Tag Archives: It Gets Better

Miami-Dade Schools Increase Protections for LGBT Students, Staff

21 Jul

Save Dade's CJ Ortuno (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

According to a press release from Talk About Equality friend, CJ Ortuno at SaveDade.org, Miami-Dade Schools have just announced increased protections for LGBT students. Three years after having passed the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act,  which prohibits the bullying or harassment, including cyber bullying, of any public K-12 student or employee, Miami-Dade County Administration amended their policy to be explicitly inclusive of students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). The policy will now include “sexual orientation and gender identity” providing clearer protections for LGBT students.

“For the past year we’ve focused on strengthening Miami-Dade’s anti-bullying policy as a way to create a climate where bullying a student because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity is no longer tolerated,” said C.J. Ortuno, executive director of SAVE Dade. SAVE Dade worked with their partner the ACLU of Florida in developing the policy’s new language.

According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey 7,261 middle and high school students found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (84.6%) experienced harassment at school in the previous year. Miami-Dade County provides significant support through public school programs and nonprofit organizations for LGBT students.

“SAVE Dade’s contribution is to strengthen policies in hope that it provides some clarity for adults and students on the frontlines of bulling – if a teacher knows and understands that gay students are explicitly protected from bullying, it could result in a report that saves a young person’s life,” said Ortuno.

The new policy updates will go into effect Friday, July 22, 2011. An English version will be posted on the school board’s website at that time, with Spanish and Creole versions to follow.

The new policy language will read:

“Bullying, Harassment, Cyberbullying, and Discrimination (as referred to and defined herein) encompasses, but is not limited to, unwanted harm towards a student or employee based on or with regard to actual or perceived: sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability (physical, mental, or educational), marital status, socio-economic background, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, linguistic preference, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or social/family background. This policy prohibits bullying or harassment of any student by any Board member, District employee, consultant, contractor, agent, visitor, volunteer, student, or other person in the school or outside of the school at school-sponsored events, on school buses, and at training facilities or training programs sponsored by the District.”

 

Priscilla Pledges that “It Gets Better” in New PSA

21 Feb

After our chat last week about Broadway’s upcoming musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and their lack of any boys in dresses in their ad campaign, we’re happy to share the cast’s It Gets Better message.

Priscilla cast members Will Swenson, Nick Adams and Tony Sheldon for It Gets Better

According to the New York Times, The marketing team for “Priscilla” proposed the idea of the public service announcement to CBS and the It Gets Better Project, which writer Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller began last year amid a spate of suicides by gay students who had faced bullying or harassment at school.

While actors and crew members in many Broadway shows have appeared in videos for the project, the “Priscilla” segment is the first public service announcement for It Gets Better, Mr. Savage said in a statement.

“We’ve been honored and humbled by the theater community’s commitment to standing up for tolerance and lending their voices to this vital cause,” he said. “The show ‘Priscilla’ could not be a better fit, thematically, with the message of the It Gets Better Project.”

The video leads you to the Priscilla website where you can sign up with It Gets Better and take the It Gets Better Pledge:

Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that “It Gets Better.”

Last week we posted about some concerns over the current marketing campaign which has failed to prominently feature any of the men in drag that the show is about. Instead, the campaign has put up billboards, sent out mailers and put out commercials, primarily focusing on “the Muses,” a kind of Greek Chorus/Narrator for the show – which is made up of three beautiful young women. There has been chatter about the possibility that the producers may be a little shy about featuring the men in the ad campaign roll-out.

TAE was happily assured that PQD would be doing additional work and partnering with the It Gets Better Project, The Trevor Project and GLSEN on other events as well. It’s excellent to see people not only telling kids that it gets better, but taking positive actions to make it better as well.

Oak For Court!

16 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were You Born This Way?

6 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nice bevel.

I believe I was singing "In the Navy."

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

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

Is that a big beaded necklace? And a dress?

Cartoons, Costumes and Equality

30 Jan

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

Barry from Pokemon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bag from Neko-Jin Designs

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

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

Gay Providence Teen Sues to Bring Boyfriend to Prom

24 Jan

On this day in 1962, seven whole years before the Stonewall Uprising, in Providence, RI, Aaron Fricke was born.

