Tag Archives: Portland Oregon

Crying Over Breakfast

14 Jul
Robert and I started our morning with coffee on our front porch enjoying the sun, we try to make this our weekly Saturday ritual. We decided to walk to Multnomah Village to the new bagel shop for breakfast. While on our walk we were unpacking the stress of living under the insanity of the Trump administration; most recently his attack on NATO, England and Prime Minister Theresa May, his attack on Germany, and his over the top boorish behavior with Queen Elizabeth. As we were eating our breakfast outside we overheard two conversations. The first conversation was a family with two small boys and the father was saying to his son: “I think it would be a good idea to give part of your birthday money to an organization that needs some help–you can pick what organization you want to help out.”
The second conversation we overheard was with a mother and her daughter and son. Daughter: “Mamma, I feel guilty for using a straw, but I like using the straw.” Mother: “I think it would be a good idea if I start to pack reusable and washable straws so that you can have your straw and we don’t hurt the environment.”
Yes, this made Robert and me cry in public. In a time of such intense darkness and fear mongering and climate change denial all from 45, these two conversations we overheard were such a lovely and amazing gift and made us cry tears of joy and hope! Feeling hopeful and grateful today!
My hope is that all of you who read this have the chance to experience some hope today and to be in a place of gratitude.

Black History Month 2013: Kathleen Saadat

15 Feb

Today we honor a tireless worker for social justice and equality, my very dear friend Kathleen Saadat. Born and raised in Missouri, Kathleen moved to Oregon in the 70s. She attended Reed College and received her BA in Psychology there. She held several managerial positions with the City of Portland’s CETA Job Training Programs in the 1970’s and 80’s and held the position of Executive Director for the Oregon State Commission on Black Affairs immediately prior to her appointment by the Governor as Oregon State Director of Affirmative Action in 1987.  She managed the Youth Services arm of the Portland Urban League during the 1980’s.

Kathleen has worked in a wide variety of government positions and as an independent contractor. From 1997 until 2001, she was the Strategic Plan Coordinator for Multnomah County Oregon’s Department of Community and Family Services.  During that time she also continued work as a private consultant and trainer in the areas of human diversity and organizational development and as a motivational speaker. She has served as a Commissioner on the City of Portland’s Human Rights Commission and should also be recognized for her amazing work to fight HIV and help those impacted by HIV.

Kathleen is a member of Class VI of the Oregon American Leadership Forum, a 1992 Fellow with the Advocacy Institute in Washington DC and recipient of fellowship to Hedgebrook Women’s Writers Retreat and a member of the 29th Street Writers. Her list of awards and accomplishments is too long to enumerate here but includes being listed as one of 100 Who Lead in Oregon by Oregon Business Magazine, a Harvey Milk Award, the Bayard Rustin Civil RIghts Award, and a lifetime achievement award from the World Arts Foundation in recognition of her contributions to the efforts to “Keep Living the Dream” of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Kathleen is concerned with social and economic justice, what happens to our children, and with the issues related to world peace. More than just concerned, she lives and breathes social justice. She is both passionate and compassionate, willing and able to speak her mind clearly but also able to help people move along their own path towards understanding. Her desire for positive social change is only matched by her generosity of spirit. Although she has retired from the formal work force, her passion and presence continue to be felt in myriad ways as she channels her powerful voice through her own wishes and time. Truth be known, while she purports to be retired, I look forward to her next project towards social justice.

I am privileged to know and honor her. Kathleen continues to help me learn how to build coalitions and bring disparate groups together–thank you, Kathleen.  With love and admiration!

Healing Homophobia Through Native American Traditions

19 Nov

I need to thank my friends Mileka, Lori, and Deb for their enormous efforts in helping with the research for this article.  Prior to colonization, Native Americans across the country embraced Two Spirit people, or what we would refer to as people in the LGBT community.  The indigenous peoples of North America operated from the perspective: “We don’t throw our people away.” Unlike our divided nation today — which feels it is okay to discard people and marginalize certain populations — most Native tribes embraced all of their people and their differences.

Two-Spirt people were often revered because they contain both feminine and masculine qualities, thus allowing us to see the world with a uniquely balanced perspective.  Often times, Two-Spirt folk would be in charge of Naming Ceremonies for children.  Two-Spirit people were also revered as a type of shaman, and often used as “nannies” caring for children.

With the advent of colonization and interference from the Catholic Church, we saw misogyny and homophobia eat away at Native American traditions.  Sadly, many Native American tribes are struggling with homophobia and the suicide rates for Native teens who are two spirit.

The good news is that many tribes that are working hard to fight homophobia by embracing pre-colonization traditions.  In fact, the local NAYA center here in Portland is working hard to combat homophobia.  For example, when young people throw around the word “gay” as a pejorative, they are reminded that is not consistent with Traditional Native American values, which is quite wonderful as there is an increasing population of Native youth that are wanting to return to their traditions.

We can learn a great deal from our Native American brothers and sisters and their traditions.  Wouldn’t it be nice to work to stop misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and to stop marginalizing people who don’t fit into the neat little boxes we seem to want to assign to people?

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 23, Michael Kaplan

23 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to my friend Michael Kaplan, the Executive Director of Cascade AIDS Project (CAP). As you will see from our interview, Michael’s life shows all of us how our individual and collective voices can help address the intersections of oppression.

Michael  was born and raised in Minnesota, save for five years living in Kansas. He  graduated from high school in Wichita, “a very conservative place,” before returning to Minnesota for college. Michael earned his B.A. in Child Psychology and his Master’s in Adult and Community Education.

