Sharing hope: ABC’s Bob Woodruff on Gabrielle Giffords and recovery from traumatic brain injury

In 2006, ABC news reporter Bob Woodruff was on the ground covering the war in Iraq when a roadside bomb detonated near the vehicle in which he was traveling. The shockwave drove rock and shrapnel into his helmet, literally rattling his brain inside his skull.

Woodruff awoke more than a month later, only to begin a long road to recovery. His journey is one that is shared by an estimated 80,000 to 90,000 Americans each year who suffer traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

It was a long road to recovery for Woodruff, who is now back on the job and has actually returned to Iraq to meet with those who saved his life. He discussed some of the similar circumstances involved in his recovery to the road Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is now traveling.

It is hard to remember how I felt at that very moment when my life changed in an instant. Although I had covered wars for years as a journalist I never really thought about death, let alone traumatic brain injuries.

I didn’t know Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords but my assumption is she never imagined that a gunshot would put her where she is either.

Like the doctors who saved me almost five years ago, her surgeons knew exactly what to do. Her brain was swelling just like mine. They removed part of her skull on the left side of her head almost exactly like mine, and she is now in a drug-induced coma so that her brain can recover. For me it was 36 days before I woke up.

But in one way her case is more hopeful. She responded to verbal commands by the doctors and reacted by squeezing their finger, indicating she understood, although she could not speak. I never heard the words and never squeezed my doctors’ fingers when they tried to get me to respond.

So now Ms. Giffords’ family and friends are on the long or short road. When she awakes, which I believe will happen, we will know about her future. No one really knows right now how long that road will be.

Here is an interview with Woodruff:


Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Buffalo Symbol currently marks WY; two lawmakers hope to mark it with new B.S.

Wy Flag LComing soon to a Wyoming near you:

State Rep. Owen Petersen of (R-Mountain View) and State Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange) are taking the initiative to reevaluate the state’s definition of marriage. The two lawmakers plan to co-sponsor a resolution at the 2011 General Session that would allow voters to decide whether or not the state should give constitutional authority to same-sex marriage.



In order for Petersen and Meier’s proposal to go on Wyoming’s next election ballot, as Prop. 8 did in California, it would require a two-thirds-majority vote and no government vetoes.

Meier to co-sponsor marriage resolution [Torrington Tellegram]

(H/t: Towle)

A threat to gays who are simply living their lives. Though also a threat to tourism officials with the Belle Fourche River, whose main selling point revolves around that aquatic body’s role as the state’s lowest point.




Good As You

—  admin

Fischer’s idea of a truce: Gays sit down, shut up, and hope American Pie flakes off a few crumbs

Bryan Fischer works the fundamental misrepresentation that keeps anti-gay “culture warring” rooted into the realm of American pastime:

A “truce” would have been homosexual activists coming to the FRC and AFA and saying, hey, we won’t push gays in the military, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, anti-bullying legislation, special rights legislation based on gender identity, federal “spousal” benefits for partners of homosexuals, etc. etc. if only you’ll stop pushing for legislation that protects the integrity of the American family.

Bryan Fischer: Conservatives: Mitch Daniels truce is a surrender [AFA]

This is like a schoolyard bully setting truce stakes that say he won’t take away any more of a certain kid’s lunch money, just as long as said kid doesn’t seek to reclaim any of the prior stolen funds. Because the reality is that every single “culture war” point Mr. Fischer highlights — marriage limitation, military discrimination, wanton termination of employment, a national school climate plagued by anti-LGBT bullying, etc. — involves self-appointed heterosexists taking away the kind of easily, benignly level playing field that should exist under all American citizen’s feet. The LGBT rights fight is not really a push forward that deserves an adversary: It is a quest to reclaim the lost pieces that adversarial forces have swept under the national rug!

The “culture war” is a conservative-declared battle, filled with an uncountable number of lies, an exorbitant amount of squandered capital, and a priceless amount of human pain. There is only one side that needs to declare an armistice here — and it aint the folks who always thought they’d get a chance to live their lives, not pause their existences in order to toss back unprovoked bombs!

***

**FOR THOSE NOT FAMILIAR WITH FISCHER: He’s the guy who’s said that “homosexuals in the military gave us…six million dead Jews,” who’s said “homosexuals should be disqualified from public office,” who has called on Christian conservatives to breed gays and progressives out of existence, has called gay sex a “form of domestic terrorism,” who’s said only gays were savage enough for Hitler, has compared gays to heroin abusers, has directly compared laws against gay soldiers to those that apply to bank robbers, who once invoked a Biblical story about stabbing “sexually immoral” people with spears, saying we need this kind of action in modern day, who has spoken out against gays serving as public school teachers, has questioned why Medals of Honor are given to people who save lives (rather than take lives), who says that open service will “assign the United States to the scrap heap of history,” and who has blamed gay activists for dead gay kids, saying that: “If we want to see fewer students commit suicide, we want fewer homosexual students.” His words pretty much single-handedly landed the American Family Association on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate groups list.




