Archive | March, 2011

New Hate Group Needs a Lesson in Symbolism

24 Mar scotland

So there’s a new hate group out there (apparently the ones we have weren’t doing enough). It’s called The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family & Property (ASDTFP). Although their website says they’ve been around since 1971, they haven’t done much to gain any notoriety until 2006,when they launched some protests of the Dan Brown novel, The DaVinci Code.

The ASDTFP has been slowly gaining some notoriety and they are making sure you know exactly who they are. While the Westboro Baptist Church is now synonymous with their “God Hates Fags” signs, The ASDTFP has taken to wearing all black with a large red sash and – putting the good ole KKK to shame when it comes to fashion and vibrancy.

But what is most interesting to this 2nd-generation Scottish-American gay man, is their use of the Scottish lion as their emblem. The Scottish lion, also known as the Lion Rampant- is the royal symbol of Scotland, can be found on the Royal Standard of Scotland or Scottish Royal Flag and has been a symbol of strength for the Scottish people for nearly 1000 years. While the flag was in use beginning as early as 1222, the most famous Scottish King the flag represented, and the first Scottish King to take the British thrown was James the IV and I.

King James IV and I

While King James was known for a lot of things, most notably for printing the most commonly-used edition of the Bible, he is also commonly thought of as being the first gay king of England. From a young age, James was enamored with his second cousin, Esme Stuart d’Aubigny and reportedly a long romance ensued. This was followed by the King’s romantic relationship with young Robert Carr shortly after James was crowned King of England. During a festival, Carr fell off his horse and broke his leg. Famously, James came running to his side, carried him to safety and personally saw to it that Carr had the best medical attention. Their affair continued off and on for years and both Carr and James had other romances with men as well.

As for present-day Scotland, well – it has a much better record of LGBT protections than say, America. They decriminalized homosexuality in 1981. The U.S. did it in 2003. In 2009, the national law stated that gay couples could adopt children. We still have no federal protection for that in the US. Gays and lesbians have been legally allowed to serve openly in the military since 2000, and while Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed, it has still not been implemented. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are protected classes in Scotland, we are still awaiting that in the U.S. Additionally, though ASDTFP espouses to spread Catholicism through their actions (called “Crusades” on their website), I find it interesting that less than 16% of Scotland’s people self-identify as Roman Catholic.

So in conclusion, though ASDTFP may think they are using a strong symbol of what they believe to be anti-gay, pro-heterosexual “values,” the truth of the matter is they are carrying around a symbol which represents a socially-advanced country that represents all its citizens.

Scotland and it’s children would be ashamed to see the Lion Rampant being carried as a banner to discriminate and hate others. Might we recommend another flag to co-opt for your cause? Both the animal symbol and the country itself have a bit more in common with the bigotry you’re pushing.

The Flag of Uganda

Gay Rights Pioneer, Last Mattachine Society Member Dies

23 Mar

John Gruber

John Gruber, the last living member of The Mattachine Society passed away today at the age of 82.

The Mattachine Society, as we wrote about here, was founded 60 years ago and was one of the country’s first gay rights organizations. The Mattachine Society grew into a national movement, and in conjunction with a lesbian organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, became the above ground civil rights organizations for gays and lesbians until the Stonewall riot in 1969. The final Mattachine Society office closed in the 1980s.

The early photo that is known as one of the only pictures of the original Mattachine Society, was actually taken by Gruber. According to South Florida Gay News, Gruber was born in Des Moines on August 21, 1928, andenjoyed sexual relations with both men and women from an early age. In 1946, Gruber enlisted in the Marines where, as he recalled, he “went bananas in the sex department.” After Gruber was honorably discharged in 1949, he studied English literature at Occidental College and befriended authors Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden and psychologist Evelyn Hooker.

In April of 1951, Gruber and his boyfriend Konrad “Steve” Stevens attended a meeting hosted by a gay advocacy group soon to be known as the Mattachine Society. Soon Gruber and Stevens were invited to join the other founders: Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Chuck Rowland, Bob Hull and Dale Jennings.  According to historian John D’Emilio, it was Gruber who suggested the name Mattachine Society for the new group, inspired by Hay’s talk about medieval “mattachines.”

Gruber was also responsible for a famous photo of the early Mattachine Society that now appears in LGBT history books. Taken at Harry Hay’s house on Cove Avenue, the photo preserves for posterity Mattachine members Hay, Gernreich, Rowland, Hull, Jennings, Stan Witt and Paul Bernard.  According to historian Daniel Hurewitz, “Hay was so concerned about secrecy that Gruber had to convince him that there was no film in the camera when he took the picture; he revealed the truth only years later.”