On coming out as gay:

I came out at age 20 at U. of Minn and after I came out I explored being queer on a trip across Europe.  My parents were very supportive.  Their concern was what I would have to deal with as a gay man.  I come from leftist Jewish hippie parents.  I have a fraternal twin brother and an older brother.  My mom was social worker.

On becoming an activist:

Coming out drew me to community building.  Growing up I wanted to be a teacher—I knew I wanted to help kids.  A professor at U. of Minn led me to volunteering at the Twin Cities Gay and Lesbian Coffee House, now called District 202.  Before I was hired and while volunteering there I tested HIV+ at age 22. After volunteering for several years, they hired me as the ED, at age 23. The kids named it District 202.  For me there were a lot of people focused on AIDS, but not focused on Queer youth stuff.  I later got involved with the state planning group for  HIV prevention and co-chaired the state prevention plan for Minnesota.  In 1992 I became the Founding Executive Director of the Queer Center in Minneapolis, now called District 202.  In 1997 I got a fellowship  (one of three) from the CDC, the Price Fellow for HIV Prevention and Leadership.

The CDC got me interested in a larger stage to do national work and in 1998 I moved to D.C.  I was on the board of the National Youth Advocacy Council (NYAC) and then became their Development Director.  Six months later a friend of mine created a position for me with the Academy for Educational Development (AED), but NYAC made me their Deputy Director.  Eventually I did go to work with AED and I got involved with government contracts around HIV issues, specifically prevention.  I stayed with AED for seven years.  I was invited to work on international proposals.

Around 2002 my proposal was funded and I got to go to Zimbabwe, which was both daunting and exciting.  That was the start of me doing international work.  I was able to secure grants for HIV prevention in countries in Africa and all of Central America. One particular grant was for 90 million.  When I moved to D.C. in 1998 Sean and I broke up and he moved to the West Coast.  We met up again in 2006 and he moved to D.C. for us to live together.  I was traveling so much around the world that we both decided that I would look for an opportunity in the United States.  In 2008, I sent my application for the ED position at CAP from my work in Vietnam on a business trip.  In September of 2008, I got the ED position at CAP.

What should marginalized communities do to have a stronger voice?

I just want people to live their lives—to be out and open—through your existence in the world we change things.  It is because I am an out open gay Jewish, foster parent, HIV+ man, that folks who thought they never interacted with any of these identities have to realize they have in fact met someone.  It is a great opportunity for education.

I need to thank Michael for this interview and for all of the good work he is doing towards social justice.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 21, k.d. lang

21 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate an award-winning musician and activist, the talented k.d. lang. Born in November 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta, Kathryn Dawn Lang grew up in Consort on the Canadian prairie. She attended Red Deer College where she got her first exposure to the music of the late Patsy Cline. Fascinated, lang started her first band in 1983, a Cline tribute group wittily called the Reclines.

The band quickly outgrew the direct tribute and became a strong musical unit in its own right although still drawing clear influence from Patsy’s work). Their first album, 1984’s A Truly Western Experience, got strong reviews and led to a Juno for Most Promising Female Vocalist. Angel With A Lariat followed quickly, recorded in Nashville for major label Sire. After a strongly received duet with Roy Orbison on a new recording of his classic hit Crying, lang scored another coup landing famed Nashville producer Owen Bradley — the architect of Patsy Cline’s sound — for her third album. Over the course of a dozen albums ranging from country twang to meditative pop, lang has demonstrated an amazing musical breadth and won eight Juno awards and four Grammys.

k.d. lang was also one of the first singers to come out relatively early in their careers. Announcing she was lesbian in 1992, she has been a stalwart supporter of LGBT issues for the past two decades. She has campaigned for AIDS awareness and research and donated recordings to a number of albums to raise funds. She is also an animal rights activist and an activist for improved human rights in Tibet. Although she had already begun the transition from country to pop when she came out, she has retained her ties to Nashville and worked hard to improve the country music environment for LGBT performers and fans.

Despite living in the U.S. for many years, lang is also very proud of her Canadian heritage. She recorded an album, 2004’s Hymns of the 49th Parallel, featuring her take on songs by her favorite Canadian writers. Her powerful version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah led to her being part of the opening ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver where she performed the song. The singer recently moved a bit closer to her roots, leaving Los Angeles for a new home in Portland, Oregon, TSM’s home town. Welcome to the Rose City, k.d.!

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 15, Jenn Burleton

15 Jun

Today I would like to honor and celebrate my dear friend, Jenn Burleton.  Jenn is a fierce social justice advocate  and one of the founders and Executive Director of TransActive, a non-profit agency dedicated to supporting transgender and gender non-conforming youth around the country. Jenn is an amazing and compassionate educator about transgender issues.  I also feel compelled to say that being transgender or gender non-conforming have nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation, although there is some overlap regarding marginalization, multiple identities, and the intersections of oppression.

Jenn does a particularly good job of helping folks understand the very important issue of gender identity, which seems a tricky business for people to understand for some reason.  Jenn explains:

At some point we have to let go of this notion that trans people who have had surgery have to be forthcoming about  that fact or be forthcoming if they have not had surgery, from a social interaction persepective it is irrelavent—anatomy on a day to day basis is irrelevant. There are some transgender people that do in fact over-emphasize or act as though being post op is a trophy. That can be a dangerous path because it takes away from the more important conversation around gender identity and puts the focus only on genitals.  The surgery should not have to be the validation of our identity.

Jenn is transgender, but she is also lesbian–two marginalized identities. What first drew me to Jenn is that she is a strong feminist and a true voice for social justice.  What I love about Jenn is that she works so hard to celebrate, educate, and advocate the complexities of gender identity.  My hope is that we come to a point when more of us celebrate and embrace our transgender brothers and sisters. Click here to learn more about Jenn and about TransActive.

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