Go Washington State!

16 11 2012

This past U.S. election resulted in many victories–from a ceiling-breaking number of women in Congress to the first Buddhist Asian-American woman elected to the senate and the first Hindu elected to the House of Representatives. In addition, Tammy Duckworth became the first disabled woman to be elected to the House. And she’s from Thailand! This is paradigm-shifting news.

As women, religious minorities, and disabled people were gaining ground, so were sexual minorities. Along with the states of Maine and Maryland, Washington state voters legalised gay marriage on election day, 6 November, making it the ninth state to do so (or the seventh state to do so, in a tie with Maine and Maryland, if we forget about time zones and mail-in ballots). In the map below, Washington is the state in the northwestern corner of the United States, just south of British Columbia, Canada, along the fabled Salish Sea.

But Washington voters also prevailed in the fight to legalize cannabis use for recreational purposes. While U.S federal law still treats cannabis use as a grievous crime, Washington state, along with Colorado, has decided that a new approach to drug reform is necessary, and this means anybody 21 years of age or older can possess an ounce of cannabis and smoke it openly on the street, just as they would a cigarette.

As of the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Washington state and Seattle are now on par with the Netherlands and Amsterdam as one of the most liberal, socially progressive jurisdictions in the world. Except for the Netherlands, Washington state is now the only place in the world where both gay marriage and cannabis are legal. Yet you do not hear much about Washington state in the news. It is often confused with Washington, D.C. Do not let that fool you–Americans have a new pioneer in progressive social experiments, and it comes from the Pacific Northwest.

Here is a guide to the use of cannabis and same-sex marriage solemnisation in Washington, from the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/legalized-gay-marriage-is-complicated/Content?oid=15280033

A Vigil for Mollie and Mary Kristene

1 07 2012

Mollie Olgin and her girlfriend, Mary Kristene Chapa, went to a nature park on the Gulf of Mexico in Portland, Texas, to spend some time together before going to a movie that same night. The movie never happened–they were found in the grass by a couple the following Saturday morning with gunshot wounds to the head. Olgin died, but Chapa remains in hospital, where she is currently recovering.

This would have been a normal start to a beautiful, romantic evening, but some hateful monster decided otherwise.

Portland, Texas, police chief Randy Wright acknowledges that currently there is no evidence that the crime was motivated by homophobia, but local authorities, including Texas Rangers, are exploring the possibility. Sigh. I’m glad simply because local Texas authorities are exploring the possibility of crime motivated by homophobia in the first place, but what in the world would two lesbians be doing on a bluff above the Gulf of Mexico to require an organised, neatly contained murder-execution? We’ll have to await the results, but, so far, I highly suspect the crime was motivated by pure hate.

The most important thing at this point in time is to acknowledge the tragedy. And a tragedy it is. Mollie had just finished her first year at Texas A&MCorpus Christi with  the goal of becoming a psychiatrist, and her father, Mario, expressed misgivings over her absence from work the morning she was found, only to discover his daughter’s death. Meanwhile, Mary Kristene, who was found with her girlfriend’s body, remains in hospital, and her brother, Hilario, has expressed hope in her recovery, noting that she has shown movement in the right side of her body.

I can’t believe this is happening in America in 2012, but, somehow, I can.

Tragedy is never beautiful, but the way people respond to it can be. The murder of Olgin and the attempted murder of Chapa has inspired vigils across the United States. One of these took place recently in Cal Anderson Park in Seattle’s traditionally gay Capitol Hill neighbourhood, on the eastern edge of Downtown. (The park is named after Cal Anderson, who became Washington state’s first openly gay legislator in 1987.) Speakers included Tracy Lievsay, who went to high school with Mollie, as well as Aleksa Manila, who spoke about local LGBTQ resources.

This type of community organizing is too amazing to happen less often. Too many young people are burdened with the weight of ideas about how women and men should be, and how they will be treated accordingly. If you have an effeminate son, shut the fuck up and let him be; and if you have a butch daughter, I hope she kicks your testicles into fuck-you-ville and gives you a black-eye. Otherwise, my condolences go out to the families and friends of Mollie and Mary Kristene, and I wish a speedy recovery for Mary Kristene.

With that, I would like to present a hymn to Mollie and Mary Kristene which played during the Seattle Pride Parade. While it may seem over-joyful at first, I would emphasize its mournfully melodic quality. And, considering the deeply moving lyrical content, I think it proves a fitting homage to the struggles of gay youth everywhere. Here’s to you, Mary Kristene–and to you, too, Mollie, wherever you are. I know you’re there 🙂



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