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Houston Chronicle Blogger Blames Parents for Gay Kid’s Suicides

4 Nov

Texas Sparkle a.k.a. Kathleen McKinley

A Houston Chronicle blog titled “Texas Sparkle” and written by Kathleen McKinley states that parents of gay children are the cause when a child commits suicide. Apparently folks should be encouraging their children to continue hiding who they are when in school so as to not tempt potential bullies.

“Am I mad at the hateful mean kids who bully and tease these teens? You bet I am. But I am just as mad at the idiotic adults who force our adult views on kids, and pull them into our adult world long before they are mature enough to handle it. The 13 year old that killed himself told his Mom he was gay. She said she already knew and hugged him. She said she just assumed that everyone else would be as accepting as she was.”

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet.  The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later. Figure out yourself first. Focus on the kind of person you want to be, not the kind of person you want to sleep with.”

McKinley parrots the idea that children as young as 13 are too young to understand what being gay means. This of course throws out generations of studies which prove children much younger than that understand who they are attracted to. Additionally, like so many others in the anti-LGBT camp, she seems to enjoy defining LGBT relationships as purely sexual. She goes on to explain what her perfect world would be: (please note that includes no boy-boy or girl-girl relationships, merely pretty boy-ugly girl relationships)

“Listen, in my perfect world, kids would be kind to one another, no matter what differences there are. Handsome guys would ask out not so pretty girls, and see the great people they really are. Cheerleaders would go out with the nerds because they admire their brains. No one would tease anyone else, and everyone would be friends. BUT THAT ISN’T THE REAL WORLD!”

She attacks Gay Straight Alliances being formed in high schools, which has been proven to reduce bullying and help students build important friendships and connections they will hold on to through much of their adult lives.

“The 15 year old who committed suicide had started a “Rainbow Club” at his high school. Was there NO ADULT anywhere that could have said that maybe that isn’t such a good idea? Oh, no. Because that would be politically incorrect. Good grief. The idea of a high school club based on who you want to sleep with is absurd to begin with.”

And finally, she blames LGBT youth suicides on the “It Will Get Better” Campaign…assuming she means the “It Gets Better” Campaign, she’s clearly missed the point.

These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.

Let’s let kids be kids, for God’s sake. Remember the gay young boy’s last message said, “How do you know it will get better?” He was a KID! Kids can’t see  around the corner. They just aren’t mature enough yet. They don’t see it getting better no matter how many times Lady Ga Ga says it will. So, enough with our politically correct campaigns aimed at kids.

It’s killing them.

I cannot help but wonder how old “Texas Sparkle” was when she lost her virginity or first realized she had a crush on a boy? I wonder how she’d feel if someone told her that it was wrong to like boys and that she had to hide the fact that she was attracted to them? Would it be the person telling her to suppress her feelings that caused her grief or would she blame the person who told her she should be able to express herself the way she wanted to and love the kind of person she felt attracted to? I’m shocked she went so far as to say her perfect world included nerd-cheerleader and hunk-ugly girl relationships – it’s not what she seems to be advocating in the rest of her article.

If you read through the comments section, you’ll notice she responds to nearly everything and contradicts herself frequently – at times saying she isn’t encouraging kids to stay in the closet, but then saying it’s okay to avoid the bullying. She’s also posted an update after Gawker posted her piece. She defends her bigotry further by saying she has stood up for GOProud (a Conservative gay group that has proven itself to be hateful towards lesbians and trans people). If not for the grammatical errors that only a Tea Partier could respect, one might be concerned that this is a person who has anyone reading what she writes.

UPDATE: Principal Assaults Pro-Gay Student, School District Lies to Protect Him

5 Oct

Sequoya HS Senior Chris Sigler

Yesterday, we shared the story of Sequoya High School senior Chris Sigler who wore a T-shirt with the words “GSA: I’ve got your back” to school and was assaulted by his principal for it. The Tennessee high school was in the news recently when that same principal threatened to suspend students for even discussing the proposed gay-straight alliance.

After my conversation with Principal Maurice Moser, Chris’ story was no surprise to me. Moser came across combative and angry when discussing his own discriminatory actions towards the GSA.

Last night, we were able to speak with a lawyer from the ACLU, who yesterday sent out a press release regarding the assault on Chris Sigler.  The ACLU is demanding that the school administration not only confirm that students’ first amendment rights are being protected, but that students also be allowed to form the GSA. Principal Moser had said to me in our conversation that the only reason the GSA is unable to form is because they cannot find a faculty sponsor. Moser has helped other clubs find sponsors in the past, but is unwilling to help the GSA.

