Archive | November, 2010

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

LISTEN: Bigot Radio Host has History of Anti-LGBT Rants

17 Nov

As we reported here last week, KLIF radio personality, Chris Krok made a particularly homophobic and bigoted diatribe against openly-gay city council member Joel Burns.

We all remember Joel from his extraordinarily moving and courageous speech in front of the City Council on bullying and LGBT teen suicide.

This week, GLAAD stepped in and made a phone call to station manager Jeff Catlin, who apologized for Krok’s attacks and assured GLAAD that Krok had been “disciplined.” The nature of that discipline was of course not discussed with GLAAD as Catlin doesn’t believe in discussing employment practices per his note to TAE reader Bob Witeck:

It is corporate policy that we do not share internal disciplinary matters with the general public. I wouldn’t expect your boss to share with me when you get in trouble at work.

Catlin went on to tell GLAAD that Krok has not spoken about the Joel Burns speech since his original bigoted rant. We’re not sure if Catlin just took Krok at his word when he said he hadn’t mentioned Burns since that show aired, or if he actually went back and listened to the tapes, but some of our fantastic TAE readers beg to differ with the account that Krok never mentioned it again.

These following clips are reportedly from the two days following Krok’s bigoted rant against Joel Burns.

Krok Speaking out against Bullying Legislation, referring to a Transgender Girl, Andy Moreno who wanted to participate in the Homecoming Queen contest as a “dancing queen,” and pokes fun at someone who tells a story about the student having books thrown at her. Additionally, he continues a rant against Joel Burns.

Another rant against the Trans teen and Joel Burns

Please continue to contact Jeff Catlin and demand a responsible disciplinary action take place against Krok.

214-526-2400 Is the Main Office number of KLIF

or email the Operations Director, Jeff Catlin at  jeff.catlin@cumulus.com

****************************************

UPDATE FROM GLAAD:

Krok Apologizes on-air

Krok apologized for his rant about Joel Burns, but never mentioned his attacks on the trans teenager he also berated. This level of anger and hyperbole should be met with more than a simple apology where Krok reiterated that his opinion was still correct, but his use of words was too personal.


CA Elects Nation’s First Openly-Trans Judge

17 Nov

It’s been a close race, but according to the New York Daily News, in the final, uncertified tally, 49-year-old Victoria Kolakowski, has defeated rival John Creighton with 162,082 votes to his 152,546.

Since the November 2nd election, the count has been close and until now, neither party had claimed victory, but with the lead having expanded in the final vote, Kolakowski has become the certain winner of the race.

With 21 years of legal experience behind her, Kolakowski almost didn’t get started in her profession due to her gender identity. Upon applying to take the Louisiana Bar, the Louisiana Bar Association rejected her application on the grounds that she was “not of sound mind” due to her being transgender. After appealing to the Louisiana Supreme Court, she was ultimately allowed to take the Bar.

She later moved to California, where she has been a private lawyer and corporate attorney.

Kolakowski’s win adds another mark in the column of The Victory Fund, which works to elect openly-LGBT candidates nationwide and succeeded in winning more than 106 seats around the country this November, as we reported on.

 

A Decent Proposal

16 Nov

Alright, sometimes I can be a softy. Whether it be a tender moment on GLEE or a story like this one.

Found this on JoeMyGod, as I find many a fun story -

Apparently Metro, a free British newspaper, held a contest in which the winner would be able to use the front page one day for whatever they wanted. Jon Mark Ireland, a gay man who’d been in a relationship for five years happened to win.

The 27-year-old (Jon) admitted he was worried regular Metro reader Ben would face some diversion from his usual routine that might prevent him from seeing the all important message on the one-off cover.

But it turns out all went according to plan… sort of. Having missed out on his own copy from the station on his way through, it was a fellow Tube passenger’s Metro that caught Ben’s eye…seeing his name, the 23-year-old panicked at the sight of it on the front cover.

‘I don’t always get a Metro at my station – depending on the time of the morning there can be hardly any left,’ he explained.

‘So I didn’t get a Metro this morning and, on the train, this guy was reading it in front of me.

‘Then I saw my name and I thought “what?” I sort of blinked twice, then I’m looking around for a Metro – I gave up my seat to try to find one.

‘When I found one and saw the front cover properly it was a shock – and as soon as I got above ground again at Marble Arch I had five or six missed calls on my phone from people asking if I’d seen it.’

Ben eventually gave his partner a resounding ‘YES’ when the pair were able to get through to each other a few hours later – after Ben initially texted Jon with the promise: ‘I’m going to kill you!’

Making Progressive Allies

16 Nov

How many times have you heard “We need to make allies in the broader progressive movement” come out of an LGBT activist’s mouth? Well I’ll say it again. Its true. We do need to build stronger ties to other social movements in order to help us identify new pockets of supporters and to link our issues to the broad campaign against injustice everywhere.  Pooling resources, sharing ideas, and trading tips strengthens both the fight for LGBT equality and the progressive movement as a whole.

The New Organizing Institute has created an opportunity for us to do just that.  RootsCamp is an incredible chance for LGBT leaders to meet other progressive organizers and make the connections we need.  The NOI team calls it the “unconference” because we get to set the agenda, drive the conversation, and skip the boring powerpoints.

Details:

What:  RootsCamp – 5th Anniversary

When:  December 11-12

Where: George Washington University, Washington DC

Who: Volunteers, field staff, new media gurus, data geeks, state-based bloggers, campaign managers – anyone and everyone who played a part in the 2010 cycle, with civic engagement campaigns or as a part of issue groups.

RSVP here: http://rootscampdc.eventbrite.com/

Jamie and I will be attending, representing TAE, and sharing what we have learned from all of you.  You should probably join us.

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