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For Gay 9/11 Heroes, Sung And Unsung, Love Is Eternal

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“I love you – don’t ever forget that! When you’re feeling lonely and I’m not home with you, just pull out this letter and read my words to you once again and know how much you will always mean to me!”

–Jeffrey Dwayne Collman, September 28, 1959 – September 11, 2001

When David Badash asked his contributors to submit a piece in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, my first thought was about the heroes. Each of us needs heroes. To a young gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person growing up in terrifying aloneness the truth about the sexual orientation of famous figures means that your sexual feelings don’t make you an automatic loser. As a boy growing up in the 1940’s and 50’s I found my heroes mostly in books: stories of Achilles and his love for Patroclus, David and Jonathan whose love “was wonderful passing the love of women,” Alexander the Great and Hephaestion – these were the men I idolized, the relationships I longed for. Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Eakins and of course the occasional diver, wrestler and gymnast furnished the images about whom I fantasized.

In this era which nurtured the Army-McCarthy hearings and equated homosexuality with traitors and molesters of young boys, the portrayal of men who loved each other as heroes was not something I found in magazines and newspapers, or on the radio or TV. Oh, I knew Batman and Robin and I had something in common and the English teacher on whom I had a crush was different from the rest of my teachers. But it was a time of secrecy and in our culture secrecy is often equated with shame. In my teens I expanded my pantheon of Queer heroes to include Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde and Bayard Rustin and as I have matured my assembly of heroes continues to increase.

Times have changed, queer culture is no longer shrouded in secrecy and shame, but the truth about famous figures too often still remains closeted. There are lots of heroes associated with 9/11 and many are probably lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — but we have only heard about a few.

“As the days went by, we learned that some of the missing rescue personnel were gay, and that many of their lovers, some of whom are cops and fire fighters, were grieving in silence for fear of outing them. There were also gay cops that lost family members that were rescue personnel. We all learned too quickly and in too cruel a way that the closet is a terrible place to grieve…” observed Edgar Rodriguez, NYPD.

One gay 9/11 hero we heard a lot about was Father Mychal Judge, The Firemen’s Friar, whose gayness was an open secret, but a secret nonetheless. In a contemporaneous account a writer for The White Crane Journal talks about his interaction with Cardinal Edward Egan after Father Mychal’s funeral.

There is a word that upset Cardinal Edward Egan more than “terrorist” and that is the word “gay.” After the funeral service for Father Mychal Judge, the fire chaplain who perished ministering to a dying fireman at the World Trade Center, I tried to ask Egan, “Given Father Mychal’s many contributions to the gay community and all you’ve just heard about how loving and loved he was, does it make you want to rethink your condemnation of homosexuality?” When Egan heard the word “gay,” he didn’t wait for the question. “Oh, COME ON!” he thundered as he abruptly turned away. Purple with rage, he literally ran to his car. Egan’s response explains Mychal Judge’s decision not to be a more outspoken gay activist– something that he debated with me, host of a gay news show on TV that he said he enjoyed, and others over the years. Cardinals John O’Connor or Egan would certainly have put an end to his ability to function as a priest in this Archdiocese, a role that allowed him to roam the city in his brown Franciscan habit giving solace and strength to countless New Yorkers. It might also have meant the loss of his chaplaincy serving his beloved fire fighters, even though he enjoyed the support of the Fire Commissioner, Mayor, and virtually all the rank and file.

At his wake and funeral, Mychal Judge, 68, was mourned and celebrated by his two sisters, brother Franciscans, elderly nuns who were his grade school teachers, powerful friends, diverse parishioners, the homeless and others he served, and scores of fire fighters, some covered with dust from the catastrophe downtown. But evidence of Judge’s involvement with the gay community– and his wary relationship with the church hierarchy– was hiding in plain sight.

Public Advocate Mark Green spoke of how he served people of “every orientation.”

The night before, his 23 years in Alcoholics Anonymous were invoked, but not that Judge went mostly to gay AA meetings. His gay brothers from the program were all over the church.

Present in the pews were Judge’s close friends, gay couple Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton. Judge had openly supported (and surreptitiously funded) Fay’s Queens St. Patrick’s Parade that welcomed gay groups, the only Catholic priest to do so. (The next one, on March 3, is dedicated to Judge’s memory.) And when the Emerald Society of the Fire Department honored Father Mychal, he had Brendan and Tom as his guests and the couple danced together at the banquet.

Unlike Father Mychal, another prominent hero, Mark Bingham was openly gay and proud of it. Like Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew was murdered by a different breed of terrorists, Alice Hoagland honors her son Mark’s memory by being an advocate for LGBT equality. “I may have lost a son, but I’ve gained a very huge family and it makes me feel good every time I see them,” she said.

