Saturday, October 31, 2009

O, Solo Mio

An interesting bit of news about New York was released yesterday. It seems that more than 50% of Manhattanites live alone; as in single, no spouse, no family. This doesn't surprise me considering that the housing stock in Manhattan is made up of more studio and one-bedroom apartments than anything else. But what I'm waiting for is some kind of acknowledgement that this is the case.

Soapbox please.

I have lived alone for the past 9 years. That's not to say I'm "single". I've been in committed relationships for most of that time. But that's the way we do things in Manhattan. No one wants to give up their apartment. It's a classically eccentric New York tradition. In one of the most famous examples, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow maintained separate apartments for years! Okay--maybe that's not the best illustration. The point is, this is nothing new to us, and yet, we single households are constantly discriminated against by society and in the media.

Coming off an election year, and still with the health care debate, all anyone cares about representing or protecting or benefiting is "families". As if these are the only people worthy of going to political bat for. Have you noticed? Listen carefully--no one ever talks about single people. It's "families, families, families." The message is loud and clear that the only acceptable choice in our society is to live as a family. This attitude, probably a result of a right-leaning socio-political trend driven by the religious right, even fuels the LGBT fight for marriage equality. We've gotten the message that in order to be legitimized by the mainstream, we have to imitate their lifestyle. I'm convinced it's the reason the fight for marriage equality is far more visible and passionate than ENDA. But shouldn't we make sure we're able to support our families by protecting our job security first? But I digress...

Manhattan was built for single people. Literally. Like I said, look at the housing stock. Now, the numbers even support that. And yet, New York continues this "family friendly", theme park approach to development and zoning that frankly most of us don't need, or, as in my case, want. I remember a friend who lived in Chelsea telling me that he and his partner wanted to get out because every new building going up was selling 3 and 4 bedroom apartments. "What comes with all those bedrooms? Kids!" There goes the neighborhood.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't hate kids. On the contrary. I just don't want to raise yours and I don't want to live in a childproof world. I've made another choice. A legitimate, individual, American-as-apple-pie, free choice to live alone--just like the majority of Manhattanites. And there's nothing wrong with that. We're Americans, too.

Now, wish me luck on explaining this post to Scott who's moving in with me in a couple of weeks.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We've Got a Long Way to Go, Baby

This week President Obama will sign a federal hate crimes bill into law. Hallelujah. 11 years after Matthew Shepherd's death, no one will ever be able to commit such a heinous act without being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law as a hate crime. It's about time. But obviously we still have a long way to go to to educate people and eradicate homophobia. Sadly, I suspect, like racism, it will always be an element in our society and permeate the way people think and act toward gay people.

Yesterday, having read the news that Obama would sign the Matthew Shepherd Bill into law, I felt pretty good. I ventured out the door to buy a cup of coffee. As I stood waiting in line at the Dunkin' Donuts, my eyes fell on a stack of that day's New York Post. On the cover was Shane Victorino of the Philadelphia Phillies. His torso was photoshopped onto a woman's body wearing a cheer leading skirt. The caption read "Only in the City of Brotherly Love would Victorino be considered a slugger." Whack! Homophobia slaps you in the face. Way to stay classy, Post. Sure, it was a slam against Philadelphia as a second-rate city, but with strong homophobic overtones.

Just a few days ago Scott was saying to me "Remember those Scholastic Book orders from elementary school? You'd go home and ask you mom for money and then weeks later the books would arrive and you forgot all about them. It was so exciting. It was like getting a present." I have the same memories. Then Scott sent me this article that appeared in The Stranger. It seems the powers that be at Scholastic Books are exercising homophobic censorship. Go to the link to read the full story, but apparently they asked an author who featured a set of same-sex parents in her book to edit them out in favor of a heterosexual couple. Thankfully, she refused.

I had the opportunity to educate someone this weekend about homophobia, but I unfortunately I failed. I was hosting a garage sale out at my parent's house in New Jersey. A woman came by with a couple of kids, one of whom was in a Boy Scout uniform. He was about 12 or 13. He was selling Christmas wreaths to benefit the Boy Scouts. First he approached Scott who told the boy he didn't live there, and passed him off to me. I stalled passing him off to my mother as "the lady of the house". She didn't want to order any wreath from the Boy Scouts either, but gave the kid a small donation instead, mostly to spare us all any more awkward moments.

After that, the kid went to ring other doorbells on the block while his mother stayed behind and browsed among the Garage Sale items. Now, I didn't want to burst the kid's bubble by telling him I think the Boy Scouts are a bunch of homophobic bigots. But I did have the opportunity to say to his mother after he left "You know, I didn't want to order anything that would support the Scouts because they discriminate against people like me." I wanted to tell her that the only men I ever knew who made it to Eagle Scout are gay. I wanted to tell her that municipalities across the country (including the City of Brotherly Love) are doing the right thing and not allowing a discriminatory organization to hold meetings in municipal buildings. But I didn't. I thought she might buy something so I didn't want to offend her. I sold out my civil rights for a potential $5 garage sale transaction. Way to stay classy, Michael.

PS She didn't buy anything.
Please, do better than I did. Speak up when you have the opportunity.
UPDATES: The LAPD has cut ties with a spin off group of the Boy Scouts as the group's discriminatory policy against LGBT youth and leaders is at odds with the city's non-discrimination policy as is the case in more and more cities and municipalities across the country. It's hard to be happy about it, though. Scouting could be such a wonderfully positive organization for boys. And it's the kids who lose in the name of "protecting" them.
Also, Scholastic Books has released a somewhat confusing statement regarding the Luv Ya Bunches controversy. They insist they do not censor, but rather "review" books for inclusion in their clubs and fairs. (The LGBT thing aside, isn't asking an author to clean up language a form of censorship?) Also, they say that Luv Ya Bunches eventually passed review for their middle school book fairs. This is an interesting distinction since the book is about 4 elementary school girls and according to, is recommended for a 9 to 12 year old reading level. Pre-middle school age.

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Monday, October 12, 2009


Two female cashiers at the Duane Read on 125 Street.

Woman 1: Yeah, he tol' me that when Obama talked to the school kids it would be good for my son 'cause he's "unfortunate".

Woman 2: He's not unfortunate. He got two working parents. That's fortunate.