Brian Sims: Mike Pence’s Anti-LGBT Views Would Further Divide Us

Brian Sims, Mike Pence

Brian Sims, Mike Pence

This is an opinion piece by Pennsylvania Representative Brian Sims.

No Gays Allowed.”

Governor Mike Pence proudly signed into law legislation that allowed business to refuse service or discriminated against LGBT Americans. Yes — the Mike Pence who is Donald Trump’s running mate and the most extreme pick for vice president in a generation.

As Governor, Mike Pence used his leadership to alienate businesses and divide communities with his spiteful actions against the LGBT community when he spearheaded this discriminatory legislation. The law allowed people to continue spreading hatred, deny services and discriminate against LGBT Americans.  Read more »

What It Was Like to Watch the Turkish Coup Attempt Unfold

People gathered in Taksim Square in Istanbul to protest against the attempted coup, watch a pre-recorded video message by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, early Tuesday, July 19, 2016.

People gathered in Taksim Square in Istanbul to protest against the attempted coup, watch a pre-recorded video message by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, early Tuesday, July 19, 2016.

In the hours before Friday’s attempted coup, I was focused on how to keep moving forward with a manuscript, based on the dissertation I finished at the University of Pennsylvania’s department of Folklore and Folklife. Over the years I lived in Philadelphia, I called several neighborhoods of this city — most recently Bella Vista — home, and traveled back and forth to Turkey. In the hours following the coup attempts, dear friends and former professors reached out on electronic media, bridging our divide.  Read more »

Orlando and Charleston Were Hate-Fueled Attacks on Safe Spaces

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Left: Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Right: Nine ribbons in honor of the victims are shown in front of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., Friday, June 17, 2016 on the anniversary of the killing of nine black parishioners during bible study.

In 1992, as a 14 year-old boy I saw Spike Lee’s Malcolm X at Princeton MarketFair’s movie theatre with my cousin Sean. Seeing the movie was an almost religious experience itself; I hadn’t known much about Malcolm at that point, and I had also never experienced an all-black movie experience at that point. I left elated but also guarded; Malcolm’s rise to influence and then subsequent assassination left me drained and weary. The movie closed with a legacy-affirming montage of blacks standing up and proclaiming “I am Malcolm X” — signaling the idea that what he was will be and will live on no matter what.

The movie was about the importance of being vigilant when you’re part of a hated group; that at any given moment something terrible could happen because your very existence was hated. This meant that harm could come at any place, at any time.

The movie provided insight into what this paranoia looked like during the 1960s: Think of the classic photo of Malcolm X standing in his living room window, or at church where Malcolm was ultimately murdered. As black folks forged toward justice, the need to have an eye on the prize meant that you also had to have an eye for any potential threat.

All of this was symbolized in the succinct advice given at one point in the film: Never sit with your back to the door. It was a reminder that there was always a gun scope’s reticle trained on you.

There’s been a trained reticle on marginalized populations for a long time now and one of the best ways that this trained eye has been maintained on them has been through the violent disruption of peaceful spaces. If you want to unnerve the heart, the psyche, the security and the community of a key group, there’s no better place to strike than the places that they hold most sacred. America has a long history with this type of domestic terrorism, and it’s been most uniquely applied to minority and oppressed groups. Sunday morning’s “Latin Night” mass murder at Pulse, a popular gay  club in Orlando, was the latest in the steady practice of destroying sanctuaries in the vein of America’s greatest emotion: hate.  Read more »

The Orlando Nightclub Shooter and the Agonizing Need to Know “Why”

Pulse nightclub following a fatal shooting Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.

Pulse nightclub following a fatal shooting Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.

We’d like it to be like Law & Order, or Criminal Minds, or CSI. On those shows, there’s always a clear motive. The boss killed his secretary so she wouldn’t tell his wife about their affair. The husband killed his wife to collect on the insurance money before the divorce went through. Even a serial killer does what he does because of that one uncle who molested him in the basement when he was 9.

