Friday, August 29, 2008

Coming Out Intersex

Anger doesn’t live under Darlene Harris’ skin anymore... It’s melting away — the same way bad memories do — along with the confusion she has carried from a rocky childhood in New York City’s housing projects to her life as an Atlanta police officer. She now knows why her voice is so deep, why she’s always been attracted to women, why she can grow a full beard.

Officer Darlene Harris, of the Atlanta Police Department, is intersex.

Intersex people are born with chromosomal anomalies or ambiguous genitalia. The medical term "hermaphrodite" has been used, but is not accepted by many intersex people. Medical professionals commonly assign a male or female gender to the individual and proceed to perform gender assignment surgeries beginning in infancy and often continuing into adolescence, before a child is able to give informed consent. Read more about intersexuality here. And read Officer Harris' story in The Atlanta Constitution-Journal.

For Officer Harris, discovering her intersexuality was the lifting of a great burden of misunderstanding about herself. “It was like, ‘OK, I’m not crazy,’ All of these things came together full circle at that moment. I now understood the reason why I am the way I am... It’s freedom, total freedom. It’s like I can fly.”

For further research and resource for and about the intersex community, be sure to check out the Intersex Society of North America.

GLBT Teens Blog

Our Field and Policy Coordinator, Brooke Smith, found and wanted to share this resource for gay teens:

Ellen's GLBT Teens Blog

The blog features articles geared for young people on topics ranging from dealing with homophobic parents to entertainment and current events. Says Brooke, "This blog answers questions for teens who are questioning their sexuality, want to come out, and have recently come out. It also covers recent news related to youth, such as the murder of Lawrence King. "

The First (and Only) Married Gay Couple in Iowa Celebrate 1-Year Mark

This time last year there was a small window of time between a Polk County (IA) judge's ruling and the filing of an appeal in which marriage equality was open in Iowa. And this is the extraordinary story of the one couple that managed to squeeze their marriage into that time frame and become Iowa's only (thus far) legally married same-sex couple.

Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan, two men from Ames, became Iowa's first, and only, same-sex couple to marry before the judge's ruling was put on hold pending an appeal. Now the Iowa Supreme Court seems likely to rule on the appeal in 2009. What do they think of what the future holds? Says McQuillan, “We look forward to the Supreme Court making the right decision... I’d be kind of disappointed if they didn’t. ... But it’s not a big deal. There’s always California or Massachusetts. It’s not like we’d become unmarried.”

In the meantime the two do have something else to celebrate besides their distinction as the first and sole same-sex couple to enjoy marriage equality in the Hawkeye State: it's also their first anniversary! Read more about them in The Des Moines Register article out today. Perhaps with the next Iowa Supreme Court ruling, others in that state will be able to enjoy the marriage equality Tim and Sean do.

Someone You Love is Gay

Be sure to check out the new video ad: Someone You Love is Gay!

Produced by Maryland's PFLAG Columbia- Howard County chapter, the ad campaign willsoon be featured on local area buses this September. The video will also be featured as public service announcement on Comcast's Bravo Channel.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Looking for Common Ground

This comes to us from senior field and policy coordinator Kim Jones. She shares with us her thoughts on an op-ed, Gay Marriage and the Black Vote, that appeared recently in The Los Angeles Times...

At PFLAG National, we do a lot of education about the strengths of every culture and how we can work together in the GLBT movement. We recognize each culture plays a part in contributing to the progressive strides we have made for the GLBT community, as well as to contributing to the tactics that hold our movement back. This article reflects there is a very even national distribution of those for marriage equality and those against marriage equality, regardless of race or ethnicity. Every culture has its civil rights leaders and those who are less supportive of equality. Let us look for commonalities and ways we can encourage our families and friends or every race and ethnicity to be civil rights leaders this election year.

As we consider marriage, voting, and diverse racial and ethnic groups, let us also consider what ties marriage to other civil rights. Marriage is critical this year, especially in California, but we need to be ever-mindful of the many facets in the struggle for equality.

Read Gay Marriage and the Black Vote.

-Kim Jones

Take the Time to Send Your Very Best to Hallmark

Looking for a way to move equality forward today? Be sure to thank Hallmark for their same-sex wedding cards...

Looking for a way to move equality forward today? Be sure to thank Hallmark for their same-sex wedding cards...

As many of you have read, and some posted to PFLAGall, Hallmark has begun producing a fantastic line of congratulations cards for same-sex couples who have gotten married. Unfortunately, organizations like the American Family Association are up in arms about these new cards and calling Hallmark to complain.

PFLAG National sent out an action alert today asking members to call Hallmark and let them know how supportive we are of these new cards. You can access our action alert at http://capwiz.com/pflag/issues/alert/?alertid=11852661.

PFLAGers across the country are taking our call to action a step further. Annette from Indianapolis, Indiana bought a thank you card from a Hallmark store and sent it to the Chairman of hall mark at:

Donald J. Hall, Chairman
Hallmark Cards
2501 McGee Trafficway
Kansas City, MO 64108

Ann in Lake Peekskill, NY forwarded the action alert to her Unitarian Universalist fellowship and to the local gay straight alliance. Thank you Ann! Several people have emailed Hallmark. If you are interested in emailing please contact Hallmark's customer service. As always, please remember to be friendly and keep with a pro-family message.

Thank you to everyone who has called or emailed Hallmark so far!

-Elizabeth Hampton Brown

Oregon PFLAGers Launch State's First African-American Chapter

Here's some exciting news from our Oregon State Council on the formation of a new chapter...

PFLAG, Oregon State Council, PFLAG Portland, Unity Project of Oregon (UPO) and Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) will establish the first Black/ African- American chapter in Oregon. This will be PFLAG Oregon State Council’s first ever paid position made possible through the support of the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation, PFLAG National’s Families of Color outreach initiative and the Equity Foundation.

“By building an African American/Black PFLAG chapter, we at PFLAG and UPO plan to support the leadership of the African American community to create a safe space where the unique experiences of families and allies with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender loved ones can be addressed,” states Teri Noble, PFLAG Oregon State Council Coordinator.

