Thursday, May 28, 2009

California's Worthless Constitution

"[R]equiring discrimination against a minority group on the basis of a suspect classification strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution and thus 'represents such a drastic and far-reaching change in the nature and operation of our governmental structure that it must be considered a revision.'
"The rule the majority crafts today not only allows same-sex couples to be stripped of the right to marry that this court recognized in the Marriage cases, it places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities."
--California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, in his (lone) dissenting opinion on Tuesday.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Liberty University Bans Student Democrats' Club

From press reports:

Brian Diaz, 18, told The Washington Post he was notified of the action by e-mail May 15. The e-mail said the club supports candidates whose views are "directly contrary to the mission of Liberty University."

The club, with about 30 members, was organized during the 2008 presidential campaign and supported Barack Obama's candidacy.

"They . . . let the Liberty University College Republicans stay on campus but they don't let us," Diaz said. "Sounds like censorship to me."

Sounds to me like Liberty University has revealed that its mission is to support Republicans.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Telling Republicans what Steve Schmidt Meant

"[McCain advisor Steve] Schmidt told a group last week that Republicans should embrace homosexual marriage. Otherwise, they risked becoming sectarian. By sectarian, Schmidt did not mean being defined as having a limited set of principles that served to guide the Party. He meant and he indicated that Republicans who refused to embrace homosexual marriage are narrow-minded.

"Schmidt is just like a maverick, which is probably why McCain made him a top adviser. He has no guiding principles. He would rather be open-minded.

"Schmidt was speaking to the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that quickly embraced his message. I wonder if next week Schmidt will take his close minded stump speech to a NAMBLA meeting. For those unfamiliar with NAMBLA, the acronym is for North American Man Boy Love Association.

"Schmidt would quickly tell you that he is not advocating that we support 60 year old men in their desire to rape 8 year old boys, but he would not classify his opposition as narrow minded. No! This is a principled position; there is some logic behind it, Schmidt would say.

"Is Schmidt then going to take his close minded stump speech to the Bestiality Club? Again, his answer would be no, although there are a group of people who embrace this lifestyle.

"Schmidt and other gay lifestyle proponents would say that my opposition is based on the slippery slope approach. I say that it is based on principle and that it is no more close minded than their position for gay unions. The difference between me and Schmidt is that I’m not a maverick. I’m guided by something called Christian principles. And I don’t need people in California, New York and Washington to tell me what the principles should be."
--William Smith, chief Republican counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a blog post, since deleted, on April 20, 2009.

This week's cartoon

The chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, Doyle Webb, has warned Republican groups that "an openly gay woman" could serve as chair of the state Budget Committee if Democrats achieve a majority the state House of Representatives.

He charges that as chair of the committee, state Rep. Kathy Webb, D-Little Rock, (no relation) would "be in a position to influence a change in what has been established as traditional Arkansas values such as marriage between one man and one woman," in Doyle Webb's words.

The other person in this cartoon is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Kim Hendren, who has apologized for referring to New York Democrat Chuck Schumer as "that Jew" in a campaign appearance. (Hendren claims that he momentarily couldn't remember Schumer's name.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Marriage Equality in Maine

"In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage....
"This new law does not force any religion to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs. It does not require the church to perform any ceremony with which it disagrees. Instead, it reaffirms the separation of Church and State."
--Maine Governor John E. Baldacci, May 6, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Glad Syttende Mai!

If you want to drink a toast to Norway today, just remember that the DWI limit there is .02%.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What If Everyone Were Gay?

From "Ask Marilyn" in Parade magazine, April 7, 2002: "...The following point was made to me recently: 'Gay people cannot be normal. If everyone were gay starting tomorrow, the human race would die out, so being gay cannot be nature's intended way.' I'm having trouble finding a logical counter-argument. Do you know one?" -- Gordon, Herndon, Va.

