Reports, proud muckraking, photos, videos and musings from the veteran LGBT and AIDS human rights advocate Michael Petrelis. Based in San Francisco since 1995.
Vote Petrelis for BART Board District 9 in November!
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Gay Youth Signatories Needed: Letter Deploring UN Execution Vote
He shared with me the language of IGLYO's sign-on statement, which right now has 17-names on it, and none are from the United States. If you're a gay youth leader, read over the group's open letter and considering adding your name to the list of signatories.
As far as I know, this is the only collective letter of protest being organized since the UN's vote two weeks back. Do you know of another such effort? Lemme know if you do and I'll help promote it.
The only resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly that specifically mentions sexual orientation was evaluated again this Tuesday, November 16th. On the initiative of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) and with the support of the African Group, the reference to sexual orientation was removed.
The resolution addresses extrajudicial killings. Member States are requested to protect their citizens and quickly investigate all extrajudicial killings committed for a number of reasons listed. Two years ago, sexual orientation was included in the list when Sweden led the negotiations of this resolution.
The introduction of the reference to sexual orientation was an initial success in the enforcement of human rights for LGBT people. Now the UN is taking one step back. This is unacceptable.
Therefore we demand all member states to include "sexual orientation" as a reason to be protected against extrajudicial killings in this resolution.
Contact Luis should you have any questions or agree with the letter and want to sign it. Here is his email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a time when the murders of gays in countries such as Iraq and Jamaica go unsolved, and Uganda politicians and newspapers endorse a bill to execute gays, the UN votes sends a clear message that killing gay people is acceptable.
Two actions are planned to raise strong public objections to the UN resolution and will take place December 10 and 11:
Location: New York City Date: Friday, December 10
Address: Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
First Avenue & E. 47th Street
Contact: Brendan Fay
Location: San Francisco Date: Saturday, December 11
Address: UN Plaza
Market Street, Near 7th Street
Contact: Michael Petrelis
The protest in New York will take place in the shadow of the UN headquarters, and the speak out in San Francisco, the city in which the UN was chartered, is located are the plaza commemorating the founding of the organization.
We have chosen the dates for our actions to happen on or near December 10, because it is international Human Rights Day, and we will deliver a message to the UN and the world. That message is gay rights equal human rights.
Activists are invited to attend one of these actions, or to organize their own protests on either December 10 or 11 in their local area. Gays will not be silent over this dangerous UN resolution.
Randy Allgaier, Longtime Gay PWA Advocate, Has Died
(Randy Allgaier, a stalwart of gay and AIDS advocacy in the Bay Area and nationally, with HHS Secretary Kathrine Sibelius at a recent conference on aging and HIV issues.)
I knew Randy from his many stints on various HIV panels and councils over the years, and came to appreciate and respect his insider approach, to get the same goal we shared: the best care and services for people with AIDS. We argued, we often enough agreed, and we knew our respective roles in public advocacy. He went above and beyond performing his self-appointed duties and advocacy with honor, he was loved and he should rest in peace.
(Sean Strub, Randy, myself, after we lunched and gabbed in Castro in March 2009)
Randy's husband, partner, lover, companion and so many other things, Lee Hawn has given me permission to share this heartbreaking note of his. It shows the love Randy had at the end of his life, the joys he passed along to his circle of friends, and that he wasn't in pain. Very hard to read this without tearing up, but it has dignity and grace - just like Randy:
It’s Saturday morning about 7:45. Randy died during the night at 1:50 AM. About six hours ago.
Christine and I went to the hospital yesterday afternoon at 2:30. They removed the ventilator at 2:45. While we were there Randy’s sedation (Propofol) had been removed and he was actually awake. His eyes were open. He was receiving morphine to keep him comfortable but the amount was not enough that he was asleep. Christine and I sat with him, talked with him and held his hand. We reassured him that we would be ok when he let go.
At one point he had roused. I called his name. He opened his eyes, turned his head to me and I said “I love you.” He smiled. I will never forget that. What a special gift. Randy was a special gift to me, being in my life. What a thing!
Christine and I remained at the hospital until late in the night. We decided to come back to the house for some rest. I had set my clock for 4:30. When I phoned the ICU at that time it was the nurse who informed me of Randy’s death.
We returned to Randy’s room and there he lay. We (Christine, me and the nurse) proceeded to bathe Randy’s body and rub some lotion on his skin. Then the time came to transport him to the hospital morgue. But before that, the three of us placed his body into a bag, gave him a toe-tag (yes, a tag on his big toe) and gave him a final kiss.
So that was the process we gave to Randy. I thought it important to share our actions with you all.
As hard as it was, it gives me a sense of completion. I have gone full circle with Randy.
Randy’s body will be cremated and his ashes scattered as per his wishes. There will be a gathering of friends and family at a later date still to be decided.
In the meantime, I will be ok. I have plenty of support out there if I need it. I will call on some of you when I need it.
Thank you to so many people who have written, phoned, texted, facebooked. The outpouring has been incredible.
I have crossed one must-do item off my bucket list - meeting writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron.
This past Monday evening she sat down on the Herbst Theatre stage for an extended conversation with moderator Paul Lancour of KQED Radio and the audience, which included me. He was a wise conversationalist who knew to ask short, good questions then simply let Ephron tell witty anecdotes about her life and many parts of her long career.
Once Lancour announced they were opening the chat for questions from the audience, my left hand shot up and waved until one of the runners with a mic noticed I was ready to say a few things.
I used my mic time to tell Ephron I was someone who wanted to hear her speak in March 1987 at the NYC gay community center, but she cancelled due to illness, Larry Kramer replaced her as the speaker and that ACT UP eventually grew out his lecture. I believe I spelled out AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, but know for sure I gave the old "ACT UP! Fight back! Fight AIDS!" call to action a shout out. Sounded good to me, and more than 20-years of AIDS activism, and too many dead comrades, flashed before me.
Then I went blank, pressured myself to think of a question, and asked if she had spoken with the ACT UP Oral History Project, in her capacity as an inadvertent player in the birth of the activist group. My adrenalin was rushing at maximum dosing as I sat down, and couldn't hear much of her response.