The Oregon State Council is also excited to announce the hire of community organizer Inger McDowell:

Inger comes to this position with excellent credentials including five years as a community organizer for a statewide coalition in Nevada, where she helped with the formation of gay/straight alliances, held a position for two years on the board of the only GLBTQ organization in Reno, Nevada, and has over two years working here in Portland with the American Federation of Teachers Healthcare Division and the Service Employees International Union.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Inger on board for this ground-breaking work,” says Noble.

PFLAG Comes to Mississippi: September 24

PFLAG's communications coordinator, Adam Ratliff, and I will be traveling to the University of Mississippi on September 24 for a first-of-its-kind GLBT Town Hall Discussion ahead of the September 26 presidential debate in the state. We'll be on the ground, with spokespeople from groups like GLSEN, GLAAD, the Equality Federation, the National Black Justice Coalition and the ACLU, and taking part in a Wednesday evening panel discussion on important issues facing our community in November.

PFLAG's presentation will focus on critical ballot battles - in states like Florida, Arkansas, California, Arizona and Montgomery County, Maryland - facing our families in November. The September 24 event is being organized and hosted by the University's gay-straight alliance.

Check back here soon for more details on this important event. And if you're a PFLAG supporter in Mississippi, mark your calendars and plan to join us on September 24!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Heroine Passes

The entire LGBT community, and PFLAG family, are mourning the loss of Del Martin (pictured, with her wife Phyllis Lyon), who passed away today at the age of 87.

Del and Phyllis lifted the hearts of Americans, again and again, as they led the fight for marriage equality in California and the nation. But, in fact, their heroism began long before - in 1955 - when they, along with six other pioneering women, founded the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco. Their organization was the first in the country to advocate for the civil rights and full equality of lesbians.

Earlier this year, Del and Phyllis made history once more, as one of the couples who challenged California's ban on marriage equality and won an historic victory for same-sex couples. They were the first couple to wed in San Francisco, and for many LGBT Americans and their families, they were truly the "first couple" of the movement for marriage.

A public memorial will be planned in the next few weeks, and in lieu of flowers, a gift can be made to honor Del's life, and her fighting spirit, to the National Center for Lesbian Rights' 'No On 8' PAC. Contributions will be used to fight attempts to roll back the historic victory that Del, and Phyllis, gave us all.

Keeping the Spotlight On


Today's Ithaca Journal includes an editorial - following up on a story earlier in the week - offering support for Kathy Gilleran's seach for her son, Aeryn.

PFLAG first reported on Kathy's quest to learn the truth about her son's disappearance weeks ago, and since then the media and public have finally stepped up to the plate and given the case the attention it deserves.

"The entire episode seems to run counter to how we believe investigations are routinely carried out in the United States under similar circumstances," the Journal editorial board writes today, adding that "Public pressure, especially when applied to politicians in cases like this, serves many a purpose, including keeping the spotlight on Aeryn Gilleran's disappearance when age will continue to make the case get colder and colder."

All of us at PFLAG will continue to stand with Kathy. And we're grateful that others are standing with her, too.

Photo by Tim Ashmore/The Ithaca Journal

"You've Got to be Taught to Hate"

In follow up to Suzanne Greenfield's write up today about bullying and safe schools, I wanted to follow up with a similar topic - how kids learn to hate. Homophobia, the idea that it is "ok" to bully or harass LGBT people, is learned more often that not at home. And it doesn't take listening to a parent actively denounce LGBT people either.

One of the complaints I have heard frequently is how parents as well as teachers who witness anti-gay bullying and name-calling will turn a blind eye to it. This enables and encourages anti-gay harassment and violence. And in today's Baltimore Sun, Tim Smith's Teach Your Children Well examines the recent murder of a Baltimore 18-year old by his friends... simply for being suspected of being gay. And Smith poses a question: where did this hate come from?

Just days from graduating high school, Steven Parrish was stabbed and stomped to death by "friends" who feared he was gay. Smith notes, "Such incidents don't occur in a vacuum. Human beings don't come out of the womb despising homosexuality." They are taught by their peers, their community, their parents and in schools. A sea-change is needed in understanding the variety of human sexuality. Until that understanding and tolerance is taught and shown to young people, tragedies like Steven's will continue to happen.

The Transcendent Spirit of Stephanie Tubbs Jones

PFLAG issued the following statement this morning, in response to news reports that Fred Phelps, a virulent anti-gay bigot famous for public protests around the country, plans to picket funeral services for Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), who was a long-time champion of the LGBT community:

"Few public servants have embodied the greatest ideals of what it means to be a compassionate and loving person more than Stephanie Tubbs Jones. In her life, she always stood tall against hateful bigots like Fred Phelps and his ilk. Not even the darkest forces can tarnish the stunning legacy the Congresswoman leaves behind, or the bright light of hope that she always held to help light our way. The deplorable depravity of Fred Phelps will never be a match for the transcendent spirit of Stephanie Tubbs Jones."

Stepping Up & Stopping Trends

As the Safe Schools Coordinator for PFLAG, I hear from parents all across the country about the horrific bullying that so many young people endure. Taunting in school has become a disturbing trend in small schools and large, and its consequences were vividly illustrated in the recent, tragic shooting of Lawrence King in Oxnard, California. And, just like all other lessons we teach our children, there’s new information that stepping up and stopping bad behavior today can have long-term consequences throughout a young person’s life.

Blogger Diane Dimond writes at HuffingtonPost.com that a new study from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids shows an undeniable link between bullying today and criminal behavior tomorrow.

“[N]early 60 percent of boys whom researchers classified as bullies in grades 6-9 were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24,” Dimond writes. “And get this, 40 percent of those same boys grew up to have three or more criminal convictions.”

The key to stopping the harassment and bullying, Dimond notes, lies with adults. Responding – to both the kids and their parents – can make all the difference in the world. Because young people rarely exhibit bullying behavior in front of their own parents, it’s up to others in the community to be pro-active in driving the message home.

“That means other adults have to step up at schools, camps, sporting events and youth activity centers,” Dimond writes. “We need to tell parents when their children are being bullies. And we should teach all kids to refuse to join in the taunting. It is abuse, pure and simple. Children can be scarred for life by a bully. And, once robbed of their self esteem they can suffer from mental and physical problems, drop out of school and even commit suicide.”

Of course, we know that gay, transgender, questioning and gender-variant young people are at an especially high risk of the worst consequences from bullying. The truth is that we need ot teach students, teachers and school personnel about empathy, and about the nature and specifics of the bullying that LGBT students face. And that is why we tell our stories, and share our experiences, with schools. We need to peel away the hostility and silence that surrounds our children.

