Sunday, March 31, 2013

He Lives

He Lives 

I serve a risen Savior
  He's in the world today.
I know that He is living,
  Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy;
  I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him
  He's always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
    He lives within my heart.

In all the world around me
  I see His loving care,
And though my heart grows weary,
  I never will despair;
I know that He is leading,
  Through all the stormy blast;
The day of His appearing
  Will come at last.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
    He lives within my heart.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian,
  Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs
  To Jesus Christ the King!
The Hope of all who seek Him,
  The Help of all who find,
None other is so loving,
  So good and kind.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
    He lives within my heart.

"He Lives" is a Christian hymn, otherwise known by its first line, "I Serve a Risen Savior". It was composed in 1933 by Alfred Henry Ackley (1887-1960), and remains popular today.
The hymn discusses the experience by Christians that Jesus Christ lives within their hearts. It is disliked or excluded by some conservative evangelicals, on the grounds that the appeal to experience is less reliable than the words of scripture and can lead to heresy.  I find it to be an exceptionally beautiful song with a strong message.
The hymn is sung by church members in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, a screen adaptation of Jeanette Winterson's novel of the same name.  In the movie, Charlotte Coleman starred as Jess, a girl growing up in a Pentecostal evangelical household in AccringtonLancashire, England in the 1970s, who comes to understand that she is a lesbian

Happy Easter, Everyone!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Willie Support

Willie supports the right of two people with willies to marry!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marriage Equality and SCOTUS II

Yesterday was the second day in a row that the high court heard arguments dealing with same-sex marriage. At issue Wednesday in United States v. Windsor was whether it was constitutional for the U.S. government to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that had been recognized by the states.
It is definitely a hot topic, and my post yesterday was hotly debated.  If you have not read yesterday's post and especially the comments, I urge you to do so before continuing to read this post.  One of the central points brought up was the argument that the possibility of procreation was necessary for a marriage and that homosexuals do not have the ability to procreate.  A few years ago, I made the argument that the roots of homophobia lay in the inability of gay people to procreate. Religions and governments need a large number of people to continue, without people who could procreate, then their influence would dwindle.  Many problem exist with procreation being the center of this argument.  Not all married couple can procreate: some are infertile, some women are post-menopausal, others don't want to have children.  Furthermore, gay people can have children.  Most gay men and women are fertile. They can have children through surrogates, or they can adopt children.  I would much rather see a child adopted by a loving family than to be aborted. This argument was even brought up in Tuesday's hearing on Prop 8 when Charles J. Cooper said Prop 8 supports "responsible procreation," Kagan pushed back. "If you are over the age of 55, you don't help us serve the government's interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?"  The fact is, it's not.  People who are not able to or have no intent to have children get married all the time.

I also want to state that has no right or duty to legislate religious morality.  Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, representing the Obama administration on the merits of the case, emphasized Congress' discriminatory purpose in enacting DOMA in 1996.  The law "is not called Federal Uniform Benefits Act," he said. "It's called the Defense of Marriage Act."  Justice Elena Kagan pushed a similar point. She told Paul Clement, the lawyer who was defending DOMA on behalf of the House of Representatives' Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, "that maybe Congress had something different in mind than uniformity" in the definition of marriage. Suggesting the law was "infected with prejudice, fear, spite, and animus," Kagan read a portion of the House Report, which said DOMA was meant to reflect Congress' "collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality."

The First Amendment clearly states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."  If Congress is enacting religious legislation, such as they did with DOMA, then they are condoning the establishment of their own church governed by the members of Congress. Justice Hugo Black adopted Jefferson's words in the voice of the Court, and concluded that "government must be neutral among religions and nonreligion: it cannot promote, endorse, or fund religion or religious institutions.". In the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, Justice David Souter, writing for the majority, concluded that "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion."  Of you are a regular reader of this blog then you know my views on religion.  I write about my faith every Sunday, and I endeavor to make it part of everything that I do.  From what I see of most politicians and members of Congress, I do not want them legislating my religious beliefs.  The United States of America is a republic, not a theocracy.

Frankly, I don't think the government should be in the business of defining marriage, whether it is a state or federal issue.  There should be two distinctions of legal unions, civil unions recognized by the government for legal purposes and marriages recognized by religious bodies.  This is not likely to happen, though it is practiced around the world.  In a way it is even practiced in America when we sign a marriage certificate and we have a ceremony.  It's a sticky issue filled with semantics.  With that being said, I do believe that if the government is going to recognize the unions of opposite sex couple then it should do the same for same sex couple.  There are too many issues at stake for the government not to recognize same sex couples in the same way: adoption, child custody, parental rights, legal status, divorce, taxes, etc.  The government should not and cannot make LGBT people second class citizens anymore.  We deserve the same rights as anyone else.  EQUALITY FOR ALL!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marriage Equality and SCOTUS

The fight for marriage equality is progressing each day. This week, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the constitutionality of two gay marriage laws: the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), United States v. Windsor, and California’s Proposition 8, Hollingsworth v. Perry. The hearings have the potential to help shape gay marriage equality laws for a long time to come. As the Supreme Court hears arguments on gay marriage rights laws this week, Gay Dating Blog decided to compile a list of their favorite 100 marriage equality blogs. Some of you might be interested in checking it out:

The Human Rights Campaign’s push for marriage equality swept social media Tuesday as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case. The social campaign launched around 1 p.m. EST Monday afternoon, when the organization changed its Facebook profile picture from its iconic blue and yellow logo to the current red version.

