Archive | July, 2012

Where The Wild Things Are: Family Week in Provincetown Day 3

31 Jul

The wild things were abound this morning in Bas Relief Park. The park, for those who haven’t been to Provincetown, features…wait for it…a bas relief of the pilgrims signing the Mayflower Compact. I happen to have two ancestors who were on the Mayflower who both happened to sign the compact. This makes me fancy. But I digress.

The morning activity for the smaller kids, called ‘The Littles’ featured two bouncy houses (when I was a kid we called them “Moonwalks,” what happened to that?), face painting, parachutes and a story telling from Family Equality Council Board Member and children’s book author, Tommy Starling. His book, “Bob the Ladybug” is one of those great new children’s stories that hits home the idea that it’s okay to be different – the terrifying gay agenda at it’s best.

Following that, Kidapalooza and afternoon camp activities began. While the kids played, the parents participated in “Parent Cafés.” At the cafés. parents get the opportunity to discuss the specific challenges they are facing raising children – everything from adoption and pregnancy options available to fighting discrimination in their local schools. It’s a really useful tool for LGBT parents and this kind of thing is where Family Equality Council is able to provide the leadership that our families really need.

On to afternoon activities with teens from the Outspoken Generation (teen children of LGBT parents), gatherings for Moms and for Dads, and an Interfaith Photo Exhibit. We Have Faith is a touring photo exhibit which highlights LGBT people of many different religious backgrounds and their stories. It’s a truly eye-opening and stunningly photographed display. They are currently seeking funding and partnerships to bring the exhibit to more locations. More information is available at their website.

Here are some photos from yesterday’s activities!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Family Week Day Two

30 Jul

Despite a whole day being overcast here in Provincetown, we brought the party.

Registration was set up early and the families began streaming in. Strollers covered in rainbows, sneakers coated in glitter – this is going to be one fabulous week.

The music was pumping in Crown & Anchor’s Wave Lounge as parents picked up the swag from Target and Children’s Tylenol. Staffers were dancing and babies were being passed around the room as the “Aaaawwwws” surpassed the One Direction tune coming from the Bose.

Then, in comes the Bermea family. We’ve written about Felix Bermea, Roy Messerschmidt and their 4 kids here before. Family Equality Council decided to fly them in from Arizona so they could forget some of the torment they faced in their hometown of Gilbert. Just to review, the Bermeas have been harassed for the past several months by their neighbors. Windows and doors rattled late at night, bushes in front of their home set on fire and even a break in where vandals scribed anti-gay epithets on their young daughter’s bedroom wall. All this while police did nothing, barely even a response from over 14 phone calls.

And here they are at Family Week – being shown there are hundreds of families just like their own. We’ll have more on them later in the week, but we’re super glad they’re here.

Following registration, a little nap followed by a meeting for Family Week newbies, the Outspoken Generation and then the Multi-Cultural Ice Cream Social! Here are some photos from the day:

Make Way for Duckings: Family Week Day One

28 Jul

It was a book that was read to our class in Kindergarten, First Grade and again in Second Grade. Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings about a family of ducks looking for a place to raise their young ones was always a favorite – especially in my Boston suburb school. And it’s a story I’m frequently reminded of at Family Week. Finding a safe place for us to raise our children is a concern of every LGBT parent. And considering Family Equality Council’s guests of honor this year, it’s particularly significant. More on them later…

I’m going to attempt, I repeat, ATTEMPT to keep a daily blog of my week long excursion to Family Equality Council’s Family Week in Provincetown, MA. I’ll be surprised if I make it through Day 1.

We started EARLY. A 6:20 flight out of DCA had us up at 4:30…AM. Sean poked his head in the sh0wer, “Is this like, and ACTUAL time?” Sean walked Eli and took out the trash, I did a load of dishes and got the house ready for our Eli sitters. Said our goodbyes to the pooch and out the door.

Not much can be said about the airport trip other than they had nothing to eat for breakfast in the JetBlue terminal. Hungrily we took our seats.

