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Why Pride? An Explanation for Straight People

 

June 2017

 

"Remember, straight people flaunt their straightness all day, every day, in every part of this country."

-Brandan Robertson

 

"When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free."
-President Barack Obama

June is national pride month, a month set aside to remember, celebrate, and empower queer people and our contributions to the flourishing of humanity. All across the country, LGBT+ people and our allies will be gathering for festivals, parades, parties, demonstrations, and marches that boldly proclaim that we are not ashamed of our queerness and that we will not be silent until we have achieved full freedom and equality in our society and every society around the world.

Yet during this month, there will also l be a lot of pushback from the heterosexual communities and individuals who just don’t understand what this whole pride thing is about. I cant tell you the number of times I have been cornered by straight people who look me in the eyes and say, “I’m okay with you all being gay, but why do you have to flaunt it in the streets? You don’t see straight people doing that!”

To which I respond “Bullshit”.

I mean that in the kindest, most sincere way possible. But straight and cisgender people are the most visible people on planet earth, not just because of their sheer numbers, but because their relationships, sexuality, and gender expressions are seen as the “normative” expressions, and therefore, uplifted and repeated in every community around the country. Straight, cisgender people hold hands as they walk down the street without fear of getting accosted. They watch television shows and movies, listen to music, and read books that center on their relationships and gender expression. The majority of advertisements on billboards, websites, and television center on heterosexual and cisgender people. And our government is set up to privilege and favor heterosexual relationships above all others.

In short, straight people flaunt their straightness all day, every day, in every part of this country. And despite the far-right narrative that the “gays” are taking over our country, for a majority of LGBT+ people in America, it is still incredibly uncomfortable at best, dangerous at worst to express ourselves in our communities. In a majority of states across our country, our rights and dignity are not fully protected by the law, and, in fact, there are fierce movements that seek to oppress and marginalize us and our relationships.

So, while we have seen tremendous progress in the fight for LGBT+ equality, inclusion, and rights in the United States, the reality is that we are incredibly far from being fully equal in every realm of society. And that is why pride is so important.

For many LGBT+ people, pride is the one time of the year that they can be out and proud of who they are and who they love. It’s the one time of year that they can stand boldly in the streets with droves of other queer individuals, proclaiming that we are fully human and deserve to be celebrated and uplifted just like everyone else. Even in cities that are seen as LGBT+ friendly, it is still an incredibly healing experience to get to march in parades or attend festivals where thousands upon thousands of LGBT+ people are letting their lights shine before all people without fear. Pride is often the beginning of the process of healing from the trauma inflicted on us by our heterosexist, patriarchal society. Pride is a time where we step out of the shadows and declare that we will no longer forced to suppress our truest selves because of heterosexual fragility and fear.

Now, of course, in the midst of all of the deeper causes and meanings behind pride, it is also, most importantly, a time of celebration. It’s a time to party, to relax, and to let loose in public, which is something that heterosexual and cisgender people get to do every single day of the year, but something that LGBT+ people simply don’t get to do. So yes, people of all shapes, sizes, religions, ethnicities, races, and cultures will be marching through the streets shirtless, and perhaps even pantless (hello speedos!) but this has a lot less to do with LGBT+ being hyper-sexual or promiscuous- instead, it’s a radical display of liberation and safety, a time to let our bodies and lives be seen as the beautiful displays of creativity and majesty that they are- something, again, that straight people get to see and do every single day.

Pride marches and festivals were started as subversive displays of light in the midst of the darkness of heternormitivty and hatred, and today, for many, if not most LGBT+ people, they still retain this important meaning and power. Though they may look like giant parties in the street, take a second and think about what it feels like to march through a city, freely expressing who you are, whom you love, and what you desire for the first time without fearing that you’ll be accosted, abused, or mocked. Think about all of the children and teenagers who know they are LGBT+ but cannot even begin to fathom taking a step out of the closet for fear of abuse from their families, churches, or peers, who look out at those celebrating pride and see a glimpse of hope that things can get better, and that they can be free, safe, and celebrated for who they are. That is the power of pride, and that’s why pride month is so damn important.

So, if you’re a straight person and you’re finding yourself perplexed by the pride celebrations taking place in your city this year, stop and remember that you get to live out and proud every single day without fear, without oppression, and without even thinking about it. That is a unique gift that majority of LGBT+ people have never gotten to experience. Think about all of the hurdles to equality that still exist in our nation, and the trauma that so many LGBT+ people have faced simply because of who they are or who they love. And as you reflect on the reality of LGBT+ people, I hope you begin to realize the importance and power of pride, and perhaps will even decide to pick up a rainbow flag and stand on the sidelines cheering on your local LGBT+ community as they fearlessly express their beauty in your community.

 

(From Brandan Robertson, Huffington Post, 2017)

 

LINK:

 

Why Pride: Explanation for Straight People
 


Current Commentary

 

November 2016

 

Recalling the First Time I Was Called a Faggot

Political Correctness vs Basic Human Decency

92 Year Old Mom of 2 Lesbian Daughters Participates in NYC Pride Parade for 30 Years

What Has and Has Not Changed

Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus: We Shall Overcome

 


Thoughtful Commentary

 

June 2016

 

Homophobes & Transphobes are Destroying America

Trans People Are Not a Threat to You

I Refuse to be Scared Back Into the Closet

Advocate Mag: The Acronym Struggle is Real

If You Think Trans Bathroom Access Doesn't Matter...

The LGBT Movement is in Chaos

What it Means to Be Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming

This is What Homophobia Feels Like

Love Letter to Gay Community From a Total Outsider

We're Living LGBT History: Will We Remember It?

 


The Acronym Struggle is Real

 

By Kurt Niece / Advocate Magazine / May 2016

 

It used to be so simple. Before there was LGBTQ, there was gay and straight: gay man, gay woman, and straight man and straight woman. Some women preferred lesbian and protested the gay badge, but gay worked for most.

Gay was kind of a casserole made from anyone who wasn't straight, a covered dish of most anything not white bread, mayonnaise, and 2.5 children. It was the late '60s and plain 'ol gay covered a lot of turf. Sure, it was scattershot, but it made sense in a black-and-white world. Gays were proud to be gay and not merely homosexual.

Homosexuality sounded like a whispered, unpleasant and shame-addled disorder, and well, actually, it was. But when it became clear that no amount of high-voltage electroshock conversion therapy was going the zap the homo out of the homosexual, the psychiatric community threw in the towel.

The 1637 Oxford English Dictionary defined "gay" as being addicted to physical and social pleasures. During the 1800s it was a term for female prostitutes, and "gay it" was slang for copulation. In 1935 a "geycat" was a homosexual boy, and the mid-1960s saw the final shame-free incarnation of the word. Gay has an enormous, parade-float heritage. Personally, I rather like the 1637 Oxford dictionary perspective. That must have truly annoyed the Puritans.

But it was suggested and then argued that not all bisexuals were closeted gay people. There was a big swath of sexually ambidextrous folk who swung both ways and actually enjoyed it. They deserved their own "B" independent of the "G." From the primordial linguistic soup of straight or gay, "Bi" sprang forth as an autonomous being: Homo Erectus Bi. The alphabet settled down, briefly, until another revelation emerged.

It's "T" time...   Much to the surprise of many, transsexuals and transgender people aren't always homosexual. This confused a lot of people, but our people rallied and brought the "T" to the GLB. We were evolving and it was good. The march of the antonyms came to a halt and GLBT shone forth, briefly.

Sexual politics also evolved. In the span of a century, women's liberation progressed from simple decency, like allowing all people to vote and have a voice, to the embarrassingly late realization that perhaps after all, the sexes truly are equal. Most rational people understand that simple premise, with the caveat that many people simply aren't rational. Witness the endless debate of women's reproductive liberty or driving in Saudi Arabia. To the point, most rational folks won't argue equality. But in this enlightened atmosphere and for some inexplicable reason and out of the blue, suddenly it's ladies first. GLBT morphed to LGBT. That shift threw a lot of people, not to mention organizations like GLAAD and GLSEN, but we as a tribe are, if nothing else, usually flexible. "Usually" is the operative term, though, because now it gets dicey.

Cue the "Q".....    I struggle with this one. I mean, I get the theory and I understand the intent. Adopting and embracing an insult to defuse its power seems like a good idea. It looks good on paper. However, there is the reality of harsh, road-worn denigrations. Note for example, the n word. People don't take kindly to that word and for good reason. It's a bad word, period.

I feel the same way about queer. I just can't see myself getting all warm and fuzzy if a good 'ol boy shouts, "Hey, queer!" from his pickup truck as I tool down a country road in my Mazda convertible. No matter how "defused" the word may be in L.A., it isn’t so defused in Louisiana. If someone calls you queer in the South, they're probably not being hip, ironic, or politically correct.

So in that great linguistic circle of life, what would happen if we resurrected gay? Maybe gay can be what the word queer is for — an all-encompassing, United Nations-of-a-term for the nonstraight. We've been around forever, but only recently accepted by Judeo-Christian Western civilization. Well, mostly accepted, but the point is don't you think it's time to settle down and figure out what to call ourselves? Change is good and all, but traditions are cool too. I wish we'd establish our own already. Stop messing with the acronyms, so generations to come won't be scratching their heads and asking, "Is GLBT the same as LGBTQ? I’m confused!”
 

(From: Advocate Magazine)

 

LINK:

 

Advocate Mag: The Acronym Struggle is Real

 


Thoughtful Observations

 

December 2015

 

Proud to Love

The Frozen Conflict of LGBT Rights

Coming out as a Christian

The People for Whom Human Rights Have No Meaning

Deciding Who We Are

The LGBTQ Movement is Not Just About Sexuality

Dear Newlywed LGBT Couples: What You Should Know About Life After the Wedding

 


Coming out as a Christian
 

By Ethan Falleur / December 2015

 

You'd be surprised how many conversations I start by wearing a cross and a Pride bracelet.  Sometimes, it starts, "How dare you?"  Sometimes, "That's awesome! I'm queer and Christian, too!"

