Tag Archives: Gay History Month

LGBT History Month 2013: Estelle

12 Jun
Pride

Pride

A friend of mine, whom I shall call Estelle, follows my blog and was elated to see that I was celebrating LGBT History Month.  I have known Estelle for over two years now, but never knew that she had tried to commit suicide. As an out lesbian and sensitive soul, she was feeling crushed by the negative messages all around her.

Estelle relayed this story to me and asked that I keep her real identity in confidence, but she hopes, as do I, that her story will be of help to other middle aged people as they embrace their sexual orientation with pride and not shame.  Estelle has children and parents who are now very supportive, but she does not want them to know that the pressures of society caused her suicide attempt.

Estelle:

Before I moved to Portland I was walking out the door with a garden hose in my hand, Was headed down to the lake to kill myself. I stopped because my friend Lana called me as I was walking out the door. I stopped to talk to her and before I knew it was 45 minutes later. And I had forgotten why I was holding a garden hose.
After living in Portland for a couple of years. I went back to that small town and stopped by to see her. I told her the story and we just sobbed.

Now I know I am suppose to be here–to be alive…

I can’t even imagine this world with out Estelle.  She has dedicated her life to helping other LGBT people and she models pride in being who she is: a wonderful and beautiful lesbian. Sadly, there are too many LGBT folk who do commit suicide.  Again, I would love to see a Make It Get Better Campaign, rather than It Gets Better Campaign.  We need to put the onus on the dominant culture, which means making laws and policies that create a level playing field, which we are far from having. Estelle asked that the following link be included.  Thank you, Estelle!  If you, or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the Trevor Project.

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LGBT History Month 2013: Miriam Margolyes

10 Jun

Miriam-MargolyesToday it is my pleasure to honor Miriam Margolyes during LGBT History Month.  I did not know our Miriam identified as lesbian until I saw her on the Graham Norton show with will.i.am.

I have been in love with Miriam Margolyes for decades now.  Some of her most notable movie roles for me have been: Mrs. Beetle in Cold Comfort Farm, a cult classic that I highly recommend; Aunt Sponge in James and the Giant Peach; Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter Series; and Gertrude Stein in Modigliani.  Of course, I have to acknowledge how wonderful it was to learn that Dumbledore from Harry Potter was gay.

Margolyes recalls coming out to her mother. “I really came to terms with things in 1967. I was in my late 20s. I spoke to her about an affair with a woman and three days later she had this stroke,” she reported four years ago to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.  She came out much more publicly and casually on the Graham Norton Show in 2012.  I want to say a huge thank you to Miriam Margolyes for coming and being visible.  Her celebrity and visibility help the world understand that we LGBT folk are everywhere!

Margolyes talks at length about “wanting to make a difference in the world in her lifetime,” and she most certainly is.  Not only is she entertaining us all, but she is making a huge difference by being an out lesbian. After outing herself on Graham Norton, she added that by being visible, “…it gives one courage.”  Here she is on Graham Norton. Earthy, charming, and outspoken, she’s happy discussing her health regimen or correcting someone’s grammar while all the time being honest and delightful.

LGBT History Month: Why We Need to Celebrate

3 Jun

Happy_Gay_Pride_MonthJune 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.

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 14 states where it is still illegal to be gay, most of those states are in the South, 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. 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. Closer to home, look at the TEN anti-gay hate crimes in New York City in just the past month: bashings, beatings, assaults, and at least one murder. The closer we get to equal, the angrier — and more aggressive — our foes become.

Granted, our heterosexual brothers and sisters do have to live in fear of the Gay Agenda, but when are we going to have actual movement towards civil rights?  Will the Supreme Court do the right thing and send the message by overturning DOMA that we must treat all of our citizens equally and equitably? Will the Boy Scouts’ lame half-measure finally break them as the California legislature plans to strip them of any non-profit privileges for their incessant discrimination?

LGBT History Month provides a time and place for the community to celebrate and come together in “numbers too big to be ignored” (you 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.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 30, Conclusion

30 Jun

PRIDE

On this final day of LGBTQ History Month, I want to take time to reflect on the necessity of celebrating this month as well as highlight some especially powerful stories.

As with Black History Month and Women’s History Month, I wish we did not need LGBTQ History Month, but the fact is we do! We must not fall into the delusion that people in the United States and all over the world are treated equally by virtue of being human.  In most states in the south it is not safe to be part of the LGBTQ community.  In Uganda it is legal to kill gay people–a proposal seen just recently here in the United States.

I bring up Black History Month and Women’s History month because of all the people who have multiple identities and experience oppression on multiple levels. Marriage Equality is just a small portion of what needs to be addressed regarding civil rights.  Violence against the LGBTQ community has increased by 13% over the past year, with people of color and transgender gender non-conforming folk being specifically targeted. What is equally disturbing is witnessing false science by a so called “scholar,”  (funded by the recognized hate group NOM) who publishes homophobic data, or that Mitt Romney has signed a pledge to eliminate civil rights for the LGBTQ community–I believe that is called Fascism.  All of this violence and homophobia does not make it easy for people to be out and proud.

While quite honestly, I don’t want Tom Cruise on our team and I don’t really care why he is getting his third divorce while I’m not allowed to have a legal marriage,  I am particularly disturbed that Cruise takes such offense at people speculating that he might be gay, as though he were being called a racist.  Being called straight is not a pejorative, why should being called gay be one?

