Archive | December, 2011

Arrested for a New Year’s Kiss

31 Dec

Tonight, after you finish the countdown, commemorate the moment with a tribute to what happened December 31, 1966. At the stroke of midnight, make sure you kiss him “on the mouth for three to five seconds.”

The men and women at San Francisco’s Black Cat, a small gay bar, were awaiting that magical moment – that second where men and women around the world make that declaration of love to enter the new year. The seconds ticked to zero, and like millions of others, the couples at the Black Cat locked lips and welcomed 1967.

At that moment, at least eight plainclothes officers emerged from the crowd and began viciously beating and arresting the kissing couples. As these kisses constituted criminal “lewd conduct,” the arrests and the raid on the bar were seen as legal. The officers refused to identify themselves as the violence escalated and they began ripping holiday decorations from the walls. A bartender was dragged by the police over and across the bar through broken shards of glass. A customer had his head bashed into a jukebox and was then arrested.

Nearby, at the New Faces bar, similar attacks and arrests were occurring. When the female co-owner and  asked police for identification, she was mistaken for a man in drag (another arrestable offense) and pistol whipped so badly that she had to be hospitalized. Robert Haas, a 120-pound waiter came from the back of the bar to help. He was dragged into the street and beaten so severely that his jaw was broken and his spleen ruptured. He was then booked and charged for felony assault against a police officer before being taken to Los Angeles County General Hospital for treatment.

Six Black Cat kissers were tried and convicted of “lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place”, which consisted of male couples hugging and kissing. According to the police report, one couple had “kissed on the mouth for three to five seconds.”

Two years prior to the Stonewall Uprising, these events energized the LGBT community to begin fighting back. They raised money for a legal defense fund and successfully fought the police and the charges in the courts. Additionally, they were able to get some of the mainstream media on their side. The telling of our stories in a public forum helped turn the tide for San Francisco to finally elect someone like Harvey Milk to public office.

As we enter 2012, spend some time being grateful for the enormous strides we’ve made – specifically in 2011. But don’t forget that we have a long way to go. Keep telling your stories as we move ahead and keep talking about equality.

Happy New Year!

Virginia Again Chooses Discrimination over Adoption

15 Dec

VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

Anti-Gay Virginia officials made it clear on Wednesday that foster children in their state do not deserve the opportunity to find loving, forever homes. Despite being number 46 in the country when it comes to children being adopted out of the foster care system, Virginia made the decision to continue limiting the parents they adopt to, despite their own research and public opinion.

Virginia’s Board of Social Services, following instruction from virulently-anti-gay Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, voted 5-to-1 to continue to allow adoption agencies to discriminate against lesbian and gay parents when considering who is fit to parent foster children.

Chairwoman Bela Sood cast the only “no” vote, stating that science doesn’t substantiate the notion that only heterosexual parents should be raising children. Public comments to the board overwhelmingly supported Sood’s stance with more than 1600 callers claiming that the discrimination should end and children should be given greater opportunities for forever families. But despite public opinion, the board voted to discriminate against loving gay and lesbian parents in favor of passing foster children from home to home to home for the entirety of their young lives.

To date, there are 6,000 children in Virginia’s foster care program. Yet due to religious discrimination and partisan politics, the state has decided to severely limit the number of homes these children could be placed in.

He Died Waiting to Get Married

8 Dec

Ed Watson and Derence Kernek

A heartbreaking story out of California tonight.

Last March, we posted this article about Derence Kernek and Ed Watson, who recorded a video for California’s 9th Circuit Court, requesting that they allow Judge Walker’s decision to overturn Prop 8 to stand. This request was because Watson had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and they wanted to be married while he still had memories of their 40 years together.

On August 4th, 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional as it denied gays and lesbians due process and equal protection under the law. As Walker had not disclosed that he was gay and in a relationship at the time, Prop 8 supporters filed a motion to dismiss his decision as he would stand to benefit from it. Of course their argument fails to recognize that according to their anti-gay claims – any heterosexual judge would stand to benefit from a decision in their favor.

That argument failed in a lower court and today’s hearings before the 9th circuit were in regards to the anti-gay side’s appeal of that decision.

Last night, on the eve of these arguments, Ed passed away due to complications from his quickly-advancing Alzheimer’s and Diabetes. They were never married.

On top of that, because of the inequality in the law, and the couple’s inability to marry, Watson had been denied coverage under Kernek’s retirement plan (as any heterosexual couple would be entitled to). This caused incredible financial hardships.

Kernek could not be reached for comment as their phone had been disconnected.

Please watch the video that this couple put together urging for marriage equality in California

When did you last see history being made?

6 Dec

Hillary Clinton made this soon-to-be-historical speech to the United Nations today. Please watch it as opportunities to truly see history being made are exceptionally rare.

Even NPH Can’t Say ‘Tr*nny’ : A Teachable Moment

2 Dec

It’s time for some education around Transgender issues and what is now seen as transphobic or discriminatory language.

A few months ago, I was on a bus trip from NYC to DC and the two young collegiates next to me were having a really intelligent discussion about the current political atmosphere. While I don’t think they were LGBT, they were certainly progressive enough. I smiled as I listened to them banter on about the environment and the damage that some Republican candidates would do to our country. When all of a sudden, they started discussing a party they’d been to the night before and out popped the sentence “She looked like a tranny.” To me, this was jarring because as an activist, I’ve been trained that “tranny” is an offensive and downright unacceptable term to be using.

I interrupted the young men, apologized for eavesdropping for the past hour or so and let them know that the term they were using was hurtful towards transgender people. They immediately apologized and thanked me for letting them know.

