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Op-ed: More Equal, Still Unprotected


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Op-ed: More Equal, Still Unprotected

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Two years ago my family was invited to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. We were so excited but could not pass up the opportunity to make an important statement while there. We chose to use our presence at the event as a means to put pressure on President Obama to sign an executive order banning employment discrimination against LGBT people by federal contractors — an executive order the president had actually promised during his 2008 campaign.

We knew our decision to hold the president accountable would be controversial. We knew it would not be popular. But we also knew how important this executive order was to the job opportunity and job security of countless LGBT workers around the nation.

A lot has changed for my family in the time since our visit to the White House. We moved from New Mexico, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, to Florida, where there is no such state-level law. I also find myself unemployed, and I am reminded of not only how tough the job market is but the extra challenges faced by out LGBT people trying to find work.

So I am reminded of the fact that this executive order, while it would not protect every LGBT worker from discrimination, would help so many who live in places where there are no legal protections. I never would have imagined sitting down to write about the continued lack of protections two years after visiting the White House — it seems like such a simple ask.

While legislation for full federal equality is not an option with our current Congress, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act sits in the House of Representatives, where, in all likelihood, it will remain for some time, I simply cannot understand why a president who has called himself a fierce advocate for the LGBT community still refuses to sign this executive order. In a year declared by the president himself as a “year of action” via executive order, the refusal to sign this particular one is particularly egregious.

One quarter of our nation’s workforce is employed by companies contracting with the federal government, meaning that the number of LGBT workers who would be positively affected by the security and peace of mind this executive order would provide is staggering. President Obama, you made a promise you have yet to keep. I teach my daughter it is important to be true to your word, and I’m sure you instill the same value in your own children. So, now that you’ve won two elections, can we finally see a signature on this executive order?  It would mean the world to so many of us if you could simply sign your name — setting an important precedent, keeping your promise, and further paving the way for equality for all.

 

JARROD SCARBROUGH is a co–state leader of GetEqual in Florida.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/04/22/op-ed-more-equal-still-unprotected

HUD’s LGBT Rule Focus of EBCBOR’s Fair Housing Symposium

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Members of the Eastern Bergen County Board of REALTORS® (EBCBOR) gathered to hear from six industry experts as they discussed Housing Discrimination, the LGBT Community, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Equal Access Rule at the Fair Housing Symposium yesterday.

EBCBOR Chief Executive Officer, Laura Rubinfeld said, “This month marks the 46th anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap.” Rubinfeld continued, “ Each year REALTORS® recognize the significance of this event and reconfirm our commitment to upholding fair housing laws and offering equal professional service to all.”

Tanya Reu, Senior VP Human Resources of Realogy delivered the keynote address highlighting the growth potential of the LGBT population in the real estate market. Reu explained that currently 3.7 percent of N.J.’s population is self-described as LGBT and the purchasing power of this consumer base in the U.S overall is projected to be $835 billion.

Keith Price, Co-Host of the “Morning Jolt” on Sirius XM’s OutQ, moderated the Symposium’s panel that featured Dr. King W. Mott, Seton Hall University Professor or Political Science and Gender Studies; Balenda L. Nelson, Equal Opportunity Specialist with HUD Newark; Angela Calzone, Senior VP of Talent Resources Organization Development of MWW Group; and Real Estate Attorney, Melissa Suarez, Esq. of M.Suarez LLC.

EBCBOR 2014 President Bowen Pak, Broker of Eastern International Realty said, “As REALTORS® we view Fair Housing practices as constructive means of promoting equal opportunity to all in their pursuit of the American dream of homeownership and access to private property.” He continued, “We believe equal opportunity exists only where there is complete freedom of choice in housing.”

The discussions focused on various legal and social connotations that are important to effectively assisting LGBT clients. Dr. Mott described the historical background and evolution of the process of the integration of the LGBT community. Mott stressed that one of the areas of utmost concern for this demographic is safety and security. When defining what attracts LGBT consumers to a particular market Angela Calzone said, “No one wants to be tolerated, everyone wants to be accepted and this is certainly the case for LGBT consumers seeking to be homeowners.”

The association’s Equal Opportunity and Cultural Diversity Committee organizes a variety of annual workshops, seminars and special events focusing on the issues of fair housing and diversity. EBCBOR appreciates how important the principles of Fair Housing are to REALTORS® in their role in the ongoing effort of improving the quality of neighborhoods and communities in the local market.

The Eastern Bergen County Board of REALTORS® (EBCBOR), chartered in 1923, is a not-for-profit trade organization that serves more than 3,000 REALTOR® members in Bergen County, N.J. EBCBOR is dedicated to enhancing the business opportunities of its membership by providing them with industry information, political advocacy and education opportunities.

For more information, please visit www.bergenboard.com.

 

Article source: http://rismedia.com/2014-04-22/huds-lgbt-rule-focus-of-ebcbors-fair-housing-symposium-2/

City Fund Takes Flak: Groups fault D.C.'s ''critical services'' fund for overlooking LGBT-specific organizations in …

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

A coalition of LGBT advocacy groups and service organizations released a statement Monday evening expressing their disappointment that no LGBT-specific groups were named among 58 organizations awarded grants under the City Fund, a $15 million fund intended to provide support for nonprofit organizations that provide ”critical services” to District residents.

Signatories of the letter include The DC Center, the District’s major LGBT community center, whose programming includes efforts to counter violence, drug use and HIV, as well as support LGBT asylum seekers, young people and seniors; the Center for Black Equity; the local community service organization Casa Ruby; the youth-specific organization Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL); Us Helping Us, which provides support and HIV/STD testing aimed at black men who have sex with men (MSM); Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS); and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT rights organization. All of the organizations previously submitted applications to receive grant funding.

The City Fund, formerly known as the Innovation Fund and the One City Fund, was proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and approved by the D.C. Council in 2013 with the intent of providing financial support for three priorities highlighted by Gray in his One City Action Plan: growing and diversifying the District’s economy; education and preparing the workforce for the new economy; and improving the quality of life for District residents. The fund provides two types of grants – for program support and capacity building – in seven issue areas: education, environment, health, job readiness, senior services, arts and public safety. Organizations may not apply for general operating support.

Under the criteria set forth by the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, which oversees the City Fund, an organization applying for grant money must have an IRS designation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit; must be either based in the District, or, if outside of the District, be able to provide documented proof that its services benefit D.C. residents; cannot be an ”advocacy” organization; must have an annual budget of more than $100,000; and must provide documentation of funding sources and audited financial statements as proof of fiscal stability. The amount of a single grant may not exceed $100,000, and may be renewed for up to three years.

”Currently, very few services specifically targeted to the LGBT community are publicly funded in Washington, D.C.,” the groups wrote in their statement. ”This lack of targeted funding is particularly problematic as the LGBT community is dealing with a variety of challenges around HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and stigma; youth homelessness; healthcare access – including mental health services; disproportionate levels of anxiety, depression and substance abuse; and high levels of unemployment in the transgender community.”

”We are hopeful that the Community Foundation will take a hard look at this issue, and urge the Foundation to learn more about the needs of the LGBT community,” the groups wrote. ”A dedicated public funding stream needs to be made available for programs and services for the LGBT community.”

In an email to Metro Weekly, the Community Foundation defended its selection process, noting that the process was highly competitive. The foundation said that in some cases an organization may have been denied because it did not fit with the guidelines or funding criteria, or did not properly complete the application. Others may have been denied because their application was not considered as strong as another entity’s in a given funding area.

”As with any grantmaking fund, there are finite resources available,” Terri Lee Freeman, the president of the Community Foundation, said in a statement. ”We also recognize there is a great need in our city, as evidenced by the outpouring of grant applications. We received 315 applications totaling over $30 million in requests for this round alone. We were able to fund 58 programs totaling over $3.5 million. That leaves over 250 applications that were unfortunately not accepted for funding in this round, including many wonderful organizations with important missions.”

Freeman also noted in her statement that groups rejected for funding during the first round could apply for capacity-building grants in May 2014, or during two more subsequent rounds of grant-making in the fall of 2014 and the fall of 2015, if an organization would rather pursue a program support grant.

”The grantmaking process for the City Fund and the guidelines for applicants have been clear, visible, and transparent since the announcement of the fund,” Freeman continued. ”We hosted three webinars for applicants in advance of the grant proposal deadline which were open to the public. In these sessions, we walked step-by-step through the guidelines for applying and the grantmaking strategy. We posted all expectations for grantees online.”

”The City Fund is a $15 million fund comprised entirely of public money,” Freeman added. ”The City Fund was set up to target issue areas rather than specific populations. … Funding in each area is intended to serve as wide and diverse a population as possible, including District residents in the LGBT community.”

Freeman also pointed to two organizations, TrueChild and Metro TeenAIDS, as programs that were approved for grant funding that would serve LGBT District residents as part of their programming. TrueChild sponsors a program to combat violence against D.C. transgender youth, and Metro TeenAIDS will involve some LGBT youth as part of its outreach initiatives aimed at educating youth about HIV prevention.

A request for comment from the mayor’s office was not immediately returned.

Article source: http://www.metroweekly.com/news/?ak=8977

Houston Mayor Introduces Comprehensive Nondiscrimination Ordinance

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Yesterday, Houston Mayor Annise Parker released a draft of a sweeping, citywide Human Rights Ordinance. Parker, who identifies as a lesbian, endorsed this latest version of the ordinance, noting that previous iterations did not include employment protections for LGBT individuals.

“As I stated in my State of the City Address earlier this month, the Houston I know does not discriminate, treats everyone equally, and allows full participation by everyone in civic and business life,” Parker said in a press release. “We don’t care where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have, or who you choose to love. It’s time the laws on our books reflect this.”

The ordinance would protect individuals living, working in, or visiting the city. The ordinance lists several “protected characteristics,” including sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, and pregnancy.

If implemented, the ordinance would outlaw discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations for members of these groups. Because Texas does not have statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals, Parker’s proposal could expand important protections for the city’s diverse population.

The draft policy defines gender identity as “an individual’s innate identification, appearance, expression or behavior as either male or female, although the same may not correspond to the individual’s body or gender as assigned at birth.” Sexual orientation is defined as “the actual or perceived status of a person with respect to his or her sexuality.”

Currently, Houston remains the largest city in the country without some form of LGBT human rights ordinance in place.

If approved, the ordinance would go into effect immediately. Mayor Parker plans to present the draft to the City Council’s Quality of Life Committee on April 30, for consideration by the full city council on May 7.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2014/04/22/houston-mayor-annise-parker-introduces-comprehensive-nondiscrimination-ordinance

Saginaw city council postpones LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance vote

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

SAGINAW (WJRT) -
(04/21/14) – The LGBT non-discrimination ordinance is a hot topic in the Saginaw community.

Monday night, city council decided to postpone their vote on the ordinance after nearly two hours of public comment from both sides of the issue.

Some on city council want more time to discuss the ordinance with religious leaders, business owners, landlords and other groups in the city.

Saginaw council woman Annie Boensch first introduced the ordinance. It says within the city of Saginaw, no one can be discriminated against for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

That goes for both employment and public accommodations.

Right now, there’s no state law protecting the LGBT community from being fired.

This ordinance would change that.

Article source: http://www.abc12.com/story/25303619/saginaw-city-council-postpones-lgbt-nondiscrimination-ordinance-vote

LGBT Seniors in California Lack Affordable Housing Options

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

News Analysis,

Matthew S. Bajko ,

Posted: Apr 22, 2014

 
Photo: A rainbow painted fence encloses Openhouse’s future affordable housing site for low-income LGBT seniors in San Francisco. (Rick Gerharter/Bay Area Reporter)

Article series starts with Part 1.

SAN FRANCISCO–Midlife and older lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) residents of cities across the country are facing a lack of affordable housing options as they age.

Demographers estimate there are at least 3 million LGBT seniors age 65 or older currently in the United States, with the population projected to double by 2030. As their numbers increase, LGBT seniors’ access to housing, whether

San Francisco Home Crunch

Worse Due to Evictions

Upwards of 20,000 LGBT seniors ages 60 and older live in San Francisco, a number expected to reach 50,000 by 2030.

However, a 2013 survey of 616 LGBT San Francisco residents ages 60 to 92, conducted for the city’s San Francisco’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, found less than 7 percent of the respondents were living in senior housing, assisted living facilities, nursing homes or in an age-restricted community. Almost nine in 10 resided in a house, apartment or condominium.

The report, titled “Addressing the Needs of LGBT Older Adults in San Francisco: Recommendations for the Future,” notes that 30 percent of the seniors surveyed had incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (only $11,670 for 2014). And two-thirds were concerned they would be unable to remain in their current housing and could be forced to relocate.

The task force, which completed its work in March, called on San Francisco officials to build more affordable housing for LGBT seniors. It proposed that the city work with the S.F. Land Trust to set up “at least one” LGBT senior housing co-op and to build 200 very low-income units in the city’s Castro district for LGBT seniors with incomes less than 30 percent of the area’s median income.

But building enough affordable housing for LGBT seniors to meet their expected needs in coming years “isn’t very realistic,” said Bill Ambrunn, a gay attorney who chaired the task force. He noted the city’s severe land constraints.

The task force also recommended that city officials focus on protecting LGBT seniors from being evicted from their current rent-controlled units.

Furthermore, the task force called for funding to improve housing conditions in apartment buildings and single-room-occupancy hotels where many lower-income LGBT seniors, many living with HIV/AIDS, currently reside.

“Whatever is necessary to prevent a senior from being evicted is what the city should be doing,” said the task force’s chair, Bill Ambrunn.

–Matthew Bajko

it be in retirement communities or assisted living facilities, will become “increasingly critical” noted the Equal Rights Center in a special report it issued in February.

“As the number of older adults increases, as well as the number of LGBT seniors living openly, many with their spouse or partners, the need for more housing options that allow older LGBT people to live in a safe and comfortable environment becomes increasingly important,” stated the report, titled “Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples.”

Projects Underway

Nonprofit agencies in a number of major U.S. cities are working to address the shortfall by building designated housing for low-income LGBT seniors. Projects are currently underway or have opened in such places as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.

But the buildings, ranging from nine units to more than 100, are nowhere near enough to address what is needed, according to agency executives, housing activists and LGBT aging experts.

“Housing is the number one need for our clients. When they come in and meet with one of my team managers, absolutely the bottom line need is housing,” said Kathleen Sullivan, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center’s [www.lagaycenter.org/?] director of senior services.

The L.A. center recently announced it was merging with Gay Lesbian Elder Housing, which built the 104-unit Triangle Square LGBT senior housing project in Hollywood. When it opened in 2007, it was the nation’s first affordable housing development of private, individual apartments for LGBT elders.

Seven years later it is set to open a 39-unit building dubbed The Argyle, in collaboration with AMCAL Multi-Housing, Inc. Built for low-income families of all ages, a portion of the units are expected to be occupied by LGBT seniors.

An estimated 65,000 LGBT seniors 65 and older live in Los Angeles and two-thirds of them live alone, according to local agencies. More than 70 percent of Triangle residents are living at or near poverty level and struggle to cover expenses for housing, food and medication.

Among the 3,000 clients ages 50 and older who access the L.A. center’s senior services program, 46 percent live on less than $2,500 a month, and 20 percent make do on less than $1,000 each month.

Sullivan, 48, an out lesbian, interviewed residents for her doctoral thesis in gerontology at Oregon’s Portland State University focused on LGBT senior housing developments.

“In these communities the seniors noted it was the first time they ever felt comfortable and at ease. They didn’t have to look over their shoulder or be worried about talking about their partner,” Sullivan said.

More than 300 people are on the waiting list for a unit at Triangle Square. The average wait for an opening is two-to-three years.

“It tells me we certainly don’t have enough housing,” said Sullivan.

Recognizing the need for more affordable housing options for its senior clients, the L.A. center in February acquired a property across the street from its Village complex where it plans to construct a mixed-use housing project. The plan for the three-acre site fronting McCadden Place is to build up to 80 units for LGBT seniors, 40 apartments for previously homeless youth, a senior center and space for intergenerational programing. The center aims to raise about $25 million, Sullivan said

Openhouse to Break Ground

In San Francisco the long-awaited Openhouse LGBT senior affordable housing project is expected to break ground later this year. The agency’s 55 Laguna development of 110 rental apartments for low-income seniors, which it is building in partnership with the nonprofit Mercy Housing, will be split between two buildings.

One of the structures is the historic Richardson Hall, built in 1924 as part of what became San Francisco State University, to be renovated to include 40 of the units (one-bedrooms and studios), retail spaces and new office quarters for Openhouse.

“We hope, and our goal is, to have the place pretty much filled by December of 2015,” said Openhouse Executive Director Seth Kilbourn. Although Openhouse is marketing the project as the city’s first LGBT senior housing complex, any older adults who meets the financial eligibility terms will be able to apply.

The second building, a new construction to start in October 2016, will house 70 units of housing, all 1-bedrooms, on five floors. With 14 of the units set-aside for seniors living with HIV or AIDS. The ground floor will feature activity space, an exercise room, and a large social space for community events and programs.

Bartholomew T. Casimir, 73, and his spouse, Edward Rulief Kelley, who is in his 60s, have seen many of their older gay male friends decamp from San Francisco for Palm Springs in search of cheaper housing and more social connections. But the couple, renters in the city’s Richmond district, would prefer to live out their remaining years in the city.

“We have a wonderful cottage apartment. Hopefully, we will be able to stay there,” said Casimir, who was born and raised in San Francisco. “All my friends from the 1970s and ’80s are living in Palm Springs. I don’t want to live there.”

The couple has discussed possibly moving into the Openhouse project, but is uncertain if it would fit their needs.

“We like having our own house,” said Casimir, who is hopeful that once 55 Laguna opens its doors it will foster more activism among the city’s LGBT senior community. “I just think that communities are so important, especially in the LGBT elder community. That doesn’t exist, and hopefully, this Openhouse project will change that.”

In its just completed five-year plan, Openhouse has prioritized working with mainstream developers of senior housing in San Francisco to ensure they are providing safe environments for LGBT residents.

“There is no reason we can’t help LGBT folks form communities at these other developments,” said Kilbourn.

“We need more units for sure, but we also need policies and protections for seniors to live where they live now,” he said. “If we can do that it will allow more people to stay in the city with some sense of economic security.”

Matthew S. Bajko wrote this article for Bay Area Reporter through the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowships, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America. For related coverage, see the Special Report, “SAN FRANCISCO’S ELDER GHETTO: Old Poor in Tech City.”

