Monday, October 15, 2007

KGO-TV: Will S.F. Injection Rooms Need Permission from Washington?
We now have the first mainstream news story on the injection rooms idea for drug users in San Francisco and it ran today on KGO-TV, the local ABC affiliate. The KGO reporter presented a thoughtful and well-balanced account, but I just do not believe the health department has no position on the idea and all it wants from the all-day meeting later this week on the topic is to generate community-wide discussion about the possibility of opening such facilities.
Since San Francisco has long been a pioneer in needle exchange and syringe distribution programs, I think the department of public actually endorses injection sites, but is unwilling and disinclined to stake out such a radical position. But as we see more data presented on the usefulness of injection rooms in preventing drug overdoses, stopping the spread of infectious diseases and in getting contaminated needles off the streets and out of playgrounds, expect health officials to come out and forcefully call for opening the site.
KGO posed the question of getting federal approval for the injection rooms, without sharing any answers. Even if there are federal laws or regulations that would apply, you can count on the Board of Supervisors, the health department, AIDS service organizations and drug rehab programs to stand up to the feds and get the rooms up and running.
If San Francisco can keep medical marijuana dispensaries open for more than a decade now, despite much federal opposition, I see no reason why the city should bow to national pressure from Washington over injection rooms.
From the KGO report:

No other city in America has dared to offer safe haven to drug users, to get them off the streets. It's a debate that will get underway this week in San Francisco.

The city is looking at something called "safe sites" that could reduce the harmful effects of drug use. The concept is so controversial that no other city in the United States has implemented the program.

The main sponsor, the San Francisco Public Health Dept., will be holding an all-day symposium Thursday to discuss these so-called safe injection facilities. Twenty-seven cities in eight countries now have these sites. So far, there are none in the United States. [...]

"This city has declared states of emergency repeatedly in order to do the needle exchange and that's been a very successful program," says Grant Coffax with the San Francisco Public Health Department.

Now the city is exploring another, perhaps more controversial approach. It's something called "safe injection facilities." [...]

The facility, called Insite, in in Vancouver, Canada. It's in the city's downtown east side which has one of the highest AIDS and Hepatitis C infection rates in the country.

Demonstration video shows an addict coming to the clinic with heroin he's bought on the streets, then shooting up with a nurse watching. He can then relax in the chill out room where he can talk with case workers if he wants. [...]

Public health official Grant Colfax says the Vancouver model seems to be working.

"There are data that support the approach in terms of reducing overdoses and actually reducing discarded needles around the parameter of these sites," says Colfax.

Vancouver's mayor hopes Insite will also cut crime in the downtown area.

"The street prostitution, the break-and-enters, the car thefts, all of this is related to drug addiction," says Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan.

But the Canadian Police Association is skeptical as are those who say facilities like this will encourage rather than cut down on the illegal drug trade.

"We should be helping those with a drug problem, not encourage them to continue," explains Tony Cannavino with the Canadian Police Association.

In San Francisco, police made 101 drug arrests in a 30-day span this summer along the Market Street corridor and in the Tenderloin. [...]

The Health Department says it has taken no position on safe injection facilities. All it wants is a dialogue.

"All we want to do is get input. The department's goal is to get addicts, drug users, into treatment, to get them into treatment to reduce their harm, to get them ultimately to stop using," says Coffax. [...]

If San Francisco, or for that matter, any American city wants to open one, do they need to get an exemption from the federal government? And of course, is it likely the government would ever grant one? Those are just part of many unanswered questions on a very controversial concept.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

NGLTF's Transgender-Inclusive Campaign for ENDA

The executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Matt Foreman, has penned an excellent column about a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
This group has been leading the charge to make sure the transgenders, the T in LGBT, are not thrown under the bus in order to pass ENDA and Foreman's essay deserves to be read by all who care about winning equality for the entire gay community.
From Foreman's column All Of Us, Every One of Us:

At this critical moment in our efforts to pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that includes transgender people under its protections, it is important to recall just why so many of us believe that no one can be left behind.