Good As You

—  admin

A Renewed Hope For the 22nd Anniversary of World AIDS Day

Today we observe the 22nd anniversary of World AIDS day, a day which serves to increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education around HIV/AIDS issues.

Nearly 30 years after the emergence of HIV/AIDS, the statistics on infection remain alarming. HIV/AIDS continues to wreak havoc on populations around the globe, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM), individuals living in poverty, and those living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 33.4 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide, including 1.1 million here in the U.S.  A recent CDC study showed that of those infected here in the U.S., a terrifying 44% of MSM are unaware of their status. HIV/AIDS continues to tear through our communities, but there is hope.

Earlier this year, the administration released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the first comprehensive national strategy on HIV/AIDS, which included a federal implementation plan to direct the goals addressed in the strategy. The strategy aims at three primary goals: reducing the number of those infected, increased access to care for those already infected and reducing HIV-related health disparities. These goals are the end state of the strategy’s clear and simple vision:

 

The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.

Toward that end, just last week, after years of investments in research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced results of an international study to determine whether drugs used to treat HIV can also help prevent the infection.  The trial demonstrated for the first time that a pill taken daily to treat HIV is partially effective for preventing HIV among gay and bisexual men at high risk for infection, when combined with other prevention strategies.  News of this new tool is very exciting and on this day, very welcomed.

While we are proud of the progress that has been made, both here and globally we still have a long fight ahead of us in this struggle. This is particularly true when it comes to devoting the kinds of resources necessary to battle the disease domestically as well as internationally.  We remain committed to doing everything we can to continue the progress toward reducing and eventually eliminating HIV/AIDS, but we need your help. There are plenty of ways to make a difference on this World AIDS Day; attend a World AIDS Day event, or consider donating to or participating with organizations that address HIV/AIDS issues. Even the simple act of wearing a red ribbon can help by bringing visibility to this struggle, and starting a conversation about the issue. Here at HRC, we are assembling a mosaic of people who support the fight against HIV/AIDS. You can add your image to this mosaic of people, and then ask your friends to do the same, to sound off and show your support during World AIDS Day.

On this World AIDS Day, let us stand together as we continue to bring education and awareness to the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, do our part to reduce new infections and continue to pressure law makers to do everything they can to pass laws and policies that reduce or eliminate the impact of HIV/AIDS.  It may be a long road, but the news of this recent research has given us  renewed hope that together we can make life better for those infected, while working to make HIV/AIDS a thing of the past.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Ted Olson: ‘Game Changer’ on marriage equality. Let’s hope he can change more GOP minds.

Andy Towle posted this yesterday of Ted Olson getting a HuffPost Game Changer award. It’s especially relevant on this Election Day, because we may need Ted Olson (and Ken Mehlman) to start lobbying on Capitol Hill when the GOPers try to block equality. Olson’s got a powerful message:




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

NY Times: “Advocates Hope Transgender Identity Is Not a Defining One”

The New York Times  has a piece up on transgender identified candidates running for office this year, or ran in primaries earlier this year, entitled Advocates Hope Transgender Identity Is Not a Defining One.

These candidates mentioned in the article include Theresa Sparks, Victoria Kolakowski, Brittany Novotny, Dana Beyer, Donna Milo, Stu Rasmussen, and Kim Coco Iwamoto.

From the article:

“People aren’t sitting around saying, ‘Gee, I wish we had a transgender judge,’ ” said Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington. “They’re saying, ‘We want a really good judge.’ ” Gay rights activists hope that the visibility of the candidates will help normalize people’s relations with people who are transgender – a broad category that includes heterosexual cross-dressers, homosexual drag queens and kings, and those who believe that they were born in the wrong body.

And while the issues that face gays and transgender people often differ, a recent spate of suicides among young gay men has intensified the need for positive political role models, said Chuck Wolfe, the president and chief executive of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which backs gay and lesbian political candidates.

“Knowing there’s openly gay people sitting in those positions will definitely have an impact,” he said.

Mr. Wolfe said that recently he had seen more and more “inspired, comfortable and confident” transgender people in his group’s training classes. There are also more gay and lesbian candidates in general now, a surge that Mr. Wolfe ascribes, in part, to newly elected – and openly gay – leaders like Mayor Annise Parker in Houston and Simone Bell, a lesbian who won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in December.

The gay subcommunity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community has done a good job of promoting and getting behind gay identified candidates. The trans subcommunity getting behind trans candidates? Well, not so much as yet.

I linked to all of the candidates mentioned above because trans folk should be able to see who is running out and proud, and consider supporting one or more of the candidates. Even .00 for one candidate will send a message of support by people in the community for trans identified candidates.

As for me, I’ll be donating to Brittany Novotny today. She’s the Democratic candidate running against Republican Sally Kern.

You remember Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern, don’t you? She’s the one who said this about gay people:

[Sally Kern's recorded and transcripted comments below the fold.]

Some tidbits:    

Studies show, no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted for more than, you know, a few decades. . .

I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.

They want to get them into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them.

