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UPDATE: Long Island Principal Refuses GSA, Called People “Faggot” as a Kid, So It’s OK.

20 Jan

Valley Stream South High School

Today at 3pm at Valley Stream South High School in Long Island, students and their supporters will be holding a rally to protest the decision by the High School’s principal to deny their request for a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).

According to press notes, students from the school have been trying to form a GSA since October 2010. They have gone through the proper channels nd had numerous discussions with Principal Maureen Henry. After sharing their experiences of being bullied at the high school and being called “faggot,” Henry replied that she too called people “faggots” when she was young and didn’t mean anything bad by it. Using that as her excuse as to why the students didn’t need a GSA.

Senior Joseph Kofler, one of the organizers of today’s rally said, ““this school really needs a GSA and not because it’s a ‘gay club’. In fact it’s the opposite of our goals, which is to bring about understanding and acceptance for all of our students. And I want to feel safe coming to school everyday and this club will help toward reaching these goals” said the 17-year old.

The other organizer of today’s rally is Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY). “There are over 90 GSA’s that already exist in Long Island schools and by allowing a GSA for students to feel safer is not something revolutionary – in fact, the school is way behind the times and these brave students should be commended for trying to make a difference” said David Kilmnick, CEO of LIGALY.

On the High School’s website, Henry states:

“South High School is committed to a school environment that promotes personal growth, good citizenship and service to others.  South’s motto “small acts of kindness make a big difference” motivates all of the South community to share their time, talent and energy to provide service to others both here at South and in our community.”

Today’s rally will take place at 3:15pm outside the entrance of Valley Stream South High School, 135 Jedwood Place, Valley Stream, NY.

h/t: LezGetReal

UPDATE: According to the Long Island Herald, interim school Superintendent Dr. Richard Marsh announced today that the club has been approved and their first meeting is set for today.

While the club will have no funding or paid adviser for the remainder of this year (as budgets had already been set for the year), it will be part of the budget for following years.

The rally, which is still occurring after school today will hopefully continue to shed light on the bigoted earlier statement from Principal Henry.

A Gay and Lesbian Museum: There’s A Space For US

12 Jan

After a decade of searching, the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society has found a San Francisco location for the first ever LGBT History Museum in the United States. The Museum opening marks the 25th Anniversary of the Society and will feature two opening exhibits: Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History,” curated by historians Gerard Koskovich, Don Romesburg and Amy Sueyoshi; and in the front gallery, “Great Collections of the GLBT Historical Society Archives.”

We have written several times about the importance of history and about preserving and reflecting on our past. The opening of this museum is an important moment in our movement.  If we don’t do the hard work of educating younger generations on past struggles, victories, and personal stories, we allow someone else to revise our history.  We have our own stories to tell, remember, and cherish:

“Telling our stories transforms our lives and our society and takes us out of the margins,” said Don Romesburg, a curator and assistant professor of Sonoma State University‘s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. “The museum is at the heart of that project.”

This is a great step for our community.

Miss America Goes Gay(er)

5 Jan

There are some (perhaps stereotypical) things which I feel would perhaps be nowhere without the support and/or participation of the LGBT Community. Among them are:

Musicals – I challenge you to put up a production of The Sound of Music with no Max, no Rolf, no Captain Von Trapp and no stage manager.

Figure Skating – WWBBD? (What Would Brian Boitano Do?)

Fashion – Project Runway is not all that far from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, let’s be honest.

And of course…

The Miss America Pageant. We make the gowns, teach the contestants how to walk, design the sets, choreograph the opening numbers and in some cases, they even let us judge (so long as we promise to play nice *cough* Perez Hilton *cough*). Sometimes we’re even mentioned ONstage.

Kate Shindle being crowned Miss America 1998

Back in 1998, the AIDS crisis took center stage at the pageant when outspoken equality advocate, Kate Shindle took home the crown. She took a chance in speaking up for those living with and dying from HIV/AIDS, and happily it has not been a cause she has ever  let go of. From 2003-2007, I was happy to found and produce the World AIDS Day Concerts in New York City with her and her passion for this cause is unlike any I’ve seen. Since then, Kate has been seen all over Broadway and is currently starring in Wonderland – a new Broadway musical based on Alice in Wonderland.

Now, in 2011, there’s a new crown-hopeful who is making waves. Miss New York, our very own Claire Buffie has chosen as her platform, LGBT Equality. This is the first time in 90 years that a contestant is standing up for the equal rights of a community that has helped make the Miss America Pageant what it is today.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Claire on a few occasions

Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

and am happy to report that she is not only stunningly beautiful (as is expected), but she is well-spoken, articulate and has the same passion for equality, that our friend Kate Shindle continues to have for those living with HIV/AIDS. She marched in the NYC Pride March this June and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Marriage Equality New York’s Wedding March this past fall. And at any event she attends, she can almost always be seen having one-on-one discussions with LGBT people, young and old about their experiences.

We frequently talk about the need for advocacy outside the LGBT Community. And here we have a marvelous representation being given a nationwide television platform on Saturday, January 15th. As we know, the Miss America contest is going to be seen in televisions all across the country and I for one am very proud that New York is being represented by someone who can speak so eloquently about who we are.

Good luck, Claire! No matter what happens next week, we got your back girl. Come to think of it – who BETTER to have on your side at a Miss America Pageant? We promise not to go all “Drop Dead Gorgeous” on anyone, but our brothers and sisters backstage will certainly be there with some extra spray glue and glitter should you need it.

Taylor Proffitt, Claire Buffie and Ronnie Kroell (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

Alan Cumming Speaks Out For Homeless LGBT Youth

4 Jan

After some devastating budget cuts from Michael Bloomberg’s administration in NYC, organizations such as The Ali Forney Center and others that help homeless LGBT youth are suffering greatly.

