Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ARCHIE #22: "Why Can't I Feel My Legs?"

The "Over the Edge" story line just wrapped up in ARCHIE #22. This was the story line that originally threatened to kill off one of the main five characters in Archie Comics. I then later realized that Archie Comics was being a bit sly and just implying that somebody would die. Sure enough, we learned last month that Betty Cooper was serious injured and on the brink of death after getting caught up in a drag-racing-involved car accident.

So did she die?

SPOILERS!!!...

MORE SPOILERS!!!...

EVEN MORE SPOILERS!!!...


Justin Lee Removed as Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network

Justin Lee started the Gay Christian Network back in 2001. It started out as a small discussion board where people had the opportunity to discuss what it meant to be gay and Christian. Or whether one could be gay and Christian. Or if you had to be celibate to be gay and Christian. Over time, the online community got huge. GCN began organizing yearly conventions. Small regional groups began meeting. Justin wrote a book. And then the GCN board participation shot down as more people turned to resources such as Facebook to connect with other LGBTQ people of faith.

That's just some background. The main point of the blog post is that Justin Lee has been removed as the executive director of GCN. In fact, he's been gone from the organization since early May 2017:
Joint Announcement from the Board of GCN and Justin Lee: Due to irreconcilable differences about the direction and future of the organization, Justin Lee and the GCN Board of Directors have agreed to his amicable separation from the organization. Justin Lee will no longer serve as the executive director of GCN, effective May 4, 2017. Neither Justin nor the Board will publicly discuss the reasons behind Justin’s departure other than to affirm that it was a practical business decision intended to allow for the growth of this important work.

Both Justin and the GCN Board of Directors remain committed to pursuing the mission of creating “…a world in which the next generation of LGBTQ youth will grow up fully loved and embraced by their families, churches, and neighbors; and where Christians worldwide will live up to their calling as instruments of grace and defenders of the outcast.” We remain allies in continuing our work for the LGBTQ Christian movement.

As announced at the 2017 Pittsburgh Conference, the Board reaffirms its previous commitment to changing the name of the organization to one that better reflects the diversity of the ministry and the community we serve. Recognizing the long history of Justin’s connection with the GCN name, the Board has chosen to accelerate the timing of the name change and will announce it at the 2018 Denver Conference.

From the Board of GCN: Dear Friends of GCN,

For 16 years the Gay Christian Network has been meeting the spiritual needs of the LGBTQ community throughout our nation. Justin Lee, our founder, has helped GCN become a vibrant and healthy community making a difference for those who have been treated unfairly by the church.

Through GCN and his excellent book, Torn, Justin has been a pioneer helping LGBTQ individuals accept the truth that God loves them, just as they are. Through GCN, he helped those people find a spiritual home. Because of Justin’s dedicated work, countless lives have been changed. The Board of Directors of GCN is grateful for Justin’s years of service. Moving forward, however, Justin and the Board have come to realize they have 
differing perspectives on the operational needs of the ministry. After much prayer and discussion, the Board of Directors and Justin have agreed to separate.

The GCN Board is pleased Justin will continue to speak, write, and produce content serving the LGBTQ community he so dearly loves. There have been no issues that would cause us to be anything but fully supportive of his continuing work in ministry. Those wishing to follow his work are encouraged to do so at JustinSpeaks.com.

Please join us in thanking Justin for his many years of service.

From Justin Lee: Dear friends,

I don’t have the words to say how grateful I am for all of your incredible support of me and of this work; the time, energy, and money you’ve committed to our shared mission has enabled us to accomplish things I never dreamed we could. Running this organization for the last 16 years has been absolutely the most incredible experience of my life, and I will always treasure the memories and the knowledge of how we’ve changed the world together.

As sad as I am to say goodbye, my hope and prayer for this organization is that it will always stay grounded in a passion for Jesus Christ and uphold an ongoing commitment to living out His light and love in all things. In Christ, anything is possible, and yet there are still so many people who have experienced the gospel as a hindrance rather than a hope, who’ve been led to believe that God doesn’t love them—or at least that the church doesn’t—and who feel all alone. They need to know they’re never alone.

As for me, I continue to feel a calling to change hearts and minds in the church for the sake of those who still don’t have that support. Even though I am no longer involved at GCN, I will still be speaking out on the issues that matter to our community and doing all I can to support those in need. I’m as passionate about this work today as I was back in 2001, when GCN was just a website I was running out of my apartment! In the days ahead, I will share more at JustinSpeaks.com about my future plans, and I would love to hear from you there.