"Yes. The original argument is defective. Substitute the word 'male' for 'gay,' and you'll see the flaw: 'Male people cannot be normal. If everyone were male starting tomorrow, the human race would die out, so being male cannot be nature's intended way.' Or you could substitute the word 'female.' In either case, the argument makes no sense: Being male or female is perfectly normal." --Marilyn Vos Savant

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gabe & Mike

I was stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway the other day when I noticed some grafitti on the wall set up as a sound barrier for the neighborhood on the other side.
I say it was grafitti, but what was on the wall actually appeared to be elegant handwriting. There was so much of it, I couldn't comprehend how someone could have gotten away with spray painting it. None of it had been there the day before. Surely thousands of people must have witnessed whoever did it, I thought. Had there been no state patrol car among them?
As traffic crept along, I had plenty of opportunity to read the handwriting on the wall. And this is what it said:

My children:
It has been a long time since I have spoken to you as a group. In many ways, I prefer to deal with you on a one-to-one basis. It's so much more personal. But every so often, I get the urge to make these more general pronouncements.

It has come to my attention that a number of my children have used some of my previous general pronouncements as justification to persecute others of my children. Perhaps it is this centuries-old practice that has lately made me more hesitant to speak than I used to be, but it is also clear that my silence has been mistaken for tacit agreement.

It is also possible, as some of you have pointed out, that silence equals death.

Which brings me to the matter at hand. Many times have I heard well-meaning children of mine defend their bigotry by saying, "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." These children state this presuming unto themselves my authority, but I must point out that they were not there during the Creation.

I was.

When one relies on generation after generation of human beings to relay one's Word from each to the next, through oral tradition, linguistic translation and cultural evolution, it is not surprising that here and there a date will be wrong, the order of events will get switched, and some details are forgotten.
It is true that I created Adam and Eve.

But first, I created Gabe and Mike.

I have no favorites among my children, but Gabe and Mike were a wonderful couple. All that I had made I had made for them; all the heavens above and the earth below, the beasts of the field and the plants of the garden, everything around them and everything between them. They showed their gratitude for these gifts throughout a lifetime of profound, joyful love for me, for each other, and for all my creation.
All this was exactly what I had hoped for, and I asked of them nothing more. As time passed, they grew in wisdom, and knew that their time on the earth would one day come to an end. It was then that they resolved to present me with a lasting, living memorial of their thankfulness.

In the center of the garden, they planted a fruit tree. In their waning days on the earth, they tended it and nurtured it until it could survive on its own.

And when I had gathered Gabriel and Michael unto myself, I created Eve and Adam, and gave to them all of creation -- everything except for the one thing which Gabe and Mike had given to me: the tree in the center of the garden.

To tell the story any further would unnecessarily resurrect old and forgiven grievances. My children are given many gifts: some are shared; some are unique; all are special. It is how each one celebrates those gifts, and how each one develops a respect for the gifts of others, that makes all the difference in this, your world.



By the time I was driving home again in the evening, the highway crew had been hard at work scrubbing the walls clean. By the next morning, there was not a trace of it left.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Marriage Quotations

“I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.”

--Arnold Schwarzenegger, on Sean Hannity's radio program, August 27, 2003 (making as much sense as the right-wingers who argue that gays and lesbians have the same right to marriage as straight people have, as long as we marry people of the opposite sex).

"My aunt married a white man in the 1950s when their marriage was illegal in half the states of this country. Indeed, my uncle, had he taken his wife across the wrong state line, would have been guilty of a criminal violation. It seems to me that if people want to marry a person of a different race that’s no different than somebody wanting to marry someone of the same sex. And, indeed, we should be celebrating the fact that these people are talking about forming solid relationships, families, because families, in the end, will keep the community stable and are the basis upon which our country has been built and will survive."

--former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-IL, at the MSNBC presidential candidates' debate Nov. 24, 2003

"Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage. It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth."

--James "Focus on the Family" Dobson, campaigning for Senate candidate Tom Coburn at Oklahoma Christian University, Oct. 22, 2004

“Some believe that gay marriage is our most pressing issue because the Bible tells them so. Of course, the Bible says some unusual things, for example, that it’s permissible to stone to death adulteresses but not adulterers. Is that so state legislatures can maintain a quorum?”

