Monday, May 31, 2010

Frank Kameny, Gay Hero,

Deserves the Medal of Freedom

(Kameny with one of his picket signs from the 1960s.)

This Memorial Day is an excellent time to recall and honor the decades of gay liberation advocacy performed by U.S. Army veteran Frank Kameny. Way before the Stonewall Riots or a Supreme Court decision overturning sodomy law or gay marches on Washington, Kameny was fighting, sometimes all by himself, for full legal equality for gay people.

Last August, when President Barack Obama bestowed his first round of Medal of Freedom honors and the late Harvey Milk was one of the honorees, I wondered why a living gay hero wasn't given one of the medals. I blogged about pushing the almost-invisible and very quiet White House gay liaison Brian Bond to make Kameny a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

To his credit, Bond sent me a 26-word reply, promising that Kameny would be remembered for future awards. It's almost a year later, and I'd like to know if Bond and the White House are considering giving Kameny this honor.

On May 21, Kameny turned 85 and the Washington-area gay community feted him on this occasion and praised his civic and political accomplishments. Many happy birthday wishes to him, as he celebrates another year of life and being his feisty self, but his birthday is also a reminder that Kameny is no spring chicken.

I wish him many more birthdays, and hope that the White House understands the urgency of honoring Kameny with the Medal of Freedom while he's still alive and kicking.

Here's a great video from the Washington Blade, of an interview one of their reporters conducted with the national gay icon at one of this hometown's parties for him:

Hey, Frank, I have two things to say to you: thank you. Yes, dear Founding Father of the modern American gay movement, I am in debt to you and your colleagues for the heroism you showed so many years ago. Thank you, Frank.

Now let's persuade the President to make Kameny an American pioneer and patriot glorified with a Medal of Freedom.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

NYT: Jamaican Dead Include

'Men Dressed as Women'

A story in today's New York Times about Jamaican government attempts to capture drug dealer Christopher Coke mentioned something in passing that I think the gay community needs to pay attention to:

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said that family members of the missing would soon be told whether their relatives were among the roughly 70 civilians killed during the fighting. He said two of the dead were women, and that several were men dressed as women.

I deplore all of the violence and murder that take place in Jamaica, against all persons, and most certainly the mayhem and bloody attacks on its gay and transgender citizens.

And I have to wonder, with limited knowledge, if any of the dead men who were found in female clothing were transgender or gay persons. A few questions must be raised.

Why were some of the victims dressed that way? And how many were found that way? Did the police offer any explanations about this oddity?

I'll root around some more at gay and news sites from Jamaica and see if I can find additional info about this. I'll also send a note to the foreign desk at the Times and ask them for further information.

Malawi Pardons Jailed Trans-Gay Couple

This is the most fabulous news from the BBC this morning:

A gay couple who were jailed in Malawi have been pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Mr Mutharika, speaking as UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited Lilongwe, said he had ordered their immediate release.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were given 14-year jail terms after being convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts.

The case has sparked international condemnation and a debate about homosexuality in the country.

Mr Ban said he welcomed the president's decision. [...]

Let's hope by the end of today that the trans-gay couple have been released from prison.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

US Won't Cut Aid to Malawi;

Ambassador Urges Change on Gays

A daily newspaper in Malawi, the Nyasa Times, reported yesterday that our man in Lilongwe, Ambassador Peter Bodde, pictured above, explained in a radio interview where the United States stands on potentially cutting aid to the county over the recent conviction of a trans-gay couple:

Malawi has been assured it will continue to get support from United States of America for the country’s socioeconomic development in spite of the 14 year-jail sentence that has been given to gay couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza.

The two gay lovers were arrested by police in Malawi two days after they had had a traditional engagement ceremony in Blantyre’s Chirimba Township, December 2009. [...]

However, US ambassador to Malawi, Peter Bodde told Capital Radio a closely-held broadcaster on Thursday the Obama government was not ready to stop funding the country’s social and economic development activities following the landmark ruling but expressed hope that government would change the law to accommodate same-sex liaisons.

“My government is concerned about the recent court case and the court ruling in the sense what happened with the conviction of the two gentlemen convicted on homosexual acts. We see this as a step back on Malawi’s good record on human rights that’s [sic],” he said.

While admitting that Malawi is a sovereign state and should be allowed to run its own affairs, Bodde observed that the US had been the country’s long time partner; hence the need to be advised as a friend who is going off track.

“We have always prided ourselves and our shared values but sometimes when our values differ we have a responsibility to tell each other so,” he said.

It's good to see in the past few weeks that the State Department and the White House have deplored the miscarriage of justice for Tiwonge and Steven, and that our ambassador is using frank language in public to urge Malawi's leaders to recognize their mistaken homo-hatred.

However, while I don't want to increase poverty or hunger or any related condition on Malawians because of potential cuts in U.S. aid, I would like my government to attach a few strings to the aid that requires the country's leaders to respect and protect the human rights of its gay and trans citizens.

The article goes on to cite a gay humanitarian worker's views on this matter:

And writing in The Times Online readers comments page, Dave Armstrong who volunteers in Malawi, said he was a gay but did not subscribe to cutting aid to the impoverished nation in order to fight for gay rights.

Armstrong wrote: “I am volunteer for a charity working in Malawi, caring for 5,500 orphans. I am also a gay man. Aid is essential to countries like Malawi. It would be very dangerous to withdraw support. Yes it can be used as a tool to negotiate, but there would be serious ramifications if withdrawn.

“A longer term issue of how effective this aid is needs to be addressed, but first we need to secure the release of Steven and Tiwonge on human rights issues.”

Speaking of working to gain the liberation of the jailed couple, click here to learn about the Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day on June 15, an effort to bring gays into the streets to publicly demand Tiwonge and Steven's release.

June 15 = Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day;

NYC, Pretoria, SF: Free Tiwonge & Steven!

(Tiwonge Chimbalanga, left, and Steven Monjeza, right.)

