Archive | October, 2010

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.




Obama Says “It Gets Better”

22 Oct

On the heels of some unpopular decisions and for a community that sees him as not living up to the “Fierce Advocate” label he gave himself during the campaign, President Obama has taken a step forward by addressing anti-gay bullying in this “It Gets Better” video.

He may not be the superhero we all hoped he would be, but it’s encouraging to see him addressing this vital issue…and he’s even wearing a purple tie.

On Blame and Suicide

21 Oct

Being a teen is hard.  Being a gay teen is harder still.  Many of our LGBT teens live in a harsh and dangerous environment.  Last month’s well documented teen suicides have raised the issue to the national level.   By now many of us are well aquainted with the Trevor Project and the Make It Better Project, and we have hopefully all seen the It Gets Better Project videos.  Even Hillary Clinton recorded a video for the project:

Just in the past few days we have lost two more young people to suicide.  Terrel Williams, 17, hung himself after a violent encounter at school.

Corey Jackson, 19, hung himself in the woods near his university.

And again, these are just the reported cases.  We will never know how many countless others have taken their lives because of the world adults have created for them.

Suicide is an awful and complicated tragedy.  Lets be honest: there’s plenty of blame to go around.  Does the blame rest on the bullies who drove some of these youths to the edge? Are our school administrators to blame for not providing a safe environment, on and off campus? Do we need to examine our parenting and family support systems? Are lawmakers responsible for not codifying youth protections in the law? Might anti-gay religious leaders be at fault for deliberately mis-informing their followers about homosexuality?  Can we be doing more as a community to support our youth? And, yes, we do need to ask what responsibility those in question had in making their situations better.

It’s a hard reality, but every single person who could have done something to change the circumstances surrounding these tragedies shares some of the blame.

Without a doubt anti-gay religious leaders contribute to an environment that is detrimental to the mental health of LGBT youth and fuels the fires of bullies all over the world.  Two Thirds of Americans share this view, according to a brand new CNN Poll.  Mitchell Gold writes about this influence:

People of faith must ask whether they are complicit in causing such devastation and whether their beliefs give them the right to judge and condemn others–even when those beliefs may convince a young person that he would rather be dead than gay.

Certainly bullies share a good portion of the blame for the circumstances they create, like the five kids who bullied Terrel Williams the day he hung himself.

Our schools need to be safe, and it is the job of administrators to ensure that safety extends to every child.

Congress is sitting on two important pieces of legislation which could help, and it looks like they aren’t going anywhere.  Chris Geidner writes:

Discussion of LGBT bullying and youth suicide has led to increased efforts by organizations and individuals to eliminate – or, at least, lessen – both. The Congress, however, has taken a recess so that members can campaign for the upcoming midterm elections, so little discussion has focused on legislation in Congress that could help.

There are so many contributing factors to this harsh environment that it is unfair to blame any influence solely.  But combined, all are complicit.  Until we can create an environment where every youth is given an equal chance at a healthy and nurturing environment the suicides will continue.

No one is blameless in this.  We can all do more.

Even me.

UPDATED: GA Teacher FIRED Over Gay Film

20 Oct

Dave Dixon in Rehearsal (Haralson County High School Website)

Dave Dixon is the Drama teacher at Haralson County High School in     Tallapoosa, GA. and has been for four years. In those four years, Mr. Dixon knows that he’s personally responsible for stopping at least three kids from taking their own lives and at least a dozen more who’ve stayed in school because of him. On top of that, he has led the school to many victories in theatre competition (Think Sue Sylvester for the Drama Club set).

Teaching tolerance to his students has always been a high priority for Dixon, having grown up in theatre and having lost several friends to AIDS in the 80s and 90s – and with the current state of things he has tried to step-up the anti-bullying education in his own High School.

Last week, Dixon showed a clip from an award-winning film featuring his friend, openly-gay actor Bruce Hart. The film -“The Reckoning” is about a gay man kidnapped and tortured into revealing information about the gay community. Admittedly, some of the dialogue in the short clip on Hart’s demo reel might be a bit shocking, but according to Dixon “it’s nothing these kids don’t hear or say everyday.” Dixon believes if the film was about heterosexuals using similar language, he would not be attending a hearing this week over his termination.

