Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Little Respect

Tweets lead to tweets lead to tweets, and a tweet led me to this little blast from the past, updated for today's fight for equality for LGBTQ folks:

My first thought was, "OMG Andy Bell went and got all old on us!" Hey, it happens. I met Andy Bell and Vince Clarke back in the late 80's (88? 89? It was the concert at St. Andrews in Detroit to support the album "The Innocents", from which this song came) with my roommate/asst. manager Kathy, who filled my head with the pop/disco sounds of Erasure, the Pet Shop Boys, the Communards, the Smiths, and any other English bubblegum band she could get her hands on. I was in my "I'm going to drink myself to death before I'm 30" phase, and was listening to a bunch of Marillion, Genesis, Pink Floyd and other depressing stuff, so this was good for me. Fun, bouncy, upbeat. I love good pop, and Erasure is one talented songwriting duo.

Kathy's best friend was a high-school senior named Matt, who worked for us at the record store I managed. He had a boyfriend named Steve. And all they wanted to do was get the hell out of Michigan, and move to Chicago. Matt had trouble in high school with bullying, as most "different" kids did - and unfortunately still do. I'll never forget his high school graduation party at his parent's cottage on Lake Michigan in Douglas - we sat around the bonfire on the beach and stared to the southwest on that cold, starry, spring night, and could only dream about the freedom in the distance. Matt and Steve moved soon after, and found the place where they could be themselves without fear. I was very happy for them, and we used to go visit them often. (Lucky bastards lived two blocks from Wrigley. And they didn't even like baseball.)

So we come to today, and here is Andy Bell with a re-mix of the song to address today's fight against bullying, and that period of time and those two came alive for me again...

The full name of the new old song is "A Little Respect - HMI Redux." Proceeds from the track will go to The Hetrick-Martin Institute, the home of the Harvey Milk High School, in New York, and the True Colors Fund, co-founded by Cyndi Lauper.

Erasure lead singer Andy Bell has shot a video for the Redux, which includes passers-by and youth from HMI, the nation's oldest and largest LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) youth service organization. HMI aims to provide a safe and supportive environment to young people --- regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity --- so that they can achieve their full potential.

You can download the track at iTunes for 99¢. (Tip 'o the hat to Jeff Kart for this story.)

Sad to say that Michigan will have to wait a little bit longer for an anti-bullying policy - one of only five states left in the country that haven't addressed the problem. Our Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote on the issue (another thing you can put on the record for Mike Bishop's and Alan Cropsey's legacy - bigotry. How proud they must be, and how ugly they will look in the future), and with an all-Republican legislature coming in next year, chances are bills to address bullying will sit in committee, while more restrictive bills targeted at the LGBTQ community will be passed. Just a hunch.

The wild card, once again, is Rick Snyder. Would he sign an anti-bullying bill? And to go further, would he let the state provide domestic partner benefits to gays and lesbians? The Granholm administration has been pushing this issue for a long time, but Prop 2 in '04 and other challenges have gotten in the way, and this week another attempt was made - but the language presented to the Civil Service Commission forced them to punt this issue to next year. When the question of domestic partner rights came up just recently, Snyder wouldn't take a position. (surprise!)

Here is the kicker though. If we are to run this state "like a business", then be advised that the majority of Fortune 500 companies have anti-discrimination policies and offer benefits now. Here are the figures:

Fortune magazine's 500 largest publicly-traded companies, which collectively employ nearly 25 million people, have made significant strides in advancing equal protections and benefits for their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. The more successful the company (and the higher the rank on the Fortune list), the more likely the company is to have these protections and benefits in place.

* the vast majority (89 percent) prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,

* more than a third (43 percent) prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, compared to just three in 2000, and

* the majority (57 percent) provide domestic partner health insurance benefits to their employees.

Of the Top 10 companies, eight prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, five prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and seven provide partner health benefits. So, yes, let's run the state "like a business", and keep our talented people here. That's what smart companies do.

I lost track and Matt and Steve long ago, time pulled us apart and addresses changed and you know how those things go. Last I knew though, Matt had become a very successful carpenter, and was planning on opening his own business - in Illinois.

Bigotry is bad for business. I guess we will find out if the Nerd knows that or not. And kids that are bullied are looking for a place where they can be free and get a little respect. If that place isn't Michigan, then shame on us for driving them away.