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My good friend Eric over at Pride in Utah always delivers the goods (and the bads, as far as depressing news goes). In his article here, he reports on a school in Minnesota who is turning a blind eye to anti-gay bullying that has resulted in a teen suicide. This follows three previous suicides last year in the same school district. So, being the wordy little git I am, I wrote the principal a letter.

Principal Farley,

I am writing concerning your stance of neutrality regarding anti-gay bullying in your schools. While I think it’s nice that you want to please people, it is almost always impossible to please everyone. And in order to be a decent person, one must occasionally stand up and defend what is right. That takes courage, and you, Mr Farley, have showed a startling lack of courage regarding this issue. And because of this lack of courage, people are dead. Children are dead. Children who are supposed to be under your care for several hours a day, who are in your school nearly as much as they are in their own homes, are dead.

A school is supposed to be a safe place for children, Mr Farley. It has to be a safe place for children. If you are purposely allowing children to be in an unsafe environment because you, or certain parents, or anybody has a ‘moral problem’ or ‘differing opinion’ regarding homosexuality—or anything else, for that matter, you are failing in your duties. As a person of authority, a person whom children are supposed to be able to trust and confide in, you have tremendous responsibility to do what is right, even if you disagree with it.

You need to stand up and take responsibility, and push for others to do the same. This kind of lazy, gutless behavior needs to stop, for the safety of the children. People in positions of authority need to stand up and say ‘this is not right. We will put a stop to it.’ And then, follow through. Any kind of bullying should be punished. Those bullies need to know that it’s not okay. They need to know there are real consequences for their actions. Someone needs to tell them that. Children need to be taught what is right and wrong—not only from their parents and religious leaders, but from their educators. Especially because a lot of parents look the other way, and religious organizations promote intolerance, particularly regarding sexuality. Yes, schools can—and probably should—remain neutral with regard to moral teachings (whether homosexuality is ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ ‘okay’ or ‘not okay’). But when it comes to personal attacks, that kind of behavior should absolutely not be tolerated in any capacity.

How many more kids have to die before this stops? How many kids have died because of people like you turning a blind eye? How many of these bullies grow up, thinking it’s okay because they’ve been taught that it is, either implicitly or outrightly, and then go on to commit worse crimes because nobody stopped them before their misguided hatred went out of control? How many more Matthew Shepards are there going to be because people won’t stand up and teach their children to love and accept everybody for who they are, and not hate them for something that is out of their control?
Do something, Mr Farley. Do it now. Do it before another child takes his life, or has it taken from him, because you didn’t have the courage to stand up for what’s right, to stand up against bullying and homophobia. Do it before you have any more childrens’ deaths on your conscience. Before you have any more blood on your hands. Take a stand.

Regards,

Roderick Thompson

If you feel so inspired by this principal, school, and school district’s lack of balls, please feel free to write Mr Farley and let him know how you feel. His email address is mike.farley@anoka.k12.mn.us

I posted my letter to Holladay City councilman Topham here. He wrote a response about a week later. Here is his response.

September 10, 2010

Seven people emailed me (you were one) objecting to comments attributed to me in an article by Kathleen McKitrick in the Tribune on September 3. Newspaper sales are hurting, and the out of context “sound bites” that Ms. McKitrick used are unfortunate, but they “sell copy.”

I believe even the most ardent gay rights advocate would be somewhat chagrined at the total bias against the “straight” community outlined in the draft of this bill. You can get a copy of the draft ordinance at City Hall. Some of the more objectionable conditions are written in my Letter to the Editor of September 6 which I am including in this email. I was told that it couldn’t be published because it was too long. I asked that it be presented in the Sunday “My View” box, but have heard nothing back (and doubt I will).

As a small businessman and private property owner in Holladay, I believe the draft ordinance is draconian. As a historian, I am familiar with “the tyranny of the majority.” I ask you to think about “the tyranny of the minority,” particularly in Holladay, where the city attorney and city manager say they have never had a complaint related to housing or employment by members of the gay community.

Barry Topham

September 7, 2010

To the Editor:

Kathleen McKitrick’s 9/3/10 lead article in Section B concerning my opposition to a proposed ordinance banning discrimination against gays, bisexuals, and transgenders in housing and employment in Holladay failed to inform the public the reasons for my opposition. These reasons were brought out in the council discussion, but rather than mention them, she instead extensively quoted Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah. Ms. Balken was at the council meeting but did not speak. Apparently Ms. McKitrick privately interviewed Ms. Balken.

As in previous council discussions of this issue, I again asked City Attorney Craig Hall and City Manager Randy Fitts if they knew of any cases of housing or employment bias against gays, transgenders or bisexuals in Holladay. As previously, they both said there had been no reports of any problems.

