January 13, 2014
December 30, 2013
Not sure if it is 'hillbilly chic' and it makes liberals want give to the clench fist on behalf of the perceived 'working class' or if liberal are embracing the 'freedom of speech' mantra without really thinking it through..
What I do know when Paula Deen got hit hard for her totally inappropriate remarks and none of these liberals who are preaching to me about 'freedom of speech' spoke up for her right to speech.
Deen was kicked off the entire Food Network without a peek coming from those advocating Phil Robertson's freedom of speech The silence was deafening. By the way, she is still on the outside and blacklisted.
However, with good old fashion bigot Phil Robertson, progressives are defending him with a passion. Over the last weeks, I have had a number of entertainment industry people insist to me that this was a freedom of speech issue. Really? Do they really believe this stuff should be validated by the entertainment industry? Really?
While Robertson has said some anti-African American statements and advocated sex with underage girls so you can train them early, let's face the truth of the matter. There are simply two points that really count.
1. Homophobia is still acceptable if the dollars are right in the entertainment industry.
2. The reason he is back on the air is because of those dollars.
Never mind that tens of thousands of our young gay children will be watching the show and be devastated by the comments. In addition, they will see that there are absolutely no consequences to his comments.
In fact, A & E is on the verge of creating a monster that will come back and bite them in the ass. This man is going to feel like he is the new messiah of hate and far from backing down we will soon hear eeven worse statements from his mouth.
Ever time a person like that whips up the masses with his unquestionable hatred, others feel they have permission to beat up LGBT Americans or even shoot them. Hell, if Phil Robertson with his craziness, guns and homophobia is praised and protected then it must be right.
These reality shows were originally created to break the Writer's strike in Hollywood. The original participants in these shows were scabs. They are shows are cheap to produce and they became extremely popular with the masses. The very concept of these reality shows is that they are really not confined to the 'screen' and that characters act out in public their television personas. It is impossible to define when the show begins and when their personal lives take over.
No one has taken Phil Robertson's Freedom of Speech away. He is able to go any place in this country and spew his hatred. Even Fox News can highlight him since that is a place of opinion. However, no where in the Constitutional does the concept of Freedom of Speech guarantee a television show or a job.
If I was working for a company and said outside the work place that the boss was a pig and that the executives were all money grabbing whores, no one would yell free speech and demand that I shouldn't be fired. Nope. They were just say I was one 'stupid f**k and should have known better.
The same can be said of Phil Robertson. This wasn't free speech. This was harmful and hateful speech that will hurt a lot of people.
Shame on A & E, shame on any who support Phil Robertson and shame on any community organization that thinks progress has been made in this despicable episode of hate.
December 16, 2013
"United for Life's president, Seyoum Antonius, has made it clear that he won't quit anti-gay advocacy until Ethiopia adopts the death penalty. One of his rallying cries is, "Africa will become a graveyard for homosexuality!"
As the world continues to focus on the brutality directed toward LGBT Russians, the situation in Africa goes from bad to critical. One nation after another are enacting extraordinary repressive laws. Citizen militias in many African nations feel they have permission to burn down houses of LGBT Africans. In many instances, gays are brutally tortured, beaten and killed.
Newsweek has published an article that should give make any decent human being sick to their stomach. In Ethiopia, American missionaries have moved in with their hate against gays. Having clearly lost in the Western world, it is as if the religious right has found particular joy in manipulating public opinion and the Bible in third world countries.
Rarely do I run an article this long on this blog but this is a MUST READ article by Kate J. M. Baker
In a bleak little apartment on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, nearly a dozen men in their 20s take turns trying on a pair of black skinny jeans and watching Project Runway episodes downloaded off YouTube. There's no plumbing, Internet or furniture, but because the space is private, it's paradise.
When friends enter, they're greeted with chirpy Hiiiiis - an homage to RuPaul's Drag Race - before joining the jumble of cute boys sitting on the floor, drinking tea, eating spaghetti, and sharing photos from a recent "glamping" (glam camping) trip. Boche ruffles his boyfriend's hair - they share this apartment with a friend - as he tells me how they met. Victor shows me the cursive tattoo over his heart: B.T.W., which stands for Lady Gaga's acceptance anthem Born This Way. Like most of his friends, Victor still lives with his parents, so he'll be staying the night, as he does most weekends. A cold tile floor and threadbare cots have never seemed so cozy.
If these giggling, affectionate men acted this way - unabashedly, stereotypically gay - on the streets of Ethiopia's capital, they could be expelled, beaten up, fired, disowned, or jailed. This is the reality of what it means to be gay in Ethiopia.
Seventy-six countries criminalize sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and 38 of them, including Ethiopia, are in Africa. According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97 percent of Ethiopians think homosexuality should be outlawed. Unlike Mauritania, Sudan, and Northern Nigeria, Ethiopia doesn't mandate the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts, but thanks to draconian laws that forbid activism while allowing Western evangelicals to promote homophobia, Ethiopia is on track to join their ranks.
In many countries, it's getting better for the LGBT community. In Ethiopia, it's getting worse.
Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law allows the government to hand down 20-year sentences to anyone who "writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, [or] disseminates" statements that the government considers terrorism - meaning, essentially, that the police can search and arrest anyone they please, from reporters to activists, without a warrant. The country's anti-advocacy law bars charities and nongovernmental organizations that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad from participating in activities that advance human rights and the promotion of equality. The latter measure is both cruelly specific - children and the disabled are two examples of many marginalized groups that can't be protected - and vague enough to scare nearly everyone.
As a result of these laws, both adopted in 2009, there are no health centers, charities, publications or even nightclubs that expressly serve Ethiopia's underground LGBT community - the few reputable organizations that once existed have been shuttered or forced to remove any mentions of human rights from their mandates. Given that a volunteer who, say, dares to hand out lubricant to gay men could face imprisonment and jeopardize his or her groups' larger-scale work, organizations have decided it's not worth the risk.
Prominent international financing organizations like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has convinced repressive governments to devote funds to educating and treating MSM (men who have sex with men), have had no luck in Ethiopia, which refuses to fund or even permit any MSM-targeted HIV prevention, treatment or care programming. Gays are persecuted in Uganda, but that country's health ministry recently admitted that specialized clinics for LGBT people have helped combat HIV rates; Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, the Ethiopian Minister of Health, would only tell Newsweek that homosexuality is unlikely to be decriminalized "in the near future," although any person "can access any type of services regardless of their sexual orientation." More than two dozen gay and lesbian Ethiopians interviewed by Newsweek said that's a sick joke; the community is terrified to seek care.
Ethiopia employs a "two-pronged strategy that results in a climate of fear and self-censorship," said Leslie Lefkow, Human Rights Watch's deputy director, Africa division. "The government has effectively closed off the country in terms of independent investigation. They've eviscerated the civil society. Frankly, it's shocking."
Lefkow said HRW, one of the few organizations that once researched human rights issues in Ethiopia, has found it "increasingly challenging" to do such work, since it would involve sneaking in undercover workers. She was surprised that gay Ethiopians had agreed to talk to Newsweek, even anonymously. "You should check up on [your sources] after the article comes out," she warned, "because the government will."
Several prominent global watchdog organizations said Ethiopia wasn't on their radar due to limited resources and difficulties getting around the anti-advocacy law. "The U.S., U.K. and other governments give huge amounts of aid to Ethiopia while remaining tight-lipped about the extensive violations of human rights happening throughout the country," said Claire Beston, Amnesty International's Ethiopia researcher.
Aaron Jensen, a spokesman for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State, said in an email that the U.S. supports LGBT rights "and frequently delivers this message in public statements and private meetings with government officials," but would not go into details. It seems that the most productive way the U.S. State Department "delivers this message" is by copying and pasting the same two paragraphs year after year in its Ethiopian Human Rights Report, which briefly notes "some reports of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals" while acknowledging that "reporting was limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization."
Most Ethiopians insist that homosexuality is a Western disease, says Mercy, a 28-year-old LGBT activist who fled to Washington, D.C. from Addis last year. A 26-year-old Ethiopian who currently studies in Boston and goes by the name Happy on Facebook said that he grew up thinking it was a "Western thing" to be gay.
"Ethiopia is supposed to be clean and holy," he wrote in an email. "I felt like such a dirty person for having those feelings."
Leaders of Ethiopian Muslims, heads of the Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic churches, government officials, members of the Ethiopian Parliament, leaders of political parties, and youth organizations routinely put their differences aside to attend conferences on the "gay problem" - one last year, entitled "Homosexuality and Its Associated Social Disastrous Consequences," was held in the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. "Ethiopians do not need their identity to be dictated for them from outside no matter how wealthy or powerful the forces applying the pressure," Abune Paulos, the former head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, told conference goers last year.
But, while Ethiopia prohibits foreign LGBT-related activism, it welcomes international religious groups that preach homophobia. Thus, "religion is used as proxy for discrimination," explains Ty Cobb, director of Global Engagement at the Human Rights Campaign, by groups who "couch hateful rhetoric in faith-based terms."
"A representative from the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality announced that the council was making "promising" progress in convincing the government to introduce the death penalty to punish "homosexual acts."
Last year's anti-gay conference and others like it are organized and funded by United for Life, a Western Evangelical Christian organization that receives funding from the U.K. and U.S. In May 2013, United for Life hosted a workshop during which police told government officials, religious leaders and health professionals that "homosexual family members and neighbors" were likely to sexually abuse children. A representative from the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality announced that the council was making "promising" progress in convincing the government to introduce the death penalty to punish "homosexual acts." United for Life's president, Seyoum Antonius, has made it clear that he won't quit anti-gay advocacy until Ethiopia adopts the death penalty. One of his rallying cries is, "Africa will become a graveyard for homosexuality!"
