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Why do some Christians–not most–hate trans people so much?

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Years ago, I wrote an article about transgendered people in the East Bay, where I live. This had been a population little known to the vast majority of Americans, including myself. But over a course of weeks of research, I came to know, and admire, these people, and still do. I don’t pretend to understand the “hows” or “whys” of their gender dysphoria. But I respect their courage and desire to change, and the incredible amount of time, money and energy they must commit, as well as physical pain they must endure. As if that’s not enough, they have to deal with the hatred and resentment they get on a daily basis from so many straight people.

The transgendered community’s formal introduction to straight America really began with Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner. When she came out as trans, the news was a sensation. Suddenly, the LGB community had a new letter: T (“Q” has now joined the list). Americans who wanted to do the right thing found themselves scurrying to learn how to be “T”-friendly.

In practice this usually happened on a local level: businesses and civil governments added “T” to the ranks of those against whom discrimination was not permitted. (Trump lately has become the leading trans-hater in America.) Among the organizations that opted to be trans-friendly was the University of California at Berkeley. On Oct. 31, the Student Senate there held a hearing and vote on a proposal to more strongly support the rights of trans people on campus. Eighteen students voted in favor.

One abstained: Isabella Chow, a 20-year old junior majoring in business administration and music.

Had Chow simply registered her abstention and remained silent, probably the resulting furor would not have occurred. But Chow chose instead to issue a “statement” explaining her position. She proclaimed her allegiance to a specific religion: “As a Christian, I personally do believe that…God created male and female at the beginning of time, and designed sex for marriage between one man and one woman.” Chow seems to have anticipated how controversial her remarks would be, because she went out of her way to condemn bullying and bigotry. But, she told trans people, “at the bottom of my heart, I do not believe that your choices are right or the best for you as an individual.”

Chow got the backlash she feared and deserves. Hundreds of students signed a petition asking her to resign as a Student Senator. She’s been attacked on social media, and the Daily Californian (U.C. Berkeley’s widely-read student newspaper) heavily criticized her. In response, Chow has refused to quit her position, “because if I do, there will be no one else to represent the voices that are ignored and misunderstood on campus.”

She means “Christian” voices, but, of course, not all Christians, and perhaps not even a majority, are as transphobic as Chow. Clearly, her particular branch of Christianity, whatever it is (evangelical, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian?) has taught her to take this extreme position. Here is a comment I posted on her Facebook page:

It is very sad that a few religious cultists wish to impose their hateful views upon everybody else. Here in America, we have something called the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that absolutely prohibits government from embracing any particular religion. Sadly, these Christian extremists do not believe in the Constitution. They think that they, and the bigoted “preachers” who teach them to hate, should be determining our laws and practices. Well, that’s not going to happen. We must stand up to the religious right, to Ms. Chow and her supporters, and to the bullies who bash the LGBTQ community. I doubt that Ms. Chow will comprehend these truths because her mind has been so polluted with disinformation. But while she continues to be mired in the swamp of bigotry, the rest of us can sideline her and her associates and make sure they have no power whatsoever to enact their Taliban-like theocracy.

I remain convinced that the greatest threat to our American freedom and democracy are people such as Isabella Chow. Can someone explain to me the difference between her sect, and the maniacs who rule Iran, or the Taliban, or the mullahs teaching stupidity and intolerance in their madrassas? It may be true that Chow and her colleagues are not currently calling for violence against LGBTQ people, but experience has shown that when given the immense power of actual governmental authority, these authoritarian-religious despots frequently move against gay people, as we see in places like Kenya, Uganda and most Muslim nations, where it is a crime (often a capital one) to engage in homosexual acts, or even to “promote” homosexuality, for instance in a blog like mine (by which they mean having anything nice to say about it).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this Christian blather about “hating the sin but loving the sinner” is absolute garbage. It brings to mind the Grand Inquisitor, Tomas de Torquemada, praying for the souls of “heretics” even as he stretched them on the rack, waterboarded them, tore out their entrails, and set fire to the kindling (the “faggots”) upon which their bodies were bound. “Oh merciful God, who sent His only Son to deliver us from evil, we pray for the soul of this miserable sinner, whom we annihilate in the name of Jesus.”