Thank you again for your love and support. To those I’ve had the privilege of interacting with over the years, I sincerely hope our paths will cross again in the future. If not, you will certainly be on my heart and in my prayers. Love to you all, and may God bless you.

In Closing: The Board has hired an Interim Executive Director who will be introduced to the community soon. The Interim Executive Director will be in place while the Board commences a national search for a new CEO who can lead us into the future.

Constantino Khalaf, our Director of Operations, will continue to direct the GCN staff in preparation for the 2018 Conference in Denver, the October 2017 Youth Retreat in Wilkes-Barre, PA in October, and the other ongoing offerings of GCN. 

We ask for your prayers for Justin, and for GCN, as we all work to create vibrant spiritual opportunities for LGBTQ people of faith.
I have seen little else but shock, anger, and sadness over this announcement over on the GCN boards, on Facebook, and in other social media corners. The GCN Board is really going to need to step up and smooth things over before this winter's annual conference.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Not Appreciating #NotSpecialNeeds

There's this video circulating called #NotSpecialNeeds, featuring a cast of individuals with Down Syndrome.

The narrator says:
Special Needs?...

What we really need is... education, jobs, opportunities, friends, and some love. Just like everyone else. Are these needs special?
Interspersed between those two paragraphs are examples of how people with Down Syndrome might indeed have special needs. Such as if they could only eat pterodactyl eggs or if they needed cat massages everyday.

You are then directed to the NotSpecialNeeds website where they explain why it's important that we drop the term "special needs" when talking about Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities:
The phrase "special needs" is actually counter-productive in so many ways: 
1. By definition it “exceptionalises,” segregates and excludes. 
2. It stigmatises as it is associated with segregated settings (e.g. special schools, special workshops and special group homes), and accordingly for many, a “special needs” label is effectively a one-way ticket to a separate, segregated, low expectations pathway through life. 
3. Being a euphemism, it is increasingly considered patronizing, condescending and offensive by people with disabilities. 
4. It serves to distance people with "special needs," as it implies that their needs can only be met in a "special" way or by "specialists." This complicates inclusion of people with disabilities in regular education and employment. 
5. In “exceptionalising” disability and reinforcing attitudinal barriers, it hinders the recognition of disability as a part of human diversity, and slows the realization of human rights for people with disabilities. 
6. Recent research suggests that people respond more negatively to someone described as being or having "special needs," compared to someone described as having disabilities or a particular disability.
We're told by the website that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities might require extra assistance to meet particular needs, but that doesn't make their needs any more "special" than other people's needs.

Which seems to be stretching the point, in my mind. I get what they're saying in this video and on the webpage, but I don't fully agree.

Most people with Down Syndrome and other forms of intellectual and developmental disabilities do indeed have special needs that affect their everyday ability to independently meet their educational, vocational, self-care, medical, social, financial, home organizational, and even behavioral needs. Those needs vary from individual to individual, of course.

The list up above complains about special classrooms or special work-sites for people with disabilities -- usually more severe disabilities that prevent them from fully engaging in less expensive integrated classrooms or work locations. Without those segregated settings, we're finding that people with more severe disabilities are typically not becoming more involved with their peers and their communities. Instead, they're doing without.

For example, here in Iowa they shut down most of the sheltered workshops. These were work-sites at places like Goodwill or Rural Employment Alternatives where people with moderate to severe disabilities could work on basic job tasks with lots of assistance at their own pace and earn a little bit of money. Those sheltered workshops went away with promises that community-based employers -- stores, hotels, offices, etc. -- would step up and we would carve out fully-waged jobs with minimal job coaching for everyone. And for some folks with disabilities, this really worked out. But many others found themselves without any employment opportunities or wages because of the severity of their disabilities.

We are struggling to keep funding in place for special education classes and Medicaid-funded home-based and community-based services to help most disabled individuals stay out of more institutional services -- or worse. When you see disabled people working at a store like Target or Walmart with assistance from a job coach, that job coach is most likely being paid for with Medicaid dollars. When you have a disabled neighbor who gets a staff person to come to their home to help with their checkbook and their shopping, that staff person is most likely being paid for with Medicaid dollars. When you have a group home set up in your neighborhood that supports 3-4 intellectually disabled adults with staff who help with their cooking, showering, and behavior management needs, that group home is most likely being paid for with Medicaid dollars.

This website is quibbling over whether it's exceptionalising to note that people with disabilities have special needs. And minimizing those special needs makes it more difficult to make a case for the continued existence of those home- and community-based services.