It seemed to me from the ordinance discussion that neither Mayor Webb nor the other council members had thoroughly analyzed some of the ordinance ordinance provisions, including:

1. $500 fine for an employer with even just one employee if found in violation of the ordinance, and a $1000 fine for employers with more than fifteen employees. Business is tough, and employers should not have it made tougher by being forced to hire people whose life choices and life styles are in obvious conflict with those of the employer, fellow workers, or customers. I do not believe employers should be forced to hire someone simply because they fear time-consuming and expensive legal procedures if they do not.

2. If a realtor is used when selling or renting residential space, the ordinance does not allow any owner discretion, even if renting out a “mother-in-law” apartment in the owner’s home or selling his/her own home.

3. Churches, “expressive” associations (such as the Boy Scouts), and all levels of federal and state government are exempt. This ordinance is aimed at private property owners and businesses in Holladay.

4. The “person” who can file a complaint is defined as “one or more individuals, partnerships, associations, corporations, legal representatives, trusts or trustees, receivers, and the City…” – pretty much a Goliath vs. David, and a potential time-consuming, expensive problem for business and property owners and complaint filers. The only group likely to come out ahead are attorneys.

In the past two years I have introduced ordinances on term limits, campaign finance reform, attendance requirements at city council meetings (with financial penalties for non-attendance),
and banning political yard signs. I am always defeated five to one – I believe because I have been the sole and vocal council opponent to the leveling of Cottonwood Mall and the proposed central Holladay rebuild with over forty apartments per acre with clearly insufficient parking. These unfortunate developments have almost bankrupted once thriving Holladay and caused a significant tax increase for residents (ten-year 6% municipal energy tax)..

Gays, bisexuals, and transgenders should take heart: because I oppose this ordinance for business and property rights reasons, the other council members will likely vote for it. You should thank me for my opposition. I have nothing against you personally and have many gay acquaintances.

Barry Topham
City of Holladay Council Representative, District 4

What are your thoughts? Obviously, he’s pulling the ‘I have gay friends so I must adore every one of you’ card, which is just tacky, and the ‘oh, poor me, nobody likes my opinions and proposed ordinances’ card as well (nobody likes a whiner), but beyond that: opinions?

Check out this great article by the wonderful and delicious Eric Ethington to learn more about this jackass: http://prideinutah.com/?p=3399

Basically, he says people should be able to discriminate against LGBTs in areas of work and housing. I hate to use the old cliched Nazi comparison, but felt it was particularly appropriate in this instance. Here is my letter:

Dear Councilman Topham,

I must say I find your comments about the LGBT community to be inflammatory, bigoted, and dangerous. As a councilman, your job is to represent the people of your community, not insult them. LGBT suicide rates are already dramatically higher than those of their heterosexual peers, as are murder rates. As an elected official, you were given the responsibility of representing your community, many of whom are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. If you spread the message that LGBTs should be discriminated against, that threatens the lives and safety of about a tenth of the people in your city. Do you really want to be responsible for people going homeless because nobody will house them? Do you want to be responsible for people being unable to work because nobody will hire them? If you spread the message that it is okay to discriminate, that leads to violence. If a person thinks that he has no future, no right to work or live in a home, he may give up hope and kill himself. You need to stand up and speak out against violence and discrimination. We are people just like you, trying to live our lives the best we can.

In Utah, every resident has a right to work. Every American has the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And the right to live, according to state law, includes the right to work. By saying it is okay to discriminate and deny people jobs, you are breaking the law, Mr. Topham.

Why are LGBTs such a threat to you? We exist everywhere. You probably come across dozens of us every day, without even knowing it. We are in your schools, your court houses, and in your neighborhood. Whether you like it or not. So please, Councilman. Treat us with some dignity. We deserve the same rights as anyone else. Because if you discriminate against one group of people, that opens the door to discrimination against anybody, for any reason. One day, Mr. Topham, you might find yourself in one of those groups. Remember the Holocaust, Councilman? Hitler began the Holocaust by restricting Jews’ rights and removing them from their professions. Do you want to be associated with that kind of attitude toward one group of people? Remember the past, Councilman, or you shall be doomed to repeat it.

Thank you for your time.

Circumcision

The Child Abuse Prevention Council defines child abuse as “Any act of omission or commission that endangers a child’s physical or emotional health and development.”1 Child abuse is a felony. Yet thousands of parents each year commit an act that does endanger their child’s health and development, all without consequence. The majority of the United States actually condones it. Even doctors, who  are supposed to protect the health of their patients. Thousands of parents do something that can cause their baby extreme amounts of pain and to potentially face lifelong suffering, disfiguring injuries, body image issues, or even death. One in 77 male neonatal (under 28 days old) deaths is caused by something completely preventable, unnecessary, and generally done because of its popularity. That’s over 100 babies a year in the United States alone, or about the same number as who die from SIDS.  Given these facts, would you allow this? Any responsible parent would say no. ‘Of course not! Why would I do that to my child?’

