Archive | Inspiration RSS feed for this section

MUST-WATCH VIDEO: “We deserve the dignity of marriage…before I can’t remember what marriage is.”

3 Mar

On Tuesday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris asked the Federal Court to dismiss its order prohibiting same-sex marriages in the state while an appeal of Proposition 8 is pending. By lifting the stay it previously ordered, the court would allow marriage equality to be the standing law while the case is being considered and argued in the courts.

Additionally, the Courage Campaign has filed an amicus curiae letter to the 9th Circuit, also asking that the stay be lifted. Named in that letter are Ed Watson and Derence Kernek. Ed and Derence have been together more than 40 years.

Last Summer, Ed was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They are hoping to have a wedding as soon as possible because Ed desperately wants to be able to remember it. As Derence puts it in the following video:

“We’re committed to each other. We’ve had a long long life with lots of love, lots of attention. We respect each other. We cherish each other and we don’t know many people who’ve had 40 years of anything. We hope to have that service as soon as possible.”

If ever there was an argument for marriage equality, Ed and Derence are it. It’s horrific that they’ve had to live as long as they have without the same rights as their neighbors. Let’s hope they are given the respect and dignity they deserve. Please share this and go to the link above to sign on to the letter.

 

Wanna Get Out of Jury Duty? Just Say You’re Gay!

2 Mar

Over the years, we’ve thought of hundreds of ways of protesting the system which allows LGBT individuals to be second-class citizens. We’ve thought of protesting by not paying taxes – which could land you in jail. We’ve chained ourselves to the marriage bureaus – which just winds up with cut chains and a night in jail, maybe a few photos on a gay blog or two. We’ve even tried “Day Without a Gay” where LGBT people took the day off of work to show just how numerous we are – but in an economy like this one, we all need a paycheck, gay and straight alike.

Jonathan D. Lovitz (photo from Jonathan's facebook page)

Then yesterday, in a rather simple statement and wonderful declaration of his second-class citizenship, New York musical theatre actor and model, Jonathan D. Lovitz challenged one of his civic duties.

Jonathan posted on his facebook page about his experience while being considered for jury duty:

“had an intense day at jury duty. During voir dire we were asked who would not be impartial. I raised my hand and said “since I can’t get married or adopt a child in the state of New York, I can’t possibly be an impartial judge of a citizen when I am considered a second class one in the eyes of this justice system.” You wouldn’t believe how people in the room reacted. Was I wrong for saying that?”

Jonathan was excused from jury duty as the moment you say you cannot be impartial, you will undoubtedly be excused. So Jonathan not only got to stand up for himself as a self-respecting gay man, but he also got out of jury duty for the next few years! I highly recommend this same action for any LGBT individual that gets called in for service. If you want to take the chance and take part in a little civil disobedience, I’d even recommend sending in a letter along with your summons explaining your position – although this may be an arrest-risk. Your best bet is to show up and do the same thing Jonathan did.

Jonathan will soon be appearing on the Logo reality series “Set-up Squad.”

Oak For Court!

16 Feb

In September we wrote about Oak Reed, a Michigan teenager who was elected homecoming King at Mona Shores High only to have his candidacy invalidated on a technicality. The problem, for the administration, is that Oakleigh Marshall Reed used to be named Oakleigh Marie Reed.  So, despite the common belief that Oak earned the most votes, the school records still indicate that Oak is a girl. So no homecoming court for Oak.

Oak Reed for Homecoming King!After garnering national attention and outrage the same administration has made the laudable decision to remove King and Queen from its homecoming court in favor of gender neutral titles.  Thanks to broad support from Oak’s parents, friends, and fellow students an important step towards inclusivity has been taken.

According to the Muskegon Chronicle, the school administration quickly began examining how they could be more gender neutral and met with student leaders to make some changes. Oak responded through a statement released by the ACLU:

I’m so glad that the rules have been changed. All I wanted was a chance for all students to participate and be heard. Now my classmates and I can just focus on having a great time at our school dance.

Indeed. By simply being himself Oak has succeeded in making real changes in his community. Now they can dance , focus on being young, and get through high school, which is hard enough as it is.

Hopefully we’ll get to see the happy prom photos.

