Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Scouts For Equality (Along with UCC & Unitarian Universalists) Promoted LGBT Inclusion at 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree

I was listening to podcasts while writing this post and unexpectedly came across another story from this weekend's Boy Scouts Jamboree. I was listening to "Into the Mystic with John Dorhauer." Dorhauer is the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. "Into the Mystic" is a weekly reflection. Podcast episodes are typically a few minutes long.

This week's episode is called "The Rainbow Flag" and it talks about the UCC's Open and Affirming status. The UCC is an ONA denomination, which means that we fully welcome and affirm the gifts of others regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It was pointed out that not all congregations are ONA, which leads many ONA churches to display rainbow flags somewhere on the church property.

Dorhauer then reported that the UCC and the Unitarian Universalist Church had a presence at the Boy Scout Jamboree this past weekend alongside the Scouts For Equality organization:
Almost two years ago, the Scouting organization signed an historic memorandum with both the UCC and the UUAs acknowledging that they would remain open to all for participation. 
What we have experienced, though, is something far less than the honor of their good word. 
Our booth was to be called the “Rainbow CafĂ©,” and we were ordered to change the name. 
We have been handing out sunglasses with rainbow colors to any who came by our booth. We have been told to stop doing that. 
We have had rainbow banners on display throughout the Jamboree. We have been ordered to take them down (as of the writing of this reflection, we have refused). 
Sometimes the simple expression of love and faith, of welcome and respect is heard as political speech and is resisted. This is one such time. 
I am deeply saddened that the mere expression of our genuine faith, something I learned was sacrosanct when I was a young scout, is being silenced and told it is too political. 
We will withstand this, as have all the churches who have waved with pride their rainbow flags – merely replacing them when stolen or damaged. So will the Spirit of the living God whose rainbow reminds us that love will prevail. 
For all whose mere expression of love is often met with resistance, anger, fear, and hatred – I give thanks to God who is the source of that love. And I remind us all that we walk with bold steps the pathways of God’s choosing as we share that love with all whom we meet on this, our journey Into the Mystic.
It's worth noting that the Scouts For Equality (along with the UCC and the Unitarians) hosted an alternative event for people to hang out if they were disinterested in the Trump speech.

President Trump Creates Stir Following Speech at Boy Scout Jamboree

News started circulating last night about President Trump speaking at the Boy Scout Jamboree last night. There was an article that he swore during his speech. He said "hell," which made me shrug. I then went to bed and learn more about the president's speech -- and the reaction from the crowd. Trump started out by saying that he would avoid talking about politics -- before he began talking about politics. He got the crowd booing former President Obama. He got the crowd chanting "USA! USA!" after threatening to fire HHS Secretary Tom Price if the ACA didn't get repealed. He went after former Secretary of State Clinton. He went all over the place.

And the Boy Scouts loved it.

I'm a married gay dad. The BSA recruited my son into the Cub Scouts back in 2009 (I wrote about it here). This private religious organization recruited a boy that (at least back then) actively exercised its right to exclude people like his father.

This is what I wrote back then:
The big introductory meeting was tonight. Husband Mark opted to go with D'. We warned him immediately that we had some questions for the pack leader before we made a decision either way. Stuff like, will it be a problem that D' has two dads? Is there a risk that he'll be kicked out after getting established because some busy-body parent or troop leader throws a snit about us? 
Mark learned that the troop is sponsored by a local Methodist church. About 6 years ago, there was lots of drama within both the church and the troop about how they would respond to families like ours. We learned that we cannot become official leaders within the organization. The church is opposed to this and the pack would be disaffiliated by the national BSA. Otherwise, we're welcome to come to meetings, to be involved with activities, etc. 
We've reluctantly agreed to give the group a chance. Mostly because many of D's classmates are in the group and we know most of the parents involved with our individual troop and generally get along with them. I'm hopeful that we won't regret this decision. If D' wasn't so gung ho about joining up and getting involved, I wouldn't have even gone this far into the group.
In other words, we stayed for our son. And we were warned that we would be allowed to participate unless another Scout parent -- any Scout parent -- complained about our presence. Fortunately, D' quickly grew bored with the Cub Scouts and we were able to quit before we got in too deep.

But it always bugged me that Mark and I weren't "morally straight" enough to officially participate in our son's Cub Scout troop. And it really bugs me that President Trump -- with all of his personal and moral failings -- is not only morally straight enough to get invited, but that he was easily able to turn a politically neutral event into a political rally.

Pushback has been hard against the BSA -- some for inviting the president in the first place, and some for not stepping in after it became clear that this nonpolitical speech was clearly becoming a political rally. Not that there hasn't bee a lot of support for the BSA for Trump's speech yesterday.

