Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The language we use to refer to ourselves - and ask others to use to refer to us - is one of those periodically revisited issues. (FYI, "LGBT" is Equality NC's standard blanket term, with the occasional generic "gay" used for variety.)
Most folks are pretty much in agreement on not using older terms propagated by opposition groups, like the clinical "homosexual" or the denigrating "lifestyle" or the trivializing "sexual preference" ('oh, my ice cream preference is rocky road, and my sexual preference is hairy muscle men from Guatemala').
The most recent vocabulary issue comes from discussions of trans-inclusivity. (After all, you cannot have EqualiTy without the T!) Trangender or transgendered? (The first one, without the 'ed.') Pre-op or post-op? (Better to avoid these and talk about transition.) Trannie or he-she? (Bad, bad, bad! Those are totally derogatory and shouldn't be used.) Sex, gender identity, or gender expression? (It totally depends upon what you're talking about.)
The whole point of language is to establish a baseline for communication. If you're using language that offends someone else, even if that's not your intention, then instead of starting your interaction from a neutral point you're starting slightly negative. And we all know how inadvertent language issues can derail a conversation. And I daresay we've all had someone use a term around us that we've been uncomfortable with. What gay person hasn't had that alienating experience?
It's always better to use the accepted standard terms and phrases, if for no other reason than to avoid confusion.
Of course, ultimately it all comes down to substance versus surface. There are some homophobes out there who can make "gay" sound like the worst insult in the world. Conversely, one of my old rugby coaches is the crudest, most vulgar of men, tossing around racist slurs and antigay epithets and f-bombs like there's no tomorrow, while still being the most non-prejudiced, accepting person. (He likes to say that he hates all people equally, but underneath his tough, caustic exterior is a nougaty center - he's just a great guy.)
GLAAD is a great source for the prevailing standards, and here're four GLAAD links with more info on formal style/style guides and vocabulary:
Monday, May 25, 2009
This past week the American Psychiatric Association held its annual conference in San Francisco. Seminars were held, lectures given, and ideas discussed. The future of the DSM, Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, often called the APA’s Bible, was up for debate. Even though women are included in the APA, this organization is still a bastion of patriarchal thinking and the idea that “father knows best” easily converts into codifying diagnoses which unjustly demonize individuality. At risk are essential identities that manifest themselves as gender diversity. Few of these ideologues have a horse in this metaphorical race; yet, judgments are passed and decisions made that will negatively and irrevocably impact tens of thousands of individuals.
Dr Kenneth Zucker, DSM V contributor and chair, along with his mentor Dr. Raymond Blanchard, has consistently stretched his imagination with the invention of convoluted fetishes and paraphilias which are used to conveniently pigeonhole and patholigize persons whose sexual orientation and/or gender diversity do not meet the standards of what he choses to call “normal”. The inordinate influence these two wield is mind-boggling, given their inability to grasp even the simplest concepts regarding what it means to be gender diverse.
Their first mistake is the conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their second mistake is the sell out to a solely binary expression of those same concepts. Their third mistake is their insistence upon gatekeeper mentality, which mandates an external “decider”.
Because we are allegedly neither entitled to nor capable of making decisions for ourselves, based upon our own experiences and the care of therapists who actually DO have a greater understanding of the issue than they, we need them (our surrogate fathers) to do it for us. Their last, and perhaps worst, mistake is the unprofessional and cavalier conclusions they draw and the treatments they advocate based on those erroneous conclusions.
Fortunately, many allies and advocates the trans community has also attended this conference. Amongst others, Drs. Rebecca Allison and Kelley Winters attempted to steer the organization back to reality via their presentations and contributions.
Regarding Zucker’s insistence upon using the inaccurate diagnosis gender identity disorder (GID), Dr. Winters stated “"difference is not a disease, nonconformity is not pathology, and uniqueness is not illness." Dr. Allison said "In a perfect world, psychiatrists could treat patients with gender variance, but not for gender variance."