“Red is a symbol for love, and that’s what marriage is all about,” Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Charlie Joughin told on Tuesday. “We wanted to give people an opportunity to show their support for marriage equality in a public and visible way.”

Needless to say, this is a momentous week for LGBT rights and the Supreme Court.  I can't say that I understand all of the arguments that were presented yesterday, and I doubt I will understand all of the arguments presented today.  Most of the analysts of yesterday's arguments before the Court seemed to place Justice Kennedy as the major swing vote.  Here are some of the arguments presented, as reported by The Huffington Post:
"Can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing burdens on them?" Sotomayor asked Charles J. Cooper, who is representing supporters of Prop 8’s ban on gay marriage. "Is there any other rational decision-making that the government could make? Denying them a job, not granting them benefits of some sort, any other decision?"
And when Cooper said Prop 8 supports "responsible procreation," Kagan pushed back. "If you are over the age of 55, you don't help us serve the government's interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?"
Yet the liveliest moments came when Scalia asked Ted Olson, President George W. Bush's solicitor general and the lawyer for the two same-sex couples challenging Prop 8, "When did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791 [when the Bill of Rights was ratified]? 1868, when the 14th Amendment was adopted?"
Olson pushed back against Scalia's originalist view, asking him in return, "When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages?"
"It's an easy question," Scalia said. "At the time that the equal protection clause was adopted. That's absolutely true. But don't give me a question to my question."
"There's no specific date in time," Olson ultimately answered. "This is an evolutionary cycle."
Alito's issues with Olson's argument were more pragmatic. "You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet," Alito said. "On a question like that, of such fundamental importance, why should it not be left for the people, either acting through initiatives and referendums or through their elected public officials?"
Yet Ginsburg noted that one of the decisions Cooper was relying on in the case was written in 1971, when “same-sex intimate conduct was considered criminal.” In that case, Baker v. Nelson, the Supreme Court dismissed a Minnesota man's attempt to marry his male partner as lacking a "substantial federal question."
Kennedy also said he was “trying to wrestle with” whether a same-sex marriage ban should be viewed as a gender-based classification, calling it a “difficult question.”
By the end of the argument, it was clear that Kennedy believed the Prop 8 proponents had standing to sue, that same-sex couples had the right to marry and that such a right extended to all states. Yet that option -- making same-sex marriage a federal constitutional right -- compelled him to search for an escape hatch.
It is unclear from yesterday's hearings how the Court might rule on Prop 8.  It remains entirely possible that the Court might dodge the substantive question or rule on narrow grounds that only affect the State of California and not the rest of the country.  Whatever it does, the rights of hundreds of thousands of families will be profoundly affected by whatever the Supreme Court rules on two marriage equality cases it is hearing this week.  Without question, what the Court rules will make a difference in the short-term legal and political realities faced by same-sex couples.

But when Martin Luther King spoke about justice rolling “down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream,” he evoked the long arc of history that ultimately bends toward equal treatment and fairness for all.   The Supreme Court may hurry the pace of justice or slow it down or dodge it altogether, but the sanctioning of anti-gay bias and legalized discrimination against gay families will someday soon be nothing more than an ugly relic of the past.

A decision in the case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is expected by July.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sonnet written in Holy Week at Genoa, by Oscar Wilde

"Shelley's Tomb in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome" - Painted by Walter Crane, 1873. Actually, it is John Keats' gravestone shown here.
Sonnet written in Holy Week at Genoa
by Oscar Wilde 

I wandered in Scoglietto's green retreat,
The oranges on each o'erhanging spray
Burned as bright lamps of gold to shame the day;
Some startled bird with fluttering wings and fleet
Made snow of all the blossoms, at my feet
Like silver moons the pale narcissi lay:
And the curved waves that streaked the sapphire bay
Laughed i' the sun, and life seemed very sweet.
Outside the young boy-priest passed singing clear,
"Jesus the Son of Mary has been slain,
O come and fill his sepulchre with flowers."
Ah, God! Ah, God! those dear Hellenic hours
Had drowned all memory of Thy bitter pain,
The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers, and the Spear.

In 1877, Wilde travelled to Greece with the Revd Sir John Pentland Mahaffy, his former tutor in Trinity College Dublin. On his return through Italy, Wilde had a private audience with Pope Pius IX in Rome. Afterwards, Wilde locked himself in his room, emerging only after writing a sonnet inspired by and dedicated to the Pope. But hours later, he visited the Protestant Cemetery in Rome where the Romantic poet, John Keats, was buried. Kneeling at his grave, Wilde ostentatiously declared it to be "the holiest place in Rome." 

