they may win. But then take a look at history. In the long run, they really never do win. I used to wonder why homophobes and racists keep trying and never seem to understand that they are just plain wrong. After all, they are actually attempting to conquer love. But today I realize that it is easy to be a bigot. It takes using your brain not to be. I do not believe bigots are less intelligent than non-bigots and I know they are not always wholly bad people, but I do believe that they do not seem to utilize all that their brains have to offer. How sad.
In 2014, we are immersed in a civil rights movement that is just as important as the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. We reached a tipping point in 2011 when the majority of the U.S. public began polling in support of gay marriage for the first time ever (**2010 – 44% vs. 2011 – 53%). Now that we have crossed the plateau to the other side, love is going to once again be victorious over bigotry. Gay marriage is going to become legal in all 50 states. Members of the LGBTQ communities will be given the same basic employment rights as heterosexuals in all 50 states (as this article is being written, an employee can be fired from his/her job simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender in 29 states). The Bible will no longer be used to validate homophobia, as it was used to validate slavery, racism, and sexism in the past. The words in the Bible will remain the same but the interpretation of those words will change. Our culture will progress so that homophobic comments and beliefs will not be tolerated in most forums. And all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity will become more and more accepted while homophobes become less and less plentiful.

Finally, if Mr. Sam, who currently weighs 260 lbs. happens to earn a spot on the St. Louis Rams roster and competes against any of the individuals who have made public homophobic remarks against him or happen to do so on the field, will we end up feeling sorry for any of them after he unloads his talent upon them? Well, when the playing field on homophobia becomes level, perhaps we will. As a fan of the NFL, I actually look forward to the day when openly gay football players are considered to be the same kind of a**holes many of the current ones are.

What legacy do you wish to leave behind?

 

** 54% – 2014

 

Become Happier By Changing Who You Root For

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“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”                    Mother Teresa

In August 2009, the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League acquired Michael Vick as a backup quarterback for their football team. He was offered and accepted a 1 million dollar, one-year contract to play for them. At the time, he had recently been released from prison for serving a 2 ½ year sentence for running a dog-fighting ring in rural Virginia. Many of Mr. Vick’s dogs were both horribly mistreated and brutally murdered pit-bull terriers and other related breeds.

Before his incarceration, Mr. Vick had been the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcon’s, National Football League professional football team. At the time of his incarceration, he was considered one of the league’s premiere players.

I grew up 30 miles outside of Philadelphia and followed the Eagles as a fan from childhood into adulthood. I also grew up in a household where we raised many pets over the years that included dogs, cats, turtles, and hamsters. My family always loved these pets as much as we loved any members of our family.

When the Philadelphia Eagles decided to procure Michael Vick as a member of their team, I found myself in a predicament. The decision, however, was easy. To me, animals took precedence over my loyalty to a sport that I played as a game. In my mind, the Eagles had made a horrible mistake.

I certainly believe that a convicted felon should be given a second chance. But I also believe that someone who was released from prison after committing a felony like the one Mr. Vick did, should earn his way back through the stages that most others do. I know that many disagree with this and I respect that. But, to me, Mr. Vick’s almost immediate reinstatement back into the NFL was unjust.

As a result, I decided that after more than 40 years of being a loyal Philadelphia Eagles fan, I could no longer root for my home team as long as Michael Vick was a member of the team. In fact, I decided that I would do whatever I could to become the biggest anti-Eagles fan in a metro region that often does not look fondly upon those who take such a stand.

I professed my anger and distaste for the Eagles and Michael Vick to anyone who would listen. As the NFL football season commenced in 2009, I even changed my Facebook profile photo each week when the Eagles played to make my profile picture one that illustrated an actual “Anti-Vick” photo. I thought this was productive. I was wrong.

Sure, I coerced a few people to agree with my perspective but all that I really accomplished via my anti-Vick campaign was to increase my own anger, my own resentment, and my own negativity. As time passed, I realized that no one benefited from this ridiculous energy. And as far as I know, not a single dog secured a better life because of my anti-Vick stand.

Subsequently, I recognized that my energy would be better applied if I did something that was positive rather than negative. What a concept! I decided to directly do what I could to assist dogs and other pets in a proactive manner instead of complaining. As a result, I began volunteering at a no-kill pet shelter in Philadelphia.

It was at this point, that I began to realize that being anti-something was far less productive than being pro-something else. Rather than being anti-Michael Vick I focused on being pro-dog.

It was a decision that not only changed my position in this incident, it improved my perspective on life and, I believe, my well-being. As a result, I have an outlook on the world that finds me better equipped to help others – no matter how wet their noses might be.

Here are 10 ideas to be pro vs. anti in a world where cheering for the negative is often popular:

  1. Rather than being anti-war, be pro-peace.
  2. Rather than being anti-government, be pro-individual.
  3. Rather than being anti-big business, be pro-small business.
  4. Rather than being anti-diversity, be pro-unity.
  5. Rather than being anti-mean people, be pro-nice people.
  6. Rather than being anti-other candidate, be pro-your candidate.
  7. Rather than being anti-racist, be pro-equity.
  8. Rather than being anti-pollution, be pro-environmentalism.
  9. Rather than being anti-bully, be pro-social.
  10. Rather than being anti-corruption, be pro-integrity.

(Can you add to my list of “10 ideas to be pro vs. anti” above? I would love to read your ideas!)

Why does this matter? Think about it. When you take an anti-approach, your satisfaction in doing so likely lasts a short period and may even lead to emotional and physical distress, while a pro-approach can lead to more positive results. Research has found that…

Being ANTI can lead to:

  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Negativity
  • Few to no solutions
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Colds
  • Taste disturbances
  • Memory disturbances

Being PRO can lead to:

  • A forward movement; progress
  • A sense of accomplishment even when little succeeds
  • Decreased anger
  • Renewed perspective
  • Increased mindfulness
  • Purpose in life
  • Social support
  • Decreased illness symptoms
  • Increased life satisfaction
  • Reduced depressive symptoms

So, think hard. What are you currently “anti” about and how can you change it into a “pro?”

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