Article source: http://newamericamedia.org/2014/04/lgbt-seniors-in-california-lack-affordable-housing-options.php

LGBT students counterprotest Traditional Marriage demonstrators

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

140421_kgt+LGBTprotestFlag.jpg

140421_kgt+LGBTprotestFlag.jpg

Nate Pentz (freshman-engineering), right, holds a rainbow flag as LGBT students counterprotest the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, who appeared with bagpipes and banners at the Allen Street Gates with signs saying “God’s Marriage = 1 Man 1 Woman.” The Society began demonstrating early in the afternoon and their spokesman, John Ritchie, said that they are composed of student volunteers who dedicated their spring break vacation to defending their idea of traditional marriage.

Article source: http://www.collegian.psu.edu/gallery/collection_8fa583e2-c983-11e3-b0a5-0017a43b2370.html

From a pink dinosaur to “Gay Tony”: The evolution of LGBT video game characters

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Perhaps our most problematic entry on this list is Birdo, from “Super Mario Bros. 2.” Birdo is a pink dinosaur with a bow, who essentially serves as the recurring boss throughout the game. In the manual it’s stated that “he thinks he’s a girl,” and would rather be called “birdetta.” Thus making her (hatefully, unfortunately) the first ever transgendered representation in video games. We’ve come a long, long way.

“Final Fight”

Sega, 1988

The “Final Fight” series is still alive and kicking, and so is Poison, the pink-haired transgendered woman who’s been a staple of the series since its debut in 1988. She’s even scored an appearance in the upcoming “Street Fighter 4: Ultra.”

“Rise of the Dragon”

Sierra, 1990

“Rise of the Dragon” is not one of Sierra’s best-known adventure games, but it still carries something of a cult following. It’s a noir-ish, cyberpunk-y detective story that also features a section in a “pleasure dome,” where you’ll meet a woman, posing as a man, posing as a woman.

 Laura Bow in “The Dagger of Amon Raw”

Sierra, 1992

Another Sierra adventure game, another journalist/detective/ne’er-do-well encountering two women in a secret love affair. It is interesting how these early games were so fixated on lesbianism; I don’t think we’ve seen an openly acknowledged homosexual male relationship yet on this list. In “The Dagger of Amon Raw,” Laura Bow stumbles across said love affair, as well as a speakeasy prostitute who apparently goes both ways. Baby steps, I suppose.

“Ultima VII Part 2, Serpent Isle”

Origin Systems, 1993

This may be our first appearance of a classic RPG in this list. The Ultima series is the granddaddy of all hardcore Western American computer fantasy, so it’s fitting that they’d be the first to break the genre into LGBT territory. The encounter is somewhat rudimentary – during your journeys you’ll encounter a bisexual mage who will proposition the player character, regardless of their gender.

“Dracula Unleashed”

Viacom, 1993

“Dracula Unleashed” might mark the first time in video games where a homosexual man was given a speaking role. Unfortunately, the game portrayed him as a barely contained pervert, constantly shooting lecherous gazes at the player character, but it is still the first.

“Police Quest: Open Season”

Sierra, 1993

In which the long-standing adventure franchise takes you to a gay bar to figure out what happened to your murdered police partner. Eventually you uncover that he was a cross-dresser at a transgender bar somewhere in Hollywood.

“Chrono Trigger”

Square, 1995

“Chrono Trigger” is considered to be one of the greatest RPGs of all time, and it also featured Flea, an antagonist of dubious gender who unleashed the immortal line, “Male or female? What difference does it make? I’ve got the power and power is beautiful.” Words to live by.

“The Orion Conspiracy”

Domark, 1995

“The Orion Conspiracy” has the honor of being the first game ever to use the word “homosexual.” Devlin McCormack is on a quest to discover who murdered his estranged son Danny, when he discovers he was living with a lover named Steve Kauffman. It’s a humanized, honest and surprisingly gentle moment in an era wasn’t exactly known for its empathy.

“The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery”

Sierra, 1995

“The Beast Within” is rightfully hailed as one of the best adventure games of all time, and that has a lot to do with the antagonist, Baron Von Glower. An intelligent, perceptive man with a slight romantic interest in Gabriel Knight. He still stands as one of the greatest villains in video game history.

“Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh”

Sierra, 1995

Roberta Williams, designer of “Phantasmagoria 2,” was always a bit of a provocateur, so it makes total sense that she’d be the one to break through barriers. You play Curtis who develops feelings for Trevor, his gay co-worker. Eventually they kiss. It’s not developed to be a seduction or a huge face turn, just a part of a complicated man’s life. It’s also the first time in video game history where a player character engages in open homosexual behavior.

“Fallout 2?

Interplay, 1998

“Fallout 2? has the honor of being the first game with a gay marriage. Yep, as the player character you can marry someone of the same sex. Sure, it’s played for comedic purposes, but it is still a first nonetheless.

“The Longest Journey”

Funcom, 1999

“The Longest Journey” has earned many accolades for its storytelling and world building, and it’s earned Swedish developer Funcom something of a cult following. But it also presents an elderly lesbian couple and a gay cop as human characters operating unremarkably in a larger world. Even “The Longest Journey’s” secondary stars were ahead of their time.

“Star Ocean: The Second Story”

Tri-Ace, 1999

As we will see down the line, most modern RPGs take a pretty laissez-faire approach to homosexuality in games. “Star Ocean” might be the first of its kind, with its willingness to let the player date whomever they want regardless of gender.

“Final Fantasy IX”

Square, 2000

In “Final Fantasy IX” you’ll meet Quina Quen, who comes from an ungendered race called the Qu. Throughout the narrative, Quen is given the pronoun “s/he.” This perhaps marks the first instance of a game engaging with pansexuality.

“The Sims”

Maxis, 2001

“The Sims” broke in the 21st century with almost no restriction on how you wanted to pilot your virtual family. It still stands as a very LGBT-friendly franchise.

“Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic”

Bioware, 2003

As well as being one of my personal favorite games of all time, “Knights of the Old Republic” also marked the debut of Juhani, a female Jedi who can engage in romantic relationship if the player character is female. This is notable, because it also makes Juhani the first openly LGBT character in the “Star Wars” universe.

“Jade Empire”

Bioware, 2005

“Jade Empire” is another RPG developed by Bioware, this time borrowing a mythical, semi-imagined version of ancient China. You can play as either a male or female, and find yourself in a relationship with all sorts of people in your party. Sky, Silk Fox and Dawn Star all exist in a happy, loosely defined sexuality. I’ve always been particularly interested in how Bioware has remained so consistently casual when invoking LGBT voices.

“Persona 4?

Atlas, 2008

It seems weird to pick a favorite LGBT character, simply because that seems a little cloying, but I’ve always really appreciated Kanji from “Persona 4.” He’s a tough guy with a bullet necklace, but he also fancies boys a little bit. You, the player character, help him accept that, but your friendship goes far beyond any therapeutic purposes. By the end of the game you remember Kanji as your friend, not a kid in the closet.

“Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony”

Rockstar, 2009

Despite Gay Tony’s name being, well, Gay Tony, his character arc in this “Grand Theft Auto” story is barely fixated on his homosexuality. Gay Tony is a nightclub owner in Liberty City, and he’s got a lot of debts to pay. Rockstar hasn’t always been the most empathetic developer, but they’ve rounded out their protagonists with a lot of purpose. Gay Tony will be remembered as a human being more than anything.

“Don’t Take It Personally Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story”

Christine Love, 2010

The rise of indie development has let a lot of people express themselves in a way that the mainstream industry might not allow. Take Christine Love, who made an interactive story where you, a high school teacher in the future, has the secret ability to read all the texts and Facebook messages exchanged by your students. You teach a class, and watch a few LGBT romances develop in real time.

“Mass Effect 3?

Bioware, 2012

After years and years of dodging the question, Bioware finally let players make their Commander Shepherd gay in the third game of the series.  It still sorta feels like a huge breakthrough.

“Dys4ia”

Anna Anthropy, 2012

This is another indie gem, this time from Anna Anthropy, a trans woman who was unafraid to express exactly how gender dysphoria affected her, and her journey through hormone replacement therapy. “Dys4ia” is a simple flash game, but it really helps a layman understand the frustrations that inevitably surround a difficult process.

“Gone Home/The Last of Us”

The Fullbright Co./Naughty Dog, 2013

Smart, resourceful and utterly memorable, Sam and Ellie — two teen girls who loved two other teen girls – stand as some of the best characters in the history of interactive entertainment. Their homosexuality was not paved over, but it never defined them, either. If these two are the latest to grab the torch, we know we’re headed in the right direction.

Article source: http://salon.com.feedsportal.com/c/35105/f/648624/s/39861d89/sc/27/l/0L0Ssalon0N0C20A140C0A40C180Cfrom0Ia0Ipink0Idinosaur0Ito0Igay0Itony0Ithe0Ievolution0Iof0Ilgbt0Ivideo0Igame0Icharacters0C/story01.htm

Citing Religious Beliefs, Cabbies Won't Drive Cars With Ads for Gay Games

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Sun, 20 Apr 2014 07:44:42 PDT

The Gay Games has been a promising vehicle of change for marginalized LGBT athletes—yet 30 years after the sporting event was created, some people in this year’s host city of Cleveland are not so welcoming.

Some cab drivers who regularly travel the route between the city and the airport are refusing to drive cabs that bear ads for the August event, citing religious reasons, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Hopkins International Airport said it had been notified by two of the three taxi companies it works with that some of their drivers were objecting to the airport’s dedicated taxicab program, in which cabs have Gay Games ads on their rooftop placards.

It’s not the first time cabbies have objected to transporting certain passengers, and there has been a recent spate of businesses objecting to serving the LGBT community—an act that is being written into law as a right in some states.

The idea that religious freedom protects the right to be antigay has activists concerned that discrimination is being legalized in some places. Recently in Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant approved a measure that allows residents to sue the government over laws that hinder their ability to practice their religion—making the state one of 18 with such “religious freedom” laws. 

Other states, such as New Mexico and Colorado, ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in business practices. 

Arizona’s S.B. 1062, which would have amended an existing law to allow businesses the right to refuse service if it heavily interfered with an individual’s religious practice, failed to appease its opposition earlier this year because of its indirect targeting of the LGBT community.

Kellie Fiedorek, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, called the bill “a ‘balancing test’ that would protect all religions and sexual orientations while prohibiting Arizonans from ‘coercing someone to violate their sincerely held beliefs,’ ” according to CNN

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill in late February.

Back in Cleveland, the airport struck a deal with taxi operators to replace drivers who don’t want to work in their 75-cab fleet, working with metered taxis until they can hire permanent drivers for the airport program.

Americab General Manager Patrick Keenan, which operates out of the airport, says he heard complaints from two Muslim drivers who are opting not to drive with Gay Games ads on their cars. But he and the company don’t share those views.

“We don’t have any objections to the signage,” Keenan told the Plain-Dealer. “We’re fully supportive of the games. We’re not in concert with (the protesting drivers) on that.”

Related stories on TakePart:

10 Gay-Friendly U.S. Companies: Shop and Work the LGBT Way

These States Are Fighting to Refuse Services to Gays

11 of the Best Responses to Arizona’s Anti-Gay Bill

10 of the Gay Friendliest Countries in the World

Original article from TakePart

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/citing-religious-beliefs-cabbies-wont-drive-cars-ads-144442702.html

For LGBT seniors, affordable housing is scarce and often unwelcoming

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

The walls of Alice Herman’s home are covered in photographs.

Herman and Sylvia Purdue, her partner of 45 years, smile in scenes from birthdays and hospital rooms. In black-and-white photos from their younger days, their hair is teased, their makeup flawless.

After Purdue died a few years ago, Herman was left with two cats and enough money for two months’ rent. Years of Purdue’s hospital bills had chipped away their savings. Because Purdue died before the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last summer, Herman could not receive Purdue’s Social Security benefits.

Herman prepared to live in her car with the cats. With no other options, she went to the front office of Triangle Square — a Hollywood apartment complex that caters to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender senior citizens — clutching her photos.

“Please like me,” Herman, 78, recalled telling them, desperately showing the photos. “Please, see that we’re nice people. Please help me.”

Leaders in Los Angeles’ gay community say Herman’s predicament is increasingly common. Though society has changed rapidly over the last several years and gay people overall feel greater acceptance, gay seniors face a unique set of challenges as they age, particularly when trying to find affordable housing.

“This is the first generation of people who were willing to be out,” said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the L.A. Gay Lesbian Center. “And many LGBT seniors are far poorer than people ever realize.”

Gay seniors are four times less likely than their straight counterparts to have children or grandchildren to support them and twice as likely to live alone, according to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. Many face difficulties accessing their partners’ benefits because they never got married or sought domestic partnership status.

Nationwide, an estimated 2 million people age 50 and older identify as LGBT, and that number is expected to double by 2030, according to the Institute for Multigenerational Health at the University of Washington. An estimated 65,000 LGBT people age 65 and older live in Los Angeles, according to the L.A. Gay Lesbian Center.

Triangle Square, where Herman was able to rent an apartment, is the only affordable housing complex in Los Angeles that caters to LGBT seniors. There, Herman has learned from the struggles of other gay elders and talks often about her beloved Purdue.

“One of the things old people need is a place where they can hold on to the past,” she said. “No one should have to hide their history because the history is who they are. I am my history. I am the years I spent with that woman.”

She knows she’s lucky. Some gay seniors who move into traditional elder housing facilities return to the closet in hopes of better fitting in and avoiding conflicts, said Kathleen Sullivan, director of senior services at the L.A. Gay Lesbian Center.

Despite great strides in gay rights in recent years, the advances are not as pronounced in older generations, where attitudes can be less tolerant, Sullivan said. Some gay seniors who move into traditional senior living facilities report feeling discriminated against or given the cold shoulder.

“Living in a place like that, you’re surrounded by people but you’re invisible,” Sullivan said.

A survey released this year by the Equal Rights Center, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights group, found that gay seniors received less favorable quotes on pricing and availability when seeking rooms at senior centers than straight seniors.

Sullivan recalled one elderly lesbian who moved into an assisted living facility in Oregon. The woman made a few friends who ate lunch and played bridge with her. Eventually, she got up the courage to come out to them, and they “immediately disassociated with her,” Sullivan said. She eventually left the facility and moved into a home with several other older lesbians.

When Triangle Square, built by nonprofit Gay Lesbian Elder Housing (GLEH) and partners, opened in 2007, it was the only affordable housing complex for gay seniors in the nation. It remains one of only a handful.

Earlier this month, the L.A. Gay Lesbian Center announced a merger with GLEH with the hopes that the joint operation will allow them to more quickly build additional housing. About 70% of GLEH’s residents live at or near poverty level.

Later this spring, GLEH, in partnership with affordable housing developer AMCAL Multi-Housing Inc., will open Los Angeles’ second affordable housing complex catering to LGBT seniors. The $17.5-million multigenerational complex, called the Argyle, will have 39 units, some of which will be occupied by gay seniors. Under federal fair housing rules, the complex and other low-income housing facilities catering to gay seniors cannot exclude straight people and still qualify for federal subsidies, so straight people are eligible as well, Sullivan said.

The L.A. Gay Lesbian Center recently purchased property for another complex that will offer housing for LGBT seniors and youth, center officials said.

The current waiting list for the 104-unit Triangle Square complex is three to five years. Center staff are currently reviewing applications for the Argyle.

Among the applicants is David Epstein, a 64-year-old retired magazine editor who described his life as “one long hate crime.”

Epstein lives in a one-bedroom Silver Lake apartment he can barely afford, especially with rent increasing rapidly. After paying rent, he has a few hundred dollars a month for food, medicine and other expenses. He said if he had a car, he’d move into it. Every day, he checks the mail expectantly to see if he got a room at the Argyle.

Epstein said coming out of the closet was a scarring experience, isolating him from family and co-workers. He worries about more of the same if he moves into a regular senior living center. He believes his generation deserves better, including its own retirement communities.

“We did a lot of heavy lifting,” he said.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

Article source: http://latimes.com.feedsportal.com/c/34336/f/625246/s/398bd791/sc/1/l/0L0Slatimes0N0Clocal0Cla0Eme0Egay0Eelder0Ehousing0E20A140A420A0H0A0H1569370A0Bstory0Dtrack0Frss/story01.htm

Black LGBT Seniors Struggle with Double Discrimination

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

News Feature,

Matthew S. Bajko,

Posted: Apr 20, 2014

 
Photo: Larry Saxxon said homophobia in the African American community and racism in the LGBT community makes for a narrow margin with which to work for gay African Americans. (Rick Gerharter/Bay Area Reporter)

Part 4 of series.

SAN FRANCISCO–In San Francisco African American seniors who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) often face double jeopardy in terms of discrimination. Within the black community, they struggle to overcome homophobia. In the LGBT community, they encounter race-based prejudices.

“We’ve gotten burdened at both ends of the candle. By the African American community, which until recently tended to be more conservative relative to the LGBT community within its own ranks,” said Larry Saxxon, 61, a gay black man who served on the city’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force.

Shunned by Two Communities

“A lot of the African American community still works under the larger social, psychological and political tendencies of the church,” he said.

Saxxon added, “On the other hand, we’ve gotten burned by the LGBT mainstream community at large because of racism.”

Those experiences can hamper elder LGBT African Americans’ willingness to seek out support within either community, noted Saxxon.

“You have a very narrow margin in which you can survive and glean support when you can’t fall back on racial bloodlines because of homophobia, and you cannot fall back unconditionally on the LGBT community because of racism,” he said. “You have a very small margin within which to work.”

Those experiences were captured by the findings of the report, “Addressing the Needs of LGBT Older Adults in San Francisco: Recommendations for the Future.” Completed in March, the study is based on a survey that the city’s Task Force commissioned last year.

Of the 616 LGBT residents (ages 60 to 92), who took part in the survey, 5 percent identified as African American. (The city’s total black population, both LGBT and straight, was 6 percent in 2012 and has been in decline for years.)

The survey found that the African American participants “are at greater risk” for being discriminated against due to their gender identity, sexual orientation, race and gender “relative to other racial or ethnic groups.”

Similar to the survey’s Latino respondents, African American LGBT seniors in San Francisco are also less likely to own a home compared to other LGBT seniors in the San Francisco and are more likely to be in the closet. Both racial groups also reported higher rates of needing mental heath services and alcohol or substance abuse programs.

“I have often told people that being old, black, and gay in America is tantamount to being dipped in a vat of acid every single day when I walk outside my door,” said Saxxon. “I have to pray for grace and endurance so I can walk out with dignity and, with the help of a higher power, to walk back in. I can’t allow this society to rob me of my spiritual joy of living.”

It is unknown how many LGBT African American seniors are living in San Francisco, as the city’s senior demographics are not broken down by race and sexual orientation. It is believed that as many as 20,000 LGBT seniors currently live in the city.

Nationally, the 2010 U.S. Census data does not distinguish LGBT seniors by racial group among the country’s 42 million adults aged 65-plus. But overall, a 2013 report on LGBT older adults by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force estimates that “anywhere from 1.5 to 7 million older adults” are a part of the LGBT community.