Today's poem, 'Sonnet written in Holy Week at Genoa,' is technically an iambic pentameter, it but follows a strict rhyming pattern that has more in common with what is called the Italian sonnet, possibly adopted by Wilde because he was writing in Genoa.

The poem was published in 1881 on Wilde's return to England, but he probably wrote it in Genoa, where Wilde may have attended the Chiesa Anglicana or Anglican Church.

During his travels in Greece with Mahaffy, Wilde's interest in Roman Catholicism waned, and he was tinged with a little guilt when he was back in Italy in 1881 and realised in Genoa during Holy Week that he would rather remain an Anglican than become a Roman Catholic, or that he would rather be in Greece than in Rome:

... those dear Hellenic hours
Had drowned all memory of Thy bitter pain,
The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers, and the Spear.

The sonnet opens with the poet in Scoglietto, the park around Villa Rosazza, near the Di Negro Metro Station. The oranges hanging from the trees are a common feature of Genoa in Via Negro as elsewhere. The imagery here is powerful with the oranges as lamps their brightness shaming the day. The flower blossoms, disturbed by the birds fluttering, fall as snow, an unusual but not uncommon feature of the climate in Genoa.

The sweetness of life in Genoa is underlined with the imagery of the sea and the narcissi and contrasted by the announcement of the death of Christ by the boy-priest, an image that reminds us not only of Wilde's infatuation with Roman Catholicism but possibly of his troubled sexuality too.

The snows of the fifth line become flowers again to fill the sepulchre, a common practice in Italy and Greece as Christians decorate the churches for Easter.

The Hellenic hours could have various meanings, both to Wilde's own sexuality but also the Graeco-Roman history of Christianity.

The last line is a kind of poetic shorthand summoning up aspects of the Crucifixion that are part of the common Christian memory.

Seventeen years after this poem was published, Oscar Wilde's wife, Constance Lloyd, died in Genoa in 1898 and was buried in the Staglieno Cemetery. A year later, he visited her grave in Genoa on 26 February 1899 – a poignant and little-known episode in his life – and spent some more time in Genoa just a year before his own death.

Excerpt taken from PATRICK COMERFORD'S BLOG.  Rev. Patrick Comerford is a priest in the Church of Ireland (Anglican), Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the University of Dublin (Trinity College Dublin) and a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. For many years he worked as a journalist with the Lichfield Mercury, the Wexford People and The Irish Times, where he was Foreign Desk Editor until 2002. 

Knotty Contemplations...

I received an email from a blog buddy the other day telling me about his new blog, "Knotty Contemplations..."  I decided to check it out and was quite impressed.  I had always enjoyed his other blogs, and I am really enjoying his new blog.  He wrote saying that, "Recently I have felt constrained by having only a blog that is aimed at a special interest group...I have a lot of interests and things I would like to comment on.... I have started another blog that is not aimed at a special interest group."  He went on to say in the email that his "goal is to blog about the convoluted and difficult topics which it is not considered good to talk about in the PC world."  

So far there are only a few posts up, but I am sure once you read what he has posted, you will be interested in reading more.  The post that really struck my interests was titled, "An Open Letter to the Republican Party."  For the most part, I consider myself a moderate Democrat, while my friend considers himself a moderate Republican.  If you believe the media, we are both rare breed, or as the cartoon above states, "a long-extinct species."  

In his "Open Letter" he writes:  
I have not always been a Republican. As a young man I was a supporter of LBJ, and I actually voted for Bill Clinton; not once, but twice. I don't actually regret either stance. I've come to believe that the old saying, "If you are young and not liberal, then you have no heart; but if you are old and not conservative, then you have no brain," is entirely true. As I aged, I got smarter and more realistic about the world, just as one is supposed to do.
I'm not for sure that the old saying above is true, mainly because I doubt I will ever be a Republican unless the GOP makes some drastic changes.  My friend also says:
I would like to say it is now no secret to anyone that the Republican Party must change if it is to survive, but that cannot be said. Some of the most radical right wing nuts are still contending the Party is suffering not from right wing idiocy, but from its failure to further embrace the right wing agenda.
As my friend says in his post, I am convinced that the great majority of Americans are not extremists. He justifies this (and i have to agree) by saying that "A country of extremists would not be embracing the changes now taking place in America regarding the bringing of full civil rights and acceptance to gay men and women. Although many Americans think otherwise, the growing acceptance of gays as deserving of the equality under the law all Americans enjoy is not an extremist position. It is a moderate position."