The last five days have been a grueling and defining moment in our movement’s history. When we learned that protections for transgender people would be stripped from ENDA, an unprecedented groundswell of anger, energy and determination rose up to reverse that decision. [...]

Click here and learn more about the NGLTF campaign for a fully inclusive ENDA, and do your part to stand with our transgender brothers and sisters.

Friday, October 12, 2007

San Francisco to Open Nation's First Injection Rooms
for Drug Users?
This announcement for an all-day discussion about establishing injection rooms for drug users is more than a trial balloon. It's very much a declaration that San Francisco will soon become the nation's first and only city with such facilities.
Given the fact that three powerful non-profit industries back such a proposal -- homeless advocacy groups, substance abuse and rehab centers, AIDS service organizations -- with the blessing of the health department, it's only a matter of time before we see one or more injection rooms start operating. When three well-funded and politically-connected non-profit complexes decide to do something about a public health issue in San Francisco, there is very little to stop them.
There will be many hurdles to overcome, of course, starting with the current crisis in many neighborhoods over the needle distribution programs that often leave the streets and parks littered with dirty, contaminated syringes. Sure, we officially have an exchange program, but in reality it's a give-away system with no incentive for drug users to return used needles for new ones.
I favor providing clean needles to drug users, to stop the spread of infectious diseases, but San Francisco hasn't done nearly as good a job as it should keeping dirty syringes off the streets and out of playgrounds. If there's a public mandate, and an enforceable and effective one, from the city requiring needle distribution agencies to get used needles back from drug users, I'm not aware of it.
We need the injection rooms and could also use locked boxes in the neighborhoods where needles are given away, so drug users could safely and properly dispose of used needles. I'd also like to know why we don't have such rooms already operating in the Tenderloin and Haight neighborhoods.
When we see the injection rooms open for business, I expect the operators of them will have social workers on-site and lots of information available to get drug users into the health care system, if they're homeless into a shelter, and maybe even sign them up for drug rehab programs.
Among the things that San Francisco has sorely lacked since the advent of needle distribution efforts to stem the tide of diseases, is real neighborhood involvement, accountability of the groups providing the needles and the ability to adapt the programs to address valid complaints from local residents and businesses. Hopefully these issues will be honestly addressed before the injection rooms get going.
As we inch closer to the rooms becoming operational, I'll be very interested in learning what Rep. Nancy Pelosi and all Democratic Party and GOP presidential hopeful think about them, not to mention all the pundits who will jump at the chance to weigh in on the rooms.
Let the debate on injection rooms in San Francisco begin! From the Harm Reduction Coalition web site:

Oct 18 Symposium: Exploring Safer Injection Facilities in San Francisco

Health Department & Community Groups to Discuss Legal Safe Injection Facilities

What: This full day symposium will examine needs, feasibility, support, and various options for a legal Safe Injection Facility for homeless and marginally housed injection drug users, and for the community impacted by them. Speakers include members of law enforcement, public health officials, service providers, legal experts, injection drug users, community groups, leaders in the faith community, and evaluators from InSite, a safe injection facility in Vancouver, Canada.

Why: San Francisco has several large concentrations of injection drug users (IDUs), and while HIV prevalence remains relatively low among IDUs, rates of hepatitis C have reached epidemic levels and fatal opiate overdose remains one of the leading causes of death in San Francisco. Community concerns regarding public drug use and improperly discarded syringes have been raised repeatedly over the last few decades. Twenty-seven other cities in eight countries around the world facing similar issues have opened Safe Injection Facilities, and this symposium will open a broad discussion about this option.

Who: Sponsored by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and the Alliance for Saving Lives (ASL), a community consortium working to promote community and individual health through legal safer substance use sites. ASL members include the Harm Reduction Coalition, Tenderloin Health, Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, Homeless Youth Alliance, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, and individual researchers and service providers throughout San Francisco.

