Friday FREAK OUT! “Daddy, I thought a Weiner was a hot dog!”

This week the news has been absolutely inundated with commentary about mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. Anything else that has happened is sitting under this giant cloud of sexting, scandal, lies and politics. Much has been said about the 23-year old he recently corresponded with, his relationship with his wife Huma Abedin, and how he has dropped in the polls this week. This story has been covered so broadly, I can’t imagine that young people aren’t hearing about this.

Are you ready to answer questions from kids about Weiner? Think about your responses to these questions (and feel free to post your responses in the comments!):

  1. Who is this Weiner guy, and why are people talking about him all the time?
  2. How come people are saying Weiner is a bad man?
  3. What is sexting?
  4. Why shouldn’t politicians send pictures of their privates to other people?
  5. If Weiner made a mistake a few years ago, how come he did it again?
  6. I thought Weiner was a hot dog. Is that his REAL name?
  7. Who is Carlos Danger?

While I am not going to provide suggested answers, I will offer some guidelines for answering questions…

  • Answer the questions that children ask- don’t brush them off, because then they might not ask you any more questions.
  • Answer questions honestly.
  • Be brief in your responses- if a child has more questions, they will certainly ask!
  • Use age-appropriate resources to supplement your answers.
  • Admit it if you don’t know the answer- it’s ok if you don’t know everything.
  • Show appreciation to the young person for asking questions about things they say.
  • Emphasize the importance of learning more and understanding media representations of politics.

Friday FREAK OUT! Ken Cuccinelli, VA gubernatorial hopeful, launches sneaky website, trying to re-instate “Crimes Against Nature” law

In my home state of Virginia, the race for governor continues to heat up, but hopefully not too much because Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli might get his knickers in a bunch about all that hot sodomy! On Wednesday he launched a new website, www.vachildpredators.com, which is framing the appeal of Virginia’s “crimes against nature” statute as a law that protects children from child predators.

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In reality, this unconstitutional statute would outlaw anal and oral sex among consenting adults. It’s all a request for the Supreme Court to take his case against MacDonald that lost in the court of appeals, despite the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling that negated any anti-sodomy laws.

Cuccinelli’s anti-gay views are well documented- in 2009 he told the Virginian-Pilot that “My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong.” This new campaign highlights his extreme conservatism on the issue. Additional background can be found on Huffington Post, Salon, Slate, and of course Buzzfeed.

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The fact is that rape and sexual assault are already against the law, and another statute is not needed to protect the children. Sexuality educators can point to this campaign as a great example of how someone can frame a topic to misconstrue intentions. At first glance, you may be all for ‘protecting the children’; but really it’s about restricting rights, and imposing belief systems on others.

So, let’s freak out about this one, for sure. Let’s freak out about this candidate (who is ALREADY in an elected office) who wants to limit the rights of individuals to engage in consensual sexual behaviors. Let’s freak out so much that he does not get elected. It’s good news that polls are showing Cuccinelli’s opponent, Terry McAuliffe, with a slight lead in the polls as of Saturday. Woot woot!

Friday FREAK OUT! Steve Grand’s All American Boy- a love story with a twist- goes viral

Picture this- an unknown singer from Chicago, only 23 years old, without a label, no artist representation, and not much cash flow, maxes out his credit cards to produce a smash hit country love song that goes viral on YouTube. It’s the American dream come true. What’s the catch? The love song is about a boy crushing on ANOTHER BOY! Gasp!

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Grand’s song, All American Boy, posted on July 2 and already has over one million views on YouTube. He’s captured the attention of ABC, Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast, to name a few. Some of the freak out can be attributed to Buzzfeed, who asserted that Steve Grand is the first openly gay country star; however, Slate has already reminded us that Chely Wright came out as a lesbian in 2010.

Regardless of whether Grand gets crowned as the first, he’s certainly starting out strong. His story is inspiring- he told ABC that after coming out to his parents he was sent to ‘straight’ therapy. His Facebook posts reveal the angst he felt as he got ready to post the video. He shares a lot in an interview on the Backlot, including being overwhelmed by the response to the video.