As I wrote in my comment on the "Open Letter" post:
I agree, it's time for change in both parties, though I consider myself a Democrat. The Democrats have moved too far left, and the Republicans too far right, which leaves no place for an American moderate. I'm not sure either party will moderate itself. The far left and right have too loud of a voice in each party. I have hopes for a true third party, not a one issue third party but one that will represent us moderates.
There needs to be a change in American politics.  Politics in the United States has become about what politicians are against, not what they support.  It is a totally negative view, and that must change.  Politicians also need to learn to compromise.  However, the Republican Party is finding it difficult to compromise because of the fear that they will lose their next election to a more extreme Republican if they are seen with a Democrat, especially if that Democrat is President Obama.


Time was not on my side last night. I got caught up in watching The Bible and Vikings on the History Channel and time got away from me.  Before I knew it, it was late.  I started writing my blog post anyway, but sadly the battery on my iPad ran out before I could finish, so my main post today will come a little later. This post is from my iPhone.  Besides, I'm on spring break.  I should get a little slack this week. 

So when I wake up and get some coffee, I will finish my post for everyone to read.  I will be writing about a new blog called "Knotty Contemplations..." from a blog buddy of mine.  I think you guys will enjoy it. In fact to check it out now and come back later to read more comments from me.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gifts of Grace

A Prayer for Knowing Oneself Better

I thank you, Lord,
for knowing me better than I know myself, 
and for letting me know myself
better than others know me.
Make me, I pray you,
better than they suppose,
and forgive me for what they do not know.

According to tradition, the forecourt of the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi had inscribe on it the words γνῶθι σεαυτόν, "know thyself."  The maxim "know thyself" has had a variety of meanings attributed to it in literature. The Suda, a tenth century encyclopedia of Greek knowledge, says: "the proverb is applied to those whose boasts exceed what they are," and that "know thyself" is a warning to pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude.

Though not a Christian maxim, Jesus actually says "Heal Thyself," it certainly applies to us as well as to the other religions and philosophies that have used it.  Romans 12:3-8 states
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
This passage s often called "Gifts of Grace."  Each of us have our unique gifts and we should use them according to God's will.  To know our gifts, we must know ourselves.  God knows us best and guides us through life and we must trust in him to guide us along the narrow path of righteousness.  Knowing our qualities as LGBT Christians is an important aspect of our life.  We get rejected by some in our own community, whether that community is the community of Christ or that of our gay brethren.  We could reject one in favor of the other, but we would be following the wide, easier path instead of the narrow, more difficult path.  However, if we trust in God and pray for his guidance we will know ourselves and which path to follow.

Today is also Palm Sunday, which commemorates the triumphal entrance of Christ into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9), when palm branches were placed in His path, before His arrest on Holy Thursday and His Crucifixion on Good Friday. It thus marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent, and the week in which Christians celebrate the mystery of their salvation through Christ's Death and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Without Christ's death and resurrection, we would be unable to ever truly know ourselves nor have the gift of grace bestowed upon us by God's eternal love and infinite mercy.

Friday, March 22, 2013


The four boys of "Well-Strung: The Singing String Quartet" know their chiseled torsos and matinee idol faces make them seem like an inspired novelty act. In fact, second violinist Chris Marchant says he has lost track of the number of times the all-male string quartet turned down offers to perform nude during their 2012 summer stint in Provincetown, Mass.
But moments after the hunky group took the stage of Manhattan's Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater in the West Side Y last week, the audience's initial catcalls gave way to enthusiastic applause -– a response that Marchant believes is indicative of Well-Strung's fanbase, which he hopes will listen as closely as they're looking.
"One of our aims is to blur the line between high and low art," he says.
An evening with Well-Strung is anything but typical. Along with Marchant, first violinist Edmund Bagnell, violist Trevor Wadleigh and cellist Daniel Shevlin tear through a set list that includes Mozart and Dvořák compositions alongside string arrangements of recent pop hits by Adele, Britney Spears and Ke$ha, during which the boys provide vocals. In addition, each of the handsome stars offers up winking anecdotes of growing up gay in between numbers, lending much of the act the breezy feel of cabaret with a hint of vaudeville.
The final result is, according to Bagnell, "not quite a concert and a little bit more than a cabaret performance."
"Plus, we're not just giving you idle chatter in between songs with a cocktail, we actually want to say something about ourselves," he says. A Well-Strung show's heightened theatricality should come as no surprise given that Bagnell, Marchant and Shevlin all have theater credits, while director Donna Drake was among the original cast of Broadway's "A Chorus Line" in 1975.
It's difficult not to fall for Well-Strung's undeniable charms, even if some of their jokes feel canned. In one particularly adorable moment, Wadleigh reveals he spent much of his childhood idolizing Martha Stewart, while Marchant's transformation from scrawny adolescent to his current buff self, as depicted in a retrospective photo slideshow, prompts sighs from the crowd. Still, despite the group's classically-trained chops, a Well-Strung show is ultimately better suited for fans of musical comedy than those who'd seek out a chamber ensemble at Carnegie Hall –- not that the boys mind one bit, of course.
"This is the first time I've been able to play music as entertainment," Wadleigh, who had been pursuing a career in musical academia prior to joining the group, notes. "Some people have a very serious attitude [when it comes to classical music] about protecting an ancient art, whereas we can just have fun doing it."
Adds Shevlin: "I think that really excites people about our interactions with each other. They're not used to seeing what physicality goes on in between four players."
Audiences who missed out on Well-Strung's three-week New York run needn't fret, as the group is now booked to play the city's Highline Ballroom on May 5. A summer return to Provincetown's Art House is currently in the works, just ahead of a European debut at London's Leicester Square Theatre in September; the group's producer and manager Mark Cortale says that future dates in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Sydney are also being planned.
And those who've been dreaming of taking Well-Strung home can also do so, at least figuratively -- their debut CD features 11 of their pop and classical tracks.
What lies beyond that for Well-Strung is anybody's guess, and although Marchant says he's been tinkering with material for the group's forthcoming sets, there will undoubtedly be one constant.
"Ke$ha will always be in the show; she's our artist-in-residence," he quips.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Biggest Loser

