Archive | September, 2011

Texas Teacher Harassed by “Christian” Student Claiming 1st Amendment Rights

28 Sep

Dakota Ary

Some of you may have heard about Dakota Ary, the Fort Worth high school student who claims he was suspended for expressing his religious beliefs. Ary claimed that his German teacher broached the topic of homosexuality and Christianity when Ary stated “I am a Christian and I believe that homosexuality is wrong.” Ary was then sent from the classroom and suspended for 3 days.

Up until today, the teacher in question had not been allowed to speak about the incident, but via the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., a rather different story is being told. According to teacher Kristopher Franks, a group of four students, (of which Ary is one) has been harassing him based on their suspicion that he is gay. Franks’ version of the story follows:

On the particular day in which this incident occurred, Mr. Franks was opening class when the topic of Christianity in Germany was broached by one student, who asked what churches were there, another whether they read the Bible in English, etc. Franks asserts that the topic of homosexuality was not broached in any way, and that Ary‘s assertions to the contrary are entirely false. At this point, Ary declared, with a class audience, “Gays can’t be Christians; homosexuality is wrong,” looking directly at Mr. Franks. Franks says he understands and affirms students’ right to free speech, and that he is perfectly prepared to lead a respectful discussion on topics such as gay rights that allows for the assertion of opinions with which he disagrees. He has led such discussion in the past in his sociology classes. But in this case, hr feels the context makes it clear that this remark was made ad hominem, aimed specifically at him to devalue him and any information he might share on the topic of religion, on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation.

LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. goes on to request assistance in making sure Franks’ side of the story is heard fully. The contact info will be at the end of this post. One can’t help but consider the case of another student who took it upon himself to spread his beliefs about homosexuality while still young, impressionable and naive. We’ve written about Ryan Miner here before and his crusade to keep a Gay Straight Alliance group from forming on his former college campus. Miner  said some rather vile things in the press and like former Senator Rick Santorum, he now finds himself with a Google problem.

When Miner has applied for jobs, he’s admittedly found a great deal of difficulty in getting hired due to his previous bigoted statements. In this day and age, let’s face it – unless you’re working at the National Organization for Marriage, you will have to work with some LGBT people – and who wants to hire someone who is a known bigot and will likely cause friction among their coworkers? Miner has recently issued an apology for the things he said, though in an effort to discover Miner’s earnestness, we requested he do more (i.e. volunteer for an LGBT charity, donate to LGBT causes, etc). Our requests for Miner to back-up his new found “respect” for the LGBT community have gone unanswered.

Please read the rest of the post from LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S and help in any way you can.

It would be very helpful, and a grace rendered to the threatened teacher, Mr. Franks, if you and other community members would write letters and/or email messages to the school board members, assistant superintendent, and Western Hills High School principal, calling on them to give a respectful, caring, and full hearing to Mr. Franks’ side of the story. Time is of the essence: He is being interrogated by an external investigations group today, though no specific allegations have yet been made against him by the ISD. I will post their names, phone numbers and email addresses below. Please keep all messages respectful and restrained, calling simply for a fair, respectful and caring hearing of Mr. Franks’ side of the story, unswayed by the public outcry generated by the slanted media coverage. Do not go into the speculations or reports of his side of the case; that is for him to present.

Walter Dansby
Interim Superintendent
Fort Worth ISD
Email: walter.dansby@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.871.2000

James Wellman
Principal
Western Hills High School
Fort Worth ISD
Email: james.wellman@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.815.6000

Ray Dickerson
President
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: ray.Dickerson@fwisd.org

Carlos Vasquez
Board Member, District 1
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: carlos.vasquez@fwisd.org

Norman Robbins
Board Member, District 7
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: norman.robbins@fwisd.org

How NBC’s ‘Playboy Club’ is the gayest thing on TV and why you should watch it

26 Sep

Did you happen to catch NBC’s The Playboy Club last Monday? If not, you best make your way over to Hulu and check it out. Then turn it on tonight at 10pm to watch episode 2.

