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2001-10-30

"High Jack This Fags": Where Gay Men and Lesbians Fit Into the New World Disorder

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It’s been widely circulated now: the photograph transmitted by the Associated Press of a bomb on the USS Enterpriseabout to be dropped on the Taliban, signed with the words: "HIGH JACK THIS FAGS." Within hours of the photo’sworldwide release, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation was on the case. The AP removed it from the wires aday later. Navy Rear Admiral Stephen Pietropaoli at the Pentagon said the crew of the Enterprise has been informed tomore closely edit "the spontaneous acts of penmanship by our sailors" and to keep the messages positive.

As Hank Steuver writes in the Washington Post, is the message "God bless a gay-inclusive America?" But whatis the message that this ignorant scrawl sent to the US rather than the Taliban?

Gays and lesbians are intimately part of this war. Mark Bingham, a rugby player from San Francisco, who is thought tohave helped fellow passengers confront terrorists in a plane over Pennsylvania. The gay chaplain of the New York FireDepartment, killed in the World Trade Center collapse. The two men and their adopted toddler killed on one of theplanes. And the many who lost longtime partners and are now navigating an iffy situation of relief aid and deathbenefits for non-traditional couples.

Safety nets designed to lessen the financial burdens still treat the surviving partners of gay people as if the mostimportant relationship in their lives never existed. But Republican New York Governor George Pataki has recentlyordered that surviving gay partners receive the same benefits as spouses from the state’s crime victim’s board. TheRed Cross and other relief agencies have said they will do the same. Some private corporations have even made clearto domestic partners of killed employees that they, too, will be entitled to insurance and other emergency benefits.But several avenues of relief are blocked: same sex partners can receive no social security benefits, no workers’compensation, and no military pension.

Father Mychal Judge, the New York fire department chaplain and a Franciscan monk, was one of the most honored victimsof the World Trade Center attack. But his sexual orientation is one aspect of his identity that has gone unstated incity’s eulogies. Judge avoided the censure of the Catholic church by conducting his gay activism under the radar.Even at his funeral, he was hiding in plain sight. One eulogy broke up the crowd by noting that when Judge got theword to dash downtown to the stricken Trade Center, "he did take time to comb and spray his hair!" Mark Green spokeof how Judge served people of "every orientation." But several weeks ago, nearly a thousand people packed New York’sGay and Lesbian Center, bursting into applause when his name was read.

Guests:

  • Cathy Renna, News Media Director, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
  • Brendan Fay, organizer, St Pat’s for All Parade; friend of fire chaplain Mychal Judge killed in WorldTrade Center blast.
  • Bryce Eberhart, Public Relations Manager, Planet Out; friend of Mark Bingham, killed in September 11United Flight 93 crash.

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