Category Archives: Gay Health

Profiles in Courage Deserve Our Support

Pass this one on to your friends and families. Tweet it to them. Email it to them.

James_alesi_ny_state_senator Last week after the LGBT community enjoyed one of its biggest civil rights victories in Mark-grisanti our history with the assistance of four Republican senators, the right wing National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced a two million dollar campaign to defeat them in 2012. Nothing could pour cold water over our momentum for full marriage equality more if these Republicans lost and especially if the LGBT community was missing in action.

 

Roy-mcdonald- Right now we should be writing checks to these four men who showed amazing political and moral courage in the face of powerful opposition. They literally put their political lives at risk so we could enjoy full equality in New York State.

Below are the four men and the email address for them. Take a minute. Click on each one and make a donation. Doesn't make a difference if it is $5 or $500 because we must show them that we will not forget them and leave them at the mercy of the extreme right in this country. They stood up for us and marriage equality happened. We must stand up for them so those who support justice thrive! Saland-

 

 

Senator James Alesi: Donate Here

Senator Mark Grisanti: Donate Here

Senator Roy McDonald: Donate Here

Senator Stephen Saland: Donate Here

And just in case you forgot Senator Roy McDonald's moment of clarity and truth, here, again, is his statement when he announced his YES vote for Marriage Equality:

You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f— it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing,” McDonald said…

“I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics…I’m tired of blowhard radio people, blowhard television people, blowhard newspapers. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing and that’s where I’m going with this.

[With thanks to David Mixner]

We Stand With Women

Swan wing History is, whenever the male powers-that-be go after women, gay people aren't far behind on their scary agenda. Here's what the radical right and their Republican flunkies are pushing for at the moment:

1) Republicans not only want to reduce women's access to abortion care, they're actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven't.

2) A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain "victims."

3) In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.)

4) Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids. 

5) In Congress, Republicans have proposed a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

6) Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids' preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.       

7) And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool. 

8) Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.

9) Congress will vote any day now on a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country.

10) And if that wasn't enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses.)

You can't make this stuff up. Call your representatives and let them know you are watching. And to stop gutting the rights we've struggled to secure.

 

I Want My America Back

Markflag I get more than a little tired of the oft-heard complaint  that someone or other “wants their America back”…as if some horrible change had transformed this country. Aside from how ridiculous the comment is (which America do they want back? The one where we had rampant racism? Where women weren’t allowed to vote? Where we had slavery or no electricity in the rural areas of the country?)

 

So I was more than a little pleased to read this list, for which I give my gratitude to my old friend David Mixner [http://www.davidmixner.com/]: 

 

I want the America back…

 

– Where guns and bullets were used to put food on a hungry family’s table and not for creating policy or building power.

 

– Where religion was in the forefront of fighting for civil rights and not fighting against them.

 

– Where dialogue in the Congress of the United States was respectful and conducted with dignity.

 

– Where young people dreamed of being the President instead of being taught to hate the President.

 

– Where corporate leaders took great pride in building great economic institutions to create jobs instead of buying them, tearing them down and putting people out of work to make a quick profit. 

 

– Where we had ticker tape parades for great pioneers and achievements and not just sports teams.

 

– Where a person could serve their country and run for office without being personally destroyed.

 

– Where a citizen could get sick and recover without having to declare bankruptcy.

 

– Where if people had something important to say, they respected their audience by dressing as if they had something important to say. (No Shirts, No Shoes, No Say)

 

– Where music didn’t incorporate hate and advocate killing anyone and instead was used to bring people together and inspire.

 

– Where we cared for our rivers, mountains and the environment and expanded our parks and wilderness areas as sources of national pride.

 

– Where many Republicans at one time were advocates for civil rights and civil liberties.

 

– Where advocating love and peace was an honored position and didn’t mean you were weak or powerless.

 

– Where our elderly were revered and taken care of with dignity.

 

– Where our children could attend our institutions of learning without being screened for guns or drugs.

 

– Where we were proud of our education system and we were number one in the world because of it.

 

– Where we had money and insight to explore the new frontiers of space refusing to limit our knowledge.

 

– Where religion was a personal belief and not a principle of public policy.

 

Please feel free to add your own in the comment section.