In the three years since I came out publicly as a gay man, I've gotten rather used to casually working my sexuality into conversations with people in the first few times I meet them. I've also become good at noticing that subtle tightening of the skin at the corners of the eyes which sometimes betrays a homophobic bias, whether conscious or not. In short, I've become used to "coming out" over and over again, and I've mostly stopped worrying about the reactions, letting them come as they will.

What's harder, though, is coming out as Christian. I'm not at all ashamed of either piece of my identity, but people's perceptions of Christians at my über-secular, Ivy League college are somewhat more fraught than their perceptions of anyone who falls under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.

Thanks to the proliferation of good information about sexuality and gender identity and the increased visibility of queer issues and people in the U.S. at most every level, fewer and fewer people believe the myth that sexuality and gender identity are things one chooses. Religion, on the other hand, is not an immutable characteristic.

I could have chosen at any point, like many of my contemporaries, friends and acquaintances, to abandon the Christianity I was raised in (more, that is, than swimming the Thames from the Roman Catholic Church to Episcopalianism). I could have converted to another religion, or even fled religion altogether.

I made a conscious choice not to. I could not, however, abandon my sexuality, even if I had tried.

In a country where Christianity is more readily associated, at least in popular opinion, with the Kim Davises and Mike Huckabees than with the Gene Robinsons and Nadia Bolz-Webers, this sort of "coming out" can be confusing for all involved. My Christianity is not a symptom of internalized homophobia. My faith and sexuality can exist in the same mind and body without one rejecting the other. It's something of a cop out to say, "I'm a Christian, but I'm not that kind of Christian." At the same time, it is both inconsiderate and difficult for someone outside of my religious circle to understand what I mean if I call myself a non-theistic Episcopalian Anglo-Catholic.

For now, I'll just keep casually mentioning my sexuality and my faith, allowing those interested parties to inquire further about either or both. I'll try to disseminate good information about what it means to be queer and Christian or a progressive Christian, and keep wearing my cross and Pride gear. All the while, I'll be doing my utmost to maintain the promises my parents made at my Baptism, and which I've made all over again at my Confirmation and when I recite the Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church: "to seek and serve Christ in all persons," and "to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being."

(From: Huffington Post article, Ethan Falleur, Dartmouth Class of 2016, Religion scholar: sacramental theology and LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Priest-in-training)

 


Hardest States to be LGBT
 

June 2015

 

In many ways, this is a great time to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in America. Nearly 60 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court may soon legalize such unions. Images of LGBT people across American society are more diverse: Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympian, is one vivid example. Yet, despite such progress, LGBT people face significant challenges. That’s the takeaway from a new report, Mapping LGBT Equality in America, by the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank that studies LGBT issues. The report notes that 52 percent of LGBT Americans risk being fired or denied access to doctors’ offices and restaurants simply because of their sexual orientation. The report also notes that nearly 90 percent of LGBT people live in states where their children aren’t legally protected from discrimination for having a LGBT parent. Nearly 60 percent of LGBT people live in states where LGBT children aren’t protected from discrimination at school. And 72 percent of LGBT people live in states where it’s difficult for transgender people to get the correct gender marker on a government-issued identification card. “Our data shows that no matter what happens with the Supreme Court in June, we still have a long way to go to achieve full equality for LGBT people across the country,” Heron Greenesmith, one of the report’s authors, told TakePart.  Greenesmith and her colleague, Alex Sheldon, analyzed each state’s LGBT policies. Each state was given a point, based on whether the researchers considered the policies favorable or unfavorable for LGBT people. Points were assigned under six policy categories—for example, whether a state recognizes a same-sex relationship and marriage, or how well a state’s policies protect LGBT students, or the ability of transgender people to correct identification documents. Finally, the researchers ranked the states.  Here are the four states where it’s most difficult to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person:

1. Louisiana
Louisiana is the most difficult state for LGBT people. The state restricts same-sex couples from jointly adopting and bars educators from talking about LGBT topics during sexual education class. In recent days, Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, a Republican, signed an executive order that essentially allows certain institutions—particularly religious institutions—to discriminate against LGBT people.

2. Tennessee
Tennessee is one of the few states to have banned cities and counties from passing laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination. Some of the state's schools have denied admission to children of LGBT parents.

3. Michigan
Michigan limits the ability of same-sex couples to petition for joint adoption. Recently, Michigan legislator Earl Poleski, a Republican, introduced a bill that could eliminate laws that prevent LGBT discrimination.

4. Alabama
The researchers found that Alabama has virtually no policies that are favorable for LGBT people. Alabama is at the center of the same-sex marriage debate. The state has its own version of a religious freedom law. It also has a law that tells educators to inform students that homosexuality is unacceptable and punishable under criminal law. Alabama legislator Chris England, a Democrat, recently tried to pass a bill that would prohibit LGBT discrimination. The bill failed.
 

LINKS:

 

Yahoo: Hardest States in America to be LGBT

Same Sex Marriage Receives Record Breaking Support From Americans

Chart: Where is Same Sex Marriage Legal?

 


LGBT Rights Trump Culture and Tradition

 

June 2014

 

Comments from Vice President Joe Biden

 

Seeking to mobilize a global front against anti-gay violence and discrimination, Vice President Joe Biden declared that protecting gay rights is a defining mark of a civilized nation and must trump national cultures and social traditions. Biden told a gathering of U.S. and international gay rights advocates that President Barack Obama has directed that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote the rights of LGBT men and women around the world.  “I don’t care what your culture is,” Biden told about 100 guests at the Naval Observatory’s vice presidential mansion. “Inhumanity is inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice.” With anti-gay laws taking root in nearly 80 countries, Biden and other top White House officials met with religious, human rights and HIV health care advocates in a forum dedicated to promoting gay rights internationally. Biden, who has emerged as a leading gay rights advocate within the Obama administration ever since he got ahead of Obama in declaring his support for same-sex marriage, said that across U.S government agencies officials have been instructed to make the promotion of gay rights abroad a priority.

 

LINK:

 

LGBTQ Nation: Comments From VP Joe Biden

 


Thoughtful Observations

 

January 2014

 

LGBT Equality Movement: Making History, Undermining Stereotypes

Justification of Hatred?

Coca Cola's Beautiful Super Bowl Ad

Celebrating Marriage Equality

Love on the March

Drag Queen Delivers Great Speech About Homophobia

Revolution vs. Reform?

The Country Where No One's Gay

Hypocrisy of Homophobia

Don Lemon Comments on Robin Roberts' Coming Out

New Gay Rights Anthem by 95 Year Old Ally

 


Revolution and Reform

 

January 2014

 

Comments from Warren Blumenfeld

 

Two men, Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair, made history of sorts by holding their marriage ceremony atop a giant wedding cake float in front of an estimated 80 million viewers world-wide at the 125th Rose Parade on January 1, 2014 in Pasadena, California. The float, titled "Living the Dream: Love Is the Best Protection," was sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation of Los Angeles. For me, watching the proceedings on TV brought to the surface a full array of feelings and emotions ranging from surprise, to subdued optimism, to discomfort, to great concern. Among the positives for me included the realization that for young people of current generations, these two men represented the gains made in marriage equality in many states and countries around the world, all of which has increased the visibility of long-term same-sex couples publicly proclaiming their love and commitment. This in turn has given others hope and the belief that conditions for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people have improved over the years. My discomfort and concern when watching the marriage ceremony above a wedding cake floating down Colorado Boulevard stems from my understanding and experience as a political activist and as a student of history, an understanding of the Stonewall rebellion as representing an impetus for revolutionary change within an overridingly oppressive social structure, as opposed to mere reform, accommodation, or assimilation. Looking back over the years, as our visibility has increased, as our place within the culture has become somewhat more assured, much certainly has been gained, but also, something very precious has been lost. That early excitement, that desire -- though by no means the ability -- to fully restructure the culture, as distinguished from mere reform, seems now to lie dormant in many sectors of our communities. We are living in an environment in which property rights hold precedence over human rights. In our communities, the "pride" marches of the past have morphed into parades and festivals funded on a base of major corporate sponsorship, and capitalist consumption. Parade contingents now include large canvas banners affixed with familiar logos of national and local banks, and insurance, soft drink and beer, and real estate companies. Ironically, some of these same companies not so long ago refused to hire "out" members of our communities, but seeing how our business will improve their economic bottom line, they now happily welcome us. While what I refer to as the "4 Ms" (marriage equality, military inclusion, media visibility, and making money) of the mainstream movement are all laudable goals, I believe that if we are going to achieve a truly equitable society, we must reach even higher, wider, and broader. As important as these goals may be, I hope we do not envision them as the final resting place over the rainbow.

 

(From Warren Blumenfeld, Huffington Post)

 

LINK:

 

Huff Post: Revolution vs. Reform?

 


Current Comments

Thank God I'm Gay

Companies That Do Not Support LGBT Rights

Advantages of Not Coming Out

Do You Think I'm Gay?

Can You Tell: Gay Couple or Straight Friends?

Coming Out or Letting In?

