Archive | October, 2010

Tony Award Winner Laura Benanti: “It Gets Better”

27 Oct

Laura Benanti in Gypsy

As part of the collaboration between Talk About Equality and Broadway Speaks OUT!, we’re really happy to share with you the “It Gets Better” message from Talk About Equality best friend, Laura Benanti.

Laura is currently starring in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown which opens shortly on Broadway. She won the Tony Award

Laura Benanti in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

and every other award imaginable when she portrayed Gypsy Rose Lee in the most recent revival of Gypsy, also starring Patti LuPone. Laura has been in the business since the age of 19, when she appeared in the revival of The Sound of Music, and has since appeared in Into the Woods, Nine, The Wedding Singer and most recently In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play.

Thanks so much to Laura for taking the time to do this.

WWII Vet Wants DADT Repealed

27 Oct

USS St. George (Wikipedia)

As the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell hangs in the balance, we here at Talk About Equality believe that telling our stories will continue to change the world we live in.

From, we’d like to share the story of Calvin Fritz. Now 84 years old, Calvin served on the U.S.S. St. George in World War II. He first learned about gay men in his unit during a battle drill. He was 18 and his ship was in areas that were threatened by Japanese Kamikaze fighter planes.

“We had a general quarters call…Sailors had to run to their battle stations on the ship. I had to go through the chain locker where they keep the anchor. I stepped over a couple of guys on the floor. I knew one of the guys. I didn’t know much about anything like that, but I kept running.”

It was later when he passed that guy in a corridor he asked, “What about that back there?”

The man’s answer was, “You think I would do that if I had a choice?”

Later the man told Fritz that he felt like that was how God had made him, and he had always been that way.

“He was a fightin’ son-of-a-gun,” Fritz said. He was a big guy, and strong. He could have beaten me up. He was brave, and in as much risk of dying in battle as I was.”

“I’ve thought about that all my life,” Fritz said. “I don’t think it makes a difference.”

We frequently hear stories of the older generation not being on board with equality for LGBT people. But between the incredible Philip Spooner (video below) and now Carl Fritz – it’s become clear that we need to keep talking. I once told someone that I wasn’t out to my grandmother because she just wouldn’t understand and it was better for her not to know. My friend replied, “Does she vote?” I nodded. He said “Then she needs to know who her grandson is.”


Forced Marriage and Torture

26 Oct

From BBC News comes this horrible story of a young lesbian forced into marriage, locked up, and tortured.

In a desperate attempt to force the situation, her father even signed her away in an Islamic marriage to a man in another country, who she had never met.

Reviva, who was still at school, used her impending exams as a delaying tactic to ensure the relationship was never consummated and it was ultimately annulled.

Far from ending, her ordeal intensified. The troubled teenager was taken to her grandmother’s house in the Middle East where, as she recalls with a chilling lack of emotion, her parents tried persuading her to take her own life.

“I was damaging the family honour. I was making the family looking like a modernised, westernised, filthy family. So what they wanted to do is get rid of what is damaging the honour.

“They put you in a room on your own, I don’t get any food, or any water, and I have to just sit there and wait to die or kill myself.”

To aid the process, a gun, a knife, and pills were left in the room, along with a can of petrol and a box of matches. In her view, Reviva says it would have amounted to murder, not suicide, should she have decided to kill herself.

“But I wasn’t in a situation where I felt I have to end my life. Even if I was, I wouldn’t have done it the way they wanted me to do it.”

As we focus on domestic LGBT issues and the upcoming election it’s vital that we keep a sense of perspective on the freedoms we have here and the daily violence that exists for our brothers and sisters abroad.

This article also mentions several resources for people in these situations.  The Albert Kennedy Trust works with abused, homeless, and victimized young LGBT people.  The UK also has a dedicated Forced Marriage Unit that offers free counseling, confidential support, and action plans for forced marriage victims.


Oral Roberts’ Gay Grandson: “It Gets Better.”

25 Oct

In a beautiful and poignant video, Randy Roberts Potts, the grandson of vehemently anti-gay father of televangelism, Oral Roberts, tells us “It Gets Better.”

The televangelist also had a gay son, Potts’ uncle, who was gay and took his own life at the age of 30. Potts, a writer and teacher, married at 20 and had 3 children. At 30, he came out and divorced his wife.

His “It Gets Better” video comes in the way of a letter he’d written to his deceased gay uncle.

Oprah and AIDS circa 1987

25 Oct

In 1987, Oprah Winfrey decided to do a special episode and town hall-style discussion about HIV/AIDS and the people who were living it. She visited Williamson, West Virginia where Mike Sisco – a gay man living with AIDS took a swim in a public swimming pool. In the following days, there was an uproar from the community and the pool was closed down for fear that it was contaminated.

The startling thing about this video and the flashback to 1987 is not people’s ignorance about how HIV/AIDS is spread. In the early days, so much was unknown and to this day, there are many people in this country who still feel that it can be spread through touching or being in the same vicinity as someone who is living with it. The most disturbing part of this video is people’s ability to say the most hateful things to someone’s face. The hatred that one man spews (around 5:50 in the video) is beyond upsetting. I actually remember watching this very episode when I was 13 years old – and not yet really knowing who I was, I still had the same reaction – how could someone be so angry and so hateful to another person?

A lot has changed since then, and people like the man who is screaming his hatred are now seen as extremists. But don’t think for a moment that people like him don’t still exist in every part of our society. The only thing that has changed between then and now is that we have spoken up about who we are, we’ve educated our families and friends and we have worked to end ignorance around living as LGBT people and living with HIV/AIDS. Things are changing quickly now, and so long as we continue telling our stories – we’ll have our rights before too long.