Thank goodness my companion for the evening, Jeffrey Taylor, had no problem listening to what she said. Jeffrey's observations:
Nora cheered you on, raising a fist (and lifting her legs!) said that she stood with you. The audience clapped after hearing the old political chant, with reactions ranging from polite to enthusiastic. Ephron was also very clear that she was not to take the credit for ACT UP's genesis, and that it was really Larry's instigation that started the whole thing.
"If it hadn't been on that day, it would have been on the next or the next," she said.
Then, she said she really wouldn't have much more to say than that to the ACT UP Oral History Project other than what she had just said onstage. She went on to say how she never understood why she wasn't asked to be part of the John F. Kennedy library's oral history project because she did some work in the Kennedy White House.
After the on-stage chat concluded, Ephron signed books in the Herbst Theatre lobby and I got on the line with Jeffrey, ready to snap a photo of me with her. I wore a white polo shirt under my black open-collar pullover, and had two DIY "Silence = Death" buttons on my chest. One was for Ephron.
But she had decreed, and the assistant publicists warned everyone on the line, that no photos were allowed. Oh. That was disappointing to hear, but regardless, when I got up to the table, I flubbed my introduction and said I was "Michael ACT UP" and couldn't share allow for just one photo with the "Silence = Death" I had just handed to her.
"Larry forwarded your email to me, saying you were coming tonight. I'm not bending the no photos rule," she said. "ACT UP was a good group." We shook hands, as I said it was great to finally hear her talk.
The photo of me above, in my outfit for Monday night, was taken today by my honey and partner Mike. I'm holding a copy of Ephron's new book, "I Remember Nothing," that she signed.
Now, on to the rest of my bucket list to-do actions.
The tentacle of one extension of the horrific Human Rights Campaign octopus continues to promote their businesses, furniture and faith, through HRC board member Mitchell Gold and his niche group Faith in America. My recent post on the org, Gold and his history with HRC is here.
FIA this week posted a clip of HRC leader Joe Solmonese speaking on November 6 at the Dallas tux 'n gown dinner, and he of course proclaims minor local victories as giant steps, while sticking to the "say nothing about the Democratic Party's broken promises to the gay community" script:
Same old cup is half is half full rhetoric, and I've nothing against holding Arkansas school board jerks accountable, but the over all picture from DC is not even close to a quarter cup of accomplishments for the gays from the Democrats. Yeah, go ahead and call me naive for watching the clip and even thinking Suck-up Solmonese is gonna deviate an inch from serving as the DNC butt boy.
But the clip is very instructional for showing us the response of the donors, as crumbs are dropped from the speaker's podium. The moneyed Texans, who have long funneled millions in moolah to HRC's inept DC operation, yelp and clap their hands often. It is a crowd satisfied with the tiniest of incremental, glacial changes, some of which are not even directly related to anything Solmonese and his group have undertaken.
On the same page as the clip, is where I found this image and text to part with fifty smackeroos for the slim chance of winning a leather chair. FIA and HRC: always looking to make a buck, harvest email addresses, get your home and cell phone digits and postal mail address.
At least the chair doesn't have the HRC equality logo plastered all over it.
Southern 'Poverty' Law Center's Cayman Island's Bank Account
[UPDATE: I've received a reply from SPLC. Scroll down to read it.]
As if an unquestionable and unblemished deity was handing down tablets of absolute truth, many gay bloggers and community leaders including Dan Savage wholly embraced the release earlier this week of a new list on 18 of the menacing antigay groups stirring up trouble from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
No doubt, the groups fingered by the SPLC don't like us and contribute greatly to our political setbacks, but it's not big news to me that the groups have been corralled on to an SPLC list - one of obvious extremist enemies. The gays have more to worry about with the very mainstream Democratic Party and its affiliated gay front group, the Human Rights Campaign. Let's look beyond the scary report and peek at larger SPLC issues.
The SPLC's new 2009 IRS 990 filing shows they have a bank account in the Cayman Islands. Now, stop for a good long minute and ask yourself what the hell is a supposed poverty-fighting Alabama-based tax exempt organization doing with such an account. Then ponder this: how much money is in it.
Assets for the organization are listed at $190 million, a nice chunk of change in these economic hard times. When was the last time this group, with almost $190 million in assets, did a damn worthwhile thing about, um, poverty?
The latest 990 additionally shows founder and chief trial counsel Morris Dees had his salary raised to $350,000, and his CEO, Richard Cohen, is close behind at $345,000.
The tax filing also shows Dees traveled by air charter, and that his spouse, artist and businesswoman Susan Starr, accompanies her husband on the business trips.
The big bucks nesting in SPLC's bank accounts, domestic and foreign, are not the only area of interest to me. Noted veteran leftwing writer Alexander Cockburn in May 2009 analyzed SPLC's IRS 990 for the previous year, its enormous endowment and wallet-busting salaries, and compares its agenda with more effective and smaller budgeted groups:
How about attacking the roots of Southern poverty, and the system that sustains that poverty as expressed in the endless prisons and Death Rows across the South, disproportionately crammed with blacks and Hispanics?
You fight theatrically, the Dees way, or you fight substantively, like, for example, the Institute for Southern Studies run by Chris Kromm; or like Stephen Bright, who makes only $11,000 as president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights. The center's director makes less than $50,000 [...] Bright's outfit is basically dedicated to two things: prison litigation and the death penalty. He fights the system, case by case. Not the phony targets mostly tilted at by Dees but the effective, bipartisan, functional system of oppression, far more deadly and determined than the SPLC's tin-pot hate groups. [...]
And Cockburn is not the only watchdog keeping his eyes on all the millions of dollars flowing to SPLC and how the funds are used. Former Harper's Magazine writer Ken Silverstein wrote a piece about the group in 2000, subtitled "How the Southern Poverty Law Center profits from intolerance," that is still very pertinent and well-worth reading today:
What the center's other work for justice does not include is anything that might be considered controversial by donors. According to [anti-death penalty lawyer] Millard Farmer, the center largely stopped taking death-penalty cases for fear that too visible an opposition to capital punishment would scare off potential contributors. In 1986, the center's entire legal staff quit in protest of Dees's refusal to address issues - such as homelessness, voter registration, and affirmative action - that they considered far more pertinent to poor minorities [...]
In the early 1960s, Morris Dees sat on the sidelines honing his direct-marketing skills and practicing law while the civil rights movement engulfed the South. "Morris and I ... shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money," recalls Dees's business partner, a lawyer named Millard Fuller (not to be confused with Millard Farmer). "We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich." [...]
For Dees, the P in SPLC has nothing to do with personal poverty. That P better stands for profit or profiteering for him, and foolish donors keep sending him checks, thinking they're helping poverty-stricken blacks or whites in Alabama move into better housing.
Since we're on the subject of abodes in the Yellowhammer State, let's have a gander at where Dees lives courtesy of the May 2010 Montgomery Advertiser 60-photo feature just on his mansion, the opulent furnishings and layout, not to mention a fabulous outfit shown off by his wife:
The swimming pool, as seen from the pool house.
An area in the main house for relaxing conversations.
The studio building for Dees' wife Susan Starr.
A lounging jacket designed and modeled by Starr.
But back now to where we started, with Dan Savage and some of the violent acts he has espoused, and thankfully backtracked on. Listen to this 2006 interview and hear him say the following:
"[PA Green candidate for US Senate] Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there's nothing left but the road," at the 2:41 mark; "Any progressive who votes for a Green anymore after Nader and now RomanelliRomanelli gets back on the ballot, someone should run him over with a truck," at 5:22.
"I regret using that truck metaphor, and didn't mean it literally, and it was in poor taste, and I regret it. Jeezuhs, never have three Hoegardens before someone points a camera at your face. But the Green in the race there is scum, and should be slapped--just slapped--and slapped hard. Not literally, though. No violence."
Can you imagine a teenage antigay bully texting his target victim, writing that he should be slapped hard, and then trying to rationalize the bullying with a weak "I'm only speaking in metaphors" excuse?
Savage has far-reaching influence through his nationally syndicated sex advice column that originated at the Stranger alt weekly where he also blogs, as a contributor to the New York Times op-ed page, frequent talking head on MSNBC and CNN. The latter outlet is where he advocated a political litmus test for who gets to speak about gay issues on that cable station. He's also in control of the "It Gets Better" video effort that has thousands of average citizens, cultural and political leaders including President Barack Obama, endorsing and creating videos for.
He should be careful with his activities because one day, the SPLC might label him a hater and put him on a list of dangerous extremists.
(Hat tip: Bill Dobbs.)
UPDATE: I asked the SPLC to explain the Cayman Islands account and also disclose the amount in it. They sent this reply recently, which does not tell us how much money is in the account:
The Center has an endowment that was created both to cushion the Center from
financial shocks and to provide a secure source of income to support our
programs well into the future. The endowment is governed by an independent
board of directors and overseen by an investment committee appointed by the
board. The investment committee retains the services of a prominent and
highly respected financial advisory group that is known in particular for
its work with non-profit entities, including universities, hospitals, and
The Center's investment advisors recommend to the investment committee
certain fund investments intended to provide the most security for the
endowment, while achieving reasonable growth. Some of these funds include
alternative equity investments that utilize ³off-shore² accounts, for
reasons that would be important to some investors for tax and privacy
reasons, but not to many non-profits, such as the Center. These off-shore
assets make up an small component of the endowment.
Back in September 2009 I blogged about how Indian tribal leaders invited to a White House sponsored sit-down meeting on policy and programmatic issues at the Old Executive Office Building, while the gays were given a tour of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In the final years of his administration, President Clinton issued an executive order establishing regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration between your nations and the federal government. But over the past nine years, only a few agencies have made an effort to implement that executive order -- and it's time for that to change. (Applause.)
The memorandum I'll sign directs every Cabinet agency to give me a detailed plan within 90 days of how -- the full implementation of that executive order and how we're going to improve tribal consultation. (Applause.) [...]
A story in Indian Country Today this week reports on what became of those plans, some of it good or other areas in need of improvement:
[National Conference of American Indians] officials noted that since Obama’s first conference in November 2009, the federal government has increased the number and scope of tribal consultations [...]
Obama and agency officials made several promises to tribes during the first event, among them that the president would require federal agencies to submit plans for consultation with tribes in 90 days. Some agencies did not follow through on the president’s request, and the White House has not offered further comment on that fact. [...]
But tribal leaders will soon get their second summit with the administration, according to the same story:
Before 2010 comes to a close, President Barack Obama will again meet face-to-face with Indian nation leaders in the nation’s capital.
The White House announced Nov. 15 that Obama plans to hold a second White House Tribal Nations Conference on Thursday, Dec. 16. [...]
I'm impressed the Indians are getting their White House summits and some federal agencies are increasing their consultations with tribal leaders, and seeing these developments gives me reason to wonder if there are lesson here for the gay community.
On one hand, it might be beneficial for the gays if our professional leaders were demanding similar summits and mandated consultations with top officials at federal agencies. But on the other hand, if the Obama administration were to copy their model of engagement for the Indian and apply to the gays, guess who would be the lead group for the summit?
None other than the Human Rights Campaign, and they would be greatly assisted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, GLAAD, Stonewall Democrats and more of the usual suspects from Gay Inc. Frankly, I don't imagine those orgs would all of sudden develop politically independent backbones and deliver much more to the ordinary gays than flowery press releases and pretty photo-ops.
And even though the Indians don't appear to be getting all that much due to Obama signing the memorandum last year requiring more consultations, and one summit with another soon to happen, it is a lot more transparent public engagement with an important constituency. Comparing the Indian summits with the White House cocktail receptions and small, private meetings with Gay Inc leaders, I say one voting and donor bloc is getting slightly better treatment from the White House.
After too long a time avoiding the public spotlight because of bullying by the like of conservative commentators on Fox News, the head of the Education Department's coordinator for safe schools, Kevin Jennings, has been more visible going around the nation delivering speeches.
