Tag Archives: Gay Pride

Remembering Gilbert Baker

3 Apr

Sadly, we lost Gilbert Baker on March 30, he was only 65. Baker was a gay rights activist who designed the now iconic rainbow gay pride flag in 1978. As a gay queer man, I knew that if I saw this flag in a store front or in neighborhoods, it meant I would be safe and welcomed there.

I have included this comic strip by my husband, Robert, as it does a marvelous job of providing the history of Gilbert’s journey in designing the Pride Flag–a piece of history that is worth knowing, remembering, and celebrating.

Farewell, Gilbert Baker — a pioneer in pride and celebration!

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Hero of the Week Award: Sen. Chris Murphy

17 Jun

Chris MurphyThis has been an extraordinarily painful week for the LGBTQ community, in the wake of last Sunday’s massacre. If it is possible for something good to come from all of this hate, homophobia, and fear, I hope part of the healing will come from gun control reform.

Kudos to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn), for leading the filibuster on the senate floor to expand gun control policies with two specific measures. Yes, this is the very least the senate can do in response to the massacre in Orlando. As a side note, I need to point out that this is also very tied into race, gender, homophobia, and misogyny. The Pulse was — and will be again — a safe space for LGBTQ people, mostly queer people of color. The United States seems to feel it is acceptable to regulate women’s bodies, why can we not regulate guns? Finally the NRA’s bedfellow, Mitch McConnell, has acquiesced and agreed to hold votes for the proposed amendment.

It grows ever wearisome to hear the call for prayers every time we have people murdered by guns. We do not need the prayers, we need gun control! Sadly, I have to offer a dishonorable mention to Florida Governor, Rick Scott, a.k.a Lord Voldemort. When reporters asked Scott if there was anything that could be done on a policy level to prevent future shootings like this, Scott (who has put forth enormous energy to relax gun control laws (there is no waiting period currently to buy the AR-15) replied: “We can pray for the victims, pray for the families and pray this never happens again.” How’s that working so far?

There are at least 27 reported gun deaths EVERY DAY in the United States. The AR-15 was used in the following massacres: Orlando, Florida–49 killed, 53 wounded; Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed, 70 wounded; Sandy Hook, Connecticut, 26 killed; Santa Monica, California, 5 killed, 4 wounded; Roseburg, Oregon, 9 killed; San Bernadino, California, 14 killed, 22 wounded. Maybe its just me, but prayers don’t seem to be doing much to change things. Maybe we need action, such as adopting expansive gun control measures? Want that to happen? Get out and vote!

In addition to Murphy, I want to acknowledge and give an honorable mention to the following Democratic Senators for finally creating significant resistance against the NRA and pushing for greater gun control policies: Richard Blumenthal, and Cory Booker (NJ),  Dick Durbin (IL), Bill Nelson (FL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Joe Manchin (WV), Ben Cardin (MD), Ed Markey (MA), Patrick Leahy (VT), Al Franken (MN), Patty Murray (WA), Gary Peters (MI), Bob Casey (PA), Ron Wyden (OR), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Bob Menendez (NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Sherrod Brown (OH), and counting. Yes, I’m very glad to see that both of Oregon’s senators were on this list!

The constitution is a living document and the flaws of the second amendment seem glaringly obvious. Given that no women and no people of color had any representation or voice in drafting the original document, it would stand to reason that this document needs further tweaking to represent more voices.

If you do not see your senator on this list, please contact them and let your voice be heard. I wish everyone a Happy Pride Month and let us not give into fear but share our love and solidarity!

Of Guns, Homophobia, Islamophobia, and Trump

13 Jun

PrideI suspect most of the country, like myself, is still in shock over yesterday’s mass murder in Orlando, Florida at the gay nightclub, Pulse. So much pain, so much loss, so much hate. As I reflect on the loss of life and the fueling of hate against my community, I can only hope that all of us within the LGBTQ community can stand in solidarity and support one another and reach out to support all of the families impacted by yesterday’s massacre. I hope we also unite and not give rise to the already intense Islamophobia the United States is currently engaged in. How disgusting and pathetic is Donald Trump with his comment around this tragedy: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” Have you no decency, Mr. Trump?

When do we start to have serious conversations around gun control? The 50 people dead in Orlando no longer have a voice, so we need to use ours individually and collectively. I am hard pressed to be convinced that a human needs access to a gun such as the one Omar Mateen used, an AR-15 type rifle,  to carry out his homophobic slaying. My heart also goes out to Mateen’s family, for they have lost their son and they have to live with the consequences of his actions. There is nothing good for anyone in this tragedy.

My hope is that we do not give into fear, that we resist feeding hate, that we look for our shared humanity, and that we offer love and support to all impacted by the shooting in Orlando. I also believe now is the time we take action and demand for greater gun control. Here is a link (thank you to my friend Nancy) to sign a petition asking for a ban of the AR-15 type rifle from civilian ownership.

Finally, I hope the entire LGBTQ community can stand in solidarity and enjoy Pride Month — let us defeat fear and hate with Love!

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.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 4, James Hormel

4 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate a life-long philanthropist and activist, James C. Hormel. Born in Minnesota on New Year’s Day 1933, Hormel is the grandson of George A. Hormel of Hormel Foods. (Yep, the SPAM people…) He earned a B.A. in history from Swarthmore College and a law degree from the University of Chicago. He has practiced law and served as dean of students and director of admissions at UC’s law school.