All you have to do is tell your doctor you don’t want your son circumcised.

I know this is a hotly debated topic, so let me present you with some facts.

Nobody really knows how many little boys are killed due to circumcision. After all, many of these deaths are reported as ‘natural causes,’ ‘hemorrhage,’ ‘meningitis,’ ‘staphylococcus,’ etc.2 Of course, it’s not only death one needs to worry about. Some boys develop necrotizing fasciitis (galloping gangrene). Their skin dies—sometimes just on the penis, and sometimes on the testicles, thighs, and abdomen. Imagine your little boy having to have a third of the skin on his body removed and grafted, being horribly scarred for the rest of his life. Many boys end up with staph infections due to the open wound on his penis being near fecal matter in his diaper. A friend of mine contracted meningitis and nearly died. And imagine, if you would, how much a cut that size can bleed. A baby only needs to lose a tablespoon of blood before he is in danger of hypovolemic shock and needs a blood transfusion. What if your son has hemophilia and you don’t know it? After all, most circumcisions are performed when a baby is only a few days old. Slap a diaper on him, thinking you’re good to go, and he may bleed to death before you even realize what’s happening.

Many circumcisions are performed by placing some sort of clamping device around the foreskin. Sometimes these can slip down onto the shaft of the penis and cause degloving. The skin of the penis will slide down toward the base. This can cause many complications. Degloving can also happen if the outside of the foreskin is cut but the inside isn’t.  Still other boys end up having the head of their penises completely cut off—by accident, of course—and end up horribly disfigured. Sometimes the entire penis is, or needs to be amputated. There have been cases where these little boys are surgically turned into little girls following a botched circumcision. To hear a particularly tragic case, look up David Reimer.

Sometimes, the glans is severed, or the meatus (urethral opening) develops ulcers. Sometimes the skin is twisted. Sometimes veins are severed and re-route themselves or get knotted. During circumcision procedures, the foreskin has to be physically scraped off the glans; this can cause scarring and other disfigurations.

A big argument for circumcisions is that it ‘looks nicer’ or ‘most boys are circumcised; I don’t want Junior to feel embarrassed because he is different.’ Do you really feel comfortable putting your son at risk of injury and death just because it ‘looks nicer’? Just so he won’t be made fun of in the locker room? What if your son would look nicer with differently-colored eyes? And kids get made fun of all the time, for every reason you can think of. It’s not a rational excuse.

The negative effects of circumcision aren’t always seen immediately, either. Frequently, they’re not present until puberty or adulthood; no doctor can predict how much a boy’s penis will grow once he hits puberty. If the person performing the procedure (often a nurse or inexperienced intern performing his first surgery, not a doctor) removes too little skin, there can be adhesions (the healing skin will stick together, forming unsightly ‘skin bridges’ between the glans and shaft) and overhang. If too much skin is removed, when the penis becomes erect, scrotal tissue will be pulled up the shaft, resulting in a ‘hairy shaft,’ skin that is too tight and often painful during intercourse, unnatural curvature, and an unpleasant aesthetic. In adulthood, serious complications occur in 18% of men due to circumcision, and 6% of men end up with erectile dysfunction3 (some studies have reported substantially increased instances of erectile dysfunction in circumcised men; other studies reported negligible difference).4

There is, supposedly, scientific evidence suggesting that circumcision helps to prevent HIV. This is not proven to be the case (the studies were all ended prematurely)5. But even if it was true, it is far from 100% effective; condoms and other safer sex practices are far more effective at preventing HIV. And there may be evidence to suggest that a circumcised male is more likely to pass on HIV to another person than is an uncircumcised male.6

In 1975, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated in no uncertain terms that “there is no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the newborn.”7

Some folks claim that a circumcised penis is ‘cleaner’ and more hygienic. In reality, the penis is just like any other part of the body; it just needs to be washed properly.

Another claim is that penile cancer is more likely in an uncircumcised penis; this is true in a tiny percentage of cases: those few males whose foreskin will not retract by adulthood. This is because remnants of HPV and carcinogens caused by tobacco released in urine use cannot be rinsed away. These men should consider having their foreskin made retractable, or simply rinsing underneath with a bulb syringe. This does not require a circumcision, and is only a problem in smokers and sexually active men.8

Given all of this, one begins to wonder why this atrocious, unnecessary, and archaic practice is still legal.

Footnotes:

1 http://www.capcsac.org/abuse

2 http://www.cirp.org/library/death/

3 http://tessera2009.blogspot.com/2009/05/circumcision-and-hivaids.html

4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_effects_of_circumcision

5http://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/full/10.2217/17469600.2.3.193

6 http://www.avert.org/circumcision-hiv.htm

7http://www.medicinenet.com/circumcision_the_medical_pros_and_cons/article.htm

8 http://www.cirp.org/library/hygiene/

And for more information about the intact penis, visit http://www.circumstitions.com

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