Tag Archives: Gay History Month

LGBT Pride and History Month 2014: Thank You Justice Kennedy

5 Jun

Official Photograph of Justice Anthony KennedyOnce again those merry pranksters at the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) tried their best to crush equality for loving same-sex couples. Shortly after federal Judge Michael McShane issued a strong ruling striking down Oregon’s ban on marriage equality for same sex couples, NOM tried to intervene.

NOM demanded that the Supreme Court issue a stay on McShane’s ruling while they desperately scrambled to find a way to reverse it. The petition went to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who presides over such matters for the region that includes Oregon. Kennedy requested briefs from NOM, the plaintiffs who won McShane’s decision and the state of Oregon. After those briefs were filed on Tuesday, the Justice referred the matter to the entire Supreme Court.

The full Court responded with a clear “go away!” message to NOM.

The application for  stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied.

It’s that simple. NOM doesn’t get any legal justifications or consideration. Just one sentence that rejects and rebukes their tragic, hateful energy.

Congratulations to Justice Kennedy for getting the weight of the Court behind this matter and to the assembled Justices for standing up for equality. Every once in awhile the Supreme Court gets things right — what a lovely example this is!

Thanks also to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. She carefully analyzed the case before McShane and correctly decided that Oregon’s ban was unconstitutional “under any level of scrutiny.” Refusing to waste taxpayer money defending injustice, she did not defend the ban. When replying to Justice Kennedy’s request for briefs, she made it quite clear that NOM and its anonymous three Oregon citizens did not have the right to assume the power of state government. Thank you, AG Rosenblum! How sad that NOM continues to leave a legacy of hate and is on the wrong side of history.  Thank you to the strong LGBT voices and the strong voices of our allies.

Call to Action: Now we must not rest. We must look at ways in which each of our voices can be supportive of LGBT people here in the United States and all over the world.

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LGBTQ History Month 2014: We Have A Long Way To Go

1 Jun

lgbtpridemonth2014June is recognized as LGBT History Month, a time for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community to come together and celebrate who we are and stand in solidarity with each other.  We celebrate in June because it was June of 1969 that jump-started the Gay Liberation Movement in our country’s history with the Stonewall Riots.  While we have witnessed much progress in some areas, we still witness mortifying discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

In 1969 it was illegal in the United States to be gay and we were targeted by police for raids and put in jail.  Sadly, the LGBT community is still policed disproportionately and there are still 29 states — mostly in the South — where it is still illegal to be gay, despite Lawrence v. Texas. Yes, most states in the South have zero protections for LGBT folk, so one can be denied employment, denied housing, and denied healthcare just for their sexual orientation.

As much as we think It Gets Better, we still have a long way to go.  One wonders why we don’t have a better campaign that says: Make It Get Better, and put the onus on the dominant culture.  We know from the 2010 National Health Report that harassment and violence against the LGBT community have increased by 20% and the increase of violence is even greater for LGBT folks of color.

Sadly, this trend is international and shows no sign of abating. India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi,  supports the country’s lower court’s ruling, once again making gay sex a crime punishable by up to ten years in jail and putting tens of millions of Indians at risk of prosecution or harassment. Look at the spike in protesting and violence in France that started as marriage equality began to work its way through the legislative process. Look at the violence in Russia and the Ukraine and the official indifference — or outright support — it receives. Nigeria just passed “All Gays to Be Jailed” law. Even in supposedly progressive Oregon, look at the hate and discrimination practiced near Portland at Oregon City High School.

The closer we get to equality, the angrier — and more aggressive — our foes become.  While I am elated that we now have 19 states plus the District of Columbia that celebrate marriage equality, I am also fearful that there will be an enormous backlash. How many of us are still reeling from the injustice to Larry King, the 8th grader shot in the back of the head twice and murdered.

Granted, our heterosexual brothers and sisters do have to live in fear of the Gay Agenda…

I want to acknowledge gratefully that DOMA has now been overturned, as has Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We still have a long way to go because of current LGBT hate crimes and because of the impact of multigenerational trauma.

