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Gay Man’s Brother Discovers his Ally-ness

12 Apr

The following is a post by Chelsea Kleven on Central Michigan Life, it’s an important and simple story of how a brother of a gay man discovered that he is an ally. Enjoy and share:

Brother’s sexuality should be a non-issue, not only reason to stand for gay rights

I found out that my older brother was gay by accident.

In high school, I had an “identity book” project, and I was having a hard time coming up with things to write about. I decided to look though my brother’s old project to gain some inspiration. While flipping through it, I came across an entry where he wrote about being gay and struggling with his sexuality.

I vividly remember reading the first few lines, before slamming the book shut, throwing it back into the box and gasping as I left his old room. I think I may have even cried. I did not know what to do, but I kept the secret to myself for more than a week.

Looking back, that is what makes me so disgusted with the situation: I made it all about me. At that time I was already having a pretty big pity-party since this was also the year my parents had decided to separate. Finding out my brother was gay seemed to be the icing on the cake.

I remember walking down the hall at school the next day fighting back tears, feeling like no one could possibly understand how difficult my situation was.

But it didn’t have anything to do with me; it was something my brother was facing, not me.

I worked up the courage to ask my mom about it a few days later and we talked about everything. She told me about how my brother came out to her when he was 13, and how she regretted her reaction.

Pieces of the puzzle I never understood before began to come together. Now my dad’s sudden interest in religion did not seem so unwarranted, and my brother’s urge to move out immediately after graduating made a lot more sense.

It was not until I asked him if it was OK to write this column that I spoke to him about his sexuality directly, and it was via text messages. I had sometimes wished he would talk to me about it, but when I think about it, there’s not really much to talk about. He’s gay, so what?

It’s not an unspoken topic in my family. We all love and accept my brother, but talking about him being gay is still awkward sometimes. I think knowing has actually made my relationship with my brother a lot easier, because it’s easier to understand him and the life he lives.

Through all of this I’ve learned that I should never make the situation about me, though. Playing the “I have a gay brother” card when people say something offensive isn’t the right way to go about it.

I stand up in defense of the gay community because we should all treat each other fairly as human beings, not just because I have a family member who is gay. Being related to a gay person doesn’t mean I have more of a vested interest in gay rights, it just means I have a brother who can lend me all the seasons of “Sex and the City.”

 

Maggie Gallagher and her Son

11 Apr

Several years ago, I would leave my apartment in Washington Heights to head to whatever day job I wound up in for the week. I’d drop my quarter and pick up the New York Post for the 30-minute ride downtown. I knew the paper was a conservative one and I’d get more and more frustrated with each turn of the page. But there was one thing that always made me angrier than anything else.

Maggie Gallagher

Once a week or so, I’d read an article about the assault of gay people on the “traditional” family. The picture of the woman who wrote the articles always made me sick to my stomach. I knew whenever I saw that photo, that I would be reading something horrible and untrue about me, making assumptions about who I was and what I was looking for when it came to living equally. I was so astounded that this woman who didn’t know me could write such horrific lies about who she thought I was.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I read an article about this woman having been in trouble because she was getting paid by the Bush administration to fight marriage equality, while at the same time using her position as a columnist to do that work – meaning she was being paid by the government to spout her bigoted opinions, while failing to recognize the clear ethical breach of journalistic integrity one would hope a columnist might have.

Now Maggie Gallagher is a part of our everyday lives as we pursue our fight to be seen as equals by a government that promises it. For those who don’t know, Maggie is the President of the National Organization for Marriage – a very well-funded anti-gay hate group. Over the years, they’ve claimed only to be interested in protecting “traditional” marriage, but their fight against civil unions and now gay parent adoption in Virginia, leads us to believe they are indeed anti-gay and not “pro-traditional marriage.”

Maggie has railed and ranted against gay people for so many years, it’s amazing that so many have failed to see the hypocrisy in her own life. Her primary argument against marriage equality is that she believes children are better off when raised by a biological mother and biological father. This is the crux of her argument. What many don’t know is that Maggie raised her son Patrick as a single mother.