My Son Wears Pink

 


Congress Needs to Pass Employment Non-Discrimination Act

 

November 2013

 

Message From President Barack Obama

 

Here in the United States, we're united by a fundamental principle: we're all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We believe that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the chance to follow your dreams and pursue your happiness. That's America's promise. That's why, for instance, Americans can't be fired from their jobs just because of the color of their skin or for being Christian or Jewish or a woman or an individual with a disability. That kind of discrimination has no place in our nation. And yet, right now, in 2013, in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. As a result, millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs -- not because of anything they've done, but simply because of who they are. It's offensive. It's wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.  That's why Congress needs to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Americans ought to be judged by one thing only in their workplaces: their ability to get their jobs done. Does it make a difference if the firefighter who rescues you is gay -- or the accountant who does your taxes, or the mechanic who fixes your car? If someone works hard every day, does everything he or she is asked, is responsible and trustworthy and a good colleague, that's all that should matter. Business agrees. The majority of Fortune 500 companies and small businesses already have nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT employees. These companies know that it's both the right thing to do and makes good economic sense. They want to attract and retain the best workers, and discrimination makes it harder to do that. So too with our nation. If we want to create more jobs and economic growth and keep our country competitive in the global economy, we need everyone working hard, contributing their ideas, and putting their abilities to use doing what they do best. We need to harness the creativity and talents of every American. So I urge the Senate to vote yes on ENDA and the House of Representatives to do the same. America is at a turning point. We're not only becoming more accepting and loving as a people, we're becoming more just as a nation. But we still have a way to go before our laws are equal to our Founding ideals. As I said in my second inaugural address, our nation's journey toward equality isn't complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. In America of all places, people should be judged on the merits: on the contributions they make in their workplaces and communities, and on what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the content of their character." That's what ENDA helps us do. When Congress passes it, I will sign it into law, and our nation will be fairer and stronger for generations to come.

 

(From Pres. Barack Obama / Huffington Post)

 

LINK:
 

Huffington Post: Congress Needs to Pass ENDA

US News: Should Congress Pass ENDA?
CBS News: ENDA Makes Progress in Senate

Wikipedia: What is ENDA?

 


The Places I Have Come Out

 

October 2013

 

Comments From J.E. Reich

 

Just in time for National Coming Out Day, J.E. Reich, writer for The Huffingtgon Post, recently itemized the places or locations or circumstances in which she has come out....

 

In the school library. My father is away at a conference for a distant summer in Germany. He will be the hardest to tell, I reason, for the missed linguistic cues, the generational gap as precarious as a lion's hinging jaw, or, rather, because he just doesn't get it. It's a safe bet. I write him a 10-page email, glancing at the other computer carrels. Due to competing time zones, I receive his response the next morning: "Surprised, but not shocked. Love, Dad."

In a vestibular instant messenger window, to the girl who will become my first girlfriend. We will break up eight months later, over a girl from Connecticut whom she meets in an online forum. Like other lesbians I know, we remain close friends to this day.

On the front porch of my mother's house, coiled on a swing. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. In the spirit of the high holidays, in the spirit of atonement, I confess my predilections to her. These things weren't supposed to happen to her, she says. This isn't what she envisioned for me. "You're not gay." She repeats it until the words are kite tassels fluting upwards beyond our heads.

Sitting at my desk in Dr. F's AP European History course. My friend E is sick of my whining. "You need to get laid" is the underlying sentiment of her diagnosis. The solution becomes a coming-out party. There will be wine, pilfered from the cabinets of a St. Patrick's Day house party, where D snowboarded down the stairs and I accidentally broke a futon bed, and where it turned out that the host was actually the house sitter and got sent to a juvenile detention center the next morning, after she was discovered cradling a jar of peanut butter amidst broken bottles. So wine from that party, and a chocolate fondue fountain. E turns to a classmate of ours, asks if she knows that I'm gay. The classmate is baffled. "We're having a party," says E, "and you're on the guest list." By the end of the day, we have the venue at H's dad's house -- he'll be out of town -- but in the end the party does not occur, and now everyone knows.

At my mother's book club. People talk.

On the back couch in Harrison's Cafe, after hours in the vacant, locked-up shop. I reassure her that it's not an experiment. Afterwards, we cruise around in her father's pickup, drinking beers named after rocks and ice with a tannic aftertaste. I come home to find that I have missed a loop in my refastened belt.

In my first college classroom. I fill up my schedule with prerequisites. In my public speaking course we are asked to bring in three objects and identify what they mean to us. The only rainbow article of clothing I own is striped underwear. In retrospect, I wonder how many times the professor had witnessed similar antics.

Around my uncle's dining room table during Passover seder. My aunt asks when my younger sister, a sophomore in college, will marry her boyfriend. "She'll probably wait until after graduation," I say. She replies, "Besides your other sister, she's our only hope."

On my ex-girlfriend's graduation day. Her mother knew that her daughter would bring her boyfriend, the one that her sisters always mentioned, that person with the apartment in Allston. If her daughter was seeing someone so often -- as her daughter had never done -- then it had to be serious. On the pavilion by the Boston Harbor, we meet for the first time. I'm the best friend she's never heard of. During the celebratory luncheon in Cambridge, she sneaks looks, furtive and observatory, as I push my tuna niçoise around with a fork. So, this is it.

On Franklin Avenue, holding hands. We are lucky. The previous Fourth of July in Boston, my then-girlfriend and I had our arms around each other while a man with a shaved head made catcalls. I told him to be quiet: "Shut your mouth." It was only after she had me in her arms again, pulling me away, that I realized I had punched someone for the first time.

In the police precinct. I sit with the officer to file a report as the victim of -- as the officer decides -- lewd conduct. The man in my apartment building came toward me, pants down, but intent can only go so far. My then-girlfriend is next to me as the officer asks me about discernible scars, piercings, tattoos. The officer has seen our apartment bedroom, our connubial bed with the crumpled blue duvet. Still, he calls her my roommate.

In the dark. In the light.

 

(From J.E. Reich, Huffington Post)

 


Current Commentary

What Happened When My 2-Yr Old Son Wore a Pink Headband to WalMart

 


ALGBTICAL Reaction to Supreme Court Rulings

 

June 2013

 

Message From Kelli Lasseter, ALGBTICAL President:

 

This is indeed a monumental day for the LGBTQ community. With the repeal of DOMA and reversal of Prop 8, we move one step closer to full equality for all. Although there is still much work to be done, today we celebrate the hard work and dedication of everyone who stands for what is fair and just in this great nation. Thanks to each of you for supporting the mental health care needs of the LGBTQ community through your ongoing advocacy and direct service provision. I am honored to be a part of ALGBTICAL and to serve as your president during this historic time.

 

(From Kelli Lasseter, President, ALGBTICAL, 2012-13)

 


SPLC Reaction to Supreme Court Rulings

 

June 2013

 

"By striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the US Supreme Court has said definitively that our government can no longer deny federal benefits to same-sex couples."

 

Morris Dees, Founder of the Southern Povetry Law Center, issued the following statement:

 

This is a day that will long be remembered as a milestone in our nation’s march toward equality for all people. By striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court has said definitively that our government can no longer deny federal benefits to same-sex couples.  Many couples across the country, like our clients Tracey Cooper-Harris and her partner, Maggie, will no longer be treated as second-class citizens simply because of who they love. Tracey is a decorated Army veteran who put her life on the line for our country in Kyrgyzstan and Kuwait and who now faces a serious illness related to her service. Yet, because of DOMA, the Veterans Administration said she wasn’t eligible to receive the same kind of disability benefits as veterans in heterosexual marriages. This law also meant the couple couldn’t be buried together in a national veteran’s cemetery. Tracey simply wants the benefits she earned and deserves. Nothing more. Now, she will get them. I’m so happy for Tracey and Maggie today. And I’m so proud that our country is, at long last, turning the tide on the kind of anti-LGBT bigotry that leads to laws like DOMA. Every day across this nation, legally married same-sex couples build lives together. They plan their futures together. They buy homes. They raise children together. And they do it all, with the love and support of committed partners. Let’s celebrate this day. But we must not forget about the hard work ahead. In 37 states, committed same-sex couples still cannot marry. In many quarters, anti-LGBT bigotry is still rampant. We’re celebrating today’s victories, yet preparing for the battles ahead. With your help, we know that we’ll be successful. Remember that we must all speak out in our communities. Your voice can make a real difference in this fight.

 

(From Morris Dees, Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center, June 26, 2013)

 


Thoughtful Observations

 

Gay Colorado Teen's High School Graduation Speech

Interview with Bishop Gene Robinson

 


Attitude About Gay Rights Improving

 

May 2013

 

Support for gay rights -- from ending the controversial ban on gay participants in Boy Scouts to legalizing same-sex marriage -- is surging throughout the United States, according to a new survey. The poll, conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post, 55 percent of Americans say they support the right of same-sex couples to legally tie the knot. Meanwhile, seven out of 10 said they backed NBA veteran Jason Collins' decision to come forward about his sexual orientation in a Sports Illustrated Op-Ed.  According to officials, the poll used a random national sample of 1,008 adults contacted by landline and cell phone May 1-5, 2013. The results are largely in line with other recent polls. A December survey, released by POLITICO and George Washington University, showed that, out of 1,000 likely voters, 40 percent of respondents said they support marriage equality, while 30 percent said they supported civil unions.  Meanwhile, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released in April found that 63 percent of Americans believed the federal government should recognize gay marriages performed in states that have legalized them.

 

(From Huffington Post)

 

LINK:

 

Huff Post: Survey Finds Support for Gay Rights

LGBTQ Nation: Growing Acceptance of Gay Rights

 


Current Comments

 

Interview with Rapper Macklemore on Gay Marriage

The Ultimate Wedding Party

 


Gay Mega History in the Making

 

November 2012

 

“No longer will politicians -- or anyone -- be able to credibly claim to be supportive of gays, and to love and honor their supposed gay friends and family, while still being opposed to basic and fundamental rights like marriage.”

