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Madison Square Garden Thinks ‘Real Men’ Don’t Dance in Homophobic Ad

1 Nov

It’s no secret that there’s some homophobia in professional sports, but the tide is turning. With pro athlete heroes like footballers Brendan Ayabendejo and Chris Kluwe, wrestler Hudson Taylor, Hockey player Sean Avery and dozens more speaking out for marriage equality, we can see things are changing.

However, for every few steps forward, there has to be a step back. Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks has released a new ad being seen on phone booths in New York City. The ad reads:

“It’s Friday night. You can either see a Broadway harness malfunction or you can watch real men fly.”

Yes, there’s a little dig at Spiderman in there (a little two years ago, but I digress). But take a look at the next part of the ad where it clearly claims that people who work on Broadway aren’t “real men.”

The insinuation that someone who spends a few months a year throwing a ball in a hoop is any more of a man than someone who does 8 shows a week literally breaking their backs as they do their acrobatics on a stage is not only insulting, but it’s utterly false.

As a kid who grew up doing musicals, seeing an ad like this would have hurt me. Gay kids out there who happen to be attracted to something other than athletics are putting up with enough bullying from their peers and in many cases their families. They don’t need it from Madison Square Garden too.

As New York has seen enough trouble this past week, let’s hope MSG quickly issues an apology and pulls down their homophobic ad.

In conversations about this, I’ve found a few people don’t find anything offensive about this. One friend even advised that we shouldn’t get upset about this and we should instead wait until some NBA player calls someone a “fag” and no one does anything about it. The problem with this argument is that when the phrase “Real Man” is used as a pejorative against another person, it is nearly always the same thing as calling someone a “fag.” Everytime that phrase has been used to insult someone in the last 50 years, it has been to question someone’s masculinity and/or their sexuality. That’s why I think this is important to point out. This is essentially the same as an NBA Player shouting “fag” at someone, except this time it’s on a phone booth in New York and no one is saying anything about it.

After some calls to Madison Square Garden, I’ve found it’s an ad for MSG Networks and I’ll update you when I receive a response.

h/t to Richard Roland, who took the photos.

10-year old shows us all why this election is so important

29 Oct

On May 9th, 2012, I was visiting New York. I was with my fiancé who works for the Family Equality Council and I was taking some pictures for them as they rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

No one knew until a few hours before it was going to happen that the first sitting President in U.S. history was about to come out in favor of marriage equality.

I was in a room off the NYSE floor with 7 or 8 families led by gay parents when the text came in. “He said it.” Sean said to me. scrambling for cell service in this marble room in the depths of Wall Street, finally I was able to pull up the text of the interview.

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council’s Executive Director spoke to the room and read the text of Barack Obama’s interview to all these moms and dads and they in turn, took a moment to tell their young children just how important this moment was. Then we walked across the floor, the kids and their parents climbed the steps and rang the bell to close the stock exchange for the day.

A lot has happened in these short few months since then, but one thing remains the same. President Obama hopes to fight for full equality for LGBT Americans, while the alternative has pledged to write discrimination against LGBT Americans into the U.S. Constitution.

Many don’t realize just the difference a President’s acknowledgment made when it comes to his recognition of our families. But one little girl sees the importance.

10-year old Sophia Bailey Klugh has written a letter to President Obama which is quickly making the rounds on Facebook. Sophia’s Dads Jonathan Bailey and Triton Klugh posted the unprompted letter with the comment:

I’ve refrained from all the political posts, but this is just too close to home to ignore. This is not about President Obama – it’s about what’s right. So frankly, if you don’t agree with the innocent, heartfelt and surprisingly straightforward position of my 10 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER, then please unfriend me because we don’t actually belong connected here in the first place.

Please take a look at just how much someone notices when someone everyone knows stands up and does the right thing.

