Thursday, October 4, 2012

Anniversary Challenge!

This week, my partner Les and I celebrated our 19th anniversary.  We chose to use our anniversary to make a statement and engage others about marriage equality.  You see, because we are both gay men and happen to be in love with one another and not someone of the opposite sex, our relationship is reduced to "boyfriend," "lover," or "partner" status opposed to having the right to marriage.  We would prefer to have spent the entirety of our anniversary in celebration, but felt that instead, we should visit our local county courthouse and demand a marriage license.  As we were walking into the building, a very happy opposite sex couple was leaving with a license in hand.  We entered the Clerk's office, took a number (D 134), and sat down to fill out our application.  Discrimination was evident from the get-go as we had to scratch out "Bride" in multiple place on the application and replace it with "Groom number 2".  When our number was up, we handed our application and drivers licenses to the lady behind the desk.  She looked the paper over, as well as our IDs and promptly informed us that due to a Florida statute, she would be unable to issue us a license because we are a same sex couple.  We discussed the issue with her, and even asked if she agreed with the statute (which she refused to answer).  We remained civil but made sure to push the issue a little instead of just taking her "no" and leaving.  I even asked her if she would be willing to step outside of the box and simply do the right thing.

I have organized marriage counter actions like this, and have participated in them before.  These can be powerful actions as they put faces to the issue.  They force government workers to look us in the eye while enforcing institutionalized homophobic discrimination.  They show our friends and neighbors, our coworkers, those waiting in the lobby with us that LGBT people are everywhere, and it isn't just New Englanders and Californians who think marriage equality is important.  While we were there, friends of ours discussed our action with a family who was there supporting an 18 year old getting her own marriage license.  This family cheered and applauded us as we left the building.  I guarantee you that the lady working the desk as well as the family in the waiting room went home and talked to others about the gay couple who was not allowed to get married.  When these people next hear a politician say something good or bad about "same-sex" marriage, instead of it being an abstract concept, they have real life people to associate with it.  That is huge!

Les and I issue a challenge to all LGBT couples out there:  when your anniversary comes around, if you live in a state where you cannot get married, visit the marriage counter!  Put your faces and names out there, let as many people as possible see us for the human beings with families we are.  This is an example of a simple, very low-risk action.  If you have never organized a protest or direct action before, this is one of the easiest to do.

Here are some simple steps for having a marriage counter action of your own.
1.  Plan ahead if possible.  You might want to get the word out, a crowd of friends can help to dramatize and further publicize your action.
2.  Prepare messaging.  Messaging is very important.  You want to pick one or two main talking points, main issues or reasons for doing what  you are doing.  Come up with different ways to express those talking points and practice getting those words out as eloquently as possible.
3.  Notify press.  Press is very important, but not everybody is comfortable talking to a camera or reporter, so be prepared with one or two strong bullet points.  It is best to send out an advisory a day or two ahead of time, and a press release the morning of your action. I would be more than happy to help with composing press releases, you can email me anytime!
4.  Come prepared.  While it is extremely rare, some offices in the past have decided to issued marriage licenses.  I can think of nothing worse than a couple showing up, a clerk saying yes, and that couple not having the required documentation or money ready.  You can find information on what is required in your state/county by clicking here!
5.  Be civil.  This can be a very emotional experience.  Even though you know you most likely will be turned down, it still can be hard to hear the words.  It is important to remain as civil as possible during the interaction with the government workers.  The last thing you want is to be perceived as rude or spiteful because, remember, those you interact with will see you as the face of marriage equality when the topic comes up in the future.
6.  Be strong and consistent.  Just because you are being civil, it does not mean you have to meekly take the "no" and leave.  Engage the worker with questions and statements.  Ask them why they cannot give you a license.  Ask for documentation, statute numbers, etc.  Many clerk's offices have had some training on this and will actually have a copy of your state's marriage statue on hand to provide you.  Give them a personal story, a reason why marriage is important to you as a couple.  Give them a statistic or two about "traditional" marriage in the USA.  You could also ask to speak to their supervisor and go through a similar scenario.  When you are done, thank them for their time.
7.  Get pictures and video!  Have a friend or family member take pictures and/or get video of your visit.  This is very important.  Direct action should always be documented.  Share pictures and videos online, particularly on social networking sites, share your experience with people (we all have friends or associates who don't really get why this is important, this can help educate them).
8.  Debrief.  Write about your experiences as soon as possible after your action.  Write, video log, audio, however you are most comfortable documenting things.  This gives you something to fall back on in the future, and gives a record of your experience.

I hope these steps help those of you who want to take part in our challenge.  Again, you can email me anytime with questions or comments.  So, couples, are you up for the challenge? 


Sunday, August 19, 2012

RNC in Tampa: What not to bring!

