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Archive for October, 2009

Closet Talk: Ami and Ruby – Are We Married?

October 30, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Closet Talk, Community Outreach, Featured

Closet TalkAmi and Ruby were married in a ceremony that was not recognized by their state; however, once marriage was allowed in California, and knowing that Proposition 8 was looming, the couple headed south and tied the knot. Now, they are trekking around the country through many states that don’t recognize their marriage with the goal of visiting all states that do (including the District of Columbia).

Ami and ruby shared some stories from the road and it was a great pleasure to have them tell these stories. You can hear what they had to say using the player below:

Yes We Do – Help in WA, ME and MI

October 29, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, iQreport, Thought of the Gay

noon1You’re help is needed now more than ever in the quest for equality.  It’s time we start taking action.  Obama told us “Yes we can,” but first, we have to DO.  I’ve signed up to help in Washington already, and moments after posting, I’ll be heading over to sign up to help in Maine.  But one person isn’t enough.  Send everyone you know the following information, courtesy of Equality Texas and fight along with me for equality for ALL!


Washington:

Who we are: Approve Referendum 71 is the campaign to preserve domestic partnerships in Washington State. By voting to approve, voters retain the domestic partnership laws that were passed during this year’s legislative session, including using sick leave to care for a partner, adoption rights, insurance rights, and more.

What we need: We need phone bankers to get our supporters out to vote. Washington is an all mail-in ballot state, and we need to ensure our supporters put their ballots in the mail. Also, youth turnout is a critical component of our campaign, and youth turnout historically drops in off-year elections. So we need a lot of help to turn them out.

How you do it: Sign up here to make remote calls for Approve 71. We’ll then contact you for a training, and you can make GOTV calls.


Maine:

Who we are: The No On 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign is working to protect Maine’s recently-passed law legalizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Our opponents have put the issue on the ballot for Nov 3, 2009. Because of Maine’s early voting election laws, people are already voting at the polls, so we need help immediately to turn out our side at the polls.

What we need: We need you to devote a few hours to Call for Equality. Call for Equality is a virtual phonebank set up so that you can call Maine voters wherever you are. Much of Maine is rural, where canvassing isn’t effective, so we need to reach these voters- along with other supporters- by phone. All you need is a phone and internet connection. No experience required! We’ll provide the training, and all you need is a a few hours to help get a win in Maine.

How you do it: Click here to sign up for a training and your shift. There are lots of times available for your convenience.


Kalamazoo, MI:

Who We Are: The Yes on Ordinance 1856 / One Kalamazoo campaign is working in Michigan to support the City Commission of Kalamazoo’s twice approved ordinance for housing, employment, and public accommodation protections for gay and transgender residents. Opponents forced a public referendum on the ordinance so dedicated local volunteers, led by former Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jon Hoadley, are working to ensure voters say YES to fairness and equality and keep Ordinance 1856.

Why The Urgency: In the final weeks, the opposition has gone all out with aggressive disinformation and misleading red herrings to try to defeat the ordinance. This includes signs that say “No to Discrimination” (even though voting No actually supports continued discrimination of GLBT residents), transphobic door hangers and fliers, and now radio ads that falsely suggest that criminal behavior will become legal when this simply isn’t true. The Yes on Ordinance 1856 supporters are better organized but many voters who want to vote for gay and transgender people are getting confused by the opposition.

How To Help:

1) Help the One Kalamazoo campaign raise a final $10,000 specifically dedicated to fight back against the lies on the local TV and radio airwaves and fully fund the campaign’s final field and GOTV efforts. Give by clicking here.

2) If you live nearby and can physically volunteer in Kalamazoo sign up here. If you know anyone that lives in Kalamazoo, use the One Kalamazoo campaign’s online canvass tool to remind those voters that they need to vote on November 3rd and vote YES on Ordinance 1856 to support equality for gay and transgender people. Click here to contact voters

LGBT Heroes Project: Laura Gentle and the Atlanta Eagle Raid

October 28, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Featured, LGBT Heroes Project

Laura GentleLaura Gentle was the first straight Co-President in Lambda’s some 35-year history and was also heavily involved in women’s rights as the founder of the University of West Georgia’s first feminist organization that fostered straight, lesbian and bi-sexual feminist ideology.