NEW YORK CITY, PRETORIA AND SAN FRANCISCO (May 28) -- Human rights activists across the world have declared Tuesday, June 15 The Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day. On this day, people across the globe will demonstrate against the homo- and transphobia demonstrated by the Malawai courts and government in sentencing Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to 14 years of hard labor. The judgment came after months of imprisonment, stemming from an engagement party the couple had in this traditionally homophobic country.

Since the couple was placed in prison, people throughout the world have vigorously condemned their treatment. Thus far, groups in three cities -- New York City, Pretoria, South Africa and San Francisco -- have planned protests to support the couple. Other cities are expected to hold similar demonstrations on Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day. Protesters are demanding that the Malawian government immediately free Tiwonge and Steven from prison.

The presiding judge, Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa, condemned Tiwonge and Steven's love when he handed down the 14-year sentence to each: “I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public will be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example. We are sitting here to represent the Malawi society, which I do not believe is ready at this point in time to see its sons getting married to other sons, or conducting engagement ceremonies.”

The logistics of the first three June 15 protests are:

City: New York, NY
Location: Malawian UN Mission
Address: 866 United Nations Plaza, at E. 49th St.
Time: 12 noon - 1:00 pm
Contact: Brendan Fay
Phone: 718-721-2780

City: Pretoria, South Africa
Location: To be announced
Address: To announced
Time: 12:00 Midday - 14:00
Contact: Tombi Rautenbach (Pretorius)
Phone: +27 83 4600 327

City: San Francisco, CA
Location: UN Plaza, Malawian Pillar
Address: Market Street, Btwn 7th and 8th Streets
Time: Noon - 12:30 pm
Contact: Michael Petrelis
Phone: 415-621-6267

"The miscarriage of justice suffered by Tiwonge and Steven has drawn outrage from all over the world," said Petrelis, co-organizer of the unity day. "The eyes of the world are on Malawai, and the voices of millions have joined together to demand freedom for these people whose only crime is to love one another. We will not allow the sentence against them to stand."

Organizers are hoping that the Malawai courts will hear an appeal to the sentence very soon. Longtime global gay advocate Peter Tatchell has been in touch with the Malawian couple and their lawyers for months now, and has campaigned on their behalf. Tatchell expressed the crucial need for global actions in this case. "The latest advice from Tiwonge and Steven's lawyers is that they expect a fast-track appeal. It could be heard by the High Court as early as the end of June. So, global protests need to happen before then, in order to have an impact in the crucial time-frame leading up to the appeal."

Monday, May 24, 2010

GetEqual Explains $250,000 Donation

(Screen capture from Kip Williams' Facebook page.)

Congratulations are in order for the GetEqual activist org on securing a $250,000 contribution from gay businessman and philanthropist Jonathan Lewis. Kip Williams, co-founder of the org, shared some info about the donation on his Facebook page recently, and I sent him and his colleague Robin McGehee a few questions.

They replied with more details about their operation, and I am sharing our exchange. Also, follow up questions went back to Kip and Robin, and when they reply, I'll share that exchange.

I must say I've been impressed with their protests at the White House fence, in Congressional offices and hitting other targets, and think they're doing much good to change the Gay Inc business as usual approach that I find so stifling. Nice to see they are receiving serious money to continue their activism.

Here's our exchange:

Q: Is the check related to getequal or other gay-related matters?
A: Yes.

Q: Who cut the check?
A: The check is from Jonathan Lewis, who has helped incubate GetEQUAL over the past six months.

Q: Are you compensated for getequal work, and if so, how much?
A: Yes, both founding directors make less than $90K per year (we were offered the opportunity to work on this project and take sabbaticals from our regular jobs - Robin must decide if she will be going back to teach at College of the Sequoias in the Fall). And we are proud of the fact that we have spent less than $135K overall since December 2009 to create and launch GetEQUAL (that does not include about $45K we spent on the Highlander activist retreat we did in January).

Q: Who makes the decisions about how the money is spent?
A: We are putting in place a very diverse board of directors, between them, our staff mentioned below, the community of volunteers and the Co-Founding Directors we usually come to agreement.

Q: Is anyone else being paid expenses or other compensation for work they’re doing?
A: We have three other staff to help with direct actions, outreach, planning and implementation, but everyone else is a volunteer—no one who has participated in an action that either risked arrest or were arrested were paid for their participation.

Q: Will you disclose the donation(s) on the getequal site?
A: We have a planning retreat in June where we will make decisions concerning transparency—but are open to suggestions.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

New Plaque of Milk
at His Castro Camera Store

(The quote from Milk reads: "Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.")

I snapped a few photos yesterday of what was once Harvey Milk's camera store on Castro Street. The gay historical society has gussied up the window with artifacts from many moons ago, a new plaque is in the sidewalk, and a capsule explanation about the man, his times, and his influence hangs in the door window.

Since the focus of Milk Day and all the hoopla this weekend is upbeat and cheerleading-for-Democrats, one important fact has been overlooked, and it is also omitted from the camera store display.

May 21, 1979, is the day the fags in Frisco rioted over the judicial leniency handed down to Dan White for assassinating Harvey and George Moscone. Who remembers the White Night Riots?

But why bring up a fuller picture about those times for Milk Day, when we our official gay leaders have Speaker Pelosi's butt to kiss and the Democratic Party wants to contain our anger? Best not to remind the homos of their proud fighting history.

On to more pictures of the store and what it looks like this weekend.

The front door is totally obscured by the short history of Milk.

The window display. Sorry for the reflections and glare.

The old, almost-impossible to read and see plaque in the cement, and the newer plaque on the right.

Zimbabwe Arrests 2 Gay Leaders

As if the news in the past few months had not been bad enough for gays in Uganda, where a law to execute gays has been proposed, and in Malawia, where a gay couple were recently sentenced to 14 years hard labor for their love, now comes word of trouble for gays in Zimbabwe.

