16 years ago today.

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

UPDATE: SCHOCKED! CBS Journalist Outs Anti-Gay Republican Congressman

4 Jan
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) poses for Men's Health

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) poses for Men’s Health

It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington, D.C.. From the teal belt, white pants and pink gingham shirt, to his topless photos adorning the cover of Men’s Health to the TMZ video of him “sightseeing” in a gayborhood, we’re truly Schocked that a noted CBS journalist has outed the Illinois Congressman.

The LGBT community frequently has conversations about the value of outing a person and while many disagree with it as a tactic for creating change, most are on the same page that a person who acts hypocritically has made their own bed.

The HBO documentary “Outrage,” made by Talk About Equality friend, Mike Rogers – reveals boatloads of information about several electeds in DC and their hypocritical voting records vs their sexual orientation. The film was made before GOP Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) graced the halls of the Capitol, but many sitting Senators and Congressman were targets of the film.

Mike Rogers was criticized when the film was released, that nearly all of the film’s focus was on Republicans, with very little attention paid to Democrats. Rogers aptly responded that the Democrats on the hill weren’t acting hypocritically – voting against their own community’s rights and protections.

In comes Itay Hod, an openly gay journalist for CBS whose friend’s roommate is seeing Rep. Schock. Through a “hypothetical” presented on Hod’s Facebook page, a story is told of Hod’s friend walking in on his roommate and the Congressman in the shower together.

Technically speaking, Hod’s post is hearsay and rumor. There is currently a big argument going on around whether or not this outing is at all newsworthy as there’s no evidence presented. Granted, no one’s ever felt the need to present evidence that Schock is heterosexual either – so the double standard here and the hypocrisy of Schock’s voting record should these allegations be true means that this is entirely newsworthy to us.

Check out the post below:

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL)

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL)

“people always say, no one has the right to out anyone. that coming out is a private matter. i disagree. as you can imagine, not a very popular opinion. but bear with me.

here’s a hypothetical: what if you know a certain GOP congressman, let’s just say from Illinois, is gay… and you know this because one of your friends, a journalist for a reputable network, told you in no uncertain terms that he caught that GOP congressman and his male roommate in the shower… together. now they could have been good friends just trying to conserve water. but there’s more. what if this congressman has also been caught by tmz cameras trolling gay bars. now what if you know that this very same guy, the darling of the gop, has also voted against repeal of don’t ask don’t tell, opposed the repeal of doma, is against gay marriage; and for the federal marriage amendment, which would add language to the us constitution banning gay marriage and would likely strike down every gay rights law and ordinance in the country?

Are we still not allowed to out him?

let me ask another question… doesn’t the media have an OBLIGATION to expose his hypocrisy? if he had done something so hypocritical and he wasn’t gay, wouldn’t we demand journalists do their job? but they can’t… because we won’t let them. you’re not allowed to out ANYONE, we tell them.

we’ve created a situation where even though news organizations know this guy is gay, they can’t report it because he hasn’t said so on twitter.

if we keep saying that being gay is genetic; ergo, it’s no different than having blue eyes or blonde hair… than why are not allowed to mention it? why do we need anyone’s consent to talk about their sexuality? are we not allowed to say someone has blue eyes until they post a fb message telling us they are in fact blue?

we’ve been so effective at convincing everyone that outing people is a crime against humanity, that we’ve made it impossible for any network or news organization to talk about this “hypothetical” gay republican congressman and his hypocritical vote against gay rights. they won’t touch it for fear of retribution from GLAAD or HRC. (in fact when my friend’s network interviewed said hypothetical republican, he talked about wanting to find a nice woman to marry… and the network aired it… knowing it was a lie…

so, forgive me if I don’t subscribe to the notion that you’re not allowed to out anyone… in fact in some cases, i’d celebrate it. but I’m crazy that way.”

UPDATE: It seems Rep. Schock has just privatized his Instagram account which was just hours ago open to everyone. This may or may not have something to do with an AmericaBlog post titled “Aaron Schock’s 7 Gayest Instagram Posts of 2013.

Jamie’s Lessons from 2013

1 Jan
Every year, I like to recap what happened by thinking about the things I’ve learned. Maybe you learned some of the same. Share your lessons in the comments below!
- Always ring in the new year with people you love.

