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Remembering Gerry Crane

Gerry Crane by GrandRapidsPublicLibrary
Gerry Crane, a photo by GrandRapidsPublicLibrary on Flickr.

Today’s the day I want to tell this story, because it comes from the place where I grew up, and it happened shortly after I first came out:

I was thinking about Gerry Crane today. West Michigan people may remember him as the gay teacher from Byron Center who was outed and subsequently persecuted out of his job in 1996.

It’s worth remembering that in 1996 two men having a public commitment ceremony, like Gerry and his partner Randy had celebrated at the Meijer Gardens, was not only controversial—it was more or less unheard of. Especially in conservative West Michigan.

Once the community at large had found out about Gerry and Randy’s ceremony the persecution began. Someone at the school released the names and addresses of Gerry’s students and their families quickly began receiving hate-filled anti-gay propaganda in the mail. While the school board voted not to fire Crane the school and community made it clear he was no longer welcome to teach their children. Gerry was eventually given a severance package and left Byron Center Schools.

Crane passed away of heart failure a year later at the age of 32. His partner Randy had to sue the school district in order to continue receiving money from Gerry’s severance package and life insurance benefits.

It’s worth noting that with social media and a more accepting society what happened to Gerry and Randy might not happen if this story was set in the present day. I vividly remember the outrage (and fear) myself and the rest of the gay community all felt as this story unfolded. What’s even more striking for me to recall is the general lack of non-gay voices within the outrage. In 1996 most of the straight community were firmly in the opposition, and even those who were not did not seem eager to voice their contrary beliefs. I don’t recall a single supportive newspaper editorial or heterosexual person being interviewed on the news who spoke in support of Gerry and against the hatred and bigotry that became a part of his and Randy’s daily life. The message to me as a gay teenager was clear: you are not welcome here.

If anything that’s the part that has changed over the intervening seventeen years. The support of allies, family, and friends has grown immensely and for that I and likely every LGBT/etc person are grateful. I’d go as far to say that without their support our rights wouldn’t be up for discussion in front of the Supreme Court today.

But Gerry Crane’s story highlights the fact that marriage is only one front in the fight against bigotry. State and Federal marriage protections can guarantee equal benefits, but even if marriages are recognized equally throughout the country it’s those very relationships that can still put our lives and livelihoods at risk.

So today as the Supreme Court debates DOMA and as gay rights are at the top of the news cycle this week and in the coming months it will be Gerry Crane I’ll be thinking of.

If this turns out the way we hope and the Court decides in favor of marriage equality I hope we’ll all take a moment out of our victory celebrations to remember the many who have suffered through bigotry and hatred yet persevered regardless, and how much work is still left to do.

Gerry and Randy, this one will be for you.

The Names Of The Dead


(Chris Wilson/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT)

Sita Singh, 41
Ranjit Singh, 49
Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65
Prakash Singh, 39
Paramjit Kaur, 41
Suveg Singh, 84

Many Sikhs take the surname Singh, which means “Lion”.

My heart goes out to these people, and I find myself with so few words to express my sadness, shock, and disbelief at this terrible act of hatred. To quote Auden:

We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

heartstrong

Chick-Fil-Hate

It’s been an open secret for years that the owners of Chick-Fil-A have been donating large sums of money to anti-gay organizations. Funneled through the WinShape Foundation, the Cathy family has been bankrolling hatred and discrimination in the name of Jesus (I’m pretty sure even He wouldn’t be eating mor chikn in light of this news) for years. The Huffington Post reports the following, among other donations:

  • Marriage & Family Foundation — $1,188,380
  • Exodus International — $1,000
  • Family Research Council — $1,000

That’s $1,190,389.

Now I know I don’t have a very large readership here anymore and raising a million dollars is way way too much to ask, but even if we can raise $20 I’d be thrilled.

