Tag Archives: Lesbian

Hege and Toril: Why We Write

2 Aug

Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen. Photo: Maija Tammi

Yesterday, we posted a story of the heroic Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen, a married lesbian couple who rescued 40 teenagers after the Norway massacre last week. The story has happily drawn quite a bit of attention and I want to take a minute to clarify things following unprecedented traffic and comments on our blog, and to follow up on our first blog post from close to a year ago, Why Write?

Firstly, there was a large debate about how many people were killed. Reports on the internet range from somewhere in the 70’s to somewhere in the 90’s. As some commenters wrote, it doesn’t matter if there was one person killed or 200, the purpose of my post was to bring attention to this married lesbian couple who saved 40 kids from possible death. Facts matter, I agree – but in the new media age, facts are hard to come by – especially when there are so many conflicting reports. I have not called the Norwegian hospitals to find out precise counts, primarily because I do not speak the language and the long distance charges would be unbearable. Does this make this couple’s story any less compelling? No.

Secondly, this is a story I’ve seen around the internet for several days now – our blog cannot claim credit for breaking this news in any way – what we did do was ask the question about why it wasn’t getting covered by the mainstream media. Several people have asked why it’s necessary to report that it was a married lesbian couple that committed this heroic deed. You never hear “A straight firefighter saved a family from a burning building.” I agree. You don’t hear in the press when someone is straight and does something good. You also don’t hear when someone is straight and does something bad. But when someone who is LGBT does something bad, you can BET that their sexual orientation or gender identity is one of the first important facts of the story.

We live in an era when unprecedented numbers of kids are taking their own lives because of the simple fact that they feel alone and trapped. For generation, at least in the US, we have raised children in a world where it is okay to discriminate against LGBT people. We have told kids as they grow up that there is nothing worse than being gay, that if you are gay, you will have no friends, no family and you will probably die of AIDS. When a child who is gay, grows up with society instilling in him the belief that being gay is a fate worse than death, you incinerate their hope.

In California, the legislature recently passed a law that would require the inclusion of LGBT history in their textbooks and curricula. The amount of pushback and hatred this new law has already received is astounding and could very well see it repealed soon – all because people are afraid that by hearing that someone gay did something great, children might make the choice to be gay – which is of course completely contrary to science. The state of Tennessee is close to passing a piece of legislation that has been called the “Don’t say gay” law. Teachers in that state are not allowed to even mention homosexuality exists – because if you don’t say it, maybe it will disappear. This is the United States our kids are growing up in.

This is a story of not only a lesbian couple that did a heroic thing, but a married lesbian couple – something that is still illegal across this country. Even in the handful of places an American can get married in this country, that marriage is not recognized by the Federal government. That leaves heterosexual couples with more than 1,100 rights which lesbian and gay couples don’t have.

Norway is a world leader when it comes to protecting LGBT people. It was the first country to enact anti-discrimination laws. They decriminalized homosexuality a full 20 years before the US (the land of the free and the home of the brave) did. They’ve had nationally-recognized civil partnerships since 1993 and marriage equality became legal in January of 2009. So it may not be a big deal in Norway that this was a married lesbian couple, but it should be a big deal here.

Thirdly – why has this story been ignored by the mainstream media? I don’t know. That’s why I posted the article. Is it because the couple is lesbian? Perhaps. Is it because the news cycle in the US is being taken-up by the imaginary “debt-ceiling” debate? Perhaps. The only thing we know for sure is that this is a story that needs to be told.

And finally, please accept our personal thanks for sharing this story on behalf of kids growing up thinking they won’t amount to anything. Thank you for sharing this story and letting young people know that no matter who they are and no matter who they love, they too can be heroes.

If a Married Lesbian Couple Saves 40 Teens from the Norway Massacre and No One Writes About it, Did it Really Happen?

1 Aug

Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen. Photo: Maija Tammi

By this point, most of you have heard about the tragedy in Norway a few weeks ago when a Christian Fundamentalist* murdered 77** people and injured another 96. The story has been well-covered by International media and the mainstream press here in the US.

What you probably have not heard about is the married lesbian couple who rescued 40 teenagers during and after the bloody event. Several blogs and gay and lesbian publications are now picking up the story, but the heavy hitters who usually kill for hero stories like this, have remained silent.

The Finnish capital city’s largest daily newspaper, Helsingin Sanomatpublished this account (translated from Finnish):

Hege Dalen and her spouse, Toril Hansen were near Utöyan having dinner on the opposite shore across from the ill-fated campsite, when they began to hear gunfire and screaming on the island.

“We were eating. Then shooting and then the awful screaming. We saw how the young people ran in panic into the lake,” says Dale to HS in an interview.

The couple immediately took action and pushed the boat into Lake Tyrifjorden.

Dalen and Hansen drove the boat to the island, picked up from the water victims in shock in, the young and wounded, and transported them to the opposite shore to the mainland. Between runs they saw that the bullets had hit the right side of the boat.

