Tag Archives: integrity

Eleanor Roosevelt and My Birthday

10 Dec
Me Age 6

Me Age 6

As 50 creeps upon me and I celebrate 47 today, I am comforted  that this day also marks the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by Eleanor Roosevelt. Here is the Preamble to the now 30 articles in the Declaration:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

I love that the goal is for this to be the “common standard of achievement.”  Sadly, we have certainly missed the mark here in 2013. I look at the structural and government mandated homophobia in Russia and Uganda.  I look at the racism we still are fighting against in our own country, as I read about Shannon Gibney, a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and am in disbelief that three white students filed a complaint because they were uncomfortable; thus Professor Gibney was reprimanded for doing her job. I can only hope those three white students will evolve and have a better understanding of structural racism.

My Birthday Wish: My birthday wish is that all of humanity take some action, no matter how small a step, to STOP racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ageism, classism, eradicate poverty, and all other forms of marginalization.  We must learn how to interrupt oppression and yet keep people engaged in conversations.  What does it mean to be an ally? I would argue that being an ally is not a status, but it is action.

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.

Happy Birthday, Leslie Jordan

29 Apr

LJordanToday I want to celebrate a person who makes the world more delightful by his presence. Fifty-eight years ago today, Leslie Jordan was born in Chattanooga, TN. Growing up small — his adult height is 4’11” — and effeminate in the South was no picnic, so he learned to use humor to cope. With a personality and sense of joy far larger than he looks, he eventually burst free and moved to Hollywood where he began his very successful career.

Jordan is notable for being openly gay since he got started, something pretty unusual in the early 80s. He’s also been happy to portray gay characters, preferring to have fun with a role than worry about stereotyping. By being himself, he’s made a wonderful success based on integrity as well as talent, thus opening the door for LGBT youth to see themselves represented in the media.

As with many, my first encounter with Jordan was in his Emmy-winning role as Beverly Leslie on Will & Grace. As Karen Walker’s charming, co-dependent nemesis, he was one of the brightest spots on the series. He and Karen traded barbs in an amazing style; one of my favorite lines is this greeting:

Why Karen Walker! I thought I smelled gin…and regret.

Jordan amazed and amused me again when my husband and I saw Sordid Lives, one of our favorite films. His turn as Brother Boy is a testament to the challenges of being true oneself. That he manages to make the character strong rather than pathetic is a testament to Jordan’s talent (and perhaps his love of Tammy Wynette).  If you have not seen Sordid Lives, I strongly urge you to rent it from the Netflix. It also stars Olivia Newton-John and Delta Burke.

I was fortunate enough to see his delightful one-man show, Like A Dog On Linoleum, in Atlanta a few years ago. I laughed ’til I cried and then had a chance to meet him in person. He is gracious and witty with or without a script.

In his many wonderful performances, his autobiography (and second one-man show) My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, and his willingness to be honestly and unabashedly himself, Leslie Jordan has made the world a better place. Happy Birthday, Leslie, and thank you!

Number 1 Hero of the Year 2012: Malala Yousafzai

31 Dec
Number 1 Hero of 2012

Number 1 Hero of 2012

Even with all the wonderful nominations TSM received for Hero of the Year, the winner was clear from early on. No one received more nominations than Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai. The final decisions were based on more than just votes, however. Yousafzai — a young woman of 15! — is a shining example of social justice. Having virtually no inherent power or privilege, she found her voice at the age of 11 and has used it to great effect.

All of the heroes and honorable mentions have made the world a better place. What sets Yousafzai apart is the very real risks she takes every day. She has less to start with and has put it all on the line, even suffering a potentially fatal gunshot wound from Taliban assassins.

Her mission is simple but powerful — every child in the world should have access to a reasonable education by 2015. Coming from a place that believes women should never be educated, she understands the power of learning and reading. Nurtured by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, also an education activist, she began blogging about conditions in her province for the BBC at age 11. She also attended a Peshawar press club event, getting rousing applause for her powerful question:

How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?

For her powerful voice, tireless activism, willingness to risk all, and youthful promise, TSM is proud to honor Malala Youfsazai as Hero of the Year.

Honorable mention for the top spot goes to another Muslim activist seeking change. Ludovic Mohammed Zahed started the Unity mosque in Paris, the first fully LGBT embracing house of Islamic worship. Zahed’s mission includes full inclusion for women and transgender worshippers. He’s another brilliant example of change from the grass roots and a great example of using personal power to change the world for everyone’s benefit.

Number 4 Hero of the Year 2012: President Barack Obama

28 Dec
Number 4 Hero of 2012

Number 4 Hero of 2012

It’s been a challenging year for President Obama. The hijinks of the obstructionist Republican leadership made even his best efforts challenging. Facing reelection with a still fragile economy, he also had to deal with steady criticism from the left. While there may be more he could have done, he still accomplished a great deal in spite of large obstacles. He also continued to rebuild the human face of the Presidency — mugging with Olympic athlete McKayla Maroney, hugging victims of hurricane Sandy and surviving family members in Newtown, and letting a small boy rub his head in the Oval Office.

