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Ricky Martin’s Coming Out. “Congratulations!” Or, “What Took So Long?”

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Yesterday I wrote, “Ricky Martin Comes Out: ‘I Am Homosexual.’ In Other News, The Earth Is Round.” The title itself got a lot of guffaws on Twitter and Facebook. But at the end of the piece I wrote,

“While I’m happy Ricky Martin has found the strength to come out, I have to ask, what took so long? Everyone must make their own journey at their own pace, but, like Sean Hayes, Ricky Martin was an assumption, and the LGBTQ community needs everyone’s help, now more than ever. Those in the public eye have a responsibility to help their community.”

That part didn’t get as many laughs. Readers were split. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts, and ask you yours.

I embrace, support, and welcome Ricky Martin into our community. I hope he will use his position to support us, just as our community has supported him. I’m sure we’re all happy that he has found himself and the strength to be true to himself.

Everyone’s journey is different and no one can truly understand another person’s choices, pain, or needs. I, myself, will confess I had it pretty easy. In honor of National Coming Out Day last year, in these very pages, I wrote, “How I Never Came Out.” In it, I tell how “I never really had to” come out. A fact that I confess I neglected to consider when I rhetorically asked of Ricky Martin, “what took so long?”

That said, after listening to many readers’ and friends’ responses, here are my thoughts:

Several reminded me that Ricky Martin has a huge Latin fanbase who would not have supported his coming out, saying Ricky Martin himself grew up in a fiercely homophobic, latin, Catholic culture.

My response is, Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, the teen whose body was decapitated, dismembered, and burned in Puerto Rico. The Governor of Puerto Rico, where Ricky Martin grew up, refused to label that despicable act a hate crime, forcing the federal government to threaten to make Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado’s murder one of the first hate crime cases prosecuted under the newly-signed Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. What a great opportunity Ricky Martin had then to speak out against this heinous and despicable act, and throw his support to battling the increase we are seeing in homophobic hate crimes.

Several mentioned that had Ricky Martin come out earlier, his career would have died and he never would have reached stardom, thus rendering him unable to use his star power to help the LGBTQ community. To that, my response is, Ellen DeGeneres, who came out at a time it was not popular to do so, and, though putting a bump in her career, rendered her ultimately more popular and more powerful.

Several mentioned that it takes courage to come out, that perhaps it was just too hard for him. To that, my response is, Constance McMillen, the rural Mississippi eighteen-year old who just wanted to take her girlfriend to her high school prom, and ultimately was scorned and chastised by her classmates. She sued, thanks to the help of the ACLU, and won.

Several mentioned that he needed to come out on his own schedule, when it was comfortable for him. To that, my response is Wanda Sykes, who felt compelled after Prop 8 to do something for her community, and came out to speak publicly about anti-gay rhetoric and hate. Her career certainly hasn’t been hurt — she’s more popular than ever.

While Ricky Martin may be seen by some as a fading icon in America, internationally he is a huge star. Again, to those who say he needed to come out on his own schedule, I think of all the bi-national couples he could have helped. While we’re fighting for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA,) what better spokesperson than someone like Ricky Martin to help educate the public? I hope now he will choose to use his position to help our community more directly.

A reader reminded me of this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.,

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

I have this final point to offer: Rock Hudson. He was a man, dying of AIDS, with no financial or career concerns left. He had all the friends and money he needed. His coming out as a gay man dying of HIV/AIDS in 1985 would have hastened this country’s move toward understanding and de-stigmatizing the disease that ultimately killed him, and put a face on a disease and a minority that desperately needed help. Instead, he pretended he was straight, went on “Dynasty” as a last attempt to prove the illusion he trying to live was real, and, sadly, died.

Times were different then. Times are different now.

OK. One last point.

If you’re in the public eye, if you chose a career in the media, in entertainment, or even in politics, you make your living from those who vote for you, buy tickets to your shows, movies, concerts, buy your recordings, buy magazines that put your picture on the cover. In short, your entire career exists because of others. Which means you have a responsibility to give something back, to help others in your community, even if it’s hard, even if it hurts a little. To those who do, from the bottom of my heart, I say, “thank you.”

Every day, too many LGBTQ teens, like Derrick Martin, are forced out of their homes, before or after coming out, because of the response they receive from friends and family. Every day, the bigotry machine on the right is working to not only stop us from gaining ground, but to actually roll back our hard-won advances. (A few of the latest examples, the Governor and Attorney General in Virginia who removed LGBTQ protections from state workers and advised public schools and colleges to do the same, and, our marriage loss in Maine.)

In his coming out letter, Ricky Martin wrote,

“This was not supposed to happen 5 or 10 years ago, it is supposed to happen now. Today is my day, this is my time, and this is my moment.”

That of course is true because it is his life. All I can do is respect that. But I ask others not yet out, make this your time, too.

I’m happy Ricky Martin found the strength to come out, and I sincerely congratulate him. I’m sure his journey, like those of Constance McMillen, Derrick Martin, and countless other youth, and even adults who choose to come out after decades of living in the closet, was not an easy one. But I fervently believe we are all in this together.

To those who are living in the closet, afraid of what they may lose, I urge you to think of how much more you will gain, and I urge you to consider how much good you could do for yourself and for your community, by taking that step to come out, and live proud.

