Archive | December, 2010

Hidden Above Manhattan, A Gay Son’s Link to His Dad

16 Dec

Thanks so much to Towleroad for sharing this beautiful and captivating story of a bond many of us only hope for.

Vincent James Arcuri, Jr., who shares a name with his Dad told his brilliant story in words far better than I could possibly come up with and we wanted to share it with you. Vincent’s critically-acclaimed one-man show, www.BecomingButch.com debuted last year in Los Angeles. Read his whole story here at ENR.com. Here’s just a taste of this beautiful story:

We share the same name. And like most fathers, mine dreamed that his young and only son would grow up to follow in his footsteps.

My dad and I enjoyed building toy skyscrapers, but I much preferred playing with my sisters’ Barbie dolls or marching up and down the street with my red, white and blue baton. As the years passed, I grew to be a very different kind of man. While he watched football, I watched soap operas. While he enjoyed a beer with the boys, I liked to gossip with the girls.

As a toddler, I had my very own banana-yellow plastic toy hardhat. At 10 years old, I donned my first professional hardhat to tour a site with Dad. We boarded a rickety service elevator secured to the building’s facade and rode it to the top floor. We walked on to a concrete slab surrounded by steel columns and nothing else. I was petrified and captivated by the spectacular views. That massive shell of concrete and steel would soon become the Irving Trust building in downtown Manhattan, a stunningly simple, white tiered building in the shadows of the Twin Towers.

It’s stories like this that are changing minds around the world. Tell your story. It’s the only way we can do this.

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Jesus Loves Me, This I Know…

16 Dec

Perhaps our biggest fight in the struggle for our equality is convincing those who use their religious texts as shields to defend their own bigotry.

We need to talk about who we are, but for many, the biggest fear is frequently religious families and friends who simply reply that it is “against God’s law” or “I don’t want you to go to Hell, ” or my favorite “I love the sinner, but hate the sin.” At the end of the day, these are all other words for “I’m afraid of things I don’t understand, so I’m just going to lump you in with the other unexplainable mysteries and choose to fear you as well.”

The ONLY way to get beyond this is to help educate our families and friends about who we are and who we love. A few excellent articles have come out these past few weeks, which help to explain some of the baseless fears spread by people who call themselves religious. One such post was written by our friend Kathy at Canyonwalker Connections. Kathy is a straight, married ally who is devoted to clearing the air around Christianity and homosexuality.

Her post, The Ten Lies about the GLBT Community Told by Conservative Hate Groups: a Straight Christian Perspective, highlights many of the arguments we face on a daily basis, from “being gay is a choice” to “gay people can’t be in stable relationships” to “gay people can’t be Christians.” Kathy not only reveals the lies, but presents some of the best explanations and defenses I’ve seen for many of the bigoted assumptions made about LGBT people.

And appearing on HuffingtonPost this week is John Shore’s The Real Reason Christians (and others) Get So Crazy About Gays, humorously explains some of his observations about the irrational fears of LGBT people that some straight people have. he discusses the Bible and specifically explores the issue of power.

The reason is power. It’s all about power. The problem Christians and others have with homosexuality isn’t about sex. Nobody cares that much about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms. Sure, it says in the Bible that homosexuality is bad. And of course that matters. As a Christian, what the Bible says certainly matters to me. But the Bible also says that slavery is good, and that women shouldn’t speak in church, and that Christians should never eat shellfish, and on and on an on. We’ve long ago made our peace with the idea that sometimes we have to modify our understanding of Biblical texts—especially when (as is true with the Pauline proscriptions of homosexuality), there are sound reasons to question the way the text has been translated.

When people use their Bible (or any religious text) to say that being gay is wrong, it ends the conversation. You can’t argue with people’s beliefs…or can you? We all know the quotes from Leviticus that Dr. Laura worked so hard to educate so many with. And we’ve all heard the defenses of that same argument…(other abominations include eating shellfish and wearing polyester)…so perhaps the best way to move forward is to keep conversations away from the Bible. Our fight is not about who’s God teaches what. It is about our love and our equality.