What stands out most clearly, however, is his support of marriage equality. President Obama has worked hard for equality — dismantling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, refusing to defend DOMA, extending same-sex benefits to federal employees — but nothing resonated like his interview in May. Never before had a President stated clearly that all loving couples deserve to marry. His words helped shift public opinion, with numerous polls showing a new, consistent majority for equality. His encouragement had a huge impact on the African-American community, arguably making the difference in marriage equality passing in Maryland. His courage and clarity, in a year where silence might have seemed a safer option until after the election, is notable and speaks to his character and leadership.

Now that he has a second clear mandate to lead real change in his second term, let’s hope for more of this. Not just for the LGBT community, either, but pushing back against the war on women and taking a strong stand against poverty and inequity. It’s been a good, if challenging, four years. Can the next four be even better? Yes, they can.

Because TSM was very fortunate to receive so many lovely nominations for Hero of the Year Award, I had to list many splendid honorable mentions. Honorable mention goes to all the grass-roots activists in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington who helped those states achieve historic victories for LGBT equality. Learning from mistakes of the past, they crafted clear, effective messages, raised funds $5 at a time, and pushed back the forces of bigotry to great effect.

Honorable mention also goes to two brave women. Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer was discharged from the military for being honest about her sexual orientation in 1992. She stood up for LGBT equality and fought discrimination and DADT for years. In the space of a year she saw that equality become a reality and was one of the first to marry her same-sex partner in Washington state when marriage equality became a reality there. Brigadier General Tammy Smith included her wife in the ceremony where she accepted her new rank, making her the first openly serving LGBT general in U.S. history.

Finally a sad farewell and honorable mention to AIDS activist Spencer Cox. He was instrumental in moving forward clinical trials of HIV fighting medicines in the 1990s, proposing protocols and helping shred bureaucracy to accelerate the availability of life-saving drugs. He died this month at the young age of 44.  Let us hope we get to Zero soon–zero new infections and zero AIDS related deaths.

Number 5 Hero of the Year 2012: Hillary Rodham Clinton

27 Dec
Number 5 Hero of 2012

Number 5 Hero of 2012

Let’s start this year’s honor roll with a big THANK YOU to all the readers and friends of TSM who nominated heroes this year. It’s a wonderful list that helps to maintain my sometimes shaken faith in humanity, where I can easily plummet into a misanthropic abyss. It’s a special pleasure to recognize outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at #5.

Clinton had a hard job to do from the start. Following the disastrous non-diplomacy of Condoleezza Rice and the integrity-challenged Colin Powell, she had to work with President Obama to help restore the United States’ international image. She proved more than equal to the task. A consummate diplomat and articulate spokesperson for core American values, she reassured the world that the abusive days of W were gone and that responsibility and participation would be watchwords of the new administration.

Throughout her tenure, Clinton has also been a true champion of rights for the oppressed. She speaks out regularly about using international cooperation to address poverty and hunger. She is a very outspoken ally of the LGBT community, encouraging equality in the State Department and insisting on its promotion internationally. Secretary Clinton is also a wonderful role model of the powerful woman, proving that barriers based on sex are at best irrational. Thank you for your service, Hillary, you will be missed.

TSM extends best wishes to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a speedy recovery from blood clots.  May you enjoy the New Year at home with your family and know how much you are loved and admired by so many of us.

Honorable mention in the women in leadership category goes to the incoming class of U.S. Senators and Representatives. The 213th Congress will have the largest number of women in the Senate and the most diverse class of Representatives ever. Despite all the efforts made to disenfranchise women and minorities, voters helped move the numbers forward. We look forward to seeing how this diverse coalition helps shape policy to the betterment of all Americans and address the bizarre and arcane disproportionality of representation of white heterosexual men.

True Christmas Heroes in Connecticut

26 Dec
True Heroes

True Heroes

One of the few bright spots about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary has been the stories of heroism emerging from the dark events. Most people are familiar with the bravery of the faculty and staff, some of whom lost their lives defending their charges. Great credit goes to the first responders as well, especially the Newtown Police and the local medical examiners. They faced a horror the likes of which most people can never truly imagine and did their jobs with quiet grace and dedication. Between investigating the killings, serving as honor guards at the far too many funerals, and carrying out their usual duties, Newtown police have been working exhausting hours, even with the capable aid of the Connecticut State Police.

Enter the holiday spirit. On Christmas Day, Newtown police Sgt. Steve Santucci released this message:

Patrol officers and sworn personnel will be given the day off to be home on Christmas. Officers from surrounding towns will be patrolling Newtown.

One of the organizers, Lt. Bob Kozlowsky of the Shelton police department said “It’s a police thing.” His chief went to Newtown to pitch in as many other officers from around the area pitched in all the duties necessary to keep Newtown safe. Meanwhile, exhausted Newtown police were given the day to celebrate and relax with their families, something especially important to them this year.

The substitute police tried to keep the story quiet, wanting it to be a gift, not a press release. When it was leaked, they just went quietly about their business. Most of the volunteers either refused to accept pay or donated their one-day check to Newtown and Sandy Hook charities. In a year where public employees have been much maligned by Teahadists and union busters, this story is just one more example of the true dedication exemplified by most public servants.

Our usual Bigot of the Week and Hero of the Week stories will be suspended this week for the top 5 Hero and Bigot of the Year awards. This story, however, was just too wonderful to pass by. Enjoy your holidays, however you celebrate them.

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