…They are going after our young children, as young as two years of age, to try to teach them that the homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle.

You know, gays are infiltrating city councils…did you know that the city council of Eureka Springs is now controlled by gays — they are winning elections.

One of my colleagues said We don’t have a gay problem in our community…well you know what, that is so dumb. If you have cancer in your little toe, do you just say that I’m going to forget about it since the rest of you is fine? It spreads! This stuff is deadly and it is spreading. It will destroy our young people and it will destroy this nation.

.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings: How About You Just Cross Your Fingers And Hope Bullying Stops?

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As is the case for most of those reading this message, I have been horrified by the recent media coverage of student suicides prompted by bullying. I am fortunate to have a boss who is just as horrified and today made the below statement. I hope each of you will consider ways you can help bring bullying to an end and urge you to check out www.bullyinginfo.org for useful resources in so doing.

—Kevin Jennings, the man Obama appointed to make American schools safer, breaks his silence on a Friday evening, when everybody stops paying attention to the news, with these empty and useless remarks. (Technically, Jennings says it is "the recent media coverage" that horrifies him, not the suicides themselves, but grammar schmammar.) His boss, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, released this note.


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Queerty

—  John Wright

Giving ‘Em Hope: The It Gets Better Project

By Ian Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office, and Chris Hampton, ACLU LGBT Project

September was a hard month for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, especially for some of its youngest and most vulnerable members.

Earlier this month, 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Indiana, was found by his mother in the family’s barn after he had taken his own life. Late last week, Asher Brown, also 13, of Houston, Texas, died after shooting himself. On Tuesday, 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, California, passed away after spending nine days on life support after he hanged himself from a tree in his backyard. On Wednesday, the body of 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi was pulled from the Hudson River in New York, days after he was allegedly humiliated and outed to other students by his roommate. And just this morning we learned that on the same day, 19-year-old college student Raymond Chase hanged himself in his dorm room in Rhode Island.

Each of these preventable tragedies speaks to the need for our schools to do a much better job at protecting students who are (or are thought to be) LGBT from harassment and abuse, and teaching all students to treat each other with respect and dignity. But in addition to that, youth like Seth, Asher, Billy, Tyler, and Raymond need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that they will be okay and that people will love them for who they are.

Last week Seattle writer, sex advice columnist, and activist Dan Savage announced he’d started a YouTube channel called the It Gets Better Project to reach out to young people like Seth, Asher, and Billy. The idea is simple: Videos featuring LGBT adults sharing their personal experiences talk directly to LGBT youth to show them that life usually improves immensely for LGBT people as they get older. The message to these young people is also simple: "It gets better."

A few of us at the ACLU were emailing each other late last week, talking about whether to write a blog post about this project, when someone said, "Hey, why don’t we make a video?" After all, many of us here at the ACLU are members of the LGBT community and were bullied and harassed when we were in school too.

We put the word out at our national headquarters, and people from all over the ACLU stepped up immediately to be filmed, including folks from our fundraising, human resources, and database departments. And our executive director, Anthony Romero, took time to participate too. ACLU staff at our Washington Legislative Office started working on a video as well. Over the past few days, as we’ve been shooting our videos, the It Gets Better Project has exploded, with dozens of videos being created and group filming shoots being set up in cities nationwide.

Harvey Milk famously said, "You’ve gotta give ‘em hope." We certainly believe that’s true.

For more information about the ACLU’s work on behalf of LGBT youth, click here. And if you’re a young person considering suicide, please contact The Trevor Project.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Prop. 8 case ‘might be the best hope for binational couples’

A reader explains why the Prop. 8 case matters to her family:

On the issue of standing for Prop 8 proponents: For me, the possibility that the 9th Circuit will decide they don’t have standing is alarming. This is because I don’t want the case to end with Judge Walker’s decision, which, if it stands, will affect only Californians. I need this case to be appealed to the Supreme Court and I need the Court to decide that all Americans have a fundamental right to marry. I need that outcome because I am one-half of a binational couple. Marriage in California, DOMA being struck down in the District Court in Massachusetts, even the repeal of DOMA — none of them will give me an affirmative right to marry my partner with the attendant right to bring her to the United States. I’m sure as a lawyer you understand that. I’m sure as a human being you also understand that 10 years of living like this really sucks.

I know occasionally you all write about UAFA (frankly, I have no hope for UAFA passing). So I thought I’d give you a nudge to explain to your readership that an appeal of Prop 8 — with our hearts in our throats given the current makeup of the Court — might be the best hope for binational couples.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Partner denied sick leave by AT&T

Bryan Dickenson, left, and Bill Sugg hold hands in Sugg’s room at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (Source:John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Despite 100% rating from HRC, company won’t allow gay man time off to care for ailing spouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.

For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.

As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.

“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”

Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”

“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.

The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.

Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.

“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

Through thick and thin

This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.

Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.

At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.

In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”

“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”

Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.

This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.

“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’

“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.

Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.

Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.

When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.

Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.

When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.

That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.

Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.

Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.

Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.

But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.

“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”

—  John Wright