Must read column: ‘The Bully Pulpit’ by Mike Signorile

This is a very important and insightful column from Mike. Yes, the situation is getting better for LGBT adults, but not kids. The haters are, directly and indirectly inflicting pain and suffering on kids:

Breaking every nasty stereotype perpetuated by bigots, the kids of gay parents are indeed all right. The irony lies in the fact that it’s the children of straight parents who are very much in a full-blown crisis, be they gay and victims of bullying or the perpetrators of bullying themselves. It’s hard to know if gay teen suicides are on the rise or if media reports—and the use of the Internet to get news out—have focused more attention on them. But one thing is certain: They’re happening at an unacceptable rate.

Syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage, who started the It Gets Better Project on YouTube in response to the suicides, believes that despite the gains of the gay equality movement and the coming out of celebrities here and there, life is worse today for LGBT teens than it was 20 years ago, particularly for those living far from urban areas. While the gay political movement has made dramatic strides, he says, most of those advances have been for adults in big cities. And, at the same time, the religious right has come full force out of its own closet—condemning homosexuality and pushing “ex-gay” therapy. In suburban and rural areas, preachers attack gays, ugly campaigns have been waged to bar gays from marrying, and politicians rail that gays shouldn’t be teaching in schools.

Savage is on to something: As we have moved ahead with a civil rights movement for LGBT adults—marriage, employment nondiscrimination laws, adoption and gay parenting—the organized political movement has largely ignored the backlash our success has triggered and, more significantly, ignored how that backlash hurts gay youths. Yes, there are excellent groups focused on these issues, such as the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. But many gay adults, unless they have children themselves, are far removed from these issues and often see fighting discrimination in their own lives as more important. It’s true, of course, that progress for LGBT adults helps everyone in the long run. If LGBT people had full civil rights—equal marriage rights and federal constitutional protections against discrimination—homophobia would diminish in society and young people would grow up in a better world. Surely that’s a common goal of all of those fighting for marriage equality and an end to discrimination. But in a world of instant gratification we sometimes forget that full equality is going to be a long time off. And the hate will only get worse.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Guest column by Irene Monroe: Not only “For Colored Girls”

Not only “For Colored Girls


By Rev. Irene Monroe

If you’re looking for Madea (Tyler Perry in front of the camera in drag), or Black-faced versions of Sex in the City or He’s Just Not That Into You, then Mr. Perry’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 womanist choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” will gravely disappoint you.

And if you are also looking for Perry’s high-profile ensemble of African American actresses — Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, and Macy Gray — to perform as “Big Mammas,” “Hoochie Mommas,” and “Welfare Mommas” mouthing off “Madea-isms,” these sister-girls will disappoint you too; they have more depth, dignity and dimensionality to their character development than that.

While the movie, in my opinion, is a must see, it won’t be blockbuster hit. You won’t have to worry about waiting in long lines. I went to view the film at prime time with an audience of six of us — all women — in the theater.

With some critics having already bad-mouthed For Colored Girls as an anti-male melodrama, emasculating black males, who would sit for 134 minutes of that?

But those critics are wrong, and let me give you some reasons why.

For Colored Girls illustrates the universal sisterhood of struggle, strife, and survival that women find themselves in certain types relationships with men.

These characters in the film are you, me, and us all at certain junctures in our life’s journey. And For Colored Girls reminds us about the ongoing “dark phrases” of womanhood that women of all colors of the rainbow, even in our supposedly “post-feminist” era of 2010, continue to confront, like spousal abuse, incest, rape, infanticide, and infidelity, to name just a few.

However, with the film set primarily in Harlem, many will see the film as solely the typical “black faces” of African American women.

But that was neither the intent of Shange’s play, nor is it the intent of Perry’s film.

“Driving along Highway 101 one morning, she found herself passing beneath the arc of a double rainbow. Seeing the entire rainbow take shape above her, Shange realized that she wanted to live, that she had to live; she had something to say, not only about the fragility of her own existence, but about the lives of the other colored girls she knew and loved and imagined,” Hilton Als wrote in “Color Vision: Ntozake Shange’s Outspoken Art” in a recent New Yorker.

Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” was written during the height of the second wave feminist movement, giving voice and visibility to an era deluged with white women’s scholarship and sensibilities, and an era discriminated with not only their racial and ethnic biases but also with their class and sexual orientation biases.

Shange was part of the burgeoning black women writers’, poets’, and artists’ era of the 1970s where Toni Morrison published her first novel, and still my favorite, The Bluest Eye. Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Toni Cade Bambara, to name a few, are some of the early foresisters of the era.

With her signature style of writing — the choreopoem — blending music, dance, poetry, and an amalgamation of what she heard on the street, Shange’s play has influenced this generation of spoken-word and performance artists.

“I like the idea that letters dance. …I need some visual stimulation, so that reading becomes not just a passive act…but demands rigorous participation. The spelling result from the way I talk or the way the character talks, or the way I heard something said,” Shange wrote in Claudia Tate’s Black Women Writers at Work.

Perry directorial style in For Colored Girls captures Shange’s poetic style in each of his characters, with of course a few of his own cinematic flourishes. But none where there was room for Madea to surprisingly appear.

While many may view For Colored Girls as a melodramatic mess of black women’s misery, the play is about women’s empowerment.

The film is about teaching and illustrating to women how to have decision-making power of their own, access to information and resources for making proper decisions, having a range of options from which they can make good choices, having the ability to exercise their assertiveness, and having positive thinking of one’s ability to make changes in their lives as empowered women.

For Colored Girls is not only for colored girls because it offers a pathway to self-growth, finding our authentic power, and discovering the divine in one’s self.

In the closing scene of the film one of the women says, “i found god in myself & i loved her/i loved her fiercely.”

Aren’t we all looking for that woman?


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Guest column by David Mixner – LGBT Community: What Now?

LGBT Community: What Now?

by David Mixner, Live from Hell’s Kitchen

As a community we must pause and give careful consideration to our strategy given the new political reality. We should not be shy about examining any aspect of our past leadership or strategy in an attempt to understand what will be the most effective approach in our future. Clearly the paradigm has changed on election day.

What is very clear is that is the national strategy of a delaying votes on our action items for freedom over the last two years turned out to be disastrous mistake. Many of us urgently begged for our President and our national organizations not to delay action or we would face a new Congress. Well, that is exactly what happened although no one could have forecast the landslide that took place.

Legislation: The prospects of passing ENDA and repealing DOMA and DADT are slim to none. No matter what the military report says in December the Republicans in Congress are not about to allow LGBT citizens into the military. Our only hope is that the Department of Justice will drop its appeal (yeah, right) or the President issues a stop loss order. I wouldn’t hold our collective breath. Although we ‘control’ the Senate remember this is more a Senate of the Ben Nelsons and Max Baucuses then of our liberal friends. Nothing can get done without their support. Our opportunities have mostly vanished with our inaction over the last two years and we face a tough new world. If the courts continue to side with us, expect the ‘constitutional marriage amendment’ to be revived and we could be in trouble.

The Courts: If I was giving money today it would be to those pushing court cases. We seem to be doing better there than anywhere. Who knows if the shift in political climate will make judges more timid or not? The Bois/Olson Proposition 8 case takes on a new urgency. The appeal by President Obama of the Judge Virginia Phillips case could haunt us for years to come as a missed opportunity.

Politically: First and foremost, we most continue to put enormous energy into electing our own. Over 100 openly LGBT candidates were elected around the country on Tuesday. And in the Republican tidal wave, everyone of our Congress people were re-elected with an addition of one new member. There is no substitute for our own holding power.

The LGBT struggle for civil rights is not an appendage of any political party. Freedom has no Party. Our national organizations must remember that they do not work for the President or the Democratic Party. Our LGBT leaders work for and are accountable to us and no one else. We cannot allow outsiders to continue to define the strategy and then blithely follow it. Never again should we be afraid to exercise real power and play tough when we have the opportunity to advance forward. And please, no more condescending lectures about how we don’t understand how Washington works.

As we continue with the dialogue about what is next we should be respectful of all of our brothers and sisters. There is a lot to discuss. None of us has all the answers but we are doomed if we don’t carefully reflect on election day and what is next.