When: Thursday, October 18, 9:30 am to 4:00 pm

Where: Women's Building auditorium, 3543 18th st & Valencia, San Francisco, CA 94110

Cost: FREE, and Continuing Education Units are available for a small fee for RN's, Certified Addiction Treatment Specialists, LCSW's and MFT's. As seating is limited, please RSVP to to reserve a space.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

SF Police Commission:
Castro Halloween Safety Plan Needed

There is an overabundance of abdication of public safety to go around San Francisco and the annual nightmare of Halloween on Castro Street, which is officially canceled this year.
From the Mayor and his staff, to the Board of Supervisors, and most inexplicably the Police Department, answers are sorely missing about what safety measures will be in place on October 31, when thousands of revelers descend again on the gay neighborhood for a party, regardless of the politicians saying the Halloween festivities aren't happening this year.
I'm of the mind that public safety workers, like the SF police officers in charge of street parties, actually work for the public, an odd notion at times in this city.
Last month when Citizens for Halloween, a grassroots campaign, called a public meeting in the Castro to hear the city's plans for handling the massive crowds that will be here in a few short weeks, many concerns citizens showed up to learn about safety measures for that night. The local press turned out in droves and reported on the meeting. But there was one big problem -- the cops didn't show.
If you're at all concerned with safety and security on Halloween in the Castro, not to mention educating the cops on what the public expects of them for this and all street parties, get down to City Hall for the commission and speak up.
And if you can't make it, catch the broadcast of the meeting either on public access government channel 26 or on-demand, for free, on the city's web site.
Good thing this current crop of police commissioners are doing a tremendous job of making the department more accountable to the public the cops serve, and playing a vital role in improving policing on the streets of San Francisco.

Update on Iranian Lesbian Pegah's Effort
to Stay in the UK

There's lots of news today from Sheffield, England, on our Iranian lesbian friend Pegah and her campaign to avoid being deported back to the Islamic Republic. Many thanks to Lesley Boulten and all the people who comprise the Friends of Pegah Campaign around the world. Let's all continue to call attention to Pegah's situation and maintain our cautious optimism that the UK immigration authorities will do the right thing and allow her to remain in the country.
Dear all
Please see briefing below for update on the current position.
Friends of Pegah Campaign

Pegah Emambakhsh: update briefing for supporters of her anti-deportation campaign
9th October 2007
1. Legal matters

A bail application was made to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal which was heard on 11 September 2007. The Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) strongly opposed Pegah being released but the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) decided to grant bail, and she returned to stay with friends in Sheffield that day. Opposition was based around the perceived threat of a public disturbance on her release and belief that Pegah is unlikely to maintain official contact while on bail.

2. Application to the Court of Appeal

An application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal, against the decision of the AIT of 21.2.07, refusing Pegah's asylum appeal, was submitted to the Court of Appeal on 10.9.07.

A judge of the Court of Appeal will now look at the papers and decide whether the Court will grant permission to appeal. This is likely to take several weeks.

If the judge refuses, Pegah’s lawyers will ask the Court of Appeal for an oral hearing of the application. This is likely to take several weeks further.

If the judge grants permission, there will then be an appeal hearing before three judges of the Court of Appeal. This is likely to take place some months after the grant of permission.

On 28.8.07, in a letter to the BIA, the lawyers asked the UK Government to agree that the Court of Appeal should allow the appeal without a hearing, and that the matter should be sent back to the AIT. Although an acknowledgement of the correspondence has been received from the BIA the Government has not yet responded to this request.

3. Fresh claim for asylum

On 28.8.07, Pegah’s lawyers made representations to the Government about the risk caused to Pegah by the publication of her account in the Iranian press.

The Government needs to make a decision as to whether to grant Pegah refugee status because of this, and whether, if they are not willing to grant refugee status, she should have a new appeal to the AIT.

The Government has not yet responded to this.