We were told by the ACLU that there is a “disturbing trend” in this high school where several members of the faculty have expressed great interest in becoming the sponsor for the GSA. Then they have a meeting with Principal Moser to discuss and return from that meeting “suddenly uninterested.” We have reached out to some of these teachers for comment and to find out what happened in their meetings and will update you should they respond.

We were also able to speak to Chris Sigler’s mother, Linda last night who told us her version of what happened, which obviously agrees with the ACLU’s press release. She also wanted to reiterate the need for the GSA at this high school. She told me “there are at least 30 students who would like to be part of the club and in a small town, that’s a lot.”

While her son is straight, he has a sister Jessica who identifies as bisexual. “Chris saw how these kids were being treated and knew he had to stand up for them. That’s just the kind of kid he is.” Jessica was the only other person in the room when Moser attacked Chris. To date, the Sheriff has not interviewed Jessica. Yesterday, the Tennessee Equality Project started a petition for a fair investigation. That petition has since closed as Linda Sigler will be speaking with the sheriff today to find out why he hasn’t interviewed Jessica. In the meantime, they have created another petition calling for an investigation into the ongoing harassment of LGBT teens at Sequoya High School.

She went on to mention that the school currently houses at least two Christian student groups – the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and “Prayer Around the Flagpole,” where once a week, a pastor comes on to the school grounds and students are asked to go pray around the flagpole. Until very recently, there was also a prayer said before every football game.

While Christian student organizations may not initially be seen as something to compare the plight of the GSA to, according to a poster on the GSA’s facebook page, there are area Christian churches which are getting involved in the fight to stop them:

“Heard this from a friend in Madisonville: At Howard Chapel Church in Vonore, the pastor preached on QUEERS and said the ACLU may be getting involved with the GSA at Sequoyah and for no church members to sign on or be involved, etc.”

The Howard Chapel Church is less than a mile from the home of a lesbian couple that was burned to the ground allegedly by their neighbor. The word “QUEER” was spray painted in large black letters on their adjoining garage. To add insult to injury, the couple’s insurance company is refusing to pay them on their claim. GetEQUAL has started a petition to the insurance company here and to date, more than 50,000 have signed.

Local NBC affiliate, WBIR has more on the alleged assault including a statement from Tim Blankenship, Ass’t Director of Schools for Monroe County:

“The Monroe County School System is aware of the alleged accusations. We have received written statements from all eyewitnesses. Our documentation clearly indicates that there are always two sides to every story. We’ll gladly provide more information when it becomes available.”

The problem with this claim is that according to Linda Sigler, no statement was taken by the school from her daughter Jessica – the only eyewitness to the assault. I called Tim Blankenship directly and when I attempted to ask him about the discrepancy in his statement and the truth, he hung up on me.

It’s become very clear that the school district is trying to protect Principal Moser to the point that they are silencing students and reporting untruths to the media about what is actually happening in Sequoya High School’s halls. When the bullying of LGBT students is literally coming from the top-down, something needs to change.

We’ll have more on this as it comes in.

WATCH AND SHARE: The Kids Are Listening

4 May

With the non-stop influx of social media nowadays, it takes something really special to break through and make you take more than a glance at something. And today, this little video popped up on my facebook feed and I knew I had to do more than take a glance:

I followed through to the website listed on the video and I discovered what looks to be a moving and desperately-needed campaign aimed at improving the lives of LGBTQ foster youth. This is quite clearly the most underserved portion of our community and we must do more to include these kids in our conversations around equality.

According to the campaign running The Kids Are Listening website:

The Opening Doors Project works to make life better for LGBTQ youth today. The project is dedicated to training and supporting the legal and social service professionals on the front lines to ensure that LGBTQ foster youth have the support they deserve and the rights they demand.

Through on-the-ground trainings, local task forces and comprehensive research and training material The Opening Doors Project provides the legal community with the advocacy tools they need to successfully represent LGBTQ youth in foster care.

Also on the site, you can sign up to receive more information from the campaign. The pledge you sign is also linked to the It Gets Better Project.

So many organizations and campaigns come and go and I truly hope to see more from the people who put together this stirring video. Please share the video wherever you can and visit their site to find out more.

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!

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.

A Belated Apology. Should We Accept?