Since there were so many and not all fit at once aboard, they returned to the island four times.

They were able to rescue 40 young people from the clutches of the killer.

“We did not sleep last night at all. Today, we have been together and talked about the events,” Dalen said.

Please share this story and make sure people know the heroism of Hege and Toril.

Check out our follow-up to this post here: Hege & Toril: Why We Write, which addresses many of your comments and questions about this article.

*The term “Christian Fundamentalist” has been disputed greatly in both the press and the comments section below this post. According to Norwegian police investigating the massacre, Anders Behrin Breivik was a “Christian Fundamentalist” as described by the New York Times and several Norwegian sources. There is a great post from CNN, which discusses at length, the use of the term being used for Breivik.

**Thank you to readers who have provided credible sources as to the actual number of deaths from this tragedy. We originally reported that 92 had been killed, but according to Norwegian sources, the total number is at 77, with many still in the hospital.

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Why Michele and Marcus Bachmann are so dangerous to the LGBT Community.

7 Jul

Marcus & Michelle Bachmann (Image via AP)

Michele Bachmann is a Minnesota Congresswoman and the sweetheart of the Tea Party. She has ignorantly riled up thousands of people with barrels of lies and propaganda against Obama and the Democratic party. Her actions have been at best irresponsible and at worst, criminal. All the while, she has smiled and made some of the most hysterical comments ever made in a political arena. Some of my favorites include:

“I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”

“I’m a foreign correspondent on enemy lines, and I try to let everyone back here in Minnesota know exactly the nefarious activities that are taking place in Washington.”

“But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” .

“Pelosi is committed to her global warming fanatacism to the point where she has even said she is trying to save the planet. We all know someone did that 2,000 years ago.”

Reverend Bradlee Dean

But in all seriousness, Michele Bachmann scares me the most out of all these GOP candidates. Her own anti-gay views have been well-documented and her allies in the fight against us are some of the most violently homophobic people we have seen in this decade. Between her pal, Bradlee Dean (who has defended the execution of gay people, and has said about gay people – “On average they molest 117 people before they’re found out.”). Bachmann has repeatedly said that (abolishing) gay marriage is her “number one issue.” A few other homophobic quotes from the Congresswoman include:

“This is a very serious matter, because it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children.”

“It’s part of Satan I think to say that this is “gay.” It’s anything but “gay.”

“If you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.”

“Don’t misunderstand. I am not here bashing people who are homosexuals, who are lesbians, who are bisexual, who are transgender. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.”

These are just a few of the ignorant and hateful comments Mrs. Bachmann has made about LGBT people. But this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the damage her and her husband are doing. Michele’s husband is “Dr.” Marcus Bachmann. Bachmann is no more a doctor than I am a Wimbledon contender. But unlike my false claims to be a tennis superstar, Bachmann’s claims to be a medical professional can kill people. Bachmann practices without a license.

According to his practice’s website, Bachmann dismisses any formal training because “Christ is the Almighty Counselor.” One might ask why Bachmann is getting Medicaid funds if some dead guy is doing all the work, and how Mrs. Bachmann can rail against Medicaid funds when those funds are clearly helping her keep her hair so coiffed, but I digress. On to the crux of the discussion – Bachmann’s clinic is receiving federal funds so that he can “cure homosexuality.”

Bachmann, who’s own sexuality has frequently come into question, practices “reparative therapy” on gay people. He has referred to gay people as “barbarians” that need to be “educated” and “disciplined.” This kind of therapy has been proven to be harmful and even lethal to people who enter into it. While I cannot seem to find any reports or  any of Bachmann’s patients who have come forward to discuss his harmful practices, the harm done by this type of “therapy,” has a long, bloody track record.

Through Mrs. Bachmann’s campaigning, this idea that gay people can somehow be “cured” will be given validation to those who deify her and hang on her every word. This will send more parents home to their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children to send them in to “reparative therapy,” where those children will learn to hate who they are – sometimes to the point of suicide.

***One more thing…the LGBT community has been calling out others quite a bit in the past two years for anti-LGBT bullying. The assumption that a child might be gay because of the way he or she acts or speaks or even walks, has caused some horrific retribution from classmates, teachers and even parents generation after generation. “Dr.” Marcus Bachmann’s sexuality is known only to him and whoever else he wants to know. Some are concerned that our assumptions about him based on the way he acts, speaks and walks might be hypocritical and might be a bad message to send young people – that he should be called “gay” simply because of his mannerisms.

It’s a tough discussion, because no, we absolutely should not make assumptions based on outdated stereotypes. But at the same time, Bachmann himself has inadvertently alluded to the fact he might be gay on more than one occasion by using the “we” pronoun instead of “they,” and with hints like that, coupled with the fact that he is a public figure potentially responsible for the suicide of LGBT people, his actions and possible hypocrisy must be spoken about openly.

