Archive | December, 2010

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. 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, 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’s new offices!

Jeremy Heimans

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

Brian Ellner and Jeremy Heimans

Joseph Huff-Hannon and Wesley Adams of

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal,

All I Want for Christmas is EQUALITY, EQUALITY, EQUALITY!

7 Dec

We want to implore all of you to join us in using our holiday spending to help some of our organizations stay afloat in this current economic environment. Each of these organizations is having trouble with funding. We need to make sure that they continue on so that our rights are won!

The Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBT Youth is an incredible organization that is currently under attack by those who oppose us, including New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Mayor has proposed unbelievable cuts that would close several help centers for these kids -many of whom have been kicked out of their homes for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. NYC has just cut their support of the Ali Forney Center greatly and they need your help. These kids are OUR responsibility. Help them out.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is doing incredible work on our behalf and will most certainly be responsible for Marriage Equality coming to this country through their court challenges to California’s Proposition 8.

Friendfactor is reaching out to our allies in ways we never thought possible. The new organization is focused on activating our straight allies. Very few groups are reaching outside our own community to find support, but we here at Talk About Equality believe that Friendfactor holds a special key to finding our equality. We cannot do this without our allies. We are a minority and without the help of our friends and family, we are lost.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is one of the leading organizations fighting (uphill at times) for the Employment Non-Discrimintation Act (ENDA). Though this seemed like an easy fight, ENDA has seen several setbacks, essentially from our realization that our country fails to see Transgender people as equals. The National Center for Transgender Equality is doing incredible work to educate our government and our citizens on our equality. And make no mistake, this movement would be years behind without the T in LGBT.

The Victory Fund is responsible for more than 106 LGBT candidates being elected to public office in 2010. More than any other electoral period in our country’s history.Harvey Milk once said “…you’ve got to keep electing gay people…to know there is better hope for tomorrow. Not only for gays, but for blacks, Asians, the disabled, our senior citizens and us. Without hope, we give up. I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it life is not worth living. You and you and you have got to see that the promise does not fade.” Make a contribution if you can.

GetEQUAL is doing incredible work in activism. We may not all be cut out for cuffing ourselves to the White House fence, but this organization is getting notice. One of this organization’s leaders, Robin McGehee was arrested one day at the White House and the next day was invited to a meeting there. One of the ideas that GetEQUAL embraces is that all of us can make a difference, no matter what our tactic – just keep the pressure on, and we can make a difference.

There are dozens of other organizations out there that need our help. Please take a moment to research what is important to you and encourage your friends and family to make contributions to these groups in leiu of your holiday gifts this year. When our kids live in a world with equality, they’ll thank you for it.

Should We Give a Megaphone to the Bigots?

7 Dec

Over the past few years, we’ve seen all the nuts falling from the trees. Nowadays, it’s difficult to find a news program from CNN, MSNBC, Fox or anywhere else that doesn’t offer differing viewpoints on the topics of the day – no matter how bigoted those viewpoints might be.

But how far should the media go in giving a platform to bigots, racists, homophobes and the like? Julie Bolcer at The Advocate points out a brief interview with Tom Brokaw on a red carpet recently. Brokaw pointed out the fact that sometimes it’s outrageous anti-gay viewpoints that spark conversations nationwide. “You just say that they’ve got strong opinions. You treat like them like anyone else. You cross-examine and ask them the right questions.” Brokaw said.

As a journalist, one would think that you should be fairly removed from the topic you are reporting on, but it would seem with the evolution of news programs from most of the major cable networks, that commentary on these issues has become standard.

Anderson Cooper joined the fray earlier this year when he interviewed former Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell after Shirvell had harrassed and stalked openly-gay University of Michigan student body president, Chris Armstrong. Cooper was less-than-kind to Shirvell stopping just a few inches short of calling him a lunatic on national television.

And our beloved Rachel Maddow used her bully pulpit to eviscerate ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen, when he tried to explain his methods of “curing” homosexuality. While never being rude to Mr. Cohen, it was clear that Maddow found all his techniques to be…let’s say “outside the box.”

But do these appearances help in the struggle for civil rights by pointing out the shameless bigotry and hatred being displayed by individuals like The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown or Maggie Gallagher? Or does it hurt us by giving a national platform to these otherwise fairly anonymous individuals?

There’s also the bigger question of freedom of speech – which is the usual line of defense for the networks when questioned as to why they allowed these people on their shows. This argument doesn’t hold a lot of water for me really though, as you can still speak out without being handed a national platform to do so.

I tend to believe the former, but I live in a major metropolitan area where most of the people I know share similar politics with me. With such a huge influx in LGBT stories in the media the past few years, is it necessary to offer a counterpoint, even when it’s as offbeat and bigoted as some of these examples?

Transgender Athletes Not Breaking Stride.

7 Dec

The world of sports is a frontier for conversations about equality.  As we’ve written before, openly LGBT athletes force a discussion in the world of professional sports, the administration of sports associations, and among fans.  Our mantra is that with greater visibility comes greater acceptance and Transgender athletes are breaking new ground and winning victories in this regard, on and off the field.

Last month a George Washington University Basketball player came out to the public as Transgender.  Kye Allums, formerly known as Kay-Kay to teammates and fellow students, decided at to announce his gender identity via, and has received overwhelming support from teammates and the university administration.  After a difficult decision to announce his gender identity, Kye has become the first NCAA Division One college basketball player.  Kye, protected under Washington, DC’s anti-discrimination laws, is also supported by the NCAA, and has paved the way for fellow college athletes to follow in his footsteps.

