Archive | February, 2011

Proud to be from MA: Gov. Patrick Signs Transgender Protective Order

17 Feb

As a Massachusetts native, I’ve often been proud of my home state for the way it has led the country when it comes to equality for all its citizens. It was the place the pilgrims landed when they were trying to escape religious persecution. It was the place where patriots dropped case upon case of tea into Boston Harbor when we were being treated like second-class citizens by the British Crown (The only shame there is that the name “Tea Party” has been co-opted to mean something entirely different). And then in 2004, it became the first US State to officially recognize equality in marriage.

And since then, Massachusetts has not fallen off into the ocean and what’s more – much to the chagrin of the anti-gay, and quite contrary to their arguments that marriage equality will somehow negatively affect opposite-sex marriages, Massachusetts’ divorce rate is now at similar levels to what it was pre-World War II. Depending on the survey, it is 49th or 50th in the country when it comes to divorce.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

And today, according to the Boston Herald, Governor Deval Patrick signed an Executive Order banning discrimination within state agencies from making decisions based on gender identity.

The executive order revises an existing order, adding the words “gender identity or expression” to the state’s non-discrimination statutes, which also includes: race, color, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, ancestry, national origin, disability, veteran’s status (including Vietnam-era veterans), or background.

Once again, I’m proud to tell people I’m from Massachusetts.

It’s Complicated: Facebook Adds New Relationship Statuses

17 Feb

Some of you may have noticed a little change on the relationship status section of facebook!

If you look at your facebook, you’ll see that the two new statii that are possible are “In a domestic partnership” or “in a civil union.” Prior to today, the only options were: single, in a relationship, married, engaged, it’s complicated, in an open relationship, widowed, separated, and divorced.

Apparently the new fields are being rolled out in the U.S. and several other countries, including Canada, France, the U.K., and Australia, starting today.

This comes just a few months after facebook co-founder Chris Hughes announced his engagement to partner Sean Eldridge; political director for Freedom to Marry.

What is Broadway’s Priscilla Hiding?

17 Feb

When walking through Shubert Alley in Times Square, one gets to see the wall-sized posters for several Broadway shows – some have been running for years and some have yet to open. While walking through last week, I couldn’t help but notice this new ad for the upcoming Priscilla: Queen of the Desert musical.

The picture (also featured on their website and their first major mailer), features three “divas” as they’re called.

Of course, being the responsible self-respecting gay musical theatre lover I am, I immediately got pissed off. Why? Well – unless you missed the hit 90s film from Australia that this show is based on – you’d recall that PQD is a story of three of the most fabulous drag queens ever to grace the silver screen. Why the hell are there three pretty girls advertising a musical about boys in dresses? Michael Musto took to his blog to point out the same thing. And the die-hard Broadway fans at are having a lengthy discussion about it. Is a Broadway show afraid to show drag queens in their ads? Does someone think Broadway or NYC can’t handle a guy in a dress? So, I talked myself into a frenzy of being offended and then thought…hmmm there must be something else in play here. Surely a Broadway show was not sweeping the LGBT community under the carpet.

The ad campaigns from the other locations where PQD has played have all proven to be extraordinarily campy – including a giant stiletto over the marquis in some cases:

So, whereas TAE friend, Nick Adams is one of the stars of the upcoming musical, I dropped him a line to see what was up. Without saying very much and considering the actors rarely have little (if anything) to do with the marketing of a show, he referred me to one of the publicists for the show, Nick Pramik at Spotco (also an old friend).

Nick P denied that there was any attempt to hide the drag queens and explained that the posters we’d seen were merely the first part of a roll-out of a much larger campaign. Nick went on to explain that the team behind the marketing is the same team behind that for La Cage aux Folles, which clearly has no problem whatsoever with dragging out the queens to promote the show.

He then assured me that the LGBT community was going to be very happy with this show after some future announcements were made – including some kind of partnership with a major LGBT organization. He was biting his tongue the whole time and is clearly very excited about the promotional plan for the show.

So for now, keep your skirts on and let’s see what Priscilla holds for New York City!

I sure hope to see a whole lot of Will Swenson, Tony Sheldon and Nick Adams strutting their stuff all over the place to get people to see this very pro-LGBT musical.

In the meantime, enjoy a couple of the photos and a little video from the upcoming sure-to-be hit!

Oak For Court!

16 Feb

In September we wrote about Oak Reed, a Michigan teenager who was elected homecoming King at Mona Shores High only to have his candidacy invalidated on a technicality. The problem, for the administration, is that Oakleigh Marshall Reed used to be named Oakleigh Marie Reed.  So, despite the common belief that Oak earned the most votes, the school records still indicate that Oak is a girl. So no homecoming court for Oak.