Bingham, 31, was the rugby player who as a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, helped to thwart the plane’s hijackers. For once, many of the reports of Bingham’s life mentioned his being gay and they sometimes referenced other gay heroes.

“When you ask what difference it makes if the heroes were gay, I say, I agree with you. That’s precisely our point. They were like everyone else. So we ask why is it when they died, they were equal to everyone, but had they lived, they would not have the same equality as heterosexuals?” asked Judy Weidner, then editor in chief of The Advocate.

Weidner was wrong – when they died, the gay and lesbian victims and their survivors were not “equal to everyone” and it wasn’t only victims’ mothers who were motivated to become advocates for LGBT equality.

In September 2003, while still lobbying to receive money from the federal victim’s compensation fund, Keith Bradkowski testified before a Senate subcommittee hearing on banning same-sex civil marriage rights titled, “What is Needed to Defend the Bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act of 1996?

It was on a Tuesday, almost exactly two years ago, that I received a call from American Airlines notifying me that I had lost my life partner, Jeff Collman. Jeff was an American Airlines flight attendant who volunteered to work an extra trip on September 11th. His flight was the first of four planes hijacked by terrorists that day. I know in my heart Jeff died with courage, trying to protect the passengers and crew. The last time I spoke with Jeff – who was my soul mate of 11 years – was at about at 2 a.m. Boston time on the morning of the 11th. He had awoken in the middle of the night and uncharacteristically called me to say “I love you and can’t wait to get home.” I believe he must have had some premonition of the events to come, and I feel blessed to have had that last moment with him.

Jeff was the ultimate caregiver — I experienced his caring by the trail of post-it notes he left for me every time he went on a trip. His last note, still on my bathroom mirror, greets me every morning with a “Guess who loves you?” Jeff and I had exchanged rings and we were married in our hearts. Legally, it was another matter entirely. After his death, I was faced not only with my grief over losing Jeff – who was indeed my better half – but with the painful task of proving the authenticity of our relationship over and over again. With no marriage license to prove our relationship existed, even something as fundamental as obtaining his death certificate became a monumental task. Like so many other gay Americans, my mourning and grief were compounded by the stress and anxiety of horrific legal uncertainty and confusion.

The terrorists who attacked this country killed people not because they were gay or straight – but because they were Americans. It is heart wrenching that our own government does not protect its citizens equally, gay and straight, simply because they are Americans. Two years ago we were all united against the common threat of terrorism. Now, less than two years later I am sitting here and being told that my relationship was a threat to our country. Jeff and I only sought to love and take care of each other. I do not understand why that is a threat to some people, and I cannot understand why the leaders of this country would hold a hearing on the best way to prevent that from happening.

Despite objections by some, including Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, and Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality — who called the inclusion of benefits for 9/11 same-sex survivors an attempt to further the homosexual agenda, about 20 lesbian and gay survivors whose partners had died were, with much struggle, able to obtain some of the same benefits extended to partners of heterosexual victims.

On January 22, 2004 Peggy Neff, who lost her partner of 18 years, Sheila Hein, in the attack on the Pentagon was awarded $557,390. It was the first time a same-sex domestic partner had been awarded federal money in such a case.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 many of our heroes were ignored. While a great deal has been said about the men — the emergency workers, firefighters, and police officers who so quickly became new American heroes –very little was written about women.

In 2002, EMT worker and firefighter Susan Hagen and social worker Mary Carouba partially corrected this omission with Women at Ground Zero: Stories of Courage and Compassion, a book that focuses on 20 of the 9/11 heroes.

Lesbian, transgender, gay and bisexual responders remain invisible.

Tom Musbach, of Gay.com wrote, “Francis S. Coppola, a New York City detective whose partner, a firefighter named Eddie, died in the attacks, summed up the bipolar feelings many GLBT people have had about Sept. 11. I have never been more proud of being an American or a New Yorker, but at the same time it has made me sad. The greatest country in the world, and yet we are treated like second-class citizens…. The great love of my life died doing what he did best and what he loved to do: helping others. I have never been an activist or ever wanted to be one; however, it is time we stand up and be counted and demand equality — nothing more or nothing less.”

Yes, we each of us need heroes. But reading about ancient heroes and famous figures whose sexuality is insinuated or ambiguous is no longer enough. Our new civil rights movement demands that our history and herstory no longer be distorted or concealed. Fame isn’t always synonymous with heroism; there are countless quiet heroes. Heroism has many definitions. Sometimes being a hero is simply speaking the truth. Sometimes being a hero is speaking your truth.

In that 2003 Senate hearing, “What is Needed to Defend the Bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act of 1996?,” Keith Bradkowski concluded his testimony:

In closing, I would like to read an excerpt from a letter that Jeff wrote to me on our last anniversary:

“Keith, we’ve been through much the past 11 years. Our lives haven’t always been easy, but through it all, our undeniable love for each other has carried us through! I love you – don’t ever forget that! When you’re feeling lonely and I’m not home with you, just pull out this letter and read my words to you once again and know how much you will always mean to me! With loving thoughts of you now and forever, Jeff.”