--Henry Riekert, a columnist writing in the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader, April 19, 2004

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Transgendered Michiganders

(I knew this cartoon would piss people off, especially in Michigan, insofar as it came out during the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. It doesn't happen to be about the Michigan event, since their policy forbids entry to transgender MTFs under any circumstances. It was inspired by a chat room discussion in which someone else had suggested the policy which the cartoon womon outlines.)

(On the other hand, a Washington, D.C. transgender person wrote me to tell me she loved the cartoon and wanted to reprint it in her newsletter.)

Dear BTL,

Your newspaper claims to be for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and friends and yet you found it appropriate to print a cartoon that characterizes women and lesbians in homophobic, mysoginist terms.

Would you find it equally appropriate to print a cartoon that characterized transexuals and transgenders in an equally derogatory way? Would you find it appropriate to print a cartoon that defined the trangender/transexual arguments with Michigan Women's Music Festival as the attempt of a bunch of men in skirts wanting into a women's only festival so they can slobber over the naked women?

This is exactly the amount of respect you have given to all of the people that actually support Michigan Women's Music Festival. We support the festival for very good reasons, reasons that are much more complex and thoughtful than the simple insulting characterization provided by the opinions cartoon.

Ann Arbor

Dear BTL,

The cartoon on the "letters opinions editorial" page of Between The Lines for the week of August 16-22 is an insult to all of your many readers that support women only spaces.

The cartoon rests its humor on lesbian-phobic images and language. It portrays all women that support Michigan Women's Music Festival as out of touch radicals that insist on ridiculous language. These are the images that the homophobic press uses to trivialize feminists and women who choose to live without men as their primary partners. I am truly disturbed to find those sentiments reflected in BTL, a paper that says it is for the Lesbian community as well as the rest of our queer community.

The discussion illustrated in the cartoon further trivializes and insults those of us that for a number of reasons oppose the goals of camptrans. The cartoon tries to portray the issue as a "don't talk don't tell" conflict rather than the more salient issue of the right of women to create and choose to be in women only spaces that are focused on women's lives.

I would like to submit this letter for the letters to the editors section but would like to withhold my name. I am fearful that the backlash from some of the community for my expressing these feelings (and I am far from alone in them) would be severe if my name was provided.

(Me again.

(Incidentally, I wish more people would write in and join the discussion when they see a cartoon --or someone else's letter-- with which they disagree.* Most of my cartoons in the gay press are preaching to the choir -- that is, they espouse a pro-gay position to a pro-gay readership, and are unlikely to provoke much of a reaction. In this case, a dispute pits one group of my readers against another.

(The only thing that troubles me about these letters is that they seem to charge that it is homophobic to argue in favor of the transender. Now, I confess that I am not a woman; nor am I transgender. I readily concede that there is some value to having women-only spaces. There is, however, also some value to accepting transgender MTFs as the women they want to be. Don't they face enough discrimination from the straight world without having to put up with it from the queer community as well?

(*This does not include people for whom the height of intellectual conversation is to cite a verse in Leviticus or Romans proving that God Hates Fags.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Islamic Stereotypes

(These two letters reference the accompanying cartoon from July, 2001.)

Dear Illustrator Berge and Editors of Between the Lines:

I am writing to you today about your editorial cartoon that appeared in the July 12-18 2001 issue of "Between the Lines." This particular cartoon dealt with the United Nations conference on HIV/AIDS. Clearly you were just as annoyed as me listening to accounts of the UN conference and the inane commentary from some member nations about the inclusion of certain terms like, "gay" or "lesbian." If I were a graphic artist, I too would want to comment on such lunacy as well! At least, there were some sane people there who acknowledged the role the glbt community has had in educating the public at large on AIDS/HIV.