After moving to Midtown, she lent support to many LGBT and civil rights organizations, including: the Stonewall Democrats, Georgia Equality, AID Atlanta and YouthPride through  financial contributions and volunteering.

Later, she took a step back from her activism work, but after the Eagle bar was raided by Atlanta police and over 60 patrons were detained without cause, she went back to work and helped organize many protests and community events to fight back against such discrimination.  She states:

I felt I needed to stand up as an ally to draw the straight community into this issue as I feel it effects everyone who loves Midtown and doesn’t want it change for the worse.

But Laura Gentle’s work hasn’t been without consequence, including controversy from the very community she is attempting to help.  Jeff Schade, a Georgia resident who has worked closely with Ms. Gentle since the Eagle raid, has written the following about his experiences with Laura.  I’m sure you will see, as I have, that she truly embodies the purpose and spirit of the LGBT Heroes Project:

Laura Gentle. That name has become suddenly synonymous with conflict. A name that often stirs up a love or hate reaction. Here, in Atlanta, in our already fractured LGBT community, Ms. Gentle has become a lightning rod of controversy for her staunch commitment to LGBT activism while being, as she will say “a heterosexual ally”. Some, who generally know little about her or her motives, rightly view Ms. Gentle as an outsider. They view her as a threat to their perfectly fostered “activism”, the old-style politics that has existed since the Act-Up days, since Stonewall. Her radical approaches to community organizing represent a threat not only to them, but to their tightly controlled views on what is and what is not an appropriate action. After all, what could a twenty-something straight girl know about equality? What could Laura Gentle, the heterosexual, possibly understand about Stonewall, AIDS, and the LGBT community?

Ms. Gentle will tell you of her days in Lambda Legal, when she marched for LGBT equality. She will tell you of the times that she was yelled at, called vile names, and made to be target practice for the football team. She will tell you these stories, and often times you can see that so many years later it is still difficult for her. Those experiences, the realness, despite the fact that she was marching for a cause to which she did not belong, it was a cause for which she did (and still does) strongly identify. As she has recounted this story to me, I can look in her eyes and see a passion that overtakes her already fiery personality.

This passion pervades every interaction I have had with Ms. Gentle. While I knew “of” her and “of” her work previously, I first became involved in her following the raid by the Atlanta Police Department on the Atlanta Eagle (a local leather bar). Ms. Gentle and I along with several others organized a series of community rallies and meetings in order to keep the LGBT community informed, and put pressure on the police department to answer to their actions. Even as she has had to answer questions as to her motives, and faced accusations as to her status as an outsider, Laura has pressed on. For someone with little to gain in this fight, that passion has continuously amazed me.

I have always said that until every person, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, is seen as equal, then I will continue to fight. I see that same drive when I look at Ms. Gentle and it inspires me. I know there have been times I’ve contemplated giving up and just going back to my quiet life, but in the short time I’ve known her, Laura has made it pretty clear that I won’t ever be able to do that.

JeffSchadeAfter receiving a nomination for Ms. Gentle as an LGBT Hero, I began researching her work in Atlanta and stumbled upon a facebook note written by guest blogger, Jeff Schade.  He outlined why he supports Laura’s work in spite of all the controversy surrounding her. I asked that he provide the above for a first person perspective and he graciously agreed.  Thank you Jeff for helping recognize our LGBT Heroes.

When Wishes Come True – Hate Crimes Legislation Passes Senate

October 22, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Hate Crimes, LGBT News

matthew-shepard-head-shot3The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act just passed the Senate.  If Obama signs the legislation, it will be the first inclusive federal law on the books.

Today is also my birthday and this morning I joked on my Facebook that it would be fantastic if my birthday wish for passage of the Hate Crimes bill by the Senate came true.

A few moments ago, my wish became a reality.

I remember when Matthew Shepard was murdered for being gay.  It’s as clear to me today as it was then.  I remember the vigils, the hope and the fear.  On October 11th, 2009, the day before the 11th anniversary of Matthew’s death, I stood only a few feet away from Judy Shepard.  I looked up at her and saw my own mother staring back as she said, “My son was murdered by hate.”