Isabella Chow, you are wrong. Totally, amorally, indecently, stupidly, abysmally un-Americanly wrong. We do not “misunderstand” your voice; we understand it all too well: the moral rigidity, the parochialism, the narrow-mindedness, the judgmental absolutism. You would destroy our pluralistic society for a fundamentalist and essentially undemocratic (with a small “d”) Christianity. (By the way, you might read up on the history of anti-Chinese hatred by white Christians in California in the 19th century, which resulted in decades of laws against Chinese-Americans, in other words, Ms. Chow, against people like you.)

Whom someone loves, Ms. Chow, is none of your damned business. What you believe is in our best interests is of no interest to us whatsoever. Even the Pope asked, “Who am I to judge?” Are you more entitled to judge than the Pontiff? As you do not believe that a transgendered person’s “choices” are best for him or her (and you have no right to assume that the trans experience is a “choice,”), so most of us believe that your choices suck, in a Trumpian damaging and dangerous way. You’re entitled to them, if you really insist on remaining mired in your superstitious darkness. But you are not entitled to any position of power, in any capacity, that allows you to impose that dark, unAmerican vision upon the rest of us.

 


Ten Republicans

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  1. Devin Nunes.
  2. Orrin Hatch
  3. The Koch Brothers
  4. Rudy Giuliani
  5. Tucker Carlson
  6. Mike Pence
  7. Jared Kushner
  8. Mitch McConnell
  9. James Woods
  10. Donald J. Trump

Obama and Electiongate: Stockholm Syndrome?

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Like many of you, I was puzzled by Obama’s curiously passive response to Electiongate at his Friday press conference. While most Democrats, and even many Republicans, view Russia’s actions as a form of cyberwarfare—some have called it a digital Sept. 11—Obama’s message seemed to be: This sort of thing happens all the time. No big deal. Chill out.

The President refused to blame it directly on Putin, as his CIA and FBI have done. He refused to say it influenced the results of the election, as Hillary Clinton has charged (and most of us agree with her). Nor did Obama point the finger at James Comey, whom most of us believe violated the Hatch Act for partisan reasons. And while Obama had called, a week ago, for an investigation into Electiongate, during his televised news conference he appeared peculiarly listless: no outrage, no sense of alarm or perturbation. This was “No Drama Obama” at his coolest, but it demands an explanation. Why the lack of passion? Why is he underplaying Electiongate’s severity?

As I watched the news conference—which was delayed a good 20 minutes due, I think, to the breaking news that the FBI had signed on to the CIA’s analysis—I kept wondering when Obama would let loose and scream bloody murder. To no avail: he was relentlessly unemotional, speaking in a monotone, frequently pausing to “uhh,” and refusing to take any bait offered by a press corps that seemed as weirded out as I was by the President’s lack of affect. It was all very frustrating and puzzling to those of us who thought that here, at last, was an opportunity for Obama to come out swinging, hard—against Russia, against Comey, against Trump, against the lies and corruption that brought Hillary down and have tried to destroy him as well. And yet he refused to do so. It was almost like watching a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed Obama’s mealy-mouthed response to Electiongate. Yesterday’s New York Times, on the front page, called him “wary” and “cautious,” polite terms, I think, for irresolute. Saturday’s Wall Street Journal had an editorial, “Obama Goes Off the Clinton Script,” that noted, astonished, how Obama claimed “the emails stolen from John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee were ‘not some elaborate complicated espionage scheme.’” Calling the hacking and subsequent leaking “pretty routine stuff,” the most severe Obama could get was to declare that he would “take action” against Russia and Putin. But when? How? FDR didn’t wait until some future date to retaliate against the Japanese for Pearl Harbor. Will Obama release the evidence of wrongdoing on Russia’s part, which many Americans are asking for? Why is he—who has twice won the presidency—not going off the rails at how this recent election was, in effect, controlled by the Russians with, probably, inside knowledge of the Trump campaign? I mean, how bad does it have to get before the President shows some righteous anger?

So I’m scratching my head. Here we have Democrats, and tens of millions of people who voted for Hillary Clinton, outraged at Republicans; we know now that Donald Trump “won” the presidency illegitimately, we know we warned the country for months this was happening, and we are demanding that something be done about it. And here we have a President who, on Friday, live on T.V., could have and should have given articulate voice to our outrage. Obama could have been FDR speaking to Congress the day after Pearl Harbor, or JFK talking about Cuba to the American people, or George W. Bush on top of that car at Ground Zero, talking into the bullhorn. Obama could have been a President who rallied the people to a justified cause, in this acute, massive scandal. Instead, Obama chose, for his own reasons, to make it sound like he was talking about soybean subsidies.