Patrick Gallagher

Patrick is now a young adult, writing musicals in New York City. He identifies as straight, and given his chosen occupation, he spends a great deal of time with LGBT people. We offered Patrick the opportunity to tell his side of things, but given the obvious personal conflict he feels about the situation, he declined. Though Patrick doesn’t want to comment directly, it has become clear that his views differ from his mother’s. According to Patrick, Maggie has been very supportive of his career and has not obstructed her son’s goals and dreams – like a mother should. One thing Patrick did say, which I don’t think he’d mind sharing is “Maybe one day I’ll write a hell of a musical about this.” Patrick’s a good guy who doesn’t deserve to be in the middle of this – but we feel that his and Maggie’s story is an important one that demonstrates the strength of a “non-traditional” family.

Maggie had the opportunity to raise Patrick lovingly and to be a good mother to him and support him even now, unconditionally. Also being the son of a single Mom, I understand the struggle it was for her to make ends meet. I understand how much of a challenge it is for a Mom to blindly support a son trying to do something with his life that has absolutely zero security. And for that, I appreciate what Maggie has done for Patrick. My mom did the same.

I am at a loss however, to understand how Maggie Gallagher is so able to separate her compassionate, unconditionally supportive self from the woman who spends her life hating and hoping to take so much happiness and love from other people simply because they are gay. How does a woman who clearly had to face so much hardship and so many challenges in raising a son on her own, justify her work in ripping other families apart?

Maybe one day, she will see and understand the utter disconnect there is between who she was as a struggling single mom and who she is now as a crusader against others’ families.

h/t: Jeremy Hooper, GoodAsYou.org

Gay Ugandan Man Facing US Deportation

9 Apr

Joseph Bocombe (10news.com)

The fight for amnesty from Uganda has come to the United States. Earlier this year – after the gruesome murder of Ugandan gay rights activist, David Kato, a fight to stop the deportation of Ugandan Brenda Namigadde from the UK was successful after a great deal of publicity was brought to the situation.

Uganda’s parliament, after shelving the “Kill the Gays” Bill, is bringing it back to the table. One of the bill’s authors David Bahati gathered 2 million signatures to keep the bill alive. The bill, introduced in 2009, could bring a death sentence to repeat homosexual “offenders,” as well as HIV+ gays and lesbians.

When the news of Brenda’s story reached Bahati, he said:

“Brenda is welcome in Uganda if she will abandon or repent her behaviour. Here in Uganda, homosexuality is not a human right. It is behaviour that is learned and it can be unlearned. We wouldn’t want Brenda to be painting a wrong picture of Uganda, that we are harassing homosexuals.”

Moments before her flight was to depart for Uganda, our work, led by LezGetReal’s Melanie Nathan and ALL OUT, stopped Brenda’s deportation.

Now Joseph Bokombe, an openly gay Ugandan musician who came to the US five years ago on a cultural exchange visa, is now fighting deportation. His visa has long since expired, but friends say he was afraid to go home and decided to stay. Bokombe is now in detention awaiting his deportation.

A friend of Bokombe’s and a Ugandan native, Awichu Akwanya said “Actually I don’t think even past the airport. They just get him and then put him in detention. In detention, he can get poisoned or [they will] hire some people in jail to kill him.”

This led Hector Martinez to start a petition to keep his friend here. Bokombe volunteers at a church and for several local groups, including Mental Health America of San Diego County, which is the mental health non-profit Martinez works at.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement released this statement to 10News:

“Over the course of the last year, Mr. Bukombe’s immigration case has undergone extensive review by judges at multiple levels of our legal system. In those proceedings, the courts have held that he has failed to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States. ICE is now in the process of seeking to carry out the deportation order handed down by the immigration court.”

I ask fellow activists, bloggers and readers to please forward this story to anyone you know, tell Joseph’s story and get people to sign this petition. This is your opportunity to save someone’s life.


VA’s Gov. McDonnell Playing Politics with Children

7 Apr

The state of Virginia is known historically for leading the way among the southern colonies so that our country could declare our independence from a tyrannical King George.

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell

A few centuries later, the great state of Virginia is now behind the times with the actions of bigoted Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who tried to force VA’s colleges to rescind their LGBT-inclusive policies and now GOP Gov Bob McDonnell is set to stop VA’s adoption policies from including lesbian and gay families.

Family Equality Council is leading the fight to educate the Governor on some terrifying statistics. 1 in 3 youth in Virginia’s foster care system wind up aging out of it before ever finding a permanent home. Nearly half of the kids in the system have been in 3 or more homes. Research shows us that youth who age out of foster care without ever finding permanency are at a high risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood.

