Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We Remember -- World AIDS Day 2010

It's been almost 30 years since I first met someone with AIDS.

It's been twenty five years since I gave my first speech on AIDS prevention.

It's been twenty two years since I created Teens For AIDS Prevention in Washington, D.C.

It's been twenty years since I lost my first friend to this dreadful disease.

It's been too many years for HIV prevention to not be in every school, every clinic, every faith based organization, every country in the world.

And so on this World AIDS Day, I recommit myself and the Religious Institute to speaking out and working for an end to this now global largely preventable pandemic.

And I light this virtual candle to the people who died too soon, in my life and in yours. Bill, Billy, Danny, Marjorie, Lacey, Stewart, Damien, Bill, Michael, & Jim, may yours be an everlasting memory, an everlasting name.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Pope, Condoms, and Me

Surely you all know by now that the Pope has acknowledged that condom use might be okay to prevent HIV in some cases.

I blogged about this yesterday at the Washington Post On Faith column:


One commentator called me a "vulgar ignoramous." If you have a moment, could you go there, read the column, and a comment. It would mean a lot to me.

And in the meantime, blessings to you and your's for a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sex and the TSA Scanner

I flew to meetings last week and went through the new TSA machine.

I wasn't particularly bothered that an image of my body would flash on a screen for a minute or two. I have to admit that I have a minor fear of flying, and I generally feel that if the government or the airline wants information for my security, I'm happy for us all to oblige.

But, I did wonder what training the TSA agents have received. Are they comfortable seeing these images? Have they been trained to do the new pat down so they aren't actually handling people's genitals? What are they expected to do when people's body piercings show up on the screen? How will the new pat down affect someone with a history of sexual abuse or assault?

And what about people of transgender experience? A transwoman walking through the new scanner may show up with a penis; likewise a transman may not have a penis. What about people with artificial or enhanced body parts? Is this covered in the new TSA operating manual? I'm guessing not.

So although I'm okay walking through these new machines, I am concerned that the sexuality issues they raise haven't received enough attention. Maybe it's time to write a letter to the head of TSA and ask.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is Immoral -- Not Homosexuality

The Washington Post On Faith Blog asked this week, "What beliefs support the ban on gays in the military?"

I was tempted to just write a three word column: Ignorance. Bigotry. Homophobia.

Instead, I wrote the following column:


I'd love for you to leave your comment there.

I long for the day when this question will seem as out dated and outrageous as asking "what beliefs support the ban on women" or "what beliefs support the ban on blacks and whites serving together" do now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oral Sex at the Bar Mitzvah? Mostly An Adult Myth

I just completed two mornings of training with future Rabbis and Cantors.

One of the topics included adolescent sexuality education and what teens needed from their religious communities. I asked the group had they ever heard about concerns about middle school students and oral sex at Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations and all of them had.

I've long argued in my books (see side bar to order my book, Beyond the Big Talk) that oral sex in the middle school is largely NOT happening. I've said that I can remember the name of the girl in the eighth grade who was offering oral sex, and that perhaps today there might be a few more, but my sense from working with teens around the country is that most middle schoolers are still worrying about kissing and that oral sex scandals in middle schools is largely a media myth.

There's new national probability data from Indiana University that backs that up. The new IU study finds that only 13% of 14 and 15 year old boys had received oral sex, matching pretty closely the 12% of girls those ages who say they offer it. One in ten girls that age say that they have received oral sex, also challenging the myth that girls are always the ones performing, boys receiving.

The numbers jump once teens are juniors and seniors in high school, but still only a minority of teens ages 16 and 17 have had oral sex ever. One third of the boys and 23% of the girls had received oral sex; one quarter of the girls and 20% of the boys had offered it. Few had had same sex partners. Teenagers are just not as sexually experienced as most adults believe.

Surely we need to be concerned about the youngest teens engaging in intimate sexual behaviors with a partner, and these studies do not look at the context of the relationships. Young people need our guidance and support to make healthy sexually decisions and set sexual limits. Parents, schools, and faith based organizations all play an important role. But, these numbers indicate that we need to be much more cautious in accepting media stories or rumors designed to alarm us that don't reflect actual young people's lives.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What The Election May Mean For Sexual Justice--Better Than We Think?

I'm sure your email box is filled, like mine is, with requests for funds from progressive organizations, telling you how dire the next two years will be.

Yes, I personally was disappointed in the drubbing the Democrats took in the House of Representatives (as an organization, the Religious Institute does not take sides in election contests), but I also was heartened by some of what didn't happen.

Most of the Tea Party stars did not get elected. Colorado voters turned down a pernicious anti-abortion amendment to their state constitution by a 3 to 1 majority. The National Organization for Marriage failed in their efforts in all but Iowa.

Four pro-marriage equality people were elected Governors, putting New York, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland in a position to affirm marriage for same sex couples in the next few years. The fourth openly gay member of the House of Representatives was elected.

I'm not naive about the changes in the House or the leadership of anti-choice Representative John Boehner. But I am reminding myself that it was a Democratic House passed the Stupak amendment.

So, I'm feeling grateful today that the election didn't turn out much worse...and that the 2010 election is finally over. Let's hope that together we can continue to advance sexual and reproductive justice over the next two years.

Guess you can call me an optimist.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Eat. Pray. Vote.*

I just received an email from a good friend who was at the Comedy Central rally in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

He said he's never been to such a crowded event. He never got anywhere near the stage, never heard a speaker, yet he was still glad he had made the effort to be there. He said everyone around him, who also couldn't hear anything, was happy and glad to be there.

His analysis was that people wanted to show up and witness that they weren't tea party-ers, that they wanted sanity and civility returned to American life, that extremism has gone too far.

I get it. I am so tired of the attack ads that are filling Connecticut and New York television and radio stations. I'm tired of all the emails filling my inbox about what's wrong with the other guy. I'm finding all of the analysis of what's gone wrong in the past two years tiring (I loved Bill Clinton's line this weekend: it took them 8 years to get us in this hole, we need more than two years to get out of it.)

But, mostly I'm so done with having talking heads tell us today what's going to happen tomorrow -- because ultimately it's about US...all of US going out to VOTE. To educate ourselves beyond the ads, which I'm assuming aren't really telling us the truth. To regardless of where we stand politically, to make our voices heard. To prove the pundits wrong, that we are still a country that values liberty and justice for all. (And a special call out to my readers in Colorado, please please defeat this anti-choice amendment. We need to let the country know that voters support women's ability to make their own moral choices.)

Eat. Pray. Vote.*

*an anonymous sign at the Comedy Central rally.