Friday, January 29, 2010

Equality in the News January 23-29

Thanks again to Communications Intern Danielle for pulling together this week's stories.


Child Custody Case Could Set Adoption Precedent in North Carolina

The decision to send State Senator Julia Boseman’s child custody case to North Carolina Supreme Court could have tremendous impact on the LGBT community in North Carolina.

It is unfortunate that Boseman's ex-partner is trying to make this case about anything other than the well-being of the child. It is in the child's best interest to have both parents actively involved and responsible. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will rule in favor for keeping both parents in the child's life.

Jim Neal Vows to Match Donations to Efforts to Repeal Prop 8

In an effort to increase the movement on getting marriage equality in California, Jim Neal vowed to match every donation of $10 or more to the Restore Equality Campaign. Let the good news, keep on coming!


Obama Asks Congress to Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy”

This week during the State of the Union Address, President Obama vowed that this year he will work with Congress to remove the policy that has ejected over 13,000 gays and lesbians serving in the military. This is definitely change we can believe in.

Of course, this measure is seeing opposition. Some believe that the policy is effective. And by effective, what exactly do they mean? Do they mean that gays and lesbians have successfully been discharged from the military? If so, I agree because it is true. But that has to stop. In a country currently fighting in two wars, we can’t continue to exempt competent, viable people who are willing to serve their country.

North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones believes that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy should stay in place. He has cited advice from military officials who believe that it would decrease moral in the troops. But of course, these were the same arguments against women joining the military.

Our executive director, Ian Palmquist, is hopeful that the President’s initiative will be successful and that all gays and lesbians in the military can come out and proudly serve their country. to Add a Section for Gay and Lesbian Dating on Their Website

As part of their settlement for a class action suit, EHarmony will now match all couples, both different and same-sex ones! Part of the agreement requires the EHarmony pay $500,000 to make their website more welcoming to those seeking same-sex relationships.

Law Professor at University of North Carolina, Holning Lau suggests that the lawsuit did not go far enough. This new section of the website will be separate from the original website. To be truly equal, the section designated to gays and lesbians should appear on the original website.

But it is a start for all of the gays and lesbians seeking a relationship through EHarmony, or any of the companies with a better history of supporting our community.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's In A Name?

Names have power, and that's especially true for the LGBT community in general. A name is how we identify ourselves, and it's also a tool for affiliating with others.

I know many couples who have changed their last names when they had an official ceremony to formalize their symbolic union.

Naming was important for me and my partner when we adopted our son. Giving him a hyphenated last name has made a lot of casual interactions much easier - he's now automatically affiliated with both of us, simply by dint of sharing our last name.

Names are particularly significant for the trans community. For many trans folks, a legal name change is a first step towards having their legal identities conform to the way they self-identify, as well as the first step towards living their lives authentically.

Securing a legal name change can be an intimidating experience, however, involving interactions with the court system and possibly multiple judges, an experience that is foreign to many people (and onerous to all). It can also involve a significant expense, as well as a serious commitment of time and effort. Until you've done it, it's difficult to understand how hard a process like this can be.

Stories have power, too, and the stories of people who have gone through this process help enlighten the public. The New York Times featured a great article on a program for New York trans residents, the Name Change Project of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Reading about the travails of other folks in the LGBT community help remind us of our common struggles, as well as broaden our understanding of what other folks are dealing with.

Shakespeare is known for encapsulating universal experiences. As is observed in Romeo and Juliet, "Thou art thyself ... retain that dear perfection."

The love that dare not speak its name would smell as sweet ....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Queer The Census, and Make It Stick!

We already told you to be sure that LGBT families get counted in the 2010 census. Now we're asking you to tell the census to count us explcitly and not just indirectly. And you can get a free sticker to help you do this, too!

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force are working to tell the U.S. Census Bureau: We're here. We're queer. And we want you to ask us about it. Go to their online petition link here.

You can also get a free sticker to put on the back of your 2010 census envelope - it's available from CREDO, the progressive communication company.

The census tries to get an accurate count of everyone in the country, but there's no question in the survey that asks if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This means that LGBT people are basically invisible in the national survey that is supposed to reflect the diversity of America's population.