Heartstrong

I’d like to introduce you to Heartstrong, a non-profit organization that does outreach work specifically for the kind of kids who are victims of Dan Cathy’s brand of hateful, over-the-top conservative Christianity. Every year they travel to Christian schools waging gay guerrilla warfare to bring hope and save the lives of kids trapped in the oppressive anti-gay environment of religious schools.

I’d like to encourage everyone to donate $5—or whatever you can—to their organization today. This is the kind of work that must be done because the WinShape foundation and others like it continue to fund hatred oppression disguised as “family values”.

Your donation of $5—or whatever you can afford—will go toward changing the lives of LGBT youth being held captive in unsupportive families and educational institutions. You may even save a life.

Your donation won’t get you a chicken sandwich but it can help light up the darkness around a gay youth who needs it the most.

Happy Anniversary To Apollo-Soyuz

Note: This is a repost of a post from 2009.

Then at 2:17:26 p.m. on the 17th of July, Stafford opened hatch number no. 3, which led into the Soyuz orbital module. With applause from the control centers in the background, Stafford looked into the Soviet craft and, seeing all their umbilicals and communications cables floating about, said, “Looks like they['ve] got a few snakes in there, too.” Then he called out, “Alexey. Our viewers are here. Come over here, please.” High above the French city of Metz, the two commanders shook hands. Their dialogue was broken – part personal, part technical. They appeared to accept their amazing technical accomplishment with the same nonchalance that had characterized their practice sessions in the ground simulators. There were no grand speeches, just a friendly greeting from men who seemed to have done this every day of their lives. In the background was a handlettered sign in English – “Welcome aboard Soyuz.”

The 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 is coming up soon (the 40th anniversary to the launch was yesterday at 11:32) but also it’s the 34th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The result of years of planning and cooperation, this historic mission saw the first docking of an American Apollo spacecraft with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft.

ASTP led the way for the Shuttle-Mir Program and the International Space Station.

Both the American and Soviet crews were seasoned astronauts, with a combination of both ground-based and spaceflight-based experience: American astronaut Deke Slayton had waited 16 years before this flight in 1975-he was the only one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts not to fly in a Mercury capsule. Vance Brand waited 11 years to fly (serving three times as backup) and went on to fly 3 space shuttle missions. Thomas Stafford had flown three previous flights: Gemini 6A, Gemini 9A, and the Apollo 10 mission to lunar orbit. Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov was the first man to walk in space, and his partner Valeri Kubasov has previously flown on Soyuz 6.

Their first meeting in space together, the crews exchanged symbolic gifts, talked to President Ford, and shared a meal together. Although the meeting in space was historic, the cooperation of the two rival space agencies before both launches was also historic. The crews had met and trained together beforehand, so were not strangers to each other, and had specific things to do each day they were together. Their second day consisted of more crew exchange.

Kubasov and Brand conducted a broadcast session from “your Soviet American TV center in space,” as Kubasov called it. In giving his tour of Soyuz, the Soviet flight engineer pointed out what various instruments were for and televised a picture of Brand in “the kitchen” (the food preparation station) warming up lunch. Stafford reciprocated by giving Leonov and the Soviet viewers a Russian language tour of the command module.

Day three consisted of a lengthy orbit-to-ground press conference (detailed here) and day four technical spaceflight operations, including the undocking and docking of the two spacecraft, and science experiments. The two spacecraft separated a final time on July 19.


Scientific and Diplomatic missions aside, what Deke and Alexei really wanted was some time alone to cuddle.

ASTP was the final flight of the Saturn rocket family, the final flight of the Apollo CSM, and NASA’s last flight for six years until STS-1. It would also be the last flight of an American on an expendable launch system for anothertwenty years.


What kinda mickey-mouse operation is this?

While international cooperation in space is now commonplace (and arguably necessary, given the 157 billion dollar price tag of the ISS) without the efforts of these five men and the scores of people who worked behind the scenes none of our current efforts in space would be possible.

Thanks, guys.

KSC Apollo-Soyuz Test Project page
The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
NASA History Page for ASTP

App Review: Over


I don’t usually review apps, but every now and then one comes along that catches my imagination. Yesterday brought Over: text+photos to the App store for iPhone. Over lets you add text on top of (over) any photo you want.


