49 Portraits Project

Q: How and why did you decide to do this for the families of the Orlando shooting victims?
A: I was inspired by a similar project done on a much smaller scale for the victims of the Charleston Emmanuel AME church attacks.  When I heard about it, I wished I could have been able to participate.  After the Pulse attacks, as well as other violence occurring in this country and around the world, I felt so helpless and overwhelmed like so many of us, and was searching for a way to do something. Also this attack targeting the LGBTQ community was especially hard to take, as is an attack on any marginalized group already struggling to feel safe and acknowledged for their full humanity.  And I knew finding 49 artists to do portrait might be difficult but I thought that if I could pull it off it would be incredibly powerful and meaningful.  The project touches on all the most important things to me: having the courage to move towards pain as a way to heal and bring people together, and the need for art (representational art in particular) to be made and seen to help us process our lives and find beauty in the midst of tragedy.
 
Q: Why did you choose to do portraits rather than some other medium?
A: I am a visual artist, and I made a portrait too.  I love painting portraits.  When you paint/draw you look at things with an attention and care that you would never otherwise do.  So there is an experience for the artist of really lovingly taking in a face and considering a life.  So making the portrait for me and for each artist involved is a way of feeling and reckoning with the loss.  And putting love into the void left by horror and tragedy.  And it offers that same gift to all the viewers, which is so clear because we all respond so differently to these portraits than the snapshots that were publicly shared.  I also love the way the portraits transcend politics.
 
Q: How will you get these portraits to the families?
A: Right now the plan is to exhibit the work in Orlando at a the Terrace Gallery in City Hall in the Winter/Spring and then present the work to the families near the anniversary of the attacks.  I have gotten the help of the office of the Mayor of Orlando and a LGBT community center there as well to reach the families.
 
Q: When do you think you will be finished with this project?
A: I have nearly all the portraits, I believe I am just short a few at this point so hopefully in the next couple of weeks or so.
 
Q: How do you hope this will help the victims’ families?
A: I hope they feel all the love that went into them and that they are first deeply moved by the efforts of a stranger for them.  Then I hope that for the rest of their life they feel the presence of their loved one in the piece.  But I think the impact of the work and the project is not just for the family and friends of those lost, but for anyone and everyone who needs it.  We are creating a permanent website gallery for the portraits as well.

DC Area Shocked: Four Transgendered Assualts This Summer

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While the summer months always see a rise in assaults in the District of Columbia (DC), the transgender community fears that it will be a particularly violent summer for them.

The latest attacks happening just this past weekend, a high number of trans women have been attacked within the city.

The two most recent attacks happened on June 29, within an hour of each other. At 3:30 am in the East Corner neighborhood, a trans woman was offered a ride and then was sexually assaulted by an unknown male.

At 4 am that same night, in the area of 5th and K streets NE, two adult males attempted to rob a trans woman, then shot and left her. She was taken to the hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Two days earlier, on June 27, again in the East Corner neighborhood and at 6 am, a trans woman was assaulted by two men, and then shot in the buttocks. The suspects in the cases are different, and police have a surveillance video posted and are asking for public assistance to identify the suspects. This area was near the location of several anti-trans women attacks: a double-murder of Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis, July 2011’s fatal shooting of Lashai Mclean, and the February 2012 fatal stabbing of Deoni Jones.

The one that began the summer has been the most brutal. On June 21 in the Fort Stanton neighborhood, around 1 am a trans woman was stabbed around 20 times, was sent to the hospital, treated for her wounds, and has since been released. She was treated for a collapsed lung and severed tendons in one hand. While the police are still looking for suspects in the other cases, police have arrested their main suspect here—23-year-old Michael McBride—and have charged him with assault with intent to kill.

Another two victims, identifying as lesbian and gay respectively, along with the trans women victims, have been making the last few weeks very tense for the DC lgbt community. One day after the stabbing, June 22 in the Barry Farms neighborhood, 35-year-old Malika Stover was found by police suffering multiple gunshot wounds. She was taken to a local hospital, but died of her injuries.

To end the weekend, on Sunday June 23, a drag queen was attacked at a pizzeria north of Logan Circle.

In response to the violence against the lgbt community, activists met to discuss ways to respond to the violence and to keep those in the community safe. The most recent assaults came less than a day after the meeting, and was a blow to the positive momentum built up. None of these crimes have been classified by the police as hate crimes, and there are members of the DC community trying to get their classification changed.

Hopefully this will not foreshadow worse violence to come. With a country so overjoyed with the strides in gay marriage law, it’s difficult to see that indeed, more work needs to be done, especially for the transgender community.

Supreme Court Delivers Gay Marriage Victory

BREAKING NEWS:  Supreme Court Delivers First Gay Marriage Victory

Profound Victory for basic human rights as the Supreme Court issues rulings on Gay Marriage.

In 5-4 ruling, U.S. Supreme Court justices overturn Defense of Marriage Act, saying it is unconstitutional. DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas issue Dissents. Chief Roberts and Scalia believe there is no jurisdiction. Opinion is by Justice Kennedy, joined by the four liberal Justices — Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Kennedy states, “DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled ot recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.”

