Saturday, December 31, 2011

Teach The Children Well

"A New Creation"
So what are you resolved to change this year?
Hell, just today?


If you don't make a plan, then you're open to anything
happening, and it'll definitely happen to you, not for you.
You can't leave life to chance.

So you want things to 'get better.' Or you want to
'handle yourself better' in the future?
Sounds great, but let's get specific.

If you need some ideas for specific changes that
will matter, look no further.

New Day Resolutions for a New Creation!

1.  Don't lay down.
No matter how scared or how outnumbered,
you can't let people see you as a doormat.
If they already have that perception, there's no time like
the present to change it. Even if it's just a matter of not
giving up, and ignoring juvenile taunts and jibes. It's
not what gets said; it's what you believe that matters.
If you know someone to be a troglodyte slob, what does
it matter what they say?

People will treat you like a victim so long as you
inform them through your actions--or inaction--
that it is permissible.

This doesn't mean going Columbine in the hallways;
standing up for self can be words, taking action with
officials, getting creative, or even taking a swing if
all else fails. If someone is hurting you and nothing
is being done about it, you have the Right to fight back.

2. Take care of yourself.
Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
Eat right, exercise, see a therapist, work out aggression
in productive ways, create, journal, find friends, have
hobbies, look good, listen to positive and supportive
music, and so forth.

You have to live the life you want and enjoy it.
If you let other people influence the quality of
your life, they win. Even if you are tentative and meek
at first, do your own thing. Don't let any area of your
life be unfulfilled or unattended.

3. Follow your heart.
Fitting in is so incredibly over-rated. Wear what you
want, speak how you speak, feel what you feel, and
be your true self. Even if it makes you stand out,
you have to have the strength to be yourself.
Because long after high school (or a job,
or a living arrangement, etc) is over, you will always
have yourself to depend on. Make it a relationship
that matters.

You are the most important person in your world.
Everyone else is secondary, and the people who don't
love and respect you? They don't matter at all in the
scheme of things. Certainly don't revolve your life or
your actions around them! Do your own thing.

4. Release, don't suppress.
It's the pushing down and suppressing of emotions
and feelings that causes real problems. Just because
there is opposition from people does not mean they
are right or insurmountable. Speak, though your
voice may quake, (as the saying goes.)

Better out than in. You have a right to be heard, you have
a right to your opinion, and you have a right to defend
yourself. Stand up. Speak up. You don't have to go crazy;
strength is in the doing and standing tall, not in breaking
stuff or cussing. It's consistency and clarity that can win it,
not raging or threatening.
(Though there may be times when going a little buck-wild
can have an impact, too!)


The point with all these suggestions is the same; you can make
a definitive change for the better at any point in your life.
It may seem whelming or frightening, but once done it gets easier.
Strength, just like fear, is contagious and cumulative.

Do what ya gotta do. We are stronger than we know, and we
can learn that at any time. If you want things to be better,
take an active participatory involvement in doing something
about it. You are in fact worth it, at any age.

Peace, and Happy New Year, my brothers and sisters!

******************************************

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Egregious Offense

"But...but I'm a victim too! I can't be a bully!"

There's a trend in media of late to make those who have done wrong
take responsibility for their errors of form or judgment by
speaking on behalf of the offended party.
Yes, having the abusers counsel the abused child.

Pictured above is Isaiah Washington, former
star of 'Grey's Anatomy.' Now, some feel he got too
severe a hit for his outrageous on-set behavior and verbal
assault of gay co-star T.R. Knight.
There was a lot more to it than that.

First of all, in this particular instance, Washington was
well known as an equal opportunity asshole on set, frustrating
and offending most everyone. He had a history of violence
with coworkers. He denied he made the homophobic remark to
Knight after it happened the first time, and then there was a second
incident.

My issue, though, is thus; Washington was urged to make a
public apology (which clearly was not his choice.) Then he
was urged (for public relations purposes) to be in a PSA
(public service announcement) in favor of gay rights
and against defamation.

I don't want to see people who are playing a role
and using the parade float of current pro-gay support
(in Hollywood circles, at least) to advance themselves.
To get up and take lightly the real injustice and offense of
loaded anti-gay words is a double slap in the face.

But having offenders 'reach out' or perform public service
to those they have hurt seems the new trend, and it's a bad one.

I would rather have ten people come out and use Washington,
or Mel Gibson, or Ann Coulter, or Bill O'Reilly, or any other
knuckle-dragging scumbag as an example of what NOT to do,
chastise them for it, and promote the right thing to do.

I would rather run a campaign of "Who's Out Now" or
"Famous Gays in History" (do you know how many everyday people
don't know that Wilde, Liberace, or even Rock Hudson were
gay?) I'd rather see people who are truly enlightened doing
education. There are people in the hip-hop community, in
the rap community, amongst black athletes, and even black actors
who are pro gay. Get them. Because homophobia and contempt
 is an especially large problem still in the black and Latino
communities.

But I don't want reluctant participation for public relations.
It's the equivalent of having rapists counsel their victims.
The wounds are too deep, too recent, and too susceptible to]
reinjury. Let the ignorant be ignorant.
I like to know who people really are.
An insincere gesture is a hollow one indeed.

*************************



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bondage is Not Acceptable


You Have The Right--
and the
Responsibility--
To Protect Yourself
From Abuse.

Don't Let
Anyone
Convince You Otherwise!

Speak Out...
Stand Up...
Preserve Your
Rights!

****************


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let's Stop Pretending

"Should gay kids be controllable saps who make good doormats, expected to silently endure shit and not respond in kind?
The Hell you say!!!"


Let's stop pretending that being nice and calm gets equal
treatment in return.


The only message a bully understands is that his or her
target is no longer going to be victimized by them.


We MUST teach our youth to defend themselves on every
level. Obviously, even with support, these times are tough,
and take a physical and emotional toll on kids already
dealing with the stresses of being a teenager.


Even the biggest sissy or flamboyant queen can--and
should--learn to protect and defend themselves. There
are judo and karate and tae kwon do classes in many small
communities. There are boxing rings and tracks. There are gyms
and online classes, instructional videos, tutorials.


But even before we get to this point, how do we change
the inner emotional landscape? Because it's the programming
we have inside that has kept us submissive, passive, and weak.


We have generations of gays, lesbians, bi, trans folks
who have been systematically trained and conditioned
in every area of their lives to believe that they have nothing
to offer the world. That we are sub-par people, even. In
many circles, the argument extends to our being evil or ungodly.
And this message is delivered covertly and overtly in a variety
of ways every single day. This political season is proving
especially harmful with all the deceit and hate being bandied
about for the sake of ill-gotten votes.

Having rejected religion and its false gods as ridiculous
superstition and supernatural conjecture, these myths
have no sway over me. But for many who are embedded in
a religious family or a church, where religion and 'belief' is
a lifestyle of fanatical observance, these promotions are
harmful indeed. These notions are looked on as 'fact' rather
than opinion. Science and common sense matter very little
to someone who is having their thinking done for them.


We must address the esteem issue, and where it originates.
The lack of connectedness is a real and damaging problem.
At the fragile stages of not being fully developed in self or in
standing up for self or having had enough chances to strengthen
confidence and competence, the overwhelmingly negative images
and ideas that bombard these kids serve to erode the newly
blooming self-love.

Add to this that we are all bashed and broken from birth to
defer to the authority of a particular place or system, so if we
are not being protected in a school, church, family, we feel
powerless and without the 'right' to assert protection on our own.
Furthermore, the complicitness of authority to allow our abuse
sends a signal that we aren't worth protecting. Nothing could be
further from the truth. The lacking of public officials highlights
their incompetence and shame, not ours.

We have to teach them to know and love and embrace
themselves fully, so that they know they are worth protecting.
They must overcome the intimidation of a world and its
oppressors that promote the falsehood of gay people being
'lesser.'

Let's stop pretending that there isn't a double standard in place.
Bullies--jackasses, violent people, poor communicators, scum,
religious terrorists, etc--seem to get a free pass in society because
people are either afraid of them or don't know what to do with
them, or both. But the rest of us, already the subject of a bully's 
taunts and harassment, are expected to take up the slack and
be the 'bigger' people. The good guys are expected to tolerate
and endure and smile sweetly and make a nice doormat while,
at best, fingers are wagged and empty scoldings are leveled at
bullies.

This is the way it has been for some time. There is a sense of
avoiding the reality of the hierarchy of the world; that might
does in fact tend to make right. (But let a 'victim' lash out or
fight back, defending themselves; then all holy Hell breaks
loose!) Why is it that it becomes acceptable with repetition
for a bully to do certain actions, and people become resigned
to it and even apologist for it, but a defensive strike against
these very actions draws excited fury? Like I said; double
standards, hypocrisy, unfairness.

Here's a tough pill; the world is full of those things. It's the
nature of the beast. But we still have to fight the battle.
We still have to take the battle to them. Zero tolerance
policies are important. Education and advocacy and
outreach are important. But the real battles are within.

However, Will Rogers said it so well;
"You can't legislate intelligence and common sense."

So we bear down and accept that the world can suck
and be unfair; and we recognize that we MORE than have
a right to be alive in it.  We MORE than have a right to live
well and be treated well. We have to aggressively learn a
better defense; think outside the box, stop passively awaiting
help to come from outside sources. Our hero is within. It
always has been...we just weren't taught that.

Stop striking in. Throw off the shackles;
Embrace your greatness, refute the lies.
Know your power.
You can do this.

************************************************

Saturday, November 26, 2011

ENOUGH!

These past few weeks have been littered with story after story of
still more teens killing themselves in response to bullying at school
and online, as well as general depression about their sexuality.

Well, god-damned ENOUGH and GET THE FUCK OVER IT ALREADY.

Sorry, but the empathy has left the building.
I will honor no dead because the attention seems to be convincing
some that attention after-the-fact is worth killing yourself over.
With all the resources and all the available people, there's no
justification.

Yes, life is hard. Better well jolly cotton up to that shit and let's all
bloody well fucking move on to the main feature, shall we?

Instead of creating a world where we abolish the taunters and teasers--
which is, by the way, never going to happen--why don't we all get industrious
and do some real damned good? Like making our youth stronger.

We can't change what others will do, and I don't mean to say give up on
holding them responsible. But no one can be passive in life and survive,
and a lot of these kids are ill-equipped for reality because 'being gay'
to them is all about the aesthetic, the idea, the quaint "while in your room
talking to your sympathetic friends and watching 'Will & Grace' re-runs"
un-reality of being gay in a fantasy world.

But this world is not that. It's another beast all together.

People are rude, and cruel, and hurtful.
But they can only win if you care about what they say....
if you show that they have sway over you...
if you aren't able to fight back.
They only win when you stop trying and give up.

It isn't about size or strength or being butch or becoming a bully
yourself. Plenty of drag queens and trans folks and petite women
know all about being Fierce not because it is innate, but because it
is necessary in order to survive! You have to be able to adapt.

Survival is key, and you have to evolve to survive.

