In last week's Savage Love Dan Savage wrote about his new "It Gets Better Project," in response to the suicide of a bullied gay teen in the midwest.
Here's part of the column:
Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hanged himself in a barn on his grandmother’s property. He reportedly endured intense bullying at the hands of his classmates — classmates who called him a fag and told him to kill himself. His mother found his body.
Nine out of 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment at school, and gay teens are four times likelier to attempt suicide. Many LGBT kids who do kill themselves live in rural areas, exurbs and suburban areas, places with no gay organizations or services for queer kids…
So here’s what you can do, GBVWS: Make a video. Tell them it gets better.
I’ve launched a channel on YouTube — www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject — to host these videos. My normally camera-shy husband and I already posted one. We both went to Christian schools and we were both bullied — he had it a lot worse than I did — and we are living proof that it gets better. We don’t dwell too much on the past. Instead, we talk mostly about all the meaningful things in our lives now — our families, our friends (gay and straight), the places we’ve gone and things we’ve experienced — that we would’ve missed out on if we’d killed ourselves then.
“You gotta give ’em hope,” Harvey Milk said.
Today we have the power to give these kids hope. We have the tools to reach out to them and tell our stories and let them know that it does get better. Online support groups are great, GLSEN does amazing work, the Trevor Project is invaluable. But many LGBT youth can’t picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They can’t imagine a future for themselves. So let’s show them what our lives are like, let’s show them what the future may hold in store for them.
There's been a bunch of video uploaded from all over and from a variety of perspectives, kicked off by Dan himself and his husband Terry. There's a gay Muslim, and a group of gay Christians at a church retreat assuring teens "God loves you" and that there's a community for you.
Bravo to KVAL for running a story on this and helping to get the word out. The station, ummm forgot to mention that while Dan Savage is indeed a "Seattle-based sex advice columnist, author and gay rights activist," his column does run right here in Eugene each week!
So Eugeneans, anyone made a video yet? Let us know.
March, Candlelight Vigil, Rally, etc. etc. etc. (Thanks for the tip, Monica Christoffels!)
From the LGBTQA's Facebook events, a list of things, after the jump.
UPDATE IV: LGBTQA co-director Alex Esparza said that a candlelight vigil starts at 6 pm tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 2) in the LGBTQA office. He said no one department or student group is sponsoring it but that "it's all of us, coming together."
Esparza said that right now, people are bringing to the office rainbow ribbons with UO President Richard Lariviere's email message on them, and tying them up around the office. He said that an offer of financial support came in about 20 minutes ago.
Esparza added, "Although it’s a scary experience, it’s done nothing but iron my resolve and embolden me to fight against this kind of hatred. I won't stand for this any longer, and I don’t feel our campus community will any longer either."
The U of O's Department of Public Safety is looking at this "as a bias crime," and the Eugene Police Department is investigating the vandalism as well, according to Julie Brown, director of media relations in the UO's Department of Media Relations. "It's an ongoing investigation," she said. "They're calling it criminal mischief and intimidation."
UPDATE III: Email from our news intern, Deborah Bloom, and photo of the swasktika'd carpet itself, after the jump. In her notes, she writes, "ASUO Legislative Affairs Rep Robert Greene says, 'My biggest fear is that this is only the beginning.'"
UPDATE: Our new news intern, Deborah Bloom, has gone to campus to investigate further. Monica Christoffels, UO student and Oregon Daily Emerald receptionist, took a photo of the ASUO-support poster that covers the bare place where the swastika was painted on the carpet. (UPDATE: That portion of the carpet was removed. Photo of it and the swastika after the jump.)
Image by Monica Christoffels, available at yfrog.com
Though the student leaders of the LGBTQA are in a meeting with the president of the university, I spoke with Cat McGraw, program assistant at the LGBT Education and Support Services Program.
McGraw said that the staff of the LGBTQA last left the office at 2:30 pm on Friday, and that the custodial staff found the door unlocked last night and "a 4 by 4 foot swastika on the carpet" about 1 am today. She said that the flat-screen TV monitor and the computer monitor in the office were also painted out, and that the damage was "well over $1,000."
"The student feel like they've been targeted," McGraw said. Apparently, some of the administrators of the LGBTQA have been active in the protests against the Pacifica Forum.
UO President Richard Lariviere issued a statement over email. Full text of the statement is below the jump.
Updates here as more information becomes available.
Today is the National Transgender Day of Remembrance, and if there's one thing I regret about having had a plague cough/virus for a week and a half, it's not having had the time/energy to write about this week of events. There were movies, meetings and talks, and damned if I didn't sit on my couch coughing my way through all of them. Hope some of you got out for them!
The culmination comes tonight in the Atrium Building, where I may be (though the plague's not entirely over):
From the City of Eugene's website
Why do we have a Trans Day of Remembrance? Well, it's because there's an awful lot of violence against trans people. There's an awful lot of gender-policing out there that means real, sustained, horrific violence against people who don't meet some culturally imposed and totally fucked idea about gender norms.