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Guest column by NBJC’s Sharon Lettman: ‘Department of Defense, I am Waiting to Receive My Survey’

Named Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition last year, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, is an ally who comes to NBJC after eight years at the People For the American Way (PFAW) Foundation. She has been battling discrimination against LGBTs and bringing allies into the fold by leading the Homophobia in the Black Church program at PFAW through its African American Religious Affairs division.

She recently contacted me to say she was taking a personal step to fight for repeal of DADT by sharing her personal story to relay how it matters that gays and lesbians serving in silence are denied what she and her husband have as a military family.

Department of Defense, I am Waiting to Receive My Survey



by Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks

Executive Director, NBJC

My husband is a proud member of the United States Air Force. A military career man. While he was stationed in Iraq, the moral support that helped him survive came through our letters, our calls, our communications, our connection. He had something magical to hold onto as he moved through every moment unsure that he would live to see the next. Without our mutual support of one another, the daily uncertainty about his safety and well being would have been more debilitating than any human should have to endure. In all of America’s wars, men and women have relied upon partners back home to keep their spirits up, to keep their sanity intact, to remind them that they are loved dearly, and to inspire them to conquer the inconceivable.

But what if I were a man and we were a gay couple? How could I then reach out across the miles to offer comfort and support? He would have to conceal our correspondence for fear of being outed and then fired. Sometimes we’d be forced to forego speaking to one another for his own security.

This is the reality of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), a U.S. military policy that bars openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces. The thought of not being able to talk to my husband–or for him not to be able to communicate with me because of an unjust military law–is unconscionable. Brave men and women who are gay and lesbian are being pressured to suppress their identity and to compromise their personal integrity under DADT. They are barred from discussing their family life and their partners.

They are required to lie about who they are everyday in order to protect and serve their country, and this act would take a tremendous toll on anyone. Adding insult to injury, the Department of Defense (DOD) has issued an offensive survey to spouses of servicemembers to determine the impact on our desire to be in social settings with gay men and lesbians serving openly, i.e., honestly, in the military. Personally, I don’t see what all of the excitement and concern is about. I can’t wait to welcome my gay and lesbian servicemembers and their spouses over for dinner.

Seriously, we are all concerned about the mental health of our servicemembers. Too many have returned with post-traumatic stress disorder or worse, resorting to suicide as a means of coping. But what about the traumas that are being inflicted by our own government against people who have boldly chosen to defend this country? For gay and lesbian servicemembers, there is the added stress and psychological damage from living a lie, serving in fear that they will be discovered, outed, and then fired for who they are. And if they tell the truth, there is hell to pay–loss of employment, benefits, career, status, and possibly something even more injurious, loss of faith in America.

More below the fold.

So where is the humanity in DADT? My husband hung on my every word, spent hours in the internet cafe connecting with me, looked at my photo as much as possible just to get through each day. What if I were a man? He would have been forced to duck into corners to talk to me and to sometimes forego any form of communication to protect his job. Isn’t it enough to endure the stress of war? Should our servicemembers also have to endure the stress of government-sanctioned identity suppression?

When the military integrated to include women, they figured out how to accommodate bathrooms for men and women. When the military integrated to include Blacks, they figured out how to house everyone together. Surely, the Department of Defense can find a way to support the integrity of men and women who have already enrolled in the armed forces without sending out offensive surveys.

We worry about terrorists and meanwhile some of us think it’s appropriate to require those who defend this country to suppress and lie about who they really are.

How dare any of us rob our active duty brothers and sisters of mental and emotional support from family, loved ones and spouses, be they gay or straight.

This is about love, integrity, self-respect, self-worth and most importantly, this is about family and support.

As a military spouse, I stand with every servicemember and their loved ones, especially my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, who are putting their lives on the line just like my husband has done for 25 years of active duty.

As the Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, an organization dedicated to eliminating racism and homophobia in America, I affirm the just cause of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I want to thank all gay and lesbian servicemembers for their fortitude and patriotism. Thank you for remaining faithful to America and the promises of the United States Constitution, despite your lack of freedom to serve openly and honestly.

Secretary Gates, put that on my survey!

Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks is the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), which is a national civil rights organization dedicated to empowering black LGBT people. NBJC’s mission is to eradicate racism and homophobia. For more information about NBJC, visit www.nbjc.org.