It's time to train ourselves in how to be better fighters, promoters
of self, and egotists. It's time for confidence-building and speaking
up and training and not taking shit.

So you're afraid? Good, acknowledge it and move on.
Everybody's scared of life. Anyone that tells you otherwise is a
lying sack of shit. You only get courageous by facing fear, not giving
in to it.

And yes, life does get better, but only with WORK. You have to do
your part, not give in and give up. You can't wait for a hero, honey
chiles. You have to BECOME your own god-damned hero.
And that's the facts, Jack.

Stop hurting yourselves.
Stop allowing the enemy to win.
Stop thinking of yourselves as weak or less than.
Stop striking in when you should be striking out.

You are all fierce and fabulous and beautiful, my gay and lesbian
and conflicted and bi and trans and queer and unlabeled and straight
outcasts, and I love you dearly. At any age. In any place. Of any race.
Of any size.

For the love of creation and the unique and gorgeous life that
you are...stop hurting yourself...and do whatever it takes to
find your voice, fight back, and live life loud and proud.

Be strong.
Be courageous.
It is within you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Remembering artist & activist Keith Haring




Since it seems so much of the LGBT history is not known
in this younger, more self-sufficient age, I thought looking
back on our shared past and some of our greats
would be a good means of introduction.


Haring was a young gay man who used art to reach
audiences in everyday settings. He was interested in
education, creating unity, and eliminating the divide
between classes (and overcoming people's aversion to art.)




Finding new avenues for expression and utilizing
simple but bold designs, color, and imagery was
enticing and approachable. His interests included
fighting Apartheid, AIDS, and the crack epidemic.




From humble beginnings (subway chalk drawings,
graffiti art, mixed media) he grew a worldwide empire
based in social consciousness in a time when being
openly gay was still anathema and conservatism
was in swing.




Haring only lived to be 31, but his influence
and impact were tremendous. (He inspires and influences
me personally to this day!) His art is still
used as the icon for the annual
"National Coming Out Day" celebration,
among many other events.

***************



Friday, November 11, 2011

A Powerful Point on Bullying



Here's a great piece from a friend in PFLAG,
illustrating a major oversight in how many cases
of bullying are handled.

**************************************************************************

D. Michael Cavalier



A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying.
She gave them the following exercise to perform: They were
asked to take a piece of paper and crumple it up, stomp on it,
and really mess it up - not rip it.
 
Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look
at how scarred and dirty it was. She then asked them to tell it
they’re sorry.
 
Although they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper,
she pointed out all the scars that they left behind, and that
those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried
to fix it. That is what happens when someone bullies a child;
they may say they’re sorry, but the scars are there forever.
 
The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told
her the message hit home.
 
Pass it on.
 
***********************************************

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Devil in God's Clothing

So I live far out and have a hell of a time with
radio reception at my place. Consequently, sometimes
I get a station I wouldn't ordinarily listen to, like a
Fox News subscriber network.

Yesterday was just such a day, and I was subjected
to a ludicrous "Focus on the Family" 'news' update.

They had a piece about how the gay and lesbian service
members (and veterans) are looking to use momentum
from the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to overturn
DOMA.

And how even though the country is firmly against this,
those poor lawmakers are being railroaded by those
fanatical gays.

And how we Queers are looking to get hold of the
government's money by getting all these benefits and
special rights.

And how this 'Agenda' is going to be forced down
the country's throat in an effort to legitimize homosexuality.

And then, they did the unthinkable, even for them.
(Although really it's an old ploy for these lying bastards.)
They immediately followed that story with a story about
child molesters using the Village Voice classified ads section
to promote child sex trade.

That's all it takes; just to connect the images of the two things
(which are completely unrelated) in the minds of the scared
and reactionary American public. These saps who believe that
Fox is fair and balanced, and think 'Focus on the Family' is
credible and well-minded.

I don't have a problem with people having an opinion, and
certainly not with expressing it as opinion. But when these
yahoos use lies and misinformation and scare tactics to create
an atmosphere of distrust and hatred, that's war.

And anything goes in war.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"The Hell you say!?!?"


People are still celebrating
and acknowledging
scummy and outdated
'Columbus Day'
 and the Queers don't get a day
off for National Coming Out Day?

Sounds like some Republican
horseshit
if you ask me!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Culture of Duplicity & Inauthentic Living

Former Governor of New Jersey,  James E. McGreevey is perhaps
best known for his startling declaration in 2004 that he was gay and
had been having an affair with a male staff member.

His book, "The Confession", is a gripping and revealing tale of
a man's upbringing and all the facets of living a double life. It's
excruciating to read of all the secrecy and lies that people still
endure in this 'modern' age.

My outlook over closeted public figures has softened somewhat
over the years. I do know there is more than one side to the
story of how people act and live. This book is making me even
more sympathetic to the plight of men and women in this dilemma.

My take has always been that just because I live my life openly
and on my sleeve, I have no expectation that there is only one
way to live as a gay man. (Or woman, or bi, what have you.)

In fact, the way I live is indicative of maybe only 10% of the gay
population. Most favor a quieter, more discreet life. A simpler
and less confrontational way of being. What I do is not about
critiquing anyone else, or suggesting a 'better' way; it's the way I
have to live. And I want to change things in this world do that
no one else has to live a life of desperation like the one McGreevey
so heartbreakingly demonstrates in his autobiography.

All of the hurdles of denying one's own affections, living a life
for others' needs instead of one's own, the lies, the constant fear;
it's all achingly detailed in an honest and straight-forward way that
is engaging and real. For anyone who has ever dealt with feelings
of difference, or being gay, or who knows someone gay, I urge you
to read this book.