I looked with interest at your editorial cartoon on the whole thing, and initially, made one of those snorts of approval, you know the type. However, as I looked at your piece a little bit longer, there was something that bothered me. I do understand the conventions of the genre in editorial cartoons call on the use of caricature, however I do sometimes questions the conventions (of anything). In your piece I am questioning particularly the representations of Arabs: a robe wearing, saber toting, bearded man with combat boots on seems to be more of a stereotype rather than caricature.

I think that those of us in the gblt community must be aware of not only how we are stereotyped, but also then think about how we ourselves might be doing the same things to others. It only stands to reason that if we do not want others to essentialize us, then we should not do that to other people.

Also, one other additional side note. I noted a figure toward the back that looks a great deal like the pope. As a point of reference: of the 188 member states of the United Nations, the Vatican is not one of them!

Thanks for your time, and thank you for considering my thoughts.

Katie Scott
Department of English
Wayne State University
Detroit Michigan 48202

Greetings. I'm writing in reference to the cartoon that appeared in my local BLTG paper, Between The Lines (Michigan), for the week of 7/12/01--7/18/01. I am familiar with the situation at the U.N. and that it was specifically the representatives of Muslim countries that continue to object to a reasonable and inclusive discussion of the global AIDS pandemic. As an HIV/AIDS counselor, I am well aware for the need to address this problem on the international stage. However, I am concerned that your characterization of the 'protestors' plays on ethnocentric stereotypes held by the majority of Americans (U.S.). Yes, I see that you included a papal characterization as well; however, the prominent figures are all portrayed with exaggerated features with mean looks on their faces. In a country where sterotyping, is rampant and contributes to a climate of intolerance of many ethnic and religious groups, particularly Muslims, I have to conclude that you picked a poor subject...or rather, picked a problematic way of addressing it. There are many, many Muslims who would and do support a dialogue on AIDS. Just as George W. doesn't represent the majority of U.S. citizens, neither do the heads of state of many Muslim countries represent all their people.

I found the caption funny, by the way, as I have many of your cartoons. I just wanted to let you know that the drawing was offensive to me and possibly to others as well. I have not sent this to the paper for publishing; I have, however sent it to the founder of the Al-Fatiha Foundation for LGBTQ Muslims. Someone from their organization would be able to address this issue more eloquently than I am; however, they have much bigger issues to deal with at the moment.

Please take this in the gentle spirit in which it is given. I do not mean to offend, only to share what may be a minority, yet important, viewpoint. Thanks for listening.

Heather MacAllister
Field Organizer
Triangle Foundation
Report Hate Crimes 1-877-7-TRIANGLE

(Cartoonist's note: These two women have a legitimate complaint. It can be rough to find a balance between a caricature that everyone will recognize and one that is so overblown that it can only offend.
(Incidentally, the guy in the back with the kaffiyeh was originally intended to represent the various military regimes in Islamdom, but he kept looking more like a stereotypical 1970s era Latin American dictator. I made him a representative of the Faisal family instead--but kept the boots.
(As for including the Pope, I had read that the Vatican was involved in the background in the creation of the conference report. Putting him in the background of the cartoon seemed like a good idea at the time.)

(In 2005, there was a well-publicized incident in which George W. Bush held the hand of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah as the latter was visiting at Dubya's Crawford ranch. By the time my cartoon deadline rolled around, there had been plenty of late-night TV and editorial cartoon jokes about how gay that looked, mostly imagining horrified reactions from the president's many homophobic political allies. Meanwhile, there was a trial going on in Saudi Arabia of several Saudi men arrested for attending a same-sex wedding. I drew a cartoon obliquely referencing this incident by having Abdullah comment that in his country, "two men holding hands like this would be severely flogged."
(The cartoon drew this response from gay columnist Paul Vernell:)

While the Q-Syndicate editorial cartoon of Bush and the Saudi official holding hands was a cute idea, it is based on a factual error.

It is simply not true, as you have the Saudi official commenting, that "two men holding hands like this" would be "severely flogged." In fact, hand-holding is extremely common among Arab men and indicates nothing more than warm friendship. Nothing about it is viewed as homoerotic. That is why Bush, as an act of diplomacy, held the hand of the Saudi prince. He was playing to the Arab audience.

