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International Olympic Committee May Join Russia in Punishing Gay Athletes

12 Aug
Openly Gay Olympic New Zealand Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup

Openly Gay Olympic New Zealand Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup

Most of you know what’s been going on between the Stoli boycotts and statements from athletes around the world with regards to the Olympics and anti-gay, draconian Russian laws.

For those who don’t, the short version is this: earlier this year, Russia passed some horrifically anti-gay laws making it illegal to “promote” homosexuality. Apparently you can BE gay, you just can’t ever tell anyone about it for fear you’ll be reported and go to prison. These laws have given cover to Neo-Nazi groups and others to take the law into their own hands by beating and murdering any person they think doesn’t measure up to their standard of heterosexuality.

Many have called on the Olympics to make strong statements against these laws and some have even called them to move the 2103 Winter Olympics out of Sochi to a place more accepting of all athletes.

The International Olympic Committee began by assuring athletes and fans that they’d spoken to Russian authorities and that Sochi athletes and fans would be exempt from the law.

Not so fast, said Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, making it clear that athletes and fans must respect the host country’s bigoted law.

Playing a media game of ping-pong, it’s left Olympic participants without any actual information regarding the situation in Russia. The truth of the matter is that no matter what kinds of assurances are made, LGBT people are not welcome and not safe in Russia. The IOC can say whatever they want to, but it will not stop some thug in a bar from kidnapping, beating and potentially murdering someone they perceive as gay.

Today, instead of actually standing up for LGBT athletes, the IOC is essentially siding with Russia and now warning lesbian and gay athletes.

Under rule 50 of the IOC’s charter: ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.’

Gay Star News had asked what the global Olympic chiefs thought about plans for athletes to wear rainbow pins or hold hands during the opening and closing ceremonies.

They also asked if the IOC would provide a safe space – or Pride House – for LGBT athletes, spectators, dignitaries and others during the games to celebrate gay sport and community, as has been done in previous years.

But their spokeswoman told us: ‘Regarding your suggestions, the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.

‘This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary.’

With this report, the IOC has made it clear that they have a double standard when it comes to accepting all athletes. The Pride House in Vancouver was historic in that it provided a safe space for LGBT athletes from around the world. The IOC clearly didn’t see this as a violation of Rule 50 a few years ago, but it seems as though athletes must now be forced to step back into the closet for the 2013 Sochi Olympics.

Despite confusing messages from the IOC, today Russia’s Interior Ministry has unequivocally stated that they will be enforcing their anti-gay law during the 2013 Sochi Olympic games.

Either way, if the Olympics remain in Sochi, LGBT athletes are automatically at a disadvantage. It’s really hard to perform to one’s full capabilities when one is spending part or most of their day in actual fear for their lives.

Out gay New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup, told USA TODAY:

“I don’t want to have to tone myself down about who I am,” Skjellerup said. “That wasn’t very fun and there’s no way I’m going back in the closet. I just want to be myself and I hate to think that being myself would get me in trouble.”

I don’t think you’ll find a single athlete out there who’d disagree with the notion that you perform better when you don’t have to hide who you are. In fact, many said as much when basketball player Jason Collins came out last year.

At this point, I can’t imagine there is anything IOC can say to actually ensure the safety of their participants or fans – whether it be from the actual Russian government or vigilantes who are rarely if ever prosecuted for their crimes against LGBT people. While boycotts and news stories have been effective at getting the word out about the atrocities being carried out against LGBT people, none of this will actually make anyone safer in Russia. And none of it will stop LGBT athletes from constantly having to look over their shoulder as they compete for Olympic gold.

Members of band hurt by NOM speak out

20 Mar

It’s been a tumultuous week for the National Organization for Marriage. Last week, they released a video to advertise their anti-gay hate march in Washington D.C. – that video has now been yanked from Youtube because NOM had stolen the background music from the equality-supporting Katie Herzig.

The Lee Boys, one of their two announced acts to play at the big anti-gay hate march pulled out seconds after they were announced. Seems someone tipped them off to the fact that NOM exists solely to attack gay families.

Then a little poll came out announcing Americans were 58% in favor of marriage equality.

And upon researching their 2nd announced act, I discovered the band didn’t exist. Called “Ultramontane,” the celtic fiddle boy band was actually 3 of the 5 members of a popular ensemble known as Scythian. There was great mystery shrouded in the circumstances surrounding the split, but the band released a statement essentially saying they agreed to disagree.

