Fearless Firsts: Australian “No to Homophobia” Campaign Aims to Change The Workplace

The ALSO Foundation, a Victoria, Australia-based LGBTQ rights and visibility activism organization, launched its high-profile anti-homophobia campaign last year, meeting with continued acclaim and supportive media coverage.

Entitled “No to Homophobia,” the campaign raises consciousness and encourages role models to liaise with the community to teach acceptance and inclusiveness to the community at large.

Jason Ball, a prominent out gay Aussie footballer, is one of the foundation’s many in-community campaign leaders who’s teaching AFL players to stand in their truth, and requesting that the AFL ALSO’s  anti-homophobia ads during footy (their first campaign was successful and the advertising  aired on national television during the AFL preliminary finals).

According to the ALSO Twitter page, The ALSO Foundation is “Australia’s first public campaign targeting #homophobia, #biphobia, #transphobia and LGBTIQ harassment.” In its video and television ads (http://www.youtube.com/user/NoToHomophobia), the foundation illustrates common scenarios where social and workplace harassment might go unreported.

Former ALSO CEO Crusader Hills told the Australian press, “There’s never been a television commercial about homophobia, let along around transphobia and biphobia.”

The short, impactful ad spots deal with thoughtless—and illegal—comments made in workplace or intersocial environments, spotlighting bullying or ignorant remarks and gestures. (For example: male workers say something to a lesbian about her personal life after she asks them a simple work-related question).

Victoria, Australia’s anti-bullying legislation does provide certain protections, and the public relations and community outreach teams for The ALSO Foundation aim to ensure  the public is made fully aware of their rights under the law.

Topics covered in the PSA series include homophobic/trans-phobic/bi-phobic harassment in sports and at work, sexually-based harassment, and gender-based harassment, as well as the legal steps to take, such as  filing reports with local authorities.

Anna Brown from the No to Homophobia campaign told The Age Online:

“This is a community-driven grassroots campaign that really aims to raise awareness of the harm caused by homophobic harassment, and the fact that it’s directly linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide. The consequences of this harassment can last a lifetime. We’re really encouraging the community to understand that we all have a responsibility to stand up to homophobic harassment wherever it occurs, and even if we’re not the targets ourselves. So if you witness harassment and do nothing, you’re condoning it or letting it continue unchallenged.”

The commercials ask viewers to take action “No matter how subtle” the harassment may be.

Anna Brown continued, “We have a comprehensive online resource…it provides people with the resources they need to get informed, find support, and take action to put a stop to homophobia. We’d encourage everyone to go there and find out more about what they can do to respond to homophobia personally. But also to spread the word amongst their friends, colleague, neighbors and people to really raise awareness and tackle homophobia as a community.”

For more information, please visit http://www.notohomophobia.com.au.

If you witness or experience harassment or bullying in the workplace, do you know what your options are or what the next steps to take might be?

Create Your Reality

Each of us has a personal “reality” in which we live and function.  However, we do not exist in a vacuum; we are all part of a larger community of humans and we must share our reality with other people who may intrude their own realities on ours and attempt to impose their will and their perspective of reality on us.  Unfortunately, many relinquish their unique reality and succumb to the influence of others and relegate themselves to the abyss of failure and mediocrity by simply “playing it safe”, becoming a “creature of the commonplace,” and a “slave to the ordinary.”

Throughout the history of America, there have been individuals who have blazed their own trails and refused to allow someone else’s reality and view of the world to become their own.  The American patriots of the Revolution did not allow the oppressive reality of the Colonial British Empire to be theirs.  Those Americans who forged west to unknown territories did not succumb to someone else’s reality and remain in the east due to the ridicule and admonitions of others to remain and not put their lives in jeopardy.  The great civil rights leaders of the 1960’s refused to remain part of a society that did not recognize them as equals and rose up and created their own reality through civil disobedience and challenged many of the very foundations of our Republic and established societal mores.  The sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s cast off an imposed Victorian reality of sex and redefined how people functioned and lived in their relationships.

Today’s queer rights movement is no different.  There are those who wish to impose their hard line reality upon the LGBTQ community and force us to live separate and apart from the rest of society simply because we do not adhere to the old fashioned “one man, one woman” reality of marriage and relationships.  There are also those from within the queer community who do not wish advocates to “rock the boat” and and not be too “in your face” about equality and instead to work within the system and through politically correct entities that don’t really have the movement’s best interest at heart.

Which do you wish to be?  Are you beholden to your circumstances and the influence of others or do you reject the influence of others and believe that it is the interpretation of our circumstances which determine our reality.  Do you succumb to the abyss of failure and mediocrity and simply follow others and do what you are told and not rock the boat and play it safe or do you shout as loud as you can about injustice and blaze your own trail shaping change to fit your own reality and view of the world?