The data collected impacts issues critical to every American, like health care, economic stability, and even safety. When gay folks aren't counted, then we also don't count when it comes to services and resources.

It's important that we participate and have our families counted, but it's also important that we get them to acknowledge us for who we are. Currently the census basically keeps the LGBT community invisible, making it that much easier to marginalize us. We need them to let us be out, visible, and a full part of our country.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Equality in the News January 16-22

Thanks again to our Communications Intern Danielle for providing commentary on this week's news!


Boseman to run for District Court Judge

Julia Boseman announced that, while she is not seeking another term within the North Carolina State Senate, she will run for District Court Judge. This position would allow her to remain active in state politics while still allowing her to spend time with her family.

This endeavor is not a new one, as she has dreamed of becoming a judge for a while. Boseman says that as a judge, she would be fair and impartial.


Raising (Mc)Cain for Equal Marriage

Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, shocked GLBT community by showing her support against the gay marriage ban in California. This is a significant victory for the movement because it is gaining momentum to being a human rights issue, and not politically biased. As more conservatives show their support to our cause, it proves we are making headway in educating and sharing with people not close to the struggle

Seriously--This is Michigan's Biggest Threat, Paul Scott?

Paul Scott, Michigan’s newest candidate to Michigan’s Secretary of State Position is setting barring transgender people from changing their sex on their state identifications as his top priority. Scott cites that this issue is about “biological gender.” Of course, I can’t let this one go.

To have such a fervent stance on this issue, he certainly doesn’t know a lot about it. There is no such thing as “biological gender.” Gender is socially constructed roles and behaviors often associated with sex. Although, sex and gender are commonly used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing.

It would only make sense for people to have their gender identity on their licenses and other legal documents. How else would they be identified?

Secondly, why is he making this a top priority in Michigan? Michigan made headlines in the last 18 months as having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. If this is his top priority, then clearly he is unfit to be Secretary of State.

Transgender people need to have their legal documents in sink with their medical procedures. Such a policy could be detrimental to their health, both physically and mentally.

Paul Scott is using this to cultivate fear of the transgender community. Hopefully, the good voters of Michigan will see through it.

Cruisin' for a Cause

The Gay and Lesbian Cruise industry is stepping up in a huge way by contributing massive donations to the Haiti Relief Fund. Times like this point out that at the end of the day, we are all just people with the same needs and wants. In a time when an urgent outpouring of love is needed, it is the people that have been fighting for legal recognition of their love, that we can depend on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LGBT International Aid

Everyone is aware of the current humanitarian plight in Haiti, which has been recently struck by two major earthquakes.

Many organizations are supporting relief efforts to the area. LGBT and allied folks, however, need to be more careful with donations than others. We don't want to support a supposed charity that might provide disaster relief in this situation but then use funds to support antigay initiatives.

Rainbow World Fund is an all-volunteer international humanitarian service agency based in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and friends community. Their mission is to promote LGBT philanthropy in the area of world humanitarian relief.

RWF currently supports projects focusing on global HIV/AIDS, water development, landmine eradication, hunger, education, orphans and disaster relief in Africa, Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

RWF also works to raise awareness of the charitable contributions of the LGBT community, and to establish connections with non-LGBT communities.

The Rainbow World Fund works to provide humanitarian aid to communities in need around the world, to create awareness within the LGBT community of the need for these relief efforts, and to change perceptions of the LGBT community by putting our highest beliefs and values into action demonstrating our compassion and caring for the world.

In many cases, the act of helping someone else helps put our own problems and struggles in perspective. And by helping someone else, we affirm our participation in a larger world and emphasize our commonality over our differences.

In the end, that ultimately helps ourselves and the entire LGBT community.

Monday, January 18, 2010

An International Issue: LGBT Couples

Happy MLK Day, All!

Please take a moment today to reflect on the efforts of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including not just his great work for racial justice but also what he did for social justice.

He said, "The revolution for human rights is opening up unhealthy areas in American life and permitting a new and wholesome healing to take place. Eventually the civil rights movement will have contributed infinitely more to the nation than the eradication of racial injustice. It will have enlarged the concept of brotherhood to a vision of total interrelatedness."

Also, let's not forget that one of his main advisors, Bayard Rustin, was gay. This refrain is a standard trope for the LGBT movement, but that's simply because it's true.

Finally, be sure to remember his wife, Coretta Scott King, who was a tireless advocate for fairness and justice for LGBT folks, including marriage equality.

On a different note, over the weekend, I found two of my bear friends are splitting up. They've been a couple for years and years.

No, they're not becoming single - they're still a couple. One of them is Canadian, and his visa is not being renewed. He has to move out of the country for a year.

Now, they're making plans to make this work. The one who's a US citizen is planning regular visits to Canada, and the one who's leaving is lucky that his job is willing to hold his position while he's gone.

Still, this situation is so unfair. Imagine having to unsettle your entire life for a year, moving away from your job and partner, your friends and home.

If they could get married, this wouldn't happen. Every day, more than 36,000 lesbian and gay families are impacted every day by discriminatory immigration policies.

A simpler, and much more likely to be timely solution, is simply immigration reform that includes LGBT families. For more information about this important issue and information on how to take action, go to Immigration Equality's page about the Uniting American Families Act.

It won't help them now, but it could be a big help for them - and thousands of others - in the future. You never know what's going to happen in life. Who knows, immigration reform may critically change your life, if not directly then through your friends and family.

Friday, January 15, 2010

We're excited to welcome our new Communications Intern, Danielle, with her inaugural blog! Too bad it was a slower news week for us...


North Carolina PFLAG Chapter To Give Three $1000 Scholarships for the 2010-2011 Academic Year

The Salisbury/Rowan chapter of PFLAG, one of the most recognizable organizations for advancing civil and social rights for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people, will be offering three $1000 scholarships to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or straight ally students. The scholarships are to be used during the 2010-2011 academic year.

The Salisbury/Rowan chapter is was the first organization in North Carolina to create a specific scholarship for local GLBT students.

Appalachian State University to Launch Oral History Project Focused on GLBT Individuals in Appalachian Region

Appalachian State University faculty members have received funding to comprise the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of the community living in the Appalachian region.

The project will include interviews from members of the community. Participants may choose to remain anonymous or to reveal their identity. Participants will have the opportunity to: review the transcriptions of the interview before it is released, choose the method the interview is recorded and choose the date the interview will be made public.


High Cost Procedures Force Users to the Black Market

Pump-up parties, frequented by some members of the transgender community, are known for promoting the use of FDA unapproved liquid silicone injections as alternatives to pricier cosmetic procedures. These black market products are potentially harmful because the silicone injection can permanently disfigure, cause long term health problems or kill its users.

According to a study in 2006, 11 out of 44 women or transwomen died from using the liquid silicone injections during a 15 year period. These startling statistics sheds light on the year long health care reform debate. If these procedures could be performed at legal clinics at low cost, many lives could be saved.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Three Cool Bits About Marriage Equality

With all of our struggles towards marriage equality, have you ever wondered how the world would look if you mapped out marriage equality, separate but equal laws, no recognition of gay relationships, and criminalization of LGBT folks?

If so, then wonder no more! Behold, from Wikipedia, the marriage equality map.

Though it lacks the obvious credibility of a moderated, authoritative source, this Wikipedia entry presents a ton of data and citations so you judge its validity and accuracy for yourself.

(From a quick overview of the things I know are true, this map is spot-on.)

It presents an interesting picture and gives a broader perspective. Sadly, the most interesting parts are Africa and the Middle East, where several countries have homoicidally antigay tendencies, and Asia, which is mostly blank.

In fairness, let's also give a shout-out to our northern neighbors, who often seem to be a benign (albeit cold!) alternative version of America. Oh, Canada!

You may have already heard that Massachusetts, the first state with marriage equality, has, by far, the lowest divorce rates.

You may also have heard that the divorce rate has fallen every year since marriage equality occured. Now, post facto doesn't mean ipso facto. However, we now have more evidence of a correlation. Take a look:

Divorce Rates Higher in States with Gay Marriage Bans

Here's an excerpt of the first paragraph:

"Over the past decade or so, divorce has gradually become more uncommon in the United States. Since 2003, however, the decline in divorce rates has been largely confined to states which have not passed a state constitutional ban on gay marriage. These states saw their divorce rates decrease by an average of 8 percent between 2003 and 2008. States which had passed a same-sex marriage ban as of January 1, 2008, however, saw their divorce rates rise by about 1 percent over the same period."