 

The re-election of Barack Obama, as well as the wins in states wherever gay marriage was on ballot -- in Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington -- is a massive watershed for LGBT rights. No longer will politicians -- or anyone -- be able to credibly claim to be supportive of gays, and to love and honor their supposed gay friends and family, while still being opposed to basic and fundamental rights like marriage. The very ads pushed by the enemies of gay rights, like the mastermind behind the antigay ballot measures, Frank Schubert, which claim you can support gay equality but be against gay marriage, no longer hold water. From now on, you're no friend to gays if you don't support full equality, and you're a bigot if you try to defend that position, as Mitt Romney did.  Many people previously hid behind the idea that since the president, prior to May of this year, didn't support marriage equality, but could still be considered "pro-gay," they could be considered pro-gay too. But President Obama not only evolved; he set a new standard: being pro-gay means supporting full equality. This is a president who ended "don't ask, don't tell," signed a gay-inclusive hate crimes law, urged voters in the states to vote for marriage equality and wrote a letter to a 10-year-old last week offering her support against bullies who might stigmatize her for having two dads. He's a president whose administration helped transgender Americans get full protections in employment under existing laws banning discrimination based on gender and made sure his health care law fosters full access and equality for gay and transgender people.  And he was re-elected.  That re-election happened, make no mistake, because the president energized his based, including LGBT activists who pushed him hard and made it clear that they wouldn't be energized if he didn't stop dancing with the right and stood up for full equality. He learned how that could work for him, and his re-election proves that it can done. No longer will there be an excuse for politicians who claim to be pro-gay but who drag their feet for fear of repercussions.  The wins on marriage in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and probably Washington (votes are still being counted but activists are almost certain they won) are groundbreaking, and it's only the beginning. The tide has turned after losses on marriage at the ballot in over 30 states. It's a direct result of the shift in public opinion and the president both capitalized on that and helped change public opinion further. The enemies of gay equality are now on the run.   Those enemies, however, still have a hold on the Republican Party, and the GOP will have to reckon with that. Certainly it will be front and center in the GOP's own coming civil war over the fallout of this election. The Human Rights Campaign rightly said in a press release that last night's victories, which included the election of Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay or lesbian person to win a U.S. Senate seat, and other pro-equality big wins, were a landslide for LGBT rights. Opponents of LGBT rights were stomped, and the pressure will be on the GOP to oust them for good. As the Rick Santorum wing claims the 2012 losses mean the party needs to double down on cultural issues like gay marriage, there will hopefully be those who make the correct point that, in fact, the party needs to drop gay-bashing and move into 21st century if it wants to survive.

 

(From Michaelangelo Signorile, Huffington Post)

 

LINKS:

 

Huffington Post: Gay Mega History in the Making
Huffington Post: Trend for LGBT Equality

Gay Voices: Open Letter to My GOP Voting Family

Gay Voices: Ten Reasons Why Marriage Equality Won

 


Current Commentary

 

The Marriage License

When I Was a Boy: Music Video by Dar Williams

 


LGBT Youth: Resilient, Strong, Hopeful

 

May 2012

 

"Fortunately, we see young people developing positive identities at earlier ages than ever before. Activists of all ages are gaining selective electoral, legislative, and judicial victories.... Young people have been integral in the development and success of social movements from the very beginning. And today they are shaking up traditionally dichotomous notions of male/female, gay/straight, and masculine/feminine."

 

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is Associate Professor in Department of Curriculum and Instruction, at Iowa State University. He is author of Warren's Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice, co-editor of Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States, editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price, and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice.  What follows is a view rarely portrayed in the media:

It was a brilliantly sunny, though rather cool, mid-June afternoon. Banners flying, music blasting, people of all walks of life assembled, reuniting, greeting, embracing, kissing, catching up on lives lived in the space between. The signal was given with a contagious cheer rising from the crowd, and for the next few hours the streets would be theirs. Dykes on Bikes revving their engines, shirtless muscled young men dancing to a disco beat atop flatbed floats winding their way down the streets, dazzling drag queens in red and gold and silver, and the Freedom Trail Marching Band trumpeting the call. A black-and-white cocker spaniel wearing a sign announcing "DON'T ASSUME I'M STRAIGHT", and lesbian moms and gay dads pushing strollers or walking beside youth of all ages.  Gays for Patsy Klein decked out in their finest country duds, two-stepping down the boulevard. AIDS activists falling to the pavement of those same boulevards in mock death to expose governmental and societal inaction, which is still killing so many.  Married same-sex couples walking hand in hand. Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) proclaiming "WE ARE PROUD OF OUR LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER SONS AND DAUGHTERS," alongside political, social, and service organizations, business and religious caucuses of all stripes and denominations. And of course, bystanders watching the procession, holding court from the sidelines.
 


And in the midst of this merriment and this protest, the humorous posters and angry placards, the enormous rainbow balloon sculptures arching overhead, the colorful streamers and glistening "fairy dust" wafting down from open windows, the shiny black leather, the shimmering lamé, the multicolored T-shirts, and the drab business suits, came the youth with their radiant young faces catching the rays of the sun.  Marching side-by-side, hand-in-hand, their middle school, high school, and college Gay/Straight Alliance banners waving exaltedly in this storm of humanity - announcing their entry, their solidarity, their feisty outrage, and yes, their pride.   They chant, "Two, Four, Six, Eight, Queer is Just as Good as Straight, Three, Five, Seven, Nine, LGBTs are Mighty Fine." Then, gaining intensity, singing, "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Homophobia Has Got to Go." And then, as if hit by an all-consuming revelation, shouting, "We're Here, We're Queer, We're Not Going Back, We're NOT Going Back, WE'RE NOT GOING BACK!"  And indeed, they will not go back into those dank closets of fear and denial that stifles the spirit and ruins so many lives. Oh, they will physically return to their schools and their homes. They will continue to study and play sports, to watch movies, listen to their iPods, and write about their days on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

Some will most likely continue to serve as community organizers, and some will go on to become parents, educators, and political leaders once their school days are behind. The place they WILL go to, though, is nowhere that can be seen. It is a place of consciousness that teaches those who have entered that everyone is diminished when any one of us is demeaned. Heterosexism, sexism, and bisexual, intersex, and transgender oppression (as well as all the other forms of oppression) have no place in a just society. From the sidelines of the parade, beginning as a whisper and gaining to a mighty roar of support: "We are so glad you are here. We wish we could have done this when we were in grade school and in college. Thank you so much for your courage!"

Yes, even today, it still takes courage to speak out and counter the stereotypes, the scapegoating, the fear, and the ignorance surrounding our lives. Yet, throughout the world, on university and grade school campuses, in communities and homes, and in the media, issues of sexuality, gender identity, and expression are increasingly "coming out of the closet."  Fortunately, we see young people developing positive identities at earlier ages than ever before. Activists of all ages are gaining selective electoral, legislative, and judicial victories. Primarily in academic milieus, greater emphasis and discussion is centering on what has come to be called "sexuality and gender studies" (sometimes referred to as "queer studies" - an area of critical studies) where writers, educators, and students analyze and challenge current notions and categories of sexuality and gender constructions. Young people have been integral in the development and success of social movements from the very beginning. And today they are shaking up traditionally dichotomous notions of male/female, gay/straight, and masculine/feminine.

They are transforming and revolutionizing the society and its institutions by challenging overall power inequities related not only to sexuality and gender identity, categorizations and hierarchies, but also making links to the various types of oppression, and forming coalitions with other marginalized groups.  They are dreaming their dreams, sharing their ideas and visions, and organizing to ensure a world free from all the deadly forms of oppression. Along their journey they are inventing new ways of relating and being in the world. Their stories, experiences, and activism have great potential to bring us to a future where people all across the gender and sexuality spectrums will live freely, unencumbered by constraining, outmoded, and oppressive social taboos and cultural norms of gender and sexuality. I am hopeful and thankful to the young people whose energy, talent, and creativity will ultimately bring about a time when all the disparate varieties of sexual identity and gender identity and expression will live and prosper.

 

(From Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Iowa State University)
 

LINK:

 

Bilerico Project: LGBT Youth: Resiliency, Strength and Hope

 


Being Gay is a Choice

 

"After years of struggling with guilt, shame and fear, I finally came to the simple conclusion that being gay is my honest reality."

 

D Gregory Smith is a gay, HIV+ native Montanan; a former priest now making a living as a licensed mental health counselor and Executive Director of AIDS Outreach in Bozeman. He is also a teacher, health educator, activist, poet, theologian, spiritual adventurer, and future husband.  We has an on-line blog called From Eternity to Here and he writes for Bilerico and the LGBTQ Nation.  He shared this story:

 

Recently I got a letter from someone I’ve known since childhood, who read my blog and felt compelled to write, “It disgusts me that you’ve made the choice to be Gay and go to Hell, especially with all your theological training.”  There was more, but that was the money quote. Of course, I felt compelled to respond.  “You are exactly right. Being Gay is a choice. It is a choice to respond with honesty, integrity and humility to thoughts and feelings that are not a choice. It is a choice to move away from the dark feelings of fear, self-loathing and dishonesty into the light of understanding, honesty, self-acceptance and respect. I have absolutely no choice about whether or not I am gay- I do have to make choices every day about faithfully following the heart that God gave me, as do you. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I am not as kind or understanding or honest with myself or others about my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I have thoughts of anger, as I have now, wondering why you feel it necessary to denounce me, someone you “fooled around” with in such an “unholy” manner years ago.  I don’t ask you to understand me, just to accept my experience. Maybe it’s like you never understanding how I could love broccoli when we were kids. Unexplainable, but you never questioned my sanity or the state of my soul because of it. I’m going to say that this is exactly the same thing. Broccoli lovers all over the world can’t explain why they enjoy eating broccoli, they just know they do. And so it is with my heart.  After years of struggling with guilt, shame and fear, I finally came to the simple conclusion that being gay is my honest reality. This was an understanding arrived at through years of self examination, pain and soul searching- it was not the product of indoctrination or brainwashing.  We all make choices. We can choose to feel better by making someone else feel bad, to condemn rather than try to understand, to be right or be happy. I’m sure you have made some choices I will never understand, but I hope I can, at least, give you the benefit of an attempt at explanation. That’s what I hope. That’s my goal. Because living my life in a way that’s faithful to my heart- well, that is the choice I want to make every day.”

 

(From D Gregory Smith, Bilerico.com)

 


PFLAG Responds to Chick-Fil-A

 

August 2012

 

"Chicken, speech, religion . . . these are simply a distraction from the real issue: a well-funded campaign against equality for all people."

PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians & Gays), in Washington DC, the nation's original family and ally organization, and the largest grassroots-based non-profit for families, friends, and allies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, issued the following statement regarding the recent Chick-fil-A controversy:

“While we find his beliefs and actions to be deeply damaging, PFLAG National supports Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s right to freely express those beliefs, religious or otherwise. And no matter how destructive the action, or how much we disagree with it, we support his right to funnel profits from his company into that company’s charitable arm (WinShape) which subsequently donates dollars — over five million of them and counting — to groups that openly work to deny basic rights to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) loved ones. But let’s be clear: It is also the right of millions of LGBT people and their families, friends, and allies to use this same right to free speech to protest that position, and to educate the public as to just where the revenue from Mr. Cathy’s business is going.  Dan Cathy may say that his company has never discriminated against an LGBT person, but WinShape’s massive financial contributions to organizations that advocate for the passage of laws that would make such discrimination legal (or in some cases, keep discrimination legal) say otherwise. WinShape has funded numerous organizations that oppose efforts to protect LGBT youth from bullying in schools, support “ex-gay” groups, and bankroll efforts to allow international laws enabling the execution of LGBT people to stand. Educating people as to this reality isn’t about crushing freedom of religion— it is about exercising the right to free speech … just as Mr. Cathy has done.  For many years, anti-equality activists have used boycotts and protests against corporations to voice their opposition to LGBT-inclusive practices. Ironically, when Americans who support equality use this same strategy, it is called discrimination. As this issue continues to be discussed, PFLAG members everywhere will continue to exercise their right to free speech and dialogue, sharing the truth about this situation: Chicken, speech, religion … these are simply a distraction from the real issue: a well-funded campaign against equality for all people.  On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of families, allies, and LGBT people represented by PFLAG, PFLAG National President David M. Horowitz welcomes the opportunity to open a dialogue with Mr. Cathy about these issues.”

(From Liz Owen / PFLAG National / lowen@pflag.org / (202) 467-8180 ext. 214)

 

LINKS:

 

HRC: Chick-Fil-A Anti-Gay & Bad for Business

YouTube Video: Dan Cathy's Comments
Wikipedia: Chick-Fil-A Company

 


Reaction to Chick-Fil-A President

 

August 2012

 

"This is personal for us. There are times in your life when you have the opportunity to stand up for your friends."

 

Wayne Self is a playwright and composer whose current project is a musical tribute to the 32 LGBT and allied victims of the 1973 arson fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana. Considered by many to be the largest hate crime against LGBT people in US history, the fire is sometimes seen as a lesson in the perils of silence. ”Upstairs” will give voice to the victims of the fire, many of whom self-identified as Christian, and is scheduled to premier next year, in time for the 40th anniversary of the tragedy. Wayne Self posted this entry on FaceBook regarding recent anti-gay comments made by Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy:

 

"This post is all I have to say about the Chick-Fil-A controversy. It sums up various posts on the issue and various points made by my friends and I. From now on, rather than spend time debating this issue person by person, I’m going to point people here. My hope here is to find common ground with those who have disagreed with me on the issue, and maybe to persuade. It’s not to ridicule or to best. So, in the interest of common ground, let’s start here: I acknowledge the absurdity of all this debate. It’s definitely strange to have days-long Facebook debates flare up everywhere over a chicken sandwich. The anger, sarcasm, and hurt feelings on display seem strange or even laughable because most people have seen Chick-Fil-A as just a restaurant with a funny ad campaign. I’ll get into some of the whys and wherefores of that later. But, for now, let’s just say that, yes. It can seem ridiculous to get all worked up over fast-food chicken. Let’s also agree that this isn’t about curtailing anyone’s rights under First Amendment. The Constitution is a legal document. This is not a legal argument. No one is arguing that Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy should be put in prison, or silenced, or censored by the government. This has nothing to do with government censorship or government abridgment of Freedom of Speech. So don’t worry: the ability of this millionaire to legally spend his millions as he sees fit is not in jeopardy. You need not defend it. Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of things. Please read carefully. These things have been said before, but not by me, and not all in one place. Please read with an open mind. If you can’t read with an open mind, please leave, take a minute, come back, and try again. If you can’t do that, then please don’t bother. Please read all of the words here, rather than just reading half of the argument and assuming you know what I’m saying. Read these words as they are written. Again, if you don’t want to read my words, then don’t continue.

 

So here goes:

 

1. This isn’t simply about marriage. Shocker, right? It’s extremely frustrating that same-sex marriage is the great continental divide. People are judged according to how they stand on this issue, as if no other issue matters. Did you know that a person can be for same-sex marriage and still be homophobic? Did you know that a person can be against same-sex marriage and be gay? We all get categorized very quickly based on the marriage issue and maybe that’s not fair. But here’s what you should know:

 

- In 29 states in America today, my partner of 18 years, Cody, or I could be fired for being gay. Period. No questions asked. One of those states is Louisiana, our home state. We live in self-imposed exile from beloved homeland, family, and friends, in part, because of this legal restriction on our ability to live our lives together.

 

- In 75 countries in the world, being gay is illegal. In many, the penalty is life in prison. These are countries we can’t openly visit. In 9 countries, being gay is punishable by death. In many others, violence against gays is tacitly accepted by the authorities. These are countries where we would be killed. Killed.

 

- Two organizations that work very hard to maintain this status quo and roll back any protections that we may have are the Family Research Council and the Marriage & Family Foundation. For example, the Family Research council leadership has officially stated that same-gender-loving behavior should be criminalized in this country. They draw their pay, in part, from the donations of companies like Chick-Fil-A. Both groups have also done “missionary” work abroad that served to strengthen and promote criminalization of same-sex relations.

 

- Chick-Fil-A has given roughly $5M to these organizations to support their work.

 

- Chick-Fil-A’s money comes from the profits they make when you purchase their products.

 

2. This isn’t about mutual tolerance because there’s nothing mutual about it. If we agree to disagree on this issue, you walk away a full member of this society and I don’t. There is no “live and let live” on this issue because Dan Cathy is spending millions to very specifically NOT let me live. I’m not trying to do that to him. Asking for “mutual tolerance” on this like running up to a bully beating a kid to death on the playground and scolding them both for not getting along. I’m not trying to dissolve Mr. Cathy’s marriage or make his sex illegal. I’m not trying to make him a second-class citizen, or get him killed. He’s doing that to me, folks; I’m just fighting back.  All your life, you’re told to stand up to bullies, but when WE do it, we’re told WE are the ones being intolerant? Well, okay. Yes. I refuse to tolerate getting my ass kicked. “Guilty as charged.”  But what are you guilty of? When you see a bully beating up a smaller kid and you don’t take a side, then you ARE taking a side. You’re siding with the bully. And when you cheer him on, you’re revealing something about your own character that really is a shame.

 

3. This isn’t about Jesus. I have a lot of Christian friends. Most of them are of the liberal variety, it’s true, but even this concept seems lost on some of you. Most of them are pro-LGBT rights. Pro-gay and Pro-Christ are NOT mutually exclusive. They never have been, in the history of Christianity, though it’s been difficult at times. It’s not impossible to be both.  If someone is telling you it is, then maybe you should wonder why they’d do that. I see divorced Christians, remarried Christians, drug addict Christians. I see people with WWJD bracelets bumping and grinding on TV and raking in millions to do it. I see greedy, rapacious, vengeful people who are Christians. And these people are accepted in the Church, and the Church does very little to combat them. Sometimes it seems like being gay is the ONLY thing certain modern Christian movements won’t allow. Why’s that, I wonder?  Jesus had almost nothing to say about sexual behavior of any kind. He was too busy teaching more important things. Empathy is at the heart of his teachings. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Remember that? It’s in red. So let’s examine that:

 

4. If things were reversed, I’d stand up for you. Please think about this: How would you feel if KFC came out tomorrow and said they were spending money against equality for Asian Americans, or African Americans, or religious people? Really. Think about it. What would you do? How would you feel? How would you feel if, after their announcement, there was a big increase in KFC sales and I was all over Facebook supporting KFC. Please stop reading right now and imagine this. I’m serious.  You can stop now because it’s ludicrous. It would never happen.  Oh, I don’t mean the part about KFC being against some group. That COULD happen. I mean the part about me supporting them. Let me tell you something, and you can damn well believe it: I’d sign on for the boycott IMMEDIATELY.  Why? Well, because I believe in equality for all people, that’s why. But also, personally, from the bottom of my heart: because you are my friend, and I don’t willingly support people who harm you for just being you. How could I? How could I, really? But, more importantly for our purposes, how could you?

 

Seriously, how could you? What has Chick-Fil-A ever done for you? Sold you some fatty chicken at a ridiculous mark-up? Made you chuckle at semi-literate cartoon cows? You mean more to me than KFC possibly could. If I, in turn, don’t mean more to you than a chicken sandwich from Chik-Fil-A–if my life, my quality of life, and my dignity are such afterthoughts to you that you’d not only refuse the boycott, but go out of your way to support someone who was hurting me? if I let this stand, if I don’t stand up to the bullies and if I let my friends egg the bullies on, what does that make me?  Well, it makes me a Chikin.  Yeah, so suddenly it is cause for anger, ridiculous or not.

 

But I’m not going to stop being Facebook friends with anyone over this issue.  Instead, I will remain. And, when you see my face with my partner’s in my profile, maybe you will examine not simply what your opinions are about gay people, or gay marriage, or the first amendment, even; maybe you’ll examine not merely your opinions but your values. What is friendship to you? What is loyalty? How important are human life and dignity to you? Are they more important than fitting in with your social group? Are they more important than loyalty to a corporate brand, or a political party, or some misguided church teaching?  That’s why we’re so angry. This is personal for us. There are times in your life when you have the opportunity to stand up for your friends. When you let that opportunity pass, your friends notice. It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, but it diminishes you, and it diminishes the friendship. That’s how it is, no matter what the issue or what the venue.