If they respond by refusing refugee status, and refusing to give a right of appeal to the AIT, then we will take judicial review action in the Administrative Court.

4. Coverage of Pegah’s case in Iran

This appears to be continuing through various media channels. We are in the process of obtaining some relevant coverage - e.g prominent news based or government backed websites – for official translation as evidence of this.

We are also aware of coverage of Pegah’s case on Iranian TV channels in the US.

The coverage is causing a great deal of distress to both Pegah and her family.

A point of relevance: We have had it pointed out to us by experts on Iranian law (via the Iranian desk of Amnesty International in conjunction with the Council of Europe) that Pegah’s act of asserting her sexual orientation to a court in the UK, even if not an open court and even though under another country’s jurisdiction, is equivalent to making an official confession to being a lesbian. This, as is published in the Iranian legal code, is punishable by 100 lashes, at the very least.

This point has yet to be taken up but we can verify this assertion through an expert witness statement.

5. Internet campaign

We have acted on advice to scale this back as far as practicable (given the momentum it had achieved), while political processes have been underway. Supporters have, in the main, respected our requests and instead turned their attention to sending messages of support direct to Pegah. People are still keen to be updated and interest in the case remains high. We are most grateful for this!

The messages of support have been a tremendous boost to Pegah and have helped her through some very difficult days.

6. Press coverage

We have had many requests for interviews for press coverage in the UK. Again, following political advice, we have turned this down on the grounds that Pegah needs to be left in peace at this time. This is in fact true: Pegah is not currently ready to make any kind of public statements.

7. President Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia University

As we know, on 25 September the Iranian President made some memorable remarks denying the existence of gay people in Iran.

Here is an extract from the New York Sun, 2.10.07, giving some response to this that has relevance to this case.

The executive director of the Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organization, Arsham Parsi, had a question for the president yesterday. "Who am I? Who am I, if we don't have any queers in Iran?" Mr. Parsi said, noting that in 2005 he had had to flee Iran to escape arrest. A spokesman for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Hossein Alizadeh, said that, in Iran, there is a "constant fear of execution and persecution and also social stigma associated with homosexuality."

Mr. Alizadeh, who said he is gay and moved to America from Tehran in 2000, added that the commission, which is based in New York, has documented numerous cases of gay persecution, including executions, in Iran. It is difficult to know for certain the number of Iranians executed because they are gay, as the government refuses to disclose the real reasons that lead to arrests, he said. The director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, Scott Long, said Iranians arrested on suspicion of being gay are routinely tortured. Mr. Alizadeh, who said he was not openly gay in Iran, said there are many cases of Iranians in America and other countries who are seeking asylum because of their sexual orientation, noting that he himself was granted asylum on that basis.

8. High level representations regarding Pegah’s case

Pegah’s situation has arisen a great deal of interest at high levels in respected organizations. The following are of particular note:

Women’s National Commission: They have now written twice directly to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, requesting a meeting to discuss the issues raised by Pegah’s case and Pegah’s situation in particular. We understand that they have had an acknowledgement of their letters but an appointment has not yet been offered.

We understand the following have also written to Jacqui Smith requesting a meeting:

Council for Equality and Human Rights:

End violence against women campaign:

Muslim Women's network:

The Chair of the Muslim Women’s Network has also submitted an expert’s report to the Home Office on the status and situation of lesbian women in Iran which expecially highlights the danger that Pegah will be in now that her story has been circulated in the media there.

President of the European Parliament: Hans-Gert Pöttering has written to Gordon Brown asking him to look into the matter [of Pegah’s case] as a matter of urgency. This letter was based on earlier briefings including material from Pegah’s earlier legal statements.
UNHCHR: they rang us twice in August to voice interest and concern in the case and said that they would be contacting the British Government to remind them of their obligations under international declarations.
(Italian gay poet, filmmaker, scholar, journalist and novelist Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1922 - 1975.)

GLAAD, NGLTF, Equality Forum on Gay History Month (HRC Silent)

My posting last week on this subject generated a couple of replies from leaders of national gay groups, which I'm sharing with you to show that a healthy discussion is taking place about Gay History Month.
I believe GLAAD and Equality Forum fully understand the need to have such a month and to actively work at honoring gay history, as something both separate and still linked to daily gay advocacy work.
But the defensive and snooty tone from NGLTF, stating that their recent, and very commendable, nationwide work on a tranny-inclusive ENDA betrays a sense that they just don't understand the need respect Gay History Month on a par with how NGLTF observes Women's History Month, which warranted a news release and fact-sheet from the group back in March.
No matter how much NGLTF huffs and puffs about their current activities, it doesn't make up for their lack of promotion of and organizing for our designated history month.
Nice of all these folks to weigh in on this, which is a lot more than the continuing silence and inaction from the Human Rights Campaign over Gay History Month.
In a message dated 10/8/2007 8:12:36 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Michael,

Thanks for sharing your posting---to clarify your post, GLAAD has never been the primary sponsor of the existing Gay History Month, which is spearheaded by the Equality Forum.

GLAAD has been actively supporting their efforts since they started this up a couple years ago. I don’t consider Equality Forum a local group, in fact they do more International outreach than nearly all other LGBT organizations I can think of—the content of their program reflects such-- and Gay History Month is very much their concept and program.

I would encourage you to contact Malcolm Lazin for further discussion about their program, they are doing a really great job with it.

I am told that GLAAD’s activities in 1997 came as a result of GLAAD transitioning into a national organization with one Executive Director instead of the previous chapter-based structure.
Shortly thereafter the board of directors provided our clarity in mission as an organization with a specific focus on media advocacy, and we have not been involved with any Gay History Month efforts—from the best I can tell, no one was until Equality Forum started working on the concept a couple years ago and brought it to its present form. And thanks to Malcolm and his team for doing so.

We do, every day, help members of the community share their stories. Through these efforts we seek to change the hearts and minds of those who would otherwise not hear our message of full LGBT equality.
In honor of National Coming Out Day on Thursday, we are releasing our newest PSA featuring T.R. Knight. We believe this PSA campaign will advance the efforts of media advocacy, fighting defamation and changing hearts and minds to create a more open and fair-minded world in which to live openly and achieve full equality.

Thanks Michael---


In a message dated 10/8/2007 8:40:53 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Michael –

Equality Forum undertook responsibility for GLBT History Month in 2006. You can find the 2006 Icons on the home page at as well as information about the project.

We appreciate the assistance of GLAAD. When Equality Forum decided to undertake the project, we outreached to GLAAD for their advice and assistance in helping guide the promotional launch of the project.

As Neil stated, Equality Forum is a national and international GLBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Likewise, GLBT History Month is a national and international project. Today’s Icon is Klaus Wowereit, Lord Mayor of Berlin. Lord Mayor Wowereit led the German delegation at Equality Forum 2003, when Germany was the Featured Nation.

We commend GLAAD for being our community’s effective voice in reacting to media homophobia. Since Neil’s stewardship, GLAAD has impressively undertaken a proactive role with and using media.

Malcolm Lazin
Executive Director
Equality Forum

In a message dated 10/5/2007 3:02:53 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Hey Michael:

Looks like you haven’t noted the historic work of our community this week. Over 150 LGBT advocacy organizations have come together as a huge community to fight to keep a Trans inclusive ENDA alive. Activists across the country are working round the clock to press for an ENDA that leaves no part of our community behind. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have been actively and deeply involved in this historic undertaking.

I hope that those who celebrate Gay History month will join those making history and be apart of this effort. You for more information you can go to the task force website or, or to one of the over 150 organizations listed as signators as last weeks letter to congress.

If that is not enough for making history-- watch for a major announcement from California next week where the Task Force is working side by side with Equality California on a ground breaking historic campaign that will definitely go down in Gay History.

