Archive | November, 2010

Thankful.

24 Nov

I’m sitting here, having taken a break from a bevy of baking and cooking for my friend’s Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. And I’m thinking about the things I’m thankful for.

We spend a lot of time getting angry, being hurt and frustrated over our struggle for Equality. We get very upset about complacency and laziness within our movement, about wrongheaded tactics and a lack of solidarity. So many of us thinking it’s not our fight to fight – and it gets exhausting.

So I’m taking this moment to be thankful and I wanted to let you know. I’m thankful for people like David Mixner who has been fighting this fight for decades and is eager to pass the torch to the younger generation of activists, full of love, support and guidance all the way.

I’m thankful for activists like Jay Carmona and Robin McGehee, Eric Ethington in Utah and Mike McKinney in Vermont, David Mailloux in Boston – all taking to the streets and organizing in beautiful poignant ways, demanding that our leaders be accountable for their promises and duties and teaching our community that there is strength in self.

I’m thankful for the brilliant allies who have stood up for members of our community publicly – our straight brothers and sisters and parents and classmates – they are the ones who make us more than a minority.

I’m thankful for my family who has been always-supportive, loving and kind and even making that extra step and bringing up Equality in situations when they know they may be judged for it. They don’t care. And it’s because they love me.

I’m thankful for the organizations that are doing work on our behalf, moving our equality forward in small towns, big cities and on Capitol Hill and the Oval Office.

But mostly, I am thankful for all the people who’ve taken the brave step to tell your story. We believe that it is through our own stories that we will find our equality.

So, we hope you all have a marvelous Thanksgiving, wherever you may be. We hope and encourage you spend some time around the dinner table talking about Equality if you can and we hope you can look around that table and be truly thankful.

Jamie & Sean

Of Sports and Gays

23 Nov

It’s an established truth in our movement that with higher visibility comes greater acceptance. As more people come out we change how the public views us and views the issues that affect us.

On a mass scale nothing can change perceptions like a high profile celebrity coming out. It starts conversations, both in the media and on a personal level, and raises visibility for our community unlike any other personal narrative we can tell. Lets face it: we live in a socieity obsessed with celebrity.

And we also live in a society obsessed with sports. From August to February its almost impossible to escape the NFL. Co-workers’ discussions, our social media pages, and schoolyard conversations are dominated by sports, especially those of young men. This is a great untapped resource and a fantastic way to change some minds and force conversation in this very straight world. Professional athletes coming out will propel our dialog forward. Just ask German soccer star Mario Gomez, who has urged his fellow players to go public.

Is the world of professional sports ready for openly gay players? Maybe not.  One columnist in the UK has doubts:

Is football in the UK even ready for a player coming out? I do not think so. The football associations and the clubs need to ensure that match day officials, both on and off the pitch, are properly trained and ready to recognise and appropriately respond to instances of anti-gay abuse.

John Amaechi, a retired NBA star who came out in 2007, writes:

Homosexuality is an obsession among ballplayers, trailing only wealth and women. The guys I played with just didn’t like “fags” — or so they insisted over and over again. But they didn’t understand fags enough to truly loathe them. Most were convinced, even as they sat next to me on the plane or threw me the ball in the post, that they had never met one.

It’s entirely possible that some male dominated sports are not ready for this kind of change. Do the governing organizations of the NFL and NBA have policies in place that protect the athlete? Is the gay player prepared for taunting fans, entrenched locker room homophobia, and discriminating coaches and staff? Or have we reached a time where these issues might be eliminated with a few pigskin-throwing pioneers? We won’t know until someone comes out and tests the waters.

Whether the macho sports world is ready or not gay athletes need to consider the enormous affect they can have on the national dialog. Do they have an obligation to do so because of their status? Certainly not. The same respect for privacy we extend to all in our community should apply to them equally. We all know it’s hard enough to be gay without demanding careers be put in jeopardy too. That difficult decision lies with the individual, though the opportunity to be a role model, advocate, and game changer is there. Even though their coming out can do enormous good, at the end of the day closeted athletes have no more obligation to do so than the rest of us.

We just wish they would.

Maybe then I’d show up at an NFL game.

Gays Most Targeted Minority in Violent Hate Crimes

23 Nov

Matthew Shepard

Disturbing news but not a new trend from the research of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). According to the FBI’s 2009 Hate Crimes Statistics report, gays and lesbians remain the most victimized minority in violent hate crimes (attacks on persons instead of property). Though the numbers are not broken down as such in the FBI’s report, SPLC does an excellent job of breaking down the numbers here.

Though there was a drop in overall bias crimes from 2008 to 2009, the study, as broken down by SPLC shows that from 1995-2008, gays and lesbians are anywhere from 2.4 to 13.8% more likely than other minorities to be a victim of a violent hate crime. These numbers are based on studies done by the FBI and combine not only the numbers of hate crime incidents, but our representation in society – the lesbian and gay population.