- Living walking distance from the Capitol is awesome – especially during an inauguration.

- If you have the opportunity to attend a historic event, do it. Even if it’s just to say you were there.

- If you have the chance to swear in your dog at the Capitol, do it.

- Seneca, Selma, Stonewall. Having your history recognized by the President is pretty cool – especially considering it’s not taught in schools.

- Telling your story is important. Telling it to USAToday and having it wind up on the front page for young gay people to see and realize they aren’t alone is just awesome.

- Weddings are expensive.

- I want to be Olivia Pope when I grow up.
554323_400828820004592_470515519_n- Birthday profiteroles are awesome – even when they’re 5 months late.
- If you can’t afford a ticket to an inaugural ball, throw your own.

- Saying “balls” when you mean “parties” makes me giggle.

- If you see a gay person at Chik-fil-A, call their shit out.

- I really should blog more.

- Sometimes letting it go is more important than being right.

- Being gay is awesome.

- If you have the chance to go to a place called “Swinging Richards” in Atlanta, go. Bring $1s.
- Not everyone on the internet likes pictures of my sleeping husband as much as I do.
- Smile more.
431259_395403110547163_2095498794_n- Wedding planning doesn’t have to be as bad as everyone makes it out to be.
- Find something to compromise on.
- Sometimes you have to spend the weekend on the couch marathoning a great TV show.
- It takes someone pretty special to have Darrell Issa and Elizabeth Warren both show up to your memorial service.
- Sometimes it’s ok to bail. Especially if it’s REALLY cold.
- Always order more Girl Scout Cookies than you actually need.
- Sometimes a cosmo is all you really need.
- Putting together a coalition WILL make you lose hair.
- It’s pretty cool to be able to work with people who make the world better everyday.
9404_433806673373473_1731405342_n- Sometimes legends are crazy people.
- The Walking Dead is awesome. And it’s even better when surrounded by equally terrified friends.
- A “Rocky Mountain High” is an actual thing.
- Kids are funny.
- Sometimes it’s okay that your husband falls asleep every time you watch a movie.
- The Wii U is awesome – especially Luigi’s Mansion.
- Sometimes all you need is a cuddly dog that’s too big for your lap, pretending he fits there.
- When your coworkers fall asleep at work, it’s best to cover them with toys and costume pieces and take their photos.
- Coalition building is apparently important, but might make you want to take your own life at times.
- 10 times out of 10, apologizing won’t hurt you.
- When throwing a rally and the other side shows up, make sure you have a lot more people. :)
- Fuck the haters.
- If this is what they mean by “It Gets Better,” they greatly underplayed it. Because this is awesome.
522043_444999032254237_1286889282_n- People who hate on you on the internet mostly live in their parent’s basements and are unhappy, obnoxious trolls.
- When a child tells you he’s a superhero, believe him.
- We need to do something about gun violence.
- I should be seeing more theatre.
- Crabs are yummy, but they’re no lobster.
- You can’t invite everyone to your wedding, but you can always throw  a couple parties that you can invite everyone to.
- Sometimes you need to take a day off and hang out in a park all day.
- Invite friends over and play games. As often as possible.
- Cooking for your friends is really fun.
308592_453393071414833_1060803545_n- It takes a village to make a good wedding.
- If your dog engages in civil disobedience by following you out of the house and into the elevator, sometimes it’s best to just bring him with you.
- Provincetown is my favorite place.
- You will need more wine than you thought.
- Have someone you know and love officiate your wedding. It will make it much more personal.
- Sometimes people surprise you.
- Sometimes the music won’t work and you have to ask your friends to sing your first dance song. Just keep dancing.
- Sometimes people won’t show up for your wedding, hopefully it won’t be a family of 8.
- Drag Queens make everything better.
- If you can afford a wedding planner, get one.
1497765_560210300733109_1371591625_n- Your wedding isn’t about you – and that’s ok. It’s about celebrating the community of family and friends you’ve built.
- Get married on a beach.
- And the most important wedding lesson – if you ever have the chance to marry your best friend, do it.
- If you have the chance to go to a drive in movie – even if it’s raining, do it.
- If you ever have the chance to sing the National Anthem at a baseball game, do it.
- The difference between being married and being in a long relationship is like when an air conditioner shuts off. You don’t even realize there’s a hum in the background until it shuts off.