Oak Reed for Homecoming King!After garnering national attention and outrage the same administration has made the laudable decision to remove King and Queen from its homecoming court in favor of gender neutral titles.  Thanks to broad support from Oak’s parents, friends, and fellow students an important step towards inclusivity has been taken.

According to the Muskegon Chronicle, the school administration quickly began examining how they could be more gender neutral and met with student leaders to make some changes. Oak responded through a statement released by the ACLU:

I’m so glad that the rules have been changed. All I wanted was a chance for all students to participate and be heard. Now my classmates and I can just focus on having a great time at our school dance.

Indeed. By simply being himself Oak has succeeded in making real changes in his community. Now they can dance , focus on being young, and get through high school, which is hard enough as it is.

Hopefully we’ll get to see the happy prom photos.

Jamaican Gay Murder Advocate Wins Grammy; 28 Gay Jamaicans Win US Asylum

14 Feb

It’s no secret that many Caribbean nations are overwhelmingly homophobic. In fact, just last night, Jamaican Reggae artist, Buju Banton won a Grammy Award – after he advocated burning homosexuals “like an old tire wheel,” and shooting “batty boys” in the head with an Uzi in some of his lyrics.

Gay murder advocate and Grammy Award Winning Jamaican Reggae Artist, Buju Banton

Speaking as someone who also suffered from an anti-gay assault in the Bahamas, it seems that homophobia is deeply rooted in the religious teachings in some Caribbean nations. In recent years, there have been dozens of hate crimes reported in St. Maarten, Jamaica, The Bahamas and others. In fact, in 2006, TIME Magazine dubbed Jamaica “The Most Homophobic Place on Earth.”

The hatred and ignorance is clearly out of control. And considering the recent murder of David Kato in Uganda and the halted deportation of Brenda Namigadde, it’s important to know that you can be safe in countries which don’t criminalize who we are. Immigration Equality is an organization which maintains the largest network of pro-bono attorneys, in addition to its in-house legal staff, dedicated solely to seeking asylum for Lesbians, Gays, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers. So it was good to hear from our friends at Immigration Equality that “An overwhelming number of the victories, 38, were for clients from the Caribbean, with 28 of those for individuals from Jamaica.”

Congratulations to those who won asylum to a place that at least doesn’t criminalize love. Let’s keep hoping for change in those countries where millions more fear their own murders daily.

Prayers for Equality: An Interview with Sigourney Weaver

13 Feb

Ryan Kelley and Sigourney Weaver in "Prayers for Bobby"

In our struggle for equality, we are so often met with the question “Can people really change?” We so frequently run up against the wall of having a conversation with someone who seems unmoveable. And sometimes, the sad truth of the matter is that some people are indeed unmoveable. In the case of Mary Griffith, it wasn’t until her young gay son took his own life that she saw the repercussions of her ignorance.

Mary’s story “Prayers for Bobby” by Leroy Aarons, tells the story of life with her son, Bobby. And most importantly, it tells the story of how someone can change when presented with irrational fears of what they don’t understand. The book was made into a film last year by the Lifetime Network and it garnered several recognitions including Emmy nominations for Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Outstanding Leading Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, for Sigourney Weaver. The film won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Miniseries or TV Movie and Sigourney took home a Trevor Life Award from the Trevor Project for her portrayal of Mary Griffith.

On the occasion of the DVD release, Sigourney took a few moments to chat with Talk About Equality about the film, on playing Mary Griffith and how things can get better.

Talk About Equality is devoted to telling our stories and we believe that these stories are what will help us win our equality. In your travels, have you had the opportunity to see or hear about the impact your telling of Mary’s story has had on someone?

Mary Griffith

A young person had confided in her mother a few days before that she was gay and her mother had freaked out and taken her phone away and grounded her. Then they saw the movie together and the mother started the process of being able to talk about it with her child and it went from impossible to…let’s start this dialogue. And it was such an immediate heartening result from watching the movie together. It [the movie] takes you through people coming out with such disasterous results.

I thought my friends surely didn’t have that big a problem but the four people I talked to had such terrible stories to share with me. One of them, who goes out in drag quite a bit – his grandmother actually helps him get ready, but they’ve never discussed defies there’s a real need for more stories like this to be told.

The transition Mary had after the loss of Bobby is one that so many kids fantasize will happen with their own intolerant parents. Speaking as a parent, what would you tell these intolerant parents and how did you personally handle Mary’s transition from intolerance to pride?


Sigourney Weaver and Ryan Kelley in a scene from "Prayers for Bobby"

The main thing to remember is that you love your child and we as parents must love and respect our children and listen to them. I think the one thing I feel was so tragic about what Mary did was not her belief or her ignorance, but that she refused to listen to Bobby. She just refused to, and that actually is what cost him his life. If she’d been able to listen, if she had been able to keep that door open, then things might have worked out differently.