U.S. military handbooks regularly warn American servicemembers serving in the Arab world not to assume that two Arab men holding hands are homosexual. And at least one U.S. anti-terror expert advised American businessmen in Arab countries that if they felt at risk of imminent attack for being American, they should immediately grab the hand of some other male in their group and amble along slowly as if they had nowhere special to go--in imitation of typical Arab behavior.

Most sincerely,
Paul Varnell

(We had a polite exchange of e-mails after this. Incidentally, I've since finished reading Bernard Lewis' What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, which does a nice job trying to explain some of the basic societal differences between the West and the Islamic world.

(Then, after becoming fully sensitized to Islamic sensitivities, I heard news of the arrest by Pakistani authorities of Mukhtaran Bibi, preventing her from traveling to the United States to attend a convention of the Asian American Network Against Abuse of Women. Mukhtaran Bibi had been sentenced by a tribal order to be gang raped -- as punishment for adultery committed by her younger brother. I'll remember her the next time someone tells me how much more revered and respected women are in the Islamic world than in the West.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This Week's Cartoon

"I also would like to point out that there was a bill, the, uh, Hate Crimes Bill, it's called the Matthew Shepard Bill, is named after un- a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed. But we know that that young man was killed in the uh in the commitment of a robbery! It wasn't because he was gay. This bill was named for him, the Hate Crimes Bill was named for him, but it's, it's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."
--Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-NC (5th district), on the House floor April 29, doing her damnedest to wrest the title of Stupidest Congressperson Ever away from Michelle Bachman.

Condoms, Abortion and Total Recall

(Cartoonist's note: In 1992, I drew the cartoon at left as the Racine branch of the American Family Association was pressuring the local health department to stop distributing free condoms to patients coming in for AIDS and STD testing. The R-AFA argued that condoms are not 100% effective in preventing STDs, only abstinence is -- as if good intentions are stronger than latex.)

To the editor:

The destructive political cartoon in Wednesday's paper was a disgrace. Not only did it promote condoms and scoff at sexual abstinence, but it ridiculed a good and moral man and, by implication, a large segment of our community.

We don't even know John Kalashian, but we take grave exception to his being the target of some young, self-indulgent cartoonist whose hedonistic outlook allows no room for morals.

The thoughtless, juvenile cartoon is an effort to corrupt the morals of the community, and it tries to belittle anyone promoting morals and self-control, like Mr. Kalashian.

The Journal Times did not cover itself in glory by publishing such a cheap shot.

Glenn and Suzanne Pfeiffer

(Me again: Do you see Mr. Kalashian's name anywhere in the cartoon? More on the Pfeiffers later.)

To the editor:

The Journal Times cartoon in the Wednesday, April 8, edition was really a cheap shot at John Kalashian, absolutely hitting below the belt. The smart aleck who drew it, needless to say, doesn't rate very high in my opinion.

I'm stupefied that the Journal Times would print such unfair ridicule of one of Racine's stalwart citizens. John Kalashian is a man the young people of Racine can look up to, and I hope the citizens of Racine don't live to rue the day they failed to back John in giving young Racinians the leadership they so badly need.

The Journal Times owes John Kalashian an apology.

Roman Brook

(Cartoonist's note: In 1997, the American Family Association and allies launched a petition drive to recall Wisconsin's two Democratic senators for having voted against a Republican bill to outlaw all so-called "partial birth abortions." Locally, their petition drive was hurt by following so closely on the heels of a bitter recall election against Republican State Senator George Petak... and by the fact that Senator Feingold's seat was up for election the next year anyway.
(George Petak had broken a promise to vote against a .1% sales tax on Milwaukee County and the five counties bordering it, intended to pay for a new baseball stadium for the Milwaukee Brewers. He favored building the stadium, but the tax was very unpopular in his district. Governor Thompson had not helped popularize the tax among its victims by urging outstate voters to support the plan and "Stick it to 'em!"
(Angry Racinians successfully threw Petak out of office, eagerly helped by a state Democratic party which had been one vote shy of a majority in the state senate. Four years later, it's still a sore point on both sides of the issue.)