3688_467091890044951_1890040084_n- Decorate your workspace. Overdo it.
- 7 weddings in one year is a lot. And sometimes you won’t make it to every one.
- Camping makes you feel dirty for a month.
- If you get invited to the White House, go.
- Sometimes the Vice President wants a selfie with you and your new husband.
- San José is a very weird little city.
- Sometimes a wedding announcement is just a wedding announcement and not a tool to “ruin your father’s life.”
- Being married is awesome. Having your marriage recognized by the federal government is even better.
- Moose are big. Real big.
- Rest.
1381806_521703311250475_1703207791_n- If you give people the opportunity, they’ll usually impress you.
- Sometimes saying no is important.- If you find yourself swimming with all the other fish, go the other way. They don’t know where they’re going either.
- Live tweeting other people’s conversations on trains can be fun.
- “Black Twitter” is a thing.
- FUN. puts on an awesome show – even in a thunderstorm.
- Take a walk.
- If you ever have the chance to embarrass your mother-in-law by telling the waiter at the Mexican restaurant it’s her birthday, do it.
- Muppets should be able to run for and hold public office.
- Make sure you have BINGO before you shout BINGO.
- Locusts are not so bad. Don’t believe the hype.
- Some people are just assholes.
1235193_505237319563741_21702542_n- My dog on the beach is the best thing ever.
- Sometimes a night at home alone with your dog is the best remedy.
- You can’t put Students First if you put Teachers Last.
- Make homemade root beer.
- Baseball games are fun.
- Sometimes creating change means letting someone else lead the way.
- Everyone has a story, sometimes it’s happy and sometimes it’s not – the love is in the telling of it.
-Taking a back seat on something you’ve created can be tough – but worth it if it’s for the right reasons.
- Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.
1239966_516089855145154_1490596983_n
- Laverne Cox is awesome.
- The slow cooker is easily the best invention ever.
- I’m not cool and I’m cool with that.
- Calling someone an “apologist,” or “defensive,” during a debate is an obnoxious and bullying behavior.
- Always tell people that you appreciate them.
- Say “please” and “thank you” as often as you can.
- I understand why the Mormons thought that Utah was the promised land. It’s beautiful.
- It’s just stuff, it can be replaced.
- Judy Garland makes everything better.
- Grow your own garden.
- There are more gay Mormons than even I thought.
- Always finalize dinner plans, especially if the original plan was made 3 months prior.
- Go to Golden Corral once in your life…but only once.
1452207_533994126688060_33286037_n
- Washing silver makeup off is tough.
- Celebrate with friends whenever you can.
- If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.
- Ginger Ale is made from ginger, not redheads.
- If you can, have Thanksgiving with the people you love most…and give thanks.
- Always go around the table and say what you’re thankful for out loud. It feels really good to say it.
- I want an alpaca.
- Dental work is expensive and hurty.
- If you have a chance to see The Wizard of Oz or any other film classic on the big screen, go do it. And if you can bump into Liza Minnelli on the way there, do that too.
- Sometimes Beyoncé drops a secret album the same day as the event you’ve been planning for a year.
- Go to museums more.
- Sometimes New Year’s Eve is best spent with your family on a couch.
- I feel like I know less now than I did when I was 25. And that’s ok. There’s always more to learn.
Happy New Year from our family to yours!
1476226_560254247395381_1020552693_n

15 years ago today.

7 Oct

 

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

Now, on the 15th anniversary of his murder, author Stephen Jiminez has released a book denying the hate crime that took place here. Based entirely on innuendo, Jiminez is doing his best to attack the memory of a boy who gave me the strength to tell the world who I am. Please join me in asking bookstores to cancel his appearances by signing this petition. Using the 15th anniversary of this horrific event to sell books is beyond the pale.

shepard-matthew

Author Unveils Anti-Gay Matthew Shepard Truther Book on 15th Anniversary of His Murder

3 Oct

shepard-matthew15 years ago, I was walking through the student union of my college when I saw a TV with a news story about a young man in Laramie Wyoming who’d been found badly beaten – and left for dead.

That young man was Matthew Shepard. His grisly murder not only acted as a lightning rod for our community, but it also caused many, including myself, to come out and be counted.

