#ThrowbackThursday “Spring Fling ’86” The Birth of Penguin Place. (The William Way LGBT Community Center)

In 1986, I had the pleasure of working with some very special members of Philadelphia’s LGBT community to produce a “Spring Fling” fundraiser for what was to become Penguin Place. At the time, ours was a Community Center without walls.

Penguin Place 1

Spring Fling was held at the Mask and Wig Club (located on south Camac St.) I will never forget the Spring Fling or the months of planning that led up to it. Each of us made a special contribution. We had battling DJs, planned “spontaneous” entertainment that seemed to manifest out of nowhere (think “flash mob” but with jugglers, magicians, and musicians), and brilliant slide show presentations that were revealed on a rear projection screen behind a beautifully painted stage backdrop.

I was working as an AV technician at the time so my contribution was the rear projection screen, the slide projectors, lenses, and animation fader which I borrowed from work.

I have always regretted that I didn’t get to know Bill Way better. In our short friendship, he was very supportive and encouraged my creativity.

Shortly after Spring Fling, I left Philadelphia for a new job out west. By the time I returned, Bill had died. Penguin Place was a reality and had a permanent facility just two blocks north of the Mask and Wig Club. The New organizers had taken Way’s dream to the next level and was serving the community.

That the William Way LGBT Community Center has been in it’s permanent home at 1315 Spruce St. for nearly two decades is a testament to the work and dedication of the community.

I think about William Way and that odd bunch of people who inspired me to get involved in my community. It was a very brief moment in my life but it reflects the very best of the LGBT community. As we just saw with Marriage Equality, when we work together the possibilities are endless.

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What About Protection For LGBT Families??

*Note: this piece has been sitting in my drafts folder for almost a year. Since then the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and several more states have struck down their anti-same sex marriage laws. A lot has changed since I wrote it, but the sentiment remains. I’ve witnessed the damage that happens to gay couples because they didn’t have the legal protections afforded to their heterosexual counterparts. This isn’t about hurting straight couples. This is about protecting LGBT couples. Nothing more.

lineAnyone who has lived through the height of the AIDS crisis understands why Same Sex Marriage is necessary.

I’ve witnessed countless gay men lose everything as the families of their deceased partners swooped in like vultures, devouring everything in sight. It reminded me of the peasants picking through Scrooge’s things in the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. These family members weren’t close to the deceased. In most cases they had disowned their gay son. Some were so fearful of AIDS that they refused to come visit their son or brother in the hospital, leaving the survivor to care for his sick partner alone. — Strange. Where was their fear of HIV/AIDS when they were picking through the dead man’s belongings?

It pissed me off to no end seeing these cowards walk in after the fact and claim property simply because they were family. Where was their “Family Values” when their relative was sick??

One woman had the arrogance to tell a friend of mine that his 15 year relationship with her brother was nothing more than playing house. “My husband and I have been married for ten years,” she said. “You two may have lived together, but it was not love.” WHAT?? Was she out of her friggin mind??

One of my friends challenged his deceased partner’s family. The father, who was a lawyer, told his son’s partner, “I have infinite resources. You will go bankrupt if you try to challenge me.” My friend’s case never made it to court. He was forced to move less than a year later.

Those are just two examples of the complete disregard for and discrimination of LGBT families. Did you know it is legal to fire someone simply because he or she is Gay in 29 states? Twenty-Nine States! That’s the reason ENDA is so important. AND… Gays and Lesbians can be DENIED housing in another 29 states. What the hell!

“But what about the children?”

Yeah. Conservatives love to hold children hostage over every issue they don’t approve of. For some reason, they think legalizing Same-Sex Marriage will somehow interfere with the raising of their children. I don’t understand the resistance to educating children, in an age appropriate way, about the world around them. Besides, what of the Gay and Lesbian couples who are raising children? Where is the protection for their families?

If the foundation or your marriage so fragile that it would crumble under the weight of another couple’s happiness, I feel sorry for you.

Here’s the thing. Same Sex Marriage is a conservative idea. It’s personal liberty. It’s “Family Values”

Fifteen years ago, when the idea of Same-Sex Marriage was in it’s infancy, I may have settled for Civil Unions, but Civil Unions are NOT equal to Marriage. A Marriage grants you 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities   A Civil Union does not.

Depending on which state you live, it will cost you between $50 and $100 for a Marriage license. In order to acquire some of (but not all) those rights an LGBT couple must hire a lawyer and spend hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars. Why do I need to make a lawyer rich just to enjoy the same rights as any two strangers can get just because they said, “I Do” at a Las Vegas Drive-Thru wedding chapel?

lineIt heartens me to see that we have accomplished so much since I first drafted this post. At this moment nineteen states and the District of Columbia have given the ‘go ahead’ to same sex marriage. We still have a long way to go, but I cannot overlook the accomplishments of just this last year. LGBTs and their allies have much to be proud of.

Happy Pride Month Everybody!

A Word About Allies.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, I thought I’d say a few words about allies.

According to Dictionary.com, an Ally isa person who associates or cooperates with another; a supporter.”

I can only speak from my own life experience. I am a gay, while male. That is the perspective from which I see the world. When it comes to *people of color, the best I can do is empathize and remember that it’s not always about me.

❇When I say “People of Color”, I’m referring to all ethnic and/or non-white people. Essentially, the majority of people on the planet.

As a gay man, I can easily empathize with any oppressed persons. There are laws prohibiting my very existence. Anti-gay violence is everywhere. It would be easy to compare it to the horrors inflicted upon African American families throughout the history of this great, yet flawed, country of ours. But I have the luxury of never having had my family torn apart and sold as chattel. No one in my family ever risked their lives just to sit at a lunch counter. No one in my family was strung up in a tree and left to die because (s)he misspoke. None of my family was burned out of their home because they moved into a neighborhood with better schools.

Allies don’t always get it right.

The job of an ally is to support and give voice to those whose voice cannot be heard. Unfortunately, we sometimes get so caught up in our own BS that we forget to step aside and give up the spotlight.

I’ve been fortunate to have had good friends and lovers who have had the patience and fortitude to put up with my BS, and show me when and where I was wrong. I didn’t always like it. At times I was downright insulted. How dare they say I’m just as racist as…? Live and learn, right?

The point I’m trying to make is this.

When you hear black folks expressing displeasure about white folks, for any reason, remember it’s not necessarily about you. It could be, but chances are they’re trying to tell you something. All you have to do is shut up and listen.

It’s not your job to say anything. Just listen.

Martin Luther King Jr. on NBC’s Meet the Press in 1965

Though not the 1963 Pre-March on Washington episode that was rebroadcast Sunday morning, it’s interesting to note how some of those attitudes still persist today.

Some on twitter likened it to watching Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, or even Bill O’Reilly in 2013.

It’s true that we have accomplished much since the 1960s. There is more representation of people of color in positions of power. But there still remains a stubborn thread of ignorance that prevents America from fully being the “Land of the Free” that it purports to be.

Originally posted Sunday 25 August on ADignorantium.Tumblr

A Message To White People

We, as caucasians, have to understand that we don’t know all the answers. We need to recognize when to speak up, and when to shut the hell up and listen.

The Zimmerman trial verdict picked open a scab that has not had a chance to heal properly. The anger of non-whites is not an overreaction. It is a valid emotion stemming from centuries of systematic mistreatment, and downright cruelty.

Just because we elected a Black President does not mean we’ve evolved into a “Post Racist” America.

You can’t just say you’re not racist and make it so. It’s easy to find out if you are, though. Just ask any person of color you regularly come in contact with; any non-white person at all.. But be prepared for an honest answer. And don’t get pissed off if you don’t get the answer you wanted to hear.

Whether or not you use the six letter N word doesn’t determine if you’re a racist. Your actions, how you treat people, are a reflection of your true nature. Treating people as a group, instead of individually, is indicative of racism.

Here’s the deal. We all have our own truths; our own experience, if you will. The only way for us to understand is to listen. When people tell you there’s a problem, you can’t solve it by being defensive. Yeah. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass. But life’s not easy, so get over it.

If someone says or does something offensive, don’t let it slide. Speak up.  If someone is trying to tell you there’s a problem, shut the hell up and listen.

Russia’s Putin signs draconian anti-gay law – and – A Call To Boycott The 2014 Winter Olympics

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law yesterday one of the most draconian anti-gay laws on the planet.

7/1/2013 by ( AmericaBlog)

 

The new law, coming only seven months before Russia is to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi, would ban anything considered pro-gay, from gay-affirmative speech, to gays holding hands in public, to even wearing rainbow suspenders.

“LGBT people in Russia are scared, they live in fear, and we want people to be aware of the issue. If they feel strongly about human rights they should boycott the Olympics in Sochi,” said Nina Long, co-president of RUSA LGBT, a Russian-speaking LGBT organization based in New York.

“We really want the LGBT community to know it’s unsafe to travel there,” she said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

 


Russian police detain a gay rights activist during an attempt to hold the unauthorized gay pride parade on May 28, 2011 in Moscow, Russia. kojoku / Shutterstock.com

Russian police detain a gay rights activist during an attempt to hold the unauthorized gay pride parade on May 28, 2011 in Moscow, Russia. kojoku / Shutterstock.com

The law also contains a provision permitting the government to arrest and detain gay, or pro-gay, foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from the country.  That provision ought to send chills to anyone gay, lesbians, bisexual or transgender who is planning to attend or participate in the Winter Olympics.

read more: AmericaBlog.com

I am angered and sickened beyond belief! This is 2013 folks! Are we about to see a repeat of early 20th century eastern Europe?? What’s next, rounding up all the LGBT folks again like the Nazis did in WW II?

What can YOU do?

Boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi!

Russian Gays in U.S. Call for Boycott of Sochi Games

(By Maria Young for RIA Novosti) – A group of gays from Russia and the former Soviet republics living in the United States has a message for gay athletes and others planning to attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi: Don’t go.

The group is calling for a boycott of the games, saying the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is not safe in Russia – and they hope even those who are not gay will support the ban.

“LGBT people in Russia are scared, they live in fear, and we want people to be aware of the issue. If they feel strongly about human rights they should boycott the Olympics in Sochi,” said Nina Long, co-president of RUSA LGBT, a Russian-speaking LGBT organization based in New York.

“We really want the LGBT community to know it’s unsafe to travel there,” she said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

read more: RIA Novosti

#BoycottSochi #BoycottOlympics #BoycottRussia