Prayers for Equality: An Interview with Sigourney Weaver

13 Feb

Ryan Kelley and Sigourney Weaver in "Prayers for Bobby"

In our struggle for equality, we are so often met with the question “Can people really change?” We so frequently run up against the wall of having a conversation with someone who seems unmoveable. And sometimes, the sad truth of the matter is that some people are indeed unmoveable. In the case of Mary Griffith, it wasn’t until her young gay son took his own life that she saw the repercussions of her ignorance.

Mary’s story “Prayers for Bobby” by Leroy Aarons, tells the story of life with her son, Bobby. And most importantly, it tells the story of how someone can change when presented with irrational fears of what they don’t understand. The book was made into a film last year by the Lifetime Network and it garnered several recognitions including Emmy nominations for Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Outstanding Leading Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, for Sigourney Weaver. The film won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Miniseries or TV Movie and Sigourney took home a Trevor Life Award from the Trevor Project for her portrayal of Mary Griffith.

On the occasion of the DVD release, Sigourney took a few moments to chat with Talk About Equality about the film, on playing Mary Griffith and how things can get better.

Talk About Equality is devoted to telling our stories and we believe that these stories are what will help us win our equality. In your travels, have you had the opportunity to see or hear about the impact your telling of Mary’s story has had on someone?

Mary Griffith

A young person had confided in her mother a few days before that she was gay and her mother had freaked out and taken her phone away and grounded her. Then they saw the movie together and the mother started the process of being able to talk about it with her child and it went from impossible to…let’s start this dialogue. And it was such an immediate heartening result from watching the movie together. It [the movie] takes you through people coming out with such disasterous results.

I thought my friends surely didn’t have that big a problem but the four people I talked to had such terrible stories to share with me. One of them, who goes out in drag quite a bit – his grandmother actually helps him get ready, but they’ve never discussed it..it defies logic..so there’s a real need for more stories like this to be told.

The transition Mary had after the loss of Bobby is one that so many kids fantasize will happen with their own intolerant parents. Speaking as a parent, what would you tell these intolerant parents and how did you personally handle Mary’s transition from intolerance to pride?

 

Sigourney Weaver and Ryan Kelley in a scene from "Prayers for Bobby"

The main thing to remember is that you love your child and we as parents must love and respect our children and listen to them. I think the one thing I feel was so tragic about what Mary did was not her belief or her ignorance, but that she refused to listen to Bobby. She just refused to, and that actually is what cost him his life. If she’d been able to listen, if she had been able to keep that door open, then things might have worked out differently.

As a parent we all have a tendency to want our children to lead very safe regular lives. Lives that are protected somehow- Its really a fallacy. Its not what any of us did and we have to be brave enough as parents to trust our children and encourage them to be who they are and all that they are. It takes such incredible courage to be gay in this society, in this world right now and your child really needs your support – really needs you to be there for him or her. It’s the most important way you can  express your love to your child – by listening and supporting.
You’re an actor who never shies away from a challenge when it comes to the roles you choose – from the big commercial hits like Avatar or Aliens to smaller releases like Prayers for Bobby or Snow Cake – and each of these characters I’m sure brought something new to your life. Did you have a “seeing the world with new eyes” moment with this character and movie?

Bobby Griffith

I definitely did. When I read the script I was a little horrified by Mary – I thought there was this huge chasm between myself and her. My immediate thought was she must live in this kind of place that’s far away from a metropolis-where there might be a big gay community. And then of course when I visited her – she’s about 30 minutes away from downtown San Francisco. I realized that we can be closed-minded wherever we are-even in a big city. I think I had used that geographical idea to sort of marginalize Mary and once I realized that she was in a city and I met her – mother to mother – I realized how much she loved Bobby, how much she loved all her children.

Her house is filled with things he made – his dolls, his drawings, his little attic room is just as he left it. We just met as mothers. She is so courageous and so honest and so candid about who she was then and what the repercussions had been of her prejudice and ignorance. And after a day with Mary, I felt-  ya know -that I get fearful for my daughter when I think of her doing things and I found the Mary in myself. We are parents who want to protect our children from things we don’t understand, things that frighten us.

I stopped being the East Coast judger. This can happen to any of us. It creeps up on us because we love our children and we think by loving them, we should keep them from being who they are. If I just say no, they can change their minds. The more you talk to Mary – she thought he was making a lifestyle choice. It took her forever to understand that this was part of God’s plan for Bobby. And that’s what the story is, of the terrible mistakes she made and that he was perfect as he was. She just couldn’t see it. She didn’t have any help or support until she reached out to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). PFLAG saved her and made it possible for her to share her story with all the rest of us.