As American society continues to grow older, “LGBT elders of color are an important part of this demographic shift, ” notes the national organization Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), in its 2013 report, “Health Equity and LGBT Elders of Color: Recommendations for Policy and Practice.”

Health Disparities

Yet, says the SAGE report, “Available research shows that they often face heightened health disparities and are largely rendered invisible in public policy discussions on aging.”

The 30 African American respondents to the San Francisco survey reported a “significant need” for housing assistance and were “the least likely” to have a will, power of attorney for healthcare, revocable/irrevocable trust and a power of attorney for finance.

“Among the racial and ethnic groups, African Americans have the lowest rates of future planning,” concluded the report.

Perry Lang, executive director of the San Francisco-based Black Coalition on AIDS, who also served on the Task Force, sees housing as a key concern among his agency’s clients, whether they are old or young, LGBT or straight.

“I think the housing connection is definitely there,” said Lang, 59, who is also a gay African American. Even though only a small percentage of survey participants had HIV/AIDS, he noted, “As a health organization we realize it is difficult sometimes to work on health issues if people do not have adequate housing.”

The African American Community Health Equity Council, collaboration between Lang’s agency and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, plans to review the recommendations in the final Task Force report.

“They make recommendations for the larger African American community and they include LGBTQ members on it,” said Lang, who serves as the council’s administrative director. [Some experts add “Q” for queer.]

“I think the pivotal piece to me is an acknowledgment by the task force that what is recommended for the LGBTQ community we also recognize is beneficial for other communities.”

Matthew S. Bajko wrote this article for Bay Area Reporter through the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowships, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.

Article source: http://newamericamedia.org/2014/04/black-lgbt-seniors-struggle-with-double-discrimination-housing.php

Spain’s LGBT Nursing Home

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

In most societies, the thought of what to do with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender old people is not exactly a priority. But in Spain, where homophobia could be considered a national pastime, gay people often had to go back into the closet when it came time to think about elderly care.

That is all about to change, at least in Madrid, when the country’s first LGBT retirement center opens next year. The center, which has not yet been named and which will be the second in Europe after a Swedish LGBT retirement center that opened last year, is the brainchild of Federico Armenteros, founder of the 26 December Foundation, an NGO for Spain’s LGBT community named after the day in 1978 when homosexuality was no longer “dangerous to society” in Spain. He says the center is necessary because “elderly LGBT don’t exist” in the eyes of most people. That, he says, “pushes people back into the closet,” often those who have fought for equality during their younger years.

READ MORE Ferry Captain Had No Experince

The center is being built in the shell of a hotel in Madrid and will offer up to 230 residents various living options, including apartments, assisted living facilities, and a wing for HIV positive residents, some of whom have been prohibited from living in other elderly care facilities in Spain and other European countries. The average cost of basic accommodation will be about $1,380 a month. Armenteros said there amenities will include “his and his” sports facilities and sauna, and a “hers and hers” beauty salon, alongside the arts and culture classes and physiotherapy offerings that are standard issue in most retirement communities.

Spain is one of Europe’s least tolerant countries for the gay community, according to the country’s LGBT Federation, which has conducted several eye-opening studies in recent years. In one survey of high school students, where they say the homophobia begins, the act of exclusion manifests itself in the form of bullying, with two of five Spanish students reporting that they “often” or “always” witness homophobic insults at school. The federation also reports that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is rampant in the work force, where many LGBT workers have to hide or lie about their sexuality.

READ MORE Mt. Everest Landslide Kills 12

More than 160,000 LGBT people live in Madrid, and many have filed complaints against the city for allowing blatant discrimination. “Many managed to come out, some still kept it under wraps, but an overwhelming majority went back to the closet the moment they ended up in care homes,” Armenteros told The Local “The older generation were brought up with a different set of values, very repressed, and in general they still struggle to accept the LGBT collective.”

Retirement communities catering to the LGBT community have been growing in popularity in the United States, where guides exist to help people find appropriate facilities. The trend is not so prevalent in Europe. Sweden was the first European country to inaugurate a dedicated LGBT retirement facility, which was opened in Stockholm in 2013. The center, called the Regnbagen House or Rainbow House, is completely full and now has 95 people on the waiting list for apartments. While Swedish gays have not generally suffered the same stigma as they have in Spain and other southern European countries especially, residents said that it was still not acceptable for gay couples to live together in retirement communities in their country. “Take cultural minorities, for example,” resident Björn Gate told Swedish Radio when the center opened last year. “It was discovered long ago that they cope much better with old age when living with people they have something in common with. It matters a lot that you are among kindred spirits.”

READ MORE Week in Pictures

Still, Armenteros says his retirement center will not discriminate against straight people. “We’re not going to ask you who you sleep with when you apply,” he told the Spanish newspaper The Olive Press. “Anyone can come, the only thing to bear in mind is that it specializes in elderly LGBTs. As it is, there are homes for ex-servicemen, nuns, or retired workers from specific companies, and no one says they are being discriminatory. [LGBT people] don’t have children and grandchildren they can talk about and often they conceal their sexual orientation to avoid rejection. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.”

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Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/spain-lgbt-nursing-home-005045933--politics.html

Zimbabwe's President Threatens to Deport LGBT-Supportive Diplomats

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe added to his growing roster of anti-LGBT comments Friday, threatening to expel foreign diplomats who support LGBT equality in the east African nation, reports AllAfrica.com.

“We did not fight for this Zimbabwe so it can be a homosexual territory,” said the 90-year-old president, who has ruled the country since it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1980. “We will never have that here, and if there are any diplomats who will talk of any homosexuality, just tell me. We will kick them out of the country without any excuse. We won’t even listen.”

The president made his remarks at the National Sports Stadium in Harare during the annual independence day celebration. Mugabe’s long history of homophobic rhetoric is well-documented: He has often said LGBT people are “worse than dogs and pigs,” and last year he suggested the state should decapitate gay men and lesbians if they do not produce children after being locked in a house for five years. 

Mugabe’s comments Friday also included vague threats to nongovernmental organizations that support LGBT people and those fighting HIV and AIDS.

“Some years ago, l was warned that there was some secret organization of that nature which was addressing young men … to join them as homosexuals,” said Mugabe. “This nonsense from Europe, keep their homosexual nonsense there and not cross over with it.”

The president-turned-despot also criticized Western efforts to penalize homophobic laws in African nations, pointing to the Uganda, which saw cuts in foreign aid and a weakening national currency after its president signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Act, also known as the “Jail the Gays” law.

“If you pass a law that rejects homosexual marriages, ‘we will punish you’ like what they are doing to Uganda and us,” AllAfrica quotes Mugabe as saying. “And they say they want you to believe that if a man gets another man and they have a homosexual relationship, they have human rights to do so. But that act is inhuman. It’s not human and human rights cannot derive from acts which are inhuman. That does not exist in jurisprudence.”

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Zimbabwe under still-enforced colonial-era antisodomy laws, and a a 2006 law banning “sexual deviancy” criminalizes any actions perceived to be homosexual, including two people of the same sex holding hands, hugging, or kissing. The government regularly carries out targeted attacks on LGBT activists and organizations, notes BuzzFeed. In 2012, 44 members of advocacy group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe were arrested, and last June troops loyal to Mugabe raided the organization’s offices.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/world/2014/04/18/zimbabwes-president-threatens-deport-lgbt-supportive-diplomats

GaymerX will no longer hold LGBT gamer conference

Friday, April 18th, 2014

GaymerX will no longer be holding its annual LGBT conference.

According to IGN, because of the lack of sponsorship for the conference, the organizers of GaymerX conference for LGBT gamers and developers have stated that 2014’s conference will likely be the last one for an undetermined amount of time.

GaymerX has stressed that the end of the conference is not the end of GaymerX or the fight for equality in gaming.

“This year, we went all out with the venue and going to three days – the costs skyrocketed and although attendance has been doing well, corporate sponsorship was just not at a level to sustain going this huge. We’re taking on a huge risk of debt, and even if we do end up selling out, we will barely just break even,” GaymerX said in a statement.

GaymerX was the first LGBT specific gaming convention. It was created as a separate space for LGBT people to come together and interact with others from the community.

When asked if a separate space for LGBT gamers was necessary, Toni Rocca, president of GaymerX and organization of the convention, told Joystiq that it was indeed.

“The easiest analogy that one could use is that it’s like a gay bar. There’s bars, and then there’s gay bars. A gay bar is a place where gay people can meet one another…and they can do so in a place where they know that they’re not going to be harassed by somebody else,” Rocca said.

“This is about LGBT issues in gaming, and also celebrating the culture of LGBT intersecting with gaming as an art form. It’s like having an LGBT film festival or things like that: It allows people from this culture to express themselves and see people like them expressing themselves, and see people like themselves creating things.”

The GaymerX convention will take place in San Francisco from July 11-13 and tickets are still available at $70 apiece.

Article source: http://thecelebritycafe.com/feature/2014/04/gaymerx-will-no-longer-hold-lgbt-gamer-conference

Op-ed: Holding Out for a (Gay) Hero

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Thirty years ago, the idea of finding LGBT representation in a mainstream superhero comic book seemed as far from reality as waking up with the ability to fly. An entertainment medium that once adopted a code forbidding even the mention of alternative sexual orientations, however, has evolved by leaps and single-bounds.

With heroes such as DC Comics’ lesbian caped crusader, Batwoman, and Marvel Comics’ gay teen power couple, Hulkling and Wiccan of the Young Avengers, a diverse spectrum of LGBT characters can currently be seen battling evil alongside icons such as Wonder Woman, Superman, and Wolverine. But while LGBT visibility in comics is growing faster than a speeding bullet, Hollywood’s unstoppable superhero scene is evolving at a snail’s pace. It’s an oversight that is beginning to raise the eyebrows of not only LGBT fans who desire to see a fundamental aspect of their lives reflected in the empowering fantasies the genre provides, but several of Hollywood’s biggest and rising stars as well.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 star Andrew Garfield stoked the fires last summer when he simply asked Entertainment Weekly, “Why can’t we discover that Peter [Parker] is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking! So why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?”

Garfield’s comment kicked off a lively debate for weeks, and he’s not the only one making such suggestions. Out rock musician and songwriter Linda Perry echoed Garfield on the red carpet of the 2014 MTV Movie Awards. “Well, I’d love to see Supergirl be this, like, big-ass fucking dyke that pounces down on villains across the world,” she said when I asked her if she thought American audiences would accept an out superhero on the big screen. “Why can’t Supergirl be a badass dyke?”

The idea, as Garfield puts it, is “hardly even groundbreaking.” In fact, alternative interpretations of superheroes have been a staple of the tights and flights genre since its earliest days. In recent years, mainstream comic book publishers have continued to reimagine their most famous characters by altering their race, age, origin, gender, and yes, even their sexuality. Gay versions of Wolverine and the X-Men’s Colossus have been prominently featured in stories taking place outside the primary Marvel Universe. Additionally, DC’s original Emerald ring-slinger, Green Lantern Alan Scott, was reimagined as a gay man when he was reintroduced in the comic Earth 2 after the publisher’s recent company-wide reboot, and the Shining Knight was revealed to be an intersex person in the character’s current incarnation.

Nevertheless, with hundreds of millions of dollars riding on each superpowered adventure, and the ever-present fear that a film could prove to be more box office Kryptonite than movie of steel, it’s understandable that studios are fearful of anything that may derail a lucrative franchise. However, the changing attitudes of young people — the target audience of such films – is evidence that the fear of including LGBT people in any form of entertainment is not only outdated, it could be obstructing bigger box office success.

Seventy-five percent of millennials (those aged 18 to 32 today) and 62 percent of Gen Xers (age 33 to 48 today) believe “homosexuality should be accepted,” according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. But it’s the actions of an overwhelming number of millennials that prove they are largely the first generation to view LGBT people as simply human rather than “other.” This could be due in part to the increasing way in which many of them view their own sexuality — not as gay or straight, but somewhere in the space between, or undefinable.

Take, for example Josh Hutcherson’s 2013 interview with Out magazine in which the Hunger Games star described himself as “mostly straight” and said he believed “defining yourself as 100 percent anything is kind of near-sighted and close-minded.”

Millennials are even content finding inspiration in both our heroes and real-life stories. When I recently asked Andrew Schultz of MTV’s Guy Code who the first out character was who inspired him, he answered without hesitation. “Omar from The Wire,” he said, adding, “I was Omar for Halloween. Omar was the coolest character I’ve ever seen on television, gay or straight. They made the baddest dude on the show gay!”

Similarly, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (Jersey Shore, Snooki Jwoww) said Ellen Page’s coming-out speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive Conference  “brought tears to my eyes” and she believes the time for an LGBT superhero in a mainstream feature film is “right now.”

It would appear the creative minds behind the CW network’s superhero hit Arrow, based on DC Comics’ Green Arrow, agree with Snooki. In its second season, the series has introduced a large number of characters from across the DC universe, including a bisexual incarnation of the fan-favorite female martial arts master Black Canary, which is a first for a live-action superhero series based on a property from a mainstream comics publisher. The inclusion of an LGBT character among the cast of Arrow has helped expand the diversity and appeal of the show, while proving that out characters are not only accepted by a young demographic, they are celebrated. Since the introduction of Black Canary, Arrow’s ratings have continued to hold strong. It was one of five shows the CW announced for early renewal in February, and it continues be the network’s most-watched series as well as the number 1 show in its time slot among men 18-34.

As WonderCon – the sexy younger brother of Comic-Con International – kicks off this weekend in Anaheim, Calif., I’m hopeful that anyone in attendance who is involved in TV or film adaptations of our super-heroic crime-fighters listens to the cries that will be bouncing through the halls of the convention center from fans clamoring for greater diversity. The inclusion of characters from all walks of life — people of color, women, and the LGBT population — can only serve to broaden the appeal of these characters for a modern audience hungry to see a piece of their own lives reflected in all geners of entertainment, and that translates to potential for a greater box office haul.

Like Divergent star Theo James said in a recent interview with The Advocate, “Hopefully the day [we have a gay action hero] isn’t far away.” Besides, a solo Batwoman film may turn out to be one of the superhero genre’s biggest blockbusters yet.

 

 

JASE PEEPLES is The Advocate‘s entertainment editor and a contributor to Out and Gay.net. He lives in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @JasePeeples

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/2014/04/18/op-ed-holding-out-gay-hero

LGBT Groups Working to End Seniors’ Isolation

Friday, April 18th, 2014

News Feature,

Matthew S. Bajko,

Posted: Apr 18, 2014

 
Photo: LGBT seniors ward off feelings of isolation at Openhouse’s games day in San Francisco. (Jane Philomen Cleland/Bay Area Reporter)

Part 3 of series. Click to see Part 1 and Part 2.

SAN FRANCISCO–A walk through Manhattan’s gay Chelsea district is no longer as enjoyable for Charles Cole as it once was. Many of his longtime neighborhood haunts, from gay bars and hangouts to gay-catering businesses, closed as the area’s lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) population moved to other sections of New York City.

At age 64, the gay, single New Yorker can sense the remaining younger men don’t acknowledge him when he does venture out.

“One of the things I do notice when I am out in the real world — since I am an older gay man I can be invisible to a lot of people. I can walk down the street and other gay men that are younger than I am don’t even see me,” Cole said. “Definitely, I felt isolated.”

New York LGBT Senior Center

His isolation changed four years ago, though, while attending a job fair at New York City’s LGBT community center. Cole overheard talk about computer classes offered by the nonprofit Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and enrolled. Although he knew about the agency, Cole didn’t see himself as a senior and had never sought out its services.

“I don’t know why; I definitely was. I laugh now when I think about it,” he recalled. “When I came through the doors here the very first time, I thought, for the first time I was somewhere where being an older gay man wasn’t going to automatically be two strikes against me.”

Today, Cole volunteers at the SAGE Center, a community center for LGBT seniors the group opened in 2012, where he works as a receptionist and programs a popular movie night. Instead of eating a TV dinner alone at home, Cole now often dines at the center, breaking bread nightly with other LGBT seniors and SAGE staffers.

“I like to say that I came here to get some computer classes, and I found a community and I found a home,” said Cole.

Yet many LGBT older adults lack the social bonds and connections that Cole has formed through the center. Various studies have found that LGBT seniors are vulnerable to social isolation, which can hamper their well-being and elevate their risk for depression, anxiety and other maladies.

“LGBT elders don’t feel like they fit into the LGBT community, which is more youth focused,” said Robert Espinoza, SAGE’s senior director for public policy and communications. “In general, the aging field believes isolation is one of the biggest issues facing all older people,” a problem even more pronounced among LGBT elders, he stressed.

Years Not Golden by the Golden Gate

A 2011 study by the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Health Policy Research found that half of gay and bisexual men in the state live alone compared with 13.4 percent of heterosexual men. Lesbians were more likely to live with a partner than gay men, according to the study, but more than 25 percent of lesbians lived alone compared with about 20 percent of straight women.

“Social isolation and lack of family and community support has a significant impact on the mental and physical health of LGBT older adults,” noted a 2013 report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force titled “No Golden Years at the End of the Rainbow: How a Lifetime of Discrimination Compounds Economic and Health Disparities for LGBT Older Adults.”

A 2013 survey of 616 LGBT San Francisco residents ages 60 to 92 found that almost 60 percent lived alone. That’s twice the level for all of the city’s seniors, according to a separate 2010 study.

“LGBT participants who live alone are at risk for poorer outcomes on all assessed health indicators, compared to those who live with others,” concluded the survey report, titled “Addressing the Needs of LGBT Older Adults in San Francisco: Recommendations for the Future.”

That report determined that most of the participants “have moderate levels of social support.” But it also found almost one in 10 who said they have no social connections they can turn to.

Among the 15 percent of the seniors with adult children in the survey, 60 percent reported that their children were not available to help them if needed.

Commissioned by the San Francisco’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force [http://bit.ly/1hC5Hct], the survey report found that “gay men are at higher risk for lacking social support than lesbians,” support “critical to our health and well-being, especially among older adults.”

The survey found that almost three-quarters (72 percent) of the survey participants indicated they had a “close friend,” who was their “most common source of social support.” The next most common was a partner or spouse (36 percent), therapist (23 percent) and neighbor (22 percent). The survey’s transgender participants were the most likely to turn to faith communities for social and emotional support.

Few Children or Other Family

One alarming statistic for researchers behind the survey was the finding that 15 percent of the respondents had “seriously considered” committing suicide within the previous year. LGBT seniors in legally recognized relationships were less likely to have contemplated suicide than those in relationships not legally recognized or those not in a relationship.

“We need to bring older people together to counter that isolation. It is why senior centers all around the country and day centers exist,” said SAGE’s Espinoza.