In plain terms, same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law such benefits include income taxes, social security benefits and over a thousand other federal laws and programs. The Court explained that by denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples..

In Proposition 8 ruling, court dismisses based on standing. Gay Marriage Ban in California is struck down. From Chief Roberts “”The Court does not have before it, and the logic of its opinion does not decide, the distinct question whether the States . . . may continue to utilize the traditional definition of marriage.” The Ninth Circuit was without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The judgment of the Ninth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

In plain English because the State of California would not defend the law, proponents of the ban filed the suit challenging the ninth circuit courts decision.  The supreme court has ruled that the suit had no standing as the proponents have no legal rights to bring the case.

At 10am the Supreme Court and it’s nine justices convened to issue rulings on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which limits the definition of marriage to being specifically a male/female relationship for the purpose of federal benefits, and a California state law banning gay marriage AKA proposition 8.

Both cases, which were argued in March, could shape the debate profoundly on weather gay men and women have the right to marry their same-sex partners. The cases come before SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) at a time when opinion polls show growing support for gay marriage.  While only 12 (13 with California) states recognize gay marriage, there are still over 30 states that prohibit it with many more with laws that try to provide some rights to gay couples while not officially calling it “marriage”.

The DOMA case before the court was brought by Edith Windsor of New York who was married to a woman, Thea Spyer, legally at the state level in New York, but was unable to get the federal estate tax deduction available to heterosexuals when their spouses die due to the 1996 DOMA law.  When Spyer died in 2009, Edit Windsor was forced to pay federal estate taxes in the amount of $363,000.  Windsor case files suit against the federal government seeking a refund of the same amount.

While the Obama administration once defended the law, Attorney General Eric Holder said the law was unconstitutional in 2011. The administration asked the Supreme Court to strike the law down. making Obama the first sitting president to support gay marriage.

The California case, Proposition 8,  was a state ballot measure that was approved by voters in 2008 just months after the California’s supreme court ruled in favor of gay marriages. A federal judge struck the proposition 8 law down two years later in 2010 as a violation of the US Constitutions guarantee of equal protection.

Boyscouts to end ban on gays

Breaking news:  No details as of yet, but a spokesperson for the Boyscouts of America indicates it will end the restrictions against gay youth from joining their ranks.  The organization has come under increasing pressure after activists such as Zach Wahls, an Eagle scout with two lesbian mothers. Wahls founded the organization Scouts for Equality, which collected more than 1.2 million signatures opposing the anti-gay policy.  Scouts for equality includes 3,151 other Eagle Scouts within its roll. Details to follow.

Week Before Election, Pitt donates $100K

Brad Pitt has donated $100,000 to the Human Rights Campaign in support of marriage equality.  The superstar actor’s donation could not have come at a more critical time with Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State all voting on the issue next Tuesday.

Pitt said in an email to HRC supporters, “If you’re like me, you don’t want to have to ask yourself on the day after the election, what else could I have done?” He and Angelina Jolie have been huge supporters of gay marriage … going so far as to put their own marriage on hold until gay marriage is legal on a national level.

Pitt joins other super stars like Russel Simmons, Cyndi Lauper, Mayor Michale Bloomberg and dozens of other celebrities in giving to the marriage equality cause this past year. In fact, dozens of celebrities have appeared in videos supporting the HRC.

BrokeStraightBoys goes to Hollywood

A popular heterosexual model from the gay erotic site BrokeStraightBoys.com will be featured in a multiple-episode story arc on Logo’s and OUTtv’s new series “DTLA”. This represents one of the first times that an amateur porn actor will be featured in a dramatic series.

From the executive producer of the “The L Word”, “DTLA” depicts the relationships and sex lives of eight friends with varied ethnic, cultural, and sexual orientations that work and live in the vibrant community of Downtown Los Angeles. The series stars Darryl Stephens (“Noah’s Arc”) and a cavalcade of notable supporting cast including Golden Globe winning, and Academy Award nominated Melanie Griffith, Sandra Bernhard and Leslie Jordan. “DTLA” is created, directed and executive produced by Larry Kennar (“The L Word,” 50 First Dates, Barbershop), Darryl Stephens, Michael Andres Palmieri, Mark Erickson, and Helene Shaw.

“This is a great example of how mainstream television and the world of adult entertainment can come together to produce spectacular results,” said “DTLA” Producer and BrokeStraightBoys.com creator Mark Erickson. My team has a great deal of experience with branding. As a media company, you have to create a unique brand for all your products and teaming up with DTLA was a natural fit for our brand.”

Mark Erickson has extensive experience working in filmed entertainment. His company BluMedia, a production company specializing in adult entertainment, is responsible for many of the web’s most popular erotic sites including BrokeStraightBoys.com, JustUsBoys.com, CollegeDudes.com, and JustUsBoysMagazine.com.

Erickson has long been exploring ways to take his roster of erotic brands mainstream, but it was only until recently that he found the right fit with “DTLA”.