While I could go on ad nauseam about the disparities, inequalities, and intersections of oppression the LGBTQ community faces everyday, I would rather conclude on a positive note. Let’s highlight some stories that were particular favorites of mine, some dating back to last year’s celebrations.  Of course, one of my all time favorites was celebrating Dumbledore. Adding to the list of heroes of mine that were celebrated are: Bayard Rustin,  Glenn Burke,  and of course our Allies.

I hope the day will come in my lifetime that we are able to celebrate everyone in the LGBTQ community sharing in all of the civil rights enjoyed by our heterosexual brothers and sisters, just as I hope we will see an end to racism and misogyny.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 29, Omar Sharif, Jr.

29 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate a man who made a bold statement merely through his honesty. Omar Joseph El Sharif was born in Montreal in 1983. He is the grandson of renowned actor Omar Sharif; as such, he had a privileged upbringing, spending his youth as a socialite. Wanting more, he obtained a Master’s in Comparative Politics from Queen’s University in Canada. Also bitten by the family acting bug, he obtained a role in an Egyptian TV program and tried stand-up comedy. Fluent in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew and Yiddish (his maternal grandparents are Jewish Holocaust survivors), Omar continues to seek out roles internationally. In 2010 Sharif moved to Los Angeles, California to study at The Lee Strasberg Institute of Theatre and Film. He also participated in the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony, joining Kirk Douglas in a skit.

Earlier this year, Sharif raised eyebrows when he was interviewed by The Advocate. He spoke out about the need for civil rights free from religious dogma, specifially referring to the Egyptian revolution. Two weeks later, he published an impassioned editorial in the magazine entitled Coming Out Story: We’re Not in Cairo Anymore. He discussed his reasons for moving from Egypt, perhaps permanently, including this great passage:

One year since the start of the revolution, I am not as hopeful. […] The vision for a freer, more equal Egypt — a vision that many young patriots gave their lives to see realized in Tahrir Square — has been hijacked. The full spectrum of equal and human rights are now wedge issues used by both the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Islamist parties, when they should be regarded as universal truths.

I write this article despite the inherent risks associated because as we stand idle at what we hoped would be the pinnacle of Egyptian modern history, I worry that a fall from the top could be the most devastating. I write, with healthy respect for the dangers that may come, for fear that Egypt’s Arab Spring may be moving us backward, not forward. And so I hesitantly confess: I am Egyptian, I am half Jewish, and I am gay.

That my mother is Jewish is no small disclosure when you are from Egypt, no matter the year. And being openly gay has always meant asking for trouble, but perhaps especially during this time of political and social upheaval. With the victories of several Islamist parties in recent elections, a conversation needs to be had and certain questions need to be raised. I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt? Will being Egyptian, half Jewish, and gay forever remain mutually exclusive identities? Are they identities to be hidden?

The entire article is worthwhile reading, showing how articulate and insistent Sharif is and how dedicated he is to social justice. He is still finding his voice as an activist and advocate, but with a start like this, great things may come. The courage he demonstrates in outing himself in the face of religious and political exile is powerful. He sums it up in a way that many Americans should remember:

And yet I speak out because I am a patriot.

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.”

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 27, Renée Richards

27 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate a pioneer in transgender rights and LGBT athletics. Renée Richards was born Richard Raskind in New York in 1934. She grew up, in her own words “a nice Jewish boy.” Raskind excelled at tennis from early on, and was ranked among the top-10 Eastern and national juniors in the late 1940s and early 1950s, serving as captain of the high school team and again for the team at Yale. After Yale, Raskind went to medical school at the University of Rochester. After a short stint in the Navy, the doctor established a career as an eye surgeon while still pursuing tennis on the side.

Raskind realized that her gender identity did not match the male gender assigned to her at birth and began to explore her options in the mid-60s. She traveled Europe dressed as a woman and consulted a physician about reassignment surgery. She did not transition at that time, however, and returned to the U.S. where she married and had a son. She then decided to transition and did so in 1975.

Richards wanted to continue to play tennis but was met with resistance. The U.S. Tennis Association barred her from the U.S. Open in 1976, requiring her to take a chromosome test. Unwilling to accept this discrimination, she sued the USTA. In 1977, the New York Supreme Court handed her a win. She played women’s tennis professionally until 1981. She was ranked as high as 20th overall (in February 1979), and her highest ranking at the end of a year was 22nd (in 1977). Her greatest successes on court were reaching the doubles final at the U.S. Open in 1977 with Betty Ann Stuart — the pair lost a close match to Martina Navratilova and Betty Stöve — and winning the 35-and-over women’s singles. She later coached Navratilova to two Wimbledon wins and was inducted into the USTA Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000.

Her courage and drive have been the subject of two films. Second Serve, a made-for-television film from 1986 starred Vanessa Redgrave who received two award nominations for the role. The film was based on her autobiography. ESPN made the documentary Renée in 2011. No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life, was her second book, published in 2007.

Renée Richards is a true pioneer. There are very few out athletes, and fewer still who maintain professional success while out. Like her contemporary, baseball’s Glenn Burke, Richards proved that despite the discrimination it is possible to succeed. She remains perhaps the most successful active, professional, out athlete.

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