There will be a gathering of black LGBT leaders on the Hill September 15-18 during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 40th Annual Legislative Conference – More information, click the image below (PDF):


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—  John Wright

Guest column by CD Kirven: Open Letter to Dr. Alveda King from a Black LGBT Rights Activist

When NOM rolled into Raleigh yesterday, Brian Brown took the opportunity to exploit the reputation of Dr. Martin Luther King by lauding the heinous remarks of his niece, Alveda King (video), who earned Keith Olbermann’s “Worst” the other night for her bigotry. This open letter is a plea for her to stop supporting NOMs notion that LGBTs are second-class citizens. — Pam


My open letter is a request for a one-on-one private meeting or public debate with Dr. Alveda King (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece who spoke at a National Organization for Marriage anti-gay rally in Atlanta). My hope is to assist with bridging the gap of misunderstanding between our opposing communities in order to lead to a civil dialogue as well as a public acknowledgement of the 41-year-old civil rights struggle of the LGBT community’s efforts to free themselves of unjust laws that allow religious persecution and in hopes of removing the overpowering thumb of our government’s secular mandates.



Open Letter to Dr. Alveda King from a Black LGBT Rights Activist: “Injustice Anywhere is Injustice Everywhere!”

By C.D. Kirven, Contributing Writer & LGBT Activist

Dear Dr. King:

Good afternoon! I urge you to denounce the National Organization for Marriage’s relentless obsession to derail the LGBT community’s efforts to obtain civil protections for their children and families.  Please understand the same people that requested your presence at their anti-gay rally are some of the same people that fought against a holiday in the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  tremendous work for human rights.  Please lift the secular veil used to disguise blatant bigotry from a group twisting God’s biblical message of love into monstrous hatemongering.

For me, your comments on Saturday at the National Organization for Marriage’s anti-gay rally were very painful to me as a person and as a parent. It was reported that you stated: “Supporting gay marriage will lead to genocide and the extinction of the human race” and this comment has no sound civil or social foundation. But, your comments do assist in furthering the objective of second class citizenship for LGBT Americans and assist with the persecution LGBT citizens in a culture war waged against my community by groups like the National Organization for Marriage. You can’t defend marriage from love but you can use marriage restrictions as a tool to spread hate.

Unfortunately, this type of prejudicial endeavor has had tragic consequences on my community that include high LGBT teen suicide or vicious hate crimes. The National Organization for Marriage’s use of your lineage as a weapon in their oppression arsenal to set back civil gains made by the queer community in our pursuit for marriage equality is truly disheartening. Your aunt and uncle were apostles of peace and were aware of the spiritual connection required in denouncing hateful rhetoric used to publicly degrade a minority group in order to further a devout political agenda. I must say I’m heartbroken by your words and cut deeply by your association with this mean spirited group. Humanity is bound to love and inhumanity is chained to hate. The truth carries the power to determine the difference between a federally protected personal belief and unjust mandate of law.

More below the fold.

In the words of your uncle, who has inspired my efforts as an activist:

I never intend to adjust myself to the viciousness of mob rule. It may be that the salvation of the world lies in the hands of the proclaimed maladjusted –  in the midst of injustice proclaim; Let judgment run down like river waters and righteous like a mighty stream.  As maladjusted as President Lincoln, who envisioned a nation with no separation of those living freely and those who are oppressed.  That all men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

In the words of Jesus Christ; “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you and do good to those who hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you.” N.O.M. is using your family’s name in a horribly painful way and members of your family were known to actively fight against discrimination of the LGBT community.  N.O.M.’s requesting your attendance was a transparent effort to weigh down the LGBT civil rights movement. My community’s struggle is a civil rights pursuit because anytime a country allows a majority to use the law to oppress a minority then that is a matter of civil liberty. Our struggle is the same struggle faced by African Americans during the civil rights movement.

Loving vs. Virginia made interracial marriage legal and in that case the bible was used as a tool to bend the law to further discriminate against the African American community. The bible is being used in that same way to oppress my community now.

My plea is that you give me an opportunity to change your heart and open your mind to our plight. You have a rare opportunity to right a wrong and I pray to God that you will take it. As an African American you understand the ugliness of hate and the pain of discrimination. This is not a battle of heterosexual against homosexual, but a struggle of justice against injustice.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to our discussion!