“I first wanted to explore venturing into mainstream television after a model forgot to remove a temporary BrokeStraightBoys.com tattoo after an event. His girlfriend saw it later and he had to make up a story about how he got it. I thought to myself, now this would make great television. “

As part of a broader campaign, the collaboration also includes a new series of Broke Straight Boys commercials to air throughout the season starring many of the sites most popular models.

“We’re focused on expanding the footprint of products that BluMedia offers its customers along with breaking down many of the stigmas and stereotypes associated with adult entertainment”, said Erickson. “We wanted something BIG to open up our amazing brands to the rest of the world and now we’re in the process of now developing our own television show.”

Be on the lookout for more news and announcements regarding both shows in the near future.

Romney Will Let Gays and Lesbians Die Alone

A history of dying alone

Gay people had long faced a cruel and inhumane limitation on their rights imposed across the United States by certain states and hospitals when they were denied the ability to visit their partners in hospitals.  Many gay men and women died alone as their loving partners waited outside the hospital doors due to stringent rules prohibiting non-family members from having hospital visitation rights.

Lisa Pond was with her three children playing basketball on the first day of a 2007 cruise vacation when she collapsed from an aneurysm. The 39 year old mother was rushed by ambulance to a Florida medical center where she fought for her life all alone. Her partner of 18 years was not allowed to see Lisa.  She and their children were never given the chance to say goodbye as her please to be at her partner’s deathbed were not granted because the couple from Lacey, Washington were lesbians.

This is just one story of countless documented cases where members of the gay community were treated without even a shred of common decency or humanity.

Help finally arrives

Thankfully, help finally came two years ago when President Obama mandated that all hospitals grant same-sex couples all the same rights as married heterosexual couples including visitation rights. Hospitals partaking in Medicare and Medicaid, under the new regulations,  must allow all patients to decide visitation rights, as well as who to entrust with making medical decisions on their behalf, regardless of sexual or gender identity.  According to the White House blog, “This policy impacts millions of LGBT Americans and their families. The President saw an injustice and felt very strongly about correcting this.” White House deputy director of public engagement Brian Bond wrote.

A human rights issue or an election issue?

In most of the civilized world, this would be considered a human rights issue, but this week it is simply an election issue –“Red Meat” for the base if you will.  Following the last Presidential Debate, Bay Buchannan, in the spinroom, told buzzfeed, “Governor Romney supports a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution that defines marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. Governor Romney also believes, consistent with the 10th Amendment, that it should be left to states to decide whether to grant same-sex couples certain benefits, such as hospital visitation rights.”

Mitt Romney’s website proudly states:

Like any family, the Romneys have faced hardship: Ann was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, and more recently fought a battle with breast cancer. She credits her husband’s unwavering care and devotion to her for helping her through these ordeals.

So, while Mitt and Ann have a complete understanding of how important it is to be with your partner when facing a health crisis, he has promised to allow states to prohibit same-sex couples from having the same hospital visitation rights that he and Ann share. When it comes to exercising “unwavering care and devotion” it seems that is something only straight couples are capable of doing.

This is just one stark example of the 22 rights that gay and lesbian couples have now granted under the years with Obama in the White House that are almost guaranteed to disappear if Romney wins the presidency.

When it comes to common decency and being a good steward of humanity, Mitt Romney just isn’t looking out for the millions of gay and lesbians across this country who may face the very will prospect of starting to die alone once more.

It’s not too late to be Purple today!

Don’t forget today is Spirit Day!

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is sponsoring Spirit Day today, October 19th.  Hopefully, millions of Americans will wear purple to speak out against bullying and to show support for GLBT youth.

Why Purple?  It represents spirit on the rainbow flag.  Participants will either wear purple on Spirit Day or change their social media profile pictures to purple using GLAAD’s Spirit Day apps available at http://glaad.org/spiritday. “By going purple for Spirit Day, millions of Americans are helping to send a clear message that no one should be bullied simply because of who they are,” states GLAAD President Herndon Graddick.

Has your day already started and you forgot to wear purple?

You can still go purple in support of GLBT youth with this simple way from Twibbon to turn your facebook and twitter profile photos purple.  It couldn’t be easier!

http://twibbon.com/support/spiritday

Fitness Guru Shaun T Comes Out – Quietly

Is coming out becoming so normal that it’s not worthy of “insane” media publicity and high production values?  After Anderson Cooper and Frank Ocean recently came out to much fanfare, fitness guru Shaun T quietly slipped out of the closet this weekend via a simple retweet.

Shaun T created Insanity, a 60-day program focusing on “maximum-intensity exercise with short periods of rest.”  The program promises fast results without leaving the house and has been wildly successful. Shaun T followed up his continuing success with the “Hip-Hop Abs” video which had men and women swooning across the country.

With so much success and having such a high profile, Shaun T could have attempted to milk his coming out for additional publicity, but his coming out story is much simpler and void of all fanfare. Alex Coloreo, an attendee at the wedding, tweeted an Instagrammed shot from the wedding:

Shaun then retweeted this and followed up confirming the holy matrimony…

And that was that.  A simple and sincere moment captured via Instagram and Twitter to two newlyweds!  No product tie-ins or advertising blitz. Congratulations to Shaun T and his new husband Scott Blokker!  We wish you the all the best in your new life together!