Today’s Must-Read: Richard Blanco

If you’re haunted sometimes by memories of “gay terror” from your childhood- especially when it involved family- this essay is for you. In reading it, I recognized so much of the familiar and long-past memories of shame and fear that molded me, that sent me- much later- into the world with clearer purpose. I also recognized the stories of clients and friends- and not just gay friends- many of us eventually disappointed or confused the people who raised us….

Excerpt:

At thirty-one, I sit at a candlelit table across from the man who will be my husband. I tell him about my grandmother and the coping mechanisms I developed; how they naturally led me to writing; mechanisms that became part of my very creative process. Becoming withdrawn and introverted, I grew to become an observer of the world, instead of a participant. In order to survive emotionally I learned to read my environment very carefully and then craft appropriate responses that would (hopefully) prevent abuse and ridicule from my grandmother. I explain to my husband-to-be that I am still that quiet, repressed boy whenever I am in a room full of people, trying to be as invisible as possible, but taking in every detail, sensory as well as emotional, that will eventually surface in a poem.

My work is often described as vivid and lush; relatives often marvel at my recollection in my poems of family events and details. Qualities I attribute directly to the skills spawned from my coping with my abuse. But beyond that, I’ve come to understand why writing and me became such a great fit. It allowed me to participate in the world, to feel alive, while remaining an invulnerable observer, safe in my room, at my desk, in my imagination where no one, especially my grandmother, could hurt me.

It’s beautiful and humble and brilliant. Please read the full essay here. And then, in case you missed it, watch Richard Blanco read his lovely poem at the president’s inauguration yesterday.

The Girl Effect

The infographic below was created by the Girl Effect which is a movement about leveraging the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves, their families and the world. It highlights the problem of child marriage which leads to pregnancy and childbirth which can be fatal for young girls- not to mention damaging to a country’s economy.

Infographic_Girl-Effect

 
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/6-infographics-about-being-a-woman-that-will-make-you-want-to-take-action.html#ixzz2Hrij8zMw

Love Wins!

628x471

Jesse Page, left, and Brendan Taga, exchange wedding vows just after midnight on Sunday, December 9, 2012 at the King County Courthouse in Seattle. Marriage ceremonies were held in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Mary Yu beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, the first day same-sex couples in Washington State can legally be married. Many of the judges donated their time to be at the courthouse to officiate at the weddings. Click pic for more…. Photo: JOSHUA TRUJILLO / SEATTLEPI.COM

The Joys of Parenting

Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be a father. I even asked for a baby doll for Christmas, much to my parents’ chagrin. However, I actually GOT said baby doll. Her name was Tina! Funny how I can remember that. I took her everywhere around the house with me. Made sure she “ate” and changed her diaper. Mom used to watch me with her and she had decided that I would make a fantastic father, someday.

In church, on Sundays, Mom would often take nursery duty. There weren’t that many infants in those days, but she would bring me with her to “help.” Little did she know that my “help” really WAS help. She used to delight in telling people that little babies/children and dogs really love me. Whenever someone was fussy, into my arms they went. And, they quieted down very quickly.

I spent many years believing that I would, someday, be a father. I got married at 19 partly because of that. Now, never you mind that I had come out at 17 for the first time. My desire to be a parent far outweighed the fact that I am gay. And, I knew that the only way I could ever have children was to be married. This was a direct result of growing up in the church with a minister for a father.

Shortly thereafter, I got divorced. A marriage that lasted 9 months, legally. And, I came out again. All of my hopes of parenthood were dashed and I was preparing myself to never think of children again.

Fast forward some years later. I worked my way out of the “pink haze” and I became an adult. (In maturity vs. age – there is a HUGE difference!) I was spending my time around couples of all genders and sexuality. And, there were children. Who knew?

Again, hope flared. Albeit, briefly. I began to look into adoption, but here in the State of Montana, you are more likely to be able to adopt as a single parent, than as a gay couple. Hopes dashed again.

I met a young man at the theatre where I do some music direction and acting. He was a foster kid and really was one of societies throw-aways. He had been in the foster care system since he was 4 years old and was fast approaching 17. We struck up a friendship and then became a bit closer. I was a mentor to him. Eventually, he started calling me, “Dad.” And a family was born.

Fast forward just a few months later. Around the same time I met the young man, I met a single mother with a wonderful daughter. Come to find out, they were our neighbors across the street. We had only just moved in. Well, my partner and I used to spend a lot of time sitting on the front porch. Very late one evening, we send a text to “Mom” saying, “Kid is home. Isn’t she a bit late?” From that, became a surrogate parenthood of a teenage daughter. As a matter of fact, while I sit here writing this, she is staying at our house while her mother is out of town and I am fretting like any other parent because I am waiting for her to come home, the snow is starting to come down and she just got her driver’s license this summer. . .I digress.