It's a blueprint for an unfortunately huge segment of the populace
that we need to address. There are still far too many hurting souls
out there. It's a call for all of us to live a more truthful existence.



Saturday, August 13, 2011

NEW YORK TIMES commentary


August 11, 2011

We Want Cake, Too

By JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN

Belgrade Lakes, Me.

A few years ago, I did an article on a ventriloquists' convention in Fort Mitchell, Ky., home to 8,000 souls and the Vent Haven Museum, where dummies go to die.

As a transgender woman, I felt strangely at home at this convocation of adorable misfits. Not only were there guys walking around with puppets, there was a Puppet Ministry run by a preacher who sold his own line of dummies (Satan was the most expensive).

There was this whole scene down in the bar after hours. One guy tried to pick me up using something he called "the muffle voice." People threw their voices. There were fights. One guy, staring into his beer, said, sadly, "A bunch of magicians in the same room? That's a conversation. A bunch of ventriloquists? That's an argument."

I thought of this line after New York passed its marriage-equality law in June. Since then, gay men and lesbians have been lining up from Fire Island to Niagara Falls in order to tie the knot.

As this wave of progress ripples through the country, though, one group of people has been prominently left behind. In conversations with transgender people, again and again, I hear the refrain: Enjoy your cake, folks. Meanwhile, the rest of us remain at risk for discrimination and violence.

More than a few transgender people feel they've been sold out by the gay-rights movement and lament the way the "T" in "L.G.B.T." always comes last. It makes me think, "A bunch of straight people in a room? That's a conversation. A bunch of L.G.B.T. people in a room? That's an argument."

When you look at the staggering statistics concerning the struggles of transgender people, it's easy to understand resentment over the amount of resources put into the fight for marriage rights. Transgender people, according to a nationwide study released early this year by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, are nearly four times more likely to live in poverty than the general population. Forty-one percent of respondents reported attempting suicide; of those who came out as students, 78 percent reported harassment, 35 percent physical assault and 12 percent sexual violence. Nineteen percent said they had been homeless. Among transgender people of color, the numbers are even worse.

The right to marry clearly isn't the most urgent civil rights issue lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (L.G.B.T.) people face.

Still, it's not surprising that marriage rights came first. The lives of gay men and lesbians have finally become part of the fabric of American life. It seems to be harder for people to get their minds around the transgender experience. It takes a much larger leap of imagination for straight people to understand the difference between who you want to go to bed "with," and who you want to go to bed "as." Frequently, gay and lesbian people struggle with this distinction just as much as straight people do.

But if transgender people are sometimes at odds with their gay and lesbian allies, they're also at odds with themselves. The community is rife with disagreements about whether transsexuals (individuals who change, or wish to change, their gender via medical intervention, and whom some define as simply having a "birth challenge" like, say, a cleft palate) even ought to be grouped, politically, with "transgenders" (an umbrella term that includes cross-dressers and drag queens).

Whenever I hear about groups splintering into smaller factions, it's hard for me not to think of John Cleese in Monty Python's "Life of Brian," protesting that he's not with the Judean People's Front; he's with the People's Front of Judea. In short, infighting seems to guarantee that whatever progress is made for gay men and lesbians, transgender people will continue to lag behind.

We can't afford that. It is painful that the pressing issues of trans-rights seem forgotten beneath the din of wedding bells, but progress in civil rights can only come with the numbers and resources found in unity. Gay men and lesbians, for their part, ought to remember, on the way home from Niagara Falls, that it was drag queens and transsexuals at Stonewall who began this fight.

At that convention in Fort Mitchell, I met a female ventriloquist who was clearly one of my people. Among the crowds and wild-eyed talking figures, the two of us drew close. She said she'd read my memoir about my transition. I said, with a smile, "I think you and I have something in common."

But it was clear from her expression that whatever group she thought I belonged to, it was at odds with her own. Her dummy wiggled its wooden ears and looked at me with irritation and contempt. "Why Jenny Boylan," it said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Jennifer Finney Boylan, the author, most recently, of "Falcon Quinn and the Crimson Vapor," serves on the board of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and is a guest columnist.



Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Pendulum


We need to be cautious and smart in the days that
come, because danger is unfortunately looming.

Throughout history, there has always been significant
backlash whenever society lurches forward against
the wishes of certain parties.

With all the changes in military policy regarding
gays and lesbians, advances in the right to marry,
visible strength in the rise of the gay-straight
alliances, sports stars and politicians in support
of gay rights and protection, and the anti-bullying
campaigns continuing to gain momentum,
many who oppose gays and lesbians are truly
'sick of hearing about it.'

When social progress pushes through, there will
always be an equal and opposite resistance to
it. Add to that the violent and hateful guttural
response that people in this country have towards
the mere idea of homosexuality, and there is a
tempest in a tea pot. (Allusion intentional.)

With the influence of extremists and the religious,
there is a lot of fear and misinformation and absolutism
afoot. It all makes for a lot of sick folks who are
looking for a place to have their 'voice' heard.

SPLC reports attacks on gays and lesbians up
significantly this last year. (And with worsening
economic conditions and other uncontrollable
circumstances burdening people, everyone loves a
good scapegoat.)

Attacks and vandalism surrounding pride parades
this year were insane.

All the nut ball Republican candidates are out to
get us with both barrels...literally, it seems.

These people know that there are freaks like the
Norway shooter out in the crowd, soaking up their
rhetoric and hate speech....and they play to it.
The fanatics are the core base for this new group
of wing nuts. It's a dangerous game, and all they have
to do is play innocent when someone gets hurt or
dies.

