Tag Archives: LGBTQ History Month

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.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 20, John Motter

20 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to a dear friend of mine, John Motter.  John is another fierce advocate for social justice and has dedicated his life to helping marginalized populations.  John understands  what it means to serve as a champion for those who suffer from the intersections of oppression and multiple identities, which makes him an ideal person for TSM to celebrate.

While all of us that know John describe him as a compassionate activist who makes the world a better place, John shies away from such accolades.  John was kind enough to sit with me on a cold, rainy June day in Portland, Oregon and share part of his background and where he is today.  As you will see, John’s journey thus far has not been an easy one.

I grew up in Findlay, Ohio, a very white and very conservative environment—difficult to grow up as a gay male.  I came out in 1979.  I lived in the D.C. area in 1983 through 1995, which means I was in D.C. at the height of the AIDS epidemic at a time when Ronald Reagan could not even say the word AIDS.  All of these things set the tone for me seeing a great many inequities.  I attended Howard University in D.C. for two years from 1989 to 1991 and majored in accounting. Many of my professors had been tokenized in the business world before coming to teach at Howard.  All of my professors were incredibly demanding.

I think it is important for people to know about my alcoholism  and substance abuse and the fact that I was an IV drug user and went to prison.  Going to prison was the catalyst that helped me become an activist—I don’t look at myself as an activist, but I guess I am.  Going through the prison system is so ridiculous and you see who and how it punishes—there is certainly no rehabilitation in prison.  The inequities you see in the prison system are startling.  You see people that have committed large scale white collar criminals come out with all of their assets intact.  I was in prison with seven other people on a conspiracy sentence and all seven of us were gay and HIV+.  We were able to be open about it because there was strength in numbers, but for others that is not the reality.

In August of 2002 I was released from prison and I am celebrating 11 years of being clean and sober.  I went to live my brother Bill, who is also gay and that is when I started volunteering at Cascade AIDS Project (CAP).

Among his long list of accomplishments, John served as the Co-Chair of the Ryan White Planning Council and spokesperson with the National HIV Stops With Me Program.  John also serves as the Treasurer for Hepatitis, HIV, AIDS, and Awareness Project (HHAAP).  In addition to spending 15 and a half months in Kenya working with people impacted by HIV, he also runs the Positive Self-Management Program, which is a seven week program to help people manage living with HIV.  Currently, John teaches this class at CAP. He also coordinates the Speakers Bureau at CAP.

When asked what is next, John replied:

One of my next steps is to make it through the next five months (John is currently battling Hep C).  The interferon can make one very depressed and or irrationally irritable.  The depression can be all consuming including feeling suicidal.  They physical effects on my body have been profound, with severe pain and or the inability to eat.

Sometimes I think I need to slow down a bit and take some time for myself (I have yet to see John take time for himself) but I also feel that I have to do my piece, which means empowering somebody else to advocate for our community.

I need to thank John for sharing a part of his story.  Everyone in the LGBT community owes John a great deal of thanks for his tireless efforts in battling stigma and working to empower people with multiple identities impacted by HIV.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 2, Wanda Sykes

2 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to out lesbian Wanda Sykes.  TSM readers might remember Wanda being celebrated for her standing up to the homophobic bigot Tracy Morgan. Always outspoken, with a sharp mind and a sharp tongue, Sykes has been voted one of the funniest people in America.

She was born to a banker and an Army colonel in the Washington, DC area. She graduated from Hampton University with a degree in marketing and worked for five years at the National Security Agency. Not fully satisfied with the work, she began doing standup comedy on the side in 1987. She left the NSA and began acting and performing full time in 1992.

Sykes’ family history was researched by the PBS genealogy program Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr. Her ancestry was traced back to a 1683 court case involving her paternal ninth great-grandmother Elizabeth Banks, a free white woman and indentured servant, who gave birth to a biracial child fathered by a slave, who inherited her mother’s free status. According to historian Ira Berlin, a specialist in the history of American slavery, the Sykes family history is “… the only such case that I know of in which it is possible to trace a black family rooted in freedom from the late 17th century to the present.”

