Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays, and Here's To 2011!

Equality NC wishes you and yours all the best during the holiday season, and we look forward to working with you in 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Family Blogging

In the wake of the NC Supreme Court decision that voided gay second-parent adoption in the state (*sigh*), here are some gay family blogs.

While this decision is a setback here in North Carolina, there was an upside. The court decision also affirmed gay joint custody, which was decided by the Court of Appeals a couple of years ago.

If you're a co-parent, go here for a roadmap on how to take affirmative action - by your behavior, by conveying your intentions clearly to each other, by your agreements with each other, and by what you put in writing - to codify your desire to serve as co-parents.

Obviously you should consult a lawyer for creating legal agreements. The important thing, however, is to take steps now to show your intention to raise your kid(s) together.

In the meantime, however, share the joy (and hassle) of other LGBT families raising their children:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ACT NOW! Stop Anti-Gay Art Censorship at the Smithsonian



Tell The Board of the Smithsonian That Anti-LGBT Bias Has No Place in America's Museum

Take Action

We at GLAAD are adding our voices to the chorus of others who have strongly and rightfully criticized the Smithsonian's decision to hide a piece of LGBT-themed artwork from the public.

Most of us know the story by now. Following a brief series of high profile, far-right attacks-- and despite having not received a single complaint from the public-- the Smithsonian Museum pulled the piece "A Fire in My Belly" from an exhibition titled Hide/Seek at the National Portrait Gallery a few weeks ago.

The work in question is a 10-second video that shows ants crawling on a cross. The work is meant to illustrate the suffering of an AIDS victim in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The artist of the piece is David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1992, at the age of 37.

This piece was considered important and valuable to the Hide/Seek collection when it was curated and when it opened in October. What changed on November 30, when the piece was taken out of the display? Whose voices did the board of the Smithsonian place above its own professional judgment?

As it happens, they were listening to people like Bill Donohue, Glenn Beck and John Boehner, who were once again using gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for social division – and of course, fundraising. These are the same people who have been fighting tooth and nail against employment protections for LGBT people. These are the same people who didn't want the LGBT community added to hate crimes protections. These are the same people who are trying to keep the men and women of our military in the closet - and now they're throwing works of art in there with them.

Anti-gay activists and politicians are now setting their sights on the entire LGBT exhibit and the Smithsonian itself. Opponents of the Hide/Seek exhibit have since also shared their disgust at images in the exhibit that feature men kissing.

Throughout the course of history, art has served to provoke thought and challenge opinion. This work is a powerful statement about a critical period in the history of America's LGBT community, which should not be hidden from public view because of the grandstanding of a few disingenuous critics and politicians.

Several weeks ago, GLAAD placed an op-ed in the Washington Post by a faculty member of Yale's Divinity School who said, "The truly blasphemous abomination is the church's initial reluctance, even refusal to care for, speak out about, and show dignity to literal bodies of real people with HIV/AIDS." Patrick Evans wrote, "The religious and political leaders who used World AIDS Day in this holy season of Advent to cultivate political power and raise money by focusing on 11 seconds of an artistic work by a man who died of AIDS in 1992 would do well to remember the clear and unequivocal words of the savior whose wounds they are so quick to save from crawling insects."

But we all need to do more and raise our voices even louder. Tell the Smithsonian that anti-LGBT bias and political opportunism have no business in our treasured institutions.

Take Action Now

Thank you for your time -- together, we can make a real difference.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Supportive Families, Healthy Children" - Free Booklet!

Last month, the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing featured an article "Family Acceptance in Adolescence and the Health of LGBT Young Adults." This study determined that positive and accepting family attitudes and behaviors towards LGBT children significantly increase their overall health in adulthood.

(Not exactly a newsflash, but it does provide solid, peer-reviewed data to support a bit of common-sense that many people still don't get. It's still not an uncommon event for kids to be completely rejected by homophobic parents. It's a cliche, but it's also an ongoing tragedy.)

The study shows that specific parental and caregiver behaviors, e.g., advocating for children when they are mistreated for being gay or supporting their gender expression, protect against depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts in early adulthood. In addition, LGBT youth with highly accepting families have significantly higher levels of self-esteem and social support in young adulthood.