I truly believe I have learned the meaning of the phrase – Love is Eternal.

Image, top: “Terrifying Aloneness,” by John Breitweiser
Oil on Paper, 1993
Photo courtesy of the Artist


Stuart Wilber is a Seattle activist who skipped classes in high school to watch the McCarthy- Army Hearings. Having seen it get better and worse and better again over the years, he continues to hope he will experience full federal equality in his lifetime. 

Stuart Wilber’s heroes are many; their stories need to be told. 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Anathema to the Soul of Our Nation’: Trump Pilloried for Demanding ‘Termination’ of the US Constitution

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The White House on Saturday afternoon responded to former President Donald Trump’s demand for the “termination” of the United States Constitution over non-existent “fraud and deception” in American elections, which he continues to claim cost him the presidency in 2020 and that he is expecting Republicans to embrace in his 2024 reelection campaign.

Trump wrote on his struggling fake Twitter app Truth Social:

ELECTION INTERFERENCE AT A LEVEL NEVER SEEN BEFORE!!!

Trump followed up with:

So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!

He went on to add:

UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!

I wonder what Mitch McConnell, the RINOS, and all of the weak Republicans who couldn’t get the Presidential Election of 2020 approved and out of the way fast enough, are thinking now?

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the elections of 2022, or 2020, or any other major historical contest, let alone that which was pervasive enough to affect the results. And the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next – which Trump has attempted to upend through his lies and ultimately by mounting an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021 – is a key tenet that holds the American democratic experiment intact.

White House Deputy Press Secretary and Senior Communications Adviser for Strategic Response Andrew Bates touched on those points in a statement:

The American Constitution is a sacrosanct document that for over 200 years has guaranteed that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country. The Constitution brings the American people together – regardless of party – and elected leaders swear to uphold it. It’s the ultimate monument to all of the Americans who have given their lives to defeat self-serving despots that abused their powers and trampled on constitutional rights. Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned. You cannot love America only when you win.

The Democratic National Committee also fired back at Trump, as reported by Politico:

Donald Trump lost by 7 million votes in 2020 and his calls to undermine our democracy cost his party key races in 2022. The continued silence by Republican leaders, including his potential primary competitors, shows a MAGA party that is beholden to Trumpism, his divisive rhetoric, and his extreme positions.

Democratic lawmakers denounced Trump as well.

Congressman Don Beyer of Virginia tweeted:

Days after Trump dined with men who praise Hitler and the Nazis, he demands the ‘termination’ of the Constitution’s electoral process so he can be illegally reinstated. Trump’s words and actions are unacceptable, they stoke hatred and political violence, and they are dangerous. Every Member of Congress swore an oath to ‘defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ Donald Trump has openly declared himself an enemy of the Constitution, and Republicans must repudiate him.

Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz said:

Trump just called for the suspension of the Constitution and it is the final straw for zero republicans, especially the ones who call themselves ‘constitutional conservatives.

New York Representative Richie Torres noted that “January 6 was Donald Trump’s attempt at terminating the US Constitution. He’s a repeat offender.”

California Congressman Eric Swalwell, who regularly faces death threats, stated that “every congressional reporter should demand responses from Congressional Republicans about Donald Trump’s call for the Constitution to be terminated … how many of them called themselves ‘Constitutional conservatives’ during the Obama years???”

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said that “Trump just called for the suspension of the Constitution to overturn the 2020 results. Georgia VOTE. You stood tall against Trump and his minions last time. A win for [incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael] Warnock is another win for democracy.”

While outrage over Trump’s “truth” was not exclusive to the left, few on the right have stepped up to rebuke Trump. One exception, however, was ex-United Nations Ambassador and National Security Adviser John Bolton, who posted that “no American conservative can agree with Donald Trump’s call to suspend the Constitution because of the results of the 2020 election. And all real conservatives must oppose his 2024 campaign for president.”

 

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‘Big Whop’: Even Right-Wing Critics Are Slamming Elon Musk’s ‘Underwhelming’ Hunter Biden Twitter Escapade

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Right-wing Twitter users are weighing in to express their disapproval of the so-called bombshell “Twitter files” Elon Musk promised to deliver on Friday, December 2.

According to The Daily Beast, Musk was set to address Twitter’s decision to implement a policy that would restrict headlines and reports about Hunter Biden’s laptop from circulating on the social media platform. However, the leak ended up being a failure for many right-wing experts.

Sebastian Gorka, a right-wing radio host who previously served under the Trump administration, offered a critical response to Musk’s release after journalist Matt Taibbi shared a full Twitter thread about the findings.