Hormel has also dedicated his life to social justice and to making the world safer for LGBT people. He came out in middle age after many years of marriage. He was one of the founders of the Human Rights Campaign. He was a member of the 1995 United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the 1996 U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, and has served on the boards of directors of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Hormel funded the creation of James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library in 1995.

Hormel is also the first openly gay person to serve as a U.S. ambassador, although Republicans in the Senate tried their best to stop that from happening. President Clinton put him forward as Ambassador to Luxembourg in October 1997. Despite easy approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (with no votes from Jesse Helms and John Ashcroft), Republicans obstructed his appointment for over a year. The ever-charming Trent Lott publicly denounced Hormel, comparing homosexuality to kleptomania. The fact that a life-long philanthropist was seen as unfit as an ambassador by the same people who thought John Bolton at the U.N. was a good idea is pretty telling about Republican character in the Senate. President Clinton finally used a recess appointment to send Hormel to Luxembourg, where he was well received and served with honor.

Now retired to the Bay area, he continues his philanthropy and involvement in the LGBT community. In 2010 he was given the Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshall Award by San Francisco Pride Board of Directors for his LGBT activism over several decades.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 3, Josephine Baker

3 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate a bisexual pioneer in racial justice and entertainment, the marvelous Josephine Baker. She was born on this date in 1906 in St. Louis. Freda Josephine McDonald was the daughter of Carrie McDonald and drummer Eddie Carson. She worked in white homes starting at the age of 8. At 12, she quit school and ran away, living in cardboard shelters and dancing on street corners for change.

Her dancing got the attention of the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show, which she joined at age 15. She parlayed this experience into a position in Broadway revues at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. She was a brilliant dancer and was selected for a tour of Europe, opening in Paris in 1925. She broke her New York contract and remained in France after the tour, becoming fluent in French and celebrated as one of the finest performers in Europe.

Baker’s fame grew as she developed more exotic performances and took on film roles. She returned to the U.S. in 1935 for a run with the Ziegfeld Follies but experience limited acceptance and blatant racism. She returned to France and took up permanent residence, marrying Jean Lion and becoming a French citizen. She spied for the French resistance during World War II, using her presence at gala events to collect information. Baker adopted 12 multi-ethnic orphans whom she dubbed the “Rainbow Tribe.” Despite her successful marriage, she had many affairs with men and women (including painter Freda Kahlo).

After the war she became a civil rights activist, supporting the black rights movement growing in the U.S.On occasions when she performed in the U.S., she refused to perform at segregated clubs. She supported the NAACP and returned to America for a number of major events. In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington at the side of Martin Luther King, Jr. Baker was the only official female speaker and while wearing her Free French uniform emblazoned with her medal of the Légion d’honneur she introduced the “Negro Women for Civil Rights.”

After King’s assassination, his widow Coretta Scott King approached Baker in Holland to ask if she would take her husband’s place as leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. After many days of thinking it over, Baker declined, saying her children were “too young to lose their mother”.

On April 8, 1975, Baker starred in a retrospective revue at the Bobino in Paris, Joséphine à Bobino 1975, celebrating her 50 years in show business.  Demand for seating was such that fold-out chairs had to be added to accommodate spectators. The opening-night audience included Sophia Loren, Mick Jagger, Shirley Bassey, Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli.Four days later, Baker was found lying peacefully in her bed surrounded by newspapers with glowing reviews of her performance. She was in a coma after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. She was taken to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, where she died, aged 68, on April 12, 1975. The first American woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral, Baker locked up the streets of Paris one last time.

Also born on June 3 (1926) was iconic gay poet Allen Ginsberg, whom TSM celebrated during Gay History Month last year.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 19, George Takei

19 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Geroge Takei.  TSM followers will remember that we celebrated Takei’s heroism in November when he recorded a stern Public Service Announcement that resulted in a bigoted school board member resigning. Known to many for his roles as Lt. Sulu on Star Trek and Capt. Nim on The Green Berets, Takei has been quietly active in gay causes since the 70s and has become much more visibly active since his coming out in 2005.

Takei’s sexual orientation and long-term relationship with partner Brad Altman were open secrets among the Hollywood community and Star Trek fan base. Shortly after coming out in Frontiers magazine, he said,

It’s not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through. It’s more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen… [LGBT people] are masculine, we are feminine, we are caring, we are abusive. We are just like straight people, in terms of our outward appearance and our behavior. The only difference is that we are oriented to people of our own gender.

Takei has taken a number of very public stands, including recording public service announcements opposing the Kobe-esque rants of former NBA star Tim Hardaway and the despicable former Arkansas school board member Clint McCance. He and Altman have worked hard to raise the visibility of gay couples by appearing as the first-ever same-sex couple on a celebrity episode of the Newlywed Game (which they won) and appearing on a number of other shows.

The couple are also marriage pioneers. They were the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in West Hollywood.They were married on September 14, 2008 at the Democracy Forum of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, of which Takei is one of the founders. Married before the passage of Prop 8, which both men have actively opposed, their marriage stands in California law.

George Takei deserves our thanks for being a visible, active, Asian-American gay man and for regularly mixing seriousness and humor to support gay rights. To learn more about his great work for gay rights and civil rights for Japanese Americans, click here.

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