Findings include:
  • Family accepting behaviors towards LGBT youth during adolescence protect against suicide, depression, and substance abuse.
  • LGBT young adults who reported high levels of family acceptance during adolescence had significantly higher levels of self-esteem, social support, and general health, compared to peers with low levels of family acceptance.
  • LGBT young adults who reported low levels of family acceptance during adolescence were over three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and to report suicide attempts, compared to those with high levels of family acceptance.
  • High religious involvement in families was strongly associated with low acceptance of LGBT children.
Results of the research are being translated into practical tools for parents by the study's author, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, and her team at the Family Acceptance Project in collaboration with Child and Adolescent Services at the University of California, San Francisco, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

They use a behavioral approach to help ethnically and religiously diverse families decrease rejection and increase support for their LGBT children to reduce risk for suicide, depression, substance abuse, and HIV, to promote well-being, and to prevent homelessness and placement in custodial care. This work is being conducted in English, Spanish, and Chinese with families from all ethnic backgrounds, including immigrant and very low income families, and those whose children are out-of-home in foster care and juvenile justice facilities.

To download a copy of their booklet, just go here and enter your e-mail address and zip code (which they'll use to track where their materials are used and ask for any feedback on the booklet):
"Supportive Families, Healthy Children."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

LGB Teens Bullied More ... By Schools, Police, and Courts

You know that LGBT teens are more likely to be the victims of bullying in schools, but did you know that they are more likely to be bullied by schools, as well as by police and courts? (Note: The specific data only documents LGB kids, but it's reasonable to extend the findings to T folks, too.)

It's true! And this information comes from a couple of highly credible sources: The data is from a Yale University study published in the January 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics. from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Teens Singled Out for Punishment

Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adolescents are about 40 percent more likely than other teens to be punished by school authorities, police and the courts, according to a study by Yale University researchers. Published in the January 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics, the study is the first to document excessive punishment of LGB youth nationwide.

“We found that virtually all types of punishment—including school expulsions, arrests, juvenile convictions, adult convictions and especially police stops—were more frequently meted out to LGB youth,” said lead author Kathryn Himmelstein, who initiated the study while she was a Yale undergraduate. The research was supervised by Hannah Brueckner, professor of sociology and co-director of the Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course at Yale.

The study was based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and included about 15,000 middle and high school students who were followed for seven years into early adulthood. The study collected details on participants’ sexuality, including feelings of sexual attraction, sexual relationships and self-labeling as LGB. Add Health also surveyed participants about how frequently they engaged in a variety of misbehaviors, ranging in severity from lying to parents, to using a weapon. Add Health included detailed questions about school expulsions and contacts with the criminal justice system.

Himmelstein, who now teaches math at a public high school in New York City, said that adolescents who identified themselves as LGB were about 50 percent more likely to be stopped by police than other teenagers. Teens who reported feelings of attraction to members of the same sex, regardless of their self-identification, were more likely than other teens to be expelled from school or convicted of crimes as adults.

“Girls who labeled themselves as lesbian or bisexual were especially at risk for unequal treatment,” said Himmelstein. “They reported experiencing twice as many police stops, arrests and convictions as other girls who had engaged in similar behavior. Although we did not explore the experiences of transgender youth, anecdotal reports suggest that they are similarly at risk for excessive punishment.”

The study showed that these disparities in punishments are not explained by differences in the rates of misbehavior. In fact, the study showed that adolescents who identified themselves as LGB actually engaged in less violence than their peers.

“The painful, even lethal bullying that LGB youth suffer at the hands of their peers has been highlighted by recent tragic events,” Himmelstein notes. “Our numbers suggest that school officials, police and judges, who should be protecting LGB youth, are instead singling them out for punishment based on their sexual orientation. LGB teens can’t thrive if adults single them out for punishment because of their sexual orientation.”

Brueckner added, “The study provides the first and only national estimates for over-representation of LGB youth in the criminal justice system. We simply did not have any good numbers on this before. We need more research on the processes that lead to this to help us identify ways to make our institutions more equitable with respect to policing all youth, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

Citation: Pediatrics Vol. 127, 1 (January 1, 2011)

By Karen N. Peart

PRESS CONTACT: Karen N. Peart 203-432-1326


Monday, December 6, 2010

Presidential Appointments (Amidst Disappointments)

Amidst dwindling hopes of any significant legislative progress under the hand of our current national executive officer (that's you, DADT!), there's still a definite cause of LGBT celebration from the president. Less than halfway through his first term, Barack Obama has appointed more openly gay officials than any other president in history, as well as the first openly trans appointee.

Gay activists say the estimate of more than 150 appointments so far – from agency heads and commission members to policy officials and senior staffers – surpasses the previous high of about 140 reached during two full terms under President Bill Clinton. So, in less than half a term, Obama has had more LGBT appointments than any other president, including double-termed ones.

“From everything we hear from inside the administration, they wanted this to be part of their efforts at diversity,” said Denis Dison, spokesman for the Presidential Appointments Project of the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute.