The information below was shared a short while ago on the Gays Without Borders listserv on Yahoo. It came from Denis Nzioka, a courageous gay leader in Kenya, and the message originated with gays in South Africa.

Please share this terrible news, and help bring some visibility to the mounting problems for gays across Africa.

Here's the message:

Dear all,

We write to inform you of the detention of two employees of Gay and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)—Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Mhambi— yesterday evening. They were arrested after a raid of the GALZ office by the Central Intelligence Department. The officers came with a search warrant looking for evidence that GALZ was dealing in hard drugs and/or were in possession of pornography.

They took all the GALZ computers and other materials from the office. The officers then came back and arrested everyone in the GALZ office. Only Ellen and Ignatius were there. Both Ellen and Ignatius are still in custody.

Derek Matyszak, a human rights lawyer who has been working with GALZ for a long time, has been trying to get in to see them. Ellen’s health is of particular concern as she is diabetic and needs her medication and food.

We understand that it is currently unsafe for GALZ employees and volunteers who are outside of Zimbabwe at various meetings, including an OSISA meeting in Johannesburg, to return to Zimbabwe as there is a concern that they will be arrested at the airport.

This arrest and raid are part of growing pressure in Zimbabwe against LGBT rights. About a month ago, two foreign student interns were stopped at the airport trying to leave Zimbabwe and interrogated and detained. All of the GALZ material they had in their possession was confiscated.

At the moment, we are waiting for word from Chesterfield Samba, who is at a meeting in Namibia, to determine a strategy going forward and particularly what those of us outside of Zimbabwe can do to assist.

Also, we know Fadzai is on this list and we are sure she can also provide more information and updates.

All the best,
Ian Swartz
Priti Patel

Video: Pelosi Says DADT

'A Memory Come Xmas'

My friend Bill Wilson, a longtime community photographer, attended Equality California's reception at the SF Gay Community Center yesterday for Nancy Pelosi and shares this report:

Speaker Pelosi commenting on DADT last night at the LGBT Center reception for Harvey Milk Day. She said she was going to put as much effort into DADT, ENDA and Gay marriage as went into healthcare. Have longer video but it is over 20 minutes so I have to do bits but I think this was the major news.

Bill also sent me his short video of her promise regarding Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the crowd cheering her:

Time will tell if she, her Democratic colleagues in Congress, and the Obama administration deliver on that comment. And speaking of Xmas and American troops, I'd like to see gay leaders start to push to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan by Xmas.

Do we have any gay leaders pushing for peace?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Raw Story: FBI Probed Milk, Moscone
Before They Were Murdered

(Harvey Milk and George Moscone at San Francisco's City Hall, in an undated photo.)

The progressive news site Raw Story today is running an exclusive story about recently released records from the FBI pertaining Harvey Milk and George, who were the subjects of probes by the feds at the time of their assassinations.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act request I filed for any documents on the men the FBI may have in its archive, the agency was obliged to send me the records that generated the article today.

Check out the entire piece at Raw Story. Here is an excerpt:

Federal agents were investigating the late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and the late mayor of San Francisco George Moscone for alleged political corruption when both men were murdered in November 1978, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation files.

The man convicted of killing both men, then-Supervisor Dan White, was also the subject of a separate FBI political corruption probe before he gunned down Moscone and Milk at San Francisco's City Hall.

Agents in the FBI's San Francisco bureau were looking into whether Moscone and Milk had collaborated to "defraud the federally sponsored San Francisco Community Development Fund," according to documents obtained by San Francisco blogger and gay rights activist Michael Petrelis. (The relevant pages from those documents can be seen here.) [...]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pelosi's Milk Day Party:
May 21, 6pm, SF Gay Center

Let's see if a loud demonstration gets organized between now and the event. Here's the info from the folks at Equality California:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Join Equality California for Harvey Milk Day Kick Off

Event kicks off weekend of activities, including mass rally Sat. in San Francisco

WHAT: The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, will join Equality California to kick off the first-ever Harvey Milk Day at a fundraiser to help elect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates and allies to office.

WHERE: San Francisco LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street, San Francisco, CA

WHEN: Friday, May 21, 2010, 6:00 p.m. to 7 p.m.
*Press should arrive promptly at 6 p.m.

After Protest,
GMHC Agrees to Friday Night Dinners

Members of the Consumer Advisory Board of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, and other activists, held a successful demonstration yesterday at the agency's headquarters in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

They were protesting GMHC's plans to move to the far West Side, the relative inaccessibility of the new location and management of the agency.

The president of the GMHC CAB, Marcelo Maia, shared this photograph of activists walking a picket line at the org's entrance. To the left of the Tisch Building inscription, the GMHC is faintly visible.

Marcelo also sent along this image of a flyer, announcing some positive developments to come out of the protest:

Thank you, Marcelo, and all of the people with AIDS and activists, fighting the good fight to persuade GMHC leaders to keep the special needs of clients first and foremost on the service org's agenda.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Great Global Kiss-in:

IDAHO Video Roundup

Waymon Hudson, a regular contributor to the Bilerico Project group blog, to which I have also contributed, has performed a wonderful favor for the global gay community. He's gathered up several video and pictorial reporting from activists far and wide, all about what they did for the incredible worldwide few days of rolling kiss-ins in many many places.

The collection from Waymon starts with the first official IDAHO mashup, and in a few deft edits, gives a great overview of the kiss-ins. A very powerful mashup and there should be more from the IDAHO organizers in the coming days.

Here is Waymon's report:

A huge number of cities around the globe took place in the Great Global Kiss-in Protest. May 17th was the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), a worldwide rallying event offering an opportunity for people to get together, reach out to one another, and educate about the dangers of anti-LGBT discrimination and hatred in our society.

This year's event was a kiss-in, the purpose of which was to increase visibility of the LGBT community and its allies. Acts like the Great Global Kiss-in are important. Simple acts of affection between people of the same gender are still seen as shocking and taboo and can too often lead to violence. Highlighting the differences between the way we view and treat those couples and their heterosexual counterparts can be illuminating and freeing.