 

So stand up. Stand up for us. Do the right thing. You don’t have to agree with us on everything, but repudiate Chick-Fil-A. Unlike them on Facebook. Withdraw your support for them. Join us in the boycott. If you can’t do that, then please ask yourself whether I’m your friend. In fact, ask yourself whether anyone is.  This is all I have to say. If you’d like to debate the issue further, I’ll do it, but I’m not going to go around and around on the same points. If you’re just going to repeat yourself, save us both some time. If you haven’t taken the time to actually read this carefully and actually consider carefully what I’ve said, then I see no reason to waste further words.  The ball is in your court. Again, I urge you to do the right thing."

 

(From Wayne Self)

 

LINKS:

 

HRC: Chick-Fil-A Anti-Gay & Bad for Business

YouTube Video: Dan Cathy's Comments
Think Progress LGBT: Comments From Chick-Fil-A Prez

Atlanta Business Chronicle: Chick-Fil-A on List of Anti-Gay Companies

Wikipedia: Chick-Fil-A Company

 


Chick-Fil-A Prez Opposes Gay Marriage

 

July 2012

 

Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy recently incited some outrage when he made comments unsupportive of same-sex marriage. In a discussion about redefining marriage, Cathy said:  “I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”  The controversy started when Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that he was "guilty as charged" when it came to his support for the Biblical definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.  "We are very much supportive of the family... the biblical definition of the family unit," Cathy said. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

 

 

Many see Dan Cathy as using his position of prominence as a venue to impose his religious beliefs on the public.  The Atlanta-based company which he oversees has always had a reputation for promoting traditional Christian family values.  Once you get past the cows in their humorous advertisements, you will quickly see evidence of an educational, if not evangelical, effort at many of their fast food locations and in the community to spread their "values-based" message.  But its squeaky-clean image is undergirded by an attitude of homophobia and discrimination. It reportedly has donated millions of dollars to anti-gay Christian groups. With over $4 billion in revenue, Chick-Fil-A has continued to stress its religious values by refusing, for instance, to open on Sundays.  Truett Cathy (Company Founder and Dan Cathy's Father) is a devout Southern Baptist.  His religious beliefs have a major impact on the company.  The company's official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."  Chick-fil-A has also included interactive CDs designed by Focus on the Family in some children's meals.  Responding to Cathy’s anti-gay marriage comments, celebrities like Ed Helms, Jane Lynch, Deepak Chopra, Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, and the Kardashians announced a boycott of Chick-Fil-A.  Rants from both sides of the issue on FaceBook and Twitter are at a fever pitch.  The Jim Henson Company will stop providing Muppet toys for the fast food chain's kids' meals.  The mayor of Boston has threatened to ban the franchise from his city.  And the Human Rights Campaign has called it a bad business decision.  A protester outside one Chick-Fil-A location held a sign that said: "Your chicken sandwich comes with a side of homophobia."  A parody created by HRC changed the popular Chick-Fil-A slogan, "We didn't invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich," to "We didn't invent discrimination, we just support it." 

 

LINKS:

 

YouTube Video: Dan Cathy's Comments

Wikipedia: Chick-Fil-A Company

Care2Make a Difference: Chick-Fil-A Not Welcome in Boston
Think Progress LGBT: Comments From Chick-Fil-A Prez
MS NBC: Muppets Sever Ties With Chick-Fil-A
LA Times: Chick-Fil-A and Free Speech

Atlanta Business Chronicle: Chick-Fil-A on List of Anti-Gay Companies

Huffington Post: Mike Huckabee Calls for Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day

 


Reaction From ALGBTICAL Past President Mark Leggett

 

July 2012

 

"Its time to move beyond this expression of hate and discrimination in this country."

 

Dr. Mark Leggett, Counselor Education Professor at the University of Alabama, active ALGBTICAL member, and ALGBTICAL Past President, offers this timely and articulate commentary regarding the current discussion in the aftermath of the anti-gay remarks from Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy:

 

"I realize that everyone has about had it with the Chick Fil A debate, however, I can no longer be silent on this issue. I agree that this man has a right to his opinion and a right to express it. Its the bigger picture here that matters to me though. When the CEO of this company and the countless others who are running out to buy a chicken sandwich to support his stance publicly state their support of "traditional marriage" they are in turn saying they don't support marriage equality and that LGBT individuals are second class citizens and do not have equal rights. This is wrong, in my opinion. It also matters to me that there are countless numbers of young people who are struggling with their sexual identity (and taking their own life at an alarming rate) who watch and listen to this debate and are made to feel that they are second class citizens and have no rights. Stating opinions is one thing but legislating personal and religious beliefs into law is wrong, in my opinion. Yes, many states have banned same sex marriage by majority votes. This doesn't make it right. There was a time when the majority of the south believed African Americans should not have equal rights. It will one day again take the federal government stepping in to overturn these ridiculous laws and that day is coming. As I have said many times before, if you don't believe in marrying someone of the same sex, don't. If you don't believe churches should celebrate same sex unions then don't attend those churches.  Its time to move beyond this expression of hate and discrimination in this country."

 

(From Dr. Mark Leggett, ALGBTICAL Past President)

 


Reaction From ALGBTICAL Past President Michael Lebeau

 

August 2012

 

"The irresponsible public remarks made by the company's president expressed judgment and disapproval and had the effect of marginalizing LGBT people."

 

Much of the heated commentary in support of the remarks made by Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy have insisted that he had the right to express his opinion and that his free speech rights are protected under the constitution.  Nonsense!  Such comments in defense of Dan Cathy are disingenuous and skirt the real issue.  Certainly Mr. Cathy has the right to express his opinion.  And certainly we all want to support everyone's right to free expression and to freedom of religion.  But there is a larger concern here that is more to the real point. First, Dan Cathy is a prominent figure.  As the President and CEO of a major corporation, like most celebrities, he has the privilege of communicating to a broad audience.  Such an ability to influence the general public should be utilized with an enormous sense of responsibility and with great regard for the consequences of one's words.  Sure, as an American citizen he can say whatever he wants.  But, as a public figure, he needs to realize that his words are subject to greater scrutiny and that he needs to show a little more discretion. Secondly, as a business man, Dan Cathy needs to acknowledge that, while he may have the overwhelming support of many religious people, he and his corporation are in an embarrassing minority when it comes to the professional attitudes of the business community and most Fortune 500 companies.  The vast majority of top US firms stand in sharp contrast to the outdated and narrow-minded thinking espoused by Mr. Cathy.  The most successful American businesses do not flaunt exclusionary attitudes and policies but, instead, make real efforts to be more inclusive in their practices, including an openness to LGBT concerns among their employees and customers.  And thirdly, let's be clear that Dan Cathy's comments are in fact hate speech.  Chick-Fil-A's anti-gay stance, as innocent and righteously held as it is, is intended to communicate disdain for a targeted segment of the population.  The irresponsible public remarks made by the company's president expressed judgment and disapproval and had the effect of marginalizing LGBT people.  It is an opinion that, in the minds of many people, is increasingly uninformed, unenlightened, outmoded, and unkind. Imagine your reaction if Dan Cathy had expressed hateful remarks about Jews or Hispanics or Asian Americans or African Americans.  Would you call his comments free speech or hate speech?  Just as we now know that discrimination and hate speech directed towards African-Americans during the Civil Rights era was wrong, we must acknowledge that those same attitudes directed toward LGBT people is also wrong.  Today, as many applaud Chick-Fil-A fans lined up at the drive-though window showing their support, and inadvertently siding with bigotry, an image that goes back 50 years is conjured in the minds of others who recall rabid supporters applauding the lynching of a black man.  To many, discrimination of African Americans 50 years ago seemed right at the time and 50 years later we are embarrassed by the attitudes of our unenlightened grandparents.  Anytime our behaviors and words contribute to the oppression of other people, even when we feel justified in our stance, we are building on a legacy of bigotry and hatred that will be recognized by history for what it really is.

 

(From Michael Lebeau, ALGBTICAL Past President)

 

LINKS:

 

HRC: Chick-Fil-A Anti-Gay & Bad for Business

YouTube Video: Dan Cathy's Comments
Think Progress LGBT: Comments From Chick-Fil-A Prez

Atlanta Business Chronicle: Chick-Fil-A on List of Anti-Gay Companies

 


Legislative Alert

 

May 2011

 

Opposition to Senate Bill 46 / Health Care Rights of Conscience Act

 

Alabama counselors are being alerted to Senate Bill 46, called the Health Care Rights of Conscience Act. Section 5 and 6 lines 14 and 24 clearly include counselors, faculty and students in this bill, which allows providers to refuse services to individuals when the provider’s values or beliefs conflict with client needs.  Jeanell Norvell (2011/2012 ALGBTICAL President) sent a letter to Senator Ross in montgomery opposing Senate Bill 46 and she is asking ALGBTICAL members and ALCA counselors statewide to do the same (by May 24). Jenell states, "As a Licensed Professional Counselor and counselor educator in the state of Alabama, I can tell you, this bill is not in line with the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics which specifically states counselors may not discriminate against clients on the basis of age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status/partnership, language preference, socioeconomic status or any basis proscribed by law.  In short counselors do not discriminate against clients on the basis of client characteristics.  As a profession we are charged with putting our clients needs ahead of our own values and beliefs."   Jenell further states, "I am asking you to contact your Senator directly by May 24th when the session reconvenes and ask him or her to oppose this bill.  I have attached both a copy of the bill for you and a copy of the letter I personally sent to my senator.  Please do not use the same letter I sent. Make your language personal.  Yes, we will be addressing the issue as an organization and working with ALCA and other divisions. However, your personal involvement by contacting your senator is extremely important."

