Friday, July 29, 2011

Daniel…….Gifted and Homeless

I told my Facebook friends that Paul and I wanted to share our story about a remarkable man (Daniel) that we met at Sheridan Square Park by Stonewall Inn in New York City. We were admiring Segal’s Gay Pride sculptures and reading the plaques when Paul started a conversation with a man who was sitting on the bench in the park. In a short period of time, he disclosed that he was Judy Garland’s most loyal fan. He said he could chronicle every part of Judy’s life. After listening to several pieces of information, we had little doubt that he was indeed a Judy Garland historian. In fact, theater and movie trivia came easily for him. The day before we met Daniel another man had observed his incredible ability to recall information about a variety of topics and draw conclusions from those facts. He wanted Daniel to work with him on recording the knowledge he had stored in his head.

Paul and I had plans to have lunch at a Greenwich restaurant because they had a special menu for Restaurant Week. As I watched Paul and Daniel talk, I knew we needed to invite him to lunch so the conversation could continue. Daniel was willing to join us and we proceeded to the restaurant. We were early so we sat in the lobby and continued to talk. He pointed to a painting on the wall and told us he had just read a book about that painting. It was a late 1800 painting. The woman was beautiful. One of her dress straps was gently placed on her arm. Once this painting was previewed at the artist’s show, the family was shunned – too risqué. The woman died single and alone. The story was interesting but Daniel was even more interesting. He was well read and knowledgeable about a variety of topics.

Daniel shared that he had come from a good family. I asked him how his parents reacted to his news about being gay. He said his father said he wanted to put him in a “cattle car” and send him to Idaho with the hope they would dispose of him and the other gays. Later in his life he asked his dad about that comment and he responded that he regretted that statement then and ever since. Unfortunately that confession hadn’t stopped Daniel’s response to his father’s words. At the tender age of 13 he attempted suicide. He drew strength from Judy's music. He said he felt like Judy was singing to him. His theory is that her life had a lot of pain as well and she sang from a very emotional level. He had other observations about why gay men are so attracked to her and why she sustains her popularity over other stars.

We don’t know Daniel’s entire story but we could read behind the lines. He was a gifted man who grew up in a difficult time for gay men. At this point in his life he is homeless and has an alcohol addiction. Paul and I were very sad for Daniel but happy we met him. At the end of a wonderful meal and a two-hour conversation, he took both of our hands and said, “I woke up this morning and wondered how I was going to get through another day and then I met you. No one has ever done something like this for me. Thank you.”

Now we want Daniel to get together with our other Judy historians – Michael Siewert and John Fricke. He just might have a few tidbits that may be of interest to them for their next book. We will always wonder how Daniel is doing. He seems to be a survivor but it is hard to know what this does to your head. We told him he needed to stay in touch with the man he met who wants to record his stories. He has so much to offer.

There are people you come across in your life for one reason or another. I have to believe that meeting Daniel on July 21st was more than a coincidence. I also believe there will be another chapter to this story in the future. We thank Daniel for entrusting us with his stories.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why you should be an ally

We believe in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Ally support of injustices ensures everyone’s ability to have justice. If you were being discriminated against, wouldn’t you want others to stand up for you? Our LGBTs need your help now more than ever.

Silent supporters don’t help lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs). In fact, silence hurts them. We were once a silent supporter. We have evolved over the years starting with little things. For example, now when we hear something that doesn't ring true, we simply said, "What did you mean by that?" Have your strategy ready when you hear inappropriate remarks or statements made as facts that are stereotypical or false. Speak up and of course, do it nicely. If you let those remarks stand, others will assume you agree or that the information is true. Don’t be proud of yourself for supporting LGBTs until you do something, anything, to show that support.

Here is another compelling reason we discovered for allies to speak up on behalf of our LGBTs. We were asked to present to a group of educators in southeastern Minnesota. After we completed our discussion one of the participants said she had heard many presentations on this topic but ours was the best so far. Of course we asked what distinguished our talk and her response was, “You are not a threat to us. You are not an angry gay or lesbian yelling at us because of all the inequalities. You did not preach.” While we understand there is anger(and we are as well), it gave us a clue how important it is to have allies speaking up about today's issues. Sometimes it is received much better by an “outsider” rather than an “insider.” Whether it is marriage equality, employment discrimination or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the ally voice remains the important voice. Harvey Milk energized the gay community to tell their family and friends the truth about themselves. Now more than ever we need to go to the next step and hear the voice of allies to support, correct misinformation, share stories, and educate. Allies will be the people who make the difference in our future to correct misinformation, stereotypes, and injustices.