NY Marriage Equality: How Did We Get There? A Photo Retrospective

26 Jun

I moved from New York to Washington DC three weeks ago to be with my boyfriend. It’s hard not to still consider New York City home after nearly 13 years living there, but after last night – my struggle to move on became even more difficult. For the past several years, I’ve proudly fought alongside some incredible activists, lobbyists, politicians and allies in the struggle for equality. And last night in New York, we finally won.

I thought of writing a diatribe about how much we have to learn from this victory – how for one of the first times in our movement’s history, we worked together to accomplish something. I could be heavy-handed and speak endlessly at the incredible work done by this partnership of several organizations all working towards the same thing. I could even go so far as to reflect on the fact that even though we have this beautiful victory at long last, that there are still 1,138 rights not afforded to legally married gay and lesbian couples and that we MUST focus on equality on the federal level. But instead, I decided to post some photos.

For the past 3+ years, I’ve discovered a love for photography and in my own way, I’ve been documenting some of the movement from my perspective as a New Yorker. So please enjoy these photos which reflect some of my favorite moments and people involved in the recent part of our struggle for equality. Please note: there are photos here from swanky cocktail parties, from pride marches, from rallies, protests, political speeches, phone banks and even a living room or two. New York Marriage Equality happened because of ALL of it, not some.

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All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

Gay Grandma Tells Her Story

31 Mar

Sandy Boucher

From Salon.com tonight comes the story of a Gay Grandma.

Sandy Boucher, who lives in Oakland with her partner Marth Boesing, has written a poignant and important essay about the unexpected joys of being a grandmother. While her partner is the children’s “blood” grandma, Sandy couldn’t be more a part of these kid’s lives.

Previously in a heterosexual marriage, she never imagined or desired children. She and her husband were quite happy to live their lives without progeny. But after meeting her partner, she slowly but surely became used to the idea of having young ones in her life.

While you should read her story for yourself, as she tells it far better than I could, take a moment to recognize that those children are growing up in a world where they think of gay and lesbian people as no different from straight people:

“And finally, the 4-year-old boy who several years ago stood at my elbow, fixed me with a grave look, and announced, “You are a person, right?” Yes, I answered. And he said, touching his narrow chest, “And I am a person.” Yes, I agreed. He seemed relieved.”

And that’s what it boils down to, right?

A Tale Of Two Conventions

10 Feb

I’ve just come from an incredible week at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference.  This was my first time there and I had heard mixed things about the gathering.  Not knowing what to expect I have to admit to approaching the conference with less than an open mind.  In the weeks leading up more than a few people told me what I would experience and I gave in to my sometimes cynical nature. I wasn’t expecting much.

To my delight, my negative assumptions, and the impressions of my friends, were turned on their head. Where I was expecting staid academia I discovered fresh ideas. Where I looked for the older generation to dominate the conversation I found a vibrant, youth-driven atmosphere. I braced myself for back slapping cronyism and I found a largely supportive and encouraging community.  I came in cynical and left energized and inspired.

I quickly realized how much the conference is geared toward encouraging and supporting new leaders. While it was great to see so many young people fired up about learning and growing it was even better to see them supported and provided a safe space to do this. The upbeat attitude and infusion of fresh faces gave the conference an edge I wasn’t expecting. Surrounded by my upbeat community and learning so much I let my guard down a bit. Which is probably why I tripped over and nearly spilled my friday morning coffee on a gaggle of Christian Youth in the Skyway.

Turns out there was another conference in town.  The Acquire the Fire Tour was just across the Skyway at the Convention Center. More than doubling our convention in size, the evangelical youth in attendance were hearing a different message, one of brokenness, shame, and permanent scars.

Apparently the Acquire The Fire leaders told their youth, who were on average much younger than the attendees at Creating Change, to practice spreading their particular brand of the teachings of Christ across the skyway at Creating Change. To them this apparently meant chanting homophobic epithets at queer passers-by and to harass and intimidate people as they passed. I personally witnessed a young woman upbraiding a local busking violinist just outside my hotel.  The differences in the two events could not have been more clear. One fueled by shame and judgement.  The other a sincere attempt to make the world a safer and more inclusive place for everyone.

Not content to surrender the safe space that we had created at the Hilton, a coalition of inclusive faith communities participating at CC11 put together an escort service for creating changers who had to walk alone.  Thanks to the responsible leadership of members of our own community the potential disaster of juxtaposition was avoided and, minus a few minor incidents, we were able to coexist.

The awful reality we still face is that outside of a few inspiring weekends here and there we still have a long way to go.  It’s a sobering reality that I have been facing all week. We are often outnumbered as we were this weekend. Creating the change we need is admittedly a lot harder than attending a conference, no matter how inspiring and encouraging it may be.  The young people attending Creating Change had to look no further than across the skyway to see the challenges they will be facing.

After Creating Change I have no doubt that they have the knowledge and talent to go out and face them.