Saturday, June 30, 2012

Activists from the City of Brotherly Love Don't Act so Brotherly



The city of The Liberty Bell, The Continental Congress, and Benjamin Franklin last week sent three gay activists, among others, to the first-ever gay pride reception at the White House. Invited by President Barack Obama, along with many service members, for crab cakes and music supplied by the Marine Corps Band, the reception at the White House’s photo opportunities turned into Fraternity House behavior rather than White House decorum.

What the Philadelphia Activists Did Next
Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal, who was told by his staff beforehand to “behave,” was a cad, but not rude, when he gave a sarcastic thumbs up to ex-President’s George W. Bush’s portrait. Quipped Segal, “when I heard The Marine Corps Band playing Barbara Streisand’s famous tune “The Way We Were,” I thought, are they going to play nothing but Barbara, Bette, and Lady Gaga? I was waiting for “Over the Rainbow.”

The other two Philadelphia invitees were more brazen: Matthew Hart, National Director for Public Engagement at Solutions for Progress, a public policy and technology company, posted his Facebook photo flipping the bird to Reagan’s portrait with the caption “Fuck Reagan.” One week after the reception, Hart had no remorse:
“Yeah, fuck Reagan. Ronald Reagan had blood on his hands. The man was in the White House as AIDS exploded, and he was happy to see plenty of gay men and queer people die. He was a murderous fool, and I have no problem saying so.” Don’t invite me back (to the White House). I don’t care.”

The photographer Zoe Strauss, who kissed her partner under the picture of Reagan, regarded as  “the great communicator who broke the back of Communism” did two bird flips. Her gestures and Hart’s antics were first recorded in http://www.Philadelphia Magazine, 6/22/12. Although Strauss’s Facebook photo had no comments (“a picture is worth a thousand words,”) Strauss posted a litany of things that happened when Reagan was President: including the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of Georgia’s anti-sodomy law and Reagan’s statement when he was running in 1980: “My criticism is that the gay movement isn’t just asking for civil rights; it’s asking for recognition and acceptance of an alternative lifestyle which I don’t believe society can condone, nor can I.”

Strauss’s opinions are typical of other activist’s views such as Larry Kramer, who started the organization “Act Up” in the 1980’s during the AIDS Plague, and wrote the drama “The Normal Heart,” resurrected on Broadway last year (see my post: “The Normal Heart had MY Heart Thumping, “ 7/10/11).

The Republicans Counter
However, there are others who defend Reagan’s record. Douglas W. Kmiec, the former president’s constitutional legal adviser, for Regan and George W. Bush, said that when an initial legal inquiry suggested that those with AIDS might not be eligible for civil-rights protection because employers and others could assert a legitimate “fear of contagion, ” Reagan appointed a commission on AIDS that re-examined that legal thinking.

After obtaining the best available medical information, the president concurred with Kmiec, now Caruso Chair and professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, who saw as a matter of law, that individuals with AIDS were entitled to existing civil-rights protections and could be excluded from those protections only where they could be shown, on an individual basis, to pose a threat to the health or safety of others or to be unable to perform their required jobs.”

Reactions to the bird flipping have been mostly condemning, especially among Republicans.  The Executive Director of the gay organization Log Cabin Republicans, Christian A. Berle, stated that “these photographs have hurt our community and make advocating for inclusion and equality more difficult. The participants should be ashamed.”

What the White House Has To Say
The White House, through spokesperson Shin Inouye, affirms that Strauss and Hart will not be invited back.  She told Fox News “behavior like this doesn’t belong anywhere, least of all in the White House.”

How Do You Feel?
What do you think?  Is the gesturing in the “people’s house” Freedom of Speech or rude behavior? 

Post your comment here:



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This Proud Mama Supports Gay Pride in a Myriad of Ways


Last year, I rubbed shoulders with church groups, PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays), and ) and “dykes on bikes,” as I marched down Fifth Avenue to support Gay Pride as the mother of a gay son.  The actual account is on my blog: http://straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com. While there are gay pride events yearly in other major cities, New York had even greater reason to celebrate last year as same-sex marriage passed shortly before the parade.

What I did THIS Year for Gay Pride
This year, I celebrated quietly, without a march or flag in hand. In April, I, as a member of PFLAG in Vero Beach, Florida, manned the cash for the PFLAG food station at the Pride event in nearby Port St. Lucie.  I bought sunglasses in rainbow colors from Pride vendors on the great lawn of the Port St. Lucie Civic Center, and purchased matching T-shirts.

This year, in June, the month of gay pride events throughout the world, I was asked by a lab which studies diseases of Florida citrus, plants and animals to speak about diversity. The topic was left up to me. I brought the sixty plus interested audience up-to-date on laws in Florida such as domestic partnership, adoption by gay couples, and federal legislation. I did my homework and judging from the audience’s intelligent questions, I’d say they had done theirs. 

I was preceded at the podium by a married lesbian who gave her harrowing story of what it’s like to be marginalized at a Catholic school, and feel so out-of-place that she actually thought about suicide. She is excelling now in college and is happier due to her relationship with her partner. As she stated, “I am no different than a heterosexual. I’m a wife, student, aunt, sister.” Although her vulnerable speech was certainly gutsier than mine, we complemented one another: the personal testament vs. the impartial educator, the yin and the yang. 