To the editor:

In regard to the amateurish political cartoon in your May 15 paper, drawn by a local liberal wannabe cartoonist, it's either a case of convenient amnesia or blatant hypocrisy. He tries to ridicule the hard-working (local) petitioners who are trying to recall Sens. Kohl and Feingold because they support partial-birth abortion. He says they "enjoy divisive recall elections."

He has a mighty short memory. It was the liberals who brought in and paid outsiders to force a divisive recall election to oust George Petak.

Suzanne Dechant Pfeiffer

(Actually, I had drawn cartoons critical of the Recall Petak campaign for claiming that there was no outside help in their campaign.
(Perhaps it's my short memory, but I'm not sure why Suzanne Pfeiffer has such a bug up her butt about me. As a kid, I used to substitute on her son's paper route from time to time. He had better not be expecting any more favors from me, I can tell you that.
(Or maybe she's still holding a grudge from the time I came selling magazine subscriptions as a school band fund-raiser on the first day of spring break one year. Unfortunately, it happened to be Good Friday, and she reacted as if I'd intruded on a family funeral, drunk and in a clown outfit.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cartoon Provokes Threat in Michigan

This is the cartoon mentioned in the March 30, 1999 issue of The Advocate. (Page 16)

I drew the cartoon at left in response to news reports that Gary Bauer's homophobic Family Research Council is seeking to reverse the adoption of twins by Human Rights Campaign chair Elizabeth Birch and her her partner, Hilary Rosen. The cartoon, depicting the FRC in the role of a kidnapper, appeared in the February 18, 1999 issue of Michigan's Between the Lines. The day after that issue hit the streets, Between the Lines received an anonymous letter, hand-written on official Michigan House of Representatives stationery, threatening the newspaper's staff and persons attending the next Pride celebration.

The letter isn't alarming at the outset...the reader apparently interpreted the cartoon as insinuating that the FRC is a bunch of child molesters. This interpretation had not occurred to me; however, it is obvious in retrospect that, given the homophobic right's obsession with child molestation, this could be a logical conclusion for the FRC and its supporters to draw. Nearly every gay and lesbian person who has sought to be the adoptive or custodial parent of a child -- or to establish any kind of safe haven for lesbigay youth, for that matter -- has had to withstand scurrilous and unsupported accusations from the FRC and its ilk of being a potential child molester.

The writer criticizes the cartoon, the idea of including sexual orientation in hate crimes legislation, and some other tangential topics, all using language that you've undoubtedly already read in other letters to the editor and heard on talk radio/tv. Nothing new or out of the ordinary until two thirds of the way through the letter, when the writer says "Enough pleasantries," whereupon s/he threatens violence at the next Pride parade, and against newspaper staff members in particular.

Michigan's Triangle Foundation has issued a press release condemning the letter. The letter has been reported to the police, and I am happy to hear that they are treating this incident seriously. Friendly law-makers have introduced hate crimes legislation, partly in response to this incident. With any luck, there will be more positive outcome to this sorry episode than negative.

--March, 1999

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Complaint Department

and other reader concerns

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Apr 21, 2009

To the Editors:

Re: Editorial cartoon (Forum section, April 24, 2009)

If we, as a community, can justifiably take a stand against hateful cartoonists such as Sean Delonas of the New York Post, then we ought to speak out just as forcibly when we come across cartoons with similarly hateful messages that target other groups, such as people with disabilities.

I was angered and disappointed to see such a cartoon in the Washington Blade on April 24, which mocked New York Gov. David Paterson’s blindness. The LGBT community faces many challenges from a homophobic society, yet shows an appalling indifference to those who possess physical differences. The way we cling to a culture that often praises physical perfection above all else does nothing to advance our cause and only succeeds in alienating us from our allies and each other.

I would like to see the Blade issue an open apology to our staunch ally Gov. Paterson, and to the disability community at large. After such a gross display of disrespect, it’s the very least you could do.



