Wednesday, September 29, 2010

GLBT History Month 2010

During October 2010, Equality Forum is sponsoring the 5th annual LGBT History Month.

Beginning October 1, a GLBT Icon will be presented daily, with a video, bio, bibliography, downloadable images, and other resources – all provided for free. The 124 Icons with resources for 2006 – 2009 are also archived on the site. For five years, since 2006, Equality Forum has provided videos, bios, bibliographies, downloadable images, and other resources for 31 GLBT History Month Icons each October.

“Equality Forum offers a free GLBT History Month link to organizations, educational institutions, workplace groups, and the public,” stated Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum.

The 31 Icon videos can be embedded without charge on Web sites, blogs or social networking pages by following the instructions on the site. Once embedded, the video player will automatically update the daily Icon video.

GLBT History Month posters, Icon lists, graphically-designed Icon bios, and images can be downloaded or printed by clicking on “Resources.” These resources can be used to make a GLBT History Month Exhibit. Equality Forum and GLSEN are sponsoring a GLBT History Month Exhibit Contest for high school GSAs.

“This month is an opportunity for schools to acknowledge and celebrate the positive contributions of LGBT people whose identities are absent from history books. Gay-Straight Alliances across the country look forward to this month every year as a way to introduce positive LGBT role models to their members and classmates,” said Eliza Byard, Executive Director, GLSEN.

The U.S. Department of Education will recognize October as LGBT History Month, with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan providing welcoming remarks at the Department's first LGBT History Month event.

"For a community deprived of its history, GLBT History Month teaches heritage, provides role models, builds community, and recognizes extraordinary national and international contributions," said Ora Alger, LGBTA Employees President, U.S. Department of Education.

(Starting in 2011, GLBT History Month will be renamed LGBT History Month. Information for GLBT History Month 2010 can currently be accessed at or

Monday, September 27, 2010

National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Today, September 27, marks the third annual National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This is a time to reflect on how profoundly HIV/AIDS has affected people in general and gay and bi men, specifically. It's also a time to recognize how much this group has influenced the development and implementation of strategies to prevent and treat the virus and the disease.

According to the CDC, nationally men who have sex with men (MSM) are 44 to 86 times more likely to be infected with HIV than their heterosexual counterparts.

Gay and bisexual men account for 53 percent of new infections, despite comprising only an estimated 2 percent of the total population. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius even said recently "in some U.S. cities, it is estimated that nearly half of gay African-American men are HIV-positive."

While HIV/AIDS does not discriminate, it is clearly still a significant issue for the LGBT community. Social inequality is often associated with poorer health status, and members of the LGBT community are at increased risk for a number of health threats when compared to the heterosexual community.

It's important to note, however, that while there are a few differences in sexual behavior that account for some of these disparities, most are associated with social and structural inequities, such as the stigma and discrimination that LGBT populations experience. In other words, prejudice and ignorance are the problems, not a person's sexual orientation.

Communal urgency regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic among LGBT folks has fallen, unfortunately. HIV/AIDS isn't the death sentence that it used to be, but it's still incurable and horrible. The gay community now tends to be more focused on civil rights issues (which are, of course, critically important) than HIV/AIDS, and HIV/AIDS activists are more likely to experience compassion fatigue than activists working on other issues.

We may no longer have weekly funerals for friends who have died from issues related to HIV/AIDS, but people are still suffering and dying. It's a dark irony that we were more invested in preventative, curative, and palliative care for HIV/AIDS when people we knew were dying on an almost daily basis. Now an AIDS death is a tragedy, but one that results less in activism and more in apathy.

Still, we do have more information available nowadays, as well as more ways to share it and connect with others.

On this day of awareness, please consider three things about HIV/AIDS:
  1. Disease prevention is not an exact science. You can do everything correctly and still get infected. Conversely, perversely, you can also do everything wrong and unsafely and still escape unscathed and uninfected. Statistics may say that you're 99.9% likely to avoid disease transmission, but you never know when you are that 0.1%.

    There are lists of behaviors to avoid (i.e. unprotected anal sex, sharing needles, etc.) and ones to follow (i.e. using condoms, knowing you and your sexual partner's status, etc.), but even by following those lists, it doesn't necessarily mean you will never become infected with HIV.

    The take-away message is simply this: Be aware of risk, and be more thoughtful and careful than not in your sexual activity.

  2. People who have been infected for less than three months are most likely to be infectious and most likely to falsely test negative.

    If you are sexually active, get tested regularly, and actively discuss mutual testing status with any sexual partners you have.

  3. You can make a difference. If you have HIV/AIDS, consider volunteer opportunities in research studies and clinical trials for treatments and vaccines. If you don't (or even if you do), volunteer with a hospice. Attend local fundraisers. Support your local HIV/AIDS organization. Simply do something to create positive change in you and other people's lives.
Here are some good resources on HIV/AIDS issues:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bi, Bi, Bi! Encourage Visi-Bi-lity By Celebrating Bisexuality Day!

Thursday, Sept. 23 (and events the following weekend) will mark the 19th annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day (CBD).

Supporters and friends are encouraged to use this occasion to celebrate with activities to encouarge visi-Bi-lity and show their pride while fundraising for national, regional, and local bi/pan/fluid organizations.

Did you know there's a bi pride flag? It's true! You can see it in the picture, and find our more about its history here. The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same-sex (gay and lesbian), blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite-sex (straight), and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).

Bisexuality is often unfairly dismissed in the gay community as an interim label (sort of a midway point used by people who are in the process of coming out as simply gay but too scared to entirely give up the relative safety of self-identifying as straight). It's not, and it's importance for us to realize this.

While gay visibility has increased over time, bisexuality has remained fairly invisible - people tend to automatically label a couple as either straight or gay depending upon the perceived gender of the people involved. It's easy, but it's not always accurate (as we all know!).

Bisexuality is, of course, quite real, and is simply an attraction to others regardless of gender. Increasingly, though, bi-folks also self-identify as "fluid," "omnisexual," "pansexual," or eschew labels completely (let's call them "free-identifiers" :-) ).

CBD was created as a response to the marginalization of bisexual people by others in both straight and gay communities.

Here are some useful resources for finding out more about our bi brethren and sistren:
Let's take this opportunity to celebrate and affirm the diversity of identity and expression of all LGBT folks, family, and friends, regardless of labels.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Difference Of A Decade: Ten Years of GLSEN School Climate Reports

Last week GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) released their 2009 National School Climate Survey, documenting the experiences of LGBT students in schools across the country.

(Click here for the 13-page executive summary or here for the 164-page full report.)

GLSEN began compiling these reports and collecting data in 1999, and this report marks a decade of research. Some of their collective findings from the past 10 years include:
  • There was a steady decline in the frequency of hearing homophobic remarks from 1999 to 2003. (Between 2005 and 2009, students’ reports of these types of remarks did not decrease significantly.)

  • LGBT students’ experiences of harassment and assault have remained relatively constant over time. However, there were small but significant decreases in frequencies of verbal harassment, physical harassment, and physical assault from 2007 to 2009.

  • LGBT-related resources and support in school have steadily increased, e.g., gay-straight alliances, other student clubs that address LGBT issues in education, LGBT-supportive school staff, and LGBT-related materials in school libraries.
  • The 2009 survey includes responses from 7,261 LGBT students between the ages of 13 and 21 from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data collection was conducted through community-based groups, online outreach, and targeted advertising on Facebook and MySpace.

    Key Findings of the 2009 National School Climate Survey include:

  • 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed, and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  • 63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed, and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
  • 72.4% heard homophobic remarks frequently or often at school.
  • Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
  • 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30.0% missed at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns, compared to only 8.0% and 6.7%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.
  • The reported GPA of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.7 vs. 3.1).
  • Increased levels of victimization were related to increased levels of depression and anxiety and decreased levels of self-esteem.
  • Being out in school had positive and negative repercussions for LGBT students – outness was related to higher levels of victimization, but also higher levels of psychological well-being.
  • Positive Interventions and Support:

  • Having a Gay-Straight Alliance in school was related to more positive experiences for LGBT students, including: hearing fewer homophobic remarks, less victimization because of sexual orientation and gender expression, less absenteeism because of safety concerns, and a greater sense of belonging to the school community.
  • The presence of supportive staff contributed to a range of positive indicators including fewer reports of missing school, fewer reports of feeling unsafe, greater academic achievement, higher educational aspirations, and a greater sense of school belonging.
  • Students attending schools with an anti-bullying policy that included explicit protections based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression (like the statewide anti-bullying law passed by Equality NC last year) heard fewer homophobic remarks, experienced lower levels of victimization related to their sexual orientation, were more likely to report that staff intervened when hearing homophobic remarks, and were more likely to report incidents of harassment and assault to school staff than students at schools with a general policy or no policy.
  • Despite the positive benefits of these interventions, less than a half of LGBT students (44.6%) reported having a gay-straight alliance at school, slightly more than half (53.4%) could identify six or more supportive educators, and less than a fifth (18.2%) attended a school that had a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.
  • The times, they are a'-changin. It's good to see the positive growth occurring across the country, and it's especially good to have more data supporting the efficacy of non-discrimination policies that explicitly protect LGBT folks versus those that only provide general protections.

    Little by little, we are creating an educational environment where all students, including LGBT ones, can feel safe enough to learn and succeed in school.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    ACT NOW! DADT and ENDA ... Last Chances

    Optimistic ... that's how this year began, looking towards gay-positive federal change. The year is heading toward a close, though, and very little actual progress is in sight.

    There are, however, two LGBT items on the national stage that retain a glimmer of hope, and it's up to us to push, push, push to have them realized.

    Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT)
    The Defense Authorization bill contains compromise language for repealing the anti-gay DADT military policy.