Affection between same-sex couples or gender non-conforming couples is not out of the ordinary and shouldn't be something that leads to violence or hate. We shouldn't be afraid to hold hands, kiss our partners or spouses, or be like any other couple when it comes to being affectionate and showing our love and commitment. The old meme of "I don't care what they do as long as they don't shove it down my throat" is a false double standard from those uncomfortable with LGBT people that needs to be challenged. Showing love and affection is natural and should be treated as such- whether between opposite-sex couples or same-sex ones.

Official IDAHO Kiss-in 2010 Video Global Mashup

A global celebration of the freedom to love peacefully. Around the world, in many cities, local activists got together to kiss, hug, or hold hands in solidarity with all those who cant because of homophobic and transphobic laws and attitudes.

St. Petersburg, Russia

Minsk, Belarus

Minsk had its gay pride march. For just 10 minutes, 40 Russians and Belarusians and Russians waived a 12 meters long rainbow flag for a short march of approximately 200 meters. They were at first met by a large group of journalists, photographers and TV crew. But when they reached the first crossing point, they were trapped by several vans of anti-riot police. Suddenly, the doors of the vans opened and anti-riot officers ran towards the participants. "I never saw anything of the kind" said Nikolai Alekseev by mobile phone. "They were brutal and violent" he added. Another participant who did not want to be named said: "It was like a group of wild dogs". The march ended with most of the participants being arrested and violently beaten. A few managed to escape but the police ran after them.

Austin, Texas

Plymouth, England

Bogotá, Colombia

London, just outside the British Parliament

Paris, in front of the Eiffel Tower

(Check out more coverage by our own Alex Blaze!)

San Francisco, California

Head over to Michael Petrelis's pad for more details on San Francisco's event.

Chicago, Illinois

About 50 marchers held a picket in front of the city's popular Millennium Park interacting with rush hour commuters, several of whom joined the event.



Thanks to Gay Liberation Network ( for the photos- for more, click here.

Berlin, Germany

Hopefully, a day will come when events like the Great Global Kiss-in aren't necessary or acts of rebellion. Until then, we keep fighting one kiss at a time.

Secret EQCA Site:
Pelosi's Milk Day Bash

[Update: Geoff Kors of EQCA has shared a reply in the comments section. Check it out below.]

There just is no pleasing that Patrick Connors, self-proclaimed uppity fag putting out damn excellent 411 on the inadequacy and endless money-grubbing of Gay Inc over at the SF Weekly's blog The Snitch.

Today Patrick is on a tear
over the official whatevers and everythings in the next few days by Equality California and others, in Harvey's hometown for Milk Day. Take it away, fierce uppity fag! The floor is yours:

As you'd expect, there's lots of stuff happening in San Francisco commemorating the gay icon. What you might not expect is how tame San Francisco's events are compared to other cities in California and around the country.

Outside of S.F., Milk Day is commemorated with public demonstrations like those we watched (a bit too repetitively) in the 2008 film Milk. New York City is honoring Milk's activism by organizing a march to City Hall. Los Angeles will have a week of events touching on various topics as well as hosting a Town Hall meeting, a march, and two rallies. Hell, even in St. Louis, they're marching to City Hall.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco there are no marches planned. [...]

Not to be outdone, Equality California (EQCA) is also participating in the recognition of Harvey Milk Day by throwing a few events to help raise money. For at least $75 per ticket, you can hear Nancy Pelosi, Mark Leno, and Tom Ammiano speak in San Francisco. [...] EQCA is throwing parties all over the state this weekend. This Harvey Milk Day idea is a big opportunity to raise (read: make) money. [...]

Sure, it's about that, but it's also about keeping the gays pacified just enough with the Democrats, through restricted events with our elected officials and giving them photo-ops with EQCA leader Geoff Kors. He's the California version of HRC's Joe Solmonese and as beholden to Democrats first, gay second, as his counterpart at the national level.

I followed Patrick's link to the EQCA events page to get the location of the Pelosi party, and that is secret info, emphasis mine, unless you cough up some gay dollars first:

San Francisco Harvey Milk Celebration with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Kickoff the first annual Harvey Milk Day by helping to elect LGBT candidates and our allies to office. [...]

Location Provided Upon Ticket Purchase

There is no other EQCA listing hiding its location. Just the Pelosi event. I've emailed EQCA's leadership asking why this is so, and if I get a response, it will be posted here.

My activist nose smells something isn't right about all this. It smells of fear on EQCA's part to protect the Speaker of the House from coming under fire at home from her gay constituents. Pelosi has been the target of sit-ins and activists arrested in her Washington and San Francisco offices, and there was a rally and picket of 100 angry gay folks at her district office yesterday.

Frankly, I'm also over the ceaseless narrow EQCA/HRC/Gay Inc focus on electing Democrats who happen to be gay, and our allies who love our votes and dollars but never get around to enacting change for us. If the "elect gays and allies at all costs" strategy is so great, why is there such dissatisfaction in the community?

Those reasons, and a host of others illustrating growing gay community impatience with her and the Democratic Party that just ain't showing us the political capital they're willing to spend on our legislation, are what I believe are a few things keeping the EQCA event with Pelosi close to the vest.

Instead of shielding the Speaker from San Francisco gays, EQCA should be doing everything to use all tactics -- cocktail parties to loud protests -- to persuade our Congressional representative to get fierce for gays.

Finally, if GetEqual activists had no problem purchasing several tickets to a fundraiser in LA last month and zap President Obama, I sure hope they repeat their performance with Speaker Pelosi in her political backyard. EQCA and Pelosi need to hear this message: No more Democratic Party "screwing the gays" as usual business.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

GOP Senators to Goosby:
What About HIV Drugs for Uganda?

(The U.S. ambassador for global HIV efforts, Dr. Eric Goosby.)

