Archive | January, 2011

A Coming Out Party In Boston

6 Jan

This story was passed to us this morning.  I thought I would share it in it’s entirety. It’s a touching personal account and a realization of a responsibility to come out.

Welcome to my coming-out party

By Steve Buckley

A candid admission: There was a time when I hated it when my mother
would call with an urgent request that I drop everything to take her
shopping.

These trips often involved the pursuit of trivial items — shoes, a
table lamp, frozen strawberries. Or scatter rugs: In any given year,
my mother would acquire enough scatter rugs to cover every inch of the
playing field at Fenway Park [map], including the bullpens.

I, on the other hand, had much more important things to do — such as
go on the radio to share my concerns about the depth of the Patriots
[team stats]’ special teams, or take Dan Duquette to task over his
stated belief that Jose Offerman was going to replace Mo Vaughn’s
on-base capabilities.

But my mother’s calls were not really about shopping, of course, but
about enjoying life — getting out of the house, hearing news about
what’s going on with the family, maybe even quizzing me about my job,
though she was no sports fan at all and didn’t know Johnny Damon from
Johnny McKenzie.

And the truth of the matter is that, as my mother aged, even as she
was being treated for cancer, she had become wonderfully anecdotal,
using her sharp mind to share stories about her younger days that
might otherwise have been lost to the passage of time were it not for
these midweek Scatter Rug Adventures.

Just over seven years ago, before Thanksgiving, we were getting into
the car outside of a CVS when my mother said, “I think you should go
ahead and do that story you’ve been talking about.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” she said. “Just go ahead and do it. And then we’ll have a party.”

She was talking about the story in which I would say that I am gay.

(I guess I’ve kind of buried the lead here, which, I admit, has been a
common complaint about my writing over the years. But what the heck:
The headline has already given away the story, and, anyway, what
happened that day seven years ago is central to why I am writing
today.)

My mother and I had already had the gay talk, during which she had
told me that nothing had changed, that she loved me, asked if I was
seeing anybody, and so on. What she didn’t like was the idea of me
coming out publicly; she was of the opinion that it was really
nobody’s business, and she worried that prejudice might disrupt my
career.

But like an NFL referee, she had overturned the original call. “Do
it,” she said. I thanked her. She smiled. And then I made the biggest
mistake of my life: With a vacation lined up for the first week of
December, I told her I’d get to it when I returned to Boston — just
before Christmas.

The vacation came and went. The day after I returned to Boston, I
received a call from the Lifeline people telling me my mother was
being rushed to Mount Auburn Hospital, where she had undergone
radiation therapy during the summer. The family gathered at her side.
The next morning, she suffered a heart attack. She died a few days
later.

There was a funeral at Doherty’s, and then a very soulful, reflective
Christmas. And then a Super Bowl, and then spring training. The story
didn’t get done. Whenever I revisited the idea of coming out, I’d
foolishly dwell on how it was to have been a big family event, my
mother pulling everyone together. When that was lost, I guess I lost
my way.

Now I’m not going to suggest that these past seven years have been
filled with sadness and dread, for the reality is that I’m a pretty
happy guy — great family, great friends and a job I truly enjoy, even
if, OK, I probably talk too much about the ’67 Red Sox [team stats],
the “Godfather” movies (“I” and “II,” but never “III”) and postseason
pitching rotations.

But I’ve put this off long enough. I haven’t been fair to my family,
my friends or my co-workers. And I certainly haven’t been fair to
myself: For too many years I’ve been on the sidelines of Boston’s gay
community but not in the game — figuratively and literally, as I feel
I would have had a pretty good career in the (gay) Beantown Softball
League.

Over the past couple of months I have discussed the coming-out process
with my family and a few friends, and have had sit-downs with Herald
editor-in-chief Joe Sciacca and sports editor Hank Hyrniewicz, as well
as with WEEI’s Glenn Ordway. They’ve been great, as have my friends
and family.

But during this same period, I have read sobering stories about people
who came undone, killing themselves after being outed. These tragic
events helped guide me to the belief that if more people are able to
be honest about who they are, ultimately fewer people will feel such
devastating pressure.

It’s my hope that from now on I’ll be more involved. I’m not really
sure what I mean by being “involved,” but this is a start: I’m gay.

DOMA Separates Families

5 Jan

Every day before he left for work, Richard Dennis would kiss his partner on the forehead as he slept, knowing each kiss could be their last.

Let that sink in.

That line comes from an AOL news article about Richard and his partner Jair Izquierdo, who was just deported back to Peru after immigrating to the US legally five years ago.  Every day the couple lived in fear that that day might come despite their having obtained a civil union in New York state. When the day finally came they hauled Jair off in handcuffs like a criminal.

