The Return

My week off has been full- Seattle, Spokane, Sand Point, best friends, family (marriage in NY!) Ken’s marathon, Seattle Pride, friends, more friends, walking, cats, dogs, Canadians, Sisters, sun, reunions, lots of good food and an amazing amount of time in the car.

I have lots to share, and I’ll get to it. Promise.

I just need some time to do the laundry- I’m out of underwear.

Pride Vigil (text)

I had some requests to put up the text for the Pride Vigil for Memory, Strength and Hope which we did on Saturday night at The Emerson. There will be more to come, but before I put Gregory and Patricia on the airplane, I’ll just post this here….

 

The darkness can be frightening.

We have sometimes been very afraid here in the State of Montana, because at times, it has been very, very dark.

We have lost good men and women and children to HIV/AIDS.

We have been bullied and teased and yes, driven from our very homes and schools and communities. We have been killed and we have killed ourselves. We have been legislated against and told by official political platforms that we are criminals.

We have been hurt here under this big, dark sky.

But there is light.

There are people whose bravery have driven away darkness. Whose voices refuse to give in to hopelessness or complacency or fear. You know those voices in your lives. You also are those voices. And when we use our voices to proclaim the goodness of our lives and the lives of our brothers, sisters, parents, children and friends- the light grows stronger.

The bravery is here.

Look around you now. Look at the strength that surrounds us.

Look at the light. Now share the light.

(candles lighted)

This light is in your hands. It belongs to you. It has always belonged to you.

Share it. And remember the lives that have lived with pain to bring us here- to this place of hope and triumph.

Now we take a moment to remember our loves, our losses, our reasons for hope.  (silence)

Today is a gorgeous day in Montana History, because the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Two-Spirited People and our Allies will not let this light die.

We will not be afraid.

We will stand up when we are told to lie down.
We will speak when anyone tries to shame us into silence.
We will remain when we are told to leave.
We will proclaim the truth.
Firmly and gently and clearly and proudly.
The truth that we are light.
And that light makes Montana more beautiful, not less.  More.

If you believe it, say Amen!
If you promise to live it, say Amen!
If you promise to not give up, say Amen!

I hear the dance music next door, and I’m reminded of the words of Joe Jervis:

They wish we were invisible.
We’re not.
Let’s Dance!

 

Montana Pride 2011

(Click here for info)

We’re gearing up! Patricia and Gregory Hinton arrive today from Cali, and I’ve been cleaning and putting away all the stuff we can’t hide in the garage- boy it takes a long time to unpack… Besides all the eventse’re also hosting a Barbecue fundraiser for the Pride Foundation on Sunday. Needless to say, I’ll be busier than a hooker on Dollar Day- so posts will be a bit light, but I promise a recap next week.

Anyway, the Montana Pride Schedule is available here, just click the picture. Please check for info regarding events, bios, etc. I am especially excited about Out West Montana’s event at the Bozeman Public Library on Saturday. Patricia’s a great story teller, and I’m sure it’ll be a great hit.

So have funIf you see me, say HI!

Know Any Closeted Gay/Bi MT Men?

We want to know about your/their lives! A grad student at the U of M is working on a very worthwhile project to help us understand the reality of men in Montana who have sex with men (MSM) but are not out or do not identify as gay or bi. This is important work, so if you can assist us, it would be greatly appreciated. 

~

I am a researcher with the University of Montana collecting information about sexual health attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, I am interested in understanding more about men who are closeted or not open about having sex with other men.

I am looking to anonymously interview men who have sex with other men who live in Montana and are between the ages of 18 and 69.

I realize what a personal topic this is, so I want to emphasize that this study is completely ANONYMOUS. If you would be willing to participate in this study, you can contact me at (406) 552 – 2115 or amee1.schwitters@umconnect.umt.edu orum.menshealthsurvey@gmail.com. We can then arrange a time to conduct the (one) interview over the telephone or we can meet in person. The interviews will be audio recorded and then typed into a word processor. The audio will then be destroyed. Your name will NOT be associated with this study in any way, nor will your location or any identifying information be mentioned. As an incentive for your participation, I would like to offer you $25.00.