The attacks will be more outspoken.
The attackers will be without remorse.
We will be blamed for causing our own pain.

They feel attacked by virtue of our being treated
appropriately. They feel justified by their dislike,
supported by a twisted version of a divine creator.
They see themselves as inherently right, and us
as a 'cause'--not human beings--to be stopped.

So be wary....be on guard. We can't let them make
us stop living our lives, but just be alert and know that
with great freedom and respect come more obstacles
and threats. Such is life in these Un-tied States.

Peace...

Friday, July 22, 2011

HEARTSTRONG letter



July 21, 2011


I was a senior religion major at a major Christian university studying for ministry. I felt that this was the plan for my life. I had always known I was gay but was terrified to ever entertain the homosexual thoughts and feelings in my mind. It was at this juncture in my life that I knew I had to deal with these feelings. I had come to the place where I could barely make myself get out of bed due to depression caused by the "sinfulness" of my thoughts. I contemplated suicide but could never bring myself to do it. I felt I had no place to turn. I did not dare reveal my secret to anyone for fear of being discovered or worse yet, kicked out.

I decided to maintain my secret and seek counseling. I traveled 200 miles once a week for about three weeks. I could not afford the gas. The counseling was supposed to convince me of the sinfulness of my homosexuality and reform me to the point of being able to start my own traditional family consisting of a wife and children. Exhausted I sought help from an online exgay service. My counselor was a man who had been a Baptist minister. He had been caught in the act of homosexuality an immediately removed from his position. He informed me of outlets and support groups offered by exgay groups. The more I read the more I was convinced that it wasn't so much about change as it was about repression.

I knew there had to be some organization that was committed to the support of homosexuals seeking help. I decided to begin that search. Online, I found an organization called HeartStrong. I sent an email describing my situation and myself. I received a warm and understanding response from Marc Adams. He assured me that my feelings were natural and were not sinful or wrong. He sent me a free copy of his own story, a book called, The Preacher's Son. I was so anxious to read it. It seemed unimaginable that another person could share my feelings and situation. When I got the book, I hurried to my dorm room and began reading it. It was inscribed "When your heart is strong, you're never alone."

Four hours later I completed the book without any breaks. I was so absorbed by the text, so much that I felt it was my own story sometimes. After reading it, I knew I had to free the captive inside me. I decided to return to my hometown. Shortly after that I began coming out to my family and friends. Many abandoned me and one even vocalized their wish for my death. I was disappointed and hurt but my mind often reflected back to Marc's story and the kindness of the people at HeartStrong. It was there that I found comfort and solace.

Nearly two years have passed since I came out to my supposed friends and family. I am living a full and happy life as a gay man with new friends and family that go beyond the boundaries of blood relations. This would not have been possible without the help of HeartStrong. I am forever grateful.

Kevin Lawling

*******************************************************

NOTE FROM HEARTSTRONG PRESIDENT, Dr. Shelley Craig

Kevin's story is not unusual. For early 15 years HeartStrong has provided hope and help for students just like Kevin. Students who struggle with self-acceptance and the ordeal of after effects from family members who choose to make coming out a discussion/debate instead of an announcement.

It does not take much to give someone hope. We have spent the past 15 years opening the door for over 1000 students who feel that there is no hope to be found.

We cannot do this without you, our HeartStrong Friends. We provide our life saving materials without you.

For those who have given, thank you. For those who will give , thank you.

If you are in any of the areas where we will have HeartStrong Forums as listed below, please come out to find out more about all that we are doing to save lives.

Dr. Shelley Craig
President, HeartStrong Inc.


2011 HeartStrong Forums

July 19 UU Church Longview TX
July 17 PFLAG Chicago IL
July 23 Michiana GLBT Center South Bend IN
July 24 PFLAG Oak Park IL
July 27 PFLAG Munster IN
August 2 UU Church/PFLAG Jefferson City MO
August 3 UU Church Columbia MO
August 4 PFLAG Belleville IL
August 7 PFLAG Hinsdale IL
August 8 Kalamazoo Public Library Kalamazoo MI
August 14 Elkhart IN
August 17 PFLAG South Orange County CA
August 18 PFLAG Simi Valley CA
August 23 PFLAG Whittier CA
August 28 UU Church La Crescenta CA
September 4 UU Church Las Vegas NV
September 6 PFLAG Modesto CA
September 11 PFLAG Napa CA
September 12 PFLAG Redwood City CA
September 14 PFLAG San Jose CA
September 18 PFLAG Philadelphia PA
September 19 PFLAG Collingswood PA
September 27 PFLAG Baltimore County MD
October 2 Wayne NJ
October 9 Albany NY
October 11 PFLAG Columbia MD
October 13 PFLAG Wilmington DE
October 16 UU Church Hunterdon County NJ
October 16 Somerset NJ
October 24 PFLAG Staten Island NY
November 12 Pittsburgh PA
December 4 Dahlonega GA
February 26 River of Grass UU Church Weston FL

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Minnesota school district lawsuit by SPLC


July 21, 2011

Dear Friend,

Today, we've filed a federal lawsuit to protect gay, lesbian and transgender students in a Minnesota school district where at least four LGBT students have died by suicide in the past two years.

The Anoka-Hennepin school district near Minneapolis is "ground zero" in our fight to stop the rampant bullying of LGBT students. Physical and verbal abuse has been allowed to flourish under the district's so-called "neutrality" policy.

The misguided policy stigmatizes LGBT students — casting them as pariahs who are not welcome in the school community, a message that encourages their abusers.