It’s all about learning from example, and taking stands to stop trends.

As Dimond’s HuffingtonPost column reminds us, individuals from every walk of life can – and must – take steps to stop the cycle of bullying. The consequences we, and our kids, face by leaving bullying unchecked are clear and undeniable for everyone involved.

To read Dimond’s full write-up, click here. And for more information on what you can do to help with PFLAG’s safe schools work, email me at sgreenfield@pflag.org.

- Suzanne Greenfield

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"The seconds, the thirds and the fourths . . . "

Mile-High Political Views, a blog covering this week's Democratic Convention from the LGBT perspective, has an interview today with Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin, the first openly lesbian Representative elected to Congress. Baldwin, widely recognized as one of the leaders on LGBT issues in the House, will be speaking tonight in Denver, between 7 and 8pm (EST).

Ahead of tonight's speech, she sat down with Mile-High blogger Mark Segal.

"It’s great to achieve historic firsts, but there’s still work to be done until we achieve the seconds and the thirds and the fourths, until these achievements are commonplace and nobody thinks twice about them," Baldwin said in discussing her place in history. "We’ve come a long way. Now the hard work is to make this everyday news."

The Congresswoman said that, this evening, she'll be "focusing on women in the economy, and one of the issues closest to my heart — in fact the reason I first ran for office in the first place — creating a healthcare system that covers all Americans. I’m going to be addressing the particular importance of national healthcare and healthcare reform as it affects women and the economy."

To read Segal's full interview with Baldwin, click here.

Tell Governor Rendell to Abstain from Abstinence-Only Programs

PFLAG has learned that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (pictured) is considering reversing his position on the federal government’s failed abstinence-only-until-marriage program. Currently, Pennsylvania is one of 25 states that no longer participates in this harmful program, which ignores solid data and the best interests of our kids.

If you live in Pennsylvania, please urge Governor Rendell to put kids first, and continue to refuse forcing this dangerous agenda on our educators and families.

Please take some time to call the Governor’s office today at (717) 787-2500 and ask Governor Rendell to keep Pennsylvania, and your kids, out of Title V abstinence programs. It is imperative that you call or email today; reports indicate Rendell may enroll Pennsylvania in the abstinence-only program any day now.

When you call, please be sure to mention the following important points:

- Pennsylvania’s kids shouldn’t be subjected to harmful, disproven programs. Medical professionals and researchers agree that abstinence-only doesn’t work, and in fact contributes to higher levels of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Pennsylvania’s kids shouldn’t be made to participate in a program that experts call harmful and counter-productive.

- By enrolling Pennsylvania in abstinence-only, Governor Rendell would be out-of-step with other states. A growing number of states – 25 and counting – have rejected abstinence-only and publicly committed to ensuring that teens receive solid, accurate information to make healthy, responsible decisions. Governor Rendell shouldn’t set Pennsylvania apart by making it the first state to support, and then back off from, that smart commitment.

- Our children deserve the facts, not right-wing rhetoric. Pennsylvanians support age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education, not the ideological, right-wing rhetoric that is the basis of abstinence-only education. Governor Rendell should stand up for Pennsylvania family values – of inclusion, education and common sense – and not bow down to conservative political forces with an agenda for our children.

You can also send Governor Rendell an email message, by clicking here.

Please take a moment, today, to stand up for Pennsylvania's kids, and urge the Governor not to back away from his smart decision to refuse anstinence-only funding and programs.

A Gay President One Day?

The more people in the professional world are out and open about their lives, the more inspiration they provide to LGBT youth in America. In essence, by being out and successful, they send a clear message that the next generation of LGBT youth can be, too. In the realm of politics the glass ceiling looks like it is evaporating, as Jared Polis recently because the first openly gay man to be elected to the House of Representatives.

But what about growing up to be President of the United States?

It's something many children dream about, but what are the prospects of one day having an openly gay president? According to a recent poll, over 60% of Americans would vote for an openly gay president.

Furthermore, the study shows that "67% of voters would support an openly-gay vice president, 69% would support a gay senator, and 71% would support a gay cabinet-level secretary."

With the continuing push for equality, the sky is increasingly becoming the limit for the next generation of LGBT leadership. Who knows... one day the president of your local Gay-Straight Alliance could be the President of the U.S.

Anti-Every Family

In at least one state in the union, the anti-gay forces seeking to roll-back rights for the LGBT community are equally happy to step on the liberties of other families, too, if that's what it takes to advance their anti-family agenda.

The Associated Press has reported that anti-family advocates in Arkansas have succeeded in getting a divisive, prejudicial measure on the November ballot that would not only ban adoption by lesbian and gay Arkansas residents . . . but by anyone of any sexual orientation who isn't (heterosexually) married.

"The measure would prohibit unmarried couples living together from fostering or adopting children, and Arkansas doesn't allow gays to marry or recognize gay marriages conducted elsewhere," the AP reports. The ballot initiative was organized in response to a recent Arkansas Supreme Court decision striking down a a statewide ban on adoption by same-sex couples.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel opposes the measure, and Arkansas Families First, a statewide coalition working to defeat the measure, has said it has strong grounds to challenge the measure's appearance on the ballot in court.

While anti-gay groups say they collected more than the 61,000 signatures needed to place the issue before voters, Arkansas Families First "found numerous signatures that should have been rejected by the state as invalid," AP says. The group is also planning to challenge the measure's constitutionality.

Should the measure make it to the November ballot, it is critical that Arkansas voters vote No on the measure. Too many children have waited too long for loving homes to have their dreams dashed by fringe anti-family activists who are out-of-step with the best interests of kids.

The forces pushing this hurtful measure aren't just anti-our families; they're anti-every family.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The LGBT 'Mile-High' View from Denver

Mile-High Political Views is a new blog launched by Mark Segal and Jason Villemez of Philadelphia Gay News to give up-to-the-minute reports from this week's Democratic Convention in Denver. Mark and Jason will be covering all of the LGBT happenings in the mile-high city and providing photo coverage (like this snapshot of the Pepsi Center) as events get underway.

Mark & Jason have already posted an interview with out Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), notes on this afternoon's roll call and more.

