Tag Archives: Gay Pride Month

LGBTQ Pride/History Month 2014: Reflections and Work Yet to Be Done

30 Jun

pride_monthAs we celebrate the last day of LGBT History Month, I am reflecting on the amazing civil rights work being done by Binyavanga Wainaina.  Let us all hope that every country in Africa will celebrate and embrace the LGBTQ community.

I am also hopeful that the transgender community will be celebrated and embraced with the visibility and leadership of people like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock.

I think it is also important to look back and be able to honor those that came before us — to pay tribute to those who assumed level of risk, so that future generations might have an easier life just for being who we are.  Thank you, José Julio Sarria.  Thank you, Harry Hay.

While many states can now enjoy and celebrate marriage equality, this does not mean that LGBTQ people are no longer targeted or marginalized. Of course, we must not forget that the disproportionality of targeting/marginalization is greater for people of color who are also LGBTQ.

Of course, this is also the time when I get to highlight some of my favorite LGBTQ stories over the years.

Yes, our Dumbledore is on the list of favorites, as is Professor Sprout (Miriam Margolyes).  Of course, I have to include Bayard Rustin as one of my favorite heroes.

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, transgender and gender non-conforming folk being especially targeted.

A Call To Action: I ask that all of our allies/supporters to raise your voices — stand in solidarity with those of us in the LGBTQ community. Together we have the power to eradicate homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, and poverty.

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LGBT Pride and History Month 2014: Jared Polis

29 Jun

JaredpolisToday I would like to honor and celebrate Representative Jared Polis from Colorado.  Polis is currently one of a handful openly gay member of congress — no small feat given how welcoming John Boehner has made the House of Representatives for the LGBTQ community. He’s also the first out gay parent to serve in Congress.

Polis has dedicated his life to improving education. While his business enterprises have been diverse, he has focused his extensive philanthropy and political aspirations on ensuring access to quality education for everyone. His first elected office was to the Colorado State Board of Education, where he served part of his term as Chair. He also worked to ensure the passage of the largest school bond proposal in Colorado history, improving and modernizing educational facilities in the Boulder Valley School District.

Polis has put his own money to work as well, creating a foundation dedicated to creating “opportunities for success by supporting educators, increasing access to technology, and strengthening our community.” His work focuses on ensuring that schools have adequate technology to prepare students for success in a rapidly changing world. He also demonstrates amazing dedication to issues of racial equity, as he strives to create better access for targeted and immigrant children.

Since 2008, Polis has been the Representative for Colorado’s 2nd District. In Congress he continues his push for quality education, serving on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. He also chairs the Red to Blue program, helping Democratic candidates in competitive Republican-held districts. Rep. Polis is an outspoken critic of the lives and money the U.S. has wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan. A staunch supporter of civil rights, he has supported legislation and action opposing US involvement in countries with anti-gay laws as well as programs supporting the LGBT community in Iraq, Honduras, and elsewhere.

Jared Polis has been open and out throughout his career, providing a visible example of a proud, successful gay man as well as a supportive partner and father. I would also like to take time to thank all of the LGBTQ parents raising children and being visible! It is still relatively early in Rep. Polis’ career, but his work thus far indicates a commitment to equity and opportunity. I look forward to seeing how that passion grows.

LGBT Pride and History Month 2014: Harry Hay

26 Jun

hay5Today I would like to honor and celebrate the late Harry Hay.  Hay, whom many consider the founder of the Gay Rights movement died in October of 2002.  Hay understood intersectionality, as he advocated not only for LGBT rights, but also for the Labor movement, and for Native American civil rights. Hay founded the Mattachine Society, a leftist gay liberation organization which worked for the civil rights of homosexuals during the 1950s.  The Mattachine Society was tied to the Community Party during the age of McCarthyism here in the United States, which made it difficult to secure consistent leadership.  Many members left the society in fear of the dire actions being carried out by McCarthy’s henchmen.

Unlike other gay liberation movements, Hay strongly resisted the move towards assimilation.  Like many gay men, Hay succumbed to societal pressure to deny his identity and try to adopt the identity of being heterosexual.  This attempt led him to marrying Anita Platky.  The couple adopted two children and later divorced, for Hay could no longer manage the pretense of being heterosexual. Sadly, 60 years later, we still see people engaging in heterosexual marriages due to the overwhelming societal pressure to be “straight.”  Here is a perfect example of how the liberation of LGBT people is directly tied to the liberation of our heterosexual brothers and sisters and is connected to the liberation of other targeted populations.  I know my own narrative and activism as a gay man helped to pave the way for my activism around other social justice issues, such as eradicating racism, misogyny, and poverty.