This bullying has devastating consequences, as the heartbreaking suicides in Anoka-Hennepin and elsewhere illustrate.

You can learn more about the situation in the Anoka-Hennepin school district in a special CNN investigative piece scheduled to air at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 24.

Our work would not be possible without the support of people like you. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children who are suffering from bigotry and injustice.

Sincerely,




J. Richard Cohen

President, Southern Poverty Law Center


http://www.splcenter.org/?source=redirect&url=southernpovertylawcenter



*********************************************************

Breaking News; School Officials Increase LGBT protection

PRESS RELEASE


SAFEGUARDING AMERICAN VALUES FOR EVERYONE
PRESS CONTACT:
CJ ORTUNO
(305) 751-7283
cj@savedade.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


THURSDAY, JULY 21, 2011


BREAKING: MIAMI-DADE SCHOOL OFFICIALS INCREASE PROTECTIONS FOR LGBT STUDENTS

Miami-Dade, FL – Three years after Florida passed the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, which prohibits the bullying or harassment, including cyber bullying, of any public K-12 student or employee, Miami-Dade County Administration amended their policy to be explicitly inclusive of students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). The policy will now include “sexual orientation and gender identity” providing clearer protections for LGBT students.

“For the past year we’ve focused on strengthening Miami-Dade’s anti-bullying policy as a way to create a climate where bullying a student because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity is no longer tolerated,” said C.J. Ortuno, executive director of SAVE Dade. SAVE Dade worked with their partner the ACLU of Florida in developing the policy’s new language.

“The most common forms of bullying and harassment in Florida schools, and across the country, are based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical appearance,” said Shelbi Day, ACLU of Florida LGBT Project Attorney. “Although the state anti-bullying law clearly prohibits bullying and harassment of any students, it is imperative that individual school district policies make clear that bullying and harassment of LGBT students is prohibited and will not be tolerated. This is a critical step in making Florida schools truly safe for all students.”

According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey 7,261 middle and high school students found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (84.6%) experienced harassment at school in the previous year. Miami-Dade County provides significant support through public school programs and nonprofit organizations for LGBT students.

Suzy Milano, Director of Mental Health and Crisis Management Services for Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Coordinator of the District’s Sexual Minority Network said, “Our work provides prevention and intervention services that promotes awareness, diversity, and acceptance in the fourth largest school district in the country.” Ms. Milano’s project is unique to Florida’s school systems with services focused on protecting students from bullying in schools. Milano also credits SAVE Dade’s technical support as being critical to the policy’s success. The amendment took place during a county wide update aimed at improving and streamlining many of the school district’s administrative policies.

Whereas policy is an important factor in providing anti-bullying protections, it is one of several actions being taken to protect the interest of all students. “To confront bullying head on, we need a balanced approach by passing effective policy and offering programs that educate faculty/administration; removes barriers for reporting; and provides support and safety for all affected students,” said Carla Silva, executive director of the Alliance for GLBTQ Youth. Silva’s organization takes a holistic approach by integrating education, advocacy, and services into programming that helps our LGBT students.

“SAVE Dade’s contribution is to strengthen policies in hope that it provides some clarity for adults and students on the frontlines of bullying – if a teacher knows and understands that gay students are explicitly protected from bullying, it could result in a report that saves a young person’s life,” said Ortuno.

The new policy updates will go into effect Friday, July 22, 2011. An English version will be posted on the school board’s website at that time, with Spanish and Creole versions to follow.

The new policy language will read:

"Bullying, Harassment, Cyberbullying, and Discrimination (as referred to and defined herein) encompasses, but is not limited to, unwanted harm towards a student or employee based on or with regard to actual or perceived: sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability (physical, mental, or educational), marital status, socio-economic background, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, linguistic preference, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or social/family background. This policy prohibits bullying or harassment of any student by any Board member, District employee, consultant, contractor, agent, visitor, volunteer, student, or other person in the school or outside of the school at school-sponsored events, on school buses, and at training facilities or training programs sponsored by the District."

SAVE Dade's mission is to promote, protect and defend equality for people in Miami-Dade County who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Established in 1993, SAVE Dade accomplishes this mission through education initiatives, outreach, grassroots organizing, and advocacy. Starting with the landmark passage of Miami's Human Rights Ordinance in 1998 to recent enactments of domestic partner benefit policies, SAVE continues to lead the fight for LGBT equality in Miami-Dade County through grassroots action focused on civil rights, parental rights, and relationship recognition through political advocacy, community outreach, and candidate endorsements.







Paid for by SAVE Dade

4500 Biscayne Blvd
Suite 340
Miami, FL 33137


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Equal Time


http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-falcons/michael-irvin-appears-on-1012516.html

Here's a really good article about Michael Irving appearing on
the cover of the latest issue of OUT magazine.

As a friend pointed out, a straight black man appearing on
the cover of a national LGBT mag is major, and a big step up
for the black community.

Certainly there's a lot of damage to be undone by the likes of
David Tyree as a mouthpiece for NOM. Black folks have
been notoriously bad about anti-gay sentiment, confusingly
so based on their own experiences with prejudice, so here's
hoping this provides some help with that.

The article features some interesting bits, including
Irvin coming to terms with his own homophobia.

To read the article in its entirety online, go to:
http://www.out.com/index.asp?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Few Small Facts

Let's talk some sobering facts to shed light on why a
mobile message board is important, since some people
just plain "don't get it."
("Why do you have to draw attention to yourself?"
"What are you trying to accomplish?"
"Why would you do that to your car?")
Understanding is a good place to start.
Here are some facts from a study, the Massachusetts
2006 Youth Risk Survey.