For complete LGBT convention coverage, visit Mile-High Political Views online here.

And don't forget, for a sneak peek at Log Cabin Republicans' plans for next week's GOP convention in Minneapolis, visit Blog Cabin online.

The LGBT Community: Ready for Our Convention Close-Ups

This afternoon, the Democratic Party will kick off its 2008 convention in Denver, which will be followed, in short order, by the GOP's gathering in Minneapolis just a few days later. And this year, more than at any other time in political party history, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) voters, delegates and families are playing a significant, visible role.

In Denver, a record number of LGBT delegates are part of the Democratic faithful who will be officially nominating the party's presidential contender. And, as The New York Times reported on Saturday, LGBT blogs, like Pam's House Blend, are officially credentialed to cover the convention action. Other allied sites, such as The Bilerico Project, will also be reporting from Denver, ensuring that our community's issues don't go unnoticed, or unreported, as the festivities get under way.

Next week, the Log Cabin Republicans will also be on the gound in Minneapolis, where they'll be part of at least four events - including a September 2 Big Tent event and a September 4 salute to openly gay & lesbian delegates and elected officials - that are part of the group's work to increase visibility, acceptance and clout of the LGBT community within the GOP.

And here at the PFLAG blog, we'll keep you updated on any LGBT-related remarks, speeches or news from both conventions. If convention speakers talk about our issues, we'll have reactions here. And whenever our families are part of the conversation, we'll bring you that news, too. So in-between visits to Pam's House Blend, The Bilerico Project and Blog Cabin for convention coverage, be sure to check back here for updates, reactions and news, too. And for helpful insights into the conventions, their purpose and this year's schedules, click here.

Photo by David Scull/The New York Times

How Many Times Does it Take?

Today, The New York Times introduces us to New York gay couple Bob Morris and his husband, Ira. They were married in California, thus making their marriage legally recognized in New York State. Through them we get an inside view of the legal labyrinth of marriage equality laws. In their case, what happens if voters pass Proposition 8 in California this November?

"We'll marry each other as often as needed," writes Morris. Unfortunately this has been the reality for far too many committed couples. Take, for instance, the Matsumura family. Elly, daughter of proud PFLAG parents Molleen and Ken Matsumura, married her wife back in 2004 when San Francisco rolled out the red carpet for marriage equality... only to see their marriage invalidated. Ultimately, they were allowed to marry again when the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of equality this summer. But as with Bob and Ira, the specter of that right being taken away again seems all too real with a ballot initiative that would again nullify their nuptials.

How would the heterosexual community react if they had to fear their marriages could be undone with a vote or ruling? Or that by crossing state lines their marriage recognition vanished? This is the reality for LGBT Americans, and this is why we need full marriage equality. In the meantime, be sure to check out http://www.noonprop8.com/!

Kathy Gilleran at PFLAG Ithaca/Cortland

Kathy Gilleran (pictured), whose search for her son Aeryan has gained international media attention, will speak to the Ithaca/Cortland Chapter of PFLAG on Sunday, September 7 at 4pm.

Gilleran will speak with local chapter members about Aeryn's life, his disappearance in Vienna and the obstacles she has encountered in her quest to learn the truth about what happened.

You can also still submit questions for Kathy, as part of the PFLAG blog's Q & A with her, ahead of her appearance at our chapter. Just leave your questions, comments or words of support in the comments section. We'll pass those along to Kathy, and she'll be responding here on the blog.

For more information on Kathy's story, click here. And be sure to visit the Ithaca/Cortland chapter's webpage, online here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Speaker's Trophy Dad

Many Americans outside of Manhattan, or outside of "inside" politics, may not know who Christine Quinn is, but for countless LGBT Americans who aspire to public service, she is widely considered a heroine.

Quinn, 42, is the first openly lesbian Council Speaker in New York City history, elected to one of the most powerful positions in one of the most influential cities in America. Representing Greenwich Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, Quinn has made a name for herself as a savvy, popular politico and is widely expected to run for Mayor of New York in 2009. Her career has been one shattered glass ceiling after another and she has toppled double obstacles - being both female and a lesbian - that few other politicians have successfully torn down.

In Monday's New York Times, reporter Michael Barbaro profiled Quinn, her expected city-wide race and one of her most valuable allies: Her 81-year-old dad, Lawrence.

Deemed "by the far the city's most visible political parent" by the Times, the elder Quinn has become a constant companion at his daughter's side.

"I like to think of myself as a trophy wife," Quinn, who is a practicing Catholic, and a Navy veteran of World War II, told the paper.

But it may be his daughter who has the trophy dad. As the Times reports, he has also become the very proud parent of his very out daughter . . . after, perhaps, a very short-lived hiccup.

The speaker's father "was severely tested when, in her mid-20s, Ms. Quinn told her father she was gay," Barbaro writes. “You should never say that again,” she once recalled him saying.

"But they worked through it," the paper continues, "and Mr. Quinn is now a reluctant but consistent supporter of gay causes. He regularly marches in the annual Gay Pride Parade, and, according to Ms. Quinn, he sometimes uses 'we' to speak of the gay community."

"Mr. Quinn has become close to Anthony Catullo, the father of Ms. Quinn’s partner. The two men, both military veterans and widowers, lounge together on the beach in New Jersey on summer weekends, where Ms. Quinn has a house."

And, according to Speaker Quinn, her father plans to stay close by, too. Though she maintains that she has not made a decision about a possible mayoral run next year, she did tell the Times that, "Whatever the next thing is, my father will be part of it."

To read the full profile of Speaker Quinn and her father, click here.

Photo by Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times.

Make Houses of Worship Truly Inclusive

From PFLAG executive director Jody Huckaby's latest op-ed, via the Progressive Media Project.

The doors to our houses of worship ought to be open to all. That includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, who often feel that religion has been used to divide and conquer their families and their rights.

On Saturday night at the Saddleback Church forum, Pastor Rick Warren asked both candidates about their definition of marriage, and both said that it was between one man and one woman.

This felt like exclusion, if not discrimination, to many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. And unfortunately, neither presidential candidate was asked about how they would welcome the LGBT community into the conversations about faith.

That’s too bad because history and progress are often made in the pews. The struggle for civil rights for blacks began largely in our churches — and was led largely by clergy — and was born out of a deep sense of religious conviction, rooted in the tradition of loving thy neighbor as thyself.