In 2009, clandestine gay get-togethers were so popular in Addis that a Wikileaks cable from the U.S. embassy cited them as evidence of a "thriving" underground LGBT social scene. But no one can recall any taking place after last June, when a documentary called No Silence - About the 666 Satanic Act of Homosexuality in Ethiopia made national headlines. It didn't live up to its lurid title: The most "egregious" moments feature men in women's clothing drinking beer at a secret party. Still, the party-goers who were outed by the undercover cameramen had to go into hiding, especially after newspaper articles alleged that homosexuality was a contagious disease and the moral equivalent of child rape. A man named Solomon Negussie posted a comment wondering "what I can do as an Engineer to eradicate these people (I mean gays and lesbians) from Ethiopia or generally from the face of earth next to praying to God to give me the wisdom to produce a machine or virus that will kill or make them straight (like normal people!)"
The video was produced by the Gedame Tekle Haymanot Bible Association, based in Washington, D.C.
"I would kill them and expose them to the public, and I'm sure the public will never have mercy upon them."
Ethiopia is a deeply religious country - the majority of its citizens are Orthodox Christian, then Muslim - but many church leaders are increasingly progressive when it comes to social issues like family planning. During a visit to the Holy Trinity Church, tour guide and longtime teacher Getenet Teshome said the church had relaxed its stance on contraception but that LGBT rights were "unthinkable" - even discussion was "highly condemned," since gay people would "bring doom to the whole earth." He added, with a smile, "I would kill them and expose them to the public, and I'm sure the public will never have mercy upon them."
Even idealistic millennials are homophobic. Youth leader Hezkias Tadele, 24, championed his generation's "openness" at November's International Family Planning Conference in Addis but said he didn't want to talk or even think about homosexuality, and claimed that his peers nationwide felt the same. "We want to keep our own culture," he said.
Selamawit Tsegaye, a 25-year-old graduate student at Addis Ababa University researching homosexuality in Ethiopia, said that her human rights classmates "think homosexuals are less of a human and they deserve to die; some even say very proudly if they meet one gay man they would kill that person."
The national campaign against sexual minorities has gained "extraordinary momentum" in the past five years, says Dagmawi Woubshet, a gay Ethiopian English professor at Cornell.
"There's complete silence around LGBT experiences because there's no forum for stories about the violence meted out by the state and family members on a day to day basis," he says. "My biggest fear is that these religious organizations are monopolizing the conversation and perpetuating a fear that's becoming impossible to combat."
In December 2011, Addis hosted 10,000 delegates at the 16th International Conference on Aids and Sexually Transmitted Infections. Ethiopian religious leaders were enraged when they learned that African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), a continental gay rights lobby group, planned to discuss LGBT-related issues, and quickly launched a text-messaging campaign that led to widespread protests and a meeting with Ministry of Health officials. Gay Ethiopians silently watched their friends and family post Facebook statuses about their plans to burn the host hotel to the ground.
Mercy couldn't take it anymore. As a volunteer for a few U.S.-based NGOs focused on HIV prevention and the founder of Rainbow Ethiopia, the only LGBT organization in the country - it covertly distributed condoms and safe sex information to gay men - he was invited to a preconference, and his photo appeared in the press.
"When he got back, he was arrested and tortured. Fearing for his life, Mercy quickly secured a visa and escaped to Washington, D.C., where, he believes, the Ethiopian government is still monitoring him."
A week later, Mercy - the lone gay Ethiopian willing to out himself that weekend - was detained and told to lay off the activism by police who said they'd been following him for years. Instead, he attended another AIDS conference in Washington, D.C. a few months later. When he got back, he was arrested and tortured. Fearing for his life, Mercy quickly secured a visa and escaped to Washington, D.C., where, he believes, the Ethiopian government is still monitoring him.
Mercy regularly updates Rainbow Ethiopia's website and Facebook group and says his goal is to "spread news of what it's really like to be gay in Ethiopia" - but it's hard to get U.S. organizations to listen. He's had a rough time attracting attention in Ethiopia, too. Mercy is an "ambiguous character," says Happy, who moderates two popular gay Facebook groups: Ethiopia Gay Library, which tracks media coverage, and Zega Matters, a forum on which more than 700 people discuss LGBT issues. (Zega, which means "citizen" in Amharic, is a code word for gay). "Many in the community are doubting that he is gay in the first place because he is just like this ghost that knows everything about the community," Happy says. "he watches you but you can't see him."
It's not a good sign if one of the most dedicated LGBT activists in Ethiopia's history is so shadowy that his allies can't track him down.
Even U.S.-based activists like Mercy and Happy are afraid to divulge their real names or get into details about their work. Consider what happened to 26-year-old Robel Hailu, universally adored by other Zegas because he's one of the only "out" gay Ethiopians still in Africa. Hailu "put Ethiopian Gay rights on the map," one admirer says.
Like Mercy, Hailu attempted some LGBT activism in Addis but moved to Pretoria, South Africa in 2011 to pursue a master's degree. In 2012, he entered the international Mr. Gay World contest. He wasn't only the first Ethiopian to enter the pageant; he was the first black African, which meant he was pilloried in the press and shunned by his family. Hailu remembers his father's last words to him: "I don't want a gay son. You are not my son from this minute. It is better to kill yourself than be gay."