As a parent we all have a tendency to want our children to lead very safe regular lives. Lives that are protected somehow- Its really a fallacy. Its not what any of us did and we have to be brave enough as parents to trust our children and encourage them to be who they are and all that they are. It takes such incredible courage to be gay in this society, in this world right now and your child really needs your support – really needs you to be there for him or her. It’s the most important way you can  express your love to your child – by listening and supporting.
You’re an actor who never shies away from a challenge when it comes to the roles you choose – from the big commercial hits like Avatar or Aliens to smaller releases like Prayers for Bobby or Snow Cake – and each of these characters I’m sure brought something new to your life. Did you have a “seeing the world with new eyes” moment with this character and movie?

Bobby Griffith

I definitely did. When I read the script I was a little horrified by Mary – I thought there was this huge chasm between myself and her. My immediate thought was she must live in this kind of place that’s far away from a metropolis-where there might be a big gay community. And then of course when I visited her – she’s about 30 minutes away from downtown San Francisco. I realized that we can be closed-minded wherever we are-even in a big city. I think I had used that geographical idea to sort of marginalize Mary and once I realized that she was in a city and I met her – mother to mother – I realized how much she loved Bobby, how much she loved all her children.

Her house is filled with things he made – his dolls, his drawings, his little attic room is just as he left it. We just met as mothers. She is so courageous and so honest and so candid about who she was then and what the repercussions had been of her prejudice and ignorance. And after a day with Mary, I felt-  ya know -that I get fearful for my daughter when I think of her doing things and I found the Mary in myself. We are parents who want to protect our children from things we don’t understand, things that frighten us.

I stopped being the East Coast judger. This can happen to any of us. It creeps up on us because we love our children and we think by loving them, we should keep them from being who they are. If I just say no, they can change their minds. The more you talk to Mary – she thought he was making a lifestyle choice. It took her forever to understand that this was part of God’s plan for Bobby. And that’s what the story is, of the terrible mistakes she made and that he was perfect as he was. She just couldn’t see it. She didn’t have any help or support until she reached out to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). PFLAG saved her and made it possible for her to share her story with all the rest of us.

I’m sure you’ve heard about Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, designed to reach out to LGBT kids who may be contemplating suicide. In that vein, if you could, if things were different, is there anything you would want to say to Bobby Griffith?

Wow…I would say…Dear Bobby, give your mother [a chance…]…these are all things he did do because he loved his family so much. He tried so hard to give them the time to embrace him as who he was. So it’s very hard for me to know what to say to Bobby except – we’re going to do everything we can to make sure kids don’t feel that way.

It’s so hard to say ‘go live your life’ and eventually your family will come around and you will find out that you can be this magnificent gay man with so much to offer, with a community and with a family you can have – a family of your own and eventually your family will hopefully meet you halfway. And if not, you’ll have your own family and your own community and it will get better. What could be more painful than what you’re going through now? So just hang in there. And know there are people who love you and care about you and value you and you should be around, because you’re a terrific young person.

For Bobby, everything hinged on the approval of his family. I think there wasn’t The Trevor Project or all these other places where he could have maybe had more people reaching out to him. Where he could finally get the message. It was a message he felt he didn’t have the right to accept.  He couldn’t allow himself to love someone and be loved if his family didn’t love him first. That’s the lesson from this story really – it’s really hard for someone to love themselves without ever learning how to from their family.

Many thanks to Sigourney for taking the time out to speak with us about this incredible film.

If you have not seen it, please order the DVD by clicking here. And if you have seen it, go buy a few copies of the DVD to give to friends and family who might be able to use it.

Gay Pirates and Cosmos

10 Feb

Gay Pirates (Photo by Robin Hillier)

So, Talk About Equality is far from being any kind of entertainment reviewing blog, but once in a while something comes across our facebook or twitter that we can’t let go without a comment or passing it along.

Last night, a friend posted a little video called “Gay Pirates” on my facebook wall. I assumed it would be some silly parody or something that poked fun of gay people and/or pirates. It turned out to be kind of a sweet, Irish folky tune about pirates in love.

I immediately made myself late for work by looking for more music from this young man, Cosmo Jarvis and found quite a bit – and a little interview on AfterElton. When AE asked Cosmo how he came about the idea to write about gay pirates, the 21-year old said:

“You know the stereotype of pirates — these gruff dudes who can take anything, they live on maggot-infested biscuits in the middle of the sea, they whip each other, they’re really tough guys.So if one in ten guys today is gay, then one in ten guys back then must have been gay, so I was just thinking there must have been gay pirates, although pirates were very tolerant toward homosexuals for the most part. But if you did end up on a boat in the middle of the ocean and you can’t run anywhere and everybody is totally against the idea of you having a partner on the boat, I felt that it was the worst thing that could happen to somebody who was gay.

I’m sure most people have had a chance to see the video by this point, but for those who haven’t, I hope this will make your day the way it made mine.



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