I remember when I came out to my mother, she started crying.  She was terrified for my safety, but I was young and immortal.  A few months ago we had the conversation again – the one about my safety.  Then I had the conversation with a friend, and another friend, and another… seems there is a lot of concern for this gay man’s safety simply because I’m a gay man.

I also remember when, in a small east Texas town just a few hours drive from me, James Byrd was tied to the back of a truck and dragged down the road because he was a black man.  I marched on Austin, Texas shortly thereafter with about 500 brave people willing to march that cold and rainy day.  We demanded, “Stop the Hate! Stop the Violence!”

The stories of victims of hate crimes could easily be my story, or your story.  Judy Shepard could have been my mother – or rather, my mother could have been Judy Shepard.

When I quipped on Facebook that I would love my birthday wish to come true, I thought I would be celebrating the victory.  Instead, I find myself drifting back to 11 years, 10 days ago when the world was told that Matthew Shepard did not survive.  I remember the profound and lingering effect his death had on me.  I remember my fear and how I allowed that fear to rule me for far too long.

Videos: Why We Marched – The National Equality March

October 21, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, iQreport, Thought of the Gay

NEmDuring the National Equality March, I was one of numerous LGBTQ bloggers on the ground snagging pictures and interviews with people by way of iQreport.  I was determined to get as many stories as possible from all sorts of people, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional flood that would overcome me as I saw the faces and heard the stories from the crowd.

Many of these stories happened off camera, like the man whose (would-be) husband was concerned about him appearing on video because he could lose his job, or the young boy who, after we talked with his family, wanted to do an interview of his own.  While the stories were varied and diverse, the message was the same – We aren’t going to just sit back and take it anymore.

Thanks to a lot of help from my elected videographer with an iPhone, we brought many of the videos included here to you via iQreport and my twitter feed as we were obtaining them (and as the network allowed).  I’ve compiled them into this one montage to answer the question, “Why we marched?”  It seems in the days leading up to the march many people were criticizing it – (i.e.: bad timing, bad use of resources, bad rationale, and heck we don’t even know why we are marching!?).  They talked about political strategy and said that nothing will change – but they failed to see exactly what it is that many fail to see when it comes to LGBT people – we are human.

The entire experience of the National Equality March has left me wanting to scram at those critics – sound my “barbaric yawp” at them and ask, “Why DIDN’T you march?!?”  But rather than be angry, I am grateful.  To all of the critics like Barney Frank who claimed to be with us but then told us we shouldn’t march, I simply want to tell them why I marched: I marched because of them.  I marched because I was tired of people in power telling me I can’t.  I marched to remind them that in order to get to “Yes We Can” we have to start with “Yes We Do.”  I marched for Barney Frank.

The Gay Panic Defense: It Even Works Over Seas

October 21, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, Thought of the Gay

gaypanicThe gay panic defense is catching on over seas.  Our friends down under have successfully followed most of the rules and have managed to downgrade charges of murder to “manslaughter” after arguing that the sexual advances of another man warranted defending themselves.  Had they followed them to a “T,” an acquittal would have been certain!

As discussed in Queensland Pride, Jason Pearce, 38, and Richard Meerdink, 40, were on hallowed ground last after getting drunk on cask wine.  They encountered 45 year old Wayne Ruks who was allegedly also intoxicated.

Video footage from CCTV showed the 15 minute altercation during which Pearce and Meerdink beat Ruks with repeated hits, kicks and elbows to the stomach.  Of course, this is completely justifiable considering Ruks allegedly grabbed Pearce’s groin, which sexual advance was no where on the tape.

Obviously, this alleged but unseen groin grab constituted a life threatening situation which justified the brutal beating of Ruks by two men – or so it seems the Australian Court thinks.

Queensland activist, John Frame, expressed his outrage by stating:

Imagine if heterosexual women killed straight males when they received unwanted sexual advances from them.  That wouldn’t wash with juries – and neither should this.

Well John, maybe they should start doing so – of course that would eliminate the bulk of the male species within months.

An Open Letter to the Residents of Maine

October 21, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, iQreport, Thought of the Gay

noon1Dear Resident of Maine:

Although I fancy myself as someone who will retire in the New England states, I’ve only visited Maine once in my life. It was late September and the leaves were just barely starting to show variations in their colors. I spent a long time at the airport in Bangor waiting for the luggage the airline had lost. While at the airport, authorities spotted a suspicious package and evacuated the entire terminal. I stood outside with a hundred or so other people. We were all caught off guard, a bit confused and even a bit scared.