McDonnell is claiming that his decision is to “protect” Catholic charities and other faith-based adoption agencies from being “forced” to give gay parents children. One should note: the current adoption laws include single parents who could be gay or straight.

Family Equality asks the important question: With all of these problems facing the Virginia foster care system, why is the Governor intentionally limiting the number of loving families ready and waiting to adopt?

Please take a moment to visit Family Equality Council’s website here, sign this urgent petition to help these kids and pass it along to your friends.

Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Country Version to Benefit GLSEN

4 Apr

Lady Gaga…We haven’t talked a lot about her here, but the time has come.

People inside and outside the LGBT community have mixed reactions to La Gaga. But one thing is for certain, and for that one thing – I think she’s great. No matter what she does, what she wears, what she says or where she goes, that one thing that remains true – is that she’s got our back.

Lady Gaga at the National Equality March (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, talkaboutequality.com)

I have a confession to make – the first time I ever really noticed her was in October of 2009. I had organized 25 buses to come from New York to DC for the National Equality March. I was with friends and quickly found my way to the front of the crowd to take photos of the speeches. Pressed up against the plastic fence on a very warm afternoon, I was astounded by the incredible sense of community I felt. People were kind and people were respectful of one another’s space…and then Gaga came out. Within a matter of 4 seconds, I was on the ground with my face pressed against the plastic fence. The crowd dove for the fence and all civility disappeared to catch a glimpse of this blond wonder.

While on the ground and snapping pictures, I was amazed. This pretty, young celebrity was screaming at President Obama to listen to us. It was a speech I won’t soon forget. And she was gone as quickly as she came.

Over the past two years since then, she has advocated for us on several occasions – from speaking out in defense of her gay “little monsters” to being a steadfast advocate for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Now, she’s putting her money where her mouth is. Her hit song, “Born This Way,” is an anthem to the LGBT community that has been censored in some countries due to it’s LGBT inclusion – . She has spoken out against this censorship and is taking it to the next level.

It seems she has recorded a country version of the hit and has decided to release it. Today, she announced that all sales from the single will benefit the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN). GLSEN is an incredible organization we’ve spoken about frequently at Talk About Equality and is responsible for Gay Straight Associations (GSAs) at high schools and colleges around the country. Please support GLSEN and purchase this single from one of our most ardent supporters.

The track is now available by clicking HERE!

Refuse to Lie! New Campaign Tells the Truth to the IRS

31 Mar

An exciting new campaign which could have real consequence and promote real change, has been launched.

As dreaded tax day is fast approaching, we LGBT people have frequently sought ways to protest via the IRS. Some people have simply refused to pay taxes as we do not have equal protection under the laws. The Refuse to Lie campaign is shedding light on another way we can protest our unequal status with the Federal Government.

From the Refuse to Lie website:

Each year the federal government demands that thousands of married couples lie.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) not only denies legally married gay couples the benefits of heterosexual marriage, but we are also told to disavow our spouses and file our taxes as “single.”

The Federal Government must stop requiring legally married gay couples to deny the existence of our families and hide our marriages.

It is dehumanizing and it is wrong.

Across the country, legally married gay couples are taking a stand. We are refusing to lie about the fact that we are married.

The federal government’s refusal to recognize our marriages is blatant discrimination and we will not play along by lying on our tax returns and pretending we are single. The government has chosen to discriminate and we choose to expose their bigotry by refusing to lie.

Taking this principled stand is not without risk and each person doing so needs to carefully consider those risks before deciding if it is a stand you are willing to take.

While tax time forces legally married gay couples to decide whether to comply or resist the government’s requirement that we lie, it is not the only circumstance where we face this dilemma. We are married and our commitment is to tell the truth every time we are asked to fill out a form or respond to a question about our marital status.

This website is intended to be a resource to all who decide to refuse to lie. And it is a place for everyone who believes in marriage equality to show your support and stand with us by adding your name to this effort.

Not everyone will commit to filing as married but everyone can take a stand in solidarity.

Please sign the petiton and help send the message to the federal government that gay married couples should not be compelled to lie. Share this link of Facebook and help spread the word.

Of course this is not for everyone and you are certainly risking something, but the protest and the reasons behind it are completely legitimate. The very idea that we have to lie on our tax returns if we are legally married, is ludicrous. The site gives detailed information on how to go about taking part in the action, with options on how to do so safely and within the rules of filing.