Today, however, LGBT Americans struggle to find the same passion for equality within some communities of faith.

Making a Bigger Difference

As the nation gears up for the Democratic and Republican conventions in the coming weeks, 365Gay.com asked LGBT leaders and allies from around the country one challenging and thought-provoking question:

"[W]here would an openly gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender appointee or elected official make the most difference during the next administration?"

Opinion makers from actress Rue McClanahan to entrepreneur Charlie Rounds weighed in.

PFLAG executive director Jody Huckaby also answered the query, calling on Americans to "Imagine the impact of having the first Secretary of Education who is also the parent of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender school-aged child."

"In the wake of the tragic murder of Lawrence King - and surveys showing that LGBT young people are far more likely than their heterosexual peers to drop out of, or not excel in, school – having a prominent national advocate who understands the importance of setting safe schools goals could make all the difference in the world," he writes.

You can read Jody's full response here. And for other suggestions on LGBT leaders for the next administration, visit 365Gay.com online.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tribal Equality

True marriage equality in Oregon?

Yes... if you are a member of the Native American Coquille tribe. The Oregon News explains:

"As a federally recognized sovereign nation, the tribe is not bound by the Oregon's Constitution. The tribe recently adopted a law that recognizes same-sex marriage and extends to gay and lesbian partners, at least one of whom must be a Coquille, all tribal benefits of marriage."

So, with the backing of their tribe, Kitzen Branting and her partner Jeni Branting [pictured] plan on getting married. But there could be rough legal waters ahead...

"Because the Coquilles have federal status, a marriage within the tribe would be federally recognized... And that would violate the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that says the federal government 'may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.' The federal government could challenge the Coquille law as a way of testing the limits of tribal independence..."

It's a wonderful thing to see tribal communities embracing all of their members as equal. And this is just one of so many examples of why the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" needs to go!

Be sure to check out PFLAG's resources for the Native American community.

Jindal Will Leave Families Behind

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (pictured) has announced that he will let the state's non-discrimination order, originally signed into law by his predecessor, Kathleen Blanco, to expire on Friday. The law bars state agencies and contractors from harassment and discrimination on the basis race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or disabilities.

"Jindal said Wednesday that discrimination is prohibited under state and federal laws and he doesn't want to create more special categories by executive order," the Associated Press reports. "He also said he worried it could cause problems with faith-based organizations' ability to contract with the state . . . "

"We're not going to renew it. That shouldn't come as a surprise," he said.

If not a surprise, it will certainly be a monumental disappointment to the countless Louisiana families who were protected by the executive order.

Jindal should be aware that no other Louisiana law - and certainly no federal law - protects LGBT Americans in the way he says. As a member of Congress, Jindal voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban workplace discrimination. So while he told the AP that "we oppose discrimination," his actions fail to keep up with his words.

"I’d want to make sure we weren’t driving out faith-based providers from state government, from providing state services," Jindal said during his campaign against Blanco.

Apparently, however, he has no such worries about leaving families with LGBT loved ones behind.

If you are a Louisiana resident, click here to email Jindal and urge him to renew Louisiana's commitment to non-discrimination. It's the only pro-family thing to do.

Update: Join the conversation about Jindal's decision at Pam's House Blend, The Bilerico Project, The Michael-in-Norfolk blog, and at Lavender Newswire.

Debating Donnelly at the 'Blend'

Pam Spaulding, over at Pam's House Blend, has taken up the debate about Elaine Donnelly's latest defense of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which we blogged about on Tuesday at HuffingtonPost.com.

"She forges on," Pam writes, "oblivious to the fact that her unhinged testimony managed to get a write up in the WaPo and a scorch by The Daily Show."

To join the debate, and weigh in with your own thoughts on Donnelly, "Don't Ask," and discrimination in the armed forces, click here.

One of the Biggest Hearts of the Heartland


The entire PFLAG family mourns the loss of Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, one of our nation’s true champions of equality. From employment non-discrimination to the military to equality for bi-national couples, Congresswoman Jones was an ardent advocate for the dignity of every American. She never shirked from any civil rights battle, and never failed to stand up and give voice to those who often felt voiceless. Our thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Jones’ family. Congress, and our country, have lost one of the biggest hearts of the heartland.

Congresswoman Jones was a co-sponsor of fully inclusive legislation to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from workplace discrimination, as well as of Congressional bills to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, expand the federal hate crimes statute to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and to treat same-sex couples equally under American immigration laws. First elected to Congress in 1998, Tubbs Jones was the first African-American woman to represent the state of Ohio. She passed away on Wednesday after suffering brain hemorrhaging caused by an aneurysm.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Proud to Be The Daughter of Rachel Hervey"

Today we have a special guest posting by Becky Jorgeson, a past co-president of our Central Coast, CA chapter, on her amazing PFLAG mother (and a co-founder of the Central Coast Chapter)- Rachel Hervey...

I write this story about an amazing woman, my 81 year-old mother, Rachel Hervey, RN, who lives just outside of the sleepy little town of Santa Margarita on the Central Coast of California. Twenty five years ago, my brother came out to us as a gay man, and thus it all began. My mother decided to act. In 1991, she started up the Central Coast Chapter of PFLAG with another woman. Many times they were the only two at the meetings, though as the years went by, more and more folks joined until we were up to 45 members. My mother independently staffed our PFLAG hotline for seven years, taking calls at all times of the day or night, patiently listening to everyone who called, regardless of the issue. She began a Cal Trans Adopt-a-Highway clean up program in PFLAG's name, and for many years kept a section of the highway clean by herself. Today, my dad carries on the family tradition.

In 1992, my mom started the PFLAG information table downtown during our weekly Farmers' Market in San Luis Obispo on Thursday nights - we are a clearinghouse for those who visit. We provide free educational materials, and are there to support and advocate for our gay citizens on the Central Coast (and elsewhere). For years, she went downtown every Thursday night (except in the winter time), set up the table, worked it and took it down by herself.

She purchased seats at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande (one of the local performing arts centers) in PFLAG's name; she made a donation to the William F. Clinton Library in Arkansas in the name of PFLAG and her family; for many years, she hired an artist to do a piece of work at our local i Madonnari street fair, which is now done by the chapter. She has contributed her time, energy and love in so many ways over the years that it's hard to keep track.