In their presentation, Mara Keisling (NCTE) and Shannon Minter (NCLT Attorney) adduced the medical and psychological ramifications of GID thorough the window of advocacy and the law. Now is the time to vocalize our opposition to contrived diagnoses which serve to make pathological conditions out of intrinsic and essential ways of being in the world.
Robbi Cohn writes the T-Notes column for Q-Notes.
Friday, May 22, 2009
And now, the week in equality.
- Our very own Ian Palmquist has an excellent piece featured on NC Policy Watch's website about the recent tragedies in bullying nationwide and a call to action to prevent those kinds of unhappy endings in our state.
- A little while ago, Q-Notes featured an article about the Healthy Youth Act that's currently going through the state legislature. They claim that there is much to be desired with the current version. Sean Kosofsky of NARAL Pro-Choice NC (one of the coalition members for the Healthy Youth Act) and Ian give their opinion here.
- We mentioned last week how one of our strongest advocates, Sen. Julia Boseman, is being recognized for her diligent work for equality. Q-Notes has more on that in case you missed it.
- We also mentioned a little while ago how the great folks at PFLAG Winston-Salem are taking a stand against Virginia Foxx's reprehensible comments (and lack of adequate apologies) with ads. Q-Notes has a great, extensive article about their campaign.
- Much congratulations to one of NC's very own, a fierce advocate for equality and one of the nation's leading bloggers, Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend. She's being honored by the Women's Media Center Awards (along with the likes of Rachel Maddow and Tina Fey!) Thanks for all you do, Pam!
Have a wonderful, relaxing Memorial Day weekend!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Children and youth are placed in foster care when their parents or guardians aren't able to take care of them (because of neglect, malice, illness, etc.). Currently, there are thousands of kids, from infant to age 18, in North Carolina's foster care system.
Now, this is a special issue for me. Me and Craig's kid, Isaiah - Best Kid In The World (TM) and heart of my heart - was adopted through the foster care system. We were his foster parents until Kid was officially adopted.
(Second-parent adoption in North Carolina is it's own separate, problematic kettle of fish.!)
Obviously this means that gay people can be foster parents in NC, which is not the case in some states. It's not completely the case in North Carolina, either: Basically it varies with the county, agency, and people you work it.
Our experiences were wholly positive and the people we encountered were totally supportive of us a gay male couple. We've heard of other people, though, that have had ... less positive experiences. Some of the people we worked with told us directly that certain social workers and administrators in the foster care system are homophobic.
If you think that's bad for prospective foster parents, imagine what it's like being a gay kid in foster care. Not only do you not have a stable home and loving family to begin with, but it's a total crapshoot as to whether or not the people who are supposed to help you find a home and care for you in the interim will think of your best interests or if they'll just make your already hard life that much more miserable because of ignorant bigotry.
For our fostering/adoption, we used the Children's Home Society of North Carolina, a private nonprofit agency which had the advantage of working with all 100 county DSSes in the state. (Some agencies are limited to specific regions. We chose this one because we were told it was gay-friendly, which we found to be true, and we figured it would increase our odds if we had the whole pool of the state to look for a kid in.)
Here's the link to the FAQ about Foster Care Month.
Here's the link to the NC Division of Social Services FAQ on foster care.
If you're interested in the second-oldest profession, you don't have to go the old-fashioned way. There are plenty of great kids out there who need a loving home that you can provide. And May is the perfect time to start thinking about it.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Lending a helping hand has always been an idea I've had in my mind but seldom pursued. So when I heard that Equality NC needed volunteers to help promote the School Violence Prevention Act during this year’s AIDSwalk+ride, I gathered up my courage and offered myself.
You may ask why I needed courage for this. Well, most new experiences terrify me. As I was walking toward Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh, I felt as if my heart was about to break my chest open. Fortunately, Seth Maid was waiting at the Equality NC table with another rookie volunteer, and after his crash course training I felt confident that I could make it.
All in all this was the perfect opportunity to conquer my fears while helping to promote a safer school environment for students in North Carolina and promoting HIV/AIDS awareness. We were surrounded a by cheerful crowd that danced to the rhythm of live music while bike riders and walkers arrived to the area. A diverse group of sponsors offered freebies that included massages, food, and even the opportunity to adopt a pet.