    Call your federal Senators today to support repeal of DADT and oppose efforts to maintain DADT. It's so easy - here's what you do:

    Call/visit the Senate (you can e-mail or submit a web request, but live people are really what will make the difference) and ask to speak with your Senators:

    Burr, Richard - (R - NC)
    (202) 224-3154
    Web Form:

    Hagan, Kay R. - (D - NC)

    (202) 224-6342
    Web Form:

    The main Senate switchboard is 202/224-3121.

    Specifically tell the Senators to:
    1) OPPOSE a motion to strike the DADT repeal amendment from the bill
    2) OPPOSE any replacement or substitute DADT repeal amendment
    3) OPPOSE any attempt to modify the DADT repeal amendment in the bill
    4) OPPOSE any filibuster attempt
    5) SUPPORT final passage of the Defense Authorization bill

    You can make the point that the following countries allow open service of LGBT folks in their militaries:
    • Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Uruguay
    ... while these do not:
    • Cuba, China, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Syria, Turkey, Yemen
    Birds of a feather flock together - it's pretty clear which group the United States should want to belong with!

    Recently DADT was found unconstitutional by a federal judge. If the US Department of Justice doesn't appeal this ruling, DADT may simply go away. Encourage US Attorney General Eric Holder to let the ruling stand. Write, call, or e-mail (public comments are a drop in the bucket, but drops add up!):
    Eric Holder, Attorney General
    U.S. Department of Justice
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20530-0001
    public comment line - 202-353-1555
    You can use this letter to get more information and some sample language to use.

    Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
    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.

    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."

    This year has been the best opportunity ever to allow open service by LGBT servicemembers and to protect LGBT workers from unfair discrimination in employment.

    Your action will make all the difference. Act now!

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    "We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today."

    (Title quote from Stacia Tauscher.)

    Are you a kid? Do you know any kids? Do you have kids? Do you ever see any kids? OK, were you ever a kid?!

    The National Youth Advocacy Coalition maintains a collection of resources on information about the lives of LGBT and questioning young people, as well as resources specifically for these youth and youth-serving professionals nationwide. It's mission is to end discrimination against these youth and to ensure their physical and emotional well-being.

    If you ever have any questions, need a resource, or have a suggestion for a resource, they're a great place to go.

    They maintain wiki pages for:
    Check out some of their materials under these categories:
    "NYAC is committed to representing the voices of young people - the largest living generation - within the broader LGBTQ and social justice movements. Through capacity building, advocacy and youth engagement, NYAC is building a generation of impact."

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Hard Science, Gay Parents, Good Kids

    Family values are often brought up in the discussion of marriage equality, usually in the context of questioning how gay folks do as parents.

    Michael Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Standford, recently added some new scientific data to the growing collection of LGBT-family-affirming studies. Most notably, his facts and figures come the country’s largest source of data, the U.S. Census. In a study published this month in the journal Demography, Rosenfeld concludes that children being raised by same-sex couples have the same educational achievement as children raised by married heterosexual couples.

    “The census data show that having parents who are the same gender is not in itself any disadvantage to children,” he said. “Parents’ income and education are the biggest indicators of a child’s success. Family structure is a minor determinant.”

    In fact, Rosenfeld’s study shows that children of gay and married couples had lower grade-repetition rates than their peers raised by opposite-sex unmarried couples and single parents. And all children living in some type of family environment did much better than those living in group housing.

    “One of the fundamental issues in modern family law that differs from state to state is whether same-sex couples can adopt,” Rosenfeld said. “My research makes clear that there’s a huge advantage to kids to be out of the care of the state and into the care of any family.”

    Because gays and lesbians make up a smaller proportion of the American population (and those with children are a just tiny sliver), it has been difficult for researchers to conduct a representative study of how their children perform in the classroom. Opponents of marriage equality often criticize earlier studies for having sample sizes that are too small.

    “Sample size is power,” Rosenfeld said. “And the census is the biggest sample we have. This study is based on a sample of thousands and thousands of kids.”

    Despite the fact that the cost of becoming parents may be higher for gays and lesbians than for heterosexual couples, gay couples who did have children had substantially lower income and educational attainment than gay and lesbian
    couples in general. Nevertheless, their kids did well.

    Children of gay parents also tended to be racial minorities. Only 22.9% of children of heterosexual married couples are black or Hispanic, whereas 41.6% of children of gay men are black or Hispanic, and 37.1% of children of lesbians are black or Hispanic.

    “Social scientists have an obligation to shed light where they can on issues that are roiling the public,” he said. “Sometimes we have to throw up our hands and admit that something is unknowable. But in this case, we could bring some real hard data to bear on an area that was otherwise really in the dark.”

    "The analysis in this article, the first to use large-sample, nationally-representative data, shows that children raised by same-sex couples have no fundamental deficits in making normal progress through school. The core finding here offers a measure of validation for the prior, and much-debated, small-sample studies."

    (I remember the first time I heard one of my kid's friends lament the unfairness of not having two dads. Who knew how truly disadvantaged he was? Still, it behooves us all not to hold any child's parentage against him! 8-])