Well, as many of you know, Tampa is about to host the Republican National Convention.  Obviously, there will be a lot of protest activity around the convention.  There will be demonstrations, rallies, marches, you name it, it will probably be happening throughout the week of 08-27.  What you aren't hearing a lot about is the list of prohibited items in what is being called the "event zone".  Kind of long and confusing, but if you are planning on heading out to protest, you really should spend some time looking not only at the list, but the full ordinance for the RNC.  It is important to think outside of the box when looking at the list.  For instance, puppets (except for maybe sock puppets) would be prohibited because their parts may fit into several of the prohibited item categories.  Want to wave the rainbow flag?  Don't do so with a flagpole unless it is less than less than 2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick.  Basically, there isn't much you CAN bring other than yourself and signs (be sure if you have posts holding those signs up that they are "within" dimensions.  I URGE anybody planning on protesting to pay close attention to this list so as not to give authorities a reason to badger you or arrest you.

Anything made of lumber, wood, or wood product unless it is 1/4 inch or less in thickness and 2 inches or less in width, or if not rectangular in shape, it shall not exceed 3/4 inch in its thickest dimension.  If an item does not exceed these dimensions it is allowed only if the object is not filled with any material, liquid or gas
and both ends of the length of lumber, wood, or other wood product are blunt and not pointed.

Anything made of metal, plastic, or any other hard material whether hollow or solid shall not exceed 3/4 inch thickness in its thickest dimension, and 1/8 inch in wall thickness.  If an item does not exceed these dimensions it is allowed only if the object is not filled with any material, liquid or gas
and both ends of the length of lumber, wood, or other wood product are blunt and not pointed.

Aerosol cans.

The following items, defined as weapons: air rifle, air pistol, paintball rifle, explosive, blasting cap(s), switchblade, hatchet, ax, slingshot, BB gun, pellet gun, wrist shot, slung shot, blackjack, metal knuckles, nun chucks, mace, iron buckle, ax handle, chain, crowbar, hammer, shovel or any club or bludgeon or any other instrumentality used or intended to be used to cause property or personal damage. (except for guns, if you have a carry permit, you can have guns -- yeah, that still makes no sense).

Any container or inflatable device filled with urine, fecal matter, blood or any other bodily fluid.

Any container filled with any liquid, solid or gas.

Any projectile launcher or other device which may be used for the purpose of launching, hurling, throwing or spraying any object, liquid material or other substance. The prohibited items shall include but are not limited
to, water guns, super soakers and water cannons.

Rope, chain, string, strapping wire, cable, string, line, tape, or any other material of a similar nature, having tensile strength greater than 30 pounds and length greater than 6 feet.

Frangible containers of any kind, including, without limitation, glass bottles, glass ornaments, light bulbs, or ceramic vessels, regardless of whether the container holds any substance.

Locks including, without limitation, padlocks, bicycle locking devices, chain locks or similar devices, but not including: (i) an integral component of a conveyance or structure; (ii) locks when utilized by the owner of private real property to secure permanent or temporary fencing; or (iii) locks attached to a bicycle.

Material designed, intended or readily adaptable for use as a portable shield but not including, common umbrellas made primarily of fabric or soft vinyl without metal tips or other potentially hazardous modification.

Any gas mask or similar device designed to filter all air breathed by the wearer in an attempt to protect the respiratory tract and/or face against irritating or noxious gasses or other materials. This prohibition on gas masks shall not apply to any person wearing a medical oxygen mask that fits over the nose and mouth of the person and oxygen from an oxygen tank to the person.

It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to wear any mask, or device whereby any portion of the face is hidden, concealed or covered as to conceaI the identity of the wearer in the Event Zone. The following persons are exempt from this prohibition:
(A) Governmental employees in the performance of their official duties; and
(B) Any person in the Public Viewing Area; and
(C) Any person parading in a parade in the Official Parade Route.

It shall be unlawful for any person to throw, project, hurl or launch any object with the intent to cause intimidation, apprehension, injury, harm or damage to any person or property.

It shall be unlawful for any person to set, light, or use any fire, bonfire, campfire, or fire pit on public property without a permit, or on private property without written consent from property owner.

The list goes on to name other things which are pretty much normally against the law such as blocking public right of way on sidewalks, streets, repelling down buildings, performing a "sleeping dragin", public urination and defecation, camping in public places, and so on.

Here is a map of what is considered the "event zone" during the RNC:


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shooting at Family Research Council

I am saddened to hear of a shooting at the Family Research Council's offices today.  Saddened because we're hearing of yet another person who thought violence was the way to make a statement or make his mark on the world.  Saddened because instantly, there is speculation that the shooter may have been gay and the shooting motivated as an attack on a group who works hard to spread hatred and misinformation against LGBT people.  Whether this person was gay or not, whatever his reason for doing this, I am saddened and sickened, as always, by the violence of this act.  Answering hate with hate and violence with violence will not get anybody anywhere.  My thoughts are with the security guard who was shot in hopes of a speedy recovery.  Now, let's duck down and prepare for the slinging of stinky mud from the likes of FRC, NOM, etc on how all homosexuals are now gun-toting lunatics. :-(


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chick-Fil-A beneficiary now advocating kidnapping of children!