The only explanation I can come up with—and it’s not a very satisfactory one—is that Obama feels personally responsible for a smooth transition to a Trump presidency, and is concerned about how he would look if, in his remaining month in office, he were seen as creating even more partisan divisiveness. This may be so—that theory fits in with what we know of his character, which is generally averse to confrontation. But I must say that, this time, Obama has let me down. Fortunately, he still has time to seize the moral high ground and come out swinging against what he well knows are dark, evil forces. He should remind himself—or be reminded—that his responsibility is not to ensure a smooth transition to an incompetent, mendacious incoming President, but to speak truth to History.


Postmortem: Putting IPOB into Perspective

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I’ve been hard on the Republican Party for being such ideological purists that they can’t compromise with Democrats (or anyone else) on anything. So in my guise as the F.F.W.C. (former famous wine critic), along the same lines I have a few observances about In Pursuit of Balance.

IPOB, as many of you know, was the non-profit organization formed in California for the purpose of promoting the production of Pinot Noirs that are lower in alcohol and higher in acidity than some, or many, other Pinot Noirs, especially those produced around the time of IPOB”s founding, in 2010.

In that year, the Pinots emerging onto the market were of the 2008 vintage, or possibly 2007—two warm vintages that produced ripe, lush, soft, full-bodied wines. IPOB’s precise goal, however, was never entirely clear. Their website says it was to promote dialogue around the meaning of balance in California pinot noir and chardonnay,” but certainly, the public and the wine media perceived it as more than the mere promotion of dialogue. Most people saw it prescriptively. In the popular mind (and IPOB did nothing to dissuade people from thinking this), IPOB was saying that Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) should be below 14% in alcohol.

It’s true that Raj Parr, IPOB’s most visible representative, never came right out and said so, at least in my presence. In fact I heard him once welcome us to an IPOB tasting (at RN74) by stating that he was emphatically not referring to specific alcohol levels. But if there was no specific recommendation along those lines, people were scratching their heads and wondering just what else “balance” could mean that was not merely an arbitrary quality in the eyes of the beholder.

I sure wondered. In the four years after IPOB’s founding, and before I quit Wine Enthusiast, I strove mightily to understand. (Perhaps that’s what IPOB meant when they said they wanted “to promote dialogue.”) I decided that the question was meaningless, because no two people, no matter how competent they are, are ever going to agree all the time about so elusive and subjective a concept as “balance.” That was fine with me: wine writers, critics, producers, consumers and restaurateurs love to gab about wine, and IPOB provided plenty of gabbing opportunities.

Still, IPOB had an overall negative impact. It divided Pinot Noir people into two opposite, warring camps. IPOB’s tastings never made any sense. They were fun to go to, in that they let us taste many famous, small-production Pinots we would otherwise miss. But I always wondered why IPOB’s gatekeepers, who included Jasmine Hirsch, allowed some wines in, while shutting other wines out. For example, Calera was there—no one ever accused Calera of making low alcohol wines—while some fine low alcohol Pinot Noirs from the company I started working for in 2014, Jackson Family Wines, were not. I think that’s why people who were not fans of IPOB started calling it “the cool kids’ club.” It reminded me of the cafeteria in college, where the jocks and cute chicks gathered at their tables, while the geeks, freaks and nerds (of which I was one) had to scramble to figure out where to sit.

This was not a happy development. IPOB caused divisiveness within the ranks of Pinot Noir producers and critics; and while I’m sure it was a fabulous marketing tool for Hirsch Vineyards, Sandhi, Domaine de la Côte and other IPOB favorites, I do not in retrospect think it contributed much that was positive.