 

Hide/Seek…Sane/Insane

Hide-Seek FlanneryOConnerThe Smithsonian has a brilliant show titled Hide/Seek exploring sexual difference in modern portraiture. It is a stunning show and the companion book by the same name is worth every penny. The range of artists and the sheer quality of the art on display is a once in a lifetime kind of show and I encourage anyone within visiting distance of our Nation's Capital to pay a visit to the Smithsonian

Because, of course, this privately funded exhibit is under attack by the radical religious right again, this time in the guise of The Catholic League, the self-appointed Taliban of Catholic faith. And what exactly has them so exercised? A video by gay artist David Wojnarwicz titled A Fire in My Belly, mourning the death of his lover. Apparently there is an image in this video of the crucified Jesus's body, covered with ants. Now…it's not the sado-masochistic image of a man nailed to a wooden cross that upsets Mr. Donahue. It's the ants. His comment is that the Smithsonian wouldn't show Mohammed covered in ants, but Jesus? That's OK.

Really? Is fundamentalist radical Islamism who you really want to get in bed with Bill? … er, I mean associate with?

I digress. Herr Donahue goes on to — predictably I suppose — demand that Congress cease all funding for the Smithsonian because…and you can't make this stuff up…the regular Joe, the blue collar worker doesn't go to museums. I (Donahue) don't. They go to see WWF wrestling matches (really? all of them?) …and we don't ask for tax-support for wrestling.

Where to begin?

To draw a parallel between wrestling…even legitimate wrestling, not even the comic book staged variety…and the Smithsonian is just so..what? Ignorant? Breathtakingly stupid? I'm sorry…it deserves a new word all its own: Goebbelsian (as in Joseph "tell-a-big-enough-lie-and-they'll-believe-you" Goebbels.) Just as a charitable explanation, one (wrestling) is a staged form of entertainment or sport. The other, (The Smithsonian) is an educational institution that preserves the culture and history of these United States. We fund one because it is in the interests of education. We don't fund the other because a) it makes a gazillion dollars on it's own, and b) it's stupid. 

Oops. My bias slipped. Oh well. The Smithsonian, by the way, caved. Wojnarwicz's video has been taken down. But Herr Donahue is still demanding that funding for the museum be cut. If I could show it here, I would.

It is always almost chilling when The Roman Catholic Church (and let's not even begin with the pedophile scandal) cries about being "under attack," whines about "discrimination" …while they attack and discriminate and murder at will.

This man William Donahue should not be taken seriously. And yet "fair and balanced" has him on every news broadcast, making a publicity stink in the interests of his bigotry.

It's hard not to consider "second amendment remedies", ya know?

Hide/Seek is one of the most important, most ground-breaking gay-and-Lesbian-friendly exhibits to appear in any museum anywhere in a long long time. That it is in The Smithsonian…our nation's own museum…is all the more important. If you can possibly make the journey to visit and support this exhibit (which, I repeat, is privately funded...no tax-payer money is even connected other than the fact that it is in a government-funded building.) This is a visual history of LGBT people in the most lyrical form. Our ancestors. Our history. Our sacred texts and prophets (I'm looking at you Walt!) The most valuable thing that can be stolen from a people is their history. That's what Herr Donahue is trying to do. Rewrite history. Erase us.

He is, fortunately, a dying breed of homophobic, sex-phobic, good-ol' boy bigot. He will fail. But not if we don't fight back. Go to this show. Buy the book. Know …AND RESPECT…your history.

A 304-page catalog titled Hide/Seek Difference and Desire in American Portraiture has been authored by the exhibition co-curators, David C. Ward, National Portrait Gallery historian, and Jonathan Katz, director of the doctoral program in visual studies, State University of New York at Buffalo. The catalog will be published by Smithsonian Books and distributed by Random House; it will be on sale for $45. It is the perfect holiday gift for any gay person in your life. Maybe even you.