Folks, this takes the cake!  Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, is now tweeting advocating kidnapping the children of LGBT parents!  Now, I'm sure people will try to defend this all sorts of different ways, but here is exactly what was said by Fischer: "Why we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households.."  Sorry, there is no other way to interpret this other than advocating for the kidnapping of children!  Remember, the AFA is a beneficiary of Chick-Fil-A money, so for those of you who still value your ultra high sodium chicken sandwiches over human dignity, you help fund this insane bigotry!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Not "just an opinion"!

I have to say, I am sick and tired of seeing people complain about us "militant gays" over the Chick-Fil-A issue.  The biggest complaint I'm seeing/hearing is how the LGBT community is being intolerant of Cathy's religious views and his "opinion".  When are people going to realize that this goes so far beyond just an opinion or religious view?  As I told NM State Rep David C. Chavez when we met with him this spring, if we were arguing "red or green" (obscure NM chile reference) then sure, a difference in opinion would be acceptable, but we are arguing over the basic civil rights of a group of human beings!  When your opinion or view is used to push an agenda that sets out to harm the LGBT community, it is no longer just an opinion.  Not to mention the fact that the real issue with Chick-Fil-Hate isn't so much the fact that Cathy issued an opinion, but that the company has shelled out millions to organizations who actively work to harm us!  THAT is not "just an opinion", nor is it an issue of religious freedom!  I saw this cartoon online today, and it fits this situation so well!


Thanking Chick Fil A?

Ok, I know it sounds totally insane, but seriously, I do find myself thanking Chick-Fil-A!  Why on earth would I thank a company who funds hate groups by the millions?  Well, here's the deal.  I found myself in quite an activist funk after getting moved and settling in here in Florida.  I helped to organize a candle light vigil, and have had some 1:1 conversations with people about joining GetEQUAL.  But was still not really energized to be doing organizing work again for whatever reason.  The recent brouhaha over Chick-Fil-Hate has really given me the spark I needed to get back in the game!  Yesterday, I joined Occupy Tampa as they Mic Checked a local Chick-Fil-A, then we visited another to hand out handbills to people sitting outside eating.  It was a great time, and I look forward to working with them again!  Now, I have a bit of work to do this week, this weekend, and beyond.  Time to GetEQUAL!  And so thank you, Chick-Fil-A for admitting once and for all that you fund hate groups, and for pushing this activist out of his funk and back into the game!!  See you soon!

And for your viewing pleasure, here is some video of the "Mic Check" from yesterday!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Boy Scouts, chicken sandwiches, and wedding cakes, oh my!

What a week it has been for queers!  We have seen Boy Scouts of American stand strong on their ban on gays;  we have seen Chick-Fil-A's President openly affirm that they are anti-LGBT, and then make a sorry attempt to explain their hate; we have seen Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, CO refuse service to a gay couple in need of a wedding cake.

Out of all the bad, of course, some good has cropped up.  BSA has seen a ton of backlash, including some scouts stepping down, and in at least one case, returning badges in protest of their policy.  Chick-Fil-A has received a ton of press, most of it negative, in response to their "coming out" against LGBT people.  One item I particularly love is the Jim Henson Company announcing they will no longer partner with Chick-Fil-A.  We will have to see what is in store for the Colorado bakery, but have already seen a ton of negative reviews popping up over on Yelp.

Do these organizations, like churches who practice discrimination, cause harm?  Absolutely!  Take Boy Scouts of America, for instance.  Meet Johnny.  Johnny is a young man in Boy Scouts.  Johnny is also dealing with feelings inside that scare and confuse him.  Johnny thinks he might be gay.  Johnny's parents have always taught him that all people are equal and that it is not ok to bully or discriminate against someone because of the color of their skin, or who they might love.  Johnny's parents also love that he is a Scout.  They feel that the good done by BSA outweighs the bad they do with the ban on gays and atheists.  They don't discuss this issue with Johnny because they don't want him to have bad thoughts or impressions of BSA.  Johnny saw something in the paper about the issue though.  He also overheard some other Scouts joking about the "fags" who can't join them.  Johnny, dealing with his own internal issues, will not discuss this with his parents or any of his friends, that might make people realize what he is.  So Johnny is very confused.  It is wrong to discriminate.  But BSA is GOOD and they discriminate, so does that mean that it's ok to discriminate just against gays and atheists?  Or does it mean that it's really not that bad to discriminate against gays because they really aren't equal?  Poor Johnny.

Bad move for these three!  You would think they would know better in today's day and age.  When attempted boycotts of Starbuck's, JC Penney, and Kraft Foods by Bigoted Mothers and Others have failed miserably and actually backfired on them, why would they want to make a firm stance against equality?

Bottom line is that if you support organizations, Churches, or businesses that discriminate against people (whatever the reason), you, whether you want to or not, are indirectly supporting that discrimination.  The Chicken Sandwich you eat today can help fund a harmful reparative therapy session for an already scared and hurting child.  The cake or pie you buy could allow a bigoted businessman to continue to refuse service to gays, also teaching children in the community that gay is bad!  The dues you pay to keep your child in Boy Scouts help fund an organization that teaches children that some people are not worthy of equal treatment, that to be different, to break out of the mold is bad: think, look, pray, and love like we do or you are scum!