Aaron & Paul attend prom

You may not know his name, but at the age of 17, Aaron asked his boyfriend Paul Guilbert to go to prom with him. Paul said yes and what happened next would go down in history as the first time someone sued to take someone of the same sex to their prom.

As would be expected, his high school refused to let Aaron bring Paul to prom. So Aaron filed suit in US District Court. For his actions, Aaron was bullied and beaten. He needed five stitches in his face and the kid who did it was suspended from school for nine days.

The presiding judge, Raymond J. Pettine ruled in Aaron’s favor, ordering the school to not only allow him and his partner to attend as a couple but also to provide enough security to ensure their safety.

That magical night is described in a 1983 essay by Aaron:

The crowd receded.  As I laid my head on Paul’s shoulder, I saw a few students start to stare at us.  I closed my eyes and listened to the music [Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got the Night”], my thoughts wandering over the events of the evening.  When the song ended, I opened my eyes.  A large crowd of students had formed a ring around us.  Probably most of them had never seen two happy men embracing in a slow dance.  For a moment I was uncomfortable.

Then I heard the sound that I knew so well as a B-52s fan.  One of my favorite songs was coming up: “Rock Lobster.”

Paul and I began dancing free-style.  Everyone else was still staring at us, but by the end of the first stanza, several couples had also begun dancing.  The song had a contagious enthusiasm to it, and with each bar, more dancers came onto the floor.

I doubt that any two people were dancing with the same movements: the dancing was an expression of our individuality, and no one felt bad about being different.  Everyone was free to be themselves.

I could see that everyone felt a sense of disorientation.  For six minutes and forty-nine seconds, the students on the dance floor had forgotten about their defenses, forgotten about their shells.  We just had fun.

This case set a precedent for other similar cases around the country and opened doors for other LGBT teens to enjoy their proms the way they should. It of course doesn’t mean that that every high school prom is free and clear of problems like Aaron & Paul had, but we’re grateful that the door was kicked open that fateful day in Providence, RI. The difficult thing to see is that the headline of this article could easily still be printed today, 31 years later.

Aaron went on to write a beautiful coming out novel, Reflections of a Rock Lobster: a Story About Growing Up Gay, and another book with his father Walter, Sudden Strangers: the Story of a Gay Son and his Father.

Happy Birthday Aaron!

City Funds Restored to LGBT Homeless Youth Center

6 Jan

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

With many thanks to the dozens of organizations in NYC and around the country who have helped, in addition to Lew Fidler, Speaker Christine Quinn and the New York City Council, it has been announced that the $35 million in cuts made by Mayor Bloomberg and his administration have been restored.

These cuts included major cuts amounting to a majority of the operating budget for homeless youth organizations such as the Ali Forney Center, which caters specifically to LGBT homeless youth.In recent weeks, there has been an outpouring of very vocal support for the Ali Forney Center, including videos from Alan Cumming and Friends as well as the Talk About Equality-sponsored A Very Mary Holiday, presented by Broadway Speaks OUT!

Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

This news comes just a few days after Mayor Bloomberg released what many saw as a hypocritical video message to LGBT teens telling them that “it gets better.”

These cuts would absolutely not have been restored were it not for the hundreds who have stood up and told their story. So, congratulations to all of you who have stood up and spoken up about who you are. This is a victory for all of us.

Please read the following statement from The Ali Forney Center:

“This morning City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Finance Committee Chair Domenic M. Recchia Jr. announced that the Council and Administration have reached a budgetary agreement on the Fiscal Year 2011 financial plan, that fully restores the spending reductions to homeless youth programs proposed by Mayor Bloomberg in the November financial plan.

This is wonderful news for the homeless youth of our City, particularly for homeless LGBT youth who would be disproportionately hurt by the proposed cuts.

I am profoundly grateful to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the Council Assistant Majority Leader and Youth Services Committee Chair Lewis Fidler for their strong and dedicated leadership in seeking to have these cuts restored. Thousands of homeless youth have been protected by their compassionate leadership.