Celebrating Gay history comes in many ways. This year the Task Force celebrates by joining together with hundreds and hundreds of activists to make history through their political action. For those who haven’t join the action but would like to know more visit the Task Force ENDA Action Center at or one of the many lgbt organizations who have signed on to UnitedENDA,


Roberta Sklar

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Lynne Cheney Profiled by CBS Reporter Whose Husband is Her Literary Rep
CBS News correspondent Rita Braver's brown-nose interview with Lynne Cheney on Sunday was reason number 1,342 why I am cynical toward and very distrustful of the mainstream corporate media.
Braver's ten-minute profile of the Vice President's wife, with softball questions tossed out with ease by the veteran newswoman, was linked to the publication of a new book by Cheney.
During the women's downright sisterly chat, Braver giddily discloses a troubling conflict of interest, one that shouldn't be readily simply because the reporter has revealed it. Braver's husband, Robert Barnett, packaged Cheney's book and has represented her in other literary endeavors.
From CBS News' story about the interview:
Her new book is largely a celebration of the joys of growing up in the West in the '40s and '50, which Braver's husband helped publish along with several others of Lynne Cheney's books.

In "Blue Skies, No Fences," Cheney acknowledges that her world of prom dates and being homecoming queen was not open to everyone - African Americans, for example. And she writes that the times "were hard on kids who were gay."

It's an issue that Cheney is sensitive to as the mother of a gay daughter.
What reasoning went into the decision of CBS executives that allowed them to give Braver the go-ahead to do a puff piece on a subject doing business with her husband?
If CBS thinks it's ethical journalism to allow this sort of lapse in judgment and that their credibility isn't damaged, then they deserve to suffer further loss of their ever-dwindling TV news audience.
For this news consumer, I'll continue to find other less biased, less connected sources of information than CBS News and the reporting of Braver, whose husband is laughing all the way to the bank from the all the book sold through his wife's flattering infomercial of Lynne Cheney.
You can read the CBS story on Cheney's new memoir, and if you have the stomach for it, watch the actual nauseatingly sweet "news story" from today. Click here for both.

[UPDATE, October 8]

I give the Public Eye blog at the CBS News site credit for this reaction piece late this afternoon by Matthew Felling, but the response from the executive producer the show that ran the Lynne Cheney interview did nothing to change my mind about keeping my eyeballs away from CBS News broadcasts.
Those who make the decisions at CBS over what gets on the air and which reporter covers a story find my criticism "harsh"? Isn't that too bad. I'm finding plenty of other news outlets and sources, less biased and with fewer conflicts of interest, for my news diet and see this whole episode as one more good reason to avoid CBS News and its political coverage these days.
Upon arriving at the office today, this writer came upon a blog post about “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Rita Braver’s conversation with Lynne Cheney. The post began:
CBS News correspondent Rita Braver's brown-nose interview with Lynne Cheney on Sunday was reason number 1,342 why I am cynical toward and very distrustful of the mainstream corporate media.
  • [...]

  • I began a conversation with Braver about this issue early today, before finding out the conversation had widened to a couple of letters on Jim Romenesko’s MediaNews – the go-to site for a daily climate check of MediaLand. [...]

    There I found a letter from David Fluhrer, a self-described "public relations consultant with a healthy respect for journalism," raising the same points as Petrelis. And another from Lee Rood at the Des Moines Register.

    In order to get a sense of the decision-making process, I got in touch with Rand Morrison, the Executive Producer of “CBS Sunday Morning” and shared with him the concerns out there in the blogosphere.

    Here is his response:
    Rita Braver is our Sunday Morning Washington-based correspondent. In that role, she regularly talks with political figures of all persuasions -- from Laura Bush to former Attorney General John Ashcroft to presidential hopeful John Edwards to, yes, Lynne Cheney. Similarly, her husband, Bob Barnett, represents a number of prominent Washington personalities -- Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals.