Dan Choi Speaks to End Village Violence

24 Oct

Last night, between 150-200 people marched to end a spate of violence that has struck New York’s Greenwich Village.

In recent weeks, we’ve heard about two high-profile attacks – one at the historic Stonewall Inn, ironically the site of the  start of the gay liberation movement in 1969. Two attackers cornered a man in the bathroom of Stonewall and assaulted him, but were surprised when the victim began fighting back. The attackers ended up running from the bar, chased by the bartender and victim’s boyfriend.

Then last week, Frederick Giunta was charged with assaulting a man inside Ty’s bar on Christopher Street, followed by an attack against the bartender at Julius’, New York’s oldest gay bar.

In addition to the well-publicized crimes, we also heard stories of other assaults that have been apparently under-reported in recent months including that of a gay man who was pushed down stairs of a subway platform by four men, beaten, robbed and left unconscious for more then 4 hours. The police on location at the march declined comment as to whether there has been a rise in hate violence in the West Village.

So last night, the United for Christopher Street Coalition put together a march to end violence. Roughly 150 people marched from Christopher Street and the West Side Highway to Sheridan Square – the site of the Stonewall Riots.

All photographs (c) Jamie McGonnigal;

Intro to Direct Action 101.

22 Oct

Meet Tonei Glavinic, a collegiate LGBT organizer. Below is a guest post about Tonei’s introduction to Direct Action:

Last week, I participated in a direct action with a national grassroots LGBT rights organization called GetEQUAL. GetEQUAL isn’t much like other nonprofits I’ve worked with in the past. They don’t write policy or file lawsuits. Instead, they take to the streets, the White House, and Congressional offices to put pressure on Democrats who have been getting elected and funded for years on a platform of achieving civil equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, but have failed to deliver.

Until this weekend, I thought GetEQUAL was kind of obnoxious.

One major source of this feeling was that some of GetEQUAL’s supporters have in the past been extremely critical and dismissive of the work that national organizations do, which frustrated me because I was working with these groups and was directly involved in a lot of important efforts that are leading to or have already led to positive change. I reacted to this by in turning dismissing GetEQUAL as a bunch of misguided activists who weren’t actually doing anything productive to make a difference, and were perhaps actually damaging our efforts by angering people who were supposed to be our champions on Capitol Hill.

But when a friend of mine gave me the opportunity to travel to Miami to participate in an action, I jumped at it. I’d never been to Florida before, and it sounded like it could be fun.

The action itself was rather elaborate (you can read the plans and the AP article), but my role was simple: go with a team holding banners outside the entrance to the estate where Obama was holding a massive fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and take pictures and video.

You wouldn’t think that this would be a particularly empowering experience, but when I captured President Obama on film directly acknowledging us (I was at that point holding up the center of a banner, while my camera sat on top of a police car), I realized the important purpose that GetEQUAL serves.

All of our policy work is incredibly important, and change couldn’t happen in our government without it, but somebody has to keep our issues at the forefront of the President’s mind – and GetEQUAL can let Obama and the Democrats know that we’re not going away anytime soon in ways that policy organizations can’t.

This by itself wouldn’t have been enough to change my mind about the organization. It was the conversations I had with other activists and GetEQUAL co-founder Robin McGehee that made me realize that the organization itself was very supportive of the work of many other national advocacy groups.

While I still have a few unresolved qualms about the organization itself (specifically the recent sudden firing of a friend of mine without notice), that weekend definitely changed my opinion of GetEQUAL’s work – and direct action in general – as an important piece of the larger movement for LGBT civil rights and social justice.

Tonei Glavinic is an Alaskan queer activist at American University in Washington, DC. For more information or to contact Tonei, visit

Joshua Vandiver: Don’t Deport My Husband

22 Oct

Via comes this heartbreaking story of bi-national couples being torn apart by inequality.  Joshua Vandiver and his husband Henry Velandia have been together four years, and are now facing the harsh reality of immigration laws and marriage inequality.  But they are fighting back.

The couple has not taken this sitting down. Together, they hosted an event at Princeton to rally local support, spoke to their Congressional representative and  formed a Facebook page called “Save our Marriage – Stop the Deportation of Henry Velandia” that is gaining increasing support daily.

Show your support by signing the petition and joining their growing support base on facebook.  A great organization, Immigration Equality, works on this issue full time, and has a great database of bi-national couple stories.

A Personal Manifesto

22 Oct

For Bishop John Shelby Spong the time has come.  Fed up with the hateful messaging and distortions coming from some religious institutions, this retired Bishop has drawn a line in the sand with a new manifesto. His words speak for themselves:

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us.

Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture’s various forms of homophobia.

Isn’t it time you started working on your own personal Manifesto? I’ve already started writing mine.

Rep. Patrick Murphy: Our “Fierce Advocate”

22 Oct

There aren’t many times when LGBT leaders can agree on something, and having worked to get several of these organizations at the same table, we here at Talk About Equality can say that this is a pretty rare occurrence.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, a veteran who served in the Iraq War is also our most important ally in the House. He worked diligently to line-up votes so that the House could pass the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). With the fate of DADT currently hanging in the balance, we can see clearly that without Rep. Murphy telling his story and getting those votes lined up, that DADT would be nowhere close to a full repeal.

Talk About Equality would like to join in the voices of LGBT folks who thank Rep. Patrick Murphy and ask for your support in his tough re-election campaign. If you can donate anything, please give to Patrick Murphy now.

In discussing the title of “Fierce Advocate,” it’s nice to see an elected representative who lives up to that title.