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Archive for the ‘LGBT Heroes Project’

Transgender Day of Remembrance and Ms. Lauryn Farris

November 20, 2009 By: Lauryn Category: Featured, LGBT Heroes Project

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009A note from Jay: When I first met Lauryn Farris a few months ago, we quickly began discussing having her contribute at jaysays.com.  Today, as she states, is indeed an appropriate day to introduce herself to our readers and friends.  It is my great honor to have her contribution to the our little project known as jaysays.com and I look forward to learning from her vast experience and knowledge.  She is a truly an LGBT hero.

What an appropriate day for me to do my first blog on jaysays.com.  Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.  It is a day that we pause to remember those that have been taken from us only for being different.  On the 19th the San Antonio Gender Association along with the MCC San Antonio sponsored our Observance.

It was a wonderful service.  Reverend Mick Hinson did the lighting of the candle and introduction to the reading of the names.  Michelle Burnett sang as did the Dignity Choir.  The music was as from the voices of angels.  After we had read names and lit candles I addressed the group with a few words that included the opportunity for each member of our group to introduce themselves and make a few comments.

The theme for the night was Remembering, Celebrating, and Hoping.  My remarks were about youth, and about standing together to make a difference.  It was focused on all of us standing together, those in the LGBT community and those who stand with us.   I invited people to remember that it is love not hate we celebrate.  I have included the text of the homily below.

There were about 75 people in attendance.   This was a very nice start to an annual service that we hope will grow.  It would have been nice to have more but we had a wonderful loving group.

As a broader introduction of myself I am currently president of the San Antonio Gender Association, co-chair of the HRC Religion and Faith committee and involved in many activities throughout the community.  I look forward to writing more and Jay is one of the sweetest people I have ever met.  If Jay will let me I will have another blog next week about family and what a blessing it is to be the T in LGBT.

Text of Homily:

Thank you to the MCC church, reverend Hinson and all of those that have assisted the San Antonio Gender Association in planning and presenting this Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Remembering, Celebrating and Hope.  We are gathered here tonight with this theme and I want to take just a moment to reflect on each part of Remembering – Celebrating – and Hope.  I am placing a special emphasis on youth, so many of those we have lost were so young, and our hope for the future is also with our young people.

Remembering – we ask a blessing for each of the names that were read, and for those unknown who suffered and died at their own hand – or the hands of others – so needlessly.  We remember God’s covenant to not destroy us through a rainbow.  We pray that we are nearing the time of another special rainbow when we remember this brutality of hate only through history.

In Puerto Rico, there is no rainbow these days.  We remember 19 year old Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado whose body was discovered November 14.  Jorge was openly gay and had been decapitated, dismembered and burned.  The investigator said that “people who lead this lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen.”  Jorge is an example of the violence brought to the entire LGBT community.  Let us remember, however, that love not hate is the answer.  Let us remember the beauty of the person and not their horrific death.  Most of all let’s remember what God tells us in Hebrews 6:10

He will not forget what you have done. He will remember the love you have shown him. You showed it when you helped his people. And you show it when you keep on helping them.

E. B. White of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little fame said, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world.” That makes it hard to plan the day.”

For many of us life would be easier if we just lived it, and lived hidden in plain sight.  For most of us instead it has been a desire to help save the world that we have chosen.  We know the difficulties we will face, but we know that we are not alone.  We celebrate the example that many we are remembering have given us, live authentically, genuinely and proudly as who we were created to be.  I am PROUDLY a transgender woman who stands today to celebrate the lives of those who have gone before me.  I also stand to celebrate those who stand with me, because they choose to out of love.

10 year old Will Phillips has chosen sit during the Pledge of Allegiance because justice for all does not include everyone.  Will and his parents are all “straight”.  They recognize and celebrate the lives of those who have been taken simply because they were different.  They have chosen to raise Will in an environment of inclusion, we celebrate our fallen brothers and sisters and we celebrate those who stand with us for love.

We remember those that have fallen and we celebrate their authentic lives so that we will create a world of greater Hope for the future.  We cannot lose another generation.  I am here before you today because my own son asked “what are you going to do?”  With hope and love in my heart I ask you “what are you going to do?”  I pray that you will all join me in sharing the belief that we have hope for the future.  And, that you will remember those we have lost and celebrate their lives by living authentically and genuinely with hope.  Most of all that you will STANDUP and STANDOUT.

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.

LGBT Heroes Project: Dr. Stephen Erich, Ph.D: Gay & Lesbian Parents of Adopted Children

October 07, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: LGBT Heroes Project

From Jude: As part of our Heroes Project, I am delighted to introduce Dr. Stephen Erich, Ph.D. and researcher on adoptive families with gay and lesbian parents. Dr. Erich was kind enough to provide us with the latest research in this area. For those of you with more interest, The Journal of Adoption Quarterly has a special issue coming out this winter on gay families and adoption.

First of all, thank you Jude for giving me the opportunity to talk about a social issue that is very important to me. I have been doing research and speaking about adoptive families with gay and lesbian parents since 2002. As, no doubt many of you know, there has been an abundance of research on families with gay and lesbian parents whose children emerged from previous heterosexual relationships or who were planned through donor insemination. The 20+ years of research on these families is uniformly positive and has certainly influenced the emergence of research on adoptive families.