When Jennings spoke earlier this month in Portland, Oregon, and his talk was written up in the Oregonian, I blogged about it and recommended that he make himself available to gay reporters and bloggers.
Today I was informed that Jennings delivered a speech yesterday in Connecticut, at a state government sponsored conference, and that it was taped for public access TV viewing. I watched the video and the long presentation he made, and can say Jennings makes a politically powerful and emotionally moving talk.
He touches upon his biracial nephew and how he's ridiculed as white because his name is Dwight, various causes of bullying and its negative influences, how kids are bullied for reasons ranging from sexual orientation to physical characteristics to religious or ethnic backgrounds, and what the Obama administration is doing to confront bullying and help those who are picked on.
And those are just a few of the topics Jennings addresses in his rapid-fire presentation that lasts just under an hour. At the end, he receives a standing ovation from the youths, educators and civic leaders in the audience.
Jennings utilizes more than 50 slides to deliver some of his points, and though they're a bit fuzzy, you can still make out most of the graphs, words and images. His speech starts about the 1:02:45 mark, and the slide of youths who've committed suicides appears around the 1:55:40 mark.
Dreyer's 'Passion' With Live Oratorio at Oakland's Paramount Theatre on Dec 2
(The incredible actress Falconetti as Joan of Arc.)
I've seen Carl Dreyer's phenomenal silent film "The Passion of Joan of Arc" four times in a theatre, and once on television, but it's a film I cannot "play" in my mind. This inability may be due to the fact that this unquestioned classic is so fresh and immediate, decades after it was made, that every time I see it again it's as though I'm seeing it for the first time.
Cineastes in the Bay Area will have a chance to see "Passion" on December 2 at 7:30 PM, at Oakland's historic Paramount Theatre. This truly special screening is sponsored by the venerable Pacific Film Archive, in collaboration with the movie palace and the Silent Film Festival, and features live music and vocal accompaniment.
Conducted by Mark Sumner, Voices of Light will be performed by the women of UC Berkeley’s Perfect Fifth as the voice of Joan of Arc, tenor soloist Daniel Ebbers, baritone Martin Bell, the University of California Alumni Chorus, UC Men’s and Women’s Chorales, and a twenty-two piece orchestra.
This unique fusion of film and live music is part of the PFA's current retrospective of Dreyer films, and I hope to catch several of them before the series is over in mid December. Click here for a listing of the dates and times of the remaining films to be shown.
For film-lovers who will be traveling from San Francisco to the Paramount Theatre via BART, take the train to the 19th Street station and then walk to the theatre. Further directions and a map of the area are located here.
I've already purchased my ticket for this very special evening, and have also recruited four friends to join me on December 2. Between now and then, I hope to persuade more friends to catch "Passion" as it was meant to be seen - on a big screen in a theatre with an audience.
Tickets are $25 and can be purchased in advance at the PFA box office on the UC Berkeley campus. You can also click here to buy tickets online. Depending on availability, tickets may also be on sale the night of the event, but why take a chance that it might be sold out?
DC to Honor Frank Kameny on Dec 10, Human Rights Day
My friend gay icon Frank Kameny this morning sent me an announcement about an upcoming reception, at which he will receive an award on Human Rights Day next month. I wish I could be there to see him being honored this way, but being on the other side of the country, I won't be present. However, if you're in the DC area on December 10 and want to participate in the event, click here for info on obtaining a ticket:
The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA), in partnership with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights and the Commission on Human Rights, will be sponsoring the annual Human Rights Luncheon on December 10th at 12:00 p.m. in the Caucus Room of the Cannon House, Office Building.
UNA-NCA will present the 2010 Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award to Daniel B. Magraw Jr., President Emeritus and Distinguished Scholar at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). [...]
The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights and D.C. Commission on Human Rights will present the 2010 Cornelius R. “Neil” Alexander Humanitarian Award to Dr. Frank Kameny, a human rights activist and one of the founders of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender affairs civil rights movement both nationally and locally.
Congratulations, Frank, for receiving this award, and thank you for your decades of unstinting service to the gay community. You more than deserve this honor and all the other accolades and laurels that should be awarded to you.
Kameny: 'Any Response from Brian Bond' on WH Medal of Freedom?
Trailblazing gay icon Frank Kameny emailed me today, regarding my post last week about the White House leaving him off this year's honorees who will receive the Medal of Freedom from President Obama. He asked a basic question about the White House's gay liaison, Brian Bond, and if he replied to my concerns about why Frank would not be receiving the honor.
Of course, I wished I could have written back to him with a great answer about a dialogue with Bond about the medal for Frank, but since Bond is not one to publicly engage on a regular basis with gay bloggers, I've not heard a peep from him. What possible excuse could Bond have for remaining silent?
Thank goodness Frank is not one to hold his tongue, and in my reply to him I again expressed gratitude to him for his decades of self-less and ceaseless advocacy on behalf of gay Americans. Here is his note from this morning:
My thanks and appreciation for your intervention on this and for your complimentary commentary.
Did you receive any response from Brian Bond? If so, what?
At risk of being repetitive of things which you already know: On June 10, pursuant to a unanimous DC City Council vote, our Mayor conducted a formal ceremony officially and permanently renaming a section of 17th Street, near Dupont Circle: Frank Kameny Way, NW.
The ceremony was well attended by locals and by City and Federal officials, including (at my invitation) Brian Bond. It included ceremonial unveiling of Frank Kameny Way street signs.
So, tourists to Washington can visit the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Madison and Adams Drives -- and Frank Kameny Way.
Separately I will be sending you an announcement of an award that I will be receiving on December 10, at the Capitol complex.
Nice to know Frank will be honored on that day, which is Human Rights Day around the world and also the day when the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, provided the winner is not languishing in a Chinese jail. However, I consider it a mark of shame on the Obama administration that Frank will not be honored with the Medal of Freedom this year.