Scythian's Josef Crosby

Scythian’s Josef Crosby

Since then, an uproar from equality-loving and some gay-hating fans have caused them to delete their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The individual band members have also been approached on their personal social networking sites and while we’ve heard nothing from the band members who’ve decided to play for the anti-gay march, the two who’ve opted out are now speaking out.

Drummer Andrew Toy briefly took to his Facebook page to state his support for equality a few days ago and now his fellow equality-loving band mate has made a beautiful statement of his own:

“I’ve always made it a point to leave politics at the door when it came to Scythian, but I feel I have to go on record as saying that I am completely in support of full equality for all couples, no matter their orientation. I can only hope the Supreme Court agrees.”

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 10.15.39 AM

 

Broadway Siblings Launch Broadway for Obama

18 Sep

The Broadway community is one that holds a very special place in my heart. For 12 years, I lived in New York and had the unique opportunity of working with hundreds of the most talented people who’ve ever grapevined across a stage.

Andrew & Celia Keenan-Bolger

What always amazed me though, was that these people who work harder than most people I know, were always willing to give more to help people who needed it. I produced over 200 Broadway concerts while I lived there and members of the community were always willing to go the extra mile, sparing precious time off and much-needed rest when it came to helping Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, The National AIDS Fund, marriage equality fights, hurricane victims, and whoever else needed their help.

The Presidential election is no different for those who believe in social justice. Sister and brother Broadway team Celia and Andrew Keenan-Bolger  have activated the Broadway community to take part in an election which stands to define at least the next four years.

The two Tony Award nominees, while not performing 8 shows a week in Peter and the Starcatcher or Newsies, have started “Broadway for Obama.” They’ve started engaging other members of the Broadway community and their fans to make sure they get out the vote for Obama.

As a young gay man, Andrew sees this work as vital due to the rights he and hundreds of other colleagues are being denied:

“We work in an industry that celebrates the contributions of thousands of gay people. Broadway would not be possible without its performers, directors, writers, choreographers, designers, dressers, ushers, crew members, administrators and musicians, a large percentage of whom are gay.

Millions of Americans come to New York every year to share in the art that these people create but many still believe that they shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else. We want them to know where we stand.”

For his sister Celia, who was married two years ago to fellow Broadway performer John Ellison Conlee, she felt she needed to stand up for her LGBT family and friends. Four years ago, Celia left New York to campaign in Pennsylvania for then-candidate Barack Obama. Her resolve is made even stronger considering the advancement of LGBT rights made under the Obama administration:

“2 years ago my husband John Conlee and I decided to get married in Vermont because gay marriage was legal there and it was not yet in NY. We felt we couldn’t stand in front of our dearest friends and family (some of whom are LGBT) and ask them to support and celebrate us in a state where they did not have the same rights as us I want everyone I know and love to enjoy the same rights I do.

Gay marriage is just the beginning. My sister has educated me a lot about LGBT homelessness. I know under a Romney presidency not only would these issues lose forward momentum but we would probably move backwards. I want to do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen and I believe an Obama administration is better for ALL of us.”

Evita’s Max von Essen

Together, they’re working on organizing the Broadway community around different small things they can do to help the President get re-elected. One of their first actions is to get Broadway performers to make sure they’re wearing Obama T-shirts, pins or whatever they want. Saturday Obama Swag (or #SOS if you’re on the Twitter) will have stars exiting their stage doors hoping to find fans also wearing Obama swag and getting an extra few moments of their favorite performer’s time – with bragging rights to bring home.

Their efforts are already being rewarded with tweets from Evita’s Max von Essen and Tony Winner Audra McDonald promoting their work.

For more information about Broadway for Obama, visit www.facebook.com/BroadwayForObama

One more thing about Bailey Hanks

11 Aug

It’s a long one, bear with me. I’m so very torn right now. I have put something out there on the internets and people have reacted to it. Some more strongly than others.

I wrote a few days ago about how fascinating it is that the Chick-fil-A debacle has brought people into the equality discussion more than any single thing since California’s Prop 8 in 2007. Back then, a whole new generation of activists was born. People took to the streets by the thousands. This time, people are taking to Facebook and Twitter by the millions. I’m still not sure if people actually value their deep-fried chicken so much as to debate it or if this was just the tipping point for something larger? What is it about this that has people taking such definitive sides?