Besides her wonderful standup performances, Sykes has been on many TV shows and in several movies. I particularly like her performance as Jane Fonda’s personal assistant in Monster-In-Law–Sykes steals the movie, “Y’all better get that little girl out of there.” After an unsuccessful marriage to record producer Dave Hall in the 90s, Sykes quietly acknowledged that she was a lesbian. She came out publicly in 2008 during the battle against Proposition 8. She and her wife, Alex, were married one month before that odious measure passed. She’s an outspoken advocate for gay rights and marriage equality and calls out injustice wherever she sees it. We love our Wanda, who proves that social justice can be funny and smart at the same time.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 1, Anne Burrell

1 Jun

Today marks the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month.  June is traditionally Pride month because it commemorates the Stonewall Riots, the catalyst for the LGBTQ civil rights movement.

Today I would like to honor and celebrate Anne Burrell, who recently came out publicly, but never kept her sexual orientation a secret. Despite the large LGBT demographic for the Food Network, Burrell, Iron Chef Cat Cora, and Chopped host Ted Allen are the only regular stars who are out.

Burrell is a phenomenal chef and a woman who does not suffer fools easily. A representative of a restaurant where she was recently filming a show said, “She was gracious, fun-loving and every bit the personality that has made her a favorite.” I wish we would see more of her on Chopped, although she certainly appears on a number of interesting shows.

She is also a great example of just how truly versatile a BA in English really is. She received her initial culinary training in New York before going to Italy where she trained and worked. Burell has demonstrated a charitable side as well, most recently when competing for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation on Chopped All Stars.

Thanks to Sarah Motsenbocker for helping update this article with information about Cat Cora, who has been out since the beginning of her televised career and has featured her wife and family on Best Thing I Ever Ate. Stay tuned as we celebrate the LGBTQ community this month.

Anniversary Reflections on Blogging and Tweeting

13 Aug

Your host ponders a solipsistic year

As I celebrate the fist anniversary of The Solipsistic Me (TSM), I am reminded of why I started the blog and reflect how TSM has taken on a mission. First, I have to thank several key people.  TSM evolved into something far larger than I could have imagined and not without the amazing talents and support of my husband Robert, Lex Kahn, and other contributors like Brad Fairchild, Jonelle Thomas, and Angel Mason.

With Michele Bachmann and the other Teahadists stealing center stage, I feel more compelled to keep TSM going that I did a year ago. Again, I invoke the power of Sweet Honey in the Rock: We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest Until it Comes.

There are many things I am exceedingly proud of, not least of which are the many interviews I have conducted and the opportunities I have had to learn from some really wonderful people dedicated to social justice. As we celebrate this anniversary, I have reflected on the issues, challenges, and successes of TSM. Here is a sampling of the posts that best reflect these themes.

Gunning For A Good Search… (Feb. 20): One interesting aspect of blogging is a glimpse into the minds of people using search engines. I am often surprised by the search terms people use that get them to TSM. Some posts live on well past their date of publication through heavy search activity. For an extended period, variations on the word “guns” (pointing to posts responding to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were a big source of referrals, which prompted this post.

Wanda Sykes: A Much Needed Tonic (June 11): Social media can lead people to quickly “say” things that they might not if they reflected on their thoughts and words. Chris Rock learned this the hard way with his Twitter response to the firestorm around Tracy Morgan’s anti-gay tirade. While following that story, I was delighted to see the ever-amazing Wanda Sykes chime in, inspiring this post.

Sunday Morning: The Conundrum of Catholicism (Apr. 24): Growing up Catholic and gay, I have a painful awareness of the power of religion to do harm. As a gay adult who subscribes to no religion, I am often nonplussed by the multitude of hypocrites who try to use their chosen faith to oppress my inherent humanity. This is my Easter reflection on the struggles of LGBT youth (and adults) attempting to balance their faith and their person.