LGBT History Month provides a time and place for the community to celebrate and come together in “numbers too big to be ignored.” (You know I love me some Helen Reddy.)  I ask all of our heterosexual brothers and sisters to stand in solidarity and support all LGBT folk in the many colors and lives we represent. This is not a time to grow complacent. We must be visible!

LGBT History Month 2013: Reflections and Work Yet to Be Done

30 Jun

AlbusDumbledoreAs we celebrate the last day of LGBT History Month, I am reflecting on the victory of the Death of DOMA, the tepid Supreme Court Decision regarding Prop 8, and the work yet to be done towards full equality for the LGBT community.  The striking down of DOMA does not mean that LGBT folk are no longer targeted or marginalized. Of course, the marginalization is even worse for people of color who are also LGBT.

Sadly, when I shared my Death of DOMA article on a social work social media page, most of the comments I received were from “Christian” social workers that were defending DOMA and acting as if they were victims because they were afraid to come out as Christians.  Really?  REALLY?  When was the last time a bunch of folk committed suicide because they are Christians? When was the last time in the United States people were denied housing, health care, employment because they are Christian?  I candidly was ashamed of my colleagues in the field of social work and I fully understand why people outside of the dominant culture would not trust us!

We still have a long way to go regarding equity and equality for the LGBT community.  Regardless of Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, in most states in the south it is still illegal to be gay and in most states in the south it is completely legal to deny employment, healthcare, housing because of being LGBT, not to mention the many states that have constitutional amendments banning marriage equality, including South Carolina.  You remember South Carolina, the state where they just re-elected Mark Sanford after he spend tax payer money abandoning his job to take his now famous “Appalachian Trail” hike.

While we have so much work to do, I do want to close with a very sweet celebration of LGBT History.  For me, it was absolutely profound to learn that Dumbledore, the Headmaster at Hogwarts, was gay.  What a lovely message for J.K. Rowling to send to young people, that LGBT folk can be wonderful caretakers of children and role models of integrity.

LGBT History Month 2013: The Death of DOMA!

26 Jun

Constitution-No-DOMAToday marks a landmark decision from the United States Supreme Court and a victory for the LGBT community.  Clinton’s legacy of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is now dead.  Even now, I am having to write this article through tears of joy!  The unconstitutional, shamefully discriminatory DOMA has finally been put to rest.

The 5-4 decision found Justice Kennedy siding with the reliably progressive Justices Bader Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. The ruling is quite clear, emphasizing that by ignoring state marriage law, the federal government violated the Fifth Amendment. It reads, in part:

The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others.

Of course, Scalia and his other school yard bullies  (including homophobic Chief Justice Roberts) voted to keep DOMA intact. They put forward a few different rationales, but basically relied on the “gays are icky” defense.  Sadly, Chief Justice Roberts who holds enormous power, has sent a clear message that he does not intend to treat all citizens equally or equitably.

Congratulations to Edie Windsor, whose steadfast insistence on having her marriage recognized moved this case forward. She is a true hero and her legal team deserves our thanks.

We still have a way to go. The patchwork of state-by-state marriage equality means that LGBT Americans get different rights based on where they live. This decision, however, makes it clear that marriage is marriage. That’s a huge step forward.  Poor John Boehner who spent so much of our tax payer dollars defending DOMA.  Is that a tear I see, Mr. Boehner?

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.

LGBT History Month 2013: Langston Hughes

19 Jun

LangstonHughesToday I would like to honor and pay tribute to Harlem Renaissance poet/writer, Langston Hughes. Although Hughes’ sexual orientation has traditionally been downplayed, like James Baldwin, he was black and openly gay. Hughes was attracted to the ideals of Communism, given the racism and homophobia  in the United States. Though Hughes never officially joined the Communist Party, he was called before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations led by Joseph McCarthy.