Lastly, take a look at:
The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage: Why same-sex marriage is an American value. by Ted Olson from Newsweek. Ted Olson is a conservative Name, being a lifelong Republican and part of the Reagan and Bush I administrations.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Want Total Justice and Inclusion for All Trans Persons

by ENC supporter Kyle B. as part of ENC's "I Want" initiative. Crossposted from his blog.

Equality NC is running a campaign called "Picturing Equality" wherein people submit pictures holding a sign of what they hope will be accomplished in whole or in part this year. That is my entry, but what do the words really mean?

The plight of the trans individual in our modern world is so broad that it's very hard to pinpoint into one single idea. In a developed nation, they may feel that it is hard to come out, live as themselves, find proper care to assist in transition, find a welcoming workplace, or just get basic love and support from those around them. In a developing nation, it is almost an act of suicide to attempt a name change or walk down the street in their gender's clothes. Simplistic as those lists are, they are valid global concerns and must be addressed.

Justice to me means full liberty, complete availability of resources and support, and no unnecessary scrutiny. No person should fear savage beatings and rape, occupational discrimination, or constant doubt and defiance. No person should ever have to feel alone in their struggle, and there should always be somewhere or someone to go to regardless of socioeconomic status should a person ever feel that way. This should be universal, trans persons should not merely be lucky to be in a specific area or require an expensive move to have access to quality care and support.

Those that would transgress against a trans person for the mere fact of their gender identity or expression should be dealt with in the manner in which it is most fitting. Nobody should be able to get a pass on transaggression and violence simply due to our cultural standards of binary gender classification. This applies not only to the common thug on the street, but to the organizations that promote themselves as gender or queer oriented that have repeatedly ignored the trans community outright or in pursuit of their own goals.

Inclusion does not only refer to social inclusion, it also refers to full inclusion into the concerns, campaigns, and activities of the larger queer community. We can't afford to leave some of us behind while we fight for our own rights. We can't relish in the winning of marriage equality for gays and lesbians when Brazilian transwomen of color are still being beaten and killed for their gender identities. Nothing we do can wantonly ignore that or any of the other acts of anti-trans violence that are still occurring present day, and if we do we can count ourselves no better than those we fight against.

I want to speak to the usage of the word "all" in that sign, because it is important to highlight just how much class has an effect on the issues I'm discussing. All is not just the rich among us, those of us who can afford to move to more accepting areas, pay for elective surgeries, and wait around on just the right job to allow ourselves to really thrive. All is everyone, every single person who goes through the trauma of discovering they are not like everyone else and must now become true to themselves before it destroys them. Every person who grows up thinking they are a mistake in one way or another. Everyone who fights internally and/or with others just for the privilege of being themselves. We all deserve to be who we are, and we all deserve access to the resources that will help us get there without fear of repression, violence, or exclusion.

That is what I Want.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Equality in the News January 1-8, 2010

Hello, Equaliteers! We’re coming back from a few weeks slow on news (yet heavy in holiday foodstuffs) to a new edition of Equality in the News. Ease into 2010 as we offer up some highlights. -Rebecca


New anti-bullying policies go into effect

All k-12 public schools in our state should now have comprehensive anti-bullying policies, per the School Violence Prevention Act, that include protections for those harassed due to—among other things—their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Here’s the story of how the Beaufort County Board of Education got their policy into shape.

Charlotte and DC advance, while Milwaukee County, WI lags behind

Blogging Blue out of the “badger state” quotes our own Ian Palmquist in a piece on advancements (and a setback) in domestic partnership benefits and marriage. And if that’s not enough to make you click, the piece also includes footage of DC Mayor Adrian Fenty signing same-sex marriage into law.

Love from QNotes

Editor Matt Comer sends warm fuzzies our way, along with high hopes for communities and activists across the state. We love you too, QNotes! Have you lost weight, or is does the absence of your old hyphen make you look even more svelte?

Senator Boseman will give Ian 2009, but she’s got the decade

QNotes names Julia Boseman the person of the decade and Ian the person of the year! Congratulations Julia and Ian. We’re rather fond of you two, as well.


Obama appoints first openly transgender official

Amanda Simpson started her new job with the Department of Commerce as a senior technical adviser this week. She comes with 30 years of experience in the aerospace and defense industry, as well as years of board membership for such organizations as the National Center for Transgender Equality and the then-Arizona Human Rights Fund (now Equality Arizona). President Obama is the first president to appoint openly transgender people.

RI legislators bury governor’s veto

Senators and Representatives in Rhode Island overrode Governor Donald Carcieri’s veto of a bill allowing domestic partners to make funeral arrangements for their partners. The governor stated in his veto letter, “this bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage.” That is flawless logic, as the #2 reason* people marry is to gain a funeral planner. Right? Luckily, legislators stepped up to override the veto.
*The #1 reason is the Cuisinart Stand Mixer.

NJ Senate votes against marriage equality

Senators voted down a bill to legalize same-sex marriage this week 20-14. Rather than wait for another vote, our Equality Federation partner, Garden State Equality, plans to take the fight for equal marriage to the courts.

Equality Maryland helps stave off discriminatory license policy—for now

Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration temporarily halted plans to require proof of surgery before a person could change their gender marker on their drivers’ license. Currently, individuals can change their gender marker with a physician or psychologist’s note stating that the applicant is under supervision for a gender change.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mens Sana ...

... in corpore sano. That's Latin for a healthy mind in a healthy body. (Nothing to do with men's saunas!)

Healthcare and wellness are important for everyone, but LGBT folks have the added burden of having to come out to their healthcare providers or risk hiding critical details about their lives.

The medical industry is progressive and LGBT-friendly in many ways - consider how many gay nurses and doctors there are, as well as focus areas that attract gay folks like hospice care, HIV/AIDS, and assistive reproduction - but it also has a very staid, conservative aspect.

Since most healthcare providers are straight, PFLAG has created the Straight for Equality resource to help educate medical professionals on issues that are relevant to LGBT clients.

Straight for Equality is a national outreach and education project designed to empower allies in supporting and advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people by inviting allies to speak up, educating them, and engaging their support and advocacy for equality.

Resources available at this website include:
  • The Straight for Equality pledge
  • 10 simple things you can do to change the world as an ally
  • Meet some allies, read their stories ... and tell yours.
  • FAQs.
  • Read a book, watch a movie, or find other ways to move equality forward.
  • Endorsing Organizations: Find out what groups support this project and learn how to get your organization to join in.
  • Founding Sponsors: Learn more about some of our corporate allies who have provided us with the resources to do this work.
Just the act of providing information about this resource to your doctor's office can help raise awareness about LGBT lives and issues. Print out a copy of this PDF of the 10 things to do as an ally and take it/send it to your doctor.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Making Sure Our Families Get Counted in 2010

The new year is a great time for change and movement, and this year let's be certain that our families, i.e., LGBT families, get counted.

According to the 2000 US Census, more than 250,000 children in the United States are being raised by lesbian and gay parents, and they live in almost every county in the country.

Every 10 years, under the Constitution, the US Census Bureau attempts to conduct an accurate count of all Americans and households, and this includes us - lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans and our families, both those with and without kids.

Census statistics guide many vital government decisions. Federal and state governments use census numbers to form congressional district boundaries and to distribute billions of dollars for social services. Nonprofit organizations use census statistics to plan services for individuals and their families, and these statistics can influence the location of schools, roads, and hospitals.

Census data is essential in countering anti-gay lies, myths and misperceptions about the diverse LGBT community, e.g., the census data shows that black and Latino same-sex couples are raising children at nearly the rates of their heterosexual peers, while earning significantly lower incomes.

It's easy to participate, it's safe, and it's important. To find out more, go to Our Families Count, a voluntary collaborative educational campaign whose only purpose is to educate and motivate all LGBT Americans and households to be visible in 2010, and to take part in the 2010 US Census.

(You can download a PDF of their information flyer here. It's also available in Spanish.)

Stand up and be counted!