The other day I exchanged emails with Davina Kotulski, Ph.D., longtime gay marriage advocate who's been involved with the Marriage Equality USA org and married to activist Molly McKay, about how we don't hear "gay is good" enough, if at all, from our professional advocacy groups and leaders. Davina told me she has a "Gay Is Good" sticker on her car, and I asked her to write up a guest column, addressing the need to clearly say the word gay in our marriage campaigns. Here is her thought-provoking piece:
RISE UP LOVE WARRIORS
In 2003, I wrote my first book Why You Should Give A Damn About Gay Marriage because I wanted to awaken the LGBT community to the outrage of being denied 1,138 federal rights and hundreds of state rights and what that meant in terms of our real lives. Before that, many people believed that marriage wasn't worth wasting our time over.
I started writing Love Warriors: The Rise of the Marriage Equality Movement and Why it Will Prevail soon after Prop 8 passed because I felt like we were missing a comprehensive book in favor of "gay marriage" able to address why marriage is a civil right, an institution that benefits LGBT people, and compelling stories and talking points on the issue of marriage equality. I also felt like the No on Prop 8 campaign was homophobic and failed to use basic psychology to create effective commercials and talking points. In Love Warriors, I combine my expertise as a psychologist and my over ten years of experience as a grassroots marriage activist to show how we can create more effective campaigns and messaging.
To refresh your memory, we have fought and lost over 30 ballot measures on marriage equality. Despite these repeated failures, marriage equality campaigns continue to employ similar messaging and campaign strategies that seek to persuade voters that the measures are “unnecessary and unfair.” This messaging alone is unemotional and ineffective. We need campaigns that are clearly pro-marriage equality and pro-gay people.
Pollsters and campaign professionals hired by our community tell us that public education campaigns and beating ballot measures are two totally different things. They argue that the only way to win is to aim at the swing voters who might be persuaded to vote for equality if we can convince them that the issue at hand is not gay rights, but fairness. This does not work because it appears that they are trying to trick people by not including images of gay people and the “gay” and “marriage.” If you keep gay people out of the equation it looks like a trick or a cover up, or worse, it sends the unintended message that gay people getting married should be hidden because it’s shameful.
A campaign that has straight spokespeople telling other straight people that there is nothing to worry about is ineffective. People are no more educated or informed about the issues of marriage discrimination than before the campaign began.
Future campaigns must show both how gay people are harmed by inequality and deserving of equal rights at the forefront. We need ads that put a human face on marriage discrimination and leave viewers with some sense of the lasting harm of marriage discrimination as they go to the voting booth.
The LGBT leadership in California failed twice because it failed to use pro-active messaging in the No on 22 and No on 8 campaigns. It was a very painful learning experience that cost us our marriage rights, hurt our children, and has led to an increase in animosity towards LGBT people, as well as emboldened our opposition.
The “No on 22” Campaign, formed to defeat the “Knight Initiative,” did not show gay people in its advertising. Instead they featured straight white men saying things like “You don’t have to be for gay marriage to be against this initiative.” Sending the message—actually paying for the message— that it is “okay to be against gay marriage.” Think about that for a minute. If you weren’t for equality and equal marriage rights then what were you for?
If you want to win wouldn’t you talk pro-actively about the benefits to society of allowing couples who love each other to marry, (e.g. ending bigotry, supporting diversity, teaching tolerance, and helping families protect one another with marriage rights like hospital visitation, parentage, health insurance, medical decision making, the right to inherit their shared property without a will, filing joint taxes, etc.).
We lost in 2000 with Prop 22 and No on 8 recycled the same luke-warm messaging in 2008. It seemed like gay campaign leaders and straight political consultants decided that gay people were so scary to non-gay voters that they refused to show our faces or acknowledge that 18,000 same-sex couples were happily getting married at this exact time surrounded by their friends and families and asking for donations to the No on 8 campaign in lieu of wedding gifts.
How can we expect to win and hold on to the institution of civil marriage when are own executive campaign committee doesn’t think we are palatable enough to be in our own commercials, even paid actors? How can we get non-gay voters to see our shared humanity when we spend $43 million dollars on advertising that excludes gay people?
The No on 8 campaign leaders said they steered clear of using the word “marriage,” so that they wouldn’t offend religious groups or alienate people who choose cohabitation. The campaign was trying so hard not to offend anyone that they failed to come up with an effective reason why marriage matters and in the process lost LGBT Americans’ right to marry in California.
To learn more about Davina and to purchase a copy of her new book, click here. Thanks, Davina, for laying out some cogent arguments for better ways to advance gay marriage and an honest gay agenda.
The Human Rights Campaign and Courage Campaign effort to expose the funding sources and other dark details on the National Organization for Marriage, an effort whose budget and fiscal transparency have not been made public, would like for NOM to more fully disclose donor names and related info.
You'll get no argument from me about having NOM forced to reveal their donors and for the public to have a full understanding of their finances and stewardship of their intake, but NOM should not be held to a higher standard than, say, HRC and CC's sister org, Equality California.
Kors said an anonymous donor contributed $6.5 million in 2008 that the Let California Ring public education campaign, which is hosted by the institute, used primarily for ad buys around the state, including multi-lingual advertisements, about marriage equality. In 2009, the same donor contributed $500,000 to fund field work. That donor didn't give money this year, according to Kors. [...]
NOM aggressively works (and litigates) to keep its donors private. [...]
As far as I know, EQCA has not litigated to maintain the 2008 big donor's identity, but that aside, on the matter of disclosing a large contributor's name, EQCA = NOM. Frankly, I'm not surprised EQCA leader-for-life Geoff Kors has strict non-disclosure rules regarding this one donor, because it's so in keeping with his over all lack of transparent leadership.
During the two-year legislative session, 25 Equality California sponsored bills were passed, with a record-14 pieces adopted in 2010 alone. [...]
That needs further explanation. The EQCA scorecard for this year shows 4 bills passed and signed into law, 3 more pieces passed by the legislature but vetoed by the governor, and 7 resolutions adopted by the legislature. Padding the list of accomplishments like this, with half of the "pieces" symbolic resolutions, is just spin.