How can you affirm your marital status, object to DOMA, file a joint return, and not be subject to penalties? Here are two possibilities:

  1. File two single returns (including the attachment affirming the marriage) and then file an amended return, filing jointly. The amended return is a 1040X. This is what the plaintiffs in the GLAD case did. Once the IRS rejects the amended return, or if six months passes and they do nothing, the taxpayers who file an amended return have the right to file suit in federal district court claiming the refund.The basis of the claim for refund by a Florida same-sex couple would be that they were married, that under the U.S. Constitution that marriage should be recognized, that it would be perjury to claim otherwise, and that DOMA itself is unconstitutional. This option would avoid penalties because your original return would be filed according to the statute.
  2. Submit two returns to the IRS, one filed jointly, showing the tax due on a joint return, and one filed as a single taxpayer, showing the tax due on a single return. Explain your constitutional and moral theory entitling you to file a joint return. Pay whatever amount is due on the single return and ask the IRS to choose which return to accept.If you have paid the amount due on the basis of a single return, then you have not made an underpayment as a result of disregarding a statute. Penalties are only due if there is an underpayment. If the IRS accepts your single return and accepts your tax payment on that basis, there is no penalty. Of course if the IRS accepts your joint return and that results in a refund to you, there is no way to know what will happen if you are later audited. That would be a new case.

    In many cases, of course, you will actually pay a higher tax if you file jointly. In that case, you should not owe a penalty.

Please check out the site, share your story and support this incredible action.

Virulently Homophobic Lawmaker Inspires Gay Blogger

25 Mar

Homophobic Lawmaker Eugene Delgaudio

Okay, so I’m one of those people who signs up for the mailing lists of the people who hate me because I’m truly interested in reading the arguments others are using to fight against my equality.

The most offensive and idiotic of the-eblasts I get, are from a man named Eugene Delgaudio. Eugene is a Virginia lawmaker frighteningly enough, and once in a while, his lunacy gets some attention. His homo-erotic pulp fiction once included the following:

“One stormy night I drove to a mailshop hidden deep in a nearly deserted stand of warehouses. I’d heard something was up and wanted to see for myself. As I rounded the final turn my eyes nearly popped. Tractor-trailers pulled up to loading docks, cars and vans everywhere and long-haired, earring-pierced men scurrying around running forklifts, inserters and huge printing presses. Trembling with worry I went inside. It was worse than I ever imagined. Row after row of boxes bulging with pro-homosexual petitions lined the walls, stacked to the ceiling. My mind reeled as I realized hundreds, maybe thousands, more boxes were already loaded on the tractor-trailers. And still more petitions were flying off the press.”

I’m sure if we look at the un-edited version, we’d find moments where the earring-pierced men pushed him against a forklift, grabbed the back of his head and forced their tongue into his plump lips past his teeth. But I digress…

Most recently, he spoke up about the recent changes in the TSA security checks at airports. While many viewed these changes as extreme due to the “intimacy” involved in the pat-downs – Eugene announced via his website, that the new enhanced security measures were “part of the homosexual agenda.” Apparently, gay TSA employees are getting their jollies by feeling up male passengers.

Today, he sent out the shortest message I have ever received. While most of his emails begging for cash rival War & Peace, this email was simple, short, and to the point. Eugene warned “Watch at your own risk” and included links to a video from a school in Cambridge, MA. After some research, I discovered this was filmed more than 15 years ago. While the video is titled “Homosexuals Brainwashing Public School Children,” a simple Google search will show that the first school featured in the video is a private school.

I felt ready to be offended when I pressed play – prepared to see a propaganda film from the homophobic movement. But then I went to youtube and watched both parts of the video. I found myself crying. The two-part “documentary,” though offensively titled on youtube, features educators talking with grade school kids about acceptance for their fellow students and citizens. The children are being educated properly and though I’d assumed it might be edited to make LGBT families look terrible it is actually a beautiful piece of journalism. The things being taught to these young children gives me hope that our next generations will have less hate.

So once again, I would like to thank wingnut Eugene Delgaudio for giving me some hope that the right thing is happening in this country.

Please watch the following videos (ignoring the addendums by whatever homophobic person posted) and watch them quickly as I’ve notified the filmmaker of the copyright infringement that is clearly taking place and they could be pulled from youtube soon.

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

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.