Inspiration and Empowerment: RootsCamp and the New Organizing Institute

14 Dec

Times are tough. Our economy is failing, we are ruining our planet, we largely fail to take care of the most marginalized and powerless in our society, and our democracy is increasingly dominated by those claiming exclusive rights to American values while practicing none.  In the face of overwhelming opposition with seemingly endless amounts of money and the willingness to use it to deceive and oppress it’s hard to imagine things getting better. It’s tempting to become jaded and cynical.

Some days I wake up angry, frustrated, and feeling powerless. While my community fights amongst itself, argues over tactics, agonizingly debates messaging, and wages turf war, another day passes without justice.

And some days are transformational.

This weekend spent at the New Organizing Institute’s National RootsCamp turned my occasional cynicism on its head. I came to the event hoping to pick up some tips, learn some new tools, and to promote and discuss Talk About Equality. I knew I would see old friends and meet some new ones, and I hoped to come away with a few good ideas.

What I did not expect, and what will keep me going for a long time, was the feeling of pure hope and inspiration that surrounded the event. The people in that room had real power, big ideas, and the determination to change their community and fight for their vision.  It was contagious. I found myself consumed by the spirit of collaboration and good will and profoundly moved by the collective power of the people there.

The purpose of the event was to train each other, share ideas, and ultimately to make the progressive movement stronger. I firmly believe we are stronger when we work together, but until this weekend I haven’t seen many examples of this, especially amongst LGBTs. RootsCamp reminded me that there is a dedicated group of talented and benevolent people working to fight the injustice  and corruption that so many of us face daily. Being around such brilliance took away much of my fear and cynicism and I feel more powerful and inspired to empower others than ever before.

What I learned this weekend, in the end, is that I have the tools and the responsibility to empower new leaders to take first steps, to stand up, and to seize ownership over the equality movement. I am more committed than ever before to reaching new audiences, engaging new leaders, and encouraging every new person I meet to stand up for justice and equality.

As we face potential set backs this is the perfect time to broaden our movement, bring in new voices, and continue the hard work of having difficult conversations, in our daily lives and in unfriendly environments. Now, more than ever, we need to learn from our allies, grow our numbers, and find new friends.

I’m ready.

Fertilizing the Roots – Photos and Video from Rootscamp 2010

12 Dec

Rootscamp 2010 is drawing to a close after it’s second day of incredible grassroots progressive organizers joined in DC to discuss and digest the work of the past year.

Last night, following a full day of workshops, participants let loose and did some networking to make sure we are all communicating about how to move our ideas forward.

This morning, some of the organizing sessions we were able to attend included one on direct action as well as a session on how to use our storytelling to advance our individual goals. Being one of the main purposes of Talk About Equality, the ideas presented on storytelling were extraordinarily moving and helpful in finding our equality. It’s through these stories that we have come as far as we have.

Using stories to convince a voter to vote for a candidate is indeed helpful and effective. Personal stories usually make the biggest difference in winning a vote, as we saw with the election of Obama. But when it comes to the monumental changes and shifts in the LGBT movement, there is no denying that storytelling and our personal narratives have created the most positive change. When telling our parents, friends and family who we are, and coming out to those we love, we are telling our story. If we fail to tell those stories, we in fact are not only failing ourselves, but every generation of LGBT people that follows.

We’re very grateful to have been able to take part in the New Organizing Institute’s Rootscamp 2010 and can’t wait to see all these incredible organizers and their work over the course of 2011. Enjoy a few more photos as well as the incredible video from NOI.

Organizers Unite! Rootscamp FTW!

11 Dec

Sean and I are having an excellent time in DC at New Organizing Institute’s Rootscamp at George Washington University! Incredible progressive organizers from all over the country discussing the wins and losses of the past year and brainstorming about how we move forward towards equality for all.

Most Valuable Organizer Awards will be given out tomorrow and among the finalists are Talk About Equality friends Mark Anthony Dingbaum (currently working for CREDO Mobile and formerly for Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund), Becky Bond of CREDO Mobile, and Jay Carmona, formerly of GetEQUAL.  Our two favorite Most Valuable Campaign are The It Gets Better Project and Promise Arizona! We’ll let you know who wins. In the meantime however, enjoy a few photos from today’s events!

A Catholic Family Conversation: Andrew Sullivan and Maggie Gallagher

8 Dec

Tonight a discussion on LGBT issues is being held at Georgetown University.  Called “A Catholic Family Discussion” two panelists will answer questions from college students about LGBT issues and catholicism.

