Optimism!

Oct. 15th, 2010 09:45 pm
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Here are some of the best words I've heard in a long time. This is sweet and loving and oh so very hopeful. It's water in the desert.

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By now, you have all heard about what we in the LGBT community have known for years: suicide is an epidemic among gay children. It is very hard to live with constant negative messages about homosexuality at home and at school and at the same time cope with your own emerging sexual identity. That's why antigay speech, whatever terms it is couched in, is child abuse. Yes, saying "We just don't believe that it's right" alienates your children and makes them believe that you'll never love them if you know who they truly are. Really.

However, it seems like things have just been escalating lately. One man and two seventeen-year-old kids were kidnapped, raped, and beaten in New York in the past week. Meanwhile, that state's Republican candidate for governor made a speech that attacked the gay community (and then said that he wasn't homophobic and didn't advocate violence against gay people). A gay pride parade in Belgrade (one of my favorite places to visit - I'm not being ironic here, I mean it) resulted in rioting and injury to several police officers.

The Obama administration, in an act of what I can only see as cowardice, sent Valerie Jarrett (a name known only to politics nerds like me) to speak at an HRC dinner on Saturday as their gesture of support. Aside from the fact that HRC is a controversial (widely disliked) organization in the gay community, this did not even make a single major news outlet in the country. Bill Clinton did much better with Matthew Shepard. And the world is still structured in such a way that kids like Sakia Gunn are just forgotten. Thanks, institutionalized racism!

Today is National Coming Out Day, and I think I speak for many LGBT people in saying that it is one of the saddest we've seen in a decade or more. I'm talking to my straight friends, here. Your children are dying. Kids aren't bullies because they are kids. They are bullies because political candidates like Carl Paladino, mainstream religious leaders like Pope Benedict XVI, and ordinary parents, clergy, and teachers make this behavior (and the attitudes behind them) acceptable. Kids aren't committing suicide because there's something wrong with them. They are committing suicide because they are getting the message that they are unlovable and that there is no hope for them. We've got to give them hope.
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Here is Part Two of yesterday's list of short biographies of the people I've been quoting throughout the month of June.

Irshad Manji, b. 1968, is a Canadian writer and commentator who promotes a progressive vision of Islam. An out lesbian, she works to inform the international community on gay and lesbian issues in cultures informed by Islam.

Ailbhe Smyth is an Irish feminist and lesbian author who has been an activist since the 1960s. She is deeply involved in radical politics, including the antiracist movement in Ireland. She is a professor at University College Dublin.

Urvashi Vaid, b. 1958, is a scholar and activist. She served as Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force until 1992. Her particular focus is the elimination of institutionalized homophobia.

Morris Kight, (1919-2003), was a peace activist and one of the founders of the gay rights movement in the United States. The Stonewall Democratic Club was one of many organizations that he founded or co-founded.

Staceyann Chin, b. 1971, is a Jamaican performing artist and poet. She lives in New York City and works for the rights of gays and lesbians in Jamaica and the United States.

John Amaechi, b. 1970, is the first openly gay former NBA player. He is a sportscaster and a British citizen.

Patria Jimenez, b. 1957, is the first openly lesbian Senator in Mexico's Congress. She is also the head of a lesbian rights group in Mexico. She works for peace with the Zapatista movement in Chiapas and is an advocate for victims of domestic violence.

Pat Parker, (1944-1989), was a black lesbian feminist poet. She was involved with the Black Panthers and issues of women's health. She was a powerful early influence in the lesbian feminist movement.

Robin McGehee is a longtime activist for gay rights. She lives in Fresno, California with her wife and their two children. She is currently Co-Chair of GetEQUAL, an organization that aims to create a society that is committed to equality for all. She has been advocating for a comprehensive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act).

Barney Frank, b. 1940, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. An openly gay politician, he is the chair of the House Financial Services Committee. He has championed gay rights legislation since the 1980s.

Barbara Gittings, (1932-2007), was an early organizer for the Daughters of Bilitis. She began protesting for gay rights before Stonewall, in 1965. She was deeply opposed to the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness, and organized the discussions that led to its being eliminated from the APA's list of mental illnesses.

Armistead Maupin, b. 1944, is a gay veteran of the Vietnam War who once worked for former Senator Jesse Helms. He is best known for his Tales of the City series, first published as a newspaper serial starting in 1974, which featured several LGBT characters, including one with AIDS in the 1980s. He has worked in the gay rights and AIDS activist communities.

Cherrie Moraga, b. 1954, is a brilliant author, professor, and playwright. She has worked as a mentor to at-risk queer youth. She is also an essayist and feminist.

Bayard Rustin, (1912-1987), was an openly gay civil rights organizer who worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. on techniques of nonviolent resistance. He served on a chain gang for breaking segregation laws and organized the 1963 March on Washington. Later, he worked as an election monitor for Freedom House and testified in favor of gay rights legislation.

Judy Grahn, b. 1940, is a poet and founded common spaces, including book stores, for gay women on the West Coast. She has influenced many feminists, including Adrienne Rich and Ani DiFranco.

Joan Nestle, b. 1940, is the co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. She is a writer who focuses on oral history.

Happy Pride, everyone. Please remember those who worked hard and risked so much to create a little more freedom in the world.
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Poets. Runaways. Loudmouths. Drag queens. Queers. Trannies. Perverts. Leather daddies. Outcasts.

Forty-one years ago today, these people took to the streets to defend their right to exist. I owe them my average, middle-class suburban life, a life in which I can walk down the street hand-in-hand with [livejournal.com profile] papertigers and no one stares. This month, in recognition, I have been posting a daily quote to my facebook account. Now it's time for me to give a little more information about the people I quoted (and the people I will quote tomorrow and Wednesday). I will do these in small groups, since it might be overwhelming to read otherwise.