I don't normally watch NBC's The Biggest Loser, but a friend of mine was telling me about one of the contestants and suggested that I write about him on my blog.  From what she said and what I've read about Jackson Carter, I have to agree.  If you've been watching the current season of The Biggest Loser, you're probably a little in love with Jackson Carter. The adorable 21-year-old from Utah is the reality show's first openly gay contestant, and a regular wellspring of good-old-fashioned positivity. 

Jackson says that his primary motivation for going on "The Biggest Loser" is the kids he mentors as a volunteer coordinator and board member for an LGBT youth outreach center.  "I want to be a role model for those kids so that they grow up to lead successful, healthy lives," says Jackson.  He was born in Roosevelt, Utah, a small town on a Ute Indian reservation, and raised there with his two younger siblings before moving at age seven to Layton, Utah. Except for a brief period in high school when he was very fit, he has always been overweight and experienced bullying both for his weight and his sexuality after coming out at age 14.   Now 21 years old and 328 pounds, Jackson is a student at Weber State University, where he is majoring in theater education with a minor in social work, while also working and volunteering.  His busy schedule has left him little time to plan nutritious meals or follow an exercise routine, and the convenience of fast food and tendency to eat when stressed haven't helped. Once he loses weight, Jackson looks forward to participating in physical activities with his OUTreach kids,  being able to go to the beach and take his shirt off, and changing the lives of those around him who are also struggling with their weight.

So many young gay men, and people in general, find a substitute for happiness in their life.  Some people drink, some end abusing prescription or illegal drugs, others eat.  Those who turn to food often find it as a substitute for happiness or as a defense mechanism.  Food offers them comfort. That was the situation Jackson found himself in.  Jackson said, that the bullying started very young. First for his race; he was a white kid on an Indian reservation. He says he remembers going home from preschool every day crying because he didn't have any friends. And even though he had loving, supportive parents, they weren't the best at dealing with emotions either. They solved everything with food and laughter. This taught him that eating would make all those bad feelings go away, which led to weight gain. Then he got picked on for being fat. That's when my family moved to the city. If he thought it was hard being white in an Indian school, he found it even harder to be a gay, fat, white kid who thought he was Indian. He had a mullet, which, while it was all the rage on the reservation, was not stylish in conservative, northern Utah, and he spoke with reservation slang. Ironically, he wasn't really bullied for his orientation [then]. By the time his sexuality became public knowledge, he had transferred to an arts school where sexuality was a non-issue and became an attendee of Ogden OUTreach. So, with the exception of a few jerks, his coming out experience was pretty good.

When asked what were some of the obstacles he faced being gay and overweight and whether he found the LGBTQ community supportive, he answered:
Being overweight and gay is very difficult. It feels like there's a uniform you have to fit into: You have to have washboard abs and wear the tight clothes, and I didn't have any of that. I felt very uncomfortable going out to the clubs and meeting guys, because I wasn't comfortable with myself. A lot of times people wouldn't even give me a second glance, because everyone is expected to fit that image. It was definitely rough and there weren't a lot of places where I felt romantically accepted.

As a volunteer at an LGBT youth program at home in Utah, Jackson initially cited the kids he mentors as the reason he wanted to lose the weight. But as viewers watched Jackson sacrifice himself for his fellow "Biggest Loser" contestants throughout the season, Jillian Michaels and the other trainers had the difficult task of making him see his own value. It seems to have finally set in because after the confetti dropped at the live finale Monday night (March 18), Jackson was singing a brand new tune.

"My life has just started. I am going to hit the ground running; I'm going to do things that I never thought I was good enough to do -- that I was able to do," says Jackson, who couldn't help but get emotional. "I'm going to go out and get into whatever school I apply for. I'm going to be able to pay for it because I can get any scholarship I apply for, because I am good enough. I've never believed that before in my life, and that's better than any prize money."