I’m sure you’ve heard about Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, designed to reach out to LGBT kids who may be contemplating suicide. In that vein, if you could, if things were different, is there anything you would want to say to Bobby Griffith?

Wow…I would say…Dear Bobby, give your mother [a chance…]…these are all things he did do because he loved his family so much. He tried so hard to give them the time to embrace him as who he was. So it’s very hard for me to know what to say to Bobby except – we’re going to do everything we can to make sure kids don’t feel that way.

It’s so hard to say ‘go live your life’ and eventually your family will come around and you will find out that you can be this magnificent gay man with so much to offer, with a community and with a family you can have – a family of your own and eventually your family will hopefully meet you halfway. And if not, you’ll have your own family and your own community and it will get better. What could be more painful than what you’re going through now? So just hang in there. And know there are people who love you and care about you and value you and you should be around, because you’re a terrific young person.

For Bobby, everything hinged on the approval of his family. I think there wasn’t The Trevor Project or all these other places where he could have maybe had more people reaching out to him. Where he could finally get the message. It was a message he felt he didn’t have the right to accept.  He couldn’t allow himself to love someone and be loved if his family didn’t love him first. That’s the lesson from this story really – it’s really hard for someone to love themselves without ever learning how to from their family.

Many thanks to Sigourney for taking the time out to speak with us about this incredible film.

If you have not seen it, please order the DVD by clicking here. And if you have seen it, go buy a few copies of the DVD to give to friends and family who might be able to use it.

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.

Helping Our Brothers And Sisters

9 Feb

Dr. Frank Kameny is one of the most significant figures in the American equality movement.

Dr. Kameny is a World War II veteren who, after being dismissed in 1957 from the Army Map Service, fought his unfair treatment all the way to the Supreme Court in 1961. Though he lost, Frank made history for filing the first civil rights case based on Sexual Orientation.

This marked the beginning of a decades-long career fighting for LGBT equality. Frank Kameny went from fighting Nazis to fighting the U.S. and DC government. He is widely credited as a pioneer of a new and aggressive movement for equal treatment of gay and lesbians, paving the way for the eventual explosion of post-stonewall activism. As a founding member of the Mattachine Society of Washington, DC, Frank helped organize the first ever White House protest and together with the Mattachine Society of New York and the Daughters of Billitis expanded the picket line into what would later became the Annual Reminder.

Over his nearly four decades of fighting the establishment on our behalf, he succeeded in repealing DC anti-sodomy laws, continuously pushed for federal workplace protections, and was instrumental in removing homophobia and junk-science from the American Psychiatric Association and sexual orientation from its manual of mental disorders.

And now Frank needs OUR help. After all he has done for us we have a unique opportunity to show our love, support, and appreciation for this true American hero.

Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS)  is an all-volunteer micro-charity that helps marginalized GLBT individuals in the Washington D.C. area meet short-term needs. HOBS‘ focus is on those who do not fit the criteria for help from other organizations or agencies.

For the past year HOBS has been helping Frank meet his basic needs. Like so many who have lost their jobs because of workplace discrimination his needs aren’t being met with his slim pension.

For the price of a nice cocktail you can make a small donation to HOBS and toast a truly remarkable man.

We named a street after him. Now we have a chance to truly honor this great man and show him how much we appreciate his life and work:

Buy Frank A Drink

Were You Born This Way?

6 Feb

A brand new blog is taking off and it’s all about us!

The Born This Way Blog is a place for people to submit a photo of themselves from when they were 2-12 years old, and a story about when the photo was taken and who you are today. The page’s introduction is simple. It reads:

“A photo/essay project for gay adults (male and female) to submit pictures from their childhood (roughly ages 2 to 12) – with snapshots that capture them, innocently, showing the beginnings of their innate LGBT selves. It’s OUR nature, our TRUTH!”

The blog has received some wonderful write-ups from around the web and in under one month, is fast approaching 1 million views. Paul V., the creator of the blog notes:

So, some of the pix here feature gay boys with feminine traits, and some gay girls with masculine traits. And even more gay kids with NONE of those traits. Just like real life, these gay kids come in all shades and layers of masculine and feminine.

