Monday, August 30, 2010

Back To School ... "So Gay," "Safe Space," and "Just The Facts"

For students and teachers in traditional-schedule schools, summer has just ended and they are headed back to the classroom.

For educators, parents, and gay students, GLSEN has some useful tools to make the school year safe and productive for everyone.

First, they have a host of anti-bullying resources.

This includes their ThinkB4YouSpeak Campaign:

"In partnership with the Ad Council, GLSEN has created an educator’s guide to accompany its PSA campaign about the hurtful and demeaning term “that’s so gay.” The guide assists middle and high school educators in presenting the various components of this campaign to students, framing and discussing the ads in class, and extending student learning about the negative consequences of homophobic language and anti-LGBT bullying."

... and their Safe Space program:

"The Safe Space Kit will take you step by step through the process of implementing a Safe Space program in your school by teaching you to train allies, providing strategies for support and intervention when anti-LGBT bias occurs, and providing materials and ideas for making your program highly visible."

They also have a booklet. Produced by a diverse coalition of 13 national organizations, this booklet is part of a renewed effort to protect the safety and emotional well-being of all students, including those who are at higher risk because of their sexual orientation.

The group of education, health, mental health and religious organizations released "Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel."

The publication serves as a guide for employees who confront sensitive issues involving gay, lesbian, and bisexual students. It is intended to help school administrators foster safe and healthy school environments, in which all students can achieve to the best of their ability. "Just the Facts" includes the most recent information from professional health organizations, as well as up-to-date information on the legal responsibility of school officials to protect students from anti-gay harassment.

The coalition issued the following joint statement:

"The opportunity for students to learn is diminished when they do not feel safe or supported at school. In addition to assault and harassment, gay, lesbian and bisexual students experience high rates of emotional distress, suicide attempts and substance abuse. These factors hinder their emotional and social development, as well as their ability to succeed in school. It is our responsibility to provide accurate and factual information. We believe this publication will be a valuable tool to help educators, administrators and others concerned with caring for America's students."
This publications is endorsed by:
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Association of School Administrators
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Psychological Association
  • American School Counselor Association
  • American School Health Association
  • Interfaith Alliance Foundation
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • National Education Association
  • School Social Work Association of America
If you know someone that could benefit from any of this information, share the links. Send it to a teacher, principal, student, or school.

Sometimes the best education starts from the bottom and works its way up. The most important thing, though, is that it happens. Make it so!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cyndi Lauper Cares, and Asks You To, Too!

Cyndi Lauper has been a staunch straight ally to the LGBT community for years and years, and she's shown great willingness to put her money where her mouth is. (And you know what her mouth's like - it goes all over the place, so that's a lot of money!)

Back in April, she launched a new campaign and website to bring attention to issues of discrimination against the LGBT community. She did it with a slight twist, though - her "Give A Damn" campaign actively works to get straight allies to come on board and work against homophobia. She's already gotten several big names celebrities (gay and straight) to participate, including:

  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Jason Mraz
  • Elton John
  • Judith Light
  • Cynthia Nixon
  • Kim Kardashian
  • Clay Aiken
  • Sharon Osbourne
  • Kelly Osbourne
  • Anna Paquin

"The Give a Damn Campaign is for everybody who cares about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.

But, it’s especially for all you straight people out there! Whether you’re already an active supporter, want to show your support for the first time, or hadn’t given equality a lot of thought before and now want to learn more, we are here to help you get informed about the issues and get involved, at a pace that works for you.

You’ll find a lot of useful information throughout this site—information that’ll engage you, surprise you and move you. You will also find a bunch of ways to get involved and show your support and encourage your straight peers to show theirs as well.

For all you gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks—we need and want you here, too! Because this site is also for you. Not only will you learn new things that might surprise and interest you, you’ll also find a lot of useful tools and resources that will help you encourage the straight people in your life to give a damn.

Like we said, the Give a Damn Campaign is for everyone. Because the only way we can truly achieve equality for all is if we all get informed and get involved. So join us today and let us know you give a damn!"

Another interesting aspect of her campaign is the issues that it covers. It includes some of the less common topic areas, like aging, faith, and immigration. Issues include:

Check it out. There are cool videos and personal stories and bloggy bits. And share it with your friends and family, especially your straight ones. Equality and fairness benefit everyone, not just the people that are actively discriminated against.

Until everyone is equal, no one is.

(And Cyndi Lauper's 2008 album, "Bring Ya To The Brink," is simply amazing. If you haven't checked it out yet, do! It's dance-y and fabulous! And supporting artists that support us also supports the community and efforts for equality.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

ACT NOW! The ENDA Summer

The window for passing the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is rapidly closing, but there's still a chance to get it passed, and you can help!

ENDA has a record number of cosponsors in the House. That means we have a real chance to get ENDA passed. Despite broad support, though, our allies in Congress are refusing to even put ENDA on the agenda.

With midterm elections just around the corner and a very real possibility that the next Congress will be more hostile to LGBT equality, we must act now!

Currently it is still perfectly legal for employers in 29 states to fire someone for their sexual orientation and in 38 states to fire someone for their gender identity or expression. North Carolina has no employment non-discrimination protections for any LGBT folks.

ENDA would be a huge step forward for LGBT equality in the country (though we'll still need state-level protections to fully protect workers!).

The folks from Congress are currently back in their home districts trying to save their jobs in upcoming elections, but gay folks are left waiting for this legislation that would protect ours. Without federal job protections, millions of LGBT Americans are in danger of losing their jobs at any time in an arbitrary, capricious manner.

The threat of being fired for who you are also reinforces the closet, intimidating many folks into hiding their lives for fear of repercussions. It's much harder to be out if you're worried about being fired for it!

This is a moral issue for all Americans, not just gay ones. Everyone benefits when the best person is hired for a position, and it reassures everyone when people are evaluated based on their skills and abilities and performance instead of some intrinsic, irrelevant characteristic. Without ENDA, anyone could be discriminated against for not conforming to gender stereotypes, or fired for acting “too gay.”

GetEQUAL has put together a plan of action for their "ENDA Summer" campaign. They've targeted specific legislators to push on this issue, and two of them are here in North Carolina. For more information and to take action, go to their "Fighting for ENDA in North Carolina" page.

"Mike McIntyre is a Democratic Representative who has a track record out of line with the party's platform of LGBT equality. He opposed ENDA in 2007, opposed Hate Crimes last year, and opposed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year. He is, of course, leaning no on ENDA if it comes up for a vote this year.

Heath Shuler is a also Democratic Representative with the same anti-LGBT track record as Rep. McIntyre. He opposed ENDA in 2007, opposed Hate Crimes last year, and opposed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year. He is also, of course, leaning no on ENDA if it comes up for a vote this year.

There are other states in which GetEQUAL is targeting Republicans, specifically those who serve heavily LGBT constituencies, yet continue to vote against LGBT equality. In North Carolina, however, Democrats who vote against LGBT equality AND who vote against their own party's platform must be held accountable. Since the Democratic party continues to fund these lawmakers, it is up to us to let them know that voting against us is not OK."

It's easy enough to do something. Take action, and make a difference, now!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Being Heard

Thanks to Equality NC supporter and volunteer, Tim, for this personal experience.

"I want to relate a recent success story for equality here in North Carolina.

It happened last Tuesday as a result of NOM's marriage discrimination tour stop in Raleigh. That evening I was watching News Channel 14, the Time Warner Cable 24 hours news channel, and they had a "teaser" for the upcoming coverage of the event. I left the channel on in order to see the news coverage.

Overall the news coverage was both fair and positive. The reporter highlighted the fact that there were more than double the number of pro-equality supporters at the event as there were people supporting NOM's anti-equality position.

But, the reporter used the terms "homosexual marriage" and "homosexuals" during the coverage instead of the acceptable terms of "marriage equality," "same-sex marriage," "LGBT," or "gays and lesbians." I was offended by this, so I took action. I immediately contacted News Channel 14 by email through their web site. I asked them to please stop using the offensive language, explained why the language was offensive, explained what terms were acceptable, and referred them to the AP Style Guide for further advice.

News Channel 14 responded positively to me within an hour. They apologized to me, explained that they knew it was wrong, said that it was against their existing policy and was a mistake, said they were already in the process of correcting it, and said they planned to use the incident as a "teachable moment" for their entire staff.

News Channel 14 did the right thing. In fact they thanked me for bringing the issue to their attention and did everything they could to make corrections as swiftly as possible and take the appropriate steps to stop this from happening in the future. I made sure to thank them for their positive response as well.

Moral of the story? One person can make a difference. You just have to believe you can and make the effort."

Thanks to Tim for taking the time and effort to do this and for telling the tale. One person's efforts can result in a positive change that's seen by hundreds or thousands. There's no telling how far-reaching a single positive action will be.

(If something about reporting on an equality issue or LGBT-related story catches your attention, in addition to the standard AP Style Guide, GLAAD has a great Media Reference Guide for gay-positive and affirming language standards, and the Movement Advancement Project offers guides on talking about all kinds of LGBT issues, including relationship recognition and marriage.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bar None - American Bar Association Supports Marriage Equality

Lawyers and legal associations are often considered to be staid, conservative groups, slow to change, quick to maintain the status quo.

Last week, The American Bar Association made this resolution at its annual meeting:

"RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges state, territorial, and tribal governments to eliminate all of their legal barriers to civil marriage between two persons of the same sex who are otherwise eligible to marry."

The ABA is the nation’s leading legal organization that recommends judges and sets national standards for attorneys. This resolution was adopted as an affirmation that every American is vested with certain inalienable rights and that all Americans are created equal. The ABA’s action shows that there is a broad consensus among legal scholars and practitioners that that excluding LGBT folks marriage violates their constitutional right to due process and equal protection.

This is a huge step forward and certainly indicative of changing societal attitudes.

Even here in North Carolina our local bar association is looking at making some progress, though nothing quite as dramatic. The NC Bar Association is currently considering an update to the preamble to its Rules of Professional Conduct that would urge lawyers not to discriminate in their practices "on the basis of race, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity." (Those last two are the significant ones.)

It's not exactly marriage equality and equal application of laws to all people, but it's still a start.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

NOM News Roundup

Kudos again to the great grassroots folks who organized yesterday's counter-protest of the so-called National Organization for Marriage's rally yesterday. Equality NC and other participants worked hard to get our message of fairness out to the media with some great results. Here's a quick roundup.
  • Time Warner's News 14 covered the rally and included an interview with me in the story.
  • WRAL, the local CBS affiliate, has a story including Senate President Pro-Tempore Marc Basnight explaining why the constitution shouldn't be used to make law.
  • Josh Ellis covered the story for the NC News Network, and included a blurb on their site and some good video on YouTube.
  • It was great chatting with friend of ENC Pam Spaulding, who has great analysis and video up at the Blend. She also did a quick post earlier in the day.
  • The Raleigh News & Observer was also on the scene with this report.
  • North Carolina Public Radio had coverage after the rally, and reporter Laura Leslie has more audio from NOM's speakers on her blog.
  • I talked with the Associated Press's Gary Robertson about the potential impact of the elections this fall on the marriage discrimination amendment. Video from NBC 17 is include on the same page.
  • WTVD, the ABC affiliate, ran this story.
  • And, of course, the Courage Campaign's brilliant NOM Tour Tracker was on hand to document the event. There's more in this post as well.
That's what we've found. Any more stories we missed? Post 'em in the comments.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

NOM comes to Raleigh, North Carolinians protest: A Photo Blog

(Thanks to ENC Communication Intern Matthew McGibney.)

The so-called National Organization of Marriage has spent the summer traveling across the country holding (poorly-attended) rallies in support of marriage inequality, so when they made a stop in Raleigh this morning, Equality NC Executive Director Ian Palmquist and I decided to go over and check out the counter-protest.

Here's a picture of one group (it went down the block too far to get everyone in one shot!):

Equality NC did not organize the counter-protest, which included more than 100 people, but Ian made himself available to local press to make sure there would be a marriage equality perspective to the stories.

The NOM people gave their speeches across the street from us, and we chanted in response. There were no problems at all while we were there, and it was nice to see that we outnumbered them by a considerable margin.

Here's a picture of the NOM lectern before they arrived...

...and here's the area after the NOM people came out (as it were). Yes, that is a sign that says "Straight Pride" attached to a baseball bat. It's probably a good thing the police were there!

No baseball bats for this guy...

...or these people:

Several families brought their children. This kid has a future in sign making...

... but he will never reach the sign-making heights of this woman:

It was nice to see some many people take some time off work to come out and support the cause of marriage equality in North Carolina.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Not National HIV Testing Day

Today is not National HIV Testing Day.

National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) is June 27 each year, so it was just over a month ago. The point, however, is to raise awareness and promote early diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. It's not meant to limit testing to a single day but instead make people realize how important it is to do regularly, which is why it's being mentioned here more than a month later.

NHTD was founded by the National Association of People with AIDS in 1995. The LGBT community is still disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, so it's more important to emphasize getting tested early and often.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in five of the 1.1 million people in the United States estimated to be living with HIV are not aware of their status. In the new cases of HIV, over half are attributed to people who do not know their HIV status.

The latest CDC data shows a large increase in new diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) and African Americans. HIV disproportionately affects MSM, blacks folks, and Hispanics/Latinos, but MSM are the only risk group with increasing annual numbers of new HIV infections.

“Take the Test, Take Control” was this year's theme for NHTD. Being aware of your HIV/AIDS status puts you in control of your health and reduces the risk to others. Just the idea of getting tested may be scary and difficult, but fear of the results should never outweigh the importance of knowing.

HIV is not immediately detectable, so regular testing is essential. It can take from three weeks to three months for HIV antibodies to be detectable by the most common rapid tests. This period may be as long as six months. A newly infected person could still spread HIV, though, so regular testing and safe sex practices are vital to HIV prevention.

For the CDC's FAQ on HIV/AIDS and getting tested, go here.

To find an HIV testing location near you, visit

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Welcome _o _he Wrigh_sville Beach Coun_ry Club! (No Ts Allowed)

(Thanks to ENC Communication Intern Matthew McGibney.)

When Rachael Gieschen picked up the front page of her local paper last month, her first thought was for her family.

“It said something like, ‘Club Membership Canceled because of Sex Change,’ in a big bold headline,” Rachael said. “It made me sick to my stomach because I was embarrassed for my family and kids down there.”

The story began last year, after the 69-year-old received a notice that her membership to the Hanover Seaside Club in Wrightsville Beach (a club that Rachael’s grandfather helped found in the 1890s) was going to be canceled. The club said it would allow her to stay if she came dressed as a man, but she refused. After a private meeting between Rachael and the board failed to resolve the situation, the club terminated her membership and refunded her dues.

So Rachael decided to speak with Michael Silverman, the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City, and they decided to try to get the club to change its decision. Their first step was to contact a reporter for The Edge,a Boston-based paper, which ran a story.

But then the Wilmington Star-News highlighted her story on its front page, and Rachael started to have second thoughts.

“It irked the hell out of me,” she said. “So I told them I didn’t want to do it anymore.”

Rachael has changed her mind since then, and is working with Michael to get her story out to more papers. She’s also contacted a lawyer in Greensboro, but the legal path forward isn't clear.

She’s not spoken about it with her five grown children since the story broke, and two of them have avoided talking to her altogether since she came out as transgender.

This is a reminder that discrimination against transgender people continues to this day in North Carolina, while victims are left without a settled legal recourse. It leaves people like Rachael fighting to gain admittance to a beach club that her own family helped to start, just because of her gender expression.

And that's not right. You cannot have equality without the 't.'

You can read the article in The Edge here

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Kids Really Are All Right

(Thanks to ENC Communication Intern Matthew McGibney.)

I’m going to start by admitting that I haven’t seen the new film The Kids Are All Right yet, though everyone keeps telling me I should. I’ve heard good and bad things about how it portrays lesbian couples and their children, but obviously I can’t yet pass a judgment on that.

Either way, I’m sure the film will start a dialogue about gay folks adopting kids, and start some fear-mongering from the radical right about how it (equal adoption rights, not Julianne Moore’s acting) is a threat to children. At the same time, the National Organization for Marriage is on its summer marriage inequality tour, doing its best to spread misinformation about gay couples.

So I thought it might be interesting to see what the, you know, facts are about gay adoption. Luckily for us, researchers at the University of Virginia recently released a new study on that very subject. So here’s the question: How do kids with gay parents compare to other kids? Is being gay a legitimate reason to deny a couple equal adoption rights?

I don’t think the answers will surprise you.

"We found that children adopted by lesbian and gay couples are thriving," said Charlotte J. Patterson, a leader of the study, to the Virginia-based News Reader. "Our results provide no justification for denying lesbian or gay prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to adopt children. With thousands of children in need of permanent homes in the United States alone, our findings suggest that outreach to lesbian and gay prospective adoptive parents might benefit children who are in need."

Let’s just hope those in-need children don’t live in Florida, Mississippi, or Utah, where it’s illegal for gay people to adopt.

The study found that approaches to parenting, parenting stress and the strength of the couple’s relationship had the biggest effect on the child’s well-being, irrespective of whether the parents were gay or not. In fact, the study found that the children of gay couples were just as well-adjusted as those adopted by straight couples.

This report joins a growing body of work on this subject, with studies like this one in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, saying that the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers turned out significantly better than the average 17-year-old.

The children of gay couples are not disadvantaged growing up, and we can point to solid, scientific studies to support that claim. Equal adoption is not a “historically unprecedented and unproven social experiment with our children,” as Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family put it, but rather an option in the best interests of children.

If the choice for a foster child is no parents or gay parents, it’s a pretty easy decision for child-care workers to make. We need to remove state laws that take this choice away because of prejudice and lies.

And I need to get to the movies (sorry, Julianne, for making fun of your acting).