So, will his newfound confidence revolutionize his love life? "Oh, my God yes. I'm gonna be up on that table, giving a little shake," Jackson says with a laugh. And though he doesn't have anyone special at home just now, Jackson says he's "sure that's going to change."

Jackson is an inspiration in so many fantastic ways.  You've just got to love him.

Wrongly Jailed: Bernard Baran's Story

Bernard Baran was released from jail after nearly 22 years, but now waits for his record to be expunged

Since late 1984 when the first accusation of sexual misconduct of a child fell upon a then 19-year-old gay high school dropout, Bernard F. Baran, the now 47-year-old has adamantly maintained his innocence. Because of mass hysteria of the '80s surrounding homosexuality, Baran was arrested, convicted and sentenced in 1985 to two concurrent life terms in prison. Twenty-nine years later, he is out of prison, but still branded with a dark stigma.

"I could have pled guilty and served a lesser sentence but as a gay, proud man I wasn't going to do it," Baran told EDGE in a recent interview.

After spending 21 years in constant fear for his life, being beaten, raped, verbally assaulted and shuffled from penitentiary to penitentiary, Baran was conditionally released in 2006 (monitor restriction, barred from leaving the state, home curfew) when hidden evidence and inflammatory misconduct came to light, overturning his conviction. While he regained his freedom seven years ago, Bernie continues working to wipe the slate clean.

There were so many days, weeks, months when minute to minute he felt nothing but his life ticking away, evoking suicidal thoughts, Baran confessed, saying, "What got me through it all was the love and support of my mother and family, but most importantly was knowing in my heart the truth would come out."

The truth did come out, but without amends. The accusations were a witch hunt. The trial was a mockery. The assistant district attorney Daniel Ford's actions throughout the trial were questionable.

Baran was a teacher's aide at the Early Childhood Development Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Allegations of sexual abuse surfaced as parents learned of his sexual orientation. By the time of his trial, six alleged victims, both boys and girls, had come forth with accusations goaded by their parents, psychologists and the prosecution. Refuted interview techniques, such as using puppets to emulate abuse, were used to lead false testimony. Though several of the children's accusations were either recanted or unconfirmed in court, the jury was not swayed, finding Baran guilty on all counts.

The courtroom was closed during testimonies of the children, violating the rights of their accused to a public trial. According to Baran, an "expert" witness for the prosecution, a child psychologist, was years later learned to be unqualified to testify for not holding a doctorate in her professional field.

Bernard Baran was a 19-year-old gay high school dropout when he was accused of child abuse  
Ford, now a sitting superior court judge, withheld unedited interview tapes in which some alleged victims denied Baran's involvement in any molestation taken upon them. Those same tapes apparently went missing for years, finally resurfacing in 2004. Ford's bias, anti-gay and purposely-misplaced rhetoric during the trial exploited the jurors' fears surrounding homosexuality.

After Baran's conviction was overturned, questions arose regarding legal retribution against Ford. But Eric Tennen, an attorney for Baran, told EDGE earlier this month that there will not be any legal repercussions for Ford's apparent misconduct.

"There is no litigation planned against Daniel Ford because prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity for their conduct as prosecutors," Tennen said. "With some small exceptions -- none applicable here -- we would have no ability to sue him for anything he did in the prosecution of Mr. Baran."

Baran was released from prison pending the appeal of his motion for a new trial. The appeals court did not ultimately decide his case until 2009. Only then could he file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation, in which he did so, agreeing to a settlement with the Commonwealth in 2012 in the sum of $400,000.

Though Baran settled, he also stipulated with the court to exercise the right to file for expungement, which he also did in late 2012. The Commonwealth strictly opposed his motion, saying Baran chose to waive his right to have a jury reach a "judgment in his favor," instead, voluntarily settling for money.

This opposition is being upheld by Attorney General Martha Coakley, and on Feb. 26, 2013, a hearing was held at the Suffolk Superior Court as to the matter of Expungement of Records.

"The judge did not decide anything on the 26th," Tennen told EDGE. "She took the matter under advisement. Baran settled the matter with the state. Typically, when that happens, you jointly dismiss the case because there is nothing left to do. However, we specifically left open the issue of expungement. And now we are raising it."

Tennen said that the Commonwealth has argued that they first need a judgment in Baran's favor (according to the statute) and since that is not possible without a trial, they cannot ask for expungement.

"It seems like a horrible rule as a matter of fairness and policy," said Tennen. "We argued the judge had the inherent authority to enter that limited judgment now ordering expungement."

Baran is fearful the decision will not end up in his favor. "This is a new judge on the bench and they [new judges] don't like to make big decisions," Bernie said. "They [the system] took everything from me. They could at least show some humanity and common sense."