 

LINKS:

 

ACA Article: Legal Findings
Senate Bill 46
Letter to Senator Ross
Contact Your Senator 

 


ACA Cover Story: Working With LGBT Clients

 

May 2011

 

Counseling Today Magazine Features Cover Story on LGBT Issues
 

The May 2011 Issue (Vol 53, No. 11) of the American Counseling Association publication, Counseling Today, featured a cover story on working with LGBT clients. Senior writer Lynne Shallcross's article (pages 24-32), entitled, "Come and be who you are," asserts that counselors in all arenas can provide a safe, accepting place for LGBT clients to work through diverse issues.  Among others, Shallcross interviews ALGBTIC President Michael Chaney.

 

Also, in the April 2011 edition of Counseling Today, Michael Chaney (along with co-authors Filmore and Goodrich) wrote an article entitled, "No More Sitting on the Sidelines," in which he confronts the growing discussion within our profession about the need for competent counselors to work with LGBTQQI clients in an affirming manner. He says, "Largely, the discussion has focused on the inadequate training many counselors receive related to counseling these populations."  In the article he offers practical strategies for working with LGBTQQI clients on issues of heterosexism and transphobia, coming out and bullying.

 

LINKS:
 

Counseling Today Article: No More Sitting on the Sidelines
 


Protesting Focus on Family Birmingham Event

 

November 2009

 

Successful Demonstration by Local LGBT Activists!  ALGBTICAL Members Joined Colleagues to Protest FOF Event!  Several gay rights organizations in Alabama announced that they planned to protest the Focus on the Family "Love Won Out" conference on homosexuality that was held November 7, 2009, at Metropolitan Church of God.


"They're telling you to hate your child unless he lives the way you tell him to live," said Johnathan Quinn, president of Central Alabama Pride, one of the protesting organizations. "Their literature tells the parents to abandon their children unless they go this route: forcing them to be straight."

 


A peaceful protest was conducted on public right of way near the entrance of the church, facing Interstate 459 near the Acton Road exit. Central Alabama Pride, Equality Alabama, Parents and Friends of Lesbians & Gays of Birmingham, Human Rights Campaign, Integrity, and Covenant Community Church are among those who took part in the protest. Some ALGBTICAL members were also on hand to support the protest.  Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out joined the group and lent his support.  Participants described the event as a demonstration in support of LGBT people and to publicly acknowledge disagreement for the anti-lgbt message promoted by this conference. 

 

 

The conference teaches that those with same-sex attractions can change, said Melissa Fryrear, director of gender issues for Focus on the Family and one of the speakers. "We're offering a Christian perspective on the many issues surrounding homosexuality," Fryrear said. "The majority attending are moms and dads who have a son or daughter living in homosexuality. We're here to help parents who don't condone their child's behavior but still love them."

In a recent quarter-page advertisement in the Birmingham News, Focus on the Family promoted their Birmingham-bound conference with these words:  When we heard the words, "Mom and Dad, I'm gay," we didn't know what to say.  In the midst of your questions, confusion and grief, Focus on the Family is here to help...  Our Love Won Out conference offers biblical responses to the sensitive issues of homosexuality... Aid to parents who want to better love their sons and daughters without compromising their faith...  understand the factors that might lead to someone adopting a homosexual identity...  assist those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions and overcoming those desires...
 

 

Fryrear said Focus on the Family does not want parents to shun homosexual children.  "One of our messages is helping parents stay in a relationship with their gay-identified child," Fryrear said. "Moms and dads shouldn't have to relinquish their religious convictions."   Quinn said homosexuality is not a choice.   "Their terminology is 'ex-gay,'" Quinn said. "If it were a choice, I would not choose to live this way; it's so difficult. We're born this way."  Fryrear said she understands that sentiment.  "As to not choosing, we would agree," Fryrear said. "We don't think people choose these feelings. It's an extremely complicated struggle." But Focus on the Family asserts that science has not proved homosexuality to be a genetic condition. "Science hasn't proved people are born gay," Fryrear said. "It's absolutely an open question. Part of the message is to read the studies that have been done. They'll see there's no evidence proving homosexuality is genetic. It's a multi-causal struggle, and there are a number of factors that may make one vulnerable."

 

 

Several of the speakers at the conference consider themselves "ex-gay," she said. "A number of us have come out of homosexuality in our lives," Fryrear said. "It's certainly a personal issue for us. Many of us for years identified as gay or lesbian. Our stories can vary on different levels. We came to a point where living homosexually was incompatible with our Christian faith."  People have a right to change, Fryrear said.  "People who are dissatisfied with living homosexually have a right to steward their sexuality according to their personal and religious beliefs," she said. "We're advocates for parents and for people who want to pursue another option, other than living in homosexuality."

 


LINKS
:

 

Truth Wins Out Press Release
Denver Post: Focus on Family Giving Up Its Gay Workshops
Wayne Besen Article: Anything But Straight, Silence in the Face of Scandal
Straight Not Narrow Blog Spot
Wayne Besen's Website
Videos: Wayne Besen on YouTube

Read the Birmingham News Article
Learn More About LGBT Issues and Religion
Visit the Love Won Out Conference Website
Visit the Focus on the Family Website
Visit the Exodus International Website

Equality Alabama
Central Alabama Pride
Human Rights Campaign
Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays
Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network
Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
National Gay Lesbian Task Force
SoulForce

 


ALGBTICAL President Responds to Focus on Family

 

Commentary by Michael Lebeau

 

In the wake of reaction to the upcoming Focus on the Family conference on homosexuality, scheduled for November 7, 2009 in Birmingham, local gay advocacy groups are compelled to offer protest against efforts that would seek to demean lesbian and gay people.  Moreover, in the interest of airing an alternate perspective, these gay advocacy groups would like to provide further information on the much misunderstood subject of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Professional advocacy organizations like the Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama would like to suggest that supportive and respectful approaches to dealing with issues of sexual orientation and gender identity are more helpful and less harmful than the judgmental and demeaning approaches offered by groups intent on promoting their own narrow ideological agenda.  Young people, and indeed people of all ages, who are confused about or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity often feel alienated and marginalized by the systematic demonization sponsored by groups whose ignorance of and insensitivity to the complexities of sexual orientation and gender identity foster an atmosphere of oppression and hatred.  Heterosexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression lead to discrimination, prejudice, bigotry, harassment, and violence.

 

Local gay advocacy groups have been working diligently for some time now to address the critical issues of bullying in the schools, harassment on the college campuses, intolerance in the communities, and discrimination in the workplace.  Various Safe Zone programs and Gay Straight Student Alliances throughout the area provide much needed support.  Such organizations as Equality Alabama, the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition, and PFLAG, and indeed many local churches and religious organizations, have been providing intervention programs, critical resources, and accurate information to students, adults, workers, parents, and teachers seeking support regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.  While research on the subject is not complete, it certainly is extensive.  Many scientific and medical professionals agree that sexual orientation is not a choice.  Nor is it a disease, illness, dysfunction, or disability.  It is not abnormal or unnatural.  It is not an ailment or condition that requires therapy, repair, healing, or conversion.  Such professional groups as the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Counseling Association, along with countless others, support a more enlightened understanding of the sensitive issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

 

We would want the Focus on the Family organization to know that ALGBTICAL is committed to facilitating and promoting the fullest, possible development of each individual and works to reduce the barriers of misinformation, myth, ignorance, hatred, and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.  Many internal and external obstacles exist in society that inhibit individuals from accurately understanding and developing a healthy view of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. ALGBTICAL is opposed to harm perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals through language, stereotypes, myths, misinformation, threat of expulsion from social and institutional structures and other entities, and from beliefs contrary to their identity.  ALGBTICAL is committed to the inclusion of and respect for individuals of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.  AGLBICAL supports the raising of awareness of all individuals regarding issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as well as the increased modeling of inclusive language, advocacy and equal opportunity for all people.  AGLBTICAL seeks to lessen if not eliminate individual, social, and institutional behaviors and expectations limiting the full development of human potential in all populations.

 

(From Michael Lebeau, ALGBTICAL Past President)

 


Story From Lesbian Feminist Yankee

 

Soul Food: How UAB Nourished the Life & Work of a Lesbian Feminist Yankee
Dr. Mischelle Stone


The decision my partner and I made in 2004 to leave our home and jobs in Michigan so that I could take a job at UAB was not an easy one to make.  I had lived in Michigan all of my life, and Jean, my partner of nearly twenty years, had lived there for eighteen.  Just a month before making the decision to move, I had interviewed over two days with the faculty and staff in the Department of Justice Sciences for a faculty position teaching criminal justice courses.  Though I thought the interview went well, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be living and working in the heartland of the South at age fifty-one.

If there was a single factor that drew me to the UAB campus, it was the warm welcome I received from the members of the Department of Justice Sciences.  Though I traveled to the interview by myself, it was clear from my initial interactions with department members that I was a lesbian and, if offered the position, would be moving to the Birmingham area with my partner.  If there was objection or resistance to this, I had no inclination of it either during or after the interview.   In fact, department members were quick to inquire about my partner, asking what she did for work and what her other interests were.  Nearly everyone shared information about where they lived, and why they thought their particular neighborhood would be a good place for Jean and me to live.  I came away from the interview feeling welcomed and wanting to know more about UAB and the Birmingham area.

When I returned to Michigan following my interview, I began to explore the UAB website for indications that the broader University would be as welcoming as I knew the people of Justice Sciences to be.  This was an important issue for me and my partner, as we had long-established relationships in Michigan that supported us in many aspects of our lives.  Coming to UAB would mean leaving the day-to-day support of those relationships behind in favor of living and working in a different culture.  I cannot overstate the challenge we felt moving to an area of the country that was so culturally different from our own, where we knew virtually no one, and where the differences in regional dialects were evident in each and every interaction we had.

In our search of the UAB website, we discovered the spouse/partner relocation program within Human Resources.  Jean made e-mail contact with the program, and was provided with a substantial amount of information and guidance regarding potential employment opportunities at UAB, as well as at a variety of hospitals in the surrounding area (Jean is an R.N.).  Utilizing this information, Jean was able to secure an interview and subsequent employment within weeks of my being offered the position at UAB.  When she was asked by the human resources manager at the hospital where she works what brought her to Alabama, she reported that her partner had taken a job teaching at UAB, and that “she” would be teaching criminal justice.