READ MORE: Trump plotted to trade Mar-a-Lago files for ‘sensitive documents’ about his 2016 campaign Russia ties: report

“So far, I’m deeply underwhelmed,” Gorka said, adding, “We know the Dems in DC collude with the Dems in Palo Alto [Califonia]. Big Whop.”

He went on to reiterate his arguments when grilled by his far-right followers who were convinced that Musk’s Twitter files were some kind of “smoking gun.”

Per the news outlet: “Responding to a user claiming the Twitter company emails were ‘a clear violation of the 1st Amendment,’ the radio host fired back: ‘Err no, it’s not the DNC asking a private company to censor has nothing to do with the First Amendment.’”

Speaking to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, New York Post columnist Miranda Devine also disapproved of the release. “I feel that Elon Musk has held back some material,” she alleged. According to The Beast, Devine also claimed: “sinister forces were perhaps controlling Musk after the Twitter chief took a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier in the week.”

READ MORE: Marco Rubio: ‘Not a crime’ to break federal law by taking top secret national security documents from the White House

She added, “In particular, there’s a tweet in which Matt Taibbi says he hasn’t seen any evidence that law enforcement specifically warned off Twitter from our story. But that’s just not correct.”

Free Beacon reporter Joe Simonson also echoed similar sentiments on Twitter. “Twitter files [are] underwhelming so far,” Simonson tweeted. “Just revealing what we already knew: Twitter was staffed by democrats who did the bidding of Democrats.”

READ MORE: Lauren Boebert to file defamation lawsuit against PAC claiming that she was once a ‘paid escort’: report

 

Image by Daniel Oberhaus (2018) via Flickr and a CC license

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'HELPING NORMALIZE A NAZI'

Musk’s Twitter Is ‘Welcoming With Open Arms’ a ‘Full-Fledged Nazi’ – and Recommending Users Follow Him: Reports

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Elon Musk‘s Twitter on Friday allowed Andrew Anglin, the neo-Nazi behind the infamous Daily Stormer website to return to the social media platform after a nine-year ban. Several Twitter users reported the social media platform is now recommending they follow him.

“Anglin has publicly indicated that the goal of his operation and adherence to white nationalist ideology is to ‘ethnically cleanse White nations of non-Whites and establish an authoritarian government. Many people also believe that the Jews should be exterminated,'” reported Rolling Stone on Friday. “Anglin is a staunch supporter of Nazi ideology and regularly espouses Holocaust denail. In 2018, Anglin wrote that he ‘[hates] women. I think they deserve to be beaten, raped and locked in cages.'”

WUSA 9 investigative reporter Jordan Fischer tweeted a screenshot of the Twitter recommendation.

READ MORE: Anti-LGBTQ Slurs on Twitter Up Over 800% as Musk Allows Thousands of Previously Banned Users Back: Reports

As did other Twitter users.

Last month veteran journalist Nick Martin, who investigates hate and extremism, reported that “Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene shared a thread calling on Elon Musk to reinstate an array of racists, conspiracy theorists and serial harassers. The list includes fugitive neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, white supremacist David Duke and British neo-Nazi Mark Collett.”

At the top of that list is Milo Yiannopoulos, a right wing extremist and provocateur who has advocated for older men having sex with underaged teen boys. Yiannopoulos is also Greene’s intern who was reportedly part of the Kanye WestNick Fuentes dinner with Donald Trump.

“Andrew Anglin is the founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, which takes its name from the gutter Nazi propaganda sheet known as Der Stürmer,” the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported. “True to that vintage, Anglin is infamous for the crudity of his language and his thinking, a contrast to his sophistication as a prolific internet troll and serial harasser. Anglin’s organizing and harassment on the Daily Stormer led to lawsuits, and courts have awarded millions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs suing Anglin in recent years. But with his whereabouts unknown, Anglin has so far escaped full accountability for his actions.”

READ MORE: 15-Year Old Campaigning Door-to-Door for Raphael Warnock Shot Through Door– ‘No Indication’ Politically Motivated: Police

Indeed, just last month a federal judge issued an arrest warrant for Andrew Anglin, who is “accused of ignoring a $14 million judgment against him for orchestrating an antisemitic harassment campaign against a Montana woman’s family,” The Billings Gazette had reported.

SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah responded to Anglin’s return to Twitter by reminding him he still owes him “$4.1 million dollars for sending your Nazis to kill me. Do you have the $?! I want to donate it groups that counter the very hate you spew!”

“Musk is helping normalize a Nazi,” he adds.

Amy Spitalnick, the executive director of Integrity First for America (IFA) called Anglin “a full-fledged Nazi who runs the Daily Stormer and, among many other things, was found liable for the Charlottesville violence in our lawsuit. A perfect example of the vile, violent extremists Musk is welcoming with open arms.”

Image: Elon Musk, photo by NASA/Aubrey Gemignani via Flickr

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