The emphasis on a single, easily digestible motive is an obvious must for TV police procedurals: There’s only so much time in each episode to unspool the crime-and-punishment plot. It’s also the way the criminal justice system works. Jurors are TV watchers, after all. They need a story that holds together, is persuasive, makes sense.

A motive feels even more urgent after an inherently inexplicable event like the massacre in Orlando. Until we know why it happened, we’re stuck in the devastation. Once we have a motive, we can stop thinking about the terrified people who waited for their deaths, crouched in toilet stalls, and about the torn-apart hearts of the parents who lost their children. We can step away from the dislocating horror, the incomprehensibility, and return instead to the familiar:  Read more »

Philly and the Nation React in Horror to Orlando Shootings

A vigil in Atlanta for the victims of a fatal shooting at an Orlando nightclub Sunday, June 12, 2016.

A vigil in Atlanta for the victims of a fatal shooting at an Orlando nightclub Sunday, June 12, 2016.

A mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando left at least 50 people dead and 53 wounded this weekend in what was the worst of its kind in U.S. history.

Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida, opened fire in Pulse, a popular LGBT nightclub, around 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Police entered the nightclub and killed Mateen around 5 a.m., according to the Orlando Sentinel.

People are mourning the tragedy across the city and nationwide. President Barack Obama spoke Sunday, offering his condolences to the LGBT community and calling the event an act of terror and hate. Read more »

Orlando Nightclub Shooting Was a Hate Crime

A message of the screen during a prayer vigil at the Joy Metropolitan Community Church after a fatal shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.

A message of the screen during a prayer vigil at the Joy Metropolitan Community Church after a fatal shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.

“We find community and sanctuary on the dance floor. As Latino gay men, we teach ourselves to break tradition so that we can take the hand of another man and dance. We do this to keep traditional. This alone continues to provide us space, even if the spaces are borrowed, for us to be and feel safe. This massacre was another reminder that we can be robbed of these spaces, robbed of our humanity and our lives.”

— Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca, founder of The Gran Varones, a storytelling project that shines a light on the stories of Latino & Afro-Latino Gay, Queer and Trans men.

I’m writing this column Sunday night. I’ve spent all day online, tracking what is happening in Orlando, Fla., where in the early hours of the day, a gunman shot and killed at least 53 people at a popular gay dance club where folks had gathered for a night of reggaeton, bachata and salsa.

You don’t need me to tell you the details of the Orlando nightclub shooting — every news story out there has them — and after a while they serve more as distraction than revelation. That last is what we crave, not only an answer to an unfathomable “why” but also what it means for us (and about us) as a nation. Read more »

Hillary Clinton Shouldn’t Have to Answer for Bill’s Affairs

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If you’re running for president these days, you have to expect your dirtiest of laundry to be put on display. As John Edwards and Herman Cain learned the hard way, mistresses make for better headlines than tax reform proposals — and whether it’s fair or not, the morally superior country that brought you Dating Naked still has a Puritan itch to scratch.

But if you’re a woman running for public office? A squeaky-clean personal life simply isn’t enough. Expect to have your husband’s affairs used against you as well.

In an interview with the New York Times, Donald Trump revealed how he plans to discredit Hillary Clinton this fall. Front and center? Attacks on her character stemming from Bill Clinton‘s extramarital affairs.

Trump’s certainly not the first to attempt to use this against her. For almost two decades now, Hillary’s been carrying Bill’s baggage and fielding side-eye from both parties. Classic lines include (but are not limited to):  Read more »

Sorry, Donald Trump, But the “Woman Card” Doesn’t Exist

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Almost immediately after all but securing the Republican nomination Tuesday night, Donald Trump attempted to explain Hillary Clinton’s impressive four-state win.

“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card,” he said after handily winning five states that will never rid themselves of his dayglow stink.

Just in case he wasn’t clear, Trump followed up yesterday on CNN. “She is a woman,” he told New Day co-host Chris Cuomo. “She is playing the woman card left and right. She didn’t play it last time with Obama. But she’s playing it much harder this time and she will be called on it. If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes.”

Come again?  Read more »

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