Virginia Allows Transgender Freedom…382 Years Ago

23 Mar

The early seal of the Virginia Colony

Long before our country was struggling with the idea of gender-free bathrooms, actually – long before we were struggling with the idea of Independence from Great Britain, it seems that a Virginia magistrate was already getting things right.

382 years ago this week, In 1629, a man named Hall appeared before the court. He had not committed any crime. He was appearing before the court merely because he confused people. You see, at various times, Hall would appear as Thomas, dressed in men’s clothing. And at other times, he would appear as Thomasine, dressed in women’s garb. Virginian’s apparently couldn’t come to grips with a sexually ambiguous person.

Christened and raised as a girl, Hall was inspected by many because of the court case, and all insisted she was a man. The confusion arose because although Hall was raised female, in later years, he developed more masculine features, but still behaved effeminately, perhaps due to his upbringing. The problem presented itself in the first place because early Virginians lived in a society where clothes made the man…and the woman. People’s rank, social status, gender and job were all things that were communicated through their attire. If you wore an apron, you worked in the home, if you wore a certain kind of hat, you worked in the fields. It was a time when someone’s fluid gender expression could really confuse people.

The court was composed of the governor and council. When the judges heard from Hall, he refused to choose a gender. The court, the highest judicial authority in the colony, accepted Hall’s self- definition “a man and a woeman, that all the Inhabitants there may take notice thereof and that hee shall goe Clothed in mans apparell, only his head to bee attired in a Coyfe and Crosecloth with an Apron before him.”

Stonewall, LA Principal Punishes 8th Grader Wearing Gay Positive T-Shirt

21 Mar

In the ironically-named Stonewall, Louisiana, it seems the principal of DeSoto Middle School is the one who needs some schooling.

Though students are usually required to wear a uniform, eighth grader Dawn Henderson had earned the right to dress casually to school. So she sported a t-shirt that read “Some kids are gay and that’s o.k.”

Dawn had the shirt covered by a zip-up, but word still spread around until she was told by the principal that she needed to change the shirt immediately. According to Dawn, “He basically told me he thought it was a distraction…My opinion is any shirt can be distracting.”

Principal Keith Simmons couldn’t be reached for a comment as of this afternoon, but we hope to be speaking with him soon.

Meanwhile, the t-shirt is available at FCKH8.com.

PHOTOS: GLAAD Awards Featuring Ricky Martin, Andy Cohen and More

20 Mar DSC_0581

The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives.

Over the years, GLAAD has done the work which has paved the way for so many of us to live openly in the world. This year, they celebrate their 25th anniversary and their history shows us exactly how far we have come.

Enjoy the photos from tonight’s event. Other awards not presented this evening are listed here. Additional categories will be presented at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles on April 10 and in San Francisco on May 14. The following were the awards presented last night.

  • Excellence in Media Award: Russell Simmons
  • Vito Russo Award:  Ricky Martin
  • Outstanding Drama Series: True Blood (HBO) [Accepted by: Denis O’Hare]
  • Outstanding Individual Episode (in a series without a regular LGBT character):  “Klaus & Greta” 30 Rock (NBC) [Accepted by: Tina Fey]
  • Outstanding Digital Journalism – Multimedia: “Bridal Bliss: Aisha and Danielle” by Bobbi Misick (Essence.com) [Accepted by: Aisha Mills and Danielle Moodie, with Essence.com editor, Emil Wilbekin]

The following is a list of all other award recipients announced at the 22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York.

  • Outstanding Talk Show Episode: “Ricky Martin Coming Out as a Gay Man and a New Dad” The Oprah Winfrey Show (syndicated)
  • Outstanding TV Journalism – Newsmagazine: “Gay Teen Suicides” (series) Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN)
  • Outstanding Newspaper Article: “Rutgers Student Tyler Clementi’s Suicide Spurs Action Across U.S.” by Judy Peet (The Star-Ledger [Newark, N.J.])
  • Outstanding Newspaper Columnist: Frank Rich (The New York Times)
  • Outstanding Newspaper Overall Coverage: Denver Post
  • Outstanding Magazine Article: “What Happens When You Find the One…And He’s Nothing – Nothing – Like You Expected?” by Allison Cooper (O, The Oprah Magazine)
  • Outstanding Magazine Overall Coverage: The Advocate/Out
  • Outstanding Digital Journalism Article: “View From Washington” (series) by Kerry Eleveld (Advocate.com)
  • Outstanding Blog: Joe. My. God. (http://joemygod.blogspot.com/)
  • Outstanding Music Artist: Scissor Sisters, Night Work (Downtown Records)
  • Outstanding Comic Book: X-Factor by Peter David (Marvel Comics)
  • Outstanding Los Angeles Theater: Something Happened by L. Trey Wilson
  • Outstanding New York Theater: Broadway & Off–Broadway: The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell
  • Outstanding New York Theater: Off–Off Broadway: When Last We Flew by Harrison David Rivers