I suppose we stood outside of the airport behind the police line for at least two hours waiting for the “all clear” from those with the power.  Eventually, a baggage cart came out and we were able to retrieve our belongings.  While waiting and curiously watching the bomb squad, I met several Maine residents, but I couldn’t talk to everyone while there, and considering the circumstances at that time, I didn’t have a chance to ask them the question that I now feel compelled to ask you.

You see, I’m in love. I’m very lucky in that regard as almost 12 years ago I met my soul mate. We’ve had our ups and downs, but mostly we’ve had ups which is the most any of us can hope to have. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and stare at the love of my life sleeping soundly next to me and think, “Could it get any better than this?” I’m sure many of you have felt the same way before. I’ve wanted to take our relationship to the next level for many years, but we just haven’t been able to manage it. It seems there have always been obstacles well outside of our own creation that get in the way, and that is why I’m writing to you today. I need your help.

I want to get down on one knee, look up into my darlings beautiful blue eyes and declare my devotion and commitment, but in order to do so, I have to have your permission.

I know, it seems silly doesn’t it? I’ve tried every other way I could think of to make this happen without having to ask for help from complete strangers. I don’t want to force you to take sides – the side of love, the side of your church, the side of your family’s ideology – but I’ve been left with no choice. I’m being forced to ask you for permission to marry the love of my life. My life, my relationship, my love, my American Dream is now in the hands of people like you; people I’ve likely never met, and although I wish nothing more than to prevent you from being burdened with decisions about my life (let’s face it, you probably have enough problems of your own), I haven’t been given a choice.

When you walk into the voting booth and you prepare to push the button, remember me and those in situations just like me. We are standing outside, behind the police line doing all we can, but we need you to give us the “all clear.” Our love is in your hands, please treat it gently.

Vote “NO” on 1 in Maine.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: The Endangered White Male Species

October 21, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, iQreport, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationIf you are like me, you can always think of a great comeback to an offensive comment. One day later.

This last week was a whirlwind for me. One week past the National Equality March and I’m still processing everything that I experienced and felt. I felt so prepared to take on the world with such powerful words given to me by the speakers, with such energy and friendliness from everyone that I met.

So imagine my surprise when I was caught off guard by a man seated next to me on an airplane. It was fairly clear that he was relatively conservative. We kept the conversation light and delicately danced around controversial topics, as often happens in real life. A part of me had been longing for real life conversations. Because on the Internet, it is so easy to be rude. I often find myself thinking, would you say that to a person’s face?

Now it was my turn to wonder what I would say to a person’s face.  As the flight was close to its end, my fellow passenger stated that he was worried about his son’s ability to find a job after finishing college. Well, who wouldn’t be with the current economy? My son is in college and I said “I hear ya.”

He continued “Yea, I’m worried because there are all these special groups that want protection. Sexual orientation, Latinos. I worry about my normal white male species disappearing.”

I could see by his facial expression that my face already revealed my feelings. The tension rose. My mind went in several directions in those few seconds. Do I stay silent? Silence implies agreement. As a person who does not like conflict, who was raised to be polite and not start arguments, I wanted to fight that urge. My emotions wanted to oversimplify this person into a bigot and put him down. There’s a lot of indignation in the world these days. The media and the blogosphere thrive on it. It’s easy to be irate. I get irate all the time. There is a lot to be irate about.

This was in real life. What would I say to a person’s face? After all, here I am a self-proclaimed LGBT ally and supporter of human rights for all people. I, of all people, should have been able to remain clear headed and have the perfect persuasive response.  The right words that would open this man’s mind and heart in just 30 seconds.

I blurted out something like “I don’t care about a person’s race, sexual orientation, religion or politics when I hire employees. I want them to work hard, be honest and decent. We are all human. If your son can do that he will be fine.”

Awkwardly, I half smiled and left the plane. Was this man part of the “movable middle”? Did I make him think? Or did I lose that one and only chance that many people will give you? Did I anger him?   Will he be quiet, yet still have those feelings? I’m all for getting people to stop saying hurtful words. Knowing it is unacceptable is the first step to ending the cycle of bigotry and discrimination, but if children are still taught discrimination at home, it won’t really end.