With the release of the two-year scorecard since 2008, when Kors and EQCA led us into losing gay marriage in California, wasting $45 million doing so and laid no educational gay foundation with their closeted ads, it would be a good time for Kors and his board to present themselves to the community at public forums they organize.
It's democratic community engagement and organizing, so we call discuss what went into the scorecard, how to use it, and to also question the leadership of EQCA without having the only interface with them being through a computer. Forums would also allow for public discussion about Kors remaining as our state leader.
Kors can never seem to get around to holding any town halls in the flesh, but he sure directs an overabundance of staff time, resources and org money for these activities:
Sunset Reception with 'True Blood' Stars Laguna Beach
Saturday, December 4
Polar Plunge for Equality Los Angeles
Saturday, January 15
San Francisco Equality Awards City Hall
Saturday, February 12
Hear from Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors on the recent teen suicides and how we can better protect our youth and their rights, as well as the results of the elections and how we can build on our victories in 2011. [...]
Nothing has changed at EQCA since Kors led us to magnificent defeat on Prop 8 in 2008.
The month of February 1987 was a particularly bleak time for gay men and people with AIDS. Effective treatments were not within reach, the infection and death rates were climbing, many politicians and clergy were using the epidemic to demonize gays and those infected, and the term AIDS activist rarely was heard.
At the time, I was a member of the Lavender Hill Mob, a small yet loud protest group. That February we went to a big AIDS meeting at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta about potential widespread testing for the disease.
Here is how the New York Times reported on the Mob's activism at the conference, and the split in the gay community:
The Lavender Hill group brought the conference to a slightly premature end by interrupting the concluding remarks with a noisy demonstration accusing Federal health officials of Nazism and genocide for debating use of the AIDS test while people are dying for lack of a cure or vaccine. [...]
Some members of the small group have been wearing gray uniform shirts stenciled with numbers and an inverted pink triangle, designed to look, they say, like the uniforms worn by homosexuals in concentration camps in Nazi Germany. [...]
A few weeks after that CDC meeting, writer Nora Ephron was scheduled to speak at the NYC gay community center, and I had plans to go hear her because I had been reading her work, and loving her essays, since I was a teenager in the 1970s. But she caught a cold and had to cancel, so my opportunity to listen to her in-person and meet her didn't happen.
The center contacted Larry Kramer to speak in Nora's stead in early March of 1987, and like so many others, I was ordered by Larry to be at his speech. Of course, what grew out of his talk was the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.
In his now-famous call-to-arms, Larry poured praise on us Mobsters for our actions in February:
Did you notice what go the most attention at the recent CDC conference in Atlanta? It was a bunch called the Lavender Hill Mob. They got more attention than anything else at that meeting. They protested. They yelled and screamed [...]
Larry used us and our protests, for that conference was not our only action or zap, as the example of what we needed more of and from more people, and that came to pass.
The ACT UP movement changed for the better a few federal agencies, eg the FDA, CDC and NIH, how clinical trials were conducted, the drug approval process, medical conferences, the language of HIV and medicine, the press and the culture, extended the lives of people with AIDS and prevented new infections, and in the process told the world fags were sick and tired of dropping like flies and so few were gave a damn about the dead and dying.
As if all those world- and life-changing accomplishments weren't enough, we also instilled righteous pride, anger, self-empowerment and activist responsibility, and a whole lotta love in too many gays and people with AIDS to count.
And in my view, our humble ACT UP beginning in the first floor meeting room at the NYC center, which in 1987 had no doors so truly everyone was able to participate and plan actions, was partly launched because Nora had a cold.
To my unique way of thinking, Larry is the father figure of ACT UP and Nora the symbolic mother. Because of her friendly, conversational writing, and (absentee) role in ACT UP's history, I feel I can call her by her first name, even thought I have never met her.
Tomorrow night at San Francisco Herbst Theatre, Nora will be speaking and promoting her new book, "I Remember Nothing," and I have a ticket for the conversation. A friend is coming with me, and I have a copy of her new book. She is scheduled to sign books after the chat, and I hope to finally meet her, get her autograph, give her a thank note with a Silence = Death sticker, the most famous motto and image from the heyday of ACT UP.
I hope to also get a few pictures of us together and share them here. It's on my bucket list to meet Nora and then to remove that item from the list tomorrow. So, a plea to Nora: please don't catch another cold and cancel again!
The item of most concern to me in the release on late Friday afternoon, the traditional time to dump either bad news or news that you don't want to get much attention, from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation announcing the hiring of a new chief executive officer relates to HIV infections.
“His distinguished track record of accomplishments in the public and non-profit sectors is outdone only by his vision for the future— a future when HIV infection rates plunge in San Francisco and, eventually, everywhere.”
For a good number of years, HIV rates in SF have been plummeting, to the point we're at endemic status, and the former CEO of the foundation, Mark Cloutier, said of the falling rates in 2007, according to the Bay Area Reporter:
"The HIV epidemic is over. Yes. The HIV epidemic in San Francisco is over," said Cloutier, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
Instead, Cloutier and other health officials now consider HIV to be endemic in the city, meaning it is a disease that persists in the community without substantially increasing or decreasing over time. [...]
An epidemic must drop down from its peak to reach endemic level, and that is the situation here. Yet, reading Friday's statement one might get the false impression that we've not had a serious reduction of new infections. At the same time, the national HIV infection rate has dramatically declined, according to a December 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So why isn't the foundation heralding the HIV drops, and saying they hope to work with their new CEO to keep the rates down? I fear the answer may be that they are back to denying the good news about prevention, especially the poz community's self-created sexual health strategies, and don't want to acknowledge endemicity. The board chair should not be launching Giuliano's tenure under a cloud of denial about HIV declines.
Regarding Giuliano's hire, I'm worried about his lack of AIDS accomplishments on his resume. In addition to running a gay media lapdog, er, watchdog org, GLAAD, the foundation says of his experience and qualifications:
In 1994, Giuliano became the youngest person ever elected mayor of Tempe, Arizona, a post he held for a decade. For six of those years, Tempe (population 175,000), was the largest city in America with an openly gay mayor. He served on the board of directors of the National League of Cities, and in 2003, Tempe earned the “All-American City” award, a coveted honor bestowed on local governments demonstrating exceptional success in problem solving. Concurrent to his work as a public official, he held numerous senior roles at Arizona State University, including director of federal relations and co-chair of the final presidential debate of the 2004 election. [...]