To the editor and readers of the Blade:

In response to the letter by Eric Peterson in this week's Blade, I am writing to apologize for my recent cartoon about New York Governor David Paterson. In drawing the cartoon, I had worried that some readers might perceive it as a slam against the Governor's blindness rather than, as I was intending, a comment on LGBT leaders' unreadiness when he brought marriage rights issues to the fore.

Please accept my explanation that while the cartoon took Governor Paterson's blindness as a given condition, I in no way wanted readers to think that the cartoon was attacking him for it. I appreciate Governor Paterson's extraordinary courage and leadership on this issue, and I hope the drive for marriage equality in New York proves successful.

I thank Mr. Peterson for his thoughtful response to the cartoon, and I sincerely apologize.

Paul Berge

Not all responses to editorial cartoons are complaints, actually. Once in a while, someone writes in to say how much they liked a particular cartoon. This one was printed in the Seattle Gay News, May 2, 2003:

Dear SGN,

I just wanted to thank you for something that may sound trivial, but it is an important validation for some of us. I was very pleased to see that one of the men in your cartoon has long hair. There are many long haired men in the Gay community and too often we get "attitude" from the fashion police who seem to desire some uniform or clone-like haircut. It is nice to see this inclusion in light of on going discussions in the SGN about cliques and exclusivity in our community. I know that issues of race and class are more important, but it I wanted to acknowledge this positive step.


Thanks, LDM. I try to be inclusive in my cartoons, although I frankly had never considered being inclusive when I decided to give one of the characters in that cartoon long hair. When I am intentionally inclusive, you'll find Black, Hispanic, Asian, Islander or Native Americans in my cartoons for no particular reason (running the risk of having some reader think that I'm trying to make a comment about whatever non-white ethnic group I draw). As for giving people different hairstyles... well, maybe somewhere down deep inside, I'm a frustrated stylist at heart.

While I was happy to read LDM's letter, I was a little astonished to read a smattering of responses in later editions of SGN accusing him of being whiny. I had no idea what a touchy subject hair length is in Seattle.

Moving on. Message to my syndicate editors, April, 2004:

Kudos to Paul Berge for being a fantastic cartoonist!!! The latest one in
the Seattle Gay News about marriage vs civil unions is the best ever!!! We
sent a paper copy to a lot of people who don't have access to the paper.

It is brilliant!!!


Gaile Gamble

Aw, shucks. Warn't nuthin.

After the November 22, 2007 edition of the Bay Area Reporter included one of my cartoons in which a white gay male wearing an "Equal Rights For Me" t-shirt ran through his reasons why one group after another ought to be sidelined in the fight for equal rights, the BAR ran this letter. I was relieved at the reassurance that the character's opinions were not mistaken as my own:

Thanks for the editorial cartoon about boundary-marking our "LGBT movement" and community.

Our LGBTIQQA communities and movements even include some folks who are straight (totally or mainly) – such as straight spouses and lovers of bisexuals, parents and kids and relatives of queers, housemates, "fruit flies" (fag magnets), most leather-folk, members of MCC and PFLAG and ACLU and Amnesty, and more.

When your would-be sistah approaches, ask not "Who do you think you are?" Ask instead, "Will you try to help us queers in our struggles to liberate humanity?"

Tortuga Bi Liberty

San Francisco

In the interest, however, of reducing the swelling of my head, LoriCMT writes:

I see no social or intellectual reason for your website other than hatred for the Right. I bet you loved Fahrenheit 9/11.

It must be hatred for the right if I stand up to oppose their incessant attacks on me and my family.

And, by the way, I haven't seen Fahrenheit 9/11 yet, but thanks for the recommendation.

P.S. to Troy J__: Here you go; your 1998 letter is removed. No hard feelings, I hope.

© 2009 Paul Berge

Remove "NOSPAM" from the mailto: address above, and please give your e-mail a subject line which distinguishes it from the dozens of spam messages that come every day. I try to respond to as many letters as I can -- thanks for reading!