Laura Benanti

You might ask what a new TV series about the 1960s Playboy Club in Chicago may have to do with LGBT equality and why the hell we might be writing about it. In the interest of fair reporting, I should start by saying I’m horrifically biased as my best friend Laura Benanti plays bunny mother, Carol-Lynne and is fabulous! Laura is also one of the best LGBT allies a person could ask for, constantly using her notoriety to further the conversation about our rights. So there’s that. But having a Tony Award-Winning Broadway musical star as one of the leads, isn’t the only thing that makes Playboy Club one of the gayest shows on television.

While watching the pilot and following some characters who seem somewhat mysterious but very likable, we couldn’t help but notice (and tell you about) one of the final scenes of the first episode. The two characters who they try to make us believe are a young attractive married couple happen to be gay. And not only that – they are running a meeting of the Chicago chapter of the Mattachine Society!

NBC's The Playboy Club features a scene at a Mattachine Society meeting

As we’ve written about here before, the Mattachine Society was among the first homophile organizations in the country and was founded in 1950. The characters in the Playboy Club (a lesbian Playboy Bunny and a gay man) are in what was referred to as a “lavender marriage.” This was a common occurrence and still exists today when someone feels the need to hide their sexuality by marrying someone of the opposite gender.

This marks the first reference we can think of where the Mattachine Society appears in the mainstream media.

Amber Heard

And if that weren’t enough of a reason for you to watch NBC’s The Playboy Club, please direct your attention to the gorgeous young Amber Heard – another one of the show’s stars. Amber came out as a lesbian last year. Amber, who has been seen in Zombieland and Pineapple Express came out in an interview to AfterEllen.com and had this to say:

“I think when I became aware of my role in the media, I had to ask myself an important question ‘Am I part of the problem?'” she told the the website. “And I think that when millions and millions of hard-working, tax paying Americans are denied their rights and denied their equality you have to ask yourself what are the factors that are an epidemic problem and that’s what this is.

“Injustice can never be stood for. It always must be fought against and I just was sick of it being a problem,” Heard said, adding, “I personally think that if you deny something or if you hide something you’re inadvertently admitting it’s wrong. I don’t feel like I’m wrong.”

The Playboy Club's Wes Ramsey

And as I was watching the pilot, I recognized the actor playing Max the bartender. I googled him and he’s the star of the gay mormon film, Latter Days in which he plays a hunky young gay man who falls in love with a Mormon missionary. He’s yet another reason to love this show.

And finally – if you have not already set your alarm for 10pm tonight, just today, the actor who is ironically playing the male half of the previously-mentioned lavender marriage has come out publicly. Sean Maher who also appeared in Fox’s Firefly, lives with his partner of 9 years, Paul and their two young children Sophia Rose, 4, and Liam Xavier, 14 months. He told Entertainment Weekly regarding being in the closet in Hollywood:

Sean Maher

“It was so exhausting, and I was so miserable,” Maher says. “I didn’t really have any life other than work and this façade I was putting on. So I kept my friends from college [where he was out] separate from my work friends, and that was very confusing. I just kept going on and on painting this picture of somebody I wasn’t. I didn’t have time for a personal relationship anyway. And you just don’t realize that it’s eating away at your soul.”

And when asked about his current job and what it’s like to be open about who he is at work, Maher said:

“Creatively, I feel so much more open and free, and I am so happy on The Playboy Club,” he says. “I think it’s because I’ve never been so open on set. All of the relationships that I have off-camera, I never would have allowed five years ago. It feels so liberating.”

We’d like to congratulate Sean, Amber, Wes and of course Laura for their success on The Playboy Club and we can’t wait to see where these storylines lead.

Is it Getting Better? 14-Year Old Gay Bullying Victim Lost to Suicide

20 Sep

Jamey Rodemeyer

This weekend, after years of bullying, and telling anyone who could listen about it – 14-year old Jamey Rodemeyer took his own life.

Since 5th grade, Jamey had been dealing with taunts from his classmates and routinely blogged and posted online about what he was going through. He would speak against bullying frequently and even call out his own school which he said was doing nothing about it. Just last week, Jamey wrote:

“No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you’re the ones calling me fag and tearing me down.”