I am also deeply grateful to many members of the broader LGBT community who stood up and demanded that our most vulnerable youth be protected from these cuts. Many, many people called, wrote, and e-
mailed the Mayor’s office and expressed their concern and outrage. I do not think that the Mayor, in proposing the cuts, anticipated the depth of the commitment of the LGBT Community to protecting our youth who have been thrown out to the streets, and I am deeply moved by the caring that our Community revealed in fighting the cuts. I want to especially thank David Mixner, Mike Lavers and Joe Jervis for their
efforts in bringing the harmfulness of the cuts to the attention of the LGBT Community.

Finally, I want to thank the homeless youth of NYC for their courage and caring for one another in standing up against the cuts. Two weeks ago dozens of youth joined advocates and providers and Council members on the steps of City Hall speaking out against the cuts. It is not easy for young people to put  a public spotlight on the suffering and hardship they endure, and I am more proud than I can say that they
were willing to do so to protect each other. I particularly want to thank Ali Forney residents Jaden Peterkin and Raciel Castillo for their efforts. They each spoke out at every hearing and on the City
Hall steps, and each wrote op-ed pieces, courageously offering their own experience of homelessness and family rejection to help others understand the hardships endured by homeless LGBT youth.

Today is a great day for the homeless LGBT youth of our City, and for the LGBT community. The cuts to street outreach and drop-in centers would have been catastrophic. But the fight is not truly over until
there are safe beds for the 3,800 youth who are without shelter every night in our city.”

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.

Bigoted Radio Host Attacks Joel Burns’ Message to Gay Teens

12 Nov

Joel Burns, attacked for message to bullied teens

As we discussed here a few weeks ago, Fort Worth City Council Member Joel Burns has been called a hero for making a brave and impassioned speech at a meeting last month.

Joel has since appeared on talk shows and news programs around the country, introducing his husband to the world and telling his story. He’s inspired thousands by sharing what happened to him and encouraging young people with his own personal “It Gets Better” message.

Today, the Dallas Voice shares with us the backlash that Joel is receiving in

Chris Krok made bigoted attacks against Joel Burns

the form of a hateful, bigoted radio host on KLIF. Chris Krok expounds about how Joel should not have told his story because it was about “me, me, me.” Using a fake lisp, Krok mocks Joel saying “Look at me! I Thuffered!” He goes on to argue that Joel doesn’t have a husband because it’s not legal in Texas. “You’re a man. You do not have a husband” he says.

Krok personifies the intolerance and ignorance that LGBT kids face on a daily basis. Please call and email KLIF and tell them that Chris Krok’s attack on LGBT people was harmful and ignorant and that Krok must answer for his public bigotry. We will be investigating this further and finding out the advertisers associated with this show and asking people to make calls to the show’s supporters as well. If anyone here listens to KLIF from 4-7pm and recognizes the numbers or names of any of the show’s advertisers, please reply here.

214-526-2400 Is the Main Office number of KLIF

or email the Operations Director, Jeff Catlin at  jeff.catlin@cumulus.com

Catlin said in an email to TAE reader, Bob Witeck:

It is corporate policy that we do not share internal disciplinary matters with the general public. I wouldn’t expect your boss to share with me when you get in trouble at work.

I would say I would challenge you or any other complainants to find another incident of Chris Krok addressing this topic or issue after the original airing. It didn’t happen.

Catlin fails to explain whether Krok was dealt with in any way, just notes that he only made the diatribe once and not a second time. He also fails to mention if he or the station believed what their on-air representative said about Joel and the LGBT community.

WARNING: This audio is rather upsetting.

Thanks TAE Reader Jason Kane for the heads-up!

Oral Roberts’ Gay Grandson: “It Gets Better.”

25 Oct

In a beautiful and poignant video, Randy Roberts Potts, the grandson of vehemently anti-gay father of televangelism, Oral Roberts, tells us “It Gets Better.”

The televangelist also had a gay son, Potts’ uncle, who was gay and took his own life at the age of 30. Potts, a writer and teacher, married at 20 and had 3 children. At 30, he came out and divorced his wife.

His “It Gets Better” video comes in the way of a letter he’d written to his deceased gay uncle.