Visibility Matters: Queering the Census

Pride Flag by John Carleton
Pride Flag by John Carleton
Like most college freshman, I lived in the dorms paired with a random roommate I’d never met before. My former roommate Chelsea is a nice person. Score one on the freshman roommate lottery. However, Chelsea had grown up in a small town — smaller than our tiny 2,000 student liberal arts college — and I was the first openly queer person Chelsea had met.

(Or at least thought’d she met as one of her close male friends came out later that year. He also pinged my gaydar when he stayed with us to try out for American Idol and hopped into bed with his SpongeBob SquarePants pj bottoms.)

While certainly not a bigot, I felt Chelsea still struggled with having me being an out bisexual and very active with the LGBT group on campus. At least at first. But by the end of the year, Chelsea even came to a few events as an ally and had a great time.

It’s the little things. It’s knowing openly queer people that makes straight people realize the impact when gay rights pop up on the ballot. Knowing that voting affects real people, people you know, is different than the abstract concept of ‘gay marriage’ or ‘hate crimes.’ And this is where the U.S. Census comes in.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is running a campaign called Queer the Census, where they send you a sticker to put on your census envelope. It reads: ATTN: U.S. Census Bureau, It’s Time to Count Everyone! and then there are check-boxes to mark your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, including a box for our straight allies.

My census — but not my sticker — came yesterday. It asks who lives at my address, if we rent or own, name, sex, age, race, if I live here all the time, all the same information about my partner, and how my partner’s related to me.

During the 2000 Census, I remember how surprised many statisticians were about how many people identified as mixed race. I’d love to see the same surprise about how many queer-identified people live in the United States. In my personal experience — likely extremely skewed — the estimation of 1 in 10 has always seemed low to me.

Counting’s important. Not everyone’s out and not everyone can be out. Being queer isn’t something the farmer selling me parsnips at the Farmer’s Market knows by looking at me. But maybe it’d be better if he did know. I am a loyal customer, supporting his business. On the flip side, it’s also nice to say, I am not alone. I am so not alone.

There will be a sticker counting me on my census.

Happy New President Time

Obama in the Oval Office

This is perhaps one of my favorite pictures from Obama’s first official day on the job. There’s just something so awe-inspiring about that huge desk. So everything that room has seen, it always impresses.

When I was 9-years-old, I wanted to be President when I grew up, and Obama gives me hope that maybe might pipe dream is a possibility for someone like me. (Though I seriously doubt I will ever be president.)

Some of what the President is doing is already very exciting. Check out the Obameter, which tracks what Obama promised, what his team is working on, and what he’s already passed. Some highlights in less than a week are the repeal of the global gag rule and orders Guantanamo’s closure.

While the economy is still depressing, I’ve been enjoying listening to news and hearing good things. Hearing the effectiveness of a government. Hearing a hopeful message.

However, as I was looking at the picture above, I realized something was missing. Granted, it was the first day and everything might be moved in, but not in place. For contrast, check out my desk at home.

Yeah, for a President addicted to his Blackberry, a computer or any technology is missing from the picture of the office. Traditionally, presidents have chosen not to use e-mail due to it being subject to National Archiving and can be subpoenaed in court. However, Obama won that battle and will be using his Blackberry. Though with a limited scope of who can access it, and the National Archive has said that they won’t archive personal things, or as I like to think, the cute little messages he sends to his daughters.

However, it’s not just Obama that’s going through tech withdrawal. His very tech-savvy team is horrified about how draconian White House technology is. The White House has PCs running Windows XP compared to their slick Macs. White House web filters block Facebook, MySpace, and personal e-mail among other sites. Sites that Obama’s staff used to help him win. Access to instant messaging forbidden. Even the phones didn’t work.

On a side note, I’ve heard government filters are extremely strict. I have a friend who works for the Washington State Patrol, and if he surfs to a blocked site — like Facebook — his web browser locks and he has to have his supervisor come over and unlock it. 0_0

As some tech blogs noted, Welcome to the Corporate World as many of the Obama staff’s problems are familiar to anyone who’s worked a desk job. However, I would say that I’m looking forward to Obama’s people upgrading the White House. (I’m sure Apple would not turn down the pr opportunity to show the shiny Macbook in the Oval Office.) The White House just isn’t another corporation. It’s the government. Supposedly, the most powerful government in the world, and personally, I want to them to have access to the best technology that they can.