Now, more than ever, we desperately need you.


Editorial note: This piece was originally published in The Bilerico Project.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Thinly-Veiled Incitement to Violence and Overt Racism’: Trump’s Truth Social Post Sparks Outrage

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Donald Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” but on Friday night took his social media approach to his Truth Social website.

Trump accused Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of having a “death wish” after a government shutdown was averted.

“Must immediately seek help and advise (sic) from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!” he said of Elaine Chao, who served in his cabinet for four years as Secretary of Transportation.

Trump’s post generated outrage online.

“Nothing to see here,” conservative lawyer George Conway tweeted. “Just a former president of the United States seeking to incite violence against the minority leader of the United States Senate and launching a racist verbal attack on the leader’s wife.”

Former federal prosecutor Shanlon Wu wrote, “Donald Trump using blatant racist tactics in his desperate attacks on McConnell by trying to ridicule Asian American former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s name calling her ‘Coco Chow’ — [McConnell] and [GOP] should call him out and reject his racist hate — will they do it?”

“Hardly shocking that Trump would threaten Mitch McConnell by capitalizing the words ‘death wish’ — dog whistle invitation to Trump’s extremist supporters — same Trump who believed his own VP Pence deserved to be lynched by the angry Jan. 6 mob Trump incited to violence,” Wu added.

Janai Nelson, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, wrote, “I double dare all major media outlets to call this what it is: thinly-veiled incitement to violence and overt racism.”

Podcaster Fred Wellman said, “Elaine Chao was Trump’s Secretary of Transportation for 4 years and he just called her the ridiculously racist nickname ‘Coco Chow.’ Yes…you are a racist if you still support this broken *sshole.”

Jonah Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Dispatch, wrote, “Look, I think the gross bigotry, stupidity, dishonesty, and demagoguery of this is obvious on so many levels and I’m embarrassed for the country. But, because no one else will, I feel I have to point out he also misspelled advice.”

 

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News

Republicans suggest defunding Veteran Affairs even though it helps 9 million vets

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Republican legislators are starting to suggest defunding the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the office founded in 1989 to assist with veteran needs. The VA assists with getting veterans mental and physical healthcare, educational opportunities, community support, and other everyday housing and living needs.

An Arizona legislator, captured on video participating in a mock congressional hearing, said he supported shutting down the department.

“That’s sort of what I’m thinking because … I hear no good stories. I had zero in my district,” the legislator said in a video posted by the far-right watchdog group Patriot Takes. “So I guess it’s a matter of us leading the fight to defund it.”

A second video, posted by the same account, showed Republican Florida Representative Matt Gaetz advocating for defunding the VA while speaking at an event held by FreedomWorks, a conservative and libertarian advocacy group.

“This is my question to the group. Is it savable? Why not abolish the VA, take all of the money that we are otherwise spending and go to an any willing provider system inside of our communities?” Gaetz says in the video. “And then, if people get bad care, they can vote with their feet and you don’t have a two-tier system of healthcare in this country with our veterans and then with everyone else.”

Generally speaking, Republican policies favor the privatization of all government functions, thinking that a “small government,” “free-market,” “for-profit” privatization provided by a corporation can solve any market ill.

In reality, if entire communities are deprived of VA access, U.S. military veterans will be left largely on their own to get their life needs met after military service. Those who lack money or transportation won’t be able to “vote with their feet” and find a local care provider to handle their specific issues… they’ll either have to spend massive amounts to get such essential care or just go without.

In late July, 41 Senate Republicans voted against a bill aimed at protecting veterans exposed to toxic materials during their military service. The legislation would have expanded care to 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. It would have also added 23 toxic and burn pit exposure-related illnesses to the VA database, Newsweek reported.

After massive blowback, Senate Republicans re-voted on the bill and helped it pass.

Patriot Takes posted the video hoping that it would encourage veterans and military members to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections.

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'PRIORITIES'

Red states are lining up to stop Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan

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Six red states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina — are suing the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden over Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt for individuals making less than $125,000 a year.

The Biden administration based its plan on a 2003 law. According to the Justice Department, the law, initially meant to help military members, says that Biden can reduce or erase student loan debts during times of national emergency.

The red states’ lawsuit, filed Thursday in Missouri, said that Biden’s plan was “not remotely tailored to address the effects of the pandemic on federal student loan borrowers.” The lawsuit adds that, since Biden recently declared the COVID-19 pandemic as over, he can’t use it as a justification for his wide-scale debt relief plan, ABC News reported.

“It’s patently unfair to saddle hard-working Americans with the loan debt of those who chose to go to college,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said of her state’s lawsuit. “The Department of Education is required, under the law, to collect the balance due on loans. And President Biden does not have the authority to override that.”

The states argued that Biden’s plan inflicted a “number of ongoing financial harms” to student loan providers and also “will ultimately disrupt revenue to state coffers.” They also argued that Biden’s plan violates the Administrative Procedure Act, a law regulating how federal agencies ensure that presidential policies are well-reasoned and explained, the aforementioned publication reported.

Despite these claims, the White House has said it will continue with its plan, confident it can survive a court challenge.

“Republican officials from these six states are standing with special interests, and fighting to stop relief for borrowers buried under mountains of debt,” White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said Thursday. “The president and his administration are lawfully giving working and middle class families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume loan payments in January.”

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