If BSA, Chick-Fil-A, and this bakery were to have refused service, banned, or said hateful things about people based on their race, sex, or religious affiliation, more people would be up in arms against them!  Society as a whole would not stand for such things, even if done by a "private organization" or "private company."  Too many people tend to turn a blind eye when it comes to discrimination against LGBT people when they wouldn't if it were a different situation.  That, in my opinion, is actually more immoral than the discrimination taking place to begin with.  As MLK said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Limbaugh and Bane

So Rush Limbaugh's latest rant is over the new Batman movie's use of the villain Bane.  He asserts that this is a liberal conspiracy to plant seeds of doubt in more minds against Mitt Romney (Bane Capital).  Never mind that the script for this movie was written years ago.  Is this typical Limbaugh lunacy?

Limbaugh isn't totally off his rocker, you know. Bane could have been placed in the new Batman movie as a villain as a conspiracy against Romney... EVEN THOUGH Bane first appeared in comics in 1993... because, you know, using Romney logic, you can do things retroactively now. So Hollywood retroactively had this character created in '93 so that it could be used conspiratorially in 2012. Still with me?


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Religion and Faith vs. "The Church"

Some recent discussions on my Facebook wall have had me thinking a lot about this topic, and so I have decided the time is now to blog about it a bit.  What is the topic?  Religion, faith, and The Church.  First things first, let me clarify that when I say things negative about a religion, those things are about the doctrine or practices of the religion, not the people who follow it.  The same goes for when I say things about a Church.

I believe strongly that there are very big differences between religion, faith, and The Church.  Webster's  defines faith as "unquestioning belief, specifically in God, religion, etc".  Faith is a wonderful thing, and most of us have faith in some form or another (even us Humanists and Atheists).  Religion is defined as "a specific system of belief or worship built around God or gods, a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, etc."  Religion can be a wonderful thing, and can also, because we are human, be corrupt and used for evil.  Church is defined as "a particular Christian denomination."  When I refer to The Church, I refer to those who run said denomination, not the denomination itself (ie, the Pope, deacons, presidents of denominations, etc).

Now, the recent heated discussions have mostly come from posts or memes I have posted criticizing either religion in general or the Catholic Church (and this is using my view of what Church means).  Catholics can be some of the most passionate people about their faith, and I admire that passion.  The problem is, most people have problems separating the ideals of faith and religion from The Church.  My criticisms of the Catholic Church are primarily over those in power.  Bishops, bureaucrats, and, of course, the Pope.  I feel that the time for rational discussion and "changing the Church from within" has passed (if it ever existed) when it comes to the Catholic church and many others.  While I admire people who stand strong in their faith, I can no longer admire or hold high the act of supporting a Church whose doctrine and rules or bylaws denigrate women and LGBT persons.  To stand by such a Church; to remain a member in good standing who not only supports the Church by attending and speaking out in support, but also by giving money to it, is, however indirectly, supporting misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, and all the other ills these Churches propagate. 

Another thing that has been bothering me is the use of the bible to condemn LGBT people and our lives as sinful and wrong, while only using the portions they see fit to harm others.  Take Leviticus, for example.  Do not use that book to condemn my life unless you follow every directive in that book, which very few people in society are able and willing to do.  No tattoos, no speaking to women while they're on the period, guys, no mixed fiber clothing, etc.  IF you follow each and every one of those to a T, then we'll talk, if not, then shut up with your Leviticus condemnations.  Even more than that though is the fact that IF you want to say that my life as a gay man is sinful and wrong because your bible says so, then YOU (or your Church for those who support such Churches) are condemning me and other LGBT people to death.  Period.  Leviticus 20:13 states "And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."  I no longer accept any argument against homosexuality based on biblical principal from people unless they are willing to own the fact that the same bible also calls for death for homosexual acts. 

So, in a nutshell, if you are a member of a Church organization who has policies or doctrine against women or LGBT people, you are indirectly supporting that hate, especially if you give money to your church.  I know it is not your intent, and I know that most of you do not directly support of believe such things, but again, if you support the organizations that do, then you are helping them to do their harm.  If you are among those who say homosexuality is a sin, and you are using the bible as basis for your assertion, then you are calling for the death of LGBT people... you can't pick just the pieces you like and forget the rest (sure, Christians do it all the time).  I'm sorry, but I'm calling bullshit on this one, folks.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I feel the need to write a bit as I close one chapter of my life and embark on a new one.  Tomorrow, if all goes as planned, we will be leaving NM, our possessions crammed in a Uhaul, as we drive across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida for our new home in the Tampa Bay area!

To say I will miss New Mexico would be a gross understatement. I will miss so much about.this state, including some incredible friends!  I have high hopes for the things GetEQUAL NM will be able to do (especially after a successful fundraiser), and I think Brittany will do an amazing job as state lead!