Hay’s first male partner was none other than the amazing civil rights leader Will Geer, whom many remember only for his role as the grandfather on the television show the Waltons. My husband and I loved Geer in the  1954 film adaptation of Salt of the Earth — not a trip to chuckle town, but a great film about social justice racism, and poverty.

Years later, Hay and his partner John Burnside would look to the Mattacine Society and Native American cultures that revered gays for inspiration to start the Radical Faeries in 1979. Today, I am aware of two Radical Faerie communes that still exist; one in Tennessee and one here in Oregon.

Harry Hay was a true pioneer — a bold speaker of his personal truth who demanded that everyone be afforded the right to live openly, honestly, and safely. Justly called the “Father of Gay Liberation,” he is a person to whom we all owe a continued debt today.

LGBT Pride and History Month 2014: Rachel Maddow

18 Jun

RachelToday we honor and celebrate Dr. Rachel Maddow, a woman who is trying to bring real discussion back into television journalism.  While a freshman at Stanford University, she was outed in a campus paper interview before she was able to tell her parents.

I always love papers that out people just for the sake of outing them–my what code of ethics does that follow?  Where is the journalistic integrity in outing people for no reason, save that it makes money, or causes a scandal, which just colludes with the dominant discourse? It would be different if they were outing someone with power that was using that power to hurt the LGBT community, but such was not the case with our Maddow. Fortunately, her family were supportive, and she has been out and proud ever since.

After receiving her degree in public policy from Stanford, she was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, becoming the first openly LGBT Rhodes scholar. She received her Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University with her thesis entitled HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons.

These early events clearly hinted at her outspoken nature and her dedication to open discourse. She won a contest to become a radio announcer shortly after returning to the U.S., launching her broadcast career. She worked in radio for local Massachusetts stations and then joined Air America. Unabashedly liberal, she has observed the rightward drift of this country’s politics with the quip

I’m undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.

While still on Air America, she began regular guest spots on MSNBC’s nightly programs. Soon she was offered her own show, a TV version of her radio program, The Rachel Maddow Show. This made her the first openly LGBT host of a major prime-time news show in the U.S. She also routinely has her network’s most highly rated show – in what still remains a “white hetero male dominated” industry.

Her program is a wonderful mixture of straight news, opinion, and interviews–all offered through a social justice lens. In fact, I’m not sure there are other national programs that stand in such solidarity with those that are marginalized and oppressed by those in power and charged with the task of representing all Americans.  I love that Maddow holds these hypocrites’ feet to the fire.

Maddow’s work has been consistently recognized for its quality and insight. She has been repeatedly nominated for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism, winning in 2010 for her expose on Uganda’s horrific anti-gay efforts. Both the Advocate and Out magazine regularly include her in their lists of the most influential out media personalities. Her coverage of health care netted her a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood in 2010, the year she was also awarded the Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award. It’s nice to see that an outspoken media voice with an interest in social justice can be recognized for her important work.

I’m also grateful for her visibility as a lesbian, for the more visible we are individually and collectively, the more difficult it is to target and marginalize us! Brava, Ms. Maddow!

LGBT Pride and History Month 2014: José Sarria

10 Jun

SarriaToday we honor and celebrate a pioneer in social justice and LGBT rights. José Julio Sarria was born in 1922 or 23 (records vary) in San Francisco. His parents were recent immigrants from Latin America who never married, and his father left the picture early. His mother worked long hours in domestic service and enlisted the aid of a local couple who had recently lost their child to help raise José. He considered all three of them to be his parents. Throughout his youth he enjoyed dressing in both boys’ and girls’ clothing and his family supported him both at home and in public — if only more families would support gender non-conformity.

Sarria spoke only Spanish through kindergarten, then briefly attended private schools while learning English. He mastered it quickly, showing a proficiency for language that served him well throughout his life. After Pearl Harbor, he joined the Army. Initially assigned to the Intelligence School because of his linguistic skills, he was reassigned after failing a background check. While it was never verified, he always believed that failure to be related to his openness about his homosexuality. He served in the motor pool and as a military cook, mustering out at the end of the war.

Sarria returned to San Francisco and began college, hoping to become a teacher. He became a regular at the Black Cat Bar, a gathering place for gay men, beats, and bohemians. He met the love of his life, Jimmy Moore, who was a waiter at the bar. In a police sting, Sarria was falsely charged with solicitation and sentenced to a large fine. Realizing that this ruined his chances to teach, he dropped out of college and began waiting at the Black Cat — a perfect example of a system of oppression.