Sadly, even today (46 years after his death) men of color take enormous risk to be openly gay.  We, as the LGBT community, do not do enough to support of brothers and sisters of color.  We must stand in solidarity.

I fell in love with Hughes poetry the first time I read Dream Deferred.

Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Another favorite of mine is Dream Boogie.  I will conclude this post with they lyrics of Ella’s Song by my favorite a cappella Social Justice group, Sweet Honey in the Rock:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons (Refrain)

That which touches me most is that I had the chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me
To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can I’ll shed some light as they carry us through the gale (Refrain)

Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot, I’ve come to realize
That teaching others to stand and fight is the only way the struggle survives
I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word (Refrain)

Gay Graduation Gratitude

17 Jun

MHSGraduation“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” (Walt Whitman)  In the last two years I am grateful that I have learned how to start being comfortable with my largeness and my contradictions — to sit in ambiguity and reflection.

I started this journey with great trepidation.  I was going back to get my MSW as a middle aged gay man who felt like a cross between Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda Morgenstern; I was scared to death no one would like me and feared it was too late to reinvent myself as a social worker.

I have learned a lot about dignity — how to help people retain their dignity and keeping mine, which means working with resistance and understanding how people need resistance to protect something.

My first experience after being accepted into the program was my visit to the IT Department.  You see, I did not know how to access my student account.  I explained this to the very nice young woman who was trying to help me in earnest.  She very politely explained that she did not have the answer to my query, but would make a phone call (she was standing no more than two feet from me).  She picked up the phone and said: “Yes, I have an elderly gentleman here from the MSW program and he can’t get into his account.”  Of course, I looked around to see who she was referring to, and it dawned on me that she was talking about me.  I had become “the elderly gentleman” just two days before the term had started.  Of course, I wanted to take the tennis ball off my walker and throw it at her, but decided just to walk away and appreciate that she was genuinely trying to help.

While I am exceedingly grateful for my professors and their time, dedication, and belief in me, I have to say that I am also in awe of and grateful for so many members of my cohort.  I listen to their individual and collective narratives full of passion and reflection and I have learned a great deal from these absolutely lovely people. It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge and thank these people for also embracing me and making me feel so welcomed and integrated into the community.

There have been many times during the last two years that I have submitted to my misanthropic woes and have often reflected: “Maybe I can’t do social work.  I don’t know that I do believe everyone is capable of a transformative experience — what if I’m not capable of a transformative experience?”  Then I hear one of my peers talk about standing in solidarity with me around marriage equality and I get verklepmt and I reflect: “How lucky am I? How on earth did I get here?”  I must confess, I don’t always feel worthy of being in such amazing company and I hope I have been able to add just a tiny significant gem to those I have touched and have touched me.

In the larger scheme, I know most of us are desperately wanting to change systems that are wholly unfair.  We are wanting to eradicate poverty, racism, homophobia, and ageism and underscore the power of interconnectedness and interdependency.  The energy and dedication to creating equity both locally and globally is palpable.  One can feel that amazing energy walking down the halls of the school of social work, or running into each other at the Occupy Movement, or posting activist events for us to attend.  When I look around me today, I feel so much optimism that maybe, just maybe we can actually do it!

I have been fortunate enough to have many “social work” heroes through my lifetime: Bayard Rustin, Nina Simone, Gloria Steinem, Howard Zinn, bell hooks, several of my professors and peers here at PSU, and of course Walt Whitman.   The common thread that ties all of these folk together is that they are all radical progressives — the gatekeepers of truth.  None of us can remain neutral.  If we do not work to interrupt oppression, we are as culpable as the oppressors. As radical progressives, we must not give into systems that collude with oppression, but rather we must stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed.  Collectively and individually, we are the Bayard Rustins, the bell hooks, and the Walt Whitmans.

Whitman also wrote, Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged. Missing me one place, search another. I stop somewhere waiting for you. I find at this point in my life, I am both searching and waiting and I could not be in finer company to do so.

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