Archive | LGBT History RSS feed for this section

Romney May Stop Hospital Visitation for Gay Couples

21 Oct

It’s known that Romney stands against rights for LGBT people. He signed the National Organization for Marriage pledge to stand against marriage equality, appoint Supreme Court Justices who would also stand against equal rights for gays and lesbians and fight to write discrimination against us into the US Constitution.

This, despite at one point saying he would be “better than Ted” Kennedy on gay rights.

This week, Romney apparently believes that when my husband is in the hospital, I do not have the right to visit him and that it should be up to each state to decide whether or not I am the next of kin. He believes that a lesbian spouse like Janice Langbehn visiting her dying wife in the hospital is a “privilege” and not a right.

In an interview with Buzzfeed today, Romney  adviser Bay Buchanan told Chris Geidner:

“Governor Romney also believes, consistent with the 10th Amendment, that it should be left to states to decide whether to grant same-sex couples certain benefits, such as hospital visitation rights and the ability to adopt children.”

In April of 2010, recognizing the extraordinary miscarriage of justice and horrifying stories of families being split apart while fathers, mothers, husbands and wives were barred from visiting one another in the hospital, Barack Obama signed an Executive Order stating that any hospital which receives government funding (including Medicare and Medicaid) shall recognize the relationships between gays and lesbians.

This was a simple move. There are truly very few Americans who believe any couple should be separated in their hours of need. But according to his advisers, Romney believes and will fight to make sure if (God forbid) I should need to visit my husband in the hospital, that my legal relationship is not recognized by hospital administration.

How cruel can a person be to leave a person potentially dying alone while their husband, wife, son or daughter sits in a sterile waiting room to hear their loved one has passed? And what kind of leader would support this kind of barbaric sentiment?

Please spread the word and understand why November 6th is such an important day. Please understand what is at risk for me, for you and for the people you love.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

11 Oct

Me and my brothers, I’m on the far right. Note the bevel.

October 11th is National Coming Out Day.

Coming Out in this country is something which has changed a great deal since I was a kid. For many young people today (though certainly not all), the process has become far less traumatic. The act of telling a friend or family member that you’re gay is now frequently met with a “so?” and a “cool, let’s go to a gay bar!”

While the reactions for some have changed, the process, the act of summoning the courage to say it, has remained the same. For me and for thousands of others, we spent years hiding – pretending to be something we  weren’t.

I dated girls in high school. Well, I hung out with girls in high school. At one point, one girl who was a good size larger than me, pushed me up against the band room lockers one afternoon. “I want you to go out with me.” she said. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll say yes.” Ever the pacifist, I reluctantly agreed. Nothing ever happened outside of her falling asleep on my lap at a few parties (an action she had in common with my fiancé). Every moment with her was filled with fear. I wasn’t just afraid of getting my ass kicked, I was afraid of something happening where she would find out who I really was. And tell everyone about it.

My first beard, Beth. Note my happiness.

Another girl I dated – to this day, one of the sweetest people I know, I had one date with. We went to see Shadowlands in the movie theater. The event was plagued by 3 different delays due to a faulty projector, so the already painfully-long film was met with two 30-minute intermissions. As if things weren’t awkward enough.
A card I received a few days later, professing her “love” for me…yes, she said “I love you”, caused me to end that very quickly.

So when I finally came out to my best friend John (as bisexual of course, cuz that’s the natural progression of things, right?), I expected shock and surprise. I mean, who would expect a 19 year old who’d never seriously dated a girl and dreamed of moving to New York City and starring on Broadway to be gay? Instead John offered to host a coming out party for me at his dorm and offered zero of the shock and awe I hoped for.

And of course, coming home from my first rennaisance faire with my Dad. And he claimed not to know.

In all seriousness though, when a person comes out to you, act surprised – even if you’re not. We work really hard to hide who we are in many cases and if upon coming out we’re met with a “Oh, I know. We all know,” what you’re saying to that person is “We’ve known forever, you’re bad at hiding and we’ve been talking about you behind your back for years.” Not exactly the most supportive message to send to someone in easily the most vulnerable place they’ve ever been in.

So today, on National Coming Out Day, be yourself. If you’re gay, tell someone who didn’t know before – maybe even someone who probably doesn’t care. Tell your taxi driver, your banker, the guy holding the door open at 7-11. In honor of all those who can’t come out for fear they’ll be kicked out of their homes, lose their livelihood, or worse – come out to someone new. And have a gay day.

 

 

Did he see the stars over Laramie?

7 Oct

Every year, I re-post the same story about Matthew Shepard. It’s a brief reminder so that the people I know and love don’t forget who he is and the incredible moves forward we’ve made in memory of him.

Tonight, I ran across someone who re-blogged the story and they attached a video from YouTube. It’s a brief interview with Matthew which I’ve never seen. Actually, despite having worked with Matthew’s mom, Judy on several events I produced for their foundation, I’ve actually never seen video footage of Matt.

As brief as the footage is, it hit me hard. I’ve never seen Matt speaking, never heard his voice.

When the tragedy happened, I was starting my sophomore year in college. I wasn’t out to anyone. I remember watching the stories on a TV in my college campus center and so desperately wanting to tell someone how upset, how scared I was.

Let’s be honest, I was doing musicals and I’d never really dated any girls, so it was no surprise when I finally did come out but for me, I was still terrified someone might find out – especially after what happened to Matt. I know I wasn’t alone in that and that this is the reason for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. When something like this happens, it terrorizes more than just the victim of the crime.

Tonight, 14 years ago, Matt was laying in a field, tied to a fence, beaten and bloodied, staring at the stars over the Wyoming sky as he lost consciousness. I like to think that there was a moment before he closed his eyes, that the pain went away and he was able see the stars and know he was loved.

14 years ago today

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

What you don’t know about WWII hero Alan Turing

23 Jun

Today, Google is honoring Alan Turing with a new Google Doodle. It’s a puzzle on their search page. You see, some say Alan Turing was the code breaker most responsible for the defeat of Adolf Hitler and the end of World War II.

Turing then went on to create one of the first designs for a stored-program computer.

In 1952, Turing met a man named Arnold Murray outside a cinema. The two had a date and Turing invited Murray over to his house – an invitation Murray accepted but didn’t show up for. The pair met a few more times and Murray wound up spending the night at Turing’s house.

A few weeks later, Murray helped an accomplice break in to Turing’s house. When Turing called the police, he himself became the victim of the interrogation. Turing acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray – and seeing as homosexuality was still illegal in the UK at the time, Turing was arrested. He was then given the choice between prison time and probation under condition to undergo hormone therapy (chemical castration). Turing chose the latter.

Alan Turing

Two years later, Turing’s body was found by his house cleaner. Beside his body was a half-eaten apple. A coroner found he had died from cyanide poisoning and though other evidence didn’t seem to point to suicide, the coroner’s declared: “In a man of his type, one never knows what his mental processes are going to do next.”

The apple was never tested for cyanide, but today a report has come out challenging the idea Turing took his own life. Turing’s mother always argued that he was careless with chemicals in his house, with which he was experimenting and working with. A new report finds he may have died from “accidental inhalation.”

The most reasonable explanation in my opinion comes from Turing’s biographer David Hodges and author David Leavitt. Hodges believes that Turing was far too intelligent to accidentally inhale cyanide in his experiment room. He thinks Turing did so to give his mother some plausible deniability. He and Leavitt have stated that Turing’s was re-enacting his lifelong favorite fairytale, Snow White. Leavitt noted that Turing “took an especially keen pleasure in the scene where the Wicked Queen immerses her apple in the poisonous brew.”

Whatever the truth might be, it cannot be denied that the British government failed to recognize the contributions of a man responsible for the end of World War II. Instead, they chose to criminalize him and inhumanely force him to undergo chemical therapy for castration.

While students around the world may know Turing’s name for his incredible contributions to humanity – the rest of his story is seldom told by teachers. I certainly never learned it. If we’re to learn from our incredible mistakes, we must acknowledge they existed.

Happy Birthday, Alan.

Romney ‘Seeks to Establish Full Equality for America’s Gays & Lesbians’…in 1994

11 May

Photo by DonkeyHotey on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

The fact that Mitt Romney’s opinions change more frequently than a traffic light is no surprise to anyone. But as the marriage debate continues to heat up, and as he makes claims that his opposition to equality is somehow the same stance he’s always had, it seems we need to once again, check his record.

Yesterday, Romney said:

“When these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender and I don’t favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.”

Now, I’d like to ask Governor Romney what he thinks the definition of the word “equality” is. If it’s “the state or quality of being equal” as Dictionary.com tells us, it would seem these are not the same values he held before.

On October 6, 1994, when Romney was running against Ted Kennedy for Senate, he issued a rather heartfelt and supportive letter to the Members of the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts.

“I am more convinced now than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gays and lesbians, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.

“I believe we can and we must do better. If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.

As I mentioned, this is far from breaking news and this letter has been circulated far & wide at this point. I just couldn’t let yesterday’s comments go by without pointing out his apparent backwards evolution from support for “full equality” to no protections whatsoever.

The Men with the Pink Triangle

19 Apr

It’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

While no person’s oppression is greater or lesser than another’s, a day like today cannot go by without acknowledging the estimated 15,000 gay men who were murdered in Nazi concentration camps.

The pink triangle, which in later years became a symbol of freedom for the lesbian and gay community, was created as a marker for gay men in WWII Germany. Treatment in concentration camps for gay men was frequently far more brutal than for other prisoners. They faced persecution not only from German soldiers, but from their fellow prisoners as well. Their pink triangles on their prison uniforms were frequently used as bull’s eyes when soldiers took prisoners out for target practice. Many died from beatings, frequently from fellow prisoners and some were used by doctors for scientific experiments – trying to locate a “gay gene.”

Following the war, those who escaped the horrible fates of the concentration camps found that they could then be re-improsoned for being gay. Under Paragraph 175, the anti-gay law in Germany which criminalized homosexuality, gay men could spend up to ten years in prison. From 1950-1994, when the law was finally abolished, 100,000 gay men were convicted under the law.

Memorials set up and reparations paid to survivors of the Holocaust did not include gay people. It was not until 2002, nearly 60 years after WWII that the German government officially apologized to the gay community. In 1984, the first memorial to gay Holocaust victims was built and there are now more than 25 around the world from Australia to Anchorage, Alaska.

Rudolf Brazda, believed to be the last surviving person who was sent to a Nazi concentration camp because of his homosexuality, died in France in August, 2011, aged 98. The Men With The Pink Triangle is a gripping account of one prisoner’s experience in the camps written by Hans Heger.

As we remember those lost in one of our history’s most violent and gruesome chapters, please take the time to remember everyone.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 935 other followers