Romney May Stop Hospital Visitation for Gay Couples

21 Oct

It’s known that Romney stands against rights for LGBT people. He signed the National Organization for Marriage pledge to stand against marriage equality, appoint Supreme Court Justices who would also stand against equal rights for gays and lesbians and fight to write discrimination against us into the US Constitution.

This, despite at one point saying he would be “better than Ted” Kennedy on gay rights.

This week, Romney apparently believes that when my husband is in the hospital, I do not have the right to visit him and that it should be up to each state to decide whether or not I am the next of kin. He believes that a lesbian spouse like Janice Langbehn visiting her dying wife in the hospital is a “privilege” and not a right.

In an interview with Buzzfeed today, Romney  adviser Bay Buchanan told Chris Geidner:

“Governor Romney also believes, consistent with the 10th Amendment, that it should be left to states to decide whether to grant same-sex couples certain benefits, such as hospital visitation rights and the ability to adopt children.”

In April of 2010, recognizing the extraordinary miscarriage of justice and horrifying stories of families being split apart while fathers, mothers, husbands and wives were barred from visiting one another in the hospital, Barack Obama signed an Executive Order stating that any hospital which receives government funding (including Medicare and Medicaid) shall recognize the relationships between gays and lesbians.

This was a simple move. There are truly very few Americans who believe any couple should be separated in their hours of need. But according to his advisers, Romney believes and will fight to make sure if (God forbid) I should need to visit my husband in the hospital, that my legal relationship is not recognized by hospital administration.

How cruel can a person be to leave a person potentially dying alone while their husband, wife, son or daughter sits in a sterile waiting room to hear their loved one has passed? And what kind of leader would support this kind of barbaric sentiment?

Please spread the word and understand why November 6th is such an important day. Please understand what is at risk for me, for you and for the people you love.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

11 Oct

Me and my brothers, I’m on the far right. Note the bevel.

October 11th is National Coming Out Day.

Coming Out in this country is something which has changed a great deal since I was a kid. For many young people today (though certainly not all), the process has become far less traumatic. The act of telling a friend or family member that you’re gay is now frequently met with a “so?” and a “cool, let’s go to a gay bar!”

While the reactions for some have changed, the process, the act of summoning the courage to say it, has remained the same. For me and for thousands of others, we spent years hiding – pretending to be something we  weren’t.

I dated girls in high school. Well, I hung out with girls in high school. At one point, one girl who was a good size larger than me, pushed me up against the band room lockers one afternoon. “I want you to go out with me.” she said. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll say yes.” Ever the pacifist, I reluctantly agreed. Nothing ever happened outside of her falling asleep on my lap at a few parties (an action she had in common with my fiancé). Every moment with her was filled with fear. I wasn’t just afraid of getting my ass kicked, I was afraid of something happening where she would find out who I really was. And tell everyone about it.

My first beard, Beth. Note my happiness.

Another girl I dated – to this day, one of the sweetest people I know, I had one date with. We went to see Shadowlands in the movie theater. The event was plagued by 3 different delays due to a faulty projector, so the already painfully-long film was met with two 30-minute intermissions. As if things weren’t awkward enough.
A card I received a few days later, professing her “love” for me…yes, she said “I love you”, caused me to end that very quickly.

So when I finally came out to my best friend John (as bisexual of course, cuz that’s the natural progression of things, right?), I expected shock and surprise. I mean, who would expect a 19 year old who’d never seriously dated a girl and dreamed of moving to New York City and starring on Broadway to be gay? Instead John offered to host a coming out party for me at his dorm and offered zero of the shock and awe I hoped for.

And of course, coming home from my first rennaisance faire with my Dad. And he claimed not to know.

In all seriousness though, when a person comes out to you, act surprised – even if you’re not. We work really hard to hide who we are in many cases and if upon coming out we’re met with a “Oh, I know. We all know,” what you’re saying to that person is “We’ve known forever, you’re bad at hiding and we’ve been talking about you behind your back for years.” Not exactly the most supportive message to send to someone in easily the most vulnerable place they’ve ever been in.