Granted, an executive doesn't necessarily need a background in AIDS, or health care for that matter, to run an HIV services org. Management and stewardship skills must count more, right? It still would be better if Giuliano had a substantive public paper trail and record on HIV issues.
Let's remain optimistic that the foundation will soon provide fiscal transparency to Giuliano's hire, and inform the community of his full compensation package, number of years they have entered into a contract with him, and how much money was spent using the Boyden Global Executive Search firm to secure his services.
Finally, I hope Giuliano and the foundation soon announce open forums with the PWA community regarding changes in their advocacy and programming.
HRW Must Apologize for Labeling People With AIDS as 'Victims'
The normally very politically correct Human Rights Watch, where Ken Roth is the chief executive, slipped up in its choice of words to say something positive about a Cameroonian gay and AIDS activist, Steave Nemande, and his work on behalf of persons with AIDS (PWAs). The non-governmental organization egregiously called PWAs "victims" in a release yesterday.
My two attempts to prompt an apology and dialogue with HRW came to naught. Emails to several HRW executives and gay researchers didn't bring forth a reply, as of Saturday afternoon. Below are my note to Roth, pictured above, and excerpts from their release with the stigmatization of PWAs:
I am a person living with AIDS and today have been made aware of an announcement from your organization regarding an upcoming meeting in New York City. The announcement uses the incredibly stigmatizing and disempowering term "HIV and AIDS victims," in describing the work and people helped by the keynote speaker at your meeting.
Ever since the AIDS epidemic began, people with the disease have valiantly struggled to overcome many medical, social, political and psychological barriers and ignorance. Indeed, PWAs still wrestle with those obstacles every day.
Whenever we are defined as victims, an unacceptable layer of stigma is draped over us.
I would like to request that you immediately issue an apology to PWAs, and that it be sent to all of the recipients of the original announcement. Additionally, I believe your staff needs to be educated about the proper terminology preferred by PWAs and our allies, and why we reject the victim label.
Please use the offensive language in your release as an opportunity to not only help reduce the stigma faced by PWAs and educate your researchers, but also to teach a wider audience about the importance of helping to empower us with respectful terms.
Sections of the HRW release:
Please join us on Monday, November 22, 2010 from 3:00pm-4:00pm for the Human Rights Watch Open Meeting. The meeting will be held in our NY office on the 34th floor of the Empire State Building and will feature one of the 2010 Voices for Justice Honorees, Steave Nemande. [...]
Steave Nemande, president of the human rights organization Alternatives-Cameroun, speaks out against laws criminalizing homosexuality. In Africa, an overwhelming majority of countries still consider homosexuality an offence punishable by lengthy jail sentences and, in some cases, the death penalty. Steave, a medical doctor, also runs the Access Centre health care facility. Alternatives-Cameroun established the Centre two years ago to care for HIV and AIDS victims within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. [...] (Emphasis mine.)
I hold out hope that HRW will eventually do the right thing and apologize to people with HIV and AIDS. If you wish to pressure HRW to take steps and correct their mistake, please contact Roth at email@example.com , the supervisor for HRW's gay division, Iain Levine, at firstname.lastname@example.org , and the researcher who sent the release, Brittany Mitchell at email@example.com .
(The original caption for this photo read: "And the cowboy said 'Yippe Ki Yay.'" Anyone got a better caption? Credit: Education Department.)
The Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) within the Education Department distributes a weekly newsletter, updating officials and the public about new developments in numerous areas related to bullying, safety and funding matters.
This week's edition contained the usual note from the director of OSDGF, Kevin Jennings, with excerpts posted here:
Last week I had the opportunity to keynote the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth annual convention in Houston (see cool picture of me below —hook ‘em horns!). The record attendance of more than 900 was both exciting and depressing – exciting because so many were there for information about this disenfranchised population, and depressing because the need is so great. [...]
When the homeless liaisons funded by the federal McKinney-Vento law were surveyed in 2009-2010, they identified transportation as the #1 obstacle to insuring homeless children get an education. [...]
Kids need stability. Even if we cannot immediately give them a stable home, we can insure their schooling remains stable so that they can continue to learn. Let’s make sure that, whatever other chaos these children are facing, school remains a stable and safe haven for them.
This peek into Jennings' world, which I've recently involved attending lots of conferences around the country and addressing diverse audiences, while not on a topic directly related to a gay or bullying issue, piques my interest. I like seeing part of Jennings' agenda includes the needs of homeless kids, regardless of sexual orientations.
The regular newsletter from the OSDFS, with messages from Jennings, pulls back the department's heavy curtain that was draped over him when he became a rightwing target.We need more sunshine from all of the Obama gay appointees, not just Jennings.
And it's not just uplifting short notes and cutesy photos. We need Jennings and all gay liaisons or administrators at every agency issuing regular updates on how their work is affecting and improving gay lives. Tell us where the changes are occurring, or where more work needs to be done.
Then go a few steps further and let's have the appointees holding regular town halls, in line and of the spirit of such forums held by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. Set up conference calls with gay print press and bloggers, and not just the mainstreamers, but also invite small, critical bloggers like me.
The first time I read about the multi-talented and openly gay musician Rufus Wainwright was in 2006. For two sold out shows at Carnegie Hall, he performed Judy Garland's legendary concert album of her famous shows at the venerable venue. (Good reason to listen to that CD again, as I write this post.)
The critics, and lots of Judy's fans, couldn't say enough positive, glowing words about his 2006 concerts, and he's gone on to more fame and creative endeavors since then.