One can make all sorts of assumptions about why this is. Everything from backlash for our heightened visibility in the past years to an increase in specifically-religious condemnation of gays, lesbians and our families. There is probably blame to be spread throughout, however one thing is for certain – nothing will change if we don’t step up the education and enlightenment around our issues.

Minds are changing – families are being informed and ignorance around who we are is being thwarted everyday. These statistics are important, but we cannot let them frighten us into staying closeted. These things are happening to our kids, and they will continue to happen if we don’t continue to teach our friends, families and allies the truth about who we are – and who we love. Visibility is the key to acceptance, so keep walking tall, speak out against these crimes and continue to live your life openly and honestly – we will change this. We have to.

thanks to Shannon for the tip!

A Very Mary Holiday: Honoring a Friend

23 Nov

Next Monday, November 29th, I’ve been asked to present an award to my best friend, and I couldn’t be more excited. The 2nd Annual Broadway Speaks OUT! A Very Mary Holiday Concert will benefit the Ali Forney Center for LGBT homeless youth, and I’m giving the Hero Award to Tony Award-Winner Laura Benanti.

Laura in The Secret Garden World AIDS Day Concert

Not to give away too much (not as if I’ve written a speech yet), but just to give you a little history…I’ve known Laura for 8 years now and while she’s not the girl you see screaming in the streets for equality, she has quietly made a difference in a lot of people’s lives – especially mine. By being a supportive friend, by always agreeing to perform in every LGBT or HIV/AIDS benefit I’ve ever produced and by helping educate her friends and family on LGBT issues and equality, Laura has proven to be the type of ally we need to win this fight.

Please join Talk About Equality and Broadway Speaks OUT! next Monday night for a bevy of Broadway stars and performers singing out for equality!

A Very MARY Holiday will be presented Monday, November 29 at 8pm, being held at Dixon Place. The starry benefit will be hosted by Marti Gould Cummings, and boasts the ferocious talents of Kate Shindle (Legally Blonde) , John Arthur Greene (West Side Story), Matt Doyle (Bye Bye Birdie, “Gossip Girl”), Matt Shingledecker (West Side Story), Danny Calvert, The Broadway Dolls, Annie Golden (The Full Monty), Michelle Dowdy (Hairspray), Brian Charles Rooney (Three Penny Opera), Tracy McDowell (Rent), Malan Breton (Project Runway), Chase Davidson (Spring Awakening), Krystina Alabado (Spring Awakening), Scott Nevins (truTV’s The Smoking Fun Presents), Kate Pazakis, Megan Reinking, Alex Ellis, Taylor Mac, Marcus Simione, Composer Scott Alan, The Broadway Boys and Ryan Nickulas and TJ Kelly (Logo’s A-List NY) . Orfeh (Legally Blonde) and other broadway stars will film special video messages for the evening. Author, political strategist, and civil right’s activist, David Mixner will be the night’s Keynote Speaker.

Drexel D. Heard II, serves as the evening’s Director, with Kristen Lee Rosenfeld (Music Director), Brad

Laura, Me (with more hair) and her Mom, Linda at the Embrace Concert for the Matthew Shepard Foundation

Gardner (BSO’s Music Director), and John Murdock (Production Stage Manager).

Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, currently appearing on Broadway in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, will be this year’s Broadway Speaks OUT! Hero Award Honoree.

The evening is being Produced by Broadway Speaks OUT! and Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights Aids, and sponsored by Gay City News, GIVEN Liqueur, Dixon Place, Ferality Show, and Talk About Equality.

*Performers are performing with special permission from Actors Equity Association*

Tickets can be purchased at https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/8505685

For more information please visit www.broadwayspeaksout.com

 

PHOTOS: No One is Alone – Trevor Project Benefit

23 Nov

So many communities have spoken out to LGBT kids in recent weeks, and tonight the Broadway community came out in full-force at the special benefit event for The Trevor Project called “You Are Not Alone.” The concert featured performances from some of Broadway’s best, led by Tony Award-Winner Betty Buckley. Talk About Equality was there to document the evening. Enjoy the photos, and please make sure you consider The Trevor Project in your holiday giving. Thanks to all those involved for a remarkable evening.

Lea Delaria

Seth Rudetsky

Lisa Kron

Erin Quill

Marc Kudisch

John Tartaglia

Aaron Lazar

 

 

Max von Essen

Betty Buckley

Betty Buckley

Andrew Keenan-Bolger

Adam Wachter

Kate Pazakis

Jeff Blumenkrantz

The Trevor Project's Johnny Cooper and Joe Lodato

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com

Sending Love to Queen of the LGBT Blogs, Pam Spaulding

22 Nov

The brilliant Pam Spaulding of the aptly-named PamsHouseBlend.com is undergoing surgery today and we wanted to participate in the blogswarm of love being sent her way.

