Norman Lear’s work was an integral part of American life in the second half of the 20th Century. Television programs like Maude, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons dragged television out of the 1950s and into the real world. As Variety states: “Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, the Vietnam war – by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula. No subject was taboo: Two 1977 episodes of All in the Family revolved around the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith.”
All in the Family, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1979, typified the clash of generations. Middle-aged bigot Archie Bunker – played by Carrol O’Connor – was a right-wing King Lear in Queens, raging at the radical changes in society. Archie didn’t let ignorance get in the way of his opinions; once he argued that people who lived in communes were communists. The thing is, the old dog was actually capable of learning new tricks. Archie never evolved into any kind of saint. But over the nine seasons "Family" aired, experience taught Archie the benefits of listening to (and respecting) viewpoints far different from his own.
All in the Family was the jewel in Lear’s crown, but don’t forget the highly popular shows One Day at a Time (which featured Bonnie Franklin as a divorcee raising two daughters in the Midwest) and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (with Louise Lasser as the titular figure in a parody of soap opera conventions). Good or bad, Lear’s work was never indifferent.
More recently, you may have heard about Lear’s lively activism. His TV shows were themselves arguments for free and unfettered speech, and Lear supported a slate of liberal causes. In 1981 he founded People for the American Way. The organization’s website describes the ways that PFAW has “engaged cultural and community leaders and individual activists in campaigns promoting freedom of expression, civic engagement, fair courts, and legal and lived equality for LGBTQ people.”
Lear’s life was a long and fulfilling one. In 1978 he was given the first of two Peabody Awards, the most prestigious award in television. “To Norman Lear,” it reads, “...for giving us comedy with a social conscience. He uses humor to give us a better understanding of social issues. He lets us laugh at our own shortcomings and prejudices, and while doing this, maintains the highest entertainment standards.”
A pioneer, a gadfly of the state, a mensch. To paraphrase a lyric from All in the Family’s theme song, “Mister, we could use a guy like Norman Lear again.”
Male, Female, or X? New York City Will Add A Third Option to Birth Certificates
Come Jan. 1, 2019, the non-binary marker will become a NYC milestone
Along with California, Washington, New Jersey, and Oregon, NYC is moving away from pre-determined gender identification at birth by adding an "X" option to birth certificates along with "male" and "female." This is a huge step towards greater equality and dignity, not only for transgender and nonconforming New Yorkers, but for the next generation, who will now have the ability to start their lives without a label to live up to. As The Source explains, "The option could be used by parents of intersex children or by parents who want their child to be able to choose a gender at a later date," as well.
As per NBC News, "The New York City Council and Board of Health voted on Wednesday (9-12-18) to include a third gender category, 'X,' on birth certificates starting Jan. 1, 2019. Furthermore, the legislation will discontinue the need for a doctor's note or health care provider's affidavit to change one's gender marker." The bill was adopted by a 41-6 vote. This means people can also update their existing birth certificate to reflect their identity retroactively.
The proposal for this change was presented in June 2018 by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Johnson stated, "This groundbreaking legislation will make New York birth certificates more inclusive for all and will send a powerful signal to the world that New York City government works for everyone."
Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett added, "By allowing self-attestation and 'X,' the Health Department and City Council are reaffirming our commitment to the self-determination of the transgender and gender nonconforming community. We know that being able to live your authentic gender and gender expression is critical to physical and mental health. Now more than ever, we must ensure that all people can live their best and healthiest lives."
Along with California, Washington, New Jersey, and Oregon who are already on board with the "X" option for birth certificates, additional states are making strides in this direction too. As NBC News reports, "Maine, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., currently enable residents to opt for a nonbinary gender marker on their driver's license, and California will join them starting in January." Other states have gender-change laws in place, most only for male-to-female (and vice versa) updates. For a state-by-state listing, see the Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project's report.
"Today is a historic day for New York in its role as a worldwide champion for inclusivity and equality," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told NBC News. Will the remainder of the country follow in the Big Apple's footsteps? From the looks of things thus far, change is contagious.