So today, on National Coming Out Day, be yourself. If you’re gay, tell someone who didn’t know before – maybe even someone who probably doesn’t care. Tell your taxi driver, your banker, the guy holding the door open at 7-11. In honor of all those who can’t come out for fear they’ll be kicked out of their homes, lose their livelihood, or worse – come out to someone new. And have a gay day.

 

 

Did he see the stars over Laramie?

7 Oct

Every year, I re-post the same story about Matthew Shepard. It’s a brief reminder so that the people I know and love don’t forget who he is and the incredible moves forward we’ve made in memory of him.

Tonight, I ran across someone who re-blogged the story and they attached a video from YouTube. It’s a brief interview with Matthew which I’ve never seen. Actually, despite having worked with Matthew’s mom, Judy on several events I produced for their foundation, I’ve actually never seen video footage of Matt.

As brief as the footage is, it hit me hard. I’ve never seen Matt speaking, never heard his voice.

When the tragedy happened, I was starting my sophomore year in college. I wasn’t out to anyone. I remember watching the stories on a TV in my college campus center and so desperately wanting to tell someone how upset, how scared I was.

Let’s be honest, I was doing musicals and I’d never really dated any girls, so it was no surprise when I finally did come out but for me, I was still terrified someone might find out – especially after what happened to Matt. I know I wasn’t alone in that and that this is the reason for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. When something like this happens, it terrorizes more than just the victim of the crime.

Tonight, 14 years ago, Matt was laying in a field, tied to a fence, beaten and bloodied, staring at the stars over the Wyoming sky as he lost consciousness. I like to think that there was a moment before he closed his eyes, that the pain went away and he was able see the stars and know he was loved.

14 years ago today

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

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

The best thing you’ll read today.

17 Aug

In April of last year, I got a call from my friends at Freedom to Marry. They frequently ask me to come take photos for their events and this time they had a special request.

They were going to be interviewing an elderly gay couple that had been together for 60 years and couldn’t be married. They wanted me to come take some portraits of the couple while they were being interviewed.

This adorable elderly couple spoke at length about their war stories (and I mean literally – both men served in World War II). As they were both singers and voice teachers, they also treated us to a couple songs.

I’d write more of their beautiful story for you, but it’s been done – by the New York Times. Check it out.

The purpose of us going there was to get their story out. This was a few months before New York would pass the marriage equality law and Richard & John didn’t want to leave the state to get married. Their romance was a New York romance and they believed they should have the right to tie the knot in the state they called home.

Well, last Friday after 62 years, Richard Mace and John Dorr were married. In New York. We want to congratulate the happy couple whose only advice to me was to “Never go to bed angry.”

You can watch the Freedom to Marry video that was shot that day here:

Jury Awards HUGE Settlement to Gay U Mich Student

16 Aug

Remember Andrew Shirvell? He’s the former Michigan Ass’t Attorney General who stalked University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong because he was openly gay.

We covered the whole controversy here, here, here and again here. This was a purely brilliant story. This guy had videotaped Armstrong at his home in the middle of the night, had a blog all about Armstrong and would show up and stage one-person rallies against Armstrong because he was gay. And brilliance happened:

Andrew Shirvell’s the bald, older one. Chris Armstrong is on the far right.

Well, it turns out Shirvell was using government time and resources to fund his little hate Chris Armstrong blog and was fired after an outcry from the LGBT blogosphere.

Shirvell’s writing, attacks and harassment was ENDLESS. Armstrong demanded an apology from Shirvell and said he would drop a pending harassment suit against Shirvell if he would only apologize for what he’d done. Shirvell refused.

Armstrong proceeded with his lawsuit seeking $25,000 in damages. A jury today found in favor of Armstrong and ordered Shirvell to pay him…wait for it…$4.5 MILLION!!! This is what happens in the court system when you spread vicious lies about gay people. This is hatred and this is what it was worth to a jury in Michigan.

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!