We arrived in Boston and cabbed it to the Provincetown Ferry. It was packed. It was hard not to notice lots of gay and lesbian couples with their kids in tow – clearly thrilled for a week on the Cape.

A little overcast, but warm and misty in that summery way that only New England can do. This was the kind of weather I loved growing up. We made our way down the pier and to our hotel. Family Week volunteers were frantically and furiously setting up for registration. Water bottles, t-shirts, wristbands and name tags were flying. But everything in order. They were ready to greet these families from all over the country. These families who are coming to spend this week where they won’t be the only one like them in their town. Kids getting to meet and hang out with other kids who have two moms or two dads. For the first time in many of these kid’s lives, they aren’t “the other.”

Registration began, along with games on the beach, hosted by my Beyoncé, Sean. I snapped photos while the children kicked sand on him, tackled him and made him happier than I often get to see him. He secretly loves kids and I can’t wait to be a Dad with him someday. He lights up and is such a natural with them. Never talking down and always meeting each kid where they are whether it’s tossing a frisbee or holding a 3 year old’s hand – just because that’s what the 3 year old asked for.

Enjoy some photos from today! There will be more to come if I’m not too tired!

7 Ways to Change Minds on Marriage

27 Jul

Coming out is a tough thing to do. It’s tough for everyone involved for the most part. Of course there are those rare occurrences where a kid popped out of his mother’s vagina and POOF! Everyone knew and everyone was okay with it. But for everyone else, it’s a journey. For both those who are coming out and those who are hearing it for the first time.

The same is true for those who are coming around on marriage equality – it’s a process. Just look at President Obama. He was able to model for the whole world that it’s okay to evolve on this issue. We have to take into consideration that for generations, we’ve been told that it’s not okay to be gay and it’s even less okay for two men or two women to be married. The idea for older generations is sometimes simply inconceivable. So, just like programming a VCR setting up a DVD player learning how to text, it takes some of us a little longer to figure it all out.

So here are some helpful hints on how to have a conversation with someone who may not be 100% on your side about marriage equality.

1. Respect their position - They’ve probably had that position for a long time, and as outlined above it takes time to work through those ideas. Whether their opinion is based on their religious beliefs or tradition or anything else really, it’s a position they’ve had for a long time. Maybe they haven’t had a lot of time or opportunity to even consciously think about marriage as something other than what they’ve always known. So give them the same respect you would expect in return.

2. Don’t attack. - This one’s difficult. Sometimes you’ve heard the same anti-gay, anti-intellectual and amoral arguments a hundred times before. But you have to remember that in many cases, the person you’re talking to is expressing these feelings and thoughts for the first time. If you come out swinging, you can bet they won’t be changing their mind anytime soon. And things may get heated when you least expect it. Wind it back by talking abou

3. Don’t get stuck in the Bible. - For generations, the Bible has been used as an excuse for someone’s bigoted beliefs. While you and I know that marriage between two men or two women was never mentioned in the Bible, and that “Traditional Biblical Marriage” never once allowed for the consent of the woman/women, and that the same book that says “man shall not lie with man,” also condemns eating shellfish, playing football and wearing polyester, these argument will ALWAYS turn contentious. If you wind up in a conversation that goes there, ask politely if you can change the subject to what love, commitment and family means.

4. Don’t say “Gay Marriage.” - Language around this issue is a touchy subject. But at the end of the day, we’re not looking for something different from what our straight friends and families have. We want marriage. We want marriage equality. We want marriage for all. As the now-famous facebook meme goes:

“It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage, or as I like to call it, “marriage.” You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. And I parked my car. I didn’t gay park it.” – Liz Feldman

5. Make it about Commitment instead of Equality. - Rights, Equality and all those other lovely things we’re striving for are great words that engage and energize LGBT people and our activist friends. But to others outside the movement, they aren’t something most have had to fight for, so they don’t think of them in the same terms you and I do. What most people do understand are words like “commitment,” “love,” and “family.” So instead of using words that aren’t as easy to grasp, use words that we can all identify with. Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and her colleagues at Third Way have done some extensive research in this area and here’s what they found:

When asked why “couples like you” might want to get married, they overwhelmingly said “to publicly acknowledge their love and commitment to each other.” But when asked why gay couples might want to get married, just as many people said “for rights and benefits, like tax advantages, hospital visitation, or sharing a spouse’s pension.” Over 3/5ths of those who thought gay couples wanted to marry for rights and benefits opposed allowing them to do so, but more than 3/5ths of those who thought gay couples wanted to marry for commitment supported it.

6. Don’t make comparisons. – We really love likening our struggle to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. We love talking about the similarities our movement has with the fights of the past. Funny thing is, this only causes people to spend time thinking about how our movements differ as opposed to our intent to find similarities.Keep them thinking about why this is important to YOU.

7. Don’t get stuck in the mud. - In your discussion, you won’t always come to a conclusion or life-changing realization on every topic. But we all know that we sometimes get to points so frustrating that if we don’t track back, the chat will be done. If you hit a sticking point where clearly you’re not seeing eye to eye, agree to disagree and move on to the next part of your discussion.

These are of course just a few hints to help make your conversation a little easier. If you have other ideas about how to approach a conversation like this, please put them in the comments! Thanks again to Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, Third Way and Freedom to Marry for the excellent research which backs up much of these recommendations.

A Year Ago Today, The Sky Didn’t Fall!

24 Jul

Thousands of New Yorkers put a ring on it!.

This is why Chick-fil-A sucks

19 Jul

I’ve been reading a lot lately about Chick-fil-A. The news of their contributions to anti-gay organizations first came to my attention last year when Equality Matters researched some of their contributions and published them. Here is what they found:

WinShape Is Chick-Fil-A’s Charitable Arm. The WinShape Foundation is Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, created by Chick-fil-A founder and chairman S. Truett Cathy in 1984. WinShape has received a substantial amount of funding from Chick-fil-A: in 2009 alone, WinShape received $7,814,788 from Chick-fil-A Inc. [Winshape 2009 Publicly Available IRS 990 Form via Foundation Center, accessed10/28/11] 

WinShape Gave Over $1.7 Million To Anti-Gay Groups. In 2009 alone, WinShape donated $1,733,699 to multiple anti-gay groups:

  • Marriage & Family Legacy Fund: $994,199
  • Fellowship Of Christian Athletes: $480,000
  • National Christian Foundation: $240,000
  • Focus On The Family: $12,500
  • Eagle Forum: $5,000
  • Exodus International: $1,000
  • Family Research Council: $1,000

[Winshape 2009 Publicly Available IRS 990 Form via Foundation Center, accessed 10/28/11]

This all came out in November of last year. In the time since, I’ve seen several posts on Facebook urging people to boycott the company as it continued to grow. Then last week, Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy responded to a question about the company’s anti-gay stances: “We’re guilty as charged.” In the same interview, Cathy said: “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Cathy then reiterated that stance on The Ken Coleman Show, as Jeremy Hooper pointed out:

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about,”

While contributing to organizations that align with your beliefs is indeed the right of any person or corporation, it is also the right of citizens to research the work of the organizations you contribute to and make their shopping choices accordingly.

Let’s take a look at how you are supporting anit-gay bigotry around the globe when you buy some waffle fries (or anything else at Chick-fil-A):

Marriage & Family Legacy Fund: Founded by Exodus North America’s Alan Chambers who has admitted to anti-gay housing discrimination: “As a property owner of Orlando, I wouldn’t rent to someone who is gay…” He has also implied a connection between gay people and pedophiles with no evidence whatsoever: “I believe the gay community is a good group of people but with groups like NAMBLA [a pedophile group] riding on their coattails.”

Exodus International: Exodus International Board Member John Schmierer began his trips to Uganda in 2009, preaching alongside Nazi revisionist Scott Lively, spreading hatred of gay people to the people and leaders of the country. This directly led to their legislation requiring the execution of some gay people.