So what is next for me? First and foremost, getting this move over and done with! Then a week of relaxing (with some networking thrown in, of course) before I have to get back to work at my job. I look forward to starting up a GetEQUAL group in central Florida and getting to meet new activists (both seasoned and new to the game). It will be a test of the skills I have learned over the past couple of years, but I look forward to it!  Florida, are you ready for me? I hope so because here I come!


Monday, May 14, 2012

A long month full of organizing

This past month has been a whirlwind for my family and for myself.  On top of preparing for our move from NM to FL, lots of crazy overtime at work, school stuff for our daughter, we have been involved in some very important organizing on both local and national levels for Equality.  Since the Easter Egg Roll trip to DC, I have worked with my great group at NM GetEQUAL on organizing a series of visits to OFA offices in our area, particularly the state headquarters located in Albuquerque, .  GetEQUAL groups around the country have been paying visit to campaign offices to have dialogue about the executive order, and demonstrate in creative ways.  In NM, during the first week, we had a prepared statement about the EO and the need for a signature (and the lack of a valid reason for not signing from the White House).  Our second visit to OFA NM's office included an open letter to OFA. the letter was delivered with more pens, a spine, and the mock thank you card.  We then engaged our local OFA LGBT liaison in discussion about the executive order and about Obama's LGBT advocacy record.

Week three consisted of nearly two dozen activists from around the country traveling to DC to further escalate our issue.  We had things planned out pretty well, but as we were all heading to DC on Wednesday, news broke about the President announcing his support for equality (I will write more on my own views on that later).  So when everyone arrived that night, we had a long, difficult planning session on how to proceed.  In the end, the decision was made to forgo a pre-planned arrestable action at the White House and instead, picket with messaging of "Thank you" to the President, "AND.... sign the executive order, AND... stop LGBT bullying, AND... stop deporting our families".  So we picketed the White House Thursday morning with those signs.  It was important to give thanks for the support the President gave while reminding him of things that still need to be done, some of which he can do TODAY rather than next year.  The picket went well, and we all felt great about the work we had done.   

The next morning, we pulled together another action out of thin air.  Stories were going around the media about Mitt Romney's bullying activities (holding a kid down and cutting his long hair) in school.  Our managing director, Heather Cronk set out to hunt down scissors at some stores, while others worked on messsaging and signs.  Then we marched a mile to the RNC headquarters and protested just outside their door.  Great chants, like "Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Mitt Romney has got to go", and signage insisting that the RNC "cut out" bullyiing of LGBT people.  We received a lot of support from the public on this one, way more than I can remember receiving at any action ever!  It was a great action, and we got our messaging across just fine.  

What a month!  I've had a couple days of complete down time, and now time to get up and regroup, so much more work to be done (including packing for our move at the end of this month)! 


Open letter to OFA NM

Dated May 3, 2012:

Dear OFA NM,

In the spring of 2008, then candidate Obama made an important promise to LGBT people.  He promised that, if elected president, he would sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Four years later, President Obama has yet to live up to that promise.  The White House has announced that this order will not be signed at this time and is not a priority.  No valid reason has been given as to why the President will not sign this order.  With an overwhelming majority of voters supporting it, signing the order is not a risky move in an election year, nor is it very controversial.  Last week, we visited your office and brought you pens, thinking that perhaps the President needed a pen to sign the Executive Order.  There still has not been a signing.  This is of great concern to us.  We bring today a mock thank you card to the President from Albuquerque’s anti-LGBT Pastor Steve Smothermon, thanking the President for not standing up for LGBT people this year.  We are also bringing you some spines, because clearly it seems like our President could use a little backbone to do what is right.  The President recently told Rolling Stone Magazine, when presented with pairs of pink socks as a symbol of support and action for the LGBT community that those are “second term socks”.  We also bring pink socks in hopes that the backbones help the President to wear the socks now!

New Mexico GetEQUAL

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Did I Piss You Off?

A poem by me. (comments or discussion of the issue welcome)

Did I piss you off?
I'm sorry, but you see --
       Hold on!  Wait!
       No, I am not sorry,
       I refuse to
         because that serves only to legitimize
                     those who hate,
               and those who say
     "I'm on your side, but you have 
       to understand that there is too much at stake.
       If we stand strong for 'you gays' we could 
       lose it all for heaven's sake!"
  With friends like these
   Who needs
                            Romneys               Santorums         Bachmanns        NOM                  FRC      or the Neo-Nazzis!
For too many decades we have
        picketed, marched, fought,
        asked nicely, ran for office,
        taken beatings, been slandered, 
        been demonized, and DIED.
  You've heard us saying #wecantwait
  Well now I say #wewontwait !
              Why is our community content to 
               take crumbs of equality while
               being asked to give, give, and
               give some more?
     We're better than that
           We're stronger than that 
                 We're smarter than that
Stand up today
                 and say
     I AM Somebody!
     I AM a force to be reckoned with
  I deserve equality
                     Right here!
                     Right now!
       Not just when its convenient for the
       political games of our leadrers.
Did I piss you off?
      Good!  That means you're listening.
  The game is changing -- equality is possible
        evolve or get the fuck
          out of the way!  