At a time of loudly reverberating silence from AIDS Inc about the failure of President Obama to present the America public with his National AIDS Strategy, let's laud this development. This excerpted report is from Science Speaks:

Five Republican U.S. senators recently sent a pointed letter to US Global AIDS Ambassador Eric Goosby, MD, asking for a clear response to reports that patients are being denied HIV therapy in Uganda and that clinicians elsewhere are “being forced to ration lifesaving treatment.”

The letter, signed by Sens. Michael Enzi of Wyoming, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and others, says the lawmakers are increasing concerned “that these reports signal a troubling direction of the current PEPFAR strategy.”

“…[T]he clear innovation of PEPFAR is its focus on treatment,” the senators write. “After all, treatment is prevention. Reductions in viral loads reduce the likelihood of individuals spreading the disease. Treatment also reduces transmission among partners, diminishes mother-to-child transmission, and keeps those with HIV in the medical system where they can receive proper counseling. The availability of treatment is integral to promoting HIV/AIDS testing and early diagnosis. After all, how can we continue to promote testing when the program is not able to provide treatment?”

Yeah, what the hell is going on with America's commitment to lead a life-extending drug program for HIV poz people around the planet?

It's disgusting that the domestic AIDS Inc orgs aren't raising public objections over delays with the White House delivering a National AIDS Strategy, and they and their global AIDS Inc counterparts are in mute mode over the Obama administration not keeping all of our international HIV drug delivery commitments.

The GOP senators also note that in the reauthorization of PEPFAR, Congress specifically mandated that more than half of bilateral AIDS money be spent on lifesaving medical care for HIV positive patients and said they were concerned that the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator might not be “taking adequate steps to meet these statutory requirements.”

This is good. Senators asking questions and insisting on some very real public accountability. Click here to read the full letter.

They ask Dr. Goosby to answer a half-dozen or questions, including the total number of people expected to receive treatment in 2010; the treatment allocation, as a percentage of PEPFAR’s budget, in FY2009; and an explanation of PEPFAR’s policy on whether savings achieved in treatment programs can be used to further expand treatment slots.

That last item is particularly worrisome among some advocates who have heard that implementers are being told any cost-efficiencies they find in their treatment programs cannot be used to add patients to the rolls.

As an American taxpayer concerned about our AIDS promises and programs to people with HIV and AIDS everywhere, I want Goosby to quickly respond to the GOP senators.

Prop 8's Judge Walker, at Gay Restaurant,

Asked to 'Come Out'

After the great IDAHO kiss-in at Harvey Milk Plaza last night, I saw Judge Vaughn Walker having drinks at a restaurant in the Castro. I snapped two photos of him with his dining companion, Brett Andrews the Positive Resource Center, then had a short exchange with him inside the restaurant.

My photos and short report are posted at the news site.

SF Gay Kiss-In for IDAHO;

Small Crowd, Huge Passion

(May 17 IDAHO public display of affection, with the Castro Theatre in the background. Photo credit: Bill Wilson.)

An estimated 35 gay activists staged a small, but enormously passionate kiss-in yesterday at San Francisco's historic Harvey Milk Plaza, as part of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).

Despite a steady rain, truly beautiful people showed up. Some of the folks included gay politicians Rebecca Prozan and Rafael Mandelman, SF Movie Bears coordinator Dave Hayes, Rainbow World Fund leader Jeff Cotter, Nadia Winsted of the Market Street Medical Marijuana Coop. We also had transgender activists Armandine Legare and Victoria Camp, Gary Virginia and Tommi Avicolli Mecca of Gays Without Borders/SF, Wanda Whitaker of Global Exchange, and dozens of other gay people at the fun-filled, if wet, action of love.

We had a few very short speeches about the importance of IDAHO and reminding folks that there is homophobia in the Bay Area we need to combat. One example was the December 2008 gang rape by four men of a lesbian in the Bay Area city of Richmond. She was targeted first by having a rainbow pride flag sticker on her car.

To set a romantic mood, Gary Virginia brought out a boom-box, threw on a Dean Martin CD of classic love songs, and turned up the music to maximum volume.

One couple, two young gay men, and a slightly more mature bear couple, were the most passionate kissers of the day. Even when the action was officially over, both couples kept right on smooching.

One young man from Kansas identified as straight but kindly asked if he could wear a red kiss-in shirt and join the rally saying, "Things like this don't happen often in Kansas. This is great!" Another middle-aged man from the Midwest was in town for the city's Bay to Breakers race the day prior and said, "I'm not gay but I totally support equal rights for everyone. I don't know why it is such a big deal for people."

In attendance were reporters and cameramen from KPIX and KTVU, Bay Area Reporter photographer Rick Gerharter, a photographer from Getty Images, and independent media reps and bloggers.

This is a video activist Steven Crouch made today from his footage shot at yesterday's action:

Here is the fabulous story that ran on KTVU last night:

These are two more great photos from Bill Wilson, showing couples embracing and locking lips, all in the name of a wonderful cause: global gay solidarity:

Lots of big thanks and huge hugs to all the wonderful people who made the San Francisco kiss-in happen, even with the lousy weather. Our rainbow love was shining brightly yesterday, as it does everyday. And much gratitude to the IDAHO organizers and all the other global activists who had their own kiss-ins and visibility actions.

Let's all work together to make IDAHO 2011 the best yet!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rain or Shine,
SF Gay Kiss-In Today at 5 PM

The weather prediction for San Francisco today calls for clouds and rain, and as I write this, a few drops are falling outside my window.

Regardless of the weather, rain or shine, the kiss-in for IDAHO, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, will happen today, starting at 5 pm and going till 6 pm, at Harvey Milk Plaza, located at Castro and Market Streets.

Please join with dozens of gay people and maybe even a few straights, and participate in the kiss-in later today. We have great t-shirts from the IDAHO organizers in Paris to share, along with lots of individually-wrapped fresh breath mints for everyone.