Over the years, the media has tried digging deeper on this story only to be debunked at every conspiracy theory they could unearth. One of the first conspiracy theories around Matthew’s murder came from author Stephen Jiminez. In 2000, just 2 years after Matthew’s murder, Jiminez came across an anonymous letter claiming that Matthew was essentially in a sexual relationship with his murderer, Aaron McKinney. Despite McKinney’s denial of this, despite none of Matthew’s friends or family ever having seen McKinney in their lives prior to the murder and despite not even knowing who wrote this letter, Jiminez thought it necessary to craft a fiction about Matthew Shepard.

The brilliant Media Matters thoroughly debunks “The Book of Matt,” including Jiminez’ own background with the story, every one of his sources (many of whom are “anonymous,”), and his dismissal that Matt’s murder had anything to do with his sexuality despite taped confessions from the killer repeatedly referring to Matt as “the fag” and “the queer.”

Dozens of reputable bookstores around the country are not only stocking this innuendo-filled book, but they’ve invited Jiminez to speak and sell his book to more people.

Last week, I spoke with Bradley Graham at DC’s Politics & Prose – one of the few decent independent booksellers in the city. While grateful that I brought this to their attention, they refused to cancel the event. In a follow-up email to me, Brad dismissed my concerns that the book was full of lies by stating:

“As an independent bookstore, P&P has long played a role as more than just a retail outlet; it’s also an established forum for community discussion on a broad range of topics. In a democracy like ours, such forums are essential. Citizens must have opportunities to hear diverse and sometimes divergent views and to engage in respectful debate about them, even if those views are controversial. As long as this dialogue remains civil and considerate, we will stay committed to holding events featuring a wide universe of books and reflecting many different perspectives.”

Please read the above article from Media Matters on just how hurtful this book is to the LGBT community. Then check the list of readings here and see if one of your local bookstores is hosting a reading. Drop them a line and let them know that they are giving a platform to someone who is spreading lies, rumor and conjecture which are aimed at spitting on the grave of Matthew Shepard.

I’ve done the work of finding phone numbers for all scheduled book events for Mr. Jiminez. Please make the calls and let the stores know what’s going on. Most probably have no idea.

10/8/13 

Harvard Coop
1400 Massachussetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02238

1-800-368-1882

10/9/13

Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008

(202) 364-1919

10/10/13

CARMICHAELS BOOKSTORE
2720 FRANKFORT AVE
LOUISVILLE-JEFFERSON COUN, KY 40206-2769

(502) 896-6950

10/12/13

Iowa City Book Festival
Iowa City, IA 52240

http://www.iowacitybookfestival.org/contact/

10/14/13

Sarasota1Bookstore
1359 Main Street
Sarasota, FL 34236

941-365-7900

10/15/13

Books and Books
265 Aragon Ave
Coral Gables, FL 33134

305.442.4408

10/16/13

Inkwood Books
216 S. Armenia
Tampa, FL 33609

(813) 253-2638

10/19/13

MADISON PUBLIC LIBRARY – MARY VAUGHN/ORDER DEPT
126 S. HAMILTON STREET
MADISON, WI 53703-3210

608-266-6300

10/21/13

Auntie’s Bookstore
402 W Main
Spokane, WA 99201

(509) 838-0206

10/22/13

University Book Store
4326 University Way, N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105

(206) 634-3400

10/23/13

Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155

(206) 366-3333

10/24/13

Powell’s Books
1005 W. Burnside St.
Portland, OR 97210

503-228-4651

10/29/13

Copperfield Books
138 N. Main Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472

(707) 823-2618

10/30/13

Book Soup
8818 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069

310-659-3110

11/1/13

The King’s English Bookshop
1511 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84105

(801) 484-9100

11/3/13

BOULDER BOOKSTORE
1107 PEARL ST
BOULDER, CO 80302-5103

(303) 447-2074

11/4/13

Tattered Cover
2526 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80206

303-322-7727

11/5/13

Old Firehouse Books
232 Walnut St
Fort Collins, CO 80524

(970) 484-7898

11/6/13

Bookworks
4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107

(505) 344-8139

11/7/13

COLLECTED WORKS BOOKSTORE
202 GALISTEO ST
SANTA FE AIRPORT, NM 87501-2101

(505) 988-4226

11/12/13

BookPeople
603 North Lamar
Austin, TX 78703

(512) 472-5050

11/13/13

The Twig Book Shop
306 Pearl Parkway, Ste 106
San Antonio, TX 78215

210-826-6411

11/14/13

BRAZOS BOOKSTORE INC.
2421 BISSONNET ST
HOUSTON, TX 77005-1451

(713) 523-0701

11/18/13

SUBTEXT A BOOKSTORE
165 WESTERN AVE N STE 14
SAINT PAUL, MN 55102-4613

(651) 493-3871

11/19/13

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA BKSTR COFFMAN MEMORIAL UNION
300 WASHINGTON AVE SE
MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55455-0371