I used to think that people had a basic moral understanding of the need for services for people with intellectual disabilities. These days, the states and the federal government are constantly looking for ways to slash spending for society's most vulnerable citizens -- and I'm not sure that people really get it until they find themselves in the position to need those special services.

So instead of fretting about when someone says the phrase "special needs," spend some time writing to Congress about the need for continue support for those with special needs. We've spent decades building up these various services. I hate watching them be dismantled. You should too.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Iowa City Man, Whose Cat Was Allegedly Tortured by Roommate, Now Charged with 18 Counts of Sexual Abuse // Updated Charges Below

(Originally written on 12/19/14): A local man was arrested two months ago and charged with torturing his roommate's 8-week-old kitten for at least three hours non-stop. This abuse was reportedly recorded by a video camera on the roommate's laptop.

Here is where everything gets complicated. Its seems that the Iowa City Police Department found additional videos on Nathan Schloss' laptop. Those videos led to his arrest earlier today. According to the Gazette and the Iowa City Police Department, Nathan Schloss faces 18 counts of third-degree sexual abuse for allegedly committing sexual acts with "an 'incapacitated' woman and recording those acts without her knowledge:"
Police said that while all 18 charges involve one victim, there are multiple victims involved and more charges are to come. Police have not given a definitive number of victims.
“We have identified and spoken to several of the victims involved in this manner and continue to identify others,” (Sgt. Scott) Gaarde said...

According to criminal complaints, the earliest incident occurred on May 13, 2012 and continued until September 8, 2013. The criminal complaints are sparse in details, but share in common traits. 

Police said that in each case, the victim was “incapacitated” and had no idea she was being recorded. 

Schloss is depicted in the videos touching and, in multiple cases, penetrating his victim or rubbing himself on her, according to the criminal complaints.

It appears that in at least one case, police had to inform the alleged victim that she was sexually assaulted.

“The victim has never seen this video and was unaware this ever happened,” one complaint reads.
Gaarde said he could not comment on how the women were incapacitated or what would account for their lack of memory of the events...

In one case, police said video shows the alleged victim waking up in the middle of the abuse and repeatedly telling Schloss to get off her.
According to the Gazette, Schloss told the police that the woman in the video was aware of both the sexual activity and that she was being recorded.

Schloss faces up to ten years in prison for each of those 18 counts of third-degree sexual abuse.

It goes without saying that he has been accused and not convicted of these charges.

Updated on 12/30/14: The Press-Citizen reports that Schloss has now been charged with 22 counts of invasion of privacy:
According to criminal complaints, Schloss video recorded or photographed himself with visibly incapacitated women against their consent. The videos and photos depicted Schloss having sexual intercourse with one victim, touching multiple victims' genitalia and using victims' hands to touch his own genitalia, according to criminal complaints.

Schloss had multiple victims, police have said, and it is possible that not all of the victims have been identified. Police also said some of the victims were unaware the abuse had taken place. According to criminal complaints, the abuse took place between May 13, 2012, and Sept. 8, 2013, at three Iowa City addresses...

According to the State of Iowa legal code, a person charged with invasion of privacy the charges Schloss faces is "a person who knowingly views, photographs, or films another person, for the purpose of arousing and gratifying the sexual desire of any person." According to the code, the victim must have no knowledge of the event, must not consent or be able to consent and must be in a state of full or partial nudity.
Schloss was released from jail yesterday after posting bond. The PC reports that he must remain within the state of Iowa and is not allowed contact with any of his alleged victims.

Updated on 07/13/17: It's been a really long time since I last wrote about this case. It's being reported in local media that Nathan Schloss will finally be entering a new plea next week. A plea hearing has been scheduled for Monday, July 17th. His trial was supposed to begin on August 8th.

Updated on 07/17/17: Nathan Schloss successfully entered a plea deal earlier today. He pleaded guilty to five counts of invasion of privacy and one count of assault causing serious injury. Under the plea agreement, Schloss will be sentenced to up to five years for the assault charge and up to one year for each of the individual invasion of privacy charges. The sentences will run consecutively for a period of up to ten years. Schloss will also be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years and will be placed on probation for 10 years following his prison sentence.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jodie Whittaker Announced as the 13th Doctor Who!

(Originally written on 07/15/17): It's been known for several months that Peter Capaldi is leaving "Doctor Who." I've heard much speculation about the identity of the next actor to take over the long-running science fiction program's lead role, but the BBC has remained tight-lipped about the new actor.