Sarria had a fine voice and began singing along with the piano player as he waited tables. Soon he became famous for his parodies of popular torch songs; this evolved into complicated drag shows in which he did send-ups of operas. He encouraged patrons and friends to be as open about their lives as possible, believing change could only come through visibility and solidarity. He famously observed,

People were living double lives and I didn’t understand it. It was persecution. Why be ashamed of who you are? … United we stand, divided they catch us one by one.

He closed the bar each night by leading a rousing chorus of God Save Us Nelly Queens, a rare public statement of pride and camaraderie. I am going to have to start singing this song wherever I go.

Sarria began his activism while at the Black Cat. He encouraged patrons to stand up to police raids by refusing to plead guilty and demanding jury trials. The resulting influx of cases caused court gridlock and judges began refusing to hear cases without strong evidence of wrongdoing. Sarria also helped drag performers and customers escape the “disguise for deception” law by sewing tags in the backs of their costumes that read “I’m a boy!” With George Strait, (not the country music George Strait) he founded the League for Civil Education, an outreach and support organization for gay men.

Disgusted by the ongoing pressure against the gay community in San Francisco, he ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1961, the first openly gay person to run for public office in the United States. Although he lost, his strong showing revealed the potential power of the gay voting bloc, beginning a dramatic change in local politics. Years later, Sarria helped advise Harvey Milk, who eventually won the seat that he had sought.

The Black Cat finally lost its liquor license in a sting operation and Sarria split his focus between social protest and his drag career. He founded the Tavern Guild, the first gay business association, and later the Society for Individual Rights, a more activist outgrowth of the League for Civil Education. He was crowned Queen of the Beaux Arts Ball in 1964, but proclaimed that since he was already a queen his new title should be Empress. He built upon this proclamation by helping build the Imperial Court System a network of non-profit charities tied to the drag and gay communities.

Drawing on his cooking experience from his Army days, Sarria also became a restaurateur, collaborating with Pierre Parker on local Lucky Pierre restaurants and running concessions at a number of World’s Fairs.

Sarria’s energy never flagged. After retiring in 1977, he continued his social work and his activism in the Imperial Courts. He finally abdicated his throne in 2007. He was recognized by numerous organizations for his outstanding work. In 2006, the city of San Francisco renamed a portion of 16th Street in the Castro in his honor. As a result, the address of the Harvey Milk branch of the public library fittingly became 1 José Sarria Court.

Sarria died in 2013 of adrenal cancer. He left behind an impressive legacy of activism, engagement, and honesty. May his legacy live on to inspire us all!

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.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 30, Albus Dumbledore

30 Jun

June 30 is the last day of LGBTQ History Month and I wanted to celebrate someone that has had a significant impact in the area of social justice in the past decade.  The Sorcerer’s Stone was released exactly 14 years ago today.  Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Albus Dumbledore.  While he may be a fictional gay character, the impact he has had on an entire generation of youth regarding integrity, character, and social justice is profound.

While J.K. Rowling assumed that we all knew Dumbledore was gay, it was not until The Half-Blood Prince that we learn about Dumbledore’s love interest. In an article from the website The Leaky Cauldron and The Associated Press, Rowling said:

Calling any Harry Potter character gay would make wonderful strides in tolerance toward homosexuality…. By dubbing someone so respected, so talented and so kind, as someone who just happens to be also homosexual, she’s reinforcing the idea that a person’s gayness is not something of which they should be ashamed.

What I love about Dumbledore being gay is that his sexual orientation becomes immaterial, which I believe is the goal.  We should be appreciated for our character and how we repair the world, rather than judged by with whom we fall in love.  Unfortunately, we are not even close to the goal of sexual orientation being immaterial, thus we must be visible and out!

Consequently, I cannot underscore enough how important it is that as we read the Harry Potter series and watch the movies, we keep in the back of our minds that the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the kind, sensitive, wise, caretaker Dumbledore is gay.  I, for one, am celebrating that fact.  Of course, I have to leave off with one of my favorite quotes from Dumbledore:

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. [and this one] No, I was merely reading the Muggle magazines,” said Dumbledore. “I do love knitting patterns.

There are still many other voices that need to be recognized and celebrated within the LGBT community.  I hope you will continue to look to TSM as we search out and spotlight LGBTQ voices that work for social justice and I hope TSM inspires us all to become activists–to eradicate racism, misogyny, homophobia, and bigotry.

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