At Openhouse, a nonprofit serving LGBT seniors in San Francisco, “Isolation is a huge theme for much of [our] work,” said Seth Kilbourn, the agency’s executive director. “LGBT seniors have a higher risk for isolation than non-LGBT seniors because they tend not to have children, tend to live alone and don’t have family members to step in for them like non-LGBT seniors.”

Kilbourn added, “The more isolated the senior is, the less likely they are to maintain their health and well-being,” he said. “The more connection to family and community members, they live longer, stay out of the hospital or delay any type of institutional housing placements.”

For that reason, Openhouse added more social programs over the last five years. The organization offers such fare as monthly film showings, potlucks for men, women-specific gatherings and groups focused on poetry, opera or books. Openhouse recently started offering Spanish classes, and based on its success is looking to add other language courses.

Such programs provide LGBT seniors an entrée into Openhouse that may lead to their receiving other needed services, such as assistance finding affordable housing.

The agency also launched a friendly visitors program to match volunteers with homebound or frail seniors needing some companionship, perhaps someone to help them get out of the house.

Call for More Support Services

In its report, “LGBT Aging at the Golden Gate: [http://tinyurl.com/l99prq7] San Francisco Policy Issues and Recommendations,” the city’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force determined that “currently there are very limited individual supportive services that address the emotional and behavioral health challenges of isolated LGBT older adults in San Francisco.”

The Task force found only four agencies in the city – Openhouse, the Alliance Health Project, Queer Lifespace and the Access Institute – that offer some supportive services specifically geared for LGBT seniors. The Task Force is recommending that city officials expand peer support-based counseling, as well as emotional and practical support services for these older adults.

“As a social worker, I am really concerned about the issue of emotional well-being as the older adults community continues to age,” said Scott Haitsuka, 52, a member of the Task Force who served on its health and social services work group.

Haitsuka, a clinical social worker, traces the lack of social support services for LGBT seniors in San Francisco to the 2010 closure of the nonprofit New Leaf, which offered mental health services to LGBT clients.

“Now there isn’t one place that focuses on – and is welcoming and understands the life experiences of LGBT older adults,” Haitsuka said. “That is key to having a safe and welcoming space where LGBT older adults can get mental health services.” He hopes the city’s Department of Aging and Adult Services will implement the Task Force’s recommendations to fund an LGBT senior peer-counseling and peer support volunteer program.

At SAGE’s senior center in New York City, Cole has seen firsthand the positive impacts that come with providing a safe space for LGBT seniors to connect with one another and access the services they need.

“It is great to feel I do have a network here and that I am not alone out there,” Cole said of the friends he has made at the center. “We do take care of each other … like I said, it is a family.”

Matthew S. Bajko wrote this article for the Bay Area Reporter through the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowships, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.

Article source: http://newamericamedia.org/2014/04/lgbt-groups-working-to-end-seniors-isolation-improve-wellbeing.php

LGBT history is lovingly preserved at Quatrefoil Library on Lake Street

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Quatrefoil Library blends into the streetscape of Lake Street pretty seamlessly – besides a few rainbow flags hanging from some of the balconies, you’d never know that the building that houses one of the oldest LGBT lending libraries in the United States was anything other than a standard early 21st century condominium complex. Spirit on Lake is an affordable housing complex for members of the LGBT community. Quatrefoil – incorporated in 1983 by David Irwin and Dick Hewetson, and open to the public in various locations sine 1986 – is on the ground floor, up a ramp in the middle of the block. From the outside, it looks like it might be a community room.

Inside, though, it’s a dizzyingly comprehensive collection of more than 14,000 books and thousands of videos, audio recordings, periodicals, artworks, and archival materials. It’s a modest, neatly furnished space with rows of bookshelves, spaces for reading, and coffee served at the desk up front. The majority of materials are available for lending with a yearly membership. Quatrefoil is entirely volunteer-run, and open seven days a week.

The library is named for a 1950 novel by James Barr, a pseudonym for the American writer James Fugaté. Barr’s novel is a sort of roman a clef  love story between two men who meet in the Navy in World War II, and one of the first mainstream novels to portray openly gay men in a positive light – “Its two thoughtful, masculine heroes provided a corrective to the many mindless, pathetic or flighty gay characters of the forties,” wrote critic Roger Austen in the 1970s. “Quatrefoil is one of the earliest novels that could have produced a glow of gay pride.” And of course, tucked away behind glass in the non-circulating portion of the library, with hundreds of other older, out-of-print and rare books, are several editions of “Quatrefoil.”

A double outsider

A few volunteers greet me at the front desk the night I visit. The weekday hours are 7 to 9 p.m., making it easier in fact than most libraries to visit, at least for people who work during the day. Charles, whose nametag indicates that he’s been a volunteer since 1991, chats with me for a bit about the history of the library, and a little bit of my own history in Minneapolis. “As an outsider,” he asks, “how have you found the LGBT community?”

As a sort of double outsider in this context – not a native Minnesotan, nor a member of the LGBT community – I offered that I thought there was an exceptionally good sense of institutional memory. I was, in part, thinking specifically of one of the best local historical books I’ve read in recent years, Stewart Van Cleve’s “Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota.” Van Cleve is the former assistant curator of the Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies at the University of Minnesota, and the book is a thoughtful, well-selected overview of materials from that collection, assembled into a historical narrative that touches on aspects of Minnesota queer culture, beginning with the Ojibwe, and moving over the years through 21st century activist organizations. It includes everything from Xeroxed pamphlets, magazines, and flyers from the dawn of the gay rights movement, to photos, oral histories, and written accounts from much earlier, many of which were rescued from certain obscurity by dedicated activists, volunteers, and amateur archivists, and donated to the collection.

Charles mentions the Tretter Collection, and nods in agreement with my “institutional memory” assessment: “It’s a very well-organized community.” Like the Tretter collection and Van Cleve’s book, the Quatrefoil Library itself is a physical testament to that organization and sense of memory.

The 10 percent rule

For a work to be included in the library, it must have an LGBT author or have at least 10 percent of the material reference the LGBT experience in one way or another. That encompasses a really wide spectrum of cultural activity, obviously, so even taking a cursory glance at the holdings, you can find everything from LPs, children’s books, textbooks, archival collections of pinback buttons, oversized coffee table art books about Warhol and Avedon (not gay himself, but noted for portraits of gay subjects, including a famous one of Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky in an embrace). That also includes a panoply of porn – a whole shelf of it on DVD, facing away from the front entrance and only available to adults. This facet of the collection is something that’s been a somewhat contentious issue internally over the years, though the library has always made it available – it is a part of the LGBT experience. (For a complete history of the collection, there’s an excellent e-book by Adam Kein available on the website.)

It’s that comprehensive, all-embracing aspect of the collection that makes it so fascinating and so vital. One of the founding tenets was that there be “no censorship.” If it’s relevant to the LGBT experience in some way, it’s in. Aside from even considerations of inclusiveness and censorship, browsing the collection turns up surprises in every aisle. Poet Greg Hewett, who was recently a writer-in-residence at the library through Coffee House Press’ In the Stacks program, makes note of his surprise upon finding a copy a 1963 Helen Gurley Brown knockoff called “Sex and the Single Man.” Why would that be in there? Well, explains Hewett, “it has a chapter devoted to avoiding homosexuality. Still, I’m glad it’s there as an artifact of sexology and psychology of a bygone era.” All of the materials, when taken as a whole, present a diverse, multifaceted, complex set of cultures, sometimes in alignment with one another, and sometimes at odds. 

Poignant reminders

My first impulse in any library is to find the archival, bound periodicals, and the selection at Quatrefoil doesn’t disappoint. There are full runs of Twin Cities gay-themed publications of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, such as Positively Gay, Equal Time, the GLC Voice, and Twin Cities Gaze, as well as selections of peer publications from other cities, such as Milwaukee’s Amazon or Vancouver’s Angles. Paging through Equal Time or Positively Gay is an interesting and somewhat sobering glance at the thriving but still quite limited parameters of local LGBT culture in an earlier era: printed on the sidebars and full-page spreads in black-and-white photos, text blocks and line drawings are ads for the retailers, bars, clubs, social services, organizations and other commercial establishments that constituted the safe spaces of those times for a marginalized and oppressed minority.

In particular, I find a small, one-fold satin-gloss pamphlet called “Marketplace”only four issues in 1980 – interesting for these reasons. It’s a guide to gay-friendly commercial resources in the Twin Cities, probably printed in a very small run and almost certainly limited in its availability. The cover of the first issue is a sensitively rendered drawing of a young man, available through a local portrait artist’s gallery. It’s also decorated with a lambda, the Greek letter that was a popular, pre-rainbow flag symbol of gay activism in the 1970s. There’s such an idealism in the necessity of such an undertaking – a listings of businesses for “US,” it reads – but also in the fact that this tiny facet of the local gay culture was preserved and is now available to anyone who’d like to look at it.

Not every city in America had a “Marketplace” in the post-Stonewall years, as limited as it may have been in its long-term prospects. Equally important is the fact that not very city would have that heritage so carefully preserved. The fact that you see that, and then check out a book on the cultural history of disco in America – which I did, after I signed up for a membership – makes it all the better.

Article source: http://www.minnpost.com/stroll/2014/04/lgbt-history-lovingly-preserved-quatrefoil-library-lake-street

Activists Seek Funds to Flee Violent Homophobia in Uganda

Friday, April 18th, 2014

While some prominent LGBT activists in Uganda are pledging to stay and fight the increasingly violent and homophobic atmosphere bolstered by the recent passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, better known as the “Jail the Gays” law, others are looking to flee to more accepting climates. 

Many of those advocating for LGBT rights or even just providing health care services to HIV and AIDS patients are facing threats on their life and being sought by police, since their actions are now technically illegal under Ugandan law. 

In an effort to aid those looking to flee the country, a women’s rights organization has launched a new funding campaign that aims to make grants immediately available to those who most desperately need it. 

The Urgent Action Fund launched its Safe Passage Fund earlier this month “to provide immediate assistance to LGBTQ activists who are at risk of violence, life-imprisonment or even death. In partnership with our sister fund, Urgent Action Fund — Africa, the Safe Passage Fund makes rapid grants within 1-7 days to ensure the safety, and if necessary, evacuation, of these courageous individuals,” according to the fund’s website. Tax-deductable donations can be made here

Among those seeking financial assistance is a 26-year-old Ugandan woman who has long been a volunteer with the AIDS program of Gender-Equality and Health Organization Uganda, a community organization in the eastern region of Jinja. Ugandan police recently raided the group’s offices and six local radio stations broadcast Dorcas Awena’s name, claiming she had violated the Anti-Homosexuality Act. 

Gay blogger Joe Jervis reports that by last Friday, Awena had narrowly avoided three separate efforts by police to arrest her. The advocacy organization still needed an estimated $300 to secure Awena a one-way plane ticket to Canada, combined with a modest stipend to cover her other travel costs. Any additional funds raised will be disbursed among LGBT people and activists in Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere seeking immediate safe passage out of homophobic environments. 

The draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act, which president Yoweri Museveni signed into law February 24, imposes lifetime prison sentences for anyone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes multiple instances of consensual sexual activity between two people of the same sex and any such contact where one person is HIV-positive, a minor, mentally disabled, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Anyone charged with the offense must undergo a medical examination — which in practice is usually a forcible anal examination — and HIV test, regardless of the individual’s consent. 

The law also imposes harsh sentences on those convicted of aiding, abetting, or conspiring to engage in homosexuality — including providing housing, support, or affirmation to an LGBT person or organization. As a result, LGBT Ugandans have been evicted from their homes, with landlords citing the Anti-Homosexuality Act as the primary reason for their eviction

Additionally, the law declares that any person or organization performing a same-sex marriage is liable to lose their licensure and spend as many as seven years in jail. The law also enumerates the numerous ways in which the “promotion of homosexuality” is forbidden, clamping down on individuals, organizations, and media outlets that discuss LGBT identities, and provides for extradition of Ugandan nationals who violate the law abroad.

Ugandan attorneys, opposition lawmakers, and activists have filed a constitutional challenge to the law, arguing that it violates several fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Ugandan constitution and supposedly protected by international law and conventions on human rights.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/world/2014/04/17/activists-seek-funds-flee-violent-homophobia-uganda

PNP backs LGBT police desk bill

Friday, April 18th, 2014

By Jake Soriano, VERA Files Bongao, Tawi-tawi—A team of Marines and policemen intercepted around noon Thursday 48 people, 12 of them minors, believed recruited by a human trafficking syndicate for work in Malaysia. The arrest constitutes what advocates called the … Continue reading ? …

Article source: http://ph.news.yahoo.com/pnp-backs-lgbt-police-desk-bill-164917359.html

Plans to segregate LGBT convicts in Turkey

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Turkey’s plan to construct a prison exclusively for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) convicts, doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Hakan, a 30-year-old gay man in the capital, Ankara.

“They
ban Twitter, then YouTube, now this…the government wants to ban the LGBT community, too.”

Over the weekend, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced that plans were underway to construct separate prisons for openly gay inmates in a bid to “protect convicts” with different sexual orientations.

Currently, most prisoners who announce their sexuality are essentially segregated from heterosexual inmates in shared social spaces. The new prisons would separate them completely.

The country also recently introduced regulations around setting up so-called “pink wards,” who would guard transgendered individuals in particular.

These measures, say the AKP, are to ensure the safety of LGBT people behind bars.

Avoiding ‘honor killings’

While homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since the 19th century, it is not covered by any civil rights laws, nor is there any legal recognition for same-sex couples.

Additionally, religious and social conservatism influence large segments of Turkish society, resulting in discrimination against many non-traditional ways of life or practices.


In July 2012 Rosin Cicek was killed by his father and two uncles because of his sexual orientation in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

Four years earlier 26-year-old Ahmet Y?ld?z was killed, allegedly by his father, in what some called an “honor killing” after he admitted he was gay.

Discrimination at the national level


A discriminatory policy still pervades the Turkish armed forces on issues of sexuality

The Turkish military requires all homosexuals seeking exemption from conscription to submit what many call humiliating “proof” of their sexual identity, such as explicit photographs, personality tests and questionnaires about their sexual preferences.

And Turkey’s Culture Ministry restricted the viewing of the Oscar-winning gay romance “Brokeback Mountain,” saying the movie violated public morals.

The latest available numbers from the Ministry of Justice show that, as of April 2013, there were 81 convicts who openly declared their sexual preference to prison authorities. However, the actual number of LGBT prisoners is likely higher as most convicts fear revealing their sexual identity due to the risk of abuse.

Winning votes


Erdogan’s AKP party found success in local elections on May 30

Political scientist Sait Yilmaz says the project is more in line with political agendas then helping the LGBT community.


“The project stems from the pressure of a conservative society who are the main supporters of the AKP. So the AKP’s stance on that issue seems to satisfy his supporters rather than gays.”

Hakan agrees.

“The government is not interested in our rights, they just want to win more voters.”

The ruling party may be feeling confident after claiming a
fourth victory in local elections on March 31st, but Yilmaz points out there are many people unhappy with the government’s latest plan.

“Many organizations in Turkey criticized that project due to the intentions to isolate these people.”


In the past, members of LISTAG, a Turkish LBGT group, have taken to Istanbul streets for improved rights

Gay life becoming visible

Murat Koylu is a spokesman for the Ankara-based gay rights group Kaos GL. He says such prisons will only lead to the profiling of gay inmates and create further problems.

“Instead of creating public areas where people from all sexual orientations can live together, the government has once again chosen to ostracize homosexuals…. How will the government be able to protect those prisoners who are not openly gay?”

Hakan, who wears his hair long to one side and paints his finger nails, says he’s felt ostracized by society, but also says things are getting better.

“I was beaten up really bad in university, but now people seem to just be more used to it. There are even gay clubs in Ankara and Istanbul.”

Gay life is becoming more visible in Turkey’s big cities. Cafes and clubs with an openly gay clientele are becoming more accepted, and the country’s annual gay pride parade more popular.

Yet many will still argue that progress on LGBT acceptance is slow and that a division in the prison system will only foster more discrimination in a country where LGBT rights are not legally protected.

Article source: http://www.dw.de/plans-to-segregate-lgbt-convicts-in-turkey/a-17572964?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

Plans to segregate LGBT convicts in Turkey

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Turkey’s plan to construct a prison exclusively for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) convicts, doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Hakan, a 30-year-old gay man in the capital, Ankara.

“They
ban Twitter, then YouTube, now this…the government wants to ban the LGBT community, too.”

Over the weekend, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced that plans were underway to construct separate prisons for openly gay inmates in a bid to “protect convicts” with different sexual orientations.

Currently, most prisoners who announce their sexuality are essentially segregated from heterosexual inmates in shared social spaces. The new prisons would separate them completely.

The country also recently introduced regulations around setting up so-called “pink wards,” who would guard transgendered individuals in particular.

These measures, say the AKP, are to ensure the safety of LGBT people behind bars.

Avoiding ‘honor killings’

While homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since the 19th century, it is not covered by any civil rights laws, nor is there any legal recognition for same-sex couples.

Additionally, religious and social conservatism influence large segments of Turkish society, resulting in discrimination against many non-traditional ways of life or practices.


In July 2012 Rosin Cicek was killed by his father and two uncles because of his sexual orientation in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

Four years earlier 26-year-old Ahmet Y?ld?z was killed, allegedly by his father, in what some called an “honor killing” after he admitted he was gay.

Discrimination at the national level


A discriminatory policy still pervades the Turkish armed forces on issues of sexuality

The Turkish military requires all homosexuals seeking exemption from conscription to submit what many call humiliating “proof” of their sexual identity, such as explicit photographs, personality tests and questionnaires about their sexual preferences.

And Turkey’s Culture Ministry restricted the viewing of the Oscar-winning gay romance “Brokeback Mountain,” saying the movie violated public morals.

The latest available numbers from the Ministry of Justice show that, as of April 2013, there were 81 convicts who openly declared their sexual preference to prison authorities. However, the actual number of LGBT prisoners is likely higher as most convicts fear revealing their sexual identity due to the risk of abuse.

Winning votes


Erdogan’s AKP party found success in local elections on May 30

Political scientist Sait Yilmaz says the project is more in line with political agendas then helping the LGBT community.


“The project stems from the pressure of a conservative society who are the main supporters of the AKP. So the AKP’s stance on that issue seems to satisfy his supporters rather than gays.”

Hakan agrees.

“The government is not interested in our rights, they just want to win more voters.”

The ruling party may be feeling confident after claiming a
fourth victory in local elections on March 31st, but Yilmaz points out there are many people unhappy with the government’s latest plan.

“Many organizations in Turkey criticized that project due to the intentions to isolate these people.”


In the past, members of LISTAG, a Turkish LBGT group, have taken to Istanbul streets for improved rights

Gay life becoming visible

Murat Koylu is a spokesman for the Ankara-based gay rights group Kaos GL. He says such prisons will only lead to the profiling of gay inmates and create further problems.

