October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
Today is National Coming Out Day. Why do we mark this event? Because coming out is awesome! What could be more delightful than celebrating your identity? I’m a fan.
The queer community at my school organized an event in the main plaza with music, rainbow flags, and a physical closet door that you could open and walk through. They also made a bunch of OUT and ALLY pins. I had class but was able to swing by towards the end of the event, hoping to pick up an ALLY button. Which means that I didn’t get a pin, but also that hundreds of my peers were excited about publicly declaring their alliance with the queer community. Sweet.
One more thing: This day is a wonderful opportunity to come out and to talk about the process of doing so. What’s not so wonderful, but what I’ve seen illustrated on more than one occasion, is the subtle implication that if you’re not ready to come out, you’ve somehow failed at the equality cause.
But sometimes that pressure can be negative, and I’d just like to say that rushing someone “out” is not constructive. It’s okay to still be questioning, still figuring things out. It doesn’t make you less of a member of the queer-and-allied community. Those who are questioning deserve our support just as much as those who are queer.
October 2, 2010 § Leave a comment
- On September 21, the Senate failed to pass a bill that included the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ They were four votes short, despite the Democratic majority.
- On September 22, gay college student Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge to his death after his roommate Dhuram Ravi twice posted videos online of him making out with another man.
- On September 9, Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old high school freshman hung himself in his family’s barn after intense bullying for his perceived sexual orientation from his classmates. In interviews, his principal, the person that’s supposed to have the best interest of all students at heart, said that Billy sometimes created “that atmosphere [of teasing] around him… Kind of like a little tornado because he went around doing things that made dust fly, I guess.” After Billy’s suicide, hateful and accusatory remarks were posted on his memorial page.
- The cases of Tyler Clementi and Billy Lucas are not anomalies.
- Andrew Shirvell, Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General, has decided to take a voluntary leave of absence after getting nationwide attention for creating a website devoted to the shaming and bashing of University of Michigan’s openly gay student assembly president, Chris Armstrong. Despite the fact that Shirvell has clearly expressed his bias against a significant group of people–not to mention an oppressed minority that is in need of defense–when a large part of his JOB DESCRIPTION is to uphold the rights that everyone is granted by the constitution, Attorney General Mike Cox has refused to discipline or dismiss him.
- According to a ten-year study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 9 out of 10 LGBT students are harassed in school. 72.4% of students hear homophobic remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently at school. In the last month 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30% missed at least one day of school due to safety concerns.
Have I depressed you enough? The list goes on and on and on.
What, if anything, can we take from all this? America has a serious problem. A problem of heteronormative expectations about sexuality and gender expression and a problem of viciously attacking those who don’t fit into these norms. While this problem is damaging to everyone, it predominantly affects young people. From the White House to the playground the message is clear: You’re icky, you’re different, you’re wrong, you’re not like us. We wish you’d go away.
So what do we do? Do something! Do anything! Post on Dan Savage’s It Gets Better youtube channel. Attend an upcoming event. Start a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school. Support GLSEN, The Trevor Project, Matthew’s Place, Angels and Doves and Stomp Out Bullying! Participate in Ally Week.
Be active, be kind, and be hopeful. Hope is what we need more than anything. To use the eternally relevant and powerful words of Harvey Milk: You’ve gotta give ’em hope.
September 24, 2010 § Leave a comment
…apply to be a part of this ABSOLUTELY DOPE program!
Teen Outreach Reproductive Challenge (TORCH) is a program of NARAL Pro-Choice New York that will pay you to teach other students about sexual health.
TORCH is a nationally recognized peer education program that trains high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are interested in reproductive rights and related topics to give presentations to other youth groups throughout New York City.
Participants must be available to attend trainings in our Manhattan office from 4-6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays from December through June.
TORCH provides young people with a community in which to build their self esteem, learn leadership skills, discuss reproductive health issues, and educate themselves and others to make intelligent decisions.
The application deadline is October 18, 2010 so APPLY TODAY!
I truly wish I had known about TORCH before I got too old to apply. I encourage you to take advantage of this amazing opportunity! Apply here.
August 26, 2010 § 1 Comment
Remember this epic fail of an article from back in April, in which Newsweek posited that young voters, women in particular, are “lukewarm” on pro-choice politics and think abortion rights “don’t need defending”?
Ugh. If you’d forgotten, I’m sorry to bring it up.