* Gay and lesbian teenagers (kids struggling with
homosexual attractions) are FOUR TIMES more likely
to attempt suicide than their classmates.

* For every suicide that does take place, there
are an estimated 100-200 ATTEMPTS that take
place. That's 1000s of kids who feel they would rather
be dead than live in this world as a gay person, because
of the grief you deal with in areas like this.

* Kids rejected by their families for being gay were nearly
9 times more likely to attempt suicide, feeling abandoned
and rejected by those supposedly closest.

******************************************
So what are some solutions, besides basic visibility to
eliminate the notion of being alone?

Kids needing help can call 1-866-4-U-Trevor
or 1-800-SUICIDE for help.

There are also books for parents and kids on
dealing with the feelings;
* Loving Someone Gay (by Don Clark)
* Prayers for Bobby (by Leroy Aarons)
* Always My Child; A Parent's Guide  (by Kevin Jennings)
and many more.

There are support groups like PFLAG (Parents and
Friends of Lesbians & Gays) which are also a safe place
for gay and lesbian or confused youth to go.

There are the awesome "It Gets Better" videos on youtube.

TV Shows like GLEE, movies like "But I'm A Cheerleader"
and others....

The computer is a massive, awesome resource and connection.

If you go to the doctor, you know he's going to give
you medicine, whether you need it or not.

If your soul is hurting, you don't seek solace with a
traditional church where they're going to condemn you
and berate you and demonize you. (There are newer,
more modern, more loving churches out there, though.)

We are human beings with tremendous souls and creativity,
and where the mind and heart have needs, solutions will
present themselves.

Friday, April 22, 2011

LGBT Youth Action Alert

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will be holding a hearing on May 13 addressing inter-student violence targeted against LGBT youth. According to Commissioner Roberta Achtenberg, the event is historic as it will be the first time the Civil Rights Commission will host a hearing on an LGBT-related issue.


We’ve received a specific request to encourage our members touched by inter-student violence targeted against LGBT youth (and those perceived to be so) to share their stories in writing with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for inclusion in the public record. The Commission defines “inter-student violence,” as any verbal and physical assaults, teasing, bullying and any other form of harassment.

The goal of the story collection is to build a record from the contributions of people all across the country. If possible, please forward this information to your networks, or otherwise share it with anyone whom you think might want to contribute a story. These letters will be an invaluable means for helping the Commission understand the nature, pervasiveness, geographic spread, and negative outcomes of such violence. Stories shared in this way will help to set the stage for testimony and filings by a number of social science, mental health, and legal experts who are contributing to these efforts from their professional perspectives.

The letters need not be formal or in any particular format. Each author is encouraged to write in their own voice and to tell their story in the terms in which it was experienced. The Commission should learn of the personalities of the students and families involved, the way things happened (or are still happening), what types of people were involved (other students, school staff, and/or others), and what outcomes are being experienced for the student and for the rest of the family. Thoughts about what types of intervention might be helpful to address the causes are important as well.

In order to humanize this issue as strongly as possible, families and individuals who are comfortable doing so are encouraged to attach a picture to the front of the letter. For those contributors who are not comfortable sharing their identity openly, they should use at least one initial to identify themselves and any people relevant to their stories since the letters will be submitted to the public record. It would be extremely helpful if writers who are maintaining anonymity could at least identify a region of the state in which they live ("Northern Georgia", for example).

Letters should be sent, if possible, by May 1, 2011 for introduction into the Commission's record in advance of the May 13 hearing in D.C. The letter itself should be addressed to:

Kim Tolhurst, Esq., Acting General Counsel
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
624 Ninth St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001

Please note that the envelope should be addressed and mailed to Commissioner Achtenberg’s special assistant, Alec Duell at:

c/o Alec Deull
3102 Krueger Road
North Tonawanda, NY 14120

If you would like more background about the hearing, or if you have any questions regarding the story solicitation request, please contact Alec Deull at deullusccr@gmail.com.

Thank you!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

LGBT students blamed for their own deaths

Liberty University employee blame gay kids for suicides

Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber who works for both Liberty University and Liberty Counsel, claims that "kids who are engaging in homosexual behavior often look inward and know that what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, is immoral, and so they become depressed and the instances of suicide can rise there as well."
Barber: Gay Kids Commit Suicide Because They Know It's Unnatural and Immoral

This is not a new point of view for religious school leadership. When HeartStrong first began its work in 1996, information about HeartStrong and the role anti-GLBT messages from religious school leadership was distributed to 5,000 religious schools throughout North America.

The overwhelming response from leadership in 1996 was that GLBT students bring suicide on themselves for giving in to sin and succumbing to the guilt that comes "naturally from God."

Nearly 15 years later the message is still the same. With less than a handful of exceptions, religious educational institutions are still unable to provide safe learning environments for students. With the popularity of religious education rising and parents rushing to place their children in religious schools, the work of HeartStrong remains more relevant with each passing day.
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YOU SHOULD KNOW...
Since founder Jerry Falwell's death, his "ministry" and schools are growing tremendously. His two sons have taken over and wiped out all debt and put the schools on track for their original growth goals.

Liberty University is now the nation's eighth-largest four-year university and the largest four-year private, nonprofit university, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. It is also the world's largest Christian university. Liberty was ranked 25th among four-year universities in 2009. In 2000, the overall enrollment was only 8,606.

Liberty currently has 64,610 students, making it the largest four-year college in Virginia. George Mason University, the second-largest college in Virginia, has 39,977 students.