Show up at 5 pm today at Milk Plaza and show your solidarity with the global gay activist movement!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

GMHC: $3.6M Less Revenue;

ED = $210K; Lobbyists Dropped

I have a few kind things to say about the Gay Men's Health Crisis and the leaders of it, starting with thanks for posting your new IRS 990 report for 2009 on your web site. As a sunshine advocate who well knows how reluctant orgs are to share 990s on their web sites, let's applaud GMHC for this important act of transparency, and for being so current.

Look at page 1 and notice that the 990 was signed off on April 1, not even two months ago. All Gay Inc and AIDS Inc should follow GMHC's model and post their 990s as soon as the executive director accepts it from the accountants.

But I digress away from the figures in GMHC's 2009 tax filing, and the top news is that revenue was at $28.4 million in the previous year, while the current year's number was $24.8 million. They took in $3.6 million less.

That may explain the drop in compensation for the executive director, Marjorie Hill. She received a package of $224,889 in 2008, and the amount decreased to $210,456 in the following year.

This is amazing. An ED of an AIDS org earning less money, is so rare I can't recall it ever happening before, and I've been following AIDS Inc salaries for decades. Okay, the revenue declined, but I would still expect an ED of Hill's stature to somehow wrangle herself a raise.

Something else from the GMHC that caught my eye is the amount spent in 2008 on professional lobbyists. They spent $131,956 for the Malkin and Ross firm to lobby in Albany, and $139,007 on the expertise of M and R Strategic Services in Washington.

Seems wise to me for an org of this size to spend $270,963 on lobbyists, for various political and financial benefits that could return to the org's clients living with HIV/AIDS.

But in 2009, GMHC lists no lobbyists in the 990. Appears as though with the $3.6 million shortfall, not only were the salaries of top honchos scaled back, but the org also eliminated its professional lobbying.

Let's hope as the debate continues in NYC over GMHC's unwise move to Siberia and significant changes in services for people with AIDS, coupled with growing scrutiny of executive and board stewardship of the agency, that the IRS 990s become integral to the discussion.

What's Wrong With SF Chronicle's Clock?

As with so many daily newspapers these days, the SF Chronicle has suffered big losses in profits, but can't the parent Hearst Corporation afford a mechanic to fix both faces of the iconic tower's clock?

I was riding my bike down past Mission and Fifth Streets, and raised my head to see what the time was. At that moment, around 3:30 pm, the eastern face of the Chronicle's clock read 5:45-ish, while the northern face read noon/midnight. I had to snap a photo, for posterity's sake.

Guess one could say the broken Chronicle clock is right four times a day. Let's see how long it takes for the paper to get the timepiece to run properly. It's one of the little things that make the South of Market neighborhood so special.


Reporter Carla Marinucci shares good news:
It is in the process of being fixed now FYI.

Rallies Planned Against GMHC's Move to Siberia

(The loading dock that is scheduled to be transformed into GMHC's separate entrance for people with AIDS at their new location. Image and bloody alteration by Marcelo Maia.)

The battle over the impending move of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) to a difficult-to-access neighborhood in New York City will heat up in the coming days. Two rallies are scheduled to take place on May 19 and I encourage everyone who cares about the direct-care service needs of people with HIV/AIDS to attend.

Here's an announcement from Marcelo Maia, head of GMHC's Consumer Advocacy Board, regarding the rallies:
On Wednesday, May 19, from noon to 2 pm, we are having a huge rally in front of GMHC's building, located at 119 W. 24th Street, where we will be asking the CEO Dr. Marjorie Hill and the two Co-Chairs of GMHC Board of Directors Mathew Moore and Odell Mays II to step down.

Later on the same day, from 4 to 5 pm, we plan to have a second rally in front of 450 W 33rd St to avoid the sealing of the deal with that building’s owner.

We see visions of a gloomy future for GMHC clients including …

- Segregated entrance for People with AIDS. Clients must use a separate entrance while staff can use the main entrance;

- reinforcing HIV stigma, homophobia & racism.
Last week the Wall Street Journal ran an article about the divisions in the AIDS community over GMHC's intentions to relocate to what is essentially Manhattan's Siberia:

A plan to move Gay Men's Health Crisis from its Chelsea home has split the AIDS advocacy group, pitting longtime activists against the board and its executive director.

With the nonprofit's rent rising on its home of nearly 15 years, GMHC is negotiating to lease space on the West Side, near Hudson Yards. The new building, at 450 W. 33rd St., would force GMHC to end or severely change some programs currently offered, such as a medical clinic, a full dining hall and a research center. Critics say the move threatens its mission.

"If it goes through, the feeling is that many of the clients will go elsewhere because it's just too inconvenient to get there," said Larry Kramer, the playwright and co-founder of the organization. [...]

Larry circulated an open letter to the community about the looming move, and he places it in the larger context of St. Vincent's hospital recently shutting its doors and the loss of their health services for PWAs:
By sold down the river, is meant that because of landlord restrictions in the new lease, clients in this awful new location will be forced to receive less food, any access to any medical facilities, and to utilize “Jim Crow” separate entrance and elevator, as well as suffer the physical hardship of traveling to a neighborhood that is harshly served by anything remotely resembling accessible public transportation. [...]

Instead of fighting against this illegal discrimination [of landlords refusing to rent to AIDS orgs], the board and Dr. Hill have caved. Instead of demanding help from our Mayor and our elected officials Christine Quinn and Tom Duane, the board and Dr. Hill have caved. [...]

Can Chelsea, which has the highest proportion of hiv+ people in the city, afford to lose GMHC after having lost St. Vincent’s?