Hailu moved to Cape Town after his phone wouldn't stop ringing with anonymous death threats, and believes he'd be arrested if he returned to Ethiopia. He misses the family and friends who've abandoned him, but says it's his life's dream to start an Ethiopian LGBT organization. He just has to figure out how to do it.
"I told myself that if I put myself out there, a million people like me can start to live," he said via Skype. "Nowadays things are worse than ever in Ethiopia.... I am not sleeping until everything sorts out."
"Without the Internet and social media, [being gay] is a living hell," says Happy. "We live in hiding, in constant fear, in secrecy... with the help of the Internet, we were lucky enough to meet other gay people, make friendships, and thrive underground."
Ethiopian LGBT activists face ostracism and jail as they fight for their rights. For some gay Ethiopians who aren't as idealistic, the Internet is enough radical change for now. "Without the Internet and social media, [being gay] is a living hell," says Happy. "We live in hiding, in constant fear, in secrecy... with the help of the Internet, we were lucky enough to meet other gay people, make friendships, and thrive underground."
On his closed Facebook group, Zega Matters, gay and lesbian Ethiopians ask each other questions ("Have you ever got caught while masturbating?"), post funny videos ("Every Bottom's Thoughts") and share tips on safe sex. The few Ethiopian lesbians who post on Zega Matters told Newsweek they don't have any gay female friends off the Internet, so it's comforting to share awful experiences, like when Dondo, 24, was accused of "displaying affection" on her college campus with a woman, taken to the police station, and nearly expelled.
Around two dozen well-educated, middle-class 20-something Ethiopian men have formed an intimate clique both on and offline. Some people call them The Facebookers.
Before they found each other, the Facebookers were lonely and self-hating. "I knew I was different, but I didn't have a label for it," says Beki, "and I didn't think there was anyone else out there like me." The Facebookers knew of starved, homeless sex workers who would sleep with anyone - young teenagers ignored by authorities, even when assaulted, unless they were willing to "convert" to heterosexuality - and married men who allegedly had affairs with other men, but they didn't know any gay Ethiopians who weren't ashamed or persecuted. Their only proud and out role models were from mainstream Western pop culture, which explains why their weekend get-togethers resemble the sassy PG-rated sleepover party of a Bravo executive's dreams: Many LGBT people find those stereotypes limiting, but for the Facebookers, they're liberating.
Beki says the movie Boat Trip (2002), about two straight men who get stuck on a gay cruise (Roger Ebert said the film was so bad that "not only does it offend gays, it offends everyone else") changed his life; another Facebooker says Get Real (1998), a critically acclaimed British film about a gay teenager, was a revelation. Starved and searching for what one called "gay resources" - from porn to episodes of Glee - the Facebookers eventually discovered gay Yahoo! groups, then Facebook, then each other. Now, they go clubbing on weekends and meet for "lifesaving" lunch breaks during the week. They text each other constantly.
Most of the men have two Facebook accounts: a straight one for family and old friends, and a gay one under fake names like "Lucy Fur" or "Ben Dominus" (the latter reminded the user of a Greek goddess). "It sounds like I spend an unnecessary time on Facebook, but it's my home," Ezana explains. "It's my 'hood. My everything. On Facebook, you can be angry when you want to be angry, you can miss someone if you really miss someone, and you can be naughty when you want to get naughty."
The Facebookers allow me to tag along as they go to restaurants, clubs and their favorite meet-up spot, an elegant, quiet hotel frequented by expats and backpackers. It has a shady terrace in the back, ideal for conversations no one will overhear. Some of them constantly look over their shoulder, while others are comfortable acting, as they say, "Fagulous" - like when Ezana, wearing cargo-patterned harem pants and a neck scarf, squeals, "Ooh, my new Nikes!" after a waitress accidentally spills coffee on his feet. Beki says he has felt progressively more comfortable being himself since he started hanging out with The Facebookers. "I do a lot of snapping," he jokes, doing just that with his well-manicured nails and a sly smile.
When I ask if it's not obvious to strangers that they're gay - a dude-only crew of super stylish, impeccably groomed guys in fitted leather jackets who all yelp and shimmy when the DJ plays Lady Gaga - they tell me they often get suspicious looks but usually nothing worse.
But that's because they don't push it. When they do grind up too close on the dance floor, they risk getting kicked out of clubs. All can name friends who've been beaten up for acting "too much like themselves" in public. I can't take their photos, or use their real names, or even describe any of the spots where they like to drink or dance because then they'd be in danger - they've already had to abandon a few hangouts that became known as gay favorites.
But when the Facebookers are together, they're too blissed out to care about the risks they take, like teenagers in that heady, social butterfly phase of middle school. They sling their arms around each other and show off their customized jewelry. They whisper about cute boys who work at the nearby pizza place. They're in BFF love.