As you’ll see – time after time – their sexual orientation was simply NOT a choice. Exactly the same way straight kids can’t choose their sexual orientation either. So for all those religious and political leaders still blathering that “chosen lifestyle” nonsense?  S T F U !

And the sooner we teach all children that being gay is as normal (and biological) as being straight, then maybe it really WILL get better, and we can save some young lives in the process. That’s my biggest goal with featuring your pictures and stories: That struggling gays kids of today can see themselves in the faces & stories of the gay kids of yesterday, to LIVE to create their own memories.

It got me to wondering if I had any photos of myself that may have foretold who I’d become. I mean, other than doing musicals from the age of 8 and the fact that I had an unnatural fascination with He-Man, could anyone really tell? And upon looking through some photos, I discovered that yes…yes one could tell. I’m in the process of submitting my own story, and who knows – maybe one of these photos will soon have their story told on Born This Way Blog…feel free to vote for your favorite in the comments section!

nice bevel.

I believe I was singing "In the Navy."

My mother REALLY wanted a little girl. And she kinda got one.

Note the position of the ball. Note the position of my foot. Note the foot has passed the ball and the ball is clearly not in motion. Note the coach's shorts.

Is that a big beaded necklace? And a dress?

National Organization for Marriage: PUNK’D!

3 Feb

It’s always fun when we rediscover the smart ones are the pro-equality ones.

The National Organization “for” Marriage (NOM) posted a cartoon by Zach Weiner today on their blog. The cartoon was hotlinked from a site called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. This is his cartoon:

What happened next is brilliant. Zach Weiner, who posted the comic, realized his work was completely misinterpreted as an anti-gay advertisement by the Hate Group. So he changed the direction of the link that NOM was using…so NOM’s blog now has this up in the comic’s place (it’s been screen-capped, as once they figure out what’s happened, they will undoubtedly fix it):

Check out Zach’s account of how it all happened here. It’s moments like this that it makes me glad to know so many nerds.

Zach writes:

“There seems to be this idea out there that action through the Internet has no important effect. Even people I really respect, like Jon Stewart, promote this idea. Well, today, I probably got a message of equality to over 100,000 people, among them members of the other side. This generation fights in a new way, but we fight just as hard.”

Great work Zach! Thanks for Talking About Equality in one of the most creative ways we can imagine!

Cartoons, Costumes and Equality

30 Jan

Something that many of my friends in the equality movement don’t know about me is that for 11 years now, I’ve had a really fun career. I moved to New York 12 years ago to be a musical theatre actor – and though I haven’t really pursued that in a number of years, I was able to fulfill those creative needs with producing Broadway concerts and events – and doing voices for cartoons.

Barry from Pokemon

I’ve been in a whole bunch of Japanese anime titles and a couple other things here and there – most notably, I can be heard on Yu-Gi-Oh!, Viva Pinata, and as “Barry” on Pokemon for the past few years. As a voice actor, I’m often invited to attend anime conventions around the country. I’m not going to lie – the first time I walked into one of these “cons,” I was a touch…intimidated – at all the people in costumes. People dressed up as characters I’d played, people who knew far more about the shows I was on than I did – it was a lot for me.

Over the years though, I’ve grown to love it. I’ve begun to revel in the awkwardness of the random 50 year-old running around in a Sailor Moon costume, the big girl wearing perhaps a bit less than society would expect her to be wearing, and the complete abandonment of any social norms that have ever been taught. This is a rag-tag group of kids and adults who have found a world that they know everything about.

Growing up gay, I had that need to find some little thing that was mine – something I could control and could be an expert on – for me, that was Broadway – so I found my own way to relate.

This weekend, I’ve been in Columbus, Ohio at Ohayocon, a pretty large convention at 10,000+ attendees. My friend and fellow openly gay voice actor Greg Ayres, texted me last week and asked if I wanted to do an “It Gets Better” panel with him and of course I jumped at the idea. I’d met a lot of gay kids at cons in the past and there seems to be an obsession among teen girls, with something called “Yaoi,” or man-on-man anime. So around here, gay is okay.

The panel was excellent and was far better-attended than I expected it to be. Greg and I spoke about our experiences and about the It Gets Better project, encouraging people to join in and make videos and find ways of fighting bullying in their own schools – and then we took questions. It became very clear, very quickly that these kids really needed to talk.