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com – for reprint permission, please email talkaboutequality@gmail.com


Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin

 

Wilson Cruz

 

Tina Fey

 

Sandra Lee and her niece

 

Sahara Davenport, Manila Luzon and friends

 

Sandra Lee and the Fabulous Beekman Boys Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge

 

True Blood's Denis O'Hare

 

Wilson Cruz and his boyfriend

 

Tina Fey

 

Erik Bottcher and friends

 

The team from ALL OUT

 

Ru Paul's Drag Race's Manila Luzon and Sahara Davenport

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell and his chief of staff

 

Outstanding Blog winner, Joe Jervis of JoeMyGod.com

 

The Fabulous Beekman Boys Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge

 

An Awkward Lunch With Mrs. Mesheau: How Teachers Change the World

18 Mar

Mrs. Mesheau was the toughest teacher in the Grace Farrar Cole School in Norwell, MA. You wandered from 1st to 2nd to 3rd grade hearing stories of how horrible it would be if you wound up with Mrs. Mesheau when you got into 6th grade. Stories of strict rules, public humiliation and the “Mesheau Glare” haunted every 5th grader in the summer before that first day of 6th grade.

She was an older troll-like woman who smelled of stale cigarettes and regret. She required every student have an American Heritage Dictionary in their desk at all times with their last name emblazoned in black sharpie across the side of the book. She’d toss out random words and point at you. If you didn’t know the definition, you were required to stand up and recite the definition to the class – branding you an “idiot” for the rest of the day.

6th grade was not unlike every other grade for me – I was fairly quiet and reserved because every time I opened my mouth, someone would make fun of me. I was picked on mercilessly, thrown into thorny bushes after school and spent my recesses playing “spank the babies” with the girls (it was basically “tag” but if you got caught, you had to be spanked by the person who tagged you – wow. yeah, things were different then).

Then one day in the Spring, I was in line at the cafeteria spending my 25 cents on the little carton of milk when I smelled her behind me. Her chubby nicotined fingers wrapped around my tiny arm and she said “come with me, we’re eating in the classroom.” I immediately panicked and wondered what I’d done wrong. Sweating, I followed her.

We sat down and she said to me, “Jamie, I notice you’re not having a very good time in school. I see what the other kids do to you, how they treat you.” I nodded my head as I ripped the cellophane off the plastic half-sandwich container which concealed my peanut butter and fluff. She went on, “Don’t listen to them…they don’t really matter.” I sat in silence, still somewhat frightened that I was somehow in trouble and that I’d become another story passed-down to the 1st graders to terrify them. “I want you to know that you should be exactly who you are and be the great person I know you’re going to be.” I sat in silence.

Of course these aren’t direct quotes as I wasn’t carrying a tape recorder and my memory of 6th grade has grown somewhat misty at this point, but I do remember her telling me I was going to be a great person someday and specifically that I should be exactly who I am. I also distinctly remember her telling me to not tell anyone about our meeting because she had an image to uphold, and with a wink, she lit her cigarette and told me to go back to the cafeteria.

Teachers play such an enormous part in our young lives and tonight, when I googled Carol Mesheau, I made the sad discovery that she’d passed a few years ago at the age of 77. It makes me sad that I was never able to tell her what a difference she made in my life, but somehow, somewhere – I can’t help but imagine that she knew. I couldn’t have been the only kid she took off her mask for.

I was thinking about Mrs. Mesheau today when I received an email about the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) Educator of the Year award. While the form they ask you to fill out asks you to talk about specific work your nominee has done for the LGBT students and such, I think the most important thing any teacher can do for a student is to let them know that they should be proud of exactly who they are.

So thank you Mrs. Mesheau, and all you educators out there who are making differences in the lives of your students, one awkward lunch at a time.

MILESTONE: Nationwide Majority Supports Marriage Equality

18 Mar

photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com

In a new poll conducted last week by ABC News/Washington Post, a milestone has been reported. For the first time since we’ve been measuring it, support for marriage equality has surpassed 50% nationwide.

From a 32% low in 2004, support has grown to 53%, up 18 points in just seven years. Our favorite part of the research though is this single passage:

“While younger adults and liberals remain at the forefront of support for gay marriage, the new results underscore its expansion. In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago, for example, under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it’s 68 percent in that group – but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points.”

This is truly exciting news. Let’s hope our elected representatives catch on to this wonderful trend and start voting with the conscience of the people.

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