She was the one who kept after me for so long to "get into the schools..." I ended up serving as president of our chapter for almost four years running. We took our dog-and-pony show into the schools; middle schools, high schools, community colleges, our local university; we hit them all. We held meetings with superintendents, principals, PTAs, college residence halls advisors, the entire athletic department at Cal Poly, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, and churches... they all know our name. My sons used to think our last name was "PFLAG!"

She helped with fund raisers at the Madonna Inn and in people's homes. She showed movies at the Palm Theater and any other venue we could think of. We earned money to buy films on gay issues to put into the schools, earned money for materials to give out on the streets and buttons to sell to the young people who would wear them proudly - "We love our gay son," or "Proud to be the mother of a lesbian daughter!"

She has been the biggest advocate for PFLAG that we'll ever know. She regularly calls into the local radio talk show, writes letters to the editor, representatives in Congress, and the Senate. She even has the ability to call the White House once a week for free (which she does!) with her telephone long distance carrier. The woman is amazing. There is nothing she won't do to help protect the safety of her son, and gays and lesbians everywhere.

And she's the one who always encouraged us to help others...which we do. I couldn't be more proud of her if I tried.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Elaine Donnelly's Radical Cultural Change


Right-wing "military" activist Elaine Donnelly (pictured), fresh off of her critically disastrous appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, is again maligning the professionalism of our troops, the capabilites of military commanders and the common-sense of the American public.

In an August 14 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, Donnelly makes her same old argument, wrapped up in new-sounding rhetoric, that straight troops simply won't tolerate gay colleagues and that asking them to do so would unravel the very seams which hold one of the world's most revered fighting forces together.

It is a "radical cultural change," she asserts, to ask professional people to simply get along and do the jobs they were hired to do.

Donnelly's missive, which dismisses any rational ideas about what a service member's priorities are inside a war zone, tries to make her argument, which is the equivalent of "gay foxhole panic," sound reasonable. It is not, and Donnelly is flat-out wrong in almost every way.

Continue reading 'Elaine Donnelly's Radical Cultural Change' at HuffingtonPost.com . . .

Photo by Rudy K. Photography

Update: Doctors Can Not Discriminate

This June we brought you the story of a lesbian couple in California who were denied treatment at a fertility clinic because of their sexual orientation. The couple sued, and today the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that doctors can not refuse service to people for being gay.


PageOneQ has the complete story on Guadalupe Benítez (shown above left, with her family) who was denied treatment. In a victory for public health for all people in California, Benítez said, "It was an awful thing to go through... It was very painful — the fact that you have someone telling you they will not help you because of who you are, that they will deny your right to be a mother and have a family."

It's frightening to think there are some medical professionals who would deny care to someone simply because of who they are. This ruling will hopefully send a clear message that equal medical care is a fundamental right for everybody.

Meet the Neighbors

That's the premise behind a new, educational billboard campaign that is showing up on the Milwaukee skyline.

The Gay Neighbor campaign, funded by Cream City Foundation in Milwaukee, features local families and encourages locals to visit http://www.gayneighbor.org/ to learn more about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that has become a vibrant part of Milwaukee life.

The campaign website features the stories of families profiled on billboards . . . information on important issues impacting the LGBT community . . . and tips on ways to be supportive.

"The campaign hopes to dispel myths about gay couples and families and build more awareness about the realities of 'gay neighbors,'" Express Milwaukee reported. "We have common ground,” said Tim Clark, president of the Cream City Foundation. “We have families. We are positive, loving, happy people.”

To visit the campaign website - including snapshots of each billboard in the campaign - click here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Taking Sides

Earlier this month, sadly, the Grossmont Union High School district became the first school district in California to support Proposition 8, which would enshrine marriage discrimination into a state that currently enjoys equality.

Following up on this story, today the Los Angeles Times ran an article about other school district boards electing to take sides, either for or against equality. One school board member interviewed was pro-equality:

"Katz-Lacabe, a computer security consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of San Leandro, strongly disagreed [with an opponent]. 'This amendment would essentially enshrine discrimination into the Constitution . . . a perfect example of state-sponsored discrimination,' he said."

Unfortunately there are several school board members out there who don't share these views, and want to encourage their communities to vote away marriage equality. And one has to ask, what kind of message does that send to students in the community?

When school members presume to speak for their communities in saying that LGBT people don't deserve the same privileges, it sends a clear message to young people: LGBT students are not equal, and bullying, harassment and unequal treatment are "O.K."

It's sad that in such a progressive state as California there are still people on school boards who are more concerned with giving people second-class citizenship than with doing what ought to be focused on: protecting and educating young people. It's time to stop sending anti-gay messages to young people, and start talking about what schools are doing to ensure they are safe learning environments for everybody.


Also, if you haven't seen it yet, here is a television ad from Let California Ring, a pro-marriage equality group. This funny, yet powerful, commercial that just might give people pause for thought on what marriage discrimination might feel like. "What if you couldn't marry the person you love?"

Gay Penguins and Guinea Pigs

First there were controversies over And Tango Makes Three, a children's book featuring the true story of two male penguins who adopt a penguin chick and make a family together. The adorable same-sex penguins ruffled more than a few feathers when a few parents wanted the book banned or restricted because they showed equality in a positive light.

A new controversy has started over another children's book featuring marriage equality. This time, it's Uncle Bobby's Wedding, featuring two same-sex guinea pigs who get married as seen through the eyes of the eponymous guinea pig's niece.

Dana over at Mombian has the scoop. Apparently a parent is upset in Douglas County, Colorado and thinks that children seeing a book depicting marriage equality is "inappropriate." Which begs the question, what about youth who have LGBT parents, LGBT loved ones (like the niece in the story), parents who want their children to have open minds and LGBT youth themselves? Banning books sends a chilling message to anyone who supports equality. Kudos to the director of the library, James LaRue, for insisting that the book stays! You can read his response here.

Q & A with Kathy Gilleran

Our reporting on Kathy Gilleran's search for her son, who disappeared in Austria in 2007, has moved many of our readers. We've received numerous emails, messages of support for Kathy, and many questions about the story, how you can help, and what happens now.