17 Mar

Coming out was easily one of the best times of my life. One simple action filled my life with unexpected and wonderful clarity and honesty.  For the first time I was truly being honest with myself and those around me. It was a fresh and invigorating time for me and was very nearly ruined by a fellow student: Ryan Miner.

The very week that I began telling my colleagues and friends, brave students at Duquesne University were attempting to start the first gay straight alliance on our Catholic campus and one student, Miner, stood in their way.  He took to facebook, a brand new platform at the time, and lead the charge against the GSA with characteristic arrogance, filled our community with anti-gay animus, and even went so far as to say that gays were subhuman.

Ryan Miner almost single-handedly created a hostile and disrespectful atmosphere on our campus. Though he eventually lost, his comments helped me understand the stakes for LGBT people and provided the motivation for me to get in the game.

Now he has again taken to the internet seeking absolution:

“I did not measure my words; I did not think clearly. I made a statement in haste and words can sincerely have hurtful consequences, and that’s the message to students or anyone who uses the Internet,” Miner told Channel 4 Action News reporter Shannon Perrine in a Skype interview.

He believes it’s important to tell others to stand up for what you believe in — but to be careful about the words you use to do it.

“You have to have some principles behind you, and at that time, I just didn’t have it. It was immaturity and I’m profoundly sorry,” Miner said.

What you write on the internet lasts forever. Ryan Miner didn’t get it at the time, but now he’s starting to learn the hard way.  After being fired from one job and having difficulty finding others he is finding himself in a Rick Santorum situation (just google it).

Only Ryan knows what’s in his heart now. If he has come around and now regrets his statements, not just how he posted them, then I, as someone most directly affected by his remarks, am willing to forgive him.

But absolution wont come that easy.  He’s still paying for his mistakes, and rightly so. I think a demonstration of his commitment to making it right is in order. Spending a few hours volunteering at an LGBT youth center, making an It Gets Better video, or issuing a public statement about school bullying.

That, more than a surface attempt to fix his Google problem, would go a long way to making it right.

It May Soon Be Illegal to Say ‘Gay’ in TN Schools

23 Feb

It would seem Tennessee is trying to pass a bill which would dictate that elementary and middle school students would be denied any discussion of sexuality (outside of heterosexuality). And many people would argue that sexuality isn’t something that is on the radar of a young kid either way. But that’s simply not true.

A few years ago, I came across this incredible video by Brian McNaught. Brian has been nicknamed the “Godfather of gay sensitivity training” and has been at this for quite some time. He debated homophobe hero, Anita Bryant and has spent his life educating people on what it is like to be gay. And the video at the end of this article hit home with me.

Brian talks a crowd of predominantly heterosexual men and women through what it would be like to live in a world that was the opposite of their sexual orientation. He asks them to close their eyes and imagine a world where they felt one way and everything in society told them there was something wrong with them. And it made me recall my own childhood and all those nervous moments I had – from first recognizing my crush on He-Man to the first time I snuck into the Glad Day Gay Bookstore in Boston – frantically looking over my shoulder the whole time. It made me remember quietly sneaking into the video store across the street from my house and renting every video I could find that might possibly have a gay theme – hiding them under my jacket when I covertly walked in the house. And it made me remember my first kiss – feeling frightened and ashamed as opposed to having that raised leg fireworks moment I should have had.

All the fear and shame started at an early age. When my kindergarten teacher could have read King & King alongside Cinderella, that was the first moment when I could have been told there was nothing wrong with me. I know we are sometimes reluctant to fight for early childhood education when it comes to introducing sexuality, but what we don’t often acknowledge is that love is an idea which we start learning about from the moment we open our eyes. While the details of what part goes where is a discussion that should come a little later in life, the notion of couples and families of all different shapes and sizes should and must be introduced as soon as it can be. This is the only way we can prevent that shame which envelops the early life of so many LGBT individuals.

This bill in Tennessee and all those like it, must be fought – as hard and steadfastly as we are fighting for marriage equality and employment non-discrimination. It is vital that our children are being raised in a fashion where they are not afraid of who they are, where they don’t need to look over their shoulder simply because of who they are attracted to. It’s a silly notion and as a people, we should be beyond it.

Please take a look at the video below and please share it with everyone you know, gay or straight and encourage them to share it with others who may not understand what it’s like to grow up gay or lesbian in this country. And when you’re done, make a contribution to the Tennessee Equality Project to help them fight this bill. And in the meantime, go buy a copy of King and King or And Tango Makes Three and send it to your elementary school library and make sure your school knows who it came from.