The Hawkeye Area Council of the BSA finally issued a statement about three hours ago:
We have received many phone calls and emails this morning from those expressing their concern regarding President Trump’s remarks at the National Jamboree in WV yesterday. The Hawkeye Area Council values your input & feedback. 
As you may be aware, since the inception of the BSA in 1910, each sitting U.S. President has served as the Boy Scouts of America’s honorary president, regardless of their political affiliation or popularity. Eight of the 11 U.S. Presidents who were in office at the time of a National Jamboree attended the event in person to address the group, while others addressed the group remotely by video message. Although National BSA representatives suggest appropriate talking points with all speakers, and reminded the President of the BSA’s non-partisan stance and our policy of refraining from political comments, as you can imagine, the BSA has no authority or control over the content of the comments made by the President of the United States of America. 
The Boy Scouts of America, and the Hawkeye Area Council is apolitical and does not endorse or support political figures or specific political platforms. The President’s invitation was a longstanding tradition, and in no way expresses an endorsement or support of his comments. 
The BSA as an organization has emphasized leadership, integrity, respect and service to others for over 100 years, and has a great history of teaching youth positive morals and values. We hope youth at the Jamboree use this as an opportunity and lesson in America’s politics, and will continue to work hard to reinvigorate our communities and country with the lessons taught in the Scout oath and law that all Scouts strive to live by: (Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent). America needs Scouting for our youth now, more than ever before. 
We appreciate your expressions of concern and take your messages as an important communication that will be shared with the National office headquartered in Irving, TX. 
*Anyone who would like to contact the BSA National Office directly regarding this topic, may contact them at 912-580-2489.
And there you have it. "Thanks for calling. We always invite presidents and they usually come. We tell them to keep it non-partisan, but obviously this one didn't listen. Thanks for calling, but why don't you call the national office instead?"

Don't get me wrong. I understand that my frustration is largely misplaced here. It was Trump's speech, not the organization's. Still, it really bugs me that they can throw their support behind this man so readily and yet it's still controversial that a pair of gay dads might actually want to be part of the BSA with their son.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Toni Topaz Rumored for "Riverdale" Season 2 Debut! Plus: When Did She Become Bisexual?? // UPDATE: Toni Topaz Is Indeed Bi!

(Originally written on 06/28/17): Regular readers might have noticed that I'm a fan of Archie Comics' character, Two-Fisted Toni Topaz. She is a relatively new addition to the Riverdale Pals & Gals. She was created as a tough-girl rival for Jughead, who enjoyed eating and sarcastic dialogue. She's appeared on more Archie Comics covers than you can shake a stick at, but other than that hasn't appeared in that many stories

It looks like the character will be appearing on Season 2 of The CW's "Riverdale" series in the fall. Audition tapes have surfaced, including one by an actress named Lorelei Linklater. I've never heard of her, but she was in some show called "Boyhood." Here is her audition tape. Personally, I wasn't terribly impressed.

But I did like this actress' audition tape. Her name is Arabelle Monet (sp?). I have no clue who she is or what's she's done, but I really hope that she got the job!

There was a curious bit of trivia revealed about Toni Topaz in this article. Apparently she's bisexual. When did this happen? I consider myself a fan of the character, but I don't ever remember her ever expressing any interest in other girls. In fact, I've only seen her interested in Jughead in the past. I'm not complaining, but this was completely new to me!

Did you know that Two-Fisted Toni Topaz is a bi girl? If so, tell me about it in the comments section. I really want to know!!

Updated on 06/29/17: Yes, Two-Fisted Toni Topaz is indeed a bi girl! Check out this tweet:

And just in case you're thinking that she's a lesbian, Toni Topaz has crushed on guys, including Jughead and Sayid. So there you have it!

Updated on 07/22/17: Looks like "Riverdale" has finally cast its Two-Fisted Toni Topaz!

Toni will be played by Vanessa Morgan, who previously starred in "The Shannara Chronicles." I've not heard of her or it before, but I'm super excited that we get to see one of my favorite D-List Archie Comics characters on Season 2 of "Riverdale!!"

According to the article I read, Toni Topaz will be a member of the Southside Serpent and she "might mean 'trouble' for Betty and Jughead's relationship."

Full Transcript of 5th Doctor Peter Davison SDCC Comments about the New Female Doctor Who

I wrote a blog article last night about news that former "Doctor Who" actor Peter Davison lamented the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor and that the casting decision was "a loss of a role model for boys." I went to bed and then woke up to a more complete, nuanced transcript of Davison's statements at the San Diego Comic Con.

So I took down my original post and decided to post Peter Davison's complete statement:
"I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for her and I think that it will be hard for some fans to adjust to it. As I said before, it’s difficult to adjust to any new Doctor, but I think the important thing is that those are uncertain fellows, those who are uncertain should be encouraged to watch it with an open mind. ... I don’t know, I feel... I think the time for discussion about that is past. They’ve made the announcement. Jodie Whittaker is the next Doctor and that’s great! 
I feel.. if I feel any doubts about it, it’s the loss of a role model for boys, who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for. So I feel a bit sad about that, but I understand the argument that you’ve got to open it up, so that’s absolutely fair enough. So she has my best wishes and full confidence. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful job. 
As a viewer, I kind of like the idea of the Doctor as a boy, but then maybe I’m an old fashioned dinosaur. Who knows? But I think that’s irrelevant now. The time for discussion is over. We have a new Doctor. And let’s give her our full support. 
I would encourage them to watch. I think there’s too much... you know on the internet... there’s too much bile coming from both sides. And too many people are being horribly sexist about it, and too many people are saying, ‘Well, we don’t care about you. You’re old fashioned. Go away and watch something else.’ I think fans who are doubtful, who are uncertain should be encouraged and welcomed. And just approach it with an open mind. 
Oh yeah, of course. I mean, she’s a terrific actress. And you can absolutely understand it. Look, someone rings you up... I know this feeling... someone rings you up one night. You’re sitting at home and they say ‘how would you feel about being the next Doctor Who?’ It’s a fantastic opportunity, so of course, she grabs it with both hands. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful job!"
 So there you go. Much more nuanced response than you would have read in this article. And a much more positive and affirming reaction from Peter Davison.

I mentioned in the now-deleted post that Peter Davison was "my" Doctor. I watched the Tom Baker episodes when I first began working "Doctor Who" in the late 70s, but I fell in love with Peter Davison's Doctor, as well as his initial team of companions (Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric).

I'm so glad that I did a little more digging and was able to clear the air about my favorite Old School Doctor Who!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Justin Lee Removed as Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network // UPDATE: GCN Has a New Interim Executive Director: Isaac Archuleta

(Originally written on 07/19/17): 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.

Updated on 07/21/17: Justin Lee's departure/ouster from the Gay Christian Network continues to rattle the GCN world. In addition to the shock, anger, and sadness; more people are starting to step forward and assert that maybe it is time for a change. After all, donations are down. As is participation within the online GCN discussion boards. It's still unclear what led to Justin leaving/being forced to leave GCN and nobody is really talking.

I did talk via Facebook Messenger with Costantino Khalaf, who pointed out to me that he is not the interim executive director. I totally misread that. But that conversation gave me the opportunity to tell him that GCN's Board of Directors really needs to get involved with this conversation and help people move forward.

And conversations began. First, I came across an updated statement from Justin Lee:
As you might imagine, the last 24 hours has been a bit of a whirlwind for me. After the statement went up yesterday afternoon, I spent some time responding to private messages and then took the evening away from my computer to spend time with some local friends. I haven’t yet had a chance to read all of the messages, but I’m truly grateful for the words of support and love, and I promise to read all of them as I’m able. 
Some of you have known me for a long time. I know that this work is personal for many of you as it is for me, and I know that this is emotional news for some of you (as it is for me). I can’t talk about the past right now, so I won’t. But there are some things I want to say about the future that I think are pretty important. 
First, we’ve got to show each other some grace here. None of us—not you, not me, not the remaining board and staff at GCN, not the other people posting about this stuff on social media, and not the people you trust and admire most in the entire world—none of us is perfect. We make mistakes, we see things our way, and we fail to live up to God’s calling for our lives. Every single one of us needs to be willing to forgive and show grace to others in times of conflict, because every single one of us has done things we need to be forgiven for ourselves. Besides that, none of us ever has the whole picture, because we never have the whole story of other people’s lives, and even if we did, none of us can see into other people’s hearts and know what motivates them. We superimpose our own assumptions onto others, and sometimes our assumptions are wrong. Grace, grace, grace. It’s one of the most important core doctrines in Christianity, and we need to remember it, especially in times of emotional challenge. 
Second, I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere. You’ll actually probably see a lot more of me on social media than you used to, and I’m hoping to have even more time available for speaking engagements, so that means more opportunities for me to travel and interact with y'all. I’m also finishing up the manuscript for my second book, which I’m really excited about. And on top of it all, there are a bunch of projects I had in the planning stages when I was with GCN that I’m still really passionate about, so I’m just going to keep working on them, even if it’s not my job anymore. Plus, being on my own, I might just have a chance to show more of the quirky, geeky side of my personality. Ultimately, this work still drives me as much as it ever did, and none of this changes that. I’m not stopping anytime soon. 
And finally, because people have been asking, yes, there will be a way to support my future work for those of you who feel led to do that; I appreciate your asking. I just didn’t feel like it was the right time to get into all of that stuff yesterday as this news was breaking, you know? I won’t pretend this hasn’t been an emotional time, but I am optimistic about the future, and I am constantly reminded that I am truly very, very fortunate, especially because of all of you. ❤️ Thank you for being you, as wonderfully diverse and passionate as you all are. I’m lucky to have such amazing friends.
And then I came across this statement from Susan Shopland, the chair of GCN's Board of Directors:
As part of the GCN community, and trustees of its mission, the members of the Board of Directors are aware of the shock caused by yesterday’s announcement. Transitions in leadership are never easy, regardless of the good will that may be behind them. We were sensitive to the concerns the announcement would raise, and have planned to reach out to you today. Out of respect for Justin and his legacy we decided to wait a couple of days to announce the name of the Interim Executive Director. We are looking forward to sharing that news tomorrow. 
We are not at liberty to speak about what transpired in recent months. But we are delighted to speak about the bright future GCN has ahead. We are encouraged by the success of the initiatives we have already launched—the Parents and Youth Retreats, and our devotional series, to name a few. I personally can’t wait to share more of what’s in store in due time. 
As our statement yesterday mentioned, some changes are coming. We look forward to better representing and embracing the full diversity of our community—the beautiful diversity of God’s creation. We want GCN to include more women and people of color, and we want our new name to reflect our full embrace of our trans and non-binary siblings in Christ. 
But we also want to reassure you that certain things are never changing. 
We will always be a Christ-centered, Spirit-led organization. Our Christian faith is what brought us together, and it will always remain the central focus of our work. We will thrive in the unity of the body of Christ, and our commitment to nurture and sustain the faith of all members of our community will not falter. To be clear, GCN will always be a spiritual home for both Side A and Side B. 
Please keep us in your prayers, especially as we meet at the end of this month for our annual Board and Staff retreat. Pray that Christ’s love and grace continue to guide us into the future.
She later asked some of the more upset commenters on the GCN discussion boards to reach out to her via PM to discuss their hard feelings about this separation. She also encouraged people to wait before making the decision to permanently quit GCN.

Then earlier today, GCN announced its new interim executive director: Isaac Archuleta:
“The Gay Christian Network has much to be proud of, and I seek to build on the incredible accomplishments of the staff, board, and volunteers. My desire is to fortify GCN's ability to empower LGBTQ lives as reciprocating beings with themselves, their loved ones, and God. I will approach my work with GCN with passion and conviction to strengthen your mission to create ‘…a world where 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.’”
Then Archulea, Khalaf, and another member of the GCN staff named Kyle Franklin released a video with the following message:
As three cisgender men, we are aware that our team needs more diversity—more people of color, more women, and more of our transgender siblings. And while GCN builds an internal structure that more accurately expresses God’s diversity we are also building an external structure: we are ever focused on creating a GCN community that will grow in solidarity, that will be transformed spiritually, and one that will fortify the stability of our God-given identities- whether we’re side A or side B. We believe, just as GCN always has, that all of us belong at the same table. We will continue to work as a Christ-centered organization with your essence in mind. . . 
. . .As the staff at GCN, we are committed to seeing you thrive relationally and spiritually. We are here to welcome our allies so that we can walk as one cohesive unit, teaching one another about Jesus’ love

The GCN guys promised a commitment to more diverse staff and board representation. And they recommitted to establishing a more diverse organizational name that better encompasses the entirety of GCN's membership, including lesbians, straight allies, transgender folks, and gender fluid individuals. You can watch the video here.

Here are my final thoughts (for now) on this situation as we move into these GCN-PJ months and years:

1. I hope the new GCN leadership avoids gimmicks that likely looked good in concept, but that really harmed GCN. I'm talking about stuff like secretly inviting Exodus International's Alan Chambers to one of the GCN Conferences. Or Justin doing outreach to Focus on the Family in hopes that they would become a safer organization for LGBTQ youth.

2. And I want GCN's leadership to have an active presence on the GCN discussion boards. Not just the new director, but the Board. Justin promised that he'd be an active member of the GCN boards much more each time they relaunched the boards, but that rarely lasted more than a few days. GCN is an online community. GCN needs its leadership to participate in that online community.

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?




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.