Archive | June, 2011

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 30, Albus Dumbledore

30 Jun

June 30 is the last day of LGBTQ History Month and I wanted to celebrate someone that has had a significant impact in the area of social justice in the past decade.  The Sorcerer’s Stone was released exactly 14 years ago today.  Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Albus Dumbledore.  While he may be a fictional gay character, the impact he has had on an entire generation of youth regarding integrity, character, and social justice is profound.

While J.K. Rowling assumed that we all knew Dumbledore was gay, it was not until The Half-Blood Prince that we learn about Dumbledore’s love interest. In an article from the website The Leaky Cauldron and The Associated Press, Rowling said:

Calling any Harry Potter character gay would make wonderful strides in tolerance toward homosexuality…. By dubbing someone so respected, so talented and so kind, as someone who just happens to be also homosexual, she’s reinforcing the idea that a person’s gayness is not something of which they should be ashamed.

What I love about Dumbledore being gay is that his sexual orientation becomes immaterial, which I believe is the goal.  We should be appreciated for our character and how we repair the world, rather than judged by with whom we fall in love.  Unfortunately, we are not even close to the goal of sexual orientation being immaterial, thus we must be visible and out!

Consequently, I cannot underscore enough how important it is that as we read the Harry Potter series and watch the movies, we keep in the back of our minds that the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the kind, sensitive, wise, caretaker Dumbledore is gay.  I, for one, am celebrating that fact.  Of course, I have to leave off with one of my favorite quotes from Dumbledore:

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. [and this one] No, I was merely reading the Muggle magazines,” said Dumbledore. “I do love knitting patterns.

There are still many other voices that need to be recognized and celebrated within the LGBT community.  I hope you will continue to look to TSM as we search out and spotlight LGBTQ voices that work for social justice and I hope TSM inspires us all to become activists–to eradicate racism, misogyny, homophobia, and bigotry.


My Breakfast with Bishop Gene Robinson

29 Jun

Today I was fortunate to attend a breakfast with Bishop Robinson.  For regular TSM followers, you know we just recently celebrated Bishop Robinson for LGBTQ History Month. This particular breakfast was sponsored by the Equity Foundation, an organization of true do-gooders. While I am not a religious person and do not subscribe to any organized religion, Bishop Robinson was nothing less than amazing and inspiring!

His gentle and compassionate soul can completely change the energy in a room when he enters.  For such a famous man, he is exceedingly humble and gracious.  He approached me shook my hand and introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Gene.”  Really?  As though I might not know who he was–it kind of made me giggle with delight. When it was time for him to speak to our group, he came out to the middle of our gathering, so as to create an intimate setting; it was as if he was speaking to each of us individually.

What really captured me was how he spoke about the future of LGBT rights, equality, and marriage equality.  Bishop Robinson first talked about “the importance of being out” and the “strong political statement” it makes if we are visible.  He also talked about the role of the “Church” and how the “church needs to take responsibility.”  He talked about a learning curve for the church:

People used to use the bible to justify racism, and sexism but people learned and realized they got it wrong.  Now the church needs to look at something else we got wrong…some people believe in the word of God and I believe in the words of God.

While he talks about this learning curve, he speaks with great compassion and optimism.  He really does see the good in people.  Robinson also addressed how Catholics could do a better job leading the fight to end discrimination by creating equality for women and look into ordination of women. Now TSM followers, you know when anyone can talk about misogyny they have won me over!

What really won my heart was how beautifully he spoke to civil rights in general, for he spoke to the very core of TSM blog: Social Justice.  Robinson talked at length about:

…if we are going to talk about marriage equality and LGBT rights, we must also talk about racism and sexism… There is a great deal we can learn from transgender people.

Robinson’s ability to address the interconnectedness between gender, power, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity was incredibly powerful.  For me, this is what a true leader looks like, Gene Robinson.  I look forward to buying his new book when it hits the stands.  Gene, if you read this please give us the title of your new book.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 29, Alex Sánchez

29 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Alex Sánchez. Sánchez is a Mexican-American author of award-winning novels for teens and adults. His first novel, Rainbow Boys (2001), was selected by the American Library Association (ALA), as a “Best Book for Young Adults”. Subsequent books have won additional awards, including the Lambda Literary Award.