Kathy has asked PFLAG to express her gratitude for all our supporters have done to draw attention to her search for Aeryn. (Since our original report appeared, Kathy has been interviewed by Michelangelo Signorile, and covered by PageOneQ.) Your interest in Aeryn's story has helped capture the public's attention, and your support for this amazing mom has inspired her to keep searching for answers.

Later this week, the PFLAG blog and Bilerico will host a Q & A with Kathy. We have heard from many of you that you still have questions about the story, and Kathy has agreed to answer as many of your questions as possible.

Here's how it works: Leave a question for Kathy here in the comments section of this blog entry, and we'll select a sampling of those, send to her, and ask her to respond. Then, we'll post her answers here on the blog later in the week.

And for updates on Kathy's search for Aeryn, stay tuned here. We'll be posting the latest news and information about the story as more details come in . . . .

It's STILL Elementary . . . September on 'In the Life'

The September episode of In the Life, the award-winning PBS series examining LGBT issues, includes an update on one of the most talked-about LGBT film events of the past decade: It's Elementary, the ground-breaking film that examined LGBT issues in America's schools.

It's Elementary raised a storm of protest and dialogue when the cameras entered several grade schools 10 years ago and recorded 3rd & 4th graders challenging gay stereotypes . . . a decade later, now young adults, the students reflect on the experience in It's Still Elementary. And In the Life looks at kids' journey, the message behind the film and the more-relevant-than-ever issues posed by the original project.

In the Life's September episode, "A Festival of Film," airs on public television stations across the country. For local broadcast dates and times - and more about the series - visit the show's home on the web, at http://www.inthelifetv.org/. And for a free preview of the Elementary episode, click here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

MD Court Will Hear Transgender Law Case

According to Maryland's Daily Record, the state's Court of Appeals has agreed to hear a case involving a petition to have a measure in Montgomery County, Maryland, to have transgender protections stripped from county laws.

After the so-called "Citizens for Responsible Government" claimed they had enough signatures, their petition was challenged by Equality Maryland. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Robert A. Greenberg ruled Equality Maryland missed the deadline to challenge the referendum. Now, the Daily Record says, "The Court of Special Appeals... said it will hear the case Sept. 8, leaving sufficient time to render a decision before Election Day, Nov. 4."

We will keep you posted on these developments in Maryland. See also:
Religious Right Targets Transgender Community
Petition Challenge in Maryland

Partnership Law to Stay in Oregon

Good news from Oregon: a federal appeals court ruled yesterday that a challenge to Oregon's domestic partnership law did not obtain the required amount of signatures to appear of the upcoming November ballot.

Opponents of equality tried to gather enough signatures to create a referendum similar to the ballot initiative in California, Proposition 8. In effect, they wanted to roll back the partnership protection offered by the state of Oregon.

"This case was never necessarily about the signature-verification process. It was about overturning the domestic-partnership law, and that was a very real threat," said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. "But I think there has been a real change to how people view fairness and equality." Read more about it in yesterday's Seattle Post-Intellegencer.

While opponents of equality could try and appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, or "or ask for a review by the full 9th Circuit," it seems with the November elections swiftly approaching that at least in Oregon equality will not have to be put to a popular vote.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Memories from Mexico

Yesterday Kim Jones, our Senior Field and Policy Coordinator, blogged about her experiences at the 2008 World Aids Conference in Mexico City. Here are some more photos she's shared with us from the conference...

PFLAG National President John Cepek with Irma Anhalt

John Cepek with openly gay Mexican pop singer Christian Sanchez

Char Cepek and John Cepek at the parents' march

The conference tabling staff

Kathy Gilleran - Today @ 4:30 on Signorile

Kathy Gilleran, the mother of Aeryn Gilleran, who has been missing in Vienna since October 2007, will be on today's episode of The Michelangelo Signorile Show on SiriusOutQ Radio. Kathy will be talking with Michelangelo about her search for her son, the homophobia she's encountered along the way, and how she's leading the effort to find out the truth about what happened in Austria.

You can tune in to hear Kathy today @ 4:30. Click here for a free trial membership, if you're not already a Sirius subscriber.

Trans Top Model

I haven't watched any episodes of Tyra Banks' show America's Next Top Model yet, but I might have to tune in now after reading this: the upcoming season will feature a trans woman as a contestant.

Isis, 22, hails from our backyard, Prince George's County, Maryland - right outside of Washington. The local former receptionist will be featured on the CW's program starting September 3. Isis tells US Magazine, "I'm here to follow my dreams."

It's refreshing to see a member of the trans community represented in the model competition. I'll be watching to see Isis [pictured, left - photo courtesy of CW] and the other models next month. Earlier this year I got pulled into following Project Runway (which gay designer Christian Siriano won last season), so I'm looking forward to another reality show that embraces all walks of like on the catwalk.

An Update on the Search for Aeryn

Yesterday, we reported, at HuffingtonPost.com, on Kathy Gilleran's search for her son, Aeryn, who was last seen in October 2007 in Vienna, Austria. Last night, local CBS affiliate WTVH updated the original story:

In the two weeks since we first brought you the heartbreaking story of a Cortland mother whose son disappeared in Vienna, Austria, we've been swamped with e-mails and phone calls. There is incredible interest in what happened to Aeryn Gilleran, and the encouraging response has meant the world to his mother, Kathy.

Gilleran's mind plays on a continual loop from October 31st, the day she received a phone call from her son's co-worker. Aeryn had disappeared. The 34 year-old worked for the United Nations in Vienna. Since he vanished, she's done everything in her power to find out what happened to her son, but with little help from Austrian police, hope is running out. "I want to be hopeful but I'm scared to be hopeful because I'm scared that as much as it hurts right now, that if I got my hopes up, that it would be a million times worse," said Gilleran.

The Austrian media has only made a painful situation more difficult. Since we first brought you the story, it's been picked up by an Austrian newspaper which painted this mother as a despairing housewife who's suing the police, and the paper said Aeryn was a mentally unstable gay man who committed suicide. Kathy Gilleran leaves a candle in the window, a symbolic light in the dark for Aeryn to find his way home. Until that day, it's a comfort to know she's not alone. "In knowing that perfect strangers are there, that just perfect strangers are out there, that's huge. That's really huge," said Gilleran.

For video of last night's story, click here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Where's Aeryn? A Mother's Search for the Truth


Kathy Gilleran (pictured) is a mother on a mission: To find out the truth about what happened to her son.