The Facebookers help each other out in times of need, too, like when a friend was kicked out of his parent's house after his sister accused him of being a pedophile, or when two gay students were outed and suspended from their university. But, overall, they're more concerned with their weekend plans than how to spark a revolution. Sure, most of their families and friends would abandon them if they knew they liked to have sex with men, and they can never let their guard down; but together, they feel safe. It's a double life, but it's better than no life at all. S
Some say they're slowly coming out thanks to the support they get on Facebook. One night last fall, Victor's sister asked him if he wanted to test out some of her nail polish. The two ended up painting each other's nails and chatting late into the night. Later, Victor posted a photo of his shiny nails with some thoughts:
"It got me thinking, is this normal, do most guys sit on a couch and have their nails done by their sister?... Does she know, is that why she is comfortable?... Does she suspect?... Was it a test which i have failed so miserably? Couldn't figure it out. Its true that we all give these little signs that we r and might be gay. We like to cook, we like to put on that perfume which will make all heads turn, we dress nicely and neatly, and well, we walk the walk. I call these signs, THE COMING OUT SLOWLY SIGNS. They guide ppl in helping them to sink the idea of our sexuality slowly... Don't hesitate to be urself. It will make ur life easier and it will also make their understanding way easier."
The Facebookers don't like to think about the future. How will they ever be able to pursue long-term romantic relationships if they have to keep them secret? As they enter their 30s, "the pressure will get stronger to get married and have kids," Beki says. "I don't know what I'll do."
The largest barrier for most is what their parents would think; not one has come out to his mother or father. "My mom would literally die," Ezana says. "I would rather be depressed and sad for the rest of my life than tell her I'm gay."
One night, a Facebooker invites Dabir, a seemingly shy 24-year-old he met online, to join us for dinner. Dabir's not quite mellow enough to gel with the group, but I soon realize he's not timid, just paranoid: He's more interested in revolution than Project Runway.
Over the next few days, Dabir, a tireless overachiever who excelled at university and has worked as a teacher and an educational consultant, shows me the streets where gay teenagers who are kicked out of their homes search for rich tourists to sleep with in exchange for cab fare, and the bars where it's too dangerous to pick up guys in the bathroom. He's intense and effusive - thoughts on both sex and Karl Marx are often punctuated with "Wow!" - and becomes agitated when he talks about the young people who come to him for advice. "I cry over them," he says. "I don't give a f**k about me. I want to help them." That's partially because he used to be one of them, although by choice: when he moved to Addis after college from his hometown a few hundred miles away, he had to "do so much stuff to survive" - stuff he'd rather not talk about on the record.
"Dabir has big plans to build a shelter and community center for gay kids who lack the physical and mental resources they need to survive, partially funded by Planet Romeo, a popular gay dating site with a foundation that backs LGBT projects in disadvantaged regions around the world"
Dabir has big plans to build a shelter and community center for gay kids who lack the physical and mental resources they need to survive, partially funded by Planet Romeo, a popular gay dating site with a foundation that backs LGBT projects in disadvantaged regions around the world. This proposal is the first they've sponsored in East Africa. Dabir assumes he'll have to flee the country eventually, even though that means abandoning his family, who he has supported ever since his father died a few years ago. His younger brother and sister recently moved into the closet-sized room he rents on the fringes of Addis. Neither of them know he's gay, Dabir says, and neither of them would accept him if they did.
One afternoon, Dabir invites me over to his home for coffee and khat, a leafy stimulant that's illegal in most countries but sold on every street corner in Addis. We chew it with peanuts to mask the sour taste while his 18-year-old sister prepares a traditional coffee ceremony, brewing, roasting, and grinding the beans before serving me cup after cup as the sun goes down. Their 21-year-old brother reads a book in the corner. I grow progressively wired - and uneasy - as Dabir shows me his most prized possessions. Other than a suit hanging on the wall that his sister paid for by selling coffee beans for a year and his dad's copy of Das Kapital, most of them involve shirtless men and are in a folder on his laptop.
After watching a clip of Wentworth Miller coming out as gay - a "huge deal" for Ethiopian fans, Dabir says - and a bizarre gay parody of Katy Perry's "California Gurls," we settle in to watch Prayers for Bobby, a Lifetime made-for-TV movie starring Sigourney Weaver, based on a true story of a gay teenager who killed himself because his family wouldn't accept him.
Afterward, Dabir reads from a printed copy of Obama's 2009 inauguration speech, the first by any U.S. president to address gay rights. "I was like, Wow!" he says, beaming.
Dabir's brother speaks English and has been watching and listening to us for hours, occasionally asking me questions about whether homosexuality is genetic or how American's feel about gay marriage. I'm convinced there's no way he doesn't know Dabir is into guys, but Dabir insists I'm wrong. "He might suspect, but he won't admit it," he explains later, because the concept is "too disgusting" for him to fathom - and, perhaps, because then he couldn't bring himself to take his brother's money and live in his home. And even though they'd desert him if they knew the truth, Dabir worries about leaving his family: how will they survive without him?
The Facebookers - who Dabir wishes cared less about pop divas and more about future generations of gay Ethiopians - don't think the government will ever let him open his shelter. But Dabir is determined to prove them wrong and gain their support, even though he's already receiving threatening Facebook messages and texts warning him to stop his "illegal actions."
"I'm nervous, but there will be people who will take the next step after I leave," he tells me. "I don't think I can do everything by myself."
