Thinking about Beautiful Aliens during Pride Month

In honor of Pride 2020, I’m writing this blog post about Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader.

I first learned about Steve Abbott when I read Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father by his daughter, Alysia Abbott. The book walks the line between biography and autobiography, since it is told from Alysia’s perspective with first person pronouns, yet her father Steve, not herself, is the main subject, because being a single gay father in the 1970s and 1980s was *cough* unusual. Nowadays, Steve Abbott is probably much better known as The Single Gay Father of Alysia Abbott than anything else.

But I was curious about Steve Abbott’s writing, so when Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader was published, I got a copy. Continue reading

A Few Book Recommendations for Juneteenth

Juneteenth – which is today – is a holiday which celebrates the end of slavery (except in prisons) in the United States. It is often celebrated with readings of works by African American writers. I’ve decided to share a few books by African Americans about African Americans which a) don’t belong to the canon of Famous and Prestigious African American Literature (I have great respect for that canon, but I think there are plenty of other people who are sharing that canon for Juneteenth, so I’d rather promote less-well-known works) and b) which show African Americans who are thriving. Continue reading

First Responders To Replace Police

Content warning: mentions of domestic violence / intimate-partner terrorism

A couple years back, as I was walking on a street, I saw a woman who looked distressed. I asked her ‘Are you okay?’ Her answer was ‘no’. I asked ‘How can I help?’ Her answer was ‘Call the police’.

Okay, that’s an oversimplification of the conversation. She said that she was staying at a hotel down the street while she was visiting the city, but they kicked her out (note: this was at approximately 11 pm). She was resigning herself to sleeping on the sidewalk that night. I suspect that she was also going through a mental health crisis.

I asked her a few times if she was sure that she wanted the police to come, to make sure that I understood her request. She said yes every time. I wanted to help, and she said that’s how I could help.

That is the only time in my life that I have called the police.

I stayed with her until the police came, even though she said it was okay if I left, because I wasn’t comfortable with leaving her alone there. That said, I was also tired and wanted to go home. When the police finally arrived, I was relieved to pass the buck to them. I hope they helped her, and that she was fine.

What if there had been an alternative to calling the police? Someone who could come at 11 pm at night to a specific sidewalk? Continue reading

What Government Policies Can Make Law Enforcement Agents Obey the Very Laws They Are Supposed to Enforce?

IMPORTANT UPDATE 6/8/2020: Since publishing this post, I have learned about serious problems with the data used to support the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ Campaign. Please read this critique. I have signed this petition. I am going to leave this post unaltered (except maybe to fix typos and low-level mistakes like that), but be warned that some of the comments I make in this post are based on a bad foundation.


First, I’d like to bring your attention to this website about ‘Police Use of Force’ put together by Campaign Zero. I recommend reading the whole thing (it’s not that long), but the highlights are that they have identified 8 policies which, when adopted by police departments, are correlated to fewer people being killed by police, and those same policies are also correlated with fewer police officers being killed while on duty, and that having or not having those policies doesn’t seem to affect crime rates (other than the crimes of police officers killing civilians or civilians killing police officers). In short, those 8 policies are correlated with fewer people, in uniform or not, dying in police encounters.

Correlation does not prove causation. It’s possible that the police departments which put in place those policies were already less likely to use lethal force, and that if you forced those policies on police departments which hadn’t voluntarily adopted them they wouldn’t work. But if the data is accurate, this correlation strongly suggests that implementing those eight policies in all police departments is morally necessary. And it seems obvious that if the Minneapolis Police Department had implemented one of the recommended policies ‘ban chokeholds and strangleholds’ George Floyd might still be alive today.

Campaign Zero has also launched the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ campaign to get cities across the United States to implement these policies. If my local government (San Francisco) hasn’t already implemented these eight policies, I’d be contacting them about this. Continue reading