“Instead of creating public areas where people from all sexual orientations can live together, the government has once again chosen to ostracize homosexuals…. How will the government be able to protect those prisoners who are not openly gay?”

Hakan, who wears his hair long to one side and paints his finger nails, says he’s felt ostracized by society, but also says things are getting better.

“I was beaten up really bad in university, but now people seem to just be more used to it. There are even gay clubs in Ankara and Istanbul.”

Gay life is becoming more visible in Turkey’s big cities. Cafes and clubs with an openly gay clientele are becoming more accepted, and the country’s annual gay pride parade more popular.

Yet many will still argue that progress on LGBT acceptance is slow and that a division in the prison system will only foster more discrimination in a country where LGBT rights are not legally protected.

Article source: http://www.dw.de/plans-to-segregate-lgbt-convicts-in-turkey/a-17572964?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

LGBT Video Game Convention GaymerX To Hold Final Conference in July

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Despite a successful launch in 2013, leaders of the LGBT-specific gaming conference GaymerX have decided that the 2014 convention will be the last.

In a statement on their website, organizers cited a lack of long-term sponsorship as the primary reason to end the conference: “The decision was not made lightly, but one that was made after spending much time looking over numbers, and realizing that trying to create a mega-event of this size, and trying to grow it at the pace that we were trying to keep was becoming unsustainable.”

The GaymerX convention opened in San Francisco last year as a way to unite and organize LGBT geeks passionate about video games, affectionately referred to as “gaymers.” With backing from a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $91,000, the two-day event attracted well over 2,000 attendees — twice the amount anticipated — and garnered national headlines.

Although 2014 will see the final GaymerX conference, organizers are certain their mission will continue into the future: “We hope that we could help spark debate in the mainstream gaming world on issues like gender and sexual diversity in games, and that the fight for creating a better world for queer geeks will live on until there is true equality.”

GaymerX will take place at the InterContinental in San Francisco from July 11 through July 13. For tickets and more information, visit GaymerX.com.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/geek/2014/04/16/lgbt-video-game-convention-gaymerx-hold-final-conference-july

TODD STARNES Mich. utility drops 'Dynasty' contest over LGBT worries

Thursday, April 17th, 2014
  • Phil Robertson in AE’s “Duck Dynasty.”AE

  • This 2012 photo released by AE shows, from left, Phil Robertson, Jase Robertson, Si Robertson and Willie Robertson from the AE series, “Duck Dynasty,” airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST. (AP Photo/AE, Zach Dilgard)AP2012

Tolerance and diversity does not include men who wear camouflage or beards, according to Michigan’s largest municipally-owned utility.

The Lansing Board of Water Light has decided to cancel an upcoming “Duck Dynasty” look-alike contest off because the contest might offend people, a spokesman for the utility told me.

“The decision was made in light of controversial remarks by a Duck Dynasty cast member against the LGBT community,” the public utility said in a statement. “The BWL is committed to diversity and respect community differences, and we regret if the contest offended anyone.”

You would think that BWL had been overwhelmed with a deluge of customers furious about the “Duck Dynasty” contest – but that’s not the case at all. In fact – only one complaint was lodged. A little overreaction perhaps?

I figured there had to be more to the story so I called Steve Serkaian. He earns his paycheck as the official spokesman of the BWL – and was kind enough to give me the back story.

For nearly 20 years, the public utility has been hosting a chili cook-off. The proceeds are donated to charity. 

One of the most popular events is the rubber duck race. For all you folks living in New York City’s Upper East Side – here’s how it works: You buy a duck and then dump it into the Grand River. They typically have about 500 ducks – and the first one to float across the finish line wins a big prize.

There’s just one tiny problem – it normally takes about a half hour for the rubber ducks to float down the river. That’s a lot of time to twiddle your thumbs. But this year – the folks at the BWL decided to fill the void with a Duck Dynasty look-alike contest.

On Monday, the BWL announced the competition. Later that afternoon, they received an email from a local citizen complaining about it.

The Lansing State Journal identified the aggrieved citizen as Danielle Casavant. She told the newspaper that the contest “showed poor judgment on their part.”

“The City of Lansing has come out very publicly promoting equality,” she told the newspaper. “It seemed hypocritical to do something that glamorizes and promotes the show in any way.”

Serkaian told me there were concerns about “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s comments about homosexuality. 

Last December, Robertson created a stir when he told GQ magazine that he believed homosexuality is a sin. He also quoted a Bible verse to defend his personally-held opinion. (God forbid anybody have one of those in this post-tolerant world.)

I wrote about the intolerance of Robertson’s critics in my upcoming book, “God Less America:Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.”

“It took about a minute to make the decision to drop the contest,” Serkaian told me.”We did not want anything to detract from this longstanding family-friendly festival.”

He said the look-alike contest had been in the planning stages before the December controversy and were not aware about what Robertson had said until Monday.

“This company has a commitment to inclusiveness and diversity,” Serkaian said. “We have our own diversity department. We take quite seriously our commitment to that.”

Something tells me they probably sell kale chips and wheatgrass in the office vending machines.

You would think that BWL had been overwhelmed with a deluge of customers furious about the “Duck Dynasty” contest – but that’s not the case at all. In fact – only one complaint was lodged. A little overreaction perhaps?

“No,” Serkaian told me. “She was not wrong. Her comment was right. We have a very active and strong LGBT community in Lansing.”

I’m sure they do. And I’m also sure they have a very active and strong Duck Dynasty community in Lansing. Why can’t the public utility tolerate and respect them?

Serkaian made sure that he hammered home the idea that the chili cook-off is a “family-friendly” event. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that comment. Was he suggesting that “Duck Dynasty” is not family friendly because of their religious beliefs?

At the end of the day, it was all about the public utility’s public image.

“We did not want to take the risk of this blowing up into a controversy that would detract from this longstanding family-friendly festival,” he said. (See my point about “family-friendly”?)

It’s really unfortunate that the folks in Lansing are served by a public utility that believes the only way to achieve tolerance is through intolerance. In my book, that duck just won’t float.

To quote the great Louisiana philosopher Uncle Si, “That’s a fact, Jack.”

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is “God Less America”.

Article source: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/04/16/city-utility-drops-duck-dynasty-contest-over-lgbt-fears/

LGBT film fest roots for landmark ruling on transgender rights

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Home News maharashtra-news


Mumbai, Apr 16 : India’s leading LGBT film festival Kashish will celebrate with its screenings the Supreme Court recognition of eunuchs and Transgenders by creating a ‘third gender’ status, deeming them a socially and economically backward category.

The ruling granted the transgenders a special provisions for admission to educational institutions and employment opportunities. The SC also added that if a person surgically changes his/her sex, then he or she is entitled to her changed sex and can not be discriminated.

This latest development on human rights is a hugely welcomed decision and gay activist, filmmaker and festival director of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival Sridhar Rangayan said, “This is indeed a landmark judgment that will have a far reaching effect on rights and welfare for transgender community in India. It will provide them right to education, health, employment and several other welfare schemes. It will make the community come out of the shadows and be part of the social mainstream”.

He also said that this year’s theme for KASHISH 2014: ‘Dare To Dream’ aptly reflects this emerging change. “Every year we program a large number of films on transgender issues from across the world and they have been greatly appreciated. This year too there is a spotlight on transgender films as well as a panel discussion planned to discuss the current scenario,” said Rangayan.

Highlighting the key transgender films, director of programming Saagar Gupta said, “Films on Transgender issues to watch out for at KASHISH 2014 are ‘Will This Change’ from Bangladesh, ‘My Mother’ from UK, ‘Sexicas’ from Spain, as well as ‘Rainbows Are Real’, ‘I’dentity’ from India, among several others. ‘Can You See The Real Me’ about the life and work of celebrity transgender hairstylist Slyvie is sure to touch many hearts and offer hope.”

KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2014 – the fifth edition returns to win hearts and create ripples with a bold theme ‘DARE TO DREAM’ starting from 21st May – 25th May 2014.

–IBNS (Posted on 16-04-2014)

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GaymerX president on LGBT convention closing: 'We're still here'

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014


LGBT-focused gaming convention GaymerX will be no more after this year’s GaymerX2, being held July 11-13 at the InterContinental San Francisco hotel. But Toni Rocca, president of GaymerX and organizer of the con, isn’t sad.

Rocca told Joystiq she and the GaymerX organization did something new, something no one was doing two years ago, when the con was first announced. She’s proud of what the GaymerX convention accomplished, and what’s more, GaymerX as an organization will continue forward.

This isn’t the end of GaymerX, but a new beginning.

First Steps and Kickstarter

“It was really shocking to us that there was no gay video game convention,” Rocca told Joystiq, recounting the event’s creation. “It just seemed ridiculous.” While Rocca noted that LGBT-themed events existed for various other entertainment media, including film and comic books, video games lacked a centralized event dedicated to the LGBT community. And if no such event existed, Rocca and GaymerX founder Matt Conn would create one. They would call it “GaymerCon.”

GaymerCon went live on crowdfunding site Kickstarter on August 1, 2012. It was advertised as an event where “all gamers and queer geeks can come together in a welcoming and safe space.” It would feature special guests such as Ellen McLain, the voice of GlaDOS and Zach Weinersmith, creator of the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic. Electronic Arts, BioWare and Riot Games would also attend.

In less than a week, the campaign hit its $25,000 goal. By the end of the Kickstarter, the event had raised more than $90,000. Other than GaymerCon being renamed to GaymerX to avoid a trademark issue, the creation of the convention and its inauguration went smoothly. Unfortunately, this had the unintended side effect of making a second convention more difficult.


Gay Passe

Rocca announced that GaymerX2 would be the final GaymerX convention on April 13, via the organization’s Twitter account. Responses were swift and sorrowful; Rocca said she received many messages of consolation and sympathy, of friends and supporters asking if she was okay. Looking back now, Rocca told Joystiq she could have been clearer with the message.

“I realized the day after [tweeting the news] that a lot of people think we ran out of money just now,” Rocca said. “I’ve been trying to let people know that’s not it.” Instead, Rocca pointed out the difficulty of creating relationships with sponsors and getting attention from press as some of the biggest hurdles GaymerX failed to overcome.

“Nothing bad happened at our con, people enjoyed it, and we got a lot of really good, positive feedback.” Unfortunately, Rocca said, a gaming convention going as planned doesn’t make for a particularly engaging story for press to pick up and share.

Rocca also noted that video game culture has seen a shift toward LGBT-friendly attitudes and inclusiveness, making the industry a different place now than it was even two years ago, when GaymerCon made its debut on Kickstarter. Rocca herself had just returned from attending the second annual Different Games conference, where students, developers and industry professionals seek new ways to implement themes of diversity and inclusivity. Games like Gone Home earned critical praise and sell a quarter of a million copies. PAX East had a Diversity Lounge.

“By this point, GaymerX is almost passe,” Rocca said.


Segregation

If GaymerX is “passe” in its second year, it begs the question: Was it necessary in the first place? After all, why do we even need a gay-themed con? Can’t we just focus on the games? Isn’t creating a gay-themed convention just segregating an already alienated group?

Rocca doesn’t think so, but understands where people’s confusion can come from.

“The easiest analogy that one could use is that it’s like a gay bar,” she said. “There’s bars, and then there’s gay bars. A gay bar is a place where gay people can meet one another, they can have fun, they can dance together, they can drink together, and they can do so in a place where they know that they’re not going to be harassed by somebody else.”

“This is about LGBT issues in gaming, and also celebrating the culture of LGBT intersecting with gaming as an art form. It’s like having an LGBT film festival or things like that: It allows people from this culture to express themselves and see people like them expressing themselves, and see people like themselves creating things.”

Rocca said those who called the event “segregation” had “stretched the meaning of the word.”

“A very important key factor that people miss is that GaymerX is not not for straight people, it’s just not specifically made for them.” In fact, despite the LGBT focus, Rocca said she estimated roughly 20 percent of the total audience to be straight, and 30 percent of the audience to be female. The only complaint Rocca could recall from heterosexual attendees was that they wanted more talks about a straight person’s responsibilities and appropriate behaviors when interacting with LGBT people in gaming. In light of such demands from straight attendees, it’s hard to consider GaymerX a segregating event.

On the flip side of the coin, there are those who feel that GaymerX was pushing an agenda, trying to enforce a quota of gay characters in games or gay developers working in development studios. Rocca said that the event was never intended to put LGBT issues in front of a mainstream, mostly-heterosexual audience. “A gay bar isn’t a place for gay people to meet straight guys,” she said, laughing. “That wasn’t the point of GaymerX.”


A Le-Gay-Cy

Despite the GaymerX convention closing its doors, GaymerX as a company will continue forward. Rocca said the group is considering smaller events, but also has its hand in bringing other projects to light. The same minds behind the creation of GaymerX are now developing Read-Only Memories, a cyberpunk adventure game. Gaming In Color, a documentary film about the LGBT gaming community, was handed off to GaymerX, who will finalize and publish the film.

Rocca said the GaymerX convention has already helped show major companies the audience it stands to gain or lose, and has given LGBT individuals an opportunity to network with those companies and share their thoughts; thoughts Rocca believes will be invaluable as games move forward. “People are getting bored with the homogeny of games. I hear people, even outside the queer games scene or the indie games scene, I hear AAA folks who are groaning when they get another quicktime event or things of the sort. A lot of them want something different,” Rocca said, pointing out that LGBT perspectives could be that something. “LGBT people that want to make games, their games have a really good chance of being different and interesting in really special ways because of who they are.”

Instead of seeing the GaymerX convention shutdown as a defeat, as the ending of possibilities, Rocca sees all that her company has accomplished and all the ways in which the gaming culture is changing, and she feels optimistic. “This news coming out just makes me excited,” Rocca said, her voice bright and enthusiastic.”I’m looking forward to the other events, because our audience is dying for another event. Someone’s gonna wind up making it, and I don’t think it’s going to be just one event, I think we’re going to see more.”

“We’re still here,” she said.

Article source: http://www.joystiq.com/2014/04/16/gaymerx-president-on-lgbt-convention-closing-were-still-here/?ncid=rss_truncated

South Asian LGBT group links ‘third gender’ ruling to 377 issue

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Following the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday to create a ‘third gender’ for transgendered individuals rather than forcing them to write ‘male’ or ‘female’ in official papers, the South Asian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community here has called upon the Court to reconsider its December 11 2013 ruling on Section 377, which criminalises homosexual sex.

In a statement Khush DC, a South Asian LGBT social, support, and political group said, “We hope that the Court will use precisely the reasoning it endorsed today to reverse its recent ruling and finally strike down the Indian Penal Code’s Section 377, which criminalises homosexual sex and has been used to persecute transgender Indians and other sexual minorities for over a century.”

In an email to The Hindu Khush DC President Sapna Pandya emphasised that it was impossible to empower and protect transgender Indians while declaring the sexuality of so many of them to be criminal.

The LGBT community here also cautioned that while the latest Supreme Court ruling was “critical and just”, much work remained including, firstly, for jurisprudential experts to derive a precise understanding of the ruling and its impact on both gender and sexual minorities in India, so that activists could advocate for the strongest and clearest protections possible for transgender Indians.

Secondly, they hoped that the Indian government would make it a priority to enact accessible laws that will actually empower and protect India’s transgender communities “not just on paper, but in all spheres of life.”

In recent months the South Asian LGBT community here has expressed deep concern for the welfare of their counterparts in India, owing to the Section 377 ruling, a colonial-era law that has been described as “draconian”.

In a series of candlelight rallies here to symbolically suggest that it “demonstrates the degree to which India is still in the dark,” including at least one rally outside the Indian embassy in December, Khush DC and other community networks groups protested the use of Section 377 to “harass, silence, and imprison the LGBTQ community in the country”.

Article source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asian-lgbt-group-links-third-gender-ruling-to-377-issue/article5916857.ece?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

South Asian LGBT group links ‘third gender’ ruling to 377 issue

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Following the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday to create a ‘third gender’ for transgendered individuals rather than forcing them to write ‘male’ or ‘female’ in official papers, the South Asian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community here has called upon the Court to reconsider its December 11 2013 ruling on Section 377, which criminalises homosexual sex.

In a statement Khush DC, a South Asian LGBT social, support, and political group said, “We hope that the Court will use precisely the reasoning it endorsed today to reverse its recent ruling and finally strike down the Indian Penal Code’s Section 377, which criminalises homosexual sex and has been used to persecute transgender Indians and other sexual minorities for over a century.”

In an email to The Hindu Khush DC President Sapna Pandya emphasised that it was impossible to empower and protect transgender Indians while declaring the sexuality of so many of them to be criminal.

The LGBT community here also cautioned that while the latest Supreme Court ruling was “critical and just”, much work remained including, firstly, for jurisprudential experts to derive a precise understanding of the ruling and its impact on both gender and sexual minorities in India, so that activists could advocate for the strongest and clearest protections possible for transgender Indians.

Secondly, they hoped that the Indian government would make it a priority to enact accessible laws that will actually empower and protect India’s transgender communities “not just on paper, but in all spheres of life.”

In recent months the South Asian LGBT community here has expressed deep concern for the welfare of their counterparts in India, owing to the Section 377 ruling, a colonial-era law that has been described as “draconian”.

In a series of candlelight rallies here to symbolically suggest that it “demonstrates the degree to which India is still in the dark,” including at least one rally outside the Indian embassy in December, Khush DC and other community networks groups protested the use of Section 377 to “harass, silence, and imprison the LGBTQ community in the country”.

Article source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asian-lgbt-group-links-third-gender-ruling-to-377-issue/article5916857.ece?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

South Asian LGBT group links ‘third gender’ ruling to 377 issue

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Following the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday to create a ‘third gender’ for transgendered individuals rather than forcing them to write ‘male’ or ‘female’ in official papers, the South Asian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community here has called upon the Court to reconsider its December 11 2013 ruling on Section 377, which criminalises homosexual sex.

In a statement Khush DC, a South Asian LGBT social, support, and political group said, “We hope that the Court will use precisely the reasoning it endorsed today to reverse its recent ruling and finally strike down the Indian Penal Code’s Section 377, which criminalises homosexual sex and has been used to persecute transgender Indians and other sexual minorities for over a century.”

In an email to The Hindu Khush DC President Sapna Pandya emphasised that it was impossible to empower and protect transgender Indians while declaring the sexuality of so many of them to be criminal.

The LGBT community here also cautioned that while the latest Supreme Court ruling was “critical and just”, much work remained including, firstly, for jurisprudential experts to derive a precise understanding of the ruling and its impact on both gender and sexual minorities in India, so that activists could advocate for the strongest and clearest protections possible for transgender Indians.

Secondly, they hoped that the Indian government would make it a priority to enact accessible laws that will actually empower and protect India’s transgender communities “not just on paper, but in all spheres of life.”