She’s been an incredible leader in the LGBT movement and we need her back on her feet ASAP so she can keep up her inspirational work on and offline. I met Pam only once, briefly at the Courage Campaign’s “Camp Courage” down in DC the day before the National Equality March and I can’t wait to see her again!

Please take a minute to send some thoughts and prayers her way for a speedy recovery! Thanks Pam, for all you do! Get better soon!

Be a Gay Santa for Homeless LGBT Youth

18 Nov

There’s a problem we don’t talk enough about. There’s an issue that we, as LGBT people seem to ignore while we are fighting to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. There’s something we are missing when we discuss the teens around the country that are taking their own lives.

We sometimes forget the survivors.

Statistics are numbers, something you can read and feel bad or good about and move on. They can be staggering or heart-wrenching and when I tell you the next statistic, it should shock you, but it may not.

According to the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, of the 1.6 million homeless American youth, as much as 40% of them identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Many of these kids were kicked out of their homes after coming out, many realized they couldn’t live at home openly and so the only choice was to run away. Either way, these are our kids. They are our responsibility. Many have been left without parents who want to know or understand them and without a single positive role model in their lives.

Cyndi Lauper’s phenomenal Give a Damn! campaign released this star-studded video today, featuring Susan Sarandon, Alan Cumming, Rebecca Romijn, Eden Reigel and Pete Wentz:

And just this week, we read about an organization called New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth. According to their website,

“The mission of the organization is to increase the self-sufficiency of homeless LGBT youth to enable them to “go beyond” the shelter system. We intend to do this by providing case management, community organizing, life skills groups, community-building recreational activities, and, in the long-term, supported employment opportunities. Our guiding principles are those of harm reduction, youth development, and empowerment.”

They’ve launched an incredible campaign that we all can take part in and we wanted to let you know about it. They are looking for 150 Secret Santas for this holiday season, and we here at Talk About Equality have just put on our big red hat and fluffy white beard to take part. Please read about the campaign and take part in any way you can. If you can’t afford it on your own, get a few friends together to be a Santa to one of these kids who won’t have a holiday without you.

This is a chance to make a small difference in one of OUR children’s lives. take it.

Here’ s how it works:

1) Sign up to receive a letter written by a homeless LGBT youth requesting a gift (requests are limited to items of $100 in value or less)

2) Purchase the item and mail it or drop it off before 12/22/10

3) Your young person will receive the gift at the New Alternatives Christmas Party on 12/23/10

Please email kate@newalternativesnyc.org if you are interested in being a Santa this year.

Please share this wherever you can.

Texas Teen Murdered in Possible Hate Crime

18 Nov
Josh Wilkerson, murdered in possible gay hate crime

Josh Wilkerson, murdered in possible gay hate crime

A horrific story coming out of Pearland, Texas. This past Tuesday, 19 year-old Hermilio Moralez was getting a ride home from his friend, 18 year-old Joshua Wilkerson, when according to Moralez’ statement, Wilkerson began hitting on him. The two got out of the truck and a fight ensued, where Moralez grabbed a wooden rod and beat the 18 year-old to death.

Moralez then drove Wilkerson’s body to a field and burned it. He then drove Wilkerson’s pickup truck to a local strip center and dumped the boy’s shoes and backpack into a dumpster.

One of Wilkerson’s friends wrote on a memorial facebook page:

“Josh you really were a cool kid. Anyone that had the chance to meet you and be your friend knows how much fun you were and how full of heart and love you were. always up for making someone laugh or smile when you know they were goin threw a hard day. I will never forget you and the memories shared with you! Forever remembered and never forgot. We love you boy!”

Wilkerson’s facebook page shows some of his frustrations with living in Pearland, and he identifies as being interested in women. His status updates are frequently filled with Bible quotes and desires to get out of Pearland (not to mention a few homophobic and racial slurs thrown around by him and his friends). One of his friends spoke to Talk About Equality and informed us that Josh was indeed straight.

Regardless of Wilkerson’s identity, there must be a discussion around the gay panic defense, which Moralez’ lawyers will undoubtedly use. The idea that beating and/or taking another person’s life because of this societal fear of gay people needs to be rectified. This can no longer be a defense for horrific actions.

Our hearts go out to the familes and friends of Wilkerson and Moralez and we look forward to seeing how this story unfolds.

GLSEN: The Path to Safe Schools

18 Nov

The LGBT bullying epidemic has only recently become a national issue largely due to the string of youth suicides that have spread across the county.  New PSA campaigns have sprung up all over the place and several celebrities and politicians have spoken out about the need to end bullying and discrimination in our school communities. Naming the problem is easy yet little attention is paid to the legislation pending in Congress that will directly affect the lives of bullied youths.