Register to Vote and Check Your Voter’s Registration

Uncle Sam wants you to voteI believe it’s the patriotic duty of every eligible citizen to vote. When I turned 18-years-old, I was so excited that I could vote, especially since I was 17-years-old when George W. was elected the first time. My frustration was paramount, especially since only 60% of voters voted in that election. To say I disagreed with Bush v. Gore decision was an understatement.

Deadlines to registrar to vote for the November 4th election are fast approaching. In Washington state, there’s 2 days left to register by mail and 17 to register in person. You can use this handy Google map to find the specifics for your state.

What’s scarier still is already registered voters have been purged from the system. Specifically in OH, LA, FL, MI, KS, NM, CO, and NV. These purged voters have largely been in swing states and lots of them have been targeted at traditionally black communities. Thanks to the internet, you can check the status of your voter’s registration. Hint: You want it to be active.

If you live in Washington state, like myself, you can both registar to vote and check your voter’s registration status online. It’s ridiculously easy.

And while, I have my own biases about the election, what I really want is for every eligible person to vote on November 4th and for every vote to be counted correctly. I want everyone to be informed and vote with his or her brain. (Not their heart, Ladies Home Journal.) Even if my preferred candidate doesn’t win, I want to be satisfied that the American people have spoken and this is what they said.

Prosumer Presidential Matchmaking: Taxes

In my political matchmaking quest, I’ve found this graph from The Washington Post to be helpful about learning where I fall in McCain’s vs. Obama’s tax plans.

McCain v Obama on taxes

Personally, I fall into the $37k-66k. I kind of like this idea that I could almost buy a full-equipped new laptop with my tax return from Obama. McCain only gets me another iPod. Once a techie, always a techie.

The Redneck Vote

Amanda Marcotte on Pandragon.net writes Rednecks and Offense, an article about the changing nature of the word ‘redneck,’ the appeal to rednecks by Republicans, and how she’s not that far from a redneck.

Obviously, I have joked about my mom’s recent redneck wedding on this blog before. It’s no secret that there are a lot of rednecks in my family (on both sides), and yes, they use that word with reclamation and pride. And to be fair, my maternal family is populated with a lot of Vatican II Catholic yellow-dog Democrats and my paternal family is a mix of we-love-guns Libertarians and stereotypical redneck Republicans.

There have been family Christmases were my father’s family all sat around watching the hunting channel and Larry the Cable Guy. Or where my brother and maternal grandpa have changed the station from CNN to the rodeo. All the men in my immediate family drive trucks or jeeps that I, at 5’5″, have to be hoisted into and neither of my grandmas even attempt to climb into on their own. When my brothers go “rock climbing,” what they mean is that they drive their jeeps over rocks or watch their friends do the same.

My mom’s favorite beer is Michelob Ultra Lite that she buys at Wal-Mart; it’s cheap and has 96 calories, and she will hunt down the sales associate to ask him why they don’t stock more than two cases on the store floor. My dad prefers Coolers Light; my 22-year-old brother will drink about anything; my fake!daddy likes Bud Light; and I take lime in my Corona. We all have country and western music on our iPods, except my dad, who I don’t think knows how to work one.

I know how to muck stalls and castrate male lambs. I’ve owned at least one pair of rubber boots from the time I was four until I graduated high school. You do not want to change irrigation or dust chickens with chemicals to kill lice in flip-flops. And I still wear my authentic purple cowboy boots. While I don’t like hunting, I have had a lot of fun at the firing range.

However, I’m one of those latte-drinking big city liberals.

Scratch that.

I don’t like lattes or coffee for that matter. But I will admit that I love Chai tea and I’m a hot tea snob. I like my tea imported from England from Whittard of Chelsea. (Hint, if you ever want to buy me something.)

I do live in the big city. Well, in Seattle, which is the biggest city in the PacificNorthwest. However, my friend Mally from Boston still laughs at me, even if she does fear our traffic after experiencing it herself.