In a sign of how times have changed, few of the appointees – about two dozen required Senate confirmation – have stirred much controversy. It’s a far cry from the 1993 furor surrounding Clinton’s nomination of then-San Francisco Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg as assistant secretary for Housing and Urban Development.

Achtenberg was the first openly gay official to serve at such a senior level, and she won confirmation despite contentious hearings and opposition from NC's former Sen. Jesse Helms, who denounced her as a “militant extremist.”

Gay activists, among Obama’s strongest supporters, had hoped he would be the first to appoint an openly gay Cabinet secretary. While that hasn’t happened – yet – Obama did appoint the highest-ranking gay official ever when he named John Berry as director of the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the nation’s 1.9 million federal workers.

Other prominent names include Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Fred Hochberg, chairman of the Export-Import Bank. Obama also named Amanda Simpson, the first openly transgender appointee, as a senior technical adviser in the Commerce Department. And David Huebner, ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, is the third openly gay ambassador in U.S. history.

White House spokesman Shin Inouye confirmed the record number, saying Obama has hired more gay officials than the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations combined. He said Obama “is proud that his appointments reflect the diversity of the American public.”

“He is committed to appointing highly qualified individuals for each post,” Inouye said. “We have made a record number of openly LGBT appointments and we are confident that this number will only continue to grow.”

Dison’s group lists 124 of the appointees on its website. He said the remainder are not listed because they are lower-level officials not formally announced by the White House.

“We learn about a lot of these through informal networks and then work to confirm that they are indeed appointed and that they are openly LGBT,” Dison said.

One Obama nominee who met some opposition was Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University law professor nominated to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Concerned Women for America accused Feldblum of playing “a major role in pushing the homosexual and transsexual agenda on Americans.” Other conservative groups blasted her role in drafting the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a bill that would ban employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Obama made Feldblum a recess appointment in March after an anonymous hold in the Senate held up her confirmation for months.

Another target for conservatives was Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, who was named to oversee the Education Department’s Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools. More than 50 House Republicans asked Obama to remove Jennings from the post after reports surfaced about advice he gave more than 20 years earlier after learning a gay student had sex with an older man.

Jennings conceded that he should have consulted medical or legal authorities instead of telling the 15-year-old boy that he hoped he had used a condom. The Obama administration defended Jennings and declined to remove him.

It was in early 2008 that the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute focused its Presidential Appointments Project on steering thousands of resumes of qualified gay professionals to White House jobs. Dison said that push has helped increase the numbers, though it certainly helped to have a more receptive White House.

The more LGBT folks that work within government at lower levels, the more visibility there is for the entire movement, and the more change will ultimately occur at higher levels.

In the end, lots of small advancements add up to huge ones.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Great Hate: Anti-LGBT Violence Tops Bias Crimes. Also, Big Homophobes Classified As Official Hate Groups

Both the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Study recently released data on hate crimes for last year.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that gays are far more likely to be victims of violent hate crime than any other minority group. Its conclusion are based on 14 years of FBI hate crime data covering 1995-2008.

The center said that gays or those perceived to be gay are:
  • more than twice as likely to be attacked in a violent hate crime as Jews or blacks
  • more than four times as likely as Muslims
  • 14 times more likely as Latinos.
The FBI's data is here. The FBI notes that "The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crime Prevention Act adds two new categories to our list of biases — actual or perceived gender and gender identity. Our Uniform Crime Reporting Program staff continues to work toward expanding its training for state and local law enforcement on reporting these new categories of biases, and then on incorporating them into our future publications."

In other words, they'll have much more comprehensive and accurate data on anti-gay hate crimes going forward. Still, even before being mandated to collect this data, they found anti-gay crimes to be 18% of all hate crimes (and again, this was before they were actively collecting this data). Of anti-LGBT bias crimes, the vast majority were motivated by bias specifically against gay males.

In other related news, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a long-respected authority on hate groups in America, has added some big homophobic names to their official list of hate groups.

These are noted for "their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling." Just being anti-gay isn't enough hate groups have to be known to actively and maliciously lie and distort the truth.

Take a look at some of these newly-classified folks. These big names have long tried to argue that they're not about hate, but with their new hate status, they can no longer even pretend to be about anything more than bigotry. They include:
  • American Family Association
  • Concerned Women for America
  • Family Research Council
  • Family Research Institute
  • Liberty Counsel (affiliate of Liberty University Law School)
  • National Organization for Marriage
  • Traditional Values Coalition
Take a look at the full list of 18 antigay bigoted intuitions and specific reasons for this classification.

It's good to know where information comes from, as well as who can be trusted, and in this case, 18 groups who simply cannot. Lies can be repeated, but the truth does ultimately out. We gays now have pride, and those homophobes now have, officially, shame.