Over is nothing short of a revolution. You can now elegantly, easily, and instantly add captions, notes, and descriptions over any photo on your and share them all over.


          not made with over

Everyone has seen image macros—those memes that pop up all over tumblr and Facebook composed of pictures superimposed with text. Over doesn’t just take this concept and run with it, Over takes this concept, packs it into a rocket ship of an app, and blasts off to new galaxies.


But do not be deceived: Over is more than just a meme-generating app. Over is a pioneering app that, in just a few easy steps, couples the simplicity of Twitter with the shareability of Instagram; its compelling interface easily pairs the immediacy of a Facebook update with everyone’s impromptu iPhone snapshots.

Over starts with a welcome screen full of images. You can select one of those, take a new picture, or choose one from your camera roll. From then on the IU is groundbreaking in its simplicity and elegance. A scroll wheel reminds us of why we all loved the iPod and is how you’ll select and navigate options for customizing and sharing photos.

The font menu offers a way to quickly scroll through the impressive and robust selection of fonts sure to suit any snapshot’s mood. Over comes with 19 great fonts out of the box, and an indecision-inducing 64 more are available as an in-app purchase for 99¢.

And once you’ve composed your newest masterpiece, Over’s integration with top social networks Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram (as well as the option to send via email or save to the camera roll) ensures quick and easy sharing.

They say picture is worth a thousand words, and now with Over you can make those pictures worth even more with text of your own.


Over is available from the iTunes app store for $1.99.
Drop whatever you’re doing and get the app right this minute.
Find Over on: FacebookTwitter#madewithovermadewithover.com

Aphelion 2012

Aphelion is the point in our orbit around the sun (or for that matter, any object orbiting the Sun) when we reach our furthest distance away from the Sun. It occurs yearly (obviously) each July.

Think the temperature should be colder since we’re our furthest from the sun?
For those of you unfamiliar with this topic, here’s a short explainer:

Firstly, Earth’s orbit is nearly circular, with a difference between aphelion and perihelion of only 5,000 kilometers (just over 3,106 miles). That’s roughly the distance between Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine. With a mean distance from the Sun of 93 million miles you can see how those 3,000 miles don’t make much difference.

What makes July hot (in the northern hemisphere) is the tilt of the Earth toward the sun. Conversely (but accordingly), the northern hemisphere is cold in January when we’re actually closest to the Sun, because Earth’s north pole is tiled back away from the sun.

There’s a 326ppi version of the image above.
Or would you like the above image for your Facebook cover?

First Encounters

Like People In History is one of my favorite novels. I first read it when I was 17 years old, and at that time it had a profound affect on me. I like to re-read it occasionally, sometimes small parts of it. The follow passage describes how Roger, the book’s protagonist, meets the love of his life, Matt. I think it’s a great passage from a great book.

        …There, below me, not twenty feet away, in the poetry section, holding a book in one large outstretched hand, while he turned a page with the other was—I would have sworn it—the Archangel Ariel himself, his wings folded up, hidden away somewhere in a U.S. sailor’s eyebright middy and thirteen button “broad-fall” flap-front trousers.
        In an unexpected dimensional shift, his eyes moved to the other page, tilting his head suddenly in another direction, and now I could see the single black curl falling across his Alcibiadean brow, the total roundness of of those large dark eyes, every tanned plane of that amazing head.
        I felt a sudden burning in my breast and recalled St. Theresa of Avila had written of being struck in the heart by a blazing dart of Divine Love, and the paradox of enduring such Sweet Agony. So shocked, I had to lean against the walkway railing.
        The sailor must have caught my sudden motion in his peripheral vision: he looked up suddenly, and dimensions shifted again. His direct gaze was so intense it was as though someone had suddenly pulled the blazing dart down through my torso and out of me again via my urethra.
        My head spun, but I managed to get to the far wall, where I found a seat and dropped my head between my knees, glimpsing Daliesque visions of his individual facial features as they fled and cavorted and chased on another through a Palladian cathedral of pastel-hued clouds