For a very long time I was one of those who remained in their closet and was someone I was not; living a life of quiet desperation and allowing society to dictate how I should live.  I did not think I could ever be an out and proud queer person living a life that was mine and not subject to someone else’s reality.

We are no different than those in history that came before us.  We must choose to be different and cling to our unique reality and interpret our circumstances in a way that does not repress us and hold us back.  We must forge ahead and do what our gut, our very soul, demands that we do, and ignore the naysayers from both outside and within the queer community.

Life is full of many forks in the road and at each fork there is a path that others take simply because it is the well worn path; the one trodden by many; the safe route. There are also those people that amass at each fork in life and tell us to take the safe route and guide us to choose the well worn path.  These are the same people who tell us to not “rock the boat” or get too “in your face” about equality and working toward liberty and justice for all.

Then there is the other path that is less traveled and is less secure and full of potential pitfalls and unknown trials and tribulations.  There are very few people encouraging us to take the path less traveled and therefore, we must muster our own courage, ignore the masses, and decide to buck established thought paradigms and be true to ourselves and do what we feel is best for us and proceed down the less worn path.

When we can decide to listen to the voice inside that tells us to not listen to others and choose what is best for us, we begin to live our personal reality that was forged by forces unseen, and those working on our behalf in a world that we cannot relate to in our physical being.  We simply have to make a choice to follow our unsung songs that have already been written and are simply waiting for us to decide to sing them the way they were meant to be sung; in our own way.

Study Finds LGBT Teachers Aren’t Necessarily Allies of LGBT Students

Less Likely to Challenge Bullying of LGBT Students In Classroom

LGBT teachers may know what it’s like to be bullied, but they’re not stepping up to the plate and protecting their LGBT students when the students are harassed.  A new study conducted by Dr. Tiffany Wright at Millersville University in Pennsylvania found that heterosexual teachers are more apt to intervene when LGBT students are bullied.

The Research

Dr. Wright’s research included interviews with more than three hundred and fifty teachers and principals.  They were asked about how they deal with homophobic incidents they witness at school.

Nearly sixty percent of those interviewed claimed they had heard other teachers make homophobic comments, and two-thirds admitted they had seldom seen another teacher intervene when such comments occurred in school.

GLSEN Findings Echo Dr. Wright’s Research

GLSEN ( The Gay, Straight Education Network)  research bears out this finding. Four out of five LGBT youth say they don’t know one supportive youth at school. Nine out of ten LGBT teens are victims of anti-gay bullying. Many LGBT kids skip class, sometimes as much as one day a month, for fear of being harassed.

Fear of Losing Jobs

Over one-third of the interviewed teachers said they fretted about their jobs being at risk if they came out to their co-workers.  Sixty-two percent of interviewees were worried that if they came out to their students, they’d lose their jobs.

Says Dr. Wright: “a lot of folks, theoretically might be in favor of gay marriage and have liberal views. But when you’re talking about their kids, there’s a little different.  Then, suddenly, people’s prejudices come out.”

Just a Few of Those Fired

Dr. Wright’s theory plays out in the many examples of firings of LGBT teachers across the U.S.

  • Last March, Tom Klasnic, an elementary school principal in Gresham, Oregon says school leadership decided not to renew his contract because he is openly gay.
  • Disciplinary action was taken against lesbian teacher Christa Dias who was fired, she contends, because she had artificial insemination, resulting in her pregnancy.
  • In February, Assistant Principal Mike Moroski, was fired from his job at Purcell Marian High School by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for endorsing gay marriage in a blog post.
  • Music teacher Al Fischer was dismissed in 2012 from St. Ann Catholic School in Mo. for planning on marrying his partner.
  • Carla Hale, teacher at Ohio’s Bishop Watterson High School was fired when her partner’s name was listed in her mother’s newspaper obituary.
  • Recently, English teacher gay Ken Bencomo was dismissed of his duties as English teacher at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in California because his wedding picture appeared in the town newspaper.

And the list goes on and on while both the LGBT teachers and students suffer in silence.

Queer Pressure: Raven Symoné Comes Out Twice On Twitter

Tales of Celebrity Progenies

You’re young—a sitcom mini-starlet. You’re growing up as the sitcom progeny of an ultra-conservative, ultra-strict, ultra-exacting and uber multitalented entertainer who plays your grandad on TV (Bill Cosby, “The Cosby Show,” “A Different World”). Oh! By the way—then when you’re not on TV, he’s still fathering you in the exact same way. Sometimes there are cameras on y’all then, too.

No pressure, though. Have fun with that!