In Schmierer’s future trips to Uganda, he would whip up anti-gay furor with lies linking homosexuality to child abuse, calling for mandatory “conversion therapy” for homosexuals and any other number of falsehoods he could come up with.

Fellowship of Christian Athletes: The FCA is decidedly anti-gay and discriminates against gay people from participating. Their website even goes on about “saving” people from being gay. Danny Burns, the National College Conference of the FCA spoke of people being “freed from homosexuality” at the 2011 annual conference.

Focus on the Family: Founded by James Dobson, FotF has been at the front of most anti-gay movements the US has seen since it’s founding. They have supported and funded “Ex-Gay” organizations for years and one of their co-founders (George Alan Rekers) was actually found bringing a gay sex worker on vacation with him. These same organizations have been one of the primary causes of suicide among young gay people forced to go through this “therapy.” Dobson believes gay people will destroy the earth:

“Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage. It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth.”

Dobson additionally equates homosexuality and sex with animals quite clearly in the video here.

Family Research Council: Not sure where to start. Let’s start with a Tony Perkins quote:

“While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
— Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, FRC website, 2010

There are literally dozens of other moments where FRC and Focus on the Family link homosexuality and pedophilia with zero reputable evidence.

In 2010, The Congress was considering a public condemnation of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays Bill” which would put gay people on trial with a possible death sentence as punishment for homosexuality. Family Research Council spent $25,000 lobbying Congress to not disapprove of this bill.

FRC and FotF have also fought hard against anti-gay adoption laws, so it can safely be said that they would rather see children spend their whole lives in a foster care system than find a forever home.

I posted the following meme on Facebook today in the hopes of enlightening people to where their money might be going when they pick up their chicken and waffle fries at Chick-fil-A.

Not that I should be, but I was honestly surprised by the anti-gay response on Facebook. People who refused to equate “Christian” organizations with anything anti-gay. The biggest leap of course was to people thinking they were supporting the murder of gay people. It’s a tough thing to think about, but the truth is that homosexuality is still criminalized in 77 countries. And the death penalty is among the possible punishments in at least 7 of those countries.

The Family Research Council is supportive of a new law proposed in Uganda which would also add a death penalty for those suspected of being gay. Chick-fil-A supports the work of the Family Research Council.

Plain and simple, this is where your money is going when you buy something at Chick-fil-A. Of course not every person who works there or owns a franchise is anti-gay. That’s not at all what we are saying. But when you purchase something there, your money goes to the corporation, which then uses that money to invest in bigoted, anti-gay, anti-family organizations.

UPDATE:

Yesterday late afternoon, after the image above had been shared on Facebook more than 9,000 times, I received notice that the image violated their “Rights & Responsibilities” and they censored and yanked it from every person’s profile who’d shared it. I assumed it was because I’d used Chick-fil-A’s logo. Apparently that wasn’t the case because upon recreating the image with a different non-trademarked font, it too was pulled and my account temporarily suspended. A friend at Facebook is currently looking into it.

Chick-fil-A has responded via Facebook message to the calls of boycott with a statement quite similar to one Dan Cathy made back in 2011. And while it’s a nice sentiment, their words and their contributions to virulently anti-gay groups don’t seem to match up.

“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.

Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, we believe that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of our profits back to our communities are what make us a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family.

Our mission is simple: to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

Merely Legends: Dinner with Patricia Neal & Celeste Holm

15 Jul

Disclaimer: this post has nothing to do with being gay. Well…maybe a little.

About 10 years ago, I was still quite fresh in New York City. The bitterness and jaded behavior had yet to seep into my soul.

I was house sitting for my friend and composer, David Friedman. David had conducted the choirs for a bunch of big Disney films like Beauty & The Beast and Pocohontas and composed the score for the film, Trick.