Sincerely,

C.D. Kirven, Co-founder of Get Equal Now

www.getequalnow.org

Related:

* NC: PHB exclusive video of NOM’s Brian Brown at Raleigh rally – plus I am mistaken for a fundie (!)

* NC: NOM’s pathetic stop in Raleigh – another FAIL-O-RAMA
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—  John Wright

Guest column by David Mixner: Mr. President, Enough Of The Politics, Step Up To The Plate

Mr. President, Enough Of The Politics, Step Up To The Plate

by David Mixner, Live from Hell’s Kitchen

After the Proposition 8 historic decision came down on Wednesday, my email box was flooded with people from every walk of life issuing press releases praising the victory. The Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t be more excited for the LGBT community in our victory. Justice and equality was having a good day and everyone was basking in it.

Well, not quite everyone. Our President, our fierce advocate, continued with a game of giving us begrudgingly congratulations in a tepid unemotional and uninspired statement while sending his minions out to make sure the entire country knew that he was against marriage equality. If there was anyone that should sit down and read this opinion it would be this son of an interracial couple who had to go to Supreme Court to obtain marriage equality.

Unfortunately, he didn’t even mention the court case in his two line statement. However, David Axelrod found plenty of time to go on national television to make sure the country knew that Obama was against marriage equality. Then there was the cowardly “nameless source” who said the President would only deal with those actions at the federal level such as benefits and things.

This game has to stop. The President is either with us or against us. If he is neutral, so be it but then stop hurting us by saying over and over how marriage equality is between a man and a women. He should pay close attention to the line in Judge Walker’s decision that says,

“Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. ”

With this case he could no longer hide behind the fact that the Attorney General would have to intervene against us. The case does not involve the federal government. The issue is here to stay. As much as they wish, they can’t manage it politically for their convenience. Mr. President, that is no longer possible. The surge toward marriage equality is even going to be stronger in this coming Presidential election. In fact, the Supreme Court could even rule one way or another before the election.

For the President, an enormous amount is at stake surrounding this issue and it goes far beyond marriage equality. Is the President going to seize this moment in history and become a great leader or will others have to lead him? Is he going to be remembered as Harry Truman or more like those Senators in the 1960′s who walked a fine line attempting to appease all sides in that great epic struggle for civil rights?.

Now is the time, Mr. President for you to lead, not tomorrow but today. We want you by our sides. If not, you will be the one that will always be remembered for standing on the sidelines without courage. With or without your leadership, nothing is going to stop our inevitable march to freedom.

And in his earlier post about the Prop 8 decision, he shared this important point to underscore, given the historic decision brought to bear by allies from opposite ends of the political spectrum. That fact alone – that this marriage equality battle is not a conservative or liberal matter at all — it inoculates this decision from usual right-wing arguments.

My love, respect and honor always will be given to David Boies and Ted Olson. They have earned a place on the walls of our homes. These two straight men from different political histories have united in the cause of justice. They are true heroes. The American Foundation for Equal Rights will need our money and support to fight the appeals. Special thanks has to go to Chad Griffin who has been with this since day one.

You just click here right now and send them some money to make sure we have everything we need to win this case before the Supreme Court.

***

An aside — today I met up with David and former Clinton White House insider Richard Socarides for what I Tweeted snarkily as “At BlogHer, but leaving in a bit to meet w/Richard Socarides and David Mixner about next steps in The Homosexual Agenda and “There were evil laughs and Dr. Evil pinkies in full expression.”

I won’t disclose our secret plans, but David Mixner made a bold prediction for the record on the outcome of this Prop 8 case — he thinks it will be a SCOTUS win for us 6-3 (with the dissenters Scalia, Alito, and Thomas). Why? The key is Chief Justice John Roberts  – in the end he will vote with us because he doesn’t want “his court” to be on the wrong side of history. Bookmark this post so we can check back…in late 2011/early 2012. We all figure SCOTUS will get this case fairly quickly in the scheme of legal timetables.

That will be a boatload of trouble for President Obama’s current ridiculous position that this is a matter up to the states and that civil unions are an adequate separate-but-equal solution.
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—  John Wright