Baran is currently living in Woburn, suffering from chronic pancreatitis that hinders his ability to work. He occasionally speaks at Suffolk College about wrongful convictions. And though he calls the past behavior of those that contributed to his incarceration "disgusting," he also said this tragedy is kind of a blessing. It brought powerful people such as John Swomley, Harvey Silverglate, Bob Chatelle and the National Center for Justice and Reason to become advocates for innocent men who happen to be gay.
by Tony Hobday
EDGE Contributor

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Morning After

The Morning After
By Benjamin Andrews

Awaking in the glow
the post coital bliss
your arms around me
wrapped in warmth
kisses on your whiskers

wishing i didn't have to go to work
your back arched
hands occupied
morning delights
waking up next to you
is something I'll never get used to
like a sunrise
its beautiful every time

Benjamin Andrews shares his writing on his Tumblr blog Voice of the Writer.  I came across this poem and really loved the imagery.  I hope you do as well.  Also, check out some of Benjamin's poetry and writings.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Dad's Note To His Gay Son

Coming out may not always be easy. One father, who overheard his son on the phone discussing his intentions to reveal his sexuality, eased his child's worries by writing him the best note ever., an equal rights organization, first posted the touching letter to Facebook on Friday morning. In the note, the father explains he overheard his son, Nate, talking on the phone about coming out. But the father tells him there is no need -- he already knew, and he never cared.
"I've known you were gay since you were six," the father writes. "I've loved you since you were born."
He also added a sweet postscript, "Your mom and I think you and Mike make a cute couple."
Also in the news Friday was an announcement from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) about his gay son's coming out and how it changed his opinion on marriage equality.
The conservative Portman revealed he changed his opinion of same-sex marriage two years ago when his son, Will, came out to him and his wife. "It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that's of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have -- to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years," Portman said during an interview with Ohio reporters.
These aren't the only moving coming out stories to make headlines recently.
In January, a 15-year-old girl named Laurel used a cake to come out to her parents. Along with a message in icing that read "I'm gay," the girl left a note asking for her parents' acceptance. Not only did she get it, but they all got to enjoy her baked dish.
That same month, Jacob Rudolph, a New Jersey teen, came out to his parents, along with his entire class, as LGBT at his high school graduation. After being named "Class Actor," Rudolph delivered a speech to his family and peers, saying, "So take me, leave me or move me out of the way, because I am what I am, and that's how I'm going to act from now on."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

St. Patrick and the Trinity

According to legend, Saint Patrick used a shamrock to explain about God. The shamrock, which looks like clover, has three leaves on each stem.  Saint Patrick told the people that the shamrock was like the idea of the Trinity, that in the one God there are three divine beings: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The shamrock was sacred to the Druids, so Saint Patrick's use of it in explaining the trinity was very wise.

This is one of the many examples in the history of Christianity in which our religion has been flexible and used sacred symbols of other faiths to adopt/adapt to Christian beliefs.  Too many Christians believe that Christianity cannot be flexible, open to different interpretations, or, heaven forbid, should be all inclusive.  If early Christians had not adapted, then the loving religion that I have faith in would have never spread as it did.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 15, 2013

St. Patrick's Place in Gay History

Saint Patrick's Day is a time for grand celebration in many parts of the world, with green beer and shamrocks sprouting in the most unlikely places. So what do you do, if you want to join in the fun, but cannot find a trace of green blood in your ancestry, no matter how far back you go?

You claim a direct family connection, that's what - your extensive, extended queer family. Yes, good old St Patrick is one of a surprising number of queer saints and martyrs in Christian history, giving us all an excuse to enjoy his day. 

In his book on Irish gay history, Terrible Queer Creatures, Brian Lacey presents some evidence that Patrick may have had a long term intimate relationship with a man:
St. Patrick himself may have had a relationship tinged with homoeroticism. Tirechan, a late seventh century cleric who wrote about St. Patrick, tells the story of a man Patrick visited and converted to Christianity, who had a son to whom Patrick took a strong liking. Tirechan wrote that "he gave him the name Benignus, because he took Patrick's feet between his hands and would not sleep with his father and mother, but wept unless he would be allowed to sleep with Patrick." Patrick baptized the boy and made him his close lifelong companion, so much so that Benignus succeeded Patrick as bishop of Armagh.
This is a rather tenuous basis for a claim that Patrick was gay, but there is more from his youth. He was originally brought to Ireland as a Roman slave - and they were freely used for sexual purposes. Later, he escaped, but returned to undertake the evangelizing of Ireland that he's famed for. To pay his way back, there is a claim that he worked as a prostitute.

This is still short of really hard evidence - but hagiography is not history. The most famous popular belief about St Patrick, that he chased the snakes out of Ireland, is certainly not true (there never were any), but that doesn't deter anybody from repeating it, regardless. Why should we allow the absence of definite proof keep us from joining in the fun?