Breakfast with Anita Hill (June 8 ): I have been a fan of Anita Hill since she was dragged through the mud by the Senate during the notorious Clarence “What Ethics?” Thomas hearings. The resurgence of her story when Ginni “Have some tea, baby” Thomas demanded an apology appalled me. I was lucky enough to attend a breakfast with Dr. Hill and reflect on her amazing strength.

Celebrities For Social Justice: My Interview with Suzanne Whang (March 11): Some, like Anita Hill, have celebrity forced on them, while others choose it. It is always a delight to find someone who chooses a celebrity lifestyle but uses her voice for social justice. I’ve showcased a number of these wonderful men and women, but I’m particularly fond of this, my first major interview for TSM.

Make Room For Marlo’s Message (June 5): Another wonderful celebrity do-gooder! I fell in love with Marlo Thomas as a little boy delighted with Free to Be…You and Me. I’ve used that theme in a number of posts and was saddened to see Marlo’s realistic pessimism about how it holds up in the 21st Century. I call on everyone to strive for a world where we truly are Free to Be.

Singing A Different Tune: Republican Candidates’ Hypocrisy (July 1): A major component of social justice (and thus a constant theme on TSM) is exposing and combatting hypocrisy. I use this word as a tag on many of my posts because of the tragic amount of hypocrisy in the modern conversation. This post is one of my favorites exposing Republican corporate whores abusing other people’s property rights.

The Sanctity of Marriage (March 2): TSM is also a regular forum for marriage equality. As I observed in a fairly early post, “Why Do You Get to Decide What I’m Allowed to Have?” This post was written on Robert’s and my 8th wedding anniversary and reflects both the depth of our love for each other and the absurd energy so much of our country pours into refusing to recognize that love and partnership.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 30, Albus Dumbledore: TSM likes to honor the months set aside to celebrate the history of marginalized and oppressed populations. June is LGBTQ History Month (also known as Pride Month). We celebrated 30 individuals who contributed significantly to the cause of sexual and gender minorities. This post was my favorite of the series, combining that rich history with my fondness for literature and strong, compassionate leadership figures.

Remembering Bayard Rustin on MLK Holiday (Jan. 17): Black History Month is in February, and TSM celebrated 30 individuals who have made contributions for the rights of racial minorities. This celebration started a bit early, recognizing Bayard Rusting on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. I am mesmerized by Rustin’s powerful story as an out gay African-American in the middle of the 20th Century; he was also recognized during LGBTQ History Month for his contributions to that cause.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: March 11, Gloria Steinem: As an ardent feminist and former board member of the National Women’s History Project, I was particularly interested in celebrating Women’s History Month. TSM frequently recognizes events in women’s history, so the entries for this month were people who have made particularly strong contributions. One of my all-time heroes is Gloria Steinem, so this post is particularly dear to me. I am also a huge fan of Helen Mirren (as my husband can attest) and took advantage of International Women’s Day to recognize her recent award for contributions to women’s rights.

More on the Gay Agenda (Caution for readers): One thing I find particularly irksome is the myth that there is some overarching “gay agenda” that all LGBTQ Americans are trying to foist on the rest of the country. Our only agenda is to be treated as equal citizens with equal rights – is that so hard to understand? TSM has hosted a number of posts on this theme; this one is my favorite, blending satire, absurdism, and a good dose of much-needed reality (as well as a glimpse into the dark secrets of our Agenda).

Publishing The Solipsistic Me has been an exciting, entertaining, sometimes frustrating, always educational experience. I’ve encountered many wonderful people from around the world, made some new virtual friends, exposed hypocrisy and bigotry, celebrated heroism, and championed social justice wherever I could. I look forward to the coming year and hope you will all join me on this journey toward a better world.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 4, Harry Hay

4 Jun

Harry Hay

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Harry Hay.  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 consequences being carried out by McCarthy’s henchmen.

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.  To learn more about Harry Hay, click here.

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