Kit & Neko of Neko-Jin Designs, catering to LGBT anime fans

Questions ranged from “How long is it going to take for equality to happen in the US?,” to “How do I tell my Conservative Christian parents I’m a lesbian?” While we didn’t have all the answers, we were able to direct everyone to a different resource that could help them. But what was most incredible to see was kids answering other kids’ questions. The support for one another was something unexpected to me – I’ve always known that this was a safe place for everyone, but the throngs of applause when a girl introduced her wife or a young man talked about having started his own Gay Straight Alliance at his school – it was encouraging to say the least.

A bag from Neko-Jin Designs

Though it had nothing to do with anime per se, being able to talk about equality with teens and young adults in the middle of Ohio gives me a great deal of hope for the next generation of LGBT kids. It seems they’re looking out for one another far more than I felt as a kid growing up gay. I frequently worry about the state of the “LGBT Community,” with our sometimes fractured issues, different priorities and separate tactics at winning equality. Now I have a little more hope that our younger brothers and sisters might reclaim that incredible community that we so need to win this fight.

Wings made by Saratonin Studios (www.SaratoninStudios.com)

Two Dads, Two Boys and a Horse

24 Jan

A beautiful and sad story in this weekend’s New York Times.

Tim Mannion, Maurice and Rocky (Photo from Barista Kids)

When two gay men, Timothy Mannion and Timothy Vanover decided they wanted to adopt a child with specifically-difficult physical needs, they never realized they’d end up with a miracle.

Maurice Mannion-Vanover was born to a crack-addicted mother in Washington on September 11, 1990. The issues surrounding the birth of he and his twin sister meant she would only live 20 months. Maurice was born with AIDS and when “The Tims” as they came to be known, took Maurice home, they were told he wouldn’t live longer than 6 months. “We’d cry at night thinking we were going to lose him” Vanover said. But as Maurice grew older, his health improved greatly, He began to gain weight and thrive. He also wound up with a brother. Kindoo was adopted by the Tims in 1997, a year after Maurice’s adoption became official.

The family moved to New Jersey after Tim Vanover got a job in New York. They lived in the busy suburb of Montclair, NJ so what happened next was a bit of an improbability. You see, as a young man, Tim Vanover rode horses back in Goshen, Indiana and their son seemed to pick up the same fascination as his Dad. When lessons became too expensive for Maurice’s fathers, they surprised him with a horse of his own one Christmas. In 2002, Rocky became a part of Maurice’s life.

Everyone in the neighborhood noticed how fast Maurice and Rocky became friends. The children of the town would constantly be at the fence to visit Rocky, who was hard-to-miss, this being quite literally a one-horse town. The two were “like one” as Tim Vanover said. After Rocky came into Maurice’s life, his studies improved and his health was excellent. There were ups and downs of course, like when the Tims separated in 2003 (but remained living in the same house so as to raise the children together) and Maurice’s health wasn’t always perfect, but a change definitely occurred for the better with Rocky around.

Then in December, after receiving his black belt in karate, Maurice went to visit Toronto to see his beloved dog, Hunter. Then on December 29th, just before he was going to head back home to New Jersey, Maurice came down with a mysterious fever and was rushed to the hospital. After a few days there, he told Tim Mannion “Daddy, it’s time, the clock is ticking.” Within a few moments, Maurice was gone.

Later that same night, Maurice’s dog, Hunter wandered into the parlor hall alone and quietly passed away.

On Saturday, Maurice was laid to rest. On-foot, walking ahead of the hearse were Maurice’s Dads, Tim Mannion and Tim Vanover, his brother Kindoo, and Rocky. While standing there, Rocky used his head to pull Vanover’s head close to him as if sharing in the grief.

Tim Mannion, Tim Vanover, Rocky and Kindoo Mannion-Vanover (photo by Marcus Yam, NY Times)

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: The Lake Logan Episcopal Center, 154 Suncrest Mill Road, Canton, N.C. 28716, or to The Shepard Schools, 10 Columba St., Morristown, N.J. 07960. Please indicate that your donation is for the Maurice Mannion-Vanover Scholarship Fund.

An additional tribute can be read at Barista Kids.

h/t: Kappy Griffith