Please give sound to your voice today. For more information on how to be an ally, go to Straight for Equality Pride month is a good time to start and please, let us know what you are doing.

Dan Savage Blocks Target’s Video “It Gets Better”

We attended two events where Target previewed their new “It Gets Better” video to employees. The team members represented in the video were sincere and their stories heartfelt. You could tell the viewers liked it by their verbal response and by their happy faces. They saw themselves and others they loved in that video. It was a success.

This morning I read Dan Savage’s Slog on Target’s video, “It Gets Better.” His response and others who commented were so consumed by their “Target grudge” that they have forgotten the reason "It Gets Better" was started. In their own words, "The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach -- if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better." I am an ally. I watched the video. The Target LGBTA Business Council accomplished the mission of this project. Secondly, the video was created by the LGBTA Business Council; it wasn't a cooperative scheme to win customers as was insinuated by Mr. Savage. The naysayers disappoint me. I have to say that these comments reflect to me that they really don't care if a video is produced to help young people. They just want to kick the can one more time. Oh, and one more thing. Target stepped up in a very public manner. Where are the other companies in the Twin Cities area? Hmmmmm

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What do Joel Osteen and Crystal Cathedral have in Common

As Paul and I listened to two television broadcasts today, Easter Sunday, we couldn't help but feel torn. Rev. Robert Schuller Sr and Joel Osteen give a lot of people hope and spiritual guidance. Their messages are important to many people. In the past we listened with an open heart and used their words to help us to become better Christians - better people.

Now we have become more cynical about their spoken words. Behind their words of love we have an image of nonacceptance of a group of people. They seem to have a ranking of "sins" with being homosexual ranking higher than other sins. Crystal Cathedral choir members need to sign a covenant that they support the church's stand on homosexuals. I wonder if that covenant included not eating shell fish, killing a woman if she was not a virgin on her wedding day, killing a woman if caught in adultery, condemning men who shaved their beards, excluding people from the alter if they had a physical handicap, and the list goes on and on. Joel Osteen says they can't be God's best. Robert Schuller says homosexuals can't be excellent. In fact, we wrote Rev. Schuller a letter about that and he personally responded to us. It didn't change anything.

Our personal philosophy is in tune with Jesus and many great theologians who have said that it is not necessary to take the Bible literally in order to take it seriously. Jesus talked about things that worried him - divorce, remarriage, adultery, hypocrisy, oppression, greed, class structure, accumulation of wealth, etc. but never about homosexuality. If this was a critical issue, why didn't he mention it?

I know this is a broad statement, but one that we believe. The "church" stand against homosexuals is the single biggest roadblock for acceptance of homosexuals. Family members, without a personal study of this issue, will blindly accept their church stand. Lazy? Homophobic? Heterosexism at play? For us it appears to be an easy excuse to disregard gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders for other reasons.

Here is another thought. I just don't want to hang around people who are judgmental and sit in their ivory tower of self-righteousness. We are all imperfect. Being gay is not, however, an imperfection. It is God's plan for them. It is who they were designed to be. They are some of the most wonderful people you could possibly meet in your lives. We are blessed to be their friends and advocates. We will never believe God sits in judgment of their sexual orientation; God and God only sits in judgment of how you live your life as a Christian.

I wasn't expecting to write this blog today but it does seem fitting. Jesus died to forgive our sins. Our position - being gay is not one of those sins. If you believe otherwise, please take the time to study this issue and ask yourself the real reason you may be anti-gay. The Blue Book by the Presbyterian Church, Mt. Kisco, is a great guide and is available for a minimal charge or online at

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What do Las Vegas and Minneapolis have in common?

The Advocate has published the second annual list of cities where gay perople are living, voting, and creating communities. The top two cities represent the two areas we spend the most time - Minneapolis and Las Vegas.

According to The Advocate, "Over the past decade, Minneapolis has become the gay magnet city of the Midwest. It makes sense: People here are no-nonsense, practical, and don’t deal well with hypocrites. This is where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America took a historic leap forward and voted to accept gay and lesbian pastors, including the Reverend Mary Albing, the denomination’s first openly lesbian pastor. And Minnesota senator Al Franken introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act to protect LGBT youth from school bullies." I might personally add that this is the home of Lavender Magazine, the largest gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender publication in the Upper Midwest.

Second on the list is Las Vegas. According to The Advocate and Thomas Roth, President of Community Marketing, Inc, "Las Vegas is the No. 2 most-visited gay and lesbian destination in the U.S, and the No. 1 destination among Gen-X and boomer lesbians.” They go on to say that according to a study conducted by the Travel Industry Association (TIA), Las Vegas ranks as one of the top gay-friendly destinations in the United States second only to New York for the most popular gay vacation destination.

In my previous blog I talked about a local radio announcer who says she isn't against gays but continues to make less than complimentary comments about them. Here's something for the city of Las Vegas republicans to consider - Vegas is a top vacation destination for gays and lesbians. That means money to support the economy. Hmmmm. Do you like them now?

Local Vegas talk show host willing to send DADT troops to Libya

The saying goes that you shouldn’t get in a pissing match with someone who buys the ink or owns the microphone. I think that is pretty close to the truth. They always get the last word and can twist and turn things around to their own liking. I temporarily forgot that small truth and called into a local Vegas radio station yesterday. This wasn’t the first time we called talk show host Heidi Harris at KDWN radio station in Las Vegas. Last time we talked she was on a kick about “tolerating gays” and felt that she was really doing her part because she tolerated them. This time she devoted most of her show to the US involvement in Libya. She was against doing anything in Libya except for a one-day “bomb them and get out of there.” Other talking points were around why we would want to put our troops in harm’s way, we should think about the wives of our military and their families worrying about the danger of doing anything more in another country, cost, etc. During that discussion she slid in a comment, “Let’s send over the DATD.” When I heard that, all I could do was wonder why she would pluck out that minority military group. Oh, let’s send them over because we don’t care if THEY get killed? It was a hateful and mean-spirited statement. Yes, I called her. She threw it back in my face with another question, “Do you think I hate gays?.” I told her that her past words were that she “tolerated them” and that we had that discussion before. Of course, she didn’t remember that Paul and I were on her show last year around this time. We didn’t make a difference then and I wasn’t making a difference now. She ranted at me – I think she called me an idiot – and said what they all (meaning gays) wanted is to be accepted. Well, she wasn’t going to have a gay wedding at her house. She continued to rave about how upset this phone call made her and that she would have to go have a glass of wine after the show to calm down. Hey, Heidi Harris, they were your words, not mine. I was just asking you what you meant by that statement and you went ballistic. I think I was the one who was supposed to be upset. She was very rude to me because I challenged a very cruel statement that she had made. She is deeply entrenched in the tea party and republican political ideology. She is a Catholic girl. She is very predictable and hard core in her beliefs. What did I expect?

If the truth be known, I am fiscally conservative and socially liberal so I don’t have a party in which I can associate with. I think that is true of a lot of people in the U.S. We seem to have only two voices – far right and far left. What about those of us in the middle? I cannot in good conscience say I am either party as they don't represent what I believe. We listen to the Heidi Harris show because we agree on some things she says. She, however, isn’t such a good listener when it doesn’t fit her ideology.

Heterosexism, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "discrimination or prejudice against homosexuals on the assumption that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation," is how I define people like Heidi Harris and others who believe that they are doing their part by "tolerating" those gays. I don’t know how to educate people who do not have the motivation or desire to become educated. I also will NEVER understand how people can hide behind their religion. I am not a biblical expert but I figure if Jesus wasn’t concerned enough to speak about homosexuality, then it must not have been on top of his list. That’s good enough for me. As a former media specialist, I also know the danger of taking passages out of context. I once had a principal who had all kinds of pages marked for me to read because he felt we shouldn’t have a Judy Blume book in the library. Yes, Judy Blume was a naughty author. I told him when he had read the entire book, we would have a discussion about filling out the FORMS necessary for a reconsideration of this title. Yes, context – what a novel idea. Judy Blume remained on the shelf except for copies that were stolen and thrown away by a teacher who agreed with the principal that Blume books were not acceptable.

So, here I sit at 3:00 in the morning writing this blog. I am frustrated about a lot of things regarding education on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. It is sometimes difficult to know how to be a good advocate. I shouldn’t have called the radio station. It wasn’t good judgment. She is not going to change her mind and the majority of her listeners agree with her or they probably wouldn’t have her station on at that time. I guess I feel better when I try to make a difference but sometimes I feel the impact just isn’t there. So, good night everyone. Hope you had a good sleep. Oh no, Paul just came out and he read the blog entry. His comments? “Heidi would probably have all the gays over to her house for a big party if they voted Republican.” There just might be some truth in that! One last thing, read the next blog entry and find out how gays are supporting Las Vegas – best not to be too hard on them, Heidi Harris, they are adding revenue.