"Yes," he reiterates one more time before we leave his room for the night, and he closes his laptop, the photo of his sister that he uses as his screensaver fading to black. "They'll take over when it's impossible for me to function."
December 08, 2013
In his New Yorker column, Richard Socarides captures the spirit and passion of Republican Ken Mehlman's fight for marriage equality. In many states, marriage equality would have not happened without his dedicated work. In the new best selling political book Double Down, they write on how President Obama was moved by Mehlman's arguments and accepted his advice on strategy for advocating marriage equal.
Here is Socarides column:
The news, on the front page of the Times this morning, that dozens of leading Republicans had signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the case of Proposition 8, the California gay-marriage ban, merited the A1 treatment that it received. Despite their party and their own past positions, Jon Huntsman, Meg Whitman, Ken Duberstein, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and others said that they supported a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage. This comes two days before the Obama Administration must decide whether it is ready to file a similar brief. In the most high-profile Supreme Court case of the year, with the future of how we view civil rights and treat our fellow-citizens at stake, someone had quietly engineered enough prominent conservatives from the opposition party to sign onto a legal brief supporting full equality for gay and lesbian Americans. That someone was Ken Mehlman, the openly gay former political director of the George W. Bush White House, the campaign manager for Bush’s 2004 reëlection campaign, and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
When Ken Mehlman came out of the closet, in August, 2010, announcing his sexual orientation to Marc Ambinder, in an Atlantic article, not everyone was completely surprised. But it did represent something of a turning point. For the first time, the gay and lesbian political community had a real conservative leader among its ranks, and you knew—if you knew anything about Ken Mehlman—that things would be different from then on.
It’s not just that Ken Mehlman is a prominent Republican, which makes him an important asset to—and, now, organizer in—the gay-rights movement; it’s that he is one of the smartest political operatives anywhere in the country right now, and that he understands better than perhaps anyone how moderate and persuadable Republicans think. These are the very people the gay-rights movement is now trying to speak to. As Mehlman told the Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “We are trying to say to the Court that we are judicial and political conservatives, and it is consistent with our values and philosophy for you to overturn Proposition 8.”
The summer of his coming out, I asked Mehlman what he planned to do now that his sexual orientation was public. He told me that while he wanted to be an advocate and work for change and greater acceptance, he thought that he should first spend some time listening and learning. And, for a while, Mehlman kept a fairly low profile. They were many calls for him to apologize directly to the gay community for past misdeeds, some real and others imagined. When he came out he had said, “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” (As an out democratic staffer to President Bill Clinton when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, I understand some of what this might have been like for him.) Later, in May of 2012, after he had done substantial behind-the-scenes work to advance the cause of gay equality, he expanded on that: “At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the [anti-gay] effort… As I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I’ve learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved. I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry. While there have been recent victories, this could still be a long struggle in which there will be setbacks, and I’ll do my part to be helpful.”
Mehlman, now an investment banker by day, is on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that has organized the challenge to Proposition 8, and which hired the superlawyers Ted Olson and David Boies to spearhead it. He has worked with the other most prominent national organization fighting for gay marriage, the New York-based Freedom to Marry, and has offered his help to pretty much anyone in the effort who wants it. (I have worked with the same organizations.) He was active in the past election on the side of advocates who won in all four states where marriage equality was on the ballot: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State. Perhaps he will never be able to fully undo the 2004 effort by Republicans to put anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendments through in order to bring out the conservative base vote. But it will not be for lack of trying.
How was Ken Mehlman able to go to all of these people who signed this brief for gay equality and ask them for help? It was because he had worked with and known many of them for decades, and because now they finally knew him. It is often said that the most important political act any gay person can take is to come out of the closet. Telling your family, friends, neighbors, and business associates who you really are makes people aware that anti-gay discrimination is discrimination against someone they know, like, and respect. It’s not easy to come out of the closet at any age. It’s certainly not easy if you’re a teen-ager living in an intolerant community. But it also must have taken courage to come out of the closet as a middle-aged Republican who had been so prominent on the conservative side of the political debate. There were no former Republican Presidents who signed on to the brief, nor any former Republican attorneys general, but one gets the feeling that it won’t be long now.
Richard Socarides is an attorney, political strategist, writer, and long-time gay-rights advocate. He served as White House Special Assistant and Senior Adviser during the Clinton Administration.
December 03, 2013
" Sport Does Not Discriminate On Grounds Of Race, Religion, Politics, Gender Or Otherwise"
-Principle Six of the International Olympic Charter
AllOut.org and Athlete Ally has created a brilliant campaign to take to Sochi in February. The genius of it all is that the LGBT community is not putting any Athletes at risk while slowly and steadily feeding the International Olympic Committee their own words.
There is no question that by the time of the Olympics the Principle Six Campaign will stand not only for human rights but clearly for the freedom from the tyranny directed against the Russian LGBT community. The more athletes, media personalities, entertainers and others who wear Principle Six somewhere on their person the more powerful the message.
The two organizations announced this week that some Olympians have endorsed this effort. However it should not be limited to just Olympians but all athletes and supporters of human rights. American athletes should put a brilliant red '6' on their uniforms to show solidarity. That includes high school and college athletes.
