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If you’re straight, I’ll get you a new Macbook.

12 Jun

A friend on Facebook notified me this evening of a troubling Craigslist ad he came across in Los Angeles.

In the ad, a mom or dad is selling their son’s computer because he wants to get the newest version of the Macbook. They go on to explain that they’re not spoiling their son with this new laptop, quite the contrary-because their son was caught engaging in “homosexual acts,” this was his reward for claiming he would choose to be straight.

I’ve written to the person who placed the ad and it’s quite possible that the ad is a hoax. But if for some reason, this young man’s mother finds me through the blog, I wanted to share two important facts and some helpful resources with her.

1. Being gay is not a choice.

2. 1 out of every 4 teen suicides is a gay teen. Among the leading causes of those suicides is a lack of family acceptance.

Family Acceptance Project will help you find ways to treat your son with the respect and love that he deserves.

Visit the Prayers for Bobby site and learn a little something about a Mom who felt the same way you did, and how she feels now that her son is gone.

Then again, it is the new Macbook…I’d probably tell my parents I was straight too if I was going to get a free Macbook. This also may indeed be a hoax, but having a career in knowing about social media trends, new media and how it’s used– the red flags about the danger a kid may be in outweighed the possible red flags of being embarrassed by a craigslist hoax.

UPDATE:

I did receive a response from the poster and have confirmed an address in the correct location. Their response stated:

“I regret to inform you that I will not be calling you. I don’t need for you or anyone else to have my number. Not after all the hatred and threats I’ve gotten.”

I replied with some helpful information, including some of what I have here in the blog post. I have yet to receive a response.

UPDATE 2:

I’ve now done a great deal of research and this story has now been posted on dozens of other sites so, here’s the story…

Anti-Gay Craigslister a Hoax

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WE WON (for now)! NARTH Can No Longer Provide Continuing Education in CA

26 Jul


After a quick and successful campaign and a Change.org petition started by this blog, we are very proud to announce that the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) has had their accreditation pulled.

NARTH was on a list of several hundred organizations which could have provided continuing education credits for Licensed Educational Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Licensed Clinical Social Workers to renew their licenses. This essentially meant that NARTH could be responsible for helping to train the people who have to counsel LGBT youth and families.

For those who don’t know, NARTH is a hateful organization which provides conversion or “ex-gay” therapy for their clients. This form of therapy has been not only disproven as being effective, but many who go through it either commit or attempt suicide. As stated in the note above, this form of therapy has been debunked by  the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Counselors Association.

The organization responsible for accreditation of these groups is the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. We put in several calls and sent over 1,100 signatures to demand NARTH be removed from the list. The Sacramento News & Review reports that BBS Spokesman Russ Heimerich said that NARTH was removed from the list as of last week due to “delinquent fees.” In the meantime however, Heimerich said that the Continuing-Education approval process is on the agenda for the next board meeting in September. He also noted “We certainly do believe that there is a lot of room for improvement.”

The following statement was sent to Talk About Equality in response to our Change.org petition:

This is in response to your recent email to the Board of Behavioral Sciences (Board) in which you expressed concerns that the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) appears on the Board’s approved continuing education provider list.

California Code of Regulation, Title 16, Section’s 1887.4 through 1887.14 specifies the requirements to become a Continuing Education Provider. A Continuing Education Provider must ensure its coursework is relevant to a licensee’s practice and is related to direct or indirect patient care. The Board does not have the ability to deny any application that meets these requirements.

Board licensees are permitted to take continuing education coursework from an array of providers such as an accredited or approved school, or an association, health facility, governmental entity, educational institution, individual, or other organization that offers continuing education courses that meet that meet the law’s requirements.  Further, if a Board Continuing Education Provider approval has expired, the provider may not present a course for continuing education credit for licensees of the Board.  Our records reflect that NARTH’s provider approval expired on October 31, 2010. Accordingly, our continuing education provider list has been updated to reflect provider’s with non-expired approvals.

The Board previously identified concerns with the Continuing Education Program.  A discussion about continuing education and possible regulatory changes will be an agenda item for the Board’s September Licensing and Examination Committee meeting.  Additionally, the Board will discuss the concept of a continuing competency model at its October Policy and Advocacy meeting.  Both meetings will in Sacramento, California.  All of the Board’s meetings are public meetings. The agenda and meeting materials will be published on the Board’s website atwww.bbs.ca.gov  ten days prior to the meeting.

Thank you for contacting the Board with your concerns.

Sincerely,

Kim Madsen

Executive Officer

WATCH AND SHARE: The Kids Are Listening

4 May

With the non-stop influx of social media nowadays, it takes something really special to break through and make you take more than a glance at something. And today, this little video popped up on my facebook feed and I knew I had to do more than take a glance:

I followed through to the website listed on the video and I discovered what looks to be a moving and desperately-needed campaign aimed at improving the lives of LGBTQ foster youth. This is quite clearly the most underserved portion of our community and we must do more to include these kids in our conversations around equality.