Irrespective of our view on the historic Patrick, there's a deeper, serious reason for thinking about him. For too long, Christianity has been badly abused as a weapon against sexual minorities, but there are undoubtedly a large number of people in church history that in today's terminology, would be considered queer, but who nevertheless achieved high office in the Church, as bishops, abbesses and popes, or honored as Christian saints and martyrs. There are bishops who wrote frankly erotic poetry and love letters addressed to each other, bishops who secured appointments to vacant sees for their boyfriends, and popes who slept with men, or commissioned homoerotic paintings from the great Renaissance artists. There are even the forerunners of our modern transmen - biological females, who lived as males in men-only monasteries.
This article was originally posted on the Bilerico Project and written by Terence Weldon, a UK based gay Catholic activist, one of the organizers of the London Soho Masses for LGBT Catholics. He is currently researching a book on queer church history, and writes on general matters of faith and sexuality at Queering the Church, and on LGBT church history at Queer Saints and Martyrs.
I also saw this on SteveXS 's .All Natural and More.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Moment of Zen: Purr-fection

Pope Francis

First of all, let me say that I am not Catholic.  In many ways I respect the Catholic Church and have attended a mass conducted by Pope Benedict.  I also find the idea of papal elections to be fascinating and I have followed the events since Pope Benedict announced his retirement.  But I have to wonder like so many people, what will Pope Francis do about some of the most pressing issues surrounding the Catholic Church?

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a 76-year-old Argentinean, was chosen as the first Latin American pope on Wednesday. He will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics as Pope Francis. While his selection may be historic, it may also mean more of the same when it comes to gay rights in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis is a conservative who is anti-gay marriage and anti-gay adoption. He has described same-sex marriage as the work of the devil and a "destructive attack on God's plan." He has also said that gay adoption is a form of discrimination against children.

In 2010, Francis championed against a bill for same-sex marriage and gay adoption, according to the National Catholic Register.

"[T]he Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family," he wrote to the four monasteries in Argentina. "At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God's law engraved in our hearts."

He went on to describe it as a "'move' of the Father of Lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God" and asked for lawmakers to "not act in error." In John 8:44, the Father of Lies is the devil.

Argentina approved same-sex marriage in 2010, making it the first Latin American country to legalize the union, the New York Times previously reported. The country is also progressive when it comes to contraception. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has promoted free contraception and artificial insemination, the Associated Press notes. In the past, Francis has clashed with the Argentinean government over his stance on these issues.

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick responded to the election of the new pope in a statement obtained by The Huffington Post.
For decades the Catholic hierarchy has been in need of desperate reform. In his life, Jesus condemned gays zero times. In Pope Benedict's short time in the papacy, he made a priority of condemning gay people routinely. This, in spite of the fact, that the Catholic hierarchy had been in collusion to cover up the widespread abuse of children within its care. We hope this Pope will trade in his red shoes for a pair of sandals and spend a lot less time condemning and a lot more time foot-washing.
Graddick also specifically addressed Francis' previous comments about gay adoption being a "discrimination against children."

"The real discrimination against children is the pedophilia that has run rampant in the Catholic Church with little more than collusion from the Vatican," he said.

Along with GLAAD, Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill responded to the new pope's election, saying: 'We hope Pope Francis shows more Christian love and charity to the world's 420 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people than his predecessor."

Despite the pope's prior anti-gay sentiments, Francis' official biographer, Sergio Rubin, defended him as a noble man.

"Is Bergoglio a progressive – a liberation theologist even? No," he told the AP. "He's no third-world priest. Does he criticize the International Monetary Fund, and neoliberalism? Yes. Does he spend a great deal of time in the slums? Yes."

In 2001, he visited a hospice and washed the feet of AIDS patients, according to The National Catholic Register. That same year he spoke out in defense of those less fortunate, contrasting "poor people who are persecuted for demanding work, and rich people who are applauded for fleeing from justice."

Some people believe that his choice of "Francis" is seen as a gesture of what kind of pope he will be.  Bergogloi is the first Jesuit to become pope, and Francis is a gesture toward the Franciscans. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi has confirmed that the name refers to St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order, often seen as the Jesuits' traditional rivals.

A Jesuit pope who chooses the name Francis seeks to be "the people's pope, a pope who cares about the poor, who wants to have solidarity with the people of the world," Chad Pecknold, an assistant professor of theology at The Catholic University of America, tells Melissa Block on All Things Considered.

At the Whispers in the Loggia blog , Vatican expert Rocco Palmo says that Pope Francis' name reflects "his desire to be a force of unity in a polarized fold, a heart for the poor, and his intent to 'repair God's house, which has fallen into ruin' ... that is, to rebuild the church."

That final phrase is a reference to St. Francis of Assisi, who legendarily heard a voice coming from a crucifix that commanded him to rebuild the deteriorating chapel of San Damiano.

St. Francis was also known for his strict stances against greed and wealth, and in favor of inclusion — an idea symbolized by the embrace of a leper that famously led Francis to reject the privileges he had been born into as the son of a cloth merchant in Assisi.

Pecknold says that for him, the name brings up two themes: social justice and a new evangelism. And he sees Francis leading the church into regions where Catholicism is on the rise, such as Africa, Latin America and Asia.