The article relies heavily on commentary from Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. To be fair, there are not many direct quotes from her, but there are monumentally disheartening paragraphs like this:
NARAL president Nancy Keenan had grown fearful about the future of her movement even before the health-care debate. Keenan considers herself part of the “postmenopausal militia,” a generation of baby-boomer activists now well into their 50s who grew up in an era of backroom abortions and fought passionately for legalization. Today they still run the major abortion-rights groups, including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women.
Ahem. Emphasis on the “they still run.” Young women, and particularly young women of color, are systematically kept out of the boardroom and away from leadership positions in non-profit and advocacy groups. Latifa Lyles’ campaign for president of NOW is a perfect example of this. Notes from the campaign in June 2009:
Both contenders [Latifa Lyles and Terry O’Neill] expect the election to be close, and both are promoting themselves as best able to bolster NOW’s membership.
“We are not the strongest grass-roots movement we can be — we both agree on that,” Lyles said. “The question is how we deal with that.”
Noting that she contrasts with NOW’s mostly white and over-40 membership, Lyles said she could help give NOW a new image of youth and diversity that would appeal to younger feminists and reinvigorate the broader movement.
“The profile of NOW is just as important as the work we do,” she said. “There are a lot of antiquated notions about what feminism is.”
Lyles, a 33-year-old black vice president of the organization, was edged out by 56-year-old white activist Terry O’Neill, despite an enthusiastic endorsement by NOW’s then-president Kim Gandy. Qualified, passionate, well-recommended… but not elected. Clearly it’s not for lack of interest that young women aren’t running the pro-choice show.
Back to Keenan and NARAL.
These leaders will retire in a decade or so. And what worries Keenan is that she just doesn’t see a passion among the post-Roe generation — at least, not among those on her side.
THIS SHIT IS OUTRAGEOUS. MY PRO-CHOICE GIRLS GOT PASSION RUNNING OUT THEIR EARS. For me, the cherry on top is that I have been volunteering at NARAL Pro-Choice New York, the state affiliate of the national NARAL, for years.
I just don’t know what we have to do to be seen and heard. Online activism isn’t taken seriously, apparently — even though groups like NARAL certainly rely on blogs and social networking sites to get the word out. But it seems that the hundreds of hours of in-person volunteer work that this lady, right here has contributed — collecting petition signatures for the Reproductive Health Act, calling voters in support of pro-choice candidates, distributing condoms and information about emergency contraception, blah blah blah — aren’t taken seriously either.
Jessica Valenti was so fucking right on when she wrote of this debacle last summer:
Who do you think has been making your photocopies and volunteering and organizing for these big organizations all of these years?
The work of the mainstream pro-choice movement is built on younger women’s labor — unpaid and underpaid — who do the majority of the grunt work but who are rarely recognized. And I don’t know about you — but I’m sick of working so hard on behalf of a movement that continues to insist that we don’t exist.
Where would NARAL Pro-Choice America or NOW be without the work done by younger women?
Who would do their outreach? Who would volunteer? Who would take unpaid internships? Who would carry their action items on blogs and forward them by email, Facebook and Twitter? Who would Blog for Choice?
Seriously, what would happen if young women decided they had enough of being ignored and started simply decided to stop working for these organizations? Even if for a month young women boycotted the organizations that refuse to acknowledge their hard work — the movement would fall on its ass.
And there’s the rub — young women don’t want to forsake this movement. We don’t want to let it crumble to the side of the road, because control over our own bodies is infinitely more important than “postmenopausal militia” doubt about our commitment. Dropping out of the race is counterproductive. We’re still running, we’re still working damn fucking hard, no matter what any president says.
Edited for clarity on August 27.
August 3, 2010 § 9 Comments
Nationwide retailer Target (alternative pronunciation: Tar-zhay) has wound up on many people’s consumer shit lists (mine included) due to the recent news that an executive at the Minnesota based chain donated $150,000 to a Republican candidate who is against LGBT rights legislation. But wait–there’s more! In the past, Target’s CEO has given money to such fine, upstanding individuals as Michele Bachmann.
I’m shocked and disappointed by this behavior, because according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Buying For Equality 2010 guide, it has a prefect score, meaning that it has policies supporting LGBT employees in place.
I want to do more than just write the requisite “I’m-not-going-to-buy-your-stuff” letters to Target higher-ups.