According to the campaign running The Kids Are Listening website:

The Opening Doors Project works to make life better for LGBTQ youth today. The project is dedicated to training and supporting the legal and social service professionals on the front lines to ensure that LGBTQ foster youth have the support they deserve and the rights they demand.

Through on-the-ground trainings, local task forces and comprehensive research and training material The Opening Doors Project provides the legal community with the advocacy tools they need to successfully represent LGBTQ youth in foster care.

Also on the site, you can sign up to receive more information from the campaign. The pledge you sign is also linked to the It Gets Better Project.

So many organizations and campaigns come and go and I truly hope to see more from the people who put together this stirring video. Please share the video wherever you can and visit their site to find out more.

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.

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.

Lesbian Mom Takes Own Life After Losing Custody Battle

3 Jan

A heartbreaking story today about a lesbian mother who has taken her own life because of a custody dispute over her son.

Debie Hackett and her son, from her facebook profile.

The news comes from the Dallas Voice, which had covered the legal battle this summer. In July, Debie Hackett had sued her former partner and the biological mother of their child, Kim Ferris for proper visitation rights with their son. Debie won in an appeals court and the case was remanded to a lower court, where this past month, Debie lost. To explain further: the appeals’ court ruling did not grant Debie visitation, but did allow for the case to continue and not be dismissed as Ferris had hoped.

On Christmas Eve, distraught by the fact that she could may possibly never see her child again, Debie took her own life. The Dallas Voice asks: “Could interpretation of laws to discount a same-sex relationship be the underlying cause of this needless death?”

A sad story to start of 2011, but will hopefully ignite some fire in us to continue creating the change we so desperately need.

 

 

GLSEN: The Path to Safe Schools

18 Nov

The LGBT bullying epidemic has only recently become a national issue largely due to the string of youth suicides that have spread across the county.  New PSA campaigns have sprung up all over the place and several celebrities and politicians have spoken out about the need to end bullying and discrimination in our school communities. Naming the problem is easy yet little attention is paid to the legislation pending in Congress that will directly affect the lives of bullied youths.

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, GLSEN, held an event on Capitol Hill today to discuss the background of safe schools legislation and to make an impassioned pitch for the passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide protections to students against harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Jared Polis (D-Co) and in the Senate by Al Franken (D-MN).  Both spoke today about the need to create safe spaces in schools:

“No student should have to dread going to school because they fear being bullied. With the spate of recent suicides in Minnesota that were linked to anti-LGBT bullying, it’s clear we need to do more to ensure schools provide a safe environment for all students” Sen. Al Franken

“Every student has the right to an education free from bullying, harassment, and violence, and we are here today to show that Congress is ready to take a stand against bullying in our schools”  Rep. Jared Polis

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Rep. Linda Sanchez sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which is a federal anti-bullying bill which protects students from all backgrounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We shouldn’t have to have this legislation,” said Sen. Casey “We owe it to our children to do whatever we can to ensure their pleas for help do not go unheard.”

Two mothers of dead bullying victims shared their stories and spoke of the devastation school bullying had wrecked on their families.  Tammy Aaberg, who’s 15-year-old son completed suicide, spoke of her attempts to get the school district to listen and address the problem, and shared her frustration and loss when her complaints were ignored.

Sirdeaner Walker, who lost her 11 year old son last year, issued a call to action:

“Too many of our children are being tormented in schools-and not enough of our adults are doing the right thing and teaching respect for all. Enough is enough! Teachers, parents, clergy, and community members must stand together and make change. We all know the problems and we know the solution that can make a difference all that remains is to act.”

Perhaps the most touching moment of the event came from Joey Kemmerling, who spoke of his personal experiences being bullied, his struggle to cope and thoughts of suicide, and how it caused him to do something about it:

“I came out in 8th grade, and I’ve been bullied every day.” said Kemmerling. “The day is going to come for everyone standing up and saying ‘no more’.”

Louis Van Amstel, from Dancing with the Stars, and singer Clay Aiken, spoke to the crowd of their experiences with bullying and how they made it through.

Its clear, both from the personal testimonials heard today and the overwhelming recent anecdotal evidence, that the legislation proposed is absolutely necessary for our children.  GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard addressed the need for their passage:

“Our nation has failed to address the pervasive problem of bullying and harassment in schools for far too long. Countless youth are denied access to an education every day because they do not feel safe in school. Passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act would go a long way toward laying the necessary foundation of support lacking in many American schools”

It is considered highly unlikely that either of these bills can pass in the current lame-duck session, but Byard and the sponsoring lawmakers are confident it can be passed in the next year.

“We have hope that these bills will move.  They currently have bi-partisan support in this Congress.” said Byard, who goes on to add that “Fundamentally this is an issue of behavior, not belief”

Today’s event was a call to action for all who recognize the importance of this issue and has clearly laid out the path to creating safe schools.  We need to keep the pressure on our communities and school leaders to deal with these issues while pressuring Congressional leaders to pass this much-needed legislation.