Archive by Author

Our Out History

31 Jan

The Gay History Video Project has just released it’s first installment in a series about LGBT history.  Inspired by the sharing of oral history at the National Equality March, a group of young people has accepted the challenge of interviewing the front runners of our movement.

As we’ve written before, we have a great need to preserve and reflect on our history, lest we lose it or subject it to unfriendly revision.

Watch the first installment of this very exciting project:

Hat Tip: David Mixner
 

Being Gay Is Not A Choice, But Your College Is…

21 Jan

When I was searching for Colleges factoring in relative Gay-friendliness never occurred to me. As I’ve written before I had a decidedly mixed collegiate experience after coming out. I can’t say I attended an incredibly gay friendly University, it being an Urban Catholic University in Pittsburgh, but there were definite pockets of support. We even had a GSA, though it caused a major controversy.

Now it seems an increasing number of young people are factoring in campus LGBT friendliness when deciding where to go to college. According to the Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), in 2009 9 out of 10 LGBT Middle and High School students said they faced harassment. Coming from that environment a growing amount of students want to be sure they are going to have positive experiences at the next level. Recent incidents of Collegiate harassment and prominent stories of student suicides are adding to the concerns of students and parents:

The number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students seeking a university that is “gay friendly” is increasing, driven by Web sites that rate schools on how supportive they are of gay students.“It’s definitely a phenomenon,” said Luigi Ferrer, the director of programs and grant development at Pridelines Youth Services, a Miami Shores, Fla., nonprofit where he works with Louis, a counselor. “Students are sometimes prioritizing [LGBT] resources even over the academic reputation of the school or the financial aid they can get.”

College still isn’t a guaranteed safe-haven, but some are better than others. Campus Pride has a ranking system, as does the Princeton Review, and it should be a factor in any young LGBT student’s search.  College can be a difficult and eye-opening experience, but it should be fun and give you the chance to grow and change.  It shouldn’t be harder because you are gay and colleges and universities have an important role to play in making sure that’s the case.  The ones that perform that function best for its students should be rewarded with our best and brightest young LGBT minds.

It’s all part of making sure this doesn’t happen anymore.

 

We Were Here – Stories Of The AIDS Epidemic

20 Jan

A new Documentary is set to be screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

We Were Here, by David Weissman, intimately chronicles the experience of a few individuals in the close-knit San Francisco queer community before and after the AIDS epidemic. By highlighting individual experiences and personal storytelling the film hopes to show the power of community and the struggles and hopes of the people living through the crisis

We Were Here is the first documentary to take a deep and reflective look back at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco. It explores how the City’s inhabitants were affected by, and how they responded to, that calamitous epidemic.

Though a San Francisco-based story, We Were Here extends beyond San Francisco and beyond AIDS itself. It speaks to our capacity as individuals to rise to the occasion, and to the incredible power of a community coming together with love, compassion, and determination.

The director told Indiewire.com:

I really wanted to make a film that trusted the pure power of storytelling, that affirmed that there is nothing better than a good “talking head” if you have the right talking heads, and if you allow for depth and complexity.

Collecting, honoring, and reflecting on our shared past is growing increasingly important as we make great strides towards assimilating into mainstream society.  The essence of this time period needs to be preserved and the lives and stories of the people who lived through it deserve an honored place in history.

Having this Film screened at Sundance gives these stories and lives their due recognition while at the same time taking the history of our community out of the margins. In addition to the newly opened GLBT Museum, The LGBT exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, and greater visibility on mainstream media, with this film we are making massive cultural strides to coincide with political victories.

Check out the trailer below:

A Gay and Lesbian Museum: There’s A Space For US

12 Jan

After a decade of searching, the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society has found a San Francisco location for the first ever LGBT History Museum in the United States. The Museum opening marks the 25th Anniversary of the Society and will feature two opening exhibits: Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History,” curated by historians Gerard Koskovich, Don Romesburg and Amy Sueyoshi; and in the front gallery, “Great Collections of the GLBT Historical Society Archives.”

We have written several times about the importance of history and about preserving and reflecting on our past. The opening of this museum is an important moment in our movement.  If we don’t do the hard work of educating younger generations on past struggles, victories, and personal stories, we allow someone else to revise our history.  We have our own stories to tell, remember, and cherish:

“Telling our stories transforms our lives and our society and takes us out of the margins,” said Don Romesburg, a curator and assistant professor of Sonoma State University‘s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. “The museum is at the heart of that project.”

This is a great step for our community.

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.

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)

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.