My biggest problem with IPOB was the way the mainstream wine media treated it so worshipfully, without questioning the process or the assumptions behind it. This wasn’t journalism; it was lazy reporting by press release. Unimaginative wine writers considered themselves lucky to be invited to IPOB, and to be feted by such famous personages, so they failed to write with due diligence. I had the same problem with the mainstream media during the recent election process. It was awful the way they accepted pretty much all of the Donald Trump scandals with a shrug of the shoulders, while relentlessly pursuing Hillary Clinton’s emails as if they were the biggest security scandal since Benedict Arnold,  with Hillary actively working for ISIS. The email thing, of course, turned out to be absolutely nothing: a non-issue in every respect. But every media outlet in the country, print and broadcast, jumped on it like junkyard dogs and refused to let go, even while practically ignoring Trump University, his late-night infomercials on how to get-rich-quick through real estate flipping, not paying his bills, rape charges, lies, smears, prejudices, unproven allegations, insults, his current wife’s questionable background, his ties to Russia and foreign plutocrats, his taxes, and above all his utter ignorance of the issues. This glaring irresponsibility will be a sorry chapter in American journalism.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Esther Mobley, in her summation of IPOB’s final event on Nov. 14, at least did yeoman’s work in backing up far enough to write objectively about it. She praises it, not for dramatically changing the style of Pinot Noir in California (it didn’t; style is defined by climate, soils and viticultural practices, not by ideologies), but by making us all think a little harder about Pinot Noir than we might have otherwise. That’s a good thing, but I wouldn’t want future wine historians to overrate IPOB’s importance. It was not up there with the French Paradox or the Paris Tasting or Sideways. IPOB was a curiosity, a sort of hippie movement that flourished at a particular time and place, but whose import now has passed.


Wine in barbershops?

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That’s what the Washington Times is reporting. Seems my great state of California is considering allowing—not just barbershops—but beauty parlors too, a total of 42,000 shops in all, to serve wine and beer on their premises. The proposal is in the form of a bill, AB 1322, that would expand California’s current alcohol laws in order to additionally allow the serving of beer or wine without a license as part of a beauty salon or barber shop service if specified requirements are met, including that there be no extra charge or fee for the beer or wine, the license of the establishment providing the service is in good standing, and the servings are limited to specified amounts.”

Sounds good to me! In fact, it sounds more than good: it’s civilized. But, wouldn’t you know it, no good idea goes without someone bashing it, and in this case the basher is the so-called “California Alcohol Policy Alliance,” a group whose website purports to promote evidence-based public health policies and organize campaigns with diverse communities and youth against the alcohol industry’s harmful practices,” but which sounds suspiciously like the anti-alcohol groups in this country that have popped up forever, whose ideology seems like something out of Carrie Nation’s brain.

CARRIE

And not surprising! This California Alcohol Policy Alliance is just the latest incarnation of The Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems; they had to change their name because the Marin Institute got such a bad reputation. These people always claim that their motives are sincere, but there’s something fishily ideological about them, and their anger towards legal alcoholic beverages seems, well, outsized. They call themselves “The Industry Watchdog.” Well, “junkyard dog” would be closer to the point.

But I digress! The beautiful thing about the barbershop-beauty parlor idea is that it normalizes the drinking of beer and wine. There is probably no place more “normal” for Americans to go to than a barbershop or beauty parlor. That’s why serving beer and wine in such places makes so much sense. To be able to drink these alcoholic beverages in these normal, everyday hangouts would be a huge step towards making the consumption of wine—not a fancy thing for rare occasions—but an everyday practice, as it is throughout the wine-producing nations of Europe.

Incidentally, let me give credit to AB 1322’s Republican co-sponsor, Asemblyman Scott Wilk. It’s probably not a good idea for a Republican politician to ever be in favor of anything having to do with alcohol or drugs, and Wilk certainly represents a conservative district: Simi Valley and the San Fernando Valley. But he’s not a nutbag Republican, and he’s okay in my book for this humane and positive step forward. Our Governor, Jerry Brown, now has AB 1322 on his desk, and he may veto it or let it pass into law. The anti-alcohol forces, including the Alcohol Policy Alliance, are lobbying him heavily, on social media and directly, to veto it: they are fear-mongering the general public with alarmist warnings that, if passed, AB 1322 will allow beer and wine to “flow freely without licenses, permits, monitoring, Responsible Beverage Service training, or enforcement of current regulations.”

Well, that’s fine with me. I don’t expect a beauty parlor colorist to have training in “responsible beverage service.” When the neo-prohibitionists at Alcoholic Policy Alliance say that passing AB 1322 will put the “health and safety of all California residents” at risk, that’s just a big lie. I want a country where drinking wine is so natural that you can do it in barbershops, in supermarkets, in movies, in fact pretty much everywhere. Does that mean I’m in favor of public drunkenness? Of course not. But rightwing groups like the Alcohol Policy Alliance base their fundraising on spreading such fear, the same way certain politicians are trying to make us so afraid of ISIS that we close this country’s borders, making it no longer the oasis for “Your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” Fear is never a good way to govern, and those who use fear to further their own purposes are to be pitied.


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