And I am a liberal. I’m very liberal and I pretty much have been. Except when for some reason, as a young child, Ross Perot really entertained me. Probably because he was loud and upset everyone, which is always hilarious.

I’ve always liked to watch the evening news (I blame my maternal grandparents) and listen to NPR, which I guess became a default choice when I couldn’t stand the adult contemporary or modern country stations in my hometown as a preteen. I enjoy being critical of the two-party system, and I’m sure my mom can tell you call about my Bill Clinton paper doll I made, which often said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and wore my Barbie’s skirts. Humor makes me not want to throw up every time I watch or listen to the news.

I’m also part of the liberal elite and went to this really snobby liberal arts university, which I should mention, so did Larry the Cable Guy’s daughter.

But wait, didn’t I state in a previous post, I didn’t know who I’m voting for? That’s right; I don’t. But I never said I didn’t know who I wasn’t voting for.

Like Amanda, I know what both world’s are like. And I also know how far they aren’t apart.

I also know that in order to persuade rednecks to vote for you in next election, you need to speak their language. They need to be included in the branding concept.

The Republicans do a great job at this. Sarah Palin is moose-hunting hockey mom from Alaska; like her or dislike her, she has been a one woman branding force for the McCain campaign. She probably wears puffy coats and is still attractive, while being the type of woman who would drink from a can of beer. This is her image. It doesn’t matter that she raised taxes, even on food, in her hometown and left it $22 million in debt. She’s still campaigning on a smaller government and no tax raises. Palin is telling the redneck contingent what they want to hear because that’s what branding is about.

Obama’s camp, on the other side, might have progressive policies to help the lower and middle classes with taxes, health care, etc. He promises no tax increase if earning under $250K and tax cuts for those making under $75K. However, even taxing the very rich seems to frighten tax-hating rednecks. This is not what they want to hear. And what they really don’t want to hear is the collective head-banging-on-desk of Obama-supporters and the campaign itself, when the redneck voting contingent says they like McCain/Palin better on the issues of taxes than Obama/Biden. No one in my family has ever made over $250k/year. But my paternal grandma is still sending me e-mails about how Obama will ruin the country.

Instead of insulting rednecks for being ignorant, the Democrats need to reach out to them and properly communicate with them. The Democrats need to make a branding campaign that will effect them. I’m not saying Obama should wear a cowboy hat or they have to persuaded a country artist to write a song about them. (Though Toby Keith supports Obama.) But throwing out facts is not working. Obama’s message of Hope and Change is supposed to reach out and effect everyone. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such an effective branding slogan for the liberal-voting choir and why the Republicans have attached themselves to a Change message. (We all agree that Bush sucks.)

If the Democrats want to level the playing field for the redneck vote, they need to direct Hope and Change to that audience. Don’t say, we’ll lower your taxes so you can send your children to college and then they can work white-collar jobs instead of blue ones. Don’t say, are you stupid, there were not weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and global warming is real for the 15th billionth time. Instead, do some homework and get a neighbor, who’s just like them except voting for Obama, to campaign for you or make Biden be the guy who will have a beer in your kitchen with you, make him as VP just as appealing as the Republicans have made Palin. Connect with the youth who use MySpace instead of just Facebook and people (shame time) like my paternal grandma, who really does believe that Obama is Muslim thanks to internet forwards. (I tried to educate her otherwise, trust me.)

If myself and someone who thinks you’re only rich if you make over $5 million knows that this “cultural divide” isn’t as big as it really seems and can market to them, maybe I’ll save a lime or two for Obama and Biden.

Election Mania

I don’t know about you, but I’m loving these elections. Not in that I know who I’m voting for or that I’m a political junkie from way back, but in that they are so much fun when it comes to marketing.

There’s Obama, the Celebrity. McCain’s a POW, don’t you know. Biden comes across rather plain. And Palin’s family just keeps getting bigger.

But I say, kudos, America, we finally got something right. Politics are the big news and even the covers of OK and US had Obama and Palin gracing them, respectively. This is actual news, even if the gossip is still good, but it’s still better than movie stars flashing their lack of undergarments or getting arrested while slurring racist bullshit.

I also have to say that I hope 2004 was the last time there will be four straight, white men running for office in the two-party system.