    Ms. Braver – who over the years has served CBS News as Chief White House correspondent and Law correspondent – disclosed her husband’s role with the Cheney book on the air during her story for all of our viewers to know. And despite the fact that Ms. Cheney’s book is an autobiography devoted to a recounting of her young years growing up in Wyoming, Braver asked a variety of questions pertaining to the current political climate. Among them – quoting directly:

  • “There are people out making speeches all the time saying this will go down as the worst Administration in American history…”

    And on the matter of the conduct of the Iraq war…

  • “Do you think 20 years from now we’ll say ‘Look, we made a big difference in Iraq’? Or will we look back and say ‘It was a mistake’?”

    Given the above queries, it seems harsh, to put it mildly, to characterize the Sunday Morning interview as “fawning.”

  • Friday, October 05, 2007

    October = Gay History Month
    (Don't Tell HRC, GLAAD, NGLTF)

    If you've forgotten that October is Gay History Month, you are forgiven for this memory lapse because there is no official effort by our national advocacy organizations to commemorate our history this month.
    Thanks to one individual, openly gay high school history teacher Rodney Wilson from Missouri, Gay History Month began in 1994 as a way for gays and our allies to learn about important historical people and events that have shaped the gay community.
    From at least 1997, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GLAAD, was the primary sponsor of this important month and they devoted staff time and organizational resources to engage the community in activities during October.
    While it is certainly laudable of a gay advocacy group to publicize Hispanic History Month like this, with a gay angel, it shocks me that GLAAD went to all this effort for their Spanish public service announcement and omitted any reference to October also being Gay History Month. Maybe we should widely revive our history month, if only to remind our professional advocates of their own history.
    Just think: GLAAD could have fed two birds, the gay and Hispanic communities, with one seed, the PSA, if they had remembered October is both gay and Hispanic history month.
    Is any gay organization putting resources into making this year's Gay History Month a reality? Yes, just one local group, the Equality Forum in Philadelphia. For the second year in a row, they've created a fantastic multi-media web site, highlighting a daily hero or heroine each day of the month.
    Where are our leading advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, on our history month this year? I can't find any news releases at the HRC and NGLTF web sites regarding our history month, but I did locate information from HRC, two releases actually, about their support for Black History Month and a statement from NLGTF in observance of Women's History Month.
    I'm all in favor of gay groups participating in and promoting other communities' history months, but I'd also like the groups to devote some of their resources and staff time to our own history month.
    And there is simply no comparison with how our brothers and sisters across the pond celebrate Gay History Month in the United Kingdom, which is during February. Over in England there is a full calendar of events and lectures that took place this year, which frankly, puts the paucity of similar happenings in America to absolute shame.
    I'd like to point out that this October marks the 20th anniversary of our community's historic and ground-breaking March on Washington in 1987, an occasion that in and of itself was monumental, but which also saw the birth of the AIDS memorial quilt, the Names Project, and National Coming Out Day. The 1987 march also planted the seeds for the explosion of ACT UP chapters across the country.
    On a much sadder note, October is also the month in which gay US Navy sailor Allen Schindler was brutally murdered by other sailors in a toilet in Sasebo, Japan. Many feel Schindler's senseless killing brought to light the horrific conditions many gays faced in the armed services.
    If we gays can't rouse ourselves and push our own national groups to remember and celebrate our vast history in October, don't expect the rest of society to take much time and effort and learn about where we've come from during this month.
    Gay History Month -- an idea that should be fully embraced, promoted and celebrated!

    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    BAR Editorial: HRC Was MIA on ENDA
    The terrific editorial in today's Bay Area Reporter on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act hits many nails on the head, in terms of problems with Rep. Barney Frank and the Human Rights Campaign and their misguided ENDA strategies.
    It doesn't surprise me in the least that HRC was first MIA when the controversy broke over Frank's approach to drop the transgendered from the bill, and when HRC eventually issued a statement about where they stood, the group betrayed a deeply-held arrogance.
    Brava to Cynthia Laird, the BAR editor, for her fabulous editorial and the paper's longstanding coverage and commitment to fairness and equality for our transgendered brothers and sisters.
    We Deserve Better
    The LGBT community deserves better leadership from two stalwarts of the movement, as events over the last few days stemming from a decision to strip gender identity from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act clearly demonstrate. [...]