Dixon told Talk About Equality:

“During this time of so many kids hurting themselves over bullying, I thought it would be a good subject.  I was wrong.  I teach my students about the human condition in my theater classes, and to play a part means to understand the character.  Through that understanding, I hope my students will become more tolerant of all types of people, regardless of background, race, orientation or behavior.”

Charles Needham, the principal of the High School said that his school has “no

Principal Charles Needham (Haralson County High School website)

more incidents of bullying than any other high school” and doesn’t personally know of any students in his school that are gay. When asked if there was any club or alliance in place for LGBT students, Mr. Needham referred to the “Partners Club,” which from a quick hearing of the club description, appeared to be focused primarily on students with disabilities and/or different “social choices.” Nothing in the club’s description mentioned LGBT students in particular. He refused to comment on Mr. Dixon’s pending termination hearing.

No matter what the outcome of Mr. Dixon’s case, it seems Haralson County High School has some work to do when it comes to being a comfortable place for LGBT students.


UPDATE: We understand that Mr. Dixon was terminated last night. Tonight, Dixon spoke to Talk About Equality:

“I was fired for what they called an ongoing problem of insubordination. They claimed I didn’t follow the rules. Although I can’t remember a specific rule they told me I didn’t follow. Now they state that no teacher can show any film, or film clip, until it has been approved by a supervisor. That means if I teacher finds a teachable moment, a chance to make a difference, but it is not in the lesson plan, then they cannot do it. We are appealing. A lot of the case was about the article in Teaching Tolerance. They claim I have no right to speak my opinion about the school or the system.”

We wish Mr. Dixon luck in his appeal. Any teacher interested in educating about diversity in a community that so desperately needs it, deserves our support.

Maggie Gallagher “Gay Teen Suicides Not My Fault!”

20 Oct

It would seem to make sense that when kids are taught to hate other kids for how they differ, that they would then pick-on or bully those kids. But apparently the woman who leads the way in teaching people that LGBT people are only trying to destroy families is not responsible for the anti-LGBT feelings that pervade our country.

Maggie Gallagher, the President of the so called “National Organization for Marriage” has spent the

Maggie Gallagher (Photo: The Advocate)

better part of the past ten years attacking LGBT people. She even managed to use her position as a columnist to get paid by both the papers and the Bush Administration as a contractor hired to promote Bush’s anti-equality agenda.

But today, Maggie outdoes herself. She complains about people in the equality movement calling her out for her lies about us:

“Evan Wolfson, one of the leading architects of the gay marriage movement, calls me out personally: “National Organization for Marriage Chairman Maggie Gallagher is among those who, with reckless disregard, attacks LGBT youth.”

Former Clinton adviser Richard Socarides told the AP these suicides demonstrate why gays should be allowed to marry: “When you speak out for full equality now, as opposed to partial equality, or incremental equality, you send a message to everybody, including the bullies, that everyone is equal.””

She then goes on to quote statistics about LGBT kids in Massachusetts (where marriage equality is recognized, but still fought by organizations such as Maggie’s and Mass Resistance – one of very few organizations officially recognized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center).

“In 2001, gay teens in Massachussetts were almost four times more likely to have attempted suicide (31 percent versus 8 percent). In 2007 — after four years of legalized gay marriage in that state — gay teens were still about four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-gay teens (29 percent versus 6 percent). “

It’s interesting that Maggie chose to look at the 2007 results instead of the 2009 results (which are just as readily available through a google search). The 2009 results see a drop in attempted LGB suicides to 24.7%. A drop from 31 to 24.7 seems more significant, doesn’t it, Maggie?

Maggie’s whole hypothesis rests on the fact that because gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts (despite the fact that those couples are still unrecognized by the Federal government and it’s 1,100+ rights), that magically gay teen suicides should disappear. She truly believes that her own horrific lies about gay people and her millions spent on making certain gay families continue to be seen as “less than” has nothing to do with the way LGBT kids are bullied.

Congratulations to Massachusetts on being a pioneer for equality – and for seeing your LGB teen suicide rate drop nearly 20% (6 percentage points).