I can’t imagine that Grand won’t be picked up by a recording studio in approximately two minutes, but I imagine that in the mean time he could use some support. (While the video has over 31,000 ‘likes’, it also has over 300 ‘dislikes’.) His website includes a button on how to contribute to his artistic talents.

This video, and Grand’s story, would be a fabulous teaching tool. The ‘classic’ crush storyline being turned on its head can help normalize same sex attraction. Sexuality educators can have participants reflect on the challenges that the lead character in the video might face, strategies for expressing attraction to another boy, and how he might feel when he’s turned down. (Note that there is a scene in the video where you can see two boys kiss and a naked butt, so if that’s a problem, stick with the still shots & the lyrics.)

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All American Boy represents a bold move by a brave young man. He didn’t let fear stop him from expressing himself, and I hope he’s seen as a role model for living out his dream.

Friday FREAK OUT! Video of LGBT Hate Crime goes viral

This past Sunday, June 30th, NYC saw one of the most festive Pride parades, especially given the recent SCOTUS rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of work to do helping people accept others for who they are. Late Sunday evening several LGBT young people were verbally and physically attacked on a Queens-bound F train. A bystander started videotaping two men who were harassing the young people. (Warning- this video includes graphic language and violence.)

On Sunday, June 30th at around 11:45 PM, I was riding home on the Queens-bound F train following a day of LGBT Pride festivities. Two men were loudly making homophobic comments, such as “Today was a scary day for me. There were fags everywhere.” When a group of queer youth got on the train, the men proceeded to harass them, stating that the teens made them want to puke and that they would be killed if they were in Iran. The first assailant then threatened to rape them, at which point I took out my phone to document the incident.
Seeing that he was being recorded, the first assailant lunged at me, violently grabbing my arms while trying to steal away my phone. One of the youth took the phone from me temporarily to protect it and told the assailant he shouldn’t attack a woman. When the assailant threatened to punch me, I took the phone back and ran to the other side of the train to push the emergency button and alert the authorities. At this point the second assailant got up and came towards me, grabbing my body and hands to try and get the phone to destroy the evidence. I yelled and told him I was an attorney. An onlooker then got up and stood between the assailants and myself, and another person left to get the train conductor.

A group of people had gathered to stand up to the gay bashers. During this, the second assailant put his hand around the neck of a young queer woman. When the doors opened up at the Roosevelt Ave stop, both assailants fled. I followed them to the station exit while calling 911. One witness had overheard them saying they were on route to Jamaica; they’re likely commuters who regularly take this route.

I uploaded the video to YouTube to see if anyone can identify these men. I was left with bruises and scratches from both assailants which I also documented. If anyone sees them or knows them personally, please contact the authorities. This was a hate crime. Anyone with information regarding the incident should contact the NYPD’s Hate Crime Hotline at 212-335-3100 or the AVP through its hotline at 212-714-1141.

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This video has gone viral, with nearly 800,000 views at the time of this post. Advocates such as the Anti-Violence Project have called for further action, and news sources indicate that the incident is under investigation.

The person behind the camera filed a police report and also posted the video to YouTube, in the hopes of identifying the perpetrators and calling attention to this incident. This encounter also reminds us about the recent spike in hate crimes in NYC, despite significant strides in equal rights for same-sex partners.

It is extremely crucial for educators to teach their students about how to respond in challenging situations. When someone’s safety is being threatened, it can be difficult to think clearly about critical actions that can help individuals and the people around them stay safe. Here are a few tips that come to mind when someone harasses or threatens you for any reason:
• Identify an exit where you can get away fast if needed.
• Remain calm and breathe normally.
• Note as much identifying information about the perpetrator as possible without putting yourself in danger.
• State clearly that you do not want to speak with this person any further.
• DO NOT ENGAGE the assailant in further debate- while it may feel necessary to assert your beliefs and values, it is safer to ignore their comments.
• Contact any relevant authorities and call the police if a crime has occurred.

It is unfortunate that it takes individuals being threatened, or harmed, to bring to light the reality of anti-gay sentiments. Until we live in a world free of hatred, we need to be prepared to respond.

Do you know of other important resources providing tips for victims or bystanders? Please post in the comments below.