 

 

A Gay Paradigm Shift

Tyler Clementi II I've been reflecting on the recent news coverage of gay teen suicides for a week now. While for those of us in the queer community, where the knowledge of teens committing suicide as a means of escaping the daily psychological torture of coming to grips with sexual identity is nothing new, it seems the mainstream media have finally caught on to this very serious problem.  But why now?  Why not 40-50 years ago in the infancy of the American gay liberation movement?  Why not 30 years ago during the peak of the AIDS crisis coverage?  Why not 12 years ago when the Trevor Project started?  Why are gay teen suicides finally getting mainstream national media attention?  Because we're finally starting to see the overwhelming change in social attitudes required to shift mainstream thought to be inclusive of gay people in general, and the deaths of these young people are catalyzing that change.  I know the phrase "paradigm shift" has been used ad nauseum since Thomas Kuhn wrote his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, but that premise still holds true.  It takes years for a change in society to really take hold of people, and what I think we're seeing in this news coverage is a huge step forward not just for acceptance but more importantly for inclusion in the larger social fabric of the nation. 

In this very year we have seen the transcript from the Prop 8 trial, and the ruling of Judge Walker in that case which held that the proponents of this proposition had no defensible reason to support the exclusion of gay people from the institution of marriage.  What little evidence they presented was unsupported by history or fact, and their expert witness (of which there was only one) was basically rejected as unqualified to actually comment on the matter at hand.  It was abundantly clear that the sole motivation of proposition 8 was to oppress a sexual minority for no good reason.  Even members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who were instrumental in the campaign to support proposition 8 are looking back at the division and strife that they have caused and it is driving them to tears.  I have no doubt that as the wheels of the judicial system continue to grind away, that this and all other state constitutional amendments that discriminate against gay and lesbian couples will be erased as a thing from a less enlightened time.

Also in this very year we have seen Bishop Eddie Long, Ted Haggard, and many, many others.  These men, a product of a conservative ideology that says that homosexuality is sinful and wrong, have worked diligently to uphold that worldview, even unto the suppression and utter destruction of their own self-identity.  The lives and well-beings of gay people everywhere have been dramatically influenced by people like this through religion and politics.  These are gay men  who live in denial, believing that their lives are wrong, that we must continue to support the heterosexual relationship as the only type of relationship that matters.  But in secret, their hearts pull them elsewhere, and they turn to abusing themselves, others, or both.  Ultimately we get fire and brimstone from these bully pulpits, where they push their own self-hatred outward to others, forcing more gay people and their families to experience the same pain and conflict that they are feeling.  Again, there is no defensible reason for this, and ultimately these structures will change both from within and from without.

It's these very outre political and religious statements against homosexual people that have brought to light the gay teen suicides.  It took a political campaign the size of prop 8, the national conversation that surrounded it, the trial that brought out the facts behind the prop 8 supporters, exposing the hypocrisy of the political and spiritual leadership who wrangled it into being and seeing the emotional damage that it caused, for people to finally realize that anti-gay speech and actions are a devastating practice that can drive young people to suicide.  When your state tells you that you don't deserve the same rights as other people, when your minister tells you you're going to hell for what you feel, when you believe no one around you feels the same way you do and calls you names for what's inside of you, when you fear what may happen to you if you share this secret with your own family, is it any wonder that you would become isolated, downtrodden, lonely, despairing and feeling that there is no hope left.  Suicide seems like the only option.  It is a tragedy, and one that has sadly been repeated for a very long time, long before these most recent notable deaths.

But the fact that these suicides, which under any other circumstance would have been the story in a local newspaper if that, have been taken up by the mainstream media like CNN and the New York Times, to me that says there has already been a change.  Poll numbers in support of gay marriages are rising.  Important religious figures are taking a stand and changing the tone in the church and calling their faith traditions on their stance.  Don't Ask, Don't Tell is on the brink of repeal.  The teen suicide stories have sparked a number of celebrity campaigns to speak out against anti-gay bullying including the star studded "We Give A Damn" campaign and the more down to earth "It Gets Better" campaign onYouTube.  Anderson Cooper called out a Michigan Assistant Attorney General for stalking and cyber bullying the openly gay president of the U of Mich student council in a hate filled blog.  All of these stories combined tell me that we are already living in a different time, and that there is no turning back any more.  The American public is finally looking critically at homophobia and its disastrous consequences, and it is only a matter of time before we have a sea change of public opinion.  

Jesse’s Journal

Stephen Wayne Foster is almost a Native Floridian. Though born in Virginia in 1943, he moved with his family to Miami a year later and grew up in Miami Shores. Foster studied at Miami-Dade College and the University of Miami, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Now retired, Foster lives in an apartment in Coral Gables that he first occupied in 1975, having lived through almost a century of South Florida gay history and culture.