While research regarding lesbian/gay adoptive families is a relatively new phenomenon, there have been important contributions to our knowledge base in the last few years. I have summarized a few of these studies in the following paragraphs. In 2001, Van Voorhis and Wagner (2001) conducted a content analysis of a dozen prominent social work journals covering a 12 year period and reported that there were no articles dealing with lesbian and gay individuals or couples as adoptive or foster parents. Shortly, thereafter, Ryan and Cash (2004) published a study with gay and lesbian parents that included 183 families and found the parents were able to attain high levels of social support despite the presence of institutionalized discrimination throughout society.  In 2007, Ryan re-examined the data from their original study and found these parents had sufficient parenting skills leading the author to conclude that the adopted children in this study were being raised in healthy family environments.

Erich, Leung, Kindle, and Carter (2005) assessed adoptive family functioning, adopted child behavior and support networks in lesbian/gay families and reported that the forty-three adoptive families in their study scored within the normal to high ranges on a measure of family functioning. The results also indicate these families were able to develop effective support networks and that their adopted children’s behaviors were typical of any family. In a subsequent analysis, that compared the previous sample of lesbian/gay adoptive parents to a similar sample of heterosexual adoptive parents, the results included no statistically significant differences in adoptive family functioning, support networks, and adopted child’s behavior (Erich, Leung, & Kindle, 2005). In still another analysis involving the original group of adoptive families with lesbian and gay parents and two other groups of adoptive families, sexual orientation of the adoptive parent was not a significant predictor of the quality of family functioning. However, lesbian/gay parents who adopted older children, did exhibit better family functioning when compared to their heterosexual counterparts (Leung, Erich, & Kanenberg, 2005).  All three of these analyses involved adoptive families with children whose average age was between 6 and 9.

Erich, Kanenberg, Case, Allen, and Bogdanos (2008) rectified this limitation by studying adopted adolescent attachment to their adoptive parents with a sample made up of lesbian/gay and heterosexual adoptive parents and their children. The key finding from this study was that no group differences were found regarding level of adolescent attachment to parents by parent sexual orientation. It is important to note that all research has one or more limitations and the ones mentioned above are no different. However, do not be dismayed by this reality of research with humans, the sheer volume of studies that support the practice of adoption by gay and lesbian parents represents a strong foundation for accepting the viability of this practice. Within the past year or two, several more articles and books have been written that are expected to be published in the near future.  These new publications will document new research and synthesize these findings with existing research-so keep an eye out for it.

The result of this research has likely encouraged a relatively ongoing and positive change in public attitudes, agency practices and policies along with changes in state marriage or civil union laws regarding people with a same sex sexual orientation. For instance, a recent study by Brodzinsky and colleagues found that approximately 60% of adoption agencies in the U.S. are willing to accept applications from gay and lesbian parents or couples. Additionally, a few states have recently decided to legally recognize gay and lesbian couple relationships which ultimately benefit the children of these couples.

All in all, much progress has been made. But more still needs to be done. Much of this research has not been yet been discussed in mainstream media venues which may help more people to reconsider their belief systems.

Stephen “Arch” Erich, Ph.D., LCSW

LGBT HERO | Frank Voci: White Knot Marches for Equality

October 03, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Heroes Project

whiteknotAs part of our Heroes project for October’s LGBT History Month, we are delighted that Frank Voci accepted our invitation to write a blog about why he started White Knot for Equality. You might remember seeing actors from the movie Milk wearing white knots at the Academy Awards.  If you are attending the National Equality March, we encourage you to wear a White Knot not only for yourself but also for others who could not attend. And make a few extra knots to hand out and make new friends. Why knot?

White Knot Marches for Equality

By: Frank Voci

The National Equality March on October 11 has been a short-time in planning, but a long-time coming.  Much like my own involvement in the new Equal Rights Movement.

I had always been a donor, but never an activist.  Who had the time?!

But when Prop 8 in California passed, my activist gene was activated. I needed to do something, so I started what has become a national awareness campaign called White Knot for Equality After noticing the post-election street protests dying down, I realized we needed a way to keep the conversation going in our homes, work, places of worship, schools.  I wanted to create an easy, universal way of staying visible in everyday life.  Ribbon campaigns are nothing new, and as I searched for an easy to make symbol that was unique, I happened to tie a piece of ribbon in a knot.  It clicked.  Everyone should be able to tie the knot.

That simple act–making and wearing a White Knot–quickly became for many others who had never been active a way of instantly organizing to fight for equality. Every day I see the power of visibility, the importance of speaking out, and the value of organizing. And that’s why I am marching in Washington DC and urging the thousands of White Knot wearers across the country to join me.

The National Equality March will be an incredibly visible event that will reach millions through the media coverage. But more importantly, the March is the launching pad for the next stage of grassroots organizing that will with everyone’s great effort unite our individual and state-centric struggles in a single powerful movement for full equality. What do we want?  Equal protection under the law in all matters governed by civil law in all fifty states. This is more than a philosophy.  It’s a demand.  And there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to achieve it.

That work is being done right now. Groups around the country have started organizing in all 435 Congressional Districts. We will win equality by demanding it directly of our lawmakers.  LGBT people and our allies are already working together for the common goal of complete equality. This is why the March is so important. It is the impetus to set up a powerful network of local organizers.  As Cleve Jones has said, we will think Federally, but act locally.

How can you be a part of this? If you can, organize groups to travel to DC for the March.  At home, start organizing in your local community or look for organizations that already exist, many of which have set up Facebook Pages.

And of course, you can wear a White Knot to the March and wherever you go in your community to show your support for equality and hopefully spark some conversation.

White Knot for Equality is a non-profit organization devoted to fighting for marriage equality and overall equality for LGBT people. The White Knot symbol has quickly become the symbol for marriage equality and can be found in more than 1300 cities around the world (all 50 states and 25 other countries). Our goal is to create conversations that need to happen to change hearts and minds.