Maggie Gallagher, of the National Organization for Marriage, and Andrew Sullivan, Atlantic senior editor, political commentator, author, and blogger, are set to square off in a debate moderated by E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist, Brookings Institute senior fellow, political commentator, author.

We will be live blogging the entire event, complete with exclusive pictures. Stay tuned.

8:36 Panelists in place.  Here we go.

8:42 E.J. Dionne introducing the evening.  Makes the point that he believes this is a very difficult question.  This evening will be all about Marriage. He jokes that this evening will be “‘fair and balanced’ in the actual sense of the word’ and gets a good laugh out of the audience.

8:43 Dionne: The catholic church’s best role in modernity is in fostering discussion.

8:45 Dionne: quoting Glen Tinder “A society in which people listen seriously to those with whom they disagree is a healthy society…”

8:46 Maggie is up first…

8:47 Maggie leads by asking people to raise their hands if they support marriage equality.  A LOT of hands go up.  A large majority.

8:48 Maggie: Gay unions are not marriage. Aaaaaaaaaand she asserts she almost never speaks “as a catholic”.  Hmmmm.

8:49 Polygamy was apparently an accepted form of “marriage”, historically.

8:50 Maggie making the classic arguments we have heard from her: Marriage is fundamentally about children.

8:53 Every court decision granting Gay Unions makes marriage not about children.  And she states that it is what marriage is for.

8:53 Predictably, she plays the race card. If we make the connection b/w SSM and Interracial Marriage, as in the equality argument, it has a negative affect.

8:58 She tells pro-equality catholics that they don’t have as much courage to say so as it does anti-equality catholics.  Apparently it was courageous when Andrew did it, but not us. Now Maggie is the courageous hero.

9:00 What is driving the Equality movement is this: I really want to have sex, and I have to find justifications for it.  According to Maggie Gallagher.

9:01 She just said that “gay marriage is my fault”

9:02 A word on Catholics for Equality: Its not too late to turn back and repent. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

9:03 “Truth and love will prevail.” Maggie Gallagher.  She’s right, but soooooooo wrong. Not how she thinks.

9:04 Andrew Sullivan now up.

9:05 “Everything she says about Heterosexual Marriage I agree with.” Recognizes the sacred nature of Marriage.

9:06 “The world is bigger, and wider, and more complicated than we used to believe.”

9:08 Andrew just made a molestation joke.  Slightly awkward laughter from the audience.  Maggie is not pleased.

9:12 —this is much more of a conversation than a debate. Both are speaking honestly and frankly.—

9:13 Andrew is telling about his very Catholic upbringing. And how it affected him, stunted him, and oppressed him.

9:14 It’s deppressing to hear human beings being reduced to sexual acts. And then stigmatize them because of it. Andrew indirectly responding to Maggie’s argument that marriage equality is all about sex.

(as an aside, this is quite difficult to do.  I am missing quite a lot of the nuance here.)

9:20 Andrew closes with “I praise God for being Gay.”

Students are now responding.

9:21 College Democrat Hanna Lomax-Vogt, Georgetown College Democrats, responds to Maggie: A lot of [your] argument is that relationships, marriage, is about sex. I think its more than that.

9:24 College Republican, Joe Knowles: “I don’t believe we are desexualizing homosexuals”

9:25 Joe, in discussing Georgetown’s Gender Liberation Week, makes joke “How weird is that?” Maggie laughs hysterically.  No one else does.

9:26 Each are responding to Young Dem’s question about teen suffering and suicide. Maggie wants to help make the person build a better life.  And then confront the bullies.  Wants to reach out in love to people who are suffering.

Andrew says he is glad Maggie would confront the bullies. Says one way to make a gay kid feel awful is to call him “intrinsically disordered.” Lots of applause.

(this is getting into the debate now. A bit more confrontational)

His answer: “Be not afraid. God loves you.” “There is a future for you.” and that “it will get better.”

“The only way it can get better is the promise of love, and family”

9:31 “You keep sexualizing a homosexual relationship in a way you wouldn’t sexualize a heterosexual relationship” Andrew to Maggie.

(This got argumentative, but now the moderator is breaking the tension.)

9:37 Maggie is responding to EJ Dionne’s question about the conservative argument for equality. She calls it “the great infertility argument.”