You see, there simply is no civil protection for bi-national same-sex couples. Even in the six states that currently recognize same-sex marriage, for them, the threat of deportation looms large.

Take the story of Joshua Vandiver and Henry Velandia, a married couple in New Jersey fighting to stay together.

These Americans face the most blatant and cruel aspects of a federal government that refuses to recognize their relationships and callously rips them apart, all in the name of “protecting family values”.  For Richard and Jair the Defense of Marriage Act is no abstract concept. Jair might never be coming back to America.  No legitimate path exists under current law to bring them back together on American soil and that tragedy is all due to DOMA.

For many, Marriage Equality is a social justice issue. Many couples desperately need protections under the law such as the right to Immigration Equality.

The next time you have a conversation with anyone, gay or straight, that doesn’t support Marriage Equality tell them these stories. Ask them if their family deserves to be torn apart because of who they are.

Miss America Goes Gay(er)

5 Jan

There are some (perhaps stereotypical) things which I feel would perhaps be nowhere without the support and/or participation of the LGBT Community. Among them are:

Musicals – I challenge you to put up a production of The Sound of Music with no Max, no Rolf, no Captain Von Trapp and no stage manager.

Figure Skating – WWBBD? (What Would Brian Boitano Do?)

Fashion – Project Runway is not all that far from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, let’s be honest.

And of course…

The Miss America Pageant. We make the gowns, teach the contestants how to walk, design the sets, choreograph the opening numbers and in some cases, they even let us judge (so long as we promise to play nice *cough* Perez Hilton *cough*). Sometimes we’re even mentioned ONstage.

Kate Shindle being crowned Miss America 1998

Back in 1998, the AIDS crisis took center stage at the pageant when outspoken equality advocate, Kate Shindle took home the crown. She took a chance in speaking up for those living with and dying from HIV/AIDS, and happily it has not been a cause she has ever  let go of. From 2003-2007, I was happy to found and produce the World AIDS Day Concerts in New York City with her and her passion for this cause is unlike any I’ve seen. Since then, Kate has been seen all over Broadway and is currently starring in Wonderland – a new Broadway musical based on Alice in Wonderland.

Now, in 2011, there’s a new crown-hopeful who is making waves. Miss New York, our very own Claire Buffie has chosen as her platform, LGBT Equality. This is the first time in 90 years that a contestant is standing up for the equal rights of a community that has helped make the Miss America Pageant what it is today.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Claire on a few occasions

Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

and am happy to report that she is not only stunningly beautiful (as is expected), but she is well-spoken, articulate and has the same passion for equality, that our friend Kate Shindle continues to have for those living with HIV/AIDS. She marched in the NYC Pride March this June and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Marriage Equality New York’s Wedding March this past fall. And at any event she attends, she can almost always be seen having one-on-one discussions with LGBT people, young and old about their experiences.

We frequently talk about the need for advocacy outside the LGBT Community. And here we have a marvelous representation being given a nationwide television platform on Saturday, January 15th. As we know, the Miss America contest is going to be seen in televisions all across the country and I for one am very proud that New York is being represented by someone who can speak so eloquently about who we are.

Good luck, Claire! No matter what happens next week, we got your back girl. Come to think of it – who BETTER to have on your side at a Miss America Pageant? We promise not to go all “Drop Dead Gorgeous” on anyone, but our brothers and sisters backstage will certainly be there with some extra spray glue and glitter should you need it.

Taylor Proffitt, Claire Buffie and Ronnie Kroell (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

Real Gay Families

5 Jan

The Pop Luck Club, a support and advocacy group for gay fathers in California, has just launched a massive PR campaign designed to highlight real gay families and build a supportive community for current and prospective gay fathers:

The campaign includes radio PSAs and bus shelter ads featuring family portraits of its members. The ads run throughout January across the Los Angeles region, from the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys through the West Side, Central and East L.A. to Long Beach and Orange County.

The ad campaign hopes to reduce stigma around gay parenting. “We make lunches for our kids, get them to music and karate lessons… just like every family,” says Richard Valenza, co-president of the Pop Luck Club. He adds, “With this campaign, we are putting a real face on gay parenting.”

The Raise a Child campaign makes essential inroads among persuadable voters and sparks the kinds of discussions that reduce stigma and fear of gay families.  With high visibility imagery and messaging that touches on common values a lot of California residents will see these pieces and be able to relate to the community on a different level.  This is less about winning points in a human rights argument as it is showing the true diversity of experience and commonality that exist among all Americans, gay or straight.