Until now. The BBC has announced that they will officially announce the new "Doctor Who" actor tomorrow (July 16th) afternoon!

Stay tuned!

Updated on 07/16/17: I've been running around being busy all day so I haven't had time for blog updates. I was convinced that the BBC was going to announced Kris Marshall (formerly of "Death in Paradise") as the 13th Doctor Who, but I was completely wrong.

Earlier this morning, the BBC dropped this major piece of video and people are going mad. The 13th Doctor is none other than... Jodie Whittaker!!

I know her from "Broadchurch" and "Cranford," but she's appeared in several other television programs and movies over the years. People have been craving a female Doctor Who for years -- decades even. I have a VHS fanfiction VHS program from the late 1980s (or was it the early 90s?) featuring a female Doctor. Of course, I can't watch it anymore but it was really good stuff!

Pretty much everyone I know is super excited about getting a female Doctor -- and I've purposely avoided the comments section of every video and news article out there to avoid the people who really hate the idea.

It's time for change. "Doctor Who" has been growing stale over the past few years. The new creative team -- both in front and behind the cameras -- promise to shake things up and take things in a very different direction.

I'm excited about Jodie Whittaker -- and I'm excited to learn more about her unique take on the Doctor, about her new companions, and about her new adventures!

Senator Caitlyn Jenner(??)

Remember last year when I wrote about my dislike for Caitlyn Jenner and the rest of the Kardashian family? That opinion hasn't changed at all. I continue to avoid stories that involved Caitlyn and I cringe when she puts herself out there as a representative for the LGBTQ communities. But this is too good to avoid:

Caitlyn Jenner is thinking about running for a Senate seat. It happened yesterday on a radio interview:
“The political side of it has always been very intriguing to me. Over the next six months or so, I gotta find out where I can do a better job. Can I do a better job from the outside? Kind of working the perimeter of the political scene, being open to talking to anybody? Or are you better from the inside, and we are in the process of determining that. Yeah but I would look for a senatorial run."
I guess she would be running against Senator Diane Feinstein in 2018. Or possibly Senator Kamala Harris in 2022.

One would hope that people wouldn't vote Jenner into office. Then again, people have voted much crazier people into political office in the name of celebrity.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Vatican Nixes Gluten-Free Communion Bread

It's being reported that the Vatican has officially nixed 100% gluten-free communion wafers when celebrating Mass. This directive was originally issued on June 15th, but didn't become widely know until last week when it was reported on Vatican Radio.

For some reason, it is crucial that communion be served with a minimal amount of wheat -- as opposed to breads made from rice, potato, tapioca, or other flours.

This is a big deal for Catholics who live with celiac disease, which is a gastrointestinal immune disease. Celiac disease causes stomach pain, diarrhea, and weight loss when they consume each small amounts of gluten.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Coming in October 2017: New ARCHIES Ongoing Comic Book Series!

A few months ago, Archie Comics announced a series of one-shot audition comic books. A few of them saw print. A few others were never published. One of those one-shot comic books was THE ARCHIES, by Alex Seguara, Matthew Rosenberg, and Joe Eisma. I have a confession to make. I'm looking for to that book. I purchased that book. But I haven't read that book. I've just been too busy recently.

Fortunately, it doesn't matter if I read it or not. What matters is that enough of us bought it. Which leads me to today's news that Archie Comics announced plans to publish an ongoing follow-up comic book titled THE ARCHIES! It's scheduled to debut in early October 2017. And it looks like the previous creative team remains intact.

For those who don't know, the Archies are a garage band featuring Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Reggie. Which possibly spoils the "Over the Edge" storyline over in the main ARCHIE title...(?) According to MTV News, the Archies are heading out on a road tour in THE ARCHIES #1, but their first tour isn't without tension:
But has Archie learned to not take his friends for granted, or will the overnight fame start to get to his head? And when someone makes a decision that leaves the rest of the band scrambling, can The Archies keep it together? The new ongoing series will continue to follow the ups and downs that come with forming a band with friends. Only this time, Archie and the Riverdale gang will get to meet a few of their heroes along the way.
Also according to MTV News, THE ARCHIES will feature guest appearances by real bands in future issues -- instead of the Pussycats, presumably. Archie Comics is asking for suggestions from fans of bands that will appear in the book.

So how about it? Which real-life bands to do you want to see guest appear in THE ARCHIES?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Degrassi: Next Class" Character Comes Out as Genderqueer in Latest Season

I was pretty excited this weekend when the latest season of "Degrassi: Next Class" dropped on Netflix. I managed to watch the entire season on Saturday evening through Sunday afternoon. Really great stuff. I'm sure that I will write more about the latest season soon.