In recent months the South Asian LGBT community here has expressed deep concern for the welfare of their counterparts in India, owing to the Section 377 ruling, a colonial-era law that has been described as “draconian”.

In a series of candlelight rallies here to symbolically suggest that it “demonstrates the degree to which India is still in the dark,” including at least one rally outside the Indian embassy in December, Khush DC and other community networks groups protested the use of Section 377 to “harass, silence, and imprison the LGBTQ community in the country”.

Article source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asian-lgbt-group-links-third-gender-ruling-to-377-issue/article5916857.ece?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

S.C. Pols Continue Critique of College Over LGBT 'Recruitment'

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Officials at the University of South Carolina Upstate are still defending the school against criticism from politicians who object to LGBT-themed programs, but other politicos have joined the homophobic chorus.

Last week the Spartanburg-based school canceled a performance of How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less, a play that was to have been presented as part of Bodies of Knowledge, a two-day symposium on LGBT issues.

Republican state senator Mike Fair had reacted to the tongue-in-cheek title by decrying the show as a “recruitment” tool, and he said in a TV interview that offering students such material was like exposing them to “skinheads and radical Islam.” Another critic was state senator Lee Bright, who is challenging Lindsey Graham in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, billing himself as more conservative than Graham. “Folks in Spartanburg aren’t looking for that kind of bent at their local college,” he told Columbia’s The State last week in an interview about the play and conference. The two voted against reappointment of USC trustees because of gay-themed performances and “left-leaning” assigned reading materials, The State notes.

Now “jumping on the irony-proof bandwagon,” reports the Charleston City Paper, is Gary Burgess, one of 13 candidates for state superintendent of education. He issued a press release Monday saying “all of America should be outraged” at the college for scheduling the play.

“Sexual orientation, and teaching children about sexual orientation, is exclusively the purview of the home and Houses of Faith,” Burgess continued. “A seminar teaching young adults how to be heterosexual or homosexual is completely off limits to schools, colleges, and universities. How much training does it take to have human beings, sexual creatures, participate in sex? This is ludicrous. This is dangerous. This is destructive. … These programs, which try to indoctrinate our children, must be completely defunded, and those who use tax dollars in such a way should be fired.”

The South Carolina legislature is already trying to defund LGBT content in higher education. The House of Representatives in March voted to cut $52,000 in funding from USC Upstate and the College of Charleston for assigning LGBT-themed books as required reading; the Senate is considering the budget now.

Politicians who see inclusion of LGBT topics in schools as a recruitment tool are much misinformed and have “a narrow view of the role of higher education,” USC Upstate chancellor Tom Moore told The State.

“LGBTQ issues are part of any campus life,” he said. “As a public university, it’s our charge to equip and empower students to live engaged, authentic lives and be responsible citizens. Each student has to define each of those things for him or herself. We can’t do that if we exclude some part of the population. We must be a safe place for those who come to us.” Moore also noted that USC Upstate has student groups representing a variety of viewpoints, including Republican and Democratic clubs, an anti-abortion group, and 14 religious organizations.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2014/04/15/sc-pols-continue-critique-college-over-lgbt-recruitment

S.C. Pols Continue Critique of College Over LGBT 'Recruitment'

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Officials at the University of South Carolina Upstate are still defending the school against criticism from politicians who object to LGBT-themed programs, but other politicos have joined the homophobic chorus.

Last week the Spartanburg-based school canceled a performance of How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less, a play that was to have been presented as part of Bodies of Knowledge, a two-day symposium on LGBT issues.

Republican state senator Mike Fair had reacted to the tongue-in-cheek title by decrying the show as a “recruitment” tool, and he said in a TV interview that offering students such material was like exposing them to “skinheads and radical Islam.” Another critic was state senator Lee Bright, who is challenging Lindsey Graham in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, billing himself as more conservative than Graham. “Folks in Spartanburg aren’t looking for that kind of bent at their local college,” he told Columbia’s The State last week in an interview about the play and conference. The two voted against reappointment of USC trustees because of gay-themed performances and “left-leaning” assigned reading materials, The State notes.

Now “jumping on the irony-proof bandwagon,” reports the Charleston City Paper, is Gary Burgess, one of 13 candidates for state superintendent of education. He issued a press release Monday saying “all of America should be outraged” at the college for scheduling the play.

“Sexual orientation, and teaching children about sexual orientation, is exclusively the purview of the home and Houses of Faith,” Burgess continued. “A seminar teaching young adults how to be heterosexual or homosexual is completely off limits to schools, colleges, and universities. How much training does it take to have human beings, sexual creatures, participate in sex? This is ludicrous. This is dangerous. This is destructive. … These programs, which try to indoctrinate our children, must be completely defunded, and those who use tax dollars in such a way should be fired.”

The South Carolina legislature is already trying to defund LGBT content in higher education. The House of Representatives in March voted to cut $52,000 in funding from USC Upstate and the College of Charleston for assigning LGBT-themed books as required reading; the Senate is considering the budget now.

Politicians who see inclusion of LGBT topics in schools as a recruitment tool are much misinformed and have “a narrow view of the role of higher education,” USC Upstate chancellor Tom Moore told The State.

“LGBTQ issues are part of any campus life,” he said. “As a public university, it’s our charge to equip and empower students to live engaged, authentic lives and be responsible citizens. Each student has to define each of those things for him or herself. We can’t do that if we exclude some part of the population. We must be a safe place for those who come to us.” Moore also noted that USC Upstate has student groups representing a variety of viewpoints, including Republican and Democratic clubs, an anti-abortion group, and 14 religious organizations.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2014/04/15/sc-pols-continue-critique-college-over-lgbt-recruitment

S.C. Pols Continue Critique of College Over LGBT 'Recruitment'

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Officials at the University of South Carolina Upstate are still defending the school against criticism from politicians who object to LGBT-themed programs, but other politicos have joined the homophobic chorus.

Last week the Spartanburg-based school canceled a performance of How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less, a play that was to have been presented as part of Bodies of Knowledge, a two-day symposium on LGBT issues.

Republican state senator Mike Fair had reacted to the tongue-in-cheek title by decrying the show as a “recruitment” tool, and he said in a TV interview that offering students such material was like exposing them to “skinheads and radical Islam.” Another critic was state senator Lee Bright, who is challenging Lindsey Graham in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, billing himself as more conservative than Graham. “Folks in Spartanburg aren’t looking for that kind of bent at their local college,” he told Columbia’s The State last week in an interview about the play and conference. The two voted against reappointment of USC trustees because of gay-themed performances and “left-leaning” assigned reading materials, The State notes.

Now “jumping on the irony-proof bandwagon,” reports the Charleston City Paper, is Gary Burgess, one of 13 candidates for state superintendent of education. He issued a press release Monday saying “all of America should be outraged” at the college for scheduling the play.

“Sexual orientation, and teaching children about sexual orientation, is exclusively the purview of the home and Houses of Faith,” Burgess continued. “A seminar teaching young adults how to be heterosexual or homosexual is completely off limits to schools, colleges, and universities. How much training does it take to have human beings, sexual creatures, participate in sex? This is ludicrous. This is dangerous. This is destructive. … These programs, which try to indoctrinate our children, must be completely defunded, and those who use tax dollars in such a way should be fired.”

The South Carolina legislature is already trying to defund LGBT content in higher education. The House of Representatives in March voted to cut $52,000 in funding from USC Upstate and the College of Charleston for assigning LGBT-themed books as required reading; the Senate is considering the budget now.

Politicians who see inclusion of LGBT topics in schools as a recruitment tool are much misinformed and have “a narrow view of the role of higher education,” USC Upstate chancellor Tom Moore told The State.

“LGBTQ issues are part of any campus life,” he said. “As a public university, it’s our charge to equip and empower students to live engaged, authentic lives and be responsible citizens. Each student has to define each of those things for him or herself. We can’t do that if we exclude some part of the population. We must be a safe place for those who come to us.” Moore also noted that USC Upstate has student groups representing a variety of viewpoints, including Republican and Democratic clubs, an anti-abortion group, and 14 religious organizations.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2014/04/15/sc-pols-continue-critique-college-over-lgbt-recruitment

Batts says 'culture change' needed to improve interactions with LGBT community

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Monica Yorkman has been harassed by police more times than she can count, she says — and it’s always been about her identity.

As a black transgender woman, cops in Baltimore constantly and unfairly peg her as a prostitute, she said.

“There’s a lot of mistrust between police and transgender women,” the 60-year-old activist said Monday to Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, during a police forum held specifically for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Isn’t there?” Batts responded.

Although complaints of police misconduct are down, the way some officers speak to LGBT residents remains “horrendous,” Batts said — which is why he has ramped up police academy trainings to educate new officers on LGBT issues.

Older, established officers will also get training, he said, as part of a department-wide “cultural shift” that focuses on the “three Cs,” he said: crime, community and credibility.

“We’re going to build a Constitutional police department that cares about all parts of our community,” Batts told Yorkman — a founding member of the organization Sisters of the T — and the two dozen other community activists, gay residents and LGBT leaders who gathered at the evening event at the Northwest District Community Action Center.

“You have somebody who stands in front of you ready to work,” Batts said, before calling himself a “reformer” who will “call balls and strikes” when assessing his department’s performance.

The event was the second LGBT forum Batts has held since taking over the department in 2012, following another in Mount Vernon in October. After the beating last year of an East Baltimore gay man in an attack that some believed was a hate crime, Batts promised to improve his department’s relationship with the LGBT community.

“I realized we may have an organization that doesn’t have the sensitivity to the LGBT community that it should,” Batts said.

The department put new effort into recruiting LGBT officers, started developing new trainings and formed a LGBT advisory council, whose members were in attendance Monday night.

Still, some at the forum said tensions have remained, and that the attention Batts has paid to building a positive relationship with the community hasn’t translated into on-the-ground improvements with beat cops and other officers who respond to incidents involving LGBT residents.

Kurt Ragin, 25, a member of the University of Maryland’s Star Track program, which offers care for HIV-positive and at-risk youth in Baltimore, said LGBT youth in Baltimore are often made to feel “a lot smaller than your average Baltimore City citizen” by police.

The effect, Ragin said, is LGBT youth, often vulnerable to attack, feel unprotected and turn to defending themselves any way they can — even if that means shoving a few “bricks in a sock.”

The Rev. Meredith Moise, 40, asked where the department was in multiple murder investigations in which transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals were killed, including Kelly Young and Desean Bowman. (They’re unsolved.)

“It’s dangerous out there, particularly for transgender folks and folks who are gender variant,” Moise said after the meeting. “We want more information so people can be aware and protect themselves.”

Saida Agostini, 32, of Free State Legal, which provides legal advice to low-income LGBT residents, said police sometimes lack an understanding of basic concepts, like the fact that it is not always the partner with “the more masculine gender presentation” who is the aggressor in domestic violence.

Jacqueline Robarge, of Power Inside, a social justice organization that combats gender-based violence, said she has witnessed a Baltimore police officer tell a man trying to report domestic violence that he should “man up.”

Robarge and others said police respond to routine ambulance calls for mentally ill patients, and are generally gruff and insensitive. When they report these officers, they get “dismissive” internal affairs officers who are not helpful, either, they said.

Repeatedly, Batts skirted around specific questions, returning to his well-oiled talking points of shifting the department’s culture, providing officers with more “tools” and making progress. He also repeatedly told members in the audience affiliated with specific groups that he’d like them to meet directly with his staff, which he said would be more helpful than him trying to “field these fast balls coming in at my head.”

On some of the questions, Batts was backed up by other members of the force, including Sgt. Sarah Avery, a lesbian who leads the department’s LGBT trainings, and Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, a department spokesman who is gay.

At one point, Kowalczyk spoke compellingly, and to an eventual round of applause from the crowd, of seeing progress after coming up in the department as an openly gay man and being told by other officers that none of them wanted to work with the “little faggot,” and that he shouldn’t be in police work because it is for “real men.”

Today, things are vastly different, the department is openly recruiting LGBT officers, and Batts has made it clear that discrimination won’t be tolerated, he said.

“We are building progress slowly,” Kowalczyk said.

After the meeting, several attendees said they’d like to see that translated onto the streets.

“There is a lot of police harrassment,” Yorkman said. “It just seems like they have it out for us.”

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Batts says 'culture change' needed to improve interactions with LGBT community

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Monica Yorkman has been harassed by police more times than she can count, she says — and it’s always been about her identity.

As a black transgender woman, cops in Baltimore constantly and unfairly peg her as a prostitute, she said.

“There’s a lot of mistrust between police and transgender women,” the 60-year-old activist said Monday to Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, during a police forum held specifically for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Isn’t there?” Batts responded.

Although complaints of police misconduct are down, the way some officers speak to LGBT residents remains “horrendous,” Batts said — which is why he has ramped up police academy trainings to educate new officers on LGBT issues.

Older, established officers will also get training, he said, as part of a department-wide “cultural shift” that focuses on the “three Cs,” he said: crime, community and credibility.

“We’re going to build a Constitutional police department that cares about all parts of our community,” Batts told Yorkman — a founding member of the organization Sisters of the T — and the two dozen other community activists, gay residents and LGBT leaders who gathered at the evening event at the Northwest District Community Action Center.

“You have somebody who stands in front of you ready to work,” Batts said, before calling himself a “reformer” who will “call balls and strikes” when assessing his department’s performance.

The event was the second LGBT forum Batts has held since taking over the department in 2012, following another in Mount Vernon in October. After the beating last year of an East Baltimore gay man in an attack that some believed was a hate crime, Batts promised to improve his department’s relationship with the LGBT community.

“I realized we may have an organization that doesn’t have the sensitivity to the LGBT community that it should,” Batts said.

The department put new effort into recruiting LGBT officers, started developing new trainings and formed a LGBT advisory council, whose members were in attendance Monday night.

Still, some at the forum said tensions have remained, and that the attention Batts has paid to building a positive relationship with the community hasn’t translated into on-the-ground improvements with beat cops and other officers who respond to incidents involving LGBT residents.

Kurt Ragin, 25, a member of the University of Maryland’s Star Track program, which offers care for HIV-positive and at-risk youth in Baltimore, said LGBT youth in Baltimore are often made to feel “a lot smaller than your average Baltimore City citizen” by police.

The effect, Ragin said, is LGBT youth, often vulnerable to attack, feel unprotected and turn to defending themselves any way they can — even if that means shoving a few “bricks in a sock.”

The Rev. Meredith Moise, 40, asked where the department was in multiple murder investigations in which transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals were killed, including Kelly Young and Desean Bowman. (They’re unsolved.)

“It’s dangerous out there, particularly for transgender folks and folks who are gender variant,” Moise said after the meeting. “We want more information so people can be aware and protect themselves.”

Saida Agostini, 32, of Free State Legal, which provides legal advice to low-income LGBT residents, said police sometimes lack an understanding of basic concepts, like the fact that it is not always the partner with “the more masculine gender presentation” who is the aggressor in domestic violence.

Jacqueline Robarge, of Power Inside, a social justice organization that combats gender-based violence, said she has witnessed a Baltimore police officer tell a man trying to report domestic violence that he should “man up.”

Robarge and others said police respond to routine ambulance calls for mentally ill patients, and are generally gruff and insensitive. When they report these officers, they get “dismissive” internal affairs officers who are not helpful, either, they said.

Repeatedly, Batts skirted around specific questions, returning to his well-oiled talking points of shifting the department’s culture, providing officers with more “tools” and making progress. He also repeatedly told members in the audience affiliated with specific groups that he’d like them to meet directly with his staff, which he said would be more helpful than him trying to “field these fast balls coming in at my head.”

On some of the questions, Batts was backed up by other members of the force, including Sgt. Sarah Avery, a lesbian who leads the department’s LGBT trainings, and Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, a department spokesman who is gay.

At one point, Kowalczyk spoke compellingly, and to an eventual round of applause from the crowd, of seeing progress after coming up in the department as an openly gay man and being told by other officers that none of them wanted to work with the “little faggot,” and that he shouldn’t be in police work because it is for “real men.”

Today, things are vastly different, the department is openly recruiting LGBT officers, and Batts has made it clear that discrimination won’t be tolerated, he said.

“We are building progress slowly,” Kowalczyk said.

After the meeting, several attendees said they’d like to see that translated onto the streets.

“There is a lot of police harrassment,” Yorkman said. “It just seems like they have it out for us.”

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Batts says 'culture change' needed to improve interactions with LGBT community

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Monica Yorkman has been harassed by police more times than she can count, she says — and it’s always been about her identity.

As a black transgender woman, cops in Baltimore constantly and unfairly peg her as a prostitute, she said.

“There’s a lot of mistrust between police and transgender women,” the 60-year-old activist said Monday to Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, during a police forum held specifically for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Isn’t there?” Batts responded.

Although complaints of police misconduct are down, the way some officers speak to LGBT residents remains “horrendous,” Batts said — which is why he has ramped up police academy trainings to educate new officers on LGBT issues.

Older, established officers will also get training, he said, as part of a department-wide “cultural shift” that focuses on the “three Cs,” he said: crime, community and credibility.

“We’re going to build a Constitutional police department that cares about all parts of our community,” Batts told Yorkman — a founding member of the organization Sisters of the T — and the two dozen other community activists, gay residents and LGBT leaders who gathered at the evening event at the Northwest District Community Action Center.

“You have somebody who stands in front of you ready to work,” Batts said, before calling himself a “reformer” who will “call balls and strikes” when assessing his department’s performance.

The event was the second LGBT forum Batts has held since taking over the department in 2012, following another in Mount Vernon in October. After the beating last year of an East Baltimore gay man in an attack that some believed was a hate crime, Batts promised to improve his department’s relationship with the LGBT community.

“I realized we may have an organization that doesn’t have the sensitivity to the LGBT community that it should,” Batts said.

The department put new effort into recruiting LGBT officers, started developing new trainings and formed a LGBT advisory council, whose members were in attendance Monday night.

Still, some at the forum said tensions have remained, and that the attention Batts has paid to building a positive relationship with the community hasn’t translated into on-the-ground improvements with beat cops and other officers who respond to incidents involving LGBT residents.

Kurt Ragin, 25, a member of the University of Maryland’s Star Track program, which offers care for HIV-positive and at-risk youth in Baltimore, said LGBT youth in Baltimore are often made to feel “a lot smaller than your average Baltimore City citizen” by police.

The effect, Ragin said, is LGBT youth, often vulnerable to attack, feel unprotected and turn to defending themselves any way they can — even if that means shoving a few “bricks in a sock.”

The Rev. Meredith Moise, 40, asked where the department was in multiple murder investigations in which transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals were killed, including Kelly Young and Desean Bowman. (They’re unsolved.)