His attentive parents frequently would speak to him about what he was going through and in recent months, it seemed as though either the bullying had subsided or that Jamey had learned how to brush it off. but then late Saturday night, Jamey posted two final comments to his Tumblr blog – the first saying how he wanted to see his Grandmother (who had recently died) and another was a message of thanks to Lady Gaga. The following is a line from Lady Gaga’s song, “The Queen”

According to Buffalo News, “He touched so many hearts, so many people,” said his mother, Tracy Rodemeyer, who met with some of his grief-stricken friends at Williamsville North on Monday. “I didn’t realize how many people he touched. He was the sweetest, kindest kid you’d ever know. He would give all his heart to you before he gave any to himself.”

Olivia Rinaldo, an eighth-grader at Heim Middle School, said she was drawn to his outwardly upbeat and extroverted personality. He made friends of the friendless, she said.

“He was always putting people first,” she said. “He always wanted other people to smile, even on the worst of his days.”

Jamey also had a Formspring account which allows anonymous comments to user’s posts. In recent months, some of those commenters said things including:

“JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!”

“I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it :) It would make everyone WAY more happier!”

Jamey is another in a long line of teens who’ve succumbed to endless bullying and torture. This is not a rite of passage. Being tormented can make some stronger and cause them to come out of it and succeed in spite of their bullies. But some of us aren’t prepared for the kind of harassment young LGBT kids receive.

We need to be doing more.

Just a few months ago, young Jamey made this “It Gets Better” video. It’s very difficult to watch knowing what this child was going through when he made it. Despite his own circumstances – it was important to him that he help other kids feel better about themselves. Please watch and share Jamey’s story so that maybe one more kid won’t have to go through this.

Star Wars Game Might Turn Kids Gay…Says Breitbart’s Blog

16 Sep

Cynthia Yockey wrote an Op-Ed for this month’s issue of the Advocate, titled: “Equality Will Come From the Right: Why Andrew Breitbart is a better friend to gays than is the Obama administration.”

Andrew Breitbart

The piece outlines why the writer believes the Republican Party will be responsible for bringing about LGBT equality in the United States. The writer profiles an organization known as GOProud, a group whose mission is to let the world know that not all gays are progressive. GOProud was invited last year to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and was met with many other right wing groups boycotting the conference due to their participation. They’ve since been uninvited for next year’s event. Andrew Breitbart has decided he will boycott CPAC should GOProud not be allowed to participate.

Breitbart has since been named to the board of GOProud. Media Matters has outlined the dozens of moments in anti-gay rhetoric which Breitbart has been responsible for. And today, from Breitbart’s website, “Big Hollywood,” comes another extraordinarily anti-gay article. This one is akin to Keith Ablow’s advice to parents that they shouldn’t let their kids watch Chaz Bono on Dancing With the Stars because it might make kids turn transgender.

John Nolte of Breitbart’s Big Hollywood asks “Will ‘Star Wars’ Online Video Game Ask Your Child to Engage In Same-Sex Relationships.” The opening line of the post says:

“Apparently, after selling somewhere around 500,000 copies to unsuspecting families everywhere, the creators of the video game “Star Wars: The Old Republic” have decided to add same-sex romances to the online feature.

Say goodbye to your child’s innocence.”

The rest of Nolte’s rant describes the announcement that the game producing companies involved (BioWare, Electronic Arts, and George Lucas’s LucasArts) would be including SGRA’s (Same-Gender Relationship Arcs) in the online version of the game. He even goes so far as to call the company’s move to make the game inclusive “pure bait and switch.”

Nolte includes a letter from a Big Hollywood reader which states that “Some parents are concerned that this homosexual content will attract pedophiles.” This, despite the fact that pedophiles are disproportionately heterosexual. While hundreds of religious leaders have inaccurately and successfully spread the malicious lie that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia, the scientists (you know, the one who base their beliefs on fact and not fantasy) argue the opposite based on actual statistics.

Despite Andrew Breitbart’s apparent support of the conservative gay group GOProud, it seems to me that he has no problem trafficking in stereotypes, distortions and horrific lies about gay people. While I am all for doing our best to educate all people on our plight for equality, stating that Andrew Breitbart is going to be responsible for bringing equality to LGBT Americans seems a bit far-fetched.

Bigoted Judge Signs Order Demanding Gay Dad Keeps Kids From Husband

14 Sep

Bigoted Judge Charley E. Prine Jr.