At the beginning of this month on Huffington Post, the bastion of liberal blogs, there was a little survey entitled “Who looks more like a Tranny? Sofia Vergara or Blake Lively.” When it was brought to their attention that they were using an anti-trans slur, they immediately removed it and issued an apology.

And then just a few weeks ago, Kelly Osborn issued an apology for using the word in a Glamour UK interview, with regards to a transgender friend of hers. Kelly was under fire immediately and reached out to GLAAD for advice on how the word was offensive and education on how she could reach out to apologize for her gaffe. She wrote a wonderful piece, ironically enough, for Huffington Post titled “I’m retiring the word ‘Tranny’…will you join me?

And then this morning, I was referred to a video of our very own Neil Patrick Harris co-hosting “LIVE with Kelly”. The two were inhaling a gas which was the opposite of helium, whose properties actually lower your voice in the same way helium raises it. Neil made the comment “I’ve never sounded more like a tranny in my life.”

I’ve met Neil on several occasions now and have worked with his partner David a few times, and I can tell you that if Neil had ever been informed that what he said might be offensive to some people, he never would have used it. If one of the most out, positive LGBT role models out there has not been educated on this issue, then we need to be doing better work.

I know among some, there will be the desire to break out the pitchforks and torches and make an example out of NPH. But the truth of the matter is, when even members of our own community don’t know about these things, or know and use them anyway, we should pivot to education, not attack. Each moment like this is a chance to move the ball forward. I urge people to avoid jumping to the conclusion that he is a “transphobe” or that he “doesn’t give two shits about trans women.” It comes off as not only extreme, but potentially counter productive. We make a lot of assumptions about the use of a word that many have not yet been trained to avoid.

Trans issues are happily, finally coming to the forefront. With Chaz Bono’s appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” and the doors that has opened, I’m hoping to see far more attention paid to the T of the LGBT – it’s about time. But in doing so, we must find as many opportunities as we can, to educate. If we start out by attacking people who honestly have not been told otherwise, we will lose potential allies.

I’ve reached out to Neil and it would surprise me if we don’t hear from him soon about this. But again, I can almost guarantee that he was not aware that his language was seen as offensive.

I would like to ask all who read this to take a little time and read this GLAAD Media Reference Guide and transgender glossary of terms. The education has to start somewhere.

UPDATE:

As expected, NPH has come through with an apology for his use of the slur. Please continue to help educate others on potentially offensive language. Many responses to this post have been met with “I had no idea that we shouldn’t use that word” or “My friends use it all the time, I’ll ask them not to now.” All it takes is a little education.

And take a look at this excellent explanation of transphobic language from Bilerico.com (thanks Vincent Villano at National Center for Transgender Equality)

Salvation Army: Ringing Anti-Gay Bells

1 Dec

Our friend Bil Browning over at Bilerico.com has doubled-down on an important message this holiday season. He’s getting a lot of attention this year for a blog post titled “Why You Shouldn’t Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.” The now annual post receives thousands of hits on his popular blog and for good reason. He’s asking people to avoid the bell-ringing Santas outside every supermarket and mall across the country.

And with money as tight as it is this year, we can’t help but agree with him. The Salvation Army has long been a Christian missionary association. It would be one thing if they, like some Christians, practiced tolerance and equality towards the LGBT community, but as Bil points out, since 1986, The Salvation Army has been involved in at least 5 major assaults on LGBT equality:

  • When New Zealand considered passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986, the Salvation Army collected signatures in an attempt to get the legislation killed. The act decriminalized consensual sex between gay men. The measure passed over the charity’s objections.
  • In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army actively pushed passage of an amendment to the Local Government Act. The amendment stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they’d lose their government funding.
  • In 2001, the organization tried to extract a resolution from the White House that they could ignore local non-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. While the commitment would have applied to all employees, the group claimed that it needed the resolution so it “did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.” After lawmakers and civil rights activists revealed the Salvation Army’s active resistance to non-discrimination laws, the White House admitted the charity was seeking the exemptions.
  • Also in 2001, the evangelical charity actively lobbied to change how the Bush administration would distribute over $24 billion in grants and tax deductions by urging the White House deny funding to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws. Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, issued a statement saying the administration was denying a “regulation sought by the church to protect the right of taxpayer-funded religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals.”
  • In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city’s decision to require all vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to all civil rights laws. The organization balked at having to treat gay employees equal to straight employees.

While no one wants the services the Salvation Army provides to end for those they help, we must be cognizant of where are pennies are going when we drop them in the shiny red kettle. In addition to these anti-gay fights which the Salvation Army has participated in, they have also fought in court in defense of their virulently anti-gay hiring and employment practices. So please understand that the pennies you drop in those buckets may be going to lawyers which are defending bigotry in court and coming nowhere close to buying clothes for the homeless this winter.

Instead of putting your pocket change in the kettle outside the mall, why don’t you give one of these inclusive organizations a try:

  • Goodwill – doing much of the same work the Salvation Army does, but also focusing on the disabled and unemployed.
  • The Ali Forney Center - providing shelter for homeless LGBT youth in New York City
  • True Colors Residence – Cyndi Lauper’s new shelter for homeless LGBT Youth
  • Doctors Without Borders – providing medical and emergency relief all over the world
  • Urban Peaks – assistance for homeless LGBT youth in Colorado

And if you have things you’re getting rid of which you were considering donating to the Salvation Army, try the aforementioned Goodwill if there is one in your area, or in several cities there are thrift shops which assist those living with HIV/AIDS. Here are a few of those:

If you know of others, please email me at TalkAboutEquality@gmail.com and I’m happy to post them.

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