“It’s dangerous out there, particularly for transgender folks and folks who are gender variant,” Moise said after the meeting. “We want more information so people can be aware and protect themselves.”

Saida Agostini, 32, of Free State Legal, which provides legal advice to low-income LGBT residents, said police sometimes lack an understanding of basic concepts, like the fact that it is not always the partner with “the more masculine gender presentation” who is the aggressor in domestic violence.

Jacqueline Robarge, of Power Inside, a social justice organization that combats gender-based violence, said she has witnessed a Baltimore police officer tell a man trying to report domestic violence that he should “man up.”

Robarge and others said police respond to routine ambulance calls for mentally ill patients, and are generally gruff and insensitive. When they report these officers, they get “dismissive” internal affairs officers who are not helpful, either, they said.

Repeatedly, Batts skirted around specific questions, returning to his well-oiled talking points of shifting the department’s culture, providing officers with more “tools” and making progress. He also repeatedly told members in the audience affiliated with specific groups that he’d like them to meet directly with his staff, which he said would be more helpful than him trying to “field these fast balls coming in at my head.”

On some of the questions, Batts was backed up by other members of the force, including Sgt. Sarah Avery, a lesbian who leads the department’s LGBT trainings, and Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, a department spokesman who is gay.

At one point, Kowalczyk spoke compellingly, and to an eventual round of applause from the crowd, of seeing progress after coming up in the department as an openly gay man and being told by other officers that none of them wanted to work with the “little faggot,” and that he shouldn’t be in police work because it is for “real men.”

Today, things are vastly different, the department is openly recruiting LGBT officers, and Batts has made it clear that discrimination won’t be tolerated, he said.

“We are building progress slowly,” Kowalczyk said.

After the meeting, several attendees said they’d like to see that translated onto the streets.

“There is a lot of police harrassment,” Yorkman said. “It just seems like they have it out for us.”

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Grateful to SC for giving us our due: LGBT activist Lakshmi

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

LGBT activist and petitioner, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi on Tuesday expressed her gratefulness to the Supreme Court’s decision to bestow the third gender tag on the transgender community.

Smiling before a packed media, Lakshmi who is a petitioner herself said: “April 15 has always been auspicious for the country, and when I entered the courtroom, I had the same feeling which touched me. The judgement given by Justice Radhakrishnan and Justice Sikri has given us a human right that a nation development index can be determined based on how it stands on its human rights. I am grateful to the apex court and to the two justices who have given this landmark judgement in our favour which will give us the right to education, employment and encompassing every aspect of life. Today, I feel that we have finally got our much needed right.”
he Supreme Court on Tuesday in a landmark judgement recognised the transgenders as third gender in this country. This decision of the apex court makes India to become the first country to give transgenders the third category of sex. (ANI)

Article source: http://www.sify.com/news/grateful-to-sc-for-giving-us-our-due-lgbt-activist-lakshmi-news-national-oepoJodhbfh.html

Grateful to SC for giving us our due: LGBT activist Lakshmi

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

LGBT activist and petitioner, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi on Tuesday expressed her gratefulness to the Supreme Court’s decision to bestow the third gender tag on the transgender community.

Smiling before a packed media, Lakshmi who is a petitioner herself said: “April 15 has always been auspicious for the country, and when I entered the courtroom, I had the same feeling which touched me. The judgement given by Justice Radhakrishnan and Justice Sikri has given us a human right that a nation development index can be determined based on how it stands on its human rights. I am grateful to the apex court and to the two justices who have given this landmark judgement in our favour which will give us the right to education, employment and encompassing every aspect of life. Today, I feel that we have finally got our much needed right.”
he Supreme Court on Tuesday in a landmark judgement recognised the transgenders as third gender in this country. This decision of the apex court makes India to become the first country to give transgenders the third category of sex. (ANI)

Article source: http://www.sify.com/news/grateful-to-sc-for-giving-us-our-due-lgbt-activist-lakshmi-news-national-oepoJodhbfh.html

NC LGBT group to hold rally over tax filing policy

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s largest LGBT advocacy group is holding a rally to protest a new state tax policy regarding same-sex couples.

Equality NC has scheduled a rally for Tuesday afternoon at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh to protest the policy from the state Department of Revenue. The policy says same-sex spouse couples cannot file income tax returns as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.”

That’s despite a ruling by the Internal Revenue Service directing that such filing be allowed.

The rally will include speeches by tax experts and LGBT families, as well as other married couples who support their cause.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Article source: http://www.foxcarolina.com/story/25247692/nc-lgbt-group-to-hold-rally-over-tax-filing-policy

Day of silence encourages understanding

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

U students combatted LGBT oppression on Friday with the silent treatment.

The event, a part of the U’s celebration of Ally Week, is a local recognition of the National Day of Silence. The day began as a student-led event at the University of Virginia in 1996 to foster a safe environment for learning, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, according their website. It is a day of solidarity across the nation where students pledge silence to bring attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT issues.

And the silence was shattered at 1 p.m. on the Union lawn.

Poets, speakers and activists shared their experiences to roughly 50 listeners. The topics included bullying, proper use of pronouns and revisions to the U’s fight song “Utah Man.”

ASUU president Sam Ortiz spoke about the backlash he has felt since the proposal of changing the song from “Utah man” to “Utah fan.”

“If we can’t have a civil discussion over a word, what can we talk about?” said Ortiz.

Ortiz said the event was about marginalized voices consistently being silenced and changing traditions that are hurtful to people.

Kari Lindsey, a senior in English, said students should ask each other what pronouns they are comfortable with before using them.

“Categorizing people is one of the most harmful things you can do to them,” Lindsey said.

She also said if you make a mistake, you should forgive yourself and move on.

Lindsey, along with guests from poetry slam teams across the state, helped keep the event moving with emotional accounts about what it is to be a member of the LGBT community.

Hannah Irene, a junior at Westminster College in public heath, presented a poem at the event.

“Don’t stop speaking or writing and if you see any oppression — intervene,” Irene said.

DeAnn Emett, president of the spoken word poetry non-profit the Wasatch Wordsmiths, read a poem detailing the harassment and anguish personally experienced in school.

“We have a platform so we try to have our listeners hear important things,” Emett said. “It’s more important to get things out there than it is to be afraid.”

In order to gain a proper understanding of LGBT issues, the poets at the U’s National Day of Silence event said it is important to study every letter in the acronym.

k.mcdonald@chronicle.utah.edu 

@KeithLMcDonald

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Article source: http://www.dailyutahchronicle.com/index.php/day-of-silence-encourages-understanding/

GLCCB organizing 'Orioles Outings' for LGBT baseball fans this summer

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore is organizing to bring LGBT baseball fans together at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this summer.

“Baltimore is a town that really comes together in the name of its sports teams. Whether you identify within the LGBT spectrum or not, we can all agree that when it comes down to it, we’re all rooting for the same team,” said Kelly Neel, the GLCCB’s deputy executive director, in a statement. “This summer we are hoping to expand on that sense of unity by bringing LGBT Oriole’s Outings to Camden Yards. We encourage everyone to come out to the games and mingle with one another as we bask in the glory of baseball season!”

The first “LGBT Oriole’s Outing” will be on April 27, when the Baltimore Orioles play the Kansas City Royals. Organizers are hoping to host such events on a monthly basis this season, and that strong ticket sales will lead to an official “Night Out” event for gay sports fans at the ball park.

Such nights have become popular in other cities, including in Washington, where the Nationals have held an annual “Night Out” event with partner Team D.C. since 2003. Team D.C. has expanded the event to other sports as well.

Orioles fans in Baltimore have made similar efforts to organize gay nights at Camden Yards in the past, too.

The GLCCB is selling tickets now for the April 27 game, for Section 388, rows 13 and 14. Tickets can be purchased here, and proceeds will benefit the GLCCB.

Tickets are limited and must be picked up at the GLCCB, on the third floor of the Waxter Center at 1000 Cathedral St.

The tickets are $10 and the Sunday game is at 1:35 p.m. The GLCCB is planning additional nights for May through September and will post information on its website.

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Article source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/bs-gm-glccb-organizing-orioles-outings-for-lgbt-baseball-fans-this-summer-20140414,0,2778646.story?track=rss

Letter written to pope on behalf of LGBT homeless youth

Monday, April 14th, 2014

On Palm Sunday, Carl Siciliano, a Catholic advocate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) homeless youths, made an impassioned plea to Pope Francis on their behalf.

To ensure his request did not go unnoticed, Siciliano chose a very public forum to print his written letter to the pope: a full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times. The ad was paid for by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Home Furnishings. Gold is the author of Youth in Crisis: What Everyone Should Know About Growing Up Gay and a fervent advocate for at-risk young people.

“I hope that you will open your heart to the suffering of youths,” Siciliano wrote. “As LGBT youths are finding the courage to speak the truths of their hearts at younger ages, epidemic numbers are being rejected by their families, and driven to homelessness.”

Siciliano, a former Benedictine monk and current executive director of the Ali Forney Center, a New York homeless shelter for LGBT youths, cited unsettling statistics to show how and why these young people are disproportionately affected by homelessness.  “LGBT youths make up 40 percent of the homeless youth population in this country, despite comprising only about five percent of the overall youth population,” Siciliano wrote.

Parental rejection based on religion, Siciliano continued, often drives these kids to the streets.   

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“A recent study of family rejection found that parents with high religious involvement were significantly less accepting of their LGBT children,” he wrote.

But for Siciliano, these homeless young people are more than just a statistic. Referring to kids he’s met at the shelter, Siciliano put a human face on the suffering of those rejected by religious parents.

“I think of Justin, whose mother summoned her priest who held him to the ground and tried to drive the devil out of the 16 year old boy,” Siciliano wrote.

He continued: “Or Terry, who was sent to a Catholic religion class where the instructor set him aside as someone “possessed by demons.” I think of the boy whose name I never learned whose father was so disgusted by homosexuality that he threw his son out of his home and said he would kill him and bury him in the backyard if he tried to return.”

The Catholic church, Siciliano argued, could have a transforming effect on the relationship between religious persons and the LGBT community. But this would have to begin with an understanding of homosexuality as something other than a sin.

“By teaching that homosexual conduct is a sin, and that the homosexual orientation is disordered, it influences countless parents and families … to reject their children,” he wrote. “In the name of these children, and in light of the love and compassion at the heart of the message of Jesus, I ask that you end this teaching.”

Siciliano further questioned the church’s view of homosexuality as a sin, writing: “The teaching that homosexual conduct is a sin has a poisonous outcome, bearing fruit in many Christian parents who abandon their LGBT children to homelessness and destitution. How could a good seed yield such a bitter harvest?”

The letter comes at a pertinent time with Catholics around the globe celebrating Holy Week this week, marking the end of Lent and the celebration of Easter. Furthermore, the pope will hold a global meeting of bishops on “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization,” in October. 

[Ben Feuerherd is a freelance writer in New York.]

Article source: http://ncronline.org/news/people/letter-written-pope-behalf-lgbt-homeless-youth

Letter to Pope: Protect LGBT Youth

Monday, April 14th, 2014

The head of a homeless shelter for LGBT youth published an open letter to Pope Francis in The New York Times today, asking the leader of the Catholic Church to change its teaching on homosexuality.

Noting that religious parents tend to reject their LGBT children at higher rates than their secular or less religious counterparts, Carl Siciliano, executive director of New York’s Ali Forney Center, wrote, “Jesus Christ is never recorded as having said a word in judgment or condemnation of homosexuality or of LGBT people. He spoke of a loving, compassionate God, and commanded his followers to act with love and compassion. Jesus spoke of God as a loving parent who would never abandon his children.”

In an interview with The Advocate, Siciliano said that he is ““less interested in words than actions, and the church’s hostilities against gay people haven’t stopped at all,” citing the rash of firings of gay people in Catholic institutions and the Catholic bishops continued public opposition to marriage equality efforts.

Still, he said, he admires the pope’s focus on economic justice, and said he approached the issue of homeless LGBT youth from that angle.

When families reject their LGBT kids for religious reasons, the consequences include “economic destitution,” he said.

Siciliano, a Catholic and former Benedictine monk, noted in the letter that, last year, over 200,000 LGBT youths experienced homelessness, and that LGBT youth make up 40 percent of the homeless youth population, despite being only about 5 percent of the overall youth cohort.

“The teaching that homosexual conduct is a sin has a poisonous outcome, bearing fruit in many Christian parents who abandon their LGBT children to homelessness and destitution. How could a good seed yield such a bitter harvest?” Siciliano wrote.

Siciliano wrote that he has “great respect” for Pope Francis, and invited him to visit the Ali Forney Center, “to meet our abandoned youths and see for yourself how their lives have been devastated and made destitute by religious rejection. I believe that there is no more compelling witness to the harmfulness of the condemnation of homosexuality than the consequent suffering plainly visible in the eyes of our homeless LGBT youths.”

In 2012, Siciliano invited New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan to visit the Ali Forney Center. Dolan declined.

In the letter, Siciliano said he wants the church to change its teachings on homosexuality, and for Pope Francis to “prevent your bishops from fighting against the acceptance of LGBT people as equal members of society.”

Overall, Siciliano said he is seeking a culture change. He said that the LGBT movement has made progress in overturning antigay laws, but that the lives of LGBT youth are more affected by the culture in homes and schools, both of which can be influenced by religion.

“If we don’t address this, if we don’t take this on, we won’t be protecting our kids,” he said.

“I want to see Catholics, and Southern Baptists, and Methodists and Presbyterians say, ‘we’re not gonna let our kids be hurt anymore,’” he said. “If the message is loud enough and clear enough” the animosity LGBT youth experience will begin to wane.

He said that there are glimmers of hope in the religious sphere, pointing to the work of individual Episcopalians, Catholics, and others of faith who volunteer at the Ali Forney Center.

“I don’t read the gospels and see antigay hatred,” he said.

While Catholics in the U.S. support LGBT people at higher rates than other Christian groups, Siciliano said the percentage of Catholics who don’t means there are millions of people hostile to LGBT people. In New York City, where he works, a global, diverse population means many of the youths he serves come from families with more narrow views.

Faith In America, which co-sponsored the ad, launched a Change.org petition where supporters can also send a message to Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis has the opportunity to lead faith communities around the world in gifting parents of LGBT youth with an unconditional spiritual embrace, a gift which most surely will bring peace to these lives and these families,” Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America, said in a statement.

According to the Associated Press, about 4,000 homeless youth live in New York City each night, and nearly a quarter are LGBT. Government and private funds cover only 350 beds.

Opened in 2002, the Ali Forney Center is named after a homeless transgender youth turned counselor who was disowned by his family at the age of 13 and later found shot in 2002 at age 22.

Follow Michael O’Loughlin on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2014/04/13/letter-pope-protect-lgbt-youth

The archbishop of Westminster and LGBT Catholics | @guardianletters

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Your report that Archbishop Vincent Nichols is soon to become a cardinal gave the impression that his support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics came to an end with the last of the Soho Masses a year ago (Archbishop of Westminster named in pope’s first batch of new cardinals, 13 January). This is not the case. The LGBT Catholic community meets twice monthly, less than a mile from Soho in the Jesuit Church in Farm Street, Mayfair. We are integrating successfully into parish life there. As a sign of his support for our mission of providing pastoral care, the archbishop attended our council meeting before Christmas. By doing so, he follows his predecessors, Cardinal Basil Hume and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, leaders whose approach to the place of the LGBT community in the life of the church was consistently more nuanced and conciliatory than the often fierce language of “disorder” that emanated from Rome.
Mark Dowd
Chair, LGBT Catholics Westminster

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663879/s/35db3f89/sc/11/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cworld0C20A140Cjan0C130Carchbishop0Ewestminster0Elgbt0Ecatholics/story01.htm

Activists rejoice as AAP's Mumbai manifesto includes LGBT reforms

Sunday, April 13th, 2014
  • LGBT-rights

Earlier last week, AAP party released its national manifesto setting off a controversy over the non inclusion of LGBT reforms that were promised earlier.

The document released ahead of the Lok sabha elections of 2014 was received with mixed expressions of disappointment by LGBT rights activists who were looking towards the new party with hopes of championing their cause.

However, in a quick attempt to save the situation Mumbai manifesto was released by AAP today and included the much discussed LGBT reforms and a call to repeal the Section 377 that criminalises consensual sexual relations among homoosexuals.

AAP Maharashtra state secretarty Preeti Sharma Menon, explained, “LGBT reforms were always meant to be part of the city manifesto and not the national document.”

“The draft for the Mumbai manifesto, in fact, was released as far back as a month and a half ago. And we confirmed the same with activists in the meeting conducted last week,” she elaborates.

The news was received with much jubilation by LGBT activists who were pinning their hopes on the party to do the right thing. Celebrated equal rights activist Harrish Iyer, who recently quit his job to join the party said, “It is a welcome move by AAP to include LGBT rights in their Mumbai manifesto. Not many political parties will engage with the LGBT community and then address the issue in earnest.”

“Not only is AAP proactive in listening to the LGBT community, people like Preeti go to the police station and fight cases on behalf of LGBT people. AAP has shown through their actions that they really believe in equal rights,” he added.

He also tweeted the part of manifesto that includes the LGBT rights:

 

But why a city-centric manifestos?
“Let’s not look at these documents as manifestos,” says Menon. “They are essentially the stance of AAP leaders towards issues that plague this city the most. Being a new party we felt the need for the candidates to express their beliefs and ideas on key issues of a city such as Mumbai.”

She further reiterated, “AAP believes that a national manifesto is not adequate to address important local concerns. The party hopes to establish Swaraj—de-centralisation of power—in the city of Mumbai.”

Article source: http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-activists-rejoice-as-aap-s-mumbai-manifesto-includes-lgbt-reforms-1977152

Sochi's secret: intolerance was in the air

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Prior to the Winter Olympics, the conventional wisdom was that President Vladimir Putin would be on his best behavior in Sochi. He was too politically savvy, the theory went, to continue his crackdown on LGBT rights before the eyes of the world.

But a not-to-funny thing happened on my way to the Games, which have been anything but conventional, if you look hard enough. En route to Sochi, I stopped by the office of the LGBT Network in St. Petersburg to meet with the activist Anastasia Smirnova and her colleagues. They were expecting Russia’s repression of the LGBT community – whether in private or out in the open – to continue and perhaps increase. Sure enough, the following day, as I awaited the opening ceremonies, I learned that Anastasia and four other activists had been arrested. Their crime? Posting a sign that called for the Games – and their host country – to uphold their own charter.

DISCRIMINATION IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE OLYMPIC MOVEMENT, the banner read. So, too, reads Principle No 6 of the official rules of the Olympics. And so it begins, I thought.