But I want to write tonight about develops involving Yael, Degrassi's resident gamer girl/ feminist fighter. (Jon's Note: Sorry about that. I was just trying for some alliteration...)

Yael has always pushed the bounds of individualism on the show. She likes to game. She hangs out primarily with boys (up until this season). And she's never been one to hide behind gender roles. But this latest season of "Degrassi: Next Class" really shakes things up for young Yael. (Jon's Note: See? More alliteration!!)

It starts out in the first episode when Yael avoids various activities because of the size of her breasts. Her friend Lola susses out that Yael isn't getting enough support up front, which causes a lot of back strain. A shopping trip for better-fitting bras does the trick... except that Yael finds herself very uncomfortable with the way that her male friends continue to focus on her newly prominent boobs.


That's when she discovers binding. Yael begins compressing her breasts in an effort to deemphasize her breasts. She then quits shaving her legs and her underarms -- something that really bugs her boyfriend Hunter. But these acts begin leading her down the road of questioning both her sexual orientation and her gender identity.

Yael confides more to Lola about her confusion. She knows that she's not a lesbian. She knows that she's attracted to Hunter and other boys. And she knows that she doesn't want to become a boy. But she also knows that she doesn't feel like a conventional girls.

She feels in-between. She doesn't like make-up or other things that most girls like. She hates her breasts. But she also doesn't feel like a boy.

Lola introduces Yael to the concept of being genderqueer, or genderfluid. It's a former of gender identity for those who don't identify with either end of the gender spectrum. And -- in true Lola fashion -- she offers to give Yael a make-over.


The results were perfect.

In true Degrassi spirit, most of Yael's friends rally to her side and help her come up with the gender pronouns of her preference -- "they," "their," and "them." Sadly, her romantic life doesn't survive the journey.

But I really love the friendship that's developed over the past two seasons between Yael and Lola. They started out hating each other and now they're such great supports for each other.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

RIVERDALE #4: "We Need to Talk About Kevin..."

I just finished reading RIVERDALE #4. RIVERDALE is an interesting book. "Riverdale" is an adaptation of the regular Archie Comics, which RIVERDALE is a comic book adaptation of the "Riverdale" TV series. RIVERDALE #4 focused on America's favorite gay teen, Kevin Keller.

The story is titled "We Need To Talk About Kevin" and is features writing by Michael Grassi, art by Joe Eisma, colors by Andre Szymanowicz, and lettering by John Workman.

In this story, Kevin is moping around because he's the only gay kid in Riverdale. Which reminded me of Daffyd Thomas from "Little Britain..."

... Except that Kevin really isn't the only gay in Riverdale. We've already seen him hooking up in the "Riverdale" television series with Moose, plus we know that he's hooked up anonymously with other guys. Which is something that is brought up again in RIVERDALE #4.

Let's move beyond the idea that Archie Comics is currently publishing a comic book where one of the lead characters is a 16-year-old kid who cruises public parks and truck stops for sex with adult men.

But there are plenty of men-loving men in Riverdale, if this Sup app is to be believed. And more than a few of them attend Riverdale High. Kevin attempts to use the Sup app to find a date and ends up with one of the students on the water polo teammates -- not that anything came of it. The guy dumped Kevin before they had a chance to talk.


Keep in mind that Kevin is desperate for a boyfriend, but not desperate to try dating Billy the Fridge (as seen in RIVERDALE #2). Who seems like a nice kid, but he's not conventionally attractive, so why give him a chance?


In addition to looking for guys on Sup, Kevin looks for love at the local gay bar (with help from Veronica, Betty, and Reggie) and he even tries cruising for anonymous sex at the local park in this story:


"Tries" loosely. He gets freaked out over the idea that another student (Jason Blossom) was killed by... somebody. Also, there's some reference in this story to a "near death experience" during one of his past cruising encounters. Other Archie Comics fans are freaking out over Kevin's sexual exploits. I'm freaking out wondering what this "near death experience" was all about!!

Anyway, Kevin finally gets comfortable with the idea of being single just in time to meet the new British student, Devin (who just might be a twisted version of Devon from the old KEVIN KELLER series). Of course, Devin doesn't exist in the "Riverdale" TV series and I'm really curious how he might fit in a world that contains Joaquin.


RIVERDALE #4 ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, but I'm not sure that we'll cross that cliff next issue.