May 2, 2009 marked the 14th anniversary of this fundraising event organized by the Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolinas. For North Carolinians this was yet another successful celebration of life, an education in HIV/AIDS awareness, and a time to take an active stance on this important social issue.
I could summarize this year’s AIDSwalk+ride with a few words: walking, riding, eating, dancing, volunteering, and no bullying.
Lately, turning the TV on and reading my favorite news source has not helped my unemployed/grad-student reality. As the clock ticks my present situation remains static, even after countless efforts to change it. I needed an outlet through which I could channel all that unhealthy negative energy. Volunteering proved to be therapeutic to me.
Friday, May 15, 2009
On the home front, our state has been buzzing about the success of the School Violence Prevention Act's success in the Senate. To keep you up-to-date: Both the SVPA and Healthy Youth Act met the crossover deadline for bills, and they are one step closer to heading to the Governor's desk. So, keep those calls and e-mails to your Representatives and Senators coming! Here's this week's roundup:
- Raleigh's News & Observer was full of SVPA tidbits over the week, with an excellent column in support of the legislation, as well as a strong editorial supporting the bill. Doesn't stop there - there were also two great letters to the editor: one discussing how wrong it is to exclude LGBTs and one showing some religious compassion.
- Blue NC also features an article about some alarming statistics on bullying. Definitely worth checking out.
- Speaking of bullying, The Independent Weekly, a progressive news source out of the Triangle wrote about the School Violence Prevention Act's success and features some good quotes from Ian and mentions a lot of our great allies with this legislation. Check it out!
- Star News Online out of Wilmington has the story of the Frank Harr Foundation's honoring Sen. Julia Boseman for her outstanding efforts with the SVPA. Congratulations to one of our strongest advocates for equality!
- That Marriage Discrimination Amendment is still lurking around the NC State Legislature, and the wonderful folks at BlueNC have a great blog about it, specifically mentioning Advocates for Youth, yet another group who is opposed to this discriminatory legislation. You can also check out WRAL's report from "crossover day," and why Republicans are disappointed (hint: it's near the end of this article.)
- Further proof that the far-right isn't letting this bill die without a fight: A rally was held last week in Grifton, NC in support of "traditional marriage." ENC Today (not to be confused with us) has the sad story. The rally's sponsors are a new grassroots group called... wait for it... We Luv Marriage. I'm guessing "We Love Marriage" was already taken?
- Carrboro's community newspaper, the Carboro Citizen has an outstanding article on the benefits of the Healthy Youth Act, written by Paige Johnson - a wonderful ally of ours.
- Q-Notes has the story about how hopefully we're one step closer to justice in this tragedy, as the Fayetteville police arrested a suspect in the murder of drag performer Jimmy McCollough.
- The Moderate Voice has an interesting article on the new documentary film "Outrage" that's been getting a lot of buzz. (It seeks to out closeted politicians with strong anti-gay voting records - pretty controversial.) It features some quotes from our board member, Dan Gurley.
PS - We want to say a quick congratulations to all of our supporters who are graduating from college! Having your support while you're dealing with all the stress of college means the world to us, and we wish you only the best in your future endeavors.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Back in May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, giving equal rights to committed gay couples (well, at the state level at least).
Since then we've had Connecticut do the same last year, and Iowa, Vermont, and Maine this year. New Hampshire has marriage equality legislation pending in front of the governor.
New Jersey and New Hampshire currently have state-level civil unions, and there are broad domestic partnership laws in California, Oregon, and DC. New York now recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages and is working on its own law to bring fairness to civil marriage.
The most significant note, however, is how the strident opposition to civil equality - in Massachusetts - has dramatically faded. Nowadays, same-sex marriage is basically looked at for what it is: fair treatment for a committed couple. (Obviously this issue is not nearly settled in other states!)
Compared to other developed nations, America is still sadly lagging behind in treating LGBT citizens equally, but the momentum for fairness and equality is undeniable.