Anyway, I read an article that gave me even more hope. Read it here: Foster Parenting

It would appear that in Los Angeles, they are trying to court LGBT couples to become foster parents! Something that we might consider in Montana. Think about it. . .so many children need stable homes. And, how many of us have had the desire to become parents, but lack the funds to adopt or have surrogacy, etc? (By the way, adopting from the foster care system is usually subsidized BY the foster care system! Or at least the costs are greatly reduced.)

So, my point in all of this is, “FAMILY” is defined many ways. There are many opportunities for us to become parents. There are many ways to help children out there. And, there are times for us to be positive role models to young people.

Raging Against The Hate Machine

In light of this:

“the Republican platform included language rejecting not just same-sex marriage but also the watered-down alternative that many elected officials find more palatable: civil unions. The GOP platform committee also defeated a proposed amendment that said all Americans should be treated “equally under the law” as long as they’re not hurting anyone else.”

I present this:

Sullivan In Newsweek:

If you haven’t read Andrew Sullivan’s cover story in this week’s Newsweek, you must. It’s an authoritative synopsis of Obama’s civil rights policy evolution on behalf of the gays. Excerpt:

This, by any measure, is an astonishing pace of change in one presidential term. In four years Obama went from being JFK on civil rights to being LBJ: from giving uplifting speeches to acting in ways to make the inspiring words a reality. And he did so by co-opting the forces of resistance—like the military leadership. He fooled most of us much of the time, our outbursts often intemperate—I went on CNN at one point to say that the president had betrayed the gay community on the military ban. We snarked about the “fierce urgency of whenever.” Our anger built. And sometimes I wonder if he goaded us into “making him do it.” If he did, it worked.

Click the cover for the full essay.

Couple’s Love Inspires A More Equal Montana

By Caitlin Copple

This Valentine’s Day season, many Montanans are blushing about their current crush or building a relationship with that special someone. For same-sex couples here, the butterflies and bliss of true love is often met with a cold, hard legal reality. Only six states and the District of Columbia offer equal marriage rights, and Montana is not one of them. Groups like ACLU of Montana, a recent grantee of The Advocacy Fund at Pride Foundation, are trying to change that by taking a relationship recognition lawsuit to the state Supreme Court.

Kellie, Denise and Morrgan

One of the couples in the ACLU case is Kellie and Denise. They live in Laurel, population roughly 7,000, about 20 miles west of Billings. They are one of six couples who are plaintiffs in the ACLU’s current Guggenheim v. Montana case currently before the state Supreme Court.

Kellie and Denise have been together for 11 years. They’ve raised Kellie’s two children from a previous marriage, and recently jointly adopted Kellie’s 5-year-old nephew, Morrgan. Denise, 47, is a middle school science teacher and a basketball coach. Kellie, 48, worked for many years at a juvenile detention center, but is now on disability because she suffers from a rare brain condition that has required 56 brain surgeries and over 300 spinal taps over the past decade.

Heterosexual married state employees automatically receive 10 days of bereavement leave when a family member or in-law dies, but Denise was denied bereavement leave by her employer when Kellie’s father died last April. This was despite the fact that the couple had a private commitment ceremony in 2001, witnessed by about 30 friends and family members present. They are just like most Montanans – they are active at church, and they love to travel, camp, and fish. Unlike most Montanans, their relationship doesn’t “count” according to state and federal law.

Kellie credits Denise standing by her for being able to make it through her health problems: “She never left me when I was so sick,” she says. “I endure her relentless love of sports and she endures my need for dogs. I love her to infinity and beyond!”

“Kellie and Denise have been incredibly helpful with their participation in Fair is Fair events,” said the ACLU’s LGBT organizer Liz Welch, who is based in Billings. “One of the most touching things to watch is the tenderness and protectiveness they have for each other while at these public events. I admire these two and their affectionate, playful relationship all the more because of the obstacles I know they have had to overcome.”

Guggenheim v. Montana is currently before the Montana Supreme Court. Both sides have submitted briefs and multiple amicus briefs have also been filed in support of both side of the case. Supporting amicus are 65 Montana Religious Leaders, American Psychological Association, Legal Voice, Montana Human Rights Network and Gary J. Gates and MV Lee Badgett. According to Welch, the ACLU expects a court date to be set in the very near future.

Here’s to hoping this is the last Valentine’s Day Montana’s same-sex couples spend being treated unfairly under the law.

To keep updated on the case, as well as other projects of the ACLU of Montana, please visit:www.fairisfairmontana.org or email lwelch@acluofmontana.org to volunteer or sign a petition in support of the lawsuit.

Caitlin Copple is the Montana Regional Development Organizer for the Pride Foundation. Feel free to email her at Caitlin@pridefoundation.org with blog ideas or to volunteer.This story first appeared in Pride Foundation’s Blog.