“Marriage is not a factory for babies.” but the best way to raise them is to enter a sacred union.

She is hammering the “its about the children argument.”

9:42 Both are covering all issues of Marriage. Divorce, children, love… this is truly an in depth discussion of the issue.

9:43 Andrew: Is it better, for society, for [lesbians and gays] to have no incentive to channel sex and love into stable relationships?

9:46 Maggie: I wouldn’t say there are no options for channeling promiscuity.

9:47 (Now they are talking over each other a bit, getting a bit argumentative, and its turning more confrontational)

Andrew makes the point that its not possible for Gay’s to have sex without sinning.  In other words an avenue for sex without sin does not exist.

9:52 Student questioner brings up NOM’s associations, and whether she is being honest when she says she would confront bullies. Quotes NOM associate from summer tour.

9:57 These are human beings, Maggie. And I know you don’t mean to harm people, but you do.

10:00 Andrew Sullivan is making a very honest and human case for equality.  Using personal narrative, talking about family, and touching on common values.  He’s really connecting with the audience.

10:04 Andrew brings up the church sex scandal, and the college republican thinks it has nothing to do with the issue.  He says he resents Andrew bringing it up.

10:07 This is rapidly deteriorating.  The audience is restless and starting to call out.  We’re also 8 minutes over time for this discussion, and not really getting to the core of this issue.  The format is really not allowing any of the panelists to answer questions.

10:13  Not sure how this is going to wrap up.  We’re spiraling out of control at the moment.

10:15 Andrew finally answering a coherent question: Why didn’t Jesus mention gay people? His answer: historically it wasn’t an important issue.  And Jesus didn’t place emphasis on “family values.” Not such a good reaction from the crowd. On both sides the crowd reacting in ways that indicate they can’t see past the nuance of Andrew and Maggie’s arguments.

10:19 A touching moment from Andrew where he discusses his Marriage, and tells us that his life is fundamentally better with his his husband in it. And that those who are anti-gay need to acknowledge that they truly want gay people to be less happy. Big applause.

10:22 Maggie responding to Andrew’s answer and discussing biblical references.

She claims that she is open to doing things a bit different, that we can find new ways of relating to each other.

10:24 The only thing that offends Maggie, and apparently she is hard to offend, is the way Andrew talks about the Holy Father (the Pope).

When gay marriage happens, says Maggie, dissent is redefined as discrimination.  And that we equality proponents need to address that difficulty. (she’s probably right about that, and I fully own it)

10:27 And we’re done.  Not a great close.  A tremendous amount of unanswered questions on both sides. In the end, though, there were some great moments of eloquence on both sides.

Reactions to come, with pictures, after the cold commute home.

Purpose.com Goes ALL OUT for Equality

8 Dec

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a launch party for one of the most exciting campaigns I’ve seen for LGBT Equality.

We have spent years in this country fighting hard for our equality and to see how far we’ve come when we take a step back and gain a little perspective, it’s astounding. All Out, a new campaign brought to us by the progressively-minded Purpose.com, promises to give us just that – perspective.

All Out has the potential to be one of the most important international LGBT campaigns we have. From their offices:

In 2011 and beyond All Out will be rolling out a variety of creative campaigns and interventions to push the cultural needle towards greater LGBT equality and self-determination, as well as hard-hitting campaigns that will challenge human rights abuses against LGBT communities and individuals around the world. The more support we can build up now, the more wind we’ll have behind our sails when All Out starts running campaigns in 2011.

76 countries make it a crime to be gay or transgender, and in 10, you can still be sentenced to death or life in prison. In many others—including the United States—the ability to work, raise a family and love who you choose free from the threat of violence or state sanctioned discrimination is still a distant reality. History is slowly moving in the direction of greater equality. Let’s work together to push that change forward, faster.

Please watch this incredible launch video they’ve put together and visit their site and facebook page to start getting updates on their great work and find out how you can get involved!

Enjoy some photos from last week’s All Out Launch Party at Purpose.com’s new offices!

Jeremy Heimans

Jeremy Heimans, CEO & Co-Founder and Andre Banks of Purpose.com

Brian Ellner and Jeremy Heimans

Joseph Huff-Hannon and Wesley Adams of Purpose.com

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com