Yet, we know, even these high numbers are only a fraction of the real figures. The truth is much worse. These are only the reported cases which could be found through internet research. There is no formal data and it is impossible to estimate the numbers of unreported cases.
And that's not all. Today, a young trans person writes at Feministing about suicide rates among trans folks. This is such a painful reminder that just living in this world is an everyday hell for many people.
Before I moved to Eugene, I used to do a lot more activist work, including running a fair number of groups at the Women's Resource and Action Center at the U of Iowa. The main group I ran was called The Gender Puzzle. We used Kate Bornstein's funny, smart My Gender Workbook to talk and write about everything from the gender police to the difference between gender and biological sex. I met a lot of people who identified as gender-queer, young straight women who simply wanted to investigate what the heck gender was supposed to mean to them, and, of course, trans folks. Some people were barely beginning to explore their transitions from male to female or female to male, and it was such a privilege to know them, to learn that a Mary Kay consultant might be a transwoman's resource while a young transman could get support from his family to be his real self.
At the time, I was a columnist for the UI's Daily Iowan. I remembered how hard the winter holidays were for me with my family as I was coming out as a lesbian, and I knew they'd be harder on some of my trans friends. Some were parents; some had to go home to their parents; some were staying away from home so they didn't have to deal with telling their families who they were. Some had very religious families with people who rejected them out of hand. Some were told how wrong they were. And that filled me with massive fury â€” come on, they were the bravest people I knew! They survived long years living in bodies that didn't feel like their own. They survived. So I wrote a column â€”Â one of those things that just pours out of you, feels like it was almost written for you â€” that ran in the DI on Dec. 1, 2000. I know this is all braggy, but to my mind, it's the best thing I've ever written. I mean, FUCK THE GENDER POLICE and all, but this wasn't for them â€” it was for the people I loved.
The DI doesn't keep online archives back that far (for no reason that I can tell), but luckily it was reposted (heh, without my permission, but so what? It benefitted me!) in its entirety a couple of other places, like here.
And now here, after the jump.
Image of Evan Wolfson by Jeff Shang, courtesy Freedom to Marry and Simon and Schuster, publishers of Why Marriage Matters.
Wolfson's on a mini-Oregon tour to read a bit from his 2004 book Why Marriage Matters but more to support BRO's recently announced push for Freedom to Marry, which BRO and other folks hope will culminate in a ballot initiative undoing the harms of 2004's ass-ugly Measure 36.
Their message, repeated several times during our half-hour conversation, is this: People in same-sex couples need to talk about how the inability to get married affects their lives. Frazzini told a particularly moving and interesting story of her own about talking to her partner's brother (a conservative Republican Portland police officer) about supporting marriage equality. (More on that tomorrow.)
Obviously, BRO, which is a purely Oregon-based organization (though I think there's some outreach into SW Washington? I'll find out tonight for sure), is working on a state level. I asked Wolfson about the state-by-state efforts â€” for instance, the reasons that Lambda Legal took on a case in Iowa that ended up giving same-sex couples equal marriage rights there, and we also talked about the idea of Washington State's incrementalism approach (that's a bit of an old link, and it doesn't totally explain it - more later).
We talked a lot about how and why the guy who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law when he was president publicly changed his mind.
We talked about DOMA â€” what Wolfson called, several times, "the so-called 'Defense of Marriage' Act" in such a way that the air quotes were visible â€” and how it could be overturned. On the one hand, Wolfson talked about the Respect for Marriage Act that would overturn DOMA.
Wolfson talked more about changing hearts and minds on that state-by-state basis, changing the entire atmosphere, so that it would be easier for both Congress and the Supreme Court to make decisions that would support marriage equality (I verified with Wolfson that he was talking about Lani Guinier's theory of demosprudence.)
All of this and more as a Q & A on the blog tomorrow! Tonight, I'll be liveblogging Wolfson's speech at the Eugene Public Library, starting at about 6:05 pm.
KLCC's Jes Burns interviewed both of them just before I did, and the audio link should be up here soon.
Two TOTALLY GAY things from my online life today.
One, Portia de Rossi apologizes for "hurting" people afraid of same-sex marriage:
and two, Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee votes to forward same-sex marriage bill.
Here's the NYT story.
Unfortunately, it says this:
The committeeâ€™s unanimous support added momentum to a bill that Democratic leaders, who control both chambers of the legislature, have described as a priority. But even if it clears the legislature, Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, could veto the measure. And it is too early to know whether supporters could gather enough votes for an override.
We'll see. Maybe there will be three, count them, three states where people can be as selfish as Portia de Rossi!
The latest in a string of creative counter-protests to the completely fucking insane Westboro Baptist Church people (no, they don't get link love here).
Check out the God Hates Figs counter-protest at the U of Chicago.
My favorite sign in the photo roundup:
Figs DOOM NATIONS!