(612) 625-6000

11/20/13

BOSWELL BOOK COMPANY LLC DANIEL GOLDIN
2559 N DOWNER AVE
MILWAUKEE, WI 53211-4242

(414) 332-1181

11/22/13

BOOK CELLAR
4736 N LINCOLN AVE # 38
CHICAGO, IL 60625-2089

(773) 293-2665

Where were you on 9/11? Cynicism, Humanity and Musical Theatre

11 Sep

7421_253672350690_736815690_8885821_7422316_nFirst posted on 9/11/11:

To be honest, I’ve become a little jaded by the extreme overflow of coverage of the 10th Anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. Having every major and minor news outlet asking me to write in and tell them “How 9/11 Changed My World” has hardened my heart and made me care very little about my or anyone else’s experience that day.

I’ve become sickened by the political football that 9/11 has become. The fake sentiment from everyone trying to sell a “World Trade Center Memorial Coin made from gold found at the site” or “a vile of dust taken from the streets of New York on that sad day” has trivialized what happened to a point where you forget that we were actually there that day. I look at 9/11 now as this foreign thing that was experienced by some politicians and insurance companies and not the people who were there.

I was there. I could have been working in the World Trade Center that day. I knew people who were killed. I have a right to my experience.

I got home at around 1am after recording for the anime series, Magic User’s Club with Michael Sinterniklaas. I got a call from my temp agency at about 6:30am asking me to go work for Cantor Fitzgerald – a place I had temped before. They were located on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center.

There was an open audition at the York Theatre – a reputable off-Broadway musical theatre company that I really wanted to go to. Unfortunately, I hadn’t worked in 3 weeks and needed to pay the rent. I thought about it, realized I moved to NYC to be an actor and not a temp and I called the agency back and told them no.

A few hours later, I was sitting in the basement of the York with a few hundred other out-of-work actors waiting to line-up and get our scheduled times for the day of auditions. A girl ran into the room and screamed “The World Trade Center’s just been hit by a plane!” The jaded New Yorkers stayed in their seats except for one or two people who got up and ran out.

Someone had a small handheld orange radio they turned up to full volume and held above their head in the middle of the room. It was quiet as we all strained to listen. I kept thinking (and to this day, I don’t know why this is where my head went), that this must be some kind of War of the Worlds situation and someone was punking us.

News of the second plane hitting got people the tiniest bit more upset – not enough to abandon the audition, but certainly some gasps. Moments later, we lined up, got our audition cards and times for later in the day and headed out of the building.

The streets were in pandemonium. People screaming, running, trying to catch cabs. We were in midtown on the east side and the theatre wasn’t too far from a building I’d spent several weeks temping at. They were on a high floor and I recalled the view of WTC from the office windows. I shot up the elevator to see if I could catch what was going on from there. It was an extraordinarily clear day and the view was remarkably crisp. They had a TV playing the news stories with closeups of the towers and moments after I arrived, we watched one, then the other tower collapse. The room was silent.

After what happened, I was both terrified and sad. I don’t remember fearing another attack or thinking something else might happen, but there was certainly some shock that was setting in. My brother managed to get through to me on my cell phone to make sure I was okay. He posted that I was okay on some website that listed “survivors” of the attacks. For years after, that was one of the only things that came up when I’d Google myself.

I didn’t know where to go or what to do next. It quickly dawned on me though, that the audition wouldn’t be happening. The trains weren’t running. The buses were all packed to capacity and I lived at 204th Street in upper Manhattan, so walking would have been tough. So I wandered around midtown for a while. I remember sitting in WorldWide Plaza with some friends. None of us knew what to think.