Life’s challenging enough for child stars all the way through to adulthood, but these were the early beginnings for a young Raven Symoné (“The Cosby Show,” “That’s So Raven,” “College Road Trip”) making her television acting debut as little Olivia Huxtable Kendall, the bright-eyed and intelligent stepdaughter of Denise (Lisa Bonet). She’s transitioned into grownup roles and projects with virtually no scandals or trouble. She is to be commended for that.

Raven’s career steps have always been measured, squeaky clean and safe, moving from the safety of a network sitcom to the apple-pie familiarity of her own show on The Disney Channel (“That’s So Raven”).

Coming of Age And Making Your Own Choices

Ironically, Symoné’s choices contraposed those of her TV step-mom Lisa Bonet who instead chose to play risky, sensual roles (“Angel Heart”) while still on “Cosby,” making adult life decisions while she was still a teenager, and finding her own footing, in her own way. Bonet’s character on the show was so popular, the Cosby production team even created a spinoff show for her (“A Different World”), and as an audience favorite, Bonet was apparently to be “kept in line.”

Instead, Lisa Bonet got pregnant before marriage, then she married a man Cosby didn’t particularly get along with. All told, Bonet’s personal choices forced her premature Cosby Show departure.

Because one of “Cosby’s own” went on to do other things, the unspoken pressure to conform for Symoné and the rest of the cast must have been immense. In fairness, Bill Cosby always advocates that people of color present in public spaces with pride, intelligence, elegance and demonstrable educational achievement. He considered the kids on the show to be his responsibility.

Cosby himself wound up caving in to his own self-created pressure, ultimately revealing foibles of his own (of a sex-scandal nature). Everybody’s got to unfold their own lessons, and the paradoxes in the real-life story lines here are more than relevant.

Why Coming Out Is Squeaky Clean, Too

By default, “heterosexual anything” is considered to be normal, squeaky clean and non-threatening, so long as the sacredness of the marital institution is preserved.  The naughty things any two consenting adults do (while “straight and married or coupled”) is pardoned.

Any sexual or gender expression outside of the norm still connotes questionable behavior with it a whiff of taboo or wrongness, i.e. “dirtiness,” to it. Culturally, this is a myth that we all need to transition away from. Doing so frees not only queer folks from pressure, but it frees straight people to alleviate free-floating pressure, as well (see: the “50 Shades of Gray” best-selling fantasy book phenom).

When you walk around “feeling wrong as a being,” you start having to justify doing “bad or wrong things” as a being, whatever those things mean to you (often people reach for addictions, whatever their familial taboos are perceived to be, or so-called “out of character behavior,” in an effort to feed the feeling of “feeling bad or wrong.”) In essence, this is chasing displeasure to fuel more of it. Even when doing things that feel good to you, you might perhaps do them to excess, or never let yourself fully enjoy them.

Heterosexual people find themselves to be casualties of such pressure on a daily basis. Human sexuality is fluid—any scientist or psychologist can tell you this. When people in the healing profession refute this idea, they usually cite religious reasons why this should not be, which validates the fact that such fluidity is indeed the norm, or they cite anti-queer statistics funded by faith-based projects or organizations.

It is only a matter of time before our thoughts and our actions stray from such pressure, and because each person’s path is their own to experience, claiming your own truth as what’s truly normal is going to make your life experience—including coming out—easier and feel less “aberrant.” We act “out of pocket” and erratically when we feel wrong or “made-wrong” (see: Cosby scandals, above.)

Because television kindles such a felt sense of intimacy,  Symoné’s viewers and fans believed their grown-up Olivia was straight-laced, likely straight, and free of new decisions, choices or surprises. Because she took her time during her coming out process and picked an opportune time to share her news, the story was nearly anti-climatic.

Raven Symoné’s short and sweet “Coming Out Tweet” made a debut of its own, to soft applause. In her own words, Raven tweeted her support for LGBTQ culture, all the while proudly incorporating herself into it, by tweeting this:

             Raven-Symonè  |  @MissRavenSymone I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud       of you.

Her fan base voiced pleasant “out of left field”  surprise,  ultimately lavishing her with support for her social share. She then received loving feedback from friends, celebs and other well-wishers thereafter.

Since sharing her big news, she has since been spotted happily attending gay pride events (http://hellobeautiful.com/2523947/raven-symone-gay-pride-event-lesbian-raven-symone-az-marie-livingston) and simply enjoying her life.

Her latest reflections on sexuality in the press continue to be private yet positive, and over a year ago, she’d left glittery little breadcrumb clues for those who were at all curious, due to outing pressure from American tabloid “The National Enquirer:”

In May of last year the actress posted sub-tweets to no one in particular, tweeting:

“I’m living my PERSONAL life the way I’m happiest. I’m not one, in my 25 year career to disclose who I’m dating. and I shall not start now.