Here at Equality NC, we've been proud to have helped defeat a marriage discrimination amendment to the state constitution for six years running (and we couldn't have done it without you - thank you!). North Carolina is the only state in the South to have done so, making us a bastion of hope down here.
And with the current trend among other states, one can easily imagine what it'll be like when marriage equality does occur here in a few years. It's inevitable, and more importantly, it's now believable.
Wow, what a difference five years makes!
Monday, May 11, 2009
Now that the SVPA has passed the Senate and we're waiting for it to be heard in the House in the second part of the legislative session, voices in the public are an easy and great way to make a difference and help support this legislation.
Letters to the editor are simple to do, they're excellent tools for community education, and they're a good way to draw attention to an issue (as well as to highlight people or groups around the issue, either positively or negatively).
They're also a way to get a bit of small, local celebrity and spark some interesting conversations in your community. And let's face it, it's thrilling to see yourself published in a newspaper.
Here are some tips to getting your letter in your local paper.
- If you're responding to a specific article, editorial, or previous letter, refer to it at the beginning of your letter. And the sooner you write in response to that item, the better.
- If there's a specific local connection relevant to the paper you're submitting to, mention it. Local community connections always make for a better story.
- If you have a personal anecdotes, especially for the bullying issue, tell it.
- Be sure to follow any specific guidelines the paper proscribes, e.g., maximum letter length. You can generally find the guidelines and contact information on your paper's opinion page.
- Be brief and to to the point. Shorter letters are more likely to be printed than longer ones.
- State your main point immediately, i.e., "We need laws that protect all students from bullying."
- E-mail your letter if you can. This makes it easier for the paper to publish your letter with a minimum of work, and it's more immediate.
- Tell the truth - both stating facts and telling your personal truth - and avoid personal attacks.
- Always include your name, street address, phone number, and e-mail addresses. In general, papers will not publish anonymous letters, and many will call or e-mail you to verify that you want your letter printed.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
The Healthy Youth Act still needs your help, so keep making those calls and sending those e-mails to give parents a choice on which sex-ed curriculum is taught to their students. Of course, on the national level, we can't forget to congratulate Maine on becoming the 5th state to take a stand for same-sex marriage. It's all happening so fast, isn't it? And now, on to the news:
School Violence Prevention Act:
- North Carolina Public Radio's fabulous Laura Leslie covers the Senate debate on the bill in her blog, including the opposition's indignity towards openly gay and bill champion Sen. Boseman, and it includes a great audio clip from the debate from Sen. McKissick of Durham.
- The Charlotte Observer has a great editorial supporting the bill.
- Public Policy Polling's blog has an interesting article on how Republican Senators may or may not be following their constituent's opinions when it comes to the bullying bill, considering most Republican voters support the bill, but no Republicans in the Senate voted for it).
- Raleigh's News & Observer's political blog, Under the Dome, notes the crazy idea being pushed by the Catholic bishops that protecting LGBT kids from bullying will lead directly to same-sex marraige. Seems like they're missing that the bill that clearly states it creates no protected or suspect classes. (Bill sponsor Sen. Julia Boseman even directly refuted this claim, which you can read about at WUNC.)
- Q-Notes offers their take on the historic passage.
- National gay blog Queerty discusses the School Violence Prevention Act here. Be careful, they refer to us as "New Hampshire" towards the end of the article, but it's really us they're talking about!
- Wilmington's Star News online covered the bill's action here. New Hanover County is the only in the state to offer the three options - comprehensive, abstinence-only or no sex education and finds that most parents prefer comprehensive over any other.
- The Daily Reflector of Greenville, NC also weighed in on the Healthy Youth Act in this editorial.
- Carborro's recent attempt to create equal and fair housing opportunities for all of its citizens (the attempt was to add sexual orientation/gender identity and expression to the enumerated list) was blocked by the House of Representatives. The Carrboro Citizen has an opinion piece about that here.
- Kudos to Winston-Salem's PFLAG for having their voices heard in the Winston-Salem Journal and YES! Weekly with ads denouncing Virginia Foxx's recent appalling comments on Matthew Shepard's death while debating the Federal Hate Crimes Bill.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Personal advocacy like Gabriel's makes a big difference - Ian
It’s a beautiful day as I set off with the crisp, gentle, snowflakes flashing past my car as I travel from the mountains to Raleigh on April 7, 2009. I make it to Baptist Hospital at Wake Forest University, to my 8 am doctor’s appointment an 30 minutes early (unusual for me). I arrive to the same friendly, up-to-date staff that treated me two years ago, when I first conjured up the gall to go to a doctor to check and monitor my status.
I am HIV-positive and this is a routine three month check up, I am so lucky to be able to attend. Thankfully this appointment’s cost will be covered by the Ryan White Care Act. My doctor’s appointment and the lobby day for HIV/AIDS and the Healthy Youth Act end and begin simultaneously, and I am left with another, even longer, drive to Raleigh from Winston-Salem.
I set off on another round of driving and parking, and I search for and find the legislative building. I am hesitant to arrive late to such an important meeting, and consider turning back. However, I overcome my fear and walk up the large red-carpeted stairs. At the top, I am greeted by a trusty Equality North Carolina worker. I sign in with her as I receive a packet of information briefing me on lobby tips, comprehensive safe sex and HIV/AIDS statistics, and directions to find where the group is currently meeting.
After being a Senate Page of the Week in 2000 for then Watauga County's then-Senator Virginia Foxx, I believe I can hold my own maneuvering the maze of offices and corridors of the legislative building.
After accidentally walking in a circle twice, and being three hours late to the meeting scheduled with my House representative, Cullie Tarleton, I interpret the signs in my mind, and they tell me, “I planned too much for one day, and should head back the way I came, as to not make more mistakes. I am so disrespectful for showing up late.” These negative, self-defeating thoughts flood my head as I walk back to where I parked. I tell myself, “I should’ve known better than driving four-and-a-half hours to tell my story to people who have heard it all before.” I figure I’ve set myself up for failure and need to try again next time, when I’ve set myself up for success.
As I sit in the car, I notice the school groups walking around taking tours to learn about their state's proud capitol, and realize that these kids are the reason I am here. I notice I share the same desire to learn as I watch their eyes, which are full of amazement. I also take into account the many doctors, case workers, and other silent positive friends need our voice and need to be heard to ears that will listen. I know that if I had been properly educated about sex and been around open, safe dialogue where I could talk about my problems, I might not be in the situation I am in. For these children, future children, and myself, I owe a visit to share my unique story of how HIV has affected my life.
I walk proudly with a smile, re-tuck my shirt, and splash my face with water. I return to the lobby and find the group I set out to find all day long, others just like myself who have personal knowledge of this affliction. I set off determined to speak to someone and make a difference.
Surprisingly I easily find the office number of Representative Tarleton, ask his assistant if he has a quick moment to converse, then I sit and wait. When I finally meet Cullie Tarleton, he greets me with a smile and seems to genuinely care for the reason for my visit.
To begin, I thank him for being a proud sponsor of the School Violence Prevention Act, which protects a list of enumerated classes from harassment in school. He responds by telling me that major opposition is being received from parents. I am astonished to learn that parents don’t want safe school environments. I also ask him to support the Healthy Youth Act, a new bill being debated on the House floor which if passed will offer a two-track system to sex education.
I tell him a story of when I was physically harassed, and how HIV has affected my life. I tell him how I believe we can stop the growing number of people with HIV by educating them early on about the subject, and including kids in school in educational conversations about topics they know little or nothing about. I tell my legislator how these two bills go hand in hand, how kids (until they feel school is a safe environment) will not be able to talk openly about themselves and in turn will find other means to discover themselves. I don’t want others to have to learn by making the same mistakes myself and others have made. I want them to learn by having an open mind and being knowledgeable about the subject before it becomes an issue.
To my surprise, Cullie Tarleton responded with, “I’m sorry to hear about your struggles with these issues. I personally have also been affected indirectly and wish the same as you for our youth.” He tells me, “Thank you for your courage to be open. I do stand with you on the subject. In fact, you’re preaching to the choir.” These statements of acceptance brought me great relief.
