Tag Archives: LGBT Allies

PHOTOS: Family Equality Council’s Night at the Pier and GLAAD’s NY TGIF

27 Apr

Last night, I had the opportunity to see what the Family Equality Council has been up to at their annual Night on the Pier. Outside of raising over $200,000 to continue their fight to change national and local policy to protect LGBT families, but they also managed to bring together a slew of Broadway celebs and some recently discovered heroes from the movement.

Most of you remember the 19-year old Iowan, Zach Wahls and the incredible speech he made before the Iowa House regarding his life as the son of two lesbian moms. The speech made him an instant youtube sensation and has garnered him a lot more attention than this engineering student ever thought he’d receive. He made his way to a few interviews during the day, including this one with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, and then showed up to the pier.

Also at the event were cast members from Broadway’s Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Rosie O’Donnell, Broadway performers such as Kate Shindle, Audra McDonald, CAA’s Joe Machota, R Family Cruise’s Gregg Kaminsky and Kelli Carpenter and hundreds more. (Full disclosure: Talk About Equality Co-Founder Sean Carlson is the New Media Associate for Family Equality Council – and I was thrilled to share the evening with him!)

Another wonderful new event that is picking up speed in several cities is GLAAD’s TGIF ( Thank GLAAD It’s Friday) parties. I’ve been able to visit one in DC and now one in New York. The networking event has been set up by local chapters of GLAAD and seeks to expand membership and to educate about the important work GLAAD is doing throughout the US.

Please enjoy photos from these two events!

Miss New York Claire Buffie and Hugh Gallagher

Jonathan D. Lovitz from Logo's The Set-up Squad

Thomas Roberts, Claire Buffie and Patrick Abner

Family Equality Council's Jennifer Chrisler and Zach Wahls

Jennifer Chrisler and Kelli Carpenter

Kimberly Galberaith and Broadway's Jodi Capeless

Rosie O'Donnell and Jennifer Chrisler

Jack Mackenroth

Bishop Gene Robinson and Douglas Carter Beane

Tracy Kachtick-Anders and Rosie O'Donnell

Will Swenson and Audra McDonald

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

Priscilla's Nick Adams

Wonderland's Kate Shindle and William Franzblau

Priscilla's Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson and Nick Adams

First They Came: Why We Must Find (and be) Allies

8 Mar

First They Came…
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

– Pastor Martin Niemoller


I first heard this on the Oscars one year, when Whoopi Goldberg recited it. I’ve always remembered it and with each passing year, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate it even more.

As a young closeted gay man growing up in Massachusetts, and living with a mom who had been very politically involved, I always felt the need to get involved. I went door-to-door in high school canvassing for Bill Clinton and Al Gore (as if they needed my help in the only state that didn’t vote for Nixon). And as time went on, I always wanted to get involved in anything progressive – whether it be fighting for my teachers who were getting laid-off or stuffing envelopes for local politicians. It was important to me from an early age that our country move in a direction that focuses on the citizenry.

Then as I became to know who I am, as I not only came out, but as I discovered the community I was truly a part of – these values became more important to me. And as a gay adult working in progressive politics, I’m increasingly concerned about our direction.

Trying to get gay men in New York interested in what’s going on politically is like teaching a pig to play the harmonica – it wastes your time and annoys the pig. And just last week we found out, according to the LGBT Movement Report, it seems that 96.5% of LGBT adults in the U.S. do not donate to LGBT organizations. It’s clear that we have some work to do. If we can’t even get gay people to donate to gay organizations, how do we win our equality? The answer is – through our allies. We need to do more work to engage our allies and make LGBT equality a larger focus of the progressive movement as a whole. How do we do that? My personal opinion is that it is not through more gay bar outreach.

I read a piece this evening by a young gay Egyptian man, explaining why he is a feminist. He writes from the heart and is living in a country where people have been put to death for being gay, but here he writes about his mother and why he is standing up for her:

“I remember the days when I woke up to find my father is practicing violence against my mother for stupid and shallow reasons , I remember her tears , pain and her fight to restore her pride back .  many times she decided to leave the house , I was a child by that time nonetheless I always backed her decisions , I always hoped that she’d really leave the house and has her own separate life . every time she’d come back home one day after the fight for our sakes . I could see it in her eyes , the bitterness after losing the fight for her own dignity”

Reading this young man’s words reminded me of the strength we have when we support one another towards building a world that is truly a better place to live. We need to realize that our struggle is part of a much larger one. What good is having our rights, if we need gas masks to breathe the polluted air? What good are our rights if we are all unemployed and can’t afford the paper our marriage licenses will be printed on? Mind you, I’m not saying our rights should take a back seat or that our priorities should change, but perhaps our rights will come a little quicker if we are able to gather some friends in the fight.

As a movement, it is vital that we build stronger coalitions to achieve our goals. And in order to do that, we must find our allies and support them. We have to realize the strength there is in learning about and helping others who can help us achieve our goals. Those of you who want to get involved, by all means – get involved, but don’t let your commitment to LGBT equality exclude you from supporting our friends and allies we so desperately need. Stay involved – or get involved in LGBT equality causes, but realize that this fight will take more than just us.

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)

FriendFactor: Game Changer

8 Nov

A new social media platform launched this weekend which is going to have a big impact on the landscape of the LGBT movement.  FriendFactor is an online advocacy tool which aims to bring more people into the movement based on a simple concept: support your friends.

The website empowers individuals to create their own campaign page and builds a bridge between LGBT issues and LGBT people and friends.

Through public education and advocacy tools, Friendfactor cultivates new “champions of freedom,” people who, when asked to support their gay* and transgender friends, will do so. Gay* friends matter more than gay* issues for most people, but many friends don’t know what’s at stake or how to help, and most gay* and transgender Americans don’t know how to ask. Friendfactor seeks to fill that gap and shift the gay* rights dialogue away from ideology and toward a more personal and inclusive concept: friends helping friends.

This is exactly the right time for this concept.  Almost everyone under 30 is fluent in the language of social media and this site gives them a way to get in the game using familiar tools.

I’ve created my Advocacy HQ already.  Your turn.