Since posting the other day about Bailey Hanks, I’ve seen the entire spectrum of responses – everything from vitriolic, horrible things being said to and about Bailey to the same being said about me. What I’ve learned is that people are mad. Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out when you’re told you’ve created an “internet coliseum” where Christians are being thrown to the lions.

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear. I don’t hate Bailey Hanks. I don’t hate Christians. I suppose I can say I love the sinner but hate the sin when it comes to anti-gay Christians. Wow, it’s kinda fun to flip that one. I don’t hate the people who have anti-gay beliefs. I hate when they act on those beliefs by supporting, funding or voting on the denial of my rights as a human being.

I don’t believe Bailey Hanks is a hateful person – as many posting on her Facebook have claimed. I think she is someone who has been carefully taught something that’s hard to unlearn. Bailey walked into that Chick-fil-A that day, fully aware that it was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. That much can’t be denied despite some of those defending her. She “liked” the event on Facebook prior to it happening and I simply will not buy that she didn’t know what was going on. That kind of willful ignorance is extraordinarily rare. Is it possible that she somehow missed ALL media surrounding this? In this day and age – a girl with a private and public Facebook page as well as a twitter account – it’s just hard to believe, despite what she says in her first apology that has been posted for more than a few minutes:

“I have decided to delete this page, it will deactivate in 14 days…but before I do I would like to share my heart to those who do not know me and only seen or heard things from other people. At the time the chicken was only chicken to me and while in rehearsal and shows at the time I was not properly informed on what was going on. I was unaware of the BIG picture. With that being said I had poor timing. But I am a Christian, but a Christian to me is not a religion or a denomination, it is a relationship with my lord and savior Jesus Christ. And my Lord said to love everyone even those who hate you. And that I live by. I have my beliefs as a Christian and I hope you can accept that, as I accept you! If you want to marry whomever you want… Who am I to stop you? Go! Live! Be merry! I have friends who are married and they are gay, friends who are gay and engaged and I couldn’t be more happy for them and they know that. These ppl have reached out to me and know my heart. My intentions are never malicious, and I have never rooted for others unhappiness in their life. I hope this clears up any unanswered questions, and I hope you can please step back and let this all go and let me live a peaceful life without hate…. As I want the same peace for you!

Thank you for hearing me out! Much love to everyone!
Xoxo
Bailey

Bailey is unapologetically Christian. From birth, she had the idea drummed into her little head that we are all sinners. It can sometimes be a tough and damaging lifestyle that when so ingrained into you from such a young age, can build barriers to you learning anything else. That’s being proven around the country right now with “Creationism” being taught in schools, with science – things we know to be true via actual research, being thrown out the window.

My point is, I believe Bailey went to that Chick-fil-A because she thought she was doing something “Pro-Christian” and not “Anti-Gay.” Unfortunately those two things are not inseparable in this particular instance. She does not see or comprehend that the things she is told by her church are “hateful,” it’s how some can look you in the eyes with a huge smile on their face and tell you that you should not have the right to marry or adopt children. They have been convinced for generations that since Christians only know how to love, everything they say or do is only ever said or done out of love. I’m here to say that contributing money to anti-gay groups directly or via Chick-fil-A is not something done out of love. I’m here to say that voting against another person’s right to start a family is not something done out of love. And I’m here to say that just by saying you are doing something out of love, does not mean that you are.

Bailey, I am not letting you off. An action you’ve taken has hurt a lot of people. And now you have the opportunity to fix it. I would love it if you would use this situation to make a real effort to educate yourself on the things your friends, colleagues and young fans are going through. I’m calling to you Bailey to read up on the hundreds of LGBT kids in this country who take their own lives because their Christian families reject them. I beg you to read the book “Prayers for Bobby.” It’s about a devoutly Christian mom who took the time to learn about her gay son after it was too late. And have some real conversations with your gay friends, ask them what it was like to grow up gay or about how they came out to their parents. And then take it a step further. Use the information you find to educate your own family and community on the idea that voting for and funding any kind of discrimination against gay people is wrong and is never done out of love.