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, GLSEN, held an event on Capitol Hill today to discuss the background of safe schools legislation and to make an impassioned pitch for the passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide protections to students against harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Jared Polis (D-Co) and in the Senate by Al Franken (D-MN).  Both spoke today about the need to create safe spaces in schools:

“No student should have to dread going to school because they fear being bullied. With the spate of recent suicides in Minnesota that were linked to anti-LGBT bullying, it’s clear we need to do more to ensure schools provide a safe environment for all students” Sen. Al Franken

“Every student has the right to an education free from bullying, harassment, and violence, and we are here today to show that Congress is ready to take a stand against bullying in our schools”  Rep. Jared Polis

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Rep. Linda Sanchez sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which is a federal anti-bullying bill which protects students from all backgrounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We shouldn’t have to have this legislation,” said Sen. Casey “We owe it to our children to do whatever we can to ensure their pleas for help do not go unheard.”

Two mothers of dead bullying victims shared their stories and spoke of the devastation school bullying had wrecked on their families.  Tammy Aaberg, who’s 15-year-old son completed suicide, spoke of her attempts to get the school district to listen and address the problem, and shared her frustration and loss when her complaints were ignored.

Sirdeaner Walker, who lost her 11 year old son last year, issued a call to action:

“Too many of our children are being tormented in schools-and not enough of our adults are doing the right thing and teaching respect for all. Enough is enough! Teachers, parents, clergy, and community members must stand together and make change. We all know the problems and we know the solution that can make a difference all that remains is to act.”

Perhaps the most touching moment of the event came from Joey Kemmerling, who spoke of his personal experiences being bullied, his struggle to cope and thoughts of suicide, and how it caused him to do something about it:

“I came out in 8th grade, and I’ve been bullied every day.” said Kemmerling. “The day is going to come for everyone standing up and saying ‘no more’.”

Louis Van Amstel, from Dancing with the Stars, and singer Clay Aiken, spoke to the crowd of their experiences with bullying and how they made it through.

Its clear, both from the personal testimonials heard today and the overwhelming recent anecdotal evidence, that the legislation proposed is absolutely necessary for our children.  GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard addressed the need for their passage:

“Our nation has failed to address the pervasive problem of bullying and harassment in schools for far too long. Countless youth are denied access to an education every day because they do not feel safe in school. Passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act would go a long way toward laying the necessary foundation of support lacking in many American schools”

It is considered highly unlikely that either of these bills can pass in the current lame-duck session, but Byard and the sponsoring lawmakers are confident it can be passed in the next year.

“We have hope that these bills will move.  They currently have bi-partisan support in this Congress.” said Byard, who goes on to add that “Fundamentally this is an issue of behavior, not belief”

Today’s event was a call to action for all who recognize the importance of this issue and has clearly laid out the path to creating safe schools.  We need to keep the pressure on our communities and school leaders to deal with these issues while pressuring Congressional leaders to pass this much-needed legislation.

PHOTOS: Marine Corps Authors Tell Their Stories

18 Nov

Evelyn Thomas

Tonight at the LGBT Community Center of New York, four Marine authors spoke about their lives in the Corps and serving under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Law.

All four read from their published works and spoke to the crowd about the DADT policy and answered questions regarding their service.

The event, sponsored Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) was hosted by former service member, Tanya Domi.

The authors included Former Marine Corps Officer Rich Merrit (Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star), former Marine Corps NCO, Brett Edward Stout (Sugar-baby Bridge), Former Marine Corps NCO, Justin Crockett Elzie (Playing by the Rules) and former Marine Corps NCO Evelyn Thomas (Does Butch Nappy Hair Offend You?…). The evening featured each reading from their published works – some of the stories were autobiographical while some were fictional, but all the authors shared some of their own stories of serving in the Corps under DADT. We encourage you to look up each of these talented writer’s works and give them a read – if tonight’s samplings were any indication of the heart-wrenching, brave and funny stories in their books, then you shouldn’t miss out.

Including Dan Choi, who was in the audience, we had three of the veterans who were arrested at the

Justin Crockett Elzie

White House on Monday during the GetEQUAL protest, it was a nice reunion.

And what’s more, while the authors were reading, we found out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would be bringing the repeal of DADT up for a vote after the Thanksgiving recess. Keep telling your stories, it’s making a difference.

 

 

 

Brett Edward Stout

Rich Merritt

 

Tanya Domi

 

Brett Edward Stout

 

Evelyn Thomas

Dan Choi

Tanya Domi, Dan Choi, Brett Edward Stout

Tanya Domi, Rich Merritt, Brett Edward Stout, Evelyn Thomas and Justin Crockett Elzie

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