One hideous fact must be dealt with immediately. As I understand it (and believe me trying to get details out of the Soviet Russia atmosphere that exists now on West 24th Street is not easy), unless GMHC withdraws from negotiations by this coming Friday, May 14th, they will be forced to pay a penalty of several million dollars to WNET/PBS. One wonders what truly incompetent individual is negotiating for GMHC. [...]
One aspect to all of this that bothers me is the failure of the GMHC leadership circle to hold community forums, for the affected and infected populations they serve. This, ahem, community-based org has not roused itself to put on a single town hall. I'm getting lots of emails from NYC friends about all the machinations going on, and no one mentions a thing about GMHC organizing forums.

To their credit, GMHC leaders have created a page on their site addressing these concerns, and one thing stands out:
In keeping with this tradition [of being an open org], we are now in the process of organizing a Community Forum to address questions and concerns from our Clients, allies, staff and community stakeholders.
This is laudable, but I've long been over AIDS Inc groups waiting until a full-scale and red-hot crisis is upon them before getting their act together to treat the community with respect, and that means open-to-all public meetings. And hold them _before_ important decisions are made.

More Gays Visit the White House;

Trickle Down Community Benefit?

President Obama and his administration's top advisers have thrown open the White House doors, to welcome dozens of Gay Inc leaders and others from the gay community to the people's house. I've documented through searching the visitor logs that key gay leaders have had unprecedented access to the White House, and it's good to see that, and an administration showing genuine transparency regarding the logs.

But one question keeps nagging at me about the visits, and that is, what benefit is it to the millions of gays beyond the Beltway?

It's not enough that the gay elite are showing up at the White House for a handful of meetings or diversity briefings, bill signing ceremonies and cocktail receptions, or watching a movie or using the bowling alley, while the Obama administration delivers memorandums advancing small changes for us.

I wonder not only where is the fierce advocacy we were promised by Obama, but where is the Gay Inc butt-kicking to get Obama to spend political capital on our behalf?

There is an onus on the shoulders of the top gays visiting the White House to explain to the community how their access is helping the larger community. I can't fathom why the folks from HRC and NGLTF make no reports back to the community after they meet with the administration or enjoy the fun perks at the White House.

Gay Inc should be constantly informing us about their lobbying and partying with the administration. I'm not suggesting that we know every detail about every discussion taking place, but some broad outlines, with substance, should be shared with us.

I've searched the logs again, for the names of gay leaders outside of HRC and NGLTF, and one former HRC honcho, Winnie Stachelberg, to get a fuller picture of who's getting invited to the White House. Here's some new info, and if you click on the person's name you'll jump to their listing(s) in the logs and in most cases, a description of why they were at the White House:

Name: Steve Gunderson
Visits: 12

Name: Jamison Citron, Leonard Hirsch
Visits: 9

Name: Steve Elmendorf
Visits: 8

Name: Ben DeGuzman
Visits: 7

Name: Jeremy Bishop
Visits: 6

Name: Darcy Kemnitz, Winnie Stachelberg
Visits: 5

Name: Greg Varnum
Visits: 4

Name: Steven Hildebrand, Mark Glaze, Mara Keisling, Matt Nosanchuk,
Visits: 3

Name: David Bohnett, Mark Bromley, Joan M. Garry (thrice?), David Geffen, Donald Hitchcock (thrice?), Frank Kameny, Kate Clinton, Leah McElrath, Jared Polis, Cathy Renna, Andy Tobias, Jeff Trammell, Paul Yandura, William Waybourn,
Visits: 2

Name: Tammy Baldwin, Jarrett T. Barrios, Aaron Belkin, Tom Duane, Adam Ebbin, Jody Huckaby, Ellen Malcom, David Mixner, Mark Perriello, Aubrey Sarvis, Richard Socarides, Chuck Wolfe,
Visits: 1

Friday, May 14, 2010

US Reps to Malawi:
Release Jailed Gay Couple

Back in December in the southern African nation of Malawi, two gay men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga (20, above left) and his partner Steven Monjeza (26, above right), held a marriage ceremony and declared their love for each other.

This act of defiance led to their arrests, and they're currently in jail, awaiting a judge's verdict that will come on Tuesday, May 18, regarding the charges they face. Malawi outlaws homosexual relations and each man faces up to 14 years in prison.

Longtime gay human rights advocate Peter Tatchell of London's OutRage! has been in touch with the couple, and is working on their behalf. Tiwonge and Steven recently sent a message to OutRage!, expressing gratitude:

"We are thankful for the people who have rallied behind us during this difficult time. We are grateful to the people who visit and support us, which really makes us feel to be members of a human family; otherwise we would feel condemned. All the support is well appreciated. We are grateful to everybody who is doing this for us."

Tatchell sums up their bravery thus:

"They have taken a pioneering stand for the right to love. They love each other, have harmed no one and believe that love should not be a crime. It is nobody’s business what they do in the privacy of their own home. There is no evidence that they have committed any crime under Malawian law. They should not be on trial or in prison."

And on May 6, Congressman Mark Kirk, a straight Republican from Illinois, along with Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a lesbian Democrat from Wisconsin, introduced a House resolution calling on the Malawian government to release the imprisoned couple forthwith.

Even though more than a week has passed since Kirk and Baldwin put forward the resolution, I feel it's not too late to applaud their bi-partisan collaboration on behalf Tiwonge and Steven.

Over in Malawi, the Nyasa Times newspaper ran a story about the resolution, showing us that it had an impact. Here are excerpts from the resolution:

Calling on the Government of the Republic of Malawi to respect the fundamental human rights of its citizens, and for other purposes.

Whereas the 2009 United States Department of State Human Rights Report on Malawi found that `societal violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation occurred' and stated that `approximately 34 percent of gay men in the country had been blackmailed or denied services such as housing or healthcare due to their sexual orientation';

Whereas high levels of stigma and discrimination, exclusionary policies, and harsh criminal penalties against sexual conduct by consenting adults constitute a fundamental human rights violation and also discourage individuals from accessing needed health services or disclosing their sexual activities to healthcare providers, thereby perpetuating the fear and silence that seriously impede global efforts to reduce incidence of HIV infection;

Whereas, on December 28, 2009, Mr. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Mr. Steven Monjeza, citizens of the Republic of Malawi, were arrested by the Malawian authorities on charges of `committing acts of gross indecency with another male person';

Whereas Mr. Chimbalanga and Mr. Monjeza remain imprisoned and have been repeatedly denied bail, while reports indicate that Mr. Monjeza's health has drastically deteriorated during the prolonged detention; [...]

Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
      (1) calls for an immediate release of Mr. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Mr. Steven Monjeza in accordance with international law and on humanitarian grounds;
      (2) urges the Government of the Republic of Malawi to urgently address the pervasive violation of human rights in Malawi and the criminalization of conduct by consenting adults; and
      (3) encourages the Secretary of State to closely monitor human rights abuses in Malawi that occur based on sexual orientation and to encourage the release of those individuals detained solely on the basis of sexual orientation.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Larry Kramer: For Obama,

Gays & PWAs = Shit

(Protesters demonstrated tonight in Manhattan against President Obama's sloooow course of action on HIV/AIDS issues. The sign reads "Obama to People With AIDS: Wait to Die.)

Like so many other AIDS activists, I applauded President Obama when he overturned the terrible U.S. travel and immigration ban on HIV positive people, but I am have a difficult time thinking of other significant steps he has taken on AIDS issues.

A fine example of the administration's good intentions is the loooong process the White House Office of National AIDS Policy is employing in developing the National AIDS Strategy. Here we are, more than 16 months into the Obama tenure, countless discussions and meetings have taken place to create the strategy, and all we have to show for it are promises for more talking.

Let me remind the Obama administration and all the AIDS Inc orgs that are not raising their voices demanding a National AIDS Strategy forthwith -- people with AIDS are still fighting for our lives. We'd like some old-fashioned passionate and public advocacy.

Well, tonight thanks to members of ACT UP/NYC, ACT UP/Philly and HealthGap, including many people living with HIV, there was a serious effort to deliver a message to Obama to move his butt on our issues.

Writer and longtime gay and AIDS activist Larry Kramer was at the protest, and he sent around his comments, which I'm reposting in full. Maybe, just maybe, Obama's senior advisers and AIDS Inc leaders will find some inspiration in Larry's remarks, and will end the silence about failed presidential leadership.

The time for the National AIDS Strategy from Obama was yesterday.


Obama is not my president. Obama is not your president. Obama does not like AIDS. Obama does not like gays. Now what are we going to do about it? Because we continue to sit on the sidelines while our world is denied us, yes, our world, which is as much our world as anyone else’s, is denied us. Our rights are denied us. Our love is denied us. We are even denied the right to fight for our country. How long must we be denied all of this before we truly rise up in united anger!
Why is it always so hard for us to fight back? This man does not like us. When someone does not like you, you fight back. This Obama who is not my president and not your president obviously does not like us. It is not a secret. Day after day and week after week and month after month he tells us he does not like us. He tells us! He does not keep this a secret. His government does not like us. His chief of staff does not like us. His Attorney General does not like us. His Department of Justice does not like us. His Generals do not like us. His Department of Health and Human Services does not like us. This is not a new situation for us.
President after President have treated us so badly. Ronald Reagan. George Bush the first. Bill Clinton. George Bush the second. Barack Obama. They have all treated us like… shit. Like little pieces of shit that they can step on with their heels and grind into the ground. Obama is treating us just like that. Like little pieces of shit he can grind into the dirt with his heel to make us go away. I wish you could see that. I wish you could see what he is doing to us for for what it is. He is manipulating us into invisibility. He HAS manipulated us into invisibility. Our people in Washington live in a never-never cloud cuckoo-land, thinking that this man likes us, not responding as, little by little, he take bits and pieces of us away. That is how they control us. Can’t you see that? Why can’t our people in Washington see that? They give them a dinner as they take away another right.
How long are we going to allow ourselves to be treated with such disdain, to be cast way in such an unwanted and disposable and ignoble fashion?
We forget what miracles we once were able to accomplish. Every single treatment for HIV/AIDS is out there because of us. If they are out there because of us, why can’t all the people waiting for Ryan White meds get them? Why can’t over 90% of the rest of the world get them? We did not fight for them just for ourselves. So many dead young men fought as activists for those drugs to save the world and this Obama will not let them save the world. Little by little he takes away our Ryan White drugs in America and our PEPFAR drugs for the rest of the world and our AIDS organizations and clinics everywhere so he can grind even more people with his heel into the earth like little helpless smelly pieces of shit. Yes, this man, like all his rotten hateful predecessors treats us like shit.
I am so tired of being treated like shit.
I wish you could realize that my words and my language and my vocabulary are not too strong. They are not strong enough!
I beg of us all. Re-assemble! Re-unite! Fight back once more with the passion and honor and truth and unity and brotherhood as we once did. We once accomplished miracles. Why do we not recall our glorious fights and build anew upon them? They treat us like shit because we let them treat us like shit. When will we get that into our heads and hearts and fight back?
How effective and fierce and unstoppable we can be when we take action together. The only reason we got those drugs is because of direct action, mobilization, fighting back. That is the reality of what we have been able to accomplish. We are alive, for those of us who are still alive, because we saved ourselves! When we fought back rudely and together, we were able to achieve miraculous victories. I take these victories, as do many of you, every morning with my breakfast.
This Obama president made a commitment to ensure that America does its fair share to fight AIDS, in Africa, in America, and around the world. He has broken that promise. He, like Clinton, has lied to us. He does not like us, this president, as the other presidents did not like us. We are not a part of their American People. He does not want us to get married, he does not want us to fight for our country, he does not want to end the plague of AIDS.
We must have the presence of mind and the force of character to insist that he and his society are wrong and we are right.
Do you need to know any more than this? This is all you need to know. And that once upon a time we accomplished miracles.
Can we do it again? Oh, please, can we do it again?