So, fellow readers and contributors, I’m looking for creative and effective ways to protest Target’s recent decisions that:
-Will not get me arrested (being asked to leave a store, or being banned from a store is fine.)
-Will not make other Target employees jobs more difficult. So, while Karen’s suggestions would certainly get the point across, that would lead to a lot of pointless work for employees that have little control over the retailer’s policies.
-Will be effective regardless of the number of people participating.
-Will be enjoyable to do.
Shopping should not have to be a constant weighing of the lesser of two evils. And I fail to see how maintaining a healthy business, and promoting basic human rights are mutually exclusive issues. Shame on you, Target.
UPDATE: Target’s CEO has issued an apology for their donation to Rep. Emmer, but many organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign aren’t convinced that Target’s apology is genuine, and want the mass retail to back up their words with actions. I’m still looking for protest ideas, because I’m not buying their apology, either.
UPDATE, PART TWO: I’ve come up with a pretty cool idea for a protest, which involves dressing up as Zombie Michele Bachmanns, and doing the Thriller dance outside a Target store. Are any readers in the Grand Rapids, MI area interested in joining in?
UPDATE, PART THREE (THOUSAND): A flash mob group performed an adapted version of DEVO’s “People are People” in the Target store. Check out their video below.
May 7, 2010 § 1 Comment
…we need you!
I have been personally connected to this bill for the past two years. I’ve collected petition signatures at street fairs, hand-delivered hundreds of signatures to my state senator Eric Schneiderman, written letters to my representatives, and called voters all across the state to rally support for the bill.
And I’ve been overwhelmingly outraged at how fucking long it’s taken to pass this thing — thanks in no small part to our childish state senators! Now is the time to pass the Reproductive Health Act. Join NARAL in calling voters to transfer them directly to their representatives and reiterate support for this bill. Details are below; visit their events page for more information.
Secondly, NARAL is welcoming new volunteers into its Activist Leadership Circle, a committed and absolutely inspiring group of advocates that I’ve been part of since its inception in January 2009 (coincidentally, right around the time that Women’s Glib was created!).
The anti-choice movement gets a lot of attention for its organizing strategies. But you know as well as we do that pro-choice activists are impassioned, excited, and eager to get out there to enact our pro-choice values.
The Activist Leadership Circle is NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s core network of highly active volunteers, trained by our community organizing staff to help guide our advocacy efforts. The Activist Leadership Circle meets once a month to discuss current reproductive health issues, learn about opportunities to participate and lead upcoming advocacy efforts, and develop new initiatives and campaigns.
After attending our four-part series of new member trainings, members of the Circle join one of three Action Groups: Outreach Action Group, Political and Legislative Action Group, and Reproductive Health Education Group. Our new member welcome and training kicks off on Wednesday, May 12. Join us!
Below is the complete new member training and event schedule:
Wednesday, May 12, 6:00-8:00 p.m.: “Welcome & NARAL Pro-Choice New York 101”
Wednesday, May 19, 6:00-8:00 p.m.: “How to Talk about the Issues and Take Action”
Thursday, May 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m.: “Pro-Choice Action – Phone Bank”
Wednesday, June 2, 6:00-8:00 p.m.: “Graduation and Welcome Party”
For more information and to RSVP, please contact Lalena Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-520-3506.
April 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
Do you know about NYAAF, the New York Abortion Access Fund? It’s pretty damn cool: people donate to a central fund that pays for all or part of an abortion procedure for low-income women. They work across New York State, and beyond — they have brought women “from as far away as Texas, Utah, and Bermuda to access safe legal abortion in New York.” The best part? It has an all-volunteer staff, so any contribution you make goes directly and entirely to women in need.
You can donate directly to NYAAF at any time, but you can also get involved with their fun fundraising events. On Sunday May 2, NYAAF will host Words of Choice, a night of dynamic pro-choice theater.
Words of Choice is performed by an ensemble of actors and weaves together the words of many writers…These are stories from the heart: humorous and serious; poignant and riveting, from theater, spoken word, comedy, poetry, oral history and journalism.
Chow Bar, 5-7:30pm
Happy hour prices are from 5-7pm and entail wine for $5, beer for $3, and Chow Bar cocktails are half price at $6.
Remember that your $20 entrance fee goes directly and entirely to low-income women in need of abortion funding.
For more information, RSVP to the Facebook event.