Harvey Milk, (1930-1978), was the first openly gay person to win an election in the United States. He worked to make San Francisco a city in which gay people could walk around without harassment from police, and was instrumental in defeating the Briggs Initiative, which would have made firing gay teachers and any school employee who stood up for them mandatory. He and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in November 1978.

Audre Lorde, (1934-1992), was a poet and feminist who criticized the feminist establishment for its focus on middle-class white women. She was one of the first thinkers to recognize in her work that oppression is an interlinked system and to advocate coalitions of oppressed peoples fighting oppression together.

Harry Hay, (1912-2002), was a cofounder of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights groups in the United States. Later, he founded the Radical Faeries, and spent much of the rest of his life trying to preserve a place for those marginalized by mainstream gay politics.

Adrienne Rich, b. 1920, is a poet and activist born in (I have to mention this) Baltimore, Maryland. (Go Maryland!) A radical feminist and anti-war activist, Rich has written both poetry and essays. I learned to write a good essay from reading Adrienne Rich.

Cleve Jones, b. 1954, is a gay rights activist, an AIDS activist, and the creator of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Recently, he has formed a coalition between the gay community and UNITE HERE! to create the Sleep With The Right People campaign urging gays and lesbians to stay in hotels that treat workers well.

Rainbow Grannies (Carrie and Elisia Ross-Stone), born sometime before 1952, are longtime partners, mothers and grandmothers, who rode their bicycles across the United States in 2003 and 2004 to educate the public about the need for marriage equality. They are also the founders of Rainbow Law, a website that offers legal document preparation (Living Will, Power of Attorney, etc.) for free to the gay community.

Lynn Lavner is a lesbian comedian and musician.

Rev. Troy Perry, b. 1940, is a minister and founder of Metropolitan Community Churches, a Protestant denomination that was established as a safe place for gay men and lesbians to express Christian spirituality.

Martina Navratilova, b. 1956, is a Czech-born naturalized American tennis player. She was one of the first openly gay athletes and has played professional tennis for more than 20 years.

Frank Kameny, b. 1925, was one of the Stonewall protesters. He was fired from his government job in 1957 because he was gay. He filed a protest with the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. Another cofounder of the Mattachine Society, he has just had a section of 17th Street Northwest (in the heart of DC's Dupont Circle gayborhood) renamed "Kameny Way" in his honor. The government officially apologized for his firing in 2009.
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This is my first Pride Report for 2010. (I will, of course, be making the annual post on the anniversary of Stonewall). We went to the Baltimore parade yesterday and the festival today, and at both we ran into this coalition of hotel workers and gay rights activists. What an excellent idea! Communities that fight for people's rights should work together; we should recognize that, as Desmond Tutu has said, "My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." I encourage you all to visit the website, take the pledge, and boycott Hyatt. If you are travelling, Unite Here! has a great tool for finding hotels that treat their workers justly. That can also be reached through the website.

Happy Pride, everyone, and remember to do good for others, as often as you can, wherever you are.
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I wish I could go to the festival. We've been talking about it in just this way for a couple of days now, in between watching Into the Woods and being entirely unmotivated. There will be no Pride festival for us this year, though. We don't have the money for gas, and [livejournal.com profile] papertigers has a terrible respiratory infection and thus no stamina for a long day at the festival. In between being disappointed, I am also somewhat amused that we are calling it that... and, for some reason, throwing our hands into the air.

We are making business cards for me. Not for the festival, but for a long conference I will be working for the next two days. I am going to hobnob with the hoi polloi, and hopefully get a job.

Why

Jun. 14th, 2009 02:10 pm
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Why so sad, Jenise?

I'm not sure, really.

It may be because we were going to go to the Capital Pride Festival, but they decided to charge admission and the festival itself is only middling, so we're not going to bother. I'm disappointed at lack of fun.

It may be because I am hormonal. This is highly likely.

It may be because the house is messy.

It may be because I am worried about our financial situation.

It may be because I saw a lot of old friends yesterday and am feeling pretty inadequate by comparison. Also, I miss them very, very much and didn't realize how much until I saw them. So I feel a little lost and lonely over here.

It may be because I am dehydrated.

But it is a beautiful, sunny day and I am wasting it feeling sad and anxious.
debboamerik: (Sapphist)
Happy Pride, everyone!

Part 1: DC Pride, this weekend

Part 2: Baltimore Pride, next weekend

Part 3: 40th anniversary of Stonewall, the weekend after Baltimore Pride

While a lot of people see Pride as fun and camp, I also feel that it is important as a community to get together, talk about our lives, and enjoy the company of other queer people. Being such a small and mostly invisible minority (I, for one, do not have a birthmark on my face that says "lesbian"), it's nice to get together and be near other people with shared experiences. I also enjoy hearing about community events: the square dancing groups, the choruses, the theatre, the health services and churches and activist groups. This is why Pride will continue to be important; it is a celebration of our history, an expression of community, and a big party, all at once.

We've come a long way. Sometimes it was an uphill journey, sometimes on the rough side of the mountain, but we've come a long way. We have a long way to go.
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Thirty-nine years and two days ago, a few courageous men faced with brutal police treatment rose up and, in doing so, made the world a far more comfortable place for thousands of people. In honor of the drag queens, and in memory of Sakia Gunn and so many others who have died, I would like to wish all of you (whatever your orientation) a very happy Pride.

My life is profoundly better for their sacrifices.

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