    One gay rights group, however, was missing in action: the Human Rights Campaign. We find it inexplicable and inexcusable that HRC would remain silent for days, when ENDA – in its original trans-inclusive form – has been the crown jewel of its years of legislative effort. With a Democratic Congress, it seemed like this would be the year that ENDA would finally see congressional approval. By the time HRC's board held a lengthy telephone conference meeting Monday, the organization's credibility had taken a hit. On Tuesday, HRC President Joe Solmonese issued a statement that was stunning in both its mixed message and arrogance: HRC reaffirmed its 2004 position of supporting a trans-inclusive ENDA, but would not lobby members of Congress against voting for the watered down bill.

    Both Frank and HRC have a troubled history regarding transgender issues. Frank has a reputation of working against that segment of the community, or at least not strongly supporting it. HRC, of course, had to be chastened into supporting a trans-inclusive ENDA three years ago. Since then, however, HRC has assiduously courted the transgender community, including having trans members on its board. In the space of a week, however, virtually all of that goodwill has evaporated. The anger is palpable – and justified. [...]

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    SF Chron: Radical Gay Army Soon Invading Iran,
    CIA Sources Show Traces of Gays

    Homo-humor from the very straight and likeable San Francisco Chronicle columnist John Carroll, whose daughter is an open lesbian, is on full-display today. This made me laugh and smile, while seeing some larger truths laid out in an American daily.
    The Revolutionary Gay Army indeed! Mr Carroll is very familiar with the old Queer Nation rhetoric of the Nineties.
    Our nation's gay leaders pronounced themselves "surprised" at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's open admission that the long-rumored "gay gap" is real. CIA sources have been saying privately for some time that advanced satellite imaging has revealed traces of gays in the area around Tehran, but other pundits were skeptical. [...]

    Now, in the wake of Ahmadinejad's candid admission, a team of gay proselytizers is being formed in a humanitarian effort to bring Iran up to First World standards. "Never let it be said," said Col. Tracy Leslie of the Revolutionary Gay Army, "that America sat idly by while another nation suffered through a decadeslong gay drought."

    Leslie called for volunteers to help beef up the regular forces. [...]

    Some gay people, he acknowledged, might refuse to serve. "That is, of course, their right. They are free to enjoy their gay communities, even though they are aware that entire towns halfway around the world might be without a single gay person."

    But he added: "If those people would just look at their copies of the Homosexual Agenda, they would see no mention of borders there, no idea that one country is gayer than another. [...]"

    Gay historian Lee Parker sought to place the problem in a historical context. "We must remember that ancient Persia was, in many ways, the cradle of homosexuality. Persian warriors were known to seal their brotherhood with sexual congress - as indeed were the Greeks. [...]"

    Leaders of Gays for Iran have dubbed the initial push the "shock and awww" campaign. "It's sort of like shock that the gay army is here and awww they're pretty nice," said psychologist Parker Lee. "We believe that Iranians will like any group of Americans that doesn't try to kill them."

    Lee indicated that cultural sensitivity training would be among the group's biggest concerns. "You can't just go in there and get all butch and start herding all the bears into one corner and explaining their role in the community to them. For one thing: whole lotta bears in Iran. And none of this choosing-up-sides butch-femme-butch-femme thing. That just does not reflect the diverse reality of the gay experience, and anyway, that distinction is very hard to make as long as burqas are firmly in place." [...]

    "We may have to stay there for a long time," said Col. Leslie. "It's not a quagmire, though; it's an opportunity."

    We're looking for a few good men who are looking for a few good men. Ask not what you can do for your country, ask instead what you can do for the people of Qom.