And to those who’ve responded to what you perceived as hate with more hate: I don’t believe this is how we’ll win our equality. As a young gay kid, I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me. Churches, politicians and everyone I looked up to told me that I would never have that happy ending I’d seen in the Disney movies. Then I started doing theatre, and surrounded myself with that wonderful, creative safe place. Finally I’d found a world where I didn’t feel judged and in fact felt completely supported for who I was. I moved to New York City and stayed holed up in that community of support for 12 years. And outside that little ten-block radius, the world didn’t exist. The hatred outside wasn’t affecting me because I was blissfully unaware of it. Then Prop 8 woke me up. I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

The hatred had penetrated my safe little circle, and I was pissed. I chanted, screamed and organized in the streets. I was activated. I was almost more angry though that the rug was pulled out from under me – this community was no longer safe. Many of you had that same rug pulled out from under you when you saw one of your own supporting a hateful corporation. I get it. I get your anger and you have every right to it. But don’t think for a second that it’s going to change anything. It may activate you like it did me, but you need to find a way to focus it on changing people’s minds. And when someone comes at you swinging, I promise you your mind’s not going to be very quick to change. Be pissed, be hurt, but let your desire for change be stronger than your desire to scream at someone.

In closing, since this all stems from a conversation about a musical, please read and take these prophetic words to heart from Oscar Hammerstein II:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

The Giving Tree: Family Week in Provincetown Day 5

2 Aug

I’m trying to figure out why I’m calling this day The Giving Tree. It’s obviously one of my favorite children’s stories and I’m a fan of pretty much everything Shel Silverstein wrote. I also look at the story as a euphemism for parenting.

This morning, my day started with an emotionally-charged panel featuring kids from Family Equality Council’s “Outspoken Generation.” 7 teen children of LGBT parents were on the panel and it was one of the most heavily-attended events I’d seen all week. The room was packed to overflowing and Dr. Kim Bergman moderated the event. While one of the main draws of the event was Youtube star and author Zach Wahls, all the kids had really poignant and important things to say.

With the recent (and quickly debunked) study from Mark Regnerus has provided a springboard for misinformationists to spread lies and falsehoods about our families. But with these young men and women on the scene, a firsthand experience of being raised by LGBT parents can be told. I’m hoping Family Equality Council lifts up this vital program that’s currently missing from the national dialogue. Every one of the young people on the panel today should be appearing on television wherever we can put them.

Following the panel, Sean and I had scheduled time for some wedding planning and wound up at a tasting at one of the locations we’re thinking of. It seems we have a lot more work to do, but that just means another trip to Ptown this fall! I was also really happy friends Amy, Ty and (an asleep) Declan joined us for a little stroll as well. Wedding advice is always helpful!

The late afternoon and evening activities included a screening of The Muppets, a happy hour for Transgender parents and then a fundraiser comedy night starring Kate Clinton. All were extraordinarily well-attended and Kate’s show was so packed, I got booted from the theatre, so I couldn’t take the photos I was asked to. It looks like Family Equality is having quite a successful week!

The night closed with some drinks with the now-legal Zach Wahls and then a run-in with some old friends from New York. I’m glad the rain seems to be gone as it was one of the most beautiful nights I’ve seen in a long time!

7 Ways to Change Minds on Marriage

27 Jul

Coming out is a tough thing to do. It’s tough for everyone involved for the most part. Of course there are those rare occurrences where a kid popped out of his mother’s vagina and POOF! Everyone knew and everyone was okay with it. But for everyone else, it’s a journey. For both those who are coming out and those who are hearing it for the first time.

The same is true for those who are coming around on marriage equality – it’s a process. Just look at President Obama. He was able to model for the whole world that it’s okay to evolve on this issue. We have to take into consideration that for generations, we’ve been told that it’s not okay to be gay and it’s even less okay for two men or two women to be married. The idea for older generations is sometimes simply inconceivable. So, just like programming a VCR setting up a DVD player learning how to text, it takes some of us a little longer to figure it all out.

So here are some helpful hints on how to have a conversation with someone who may not be 100% on your side about marriage equality.

1. Respect their position – They’ve probably had that position for a long time, and as outlined above it takes time to work through those ideas. Whether their opinion is based on their religious beliefs or tradition or anything else really, it’s a position they’ve had for a long time. Maybe they haven’t had a lot of time or opportunity to even consciously think about marriage as something other than what they’ve always known. So give them the same respect you would expect in return.

2. Don’t attack. – This one’s difficult. Sometimes you’ve heard the same anti-gay, anti-intellectual and amoral arguments a hundred times before. But you have to remember that in many cases, the person you’re talking to is expressing these feelings and thoughts for the first time. If you come out swinging, you can bet they won’t be changing their mind anytime soon. And things may get heated when you least expect it. Wind it back by talking abou

3. Don’t get stuck in the Bible. – For generations, the Bible has been used as an excuse for someone’s bigoted beliefs. While you and I know that marriage between two men or two women was never mentioned in the Bible, and that “Traditional Biblical Marriage” never once allowed for the consent of the woman/women, and that the same book that says “man shall not lie with man,” also condemns eating shellfish, playing football and wearing polyester, these argument will ALWAYS turn contentious. If you wind up in a conversation that goes there, ask politely if you can change the subject to what love, commitment and family means.

4. Don’t say “Gay Marriage.” – Language around this issue is a touchy subject. But at the end of the day, we’re not looking for something different from what our straight friends and families have. We want marriage. We want marriage equality. We want marriage for all. As the now-famous facebook meme goes:

“It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage, or as I like to call it, “marriage.” You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. And I parked my car. I didn’t gay park it.” – Liz Feldman

5. Make it about Commitment instead of Equality. – Rights, Equality and all those other lovely things we’re striving for are great words that engage and energize LGBT people and our activist friends. But to others outside the movement, they aren’t something most have had to fight for, so they don’t think of them in the same terms you and I do. What most people do understand are words like “commitment,” “love,” and “family.” So instead of using words that aren’t as easy to grasp, use words that we can all identify with. Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and her colleagues at Third Way have done some extensive research in this area and here’s what they found:

When asked why “couples like you” might want to get married, they overwhelmingly said “to publicly acknowledge their love and commitment to each other.” But when asked why gay couples might want to get married, just as many people said “for rights and benefits, like tax advantages, hospital visitation, or sharing a spouse’s pension.” Over 3/5ths of those who thought gay couples wanted to marry for rights and benefits opposed allowing them to do so, but more than 3/5ths of those who thought gay couples wanted to marry for commitment supported it.

6. Don’t make comparisons. – We really love likening our struggle to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. We love talking about the similarities our movement has with the fights of the past. Funny thing is, this only causes people to spend time thinking about how our movements differ as opposed to our intent to find similarities.Keep them thinking about why this is important to YOU.

7. Don’t get stuck in the mud. – In your discussion, you won’t always come to a conclusion or life-changing realization on every topic. But we all know that we sometimes get to points so frustrating that if we don’t track back, the chat will be done. If you hit a sticking point where clearly you’re not seeing eye to eye, agree to disagree and move on to the next part of your discussion.

These are of course just a few hints to help make your conversation a little easier. If you have other ideas about how to approach a conversation like this, please put them in the comments! Thanks again to Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, Third Way and Freedom to Marry for the excellent research which backs up much of these recommendations.

Cruel Intentions Without the Lesbian Kiss???

11 Jul

This weekend, I caught a Facebook status update from my good, straight, awesome LGBT ally friend, Amir.

It read:

“Is Oxygen Network homophobic? Cuz they cut the Cruel Intentions kiss btwn Selma Blair and Sarah Michelle Gellar just now.”

Cruel Intentions WITHOUT the kiss? For those of you who don’t know the film, it’s a fairly integral and important part of the story.

As the troublemaking homosexual I am, I promised Amir I’d get to the bottom of it. With my finger poised cautiously over the GLAAD speed dial on my phone, I searched for email addresses for everyone at the Oxygen Network I could find. I wrote to several individuals in the publicity and marketing office and pressed send.

Having not heard back 4 days later, I followed-up today. Within an hour, I heard back from Meredith Gold – Senior Director of Program Planning for the network.

It seems TV versions of movies are cut by the studios, approved by directors and sent to the networks. When the director has approved of the TV version, no further edits can be made. Such was the case with Sony, Director Roger Kumble and Cruel Intentions and this cut of it which was probably made more than 10 years ago (back before Katy Perry was yodeling about kissing girls regularly).

The good news though…after hearing from just a small handful of viewers, the Oxygen Network sprang into action, got in touch with Sony and Sony is re-cutting a version of the film which will include the ever-important kiss. As it goes with movies on cable networks, it will air thousands of times most likely in the next year. The new cut of the film will begin airing on the network in the coming few weeks pending director approval.

Moral of the story: When you see something, say something.

UPDATE: I received word from Oxygen that the unedited version of the film is now in-house at the network. It will air this weekend starting on Saturday night at 8:30pm! Tune in! And thank you again for listening to your viewers, Oxygen!

For your edification, the cut scene: