Tag Archives: ally

The Return of Concentration Camps for Gays

17 Apr

It is with great sorrow and disgust that I share this news story. I write it because we must take action and because the world needs to know what is happening right now. We seem to be intentionally ignoring the lessons we should have learned from WWII.  Currently, the Russian republic of Chechnya is rounding up men who are gay or perceived to be gay and putting them into concentration camps where they are being tortured, beaten, their hands electrocuted, and being forced to sit on bottles. At present, we know that at least three men have been murdered according to the  independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.  Of course, Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov denies these claims saying that Chechnya has no homosexuals and reported: “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.”

Sadly, Russia has a long established history of homophobia and anti-semitism. What is more disturbing is that our own government in the United States seems to be creating a parallel structure of hate, homophobia, racism, anti-semitism, and misogyny. The anti-semitism coming from 45 and his minions like Sean Spicer is not only embarrassing, but it is exceedingly dangerous! Since 45 became President (thanks to a lot of help from Russia) right wing racist and homophobic Christians have become emboldened to the point that they are now taking our country hostage and eradicating our democracy and replacing it with a KKKristian theocracy.

For example, the trans bathroom rights established by President Obama have now been repealed, putting trans-identified and gender non-conforming people in danger. HB24 just passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in Alabama, thus paving the way to make it legal to discriminate against LGBT homes and deny them the ability to adopt or take in kids in the foster system. Of course, this all fits into Vice President Mike Pence’s agenda of establishing a national “Religious Freedom” law, which would allow for his perverted idea of Christianity to rule the nation and to discriminate against the LGBT community. Ultimately, this would mean gay/queer people must worry they will be denied services, denied housing, denied medical care. Yes, this is where we are now as a nation.

Take Action: We must stand in solidarity with each other and we must enlist the help and support of allies. We must make it known around the world that what is happening in the Russian republic of Chechnya is unacceptable. We must resist 45 and his homophobic administration at all costs! If you consider yourself an ally to the LGBTQ community, now is the time to make your voice heard.

Advertisements

National Coming Out Day 2016: Supporting Each Other

11 Oct

coming-outGrab your smelling salts, clutch your pearls: I have big news. I am gay, queer, a homosexual. Yes, it is true. October 11 is National Coming Out Day. Why do we need this day? Why do we need to celebrate this day?

I cannot underscore enough the importance of being out and visible.  The more visible we are as a community, the more difficult it is to target us and treat us as sub-human or second class citizens. And here is where the messiness lives.

I cannot underscore enough how being able to be “out” is a privilege I have. I am painfully aware that many people in the United States are not able to “come out,” as the level of risk is too great.  Sadly, we know there are many in the LGBTQ community that the physical and emotional toll would be too great in coming out. Let us stand in solidarity and work to change the entire system that shames and denigrates the queer community. Right now that means to do whatever we can to defeat the horrifically homophobic and misogynistic deplorable duo that is Trump and Pence.

Currently there are 29 states — over half of the US — where it is still legal to actively discriminate against LGBT folk.  Look at this map provided by the ACLU to see where your state stands on protecting rights of LGBTQ people. Yes, in 29 states one can be fired for being gay. Not a big surprise that no state in the South has the slightest protection for the LGBT community. (There do exist individual cities that provide limited protection, but of course look what happened when Charlotte, NC tried to create a safe city — Republican legislators slammed the whole state with the loathsome HB2.)  I guess that wacky Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision from 2003 meant nothing.

Sadly, in this election year, we have only seen venom coming from each GOP candidate regarding LGBTQ rights. Not only are Pence and Trump working to hurt our community, but the reinforcements from the GOP platform are nothing less than embarrassing.  Speaking of embarrassing, the exceedingly ignorant Gary Johnson is not an ally to our community, although a white heterosexual man tried to convince me he is. When you are pro-states rights around LGBTQ issues, you are NOT an ally.

It is imperative that people see this as political! Sadly, we continue to see the numbers rise in homicides and attacks on LGBTQ community; and we know these numbers are not accurate because people are too fearful to identify, or authorities misidentify people.  We need to vote for people who will support LGBTQ rights.

And I  hold out great hope for the future. I also want to thank all of the LGBTQ allies, for there are a great many of you. Let us support one another and stand in solidarity. Come out, come out, where ever you are!

Black History Month 2016: Vanessa Williams

26 Feb

VanessaToday I would like to honor Vanessa Williams, one of the most versatile and gracious talents and a national treasure. I first fell in love with Williams when she was horribly wronged in 1984 and was pressured to relinquish her Miss America Crown. Williams received an official apology for the way she was treated in September 2015 from Miss America CEO Sam Haskell. Of course, Williams was exceedingly gracious and forgiving. I’m not wholly certain I would have been as generous, but I hope I would be.

Later I would fall in love with her again and bought her album The Comfort Zone because it has one of my favorite songs, Save the Best for Last on it. One of the very best Christmas albums ever is Williams’ Star Bright; I have given away many, many copies of this as a gift. Her version of Go Tell it on the Mountain is nothing less than phenomenal.

While she has a list of movie and television roles too long to list, one of my favorite roles — which she made into a gay icon — was the deliciously devilish diva known as Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty. This was a hallmark moment in television, for it had a powerful, brilliant, pro gay black woman sharing the screen with an equally powerful, brilliant, pro gay, Latina woman (America Ferrera). Watching Ugly Betty with our Vanessa Williams made me hopeful that targeted communities would unite and throw off the oppressive shackles of the George W years. Who knew those years would look progressive in light of the current GOP discourse?

Feeling a bit bleak and depressed listening to the hate mongers known as the GOP presidential candidates, my husband and I have started to watch Ugly Betty from the beginning again, as a palliative. It is nice to fall in love with Vanessa Williams all over again. The only reason we ever watched the show Desperate Housewives was so that we could see Williams. We have just started watching a show called The Good Wife and I just learned that Williams is one of the stars in this final season of the show; we’re looking forward to enjoying her in a new role.

Vanessa Williams could have been a tiny footnote in Miss America history. Instead, she rose above the inflated non-scandal and proved what a strong, independent woman she is. Without a doubt the most successful and famous winner of the crown, she definitely had the last laugh. That resilience shines through in her activism: Williams is a vocal pro-choice advocate, a staunch ally of the LGBT community, and a supporter of programs for at-risk youth. She also funds cancer research, actively supports Dress for Success, and works with programs that combat homelessness.

A wonderful singer, talented actor, and beautiful human being! Let’s celebrate all of Vanessa Williams’ accomplishments today.

Happy Birthday, Olivia Newton John

26 Sep
5923_31

5923_31

Today is Olivia Newton John’s 67th birthday!  I want to say Happy Birthday and I would like to celebrate a woman whose music has brought me endless joy and whose dedication to social justice inspires me. Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England in 1948. Her father was a Welsh-born professor and her mother a German Jew whose family fled Germany as the Nazis came to power. (Her mother’s father was Nobel-winning physicist Max Born.) The family moved to Melbourne, Australia when Olivia was six, and it is that country that she considers her home.

A talented singer, she began performing in her teens and took part in a number of Australian TV programs. She met future collaborator and producer John Farrar, who encouraged her to take part in a contest on Sing Sing Sing. She won a trip to England, initially planning to stay for a year to explore the country and her career. She built up slow, steady momentum and released her first album in 1971.

That launched real international success, including an invitation to perform the U.K. entry in the 1974 Eurovision contest. (She came in 4th; the winner that year was Sweden, with ABBA’s Waterloo.) She was still struggling to get a foothold in the U.S., but won a Grammy for best Country Female Performance. That award raised anger in Country purist circles, in part because she was still based in England. (The ever-wonderful Dolly Parton, however, supported her.) Taking advice from fellow Aussie Helen Reddy, Olivia moved to the U.S. In short order she launched a massively successful career.

I remember getting beaten up in the bathroom when I was a little kid at summer camp.  I was singing You’re the One That I Want from Grease, when a couple of bullies came in and beat the tar out of me.  How I hated those kids and how I loved Olivia and how did I not know I was gay back in the 7th grade?  Of course, even today I sing to Xanadu and all of the classic Olivia songs.  There is another song that holds a very special place in my heart, Tutta La Vita.  This song came out when my friend Kent was sick in the hospital and I loved this song for both the lyrics and for the music.  Sadly, my friend Kent passed away from HIV, but I think about him when I hear this song.  How wonderful that our Olivia stands in solidarity with the LGBT community.

Besides her beautiful music, Olivia has been a tireless advocate for many causes. She is an outspoken environmentalist and animal rights advocate. (She has cancelled Japanese tours over the slaughter of dolphins in tuna nets.) A breast cancer survivor, she also devotes a great deal of energy to cancer education, diagnosis, research, and treatment. She has also worked closely with UNICEF and been an advocate for LGBT rights.

A great singer, actress, activist, and all-around decent human being, I love our Olivia! (And who can forget her amazing performance in Sordid Lives?) Thank you for bringing your joy and passion into so many lives.

A Holiday Invitation…

25 Dec
Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

As this year draws to a close,  I suspect many of us are in an introspective mood.  Many of us are reflecting back on the losses of family and friends and social justice pioneers, such as Nelson Mandela and Lou Reed and to a certain extent Pope Francis and of course Wanda Coleman.  I know I am constantly looking at what my legacy for humanity will be. I extend an invitation for us all to challenge anyone who shows a lack of generosity and heart — to challenge these human flaws with kindness and with love.

I believe that if we are serious about eradicating racism, homophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, and poverty, we must all be engaged – we must all stand in solidarity with one another. When we commit any type of trespass against another human being, we must be willing to do some repair work.

How lovely that we don’t have to do the heavy work of social justice in isolation, but instead we find ourselves more and more engaged with the world. There may not be a point of completion, but we have the power both individually and in community that we make progress. I challenge us all to make the world a better place and cast away the very false notion of “people need to pull themselves up by their boot straps.”

Let us hope that we are each carving out a legacy that creates equity and celebrates our shared humanity. We are all responsible in creating a  community where we can be our authentic and vulnerable selves.  I wish everyone a wonderful, safe, peaceful, and reflective holiday season.

Eleanor Roosevelt and My Birthday

10 Dec
Me Age 6

Me Age 6

As 50 creeps upon me and I celebrate 47 today, I am comforted  that this day also marks the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by Eleanor Roosevelt. Here is the Preamble to the now 30 articles in the Declaration:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

I love that the goal is for this to be the “common standard of achievement.”  Sadly, we have certainly missed the mark here in 2013. I look at the structural and government mandated homophobia in Russia and Uganda.  I look at the racism we still are fighting against in our own country, as I read about Shannon Gibney, a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and am in disbelief that three white students filed a complaint because they were uncomfortable; thus Professor Gibney was reprimanded for doing her job. I can only hope those three white students will evolve and have a better understanding of structural racism.

My Birthday Wish: My birthday wish is that all of humanity take some action, no matter how small a step, to STOP racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ageism, classism, eradicate poverty, and all other forms of marginalization.  We must learn how to interrupt oppression and yet keep people engaged in conversations.  What does it mean to be an ally? I would argue that being an ally is not a status, but it is action.

Women’s History Month 2013: Olivia Newton-John

8 Mar

5923_31Today I would like to celebrate a woman whose music has brought me endless joy and whose dedication to social justice inspires me. Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England in 1948. Her father was a Welsh-born professor and her mother a German Jew whose family fled Germany as the Nazis came to power. (Her mother’s father was Nobel-winning physicist Max Born.) The family moved to Melbourne, Australia when Olivia was six, and it is that country that she considers her home.

A talented singer, she began performing in her teens and took part in a number of Australian TV programs. She met future collaborator and producer John Farrar, who encouraged her to take part in a contest on Sing Sing Sing. She won a trip to England, initially planning to stay for a year to explore the country and her career. She built up slow, steady momentum and released her first album in 1971.

That launched real international success, including an invitation to perform the U.K. entry in the 1974 Eurovision contest. (She came in 4th; the winner that year was Sweden, with ABBA’s Waterloo.) She was still struggling to get a foothold in the U.S., but won a Grammy for best Country Female Performance. That award raised anger in Country purist circles, in part because she was still based in England. (The ever-wonderful Dolly Parton, however, supported her.) Taking advice from fellow Aussie Helen Reddy, Olivia moved to the U.S. In short order she launched a massively successful career.

I remember getting beaten up in the bathroom when I was a little kid at summer camp.  I was singing You’re the One That I Want from Grease, when a couple of bullies came in and beat the tar out of me.  How I hated those kids and how I loved Olivia and how did I not know I was gay back in the 7th grade?  Of course, even today I sing to Xanadu and all of the classic Olivia songs.  There is another song that holds a very special place in my heart, Tutta La Vita.  This song came out when my friend Kent was sick in the hospital and I loved this song for both the lyrics and for the music.  Sadly, my friend Kent passed away from HIV, but I think about him when I hear this song.  How wonderful that our Olivia stands in solidarity with the LGBT community.

Besides her beautiful music, Olivia has been a tireless advocate for many causes. She is an outspoken environmentalist and animal rights advocate. (She has cancelled Japanese tours over the slaughter of dolphins in tuna nets.) A breast cancer survivor, she also devotes a great deal of energy to cancer education, diagnosis, research, and treatment. She has also worked closely with UNICEF and been an advocate for LGBT rights.

A great singer, actress, activist, and all-around decent human being, I love our Olivia! (And who can forget her amazing performance in Sordid Lives?) Thank you for bringing your joy and passion into so many lives.

%d bloggers like this: