Tag Archives: allies

Marriage Equality Makes It To Oregon At Last!

19 May

Oregon-United-for-MarriageMay 19, 2014 what a lovely, historic day for the state of Oregon and for the country. The Honorable Judge McShane made it clear that same sex couples should enjoy the privileges of marriage.  This is a time to rejoice and celebrate, for I believe that the liberation of LGBT people only contributes to the liberation of cisgender heterosexuals.  Here we have a decision that has a far reaching ripple effect. Marriage equality by design addresses issues of sexual orientation, race, class, privilege, power, and the intersections of all of these identities.

Well Done!  It looks like Robert and I need to get in line to get a marriage license.  Today we celebrate and tomorrow we pick up the torch to continue our dedication to expanding civil rights for all.

Homophobia Sneaks in Everywhere: From Mississippi to Oregon

6 Apr
LGBT Folk Not Welcome

LGBT Folk Not Welcome

I could feel my heart being crushed at the news that the Republican Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, signed a bill on Friday that makes it legal to discriminate against people in the LGBT community.  While not surprising coming from Mississippi, it is nonetheless disappointing. Not the first and probably not the last time the state of Mississippi is on the wrong side of history–this is not a state known for equity and equality.

Sadly, closer to home, I realize that the purported progressive Portland, Oregon hosts many homophobes as well. Last week, it came to light that the owner of The Moreland Farmers Pantry, in Sellwood, a Portland neighborhood, spewed her homophobic views. Owner Chauncy Childs posted this on her Facebook page about gays and same-sex marriage: “…a tiny minority is dictating a change of our social structure.”  I guess a population wanting equality and equity needs to be more than just a “tiny” 10% of the population. Childs went on to say that she supports the right of businesses to refuse to serve gay people.  The Charm Free Childs went on to say:

…that gay marriage is wrong because it is the start of a slippery slope that could eventually lead to pedophilia and bigamy.

Rest assured Ms. Childs, my gay husband and I will not get in our gay car find a gay parking spot and enter your store of hate.

Call to action: I would please ask that all of us LGBT folk in that “tiny population” boycott The Moreland Farmers Pantry.  May I also ask all of our allies to also boycott Ms. Childs’ Farmers Pantry.

Sadly, the latest homophobic episodes in Mississippi and Oregon are just a constant reminder that we are never completely safe and that we must constantly remain vigilant against homophobic bigots.

Difficult to Mourn: Rev. Fred Phelps Dead at 84

20 Mar

fred-phelpsI just learned that the infamous leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., died yesterday.  Phelps, who will be best remembered for his legacy of hate, such as: “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “Thank God for 9/11,” because all of those deaths were “God’s punishment” for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.  Those of us in the LGBTQ community and our allies would usually hear his name and cringe, thanks to all of the damage he has done to our community.

Typically, Phelps and his family could be seen holding huge signs that read: “God Hates Fags.”  Phelps’ picketing of the late Matthew Shepard‘s funeral catapulted him and his organization into the national spotlight.

While I will forever hold a space of sadness for all the lives he hurt, I have to say that I am holding a space of sadness for Phelps.  What an awful legacy he leaves — a legacy that now he has no chance of doing any repair.  He will always be remembered as a man of hate — a reputation he worked hard to earn.

I can only hope as we reflect on his passing, that we also reflect on what it means to preach such vitriol.  My experience has been that people who have the most difficulty with LGBTQ folk, are usually battling their own internalized homophobia.

Call to action: I also hope that with Phelps passing we look at institutional and structural power that works to target and disenfranchise LGBTQ people.  How do we make a difference and make the lives of LGBTQ people easier? How do we enlist our allies to help us pressure those in power to create policies that create equity and equality?

I suspect there will not be many mourners of Phelps; that is quite sad.  Sad because he leaves only a legacy of hate. I invite everyone to reflect: What do you want your legacy to be?

Update: March 25, 2014:

Nathan Phelps, son of the late Fred Phelps, released a rather compassionate statement regarding the passing of his father. I have included a particularly poignant excerpt from his statement:

The lessons of my father were not unique to him, nor will this be the last we hear of his words, which are echoed from pulpits as close as other churches in Topeka, Kansas, where WBC headquarters remain, and as far away as Uganda. Let’s end the support of hateful and divisive teachings describing the LGBT community as “less than,” “sinful,” or “abnormal.” Embrace the LGBT community as our equals, our true brothers and sisters, by promoting equal rights for everyone, without exception. My father was a man of action, and I implore us all to embrace that small portion of his faulty legacy by doing the same.

It is nice to see that some type of repair work is being done by Nathan.

Hero of the Week Award, August 30: Cory Booker

30 Aug
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Newark Mayor and New Jersey U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker has a longstanding reputation as a politician who understands his power and uses it to truly improve lives. He is very engaged with the people he serves and makes a practice of walking his talk — including a week spent on a food stamp budget and other practical demonstrations.

Booker is also an outspoken ally of the LGBT community. Although empowered as Mayor to perform marriages, he refuses to do so until all the citizens of his state have equal access to marriage. He has discussed his homophobia as a youth as an example of how people can grow.

As a lifelong bachelor with no visible social life, Booker is often the subject of speculation regarding his sexual orientation. Since he began his campaign for this October’s special Senate election. gay rumors have been swirling like mad in the media and online. Booker’s response?

And people who think I’m gay, some part of me thinks it’s wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay, and I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.

Even more impressive is that the level of risk for Booker, as a multiracial man, supporting LGBT equality says volumes about his character and  his ability to lead. Sadly, Booker’s opponent, Steve Lonegan, chose to denigrate Booker for his wonderful attitude. Calling Booker “weird,” he said he “likes being a guy” and used Booker’s fondness for manicures as a sign of weak masculinity. Booker wasted no time in reinforcing his solidarity with the LGBT community.

It’s just disheartening to hear somebody, in this day and age, in the United States of America, say basically … that gay men are not men, they’re not guys. It’s shocking to one’s conscience in this country, where we believe that the content of one’s character, the courage in one’s heart, the strength of one’s sense of purpose, the love that one has for others and their service is what defines them.

During this week of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, how sad that people like Lonegan are on the wrong side of history.  Lonegan, like other folks who behave in homophobic or racist ways strip, not only others of their dignity, but strip away their own dignity. Thank you, Mayor Booker. We’re looking forward to your long and productive tenure in the Senate.

Hero of the Week Award: July 5, Tim Hardaway

5 Jul
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week it is a real pleasure to celebrate a man who has clearly demonstrated the ability to change. Former NBA star, Tim Hardaway was infamous for his homophobia. When recently retired player John Amaechi came out in 2007, Hardaway famously noted in an interview “I hate gay people.” When asked for clarification, he seemed to use the label “homophobic” proudly.  At that point, he certainly would have earned Bigot of the Week Award.  What an absolute delight to celebrate someone who demonstrates bell hooks’ transformative experience.

The NBA did the right thing and sanctioned Hardaway, imposing financial penalties and banning him from the NBA All-Star weekend. This gave him space to consider his words and actions. Not long after, he indicated that he wanted to change his ways, telling a reporter, “I’m going to do whatever I can to correct it.”

He has lived up to that promise. Earlier this year, when Jason Collins became the first active NBA player to come out, Hardaway was among his most vocal supporters. This week, Equal Marriage Florida opened its petition to create marriage equality in the Sunshine State. For the very public kickoff of the campaign, they found a willing celebrity to be the first signer of the petition — Tim Hardaway.

Many people have ugly beliefs, say hateful things, take hurtful actions. They should be called out for their behavior. Too seldom do we see even a real apology. Even rarer is someone who truly demonstrates that they have learned from their mistakes and want to be and do better and do the necessary repair work. Thank you, Tim Hardaway, for showing that our strongest allies can be forged from the lessons learned by our former opponents.  There is a lesson for us all here.  For those that commit trespass, we must try our best to create a space for people to make mistakes, be accountable, and allow for repair work.  If I, or our culture, simply dismisses a fellow human being as just a homophobe, or just a racist, we lose the opportunity for richer deeper conversations to be had and we also lose the opportunity for targeted, or marginalized people to gain allies.

It’s a delight to have two honorable mentions this week. First, a big thank you to the Department of Homeland Security. (I never thought I’d write that!) In one of the first executive branch actions since the overturn of DOMA Section 3, DHS began issuing green cards to legally married same-sex couples. This will end decades of discrimination and estrangement and banishes one of the most visibly cruel aspects of DOMA.

Honorable mention also goes to April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a couple in Michigan who have been working to overturn that state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples. They recently expanded their case to take on the Wolverine State’s marriage ban. Judge Bernard Friedman put a stay on the case in March, awaiting the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 decisions. Citing the DOMA verdict, Friedman lifted his stay, noting that the language of the decision “has provided the requisite precedential fodder for both parties to this litigation.” It’s wonderful to see so many positive results emerge from that one decision so quickly. Thank you, April and Jayne, for your courage, and best of luck on your journey to end discrimination.

LGBT History Month 2013: Cyndi Lauper

24 Jun

cyndi  lauperToday I would like to honor and celebrate a fierce  and lifelong LGBT ally — a woman dedicated to civil rights for all and social justice, not to mention a personal hero of mine, Cyndi Lauper.  Lauper founded  the Give A Damn Campaign, which strives for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality. What a lovely voice of solidarity for the LGBTQ community.  Her activism is greatly appreciated and she uses her celebrity for the greater good.

Lauper’s True Colors tour — taking its title from her #1 ballad to being true to yourself –  is a wonderful spectacle of support for the LGBTQ community and for strong voices in the music community representing marginalized populations. She truly exemplifies the values she speaks. Activist neo-divas like P!nk and Lady Gaga owe a great debt to her bold example.

More recently, Lauper started True Colors Residence, providing housing for LGBT youth.  Yes, sadly, there are far too many LGBT youth who find themselves homeless after coming out. Announcing the facility, she stated:

These young people often face discrimination and at times physical assault in some of the very places they have to go to for help. This is shocking and inexcusable!

Lauper also successfully turned her many talents in a new direction with a recent Broadway hit. Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell asked her to write the music and lyrics for a stage adaptation of the true-story movie Kinky Boots. Harvey Fierstein came on board to write the book for this story of a young man who recruits a drag queen to help him save his family shoe factory by designing comfortable and stylish drag footwear. Nominated for 13 Tony Awards, the show’s win for Best Musical may be the gayest Tony ever. Lauper became the first woman to win Best Original Score solo, adding another first to her list of accomplishments.

From the very beginning, Lauper has used her star power to help the under-represented. On her groundbreaking video for Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, she insisted that the performers be as diverse as possible wanting:

every girl who saw the video to see herself represented and empowered, whether she was thin or heavy, glamorous or not. I wanted women of every race.

She has used that same philosophy to great impact in her support of the LGBT community. Thank goodness for allies like Lauper.

Hero of the Week Award: April 26, Joe Bell and Faces for Change

26 Apr
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week Joe Bell began a remarkable journey with a tragic origin. Joe Bell of La Grande, OR started a two-year, 5,000 mile walk across the United States in memory of his son, Jadin.

Jadin died February 3 from complications suffered after a suicide attempt. He was only 15. Openly gay in a conservative eastern Oregon town, he was bullied mercilessly and finally gave up. The Faces for Change foundation was established in his memory; its mission is to put an end to bullying.

Joe, who has two artificial knees, will speak at schools and local organizations along his walk, spreading the anti-bullying message. What a remarkable memorial to his son.  Joe shows the strength, power, and influence of LGBT allies!

Honorable mention this week goes to Teamsters Local 25 in Boston. When the ever-infamous denizens of Westboro Baptist Church threatened to picket the funeral of Krystle Campbell, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, the union organized a human wall. Over 1,000 members and supporters lined the streets, providing support for the family and blocking any possible view of the planned picket. Westboro gave up and opted not to demonstrate after all, a rare and welcome occurrence.

Update:

Sadly, I report with a very heavy heart that Joe Bell was struck and killed by a truck in eastern Colorado on Thursday, October 10, 2013. I have to believe the good energy Bell put out into the universe will live on and it is a call to action for us all.

One of the Voices of Social Justice: Matthew Johnson

19 Jul

Allies

As the conversation around civil rights and marriage equality has become a very hot button topic during this Presidential election year, my friend Matthew asked if would I interview him for my blog.  Matthew and his wife are not just our neighbors, they have become our friends and family here in Portland.  One can catch us at their house with their kids or all of them at our house on our front porch.  I have to thank Matthew for speaking out and using his heterosexual privilege to help marginalized populations. This is the second interview in what I hope will be a year long series.

Where and how did you grow up?

I grew up in a little white yuppy bubble in Ohio—the conservative town of Chagrin Falls, a suburb of Cleveland. I found out in high school that our county had been gerrymandered around a black community and 95% of the high school graduates went on to college.  The gerrymandering made it impossible for black kids to attend my high school and none of us realized how privileged we were.  Coming out of high school was a shock to me because I met a huge group of people that were not like me: gay and lesbian, black people, people that were not from the same socioeconomic status.  Where I grew up, if you were gay, no one really dealt with the issue. One could never bring up the issue—it was a taboo issue, we would just say ‘he is just light in the loafers.’  It is not a bad place to grow up, but it is very sheltered and very privileged.

Matthew met his wife in Seattle and upon learning they were pregnant they decided to move to Portland to buy a house and raise their family; they currently have four children:

I was pleasantly surprised to found out how progressive Portland is and I was happy to find out that Multnomah County is the most secular county in the country. I did grow up going to church—a Christian church, but not evangelical—I still chafed under it. I chafed under it because my nature is to question and the Christian church is not set up for that—it is not set up for debate. [Currently, Matthew identifies as atheist.] This does not mean I hate Christians. I appreciate the comfort it gives them, I just don’t subscribe to it.

Do you consider you and your wife political?

We are political in that we vote and we vote at every opportunity. We don’t campaign or canvass but we don’t hold our political views to ourselves. My wife identifies as a Democrat and I identify as an Independent.  We both believe in civil rights and that no one should be able to deny others’ civil rights.

Why did you feel compelled to visit with me about Marriage Equality? 

I believe strongly in it.  I want to have some sort of an outlet as a person of privilege who does not need to address the issue, but I feel compelled to.  If I were a gay man and wanted to get married I would need to go out and approach legislators.  As a straight man I need to help and work to make a difference.  [Matthew is fully aware of the power of straight allies and the use of our collective voices.] The whole issues is insidious—the issue of marriage equality is not a threat to my heterosexual marriage, nor is it a threat to any heterosexual marriage.  I’m not putting anyone on a pedestal: I’m just saying that as a group (LGBTQ) should have the same rights that everyone else has—it is not a privilege it is a right!  For full disclosure, I have a lesbian sister.  She came out a decade ago and I was the last person she told.  When I asked her why I was the last person, she said “because I didn’t think it would be an issue with you.”  My parents were very accepting.

I know a bunch of heterosexual couples that do not want children, so does that mean their marriage is invalid? I have a real problem with the inequitable distribution of power—you can’t institute who someone falls in love with anymore than you can institute what color people are supposed to love.

Call to action for LGBTQ allies: 

Vote first of all—that is a big one.  Don’t be afraid of the issue and if it comes up be willing to speak your mind. People need to know that does not just concern the LGBTQ community—other people do care.  Don’t let people voice homophobic comments—gay jokes are not cool.  My kids will never make gay jokes!  Just as my wife was taught never to play the game “Smear the Queer.”  Her dad taught his children not to be homophobic.

Matthew and Erin, thank you for teaching your children not to be homophobic and for being wonderful friends and allies.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 28, Our Allies

28 Jun

Thank You Allies

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to all of the allies of the LGBTQ community.  Not just the vast number of allies I know, but organizations like PFLAG, the NAACP, neighbors, families, and all the heterosexuals that stand with us in solidarity.

In a time in our history when Presidential candidates have signed a pledge to discriminate against all LGBTQ people, it takes great courage and integrity to stand with us and demand we all be treated equally. It is time to say a huge Thank You to all of you that believe in civil rights and basic human rights.

Thank you all!

It it not easy to interrupt discrimination, but we must!  Because the LGBTQ community has so many overlapping identities, we must stand united when we work to stop the intersections oppression–when we work to stop homophobia, racism, transphobia,ageism, and misogyny.  Today I honor and thank you all.  “We Who Believe In Freedom Cannot Rest Until It Comes.”

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