Now is the time in your communities, school, universities and institutions to ask people to wear the bright red six to show resistance to the Putin's Punks.
American Apparel has partnered with the groups and will help finance the bold statement to take to Sochi. You will be able to get your "6" merchandise after January 1. Hope they have a small classy pin to put on your suit or formal wear.
This should be a campaign that everyone should be able to rally behind including NBC Sports, sponsors, athletes and activists
Posted at 06:00 AM in Civil Rights, Human Rights, International LGBT Rights, LGBT, LGBT Athletes, LGBT Discrimination, LGBT Organizatons, LGBT Russians, LGBT Sports, Olympics, President Putin, Principles and Values, Russia, Russian Gays, Russian Olympics, Sochi Olympic Games, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 21, 2013
In New York, New York City received a perfect score, Albany had 99 and Rochester had a 98.
In New Jersey, the picture was not as good with Newark only at 76 and Asbury Park at a low 59. Jersey City did manage a score of 100.
California has a ton of cities at 100.
Florida did not have one city at 100.
The organization's report stated:
The 2013 MEI rates 291 municipalities drawn from every state in the nation on the basis of how inclusive their laws and policies are of LGBT people. These laws and policies include non-discrimination laws, equal employee benefits, relationship recognition, inclusive city services and leadership on matters of equality. Twenty-five cities earned a perfect 100-point score.
Cities across the country achieved excellent scores, demonstrating that cities have a commitment to LGBT equality that is unbridled by regionalism and not confined to parts of the country many people assume are most LGBT friendly;
-25 cities received perfect scores (100 points) in 2013; 11 did in 2012;
-Of cities that scored 100, 8 cities came from states without comprehensive relationship recognition and without statewide non-discrimination laws (compared to two such cities in 2012);
-31 million people live in cities where trans people are protected at the city level alone;
-In 2012 we rated 137 cities with a total population of 55,853,651; in 2013 we rated 291 cities with a population total of 77,851,822;
-10% of cities scored over 96 points, 25% scored over 78 points. The average score was 57 points, half of cities scored over 60 points. 25% of cities scored 35 points or fewer; and 3.5% of cities scored 10 points or fewer.
-Cities tended to have higher scores where the city was selected for having a high proportion of same-sex couples, and the presence of openly LGBT city officials and LGBT police liaisons also tended to be correlated with higher scores.
November 12, 2013
This past weekend the family of Tyler Clementi greeted Ronnie Kroell and Elliot London who had walked from Chicago to New York City in memory of Tyler Clementi and against bullying. In an emotional moment, the family walked with dozens of others across the George Washington Bridge where Tyler jumped after being bullied at Rutger's University.
On November 18, the Tyler Clementi Foundation will host a fundraiser at the New York Times building on 8th Ave. With less than 150 seats, it is quickly selling out at $200 per person.
Among those who will be attending are Emmy nominee Zach Quinto, Tony Award winner Alan Cumming, Tony Award nominee and star of Big Fish Bobby Steggert, City Council President Christine Quinn, Thomas Roberts, Richard Socarides and the Clementi Family.
The LGBT Centers in New York City and in Los Angeles are beginning major expansions and renovations to better serve their huge number of clients. The New York Center began serious renovations to upgrade their facilities and expand services on November 5.
The New York LGBT Center reported:
On Tuesday, November 5, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (The Center) welcomed supporters and community members to a Groundbreaking Celebration for its $9.1 million renovation at 208 W 13 Street in Manhattan. The project builds on The Center’s founders’ vision for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of New York City to have a home that is welcoming, functional and vibrant.
Friends of The Center received updates on the project and small group tours to show the progress that has been made up to this point. The 14-month long construction plan will continue through 2014 and will include multiple improvements, such as an expanded and refurbished lobby featuring a café and revamped David Bohnett CyberCenter; renovation and modernization of The Center's largest meeting spaces, the third-floor Lerner Auditorium and the ground-floor Kaplan Assembly Hall; and a repaved garden featuring seating and lighting to encourage conversation and connection.
“The Groundbreaking Reception provided the ideal opportunity for us to show, not just tell, what the overwhelming support from community members is allowing us to achieve,” said Executive Director Glennda Testone. “Our goal is to transform and enhance the building so that it is the best it can be, and so that it meets our communities’ need for a supportive, vibrant social setting in which to celebrate our lives.”
In Los Angeles at The Center, plans were announced to begin a major $25 million expansion of its current facilities.
Greg in Hollywood reported:
The Center is embarking on an ambitious $25 million fundraising plan to pay fort an expansion to be completed in 2017 or 2018.
On Oct. 25, The Center signed an agreement with the state of California to purchase property across the street from its complex known as The Village. The property on McCadden Place is currently used as a parking lot and will be transformed into ‘an LGBT campus the likes of which have never been seen before.’
It will enable The Center to expand the number of beds for homeless youth from 50 to 150 and also provide a complex for LGBT seniors to live.