Wainwright was recently in San Francisco to perform new songs of his, based on Shakespeare's sonnets, at Davies Symphony Hall. Fellow blogger Michael Strickland was there and snapped this great photo of the singer, who sang without wearing any socks or shoes:
While in town, Wainwright also went to the SF Opera and saw "The Makropulos Case," and during intermission an SF Chronicle writer caught up with him to ask his views on aging and beauty, for the People Meter column:
Profession:Pop singer, composer Neighborhood:New York City Would you drink from the Fountain of Youth? Some people have said I already have. I spend a lot of time onstage. It's the magic of the audience that keeps me young. Advantages? You'd keep your butt shape. Disadvantages? Man can't live on butt alone.
I know quite a few gay men who would strenuously disagree with that last statement, but since he's a dedicated practitioner of the Judyism religion, any disagreements with Wainwright won't last long.
Gay Pioneer Kameny Won't Receive 2010 Medal of Freedom
(The trailblazer himself with one of his historic picket signs, that has been donated to the Smithsonian Institution.)
An important surviving founding father of the modern American gay movement, my friend Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, is someone I believe more than deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his decades of civic activism. I've blogged here, here, and here, urging the White House to bestow this honor on Frank.
Last August I nudged Obama's gay liaison, Brian Bond, to work on ensuring Frank received the medal while he's still alive and kicking. He replied:
Michael – sorry I couldn’t get back to you but wanted to assure you that the community is well represented. I am making sure to keep your recommendation of my very dear friend Frank for future awards.
The Obama White House has invited Frank to a bill signing ceremony and other functions, and the president's advisers, including Veep Joe Biden, are well aware of his service to the country, and I had naively hoped 2010 would be the year this administration awarded the medal to Frank. Well, I was wrong.
One gay man, whose gayness is omitted from the announcement list, artist Jasper Johns, will be honored with a medal, and I laud the White House for including him this year.
However, there is one name on the list, that of former President George H.W. Bush, who could have been left off the list, thereby making room for Frank. I don't want to read too much into the decision that chose Bush, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was made to send a signal to the GOP leaders and voters who upended Washington's political landscape in the recent elections.
If Bond were known for actually engaging with the gay public on a regular basis, and explaining how White House decisions are made, I'd attempt to reach out to him for some answers as to why Frank is not receiving the Medal of Freedom this year.
Instead, I'm blogging about my disappointment and remain cautiously optimistic that the White House will wise up and finally get around to awarding Frank this civilian honor. He's more than earned it.
Among the pretty, shiny baubles the Human Rights Campaign has used in recent years to divert gay eyes away from their failed legislative and political initiatives, and give the appearance of putting activist anger to good use, was the End the Lies web site. Honestly, I forgot all about until I saw a reference about it yesterday.
I can understand how some folks cling to the incredibly naive belief that HRC is genuinely about pushing gay liberation or fundamental protections for us at the federal level, and they hold out hope that HRC is responding to grassroots calls for them to transform into a fierce advocacy org.
But more than a year-and-a-half later, I would appreciate hearing from HRC and all those who saluted the End the Lies campaign, about what good came of it. Did the rightwingers curb their hatred, lose funding, express remorse over their homophobia, or anything of true significance develop from the campaign?
As far as I can see, HRC achieved short-term positive coverage from a few bloggers and sites, received a few kudos from donors for the effort, many messages from gays were posted at the End the Lies site, no change occurred with our adversaries, and everyone went on to the next bright, shiny HRC ornament.
I guess the End the Lies was a success because this autumn, HRC pulled the same diversionary trick, er, launched another such site, NOM Exposed. If there were hard questions asking why such an effort was needed, while HRC was giving the Democrats a free pass in the November elections, I missed them.
Between End the Lies and NOM Exposed, they haven't done much of substance to advance the HRC agenda, and they sure as heck had zero impact on retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted for gay marriage, and lost their seats on the bench earlier this month.
What useless bauble of a web site will HRC next spring on the community, under the guise of activism?
This attractive young Italian man is Valerio Mieli, and he's directed his first film, called "Ten Winters." It is part of the San Francisco Film Society's annual fall survey of recent Italian cinema, and I wanted to catch Mieli's film last night at the Embarcadero Cinema.
When I got to the theatre, the seats were almost filled to capacity, but I was lucky to snag a seat on the aisle. The film society's director programming, Rachel Rosen, made some introductory remarks about the short preceding the feature, before handing the mic over to Mieli.
He had an abundance of charm, warmed up the crowd with his slightly mangled English, and he laughed at his own grammatical errors. The audience was primed to like his film, but there was one big problem for those of us present who didn't speak Italian. The print lacked subtitles.
A few minutes into the opening credits, someone cried out, "Subtitles!" As if all it would take to make them appear was throwing a switch. The film stopped, the lights came up and Rosen was back at the mic, explaining that they received the wrong print from the Italian distributor and that the film society was sorry for the mishap.
Rosen said the film would still be shown, for all of the Italians in the audience, who applauded at the announcement. Everyone else would get a refund, and most of us soon exited for the lobby, including the director.
I spoke with him, asking how he felt about the technical problem. Mieli said it was out of his control and such was life, while he did the Mediterranean shrug, which involves thrusting the shoulders up, frowning and rolling the eyes. He impressed me with his laid back attitude and I promised to blog on his travails, as I snapped photos of him.
Judging the look of the opening scenes, Mieli's film was certainly worth looking at, and I hope it comes back for a showing or two in San Francisco because I want to see all of it, with subtitles at the bottom of the screen.
America's top gay friend to the Democratic Party, the Human Rights Campaign's deputy executive director since 1993, David M. Smith, is the man behind the curtain puffing up the org and it's titular leader Joe Solmonese.
David is the almost-unseen gatekeeper for mainstream Democratic gay issues, and he does his best to stay out of the limelight. Better that way to keep his role in HRC's many legislative and political setbacks and disasters away from prying eyes.
For a modicum of insight into this powerful Democratic strategist, I read his Twitter feed and discovered he's a jock lover. David hasn't sent a ton of tweets, but what he has posted gives tiny peek into what's on his mind when not stalling a viable gay agenda. Click here to read all of his tweets.
While he's certainly promoted HRC and touted their work in his tweets, I've excerpted mainly the apolitical ones here, and a few from gay bloggers needling him. I find them all highly amusing: