Daniel Ellsberg’s Comments on Bradley Manning and Masculinity

At the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club‘s annual dinner, on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013, Daniel Ellsberg accepted the “In His Footsteps” award on behalf of Bradley Manning. (The footsteps are Harvey Milk’s.) He pleasantly surprised the audience by including an provocative call to redefine masculinity (that starts about 6:23 in).

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My Comments to the SF Pride Board Community Meeting regarding the Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal Kerfuffle

My name is Martin MacKerel and I am a straight ally. [some remarks about the anger in the room and remembering the pastor’s words about respecting each others’ humanity]

When I say I’m an ally, I don’t just mean that I think gay rights are cool and I have some friends who are LGBT. I have played for several years in a pool league that “just happens to be gay” and met many people and that’s when these issues became important to me. I campaigned against Prop 8, and after it passed I joined a local grassroots group called “One Struggle One Fight” to fight against it, and as part of that I went to DC for the 2009 National Equality March.

I’m also a Bradley Manning supporter since I learned about his situation two and a half years ago. You may ask why? Is there a link? And, yes, there is a simple link in that these are both about justice.

Picture of speakers in line to speak at the meeting

But I think there is a deeper link. Both the process of coming out and Bradley’s actions involve speaking truths that might make people uncomfortable. Many people might initially not want to know that a family member or friend is queer. But hopefully in coming out, attitudes are shifted, and both the speaker and the listener are transformed.

I know that lots of people would prefer to believe that the government is on their side, that its military doesn’t commit war crimes, and that its foreign policy comes from good intentions.

Bradley showed us, as Daniel Ellsberg did, that these comforting notions are not true. I see the reaction to Bradley Manning’s selection as Grand Marshal as part of a prolonged attempt not to face the truth. But sooner or later, and the sooner the better, we must face the truth.

To deny Bradley – to shove him and his uncomfortable truths back in the closet – is to fail in our responsibility as a community.

Against the Balkanization of "History"

Yesterday was Alan Turing‘s birthday, and this weekend is LGBT “Pride” weekend. And never the twain shall meet, it seems.

Turing played a huge role in laying the theoretical foundation for computing. His life is considered computer history, and for some reason, this means it can’t be part of queer history, even though he was gay, he was persecuted and prosecuted for being gay, and he killed himself after receiving the humiliation of chemical castration by estrogen “treatments”. In the same way that black history is given its own month and treated as separate from other history, LGBT history is segregated from other history as well. If it doesn’t specifically pertain to the history of LGBT civil rights, apparently it doesn’t count.

Needless to say, I think this is ridiculous. I also think it’s incredibly self-defeating for the LGBT movement not to make more of the overlapping history it does have. Turing is a clear case of a genius whose life was cut short by homophobia. Some of the graybeards who were instrumental in the early Unix days of the 1970s are still making huge contributions to computer science – inventing the Go language and the widely-used UTF-8 encoding system for Unicode characters, for example. Turing died at the age of 41; he could easily have lived to see the beginning of the Unix epoch and made even more amazing contributions. He might also have had more insights into biology, especially developmental biology.

I think it’s important that we make clear these connections: that the world lost a brilliant mathematician and scientist to the bigotry of the day. It’s great that the British government apologized in 2009 for what it did six decades ago, but even better would be to tackle today’s discriminations – against trans people and Muslims to name two groups – that unfairly cut short the potential of both individuals and of the societies of which they are a part.

The San Francisco Sit/Lie Law and the Hypocrisies of History

Wanted: (freedom-loving scofflaws, community-minded reprobates, righteous ne'er-do-wells) Harvey B. Milk, Sit/Lie Rebel since 1974 FOR: Social Use of Public Space, Enjoying Neighborhoods and Neighbors, Celebrating the City, Sharing Public Space with Everyone, Violation of the Sit/Lie Law


Yesterday, May 22nd, would have been Harvey Milk‘s 81st birthday. In San Francisco people held rallies and celebrations.

I and other activists against the recently passed “Sit/Lie” law held another Sidewalks are for People day. The Sit/Lie law makes it illegal to sit or lie on any public sidewalk between 7am and 11pm. It’s illegal to sit on the curb while waiting for the bus, it’s illegal to put a folding chair on the sidewalk to enjoy the sun and greet your neighbors, and it’s illegal to sit down if you’re holding a sidewalk sale, even if you’re a child running a little lemonade stand.

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On Republican Donor Support for Same-sex Marriage

I recently read this New York Times article on GOP donor support for same-sex marriage. Astonishingly, most of the new money to lobby for same-sex marriage in New York state is coming from wealthy donors to the Republican party.

Predictably, it’s seen from two angles: 1) libertarian – it’s not the state’s business to butt into people’s relationships – and 2) support for same-sex marriage is “good for business” and would be part of New York state’s “competitive advantage”.
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