This study has been approved by the University of Montana Institutional Review Board (IRB 63-10) expires 03-2012 (A copy of the approved IRB application can be provided). Again, if you are interested or even potentially interested in participating in this study, please contact me at (406) 552 – 2115 or amee1.schwitters@umconnect.umt.edu or um.menshealthsurvey@gmail.com.

Thank you for your consideration.
Amee Schwitters, MPH
PhD Candidate
University of Montana
Department of Anthropology

HRC, GLAAD, Montana and Lady Gaga

Some clarifications about yesterday’s post- especially addressing the concerns and comments from the same post on LGBTQ Nation:

They do some great things, but HRC did not do its homework. The Montana GOP was first in it’s criminalization plank, back in the mid-90′s according to Bowen Greenwood on Brian Kahn’s Home Ground (Yellowstone Public Radio, Sept 2010). According to its press release, HRC thinks Montana copied Texas. The reality is that Texas either copied Montana or sadly, came up with it on its own.

http://www.ypradio.org/programs/local/home_ground.html

GLAAD did not report on the this issue until September 20, 2010 when the Montana AP went national with this issue.

http://www.glaad.org/page.aspx?pid=1871

They knew about it in mid June 2010 , when the Montana 2010 GOP Plank was issued.

If Lady Gaga knew that Montana, Wyoming and Idaho were not on the radar of the national gay rights agenda, I wonder how fast the shit would hit the fan…. The fact is, there is a priority system in favor of numbers- not ideology, among the big gay rights organizations. And sexy publicity that makes noise and press gets the action- not oppressive legislation or codified bigotry affecting only a fraction of the population.

It’s not right. All persecuted human beings in the USA deserve equal support- even in the less populous states.

That’s all my post was supposed to say. That’s all I want- equal treatment for all by the equal rights organizations to which I belong. Not third-class citizenship based on where someone happens to be born, work or live.

I am a member of HRC. I have been for years. I am not ready to give up on them- or GLAAD, not yet- but I do want them to know that we are paying attention out here.

And, hopefully, you are, too.

Tracy Morgan And Montana

You may have heard that actor Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) mentioned in his stand up act in Nashville Tennessee that if his son were gay, he would “pull out a knife and stab” him.

Of course, GLAAD and HRC were all over him, as were many in the LGBT and the mainstream media. And Morgan later apologized.

So what does Tracy Morgan have to do with the State of Montana?

Well, Montana got away with it.

Both the actor’s statements and the official Montana Republican Party Platform plank calling for the criminalization of The Gays are equally offensive to me. Morgan’s statement much like the Montana GOP sends a clear and dangerous message to gay and lesbian youth: You are not our equal. You are criminally offensive.

Tracy Morgan is one man, the Montana GOP represents a whole STATE.

So, where was GLAAD? Where was HRC? Where were the Log Cabin Republicans? Where was our local media?

Just another reason to not renew my HRC membership this year. To the big LGBT rights organizations, it seems, Montana doesn’t matter.

We’re collateral damage.

 

 

 

States Of Union: A Project Worth Supporting

Have you ever thought of an idea that would make a good project, but maybe just didn’t have the wherewithal, the resources or the drive to see it through? Or have you ever seen something totally engaging that you knew you could wholeheartedly support?

Recently I’ve come across something that I love, both in idea and in practice, and I would like you to take a look with me….

Alix Smith is a brilliant photographer who has received recognition for her art. But she has recently decided to change things up. More specifically, she has chosen to document non-traditional, same-sex families in traditional, beautiful ways. “I wanted to show people the beauty of all families, that there’s nothing to be afraid of,” she told me.

And she does it beautifully. Not only that, she has a vision.

I asked her to share it with you:

States of Union is a photographic project that documents gay and lesbian couples and families in the style of the classic masterpieces. As a lesbian I conceived of this project to fill the void I experienced in my own coming out process – I had no paradigms, no role models, no historical examples, and no contemporary exemplars of what my family might look like.

In order to truly do justice to the subject matter and show the diversity represented in our community I am currently raising funds to facilitate travel to photograph families from states that are not traditionally perceived as gay-friendly (e.g, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma,  Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Georgia, Virginia, Wyoming, and Washington)

The more the world is permeated with images of loving and committed same-sex couples and families, the harder it will be for same-sex relationships to be considered “other.