Liberty University remains a anti-GLBT school as does Liberty Christian Academy. The incredible growth and popularity of these schools (like so many others) is one reason why parents place their children there. Students struggling with orientation and identity issues are thrust into an enivronment that is difficult to survive.

"[Homosexuals are] brute beasts...part of a vile and satanic system [that] will be utterly annihilated, and there will be a celebration in heaven." - Jerry Falwell

(Excerpted from the Heartstrong newsletter. For more info on tracking anti-gay religious schools
and finding help from their intolerance and exclusion, contact Heartstrong at http://www.heartstrong.org/ )

The Bluer the Oregon County, the lower the Gay-Teen Suicide Rate

from "Top of the Ticket"
Andrew Malcolm's political commentary in the L.A. Times
April 18th, 2011


In a newly released study primarily focused on gay-teen suicide rates in Oregon, some interesting details were discovered. The numbers of suicide attempts by gay teens went down by 20% in counties whose schools had anti-bullying, anti-discrimination policies and/or a Gay-Straight Alliance. The suicide rate was also lower when the proportion of Democrats was higher in the county.


A community that was supportive of gay teens not only curbed suicide among gays, the study found, but also lowered the rate of suicide attempts by heterosexual students by 9%.

Researchers led by Mark Hatzenbuehler looked at five aspects of the social environment surrounding gay, lesbian and bisexual youth on a countywide level: the proportion of schools with anti-bullying policies specifically protecting these students; the proportion of schools with a Gay-Straight Alliance; the proportion of schools with anti-discrimination policies that included sexual orientation; the proportion of same-sex couples; and the proportion of Democrats in the county. Then they rated each of Oregon's 34 counties based on the results of those findings.

The study found that a more supportive social environment was associated with 20% fewer suicide attempts than an unsupportive environment. A supportive environment was also associated with a 9% lower rate of attempted suicide among heterosexual students.
"That suggest that when you create environments supportive for lesbian, gay and bisexual youths, it creates a healthier environment for all youths," Hatzenbuehler told Oregon Live.

Of the 1,400 of teens surveyed, 4% to 5% identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Of those students, nearly 22 out of every 100 said they had attempted suicide in the last year. Only 4% of kids who identified themselves as heterosexual said they had attempted suicide.
"Regardless of your views, our data suggest that the inclusion of Gay-Straight Alliances and anti-discrimination programs can have really important mental-health outcomes for our youths," Hatzenbuehler told CBS News. "This is a road map to how we can begin to reduce teen suicide."

Hatzenbuehler studied children in Oregon -- through responses from nearly 32,000 11th-graders in 2006, 2007 and 2008 -- because it is the only state that tracks sexual orientation and suicide attempts in enough detail to compare social factors.

Suicide Risk May be Lower for Gays, Lesbians in 'Supportive' Areas



Suicide risk may be lower for gays, lesbians in 'supportive' areas


http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-suicide-gay-teens-20110418,0,6131754.story

Suicide risk may be lower for gays, lesbians in 'supportive' areas

Los Angeles Times - Marissa Cevallos

By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey
April 18, 2011, 4:15 p.m.


Lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are much more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers, research has shown, but a new study suggests that a supportive school and community might be able to reduce that risk, if only slightly, for both groups.

Researchers from Columbia University analyzed a survey of 31,852 Oregon 11th-graders in which the students were asked, among other things, about their sexual orientation, drinking habits, and whether they had attempted suicide. The researchers also scored 34 of Oregon’s 36 counties on how supportive of gays and lesbians the environment was based on the proportion of same-sex couples in the community; the proportion of registered Democrats in the community; whether schools had gay-straight alliances; and whether schools had anti-bullying and antidiscrimination policies specifically protecting lesbian, gay and bisexual students.

In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers confirmed that homosexual and bisexual students were far more likely to attempt suicide than their classmates—nearly 22% compared with 4%, a tragic gap researchers already knew existed. But they also found that among gay, lesbian and bisexual students the risk of suicide was about 20% greater in negative environments than in supportive ones—25.5% of non-heterosexual students had tried to commit suicide at least once in negative environments compared with 20.4% in positive environments.

RELATED: Medical records and health studies should track sexual orientation and gender identity, report says

Negative environments were associated with suicide attempts in non-heterosexual students even after adjusting for known suicide risks such as depression, alcohol use, and past physical abuse by an adult.

The researchers wrote in their conclusion: “The social environment appears to confer risk for suicide attempts over and above individual-level risk factors. These results have important implications for the development of policies and interventions to reduce sexual orientation–related disparities in suicide attempts. “

The study doesn’t conclude that a community’s so-called supportive characteristics, such as anti-bullying policies in schools, decrease suicide attempts, says Brett Thombs, a researcher in psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal who was not involved in the research but who has studied suicide risk in non-heterosexual youth.

“I think there are many reasons schools should provide better environments for any kid, not just LGBT kids,” says Thombs. “Whether or not they would change suicide risk is a different question. The schools may be reflecting the community around them.”

Positive environments seem to offer a slight protective benefit to heterosexual students as well, as it turns out. They were 9% more likely to attempt suicide in so-called negative environments than they were in more positive environments.

The study doesn’t answer whether adopting anti-bulling policies could be as effective in schools where the community is unsupportive of gays and lesbians. A large randomized trial, where some schools adopt accepting policies and others don’t, could better answer that question.

But that could take a while to do. And teenage years are short.

RELATED: 9 million U.S. adults say they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, study finds

RELATED: The bluer the Oregon county, the lower the gay-teen suicide rate

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2011/04/teen-suicide-rates-drop-in-in-blue-counties.html


Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times