I looked up Broadway and there was this massive sea of people – just walking. So I joined them in my long walk home. As we walked, I stopped at a McDonald’ss on 56th and Broadway and met and had a chat with Rocco Landesman – a fairly legendary Broadway producer. Then I headed back up Broadway. Thousands of us – trying to use our cell phones, in shock walking uptown.

My boyfriend at the time was in college in Boston, but he was raised in Brooklyn. His father was a firefighter and his mother was trying desperately to get in touch with him. He was able to get through on my land line and asked me to call his family, which I did. I couldn’t tell them who I was when I called, but it turns out his father was okay. His mother’s car had broken down and he had to drive her to work before heading to the fire station, which was among the first to respond. He ended up losing most of his colleagues.

The following few days were spent volunteering, temping down in Union Square, and taking frantic phone calls from my roommate. He didn’t take the whole “don’t panic” thing too well. Every time they’d raise the threat level, he’d go buy 5 more gallons of distilled water – at one point we had 22 gallons in our kitchen. He’d call me every time he saw some cops with AK-47s to let me know his location so I could tell his family where to look for his body. I, on the other hand – I think in reaction to his sheer terror – stayed pretty calm.

What I remember most in those weeks – the images that remain strongest in my memory are the “Missing” posters plastered all over the city – particularly Union Square, which was undergoing some renovation. There were literally thousands of pieces of paper with photos attached – taped to anything standing. As the days turned into a week and then two, these walls of posters turned into memorials. Flowers and candles strewn all over the ground, quotes in chalk on the sidewalk “We Remember,” and the now-trite “Never Forget.”

It only lasted about a month, but for that month, New York City was the kindest, gentlest place you could imagine. People all held doors for one another. If you saw a police or fireman on the subway, hat in hand, you’d go over and say “Thank you” or “I hope you’re okay.” This feeling of great humanity informed every step we took. Then the politics of it all settled in and we were at war. The humanity transformed into fear. The cops with the AK-47s hit every corner and every subway station and we lived in a police state. The raising and lowering of threat levels coincided with elections and polls and it became clear to me that “We Remember…the people” had forever become “Never Forget…the attacks.”

Pride House Announces Olympic Same-Sex Hand Holding Initiative

14 Aug

Olympics Day 4 - Gymnastics - Artistic Today, Pride House – an international coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups announced their Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative, a campaign that is part of the group’s response to the International Olympic Committee’s choice of Russia as host nation for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

While the International LGBT community has been searching for a way to respond to Russia’s anti-gay laws including boycotts of Russian products and calls to boycott the Olympic games in Sochi altogether, Pride House has been focused on finding a safe way for Olympic participants and fans to respond while in Russia.

“The very first thing the members of the Pride House International coalition did was to ask our Russian counterparts for their leadership on our campaign,” said Lou Englefield, Director of Pride Sports UK and PHI coordinator. “Any response, no matter how well-meaning, would be inappropriate without the input of LGBT sportspeople in Russia”. Konstanin Yablotskiy from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation is part of Pride House International, and was instrumental in conceptualizing the Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative.

As Yablotskiy explained, “Long after the 2014 Olympics, we in Russia will continue to live under this horrible law. For a few weeks we have the opportunity to bring the attention of the world to the situation in Russia. The Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture. We know from gestures like Usain Bolt’s lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable”.

The campaign is simple: Pride House International is calling on everyone present in Sochi – athletes, staff, media, officials, spectators, sponsors, vendors, and fans – to take every opportunity to hold hands with a person of the same sex.

copy-phi-sshhi-header-1015x276“There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games. Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organise for other participants and spectators,” said the Federation of Gay Games’ Les Johnson. “But everyone can hold hands with their neighbour. Indeed, raising your rivals’ hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event.”

Pride House International does urge anyone wanting to participate in the campaign to exercise caution. Hand-holding should happen only in public view with as many witnesses as possible, media and otherwise.

Same-sex hand-holding has an Olympic tradition with the organization: A Day in Hand hosted a same-sex hand-holding relay through London as part of London 2012′s Inspire cultural program.

Materials in support of this campaign (posters, t-shirts, pins, and web badges) will be available starting by early October on the Pride House International website at pridehouseinternational.org.

Other supporting actions for the SSHHI campaign will be announced soon, as will other actions for visibility of LGBT sport during the Sochi Games.

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