Tag Archives: fighting homophobia

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.


Number 2 Hero of the Year 2012: Chris Kluwe

30 Dec
Number 2 Hero of 2012

Number 2 Hero of 2012

The success of any social movement requires effort not just from the oppressed but from their allies. This year the LGBT community got a big boost from an unexpected source. NFL star Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings came out blazing for marriage equality. Once he got people’s attention, he refused to be silent. I must confess a great amount of joy at the amazing number of nominations that poured in for Kluwe as Hero of the Year–thank you TSM Readers.

His advocacy started when another player, Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo, expanded his ongoing support (after work with NoH8 and other groups). Ayanbadejo joined the fight for marriage equality in Maryland and was attacked by a local politician. Recognizing the opportunity for advocacy, Kluwe wrote a public letter to the offending bigot, skewering him, supporting Ayanbadejo, and making a clear, commonsense case for marriage equality.

This straight, white, rich guy used his privilege to speak truth to power, modelling great behavior. On top of that, he did so with wit (introducing the phrase “lustful cockmonster” into the vernacular) and insistence. Since the initial foray, Kluwe has been a strong voice for LGBT equality — he even debated marriage rights with an empty chair immediately after the GOP convention. Kluwe and Ayanbadejo deserve credit for helping the successful equality campaigns in their states and for showing that professional athletes can be supporters of the LGBT community without suffering.

Honorable mention goes to Ayanbadejo for his stellar advocacy work. It also goes to the steadily increasing number of LGBT athletes who are coming out and serving as role models in traditionally homophobic careers. Silence =Death and visibility = power.  A huge thank you to all of the LGBT allies out there.  With your help, we can stamp out homophobia!

Stay tuned tomorrow for the Number 1 Hero of 2012.

Number 3 Hero of the Year Award 2011: Lady Gaga

30 Dec

Number 3 Hero of 2011

In light of the shenanigans that so many people get up to when they get the least bit famous, it is a delight to be able to honor a celebrity who uses her voice, money, and spotlight to make the world a better place. Stephani Germanotta, better known to the world as Lady Gaga, has been a tireless force for good in 2011, bringing her in at #3 on this year’s Hero list.

Already known as a staunch ally of the LGBT community for her opposition to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Lady Gaga hit the ground running in 2011 with her amazing album and single Born This Way. She stuck to her principles commercially (a rare trait indeed) and broke an exclusive distribution contract with Target when the retail giant refused to stop its funding of anti-gay politicians. A vocal supporter of anti-bullying programs, she’s been a one-woman It Gets Better campaign. Following the tragic suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, she not only dedicated a concert to him and to all the victims of bullying, but she lobbied the White House for national anti-bullying programs. She’s also raised funds and awareness to fight AIDS.

It looks like she’ll be continuing the momentum in 2012, as her new Born This Way Foundation — dedicated to youth empowerment, bravery, and kindness — launches. Using her power for good pays off, too, as Forbes named her the most powerful celebrity of the year (beating out Oprah) and DoSomething.org put her at the top of their annual list of “Celebs Gone Good.”  Let’s hope more youth hear her message of personal value and more celebrities take her model of using fame for good to heart.

Flashback to 2010: Fittingly, last year’s #3 hero was Dan Savage and the It Gets Better campaign.

Sofia Vergara and Social Justice

16 Sep

Civil Rights Champion

Sofia Vergara is more than just another pretty face. The star of ABC’s smash sitcom, Modern Family, is also an outspoken champion of social justice and gay rights. Recently, Vergara released a public service announcement for GLAAD  as part of their Be an Ally and a Friend campaign. She has a long-standing relationship with GLAAd, having presented at their 2010 awards ceremony and participated in a number of their outreach activities.

Understanding the dual pressures of being LGBT and hispanic, she recorded the PSA in Spanish. When asked about that decision, she responded:

imagine how hard it is for Latin guys and Latin kids to be gay. Most of us are raised very Catholic, and the macho figure is very strong in our culture, so it’s still more taboo and a million times more dramatic to come out. Many gay friends have told me how hard it was for them to be open in the Latin community. Nothing’s going to change from one day to the other, so it’s a matter of doing things little by little.

She also sat down for an interview with the LGBTQ news magazine The Advocate recently to discuss the PSA and her support for the gay community. The whole interview is delightful, showing Vergara’s elegance, wit, and charm. One quote nails the issue of LGBT equality and civil rights:

We have to appreciate each other’s differences and accept people who have the courage to accept themselves. That’s beautiful.

So are you, Sofia, inside and out. Thank you for your wonderful work on the screen and in the lives of the LGBTQ community. Okay, so maybe I would cross the road for both Sofia Vergara and Helen Mirren.

Phenomenal PSA for Marriage Equality: Thank You, Ireland

10 Sep

Ireland Fighting for Marriage Equality

This is perhaps one of the best Public Service Announcements (PSA) I have seen for Marriage Equality.  This PSA is a fantastic reminder that “Separate but Equal” is neither!  Click here to see the PSA–I think it speaks for itself.  Hat tip to Lee Dorsey and  Towleroad for sharing this gem!