The Center is working in collaboration with the City of Los Angeles and in partnership Thomas Safran & Associates – a developer of affordable housing in Los Angeles – to build a first-of-its-kind multi-generational apartment complex for LGBT youth and seniors, with a wide array of supportive programs and services.
The Center would also move its headquarters there from its current N. Schrader Boulevard location so that its clinic there can expand into a comprehensive medical facility.
‘It’s not going to be quick or cheap,’ Jean told the crowd. ‘We’ll have to launch a new capital campaign and raise at least $25 million, plus tapping affordable housing funding streams. … None of it will be easy. But the Center has never been daunted by difficult tasks in pursuit of serving our community. That’s what you expect from us.’
She showed concept drawings of what the new complex might look like but they are not final drawings. The plan is to open the new ‘innovative, trailblazing campus’ in 2017 or 2018
November 10, 2013
HMI To Honor November 13: Chelsea Clinton, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Fallon Fox, Hudson Taylor, Moody's and Me!
Hetrick-Martin Institute is having presenting their 2013 Emery Awards at their annual dinner this Wednesday (November 13) in New York City. The event chaired by Rob Smith and Alfredo Paredes has taken the theme of "Celebrating Heroes'.
The evening will be at Cipriani Wall Street with cocktails at 6:00PM and dinner at 7:00PM.
This year they are honoring:
Co Chair of Clinton Foundation: Chelsea Clinton
Transgender Athlete: Fallon Fox
Former Super Bowl Football Player: Brendon Ayanbadejo
Athlete Ally Found and President: Hudson Taylor
Author and Activist: David Mixner
Really am thrilled and honored to receive from this HMI their very first 'Lifetime Achievement Award'.
November 04, 2013
In one announcement, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) made the organization one of (if not 'the') major player in the area of international LGBT Rights. The organization is to receive at least three million dollars from two major Republicans from the world of hedge funds.
In a rare interview with Frank Bruni of the New York Times, Republican Paul Singer announced his gift of $1.5 million to be matched by Daniel Loeb. The gift take HRC to the international level as increasingly the battle shifts to other nations. This is a major advancement for LGBT Americans in protecting the rights of our brothers and sisters overseas.
While some long existing international organizations might not be throwing confetti at the news, the fact is that it elevates issues of international LGBT citizens to a much higher level. That can't be bad news.
Bruni writes in his column 'The Tumbling Boundaries of Gay Rights':
I sat in a 30th-floor library with the hedge fund’s founder and chief executive, Paul Singer, a billionaire who was one of the most important donors to Mitt Romney in 2012, gives generously to a range of Republican causes and prefers to do this with a minimum of media notice. He’s wary of speaking with journalists, so much so that I’ve seen the adjective “reclusive” attached to his name
In this case, he was announcing a new project to be funded, at least at the outset, by him and other conservative donors but to be run by the Human Rights Campaign, an L.G.B.T. advocacy group in Washington, which is much more closely affiliated with Democrats. The initiative will be dedicated to fighting the victimization of gays and lesbians internationally. But it will also show that there are Republicans — not a majority, but an increasingly impassioned minority — who are intent on progress and justice for L.G.B.T. people. They won’t surrender that cause to Democrats, and they believe that Republicans who do so are resisting a future that’s both just and inevitable.
“Unless America engages in a terrible, terrible retreat from freedom, towards fascism, communism, whatever — some totalitarian harsh state — this seems inexorable,” Singer told me, meaning equal rights, including the spread of gay marriage, for which he has campaigned with particular energy.
“Social conservatives have and should have a place in the inner circle of what it means to be a Republican,” he said. But, he added, “There needs to be room for conservatives who have different views on some of the social issues.”
His vision of how Republicans must evolve was echoed in a subsequent conversation that I had with Daniel Loeb, another New York hedge-fund billionaire who has given lavishly to conservatives. Loeb is Singer’s principal financial partner in the H.R.C. international project; Singer has already committed $1.5 million, and Loeb has promised a similar amount over its first years.
And the international initiative has a fascinating wrinkle. In addition to training L.G.B.T. advocates outside the United States and publicizing the failings of especially repressive countries, it intends to name and shame American religious zealots who sponsor antigay campaigns abroad. So Republican money may wind up challenging a constituency within the party. (We’re most definitely not in Kansas anymore.)
In Singer’s view, gay rights are consistent with a Republican philosophy of individual liberty, and gay marriage is “an augmenter of social stability, family stability and stability in raising kids.” In other words, it’s conservative.
He has contributed significantly to marriage-equality campaigns in many states, and has convinced wealthy peers in the financial industry, including conservatives, to do likewise.
Last year he started the American Unity PAC, which backs Republican candidates who are generally supportive of gay rights. This year he added the American Unity Fund, an offshoot for lobbying, which has spent about $375,000 — two-thirds from Singer — to promote ENDA.
All in all, he has pumped more than $17 million of his own money over the last decade or so into gay rights. And he privately tells Republicans leaning toward pro-equality positions that if they face fire from antigay groups, he’ll help them round up retaliatory funds.
The battlefield isn’t what it used to be. From the 30th floor, I could see that most clearly of all.