My first introduction to Sánchez was his short story, If You Kiss a Boy, in the marvelous collection of short stories, 13.  I was so impressed with Sánchez and 13 I started using them as required reading for middle school students.

Sánchez uses is own life experiences to write compelling stories about LGBTQ youth: their struggles, families, opponents, friends, and allies. He also addresses other challenges for young adults such as abuse, peer pressure, and body image. His characters are complex and real, making his books a compelling read for teens and adults alike. Because of his unflinching honesty about the lives of young adults, especially the LGBTQ community, most of Sánchez’ books have faced challenges in libraries. His Rainbow Boys trilogy includes three of the most banned books of the last decade.

The Alex Sánchez website welcomes readers in this way:

Welcome! Here’s where you’ll find info about: gay teen books, gay Christian teens, gay teens coming out, bi teens, gay youth resources, books about gay teenagers, where to buy books for gay teens, gay young adult books and novels, gay coming of age books, gay teen novels, and banned books … Enjoy! Peace, Alex

He includes resources for all of these issues as well as a link to his It Gets Better video. I want to thank Alex Sánchez  for being a strong voice for LGBTQ youth, for providing hours of reading pleasure, and for providing his readers and their peers with resources to get through their struggles more safely and less alone.

Wednesday Word of the Week, June 29

29 Jun

Not a variable concept.

This week’s word is: EQUALITY

the state of being equal, especially in having the same rights, status, and opportunities – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Last week, we saw a major development in the name of equality for Americans when New York passed a marriage equality bill. With this move, the Empire State joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia in offering these rights. Because of New York’s population, this is a significant development. Before last week, only 5% of Americans lived in a place that offered full equality; now over 35 million citizens, 11.2% of the country, have access to that right.

I do not want to diminish this wonderful moment in history, but I feel compelled to point out the irony. In a nation founded on the principle that all [people] are created equal, celebrating the incremental equality of one group of Americans is a sad state of affairs.

In fact, the very language around this issue points to the long road ahead of us in terms of true equality. Most major news outlets, including the hypothetically liberal enclave of NPR, referred to the issue as one of “same-sex marriage” rather than one of marriage equality. That allows the opponents of full rights for LGBTQ Americans to brand this as a “special right” rather than admitting that their opposition is flat out bigotry. Language matters, and this is an issue of equal rights, plain and simple. Journalists should be responsible enough to communicate it as such.

How far do we have to go?

  • Nearly 89% of Americans do not have access to marriage equality; a significant number of these citizens have equality actively denied them by their state’s constitution.
  • The hypocritically named Defense of Marriage Act ensures that even people with locally-based marriage equality are denied over 1,100 Federal rights and privileges. This can lead to nightmarish complications when state and federal policies and laws overlap; an excellent example is taxation and filing status.
  • While it is heartening that President Obama has instructed the Justice Department not to defend DOMA in Federal court, the immediate reaction from the right should terrify and galvanize anyone interested in equality. The fact that professional homophobe Michele Bachmann catapulted to the top of this pack of potential losers-in-chief is equally frightening.

Moreover, this just addresses one issue. While job protections are more prevalent that marriage equality, people all over the country still risk being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Protection from discrimination in housing and public accommodation is also piecemeal.

In the end, we can only reach true equality by changing attitudes. Legal measures are critical, but as long as

we have a long way to go.

Many of the signs are good. In several of the cases listed above, the company, state, or organization took the right stand for equality. Polls show that overall support for marriage equality is at an all-time high and growing. If the supporters of equality are not vigilant, forceful, and consistent, however, the risks are great.

Let us celebrate New York’s move and dedicate ourselves as a nation to equality that is truly equal.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 28, Monica Marquez

28 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Monica Marquez.  Marquez is the first Latina and openly gay member of the Colorado state Supreme Court.  She was sworn in by her father, retired Judge Jose D.L. Marquez.  There are only 5 openly gay state supreme court justices, two of whom are in the state of Oregon. The first openly gay state supreme court justice in the nation was Oregon’s Rives Kistler. The second openly gay state supreme court justice was Oregon’s Virginia Linder.

Marquez has been a consistently visible force for social justice, including LGBT equality. She  is a past president of the Colorado GLBT Bar Association and a board member of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and served as chairperson of the Denver Mayor’s GLBT Commission.  Regarding marriage equality and her role as a state supreme court justice, Marquez says:

On the bench, of course, my allegiance is to the law, not to any particular constituency…which is fine, because the law — and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1996 decision in Romer vs. Evans, which overturned Colorado’s repeal of anti-gay discrimination laws.

I want to thank Justice Marquez for her dedication to social justice and for being visible.  Our being visible helps LGBT youth see the possibility of an end to discrimination.  Click here to read an article regarding Marquez.

Celebrating LGBTQ Month: June 27, Sir Ian McKellen

27 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Sir Ian McKellen.  McKellen came out in 1988 and has been been a dedicated activist for the LGBT community, thus making him an ideal person for TSM.  While McKellen is a staunch supporter of and fundraiser for AIDS research, as well as a vocal opponent to nuclear weapons, he reserves much of his energy to be a strong advocate for ” legal and social equality for gay people worldwide.”

Here are just a few reasons why I consider McKellen to be a wonderful and courageous hero.  McKellen shows that growth and empathy are possible regardless of where you are in your journey of life:

A year ago, I was one of those men, content to be gay, but unaware that I might have any relevance to the lives of other gays, whose lives are more vulnerable than mine to homophobia.  I’d never joined a Gay Pride March; ignorant even of the significance of the word ‘Stonewall.’  Nor had I ever read Capital Gay!

McKellen talks about how his friend Carole encouraged him to become an activist:

Carole took me to meet the Arts Lobby, the sort of people I like best – articulate, funny and concerned.  Their concern, in January, was to fight Section 28 by highlighting its threat of censoring the arts. Most of them were gay — those who weren’t lesbians, that is.  Sharing their views and under their guidance, I became a trainee activist.

I love that McKellen was willing to be drawn out of his comfort zone and willing to use his voice for the greater good.  In McKellen we see humanity–we see the the evolution of empathy and “planting trees of which we will not enjoy their shade.”  McKellen shows us why we must be visible:

Good acting is so dependent on projecting sexuality that American film producers don’t risk confusing an audience’s fantasies by allowing their stars publicly to be anything but straight as Hollywood Boulevard.  And in the British theatre too, even 40 years after Gielgud was named, we are not allowed to declare which half of our best actors here are privately lesbian or gay.  (Half our theatre impresarios, too – and half the theatre critics.)

What  a very sad commentary here, which sends the message to our youth that it is not safe or acceptable to be gay.  We must change the message.  Thank you Ian McKellen for your activism, your talent, and your voice.  Click here to learn more about Sir Ian McKellen.

Do Gooder Prevails in Homophobic Attack

27 Jun

While I often like to think that I’m in a safe progressive bubble here in Portland, Oregon, the past month has proven that homophobic bigots are everywhere. Saturday morning a gay man was attacked in NW Portland, not far from the Pearl District.  28-year-old Shawn Siefke and 21-year-old Christian Sanchez-Villavencio attacked a man while yelling anti-gay epithets.

Unlike last month’s attack, where passers by did nothing to help the two gay men attacked, Andrew Smith, from Newport, jumped in to help.  The 24 year old Do-Gooder Smith was also attacked by the bigots Siefke and Sanchez-Villvencio.  I’m very sad that our hero Smith was attacked as well, but how nice that a passer by showed real social courage!!!  Click here to see the full story.

Michele Bachmann: Anita Bryant Redux

26 Jun

Singing the Same Song

This month marks the 34th anniversary of Anita Bryant and her bellicose band of bigots prevailing in the 1977 vote to discriminate against the LGBT community and make it illegal for us to adopt children.  Bryant formed her ironically named organization,  Save Our Children, along with her now ex husband and newcomer Jerry Falwell. Bryant belonged to Northwest Baptist Church: she and this congregation were fighting both school desegregation and fighting against gays and lesbians, lest they be given the same rights as those minorities her confederates failed to keep out of their schools.  By 1980, it was clear the Orange Juice Queen was on the wrong side of history and both her career and voice died.  So what was her legacy?

Fast forward to the mid-term elections of 2010.  That ball of crazy ranting against gays and immigration, is that Anita Bryant? No, that is Michele Bachmann.  Yes, here is Bryant’s legacy.  Bachmann is evidence that Americans do not know history, thus we are repeating some very ugly bits.  In 1977, Bryant said:

As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children.

In 2004, an amazingly similar and illiterate reproduction called Michele Bachmann said:

Little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and perhaps they should try it.

Bachmann has gone further than Bryant and has reported that she is:

chosen by God to become a politician who will restore faith and family values to public life and do battle with secular humanism.

Am I the only one terrified by this statement?  Are we really going to turn over our government to a person that hears the voice of god telling them to become president?  Is this a theocracy?

So how much progress have we made for civil rights in the past 34 years?  While I’m elated to see that my husband and I can legally marry now in New York, I’m also worried about the rise of the Tea Party and the celebration of mind boggling ignorance as it catapults itself as presidential contenders like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.  Have we learned nothing from the destructive bigoted damage of Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell?  Why are we not having conversations regarding the sustainability of the planet? Why are we not talking about the need for Planned Parenthood and the consumption of the earth’s resources by people with embarrassing large families, which in my opinion seems to work against planetary sustainability? Click here to see Bill Maher doing a great job talking about population control Here are two very good articles worth reading and are the two sources I used to compose this article. Click here and also click here.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 26, Jose Antonio Vargas

26 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Jose Antonio Vargas.  A Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Vargas recently outed himself as an undocumented immigrant.  You probably recognize Vargas’ name; he was a former reporter for The Washington Post and shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings.

TSM has addressed the issues of inequities before in how we treat undocumented youth. Vargas came to the United States as a young boy from the Philippines.  At age 16, Vargas realized, quite by accident, that the documentation he had been given by his grandfather (green card) was fake.  Not wanting to hurt or betray his grandfather:

I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it…But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.

Vargas started working on what would be an amazing career at Mountain View High School, joining the choir and the speech and debate team while keeping the secret that his social security card was a fake and photocopied at the local Kinkos.  Being an undocumented immigrant was not the only secret Vargas was carrying:

Later that school year, my history class watched a documentary on Harvey Milk, the openly gay San Francisco city official who was assassinated. This was 1999, just six months after Matthew Shepard’s body was found tied to a fence in Wyoming. During the discussion, I raised my hand and said something like: “I’m sorry Harvey Milk got killed for being gay. . . . I’ve been meaning to say this. . . . I’m gay.”

Being openly gay just added to the enormity of being in the country without documentation.  He was unable to accept an internship with the Seattle Times and endured a struggle to work within the system and lawyers to make him a citizen all to find out, “My only solution, the lawyer said, was to go back to the Philippines and accept a 10-year ban before I could apply to return legally.”  Consequently, Vargas decided to keep under the radar and continue to pursue a career in journalism.

Finally, after acquiring the needed documentation, Vargas was able to secure a position with the Washington Post.  I celebrate Vargas today as a part of LGBTQ History month for his courage and perseverance.  He told NPR that refused to marry a woman so that he could stay in the country legally, “Living with one lie is enough.”  I will be eagerly awaiting to see what happens to Jose Antonio Vargas.  Click here to read the NYT Article.

Indiana’s Misogyny Foiled: Bully Mitch Daniels to Appeal

25 Jun

Only I will control a woman's body!

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels made history last month, or rather left a significant mar in the annals of history, exposing himself as the true misogynist he is.  When Daniels moved to defund Planned Parenthood on May 10, 2011 he made sure that Planned Parenthood of Indiana lost all Medicaid funding and that Indiana was the first state to deny the organization Medicaid funds for services such as breast exams and Pap tests.  If this is not outright hostility to women, I don’t know what is.

The good news is that yesterday U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled that Indiana is not allowed to cut off Planned Parenthood’s public funding for general health services solely because the organization also provides abortions. Her ruling also:

sided with federal officials who said states cannot restrict Medicaid recipients’ freedom to choose their health care provider or disqualify Medicaid providers merely because they also offer abortions.

Kudos to Judge Walton Pratt for abiding by the law and proving objective leadership.  Perhaps there is hope for women in Indiana.  Click here to read the full NYT article.

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