My sexual orientation is mine, and the person I’m dating to know. I’m not one for a public display of my life.

However that is my right as a HUMAN Being whether straight or gay. To tell or not to tell. As long as I’m not harming anyone.

I am a light being made from love. And my career is the only thing I would like to put on display, not my personal life. Kisses!”


Kisses indeed.

Letting your hair down on Twitter’s absolutely liberating. When do we get to see your frolicking, footloose and fancy free tweets?

I’m Not Sure…Am I Gay? – Coming Out Q & A

Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.

– Harvey Milk

“I’m not sure…am I gay?”

Young men and boys commonly ask this question during the coming out process. They might say it differently, and they may not have begun the process yet. If the question “Am I gay?” is pressing on someone’s heart, he’s probably going through the process.

Shorthand for “coming out of the closet,” coming out could mean, more accurately, coming out of confusion.” This connotation removes possible stigma or blame.

 “Be fearless / be honest / be generous / be brave /

be poetic / be open / be free / be yourself / be in love /

be happy / be inspiration.”  –

– Beyonce, writing words for Frank Ocean

“So am I gay, or what?” If this question remains or someone asks you to “evaluate them” with this question, there’s no definitive, easy answer. Just breathe, take a step back, and think about—or pass along—some of these ideas:

1) Empower Him to Find His Own Answers. – Possible feedback: “I can’t answer that for you. This is a question only you can answer. I can support you in your stages of learning, discovery, research, and even play (try to refrain from saying things like ‘experimentation.’ He is not a science project.). But this is your hero’s journey.”

2) You Don’t Have to Lose your Religion. You aren’t coming out to God or your Higher Power. Spirit already knows you. There are several gay-inclusive churches and organizations happy to support and encourage you.

3) Discourage Binary Thinking. Free him up from binary thought. Kids grow up in an overpoweringly heterosexual-defined world, yet heterosexuality is as much of a social construct as the next idea. The best kept open secret in the world is that heterosexual-identified people are also fluid, as sexuality Is fluid (see: Kinsey Reports). Make sure he knows that.

4) Respect Boundaries. Keep it real: if you find yourself attracted to someone who’s newly queer or questioning, first consider his age. If there’s a huge imbalance and/or he’s a minor, please do both of yourselves a favor: don’t take advantage of his twice-vulnerable state (one due to age/inexperience, two due to his sexual uncertainty). The mentor / mentee sex narrative is a common coming of age story—that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate. He needs friends and support, not just sex. If you find you have conflicted interests and he’s not of age, telling him you’re into him also further confuses matters. Even if the attraction is mutual, be smart and be fair.

5) “I’m A Trans Guy Who Likes Girls, Period.” Of especial note, questioning sexuality is often a second or third lap around questions that come up for transgender guys who may become fascinated by images of men as they’re creating the life they want to lead. They’re looking for affirming images, like-minded peers, role models and allies, and checking out pictures of men for medical [surgery, anatomy], social [presenting as “male”], empowering and of course arousal reasons [how to please self and others, for pleasure’s sake, curiosity]).

If he says he’s attracted to women, he thinks he is, or he flip-flop, that’s his prerogative and right. Keep snarky “Yeah right whatever, you’re gay” comments and feelings to yourself. You might encourage him to talk to or discover more about other trans guys (depending, some guys might fixate on cis-gender guys only during this time).  If you’re really a true friend or ally, don’t get into the eye-rolling. That helps no one.

6) He May Realize He’s Straight. You may crack jokes about straight folks. Try to tone those down around him, especially if he’s just a kid. What if it turns out he’s “coming out straight,” or he’s just not ready? There are many people who’ve never been in doubt about their sexuality, or heterosexuality. If he’s not in that “majority,” or he’s a bit more passive with girls or women, that doesn’t make him automatically gay. This could take him a while to realize.

7) “Have You Ever Thought About Getting Help?” Even if you’re helping him, guys can be notorious for refusing help, asking for it in a roundabout ways, or not seeking out support or counseling. Share resources and if necessary, walk with him as he researches, explores, visits LGBT centers, picks up “coming out newbie” brochures, etc.

8) For Teenagers, For Young Boys Puberty can really suck. Boys are still figuring out how hormones make them feel, bodies change, crushes unfold. Peer “pressure” and bullying is a minefield that’s so difficult to get through. His anti-gay friends, family or elders might see you as trying to “recruit or convert him” rather than as a sounding board. This makes finding professional allies, especially if he’s underage, extra important. You might need some backup.

9) Keeping Secrets You can keep his journey between the two of you without making him think coming out is a dirty little secret. Help him understand the difference between confidentiality or privacy and shame-filled secrecy.

10) “Are You Using?” He might feel insulted: however, if in the context of “because I really care,” check in to see if he’s using/abusing drugs, if he’s having risky or unsafe sex (with men and/or women), or if he’s acting out in other erratic ways. Help him find support around balancing out all aspects of his life, including but not limited to sexual and other gratification.

11) Gender Expression: “Is There Something Wrong With Me?” He doesn’t have to present as butch, or he might feel so in his heart. He doesn’t have to present as fem, he might be genderqueer, and so on. If he’s trans, there’s nothing wrong with the desire to be stealth (presenting in a certain gender-centric way without immediately telling people he’s trans). Remind him he’s free to explore these ideas. Ask him about preferred terms (he may prefer to call himself “same gender loving” rather than “queer or gay,” etc.).

“Is There Something Wrong With Me?”

“We have to show ’em there’s nothing to be afraid of. If we don’t get over our fears, they never will.”

– Lisi Harrison, from Monster High

12) Undeclared. This life can be like having an undeclared major in school: he never has to come to any conclusions about himself. Remove all expectations: love and accept him for the person he is. It will make such a positive difference in his life and in yours.

13) Re-frame “Normal.” Nature has always made room for gay and lesbian or variant gender expression in all species, of which we are but one.  We may not all understand why this way of being exists, but according to “Gaia,” nature considers a multiplicity of sexual and gender expressions to be normal.

To that end, watch out for so-called “normal” language like “That’s so gay, gaylord, butt-hurt, calling lesbians Klondikes, saying tranny or freak,” etc. Whatever side you’re on surrounding such humor, things are different when you’re learning how to walk before you run. This kind of language is common, but isn’t necessarily normal. He might not see reclaiming the word “fag” as empowering.

14) “How do I know for sure?” The answer “You just know” isn’t entirely correct. It would be more accurate to answer, “Whatever way of sexual expression and identity gives you the most pleasure (sexually and otherwise), whatever predominates,” these are good indicators. If comfortable enough, you can use your own experience as an example.

15) Pride In the Name of Love Share with him what “pride” means to you. Parades aren’t required for all gays to attend, or he may not be able to attend one for logistics reasons, but explain to him why we celebrate Pride, and how activism has influenced and affected gay culture over time.

16) Gay Role Models Help him learn about LGBTQIA role models—and gay role models in particular. If he’s also a person of color, help him to discover role models that mirror his nationality, ethnicity, background, etc. Share with him stories of people who’ve come out later in life (different age, same process!). Sexual orientation and gender haven’t stood in the way of well-known kings and queens, artists, designers, athletes, philosophers, scientists, writers entertainers and others throughout history. It shouldn’t stand in the way of his progress either. Coming out and thriving-as-out stories are important—and these shouldn’t all be rich and famous people’s narratives. That adds the extra pressure of having to be famous or wealthy in order to get “special treatment,” which is a myth.

 “‘Faggot, faggot…’ Do you hate him ’cause he’s pieces of you?”

                                    – Jewel

17) Outing, Safety Issues Outing is not the same as coming out. Being outed in inopportune ways can cause safety, social or financial challenges. Best and worst case scenarios are important to discuss. Don’t push him out, as the most important person he needs to come out to is himself. Depending on where he lives and his age, coming out might be physically unsafe for him at present, but you can help him to prepare. Unfortunately, there is also the possibility of someone outing him without permission, or falsely accusing him of something he hasn’t even stated or realized yet. Help him to have plans and solutions prepared as much as you can, realistically.

18) “I’m Not the Right Person to Ask.” Sharing these words honestly is also helpful. You can still direct him to many other people or resources who can support him with his questions and concerns. Let him know you respect him and it’s got nothing to do with him (sharing helpful resources reinforces this truth for you.)

19) “How Long Have You Been Gay?” And Other Leading Questions. In short, don’t ask things like that. Don’t try not to lead the conversation. This is his deal, not yours.

 “Being gay is not living any type of lifestyle (at least not for me).

It simply pertains to my sexual orientation.

I am sexually attracted to guys. That’s it. It’s life, not a lifestyle!”

– Scott Penziner

20) “Things Are So Much Easier These Days.” No, they’re not. Don’t belittle his experience by equating your pain with his. Everyone needs a support net, almost everyone has a rejection and/or bullying story, and this life is his to live. Be present with him rather than disowning him or silencing his voice.

21) Celebrate! Debutantes have coming out parties, why can’t we? Remember to praise him for his courage and self-love. He’s brave enough to ask these questions and cares enough to make this his quest. You don’t have to whip out the glow sticks or anything (unless you want to?), but remember, this is all about finding joy and holding onto it.

You can find some starter resources below.

Book Recommendations

Now That You Know by Betty Fairchild & Robert Leighton

Beyond Acceptance by Carolyn Welch Griffin, Marina J. Wirth & Arthur G. Wirth


LGBTQ Inclusive Religions http://gaylife.about.com/od/religion/a/gaychurch.htm

Coming Out As Intersex  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/06/12/op-ed-intersex-final-coming-out-frontier

Family of Choice Holiday Support http://www.yourholidaymom.com

Coming Out Bi http://www.biresource.net/comingoutasbi.shtml

Coming Out As A Straight Supporter  http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/straight-guide-to-lgbt-americans

National Coming Out Day http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/national-coming-out-day

Safe Space Network List http://safespacenetwork.tumblr.com/post/23388828318/the-safe-space-network-tumblr-list

PFLAG Coming Out Help http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=539

Resources for LGBT People of Color http://guides.ucsf.edu/content.php?pid=211162&sid=2009927

HRC / Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Coming Out Resources – http://www.hrc.org/resources/category/coming-out

E. Lynn Harris wrote, “My heart knows who I am and who I’ll turn out to be!”  Isn’t following your heart rule number one in everything?


What’s The Velvet Rage? Dr. Alan Downs, Ph.D., on Healing Shame

Are You Keeping Shame & Anger In The Closet? Find Ways to Break Free

 “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

                                                                                                       – RuPaul

On Sexual and Shame-Based Trauma

Gay men take much too much heat for being natural, normal sexual human beings.

Here’s what that imbalance looks like: in this world, if straight men are oversexed, then gay men have to be hyper-sexual. If straight women want sexual fulfillment and gay men want it too, we have to call it something else—anything else.

LGBTQ men are relegated to sex-focused ghettos of conquest, topping and bottoming, butch-dominant, straight-acting, femme-repressive, “sassy gay best friend (neuter),” performative (sexy, funny drag queens only) and over-blown sexual expression, or the back alley of regret (“He’s so hot! I wish he were straight!” Rather than, “He’s so hot.” Period.).

Of course sexuality isn’t just about sex, yet this is where much of our self-expression comes to the fore in queer culture.

Clinical psychologist and author Dr. Alan Downs is all too familiar with this. “I grew up in a very religious household,” Downs told Oprah on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

“I thought if I met the right woman and married her, [I] would change. … ‘The Velvet Rage’ is about the anger that develops when you have something inside yourself that you have to hide.”

Many gay men and male-identified LGBTQ guys go through depression after coming out. Even if you’ve been out since you could remember, mental health issues spring up: shame, anger, fear and depression are essentially kissing cousins.

These ideas are messy to think about, but so necessary to wrestle to the ground and ultimately, to conquer. We don’t hear about sloughing off the intricacies of anger or free-floating fear. So, feeling blocked or frustrated, folks turn to drugs, additive behavior, at-risk sexual activity, and a general lack of self-care.

Common Sense Solutions

“I was very close to my ex-wife,” Dr. Downs went on. “She was my best friend. I just confused that with, ‘This is going to make me straight.'”

As a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience,  Dr. Downs’ California-based private practice addresses LGBT issues head-on. In his book“ The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World,”  Downs  tends to the psyches of gay men, exposing the soft underbelly of pain, shame, and vulnerabilities that we  barely take the time to examine.

Because he also shares anecdotal findings (that of his friends, himself and his clients), the book has raised eyebrows and a bit of controversy while continuing to rank high on GLBT bestseller lists.  It took a long time for Downs to come out, and he approaches the idea of coming out or being out in a realistic manner, ensuring the reader that he is at-choice in terms of his timetable, methodology, reasoning, and making the decision to do it.

Check out these select passages from the book:

“The inevitable byproduct of growing up gay in a straight world continues to be the internalization of shame, a shame gay men may strive to obscure with a facade of beauty, creativity, or material success.”

“Today’s gay man enjoys unprecedented, hard-won social acceptance. Despite this victory, however, serious problems still exist. Substance abuse, depression, suicide, and sex addiction among gay men are at an all-time high, causing many to ask, ‘Are we really better off?’”

“Shame starts in childhood,” Dr. Downs writes, parsing out the healing process into three stages:

1) Becoming overwhelmed with shame, staying in denial by “splitting” or leading double lives (avoidant behavior, leading to identity crisis).

2) Becoming overwhelmed with a sense that “who you are is wrong.” (Not what you are doing, but who you are as a person.) Addictive, self-destructive or chronically depressed psychological issues arise, and the breakdown becomes more obvious.

3) Becoming whole. In this resolution stage, we open up to the possibility of embracing joy, fully.

Something you’d like to learn more about? For more information, visit: http://www.alandowns.com.

No man is an island: these concepts speak to lesbians and queer culture in general, too. What’s the hardest thing you’ve experienced and overcome after you came out?



Put Those Feather Boas Back On! Ex-Gay Pride Month Changed

If you have been getting ready for “Ex-Gay Pride Month,” throwing off those shackles of same-sex attraction and signing up for the latest and greatest conversion therapy, you’re going to have to wait to celebrate: the event has been canceled.

Voice of the Voiceless, the organization formed specifically to organize ex-gay events and lobby in congress, has moved to declare September rather than July as the “First Annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month” because of “anti-ex gay extremism” and “security threats” on their ex-gay gala. In their press release on the subject and in responding to those that responded negatively to the celebration: “[Voice of the Voiceless has] long realized that LGBT organizations will not be our allies. We are routinely marginalized by organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) who routinely shut us out of the debate and refuse to give us a seat at the table.”

That could be just bad science on the conversion therapy’s side. But probably bias.

The group Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit organization that challenges anti-lgbt groups and extremism, challenged Voice of the Voiceless to disclose the names of activists and organizations that were considered part of the security threats on the event. “Until concrete allegations are made, we can only assume Dole is making an excuse for his organizations abject failure to produce a viable Ex-Gay Pride Month event.” The group cites that the most popular figures that were publicized for the event were merely invited, and that the ex-gay camp is using finger-pointing in order to not place the blame on themselves for an unviable and failing campaign.

The event to replace the lobbying dinner at the capital is being led by Dr. Douglas McIntyre, co-founder of a ministry group Homosexuals Anonymous that works with conversion therapy and individuals wanting to become ex-gays. Called “Grandpa Goes to Washington,” McIntyre is organizing a 10-day road trip to Washington D.C., with stops for political rallies and culminating with a lobby in Congress for ex-gay rights, along with all of the supporters he can pick up on the way.

Of three main bullet points he is arguing against, the first is specifically against the children’s show SheZOW , the second for children to have the option be able to overcome their same-sex attractions, and finally to include ex-gays under federal hate crimes law. I suppose with sister organizations closing <> you have to choose something, right? Just anything at all and be upset about it.

We’ll have to wait and see the impact—if any—that Voice of the Voiceless and the ex-gay movement can manage to drum up over the next few weeks, but more than likely these groups will call it a success for their visibility and bemoan the fact that people don’t believe them. If there is any momentum in the movement left, there needs to be some strategy changes because they are losing popularity and credit quickly.

I n all seriousness, if you are unhappy with your gender identity or sexual orientation, you should seek professional counseling to get the help you need to be happy with yourself and your life.

Publically Elected Out Gay Mayor Shows Opinions Changing in Mexico

Even with cartels and drug wars making headlines within Mexico, the lgbt community has some bright spots within the country.

Most recently, the country is celebrating its first openly gay elected mayor, who will be taking office in September in a remote and rural township (approximately a U.S. county) in the state of Zacatecas. The region is “known for cowboy boots, embossed belts and drug gang shootouts” reports AP, and Benjamin Medrano, the elected official, agrees. “Very machisto, I would say. I am going to be the mayor of a township where there are 258 villages full of tough country people, who don’t necessarily have much information on what’s happening elsewhere, and have even less of an automatic sympathy with their gay mayor.”

Medrano, who is 47, pins his fame and elected status not on being openly gay, but because he’s a respected singer and has been the owner of a gay bar for 18 years. Like many countries throughout the world, lgbt individuals are readily accepted in Mexico in the entertainment industry. While he is also openly gay, he does not consider himself an activist: “I’m not in favor of gay marriage, I don’t share that view, because we are still a very small town… in short, we’re not prepared.” He notes that his style of being gay means “It’s not like I’m going to paint the city hall pink.”

Medrano is not the only out public official in the country, but he is the first elected. While many other elected officials have been rumored to be queer, none have come out, and those who are out in the legislature have won their seats through a proportional-representation method where their parties designate them. Alejandro Brito, director of “Letra S,” one of the foremost gay rights groups in Mexico, said that the ability for out gay public officials to serve openly “shows that our human rights system is providing some protection. Because, even though there is no public majority in favor of electing gay politicians, [Medrano] knows that the legal framework will protect him.”

Much like in the U.S. currently, “It is now more risky for a political rival to be openly homophobic than it is to be a homosexual candidate,” Brito added.

Mexico City is the only place in the country where gay marriage is legal, but a supreme court ruling back in December 2012 opens the door for bans throughout the country to be repealed. And to top it off, over 80,000 people participated in the Gay Pride parade in Mexico City at the end of June. The conservative Catholic nation is opening up on this issue, slowly but colorfully.

#ProudToLove: Rainbow-Hearted Reflections on YouTube’s First LGBT Pride Celebration

Loving Equality: Making Summer of Love More #ProudToLove

England’s marriage equality law becomes official in a matter of days.  Marriage Equality and DOMA decisions in the United States continue to send a positive beacon of hope to LGBTQ folks everywhere.