NAACP Supporting Marriage Equality in Maryland

10 Sep

The Time is Now for Marriage Equality

Yesterday, September 9, 2011 the Baltimore NAACP chapter demonstrated true social courage and joined the steering committee to ensure marriage equality in Maryland in 2012. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) lends its voice and political clout to a chorus including labor, civil liberties, and LGBT groups already on board. Of course, this news warmed my heart.

The support from the NAACP not only will help all LGBT folks striving for equality, but it sends a clear message to the African American population that all of us must do a better job of taking care of our LGBT brothers and sisters of color. For those of you that are regular TSM readers, you know that violence has increased against the LGBT community overall by 13% in a single year, with people of color experiencing violence in disproportionate numbers .

Tessa Hill-Alston, president of the Baltimore Branch NAACP, said in a statment:

We believe gay and lesbian couples have the same values as everyone else…They want to make a lifetime commitment to the person they love and build a loving, stable family. So it is only right that committed gay and lesbian couples be given the opportunity to marry as everyone else. We look forward to working with the coalition and lawmakers to pass a marriage equality bill that protects religious freedoms.

Brava, Ms. Hill-Alston.  People like Hill-Alston give me hope that we can collectively address the intersections of oppression and move to push for equality for all oppressed peoples. Hill-Alston is the tonic for the hypocrisy and bigotry I witness from gays who are racist and misogynists, or blacks who are homophobic, or women who are anti-women and homophobic.  I simply don’t understand how anyone that is or has been marginalized can’t feel an obligation to then stand up for others who are marginalized. I am hopeful and will look forward to other NAACP chapters stepping up to the plate and continuing to show great courage and leadership for civil rights for all.

Hero of the Week Award: September 9, Cyndi Lauper

9 Sep

Hero of the Week

I have to confess that I was so overwhelmed by the bigots this week that the search for a hero seemed daunting.  Fortunately, our Cyndi Lauper, founder of the Give A Damn Campaign, which strives for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality, is now opening a homeless shelter for LGBT teens in New York.  True Colors Residence homeless shelter for LGBT teens opens today, September 9, 2011, thus earning Cyndi Lauper our HWA.

True Colors Residence will serve youth from ages 18 to 24 who have been disowned by their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  The youth will receive housing, social, and educational support; they will also receive help finding employment.  Brava, Cyndi Lauper.  How wonderful to build a legacy of love, strength, and advocacy in a culture of hate, discrimination, and fear mongering.

Elmhurst College Ahead of the Curve in Civil Rights

25 Aug

Embraces LGBT Students

Thank you to my friend Tim Jung for inspiring me to write this story. In the wake of the brutal murder of yet another gay teen in Iowa less than a week ago, here is a story of hope and progress. Elmhurst College in Illinois has included questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity to their admissions application.

While students can opt out of answering the questions, those who do identify as part of the LGBT community may be eligible for a scholarship worth up to one-third of tuition.  Gary Rold, the Dean of Admissions, explains why Elmurst has included questions about LGBT identity on the admissions form :

Increasing diversity is part of our mission statement. This is simply closing the loop, in many ways, of another group who has a very strong identity. It may not be race and religion but it’s an important part of who they are.  More importantly, he said, knowing students’ sexual orientation will help officials direct incoming students toward services or groups that might help them make an easier transition to college life. We try really hard to take good care of students, have them graduate and be successful citizens in the world. The only way you do that is to meet people where they really are.

Dartmouth and University of Pennsylvania have started to include LGBT-centered activities that students can look at joining upon admission. How refreshing to see a handful of college campuses working to embrace LGBT students. What a stark contrast to the bigoted Republican Presidential candidates signing a pledge to discriminate against us and treat as sub-human, a la Bachmann whose husband goes against APA best practices with his “reparative therapy.”   I am hopeful that Millennials like Tim Jung, Lex Kahn, and Maria Khan have had enough of the fear mongering bigoted homophobic tactics of the right wing and will prove to be the generation that makes a safer environment for all people.  For those of you in the LGBT community looking for a safe school, you may want to consider Elmhurst College. Click here to read the full article.

Hero of the Week Award, July 1

1 Jul

Thank you to Jennifer Lockett for inspiring this story.  While it is true that I typically show great disdain for the state of Texas, home of Rick Perry, there are little gems that are worth celebrating. The Fort Worth school district is making a bold move and expanding their anti-bullying policy to include and protect gender non-conforming and LGBT students, thus earning them the HWA.  Unlike Tennessee, where you are not even allowed to say the word gay, Fort Worth is proving to be a spot of progressive activity in the very bigoted and homophobic south. Let us hope that Fort Worth will be setting the standard for other school districts in Texas.  Click here to see the full article.

%d bloggers like this: