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Salvation Army: Ringing Anti-Gay Bells

1 Dec

Our friend Bil Browning over at Bilerico.com has doubled-down on an important message this holiday season. He’s getting a lot of attention this year for a blog post titled “Why You Shouldn’t Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.” The now annual post receives thousands of hits on his popular blog and for good reason. He’s asking people to avoid the bell-ringing Santas outside every supermarket and mall across the country.

And with money as tight as it is this year, we can’t help but agree with him. The Salvation Army has long been a Christian missionary association. It would be one thing if they, like some Christians, practiced tolerance and equality towards the LGBT community, but as Bil points out, since 1986, The Salvation Army has been involved in at least 5 major assaults on LGBT equality:

  • When New Zealand considered passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986, the Salvation Army collected signatures in an attempt to get the legislation killed. The act decriminalized consensual sex between gay men. The measure passed over the charity’s objections.
  • In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army actively pushed passage of an amendment to the Local Government Act. The amendment stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they’d lose their government funding.
  • In 2001, the organization tried to extract a resolution from the White House that they could ignore local non-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. While the commitment would have applied to all employees, the group claimed that it needed the resolution so it “did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.” After lawmakers and civil rights activists revealed the Salvation Army’s active resistance to non-discrimination laws, the White House admitted the charity was seeking the exemptions.
  • Also in 2001, the evangelical charity actively lobbied to change how the Bush administration would distribute over $24 billion in grants and tax deductions by urging the White House deny funding to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws. Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, issued a statement saying the administration was denying a “regulation sought by the church to protect the right of taxpayer-funded religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals.”
  • In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city’s decision to require all vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to all civil rights laws. The organization balked at having to treat gay employees equal to straight employees.

While no one wants the services the Salvation Army provides to end for those they help, we must be cognizant of where are pennies are going when we drop them in the shiny red kettle. In addition to these anti-gay fights which the Salvation Army has participated in, they have also fought in court in defense of their virulently anti-gay hiring and employment practices. So please understand that the pennies you drop in those buckets may be going to lawyers which are defending bigotry in court and coming nowhere close to buying clothes for the homeless this winter.

Instead of putting your pocket change in the kettle outside the mall, why don’t you give one of these inclusive organizations a try:

  • Goodwill – doing much of the same work the Salvation Army does, but also focusing on the disabled and unemployed.
  • The Ali Forney Center – providing shelter for homeless LGBT youth in New York City
  • True Colors Residence – Cyndi Lauper’s new shelter for homeless LGBT Youth
  • Doctors Without Borders – providing medical and emergency relief all over the world
  • Urban Peaks – assistance for homeless LGBT youth in Colorado

And if you have things you’re getting rid of which you were considering donating to the Salvation Army, try the aforementioned Goodwill if there is one in your area, or in several cities there are thrift shops which assist those living with HIV/AIDS. Here are a few of those:

If you know of others, please email me at TalkAboutEquality@gmail.com and I’m happy to post them.

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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.

Growing Up GLBTQ: Now There’s a Guide!

30 Mar

When I was just considering coming out, I was 18 years old. I lived with my mom on the bottom floor of a house next door to a church. Across the street was a little plaza which contained a video store. When I was home on breaks from college, I would wander through the tiny video store reading the back of every VHS tape and searching for the word “gay.” I’d tuck the bulky tapes under my coat and sneak them into my house and spend afternoons watching them while my mother was at work.

It was then I learned that others like me existed. From the beautiful Merchant Ivory film, Maurice to the campy Jeffrey, I was discovering who I was through film. It was the perfect anonymous way to do a little research. Movies like this are what made me realize that there was a community for me. As I became more confident, my friend Michael Hammond became my fairy godmother in a way. He would take me to Boston or Cambridge and we’d go see gay movies in the art houses there – we tried to catch Johns with David Arquette, but it was unfortunately sold out that evening. “Johns is sold out” then became code when Michael wanted to point out to me another person who was gay. I was beginning to discover my community.

I often think about what would have happened had I started that research when I was still in high school, but there was very little available to me that would answer the questions I had. Things have changed.


Free Spirit Publishing has published the second edition of GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teens. This is a book I would have stolen from my library. Written by Kelly Huegel, GLBTQ is a book that NEEDS to be in every junior high and high school library. The book is thorough and could help empower so many young people who are going through their adolescence full of fear.

The book covers so many different topics, opening with the basics of figuring out who you are and moving through how to deal with homophobia, strategies for coming out – specifically figuring out if it is safe to do so and how to tell your family if it is, finding community, dating, sexual and emotional health, religion and even features some in-depth discussion for transgender teens.

The author not only offers intelligent commentary and advice for teens, but she features real-life examples. Throughout the book, you’ll find segments titled “BEEN THERE,” which feature teens’ stories of how they have dealt with the challenges mentioned in each chapter. These real-life examples help illustrate the real-life challenges kids face, and how they deal with them.

The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has a wonderful program which sends “Safe Space Kits” to schools around the country. For only $20, you can send a kit to your high school to help educate that school’s staff and administration on how to make the school safe for LGBT students. It’s a wonderful campaign, and I can tell you that the two high schools and three junior high schools I attended have all received one. I would like to recommend to GLSEN that they find a way to include this book in their kits. And if that is not cost-effective, I would like to call on anyone who reads this, to send a copy of this book to your own school library.

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teens is available at Amazon for $10.87! ┬áPlease, take a moment and do an ounce of research. Find out who at your high school or junior high should receive this to make it a part of the school’s library collection and send a copy. Make sure that the kids who are growing up now have a resource. And more importantly than that – help those kids understand that there is a community for them, they have friends and people who love them unconditionally.

Being a teenager is rough. Being an LGBTQ teenager can be hell. We know this. Help make it easier and send this book back to your school.

NY Gov Cuomo Kicking LGBT Homeless Youth to the Curb

29 Mar

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

It seems that New York City’s LGBT homeless youth are under attack again. The most vulnerable of our community are facing further budget cuts – this time from the Governor’s office.

Just in time for Christmas last year, Mayor Bloomberg announced major budget cuts, including most of the budget of the Ali Forney Center. Ali Forney caters specifically to LGBT homeless kids, providing enough beds for just a fraction of the kids out there who need them. At the last minute, City Speaker Christine Quinn and others on the City Council saved the day and restored the funds.

Now, as part of the Governor’s budget cuts, he is planning on sending thousands of homeless youth back to the streets. This includes LGBT kids who are at drastically higher rates of risk when it comes to drug use, STD infections including HIV, depression, violence and suicide.

Change.org has issued a petition to Governor Andrew Cuomo to send him a message that these kids need our protection and care. They do not deserve to be kicked to the curb so that we can give larger breaks to millionaires. Please sign the petition and send the message to Governor Cuomo that our kids are our first priority.