Why I Support Gay Pride
The preceding month, I was on a Chicago radio show. As a last-minute substitute, I was asked about parental acceptance of gay children, particularly in religious families. Why do I bother preparing speeches, researching? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just show up at a parade? I’ll tell you why. I take the time to inform the public because with education comes enlightenment. So, gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (GLBTQ)youth and adults will ultimately be accepted. But primarily, I support Gay Pride because I want my gay son to have the same rights as my heterosexual daughter. I’m “there” for him. I want him to know that I’m proud of him just as he is proud of me for supporting him, all year long.

     

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Homework for Straight Parents: Finding the Right College For Your GLBT Child


Summer Homework for Straight Parents: Finding the Right College For Your GLBT Child

With summer approaching, you may be thinking about looking at colleges for your GLBT child. (Or you may want to wait until the fall when the full-time students are back in session.)
But with bullying on college campuses and intimidation contributing to the deaths of students such as Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, you want to be careful that the college is a good fit.
But how’s a straight parent supposed to know what a good fit is for his/her GLBT child?

Here Are Some Helpful Websites

There are web sites that rate whether universities are gay friendly such as the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index. This index looks at policies, programs, and practices each institution provides to its gay community and grades the university on LGBT Policy Inclusion, LGBT Support and Institutional Commitment, LGBT Academic Life, LGBT Student Life, LGBT Housing, LGBT Campus Safety, LGBT Counseling & Health, and LGBT Recruitment and Retention Efforts. It is owned and operated by Campus Pride, the leading national nonprofit organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create safer, more LGBT-friendly learning environments at colleges and universities. It rates more than 300 college campuses based on more than two dozen issues dealing with academic and student life, policies, course offerings, campus safety and housing and health services.

The Princeton Review, a company that specializes in test preparation courses and admission consulting, also ranks “gay friendly” universities. Students can go to the Review’s website which provides guidelines for what students should look for to tell whether a campus is gay-friendly. You can get a printed survey form, where one question asks whether they think students, faculty and university administrators treat people equally regardless of their ”sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.”

Scholarships for GLBT Students

Look into PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians and Gays) www.pflag.org.http://pflag.org. or the more competitive The Point Foundation http://thepointfoundation.org. 

Know Your Rights Before You Visit

No parent likes to hear of their GLBT child being bullied so Kathy Beige, About.com Lesbian Life suggests that you find the college’s nondiscrimination policy, either on the college’s website or in a catalogue. Does this policy include sexual orientation or gender identity? You don’t want to bother with a college that lacks this legal recourse in case you have to file suit against this institution.

What Are the Organizations in The College?

The National Consortium of Directors of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resources in Higher Education has a listing of all colleges who have gay and lesbian student organizations with paid staff. However, many gay and lesbian student organizations in colleges and universities are run by student volunteers too.

What is the Campus Life Like? 

Is there an active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender center that has a gay faculty member overseeing it? Drop by when you are visiting the campus and talk to those students or get one’s e-mail address so you can query him/her. Do they feel “safe” being out on the campus or are they harassed? Do you see other gay students, ads on the wall for gay meetings and events?

What Classes are Offered?

If a college has a Women’s and Lesbian Studies or a Queer Studies Department, chances are the school will be queer-friendly or at least have some gay and lesbian-friendly students and staff.

What’s the College Town or City Like?

Is there an active gay community? Are there coffee shops, gay bars, bookstores?

Beware of Religious Universities And Other Strangers

The Huffington Post has a listing of the least-GLBT-friendly colleges as well as the most GLBT-accepting colleges. For the least accepting, see http:www.thehuffingtonpost2012/06/07/12-least-lgbt-friendly-colleges  and for most accepting colleges, see http://www. huffingtonpost.co,/2012/06/12/most-lgbt-friendly-colleges.



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Names *Can* Hurt... and Worse

Today, my guest blogger is author Gilda Evans (http://www.gildaevans.com). Ms. Evans is the author of the upcoming GIRL TALK book series and is also currently working on the first installment of her young adult novel series, THE ALTERNATES. She is also a mentor to Teen Help (http://www.teenhelp.com), an international, non-profit organization that provides an anonymous, free, friendly, and safe environment for anyone seeking support and advice on a variety of topics, as well as other support services.     

Guest post: Names Can Hurt... and Worse

Last year, more than one year after teen Phoebe Prince committed suicide because of unbearable harassment at school, the teens who bullied her appeared in court to receive sentencing. Our system is slow to respond to these kinds of situations and, many times, we as parents are also too slow or just in denial for some reason. Statistics state that 1 in 5 teens think about committing suicide as a result of depression and related issues. 1 in 5? Hey, people… do you think we have a problem here? And the sad part is, the vast majority of these teens – mostly girls, by the way – ask for some kind of help before trying to hurt themselves.  

Parents, if you suspect that your child is being harassed at school (or anywhere else) for any reason, you must take a stand on behalf of your kid and set the perpetrators straight. All too often the victim feels helpless to do anything about the situation and resorts to desperate measures to deal with it. Don’t let your child be one of those people. Communication is the key – open, honest, non-judgmental communication. Offer your assistance without pushing it down your kid’s throat. Share your own stories of when you were a child and had similar experiences. Assure them that you are there to assist, to protect, and to guide them.Talk to other adults in charge and find out what’s going on (but keep your child in the loop if you can).  Whatever it takes, you must be the one to make sure that the violence – because that’s what it is even if it’s only verbal – stops. We, as responsible adults, need to present the kind of role model that we would like our children to emulate…and that includes creating a safe and nurturing environment for them to grow and become the young adults we would like them to be.
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