Your donation will help give these families a voice. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing site, meaning if I don’t reach my entire goal before the deadline on JUNE 14TH AT 8PM I will not receive any of the funding.

To support this project go to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alixsmith/states-of-union-portraits-of-same-sex-families

Please email, blog or tweet this!  Each donation level has an accompanying reward  No amount is insignificant – even $5 will bring me closer to the kickstarter goal.”

I am so in. Made a pledge, in fact.

I’d like you to consider it, too. If nothing else, to help erase fear and bring a greater awareness of truth and beauty to our country- and to the world.


Two Spirits: Coming To Montana PBS

Two Spirits, a film by Lydia Nibley, is coming to PBS this Sunday, June 12th at 10:30 pm through the program Independent Lens- and I want to encourage you to watch it.

It is an amazing film which “interweaves the tragic story of a mother’s loss of her son with a revealing look at a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female- and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.”

I’ve talked about this remarkable film before. My friend and collaborator Gregory Hinton gave an excellent introduction to the film when it was screened at the Autry as part of our Out West series last summer. Part of his memorable remarks were these:

The city and the country have a lot to catch up on.  We have much to teach each other. To protect our rural kids, and our rural elders, our community must be visible, like a porch light streaming into the western night sky.

And now, to Lydia and Russell, the filmmakers of Two Spirits, thank you for your advocacy by flipping on the switch.

Two Spirits is the story of Fred Martinez, a Navajo boy who was also a girl. It is also the story of Pauline Mitchell, the mother who loved him, who prayed every night for his safe return.

It speaks to the prescience of the Navajo culture.  Imagine a time where Two Spirit children were adored, their talents cultivated, their spirits revered.

The World Premiere of Two Spirits was sponsored by the Matthew Shepard Foundation in Denver.  I recently told Judy Shepard that in addition to experiencing bias as a gay man, I have also experienced bias as a rural westerner. I asked her if Matt loved Wyoming. Judy told me he stayed in Laramie because it was home and he loved the out of doors.

The love of mothers and courage of sons astonishes.

Stay home if you want. Be who you are. This is the mission of Out West.

Check your local listings here, and watch the trailer below:

Get Yourself Tested, You’re > AIDS

Two HIV awareness campaigns are teaming up this month to promote HIV testing and treatment. The Get Yourself Tested campaign (GYT) and Greater Than AIDS (>AIDS) have teamed up for National HIV Testing Awareness Month, to promote greater awareness of the importance of HIV testing, treatment and education.

As we mark 30 years of AIDS, it’s worth noting the tremendous progress made in terms of the life-saving treatments now available, but to benefit from these advances one must first know their status,” said Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President & Director, Health Communication & Media Partnerships, Kaiser Family Foundation, a partner on both campaigns.  “Be Greater Than AIDS:  Get Yourself Tested is an empowering, uplifting message that makes getting tested an act of pride, not shame.”

“Our audience has never known a time without HIV, but through efforts like GYT, we’re committed to empowering them to forge a world where HIV doesn’t exist,” said Jason Rzepka, Vice President of Public Affairs, MTV.  “We’re proud to join with this remarkable coalition and reinforce regular testing as one way America’s youth can be greater than AIDS.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the more than one million Americans living with HIV today, one in five of those infected don’t know their status. The CDC encourages all Americans between the ages of 13-64 to get tested on a routine basis as part of their overall health and well-being similar to cholesterol, blood pressure, and other screens.

More here.

Fear is useless, get the test. The key to a longer, healthier life with HIV is early diagnosis and treatment. So if you’ve been thinking about it, do it. If you need a friend to go with you, call someone. Better yet, grab your best friend and just go together.

Today.

The key to preventing this disease is treating the people who already have it. We know that people who are taking their meds are much less likely to pass on the virus. And if they don’t pass on the virus, it can’t spread. The greatest reason for this epidemic today is this: people who don’t know their status- who are HIV infected and are not treating it, are infecting their partners. Treatment may well be the greatest key to prevention.

Let’s stop the cycle.

Click here to find a testing site near you.