        I managed to stumble down the stairs to the main floor, hid myself under the edge of the balcony, where Alistair had returned to Faunce and the Goose, fooled around straightening a volume or two here and there among the gardening books and something new on bargello, and sort of wandered nearer the sailor, half circling him all the while, ready to flee at the slightest sign of disinterest.
        From this close, he was taller than I’d expected. Six feet, almost six one. Big shoulders. Incredible deltoids, biceps, buttocks, and thighs outlined and simultaneously gripped by the tight cut of his sailor suit. I found myself thinking the term ‘animal grace’ had been coined just for him. He was still holding the book in his hands, reading it. I tried to make out the cover and thought it might be a recent anthology of poetry. He shifted his pose in place, and it was like continents gliding across the surface of the planet—and that Michelangelesque face!
        Just as I was thinking I can’t possibly do this, he peeked over the top of the book at me. Almost inhumanly silver-eyes set in a bed of black lashes.
        ”Hi,” I said, held my breath, and moved to one side of him, adjusting various books on display that didn’t at all need adjusting.
        He half smiled. Surprisingly small teeth. Was about to say something.
        ”You’re fine where you are,” I said, about to pass by. Understatement of the century.
        He put down the book. It was the anthology.
        ”I should probably buy this,” he said in an even-toned baritone. “And not just stand here reading it all.” No accent at all. Certainly not from the West of South. Yet not from the Bay Area.
        ”No problem,” I said, trying to move away, yet magnetically held by his field of attraction. At that moment, I realized I would have said, “no problem” if he’d demanded to remain where he was and behead passing customers. Then, in a flash of unexpected poise, I added, regarding he book he’d been perusing, “It’s supposed to be a good sampling.”
        ”Is it?” he asked, so intensely naive and questioning I stopped about a tenth of my fidgeting.
        ”It’s supposed to be better than the Oxford Book of American Poetry. Of course this one has English poets too.”
        ”What about this Auden? He considered English or American?”
        He held out the book, and I saw the lines “Lay your sleeping head, my love/Human on my faithless arm.”
        I must have blushed, because he said, “What?” and pulled back the book and read the page. And half snorted a laugh. “That one’s pretty good. But I like this one better.” He showed me “Fish in the unruffled lakes.” “You?”
        ” ‘Doom is dark and deeper than any sea-dingle…’ ” I quoted the title from memory.
        ” ‘Upon what man it fall/In spring,’ ” he continued. “Yeah, I like that one too. You don’t think it’s strange?”
        ”I always thought that particular poem was pretty strange. For example, here,” nervously pointing, and now so close I felt sea-deep within his ambience, his smell like toasted wheat bread that’s not yet cooled, “in the second stanza, where he writes about deeming of going and home and kissing his wife under a sheet, then instead he wakes and sees ‘Bird-flock nameless to him; through the doorway voices/Of new men making another love’ …”
        ”Oh!” I suddenly said aloud. I’d for the first time realized what Auden must have meant with those phrases. “Oh, he must mean…” I stopped myself and began to blush. Gays, Auden must have meant, I thought but didn’t say. “New men making another love.” Opposed to a wife. What else could it mean?
        ”Mean what?” the sailor asked and read aloud. ” ‘…new men making another love.’ ”
        He looked up, those remarkable huge, pale, silver-gray eyes so extravagantly set in dark, long, curled lashes, and seeing me red-faced, he too must have suddenly realized the words’ import, since he too began to color.
        Which meant that against all expectations, all possibilities, all percentages, all fears of it not being so, the sailor must be gay too!
        I couldn’t believe it. I almost levitated off the imported Albanian rose-red marble floor.
        In that moment I felt us connect. It was as if a double-sided grappling hook and suddenly been flung and caught under each of our sternums, grasping tight into bone, biting deep into vital organs.


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