As reported here a few weeks ago, a Houston judge has ordered Texas father William Flowers to keep his children away from his husband.

The order was signed this week by Judge Charley E. Prine, Jr. and forbids William from leaving his twin daughters and 14-year old son with any man not related by blood or adoption. The judge added that his ex-wife may give permission for this rule to be lifted, but it seems very unlikely that she would allow William’s husband to ever be alone with William’s children.

In the custody proceedings, there have been no allegations of abuse either physically or emotionally from the children’s father or his husband, yet the judge has imposed this bigoted rule based solely on his ignorant beliefs that the children would somehow be in harms way.

Additionally, William’s husband has children of his own with no record of abuse or any problems there, so it seems he would be an ideal care provider.

According to Houston Press’ Hair Balls Blog:

“It’s not totally exclusive,” said Jennifer Broussard, Lacey’s attorney. “Lacey can agree to do otherwise. It’s just these unknown people about whom William will not divulge any information to Lacey — that just can’t happen.”

Was she referring to William Flowers’s husband, Jim Evans? Hair Balls asked.

“Well, he doesn’t have a husband in Texas, dear,” Broussard said.

This reference is of course to the fact that Texas does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. This and other state’s laws discrediting out-of-state marriages is in violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause in the US Constitution.

Either way, it is clear that Judge Charley Prine Jr. is exercising judicial activism and anti-gay bigotry when deciding this case. Charley Prine’s office number is 713-755-6234. Please call and let him know how you feel about pure, unadulterated bigotry being handed down from the bench.

This decision bears no precedence and needs to be challenged. Happily, William is appealing the bigoted judge’s decision. We can only hope that a judge who actually practices fairness in the law is assigned to his appeal. Our thoughts are with William and his children in this difficult time.

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

11 Sep

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.”

 

EXCLUSIVE: Tennessee High School Principal Responds

9 Sep

Sequoya High School Principal Maurice Moser

Normally, when I get a reply from someone having to do with an article I’d recently posted – I’d just add an update to the end of the post. But the conversation I just had with Principal Maurice Moser of Sequoya High School warrants it’s very own post.

I wrote earlier about senior Nathan Carroll, a student at Sequoya who was trying to start a Gay Straight Alliance, but was met with a threat of suspension from the principal. I put in a call earlier and left a message for the principal and I just heard back.

According to Moser, he found that students were having verbal arguments about the potential Gay Straight Alliance in classrooms and it was “disturbing the educational environment.” He went on to say that he was exercising his rights as principal to then stop the petitions and all discussions of the GSA forming. I then asked him if he considered students getting bullied and beaten as a disturbance to the educational environment? He replied that if a student reports it and has sufficient proof that they were bullied, then the bullies are “dealt with accordingly.”

I then went on to tell him that many students are afraid of reporting this kind of bullying because they don’t want to or are not yet ready to come out of the closet. I mentioned that a GSA would actually give LGBT kids some of the courage they need to speak up about this kind of torture they go through on a daily basis. He said many parents would argue that a GSA would do just the opposite – when I asked him to explain what “just the opposite” meant, he replied “you’re a smart guy, you can figure it out.”

I asked Mr. Moser what the process for a new club like the GSA would be and he informed me that the students would need to find a faculty sponsor and that the students were having trouble finding one. He went on to tell me about a faculty sponsor for several clubs that had transferred schools this summer. Moser then assisted in finding faculty sponsors for several clubs at the school. He said he spent a good deal of time recruiting faculty members to fill in the holes left by the former faculty member.

Naturally, I asked him why the students would be responsible for finding this faculty sponsor, when clearly he had just helped out several other clubs in finding theirs. He was noticeably flustered and said that he wasn’t “forcing” any faculty member to be a sponsor to a club and that while he helped many existing clubs find sponsors, he could never help find one for a new club.

His disdain for these students trying to start a GSA came through several times during our conversation and he implied more than once that his rights as a Principal of a high school trumped the rights of students trying to fight bullying and anti-gay harassment.

I hope that there is a faculty member at Sequoya High School who will sign on to sponsor these students – they clearly need some protections from a less-than-supportive principal.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 935 other followers