The Pop Luck Club also performs an invaluable service to the Community by offering much needed support structures to existing families. By connecting them with other single-sex parents, facilitating social interactions, and sharing positive images of gay parenting they are nurturing a sense of communal support and responsibility in parenting.

This kind of organization should be in every state.

(Hat Tip: Eric Ethington, Pride in Utah)

Alan Cumming Speaks Out For Homeless LGBT Youth

4 Jan

After some devastating budget cuts from Michael Bloomberg’s administration in NYC, organizations such as The Ali Forney Center and others that help homeless LGBT youth are suffering greatly.

David Raleigh and The Friends Project have put together a beautiful video with celebrities ranging from Alan Cumming to Project Runway’s Austin Scarlet to Billy Porter to Ally Sheedy speaking out in support of our kids. 25% of kids that come out to their families are rejected by their families, and many of those kids end up on the streets. With the budget cuts and increasing numbers of homeless LGBT youth in NYC and around the country, it’s our responsibility to do something about it.

Please watch and share this video and make a contribution, as small or large as you can – and take it a step further. If you know anyone with an extra $10 while starting out this new year, please send them this video and ask them to make a contribution.

16 Year Old In Arizona: Make It Better Or Else

4 Jan

After facing harassment and bullying himself in Arizona Public Schools, Caleb Laieski, a 15 year old high school student, is demanding that Arizona officials take action.  He has sent a letter to every school district and 5,000 plus administrators, city-council members, and state legislators.

The letters warn school officials that they must institute policies specifically prohibiting gay harassment by students, teachers and administrators. Schools that fail to stop bullying will encounter “legal ramifications.”

“This is more not to threaten a lawsuit but to put resources out there,” said Laieski, founder of Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination. “But if they don’t want to cooperate, there’s going to be consequences.”

Just two years ago, at age 13, he  founded an advocacy organization, Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination, and is now lobbying state officials to affect policy.  Before this he succeeded in securing anti-lgbt bullying language in the handbook of his former high school.

Hopefully students across the country will see his story and be inspired to make it better for their own states and districts.

These are some great organizations which can help:

The Make It Better Project

The Gay Straight Alliance Network

The Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network

(h/t AmericaBlog Gay)

Unintended Consequences

3 Jan

LGBT residents of El Paso, Texas may have just found some unlikely allies in the fight against an ordinance stripping away Domestic Partner benefits from city employees.  The measure, passed by 55% of El Paso residents on November 2nd, has some problematic wording which may strip the same benefits from elected officials, who aren’t considered City Employees, and non-married heterosexual retired couples receiving union benefits.

Apparently in their rush to inject their particular religious views into the situation local religious leaders apparently painted with too large a brush and are facing legal blowback.

From the Advocate.com:

The wording of the measure came from its religious proponents — the church leaders couldn’t get an attorney to advise them on the verbiage.

Apparently even heterosexual couples and elected leaders aren’t safe from the “family values” crowd.  This seems like a great chance for local LGBT leaders to make some allies in organized labor.  Because this is the alternative:

[pastor] Tom Brown is threatening to fight officials if they attempt to reinstate the benefits for gay partners. He has proposed another ballot initiative which would strip the city council of its power to amend or rescind voter-approved measures. “I’m feeling a call from God to get more involved in our government,” Mr. Brown said in an interview.

“I have no regrets,”  says Brown “We did what was right.”

Sorry Policemen, Firefighters, and tax-paying LGBT citizens, this is what God wants.  All citizens, gay or straight, should be concerned about this type of interference and this is a prime chance to stand together for civility and fairness.

Lesbian Mom Takes Own Life After Losing Custody Battle

3 Jan

A heartbreaking story today about a lesbian mother who has taken her own life because of a custody dispute over her son.

Debie Hackett and her son, from her facebook profile.

The news comes from the Dallas Voice, which had covered the legal battle this summer. In July, Debie Hackett had sued her former partner and the biological mother of their child, Kim Ferris for proper visitation rights with their son. Debie won in an appeals court and the case was remanded to a lower court, where this past month, Debie lost. To explain further: the appeals’ court ruling did not grant Debie visitation, but did allow for the case to continue and not be dismissed as Ferris had hoped.

On Christmas Eve, distraught by the fact that she could may possibly never see her child again, Debie took her own life. The Dallas Voice asks: “Could interpretation of laws to discount a same-sex relationship be the underlying cause of this needless death?”

A sad story to start of 2011, but will hopefully ignite some fire in us to continue creating the change we so desperately need.