Friday, May 4, 2012

Queers meet with "DOMA DAVE" in NM!

Today, myself and fellow activist Janice Devereaux met with Rep. David C Chavez to have discussion about his "Super-DOMA", legislation he introduced in New Mexico this year that would have let the voters decide on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  Having heard that he was very set in his views, I really did not go into this expecting much.  As a matter of fact, I expected to be asked to be fed rhetoric and anti-gay crap before being asked to leave.  On that, he did surprise me, but not in a good way.  Mr. Chavez actually refused to give us any of his own opinions or views on why he thought marriage was not for same sex couples.  He said that he expressed his opinion during the committee hearing and would not go into that today.  Instead, he wanted to hear our views on it.  We both expressed our views about discrimination, separating church and state, the immorality of a majority voting on the civil rights of a majority.  We continued to press him for a reason why he is championing this legislation.  He told us it was something some of his constituents asked him to do, so he did it.  He then went on to say that this is nothing new since other legislators have introduced similar legislation in the state for years.  When I asked him how many constituents asked him to do this, he backslid a bit and said it wasn't about numbers, and that some constituents asked for it as well as colleagues of his.  I then asked if a group of his constituents asked him to introduce legislation that would repeal key aspects of the Civil Rights act, would he introduce it just because he was asked to?  He refused to answer on grounds that it was a hypothetical.  We spent just over 10 minutes in his office discussing this, but it was clear that all he would give us was procedural talk about how legislation comes about, and how it is voted on, which we already knew.  We ended it since there was not going to be any chance of any type of intelligent (or otherwise) debate on the issue itself.  Janice actually ended by stating she wanted the right to have as many ex spouses as any heterosexual person (a direct jab at Mr. Hypocrite himself, a two time divorcee)!

This was one of the most frustrating meetings I have been a part of.  I would have preferred the anti-LGBT rhetoric to him simply refusing to state his opinion.  It is widely known how homophobic this man is, and insiders in Santa Fe say he rarely holds back on expressing his views or opinions on any issue!  With that being said, one can only surmise that he was intimidated by having two queers sitting in his office, and didn't have the gall to give us his own views.  In wrapping things up, he said that we will simply have to agree to disagree on this.  I told him that would be completely OK with me if we were talking "red or green", however, when it comes to my basic civil rights, that is an inexcusable comment.  He shrugged.  Meeting over.  Did we accomplish anything today?  On the surface, no.  Ultimately, though I hope we were able to show him that the LGBT community is not going to sit quietly and continue to let him try and harm us.  I do hope he loses his bid for state senate, and also sincerely hope that others in this great state will continue to call him on his shit if and when he is in office again!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Gay couple wants to question Obama at Easter Egg Roll" -- my side of things

This week, my family had the honor of attending the annual White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, D.C.  While we were honored to be invited to such an amazing and diversely attended event, we also felt it was very important to use this as a platform to bring much needed attention to an executive order that is floating around the White House waiting to be signed by President Obama.  We worked with GetEQUAL and Freedom To Work on messaging and other logistics.  A press release went out Friday morning spelling out the message we wanted to push, that the LGBT community can't wait for job protections, and the time is now for President Obama to sign this executive order barring workplace discrimination against LGBT people by companies contracting with the federal government (more details on the order can be found here).  Several media outlets quickly picked up the story running headlines indicating that my partner Les and I would be at the Easter Egg Roll following the President around in order to confront him face to face.  What a firestorm of criticism that caused!  It was interesting to watch how quickly it spread throughout the blogosphere throughout the day.   Realistically, we did not expect to have any access to the President, especially considering this is an event with 30,000 plus people in attendance throughout the day.  I was prepared, in the highly unlikely event that I did have a few seconds to shake his hand, with just how I would phrase my messaging, but to be clear, I did not expect to even see him, much less have any kind of access.  My whole reason for wanting to do this was to put pressure on the President via a media blitz about the need for this order to be signed.  As far as I'm concerned, the media hype did just that, and then some.  We saw a lot of media coverage, both LGBT and mainstream, about this order.  The order has been around for a long time, and was actually a campaign promise by then candidate Obama in March of 2008.

So my family took advantage of a political event (the Easter Egg Roll is, as any event at the White House is, a political event) focused on families, to help open up dialogue about this executive order and the impact it could have on thousands and thousands of families.  It is not perfect, and it only covers federal contractors, but until Congress changes hands, it is an important and necessary step.  We've received a lot of criticism about choosing to use this event for a political message.  As I've said before, this is a political event from the start.  If it weren't a political event, then for years the White House would not be in the habit of giving out tickets to organizations as either a thank you, or to make them "go away".  That politicizes it, as does the fact that it takes place at the White House.  What we did was take advantage of important press time to bring about awareness to this issue.  When we actually went to the South Lawn for the Egg Roll, we did have our "We Can't Wait" shirts on, and discussed the issue with some other people, but were primarily focused on allowing our daughter to have a blast watching two of her favorite musicians perform!

Was it inappropriate to do what we did?  Not at all!  What better time than a family event to bring up the fact that with the stroke of a pen, President Obama could protect thousands of LGBT families and workers from discrimination.  We were invited, we didn't "crash" the event, nor did we do anything that was in any way disruptive to the festivities or the White House.   What we accomplished was a lot.  Later that day, at the White House press conference, an NBC reporter grilled the Press Secretary about our visit and message, and asked several questions about the executive order.  This was the first time mainstream media has questioned the Obama Administration about this executive order, so for me, that was a huge win!

Are we the "self-iportant" media whores many have accused us of being?  Far from it.  Sure, we got a lot of press, and even had a live interview on MSNBC, but honestly, I'm never comfortable in front of cameras.  I'll do this as long as I have to for our equality, but to be clear, I don't do it to have attention directed at me.  My intent is to direct attention to the issue at hand, not myself.

So what's next?  Pressure needs to be kept on the President to get this order signed.  He has signed at least 7 executive orders in the past 6 months, so it's not like we're asking him to step above and beyond his duty as President.  We can all play a part in this.  You can email, write, or call the White House asking that this order be signed as quickly as possible, we simply can't wait for job protections!  Beyond that, we should be looking at our community and having discussions with one another about why so many LGBT people and our allies think it is still acceptable to sit back and wait for it to be politically convenient, or for public opinion to be in the "right place" for us to ask for, or demand our rights!  I believe it is far from acceptable to continue to think and act this way.   We may also want to ask ourselves how it is that we can see support for this issue on conservative christian sites, but on certain LGBT blogs the focus is almost completely about the color of someone's hair, which is a sad and petty commentary. 


Saturday, March 31, 2012

ABQ Pride's Stonewall Award

Tonight, I was honored to accept Albuquerque Pride's Stonewall Award for advocating for equality and awareness for the LGBTQ community.  I must say, that of all the awards to win, one with the name Stonewall is just amazing!  I honestly never would have thought I would get such recognition, and so many people are responsible for without them, I am nothing!  I have had some requests for the text of the speech I gave tonight, so I will include it here.  I want to congratulate the award winners tonight, and also to congratulate each and every one of the nominees, because truly all were winners!  And with such amazing, strong people, Albuquerque and New Mexico is all the richer.  I will miss so many things about this state, including the amazing friends I've made here.  Ok, on to the speech:

This is truly an honor.  You’ll have to excuse me, I feel way out of my element.  I’m always more at home in jeans and a t-shirt yelling into a megaphone.   I want to thank my beautiful mother, my amazing fellow activists in NM GetEQUAL, including Miss Brittany Arneson, Gary Peterson and Jesse Lopez.   Thank you to all who have stood with me in the streets, sat in on conference calls, discussed politics and tactics over coffee, retweeted me, and engaged in discussions on Facebook!  Thanks to my amazing GetEQUAL team both locally and across the country, to the incredible team at Albuquerque Pride,  and thanks to friends and mentors who are not able to be here tonight: fellow activists Kelly Hutton, Michelle Wright, Heather Cronk, and David Fleck have all given me guidance and support.  Most importantly, thanks to my partner, Les, and our daughter Alegra, without whom I would not be able to function daily. 
I have had people ask me just what it is that motivates me, what gives me the drive to stand strong and fight oppression.  The quickest answer I can give is that I finally reached my boiling point, and am no longer able or willing to sit back and allow status quo to be “good enough” for myself, my family, or our community.  The system is slow, too slow for our youth who sometimes end up taking the tragic way out, too slow for LGBT families who face discrimination and inequality on a daily basis in hundreds of ugly ways, too slow for our transgender brothers and sisters who all too often are dismissed by society and discounted by loved ones as just going through a phase.  I say the system doesn’t have to be this slow.  If each and every one of us dedicates a little more time to the struggle, full equality in all areas governed by federal and local law can be a reality in the near future!  Whether that means talking to strangers about why this is important, working with our lawmakers to make a bold difference, taking legal action through the courts when necessary, or organizing on the streets and in our neighborhoods, is up to you.  I firmly believe that it will take all of these actions from as many of us as possible to truly effect change, and we CAN change not only the game but he pace of the game!  I thank each and every one of you and hope to see you on the streets!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What does equality mean to you?

