“Valentine Road,” a heartbreaking and disturbing documentary screened at the Milwaukee Film Fest, explores eighth-grader Brandon McInerney’s 2008 slaying of fellow classmate Letisha King at EO Green Junior High School in Oxnard, Calif.
Still exploring her sexuality and her gender at the age of 14, Letisha hadn’t openly identified as transgender at the time of her death. The filmmaker, interviewees and the media continue to refer to her as Larry King and use male pronouns, but I am going to refer to her as she requested in her last days.
One of the key questions that plagues the LGBT equality movement in Wisconsin and beyond is the question about whether it is better to be “grassroots” or an “a Capitol insider” playing the game of politics.
In my opinion, playing one strategy off the other is a red herring that undermines our collective ability to move forward.
When Chelsea Manning came out to the world as transgender this past week, the jokes started almost immediately. As Bradley Manning, she had become famous for her involvement with WikiLeaks, for which she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. With the jokes came the confusion, the doubts and the suspicions. Even within the community, people wondered if she was only coming out as transgender to avoid the prison at Leavenworth. People wondered if she is “really” transgender, or just pretending to be in order to avoid the kind of punishment she would receive as a man.
American culture is schizophrenic about sex: promiscuous and repressed; kinky and coy; salacious, insecure, hypocritical, clueless. We live in a sex-drenched culture that, paradoxically, is sex-stupid. No wonder everybody’s in a muddle.
You’d think the proliferation of sex manuals, sex therapists, sex videos, sex clubs, sex products, sex surrogates, sex drugs, phone and online sex, sex research and sex education would make us more informed and satisfied. A number of studies suggest that it just makes us more anxious and confused: Am I getting too little? Am I doing it too much? How can I tell her/him what I want? Am I too vanilla? Too kinky? What’s wrong with me?!
In 1973, 10 years before employment rights for LGBTs were adopted by the state, a Dane County judge upheld the firing of Paul D. Safransky by Southern Colony, an institution for children with disabilities, due to Safransky’s homosexuality. Safransky was not accused of any misconduct, yet the judge declared: “We do not think that the institution has to wait for something bad to happen when an employee such as plaintiff flaunts his unorthodox conduct and there is even a hint that he might go farther than talk about it.”
LGBT leaders are fond of declaring marriage equality the “civil rights issue of our time.”
This is rather arrogant, because it ignores a number of ongoing struggles for freedom that are equally compelling and involve the fates of millions of people. Because October is Disability Awareness Month, I will address that struggle. It is really “our” struggle because any of us — due to injury, illness or quirky chromosomes — can develop a disability at any time.
There’s a lot to celebrate with the Affordable Care Act. If you lose your job, you can still get health coverage for you and your family at an affordable price. An insurer can’t turn you down due to a pre-existing condition. You’ll still have a choice of policies and similar access to doctors.
But the ACA represents everything that’s wrong with our political leadership.