So what did I think of a day later that felt like the perfect comeback? Not an answer but a question. A question asked in all sincerity. Because really, we should want to know the answer. It’s a question that all of us should ask ourselves. We find civilized discourse, honest reflections and soul searching to be boring and weak. Yet, they are the essential keys to changing another person. To changing ourselves. I don’t know how I affected this man because I didn’t ask him a question. I made a statement with a tone that said “This is final” and I missed my chance to know if I could make a difference. After all, I was not in any danger of physical harm.

I wish I had asked  “And how do you think you would feel if your son were Latino or gay? I’m serious, I would really like to know.”

Is this response perfect? I don’t know. But it is open and sincere. Without defensiveness.  Given in the hopes of letting someone feel safe enough to change before my eyes.

If you have arrived at this website by accident, if you don’t like gay people, or any other group, take a moment to ask yourself how you would feel if it were you.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can be quite the wake up call. Take a moment to be human. Take the next moment to realize that we are all human. Then watch your understanding unfold before your eyes.

Next time, I’ll be ready. After all, now I am hoping you are the stranger next to me that strikes up a conversation.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

What is the Gay Community?

October 17, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, iQreport, Thought of the Gay

kateWe always hear the words “gay community” when talking amongst ourselves, but what is it?  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people span a spectrum of diversity that doesn’t lump us together by class, race, religion or really any binding character, trait or belief.  The only commonality most of us have with one another is that we are discriminated against socially and in our judicial system.  Perhaps, that is enough to create a “community.”

Recently, I was on the forums at gaywallet.com and I asked members what they though were some of the positives of being a member of the LGBT or Q classification.  Almost all answers revolved around a sense of community.

One common thing that happens to most of us upon coming out is we lose the community we are part of – or at least lose the standing we had in that community.  We fall a bit from the social ladder.  Perhaps this is particularly true with white gay men who, until coming out, are at the top of the social food chain.  But none of this tells me what the gay community is.

Is the gay community the club kids at the bars looking gorgeous and dancing until dawn?  Is it the activists whose feet are swollen from walking the neighborhoods asking for people to consent to our marriages?  Is it a singles’ group, a couples’ group, an HIV/AIDS prevention network, a circle jerk, a crafts store, a bookstore, a local church?  No, those are all just aspects of the LGBTQ community.

Before going to the National Equality March I had several little 140 character conversations with people from all over the country on twitter.  One of these people was Kate Walsham, a beautiful young woman from California.  Months ago we had promised each other a hug and at the National Equality March, we were able to deliver on our promise.

Originally, Kate wasn’t going to be able to come to the march.  Like many of Americans, she was down to a one income household due to the painful economy and it seemed she would miss this historic event, but through the kindness of a stranger, Kate was able to travel across the country and we were able to have our hug.  Kate told me her story while standing somewhere between the U.S. Treasury Department and the “Ellipse,” and that’s where I found the Gay Community.  Here is Kate, sharing her story with you:

Louisiana Judge Refuses to Preside Over Interracial Marriage

October 15, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Marriage Equality

ourmarriageAccording to an article in the Huffington Post, a Justice of the Peace in Hammond, Louisiana has denied an interracial couple their right to marry.  The Justice claims he is not a racist, but is concerned for the future offspring of the children.

I’m continually struck by the number of people that claim not to be racist or bigots while practicing racist or bigoted things.  Apparently, they know that being a racist or a bigot is wrong, and they are on the side of right — right?

WRONG.

As a Justice of the Peace, he should be aware that interracial marriage is not illegal anymore – having been deemed unconstitutional 40 years ago.  This particular instance hits home after this weekends National Equality March wherein I briefly interviewed an straight, interracial couple, the Newmans (pictured) about why they are marching.

Racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance and other biases  can and do exist in our society, but they must not exist under the law.  To allow an employee of the government who is paid by the taxes of the “free” people of the United States (or in this case, a state in the United States) to use his/her own personal beliefs to decide matters governed by civil law is abhorrent.  If he doesn’t agree with interracial marriage, he needs to find a new job – perhaps Grand Master of the Ku Klux Klan?