RichardFrancisBurton

When Foster was 17-years old and in high school, he discovered gay history. "I came across Sir Richard Francis Burton's [in picture, left] translation of the Arabian Nights from 1880 which included a very long article about the history of homosexuality. But for many years I didn't know where else to look for it [gay history]. In 1969 I went to Washington, D.C. I went to a newsstand and bought a copy of GAY, the Jack Nichols publication. I took the issue home with me and read an article by Dick Leitsch of New York Mattachine about gay history in which he said that nobody was writing about gay history and that there was a need for this. So I felt that if anybody was going to do it I should do it."

"At that time I was still a student at the University of Miami.  So I took a notebook and a pen and I went into the student library and saw thousands of books before me and I didn't even know where to begin. But on the very first day I came across a book written a century ago called The History and Development of the Moral Ideas by Edward Westermarck. And this contained a long essay about gay history and anthropology and it formed the structure for all of my research after that."

"My mother died in 1970 and I moved away from home. And my father died in 1973. At some point I developed a habit of going down every Saturday to the University of Miami and spending the whole day at the Library doing research. I also went to the public libraries, to the medical library, the law library, every important library in Dade County and collected a vast amount of information. Eventually I gathered notes from at least 5,000 books."

Though Foster realized that he was gay when he was 13, he did not come out til 1969 when he first met other gay people and discovered Miami's "gay beach" on 21st Street and Collins Avenue. That was a time when the Miami Beach police ("real bastards" in Foster's opinion) used the laws as excuses to raid gay bars and make gay folks' lives miserable in so many ways. For this and other reasons, it took time for Miami gays to get organized. When activist Frank Arango came down from New York in 1972, Foster remembers, he Awas dismayed to find that there was no political base so he had to create one. Word got out and we met at the house of Barry Spawn," another local activist. Out of this meeting was born the Gay Activists Alliance of Miami (GAA-Miami).

According to Foster, GAA-Miami met at Spawn's home for a while before moving to the Center for Dialog, an activist group connected with Miami's St. John Lutheran Church that Foster dubbed "the center for all radical activity in Miami." (Miami's MCC also met at that Church.) Its founders, all white men (except Arango), formed the Executive Committee: "The president of the group was Bob Barry. The Vice President was Barry Spawn, I was the Treasurer and Bob Basker [best remembered for his later work with the Dade County Coalition for Human Rights] was Secretary. Frank Arango helped us out but I don't think he had a position. And the reason that they gave me the position of Treasurer is because I had to take the money of the organization and put it in my own private banking account under my own name since I was the only person they trusted with the money," he says.

One of Foster's achievements during his GAA-Miami days was the creation of South Florida's first LGBT
Stonewall-archive  

 library. Foster approached the Rev. Don Olson, pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church, and "asked him if I could use the room on the second floor. Olson gave me the go-ahead. He put some shelving into a small room on the second floor of the Center for Dialog and I took my private collection of books and publications and put them there. But three weeks later he came to me and said that he was embarrassed if straight people might walk past the open door of the library and see that it contained gay material so he wanted me to keep the door shut. I felt very insulted by that and I took all the material and took it home. So the gay library was the first one that we had but it only lasted maybe three weeks." This was a year before Mark Silber founded the Stonewall Library.

Miami-beach-gay-pride1  In 1972 GAA-Miami filed a class action suit against Miami Beach that led to the overturn of that city's law against cross dressing. Foster contributed to this victory by providing GAA-Miami with incriminating information about the Miami Beach Police Department that he had collected.  Later that year Foster and other GAA-Miami members joined other activists to protest both the Democratic and Republican conventions that were being held on Miami Beach. To accommodate all the protesters, the City of Miami Beach opened Flamingo Park and let the protesters camp there. "There was a special area off to one side in the Park that became the 'gay area,'" Foster adds, one that attracted its share of queer notables.

One of those notables who visited Flamingo Park was Dr. Frank Kameny, whom Foster had met previously through their mutual friend Bob Basker. Dr. Kameny came to Miami for the conventions and Foster joined
Kameny_1

him on a tour of the Park.  One of the colorful creatures Kameny encountered in the gay section was "a somewhat overweight gay teenage boy known as Corky. He was in the gay area of Flamingo Park and he was persuaded to put on some sort of outrageous costume, complete with feathers. And he paraded up and down and some tourists stopped by to take pictures of him. And all of a sudden Kameny showed up and said, 'Corky!  What are you doing? You are giving homosexuality a bad name! Take off those feathers!'  I thought that was priceless," he laughs.

Unfortunately, GAA-Miami did not long survive the 1972 conventions. As Foster recalls, "the thing that killed it was simply that people were showing up during the conventions and then when the conventions went away and the antiwar demonstrators went away and the whole thing died down and returned to normal then the people lost interest." Foster himself lost interest when he "got into an argument with a member of the Executive Committee and resigned. And I sent them their money that was in my account. And they took the money and sent out an emergency letter to all 250 people who were on their mailing list, asking them to show up for an emergency meeting so they can get the organization going again.  And they [the EC] showed up at the meeting place and waited two hours and nobody showed up.  Nobody!"  By the end of 1973, GAA-Miami was history.

After Foster left GAA-Miami, he "was involved in the creation of a gay student group at the University of Miami," which was also short-lived.  Unfortunately, in 1974 Foster developed a severe case of agoraphobia, which discouraged his participation in Miami's growing LGBT movement though of course he kept up with new developments.  (Foster has since recovered from his agoraphobia.)

Foster's withdrawal from the political arena allowed him to return to his first love, gay history. By the late seventies, Foster had become a major contributor to the growing field of gay studies. Foster's "introduction as a gay historian" was an essay on Sir Richard Francis Burton. ["The Annotated Burton"] that appeared in the anthology The Gay Academic, edited by Louie Crew [ETC, 1978]. "At the same time I was helping Jonathan Ned Katz write his book Gay American History [Crowell, 1976]. I gave him very significant help."  In his groundbreaking book, Katz gave credit to "Foster's inspired research assistance [which] led to the discovery of numbers of important documents." Through the years, Foster "helped many other gay scholars write their books. And my name is mentioned in at least thirty books, usually in the form of footnotes saying 'I wish to thank Stephen Foster for his help.' " Foster also contributed original essays and translations to the pioneer gay journal "Gay Sunshine."

Though Foster was never a member of the Gay Academic Union, he contributed to the GAU's periodical "The Cabirion," aka "Gay Books Bulletin" [1979-85]. Through the efforts of "Cabirion" editor Wayne Dynes, Foster contributed an article on gay communities for The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture [Edited by Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris, UNC, 1990]. Foster followed that achievement by writing, for the Dynes-edited Encyclopedia of Homosexuality [Garland, 1990], articles on such diverse topics as Adelswärd Fersen, Afghanistan, Sir Richard Burton, Ralph Chubb, Charles Fourier, Henry B. Fuller, Robert de Montesquieu, Pirates, Poetry, Travel and Exploration, Edward Perry Warren and Oscar Wilde. Though some of the other contributors to the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality used pseudonyms (which caused a bit of a controversy at that time), Foster is quick to assert that in this case, as "in all of my writing, I used my real name." All in all, Stephen Wayne Foster should be credited for some of the most notable contributions to our culture.

This is the second of a series of articles about the history of South Florida’s LGBT community. The first one was a personal account of the Miami bar scene in 1974. I invite other veterans of South Florida's LGBT community in the 1970s and 1980s to share their experiences with us. You may reach me at jessemonteagudo@aol.com.

Marriage Equality: Dollars and Sense

WE can (and should) debate whether or not Marriage Equality is a fight worth fighting for or not. The assimilation of gay folk into an “institution” of such questionable history and stability has never really been talked about in a larger venue, as it needs to be.

But this video breaks it down in the simplest matter of equality. And if one should, or would, choose to be married, then, dammit, one ought to be entitled to all the same rights and responsibilities as the next person.

Bill Bowersock was with his beloved Harvey Frand for 32 years. Both paid into the Social Security system over that time and, in their retirement planning, they counted on both checks to get them through those later years. When Harvey passed away, Bill was not entitled to any of Harvey’s benefits, benefits that are granted to heterosexual couples.

Here is a video that was created to tell their story that has been picked up by numerous sources.

Thanks to David Mixner for bringing this to our attention.

Building Connections & Community for Gay Men since 1989