Equality.  We hear that word a lot, but how many of us have really sat down and thought about just what the word means?  Many of you, upon hearing or seeing the word may instantly think of LGBTQ Equality, and currently, that is where we most see this word being used.  I recently sat down and really thought this word out, and did come to realize that it means so much more to me.  Equality, to me, means just that, equality.  Not just for LGBTQ people, but for all people!  When I talk about equality, and how I am an activism for equality, I mean for LGBTQ people, for immigrants, for women, for the differently-abled, for children, for people of all economic statuses, races, creeds, religions, political affiliations (yes, that means that even though I disagree with most of their views, this includes Tea Party Patriots), and any other factor you can think up.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  That quote, above all others, is probably my number one motivator in life these days.  My days of sitting idly by as my friends and neighbors suffer various forms of injustice or violence are long over.  When (when, not if) we achieve full federal equality for LGBTQ people, my work as an activist is far from done.  Aside from the multitude of social issues that will still face the LGBTQ community, there will always be other groups of people suffering inequality who could use allies, and I plan on being one of many (and I can hope that number will continue to grow) such allies!

One of the most important principals of Unitarian Universalism is that we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of each and every person.  This is probably the one thing that I struggle with the most, and that is because, as I am out protesting, say, a homophobic lawmaker, it is a struggle to envision any worth or dignity in that person.  Despite the huge difference in opinion he or she may have regarding my life (who asked them anyway), I do have to recognize and affirm this principal.  That's not to say I won't continue to hold folks accountable for hatred and bigotry, just saying that yes, they are human and yes, we all make mistakes, and yes, I'm calling them out for theirs!  At the end of the day, we all lay in similar bedding and close our eyes for sleep, if only we can find ways to be just as equal during our waking hours.

So, I want to hear from you.  Just what does Equality mean for you, and when the cause closest to your own heart achieves full equality, will you back down from the struggle, or move on and keep working for others?


Monday, March 19, 2012

The "I Want To Know What It's Like" Video

If you have not yet seen the "I Want To Know What It's Like" video, you really should take 5 minutes, sit down, and watch!  I've seen it said that this is the gay rights video that will give you chills.  In my opinion, that is an underpayment.  The power of poetry, the power of performance poetry, well, it can be an amazing thing.  A friend pointed this out to me yesterday, and I was just blown away.  Yes, I'll admit, I did get chills, but more than that, I bawled.  It is moving.  I posted it on my facebook page and a friend commented that it made her want to go march the streets!  Yes!  If only we could get more people to feel that way from a simple video or two, imagine the impact if every single person who is moved by this video (currently over 600,000 hits) not only shared it with loved ones, but immediately took some form of direct action.  Be it a phone call, a letter or two, or literally took to the streets to start conversations and raise awareness?  What are we waiting for?  Like the video says, I WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE!


This video is part of a project, the Second Class Citizens film, you can visit their facebook page here for more information.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Road To Activism

I have had people ask me how I got "into" activism.  It is an interesting story, and to me, "road to activism" stories are just as fascinating, diverse, and layered as "coming out" stories can be!  For me, my activism has gone in waves.  All of my life, I have been one to be very aware of the world around me, particularly of the hardships of the disenfranchised.  High school saw me attempting (and failing) to start an underground newspaper, organizing and rallying students to save the job of a transgender teacher, doing some work for environmental justice and animal rights, and trying to organize a pro-peace rally during the first Gulf War.  In my mind, those efforts were not very successful (looking back, I can see some awesome successes in them all), and that is probably the primary reason I sort of pulled into my shell for a couple decades!

I became what my friends call an armchair activist.  Always hyper aware of things going on in the world, I was on top of every call in, and letter writing campaign, and later, as the internet started to take off, always on top of email campaigns and petition drives.  This, along with frequently speaking my mind among friends and coworkers, was the extend of any activism I was engaged in.  Then, during the summer of 2010, I sat at home, watching events unfold via Twitter.  These were a set of direct actions taking place around the country over "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and also around getting a Trans inclusive ENDA (employment non discrimination act) passed.  The emotional impact of watching live tweets from actions where people were sitting in on offices, or chaining themselves to the White House fence was huge for me!  It literally started to reawaken my inner activist!

I spent the next few months diving into research on direct action, non violent action, social justice work.  I read MLK, Gandhi, Thoreau, read up online about ACT-UP, Queer Nation, and on and on.  I started doing some social justice work with people in my church.  Then, in September of that year, President Obama came to Albuquerque.  Myself and a few new activist friends were there in protest to pressure Obama to sign an executive order halting discharges under DADT until it was repealed.  Being on the streets and taking direct action, I was instantly "at home"!  For me, there was (and is) no going back.  I have been organizing and causing a ruckus since then, and have seen first hand how direct action can truly yield results.  This blog, for me, is another extension of this work.  As outgoing State Lead of NM GetEQUAL, I have a few months left with my group (and in the state of NM), and will then be a Floridian.  This blog will travel with me, and be, hopefully, a great way for me to both process shit in my own head, and help others along in their own journey!


Friday, March 16, 2012

First Post

So now I have decided to keep a blog of some of my random thoughts, especially those pertaining to my activism.  Nothing special on this first post.  A bit about me for those who don't know me.  I'm a claim processor for a health insurance company during the day, and when I'm not working, I volunteer and do a lot of activism for LGBT rights, and for Equality for all humans!  I currently live in Los Lunas, NM (just south of Albuquerque), but in June, I will be moving to Tampa, FL.  More later.....