“Set those precedents,” the Litigating Angels seem to be telling us, blowing their glittery faery dust around the world.

Okay, sure…“faery dust” is a bit much—but c’mon: this is the queer “Interwebs” we’re talkin’ about!

With the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court (lifting the same-sex marriage ban) and California following suit, the launch of YouTube’s official LGBTQ-themed #ProudToLove channel rides the waves of change that continue to ripple worldwide.

Continuing its yearly site-wide support of gay rights, parent company Google Inc. created YouTube’s #ProudToLove channel http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbpi6ZahtOH6Ep59vnHOZ0KBngOp-XiUP) and video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDm0zsw9vjY) on June 27.

In like fashion, Google relaunched its customary Rainbow Colored search results just in time for the summer of pride.  This yearly Easter Egg that revealed itself when visitors typed  LGBTQ-focused keywords like “gay,” “lesbian,” “transgender,” “marriage equality,” LGBT” or “bisexual”  (Google’s rainbow search results have been a tradition since 2008—or eons, in Internet years).

Graced with the soundtrack of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” YouTube’s #ProudToLove video featured military “coming out” confessionals, Ellen DeGeneres, teenaged hero Jonah Mowry, Davey Wavey, Latrice Royale, Chaz Bono & Cher, Dan Savage, George Takei, Barack Obama at the White House LGBT Pride Month Reception, Willam Belli, and several uber-romantic LGBTQ-themed marriage proposals, all culminating in emphatic yeses.

Prominent and renowned LGBTQ advocacy organizations–if they weren’t already

partnered with the campaign–quickly posted #ProudToLove content in solidarity, chiming in with words, images, videos and sentiments of their own.

Other #ProudToLove ripple effects and highlights include:

Detractors have tried to troll this hashtag and idea, finding little success so far.  Such is the beauty of hashtags: creating instantaneous solidarity and community-building becomes easy-to-understand and propagate.

Pride Month’s really happening all summer long.  Isn’t that always the way?  Kudos to all for making Pride newsworthy every single day.

Being #ProudToLove is an international thing—how do you show your pride?  Who or what are you #ProudToLove? Share your thoughts, videos and tweets with us.  Make sure to include the hashtag, so your peeps can find you!


Gay Mountaineer Raises Money For Trevor Project

Climbs “Seven Summits”

Impetus to Change GLBT Suicide Rate

Cason Crane is an incoming Princeton University freshman.  Devastated by the suicide of a friend as well as the tragic death of Tyler Clementi in his home state.prompted Carson to help more LGBTQ youth to get the help they need and to call attention to youth suicide, the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24 year-olds.

Gay himself, Cason remembers times when he was bullied, teased in the locker room, and called names. Luckily, he had the support of family and friends unlike many GLBT kids who consider suicide. In fact, GLBTQ kids have four times the suicide rate of their peers.

The Rainbow Summits Project

A cum laude graduate of a competitive preparatory school, Choate Rosemary Hall, Cason  wanted to bring awareness and funds  The Trevor Project, the leading GLBTQ suicide and crisis prevention service. His work is called The Rainbow Summits Project.

While most organizations raise money through telethons, direct mail, SuperPacs, Cason has a unique approach: he climbs mountains.  Although he says he is afraid of heights, he has been climbing since he was fifteen years old when he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa.  He has worked and partaked of volunteer missions in Africa, Asia, and North America and has travelled to more than sixty-five countries.

A good athlete, he is an avid runner, swimmer, and triathlete.  He completed his first Ironman in New Zealand in January 2012.

Why Climb?

Although physically fit, Crane speaks about the challenges inherent in climbing the tallest mountains in the seven continents.  He likens climbing to the challenges of being GLBTQ: the obstacles, the need for external support, but ultimately, the pay-off – the high of being true to themselves and to those who care about them.

Crane has climbed mountains in the United States, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland, France, and Argentina.  His ascent of Mt. Everest, the tallest in the world, was on May 21.  His final climb, a second try, was Mt. McKinley in Alaska on July 11, 2013. He carried Tibetan prayer flags to the summit.  Pictures are on his website: http://www. casoncrane.com, On the flags are dedications to people who have committed suicide or been the victims of harassment.

No Small Feat

With his seven climbs, Crane becomes the first openly LGBT person to attain the distinction of successfully climbing to the tops of the highest mountains on each continent.  He is also the fifth youngest person to achieve that record.

Raised Awareness and Money

Cason Crane has raised over $135,000 for The Trevor Project and awareness for GLBTQ suicide. This year, he received an award from GLAAD, a principal organization for LGBT equality that works directly with the news media.  You can also follow Cason on Twitter mailto:@casoncrane.