David Raleigh and The Friends Project have put together a beautiful video with celebrities ranging from Alan Cumming to Project Runway’s Austin Scarlet to Billy Porter to Ally Sheedy speaking out in support of our kids. 25% of kids that come out to their families are rejected by their families, and many of those kids end up on the streets. With the budget cuts and increasing numbers of homeless LGBT youth in NYC and around the country, it’s our responsibility to do something about it.

Please watch and share this video and make a contribution, as small or large as you can – and take it a step further. If you know anyone with an extra $10 while starting out this new year, please send them this video and ask them to make a contribution.

Fertilizing the Roots – Photos and Video from Rootscamp 2010

12 Dec

Rootscamp 2010 is drawing to a close after it’s second day of incredible grassroots progressive organizers joined in DC to discuss and digest the work of the past year.

Last night, following a full day of workshops, participants let loose and did some networking to make sure we are all communicating about how to move our ideas forward.

This morning, some of the organizing sessions we were able to attend included one on direct action as well as a session on how to use our storytelling to advance our individual goals. Being one of the main purposes of Talk About Equality, the ideas presented on storytelling were extraordinarily moving and helpful in finding our equality. It’s through these stories that we have come as far as we have.

Using stories to convince a voter to vote for a candidate is indeed helpful and effective. Personal stories usually make the biggest difference in winning a vote, as we saw with the election of Obama. But when it comes to the monumental changes and shifts in the LGBT movement, there is no denying that storytelling and our personal narratives have created the most positive change. When telling our parents, friends and family who we are, and coming out to those we love, we are telling our story. If we fail to tell those stories, we in fact are not only failing ourselves, but every generation of LGBT people that follows.

We’re very grateful to have been able to take part in the New Organizing Institute’s Rootscamp 2010 and can’t wait to see all these incredible organizers and their work over the course of 2011. Enjoy a few more photos as well as the incredible video from NOI.

Transgender Athletes Not Breaking Stride.

7 Dec

The world of sports is a frontier for conversations about equality.  As we’ve written before, openly LGBT athletes force a discussion in the world of professional sports, the administration of sports associations, and among fans.  Our mantra is that with greater visibility comes greater acceptance and Transgender athletes are breaking new ground and winning victories in this regard, on and off the field.

Last month a George Washington University Basketball player came out to the public as Transgender.  Kye Allums, formerly known as Kay-Kay to teammates and fellow students, decided at to announce his gender identity via outsports.com, and has received overwhelming support from teammates and the university administration.  After a difficult decision to announce his gender identity, Kye has become the first NCAA Division One college basketball player.  Kye, protected under Washington, DC’s anti-discrimination laws, is also supported by the NCAA, and has paved the way for fellow college athletes to follow in his footsteps.

Earlier this month the LPGA voted to remove its “female at birth” requirement after Lana Lawless, a transgender woman, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the policy violated California civil rights law. The suit also includes the Long Drivers of America, who barred the former Long Drive Champion under the LPGA’s “female at birth” rule.  The LGPA voted on its own to remove the policy and it seems the players are doing just fine with the change. Christie Kerr told the Associated Press:

We don’t need to comment on this because it’s a dead issue, she can compete if she can qualify. We certainly don’t want to discriminate against anybody, that’s not what the LPGA is about. And if she can qualify, she’ll be able to play. We’re like, the last sports organization to do it, it’s just we’ve never really had to look at it before.

The public at large has a lot of questions about transgender issues, and transgendered individuals have been making great strides to raise visibility.  Vital to the struggle for LGBT equality is public education and just by being open and honest about gender identity in sports we can wrap the conversation in an experience that is familiar to the public.

Repeat after me: with greater visibility comes greater acceptance.

Straight to the Gay Bar: Friendfactor Makes a Splash

2 Dec

Most out LGBT people I know, can recall coming out to their best straight friend or their straight brother or sister or even their parents. When we recall that moment, it’s hard not to also remember the awkward questions that followed…

“So…have you ALWAYS been this way?”

“Do you like musicals now?”

and the ever-famous…

“So…how do you…do…it?”

What many of us don’t really notice is just how easy it becomes to communicate with our straight friends and family once the big questions have already been asked. Of course this isn’t ALWAYS the case and some of us are dismissed and disowned outright, and sometimes the conversation never moves past the awkward. But for those relationships that are lucky enough to move beyond that, Brian Elliot and his pals at Friendfactor want you to take the next step.

Having started a Facebook group called “Give Brian Equality,” Brian succeeded in getting 600 of his friends to join – to learn about the inequalities he faces. Brian was shocked to see that in just four weeks, the group had grown to 19,000 people. So he started Friendfactor, a new online platform designed to assist LGBT people in communicating with their straight friends about equality. We announced the launch of the app and website just a few weeks ago.

It’s time to move past “Does this belt go with this dress?” and on to “Did you know I can be fired for being gay in 29+ states?”

Tonight, Friendfactor had it’s first Friendraiser, encouraging LGBT people to attend and bring along a straight friend or two. The event, titled “Straight to a gay bar” was a huge success with over 200 attendees and a little education mixed with a few drinks. The approach was subtle and even featured a gameshow where the straight friend had to guess if the title read by the host was the name of a gay bar or a steakhouse, and the gay friend had to guess between straight bars and day spas. Needless to say, “Mantini” and “Touch” were among the stumpers. Visit www.Friendfactor.org to find out more information. Here’s a few photos from tonight’s event:

Patty Buckley, COO and Brian Elliot, Founder of Friendfactor

 

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal; EqualityPhotography.com