I had come to Sochi as part of an American delegation on behalf of Human Rights First, which included the former US Olympic diver David Pichler. We were there to shine a light on the increasing Russian assault upon the human rights of LGBT people, to support activists, athletes and anyone else who chose to take a stand for equality during the Olympics. And, yes, that assault is still increasing, no matter what you’ve seen on TV. And, no, those taking a stand aren’t afraid to step out of the shadows.

But just as soon as I’d arrived, an activist was already behind bars. Anastasia has emerged as a leader in the fight against Russia’s newly enacted and extremely vague “propaganda” laws, as well as a link between activists in the west and east. In December, she’d spoken at a briefing on Capitol Hill that I organized to press the US government to prioritize LGBT rights in its diplomacy with Russia. Embracing their role on the frontlines, Anastasia and her colleagues are determined. Their resolve is palpable. They see civil disobedience as integral to the effort, and they don’t fear arrest – even when they’re getting arrested for “participation in an illegal public assembly”. For holding up a sign.

In and around Sochi’s Olympic Village, of course, there were few public indications of any such danger. Everything in the gleaming pop-up city was calm and organized. The authorities were helpful, the checkpoints efficient. The trains literally ran on time and, better yet, you could ride them for free. Government officials, savvy enough to silence, had denied visitor passes to many human rights activists and allowed political protests in a single allocated space more than a half-hour’s train ride from the center of the action.

Crackdown? What crackdown?

Make no mistake: all across Sochi, there was intolerance in the air. But repression perpetuates itself like a rumor, so your senses must be extra fine-tuned. These are things an American in Sochi gets used to, especially when you have a husband, like mine, who is a native Belarusian fluent in Russian and can help you translate the hate.

Under the invisible camera, my husband and I were forced to think twice before showing affection. Would a squeeze of his arm – combined with my hat that read HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST SOCHI EQUALITY – be interpreted as propaganda? Oh, and in Russia, asking for a single bed in a hotel is most definitely a thing. Did that clerk just raise his eyebrows? Maybe he set off an alarm that rings in the Kremlin!

Still, as Americans in Sochi, we were well aware that we were all basically safe. From inside my bubble, as skiers skied and skaters skated, I thought often of LGBT Russians who face persistent – and likely worsening – violence. Overlooked in too much of the coverage leading up to the Games (and essentially ignored during them) is the very worst thing about the propaganda law: it ratifies the hate that leads to hate crimes. To be sure, Russia’s anti-gay law kills.

During five days in Sochi, safe but able to feel repression’s prickly edges, I gained newfound admiration for LGBT Russians who refuse to cower. We met with Andrei Ozerny and his boyfriend. Last month, after Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov had claimed no gay people lived there, Andrei wrote a letter to him, introducing himself. The letter made news, and the news led to harassment, but Andrei remains undaunted.

Andrei is an accidental activist – repression compels people of courage to rise to the fore – and the unjaded optimism of this 24-year-old was infectious. We went with him to Mayak, a gay bar, where journalists outnumbered the patrons, who were understandably annoyed by the attention. But I considered what life would be like for them – and for all LGBT Russians – once the journalists had gone home. During the Olympics, the government arrested dozens of activists, including two of Russia’s most famous ones, former Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.

If President Putin enables this kind of intolerance when the world is watching, what might he do after everyone turns away?

The key is to not turn away. The defense of LGBT rights in Russia can be led only by Russians, but they need support from activists, citizens and public officials in other countries. On the eve of the Olympics, a 14-year-old girl in Bryansk was disciplined for “promoting nontraditional sexual relations”, but a few days later, due in part to international criticism, the Commission for the Affairs of Minors overturned the decision.

Anastasia and her fellow activists on the ground urged us to keep amplifying their voices and telling their stories, which reveal not just injustice and persecution but also dignity and courage. We should keep watching, they said, and urge our government to do the same.

That’s exactly what I’m going to do. I invite you to join me.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663870/s/375e53b0/sc/38/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Ccommentisfree0C20A140Cfeb0C210Csochi0Egay0Erights0Econfessions/story01.htm

LGBT Students, Teachers Embrace Day of Silence

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

A search for those honoring the #DayOfSilence on Twitter today drew plenty of reasons to feel good about the current state of schools support for the LGBT students inside them.

Founded in 1996, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s Day of Silence is designed to draw attention to the chilling effect anti-LGBT bullying has on campuses nationwide. Thanks to social media, advocates young and old keeping silent today can find thousands of others doing the same at the click of a mouse.

We’ve collected a sampling of supportive selfies and messages from Twitter below — share yours with the hashtag #DayOfSilence.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/youth/2014/04/11/lgbt-students-teachers-embrace-day-silence

18 Things to Listen to on the LGBT Day of Silence

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Day Of Silence

Today is the 19th annual Day of Silence, a movement organized by the Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network where youths take a vow of silence “to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.” 

GLSEN explains: 

The Day of Silence is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.

In that silence, listen: To any of these videos, only a small selection of queer-centric music, speeches and other videos on the Internet. There’s a bit of everything here: Coming-out stories, stories of acceptance, gender identity, gay rights, and above all, love. For the LGBT kids, to know you’re not alone, and for the bullies, to learn.

WATCH: Honey Maid turns anti-gay hate into love in beautiful new video

1. Jacob Rudolph Comes Out While Accepting an Award for Class Actor:

“Sure, I’ve been in a few plays and musicals, but more importantly I’ve been acting every single day of my life. You see, I’ve been acting as someone I’m not…You see me acting the part of straight Jacob, when I am in fact an LGBT teen.” — Jacob

2. LZ Granderson’s “The Myth of the Gay Agenda” TED Talk:

3. Ellen Page Comes Out at the HRC’s Time to Thrive Conference:

“This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another.” — Ellen

4. Kids React to Gay Marriage:

5. Zach Wahls Speaks Before the Iowa House of Representatives:

A song showing the love he has for his two moms.

6. Sally Field Receives HRC’s Ally for Equality Award:

And a mom showing the love she has for her gay son.

PHOTOS: Check out which celebrities have come out as gay!

7. The GBF: What’s Wrong with the Commodification of Gay Men:

8. “She Keeps Me Warm,” by Mary Lambert

The song became famous as the chorus of Macklemore Ryan Lewis‘ “Same Love,” but it’s Mary’s version, that finds her falling in love with another girl, that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

9. How Watermelon Can Explain Gender Identity:

“You guys be like, ‘I don’t understand. If you love women so much, how come you don’t dress like one?’” — HARTBEAT

10. “It Could Happen to You,” the Viral Video That Became Bridegroom:

11. Sportscaster Takes on NFL Prospect Michael Sam’s Anti-Gay Haters:

12. “Forrest Gump,” by Frank Ocean:

“Forrest Gump, you run my mind, boy/Running on my mind boy, Forrest Gump.”

PHOTOS: Look back on big moments from the 2013 GLAAD Media Awards

13. Ash Beckham’s “Coming Out of the Closet” TED Talk:

“I’m gonna talk to you tonight about coming out of the closet. And not in the traditional sense, not just the gay closet. I think we all have closets…All a closet is, is a hard conversation.” — Ash

14. Jodie Foster Accepts the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes:

“Now, apparently, I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance, and a prime-time reality show. But I’m not Honey Boo Boo Child.” — Jodie

15. Duncan’s Bar Mitzvah Speech: A Call for Freedom to Marry:

16. Shane Koyczan’s “For the Bullied and Beautiful” TED Talk:

17. Senior Comes Out During High School’s Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly:

18. “***Flawless,” by Beyoncé

The song isn’t explicitly about the LGBT movement. It’s about feminism and standing up to misogyny, with a sample from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” (which you should also watch). 

But Bey explains:

“What I’m really referring to, and hoping for, is human rights and equality, not just that between a woman and a man…I’m very happy if my words can ever inspire or empower someone who considers themselves an oppressed minority .We are all the same and we all want the same things: the right to be happy, to be just who we want to be and to love who we want to love.” 

Plus, who doesn’t want to sing, “I woke up like this. I woke up like this. We flawless, tell ‘em.”

PHOTOS: Check out these celebs wearing their support for gay marriage!

RELATED VIDEOS:

Play Video - Julianne Moore Shows Love for Ellen Page

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Play Video - Guy Fieri Addresses Rumors About Sexuality

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Luxury LGBT Wine Group, Out In The Vineyard, Takes Gay Wine Lovers To Gay Owned Wineries In South Africa

Friday, April 11th, 2014
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Enjoying a glass of wine Out In The Vineyard at LGBT owned Holden Manz Wine Estate in Franschhoek Valley

“We want to take our wine loving LGBT travelers some place unique, that appeals to the gay traveler,” says Mark Vogler, co founder Out In The Vineyard. “How much more unique can it be than drinking wine with gay winemakers in Franschhoek, South Africa?”

Sonoma, California (PRWEB) April 11, 2014

Out In The Vineyard, the only LGBT luxury wine travel and event company in the world, is leading an intimate, 14 day “South Africa Wine Safari” to LGBT owned wineries in Southern Africa, for a very exclusive and intimate wine, food and safari adventure October 13 – 26, 2014.

This is a once in a lifetime chance to indulge in an itinerary that took over two years to curate, offering very personal experiences and access to LGBT owned wineries and private estates previously unavailable or unknown to the LGBT community and the wine community.

“We want to take our wine loving LGBT travelers some place unique, that appeals to the gay traveler,” says Mark Vogler, Co-Founder, Out In The Vineyard. “Everyone organizes wine tours to Provence or Mendoza. How much more unique can it be than to drink wine with gay winemakers in Franschhoek, South Africa?”

In addition to gay owned wineries, Out In The Vineyard guests are hosted overnight at the 15,000 acre 1770’s Dutch Colonial Farmstead, Kersefontein, on the Western Cape and will enjoy a sumptuous, multi course, perfectly wine paired dinner in the restored 1770’s candle lit dining room – the exact same room that the original founding Vortrekkers of the Kersefontein family did 250 years ago – complete with giant lion and cape buffalo heads on the walls.

Guests have the option to spend the day relaxing in a private suite, reading on the lawn or jumping into the saddle of one of the ranch horses and joining LGBT owner, Julian Melck, as he drives his 653 head of sheep across the grasslands of his working ranch and ancestral home.

Throughout the wine safari the LGBT travelers will meet locals, whether at the number one restaurant in all of Africa, Le Quartier Francais, over a 5 course wine paired chef’s menu or discovering some of the best boutique wines on the continent in the lush vineyards of Franschhoek, Stellenbosh, Paarl and Wellington. The journey includes a private farm to table lunch with LGBT vintners on their ultra lux winery estate, nestled against the magnificent Jonkershoek mountains.

After 4 days of delectable culinary adventures and sumptuous wine tasting guests fly to a private, ultra luxurious safari camp on the banks of the Mabrak River, in the posh, private Sabi Sands Game Reserve. They will experience an intimate and personal safari experience like none other. Out In The Vineyard has bought out the indulgent Dulini boutique safari camp, providing the LGBT travelers and their companions complete privacy. Each couple will have exclusive access to one of only 6 exquisite cottages designed with the discerning traveler in mind.

Each day guests will have the ultimate, quintessential safari experience as they venture out for morning and afternoon game drives, for unforgettable encounters with Africa’s wildlife. They’ll take home with them incredible bush stories – like the feel of the blood curdling ROAR of a hungry lion or pushing through the bush and being suddenly surrounded by a herd of 100 elephants.

Guest may spend the heat of the day enjoying a dip in their private plunge pool or taking the adrenaline educing walking safari, where they’ll get out of the safety of the land rovers and put feet on the ground to hike through the South African grasslands, never knowing what lurks behind the next bush.

For the LGBT traveler, South Africa has the strongest constitutional protections for LGBT people in the world. In 1994 Nelson Mandel took office as the first black president of South Africa and drafted a new post apartheid constitution, which includes constitutional protections for LGBT people and outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender – including transgender. Same sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since 2006.

Details of Out In The Vineyard’s South Africa LGBT Wine Safari is available at http://www.outinthevineyard.com/trips-and-itineraries/south-africa-wine-safari-2014/

About OUT IN THE VINEYARD

Out In The Vineyard is an experiential Wine Country Event and Travel company promoting positive LGBT lifestyles and offering exclusive, luxury itineraries and events in Wine Countries around the world for the discriminating gay traveler and their friends.

http://www.outinthevineyard.com or http://www.facebook.com/outinthevineyard

MEDIA CONTACT:

Mark Vogler

(707) 591-1800 – mark(at)outinthevineyard(dot)com

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Article source: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11752086.htm

Op-ed: We Can All Use A History Lesson

Friday, April 11th, 2014

For centuries the conventional narrative of history has been redacted to remove most any reference that might suggest a figure was anything other than heterosexual. What’s worse, those whose non-hetero-normative sexuality/identity cannot be denied are generally eliminated altogether. As a result, our young people are forced to grow up without historically significant role models, enforcing the “otherness” with which they must contend.

The lack of LGBT contributions to shared human history in our classrooms leaves our children socially isolated, culturally marginalized, and vulnerable to self-esteem issues that flow from bullying. This same ignorance underpins every misery ever visited upon LGBT people. For it is not religion or politics that has been our true enemy – it is the lack of awareness of all the contributions that LGBT people have made to our society. And that has allowed irrational prejudices to masquerade as rational – even “moral” – thought.

To survive, LGBT people have had little choice but to conceal evidence of their own existence, which only reinforces the ignorance arrayed against them. When Chicago’s Legacy Walk museum streetscape was dedicated in October 2012, it was the realization of a 25-year-long dream to create an outdoor commemoration of LGBT contributions to world history and culture that would side-step our redaction from history. Two years into this unique venture, the Legacy Project Education Initiative (LPEI) has convinced us that today’s LGBTQ kids, in spite of the fact that they live in an ostensibly more accepting world, know little more than we did. This is because a lack of generational memory – stories passed from old to young to impart knowledge and sustain traditions – has kept us strangers to ourselves.

LPEI survey data reveals that LGBTQ teenagers hunger for information that will give them an historic context for their existence. High school field trips to view the Legacy Walk’s unique bronze memorials – combined with LPEI’s downloadable lesson plans, study guides, and multimedia – mean that age-appropriate, academically sound education materials are now available to inspire the next generation of our leaders through the challenges and triumphs of those who came before them. That college and university education departments have also begun to recognize this need by adding a visit to the Legacy Walk for pre-service teachers means a brighter future for all of us.

Our work with Illinois Safe Schools Alliance over the last two years has helped to expand LPEI’s outreach to our state’s Gay-Straight Alliance clubs, which used our education materials to prepare for today’s Day of Silence. The accomplishments of people like social justice pioneer Jane Addams, civil rights icon Bayard Rustin, British mathematician Alan Turing, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, U.S. poet Walt Whitman, transgender trailblazer Christine Jorgensen – and many others – can finally be viewed through the corrective lens of truth. Together, the 23 bronze biographical markers lining the half-mile Legacy Walk make the Legacy Project a gateway to an unexplored history most people did not know was missing.

As our court victories mount, as we win elections and survive ballot initiatives, as our acceptance in society slowly grows, what will be missing is a full appreciation of the many roles LGBT people have played in everyone’s history. If centuries-old ignorance about our contributions is the root cause of our social marginalization, education is truly the most powerful tool we have to begin undoing the damage that has been done. Considering that for most people their only knowledge of history is what they can recall from high school, we unfortunately have our work cut out for us.

The regressive forces that have ridden to power on our backs hold vast swatches of the general population hostage to an agenda that eschews fact-based education by treading in the same falsehoods and mythology that we have fought against for decades. Indeed, few people know more about the power of truth and lies than those who are LGBT – the evidence of which is all around us in the form of a crazy quilt of progressive states with LGBT-inclusive laws juxtaposed against poorly educated states where no anti-gay law is too bizarre to be embraced if religionists favor it and politicians can benefit.

So, in our understandable rush to celebrate the ever-growing tide of pro-LGBT sentiment washing over many areas, we must be careful not to forget that there are still vast regions of this country where the truth is in short supply. It is for this reason that Equality House, the rainbow-colored home across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., will officially open its doors April 12 to the Legacy Project’s first permanent satellite installation. Together we hope to shatter the conspiracy of silence about LGBT contributions by bringing 18 of our plaque mock-ups directly into America’s heartland along with digitally linked access to their education resources. Because, in the end, nothing is more important than making sure our young people, no matter where they live, know that LGBT people matter – and have always mattered – even if nobody has ever bothered to tell them.

VICTOR A. SALVO is a long-time activist from Chicago, IL. A former journalist, he brings a personal passion for LGBT history to his work as Executive Director of the Legacy Project and co-creator of “The Legacy Walk” outdoor LGBT historic museum walk – the only installation of its kind in the world.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/04/11/op-ed-we-can-all-use-history-lesson

India’s LGBT Community: Don’t Vote BJP

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Activists protest against Supreme Court’s judgment that upheld section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes homosexuality
Raj k Raj—Hindustan Times/Getty Images

While the incumbent Congress Party, fledgling Aam Aadmi Party and even the Communist Party of India have all come out in favor of gay rights, the Bharatiya Janata Party has not made its position clear, enraging the LGBT community of the world’s largest democracy

Article source: http://time.com/59158/indias-lgbt-community-dont-vote-bjp/

New food festival to celebrate LGBT chefs

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Something new is coming to the parade of food festivals that has sprung up around the country — CookOUT/RockOUT, a food and music event celebrating LGBT chefs and other food luminaries.

“It’s a way to showcase, in a positive, fun light, diversity within the food world,” festival founder Bruce Seidel says of the event, which launches in Los Angeles in the fall. The goal is to show “people that, ‘Hey, gay people are everywhere and this is a way to celebrate that whether you’re gay or not.’”

Seidel is a former Food Network executive who developed hit shows including “Iron Chef America” and “Next Food Network Star.” These days he runs Hot Lemon Productions, a consulting and production company he created with a focus on food. CookOUT is one of several projects the company is working on.

He first thought of creating a television program built around mentoring people in the food profession who were struggling with coming out or other issues. But then he began thinking about creating something new on the food festival front and the two ideas jelled.

The festival won’t be as big as some, aiming for 400 to 500 people rather than thousands, and the plan is to hold it at an LA estate built by a silent film star in the 1920s. Music will range from rock to classical violin and the culinary events will emphasize food experiences as opposed to “you eat 300 things, but you have no idea what you’ve tasted in the end,” says Seidel.

The roster of performers and chefs still is being put together, but among those from the LGBT community who already have signed up for the event are Big Gay Ice Cream, the New York-based frozen treats shop which also has a branch in Los Angeles, and Art Smith, Oprah’s former personal chef. Straight chefs also will be in the lineup.

Smith is looking forward to an event celebrating “the vast diversity within the food world of openly gay chefs,” noting that “there are many who still cannot be openly gay in their chosen careers.”

___

Michelle Locke tweets at https://twitter.com/Vinecdote

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/food-festival-celebrate-lgbt-chefs-162808882.html

   
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