To know that a voice and perspective like mine is represented in our state senate makes me want to be more active in advocacy, which makes me feel more important as a voter and a person. No doubt, this will not be the last time I go to speak with my legislators. Hopefully in the future, I will not travel alone, and will bring a choir of voices from the mountains to the Capitol.
I continue to call Cullie Tarleton and Senator Steve Goss, to ask them to support these bills. Hopefully soon, we will see change happening in our schools, workplace, and community.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Rep. Virginia Foxx, representing NC's fifth national congressional district, was broadcast on CSPAN last week saying the Matthew Shepherd murder was hoax.
Now, what she was actually saying was that the idea that he was killed because he was gay was a hoax used to drive forward expansion of hate crime legislation, not that his death was a hoax. Obviously, though, this idea is just as bad, especially since it was factually established that his murder was an anti-gay hate crime.
She was trying to prevent the current hate crime law from being expanded to include women, people with disabilities, and, oh yes, LGBT people.
She asserts, despite evidence and testimony to the contrary, that Matthew Shepherd's death was just a robbery gone bad. In case you don't recall, the whole robbery-gone-bad canard came up at the time of his murder and was thoroughly, thoroughly debunked.
Media Matter has a great summary of the situation, including videos, and her erroneous statements with corrections and evidence to back up the corrections.
It's shameful that such a horrific tragedy should suffer the double-disrespect of then being denied. Matthew Shepherd was gay and he was killed for being gay - no one should try to recloset him or his death. How dehumanizing to not only deny the circumstances of his life and death, but also simply to belittle the brutal murder of a 21-year-old college kid.
Foxx has since issued a half-hearted apology.
Take a look at the video and listen to her statements.
If you live in her district and would like to let her know how you feel about what she said and educate her on the facts, you can contact her at:
As always, be polite but firm. Education can only occur within civil dialogue, and one cannot correct disrespect by being disrespectful.
Friday, May 1, 2009
If you've been keeping up to date with our Action Alerts, you know that things are happening with the School Violence Prevention Act and the Healthy Youth Act. Try forwarding this link to 3-5 of your family members and friends across the state - ones you may not have tried before. The web address to forward is: http://eqfed.org/campaign/svpa_2. The opposition is organizing as best as they can, and they can be a powerful bunch so let your voices of reason be heard. Let's make next week's news roundup full of good news about these important bills!
On a national level - the federal Hate Crimes Bill (Matthew Shepard Act) passed in the House, with no help from our very own Representative Virginia Foxx! And now, the week in news.
- WXII of the Triad featured a little video about the Virginia Foxx controversy, featuring School Violence Prevention Act advocates Kate & Neena Mabe. If you haven't yet checked out the Mabes moving remarks during our SVPA Press Conference, check them out at our YouTube channel.
- Continuing their coverage on Ms. Foxx, WXII sought our very own Ian Palmquist for his thoughts on the controversy here.
- The Hickory Daily Record becomes yet another ally supporting the Healthy Youth Act. They know that North Carolina needs to give young people information they need about sex.
- To read about the Healthy Youth Act and School Violence Prevention Act advancing out of committee, check out the AP article here.
- By now, you're probably familiar with Carl Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Ferrera, the 11-year old victims of bullying who ended their own lives within weeks of each other. Although this didn't happen in North Carolina, we know that bullying affects everyone - from students, to staff, parents, families, and communities. The New York Times blog features their story and alarming statistics about nationwide bullying. It's a must-read, and you can check it out here.
- One of our wonderful board members, Dan Gurley, is quoted in an article about Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter's headline-grabbing shift from Republican to Democrat. Salon.com has the story here.
- Raleigh's News & Observer mentions how Marriage Discrimination Amendment supporters are having a hard time finding that support on Facebook. Find out how many more people support marriage equality than discrimination (on Facebook, anyway) here.
- Equality NC has Twitter, and Ian does a great job posting live updates from Legislative Sessions concerning our bills - it's almost like you're there! Make sure you follow us to get those updates.
Thanks for reading! Stay dry this weekend, and enjoy yourselves!