Priscilla Pledges that “It Gets Better” in New PSA

21 Feb

After our chat last week about Broadway’s upcoming musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and their lack of any boys in dresses in their ad campaign, we’re happy to share the cast’s It Gets Better message.

Priscilla cast members Will Swenson, Nick Adams and Tony Sheldon for It Gets Better

According to the New York Times, The marketing team for “Priscilla” proposed the idea of the public service announcement to CBS and the It Gets Better Project, which writer Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller began last year amid a spate of suicides by gay students who had faced bullying or harassment at school.

While actors and crew members in many Broadway shows have appeared in videos for the project, the “Priscilla” segment is the first public service announcement for It Gets Better, Mr. Savage said in a statement.

“We’ve been honored and humbled by the theater community’s commitment to standing up for tolerance and lending their voices to this vital cause,” he said. “The show ‘Priscilla’ could not be a better fit, thematically, with the message of the It Gets Better Project.”

The video leads you to the Priscilla website where you can sign up with It Gets Better and take the It Gets Better Pledge:

Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that “It Gets Better.”

Last week we posted about some concerns over the current marketing campaign which has failed to prominently feature any of the men in drag that the show is about. Instead, the campaign has put up billboards, sent out mailers and put out commercials, primarily focusing on “the Muses,” a kind of Greek Chorus/Narrator for the show – which is made up of three beautiful young women. There has been chatter about the possibility that the producers may be a little shy about featuring the men in the ad campaign roll-out.

TAE was happily assured that PQD would be doing additional work and partnering with the It Gets Better Project, The Trevor Project and GLSEN on other events as well. It’s excellent to see people not only telling kids that it gets better, but taking positive actions to make it better as well.

A Tale Of Two Conventions

10 Feb

I’ve just come from an incredible week at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference.  This was my first time there and I had heard mixed things about the gathering.  Not knowing what to expect I have to admit to approaching the conference with less than an open mind.  In the weeks leading up more than a few people told me what I would experience and I gave in to my sometimes cynical nature. I wasn’t expecting much.

To my delight, my negative assumptions, and the impressions of my friends, were turned on their head. Where I was expecting staid academia I discovered fresh ideas. Where I looked for the older generation to dominate the conversation I found a vibrant, youth-driven atmosphere. I braced myself for back slapping cronyism and I found a largely supportive and encouraging community.  I came in cynical and left energized and inspired.

I quickly realized how much the conference is geared toward encouraging and supporting new leaders. While it was great to see so many young people fired up about learning and growing it was even better to see them supported and provided a safe space to do this. The upbeat attitude and infusion of fresh faces gave the conference an edge I wasn’t expecting. Surrounded by my upbeat community and learning so much I let my guard down a bit. Which is probably why I tripped over and nearly spilled my friday morning coffee on a gaggle of Christian Youth in the Skyway.

Turns out there was another conference in town.  The Acquire the Fire Tour was just across the Skyway at the Convention Center. More than doubling our convention in size, the evangelical youth in attendance were hearing a different message, one of brokenness, shame, and permanent scars.

Apparently the Acquire The Fire leaders told their youth, who were on average much younger than the attendees at Creating Change, to practice spreading their particular brand of the teachings of Christ across the skyway at Creating Change. To them this apparently meant chanting homophobic epithets at queer passers-by and to harass and intimidate people as they passed. I personally witnessed a young woman upbraiding a local busking violinist just outside my hotel.  The differences in the two events could not have been more clear. One fueled by shame and judgement.  The other a sincere attempt to make the world a safer and more inclusive place for everyone.

Not content to surrender the safe space that we had created at the Hilton, a coalition of inclusive faith communities participating at CC11 put together an escort service for creating changers who had to walk alone.  Thanks to the responsible leadership of members of our own community the potential disaster of juxtaposition was avoided and, minus a few minor incidents, we were able to coexist.

The awful reality we still face is that outside of a few inspiring weekends here and there we still have a long way to go.  It’s a sobering reality that I have been facing all week. We are often outnumbered as we were this weekend. Creating the change we need is admittedly a lot harder than attending a conference, no matter how inspiring and encouraging it may be.  The young people attending Creating Change had to look no further than across the skyway to see the challenges they will be facing.

After Creating Change I have no doubt that they have the knowledge and talent to go out and face them.

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.

 

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