Earlier this month the LPGA voted to remove its “female at birth” requirement after Lana Lawless, a transgender woman, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the policy violated California civil rights law. The suit also includes the Long Drivers of America, who barred the former Long Drive Champion under the LPGA’s “female at birth” rule.  The LGPA voted on its own to remove the policy and it seems the players are doing just fine with the change. Christie Kerr told the Associated Press:

We don’t need to comment on this because it’s a dead issue, she can compete if she can qualify. We certainly don’t want to discriminate against anybody, that’s not what the LPGA is about. And if she can qualify, she’ll be able to play. We’re like, the last sports organization to do it, it’s just we’ve never really had to look at it before.

The public at large has a lot of questions about transgender issues, and transgendered individuals have been making great strides to raise visibility.  Vital to the struggle for LGBT equality is public education and just by being open and honest about gender identity in sports we can wrap the conversation in an experience that is familiar to the public.

Repeat after me: with greater visibility comes greater acceptance.

26 Year-Old Gay Man Stabbed to Death in Jamaica

5 Dec

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, a member of Jamaica’s only LGBT advocacy group was found stabbed to death in Kingston. Kingston has just recently claimed to gain some control over the crime sprees that have been going on for months. 73 civilians and 3 officers were killed in street battles primarily due to a drug war.

The 26 year-old man who has not yet been identified as his relatives have not yet been notified. But Dane Lewis, director of the advocacy group says the young man’s life had been under threat for some time.

Having myself been a victim of violent anti-gay crime in Nassau, Bahamas – it is no secret that the very Christian and conservative islands have long-held negative views of homosexuality. In 2004, Brian Williams, the country’s leading gay rights advocate was murdered in his home – his body was found with multiple knife wounds. Outside the crime scene, citizens cheered the murder. Much of the bigotry stems from the country’s sexist and homophobic laws which imprison sexual relations between two men, but allow for two women to be in a relationship. Gay men can be imprisoned for ten years. And while lesbians don’t face the criminal charges, the anti-gay violence remains for them.

Transformer Gallery: Not Tonight, Boehner

4 Dec

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC is currently presenting a groundbreaking LGBT arts exhibit, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.  The Gallery describes the exhibit as “the first major exhibition to examine the influence of gay and lesbian artists in creating modern American portraiture.” As we’ve written, right-wing critics have attacked the exhibit and manufactured a controversy over a video installation by David Wojnarowicz (who died from AIDS-related illness in 1992). The video, created in 1987, is titled “A Fire in My Belly,” made in honor of Peter Hujar, an artist-colleague and lover of Wojnarowicz who had died of AIDS complications in 1987.

After Rep. John Boehner, Rep. Eric Cantor, Glenn Beck, and William Donohue misrepresented the work and whipped up a smear campaign against the installation, the Smithsonian backed off and removed the video.

Now one brave local gallery has taken a stand against censorship and began showing the video in its public space just up the road almost immediately after the video was removed.

The Transformer Gallery has been leading the charge against the blatant mischaracterization of the work and standing up for the integrity of Art, freedom of expression, and the need for dialog about culturally sensitive issues like this.

After displaying the video the gallery owners and management organized an artistic response to the censorship, leading a march and silent protest on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery.

As a response to the censorship by the Smithsonian of Wojnarowicz’swork, and in honor of World AIDS Day & Day With(out) Art, the many alternative art spaces, visual arts organizations, artists, and activists around the world that have paved the path for freedom of expression & the existence of experimental arts venues like Transformer, we feel it is our job to champion all artists’ creative expression without constraints,and to continue the important dialogue Wojnarowicz’s work generates about aggression, hunger, community, love, loss, as well as religion” states Victoria Reis, co-Founder, Executive & Artistic Director of Transformer

The Gallery plans to continue to show the full video, with permission from the estate of the artist.  In addition, they will further dialog around the work by organizing a large-scale public presentation and a panel discussion on the work.

This is an amazing example of the arts community fighting back against anti-intellectual bullying from lawmakers and fear mongering pundits. The turnout was great for such a spontaneous demonstration and it was wonderful to see the larger progressive and artistic community rallying around a LGBT issue.  The Transformer Gallery has taken an immediate and aggressive stance against ignorance and injustice.  They are doing fantastic work to highlight the issue and further dialog in the absence of such integrity from the Smithsonian.

See what people like John Boehner don’t understand is that censorship can’t silence our community anymore.  The video may not be in the Portrait Gallery but more people have seen this work as a direct result of their intervention, and the message has gone further than even the curators of the exhibit could have foreseen. In the age of the internet, and with savvy and courageous arts organizations like Transformer, they can’t stop creative expression and arrogantly bully us into silence.

WWYD? ABC Tackles Coming Out

4 Dec

I’m all for social experiments. And ABC’s What Would You Do? is a fairly brilliant example of investigating what will happen in some pretty real situations many of us have been witness to.

Last year, they featured a gay couple in a sports bar participating in a little PDA. Nothing more than you’ve seen straight couples doing in most straight bars. The responses of fellow bar patrons were quite surprising:

Then last night, in consideration of the recent gay teen suicides, 20/20 set-up actors portraying a father and son at a cafe in New Jersey. The son proceeded to come out to his father and the father responded as if this were the worst thing in his life – not an uncommon reaction for many gay kids around the country. They followed this up by seeing if reactions of patrons would be any different if it was a mother and her gay son. The reactions had me in tears. So? What would YOU do?