Aeryn Gilleran, who was 34 at the time, disappeared in Vienna, in October 2007, while working for the United Nations International Development Organization (UNIDO). Alarmed by the news that her son was missing, Kathy traveled from her home in New York to Austria, in an attempt to work with police in the country, the U.S. State Department and other local and international agencies . . . in short, anyone who could help her find her son.

What Kathy found, instead, was a system that seemed more offended by Aeryn's sexual orientation than they were interested in helping to locate him.

"I spent six weeks [in Vienna], dealing with the Austrian police, who treated me not as a mother in shock and disbelief, but as a vile creature who had the audacity to ask them to help me find my gay son," Kathy wrote in an email to PFLAG. "According to the police, since my son was gay, it was obvious that he was emotionally unstable and, thus, must have committed suicide."

In fact, the callous response of local officials made it seem as if they were down-right refusing to take any serious, pro-active steps to find Kathy's son.

Continue reading Where's Aeryn? at HuffingtonPost.com . . .

Photo by Bob Ellis for The Cortland Standard.

Worldwide Support, Education and Advocacy: A Report from Mexico City's World AIDS Conference

Kim Jones, our Senior Field and Policy Coordinator, reports back from her trip (along with PFLAG National President John Cepek and his wife Char Cepek) to Mexico City for the World AIDS Conference...

The World AIDS Conference was by far, the largest event I have ever attended. It was incredibly moving to see thousands of people all gathered in one place, with a common goal, from such different backgrounds.

PFLAG worked in coalition with Family Acceptance Project, let by Caitlin Ryan (PhD social worker and researcher at the Cesar Chavez Institute and Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality) and Asociación Internacional De Familias Por La Diversidad Sexual, led by Irma Anhalt (Mexico City support group leader) and Luis Perelman (counselor and owner of the local progressive resource store El Armario Abierto). We met so many wonderful people involved in both these organizations and heard many moving stories of how families have played both positive and negative roles with in the lives of their loved ones with HIV/AIDS. I must express my deepest gratitude to everyone who made our networking zone possible.

The slogan for our coalition was “Family Acceptance and Support = Hope, Health and Well-Being.” We truly did we see how critical this slogan was throughout our involvement in the World AIDS Conference. In addition, we saw the truth of this slogan in attending the Mexico City support group hosted by Irma Anhalt and attended by over 70 people. The traditional importance of family in Latin American cultures brought person after person through Irma’s door on Tuesday evening to sit talk with each other, for as long as seven hours (4:30pm-11:30pm), about their loved ones and the coming out process.

John Cepek, Char Cepek, and I had the opportunity to host a smaller support group on Wednesday at the Networking Zone. People were moved to tears considering the importance of family in their lives and the impact families can have in both positive and negative ways. One mother named Rosa, who has become an activist after the death of her child due to AIDS, shared her story in the press conference and in our networking zone. She said, “I believe that my homophobia and the homophobia of my family contributed to my son contracting AIDS. If we had been more accepting, maybe he would be alive today.” Her story was powerful and rang true for many people listening.

Also on Wednesday, Caitlin Ryan presented her research findings about the impact of parental acceptance on risk behaviors in youth. Her study will be published next year. During her presentation she discussed the political responsibility of LGBT organizations. She shared that for such a long time, the term “family values” has been used by our political opponents as a reason to work against the movement. We need to reclaim the term “family values” as crucial part of our movement. Family acceptance plays such a critical role in the work that we do at PFLAG and other organizations that model the PFLAG support group globally.

PFLAGers Nila Marrone and Carmen Robello, leaders of the PFLAG chapter of New York for Families of Color and Allies, did a great job of discussing the work they do in their chapter and in mentoring chapters throughout the world. Nila gave an excellent presentation about the importance of recognizing the gender/sexuality spectrum in safe schools work. Safe schools are an excellent education and advocacy opportunity for many PFLAG chapters. Suzanne Greenfield, our Safe Schools Coordinator, consults with many chapters on finding these opportunities in their local schools.

Participating in the World AIDS Conference allowed those of us involved to be mindful, more than ever, of just how important all three of our mission areas--support, education, and advocacy--are to the success of building chapters and relationships with people who are new to PFLAG. We discussed our newest educational program, Straight for Equality, in interactions with so many progressive people who have the potential to be fabulous straight allies. Also, with such a large transgender audience, we were able to talk about PFLAG’s advocacy historically and today alongside the transgender community. As we were one of the few U.S. LGBT organizations in participation at the conference, many attendees expressed their appreciation for PFLAG’s involvement. People from all corners of the globe saw that PFLAGers do more than sit in a support circle. We leave our support circles to impact the world in very real ways.

-Kim Jones

Remembering, and Celebrating, Angie Zapata

Blogger, activist and all-around LGBT champion Donna Rose (pictured) has a post up at The Bilerico Project recounting Saturday's vigil for Angie Zapata, the young transgender woman who was the victim of a brutal hate crime, in July, in Colorado. Donna, who has also covered Zapata's murder and the subsequent investigation into her death at her own site, The DonnaBlog, writes movingly about the vigil and about celebrating the life of a vibrant young woman who was taken from us far too soon.


On Saturday evening, August 9, a group of over 200 of us came together in Greeley, CO for an evening of celebrating Angie Zapata's life. And, less than a week after she would have turned nineteen, we grieved her death. We were a collection of young and old, trans and ally, local and visitor. We represented a number of organizations who have been involved in the investigation and in supporting the family, and we came as simply ourselves - representing nothing more than our own heartfelt sadness and needing to do something.

And, of course, there was the Zapata family. They were easy to spot in white T-shirts with Angie's photograph on it - her angel eyes buring brightly as though she was still with them. She had several young nieces and nephews who played, oblivious to the reason that we were all there together. She had immediate and extended family, and a group of friends. And her sister and mother were there. All were amazing.

The family gathered on the stage and Angie's sister read a statement and a poem. Many of us cried right along with them as they finished. Speaker after speaker spoke of the need to overcome hate, of the need to speak out against the dehumanizing efforts that lead to these kinds of tragedies. One speaker reminded the group, "Angie wasn't murdered because she was transgender. She was murdered because of someone else's transgender biases and discomforts."

To read Donna's full report, click here. There's also more coverage from the Denver CBS affiliate, online here.