In the middle of the week at one point, the phone wrang. I picked it up and an older woman crowed into the phone “HELLO! Is David there?” I replied that he was away and wouldn’t be back until the weekend. “Damn! He was supposed to take me to the theatre.” I apologized and she said “Who are you?” in an almost accusatory tone. I told her I was a friend of David’s and I was taking care of his apartment while he was away. She replied “Well you sound delicious, would you like to take me to the theatre this Thursday?” Having no idea still to whom I was speaking, I asked “Who is this?” “Why, it’s Patricia Neal of course.” I told her it would be my honor to take her to the theatre on Thursday.

Me and Patricia Neal

My 23-year old self was thrilled beyond words. I was going to the theatre with the first woman to EVER win a Tony Award for her performance in a Broadway show. She won an Oscar for her performance in Hud with Paul Newman and no one will ever forget her brilliant work in the classic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with Audrey Hepburn.

I showed up at her East End Avenue pad on the Upper East Side and she proceeded with a tour. She showed me her award room and mentioned that “Most of theses awards are because I had a stroke and lived to tell about it.” She showed me her Academy Award and inquired “Did you see me in Hud with Paul Newman?” I unfortunately had not and terrifyingly told her so. “It’s alright,” she said “If you blinked your eyes, you would have missed me…but I still won the Oscar.”

She told me a few more stories, bragged about her granddaughter, Sophie Dahl (yes, she was once married to Roald Dahl), and with that we left for the theatre.

Patricia Neal

Ms. Neal was 77 at the time and after multiple strokes had suffered almost no short-term or long-term memory. I escorted her down the stairs to Danny’s Skylight Room on 46th Street and we sat down for a cabaret. Others came up to her table to greet her and she’d always say “Darlings, introduce yourselves,” as she just couldn’t recall many names. Among her friends there that night were Jerry Orbach and Joel Grey and with each handshake I sank deeper and deeper into disbelief of where I was and what I was doing.

Towards the end of the show, Ms. Neal asked me “Darling, have you ever been to Sardi’s?” I hadn’t. “Well tonight’s your lucky night, you’re going to Sardi’s with Patricia Neal!” Many of you know Sardi’s for their glamorous days where they’d created caricatures on the walls of celebrities who’d visited. I recalled Sardi’s from Muppets Take Manhattan where Kermit the Frog famously took down Liza Minnelli’s portrait and replaced it with his own.

We walk through the doors, and everyone immediately knew there was royalty in the room. More introductions and sparkling conversations about the old days of Broadway and Hollywood. And despite having so many stories and so much experience, she seemed to want to know more about me than anything else.

Celeste Holm

We’re almost finished with dinner when a smaller older woman came and said hello. She had her scarf pulled up over her nose and a tight knit cap pulled to the edge of her eyebrows. She chatted with Ms. Neal as if they were old friends and finally was asked to join us for dessert. “Darlings, introduce yourselves,” she said. “Hi, I’m Jamie McGonnigal.” “Hi, I’m Celeste Holm.” My heart dropped through my feet and into the hardwood floor. This was the original…ORIGINAL Ado Annie in Oklahoma. She was in All About Eve with Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe. I spent the next 20 minutes choking down profiteroles while they caught up.

Then I giggled…and then I chuckled…and then I laughed. Not the quiet laughter you would expect from someone in the middle of this situation, but an awkardly loud laugh that caused Ms. Neal to turn to me and say “Darling, what’s wrong? You’re hysterical.” “Ms. Neal, I apologize. I just happened to take a step away from myself and realize that I’m sitting at Sardi’s with Patricia Neal and Celeste Holm. Things are just a little absurd to me right now.”

“Darling.” She replied. “It’s nothing to get hysterical over, we’re merely legends.”

It was in that moment that I knew I would forever have a story of my first meeting with Patricia Neal and Celeste Holm. We lost Patricia to lung cancer 2 years ago, she was 84. And this morning at around 3:30am, my other dinner partner from that magical night, passed away. I’ll never forget that night, as you can imagine. And the world will never forget these “mere legends.”

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