To Those Who Inspire Me:

31 Dec

This has been a transformational year for me. Reflecting on the person I was at this time last year, and who I’ve become, I have come to realize that I have a large list of thank you’s to send to the many people who have empowered and inspired me in the last few months.

For a twist on the end of the year lists I’ve decided to make a list of the people who have most directly led me to this point.  My passion for social justice and equality has never been stronger, and I owe a great portion of these to the individuals and groups:

10. The New Organizing Institute.

This group of incredible leaders has given me the skills and knowledge to tackle large projects and helped me grow as an organizer beyond what I thought possible.  They routinely empower fresh faces and new leaders while growing the progressive movement and helping organizers of all types and stripes to be better and more efficient change-makers.

9. Chris Armstrong.

For me, no single person embodied the courage it takes to live openly and honestly this year like Chris. To keep one’s dignity in the face of near constant harassment and to deal with the pressures associated with an unwanted national spotlight the way he did showed genuine class.  People like Chris give me great hope for the future of LGBT leadership.  Also, Chris’ story was one of the first we covered here at TAE when we launched, and it was so satisfying to watch him succeed.

8. David Mixner

In studying the history of the LGBT movement I have most closely identified with the story of David Mixner.  As a guide for all young leaders who want to make change happen his autobiography is a study in first steps.  He has inspired and empowered me greatly in my work, and I think I might not have taken a few of my recent first steps were it not for his words.  Having had the pleasure of meeting him very recently he has cemented a place in my heart as a true visionary, both for LGBT equality and for the movement towards a more civil and peaceful society.

7. GetEqual

No group in the country is activating new leaders and young people quite like GetEqual. Their go-to attitude and their focus on escalating the push for full LGBT equality has been invigorating to watch and work with.  Through this organization, and the incredible staff, volunteers, and action-takers I have really learned the depth of my own power and the power of my community.

6. Julia Mandes and Ai’yana Ford

Nothing I have done this year tops the Big Commit. Working with these incredible ladies was an eye-opening, harrowing, sometimes frustrating, and ultimately transformational experience.  I learned more about myself, my management style, and how my personality works with others than ever before.  We pulled off an incredible event and turned what could have been an awful moment in DC LGBT history into an affirming and celebratory time for DC residents. That time stands alone as one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

5. My Fellow NOI LGBT Bootcamp class

I was able to spend a week with brilliant young leaders of the LGBT movement growing and learning.  The memory of such talented, dedicated, and fierce advocates will keep me going for another amazing year. I’ll never forget the overwhelming hope I felt during that time, and will forever cherish the memory of opening myself so fully to you all.  I meant it then, and it still holds true: Bootcamp changed my life.

4. Erica Zaveloff

She’s in Africa and probably wont read this for quite some time. Erica has been there from my first steps into organizing and has encouraged and prodded me every step of the way.  The world, and certainly my life, is a fundamentally better place with her in it. Even though I only got to spend a few precious days with her over the summer, they were some of my most cherished memories of 2010. From running the South Side for Obama group out of our house with no electricity, extension chords from the neighbors, and by headlamp,  to marching with Take Back Pride in the NYC pride parade it has been a wonderful journey with you. COME HOME!

3. The Rotunda 8

Orelia Busch, David McElhatton, Robbie Diesu, Zack Rosen, Erika Knepp, Charles Butler, and Shannon Cuttle. Getting arrested and taking a stand with you all was a watermark moment for my life as a gay man. You are all heroes in my book and not a day goes by that I don’t remember the power and significance of that day.  Even though we didn’t get ENDA, I took an important step in my life with you, and Ill always remember that you all were there with me. I am consistently inspired by all of you.  I’m still afraid of whales though…

2. Erin Ryan

This year, yet again, you’ve been the constant support that I’ve needed to manage the myriad ways my life has shifted and changed in 2010.  I’m so thankful for all of the times you’ve listened to my crazy ideas, issued often brutally honest critiques, and supported me unwaveringly in every endeavor.  After all these years, you still make me want to be a better man.

1. Jay Carmona

In 2010 I felt for the first time that I had a home in the LGBT community.  Never before had I felt that this movement needed or wanted me.  The fact that I am now fully committed to this fight and am empowered to win it has everything to do with your help in taking those first steps.  I can not overstate the strength of the relationships you have cultivated and the incredible sense of community I experienced the past few months.  You, and more importantly your ideas and work, are a wealth of inspiration for me.  When we win this fight it will be because of people just like you.

In 2011 Jamie and I will continue the work of furthering dialog and sharing stories.  Our goal is to give everyone the chance to take the same first steps that have been so transformational for me. Tonight is a night to celebrate those who inspire us, and for Jamie and I, thats all of you.