“Boys Don’t Kiss Boys Here”

A brilliant, heartwarming and serious look at the way gender hyper-stereotypes may be crushing our children’s spirits, from The Good Men Project:

“Time to clean up your toys and come downstairs to say our goodbyes.” I yell upstairs as two sweet boys come sliding down the stairs, giggling—still covered in markers and delight.

English: A young girl kisses a baby on the cheek.

“Give your friend a great big hug and a kiss and tell him we’ll see him soon,”

“Mom, I can’t kiss him.”

“Why not?” I ask with a smile, imagining some funny, as-only-kids-will-say statement. Sadly, my smile withdrew as I heard the following response come out of my child’s mouth.

“Because Sam’s mom said that boys aren’t allowed to kiss each other.”

Fear. It creeps in like a villain who, even after dying one thousand times over by the hands of the comic book hero, manages to live on.

This incident left me befuddled. It felt similar to a time when my son showed a love of dance that was so intense it only made sense to enroll him in lessons. At three years old, he was the only boy in a class of all girls. Comments from other parents were surprising.  My husband was particularly frustrated when one mother said, “Wow—that’s great of you. I just don’t think I can enroll her brother in dance. My husband would kill me.”

As a mother of a boy in a post-feminist society, I stopped a sole focus on career aspirations and cracking that ever-present glass ceiling and instead, altered my sightline.  Raising a boy is one feat, and requires presence of mind and reaction timing surpassing that of an NFL quarterback. To raise a man, however, requires forethought and an open mind. It made perfect sense that Tom Matlack started Good Men Project—what struck me in my desire to better parent a boy, is how little support and information there is out there to do just that.

You may remember the story about the kid whose mom let him dress up as Daphne for Halloween- this essay is just as frank, just as important and asks some very important questions.

Please read the whole essay here.

Majority of Montana Voters Support Same-Sex Domestic Partnerships

 

No, seriously- Welcome!

I mentioned this in passing yesterday, but a newly released poll shows that a majority of voters in Montana support domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. That poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the American Civil Liberties Union, found that 53 percent of Montana voters favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into domestic partnerships.

“Support of same-sex domestic partnerships is growing, and now we can quantify what our day-to-day interactions with people are telling us,” said ACLU of Montana LGBT Advocacy Coordinator Ninia Baehr. “It’s heartening to know that people understand that every loving and committed couple who pays taxes in our state deserves fairness.”

The change in attitude mirrors an increase in the number of same-sex couples in Montana reporting their households to the U.S. Census Bureau. Recently released numbers show 2,295 same-sex households in the 2010 Census – a 54 percent jump since 2000.

Key Highlights of 2011 Polling

  • Most Montanans favor domestic partnership. By a 13 point margin, voters in Montana favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into domestic partnerships – 53 percent favor, 40 percent oppose. There is more intensity among those who favor; 35 percent strongly favor, while 29 percent strongly oppose.
  • More than half of Catholics (55 percent) favor domestic partnerships, including 36 percent who strongly favor allowing domestic partnerships. This measure also wins the support of nearly half (47 percent) of seniors, a majority of older women (54 percent), and blue collar women (52 percent).
  • Support for domestic partnerships seems to be increasing. A 2008 survey conducted by Lake Research Partners asked voters a four-part question asking them to choose between traditional marriage, marriage with another name, civil unions, and no legal recognition. The survey found that 33 percent of Montanans thought that gay and lesbian couples should have the same right to marry as straight couples, or should have the same right to marry but it should not be called marriage.2
  • Voters recognize discrimination against gays and lesbians. A 47 percent plurality believe gay people in Montana face a lot of discrimination; only 38 percent think that gays and lesbians in the state do not face much discrimination.

People understand that the lack of legal recognition of same-sex relationships leaves couples extremely vulnerable. In Montana examples of unfairness toward same-sex couples include a woman who was denied bereavement leave when her partner’s father died, and another woman who lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident.

“Same-sex couples have told us time and again that they are meeting more and more people who sympathize with their plight,” said Baehr. “This polling reinforces the growing support those couples have been experiencing.”

While it’s not exactly marriage, I’ll take it. For now.

This shows the evolution of the Montana voter’s attitude is in favor of eventual, full equality-and this change in attitude has a cause. This is happening because more of us are simply visible as co-workers, neighbors, children, siblings and friends. We are not a threat, we’re just people.

I’m particularly impressed with the Catholics- and not surprised, really. This is about social justice for us- not particularly about morality. Even though the hierarchy is deeply out of touch on this issue, this is a reminder that the sense of the people in the pews is leading the church here. My mother would have agreed- I know the rest of my Catholic family does.

In the eyes of Montanans, “The Gays” are slowly changing from scary bogeymen into recognizable human beings. Never underestimate the power unleashed by broken closet doors….

More info here.