In addition to finding the spouse/partner relocation program on the UAB website, we also found the Safe Zone program.  This program, along with the “mandatory” diversity training for all employees were important symbols of UAB’s commitment to creating a diverse environment for all students, faculty and staff.  We also found reference to the Gay/Straight Student Alliance (of which I am currently a co-advisor), and we were both encouraged to see a formal student organization addressing the needs of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) students on campus.  In addition we found reference (albeit somewhat remote) to the Faculty/Staff Alliance, an organization that addresses concerns of GLBT faculty and staff.  Early participation in all of these organizations at UAB served to provide me with a “home” that other organizations on campus could not, and each, in their own way, has nurtured my body, soul, and mind.  All three of these organizations have served to connect me to diverse individuals who share similar concerns about living and working as a lesbian in the south, where the GLBT population has been slow to gain the same rights afforded other minority populations.

Despite being nourished by my involvement in Safe Zone, GSSA, and the Faculty/Staff Alliance, I remain struck by what isn’t present at UAB, despite consistent reference by the University administration to the importance of a diverse campus.  Noticeably absent from the menu of benefits available to me as a faculty member is the availability of insurance coverage for my partner.  Even though we have been in a committed relationship as long as or longer than anyone else in our department, we are still denied the right to have her covered as an Other Eligible Individual under my health insurance policy.  Since Alabama is a state that fails to recognize the legality of our relationship by not allowing us to wed, she cannot be considered a “spouse” and is therefore denied eligibility for coverage that other faculty spouses are provided. While some may believe that this is simply an example of indifference on the part of UAB administrators, I believe it sends a clear message of inequality.  Thus, no matter that employees are required to attend mandatory diversity training; we are either committed to treat all people with the respect and dignity they deserve, or we are not.

Similar to the lack of equal access to benefits, I am concerned about the lack of a Center for GLBT students.  Recognizing the unique challenges faced by GLBT students, many other tier one research universities provide a central location that serves as an educational and referral source for the University.  It also serves as a safe space where GLBT students are free to gather and express themselves as they attempt to reach their full potential as students, and in a broader sense, as human beings.  Given the discrimination and prejudice GLBT students experience simply because of who they are, the importance of such a space cannot be overstated.

Three years have now passed since I first came to UAB.  Maybe it is I who has made the adjustments that make living in the south not just bearable but enjoyable.  For example, when I first arrived in Birmingham, it was always a mystery what I would end up with in my order at the drive through at Taco Bell.  No matter how clearly I said “Two soft tacos deluxe, no meat, extra tomato”, I always came away with something different each time I ordered.  Ordering at the counter inside made no difference.  It has taken me three years and maybe just the hint of an Alabama accent, but I can finally get the order the way I prefer it.  And although I still haven’t developed my ear well enough to understand what it is going to cost me, I am confident that, in the end, it will be without meat, just the way I ordered it.  I say if the staff at Taco Bell and I can come to some middle ground on how to get fed, surely UAB administrators and I can continue to work toward a solution to the hunger I feel for equitable treatment for all GLBT faculty, staff and students.

(From Mischelle Stone, Professor, UAB Justice Sciences Dept / Article reprinted by permission of author)

 


Gay School Discussion

February 8
, 2007  
 

Officials from a suburban Massachusetts school district asked a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two couples who claim their parental rights were violated when homosexuality was discussed in their children's classrooms. U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf did not immediately issue a decision in the case from Lexington, but peppered lawyers on both sides with questions and said he understood the importance of the case to both parents and school administrators. Tonia and David Parker sued after their 5-year-old son brought home a book from kindergarten that depicted a gay family. David Parker was later arrested for refusing to leave his son's school after officials would not agree to notify him when homosexuality was discussed in his son's class. Another Lexington couple, Joseph and Robin Wirthlin, joined the Parkers in the suit after a second-grade teacher read "King and King" to her class. The fairy tale tells the story of two princes falling in love. Both couples claim Lexington school officials violated their parental rights to teach their own morals to their children. The case has attracted a great deal of attention in Massachusetts, the only U.S. state that allows same-sex marriage. John Davis, an attorney for Lexington school officials, argued in court Wednesday that teaching diversity is a "legitimate state interest." He said that it would be "an administrative nightmare" for schools in Massachusetts to try to predict when the topic of gay marriage will come up and to inform parents ahead of time.  "The parents do have rights ... but they don't have the right to dictate to the public school system what their children can be exposed to in the way of ideas," Davis said.  Robert Sinsheimer, an attorney for the parents who filed the lawsuit, called the homosexual discussions and materials "a form of propaganda" that goes against the parents' religious beliefs. He said the parents do not want to dictate curriculum, but do want to be able to remove their young children from classrooms when homosexuality or gay marriage is being discussed.  "What they fear is that their children are being brainwashed," he said.  About 30 people on both sides of the issue demonstrated outside the courthouse.

 

(From the Associated Press)

 


Rev Al Sharpton Opposes Gay Intolerance

 

January 21, 2006
 

Churches have an obligation to help end the "poisoned atmosphere" surrounding the acceptance of homosexuals, the Rev. Al Sharpton said at a weekend summit organized by a national black gay rights group. The group invited religious leaders to brainstorm ways to get their message of tolerance across to church leaders, who are some of the most influential figures in black communities. Several portrayed it as a civil rights issue. "Our dialogue is the possibility of being acknowledged, loved and accepted. It can happen," said Donna Payne, vice president of the National Black Justice Coalition, composed of black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists. Sharpton, a former Democratic presidential candidate who headlined Friday's start to the summit, said black church leaders need to acknowledge that homophobia affects everyone's civil rights. "You cannot talk about civil rights and limit who's included in the civil movement," Sharpton told about 150 people at First Iconium Baptist Church. He said it is every church's obligation to help end the "poisoned atmosphere" of acceptance of homosexuals. "The church should have a front seat in the car leading toward dialogue, leading toward tolerance," he said.  In 2004, a predominantly black Atlanta-area church where Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice serves as an elder held a march calling for a national ban on gay marriage. The march's organizer, Bishop Eddie Long, said his followers "did not come in a march of hatred," but the event did not sit well with gay rights groups.  King's widow, Coretta Scott King, has called gay marriage a civil rights issue and denounced proposed amendments to ban it. "History has shown that every time a church has gone on the side of exclusion, they have been wrong," said Pat Hussein, an activist and summit participant. "Hopefully there can be things made right." The Rev. Kenneth Samuel, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, received a standing ovation when he called for equality for all people and an end to hate crimes targeting homosexuals.  "These are heart-wrenching issues," Samuel said. "Anytime we talk to people about identity or sense of values, we have to address them with passion and intellect along with their spirituality."

 

(From Jonathan Landrum Jr  / Associated Press)

 


Open Letter to Miami High School Teacher

 

To: Donna Riddick

From: Leonard Pitts

 

Selective Use of The Bible Shifts Focus Off Faith...  An Open Letter From Leonard Pitts to Donna Reddick (Teacher at High School in Miami)

I'm writing this for Desiree.  She's a student at Miami Sunset Senior High, where you teach business technology.  She sent me an e-mail recounting an incident that happened on campus recently. It seems on three successive days, the morning announcements, which are televised throughout the school, featured student-produced segments on the subject of gay rights.  On the first day came comments from students who took the pro position.  On the second day came remarks from a counselor who spoke of the need for students to respect one another.  On the third day came you. You and a few students, actually.  One told classmates homosexuality was "unacceptable in the eyesight of God."  Another said gays were "unrighteous."  The coup de grace, though, was you, invoking Sodom and Gomorrah and telling students homosexuality was "wrong according to the Bible" because God ordered humanity to multiply, which gay couples cannot do. Desiree was, to put it mildly, upset.  In the e-mail, she accused you of bigotry and wondered how a gay student could ever again feel assured of fair treatment in your class.  I tend to agree.  She also suggested that you crossed the line between church and state, an accusation about which I am more conflicted.  It seems to me there's a difference between proselytizing for a religion and explaining how one's faith has influenced one's opinion. You're entitled to think what you think, no matter how stupid it might be. But I'll leave those questions for others to parse.  My biggest frustration lies elsewhere.  Put simply, I've had it up to here with the moral hypocrisy and intellectual constipation of Bible literalists.  By which I mean people like you, who dress their homophobia up in Scripture, insisting with sanctimonious sincerity that it's not homophobia at all, but just a pious determination to live according to what the Bible says.  And never mind the Bible also says it is "disgraceful" for a woman to speak out in church (I Corinthians 14:34-36) and that if she has any questions, she should wait till she gets home and ask her husband.  Never mind the Bible says the penalty for going to work on Sunday (Exodus 35:1-3) is death.  Never mind the Bible says the man who rapes a virgin should buy her from her father (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and marry her.  I'm going to speculate you don't observe or support those commands.  Which says to me yours is a literalism of convenience, a literalism that is literal only so long as it allows you to condemn what you'd be condemning anyway and takes no skin off your personal backside.  You resemble many of your and my co-religionists, whose faith so often expresses itself in an obsessive focus on one or two hot-button issues -- and seemingly nowhere else.  They're so panicked at the thought that somebody might accidentally treat gay people like people.  Meantime, people are ignorant in Appalachia, strung out in Miami, starving in Niger, sex slaves in India, mass murdered in Darfur.  Where is the Christian outrage about that?  Just once, I'd like to read a headline that said a Christian group was boycotting to feed the hungry.  Or marching to house the homeless.  Or pushing Congress to provide the poor with healthcare worthy of the name.  Instead, they fixate on keeping the gays in their place.  Which makes me question their priorities.  And their compassion.  And their faith.  If you love me, feed my sheep.  For the record, Ms. Reddick, the Bible says that, too.

(From Leonard Pitts, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, The Miami Herald)

 

 


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ALGBTICAL

Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama